Friday, December 18, 2009

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Prospero Ano y Felicidad.

Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Prospero Ano y Felicidad.

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart.

Monday, December 14, 2009

She Gets What She Came For by Chella Courington

No matter what you do, I sing “Stairway to Heaven” without end. Amen. Sugar on my tongue, chameleon-long, you raise your cotton shirt, spitting sticky rain. Over the Dutch Elm, Chagall’s wedding couple link hands and catch us in their drift, or is it their draft? Our stretchy limbs angel wings, our eyes spilling—Tibetan monkeys screech of Buddha in drag. Father Hennessey dispenses 50 Hail Marys for fucking mother’s best friend’s husband. Our fingers slip.

But this I know for sure: Mother sees the sun set, calls me high and low. Above Home Depot, I’m mistaken for a clumsy crow. Even when she ropes this body in, I won’t be there, not standing on the porch at 301 Sycamore but floating overhead, watching the girl who plunders and prowls. Last night she snaked into a bed on Main Street, spread arms and legs till the body ripped apart, the right side falling to the floor. The left side waiting for Chagall.

First Published: Tapas short fiction honorable mention, Doorknobs and BodyPaint (Issue 55, August 2009)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without--the power to die--

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blood Moon by Chella Courington

Sophie tickles my cheek with her tongue, and I give her my right arm. Like the Virgin’s mantle sliding over my shoulder, she rolls her muscles to the drummer’s heartbeat, washing me in light. Mama calls my boa a serpent, and me a dirty coochie dancer. Jesus is in covered-dish suppers at the Boaz Baptist Church. But I believe he’s in Sophie. At the Bottoms Up Bar she first appeared—eyes milky, scales ghost white. Just slept on a cover under the sink and refused to eat for six days. On the seventh, clouds evaporated. Clear dark eyes and bright brown body. Three days later, she rubbed and pushed her nose against the back screen until the skin broke. All day she pressed against the linoleum floor, never letting up. At night a translucent ribbon lay on the quilt—eye caps on top.

First Published: “Blood Moon,” Doorknobs short fiction first-prize winner, Doorknobs and BodyPaint (Issue 55, August 2009).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tonight, Listening by Chella Courington

It wasn’t the tumor
but the tumor remembered

being cut from the breast
the breast chiseled from bone

when, startled, she felt it
how it might pull again at her nipple

slip through the ribs
like a cat prowling.

First Published: Survivor’s Review (December 2008). Ed. Sheree Kirby.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

September by Chella Courington

Fog on the horizon
hides hard island edges.
Close to the patio
sprinklers swish: streams rise
in sun before falling in the garden.
Six plastic-pink flamingoes
parade by the sago palm.
A pair of dolphins, together
still after twenty years, watch
from the granite fountain.

Stripping an apple, peel swinging
in air, I think of Mother
who sliced what grew around her.
From wood the size of playing cards
she whittled small animals:
our cat on haunches, neck turned.
She carved a woman
on her knees, mostly stomach,
hands buried her bowed face.

Santa Ana winds blow dry
and scatter dust in their wake.
Hummingbirds circle coral bells.
Their wings, shadow puppets
on stucco. Heavy with petals,
dahlias bend to rocky dirt.
Once I caught a Regal Moth—
panes of ruby and jade.
For three days, she flew.

Tonight my namesake calls
like Linda Blair from The Exorcist:
voice gravelly, emerging
from Minnesota. At 19 Satan
and God crowded her head.
No alcohol, no meds, no doctor
could wash them out.
At 30 she screams
God will kill you for leaving me.
I squeeze the receiver
not forgetting her butterfly nightshirt—
wings pressed against me.

First Published: Touchstone (2007-2008), Ed. David Murphy.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Forty by Chella Courington

Dust devils swirl to Beethoven’s Fifth and sun
burns my eyes between Albuquerque and Grants.
Living in this forsaken land is unimaginable
until I see shadows on desert hills
and think of Georgia O’Keeffe

traveling across New Mexico—water colors
dislodging dark New York her lover old
enough to be her father posing her
day after day in his studio
infatuations in black and white.

Stieglitz dies. She escapes to open plains
cloud vistas where nothing presses
no camera traps no skyscraper blocks
her stretching into whiteness—
bone on red hills.

First Published as "Pilgrimage": Poemeleon 1.2 (Fall 2006). Ed. Cati Porter.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Perhaps you don't want to admit you've never had an orgasm. Maybe you don't even know what orgasms are, much less what style they come in, and how they might become available to you. That is why you are reading this guide to orgasms. You want to enter the realm of intimate revelations, heightened awareness, evocative sounds and silence. Indeed the history of orgasms is nothing other than the history of the world.

The fact is, orgasms are everywhere, though when we ask what an orgasm is, we find ourselves at a loss for words. Some call orgasms faith, others consider them music, still others say they are the best of ourselves in our best possible positions.

However they are defined, orgasms take great pleasure in men and women, good and evil, visible and invisible, real and unreal. Orgasms can happen to anyone, and there are all kinds of orgasms for all kinds of people.

For example, there are the lyric orgasms, which express deep feeling for an imagined person. You never know when your passionate, moaning lover is actually having a lyric orgasm. There is the ballad orgasm, which is kept alive orally, the dramatic orgasm, which speaks for itself, and the epic orgasm, a long-winded orgasm in which one lover plays the hero or conqueror and then relishes his victory. Men are often content with the small and discrete haiku of orgasms, which are said to around emotions and spiritual insight in a mere matter of syllables. Ministers and somber folk talk about the elegiac orgasms, which are mostly enjoyed by the dead, while celebrities and exhibitionists are inclined towards the performance orgasm, a style enacted before audiences. Good old-fashioned men and women never tire of the pastoral orgasms that appear in the midst of rural scenery. And at any time of day or night, lost orgasms aimlessly wander the streets, waiting to be found.

from The Book of Orgasms, Cleveland State University Press, August 2000

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lynette’s War by Chella Courington

My cousin Lynette says she’s tired from cleaning
East Main houses of rich bitches. They don’t even shit
like us, got toilet seats that float to the bowl,
never make a sound, & she hands me the baby
over the front seat. Days off Merry Maids
we like to drive her ’97 Trans Am to Atlanta—
kd lang over eight speakers.
I’m tired too, tired of being the babysitter.
Leah grabbing my earrings, covers me in crumbs.
She bites off the heads of animal crackers.
Only eats heads.

Don’t know why I hang with her.
She’s like the girl who cut my hair at Cinderella’s
saying I had the ugliest strands she’d ever seen.
I kept going back for more till Lynette blurted
you don’t need to pay for that kind of shit.
But Lynette says outright
she’s sexy & I’m not. We both know it.
Junior high she called me a mutant. Boobs
like raisins on a fifteen-year old’s wrong.
Mama took me to the doctor & he shook his head.

At least Lynette is a good mother.
When the kid has fever, Lynette won’t go
to work. I’d rather lose my job
than leave a sick baby at daycare.
Guess that’s why I hang with her.
She might call me names, but let somebody else do it,
she’d scratch their eyes out. At the Sonic,
some boy from Crossville leaned in the window,
drop the fat chick & let’s go driving.
She clawed his left cheek & screeched away,
tray still on the car, cokes & fries flying.
Son of a bitch thinks he can dump on you and have
a good time with me. Stupid bastard.

I thought Lynette would always be the one to leave.
Good looking. Smart. She never let anybody
walk on her, or me, though she did
what Cochran girls do after getting their
driver’s license. She got knocked up.
Wouldn’t tell a soul who the father was.
We all thought it was Sonny Cruz.
He went to Iraq in August & emailed Lynette every day.
Like they were junk, she’d hit delete.
He started writing letters she stacked on her dresser—
unopened. Keeping in touch with soldiers
is talking to the dead. Sonny could come back,
I say. Lots of boys make it. Lynette turned away
he might, but he won’t be the Sonny I knew.

After homecoming she carries his letters out to the grill.
They catch on the third match.
Every last word.

Voted Goodreads October Poem (2009)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spiderweb by Kay Ryan

From other
angles the
fibers look
fragile, but
not from the
spider’s, always
hauling coarse
ropes, hitching
lines to the
best posts
possible. It’s
heavy work
fighting sag,
winching up
give. It
isn’t ever
to live.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE SHEEP-CHILD by James Dickey

Farm boys wild to couple
With anything with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pine straw will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There's this thing that's only half
Sheep like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol because
Those things can't live his eyes
Are open but you can't stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?

Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying saying

I am here, in my father's house.
I who am half of your world, came deeply
To my mother in the long grass
Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
Listening for foxes. It was something like love
From another world that seized her
From behind, and she gave, not Iifting her head
Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
Of sobbing of something stumbling
Away, began, as she must do,
To carry me. I woke, dying,

In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and beast in the round of their need,
And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
I ate my one meal
Of milk, and died
Staring. From dark grass I came straight

To my father's house, whose dust
Whirls up in the halls for no reason
When no one comes piling deep in a hellish mild corner,
And, through my immortal waters,
I meet the sun's grains eye
To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
Dead, I am most surely living
In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
They go into woods into bean fields they go
Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
They groan they wait they suffer
Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.

Copyright © 1966 by James Dickey. All rights reserved. By permission of the Literary Estate of James Dickey.

The Atlantic Monthly; August 1966; The Sheep-Child.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Medley by Chella Courington



Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
Meredith Medley.
What kind of name is that?
Oh, my mom teaches piano at Waverly High.
Waverly? I went there.
Me too, graduated in 85.
I graduated in 88. Are you calling me about the reunion?
No, I’m calling about your favorite TV show.
My what?
Favorite TV show.
I don’t watch TV.
Does anybody in your household?
Who wants to know?
What if there’s nobody in my household?
Are you saying you’re single?
What if I am?
Are you looking?
For what?
Someone to be with.
Like who?
Anybody. What do you do if you don’t watch TV?
Why should I tell you?
Cause I work for Nielsen.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
But I sent my cell number to dontcalldotgov.
So you shouldn’t be calling me.
Why not?
I was sleeping.
At 4 in the afternoon?
Look Miss, Whoever You Are, it’s none of your goddamn business.
Excuse me, sir, but that language is totally uncalled for.
My language? You’re the one who woke me up.
You took our heavenly father’s name in vain.
He’s not my heavenly father.
What? You don’t believe in God?
It’s none of your goddamn business.
Look sir, I’m not going to talk to you unless you apologize.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
What do you want?
What’s your favorite TV show?
I work for Nielsen Ratings.
Nielsen who?
So, what’s your favorite?
The Biggest Loser.
You fat?
Not really.
How much do you weigh?
How tall?
You’re almost skinny. I weigh that much & I’m 5’5.”
I don’t eat between meals.
So, what’s your favorite show?
The Biggest Loser.
I hate fat people & hate myself for hating them.
So when they lose weight, I can love them again.
And when I love them again, I can love myself again.


Hi, don’t hang up, my name is Meredith Medley.
Are you kin to Mel Medley?
Mel Medley makes the meanest babyback ribs in Austin.
You from there?
No, but my best friend went to UT.
Hmm, what’s your favorite TV show?
South Park.
South Park.
How old are you?
Cause my nephew watches it.
How old’s he?
So what? Those guys who write it are a lot older than that.
How old are you?
And you like South Park?
Trey Parker & Matt Stone are geniuses.
What’s your name again?
Meredith Medley.

First Published: Poemeleon's Humor Issue (Winter 2008-09). Ed. Cati Porter.

Friday, October 02, 2009

When Berryman Died by Chella Courington


He left his shoes, scuffed loafers,
on the bridge. A cordovan pair
he could have shed
anywhere: at the university
beside his desk, under Tate’s coffee table,
at the foot of a lover’s bed.

Every night he thought, tomorrow.
Mornings, he remembered
his suit at the cleaners, his essay
on Marlowe, students waiting
outside his office. January 7
reasons ran dry.

He bathed and trimmed his beard,
putting on a new shirt.
In eight degrees he walked
to the bridge.

First Published: Touchstone (2007-2008), Ed. David Murphy

Monday, September 07, 2009

Queen's Bird by Chella Courington

Two of each—cup, saucer, bread plate
in lukewarm water, I wash away

thirty years of dust since Mother died.
At 42, ovarian cancer like Queen Mary.

Bloody Mary quite contrary
why leave your subjects crushed?

I thought I’d run into Mother if I traveled:
Chicago, Barbados, Edinburgh.

Against the sun, I raise the porcelain
eyeing it for chips and cracks. Bone china

fired from bone ash like Mother’s gray powder
handed me in a bronze urn.

Or is this cup with songbird glazed in blue
mere clay: my lips where once were hers.

First Published: Mademoiselle’s Fingertips (Summer 2008)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I See He Sees by Chella Courington

I See He Sees

An upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at 41st & 12th
raising it in waves
around her knees & over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
& I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t hold it down
& he sees me see him
before the light turns green.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rebekah & Christina

ah, i am breaking pattern, speaking! my dear friend rebekah is now in london on a fulbright teacher exchange. her blog that i've linked: my year in the purple house. sounds like a novel to me. remember julie & julia. so it's a year of living vicariously as i read of her adventures down lavender lane. in honor of her being there, i'll post a christina rossetti poem:

A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vier and purple dyes;
Carve it into doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

from RELUCTANT GRAVITIES by Rosmarie Waldrop


Two voices on a page. Or is it one? Now turning in on themselves, back into fiber and leaf, now branching into sequence, consequence, public works projects or discord. Now touching, now trapped in frames without dialog box. Both tentative, as if poring over old inscriptions, when perhaps the wall is crumbling, circuits broken, pages blown off by a fall draft.

Even if voices wrestle on the page, their impact on the air is part of their definition. In a play, for instance, the sentences would be explained by their placement on stage. We would not ask an actress what anguish her lines add up to. She would not worry what her voice touches, would let it spill over the audience, aiming beyond the folds of the curtain, at the point in the distance called the meaning of the play.

The difference of our sex, says one voice, saves us from humiliation. It makes me shiver, says the other. Your voice drops stones into feelings to sound their depth. Then warmth is truncated to war. But I'd like to fall back into simplicity as into a featherbed.

Voices, planted on the page, do not ripen or bear fruit. Here placement does not explain, but cultivates the vacancy between them. The voices pause, start over. Gap gardening which, moved inward from the right margin, suspends time. The suspension sets, is set, in type, in columns that precipitate false memories of garden, vineyard, trellis. Trembling leaf, rules of black thumb and white, invisible angle of breath and solid state.

She tries to draw a strength she dimly feels out of the weaknesses she knows, as if predicting an element in the periodic table. He wants to make a flat pebble skim across the water inside her body. He wonders if, for lack of sky, it takes on the color of skin or other cells it touches. If it rusts the bones.

The pact between page and voice is different from the compact of voice and body. The voice opens the body. Air, the cold of the air, passes through and, with a single inflection, builds large castles. The page wants proof, but bonds. The body cannot keep the voice. It spills. Foliage over the palisade.

He has put a pebble under his tongue. While her lips explode in conjectures his lisp is a new scale to practice. He wants his words to lift, against the added odds, to a truth outside him. In exchange, his father walking down the road should diminish into a symbol of age.

The page lures the voice with a promise of wood blossoming. But there is no air. No breath lives in the mouth or clouds the mirror. On stage, the body would carry the surface we call mind. Here, surface marries surface, refusing deep waters. Still, the point of encounter is here, always. Screams rise. Tears fall. Impure white, legible.




My mother, she says, always spread, irresistibly, across the entire room, flooding me with familiarity to breed content. I feared my spongy nature and, hoping for other forms of absorption, opened the window onto more water, eyes level with its surface. And lower, till the words "I am here" lost their point with the vanishing air. Just as it's only in use that a proposition grinds its lens.

Deciphering, he says, is not a horizontal motion. Though the way a sentence is meant can be expressed by an expansion that becomes part of it. As a smile may wide-open a door. Holding the tools in my mouth I struggle uphill, my body so perfectly suspended between my father's push and gravity's pull that no progress is made. As if consciousness had to stay embedded in carbon. Or copy. Between camp and bomb. But if you try to sound feelings with words, the stone drops into reaches beyond fathoms.

I am here, she says, I've learned that life consists in fitting my body to the earth's slow rotation. So that the way I lean on the parapet betrays dried blood and invisible burns. My shadow lies in the same direction as all the others, and I can't jump over it. My mother's waves ran high. She rode them down on me as on a valley, hoping to flush out the minerals. But I hid my bones under sentences expanding like the flesh in my years.

Language, he says, spells those who love it, sliding sidelong from word to whole cloth. The way fingers extend the body into adventure, print, lakes, and Dead-man's-hand. Wherever the pen pushes, in the teeth of fear and malediction, even to your signature absorbing you into sign. A discomfort with the feel of home before it grows into inflamed tissue and real illness. With symptoms of grammar, punctuation, subtraction of soul. And only death to get you out.



We must decipher our lives, he says, forward and backward, down through cracks in the crystal to excrement, entrails, formation of cells. And up. The way the lark at the end of night trills vertically out of the grass gh and outside myself, though regularly consumed at high noon. So maybe I should grant the shoot-out: light may flood me too, completely. But it won't come walking in boots and spurs, or flowing robes, and take my hand or give me the finger with the assurance of a more rational being. And my body slopes toward yours no matter how level the ground.

If we can't call it God, he says, it still perches on the mind, minting strangeness. How could we recognize what we've never seen? A whale in through the window, frame scattered as far as non-standard candles. The sky faints along the giant outline, thar she blows under your skin, tense, a parable right through the body that remains so painfully flesh.

So pleasurably flesh, she says, and dwells among us, flesh offered to flesh, thick as thieves, beginning to see. Even the lark's soar breaks and is content to drop back into yesterday's gravity. Which wins out over dispersion, even doubt, and our thoughts turn dense like matter. The way the sky turns deep honey at noon. The way my sensations seem to belong to a me that has always already sided with the world.

from RELUCTANT GRAVITIES by Rosmarie Waldrop
New Directions, 1999

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Writer's Almanac by Garrison Keillor

August 8, 2009

It was on this day in 1946 that Harold Ross wrote a memo about John Hersey's Hiroshima story that began "A very fine piece beyond any question; got practically everything. This will be … the classic piece on what follows a bomb dropping for a long time to come."

It was exactly one year and two days after the U.S. had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (the bomb was dropped August 6th, 1945) and The New Yorker was devoting an entire August issue to John Hersey's reporting. Hersey had been one of the first Western reporters to arrive in Hiroshima. To document the aftermath, he decided to write about how individual persons were affected, and he focused his stories on the lives of six people in Hiroshima at the time of the explosion.

The memo that Harold Ross wrote on this day was addressed to Joseph Wigglesworth, The New Yorker staff member whose job it was to compile the query sheets from various editors at the magazine on any given piece. Harold Ross had a reputation for turning in funny, quirky query sheets — and lengthy ones, too. For Hersey's Hiroshima article, Ross had written several hundred questions and observations. In the memo, he admitted, "I probably read it over-zealously."

Ross wrote: "There is, I think, one grave lack in this piece. It may be Hersey's intention that there be. If so, ask consideration for what I say anyhow. All the way through I wondered about what killed these people, the burns, falling debris, the concussion — what? For a year I've been wondering about this and I eagerly hoped this piece would tell me. It doesn't. Nearly a hundred thousand dead people are around but Hersey doesn't tell how they died. Would it be possible — if so, would be wise — to tell on Galley 7 where he gives the one hundred thousand people, how many were killed by being hit by hard objects, how many by burns, how many by concussion, or shock, or whatever it was?"

In the final version that was published, Hersey wrote: "Many people who did not die right away came down with nausea, headache, diarrhea, malaise, and fever, which lasted several days. Doctors could not be certain whether some of these symptoms were the result of radiation or nervous shock. … The doctors realized in retrospect that even though most of these dead had also suffered from burns and blast effects, they had absorbed enough radiation to kill them. The rays simply destroyed body cells — caused their nuclei to degenerate and broke their walls."

Harold Ross suggested mentioning the vomiting earlier and describing it more thoroughly. Ross also wrote "I would suggest that Hersey might do well to tuck up on the time — give the hour and minute, exactly or roughly, from time to time. The reader loses all sense of the passing of time in the episodes and never knows what time of day it is, whether ten a.m. or four p.m."

John Hersey's piece appeared a few weeks later, in The New Yorker's last issue of August. Hersey would later say, "What has kept the world safe from the bomb since 1945 has not been deterrence, in the sense of fear of specific weapons, so much as it's been memory. The memory of what happened at Hiroshima."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

VII by Wendell Berry

I would not have been a poet
except that I have been in love
alive in this mortal world,
or an essayist except that I
have been bewildered and afraid,
or a storyteller had I not heard
stories passing to me through the air,
or a writer at all except
I have been wakeful at night
and words have come to me
out of their deep caves
needing to be remembered.
But on the days I am lucky
or blessed, I am silent.
I go into the one body
that two make in making marriage
that for all our trying, all
our deaf-and-dumb of speech,
has no tongue. Or I give myself
to gravity, light, and air
and am carried back
to solitary work in fields
and woods, where my hands
rest upon a world unnamed,
complete, unanswerable, and final
as our daily bread and meat.
The way of love leads all ways
to life beyond words, silent
and secret. To serve that triumph
I have done all the rest.

"VII" from the poem "1994" by Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir:
The Sabbath Poems 1979–1997. © Counterpoint, 1998.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Paper Covers Rock by Chella Courington

I can’t stop buying scissors. I walk into Home Depot for geraniums & lilies, leave with gardening shears, green ergonomic handles. Gelson’s for halibut. Shiny poultry shears. At a garage sale I find a pair of hedge clippers. By December paper cutters, pinking shears, hair trimmers—any blades you want are boxed in the kitchen pantry.

Saturday he takes his 14 clubs & disappears. In hot water, I clean scissors. Prop them on the counter before drying with muslin. Each blade I shine with baking soda. In high school I hung with cutters. They used whatever worked: broken glass, coat hangers, paper. Arms tracked with violet scars like stretch marks, hidden under long-sleeve shirts.

Reflections in a Golden Eye: Mrs. Langdon uses garden shears to clip her nipples when she loses her baby. Snip snip—easy as pinching off deadheads. Sunday in January, I hold my left nipple between the blades of barber shears. Warm steel triggers goose bumps. Is a nipple like a finger? Can they sew it back on?

Recurrent dream: blades-down, scissors drop from the ceiling, rattling & hissing. Impale the cherry nightstand, down comforter, my Land’s End bathrobe. I crouch in the tub, rocking to the sound of hail. Open my thigh—blood a rusty penny melting on my tongue.

I get a Nevada divorce. He signs the papers & hauls his Titliest clubs, La-Z-Boy, & mahogany desk back to Illinois. Parting words: The cat stays with you. I get Moot, the crystal, & the condo. Start selling the scissors on E-Bay, box by box.

First Published: Mademoiselle’s Fingertips (Summer 2008)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dream of New Mexico by Chella Courington

In La Madera, you find me
late afternoon sun at my back

hips wider than yours, gathering
skulls. We roam red hills:

ocher, orange and purple earth
cracked by hot blowing sand.

A solitary penitent, dark veil
over torso, trudges near us.

Bulky black crosses cover the desert.
You kiss my scars, ghosts of my breasts.

Seven years mortification fall away
evening bells from Ranchos de Taos.

First Published in: _The Wild Goose Poetry Review_ (Summer 2008). Eds. Patricia Kennedy Bostian and Gary Walker.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Skin by Chella Courington

geckos, iridescent-white
zigzag on the ceiling
lick their way clear
humming fan blades
cut hot air
never sever scales
they’re harmless
there’s nothing we can do
please don’t call the desk

there were snake skins
dry diaphanous coils
grandmother turned inside out
one for each child born before forty
stitched seven across
hung over a black walnut bed
pendulous skins tapped
when a door opened
and someone pulled down a cover

at night
geckos eat the skin
they shed
leave nothing behind
i watch the plump one
in the corner
puffy belly rising
and falling on each cry
my own stomach round
in union undulating

published in _Not A Muse_, Eds. Kate Rogers & Vicki Holmes
Hon Kong: New Haven Books, 2009.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Boredoom by Colette Bryce

We nursed the wounded gull to death
in the end, attended its small funeral, as the rain
beat down on the shed's tin roof. Tightrope-walked
on the high back walls, took giant steps, ran errands,
Milk, Potatoes, Silk Cut, Special Mince. We swung
in arcs on a length of flex from a lamppost,
racing our own shadows. Shot at aliens
dancing on a screen, pushing coin after coin
in the slot: reached level five, the mother ship.
The world was due to end next week
according to someone whose brother had read
Nostradamus. Magpies, two for joy. Walk round ladders, quick,
touch wood. We mimed the prayer of the Green Cross Code
and waited, good, at the side of the road.
Blessed ourselves when the ambulance sailed
by on a blue (our fingers, toes). Lay awake
in the fret of the night, thinking about the Secret
of Fatima, the four-minute warning, the soft-boiled egg.
Our boomerang did not come back. Frisbees
lodged in the canopies of trees forever, turning black.
I poked out moss from paving slabs, half-dreamingly,
with an ice-pop stick, then leapt at the looped rope
of my name called from a yard, and dawdled home,
trailing a strange tune on the xylophone railings.
The future lived in the crystal ball
of a snake preserved in alcohol in my grandmother's attic.
I looked, on tiptoe, out through the lens
of the highest window; learned the silver river's turn,
the slogans daubed on the ancient walls,
the column of smoke where something always burned.

Colette Bryce was born in 1970 and brought up in Northern Ireland. She won the
National Poetry Competition in 2003 and her second collection, The Full Indian Rope
Trick, was short-listed for the TS Eliot prize in 2004.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dear Jungle by Sujata Bhatt

The safest place for you is in the greenhouse now.
The animals have to stay in the zoo.
The birds have their own cage
which is somewhere else, far away;
and the snakes live in the snake house.
I've sprayed the mosquitoes;
there's no point in keeping them.
I'm sorry the butterflies died too.
It was an accident.
Don't be sad. I'll visit you every day.
I'll wear my new tropical outfit, helmet and all.
I'll bring biscuits and Darjeeling tea, just for us.
My dear jungle, please understand
my love for you; how I need your jungly jungliness;
oh, how shall I live without your green,
green rawness all over me.

Sujata Bhatt was born in India in 1956 and was brought up in India and the United
States. She has published six collections of poetry. Her most recent collection, Pure
Lizard, was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Best Collection prize.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Raindrop (God Speaks) by Moniza Alvi

The Guardian published a list of Carol Ann Duffy's favotie women poets Saturday, May 2. I will feature their poetry over the next couple of weeks.

after Jules Supervielle

I'm searching for a drop of rain
so recently fallen into the sea.
In its sheer descent
it out-glistened the others
because alone among all the drops
it had the wisdom to understand
that very softly
it would lose itself forever
in the salty water.
So I'm searching the sea,
scanning the attentive waves
for the sake of a delicate memory
which only I can guard.
Well, I've done my best -
some things even God can't do
despite the best of intentions
and the wordless assistance
of sky, waves, air.

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore in 1954 and grew up in England. Her most recent collection of poetry, Europa, was shortlisted for the 2008 TS Eliot prize.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Mrs Lazarus by Carol Ann Duffy

I had grieved. I had wept for a night and a day
over my loss, ripped the cloth I was married in
from my breasts, howled, shrieked, clawed
at the burial stones until my hands bled, retched
his name over and over again, dead, dead.

Gone home. Gutted the place. Slept in a single cot,
widow, one empty glove, white femur
in the dust, half. Stuffed dark suits
into black bags, shuffled in a dead man's shoes,
noosed the double knot of a tie around my bare neck,

gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself. I learnt
the Stations of Bereavement, the icon of my face
in each bleak frame; but all those months
he was going away from me, dwindling
to the shrunk size of a snapshot, going,

going. Till his name was no longer a certain spell
for his face. The last hair on his head
floated out from a book. His scent went from the house.
The will was read. See, he was vanishing
to the small zero held by the gold of my ring.

Then he was gone. Then he was legend, language;
my arm on the arm of the schoolteacher-the shock
of a man's strength under the sleeve of his coat-
along the hedgerows. But I was faithful
for as long as it took. Until he was memory.

So I could stand that evening in the field
in a shawl of fine air, healed, able
to watch the edge of the moon occur to the sky
and a hare thump from a hedge; then notice
the village men running towards me, shouting,

behind them the women and children, barking dogs,
and I knew. I knew by the sly light
on the blacksmith's face, the shrill eyes
of the barmaid, the sudden hands bearing me
into the hot tang of the crowd parting before me.

He lived. I saw the horror on his face.
I heard his mother's crazy song. I breathed
his stench; my bridegroom in his rotting shroud,
moist and dishevelled from the grave's slack chew,
croaking his cuckold name, disinherited, out of his time.

Carol Ann Duffy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Terezin by Taije Silverman

—a transfer camp in the Czech Republic

We rode the bus out, past fields of sunflowers
that sloped for miles, hill after hill of them blooming.

The bus was filled with old people.
On their laps women held loaves of freshly baked bread.
Men slept in their seats wearing work clothes.

You stared out the window beside me. Your eyes
were so hard that you might have been watching the glass.

Fields and fields of sunflowers.

Arriving we slowed on the cobblestone walkway.
Graves looked like boxes, or houses from high up.

On a bench teenage lovers slouched in toward each other.
Their backs formed a shape like a seashell.
You didn't want to go inside.

But the rooms sang. Song like breath, blown
through spaces in skin.

The beds were wide boards stacked up high on the walls.
The glass on the door to the toilet was broken.
I imagined nothing.

You wore your black sweater and those dark sunglasses.
You didn't look at me.

The rooms were empty, and the courtyard was empty,
and the sunlight on cobblestone could have been water,
and I think even when we are here we are not here.

The courtyard was flooded with absence.
The tunnel was crowded with light.
Like a throat. Like a—

In a book I read how at its mouth they played music,
some last piece by Wagner or Mozart or Strauss.

I don't know why. I don't know
who walked through the tunnel or who played or what finally
they could have wanted. I don't know where the soul goes.

Your hair looked like wheat. It was gleaming.

Nearby on the hillside a gallows leaned slightly.
What has time asked of it? Nights. Windstorms.

Your hair looked like fire, or honey.
You didn't look at me.

Grass twisted up wild, lit gold all around us.
We could have been lost somewhere, in those funny hills.

And the ride back—I don't remember.
Why was I alone? It was night, then. It was still morning.

But the fields were filled with dead sunflowers.
Blooms darkened to brown, the stalks bowed.
And the tips dried to husks that for miles kept reaching.
Those dreamless sloped fields of traveling husks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

miss rosie by Lucille Clifton

when I watch you
wrapped up like garbage
sitting, surrounded by the smell
of too old potato peels
when I watch you
in your old man's shoes
with the little toe cut out
sitting, waiting for your mind
like next week's grocery
I say
when I watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman
who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
I stand up
through your destruction
I stand up

Reprinted from Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980, BOA Editions, Ltd., 260 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604.
From Click on title above.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"In the desert" from The Black Riders by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend,”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shaindel Beers: A Brief History of Time

Recently I interviewed Shaindel Beers about her new book of poetry, A Brief History of Time, published by Salt Publishing in 2009.

1. Several of your poems use long lines. What is their appeal to you and what other contemporary poets and/or poems of the long line do you admire?

I love the rush and the feeling of breathlessness when you get to the end of the line, whether you’re reading aloud or silently. A lot of beginning poets think that the short line makes a poem move more quickly, but each line break stops you for about the same duration as a comma as your eyes make their way over to the left margin. I hadn’t really thought of a lot of contemporary poets who use long lines; I guess, I always think of Whitman automatically when I hear “long line,” or Ginsberg, since he was so influenced by Whitman. I just looked up some poets I really admire who I think might use long lines and realized a lot of them do who I hadn’t thought of—Richard Jackson, Charles Harper Webb, Mary Ruefle, and Bruce Weigl to name a few.

2. I noticed one prose poem in your collection, “Stretching out that fifteen minutes.” What do you like about the form? Dislike?

Prose poems are tricky to even talk about. Is it a prose poem? Is it a short-short story? Is there a difference between these two things? I really think a prose poem is a poem that throws one of the basic elements of poetry out the window—the basic unit of poetry is the line—but keeps all the rest of them. I especially tried to make this one land on the poetic side of the spectrum by phonetically spelling out the way the boy’s name would sound depending on the direction of the wind. But it definitely depends on strong narrative like a short-short story.

The things I don’t like about the form are when people try to definitely label something as a prose poem versus short-short fiction and get huffy in their defense. The other thing is when people write prose poems that could be traditional poems, but they are writing it that way because they are too lazy to decide where line breaks should go. If you can do it with appropriate line breaks, it doesn’t need to be a prose poem.

3. Given your undergraduate major was in English, to what extent are you influenced by classical Western writers?

My good friend and former colleague, Larry Starzec, used to say, “Writers read with larceny in their hearts.” As a writer, you read, and if something is breathtaking, you think, “How can I steal that?” As an English major, you are steeped in the Western tradition, so I think that there’s no way around admitting that that is my main influence. My main focus, even through my first graduate degree, was British literature. I’d never really read American literature until I was teaching it at the community college level, and I’d read almost no contemporary literature until my MFA program (my second graduate program). I would say the Western influence, until relatively recently, was even more focused than most people’s—pretty exclusively 19th Century and British.

Hosting my radio show, Translated By, has gotten me reading at least one non-English language book a week, and I’ve become really intrigued with a particular Japanese writer, Yoko Ogawa, so I’m definitely trying to expand my horizons, but the U.S. really is pretty insular as far as literature goes, and you really have to look for what’s been translated into English.

4. Being a Californian I can’t resist the film question. If you could turn one of your poems into a film, which one would you choose and why? Any idea of whom you’d cast in the key roles?

I think that “HA!” would be one of the best poems to turn into a film. It seems to have a lot of “scenes” without needing different settings—it would all basically take place in a Dollar General store, and it has an interesting cast of characters. I had never thought about casting it before, but I think Susan Sarandon would make a good Ann. Is it fair to put someone as glamorous as Susan Sarandon in a Dollar General? I think Steve would be played by Milo Ventimiglia (Jess from Gilmore Girls). The real Steve (yes, I didn’t change the names for this poem) actually looked just like Ventimiglia. Maybe the addict cashier would be Brittany Murphy, and I don’t know who the nice cashier would be. Probably someone pretty nondescript.

Click on the above title to find more about Salt Publishing & Shaindel Beers

Interviewer: Chella Courington
Santa Barbara, CA
March 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lynette’s War by Chella Courington

My cousin Lynette says she’s tired from cleaning
East Main houses of rich bitches. They don’t even shit
like us, got toilet seats that float to the bowl,
never make a sound, & she hands me the baby
over the front seat. Days off Merry Maids
we like to drive her ’97 Trans Am to Atlanta—
kd lang over eight speakers.
I’m tired too, tired of being the babysitter.
Leah grabbing my earrings, covers me in crumbs.
She bites off the heads of animal crackers.
Only eats heads. Go figure. Lynette runs
into the outlet mall for Juicy jeans.

Don’t know why I hang with her.
She’s like the girl who cut my hair at Cinderella’s
saying I had the ugliest strands she’d ever seen.
I kept going back for more till Lynette blurted
you don’t need to pay for that kind of shit.
Yeah, well, Lynette’s one to tell me outright
she’s sexy & I’m not. We both know it.
Junior high she called me a mutant. Boobs
like raisins on a fifteen-year old’s wrong.
Mama took me to the doctor & he shook his head,
maybe you’ve done something God didn’t like
so He’s punishing you. Could be
God just didn’t like me cause I sure
didn’t think much of Him & still don’t.

At least Lynette is a good mother.
When the kid has fever, Lynette won’t go
to work. I’d rather lose my job
than leave a sick baby at daycare.
Guess that’s why I hang with her.
She might call me names, but let somebody else do it,
she’d scratch their eyes out. At the Sonic,
some boy from Crossville leaned in the window,
drop the fat chick & let’s go driving.
She clawed his left cheek & screeched away,
tray still on the car, cokes & fries flying.
Son of a bitch thinks he can dump on you and have
a good time with me. Stupid bastard.

I thought Lynette would always be the one to leave.
Good looking. Smart. She never let anybody
walk on her, or me, though she did
what Cochran girls do after getting their
driver’s license. She got knocked up.
Wouldn’t tell a soul who the father was.
We all thought it was Sonny Cruz.
He went to Iraq in August & emailed Lynette every day.
Like they were junk, she’d hit delete.
He started writing letters she stacked on her dresser—
unopened. Keeping in touch with soldiers
is talking to the dead. Sonny could come back,
I say. Lots of boys make it. Lynette turned away
he might, but he won’t be the Sonny I knew.

After homecoming she carries his letters out to the grill.
They catch on the third match.
Every last word.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Edge of Morning by Chella Courington

We pass a joint, barely long
enough for a clip. You accuse me
of hiding my sex under tight sheets.
I breathe as deeply as I can. Your words
bounce against the wall, single letters back
and forth: Navratolova slams one ball after a
nother. Chrissie’s flummoxed. Too late to drive
too high to care. And you invoke my mother’s ghost
as you always do this time of night: her hand reaches
from the grave to bless us. I roll more grass, lick the edge
to forget I’ll stumble off to bed with you and blame Mother
for pushing me into your arms.

First published: .” SUB-LIT, 1.4 (Spring 2008). Ed. Michael Ogletree
et al.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Blue by Joni Mitchell

Blue songs are like tattoos
You know I've been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Hey Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Well there're so many sinking now
You've got to keep thinking
You can make it thru these waves
Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laughs lots of laughs
Everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
Well I don't think so
But I'm gonna take a look around it though
Blue I love you

Blue here is a shell for you
Inside you'll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby
There is your song from me

Copyright © 1970; Joni Mitchell

click on the title to find more on joni mitchell

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Grandeur Of The Mountains by Rosmarie Waldrop

Could the grandeur of the mountains be inhaled by a village girl? How fraught the bond between warm-blooded animals. The governing classes had no intention of loosening their grip. The more snow piled up undenied on the snowbank the more shadows of clouds moved across "household slavery." What does it mean to put a word between quotation marks? Thanks to the discoveries of Darwin the structural plan of every species is laid down in two strands.

How wonderfully the air is laid down on shadows. She had left her widowed mother to discover the grandeur of the mountains. Above a certain solitude no trees grow. Snowballing denoted making few concessions to women. What is passed from generation to generation is a structure of detail like the lacing of boots. Whereas inverted commas take their distance from language.

Such as the accessories of light, heat, electricity, laced boots. Soon she was pregnant. The more rapidly commas were snowballing the harder the resolve to maintain symbols of order. For proper understanding use distance from language. Sometimes slight errors occur above a certain solitude. The sense has been shifted, but not cut into mouthfuls.

This air, then, those we call animals suck in by mouthfuls. In October, there was a severe storm among the symbols of order. This is what is known as genetic mutation. Solitude engulfed the accessories. The vast, shifting grandeur of the mountains. Sexual tolerance was confined within commas, suspended within its history, weighted and therefore thought.

The old woman knew her daughter was near her time. Air is decomposed in the lungs and therefore thought. But genes are grouped into larger units called history. The word enclosed within quotation marks is waiting for its moment of revenge. The governing classes did not confine covert storms, but fidelity to one's wife remained a warm-blooded option. No smoke rising in the public realm.

Part of what they inhale is distributed with the arterial blood (warm). The broken door banged backwards and forwards on its hinges. Only in exceptional cases does a mutation enable an organism to adapt more profitably to solitude. She wrapped her daughter in a quilt. The clergy showed themselves unprepared to overturn the institution of "household slavery." He who puts a word in quotation marks can no longer rid himself of it.

Click on the above title for Waldrop's Home Page

Friday, February 06, 2009

Redemption Song by Bob Marley

Old pirates, yes, they rob i;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took i
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the and of the almighty.
We forward in this generation
Wont you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? ooh!
Some say its just a part of it:
Weve got to fulfil de book.

Wont you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.
/guitar break/
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Wo! have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Yes, some say its just a part of it:
Weve got to fulfil de book.
Wont you help to sing
Dese songs of freedom? -
cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs -
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
Songs of freedom.

click on the above title & hear/see marley sing redemption song

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander's Inaugural Poem: Praise Song for the Day.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

From (click on poem's title)