Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 30: Resonance and Rejection

March 22, 2017

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Always, always, read on!


Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit


Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald





Alexa Smith


hungover & strung

along by Fishtown hook-

ups, sighs cigarette-swirled

breath baiting the boys

outside the taqueria,

teal ombre dip-dye

willowing kewpie

cheeks in frizzy

rivulets, silver

nose ring catching

scratch-light from her

sunny zippo striking

for a quick suck of

smoke before she

clocks in & goes


mid-shift, mer-

server darts & dips

to dodge darts sailing gamely

thru the dinner rush, a salty dive's

Friday night sweat-swell stuffed to gills w/

oil-slick sardine pack sleazes, schools of bloated

blowfish bros, hip loud clowns doused in lager spouting

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

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

shot eyes & briny drinks & cheeks as rough as rusting

swords, fish w/ trashed & tattered past mystique

like in-theory-cheery boardwalks

turned gray & drizzly

in the rain

the crowd so many

fathoms deep, our intrepid

merkid gets weeded, yet she winnows

through – serves swift & swerves her

sway away from ocular octopi tracing

her tail, quiet guys whose eyes

snake after supple shapes

like groping sucking

hentai vines

she hides

& curls herself

into the side of kitchen

stairwell, coves herself in

cellar shadow - stowed, savors

time slowing as her tongue skirts

a salted rim, lime stinging dry

lips, midori mellowing edge

of eyeglass frames like

green bottle shards

worn smooth

by sea


Shabman Piryaei

I spy you on a rock at the edge

of a cliff. a tiny figure

hunched against heaven. the stupid

expanse of a building-less sky.

I fear dropping you because I can.

above you an angle of birds

know precisely how to navigate.

distance is like this.

leaving me excess space to play

with my weapons. I hum


beyond the provocation of your back.

strands of me dangle from my shirt unwilling

to be discarded. no god laughs

while slitting the throats of his children, I think.

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

in another expanse, clouds

convene over the raft of a survivor, lip-split

and issuing confessions.

here crickets have convened. shuddering

at the scrape of evening’s tongue

I lull

for your shadow to stand.

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