First Aid Kit & Johnny & June

22 May


New Poetry Crush specials are in the works.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, everyone instantly loves this song by First Aid Kit — Saw them play at the Henry Miller Library at Big Sur last year and they will be performing at Sasquatch this week.   The voices of these 2 swedish sisters haunt then delight then haunt then leave you with a sweet pang.  (June & Johnny forevs!)


from Emmylou

I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June
If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too.
No, I’m not asking much of you,
Just sing little darling, sing with me.
Just sing little darling sing with me.


From the Screenplay Walk the Line

[Tour Bus, middle of the night]

[Johnny wakes up and as his first instinct looks for June.]
Johnny’s Manager: She’s in the back.  [Johnny walks to the back of the bus where June is sleeping.]
Johnny Cash: June?
June Carter: [Half-asleep] What’s wrong, John?
Johnny Cash: I had a bad dream.
June Carter: [Still half-asleep] You did good tonight, John. Go back to sleep. You’ll need your rest for tomorrow.
Johnny Cash: I think it’s about time, June.
June Carter: Time for what?
Johnny Cash: For you and me… to get married.
June Carter: Go to sleep, John.
Johnny Cash: I want to marry you and I am telling you it’s the time.
June Carter: Well I’m telling you with 100 percent certainty that it is not the time. It’s not about time. It’s not the right time, it’s not even quarter to the right time.
Johnny Cash: You know what your problem is, June Carter? You are afraid to be in love. You are afraid of losing control. And you know what June Carter, I think you are afraid of livin’ in my big fat shadow.
June Carter: Oh really? Is that what my problem is?
Johnny Cash: Yes.
June Carter: My problem is that it’s 2 A.M. My problem is I’m asleep. I’m on a tour bus with eight stinkin’ men. Rule number one: Don’t propose to a girl on a bus, you got that? Rule number two: Don’t tell her it’s because you had a bad dream.
Johnny Cash: June.
June Carter: What?
Johnny Cash: Marry me.
[June glares]
Johnny Cash: Ok… Ok fine… but that’s the last time I’m asking…
June Carter: Well, good. I hate reruns.

[Backstage before the show, June's dressing room door]

Johnny Cash: June? What you’re not talking to me?
June Carter: You are not allowed to speak to me. After that stunt you pulled on the bus, the only place you are allowed to speak to me is on stage. Do you understand?
Johnny Cash: What’d I do?
June Carter: I don’t know. Why don’t you ask your big, fat shadow?
Johnny Cash:  Come on, Baby.
June Carter:  [Mocking Johnny] Come on, Baby.  BABY, BABY, BABY, BABY.  [Slams door in Johnny's face]



Elvis Perkins

31 Mar


A moving song by Elvis Perkins who lost his mother in one of the 9/11 planes and lost his father, actor Anthony Perkins to AIDS.  I never get over this song.  It’s probably the song I’ve played the most in the past 12 months.  So why then,  a few nights ago, when Elvis Perkins himself came up to talk to the person I was talking to, did I just watch it like a movie and say nothing:  go home,  listen to Elvis Perkins and Beirut & write?  I don’t know.  I guess some crushes are like that.



while you were sleeping
the money died
machines were harmless and the earth sighed
through the wind, you slept sound
and gravity brought my love around
the ocean rose, sang about decay
while witches flew
and the mermaids stayed
full of dreams, you overslept
and keeping with quiet, through the walls i crept
i walked on tiptoe, sent darkness swirling
over all the kitchen in the early morning

i’ll never catch up to you
who sleeps so sound
my arms are useless
my heart beats too loud to go to sleep
my mind’s too proud to bow out

while you were sleeping
the time changed
all your things were rearranged
your vampire mirrors face to face
they saw forever out into space
and found you dreaming in black and white
while it rained in all the colors of the night

i watched the tvs
vanished to sea
can it be, my honey between you and me

so i waited for the riddled sky
to be solved again by sunrise
and i’ve made a death suit for life
for my father’s ill widowed wife
did you have that strangest dream before you woke
cos in your gown you had the butterfly stroke
did it escape you like some half told joke?
when you reached for your plume of smoke

and it’ll haunt you, my honey bee
anyone who is anyone has that same dream
were you falling
were you flying
and were you calling out
or were you dying
thank god you’re up now
let’s stay that way
else there’ll be no mornings
and no more days
cos when we’re dreaming
the babies grow
the sun shines
and the shadows flow
time flies
the phone rings
there is a silence
and everybody tries to sing

Bill Knott

13 Mar

I wrote Bill Knott an email 4 days before his death, which never got a response: I had built up the courage to finally ask him if I could send him my chapbook.  I am way too shy about these things.  I said he would probably hate it but that, still, I wanted him to have it.  I had been thinking about writing that email for 2 years.

I  didn’t know Bill Knott personally, I just had a crush on him.  What’s true of Bill Knott, I think is true of what people say about the first Velvet Underground album – it sold few copies in comparison to its contemporaries but everyone who bought it started a band.  I think Bill did that for poets.

Following is the very first entry of Poetry Crush which I wrote in a frenzy after reading an interview of Bill Knott.  When I sent it to Bill he said he was “flattered and honored” — I am thankful he didn’t hose me!  (He was known for criticizing his admirers, calling them fake –He had some Holden in him!)    I like to think romance was his weakness.

J. Hope Stein

Bill Knott’s poems are the kind of poems you want to read when things get really fucked up. And things seem to always get fucked up, don’t they?

I read an interview he did a few months ago that has been haunting me where, when asked what he thought his poetic influence would be, his answer was– “You gotta be kidding. The answer is none, no one in their right mind will read my work. I’ll be forgotten and gone.” (

Knott’s poems have been important to me for years so I felt compelled to start a blog called just so I could say so. I will probably spend the rest of my life (although according to Knott, I am not in my right mind) trying to figure out how to write a poem as simultaneously disciplined and alive as Bill Knott’s To The Emblematic Hourglass of My Father’s Skull. I don’t know who out there is writing better lines.

Dear Bill, I like you…

J. Hope Stein


by Bill Knott

The night that dies in me each day is yours:
Hour whose way I stare, yearning to terra
Firma my eye. There. Where a single hair
Would be a theater curtain I could cling

Behind, dreading my cue, aching to hear
What co-hurrah. More, more of leaves that fall
Consummate capsules, having annaled all
Their veins said! Printout printemps. And yet
(Altars our blood writes a blurb for god on)
Can one ever envy enough his skeleton’s
Celebrity. Can any epitaph

Be adequate repartee for your laugh.
Days lived by me each night say less than it.
While sleep in ounces weighs me wanting.

Book of Crushes

3 Mar


Edited by J. Hope Stein
Artwork by Sara Lefsyk

This mysterious book of secreted crushes is designed to be read aloud, but in hushed voice & by candlelight.  Book of Crushes is broken up into three sections:

Poems: Poet-on-Poet Crush
Jennifer Knox on Walt Whitman, Sara Lefsyk on Federico Garcia Lorca, J. Hope Stein on Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes, Melissa Broder on Emily Dickinson, Todd Colby on Mina Loy, Janaka Stucky on Jean Genet, Joanna Penn Cooper on Wislawa Symborska, Victor D. Infante on Anne Sexton, Christine Hamm on Marianne Moore, Lauren Hunter on Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, & Jean Toomer, Maria Teutsch on Henry Miller, Joe Hall on Edward Taylor and Rauan Klassnik on Ron Silliman.

Poems: Poet-on-Celebrity Crush
Joanna Penn Cooper on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kristy Bowen on James Franco, Amy Lawless on Mariah Carey, Sasha Fletcher on the presidents, Monica McClure on Lindsay Lohan, Lauren Gordon on Britney Spears and Brandon Brown on Amanda Bynes.

Radical Essay or Short Story: Poet-on-Poet Crush

Sampson Starkweather on Weekend at Bernies & Hamlet, Miracle Jones on Emma Lazarus & Julia Ward Howe and J. Hope Stein on Shakespeare.

Ping-Pong & Poetry Crush Reading in Seattle

19 Feb


Thursday, February 27th 7-10pm, Ping-Ping (the official journal of the Henry Miller Library) & Poetry Crush (the official & unofficial digi-crush-journal), join cerebral cortexes in a mysterious and intimate reading at Seattle’s Butterfly Lounge.

Readers include:  Kim Addonizio, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, Joanna Fuhrman, Joe Hall,  Cheryl Quimba, Adeena Karasick, Amy Lawless, James Maughn, Sampson Starkweather, Dan Shapiro, J. Hope Stein, Rauan Klassnik, Janaka Stucky, Maria Garcia Teutsch, Peter Kline and Brittany Perham.

The Butterfly Lounge’s walls of glass-encased butterflies are sure to inspire courageous & metamorphic reading experiences.  Arrive as larva, depart as butterfly.

Poetry Crush 2014: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol.I)

9 Feb


Scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock:  “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with first-rate hearts-of-cake:  Shane McCrae, Hannah Gamble, Paige Taggart, Amy Lawless, Todd Colby, Joanna Penn Cooper, Douglas Piccinnini, Jared White, Melissa Broder, Rauan Klassnik, Rena Mosteirin, Lee Ann Roripaugh & J. Hope Stein (me, duh).
This is 1 of 2 valentine editions of Poetry Crush.  The next one should be up in a couple days.





Most often neighbor as you       most if neighbor means you only

Most often you most often spring pink      suns the trees the cherry now

Most often neighbor to the blue immediate blue sky

And none of the rain in the sky although rain

strips the pink light from the branches

As neighbors do although rain claims the branches into blossom

As neighbors do as you

have claimed me into life most often neighbor // The pink trees neighbor

to the blue sky not for      being pink / For being

from red the same distance      the sky is from the blue it is

As I with you from any man as you from any woman

Shane McCrae




At the end of his life he still had many
devotees, and for that, he was grateful.

Several devotees lined the window seats
of his bedroom, many of them
with his books in hand.

Most important to him, however,
was that he still was an erotic fixture
in the lives of women,

so several of them sat facing his bed,
vaginas glistening atop literal cushions.

Hannah Gamble



The next morning I noticed that he had this weird foreign object in his chest—but he wasn’t bleeding. It was almost like a tattoo. Babe what the….is that? We stood in the mirror of his bathroom not noticing. Big like a car part, I couldn’t believe it didn’t make him double over in pain as it moved its way up to his forehead. We weren’t on acid. I looked into his eyes and he looked into my eyes and we smiled a lot and ate takeout in bed. Did the delivery guy see your forehead? He just laughed, slapped my ass, and we ate chorizo burritos. I then felt immediately embarrassed. I keep soy milk in my fridge for when he comes over despite its disgusting aftertaste. I learned to really look at the people. Now if he isn’t in front of me or touching me, I ache throughout my whole body and the physical pain only increases over course of the day. So our bodies in their primitive states moved into a single body absent of worldly pain.

Amy Lawless




I’ve half-a-heart to kneel in the centerfold of every love magazine
To be in a billowing ball gown, would be, to dust the pony off and retire for fair-trade My spirit can’t be outsourced; it is inspiration from the centerfolds of every love issue! It is high and mighty like the spirit-clause you just signed
I’ve prospered from affairs on the high-angle with legendary jewels and redingotes
I horse backed along the boardwalk and later performed oral sex
I was accomplished, so shoot me!
I was skilled, so kill me!
I was adorned, so need me!
Properly keel over afterwards
I’ll dispose of your body into the trifecta of human duality
How we provoke and onward shift amicably
I’ve got pains for the hype, it sucker punches me into corners so unpleasant
Here we are, just the two of us, forever shunned to a hard earned maintenance
So kill me why don’tchya

Paige Taggart




Sure, I’ve thought about fucking you in my desk chair, silently not to disturb the neatness of your yellow summer dress. Silently not to disturb our colleagues in surrounding cubicles. You putting small paperclips in my hair, your hands suggesting the rocking of my skull. You straddling my lap, my bare ass in my desk chair shapes suctioning into each other— We would continue to make the sounds of good business. A conference call with Coca-Cola, an email to Citibank, a spreadsheet of year-over-year gross profits. You elevated in my lap, your face clearing just over the cubicle partition just visible enough across the office, your expression dismembered like a poet who’s fallen out of favor with her king.

J. Hope Stein




Tonight I’m going to shake your hand into butter,
curve around you until you’re gel,
climb the soft pieces of you with spikes,
insert a vibrating dial, and conjure you
into living goop. I will slip my hand
under your belt; and lose a wisdom tooth,
make a necklace of it, and hang it around
your neck. My gift of light will shimmer
on your smooth throat, and all the institutes of longing
will permeate the landscape with medicinal
cloud formations that disperse calming
solutions of tingle water and kink spray.
I will secrete a secret mud that enhances
your ability to thrust your hips into mine
on a bed that is damp and purple.
You are so smooth that when you get up,
you leave behind an impression
of our Lord and Savior.

Todd Colby



“LITTLE” “BEAR” for R.E.H.P.

I’ve said so cover’d and un
“the fruit is real”
the something as much

retain me

who is there
that I shake out a name

a system like the sun
is as arable

so I grow incurably so

entre amigos

woods? si, woods
spring the lock
in that I so nilled
like wilted mint
in public revived
I will

Douglas Piccinnini




In the light that should be out already, Lulu is making
You forget what it means to be a girl
And when she puts her bobbing face close to yours
And when she kisses you it is a poet’s kiss
That puts things into you I have put already
As Peer flosses his teeth for hours until they sparkle
With the knowledge of growing up amongst poets
And the precision fucking that is demanded by hotel life
About which all I want to convey is the smell
I never really learned the language another language uses
To describe this I want to tell you about my childhood
Which was many missed opportunities for me to help carry
The bag so big and the flesh so slack and thin
The normals ate who were enormous, ponderous and beautiful
And I was staring straight through to the ass bone and the ribs
And remarkably they had ceased for a moment to rot
And in the cloud cover glow of that luminescence
You could see all of the stains on my teeth with black light
You could see what I would look like when I get old
And it was not so bad really only a lot older looking
And more courageous and less fuckable but still in the same hotel
Because there never was an explosion the terrorists failed
To outwit the geologists after all that underneath the sand
The rock is porous and gravel will always be useful

Jared White




Apply this soothing gel made from roots and branches
to your forearms when you jump up warrior style
and run fist-first to the kitchen in your sleep.
I’ll buy you almond croissants.  I’ll hum to you
with my pretty good pitch.  You are falling asleep
and chuckling sweetly to yourself when you think of me;
I am taking photos of you sleeping and posting them online.
I know you don’t mind, so I break into your house
while you’re out and teach myself the bass.  Don’t worry
about that smoke smell, it’s my gentleness you’re loving.

Joanna Penn Cooper



Notgod set me on fire and was like good luck
I think the shirt you wear is ultimate
When it turns red nothing can walk soft
Maybe birth me up on your fingers
You taste like notsober alcoholics
Various breeds of errors and the way I feel you
No human power no human power
I cannot go there with you and I cried
The other life I was so nauseous
You didn’t know I almost threw up
What if I threw up on your tongue?
When I put you in my mouth I got better
Forgive every body its mouth
I talk like I am sister heaven
I am really sister darkness
I am both at once and you are also
You didn’t know you were an echo
In the dust I’ll kill you up
I think you learn by unbeing
Like first you die and then go oh

Melissa Broder




An old fat nymphomaniac who just can’t cum no matter how much she gasps, & wheezes, and rattles, & drips, filthy & black, all over yr fingers, neck & face, till finally you lift her, like a bird in yr fist. [ I wake up and a Meth-Head’s trying to sneak off with my Ipod, my house and my words. It’s Ron Silliman & his face’s ruined. “Kill the rat!” my wife explodes. Like a mushroom ] & twist her head off. Her eyes (so sweet & so tender) in yr left hand, ask so innocently—O, how did this all go so wrong?—while her body, in yr fist, continues to beat.

Rauan Klassnik




make sure it is on their birthday
so they can follow the story
of the awful thing you did or said
with “…and on my birthday???”

You’ll be giving them
the gift of others’ supercharged
sympathies which is also,
unfortunately, high-voltage hatred

directed at you.
But you probably already
had that coming, didn’t you,
you self-hating, off-putting poet?

Hannah Gamble



tsunami in love: kintsukuroi / golden joinery

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. – Barbara Bloom

safe is just another empty signifier
when she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

triggering tsunami a sparkly blue shooter
pinging the splintered mib
of the fractured nuclear reactor core

this is what playing for keeps means
this broken imperfection / these cracked
masks / this crazed helplessness

this is what no going back means
no taking back the feral chipped singing
gouging open her fault lines and wounds

aggrandizing them with molten gold
blood veins of cinnabar alchemizing
to mercury like smelt silvering the shore

safe is just another empty signifier
because she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

until after months in pieces she lets you
hold and rock her in these postures of repair
(and when she spills you do not drown

and when she rages in her radioactive
expansion cloud chamber you become
that slim umbilical tethering the astronaut

seaweed that fetters rafts of sea otters)
buttery lamp light by the side of the bed
gilding together what’s broken no more

Lee Ann Roripaugh



As most young pains
whaling their voyage
a fine, boisterous something about everything

her great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the first dead American
whale was stranded. Those aboriginal whalemen
give chase to the Leviathan?

imported cobble-stones
risk a harpoon
a night, a day
my destined port, a very dark and dismal night
cheerless with anxious grapnels
pieces of silver—myself

gloom towards the north
darkness towards the south—
my dear Ishmael

My Dear Ish

Rena Mosteirin

Poetry Brothel Pride Edition

18 Jun

Below is a sample of what you will see at the Poetry Brothel Pride Edition event on Sunday, June 22, 8:00pm-1:00am at The Back Room (102 Norfolk St, New York).  As usual the doors open at 8pm and the festivities get under way at 9pm sharp. The show ends at midnight, while the private readings that Poetry Brothel has become famous for run into the wee hours of the morning.

MC, Co-Curator and guest reader for this event, Michael Klein, will join the Madame and Tennessee Pink in welcoming and introducing the night’s talent:  Amy King, Angelo Nikolopoulos, Saeed Jones, Carina Finn, Tony Leuzzi, Connie Mae Oliver, and Rachel Herman-Gross.  The night will also include burlesque performances from Foxx Von Tempt and Poppy Tart, as well as live music from the Hot Club of Flatbush, tarot readings and body painting.  Buy tickets here.

Thank you to Stephanie Berger for curating this issue of Poetry Crush.



I want to be where the smells are not industrial
when I lay my head on your lap for sleep
to overpower my knighted fantasies. Your internal organs
find me when I reach into your wet damp
and I know what heaven wishes it could be.
Eyes the color of sky and a heart as rabbitish as a soul
hopped up on how to coax the dark
from the hole it builds itself into.
It’s just that with all of the ways that I know you,
I want technology to tell me how else to know
what else else is and
what there is about you you haven’t revealed.
Give me a diagnosis, Godard or Djuna Barnes.
Jesus or the Seven Internet Sins.
Tell me about the ways to feel that haven’t
exposed themselves with nude release yet.
Crowd source my hive mind and be
a beautiful body-lessness. That’s the way the man
in the box deliberately disembodied his voice
to make me think against the grain of how
I’ve already thought you into the shape of thought.
In a spirit of formless hauntingness. That way,
I could have you in the fashion plastic fails:
by giving a shape that form fits me where I apply it.
A mirror of god molding me.
You are a cloud to impress, a tutu of genius light.
This disappeared, displaced light of night
is where armor claims
the most felt revolutions are intimate. I put you on.
I wear you skin deep. Waxy starlight,
in you I bear the translucent tales of film negatives.







Darn That Dream


Once, by the window of a small café, I stopped attempting to start a poem to watch you pass. In those few seconds I embroidered our life: sunny bungalow for two, gold dog, birch bed, matching parkas. Moments after you were gone I tumbled out of paradise, back to the cold rigors of a blank page. But tonight, in the balcony of an empty theatre, with a voice like dry wind through summer leaves, you whisper verses in my ear. On stage a man in a gown of green crinoline pulls one turtle after another from his big, black hat.



On the Street Where You Live


Sunday morning, Prospect Heights. On avenues of terraced brownstones, helicopters rain from ash in prodigal abundance. “Time,” I say on a step of your stoop, “is a dark curtain parting like hair from a pair of blue eyes.” “Soft,” you sigh, “is all but All to one who rolls through seasons like a wheel.” I kiss the white light of your neck; you pluck a seedpod from my shirt. Later, we should shop for hats in that weird boutique that smells like pine wax. But love, right now, as sure as shore larks in the eaves, let’s serenade life’s threshing floor with theories of recursive wind and the perishing of brick.






What is This Thing Called Love?


What is this tongue called passage? What is this wing called thought? In Nice is a coin called consciousness by which no dream is wholly remembered, in Vienna a river where truth is waltzed to collective nostalgia. Once, in Toledo, I hopped a train called accident wanting only to be whisked through gold blurs of wheat but was dragged instead past exposed pipe and acres of rust. What I would have done for a bird! Any bird, except that drab swallow landing on a block of cinder. What I would have done for a man to draw me in his arms and say, Take my heart, don’t throw it away, or some equally enchanting bosh, though there was only me asking the same old questions—What is this soup called story? What is this bead called faith?—and some tow-headed boy in back of the car strumming on a blue banjo without strings.



LAPSE by Carina Finn 


Imagine that the lamp is a lady
wearing a dress
she can be any kind of lady
and underneath the dress
is a petticoat. How much
exposure is appropriate in a film
in which the light
grows pinker then shuts
blonde meandering puddles brass?


At this point we accept that panic
is a comfort-machine
make meaning of cooling
bodies going on with huge holes
basic knowledge
Major American Museums.


Perhaps this hole clever fabrics
accruals, language limits
quivering in and out of a sad jazz
rep mortars full of humans with
hair that can’t be photographed,
terrified, miscreant, non-


The only thing missed after a long
drive west drippy mausoleums
carousel projects all dominant
unhappy then up from the roots
actual arches go archival it’s a
book like anything else can be
good to stick it in the ground wait
for another season.


CHAMBER MUSIC by Michael Klein

For some reason I’ll never know because you’re dead
and the answer is in the mind that floated above a classic face
you kissed me once, the way you’d kiss a girl
in front of a school.


I guess that summer burned some maleness out of me.
It wasn’t homosexual, really. I guess you needed
to acknowledge a look you took as beauty and the kiss
became a strangely punctuated thank-you: a time-frame.


Maybe it was an act about being in the street: dense
and loud with men mad at women; a late Saturday night – July
warm to the point nobody noticed. It didn’t matter. Along
with the kiss, I remember longer sections.


I remember drinking Hennessey and snorting speed on rooftops
signaling like the grey antenna all joy
into baffling space. I remember trying hard
not to be in love with you because you were straight


and probably needed to deliver life with a woman
into this city. It didn’t matter.
We ended night with each other anyway.
They turned like bruises into rivers of


darkness and I felt them themed with avoiding the kiss
you gave me the last time I saw you alive.
I remember its mango taste. And when I heard you were gone
I wanted more – the way we always do when life


seems to give up nothing but the next mindless death.
I wanted my hands on your back again: the long massage
in Marilyn Monroe’s old dressing room
where you lived off Central Park.


All comatose spring I was salvaged
by those hands on you and not by the hands of a steady lover
pulling me off bar stool after bar stool like a shirt
tangled in too much laundry. It doesn’t matter now.


When I heard from a fellow actor that yours was a motorcycle
spun wrong in Los Angeles, it was like hearing
news coming out of a radio that’s
too immediate to ever rationalize, the way I heard


Guyana and John Lennon – the sound of life
suddenly lowered in volume and the reception pulled away.
It felt like I was watching something freeze. And this awful
need arose to change the order of my life.


I think that I’ve had enough. But today,
it feels like we had as much as we were ever going to get
and I stopped drinking
and you’re dead from a loud, exterior fire.


And as I heard it crackle, mixed in with idle gossip
too many years later and after a night of no sleep
I couldn’t imagine you faltering on the approach
to that city without giving the world at least some laughter


miserably counterpointing a tenuous grip
on a burning motorcycle handle. And of course, I see you
more human now.
Human to the umpteenth power.


Human brought back
to a form that will not burn so finally, as
chamber music played loud
pours without rage, from a school.


SOME KIND OF ILLNESS by Connie Mae Oliver

A name that begins with J. I’m on the A train wedged in the bench. Crying and the ladies are all—what’s wrong, Spanish girl? What he do to you? Are you from Afghanistan?


My priest says I’ve got the shakes. He wakes me up to ask if I’m all right. Yes, why? Well you’re shaking. Some kind of illness I don’t really know. Papers fly around dirtily, to say it’s this or it’s that.

Emails are falling from the sky—I don’t want to answer them, roomfuls of dinner.


Cat regrets entering bathtub. Baby laughs at dog. Dog talks, dog says, “I love you” when prompted.


There are many ways to make a name. You can make so many names:


They struggle
to complete their passages; at a trespass they
are met by children–
—I shall not draw a horse for you!
I shall not!
Their horses are mechanistic and
they ask it both ways—break
the horse and start over.


The very idea
of an eternal
world comes from numbers
revealed not
to the senses
but rather to the illiterate
intellect of such
hypothetical sympathies—                        the end!


With hypothetical sympathy comes the end
of reading, it comes on horseback and is Napoleonic,
absent of artifice, you struggle
with your plotted questions
to understand Napoleon, whom the
children describe as a gardener
on a small island for the
rest of his life. Was he sad
or ashamed or anything?
No, they respond, he grew
squash and zucchini and tilled
the soil with a little rake,
like this! So I imagine you without fruits
in your stable, too, the way you tested the weight
of air. The way you said, “da club” to me, and
the way you said, “Aren’t you sleepy, now?”
You clenched the little red straw
in the corner of your mouth, “Aren’t you sleepy?”

Poetry Crush 2014: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol II)

11 Feb


From Picnic at Hanging Rock “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with heartbreakers:  Joe Hall, Cheryl Quimba, Joanna Penn Cooper, Leah Umansky, Larry Sawyer, Peter Kline, Brittany Perham, Sara Lefsyk, Gregory Crosby, Kristy Bowen, Maria Teutsch, not_I (Ana Bozicevic & Sophia Le Fraga), Sasha Fletcher, Lauren Hunter, DJ Dolack, Stephanie Berger, Justin Petropoulos, Erika Anderson & J. Hope Stein (me).   



Moving ever slower
just as square brackets
hug a sentence my
unfortunate nature is
to buckle as you bend.
Hailstorm our guardian so
expansive. Where to spend
all the soft paper. Just as
the only road leads
away from here, we
will not ever recover.

Joe Hall & Cheryl Quimba




Don’t hesitate to serve your boss.
Sit quietly and he will come to you.
The blessing of an employee
is in the corners of her mouth.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

When a great boss says “I kill you”
lay your head across his laptop.
Throw your documents in the river.
This is how we measure time.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Do not despise small documents.
Do good for your body, but
there is no one who does not die—
Do not delay in your office.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Be a cat in your boss’s presence.
Do not give a wary look
towards the elevator door—
You do not know the length of your life.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

Do not hesitate to serve your boss.
Do let linger without enquiry.
Put myrrh on your head, dress in fine linen.
Sit quietly and he will come to you.
The blessing of a plot
is in its time of being worked.

J. Hope Stein




American Horror Story

The Axeman says, “never assume anything about me,”
but Fiona says, “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

He is still-at-heart man
with a do-not-forget-me tongue.

He is in tune and soulful
and she, she  is going by ear.

There is a cadence to their love
and a faith in their fear


He says, “I’ve been watching you
since you were eight years old
… and then I started to love you as a man.”

She is his pull of daylight
He is her remembered quiet,
and her fray.

When he says, “I love you more than jazz, babydoll”

She hears  more than
more than I needed.

For, Love has a delicate swash
and she, she swishes.

Even the dead want love,
but the dead at heart love nothing.

 Leah Umansky




A small man looked at me. He said “you are the Fritz Perls look alike
in the apartment complex of my life and I want to make a tincture
out of your saline eye drops and ride away with you into the desert
in a cadillac full of very small and miniature ponies.”

I told this small man ;oolong at me, if I had a mule, a parachute and long flowing locks
I would jump out of this plane, put you in my shopping cart and push you
clean to Brazil where we would change our names, cut our hair
and join the local militia. After that, we would lead a small army of chickens
to the sea and, after many days of floating, I would catch a small fish
and name it Pavlov. Then, we would all jump into the sea and swim
until we reached the large island of Europe, where we would start
a mariachi band with my birth family and yours and the sun would set
and we would all drink sugar water and go to sleep
beneath a large curtain of black air.

Sara Lefsyk



Gently, let us sleep my love
our hearts entwined as one.
Forever you’ll be my Catherine Deneuve
uh, and I’m your Fifth Avenue John Donne.
Come, let us prove it, while we may
knowing ‘tis no sin love’s fruit to steal.
You’re hotter than anything off eBay.
Our banter’s straight off Key & Peele.
Use me for your street-side fashion show; take
refuge in these sculpted arms.
Sweet, I’ll get with child the mandrake,
even if this shit was a false alarm.
Look, I sought fit words, so now you know.
Forsooth, your boyfriend sold you oregano.

Larry Sawyer




In January my grandmother says she is anxious for the little fellow to get here and join the troupe.

In January a dapper man who looks like Buck Henry gives me a very kind look on 60th Street as I leave my third ultrasound that month.  “Advanced maternal age.”

In February, after being in labor for 12 hours, I text my mom on the 13th that you will be a Valentine’s Day baby.

In February the doula comes over on the 14th and tucks me into the attic bed to see if I can sleep, despite the two days of contractions.  C lies there with me.  The doula tucks him in, too.

On the morning of the 15th, we head to the hospital.  The doula heats rice-filled socks in the microwave and ties them to me.  We call the car service.  I wear the rice socks to the hospital.

In the early morning of the 16th, I am lying in a darkened room with a catheter in my back.  A nurse named Ashley comes in and out to make notations.  She is young and pleasant and doesn’t talk too much.  She is from a southern state.  I ask her which one, but I’ve forgotten what she said.

In the early morning of the 16th, the doula says in a quiet voice, I think it’s snowing.  My thought is something like, I’ve been waiting for some beautiful thing.  A while after that they tell me it’s time for the pushing, which is less a beautiful thing than a necessity thing.  C holds one leg and a nurse named Eve holds the other.  Eve is my favorite, and I remember that she’s from Oklahoma, but I’m not thinking about that during the pushing.  At one point, the doctor lifts her hands back up, and they are bright red.

On the morning of the 16th, you join the troupe.

I study your hands for a month.  Their esoteric gestures.

I skipped some parts.

We are mammals with the fluid world within and between us.

I sing you the hymn “Farther Along,” which I heard in a movie years ago.  I know very few of the words. You are listening then and interested.  When I look up the lyrics online, the sidebar says, Main subject: Encouragement.

Joanna Penn Cooper

*originally published in South Dakota Review




not_I  (Ana Bozicevic and Sophia Le Fraga)




So what if one day you will need to be named,

need to have signal laid upon you.

So what.

The instruments polish themselves.

Some gods already laud you
with cheap satins

plastic jewels that click
when they collide

but do not chime.

And you don’t chime.
You bow

and your hair reaches great lengths to the earth.

Evening when you bow
your hair climbs across itself
and reaches great

lengths to the earth.

The moon almost fellates its own magic,

tosses back
a little yellow number and


I only want
a bit of trouble.

I only want to be codified,

the signal laid upon me.

So what if the instruments are named;

so what if they are only here to polish.

DJ Dolack




For You, I’d strip down bare,
but won’t You lay me cover?
Dallying with forever
is a high-risk affair.

I’ve tried new underwear
to tempt a tempted lover,
made my whole wardrobe over.
For You I’d strip down bare.

Peter Kline




The bed we shared is kelp is kelp is kelp
on a foot of rock.

Your stomach
my spine in the year of water.

At night we rippled beneath the year of a tide
pulling us apart.

All the clarity
a marine layer gives you. Clarity

is your stomach
my spine in the bed of salt.

Maria Teutsch




A quiver full of arrows for the river,
it wants to fall in love—
pulling itself from the spring, mirrors
the small boy in rouge. Memory sent him
to the water, far below
the python’s spewing apartment
meublé. When he left, he spat,
on the wall, basalt, down the hole,
venom, impressed
upon the wax tablet of my head.
In bed by eleven. In the morning,
applied my visage with a desert
palette. There wasn’t
ever any muse or music for makeup,
but Clio would remedy that
remedy for pallor, if she could, rewrite
with a rattle of thunder from
her father. I bared my face to him.

Stephanie Berger



house made of ghosts and small animals

For every love song, there is a broken dove skeleton
rotting in the eaves. A leaving, that requires
nothing but the door opening and closing just once.
A heaviness of suitcases and floor lamps and
record albums piled awkwardly in the trunk.
You see, my motives are mud dark, made of larkspur
and longing.   Soon you will find me replacing each dish
and hairbrush in someone else’s house,  replacing
p with q and mucking up the quick exit.  Will find me
ravenous and bleeding beneath the weedy undergrowth.
For every broken promise, I give you a ring of roses.
A prolific number of tiny mice inhabiting the baseboards.
Animal, vegetable, mineral.
The terrible goblin heart of my goodbye.

Kristy Bowen




Today my heart said you 
I want to be with you above all others
though not very long
ago my heart said her
I want to be with her more 
than I’ll ever want to be with anyone else
& because I couldn’t
go on living without her
not for another minute
I began living with her & all this
time I was happy I was happy
to be happy I believed
things would continue
this way every day always
but today all day 
& on & on through
the night & all night my head
on her chest my heart said
though I said no no my heart
said & would not stop saying
you yes you yes you 

Brittany Perham



the gospel according to tough love

i thought the world would revolve without us

flinging your hands into a darkness you can grab hold of, hold on little baby, how’d you get so goddamn strong? shall i speak to the spit flinging from my lips, the spark from your fingertip, (y’all seen that before), the corners rounded without guidance, watch her go zero to 180 without blinking, leather and spare skin cells underneath chipped nails

“hey, putting my DNA on things IS art”

the devil on your earlobe baby. the devil in my eardrum, demanding nothings. even during my first burglary, i wanted to touch things i had no business. i’m gonna leave some of myself here. i’m the absolute pinkest thing in this dark room. like a newborn before its first breath, let’s inspire empathy. hold it in; i’m asking you to not breathe with me, and we’ll keep them on those toes until we’re sure my superpower applies.

(i infuse myself, whole and unworried, into each and every cell i carry.  i’m a factory of my smallest selves, tags perfect and unaware. these i leave casually anywhere.)

that darkness is always getting velvet, soft on my skin and eyes. those times a seatbelt is a hug. those times you don’t regret a too-long embrace. you exhale yourself to the edge of this room, then inhale until the walls split on your precious face. the world collapses. i thought i could be the wildness, but find myself in every room i’m in. why i like to see my breath like smoke. why i like to be the last body in a room. i’m gonna touch everything, someday.

but nothing i know could slow us down

Lauren Hunter



Today the air conditioner exploded
in a scene of silent and totally imaginable futility.
Here I go again, starting to talk about the sunset
as though you couldn’t imagine it yourself.
A tree grew in the yard last night and we hung lanterns from it
like it was any other night
or any other dream. Dear Eloise
you are the albino alligator lurking in my heart
at unknown intervals and I
I am the top 40 station you conveniently forgot
and together we are a documentary that will be spoken of for years to come.
In the yard were the neighbors calling out
BUT ALWAYS YOU as though we weren’t all thinking this
every day of our lives. The lanterns from earlier
hung low and beat with every sharp breath
as we pulled each other closer and loosed the fabric
of our lives slicked with sweat and piled
in the corner. Someone got excited
and set off some fireworks
and the neighborhood committee got together
and shot them in the head. They said no one
is to celebrate on a school night but me
I could not disagree more. What better thing to celebrate
than a school night? Dear Eloise
I hear tonight it is supposed to storm
like nobodies business and the heat will finally break
open as wide as the sky.
Dear Eloise you can find me on the roof,
building a boat from the chairs,
waiting for something larger than everything
to sweep me away and pull me under and fill my lungs
with something heavier and more potent than air
and I can see that alligator surfacing again,
I can feel myself choking up as its red right eye rolls over me
and blinks once for yes, twice for no, three times
for I forget what. Dear dreamboat goes the alligator
If this is you trying to say I am a wild animal
good job. You did it. Tonight I will take you by the hand
and lead you adrift. If you make it back to shore
we can get married and I’ll let you put a baby in me
and we can eat spaghetti in the tub and give her three or four names
and teach her to grow up into a boat that will sail
in all kinds of weather and then I’ll let you put another in me
and another and another and their names will be like mountains
because they will be magnificent to behold
and one day one of them will fall down a well and you’ll dive in after him
and break every bone in your body
and use those bones to build a ladder
and our son will climb to safety
and in the morning there you’ll be, naked, in bed,
preparing to construct for us a porch, and just in time for summer!
and every night you’ll realize
that there is not enough money to take care of things
or to put away for the future because the future
died years ago and all we have is this, right here, and it’s terrifying,
and you’ll stand there watching the children sleep
and I’ll sneak up beside you like a knife in the dark
with my hand in your pocket stealing the last bits of love
you secreted away, because they’re mine now, because you’re mine now,
and as we stand there, waiting for our children to grow old enough
to resent the burden we’ve become to them, it strikes us
that it is a real mystery to us all how we’ve made it this far.
Then we turn slightly, and speak our vows to each other,
and they go something like this:
I will put up with you until we kill each other
because I will love you from now until we kill each other
and I will build you a home inside of me
and we will cook each other dinner when we’re hungry
and knife each other in a soft place when we’re angry
and I will hold your hand until it breaks
because I will never let go of your hand
and I won’t mind your problems because they’re a part of you and I love you
I love you even though that is a decision I deeply regret
and if you ever need a presence to keep things from getting too quiet
give me a call. I will be there with you when the lights are out.
If you want to know if that is a knife at your throat
the answer is that I will love you for as long as we both shall live.

Sasha Fletcher


[selections from because we go to the same places to hide]

//these maps because so casual fill the gaps reasoned for flowers
she eats stems
he paces
bed systems       holds her here

associative bearings
of bodies               all that disorder

fled through a rind of eclipse

contractual motion         she pears
instances             heels the limits of
to have held

tympana or this hemisphere
rests on nothing but cause
and effect

ants distanced
in proportion to intervals
between musical notes

combed with sun

she is all
cataracts and shifting clouds

Justin Petropoulos



Impermanence from permanence,
sound from plastic. A scarf, a shawl,
a shroud of static.

A sundial in the dark of a school night
told me this about love:

that there would be dancing
in the dark, walking in the park,
& reminiscing;

that piña coladas were the key
to all mythologies;

that even in the depths
of a so damned depression
you could set your sights
on Monday

& get yourself undressed…

A voice from the future
said sad songs say so much less

than you will come to know.

Turning, turning, AM amidst a.m.,
round & round… the child’s hand

is farther than the man’s. The Seventies
are over, man. The Seventies

are eternal. The voice said,

Everything that’s lost 
will be restored,
& then lost again.

The radar understands
what the grid cannot imagine.

The shadows cast themselves, while
tomorrow daydreams tonight.

Everything that’s lost
will be restored,
& then lost again.

Someone found a letter you wrote me.

They read it on the radio,
in the voice of the Future,

& I heard it just today.

The DJ translated it as

Separated by a million songs,
but not the speed of light…

& you gazed up at me,
& the answer was plainly seen,


before it could be understood.

Every measurement agrees
that we
spin counterclockwise.

You & I, observed, by… …

Mystery, static. It does,
& does not, matter. Everything

restored last chance
will be lost last dance

& restored tonight

Gregory Crosby



The army of lovers movement will give out handmade valentines to strangers this Friday.

Robot valentine

Erika Anderson


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