Puttanesca Whore's Food
I had just flown in.
I had her on her new mattress,
in her new town,
It had been two months
but she said
that the guy renting her the room
wanted to take us out to eat.
He was tall and skinny,
a sad sort.
His daughter was with her mother
far away in some other state.
He was dyslexic
but a math genius,
and like any genius in any field
he was miserable.
Which is some kind of joke
you don’t laugh at.
He kept saying he wanted Puttanesca
and he would give a desperate little laugh.
He wasn’t bad,
he just oozed melancholy.
‘Puttanesca means “spaghetti of the whore”’
He explained at this little Italian place.
‘In between johns they would
throw it together for a quick dinner.’
He had a tiny, expensive little car
he said he could make it home in twenty minutes
‘Do it’ I told him ‘even if it kills us all.’
Later, she and I broke in that new mattress
While he missed his daughter below us.
Eventually, we all got lonely.
I Think; Therefore, I Am
But of course being what I am
Does not always require thinking
Being what I am is actually sufficient
Or requires nothing but eating, drinking
Fucking, farting, pissing, pooing and sleeping
Often, being what I am doesn’t even require
Feeling, besides making money by selling
All that I have and/or I am. Indeed
Being what I am requires neither thinking
Nor feeling, now except perhaps writing
I write; therefore, I am
Though I am not what I think
Let us take all the long time we need
To wake up from our overdue dreams
Get out of the bed, and stretch our
Limbs as far as possible for a new morning
Let us take all the long time we need
To listen to the first song of the birds
Watch the rise of this summer sun, feel
The breeze combing each tree with tenderness
Let us take all the long time we need
To enjoy being together with our beloved
Exchange a smile so that they can stay with
Us just a few seconds or even minutes longer
Yes, let’s take all the long time we need
To drink this tea, to chat about this weather
To look back at the road we have travelled along
To think, to cry, and to die in lingering twilight
You’re neither the mystic
Nor the common
As you are believed to be
In the east or the west
Rather, you are the soul of a fellow
Human, perching on the treetop
Speechless, as if meditating over
Life, as if recalling your prayers
Those bottles, I threw them
All over your skin
Even when it was me that
The wounds were within
Precioso, I knew
You wouldn’t let me go
When I screamed
And hollered in your face
You’d never leave me
You gave me
And pulled me close
Wrapped me up
And when I told you no
To leave me alone
I wanted to take it back
Because either way
You’d never do that
So I just sat
Over my knees
And you never left me.
I’ve Got A Sweet Tooth For Sweethearts Like You
Joke me something awful like,
“Don’t make me want to fall for you.”
Between hopeless and hopeful I know
none of these words will hit their mark.
I’m a terrible shot but in the dark
in my bed and under your sheets
I can impress with one-liners of grace,
can turn sucker with hands on your waist.
Get hooked on your addictive taste.
Smother the thought that we’re a bad idea.
Tattoo your back in pressed kisses.
Each wet imprint a glowing star.
I’ll slide the Milky Way across your collarbone.
Map your skin in constellations.
End with a whisper against your throat,
“I’ll take your name to my grave.”
Ask for a midnight dance under velvet skies
with a moon that lights your face just right.
A night fixated on twisting hips and a farewell kiss
where the spark is small and cloaked.
Lips snap off with a static ting.
We breathe in the smoke
of a flickering flame.
Force A Half-Dead Smile
Everything I dreamed as perfect
led me down the path to another dead end.
Kids like me are in a deadlock
between officially saved and still crashing.
I’ve been trading my best confessions
only she has ever had ears for
for hard earned sympathy
no one would dare make up.
I got mayhem in my throat
and bottled stress in my mind.
A drink or two and I’ll swear I’m fine.
I’m a catastrophe gifted in concocting
the most believable of lies.
Let’s bond over shared fiascos
and sink the conversation to another night where sleep
is a fantasy
forged by cruel memory.
Someone grab the phone and call the doctor.
I’m dueling with my own mortality again
with a desperation
to live without prescriptions.
Yes. Doctor, doctor.
I’m a perfectionist with my disappointments
and all these empty bottles are my trophies
from all these days I’m so ambitious
to be forgotten.
An Introduction To Envy
Eventually I’ll be fine.
Like when he and I were freshman fodder.
Legends of shenanigans.
When your existence was his fantasy.
Best friends, we were a pair of drama queens preaching
the detonation of all our fears over shots singing,
“I just want to sell out my funeral.”
Sipping on the irony
of pulling all-nighters to sleep all day,
we laughed like fools with obnoxious tongues.
Now I’m recycling mistakes
and he’s pampering your pure humble love.
I’m testing the sourness of my heart
while you two configure your future.
I’m waddling through bullshit
with a reputation that’s half him half me
while he whispers, “I want to be your last first kiss
that you’ll ever have.”
Eventually I’ll be fine.
Where does the haggard mother
of six children, all fathered by rape,
bloated with starvation
in a dusty refugee camp
send her spirit for solace
when she’s never known solace?
Can she even know sorrow
when she’s known nothing but sorrow?
What does she feel when the red sun sets
in a cerulean sky,
when stars twinkle in an inky sea?
What would she think of poetry?
What does she think of me?
Is it only because my stomach is full,
my skin is white,
no one is shooting at me.
that I can write of beauty
the flight of a hummingbird
a bumble bee
I cried entering this world,
called by the light,
but grew so accustomed to it
that I now fear the darkness
at the end of life,
though I’ve heard it said
that darkness calls you with light
to what may be another womb.
Dreft from Mickey Mouse onesies and burp rags
Had permanently accented the bed sheets
Perfectly matched socks and undershirts
Folded on pillow cushions
Spilling over pale Landry baskets
The ultrasound gave me fragments of his beauty
I imagined warm eyes like brown marbles
And copper skin
All she saw was
The extra pounds looking back at her
In the mirror
A body with too many heart beats
The griddle hugged her hips
Pushing him against her rib cage
She mirrored the glow I had
twenty five years ago
Hers hid behind foundation and blush
Though she couldn’t leave my house
Her old room.
Her feet swelled as he grew
Cradled in her uterus
With fingerless palms he
Pushed against her slim hips
Stretching petite coconut skin
Into dark scarred flesh
She never left the bed
hid bottles of wine under her mattress
To numb the pain of losing
Name brand outfits I had never seen
Her wear before.
The snow falls
Obscuring grass, ground, cars
Rounding sharp corners
Into softer curves
Awaiting some metaphor to
Soften sharp reality
But silently, silently
On tiptoe so as not to
Upend the universe
Requiem for a Flower
The flower looked at me and saw only sadness
“Poor poet,” she intoned. “You have
no words to speak to me.”
“Alas, my blossom,” I answered. “I
cannot speak. My heart has been
numbed by this cold earth.”
Petals shook with her dissent.
“Nay, the earth is warm. Place your
hand on her heart and feel
her warm tenderness.”
So I bent and placed my hand;
yet felt only distance and apathy.
“I would speak to the universe your
loveliness, my flower, if only the ground
would warm these hands, these lips,
this soul to speak them.”
“But you have the warmth of my
life, given for you,” she answered.
“Take me to your bosom and feel
this affection I offer you.”
I plucked her and placed her
against skin hardened by life’s
harshnesses. She lay upon my soul
and as life left her, I felt my heart
begin to beat, and wept for her
Gary C. Beck
Before history kept a record
everyone believed in omens.
If they were favorable,
good hunting and gathering
fed the tribe,
Unfavorable omens explained
everything bad that happened,
hunger, illness, disease, death,
because there had to be a reason
why disasters occurred,
otherwise the tribe
would be forced to accept
the unfairness of life.
Another gray morning
drains a tad of energy
on the way to hated job
kept by necessity
to pay rent, buy food, clothes.
The only alternative
life on the harsh streets,
that also require
if we hope to survive.
When I was a boy
I knew nothing,
and except for my secret life,
escape into comforting books,
I didn't seem to be much different
then many troubled boys.
As a young man
I swaggered, lied, bragged,
became a know-it-all
As I matured,
still a know-it-all,
but less offensive to some,
dealing with others.
Then old age
snuck up on me
with doses of forgetting,
so each day I discover
I know less and less.
Grandma was a prostitute back then,
when we were not, before Mom,
Aunt Pam, when the sailors came
ashore, visited the San Diego
brothels, paid for things most of us
do for free. Grandma never said
a word about her trade, her craft,
but I found evidence inside her
hope chest, a beautiful oiled cedar
box we stored up in the attic. I envy
her and the way the sailors knew
they’d likely die within the year.
Pink and white flesh rolled in sticky rice
wrapped in seaweed, glistens on my plate.
Oh, tuna, salmon, octopus, you belong
deep in the salty sea, not in me. Why
did you swim into that net? I loved books,
fresh air, wandering, found myself a family,
an office job, a cube. All too common
our fortunes, baked in cookies, dessert
for diners gorged on Asian cuisine.
I’ve stopped taking showers.
I used to take them with you,
clumsy suds and slippery limbs,
saving water because it’s
a good excuse
to indulge in coarse kisses between the lather with
your hand between my legs as you washed
the parts of me that I couldn’t see.
Quietly, so your roommates wouldn’t wake,
though we knew they heard the bedframe whisper
to the wall,
we watched our conversations on the shower window
disappear from the glass as the cold air
hit them and stole the things
you’d never say out loud.
I take baths now.
That first girls and guys party, my mother
dropped me off saying I was too old to be walked
to the door. The hot Tennessee air, humidity, digging
into my hair, sweat flattening out my curls and pasting
them to my head. Then the doorbell, my stomach hurting,
and her mother—her mother looking very unlike mine,
soft-spoken face. Stephanie’s laughter all night long,
playing on repeat along with that song by Steve Winwood
that no one ever really liked. Her back yard in the summer
with everyone sitting around with a water bottle,
too worried about our lips and our sisters’ lip gloss
to spin it towards them. Dull pain. The boys—
Frank, steel blue eyes and high out of his mind,
and Joey and Matt and Jacob Green. I liked Jake. And there
we all were, sitting, quiet. With me, halfway through
fourteen, cross legged and thin lipped, trying
to remember the things my mother told me to say
to those boys to make them laugh. The things
I had forgotten. Then we each getting seven minutes
and I walking to the shed in the corner of her yard
and waiting. Smelling the dirt, the rawness of it.
Then that itch, behind my thigh and the wetness, coating
my hand like mud. Warm and crimson, running down
and me praying he’d miss it, not notice it was there. More
darkness, a conversation about the garden that could be
near the shed, that could fit in nicely if we
told Stephanie’s Mom. The drive home and, later,
my own mother with a wet cloth, wringing out red
into our sink. Soft clothes still smelling like detergent,
my bed, me. Me, imagining marrying the dark.
And that dull ache. The color, red.
Darren C. Demaree
Emily As Now, No One Knows
The raft that breaks up still finds
& since we are always
telling people that we are two planks
tied together, that we are not one
ship that scratch, scratch,
scratches over the sea,
always on the same level, I think
they’ve all forgotten how many times
we almost drowned
before we ever realized
that our bodies wanted to float
together. It was as simple as the tide.
It was as difficult as the tide.
The Wide #45
I gave only
the echo of honey,
but that was
sweet atom collided
& that gravitas
became my children
that knew, they
know, which gold
Robert Garner McBrearty
What if I were to rise above the bar
ten feet tall, looming over you all
as you looked up startled from your gin,
proclaiming, “This is who I am;
this is what I have become.”
Would you all loathe me then?
Or would you ask me to perform certain feats,
reach bottles hidden on high, dusty shelves
rare vintages untouched these many years,
and how you would cheer me then
down here at Pine Tavern
at summer’s end.
I sometimes wonder
who they see
from behind the counter
when they look at me,
the cashiers, the baristas,
the tellers at the bank.
and say hello,
while others look
as if a chill wind
has crossed their shoulders,
and I wonder if later
they say “he’s back,”
to one another.
I grow old
with each encounter.
Ranters and Ravers
Eventually the self-proclaimed geniuses fall short
and blame those of us
who plod along more workmanlike through life
and curse us as betrayers
while they covet our spouses and our cars
and the little we’ve put aside
for the kids’ colleges.
Oh ranters and ravers,
you’ve grown tiresome
with your whiskey and your pills
and your demons which
grow more numerous than your angels.
It’s all come to nothing,
nothing much, and along the way
you’ve broken our good china
and our hearts.
Our friendship seems
to be about
you telling me
your little schemes,
and me listening
and nodding with
the enthusiasm you seek,
and then you interrupt me
if I attempt a word
or two about myself,
but I guess
because I’ve had
where I was the one
who stole the show,
with my plans,
my little schemes,
and even I must
my plans and schemes
as yours will soon.
Between deep night
and soft dawn the
mist covers fields
spreading over daisies
wetting seeds, leaves.
Milky smoke roams
back and forth
Whistling in fog
up cloudy layers
up up circling
There are some things
that cannot be said,
in a heart we can
yet there are boundaries
waiting to be perforated.
The horizon is flat
for a reason.
It is a line that
we must cross
in order to be renewed;
a point of convergence
where dust meets light.
Ancient explorers tamed
acres of wilderness,
reducing them to precise maps
–political and defined.
But there are uncharted territories
with murky waters and dark forests
where danger lurks behind the
There are some destinations
that a compass cannot point to.
How can you claim a land
that does not belong to you?
Beyond the sharp, snow-capped
mountain ranges where prayer flags
flutter, waving goodbye to the departed,
there is a haven for the restless;
coordinates that cannot be thumbtacked
on topographical charts.
But you can only find what you seek
by letting go of the familiar.
Make peace with crossroads
and walk towards any direction.
Earth has no edges.
One came back as a willow and swallowed the rain
like the tongues of bells.
One came back as a harpoon
singing in the throat of a whale.
The last sister came back as her grandmother,
so she could feel her grandfather’s mouth
upon her own again
but have it be right this time.
A Fairy Tale
When I was young I was in love
with the Fancy in my mind,
I spun it into castles
for my stories to live in.
Older, I learnt to fear my Fancy,
it pushed out everything else,
no more had my stories happy endings,
they perished at Fancy's edge.
I was unhappy myself.
I tried to read, but darkness lurked
on every second page.
The protagonists stalked by Fancy's eyes
terrified me with their rage.
I took to walking,
but dreams followed me and so,
I never saw the trees,
nor the plaintive beauty
in a solitary autumn leaf.
In my sleep, I was pursued
and then sleep gave up on me.
I was a slave in my mind's castles,
the captive Fancy could not corrupt,
Fancy sought me for its bride
and plundered me when I demurred.
Imprisoned thus for ever so long,
I became a silent shell
and thus no one knew me.
I sought amnesty with the sun,
it was cold upon my thoughts,
even the rain could not reach me.
And so one day in forlorn walk,
I came by a water pump.
In its frenzied jets,
Pretty they were, but it wasn't them
who took my saddened eye,
it was the young man by the pump
whose steady hands
made it a thing of joy.
He smiled at me and so I thought,
perhaps he was my Prince Charming,
my rescuer so fair.
But he wasn't Prince Charming,
or a magician in disguise,
he was, better still,
a gardener who knew to look in weeds,
for the slenderness of a fern.
With a look I gave him me,
and he held all I was,
and under his steady gaze,
against his warm, loving pulse,
I felt my Fancy fall in place,
a beast tamed and shorn
of its wild curls.
He placed my castles in the sun,
its strange goblins fled,
and its beautiful secrets emerged
and began to dance.
And while the world marveled at their beauty,
I was no more than a plain girl
with nothing left to give
but the strange silence in my heart.
He took my arm and by his side,
I walked, and finally,
I felt the sun.
You will survive me
You will hide my memory
In yours, scenery and family
Vacations. On a sad, lonesome,
Whiskey night, you will, in hushed
Tones, whisper my insecurities
To friends whose warm arms will
Calm you. This and your horizontal
Pillow ebb seclusion until the day,
My Baby Pie, when you join the collective
Cosmos and we meander eternity
I’ll receive you and once the last person we knew
Speaks our names for the last time, we’ll
Vaporize along with our era
As we coma together. They’ll never know
Of the winter walk we took tonight in the garden
As snow fell among the silent trees
The very very rich
are pissing off
the merely rich
on Long Island
as flocks of choppers
fill the summer sky
like Canada geese at
your favorite golf course,
disturbing the peace-
ful sun bathing of
the North Fork folk
on beach and backyards.
Scads of money
should be enough
for afternoon naps
on Shelter Island
but these flying
the super elite from
Manhattan and disturbing
the fake bucolic serenity
of the simply well-heeled
in lobster red pants or
emphasize the fact that
oodles of money is
sadly not always enough.
I look at the mean young faces
in the high fashion advertisements
for expensive handbags
or the hot new fragrance
displayed in the Style Section
of the New York Times and
think you poor juvenile beings
fated for Botox and fillers
and snipping and cutting
and that frozen dermatologist
beloved by aging actors and
news anchors who cannot
take the bright lights of production.
No wonder the zombie love
fills the films and the sitcoms
and the blonde babe in the news anchor chair
where aging is the final sin
with no chance of redemption.