Friday, April 1, 2011

Because of technical problems CSR has been replaced with a new monthly e-zine. You can find it at: Maurice Oliver, editor

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Issue Fifty

Editor's Note:

Welcome to the 50th Issue of CSR! By now, you regular readers know my child likes Apache memorabilia and wild mustangs. It craves yo-yo string in its shoes. Baby has an uncanny ability to find petting zoos, and not just any goat's breath either. This issue flashes red lights at the guardrail. It is filled with a high school play waiting for applause. Add a group of poets sitting on the window sill, music to collect tulip bulbs by and a lion's den in the book review and you've got the possibility of an entirely new generation of roof gargoyles. Trust me, when you finish this issue you'll never want to make plaster molds of the motorcycle tracks again. Or bed bugs long for democracy too! Either way, hip-hop ate the linen. So, put aside that girly mag in the nightstand drawer and get busy...
CSR: Issue 50 Contents/Contributors

Kelley White

Adrian Matajka

Jon Tribble

Kiyo Murakami

Joseph O. Legaspi

Terry L. Kennedy

Lea Bamks

About Art - Cupid's Bow

Herbie Simmons

About Books

About Music - Esperanza Spalding

James Allen Hall

Tim Pfau

Contributors Biographies
Kelley White

First Accident

Pulled into the drive at St. Gregory the Illuminator,
my daughter, at seventeen, competent on the cell phone,
insurance, tow trucks, her dad; her boyfriend is walking befuddled in the field
with bits of tire and loops of steel around his arms. I can’t see
the damage to their car. It is shiny new, just one corner lopped off.
What he is finding is ancient history, other people’s forgotten losses. Trash.
I hug my youngest girl, their passenger, gone shaking pale in the brilliant spring sun.


Will they restore the slave cabins
at Independence Mall? The Liberty
Bell sits silenced in its glass cage
and remembers them squalled out
muck and charred sticks and sucked
bone where we pretended there were gardens
and no voice crying but the wind.

Grace is

unconscious mathematics
of the highest order
I was cutting the grass

you see the connection

His gentlemanly pleasures

Lil said Uncle Zias
always took his
Saturdays after his bath;
you sir, have been known
to bathe, but you certainly
are no gentleman.
Adrian Matejka

Battle Royale

Back then, they’d chain a bear
in the middle of the bear garden

& let the dogs loose. Iron chains
around a bear’s neck don’t slow

him too much. A bear will always
make short work of a dog. Shakespeare

said Sackerson did it more than twenty
times to dogs & wildcats alike.

& since most creatures are naturally
afraid of bears, there wouldn’t

always be much of a show in the bear
garden. So the handlers sometimes put

the bear’s eyes out or took his teeth
to make the fight more sporting.

I believe you need eyes
more than you need teeth in a fight,

but losing either makes a bear a little
less mean. Once baiting was against

the law, some smart somebody
figured coloreds would fight just

as hard if hungry enough. So they
rounded up the skinniest of us,

had us strip to trousers, then blindfolded
us before the fight. They turned us

in hard circles a few times on
the ring steps like a motor car engine

before pushing us between the ropes.
When the bell rang, it seemed

like I got hit from eight directions.
I didn’t know where those punches

came from, but I swung so hard
my shoulder hasn’t been right since

because the man said only the last
darky on his feet gets a meal.

—originally published in American Poetry Review

Sporting Life

People always talking about if
& suppose
like those words are worth
more than money, more than the crease
a silk stocking makes on a woman’s

thigh. More than the grumble of a Thomas
Flyer engine. So I take the side of my
pleasures. Two small words, if & suppose,
& nobody can explain them. We get

in this world what we’re going to get.
After all, one man can roll out of bed
& be killed, while another man falls
from a scaffold & lives. A man can get

a bullet in the brain & keep his life
while some other poor sap dies
from a shot in the leg. It’s all luck
& perspective: pleasure is both to me.

—originally published in American Poetry Review

White Women: Lola Toy

Woman, you are
as delectable & powdered
as a beignet.

Your skin, white
enough to catch
a bit of sun

in its own sugar
& hold it until
sweat glints

like the jewelry I’ll
buy you. Don’t you
hear me talking,

pretty momma?
I can play the bass fiddle
for you if it’ll make

you feel right.
Or you can keep
on visiting my sparring

exhibitions, keep
covering your mouth,
gloved hand

like a dove’s wing
as you whisper
to your friends.

Did you tell
them the snappy
left that closed

the Kid’s eye
was for you?
Did you whisper

the gut hook
that dropped the man
to his knees

like a sinner
meeting with Death
was for you?

—originally published in America! What’s My Name?

“A Great Maltese Cat Toying with a White Mouse”

What Jack Said to the Reporters:

I had no doubt about the outcome
after the 1st round. The only
surprise was how long
Tommy Burns stayed on his feet.

He was a game man & showed
no inclination whatsoever to quit.
My fists were better in every round
& I landed punches I thought

would bring him down. Like a great
pachyderm, he refused to stop
& because he was so game, I was glad
the police ended the fight.

I wanted to be heavyweight
champion, not injure Burns seriously.

What Jack Really Meant:

That man made me chase him from Texas
to England, then all of the way
to Australia before he would fight me.
Four-flusher. He didn’t win the title,

he just happened to be white & in the right
place, like somebody striking oil. I put him
down, but gently, in the 1st round so he’d
know what was to come when he got a knee

off the canvas. Once he collected himself,
I bruised him with my right & talked
to him all the while. Walk right into them,
Left hook to the gut. That’s

a boy, Tommy. Straight right to
the cheek. Take your medicine nicely.

—originally published in Papers on Literature and Language
Jon Tribble


The shadowed fists of horizon break
north of the Cuban sunset and Gitmo’s

just a plain of wind and doubt holding
back hungry and tired tides of current

fortune, policy in the making folded
tight as military corners, tighter than

the hard knot of your heart releasing
and compressing need and remembrance,

solitary pain of separation as a wife,
a son or daughter growing, swells

behind the jut of clouds forcing on
night, the flat slick sea listless and

void as that dark standard limp above
this armed camp, descending with each

plaintive note into the automatic motion
and sure hands which know no other way.


Bending back rigid branches, we disappear in the cave of green,
carpet of brittle question-mark leaves crackling with each step
we take toward the thick trunk. We hide together. Squeals and
calls echo around us as brothers and sisters, neighborhood friends

uncover “best” hiding places under bridges, beneath pine needles,
in bone-dry creek beds, secreted among squirrels’ nests in a slippery
elm. We back against gray bark, slick and muscled like skin,
gather leaves, the spiny remains left by blossoms gone to seed,

quilt fallen limbs over our own arms and legs. Wrapped close
in this blanket, we poke and prod each other with the hard fruit
of the magnolia, daring our laughter, our small pains and discomfort
to reveal us. The heavy sweet decay of last month’s white blossoms

fills every breath sneaking past our tight lips. We shiver off
centipedes and grubs twitching on shins and calves, tickling
the backs of thighs, traversing the smooth landscape of our bodies.
In these shadows we almost become one heartbeat, one whisper of lungs.

But we do not touch; we do not join; we do not turn and embrace
anything other than concealment. The magnolia is our cloak and
nothing more. We will slip away from its shadows and come out
when we hear the yell, “All’s free,” and we will forget about that tree.

Testimony Bed

I know the faces of hate that curl
around our passing like shell casings
hickory nuts shed each autumn twist
back into a hard knot of useless wrapping.

Wrecked-car, tar-paper neighborhood
where every other fence held back
a “white dog” nurtured on fury waiting
to unleash on any passing dark face.

Side by side we cannot pass out of sight
in enough of a hurry without these
small Southern towns turning sinister
as our past and present history—

classmates beside me in first grade asked
to pass along notes “encouraging”
their parents to consider “majority-minority
schools” less than a decade after Central High.

The Midwest was a heavy white blanket
we smothered beneath as an invisible novelty,
but in Little Rock the battle lines are as clear
as the faces of the children we pass by,

their small hands clinging to the dark or light
hand of the parent on watch, a mother
or father whose glance passing our direction
carries more knowing than either of us has.

It is not political nor politic, not temporary
nor ever likely to simply pass without some
notice, but when we intertwine our fingers
and walk together we give witness to lives

and a nation where so much depends upon
who you pass each night beside, what truth
lingers each morning in promises that dress
the bed tighter than any white sheet ever could.

Dogwood Creek

Little jesuses on the water,
she says as she kisses the handful
of petals and tosses them
into the slow current.

The crosses hidden in the blossoms
spin and most catch and gather
behind the fallen log
damming the minnow pool.

Later she’ll take my hand,
hold it against her breast.
Count my heartbeats, she says,
and tell me what it means.
Photography by Kiyo Murakami

Joseph O. Legaspi

Poem For My Navel

First mouth,
where my mother
first kissed
me, I offer my finger
to figure the depth
of my separation,
Gulf Divide, terra
in the Sea of Tranquillity,
a momentary attachment,
a detachment
for the rest of my life, Pangaea
before the continental drift,
an ocean subsided into white
desert, a whirlpool
quieted, my scooped-out
heart, depression,
epicenter of my first
quake, where I heard
my father's baritone
rumbling a folk song: Mynah
Bird, in your dark light
and feathers carry
me off to a castle
made of bamboo.
Navel: my hollowed
reminder, my dried
flower, bird's
nest, peach pit, poached
egg cup, empty
shell, scallop, my oyster
you burn along
an equator, my homeland,
my Philippines I
never conceived
of leaving, mother, dear
sustenance, my senses
in the obsidian darkness,
cross-wires of my existence
and non-existence.

Men With Breast

When I see men with breasts,
mammillary, twin elfin mounds
bulging through
shirts, I suppress
the bubbles of emotions
that might burp out of me—a moan,
a giggle. I think: nubile children trapped
in adult men, daughters
hidden in their bodies,
the women in these men
manifesting themselves.
Do their hands make pilgrimages
to these holy places? Do they
gently stroke the knobs
of their areolas to summon
a lover from anywhere across snow banks or Eden fields?
Or do they curse them
for obstructing intimate embrace
with pillows? Do they desire
the armor chests of Greek
heroes, demigods and gods?
At the beach they parade
in front of me like platters
of fruits: Chinese plums,
glossy pink and cup-sized, pale
strawberries, hairy kiwis. My father,
too, possesses a pair of dwarf papayas,
elongated, sagging into cusps
of rosy resin, languid, nestled
on his stomach like the Buddha's.
I know my father's breasts
are empty and my thirst
will remain
unquenched, I can suck
and suckle, work them
like the teats of a newly-birthed sow
or bitch, play the spherical
instrument of his nipples
with my tongue to hear
celestial music, and there will be no
warm, nourishing colostrum.

Dispel the Angel

Lately his loneliness has sprouted wings.
It hovers above his darkened head like a desecrated
angel. It clouds his eyes with the milk of nostalgia.
It is the ghostly geyser effect of the spouting steam
when the kettle boils for his private tea.
In bed, balled up under the sheets
in a cove of darkness, he thinks
of Orpheus: if only he could’ve contained
his forlorn love for Eurydice
and not turn back.
Such gulf, sad bereavement.
Recently he’s gotten into the habit
of talking to himself, at first in front
of the foggy mirror while shaving,
the blade scraping off lather to reveal
his translucent face, but now, often, he talks
in movie theaters, public gardens, on the corner
of Houston and Ludlow. At dinner, he discusses
Magritte and Hopper with his duck l’orange.
The salt and pepper shakers can-can for him.
Later, he says to the lamp, I haven’t been touched
in weeks.
He senses he’s transcended
the loneliness of the inanimate: of empty
corridors, of solitary light illuminating a house
on a stretch of highway in daytime,
of wet matches, rotting fruits, and dust.
On a summer’s morning, he then dispels
the sullied angel from his shower, makes
an appointment at his neighborhood salon
where the shampoo girl will shi-atsu his erogenous
scalp with her thin fingers. Soon after, on the subway,
sitting next to a man, their arms touch—heat traveling
by the wires of their hair—then rub slowly against one another
like the first friction of the earth.

The Socks

This pair once belonged to my father,
army green,

golden on the thinning
heels and toes, decades old—

they have disappeared into the dryer-netherworld
only to return repeatedly, wiser than before—

their elastics still grasp my lower calves.
When I slip into them,

I see my father in his footwear, like Mercury,
a copper-eyed young man, like myself,

brewing with stormy promise,
prepared to soar over the dusty world.

Dear socks, don't lead me astray.
Propel me from this dissatisfied life

to places where my father has never been.
Terry L. Kennedy

The Ways In Which Leave

Cold coffee ringing a mug
and a bill, forgotten, beside it: this
could be the beginning of morning—this
could be the end; these are some things
that confuse: the leaving you now—warm
under quilts, rhythm of your sleeping as light
as the mist as easy as sunrise; and it’s not
that I can’t be there, beside you, tonight,
it’s more this persistence of gravity—it attracts you:
the sag of the clothesline at the edge of its use,
the leaves on the maple near the end of October—
it’s someone else, not you, that I find in the yard,
scattered on the porch, clinging to the dog
as your flooding heart brims & puddles
the chipped cement below your head—
should we call this a state of abundance,
something overwhelming; this untenable frequency
between need & desire: how in fall, we bumper
the parkways embracing the trees at the arc
of their triumph; how when they’re stripped naked, raw
& open, we’re wintered away while the sky
outside is bright & clear.


Surprisingly, your name’s still on the list—
first, third, it’s unimportant;
the music has yet to take form but it’s already floating
on the current of chatter, imperceptible, like her side-long glance
from across the room or the dull ring that will sing with your heart
come Sunday morning. But for now, there’s only
anticipation—the wait for that certain light
that no one has shown you but you still understand, like the lilies,
who know when to dig deeper, hold their ground, or frailly rise,
open & flower, which isn’t quite right, you realize,
but that doesn’t matter; this warm cup of beer,
her breath on his neck, is a truth you believe in,
like all of that clutter filling her house: carnival bears,
cheap glass figures, cryptic notes hastily sketched
in bright colored crayon—all of those things she likes to surround her
so that when she is lonely, chosen or otherwise, she can think of the times,
the reasons they loved her.

Those boys, they’ll rip your heart out, she said—

what you’ll always remember is that this night
marked the last time she kissed your lips, said I love you.


It is not the sand or receding tide,
heavy with salt, that I am thinking of,
my hands rubbing my eyes
as if they were some genie’s lamp,
my wishes with me all along.

I am thinking of rain at the end winter—
what a comfort it is
to find hope in the hopeless—
like repetition, like ice.

I am thinking of the cardinal
who tries to fly through that just-cleaned window,
how good it must feel to finally forget,
resting your head on the cool cement.

I am thinking of Cassandra,
whose story’s so tragic, it could only have come
from a guilty heart.

I am thinking of silence, the silence I hear
when your name is a question,
your absence somehow making this room
quieter than ever before.

"Acony Bell"

And so I’ll sing that yellow bird’s song
For the troubled times will soon be gone.
--Gillian Welch


Spring’s first flowers are pushing through
this lonely wall of winter—
such simplicity: two notes, an Epiphone
and it’s 1935, again.


The highway and the brick house
have vanished with the morning dew,
and the ancient pecan I hid behind as a boy—
I can see my grandmother through its branches.


Such a comfort to know that we will die.
The two stones in the old pasture
will become a hundred. I knew this time with you
could not last forever.


Fade in the harmonies
so the voice that strummed my heart
moments ago can become a wind
that blows this storm out to sea.


Now I know why I’m so afraid:
the sound of you carries me off
like a newborn forced to make his debut—
full of fear and longing.


Someone with my name
has been peeking from the gnarled trunk
of the pecan all morning.
Please tell him I’m not ready.
Lea Banks


for my parents, 1979

How beautiful. How beautiful
girlhood’s faded face.

Bright eyes shadowed shut
with glimmering stitches.

O tiny mole. Gleaming
hair with sleeping brain

inside dreaming. Tender
spots. Shine.

I am looking down
from high, high

and I can tell there is nothing
unspeakable, tapped down, or normal anymore.

As you stay beside me,
large houses grow.

Angels nap between the bedposts.
Children chirp from doorways.

Someone laughs.
No one snickers.

Measuring my breath,
jet trails. You’re the pilot kneeling

at the side of my bed.
Your homage is a beacon

in the settle down darkness.
This room is a trance. My body

a traveling fair, a white church.
Who dares to wake me?

-previously published in Diner, Volume 6

A Beautiful Landscape

after Keats “Ode to Apollo”

Cherry stains my heart and mouth
and the boy that calls me Cherry
Bomb is right. Bombing through

life, not the goddess nor goodness
I wish to be. I mar the surface.
Water shivers. He shims yellow

light on paper white fish scales.
The sun gleams righteously upon us.
Apollo is a punchbowl drunk

firefly igniting the air. Superior,
crystalline, he humbles me.
This composure. This godlike light.

His curls, pale cowry shells,
grams of Delphic sand-dust.
Beauty and its landscape immense.

My cherry tree is but a sapling, a sweet
tart. It drinks in as much goodness
as the scenery allows. I lumber

under the weight of his gold coins.
A future in the ashes of a fading fire?
This is the charred gift I desire.

-published in The American Poetry Journal, Vol.4, Issue 1


Sleepy tumor of flowers, all comfort and slow
movement: say jewelweed, say sweet pea, say tamarind
melting at a touch to touch-me-not. They explode
into bony air through the slightest slit. The day I lost
you, my bones fell out of my body for love.
The climbing tendril. Concluded cells.
The Jesus hair of your immovable trellis.

A tongue-lash jeremiad, a winged instrument
hacked out of the darking of the morning.
The tongue wriggles and carps; a somite,
an earthworm. Pathologically independent,
you split your legend around the body divided,
deboned; a metameric failure colorblind
to touch. Tropisms of my throat close
from the final grey heat of light. The stimulus
is over. Not here. Not there.

Snow Angel

I am a woman in the middle of my life
lying in my front yard, arms
and legs arcing through snow.

I think of you sometimes
as I make them.
I’m faring quite well.

About Art - Cupid's Bow

Inspired by San Francisco's reputation as the home port of Eros, Cupid's Bow was designed by Coosje Van Brugge, partner of Claes Oldenburg, who was commissioned to come up with outdoor art for a small park on the Embarcadero along San Francisco Bay. She tried several ideas in drawings but found the tradition position too stiff and literal, so she turned the image upside down: the arrow and the central part of the bow could be buried in the ground, and the tail feathers, usually downplayed, would be the focus of attention.

The result was a the counterpoint to romantic nostalgia, one that evokes the mythological account of Eros shooting his arrow into the earth to make it fertile. The sculpture was designed in stainless steel, structural carbon steel, fiber-reinforced plastic, cast epoxy, polyvinyl chloride foam; painted with polyester gelcoat. It stands at 64 ft. x 143 ft. 9 in. x 17 ft. 3/8 in on a hill, where one can imagine the arrow being sunk under the surface of plants and prairie grasses. By slanting the bow's position, Coosje adds a sense of acceleration to the Cupid's Span.

Seen from its "stern," the bow-as-boat seems to be tacking on its course toward the white tower of the city's Ferry Building. The image becomes metamorphic, looking like both a ship and a tightened version of a suspension bridge, which seemed to us the perfect accompaniment to the site. In addition, the artwork functions as a frame for the highly scenic situation, enclosing either the massed buildings of the city's downtown or the wide vista over the water and the Bay Bridge toward the distant mountains. Cupid's Bow sits in Rincon Park, a two-acre park and public open space on the waterfront, at the foot of Folsom St. Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., the San Francisco Port Commission, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and Gap Inc. participated in the dedication ceremony in 2001. You can find out more about this San Franciscian landmark at:
Artwork by Herbie Simmons

About Books:

Title: Tourist At A Miracle
Author: Mark Statman

Description: “Tourist at a Miracle is a big title to live up to. Mark Statman delivers the tourist’s wonder and distance in spare, deliberate music—American poetry’s grand plain style descended from William Carlos Williams and James Schuyler. His miracles are those we all experience if we have our eyes and feelings open—love, friendship, fatherhood, loss, anxieties, frustrations, fears...the everyday and always. Statman is a head-on poet willing to risk clarity in pursuit of the marvelous we might encounter anywhere.”—William Corbett

Product details:

Printed: 6" x 9", 88 pages
ISBN: 1934909165
Copyright: 2010
Language: English
Country: USA
Publisher's link:

About Music - Esperanza Spalding

Hailed as a prodigy on the acoustic double bass within months of first touching the instrument as a 15-year-old, Esperanza Spalding has emerged as a fine jazz bassist, but has also distinguished herself playing blues, funk, hip-hop, pop fusion, and Brazilian and Afro-Cuban styles as well.

Born in Portland, OR in 1984, she was not well served by the public school system and soon dropped out of classes to be home-schooled. Returning to the public school system at 15, she encountered her first acoustic bass (she had already been playing violin for several years) and immediately took to the instrument. Dropping out of school again, she enrolled in classes at Portland State University as a 16-year-old, and earned her B.A. in just three years and was immediately hired as an instructor in the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in the spring of 2005.

After touring and playing with a whole host of artists, including Joe Lovano, Patti Austin, M Charlie Haden, Regina Carter, Pat Metheny, Dave Samuels, and many others, in addition to heading her own jazz trio, she recorded and released Junjo on the Barcelona-based Ayva imprint in 2006, following it with 2008's simply named Esperanza (on Heads Up Records), which scored big with critics and listeners alike. The album topped Billboard's contemporary jazz chart and remained on it for over 70 weeks. In addition, it became the best-selling album by a new jazz artist internationally during 2008.

She followed it up with Chamber Music Society in August of 2010. The set was comprised of eight originals and three covers -- including Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington's "Wild Is the Wind" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Inutil Paisagem." It was performed by her quartet with guest vocal appearances from Milton Nascimento and Gretchen Parlato, a small string section, and guitarist Ricardo Vogt. Find out more at:
James Allen Hall


The father does not knock on the locked door
gently, as if loving a small hurt thing.

The father does not say please over and over,
until his voice becomes unraw with the not-said.

The mother inside the room
does not hold a gun to her chest.

The mother did not make the father
into what stands knocking: a safety

the mother clicks on and off.
She has not just ended an affair

with a brutal, brutal man.
The mother’s heart is not broken.

The children are not asleep in their rooms.
They will never know how close

the mother comes to the trigger,
they will not grow up

to take the father’s place.
The father is the mask, the terrible delay.

My Mother's Love

My mother feeds the multitudes of abandoned cats
that live in the field behind our office. Every sundown
she untangles fur, feline lineages. She names each one.
And though they are legion, she does not forget.
She administers heartworm medicine to one hundred
feral cats. She cradles them. Imagine her
frenzy, then, the day the bulldozers come,
a sudden god-congress in the air.
The cats hunker in their homes in the ground.
The bulldozers begin their awful roll. My mother,
at field’s edge, waves her arms, a decoy.
She stands in front of the men and their stomachs,
big rollers of flesh. She does not move, she shouts
until their faces dampen with her spit. She hears the earth
fill with mewling. She digs, she saves thirty-two cats that day,
then takes them home, bathes them, speaks to them calmly
even as they claw up and down her arms. I'm her
witness, I'm buried in this story, down in the place
where collapse is inevitable, where love is
only love if it makes you bleed.

Portrait of My Lover Singing in Traffic

Man rushing onto Sunrise Boulevard, singing Disorder
in the Flesh: first threadbare notes, then his trousers

stunning the air—man singing the Jackknifed Torso,
Stabbed Back songs, man jerking between rows of cars,

people locking their doors, their faces ashen
when at last his shirt comes off. Wind carrying the ripped bar

of fabric to the sidewalk where I catch him, fitting fingers
to places his skin had been. Man rushing into traffic

losing his shoes, their holes like something singed.
Then his underwear. Then he's naked, I Ain't Got No Body.

Everyone watching, moving their lips, the train guards
lowering the song of the mechanical flashing arm,

stopping all of us. The muscle of him unstoppable,
uncontrollable song. Sirens reddening air,

a mouth opening back the counterweight song, I Been Rent
By Tougher Men, which becomes so quickly the Gravelmouth,

the Spreadleg, the Ribkicked song, which gives way behind glass
in the police cruiser to the I've Been Your Bulletproof

Piece of Ass, Now Take Me to Where I'll Die
in Shadow song. Inside my shattershot skin I sing

the broken ballads my mother taught me: My Body Severed
in Fogsway, the Derailed Train is My Shepherd,

I Shall Not Want, her voice audible even under all that
copmuscle and metal, singing the Song of Stained

and Never More Beautiful Than Criminal, and the man
is my mother, I'm filled with want. The lyrics are rushing

unbidden out of me, joining the shirtless choir in the street,
all hands locking, webbed behind the head, face between the legs

kicked apart, singing Don't Grieve So Open,
in motherless tones, right on through from the beginning.

A Brief History Of My Mother

My mother, fourteen, makes a girl
eat an entire can of Alpo.
At forty, she leaves her husband
for a man who wears women’s underwear.
Every Friday night of my childhood, she’s criminal.
The door creaks open for the same cop, his broad smile.
Bank of America calls for Marsha Hall.
I’m not in right now, she says.
My mother, thirteen, smokes mentholated cigarettes.
The burn dissolves to a tight hiss on her thigh.
She wakes to her father’s kiss and cannot breathe.
My mother promises, The abuse will stop with me.
She tries to die, once, by swallowing pills, choking
them up as I hold back her hair.
In green pants, orange sash: Miss Safety-Guard,
1982. She blacks out her front teeth, smiles at men
who cat-call to her on the corner, her stop-sign in hand.
Their faces quicken from the slap of her unbeauty.
Tries to die, once, by standing in traffic
on a dirt road at 3 a.m. My mother, desperate for a Mack truck.
My mother asks the doctors to turn off her dying
father’s respirator. She watches him struggle to breathe.
My mother’s tombstone will read,
Gone to see my mother.

-all poems from Now Your'e the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008)

Tim Pfau

Marilyn Monroe's Villanelle

Norma Jean B. was the Artichoke Queen
down in the Artichoke Capitol’s world,
That's where our Norma Jean first made the scene,

At their first fest, in forty-eight, nineteen
with curves under blond tresses flowing curled,
Norma Jean B. was the Artichoke Queen.

Our Conductor announced, voice so serene
while through Castroville (see ay) our train hurled,
That's where our Norma Jean first made the scene.

Thistle flowers, eaten in high cuisine,
are cut off and cooked before they’re unfurled.
Norma Jean B. was the Artichoke Queen.

I write to honor her, not to demean.
There, in aroma of flowers, oil swirled,
That's where our Norma Jean first made the scene.

The heat and stink of joy and sin unseen
drifted through Norma’s life, twisted and twirled.
Norma Jean B. was the Artichoke Queen.
That's where our Norma Jean first made the scene.


Wyoming wind’s mean spirit is best seen
when it throws pins of ice into your face.
Nobody wants to look into that pain.

Trace and I turn backs to it and talk,
sitting on our old Fords, Jeeps or Plymouths.
watching words blow away to Nebraska ,
across dark prairie where no one listens.

The words are gone, drifting on snow fences
with random trash, heaped with aged dust from stones
pushed up through crust, riding wind to words’ graves.

Dig them up, brush dirt away. They’re still husks
buzzards wouldn’t eat from, only tight skins
stretched over dead white bone. Real meat, it seems
was just a temporary affliction...

We’re there, under the black-bowl nights, sitting
on unseen flat, but inclined, plains, waiting
to kill fish or deer when we have the light...

Full of the last liquor and a touch of
more exotic fuels, needing little light
because darkness, of some sort, is enough.
Words are too light to stand and face the wind.

Trace goes naked now, bare of words or songs,
only vanishing echoes ride along.


Eighty-two, purple bruises
bloom on her ivory skin.
Her thin hair is wisps, dyed straw
mixed in the old snow, melting.

Snow she fluffs and shapes with ten
small, too small, shining red nails.
Her hair is set and combed each
week in the same white salon

where she tips, “the girl”, two bucks
and leaves, both of them happy.

Thin too is her r-curved frame
once full, straight and beckoning
for what she, decent, and not
“that kind”, would refuse, smiling.

Her closet bound steps now strain
to clear life’s litter, lying
between her and the long rack
of, mostly yellow and green,

season-sorted ensembles,
which no longer fit in any way.

Her eyes are blessed now, with clouds
to dim her view of wrinkled
cheeks that carried eroding
tears down to hands for washing.

There are high shelves which those hands
can no longer touch, holding
service for eight. Memories
might come to dinner with friends.

Lower, on shelves still in reach,
wait cups for two, just in case.

Carrying Alfredo Garcia

Here I sit, writing
poetry with the grace of
Warren Oates singing
Guantanamera for tips,
in a dark border-town bar.

Tips enough to buy
a nice piece of a woman who
he knew a little bit,
a seven year drink, more shells
and a few spare magazines,

all accoutrements
for carrying-on with friends.
He did get a head.
Eventually, so will I,
(liquor-clear thinking and luck).

"Everybody sing!
Oh yes, “Guantanamera,
Sing! GuairĂ¡, sing!

Piano? Not worth a damn.

So instead, I write
poetry, with the grace of
Warren Oates singing
to Alfredo Garcia
while he carries him home and,
overcomes circumstances.