"Tasks" - Robert Lee Kendrick


"Tasks" - Robert Lee Kendrick

End day sun 
seeps through primer gray 
clouds, gives 
the last of its warmth 
to the rain 
swollen creek, as a hook 
necked buzzard 
picks flesh from a possum
behind my truck. 
One thing has to die 
for another 
to eat, I say to the leaves.  

Some man's 
shirtless son takes aim 
at a headless 
torso he's hung from a tree, 
makes music 
with knives, going straight 
to the heart.  

Driving home to my wife, 
I'll spread  
tailpipe smoke on young trees. Two years  
since she miscarried.
Some chromosome rot in one of us, or both, 
& no luck.  

A small wake drives water 
apart. A beaver
gathers mouthfuls of branches & mud, 
his daily work
of patching the dam.

Robert Lee Kendrick will be featured reader at next month's Word of Mouth open mic on Wednesday, July 5. In a June 2016 interview he said of his writing that "place does it for me. The roads, creeks, and lakes of Pickens County, South Carolina, and the fields and towns of central Illinois where I grew up. I see so much road kill that I get a lot from decay and rot, as well — that’s been a big thing for about six months. Natural decay is a miracle, the biological process that nature uses to heal and renew itself. There’s no unfinished business, and I don’t know that humans can do that with loss, even with rituals, therapy, art, whatever."

"Ode to Aralee" - Bob Ambrose



On the passing of Aralee Strange, founder and host 
of the Athens Word of Mouth open poetry community,
June 15, 2013 at her home, "Timberdance"


        In some place primeval
the priestess holds court 
where rhythms take form 

your spirit’s reborn  
as sirens sing in sotto voce, 
the Sibyl raves a praise to Gaia, 

long-mute furies chant 
in tongues, and fiery nuns
rap truth to knaves. None

can name the kind of faith 
that rocked your soul 
in the bosom of Timberdance,
but a warm spring bathed 
your late years, submerging self 
to nurture words in perfect strangers. 

It’s just the broken way 
of things that what we love 
will leave too soon. 

Authentic poets never die, 
they just transcend. Their words 
become their epitaph 

their thoughts a meme, 
their spirits, muse. Unburdened 
of body returned to the source

to the place beyond words 
where they go to be born,  
your essence awaits: 

A brief note, held sweet 
                against silence 
echoes forever 
        the memory of grace.
Bob Ambrose will be reading from his collection Journey to Embarkation on Friday, June 23, at Avid Bookshop [Prince Avenue location]. The joint reading with Gene Bianchi, another Word of Mouth poet, starts at 6:30. Bob's website is Reflections in Poetry.

"One More Gift" - Mark Pentecost

[Aralee Strange Dec 5 1943 - June 15 2013]

"One More Gift" - Mark Pentecost

Suddenly, the strange world is less strange,
quieter, stranger. The wheel is turned,
the finger pricked, the spell will not break.
Shhh. Listen up to what is missing:
The sound of doors locking in the dark
or unlocking. Words placed like long-stemmed
flowers in the barrels of silence.
A mouth. A voice. Beautiful. Bruised.
Friend. I did not know you long or well.
My arc was altered by our meeting.
I forced my feet into these odd shoes
and, limping, dance, clumsy and comfy.
Your cheek kissed by some goddess of storm,
you showed us, brood of anonymous
geniuses, to follow our footsteps.

Above the Ohio far away
sun and cloud are making a movie.
Backs to us, a woman leads a mule
toward the river, in step, through the
hush of mist over the bottomland.
My tongue tries to keep up, slithering,
a blind baby snake with no purchase
on the damp grass they tread so surely,
then stumped by the dross they have sloughed off:
Fabric, leather, a plow, a pump, books
and bandages and empty bottles,
a feedbag, all passing into earth
like a long outbreath of the Buddha.
On the other shore, lights and music.
“Aralee, old friend,” the boatman says,
“The mule rides free. From you a penny.”
Her jagged, full-force laugh. No problem.
From the skinny pockets of her coat
her practiced hands bring forth a lifetime:
A bib. A doll. A slingshot. Apples.
Dog treats. Cigarettes. Keys. A Zippo.
Colored pencils. Makeup. Photographs. . . .
The boatman’s eyes are big as the moon.
The river and the mule pulse gently.
The patient ferry rocks and drowses.
The woman’s laughing and the treasure
from her pockets look to have no end.
He thinks, she can’t go on. She goes on.
Brittle brown letters. A flashdrive fat
as a bullfrog. Laden vines of film
stock. Drawings. Sketches. Glitter. Stardust.
And, covered in script like fingerprints,
paper, papers, folded or in scraps,
an avalanche of words, shy children,
wadded ones unwadding in her hands.
She pauses, mother hawk sizing up
the fitness of a chick. “Not this one.
This one’s for Mark.” Thanks for one more gift,
generous Aralee, this poem,
written in the lightning from your face.

Mark Pentecost, 64, died January 16, 2017 in Athens, GA, surrounded by his family. The cause of death was ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. During two years of illness he demonstrated amazing courage, graciousness, and generosity of spirit for caregivers, family and friends.




The bright moon made the night into an eerie day

moving shadows showed

the children played

vague animal noises echoed.

People’s memories memorialized passed on only as feelings long forgotten

Grandmother’s walk in the park barley recalled

The cats, so proud no longer walked the wall.

Swirls from dances longed for

Thoughts on random nights flowing slow.

The moon so very bright now sits in shadow

Fogging up its eerie day

En– vel- oping  rec- ol- lec- tions of the olden days

Mind’s ideas vivid,

Swirling thoughts now moving forward,


"Gym Zen" - Eugene C. Bianchi


"Gym Zen" - Eugene C. Bianchi

Rather than complain, I try to focus
on feeling in and out breath in my nostrils,
since X-ray plus diabetes fatigue won’t quit,
I turn it into a Zen-lite med,
walk slow as an old turtle
around the indoor track at UGA,
just floating from site to sight,
hoping my monkeys of judgment
will stay in the trees.

Down below four courts of basket-ballers
flash in an out of vision,
one girl among them,
Asians grouped alone,
the shouts and big-ego dribblers,
(oops, a monkey loose.)

Cut off from command and control,
I circle like a tired drone
taking snap shots of repeated moves
to score for the hell of it, a kind of
muscular Zen from emptied minds.

Just now, just here with quick takes
of female shapes – short, wide, tall,
tied hair bouncing behind, some
even gorgeous by runway standards,
an overweight gray-hair chugs by
with desperate wheezing (away, monkey, away),
while young men run on behind iPhones
with the best looks they can muster for
this circulating harem, hardly noticing—
pure perfection —two amazing hunks,
biceps bulging from wife-beater tee shirts,
racing like the wind.

As mnemonics I count the laps in Italian
to the mile marker, sit on a bench, here, now
with the circus swirling, I contemplate
a round of tai chi in the dance studio with
kind dancers who make room for an
ancient Zen-ner, just here, just now,
with monkeys quiet.
"Gym Zen" appears in Gene Bianchi's third book of poems, The Hum of It All. He is the featured reader at Wednesday's Word of Mouth event, June 7, at The Globe. Sign up for the open mic is at the bar beginning at 7 pm and readings begin upstairs at 8 pm.

Bob Dylan, born May 24 1941


Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin'
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well-hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

video: Dylan, 1964



Bow down before me
I will become one with your soul
One with the people
I will humble myself
Live off the Earth
Dance in the moon light
and feed the children.
I will humble myself to become one with you
To be loud and unique amongst my fellow humans
To be one with one and
everyone around me till I disappear into sameness into every other fellow citizen.

I will humble MYSELF
Bowing down to MY people
Becoming one with THE souls
Becoming one with THE people
I will humble myself
Dirtying my hands to feed myself
Tightening my muscles to sweat and toil to feed fellow citizens
I will humble myself-
Days gone
Towering over
To truly see
The only reward-
End of the day as
Work Fulfilled
Bone Tired.

"News item (from a great height, April 21, 2010)" - M Bromberg

"The ingrate Mark Twain, enjoying the incredible technology
that God allowed Tesla, an anti-social narcissist, to create."
 (photo and caption courtesy Vain Twain)

"News item (from a great height, April 21, 2010)"
M Bromberg 

After he was described in the Atlantic Monthly as "Mark Twain, originally of Missouri, but then of Hartford, and now ultimately of the solar system, not to say the universe ... " he took pleasure in thinking of his name floating somewhere among distant planets.
Your correspondent here reports
that Sam Clemens has laid aside his pen.
Having once arrived on Mr. Halley's comet,
the author has it by the tail again.
His surprise at this astounding feat
can not be overstated in the least;
he was quite prepared to make the journey --
but not so much deceased.
Mr. Clemens tells us he is
luckily unafraid of heights,
and daily enjoys St. Peter's good cigars;
until some wires can be arranged,
he sends regrets that telegrams
will be less frequent from these stars.
The author is off
in search of a dark saloon.
Until then, I remain
your reporter and most far-flung correspondent,

Clemens was a writer as concerned with crafting his legacy as any novel he ever wrote, and his instructions to publish the full Autobiography one hundred years after his death indicates he certainly meant to have the very last laugh on the Gilded Age. Here is a poem featured last spring on WSKG-FM's Off the Page program website that imagines the author traveling the vast reaches of the Universe -- and sending back a telegram about conditions there.

"Three Cold Beers and One for Me" - Patrick McPhee


"Three Cold Beers and One for Me" - Patrick McPhee

The kitchen windows provide clear view of a local

Ox-bow bend in the North Oconee River.

Disturbances in the calm water are easily seen as ripples

the same concentric circles after a rain drop splash

speeds away in crests and troughs of reflection

sky, tree green, black and sun-bright rings that undulate

away from the anomaly.  This afternoon

ripples made by men are much larger

these anglers who work their way from downstream

slog up the gut of the river in crashing waves that center

on each fisherman, their rhythm with rod and reel

the silver glint of nylon fishing line’s hiss and splash

when the lure settles in a shade-pool under low branches

in full summer leaf, all up and down the river bank.


Never saw anyone like these three though—wading and casting

unique for this stretch of river. What the hell!

These guys deserve a reward, three cold beers and one for me!


I grabbed four beers from the fridge, put them in a small ice chest

slung it over my shoulder and walked down to the river bank

just upstream of the fisherman, each following one cast with another

as they made their way toward me.

   “Hey! You’re the first wading fishermen I’ve seen along here. There’s been kayaks and canoes, but you’re the first ones standing in the water.”

   “Our dad taught us to fish like this. I’m Ned, by the way. That’s my oldest son Kip. The serious guy over there’s my brother Charley.” Charley looked up.

   “It’s a long time since we been up here. We don’t do much fishin’ anymore.

   “Well, I’ve never seen anybody fish the river like you guys, so I brought ya’ll a reward.”

   “Oh,Yeah! What’s that?”

I reached into the cooler, pulled out a dripping

cold brown bottle and held it up by the neck.

   “How about a ice cold beer with a twist-off cap?”

   “Heck yes!” Charley grinned and waded toward me.

   “How about you guys?”

“Yes sir” Kip said. Ned smiled and nodded “OK”.

Both waded across the river and soon each man in the fishing party

had a bottle in their hand and tossed back their first long swig of ice cold  beer.

   “Seein’ you in the river surprised me. It’s shallower than I thought.”

Ned looked upstream, “The dark river bed makes it look deeper than it is.”

Kip lowered his bottle, “Sure dad, but we had to swim for it downstream.” Kip looked at me.  “We like the sport of fishin’!  We catch ‘em and we let ‘em go.”

 Charley finished his beer. “That’s about it for me.” 

    “Here, I’ll take the empties.” Charley handed over his bottle.

Kip said, “Thank you sir!” He gave me his empty, “Thanks again!”

then Kip and uncle Charley wadded upstream as they cast their lures.

Ned handed me his empty bottle, “Why’d ya bring us the beers?”

   “A reward, like I said”. 

   “We appreciate it.” He nodded and went on his way.


I watched the fishermen work through the upper shoals.

White water glistens in the hot afternoon sun and I observe

the last silver glint of fishing line move out of sight

behind an upstream river bend and into the past.


“Why’d ya bring us the beers?” Indeed

I am become old and know that today, will one day

be back in the day, when blue sky seemed

bluer, white in the tumultuous froth of August clouds

brighter—a happy, olden-times day

when a stranger would give out ice cold beers

and all would quench a deep thirst

enjoy the company of sportsmen

small talk and banter and place:

a  river scene in a young man’s memory

an old fisherman’s “Tall-Tale”, yet to be told.

"Cinco de Mayo" - Francisco X. Alarcó


by Francisco X. Alarcón
First of all, Cinco de Mayo
is not the official
Mexican Independence Day,
nor does it commemorate the first
fiesta no matter how convincing
TV commercials might sound —
it’s as unofficial as school
children telling jokes in Spanish
in English-only public schools
Cinco de Mayo is a battle fought
in the city of Puebla in 1862:
an outnumbered, outgunned,
ill-trained and very poor
Mexican army under the command
of Ignacio Zaragoza, a general
born in San Antonio, Texas,
defeated the superbly equipped
professional French army sent
by Napoleon III —  Cinco de Mayo
became a rally of hope for a nation
Cinco de Mayo is a milagrito
que nunca debió pasar pero pasó:
it’s the full-blooded Zapotec
Indian President Benito Juárez
humming: “Sí se puede”
in his forced journeys
zigzagging the Republic —
Ciudad Juárez is named
after this Mexican hero
who never gave up despite
facing superior enemy forces
Cinco de Mayo is primavera,
the bluest of skies y se siente alegría
y ya casi salimos de vacaciones.
Cinco de Mayo is a cry
that starts in the heart,
a drum that keeps calling:
Juan, María, José acuérdense —
it’s Cinco de Mayo
and like any other day:
el Chuy sigue preso
y el Joe is unemployed
y Rosa is a teenager
three months pregnant,
all confused, lost at school,
and without legal papers
Cinco de Mayo was used
once as a legal deadline
intended to close the doors
to thousands who have come
to this country searching
for a dream, a better deal,
a chance to live: who then 
will be the ones to harvest
the vegetables for your salads?
who will make your hotel bed?
who will do the dishes and scrub
the floors in the restaurants?
Cinco de Mayo is community,
familia, a ritual for life,
a collective kiss en la frente,
a rainbow, una empanada,
una canción, un baile, una mirada
Cinco de Mayo is now a rally
for protecting our civil rights
against “reasonable suspicion”
of the mean-spirited, xenephobic
and racist law SB 1070 in Arizona
Cinco of Mayo is a brown David
facing a menacing state Goliath
singing under the Arizona clouds:
“sí, se puede”, “yes, we can do it…”
Cinco de Mayo is a flower watered
by our people's tears of pain and joy:
Cinco de Mayo is each and other day,
a lesson of resistance in a era of defeat

A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón (1954-2016) was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alarcón returned to the United States to attend California State University at Long Beach, and he earned his MA from Stanford University. His collections of poetry for adults include Body in Flames/Cuerpo en llamas (1990); De amor oscuro/Of Dark Love (1991); Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (1992), winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (2002); Ce Uno One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (2010); Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems/Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas (2014); and Canto hondo/Deep Song (2015).