Monday, December 2, 2013

Three Poems by Matthew Lippman


I’m tired of blogs. 
Taking off my pants and sticking myself in there. 
The ones about truck drivers and the ones about contemporary poets named Melissa. 
It’s so much goddamn work,
so many hours under the covers, 
the dim light, the darkness, the words and words and words
that remind me of ants at the ant hole,
going in, coming out. 
I know three bloggers.  They’re all dancers. 
One is an intuitionalist. 
She spends hours studying mental hospitals and schools, museums and The Capital Bldg
right there in the middle of chicken wing Washington. 
I said, “What’s the point?”
 She said, “The point is to get out the kinks.” 
I was hot for her and that’s the only reason I asked. 
Read my blog, she said, and you’ll get the picture. 
I didn’t want to get the picture. 
I wanted to be the picture.
I wanted her lips all over my chest and then a nice cold beer, a Schlitz,
from the ‘70s
when even telephones
were something everyone had to get used to. 
Now, I turn on my computer and I’m spent, blog-whipped and wet. 
I turn on the TV  to relax--
the Celtics, The Lakers,
those damn Yankees. 
But there’s no TV on the TV
just blogs about the blogosphere
zipping across the pixels-- 
twelve hundred postings on the second inning,
the fourth quarter, the missed layup at the buzzer. 
I get pissed,
throw my shoes. 
They bust open the screen
and there, in the back of the broken Mitsubishi
are a bunch of Polish people
dressed in black
dancing The Polka 
like it was Polka night
on the Lower East Side
years before the war.

(for Paul)

You can lose friends off of the backs of ships. 
You can lose them off of pine trees and the sides of toilets
after hours in front of the single malt scotch.
Some of them will make it to Iowa
and blow their brains out on porter house steak. 
Others will take their sweet time on the FDR
at three in the morning
as the Williamsburg Bridge turns lightly into a multicolored dinosaur. 
It’s a steel nail in the gut
and you move into the morning with your coffee
trying not to think about them. 
But you do, there at the copy machine,
in the middle of the meeting on higher consciousness
between business deals. 
Joey, Bobby, Billy, Miranda, Chloe.
Back home the wife takes her toast and brings the children to school
while on her way to work
texts back the billions of ones and zeros
that make up her sadness and joy
because she has lost them too.  We all have. 
It’s the world at work in its weird heart.
We lose them
off of blazing pink gladiola petals
and in front of empty t.v. screens. 
It’s a kind of easy destitution no matter how scarce oil is now
and water will be in three hundred years. 
Friends are lost to the steam of three hundred silent grasshoppers
and to the story you tell yourself every morning
about how it was her fault and his indiscretion and their madness. 
But they can come back,
like a busted guitar string, broken mid-song
as you flit with the morning crow.
You reach outside with your voice
and call out among the coils,
the spins of humdrum life.
You put on your mankind
like an over-sized cheap suit
and say, Hello, I’m back.
It was not you who was lost, it was me,
and I am here now, with my suspect instrument
caught up in the strings, one note at a time.


I wept in the barber’s chair. 
I wept in the dining hall. 
I listened to Van Morrison and I wept. 
I took out all my sneakers and put them in the rain. 
The rain went barefoot across my face. 
I wept in my face and I wept at home plate. 
When I wept in the box I was four for four. 
I struck out twice.  The game went hours
and when I got home I iced my knees. 
The dog wanted out and we wept under the tree. 
The tree said, go, go home and we wept in Van Morrison. 
My dog said enough
so we put on Sweet Baby James. 
Everyone weeps on Sweet Baby James, gets him all wet,
and if you say you don’t
you have no idea. 
It’s not a matter of taste. 
It’s just what it is,
the aching in your heart that you can’t hold back with words and books
and theories and language. 
You put the needle on the record and boom, you are inside out
with no lingerie on. 
I’ve wept in lingerie and I’ve wept under a bridge, homeless,
with four cents in my pocket. 
I’ve wept so much in the bathroom I couldn’t stop
and when I stopped
I didn’t want to stop. 
I did it some more.
I don’t care how many hours it took me to finish,
I never finished. 
I am weeping right now, in the attic, on the roof,
in front of the TV.
It is the only way. 
It is the most joyous of things, with a clear head,
it makes the head clear,
an ocean in Barbados, an ocean in your head. 
It is a love song of songs,
a weeping song, whale song, woman song
weeping inside her child. 
I weep for her. 
Who weeps for me? 
She weeps for the sun. 
Today it shines on the earth
and the earth weeps because it is happy,
even in its terrible sadness
it always has something to smile about.    

Matthew Lippman is the author of three poetry collections, AMERICAN CHEW, winner of The Burnside Review Book Prize (Burnside Review Book Press, 2013), MONKEY BARS (Typecast Publishing, 2010), and THE NEW YEAR OF YELLOW, winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize (Sarabande Books, 2007).  He is the recipient of the 2010 Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from THE AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Six Poems by Peter Richards

Lord I do worship
another lord he is always
saying terrible
animals will come
from the sky and they come
to feed on those who
ponder them

Mars those who you call
dwelling people pass through
prayers just like you do
coiled if a bell
might run though the woods shouting
I’m coiled flatly
they have tall fears mars
they do not lack happiness
they pray to one god
and they pray to some
mars for many of them you
won’t be one of them
you crawling from one
shoulder to another mars
what is it you do
trepidation sire
is that all with an ax rubbed
blushing companion

Mars a white egret
not snow white but white the times
earth fell down upon

Unnamable Lord this morning
telling me not to worry rain has her
own endless solitudes and discreet
joys and not a rain occurs in a crypt
all is god space borne rain intercept
Lord you are the sound I have heard
all hopeful summer a great gray owl
you are the enormity in the universe
so many loving pretenses blanket me
Lord you are not falling down now
Lord my wet leaves to look at Lord
and in all this secondary rain work
Lord I hear you more allowing me
to love you

Mars one of the new horsemen my
god the most black canister blue eyes
we call him soul engraver wild blue eyes
he tells the best early mars campaign
stories mars your ice was a bat sipping
blue wine mars he tells us all the meat
stories mars your first campaign never
knew mars you were such the sibyl licker
back then thin inveterate death talking
slight power without me to kiss yet

Bradley I want you to lie down
now in this bed of Christ water
and hear the sounds of pheasant
myrtle and to know there are many
who by imagining this too intently
are put here too Bradley but that
was me that I could hold you and tell
you why so optimistic god is now
all throughout this new affidavit
silk worm vapory forced to grow
on a loom they say is the consistency
of the court and it has the court’s logic
and that it proves by way of your own
brave acts Bradley no constitution
to their argument and those who oppose
seeing you imprisoned for loving us
Bradley some of them are said to ride
out to live with you thickly now though
we are unpresent and we have to leave
early I want you to know those traitors
who live in galleons so they could put
you here Bradley are said to be captured
in this new affidavit as white shiny tables
and upon them walking and as though
through tall white conveyor grasses ones
walking dim witted in long agony white
fireless mealy eye their own eye is what
we serve them and yet still they walk
with their one eye agape at the mind
left evacuated by its own foul accoutrement
and Bradley some of them go missing
in the aftermath of their own skull colors
they plead and plead until we give their
skull colors back to them and they have
white fins growing inside their mouths
and in this one white glass passenger sack
they are each being incubated into love’s
fate absence

Peter Richards is the author of Oubliette (Wave Books), Nude Siren (Wave Books), and Helsinki  (Action Books).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Around Here They Use Words Like "Ghastly" & "Dreadful": New Fiction from Robb Todd

The old pop star rubbed my ankle with her toe under the table. Her fame had faded before I was born. Her boyfriend was a professional killer from another country. He was sitting next to her. He had a heavy accent. He was her son's age, my age. Her son was a dear friend. 

The toilets in her country home were unfucking real. They did not have handles on the side. You had to pull a silver rod up from the top of the tank. Immaculate flush. The toilet bowl was so clean and big you could bathe a child in it. 

Two children were running around. They smashed the keys on the grand piano. The old singer wrote some of her worst songs on that piano. Those same songs bought this house and a few others. The children screamed. Their mother said something about pharmaceuticals. The old pop star said, "Oh, dear, please beat them before you resort to drugs." 

A plastic tube connected the singer's even older brother to a hissing oxygen tank. He told tales about formerly-famous people, all dead, who only ever had careers in black and white. 

A little boy bounced against my chair. He cupped his hands around my ear. He whispered, "Motherfucker, tittie-sucker, two-ball bitch." He laughed. He ran away. My dear friend taught him that phrase to torture his cousin's wife. 

His cousin's wife put the kids to bed. She came back to the table. She told all of us about how much she hates fucking her husband. Her husband was sitting next to me. He said something back. They smiled while they ripped each other apart in front of family and strangers during the holiday. It was amazing to watch. 

There was still food on the plates but nobody was eating. More drinks made it more ruthless. My dear friend changed the subject by stripping down to his underwear to show off his new yoga body. He was ripped. He had been fucking his yoga instructor for a few months. He cranked up the stereo. He danced around, tugging his shirt back and forth between his legs, rapping the song's lyrics: "The bridge is over! The bridge is over!" He interrupted the performance to tell his cousin's wife that she is a ball-breaking cunt. He actually said "cunt" and "ball-breaking." 

The bridge is over. 

The trained killer from another country spoke five languages and said “nigger” in each of them. He also expressed dislike for homosexuals. The old pop star's brother wheezing on the oxygen tank was gay. She told the trained killer: "Shut the fuck up." 

My dear friend asked me to tell his family the story about the threesome I witnessed between my father, my father's then-wife and a hooker. I put my hands over my eyes. He insisted. I told the story and he scolded me for skipping over what he said was the best part. He told it for me: "His dad was fucking the hooker from behind while the hooker was eating his dad's wife's pussy, and his wife was staring into his dad's eyes and kept saying, 'Fuck her harder. Fuck her harder! Fuck! Her! Harder!’" My dear friend shouted, "Yesss!" and pumped his fists and started dancing again, still in his underwear. Everyone laughed. But the story was not true. My father did not do that. My wife and I divorced not long afterward. 

The old pop star fingered the hummus. She was drunk, like everyone else. She licked her finger clean, sloppily. She nodded off into a small pile of mashed potatoes. The trained killer lifted her out of her chair. He carried her beautiful old bones back to her room like a fireman in a house that was not burning. 

Everyone talked shit about him when he left. My dear friend mocked his accent. We all laughed. My dear friend's cousin said, "I don't see anyone else taking care of her." 

The old pop star's gay brother took off his oxygen mask and said the trained killer was a fucking dolt. I had never heard someone call another human a "dolt" in real life, only in old movies. My dear friend said the trained killer's cock is a fire hose. He said his mother goes through a bottle of vodka‚ and a bottle of lube‚ every day. His cousin's wife said, "Good for her and her ancient pussy!" 

My dear friend told us that the motherfucker tittie-sucker two-ball bitch with the even bigger estate down the road is an heir of the man who invented felt. This cannot be true.

Everyone went to bed except my dear friend and me. He opened the fridge and drank the last beer in one tilt of the bottle, and said, "Let's get more."

It was dark and the roads twisted and we sped through a covered one-lane bridge and around curves lined with bare trees and along cold creeks, and a song I never really cared for came on the radio, and my dear friend turned up the volume and sang every word and drummed the steering wheel and closed his eyes as we cornered, and it is, yes, funny how the night moves. I sang with him. We sang the entire way, even after the song ended. 

Robb Todd, author of the collection Steal Me for YourStories, has worked as journalist, columnist and editor, and his photography has been exhibited internationally. But all he really wants you to know is that he has never seen a pigeon walk backwards. Visit him at

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Two New Poems from Ryan Collins

Dear Madison—

                                    Cakes & stacks counted, our tinsel steerage
            stretched to the seam-splitting.  The undoing of mass &
            matter reveals a particle god at the stone-sharpened edge
            of light speed.  Do-on’t stop/believing, o undetoxed brother! 
            Our leathers toughen despite retreating glaciers, despite
            lower case wind chills.  So what everything isn’t frozen—
            do we ever fully thaw?  It’s hard to lament bike racks &
scraped elm braches & parking meters not appearing as
giant novelty ice cubes twelve weeks out of the year.  Of
course there are accounts to be paid.  The storms of this
            century have fuckall to do with weather.  More the climate. 
            We shake & chandelier w/out putting boots on the ceiling,
            closer to boots on the moon, boot to the Kool, the steel-
toed kick in the face blasting you awake, your short term
memory clouded & hacked.  We are corrupted files.  We
corrupt the clouds as we accelerate through an infinity of
            blind left turns & prayer w/ each breath to be obliterated
& fully incorporated into the light of our thin-aired maker.   

from The Challenger Deep

Giant waves rise   plates fold
The sea floor roars back in
To deep sea   microphones

Capture    the sound being
Destroyed   pulsing through
Bodies   collapsing every gap

Every space air hides   into
Shatter   bolt-like graves litter
The ocean’s floor   fifty tons

Of gasoline   absorbed no fire
No heat to float to the surface
Waves seven miles down rise

Consume the surface warmth
The deep’s pressure summoned    

Ryan Collins is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Dear Twin Falls (H_NGM_N, forthcoming 2013).  His poems can be, or will be, found in American Letters & Commentary; DIAGRAM; Forklift, Ohio; Handsome; H_NGM_N; Ilk; iO: A Journal of New American Poetry; Scud; Smoking Glue Gun; Spork; Transom; the Hell Yes Press cassette anthology 21 Love Poems; and many other places.  He is the executive director of the Midwest Writing Center and an English instructor at St. Ambrose University.  He plays drums in The Multiple Cat and lives in Rock Island, IL.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gregory Lawless: Next Big Thing Interview for Foreclosure

What is your working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book’s origins were formal.  Foreclosure consists largely of spatially-constricted (short-margined) prose poems, which I started writing as a solution to poetic exhaustion.  I had just finished a manuscript and felt trapped in certain ways of speaking and seeing.  So, I sought out prose as a cure to my stasis and poemsadness, which worked, in no small part, because I felt like I could say things in prose that I couldn’t say in lines.  I also loved how the poems travelled quickly down the page, since vertical descent, in poetry, more or less equals moving forward in time—and that illusion of progress helped trick me into a new idiom.

Topically/thematically: I wanted to work with a kind of fictionalized visual journal, a mode as kinetic, inclusive, and inherently generative as the form described above; what the poems “documented”—visions of withered landscapes, psychological extremis, the spoiled economies on Northeastern, PA—took shape gradually as the project matured.  I started by describing images of abandonment, empty houses, etc., which were then on my mind (this was in late 2011).  Eventually it became clear that I was describing, in addition to derelict properties, the retreat of capital—which, incidentally, the descent of natural gas mining corporations on Northeastern, PA has done little to redress. 

What genre does your book fall under?

Pastoral prose poems.  Post-nature paralytics.  Ecopoetical ravings.  Regional hallucinations.  Great Recession elegies. “Country Surrealism.”  Some or most of the above.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Nervous, repressed watchers, a bad wife, a bad father, and a handful of fitful bit players appear in this collection.  So maybe a young Dustin Hoffman from the first half of Straw Dogs, ineffectual, always fixing his glasses; Laura Linney qua wife; Brad Sullivan qua father; and a smattering of extras from Wiseblood.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m sure I’ve written it by now.  But if I haven’t: Voyeuristic pastoralist suffers ecopoetical ravings in Ambivalence, PA.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Published through Back Pages Publishers, an exemplary operation, run out of Waltham, MA.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

My first draft was an insult to the word draft, but I’d say 1½ months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’ll talk about influence instead of comparison first: those books by Richard Hugo and James Wright that deal with American towns and cities in demise.  Plus, a number of works of non-fiction:  Alan Wiesman’s The World Without Us was very important to me, as was James Galvin’s The Meadow, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, Thoreau, Barry Lopez, John McPhee, and many others…all of which, in different ways, helped me describe into critique, if that makes sense—to interweave drama, context, and argument in one work.

And Foreclosure compares to any book of poetry that hovers nervously in the vicinity of the fraught pastoral, simultaneously wary of and lured by it.  Many contemporary pastoral poems regard themselves as anti-pastorals, or post-pastorals—they imagine that the pastoral is impossible because it’s terminally problematic, and, thus, they fret in the wake of that “fact.”  The poems in Foreclosure fret differently, I guess—not by abandoning convention or reference altogether, but by manifesting what I call critical ambivalence toward them—at times embracing, and at times rejecting these things, as the poems demand.  But ultimately this is a book born of familiarity with a place.  I have looked at certain things, looked at them to death—things extant and crumbling—and write as though that is the case. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Partially explained above; the poems evolved from a handful of ill-assorted prose pieces about abandoned houses into an attempt to confront both the long- and short-term economic/cultural circumstances that affected what I—a partial outsider, a soft-exile from the region—was seeing in Northeastern, PA, specifically on the border between its post-Anthracite/post-industrial and rural communities.  I am a stranger to this place now, but a conflicted, proprietary stranger, someone without an immediate political connection to its political disorder, though it’s where I keep all my imagery.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

It’s a book that exposes the reader to contradiction, observation, befuddlement.  It’s a book of problems.  It details grief and grievance in the face of political impossibilities.  It’s the flea market of late capitalism.  You’re welcome there anytime. 

Gregory Lawless is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the author of I Thought I Was New Here (2009) and Foreclosure (2013).  You can find his poems in such places as Pleiades, The Journal, Salamander, The National Poetry Review, Sonora Review, The Cincinnati Review, Paper Darts, Ilk, Transom, H_NGM_N, and many others. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013



"The poems of Gregory Lawless are austere, spare, and sharply observed, brief, skeptical, implicated, as they sort through the rubble, and lively with movement. It's a bleak and terrified country in his Foreclosure prose poems, and he meets it with the counterweight of this inventive work that is firmly in the tradition of concrete and musical language which uses all of the tools of poetry." - David Blair
"Lawless teaches that while pure fixity may be foreclosed to us, knowledge & beauty are still resident - dazzingly so - in the wrecked, the missing & the restless." - Kiki Petrosino 

"Beautifully tuned elegies..." - David Rivard