"The Hermit" - Laura Solomon

“The Hermit” - Laura Solomon
and there is little that has not been said before about a cotton blossomand little that has not been said before about a copper pheasant
and little that has not been said before about a mirror
how the cotton blossom blooms how the copper pheasant cries
inconsolably it cries for a mate it cannot find
and how all of the town and its environs could hear the creature crying
and how all grew morose at the sight of a cotton blossom blooming
as accompanied by the sound of a copper pheasant crying
how none could admire the blossom as they were wont to do
how none could sleep for the pheasant’s incessant selfish crying
and how the town tried many tricks
how the elders tried talking sense to the bird
how the men and women tried first to comfort with their mouths before covering up their ears
how the kids threw rocks (they had been instructed)
and how when so near to death the bird had come and cried all the more for this
down from the mountain came a hermit
who alone consoled the bird by putting before it a mirror

(photo by Brittainy Lauback, 2015)

"The Hum of It All" - Eugene C. Bianchi


"The Hum of It All" - Eugene C. Bianchi

Medieval nuns like Mechthild of Magdeburg
and Julian of Norwich kept cats
in their chilly anchoress cells
to ward off mice, they say,
but I think their felines cuddled them
at night in divine embrace, purring them
into contemplative union and sleep.

So I find it with Siamese Max,
a curmudgeonly sixteen who gives
his brother Tony the fish-eye,
yet the old guy with wonderful purr
is a religious whiz by ignoring
stale theology to plunge into core sound,
drawing me toward the source and sleep.

Lately I’ve heard that cosmic hum
from my hummingbirds hovering
with patience for my elderly pace
as I replace their bottle of nectar.
They carry the sound of all sounds
even when silent to our weak hearing.

Such meditation is not solipsism, withdrawal
into cozy corners, the world be damned.
It gives us time to slow down, slow walk,
slow eat with monk Thich Nhat Hanh,
to let things penetrate our subtle defenses.

It gives us time to feel deeply the sorrow
and suffering of child soldiers made to tie
bombs around their waists, of girls sold
into slavery, and of those starved
and maimed in continuous war.

It’s all part of the greater hum.
I heard it again today in a chorus of cicadas.

Eugene Bianchi's third collection of poetry, The Hum of It All, has just been published by Parsons Press. He will be the featured reader at the next Word of Mouth open mic, Wednesday May 3, 8 p.m. upstairs at The Globe.  

"Thanx 4 Nothing" - John Giorno


"Thanx 4 Nothing" - John Giorno

I want to give my thanks to everyone for everything,
and as a token of my appreciation,
I want to offer back to you all my good and bad habits
as magnificent priceless jewels,
wish-fulfilling gems satisfying everything you need and want,
thank you, thank you, thank you,

May every drug I ever took
come back and get you high,
may every glass of vodka and wine I’ve drunk
come back and make you feel really good,
numbing your nerve ends
allowing the natural clarity of your mind to flow free,
may all the suicides be songs of aspiration,
thanks that bad news is always true,
may all the chocolate I ever eaten
come back rushing through your bloodstream
and make you feel happy,
thanks for allowing me to be a poet
a noble effort, doomed, but the only choice.

I want to thank you for your kindness and praise,
thanks for celebrating me,
thanks for the resounding applause,
I want to thank you for taking everything for yourself
and giving nothing back,
you were always only self-serving,
thanks for exploiting my big ego
and making me a star for your own benefit,
thanks that you never paid me,
thanks for all the sleaze,
thanks for being  mean and rude
and smiling at my face,
I am happy that you robbed me,
I am happy that you lied
I am happy that you helped me,
thanks, grazie, merci beaucoup.

May you smoke a joint with William,
and spend intimate time with his mind,
more profound than any book he wrote,
I give enormous thanks to all my lovers,
beautiful men with brilliant minds,
great artists,
Bob, Jasper, Ugo,
may they come here now
and make love to you,
and may my many other lovers
of totally great sex,
countless lovers
of boundless fabulous sex
countless lovers of boundless fabulous sex
countless lovers of boundless
fabulous sex
in the golden age
of promiscuity
may they all come here now,
and make love to you,
if you want,
may each of them
hold each of you in their arms
to your hearts
balling to your hearts
balling to
your hearts delight
balling to your hearts delight.
May all the people who are dead
Allen, Brion, Lita, Jack,
and I do not miss any of you
I don’t miss any of them,
no nostalgia,
it was wonderful we loved each other
but I don’t want any of them back,
now, if any of you
are attracted to any of them,
may they come back from the dead,
and do whatever is your pleasure,
may they multiply,
and be the slaves
of whomever wants them,
fulfilling your every wish and desire,
(but you won’t want them as masters,
as they’re demons),
may Andy come here
fall in love with you
and make each of you a superstar,
everyone can have
everyone can
have Andy.
everyone can have Andy,
everyone can have an Andy.

Huge hugs to the friends who betrayed me,
every friend became an enemy,
sooner or later,
I am delighted you are vacuum cleaners
sucking everything into your dirt bags,
you are none other than a reflection of my mind.

Thanks for the depression problem
and feeling like suicide
everyday of my life,
and now that I’m seventy,
I am happily almost there.                 
Twenty billion years ago,
in the primordial wisdom soup
beyond comprehension and indescribable,
something without substance moved slightly,
and became something imperceptible,
moved again and became something invisible,
moved again and produced a particle and particles,
moved again and became a quark,
again and became quarks,
moved again and again and became protons and neutrons,
and the twelve dimensions of space,
tiny fire balls of primordial energy
bits tossed back and forth
in a game of catch between particles,
transmitting electromagnetic light
and going fast, 40 million times a second,
where the pebble hits the water,
that is where the trouble began,
something without substance became something with substance,
why did it happen?
because something substance less
had a feeling of missing out on something,
getting it
was not getting  it
not getting it,
not getting it,
imperceptibly not having something
when there was nothing to have,
clinging to a notion of reality;
from the primordially endless potential,
to modern day reality,
twenty billion years later,
has produced me,
gave birth to me and my stupid grasping mind,
made me and you and my grasping mind.

May Rinpoche and all the great Tibetan teachers who loved me,
come back and love you more,
hold you in their wisdom hearts,
bathe you in all-pervasive compassion,
give you pith instructions,
and may you with the diligence of Olympic athletes
do meditation practice,
and may you with direct confidence
realize the true nature of mind.

America, thanks for the neglect,
I did it without you,
let us celebrate poetic justice,
you and I never were,
never tried to do anything,
and never succeeded,
I want to thank you for introducing me to
the face of the naked mind,
thanx 4 nothing.

John Giorno wrote "Thanks 4 Nothing" for his 70th birthday in 2006. A poet and visual artist born in 1936 in New York City, Giorno attended Columbia University and worked as a stockbroker for a short time before meeting Andy Warhol in 1962. A romantic relationship ensued, and Giorno was featured in Warhol’s first film, Sleep (1963). The influence of pop art and Warhol’s Factory are evident in Giorno’s work, which developed out of verbal collages of appropriated texts drawn from advertising and signage. In 1971, following a trip to India, Giorno converted to Tibetan Buddhism. In his later years, he has become well known for his confrontational readings and his contributions as a gay rights activist; he founded the AIDS Treatment Project in 1984. In 2010, he had his first solo gallery show, Black Paintings and Drawings, which focused on the development of poem painting. He currently lives in New York City.

"In Praise of Imperfection" - Bob Ambrose


1. The Peace of Imperfection

The songbirds seem not to have noticed
perfection having passed us by
last Tuesday week, the prime of spring
peaking in the predawn darkness:

                        first light
        gracing east
                a drift of breeze
the slightest hint
        of scented whispers
                wafting through
        the inner senses

The flaming sword
                that guards the garden
        carves a chasm
                        deep inside
                that fills us
        with inchoate
                longing, calling

    Brother, sister, join the sparrow 
        wander unaware in Eden 
    claim what lies beyond mere joy.

We must decline – their souls inhabit different
realms from yours and mine. They still live
within the garden, lost in perfect flow
of being. We live East, the slaves of knowing.

Once again we’re left behind to tend
a freshly-fallen world, now dusted
with a set of gnats, green oak tree doodles
caught in cracks of splintered decks

and crumbling driveways; drooping dogwood
blossoms browned about the edges,
bright azaleas slightly faded –
signs of spring now going stale.

Still bearing the imprint of Eden inside us
while bursting with knowledge and moral awareness,
we build a home in the shadow of heaven
and make our peace with imperfection.

2. In Praise of Unkempt Things 

Praise to God for unkempt things
that grace our world with imperfection –

for Friday mornings after Easter,
one egg missing;

for tidy lawns with clover patches,
strewn with toys;

for joyful girls with reckless smiles
and saddened eyes;

or graceful curves of mountain vistas
cloaked in clouds;

for clever proofs of shrouded concepts
conjured out of troubled minds.

In sorrow and striving,
in coping and growing,

in desperate hope and untenable dreams,
a glory shines through imperfection.

"A Poem for Katherine: Part One" - dn


I moved to Athens for a relationship

but the woman I moved for

threw in the chips

she flipped the script

jumped ship

she split

straight switched / eclipsed

she dipped

& quit being the love of my life.

She was no longer a woman I recognized

She / hypnotized me

with her lies

She / literally pulled

the wool over my eyes

She / came at me

cloaked in disguise

& I was none the wise-er

I believed her.


wearing brass bangles & cowrie shells like she was nature’s Black woman

made of Mississippi River & Georgia red clay,

but I should’ve seen thru her when she covered her gray

w/temporary dye in a can.


She grandstands

throws rocks & hides her hands

makes promises that can’t withstand

they don’t demand

an absolute truth.

& I promise you this ain’t no I hate her poem.

It’s an I thank her poem

A gratitude poem

for reminding me that my gut knows better poem

that truth & love will have the final word in reality poem

an appreciation poem

for reconnecting me to my divine self poem

for re-centering my attention on the universe poem

a thank you poem

for getting out of my way so I can meet her poem



is like a rose that grew from concrete

That blade of grass between my feet

That gust of wind in summer’s heat

A neat glass of scotch

No rocks

No chill

Just smooth & ill

like 1980s hip hop

Got me wantin to dance to EZ Rock

Cuttin a rug w/the pop & lock

Bustin thru a crowd w/shell tops

& a big ol’ clock

around my neck.


She’s a rainbow in a cloud

A disco ball spinning light on crowds

The silence that makes the quiet loud

& I quietly want to love her.


I want to breathe her in

like I am pulling a Cohiba.

Bask in her glory

like delighting in the Orisha.

Take her hand

& make her my senorita

She’s muy bonita

& if she let me,


I’d kiss her all over her face--

my hallelujia for God’s merciful grace

cause coming to Athens ain’t been a waste.

I found a light in a shadowed space

A reminder that love’s all over the place

If I just wait

& let it be.

"Further Reflections on the Mirror Stage" - Gregory de Rocher

"Further Reflections on the Mirror Stage" - Gregory de Rocher


It can happen

while we apply our favorite mascara

or press our freshly-covered lips

to that band of triple-folded tissue.

And for others of us

while we shave stubbled cheeks

or trim ragged beards.


Our eyes meet our eyes.


In that moment

brief but uncanny

we are face to face

with what allows us to see us be,

mystified by our hidden insides,

frozen by fear of its inevitable loss,

and above all

hurried in our flight

to find another subject

upon which to fix our startled gaze.
Illustration: "Denise at Her Dressing Table," Mary Cassatt [1909]

"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
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


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.

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?”. . .
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.
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