Tuesday, September 29, 2015

. . . better loving

from 1937 ad by climax molybdenum co.

. . . better loving
                                                                                    . . . through improved tensile
                                                                                    strength, ductility, and
                                                                                    corrosion resistance.

                                                                                    Modern Metallurgy
                                                                                    November 1964

by Ellen Wade Beals

Beer scum slag of milled ore
on the floor of Urad Valley
where men crave sunshine
in dank, tight spaces.  Shift
over, these smudged grubs make
up for loss, gulping air, light,
beer, the behind-the-ear
musk of any girl just pretty enough.
Leadville, town with a heart of molybdenum,
made the introductions.  They met at the bakery;
she was powdered with flour. They ate
cookies among the moneyed aspen,
air thin as an old woman’s handkerchief.

* * *

Despite the upheaval of lung slugs
and the clank of bed rail and puke dish,
he recalls going down, under Red Mountain.
Sometimes he wouldn’t wash
and her smell would be with him,
on his beard. Now he’s bald and ashen
from 20 years of mines, Pall Malls, and reefer.
The crescent scar, where his chin met a drill bit,
smiles down and she wonders whether
she imagined him nod. Amid the shuffle
of soles on linoleum, his cough tries again
to find itself, weak as mountain air.

* * *

Something crinkles in the couch
cushion. She retrieves the pack of smokes,
hidden after his diagnosis, the gold
cellophane to mark her place in A Pocket Full
of Rye. Her gnarled feet on the cocktail table,
stocking seam pulled, they stare at her
like two old comedians.
Amid a wheeze of expiration, she wonders
had Agatha Christie ever loved,
rock for pillow, moss blanket,
the moon his miner’s light.

* * *

Pneumatic breathing from another room
provides the score as you
complete the family health history,
checking diseases that apply: cancer, emphysema,
naiveté. Now imagine mining:
First pick with all your weight behind you.
Wedge the crack. Place caps strategically.
Blow. Squeezed in your hand is pyrite, fool’s gold,
good luck charm since sixth grade,
a nugget big as a turkey heart,
you hope to feel the pulse of stone.

~ first published in Halogen (2000)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

the word of the day is "myopia"

artwork: ralph murre

the word of the day is “myopia”

But now it’s time to call the children home.
     -- Kurt Brown
by Marty McConnell

With death at the edges of everything
the fruit flies seem unkillable, endless,
while Melissa’s back to chemo
a fourth time, another of Missy’s
students shot in Englewood, and now

the news, Kurt slipped off
in his sleep. The flies
rise up from the sink in a loose
fist, are everywhere, then settle
on the dishes from last night’s

impromptu holidayless costume
party. In San Francisco the lack
of clear seasons can make it easier
to forget about death. Brutal
as the Chicago winters are, the cold

reduces the murder toll which makes
the clear June sky a trouble sign. I wore
a red tutu, symbolizing nothing, Denise
a white hoop skirt covered with plastic
guns, Tatyana was a bee, which are

an endangered breed in our country
and all it meant was Sunday and potluck
and I didn’t know Kurt was dying, maybe he
didn’t know it either and I don’t know
Missy’s kid’s name but Dave was Madonna

and Jerre the leader of the band
and Sonya rocked an impossible
feathered headpiece and Stevie Nicks
sleeves. We’d spent the afternoon
talking about the role of art in saving

our own lives and then it was time for dinner
and ridiculousness, which is to say
living, noise from the neighbor’s balcony
almost as loud as ours, Sunday
and nobody dying as far as we can see.

~ first published in Tandem

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Looking for Picasso on eBay

artwork: pablo picasso

Looking for Picasso on eBay
by Michael Gessner

My wife loves art and it is her birthday.
Because of this, I am looking for Picasso
on eBay.  Among the thousands
of lithographs signed & numbered
in pencil, I find "Paloma sur fond rouge,"
& bid the balance of my bank account.

Now I am in electronic Picassoland,
among the mixed media, how prolific
he was, and varied, and how unlike
the literary artist, bound to one voice,
denied their periods during a life,
confined so often to a single genre. 

But this does not matter to my wife.
She will frame this tortured thing
I have ordered, praising Picasso,
his artistic gluttony, his infant self,
how he left his true believers, the women,
a man after his own heart.

~ previously published in Transversales (BlazeVOX)

Monday, September 21, 2015


digital photoart: ralph murre

     to Yannis Ritsos’ poem “Absence”
by Stella Pierides

In our hands, you said, we hold
the shadow of our hands. I know
the cold absence of the marbles,
olives sprouting from the cracks.

The coffee grinder turns
slowly, gently. The moon
still kind, bathes our wrinkled
hearts in light. In silver. In sorrow.

Old souls sitting by the river
listening to the boat engine
starting, coughing, spitting,
dying. Starting again.

~ previously published at poetsonline.org

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


artwork: unknown chinese ceramist

by Anneliese Finke

I’m beginning to think that they’ve all
been used before.  The fireworks of the
neurons that fire in your brain, the hands
that flutter like wings and crack like bark,
even the stars that shine in your eyes.
Everything new is ridiculous.  Should I say,
your hands are flapping like carp
drowning when someone reaches down
to pull them into the air?  That the fine lines
on them are like tin foil that, once used,
can never be smoothed out again?  Maybe
these metaphors work, somehow, maybe
they’re just nonsense, your eyes are like
the power indicator on my tv antenna.
Controlled by a little plastic dial?
Bright and surrounded by darkness?
Keeping me awake at night?
It all falls apart.  There’s nothing else to say
but this: There is a man.  He looks sad.
I saw him, lying in his white bed.
When I saw his eyes, I thought,
he must know something awful.
But after all, I am no closer to it,
I will never be any closer to him,
than this.

~ first published in Ruminate

Monday, September 14, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Michael L. Newell

their voices float
among potted plants

forks pry open
cold clams artichokes and families

each bite hangs
in the air
a dilemma

coffee is served
and thin blue hair
        with rising steam

~ first published in Poetry/LA (1984)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


photoart: ralph murre

by Margaret Rozga

the surprise of where
and when
A brief flash

If you’re lucky, a near galaxy
of a summer evening

Then after first frost
darkness before dinner
cabbage, pork, and potatoes

To remember
pick up a book, strike a match

~ previously appeared in the
“Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf” project

Sunday, September 6, 2015


artwork: ralph murre


by CX Dillhunt

How morning can be transalpine
How the vestiges of summer are falling
How the window can be empty and still
How the curtain isn't moving
How the bed curtails movement 

How fear can be found
How finding is fearful
How a teaspoon of salt falls
How fall is around the corner
How morning rounds out the room

How the room transforms the sleeper
How the transvestite can still be sleeping
How this poem turns the corner into fall

Now drives on through the morning window.

~ first published in Wisconsin People & Ideas

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Soul Pane

photo: ralph murre

Soul Pane
by Jim Landwehr

The window to his soul
is small, soot covered
and very hard to open.

Its counterweights broke long ago;
he meant to fix them but
it was easier to leave the window shut.

Any time someone opens it
they see the real him
so he slams it on their fingers.

The drapes are drawn
most of the time
shut to the sunlight of others.

His soul resents the isolation
and wishes a pane would break
or the drapes would catch fire.

The window to his soul
is tightly shut
and he intends to keep it that way.

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin