"The Death of Superman" - Elsa Russo






"The Death of Superman" - Elsa Russo

I don’t drink as much anymore because Superman died

If you can believe it
We had a full conversation once
In which it was decided collectively that I should never try hallucinogens
Unless there is a trusted friend there to take care of me
He volunteered to be the trusted friend
But I was not so sure how much he could be trusted
Not that he wouldn’t take care of me
But pretty sure he wouldn’t resist the temptation to mess with me

I don’t drink as much anymore because Superman died

On a rare day when I could walk downtown
During a long bout of pain and painkillers
I told him I had taken four vicodin that day
What were my chances of surviving this whiskey?
He told me my chances were good
But he kept an eye on me

I don’t drink as much anymore because Superman died

It was at the end of that bout of pain
That I heard he hadn't survived
Took a long dive that he had done a hundred times before
But this time hit the ground
I felt stupid coming to my friends with good news
But they begged me for it
Anything to ignore the fact

That we don't drink as much anymore because Superman died

Because you see the problem with being friends with Superman
Is you forget that he’s actually a human
And while he has survived this before
There is no guarantee he will again
And I forgot that
And he forgot that
We all forgot that

I don’t drink as much anymore because Wyatt died

And I am sick to death of supermen


[art by elsa russo]

"Everyone steps in a bear trap" - David Noah




"Everyone steps in a bear trap" - David Noah

Everyone steps in a bear trap,
and wears it as an anklet, painful,
invisible to the eye, but making a clanking
nevertheless, and audible even when
we speak of the stars.
Everyone bears a crown, unseen,
a hat with a hole to the sky,
a bit of panache as the world goes by,
and the light falls in, even when
we speak of the dark.


(Self-portrait by David Noah)

Saturday DECEMBER 14: Celebrate the release of "Everything Mad with Love" by Athens author, artist, poet and photographer David Noah @ Normal Books, Prince Avenue in Normaltown.
"Everything Mad With Love" is a collection of street photographs taken in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Athens, GA. The photos are unconsciously made fables sprung in an instant from the spaces in our ordinary world. Circus artists, lovers in parks, mirrors in Times Square, cement dinosaurs, and tragic pedestrians all find a home in these images. David will hold a brief chat about his book and photography and then sign books.
David Noah has been a photographer for many years and lives with his wife in Winterville, GA. He has worked as a printer, an art teacher, and an academic. His work is often included in local juried exhibits such as the yearly shows at Lyndon House and OCAF.

"Her Rage" - Aralee Strange


"Her Rage" - Aralee Strange
If anybody can save this world she’s a woman
and is she pissed
pre-fabricated domesticated deformed and suppressed
underdressed depressed obsessed with herself
seduced made ashamed and treacherous
made less.
She will raise her voice in hallelujiah!
she will raise her eyes and equal to
she will raise her fists if she needs to
she will know how.
And she will ask:
How if we waste the children who will lead us
shall we endure?
Why must they atone for the sins of the fathers
who sacrifice to their false gods all life
for the sake of pride and poor judgement
for who owns what
who own nothing
who know nothing
who would have us murder and destroy
them and how many of us
to save face
to prove whose god is great
who owns the night
whose mighty fist is biggest?
And she will say:
Let my will be done
for a change
my ways my means
my benevolence my praise
my rage
my rage.

Aralee Strange was the founder and guiding light of Word of Mouth. The first open mic was held upstairs at the Globe on December 2, 2009. Aralee, a poet and playwright, was born on December 5, 1943 in Macon, Georgia, from where at a young age she moved to Birmingham, Alabama. After living and working in Atlanta, Georgia, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City, Aralee then settled for more than twenty years in Cincinnati, Ohio. In March 2007, she moved to Athens, Georgia, and lived there until her passing on June 15, 2013.
THE ROAD ITSELF, the first collection of her work, was published in October 2018 by Dos Madres Press in Cincinnati and is available here.
"The Road Itself rambles through a singular poet’s life and distills the world through her unflinching gaze; its author taking her own measure and the world’s without romantic filters. A 2 a.m. prophet, Strange declares to America, the mean and beautiful, I am an alarm clock / and I am ringing. Even so, there is the medicine of dirt and train song; there is the bandoneon and the saxophone; there is Strange, inviting you, step into the center / shall we dance?” In her life, Aralee drew a circle wherever she lit and pulled in poets from every which way." - Michelle Castleberry 

[Photo of Aralee by Bob Brussack]

"Brushwood and Thorns" Cleo Creech




"Brushwood and Thorns"
Cleo Creech

If you are brushwood and thorns,
you have been forced to become so,
to survive, to live, tough and twisted.
Your branches borne against ravages
the harsh unyielding elements
roots searching through barren soil.

Yet the roots of smallest weeds
can over time turn rocks to dust.
The miserly old trees above.
whose roots suck the soil dry,
though tall, find themselves corrupt,
rotting, hollow from within.

The storm approaches, winds shift;
sounds of cracking wood, crashing trees,
falling under their own dead weight.
Then upon gentle rains and a new day,
the brushwood and thorns leaf green
Remembering that they are roses

CLEO CREECH has been published online in White Crane and other journals. He is the founding editor of Java Monkey Speaks, a continuing anthology series of Atlanta-area poets, and is a past editor of Georgia Poetry Association. About "Brushwood and Thorns," Creech comments: In an effort to dismiss the protesters the president of Iran referred to them all as mere "brushwood and thorns." This has now been taken up as a ralllying call, and point of pride among protestors. Governments should be careful what they call their detractors, it may come back to haunt them, just ask the Cuban gusanos." 

"Maxwell Demon Bottle" - Ezekiel Black



"Maxwell Demon Bottle" - Ezekiel Black

Bleach [ME blechen < OE blæcan “whiten,”
deriv. of blāc “radiant, ablaze,” originally,
“without hue,” e.g. “He saw the firelight,
the brilliant beams that brightly shone.”
blāc alt. sp. of blæc, cf. BLACK]
An argument in barefoot
to track a rabbit in the young snow,
a rabbit smoking a tavern pipe.
Lampblack from the gaslight,
marrow and pitch, the portcullis.
Sirrah, sirrah, sirrah, obelus.
Black [ME blak < OE blæc, “jet, dark,”
also n. “ink,” e.g. “The guest slept inside
until the black raven, blithe of heart,
bode Heaven’s bliss.”] Black and white
tap the root, the salamander’s tongue.

"Maxwell Demon Bottle" orinally appeared online at N/A. Ezekiel Black is the featured poet at the next Word of Mouth open mic, Wednesday November 6 at the Globe in downtown Athens. Sign-up for open mic is 7 p.m. at the bar and readings begin at 8 p.m. upstairs

"Everyone Gets Lighter" - John Giorno




"Everyone Gets Lighter" - John Giorno
(December 4, 1936 – October 11, 2019)

Life is lots of presents,
and every single day you get
a big bunch of gifts
under a sparkling pine tree
hung with countless balls of colored lights;
piles of presents wrapped in fancy paper,
the red box with the green ribbon,
and the green box with the red ribbon,
and the blue one with silver,
and the white one with gold.

It's not
what happens,
it's how you
handle it.

You are in a water bubble human body,
on a private jet
in seemingly a god world,
a glass of champagne,
and a certain luminosity
and emptiness,
skin of air,
a flat sea of white clouds below
and the vast dome of blue sky above,
and your mind is an iron nail in-between.

It's not
what happens,
it's how you
handle it.

Dead cat bounce,
catch
the falling knife,
after endless shadow boxing
in your sleep,
fighting in your dreams
and knocking yourself out,
you realize everything is empty,
and appears as miraculous display,
all are in nature
the play of emptiness and clarity.

Everyone
gets
lighter
everyone
gets lighter
everyone gets
lighter
everyone gets lighter,
everyone is light.

"My Father’s Meaningful Season" - Clifford Brooks

"My Father's Meaningful Season" - Clifford Brooks


A ruby ribbon
of fleeting light
passes over pecan trees.
Vacant of leaves
and shell-wrapped gifts,
dad and I can see the sky.

There was work,
with necessary silences.
We ticked-off our time
with the kind of cursing
that turns kids
into men.

It isn’t a secret
that those years
outdoors with my father
are only
family affairs
in Athens
that made an impression.

Pop implanted:
Good luck is a lie.
Success is not a soap opera.
Wisdom is freedom from worry.

Worked with strangers in wind,
and in snow with kin.
We all outgrew my ego,
need to be simpatico,
and in the end,
like daddy said:
Piss on it.

"My Father's Meaningful Season" appeared originally at Porridge. Clifford Brooks will be the featured poet at tonight's Word of Mouth open mic at the Globe. He was born in Athens, Georgia. His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published in 2017. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued in August 2018. Evergreens, his second chapbook, will be released by Lucid House Publishing in 2019. His website is www.cliffbrooks.com

"No One Called My Father a Whore" - Arianna Page


When you hear the word “prostitute,” you always think of a sultry woman sucking men into seedy, smoke filled rooms with stiff, stained beds that have no softness, no give.

But no one called my father a whore because he dropped out of art school to work until the blue collar around his neck weighed down his back that is now bent bending soon to be broken–
All for a woman with curving hips, curling hair, and the fullest lips.

"Echoes" - Ellen Wynne




"Echoes" - Ellen Wynne


With
all
being
unified,
we curled still in sleep,
part of an unborn universe
wound into an unspeakably small dense white-hot coil,
the speck in which was writ the whole divine blueprint awaiting a soundless explosion.

We
were
expelled,
torn apart,
flung spiraling out
to wander through an untold void,
and in cold and black-dark nothing to unfurl ourselves,
frail amnesiac orphans stumbling one over the other in search of light and heat.

Still,
when
we pause
to look up,
our eyes shine in awe,
reflecting the burning bodies
that stare back at us across the gulf of space and time.

“I ain’t never been no superhero” – Larry Sheats



“I ain’t never been no superhero” – Larry Sheats


The pressure that dem Marvel Avengers feel must be something else
I mean to have the whole world looking at you and asking for help
See I don’t even have all that on my shoulders
Just a few boulders and they heavy enough
I used to think that I was tough
But life laughed and showed my ass
What being tough really means
It means paying the bills when you ain’t got no green
Sacrificing your dreams for the sake of the team
And at times it may seem that you being stuck with a knife
But I’m being totally honest with myself, that’s just life
Sometimes that’s just the way it goes, the way the wind blows
But you know, I ain’t never been no superhero
So when the stress gets the best of me
And I explode for all eyes to see
Understand that’s just how I feel, cause I ain’t no man of steel
And those bullets that be flying are real
So I stand still, cause I can’t move as fast as the Flash
And behind this mask, ain’t no billionaire play boy
Just a lonesome soldier who’s getting older and little bit colder
From watching the days of his life pass him by
Asking God for the strength to give it just one more try
And maybe today we won’t die from being broken
By harsh words that have been spoken from unkind lips
Ego trips have been known to sink ships
So not a sound do I make, even though I’m at the point I could break
Like a wooden stake to a vampire
My empire goes up in dust and I ask God is this a must
Cause in Him I do still trust, so my eyes I do close and let go
But remember that I told you
I ain’t never been no superhero

"A MAGAZINE WHERE EVERYONE IS FAMOUS" - Paul Cunningham


"A MAGAZINE WHERE EVERYONE IS FAMOUS" -  Paul Cunningham

a magazine and what it sells
a magazine is what it sells
a magazine holds 10 rounds or 15 if it is a standard magazine
a magazine holds 30 rounds if AR-15
if AR-15 a magazine speeds 800 rounds a minute
if AR-15 a magazine can hold 60 or 80 or 100 rounds
a magazine is breaking news—goes round and round—repeats the next day
a magazine a substitute for butcher’s paper
a magazine a photo a mother reliving the moment for the rest of her life
reliving the moment for the rest of her life
for the rest of her life
a magazine a skin rag an exit wound
a magazine a pornography not limited to unclothed bodies
unshielded bodies

a magazine is aiming for a new pornography it’s shooting for a language of violence it’s sticking to your guns if you’re trigger happy if you’re a real pistol you’ll stick to your guns if you’re ready to bite the bullet if you’re ready to jump the gun if you’re ready to shoot straight if you’re ready to go ballistic if you’re a real son of a gun

no son of mine’s gun shy no son of mine’s a shot in the dark no son of mine could do that in the middle of the dark no son of mine could do something like that in the darkness in the middle of the day no son of mine could go off like that no son of mine’s a son of mines no

a magazine a clip a clip from a magazine one clipped quote clipped from the headlines one quote reads the magazine rounds out just like this

“I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home,” says Ronald Reagan

a magazine another tragedy
and another and another and
a magazine another campus shooting’s front cover
a magazine where everyone waits for the explanation
a magazine where everyone waits for the motive
a magazine where everyone is buying what’s selling
a magazine details the caliber of a magazine
details the caliber of our president’s performance
details the caliber of the performance
a m-m-magazine is too many syllables
a m-m-magazine is too many
teenagers, sons, daughters, children
a magazine where everyone is famous

"In the South" - Clifford Brooks




"In the South" - Clifford Brooks


Cicadas
offer no history, only
a permanent revolution of seasons --
a melody,
a natural catastrophe.


Our loose thoughts combined after I told you
about the blond vagabond playing Vivaldi downtown
with only his toes touching the ground,
the soothing sounds those strings
spread were his roots among us
that challenged reality, in it
he was the only soul entangled.

His violin was spotless, though he was not --
he was a stalagmite, vapor, the remnants of awful parents,
vacant eyes, gaping mouth.

Unkempt, he was another time-wasted thing, disintegrating
from an inability to remain tangible, shadows crowding 'round,
same as you see on the road home through Yazoo, Waco, and Monroe,
impassable because your headlights always shined
behind … nevertheless - a surreal sight on Hancock, that man

like the dark wood of a dining table, primer still smelling
of orange blossoms wiped up in dusty plumes, letters propped up
against a vase beneath the bowing heads of crested irises,
nearby is grandfather's photo in black-and-white,
expensive parchment for better letters is unused.

Today, for me, a lady is a fading reflection as I look out
from a sturdy frame; the air is filled with cynicism.
For years I collected specters in a blue Bible,
and tonight i give them all to Vivaldi’s madman.
Those motels, the lying sleep, this time to mend:
They are forgotten secrets between us and lunacy.
They are no longer yours.
They are no longer mine.



Cicadas
play to help remember, keeping
time the way a metronome does:
Not to pass the hour,
but hone its rhythm.
They are blades that slice away
what I don’t want.




Clifford Brooks (www.cliffbrooks.com) was born in Athens, Georgia His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published in 2017. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued in August 2018. Evergreens, his second chapbook, will be released by Lucid House Publishing in 2019. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience (www.southerncollectiveexperience.com), a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application. 


"Saturday Chaconne" - Clifford Brooks




"Saturday Chaconne" - Clifford Brooks

Damon and Pythias
shake off Syracuse,
and brush their shoulders clean.
In downtown Athens
short skirts scoot us up one street,
then left on College Avenue.
Brothers head into a hookah bar.

Jackson’s secondhand bookshop
contains collections
by Rilke, Neruda, and Simic
whose woo factor
hit their limit.
Now they’re here
with scribbled epitaphs
that whisper: The heart doesn’t
always win.

Nor is family loyal to their tortured son.
So, I decide to inscribe my insanity
in a tattoo venue.
Now, the motto of my family’s melancholy
is carved into muscle over time.
The blood spilt in that chair
is theirs as much as mine.
Finem Respice
is forever
on my left arm.

On Four Fat Tires, we careen
into the old decor of New Orleans.
This eatery has been renamed,
but it’s still the same.
Dad sits inside, smiling:
My old man
is always smiling.

We watch the waning sun
set across Broad Street
over the Arches
that urge us to understand
that the ache of youth passes,
age has a slanted perspective,
and nothing is wasted with good company.

As evening winks in,
dogwood lets petals drift.


Clifford Brooks (www.cliffbrooks.com) was born in Athens, Georgia His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published in 2017. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued in August 2018. Evergreens, his second chapbook, will be released by Lucid House Publishing in 2019. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience (www.southerncollectiveexperience.com), a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application.  


"Crow Prayer" - Michelle Castleberry

"Crow Prayer" - Michelle Castleberry

Oh, Lordy!
Because you already know our hearts, 
Lord, we only pray so the others hear. 
Because you do not render this as blasphemy, 
we can say we believe less in You than magic. 
We believe less in magic than in the found corn chip, 
the stolen rivet, or button. For these are all testimonies of You. Take this as You will.
We have creation hung in our jaws and cough
our thanks from high nests for each perfect unlivable law.
We keep track of the breakage, 
for You love a tally.
We sound the alarm for the dumb ones
including those two-leggeds You adore.
We sing our praises from the craw
“Aw, thankee very much; we are much entertained!”
Who is so hardened, Lord, that they cannot hear our song?
Which is 
Awe!Awe!Awe!




"Crow Prayer" by Michelle Castleberry appeared originally in Still: The Journal. She is a writer and social worker in northeast Georgia and has been a featured reader at Athens Word of Mouth. Her work can  also be found in publications such as The Chattahoochee Review and The Atlanta Review. Her first book, Dissecting the Angel and Other Poems. was finalist for Georgia Poetry Book of the Year for 2013. She is a Fellow with The Makery through the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky.

"Winter" - Rob White



"Winter" - Rob White


Like most gifts, I brought you home in a box
You’ve been trying to get back into boxes ever since
My girlfriend said I needed a companion
So together we adopted you
She wanted the fluffy one
But your wide golden eyes spoke to me
A companion you became
Long after girlfriend was gone
A tiny chirping sprite
Unable or unwilling to form a meow for most of your life
You spoke in squirrel noises
A chirp in greeting when I walked in the room
A cry of announcement when you jumped on my lap
A squeak of surprise when I snuck up on you
Except when the door was shut
At which point you became a howling bobcat
Sliding your tiny hand under the door to rattle the obstacle until passage was given
You’ve slept curled up near my neck since the day I brought you home
You purr the loudest when I’m talking or singing to you
I can always count on you to climb on top of every piece of Ikea furniture as I put it together
Your version of helping, I think
We’ve moved together countless times
Two vagabonds still searching for home
Though now I realize that home is where you are
And as you never seem to mind the change of surroundings
I assume that you feel the same
I named you Winter after my least favorite season
But you have become my favorite thing
My best friend
My confidante
My constant companion even and especially when times were tough
Though I doubt you speak English
You are a Russian Blue, after all
I know you’ll purr when I read this to you just the same
If there are four chambers in my heart
You’ve crept into one of them
Like the box I brought you home in
And there I’ll hold you forever