The Dog Years of Reeducation by Jianqing Zheng


By Jerome Berglund

straw hats float like life preservers / in a white sea of cotton

George S. Patton once famously declared that pressure makes diamonds.  Folk musician Robert Dylan similarly posited that ‘behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain’.  Dickens had his boot blacking sweatshop, Bukowski that dread post office, Plath a certain apiary.  For one particular youth in mainland China during the Cultural Revolution and ever after the harrowing indignities and discomforts inflicted across his peculiar rice paddy, nearby cotton or soybean fields in young adulthood, and the ‘reeducating’ these locales supplied for him and an entire generation of disillusioned acolytes will come to loom large, rattling past and present, irrevocably informing and energizing the eventual scholar and educator’s tangible and subconscious worlds personally and professionally – shifting paradigms, granting heretofore unprecedented perspective, empathy, incredulity, butterfly wings precipitating an ocean’s worth of ripples outward in profound and fascinating fashions.

Containing a wealth of fresh, original content to marvel at, the newly released full-length poetry collection Dog Years of Reeducation also presents together some carefully selected, arranged, and essential chestnuts – polished or expanded upon, with a definitive, ‘directors cut’ feel – to ensure as complete and comprehensive as possible an exhibition from a widespread and extensive career of Jianqing Zheng publishing in different places, styles, and approaches discussing these topics and experiences, creating an essential showcase of the poet at his finest in discourse upon a subject deeply familiar and important to him – and germane for each of us also, in many relevant ways, wherever we reside or fit into discrete struggles for agency, autonomy, edification and community.  Appreciators of his new book should also investigate a previous shorter collection by the author examining similar matters, Enforced Rustication, roughly half the length of this latest robust assembly of material.

Half a century having elapsed since their occurrence, these scenes have only grown more potent in the annals of recollection and grasping their rightful place in posterity, aging like a fine artisanal vintage, fermented and preserved with enormous care.  Jianqing’s series has a decidedly Leaves of Grass nature; like the portfolio of Whitman’s representing an industrious life’s work, Zheng’s own magnum opus continues quietly shifting and expanding here, contracting there, everywhere pulsating with the most serious intention and disciplined searching for the perfect words and spaces to express and communicate an ephemeral feeling, convey ambivalence as to what ultimate moral (nor have such revelations remained static; comparing the earliest poems scrutinizing this era from first sections of book with the latest additions in the evolving conversation and debriefing makes for a wildly thought-provoking and stimulating exercise:  ‘rusticated years / no longer taste bitter’?!) or lessons should be inferred, interpreted or gleaned, poignant but elusive truth which is slippery as a worm between one’s fingers.

When you feel the pain, the leeches already bloat with your blood.

If you are interested in history, knowledge, the quest for meaning and acceptance, desire to better understand global politics and the murky missteps of that Great Leap Forward in hopes of learning from and not repeating various miscalculations, intuiting happy accidental benefits, discerning glaring pitfalls so they may be avoided, then this will prove an indispensably didactic addition to every student of the human condition’s library.  Observing one of the foremost modern masters in English language haiku and haibun applying his talents to such an ambitious, intimate cause and undertaking is truly riveting to witness.

Just as Henry Miller constructively plumbed his ‘Rosy Crucifixion’ period to great effect throughout his career, Edvard Munch would be plagued by an obsession with the image of his sister withering on her sickbed from tuberculosis, Billie Holiday’s nickname Lady served as a constant reminder and hearkening back to that nascence working with her mother in a house of ill repute (imaginably not dissimilar to the French equivalent in which Edith Piaf was almost identically matriculated), the same specter which has so long been haunting Europe made its presence no less felt in the formative years of one of America’s most revered and accomplished living poets of our generation as Jianqing Zheng ironically found his voice amongst crushing subjugation and pressure to remain silent and conform, traumas and anxieties both patent and invisible inherent of coming into maturity under the regime of Chairman Mao Zedong.

life in the fields / a fly trapped / in a web

In a tactic quite analogous to how Canadian and the American indigenous children were removed from their families and cultures, indoctrinated with Christian beliefs, clothing, hairstyles, robbed of their names, encouraged to not learn their ancestral language or traditions of sustainable agriculture and self reliance, the minutia and broad strokes of what in practice this romanticized initiative of working the land, receiving tutelage by agrarian castes amounted to is captivatingly illustrated here in a case study which should give every progressive reformer pause.  This affecting period, equated in the opening poem – and revisited figuratively near the conclusion – to the dog-eared pages of a yellowed book, suffice to say made a lasting impression on its pupils, though a far cry from the sort responsible architects had envisioned it should.  The particulars, details, and startlingly similar nuances of an approach ostensibly under the ironic pretenses of rejecting and revolting from capitalism’s peculiar brands of bondage and feudalism, yet creating for all intents and purposes a proletariat dictatorship every bit as tyrannous to the citizen and stifling for the intellectual, has been one of Jianqing’s lifelong fixations – looking back on with the bias of hindsight and a storied career’s amassed experiences with statecraft, philosophy, theory Eastern and Western both, viewed through diverse and holistic lenses.

It’s been said no one is a prophet in their own land.  As with Joyce’s intensive, elevated depictions of an Ireland he remained permanently detached from after his exodus, something in the introduction of time and distance, the finality and confliction of expatriation – it’s no surprise or coincidence that one finds the wayfaring hobo and stray dog among Zheng’s recurring cast of characters; the third section of Dog Years begins ‘homesick / a seesaw creaks’ – facilitates much of literature’s most evocative reflections and deliberate meditating.

There is something quite archetypal and timeless about this narrative, from the Biblical Joseph impressed into service by a betrayal of his brothers, to the Athenian children sacrificed one after another to a labyrinth’s minotaur, and more contemporary local parallels such as the story of Solomon Northrup which inspired his memoir of repression and liberation 12 Years a Slave, the many unmistakable commonalities between the coerced physical labor and psychological hegemony exerted upon the individual throughout the People’s Republic of China in the late sixties and early seventies and the abominable practice of forced servitude upon which the Americas were founded – vestiges of which remain vital organs of the nation’s economy, rebranded and obscured through the entrapments of convict leasing – were immediately apparent upon emigrating from the land of his birth, Zheng could not fail to perceive in the Mississippi Delta region of the postbellum South he arrived in, has called home for over three decades.

The anecdotes and realizations of this collection represent an integral catalytic impetus, seeds which would sprout into a strong thread of solidarity and internationalism (e.g. in Delta Notes: ‘hayfield / blacks and whites work together / under the blue sky’; among academic contributions to the critical landscape the author has edited significant and acclaimed anthologies African American Haiku and the Other World of Richard Wright which include valuable articles on a range of subjects and exemplars) running across, perceptible admirably about the oeuvre of Jianqing – whose given name bears a noticeable resemblance to the word zhiqing, or ‘Educated Youth’, used to describe those millions of middle and high school aged adolescents shipped off to the countryside for compulsory drudgery and propagandistic training by provincial agents of supposed ideologic superiority.  These preoccupations with class, oppression and homogenizing, affinities with experiences of marginalized and exploited American populations will be discerned and artfully cited for the reader’s attentive consideration innumerable places throughout Zheng’s vast and eclectic body of work; leitmotifs and correspondences become more obvious as one observes the mosaic each piece and facet comes to form when understood as a cohesive unit.

‘Night Life on the Farm’, one of Zheng’s signature and most provocative works is worth paying particularly close attention to, clearly represents a highly consequential and significant piece to this longstanding private puzzle of origins the poet has so worthily grappled with.  In different iterations it has appeared in earlier collections, is here presented with a new intriguing ending and twist, serving as a vital backbone and means of grounding and contextualizing the work, offering an overarching through-line across a prolific literary journey and thirty years (in Delta Notes Jianqing wistfully ponders, ‘MLK Day / wondering what dreams / I’ve realized’, laments lacks of progress or improvement: ‘still a black and white pic / at the edge of cotton fields / a paint-flaking church’) of diligent composition and publications.  The cotton towns of the United States, microcosms of sorts for the global south, and pickers who inhabit them, their distinctive field holler music (in Found HaikuDelta Notes) reappear persistently, like Blues standards being covered by deft musicians old and new. Cigarettes as currency, smoking representing momentary release are also noteworthy recurring symbols and themes in many poems.  The sparrows Mao failed to eradicate are frequently omnipresent, leaping, pecking, fluttering indomitably through many a storyline.

An initial string in Dog Years ‘Reel to Reel’ describes one young farmer (a father in an earlier variation of the piece, interestingly) in a rice paddy urging an ox through its plowing.  Elsewhere the hill Myna blackbirds of his native land are described caged and free, engaged in hunger strike and parroting back basic phrases.  Confined parakeets (present in Minis too) and a caged rooster similarly appear in collection The Porch.  More overtly in Found Haiku one verse describes the residents of a plantation interning a large enclosure of tropical birds.  In ‘Free Choice’ through the dying and style of a women’s hair identity and authenticity, self-determination in the face of or response to domineering societal pressures to superficially conform, toward a presumed aesthetic principle (something very relatable for African Americans past and present, females most particularly, in regards to hair and makeup traditions) is beguilingly relayed.  In many areas throughout the author’s writings, the melon as seasonal delicacy and bucolic staple both Asian and American, figures prominently and enigmatically in different usages.  There is also a question of qualification, appropriation superbly broached or posed countless times, such as a remarkable verse in Delta Notesdelta tour / a cell phone’s blues ring / in a tourist’s purse.  No clear or straightforward answers exist for such perplexing inquiries, and the koan aspect, element of reflecting upon complexities at length lends much value and interest to each of the author’s incisive investigations.

If I never acquainted myself with local peasants…

How a surging populist movement representing groundswells of consensus and public support may compromise its ideals egregiously, a nation can flippantly forsake its population, a generation can misuse (the Emmett Till tragedy subtly galvanizes many of Zheng’s poems, including memorable pieces exploring Money and the Tallahatchie River in Delta Sun) and manipulate their youth, a zealot excuses and consents to problematic means for justifying lofty ends, the way conflating babies and bathwater invariably lead to misunderstandings in the highest echelons perverting objectives, fomenting ignorance, discouraging critical thinking (a scene of apple picking, as well as a striking verse from Zheng’s collection of sequences Minis comes to mind: ‘on every window / of the school shines / a morning sun’; a passage in Found Haiku is also germane: ‘hidden track / through cotton fields – / a train of dust’), fostering complacent automatons rather than the spirited striving toward actualization necessary to achieve a post-scarcity economy, predicated upon learning and constant challenging of imperfect institutions, infrastructure of both commerce and the state… These subjects provide the poet with no shortage of powerful raw material, the careful synthesis of which has required a lengthy and painstaking brewing process which finds some of the most coherent and urgent articulation yet in The Dog Years of Reeducation released this year by Madville Publishing.  Daring readers who seek this book out shall encounter compelling contents both immensely edifying and tremendously enjoyable to peruse.

You can find the book here: https://madvillepublishing.com/product/dog-years/#:~:text=About%20The%20Dog%20Years%20of%20Reeducation%3A%20Poems%20by,countryside%20to%20receive%20reeducation%20from%20the%20poor%20peasants

Jerome Berglund has published book reviews and scholarly articles in Frogpond, Fireflies Light, Valley Voices and more. He has also published poetry in short form in Asahi, Shimbun, Bottle Rockets, Modern Haiku and more. Twitter



The Air in the Air Behind It by Brandon Rushton


By Greg Bem

The light / sure look solder than / it is. The days are slow and filled // with supermarket sales.

(from “The New Century Springboard,” page 9)

As our world is changing, and drastically, and, in our every day, how much of our daily observations reveal these changes? Is much of the world compelled to feel ordinary, relatively stable, while its inhabitants through it and live life under the protection of the mundane? Certainly some parts of the world, certainly some parts of the late stage capitalism that sends us commuting to work each day, watching our screens through the sublime to the paralytic, and living in the constraint of boxed suburbia. This tension between a humdrum middle-class existence and transformations of epic proportions across the globe is explored in poet Brandon Rushton’s austere and analytical debut collection, The Air in the Air Behind It.

Like always
the forecast called for fog, a slow commute,
an unknowable future.

(from “Before the Experts Mislabeled the Beyond,” page 21)

Following the collection’s opening and prophetic doom-and-gloom prose poem, “Milankovitch Cycles,” The Air in the Air Behind It is otherwise filled with long, sprawling epics verse that roams and spins, walls of text that read like cracked mirrors with thick, tightly representative descriptions careening and splitting. Enjambment leads to surprise and revelation. Rushton’s forms feel familiar and simple, but feed upon themselves, grow and unlock exquisite social portraits and comment on phenomena.

Let’s say—for the first time—something new
becomes the focus of the suburban centerfold.
A backyard brochure that finally embodies
the complacency of the community taking so much
pride in welcoming—with what they say–
is open arms. The young boy has his doubts, it seems
about the dare, and insists upon a rope
around his waist before he’ll run out across that thin-
and-freezing-thicker pond. Anything lost will agree
there is a distance you can’t be dragged from.

(from “No Known Natural Predators,” page 18)

Density offers opportunity for flips and sprawls. Rushton’s poems often move quickly enough to disorient in their revelation, yet there is a calm undertone that keeps every poem centered and focused. The results is surprise for the reader and cohesion for the work.

But the book goes well beyond the long sprawl of verse described above. The poet fluidly moves between other forms the serve to visually upset and reflect off one another, offering a result to the mundanity of Rushton’s source world. Among Rushton’s forms are winding tercets that jab and gnaw, often forming a triangulation as they move from down across multiple stanzas, starting and staying and leaving each idea as in a tree or web:

The road / is wide open and the sudden // stone chip in the windshield / makes us cry. A phone rings / and the people in the pool // start whispering. Someone / to stay the street looks dark / and welcoming.

(from “A Rhombus,” page 17)

While the poet is not afraid to bring in his speakers, which often feel autobiographical, the book also affords some distance, reading like something between a news article and a biography. Still, the focus on collapse and broken systems follows a popular lineage in Western Literature, including the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, George Orwell at its most calm and complacent, and Flannery O’Connor, Franz Kafka, and Steven King at its most hyperbolic. The Air in the Air Behind It is also reminiscent of contemporary poets like CA Conrad and Sandra Simonds, whose comments on place are often incising and occasionally scathing.

Rushton’s work, while profound and exceptional for today’s contexts of implosions and decays, is often filled with unease and can be challenging to finish. Like Kafka, much of the world, even at its brightest moments, is still filled with fallacy and impossibility. Often those moments of hope in the collection appear nervously liberatory, indicative of a lack of global confidence and assertion, a phenomena plaguing large swaths of society, across culture and place.

Waking in the wet / sweat of a nervous sleep, a routine / walker makes his way // toward a routine street. No real purpose. / No plan to put the barbarous / in their place. Honestly, the people // had hoped for more space / to feel spectacular. Thought maybe / they might see // a revolutionary thing.

(from “Ergonomics of the Later Land,” page 72)

And Rushton’s sardonic worldbuilding is often filled with little release and reprieve other than having simply been written. Which is where this book is exceptional: it feels at its height to be a documentation, an exclamation. While a clearer resolve could have been infused, Rushton’s decision to keep clear results in the book offering its own resolution: a vacancy, open to be filled by the reader’s capacity for the imaginative. This implied ask may be too much to ask when the scene set is dim and drawl, but at its core we have the struggle and suffering, the human condition, to spur us. The Air in the Air Behind It may reek of systems, but its core is filled with what humanity the world has left. With this humanity we can dream. Whether the dreams involve further collapse or emergence is up to us.

You can find the book here: https://www.tupelopress.org/product/the-air-in-the-air-behind-it/

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



Let’s Call It Paradise by Mike Maggio


By Charles Rammelkamp

The very title of Mike Maggio’s new collection raises questions. Let’s Call It Paradise: you can almost hear Maggio continue with, “even though we know it’s not true.” Why not call it a circus? What is this “it,” anyway? In these remarkably unique poems, Maggio examines the modern world as if he were a visitor from another planet. Indeed, the penultimate poem in the collection, “Into the Wilderness We Came,” is like a QR code which we scan into our smartphones to view a restaurant menu, “and off to Grandma’s house we went” follows like a punchline. The sardonic humor slaps you in the face like a waiter’s damp towel.
Paradise is arranged in sections titled “Selling Eden,” highlighting the commercialism of the “sacred” in society, “The Serpent,” “Babel,” “The Epistles,” titles that also allude to religious themes, and the book begins and ends with “The Road to…” and “And Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” likewise suggesting religious experience. So yeah, let’s call it paradise – instead of its opposite. It’s all a sales pitch, after all, right?
A social activist/critic whose first love was found poetry, cut-ups, collages and erasures, Maggio composes his poems as if he were assembling them out of parts (or removing parts). As he notes in the Author’s Statement that prefaces the collection, Let’s Call It Paradise (subtitled on the cover page “A Poetry of Concoction”)  “attempts to examine societal forces…to look at who we are, what we’ve become and where we may be headed,” while keeping a skeptical eye on the “technical revolution” that continues to transform our lives at an alarming rate. The book is “dedicated to everyone who cares about our future.”
The collection opens with a “Siren Song,” beckoning the reader, like J. Alfred Prufrock. “Come, let us go now to a place beyond dreams,” he croons, seductive as the supernatural maidens that lure Odysseus, “…to the merry, manic marmalade / malls, to the towering halls of dithering / tongues, to the glittering temples that / mesmerize all.”  This here’s America! The capitalist paradise where versions of reality are bought and sold.
Right out of the gate he gives us “True Religion” (including the top five hundred songs in history), “When Jesus praised a widow,” and “Epiphany” (“Every day, she prayed to the TV”). Poems called “fall: roman empire” and “Fall: American Empire” suggest the fragility – the illusion – of this paradise. “Oanly in am-” spells it out (or misspells it):
oanly in am-
As is plainly obvious by now, Maggio has an acerbic, mocking sense of humor. “A Guide to the Signposts in the Garden of Eden” includes such markers as I. “You are now entering the Garden of Eden. / Fig leaves required past this point,” and VII. “Adam and Eve slept here,” and VIII. “Create your own original sin. / For more information call 1-800-666-EDEN.” And in the same “Selling Eden” section he gives us poems called “ChatRoom,” “That Is: The Question” (“Are you searching to look pretty?”), “Hair” and “Hey there, stud!” in which we may be wandering around that mall looking for the quick-fix to irresistible attractiveness. “Condoms” and “Sex Therapy” are here, too. “Sales Event” makes it explicit:
Everything is a sales event
he said.
for sale.
Take my life for example:
My money
My house.
My health.
All up for grabs.
Even death.
“Instant Party Gal,” an inflatable doll offered in “The Serpent” section, and “Flat Belly Science” provide further siren lures as we stroll around the mall.
Which brings us to “Babel” where any sense of cohesion completely breaks down. “Spam” (“this is not spam” repeated over and over and over again), “Subject Making Sounds,” which is made up of alternate alphabet symbols whose “sound” is anybody’s guess, “Glottal Stop Poem,” “Bomb Threat Checklist,” the kind of bureaucratic how-to you see posted in office buildings, a “found poem,” indeed, “Ingredients (for Life),” also a found poem, listing “artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives”: all of these nullify language, rendering it all barnyard babble. “Limerick” reads:
            I once read your post on Facebook.
            It led all the way to your bankbook.
            I took all the cash
            I was unabashed
            Now you have nothing but blankbook.
We receive warnings about identity theft and personal identifying information (PII) all the time, right? There are checklists….
All of this, after “Epistles” from Maryrose Komo of Kuwait and the inane “Have a Nice Day” greeting, culminates in the zeroing of language in the final section, “And Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” whose poems take the digital world of binary 1s and 0’s to the max. It begins with “Into the Wilderness” and reaches full binary code in Pastorale,” a word that refers to a musical composition. In between, Maggio gives us “Mac Low’s Menu,” which is a page of barcodes, “And Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” a list of five-digit numbers that look like zip codes, “Record Out of Range,” which looks like computer programming code, “Into the Wilderness (Reprise)” in which, after the initial I, all the vowels are absent from the words. “No Normal” ends:
            no smarttags
            no symbols
            no social
            texting no
            twitter no
            no Maggi
            o no Mag
            gio no
            no Maggi
The final poem of the collection, “My Paltry Piece of Paradise,” which sounds almost apologetic, reads, like other poems, like a catalogue of ingredients or parts (“dyspepsia / dyslexia / disassociation / motilium 10 mg / prozac 20mg”), concludes: “Lift here to experience.”
Indeed, Mike Maggio’s one-of-a-kind Let’s Call It Paradise isn’t read so much as it is experienced.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

Bone Country by Linda Nemec Foster


By Michael Collins

The prose poems of Linda Nemec Foster’s most recent collection, Bone Country, published by Cornerstone Press, follow an itinerary of travels in Europe through imaginative and reflective responses to the images, characters, and history encountered. The surface contents of the pieces range from the lively self-presentations of different areas cultivated to interest and entertain tourists to observations of local life farther from the central attractions, continually refocusing on unique aspects of the different travel destinations. These snapshots are invested with psychological and existential insights that link their recurrent interests in the changeability of life, perception, identity, and relationships. Exploration of these themes, often using syntax to reflect cognitive and affective nuance, forms a compelling and sometimes unsettling shadow travelogue more akin to the journey through life’s instabilities and eventualities than the relaxing or enriching idea of a vacation with its promise of a homeward trajectory.

Awareness of fluid identity is established early in the collection, perhaps an essential feature of setting off on the journey. “Conjuring her face” features a “famous artist from Serbia” who claims he’s seen a woman in Belgrade, although she has never been there: “He’s memorized every nuance of her expression, every outline she exhales on the pages of his sketchbook. ‘Look at these,’ he shows her, ‘I know you.’ Eventually, she starts to believe the evidence. As if she never lived her life, as if the blood of her ancestors never left his country” (2). The imaginative mailability of identity seems, in part, related to the contextual experience of vast numbers of strangers with few familiars to tether one to their understood life. “In the Old Town, Warsaw” is composed of a list of such observed strangers, from which a concluding figure emerges as a sort of spokesperson: “…the effusive expatriate who used to live in Detroit and now owns a fashionable café. ‘Anyone can be anybody in this part of the reinvented world,’ he says to you with your borrowed map and permanent stare. ‘You should try it’” (3). The somewhat mercurial gatekeeper offers an invitation we’re too intrigued to refuse, at least to the extent that “the reinvented world represents the collection we’ve only begun to open.

The café owner is a stranger whose world can only be “reinvented” by the speaker through a combination of observation, imagination, and insight into human psychology. As we have seen, he also presents a partial mirror of the speaker in his invitation to a mysterious world of possibilities. Strangers who reflect shared aspects of human cognition and pathos, while maintaining their own distinct characterizations, recur throughout the collection, opening the speaker – and reader – to aspects of memory and loss we tend to bypass in the flow of our “normal” comprehended dailiness. “In the Perfume Store, Kraków” provides one example in its young vendor:

“…the anonymous cologne her grandmother wore. The fragrance of purple and white – if colors could exude a smell. That was the girl’s first lesson in memory. How certain smells reminded her of certain people. The lesson she remembers every day as she sits in her shop waiting for you and your exposed wrist, the quiet hollow of your neck.” (9)

End stops are inserted for commas in various places, indicating a pausing within the associative flow of her memories and thoughts as she quietly reverences a lost elder linked inextricably with her own youthful discovering of felt connectedness with others. The punctuation pacing the inner monologue evokes the gradual coming into focus of this psychic interconnection and its attendant feeling of ego consciousness being momentarily transcended, the inexplicable nature of which is also deftly presented by the synesthesia in the colorful description of her grandmother’s scent. The ending highlights the way the shopkeeper’s reflections seem to create a corollary need for the temporary connection with her patrons – or give meaning to the interactions that must take place for the business. In addition to lending dignity to the woman’s daily activities, this passage renders an interesting parallel to the ways that poets work with unquantifiable psychic material to offer something to a reader who they meet primarily through the medium of their work.

“The Maid from the Hotel in Bialystok” is another fascinating variation on this constellation of relationships. She lets the beds air out all day because “The Bed needs to breathe…so that it can forget all the dreams left behind from the night before” (50). The maid’s inner monologue also holds up a mirror to the psychological imagination of the poet: “How can the empty bed forget – their hair, their skin, the imprint of their bodies? The maid knows only time holds the answer.” In this poem as well, a routine of awaiting the stranger opens to surprise, in this case in the form of the room’s next occupants:

“Only then is the bed ready for the next dream: the dark rooms of an abandoned house that haunt the quiet bureaucrat from Moscow whose wife is as constant as a blank page.” The more overt evocation of the “blank page” prompts other nuances of the maid’s – and bed’s – poetic mirroring. These include the speaker’s role as the collector of stories, but also the need to “breathe” between them, both to rest in oneself and to detach in order to redirect focus anew. Indeed, this practice, subtly mimed by the ellipsis, seems to be one thing that differentiates the speaker from the spectral wife so omnipresent to the beloved she conceives no expression of her own. More generally, this poem presents an insight most travelers may not know they share with poets: Considered concentration on what is unfamiliar or opaque often necessitates taking a few quiet breaths for oneself.

In “Café de Paris, Switzerland,” the speaker’s imagination of others’ plays an even more detailed role, presenting the introjected voice of a diner’s deceased wife at an establishment that serves only steak as a strategy for catering to all: “No need for menus, no need to read French or Italian or German, no need to stutter with an American accent” (51). The lack of linguistic interaction seems to open the floor to some patrons’ inner voices:

“His wife hated meat but approved of the ancient world’s ritual of gazing at slaughtered animals’ entrails to predict the future. He envisions her frown appearing in the reflection of the red juices pooling on the plate. Her mouth opens in disbelief: What do you think you’re doing, eating in a place like this that doesn’t even know what tofu is? Think of your heart. Your congested, breaking heart.”

In a context where language itself is eschewed as a primary mode of connection, the introjected voice gravitates toward the psychic presence of mortality, as if, ironically, it presented the only grounding commonality between a couple separated by death.

A similar development occurs in “At the Zeitgeist Hotel, Vienna,” which catalogues one of the wider ranges of scenes in the collection, ranging from “’[t]he waiter as teapot…. One hand on his hip, one hand cupped to his ear, waiting to hear you decide on the fate of your lunch” to “Sexworld in a tiny museum on the other side of the train station: a permanent collection of anatomically correct dildos from all over the world” to “[t]he nearby cathedral with its wooden Christ that pilgrims lick.”  Interspersed are impressions from other states of consciousness: “Dreaming of your dead mother and her large dresses printed with unknown blossoms, unknown colors that haven’t been invented yet.” The longest piece of the collection concludes with, “The silent statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, alone in the choir loft of a gray stone church, somewhere east of the city. Heat from the votive candles in the forgotten side chapel. Prayers for the living and dead: you among them” (46-7). In contrast to the focused imaginative attention in the previous poem, we leap here between exterior eccentricities and surreal atemporal interior images. Yet, again, in this far more sensational poem, we arrive at death as a common touchstone. Notably, all of these sections are sentence fragments, further evoking their shared quality of being juxtaposed impressions of the speaker’s wanderings. The turn to second person projects this displacement through the text, towards both the reader and the writer, who has already been implicitly connected with the “you” in the passage regarding the deceased mother. This disquieting common ground, such as it is, also lends a darker wordplay to the title, “Zeitgeist” punning to mean both the collage of the spirit of the times in the odd collection of attractions – as well as the spirit of time itself and its mortal certainty.

These more existential pieces provide their own context for some of the lighter ones, such as “Lipstick in Geneva,” which examines the difficult choices faced by women comparison shopping overpriced lipstick: “So what’s the foreign wife to do? Pucker up and pay or risk having her lips disappear amidst Geneva’s well-heeled, well-dressed women? As she contemplates her face in the mirror, the sunset glows coral and crimson just behind her” (49). In addition to the tonal variety and the clever shift to rhetorical questions when discussing social masking, the poem provides a subtle nudge to the traveler not to focus on their own aesthetics at the expense of those quietly hiding in plain sight. However, we might also note the role that the cultivation of our facades can play as a healthy distraction from life’s more menacing aspects, even those of the social variety. The creativity of painting one’s lips to keep them from disappearing in a social context may share at least one existential root with the motivation for the speaker’s painting of the concluding, fleeting landscape.

Creativity as a practice of finding equilibrium without stable ground is one element that brings these travel pieces home to the reader as an uncommon mirror of our daily lives. “Stadtpark, Graz” offers a fitting character to guide us through sitting with these improbable translations:

“Maybe the monk asks the quiet sycamore, ‘Where am I going? Its branches filled with no clouds and a pale blue. He spends an hour waiting for an answer. Anybody’s guess, he guesses. And the answer would be totally right and totally wrong, depending on where you are at any given moment. Meanwhile, the shadows of the dogs and the drunks collide.” (62)

The monk’s seamless movements between meditation and observation of bodies both apparently real and manifestly illusory are a fitting microcosmic reflection of the speakers’ studies throughout the collection. Here again, homing begins in a practice of locating the self in the other, the relatable in the superficially foreign, the acutely real in the fictionalized character compellingly aware of their own deeper fictionality. The speakers’ awareness of shifting subject-object relations is cultivated in the counterbalancing of compassionate imagination with more detached existential contemplation, opening again and again to an ephemeral creative space in which psychological connections between lives and their worlds flicker into moments of resonance, a compelling practice of “reading” that we who open these pages are implicitly invited to emulate in our own travels far reaching and close to home.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Country-Linda-Nemec-Foster/dp/B0BYG5FHPZ/ref=sr_1_8?crid=QR89B4YYK093&keywords=linda+nemec+foster&qid=1680311837&sprefix=%2Caps%2C102&sr=8-8

Michael Collins’ poems have received Pushcart Prize nominations and appeared in more than 70 journals and magazines.  He is also the author of the chapbooks How to Sing when People Cut off your Head and Leave it Floating in the Water and Harbor Mandala, the full-length collections Psalmandala and Appearances , which was named one of the best indie poetry collections of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews . He teaches creative and expository writing at New York University and the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and is the Poet Laureate of Mamaroneck, NY.



Antique Densities by Jefferson Navicky

By Lynette G. Esposito
Jefferson Navicky uses the technique of short prose poems in his book, Antique Densities published by Deerbrook Editions,Cumberland, ME The volume is divided into five sections and an introduction.  In the introduction, Navicky calls his poems parables.
 I call the pieces “parables” not because of some ancient moral lesson each one possesses, but rather in honor of Wisdom: 100 Modern Parables (edited by Howard Schwartz 1998). 
The tome is skillfully structured to reflect the theme of each of the five sections: Books, Maps, City Directories, Transcripts of Oral History and Special Collections. In the first section, the poems deliver observations about books.  They are set forth in a form that resembles paragraphs, but each seem to have a beginning, middle and end much like a short story.  On page eighteen he offers a short one stanza poem entitled A Book.
Oblivion recorded, she made her way back.  The road, pocked.  Her eyes: vacant. En route, she bought, from a boy in rags, a box.  In it. she put all she’d seen, her dust, her dreams, jealousies of all kinds, gone ambitions and the small bits of hope she had left.
It feels as if the poem is unfinished.  Navicky is deliberate in this so the reader feels that shred of hope that leads the narrator forward.
On pages forty to forty-two, Map of the Provinces in the Maps section, is divided into nine sections with a title for each.  The technique to title the stanzas is interesting and provides focus and direction to the poem, The last stanza is titled Epilogue and pulls the poem together.
The map was given to me as a parting gift from a friend who was moving across country to attend seminary.  She told me this map had been waiting for me.  It was, she said a map the Jesuits used in the early days in Mexico to further their missionaries. She pressed the square block of wood in my hand saying, make your own story.
In City Directories, Navicky continues the story in the poem Trains to the Provinces on page forty-seven.
The one-stanza twenty-eight-line poem leads the reader both away from the station and back in one swift turn.  This poem sets up the rest of this section for travel to other places such as of Mexico City and Carsonville.
The poems in this ninety-eight-page volume are narrative with a conversational low-key tone.The reader does not always anticipate where the poem is going but Navicky controls the pace and message of the verse so the endings of the poems are logical and meaningful. The reader needs to pay particular attention to the punctuation because it controls much of the precise meaning. The book is a good read.  
Antique Densities is available from www.deerbrookeditions.com
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.

2nd Wednesdays Poetry @ Northeast Regional Library – April 12th

Spring 2023

2nd Wednesday’s Poetry @ Northeast Regional Library

Featured Poets + Open Mic

Curated By North of Oxford Literary Journal

6pm to 7:30pm

2228 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19149

April 12th

Host: Dave Worrell

Diane Sahms and g emil reutter 

diane b

Diane Sahms a native Philadelphian, is the author of  six poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011), Lights Battered Edge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, 2016), Handheld Mirror of the Mind, (Kelsay Books, 2018); Covid 19 2020 – A Poetic Journal (Moonstone Press, 2021); and most recently City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) – Alien Buddha Press. Her poems have appeared in a number of online and print publications.   Diane is the Poetry Editor at North of Oxford and works as a purchasing agent. You can visit her at http://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/   and http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/

selected poems photo

g emil reutter lives and writes in Philadelphia. Seventeen collections of his poetry and fiction have been published, most recently Thunder, Lightning and Urban Cowboys a poetry collection and Selected Stories 1990-2022 both from Alien Buddha Press.  He is the book review editor and site manager for North of Oxford.  His work has been published widely in the small and electronic press. You can visit him at   http://gereutter.wordpress.com/





An Interview with Carl Kaucher

karl 4Carl Kaucher of Temple, Pa has published three books of poetry, Sideways Blues – Irish Mountain and beyond. Postpoemed and his latest, Peripheral Debris. He explores his experiences wandering urban spaces near his home and throughout Pennsylvania. The work reflects the amazing diversity of events that are happening all around us if only we slow down long enough to observe. Through his photography and writing, Carl exposes the miraculous beauty of the ordinary. He is photographing the overlooked places and documenting the chance occurrences that happen to him and by doing so gives us the opportunity to reflect upon those similar things happening in our lives. https://www.facebook.com/CarlKaucher/

Interview by g emil reutter

GER: How did growing up in Reading influence your poetry and method of writing?

CK:  Reading Pennsylvania is situated in a valley bordered by the Schuylkill river, Neversink mountain and Mount Penn. Where I grew up on the northeast side of the city, I was just a few blocks from the base of Mount Penn which has large tracts of undeveloped woodland. So as a youth I was exposed to both an urban and natural environment and as with most youth I was outdoors all the time. On weeknights I was playing in the back alleys, streets, schoolyard lots and urban playgrounds. On weekends my friends and I were either downtown or wandering in the woods of Mount Penn. We were always exploring and as we grew older the wandering went further from home.

As a young adult I had various apartments around Reading. I worked at a factory in downtown Reading but never earned enough money to really afford or want a car. I walked. I walked a lot. Reading is a small city so public transit was limited to buses and the buses stopped running fairly early. I walked at night. I found a lot of places in the various neighborhoods I lived to explore, old rail yards, warehouses, out of the way places. I was always trying to find different ways to get from point A to B. At the pace of a walk the world becomes more intimate.

One apartment I had was across the street from the old Reading railroad yards.  I would sometimes meet friends there at night, we would drink beers and I would shout my poems to the moon or passing diesels. I loved being in an urban environment. Sometimes I would walk to the edge of the south side of town with a friend and trek out the railroad tracks to the backside of Neversink Mountain, camp all weekend and build huge roaring fires with railroad ties, drink beers chilled in a little spring we found. I also loved the woodland spaces.

When I got older, after the kids were raised and the desire for career advancement fled I picked up where I left off only I began extending my journeys outward into Pennsylvania at large. Trying to rekindle my creative self, I started writing more about my experiences wandering. I had written for many years but when I made the connection between writing and the experiential part of my life things started to coalesce. When my brother bought me a camera for Christmas one year, I started to document these journeys photographically.  Both of these crafts I still am trying to develop and perfect

GER: What type of jobs have you worked?

CK:  I started my working career in 1977 with a summer job painting dorm rooms at Albright College in Reading. Since that time I have worked in various retail and industrial jobs and until this day I still work in industry at a battery manufacturer as a Quality Inspector. My favorite job was working in a small hardware store for a couple of years. I learned so much about various hardware, lawn and garden and home repair wares especially from the various contractors we served. It was an old building with 4 floors jam packed full of stuff  We sold everything from Kerosine heaters to seed potatoes. You had to learn and learn quick in order to be able to help the customers.  It was the perfect job for a young man. I was the master glass cutter.

Another noteworthy job I had as a youth was working on the grounds crew at Albright College. It was during this time I started writing, I believe I was 19.  My sister was an art major at the school so through her I met a lot of fantastically creative and interesting people. I started writing in part to try and impress some of the girls I was hanging around. I was not that good at writing. I was not that successful with the ladies either. One of my bosses there gave me the nickname Sideways and it stuck.

My job in a factory provides the inspiration I need to do something more fulfilling with my life away from work. I was never really career oriented but I am a blue collar writer and proud of it. From the outside it may seem that those who work in factories are cut from the same mold but I am blessed to be working with a lot of interesting people. I work with folks from Columbia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Croatia and wow do I learn from them.  Even the people from various regions in Pennsylvania have so many different interests and perspectives. I work with poets, musicians, photographers, hunters, farmers, entrepreneurs, people with skills I could never master. I learn from them all and respect them deeply. There is nothing common about the common man.


GER: What influence did Kerouac’s San Francisco Blues, Mexico Blues and Book of Blues have on your own volume, Sideway Blues: Irish Mountain and Beyond and how do they differ?

CK:  Sideways Blues, was stylistically influenced by Kerouac’s concept of the Blues which he defines in the front sleeve of his book Some of the Dharma. He says, ” A blues is a complete poem written filling in one notebook page, of small or medium size, usually 15 to 25 lines, known as a Chorus,…” Kerouac insisted upon spontaneity and little to no revision. That being said, I am not a huge fan of most of his poetry per se’ because of that lack of revision. He certainly hits the mark on several pieces but most come across as conversational, and lacking of profundity or depth. I am much more a fan of his prose work. 

We part ways on revision.  I revisit my poems after writing them and revise. Upon a 2nd, third or forth reading I am able to develop the lines and imagery so that it more closely resembles the experience that I felt at the time of writing and also to present things in a way that might be more palatable for the reader. However, when revising I do try to keep the original intensity and vibration that I felt at the time of writing. I also allow myself the ability to extend the poem beyond a notebook page but I do like the concept of sticking to about a page because it forces you to develop each line more succinctly instead of getting too wordy.


GER: Your collections, Postpoemed and Peripheral Debris document through poetry and photography the decline of industry in towns, boroughs and cities in Pennsylvania.  What effect did the geography and people you encountered have on you?

CK: The other thing that inspired me to continue my explorations was the discovery of the concept of Psychogeography which is a sort of pseudo-science dealing with the effects of environment on the behavior and emotions of individuals. It is also very much a literary and artistic movement as well and has a long history.  The premise is to quiet the mind and open up to the surrounding environment to recognize its impacts upon your thoughts and feelings and then document the results through writing or photography. Walking can be meditative. With each step you let go of cares and worries and open up to the present, the longer you walk the easier it becomes.  As you walk you merge more and more into the surroundings and become less noticed by others.  Sometimes I will just sit somewhere and observe. Whether walking or sitting I take notes of happenings, thoughts and feelings. Usually within the next day or so after the experience something poetic resonates within me and I revisit the notes and write it out. The result is not always a success but sometimes works out quite well and those are the works I have published so far.

In the process I have gained a greater appreciation of the people and places I have been. Everywhere everyone is just leading their ordinary lives the best that they can. As an observer, I consider myself lucky to have witnessed all the chance encounters, all the events unfolding. Had I not been at a particular place at a particular time I would not have seen what I saw. Everything unfolds in the present moment and it is the present moment everywhere so depending on where you are that is what you know. Just sitting at home trying to discern reality from the news or from the internet is a half truth at best. I think the truth is what lies before your eyes, take that and fit it into the larger context of what you read or hear.

Pennsylvania is a beautiful place, so many winding roads though cities and towns past forested mountains and farms. The people I have encountered are distinctly interesting manifestations of that environment. Those I have met along the way are always surprising in their diversity.  I have learned to never trust first impressions as during conversation I am generally surprised to find out I was wrong. The architecture I encounter will never be duplicated. There is much historical beauty throughout the state. Even the decay has a certain beauty. The streets of early 20th century row homes I walk down will never be duplicated and may not even be replicated anywhere else outside of the northeastern United States. There is something quite unique about a small Pennsylvania town. There is much to find.

GER: What other poets have influenced you and do you have any you return time and again?

CK: The work that I am currently producing is directly influenced by the beat movement, spontaneous rhythmic free verse. So Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William S. Burroughs of course. Gil Scott Heron, Amiri Baraka, Richard Brautigan, Maggie Estep, Lydia Lunch, Lorri Jackson, Captain Beefheart ( Don Glen Vliet ), Patti Smith are also great poets as well and on and on. I am greatly in awe of the talents of so many other poets too numerous to mention. I have also met a lot of lesser known writers who have inspired me. Strangely enough though, it is the work of William Blake that over the years I have returned to time and again. The marriage of Heaven and Hell has been read many times.

I am also drawn to literature, philosophy, eastern religious thought and well crafted prose.  Another book I return to often, so dog eared, battered and torn, is Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet  – A Factless Autobiography. Pessoa’s prose is flawless. The narrator, living his entire existence in Lisbon Portugal ( and mainly one street in Lisbon) opens up a boundless universe of imaginative thought and observation. It is the one book, along with a survival guide, that I take with me into the woods when the bombs start to drop and the shit goes down.

karl 2

GER: Are you familiar with Martin J. Desht’s Photosonata?

CK:  I was not familiar with Desht’s work but I am certain I will be sometime soon.  From what I can glean off the internet it very much looks like his photography is similar in nature to mine. It seems like he had explored some of the same areas that I have been exploring. Perhaps it would be interesting to try and revisit and photograph the places he has and see how they have changed. Thank you for bringing him to my attention.

GER: Do you believe lost industrial jobs can return to Pennsylvania and if not, will the wealthy continue its efforts to eliminate the middle class?

CK:  No, nor do I think they should. The past cannot be duplicated. The future and any prosperity it may bring to the depressed regions of Pennsylvania will be unique to its time. Manufacturing will be a part of this for sure but it will be manufacturing producing what is needed for the times they are needed in. Yes it is always the people near the bottom that are most affected but humans are adaptable and must adapt to the current situation. Some of these towns will survive but there will be many that continue to crumble into dust. To try and hold on to the dream of returning to the glory days of the past is only keeping us from progressing into what we could be tomorrow. I used to think it as essential for towns to hold on to all those beautiful old buildings of historical significance but if they are holding us back from becoming more prosperous then they too must go.

Overall, I do see us by necessity having to return to a more urban environment, a more community oriented environment. I see the revitalization of small cities taking place everywhere I go.  Places like Phoenixville, Lancaster, Doylestown, Stroudsburg and closer to my home, West Reading are becoming attractive to live in again. Perhaps as more people work from home some of those depressed towns will become more attractive because the cost of living will be less. Certainly, during any revitalization there must be efforts made to keep affordable housing. But, this notion of escaping further and further away from each other is unsustainable. There are only so many places to go.  The car culture and the blandness of suburbia is destroying us more than any loss of industry. The pervasive self similar, scale invariant strip mall culture of the WaWa – Wal-mart world is culturally destructive and environmentally unsound. However, this is a huge topic and could be the subject of many a book so I will stop there and reserve the right to be wrong about any of it.

GER: Was there a transition between living in Reading and now living in Temple?

CK:  I have a love/ hate relationship with the Reading area. I very often wonder where I would be had I lived in other places also. Yet, I would not be achieving what I currently am if I had gone elsewhere. I suppose it is pointless to even speculate what my life would be. I will just try and be appreciative of what has befallen me and trust the universe to take me where it will.

Temple is on the northeastern edge of the greater Reading area so the transition was not that great. I am still in an urban environment where the sidewalks still run and connect me to the city itself. Temple is in Muhlenberg Township which is adjacent to Reading and is very much a fast food, Dollar Mart, strip mall hustle and bustle boom. Temple itself is an old town at the end of a trolly line that was just enveloped by sprawl. Overlooking Temple is the hump/ pseudo mountain called Irish Mountain and it is where my poetic journey began in earnest. It is also the focus of my first book Sideways Blues.  I have found many places nearby to escape to on foot but everywhere I go I can turn the corner and look northeast and there’s that dam Irish Mountain glaring down at me saying – where do you think you are going now?

karl 1

GER: How is the poetry scene in Reading?

CK:  Reading has had a pretty stable poetry community since the early 1990’s under the moniker of “Berks Bards”.  The “Bards” are part of the artistic establishment and tend to be a bit academic, but the group has afforded me many opportunities over the years so I am thankful for them. Under the leadership of its original  founders it was more of a county-wide group involving many communities, now it pretty much resides in Reading and is intertwined with the local art venue at the Goggle Works. The Goggle Works is an old factory that was refurbished to now be an arts and craft center with artist lofts for rent and workshops etc. It is a good thing overall but is a self contained island of art with not many places to go outside of it. Ironically, it is the old factory where I used to work at in my young adulthood when I was tromping around the streets. I believe there is a couple of other groups that are around but are more “workshop” oriented and I am not a “workshop” poet but I’m guessing they do good things.

Reading itself has become a largely Hispanic community which is vibrant and diverse and does seem to have it’s own growing creative community. I have only recently discovered this but have long sensed it. Unlike a large city such as Philadelphia if one wants to broaden their scope and reach you have to travel to other small cities to expand the circle. I have found very vibrant poetic communities in Lancaster, York and Harrisburg as well. I know of groups in Allentown, Bethlehem, Scranton and Chester County also so poetry is very much alive in Eastern Pennsylvania. I also have found a great circle of friends and supporters in Woodbridge N.J as well.

GER: What current literary projects are you developing?

CK:  Like in the Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poem I am Waiting, currently I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder which is slowly beginning to emerge. While I am still writing experiential poems of place, I am delving more and more into some longer prose pieces which are still experiential in nature but incorporate mental traveling as well, stream of thought. I am most interested with the juxtaposition of loosely related images that play upon each other to form a more implied narrative.  I have done this in the past with some success in longer spontaneous pieces I have written but I think I would like to utilize this in some shorter poems. I have just been reading some and love his poems Night Highway 99 and Three Worlds, Three Realms, Six Roads  in which stand alone lines juxtaposed take the reader on a journey without much in the way of narrative. It all comes down to a well crafted line, I think. I also like the short numbered aphoristic like chapters found in Fernando Pessoa’s work or Kerouac’s Desolation Angels or even Fredrich Nietzsche’s Human, All Too -Human or Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. So, I am continuing the process of developing and experimenting with my writing.

As with my previous three books, at some point it manifests that I have a body of work that fits together well and then I seek to publish. If I do publish again, I think it will be an E-book to try and reach a larger audience but we will see. Along side the writing I am still exploring and trying to better my photographic skills. I have a large body of photographic work so maybe a collection of photographs like Martin J. Desht’s would be in order but I would have to figure out how that is done. In this electronic culture I am not certain that hard copy books are the correct path but on this too I reserve the right to be wrong.

karl 3

Kaucher at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Literature-Fiction-Carl-Kaucher-Books/s?rh=n%3A17%2Cp_27%3ACarl+Kaucher

Kaucher on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarlKaucher/

Kaucher at North of Oxford:







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




Two Poems by Charles Carr


All spoke the language of the Mill.
Separating, straightening, twisting
Weaving a life out of cotton
Processing began at 6:00 AM, stopped  at 7:00PM
half hour break for lunch
Six days a week
Entire families offered their hands
The Opening room
Wrappings stripped off bales of cotton
Raw the opening machine tearing
Hands of pickers, lappers and fluffers smoothing it into sheets
the card hands  feeding into the teeth of the carding machine
where it was swallowed, digested into loosely compacted rope like slivers
the Boss carder made $12.00 per week a card hand $4.50
 Onto spinning room
            floor vibrating
to the slubber hands, intermediate hands, speeder hands
all women paid $4.00 per week
feeding the rollers of drawing frame
thinning the slivers.
Fibers wound tighter
spoolers, twisters, warpers,
band boys.
A progressive rhythm
Oilers and sweepers overseeing the banding machine
bobbins spinning filling with thread
the duffers moving up and down like a xylophone player
replacing the bobbins keep the spooling
The Weave Room
with fillers, creelers, beam warpers
slash tenders. drawing in girls and weavers
more hands that mounted rolls of yarn
 hands that raised, lowered sections
draw in hands lacing threads through an eye
designs for carpets, sheets, clothing
             the world’s.
Ode To a Stone 
I found it resting among the driftwood and seaweed
At an angle and in that light and moment stood out.
Heavy it rested
Chiseled and polished by the oceans forces.
A brightness glowed within,
as if it was breathing
Paused me to think of the thoughts
and movements it had gathered into itself-
The air, birds, clear sky
Balancing now at the summit of the cairn
on my windowsill.
A totem
brute matter speaks
endurance, density, solidity
charles photo

Charles Carr of Philadelphia has two published books of poems, paradise,pennsylvania and Haitian Mudpies & Other Poems. Charles has been active in the Philadelphia poetry community for 20 years and he hosted a Moonstone Arts Center Poetry series at Fergie’s Pub forb5 years and is currently the host of a live monthly broadcast Philly Loves Poetry now in its seventh season.


Hotel Krupa Lounge by Mark J. Mitchell

Hotel Krupa Lounge 
The desk is vacant. She slumps in—damp, sad
from an old bop tune that never leaves her head.
She looks for mail. Sees none. Hears one rogue note—
a piano. Then she feels she’s not alone.
Elevator buttons get pushed. The mean guy
from three. A second note that almost sighs—
a low C, she thinks, coming through the wall.
They climb in the small cage. He smells of salt
and fish. It’s a waltz tune, low keyed. The whole
ride up she knows it. Wants to sing it slow
and blue. Guy steps off, uneven, at three.
She waits for her floor, punches L just to see
how long that wisp of a song can play on.
It circles her from four all the way down.
She leans her ear to the wall just beside
gold mail boxes. It’s there. She feels a slight
vibration from a bass key, Hears a click—
a foot tap, a cigarette getting lit
somewhere within plaster. It’s “Danny Boy”
now, very soft and slow. Another guy
enters. The pipes stop calling. She believes,
for now, at least, a hidden lounge, unseen,
unseeable, lives in a room with no door.
Maybe next to the shaft. Someone performs—
Only at night? Never noticed. Who else
hears keys—that Bill Evans touch. A bell
rings. Elevator’s back. The dark notebook man
walks out. Doesn’t lift his eyes. His hand
writing, writing all the time. Can’t keep a beat.
She’ll ride down and up all night. She won’t sleep.
head shotMark J. Mitchell has worked in hospital kitchens, fast food, retail wine and spirits, conventions, tourism, and warehouses. An award-winning poet, he is the author of five full-length poetry collections, and six chapbooks. His latest collection is Something To Be from Pski’s Porch Publishing. He can be found reading his poetry here: https://www.youtube.com/ @markj.mitchell4351