Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile
Episode 84: Hot Pants & Sneeze Ghosts

Episode 84: Hot Pants & Sneeze Ghosts

August 4, 2020

It’s a rainy day in Philly, even rainier in NYC, and curiously blue in Abu Dhabi. We’re wondering whether you can OD on zinc, what’s happening on planet Saadiyat, and whether ghosts are real.  These poems are full of curious imagery, versatile movements and occasional hot-pants and sneeze-ghosts. We loved journeying through each one, which took us, “artfully all over the place.” We learned about Caroline Knox’s poems, cellist Miroslav Rastropovich’s work, and Culpeper’s Herbal. Thank you, James Grinwis!


This episode is brought to you by our sponsor Wilbur Records, who kindly introduced us to the artist is A.M.Mills whose song “Spaghetti with Lorraine” now opens our show. 

Episode 83: Goodnight, Mary Magdalene

Episode 83: Goodnight, Mary Magdalene

June 21, 2020

Dear Slushies, join the PBQ crew (which includes a freshly-tenured Jason Schneiderman) for a pre-pandemic recording of our discussion of 3 poems by the wonderful Vasiliki Katsarou’s work. Be sure to read the poems on the page below as you listen.  They’ll require your eyes and ears-- and “a decoder ring.” The team has a grand old time explicating these artful poems. The muses are sprung and singing in us as we read and decide on this submission. Katsarou’s poems teach us to read them without projecting too much of ourselves and our current preoccupations onto them. We’re reminded to pay attention to what’s happening on the page. But synchronicities abound! Before we know it we’re ricocheting off of the poems’ images and noting the wonderful convergences the poems trigger -  we hear traces of Wallace Stevens “Idea of Order of Key West” or Auden’s Musee de Beaux Arts. (But first we check in with each other, cracking each other up in a pre-pandemic moment of serious lightness. We’re heard that “Science” shows Arts & Humanities majors make major money in the long run. Kathy reports that “the data on success” shows that participation in Nativity Plays is a marker for career success. Samantha confesses she played Mary Magdalene in a Nativity Play. Marion might have been a Magi. And many of us were reindeer.. Also, Donkeys do better than sheep over time (which may or may not have been claimed on “Wait, wait… don’t tell me!”).  Editing a Lit Mag shouldn’t be this much fun, Slushies. Listen through to the discussion of the 3rd poem’s deep magic and craft. And listen to our editors’ cats chime in).

Addison Davis, Jason Schneiderman, Samantha Neugebauer, Kathleen Volk Miller,  Marion Wrenn, and Joe Zang

Episode 82: “1-4-3″

Episode 82: “1-4-3″

May 12, 2020

Be warned. We love the writers who submit to PBQ, slushies. We love doing this podcast. And we love you; we love that you listen to us discuss and deliberate. In short, slushies, as Mister Rogers would say: “1-4-3.”  One. Four. Three. (I. L-o-v-e. Y-o-u). (Get it?!). We do. It’s hopeless. We’re hooked. 

We discuss 3 poems by James Pollock in this episode. Join us for this wonderfully raucous discussion of craft and precision, technology and point of view, and big ass fans™. Addison is sleep deprived (too much late night coffee). Jason is in his jammies (sleeping in after hosting KGB’s open mic Monday). Marion is a cheerful maniac in Abu Dhabi, and Samantha calls in from Dubai. 

Reminding us of Pinsky’s First Things to Hand, Pollock’s poems spin us around, bathe us with craft, and make us re-see things, especially the power of poetry. Yup: That sentence actually refers to all 3 of the seamlessly crafted poems Pollock shared with us--   “Ceiling Fan,” and “Shower,” and “Spectacles,”  And yup, by calling your attention to it, we just exposed our seams. (Ugh. Craft is hard. For poets and coffee roasters. “Form makes the language seem inevitable,” sayeth Jason (who is also “completely obsessed with tap water”). And great coffee should have a proper name. Ask KVM. Listen to the end of the show when she describes naming a new coffee for “Cup of Bliss” coffees in Collingswood, NJ. Spoiler: “Be My Neighbor!”).

At the table: Joe, KVM, Samantha, Addison, Jason, Marion

Episode 81: Dad Jokes & Happiness

Episode 81: Dad Jokes & Happiness

April 22, 2020

Well before we found ourselves in the COVID 19 pandemic, we had the sniffles on this episode, slushies. But neither head colds nor hangovers will keep us from the great pleasure of discussing Daryl Jones’ “Not Your Ordinary Doppleganger.” The poem’s gentle humor and delightful details have us in stitches:  the poem puts the “P” in poetry, the “P” in PBQ. (There is a badly delivered dad joke buried in that sentence, slushies, apologies-- trust us, the poem does it better). Listen in as: Jason reveals his mother was actively trying to gaslight him when he was 5; Samantha reveals the science of scent and stepmothers; and we trade Shakespearean puns and tips on slankets. All of which made us think about father and fatherhood, those we’ve had and those we miss. 

Daryl Jones recently retired from a career in academic administration and rediscovered the passion for writing that he had set aside more than twenty-five years ago, after receiving an NEA Fellowship, serving as Idaho Writer-in-Residence, and winning the Natalie Ornish Poetry Award from the Texas Institute of Letters for his book Someone Going Home Late. Since courting the muse again, he has published poems in The American Journal of Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

Episode 80: In Flux

Episode 80: In Flux

March 22, 2020

Coffee: a security blanket, health-hazard, and world-tilting device.

Hey slushies, today we’re discussing Frank X. Christmas’ poem “Coffee, Ice Cream.” But first! Alien business people are descending on Drexel’s cafeteria (“the place… where people eat?”) and our editors are braving malfunctioning footwear and costume parties. Much mayhem at the top of this episode, Slushies, so if you’re eager to check out the poem and the critique you can skip ahead to minute [11.35]. Frank X. Christmas’ poem is both surreal and nostalgic. Somehow it acts on us the way a good cup of coffee does: we feel a little bit separated from space and time. The editors discuss how it drags us into a reverie where everything spins and flows. We are in flux. They then debate about the age of the girl in the photograph and the ways time seems to have collapsed. There might be feelings of loss embedded in this work, but there is also warmth, comfort, and the sweetness of a vanilla scoop. After their discussion the editors lay out a few of their recent reads including The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner and The Tradition by Jericho Brown. 

At the table: Marion Wrenn, Kathy Volk Miller, Jason Schneiderman, Samantha Neugebauer, Addison Davis, and Joe Zang.

F.X. Christmas, a lifelong New Englander, was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied accounting at Bentley College and journalism at Northeastern University. His poems and stories have appeared in Northwest Review, Seattle Review, Manoa, Gulf Stream, Midwest Quarterly, and other magazines. Today he is working on linked stories, longer manuscripts, and more verse. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, his daughter, and the family dog.

Episode 79: Do it again! Do it again!

Episode 79: Do it again! Do it again!

February 7, 2020

Hello Slushies! Today, we put the “pee” in PBQ when Jason reminds us not to over-hydrate (it’s a thing!). Marion is in the Philadelphia Studio and Samantha in Portland for the Tin House Summer Workshop, which triggers an epic donut-discussion. Must-try doughnuts: VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland, Federal Doughnuts in Philadelphia, and Dough in New York City.  After daydreaming about desserts, and resisting the bullying power of nutrition Apps, we dive into three poems by Tanya Grae. These poems are included in Grae’s book Undoll (YesYes Books, 2019).  All are ekphrastic, allusive, homage poems-- and we pour over the way Grae is adapts, innovates, remixes, and recreates poems across these poems.  We’re drawn to the layered conversation and formal prosody and synchronicity she sets up-- our thumbs are flipped, our heads are spun. The first is after Lorca’s “The Unfaithful Housewife” (translated by Conor O’Callaghan). The second is an intriguing and baffling poetic rant,  “Duchess, A Found Poem.” And the final, the tripendicular “Dear Ozy,” triggers the sound of thinking from the Slush Pile crew:  we ponder maps and palimpsests, spirals and dimensions, Google searches and precarious empires. Samantha reminds us that someone, maybe Twain, said “history doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.” Associative spirals make this conversation a joy. 


Short bio:

Tanya Grae was born in South Carolina while her father was stationed at Shaw, and she grew up moving to random Air Force towns like Little Rock, Minot, Tucson, Panama City, and Homestead. This survivalist training prepared her for a litany of jobs, academia, and parenting three humans, two of whom are now adulting. Her debut poetry collection, Undoll, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in fall 2019 and was a National Poetry Series finalist. Her poems and essays have appeared in AGNI, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Post Road, and other journals. She now lives in Tallahassee with her youngest daughter who loves her despite her inability to help with advanced math, certain her mother’s attempts could bring about the apocalypse. Spotting bad store sign grammar is her superpower; kvetching about it is her weakness. Find out more at:


At the Table: Kathy, Marion, Brit, Jason, & Samantha 

Episode 78: It’s Brusque!

Episode 78: It’s Brusque!

December 17, 2019

It’s a beautiful fall day in the neighborhood, slushies. Kathy’s in love with the equinox, Jason’s in his bathrobe, Joe has a new porn name (“Brusque 80”), and Marion is in air-conditioned climate denial. (It’s always sunny in Abu Dhabi!).  

We kick off briskly with three poems by Blake Campbell.  “The right parts of the brain light up / for the wrong reasons” in Campbell’s “New Year” and our brains can’t stop sparking about the wonderful terribleness of a bad day. Editors spar over the poem’s potential meaning, threatening each other with Billy Joel lyrics, and delight over debating who’s naked, who is reinventing themselves, and who is caught up in a haunting season. 

We turn to “Chicken Hawk,” a long, skinny poem that surveys gay nightclub goers from self-depecating “vulture’s” point of view. From the NAMBLA documentary to Death in Venice, from unrequited lust to line breaks, we found lots to discuss. We talk otters. And bears. And Orville Peck. Addison says it best: the poem puts us in the club

“Dead Moonlight” is full of images that mesmerize-- and make us thumb wrestle. What lingers? What fractures?  What moves you-- or moves through you? What makes us love the poems we love? 

It’s a brusque ending, slushies, brusque. (Stay on til the end and give a listen to “At Pegasus” by Terrance Hayes at the end of the episode).

At the table: Kathleen Volk Miller, Addison Davis, Jason Schneiderman, and Joe Zang.

Blake Campbell grew up in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania and now lives near the sea in Salem, Massachusetts, where he works as an editor by day and a tour guide by night. He likes dogs and can tell a hummingbird from a hawk moth. His poems have appeared in, The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, and Hawk & Whippoorwill, among other publications, and his chapbook Across the Creek is forthcoming from Pen & Anvil Press.

Episode 77: Belly-up!

Episode 77: Belly-up!

November 16, 2019

If you are like us, Slushies, then you love a good duality. We're hooked on the way "belly-up" can mean to be a flop and to roll in closer. So, belly-up to this episode where we discuss two poems by Judith Roney-- “Belly-up” and “Relictual Taxon.” After some laughs about how it’s easy to mistake our basement studio’s relative isolation as evidence of a Zombie apocalypse (and name our weapons of choice), we talk about Marion’s vertigo in her new apartment, Jason’s strategies for alternate side street parking, Samantha’s tips on how to properly pronounce Abu Dhabi, and the global proliferation of pumpkin spiced lattes. Judith Roney’s poetry reigns us in and rewards our focus. Listen in as the The Slush Pile crew has an epiphanic, intertextual jam session with “Belly-Up” and “Relictual Taxon.”  We start with “Belly-Up,” which immediately had us contemplating room dividers and family tensions and an array of resonances and literary echoes. Listen for Jason’s references to Rickey Laurentiis’s poems and to Adrienne Rich’s Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. From “Belly-up” we turn to “Relictual Taxon.” Hear why we love poems that make us smarter about our cultural predicaments. Poetry, climate change, and the anthropocene:  no better way to reckon with extinction than huddled around a mic talking poetry & flipping thumbs.

Judith Roney tends to write about dead people (a lot), relatives, the abused & murdered sent to the Dozier "School" for Boys, the forgotten and misunderstood, hauntings & ghosts. The city she grew up in, Chicago, haunts her. Brick, soot, single pane windows, frost-covered, small protection against wind howling in from Lake Michigan. Sometimes it seems everything haunts her. This is probably because she read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier when she was quite young, but it's still her fav book ever. Ever.

Judith Roney is the author of According to the Gospel of Haunted Women (ELJ Publications, 2015), Bless the Wayward Boy, (Honorable Mention, Two Sylvias Press), Waiting for Rain (Finalist, Two Sylvias Press 2017), and Field Guide for A Human (Runner-Up, Gambling the Aisle 2015 Chapbook Contest). Her poems and other writing have appeared in many anthologies, most recently in the UK’s Shooter Magazine’s “City” themed anthology, as she “poetically takes the pulse of Orlando following last year’s nightclub shootings in “<80 BPM.”


Episode 76: A Toilet in Denver or  Florida is for the Fraught

Episode 76: A Toilet in Denver or Florida is for the Fraught

October 10, 2019

A Toilet in Denver or

Florida is for the Fraught

On today’s episode, we realized that the sound studio needs some naked art! We never thought about it before, but after the Abu Dhabi team and Jason “showed off” about the art in their offices, we got jealous. Joe said we could BYOA, so we’re gonna. Stay tuned.

This got us right off on a tangent about Icarus, a sad one, as he apparently is outside of BMCC, warning students “not to aim too high.”  We had our first vote of the day and it was a loud and long “Booooooooo” re: the sheer meanness of its message.

We started with “Shops Like That” which immediately began a conversation on sense and syntax. Which lead us to a conversation of the image system of the poem, the descriptive scene, and whether this poem would have appeared in Fence in the 90’s (ask Jason). KVM didn’t tell anyone, but she loves the poem for its Wooly Bully reference.

We spent at least 15 minutes dissecting the piece, only to have our vote---end in a tie!!!!

We moved on to “Travel Light.” We were smitten by its sprawl and humor, maybe especially the couch catapult (you’ll love that image too). The poem is so dense, KVM thinks there could be chapters and chapters. And the tangent we went on with THIS poem’s was—toilets! (Listen—it will all make sense.)

The next poem we discussed was “Planet’s Climate Reversal.”  Spoiler alert: iguanas abound. You’re about to learn a lot about iguanas and to see an image that you might not be able to shake. You’ve been warned.

This poem doesn’t only have iguanas, now, it also has state mottos and led us on one of our two-hour journeys through the swamp lands, filled with rehab scams and Disney World factoids.

The poem gave us the chance to recommend “Dumb People Town,” the podcast where Joe Zang learned that all crimes committed in Florida must be publicly reported.

Stay tuned when the show sounds like it’s over to hear the crew respond to Addison’s silky smooth voice. And more after-the-show news: The poem that ended in a tie was ultimately rejected, BUT, the poem we didn’t get on air, “Egypt” has been accepted! Look for them all in Issue #100 of PBQ!


Alicia Askenase’s poetry jaywalks across the streets of American poetry casting a gimlet eye at every word she encounters. Undaunted, she juxtaposes her greatest joys and disenchantments through sonorous and rhythmic landscapes of unexpected insistence.  She confronts the world we live in with daggers and oyster forks, swallows it and returns it to the reader in covert scores.  For her, language is primary.  Meaning evolves organically from the stolen seeds she sows.

Episode 75: Gate Opening and Other Sweaty Festivities

Episode 75: Gate Opening and Other Sweaty Festivities

September 5, 2019

This week, we are bringing you an extra special podcast! That’s right, we recorded LIVE for the first time ever at Philly’s PodFest in the National Liberty Museum. Well...most of us. Marion joined us via Zoom from chilly Cork, Ireland, instead of her usual home base of Abu Dhabi. However, everyone else was on stage in front of old, and new, Slushies! Jason Sneiderman traded up his yellow Parsons table in New York for a yellow Honda, to join us in the flesh. On the other hand, poet and professor Laura McCullough joined us by way of a blue Honda. (And no, Honda did not sponsor this podcast. Unfortunately…) Lastly, present were: Kathleen Volk Miller, Tim Fitts and Joseph Zang (who for once, had the opportunity to just sit back instead of pulling all the strings behind the scenes).

Okay, now onto the incoherent babbling and “sweaty festivities.”

Jason reminisced on how he came to join PBQ, back in the dinosaur ages of the early 2000s, when he was a graphic designer finding his way in the world.

Next, we discussed how online publications were looked down on back in the day. In fact, Jason pointed out a huge contrast to publications today, from online posts being as good as sticking flyers on a bulletin board, to “if it didn’t happen online, it didn’t happen.” Now, podcasting has caught on with just as much speed as online journals. That is why Slush pile has become one of our most prized platforms, as it’s given us the opportunity to broadcast our democratic process that takes place behind the scenes.

Joe expressed hopes that our podcast has made submitters realize that we strive to be gate-openers, rather than gatekeepers. In fact, we encourage all writers out there to do what they want with their personal work, first and foremost, and then let people appreciate their ideas. See, we might be more open-minded than you think!

We went on to deliberate over the “Iowa Method.” This technique is practiced in “brutal workshops” in which peers talk and give their opinions, while the writer stays silent and bares the heat. Do you, Slushies, believe this method is outdated? Or necessary for growth?

Laura went on to give those who may have received a rejection letter from us, or other publications, some encouragement. She told us a story about how editors messaged her saying they cried over a piece she had written, but funny enough, this came in the form of a rejection letter. The point is that some pieces may need some further revision, but it does not mean they are not worthy of being published, one day. Also, just because your piece does not fit the theme of what one publication is looking for, does not mean another will not fall head over heels in love with it. Laura joined us from an extremely unique position: She had her own poetry discussed on an early episode of Slush Pile.

Jason had the audience rolling in laughter when he told us the story of a friend who received a rejection letter for a children’s book. This mother of 2 was told that she clearly had no experience with children.

To conclude our babbling, we encourage writers and readers to visit our “naked meetings,” in which you could meet our editors in a relaxed environment. In fact, we have a public reading coming up September 9th, 2019! All upcoming events can be found on our Facebook page (@painted.quarterly).

ON TO THE POEM! BJ Ward was so brave that he allowed us to read his poem, “Madagascar” in front of a live audience. Tim Fitts described this piece as being “so close to being stupid that it’s not stupid” and “sentimental without being cheesy.” 

We praised the film allusions to Citizen Kane and Solaris. As a matter of fact, Marion said it best: The poem is like an “invitation to think cinematically.”

(Side note: When Joe said, “Mad At Gascar,” did you find yourself laughing with him, or at him?)

Tim pointed out a possible “Gen X image system” in reference to Van Morrison, Rosebud (Citizen Kane) and... duct tape? Can a generation really claim duct tape?? The popular joke of duct tape might have resurfaced a few years ago, as prom dresses and wallets, made from this magical-fixer-of-all-things, started popping up on social media. It seems the Millennials might have reclaimed it as their own as they’ve done with Polaroids, high-waisted jeans and anything else to make themselves look more “hipster.”

Our podcast came to an end with a vote from not only the usual panel, but the entire audience. Imagine that, a wave--no, a TSUNAMI--of thumb flippin’!

Well Slushies, if you missed this event, your loss.

Just kidding! Look out for another live podcast next year. In the meantime, we’ll be back in our regular recording studio every other week. Until then, read on!



BJ Ward is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems 1990-2013 (North Atlantic Books), which received the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. His poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, The New York Times, and The Sun, among others, and have been featured on NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” NJTV’s “State of the Arts,” and the website Poetry Daily. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He co-founded the creative writing degree program at Warren County Community College in NJ, where he teaches full-time. 


Episode 74: Drugs, Love and Cagelights

Episode 74: Drugs, Love and Cagelights

August 14, 2019

This week we welcomed a special guest: “busy writing lady,” poet and food journalist for the Midatlantic region, Tammy Paolino.

Headlining the discussion on poems by Kyle Watson Brown, were standing desks. Yes, the giraffe of desks! We talked about it all: Drexel’s lottery system for standing desks, Jason’s makeshift standing desk, and DYI portable desks being an indication for becoming the President of the United States and leader of the free world.

After desk-related helpful tips, we moved on to discuss the first poem, “Too Many Funerals.” This one had us floored by its “weird” (Jason’s word), syntax and word choices.

This piece prompted a diverse conversation on the term “junkie” and its evolution from a label to a condition. Then, to give you whiplash, the discussion switched to sunscreen. Usually, the only new member of our podcast meetings are the poets being discussed, however, this week we welcomed a special guest: “busy writing lady,” poet and food journalist for the Midatlantic Region, Tammy Polino.

Headlining the discussion on poems by Kyle Watson Brown, were standing desks. Yes, the giraffe of desks! We talked about it all: Drexel’s lottery system for standing desks, Jason’s makeshift standing desk, and portable desks being a qualification for becoming the President of the United States and leader of the free world.

After enough talk on these wooden objects, we moved on to discuss the first poem, “Too Many Funerals.” This one had us floored by its peculiar syntax and word choices. Moreover. our editors felt as if they were in a maze. Listen in to hear if we found our way out!

This piece prompted a diverse conversation on the term “junkie” and its evolution from a label to a condition. Then, just to give you audio and intellectual whiplash, the discussion switched to sunscreen.

Thank you, Marion, for taking the reins and attempting to steer us back in the direction of the actual poem. Unsurprisingly, we ended up in Ocean City, Maryland, despite her best efforts. (Look, we told you Tammy Paolino lives in NJ—of course the shore—any shore--makes sense.) Joe Zang, our outstanding sound engineer, helped us out in regards to nails and teeth, as well. Listen in and it will all make sense.

The second poem, “Cornerwork” also provoked conversation on drug addiction. Then, Jason tried his best to culture some of us “lazy Americans” on how the word “love,” used in tennis, ionderived from the French. The more you know...

The final poem discussed was, “Cagelight.” After reading the first two poems on drug-addiction, this one will surely have you a bit bumfuzzled on how to interpret it. (And you’re right, bumfuzzled is not a word---yet---but we’re trying.)

The editors of PBQ are curious: Why do some submitters remove their poems within days of submission? Should we point the finger at workshops? Or too many drinks at 3 AM?

Speaking of too many drinks, have you ever ordered something off Amazon at midnight and forgotten all about it the next day? And still failed to recognize the purchase once it arrived at your front door? If not, Kathleen will have to explain that one for you.

Slushies, please consider writing more poems with “conspire” in them, as per Tammy’s request. Also-if you missed the “Whitman at 200” events, make sure to mark your calendar for 2119!  Until next time, read-on!



Kyle Brown-Watson one of the grumpier baristas in Philadelphia. He has read poetry and fiction on stage for Empty Set Press and the Breweytown Social. He's contributed poetry to Yes Poetry and Luna Luna Magazine. Before that, he worked in advertising, software development, and heaven forgive him, television. He infrequently updates his newsletter Terminal Chill and is working on a graphic novel.



Too Many Funerals


My undertows are not the ones

I show you


Sheets of ice stained with salt and 

SPF 78 gunmetal grease runoffs

sucking back the xenon haze 


No shells

No towels

No balls of greasy dough

Not even the quiet closure

of junkie needles in you heel to

Mark the hours passing


that vanishing point

Where fingernails and

necks and teeth 

Conspire to meet,

Blind on February shores.






I’d start with the fat veins

Work South

The empty weeping chirps of 

valves closing 


All the gaps and discs and tremors 

that make me

From tooth to toenail 


Black on carbon black

suspended in silence


The stupid red haze of your eyelids

and nothing else.






Sugarblasted doorframes

so light you can press and




To fly

in the space

where the boredom of

transit makes even a wander

into a magswipe


clogged-artery anonymity

of Mifflin streetlamps to rest

your face 

in bars and shadow they make for you

chilled and cold rolled and waiting for you.





Episode 73: Hornery Is as Hornery Does

Episode 73: Hornery Is as Hornery Does

July 31, 2019

Well Slushies, it’s summer, which means warm days and summer vacations for the crew, comprised of mostly professors and students. This time around Marion joined us in our homebase of Philly, and Samantha joined us from Portland, where she’s attending Tin House’s Summer Workshop.

In this week’s podcast, we discussed poems by Micheline Maylor. The first of her poems up for dissection was “Your Motto.” This piece made us think about the difference between caring and possessiveness in a romantic relationship. HOWEVER, before we could finish our conversation, we had a little surprise: a fire alarm went off a quarter of the way through our podcast!

Once the crew (all and well) were able to reconvene, Jason had had a haircut and Marion was in North Carolina, as it was 2 weeks later. However, we tried our best to continue right where we left off. It seemed the break inbetween veered the discussion, as our editors had some time to figure out some things that had tripped them up in our first conversation. (Is it just a coincidence that Mercury just happened to be in retrograde this time around?) (And who knew nice people like us could have such passionate feelings about teddy bears?)

“Your motto” reaffirmed for us that perception is everything, as many different viewpoints were concluded from the same event depicted in the poem.  For example, Jason was the only one reminded of the film, “The Daytrippers”, which he highly recommends. Britt described the poem as having “warm anger,” which became our favorite phrase of the day.

Next up was “(N)Ever Thought.” The most important question that presented itself from this poem was whether or not anyone used the word ornery anymore? If you don’t use “ornery,” would you consider using “hornery?”  (Listen to the episode and make “hornery” part of your lexicon!)

“(N)Ever Thought” was a reflection of “Your Motto,” as it showed us a another version of the same event. Kathleen HATES comparing two poems to one another as much as Tim loves to do so, but this time, we all had to agree that it must be done. Spoiler alert: we agreed on A LOT today!

The last piece, “She tells me,” was one that had our heads spinning. It caused as much disorientation in our crew as that fire alarm…but in a good, poetic way. We never get bored of creating metaphors about how we enjoy poetry, how we measure our own responses. Kathleen loves the metaphorical stomach punch, but Marion came up with a much more elegant one: a poem should feel like a great wine and leave you with a satisfying taste in your mouth (or something like that).  We do recommend that you do NOT try drinking wine and getting punched in the stomach simultaneously!  But, tune in to join the head-spinnin’ and thumb flippin’!

Now, it’s time for the final recommendations: Sam and Kathleen urge you to watch “Book Smart,” a relatable, coming-of-age drama that had them wanting to watch it again half way through. Kathleen called it a “female-centric” movie reminiscent of Super Bad, but much better, and Sam said it was the first teen movie that did NOT make her feel bad about herself!

Until next time Slushies, read (or watch) on!




Micheline Maylor’s was Calgary’s Poet Laureate 2016-18. Her latest poetry collection Little Wildheart (U of Alberta Press) was long listed for both the Pat Lowther and Raymond Souster awards. She teaches creative writing at Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.




Your motto


I told you once I love you, if anything changes, I’ll let you know.

                                                                          -    John Wayne



I couldn’t stay faithful after New Year’s eve,

all those aggressive philosophy majors and tequila’s shot.

You and me like the stuffed bears in our son’s room,

propped up in corners, staring, neglected, a bit dusty.

What was to be done after that party? All my switches

flipped, a fuse box shutting down. Click by click.

Time to wrap it up, kids. Last call. Last song.

And I’m sitting here in my corner now, hearing you say,

“What’d you want me to do, punch the guy?”

No. No. No. I wanted you to love me so hard,

that he never asked if I would go home with him.

I wanted you to love me, but you were too busy laughing.





(N)Ever Thought


I’ve been having home-wreck dreams of you.

I’ve got an inside view from our big window.

This is a metaphor, of course, not manufacture, yet.

We stay shrouded in a cloud of disaster.


Dust in the loader bucket, the ideal view ruins itself.

This dream is all I could pull out of the dark.

A toothy, wild punk drunk at the controls.

I get ornery when unprotected.


I’m the wife at the party guarded by friends

husbands who have more vigilant shoulders.

Some big bully wants me for his own.

You have such lovely smiling dimples when you watch.


Over there in the corner, you eye the trespasser.

He drives right into your marriage and you watch.






She tells me,


The toilet in the basement has belched up and over

its intestinal wreckage, drained-stained the floor

like a party goer dunked up and shaken sober.


In my new office, I’ve become the scapegoat

for my grandmother’s guilt. I’ve become a beacon

of success. I hardly pick up the phone anymore.


She tells of irrelevant relatives, things

I walked away from. I tell her, you taught

the art of dehydration. I was so parched.


Didn’t I tell you, I was a fern in the desert,

a plate spinner with thin skin and shoeless,

didn’t I warn you from the start?


Episode 72: Just the Tip

Episode 72: Just the Tip

July 31, 2019

Let’s start by celebrating our democratic editorial policy by seeing which of the many titles we came up we should use! “Bag O’Wigs,” “Just the Tip,” or “I Find it Aching (Oh, Yeah)? 

This week’s podcast consisted of three of our “well-hydrated” original members, the OGs, Kathleen, Marion and Jason, along with the co-op, Britt. At the center of our table were poems by Sarah Browning, who allowed us to dissect her poems like a turkey (see below) on Thanksgiving. 

The first poem up for discussion was “For the turkey buzzards,” which Marion described as “ghasty but beautiful” (both the buzzards themselves and the images in the poem). We’ve provided you with an image so will understand why Britt would never want to be reincarnated into one. This poem possessed metaphors that had our crew members meeting at a crossroads. Be sure to listen in to find out our destination (aha-see what I did there?). 

We skipped the main course and jumped right to desert as we discussed the poem “Desire.” Let’s just say Kathleen was a little too excited to volunteer to read this one! This brought back childhood memories for Britt, as it reminded her of evocative songs like Candy Shop by 50 Cent and Ego by Beyoncé. It even had us playing the roles of relationship counselors as we tried to get into the head of the woman going through such terrible heartbreak. 

Lastly, we deliberated “After I Knew,” a soap-opera-like piece that will certainly get you in the feels, if you were not in it already. 

Just when we thought things could not get anymore steamier, Kathleen brought up a dream by Bryan Dickey’s (a family friend of PBQ) partner, but that is one you must listen in to learn more about. We are so excited for you guys to tell us your interpretations of this scandalous dream. Furthermore, should this dream be turned into a poem or has enough been said? 

Is purse slang for the vagine? Could Marion’s cat sitter be no ordinary cat sitter, but…a spy? 

Okay, okay! You have read enough here; go listen. 


We are SO SAD we have bruises from beating our breasts, but “Desire” was snapped up by Gargoyle before we got to Sarah!!! We’ll put the hyperlink here when it goes up, but until then, check Gargolye out anyway. 

We are SO HAPPY that Sarah agreed to our edit of “Turkey Buzzards” that the neighbors complained about our dancing (to “Candy Shop” and “Ego,” of course. 

Until next time, Slushies!




Sarah Browning stepped down as Executive Director of Split This Rock in January 2019, after co-founding and running the poetry and social justice organization for 11 years. She misses the community but not the grant reports… Since then she’s been vagabonding about the country, drinking IPAs in Oregon, sparkling white wine in California, and bourbon in Georgia. She’s also been privileged to write at three residencies, Mesa Refuge, the Lillian E. Smith Center (where she won the Writer-in-Service Award), and Yaddo. She is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007) and has been guest editor or co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and three issues of POETRY. This fall she begins the MFA program in poetry and creative non-fiction at Rutgers Camden.




For the turkey buzzards


who rise ungainly from the fields,

            red heads almost unbearable


to regard, crooked and gelatinous,

             how they circle their obsession


on the scent of the winds, always

            circling back, returning to settle


on that one dead thing that satisfies,

             the past to be pecked and pondered –


forsaken fare for others, but for

             the scavenger the favored meal –


like us, the poets, who eat at the table

            of forgetfulness, ask the dead


to nourish us, beg forgiveness

            as we circle and swoop, descend,


fold our wings, bend to the maggoty flesh,

           gorge on the spoiled, glistening feast






I took your large hand and raised it.

Just this, I said, the tip of a finger or two –


just to the nail or so – into my mouth, which

had dreamed of just that. You made a sound


I hoped was a gasp and I wanted – as I

had for 30 years – to do it: open my


mouth and take your two large fingers all

the way inside my throat, the size of them


filling me. But I stopped, in shame and desire –

I blush writing – because you said we would


say goodbye inside my rental car outside

your hotel: Even now, days later, miles apart,


I am hungry for such thick and full.




After I Knew


I drove alone through the farmland

of central New York – the open vistas

and steep drops – towns with names

like Lyle unexplored, their secrets hoarded,

as I was hoarding my own secret

then. I-88 was empty as always and I

followed its long high valley, driving

away from you. We had not yelled

or broken mere things. I did not cry.

I drove fast, but not recklessly.


I stopped for a nap before Albany,

a middle-aged woman sleeping alone

in an aging Geo Prism. For a few more

miles I hoped I could just drive away.




Episode 71: The Lost Episode (with bonus Anatomy Lessons!)

Episode 71: The Lost Episode (with bonus Anatomy Lessons!)

July 3, 2019


Although we had a small group for this week’s podcast, we sure had some big discussions.  

First and foremost, we are sad that Jason has repurposed his yellow parson’s table. We always loved picturing him there when he did episodes from home, but—we finally got a photo! Now back to business! (For now…)  

This was our second go at discussing these three poems written by Gwendolyn Ann Hill. The first time around, everyone had attempted to chime in from remote locations: hotel rooms, the back of cars, Abu Dhabi. So, it was no surprise that after great effort, it all went up in flames. However, here we are again to give it another shot! *fingers crossed* 

The first poem up was “Unplanting a Seed,” which was an interconnectedness of tragic events, rewound. It’s ambiguity and ambivalence had the crew awe-struck, and remembering the film Adaptation“Reverse Suicide” by Matt Rasmussen, and “Drafting a Reparations Agreement” by Dan Pagis.

Of course, somehow our conversation on this extraordinary poem somehow turned into a discussion on anatomy. For those out there who did not know (hopefully, only a few of you) we have 2 ovaries. Kidneys are not the size kidney beans. And most times, identical twins share a placenta. 

Moving on! According to Jason, the second poem “This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow,” had a certain  “luminescence" to it. He compared it to “This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years” by Robert Bly…even though he’s never read it. Guess we’ll just have to have faith in his intuition!  

Pause: Are freckled bananas like old ladies? Do persimmons  taste like deodorant (Well, even if  they didn’t, I bet they will from now on. You can’t untaste that.) 

The final poem “We As Seeds” brought us a winter experience in the middle of summer. On the contrary, it’s mysterious symbolism or possibly, literal meaning, had us pleasingly stumped, because we made that a “thing.” 

If you were a fan of these poems, Marion recommends that you read Teresa Leo’s book of poems, “Bloom in Reverse."

Well, that’s it for now Slushies. But listen in to see how #flippin’thumbs went! (And help us make #flippin’thumbs a thing, too!)  


Gwendolyn Ann Hill is a native of Iowa City, IA, earned her BA at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR. In her spare time you will find her either in her garden or hiking in the forest, because she feels more comfortable around plants than she does around most people.





Unplanting a Seed


In a phone conversation with my mother

we say good-bye first, and finally,

after hours, hello.


A ripe Brandywine turns

from burnt umber, to pink, to green.

Flesh hardens. Juices dry up.


As the fruit lightens,

stems lift their droop.

My cousins and I collect


my grandfather’s ashes

from his fields, gathering them in fistfuls

we place tenderly into an urn.


Petals fly from the ground.

Pollen migrates upward

from deep reproductive recesses,


attaching to a bee’s leg.

The bee flies backward

to a tomato plant in the neighbor’s yard.


Bee populations are on the rise.

A surgeon places the ovary

gently into my body, twists


my fallopian tube into a tangle,

watches it turn black and blue.

My grandma gets all her memories back


for one fleeting second,

then forgets them one by one

as wrinkles dissolve slowly from her face.


Whorls close into diminishing buds.

Rain floats skyward;

gathering, in droplets, to the clouds.


The Brandywine plant contracts

its leaves, one by one, 

meristem lowering into the soil.


My grandfather collects pesticides

into nozzles. His plows reverse

the soil back into place. He tucks weeds


between vegetables. Rivers run clean

all the way back to the source.

My mom is a teenager, pulling smoke


from the air with her lips,

returning to the town she will call home

its population growing


then dwindling, to fade

eventually into prairie.

Roots recede. Cells merge,


walls breaking down

between daughters.

A casing hardens around the seed.


My grandfather—now a boy, eyes

shining beneath the shadow of his hands—

plucks it out of the ground


between thumb and forefinger

and places it carefully

into the seed-packet,


closing the hole

he made in the earth

as he moonwalks away.




This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow


Split, by the bottomland

creek in mid-October, a persimmon

lay on a bed of netted leaves,

waxy skin hiding the dazzle


jack o’ lantern fruit. I extract

an ant invader, lick my lips.

A little rot sweetens it for sucking,


like jelly Grandma boiled all summer—

the sun with sugar and pectin, a drop

or two of rosewater. Fallen


from a thicket with bark deeply

rifted and cracked; charred campfire

logs. Blow on them. When the lights

go out, these trees glow from within.





We, As Seeds


Right now, we are enduring

a period of cold

stratification, as we must.


Let the sun droop low.

Let the snow

melt, crust, pile


up, and melt again,

tumbling over

the husks of our bodies.


Let the temperature drop.

Let the starlings flock

to peck at the detritus


that engulfs

us, burying us over

and over again.


Only this long

freeze can soften

our shells. Only this dark


washing and rinsing

of our skin can bring

us to bloom.



Episode 70: Scalloped Potatoes (with apologies to Ohio)

Episode 70: Scalloped Potatoes (with apologies to Ohio)

June 19, 2019

Welcome back again Slushies! For this podcast, we had a full house ready to discuss three poems by Brandon Thomas DiSabatino. 

The first poem was tuscarawas river song. Surprisingly, this piece initially erupted a discussion on the beautiful descriptions of a river, turned quickly to a dialogue on drugs. Trigger warning: This topic could possibly hit home for many of our listeners as opioids have become a pervasive problem, especially in our Slushpile’s home base of Philadelphia. We learned more about opiod overdose than we wanted to know.

But forget the drug problem! Joe Zang, our intrepid sound engineer, expressed the top problem today might just be the Ohio-ians, and he revealed his Instagram handle, so…go ahead and slide into his DM’s! 

Challenge of the Day: Try saying “hog-tied whippoorwills” three times in a row as quickly as you can! Most of us could not even say it once. 

Next up, a portrait of cave fires on walls as the first sitcom in syndication. The first thing that caught the eye of our crew members was the structure of the poem, which had many of us stumped: Its center juxification had the gang in a quite a tizzy! No need to fret, we think Joe may have cracked the reasoning behind this peculiar format. Listen in to find out Joe’s theory. 

The last poem discussed was a department of corrections state-of-mind blues, which many of described perfectly as a fresh piece with crazy imagery and strong tone. According to Marion, it was quite witty as one of the lines specifically winked at her.  

Plot twist! The final verdict left the cast stunned and even had some begging for a recount. Listen in to hear the final decision on this piece. 

As this podcast comes to an end, Tim Fitts announced that Patrick Blagrave, a regular voter in Painted Bride Quarterly’s democratic process, started a magazine of his own, the Prolit and no! Tim did not just promote the new mag because his flash piece was published in it! 

Finally, Marion gave a much needed thank you to Habib University's student journal. Habib is located in Karachi, Pakistan. We love to see students being afforded access to a creative writing outlets—around the world! Also, her recommended read for this podcast is Hajibistan by Sabyn Javieri.




Brandon Thomas DiSabatino was born in Canton, Ohio – the same town Hank Williams died in the back of a Cadillac to avoid playing in. He used to take pride in this fact, and has since been in contact with several psychic mediums as to the possibility of a posthumous rain-check performance for Mr. Williams to fulfill his outstanding contract. After several years of minimum wage, minimum effort work throughout the Midwest and Florida, he washed-up in New York and began writing as a way to compensate for the fact he would never be drafted into the NBA. His work for the theater has been performed in Cincinnati and throughout NYC, and his writing can be found in Belt Mag, Silver Needle Press, After the Pause, Stereo Embers and other publications. His full-length poetry collection, “6 Weeks of White Castle /n Rust,” is available from Emigre Publishing, with all proceeds benefiting his Faberge Egg habit. He now lives in Brooklyn with his partner Shelbi and their toothless, one-eyed cat, Leonard. He considers himself an adequate dancer and a decent American.





“tuscarawas river song.”


born sightless but

going into focus


w/ the softness

of an acetylene flame –


your eyes, blue animals

running from their own reflection


(torn-into) as a mouth

w/ the gums gone        open:


for hog-tied whippoorwills

in mock poses of the living;


clouds balled w/ the fists

of arthritic gamblers;


naloxone canisters, clorox walls,

the hard asking of rain –


the rain

in the fashion of a human body


that does not fall

faster while laughing.




“a portrait of cave fires on walls as the first sitcom in syndication.”


the naked, midnight diners

are at it again, posed

in the windows

like an advent calendar

across from me.   totems

of unwashed dishes

pile in the sink; heat

from hog grease peels

their wallpaper back.

a nightmare

of human real estate.

scalloped potatoes.

shrimp cocktails.

cheeto bags /n chicken-

fried steaks – every night


vast servings in silence

sitting naked in generic, metal chairs.

they have never noticed i am here.

i have been watching them in darkness

since the utilities were turned off.

i ask myself

when will she give it up –

beat his head-in w/ a frying pan,

blow her brains in the tuna casserole

out of grief.

because i am a romantic

i can imagine it:

brain spurs stippling

cheap, yellow tile,


decomposing to shadow,

leaving an outline

like a child’s drawing

on the ceiling of the apartment below them,

undiscovered, for weeks,

until the neighbor is fucking his wife

on the living room floor, witness

to this new constellation above him.

i am envious to be there –

not so much w/ the wife

on the living room floor

but as a guest this time,

on the couch, maybe

watching the super bowl,

astonished by something, anything

i look into.





“a department of corrections state-of-mind blues.”


white trillium gores

through rib-bones frozen

on the shoulders

of county roads




these clouds give cinema

to a surface of windows

that have yet to be blinded

w/ wooden boards


this horizon     laid

- as smoke raised

from a mirror –


meant less to reflect

than see           yourself





Episode 69: Memories in Connecticut

Episode 69: Memories in Connecticut

June 6, 2019

Hello Slushies, new and old. Welcome to another episode of the Slushpile! On this week’s podcast, we will be discussing poems by Yumi Dineen Shiroma. 

First up is a MEGApoem and no, we are not over-exaggerating. However, here at the Painted Bride Quarterly, we always go big or go home, so Kathleen took two deep breaths and jumped right into reading the first poem, “Welcome to Connecticut”. Immediately, we were quick to realize that even though it would be a difficult one to read for a podcast, it was oh so worth it. 

Samantha compared this to the work of Tommy Orange and his book, "There, There." Marion recalled Middlemarch, and other literary works came to mind (if we can call The Omen literary?).

This is a piece that took us into the mind of Yumi and its rhythm was “like a flood”. The crew felt as if the inner-dialogue brought them into a world of its own with memories so grand, we just want to stay in that moment, or literally-speaking, re-read certain lines to relive it.  

This poem brought a lot of suppressed memories for our Tim Fitts, one of which was a terrifying flashback of a woman driving with a dog on her lap, while texting. The least she could have done was pick one reckless decision at a time, or better yet, just drive?

All in all, this fun and humorous piece awakened a wide range of emotions in the gang, and even had Kathleen’s thumbs up from the moment she read the title. Listen in, to find out the direction of everyone else’s opposable thumbs.  

The next poem titled “A Surfeit of Saturation and Light / Hungry Ghost,” smartly used nouns as verbs and vice versa. Our own music genius, Tim Fitts, also said that this poem had a perfect pitch, so who are we to argue with that! 

Yumi’s second piece was consensually described as "weird without being goofy" and "smart without being pretentious.” Now that would make a million-dollar t-shirt! 

It seems both poems dived into the subconscious of the gang because Marion was reminded of the time she was possessed by demon in Singapore. You just have to listen to get the details.

Random yes, but after listening to this podcast, do you agree with Tim Fitts that people are going to start smoking again when the zombies come? In addition, how do they pronounce “water” where you live? 


Yumi Dineen Shiroma is a PhD student in English at Rutgers University, where she studies the theory and history of the novel. Her poetry has previously appeared in BOMB, Hyperallergic, Peach Mag, and Nat. Brut, and her chaplet, A Novel Depicting "The" "Asian" "American" "Experience,"was recently published by Belladonna*. You can find her on Twitter at @ydshiroma.



Welcome to Connecticut, Land of Death and Rebirth


I had run through fields in white pants bleeding

from the eye I recalled as I ran through the field

in my white pants bleeding from the eye and you

walked beside me your briefcase your flannel your messenger bag


Your spontaneous face your spontaneous face your

spontaneous face where one won’t expect you are mine

in the field in the valley in the valley in the tunnel

spooled through your spatialized mind you are mine


as a tea-kettle whistles at the heat I love you

tryna drink my cold brew in the window as you walk

by and by and walk by and walk by in my cat’s eye

shade in your shade with the tassel in her ear I am yours

I run my virtual hand through her virtual hand


11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. do yoga stare at trees, location:

trees. I grew so much this year your year gray

hairs an evening fishing for eels in the creek

a season overlays space the meeting of homogeneous

empty and messianic times where time informs our time

spent among any given spatial totality and you walk

by the window and


#thinking about #revenge again she shreds

the straw with my teeth the buttons done up

to the neck like you used to do again

the hand on my head the head-

stubble (oedipal, stacy suggests)


conference next slide none of the backs of the heads

look like you and a season overlays time like you in

cambridge a casaubon like dorothea

in rome a casaubon whose fits in the center

for rare books and special

collections prove non-fatal


the trick was throwing my phone in the compost moving

on with my life in my arms and I walk

ostentatiously past the window as you walk

by the window in my new vegan

leather freezing the air with my breath


gcal notification total knowledge project due

today you have executed your total knowledge project

with aplomb the crowd explodes tickertape and katy perry

songs for him the king of the total knowledge project


breaking a dish on my wrist I watch

from the kitchen your faithful wife and staunch

the blood with the tapestry she weaves night in night

out of my limited intellectual means with its warp

of fact with its weft of I feel like


You fucking moron don’t you know I’m in love, walking you

back and forth my fingers staining the window blocking the natural light

this high noon I still cough at the smoke and the smoke still smells

like you in my lungs bent over your total knowledge project

(sign on the door a girl in a dress reading OMEN)


I love you as a tea-kettle whistles at the heat

as a window won’t lock when the dust weeps in

she allows the pipes to freeze and burst, changes

the locks and you aren’t coming back

recognizing neither my face nor my name

I take the train


you once told me about your people their

parlors and names their inhibitions

how they questioned the wisdom

of classifying even the seemingly non-sexual

passions as libidinal


back in your stomping grounds welcome to connecticut

land of death and rebirth says the wizened

crone on the metro north stirring her coffee a yellow nail

a greek key cup a fleck of krispy kreme in the fates she thought

I would die before she saw rome she thought

she would die before she saw rome she thought

she would take you with me


I once told you about my people how they lacked

objects to organize their lives their fucking a figure

for interconnectedness a leftist poem writ

in my blood just for you the object arrives

with me and ends at last with me in the object-

narrative (you called my name and it was the name of the LORD)


holden will walk me to class the day I can’t

breathe because of my pollen allergy

because I’ve lost you because she’d lost you

sam would bring me a glass of wine in bed

as he walks by the window he walks

by the window he walks by the window you walk


I love you as you walk by the window and she loves you

as I love the pills she swallows with wine to draw

a circle of salt around my heart to keep you out

like a mouth loves a lost tooth drooling blood I love


the way that she loves the pizza delivery

man like the lost and found where he found her umbrella again

between the storm that cold summer day I left it again

again distracted by you


I saw her standing, drawing off her glove, standing contrapposto in her limited edition Doc Martens. I saw her standing in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I saw her standing before a red canvas, standing contrapposto. I said: She looks like the statue of Artemis. I desired to paint her as I would sketch a charcoal sketch of the statue of Artemis, I told her: You look like the statue of Artemis. We debated the merits of visual versus textual representation, their transparency, their potential for eloquent distortion, to reveal the truth of a truth that overwhelms truth with its canvas of red. I saw her stand.


I once told you about my people they were

prophets all, burned in the brain the prophet

who buries herself in new haven will rise from the earth

in 17 years reborn reborn in the mouth of 2013


your name in her mouth like a cut like a cut like I always got lost

in a city any city like the dreams of being naked or lost

in my city I always got lost in the wrong metaphor

like she always got lost in your spatialized mind in the

box house and metaphor and the train and the train

they claimed could only move one way





A Surfeit of Saturation and Light / Hungry Ghost


The foxes hold their wedding at the base of the mountain

They wait for the rainbows to banner the sky

For the rain to fall while the sun shines

Their normative ideas about the future keep them yoked

            to such couplings

No matter what dreams they might have held for themselves

Dressed in your finest you buy them two voles off their registry

I catch the bouquet of narcissus, willow and peony

You walk through a field in black and white

            and you walk through another field in green

            and one in gold


I love you a 29-year-old sprung fully formed

            from the pit of a peach

Charisma in your footsteps

            and your heart so impetuous

            and your eye flits along the fields of differing colors

I stand every day on the New Brunswick train station platform

            waiting for you

Tapping my foot with a sound like water on stone

You reproduce yourself exactly in each of your children

My throat is too narrow for the hole in my stomach to be filled

Which is why I need you, stepping from the train, clothed

            in the skin of the peach


But you are a bad man

Bumming around in the rice fields

You are the fox in her house dress who sits by the window

            watching the hens

Your heart is full of peach pulp and fuzz and the fruit

            around the pit is sour

You are not the monk in his field of persimmon trees

You are not the painter eating his blues

Nor are you the blues or their valuable pigment

You are a man who sprang from the pit of a peach

I loved you while my hair was still buzzed with the #3 clippers

I came to meet you, as far as the platform


The oni rifle through my desk for valuables

They take $300 in cash, my ID cards

They take my money to their castle in the sky

I will grow older and you will grow older and the foxes will fuck

            beneath the rafters of the porch

You will fight the oni in the sky for me

But I can also fight the oni in the sky

I can climb up to the castle on the hill


You have met so many amazing people on this journey

You have this really special connection with the fox

            and the pheasant

            and the monkey who stands, hand pressed to his silent mouth

I press and hold my hand to my mouth

I am biting the peach pit in half with my sharp fox teeth

Episode 68: Rooftops and Buttered Popcorn

Episode 68: Rooftops and Buttered Popcorn

May 22, 2019

It was a blustery day in Philadelphia when this podcast was recorded. That is how we learned that Tim is one of the few people who can say that the wind works for his hair.

To add to this trying weather, most of the crew was suffering from a terrible case of jet lag, as they had just come back from AWP's conference in Portland, Oregon.

After some light reminiscing about rooftops and candy in Portland, it was time to get into the poems! Get your buttered popcorn ready for the first piece written by Erin Kae, "Q&A: (Of World's Anatomy At The End)." This one opened the way for one interpretation after the other. However, the most important question remained: What would you do if you knew the world was about to end?

The next piece was by Amy Bilodeau. Due to its smart wording, "(It’s warm here inside the fierce)" many of the gang liked it before even trying to fully understand it. It just had that pa-zazz, you do not see too often in the world of poetry. Kathleen teased that she was stealing it for the title of her next album. (Even funnier if you ever heard Kathleen sing…) Also, Marion thought that the color schemes of this poem resembled that of Reginald Shepard's "You, Therefore." Do you agree?


Out of curiosity: What's your definition of fierce?


Somehow, the conversation took a complete one-eighty and went back around to Tim's hair, or should I say the lack thereof. Can't a balding man just live in peace around here? We keep him around for so many reasons, one of them being his ability to make nutball connections, like Amy’s poems reminding him of Ginger Baker, the drummer from CREEM.


Once we were able to get back into discussion mode, the second poem, "(The morning makes me nervous)" led to a discussion on the mysteries behind sleep. Tim pointed out how "everything changes at night" as the right brain takes charge and causes humans to show their true colors. Remember to ask your loved ones or wannabe’s to reveal their secrets once the sun goes down.

Today's recommendation is brought to you by Marion. She suggests that you all read "The Carrying" by a Ada Limón, a long-time friend of PBQ. Even better, finish it in one sitting and if possible, on a plane with a glass of champagne, or on a rooftop in Oregon. Whatever butters your popcorn!






True/False:     It is required that the Earth crack open, burst

           its yolk before the end. Is there a certain sound you need

           to hear? An anguish of language melted down inaudible—or fevered

           droning spread over all corners?


True/True:      Disregard the temperature, it’s only

           going to get worse. You avoid the sun, bed

           into the mantle, mark out a spot for all

           to see you have had this dance before—licked

           flames off old boxing gloves & waltzed

           into fractured fault line breach.


False/False:     There was the proverbial flash/bang & then

            everyone was served popcorn while waiting

            for it to be their turn. Of course it was buttered, extra

            buttered—this is the end of the world.


False/True:     You thought it would be much grander;

            there’d be more splendor in this. Are you really putting hope

            into structural integrity at a time like this? Act smart;

            call it a crevasse—that sounds scientific enough.

            If all else fails remember the real estate market

            for lava is looking pretty good right now.


You/You:        In the movie-version of what happened

         you’ll call it Fissure Island.

         How much more literal a name do you need? Toe

         around it all you want, but at the end, the only way off

         this rocky body is down. Bring a shovel

         & your best dancing shoes.


Born and raised outside of Rochester, NY, Erin Kae is a proud graduate of SUNY Geneseo. Her poetry has been featured in Vinyl, Sonora Review, Crab Fat Magazine, andFugue among others. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Aster(ix) Journal, and was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Locked Horn Press Publication Prize for their issue Read Water: An Anthology, 2019. Her first poetry chapbook, Grasp This Salt, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2019. She currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts. 


(It’s warm here inside the fierce)


It’s warm here inside the fierce
Blithe belly of the beloved

The wedding was entirely gray
The way
I like it

There were guests
A cold colorful wind
Though we didn’t want them

The ring is gray on the
Gray mottled counter and the floor
Also gray
The walls etc

The tender sky...
You can imagine




(The morning makes me nervous)


The morning makes me nervous
Some days
Until the music starts

Being jumpy isn’t dancing
I guess

But maybe I’m playing the strings so beautifully eerie
In my head
I’m moving me with it

Coffee helps and saying
Quiet to all the no ones

When the bold nights fight for me
I’m not certain
Who to root for

I know what a forest looks like
The inside of the beloved’s mouth
Shadows and pale reds and a threat

The dogs inevitably want back in
The coffee being cold by the last
Drink of it




(I am definitely getting younger)


I am definitely getting younger
I know because
Laughing inappropriately
And uniform of twelve year old boy
I haven’t decided what will happen
When I’m born
But if it’s something good
You can believe
I will stuff my blue pockets
Grin dumbly


One last thing Slushies: The final piece by Amy Bilodeau, "(I am definitely getting younger)" was voted YES!


Amy Bilodeau's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Connotation PressDREGINALDDMQ ReviewRHINO (runner-up for the Editor's Prize), Two Hawks Quarterly, and others. Her full-length manuscript was a finalist for the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry, and her chapbook manuscript was a semi-finalist in the Black Lawrence Black River Chapbook Competition. Her work has also been nominated for inclusion in Best Small Fictions. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Episode 67: Poprocks and Monocles

Episode 67: Poprocks and Monocles

May 8, 2019

In this week's podcast, we welcomed Samantha from Abu Dhabi to the home team in Philly!

The group was in a celebratory mood for lots of reasons. Did You Know: Tim Fitts is the co-founder of Philly's Home Brew Reading Series, which will not only provide you with free beer, but also, an experience only to be described as a "full blast".

Before we got into the poems, Kathleen could be heard chanting, "I love my job, I love my job." That's right, speak it into existence!

The first of several poems, was written by *robo voice* Stephanie Berger. (Listen to the episode and you’ll get it.) "Just To Give You An Idea," is a dense piece with surreal lines. Or according to Jason, "feels like the whole universe. Incredibly expansive and intimate at the same time." Whew! Just take my breath away, while you're at it.

Next up, is a fun read titled, "It Doesn't Hurt That She Is Beautiful." After reading the poem, do you agree that it has "little land mines" or "pop rocks" (or both)? This piece brought a wave of nostalgia amongst the crew. Kathleen was brought back to reading a book by a brook (see what I did there?) as her husband went fly fishing. However, this piece put Kathleen and Tim Fitts at opposite ends and although they did not literally arm wrestle, they did figuratively speaking, as true literary geniuses do to settle disagreements over poetry.

Thirdly was "Below His Monocle" which had us evaluating its depths down to point we were arguing how many exclamation points are too many in a poem. It got so fiery that our sound engineer, Joseph Zang, threatened to cut off Tim's mic!

After they were able to cool down, we continued with "Only Light Where The Leaves Once Were." You just have to read that one yourself to be hit by the fantastic ending.

Dear Stephanie Berger, Tim is begging you to let him use your creative genius for the title of his next set of short stories: How does "Truth, Marrow, Stone and Consequence" sound?

Tune in to hear Jason's sad attempt at French, as he refers to Wallace Stevens', "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle" while Kathleen ups the ante with both The Handmaid’s Tale AND The Great Gatsby. Or if you're a Tim Fitts fan, as a person, not an author, although that's okay too, take his advice and read "The Beginning Of His Excellent and Eventful Career" by Cameron MacKenzie.

Finally, listen in to possibly comprehend how we ended discussing monocles in the 21st century. Do you have one? More importantly, do you want one?


Fifteen facts and one lie about Stephanie Berger:

  • Stephanie is a natural born redhead. 
  • At the age of 1, she drank from a $500 bottle of grand vin Château Latour. 
  • At the age of 8, she ate a pigeon in a Parisian cafeteria. 
  • Stephanie was raised by not one, but two cultural sociologists.
  • She is left-handed. 
  • She is a switch-hitter.
  • The first poem she remembers writing was called "Dog and Cat Baseball at Sunset."
  • Her favorite place to write is at the bottom of a canyon or the site of a spring. 
  • Her favorite herb is tarragon. 
  • Her favorite sound is suction. 
  • Her favorite section of an essay is the introduction. 
  • Her least favorite section of an essay is the body. 
  • Her favorite goddess is Mnemosyne. 
  • She once had a 21-year-old cat named Daphne. 
  • Her partner's name is Alex. 
  • Her business partner's partner's name is also Alex. 


Imagine this rock here
is the center of the universe.
Imagine this rock is your belly button.
Divide your body into halves, then quarters,
& then: make a planet. This leg
of our journey will take about 500 years.
I would like to stop & show you why
along the way, but the bones, they’re telling us
to keep moving. Seas of femurs, pools
of pelvises, arranged as arrows
& symmetrical suns. Here you find a hole
& make something in it. Your aesthetics reflect
a fear of empty space, a terror of the vacuum,
like a sleeping feline with the face of an owl
& the tail of a snake must be sacrificed.
I returned to the fetal position in the afterlife.
My soul made a circular journey down the river
& up the Milky Way. Now I’m back!
So, let me tell you a little something about caves
& rivers. No one shall pass through but by me.
My belly button is the center of this universe,
a sacred valley, surrounded by mountains
filled with silver so luxuriously. We all
want to look a little richer than we are.
Those ear plugs are a status symbol.
We all know that baby alpaca is cool
to the touch, that eucalyptus towers
above the peaks & helps us breathe
at the site where we can see
the founder of the lightning bolt, that golden
idol with a hole where his heart
should be. A mole on his face in the shape
of Peru. Jesus with a guinea pig laid out
on the table. Mother Mary with coco leaves
puffing out her cheek. Teenage girls grinding
the corn like teeth. I believe in reciprocity:
offering my tears & receiving
your laugh, splitting my body into two
& giving you half. This is the point
where our two valleys meet.
That’s why we’re in a wind tunnel.



As she descends into the canyon, she becomes
the descent, the way an action
can become solid as a steeple.
I can be the downfall of man! That sunburst
of flesh! For I am
the moment the desert meets water
from the mountains, an instant
connection, a language that can travel
into your memories
like a fiction, like water
from the earth, a landscape
more various than the human heart.
But she isn’t human. The way her nose
comes down the center
of her face like a coin, like candle
wax, a waterfall. A beautiful
creator. A dutiful daughter.
Excitedly, she babbled, more
adorable than any brook.
Things come to a head.
They come into it. You reach
a point in your life. There is a point
in every life at which
you can see no further, a black
hole in a bucket, & so you let it
drip, clear as a window
in the water. It is important to remember
there are windows in the water.



Truth, marrow, stone, & consequence.
She didn’t earn a dime of it. The light,
hammering down on the desert
from the opposite side of your
expectations as the morning shifts
to afternoon. His hat tilted low
over one eye, he was practically debonair
in his exhaustion, drunk on the feather
in his cap. She asked
who gave it to him.
Once she’d skinny-dipped with some
kind of demigod
& his daughter. She found a dog
in the water & the word
for “family” was born.
She wanted to eat
the lilies, to be filled & floating
on the water like a body.
I can see her, sun-drenched
& precise & yet, we have never met.
Love is a mystery that way,
more civil than any city, like a pilgrim
who reaches her destination
& cannot bear to stop.


Before the pharmacy, above the apothecary,
I lived for a spell. With broomsticks
in a closet with no name.
Along the spine of the hill, below the ashen face
of heaven, I waited for his ovine spirit
to graze my face.
She held her breath so tightly it escaped her, she lied
in the desert, like it’s just so cruciform
that the vultures sitting down for dinner with
gods are like gentlemen in comparison,
cartoonish only to the hawker, the rhyme
of her cracked lips.
It is everywhere, this sack
of pronouns, holding onto each other for dear
life—its fetching beaks & blouses, boutonnières. It is dear
to glare imperially from one’s mountain-palace.
If vulgar, it is vulture, valiant, a peach
and so chatty, she inhaled the words voluptuously
with a churchlike desire to conceal
her meaning. The tremendous gentleness
of that moment smothers me, divested
of its garland, its daughters, the page
holding itself together
like a life.


Episode 66: What If Hansel and Gretel Had a Cage Fight?

Episode 66: What If Hansel and Gretel Had a Cage Fight?

April 26, 2019

Hello all and welcome to another episode of Slushpile! In this episode, look forward to not only critiquing a few poems along with the gang, but also some discussion on the original tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Setting a new precedence, rather than lots of jackassery before we got down to business, we quickly moved into the poems (below the bio!) by Susannah Sheffer. (Though we tussled a bit over who of us found these poems!)

The first poem titled, "After: An Introduction" was read by a sniffly Ali.                             

However, instead of a discussion on the poem itself, following the reading, a discussion on the history of the IPod's evolution ensued. Nevertheless, we just as quickly got back on track!

The crew decided that the poem was crafted as a re-telling of the story, "Hansel and Gretel" and prompted a fascinating conversation that will have you glued to your audio device (whether that be an IPod or IPhone).

This piece even had Jason and Tim agreeing with each other, which if you have been listening to the podcast for a while, you know is rare.

Re-tellings of an original story can be tricky as it could either go really well, or come off as overdone. A debate amongst the gang resulted from this. Obviously, the poem did a good job as the majority agreed that even though it was a recreation, it still possessed unique qualities. Even those who weren't big fans of the story, could say that they understood why someone else could.

Moreover, there were some lines in the poems that had the gang tripping, which begs the question: Is it a good poem if it does not?

Overall, it led us into a deep discussion of not only the poem itself, but the original Hansel and Gretel tale (and no, not the Disney version, but the original original by the Grimm brothers).

Who knows how or why we started talking about “Say Anything,” but we did, and Kathleen was incredulous that there was anyone left in America who hadn’t seen such an iconic film. 

The next poem “Hansel At His Stepmother’s Grave,” wowed the gang with its jaw-dropping rhythm, which had Kathleen saying "Holy Moly" in more ways than one. Everyone agreed it was executed beautifully.

Jason went the extra mile and did a bit of quick research helping us to dig even deeper into the poem. This was a poem that not only evoked the emotions of our crew, but also explored the emotions of and between the characters within the original fairy tale and Sheffer’s poem.

However, this poem left the crew at a tie! Or as Joseph described it “high drama.” Listen in to find out what the final verdict was!

The last poem, “Hansel Prepares For the Future” offered yet another unique twist on the tale. Trust me folks, this is one you do not want to miss.

Let us know how we’re doing, Slushies!  Read on!

If you just can’t get enough Hansel and Gretel, Jason recommends Anna Marie Hong’s “H & G” and Marion recommends “Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods” by Tashini Doshi.



GetAttachmentThumbnail?id=AAMkADY3Njc0NGSusannah Sheffer teaches writing (and other things) to young people at North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, Massachusetts. She also works as a therapist at a local mental health agency, often with people who have experienced trauma. All of this in some way informs her perspective on the Hansel and Gretel story. Susannah’s poetry chapbook This Kind of Knowing was published by Cooper Dillon Books in 2013 and more recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Copper Nickel, Tar River Poetry, the Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. Her book Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys was also published in 2013. 




Home again, and it’s as if the forest
never happened. No one wants to hear about
that great indifference, or the lure
of the witch house, or what we had to do
to save ourselves. I understand they won’t talk
about the hunger, the banishing, how easy it was
to be rid of us. So I don’t say anything
about the forest inside me. I don’t tell them
that trees grow behind my eyes at night,
or how I sometimes want to touch the bark
because I learned to cherish its rough
comfort. I’ll do the remembering
myself, letting it make of me what it will
as memory does, with its own moonlit trail,
bread crumbs, peril, revelation.
It’s not as if I can’t understand
why you did it. I couldn’t stand
it either, the house so groaning and
bent at the knees, the cupboards
with their gaping mouths,
our useless hands. And the demon
in my belly, the reproach it put
on my face – I would have ripped it out
if I could have, so I understand
why you said we had to go. Did you think
we didn’t hear you? Even then
we were good at lying still and
listening to the sounds the night makes.
Did you think that even then we wouldn’t
try to find our way back to you?
Bread isn’t good enough;
he understands that now.
It’s too soft, too porous, too
yielding, and he knows now
that what is scattered at night
can be gone by morning.
Whenever he goes outside now
he keeps his eyes on the ground,
scanning for something
so cunning and indelible
that next time someone
sends him away
he will have what he needs
to resist the thieving world.

Episode 65: Cowboys and Baristas and Co-ops, Oh My!

Episode 65: Cowboys and Baristas and Co-ops, Oh My!

April 15, 2019

Welcome to Robe-isode II—the one where Kathleen is in her robe instead of Jason! Though Tim Fitts, Ali (The Co-op) and Zoe Heller were in the studio in Philly, (hopefully in their outdoor clothes) most of the gang was not present in the studio for this recording. Instead, they could be found in the comfort of hotel rooms, coffee shops and such, relying on modern technology to bring everyone in on the show!

After some fun banter about ice cream sandwiches rolled in bacon bits, chocolate milk spiked with salt, and other reminiscences, they were ready to get down to business.  (We never believed for a second that Jason now works as a barista.)

Both poems discussed in this podcast were by Ryan Clark. (Poems below the bio!)

First up was “Creta Mine.” Jason described its initial tempo as adagio. Everyone else seemed to agree, in their own words, as the first part was slow and soothing, while the rest was more upbeat.

They also applauded this poem as it focused on a topic rarely given the light of day: abandoned towns.

Next up was “Crossing Trails: Cowboy to Homesteader” which received props for its intriguing formatting, resembling a river. Just take a look at the actual poem for yourself. The “river” is like seeing a shape in a cloud, you’ll either see it, or you won’t.

Discussion surrounding this poem was followed by a long silence as the gang pondered on the piece. Remember when you listen: silence is the sound of thinking!

In order to even more fully appreciate the work, Kathleen gave us a peek inside Clark’s cover letter, which is rarely ever done on the Slush Pile.

The author used “homophonic translation,” to produce these poems. Listen to the podcast for a more in-depth description of the technique given by the author himself.

Clark’s cover letter was so fascinating to point the crew decided that it would have to be published with the piece as an artist’s statement.

The show wrapped with some of our favorite things: Tim recommends everyone visit every taco shop in San Francisco.  His opinion should be trusted, since he bragged about cooking burritos for a year after college. Kathleen would like us to listen to the On Being episode with Sharon Olds.

This is Ali's last podcast as it is his last week working for DPG, so unfortunately, you won’t be hearing him as much around here in future podcasts. *cue the boos* However, he did leave us with the last words, “we’ll survive.”

Let us know what you think of the show, the mag, our voices, and whether or not you’ve ever sprinkled salt in your chocolate milk! 



Ryan Clark was born in what was once part of Greer County, Texas, but which now makes up the southwestern corner of Oklahoma. Thus, his parents would tell him that while he was born in the state of Oklahoma, he was--more importantly--born in the Republic of Texas. Today, he is strangely obsessed with borders and the doubling power of puns. As a result, he writes his poems using a unique method of homophonic translation that re-sounds existing texts based on each individual letter's potential for sound (i.e. "making puns out of everything"). He is the author of How I Pitched the First Curve (Lit Fest Press, 2019), and his poetry has recently appeared in YemasseThe ShoreriverSedgeFlock, and Homonym. He is a winner of the 2018 San Antonio Writers Guild contest, and his work has been nominated for Best of the Net. He currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa, where he misses the relative temperateness of Texoma winters very much.



Creta Mine

for Creta, Oklahoma, no longer a town





Touch Creta wherever you want to seize a thing from out of the unfriendly earth.


This is a sound we make furious with mineral imagination, the heave of site


advertising what we love of the future, but which is just land unsuitable for farming.


Mine is a cover for rocks much like the rest but only these are mine—


this is a land that only I can open, and I will line my position with structures.





To churn a crust into use,

you must take a skin and

tear the layers through a mill,

where the word copper is processed

from unwanted versions of redness

the earth has retained. Then,

from the freshly revealed form,

make units of yield. Sell this

in a quantity that feeds

the mine you discovered

when you bought what a place is.





A town of Creta forgot to catch a feel for history, leaving nothing.


The mines opened after the wake had evened out.


This is how everything is fit to the bundle of was—not a trace of splash


but the unavoidable loss of stillness pulsing in new ways.


What left the land knew the dirt as well as the miners had.


Towns create enormous piles of knowing, of dreams


sown into everything in the dead of night.


It is not dug up and carried away.


It will not be processed.





At the mile where a body was,

I see nothing but a road-divided land.

Trucks shake through the area automatic.

Such is a repossessed story of Creta:

contained in a line just for a moment,

it drags its traces with it way out of sight.

You send pounding feels toward the sound

of its rumors and know this is over already.

No foot is large enough to drive itself

through years of dirt. Time shovels

its song deep and unaware.





Wide the pay of oil, wide the machine to drill, wide

enough to hide a blue sky in unceasing width of hope,

wide enough to force it down with eventual losses,

down where you realize you were wrong to spend

so much to take apart the deep earth.


Among the early efforts to make of Creta a way to take,

this was a faint passing through the rustling of its scrub brush.

Each of its resources refused to make productive land enough

for a town, and so miners shred their hands for awhile

and leave unused parts far more patient than money.





In a roughly peopled width of space, Creta is a sign grown into


fathers and rust-turf, mothers and wind-dress, a thought just looking


outside at the everyday the town never got to reach.


The mine is not only a word for economy and scratch,


but also the way the home hears itself in a mind.



Crossing Trails: Cowboy to Homesteader

for Warren, Oklahoma





We tether to a bend

in a fork in a mud-

faced river. It is

much more complex

than this

course of trails

that drained us

through the past, this

loud gathering of

cows that has given us

this process for roots

as to

what living has

launched us here.


Our settlement grew

at the feet of granite

in a wildness of grasses

flattened hard

as a crossing.


Here are engines

we turn into a way

to make a home,

into a way to feel love

at the view of

really any fixed thing

when we are

away for as long

as it takes to see it

with the eyes

of return. We

place ourselves

at the road

where pass a wide

thread of cattle,

and we stay

to build when

the thread is cut.





To be a product of the Great Plains


you must become a line with a series


of hooks holding you in the dirt.


The force you fear is the wind—


it isn’t history in the usual sense,


but it does pull you out and forget.





Religion assures us as a sound heavy enough

to anchor a Warren uncrossed by the herds of the past.


We are a strong series of ties in a building fit to purpose.

We imagine the spirit entering the skin and talking.


What thing do we have as a way to hold each other

on the frontier except for this. The building of rooms


extends with the distance from isolation we are in prayer,

and these rooms are remade over years as signs of Warren’s existing.


For everyday that we are full we are a town that continues rising out of grasses.

The Skink, The Witches, and the Ghost of Tim Fitts

The Skink, The Witches, and the Ghost of Tim Fitts

March 18, 2019

One of the things we love about our podcast is that it  brings together speakers from all over the world. Getting to see and hear Marion and Samantha is our main reason to love modern technology! 

The topic of discussion rotated around three poems written by Anne V. Devilbiss (apologies again, Ann!  Maybe it’s a nice thing that Kathleen saw your name containing “bliss?”  ). 

More about the poet: Ann V. DeVilbiss has had poems in BOAATCrab Orchard ReviewThe Maine ReviewPangyrus, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2017 Betty Gabehart Prize in poetry and an Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council. Via the Love in the Street project, Ann has a poem forthcoming on a sidewalk in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives with her partner and two perfect cats.   

It was a wonder how Kathleen was able to function normally after drinking enough to coffee wake up a classroom full of college students during finals week. In fact, she was quick to volunteer and took on the task of reading the first poem, “Spelled to Cultivate Gentlemen. 

Within this poem, there was one word that got everyone talking, “skink.” Everyone proceeded to “call up” Tim Fitts, one of our main editors, who was not able to make this recording.  We all assumed to know what a skink is, as he always refer to his Florida chidlhoodMarion went as far as to do an imitation of Tim.  They consense was if they have alligators, they must have these baby-alligator-like creatures as well, right?  

Overall, the poem was described to be smooth in its wording and calming to the ears. These “spells” worked on us.  

Kathleen reminded the audience about part of our editorial processVery few of our staff ever see these poems before they get to the table.  

Kathleen claimed her own  witch potential. She gave us chills as she described how lights sometimes flickered when she entered rooms (maybe she’s a ghost?) and the things she thinks sometimes come into fruition (or maybe she’s God? God is a woman, after all). Then, Marion was revealed to be an unintentional witch, which had us wondering if Kathleen and Marion’s friendship was a pure coincidence? 

Maybe our answer could be found in the book “Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive” written by Kristen J. Sollee, a suggested read by Samantha. 

Next up was “Spell to Begin Again” in which Marion described the techniques used by Anne as “f***ing brilliant.” 

We would like to interrupt this summary with a tip for our readers: Were you baking cookies, only to realize that you were all out of sugar? No worries! Just grab that molasses everyone has in the back of their pantries for no apparent reason and save yourself a trip to the store! (Ask Google if you don’t believe us.) 

Unfortunately, Jason had to take off early from the podcast. As soon as he left, Marion and Kathleen, proceeded to gossip about him. They joked about his stealing Kathleen’s satin pajama pants. However, Kathleen admits that his butt looked great in them and Jason must have known it too, as he shamelessly shared pictures of the crime. 

The next poem read was “Spell for Empty Hands, which was the last of Anne’s poems to be voted into publication. I guess those incantations really do work! 

To end this podcast, we would like to give a BIG congratulations to PBQ editors, Samantha Neugebauer and fellow poet Amna Alharmoodi for winning second place in the UAE for creativity in Literature We’ll share more details on that soon! 

Read on! 

Episode 63: Tripletime!

Episode 63: Tripletime!

February 28, 2019

Greetings everyone, Slush Pile is fast approaching three years of publication. To honor this we have a rather excellent episode today. After some introductions, the gang discusses what they have been up to since their last sightings. Kathleen informs us of a catastrophe she had back at home involving her new kittens. Luckily Marion’s mother was in prime position to swoop in and save the day with a valuable shred of information. Afterwards we get right into the work of Stephanie Bolster. 

Stephanie Bolster has published four books of poetry, the most recent of which, A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth, was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Award. Work from her current manuscript,Long Exposure, was a finalist for the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize. Her first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems, won the Governor General’s and the Gerald Lampert Awards in 1998. Her work has been translated into French (Pierre Blanche: poèmes d’Alice), Spanish, German, and Serbo-Croatian. Editor of The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008 and co-editor of Penned: Zoo Poems, she was born in Vancouver and teaches creative writing at Concordia University in Montréal. 

The first piece ANCESTORS has the editors performing an in-depth dissection that is a must listen. Jason expresses the idea that one’s ancestors reflect a mirror of themselves and the modern popularity of services like 23andme. 

The second work THE ZONE bring up images of Chernobyl and the question of whether or not one is inclined to look up references to works in poems. Before the vote Jason admits that he commits abhorrent movie taboo.  

Do these pieces make the cut? Or will the fall into the obscurity of history. Listen on and find out! 



We didn’t know them. They’re in us the way a mirror is.

Whomever they loved we never knew. There is a mouth
in a photograph that has a certain heat but we do not know
that mouth. It is whose we might have kissed had we been then.
It is a stitch missed or loosed a twitch resisted.
They held their heads still which gave them the look
of stone or ghosts. Eyes held open so they are the dolls
they played with, porcelain, chips hidden
under the hair. Lie them back and they’d shut
into their carriages without a hum their skin
the dusky grey of dust even their hair
past gloss and pulled so taut it hurts.




In the film before it happened
there is no answer there is no question.

What you wish for’s better left unknown.
The water they lie in flotsam and fishes.

When they enter the Zone there’s colour.
This happened decades earlier.

When the house landed on the witch.
It’s never easy in a place of colour.

Each leaf interrogates beauty.
In both there are dogs.

For men a place of freedom. Far enough
inside the self there is no self outside.

His wife tells the lens
she could not have lived a different life.

She covers him with a jacket. While he sleeps
their daughter moves glasses with her mind.

Through the pipe of fear to where.
They call it the meat grinder.

Downstream from a chemical plant it seeped
their deaths into them. They met it in reflections.

You can’t go back the way you came.
Next time will be different.

—Note: Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker was released in 1979, seven years before the Chernobyl disaster and forty years after The Wizard of Oz.

Episode 62: Six Degrees of Separation

Episode 62: Six Degrees of Separation

February 13, 2019

Welcome back to another Painted Bride Quarterly Slush Pile. Today we have an excellent episode with a bit of something different. After a set of introductions in which Marion gets out her glue gun the gang dives right into a piece of non-fiction by Andrew Bertania labeled “The Offering”.  

Andrew Bertaina's work has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications including: The Best American Poetry 2018, The ThreePenny Review, Tin House online, Redivider, Crab Orchard Review and Green Mountains Review. More of his work is available at 

After an excellent reading by Kathleen, Tim describes how churches offer less of a sense of community these days; being more concerned with hellfire and crucifixion. Next, Marion describes how the piece offers a sense of timelessness while lamenting on her own exhaustion from various teaching duties. Marion contends that the piece allowed her to compose herself and gave her a sense of fulfillment. Samantha speaks a bit on curation, and how that differs from what is displayed on social media. Before voting Tim mentions how historically specific the piece is, and the idea of somebody that you used to know. Will this piece make the cut? Or will it fade into obscurity?

The Offering

At church this morning, I passed around a collection plate to gather up the scraps of all the people I have known. The bowl was silver and its size was like that of space. Inside, I found: a hike through a hailstorm in Colorado where blue jays where eating other bird’s babies; I found an evening spent from midnight till morning talking about the way that I dreamed of divinity; I found a piece of a tetherball string, still wound tightly around a silver pole; I found a pocket of gummi worms, unopened, thrown in the trash can at recess; I found a small side yard where I dug for dinosaur bones; I found a picture with the words I love you written across the top; I found tears and tears, until I was swimming through all the tears, trying to remember why we are all such bizarre puzzles; I found a slip of paper with someone’s e-mail on it that I threw in the trash; I found a cabin in the woods with a couch and a blanket; I found a picture of you standing with me in the same shirt I wore only two weeks ago, but it was more than a decade ago; I found that the years start to run together like water that you can’t separate out the moments that you used to; I found pictures of people in wedding dresses and tuxedos, people that I used to know, and I smiled at their happy faces, because they made me happy when I knew them; I found a picture of San Francisco, stiff breezes off the bay, always so damn cold, and inside the picture was another picture of a hospital, and inside that hospital a memory of people who are now dust; I found an evening in the mountains of Santa Barbara, and a sunrise too; I found a picture of five of us sitting in a room talking about the ways in which we had failed, the ways in which we’d like to succeed; I found a picture of a piano and green couches; I found a picture of a mountain trail, pine trees and old bear scat; I found a picture of the ocean, of your hand in mine, before we glided together. I found a picture of a tower in Italy, a winding staircase leading to a view of some ancient city.

I spent the evening afterward, sorting all these pictures into specific piles.

Afternoons that could have lasted forever.

Times I went to the ocean.

Women that I have loved.

Women that I did not have the time to get around to loving.

People that I once knew.

People that I used to know and wish I still knew.

Avenues that I have walked down.

Avenues that I wish I had walked down.

Pictures of places that I am not remembering properly.

After I was done organizing these moments, I wrote them all down on the computer screen, which flickered, in and out just like memory does. I know that thousands, millions, far more numerous than the stars, are still missing. I want you to know that I’m trying to remember all of you, despite the futility of it. I’m reaching out to the people I have known and the people I will know. I miss all of you already, so the next time you see me, let’s meet, not was if we were strangers, but as people who have, for longer than they can remember, been very much in love.

Episode 61: Welcome to The Petri Dish

Episode 61: Welcome to The Petri Dish

January 30, 2019

Today the Philadelphia is blessed with Marion Wren’s presence, who is the director of NYU’s Abu Dhabi writing program. The discussion started with the flu epidemic hitting Philadelphians, which Marion even said made her feel as if she was “swimming in a petri dish”. Then, Kathleen once again, regales the listeners about CBD and the miracles of a concoction of B12 and Vitamin C that has saved her from catching any kind of sickness going in and out of the hospital to visit her father. Moreover, she vouches that CBD has helped her with sleep after “15 years of sleep meds”. Talk about a miracle drug! 

Then, without further adieu, the gang jumps in to the poems for the day. The three poems discussed on this podcast were written by Emily Cousins, a teacher and poet in Denver, Colorado.  

The first poem was titled, “Refuse To Write You”. The gang discussed how some lines were a bit awkward, but were masterfully saved by the following lines. Hilariously, Ali compares Cousins writing “I’m not going to write you a love poem” to “I’m not going to write you a love song” by Sara Bareilles. You just cannot un-hear something like that. Thanks for the valuable input, Ali! We are so sad to see you go in three months!  

They discussed the meaning of the poem, in which Marion thought it represented a rocky` relationship, while Kathleen got that it portrayed the author’s hesitation to commit.  

Next up were two short poems, the first being “To Make Space.” Marion suggested that it read like a prayer, which Ali echoed sounded like a mantra. The crew discussed the freshness of the piece and the originality of ideas. Also, an issue discussed was the lack of images, the barely seen image of the seed. Although, Marion did argue that the poem promotes mindfulness so the images should not be focused on too much.  

The last poem discussed was “With Fruition”. It raised up arguments from the weather around the world to its “meditative” qualities. 

Finally it came time to vote, did these pieces earn their love songs, or will they wilt into obscurity, listen on and find out!  

*“Two Out of Three” by Meat Loaf plays* 


Episode 60: Line of Apogee

Episode 60: Line of Apogee

January 16, 2019

Painted Bride Quarterly presents another especially excellent episode of Slush Pile. This is of course because we are joined by Pushcart Prize winner and newly annointed #PeopleOfThePile BJ Ward!

BJ Ward is an American poet. Ward is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize (Anthology XXVIII, 2004) for poetry and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He has published three full books of poetry and has been featured in many journals including: Cerebellum, Edison Literary Review, Journal of Jersey Poets, Kimera, Lips, Long Shot, Maelstrom, Mid-American Review, Natural Bridge, Painted Bride Quarterly, Poetry, Puerto del Sol, Prairie Winds, Spitball, and TriQuarterly. His poem "For the Children of the World Trade Center Victims," is cast in bronze and featured at Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor sculpture museum in Hamilton, New Jersey. Ward is an Assistant Professor of English at Warren County Community College and has served as University Distinguished Fellow at Syracuse University. BJ Ward is an active educator in a number of realms. He teaches writing workshops in the public school system throughout New Jersey, and his work there earns him yearly residencies in many school districts.

After introductions, and Kathleen teasing a potential tale regarding flea killing solution, we dive into two pieces by James Arthur, On a Marble Portrait Bust in Worcester, Massachusetts and Study.

James Arthur was born in Connecticut and grew up in Toronto. He is the author of The Suicide’s Son (Véhicule Press 2019) and Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon Press, 2012.) His poems have also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, and The London Review of Books. He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Hodder Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, a Discovery/The Nation Prize, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Arthur lives in Baltimore, where he teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. In 2019, he is Visiting Fellow at Exeter College, University of Oxford.

Bj offers a masterful observation in his analysis of Study, which offers the reader a bit of an interesting existential question. After Marion is untimely raptured, and Tim’s emphatic urging for Ali to fight guests of the Podcast, the gang votes on the first piece before moving on to On a Marble Portrait Bust in Worcester, Massachusetts. The editors offer a gambit of opinions on the piece and eventually come to a final vote.

After the poems are voted on Kathleen regales the listeners with a tale about CBD oil and Flea remover, in addition to praising the benefits of the substance.

How did the poems do? Did they make the cut? Listen On and find out!

Episode 59: Emi’s Barbaric YAWP!

Episode 59: Emi’s Barbaric YAWP!

December 13, 2018

Hello! Welcome to another episode of Slush Pile! This episode is chock full of laughs and language exploration. After discussing Jason’s impressive performance in the weight room the gang rolls right into the introductions. Afterwards Kathleen goes balls to the wall and presents an interesting question for our listeners. Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile has started a poll to determine the names we will call our listeners. After discussing the options, we throw the choice back at you. After the madness that is our editors initial discussion we begin the discussion of two pieces by David Rock labled “Just Gravy” and “Driving through Idaho”.

David Rock has work appearing in The Carolina Quarterly, The Laurel Review, The Bitter Oleander, The Chattahoochee Review, Image, New American Writing, and other journals. An Idaho native, he teaches Spanish and international studies at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

The first piece was interrupted by the barbaric yawp of Marion Wrenn’s beloved cat, Emi knows good poetry! The gang goes into depth with Rock’s amazing use of metaphors in “Just Gravy” and his excellent use of sound.

The second piece “Driving through Idaho” was luckily devoid of a cat-astrophe. The editors discuss the way the poem captures the spirit of a long ride. After some debate among the editors they move to a vote. Will these pieces make the cut? Slushies or Peeps? Stay tuned in and find out!

Episode 58: Gobsmacked is my Mantra

Episode 58: Gobsmacked is my Mantra

November 20, 2018

This week’s episode of Slush Pile sees a newcomer to the table, but not a stranger to PBQ. John Wall Barger's poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Cincinnati Review, Subtropics, The Malahat Review, and he has published two collections, and most importantly, to us, he is now an editor for Painted Bride Quarterly! After John drops a quick bombshell about his new book coming out in the spring of next year, Jason laments about the supreme court striking an arduous blow to his union. When everyone is done grieving over the absence of beloved editor Marion Wrenn (where in the world is she now? Florence?) the gang dives right into three poems by two different authors starting with Karen Neuberg’s “Same House.”

 Karen Neuberg’s poems and collages appear in numerous journals including 805, Canary, Epi-graph Magazine, and Verse Daily. She’s a multiple Pushcart and a Best-of-the-Net nominee, holds an MFA from The New School, is associate editor of the online journal First Literary Re-view East, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her latest chapbook is “the elephants are asking” (Glass Lyre Press, 2018)

 “Same House” sparks an in-depth discussion about memories and nostalgia. Several of the editors comment on pieces of language that they admire as well as how their own nostalgic experiences can relate to the narrative. After a quick vote the board moves onto two poems written by Sadie Shorr Parks labeled “Lunacy” and “Good Sleep.”

 Sadie Shorr-Parks grew up in Philadelphia but currently lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where she teaches writing at Shepherd University. Outside of creative writing, Sadie dabbles in calligraphy, painting, stop animation, embroidery, and puppetry. She likes to start her day by doing the NYT Crossword and hopes to enter the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2019. Sadie’s creative writing can be found in Witness Magazine, Sierra Nevada Review, Appalachian Heritage, and Blueline, among others. Her book reviews can be found with Los Angles Review of Books, Southern Literary Review, and Iowa Review.

The gang begins to explore the pieces by Sadie Shorr-Parks discussing the risks and interesting qualities of her pieces. Kathleen and the gang do a great job at breaking down some of the intricacies of Sadie’s work. Will these pieces make the cut? Listen and find out!

The group ended the episode in their usual manner: Tim Fitts challenged ANY LISTENER to challenge our co-op, Ali, to an MMA battle, while Kathleen and Jason happily discussed their last visit to The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. (And don’t forget to celebrate 1970’s National Geographics and the French Revolution. Whaaaaa?)

Episode 57: Smitten with Sakura

Episode 57: Smitten with Sakura

November 8, 2018

Today is a special iteration of Slush Pile as we are graced with the excellent presence of two friends of Painted Bride Quarterly. Marion Wrenn has landed in a foggy Philadelphia and is causing trouble after being reunited with Kathleen. Also joining the gang is Isabella Fidenza, a graduate publishing student here at Drexel. Our first debate is flats vs heels for Marion's role as wedding celebrant during the upcoming weekend. After discussing the reasons for Marion leaving the desert and gracing us with her appearance in Philadelphia and Kathleen describing a harrowing experience while attempting to attend a book meeting for Trevor Noah’sBorn a Crime” the gang dives right in to two sonnets by Bino A. Realuyo.

BINO A. REALUYO has published poems in The Nation, The Kenyon Review, New Letters, Manoa: International Journal of Pacific Writing, Missouri Review, Puerto del Sol, and recently, in ZYZZYVA’s Resistance Issue.  These two sonnets are from his recently completed manuscript, The Rebel Sonnets.

His poetry collection, The Gods We Worship Live Next Door, received the Agha Shahid Ali Prize for Poetry in 2005. Its Philippine edition, published three years later, received the Philippine National Book Award for Poetry in 2009. He has received fellowships and awards from Yaddo, New York Foundation for the Arts (twice), Valparaiso in Spain, Urban Artist Grant, Queens Council on the Arts, and a Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from Poetry Society of America.  Realuyo is currently a NYSCA/New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in fiction. He works in the field of adult literacy, providing education and support for immigrants in New York City.

The first of the poems speaks on the impermanence of relationships in life using an excellent metaphor of cherry blossom or sakura. After a lengthy discussion and a vote the gang moves forward into the second piece which looks at the correlation between relationship and a tea ceremony. What do you think? Is Jason Schneiderman’s nick name “The Ray of Gloom” appropriate? Will we ever find out what Marion was going to wear? Will these pieces be accepted? Or will they wilt as the cherry blossoms always do? Listen on and find out!

Episode 56: Mox Nox

Episode 56: Mox Nox

October 17, 2018

This episode is particularly special as present in Drexel’s Korman Studio is a very special friend of PBQ, Elizabeth Scanlon.

Elizabeth Scanlon is the Editor of The American Poetry Review. She is the author of Lonesome Gnosis (Horsethief Books, 2017), The Brain Is Not the United States/The Brain Is the Ocean (The Head & The Hand Press, 2016) and Odd Regard (ixnay press, 2013). She is a Pushcart Prize winner and her poems have appeared in many magazines including Boston Review, Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, and others. She lives in Philadelphia.

After short introductions, and some technical difficulties in which our Abu Dhabi team is lost to the internet for just a brief moment, the gang jumps right into the work of Elizabeth Cantwell and her works “Housewarming” “Emergency Queen” “The People Who Live in Boats”.

Elizabeth Cantwell is a poet and high school teacher living in Claremont, CA. Her first book, Nights I Let the Tiger Get You, was a finalist for the 2012 Hudson Prize; she is also the author of a chapbook, Premonitions. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including The Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, The Missouri Review, and Hobart.

Her first piece “Housewarming” had the editors reflecting on the pieces excellent use of reassuring imagery and line spacing. After some short discussion and a vote, the gaggle of editors move on to the second poem “Emergency Queen,” which is rife with ,”“delicious words according to Kathleen. After exploring the intricacies of the piece the gang moves on to the final piece of the batch “The People Who Live in Boats”. Structured into a giant prose block, this piece doesn’t even slightly resemble the form of the poems which preceded it. With this piece, Elizabeth takes us to what can be referred to as image school. The editors practically have a gleeful field day, it’s so much fun deconstructing all of the intricacies of this final piece. What do you think? Do all of these pieces make the cut? Or will time devour them as it does everything else? Listen and let it be revealed!

Episode 55: Prison Whiskey and Big Brother

Episode 55: Prison Whiskey and Big Brother

August 30, 2018

This week on the Slush Pile we welcome our great friend John Wall Barger into the Korman Studio for another fantastic iteration of our podcast! The gang gets rolling by discussing their various summer activities and Kathleen suggests hypnotism to anyone who is attempting to rid themselves of a nasty habit. Marion informs the group that she is currently residing in North Carolina near a prison that has been turned into a whiskey distillery. This of course segues into conversation about the poet whom has taken the spotlight, Susan Grimm and her two pieces “Made Manifest/Glassy” as well as “A Fest of Wishes: Birthday Ghazal"

Susan Grimm is the author of Almost Home (Cleveland State University Poetry Center 1997), Lake Erie Blue (BkMk Press 2004), and Roughed Up by the Sun’s Mothering Tongue (Finishing Line Press 2011). Her work has appeared in Blackbird, The Journal, The Cortland Review, Seneca Review, and Tar River Poetry. She earned an MFA in poetry through the Northeast Ohio MFA consortium (NEOMFA) and teaches creative writing part-time at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She also occasionally teaches classes for Literary Cleveland. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and can be found online at The White Space Inside the Poem.

The first poem got the group pondering on the effects "big brother" has had on our society in addition to the younger generation's indifference to being watched. After a bit of in depth discussion as well as a vote the topic shifts to the second poem of the day which is applauded for its excellent use of language. What was the fate of these pieces? Does the gang ever get their hands on legitimate prison whiskey? Find out all of that and more inside of this Slush Pile.

Made Manifest/Glassy

Nanny cam. Traffic cam. Bank machine eye. Facial
recognition software. I imagine being watched

which I don’t have to imagine. Facebook’s old
photos. Look at that hair! Avatars which used to

mean gods, maybe sitting on lily pads. By the supreme
power of my two-legged presence. Or two thumbs.

Maps in the front of books or the glove compartment
where there are no gloves. Every time the left hand

turn off of Clifton like a disappointed hummingbird.
Peacock’s eye. I have my eye on you. Dream

scraps invigilate the movie of my intention. Daisies.
Nipples. There’s you and the you you say you are.

Potato eye (gouged out). Eyedropper. I-land.
My stories are not about you. The small window high up

like a letterbox to peer through. Somewhere a crumpet of light.


Fest of Wishes: A Birthday Ghazal

Obdurate leaning pine, rough-barked, this witch’s
wooden prism, the organs damp, high-colored like sequestered caves—my best wishes.

Wet, red fist. The heart grown larger like a pearl, a bird
that strains at the top of the ribs, breaks from my chest like a zest of wishes.

Each day like a caught breath, a love blow. There can never be
enough—gasping, swollen, luminous—arrested by wishes.

Trolling for the unobserved—road smoke, a gravel pit
of years, the caution tape (that clean bird not yet bested by wishes).

That it should go on—the moon riding above me like a promise
in the sky, a milky penny fitted to its slot—the rest of my wishes.

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

John Wall Barger

Ali Ziabakhsh-Tabari


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang


Episode 54: The Sex Tape

Episode 54: The Sex Tape

July 19, 2018

Sex tape? Kardashians? This week's podcast has a little bit of both as the gang, consisting of Kathleen, Tim, Marion, Jason along with his partner Michael and Ali the new PBQ co-op, examines the work of the talented Jameka Williams.  

Jameka Williams is an MFA candidate at Northwestern University hailing from Chester, PA, fifteen miles southeast of Philadelphia. Her poetry has been published in Prelude Magazine, Gigantic Sequins, Powder Keg Magazine, Yemassee Journal, and Tupelo Quarterly. Muzzle Magazine nominated her poem, "Yeezus' Wife [when asked what do you actually do]," from their June 2017 issue for "Best of the Net 2017" and the Pushcart Prize. She resides in Chicago, IL.  

The team touched upon Sex Tape’s  structure,  praising the stanza’s execution and how the lack of punctuation worked well for the first poem. After talks about a variety of gods (yes---gods and sex tapes—listen, you’ll see) the vote was completed and the crew dove right into her second piece, The Kardashians for a Better America 


The second speaks of illumination and even sympathy for the muse the poet had tried to connect with, providing a different perspective to the editorial board. One of the most interesting points of the discussion came from Michael, who had made connections to a video game relevant to the context of the poem. As the episode was winding down, Marion linked the subject of the piece to an essay she had read previously and everyone voted once again.  


How does talk of botched iced coffee orders lead into discussions of poetry? How does desire possibly relate to the very topic Williams’ poetry? What dictates the moments in pop culture that “stick?” Did both make it through the editorial process? Plug in and find out, as these questions are bound to keep listeners up at night, much like the antics of the Kardashian family.  




Episode 53: Lost In Time

Episode 53: Lost In Time

June 18, 2018

In rare form the Abu Dhabi editing team has invaded Philadelphia. Marion Wrenn finds herself sitting alongside Kathy, Tim and Joseph inside of the recording studio here at Drexel’s campus. The group is also quite delighted to have our special guest Jennifer Knox... 

In rare form the Abu Dhabi editing team has invaded Philadelphia. Marion Wrenn finds herself sitting alongside Kathy, Tim and Joseph inside of the recording studio here at Drexel’s campus. The group is also quite delighted to have our special guest Jennifer Knox join the discussion. After a short discussion about the inception of Slush Pile as well as cuckoo clocks and pet birds we jump right into the works of this episode’s poets. Marion starts the podcast off right with an exquisite reading of Lauren Michele Jackson’s “A Child of Hers Has Rules for Color”

Lauren Michele Jackson is a born and raised Illinoisian, currently living in Chicago(which, contrary to popular belief, is not a part of Illinois and rather an entity unto itself). A card-carrying member of the Beyhive, she measures time between album releases and Instagram updates from a one Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. Poetry is a relatively new thing and she considers prose her first love, as indicated by her Twitter handle @proseb4bros. She is working on a dissertation and book of essays, (slightly) more about which can be found at

The editors loved discussing Jacksons creativity in her word play and stanza breaks. After the vote, the group explored a work written by Stella Padnos titled "Houseguests".

Poet, social worker, mama, and, perhaps by the time you are reading this, ex-wife, are among the identities of Stella Padnos. Her poetry appears in various forums, including Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Wild Word, and Lady Parts, a Barbie-themed collaboration on Tumblr. Stella regularly performs as one of the Unbearables in New York City. Her debut collection of poetry, In My Absence, was released from Winter Goose Publishing in 2016. She enjoys writing about ambivalence, attraction, and general emotional discomfort.

The board gets into an in depth discussion about the use of pronouns in "Houseguests,” but our favorite moment might be when Jennifer makes an amazing metaphor likening the poem’s movement to a cruise ship. After Tim Fitts makes a comparison between the poem and Prince the group decides to vote on this piece as well.

Will these pieces make it through the editorial process? Or will they slip through the cracks? What was that final pronoun about? Listen on to find out!


Present at editorial table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
Marion Wrenn
Jason Schneiderman
Tim Fitts
Joseph Kindt
Jennifer Knox

Engineering Producer:
Joe Zang



Episode 52: The Klingon Council

Episode 52: The Klingon Council

May 17, 2018

On this week's episode, a council torn straight from the lore of Star Trek emerged to discuss the works of two poets. First up is Sarah Heffner and her pieces "I Love California More Than You" and "Maybe New Orleans" followed by Jacob Thomas Berns with "Frieda, Callie, and Kelly Lou." This iteration of the podcast is unique as it is the first time in two years of production that the group has its three longest-running members present, a.k.a., the Klingon Council.  

The council discussed the different ways Sarah Heffner's titles could be interpreted, e.g. do you love California more than you love your friends? Kathleen explains her fascination with the life of pilots and flight attendants in reaction to Jacob Bern's piece which then segues into Jason promoting "I'm So Excited" or "Las Pasajeros Amantes". Jason feels a bit left out that he doesn't have a magical fairy watch like the other Klingon members. Will these pieces survive the brutality of the Klingon Council? Listen on and their fate will be revealed. Tweet us @PaintedBrideQ with the #KlingonCouncil and give us your thoughts on the episode or ask any questions you might have!

As Sarah gets older what she realizes is that we have so many lives in this one life. Teacher, bartender, creative writing accountability coach, are a few of her titles.  They are all paths that have found her, though her choices and the challenges she has faced, have all prepared her for them. But the title she loves most is poet! If you want to know more you can follow her on instagram @mermaidpillow or her website :!


Jacob Thomas Berns received his MFA from the University of Oregon. His writing has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, and Hot Metal Bridge. Purchasing a home has taught him the quiet joy of weeding. He is at work on a novel.





I Love California More Than You


I thought only bullets

Lose inertia


I’m extinct in Pennsylvania

Our city

A linoleum experiment


I fell     steam

Eventually does


It was on the porch painting

I was

Little   black    air


Maybe New Orleans


We no longer have a favorite place

We have one flawed summer

Blame it on the generosity of moisture


Back in the country

I felt hay’s rotundity

I sweated out grains


Now my hair is sleek

The beak of an oyster catcher

Frieda, Callie, Kelly Lou

PORTLAND FLIGHTS ARRIVED at 12:35, 3:16, 6:46, the baggage handlers ready at wheels-down, having already flipped a coin for who’d gut the plane of last-minute checked bags and who’d deliver them to the bridge, where the flight attendant—their attendant—bid farewell to passengers, and even if someone were in her place, the handlers would feign a moment on the Jetway—a wink flashed between passengers, a flutter of fingers at her hip—before days, then weeks without a sighting, suspicions becoming fears becoming fact—she had switched routes or jobs or cities—and so the stories themselves became the thing, retold until each word and gesture was perfected, the details too real not to be true—a fleck of pink on a tooth, a stocking run shaped like California, a Tom Collins shared in a hotel room—details later told to girlfriends who became wives, by which time they’d moved themselves—to Sacramento, to Duluth—their attendant’s name changing from telling to telling (in truth never known at all) as each other’s names inched just beyond reach, until, ticket in hand, they could watch a plane greet the tarmac with neither regret nor urgency, without anything at all but a sense of the shifting distances between once and now and to be.


Present at editorial table:

Kathleen Volk Miller
Marion Wrenn
Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang

Episode 51: Hello Neighbor

Episode 51: Hello Neighbor

April 19, 2018

On this week’s episode of the Slush Pile, we review two prose poems by the author Daniel Biegelson labeled “Neighbors III” and “Neighbors IV”. Kathleen and the gang welcome Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo to the editorial table for this very exciting iteration of the podcast. Everyone was intrigued to delve into the works Daniel Biegelson provided for us and were quite pleased to find that they offered interesting conversation.

Daniel Biegelson is the author of the chapbook Only the Borrowed Light (VERSE) and Director of the Visiting Writers Series at Northwest Missouri State University. An Associate Editor for The Laurel Review, his poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM,  FIELD, Meridian, Salt Hill Journal, & Third Coast, among other places. He hails from New Jersey—a fact that means more to him than it probably should.


Did these poets survive the gauntlet? Listen on to find out!

Let us know what you think about these three poems and this episode on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with #HelloNeighbor


Present at the Editorial Table: 
Kathleen Volk Miller
Marion Wrenn
Tim Fitts
Samantha Neugebauer
Jason Schneiderman

Engineering Producer: 
Joe Zang


Episode 50: An Excuse for a Buffet

Episode 50: An Excuse for a Buffet

April 2, 2018

Love is in the air as the gang gets together on Valentine’s day to feature two poems by Emma Hine: “I Wake Up in the Painting by Rousseau” and “The Red Planet Counts Her Craters“. Tune in to hear the lamentations of several of our editors as they discuss Valentine’s day

Emma Hine is from Austin, Texas, and holds an MFA from New York University. Her work has previously appeared in Arts & Letters, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, and The Missouri Review, among others. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at the Academy of American Poets.

Listen on and hear the fate of these two pieces! Let us know what you think about this episode on Facebook and Twitter with #MarsBuffet

I Wake Up In the Painting by Rousseau

                                                       This time
he, the sleeping figure, I, the lion,
my pupils round in their egg-whites,
                                                        angling his scent
dunewards. He has surprised me.
I never expected a human in the sand
                                         like a god fallen
a bare-throated mandolin on the pillow
beside him. I smell the striped shoulder
                                         of his robe.
                                                        Don’t know
which path he took across the desert.
On the nightstand we keep a lamp,
                                         a vase,
                                                         a digital clock.
Beneath the blue walls I hold the moon
in my teeth and breathe on it, feel no
                                        devouring dread.


The Red Planet Counts Her Craters


The way Mars is bolted in place,
all she can see is the sky. She recites
red sky at night, sailor’s delight
until her atmosphere shimmers. She hopes
            that from everywhere else,
she’s visible, the brightest storm brewing
in this big wide sea. She converts sensations
into units of distance and units of force,
so that each time a body collides with her,
            she can add it to her catalogue
of impact: where, how hard, how long the tremor.
She lifts the oxide dust gently from a crater
and says asteroid at an oblique angle,
           seventy-eight miles across.
She does this just by feel. No looking.
Which might be why she so loves the probes.
When they land, she goes as still as she can,
so they won’t startle and unlatch. She wants them
          always charting her shoal plains.
When one enters her gravity too slowly
and bounces away, she wonders
what went wrong. She imagines it lost
out there without context, how it wanted her,
           couldn’t touch her, or stay.

Present at the Editorial Table: 
Kathleen Volk Miller
Marion Wrenn
Tim Fitts
Samantha Neugebauer
Jason Schneiderman

Engineering Producer: 
Joe Zang


Episode 49: Pixie Dust and Sparkles

Episode 49: Pixie Dust and Sparkles

March 2, 2018

 Anxiety, God, glitter, pixie dust, sparkles... all of this can be found within our latest episode of Slush Pile, which features Rosemary Kitchen’s poem "How to Cauterize," followed by two poems by Jessica Pierce, "Without" and "How to Take What You Want." This is a rare occasion as the gang is all present at the editorial table—in fact-- Kathleen and Marion are absolutely delighted to be physically reunited and sharing the same space and the same microphone for the first time in ages.

Currently a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, Rosemary holds an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. Raised in a fiercely religious family, her only Halloween costume was “the little boy with five loaves of bread and two fishes,” sewn by her mother. Rosemary is so enamored with poetry that she once laminated all the pages of her favorite book to withstand the weather when she ran away from home. She can be found on twitter, where she is frequently mistaken for a restaurant. Her poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Hunger Mountain, Tinderbox, Cimarron Review, and Gulf Coast.

Marion began by reading Rosemary Kitchen's <a href="#station">"How to Cauterize"</a> . Tim really enjoyed dissecting the character of the speaker in this piece, making several good assertations about his or her nature.

Jessica Pierce can swear in Spanish and Bengali, change a flat bicycle tire in under 5 minutes on the side of the road when it's 95 degrees and she's inches away from roaring semis, and sing the guitar solo in Bohemian Rhapsody with relative accuracy. However, she cannot do cartwheels or go on swings anymore—having two children seems to have permanently changed her center of gravity in a very literal way. When she's not staring into space and pondering death, which often leads to walking into doorways and tables, she can be found staring into space and pondering how to radically transform public education. Which also leads to walking into doorways and tables. As a result, she has a pretty consistent rotating display of bruises on her arms and legs, but she's hoping the new multivitamins with more iron will help with that. She's grateful to her sitar-playing husband for making sure she always has plenty of dark chocolate to eat and pushing her to send her work out into the world. 

The editors found themselves pondering over what the "it" is that is being discussed in Jessica Pierce's first piece "Without" which was read by DPG co-op Joseph Kindt. Overall it was great read, but brought up different opinions on the editors' interpretations of the piece. Next Kathleen read "How to Take What You Want". The table was quite pleased with the brazen imagery displayed in the piece, listen in to hear more discussion on Jessica's work.

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think!

Did these poems receive the go ahead, or are there red flags? Tune in to find out!
Thank you for listening, and read on! 


Present at the Editorial Table: 

Kathleen Volk Miller 

Marion Wrenn 

Tim Fitts 

Joseph Kindt 


Engineering Producer 

Joe Zang 



Rosemary Kitchen

How to Cauterize
Pack with clove oil and minced garlic. Dress with poultices of peppermint, a tincture of myrrh.
Count the beats of your pulse with the underside of your tongue pressed against the opening;
count the seconds since he went.
Let stale air whistle through cracks, like the tooth you chipped on embroidery needles that night
you patched pants to wear on a first date.
Try to forget the taste of powdered bone and fluoride, drill bit between your lips. Ask the god-
who-is-dentist: won’t you reach inside my skull and make me sparkly again ?
Count the parts of the skeleton you can clean. Tilt your head beneath spigot of sink—drink.
Drink and drink.
Jessica Pierce
I can say it now without shaking.
Without crying. Without falling down.
It still grabs my throat sometimes, but
it will release its white-knuckle grip
if I whisper tenderly,
you are true.
It does not need me to lie
and say it is beautiful or that through
force of habit it has become exalted.
And when I can’t speak, it has given
me permission to carry it between
my breasts, against the grief that has become
cellular. Almost just something
else to carry through this fraught world.
How to Take What You Want
And another thing, as he splits open
a warm loaf of bread, pleased with
the crackle of crust. This may I business.
Get to the point. Take action, damnit.
And why tell me to do things,
and then say thank youSit
down, thank you. Take a number,
thank you, stand there, thank you.
His father got to the point. For weeks he
would watch his neighbors’ peach trees, rooted
in the dirt of crumbled gods and goddesses.
Waiting until the fruit stunned with ripeness.
He would take it. He would eat it.
The first time he went apple picking,
he ignored the abundant apples, found
a walnut tree on the other side of the fence.
He pointed. Smiled. After walking
500 miles to escape the enemy army,
after raising his children while his wife’s
heart and mind failed, after crossing
oceans, after loaf after loaf of coarse
brown bread, he had no interest
in denying himself such pleasures.
I spread apricot preserves
on my piece of bread. He dips
his piece in fragrant olive oil,
the grass of his childhood unfurling beneath
our feet. And then my baby runs towards
us, hold me, no please
no may I, and he grins as
he reaches down for her.
That’s how it’s done.
Episode 48: Paper Cranes and Zebras

Episode 48: Paper Cranes and Zebras

February 9, 2018

Slush Pile is back in the studio! For this episode’s micro editorial meeting, Kathleen and Joseph recorded from the studio for the first time since… June? April? A long time! Marion called from her office at NYUAD, looking out over a dark campus with a giant new microphone!

For this episode, we discuss three poems by Michele Wolf. We were, in fact, early adopters of Michele! She was published way back in Issue 63, just one issue before our first print annual! Check out what she wrote, but because we’re rebuilding our archives, you’ll only find it here (along with access to Issue 63, if you’re up for some digging).


Michele Wolf had a friend in Painted Bride Quarterly early on, when we first published her poems and her chapbook, The Keeper of Light, in 1995. Little did she know then that an Amazon rare-book seller would now offer this special booklet for $75 (!). Note to the world: Michele would be delighted to make one yours for $5.


Fun fact: Michele was raised in Florida, and she loves not only the ocean but also Disney World—almost as much as PBQ editor Kathy Volk Miller does.


On the poetry front, Michele has gone on to publish two full-length collections—Immersion (Hilary Tham Capital Collection, The Word Works) and Conversations During Sleep (Anhinga Prize for Poetry, Anhinga Press). Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, North American Review and many other literary journals and anthologies, as well as on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. A contributing editor for Poet Lore, she teaches at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She lives with her husband and daughter in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


You can read more of Michele's work on; on Poetry Foundation; and on her website.

Listen in on our discussion of Michele’s poems, and check them out below! Our conversations brought up whether or not man landed on the moon (which we could debate, we suppose), deer’s bedtimes (7:00 PM, right?), and poems that make you go “WOWZA!”

Our engineer, Joe, shared a story about finding a paper crane on his windowsill with “as if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” by Henry David Thoreau, but attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. He recognized the handwriting, and thinks he might know who left the mysterious missive. Listen in to hear all about this “beautiful world” sort of story, then Kathleen and Joseph have a mini cook-off on air. Tell us what you like to bake! Is baking better than cooking? Let us know your thoughts, and, as always, keep reading!


Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Joseph Kindt


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang


Michele Wolf

To Orbit the Earth


The steel capsule, ridged and riveted—an oversize

Can—rests suspended at street level, docked

Inside the Air and Space Museum’s entrance.

A bounty of white lilies mingled with spider mums,

Placed yesterday, honors the trail of pilot John Glenn,

Dead at ninety-five. In ’62, even a second grader,

Gripped by the grainy blastoff in black and white,

Knew that the compact can was a bleak conveyance,

That that helmeted dad, a human Superman laced up

In a silver suit, could at any moment be lost in flames.

And yet we launch from terra firma, compelled to behold

The blue orb—its panorama of oceans as they curve

From continent to continent. It knocks you down,

This vision, your ache to enfold the globe in your arms.

It is that child who slips into the darkness, sounding

A cry you cannot ease, although you circle round and round.


Expecting Snow

Against a sky and lake bleached icy gray, the solid

Surface edged with snow and spindly bones

Of leafless trees, four silhouettes, a single file

Of ash-brown deer—two adults, two adolescents—

Halt their slow-mo synchrony of steps

At the middle of the lake, its top layer hardened

To host weightlessness, not illusion on elegant legs.    

Beauty is no help. The starving deer, weary of feeding

On bark and road salt, resume their lake-top trek.   

From spring through fall, the white-tailed locals feast

On roses, carry ticks. One after another, they meet

Your eyes, and yet they leap onto the road—

At the same bend where that drunk teen driver

Bashed the fence, then flipped. Nature

Holds you. When it drifts, it breaks your heart.


Zebras in a Field

The younger woman—hollowed out, reduced

To a shadow wrapped in skin—allowed

The older one, nearly her duplicate,

To enfold her. They had both seen the knife,

A small, glinty blade with a pearlized handle,

When it was set beside the younger woman’s

Thigh. “But you are not dead,” the older woman,

Unable to speak, had wanted to say, “although

It may seem so. You will live an abundant life.

Someday you will drive, after seventeen hours

Aloft, along a paved road edging a clutch

Of tumbledown farms when a herd of zebras

Will race to meet the wooden fence—whinnying,

Tails flapping—oscillating your vision, the total scroll

Of what you know, with the whirl of their stripes.”


Episode 47: Live with Dorian Paul Rogers

Episode 47: Live with Dorian Paul Rogers

January 19, 2018

Kathleen and Marion were so blown away by Rooftop Rhythms, the well-respected spoken word event held at NYUAD, we asked its host Dorian Paul Rogers to sit down with PBQ and talk about poetry, performance, and creating one of the liveliest poetry scenes we've ever seen. Learn about the world of spoken word poetry in the United Arab Emirates, the tricky project of curating the series, and roots of Dorian's faith in the transformative powers of spoken word. Marion's interview with Dorian is the second in a 2-part series celebrating Rooftop Rhythms. Check out the first episode here.


For more information on Dorian:

For more information on Salem el Attas (one of the poets who read at the event we saw)


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

Episode 46: Rooftop Rhythms in the UAE

Episode 46: Rooftop Rhythms in the UAE

December 22, 2017

If you’ve tuned into recent episodes of Slush Pile, you’ve more likely than not heard Kathleen raving over her time visiting Marion in Abu Dhabi.From another windowless university office, this time at the NYUAD writing program, we produced this special episode of Slush Pile.

Kathleen and Marion talk about their time together in Abu Dhabi: the pink desert, the early morning camel ride, the quick dip in the Gulf, the amazing classes, and spoken word poetry in the United Arab Emirates. As we say, we really never know whether or not these episodes are going to be published sequentially, and in this episode, Kathleen mentions an amazing experience she had in class that she and Marion co-taught. “Maybe we’ll talk about it on another episode,” she said, and if you tuned into Episode 44: Fairy Dust Watches and John Bonham, you know exactly what she’s talking about! If you didn’t, listen into the episode here!

Rooftop Rhythms is a huge open mic event on NYUAD’s campus. It's hosted by the remarkable Dorian Paul Rogers (who joined us for an interview that will be featured on an upcoming episode). Listen to poetry by emerging and established poets from Yemen, Sudan, Philippines, and the UAE  who gather for a monthly event that packs the house at NYUAD with an equally diverse crowd. Please enjoy these excerpts from poets Hibba Rasheed, Salem Attas, Shammah al Bustaki, Danielle Gramby, Seb Eubanks, Aamtha, and Logan.


Present in this Episode:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Rooftop Rhythms Readers


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang

Episode 45: Lost In Space

Episode 45: Lost In Space

December 6, 2017

We were scattered to the winds, but focused on Erin Adair-Hodges’ “In Barstow” and “The Last Judgment.” Antics became part of the swing of things as everyone called in this week.

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

Episode 44: Fairy Dust Watches and John Bonham

November 2, 2017

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.

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



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Samantha Neugebauer

Joseph Kindt


Production Engineers:

Joe Zang

Matt Propp




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



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

Episode 43: Family Matters

October 12, 2017

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…

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 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  @; 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.



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Joseph Kindt


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang



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

Episode 42: Love Shack

September 27, 2017

This week 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…

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



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira




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—



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,



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—



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


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

Episode 41: The Bathrobisode

September 14, 2017

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…

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!



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman

Marion Wrenn

Samantha Neugebauer


Production Engineer:

Joe Zang



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    
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

Episode 40: Contemporary in Context

August 30, 2017

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…

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!


Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira






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

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

August 17, 2017

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)…

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!



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Marion Wrenn

Sharee DeVose

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Amber Ferreira



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


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


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

Episode 38: Of Flossing and Pottery Barn

July 25, 2017

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.’”

 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. 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. Later, she received 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. 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!



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller


Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald



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-

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?

Episode 37: Father’s Day?

July 10, 2017

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…

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!



Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang




Jessica Hudgins



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


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

Episode 36: A Giant’s Monologue

June 23, 2017

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…


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!


Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Tim Fitts

Jason Schneiderman

Samantha Neugebauer

Sharee DeVose


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang




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   

Episode 35: Viles, Vitality, and Virgules  

June 5, 2017

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….

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!


Present at the Editorial Table

Kathleen Volk Miller

Tim Fitts

Sharee DeVose

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang



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


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


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.

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