LATE, ALMOST MORNING by Lucas Carpenter

sky 2

Photograph by g emil reutter

Even to be ready to be ready
Before the sky caves in,
Before the rats overrun the trenches,
I need more information.
And I want it neat,
Not soft and mushy,
Given to polysemy and tropes,
But one-to-one correspondences
Between word and thing, idea or action.

       Where are you in the space between thoughts?
       Folded over maybe in many layers,
       Launched out from being
       But for a time erased.

I’ve listened too long to frowning fathers,
Feckless in their broken glass blandishments,
Their orders about the order of things.
It’s time to get real, mash out memes,
quantify the qualia, put ‘em up for bid.
Circumstance dictates itself,
But everything (all except anything)
Will shed dark on time’s history,
Leaving the best for last.

       What we know as now
       Is based on a true story
      Told with toil and trouble,
      A feast of false dreams recurring.

See the differences crawl out first,
Take note of their notices,
The abrupt abandonment of rule
By those involved, quiet statements
To the contrary impaled on iron spikes
Where they rot unattended,
Never allowed to happen again.
What is life? What is death?
And who am I to want either?

       Here at the center of time,
       Deep-mindedly engaged
      With self-organizing systems
      You are indifferent to the fate of the world.

I awaken to melancholy in the blankness
Of a hotel room, admitting the obscurity of dusk,
Searching for a cosmological constant
In the symbolic contents of my mind
Where mathematics can be imagined
Only as a form of grammatical mutation
Illuminated by imaginary light flexed
By victims of unjustified euphoria
Hanging limp as strange fruit outside.

       Dusty strangers speak their songs,
      Offering them outright for a chance to stay
      Safe within the borders of creation
      Where they’re warned to stay outside.

Hate traps abide like land mines around us
Inviting us in to the dark pleasure of being alike
So we can huddle together to build the heat we need
To annihilate our desire for the others who claim
To belong on the same ride through existence
Without buying the same ticket. We have plans
But they aren’t included, only measured
For the size of space they occupy and the time
They consume in the unnamed future.

       Qualifiers tell us what to do
       So as not to miss the climax
       They say is our due,
       Our holy remnant to hope for.

I want to be out on the wildest edges,
Frolicking with fingers flexed,
Ready for animal homilies to dissolve
Into the waiting, leaden gasses
Where beastly priests breathe
And toys fly off the shelf. Problem is,
There’s no here or there without murder.
Black-lacquered faces prepare themselves.
Recycled armies are headed for the front.

      I exist too much. I
     Don’t exist enough.
     Who will be seated
     When the music stops?

Lucas Carpenter’s stories have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Short Story, The Crescent Review, Nassau Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and South Carolina Review. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, one book of literary criticism, and many poems, essays, and reviews published in more than twenty-five periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, College Literature, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Poetry (Australia), Southern Humanities Review, College English, Art Papers, San Francisco Review of Books, Callaloo, Southern History Journal, and New York Newsday. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Emory University.

Unrequited forester contrite with sunrise by James Walton

Unrequited forester contrite with sunrise
still smouldering
with interred lightning
this tempered wilderness
life drawings of fire
dance in alphabet
hills make charcoal
smudge the outlines
saltpetre heathen tongues
peel back these veins
as gut for flamenco
in the valleys now
courts the dragon
eludes the celibate dawn
will your heart match
the wing flap
seek without shame
and make fertile
this ear drum’s beat
cast lots along the razorback
to such unending desire
this true name
can only be spoken
by counting years aloud
into any inferno
I will call them out
wanting to hear
all you have again
in a quickened reprise
James w
James Walton is an award winning poet published in many journals and anthologies, short listed twice for the ACU national Literature Prize, a double prize winner in the MPU International Poetry Prize, and Specially Commended in The Welsh Poetry Competition

Granny’s Guide to the Galaxy by Barbra Nightingale

Brown Eyed Cat by Milla Rice

Photograph by Milla Rice

Granny’s Guide to the Galaxy
On nights when Florida pours herself
like molten sky into the darkness,
when breathing feels like drowning
and no one wants to swim though the night
to sit by your side, it might not be
the best idea to drop a hit of acid,
then ask your grandmother
how to clean puke from the wooden floor,
or tell her at length how you and the family cat
have “exchanged consciousness”
and now are both one and the same.
You might not want to tell her you’re “tripping balls,”
that the intensity of color, the liquid brown
of the cat’s eyes, the feel of the fur
beneath your hands made you want to weep,
though she did clean up the vomit,
make you a cup of chamomile tea,
wrap you in a soft blanket against the chills,
and sing you to sleep, dreaming
of  a time when just the thrill
of unfolding your limbs
into a run, or climbing to the top of a tree
was as high as you needed to be.
Barbra Nightingale’s poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies, including Rattle, The Florida Review, Barrow Street, Sacramento Poetry Review, Kalliope, Southern Women’s Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The Mississipi Review, InterlitQ, The Eloquent Atheist, Many Mountains Moving, Narrative Magazine, City of Big Shoulders, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It, Sonnets Out of Sequence, and Tigertail: An Annual.  Alphalexia, her newest book just came out with Finishing Line Press (2017). Two Voices, One Past was a Runner Up in the 2010 Yellow Jacket Press Chapbook Award, and was published in September, 2010.  Geometry of Dreams (2009) a full-length collection of poetry was published in 2009 by Word Tech Press, Ohio.  She has six other collections of poetry, and a yet unpublished memoir, Husbands and Other Strangers.  She’s an Associate Editor with the South Florida Poetry Review, and a professor Emeritus from Broward College, and an advisor Emeritus with Phi Theta Kappa.  

Milla Rice is a photographer. You can visit here at :

Summer Reading Recommendations

sunrise woods 1

Photograph by g emil reutter


Here are the top ten book reviews based on readership at North of Oxford for the first six month of 2017. Consider them for your summer reading.


Magnesium by Ray Buckley

Shoot the Messenger by John Dorsey

100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

Unmaking Atoms by Magdelina Ball

The Way Back by Joyce Meyers

Seek the Holy Dark by Clare L. Martin

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’s Poetics

Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez

Bird Flying through the Banquet by Judy Kronenfeld

Justine by Lawrence Durrell



Coming on August 15th

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Our August 15th poetry edition will feature poems by Annie Blake, Lucas Carpenter, James Walton and Barbra Nightingale.

Submissions are always open at North of Oxford for poetry, essays, book reviews and commentary. Our guidelines are here:

Stain by Nathalie Anderson

Review by g emil reutter
“The Silver Stain,” they called it, this medieval innovation—
silver nitrate fired onto glass, turning a white surface
sallow, citron, saffron, sulfur—the silver alchemically
aping gold: a crown, a wing, a head of hair, an apricot
or palomino. No longer did the glazier need to cut
a separate slice of yellow, but could tint and fire and tint again—
       -First stanza – Stain: Six Meditations on the Craft
And so begins Nathalie Anderson’s Stain. The collection consists of four parts: “Stain”, “Wreckage”, “Crush”, and “Kyoto”. Like the craftsman noted in the above stanza, Anderson’s use of language in each section tints and fires and tints again.  
In the poem Revelation – Shatterings at Canterbury she writes: If God is a light inaccessible, /a light beyond our comprehension, then/how shall mere eyes see? Pierce our walls/ with windows, but shade them, shade them. /At Chartres, / light seeps ruby, light pools sapphire. At Sainte Chapelle, /it’s dazzling as diamond, all lux and lumen, / splendor in the glass. Anderson has the eye of a mature poet as this stanza brings the stained glass to life in the word of the shading, of light seeps and lights pools of splendor in the beauty of the glass transformed once again on the page.
The section “Wreckage” brings to life the photograph album of Elize Hodges FitzSimons, an album kept during the Second World War. A master of images, Anderson’s Secret Heart is stunning, such as the second stanza:
Why so mysterious? Against the dark,
Exuberance on exuberance: girls
who’d tell all. Friends like sister; sisters so close
they call each other always only “sister”; a man
grown so familiar, he’s wall, he’s furniture,
he’s shadow; a crowd so tight, who bothers with names?
And again in the second stanza of Old Flame:
The way he sits, canopied in forrest.
Live oak crowns him, crosses him; and Spanish moss
Scrawls over his white t-shirt, shawls his shoulders,
cauls his arm. She’s written by his picture, “Not
a cave man,” but he’s caverned, shadowed, primal.
She brings the photograph to life for the reader with no need for the reader to view it. Her improvisational writing and deliberate use of imagery brings the photograph to life in words.
The section “Crush” ends with an outstanding poem, Troll. The first stanza brings the reader under the bridge with the Troll.
Troll under her bridge, raw from clawing up
her rankling, swollen green with grudgery,
feeling on her spine each splintery plank,
each trip trap tramp, each neat little goat’s hoof.
She’s a cat-fit rash for rocketing, back
Always up, hackles always bristling. She’s
the worm in your apple, thorn in your flesh.
In the final section, Kyoto, Anderson brings the reader to Japan in a series of poems that confirms her position as both a realist and imagist. From the first stanza of Shisen-Do:
For every slightest quaking leaf, a gardener
to lull and hush it. For every flighty gust of green,
a gardener to sleek it, clip the wing. For every spree
of branching limb, a gardener to rein it, bend
back the wrist, twist the arm in. No sprig evades
their balding, no frond their fondest scrutiny.
Poets’ Hut
House of Fallen Persimmons
So quick, the cloud flung
over the garden, trailing
its beaded fringe, that
delicate pelting.
Under the thunder,
falling suns, their heft
explosive, stormed to bursting:
coronas of succulence.
And then the moon,
all pocks and rots and bruisings.
It softens on my window sill:
ghost fruit.
Stain by Nathalie Anderson is lyrical with intense imagery driven by realism.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

Girl Behind the Door by Stephanie Dickinson

girl behind


Review by Dana Porreca


A New York City transplant returning to her native Iowa recounts her mother’s last days. Snapshots of Iowa farm life are offered in the form of nostalgic musings and rich description. Stephanie Dickinson’s newest novel is a family history and biography of her mother, Florence, as much as it is her own memoir. Tales from Dickinson’s own life are told in the shadow of her mother’s last days, in vivid, stream-of-consciousness description that engages the senses as well as the intellect. This stream-of-consciousness can be seen in her description of Iowan life and landscape as well as anecdotes of an idyllic yet yearning life on the farm. We can feel her rich life through her use of language from the first chapter, “A gown so lovely it makes the insects go silent, like when the sun passes behind a cloud,” to her last. Her diction wraps readers in a cloud of nostalgic intoxication, tastes, textures, smells not even spared, “The Blue Kettle Cafe, where the cuisine features sweet-sour aqua pickle relish, Jell-O marshmallow salad that tastes like a wound, bacon bits, and croutons.”

Such positive imagery is in stark contrast with the frame story of Dickinson’s lucid, real-time divulgence of her mother’s demise into dementia. While Dickinson’s pastoral portrait of her childhood draws on old photographs, journals, letters, and other tangible items, her description of her time spent with her “actively dying” mother is the narrative (interrupted by flashbacks and musings brought on by her mother’s actions or possessions) of her mother’s hospice stay, death, and subsequent burial and division of her things. Dickinson writes, “The sun is pitched dizzily overhead as we get to the final box of Florence’s possessions.” Dickinson’s vivid description reveals layers of emotion and events. The seemingly one-sided blossoming of their mother-daughter relationship is drenched in grief as well as fulfillment, “The more vulnerable my mother became, the better our relationship.”  The grief of her mother’s “active dying” is balanced out by stories of life on the farm and adolescent rebellion.

Dickinson’s memoir leaves the reader fulfilled, much like her end theme. Her prose is cathartic, drawing out laughs, sighs, and even tears at times. Every stage of life is represented; be prepared to experience them all with Girl Behind the Door.

You can find the book here:

Dana Porreca is an avid reader, English teacher and writer living in New Jersey.