Episode 45: Lost In Space

December 6, 2017
00:0000:00

 

 

We were scattered to the winds, but focused on Erin Adair-Hodges’ “In Barstow” and “The Last Judgment.” Kathy called in from her office at her home in New Jersey, a different shade of blue than her office at Drexel; Marion called in from her home office at NYU Abu Dhabi (where she could still keep an eye on a student-run dance party); Jason used his phone to call from his office in Tribeca; and Joseph called from his office at Drexel, right under a giant poster of the Slush Pile Icon and a poster by The Oatmeal, “How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you.” Jason strongly believes that your cat, should you have one, is always trying to kill you, which led, as these things do, to debate and discussion about cats and dogs, and talks of Tampa, plans to visit Disney World, doin’ shrooms, and the universe!

 

But now, more about the poet: Erin Adair-Hodges grew up in a small town in New Mexico where there were no trees for treehouses so instead kids dug holes and sat in them for fun. She quit writing poetry for a long time after some people said her stuff was not so good. Since sending out her work for the first time in 2014, she's been awarded The Georgia Review's Loraine Williams prize and a Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe scholarship; her first book, Let's All Die Happy, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize and will be published in October 2017 as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. The moral of the story is some people don't know what they're talking about.

 


“In Barstow” was a great read with brazen imagery, and we loved discussing it.  Next, Kathleen read “The Last Judgment” for us, and really enjoyed the delicious words of the poem. Listen in to hear our discussions about Erin’s poetry.

Jason revealed to us that while he was reading up on Erin, he found out that she won his favorite poetry prize, the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize for her first poetry book, published by University of Pittsburgh Press.

After discussing Erin’s work, we talked about Marion’s experience in the Dead Sea, and the pros and cons of technology in the modern day when it comes to meaningful experiences (naturally!). Kathleen asked Marion if she felt different after floating in the Dead Sea, and she was excited to tell us that yes, she was! Then she was disconnected before she could tell us why and we could only hope it wasn’t Divine Intervention. Listen in to catch the start of the story, and tune in next time to see if Marion was raptured or if the evil of technology got her instead.

Important question: Are cats capable of being just as loving as dogs can be, or are they killing machines? Tweet us @PaintedBrideQ with the #PBQSlushPile and give us your thoughts!

Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
Marion Wrenn
Jason Schneiderman
Joseph Kindt

Production Engineers:
Tony Young

Erin Adair-Hodges

In Barstow

I was in-between emotions,

the night a tube sock

of doom! Well probably just

boredom! Also that heat!

It was the hinge of my life

maybe, how do I know

until the end what the middle was

and why not that night in Barstow

the butt crack of California

in a Super 8 alone reading a book

of Jing Si Aphorisms found suffocating

the Bible—Even the tiniest bolt

must be screwed on tightly

in order to perform its best

it said and I needed comfort but all

I got was stuck on screwed

which is what I wanted but also how

I felt that summer I did not move

to Portland again, the summer

of almosts, crab grass choking

the hyssop and sage with its homely

greed and who can blame crab grass

for seeing something beautiful

then stepping on its throat.

There are so many tiny murders.

It’s why handjobs were invented

and I am a scientist inventing

new ways to be lonely.

I get bonuses every year.

That year, July was pressing

its mean heat to the door, listening

for a heartbeat inside and I thought

how wonderful to be wanted

through all the meat straight

to the marrow and July said yes

July said whatever it is you are thinking

I am thinking too so I tore off my clothes

to get closer, the book of aphorisms yelling

If we can reduce our desires there is nothing

really worth getting upset about but I don’t like

being told what to do and out of spite

started wanting everything I saw—

popcorn ceilings! Unremovable

hangers! Stains of strangers’ failures!

The room shrugged. The shag carpet

yawned and swallowed my name.

Erin Adair-Hodges

 

The Last Judgment

I come to you in all seriousness, reverent

as a turtleneck—I am graceless but I am not depraved.

I went to synagogues for a year because I had lost God

and was trying to find Him, following clues

with my comically oversized magnifying glass held up

to my giant eye, lashes collapsing like jaws, grilling congregants

under the naked lightbulb of my longing. I kept just

missing him. He went thataway. Maybe I wanted to be Jewish

to be done with Jesus but not yet break up

with God, as if moving into the guest room but leaving

my clothes in the other closet, that version of myself

a hallway away. I am the ghost of the house I live in—

old me-phantoms surround, fuck around with the furniture,

make all the mirrors tell the truth. One night I have a dream

my husband leaves and the nightmare part is that I’m

relieved and so I finally see who I am. It’s not

that I got used to loneliness, only that it was too late

to learn anything else. The first time a man touched me

it was to lower me into the water and raise me out,

new fish, the sin picked clean. I was saved, as if I could be

spent—saved, I saved myself for God, or if not God

then a man God sent, posing us toward each other

in a desert diorama, His Holy Homework,

but the first two boys I loved are dead, so at night

I give myself to them, unzip the hollows, usher them into

the pitch. The books inside me are blank. I birth the boys

as my son, whom I love and whom I try to forgive.

Episode 44: Fairy Dust Watches and John Bonham

November 2, 2017
00:0000:00

On this week’s episode of Slush Pile, our editorial table discusses Kayla Carcone’s “Benediction for: the boy who’d know it was his,” and “Foresight.” We began, of course, by letting listeners know that our new co-op Joseph is a Gemini. Tim Fitts reminded us that he’s just published a new book through Xavier Review, titled Go Home and Cry For Yourselves.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Samantha Neugebauer

Joseph Kindt

 

Production Engineers:

Joe Zang

Matt Propp

 

On this week’s episode of Slush Pile, our editorial table discusses Kayla Carcone’s “Benediction for: the boy who’d know it was his,” and “Foresight.” We began, of course, by letting listeners know that our new co-op Joseph is a Gemini. Tim Fitts reminded us that he’s just published a new book through Xavier Review, titled Go Home and Cry For YourselvesKathy, having just returned from a trip to Abu Dhabi where she met with Samantha and Marion, talked about time as a meaningless idea as she went to teach classes as soon as she got back. The experience made her think of Artemesian fairy dust watches, made with shattered mirrors and vintage frames.

Kayla Carcone

Kayla Carcone is trying to practice humility. She is also trying to rewatch every episode of Dawson’s Creek with a critical eye and eat less cheese. None of these things are panning out. She often thinks about the complexity/simplicity/overall weirdness of gratitude & how she feels it for every poet & essayist who has managed to keep her writing & alive. Sometimes, she tweets.

We started with Carcone’s “Benediction for: the boy who’d know it was his,” and whether you read in, listen in, or both, you’ll know that this is a loaded, arm-hair kind of poem. We had to read it a second time! This brought Kathy and Marion back to their time in Abu Dhabi, reviewing this poem with a class of Marion’s, and even bringing Kathy to tears.

“Foresight,” was a slow-you-down, snap-inducing poem! Another loaded, dense, and intense work, our talks of tempo got us talking about John Bonham’s aesthetic and style as Led Zepplin’s drummer (naturally). 

“The world is full of pixie fairy dust, that’s for sure.” -Marion Wrenn

 

Kayla Carcone

Benediction for: the boy who’d know it was his

 

Happy birthday to us, from me: this is not a gift

I will remember you every August twenty-first

for every August twenty-first I get to see.

I will remember you every time there is  

Providence, every time there is consequence,

every time I am dizzied by a cigarette breeze

blown, a spinning tornado of someone who is not you—

I will hear your tap tap tap knuckle kiss shock

the coffee shop window—watch your metamorphosis

from October boy mystery to November boy slick to  

December boy sick every time I choke on  

the letters of your name, the letters that string together

November sixteenth: reminders that you were never

here but aren’t gone, hear your tap tap tap knuckle kismet

in my head at night when there are other boys

who like you, won’t remember me, after. But somehow

every time, I will confuse confession for repentance.

I will confuse indifference for misplacement.

I will confuse myself, think I cannot hear you.

I will remember you every time death is a dial tone,  

wonder if you made it to twenty or if I’d even find out if you didn’t.

I will blame myself for failing to save

this, the blind sin of unholy devotion,  

an Indian summer on Mount Sinai,

every time, there is consequence.

With our names both sewn into the same calendar box,

let there be light for candles and cigarettes—

your smoke, a ghost, something like a Pentecost.

I will remember you every time  

I blow out candles, every August twenty-first

for every August twenty-first I get to see, we share,  

and I am one trip around the sun behind you, but

I will wonder if you even celebrate your birthday

when all you ever talk about is dying. 

Make a wish, I cannot hear you.

 

Kayla Carcone

Foresight  

 

in the morning, when I am still

pulsing in shades of fever dream,

seeing the day burn to color

by cracked kitchen light—

I will wonder what your face

must look like sleeping, staying.

how quickly you would tire of  

the sick girl, spinning plates and  

spitting crazy across the coffees.  

how quickly the jewelry box  

sprung open: you watch the ballerina  

bleed out from her knees & you learn

you never really knew her, at all.

how quickly you would slip out

of the theater, gripping the untossed

rose stem, spilling red to your elbow.

how it is not the same. how you’d splash  

all over the car seat, scream it her fault for

crying at your absence at curtain call,

for tapping at the window, for smoothing

out the rose petals on the drive home—

tell me again how this was not what you

signed up for. slam the box shut, throw

her into the attic and run for the getaway car.

your hands hide their wispy scars well. I was  

never here. I will never come back, will brush my teeth  

with honey, call out sick & fade—  

Tags: Kayla Carconeslush pile

 

Episode 43: Family Matters

October 12, 2017
00:0000:00

This week’s episode of Slush Pile sees the editorial table discussing George McDermott’s “Frames Per Second” and Gabrielle Tribou’s “The Loneliness of Mothers.” On this episode, we also say goodbye to Sharee Devose as PBQ’s Co-Op and welcome Joseph Kindt as the next…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Joseph Kindt

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

This week’s episode of Slush Pile sees the editorial table discussing George McDermott’s “Frames Per Second” and Gabrielle Tribou’s “The Loneliness of Mothers.” On this episode, we also say goodbye to Sharee Devose as PBQ’s Co-Op and welcome Joseph Kindt as the next, but don’t worry–Sharee has an open invitation to join us for any future podcasts we record, so she’ll be around! As lit lovers, our conversation trying to find the right word to describe Joseph’s training experience led to some hammer banter about  Game of Thrones character, Gendry, before starting our editorial meeting with George McDermott’s work.

 

George McDermott and his editor-in-chief, who is also his dog

George McDermott has been exploring the Merry-Go-Round Effect. Many years ago, he left high school English teaching to become a speechwriter and screenwriter. Some years later, as a sort of penance, he became a teacher again. Most recently, he’s co-authored a book with a woman who was a student in one of his eleventh-grade English classes. He’s hoping that traveling in circles can add up to progress.  See more  @ www.gorge-mcdermott.com; www.facebook.com/WhatWentRight and Twitter: @McDwrite

We really enjoyed reading George McDermott’s “Frames Per Second.” Tim Fitts enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he is tempted to steal some of the lines. Then, speaking of plagiarism, Jason mentioned a recent plagiarism scandal involving a former Canadian Poet Laureate taking work from Maya Angelou and Tupac Shakur! Naturally, then, Marion transitioned us to talking about Cinema Paradiso’s25th anniversary, and talks of obsoleted technologies led us to our vote! Listen in to hear the results before we moved on to Gabrielle Tribou’s “The Loneliness of Mothers.”

 

Gabrielle Tribou

Gabrielle Tribou currently lives in Hue, Vietnam. When she’s not working, she splits her time between the different cafes in her neighborhood, visiting an average of three per day. She’s a fan of vegetables and public green spaces.  

“The Loneliness of Mothers” got us into deep discussion about the role of mothers and parenting. After two poems dealing with various family matters, we shared stories about our parents, and Kathleen and Sharee bonded over a friendly parenting tip for all to enjoy: Take your kids to The Home Depot! Tim reminded us not to forget to get some Honeycrisp apples while they’re in season, and Jason shared a list of good reads for you to look into. Tune in to hear all about it.

 

George McDermott

Frames Per Second

 

Sorting old photos and cans of home movies         

she comes across a yellowing shot

of a laughing girl her younger daughter

the one who moved to Arizona

or who knows where ’cause truth be told              

they haven’t talked in a very long time

 

About ten in the picture probably ten                                

when they sang together every day

before the eyes the defiant shoulders

the silent years when it seemed they met

only on stairways passed only

in doorways and the cameras

were pretty much packed away

 

She puts the photo back safe in its folder

opens a can and threads the projector

and the reel of film flickers to life

ratcheting through from moment to moment

enough pictures to create the illusion of motion

enough motion to create the illusion of progress

playpens and sandboxes bicycles and then

 

the interstitial flash of white

just six or eight light-struck frames

dividing what came before

from what will follow

 

Gabrielle Tribou

The Loneliness of Mothers

 

is louder than any afterschool clamor.

The mother hears it

in early fall. One lane over:

an Escape’s exhaust is bleeding,

mixing into air, thin city air,

hot with end-of-summer heat.

Strum of a stilled, unmoving carpool line.

The mother’s child, in the school,

doors away, will soon be late

for the meet.

The mother hears it

at the dinner table, in waiting rooms

left to wait, left to listen to clock scratching,

stranger to the strangers she created

once, at night, during many nights,

at morning, midday, among angry sheets,

or no sheets, dog brushed from bed,

pawing behind closed door,

the first baby asleep, sleeping,

and later, held to breast,

howling for warmth, that intangible, ungraspable

mother warmth, gone before you know it.

Outside, car doors grunt and close,

children disappearing within.

Along the horizon, meek clouds disperse.

 

Hold her, in the echoing emptiness

of her darkened house, in the thin-stretched

minutes of carpool lines,

at the sink, between the scrape and rinse of dishes;

Listen to her when she speaks,

to her repeated stories,

those rehearsed and practiced complaints,

and handle gently

the bolted fabric of her days.

Episode 42: Love Shack

September 27, 2017
00:0000:00

This week’s episode of Slush Pile features three poems by two authors: “Gala Dali Speaks Broken French” and “What Can Happen to Women and Men” by Wendy Cannella and “Nightmare” by Jana-Lee Germaine.  Wendy Cannella once fronted a rock band in Boston, back when everyone fronted a rock band in Boston…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira

 

This week’s episode of Slush Pile features three poems by two authors: “Gala Dali Speaks Broken French” and “What Can Happen to Women and Men” by Wendy Cannella and “Nightmare” by Jana-Lee Germaine. 

Wendy Canella

Wendy Cannella once fronted a rock band in Boston, back when everyone fronted a rock band in Boston. She is an avid supporter of the local arts and leads writing workshops, runs a reading series or two, serves on the board of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Project, and generally embarrasses her children by volunteering in the classroom on Poem in Your Pocket Day (what, didn’t your mom ever hide poems in your jean jacket?). You can find her work in various places including Fogged Clarity, Houseguest, Mid-American Review, Salamander, and Solstice. She continues to play the same few guitar chords, sing off-key, and speak many languages brokenly.

 

Jana-Lee Germaine

Jana-Lee Germaine recently moved from Massachusetts to a small village in the English countryside where she lives in the old post office, homeschools her 4 children, and has thoroughly embraced the idea of beans for breakfast. 

She is an avid runner and cyclist (will it ever stop raining?) and has recently taken up weightlifting, despite the fact that her mother thinks it will make her look weird. Her favorite holiday is the 4th of July (not celebrated in the UK, for obvious reasons). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Potomac Review and Naugatuck River Review.

Share you thoughts about this episode on Facebook and Twitter using #donorcycle

 

Wendy Cannella

Gala Dali Speaks Broken French

Of the spinning wheels—trés vite

and straight

 

from the States of the United

to Montréal City. Of the heavy

 

traffic—bumper to bumper—and us, look

at us, full to the brim, a clown car

 

of activists, caravan

of aerialists,

 

and suddenly I pull my black hat

down lower over my forehead, telling each of you

 

which lines are yours to sing, wanting it all so badly

 

to lead into the poem—

turning

 

up Footloose, snapping back

the door handles

to escape like Smurfs

 

into the congested highway

—and this takes us

nowhere, egotism of drawing

attention, egotism of dwelling on

 

those swaying hips—between stopped cars—

 

but this is it, this is where

we dance the good

 

little dancing, I mean some

excellent shaking—will you make it

meaningful in the end? Will you

 

make out with me? For the moment will you hold

the wheel—I’m taking my sweater

off and the stars

seem so agitated up there

 

trembling in their deep space

and that is just the sort of dramatic

gesture we’ve come to expect

 

from the stars and one after another our

sweaters are cast off.  The traffic starting

to move again, the drivers left

 

with the unsettling ache of knowing

they have teeth inside

their tender mouths—strangeness

of the body, and of living—through them the breath

of words. I think. Je pense. I believe.

 

Je crois. I feel. Je sens. The neck

and the shoulders. Le visage. I never thought

 

I had power to hurt

anybody. I can barely make sense.

But why else would I coerce the entire universe

 

into bowing before my imagination,

bestowing a corny nickname

on each of us. You’re Mama and I’m

La Bamba—let’s cover

 

the world with our America, yeah let’s take it

 

with us to the Jazz Festival—where all of us—my Papa, my Painter,

my Smurfette—my friends all of us my friends made wreaths

 

of our foolishness

and I made a nice wreath

I wear it around my face

 

all night, the prayer for you

to touch me.

Symphatique, symphatique.

This is nice. It feels good.

 

You want to hear something else, something sophisticated

 

in French but I’m far

too young to know what it is you want. I know only one phrase.

 

It tells us when the music moves

you will hold my hand and eat

from my hand—it tells me the whole bright blue

 

night is a crown. So here is my

stupid, unstoppable tongue.

If you misunderstand,

you misunderstand.

 

Wendy Cannella

What Can Happen to Women and Men

                                           Honey honey the call is for war

                                           And it’s wild wild wild wild

                                        —Patti Smith “Ask the Angels”

I never met an angel

I didn’t like.

 

The one who knits hats

for newborns,

 

the one humming delusions

to the broken world,

 

forlorn angels

pacing the room,

 

pulling out

their own wings,

 

feather

by feather,

 

stone angels

crumbling beneath

 

the pure

arch of love,

 

even the worst angel

there ever was,

 

I liked him especially,

with his motorcycle

 

and stolen jewelry,

his murderous thugs.

 

I rode with him

down the fiery path,

 

never asking

for more

 

than the opposite

of what we had,

 

the good reasons,

and the master plan—

 

which he failed

to fully envision.

 

Once, he gave me

Patti Smith

 

and Lou Reed

as examples

 

of what can happen

to women and men

 

who believe deeply

in upheaval—

 

transcendence,

a new form.

 

He made me think

I even liked

 

the idea of betrayal,

and for awhile

 

I sang

those kind of songs.

 

Jana-Lee Germaine

Nightmare

My son wakes to creaks and thumps

like boots on his bedroom floor.

They are here for him, they’ve found his room,

the demon with the hedge clippers

who stands against the wall,

or the man with the muddy shovel

waiting to tangle him in sheets

and bury him, still breathing, out in the yard.

Night moves around his room, grinning.

What he fears is pain he cannot handle –

us, dead in the other room –

and hands, not those attached to wrists,

but the kind that fingercreep along the floor.

He kicks the covers back,

brushes past the thumbs,

the clippers, the raised shovel,

he’s down the hall to our bedroom,

where we are still alive. When he says,

crawling between us,

I needed to know you were OK,

I kiss his head,

and the dark sits like a stone on my tongue.

What can I say to him tonight?

These things are real,

but not here. My own dreamer sits

sniggering on my shoulders,

elbows digging into my skull.

 

Episode 41: The Bathrobisode

September 14, 2017
00:0000:00

This week, the editors review three poems by Nick Lantz: “An Urn for Ashes,” “Starvation Ranch,” and “Ghost as Naked Man.”  As a child, Nick Lantz was obsessed with paranormal phenomenon and the unexplained, from cryptids to aliens to ghosts…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Samantha Neugebauer

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

For the first and possibly only time, we were in a recording studio within Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, which made us feel like we were on an episode of The View. This week, the editors review three poems by Nick Lantz: “An Urn for Ashes,” “Starvation Ranch,” and “Ghost as Naked Man.”

Nick Lantz

As a child, Nick Lantz was obsessed with paranormal phenomenon and the unexplained, from cryptids to aliens to ghosts. These days, he tells people he’s writing a book of poems about ghosts, though that’s only sort of true. His fourth book, You, Beast, won the Brittingham Prize and was published by University of Wisconsin Press in 2017. He was also the recipient of a 2017 NEA fellowship for his poetry. He lives in Huntsville, Texas, where he teaches at Sam Houston State University and edits the Texas Review.

“An Urn for Ashes” gets us started off on our a conversation on past lives and reincarnation. Lantz’s impressive use of language and imagery draws up ideas of present beings possessing remnants of those far in the past. Moving on to “Starvation Ranch,” the editors reflect on what memory and recollection look like in the modern era. The poem layers alluring images that are beautifully constructed and give us a front seat in recounting many summers past. The final poem, “Ghost as Naked Man” offers a reimagined commentary on gender as a social construct. Seemingly in conversation with other works on the topic, the poem conveys frustration and destruction, then pride, as expressions of manhood. It also brings to mind Ada Limón’s “After the Storm,” published in Issue 66 of Painted Bride Quarterly. Listen in for our takes on these poems and the verdicts!

Let us know what what you think about this episode, ghosts, red paint, and more on Facebook and Twitter using #WeAreStardust!


An Urn for Ashes

The atoms that made up
Julius Caesar’s body,
burned on a pyre,
spread by wind and time,
have since dispersed
far and wide,
and statistically speaking
you have in you
some infinitesimal bit
of carbon or hydrogen
from his hand or tongue,
or maybe some piece
of the foot that, crossing
a river, turned a republic
into an empire.
But that means you
carry with you also
the unnamed dead,
the serfs and farmers,
foot soldiers and clerks,
and their sandals
and the axles of chariots
and incense burned
at an altar and garbage
smoking in a pit outside
a great city at the center
of an empire, that you
are a vessel carrying
the ashes of many empires
and the ashes of people
burned away by empires,
their sweet, unheard melodies.
And look how finely wrought
you are, how precise
your features, your very form
a kind of ceremony
for transporting the dead
through the living world.


Starvation Ranch

Frank Hite, my  	mother’s    
                        father’s    
                        mother’s    
                        father, 
named his farm 	Starvation Ranch,
     					     and one July,   
             I balanced    
                                             high on a ladder 
to repaint those white letters  
               on the same 	red barn
where they’ve been for a hundred years.

But that summer is a sketch, a note written in the margin of a book I gave away. I shot rabbits and learned to drive and listened to the same Lou Reed tape on loop in the upper bedroom of my family’s farmhouse.

In a closet I found my grandmother’s high school yearbook in which she had crossed out the name of each classmate who had died.

I learned there are three kinds of garbage— the kind that goes in the compost heap to feed the garden that grows the peppers and the corn, the kind that goes in the ditch to feed the coyotes who howl at night, the kind that goes in an old oil drum to burn I learned to love the indentation my grandmother’s pencil left in the paper over a name, like the tally marks I carved into a tree for each rabbit I shot.

I learned that a stone arrowhead, taken from a newly plowed field that has held it for hundreds of years is still sharp enough to cut my palm.

I learned to love the hiss of silence on the tape after a song ended, the sound of time like the susurrus of insects at dusk, like a broom whisking clean the floor of some upper room.

I learned how to walk the perimeter of the house and feel in the grass the edges of the old foundation, a version of house that burned, that disappeared, that was rewritten, and I learned how to walk farther out into the pastures, to spot the earthen mounds left behind by people who remain only in names of rivers and country roads.

That was one summer. Decades later, I learned that the barn I painted was not even the original, which had been replaced, board by beam, years before.

And I learned that barns are red because red paint is cheap because iron is abundant because dying stars sighed iron atoms into space and those atoms gathered here on earth, became the earth, became blood and arrowheads and steel girders holding up towers and the red paint of barns.

Ghost as Naked Man

             “Gender is a kind of imitation of which there is no original.”—Judith Butler

Take away his beard, his hairy flanks. Lick your thumb and smear off his Adam’s apple. Lift away his penis like a live bomb, and bury it under a mountain. Hide the testicles behind a broad leaf.

But look, he still goes around town pointing at things he wants and moaning, rattling his imaginary chains. Every time he sees his reflection in a shop window, he cuts a thumb and with the blood paints over gaps in his shimmering reflection. Then he takes a brick and breaks the glass. There, he says, look what I made.

Episode 40: Contemporary in Context

August 30, 2017
00:0000:00

On this week’s episode of Slush Pile, the editors consider three poems by John Blair: “Degrees,”“Pink Noise,” and “The Giving Tree.” John Blair has published six books (most recently Playful Song Called Beautiful, University of Iowa Press, 2016) and several articles on the dangers of oak wilt in the Texas hill country. He is a professor…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira

 

On this week’s episode of Slush Pile, the editors consider three poems by John Blair: “Degrees,”“Pink Noise,” and “The Giving Tree.”

John Blair

John Blair has published six books (most recently Playful Song Called Beautiful, University of Iowa Press, 2016) and several articles on the dangers of oak wilt in the Texas hill country.  He is a professor in the English Department at Texas State University, where he directs the undergraduate creative writing program.

With three unique poems by John Blair, we find ourselves in a surprising discussion and rather spirited debate on widely varying topics. While at times syntax and structure left us feeling like we were on a slippery slope with “Degrees,” at others, we were simply impressed with the intellect that a poem could convey. (You can find the episode of Invisibilia, the source of Jason’s and Kathy’s heated debate over perception, here.) The same goes for Blair’s “Pink Noise,” what we read as an accurate portrayal of the frustrating wakefulness of insomnia and the distractions one might face in the pursuit of a peacefulsleep. (Once again, Kathy tells us how much she loves sleeping with Scooter from the Sleep With Me Podcast.) And, perhaps the most different of all, “The Giving Tree” sparked a debate on classic versus contemporary and the platform for paying homage to the former.

Tune in for the conversation and the verdicts. And don’t forget to let us what you think about this episode on Facebook and Twitter using #70Percent!

 

Degrees

They say there are just six

             between any two of

anyone for as far

 

                            as random can reach which

of course is everywhere

            sincere to centigrade

dolor to doctorate

                            ad to infinitum.

 

So much of how much is

             who’s looking. Here’s a small

slice of lightness to lift

                            a wave to touch every

other wave wherever

              there is water to well

and cool and slide into

                            green depths where the sunlight

 

fades in such slow degrees

              you have to close your eyes

to even know it’s gone.

 

Pink Noise

Is just white noise with all

                            the higher frequencies

polished down like mountains

               worn to humble or close

enough to count sheer as

                            wine-stains purpling the skin

 

of your sleepless going

             on—it’s supposed to be

soothing so you listen

                            like you were good-boy told

to do in the small wees

              of waiting for your mind

 

to go on without you

                            into dreaming but those

little bumps are voices

               and they are breathless with

glee and the best you can

                           do is listen and try

 

not to argue about

                your better self your good

intentions all the ways

                             you’ve managed so many

years to sleep easily

                and well among the pale

 

beasts of worry who watch

                            and wait neither blood nor

snow but a mist of in-

              between with teeth ground down

to spindles to gnaw your

                            nervy edges into

 

stubborn wakefulness like

               a tree you’ve climbed to watch

the other kids play blind

                             to what’s coming what’s been

what might in some other

                when matter and no one

 

notices your presence

                            or your lucid absence

or the pastel grumbling

              of wind in the treetops

or the boughs beginning

                            like morning light to break.

 

The Giving Tree

Doesn’t care for your gifts

              or your attitude frankly

              and wonders why you beg

and grovel boy when all

 

she wants is to be left

               the hell alone because

               there are no apples here

only thorns and her wood

 

is her own and she’s just

               fine exactly where she

               is and the woods are no

place for the faithless likes

 

of you anyway which

               is why they had to put

               up that gate to keep you

out and set a bouncer

 

with a burning ever-turning

              sword to tell you you’re not

              welcome in your fig leaves

and weeping wounds. She’s here

 

for a reason but that

              reason isn’t you and

              the junk hidden in her

trunk is just squirrels’ nests

 

and fairy bones and those

              birds who loiter love her

              in ways you never do

so trust her when she tells

 

you she has no need for

              a needy boy like you.

 

Episode 39: Punched in the Face, in the Best Way

August 17, 2017
00:0000:00

This week from the slush pile, we review two poems by Alana Folsom: “Anatomy of a Dream” and “Mirroring” and one poem by Sarah Stickney: “Guest.”  Alana Folsom would genuinely like to thank The OC for giving her pre-teen self her first taste of poetry a la Death Cab for Cutie (which she will insist is poetry with anyone who wants to argue)…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira

 

This week from the slush pile, we review two poems by Alana Folsom: “Anatomy of a Dream” and “Mirroring” and one poem by Sarah Stickney: “Guest.”

Alana Folsom

Alana Folsom would genuinely like to thank The OC for giving her pre-teen self her first taste of poetry a la Death Cab for Cutie (which she will insist is poetry with anyone who wants to argue). If it wasn’t for Seth Cohen, she might be trying to hack it as an accountant. She is currently living in either Boston or rural Oregon, depending on when this podcast is published, and plans to name her next cat “Birthday.”

We start off this this week’s episode with reviewing Alana Folsom’s poem, “Anatomy of a Dream,” leading into a discussion of very uncommon imagery coupled with a dream-like structure and surreal ideas. To simply sum it up in Tim’s words: “There’s a lot of nipples in this poem!” But that’s partly what causes it to be unexpected and super fun to read.

Folsom’s “Mirroring” follows with a lovely premise of ancestry embodied, as it follows the sexual exploration of a girl while treasuring the connection she has to her father. Also really fun for us to discuss, this poem is both brilliant and truly organic. Many thanks to Issa Rae, creator and co-star of Insecure, for giving us the tools we needed to discuss this poem!

Sarah Stickney

Next up is Sarah Stickney, who describes herself as a snail; she does everything you do slower than you. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and spends a lot of time thinking about what the sky looks like. She likes fire, foreign languages, and food-shopping, but she agrees with Pindar that water is best.

We move on to review “Guest” by Sarah Stickney, yet another brilliant poem that makes us think (some of us affectionately, others not too much) about the sentimentality of friendship. While channeling the very human experience of love and passion between friends, “Guest” gorgeously gives us much to feel, leaving us to reflect on our own experiences with love so strong that it might even be embarrassing to feel.

What do you think about this episode? Share your thoughts on nipples, romance, and insecurity with us on Facebook and Twitter using #smashing!

Happy reading!

 

Alana Folsom

Anatomy of a Dream

After I send you the picture of my naked body

I dream my nipples are bird beaks

             They remain shut     small pointed things

then they grow       like lying noses

              grow like hardening dicks                              In flight

hummingbirds look like matches

                             at the base of their long bill            a throaty blaze

In flight         hummingbirds sound like matches perpetually lighting

              Perhaps my nipples are matches

Pink & flaming & waiting to spark

                perhaps my nipples are hungry                 winging matches

 

Alana Folsom

Mirroring

I study myself and find him in the ridge of my nose

in the rungs of my ribcage. Boys who will never meet him

cup and bless my body tug my damp underwear

past the knots

of my knees; they don’t see

him, they don’t see anything else besides me.

And I am sorry for all this sex

so close to my father.

But he is within me

even as he withers away.

Same flat feet, same bone shapes.

As any good daughter would,

I hug my father

goodbye at his red front door, try to mean I love you and not

Don’t die before I learn what love is for.

 

 

Sarah Stickney

Guest

Staying with friends I felt embarrassed by my love

for them, as if it were a wound that might bleed

onto their pale, hand-knotted carpets. Back home

I filled my kitchen with the first daffodils

that had been lured by the sky’s fetish-blue

into blooming, then nearly ruined by the late snow

that pressed into the windows as if asking

to be let inside. I need the sound of fire

as much as I need its warmth. I know

the loneliness of being among others, a scent

like a waltz at low volume. I suspect

only egomaniacs like this much solitude,

but like me fire never says enough.

Fire my good dog, my work-shirt. Everything living

holds heat, even the long, cool leaves of plants,

their gestures as subtle as hungry guests moving

tentatively in a kitchen. Wind blew in a poem,

and then outside all day as if it were starving flame.

Who knows how the wind feels about its job

of touching everything, how it lives

this omnivorous love and whether it speaks

a word to everything it touches.

 

Episode 38: Of Flossing and Pottery Barn

July 25, 2017
00:0000:00

Our latest episode of Slush Pile features four poems by Marcia LeBeau titled “Instead of Cornering Jericho Brown by the Wine and Cheese, After His Talk on Racism, I Whisper to Him in My Head,”“Ode to Flossing,” “Letter to Myself at Eighty,” and “After You Tell Me You and Your Wife Have ‘an Agreement.’”

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

 

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald

 

Our latest episode of Slush Pile features four poems by Marcia LeBeau titled “Instead of Cornering Jericho Brown by the Wine and Cheese, After His Talk on Racism, I Whisper to Him in My Head,”“Ode to Flossing,” “Letter to Myself at Eighty,” and “After You Tell Me You and Your Wife Have ‘an Agreement.’”

Marcia LeBeau

Almost 20 years ago, Marcia LeBeau started writing poetry by mistake. After receiving an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts (when it was called Vermont College) where she learned a lot and made some of the best friends of her life, she was writing radio ads for Courvoisier Cognac that her creative director called “spoken word.” Who knew?  She later wrote “ad poems” for Kahlua, and they chose her to be the voice over. LeBeau and her husband recently co-founded a studio/art gallery in Orange, New Jersey, called The Rectangle. She has Twitter and Instagram accounts that she never uses (people tell her this has to change), but you can find out more about her on Facebook and her website. LeBeau currently lives in South Orange, New Jersey, with her husband and 5- and 7-year-old sons, where she tries to find time to write poetry.

In discussing LeBeau’s four poems, we find each one unique in style, tone and topic. Their content ranges from a conversation on race and racism to self-affirmation in old age, from an extreme love for flossing to the contemplation of an extramarital affair. The poems are at times serious and bold, funny and wild, gorgeous, elegant, and meaningful. And one thing they all have in common – beautifully crafted imagery and language make them an absolute delight to read and review! Find out which poems had us torn in our decisions and which got unanimous yes’s!

We close out the episode with encouragement from Tim to support our favorite authors and literary publications, especially those threatened by budget cuts to the National Education Association (NEA). It’s important to do what we can to keep authors, publications, and local libraries afloat. Once or twice a year, go buy that new book you’ve been checking out, or even gift them to friends!

Let us know what you think about this episode on Facebook and Twitter with #AgainAgain!

 


Instead of Cornering Jericho Brown by the Wine and Cheese, After His Talk on Racism, I Whisper to Him in My Head

I tell him:

When my teenage godson cries, there is no sound,
just tears sliding down his black cheeks from an invisible
faucet while he stares at me, unblinking.

Sometimes when his face is wet and he wipes it with the neck
of his bright white t-shirt, I think of how my sons’ t-shirts
have never been that white.

At school drop-off, I can’t tell if the black caretaker of a black kid
is a nanny or a mom. I always know whether the white caretaker
of a white kid is a nanny or a mom.

When my godson’s mother died, we found it buried in a police
blotter: “Black female between ages 20-30, found by joggers
at Attorney and Houston in East River.”

After years of my brother dating black women, I want him to date
someone white. I feel like he is rejecting me, my mom, himself.

The little black girl asks what color my eyes are.
“Blue,” I tell her. When she laughs and screams, “Weird!”
her mother slaps her across the face.

Jericho looks at me, leans in and whispers:

Slavery was a bad idea.

 


Ode to Flossing

If there were an award for flossing, I would work toward it. Pull
the string from its dainty plastic box every chance I got just to hear
its zoop, zoop, snap beneath the silver tooth that razors it useful. I’d work
it through my oral crevices until I tasted salt and my spit ran red,
reminiscing about how they sewed my best friend’s wedding dress
with white floss when her breasts became engorged enough on the big day
to bust the strap. I’d wonder why it always lands on the edge
of our silver trash can, dangling like a suicide mission. The owner
too tired to notice, the next observer too disgusted.

Oh, thin nylon filament of my evening!

        Fifty meters of rolled-up joy!

Don’t ever try to tempt me with a floss wand. I’d prefer the magic
of cutting off my finger’s circulation with twisted plastic ribbon,
thank you. In fact, I’d make floss brownies and eat them until the cops
showed up and asked me to come-with-them and why-don’t-nice-girls-
like-you-eat-apples.

That’s what I’d do for the flossing award, so just back off,
Dr. Smiley. I don’t want your six-month postcard, your fake
birthday wishes and your sad bag of toothpaste, toothbrush and dare
I say it, floss. If you don’t believe, after all our years together,
that I do my best for my incisors, canines, bicuspids, and molars,
let me spit in your bowl no more.

 


Letter to Myself at Eighty

I hope you know you’re still lovely, with a tongue
that can knot a maraschino cherry stem, then turn
the world straight. Your wrinkled branches
remain for you to dance in the wind. Remember,
on your most ragdoll-of-days, you are holy.

But why am I telling you this? Surely you know
more now than I do. And you would tell me
with your gold fusion sarcasm—take it easy, girl.
Slow down. Enjoy the ride, because it’s all
a midafternoon spin with the top down, the sun
spraying you with dynamite.

Remember that day in summer, when your oldest boy
was less than one. The way you lay in the crabgrass,
legs and arms skyward with him resting on your hands
and feet, flying while you hated what your life
had become. But you laughed and laughed
with that creature, both finding your way
in the kingdom. That is how it works. Sucking life
into your bones. What the hummingbirds always knew.

 


After You Tell Me You and Your Wife Have ‘an Agreement’

I want to talk about everything except your agreement, here in my car
where you’re taking up too much space. I want to look at your knees knocking
my glove box as the branches of the Norwegian Maple vein the moon
roof and think about what could have been if you had just kept your lips
shut. I’ll make an agreement with you—

Open the door, walk into your house and go lay on your Pottery Barn bed
beside your wife. Commune with her hips and lips and toes and moan
into the darkness. Be the kind of man who doesn’t have an agreement,
 so that I wish you did.

Episode 37: Father’s Day?

July 10, 2017
00:0000:00

On this week’s episode, we discuss two poems by two authors: “elegy” by Jessica Hudgins and “Daddy Box II” by Rebecca Baggett. Jessica Hudgins is a poet and teacher who has just moved to Ednor Gardens from Charles Village, is working with her roommate on their backyard, and thinking about adopting a dog…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

On this week’s episode, we discuss two poems by two authors: “elegy” by Jessica Hudgins and “Daddy Box II” by Rebecca Baggett.

Jessica Hudgins (photo taken from Tinder profile)

Jessica Hudgins is a poet and teacher who has just moved to Ednor Gardens from Charles Village, is working with her roommate on their backyard, and thinking about adopting a dog.

First, we discuss Jessica Hudgins’ “elegy,” an accurate grasp on the complexities of family relationships in which the speaker conjures childhood memories of her father and aunt.  The poem depicts moments reflected on in gratitude, and recognizes the love and care in the lessons they taught her throughout her life. Despite how those lessons were initially received as a child, it is clear to us that the speaker expresses appreciation for both figures who helped mold her in very different ways. Hudgins offers a thoughtful comparison between the specific, mundane moments in life and the philosophical questions surrounding a child’s experiences, as well as what they all come to mean later on.

Rebecca Baggett

Rebecca Baggett attributes her life-long loathing of “real” shoes to her childhood at the beach and spends a great deal of time searching for flipflops with good arch support.  She lives now in Athens, GA, where she can often find decent watermelons, though none of them are as good as the ones her daddy grew.  She still loves to swim under the stars.

In “Daddy Box II” by Rebecca Baggett, we witness the brilliant redemption of the list-style poem! This piece is one that “incantates” with imagery and teaches you how to read it along the way. Going from a list to a narrative, it captured us with a broad portrayal of fatherhood and family life then left us to reflect on one lovely, very specific image of a cherished moment in a childhood.

With just us three Wonder Women at the table for this episode, we close out by talking a bit about the superhero film that recently made box office history!

Share your thoughts about daddies, Wonder Woman, and this episode on Facebook and Twitter with #WonderWomen!

Read on!

 

 

Jessica Hudgins

elegy

 

when my mom and dad were doing the young-married-person thing

my aunt was always single so she babysat

she gave me cheerios

and I ate while she had her breakfast cigarette

and afterward we took walks

and I pointed out all the volunteers

which is what

my dad told me

you call a plant you haven’t planted

that by its own reseeding

appears where it is not needed

and I told her to wash her hair with cold water

another thing she knew

I had learned from my dad

 

she asked me

what’s so great about your dad you only learn from him

and since then I’ve been thinking

it’s not about greatness as much

as it’s about what sticks

like,

jessie I heard on the radio that sucking it in isn’t healthy you have to fill your belly to breathe well

and other things that are beside the point

which is that my aunt is not old but she’s not well

she didn’t teach me any words about plants

or about how the body should be treated

but she questioned me

as anyone should be questioned

who is like the soil

and takes every small thing that’s offered

 

 

Rebecca Baggett

Daddy Box II

 

The locked box contains

a pack of L&M cigarettes,

a gray steel lighter,

a frayed deck of cards,

a brown beer bottle

with a peeling label.

Twist of black pepper,

bottle of BBQ sauce,

cup of dark coffee,

handful of watermelon seed.

A faded green cap,

a black metal lunchbox,

a scattering of wrenches and screws.

Pork rinds in an unopened

cellophane bag, the key

to an old truck, the truck itself,

mud-flecked on the fenders,

the tailgate dropped, loaded

with lumber for the playhouse

he’ll frame in a weekend

with his brother Bill for help,

Uncle Bill, with his crooked

grin, his thin frame leaning

into the wood, the skeleton

playhouse that will stand

unfinished for months, then

gradually fill with lumber ends,

old tires, half-used cans of paint,

the truck in which he will bring home

the two piglets you name

Wonder Woman and Super Girl,

piglets that grow into sows

fenced at the back of the lot

across the alley, sows you watch

while Daddy tosses buckets of scraps

across the fence, the fence where

you perch on a hot August afternoon,

eating watermelons split against

the truck fender, sweet, sticky rivers

of juice pouring down your arms and chin,

and you eat every bite, down to the pink

against the rind, then pitch the rinds

to the snorting pigs, who crunch and mutter

as they feast.

 

The whole of that summer

is in the box, including the night

you all swam in the little above ground pool

in the backyard, you, your sisters,

your father and mother, the night

he let you pile one after the other

on his back, then rose and fell across

the surface like a dolphin diving over

the ocean’s curve, while your mother

laughed in the darkness and you could

see only the outlines of their faces,

but you knew everyone was smiling.

There is that night, far at the bottom

of the box, the night you could imagine

what a happy family was like.

Episode 36: A Giant’s Monologue

June 23, 2017
00:0000:00

This week at the editorial table, we discuss three poems by Matthew Kelsey, “Confessions of a Giant,” “Giant Gets Adopted,” and “Giant Loses His Virginity.” Matthew Kelsey, at 6’7”, is something of a giant and, as can be gleaned from his poems, is also his own uncle…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Samantha Neugebauer

Sharee DeVose

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

This week at the editorial table, we discuss three poems by Matthew Kelsey, “Confessions of a Giant,” “Giant Gets Adopted,” and “Giant Loses His Virginity.”

Matthew Kelsey

Matthew Kelsey, at 6’7”, is something of a giant and, as can be gleaned from his poems, is also his own uncle. Kelsey has played the cello since he was 8 years old and is in his hometown’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Some of his writings and recordings can be found in Bread LoafPacifica Literary ReviewPoetry NorthwestThe Monarch ReviewThe Awesome Sports Project. A huge fan of puns, Kelsey has given lectures on humor and wordplay in poetry and dreams of some day founding an interactive children’s poetry museum.

Kelsey’s giant series is a well-constructed compilation of tall jokes, spot-on language, and imagery that make these poems come to life. Each evokes feelings of sympathy and compassion, leading us into discussion of the brilliant tension between humor and pain.  The speaker reflects on growing up, facing complicated, struggling to understand himself, and the dread and thrill of a romantic relationship. We find this giant’s monologue to be surreal, funny, sad, and refreshing all at the same time. Oh, and some of us demand a book-length collection from this giant!

Tune in for the verdict! And let us know what you think about this episode on Facebook and Twitter with #GiraffePorn!

 

Matthew Kelsey

Confessions of a Giant

For years I’ve been told to hold
myself up, to stand as tall as I am,
but the world I’ve come to know
rarely seems fitting. I have to take
a knee when I piss, duck when I step
in the shower. I swear
I’ve tried to adjust, but my limbs
cross their signals the farther they are
from my brain. My legs jerk
catastrophically. Even my love
is a violence above you all.
In order to see eye-to-eye, I must fold
on command—look at that
hunch in my shoulders from all the talks
we’ve shared. When they say I must
play basketball, they mean they like
to race horses. But there’s distance
even in humor: when 4’10” Alison Dow
stood near teenage me and bet
she couldn’t lick my nipples from there,
we never spoke again.
I never speak of the weather up here
because you don’t have the language for it,
and my own alphabet
is beginning to wear me down.

 

Giant Gets Adopted

The morning I was adopted, I arrived
late to school. It was quarter to noon, I was
dressed to the nines, I was my own
show-and-tell. “What does it mean,
you’re abducted?” Daniel asked. “Adopted,
not abducted,” I said. “And I’m not
really sure.” I had already lived
with my adopted parents for years.
“Do you have new siblings?” Emily asked.
“Sort of,” I said. “I was adopted
by my grandparents, so now I’m my own
uncle.” “What?!” some exclaimed. “Gross!”
cried others. Everyone looked so confused.
I wasn’t sure what to say next,
so I thought of what my grandma would say
and continued, ” It means my dad keeps the child
support he owed, and a co-sign fee for a bill.
Also, he’s not allowed to visit anymore,
which is good, because I’m too big to hide
under my bed.” “Wait,” said Nicole,
“You mean you were sold?!” At this point,
Mrs. Charles frowned, said time was up
for show-and-tell. The students returned
to their cursive in silence. I asked if I could go
to the bathroom. Later that night,
I entered Grandma’s room while she was reading
and sat at her feet. “Nothing actually changed
today, did it?” I inquired. “Oh, honey. Yes,
and you’ll grow to understand how.”

 

Giant Loses His Virginity

I was trying to be romantic. My parents had left
the house for the night, so I set a table
in the yard. I decked it with flowers,
a thank you card, a small branch
from my favorite tree, and not just one
red cinnamon Yankee candle
but three. I stopped just short
of fetching flutes for champagne.
I was trying to be a gentleman,
but wasn’t about to take any chances,
so I cooked a five course meal
and whipped up two desserts. This was barely enough
for me, but tonight was only about
my love. Once we put a dent in the food,
the time had come. We went to my room.
Not having had access to porn, let alone
giant porn, and being that I was just too large
for the world of birds and bees, I had turned to giraffes
for sex ed, for cues on how to begin. “Here,” I said,
“please urinate on my bed.” Then I bent
down especially low to avoid
a heart attack, and brayed, and peeled
back my lips. No sooner had my mind begun
to wander to the Vegas strip
destroyed by 50 Foot Woman Allison Hayes,
than it was over. We looked up at glow-in-the-dark
stars stuck to the ceiling. I was trying
to be sensitive, so I sweetly whispered
nothing into her ear.

 

Episode 35: Viles, Vitality, and Virgules  

June 5, 2017
00:0000:00

This week’s episode features three poems by two authors: “As Snow” by Pam Matz and “Solu-Medrol” and “Words” by Michael Levan. Pam Matz reads poems to get some real news and writes poems to find out what she means. The previous sentence is almost true….

 

Present at the Editorial Table

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

This week’s episode features three poems by two authors: “As Snow” by Pam Matz and “Solu-Medrol” and “Words” by Michael Levan.

Pam Matz

Pam Matz reads poems to get some real news and writes poems to find out what she means. The previous sentence is almost true. She’s spent most of her working life moving words around, as a typist, editor, librarian, and writer. She has a pet rabbit, who is bossy and silent.  

We started off our conversation with “As Snow,” a poem about death, dying, and possibly dementia. A poignant account of what we read as an instance of mother-daughter interaction, Matz brought into discussion the impact of death on the survivor and how losing someone close can make us hyper-aware of our own mortality. Images and ideas of snow, cliffs, and death are well-woven elements in this piece and part of what left us anxious to give our votes.

 

Michael Levan

Michael Levan, unlike previous Slush Pile-r Frank Scozzari,  didn’t finish the John Muir Trail because 30 miles into the trek with his future wife, he sprained his MCL. He’s a diehard Clevelander who couldn’t bear going to school the day after Earnest Byner’s fumble versus the Denver Broncos in 1988, which is why he made sure to attend the first major Cleveland sports championship celebration last summer along with 1.3 million other fans. This past Easter night, he and his wife welcomed their third child, Odette, who along with Atticus and Dahlia, have made their world complete, no matter how difficult the pregnancies were.

We move on to discuss the work of Michael Levan, “Solu Medrol” and “Words,” which also affects reflection on life, death, and dealing with illness. Levan’s structural choices for his writing lead us to ask what certain decisions might do – or undo – for the effect of our words. Can form distract from the intent? Can interruptions in pace lead the reader astray? Either way, Levan has a way of sustaining the sentimentality in his writing and making the speaker’s thoughts clear.

Tune in for the results! Let us know what you think about this episode, these poems, and virgules in poetry on Twitter and Facebook with #ScallopsAndVirgules!

 

Pam Matz

As Snow

for P.M., 1920-2007

 

Until the end, which was sudden

you were dying a long time

 

and because I’d been casting my mind

toward yours for years

I was afraid I would go with you

slide over the cliff

being tied to you

 

I haven’t yet arranged for the plaque

next to the pathway under the birches

 

I think you would say

you will when you’re ready

trying to avoid any sting

of worry or impatience

 

 

since you died, I forgive others

keep the anger banked  

 

                           *

 

whenever I came to the nursing home

at noon, I saw the man

who proposed marriage to his friend

after her diagnosis

 

he’d be rubbing ointment on her lips

feeding her lunch

her face straining open-mouthed

his pants ragged at the cuff

 

he’d be telling her the story that always began

you were a little girl in East Texas

 

you’d know—what’s the Yiddish word

for someone like him?  

 

*

 

I could tell you about

the rough wall you built

the stones you gathered

one by one

stopping at roadsides

for a shape, a color

 

basket-of-gold and lobelia

trailing from crevices

years ago

 

I couldn’t tell you

whether you and your last man

a kind man

ever slept in the same bed  

 

                             *

 

snow falling again

in its own time

 

snow falling from the branches

that had held it

 

 

Michael Levan

Solu-Medrol

The man can only find words / to help his wife; he is unaccomplished / in so many ways that are useful to the world. / And sometimes he can’t even do that, but here,maybe, are these words / that stand for his hopes for her, for them, for the boy, / and the boy’s sibling who may come still. Here are these flowers / that stand for the medicine meant to renew her / appetite, to keep her from sickness’s wither. He can’t stand it, / but of course he does. Everything must have meaning, / each thing must stand for something if only / he’d take the time to see it all answered.         

 

                                                                                                        He says to the delivery man, / Thank you for the beautiful vials you’ve brought her; she’ll take / a few dozen more, however many gets her to see / the end of all this, which is the only time to make it mean. /He is willing to go down on his knees / before who might have insights and answers,who might / take what’s burning the man inside and quench it. / This is the woman he loves. This is the way / he knows to love her.

 

Michael Levan

Words

As the man falls into sleep, he thinks of all the words / he was told to never use in his writing. Words too big or too abstract / to mean anything specific to the reader, words with baggage, words / that have become cliché. He remembers a professor arguing for the impossibility of soul / to appear in a poem, except for that Zagajewski one /(and maybe a half-dozen others, off the top of his head). / The man believes he understands the reasoning, / though he doesn’t know how much he believes it. / He thinks of how his days with her are broken / into pain and sadness and anger and, yet,/ love too, love most, love in spite and because of this sickness. / How it drives everything he does for her, / and how it hurts him when his effort fails her, / how it’s the last word on his mind before sleep comes, / and the first he must struggle to find when he wakes again / and again for her all through the night.

Episode 34: Mistakes Were Made

May 17, 2017
00:0000:00

Due to a miscommunication, we discussed Matthew Perini’s short story, “Martha’s Rule,” without knowing that it had been published by Summerset Review.  We had such a great time discussing this piece, and we think the conversation still has value. With the permission of the author and the Review, we share…

 

Present at the Editorial Table

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

 

Engineering Producer

Joseph Zang

 

Due to a miscommunication, we discussed Matthew Perini’s short story, “Martha’s Rule,” without knowing that it had been published by Summerset Review.  We had such a great time discussing this piece, and we think the conversation still has value. With the permission of the author and the Review, we share that conversation with you on this episode.

Matthew Perini

Matthew Perini is thrilled to have his story, “Martha’s Rule” featured in PBQ‘s Slush Pile. Perini feels guilty that he writes slowly, but is confident that given a grant of several million dollars and a retreat along the rocky coast of Southern Maine, he might be able to increase his literary output. The five things Perini loves most in this world are farmer’s markets, Raymond Carver stories, Lorrie Moore stories, John Cheever stories, and going to friends’ houses and drinking all their wine. In his “responsible adult life,” he conducts research, develops instructional strategies, and publishes resources for educators. Perini lives in New Jersey with his wife Kristen, daughters Ella and Alison, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and the overwhelming sense that technology is going to get us all.

You can read more of Perini’s stories in Crack the Spine Literary Magazine and The Tower Journal.

“Martha’s Rule” tells the story of an incredibly strained mother-son relationship that leads to questions about morality, good and bad parenting, and the challenges of early adulthood. Everyone at the editorial table agrees that Perini uses a voice that sustains the entire story and engages the reader all the way through with visceral detail and a depiction that rings true. We also take some time to discuss the significance of time and place in the telling of fiction – whether or not the lack thereof can create a void that needs unvoiding; you can help us decide.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think about this week’s episode on our Facebook event page and on Twitter with #HoldTheKetchup!

Happy reading!

 

Episode 33: The Lily of the Valley

May 3, 2017
00:0000:00

This week, we’re back at the table discussing a fiction piece by Frank Scozzari, titled “In the Valley of the Dry Bones.”  Scozzari hobo’ed his way across America at age eighteen, twice trekked the John Muir Trail, backpacked through Europe, camel-backed the ruins of Giza…

 

Present at the Editorial Table

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Maureen McVeigh

 

Engineering Producer

Joseph Zang

 

This week, we’re back at the table discussing a fiction piece by Frank Scozzari, titled “In the Valley of the Dry Bones.”

Frank Scozzari

Scozzari hobo’ed his way across America at age eighteen, twice trekked the John Muir Trail, backpacked through Europe, camel-backed the ruins of Giza, jeep-trailed the length of the Baja peninsula three times, globe-trotted from Peking to Paris to the White Nights of northern Russia, and once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest point in Africa. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his award-winning short stories have been widely anthologized.

“In the Valley of the Dry Bones” creates a discussion that looks at the story’s uses of imagery, characterization, and overall language to engage us from the first page to the very last. Scozzari’s piece gives us Sergeant Dax Garner as the main character, the one remaining soldier on the battlefield after his platoon has been wiped out by the enemy. In reviewing “In the Valley of the Dry Bones,” we shared our ideas on social commentary in fiction, whether or not it is necessary for characters to have psychological depth, and finding the balance between “telling” and “showing” in writing. Scozzari employs altogether excellent writing that leaves us all anxious and exhausted (in the good way), but also impressed with his distraction-free storytelling.

We close out this episode talking about how fiction tends to shape our perceptions of things that we don’t know much about from short stories to TV series like House of Cards and steamy doctor dramas. Tune in to hear our takes on favorites like Big Little Lies, Google for education, and the not-so-genius production of Hamlet.

Share your thoughts about the episode with us on our Facebook event page and on Twitter with #GoogleItUp!

Happy reading!

 

Frank Scozzari

In the Valley of the Dry Bones

They were killed to the last man despite the ingenious plans of Captain Branson. He had foretold their desperate scramble up the canyon, drawing it out in the sand; how they would make a valiant stand on the flats where they had killed half a dozen Taliban;how they would find refuge in the large rocks above the flats giving them time to regroup and reload; how they would make that heart-thumping scramble up the steep, exposed slope with bullets zinging over their heads, and how, when they reached the small grove of pine trees at the top of the wash there would nothing behind them but high cliffs, and though it would seem they were trapped, they would find cover in the pines and would radio for air support. Then the jets would come in from the north from behind the tall mountains, flying so low they could not be seen until the last second, and the Taliban would be annihilated by their precision-guided missiles.

But they never made it to the pines, and now Sergeant Dax Garner lay alone at the highest outcropping of rocks with a bullet in his thigh, his mouth dry, his leg stiffening,and his gun barrel so hot from all the rounds he had fired that he thought it might jam if he needed to use it again. On a ledge below him, Captain Branson lay next to Corporal Donnelly, the radio not more than a yard away from his outstretched arm—the call for air-support having never been made.

Below Garner could hear the Taliban were shouting back and forth in Pashto. He pulled himself higher against the granite. There was a nice V-shape between two rocks through which he could see clear down to the bottom. Something blue stirred among the white boulders.

Yeah, he’s the one, Garner thought. The one who ruined us. The one with the blue turban who out-flanked us in a place where we could not be out-flanked; who assembled his men against the canyon walls where there was no place to assemble; who made us easy prey for their guns. Garner sighed. That crazy, pack-laden, desperate rush up the slope that ruined us.

He turned and looked skyward, thinking of the jets that would never come. The bright, blue autumn sky was without clouds. He thought it might be the last time he saw such a sky. How was it that they had miscalculated their retreat so badly?

Scattered on the slopes below were several dead Marines. Of the five of them who had made it to this high place in the canyon, four of them now lay in the awkward positions of the dead; some small and crumbled up, others sprawled out with their arms and legs at odd angles.

Retreat was not an option, Captain Branson had said.

The last bravado words of a gung ho leader, Garner thought.

Well, his wish came true.

And now look at him. Of all of the dead, he was the most oddly positioned. His legs seemed to be peddling as if dancing on a roof-top and his head was twisted in the opposite direction, and still, that outstretched arm was reaching for the radio.

In addition to Captain Branson and Private Donnelly, there was Private Toby and Sweeney. Toby had been hit coming up the slope but somehow managed to reach the top,and now he lay sprawled out like a five-pointed star with his arms stretched-out over his head. As Garner looked at him he thought of something he had said just yesterday on the way up the canyon. They had passed some old ruins. There are a lot of old ruins in the mountains of Afghanistan and sometimes they would go inside them and investigate and this time when they did Toby asked the group; “Do you ever think about the ghosts of these ruins? All the people who lived here, loved here, played here over time?”

No one replied but Sweeney.

“The lost and the forsaken,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney now lay some ten yards to the Toby’s right, crumbled-up with knees to and arms tucked to his chest.

So what good was all that religious mumbo jumbo? Garner thought.

Not that Garner had a problem with all Sweeney’s biblical sayings. In a faraway land, being shot at daily, religion was not a bad thing to have. But Sweeney drove it into the earth; quoting this little blue bible he toted around, preaching in a condescending way like the rest of them were nothing but mindless heathens. And when they had begun their climb up this wide valley from Kandahar, he started reciting Ezekiel:

“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones…. And I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.”

The irony of it made Garner shiver now. It was, and is, a damned dry valley, and now it was to be filled with bones of a dozen Marines and a shit load of Taliban.

“I will make breath enter you,” he recalled Sweeney quoting, “and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin… And as he so prophesied, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them.”

Such volition! Garner thought. He should have been a preacher, not a Marine.

“Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live… and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

Garner’s mouth was drier than the driest valley, and as he continued to cerebrally recite Sweeney’s sermon he noticed Sweeney’s canteen lying in the sand next to him, and it made him realize just how damned thirsty he was. It was the wound, he thought, and the heat, and the fear, and that long scramble up the wash, that had dried his mouth out.

The canteen was laying on its side with the cap still on it and Garner thought it had to have water still in it. Sweeney hadn’t the chance to drink from it.

He glanced down the wash. The Taliban with the blue turban hadn’t advanced much. He was keeping his head low, carefully negotiating his way higher through the white boulders.

He was the smart one all right, Garner thought.

Garner began the long arduous journey down toward Sweeney’s canteen.Sweeney was a good ten feet in elevation below him and fifteen yards in distance, and Garner had to slither like a snake along a granite slab and in between two boulders, all the while dragging his rifle behind him. The gravity made it easier, he thought, leaning forward and pulling mightily with his arms. But each time he lurched forward, his leg began to ache again. Blood was oozing from the pant leg where the bullet had ripped it open.

When he reached Sweeney he had to reach over him to grab the canteen. He could not help but look at Sweeney’s dead face.

“Mouthing off all that biblical shit?” Garner said. “A lot of good it did you. A lot of good it did us.” He grabbed the canteen, uncapped it, and guzzled down a mouthful of water.Then he rolled over and lay on his back, looked skyward, and took another long drink from his canteen.

“Where gone all yeah Christian soldiers?”

He held the canteen above his mouth until the last drop trickled down his throat. Then he tossed it to the side.

“Let the four winds come breathe breath into you now,” he said.

It was not long before he heard the Taliban voices again, louder and more confident. One was shouting in English.

“No need to die Marines!” The voice echoed up the canyon.

Garner took hold of his rifle, checked the clip and, seeing he only had a few rounds left, took the spare clips from Sweeney’s utility belt and stuffed them in the pockets of his cargo pants. He wiggled his way back to ledge of the rocks and peered down. The blue turban was higher, flashing bright in the sunlight between the boulders.

Garner lifted his rifle slowly over the top of the rock, aimed down-canyon, and put a bead directly on the blue turban.

Then it disappeared.

“No need to die Marines!” the voice yelled. “Surrender now and you will live.”

“So you can trade me for a thousand of your friends?” Garner mumbled softly to himself. “No thanks.”

Thirty seconds passed and Garner could see the Taliban standing higher, more boldly.

“Come on Americans, there is no place for you to go. Surrender and live!” he shouted confidently.

“Come on you bastard,” was Garner quiet reply. “…just a little higher.”

Then the blue turban came completely out from behind the rocks, fully exposing his torso. Garner looked on surprised.

He thinks we’re all dead, he thought.

It had been some time since there had been any gunfire. The last follies from the bottom of the wash had gone answered. Garner looked over at Toby, who was sprawled on a down-sloping slab of granite, easily seen by those below. The other Marines who did not make it up the slope lay exposed below, and of the five who had made it to the top,all had been hit and staggered before disappearing beyond the top ledge.

“We have food and water,” the Taliban shouted. “You need water, no?”

Garner watched as the blue turban climbed higher. “Come on, just a little more.And bring some of your friends with you.”

“Are you not warriors? You made a good fight but you lost. Realize that and you will live.”

His English is very good, Garner thought. Too good. Bastard was probably educated in the States or England.

“If you are thirsty?” the Taliban yelled. “We have water.”

Wait for the perfect shot. Wait for the others to come out. Then you can take many.

Now the Taliban leader was a good ten yards beyond the cover of the last boulder.

“Come on you Bastard! Come on!” Garner kept his sight centered on the blue turban. “Not too smart now.” Then another turban showed itself, a white one, and another white one. “Come on you Bastards!”

Garner could feel his trigger finger pulling downward. He had to do all he could to keep from pulling it all the way.

I’d love to finish it now, he thought. I’d love to finish him like he finished us. I’d love to put a bullet through that blue-shrouded cranium so that the pain would go away.

Garner glanced skyward.

But what good would that do?

Then what?

Then the parades would begin, that’s what. And a public execution, posted on YouTube for the entire world to see. He had seen how the Taliban handled their dead enemies. There was no honor in it. Their fallen foes were slaughtered like lambs. He had seen dead Marines dragged through the streets and Afghan soldiers beheaded. It was a grisly thought, and he did not want it to happen to him now nor to his fallen comrades.

But it was their fate, he thought, because of their miscalculation, and their bravado, and that feeling of invincibility engrained in them by the Marine Corps.

We are done.

He looked skyward again. The blue sky was silent.

And worse yet, the bartering will begin. He knew he was worth more alive than dead.  One Marine was worth many imprisoned combatants.

Unless of course there was an airstrike.

On the flat ledge below by Captain Branson and Private Donnelly the radio lay idle and waiting just beyond the Captain’s outstretched arm. A laser-guided missile from the sky would finish it all, Garner knew. Then there would be no American bodies to be put on parade, no moral victories for the Taliban to celebrate, no high-value American soldier to be offered in a ten-fold trade for Taliban leaders who will wreak a thousand-fold in terror.

Down at the bottom of the wash the Taliban leader climbed wantonly up the talus rocks with several turban-shrouded men following up behind him.

“Yes, a laser guided missile would finish it all nicely,” Garner said to himself.

He checked the clip on his rifle; then swung it over his shoulder. Have to remain quiet, he thought. Have to lure them in close. Have to be certain they are close enough to kill them all.

Garner commenced a slow crawl to the ledge below—toward Captain Branson and the radio, sliding along the rocks. The pain in his leg increased with each long pull,but he did his best to shake it off. His newfound plan gave him strength. There is no pain in death, he thought. And there will be no Taliban victories.

But as pleasing a thought it was to destroy the Taliban, the notion of committing suicide was troublesome. He, who had always applauded life and despised suicide bombers, was about to join the ranks of the martyred dead. This sat uneasily in his gut.

And he thought of the sound of jets too—that glorious, thunderous roar that signaled the might of the virtuous imminently overhead. It was the modern-day equivalent of the cavalry horn; one that could even the odds in a desperate battle. He recalled a time when he had witnessed three hundred Taliban coming down on an isolated American outpost near Kamdesh. His team watched the whole spectacle from an observation post on a distant ridge. The Americans were vastly outnumbered. Every man among them was destined to die, until the Observation Post Commander called in an airstrike. From beyond the hills, streaking in low like black hornets, two jets laid a hailstorm of destruction upon the Taliban, and after the jets passed they heard that beautiful roar of the F-A18s overhead. The tide of the battle was turned that quickly.

Recalling it now caused shivers to run through Garner’s body. He wanted so much to hear that beautiful sound of jets again.

‘Let them come,’ he said, ‘like Ezekiel’s four winds to breathe life back into drybones. We Christian soldiers will rise from the earth to fight again.”

But he knew, this time he would not hear the jets. They would be long past, their ordinances detonated, before the roar of their engines would thunder overhead.

Such a pity, Dax thought.

It’s better that way. Best not to know. Best for it be sudden.

He looked up at the blue sky.

It’s a killer when death becomes the only way to get back home.

He crawled with greater volition toward the bodies of Captain Branson and Private Donnelly, climbing over rocks and dirt, biting his lip each time the pain in his leg became too terrible.

There was a moment he lost track of time. He looked forward and looked back realizing he had blacked-out, but for how long, two seconds or two minutes, he did not know. It was the wound, he thought. The pain of it, and the loss of blood, and the damned heat. This placed a new urgency on his task. He could not loose consciousness again. He had to reach the radio. He tried to swallow, but his mouth had no moisture left in it. He hurried along, favoring his wounded leg and trying to keep focused and conscious.

But again he found himself motionless in the dirt, his cheek pressed against the hot sand. When he awoke this time he heard the sound of Taliban voices, much closer and louder.

Damn it! Stay focused!

By the third time it happened he awoke only a few yards away from Captain Branson. The radio, which was on the opposite side of Captain Branson, laid in the dirt just beyond the reach of the captain’s dead hand. Garner crawled for it, stretching for it as one would stretch for a cup of water after a long desert journey.

But there was blackness again, and that dreadful sense of time-loss—waking and not knowing how many seconds or minutes had passed.

His eyes opened looking up at several gun barrels. Behind the gun barrels were several bearded faces in the center of which stood the Taliban leader with the blue turban.

“Well Marine?” the Taliban leader asked. “You are the only one?”

Garner instinctively grasped for his rifle but it was not by his side. Then he saw it up in the arms of one of the Taliban soldiers. He glanced over to where the radio had been, but it was also gone; already up in the hands of another Taliban who looked at it inquisitively and played with its knobs.

“What is your company?” the Taliban leader asked.

Garner did not reply. His mind was too occupied with thought. He was wondering if he had reached the radio and called in the airstrike? For the life of him, he could not remember. He looked over to where the radio had been. He was still several yards away. If I had made the call, how did I end on the opposite side of Captain Branson?  He looked back to the radio, now in the hands of the Taliban. Then the dreaded thought hit him––he never reached the radio; the call for air support was never made.

The blue turban shouted some orders in Pashto to a group of Taliban up by Toby and Sweeney. They promptly gathered the bodies. Having already secured their weapons and gone through their pockets for souvenirs and identifying papers, they dragged their bodies—the real prize, down toward the position of their leader and the other dead Marines. Others did likewise to Captain Branson, dragging him out by his legs, his head racking against the rocks, and Private Donnelly as well, picking his pockets clean,gathering up his rifle and equipment, and dragging him across the granite. They were all heaped into one pile.

Destined for some gruesome cyber display, Garner thought, or some kind of televised mockery.

“What is your company?” the Taliban leader asked again.

Grimacing into the sun, Garner looked up at him. He has the face of a goat, he thought.

When Garner did not answer, the Taliban leader reached down and snapped Garner’s dog tags from his neck.

“Dax Garner?” he said, reading it. “A Sergeant?”

Garner did not reply.

“What’s your company?”

One of the Taliban high up in the canyon began shouting something in Pashto. The Taliban leader acknowledged, shouting something back.

“So you are the only one,” the Taliban leader said. He glanced over at the growing pile of dead Marines. “You will make a great prize nonetheless.”

The blue turban poked at Garner’s wound with the tip of his rifle barrel. Garner

felt the pain radiate up from his leg and into his abdomen.

“Don’t worry, you will live,” the Taliban said. “I’ll make sure of that.”

And as he said it, a crackling noise came from the radio held in the one Taliban’s hand. Garner gazed up at it, dazzlingly. The bastards have me, he thought. The bastards have us. The goddamned radio I never reached, into which I never keyed air-support coordinates.

The grisly image of comrades, disfigured and mocked on international television,flashed through his head. Such a pity; such a travesty; how could have I let them have me? How could have I let them win?

His mind began to wonder; the foggy unconsciousness returned. Then he began to see blackness again.

Vaguely he heard the blue turban speaking; “Hey! I asked you a question. Don’t fall asleep on me now.” And, vaguely, he heard the radio cackle again.

Then the radio spoke; “Inbound five sixty.”

And a different voice acknowledged; “That’s a Roger.”

Then the blue turban glanced skyward.

In a fantastic white flash and grey roar of smoke, the entire earth lifted. In the same ten-thousandth of a second Garner heard it and saw it, it took his light away. Boulders and trees shot skyward, broken and splintered apart. What was once stone andwood was now vaporized dust. Shock waves rocked the forest on the northern mountainside as two tapered-winged birds came streaking out from the smoke clouds. Followed belated in their wake was the roar of jet engines—their afterburners thundered off the canyon walls.

As the debris began their arching descent, the two jets dropped low on the distant horizon and became lost in the afternoon haze.

The End

Episode 32: Art & Politics

April 19, 2017
00:0000:00

This week’s episode features special guest Adrian Todd Zuniga, creator and host of the Literary Death Match, in our discussion of art, politics, and the relationship between the two…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Jason Schneiderman

Sara Aykit

 

Special Guest:

Adrian Todd Zuniga

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

This week’s episode features special guest Adrian Todd Zuniga, creator and host of the Literary Death Match, in our discussion of art, politics, and the relationship between the two. Zuniga and the editors discuss whether a heated political climate leads to higher-quality art or simply creates art filled with anger and redundancy.

Check out our thoughts and, after listening in, share your own on our Facebook event page or on Twitter with #ArtandPolitics!

Happy reading!

Episode 31: Balance

April 7, 2017
00:0000:00

On this week’s podcast, we review three poems by two authors: “The Riddle of Longing” by Faisal Mohyuddin and “Pyramids” and “American Wedding” by Shayla Lawson. Faisal Mohyuddin teaches English at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago, is a recent fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classrooms program, and received an MFA…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Sharee DeVose

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

On this week’s podcast, we review three poems by two authors: “The Riddle of Longing” by Faisal Mohyuddin and “Pyramids” and “American Wedding” by Shayla Lawson.

Faisal Mohyuddin

Faisal Mohyuddin teaches English at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago, is a recent fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classrooms program, and received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago in 2015. Mohyuddin is a lead teacher and advisor for Narrative 4 (narrative4.com), a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to empathy building through the exchange of stories. He is also an experienced visual artist who had the opportunity to participate in his first exhibition in October 2015. Check it out here!

We started off our conversation about “The Riddle of Longing” by discussing the singularity and the universality of the speaker’s circumstances. The poem put into perspective the reality that many immigrants and children of immigrants face in countries around the world. The imagery and language employed by Mohyuddin elicit various emotional responses and enforced the idea that, despite loss, life will continue on; and because everything persists, it may often persist in a broken state.

 

 

Shayla Lawson

Following “The Riddle of Longing,” we move on to Shayla Lawson’s first poem, “Pyramids.” Shayla Lawson is, was, or has been at certain times an amateur acrobat, an architect, a Dutch housewife, & dog mother to one irascible small water-hound. Find out more about her here and watch her read here! Then, you’ll want to follow her on Twitter: @blueifiwasnt

After spending some time figuring out what an isosceles triangle is, we examine the motivation and intent behind the poem, look at the challenging social commentary, and consider the beautiful balance of blasphemy and reverence. Whatever the message readers might take away from this piece, we were left wonderfully exhausted by the risk and fearlessness displayed in such strong, honest writing. In our final review, we look at “American Wedding” and acknowledge that an author’s writing can be very strong, but it’s always important to find the happy medium between what adds color to our work and what ultimately distracts and inhibits the reader from experiencing the raw goodness of it. The final poem opens up a relatable discussion about relationships, focus, and potential.

We close out this episode by discussing other podcasts our listeners might enjoy called “Sleep with Me,” a podcast that’ll put you to bed with a smile on your face, and “Dumb People Town.” Turn on and tune in!

Let us know what you think about these three poems and this episode on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook with #riskybusiness! Feel free to also tell us whether you are on Team: “The Earth is Flat” or not!

 

Faisal Mohyuddin

The Riddle of Longing

 

When to be an immigrant’s

Son is to be a speaker of several

 

Broken tongues, each day

Leaves you homesick

 

For a place you’ve never

Touched, nor forgotten, and feel

 

The ache to know. When there is

No one left, you ask the wind

 

For directions. Your own

Voice returns your wish with

 

A map of your mother’s palms

Spoken into threads of blue

 

Light. Take the long way

Home, through the cemetery.

 

There, kiss your father’s name,

Bring back an echo of pain,

 

And a phlox. When years

Later your son finds it crushed

 

Within a book, he will feel

Against his face a warm puff

 

Of breath, yours, then

A wink of green wings behind

 

His eyes. Strange, that I am

Holding two large rocks,

 

Looking for something else

Sacred to smash open.

 

 

Shayla Lawson

Pyramids

 

The

Jesus

I know died

on a pole.  He was not

God—he did not want to 

 

be. He told

the thief  hanging

beside him “Welcome

to Paradise,” but all the man

could see were pyramids  / cheetahs

 

thrashing

their wild

tails like an angry

mob.  I mean, what’s

the difference between the King

 

of All

Kings

& the Lord

of Man, & the god

of your Last Will & Testament.

 

In my

favorite

stripper fantasy,

Cleopatra wears spots

& scaffolds around you like

a vortex.  I lick her cheetah paws

 

& lap

dance into

your arms like

the baddest deity

of your dreams. You enter

 

me first

with a tail

I have grown

& I am as much

an animal as a diamond: solid

 

hard

& pure.

The way

you say my name

in bed. You curse

every god you’ve ever met.  What’s

 

the

difference

between a woman

set loose & a loose

woman & a woman who crowns

 

herself

Pharaoh

of a country

that is not / hers.

The Jesus I know is not

 

the kind

of insurgent

Jerusalem expects

after all that time building

the pyramids. You are Sampson

 

when

I pull

your hair.

I blind your eyes

& the pillars of your strength

 

all

crumble

like a temple. In

this way, I am the god

you hail from champagne

 

flutes

to bath

-tub baptism.

I wonder why,

if we are gods ourselves, we

 

revival

—shout the

names of men

we worship only of

necessity. I am only a woman when

 

I complete

you. I disrobe

of all my God-given

parts. I wake up folded in

the shape of breasts & young

 

men’s jewelry.

I know why I love

only you & you & me

working out the pyramid

-scheme of my gold– / toned profanity.

 

Shayla Lawson

American Wedding

 

I check out / my reflection

laced in bubble

foam on the passenger-side

window of a faded

Mustang I hand-rinse beside

 

the third bungalow I’ll occupy

as a new bride.  The automobile

never gets clean and I still wear

the veil. A tiny diamond

toils around my ring

 

finger; catches sludge

from the bucket as it wipes

in water. I get very good

at being arranged. I learn more

and more about what you make

 

when you need / to gain less

and less. Like television

in America, I am wonderful

with beginnings. In the faint

melody before the rewound

 

cassette, I hear the three

-fold harmony that floated me

down the aisleI carry a Bible

& a girl who imagines

a marriage like Christ gave

 

the bride class—I don’t

understand when I am given

away.  I ask the first boy

who ever wanted my hand

about our generation

 

so littered in / tattoo. He

tells me ‘people are tired

of trying to find ways to keep

magic inside them.’   But I have

no use for supernatural forces;

I question the detail in every

ritual.  I am terrified

of what might posses

me. A month into my very own

divorce, I have day dreams

 

of a needle flood with

ink. The permanence :: Imagine

my nostalgia. I crush

a fountain pen: watch my sole

disperse into a deep blue ocean.

 

Episode 30: Resonance and Rejection

March 22, 2017
00:0000:00

This week we look at two poems by two authors, “Drink Like Fish” by Alexa Smith and “pine” by Shabnam Piryaei. Alexa Smith is a poet, actor and visual artist born in Washington, DC and based in South Philadelphia....

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

 

Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald

 

This week we look at two poems by two authors, “Drink Like Fish” by Alexa Smith and “pine” by Shabnam Piryaei.

Alexa Smith is a poet, actor and visual artist born in Washington, DC and based in South Philadelphia. A triple Scorpio with nothing to lose, Alexa was once accurately described as "seven cats in a people suit;" she was awarded the college superlative "Most Likely to Lose Control of Her Hands," and, she can lick her own elbow without difficulty. She works for a local medical publisher and serves as the Managing Editor for APIARY Magazine, a free, volunteer-run literary magazine of Philly poetry, prose and visual art. Her poetry has appeared online in Entropy Magazine at entropymag.org, and her photography of Philly's post-election protests was featured by Billy Penn at billypenn.com. You can find out more about APIARY and check for submissions calls at apiarymagazine.com.

 As Marion puts it, “Drink Like Fish” is truly a tumble and a roll. With aggressive analogies, “enfished” personifications, and a strong use of language, this poem certainly demands attention from its readers. It opened up discussion about author intent, romanticization of culture, and whether or not literature must have a “takeaway.” Listen for the results of this poem’s vote, which even surprised our editors!

 

 

After “Drink Like Fish” we move on to “pine.” This is all Shabnam Piryaei wants you to know about her. 

Once we got over the lack of capitalization, we were able to start trying to digest its dense material and determine what it was about. After a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, it looked like we could have multiple interpretations. However, with whichever interpretation the reader perceives, there is a great loneliness and desperation of the speaker that pulls a strong empathy from us. While we couldn’t settle on an interpretation, we know that this multi-faceted reading only enhanced our discussion. 

We finished off talking by talking about rejection, and what it means to us. Check out the article written by Roxane Gay that Kathy references. Does a rejection stop you from submitting again? Or do you laugh in the face of rejection? Are you involved in a “rejection game” and don’t you think that would make a great movie title?

Let us know what you think about these poems, and about rejection, on Twitter or Facebook with #glugglug

Always, always, read on!

 

Alexa Smith
DRINK LIKE FISH

BARMAID MERGIRL:

hungover & strung

along by Fishtown hook-

ups, sighs cigarette-swirled

breath baiting the boys

outside the taqueria,

teal ombre dip-dye

willowing kewpie

cheeks in frizzy

rivulets, silver

nose ring catching

scratch-light from her

sunny zippo striking

for a quick suck of

smoke before she

clocks in & goes

UNDER:

mid-shift, mer-

server darts & dips

to dodge darts sailing gamely

thru the dinner rush, a salty dive's

Friday night sweat-swell stuffed to gills w/

oil-slick sardine pack sleazes, schools of bloated

blowfish bros, hip loud clowns doused in lager spouting

flotsam for first FinDr dates wishing they’d swished left, while

on the edge of the din sit lone, grim, grizzled marlins, w/blood-

shot eyes & briny drinks & cheeks as rough as rusting

swords, fish w/ trashed & tattered past mystique

like in-theory-cheery boardwalks

turned gray & drizzly

in the rain

the crowd so many

fathoms deep, our intrepid

merkid gets weeded, yet she winnows

through – serves swift & swerves her

sway away from ocular octopi tracing

her tail, quiet guys whose eyes

snake after supple shapes

like groping sucking

hentai vines

she hides

& curls herself

into the side of kitchen

stairwell, coves herself in

cellar shadow - stowed, savors

time slowing as her tongue skirts

a salted rim, lime stinging dry

lips, midori mellowing edge

of eyeglass frames like

green bottle shards

worn smooth

by sea

 

Shabman Piryaei
pine

I spy you on a rock at the edge

of a cliff. a tiny figure

hunched against heaven. the stupid

expanse of a building-less sky.

I fear dropping you because I can.

above you an angle of birds

know precisely how to navigate.

distance is like this.

leaving me excess space to play

with my weapons. I hum

uncertain

beyond the provocation of your back.

strands of me dangle from my shirt unwilling

to be discarded. no god laughs

while slitting the throats of his children, I think.

you will stay at the edge of a cloud-rivered abyss.

in another expanse, clouds

convene over the raft of a survivor, lip-split

and issuing confessions.

here crickets have convened. shuddering

at the scrape of evening’s tongue

I lull

for your shadow to stand.

Episode 29: The Unexamined Fisherman

March 8, 2017
00:0000:00

For the first time ever, we review a piece of nonfiction, “The Art of Fishing” by Keith Rebec. Keith has been backpacking around the world since October 2015. He is the editor-in-chief of Pithead Chapel, an online literary journal of gutsy narratives and small print press, and he’s currently working on a novel…

 

image001-150x150.jpg

 

Present at the Editorial Table

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Samantha Neugebauer

 

Engineering Producer

Joe Zang

 

For the first time ever, we review a piece of nonfiction, “The Art of Fishing” by Keith Rebec.

 

 Rebec has been backpacking around the world since October 2015. He is the editor-in-chief of Pithead Chapelan online literary journal of gutsy narratives and small print press, and he’s currently working on a novel. You can visit him, even as he travels, at keithrebec.com.

“Art of Fishing” creates a riveting discussion on genre, racism, voice, and identity. The editors in this episode all appreciate Rebec’s craft and point of view of an underrepresented culture. He presents a non-judgemental depiction of grotesque and brutal acts of exclusion. Our editorial table had a great time discussing the difference between resiliency and rationalization, and the merits of nonfiction in a piece that is, as Jason puts it, “muscular, gorgeous and direct with a lot of sentiment.”

Let us know what you think on our Facebook event page and on Twitter with #nextbabewinkelman

Read on!

Episode 28: PBQ Celebrates with One Book, One Philadelphia

February 22, 2017
00:0000:00

This is a special podcast episode with some help from the folks over at One Book, a signature program of the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing…

 

M.C. Extraordinaire:

Paul Siegell

 

The Lineup:

Kalela Williams

Cindy Arrieu-King

Thomas Devaney

Patrick Rosal

Julia Bloch

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

This is a special podcast episode with some help from the folks over at One Book, a signature program of the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book. This year’s book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

We started the evening with a round of Slam, Bam, Thank you, Mam, or improv reading game. Listen in and see what we created in 5 minutes!

The writers came at the themes of the book from so many angles, but the one they each had in common was they blew us away.If you’re old enough, imagine the dude (and his martini glass) getting blown away by the sound from his Maxell tape (if you’re too young to remember that iconic image, Goolge it)—it was like that. Or, just look at this:

via Flickr

And then listen to the podcast and feel the same way!

Let us know what you think on our Facebook event page or on Twitter with #OneBook

Read on!

 

Kalela Williams is a fiction writer whose most recent work appears in Calyx: A Journal of Art & Literature by Women, and Drunken Boat. She also directs One Book, One Philadelphia, a Free Library of Philadelphia program with the goal of promoting citywide conversation around the themes in a single book. She is currently working on a novel.

 

Cindy Arrieu-King is an associate professor of creative writing at Stockton University and a former Kundiman fellow. Her books include People are Tiny in Paintings of China (Octopus 2010), Manifest (Switchback 2013) and a collaboration with the late Hillary Gravendyk (1913 Press 2016). Find her at cynthiaarrieuking.blogspot.com.

 

Thomas Devaney is a poet and lives in Philadelphia. His books include Runaway Goat Cart (Hanging Loose, 2015), Calamity Jane (Furniture Press, 2014), and The Picture that Remains (The Print Center, 2014). His nonfiction book Letters to Ernesto Neto (2005) was published by Germ Folios. He is the 2104 recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. His collaborations with the Institute of Contemporary Art include “The Empty House,” for The Big Nothing, and “Tales from the 215” for Zoe Strauss’s “Philadelphia Freedom.”

 

Patrick Rosal is the author of four full-length collections of poetry, including his latest, Brooklyn Antediluvian. A former Senior Fulbright Research Fellow, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, Harvard Review, Tin House, The Best American Poetry and dozens of other magazines and anthologies. He has been a featured performer in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and hundreds of venues throughout the United States, including the Whitney Museum and Lincoln Center. He is currently an Associate Professor at the MFA Program of Rutgers University-Camden.

 

Julia Bloch grew up in Northern California and Sydney, Australia. She is the author of two books of poetry—Letters to Kelly Clarkson, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and Valley Fever, both from Sidebrow Books, and of the recent chapbook Like Fur, from Essay Press. She lives in Philadelphia, coedits Jacket2, and directs the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Episode 27.5: AWP Bookfair Buzz

February 20, 2017
00:0000:00

Last week, Painted Bride Quarterly made its way down to the 2017 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Washington D.C along with an estimated 12,000 individuals and 800 presses, journals, and literary organizations. AWP is always the highlight of our year…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

Last week, Painted Bride Quarterly made its way down to the 2017 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Washington D.C along with an estimated 12,000 individuals and 800 presses, journals, and literary organizations. AWP is always the highlight of our year as we release our latest Print Annual to the public and more importantly, get to meet so many of our talented and diligent writers and readers. Each time we handed a book to one of the authors we got to be as excited and thrilled as they were. Check out our Instagram feed if you want to see for yourself.

No matter where AWP is, it’s more than amazing to surround ourselves with like-minded, lovely people. The AWP lifestyle is not one we can sustain for too long, but we’d still like to start a movement to hold two conferences a year! 

Check out the thoughts of our editors, Marion and Kathy, in this episode. Listen in on conversations they had at their booth with busy and brilliant authors.

Tell us about your AWP experience on our facebook event page or on Twitter with #AWP17

Read on!

Episode 27: Suicides and Skelton Jazz

February 9, 2017
00:0000:00

In the midst of excitedly preparing for AWP 2017, we record this episode in which we discuss two poems by Rita Banerjee, “The Suicide Rag” and “Georgia Brown”. Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on a futuristic dystopian novel…

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

 

Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald

 

In the midst of excitedly preparing for AWP 2017, we record this episode in which we discuss two poems by Rita Banerjee“The Suicide Rag” and “Georgia Brown”

Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on a futuristic dystopian novel about Mel Cassin, a half-Tamil, half-Jewish girl stuck in the middle of a familial crisis and an epic political meltdown, and a collection of essays on race, sex, politics, and everything cool.  A jet-setter at heart, she spends her time between Munich, Germany and the United States.

This week’s discussion both took us back and made sure that none of us would see the world the same way again. With images of breakdancing, gospel choir, and the not-so-innocent Georgia Brown, we were in it. Whether we’re distinguishing jazz from jazz or figuring out what a clapper is, this episode is filled with risky moves.

Join us in the campaign to have your local library carry lesser-known authors and small presses. Let us know what books you’ll be requesting with #getsomebooks! Let’s support libraries, small presses, and the authors who write for them.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and let us know what you think of this episode with #longandskinny! Stay tuned to hear about our AWP 2017 experience–we hope to see you there!
And of course, most importantly, read on!

 


The Suicide Rag

Billy played ragtime

on the church

organ but we

lunch hour kids,

kept time by another

name.  Behind St. Augustine’s

we learned to hit

the pavement, sound

like an anvil

crack

hammers hitting

steel, Billy playing

skeletons

on the fifth,

we arpeggioed

haloed, froze

on the black

top.  Learning

to cakewalk

This was our

battle—

tar-mat babies

doing handsprung

suicides

for the girls

standing ’round

with knife-like eyes

That’s all

we needed—

a rolling

beat, a firing squad

and schoolyard

skirts

scouring the lot

as we fell

face forward

hands locked

& stiff, the only

thing

that could’ve

come between

us was a kiss.

 

Georgia Brown

Harlem had yet to be born,

the globe had not been spun,

but we knew how to whistle,

how to call clappers and skirts on cue:

That summer, we first met Georgia,

she was an echo in four beats,

we learned to hum her story.

Mike played her with a licked reed

but she was all brass, sharp

like an abandoned railroad cutting through

wild wood, and when she took stage,

she made those trombone boys whisper,

“Sweet Georgia, Sweet.”

Episode 26: Preparation H is Easy on the Mouth

January 27, 2017
00:0000:00

In this episode, our lovely and larger-than-usual editorial table discusses “Vultures,” a work of fiction written by Alex Pickett. In the winter of 2010, Alex Pickett volunteered for six months at a state park in Alaska, which is where he got most of the information for this story...

 

When Tim reads (via Wikimedia) When Tim reads! (via Wikimedia) 

Present at the Editorial Table:

 

Kathleen Volk Miller

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Denise Guerin

Sara Aykit

Maureen McVeigh

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

In this episode, our lovely and larger-than-usual editorial table discusses “Vultures,” a work of fiction written by Alex Pickett. 

Alex Pickett

In the winter of 2010, Alex Pickett volunteered for six months at a state park in Alaska, which is where he got most of the information for this story. Think cold: as in the characters, the stark landscape, the miles of snow.

As our podcast newbie Maureen puts it, “Vultures” fosters a great discussion among our team. We all agree that the characters were natural, and created a gripping tension that made us keep reading. Despite the hopeful and heroic (?) ending, we were left contemplating self-awareness, desperation, and a darker view of people as both predators and prey.

Does “Vultures” get a thumbs up from PBQ? Listen and find out. One thing’s for sure, this one was a “Tuffy!”

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to let us know what you think with #woodengravestones

As always, read on!

Episode 25: Saved from Bon Joviism

January 11, 2017
00:0000:00

PBQ is back with the first episode of 2017! In this episode we talk about two poems by Taylor Altman and one by Heather Sagar. First, we discussed Taylor Altman’s poems, “How to Break Without Falling Apart,” and “Contra Mundum.”

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Miranda Reinberg

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ is back with the first episode of 2017! In this episode we talk about two poems by Taylor Altman and one by Heather Sagar.

First, we discussed Taylor Altman’s poems, “How to Break Without Falling Apart,” and “Contra Mundum.”

altman

Taylor Altman taught herself how to juggle while studying for a calculus exam in college.

She won her school district's spelling bee in 4th grade (the youngest student ever to do so) and was excused from spelling homework for the rest of the year.

She has synesthesia, so she sees letters and numbers as being different colors; for example, "D" is green and "7" is purple.

Find her on LinkedIn, Medium, or Blackbird.

 

sagar

Next, we read Heather Sager’s poem, “Green.”  Heather Sager finds happiness in reading the Russian Symbolists and in spending time with her outgoing son. Feeling mildly adventurous, she might wander out to snap a too-close photo of an ornery snapping turtle, an oversized praying mantis, or a suspiciously quiet pigeon. You can find her poems or stories in places like Bear Review, Fourth & Sycamore, Naugatuck River Review, BlazeVOX, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, NEAT., Minetta Review, Untoward (forthcoming), Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere.

From the global to the personal, from surviving terrorist attacks to kissing frogs as a child, this conversation had all of us thinking critically about the relationship of a writer to the world around them, or, the world against them.

 

Were these poems accepted or rejected? Did Kathy ever kiss a frog? Listen and find out!

See Tim’s novel, The Soju Club, here.

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think with the #kissingfrogs

Thank you for listening, and read on!

 


Taylor Altman

How to Break Without Falling Apart

She trades in antiques

at the end of Adeline Street.

Her shop is like the inside of a dream,

with carpets and African masks

and rings and earrings

encased in glass

as though within a tide pool.

From the armoire of her mouth

all sorts of things come out

in the Kentish accent thirty years in California

hasn’t shaken—

what lives she has led,

what other people she has been,

how she learned to break

without falling apart.

A cool breeze comes

through the back door, from the alleyway,

and she says she works as a nurse for the elderly

to afford a new passport

with her maiden name,

and to fix her teeth,

small spans of darkness between gold.

 


Taylor Altman

Contra Mundum

Under the burnt-out tree

where the nightingale sings,

where a magpie made its nest

 

of wedding rings, the singed olive trees

that once bore waxy fruits,

where are you?

 

John Walker Lindh, now called Sulayman,

rocks back and forth,

reading his Quran

 

in Terra Haute.

The tile halls of the madrassa are empty,

the fountain stopped. Somewhere

you are just waking up, in some other city,

someone else’s skin. Our house

was filled with books, corners of pages

 

torn off for gum, small surface wounds

that bloomed like carnations.

Everything is

 

complicit. A bird goes up

the scale, notes like glass beads

crushed underfoot. It’s you and me

 

against the world. In the bazaar,

we passed the birds in cages,

seedcovered, shitcovered, the white bars

 

scratched to copper. Clocks going off

in every direction, faces faded

and filled with sand. You read the papers

 

every morning; the news was neither good

nor bad; you had been

in Srebrenica. IEDs exploded

 

in the streets, bombs full of nails. A little boy

was breathing blood. There was nothing

we could do for him,

 

his lungs expanding like balloons.

You proposed that night, gave me the ring

from the magpie’s nest,

 

then disappeared. So many nights

I watched you fight sleep. So many nights

you woke up drenched in sweat

 

as the imam’s cry flew over the rooftops

and minarets. You said, Lindh’s father

visits him in prison. He believes

 

in his innocence. I watched your hips

grow wider, the age spots appear

on the backs of your hands.

 

I painted and painted this fragment

of window. Finally,

the urgency of lovemaking

 

left us. But our names remain

on the lapels of your books, hybrids

of our names, Punnett squares.

 


Heather Sager

GREEN

After staring down

those amphibious creatures,

their sad-mute eyes

dimly reflecting my own,

I picked one up, and smacked him on the lips.

 

Into woods, ponds I’d chase,

collecting and admiring

tone of skin, angling of protuberances,

the feel of shifty, leggy treasures. Nearby,

 

Hard-shelled soldiers rose,

showing dilapidated orange mouths.

 

My father ran at me with a shovel,

once, to free a pinched limb—

I wiggled free, he tapped

the large shell.

Still, there I remained—

watching my parade,

sentient, croaking, green.

 

 

Episode 24: PBQ’s Holiday Extravaganza!

December 28, 2016
00:0000:00

This week, we have a holiday special for you all! Just a few months ago, we had the privilege of hosting an event for Philalalia, a small press festival. We had a great reading at the Pen and Pencil Club in Philadelphia with a superbly talented group of writers, and we know you’re gonna love them as much as we did!

 

MC Extraordinaire:

Paul Siegell

 

On The Stage:

Emma Brown Sanders

David Olimpio

Katie Ionata

Sevé Torres

Mai Schwartz

Kirwyn Sutherland

Alina Pleskova

 

Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

 

This week, we have a holiday special for you all! Just a few months ago, we had the privilege of hosting an event for Philalalia, a small press festival. We had a great reading at the Pen and Pencil Club in Philadelphia with a superbly talented group of writers, and we know you’re gonna love them as much as we did!

Let us know what you think on our event page or on Twitter with #holidayextravaganza

Interested in learning more about (or participating in) our Slam, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am? Sign up for our newsletter and join us on January 26!

Happy holidays, and read on!

 

Emma Brown Sanders is a queer Philly poet originally from Chicago. she co-hosts POETRY JAWNS: A PODCAST with Alina Pleskova. She recently put out a chap called RELEASE FANTASY that will be available at philalalia. You can find her work at full stop, fungiculture, bedfellows and recreation league.

 

David Olimpio grew up in Texas, but currently lives and writes in Northern New Jersey. He believes that we create ourselves through the stories we tell, and that is what he aims to do every day. Usually, you can find him driving his truck around the Garden State with his dogs. He has been published in Barrelhouse, The Nervous Breakdown, The Austin Review, Rappahannock Review, Crate, and others. He is the author of THIS IS NOT A CONFESSION (Awst Press, 2016). You can find more about him at davidolimpio.com, including links to his writing and photography. He Tweets, Instagrams, and Tumbles as @notsolinear and would love for you to join him.

 

Kathryn (Katie) Ionata is the author of the chapbook Yield Signs Don't Exist (PS Books, 2016). Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Toast, The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Cleaver Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Hawai'i Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, and other publications. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and has been a finalist for the Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Prize and the Bucks County Poet Laureate Competition. She teaches writing and literature at Temple University and The College of New Jersey.

 

Sevé Torres is a poet, father, and college professor. His work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations, and Dismantle: The Vona Anthology. He currently teaches at Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden.

 

Mai Schwartz is a poet, a storyteller, a sometime-beekeeper, an unofficial historian, and a native of New Jersey with lots of opinions about diners and malls. Based in west Philly for the past six years, Mai spends their time growing plants, teaching others to do the same, and editing Apiary Magazine.

 

7 Things about the current version of Kirwyn Sutherland

  1. I luh God
  2. I'm cool peeps
  3. Trying to get my self-care on
  4. Editor of Poetry for Public Pool and APIARY Issue 8: Soft Targets
  5. Media Director for The Philadelphia Poetry Collab group
  6. Deep breathing helps
  7. Slam poet always and not ashamed

 

Alina Pleskova lives in Philly & strives to maintain optimum chill. She is coeditor (with Jackee Sadicaro) of bedfellows, a literary magazine focused on sex/desire/intimacy, & cohost (with Emma Sanders) of Poetry Jawns, a podcast. Recent work can be found in Queen Mob's Tea House, Public Pool, and Sea Foam Mag.

 

Episode 23: The White Episode

December 14, 2016
00:0000:00

Today we talk about “White,” fiction by Aggie Zivaljevic! Aggie Zivaljevic’s fiction ​has appeared or is forthcoming in The Literary Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Narrative Magazine, Joyland, Crab Orchard Review and Speakeasy… 

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Denise Guerin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

Today we talk about “White,” fiction by Aggie Zivaljevic!

Aggie Zivaljevic

Aggie Zivaljevic’s fiction ​has appeared or is forthcoming in The Literary Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Narrative Magazine, Joyland, Crab Orchard Review and Speakeasy.  She lives in California and curates Story Is the Thing, a ​quarterly reading s​eries at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park.

On her desk, Aggie keeps a framed writing advice given to her by Simon Van Booy,“Write as you garden — with passion, awe, intent, and openness.” You can check her San Jose garden (she gets lots of help from her dog Sundance) board on Pinterest.

This week’s piece led to a lot of great discussion! While we analyzed our favorite and not-so-favorite moments in this story, our table discussed fiction as a genre: its purpose and the functions it must serve for its readers. With lingering depictions of artwork and thoughts on the process of grief, this story certainly provided conversation. However, did “White” do it for us? Listen and find out!

We end this episode by talking about a few of the things that make us happy: like the Korean release of The Soju Club, The Band Joseph, Heather Birrell’s Mad Hope, roommates, and donuts!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think, and what makes you happy, with #dreamroom!

 

Episode 22: Tea Leaves and Tastykake

November 30, 2016
00:0000:00

For this episode, we look at three poems by Laura Sobbott Ross. She’s taught English to students from dozens of countries, and has two poetry chapbooks: A Tiny Hunger (YellowJacket Press) and My Mississippi (Anchor & Plume Press.)

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3=0

 

For this episode, we look at three poems by Laura Sobbott Ross.

Laura Sobbott Ross

Laura Sobbott Ross lives in a rural, hilly part of inland Florida where horses and hothouses of orchids abound. She loves to take pictures on long drives through the open land, and to sing to the radio with the windows wide, which conjures threats from her teenagers, but her dogs don’t seem to mind. You will find paint on her clothes at any given time. She’s taught English to students from dozens of countries, and has two poetry chapbooks: A Tiny Hunger (YellowJacket Press) and My Mississippi (Anchor & Plume Press.)

First, we’re transported to the sunny beaches of “Bora Bora,” where we find ourselves with some trouble in paradise. We follow that off trying to decipher “The Walrus in the Tea Leaves,” where we’re left with more questions than answers. And finally, we throwback to The Eagles’ “Hotel California” with “Déjà Vu.” Even though we do check in, we’re not so sure if we ever want to leave!

Let us know what you think of these poems on Facebook and Twitter with #squeegeeboy!

Don’t forget to read on!

 

 

Bora Bora

    1996

A shaft of blue splintered into a thousand

nuances, shed them into the sea beneath our tiki hut—

wedged on stilts into hunger clouds of shimmery fish,

oysters lipping black pearls. We married there,

on the shore between the neon chakra of sky & water,

a handful of drowsy natives shaking New Year’s Eve from

the folds of their pareos. Dancing, a tide etched in sand.

Later, petal-strung in whites already sighing into sepia,

from our balcony we sought those old stars from home.

Palm trees swaying festively in dark silhouette across

the unadorned horizon of the Pacific. Love, a sugared rim

we shared in sips, cowry shells strung and whispering

at our throats, every edge garnished in hibiscus, sunburn,

pineapple. In the shallows, the moray eel we’d spotted earlier—

prehistoric face bobbling from his pulpit of stone. Before

the ceremony, we’d tossed in our pockets of foreign coins—

wishes aimed at his blind scowl. Later, moonlight uprooted

the slippery ribbon of his tail, while the current floated him,

floorboard by floorboard, across you & me; a benediction

in a sleeve of sea water, the round polyp mouths of the reef

opening in the dark like a choir.

 

The Walrus in the Tea Leaves

  For Doug

Darling, it wasn’t the news you’d expected.

And when you told me about it, I’d giggled,

conjured images of broken symmetries—

kaleidoscope and compass, magnetic poles

and mirrors gone random. I knew what

you were hoping for, how you’d tilted your

throat back and swallowed down the void.

The psychic parsing through the wrack line

for messages left in seaweedy clots of Chamomile

or Earl Gray. Speckle and flack— dark nebula

splat against a bone-colored sky. You said

she’d seemed baffled by the walrus—

awkward animal, all teeth and tail. You

told me he’d risen twice from the wet ashes

that morning, buoyant and robust in his

island cup, nosing through the diorama of dregs

like a seafloor of mollusk shells pursed shut;

his mouth, an insistent imprint on the rim.

 

 

Déjà Vu

    —1979

There has to be darkness and a highway.

Beyond the shoulders of the road,

a topography, splayed and lit in street lamps.

You’re seventeen, and Hotel California

is playing on the radio. If you look close

enough, you can see the silhouette of

mountains beyond your own reflection

in the car window. To the right, an anchor

store in a strip mall. To the left,

the gas station where high school boys work—

the good looking ones who sweep the silk

of their long bangs from their eyes

with puppy-soft hands, and ask if you want

regular or unleaded. Watching them comb

your windshield clean beneath

the squeegee’s wide, forgiving blade,

you might imagine whispering: Save me,

and wonder, does anyone do that anymore?—

the windshield washing, you mean, of course,

and you know that if you slid your fingers

inside the thick baffles of their goose-down

vests, down into the warmth beneath

their soft-as-ash flannel shirts, your palms

would smell like gasoline and their father’s

Old Spice, and that in the star bristled night,

every imagined kiss was a curfew, exquisitely unfair,

and a promise you had made in a fever to return

home what you’d borrowed just the way you found it.

Episode 21: Alabama Field Holla

November 16, 2016
00:0000:00

In reaction to the events of November 8, this week’s episode begins with local Philly poet Cynthia Dewi Oka reading “Post-Election Song of Myself.” We first heard it at our Reading at the Black Sheep Pub on Monday, November 12, and we were so moved we had to ask her to share it with you.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Sara Aykit

Marion Wrenn

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

 

In reaction to the events of November 8, this week’s episode begins with local Philly poet Cynthia Dewi Oka reading “Post-Election Song of Myself.” We first heard it at our Reading at the Black Sheep Pub on Monday, November 12, and we were so moved we had to ask her to share it with you.

In Episode 21 of Slush Pile, we discuss two poems by Harold Whit Williams.

Harold Whit Williams

Harold Whit Williams goes by the name Whit to family, friends, and acquaintances, but thinks that using his full name for poetry gives him that much-needed literary gravitas to get his “little scribblings” published. He catalogs maps, atlases, and journals for UT Austin Libraries. His guitar heroics have been much lauded around the world. He and his wife enjoy birdwatching, wine tastings, modern art exhibits, monster truck rallies (mostly for the cuisine), and trying to find a place to park.  Once he dreamt a poem in its entirety, then awakened and wrote it down verbatim. That poem, "The Best of Intentions," was published in The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology 2016. The poem is not very good, but it is most definitely wise-ass.

Our small group of three begin the episode with “Hawk Pride Mountain Nocturne,” a piece that Marion feels, “breaks [her] heart from line one.” With an incantatory and rhythmic tone, we are swept back in time to a liminal spot of dreams and melodrama. Our vote was unanimous, but we are requesting a few “gentle” edits.

We were not as quick to love the next poem, “Alabama Field Holler.” However, after discussing the historical significance of the field holler and the musicality of phrases, we started to change our minds…

Of course, let us know what you think about these poems, and Cotton Mather’s “Lily Dreams On” with the hashtag #lampshadesofdesire!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and, most importantly, read on!

 

Harold Whit Williams

Hawk Pride Mountain Nocturne

The deceased leave behind their voices.

Some in shoeboxes

Stacked in the back closet of the mind,

Others under creaking steps,

In leafwhisper, water murmur, highway hum.

Most, middle of the night, seek us out

With their quick-and-dead singsong.

Disembodied, tremulous,

Gusting down

Off the pine-sided hill.

An uncle's high tenor; an aunt's thick alto.

A whole ragtag church choir from beyond the beyond.

Voices pure as light, Light as breath.

We breathe in these voices In our sleep,

Taste these voices in the bittersweet

Draught of dreams. Voices

In the shapes of clouds, voices raining

Down the old mudtrodden hymns. Horse-and-buggy us

Back to that little white church In the woods.

Lay roses on those headstones carved with our names.

Sing out, brethren, in voices

Long-silenced, but still heard, harried

By a north wind from the past.

Let your praises pillow our slumber

And greet us like morning mist.

Hearken us back from our dreams, brethren,

And forward into the light.

 

Harold Whit Williams

Alabama Field Holler

I have decided to blame no one for my life.

– Robert Bly

Winter morning all hollowed-out,

Whistling its one-note ballad.

Morning bark-stripped, sanded-down,

Held over a flame. A woodsmoke

Morning piping clear across

back pastures of my childhood.

Let me wake early to cop the riffs

Of this bygone morning song.

Let me stomp out with snare drum

Past granddaddy's electric fence.  

I'll get in tune with morning, root

Myself down into the hard red clay.

I'll call a blues to myself in 4/4 time,

Stand back and await the response.

Episode 20: Boxed Wine and Slush Piles

November 2, 2016
00:0000:00

In Episode 017, we spoke to Jim Hanas about the value and perhaps impracticality of today’s slush piles. This week, M. Rachel Branwen, editor of Slush Pile Magazine, was happy to talk about her thoughts on what the slush pile is really about, disagreeing with Hanas unapologetically.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

M. Rachel Branwen

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Episode TWENTY of Slush Pile! We thank all of our listeners, writers, and guest speakers for supporting this podcast and its mission.

We first launched Slush Pile at the end of March at the 2016 AWP Conference. We were thrilled with the enthusiastic response, yet confused athow many times people asked if we were related to Slush Pile Magazine, also debuting at 2016 AWP! We had never heard of this publication, so we hunted down their booth and were blown away by the ladder and a very tall stack of papers.

 

Author Jonathan Weinert at Slush Pile Magazine's AWP boothAuthor Jonathan Weinert at Slush Pile Magazine's AWP booth

We had the pleasure of meeting M. Rachel Branwen, Slush Pile Magazine’s founder and editor, and we invited her back to our booth for some boxed wine and great conversation! Then, we convinced her to come on air.

M.Rachel Branwen is the editor of Slush Pile Magazine, the longtime senior reader of fiction at Harvard Review, and the former fiction editor of DigBoston. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Adirondack Review, The Millions, and elsewhere. She is fond of: bougainvillea, red wine, mashed potatoes, unexpected conversations with oversharing strangers, long road trips, learning new languages, walking up hills for exercise, the thesaurus, her dog (Nigel, a pug), and the movie "When Harry Met Sally." She dislikes:headaches, mosquitoes, and the sounds people make when they're chewing. Feel free to look her up on Facebook herehere, or on Twitter: @slushpilemag.

M. Rachel Branwen

In Episode 017, we spoke to Jim Hanas about the value and perhaps impracticality of today’s slush piles. This week, M. Rachel Branwen was happy to talk about her thoughts on what the slush pile is really about, disagreeing with Hanas unapologetically. Branwen tells us about the history of Slush Pile Magazine, “championing” and “curating” works that Branwen believes deserve the world’s attention.

After explaining her magazine’s history, Branwen probed us for the history and executions of Painted Bride Quarterly. Kathy and Marion reminisce about their introduction to a group of people who work on magazines like Painted Bride Quarterly and Slush Pile Magazine simply for the love of literature. Then, we have veteran reader Tim Fitts and brand-new reader Sara Aykit discuss the democratic nature of PBQ’s voting that not only empowers young readers, but keeps the perspectives of older readers fresh.

M. Rachel Branwen embodies the pleasure of reading poetry and short stories like they are the only thing that matters. We had a great time discussing her more optimistic views on slush piles and the “staggeringly interesting” Slush Pile Magazine.

Check out the Issues Marion raves about here and here!

We would love to know how you feel about slush piles: are you Team Hanas or Team Branwen? Let us know on our Facebook page or @PaintedBrideQ with #TeamHanas or #TeamBranwen!

Thank you for listening and read on!

Episode 19: The Dinosaur-Robot Episode

October 19, 2016
00:0000:00

Welcome to Episode 19 of Slush Pile! For this episode, we have two “creepy” poems submitted for our Monsters Issue by Sarah Kain Gutowski.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Lauren Patterson

Tim Fitts

Caitlin McLaughlin

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

 

Welcome to Episode 19 of Slush Pile! For this episode, we have two “creepy” poems submitted for our Monsters Issue by Sarah Kain Gutowski.

Sarah Kain Gutowski

Sarah Kain Gutowski can't keep succulents alive and is easily distracted by all things blue and shiny. Find her on Instagram @sarahkaingutowski to follow her annual #domesticviolenceawareness project during the month of October, or at her blog, Mimsy and Outgrabe, where she keeps a messy, irregular, sometimes profanity-laced record of her life as a writer, academic, and mother of three.

While these poems, part of a suite, did not get unanimous votes, we all felt they enveloped us into a universe of magical realism. True to the tradition of scary stories, these poems demand to be read slowly, deliberately, and out loud. Additionally, Gutowski’s work is more than simply scary. Like Kathy says, “Sometimes freaky shit happens,” and these poems force our team to consider the ambiguities of life, or pre-death, as Tim puts it.

Listen to the outcome, but one thing is for sure: these poems are stronger together.

Comment on our Facebook event page or on Twitter with #frogtongue and sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not! Read on!

 

Chapter VI: The Children Have a Request

The season stretched itself thin, weakened by storms and heat.

Inside the damp, shadowy space of the children’s fort,

the woman with the frog tongue wove baskets and bowls

with tight, interlocked laces, while her silk stitches

began to fray and lengthen. The gap between her lips

widened to where the children could see the white of her teeth.

They stared at her, sometimes; she saw them clench their jaws

and try to speak to each other without moving their mouths.

Before long they’d begin to laugh, and she’d shake with relief at the sound.

Then one day, when the trees broke into glittering shards

of gold and red and green, and light spun pinwheels above

their heads as they walked together between the falling leaves,

the girl looked at the woman and asked if she had a name.

At this, the woman jerked to a stop. The old surge,

the impulse to speak that rose within her belly and chest,

overwhelmed. She wanted the girl and boy to know her name.

Her tongue, rolled tightly and barred from moving inside its cage,

strained against her teeth and cheeks, contorting her face with its rage.

The boy stepped back when he saw the change on the woman’s face.

The girl moved closer, though, to pat the hand she held

like she might a frightened kitten or skittish, fallen bird.

Let’s guess your name, she said. The woman’s jaw fell slack,

as much as the stitches allowed. Her panic passed away.

The boy saw her relax and began to hop around.

A game, a game, he chanted. Across her eyes the sun

sliced its blade, and though her vision bled with its light,

she felt cheered by the girl’s hand and the boy’s excitement.

Aurora. Jezebel. Serafina, guessed the girl.

Her brother laughed and grabbed a fallen branch, whacking

the moss-covered roots of the trees surrounding them.

The woman laughed, too, short bursts of air through her nose.

Her happiness shocked them all. The boy laughed again,

a raucous sound, and she looked the little girl in the eye.

A curve tested her mouth’s seams, more grimace than grin,

but the girl smiled back and sighed with some relief. Then she reached

toward the woman and pulled her close, until they were cheek to cheek.

The girl’s face, cold and smooth, smelled of the moss and earth

her brother lashed and whipped with vigor into the air.

The woman with the frog tongue hugged the girl loosely,

as if those little shoulder blades were planes of cloud,

a shifting mist she could see and feel between her arms

but couldn’t collect, or hold, or keep for her very own.

The girl stepped back yet kept her hands by the woman’s face.

Her small, thin fingers hovered before the fraying threads.

Why don’t you take these out? she asked, as she touched each ragged end.

At this the boy stopped his joyful assault of the trees

and ran to see for himself what they discussed each night

when walking home: her muffled, choked murmurings,

the gray lattice unraveling across her mouth.

He peered closely at each loose stitch, searching beyond

her lips for whatever monster she’d locked so poorly inside.

He found no monster, just a hint of pink tongue.

So he shrugged, said Yes, and spun on his heel to resume his game.

The girl jumped up and down, shouting: And then you’ll tell us your name!

The woman watched the boy whip tree roots free of moss,

the tufts spinning into the air and separating,

becoming dust, the dark green spores like beaks of birds

that plummet toward the rocky earth without fear.

She watched the girl’s hair lift and fly away from her head,

the wind dividing its strands, the way it hung, suspended

like dust in the sun, then sank like spores: a sudden drop.

She worked her mouth from side to side, and by degrees

opened her lips enough to burble a sound that said: Maybe.

 

Chapter VII: She Grows a Second Heart

That night she woke to find another oddity:

during sleep her heart had split or twinned itself,

and where one muscle pumped before, now beat two.

Her blood coursed through her veins twice as fast as before,

and over those paths her skin buzzed and stammered, like wire

strung tautly between two poles and charged with load.

As if she’d run for miles across rolling hills,

as if inside her chest two fists beat time all day,

beneath the bone she sped at death in the most alive way.

The day crawled while her two hearts raced. Above the fire

she set a series of clocks to ticking. She watched the flames,

sometimes leaning close enough to feel the heat

singe her stitches a deeper shade, their fibers scorching

until they curled, like dark froth spilling from her mouth.

But when her hearts began to flicker more, and faster

than she could stand, she turned her eyes to the clocks’ marked faces

and drew comfort from the second hands’ neurotic twitch.

Every minute witnessed meant another minute lived.

Beneath her breastbone her strange second heart pulsed harder.

She sensed the muscle, like her tongue, would leap and fly

away from her body if her body let it go.

She took the silver-handled knife and incised a cross

above the cavity where her hearts ballooned together,

jostling for room and dominance. The flaps of skin,

pale as egg shell, trembled slightly. A head appeared.

A bird with obsidian eyes emerged wet with her blood,

shook to shed its burden, and leapt toward the rafters above.

She watched the bird and felt air seep into the space

it left behind, her single heart unrivaled but lonely

in its great room. The wound bled slowly, healing fast

to a pale silver scar, flaps falling back to close

neatly over the bone, which laid itself again

like lines of track or scaffolding across her chest.

The bird flew to the window’s sill, and ticked its head

to look back at the woman. A slight breeze, cool and calm,

caressed its dark wings, and it leapt for the steady branch of that arm.

Episode 18: Jersey Guernsey, a Frenchman, and 2 Ho’s

October 5, 2016
00:0000:00

Welcome to Episode 18 of the PBQ’s Slush Pile! This episode is extra special because we had guest, Erika Meitner, winner of the National Poetry Series and professor at Virginia Tech. She is currently working on a “documentary poetry project” on the 2016 Republican National Convention...

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Erika Meitner

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3=0

 

Welcome to Episode 18 of the PBQ’s Slush Pile! This episode is extra special because we had guest, Erika Meitner, winner of the National Poetry Series and professor at Virginia Tech. She is currently working on a “documentary poetry project” on the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland for Virginia Quarterly Review.

 

Maureen Seaton

All of the poems we’ll consider on today’s episode were submitted by Maureen Seaton: "West Ho," "West Ho 2," & "Love in the Time of Snow." Maureen Seaton currently lives in three states of art—Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado (ocean, desert, mountain range)—all bordering on our next-door neighbors, the world.

We start with the “West Ho,” and Tim points out that the poet’s use of specific facts ultimately aids the piece. The wonderful descriptions of sunshine from Jersey to Colorado warms us up to this poem.

We go on to discuss “West Ho 2,” a seeming counterpart. This poem brings nods to the Jersey accent, and leaves us wondering who Lizzy Tish is. The “constellation of places” keeps us “tawlking” about this one for a bit longer than “West Ho.”

We were all a little intimidated by the French in “Love in the Time of Snow,” but Erika reads for us using her “Jersey French.” We love the historical allusions in this poem, and Jason, who grew up in a military family, recounts for us the story of Lafayette in the Revolutionary War.

You can listen to Maureen read her poem “Hybrid” at the University of Miami here, and at a POG reading with collaborator Sam Ace here.

Listen to find out which poems we accepted and comment on our Facebook event page or on Twitter with #WestHo!

Sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not!

Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope, and we’ll send you a PBQ Podcast Slushpile sticker!

Read on!

 

West Ho

Colorado ties with Texas for 6th sunniest

state in the USA. Who cares? The sun’s

 

not racing against itself, why should it?

I will not be buried in Elizabethport nor

 

one of the Oranges like the rest of my clan.

My body will not be flown home in a crate

 

to be clucked over by who knows which

Irish relatives. The way the sun rises here,

 

clanging its huge cowbell, easing the East

right out of you, you’d think everybody’d

 

be tinted silt and rouge and worshipping

The Bright Solar Prince of the Solar Palace.

 

(Who?) I’m but one who recently drifted

from old New Jersey, the 27th sunniest state

 

where the sun shines 56% of the time. Don’t

underestimate the operatic trill and maw

 

of this western sun as it blazes over you

and laughs behind the Rockies. It will draw

 

you to it and sear you like a steak, Jersey

girl, Golden Guernsey, little pail of milk.

  

West Ho 2

I also live in the state of New Mexico, the second sunniest state, and in Florida, the eighth. I live in three places but I don’t have three faces. This is not exactly a metaphor, yet I can see the metaphor coming at me, a satellite in the hard dark sky.

 

Deputy Azevedo placed Dexter’s head in an evidence bag and took it out to his cruiser:

the last words I read as I fell asleep last night.

 

Here in Colorado everyone skis obsessively on Sunday. People break their legs and arms and sometimes their necks.

 

I’m feeling a little Jersey today.

 

Don’t get me talking about dogs or coffee.

 

There are no real characters in this poem, only those who have escaped from Totawa.

 

Lizzy Tish, for example.

 

Lizzy will not be buried in Totowa nor Newark nor Hoboken. Her musical body will be laid to rest somewhere on the plains of Colorado.

 

Personally, I both do and don’t believe in the efficacy of death and dying.

 

Eggcream, potsy, stoop, stickball.

 

These are some of the words a Jersey girl might remember while under the influence of the Colorado sun.

 

Her musical body will be buried in Boulder Valley under the lid of a baby grand piano, her soul accompanied into the afterlife by a flashmob of multigenerational percussionists.

 

 

Love in the Time of Snow Poem

Lafayette, Colorado

 

People who live here

speak very little French.

 

Lafayette, nous voilà!

they sometimes say.

 

Although Lafayette,

famous Hero of Two

 

Worlds, (our world et

le monde de Lafayette)

 

never skied much past

the bunny slope and

 

few remember him slip-

ping bourbon in cocoa

 

after snowboarding—

in fact, few remember

 

him at all—it’s still

historical as hell here,

 

a veritable winter love-

fest de la révolution,

 

hippies and nobles lug-

ing down the Rockies.

Episode 17: “Let’s Kill the Slush Pile”

September 21, 2016
00:0000:00

Today we have a very different episode; instead of discussing submissions from our own slush pile, we talk about whether a “slush pile” is even the best way to find writing and writers at all! Joining us is Jim Hanas, author of the essay “Let’s Kill the Slush Pile”...

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Jim Hanas

Jason Schneiderman

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Caitlin McLaughlin

Tim Fitts

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

Today we have a very different episode; instead of discussing submissions from our own slush pile, we talk about whether a “slush pile” is even the best way to find writing and writers at all! Joining us is Jim Hanas, author of the essay “Let’s Kill the Slush Pile,” which details how open submissions really work, under what premises, and the advantages of scouting for work over open submissions. In a world where Facebook and Wordpress have made sharing writing easier than ever, does a slush pile still have the value that it once had? Are Editors who strictly pick from submissions nothing more than literary Gatekeepers? We sit down for this episode ready to defend our democratic slush pile as the obvious way to go, but Jim’s arguments left us questioning our own methods (unless you’re Jason).

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Jim Hanas is certainly not a new face to the publishing world. Currently, he works for HarperCollins as the Senior Director of Audience Development and Insight but he’s done it all, from freelance writer, to professor, to editor. He no longer submits to the slush and is trying to conquer the full-length novel. Look for his collection of short stories titled Why They Cried: a surreal look into the strange and beautiful present in everyday life.

We here at PBQ aren’t slashing our slush pile any time soon, but Jim leaves us contemplating the function of the slush pile and with an uncertainty of its future in the ever-changing world of publishing.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jim? What are your experiences with slush piles?

Don't forget to rate and subscribe to us on iTunes!

Let us know on our Facebook event page or tweet us@PaintedBrideQ.

Thank you for listening and read on!

 

Episode 16: Consumption

September 7, 2016
00:0000:00

Hello and welcome to Episode 16 of our podcast! Today we discussed fiction for the second time: Hunger by Kerry Donoghue. You can read the story before or after you listen to the podcast, but: SPOILER ALERT; you will hear us discuss all of the major plot points!

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Caitlin McLaughlin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

Hello and welcome to Episode 16 of our podcast! Today we discussed fiction for the second time: Hunger by Kerry Donoghue. You can read the story before or after you listen to the podcast, but: SPOILER ALERT; you will hear us discuss all of the major plot points!

Kerry Donoghue once launched a falcon from her arm so it could snatch a pigeon head in mid-air, which seems really random to mention to you right now, but when you’ll read the story you’ll see: she’s obsessed with consumption: what we put in our mouths, all the different infidelities we allow. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, her little girl, and a distressing capacity for cheese (See? It’s all connected.)  We know you’ll want more of Donoghue, so we’ve made it easy–The Pinch, The Louisville Review, The South Carolina Review, Potomac Review, and Harpur Palate.

Kerry Donoghue

We loved the way that Donoghue was able to paint such misguided, inept characters without judgement. From Buick’s competitive eating to Glory’s obsession with childbearing, the story held enough elements of reality for us to believe in and truly care about these characters. Sex, food, beauty salons, brothers, baby shampoo, and tricep dips–the visceral details here drive this piece. If you read it, you will immediately want to share it–just like us!

We then decided to fully rip off one our favorite podcast’s, (Pop Culture Happy Hour) and Kathy asked each of us what’s been making us happy. Tim mentioned that he’s re-reading George Orwell, while Caitlin brought up the Spider Man/Deadpool Marvel comic, and so her happiness dealt with anticipation. (Once again making us love the diversity of our staff’s minds.)

Jason is loving former PBQ author Kristen Dombek’s book, “The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism,” and admits that his currect gulity pleasure is the Netflix series, Stranger Things. (“Reason to watch=Winona Ryder.)

Kathleen ended the podcast with a call for memoirs written by people under 30 who are not celebrities and have not suffered huge life tragedies. Do any exist? Let us know on our event page!

As always, let us know what you think—of the story, our conversation, or the podcast in general, on our Facebook page! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe if you like what we’re doing!

Read on!

Episode 15: The Schneiderman Tingle Episode

August 24, 2016
00:0000:00

 

Hi and welcome to Episode 15 of the PBQ’s Slush pile.  On today’s podcast we discussed four poems, all part of a “polyvalent” poetry series by Jayson Iwen. These poems were unique because they could be read two different ways, horizontally and vertically.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Caitlin McLaughlin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3:4

 

Hi and welcome to Episode 15 of the PBQ’s Slush pile.  On today’s podcast we discussed four poems, all part of a “polyvalent” poetry series by Jayson Iwen. These poems were unique because they could be read two different ways, horizontally and vertically.

2.6.2016

Jayson lived in Beirut, Lebanon for four years where he served as the “Hare-Raiser” for the Beirut Tarboush Hash House Harriers (yeah, we had to look it up, too). He wrote his first two books on a Smith Corona WS250 when he was in high school, and dropped out of pre-med to become a writer. In college he played Petruchio in an S&M, black box version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (eat your heart out E.L. James).

You can check out Jayson’s website here; you’ll want to, after your hear and read these poems.

We started with  “.1.4.1,” which was the first in the series of “polyvalent” poetry. We started by reading the poem vertically and then moved on to horizontally. We were impressed with the way in which the meaning of the poem became clearer when we read the poem horizontally, like magic. Tim was able to connect with the feelings associated with new parenthood, while Jason questioned our ability to trust such an unconventional voice.

We decided to move on and read all of the poems before we voted, so it was on to “.1.4.2.” We found again that the horizontal version was more accessible to us, and admired the strong images the author’s language conjured.

Next was “.1.4.3,” and we really dug the “creepy” tone that progressed through the first two poems to this one, and when we moved on to “.1.4.4,” we looked forward to seeing where the story that was woven through the first three poems went.

You’ll have to listen to see which poems we ultimately accepted from the series!

Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on our iTunes, then let us know what you thought on our podcast Facebook page.

Read on!

 

.1.4.1

You have descended from animals                                  Who descended from angels

Who alone have descended                                              From the darkness of their own choice

Where nothing holds its shape for long                          Hold out your hand

And feel for rain                                                                  The pain of sex

 

My great grandmother taught my grand                        With a knife

My grandfather taught my uncle                                      Respect with a pitch fork

No one arrives at insanity alone                                       It’s a social conclusion

Like finding the baby                                                          Waiving goodbye from the top of the stairs

.1.4.2

In the night you lean                                                           Over the baby, to make sure it’s okay

The baby wakes terrified                                                    A dark animal shape looms

From the fear within you                                                   Modeling itself in the child

The only way out of possession                                        To dispossess your thought, you remember

 

You’ve been so baked you couldn’t stand                       No one ever mentioned the crystal THC

With which they’d laced the pot                                      Those nights were long affairs

Watching the submarine calm of the ceiling                In the extra bedroom

Watching fire light flicker on the tent flap                    Listening to everything speak your name

 

.1.4.3

You might dream of a poolside party                               Where you bump into an old classmate

You thought had died years before                                   With whom you’d never spoken

Our military was so strong                                                  It would break its own neck

She said                                                                                  I’ll be in the last room on the left    

   

And left                                                                                  You might wake to find the baby

Sitting up in the dark                                                          Staring at a shape in the moonlight

Why did you never come to me                                         It says

You might have found me                                                  The high & holy center of the Earth                                                      

                                         

.1.4.4

I was my mother’s will                                                         Sent out into the world

For bread or cheese or meat                                               A vapor trail unforming

Against the morning light                                                  The sound of a struck bell

Slipping into the background                                           To live beyond scrutiny

 

Your glorious brain, my little humon                              Is a globule of fat

Dangling from the nerve tree                                          We call universe

That’s right, son                                                                   Daddy’s drinking again

His life is a dead end                                                           That tastes like mother’s cup

Episode 14: Martinis are Just Like Testicles

August 11, 2016
00:0000:00

 

Welcome to Episode 14 of our podcast! We’re having so much nerdy fun with these and hope you are, too. This week we discussed one poem a piece by Hilary Jacqmin, Keith Woodruff, and Kierstin Bridger, each submitted for different issues. Another Slush Pile first!

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Caitlin McLaughlin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3:0

 

Welcome to Episode 14 of our podcast! We’re having so much nerdy fun with these and hope you are, too. This week we discussed one poem a piece by Hilary Jacqmin, Keith Woodruff, and Kierstin Bridger, each submitted for different issues. Another Slush Pile first!

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First up was “Private Lives”  by Hilary Jacqmin.

Hilary S. Jacqmin earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University and her MFA from the University of Florida. Inspired by Baltimore performance art group Fluid Movement's elaborate water ballets, Hilary aspires to learn synchronized swimming. This summer, Hilary has kept busy by going to entirely too many concerts (including Beyoncé, Weezer, and Jason Isbell), baking a sour cherry pie in honor of her Door County, Wisconsin family heritage, and seeing Hamilton on Broadway

Her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2011, edited by D.A. Powell, The Awl, Pank, Subtropics, Passages North, AGNIand elsewhere. You can also read her article on "killing your darlings" here!

This poem struck a chord with everyone at the table. It’s hard to write a poem about boredom that isn’t, well, boring! We were right there with her in her grandparent’s house, trying to pass the time.

 

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Next we discussed Keith Woodruff’s  “Bride of Frankenstein Blues,” submitted for our Monsters issue.

Keith “from the Black Lagoon” Woodruff has a Masters in creative writing from Purdue University, and lives with his wife Michelle and son Whitman in Akron, Ohio. His work recently appeared in The Journal, Quarter After Eight, American Literary Review, and is forthcoming in Wigleaf. His haiku have appeared in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Mayfly, Acorn, A Hundred Gourds, and in Big Sky: the Red Moon anthology.

We all sympathized with poor Frankenstein trying to find love in the modern dating world, but this poem also sparked discussion of “pick-up” artists. We wondered what Frankenstein’s Bride would say about his pick-up methods? Regardless, the poem was accessible to all of us.

 

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Last, we read “To the Girl From the Reformatory Town” by Kierstin Bridger, submitted for our Locals issue!

Kierstin is a Colorado writer and winner of the Mark Fischer Prize, the ACC Studio award and was shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize in the UK. Western Colorado is full of incredible writers, and for the past several years they’ve been performing Literary Burlesque! This year they pulled a switch-a-roo on Oh Brother Where Art Thou. They changed it to Oh Sister and combined themes with The Odyssey. Kirsten says, “It was a smash, and so very collaborative.”

You can listen to Kierstin read from her book, Demimonde,  here.

We were intrigued by the imagery in Kierstin’s poem. Although none of us grew up in a “reformatory town” the emotional language put us in the mindset of the “girl.”

Over the years, PBQ often accepts work, contacts the authors, and then gets told there’s been a revision. Almost always, the original is better than the revision. We discussed why this might happen, and how difficult it is to know when your own work is “finished.” Let us know what you think—do you continue to work with your work once you’ve sent it out?

You can find PBQ on Twitter @paintedbrideq or on our Facebook.

Don’t forget to visit our Facebook event page to discuss this episode, and subscribe to our iTunes account!

Read on!

 

Hilary Jacqmin

Private Lives

 

They have retired

to lost pines

and BurgerTime.

When our tan Malibu

grinds up

the switchback

to their mock-

Tahitian Village

in the Texas hills,

the grandparents

can barely stand to touch us.

But “Little David,”

they cry out, until

my father blushes.

Kindness is cold

champagne coupes

at 5 and 6 o’clock,

then Jeopardy. A walk

through bull pine,

clearing brush.

Whatever can be done

with us? My sister’s

fist is purpling

with cactus spines;

my mother’s stomach

bites; this week, I will not bathe.

The grandparents shy

from our commotion. Secretly, we flip

through The Handmaid’s Tale.

Our shared air mattress

crackles like a seed. We’re trapped:

now that we’ve come,

they won’t let us go out

past the dry creek bed.

Next year, they’ll never

even leave the house.

Why is their clubhouse

impermeable,

a miniature Pentagon?

And why can’t we order malteds

at Lock Drug? Mother says

“We can’t ask why.”

Inside, we play

endless Rummikub.

Uno, uno.

“There ought

to be a religion

for people who don’t know

what to believe,”

grandmother frets,

her bad eye winking

like a cut-up moon.

Outside, a loop

of fire ants

works a burnt-out

stump, persistent

as pump jacks,

and night’s an oil field.

We are too young

to know what granddad did

with catalytic crackers

at Shell, too dumb

to talk duplicate bridge hands,

Gravity’s Rainbow,

or split stock,

but we think hard

about the hardwood

in the Lockhart

smokehouse

and how granddad’s

bread machine vibrates

like a Gravitron.

Sometimes, they notice me.

They say, “What are you writing?

Are you writing about us?”

They say, “That makes me

so nervous.” I want to tell them

there is so little

that I can write. Almost nothing.

Perfume like propane. A tickless clock.

How quickly they both turn away.

 

Keith Woodruff

Bride of Frankenstein Blues

 

Consider the moon, my friend,

how its absence conjures this unromantic air.

Here in the bar, smoke unwinds  like bolts

of slow lightning across the gauzy light;

everywhere you look

mouths, small dark graves, chew on drinks.

Now the music gropes its way

through the crowd looking for phone numbers, drags

itself onto the wooden dance floor.

This is no night for finding brides.

Still, you try, touch her wrist during “talk”

& spring the classic recoil. Her black eyes, twitch like nerves,

the head cocks bird-like,

spindly arms jerk back from your touch & clasp up

her breast sacs as the goose hiss splits

her blue lips.

These damn castles are cold.

Some nights, alone again, arms outstretched on the stairs,

you think you might prefer

the murderous torches. Anything to light you up.

 

Kierstin Bridger

To the Girl From the Reformatory Town

You wrestled against the clutches of brothers and cousins, etched lessons

in your muscle, broke tendencies, rerouted synapse with unwritten

chapters entitled, Risk, Pain, and Tolerance. Though pale and tender as

your own, you clawed your way into their flesh; red scratches and waning

moons of bruise. You carved a language of ferocious prey and warning but

more startling than the DNA that curled from under your nails was the

power which made you surge, the breathless current of survival that ran

like a lightning rod through the center of your axis as you spun in and out

of years knowing blood tracks would either catch up with you or become

abandoned to faster byways and untranslatable modes. So you walk, never

looking over your shoulder, one step in front of the other, past the

fermenting bumper crop yard-fruit. Never mind the dirty shoelace untied,

the frayed, grey string dangling over the trestle bridge track. You need this

grip of heat, the hot rail under your feet. It's like the static warmth the

addicts wear like skullcaps, the chokecherry buzz after needle pierce and

plunge. Keep your hair blown back, baby, and charged with the horizon

line. Ignore the periphery of prison men in orange. Their 40 ounce cans

and spent shells are their business not yours.  Disregard the jackrabbit

carcass and its fur which still clings but will sail away soon like dandelion

seeds. Remember it's not a charm and their sentence is not your sentence;

you can't do that kind of time. Keep going, never say, it'll all blow over

someday because lies like that scatter, fade, sink back to soil. They'll

transform into fragments so sparse, so swallow-drunk, the next generation

will skip the deciphering stone, misspell the story of you, digitize and

archive it on some pixelated and odorless, dot com.

 

Episode 13: Creature Triple Feature

July 27, 2016
00:0000:00

On this episode we discussed three poems by Dana Sonnenschein, all submitted for our Monsters issue! Dana is a professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University. Her manuscript, Bear Country was selected as winner of the 2008 Stevens Poetry Book Manuscript Competition.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Caitlin McLaughlin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 1:2

 

On this episode we discussed three poems by Dana Sonnenschein, all submitted for our Monsters issue!

Dana at Poetry Crawl

Dana is a professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University. Her manuscript, Bear Country was selected as winner of the 2008 Stevens Poetry Book Manuscript Competition. Her writing can also be found in Pith Journal and Poemeleon.

Dana love wolves, ravens, black cats, Universal horror films, folklore from around the world, and the kind of cookbooks that feature ingredients like mummy and shavings from human skulls.  And yes, she does wear white glove when she handles manuscripts!

You can ‘like’ Dana’s author page on Facebook.

These poems were part of a series that put a twist on old horror stories. First up was “The Secret” and we were seriously scared. From eyeballs in hands to some Shining-esque twins, we knew that we were in for some creepy stuff in the best way.

We moved on to discuss “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” a prose poem. This poem particularly resonated with editor Tim Fitts, causing him to recall a neighbor he had with serious boundary issues.

Last, Sonnenschein took us to Egypt with her poem “The Return of the Mummy.” Somehow, this poem related the mummies we all fear with another fear we all have--in relationships.

Although the authors we’ve asked to participate in our podcast have been overwhelmingly supportive, we have had a few authors who declined to be a part of Slush Pile.

We discussed some of the emotional responses we received so far, and some of the reasons our podcast might scare authors, even when we’re not talking about the Creature from the Black Lagoon!

You can find PBQ on Twitter @paintedbrideq or on our Facebook.

Don’t forget to visit our Facebook event page to discuss this episode, and subscribe to our iTunes account!

Read on!

 

The Secret

Two boys of nine or ten in yellow slickers.  The first time I saw them, one stood high on the bank, watching the water, hands in his pockets; the other ran down the hill, holding his eyes out in his palms.  Drops ringing.  Grass shining wet with rain, rock dark like a rook.  A broken oar split the surface of the river.  The next night they came down from their stone keep and sang sweetly, holding hands, We are the eyes from the Eye Tower.  Then the river flowed under and the road gave in one sweeping curve.  I had to know.  So I took a whirlpool down, cool and smooth as metal.  Came up spiraling, my mouth full of blood.  I spit on the causeway, put my fingers where my teeth had been, and told no one what I’d seen.  But you know the river I mean.


Creature from the Black Lagoon

My neighbor leads a life of fiction and once in a while invites me in—to make believe she's got a spotless apartment, a couple kids, religion.  It's hard to keep up with the plot.  The radiator hisses like a cast-iron snake.  Or the kitchen faucet drips, and a roach slips out from under a plate.  She changes her age like her clothes, every few days.  Sometimes she stares where water scales the wall and says she'll give up booze.  One night the building’s old pipes ring and then my phone—I heard you typing.  I'm writing a novel, too, she says, about some people I know.  I sigh and lean on the wall we share.  Soon she’s breathing into my ear, So you think it's your honey, forgot his keys, no, drops the keys, he knocks and calls, louder, because you were in the shower, yeah, and you let him in, but   he's   not   your   honey.  He’s a man in flippers and a black rubber suit.  Universal Studios, 1954.I roll my eyes.  But then I think of her, hunched over, listening behind her door, as keys jangle onto hardwood, as this thing between a man and beast slithers in.  I say, Sorry, I left the water running. You'll have to stop by tomorrow and tell me how it ends.  When I hear her slippers in the hall, I shiver and pretend there's no one home.

 

The Return of the Mummy

At midnight, it's Kharis, clutching his heart

and game leg trailing:  he needs a good start,

 

but he won't stand still for his priestess's goods

being touched.  Her ghost returns to girlhood

 

or a handful of dust, but he remains, cursed,

rag-wrapped, limping through reels without words

 

*

 

Once we swore, Cross my heart and hope to die,

and stared into glass cases where mummies lie,

 

holding hands, our monstrous fascination

taking in needles, death, and devotion,

 

a toe dark as a raisin, the Rosetta Stone,

eternal pyramids, copulating oxen.

 

*

 

When we unlocked dead tongues and tombs,

it was because we knew the future loomed

 

beyond chill doors.  We held onto love like a balm.

We didn't want to be left alone after all

 

and couldn't quite believe in sky-blue heaven

or living on without our flesh and bones.

Episode 12: Who Killed the Cat?

July 14, 2016
00:0000:00

Hello and welcome to Episode #12 of PBQ’s Slush Pile! For the first time on our podcast, we are discussing fiction! Today, we will talk about a short story, “Prufrock” by Terry Dubow. We were nervous about discussing this longer format, but super excited to try it out.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Denise Guerin

Alexa Josaphouitch

Caitlin McLaughlin

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 1:1

 

Hello and welcome to Episode #12 of PBQ’s Slush Pile! For the first time on our podcast, we are discussing fiction! Today, we will talk about a short story, “Prufrock” by Terry Dubow. We were nervous about discussing this longer format, but super excited to try it out.

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Dubow has been writing fiction for twenty years or so—it’s his secret identity without exciting parts. No super powers. No spy stories. No second family in Idaho.

In addition to writing 250 words a day, he works at an independent school in Cleveland and does his best to help his two daughters and his one lovely wife stay happy, healthy and fed. A story collection was a finalist for the Autumn House Fiction Prize in 2011. Currently, he’s working on his third novel. We want more, and after reading this story, we have a feeling you will, too. Read another story, “Wyoming” in Witness.

We advised our listeners to go read Prufrock first, but of course, we can’t know that they did--it’s all an experiment, right? We dove right in: raccoons and a cat and teenagers and mother-in-laws, oh my!!!

This story packs so much into thirteen pages; we laughed at moments, and while we may not have cried, we winced at all the right parts. This story made us think about fatherhood, T.S. Eliot, incapacitation, indecision, and whether we should be paid by the hour. Once again, Tim schooled us on the real habits of the wildlife of North America, and we could have discussed the story for another hour.

We had some dissension about how the piece ends and even more about what happened to Prufrock; please read, listen to this show, and cast your vote!

Marion suggested that we might provide a synopsis of the story at the beginning of episodes that discuss fiction, which sparked a discussion of recap podcasts and the ways we consume longform media. With such an overwhelming amount of media coming at us in so many ways---how do you consume? You can let us know on our Facebook event page and our twitter @PaintedBrideQ. Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes  page!

As always, thank you for listening, and read on!

Episode 11: The One with Heart, Brain, and Balls

June 30, 2016
00:0000:00

In this podcast, we discuss three of Laura McCullough’s poems. The box score above is the spoiler alert: though today’s podcast crew spanned from the east coast to Iowa, included an undergrad and people who’ve done this work of editing for more than two decades, we were unanimously enamored of all three poems.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Alexa Josaphouitch

Tim Fitts

Jennifer Knox

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3:0

 

Welcome to Episode 11 of PBQ’s Slush Pile! In this podcast, we discuss three of Laura McCullough’s poems. The box score above is the spoiler alert: though today’s podcast crew spanned from the east coast to Iowa, included an undergrad and people who’ve done this work of editing for more than two decades, we were unanimously enamored of all three poems.

“Leafless” moved us and took us on a journey that also spanned decades. “Reclaimed Wood” told a tale we only want even more of, and “Maggot Therapy” simply left us thunderstruck. Read along and listen in—these poems are even more breathtaking aloud.Laura McCullough Laura McCullough’s Jersey Mercy

 

She hates the word feminist and she’s no stranger to PBQ! Laura McCullough is an award-winning poet with six (!) poetry collections which include her most recent, Jersey Mercy, which narrates the lives of two people affected by Hurricane Sandy. Watch a brief interview after her first book or watch part of a reading from this past spring.Check out more of her work on her website.

The fact that we were going to discuss Laura’s work and we’ve known her for years, spurred us to invite Jennifer L. Knox to join us for this episode, as Jennifer fits a similar profile: she’s a poet whose work we admire and the added bonus—we can call her a friend.

We discussed the conundrum many of us find ourselves in—how difficult is it to be a poet who wants to send work to journals she loves and respects, but whose editors she knows well. No one wants to be published out of obligation or to put her friend in an awkward position. The flip side is just as bad: no editor takes pleasure out of rejecting anyone, let alone a friend. Our discussion focused on social ties and aesthetic taste—or, as Jennifer put it, discerning the “heart-to-brains-to-balls ratio” of any given magazine or press in order to find the right home for your work. Listen in as we explore our practices, then chime in on our FB event page and share your own.

Sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not!

Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope, and we’ll send you a PBQ Podcast sticker.

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.  Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes page!

Read on!

 

 

Laura McCullough

Leafless

In the end, my mother’s shoulders, barely covered and quivering, 

were like birds.

                        Once, I made a dress

 

for her, the fabric creamy white, the print a single brown tree

spanning the width, with stark branches.

 

It was 1974.    I was fourteen.                       Each night,

I taught myself to sew,                                   feeding

the fabric through the foot,                 thinking

how surprised she would be.              I remember

 

seeing her in it, how we’d both loved the gesture, the achievement,

and though it fit poorly, the print

was enough for us.      She wore it once and never again, let me see

her walk out the door in it.

            Maybe

love’s architecture is exposed when we try and fail at what we mean.

 

Outside the hospital, winter had flayed everything, the trees

charcoaled against the sky, their shadows

thumb smudges on the institutional snow hid lawn, and inside the air

was redolent of shit, flowers, and chlorine.

 

The first time I changed her clothes, peeling back from her shoulders

the blue flecked cotton gown,

then sliding a clean pink one up her arms, we held each other

in the oily light, spent.

Reclaimed Wood I confess now I have begun to henna

            my red hair gone dull

in parts and penny bright in others.

            And I always tried to subdue

its wildness. But when the hull of our

            marriage busted rock

 

and began to leak, we both thought

            it was a good idea to renovate

the kitchen, together, by ourselves.

            We closed up the hall

to the back rooms to create more

            privacy and took down a load-

 

bearing wall in hoped of opening

            the “flow.” My husband looked

like Christ hauling the salvaged

            timbers from a warehouse deep

in the Piney woods one by one

            up the front stoop, laying

 

them in our suburban living room,

            posing as a Brooklyn loft.

We framed the new wide space:

            one as header, two as column braces,

then sat on the floor cross-legged

            looking at our work in progress,

 

the way the wood had aged,

            the colors and striations, notches

and hammered pegs. We felt our

            fifties ranch had a new story now,

something with weight, and we

            held hands a little while before

 

getting up, heading to the shower,

            falling back into our routine.

 

 

Maggot Therapy  

Near death, sometimes the hands curve

            into themselves like claws.

I held my mother’s open, smoothing

            the fingers, trimming the wild nails.

 

Once, years before, my husband and I awoke

            to a fawn caught in the family compost,

a hole on its back end festering with worms,

            and he pinched each one out

 

swiping his little finger in the bowl

            of the wound, then coating it

with antibiotic salve. I loved him,

            and how he saved this small thing.

 

It’s a story I have told over and over. 

            Today though, I’m thinking of the medical uses

for maggots: biodebridement and extracorporeal

            digestion, their enzymes liquefying

 

dead tissue in wounds, and wonder,

            do I feed off the dead

who live inside me? When my mother was dying,

            she had a vision of her non-corporeal

 

father, brothers, sisters. Her last words,

            Why have you left me alone?

She never opened her eyes again,

            her chest a drowning well.

 

The bodily signs of death:

            the skin mottling as blood flow slows;

breathing, open mouthed; jaw, unhinged.

            I won’t recount the signs of a dying marriage,

 

but he left two days after her funeral. Physically,

            he returned but told me he’d fallen

in love with someone else,

            that his love for me had passed.

 

Above my mother’s body, orange mist

            had exhaled and dispersed, a light bulb

busted open, its luminescent gas escaping.

            The word fluorescent is so similar

 

to the word florescence, meaning flowering,

            and somewhere between these two,

there is a splendor I can barely stand.

            Inflorescence refers to flowers clustering

 

on one branch, each a separate floret,

            but if they are tightly clustered

as in the dandelion seed head, they look incomplete

            alone, though the whole is an illusion.

 

The word for this—pseudanthium—means “false

            flower.” Infrutescence, its fruiting stage,

gives us grapes, ears of corn, stalks of wheat,

            so many of the berries we love.

 

This morning my hands ache

            as though in the night I’d been trying

to claw my way out of a hole

            I am down in, having lost the body

  I came into this world through, and my husband’s

            as well. It’s almost as if my body

had come to believe his was a part of its own,

            a connection he would have to break or die.

 

Medical experts say it takes two moltings

            for maggots to do the job well,

to feed enough to clean a wound. I do not feel

            clean at all, though in our shower,

 

my husband and I still huddle some days,

            hunched into the spray. We call it watering. 

When we do, we scrub each other, grateful

            for the living, dying flesh, but trying to get clean

 

of each other. That fawn he saved way back

            when we were new in love

was released into the wild. Surely, it had a scar

            identifying it, evidence of what flesh

 

my husband was willing to enter

            in order to keep something alive. Lately,

he seems more clear-eyed, and it is as if a cicatrix husk

            is cracking. Neither of us know who

 

will emerge, but he seems luminescent,

            a kind of light created by the excitation

of the smallest elements, and not giving off warmth,

            but a cold glow that at least illuminates.

 

Episode 10: Mangoes and Monsters

June 17, 2016
00:0000:00

Welcome to Episode 10 of the PBQ’s Slush pile! Episode 10!!!! Can you believe it?  Thus far, we have released 10 episodes of our podcast.  We’d like to say thank you to our listeners, supporters, authors and editorial board!

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

Isabella Fidanza

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

  

Welcome to Episode 10 of the PBQ’s Slush pile! Episode 10!!!! Can you believe it?  Thus far, we have released 10 episodes of our podcast.  We’d like to say thank you to our listeners, supporters, authors and editorial board!

Jen Karetnick

First up is Jen Karetnick, who submitted the poem “The Physics of Falling Mangoes” for the Locals issue. When we asked her if we could discuss the poem she said, “I love the idea of the podcast editorial meeting, although it might prove to be a little nerve-wracking. But I'm sure my students, who get put through the workshop wringer all year long, will consider it more than just! So for their sake alone, I am delighted to say yes.”

Side note: It’s mango season, so we thought what better time to discuss this poem than now! Perplexed at first by a few “scientific” words, we grew to appreciate the intimacy of the vocabulary. Karetnick beautifully and authentically captured the atmosphere where mango trees grow; it’s as if she lives among the trees that she describes. In fact, Jen Karetnick lives in Miami Shores on the last acre of a historic plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees. This poem will make you want a mango, and to read more of her Jen Karetnick’s work: she released the poetry collection American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publications, May 2016). You can also see more   @ TheAtlantic.com, Guernica and her website.

 

Tria Wood

The next poem was submitted to our Monsters issue, but you probably would have guessed that. When we first asked Tria Wood she said she was “excited and intrigued” also a “little nervous.”Keep up the bravery poets!

Immediately, we noticed the contrast between Godzilla’s graceful swan-like nature and his belly collapsing like a flat tire. The imagery in the third and fourth stanzas also had us close to speechless—which loyal listeners know takes a lot!  Every detail had us captivated (even Godzilla's cocktail)! A pleasant surprise for all, we quickly fell in love with this re-imagined Godzilla.

Make sure to watch Tria read “Godzilla Walks Into a Bar” herself!

Tria Wood’s poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Rattle, Literary Mama and other publications. Check out one of the public art projects in Houston that features her work.

 

In this podcast, we also clarify some things that have been happening in our podcasts. Even after our tenth episode, we can still be surprised by the outcomes. We’re sorry to learn that “Brazillian” was accepted elsewhere, but we are glad we still got to discuss it in Episode 8.

We also discuss a few questions that arose due to Episode 9: Do you consider the work posted here as published? Is there a difference between posting and publishing work? Listen and then chime in!

We’d love to know what you think; let us know on our FB page!

Sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not!

Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope, and we’ll send you a PBQ Podcast sticker.

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes page!

Read on!

 
Jen Karetnick

The Physics of Falling Mangoes

If a Haden mango, full with sun,

and an ovoid Irwin, that ornament

of dawn, drop at the same time from

panicles equivalent in height,

will they accelerate identically

despite degrees of heft, of maturity,

 

the knowledge of their own ripeness?

Physics says yes, despite mass, even

if it’s a late-season Beverly, still green,

set upon too early by a squirrel

sitting on its stem, or an Indian mango

five pounds large, swaying all summer,

 

too big for the basket of the tool

I wield like lightning to strike

a singular fruit. The damage, then:

That should be equal, too. But all things

considered, there is no free fall. Air,

on a humid whim, can change

 

its resistance, and there is no formula

to adjust for the destructive means

of a mango during descent, helicoptering

sap through the day’s work of spiderwebs,

a season of boat-shaped leaves that bear

those burns until they themselves release,

 

and the twigs it breaks without discrimination,

whether they are ready to reach like hands

or be struck down to ground. And the ground,

which could be oolite or limestone, grass

or a brother mango, the driveway

or the chemical buffer of pool water,

 

my shoulder or arm or skull, willing to take

the aromatic knock. I know the parts

of the equation: limb, fruit, gravity. But not

the sum, upon landing. Wholly bruised? Flesh

protected by deflection? Or a split that, turned

every possible way, simply, dumbly smiles?

 

Tria Wood

Godzilla Walks into a Bar

Godzilla walks into a bar.

He’s much smaller

than you’d expect, really.

Scaly, dark, and haggard.

 

He’s been sleeping it off

for centuries, all that rage,

dust and ashes washed out

of the cracks in his suit

 

by the surging Pacific.

He’s graceful, surprisingly

so. Swanlike, even.

He will not look at you.

 

When he sits, his forearms pool

on the bar like crayons in the sun.

His belly is a flat tire

collapsing into his crotch

 

and whatever may be there

is hidden. He’ll order

something tropical, all rum

and fruit and fire,

 

incinerate the paper umbrella

with a tiny burst

that could have been a laugh.

He swivels his head

 

to watch it burn, left,

right, then pokes its charred

skeleton down into the tumbler

and gives it a feeble stir

 

with stubbed fingers. One dark claw

etches delicate architecture

into the condensation on the glass.

And when he turns, half-smiles

 

at you, at last you understand

love at first sight.

Episode 09: All Abu Dhabi, All the Time

June 6, 2016
00:0000:00

All 3 of the poems on today’s episode were submitted by poet Brittney Scott.* The Abu Dhabi editors flagged Scott’s previous submissions—we wanted to publish them!—but we moved too slowly. Other publications nabbed them. So Scott sent us another batch of poems to consider and we discussed them on this special edition of “The Slush Pile,” the “all Abu Dhabi all the time edition,” featuring members of our Abu Dhabi editorial board.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Marion Wrenn

Anna Pedersen

Ben Hackenberger

Samantha Neugebauer

 

Production Engineer:

Richard Lennon

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=3

 

All 3 of the poems on today’s episode were submitted by poet Brittney Scott.* The Abu Dhabi editors flagged Scott’s previous submissions—we wanted to publish them!—but we moved too slowly. Other publications nabbed them. So Scott sent us another batch of poems to consider and we discussed them on this special edition of “The Slush Pile,” the “all Abu Dhabi all the time edition,” featuring members of our Abu Dhabi editorial board.

These poems set out to both delight and appall. We were transfixed by a dismembered body mauled by dogs in “After the Hunt”; fascinated by the relationship between a daughter and her mother, an “unstable gardener,” in “Daughter of Wild Lettuce.”

Plus, Scott’s work stuck an inadvertent chord with our PBQ ex-pat crew. Listen as Scott’s poems help the Abu Dhabi editors make sense of being far flung, of being mildly Dazed & Confused.

Brittney Scott received an MFA from Hollins University in Virginia. A finalist in the 2013 Narrative 30 Below Contest, she is also the 2012 recipient of the Joy Harjo Prize for Poetry and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. She teaches creative writing to adults, Girl Scouts, and high-risk youth at Richmond’s Visual Arts Center.

for podcast

Tell us what you think about Brittney Scott’s poems or anything else you’d like to share with us on our Facebook page event, Episode 9.

Sign up for our e-mail list if you are in the area and even if you, too, are far flung!

Send us a SASE and we’ll send you a podcast sticker!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

--MW

* You might notice that we posted only 2 of the 3 poems we discussed in this week’s episode in our show notes. This is the first time in 9 episodes we’ve had a poet ask us not to post anything we reject. You’ll have to listen to hear more!

Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes page!

 

After the Hunt

Here’s the body the dogs robbed—

the limbs strewn around the field like prophecy.

She won’t make it,

they say. They say

the body found in her bed

was eaten right through to the floral mattress.

They had to shut her eyes

because she would not stop

blinking up at a bone marrow colored sky,

enjoying her party, the confetti

of her flayed body.

The dogs got sick on her form,

the remains of her last meal of steamed artichoke

grapes, mercy, and rejection.

Don’t they know

What’s good for one

will poison another? So

they say. They say

the dogs died in a circle

and she rose the next day

to bury them and bring flowers

to their graves.

 

Daughter of Wild Lettuce

My mother plants snow peas behind the garage.

She works around the sink hole that takes

dry leaves and garbage all summer.

 

In her memory, I am an almost abortion.

She plants marigolds with the tomatoes,

symbiotic bright suns

 

bursting between the rows.

Sometimes she knows, love

abounding, sometimes she overlooks

 

an entire season’s glut, and rot

carries us through winter.

In the cellar, plastic roses, night crawlers,

 

unfinished half-hearted projects,

the potatoes’ all seeing eyes and me

damp through my nightshirt.

 

No natural light filters in,

so I only know the earth’s eternal hour.

 

My mother, an unstable gardener,

tosses spare seeds into barren patches

of the backyard. We won’t know until spring.

 

Sometimes new buds shoot up

in the most unusual places,

but more often, they don’t.

 

 

 

Episode 08: The Brazilian

May 20, 2016
00:0000:00

First up in this episode is Todd Pierce, withIf Only You Could Remember” which had us both as lost as the speaker (in a good way) and mesmerized. Todd is currently rereading War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad, by Christopher Logue and the chapbook Weird Vocation, by Art Zilleruelo.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=0

 

First up in this episode is Todd Pierce, withIf Only You Could Remember” which had us both as lost as the speaker (in a good way) and mesmerized. Todd is currently rereading War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad, by Christopher Logue and the chapbook Weird Vocation, by Art Zilleruelo.  He hopes that 2016 is the year that he finishes Don Quixote. Other facts:  he once flew a plane without crashing it, and once crashed a bicycle without riding it.

Untitled

Todd Pierce has been published in Opium Magazine, Annapolis Underground, and Poet Lore. Stay tuned to see if he can add Painted Bride Quarterly to that growing list! Until then, we are honored to publish his first ever selfie!

You really have to scroll down or click here and check out the format of “Brazilian”—it’s one of the best executions of this difficult format that we’ve seen.

We had so much fun discussing this one, and were very happy we could finally educate Jason Schneiderman on SOMETHING. But to be even more mysterious, though (spoiler alert) we loved the poem, we found out some bad news after this podcast, which we will discuss in Episode 9!

  

slush pile pic slush pile pic 2

Beau Boudreaux is New Orleans born and raised, and he uses his deep, southern roots for inspiration in his writing. Read more in Louisiana Literature and Southern Poetry Anthology, buy Running Red, Running Redder (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012) and see even more here.

 

Tell us what you think on our Facebook Event page for this episode!

Sign for our email list if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not!

If you haven’t yet, follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes page!

Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope, and we’ll send you a PBQ Podcast Slushpile sticker!

Read on!

KVM

 

Todd Pierce

If Only You Could Remember

 

When we came upon the muddy river

between the mountains I realize

now were not there, our dog crawling

out of the lungs of the mysterious beast he found

ahead of us, lost as much but more at home,

we learned to distinguish dream from wish, surrounded

by the forest’s tired breath chilling the sky, our noses

bunched up against the scent of something not quite death,

as I plucked a bloated tick off your nape

and popped it under the rolling clouds,

fine raindrops running red down the dog’s white sides.

 

Beau Boudreaux

Brazilian

 

She leans in                                                     towards my ear

 

overwhelmed, awash                                       shock of perfume

 

zoo stench, sniff                                            an old Easter lily

 

no, I really do admire                                      the cut of her

 

hemline, zebra skin                                         bangs on the brow

 

oh commando                                                  Ms. Orlando

 

information I don’t need                                 a cheat, she’s the only one

 

smoking, cocktailed                                       touching my arm.

 

 

 

Episode 07: Howl

May 4, 2016
00:0000:00

Both of the poems we discussed in Episode 7 were submitted for our “Monsters” Issue and both poems, Coyote and Coyotes, were written by Paul Nelson. Tantalizing and intriguing, we were “seduced into loving this animal that will eat your face,” as Tim pointed out....

e7 picture 2 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

 

Production Engineer:

Ryan McDonald

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=2

 

Both of the poems we discussed in Episode 7 were submitted for our “Monsters” Issue and both poems, Coyote and Coyoteswere written by Paul Nelson. Tantalizing and intriguing, we were “seduced into loving this animal that will eat your face,” as Tim pointed out. We now love coyotes and the unanimous “yes” votes prove we love these poems too!

e7 picture

Paul Nelson has authored eight books and was Ohio University’s Director of the Creative Writing program for many years. Nelson has bounced around the Northeast United States but currently resides in O’ahu, Hawaii where he is a member of the editorial board for Kaimina, a Hawaiian literary magazine.

After our unanimous votes for Paul Nelson’s poetry, Tim brought to the table a rising trend among new writers: using crowd funding websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or even the artist-centered Patreon to raise funds for future projects, books in the making. How does crowd funding affect content? Should it be a viable form of self-publishing? What do editors feel about it? You’ll have to listen to Episode 7 to hear our answers to these questions and more, of course.

We at Painted Bride Quarterly are more than excited to endorse our own Jason Schneiderman’s latest book, Primary Source (Red Hen Press, 2016) which is now available for purchase!

Tell us what you think about Paul Nelson, the use of crowd funding for writers, or anything you’d like to share with us on our Facebook page event, Episode 7.

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Send us a SASE and we’ll send you a podcast sticker!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram

@paintedbridequarterly.

Don't forget to subscribe and rate us on our iTunes page!

Read on!

-KVM

 

Paul Nelson

Coyote

Last December, just beyond the windows

where we stand with wine, she clawed

for frozen apples in her new coat

beneath the tree the children climbed.

Just bred we guessed.

I wanted to caress her muzzle and ears,

lower my face to her eyes,

say something as if she were a dog,

something fatuous and loving.

You laughed because I said

I would take anything she offered,

teeth or tongue.

 

Coyotes

In a shaft of brass light

down through spruce, a big

chocolate male, done for the year,

pads across moss, dissolves in shadow.

 

The tattered blond bitch stands in bright

spring grass edging the woods.

Hanks drag from her molting flanks,

ears alert for mice and voles.

Two pale kits dive after each other.

Shorter ears and heavier bodied

than western cartoons; “coy-dog” some say.

Her heavy rotting tail drapes,

eyes generous and frank.

 

This morning on three legs another bitch

crabs across Nebraska’s 1-90 in a whiteout,

men standing down at truck stops,

diesels thrumming and clacking in the lots.

 

Shaky behind the slapping wipers, I barely see her

hop South through the barbed wire

onto stubbled acres of ice and drifting snow

where men set traps to kill “vermin”

that will freeze, coiled down on steel and chain,

get skinned and nailed to a shed with others,

or thaw come spring to feed the ravens.

She chewed her own leg off.

A sixteen wheeler passes like a war.

 

I draft in its wake as it shelves the storm

over and by me, watching for its tail lights

to blink …muzzle flash, signals

to follow in the blur.

Episode 06: “Wait, Wait, You Said ‘No’?!”

April 20, 2016
00:0000:00

As we prepared for Episode 6, something new happened: a poet whose work we wanted to read and discuss on our podcast said, “No.” It was bound to happen some time and it did---a month and a half in.

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

Melody Nielson

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 4=2

 

As we prepared for Episode 6, something new happened: a poet whose work we wanted to read and discuss on our podcast said, “No.” It was bound to happen some time and it did---a month and a half in. We talked about it and acknowledged that some people are simply not going to be ready, some people are going to let fear win over curiosity, and some people are simply not going to ever want their work discussed in such a public manner---a recorded manner that will always exist.

We were disappointed to receive our first “No,” but it caused us to revisit the vulnerability of what we are doing here: taking a writer’s work and picking it apart, separating the juicy poetic goodness from the bone. For most writers, they never get to hear what editors think of their poems, regardless of whether they were accepted or denied. The feedback we are getting uses the word transparency a lot, with that term directed at the transparency of our editorial conversation, but whoa—the writers who are brave for sharing--for writing in the first place—have to peel another layer back to submit to a podcast.

We are grateful that the people we asked so far said, Yes, even though they were scared. Their bravery makes us feel brave, too, and like we’re doing the right thing with this project. Tell us what you think on our FB Episode 6 event page.

We will be looking at two poets today, and the first poet up is Carlos Gomez.

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We discussed, Morning, Rikers Island, Black Hair, and Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Gomez is a renaissance man with too many skills and too many awards for us to reiterate here! Poet, actor, essayist—it seems wherever he directs his attention, great things happen. After you read these poems we know you’ll want more, so we suggest you start here.

Let us tell you his last three accomplishments, just so you get the idea: the cover story on of Brass Magazine. He was ONLY voted Best Diversity Artist in Campus Activities Magazine’s 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards. And oh, year, he is featured in The New York Times documentary short film A Conversation with Latinos on Race! So that’s what he’s been up to in just the last few months! Check out his performance schedule—practically no matter where you are he’ll be there this spring and summer.

None of Gomez’s poems were unanimous acceptances, but all three were accepted. From the first line, the light in Morning, Rikers Island resonated with us, and we applauded the craft and elegance of this poem. Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn has such specific narrative imagery that we all felt immersed in this scene, and a final moment that resonates. Black Hair had a very different tone, voice, and format from the other two, and our editors were simply engaged in the story just under the surface.

We discussed Adam Day a bit in Episode 5—take a look and listen back to see how these poems ended up in our podcast at all! We discussed The Quiet Life, My Telemachus, and Openango.

 

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Anyone who has been reading literary magazines for a while has seen work by Adam Day. His latest book is Model of a City in Civil War (Sarabande Books), and his latest awards are a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for Badger, Apocrypha, a PEN Emerging Writers Award, and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. It’s hard to keep up with this author. If you need to catch up, visit.  If you miss him, watch this video.

You’ll have to listen to find out which of the three poems we accepted, but know this: we had a great time discussing them! Tell us what you think at our FB event page. We enjoyed the passion behind The Quiet Life, and the humor of both My Telemachus and Openango; we’re betting you will, too.

Thank you for your patience as we’re learning as we go here in the podcast world, we’d love to know what you think – let us know on our Facebook page!

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the Philadelphia area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

Carlos Gomez

Morning, Rikers Island

Physics and light
pierce the hollow stench
of the forgotten
gymnasium stripped naked of clocks.

All the boys stopped.
Offered their grief
to each other like water,
glancing out the only window
they all shared. A single ray
unfolds its warmth
across the dusty belly
of the thudded parquet;
and here’s the miracle—
another day had come.

Interracial in Flatbush, Brooklyn

We watch them do this, expand
from all directions like lungs
abruptly filling with water,
as we hold hands and walk through
the eye of another storm. A man grabs
his crotch, offering it to my wife, flings
a mouthful of spit and epithets towards us.

Each pupil is a dim swamp
flooding, silence blanketing a shallow
body in Neshoba County, dusk
shedding its absence across the congealed
oven grease beneath a rusted burner.

A woman’s neck swivels when we pass,
wraps a hard vowel around her tongue
like lighter fluid choking a glass bottle
holding a fuse.

On this corner, scored by dancehall and soca,
there is nothing more novel than me and my love’s
contrasting hues—it ignites a rush of color
from these strangers’ faces. They ring us
a violence familiar as February weather,
mine our skin for metaphors, demand
we offer answers to questions
they are still forming like infants
from their throats.

I have watched my body’s primal wisdom
flicker dark as a fist-concealed palm, ache
so volatile it screams for release. Rage
is a language I unlearn on the corner
of Ocean Avenue and Church, no shoreline
or cathedrals in sight, only fractured things
decorating a broken sidewalk like littered snow.

A new voice pierces the air, a flood of sound
that hits me like a wall of ice, louder and higher
pitched than those before, this time a small child
with brown skin and green eyes, writhing
in her flimsy stroller, pointing towards
the dimpled oval bootprints I leave
behind in the hazel-colored slush,
squealing: Papi! Papi! Papi!

Black Hair

I made her a vow
that I always would,
so I join two fresh clusters
in my clumsy
and careful hands as I cradle
her slumbering nape.
I am submerged in the calculus
of it all, as though
concentration is where I took
my misstep. As though I am
not three decades behind
in my practice. As though it is just
about finding the pattern
(too late). I’m too late, I think,
or maybe it’s something else: his hands
never knew how to fix
my sister’s hair. I tend
each thick, onyx strand
like I’m mending her favorite blanket,
as though my calloused
digits might coax and shape
anything into an ordered grace.
I layer another braid
into the tidy maze
crowning her scalp. I can feel,
with each pull and twist,
the newly assembled
crib watching.

 

Adam Day

The Quiet Life

You is a pricy practical joke, a missed
appointment, termination that didn't take,
doctor without depth, military march,

intolerant of mystery; a dinner party
grope and stock exchange, growing aroused
in the shadow of compromise, in the pantry's

smell of lessening, of whatever
comes along. You'll have him-
you can't have anything dripping

and no one to see, and should you
be feared to share him your shrunk
breasted enthusiasm, and shaven

gape, like a mouth ajar, an over worn
loafer, you'll liptongue and hand him,
poor spunk, half-screwed, like moth larva

rolling in a rice jar. To make nothing
out of nothing but a backbend and
take three quarters of an hour over it.

No one ever captured the insanity
of monologue like you did, vulgarizing
anger into irritation and a plaster

of panic, grinding fists into your eyes,
like our child. So quiet now
it scrapes the calm from bones,

punctuated with involuntary
exonerations, the house in weed,
shingles steaming, all fog

and submission, a celibate brothel
(if nuns carried their duties
as you sexed all saints they'd be.)

No, no solicitation in a street
urinal, no sodomizing the duck
on account of its down, no slush

of thrushes in the rain gutter, no train
of dangers, or snoring next door, eyes
unlit, half the sun and twice the rent.

 

My Telemachus

"The dog drinking water
sounds like a horse
trotting," my five-year-old says.
Well, look at you, brilliant little
oedipal bastard, trying to steal
my crown (and he is illegitimate;
ask his mother if you
can find her) but Patton was too
and look what he achieved.

 

 

"Openango"

Openango
After Sherman Alexie

I had just begun
ice-fishing. A walleye

taught me
how. A fish

with a headdress.
He called me

white man. Man,
I'm tired

of that racist
shit. It's like

if I didn't vacation
at your ice hole

you wouldn't
have that casino. And

don't look
at me like that, lying

on your side, a vein
of blood

skating the black
plate of your eye.

Episode 5.5: WTF2 AWP + PBQ + LDM = Umbrella Drinks

April 12, 2016
00:0000:00

 

IMG_8882

AWP 2016 (the conference for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs) in Los Angeles was la-la lovely. Marion and I flew out together, for the first time in all of these years of traveling to different cities. Our first bit of business? We discussed what our podcast from AWP would be about.

Literary Death Match?  Could we ever have an experience close to the awesomeness of Mark Doty in Chicago? Tony Hoagland in Boston? Abraham Smith in Seattle? How about Chris Abani, Susan Orlean, Danez Smith, and Kirsten Valdez Quade in L.A.?  And since it’s LA, let’s throw in some celebrities like, I dunno,  Martin Starr, Lena WaitheMichaela Watkins, and Zach Woods

The Stars at the Literary Death Match The Stars at the Literary Death Match

Sure, hot enough, but basically, we wanted to sit back and enjoy the show, and then immediately have umbrella drinks on the rooftop, so…what else could we talk about?

How crowded it was?  Negative and boring.

How expensive it was? Negative and boring.

AWP Ladies and Gentlemen! AWP Ladies and Gentlemen!

Should we interview our Uber drivers?  Not a bad idea. But, when we thought just that much longer, probably about when we were flying over Wyoming, we thought about the AWP conference and everyone’s expectations, how overwhelming it can be to have so many choices, how undone one can become even when all of those choices are great, we thought about the bookfair.

We thought about how much we enjoy “camping out” at the bookfair, letting the attendees and our far-flung friends come to us, doing laps ourselves when we need to stretch. Yes. We’d hang out and the boofair and talk to people about…

Writing. What else? Tune in and hear what people are working on when they’re not swimming in the riches of the AWP conference.

John-Michael Peter Bloomquis, the founder and director of Poetry for Trash talked to us about his organization. Poetry for Trash goes to public parks and forests, installing stations where passerby can read a poem. The reader decides how much trash the poem is worth, and places the litter they find inside a trash bag. Poetry really is making the world a better place!

Tell us what you think about AWP (and anything else) on our Facebook event page.

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

IMG_8879 Kathy Graber and Kazim Ali

Episode 05: Fascinating and Terrifying

April 11, 2016
00:0000:00

When we asked Maggie Queeney for permission to discuss her work in this podcast, her response was “this sounds fascinating and terrifying!” We’re considering that as our tag line (and a life philosophy).

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3=2

 

Maggie Queenie

When we asked Maggie Queeney for permission to discuss her work in this podcast, her response was “this sounds fascinating and terrifying!” We’re considering that as our tag line (and a life philosophy).

We discussed Queeney’s pieces, "Last Case on the Murder Task Force,” and to be honest, we didn’t want to stop, even when all of the editors’ comments clearly illustrated how the vote would go! This poem’s craft is so beautiful to linger in, even though the images are heart wrenching and tragic.

"Nox” was a little less accessible for us, more difficult to simply understand, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm for the piece—not with this many arresting images.

"Cry Wolf” takes the classic fable, expounds upon it, and changes it for you forever.

We meant to discuss three poems from Adam Day, but we had such a good time discussing Maggie’s poems that we didn’t feel we had enough time to really get into the discussion, so we thought we’d “reveal” another issue that comes up when culling through work for PBQ.

Adam Day’s work came in via Submittable and was assigned to our Abu Dhabi staff. Two editors there liked a few of his pieces, but alas, before the work could come to the editorial table for a vote, the pieces we had interest in were accepted elsewhere!

Listen to us discuss the “notes” in Submittable. Adam was about to get a straight up boiler plate rejection and she realized he would never know he had fans at PBQ. So, she took action…

Tell us what you think about simultaneous submissions (and anything else) on our Facebook page event, Episode 5.

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

Maggie Queeney

Last Case on the Murder Task Force

A telephone splices the night—lit nerve ending
or lightning strike—and the child rises all lung, all mouth

and howl. The man rises from inside the mother, rises
from the casts of his fingers clutched into the sheets

and separates the boy’s head from his chest.
He runs, knife in hand, body in arms, floor to floor,

beating on doors as the thin limbs jog at his sides.
He palms the boy’s head, guides the jaw back

to the neck, but blood leaks and blacks
his bared chest in the stills taken later that night.

The state assigns my father to the defense. He twists
the tinny, stripped facts into a cast outlining a life.

He tells the jury the man grew up a thing burnt
by his grandfather, his mother, that his thin body smoked

and scabbed taut. And then the foster homes and the beatings
and the drugs and the howl and the boy and the knife.

The state threads a new heart into the man’s chest.
He is kept living. He is sentenced to death. Nights on trial,

my father walks the floor with my infant brother, crouped up
and wailing the mucus out of his lungs, his mouth with a howl.

My mother sleeps, buried tight as a drawered knife,
gleaming through what beauty her children had left.


Nox

A child teethes. Through the door,
a loop of scream and whimper

traces the length of the porch.
Morning, I find the blood

left by the raw gums rubbed
like a hand along the rail,

the floor, the frame and lock
to the front door. At night,

I stay inside, listen to the tap
somnolent in the pipes, the house drafts,

the moon pushing to perfect circle.
The birds curl into their fists

of nest, their small breasts hot hulls
above the shriek of owl-torn mice.

Animals take a human voice
in dying. Their wet tunnels of throat,

slick and holy as the inside of a flute,
bottom into the black running under.

Cry Wolf

What difference between crying and calling,
cursing and summoning, the frantic limbs
of a lamb and the bared legs of a boy.

What difference between the desire to laugh
at the adults running, spades and rakes in hand,
and the need to know they would run at his call.

Remember most do not know the name
of what they want, even as they are wanting—
the body incandesces, numb and ecstatic,
as it is destroyed.

Remember the wolf, drawn only
by gut and jaws, insistent as divining rods—
heart stilling at its name called,
finally, between the trees.

Episode 04: The One With Friends

April 11, 2016
00:0000:00

In this episode we read three poems from Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano’s poetry. Though they were originally submitted for an unthemed issue, they felt more suited to our Locals theme, one of two themes for Print 8. We expected reading submissions for Locals to expand our horizons, to help us to see different pockets of the world in a new way, but these poems helped us appreciate the every-day right in our backyard of Philadelphia.

 Slamming Open the Door by Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Isabella Fidanza

SPECIAL GUEST: Major Jackson

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 2=1

 

Welcome to Episode 4 of the PBQ’s Slushpile. We take more time than other editorial boards, but we stand behind our methodology, so much so that we’re going to share our process with you through this podcast. Welcome to the editorial table. In this episode we read three poems from Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano’s poetry. Though they were originally submitted for an unthemed issue, they felt more suited to our Locals theme, one of two themes for Print 8. We expected reading submissions for Locals to expand our horizons, to help us to see different pockets of the world in a new way, but these poems helped us appreciate the every-day right in our backyard of Philadelphia.

Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano

Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano is a poet, professor, and co-editor of the American Review. She is the author of Slamming Open the Door (Alice James Books, 2009), which was the 2008 Beatrice Hawley Award winner, and also received a positive, full-page review in The New York Times, while Library Journal praised it as "A stunning first book."

We were honored to read “30th Street Station,” “The Pool,” and “Jerzee’s Bar.” Reveal: Many of our editorial staff know Kathy well, and in fact, love her. We did what we always do when reading work of those we know; simply tried to remain as objective as possible; and made sure there were people at the editorial table who do not have a personal connection. These poems made us laugh and made our hearts hurt a bit. They gracefully walk the line between the specific and the universal.

And now for one of our occasional segments: “Something random I saw in a literary magazine this week.”

  • This week, I visited Carve magazine’s site. It’s run out of Texas, publishes only fiction, and derives its name and ideology from Raymond Carver. On the submit page, they make an offer—if you become a subscriber at the time of submission, they promise to get you a response on your work faster, within two weeks.
  • This flipped me out a bit and I didn’t even have time to process and think about what that does to the editor/author relationship, what it means, and then, I looked at Cleaver magazine (I guess I was on a cutlery theme) and they have this super complicated process----their free submissions are currently closed, but if you pay them $5 you could still submit now. PLUS: In all genres, a voluntary $10.00 "tip-jar" fee will guarantee an expedited answer within two weeks.For fiction, flash, and nonfiction, a voluntary $25.00 "tip-jar" donation, which guarantees a two-week expedited answer plus a detailed personal response from one of our chief editors. We are not able to offer critiques for poetry at this time.

 

So---crazy genius or mercenary? This is a “thing?” Listen to what we had to say, but chime in on our Facebook page event, Episode 4.

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano

30th Street Station

Sweet old man in a tweed cap

soft shoes, soft brown skin,

says, Do you need a cab?

 

Yes I say and my heart is laughing;

this is how I get sometimes.

You look like my second grade teacher

Mrs. Richmond, I always loved

Mrs. Richmond, he says.

 

He ushers me to a silver Lexus.

This is not a cab. This is a bait and switch.

Behind the wheel, the driver,

300 pounds of muscle

arms like hams

 

a diamond ring on each pinky

a diamond in each earlobe

a red baseball cap backward.

I think a piece of his ear is missing.

I think he has a tattoo on his face.

Our eyes meet in the rear view mirror

 

Clang, clang, goes my danger meter

Don’t get in the car! says everyone.

So…I get in the car.

 

By 45th and Locust,

turns out his name is Steve.

Turns out he buried his younger sister this year

and his mom, the year before.

She was way too easy on his

brother with cerebral palsy—

51 years old and doesn’t like

to get out of bed!

 

I read him a poem

about my daughter, from my book.

And then he wants to remember my name,

and gets out a tiny pencil

to write it down.

 
The Pool

My fifteen-year old son,

adopted from Chile,

pedals his bike back from the pool,

says some boys just called him a Spic,

and my brain explodes—

Ping, ping, says my brain.

Wait! says Louey.

 

I get in the car,

gun the gas pedal,

stomp past two

teenage lifeguards at the gate,

on my way to the deep end.

 

Did you call my son a Name?

I call across the water

to two skinny white boys

no older than twelve,

their goose-pimpled arms

hugging their concave chests.

 

They nod. Any minute they

might cry and their

their mothers might come over.

Listen, you! Words hurt!

I am yelling,

Don’t ever say that word again, do you

understand? Or I'll come back here

and beat the shit out of you, do you understand?

Open-mouthed, they nod.

Maybe I didn't make that threat aloud.

But we all heard it.

 

At home,

Louey says he was holding their

heads underwater

for fun,

which is why they got mad

in the first place.

 

Jerzee’s Bar

I love my rum and coke;

I love everybody tonight,

even the young roofer who has

drunk himself shit-faced on Budweiser.

 

He stands very still,

tries not to wobble when he, whoa,

sees his reflection in the mirror

behind the bar.

 

Seems I’ve known this guy all my life.

Tomorrow morning he’ll show up

at his mom’s house

all scraped up with a chipped tooth

and a story about some

asshole in the bar.

 

Should I take his keys?

Should I save him from

himself?

Should I call somebody

who loves him?

 

I sip my drink.

I smile at the band.

Tap, tap tap goes my foot.

Episode 03: Still Thinking About Roger Camp’s Hammock

April 11, 2016
00:0000:00

In this episode of Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile, we discussed three poems by Clara Changxin Fang, and two poems by Roger Camp. While we walked away with an impressive box score, we were more than impressed by the quality of poems we’ve received for our Locals issue! Just like our Monsters, Locals was broadly interpreted by submitters and we were not left disappointed...

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Tim Fitts

Lauren Patterson

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 3=2

 

In this episode of Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile, we discussed three poems by Clara Changxin Fang, and two poems by Roger Camp. While we walked away with an impressive box score, we were more than impressed by the quality of poems we’ve received for our Locals issue! Just like our Monsters, Locals was broadly interpreted by submitters and we were not left disappointed. Sigh. We love our job.

 

Clara Changxin Fang

Clara Changxin Fang’s poems draw heavily on the theme of the foreigner in a strange land. The poems we discussed, “Lost Colony”,Don’t Go Away,” and “The Other Side of Night,” though so different in format and execution, centered around the theme of getting lost (figuratively and literally) in a new reality, and conveyed a sense of longing and homesickness. One of our editors pulled this batch right to the top of the slush pile, and we are so grateful, When we realized we were just going to gush, we decided to go ahead and vote!

Clara channels her thoughtful observations of the world around her into her poetry, as well as her blog Residence on Earth, which delves into her thoughts on ecology, climate change, sustainable living, education, social justice, and love. Read more about her work on planet earth here: earthdeeds.org

 

Roger Camp

Roger Camp is no stranger to Painted Bride Quarterly’s slush pile. In fact, we published his poem “Motion Assignnment, La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, Madrid” in Issue 90! While we ultimately decided to pass on the poems he sent us for Locals, “Riding Your Aura” and “Cape Cod”, one can’t deny that Roger Camp’s poetry evokes strong imagery of beautiful moments in ordinary surroundings. I have to admit I’m still thinking about that bank guard…

He lives in Seal Beach, CA where he tends several hundred plants, walks the streets of his beloved Paris yearly, is apprenticed to a master mason, naps in a hammock under an avocado tree, plays blues piano evenings and kayak fishes, weather permitting. He is an identical twin whose twin does none of these things. (I’m not sure what to believe…)

 

Thank you for your patience as we’re learning as we go here in the podcast world, we’d love to know what you think - let us know on our Facebook page!

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

Clara Changxin Fang

Lost Colony

Settled in the Spring of 1584, Roanoke was the first English colony in North America.
We built two story houses

with stone walls on dry mud,

the island a crumbling sandbar

pummeled by wind and waves.

We erected fences and fence posts,

laid claim to a patch of wilderness

like Ptolemy mapping the heavens,

giving titles to congregations of stars.

 

We found a bay with oysters

more numerous than pebbles

and a seashore bright with starfish

and sand dollars. What we didn't find

was gold to fill our ships

or rain to coax our harvest.

 

For three years no sails appeared

on the horizon. (The way I waited for you,

love, absent on the horizon.)

 

Only the blinding clarity of a cloudless sky

ushering us towards winter.

 

Disaster is the absence of events.

 

The sun wheeled the heavens like a flour mill,

everlasting waves lashed at the shore;

no boats in sight, the sea

rolled back our memories of home—

The reek of urine in the streets of London,

the towers of Parliament spearing the sky

like a row of bayonets above a river of blood. The hulls

of abandoned vessels lurking beyond sight.

 

2.

 

CRO – Letters carved into a tree stump at Roanoke before the colony’s disappearance in 1590.

 

Nothing remained of what we owned.

No pottery, no tools, not even our own bones.

 

What we brought with us was filched

by the fingers of the ocean and the shadow of the moon.

 

Not even a dream in which you appear,

a shadow behind a wall of water.

 

Beloved, did I imagine us walking hand in hand

in the city of cathedrals, your hands

 

smelling of baked bread, the afternoon sun

glazing rooftops and sidewalks with gold.

 

I hold on to evidence—

a pebble plucked from the Rue Monge,

a sprig of lavender from the apothecary,

the dress I wore the last night.

 

On the island, the letters CRO,

a bird with a golden beak and black wings,

all that’s left to tell of our departure.

 

No violence had been done.

We simply gave up waiting for salvation to appear

 

like a chalice falling out of the heavens

or the waters parting to reveal a road.

 

I gave birth to a child.

Even without news of you, we are happy.

 

How bright the moon shines without city lights!

I remain ever your loving,

 

Eleanor

 

3.

 

500—The number of mountains destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, including Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

 

We named her Virginia—

land of blue ridged mountains,

fish chocked rivers and timber stands

vast enough to build all the battleships of Europe.

 

After centuries we are still after

what brought us here:

timber, fur, coal, the exhumed remains

of ancient forests we burn to light our homes.

 

Today asphalt cuts through

this valley like a ribbon of steel

and explosions shave the scalp

off of tree covered mountains.

Rocks shatter like fragments of a skull.

 

Men excavate hillsides, blast

through rock, bringing down avalanches

of boulders, mud, and branches, bodies

tumble down like logs, the women

buried them in their coal stained clothes

with the children they miscarried.

 

Some abandoned this place,

let mud and rain pull their houses

back into the earth. Most stayed,

subsisting from the mountains

they helped to destroy.

 

This gutted Appalachia

is a war zone, but one

we still call home.

 

4.

 

Arlington, Virginia

June 1992

 

Dear Chen Ying,

 

Virginia is a beautiful. I walk to the Potomac River with mother every evening, and we watch the sun go down over the mountains, orange slices on the water, geese gliding over the surface like the airplanes landing at Reagan airport. Everything here is bigger and faster, we ride in dragons shaped like cars. Here we play with Barbie dolls instead of silk worms, and in the autumn the leaves turn red like the lanterns during the Spring Festival, and we light candles inside pumpkins carved with hideous faces; unlike our friendly family ghosts, they have no names and confer no blessings. I am learning new words: crow, cloud, kite. You must speak here in order to survive. In social studies, we learned about a group of English people who sailed here in a tiny ship, built a settlement on an island, and disappeared a few years later. Eleanor’s father came back to look for them, but he never found his daughter or his grandchild. I am thinking of her today, the family she abandoned, or who abandoned her, the beach extinguished of stars, the country’s interior so vast and full of terrors, the night rustling with strange sounds. Sometimes you don’t know enough to be afraid. You only know: the air is clean here, it smells like daffodils. The children have yellow hair like the tassels of corn, and like scarecrows, it’s hard to tell if they are real, but when they fall they cry like we do. While I still remember how to form these characters, tell your mother thank you for taking care of me before I came. Maybe I’ll send you the flowers I’m growing, heliotrope and nasturtiums, pressed into dictionaries we should study but use as weights. Until then I subsist on the memory of your smiles, the sticky buns we ate together on festival days.

 

I miss you,

Chang Xin

Don’t Go Away
The night shakes its wings and the sky

hasn't folded its whitewashed lawn chairs.

 

Hyacinths in the garden gleam like pale fire,

the forests are crammed with shadowy fish.

 

I heard you say: I don’t know

when I’m coming back.

 

Once, I lost my car in a strange city

while we circled the streets searching

 

for a way home. All was dark except

where we glimpsed ballroom dancers

 

flickering like moths through a window.

At dinner, we spoke to each other

 

one or two words only. Yet here we are,

alone in your car while I cast my net

 

for something to say.

Stay. Take me with you.

 

If you go, I will see your eyes

looking back in every corner.

 

I won’t have to listen

to hear you call my name.

 

If you go, you must come back quickly.

Or else clouds will sweep the rooms with rain.

 

The Other Side of Night

The Buddhist monk instructs us to pay attention to our breathing but all I can think of is the way you touched me before I left for Utah, like oil splattered on the wrist, like snow falling on bare shoulders. For the next two years the great bowl of the Salt Lake valley was cleft by a chasm I could not close. The mountains are taller than I imagined. The Great Plains is vast like the Pacific Ocean. The distance between one who loves and one who doesn't. Not able to turn back, the people who lost everything built a city praising God on the snow white shores of that inland sea, and all who came to it admired its ship like tabernacle, its broad avenues, and its temples without windows. At the bottom of my suffering there is a door. The latch opened and I sank. I breathed in water and breathed out love. So much of it that it filled the oceans and the air, the fish grew wings and the birds grew gills, the eyes of the people were opened and no one killed or hurt one another because they saw the wound they carried in themselves in each other.

 

Roger Camp

Riding Your Aura

In front of the Bank of America,

a bank protection officer

lays hands on the newspaper stand

like a man who knows his way

around an altar.

There’s no mistaking him

for the bank guard

of my youth, the greying,

pot-bellied, retired cop

well laundered in blue

dozing inside the doorway.
A New Age version,

this man is outside,

swathed in black like SWAT,

protective vest and automatic in hand.

Shooting your way out of a bank

is one thing, but shooting your way in?

Seeing Isaac, patriarch

of the sidewalk,

would turn my tail

if I were a robber of banks.
Friendly, he has earned

Main Street’s affection,

every pedestrian watching

his back.

When I wear a lid he likes

I get a fist bump.

Hidden in his casual demeanor

is no slouch. Behind those shades,

a warrior, Iraq

or maybe Afghanistan.

At peace with himself

he is adept at reading others.

Greeting him after returning

from six sunny days in Alaska

he said to me

that was you, riding your aura.

  

Cape Cod

The Cape itself is like a snake at its serpentine end.

Beyond a place the charts call Long Point is an echo

of the Cape, a final coil within a coil.

Walking in Beech Forest, I saw two snakes

their chocolate colored bellies and tri-lateral yellow

stripes entwined, age and youth combined.

The older, larger one sensing me, held still

while his younger, slimmer companion slid its body

along side, contour unfolding contour.

In my effort to follow I lost focus, lost the snakes,

unable to define a coil within a coil,

unable to tell beginning from end,

lost my way as well, wending tail to tail.

Episode 02: It’s Alive!

April 11, 2016
00:0000:00

In our second episode, we stuck with a theme: monsters! One of two themes for Print 8, reading the submissions for Monsters has been anything but a nightmare, and the four poems we discussed on this podcast are examples of how broadly the theme was interpreted, just like we hoped...

 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Miriam Haier

Michelle Johnson

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 4=0

 

Cloisters book cover, Kristin Bock "Cloisters" by Kristin Bock

In our second episode, we stuck with a theme: monsters! One of two themes for Print 8, reading the submissions for Monsters has been anything but a nightmare, and the four poems we discussed on this podcast are examples of how broadly the theme was interpreted, just like we hoped.

 

Kristin Bock

Kristin Bock’sCompound” and “Matchmakers” alone are great examples of diverse submissions. We had a hard time unpacking “Compound,” its densely mysterious and complicated, but we really enjoy work that doesn’t feel like work. And “Matchmakers” is simply--a blast. Her first book was winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award; we’ll be watching to see what she does next.

 

Christina Baptista

Cristina Baptista'sMonster” has imagery that called us in and called us back. Listen to us read and talk about it, but then—trust us--listen to Cristina read it—you’re going to want to experience this poem at least twice. And then, trust us, you’ll want to follow her on Twitter @Herds_of_Words

But wait until you hear this: Cristina recently created a collection of poetry about her experience as a 38th Voyager—one of 85 people in the world selected to travel (in Summer 2014) on the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, an 1841 wooden whaleship that is the last remaining one in the world. She also served as a documenter of the Portuguese immigrant experience aboard whaleships, during this Voyage. See, told you you’d want to follow her!

 

Jennie Malboeuf

Jennie Malboeuf’sThe Part of My Father Will be Played by Jack Nicholson” calls up the always-fun classic, “The Shining.” With brothers, bear suits, and blood, how could we say, No. We’re betting you won’t either, and that you’ll want more. Jennie’s poems can be found all over the web, but here’s two pick’s for you: the very cool anthology that is the Montreal International Poetry Prize (warning: you’ll stay on their site for awhile), and these two (plus audio!) at The Cortland Review.

 

We’d love to know what you think - let us know on our Facebook page!

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

  

Kristin Bock

Compound

Come stand in the garden. Let the soft rain rinse you. Line up with the others. Hold
hands. Now, kiss. Imagine your mind is a blue rose, a blue rose rinsed clean. Hide in the bushes. Wait for the little black stars to squeak by. Step on them. Stamp on them. Some will feel like urchins and under your feet. They will whisper terrible things. Step on them harder. They will cry out. They will have your mother’s voice. Run. Catch the stars and squeeze until they burst. They will be slippery. Their black oil will leak into the earth. Now your hands are dirty. They’re filthy. Go back to your spot in the garden and stand like a flower. Do not move until your skin becomes blue and clean and cold. Take off your dress. You are dirty inside. Open your legs to the rain. Your mind unfolds like a blue rose. Hold hands. Now you’ve been bad. Very bad. Today you will not eat. Today you will stamp on the little black stars until your feet are raw. The stars will squirt and whimper. They will sound like your father crying in the shed. Step on him. Make him cry harder. He is dirty. Your mother is dirty. Come to me. Come to us. Open your legs. Let us rinse you. My brain is as big as a car. My brain is as big as mountain range. I will bend my fat red brain over you like a blood-soaked rose. I will sing to you and wash you and starve you and love you like no other. Now go back to the garden and plant yourself where you belong.

 

Kristin Bock

Matchmakers

Where does your monster sleep?

In a cage too small for him.

What does your monster's heart look like?

Like a child's teacup, small and full of blood.

What color is he?

Green, of course.

What does he eat?

Basically, nose to tail.

Cataracts?

Installed.

Fins?

Cauterized.

Fangs?

Restored.

Good. He's healthy then?

Yes, he takes ratfish liver oil—from a 300 million year old chimeric fish, half-skate half-shark. It lives at the very bottom of the sea and has a face like a rat. Legend has it Norwegian Vikings would hang a ratfish up by the head and the liver oil would drip from its long tail. They named the elixir “Gold of the Ocean” and considered it to be a very rare and precious gift. There are many other fish oils on the market, but he prefers this one.

Excellent! He should make some fine little monsters. One last question—does he have any issues?

Well, only if you count his fear of snow globes.

Oh c’mon, snow globes?

Yes. They remind him of his childhood. His father was a snowman and his mother was an icicle. It snowed each and every day. His father cried tears of fire for they begat a daughter named Wendy, who, after fifteen years of unforgivable acts of kindness, was sent to live among the moose.

Forget it. My monster's not like that at all.

 

Cristina Baptista

Monster

Where the cut has dried over,

you find red crystals in your hair;

like colored sugar from a child’s cupcake,

lost Valentine glitter, crushed

stained glass beneath your heel

in the monastery.  I first saw

you outlined against that window, triptych,

you blotting out San Sebastian’s image

all mass and shadow, an absorbent dark sponge,

stealing his wings for your own.

 

Jennie Malboeuf

The Part of my Father Will Be Played by Jack Nicholson

Big white teeth. My brother

reminds me he isn’t Irish.

But the brows are the same.

Horned and intense, he’ll do

a plum job.

 

In this scene, something isn’t

right. The lighting is strange;

the furniture that was there

is now here. Or gone entirely.

Someone is standing in

 

the background that wasn’t

just before. And that yawn sounds

like a door closing (or opening).

Everything looks normal but

one thing has blood on it.

 

I didn’t mention the scariest

part     jumpcut!

a man in a bear suit.

You can’t help but like him,

he commands attention

 

with broad arms or bright eyes

when seated. His face looks

crooked in the wrong direction

when you glance together in the mirror.

Episode 01: PBQ–WTF?

April 11, 2016
00:0000:00

In our inaugural episode, we discussed four poems from Emily Corwin, and three poems from Leah Falk. I don’t think it was just our happy-to-launch mood that caused such an impressive box score...

My Tall Handsome by Emily Corwin 

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Isabella Fidanza

 

Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

 

PBQ Box Score: 5=2

 

In our inaugural episode, we discussed four poems from Emily Corwin, and three poems from Leah Falk. I don’t think it was just our happy-to-launch mood that caused such an impressive box score.

Emily Corwin

Emily’s poems were all submitted for the Monsters issue, and with their very Grimm/grim fairy-tale qualities juxtaposed against their embrace of fun with language, we were smitten. Poems up for discussion were “pink girl takes a tumble,” “thwack,” “out like a lamb,” and “pink girl kicks the bucket.” Thank goodness some of us are at the editorial table remotely--we might have come to fisticuffs over who got to read these poems. (Listen to Emily read a poem at Split Rock Review!)

  

Leah Falk

Leah Falk’s “Visiting,” “Commonest in Nature,” and “Islands,” can’t really be categorized as of a particular “type.” Each of these had us wanting to linger and didn’t disappoint when we did. Haunting (listen--you’ll get it) and redolent with history, unpacking these poems was nothing but pleasure.

Read Leah’s ideas on “Why…some poets perform as though they had just come to in a bad dream?” at The Millions. Watch a video of a performance of her song cycles. You gotta Google this gal for more and more and more.

 

We’d love to know what you think--let us know on our Facebook page!

Sign up for our email list if you’re in the area and even if you’re not!

Follow us on Twitter @PaintedBrideQ and Instagram @paintedbridequarterly.

Read on!

-KVM

 

Emily Corwin

pink girl takes a tumble

squish squash        she walks

 

she dreams of woods
trees hankering for child meat.

 

The way is wet and terrible
what can she do         boo hoo

 

spreads her mouth real big,
dry lips          doesn’t like water
and she crackles.

 

feels so crumbly, she do               too gimped up          too scaredy cat

 

to skate across the river
bone so skinny brittle

 

oh fiddlesticks.

 

she slips downhill like jack, like jill
curls, rolly polly to the pit

 

she pulls the bad hip out
and chews on it

 

Emily Corwin

thwack 

leg buckles and boom
down she goes

 

into snow powder
good for packing.

 

she tucks and rolls like a cold boulder glob
crashes to his windowsill

 

ferocious little she             hunger-filled

 

her mouth frothing
like half-starved pack of wolves—

 

all teeth and velvet.

 

Emily Corwin

out like a lamb

into the carrot patch into the april pussy-willow wildness

she makes a mud cake
shakes her pretty rhododendron hips
and dips into the dirt clod smooshy.

she sinks and sags—a screaming seed
into the planet rock

oh how it eats, it leaves the bone
she comes up pushing daisies.

 

Emily Corwin

pink girl kicks the bucket

sprinkle her with fruit punch, sugar powder, glitter glue
she’s tickled pink
she’s sitting real pretty
all the way to the crushed velvet coffin box.

 

girl with broken armholes
girl with a heart spattered—strawberry pulp
mushy under her blouse.

 

goodnight pink girl, back you go into crinoline
into creepy crawlies
your nose smothered with a calla lily

 

the bed bugs want a bite.

 

Leah Falk

Visiting

When her only boy first felt his throat crowd,
she thought of her father’s boyhood fever
which washed over his heart 

like an ocean over sand. Sand: maybe a window
once, in a house the ocean also
claimed. Which is to say the body is for some

a kind of furniture: in hard times
hauled out to the yard
and split for kindling.

The color of her son’s hair: red, her father’s offering
at the pool of cells
once huddled in her abdomen.

And their skin: pale, pink at cheeks and temples,
a flush suggesting blood
was only visiting the body.

When the fever spread from throat to chest
to joints, crumpling
her child like rotted wood,

she saw again her father close the bathroom door,
heard the water
soften what had gripped his heart.

How else explain the rhythm
of their home: irregular
and buzzing, like a strummed guitar,

the strings held down
with insufficient pressure.
Little clot of air

between rosewood and steel.
And here he was visiting
again just like she’d always wished,

sitting upright in her grown boy’s only body.
As if it were a chair. His chair—the one
he’d waited patiently for her to offer.

 

Leah Falk

Commonest in Nature

Sara Turing

Seeds with plumes and wings.
Bone, mostly lime.
Fresh eggs so soft they hardly
hold together. New-born babies growing old.
Our bodies’ tiny bricks.

 

You said: I always seem to want to make things
from the thing that’s commonest
in nature. Then,

 

out of air,
you made a machine.

 

 

What commonness you’d find if you were here –
what shapes and colors
would repeat, and at what wild,

 

silent rhythms. Come back,
I want the worlds
you would have found hiding in this one.

 

 

The brain’s loop and resistance.
Blood, mostly water.
Air and electricity.
The birch in the yard, dead parts holding
living ones together.

 

What would you make out of this now
commonest thing:
your face, still a child’s, reading

 

the amoeba crawls by changing shape,
like a drop of water
down a windowpane

 

swimming round to me
each morning
like the chorus of a hymn.

 

Leah Falk

Islands

Brooklyn, July 2014

 

We cycle toward the Verrazano Narrows through a strand of sabbath islands.

 

Teenage girls in black skirts go visiting like their mothers.

 

Fridays, sirens sing at dusk, reminding us to divide our bodies from the calendar.

 

Yesterday we woke to video of a man gasping his last rites.

 

Machado at a friend’s grave wrote y tu, sin sombra ya: how soon you are without shadow.

 

Where the river dams, glass bottles gather.

 

Somebody mutters: blessed is the fire-maker, holds a bouquet of wicks above his daughter.

 

Frame of twilights where we built our little cottages: we can’t live there still.

 

The sun a stern guard before the door to dusk.

 

A girl pedals toward the rail between her and the ocean, tumbles as if out of orbit.

 

Somebody says, happy is the one who can divide the light from darkness.

 

Whitecaps turn their backs on one another in the bay.

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April 11, 2016

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