Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Friday, December 4, 2015

December Featured Writer JK Durick


It’s not only a matter of stretch and claw

It’s balance and trust, a certainty of self

Of fellow climbers, hours of training, then

Strength and muscle memory, a sequence

Of moves, not looking, either up or down

Face front, facing the obstacle, reaching for

The next space to grab, an imperfection in

The rock face, slight flaws in its forbidding

Appearance, handhold, foothold, push off

Pull up, sometimes hours pass and progress

Seems minor at best, but the climbers keep

Climbing, the wind and the day’s weather

Keep it up, and if there are people watching

From the ground, they look up, shading their

Eyes with their hands, trying to get a glimpse

Quiet, till someone speaks, steals the silence

From watching, gets a laugh, a few concerned

Looks, then they’re back, gazing up, waiting

For the end, the expected triumph, the climbers

Arriving, standing in the sky, momentary heroes

 Or waiting for the end, the other end, the slip,

The sliding down, the dropping away of hope

Of effort; the true irony of climber and the climb

And the few watchers and all their watching is

That it could end either way.




                      Missing Teen

It’s easy to imagine them in the doorway staring at
her unmade bed, the clothes she left a mess, a few
dishes, a few books, the little she left them, her small
claim on their time and place — now the emptiness
they feel wondering what they might have done.



            “Train Strikes Two, Kills One”

One is dead already, and they didn’t name the other

That’s never a good sign for him or his family or both

But about once a year around here it happens like this

A couple of guys crossing a train trestle are caught

Mistimed, never planned for a freight train half way

Middle of the night, morning, or afternoon it’s the same

Train trestles don’t have sidewalks or any extra room

A place to step aside to watch the empty cars rattle by

Trains around here never move very fast, the tracks

And even these trestles need to be replaced, but nothing

Helps when the 4:15 arrives a little late, making up time

You see it, you stop for a moment, it’s hard to imagine

You can run, you can jump, but rivers around here are

Never deep enough for dropping to a cold miserable swim

Trains grow larger as they come at you, underneath you

The trestle shakes, sound alone is overpowering, you just

Adjust to what fate has done to you, so often in the past

The two of you have crossed, laughed about it, even

Tried to imagine this happening, never could, you’re sure

It couldn’t happen, but one of you is already dead, and

They still haven’t got around to naming the other one.



   Part of the Crowd



I’d like to lose my self

and blend into the crowd

so my cares and concerns

would become generalized,

part of the rush of people

going places beyond me

and the self I’ve become.


I’d become bland and bold,

one of those contented

strangers I see so often passing

in the street, a feature

of the moment, a temporary bit

of the motion  moving along

with the others, a background

figure who plays a prominent part

in the everyday of everyone.


I’d finally be grouped, a proper

piece of the mix, a piece of this puzzle,

one of the audience, a spectator,

an onlooker looking on.


I’d belong, I’d become some

of that permanent presence,

the rabble, the townspeople

who live forever behind

the central action of my day,

the sad play of my day, the play

I’m forced to play everyday,

but sometimes,  like now,

I’d like to lose my self and blend

into the crowd, become an adjective,

an adverb, or, at least, a normal noun.





Collected it, nickel and dimed it until

It grew into something big enough to


Calculate, big enough to take on

An identity of its own, almost living,


Breathing on its own, making demands.

Became worth watching and guarding,


Worrying and wondering over, like some

Careless child out on the town alone.


I tried hiding it, under the mattress first,

Then on the top shelf in the hall closet,


Finally, locked the doors, pulled the shades,

But, it began to haunt, a ghost dragging


Its chains, scratching the glass, whispering

About the pending loss of the irreplaceable.


Banked it in response, played the odds and

Imagined it growing, safely stashed away,


Someone else’s problem, on their books,

A balance they balance precariously,


While I go on unencumbered as I was before

I began my caring about trivial things, like that.



                                   The Closing

There isn’t much left; the day edges from its persistent grey

Into a dark, so dark, if we are to finish we will need to turn on

The lights and rouse ourselves. There isn’t really that much left

To do, but it needs its proper lighting and a steady hand to finish

After all, it’s the final task left to do and our day is almost done.







J.K. Durick

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Monday, April 20, 2015

April Featured Writer Karen Ann DeLuca

April Featured Writer Karen Ann DeLuca

C'mon Hillary

     Madison Avenue made "Main Street" montage rollout video,
But to champion the middle class, start to finish, you have to engage,
     Stiff salutation in conclusion won't cut it, C'mon Hillary,
Delete your "fun" deficit and let some personality out of that carefully crafted cage.

     Crossing the country, couture Chevy, full of mystery, but where's the magic?
Twenty-five minutes at Chipotle, unrecognized, beyond low key to no fuss,
     Mingling with the ordinary people means more than sitting sunglasses shielded among them, Hillary O!
Just craving a burrito? There's take out and drive thru. Missed opportunity. Is to use the bathroom why you bothered to get off the bus?

     Standing on the stump of sisterhood, concern for kids, fighting for families,
Sharing stories about your parents and growing up Methodist, that's great!
     But you're a Baby Boomer bride, put his hopes and dreams first and he cheated...
The Girls' Club of your generation - and probably others' - can easily relate.

     Talk about that gender issue, how you're "every woman," why "it's your turn now" is personal, on deciding to stay or to go,
Brains behind Bubba, worked while he played, you and Tammy Wynette aren't apart that far,

     The female vote's not a given, if you want it, no more "make up," no more masks, C'mon Hillary,
Come clean, let your hair down, and finally show US who you really are.

     Because fake Facebook friends don't turn out on Election Day,
Sky high on the scandalmeter, empathy and sympathy are the only way for you to go,
     Cashier, cook, cry about the conjugal "conversations" in lofty lingo...
...Mostly mum, won't connect you with how to help John and Jane Doe.

Karen Ann DeLuca

     Racism running rampant and casual on campuses,
Where sexual assaults have also come to the fore,
     All that whining about the high price of tuition,
Is this worth - and what - we're going five or six figures into hock for? 

     Or is it athletics...architecture...amenities...or alcohol?
Sheepskin status? Now that it's made to seem required that everyone have post secondary degrees,
     What happened to learning? True "A's?" The Education-Industrial Economic Complex...
...Has resulted in credentials for cash, locked in for life to consecutive, continuing fees. 

     With liberal arts on the decline; lipservice given to critical thinking,
And women's only colleges like Sweetbriar approaching their demise,
     Making schooling all about STIM; go into tech even if you have no passion or talent...when the job market saturates and changes...
...may result in a country uncompetitive and unhappy, not being well rounded is not wise. 

     As high school seniors receive their acceptance letters and contemplate...
...Their Fall homes and compare offers of financial aid,
     Look at your parents, Baby Boomers guilted into the "certain" careers of their generation,
Lest history repeat itself, life and work's about more than a means for bills to be paid.

Karen Ann DeLuca

     Bill Clinton, the first Black President,
During his tenure we got "Three Strikes,"
     Opening the door for the burgeoning Prison-Industrial Complex,
With African Americans receiving a disproportionate number of "likes."

     He also oversaw NATO expansion,
Gobbling up former Warsaw Pact members for the organization's lunch,
     Breaking promises made when the Cold War ended; butting in nonmembers' business,
All putting Putin's panties now in a bunch.

     Have we forgotten he failed to "take out" Osama?
Setting up 9/11 and one excuse for his wife to vote for the Iraq War,
     Kissing his fiscally responsible handling of the deficit and debt good-bye,
All because the Lewinsky affair strained his relationship with Al Gore!

     And then there's the repeal of Glass Steagall,
The grassroots of the Great Recession of 2008,
     "Lucky" seven years later, stocks soaring, bubbles blowing...
...with a leader wedded to Wall Street, literally and 2016, the same fate?

     Not last and not least, NAFTA, that "giant sucking sound,"
Prophetically forewarned Ross Perot in a 1992 debate,
     The template for future trade agreements, foreign policy that signed, sealed, and delivered...
...the middle class' current "everyday" low or no wage "job" fate.

     Why in the world with many of today's problems stemming from the policies of his Administration,
Would Americans elect Hillary and get Slick Willie back in the "twofer" deal?
     It takes a Clinton to finally clean up after one?
Knowing where the bodies are buried not enough to stamp "that woman" with the Presidential Seal!

     Yes, he's the most popular recent "ex,"
But how many Americans know or have examined HIStory?
     Hillary's vision? Wanting to be the first woman to break the Oval Office glass ceiling?
But what the US needs is first and foremost the key.

     Can she feel all our pain? Standing on the sisterhood stump, corporate champion clothed in the color of money,
How can we trust if she doesn't? Paranoia pinned to her pantsuit, everywhere and everyone a political foe,
     Chafing under decades' long chains...secret server scrub opera......just the tip of the iceberg, inevitable...
...continuing drama when the country needs calm...the best reason why "Ready for Hillary," NO!

Karen Ann DeLuca


     "Race forward," spoke Starbucks, but were their now back to bantering baristas...
...going to get training - and a raise - to talk to customers about this highly charged topic?
     At corporate, were the cubicles and corridors humming with deep discussion?
Was the company genuinely concerned - or was this a contrived marketing gimmick?

     Because in the case of most of their locations, the slogan was "preaching to the choir,"
Few are in low income and/or racial and ethnic "conflict zones,"
     The moneyed have morphed from donating to conspicuous "feel good" consumption...was this thought to be the next logical leap of faith?
Broaching a subject so hot where it is needed most could have gotten a barista broken bones!


     Ever tried to "reason" with an addict in search of a fix?
How many times have you heard "don't talk to me before I've had my morning cup?"
     And there's everyday etiquette - avoid politics and religion in civil conversation with relative strangers,
Pretentious ploy! Planned for a year, pulled after a the consumer finally starting to get fed up?

     Craft caffeine...logo lust...discriminating drinks...a church on every corner,
Hasn't Howard Schultz already thrust enough of his vision for the world upon US?
     Wake up! Smell the coffee! Exercise freedom of association, "come together" in protest,
Choose not to be continued to be chained to basic brew being relegated to the back of the bus!

Karen Ann DeLuca

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

February 2015 Featured Writer Donal Mahoney

Going Bananas


One of many problems Marjorie has had in life is poor banana management. She has always purchased too many bananas and half of them rot on her kitchen table before she can eat them. Only fruit flies in summer prompt her to throw the rotten ones out. But since she hates to throw anything away, there are bananas, in different places, all over the house. 


This is not the kind of problem a renowned artist like Marjorie should have. Not only are her paintings on display at major modern art museums but she also holds a doctorate with high honors in philosophy from Yale. She is an accomplished woman, still attractive despite the passing years, the kind of woman a distinguished widower might turn to for companionship after a graceful mourning period had been observed. 


Banana management, however, is not Marjorie's only problem in the real world, as she calls life outside her studio and classroom. Marjorie also has a problem putting gas in her car. Putting the hose in the tank evokes thoughts of rape, even though she herself has never come close to being raped.


After many years Marjorie knows certain things are too much for her. Banana management and filling gas tanks are but a few of the many things she fears. These things, however, continue to grow in number and threaten her mental and emotional balance in a serious way. 


She knows she needs professional help but has yet to pick a therapist to consult. In a small university town, everyone knows everyone. Marjorie is a respected woman as indeed she deserves to be. No one, except for me, has any notion of her problem.


I know about the problem because she explained it to me at great length one day in the break room. We have been teaching at the same small but prestigious university for many years. Although in different disciplines, we know something about each other's work and often talk about our experiences, both good and bad. 


As a zoologist, I work with hamsters, and for the last decade that work has been rewarding but at the same time very frustrating and I have shared my frustrations with Marjorie many times. She is a good listener.


She knows that hamsters do well on a treadmill but otherwise there's no predicting what they may do. And there's no shortage of them, either, in my laboratory. I have cages and cages of them. They reproduce almost as fast as the rabbits I worked with in preparing my dissertation. 


I am no longer involved with rabbits, however, since losing my position at another university when an animal shelter came to my laboratory and took my rabbits away. Hamsters have been the focus of my research since finishing my doctorate. So far no one has called an animal shelter to check on my hamsters but the cost of food alone is killing me. 


With regard to Marjorie, however, I suppose one reason she took me into her confidence is that decades ago we had courted and even talked of marriage. No wedding came to pass, however. Marjorie never married and I married someone else a few years later. Marjorie didn't seem to mind.


I listened carefully to everything Marjorie had to say that day in the break room. I knew about her banana management problem but her gas tank situation was new to me. After bringing her up to date on my hamster research, I thought it might help if I told Marjorie that Pablo Picasso once said "there is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."


I suggested to Marjorie that Picasso's idea, properly applied, might help her adjust to things in the real world. I suggested that she reverse his approach and deal with things first in the abstract--as a philosopher to get to the essence of things that bother her. And then as an artist she might commit those same things to canvas in a way she would not find intimidating. The process might help her, I said, come to grips with things as they are and not as she now found them to be. Perhaps she could remove the terror involved in throwing out rotten bananas. 


For example, she might start with green bananas, first in the abstract and then on canvas, and then graduate to bananas rotting on her kitchen table. I did not tell her, however, that decades ago when we were talking about marriage the reason I backed out was her ineptitude in banana management. Dinner at her house was intolerable immersed as I found myself in the stench of bananas in various stages of decay. 


I did not tell her either that the woman I married has never once in 40 years let a banana rot in our home. I had told my wife-to-be before we got married that if she wanted to buy bananas, good for her, but not to expect me to provide any help in eating them. I also told her that if I ever saw a banana rotting anywhere in our house I would leave her for another woman, one with no history of eating bananas.


I have had a wonderful marriage. This underscores for me the importance of good banana management in any marriage. Of course, from my point of view, the best banana management is no bananas.


After our talk in the break room, I told Marjorie that if I could be of any help in the future in resolving her difficulties not to hesitate to call on me. After all, she once adopted several of my older hamsters and gave them a home even though I told her they had no history of eating bananas. 


I simply wanted to return the favor and listen to whatever else Marjorie might want to say. After all we have been through together, I might have some insight, however serendipitous, into the problems she is living with on a daily basis. I was there at the start, I reminded her, when the bananas first became a problem.


Marjorie thanked me for my kindness in listening and then asked if I could give her a lift home. She had run out of gas. Her car would be fine in the faculty parking lot, she said, and she would call the auto club tomorrow to bring another can of gas. 


In the meantime, she said it might be nice to make a big bowl of banana pudding. She admitted she always has a taste for banana pudding but usually forgets to make it in time. I said that might be a good idea but politely declined her kind offer to make an extra bowl for me.


Donal Mahoney


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Friday, January 30, 2015

Stefanie Bennett January 2015 Featured Writer

THE CHOSEN    [Stefanie Bennett]



I write for the boy,

The one with grey eyes

And future not ascertained -

Whose blood I bore

Two generations back.


And... in retrospect,

I share tomorrow

Through multiples of his dilemma;

Adding and subtracting

So the two become one.


What legacy, in truth,

May I leave

Other than the engineering

Of sound-wordings?

The portfolio of metric kisses?


Yet, there is another seal

Of caring that goes beyond

The zone of kindred kind

- Below the surging

Plasmic spread


... A concept. Natural as

The day of birthing.

Untouched. Intimate

As the night-sky’s arrangement

With its cameo of powers.


This pre-recorded entity,

This invisible

Seconding I give

To the boy; the one

With the auspicious grey eyes.


VERSO for Elizabeth Perkins [Stefanie Bennett]



Where does this gentleness come from -

Rain-drops on an iron roof,

The orange glow of an open fire,

The dog dreaming in the afternoon?


An old scrapbook bordered

With age... and full of living.

A transistor tuned to the ‘Silk Road’

                          - And Pasternak’s first stanza

Of the black spring burning.


Where does this gentleness come from -

That I should serve the world

As it serves me

In this cottage worn with caring...


I sit down with the affairs of nations

Great and small -

The prodigal daughter

Probing the metaphysical realms.


There is no sharpness of speech,

Just the soft swish

Of thought

Patiently transcribed to paper.


Protected from the outside storm

And the lion’s roar

Of a man-made winter -

Black snow melts at my feet.


The door opens (I feel the draft!)

Closes again. Zhivago

Has entered like

A lost friend... drawn


To this most gentle and tender light.

COVER ART        [Stefanie Bennett]



To live in the ‘crimson age’ –,

The decline

Of the albatross –,

And the mark

Of a poet scorned

Is heady stuff

                    - Along

With watching

The sky’s

Serial dragnet



The tired oceans

... Dry.


FOREST VICTIMS   [Stefanie Bennett]


  ‘Nothing exists but time & distance’

  (Michael Dransfield)



Few find their way here. Not so

The disaffiliated

Hermit with the green


And odes to spare.


Family histories, fabricated within

That cardboard cottage

Sound disturbingly like

My own spring lambs:


Cousins on the rebound.


I take from you, Schubert’s ghost

Narrative and seasons

As worn as

Coins flaking

Proprietary’s spent purse.


Mythically... the chasms

Of my clouded house

Swing wide

On this

Encrusted hinge.


Welcome! If I am your

True Mother, pity me...

IMPETUOUS COUSIN for Kenneth    [Stefanie Bennett]



Naturally his leaving grieves me.

The .38 calibre colt

Still pinioned

To the left-hand

Trigger finger

                  On the outskirts

Of Connecticut’s heartland

                  Is a sombre warning.


Never preach tribal sovereignty

In the first instance

- In the past


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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Winter 2014 Featured Writer Gary Beck

Harsh Days

Before we built cities

there wasn’t time for the arts,

a few dabblers in caves

though criticism doesn’t survive,

animistic figures

an illusionary attempt

to control the forces of nature,

energies mostly spent



warring on other tribes,

the few dreamers

carefully guarding thoughts

or quickly dispensed with,

an unnecessary distraction

in the daily trek.

Gary Beck




I sit on the sun deck

of my mega-yacht,

champagne glass in hand,

an excellent vintage,

as I await my guests.

Today is writers and artist’s day.

My trophy wife

enjoys dabbling in the arts,

so I really don’t have to bother,

just nod politely

once in a while,

smile pleasantly

once in a while,

not let them distract me

from market calculations,

and glances of envy

at the only yacht

in the marina

bigger than mine.

Gary Beck



Illicit Proceedings

I the abandoned

did not know my mom,

she who left me in a garbage can

discarded trash

accidently recovered

by a chance passerby,

my feeble, fading cries

the last call for life

paused him

summoned him

salvaging me


to squalid existence

doomed from conception,

arbitrarily condemned

without appeal.

Gary Beck



A rural youth

lived on the farm,

took the schoolbus

until he was old enough

to leave home

for the big city.

It took a while

for him to adapt,

used to small town ways

where everything stayed the same

year in, year out,

unlike the compressed city,

new buildings going up

day in, day out,

old haunts disappearing,

remembered for a moment

then erased by time

in the urban rush

hastening tomorrow,

always changing

at least for newcomers

and the vulnerable,

while the sturdy rich

come and go,

always find

secure locales.


Gary Beck



We do not trudge

barefoot through the streets

blood hallowing the ground,

even the poorest have shoes

and when winter comes

most of us have coats,

except the homeless,

the dispossessed,

cast out of our society

as tainted as lepers of old,

not as threatening,

merely a gaping wound

on the body public

outcasts of despair

some dysfunctional

no fault of their own,

fire, loss of job, illness,

suddenly cast adrift

no welcoming shore

providing refuge

from a sea of affliction

eroding the will to survive,

devastating the young

unable to comprehend

what they have done

to deserve punishment,

their search for identity


in the daily struggle

to endure the horrors

of the homeless system,

visions of tomorrows shattered

only the strong continue,

crime or sports

the only salvation.

Gary Beck



Treacherous Path

In the 1950’s

the average American

was somewhere between

blue collar class

and middle class,

economic factors

determining status.



poverty was ignored

since most Americans,

at least those who counted,

were white,

and they assumed

poverty was ethnic.


There seemed to be

unawareness of other groups,

except the rich or famous,

envied by those below,

encouraged to dream

by the ruling powers

to aspire above their station

desiring economic gain

to buy more, live better,

prosperity the goal,

odds better than the lottery

for advancement.


Then television entered our homes

accompanied by advertising

promoting wondrous goods

denied previous generations,

now available

by working a little longer,

spending a little more

to acquire fulfillment

that acquisition promised.


This unaccustomed luxury

confused the people

who yearned for more and more.

And their children were neglected

for material comforts

and turned for consolation

to nurturing television.


Then the children of abundance

turned away from their parents

who were perceived

as wallowing in indulgences

that neither enlightened

nor satisfied.


So the children of the parents

absorbed in consuming

joined the Peace Corps,

lured into foreign service

scorning service at home.

Some righteous youngsters

worked for civil rights for Negroes,

a cause dismissed by sated parents

who dismissed the noble efforts

of their moral children

in the struggle for equality.


Then angrier youth

protested the Vietnam War

opposed to an immoral action

against helpless Asian peasants,

most without a concept

of international relations,

Cold War complications,

even geography.

Most youth didn’t know

where Vietnam was.


Led by an honest few,

misled by self-servers,

ignorant, ill-educated youth

abrogated to themselves

the making of foreign policy,

a task beyond their comprehension.


The uprising of disillusioned youth

shattered middle-class sensibilities,

for suddenly children knew best,

except for offspring of the rich,

sheltered, protected, nurtured

to continue the dominance

of the ruling elite

only concerned with their well-being.


The rest of the people

were only fit to serve,

easily dispensed with

when no longer useful,

while the rich consumed

the bounty of the earth

unconcerned with destruction

of air, water, land,

survival of the masses,

as long as they can feast

at the tables of plenty,

while those of us who care

are helpless to prevent the fall.

Gary Beck

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Featured Writer Summer 2014 Donal Mahoney

Why Did You Write That? 


Anyone who has written fiction or poetry probably has been asked at one time or another, "Why did you write that?" I've been asked that question and I have never been able to provide an answer.

Some writers may set out to write a poem that will address an important question about life, such as who we are as human beings and what purpose, if any, we have on Earth. I have never tried to write a poem like that. Nor have I ever written a poem knowing in advance what it might say. I just write down "words" that come to me, provided I like the way they sound and like their "rhythm" when heard together. 

I might be sitting in a diner or in my living room and "hear" a few words that sound as though they belong together and so I jot them down, often on a napkin or scrap paper. Maybe an hour or a week later, those same few words will "give birth" to a few more words that seem to fit with their "parents" so I add them to the scrap paper.  When I have enough words, I make my first conscious decision to do something with them. I add verbs or nouns and whatever else is needed to add structure. Eventually I have sentences which I then break into lines, according to sound and inflection. End breaks are important to me. Next I try to determine what the poem, if anything, is trying to say. And that's not always easy. 

I have never been impressed with adjectives and adverbs. I like concrete nouns and strong verbs that drive those nouns wherever they need to go. Sometimes they never go anywhere. Sometimes they "sleep" for a long time, technically alive, but not developing into anything. It's as if they were an ovum needing semen to become an embryo. But no matter how long a group of words may lie dormant, I never abort them because some day I may know what to do with them and they might develop into a poem. 

By themselves words exist "in potency." In the right poem, they exist "in act." Big transition, all for the better.

Once my "heard" words are in sentences, I try to arrange them in the first draft of a poem. The sound of words bumping into each other, one after the other, is paramount for me. At its best, the sound would be lyrical but it doesn't have to be as long as there is a "rhythm" of some kind that I can hear. I have no interest in the "meaning" of a poem in gestation, although I hope to discover meaning when the poem is finished or almost finished. Sometimes, however, I have to inject "meaning" so I can finish the poem and not lose the words that prompted me to write the piece in the first place. 

When I come back to a first draft of my "heard" words, I always find the text needs surgery. So I begin to search for whatever message might lie in those early lines. If I find I actually said something meaningful, I'm not surprised. Over the years, I've sensed a process in which a poem bubbles up in my subconscious and then slowly takes shape in my mind. Part of this process I direct, and part of it just happens. 

For once, I'd like to write a poem on purpose about an idea, major or minor. I'd like to know the point I want to make in a poem before I start making it. But I don't ever recall writing a poem with a purpose in mind. I started writing poems around 1960 and now it's 2012, and the way I work hasn't changed: I "hear" a few words while doing something else and their arrival always surprises me. They're like a gopher popping out of a hole. If I were a painter or photographer, I would paint or photograph the gopher. That strikes me as far less laborious than jotting down "first words" on scrap paper in the hope they will eventually mature into a poem. 

It's amazing to me, for example, how one of my earliest poems, "In Break Formation," which appears below, ever got written, never mind accepted and published by The Beloit Poetry Journal in 1968. The panic attack that occurs in the poem actually happened to a woman in a kitchen while I was with her. At the time, neither the woman nor I knew she was having a panic attack because nothing bad had happened and neither of us had ever heard of a panic attack. Every other detail in the poem, however, I had to fabricate over time to make the poem come together and "work." To accomplish this I used the three words I "heard" at the start--"in break formation"--and the image from an old World War II movie that I "saw"--namely, planes in the sky diving in a diagonal line, one right after the other, toward a target somewhere below. 

Any poem I write I write to satisfy me--not anyone else. If I'm lucky, an editor will publish the poem, and that's wonderful. If a reader or two likes the poem, that's a bonus. But I write only for myself, to satisfy my own ear, to "finish" a given poem so I don't have to think about it anymore. However, six months after the poem is published, if I read it again, I'm apt to find something "wrong" with it. And so I begin tinkering with the "finished" text to eliminate the flaw. Sometimes I can make the fix. But sometimes my efforts result in a new and different poem. It was Dylan Thomas, I think, who said that a poem is never finished, only abandoned. For me, Mr. Thomas was right. 

Completing a poem has always been more important to me than saying something important. Maybe it's like making a vase on a potter's wheel without concern as to what the vase might be used for. I admit to this now because I hope one day to be able to answer the well-intentioned person who might ask me how or why I wrote a certain poem. Not long ago I saw Philip Levine, former U.S. poet laureate, on public television. The interviewer asked him if he knew where his poems "came from." Mr. Levine looked embarrassed and finally said he had no idea where his poems "came from." I share his ignorance, in the best sense of that word. If I knew where poems came from, I would go there with a big suitcase or maybe just a laptop. 

I don't understand how or why my way of writing a poem works for me but I would like to know if anyone else writing poetry works in a similar fashion. I'd also like to hear from any poet who knows what he or she will write before starting a poem or what the ending will be before the first line is written. For me, that would be like knowing from the moment of conception the gender and personality of a child I had fathered. Some day technology in obstetrics may make that possible. But I don't think technology will ever explain in advance the DNA of a poem. 

In Break Formation

The indications used to come

like movie fighter planes in break

formation, one by one, the perfect

plummet, down and out. This time they’re

slower. But after supper, when I hear her 

in the kitchen hum again, hum higher, 

higher, till my ears are numb, 

I remember how it was

the last time: how she hummed

to Aramaic peaks, flung

supper plates across the kitchen

till I brought her by the shoulders

humming to the chair.

I remember how the final days

her eyelids, operating on their own,

rose and fell, how she strolled

among the children, winding tractors,

hugging dolls, how finally

I phoned and had them come again, 

how I walked behind them

as they took her by the shoulders,

house dress in the breeze, slowly

down the walk and to the curbing,

how I watched them bend her 

in the back seat of the squad again,

how I watched them pull away

and heard again the parliament

of neighbors talking.


Donal  Mahoney


"In Break Formation" was first published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Vol. 19 No. 2, Winter 1968-69, Box 151, Farmington, ME 04938.

Love and Slaughter


Sheep are by a goat while

cattle are like swine, prodded, yet

cattle go by hammer while

swine are by the hind leg hung

then swung about to spigot.

Quicker, infinitely cleaner, is

the hacksaw of sweet Susan's laughter.



Donal Mahoney


Love Is Another Thing

Sitting at the table

spinning the creamer

running her fingers through sugar

the kids spilled at supper, Sue

suddenly says, “Don,

love is another thing.”

Since love is another thing

I have to go rent a room,

leave behind eight years,

five kids, the echoes of me

raging at noon on the phone,

raging at night, the mist

of whose fallout ate her skin,

ate her bones, left her a kitten

crying high in an oak

let me free, let me free


Donal Mahoney


In Break Formation

The indications used to come

like movie fighter planes in break

formation, one by one, the perfect

plummet, down and out. This time they’re

slower. But after supper, when I hear her 

in the kitchen hum again, hum higher, 

higher, till my ears are numb, 

I remember how it was

the last time: how she hummed

to Aramaic peaks, flung

supper plates across the kitchen

till I brought her by the shoulders

humming to the chair.

I remember how the final days

her eyelids, operating on their own,

rose and fell, how she strolled

among the children, winding tractors,

hugging dolls, how finally

I phoned and had them come again, 

how I walked behind them

as they took her by the shoulders,

house dress in the breeze, slowly

down the walk and to the curbing,

how I watched them bend her 

in the back seat of the squad again,

how I watched them pull away

and heard again the parliament

of neighbors talking.


Donal  Mahoney



Let Her Bloom

The first time a man meets her,

his lids flicker,

an appropriate reaction.

The first time a woman meets her,

her eyes pop out and coil on her forehead,

another appropriate reaction.

Who can blame either?

Today, who buys the canard

about the true, the good, the beautiful

in theory or in a woman?

Let them watch her as I did.

Let them frisk her for flaws

that will allow them to live

as they are, as they were,

as I was when I met her.

Till then, let her bloom

with my children

while I wonder, I try.

Donal Mahoney


Last Irish Christening

We christened Megan

Catholic today

just as we had,

years ago, Sean and Nora.

Afterward my wife and I,

with relatives and friends,

talked and joked as Megan slept

through drinks and barbecue

Father fixed behind the phlox

in Mother’s garden.

That was Sunday.

Now, on Monday,

Sue and I begin

another week of work

and all the years

we’ll have to wait

before we’ll know

if Megan swings

the razor of good reason.

We need to know

because of Sean and Nora.

They slew us

at the age of treason.

Donal Mahoney



Gift from the Daughter Who Disappeared


Your package arrived last night. 

When my wife brought it in, I said, 

"Make certain it's not ticking."

It wasn't, so she opened it. 

I grabbed the wedding pictures

without reading your letter


and saw you and your groom

graciously attired except for

the flannel pajama bottoms.

"My God," I yelled, "they had 

a Hare Krishna wedding!"

Not that there's anything

wrong with that.


My wife said your letter explains 

why you wore pajama bottoms 

over your wedding outfits--

to stay warm on a wintry day.

I should have guessed. 


The package arrived late

so I felt it unfair to read your letter

when I wasn't at my best.

After all these years,  

one more day in absentia 

shouldn't be held against me.


Your letter looks long, ominous.

I would expect nothing less. 

I asked my wife to read it 

to see if any land mines lurk.

She said she saw none

but she wasn't at our Nagasaki 

so she might have missed 

some deft allusions. 


I'm more careful these days

guarding the remnants.

On dark Tuesday mornings, 

when I wheel the garbage cans out,

I make certain your brother isn't 

on horseback at the curb,

scabbard unbuckled, 

primed for another debate.

You were both so young.

He was a tyke who suffered 

the fallout, not the conflagration.


You look good in the photos;

your new husband as well. 

The priest looks the way 

priests used to look.

He'd be good in old movies 

standing in for Spencer or Bing.


You're a beautiful lady

as the pictures make clear. 

Always were, always will be.

Please know it's difficult 

after all these years to dodge 

bombs of memory dropped 

by what happened

and what never will be.


I promise to get back to you

about all that you've sent

and all that I haven't.

Some day we must

catalogue everything

in case a genealogist 

is born into the family 

generations hence

and wants to know 

what we know.


Till then, much love.

Give my best to the groom.

Tell him pajamas at his wedding 

are only the beginning.

A monocle or pince-nez is next.

Donal Mahoney

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March 2011 Featured Writer Terry Foote

Uncle Dad, by Terry Foote

Father and daughter, an interesting bond,
I’m dark haired, she turned out blond.
She was so little, loving and adoring,
And I turned out to be wrong and boring.

Grade school years were cool, I got respect,
Then suddenly a switch, what did I expect.
Where’s the owner’s manual for this kind of behavior,
When she only believes in mom and her savior.

That’s what I am, Uncle Dad,
Never knew fatherhood could be so sad.
I try and try and I hope for the best,
It’s never enough, I fail the test.

I don’t talk with mother, I’m not living there,
It’s mom and her and Jethro, what a scare.
How much can I mean to her with just the weekend drill,
It’s bitter to swallow that Uncle Dad pill.

When she gets older, she’ll come around,
She’ll understand my heartache, hear my agonizing sound.
Can I ever make up the distance,
Can I ever heal the resistance.

That’s what I am, Uncle Dad,
Never knew fatherhood could be so sad.
I try and try and I hope for the best,
It’s never enough, I fail the test.

I have so much to offer, so much to give,
Wasted on indifference, this I must forgive.
Watching dads and pig-tailed girls together in the park,
I wonder if they always will keep that spark.

Living across the country, e-mail keeps us in touch,
What a replacement for the human touch.
When I’m old and tired and the candle’s almost out,
Will she be there for me…oh yeah, without a doubt.

That’s what I am, Uncle Dad,
Never knew fatherhood could be so sad.
I try and try and I hope for the best,
Maybe in the end I’ll pass the test.

Eagle, Globe and Anchor
by Terry Foote

“Eagle, globe and anchor”
Said the part that remained sane

The part that remained sane said
“We’re not the ones to blame”

The blameless said
“It’s not my duty to complain”

Not complaining he said
“Only the trapped and traumatized remain”

The trapped and traumatized said
“We were betrayed and disillusioned we became”

The betrayed and disillusioned said
“With courage we battled without shame”

The shameless said
“Through the haze of horror we became tame”

The tamed said
“And we realized that we were really all the same”

by Terry Foote

When you think
Is it penetrating?

When you feel
Is it passionate?

When you act
Is it purposeful?

by Terry Foote

What do you do when you have
compromised the values you once stood for?

How do you seek forgiveness
for the unforgivable?

Where does redemption come from?

Scars leave marks that never go away
Words create memories that are never erased.

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Winter 2010 Featured Writer Dusty Wilson

Fortnight of the Living Dead
By Dusty Wilson
© 2008 United States of America

Black. The blaring screech of the emergency broadcast system.

Ladies and Gentlemen…reports have been streaming into our office from our affiliates in New York and Los Angeles that…authorities are releasing reports of what is being described as an unknown pathogen. The infection has been causing inanimate bodies to…to return to life. Citizens are ordered to remain in their houses-

Lights up on a college apartment living room. DEACON BECKETT, CRAIG WILKIE, and TAYLOR McGRAW rush on stage, cheering, ecstatic.

Alright boys, it’s zombie apocalypse time. Deacon, you’re in charge of-

Food, necessities, snagging something good and proper for our multitude of victory celebrations.

And Taylor, you’re getting?


Good. What particularly?

Wooden stakes-


Right through the heart, bitches.

That’s vampires.

You could stab a zombie through the heart.
Wouldn’t kill it.

Seems like it would.

It really does.

We need bullets-

Wooden bullets.

Still vampires and wouldn’t work.

Silver bullets.


Yellow bullets.

That’s Green Lantern. Look, just regular effing bullets.


Now, we don’t have much time, so make it count. The whole of Northern Kentucky University is counting on us to ensure their safety. Meet back here in no less than one hour. Understand?



Godspeed gentlemen.

Lights dim down, back up. Taylor and Deacon sit next to an aged radio. Craig paces with the restlessness and annoyance of a caged lion. A shotgun rests on his shoulder. Craig often checks outside for anything and everything. The radio announcer’s voice crackles panic and static.

-fourteen days of non-stop horror ladies and gentlemen. It’s the only true way to describe the atmosphere of the surrounding city. As you can hear faintly in the background, our station is surrounded by the living dead. Rumors swirl of impendent military rescue, but the odds of such are becoming less and less as we speak. News reports from our sister stations in New York and Los Angeles are nothing but grim. This reporter believes, without hyperbole, that these may truly be his last words. I believe it was the great journalist Walter Cronkite who said-

Taylor turns off the radio.

Any sign of them yet, dude?

No, none so far.

This is the worst zombie apocalypse ever.

Two whole weeks. Two weeks of ‘New York is full of zombies, the end is nigh!’ and we haven’t seen one freaking zombie.

It’s just a matter of time.

If they even show up at all.

They will.

How are you so sure?
Yeah, dude. Article needs footnotes, Captain Wikipedia.

You heard the radio. It’s just a matter of time.

The radio’s full of shit. How do we even know if this isn’t some over extended War of the Worlds type situation. We’re all just being Punk’d or some other asinine modified verb of punishment.

Wait, wait…holy shit I see one!

Deacon and Taylor rush to the window.

You better not be kidding.

No fucking way.

Craig grabs a weapon.

Hey! I know that zombie chick!


It’s Michelle Quincy, dude.

Craig returns to the window.

Yeah, I guess it is her.

Fucking damn it!

I swear I’ve had the biggest crush on her.

Tell me about it. Such a fucking shame.
Well, this is what we’ve been preparing for guys. Lock and load, bitches.

Taylor and Deacon stay transfixed at the window.

Yeah, dude.


Come on, guys, let’s go.

Is it just me, or is she still smoking hot?

Thank God it’s not just me.

I know! I mean, it doesn’t count as necrophilia, right?

I mean, it feels like necrophilia, but on the other hand, she is fully mobile. Maybe its psudo-necromobilphilia. Either way the name is far too long for anyone to judge you for it. Besides, it’s like she’s got this ultra hardcore goth thing going.

She’s a zombie fellas. Nothing more. Now let’s get down there before she bites someone.

Do all three of us really need to go kill her?


Exactly! I mean, I’m sure one of us could get the job done fairly quick.

No, we need to stay together-
Rock, paper, scissors.

It’s on!

Taylor and Deacon throw down. Taylor wins. Taylor rushes out the door. Craig picks up a bat and walks to the door. Taylor re-enters and takes the bat. Taylor leaves.

Man she’s stealthy.

What do you mean?

She’s gone. Vanished.

That’s impossible.

Well it seems to be pretty unimpossible.

Short pause. Craig returns to the window.

Fucking weird.

Taylor re-enters. A bite surrounds his mouth and blood drips down his chin.

Hey dudes!

Deacon and Craig turn around.

What the hell, man?

What has two thumbs and just got to first effing base with Michelle Quincy?

Taylor points to himself with one thumb and one bloody stump of a thumb.

This guy.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Hi effing five!

Deacon and Taylor high five, hardcore. Craig points a gun at Taylor.

Come on, high five Craig that’s a gun.

I’m sorry, buddy.

What the hell, man? I make out with my dream girl and all of a sudden you’re just gonna cap me?

She bit you!

And it was awesome. I’d still be down there now, but she was getting all clingy and shit. And, you know, a man needs his space.

I have to do this, Taylor. It’s the only option.

So…she’s still technically alive?

Deacon runs out of the room.

Thank you, Deac.

This is all sorts of bullshit, dude.

She’s a zombie, Taylor.

So? So what if she’s a Zombie-American. Does that make her any less of a person?


Fucking zombist.

Deacon re-enters, blood gushing from his neck. He is smiling like crazy.

Oh my God.

What the hell, man?

Got some bad news for you, Taylor.

You son of a bitch!

Hey, she started it.

Bullshit! My sweet rabid dove would never do that!

I think this speaks otherwise, bitch.

Deacon removes his hand, blood gushes out. Craig backs away to the door.

I’m gonna fuck you up!

Bring it, asshole.

You’re insane.

TAYLOR (To Craig)
And you’re delicious.



Now that you mention it-

Stay back.

Especially around the…the…what’s the word?


Brains, yeah. Right in the brains area.

Deacon and Taylor advance on Craig and grab him before he can shoot.


Hold still, dude.

Yeah, don’t be a douche about this.
Craig tries to fight them off. They struggle until MICHELLE QUINCY, a sophomore zombie, enters.

What the hell are you doing?

Taylor and Deacon stop and turn.

It’s not what it looks like, babe.

He’s just a friend.

Both of you, get away from him.

Taylor and Deacon sulk away from a terrified Craig.

You can talk?

Well, yes.

Michelle walks slowly to Craig.

Zombies can’t talk. They-

Craig, you have a lot to learn. You all have a lot to learn. Taylor…Deacon…Craig is your friend. You all play ultimate Frisbee for God sake. Ultimate frisbee. That is a sacred bond. And Craig, of all people I never expected you to be an ignorant zombist.

I’m not a zombist. Some of my best friends are zombies.

You have a long way to go, Craig. And…and I really thought we could be something.

I…really? You and…I can change though, Michelle. I promise.

Short pause.

I suppose…there may just be hope for you yet Craig Wilkie.

Michelle smiles and Craig smiles shyly.

I just hope you know…I’d only be dating you for your brain.

They all smile and laugh in 1980s sitcom style. Michelle attacks Craig. Taylor and Deacon keep laughing. Lights out.

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Blueprint to Heaven
Summer's sweet sun weeps at the passing of winter.
Lining the funeral pyre with the tang
of citrus rays.
The days are growing longer
and the night warmer
and this is the best light to
frame your face because
your eyes are just a little stronger
and your jaw line just a little softer
and my eyes become a little smarter,
to realize that I'm looking at perfection.

You are a canvas with a heart beat.
Living...breathing beauty
with cheeks so soft
that even God is amazed
at the dimensions of
his blue print to heaven.

Summer smiles because it knows that
its full beauty is realized in you.
Blue, has never felt so deep
as when you look at me.
Your eyes hold a truth that kisses my face
every time you look my way.

And when you cry
I would drink winters tears
to have the sun come out again.
To see your cheeks dry
and your smile rise
over the horizon
would be worth all of the stars in the sky.

Pennies on the Dollar
In this day and age
it's all the rage
to publish ones life
on societies pages.
We can order food..
with such ignorant precision...

I'll take a number 2,
a nice slice of television bride
with a side of Jesus...
'cause he can reach us through
the tube...
no need to kneel in pews
when you can enjoy
redemption and forgiveness
from the comfort of your lazyboy.
God comes in the mail with the rest of your toys.

Forgiveness for pennies on the dollar
while the mind is allowed to wander.
Press 1 for happiness delivered right to your door,
no assembly required
because we don't have to think anymore.
Prayer has been retired
and replaced with the almighty credit card.

Channel five at nine, all love all the time.
Tune in soon, will she say I do?
If not, will he move on to option number 2?
What will the Bachelor do?
why take a chance on love and dive in
yourself when you can thrive off of
the actions of everyone else.
Who needs light in their lives
when they have a night light?
Just 9.95, for a limited time,
only the lonely need apply.

So many channels, so many options
and we've never had to move... not once.
We are married to convenience,
this life is genius.
Skin on skin contact is a thing of
the past.
Just sit back and relax,
as long as you have enough cash,
you'll be on the fast track to finishing last
because when the last of the cash is gone,
and we are all alone,
we'll realize our empty house was never a home.

I am personified insolence.
Institutional indifference is my nemisis.
Being born with breasts on my chest
garuantees implied obedience
but not me.

I'm a prodigy in the dealy arts
of feminism,
whose prodgeny sees to it that
mesogenies realism dies at my feet.

I'm toxic.
I'm obnoxious.
I'm poisoned logic.
Polluting your knowledge pool
with desperate hope
that this can't be it.
The cess pool of lies and deceit;
that gelatenous sludge
that soaks our feet...
cracking them until they bleed
so they can't run to freedom.
Yes...this cess pool can't be everything.

There has to be a place
where we don't have to keep
depression at bay
with pills that get stuck
between an ocean of timultuous burning bile
and a throat silently working to find a voice.

But my prescription has run out
and I don't subscribe to
what they are sellin...

I'm personified insolence.
I'm toxic.
I'm obnoxious.
I'm a prodigy in the dangerous art of feminism.
Welcome to realism.

Terminal Velocity
I wish falling for you was
as easy as falling asleep.
Carefree, I could jump off
of the ledge and know
that the matress would catch me.
Your two hands as pillows and
your hips as my blanket
my heart would follow
hoping the fall won't break it.

You'd be the only drug I'd need
to swing through a deep sleep.
But behind my eyes the thoughts creep...

It's not about where you go
when I'm not around,
but will you catch me before I
hit the ground?

I want the answer to be yes
but will you pass the test?
I just have to take a deep breath
and ignore the warning bells in my head
and fall forward off the ledge toward
either happiness or heartbreak.
Brilliant skies or heartache.
It's your choice to make.

I hope falling for you is like falling asleep.
I hope it hurts less than my drems.
My passed regrets are falling with me.
Both of us reaching terminal velocity.
Who will hit the ground first?
Them or me?

Is love just wasted space?
An empty place
in the heart
dark and laced
with land mines
that will only be revealed with time
concealed by the sleep congealed
in the corned of our eyes.

Or is love a retreat to hide
from stormy skies?
A place to weave dreams and taste
the sweet tinge of a lovers kiss.
I have decided what love is.

I've already fallen and it's
up to you where I land.
With my heart in pieces
or my heart in your hands.

I always knew I was different.
Everytime she'd come near me
my heart'd beat like the pitter patter
of little feet;
down a dark hallway,
reverberating off of my lonely
inability to understand who I'm
supposed to be.
With every push to be the plastic
wrapped and packaged version of me,
I shoved deeper into myself
to the back of the shelf because
when push comes to shove
love isn't blind to everyone else.

I'm not for sale but I'm ON sale
because I'm defective
I'm infected with thoughts of my own...
going once...going twice....

Pretty on my pedestal
with a painted on smile
as pink as my cheeks
struggling under the weight of my secret.
The deepest desire to reach out and touch her
radiates from my toes,
but I'm strapped to my little box
and the bonds rub me raw.

I can only watch as she walks by
and feelings I don't understand
churn inside
and fall down my face for all to see.
But my tears swim upstream
to try to hide back behind my eyes
because pretty things don't cry.

I always knew I was different.
I never really fit into the box I'm packaged in.
Silence is a good color on me.
Quiet confusion,
slightly obsurring
the recurring loneliness
that walks along the streets with me.

I'm different like the black cat in a white litter.
I give people the jitters.
Superstitions and stereotypes
lable me as evil,
but the hype isn't real.
I bleed...I love...I feel.

I've fought too long against close minded resistance.
I need to break through the walls of my cage,
wipe the tears from my face and find the words to
say to help me tap into my rage.

Keep your pretty pink pedestal
and your ruffled petite parasols.
I reject it all
and my bitter resentment tastes
better when used to amplify my call
to arms.
I'm throwing myself in harms way
becaus today is the day you will tast my rage.

Breaking through the shadowy ruse
and slap cruelty with a b***h slap backhand
that reverberates off of the walls
amplified by years of suffering under a culturally
enforced gag order.

I have found my voice,
oh yes,
and you best believe
I'm not anything like what
you thought I would be.

They say beauty is only skin deep
but her beauty suffocates me,
making my heart pitter patter like
little feet and this time
I won't suffer silently.

Fall 2010 Featured Writer Vandye Forrester

The Girl on the Beach

Through the white heat given off by the glass sand on the beach
I could see the girl
The girl on the beach
The sight of this one stunned my jaded eye

She lay on her flat stomach allowing the blistering sun to slowly
bake her silk smooth skin to brown velvet
Her legs were long and slender, beautifully shaped

Her body, clad only in the suggestion of a scarlet swimsuit offered
itself willingly, absorbing the sunlight

Even after the passage of years, if I close my eyes I can still see
the girl on the beach

I can hear the wind off of the ocean rustling and whispering through
the tens of thousands of palms that once blessed the land
In my memory the girl’s voice and the air kissing the palms are
the same

Looking at her perfect body left my knees useless
Her hips flared gently from a tiny waist
Her breasts, hidden timidly by the cursed cloth were firm and
high, inviting my touch
Her hair was deep auburn, hung to her white shoulders and shifted
slightly in the tropical air

Her face was classic
Never before and not since have I seen more beautiful lines and

The months that followed and the white beaches gave birth to love
that would unite us later for a great portion of our lives

Long walks in the warm sand, fingers touching and eyes searching
deeply into hearts and souls followed
Quiet conversations and shared thoughts brought the first hints of
Seeds of the possibility of a life together were planted

As each summer day passed, balmy tropical evenings followed
We spent so many of those nights in each other's arms by blazing
beach fires
We received the blinking blessings cast our way by the night
lights of ships passing into the darkness bound for distant

During those all too short moments, the girl and I explored new
love as lovers have done since the dawn of time

As summer must end, so too did the days and nights on the beach
But, the years of summers had been spent well and happily
I knew as we said goodbye to camp fires, stars, pitch black nights
and rolling surf that I could commit my life to this girl
turned woman in my arms
Perhaps she also knew that ours could be a mutual promise to
share the short life walk, share our minds, souls and bodies

Our love bonds were made and sealed
It was a beautiful time to be alive

Beside me through the first journeys were my new beautiful bride and
our child growing slowly within her
Her figure ripened and grew more lovely with each day
Never have I seen female beauty displayed so wondrously
Lord preserve the memories of the long hours I spent stroking her
child filled belly and kissing the mother breasts
Would that I had just one of those hours again

God’s wisdom combining my bride’s egg and my sperm granted us
the miracle of a strapping man child
He would later grow into the finest of young men, tall, strong

While I was nearby, on the night of my son’s birth I could not be
at my love’s very side, holding her hand, watching the infant
emerge from her body into the world
But, I assured myself our love would bring others, that my opportunity
would be again
Had I only known

What followed were months and years of new love and a new family
each deepening the commitment to the others
We followed every star and rainbow
No land was too distant and no challenge to great for our youth

Looking back now, the years flashed by without our taking the
time to stop and taste them fully
Each new highway and city held fresh promise and each new home
radiated our love and growing joy in each other
Our love was new and we never ceased marveling at its delights

Neither one noticed at first, but shadows crept into our love
When discovered, we attempted to push the growing confusion from
our lives, but it would not be banished
We repledged our love to each other time and time again, but now
for the first time there was doubt
Each became afraid of this thing we had never known and could not
identify, could not touch, only feel

We guarded imperfectly the love to which we had given birth and
Even so, my woman, my wife voided the promises made on a Sunday
afternoon in another age with hope and good faith

What followed for me were months of loneliness and absolute unhappiness
Whatever the nature of the imperfections of our fleeting romance
surely this was worse

Blessedly we attempted to renew the bonds of life together and
with eyes and words we pledged love and fidelity once more
The pledge was never to be fully fulfilled

We had new beginnings and there were hopeful, promising and exciting
We shared a new home and new faith
We lived on a broad and wonderful avenue lined with tall, stately

Our play ground was a beautiful park that brought us music in the
summer and ushered into our lives the four seasons with stunning
greens, splashes of incredible color and cold, clear white

Our new, beautiful love home happily gave us needed long hours
in each others arms; arms that had not lost their hunger, rather
saw that yearning increase ten and one thousand fold

The great city offered us long walks and endless excitements to
explore, but we took advantage of so few

The darkness returned
Once my woman’s eyes held a special magic for me that told me I
was loved and safe against all odds
Now I looked into a void
More than see the blackness, I could feel it
I was powerless prevent the drift

My dream was for us to go on living in warm arms and growing together
My life had changed from the restlessness of youth so that I yearned
for quiet hours in the mornings and evenings more than I had
thought possible

Where once we had spent long hours together enjoying nothing save
each other, my woman and I now began a long twilight punctuated
only by loneliness and dominated by days physically and emotionally
distant while under the same roof

Somehow the agony turned me into a ghost
I spent countless hours walking the streets alone searching my mind
for the key to what was happening in our lives
I never found it

The girl on the beach, the woman, my wife had taken leave of my
life forever

And now for all time it is over again
I am alone once more and lonely still

My still young body and deepening abilities of emotion and mind
cry out for a new life
What drives me now is the knowledge that I will have life; a life
that will embody the elements I came to yearn for in the closing
years with my woman, my wife

But, I fear that the standard I shall always apply to the new
life I carve will always be the degree of happiness I felt
when love was new under the palms

I am left with the dream

Dreams we are told come to us in the night, but parts of my dream
follow me each second of my day and each day of the week

Some evenings and mornings the dream is vicious and I awake
screaming for peace
The only thing constant about my days and nights is the dream; it
is always there

The dream has many faces
It delights in tormenting me; following me as I walk the floor
praying for the sun and at least the promise it will bring
with its brilliant orange and gold bursts of light from the

The dream is of what was, what could have been and what will be
without her

While I walk in the morning sun or the afternoon showers, my
smoking pipe my seeming only warm companion, I can cast back
the terrifying thoughts and can summon by some power the
gentle, soft, warm and comforting thoughts my memories hold

It is during these hours that I can still feel her gentle fingers
between my legs, the touch of her hand in the thick hair on
my chest

I can still kiss the soft silk of the golden down of her body hair
and I can taste the scent of her breath on my lips and the maddening
musk of her love place

Pray God takes away the torment in time leaving me with the softness
But I think some torment will always be with me for the dream once
was our future
That precious dream is gone, gone, gone carried away on a black
hurricane of misunderstanding, selfishness and missed opportunities
by us both for our love to grow

Christmas without her passes and the new year comes
For us both it holds promise

But for the rest of my days without this woman
I shall be alone

I Still Dream of You

I still dream of you
Perhaps I should not
I have told myself
to forget you
and I find forgetting

It was only a short time
for you and me - just
a few weeks
But I loved you
Loved you deeply

So why do I still think
of you?

Why do I sit in a
hotel far away and why
does your memory never leave

Since I knew you, I have
walked the earth - no jets
just walked
When I moved to Alabama
you were with me

I left New York to forget you
When I moved back to New York
and lived many places - you were
always with me

It was only a short time you
and I had - so short a time
It was only a short time

Why does it burn in my
soul? Why can’t I forget
you? It was only a short time

I guess these are questions
that men have asked since
the moon first came up

I don’t know why I can’t forget

We just knew each other
for so short a time
Why did I love you

Leave me!

Forget my memory - forget

Be gone!

I pass your
home in the pre dawn

I wish you a kiss and
I blow a kiss too
kiss too

I wrote her a poem once, remember

If we could go back

Your daughter could have been mine

I know that you loved him - adored him, you told me

When I saw you again

I loved you again

Your look

Your touch

Day after day I thought
Your kiss
Your lips
In the hotel
In the parking place

your lips
Your voice
The taste of you
Perhaps if you and
I had had to live side
by side
No more

But, it could have been

You tried to be your man
I tried with you
I tried with you - I loved you
we had something

We let it go

Yours was youth

As was mine

But, love - why did we
not act –

It comes
And now
Now is now - it does not

Nothing with you made
Because I was
Love with you
Why -
Why -

Sometimes I wish I had never met
Your face
Has followed me

You have followed me
No more, I think, I
Hope, I pray

Go away Go away

I have loved you all these
Years and

I did not want to hurt

I loved you perhaps

I loved you

I can’t forget


You are close to me

But, if I call it won’t




I tried to love you again

It was good




a kiss - small - tender

Your touch and your look after
all these years

You said it was



It was, but it was possible for
you and, and, and



The kiss
The touch

When I touch
hair Your skin After

All those years.

Your look - soft - your



Now to close

I welcomed you back into

my life


Open arms

But you

Remembered only hurt

I wanted you -

I thought you wanted


Perhaps not

Matters not

I said I would find you one day

I am sorry I did




I loved the memory of


But I loved you

Too even in my memory



The women I have loved and who loved me for a time have all gone
When the hour came each left of her own choosing

The years brought me money but that is gone too thought most was wisely spent - Usually on someone I loved

Material possessions have come and gone, the space of a small trunk
is now easily filled with all that I own

Yet I am rich. I am wealthy beyond all imagination

The love - love which carries no questions and is constant as a strong
Atlantic current - of two strong men makes me full, makes me laugh at
puny adversity should it come my way

My father and my son remind me that life exists to be given - given in
love and respect. With my father and my son and the knowledge that
each is healthy and happy, I am whole

If I never see another dollar, if I never hear another woman
whisper that she loved me while secretly scanning the horizon with half open eyes
while my own eyes see only her - I am fulfilled

No woman will come who cares for me in the absence of my ability to
provide her with material things that rot and blow away

Yet the two men who love me and make me strong ask nothing - nothing
other than I love them in return - a gift that I would die before
I would stop giving.

Last Poem to a Lost Love

I was with you that night

I was just outside the door

While you gave birth to our son
I willed you through it

And it was through that birth
that we were able to stay together
through the years . . .the cement

I think of you often

It’s not much and yet it is all that I have

Even if it had been more, my thoughts would
be the best that I could give

Our lives have taken different paths

I will never see you again as I saw you. . .
As I kissed your breasts
and your little self

She was so beautiful

But, I am thinking of you on
Mother’s Day

And I wanted you to know.

The Mimosas Are Blooming Now

Its spring now in Miami

Do you remember the evenings we sat under the Mimosa
and watched the sun go down over the lake?

Do you remember the Mimosa blossom I picked for you on
the golf course?

You slept all that day and you slept with the blossom
in your hand.

That was all you had on that day

You were so beautiful - I made sure you were safe with my kisses

Remember talking to the ducks on the lake

And they heard

And I read my poem to you as you settled in my arms

How many poems I have written to you in my mind and heart

I just returned from a long walk on the golf course
under the Mimosas
where e used to sit
and touch
and dream far away and impossible dreams about our future

I can see our spot from this chair as I pen these words

and I think of my setting sun

And I wonder what life with you would have been

Her it comes now


The golfers have gone home

And the Dogwood and Azaleas remain

And my memories of you are there

Under our Mimosa trees by the lake

And our ducks

They know you are gone that you won’t ever come back

They told me so

Today was your birthday

I called your office but you were not in

I called your home and your mother said
you would not take my calls

I sent long stem roses and pray you got them

I never meant to hurt you

I only wanted to love you and be loved in return

And it ended so differently

I think of you

I reach out for you in the night and of course y ou
are not there and I wake an cannot sleep

I was lacking in many things you wanted

But I am not ashamed of the things I was and
had the capacity to be

I was a man

I was you best friend

But most of all - No man ever loved you as I did.

Many Titles Can a Man Have

Many titles can a man have

President, statesman, writer, newspaperman, general, leader, manager
and dishwasher too

Oh, there is many a dream a man can dream

One day I’ll be . . . let me see . . . I think I’ll become someone, maybe

But, these and more and a the rest are only so many letters and
words at best . . . at very very best

They exist only on business cards and nameplates and less. They
blow in and away with the imagination and passing whim, you see

Only a lucky few carry with them a mantle that only life and loins
and the grace of one beyond can give

One title is the mightiest of all and it is lasting through
this life and on

These few carry with them all the days of their lives the legend of . . .

What sweet pride with which others speak of us. My husband the doctor
My sweetheart the lawyer. He’s an engineer and built a dam. I knew him!


But, what trumpeters call to a man’s ears and mind and heart it is to hear
the words . . . my Dad . . . my Pap . . . my Father . . . I love you Daddy

Meet my Father, now, there’s a man

It usually starts with a girl. But, not just any girl, only the
most beautiful girl in the world will ever do

Throw in a beautiful summer evening for good measure too and the
stuff of a million far away dreams

And a cottage or a beach or some far away place and a new love
and new thoughts and soon the happy announcement that two will
be three

That first night, or early morning or was it a beautiful afternoon?
The wise bearded Doctor usually makes the announcement official. . .
You are a father now, my boy. Yes, that’s how it usually goes
in that little hospital room

What’s this? I’m a father now. What does it all mean? Yesterday
I was running for the goal with a football . . . sweating that exam
and hoping for the big promotion

Now, Father, what do I do?

Wait, Son. The story is already written in the ancient book. Turn
the pages slowly. It’s beautiful and exciting but it is over too soon

The baby’s crying. But, things are much more interesting at three
in the a.m. and I didn’t want that sleep anyway

Dad, I stubbed my toe and it looks awful and it hurts

Let me see that Son. I’m pretty good with toes. Made quite a
study of hurt toes when I was a lad myself you know

Dad, look what I made ya in school

Boy, Son, I always wanted one of these. Thanks. What is it?

Dad, I tried out for the team. Didn’t make it. I feel bad

That’s okay Son. There are other teams and besides, you gave it your
best shot, huh?

Dad, all the guys are getting cars now. And after all I got a
real swell girl

Well, Son, you work a little and I’ll work a little and we’ll
give it a whirl

Dad, the girl I told you about? Seems she doesn’t love me anymore
I think I’m gonna die. What to do?

I promise you won’t die, Son, though for a while you may want to
You will find another and besides remember the times when they
were real good. You had those too

Dad, I got fired. Boy, was that boss an old so and so. By the
way can you lend me some dough?

Here’s the dough. Don’t give it a thought. There are lots of
so and sos. Why not come home for a while and have a good rest

Nope Dad. Gotta keep going and get back in there

Atta boy, Son. Give ‘er your best

Dad, the woman I wrote you about last year? We have been living
together. It’s the modern thing to do. I love her deeply
and now want to make her my wife too

Dad, will you be my best man?

Son, you bet I can, and Godspeed and love, you’re quite a man

Dad, guess what, you are going to be a grandfather

Dad, that son of a gun is all grown up now. Almost as tall as

He is off at college, Dad, and having a good time,
but he never writes and I miss him so

Well, so it’s come full circle for us has it Son? I used to wait
for months on end for word of you too.

He loves you, thought just as you loved me. One day he’ll be lonesome for a letter from his son too.

Spring 2010


In Tension

She thinks the neck is so special
then considers what it is: the vaunt
of the body, evolutionarily
sound. Windpipe, jugular,
vertebrae. Highway of veins.
Cross-sections. Fibres. The way
a yell comes out, makes itself plain,
splats against a wall. Then, by extension,

she thinks of the regular
wheeze and sighs of her aunt,
whose throat had eerily
decompressed to the bone, a mansion
of cells rock-hard and interstitial.
She thinks of ineluctable things yet to say.

Seeking Seminal Soul Mate

She wipes and finds a Rorschach of blood, a red-feathered dove
in a paper-white sky, and ponders another wasted child,
microscopic, honeycombed in sanitary crevices. Another moon,
another flood lines the white islet with sanguinous silt.
She surrenders her tissue to a redolent sea, saltwater slicked
by sunset, and considers, after folding her napkin,
flotsam on the crest of a wave.

Playing Musical Chairs

The wait to hand me off. I consider saying--
je ne sais quoi. It shouldn't be like this:
two women with miles of wire running
under the earth, two women with a brother-

husband between them. It should be ice cream,
the kind your children, my nieces,

will soon swallow. Wish them happy birthday
I inhale to speak, but even those words

stitch to the tongue. Background
squeals heighten our silence,

our laughter at eavesdropped hi-jinks
a sad exchange. My mention of your new job

resembles a noisemaker; your rejoinder
sounds the same: we choose

our stances carefully. Beyond our coil, I hear
that voice over the galloping gaggle, announcing

the rules for two girls in the same seat.
He has to start the music again.

Unveiling the Skin

Plucking was backwards
braiding: the twillish feathers
thick between the fingers,
quilled like plastic embedded in hair--
white hair, as though an elder’s head
in the grip of a gallant marauder.
My hands hooked through, black
among a flock of white, slaves
culling tufts of cotton.
I pinched the headless leghorn
between my knees, pricking skin
into existence: bald abrasions,
pinkness stripped by will
and wrist. My shadow loomed.
This girl would be nude by sunset.


Appalachian, absolutely
not. Nothing, not nearly
anywhere as where we are.
We stand on nothing, where

tribes stepped footprints
into trails. Trial and error,
weed wires snag ankles
like botanical traps

Janaan Dawkins