Author: North of Oxford

A journal of book reviews, commentary, essays and poetry.

When my dad created god by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

obsid
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When my dad created god
“I am Synergy. I am no more or no less.” – Synergy; Jem & the Holograms, 1985.
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When my dad created god
she was purple-haired in
a jumpsuit, leg warmers,
with the voice of my dead mother.
Her eyes obsidian like the volcanic glass they kept on a dresser
from their honeymoon a lifetime before she got sick.
Mothers have eyes everywhere and God is all-seeing.
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I’d only known of Mary as a mentor in the absence of light,
forced into maternity, a kid becoming a mom to all,
and when my dad abandoned us
my sisters and I were forced to find money to keep us together,
our struggles shielded from the eyes of the divine.
We moved our lips in prayers that our hearts didn’t hold.
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The day my younger sister found the god that dad created
our faces had dimmed:
sagging cheeks where apples had lived were the dirges
composed from a life once loud with music.
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God was revealed as a surrogate mother, ally, and mentor;
when she sings through me it’s the songs of my actual mom.
But her melodies are pointillism and pixelated.
When my dad created god he made her just close to comforting.
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But no one asked me if I wanted to be a holy host,
both a kid and a mother, so
God uses words from a man that I barely remember
to convince me to operate her, a technological miracle, a modern-day deity,
to save the souls of my family.
God tells me that my body was made for this,
to be moved through like a spirit,
insubstantially a proxy for a long-gone actual mom,
just like how she was made for this.
And she tells me that our union is, and will continue to be, synergy.
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janie
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella (she/her) is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit, and a former genre editor at Lunch Ticket. She’s the author of Better Bones and Marrow, both published by Thirty West Publishing House, The Guessing Game published by BA Press, and Thirst and Frost forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.
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Justice and Freedom by Roxanne Thibault

blazing
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Justice And Freedom
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You have hung my brothers,
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And raped my sisters,
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In broken dreams I cry for them,
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Grinning devil looking on,
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Sharpens tooth and claw upon the innocent,
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Blazing eyes of fire turn to ash,
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The bodies of the proud,
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The brave,
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Our pleading quenching your thirst,
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Oh devil,
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But a day will come,
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When brave and proud,
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And those who hunger for justice and freedom,
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Will rain upon you,
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A fierce storm,
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In which our blood and tears,
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Will drown the fire of your hate.
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Roxanne Thibault has been published by Disquietarts, Levitate and Chiron Review. She draws her inspiration from the Cypriot shores that birthed Idalia.
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Brine Shrimp by Robert Beveridge

IMG_1994 (2)
 
Brine Shrimp 
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You know this process
because you’ve been here
before, we’ve all been
here before, but somehow
it never gets any easier
to sit there at the table
with the same deli tray
your creepy uncle Nick
always brings to the family
reunion and pick out all
the pieces of Swiss to build
a sandwich with while
in the other room her two
surviving high school
friends from seventy-two
years ago compliment
the funeral director’s eye
for make-up. You think
perhaps it’s time to try
the horseradish cheddar
and maybe ask Old Nick
if there’s anything left
in that flask no one
is supposed to know about
but everyone does.
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swc
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (www.xterminal.bandcamp.com ) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Page and Spine, The Pointed Circle, and Failed Haiku, among others.
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Poisons & Antidotes by Andrea L. Fry

Poisons-Antidotes-cover--203x300
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By Charles Rammelkamp
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“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” go the lyrics of a hit song by Kelly Clarkson, the same paradox at the heart of Andrea L. Fry’s impressive collection in which she explores the clash of the nutric and the toxic,  the safe and the perilous: the noxious and the obnoxious, as the title of the book’s first section sums up.
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“Oh, I would divide the world into binaries,” she begins the poem called “The Glitter of the Simple,” but the dichotomy is never so clear, as she captures so beautifully later in the poem:
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The sacred passion flower,
ringed by purple filaments,
though its cool smile nests in leaves
of cyanide.
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Later in the poem, after having archly declared her intention to judge by appearances only, Fry more sagely notes the deceptive malleability of the world’s contents in an observation from which the collection takes its name:
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Both substance and creature slink
over a delicate border,
can so easily pass
from poison to antidote.
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Some of Fry’s poems are so deliciously specific in spelling out the world’s almost oxymoronic inconsistencies. “Jimsonweed” and “Mothballs,” which open the book, focus on these two modest objects to tease out the point. “The Flower Maker” tells the story of the accidental poisoning of a person who makes beautiful bouquets for ladies’ hair using a chemical like Scheele’s Green, a mixture containing arsenic. “She shaped the flowers, / and pinned them, // loved them like / little green children.”  Unfortunately, the flower maker got the poison all over herself, too, her hair and lashes, and eventually into her stomach and liver.
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“The Snake Charmer” is another poem that plays on the ambiguity of the safe and the dangerous. Inspired by a magazine article about an Indian snake charmer who “attempted suicide by cobra” (“your nemesis / and livelihood coiled in a basket”), she describes the man considered an “entertainer” by some and a “beggar” by others:
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Yours was like a prophet’s
mission, to travel to villages
and festivals – like a marshal
out in front, townspeople cowering
behind – to challenge peril,
dare it to come out from its
hiding, show itself.
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An oncology nurse practitioner at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Fry knows what she’s talking about when she evaluates the risks and benefits of different drugs and therapies. “Tomfoolery” brings a smile with its curmudgeonly expression, but she speaks truth:
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Harrumph, I say!
Your cure’s as toxic as the bug itself.
A panacea that kills the lymph.
Amphotericin destroys both fungus and the host;
camphor kills moths, gives us emphysema.
Amphetamines make depressives
leap the fence….
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“Narcan,” a poem about the emergency drug used to treat opioid overdose, expresses a similar ambivalence; the “miracle” comes with a warning, “the burden / of pure gift.” “Therapy” continues the idea of the fragility of the body in response to drugs, “fondling kidneys / like pottery.”  And so we encounter “Amir” “holding / the sample of urine with a slight tremor, as if asking for alms,” as uncertain and terrified as any other anonymous patient.
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This mixture of promise and peril is particularly potent in “Return,” a poem dedicated to “the Babushkas of Chernobyl,” the old women coming back to tend to the radioactive land, “to your home, / to what they said would be uninhabitable.” The birds, the bees, even, for a time, the wolves, moose and boars were gone. “But you would not grieve.  / There was work to be done.”
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My favorite poem is the one called “The Renderer,” in which a farm mother cushions the death of a beloved ancient horse with a vision of Patsy grazing happily in Heaven, much like the story parents tell their children about the dead family pet going away to live on a bucolic farm. Unfortunately, before she can take the kids away, the renderer drives up, jerking “the brake up like he was snapping / something’s neck” and proceeds to describe how he will have to saw Patsy’s legs off before hooking her up and driving the carcass away. The mother hastily rolls up the window and starts to leave the property. They drive away in silence for a few minutes, and then:
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“Mama?”
“Yes, Jack,” I said.
“Was that God?”
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Fry’s sense of humor shines throughout many of these poems, while expanding on her theme. “Don’t Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle!” channels the snarky colleague who manages to undercut her co-workers while smiling her fake smile. “Help Desk” is a sort of surreal take on the recorded telephone message that “directs your call.” “The Show Dog” anthropomorphizes the competitors in competitions like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “The Death of Rhetoric” humorously analyzes how language has been poisoned. It starts out:
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Take whatever.
Once royal, now it dwells
like a fallen angel
in the most ignoble realm:
the syntax of a sullen teen.
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These marvelous poems brim with wit, imagination and intelligence. What doesn’t simply charm or enchant you will make you wiser. (Am I right, Kelly Clarkson?)
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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.
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Planetary Motions by William Seaton

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By Karen Corinne Herceg
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William Seaton possesses a poetic voice whose sage and steady delivery comforts yet challenges us simultaneously. These qualities are on fine display in his latest book Planetary Motions. This collection’s combination of astute observational wisdom and inquisitive introspection allows us to explore the wonders and mysteries of the world with joy in spite of our frustrating inability to ever fully comprehend it. A critical component is to compel our powers of observation and reflection despite whether we receive satisfactory answers or any answers at all. His poems are beguiling expeditions that spur us on to deeper examinations of the human condition. It’s refreshing to find such an erudite voice that incorporates the humor and pathos of the quotidian so very well. A deep satisfaction that comes from reading these poems is their ability to make familiar things new and new things surprising.
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Formally trained and accomplished in translating Greek, Latin, German, and French, Seaton has a formidable background firmly entrenched in the history of poetry. It’s an art he not only practices but has taught and a craft he takes quite seriously in the tradition of such heady influences as Ezra Pound and poets who worked laboriously upon each word and phrase as being integral to the integrity of an entire piece. Nothing is viewed as superfluous. And in spite of this studied and precise attention to the importance of each word, he avoids a didactic, uninspired mindset and transforms that precision into music. The result is a lovely song to enjoy in its entirety without the obvious dissection of each note in its composition. We might be interested in the ingredients of a great meal, but it is the colors, textures, and tastes we appreciate in the final presentation.
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Seaton takes his knowledge on the road, both literally and figuratively, which speaks to his expansive and varied ability to make so many strange worlds seem quite familiar. A graduate in English Literature of the University of Illinois and the University of Iowa’s Comparative Literature Program, he could have remained entrenched in his Midwestern American roots, safely ensconced in academia. However, he chose the life of a bohemian traveler fused with a solid, scholarly foundation and literary acumen. He’s taught in prisons and in the Nigerian bush and has hosted several series and events, particularly in his home base of Orange County in the Hudson Valley of New York State where he resides.
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Seaton’s antiquarian references come alive against a soundtrack of contemporary musings that might often be compared to the rhythmic undercurrents of  jazz with its roots in both blues and ragtime. It’s an intoxicating blend of melancholy ruminations and playful ebullience that makes jazz so compelling, and this is also true of Seaton’s poetry. Interestingly, Planetary Motions is published by Giant Steps Press, which takes its name from the song and album of famed jazz musician John Coltrane. There’s an immense substantiation of poetic tradition in drawing upon a diverse lineage of history and so gracefully integrating it with the subtle and often soul-disturbing notes of such a modern art form. But it is evocative of Seaton’s work which brings the past alive by connecting it so deftly to the present.
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His expansive, global perspective can best be summed up in his own words. In a 2021 interview with Rubee Rancourt, an editor at Giant Steps, Seaton referred to earlier days he spent in Haight Ashbery saying, “We declaimed poetry in the streets and strove to make each act of daily life into art.” He adds, “As for academe, some may conceive the ivied halls as an isolated and remote realm, but for me it opened up the globe and the centuries past. The traditional canon is not, however, sufficient. To learn the real nature of literature requires familiarity with work outside the English Literature curriculum.” He makes note of the many ways we come together in commonality as human beings by exploring and integrating the vast scope of multi-cultural literature. The poet or artist brings a myriad of emotions, personal history, and individual perspectives to what manifests as a poem or a work of art but elevates it further with a universal inclusiveness. At the same time one must maintain reverence and humility. As he states in his Foreword to Planetary Motions, he promises “…only a few snapshots of consciousness reflecting glints of shattered truth which I wave in the dark like a blessedly naïve child with a sparkler.” It is more about presenting possibilities than absolutes.
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Planetary Motions is divided into seven very diverse sections and includes a Foreword and an Afterword. In Section One’s Other Scenes, we see a good example of Seaton’s ability to juxtapose and highlight the dichotomies of life in a variety of different cultures. In Men’s Clubhouse in Chihuahua he presents the subtle image of a young boy who absorbs the imprint and harshness of the local neighborhood while holding a Coke that is emblematic of external influences that tarnish that very culture. We see this theme again in the analogy of red feathers to blood and the historical and ongoing threat of violence contrasted with a quiet, pastoral scene in Macaws by the Gate of Copán, and in Mahashamsana where the Ganges River flows with shit, chemicals, and corpses but also with candles afloat that represent wishes of worshippers.
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On Ganges Shore he explores further the distance between appearance and intention when he states:
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…though aren’t they brothers in their con:
guru, priest, imam, rabbi,
passing the plate
and running the concern.
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There’s no question mark added at the end, since it is more of a statement that underscores its truth while asking us to consider this for ourselves. The striving of humans to impose our intricate and often convoluted thought patterns on the world as compared to the uncomplicated acceptance of other creatures is summed up succinctly in The Turkish Cats. He tells us that “…their cogitation seems a simple thing/and yet their gaze is sharp and clear and true” and without doubt.
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In Andean Day Seaton offers us marvelous physical imagery that underpins more ethereal experiences:
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A bowl of coca leaves can soften some
the stones and bones of every passing hour.
Thin air sublimes my thoughts and makes them rare,
for heaven tells no more than these high peaks.
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The inner rhythm of “stones and bones” so strongly impacts our awareness of time that measures our lives. It is mitigated to some degree by certain comforts that buffer harsher realities. And the jarring use of  sublime used as a verb, as in “sublimes my thoughts,” or the unexpected adjective “purling” paired with “water” in Walking in Aguirre Springs—adds new and refreshing perspectives.
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The next section, Divagations, gives us the mind wandering in the freedom of various reveries. In the Metaphysics of Everyday Life, we’re asked if the abstract thoughts and intrusions on our reality are truly abstruse or is reality the illusion?  In this poem the mind wanders as it truly does in each of us. There is no linear, rational pattern that informs our constant perambulations. We see the interruptions of the mind imposing various observations and seeming order into random impressions and broken connections:
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I carry my household gods from place to place and put their
            images on the walls to contain me, still horizons.
And the line will, despite horizons, propagate itself in any
direction and look to   its rights.
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This theme is echoed again in His Thoughts Flowed:
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…those thoughts flowed very like the wind
that takes each turn that comes along the way
and skims on top of fast food sheds and cars and busy men,
seeking some Zephyr in the stratosphere, some sweet high air
above the birds and plans, with which to mix and drift
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and effortless glide on.
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The so whimsically titled Wheee almost belies the gravitas of its message of connection and connectedness that fairly stretches into the realm of Shakespearean worthiness in its conjunction of colloquial yet elevated language and expression. Yet it is aptly named as it emphasizes the frequent comic elements that underpin our perceptions and conclusions:
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Beginning from the reverent and deeply held belief
            that matter and anti-matter must, in the end, be equal,
                        as positive and negative charges are equal,
and in this way the cosmic doughnut was
always already eaten and if my dream is a map of the stars, the
stars must dream always of me –
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Further fragments provide insights into our efforts to reconcile ourselves to inevitabilities and death:
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And just as the truth of a birth is concealed behind jubilation
 that, in spite of mortality, we are keeping abreast of the game
through efforts strenuous and strongly felt through the entire
human race…
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And the following fragment elevates death to its proper place in the scheme of life and reality:
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 And the sum of all things is precisely nothing at all, when
positive charges meet negative and matter meets antimatter and
finds annihilation perfect and sweet and a most elegant end…
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In the section Appetites, Seaton brings a palpable, organic sensibility to his observations of various foods and other physical elements with insights that assault our traditional and more complacent interpretations as in Cherry, where it becomes more of a transubstantiation than a comparison:
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Whence the gravity of your deep, deep red, o cherry?
You’re some vestigially corporeal internal organ of an angel
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There are descriptions of ordinary elements that birth startling contrasts:
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The highway cars,
a procession of dark stones
on the night’s sash,
the contained explosions
of their iron hearts
a constant tide
coursing down the lanes of night
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The following lines are reminiscent of the grandeur of classical soliloquy:
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An ego’s flame may burn or cook or warm,
ignite the incense of a devotee.
It’s rooted firm in metamorphosis.
O what hot changes rung upon the world
which may tomorrow be but ash and dust
but which right now is hot with change and pain.
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Songs gives us a section that is playful and lighter, some poems like the grand rhymes of bygone times, sometimes with a naughty twist as in:
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The force made a stand by enigma’s land.
The horses paused; he marshaled the band.
They  sought  to  breach  the  gate
behind which the queen was reclining in state.
They made it no further the chroniclers wrote
than the ripple of an aureole,
the nipple’s guardian moat.
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Seaton’s use of foreign or more obscure words achieves the difficult task of inviting us in rather than excluding us. His turn of phrase, inherent humor, and rhyming schemes create an inviting cocoon in which to feel expansive rather than marginalized:
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The early earthworm twisted his tail
and glistened his part that was glad to be male.
Vermicular lust began to rise
when the male part caught sight of his feminine side.
Before the morning was halfway done:
a hermaphroditical orgy of one.
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Further, he takes some literary license with pieces one could consider as limericks:
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Under the counterpane’s tropical heat
it’s torrid and humid down under the sheet
where natives go naked and nuzzle at will
down each damp valley, up each fertile hill.
We’ve sailed past the Cape, we’re rounding the Horn,
we’re starboard of Cancer below Capricorn!
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Or as in It Won’t Belong, even a sort of tongue twister:
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Giblet wonton,
new tot goblin,
neon blog twit,
boil tent gown,
blown ego tint,
no betting owl,
bent wing tool.
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And, just for fun:
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Another Charm
wait
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ha dinga bolooya mabit!
la linga ha hatnee zooo
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there
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These pieces are so clever and enjoyable we can readily accept them among the more serious and studied poems. After all, it’s the poet’s choice in a somewhat ‘take it or leave it’ attitude as evidenced in the final word of Another Charm: “there” which, in its definitive defiance, doesn’t even need the validation of an exclamation point.
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As its title suggests, the section Momento Mori brings us back to more sober considerations. A study on the inevitability of death is exemplified in these lines from Bullfight when the bull falls defeated and dying:
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One can avert one’s eyes right now,
tomorrow, too, but in the end one can’t.
The estocada comes for every beating heart.
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Estocada is an intriguing word choice translating akin to “lunge” in English, emphasizing that the final stroke is never gentle no matter what our expectations or circumstances.
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Seaton reminds us there are many kinds of deaths as exemplified in end of the world, very much a political statement but quite apropos in this section. It is a condemnation of the fleeting rewards of greed that will ultimately bring about destruction and loss:
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choking on bilious consumer goods
constipated by warehouses
with goods that just must move
swollen with inflammation
and cancerous economic growth
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In a bow to surrealism, and the cabaret series of new and alternative art he hosted at the Seligmann studio in Sugar Loaf, New York, Seaton presents a sort of alter ego in this section called Lama Swine Toil. He’s presented as the “Surrealist chaplain” who satirically dissects the misleading lure of gurus and spiritual leaders, and the false sense that any of us mortals can contain and offer divine wisdom. His disdain for such faux personas is clear in these lines from The Old Lama:
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My master said that he became a lama in order to avoid selling
snacks in the market. As good a reason, he thought, as any.
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He puts a final, hard stop to it with this proclamation from the comically titled The Lama’s Parable of the Not-OK Corral:
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Suddenly he heard from behind the voice of the cosmos, deep
and unmistakable,
“Drop your ego on the ground right there, I’ve got you
covered.”
And he knew the jig was finally up.
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With no conclusive words to placate our desire for resolutions, we are left with an acceptance of an ultimately unknowable and fluctuating dynamic but one which we all share. Herein lies the solace of capitulation to our common experience. As Seaton sums up in these lines from Apothegms of the Backbrain:
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In the end we all are in the same boat, and we know it has
sprung a leak, and we hold hands in dread and in this way our
comfort and our fear are as one.
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The final section of Planetary Motions is Translations, which treats us to a host of work by poets from various cultures and historical time periods aptly rendered by Seaton’s expert and intuitively inspired interpretations. These translations serve to further underscore the connectivity of the human experience in what is essentially a global home of shared commonality undiminished by language or locale. Planetary Motions shows us that Seaton is a true citizen not only of the planet but perhaps of other worlds as well.
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You can find the book here: Planetary Motions
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Karen Corinne Herceg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Literature/Writing and has graduate credits in editing, revision and psychology. Her first volume of poetry is Inner Sanctions, and her second volume, Out From Calaboose, was published in Fall 2016 by Nirala Publications. She publishes poetry, prose and essays in a variety of magazines and literary journals, including American Book Review, Compulsive Reader, North of Oxford, LiveMag!  https://www.karencorinneherceg.com/

All the Rage by Rosamond S. King

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By Greg Bem

All the Rage is an outstanding book, capturing the moment of the pandemic, the fight for Black lives, and the movement to understand emotion and life within the borders of our everyday life. It is a book divided into seven sections, and each section could feel like its own book, and the entirety wrapped together feels ecstatic and boundless. Rosamond S. King is not only a storyteller but a mediator of truths, a gateway into the archetypes being born today. This is a book that, like the recent work by Claudia Rankine and Divya Victor, captures a contemporary feminist approach to discontent within America, and also follows in the radical, performative Black poetics of Douglas Kearney, Terrance Hayes, and Tyehimba Jess.

This book is for
you, whether you quarantine
stuffing your face
or (and) reorganizing drawers
streaming
staring

(from “This book / is for you,” page 1)

The book opens matter-of-factly, inviting the reader into a world of quarantine and the mundane. It is from this stable beginning that King leaps off the edge into the known and unknown simultaneously. This leap, this dive through text and literary spirit, is done with subtle critiques to and amendments of style and standard formatting. Take “America the beautiful,” an early poem in the book’s opening section. “Beautiful” is left uncapitalized. The poem’s punctuation is highlighted, emphasized as taking on importance akin to the words themselves. The poem ultimately moves from a focus on lines of beauty to lines of bondage:

. True
, some never make it out, but while they’re here, we
distract them with baubled accessories and bubbled beverages

(from “America the beautiful,” page 6)

King is concerned with flow, and the absence of flow. Or its interruption. The following poem, “Etymology of a Scream,” calls forth Yoko Ono’s tweet during the 2016 election. But this is not a poem about 2016 so much as it is a poem about now, about always. Amidst the subtle narrative, King writes: “. Mourn those who came / before and the absence among those who / remain.” (page 8).

As with any astute, mature and conscious poetry, King is able to balance between trauma and reconciliation, between wound and insight. It may take patience, but the reader can follow this volume and find the ends of the spectrum readily available from page to page. In “21st Century Goddamn,” King morosely writes: “Everybody knows / not every body / gets out of this alive” (page 15), alluding to the murders of Black lives from slavery to Baltimore to Staten Island to Cleveland (and so on, and so on). Pages later, the meditative sway of the pendulum: “Breathe / . As in what if / the shadow is gold / en? Breathe.” (from “Avante-Garde Is a Term of War,” page 24). The subtle art of the poet is one that bears multiple waves of resonance and multiple contexts of control over image, feeling, and time. King captivates without sacrificing a serious investigation into public and personal relations with violence over social brutality (a la white supremacy) and a personal, focused process of grief.

All the Rage is not a book that “ends” or finds resolution within its covers. The book, as rage, captures rage in its many forms. As such, there is a very intense and beautiful disintegration that occurs as the book evolves from beginning to end. A prominent interplay and exchange with words and their cores emerges, revealing not flaw but remarkably vulnerable risk-taking in language:

desire lead yu by the nose hairs, promising
love and panic just there
just beyond   desire will drown yu
an as liquid becomes pummeling wave

(from “Sunshine Sigh, page 96)

An emphasis on deconstruction within voice and tone recalls Toni Morrison and other fantastic and fantastically raw writers whose words will not be forgotten. King’s work here is unforgettable. It lingers, awash with the permanence only humanity can provide, with witness, with observation, with the capturing of our flight and our ongoing struggle to know flaws and pain, and growth.

You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/all-the-rage/

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 www.gregbem.com

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Palm Lines by Jonathan Koven

palm lines
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Palm Lines by Johnathan Koven published by Toho Publishing LLC in Philadelphia is an interesting tome of forty-nine pages of poems that flow like stories in a guided stream.  The poems are complex in both imagery and interpretive meaning which makes the reader want to take a second or third read to discover how it all fits together.
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For example, the three-stanza poem on page thirteen Drowned in the Eye of the Equinox, uses the narrative of a beast suffering from rabies who is affected by nature in ways acknowledged by an insane thinker.  If the reader interprets the beast to be a season, it takes on a whole different set of possibilities.
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                            The moon opens.  My eyes rotate
                              to reproach my insides.
                              The pith’s fumes sing, Reduce me,
                              with their sour breaths.
                              A new month has come, another
                              empty emblem of resurrection.
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What is the narrator seeing?  It is night and this poem places the reader in the forest but it does not feel safe.  The image of the moon opening and the eyes rotating sets a tone of eerie doom.
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This is the first stanza of this macabre poem and it sets the time, tone. and place.  The second stanza is more specific on what the place looks like and also hints at the time of year.
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                              Pines and oaks starve thin;
                              horizon or blanket of cinder,
                              it does not matter anymore.
                             More shadow has spilled over
                             from dawn. Old rain covers
                             everything until tomorrow.
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The third stanza closes the poem with a suggestion of coming sorrow from planting the rabid seed in a child or the impression that the season and/or the child is the rabid seed.
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                          The season dies a rabid animal,
                          Hiccupping, seizing, Remember me.
                           I cannot be careful tonight,
                           my fire extinguished:
                           a crying child,
                           a seed.
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The poem is certainly open for interpretation.  Who or what is the narrator and is the seed implanted or is the child the seed and the seed of what, the season or the Equinox?  The imagery works well and is fresh. Endings and beginnings are skillfully mixed together. The tone of the poem is surprising calm for all that is happening on the night the moon opens.
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Another poem of similar complexity is Photograph of Visible Light on page thirty-six.
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                              A small family
                              sits in my heart, quiet
                              at a kitchen table
                              in darkness
.
                             One bird
                             speaks outside the window
.
                             They listen
.
                             The lonely child lingers long
                              thinking
                             Does it hurt less
                             if I sleep?
 .
                            The question’s answer
                            holds no promise
                            of ever being known.
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The poem has created a visible scene inside the narrator’s heart and it is drenched in apprehension. The poem does not answer but suggests and Koven creates a complexity of interpretation that asks the reader to seek the promise of knowing.
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The book is divided into three parts following the lines of the palm:  Life Line, Heart Line, and Head Line.  The book also has impressionistic visuals in full color with dominant colors of blue and gray. I particularly like this book because the images and concepts are fresh and interesting. Koven has skillfully intermingled the common with the extraordinary and this volume is a pleasure to read.
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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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Zipolite by Lorraine Caputo

zip
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Zipolite by Lorraine Caputo 
.
I.
What is it with this place?
Why has it awakened my inner voice –
even before I arrived? …
.
This Place of the Dead …
.
Why do I feel quiet?
Why do I want
to quiet my Self
to the world of man around
to listen to the World of Mother?
.
All I hear
is the thundering surf
All I see
is the ocean
churning white, ripping the beach
carrying sand towards the far horizon
churning, ripping around
the cragged heaps of rock ….
.
My eyes
follow the butterflies among the triangular-box
spine-scalloped stems of cactus trees
My eyes
follow the cats among the drying scrub brush
.
My eyes
follow the slow passing naval ship
on this side of the horizon
My eyes
follow the nude bathers wading into that
churning, ripping ocean
.
I am hoping this Place of the Dead
won’t claim another
I am wondering why the hell
they enter those deadly waters
My mind answers:
TO FACE DEATH
.
An iguana
appears on the stone wall below
then disappears over the edge
A buzzard
flies high from the cliffs above the sea
its wide black zopilote wings
cast a shadow below
.
I wonder at
the force of these waves
the conflicting currents
ripping them apart, making them
slam into one another
I wonder at
my stillness in the face
in the place of death
.
– Zipolite
Zopilote
Zipolite –
.
II.
The sea here is
Xonaxi Queculla
the destroyer
the goddess of Death
I watch her wild dance of the waves
I hear her wild angry, thundering voice
.
Mother
O, Mother Xonaxi Queculla
I shall respect your strength, your force here
I only ask
that you wash my feet, my ankles
with your warm, salty waters
Please, Mother Xonaxi Queculla
touch me gently, caress me
.
– Zipolite
Zopilote
Zipolite –
.
III.
Even at the Bay of Love
upon the ancient humped volcanic flows
the waves rise, leaping over the rocks
towards the heavens
.
I wonder
how many forgotten lovers
have walked into these blue-green waters
foaming at the mouth of this bay
crushed upon the ragged rocks
tossed, pulled, ripped by the currents
flying towards the heavens
on the great white leaps of waves
salt spray falling, falling upon the crags
back into the sea
.
I found
the sole of a woman’s once-spike-heeled shoe
washed up on the rocks, lying amongst
the bleached shatters of shells
.
– Zipolite
Zopilote
… Zipolite …
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Wandering troubadour Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in 18 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful companion, Rocinante (that is, her knapsack), listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at: www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer  or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com
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Cantata by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

syca
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Cantata by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
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Drought robs the sycamores, plucking
leaves in June. A breeze pushes them
.
into a swarm of withered pages
rasping anxiously across the court.
.
Then stillness. They die back down.
Invisible forces carry us along.
.
I am a prisoner of hope.
A congress of loneliness. A dry tear.
.
An old motor sputters before purring.
Empty boxcars couple with a boom.
.
Copying Ovid’s playbook, I hold out
for change. Home is made of wings.
.
Thunder clears its throat but won’t sing.
The goal in life is joy. Today sun reigns.
.
jeff
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is a publisher, critic, eco-activist, and artist.He is best known as a poet and the author of 15 books of verse, including most recently Blue Lyre from Dos Madres Press. He has an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College where he studied with Allen Ginsberg and also taught. Recent poetry is included in New American Writing, 2017. For many years, Wright ran Cover Magazine, The Underground National. Currently, Wright stages events showcasing artists and writers at KGB Lit Bar and La MaMa ETC in NYC, in conjunction with his art and poetry journal, Live Mag! He regularly contributes to American Book Review. Wright is a Kathy Acker Award recipient for 2018.
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