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By Alan Toltzis

As time passed,
they didn’t need to study love,
pray for it,
or even speak its name.

they lived their love
Secrets remained secret

as love sank into unbending bones,
fused with supple corpuscles,
and seeped through soft skin
beneath their fingernails.

Only by looking back
and naming each
of the 42 places (in order)
they had journeyed

did they realize they had grown
into an old couple
who survived a long-forgotten stopover
of bickering and concession

and the should-
and should-not-have-saids
they should never
have crossed

leaving only unspoken love
perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy
of taking each other
for granted.

Today’s poem is from the collection The Last Commandment, published by Poetica Publishing, copyright © 2015 by Alan Toltzis, and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment (Poetica Publishing, 2015). His work appears in print and online publications including The Provo Canyon Review, Poetica Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and Red Wolf Journal. Alan is working on his second book of poems and is developing The Psalm Project, to teach poetry to middle- and high-school students.

Editor’s Note: There is something of a prayer in today’s poem. A thanksgiving. Something quiet, humble, and honest. Something lived, understood, known. What it is to journey throughout a lifetime of relationship. What it is to look back and reflect upon “the should- / and should-not-have-saids … leaving only unspoken love / perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy / of taking each other / for granted.”

Want to read more from Alan Toltzis?
Alan Toltzis’ Official Website
“Miles Away” in the Red Wolf Journal
The Provo Canyon Review
“Noah” in the Red Wolf Journal
“Elegy for 107696” via Poetica Publishing

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By Derrick Tyson

My eyes
are so green that when

I look at you, your face
becomes an emerald,

or like a meadow
that is so completely absorbed

in its color that
it catches in your throat.

Flowers never need

the sky is so beautiful

that even the windows
are in awe,

not letting me
see it clearly.

built into us, into our limbs,

my feet have bricked wells
built into them,

I fall into myself.

Today’s poem was previously published in SHAMPOO, and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Derrick Tyson is a a Visual Artist/Poet currently residing in the Atlanta-area. He has been published in various online and printed magazines nationwide, and has several books of poetry out. As an artist, he has been exhibited internationally in four different countries (Israel, China, Australia and Italy) and has had many of his photographs published in online and printed magazines. He loves co-mingling, cross-pollinating Fine Art with his love of Poetics, Literature, World Cinema and the Oneiric. He refers to this as Visual Poetry. He believes that all things are interconnected, whether or not we can visually render the connections. Since “Time” is inelastic, he cherishes every second with a passion. He’s easily-amused and takes nothing for granted.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is full of moments of stunning, impactful surprise. In the instant of connection, is it the watcher or the watched who becomes transformed? How perfect the flower, created by the hand of science or Mother Nature, that it never needs alterations. How beautiful the sky that not even the transparency of windows will allow it to be truly seen. How deep or burdened we are, that we fall into ourselves? Built moment by moment, each its own deep thought, each its own discreet image, today’s poem asks us to slow down, to reflect, to envision and imagine and contemplate. There is layer upon layer to consider and play with, if we will open our minds and take the time.

Want to see more from Derrick Tyson?
      Lispy Whispers
      Isolated Lightships

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By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

By Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The warm sun is falling, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth is her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black and gray;
Let your light sisters play–
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.

By Juliana Horatia Ewing

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
–And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old–
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.

Today’s poems are in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.

Editor’s Note: Today we celebrate another change in seasons. As the leaves turn red, yellow, orange and gold, as they fall from the trees and blanket the ground, as Mother Earth sheds her summer splendor and Persephone prepares to go underground, may we bid farewell through poetry. And may we meet again in spring when life blooms anew.

Want to read more fall poetry?
Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

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Pale Imposters


[This story was originally published, in a slightly different form, in the Winter 2011 issue of Our Stories Literary Journal.]

You probably think it’s pathetic for a thirty-year-old guy to live in his mother’s garage, but honestly I don’t know how I got to be thirty. And I wouldn’t be living here if I hadn’t gotten kicked out of Rockingham College for plagiarism. That’s what Professor Daniels called it, but I think he’s just bitter because he’s not working at a real university.

“You’re a celestial talent,” he said, punning on the fact that he taught astronomy.

This was a few months back. We were in the classroom after everyone had left. He was sitting on the chalk-covered desk and swinging his legs. Behind him were diagrams of stellar pathways, calculations of orbital velocity. To me they looked beautiful even from a distance, and that was without considering their link to burning balls of hydrogen millions of times as big as the Earth.

“I don’t want to do this, you know?” he said. “But I think I’d be doing you a disservice if I let it slide.”

I wanted to point out that he really wouldn’t be doing me a disservice at all. I was just a few months from my bachelor’s and then I could get a better job and move out of my mother’s. Couldn’t he just dock my grade?

“I’d dock your grade,” he said. “But you wouldn’t care about that, would you? You’ve already made a mockery of my attendance policy.”

“I work late.”

“So do many of the students and yet they manage to come to class.”

He extended his hand and I shook it.


That’s one of my weaknesses, letting people walk all over me. That’s what my mom says when I complain about my boss, the owner of The College Slice. Eddie Machete, they call him, because he once chased a burglar from his house with a machete while dressed in his underwear.

It’s true about working late. I don’t want to, but Eddie keeps the place open later every year, trying to undercut the competition, Dino’s, across the street. They both gear to the college, drunk frat boys stumbling in five minutes before close and getting angry that we don’t have supreme slices. They never recognize me from the classes we had together. 

It’s funny because Dino and Eddie are so alike yet they’re sworn enemies. They stand at their respective windows all day, staring at each other from under neon signs advertising cold beer and cheap slices. They once got in a price-gouging war until Dino went down to fifty cents a slice and Eddie practically broke down sobbing that he couldn’t go any cheaper. That’s when he changed the name from Eddie’s Pizza to The College Slice, to remind people who had been kissing the students’ asses longer.

So I deliver until four or five in the morning, because the Italians and the Spanish hate each other—something about a soccer match in the ’70s—or maybe it’s that Eddie hates anyone who so much as looks at his money.


Today, for example, when I get to work he calls me into his office. He is counting the drawer from the day shift. I watch his busy fingers.

“You looking at my money?” he says, laughing. “I am rich and you are not.”

Instead, I look at the pictures of the race cars on his wall, Eddie holding up his winning trophies with his big hairy arms.

“But because I am rich,” he says. “I am going to give you a raise.”

“Thanks, Eddie. Maybe I’ll be rich one day.” You’ve got to know how to butter him up.

“If you work as hard as me,” he says. “This is America.”

I do work as hard as Eddie, harder in fact since Eddie spends most of his day in his car on his cell phone, only running in and out of the kitchen to yell at people like me. I try to be stoned enough where Eddie doesn’t bother me. I stand in the steam of the dish pit, scrubbing dishes and staring at the yellowing brick of the wall. It’s the drivers’ job to do the dishes and most of them hate it. Not me. I like to be away from the noise and heat of the kitchen, no one talking to me until an order’s ready.

But today I’ve no sooner clocked in and changed into my flour-covered work shirt than I see one of the warmer bags sitting there. I ask Bill—the stuttering alcoholic night manager, also known as Billiam and, less affectionately, Princess Willie—if it’s ready.

“Aston,” he says. That’s my name. “Thank the ever-loving lord. That shit’s got to go ASAP.”

I check the ticket. “Sweet.”

It’s for Cold Mountain Creamery. 

“I don’t see what’s sweet about that,” Bill says, missing the obvious opportunity for an ice-cream-related pun. “They don’t tip for shit.”

“I need to get gas,” I say. I don’t want him to know the real reason since it’s pretty embarrassing.


It’s colder than shit outside. I run the heat on high and eventually my window unfogs. I pop in a Brian Eno mix and hum along as I drive—my favorite part of this suck-ass job. My nose starts to run and I look around for a napkin, anything, but I cleaned out my car for the first time in about five months in a fit of pot-and-coffee-induced productivity (the mixture makes me OCD), so I have to wipe the snot on my sleeve. The hoodie I’m wearing is black but the smear, like a slug trail, is still visible on my sleeve. Gross. 

I don’t know what the Civil War has to do with ice cream but there are images of that movie all over Cold Mountain Creamery. A big moon over dark woods. Nicole Kidman, the worried lover, looking out from her North Carolina porch. Jude Law hiking through the woods in his ripped-up bloody uniform. It’s morbid for an ice cream place.

The smell of waffle cones hits me as I walk in the door. She’s standing at the waffle cone machine, waiting for the timer to ding. When it does she scrapes the hot thin waffle from the griddle, rolls it around a conical cone mold and slides it into its paper hat. She smiles at me, showing that gap in her teeth.

“Pizza man,” she says.

“Hey,” I say. I should probably tell her my name one of these days.

“Pizza man,” she shouts into the back room.

Her voice is high an scratchy in an unfeminine, but not unpleasant, way. With the purple streaks in her hair and her perfect little oval of a face, I can see her as a singer in one of those badass all-girl bands.

A fat girl who I’m pretty sure is the manager waddles out. She’s got money in both fists.

“All right,” she says. “Here’s the first order. And this is the second. And the last one.”

I count each. No surprise, exact change down to the penny. I tell myself they are young and do not know any better. But the fat girl’s close to my age and besides there’s a tip jar right at the counter. One of the other night shift drivers, Donny, dropped a note in there one day.

Here’s a tip, it read. Give and you shall receive.

It’s funny because Donny drives a shiny new Corvette, which I am pretty sure he didn’t buy. Still, I wish I had the balls to do something like that. I can’t even work up the nerve to ask Abby out. I know her name’s Abby because she’s got a name tag. 

I am about to leave when Abby calls me over and slips me a fiver.

“They’re some greedy bitches,” she says. “And anyway, I gotta tip the man with the sweet-ass Misfits patch.”

I turn my sleeve to look at it—I put it on in high school and I pretty much forgot it was there—and that’s when I see the snot-smear. No way she doesn’t notice it too. But she doesn’t react. I put my arm back against my side like I’m fishing for something in my pocket.

“You like the Misfits?” I say.

And I am a little surprised. She can’t be more than seventeen. Of course I was listening to them in high school too. Which brings back days of skipping class with Raven Underwood, driving down to Eno River in her little brown Volkswagen Beetle with only a tape deck, singing along with “One Last Caress,” somehow happy even with all the bullshit around us.

“They changed my fuckin’ world.”

Changed her world. I wish something could still get to me like that.

“Cool,” I say. “Well, see ya.”

She says see ya back and I take that pathetically brief interaction with me out to the car, like a little kitten or something, humming “One Last Caress.”


When I get back in the car I pop out that sad sack Brian Eno and dig around for a Misfits CD. Eventually I find one. I listen to it on repeat all night. I remember Raven taking my hand and putting it between her legs. I just kind of left it there, touching her pink underwear.

“You’re kinda dense, aren’t you?” she said, pulling the underwear back and guiding my fingers in.

But now Raven’s face has been replace with Abby’s. The night passes in a blur of tips, no tips, money counting, dishwashing, a few visits from Eddie, closing up shop with Bill and driving him home (after a few after-hours drinks together in the curtain-drawn bar).

Back at home I watch blowjob porn in the garage apartment I live in now, imagining Abby doing the impossible things in the video, that my dick is as big as the guy’s. The apartment wouldn’t be a bad setup if not for the fake-wood paneling and shag carpet that makes it look like some ’60s hunting lodge. And the fact that it’s attached to my mother’s house. It’s six am and I can hear her moving around, which makes it hard to jerk off. The washer and dryer are in here and she doesn’t like me to lock the door. She could come in at any moment; she never knocks. She gets up early because she passes out at nine p.m. every night, wine-drunk, not in her bedroom but on the couch with the TV blaring. A few hours earlier I walked through the living room en route to the fridge and there she was, fallen off the couch onto the floor, her legs spread and her shapeless gray panties showing.

Eventually, I do come into an old sock. This nightly ritual, followed by a tall boy of Pabst and the Twin Peaks DVD I just got, does the trick and my eyes get heavy. I feel guilty that I’ve masturbated to throat-fucking a seventeen-year-old and then I think, Fuck it anyway, who’ll ever know?


About a week goes by before I get one of the Cold Mountain deliveries again. This time Donny is working too.

“Let me take that one,” I say.

“Be my guest,” he says. “Hate those little high school bitches.”

Before I get out the door Eddie stops me.

“No, no,” he says. “You don’t take that one. I take that one. You take the ones that make you the money.”

How can I say no? Eddie’d probably cut my throat or at least send me home if I didn’t let him feel like the generous one. And as much as I’d love to go home, I can’t afford it. Now that I am not getting my degree, my mom says I’ve got to start paying for the hot water and electricity I use. $150 a month, which is still cheaper than rent.

I watch as my delivery vanishes out the door, no doubt to sit in Eddie’s car for twenty minutes while he talks on the phone.


I get my chance later that night, after Eddie leaves. Donny’s not even there so there’s no one to take it up with one way or the other. This time I make sure there’s no snot on my sleeve.

“Mr. Pizza Man,” Abby says. “I didn’t think you were gonna make it.”

It’s right around ten o’ clock and she’s smoothing over the ice creams so that they don’t get frost on them. Tabitha, that’s the fat girl—Tabby and Abby, weird huh? –comes out of the back with just one handful of money this time.

“I can’t drive you home tonight,” she says to Abby. “I got problems with the drawer. Unless you want to wait two hours.”


“Maybe pizza man can drive you? I’ll let you go now, if it helps.”

She looks at me. “Could you? My bike’s broken.”

How young is this girl? Too young to drive?

“I guess so,” I say. 

“Just let me clock out,” she says.

I wait in the car with the engine running. In a minute she comes out and hops in (it’s not hard to spot my car with the lit-up topper reading The College Slice). I turn up the music a little so she’ll notice it. The Misfits.

“You really like them, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” I say. “They’re rad.”

I haven’t wanted someone to think I’m cool in who knows how long.

As we drive I am aware of her leg beside mine, the way I almost have to touch her knee when I shift gears. My dad, who’s long gone, the feckless bastard, told me that men drive manual. It sucks for delivery though: dialing a customer or holding a drink to keep it from spilling is hard when one hand is in use. I’ve learned how to drive with my knees.

She smells good, natural. Earthy. “Where do you need to go?”

“It’s a little far,” she says.

“It’s cool. That was my last delivery on that run.”

That’s true, but I wonder how I am going to explain the holdup to Bill. I’ll make some shit up about engine trouble. Bill would never fire me. He needs good workers, especially ones willing to be his friend.

She leads me down a series of side streets into a suburban neighborhood. She must live with her parents, confirming my guess about her age. But just how young? What am I getting into?

“So you go to college?” she asks.

“Yeah.” What’s one more lie?

“I always wanted to go to college,” she says, like it’s an impossible dream now. “What do you study?”


I want to tell her about how I’ve been watching stars since I was a little kid with the telescope my dad bought me. The lens is a little cracked and sometimes it makes me think I see things that aren’t there, phantom stars behind the stars, what I think of as pale imposters. If you look close enough, what you think is blackness turns out to be just a dimmer light, and behind that an even dimmer light, and so on. Once I thought I’d discovered a new star, but when I went to show Professor Daniels I couldn’t find it anymore.

“That’s okay,” he told me. “Scientific curiosity is the sign of a lively and inquisitive mind.”

After that I could do no wrong, or that’s what I thought until he busted me.

“It’s good to have a passion,” Abby says.

She doesn’t ask me how many years I have left or what I plan to do with such a useless degree or anything stupid like that. I wonder what her passion is. And then I start to get a little sad thinking about how everyone’s got a passion and none of them really mean shit.

We pass out of the suburban neighborhood into a rundown area with apartments full of Hispanics drinking in the parking lot and blasting their car stereos. Rockingham is like that—pockets of poverty right next to wealth.

“Here,” she says, pointing to a duplex with a motorcycle flipped on its back. “That’s my bike.” 

Motorcycle. Maybe she’s not as young as I thought. “You live here?”

“Yessir,” she says. “It pretty much bites. But my parents kicked me out when I was seventeen.”

“How long ago was that?”

“You mean how old am I?” she says. “I’m still seventeen.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Does it really matter?”

I am not used to girls being this direct with me.

“There’s a great field out back,” she says. “I’d invite you to watch the stars with me—there’s supposed to be a meteor shower, I heard, which is funny considering that I read about it just the other day and now I’m learning you study astronomy—but anyway, I guess it’s back to work for you?”

“Maybe some other time.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

She hops out of the car and runs sprite-like across the lawn. She turns with one hand on the screen door and waves before disappearing into the black inside.


At work, it’s Eddie, not Bill, who asks me where I’ve been. Eddie doesn’t usually come into work this late. My heart sinks as he calls me back into dry storage to get into me.

“This is a business,” he says. “It’s not your playground. I am not your friend. I am your boss.”

“I ran out of gas,” I say. “I had to walk to the gas station.”

“Then why did you not call?” His English gets worse when he’s mad.

“It was just down the street,” I say. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“You must think more,” he says. “You are lucky I do not send you home.”

I picture the cold night air on my hot skin, driving back to Abby’s and knocking on the door. But I know he doesn’t just mean for the night. I cringe at the thought of looking for another job. All that groveling for something that’s going to make you miserable.

“Now go,” he says. “Make me money.”

I do just that, and I make some for myself in the process. Maybe people pick up on my mood because I get big tips the rest of the night. But it doesn’t help.


The next day is Sunday and I am off. I log into Facebook to find a friend request. Abby Newsome. The hair is over the face in her profile pic, but it must be her. I accept the request and two minutes later, a message pops up on my wall. It’s a link to a Misfits cover band playing at a club that just opened downtown.

Hey, Starboy, the message reads. (Better than Pizza Man, I guess.) Was wondering if you wanted to goMaybe we could grab a bite first? 

It’s on Wednesday. I work Wednesdays. I call up Donny and leave a message.

“Be a sport,” I say, because that’s the way he talks, and then guiltily I add, “I’m trying to get laid here.”

That’s the kind of thing he’d understand.

He never calls me back and Tuesday I see him at work and ask if he got the message.

“Sorry, man,” he says. “Got a date of my own.”

Eddie comes into the kitchen.

“Hey, Eddie,” I say. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

“What’s up?” He comes over to where I am standing beside the wall calendar.

“I am trying to get this day off,” I say, pointing at the calendar.

He’s not fooled. “That’s tomorrow.”

“I know. It’s really important.”

“Ask someone to work for you.”

“I already asked Donny and he couldn’t.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? We’re short drivers since Lenny quit. “ He spits into the sink. “You’re a big boy. Sometimes you have to do things you do not want and sometimes you do not get to do things you want.”

Sometimes you have to do things you do not want and sometimes you do not get to do things you want. Is that all adulthood is?


Wednesday afternoon comes too fast as usual. I wake up at about four pm and check my Facebook. Sucks you’re not coming, Abby has written. Call me if you have a change of heart.

I shower and pick out my least filthy work shirt. At The College Slice I clock in to pandemonium. Romano, our distributor, has arrived with their shipment. They are parked on the curb, blocking half the street. The hallways are filled with blocks of mozzarella cheese, dented cans of mushrooms, olives and tomatoes, stacks of pizza boxes. A sack of flour has been punctured and its white guts are spilling everywhere, beautiful in its way if not for the fact that Eddie sees it only as lost money. He hands me a broom.

“Let me clock in first,” I say.

“You need to get this up. Clock in later.”

So there I am, sweeping flour for free. As soon as I clock in, Eddie hands me one of the big delivery bags full of pizzas. “Take this to your car,” he says. “Big order. Twenty pizzas.”

I walk to the car and maybe it’s the cold and the fact that I can’t feel my fucking hands, or maybe it’s the bowl I smoked on the way over here, but the bag slips and one of the pizzas falls out. Onto the sidewalk. I put the others in the car and open the box. It’s unservable, all the hot cheese slid having off into a corner of the box.

Back inside I show the pizza to Eddie. “Someone must not have put it in the bag right.”

“This is garbage,” he says. He slams the box in the trash. “Bill, make me another pepperoni.”

“It was pepperoni and olive,” I correct him.

“Pepperoni and olive. And take it out of Aston’s check.”

Finally I get all the pizzas out to my car. There are a ton of fountain drinks—why didn’t the idiots order some two liters?—and of course they slosh around as I drive. The steam from all the pizzas fogs up my windshield. On the way I pass Cold Mountain, and I picture Abby at the waffle cone machine, staring straight ahead at the ticking clock on the wall, her face deep in thought like a mirror of that picture of Nicole Kidman right behind her. Then I remember Abby isn’t working today and how come I know that.


I sit outside the address for a while—a huge house set back under oak trees, all its windows lit up like a fish tank. People swimming back and forth inside, laughing and dancing and drinking wine. One man holds a baby. He lifts it above his head and spins it around: helicopter. I used to love it when my dad did that.

I put the car in gear and at the same time, I dial a number, the one Abby sent me with her Facebook message. She answers with a cautious hello. Music blares in the background.

“It’s Aston,” I say. “Do you still want to go?”

She turns down the music. “Just let me put on some pants.”

I drive over to her house, imagining her in her underwear, yes, but also imagining the evening before me. The Misfits cover band. How she’ll twist her arms in the air and sing along in that way young girls seem to do. Dinner. Where will we eat? Well, there are still twenty pizzas in my car. Undelivered. What I’m doing is wrong, foolish, the kind of thing only a kid would do. I don’t care. I don’t even care if Eddie tracks me down and beats those twenty pizzas out of me. There are good mistakes and bad ones. I am not sure which this will turn out to be.

But first, I need to stop by my house—okay, my mother’s house—and grab something. The telescope. That field behind her house, a blanket. A winter sky full of stars. I already know I’ll tell her I discovered a star and that while strictly a lie, it won’t feel like a lie because it might still happen, you know?



Posted in Raul Clement | Tagged , | Leave a comment

When Hillary Clinton Plays the Victim We All Lose


by Lynn Marie Houston

After the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton began leveling false accusations of sexism in attempts to damage the credibility of her opponent, Bernie Sanders ( As a woman and a feminist, I am appalled that a potential future President of the United States could stoop to such low-blow tactics.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff seem so frequently to make her gender the focal point of her campaign, that they have forgotten that there are people out there, like Bernie Sanders, who respectfully take issue with her platform, not with the fact that she is a woman. This is a problem in a campaign which is, at its root, one based in an argument about gender. I’ve heard it from many Clinton supporters, who claim “we’ve had a black man in the White House, now we have to get a woman in there.” This is not an argument advanced by a theory of equal rights, a theory that would argue for the best person in the White House, regardless of gender, a theory that would also argue for a certain kind of ethics in campaigning that gives equal access to all candidates, despite their race, class, or gender.

It’s as if Clinton and her staff have self-hypnotized. By making Hillary’s status as a woman their primary argument to women voters, they see any attack on her as being sexist. And when every attack is cast as sexist, then it is actually disturbing the equality of the campaign process, preventing the male candidates from engaging a woman on her ideas. It’s undemocratic. The Clinton campaign strategy seems to be that Hillary is exempt from being called on any of her beliefs by the other opponents or it is automatically sexist, shutting down policy debates which are an important part of the national process in shaping our next President. When Hillary cries wolf about attacks of sexism, no one wins. Certainly not women who experience real sexism, whose experiences are trivialized by Hillary’s false accusations.

Sexism is a very serious issue with very real and negative ramifications. It goes without saying that Hillary has surely experienced her fair share of it in her career. However, it is clear from her recent spin of the exchange with Bernie Sanders that she is inventing claims of sexism where none exists, and that doing so hurts other women just like false claims of rape make it more difficult for survivors of rape to be believed.

If I could offer some advice to Hillary campaign staff and her supporters, it would be some simple test to help them understand when sexism is legitimately occurring. In the field of linguistics, we often use what are called “frame sentences” to determine how a word is acting in a sentence. For example, the frame sentence used to test whether a word is an adverb is as follows, “The woman told her story _________.” If a word in a sentence makes sense in the blank, then it is functioning as an adverb. The word “slowly” fits in the blank, for example, so it fits one of the linguistic criteria for an adverb.

I might offer a comparable frame sentence for sexism: “My opponent claimed that I ____________ because I am a woman.” If filling in the blank with something an opponent said accurately represents the situation as it occurred, then yes this is an issue of sexism. However, if the claim is not linked to Hillary Clinton being a woman, and is, instead, a criticism of her political ideas, then no, sexism did not occur. Attacks on Hillary’s ideas are not necessarily sexist unless they attack her for having them because she is a woman.

Let’s examine Bernie Sanders’ words to see if they fit the above test. Sanders basically claimed that regarding gun control, actions are better than words. The exact quote was, “All the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence.” (

Can Hillary legitimately claim about the above that her opponent claimed that she should stop shouting about gun control because she is a woman?

No, she cannot. Nothing in Sander’s response makes a direct attack against Clinton because of the fact that she is a woman. Others have pointed out that this idea of “shouting” is a refrain that has synonyms like “yelling” and “screaming” in almost every one of Sanders’ speeches on gun control and never with any reference to Hillary Clinton. Because unlike Clinton, Bernie Sanders is trying to keep this race about the issues, not about the personalities. And in offering that, he is doing a great service to the women of this country who deserve the best candidate and the most equitable selection process a democracy has to offer.


Lynn Marie Houston holds a Ph.D. in American literature from Arizona State University. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a number of journals and websites, including The Good Men Project, Full Grown People, Alyss, S/tick, Lumen Magazine, The Fem, and Painted Bride Quarterly. In her first poetry collection, The Clever Dream of Man, she explores relationships between men and women. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at Southern Connecticut State University.

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By Landon Godfrey:


When the antique inkwell arrives after making the journey from its dead owner’s estate, the other objects in the atomic ranch house observe it with cool attitudes. Clearly, they think, those curves and etched filigrees bespeak an affection for philosophy or power. Therefore, they shun the inkwell, keeping their own straight lines and unadorned exteriors to themselves. What they never guess: the lonely inkwell is illiterate. Only the masterful sterling silver pen can read.


A moment: when the dough, formed into a ball with greased hands, rests to rise, it exhibits what seems possible in the stone—expansion into space like a star exploding into the full spheroidal grandeur of a self-luminous celestial body. But the mundane violence of the next step overtakes our recognition of energetic brilliance—when we punch the dough and put its deflated body into a furnace, where it will grow again. The stone can grow only smaller and smaller, eroding. It keeps its opinions secret. But hoping to abrade the delusion that traps us in fantasies of an ideal past, sometimes the stone whispers our own noxious monologues to us: I was young and beautiful, my grandmother a princess, her father courageous, our vast estates filled with people who served us, suffering in a gorgeous absence of justice.



An immense lizard standing on two legs does not devour the city. The creature nibbles on it at night, while we are sleeping, but we never notice.


Some of us are not immune. We cough and sweat. Our hero is immune. To what, we do not know.

Visitor From Outer Space

We argue about the existence of God. Evidence for both sides: a church that fills with prayer only when it is empty.

Today’s poems are from the chapbook In the Stone, copyright Landon Godfrey 2014, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Landon Godfrey’s collection of poems, Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown (Cider Press Review, 2011), was selected by David St. John for the 2009 Cider Press Review Book Award. She is also the author of two limited-edition letterpress chapbooks, In the Stone (RAPG-funded artist’s book, 2013) and Spaceship (Somnambulist Tango Press, 2014). Her poems have or will appear in Slice, Bombay Gin, The Collagist, Beloit Poetry Review, Best New Poets, Verse Daily, and other places, and her fiction has been published in Waxwing. A lyric essay is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly. Also an artist, she co-edits, -designs, and -publishes Croquet, a letterpress postcard broadside poetry journal. Born in Washington, DC, she lives in Black Mountain, NC.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are surprising and full of wonder. Bringing to life the inanimate, telling fantastical stories of that which can only be born of boundless imagination, what unfolds in the storylines of these poems is tempered by carefully wrought syntax, by painstaking word choice, by a sonic soundscape that mirrors and illuminates the worlds it is creating. There is a beauty and a heartbreak to the lyric that is so carefully interwoven with the poems’ narrative that one must be careful not to miss it. But a reader who slows down and savors today’s poems will be treated to moments such as “The stone can grow only smaller and smaller, eroding. It keeps its opinions secret,” and “a church that fills with prayer only when it is empty.”

Want more from Landon Godfrey?
Landon Godfrey’s Official Website
Purchase Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown
View In the Stone chapbook

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Little Spells Cover

By Jennifer K. Sweeney:


We are not witches as fable stoops us
hunchback over caldrons, not women
hobbled sinister by absence though we know
there are tides in our blood that lean us
toward some ancient clock. Still
if ox marrow soup is suggested, the pot readies
and if we return from the Chinese market
with a rough bag of earth tea, our house steep
in the dank reduction of bark and root,
cold air cut heavy with mist.
We may have eaten goose eggs, raw
garlic and sweetbreads, charged our bathwater
with carnelian and held our noses as we threw
back shots of chlorophyll and kombucha.
We may have made closet altars,
placed bowls of royal pollen beneath our beds
and because someone swore it worked,
our underwear may have all gone orange, pockets
filled with quartz turtles, a moonstone at the throat.
If we turn out to be the end of the line,
there are other circles that will flare
like a small cosmos, we know that
creation is a field and a cave and we will be there
churning some broad-winged flurry from the ether.
We know we are not dying but we are
wading in a time-out-of-time
kept afloat by little spells. When will we again
be so studious with our will, omnipresent
of spark and silence and all the rough
honey it takes to set a life in motion?
We are not witches but we know
how to flick the last seeds
of air from a needle
and ease it into the womb
with reverie and we know magic
is its own making,
the power, if there be one,
not in the sung pot or expelled frog
but the fastidious busying
through the terrible
artistry of so fierce a care
as did my dear friend when her boy was born still,
secretly pumping milk through the spring
so that daily she poured a blue cup
over her garden until the blooms ached through.


               beware witches with opulent gardens/be fair wife of increased longing/come
               back to the hunger that undoes/come back to pleasure always the woman/in
               once-upon towers braiding the consequences/be unborn/eat/grow your own rope


I will remember clutching the ice packs
to my breasts, the way the milk came in,
throttle and burn, so suddenly present
it was a kind of action lunging my body
forward and how the Midwest sky was swollen
with humidity, the cumulonimbus gone
green-black by evening. Four days old,
your body all liquid and howl I gathered
awkwardly in my arms and rocked
past midnight which meant nothing to you
tornado sirens spinning blue circles
across the city and the ground churned
beneath our dilapidated craftsman.
I will remember how we carried you
down to the rickety cobweb dark where you nursed
next to the hundred-year boiler
as the sky wailed and the bare bulb cut
on and off. To have given everything we had
to get you this side of earth and the wind
funneling up a destruction with no god in it,
how terribly small we became
in a throwaway lawn chair
waiting for a freight train
to snatch the house like a dry husk
or pass us by indifferent. I never rested easy
in your pre-life and here, throbbingly new, the world
continued to bleat forsake nothing.
I saw the way anyone would scream
after what they loved in the moment
before the roof fell up or in
as I later watched the faces of Joplin, Missouri
of those who had stashed themselves in salvaged
corners peering out in the wrecked silence
of morning. I will remember
how I understood nothing of what I saw,
the splayed neighborhoods and flattened depots,
love spared or taken,
and how we were raw with beginning, the sobriety
of motherhood anchored me inside
where a white fortress of love and milk
began to shudder into place.

Today’s poems are from Little Spells, published by New Issues Press, copyright © 2015 by Jennifer K. Sweeney, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Little Spells: “Perhaps the physical and metaphysical are most perfectly one in a woman’s desire to have a child. Jennifer K. Sweeney’s Little Spells makes a stunningly powerful lyric journey into the realm of this desire in poems that engage language, image, myth, medicine, fairy tale and potion as tickets to the depths. She is a poet wooed by the abstraction of transformation and she finds for it a local habitation in the figure of the egg: chicken, ostrich, loon, rotten and that most remarkable totem of all, the human egg as the source of us all. At the level of image, line and vision, this book resounds with ‘the terrible artistry of so fierce a care.’” —Alison Hawthorne Deming

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of three poetry collections: Little Spells, newly released from New Issues Press, How to Live on Bread and Music, which received the James Laughlin Award, the Perugia Press Prize and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, a Hedgebrook residency, the Elinor Benedict Poetry Award from Passages North and two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards. Recent poems have appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Linebreak, Mid-American Review, New American Writing, Pleiades, and Verse Daily. Visit her at

Editor’s Note: It was by sheer coincidence that today’s feature appeared here today–on Halloween. But it is the happiest of coincidences. For today’s collection is rife with magic. Brimming with little spells. Filled with witches and fall leaves turning. Deep-rooted with gnarled and potent tendrils that tap into longing and power. This is a collection that reclaims women’s voices and stories from history, fairy tale, personal and shared experience. Its tales are vivid, its lyric riveting, its essence enchanted. This book is a phenomenal read, and today, on Halloween, it rises from the page, stunning, as if conjured.

Want to see more from Jennifer K. Sweeney?
Jennifer K. Sweeney’s Official Website
Poems With Audio Recordings
Interview about Little Spells
Poem in the Kenyon Review

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