Come Closer by Laurie Blauner

By Lynette G. Esposito
Rich Ives author of Light from a Small Brown Bird says of Laurie Blauner’s Come Closer that it is an assemblage of inter woven prose poems.  He adds that fresh patterns patiently emerge in varied and surprising forms. Close Encounters, published by The Bitter Oleander Press in Fayetteville, New York, fulfills this promise.


In the poem I’m Not Like the Others, Blauner creates a form that looks like a conversation with paragraph indentions that support the form and lines that indicate back and forth dialogue. The poem is in part one.
…I’m Not Like the Others,
I tell the lost little boy wandering in the woods.
He hides behind a tree with long, wispy branches and leaves.  When he asks, I
Allow him to touch my stray feathers that will soon turn into green scales.
The poem continues with back -and- forth conversations and reads much like a piece of fiction.
The storyline progresses with the creature trying to show the boy the way to safety. but then something surprising happens to this creature who wants to be his better self.
I am not like the others, I reiterate.  Come, I will show you the way.
…We saunter towards the edge of the trees before there is a field.  The lost boy is slow.  I move behind him, lick his neck to encourage to go faster.
When I taste him, I can’t help myself, like the others.
The poem is like a parable that reveals the conflict of one’s inner struggle and the reality of what one is when they collide. Blauner has excellent control all through this verse with her skillful ability to draw the reader into the woods and keep him there.
The tome is divided into four parts:  I’m Not Like the Others, The Books, The City That Knows Me, and he Guide for the Perplexed.  This is a good organizing technique and helps to focus each section. In part two, The Books, the poem, A Memoir is constructed first with a prose stanza followed by eleven one-line stanzas each beginning with the pronoun I.
…I’ve been told that the use of I is too prevalent in my writing.
She then goes on with her reactions.
I tell myself:
I enjoy complaining.
I talk and cry too much in my sleep.
The reader gets to know her better in her defiance of overusing the word I according to others.
In part three, The City That Knows Me, in the poem, Memoirs From the City, Blauner uses paragraph like stanzas that contrast the feeling in the country compared to the city.
…I dream of going to the country whose space the city is jealous of,
She uses the landscape surrounding the city as her comparison and skillfully reveals discontent in both. In part four, Guide for the Perplexed, Blauner explores the poem Aging in the Little Place.
…Alive, he took me out to dinner with my tiny head.  I whispered into
his enormous car that something was hurting me, something was always hurting
me for a while.
The poem explores the physiological view of oneself as one gets older and the value goes down. Blauner ends the poem with the note that the little body would soon be gone.
The book is a successful merger of prose-like forms and poetic creativity.  The subjects are universal and handled in a fresh way.  I would read this book of verse again.  
Come Closer is available from
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.



Let No One Sleep by Juan Josè Millàs Translated by Thomas Bunstead


By Michael Collins

The intertwining themes of mirroring, identity and narrative construction present themselves concurrently in the very opening of Let No One Sleep, the latest from Juan Josè Millàs in the engaging translation by Thomas Bunstead:

Seeing herself in the mirror, Lucía said, That fat woman is me.

This was not said insultingly; she wasn’t being mean to herself. She, after all, was pretend thin rather than fat. So her mother had said when she was a girl….” (9)
Lucía negates the simple assumption of a weight-normative negative inner monologue. However, the reasoning for the statement, such as it is, involves an attribution of her “true” identity to a concept coined by her mother, who died when she was young, an construct that Lucía herself fleshes out as an adult. It is notable in this context that the statement “That fat woman is me” – as opposed to the more expected “I am fat” – seems to create an alternate self in the mirror image in opposition to her invented-inherited self in order to identify with it and draw towards the enigma it represents.
The line takes on more ominous undertones shortly thereafter when we learn of Lucía losing her job in IT development the day after the death of an obese colleague who died suddenly after a significant weight loss:
Her death confirmed people’s suspicions, whatever they were, given they were impossible to substantiate either way. The day after she died, the company, an app-development firm that also installed, configured, and maintained IT systems, filed fraudulently for bankruptcy and shut down. (10)
The passage, like many of Lucía’s narrative constructions, juxtaposes the two events syntactically, as if their slight chronological separation in consciousness keeps the death from shading or perhaps expressing Lucía’s feelings about the job loss. The self-confirming gossipers add a layer of isolation to the woman’s plight, and by extension Lucía’s, showing her awareness of how neither have much control of their own story. Or, perhaps, none of us have much control of such things, but we notice it most when cut off from our habitual sources of stability – and when conscious compartmentalization collapses.
As fate would have it, Lucía leaves work in a taxi, and “The taxi driver turned out to be a programmer as well” (11). Shortly, we learn that this interaction, like the one with the mirror, ends up describing Lucía’s future in reverse, a subtle pattern that dovetails with the ways in which individual identities support and destroy the identity formations of others throughout interactions of the novel. The cab driver suggests – narratively and/or psychologically – Lucía’s oncoming events in sharing his own experiences as a driver: “’You get into all kinds of scrapes. Plus, I imagine I’m in a different city every day. New York, Delhi, Mexico…’” (11). The English translation here sounds like a mashup of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Fight Club in ways that invite comparisons of this “single serving friend” and the complicated adventurer Lucía with various unreliable narrators and the works that serve as their vehicles. Other subtle literary allusions arise throughout, in keeping with the novel’s problematizing of identity, mirroring, and art as representations of and stable reality.
Lucía’s driver also references his use of self-hypnosis as a way of deepening his practice of pretending to drive his cab in different cities with the hypothetical – and evangelized – purpose of deepening connection to his actual environment: “’It’s like when you succeed in imagining what you’re doing and doing what you’re imagining, all at the same time, the anxiety in your life goes away’” (12). I’ll leave the reader to parse where the novel upholds and complicates this statement, mentioning merely that the self-hypnosis seems to form a segue for Lucía from her previous work with algorithms in IT programming. As the novel unfolds it also seems to explore the algorithm as a metaphor for the mind’s own recursive functioning in ways that range from the liberating experiences that can arise from improvising with identity to the blind spots and tunnel vision associated with obsession.
Somewhere between these competing approaches, Lucía also seems to calm herself with an ironically non-predictive rehearsal of precognition inherited from her mother:
This was a phrase she had spoken thousands of times in her life, though it did not, in general, precede anything happening. She had gotten it from her mother, who would sometimes stop mid-action and say, “Something is going to happen,” followed by a vacant look coming over her. Then, since nothing happened (nothing visible at least), she would go the rest of the way down the stairs, or finish brushing her hair, or whatever it was she had been doing before the sudden stoppage. Lucía had inherited that sense of some vague but threatening event being constantly just around the corner. (15)
The prediction, counterintuitively, comforts Lucía by not coming to pass, except on rare occasions that reveal how terrifying the unforeseen often is as a mere psychological factor without an actual event even needing to take place. As if a part of Lucía’s learned algorithm for confronting fear, the statement repeats in, from, and to Lucía as if creating a ritual bubble of psychic protection, a practice that deepens the pathos of the opening scene significantly.
Other characters posit such bubbles in the external world as well, and the novel as a whole continually explores ways in which the psyche, precariously, exhilaratingly, hilariously, and tragically vacillates between these poles of self-protection and relative self-exploration through interaction. In Lucía’s case, this takes place on a higher magnitude due to her process of attempting to negotiate with the world a new identity that it will mirror back in the responses of others. However, the same duality manifests in the other characters, like the woman who works in theatre who invites her into a similar para-intimacy to the one Lucía shared with the first cab driver, except with the seating reversed: “I often use taxis to get things off my chest. The car is a kind of bubble; it creates a provisional sort of intimacy between two strangers. I’ve told colleagues of yours things that not even my closest girlfriends know about” (36). Also like the first driver, she offers up a statement that, while true in a limited context, wildly belies greater implications: “Theater’s quite like that, a bit of a closed circuit, it’s own ecosystem” (40). Both characters, regardless of their initial intentions in these conversations, open new worlds for Lucía, in which she sees herself from different perspectives and allows dormant parts of her to externalize into evolving new versions of herself that grow increasingly chaotic to those around her, ultimately challenging the algorithms of social reality itself.
Lucía is insouciant and instable, liberated and liquescent. Though she is seeker and subject in ways that dialogue with meta-dramatists from Pirandello to Beckett, the narrative itself is continuously surprising and entertaining, offhandedly funny and deconstructive of many forms of social preposterousness that one is often too polite to point out, unless one finds oneself with nothing to lose. I’m limiting myself to writing about the opening here so as not to ruin the turns, hard stops, and side trips for everyone else because the book is, literally, the ride of a lifetime.
Michael Collins’ poems have 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.

Grapefruit Juice: A book of instructions

Grapefruit Juice - Final_0000
A new  experimental work from Greg Bem
I’m pleased to announce an anonymously published new work: Grapefruit Juice: A book of instructions. I have been working on this book for nearly two months, constantly working in the context of Yoko Ono’s monumental Grapefruit as well as the context of the automation of ChatGPT (several releases across January and February). I only just read Yoko Ono’s book for the first and was so inspired that I thought it would be a feat to manually type the book into the AI tool, and then curate the results. The resulting work is far from perfect, but what I believe is in the spirit of a Yoko Ono work.
I have added a Creative Commons license to the work and explain the process at the back of the document. The book has been initially uploaded to here:
Please consider taking a look and sharing with experimental writers and artists you know. As those who have chatted with me recently know, I have many feelings about the prevalence of AI tools across culture, especially within higher ed. This is my attempt to explore a tool over time and space, and normalize its use in my experimental writing practices.
I also recognize the ethical challenges within this work, particularly as a white man working through the ideas and works of an artist of color and of a woman. As such, I am committed to recommending Yoko Ono’s book to everyone I share my project with:
^^ Please buy her book if you don’t already have it

2nd Wednesdays Poetry at Northeast Regional Library- Philadelphia- March 8th

March 8th

6pm to 7:30pm

Northeast Philadelphia Regional Library

2228 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19149

Naila Francis and  Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon 

Naila Francis_headshotNaila Francis is a writer/poet, grief doula and wedding officiant based in Philadelphia. She is also a founding member of Salt Trails, an interdisciplinary collective honoring grief through community rituals. Her poetry has previously been published in “North of Oxford,” “Scribbler,” “Voicemail Poems” and the Healing Verse Phone Line.




Head Shot

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, PhD (Cultural Anthropology), M.A. (Anthropology), MFA (Theater), Graduate Certificate) Women’s Studies, B.A. (Journalism); is an Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement in the Theater Department in the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts in the Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts and is currently serving as President of the Faculty Senate at Temple University. Williams-Witherspoon is the author of Through Smiles and Tears: The History of African American Theater (From Kemet to the Americas) (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011); The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meaning Embedded in Public Discourse” (Edwin Mellen Publishing, 2006).


Our Full Winter/Spring Schedule Here:

On street parking and parking in Giant/ TD Bank  parking lot available. SEPTA Bus Service available

Our Children Are in the Fields Today by Cydney Brown

Our Children Are in the Fields Today
harvesting cherries, apples, onionswe will eat.
Our labor laws have flaws that make their dreams decay.
Their lives fray like sweaters
you wear when weather turns leaves from granny smith greens to
golden nectarines, pomegranates, and sunshine lemons.
Their days are sour
picking ripe cherries off trees
Monday to Sunday.
No sitting crisscross applesauce.
No sipping from their juice boxes.
eat your cherry pie in the autumn breeze.
eat your onion dip on football Sundays.
drink hot apple cider,
eat their fruit, dilute their dreams.
Our children try to be providers,
we hand them laws to mute their screams.
a child dies every 3 days
We look the other way and pray
before we eat.
Eyes closed, hands holding each other
I can feel the pulse of my mother
her heart still beats.
But the basis of the food we eat
puts scars and scabs on children’s feet.
Are you satisfied with the lies our country feeds us?
No labor laws protect our children from
pesticide poisoning, heat strokes, reds spots on their arms
33 children are harmed every day
Our children are working
until their bones can work no longer,
until their bodies become grass,
and get cut up like onions.
How many children will pass
before we pass the CARE act?
Don’t act like you care
how dare you profit off children?
Our children are in the fields today.
Numbed fingertips, they are stuck.
They get paid by pieces of fruit they place in a truck.
Cydney Brown is the 2020 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate and author of Daydreaming. She is a Freshman at Northwestern University and has been writing poetry since she was in 5th grade. Brown has been featured in The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6abc, Philadelphia Citizen, and Fox29. She is the recipient of The Romero Scholarship For Excellence In Spoken Word. She is a Gold Award Girl Scout, recipient of The Good Citizenship Award, and Shine Global’s Youth Activist Award. Cydney wishes to inspire people to speak their truth and share her poetry with the world.

Three Poems by Akshaya Pawaskar

Becoming a part of history
This is how we start becoming
a part of history.
It starts with a sense of power
and ends in powerlessness.
It starts with pyrrhic profits
and ends in lost time.
It starts with gods
Walking everywhere
on human feet and
ends with befriended
demons staring back
from mirrors.
It starts with being invincible
and ends with defeat.
It starts with raising dust
and ends as deposits
of sediments
of a bygone epoch.
It starts with hate
and ends with war.
 What color is the rain you see
What color is the rain you see,
What of the wind?
Does it paint you, red,
When it caresses you
Or is it pink and thinned?
What are the hues of April, there?
Does the sun set with a purple tint?
How does your eye see the beauty
in changing shades of God’s ink?
If happiness had a color of yellow
and sadness of deep grey,
The blackness would not seep easily
The blue would not stay.
The myriad colors and
numerous moods offer
a kaleidoscopic play.
Hold on, as the light will change
from bleak gunpowder nights to
sunny strife free days.
What is the color of this war
is it the black and white
of history playing on our screen?
What is the color that washes
away the gore and hate?
What is the color of your dreams?
 Is it just a nightmare?
If I stare at it long enough will it rise up in flames,
the way it is burning everywhere right now?
If I close my eyes will the
fire die down with
my falling lids?
If I ignore the sirens
will the air raids go away?
If I drown them with my music,
will the bombs defuse themselves
or refuse to blow up?
If the keys of piano are pitted
against the steel of guns
will the triggers hang
their heads in shame?
If I don’t let the fear run through me
will it run me over
or will it beat a retreat?
If I do not succumb to hate
will it be overpowered?
If I simply stand here beneath
this rain of shells
and pretend it’s just a nightmare
haunting this sleep of utopia
will it freeze over in hell?
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor-poet hailing from Goa, India. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Shards,The Blue Nib, North of Oxford, Indian Rumination, Rock and Sling, among many others. She won the cravens Arts Council ekphrastic poetry competition in 2020 and was placed second in The Blue Nib chapbook contest in 2018. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, The falling in and the falling out (alien Buddha press,2021) and Cocktail of life (bookLeaf publishing, 2022)

Two Poems by Evan Anders

bare, brittle poem about reptiles
at the funeral, arizona stumbled forth the holly bush and recited a poem about reptiles
            persecuting the sun—
.                                               we consume the sorrow
                                                our mothers suffering
                                                bestowed upon us
                                                on the edge of reason,
                                                we falter, we falter,
                                                we surrender.
                                                in some capacity,
                                                we all harbor
                                                a desire to witness
                                                elegance expire.
                                             pink camellias are bred for idealization.
                                            dominance is a decree.
            midsummer, a hummingbird upon the thumbs of soldiers practicing war.
            our deities are dead.
                                            we abandoned the womb notorious
                                            where now do you go to breathe?
            all presidents are guilty of various atrocities.
            resisting the urge to conceal my scars with feathers
            father, why didn’t you question the disasters?
            arizona began spouting whitman. i spoke nothing.
            it was infectious.


the body perishable above all else
sheathed in a fragile frame
a trail, mosaic,
refined, revisited,
hostel isolation
abused, abused.
prey is prey, no matter the medals
we bestowed upon the lamb.
may i offer a rib-bone towards peace?
no? well, fragments of lilies must do.
when the body decomposes
we bury those christ has condemned.
consider this—
when i rise, i ask god to slide his tongue
down my throat
it’s difficult to be anything other than an expectation.
reconfigured, reconstructed, release us from which
we are thrust.
the body is perishable above all else.
when i ask my worth,
gleaming, you lie motionless
the flowers
are a game
Evan Anders brews coffee for mass consumption in Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, decomp journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He is a retired stay-at-home dad who thinks Bob Dylan was best in the eighties.
Visit Evan online at Evan Anders

Calder at the Top of the Stairs by John Timpane

calder at the top of the stairs

Calder at the Top of the Stairs  

If this is modernism

         Why are you smiling?

                   Is it the light hanging

In nothing, ruby

           Triangle turning, leaf

                       Or teardrop train or

Dreamshape you

             Have never seen

                         Before turning

Answerably round the

            Ruby triangle? Is

                        It the invisible

Unavoidable, as in they 

             Will turn, at a speed 

                         Consulting nothing but the 

Declarations of independence 

               Of air and gravity? Is

                          It their delicate

Armatures, wires of

               Relation, family

                            Of place and force,

Cantilevers hiding

              Tensions, weights,

                          Poise and counterpoise,


            And designs

                        Inviting the sacrilege

Of touch to test how

              What hangs is hanging,

                          Feel, as Eden’s

Finger felt for

           Heaven’s, patterns-made-solid

                       Hauling against and with

(Which gets you kicked

             Out of the museum)?

                        Still smiling. Do you

            Remember that

You, too, hang

             Athwart and among

               Circlers, wanderers, brilliants,

             All the ellipses and rings –

Planets, blood

             Cells jostling down

                          Vascular sluiceways, wacky-

              Eyed fish, sycamore

Rookbursts, shockwaves

             Flowering, comic

                        Domino of cause into

              Effect, conga

Lines, timeframes,

            Interorbits of planned

And unplanned – and

            You, too, are

                       At play? Do

                                     You smile because

A man started this but

           His art lay in

                        Turning it loose, letting

                                     Go self into everything,

                                                   A universe of sightless

                                        Angels of influence at

                               Work, bulky, spinning

                  Pear of a planet, cross-

Pulling vector

             Fields, writhing

                         Magma, currents that

Never stop, never? As if

Watch what happens now 

           Were his only theme? Turn:

                       This blue orb gestures to

                                That black rhomboid. Turn

                                             Again: brand-new

Fingerposts in all

             Dimensions? Do you

                          Smile to recognize

                                      The marvel in this

                                                  Nameless moving? Isn’t

That predicament

Great? To live where

             Known and

Unknowable, these

            Shrapnels of

                        Joy, reshape the shape

We’re In? Drive

             To the child at the

                        Center? You’re still

Smiling. Do you assent? Did

You ever think you would?




John Timpane is former Commentary Page Editor (1997-2008) and Books Editor (2014-2020) for The Philadelphia Inquirer and His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Cleaver, Painted Bride QuarterlyThe Rathalla ReviewPer ContraSchuylkill Valley JournalVocabula ReviewWild River Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010). He is the spouse of Maria-Christina Keller. They live in New Jersey.