The City of NO by Louie Crowder

city of no

By Charles Rammelkamp

From the emphatic denial implicit in the title – NO is short for New Orleans, but the negativity is no coincidence – it’s clear the three novellas that make up this wonderful, lyrical, earthy book are full of a sense of loss, ranging from the elegiac to the tragic.  The narrative focuses on Keller Hardy and Henry Gereighty, two gay men who live in the twilight of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.  Both are on a quest for love and self-discovery, the metaphor of a seafaring Odysseus-like voyage applicable to both. Indeed, the title of the first novella, which focuses on Keller, In Irons, is a nautical term, which basically means “going nowhere.”  Like Odysseus leaving Ithaca for Troy and returning twenty years later, The City of NO begins in My Enemy’s Dog Pub in the French Quarter, where Keller Hardy is a bartender, and it ends in the same place, Henry Gereighty having returned from his own travels to New Orleans. What happens in between is the journey of discovery.

Keller’s story takes place over two years, beginning in 2010 and concluding in 2012. The story takes place in the wake of “The Catastrophe,” Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed the city. “The Catastrophe forced an entire region of people to recreate themselves.” Keller’s recreation is compounded by the fact that he is gay.

The wind and sea exposed what he had buried in sacred ground after having become known as a gay man. In the beginning what that meant for him was throw-away employment. Keller and all the survivors like him had eclipsed into Throw-Away People and there was a shift that ran them all underground. In the wake of The Catastrophe in the City of NO Keller’s contributions to the reconstruction were pouring liquor, opening bottles, and talking: bartender….

He flees the city in his boat, the Merlin, named after the sorcerer, and much of what happens to him in his subsequent travels to South Carolina and Florida feels magical, surreal: metaphorical. The shark attacks are one, “for hunters, like killers, are cosmically united.”   His wanderings seem futile, frustrating, and by the end, when he is returning to the City of NO, he is pursued by a Great White shark, obsessed and thwarted as Captain Ahab in pursuit of Moby-Dick. Does Keller live? Does he commit suicide? Is he drowned? The end of In Irons feels ambiguous, but then we switch focus to Henry Gereighty.

Henry’s story widens the scope. He is the protagonist of the next two novellas, Henry Gereighty and Storage. Henry appears to be five or ten years older than Keller, who is 41 when his story ends. For with Henry, a playwright who originally came to New Orleans to find himself (inspired by Tennessee Williams), we learn about The Genocide.

In the 1980s the President of the United States committed an act of Genocide against the gay community, declaring war not only on a generation of men given a death sentence, but on an entire generation of children discovering who they were. Henry was taught to hate himself; existing in Survivor Mode, navigating a violent Christian occupation that kept him isolated and in fear of all the things he was.

Henry, too, is in search of love and acceptance. He grew up queer in a small Tennessee town, feeling so alone and “wrong.” He fled to New Orleans. “The City of New Orleans taught Henry Gereighty how to be gay. Then, despite the Southern world that questioned his existence, he taught himself how to be a playwright.”  Then came Katrina.

In the first novella, we encounter Henry groping his way through existence, giving up on being a playwright – though he has had several plays successfully produced. He encounters various people in bars and “out in the country,” from Frankie St. Pierre to an unnamed lawyer to a rock-throwing gimp, having sex and getting drunk. By the end, in an internal debate, he concludes, “You have to reinvent yourself.

The next novella, Storage,  is the reinvention.  It begins with a quick scene from 1983, Henry virtually kicked out of the small town by his father for being gay, but then it’s 2009 and Henry is returning home to Tennessee (his “roots”?) to help his ailing father die. There is so much compassion and forgiveness here that it kind of emphasizes the pointlessness of the father’s bigoted hatred in the first place.  In one telling passage, Henry advises another smalltown gay man, Will, to move to Atlanta, where there is a thriving, supportive gay community, but Will resists, wary of going to ”an enclave.” With resignation, Will says that he has “adapted” to his home. Henry objects. “If for no other reason you can always find someone like you to not be alone with. Here, in places like this, you’re always alone. Always.”

Henry’s father Eustus does die, and though Henry bas  done nothing but comfort the old man, the effect is nevertheless liberating.

He could smell true freedom then for he understood the exorcism. “You’re gone now, daddy. Now it’s just me.”

For the first time in his life, Henry Gereighty was not governed by regrets, and he only dreamed of possibility, even in the face of loneliness.

And then a few days later, back in the City of NO, Henry goes to My Enemy’s Dog Pub, and the reader will need to read this for him- or herself to appreciate the full effect.

The City of NO is such a powerful, lyrical, melancholy book whose impact will remain with the reader for some time.

You can find the book here:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1938144708/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was  published by Future Cycle Press.  Most recently Catastroika  was released by Apprentice House in 2020.

 

 

Winter Honeymoon by Jacob M. Appel

winter
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Jacob M. Appel has done it again.  He has written a book worth reading on a plane train or in the back seat of an automobile. In his book, Winter Honeymoon published by Black Lawrence Press,  Appel presents nine short stories that introduce his readers to such characters as Edith, Dr. Kindler, Arnold, and others who are living surprisingly ordinary lives with ordinary problems.
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The nine short stories are interesting to read all at once or here and there on the beach or backyard deck.  The 171- page collection presents vivid locations, modern problems that explore the human condition in and out of love, and stories with clear and unflinching examination of complex truths of everyday people.
In his story. The Appraisal, beginning on page 20, he details the journey one makes when they know they are going to die soon and how those around them must face it as well.  The characters are well drawn and their viewpoints reflect on a society’s acceptance of endings—or not.
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The story ends with:
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                       Songbirds flitted in the trees. Wes would have known their names. 
                       Across the harbor rose Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, New Jersey. 
                       Several small children were playing in the wet grass illuminated by a
                       thin white beam of sun. Bert stopped to watch them. It was a perfectly
                       peaceful moment, the sort Abigail had treasured.   You could close
                       your eyes, and listen to the children’s laughter, and imagine that       
                       nobody anywhere, had ever died.
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Appel’s sense of place and situation is both emotional and literal which affects the reader in a direct and multidimensional way especially after the various conflicts in the story. In Before the Storm on page seventy-six, Appel tells the story of a son seeking an assisted living place for the father he loves.  The journey of the two looking for an appropriate place is realistic.  The ending is powerful as the old father tells his son he doesn’t want to live there and asks the son not make him. The son admits to himself he did not ask for this power over his father and cannot give him an answer.
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                           He is waiting for my answer, but I don’t have one to give.
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Again, Appel is very strong on situation and place and handles the deep emotion of an elderly parent needing an institution to maintain him in his final years and the son faced with decision to place him there because the choices are already predetermined.
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Appel has a remarkable skill of observing people in pivotal moments.  He has a light touch with ordinary conversations that become symbols of how difficult life can be in making decisions about the ones we love and their decisions about themselves.  The book is a great summer read but don’t expect to come out of this one unscathed. Appel is very good at lifting the veil of difficult truths and making us look squarely at them.
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You can find the book here: Winter Honeymoon | BLP

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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
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Atlas of Wolves by John Macker

atlas
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By g emil reutter
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John Macker is not a poet to make you laugh, he is not a poet to perform his poetry in such a manner as to void its serious implications for John Macker is a poet grounded in decades of lineage arriving at his current destination. Atlas of Wolves consists of strands of words flowing across pages into the darkness of life brightened by the moon, measured by history and acute awareness by the poet of his surroundings.
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First Stanza of Border Wall Blues:
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When not speaking in tongues
its soullessness borders on the devout.
From the top of the wall, we’re out of range
of anything animated or proselytizing
from the top of the wall
there are no degrees of separation
from the heat
the desert is a fever dreamt graveyard and
the wind is alive with hymns.
The wall wages a war of insurrection
on the landscape
dispossessed javelin mothers cry at the moon
rattlesnakes sell death rattles
safe for children without homes.
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The words sing from the page of the wall, separation, heat, graveyard with hymns, of insurrection, of mothers crying at the moon and rattlesnakes selling death rattles. The poet links the strands of desperation into imagery so profound to enable the stanza to cause an immediate reaction within the reader.
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The first stanza of winter poem provides fresh imagery although in a dark setting revealing the reality of life:
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Driving through winter fog
it’s difficult to see
a raven peck at the lost movie
in a coyote’s
frozen eye
that last saw the morning
star, a hawk
kiting, an anxious flock of
cedar waxwings
or the world’s wounds
tombs or bombs
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The poet creates landscapes with words in the section titled, Still life and Border Crossings. He pays homage to winter and the moon in the second section, In Praise of Winter’s Essentials and sings to us in the third section, Gorge Songs.
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These are poems of truth without need for explication, woven with imagery and metaphor. One can say that Macker has joined his beloved moon and ever expansive glory of the stars in the dark sky.
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g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
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All the Useless Things are Mine by Thomas Walton, with Etchings and Drawings by Douglas Miller

useless

By Greg Bem

“We’re all working hard every day on composing seventeen or so words that will decorate our headstones.” (from “Bitter Pills,” page 41)

Thomas Walton’s a poet’s poet. But not only in the ways you might think. He writes poems with allusions, with complex symbols, and with a literary imperative, but his writing also expresses a more automatic, emergent language, a language reflecting a growing relationship with the surrounding world. And Walton’s latest book is a poet’s book that captures this, but it’s also difficult to pin down, challenging to categorize and understand, as we are sometimes wanting to do with poetry. All the Useless Things are Mine—the title is bearably funny while also being deadpan. When it comes to the poems, this is a collection with a name fittingly accurate and inaccurate all the same—there’s a lot here, and it might be useless, and it might be useful, but to Thomas, it’s a matter of taste and curiosity, the poet finding their self and their voice emerging from a world that is inconsequentially available.

Let’s step back. Let’s see this availability in form. The book, on the surface, is a collection of Thomas’s 17-word aphorisms, loosely packed and fitting nicely into rigid and flexible sequences of theme. Thomas is following up last year’s investigation of marriage failings, dutiful fatherhood, and a relentless commitment to Gertrude Stein, The World Is All That Does Befall Us (Ravenna Press, 2019), and the previous year’s collaborative investigation of art history in Rome, The Last Mosaic (with poet Elizabeth Cooperman, Sagging Meniscus Press, 2018). To say Thomas is on a roll would be underwhelming; Thomas’s newest release flows (or stems) from both of his predecessors. Each aphorism is a statement. It harkens to the lyrical essay. But each aphorism lives on its own in a slightly more liberated (open?) circumstance.

“Concentration is a kind of levitation, and when you’re in the clouds it’s easy to love indiscriminately.” (from “All Poets Are Lunatics,” page 63)

The titles of each sequence, each “poem,” tend to be wayfinding tools if anything. Each adds subtext to the aphorisms within. “At the Crack of Up” and “All Poets Are Lunatics” and “I Guess I Don’t Travel Much” are a few examples of Walton’s layering of humor. “Love and Sex” and “Birdsong” and “The Afterlife” balance things out. And this is a book of balance, despite its sprawl and flexibility. The poems are compacted nicely into a book that feels nice. Like the others mentioned above, this collection is also a relatively small physical shape. It can fit in most pockets. It can be pulled out and examined in a flash, or a breath, and repocketed for future engagement.

Or, for readers like myself, it is a book of deception. The book feels small, but the print is as well. And the aphorisms keep on coming. I devoted an entire evening to reading it—and it took the entire evening! Such is the way of Walton’s latest works, which drag and twirl mesmerizingly. The lack of any narrative structure, any overall argument, entraps the reader further. Stepping into All the Useless Things are Mine is a visit to the poppy field, a long beach with ceaseless tidal crashings, a labyrinth not of “how” or “why” but of “when.”

Cat

Time, duration, mortality—the nature of our beating hearts—these qualities blossom within this text through the inclusivity of Douglas Miller’s etchings and drawings. The images are straightforward—household objects, animals, insects, trees—each page-long visual is presented in stark black and white. The materials used feel rough and emergent. There is a flow to the scrapes and scratches upon the page. Some images feel rough, even resembling drafts through the presence of outlines. But the they are also hardly such; as documents of the creative process, Miller’s visuals resemble the fixity of Walton’s seventeen-word form. Whether they contain everything or only part, they are complete and gorgeous. The sense of emptiness, of incompleteness, juxtaposed with the reality of finality instills a haunting (or chilling) effect: it is existential. This is what we have, and this is when we have it—the now, the immediate, the temporary.

“I walked out with her, looking hard at things, hoping to break into living with my eyes.” (from “Do Your Job,” page 26)

The temporary is linked through the visual, and the visual is mighty in Walton’s aphorisms. It is a construct, a poet’s world, remembering, assembling, forever revisiting. It is moving; this poet’s world is a space, a field, ever-expanding and ever-enveloping one and the same. What often does not translate into a book-length work, which is often confronting form on a large scale, with distinct purpose and message, is how that world’s expansion and envelope is fluid and in flux. Walton’s previous works alluded to the phenomenon of the everyday poetic practice, and All the Useless Things are Mine dives right in. While not a daybook or journal, it still reminds us that the notes, the scrawl, the scribbling existed to lead into the book. There are roots. There is the prototypical core.

owl 2

Intimately, Walton’s latest work allows the reader to feel like we’re walking down the block, resting in the park, holed up under some bushes in a garden, or off in some shadowy nook of a house. But not to linger—to merely capture the moment, to create a literary impression—and then to move on. Walton’s work is once again spirited, and balanced within the two covers that hold it close. And yet the fluidity and sprawl of the world Walton has documented, like the haiku of Matsuo Bashō, the walking poems of Frank O’Hara, or the contemporary American Sentences of Paul E. Nelson, insists on the “something more” of process, of origins, and of linearity’s charm.

You can find the book here: https://www.saggingmeniscus.com/catalog/all_the_useless_things_are_mine/

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at gregbem.com.

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Poetry Everywhere by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

party

By g emil reutter

Xanadu Books released the 2nd edition of Poetry Everywhere by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright this past February. This 34 page poem coupled with color collages developed by Wright is simply a stunning presentation. Representative of the eventworks movement, Wrights collaboration with Barbara Rosenthal creates an experience that not only has words jumping off the page but images upon images to highlight the journey of the “me” character central to the poem.  Wrights work is a natural maturation of the “futurism” movement into the present and evolving world.

The use of brilliant colors, various fonts of text throughout the poem reflect quiet conversation morphing to loud conversation. There is always the “me” inviting the reader to meet in an entertaining repetitiveness throughout the odyssey.  A careful study of the collages will reveal the main character, “me”, is in most every sequence.

Wright calls out to the reader, “work hard and play fair.” It is something you will want to do after reading Poetry Everywhere, and in this time of covid there is a foreshadowing as Wright calls out “party in your underwear.” Why not, who the hell will know!

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Party-Everywhere-Jeffrey-Cyphers-Wright/dp/0976079399

g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

Call for Pandemic Poetry Submissions

pandemic

Due to the overwhelming response to our four Pandemic Issues we published in April, and continued interest, we will once again publish poetry concerning the pandemic. Please send us your best work and how the pandemic has affected you, your neighborhood, and your country. As the virus continues its unrelenting attack, we urge all to be safe and wear a mask.

Send your submission in one Word doc. with no more than four poems, including a 50 word bio. Please send to sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com . The deadline for submissions to the new pandemic issue is August 10thDue to the anticipated response we will not be able to respond to each individual submission and all submissions received after August 10th will be discarded.

North of Oxford presents The Pandemic Issues.

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-4/

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https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

Summer Reading Recommendations Based on readership- Top fifteen books reviewed at North of Oxford January – July 2020

232

The War Still Within: Poems of the Korean Diaspora by Tanya Ko Hong

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/the-war-still-within-poems-of-the-koran-diaspora-by-tanya-ko-hong/

Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation by Cynthia Manick (editor)

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/soul-sister-revue-a-poetry-compilation-by-cynthia-manick-editor/

ÜBERCHEF USA by Jennifer Juneau

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/uberchef-usa-by-jennifer-juneau/

The Dead Kid Poems by Alexis Rhone Fancher

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/the-dead-kid-poems-by-alexis-rhone-fancher/

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/what-the-owl-taught-me-by-annest-gwilym/

Paper Bells by Phan Nhiên Hạo (Translated by Hai-Dang Phan

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/paper-bells-by-phan-nhien-hao-translated-by-hai-dang-phan/

The Weight of Bodily Touches by Joseph Zaccardi

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/the-weight-of-bodily-touches-by-joseph-zaccardi/

On an Acre Shy of Eternity: Micro Landscapes at the Edge by Robert Dash

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/on-an-acre-shy-of-eternity-micro-landscapes-at-the-edge-by-robert-dash/

The Elvis Machine by Kim Vodicka

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/the-elvis-machine-by-kim-vodicka/

Obit by Victoria Chang

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/obit-by-victoria-chang/

Getting to Philadelphia: New and Selected Poems by Thomas Devaney

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/getting-to-philadelphia-new-and-selected-poems-by-thomas-devaney/

Someone’s Utopia by Joe Hall

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/someones-utopia-by-joe-hall/

Library Rain by Rustin Larson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/library-rain-by-rustin-larson/

Flow by Beth Kephart

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/flow-by-beth-kephart/

In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/in-the-dream-house-by-carmen-maria-machado/

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Ten Most Read Poetry Posts at North of Oxford – January – July 2020

232

Gypsy Blood by Wesley Scott McMasters

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/gypsy-blood-by-wesley-scott-mcmasters/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue # 3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-4/

War of Elements by Akshaya Pawaskar

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/war-of-elements-by-akshaya-pawaskar/

As Promised, the fire by David P. Kozinski

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/as-promised-the-fire-by-david-p-kozinski/

This Land is Full of Noises by Robert Nisbet

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/this-land-is-full-of-noises-by-robert-nisbet/

Perspective by Robbi Nester

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/perspective-by-robbi-nester/

Medusa’s #Metoo by Luanne Castle

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/medusas-metoo-by-luanne-castle/

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Half-Spoon by Stephen Mead

half-spoon-2
Half-Spoon
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Curve—–
Your memory to meet,
on the sheets, here, a line—–
Bed of no division, only absence,
when your flesh fit well &
the entire night can have fragments
re, re-collecting…
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Sharp then, the seizing moments,
when all had been soft, smooth sailing
& again could be if I pretend
this is just a white tent on a raft,
& some lovely soprano was singing a lullaby
for the cleaving cleft…
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Friend, grief makes these words
some blurred codeine fever
when we had such clarity,
immense, immeasurable—–
the fine rhapsody & waves humming,
body to spirit, & farther still…
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Thus too, perhaps we lap,
the storm having been the dream &
no one really apart any more than the spoon
on white cloth holding its twin silver blue
shadow ‘til
warmth glows red & all else melts
but this knowledge—–
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Touch,
touching
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me passport 7 2019 noise (1)

A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer.  Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online.  He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. In 2014 he began a webpage to gather various links to his published poetry in one place.

Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead

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