Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

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.

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