"Nonno: Nonverbal Knowing" - Eugene C. Bianchi





"Nonno: Nonverbal Knowing" - Eugene C. Bianchi

Already elderly he was not a man of words
even in his Genoese I understood well enough
sitting near the wells in local lots where
he grew fava beans, tomatoes and the rest
to sustain family and the Depression-afflicted
taking a few coins or none with cheer.

It was the quiet way he watered rows
with tin can nailed to long pole,
every plant part of himself extended
from his birthplace Fontanarossa.
It was the way he moved in black denims,
wide suspenders, old work shirt, dark-brimmed 
fedora, and a spit of tobacco,
all a tale of struggle and hope.

Or I ran down the street to walk his bike
with lumber strips draped over seat and
handlebars with old rags, the final
march of the hero bringing tribute from
distant mills to honor hearth and its gods,
a ritual so common at dusk that only I
imagined passing under the arch of
small triumph with no need to call out
the rapid transit of glory and vanity:
the young garbageman with horse-
drawn cart now become old servant
with useful throwaways pleased to work
and see a playful grandson at his side.

Or standing in the basement doorway
on Pearl Harbor day, I asked for a dime
to go to the show, and how he would chuckle,
dig deep in a black leather purse
like a well-mustachioed Lombard prince
sending a messenger into a world
unknown to both before that moment.
I still see the chopping block, nestled
hatchet, kindling spread on dirt floor.
I smell fermenting grapes in oak barrels.

We talked mainly in a tongue of gesture,
of nods and smiles under raised eyebrows,
the language of early forebears
now remembered in sight and scent
more vivid than scholarly seminars.

Eugene C. Bianchi
Athens, GA July 1 2014

(June 2014 photo by Michelle Castleberry)

"Just Breathe" - Patrick Conley





"Just Breathe" - Patrick Conley


she reaches out a rose in hand
the other behind her back
holding the doll
flick flick flicking
at the loose thread
slowly unraveling the seam
in the chest

she wonders how much
she can open it
how much stuffing is in there
what color is it
the homogenous bleached white pale
manu-fractured in china kind
the rich silky Persian slippery
softness of one refined
the old brittle
too long in attic
smell of mold and smoke
from cigarettes long ago

she keeps her eye open
focused on the one in front
hoping he doesn’t notice
the busy work behind her back
hoping she doesn’t betray her distraction
keeping the conversation light
as possible

she curses herself for lack of dexterity
for not trimming and filing her nails

finally excusing herself
she turns
and clutching the doll in both hands
hurries to a quiet corner
behind the eyes

releasing the tight grip
opening and slowly gazing down
to see
if any surprise
or enlightened truth will reveal

and yes
a thread of gold
wiggles and springs forth
like a ferociously fast growing vine
wrapping her hands
traveling up and down
paralyzed limbs
eventually covering every bit of body
she tells herself breathe
just breathe
just breathe

[June 2014 photo by Michelle Castleberry]

"Basilisk Boy" - Jay Morris






"Basilisk Boy" - Jay Morris

The nurse told me I had a great smile as I walked past her
And into the clinic.
The way she smiled suggested a woman who is often
On the receiving end of bad news.
We are kindred spirits that way.
Inside the clinic I am struck with the same
anti-septic, impersonal sensation I always
get when inside of hospitals
I'm a germ
I'm defiling this place
With my hypochondriac anxiety
The needle plunges into my skin
It's almost erotic
Vampiric as it draws blood from my veins
Dark, ritualistic -- I see why demons fiend for this
I examine my blood in the vial before it's taken 
For study
Searching for any suggestion of extra microscopic weight
Reconning for intruders
For viruses
For anything that could disrupt my homeostasis
She told me you will know your results in 4 days at the latest
I smile they way a person who worries about the world does
She grimaces -- tells me I have nothing to worry about
You know nothing about me -- my eyes say
My mouth transfixed in that great smile
Days go by
I am festering in my own pessimism
Counting back everyone and anyone
That could have been an exposure
The only things that eases my fears
Are shitty cartoons and starvation and the momentary mimosa
Funny -- my body turns to stupidity and anorexic
Inclination when I'm stressed out
I'll have to remember that on my death bed
In that decaying voice that whispers jokes with
Death at his door
Put on that episode of family guy
No -- I don't want to eat -- I can't eat
Eating is for people who deserve to live
On the fourth day
The latest day
The earth-shattering email
Negative -- you are negative
The sigh of relief
The aversion of crisis
The weight of death lifted off every cell of my body
If not just for now
There is no intruder
No virus
No basilisk blood running in my veins
I am not the king of serpents yet
I would never wish that crown on anyone
For it is a kingship acquired through unprotected gambles
And pharmaceutical indiscretion
From being told your whole life
You are the sum of your sexual expression
Deified in one stroke
Demonized the next
But still
This normal heart beats only against its own walls
And not yet the onslaught of a viral intruder
There is a fear in wondering if your body
Is an ambling epidemic
Death walking
Breath miasma
Blood acid
No -- no basilisk here
Just a boy who made some bad decisions
Just a boy who understands the power of negative
Thinking
Just a boy who is safe for now
My body is safe for now
My blood is safe for now
For now sounds like a threat and a promise

(July 2014 photo of Jay Morris by Michelle Castleberry)

"Spirit-You-All" - Ciera Durden





A friend asks me, “Have you told your mother you’re an atheist?” the same day
My lover tells me one of her co-workers informed her she was going to Hell. 
A strange too-spiritual coincidence, with me sitting at a desk littered with river-stones,
Candles,
A Bible (for reference),
A bottle of Merlot (for reference),
The truth of the matter is I want to be an atheist but can’t
Even if my god is no salt pillar God,
No drowned world God.
No sixty-six chapters of wrath God,
Nothing with capitalization
But just god, or goddess,

She-he-they is, some days,
A well-meaning mother
Who stands beside the sink filled with dishes, the phone cradled to her ear,
Listening night after night to her weary daughter whisper about
The days unraveling and the waves come washing.

Some days, a magician with a mean streak
Who presents to me, in the worst moments, with me demanding the end of times,
Friendships and good mornings and, damn him,
The kindness of strangers,

My god is your god in drag,
Laughs loudly, dancing in a dim room with a suit and tie and deep, dark lipstick,
Confuses strangers, stands close, entices,

My god is the god your god drives through to get home in the rain,
Wind-shield wipers broken and lightning under the wheels,
Car filled with muttered cursing
And praying,

My god is the god who gets drunk with me, slurs after the sixth shot,
“Hell, I think, is a simple answer
To a question you don’t even know the language of,”
The same night they stand over my bent head, carefully watching
As all of the spirits pour out of me. 

"Saint George Island Lies" - Gregory de Rocher


Saint George Island lies
south of the Florida Panhandle's coast, where
the incoming waves arrive from a distant vanishing point.
It is a place of pure loss: gulls winging their way to it
disappear.

Somewhere out there trawls the Brenda Darlene,
hoisting her nets like wet green skirts,
coaxing drowned seamen back to life; She even seems to be
sharing this unbelievable moment with the binocular sentinel, who
frozen and therefore motionless on Saint George Island's only jetty, 
wants more than anything to believe it is finally and indeed She

he is holding fast against his retinae.
When he is almost certain his catch is binding,
the pawl suddenly shatters, the ratchet wheel spins wildly, and, 
once again, all is lost.

Many are the sentinels who, overlooking the multicolored shells
lying, shameless, along this never-ending shoreline,
choose, rather, to post themselves on this lonely jetty
in the hopes that sometime soon they too might be fortunate enough
to catch a glimpse of the Brenda Darlene.


Gregory de Rocher, remembering Richard Lockwood, 1951-2005

"More Guns" - Charley Seagraves





"MORE GUNS" - Charley Seagraves

More guns, more guns
for our daughters and our sons,
more guns, more guns
for Pope Francis and his nuns.

More guns, more guns,
more guns for the NRA,
more guns, more guns,
more guns for the KKK.

More guns for our saloons,
more guns in all our schools,
more guns for thugs and goons,
more guns for clowns and fools.

More guns for daycare centers,
more guns for churches too,
more guns for saints and sinners,
more guns for me and you.

More guns for Sarah Palin,
more guns for Sly Stallone,
more guns for Eddie Van Halen,
more guns for Al Capone.

More guns for Nikki Haley,
more guns for Nathan Deal,
more guns for Beetle Bailey,
more guns for Bobby Seale.

More guns for the Turks and Caicos,
more guns for the Congolese,
more guns for the Philippinos,
more guns for the Japanese.

More guns for Algeria,
more guns for Bethlehem,
more guns for France and Syria,
more guns for Vietnam.

A Luger for every cougar,
A Berreta for Loretta (Lynn),
A Benelli for Liza Minnelli,
A Glock for Mr. Spock.

More Glocks, more Glocks
to protect our argyle socks,
more Glocks, more Glocks,
for all our nerds and all our jocks.

A gun for everyone, indeed,
I've known it all along,
the more we have the more we need,
what could possibly go wrong?


©2014 Charley Seagraves


[photo: Atlanta, GA gun shop, 2010]

"the myth i heard" - John Wares



John Wares is this month's featured reader at Word of Mouth, tomorrow night upstairs at the Globe. Open mic begins at 8 p.m. "the myth i heard" was originally posted August 2012.



"the myth i heard" - John Wares


where crayfish grab and moan, the tracks dust into planted grass, the town seeps through spring down hill and invisibly into old mudded oconee, nothing moves fast until well past the mill now with white coats and plastic boards looking over the explosion of a once-held river the crustaceans bury deep under the dumpsters, under the furniture and the copper-coiled cold heyday fountain, a delight into a glass bottle and now only rumored, and into the mountain we call town once tracks dug through bricked hills, the well-dressed students clung to brass rail, up down clayton street, i’m sure the buildings still held whiskey, beer, probably then no asian food, no pita, no burrito, only american here. 

bells rang, alumni sang, the town was then already old, and pavers came with hot machines to change the roads for fords, chevys, trucks of boxes, filled with shoes, cases of cold drinks, the lines were drawn and the street as parking lot moved on. 

though climate shed its waters to southern stages, and mussels disappeared, leaving few traces, the hangers left, the mills shut
down, the buttons were scattered to the altamaha and asia, but the tracks were there down the street, pulled by cables electric and taut, the trolleys had pulled over hollowed out cavern of shipments and boxes and sidewalk elevators, and a network grew under this small town, forgotten and dark. 

it is told that the mayor has a key, and the cages by city hall deny not entry to restrooms or a jail, but to the hub of how it worked, halls by which freed men lit candles, and the early music played long and hard. 

the subterranean streets, as chicago and new york, as rome and paris, are there, and now fill with water, delight in the river, 
the boats that cold go scraping the ceiling as trucks hum delivery
above. 

on hot days the asphalt weeps the past, a fog rises just as we wake, nobody knows it is more than the nights drink moving on. 
the one other entrance, past clanged horizontal flat door and the icecubed glass of the street, beyond rye bar and cobbled wall shown
mercy for effect of the life that was, a building elicits the entry to the history of athens, and how it did sail, how the Wuxtry did finally sail! 

the mystery builds there: corner shop untold, boxes of vinyl and heavy bass, lifted above by flapping light pages, donald duck the most shredded and old in the wind, soon to be unread, passed along to prefer the more recent fabrics of comics, graphic novels, and the occasional flagpole - the weekly - hung to dry in the breeze of oconee. 

the shreds filter down to the water, the crayfish, the muddy river, the lake beyond, the hills of dead, the lounging student leaning head on oak tree, girlfriend by knee well-keeled the building does float, and who knew? it is the ship held by harbor in a town afloat a hill, eddied downstream from the piedmont, the stony end of appalachia, the woods holding the current. 

any of this could change. the building could sink, any day. 
as the drought builds, the records must sell, ballast beyond the mass of the comics above, the lined heroes, the buxom sidekick, 
the aghast tale of adolescence re-told in dark ink and extravagant face or stipple. but today the Wuxtry sails, you’ll see.

(Photo by Michelle Castleberry.)