Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ming Di

The Prototype 

Adam saw emptiness when he first opened
his eyes, and begged God to create you from
the same mud, and named you Lilith, and made

you the first couple. But you were naughty
and wanted to be on top, like him. How dare you!
So you abandoned Eden for the East.

Then God created Eve from Adam’s rib, and made
them happily ever after. Later on, dear humble Eve
became greedy and wanted to take over the top, toplessly

plus commission.  But you couldn’t care less, you'd
already multiplied with the snake: Carmen, Salome,
Barbie, Lolita… Dora Lolita is a little star that glows

on her own,  glimmering her pale fire and humming her little tune,
occasionally appearing in the geometry of his thinking—
when Nadam sees her, he captures her and reproduces her.

* Inspired by a sculpture of Lilith. “Same mud” comes from the Chinese mythology of the snake-body Goddess Nüwa who shaped humans from clay, men and women. Nadam=Nabokov+Adam.

(Translated from the Chinese by the author and Neil Aitken)

(First published in Poetry International/SDSU, Issue 18/19)

Ming Di (pen name of Mindy Zhang) is a Chinese poet and translator living in the USA, author of six collections of poetry and four books of translation. She is editor of New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry 1990-2012 (Tupelo Press, 2013). Her own work has been translated into English (River Merchant’s Wife, Marick Press, 2012), German (Ein Leeres Haus, DJS Chapbook, 2013), Spanish (Luna fracturada, Valparaiso Ediciones, 2014), and French (Histoire de famille, forthcoming in France 2015).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lee Upton

The Coast of Apples

I would fly to the coast of apples.
            —Euripides, translated by Frederick Morgan

When I flew to the coast of ghosts,
there, on the white branch, sat Euripides.
At once, I tried to peel the skin

off my own anxiety. Euripides,
I said, you with the glorious name,
what do you want with apples

now? Flying, I can understand.
Although there are problems enough.
I’ve flown every month

for a year. Too often my flight was detoured
to the coast of bullets, the coast of salt,
the coast of abandoned tires—

which is not much better than flying
to the coast of thistles
but preferable to the coast of briars

next to the coast of radioactive waste.
At last when I stopped talking
Euripides peered down and said to me:

I bet the wings were the hardest part.
That, and the rest of the horse.

previously published in Boston Review

Lee Upton is the author of the The Tao of Humiliation: Stories; the essay collection Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition Boredom Purity & Secrecy; the novella The Guide to the Flying Island; and a fifth collection of poetry, Undid in the Land of Undone, among other books.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vincent Cellucci

infanticide sunsets

for Robert Creeley

spindle over the shoulder tossing gills
pulse to pleasure covered knees locked
gusher under sea,  father flattens family
one must be a sniper & assassinate the adult
committing infanticide in us all
don’t ask absence’s offerings    ask sandboxes
empty swing sets, slides, or the rivers full of kittens
the mirrors who’ve seen enough faces
as the seer darkness the sword stomachs
or the sea tempests sun horizons
condoms machines coffee grinders bone xrays
trunks luggage glass condensation gold thieves
nets fish: gimmie a break absence & i’ll return the century

a child raised right taking back my first stolen piece of candy

from above the andes

                             a spine          of suns    across       the seas
                                                                                       exhales absence on my arm
                                                                                       breaks cloud wakes
                                                            hiding heavens’
                                                            placidity abandoned here when
                           sun evolved
                              soot books
                                               you have machines to read                                                                 
                                                                  drones to rove                                                                     
                                                                                                          all hours
                                                                                                          their hours
                            army of earth liberated combustion       the globe smothered internal
                                       our callouses refused
                                                                       debts acquiesced
                                                                                                           this blaring silence
                           jets us      hands to dreams
                                                                      fusion pursed
                                    sun pets our hides
                                    river lassos my larynx
                                             constricts blood
                                             tugs these buoys
                      bobbing in the tide
                                                                        we must not survive


I’m the styrofoam
                          sleepyhead to seduce you
                icicle fangs
                melt for sunrise
  between thighs  slowpoke round back
  my morning attack
                          sheathes yr
                             heavenly chambers
go extravagant

                                    my sister’s
                                    a slap
                                    & the hardest kick
                                    to the balls I know
the secret of no love
judged by behavior
bye bye love
bye bye savior
                               lions kneel
                               gazelles govern
        & silent words sacrifice poems
let you down, have idiosyncrasies, dents,
                             favorite colors
                                     and foods
why not the rum cake our parents served
                    at their divorce
                           now I taste

                             tucked like words in wills         

the howling outside my door
                           does not disturb me
just as freedom makes the best slaves

Vincent Cellucci wrote An Easy Place / To Die (CityLit Press, 2011) and edited Fuck Poems an exceptional anthology (Lavender Ink, 2012). Come back river, his first chapbook, a bilingual Bengali-English translation collaboration with the poet and artist Debangana Banerjee is recently available from Finishing Line Press. _A Ship on the Line, a battleship-collaboration with poet Christopher Shipman was just released by Unlikely Books. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

The Moon Jar

As the moon descends into the well

the jar inside the well

it reveals a great

emptiness that is the jar

summoning others who will come

after the fact of the jar

disappears inside the moon.


A House in Nicosia

White curtain fluttering as if a childish hand
bats at distance, flicks

plaster off ramshackle walls
papered with a politician’s face.

In Time’s slow fray

he’s a target
practice for tower guards

overlooking a football field
of plastic bags, green spray cans, a train’s
outline heaving across the bleacher’s height.

Down concrete steps
a diaspora
of feral cats scatter—
the only ones, ribbed with longing, who can cross.

I was talking about a childish hand

writing that wide and mortal pang
called History,

that human cry
forced from home one morning
leaving a smear.

Through dust and shadow, I see tarnish,
bullhorns, dogs, a crash
of drawers, metal spoons and forks,

a long crawl
space under pine boards
torn up revealing a secret

darkness where no one hid
the money, what’s left of the canopy

frame’s blue drapes
that her husband pulled back
to make love to her.

Young, they left the balcony doors open.
Boys laughed and kicked a ball past midnight.

Now the mattress straddles a threshold
summoning like tides to a raft
tied to the firmament.

Tell me.

If two loves claim this house
to whom does it belong?

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is the author of Paper Pavilion, recipient of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Motton Book Award, and Song of a Mirror, finalist for the Tupelo Snowbound Chapbook Award. Recently, her prose and poetry have appeared in Asian American Literary Review, Blackbird, Crazyhorse, Cimarron Review, Line Break (AAWW), Mascara Review, Poetry NZ, SOLO NOVO, among others; and have been anthologized in Echoes Upon Echoes (Asian American Writers’ Workshop 2003), Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (W. W. Norton 2008), One for the Money: The Sentence as a Poetic Form (Blue Lynx Press 2012), and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence (White Pine Press 2015). She has also received grants from the Daesan Foundation and the Minnesota Arts Board. Currently, Jennifer is associate professor of English at St. Olaf College where she teaches poetry, creative nonfiction, and Asian American studies.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hélène Cardona

Dancing the Dream

This is a story of flight,
a story of roots,
a story of grace.
I am the wandering child.
Every journey knows a secret destination.
I'll find my way without a map, rely
on memory embedded in my mother's embrace
on stormy nights at the foot of the Alps.
I'll find home in the heart
of a rose, retrieve my soul,
anchored in the still point
where psyche rests,
the presence of mystery so luminous
I'm infused with its essence.
I walk the labyrinth, let
go of confined desires.
I rip the vine intertwined around
the umbilical, liberate the letters of
my name. They soar above the ocean       
for the falcon to reclaim.
I’m dancing the dream
on the brink of barren ravaged realms.
From volcanic pumice and pure clay
I reap scrumptious blossoms of love,
earth’s sweet and savory ambrosia.

From Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013)

Peregrine Pantoum

Begin with a dream,
snowcapped mountains and rivers of salmon.
Green rays cleave the heart of winter
dancing at the edge of the lake.

Snowcapped mountains and rivers of salmon
echo laughter and lilac sonatas
dancing at the edge of the lake.
Fairy tales beckoning days on end

echo laughter and lilac sonatas,
my grandmother’s exquisite designs.
Fairy tales beckoning days on end,
wisdom and melancholy build fires,

my grandmother’s exquisite designs
engineered by elves. I sleep with fervor.
Wisdom and melancholy build fires,
myriad books and soulful dwellings

engineered by elves. I sleep with fervor
on slippery roads, frozen paths.
Myriad books, soulful dwellings,
enchanted forests ripen with children’s riddles.

Slippery roads, frozen paths
drive mazes of mind.
Enchanted forests ripen with children’s riddles,
exiles and travels, forced and chosen.

Driving mazes of mind,
tales of torture ring from the land of gods,
exiles and travels, forced and chosen.
Sirens and magic flutes ablaze,

Tales of torture ring from the land of gods.
Green rays cleave the heart of winter,
Sirens and magic flutes ablaze.
Begin with a dream.

From Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013),
first published in Barnwood Mag

Hélène Cardona is a poet, literary translator and actress, author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013), winner of the Pinnacle Book Award and the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Award, The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press, 2006), Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne, 2014), her translation of What We Carry by Dorianne Laux. She holds a Master’s in English & American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and LMU, and received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut & the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She is Chief Executive Editor of Dublin Poetry Review and Levure Littéraire, and Managing Editor of Fulcrum. Publications include Washington Square, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Warwick Review, Irish Literary Times, and many more.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bud Smith

You Can Remain Anonymous

from time to time
we descend the fire escape declaring war on 173rd street

on Friday night
there was a wall of cops on the corner
a girl was abducted
in an unmarked van gunpoint, ski masks children saw it all crouching behind
the chain link fence
in the dog park

our problems:
the corner store is closed
we have to walk uphill to get beer there’s construction
they’ve torn up the roadI loop around forever
searching for a spot
“in the city it’s not called a road” “who fucking cares?”

the subway will soon contain
all the hellstorms of Hell itself and we will sweat
the fruit-stands return
but nothing is ripe yet
I eat it anyway
like a world destroyer
nothing sadder than a bland pear

Saturday, a squad card
rives all up and down the block blasting a looped statement
“if anyone has information regarding an incident
involving a missing person
and a white unmarked van driven away in the night
please contact the NYPD
you can remain anonymous”

for lunch I make eggs
I make bacon
the toast is perfect
best toast I’ve ever toasted we sit at the yellow table slowly sipping hot coffee eyeing each other up

all while the cop cars slowly circle below playing that statement

she’s afraid. I’m afraid
it’s like we will be dragged off at any moment
by our hair, by our teeth
by the veins of our heart however they’d figure out how to do that
criminal masterminds

Monday, at her desk
her co-workers ask her about it
“the thing” It gets much coverage
all across the office
by lunch, a girl has found some info online that says: “over the weekend persons of interest came forward and confessed to police that
they were involved in the ‘abduction’ on 173rd street. It seems
a young man was picking up
his girlfriend for a
SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY and startled her. she screamed
she got in the van. they drove away to the party. had cake.
had balloons that was it. happy birthday”

and I stand
at my corner store window peering into the darkness
wondering when we’ll crash land into Heaven, and get our just rewards for all of our uphill struggles
never, probably
I crunch into a hard nectarine.

previously published in the Olentangy Review

Bud Smith works heavy construction in New Jersey. He lives in NYC. His recent book is the novel F-250.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dennis Maloney

from Visions of Tao Yuan Ming


I heard a knock at my door early this morning
and in my haste put my robe on inside out.
I went to the door, asking “Who’s there”?
It was a concerned farmer who arrived
with a jug of wine from far away.
He suspected that I was at odds with my time.
“Shabbily dressed under a thatched roof
is not the way a gentleman should live.”
The world agrees on a course
and hopes you will join the muddy game.
My thanks for your suggestion old man,
but it’s my nature to be out of step.
Though you can learn to pull the reins,
to work against your nature is a real mistake.
So let’s just have another drink together,
there’s no turning back my carriage now.



I once made a distant journey
to the shore of the eastern sea,
the road long and far,
the way made difficult with waves and wind.
What drove me to make this journey?
It seems it was hunger me.
I labored hard to fill my belly,
when just a little would have been enough.
Realizing this was not an honorable course,
I turned my carriage and headed home.


A shade orchid grows in the courtyard
but its perfume is hidden, awaiting a breeze.
A fresh wind and suddenly its aroma
distinguishes it from the weeds.
Traveling on and on, one loses the path
but by trusting the Way, one might get through.
Awakening at last, I think of turning back.
“When the birds are gone the bow is put away”.

Dennis Maloney is the editor and publisher of the widely respected White Pine Press in Buffalo, NY. He is also a poet and translator.  His works of translation include: The Stones of Chile by Pablo Neruda, The Landscape of Castile by Antonio Machado, Between the Floating Mist:Poems of Ryokan,and The Poet and the Sea by Juan Ramon Jimenez.  A number of volumes of his own poetry have been published including The Map Is Not the Territory: Poems & Translations and Just Enough. His book Listening to Tao Yuan Ming is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. He divides his time between Buffalo, NY and Big Sur, CA.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

John FitzGerald


(for Chris)

I shall now sing you a lullyby.
It goes a little something like this:

Ahem, mi, mi, mi…

Burglars come
at night, when you are sleeping
and if you’re still awake
they chop your stinking head off
so go to bed now
and get yourself some rest

Wasn’t that a lovely lullyby?
Would you like to hear the second verse?

From Favorite Bedtime Stories (Salmon Poetry 2014)


Rule one is dreams, like everything, grow.
What? Did you think the rules never changed?
Well, I might bend them before your eyes.

Rules are something that I can get into.
Collections of words are my forte.
Some might come up again a little later.

But for now, by choice, I still abide.
Choice is also easily numbered.
The two choices here are delete or revise.


Then again, there is a third choice,
which is to leave things as they are. The status quo,
adoring words, and other tricks it may remember.

I listen in, and keep going over
my earlier suggestions of freckles on the Mona Lisa,
or Blue Boy in maroon.

And maybe Shakespeare should have cursed more,
mentioned it if he rented a room,
got caught with his hands full, waxing the wounds.


We could wonder if it were true.
After, he added punctuation,
recounted the number of lines per verse.

And that beginning which couldn’t be found
because it hadn’t yet occurred
wouldn’t appear until line thirty-five,

determining all before could be deleted.
Truth only lives for an instant, there’s no point in going back over it –
another idea I’ll just throw out.


Not all rules are man-made.
Many exist in nature.
In degrees of either on or off, with nothing in between.

Any time a person takes too strong a stance for good,
he’s bound to end up being the bad guy –
That’s rule two.

I mean, things either fall or they don’t,
depending upon the jurisdiction.
Who knew about the moon, for instance?


Rules of one place are broken in another.
You might do what you never could, like float.
Or take an old beginning and replace it.

Apples fell, and Jesus drank,
but what if it were so much he missed his calling?
And were rendered, say, a poet.

The poems would all be miracles, sure.
Lips to red from cyanotic blue,
water to wine, then back again, before anybody noticed.


So much for sacred too.
Rule three is write what the mind provides.
Not to do so is violation, the punishment for which is silence.

I strive to remember what is normal, or in other words, the errors. 
And if there weren’t any I would have to make them up.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that perfection is attainable.

It’s just that it only lasts a moment,
because rule four is all things change, and then a lot of time
is wasted trying to put things back the way they were. 


The mind travels in waves.
It moves in frequencies detected by the brain.
But here is the difference between thinking and thought:

Scientists know the brain contains memories.
They’ve already probed into just the right places,
made electric currents arise to the level of moronic.

Picture wind as it blows through a tree,
or a river dipped into a cup. A river, by every other sense,
a blind man can’t confuse with the gutter. 


Oh, the mind comes in waves, believe me.
Perfection disguises itself as surrender,
and the funny thing is, it’s flawed.

Plainness makes perfection seem peculiar.
But the universe runs on tiny laws that anyone can break.
Rule five is contradiction – change always remains the same.

Once, I received a compliment.
It was, after hearing you, I don’t feel so screwed up.
And I said thanks. 


A step into emptiness proves the point.
I bear enough weight to crush myself,
But it takes two puffs to blow an ant away.

Did you know if you drop an ant from the Empire State Building,
within sixty seconds it learns about wings?
Feathers without birds nonetheless know how to float.

Those with minds of their own, I know, could take this the wrong way.
But with gravity as rules six through nine,
a minute’s a fucking long time to fly.

From The Mind (Salmon Poetry 2011)


John FitzGerald is a poet, writer, editor, and attorney for the disabled in Los Angeles.
A dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland, he attended the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, where he was editor of the Law Review. He is author of Favorite Bedtime Stories (Salmon Poetry), The Mind (Salmon Poetry), Telling Time by the Shadows (Turning Point), and Spring Water (Turning Point Books Prize). Other works include Primate, a novel & screenplay, and the non-fiction Everything I Know. He has contributed to the anthologies Human and Inhuman Monstrous Poems (Everyman), Poetry: Reading it, Writing it, Publishing it (Salmon Poetry), Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Poetry), Rubicon: Words and Art inspired by Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (Sybaritic Press), and From the Four-Chambered Heart: In Tribute to Anais Nin (Sybaritic Press), and to many journals, notably The Warwick Review, World Literature Today, Mad Hatters’ Review, Barnwood Mag, and Lit Bridge.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Werner Lutz

Distant September
distant flocks of birds

a dusty
lipless grin

too late in the year
too uncertain

to hear the slapping of waves
at the riverbank

words lightly bantered
a playful timelessness



Like a curse
this evening arrives
over the Rhine

the towers sink
in the muddy light

the sandstone towers
winding staircase towers
the towers
of the futile prayers

the cottonwood on the shore
woven with cobwebs
made of pleading
begging sounds

the lips taste
of a foreign voice

Werner Lutz was born in Wolfhaden, Switzerland in 1930, and is considered to be one of Switzerland's foremost living lyric poets.  He has been awarded numerous prizes for his work, including the Basel Lyric Prize (2010) and the city of Basel's Literary Prize (1996).  He has published ten collections of poetry and currently lives in Basel, where he works as a poet, artist and graphic designer. Marc Vincenz's translation of his collection, Kissing Nests was released by Spuyten Duyvil in 2012.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dorianne Laux

Each Sound

Beginnings are brutal, like this accident
of stars colliding, mute explosions
of colorful gases, the mist and dust
that would become our bodies
hurling through black holes, rising,
muck ridden, from pits of tar and clay.
Back then it was easy to have teeth,
claw our ways into the trees — it was
accepted, the monkeys loved us, sat
on their red asses clapping and laughing.
We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,
how once we crouched naked on an outcrop
of rock, the moon huge and untouched
above us, speechless. Now we talk
about everything, incessantly,
our moans and grunts turned on a spit
into warm vowels and elegant consonants.
We say plethora, demitasse, ozone and love.
We think we know what each sound means.
There are times when something so joyous
or so horrible happens our only response
is an intake of breath, and hen
we’re back at the truth of it,
that ball of life expanding
and exploding on impact, our heads,
our chest, filled with that first
unspeakable light.

From What We Carry (Boa Editions, 1994)


Moonlight pours down
without mercy, no matter
how many have perished
beneath the trees.
The river rolls on.
There will always be
silence, no matter
how long someone
has wept against
the side of a house,
bare forearms pressed
to the shingles.
Everything ends.
Even pain, even sorrow.
The swans drift on.
Reeds bear the weight
of their feathery heads.
Pebbles grow smaller,
smoother beneath night’s
rough currents. We walk
long distances, carting
our bags, our packages.
Burdens or gifts.
We know the land
is disappearing beneath
the sea, islands swallowed
like prehistoric fish.
We know we are doomed,
done for, damned, and still
the light reaches us, falls
on our shoulders even now,
even here where the moon is
hidden from us, even though
the stars are so far away.



We were afraid of everything: earthquakes,
strangers, smoke above the canyon, the fire
that would come running and eat up our house,
the Claymore girls, big-boned, rough, razor blades
tucked in the ratted hair. We were terrified

of polio, tuberculosis, being found out, the tent
full of boys two blocks over, the kick ball, the asphalt,
the pain-filled rocks, the glass-littered canyon, the deep
cave gouged in its side, the wheelbarrow crammed
with dirty magazines, beer cans, spit-laced butts.

We were afraid of hands, screen doors slammed
by angry mothers, abandoned cars, their slumped
back seats, the chain-link fence we couldn’t climb
fast enough, electrical storms, blackouts, girl fights
behind the pancake house, Original Sin, sidewalk
cracks and the corner crematorium, loose brakes
on the handlebar of our bikes. It came alive

behind our eyes: ant mounds, wasp nests, the bird
half-eaten on the scratchy grass, chained dogs,
the boggy creekbed, the sewer main that fed it,
the game where you had to hold your breath
until you passed out. We were afraid of being

poor, dumb, yelled at, ignored, invisible
as the nuclear dust we were told to wipe
from lids before we opened them in the kitchen,
the fat roll of meat that slid into the pot, sleep,
dreams, the soundless swing of the father’s
ringed fist, the mother’s face turned away,
the wet bed, anything red, the slow leak,
the stain on the driveway, oily gears soaking
in a shallow pan, busted chairs stuffed
in the rafters of the neighbor’s garage,
the Chevy’s twisted undersides jacked up
on blocks, wrenches left scattered in the dirt.

It was what we knew best, understood least,
it whipped through our bodies like fire or sleet.
We were lured by the Dumpster behind the liquor store,
fissures in the baked earth, the smell of singed hair,
the brassy hum of high-tension towers, train tracks,
buzzards over a ditch, black widows, the cat
with one eye, the red spot on the back of the skirt,
the fallout shelter’s metal door hinged ot the rusty
grass, the back way, the wrong path, the night’s
wide back, the coiled bedsprings of the sister’s
top bunk, the wheezing, the cousin in the next room
tapipng on the wall, anything small.

We were afraid of clotheslines, curtain rods, the worn
hairbrush, the good-for-nothings we were about to become,
reform school, the long ride to the ocean on the bus,
the man at the back of the bus, the underpass.

We were afraid of fingers of pickleweed crawling
over the embankment, the French Kiss, the profound
silence of dead fish, burning sand, rotting elastic
in the waistbands of our underpants, jellyfish, riptides,
eucalyptus bark unraveling, the pink flesh beneath
the stink of seaweed, seagulls landing near our feet,
their hateful eyes, their orange-tipped beaks stabbing
the sand, the crumbling edge of the continent we stood on,
waiting to be saved, the endless, wind-driven waves.

From Smoke (BOA Editions, 2000)

DORIANNE LAUX’s most recent books of poems are The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Facts about the Moon, recipient of the Oregon Book Award and short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and Smoke. Her work has received three “Best American Poetry” Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2001, she was invited by late poet laureate Stanley Kunitz to read at the Library of Congress.  In 2014 singer/songwriter Joan Osborne adapted her poem, “The Shipfitter’s Wife” and set it to music on her newest release, “Love and Hate”. She teaches poetry and directs the MFA program at North Carolina State University and she is founding faculty at Pacific University's Low Residency MFA Program.