Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 25: Saved from Bon Joviism

January 11, 2017

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


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

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


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

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

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

Find her on LinkedIn, Medium, or Blackbird.



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

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


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

See Tim’s novel, The Soju Club, here.

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

Thank you for listening, and read on!


Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Miranda Reinberg


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang



Taylor Altman

How to Break Without Falling Apart

She trades in antiques

at the end of Adeline Street.

Her shop is like the inside of a dream,

with carpets and African masks

and rings and earrings

encased in glass

as though within a tide pool.

From the armoire of her mouth

all sorts of things come out

in the Kentish accent thirty years in California

hasn’t shaken—

what lives she has led,

what other people she has been,

how she learned to break

without falling apart.

A cool breeze comes

through the back door, from the alleyway,

and she says she works as a nurse for the elderly

to afford a new passport

with her maiden name,

and to fix her teeth,

small spans of darkness between gold.


Taylor Altman

Contra Mundum

Under the burnt-out tree

where the nightingale sings,

where a magpie made its nest


of wedding rings, the singed olive trees

that once bore waxy fruits,

where are you?


John Walker Lindh, now called Sulayman,

rocks back and forth,

reading his Quran


in Terra Haute.

The tile halls of the madrassa are empty,

the fountain stopped. Somewhere

you are just waking up, in some other city,

someone else’s skin. Our house

was filled with books, corners of pages


torn off for gum, small surface wounds

that bloomed like carnations.

Everything is


complicit. A bird goes up

the scale, notes like glass beads

crushed underfoot. It’s you and me


against the world. In the bazaar,

we passed the birds in cages,

seedcovered, shitcovered, the white bars


scratched to copper. Clocks going off

in every direction, faces faded

and filled with sand. You read the papers


every morning; the news was neither good

nor bad; you had been

in Srebrenica. IEDs exploded


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

was breathing blood. There was nothing

we could do for him,


his lungs expanding like balloons.

You proposed that night, gave me the ring

from the magpie’s nest,


then disappeared. So many nights

I watched you fight sleep. So many nights

you woke up drenched in sweat


as the imam’s cry flew over the rooftops

and minarets. You said, Lindh’s father

visits him in prison. He believes


in his innocence. I watched your hips

grow wider, the age spots appear

on the backs of your hands.


I painted and painted this fragment

of window. Finally,

the urgency of lovemaking


left us. But our names remain

on the lapels of your books, hybrids

of our names, Punnett squares.


Heather Sager


After staring down

those amphibious creatures,

their sad-mute eyes

dimly reflecting my own,

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


Into woods, ponds I’d chase,

collecting and admiring

tone of skin, angling of protuberances,

the feel of shifty, leggy treasures. Nearby,


Hard-shelled soldiers rose,

showing dilapidated orange mouths.


My father ran at me with a shovel,

once, to free a pinched limb—

I wiggled free, he tapped

the large shell.

Still, there I remained—

watching my parade,

sentient, croaking, green.



Play this podcast on Podbean App