Lisa Fishman


thoughts about the Driftless

region of Wisconsin

where the glaciers never were

& i live near

(Blue Mounds, Viroqua, Black Earth . . .)  

The dog looks out the window at no dog 

maybe squirrels

Don’t make the bombs dropped on people

into a poem

Don’t quote CNN

No going back to place names in Wisconsin or the dog

or any object on the table like the last 

inch of honey in the jar from when the bees swarmed (went wild, left the hives)

and I shoveled scooped and picked it out of the combs, buckets full

& let it drip all summer into other buckets through wire mesh

colanders and plastic colanders and homemade colanders 

to catch the bits of bees and other insects though there are always parts

left in—I got the mouse turds out

though these wouldn’t hurt you either in the honey

especially fermented honey which I imagined I discovered but did not

It’s Spring and usually it’s Fall

The first plum tree’s in blossom

what kind of plum tree ask Henry

I think there’s a ghost in my hair

And Customs Officer, the sooty blotch on Gold Rush (winter apples)

is harmless—you wash it off or leave it on, can’t taste it & it doesn’t spread

even though it’s sooty and blotchy like its name

and you can have it


James named the 5 new hens and I try to discern who’s who:

Mrs. Squeers, John Browdie, Mr. Crummles, Smike & Nicholas

based on their personalities

Modest_witness_meets the chickens 

@s Donna Haraway might say

I borrowed her book from Solveig 

whose g is silent on the end of her name 

There’s a bird house under the tree

on the ground where it fell from a branch

for fifthly that’s where the cat poops

in the pine needles spread out like hair


After the rain there were 23 more

Shitakes than the day before

out on the logs in the corner

of the woods, edge of the orchard

The logs had been inoculated, which sounds like the reverse

of being injected or imprinted with spores 

It’s good to have logs to grow them on

not sawdust blocks or plastic bags, thanks to the oak that fell

and Skinny Pete the mushroom



Then there was writing you couldn’t read

inside the tree and the rocks, and on the hairsbreadth stems

and the chickens’ claws 

and the pads of the dog’s feet between each nail

where she loves to have pressure, where all her nerves come to an end

or start, like our own—

Go barefoot, I instruct James:

The gravel driveway down to the mailbox, Level 1

Rockier gravel between barn and hill: Level 2

It’s important to get to Level 3 for your feet to know how never

to step on a bee or a nail or something worse

Oh, intelligent nerve endings

where the experiment begins


Cash crops go by the windows

of the bus I’m lying down in like an onion

Spring buds, spring green at the ends of branches

where the writing went walking

“Off into the raptures,” Joanne said


an elegy appears

because I miss her

Didn’t know her

Right here she’d notice something

most likely alive or attached to 

someone alive, like his hat

(Philip Whalen’s) or a mouse 

or a bird, many birds

[name some from her poems]


(I’ve just looked up)


on the bus to Chicago

for Joanne Kyger

                         April 18, 2017 


Lisa Fishman2018a.jpg

Author Bio

Lisa Fishman’s seventh book, What Now, is forthcoming on Wave Books. She has new work in the final issue of 6x6 and in Emerald Tablet II: The Book of Formation. She lives in Orfordville, Wisconsin, and divides her time between the US and her native Canada. 

Sandra Simonds

from Atopia

       Night is the insane asylum of plants
—Raúl Zurita

Everyone dreams of the apocalypse, they are barfing

into their grief but I, love, dream of you, and I am old enough

to know this is not the apocalypse, and I am well-read

enough to know that all of this was set in motion a long

time ago, plummet of sea shells, the visions loud,

obnoxious even, yes, I tried to ignore them, but to no avail,

the dead workers streamed through my body, out my finger

tips toward the moon’s underlying reality, trumps, keys,

some moved into hysteria then collapsed or perhaps

saw a vision of souls surround black clouds and layers

of breath, to close one’s mind to extraneous events,

life streaming from chambers, music as event and so,

love, I entered the scene before me, as many poets

have walked through the gates, of the imaginative space

I had to create, I like, Dante, Milton, Plath, Hughes

left the body, left the comfort and pain of the body,

and entered the inferno, I entered on the day

of the Oakland fire, when 36 lives were lost, 

one life for each year of my life and put my head to

my knees, whispered, chanted, sang, suggested, 

ripped up the text of my hair, the alephs of my hair,  

my long black hair is a text and I will not cut it, 

and the warehouse went up in its mass, and the body

politic bled down, the dead queers, dead artists, crisscross,

crisis of landlords and evictions, midwinter, I left

this body behind, I had to see, I had to see what

was behind the mirror’s arrangement

of energy, had to see through this parabola. 

“It was a beautiful spring day,”

which is how every horror story begins.

Then lighting struck the wing of my plane

and the light streaked into the hymn

forthcoming, a gothic hymn to jettison

by the River Jordan like the wrapper

around a roast beef sandwich.

The next day, walked to CVS to buy

nail polish, full of those spirits, bent over

the colors, had a nosebleed like in the movies

when everything’s too much for the psychic

and utterly convinced some of the lighting

got stuck inside the cauldron of my head,

and trying to get out of myself, I bled.

Look at the people we have on our side:

Walter Benjamin is on our side

Hannah Arendt is on our side

James Baldwin is on our side

Sandra, they are all dead

They are on our side, Sandra

The other people

the capitalists, who do they have?

They don’t have anyone

All of their ideas are shit

Listen, we have Brecht

I was going crazy

I picked up my phone

I was talking to Maged


Maged is moving from Seattle to

Atlanta to be closer to his son

I dream of the New Jerusalem of love,

an Eden of sparks from the mouth of the rose cult.

The rooster of Midtown cockadoodledoos,

crest shivers Floridian, last bit of cold

in these parts, I am a bold-hearted one. 

Tallahassee on the “Dead Mall” wiki page, 

stock market up, earth crash, crypto-mining

the numeral seven like godhead’s delight.

I smoke and ask my neighbor what he would do

if the government had him on a list of dissidents.

Demon of the windstorm, demon of talons and beaks,

I know you hear everything I sing, two children

huddled together, under the moon, 

baby falling from a chariot, of wolf-light.

What do we make of him? Wander the earth

in search of your brother; brother, what would you do?

And something stupid takes over him,

“Well we are all on a list anyway,” as he slides into

his drunkenness, restoration of the neo-Nazi’s

Twitter account and a 2pm consciousness-raising

session, I wish I was high instead of my body

dragging itself to another action.

First National Women’s Liberation meeting

in Tallahassee, but now I’m drunk, high and smoking

a ton of cigarettes with my neighbor, the one

who saved me from Hurricane Whatever’s 3am rainwater

pouring through the wolf eyed tree holes of the ceiling— 

then a MRSA infection set in. No one knows

why a hurricane reddens

the night sky, no one knows why

the ER doc says, “It’s the dirty water.

It comes from farms, factories, collects

and then dumps down so, here is an IV antibiotic.”

Sat in the ER, cried but called no one,

emotions intensified like a Sabbath.

The handsome nurse talked

about surfing in Costa Rica while

my blood disinfected and outside

the hospital a Ouija board of plants

made a foreign language out of the night.

Man in neon coat walks uphill through the crows.

Reddish glow of the hurricane horizon

creeping towards the heart. Oldest woman

at the meeting talks about 1960 and 61.

“We were organized, we had an action.

They told us what to do and we did it,

then we’d go to jail and it was on to the next

action.” Woke up—eyes puffy as windmills.

Thought of Rotterdam. That fucking Irish poet

who didn’t ask if he could hold my hand,

just grabbed it on the teeth chattering bridge

and then yelled, “We are poets! We are here!”

right into the river. And we walked into the spaceship

I mean hotel and in my room I ordered

a panini and ate it on the white sheets, crumbs

on the white sheets. Mirrors everywhere. 

Rotterdam, the last place I ever felt sexy.

I rise before everyone, kids at their dad’s.

No commotion, rivers of clearing

eucalyptus mist in the aura factory

like pictures of Norway, her glaciated

remove languishes in a think tank

of food security, how I want that kind of coldness,

to be surrounded by a swarm of bears

or love affair so north of here, but the winds

shoved into the stone mouths of lions,

their rhymes were tourniquets of counterfeit ideas. 

And Rotterdam standing like an inquisition

of ships sloshing the metallic waters.


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Author Bio

Sandra Simonds is the author of six books of poetry: Orlando, (Wave Books, forthcoming in 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure, Winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press, Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Blood Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini (Blood Books, 2009). Her poems have been published in the New York Times, The Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Chicago Review, Granta, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her Sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.Org, The Academy of American Poets Website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and is an associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.


Randall Mann


Friday was big

data night,

the gig:


and analytics,


age disparity,


and faking

I mean fucking


For clarity.

We came




We adored


made with fallen

wild parrots.


at Holy Mountain

named for




I ordered

the Stalin.

Tan blonds

in tight jeans,

featuring basket,


on Valencia Street—

years ago

this was mortuary row,

the dead above,

the dead below.

Nothing shows love,

morticians say

but never say,

like a bronze


The boy-band

in a booth





is a sidelong


at a lifelong


The truth

comes out

like trout

in the hand.


is forever.



is just a weekend,


or less,

a star’s

ghost wrote.

The night, 

cool as a store.


as a pornographic



May 6, 2016

I was an extra.

A serious

gay miniseries

for the network.

They wanted to cast

a “hot guy”:




rights queen.


I was “almost there.”

At last.


set to work

on the backup:

painting my head

to give me hair.

Goodbye, pate—

I waited


the Castro Theater

with the drag star

Pollo Del Mar.

(They pulled

me aside:

no need

to be Plan B.)   

It may

have hurt.

But the writer/


a suspiciously


Oscar winner


for his





I lose my


for background.


on location.

I came



Hot Guy?

He actually asked.

You’re finished. 








like soot,





of eye




any chance

in advance.








is urban


Get off




The fog

a feral










He played

the pup;

he played



the infamous


under the bed.



a sex


of white


with an


to latex.

Or a version

of that.

I bet

not one

of them

has ever



We pause

to disarticulate

our jaws.







my step-


my go-


find her

on Grindr.



in love,


with shares:

big pharma.

Our age

a gag,

a mouthful

of knowledge.



is workin’

a Birkin




He held

an associate’s


in manipulation.

His existence,


the vowels

like bowels,

no movement.

Beat off,

he yelled;

I think

he meant


I did both.


I resist

the urge

to rhapsodize:


in blue


the poor;

the purge.



At least




was “minor.”


It was:

the butt-


of relationships;

two ships;


& pot


with townies;

a half-




It was



I do

as I

am told.


he blinks

I call;


he smiles

I fold.

I do

it on

a dime.


a dime?




& donut

& dildo


a full



the dead.

And yet.





a dull



Photo credit: Josh Koll

Photo credit: Josh Koll

Author Bio

Randall Mann is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Proprietary (Persea Books, 2017). His book of criticism, The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry, is forthcoming from Diode Editions in March 2019. His work recently appeared on Poem-A-DayLit Hub, and on the Poetry Foundation website. He lives in San Francisco.

Maureen Seaton

Splitting the Atom


I’ve always loved a good physicist, his fanatic waves & trickster

particles tripping over each other like ambivalent siblings.

Once my vertebrae were thoughtfully labeled in hues from 1-33. 

Sure enough, four of them said Boo, then ate themselves silly.

Now radiation arrives in subatomics until my hair flies away

& my skin flushes & I’m too radioactive to turn myself off

much less on. I don’t always comprehend physics, but I love

the sound of words like chaos, antimatter, synchronicity, bang.

Today I soaked up beams from Linear Particle Accelerator #4.

(Denver is a good place to die, they say. Rockies. Omelets.)

There were no physicists present, although I saw one lurking

along the Corridor of Death. (I’m being dramatic.) (No I’m not.)

If there had been a physicist in the flesh I would have been too shy

to approach him. I would have wanted to say: Cure cancer, you idiot. 

What I heard during treatment today: the voices of shadowy cells

whispering as they slipped away: We never meant to harm you.

Avoiding Suicide

A loomy mountain looms outside the window, waves to me from a great height. 

A small boy jumps off the mountain and lives! (I’m hallucinating.)

In reality, I bounce around in a bouncy house with the little daredevil, champion

toddler jumper of Boulder County, who flips and falls as if made of cloud.

(Logic has no place here, nor the gross motor skills of a woman high on altitude.)

Thus the poem augurs an undecipherable path. It leaps along the mountaintop.

Stop using me in your ridiculous death scenarios, interjects the mountain,

which is rocky, after all, not all that secure in its footing or self-esteem. (More

hallucinating.) Other Rockies leap around me like a dozen redeeming boys. 


Cento for Court Green 12: The Final Issue, 2015

(I had, after all, been raped)

And then what. And then what.

Sweet Mother, I’d rather be unchosen.

Syllables biding in my pink throat.

Marvelous mother-tongue stung in the silent

of all the crying out.

Change your name and move to a ghost town.

Your debonair hat falls past your eye.

In my new identity, I get breast implants.

My rhyming is a sin.  

I am not making this up and maybe I am in hell

but it is so beautiful and full of nature.

It is very late. Or it is very early.

In silence, the wind whistling but not.

Note: All lines found in Court Green 12: The Final Issue, 2015: Line 1. David Trinidad 2. G.C. Waldrep. 3. Traci Brimhall  4. CM Burroughs  5. George Kalamaras  6. Eric Weinstein 7. Ching-In Chen 8. Denise Duhamel 9. Micah Bateman 10. Jessica Dyer 11. Nancy Eimers 12. Tony Trigilio. 



Author Bio

Maureen Seaton has authored nineteen poetry collections, both solo and collaborative. Her awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize and Lambda Literary Award, the Audre Lorde Award, an NEA fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, 2018), also garnered a “Lammy.” A new poetry collection, Fisher, is out from Black Lawrence Press (2018). Seaton is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Miami, Florida.

Zachary Zalman Green

go to your ghosts

The clouds are on sale

making slow mistakes

above Sunday walkers—

a dream about punishment.

Capitalism is to brandish,

to be the wrong ass of an ox,

to be a surface. 

I am a river

or a worm.

I can wait all day

for my hair to dry,

for a season

to confess itself unreasonable.

Insult as ordinary as instruction

remains in an envelope

of snakeskin

of pliability

leaving the window

taking the last scrap of dust

off the monstera

by the credenza.

Nighttime wicked

best guess

a staircase dressed in black.

Is this a horoscope

or a doctor—

this moment on arrival

headed for departure in the fuselage.

Incapable of magic tricks,

a diamond when it’s ready.

I had a forest

and it, too, must burn


guest water

into the museums

of spring

space begins to nauseate

i am in an argument with the lighting

the bucket, the desk lamp

a horse moves a drift-less chair

closer to me than this crooked mallard

i feel my head

it’s forever

heaps of husks

hired hands

plucked and docking

over the curb now

past the yeshiva and tire shop

and seven hours to Chicago

sanctioned against

a clogged neural pathway

or train, or a graduation

the shirt still pressed

a ceremony where waiters and Freemasons

deliver the same news

it will be another year until I feel safe

from third world internet

live-streaming myself as a tanager

I go through periods where I am a basement

wary of how to exit.


Author Photo_Green .jpg

Author Bio

Zachary Zalman Green is the author of THE NUMBER YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH (Quotidian Press, 2017) and the co-founding editor of Ghost Proposal. His work has appeared in Tammy, interrupture. Whiskey Island, Ilk, Columbia Poetry Review, Jellyfish Magazine, phantom, and elsewhere. He currently resides in Minneapolis where he maintains mountains in his head.

Michael Montlack

No One Imagines Clowns Having Sex

Charles Nelson Reilly. Paul Lynde. Rip Taylor. 

The original Circuit Queens. Blowing

up the 70’s game show with one-liners

that could make even Phyllis Diller blush. 

Finally a place they could be Leading Men.

Usually the first to be cast second fiddle:

Evil magician, sea genie, a greedy cartoon rat. 

Or everyone’s bachelor uncle. The prankster.

Perpetually tan. Back from another cruise. 

(No one asked where.) Pockets bulging

with innuendo. Handle bar mustache

slightly askew. Donning his busiest blouse. 

Scarf twist, a frisky bow on a gift box.

How the triangles lit up the center square. 

Primetime fools. Attempting to fool no one. 

Their mother tongue: Irony. Also fluent in

nuance. Funneling outrage into outrageousness.

Tunneling, with catty claws, into livingrooms

where bored housewives doused vinegar

into another afternoon’s three-bean salad.

After so many cottage cheese platters—

who wouldn’t crave something saltier? 

These bad boys had no wives to leave. 

No kids to discipline. Just trivial wisdom

that could send couples on honeymoons,

pay for a new car, an extension on the house. 

Loads of cash in their loaded answers.

Their delivery—silly, snide or spicy—

somehow saying without ever saying

whatever we weren’t ready to hear said.

Where Are They Now: Peppermint Patty

After Marcie split for a Ph.D. candidate from Wellesley

(who was willing to at least entertain the idea of having kids)

Peppermint moved to Provincetown, swearing to this day 

it had nothing to do with the Japanese sculptress she met

at Schroeder’s Carnegie Hall post-performance cocktail party. 

Didn’t take long for the then-‘curious’ Hiroko to be charmed

by Patty’s casual directness (so unlike what she knew in Tokyo).

And took even less time, after they shacked up, to sense 

Marcie was a ghost in their bed. The second time Patty asked

to be called Sir, Hiroko packed all her welding equipment 

and returned to New York City, where her work was featured 

at a premiere gallery. Patty went to the opening, uninvited, 

claiming it was Schroeder’s idea. Yeah, he wanted to show

support—since you came to his thingy. Hiroko thanked Schroeder 

(his blank stare making it quite obvious he didn’t remember her) 

but she couldn’t summon the casual directness to say, Sorry, Pep,

these pieces weren’t inspired by you. And I have no new girlfriend

you can intimidate. So just leave. But her gallerist had no qualms 

about siccing security on Patty once it was clear she’d downed

one too many wine spritzers and her blonde companion 

didn’t have it in him to drag her out of there. Patty did spend 

a few weeks on a bender after that, sofa-surfing with Lucy, 

who had followed Schroeder to New York despite everyone

warning he was definitely not interested, maybe even gay. 

Look, I’m no Psychiatrist. Despite what people may think,

she told Patty. But pull yourself together, girl. And seriously

how do you manage in those sandals when you’re sloshed? 

This is Manhattan, for Pete’s sake! When Linus visited that week 

for the Halloween Parade, he insisted Patty return with him

to Portland, where he could use a hand on his pumpkin farm

now that Sally was through Waiting around in the chickenshit

for a Chickenshit Blockhead who’ll never pop the damn question. 

What a fool I’ve been! she yelled. I should’ve just gone back

to live with my parents. Like my brother—another Blockhead!

Patty asked how Chuck was doing—they hadn’t spoken 

since she accused him of trying to steal away Marcie—

then agreed to give Portland a shot. Well, at least ya got

the shoes for it, Lucy offered, glad to have her sofa back: 

A comment that took seed in Patty, who wasted no time

during her downtime on the farm, opening a side business

(with the help of investors/old pals Franklin and Pig Pen):

Peppermint’s Burkenstock Repair Shop, the sign promising,

Pepper will keep ‘em in Mint condition!  When the farm folded,

she made Linus a shareholder. And phoned Charlie to ask if

he’d join her team, greeting him with Apologies accepted, Chuck! 

Being a Gay Boy in the 80’s

Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers were lightweights 

contending with my secret boogieman on the evening news. 

Eventually you’ll drink the poison! he said. Or die of thirst.

My mother wondered what was eating me, why I had no appetite.  

Somewhere someone in a lab coat as white as my semen

attempted to name him. While I twisted a Rubik’s Cube, 

believing I could unscramble its rainbow. I’m in my 40’s 

and still haven’t learned how. I’m in my 40’s and still 

hear him whispering: Shouldn’t you be dead by now?

I found my appetite while somewhere someone in a lab coat

tried to find a cure. In my 20’s I tried abstinence. But knew 

eventually I would break: chug. Or die of thirst. Once

a friend found his partner hovering over the toilet, holding 

a condom ballooning with water and semen. No leaks. Only 

apologies sounding like Shouldn’t we be dead by now?

Reagan wouldn’t mention the war. The first line of men fell. 

Today documentaries terrify me more than horror films. 

Still twisting and twisting—I talk to the dead 

older brothers I never had.


Montlack Photograph Berkeley College.jpg

Author Bio

Michael Montlack is author of the poetry book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books) and editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press). Recently his work has appeared in North American Review, Hotel Amerika, Poet Lore, Los Angeles Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. He lives in NYC. 

Jay Besemer


there are things i won’t be saying                things that will

never have a place to land                to take root      

& this is fine               or if not fine, then at least acknowledged


it isn’t the seed’s affair what the soil consists of        & ice is not earth                     

oil is not earth            or steel beams rusted


& the imaginary hand             that holds this pen 

to you is a certain & definite hand     yet it hardly exists

at all                you think an i is one thing all the time

that an i is also a mine & a history that never changes

there is a grove of trees all called i     continually falling

& sprouting up


i is a long con              a failed tree farm bought up as 

a tax dodge                                             & left to crowd itself to death

make a wish

ice beats in the body               a blood that

can’t sustain or nourish                       carrying nothing

but threat & information                     all blood is 

information                  but ice is just a scam of epic

takedown         a ponzi theory of wellness


sublimation leaves a scum of soot & chemical 

seasoning        the veins are brittle with additives

lay a hand on my arm & it rings         like the base

of a streetlamp tapped by a socket wrench


i open my mouth & a cloud of lottery tickets 

swirls out        around my head          make a wish

little one          little asphalt bone                    make a wish


Photo on 3-5-18 at 11.30 AM.jpg

Author Bio

Jay Besemer is the author of numerous books and chapbooks, most recently The Ways of the Monster (forthcoming, KIN(D)/The Operating System, 2018). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Jay tweets frequently @divinetailor and sometimes does things on Tumblr: He lives in Chicago.

Ed Smith

15 Uncollected Poems


This is a good line.

This is a bad line.

This is a good line.

This is a bad line.

Here is a country,

an idea we share.

There is an idea for paying

all debts public and private.

This poetry is now in its own future,

and let me say as an eyewitness

that we are quite primitive back here,

sophisticated only in things we do not do.

My people roll their autos

over goddam asphalt.

This line is doing its best to remain indifferent,

but here it is in this poem.



Fuck you.

Fuck your mom.

Fuck your cat.

Fuck your mom’s cat.

Fuck your cat’s mom.

Fuck your mom’s cat’s second cousin

from Schenectady.


Letter from the Grave

This situation is so embarrassing

that i’m considering approaching it


but i can’t cause i’m too numb.

Well, numb isn’t exactly the right word,

but it’ll do for now.

Anyway, this is called “Letter from the Grave”

cause i was supposed to have killed myself

last Tuesday,

but i didn’t:

i’m still here,

and next year i’ll be eleven.


A List of 3 Letter Words







Ode to a Streetlight

O ye moon

who shines so bright

it hurts my eyes


The Poem That Cannot Be

I want my whole life to be a poem.


Cheating the Stork

We fuck

for pleasure alone.


Dear Fuckface Asshole Jerk,

I am writing you because of the bad review you wrote of my book in Magazine. Not that you thought the book was all that bad just that your review sucked. As an example of how inattentive and lame your supposed criticism was and without going into too much detail you didn’t even manage to get the goddam line breaks right in the quote you took. I won’t even bother demanding a formal apology from a jerk like you, but instead I’ll leave you with this curse: may you wake up with a ringing in your ears, hair in your teeth and Clayton Eshleman lying in bed next to you.

Most Sincerely,

Ed Smith



You Can’t Legislate Maturity

In 1986 I was arrested and charged with armed robbery, possession of a controlled substance, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, statutory rape, indecent exposure and lewd conduct (but not resisting arrest!). Fortunately, that year I was awarded a Literature Fellowship in Poetry by the National Endowment of the Arts and was able to use the Fellowship money to retain some state-of-the-art legal counsel. What with plea-bargaining and all I only ended up serving two years forty-seven days. Since my release I have attained the eighth Operating Thetan level in the Church of Scientology. My short-term goal is to have my civil rights restored so I can pursue my long-term goal of being elected President of the United States.



You have to use a washcloth

on the hot water knob in

order to turn it hard

enough to get it all the

way off. I never told

you that. I just went

in every time after you took

a bath and did it myself.



My Last Beer

It was a long time ago and

I don’t remember it. I was

sitting in a stuffy, dark bar

on a hot sunny afternoon and it

came in a mug. It was one

of those things I thought

I would enjoy more than I

actually did. And not the

first time either. One of

those many things. One of

those many things that just

gradually got replaced by

what’s become everything

else, everything else that’s

just always never enough.



When I wrote

this poem rays

of sagacious

afternoon sun-

shine were

streaming in

through the


windows, billowy

white clouds

billowed across

the azure dome

of the sky,

birds sang and

chirped to each

other gaily,

the kittens were

asleep in the

living room, one

on the couch,

one on the easy

chair and one

on the futon,

and the tv was on.


15 Line Sonnet

You lie on your side back curved

legs bent your knees drawn

up in front of you. I nestle

behind you the two of us

like heavy silver spoons

wrapped in velvet my arms

reach around your tiny

shoulders my hands grip

my forearms securely.

You hold my erect penis

inside you. We rock together

lazily and twist our bodies

slowly. Your head bends

forward and I lick the

back of your neck.



Art and Poetry

Don’t kid yourself it’s

all about power and control


Seat 47K

The last time I was on an

airplane was when I was

leaving you.


Ed Smith, circa 1984. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Ed Smith, circa 1984. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Author Bio

Ed Smith (1957-2005) was a poet involved in the punk and alternative arts scenes in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. He was part of a group of poets who frequented the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California. Other members of this group included Dennis Cooper, Bob Flanagan, Amy Gerstler, and David Trinidad. Smith’s books were Fantasyworld (1983) and Tim’s Bunnies (1988). His poems appeared in Rolling Stone, St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter, and other publications. Smith also worked as an animator on Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues. Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World: Poems and Notebooks of Ed Smith, edited by David Trinidad, is forthcoming from Turtle Point Press in the spring of 2019.

Lily Someson

how to write to your inmate

do not use staples or paper clips within your letter to your inmate     do not use marker,

crayon, glitter, glue, stickers or lipstick on the letter or envelope addressed to your

inmate do not give your inmate any drawings or markings that can be misconstrued as

secret code i.e. art or pictures or their daughter’s drawings such breaches in security will

result in destroying of the letter     do not ask your inmate to hold you without

permission from the prison     do not speak of the way freshness is always heavier in the

mornings as your inmate has not seen the dew in so long     do not forget your inmate

do not write anything in the letters that you wouldn’t want a third party to read     do not

learn anything in childhood that your inmate was meant to teach you because it will not

be the same without them     do not send flowers because your inmate may have

forgotten what they look like     do not forget your inmate do not talk of the outside

world in your letter to your inmate     do not talk of your new life without them in your

letter to your inmate     do not think that someone will love you     that anyone will love

you without becoming trapped in something or another, their arms outstretched and

waiting     do not forget your father     do not forget your inmate

i want to say i found my father’s letters


my own mouth

in the midwest house, all curled up

and chewed from years of reading and going over. i want to say

they meant something other

than words. this is not the story everyone wanted, the truth

churning itself all over the kitchen table, all over the sweet sky.

my father appears and we are in a room where we can exist

at the same time without

so much thinking about it. i’m having the dream

where he has nothing to say except for that the sunlight looks so

bright from the window above us, like he hasn’t felt the heat

in years. i want to tell you the story without feeling like

i need to prove that he says anything.

he tells me about my own name

like he owns it in his mouth, like he made it with his hands

out of the glass separating us, the barelythere of it all.

i do think he says tell your mother i love her

and i can never remember what i say

after that

poem in which my father is trapped in a jail cell

in which his father is trapped in a jail cell, in which his father is trapped in a

noose, in which his father is trapped in a cage, in which his father is trapped on a boat,

in which his father is trapped in the sea, and in the poem every mother comes to the

water at the same time, their bodies wet with grief, the atlantic sun and her children,

christened with the mention of poplar bark, i have never known you, but i have always

loved you, every scream in the thick of the water, i’ve been born your brand of sorrow,

and for you every mother is here, calling out names of their loved ones, hoping that the

boy will come home, and yes, there she is, she’s begging for her son back, every mother

is here

poem made of my father’s letters to my mother, 2004-2014

remember when we were not old, still brandished with our own touches? we went to

lake michigan off of miller beach and it was back when the sand was still so visible and

unrelenting, licking the inside of its own stomach you remember? and you wore

those white capris you know the ones; your hair was so long i thought i could never

find my way out of it, the coils wrapping themselves around themselves and it was so

early and i thought that maybe if i never took my eyes off of you the whole day it would

never get darker, the morning fading into its own pseudolight and long dance and

you would never have to leave. i think it was 1994, and i swear lisa i swear i’ve

never seen anything more beautiful than you on that day when we met and i just

knew we would have so many more days like that, so yellow and quiet and holy and i

know i’ll get out of here sweetheart and someday we can go back and relive our

mistakes like i never did a bad thing like i never was anything but lover and lover and

father and and someday we’ll touch not through the plexiglass, its shape bowing

under our heated palms and every day every day we’ll turn 30



Author Bio

Lily Someson is a queer poet and essayist from Chicago, Illinois. She is currently an undergraduate poetry major and gender studies minor at Columbia College Chicago, where she is an editor of Columbia Poetry Review. Her work can be found in Ransack Press, Queeriosity (Young Chicago Authors), The End (zine), and Phoenix (zine), among others. She is currently writing a book of poetry on incarceration, fatherhood, tenderness, and the black body in America. 

Rebecca Lehmann

Locker Room Talk

In one hand he held the pussy, and the pussy was moist.

With one hand he hooked the pussy. Did his chubby

hairy ring finger slip inside? Just for a second.

He was careful not to lose his wedding band

up there. Really the pussy should have been 

better tended. It stunk like old cod, alewives,

salmon, tuna, whitefish, rotten trout, small mouth

bass, a bucket of putrid lobsters, the bottom

of the Mariana Trench, gefilte fish, the skin

behind a dead woman’s ear. The pussy was 

such a miserable cunt. The pussy was a whore,

a slut, had clearly been finger-banged,

was common property, was hiding a wire              

coat hanger. The pussy was relaxing in a bathtub.

It was a little bit bloody. He knew what the pussy

was doing in there, and it was disgusting. 

Yes, there should be some punishment for the pussy.

He spanked the pussy. He dug his fingernails in.

He hadn’t even bothered to trim them.

He wanted to feel the pussy spasm in his hand,

like the heart of a rabbit bleeding out in the snow. 

The pussy was too hairy. Have some decency.

The pussy was a hot piece of ass. The pussy

was a ten. The pussy was a four. Look at that pussy.

Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that,

the pussy of our next president? The pussy walks

in front of him, you know? And when the pussy

walked in front of him, believe me, he wasn’t impressed.



Author Bio

Rebecca Lehmann is the author of the poetry collections Ringer, Winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry from AWP and forthcoming from University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2019, and between the Crackups (Salt 2011). Her poems have been published in venues including Plougshares, Tin House, FENCE, and Prairie Schooner. She lives in Indiana. 

Jan Bottiglieri

Chap 1 A Blade Runner copy.jpg
Chap 1 B Blade Runner.jpg

Chapter 1: Credits and Forward.

The future enters us . . . in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens.

—Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Fast forward, reverse, the green

Ladd Company tree

makes and unmakes itself.

Dark book of the beginning: I am trying

to change my life.

Though I’ve watched the film countless times

since the first in 1982, this

will be different:

I try now to see everything, write it down,

my project, I call it. Run film forward, reverse:

I want to commit

(to) memory.

* * * *

From Scott: I knew my opening shots

would be so spectacular that I didn’t want

the titles to upstage them in any form.

The green tree, line by line: dot matrix tech

from 1981 echoes back in

2018’s CAD/CAM replicators:

a 3D-printer can even create

a model of an unborn child

(of course,
they first began doing this in Japan.)

Then full black screen, white

type(face): duality?

Everything seems significant.

The double letters of Harrison,

Emmet, Hannah, William,

Brion’s odd O.

That O

the mouth of a caroling angel:

Those robed, frozen figures

with uptilted faces,

eyes lashed closed.

Everything seems significant.

More double letters—is it odd

most names here seem to have them?—

Joanna, Terry, Powell, Paull.

(I’ve wondered if Lawrence G. Paull was—is?—

related [that twin L!] to Morgan Paull,

our Holden, Deckard’s dopplegänger.)

The soundtrack’s fall as the crawl rises up

to meet it: I had never allowed for how

magical the music would be

says Scott on commentary. The red word

REPLICANT echoes the credits’

only other red: the film’s title,

BLADE RUNNER. I pause, reverse

to the beginning, watch again

to check my memory:

reverse, reverse,

fast forward, stop. On commentary track,

art director David Snyder says

I wound up doing Blade Runner by default

and it turned out to probably be the only thing

that will be in my obituary.

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Chap 3 B Blade Runner.jpg
Chap 3 C Blade Runner.jpg

Chapter 3: Emotional Response.

Not you, his mother: alas, you were not the one

Who bent the arch of his eyebrows into such expectation.

—Rilke, The Third Elegy

Crane shot: Holden smoking

In a shaft of blue light.

Sips his coffee, gestures

to the chair; sits, sighs, rouses

the VK. Leon—engineer,

waste disposal

in backlit profile, haloed.

Then the eye fills the frame:

browngold, mutable

as memory, an aperture.

Black bellows breathe in

Leon’s damp exhalation.

Child-curious: What one? How come I’d be there?

Holden, half-hearted, annoyed:

Maybe you’re fed up. Who knows?

On its back, the tortoise struggles, exposed,

the bloodrush echoes, the trapped eye snaps

open and shut, winking like an accomplice.

On commentary, Fancher and Peoples

argue who authored the scene:

one of the best lines in moviedom,

Fancher says, a Freudian line:

‘I’ll tell you about my mother!’—Bango!

Peoples: You wrote that.

Leon, bent forward, squeezes

the trigger: then liquid gush

as Holden explodes head first

through the blown wall. No!

Fancher says. Oh, I hope I didn’t:

For a long time now, I’ve enjoyed

disliking myself for not writing it.

Chap 8 A Blade Runner.jpg
Chap 8 B Blade Runner.jpg
Chap 8 C Blade Runner.jpg

Chapter 8: Leon’s Hotel Room.

Champaign-Urbana, 1985:

I’ve taken a dingy efficiency,

my final semester, one room with bath

eight blocks off campus. Faucet’s steady drip.

I grew to love it—my little meals of

ramen and Coke; my records, photos, books;

origami I’d folded, strung above

the bed—and near the door, Rick Deckard’s face:

glossy, larger than life, there was no place

he could not see me. I loved the scrape

on his cheek, which I felt was real—that is,

Ford’s first, then Deck’s by proxy. A heal-need:

I was just off chemo, pale, prone to bruise.

Across from the Yukon, Gaff and Deck pause

in the future’s perpetual rain.

Steam from grates.

1-1-8-7 Hunterwasser.

The busted fixture’s cicada buzz,

the scale like a dirty teardrop. The fingertip

lifting it to light. Deck’s hands dissolve

to Gaff’s crafting the crude man,

head ready to strike into flame.

Gaff must know Leon will see it.

And there Leon is, crossing

to a White Dragon, we hear

that same electric buzz

as he watches his own window.

Behind it, Deckard finds the hidden

photos, shuffles them like a tarot:

The Wheel, The Twins, The Pensive Man.

Memory—that broken god, that lens.

Chap 25 A Blade Runner.jpg
Chap 25 B Blade Runner.jpg

Chapter 25: Right moves.

“I always love working with anamorphic, because you have this beautiful fall-off . . . the pieces are sharp, Tyrell is just sharp, and everything’s falling away behind him.”

—Ridley Scott, commentary track

I try to recall my past ascensions. Nothing

comes to mind. Even birth: my first mother pushed so hard

I fell 10 days into the future and met my new mother there.

O holy elevator:

If I rode you I would shout

I’m coming for you, God!  with my mouth clamped.

Now hearing the words of the game, I fall back

to the chess boys I knew, their sweaty hands slamming

the tops of the clocks. They could speak their games too,

move from memory: like Matt who’d play four boards at once

with his back turned. Fall back is a thing they may have said,

or attack, while I watched them play after school.

Roy plays the Immortal Game;

Matt must know it. His father

owned our first VCR. We’d drive to the liquor store

on Elmhurst to rent tapes. That’s what it was like then—

hard to find what we wanted to see. I can’t rely on

my memory but hearing Roy speak his moves I fall back:

we’re all having Cokes at Matt’s and Blade Runner finally

is in, J.F. and Roy ascend and I’m past-pulled rushing

down, farther and fast, past twisted fibers to warp, weft—

fine, immortal smallness

(dear hereness)—

I’m re-minded, the words a kind of becoming,

that sacrifice strategy: everything rising toward

and falling back, white/black, what difference:

our fathers, mothers, gone, we know what comes next.

Chap 27 A Blade Runner.jpg
Chap 27 B Blade Runner.jpg

Chapter 27: No Way to Treat a Friend

In boyhood my brother:

blond and bodied for any game,

memories of green field run and pitch,

frozen rink flying after black puck my brother

could make friends, had that

high-school fame. I tried to learn

to give him his shot, never got the knack

(he didn’t like to be touched.)

I’d knot his ties for him on my own neck

and he’d bark out thanks before work.

But what is the body? Confine, cage.

His trap of rapid decrepitude.

His dangerous days and shit-list luck.

And when his mother (our

[only the good things]

mother) left this world, my brother:

skinsick, body-betrayed, said fuck that

and went right after.

So when Deck

—under copsmack and smoke,

parked in a car semi-stripped

with him in it; beaten, cheekbit

in the crook-shadow rain—

postures himself an old friend . . .

it seems right (remembering/re-

collecting the missing [body/story]

parts, even Frank, that shock,

all that was left unmade)

that Deckard-as-dead-man’s-

pal (from the Sanskrit bhrata,

the Romany pral) would

take/give (this is before

the kill)

my brother’s name 

Menu A Blade Runner.jpg

JanB at bradbury.jpg

Author Bio

Jan Bottiglieri lives and writes in suburban Chicago. She is managing editor for the poetry annual RHINO and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in more than 40 journals and anthologies including December, Rattle, DIAGRAM, Willow Springs, and New Poetry from the Midwest. She is the author of the chapbook Where Gravity Pools the Sugar and the full-length poetry collection Alloy (Mayapple Press, 2015). Visit

Kelsi Vanada

Cow Sense

This family just might have more cattle photographs

than folks. Whole sleeves of them by year, clear back

to Kastor of Valley Mound, the oldest registered Angus bull

anyone ranching who now remembers can remember. 

Folders full of names like Windy Star, Ingalls Special 5, Big

Fortune. And there were the almost-pets: the docile bull

that followed Dale for scratches behind the ears. The steer

Duane dressed up. I had cattle, too: the cow with ear tag 342

laid on her calf till it was dead. At auctions later their issue

turned tuition dollars. The calves in head gates I have sprayed

with flea dip watching testicles yanked out and slashed, 

trailing long red cords. Good eye appeal ’s what Grampa says.

Like licorices sucked and socketed. If you select for just one trait

too hard, you sacrifice another. The breed’s in a good place.


Make Believe


We were what anyone would call obsessed, reenacting

that colonial crossing the family always deemed

heroic. Yes, Ingalls is my mother’s maiden name.

A Radio Flyer our covered wagon—if we were nice

we might convince my brother to pull us in it westward

through the yard. As Pa, he had a wooden gun for shooting game. 

I, always Laura—she was wildest. My sister, Baby Carrie—

I could boss her. I hated beef jerky, but it seemed authentic. 

So too our fringed vests. We stole carrots from the garden

and ate them with the dirt still crunching in our teeth.

A blue tarp for the rivers we forded—all this caught

on film. As a teen, I exchanged my gingham bonnet

for dying of dysentery in a game I played white-

knuckled. Just like those books, this tells you what I did. 


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Author Bio

Kelsi Vanada’s translation of The Eligible Age by Berta García Faet was published in 2018 by Song Bridge Press. She holds MFAs in Poetry (The Iowa Writers’ Workshop) and Literary Translation (The University of Iowa). She translates from Spanish and collaboratively from Swedish, and her poems and translations have been published most recently or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, TLR, Bennington Review, and Anomaly. Kelsi is the Program Manager of the American Literary Translators Association.

Bryan Borland


You research the stage, the venue before the drive 

as much to decide what to wear as what to read.  

You learn to do this, which part of your body to cover,    

what skin to show for the red carpet or the dirt road,

the slow and easy drawl in the baseball cap

or the literati with the queer scruff and bag.

You do this naked or in drag and sometimes 

these terms reverse their definitions     

depending on your mood or the weather,   

depending on the city. Still the pretty girls will always 

smile when you say husband 

and this is how the world has changed,

though how many times you say it and in what accent 

is measured for presentation. Or protection.

In California you’re entertainment. 

In Mississippi you’re education.   

There are still freshmen who’ve never met 

a person who is openly gay and writing about it.

This is mostly in the south, in rural schools

with dry counties and curiosities wet with prohibition. 

Then there are classrooms full of students who

don’t believe in labels at all, or coming out,     

each row of desks a different color 

on a spectrum they dreamed after you woke.     

There are no lines. They all hold hands.     

Across the country you change 

the game plan on the fly, the set lists,

asking the audiences if they want it 

dirty or if they want it sweet.

No smiles means you’re a missionary poet tonight. 

Laughter means you might go home with someone,

end up in their bed, one way or another.

Your books on their floor. 

Your words in their head.


Isn’t there something about the ocean

the first moment it comes into view

it’s like waking up next to someone you love

or next to someone you have wanted so badly to love 

or next to someone you love

but maybe have forgotten you love

or at least forgotten 

you love like this.

Second Leg

It takes a moment to return to you:

the fake air, the time zones, the noise

of everything else. It takes a moment to 

remove all the clothes I over pack,

all the falsities I wear 

when you aren’t there. It takes a sea 

change to let that stranger die, 

to pry his hand open and let go, let him

evaporate into our living

room, where, in just a day or two, 

I’ll stand in the open doorway, forgetting

I’m naked, and you’ll have to push me 

out of view of the neighbors.


Author Bio

Bryan Borland is founding publisher of Sibling Rivalry Press and founding editor of Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry. He is author of DIG (Stillhouse Press),which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry and a Stonewall Honor Book in Literature as selected by the American Library Association. He is a Lambda Fellow in Poetry and a recipient of the Judith A. Markowitz Emerging Writer Award. He lives in Arkansas with his husband,the poet Seth Pennington. 

James Thomas Stevens

from The Golden Book

A Warning

No bark scroll of rhetoric

but skin-writ in

darkness in

personal conference.

Your eyebrow licked

smooth by a tongue

to a pointed tip. Lips

come pressed

to your downy temple, 


          in aftermath.

A slurry of symbols writ

across thigh.

Wrestled by

the man

trying to capture

his own

Wrestling, he touched

your hip and you were



            toward new


Clear thinking required

not the clarity of

mezcal in

               finest cut crystal,

not a mastery

of rules and a

                memory full of

difficulties,            but precision.

To stop to think

about form in mid-career,

the form of this


Isn’t every

encounter a cross
                            to bear,

a cultural one?

The small battles.

The volleys.

The flag raisings.

The arrow stuck hard

in the doorpost or yard.

Your foreign skin


foreign touch.

How differently

the customs come. 

Do I swaddle

in your striped bathrobe?

Do I lift your cap?

The man who writes

with one eye on rhetoric

                                    is the man who can’t tell

whether to take off his hat

or to use fork or spoon

                                    without consultation.

These things must be

instinctual and


before they prove of value.

Know Where You Are Going

Lay him

like the carefully

surveyed road.

Out before you.

In before you.

When what is out comes in, 

the story out the mouth and into the ear.

The squash from out the blossom

into the broth.

A hand from its deerskin mitten

to sleet and northern cold.

Know where you are going.

Lay him carefully

out like a map, in like a lion.

Know which He you are writing of:

He, the pianist carpenter, or

He, the poet violinist.

In like lions, out like lambs.

Set Up Sign-Posts

From the start, 

we look for signs, symbols

of the place we are headed.

Bent trees we call trail.

Guide ourselves through

their bowlegs/bent shafts.

Set sign-posts.

A potted geranium

at forever bedside to guide

me to him.

Crushed leaves that


of tobacco scented


His hand so often over

my mouth before the

open summer window above

the door of an all night diner.

We glance at the road we have come

to remind ourselves of position/direction.

Set sign-posts

The tuning peg he left

from the violin with the wolf note,

and the wooden box of rosin,

now lodged in a notch

between the logs

of a wooden frame,

stays hidden above the door.

In superstition convinced,

they will lead him

back to our storied sentence,

both subject and predicate.

Point to your beloved.

Remind him of his progress.

At the end tell him that

you have arrived—and see

that he understands it.

Don’t have him turning over the sheet and

saying with a start: “Oh, that's all there was to it.”

Why Wake to Light the Moon?

       on the loss of my dog’s eye

It arrives six weeks after ordering online,

from Asia. I wake at 1:30 am to turn on the moon.

I think of your lone eye, how they asked of its twin,

Enucleate or eviscerate?

But what is a galaxy

                                                  scraped clean of stars?


Now I turn on the moon with a

                                                 tap of its USB ring,

watch your sole eye, turn to

stare at dark lunar maria. A red spot

on your Martian cornea swirls

against a milky way.


Zonules that once held a 

satellite lens in place . . . dissolve


and echolocation, leads you back 

                                                   to me.

Bio 2018.jpg

Author Bio

James Thomas Stevens (Akwesasne Mohawk) attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and Brown University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program. Stevens is the author of eight books of poetry, including, Combing the Snakes From His Hair, Mohawk/Samoa: Transmigrations, A Bridge Dead in the Water, The Mutual Life, Bulle/Chimere, and Disorient, and has recently finished a new manuscript, The Golden Book. He is a 2000 whiting award recipient and teaches in the undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and he lives in Cañoncito, New Mexico.

Matt McBride

The Party

The sky being slowly pulled forward

by a small child on a bicycle.

The air like the inside of a snow globe

after the water has evaporated.

The world contiguous with us. 

These are capitalized times.

An ice cream truck

still playing its song in the rain:

the way love gets smaller

every time you feel it.

This moment having no reason not to exist,

so it does.

Poem with a Hole in the Middle

A Starbucks cup practiced its vowels

over the sidewalk.

The migration of things

and the mitigation of things.

One man threw

a lit cigarette on the sidewalk

and one following pinched it up

for one last inhale.

A child’s bike, spokes covered with tinfoil

to look like chrome rims.

I couldn’t tell which part was the revolution,

so I pretended to be more people.

I decided to stop seeing my savior.

I wrote a poem titled “Poem with a Hole in the Middle,”

and posted this on my list

of things that happened while I was alive. 

Matt McBride Picture.jpg

Author Bio

Matt McBride’s first book, City of Incandescent Light, was published this May by Black Lawrence Press. His poems have recently appeared in Failbetter, Map Literary,Ninth Letter, Packingtown Review, and Typo, amongst others. Currently, he lives in a camper in rural Pennsylvania and is an instructor in the English Department at Wilson College.

Comics: Marnie Galloway

Home Altar




Lion/Gazelle (This Is About Birth)





Author Bio

Marnie Galloway is a cartoonist and artist working in Chicago. Her first graphic novel, In the Sounds and Seas, was collected by One Peace Press in 2016 from a Xeric Award winning series and was highlighted as a Notable Comic in The Best American Comics. Other comics of note include Burrow (2016), Particle/Wave (2016), and Slightly Plural (2018).  

Dossier: Ed Smith

Ed Smith, Venice, California, 1980. Photo by Skip Arnold.

Ed Smith, Venice, California, 1980. Photo by Skip Arnold.

Notebook Excerpts


Today I went to Disneyland and took acid.  I had fun palling around w/Johnny, Rosetta & Pam.

Also today I realized I could actually do something with my writing.

10/26/80   (Sunday)

Friday night I went out with Sandy.  First we got drunk.  I had previously decided not to drink that night, but it seemed like such a cool thing to do after Sandy kept suggesting I join her.  Then we went to Baces Hall.  It seemed real hard core.  Sandy got us past the door w/her press pass.  They usually don’t let guests in, but they are especially impressed by the press at these particular sort of affairs (as Sandy informed me).  She grabbed my hand (and occasionally my arm) and we manouvered (sp?) amongst the punks and punkettes like the seasoned pros we were.

1st stop: the men’s room (for both of us).

We saw a couple of bands and we bought a beer.

We looked for a backstage area and settled somewhere on stage.  No one ever questioned us as we were moving about.

I saw Charlie [Quintana] from The Plugz there and we waved at each other. He was the only familiar face there other than Ms. Nila.  I don’t even know him that well.  And I’m too lazy to look up his last name.

We were leaning against the back wall of the stage as Black Flag began their set.  The stage was both small and cramped.  We stood on chairs amongst some other band’s equipment tucked away behind the bass amp. We bought a couple of more beers from some guy out of his suitcase.  I mentioned to Sandy that I saw a couple of policemen in the doorway.  The place was so crowded people were actually climbing the walls for a place to be.  I knew they were policemen and not security guards even tho they were blurry.

Before I finished my sentence to Sandy, there were two more cops.  I filled her in.  We started to climb off the chairs we were standing on.  The band may have stopped playing.  By the time we were off the chairs the police had come in and formed a line of policemen advancing through the hall leaving behind them an odd sort of emptiness.  They had the place about 2/3 emptied.

They got to the front of the stage before we did.  They stood there as real men and as stone-faced as possible.

One of them grabbed me by the shirt and yanked me off the stage.  I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for them. Sandy panicked a little seeing me sprawled on the floor and started waving her press pass around to protect us. She said “He’s okay, he’s okay” and one of the cops responded that he knew.  We exited through the door suggested to us by the men in blue and walked out into a very enclosed parking lot.  Sandy pointed out we had to go over the fence.  It looked easy enough to me but I guess Sandy’s not really used to climbing fences.

I shoved her up the fence and climbed over myself.  She was still struggling at the top of the fence.  Me and this other guy standing around helped her off.  The light shone down from the helicopter.

I grabbed Sandy and we made our way through the “riot.”  It was very exciting.  I was happy through it all.  I was trying to get Sandy to move faster.  For some reason she wanted to stop at the red light, but the intersection was so choked with people I didn’t see any problem with being hit by a car. I pushed her into the crosswalk and started toward her car.  When we were halfway across the street, the mass of people in the intersection turned in our direction and RAN as if their safety depended on it.

At this point we noticed the flares.  The police had closed off the entire area to outside traffic.  We left w/out finding out what was actually going on.

From there we went to see Nervous Gender at Vex and then to some party that had previously ended and we got in a bit of a hassle w/some “people” there.

From there we went to my apartment.  We each had a drink and listened to some quiet music.  I started hustling Sandy to hear me play [my guitar]. At one point she expressed a fear that she would lose herself to me, explaining that her heart was already “half” mine.  Well, anyway, I forced her into moving into my bedroom saying that I just wanted to play one piece for her.  She lay down on the bed with her hands clasped behind her neck and her legs open.

I tried to play.  It didn’t work very well.  My fingers seemed so clumsy.  She seemed to be positively affected by it, anyway.

I played awhile longer and she fell asleep.

After awhile I walked back into the bedroom.  She said hi.

After a few words were exchanged, she told me to lay down “here,” next to her.

It was very nice sleeping w/someone I am that fond of.

[Written across top of page:]  Punk rock is cool for the end of the world.


10 Reasons why Darby may have killed himself:

1. It was a mistake.
2. He was a jerk.
3. He was mad at the world.
4. He thought he was worthless.
5. He thought he had to prove something.
6. He was a fag.
7. He hated the world.
8. He hated his friends.
9. He was lonely.
10. He hated himself.

He would do anything to get attention.  Perhaps he was afraid of being called (or thought of) as just another guy.  He even went to the Rainbow with a Mohawk.

When he came by the office about three weeks ago, he was dressed “normally.” He was even wearing jogging shoes.

You wanna know something about suicide?  It happens all the fucking time.

Is that what he had in mind?  To show the world a suicide?

[Written in margin:] 12/5/82  “Darby Crash” means “I want to kill myself”

[Darby Crash, punk rock vocalist and songwriter, co-founder of the band The Germs, committed suicide on December 7, 1980.]


You never knew me on the playground.
You knew me on the playground.
You don’t know me on the playground.
You may have seen me on the playground.
You remember me from the playground.
I was king of the playground, feller.


Time by myself
Time with others
Time by myself
Time with others
Time by myself
Time with others


It’s Friday, except I think it may possibly be Saturday already and oh yeah. Well, last weekend I did my first official poetry reading

(I would never do this
This isn’t me
You’d never catch me
     being words on paper
Being written down
Being in a position
     where I could always
     be come back to and

(on Saturday) and my second official poetry reading (on Sunday) also.  Scratch “official,” insert “public.”

I was hoping to read at the Beyond Baroque open readings on Sunday, so I began my preparations on Saturday.  I got out some of my computer paper left over from earlier days and copied a poem for my reading on its own sheet of computer paper

(“Where can decent people go to live?”)

I finished a couple of them right there at the kitchen table

(Quote from a cool author whose name presently escapes me: “Some writers turn to drink, well I’m turning to audiences.”  Okay, so maybe it’s not an exact quote.  Well, anyway, my reaction: Why not both).

I got ten poems altogether for my reading.  I read through them a bunch of times and, quite frankly, I was very pleased.

Somewhere along the line I noticed that the Pasadena Poets were having a “First Occasional Poetry Celebration” which featured two poets as well as open readings. Aha!  My chance!

Well, anyway, it was at the Pacific Asia museum on Los Robles.  There was a beautiful garden/courtyard with a very tasteful fish pond and a woman playing some Bach stuff on flute.

I paid my $2.50 admission in nickels, dimes and pennies.

The featured poets went first.  The first guy was simply awful, a real college English professor at that

(The voice inside of me
Speaks on endlessly
In a dreamy monotone
On and on
Never giving away any emotion
In the midst of my head)

The second poet was actually quite good, I thought (Eloise Klein Healy). Perhaps her language stood out amongst the academia

Oh yeah oh yeah

You know, there were women there who had been wearing nylons for a long time.

After the intermission; then, the open reading.

A cute short m.c.

I had signed up second.  I had five glasses of wine on an empty stomach.  I wasn’t called second.  Their friends got to read oh yeah.

Finally, something about Robert Frost followed by “and tonight we have with us Ed Smith.”

A very nice podium with a microphone and I was pissed oh yeah I wanted to gun down all the assholes there I wanted to let them know I thought they were literary jerks and wimps (all the open reading poets, 8 or 9, so far, had been, in my opinion, real fuckin’ bad).  I read thru my stuff.  They laughed at the title of my Erica Jong poem.  I think they applauded every poem except for the one about pissing and bleeding, but I think the only reason they applauded “Sometimes Fucking Seems So Alien” was coz I read it last.

Next night, Beyond Baroque and Thai [stick] instead of alcohol.  Much sleazier environment and much more intimidating and impressive.  The gangs had been in the bathroom.  Real poets wandering around.  People self-conscious and signing up.  In the ballpark of 30 poets of varying descriptions.  Mostly turn out boring oh well.  Still, a lot of talent and, Ms. [Pam] Kehrer informs me, many distinguished names oh yeah.

TBC   ahhh

Photo booth strip: Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, circa 1981

Photo booth strip: Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, circa 1981


Well, anyway, more on my poetical adventures.  At the Beyond Baroque reading, I was the first poet (ha-ha!) to read for the second half.  The poet to end the 1st half was the closest to moi.  He tried to copy my image and mentioned both his father and jerking-off (I hate that term applied to masturbation).  Still, I didn’t think he was that good.  As a matter of fact, I thought he was taking baby steps in the right direction, rather than charging right in (like at best I try to).

I got up to read.  I was much more self-conscious than the previous eve for two main reasons: (a) I felt like there were more real poets about and (b) I was on grass as opposed to being drunk.  When I read my voice was loud and nasal and I was afraid to look at the audience.

I read “Please” first.  You know, the one I wrote especially to open readings with.  I finished the poem and began to go on to the next (“Some Examples of Ways . . .”).  The audience paused for a moment & then started laughing.  I guess it took a moment for it to hit ’em (or perhaps to work up the nerve to laugh).  I was trying to read the title to the 2nd poem, but they were laughing.  I tried to clear my throat a couple of times and that really tickled ’em.

It was different from the previous evening.  They laughed intermittently thru “Some Examples . . .”  Next, I believe, was “An Open Letter [to Erica Jong]” which they really flipped over.  They really seemed to go crazy over my one-word conjunctive lines (just hanging on my words, waiting to see what I was gonna do).  When I finished they burst into a truly genuine-sounding, congratulatory, admiration-type, spontaneous applause.  I suspected it would go over well, but this was too much.

They laughed a lot throughout my reading.  Memorable laughs followed the title of “Fantasyworld,” followed “An Open Letter . . .” as well as “My job gets so boring / I beat off under the desk” and “Like getting shot?”  They applauded after that, but partly because Ms. [Mary] Emerzian led them.  It was hard to get thru the poem properly coz they were laughing so much.  I wouldn’t pause for them.  I was, after all, reading poetry, not doing stand-up comedy.  The last memorable laugh came at the “waving ‘hello’ on the freeway” line from “Sometimes Fucking . . .”, but they did laugh quite a bit thru it all.

After finishing, I said “thank you,” my only comment that wasn’t a poem and walked down.  Their applause at the end, especially compared to many boring jerks, including Michael Lehrer, following me didn’t seem too enthusiastic (it stopped fast). Maybe they thought I was a jerk or maybe I drained them.  Pam was practically in tears from laughing so much.

As we filed out following da show, we passed by Dennis Cooper, da guy in charge there who Michael warned me would love my stuff coz I did it better than him and would try to pick me up afterwards to boot (but not w/Mary around, I thought).  As I passed him he said
     “garble garble terrific.”
     “Huh?” I countered.
     “Your poems were terrific.”
     “Oh.  Thank you.”
     “Here.  Write down your address for me.”  He had a piece of paper.  “I want to send you a copy of a literary magazine I edit; it’s called Little Caesar.”  He cont’d, “If you like it, perhaps you would consider submitting some material.”

I gave him my address & phone #, asked his name (which I thought was “Hooper” as opposed to “Cooper”) and took off.

Oh boy, somebody wants to publish me.

Later on, Mary & Michael were surprised to learn what had happened. Pam already knew.

The following Thurs I was running out to get my ride to go to the Outlaw Cinema Festival (tonight, or rather that night: Heat Bad ), when I  [passage unfinished]

It’s easy to write.  It’s usually harder to get someone to pay attention (but not that hard).


I don’t read much “poetry.”

I won’t read poetry unless it grabs me and pulls me along.  Otherwise, it’s too much work and I’d rather be doing something else.

I do like to go to readings.

I’ll usually go if someone tells me.  I like having poems read to me.  At its best, it makes me feel like a kid again.

Otherwise, I’ll just go to sleep, right there.  And that makes me feel like a kid, too.


I had a great adventure with Melissa last Friday.  I won’t go into too many details, but it was fun.  We went and saw Twisted Roots open for Iggy at the Palladium. Then we went to the Cathay [de Grande]. Then some guy punched Melissa in the face.

Oh well.


To YOU in the future
let me say hi I’m Ed Smith
of a previous future


So here I am on the bus again.  Last night I went to the “Venice Invades Cal Arts” reading at Cal Arts.  It was great.  Mary & I rode w/Jack [Skelley] and Amy [Gerstler].  We got drunk.  It was a beer party.  Amy had some Vodka.  She might come over Saturday & bring some Champagne.  Dennis said not to worry about me giving a reading.  Everybody seems to be an editor.  Bob [Flanagan] was not depressed this time.  Sheree [Rose] took a picture of Mary and me afterwards yeah.  Today I got on the bus earlier so it’s filling up faster.  I’ll write more later.

Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, December 3, 1981. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, December 3, 1981. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World: Poems and Notebooks of Ed Smith, edited by David Trinidad, is forthcoming from Turtle Point Press in the spring of 2019.

Aaron Smith: 14 Instagram Collages



Author Bio

Aaron Smith is the author of three books of poetry published by the Pitt Poetry Series: Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, Appetite and Primer. Pittsburgh will publish his fourth book, The Book of Daniel, in Fall 2019. Aaron’s collages can be found on Instagram @LitAppetite.