"Today I played at loving everyone I met" - David Noah


"Today I played at loving everyone I met" - David Noah

Today I played at loving everyone I met
forgetting for an hour the limits of desire,

imagining myself the secret silent heart
of anyone who crossed my path or touched my hand.

I gave my love to women selling gasoline,
I let my eyes slide down the cheeks of grocery men,

thinking, What if you mean everything to me
and I to you but chance or destiny required

we never speak of it at all. And say the same
for every man and woman riding on the world.

A planet full of lovers, silent and amazed.


"South Mason Street, 1976" - Robert Lee Kendrick

 

"South Mason Street, 1976" - Robert Lee Kendrick

 
My mother’s first name was dammittohell.
Her middle was Pearl.
She filled afternoons with Winston 100s,
South Pacific,& Carousel,
singing the female leads to her vacuum.
 
My father came home from General Electric
& closed the garage door behind him
spending his evenings with chisel & saw,
cutting joints to lock wood at right angles,
setting them with the force of a vise.
 
I’d pedal from Bloomington Jr. High
to the pond at the end of the street,
traded cigarettes stolen from mom
for Hustler pages from Doug next door.
 
Dinners were quiet & short.
I cleaned the table & rinsed the plates
while he went back to his shop or Miller’s Tap,
& she sat by herself on the porch.
 
He kept his bench swept of sawdust,
polished his plate with a fistful of bread,
wiped his ’66 Coronet’s blue vinyl seats
clear of late night semen & sweat.
 
She folded my clothes in squares
& stacked them in boxes from Kroger,
filling the back of her Pinto.
 
One weekend a month I joined him
in his shop, building tables
to bring other families together,
beds for sleep & for love.
 
 
"South Mason Street, 1976" by Robert Lee Kendrick first appeared in San Pedro River Review.

"What does happiness look like? You in your red coat" - Carol Ann Duffy



"What does happiness look like? You in your red coat" - Carol Ann Duffy

What does happiness look like?
You in your red coat.
Where does it go for a drink?
To bed, on Sundays.


What does happiness sound like?
The purr of an unhooked phone.
What does it do for a living?
It has private means.


What does happiness feel like?
The barehanded planting of bulbs.
What is its home address?
Yours, sweetheart.

 
Does happiness have a scent?
The sea, the air, the earth.
Where did you see it last?
Under the bedclothes, laughing.


What taste does happiness have?
That of a long, slow kiss.
And how does happiness write?
Badly, like this.



This poem by Carol Ann Duffy appeared on her blog. Thanks to Ciera Durden for sharing her discovery.

"Red White Yellow Blue" - Sam Lane



 
 
Blue sky / red sunset
make / the purple horizon
a royal cushion and / the earth
reminds me we / were slaves before we
to the universe / cried out
                        “prince”
our name is  / which separates us
little / from the humble
 
The sugar / diabetes
the sweetness / is peeing a lot
to have tingling fingers / blurry vision
I honestly didn’t know / I was sick
I thought I was in love
 
Synthetic / green leaves
removable / flower tops
in my blue flower pot / don’t speak
that yellow plastic / reminds me of
replacing life with our wish: / to make things
       things that don’t decay
 
baby toes / new skin
old cut / thread
bring flowers / mother used
bruised pomgranate / chalk flavored hearts
eyes after / long light


"The end of winter" - M. Bromberg




March 20: There is still
a chill wind that makes me wish
I'd worn long sleeves 
under the old coat.
Already the Bradford pear trees
dust the landscape with white petals
under a blue sky.

Along Hawthorne the crape myrtles,
later blooms, have yet to show.
Their shade is for deeper summer.
Today the sun coaxes heat
into the pale air.
I carry my groceries
with a steady rhythm,
almost exercise:
I'll be warm by the time I reach home.


Mark Bromberg is tonight's featured reader at Word of Mouth's monthly open mic. Sign-up begins at 7 pm downstairs at the bar, and readings begin upstairs at 8.


The Spoils of Memory / "You Want It Gone?" -Stephen Wack


 

 
The Spoils of Memory / "You Want It Gone?" -Stephen Wack


1.
 

Memory pushed to the far back of head

takes the shape of its container

looks foggy and lost and way past its date

 
Memory prompts an early morning nausea

in me, a lacking appetite but still the need

to eat something, anything at all

if only to fill the internal void

 
Memory is best undredged to the surface

left to settle and rot in its suspended state

to be seen for what it is, for what it’s worth:

the spoils of imagination, a long-gone expiration

a waste marked by some arbitrary stamp in time

 
Memory is murky as its metaphor (wait for it. . .)

that which is not even mine but still remains

as a background glimpse, as a sickening funk

to pollute the communal fridge with its influence

(—here) is the cloudy gallon of curdled milk left

to fester into gel, disowned but not disposed

 
Memory swirls in its glaze like a mystic’s ball

as I watch this film begin to churn, materialize

I hear the sharing of this memory from Zach

its firsthand holder, and my dear older friend

late one November night as he tells of witnessing

a snake enter his kitchen, how he’d froze with fear

as it slithered across the tile floor towards his father—

 
Memory of a father standing there at the ready,

a shovel in-hand, hovering behind the snake’s head

as he asks, “You want it gone?” and the scene responds

with a quiet nodding, “Yes,” followed by a pause—

hardly registered at all—just before the subsequent clunk

of shovel thrust down is heard, the rapid detachment

of head from continuous neck is observed through eyes

that want to be closed but are, for whatever reason, not.
 

2.
 
And so here, now, and there, then, some night back in November outside of a bar, listening to Zach’s initial rehashing—what I am left with currently is, in actuality, a recasting of this story with my own detached father as the lead, resurrected from memory with those same dark eyes and thick mustache and big lips and light-blue jeans and all—he exists once again, in some suspended state of preservation, wrapped up and frozen in memory’s cellophane, crystalized in my mind at some vague indistinct age representative of the last few years of his subsistence in family photo albums—on the back porch in cut-off shorts grilling burgers, him sitting with me propped up on his lap at his desk smiling kindly and looking much healthier than the last picture I would ever see of him while he was still alive—a mugshot of him and his partner my sister had found online back in 2009, almost a decade since the divorce and six years since our last visit and three or so years since the last phone call and five years prior to the cancer eating him from the inside-out—and yet I see him again here, now, standing before me in my childhood kitchen he never once cooked breakfast in, in a suburban house he never once stepped foot in, 782 miles removed from him and his New Jersey home, our previous home, at an address he wasn’t permitted to know for the first few months out of fear he would break the court order and show up unannounced, would break in and bug the place with tape recorders and cameras just like he had at our townhouse in East Windsor—timeless in jeans, shovel in-hand, here my father exists again in the curdled dream theatre of my head, my fridge, in milk, in memory, seeking to protect me against harm in the exact opposite way he did everything else, in a concerned voice I don’t entirely remember as his own, he asks, “You want it gone?”. . .
 
3.
 
But apparently I got it all wrong.
Later on that week, once I finally mention this all to Zach—about how each consecutive night I’ve been dreaming, reliving so vividly this snippet of his own childhood memory, of his own father in the kitchen with the shovel and the snake, that I’ve found myself starting to accept it as the truth, believing it to be my own—
(I also try and describe this rather loose metaphor I’ve been working on between this out-of-viable-date memory and my roommate’s gallon of spoiled milk I’d discovered earlier that week in the back of our fridge but still felt reluctant to throw away, and Zach says, “Feel less reluctant about trashing the metaphor, it sounds a bit contrived. . .”)
—and he tells me, “Sorry, bud. But you kinda got it all wrong.”
Zach proceeds to explain that this story he shared with me that November night outside of that bar wasn’t even from his childhood, but had only happened some odd years ago, “. . .despite my childlike dread of a little snake.”
He tells me also that it wasn’t his own father who killed the snake with the shovel, but actually his father-in-law, Ed.
And also: That whole scene didn’t even go down in his kitchen, but rather outside on his farm.
“I think the shovel,” he says, “is sort of a dead giveaway. You know?”
I just shrug, feeling like an idiot, and apologize to him.
 
Because apparently I’m a bad listener.
Because apparently I was too drunk to listen in the first place.
Because apparently I don’t know what’s real anymore, and don’t even really care.
Because apparently the most comforting memory I now hold of my father—of any father figure—isn’t even mine, and doesn’t actually exist at all.
 
4.
 
And yet still, I don’t want it gone.
 

 
 
Stephen Wack's new chapbook, "Loneliness & Other Human Endurances (haha, etc.)" is out now, available at the Hendershots bookshelf. On twitter: twitter.com/papiermachismo
 
 

 

"To Phillis Wheatley" - Sam Lane

 

"To Phillis Wheatley" - Sam Lane


To Phillis Wheatley,
to whom I owe a debt of language:

To the mother whom the middle passage bore
to a poet's life and the slave's chore
of serving the master's way: stay safe
in an envelope of whiteness. Your face
was unthinkable in the English verse you absorbed.
What you read and wrote of whiteness was adored
by whiteness that praised the refined Negro,
who by some parlor trick read, spoke and wrote
like they do.

You used the master's tools
as if they were your own, and artfully fooled
them to put you on an even, written plane.
Your rebellion unnoticed even in fame.
All they saw was white space,
not black letters on the page.

Now I'm in the National Gallery, banging
rap, watching the Flatbush Zombies chop every
tree from the canvas and roll it, watching
Pusha T rip up lilies and plant the poppy,

while Killer Mike runs the jewels on every duke
and duchess. Oh, original sampler,
this is what you left us to rebuke
the master, with his own tools. The first smuggler

of language, you paved our lane out of whiteness
with whiteness flipped, broke down, and packaged
to a way of speaking without the politeness
that you were shackled to. You showed us how to manage.

We were once tar baby, my black mama
poetess, now we transcend genres.


Sam Lane will be participating in the Indy Author Marketplace and Fair at the Athens Clarke County Library on Saturday, Feb 18. The event begins at 11 a.m. The library is located at 2025 Baxter Street.


Although the date and place of her birth are not documented, scholars believe that Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 in West Africa, most likely in present-day Senegal or The Gambia. Wheatley was brought to British-ruled Boston, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1761.
 
At the age of eight, she was sold to the wealthy Boston merchant and tailor John Wheatley, who bought the young girl as a servant for his wife Susanna. John and Susanna Wheatley named the young girl Phillis, after the ship that had brought her to America. She was given their last name of Wheatley, as was a common custom.
 
At the age of 14, she wrote her first poem, "To the University of Cambridge, in New England." Recognizing her literary ability, the Wheatley family supported Phillis's education and relieved her of the household labor.
 
Wheatley was strongly influenced by her studies of the works of Alexander Pope, John Milton, the ancient Greek epics of Homer, and the Roman poets Horace and Virgil. In 1775, she sent a copy of a poem entitled “To His Excellency, George Washington” to him, and Washington invited Wheatley to visit his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which she did in March 1776. Thomas Paine republished the poem in the Pennsylvania Gazette in April 1776.