Tricks of Light – New and Selected Poems by Thaddeus Rutkowski


By g emil reutter

Thaddeus Rutkowski is a man of small town America and a man of urban America. His poetry is written from the lens of his unique experience in both places at a time in the nation when small town and urban are in constant conflict. Yet, Rutkowski is not in conflict as he equally embraces both in his poetry in honest, forthright and at times humorous verse. He is an observer of life and these poems are the embodiment of what he has witnessed and thus an immediate connection with the reader and we are better for it.
He tells us in the poem, One-Tenth:
A Chinese philosopher said:
“Live to an old age.
There remains three-tenths that cannot be known”
I am on my way to old age, I am still studying,
And I don’t know one-tenth of what can be known.
I inch ahead, adding, bit by bit, to what I know.
But as I add, other things slip away.
I hope I add more that I lose.
Who knows? Maybe the sand in the hourglass
is running out faster than I’m replenishing it.
There isn’t much I can do about that,
except to turn the hourglass over.
He writes of riding his bicycle in Manhattan and of people yelling for him to move out of the way of their cars, tells of us his daughter’s marathon run, of his wife and him dumpster diving for candles from a corner shop. He turns to the rural in the poem, Farmers and Dove, of the harvest of corn by the farmer, husking as they travel in a small pickup and of the Dove on the wires above, cooing, For those of us who know what’s missing, the sounds of the bird remind us of what’s lost. And again in the poem, Claw Marks:
The trunk of this beech tree
is scored with dents just far enough apart
to indicate fingernails, or an animal’s nails,
or the claws of a bear, hungry for beechnuts.
The small, oily nuts, covered in burrs,
will help sustain a bear through winter.
The nuts are high up in the tree,
but a bear is a good climber,
with claws that can pierce the bark
on a smooth, iron –like trunk.
The bear is long gone. It’s winter now,
too cold for bears and other hibernators.
The bear’s marks remain in the bark,
at just the right distance to mark its reach.
Rutkowski the observer is clearly evident in the details in this poem, description of the iron-like trunk, oily nuts covered in burrs, the trunk scored with dents just far enough apart. Although the bear is gone, the reader can still see the bear in the tree.
He returns to the urban in the poem Noise to my Ears. Of the street musicians who populate subway concourses, of how he admires their talent, that they make him happy and of the posers who randomly blow in horns or beat on drums until he feels trapped in the unpleasant. In the poem, Hit Again, Rutkowski writes of his adventures riding a bike in Manhattan and the indifference of a cab driver who he has encountered:
I drift to the left to avoid a biker
coming the wrong way, toward me,
and a car hits me with its side door.
It’s a yellow cab that was speeding past
as I drifted toward it.
I hear and feel the impact against my arm,
And I think, “”Not again”
It is the second time
I’ve been hit in a couple of weeks;
the first was on my other arm.
But I can use the arm that was hit now.
I can lift and move it. I feel nothing
beyond a dull pain in the elbow.
I see the cab has stopped.
Maybe the driver heard the impact, too,
and wants to see if I am all right,
or maybe he has stopped for a traffic light.
Tricks of Light is an eclectic collection of poems about family, about life in the city and life in small towns. It is a collection of poems about the forgotten, the found, of birds and fisherman, of loss and aging and of nature.
Yellow-Green Hills of Pennsylvania
The mountains—the hills really—
are yellow-green, in transition
from bare trees to leafed trees.
I don’t know how long this color will last.
If I were fishing now,
I could walk to the water and cast my line
without getting it tangled in leaves.
If I want to see something distant, a house, say,
I can see it through the trees.
These yellow-green constellations
are only buds, and when the sun hits,
the whole mountain lights up.
That is, assuming the mountain—a hill, really—
is not covered in fog.
You can find the book here: Tricks of Light — great weather for MEDIA
g emil reutter can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/



The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku – Selected Tercets 1996-2019 by Eileen R. Tabios

By Lynette G. Esposito
Marsh Hawk Press has released The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku  Selected Tercets 1996-2019 a comprehensive tome of poetry by Eileen R. Tabios  The collection is a blend of long, skinny poems with amazing forms, concepts and images in 233 pages.
The comments on Tabios’ work are many. One that catches the unique quality of this collection is from kultureflash. In kultureflash:  Headlines from London: —enormous tonal range in her poetry. A breathless intensity may be her most characteristic mode. While tonal is a subjective reaction by the reader to poetic work, this comment works.
For example, on page eighty-nine:
                                              Girl Singing
                                             Girl singing day when “I”
                                             is a Verb, the leaf beyond
                                             my bedroom window becomes
                                             a universe of contemplation
                                            rather than a mere fragment
 .                                           at the mercy of a faint breeze.
The switch from an intellectual comment to the power of nature symbolically represented by a leaf and a breeze shows tremendous poetic skill. The revelation beyond one’s constrained space combined with the change of a pronoun into an action (verb) is an amazing transition into contemplating the universe and the self within it. The tone is both calm and direct.
This same technique of mixing conceptual suggestions with interpretive imagery can be seen on page 138 in the poem La Loca.
                                      In the green
                                      morning I
                                      to be a
                                      heart. A
                                     And at evening’s
                                     end, I
                                     to be my
                                     a nightingale.
                                             — LO(R)CA
The ninety-two stanza poem creates, both in form and image, a sense of self in relationship to time and place. Each stanza is in three lines (tercet) and extends over nine pages. Although long, the poem is well controlled and a pleasure to read.
Another poem that demonstrates Tabios’ unique poetic abilities is The Ineffability of Mushrooms (A Novella in Verse) on page 192 to196, which tells a storywith the time being prior to war. Tabios uses numbers in groupings of tercets to indicate chapters.
                                          The porcini appeared
                                          under right
                                          after heavy rain
                                          soaked warn
                                          this desired combination
                                         lovingly labeled
The first three stanzas represent the first of five numbered chapters using the tercet stanza form  and intermingling conceptual images with reader interpretations. The poem snakes down  the page setting up time, place and situation. A symbol enjoying delicious mushrooms ends with a shock. The shock uses the timing of receiving a bag of mushrooms for the last time and the out break of war. The association with a gift and the outbreak of conflict is interesting. Tabios is very skilled.
                                   …Later in
                                        London, I
                                        each Autumn one
                                        precious, single
                                        of dried mushrooms
                                        and memories
                                        lingering like smoke.
                                        The last
                                         In 1939, shortly
                                        after the
                                        of war
This poem successfully leads to London and the big changes coming to that city in 1939.
The book is well organized and the subjects are broad but spring from specific symbols that work both logically and figuratively. Poems vary from three lines to many pages. There is good variety, a little instruction and much to be discussed in this prism of poems that shares so much light

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.



Coronavirus – Recommendations for Quality of Life


As we find ourselves in the middle of the pandemic, here are some suggestions/ recommendations to get through the day.

  1. Keep informed, but don’t be consumed by the 24 hour news cycle. Limit yourself to an hour or less a day of cable/internet news reports. Stay safe and follow your city/state guidelines and orders. Above all don’t be foolish about your health.
  2. Read literature. Order new books, read books from your library. Keep occupied.
  3. Read on line poetry/literary magazines. Take the time to enjoy the art of others.
  4. Respect spacing in the home. Give others in the home enough space not to make them feel confined. On the other hand when the time comes have family discussions.
  5. Order groceries and have them delivered from your local markets. From what we have learned there is up to a five day wait for deliveries.
  6. Keep your necessary medication in stock.
  7. Check out movies on antenna provided television or streaming services. There are some good films out there.
  8. Check out YouTube for poetry/literary readings. Here are our recommendations this month for you to have a look at: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/poetry-videos-to-get-you-through-the-weekend/
  9. Meditation, prayer, yoga, treadmill workouts, walking outside at safe distances all enhance your quality of life. Stay healthy both mentally and physically.
  10. Above all, be responsible. Don’t put others at risk. Call friends and family and remember to wash hands & keep six feet apart from others. If you have to go out then wear protective equipment and hopefully the curve of the virus will flatten.

With much love to all,

Diane Sahms and g emil reutter

North of Oxford

Two Poems from Rustin Larson

It was confusing.  It’s
like getting on the wrong
bus and arriving at the
wrong school.  It will take
a morning of frantic phone
calls for your mom to find
you.  And then you still
might get a slap.
Well, it’s October now and I
still don’t care about baseball.
I feel maybe someone will give
me cartoonist trouble, holding
my life together with aspirin
and duct tape.  The fish
of words will swim through all
the paper.  Thanksgiving
is exactly the same up there,
except in October, and they
are still loyal to the Queen.
It’s like getting on the wrong
bus and arriving at the wrong
Now, I have a handful of
believers.  The globe shakes
its oceans off onto the table,
and it is a wonder we
construct mail boxes out of
milk cartons; we send each
other Halloween greetings and
teeth like Indian corn.  Who
am I, your mommy?  Do
you want me to wipe your
ass?  The dirty man leaves
the telephone book alone.  We
get on the bus, relieved.  It’s
the wrong bus.
Bats and Spiders
I think I covered most of
the topics.  Not a lot has
happened to me.  I guess you
would say I’m a boring man.
I feel fortunate.  To be
honest, there are people I
detest, but they’ll get no
press here.  Bats and spiders
are in the air.  “Your
mother would never have
aborted you,” says my aunt.
Things like that get me
The dead hand massages the
head of the spider and
the spider shivers.  The chimes ring,
“Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh.”
It is now 6:30
on the same day.  I forget
what plans I had.  I’m letting
it all ferment.  It is a
fine wine we have.  I couldn’t
tell you what the story was if
I tried.
The violin teacher came to the door
and looked at me sadly.  She
handed me the sheet music you
had forgotten at your lesson.
The love seat we had thrown
out of the house had been
removed from the curb.  All
the juices were being sucked
downward.  The witch’s hand
felt in her shaggy purse for
a coin.  We all had to live,
ya know.
Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, The Atlanta Review and other magazines. Crazy Star was selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005. Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation among others. A five-time Pushcart nominee, and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 and 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007, 2008, and has been highlighted on the public radio programs Live from Prairie Lights and Voices from the Prairie. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa.

Gypsy Blood by Wesley Scott McMasters

Gypsy Blood
            for my father
I wear shoes that are worn out
            soles worn thin
            leather cracked
            creases clear
           sometimes even a gap through which
            I can feel rain or snow
I wear shoes that I don’t wash or shine
            I let them soak in the shit in the city streets
            feel the ocean water
            or the Gulf of Mexico
                        a place my father dreams about
                        even when he is there
I dig these shoes out from the back of my closet
            like pulling bones from a grave
            blowing the dust off
            stepping in piss
            in a corner of Venice
            where as a kid
I always dreamed of going
            finally walking those streets
            wearing jeans that made me
look like my gypsy ancestors
the Romani who still live
outside of the city
            a purple button down
            blazer bleached from Italian sun
            and shoes
            that will never forget why
            the soles are worn thin
            and the leather
            is cracked
            or the moment when she kissed me
for the first time
            in ten years
            or ten days
            or the moment when I hugged my father
            for the first time
            in ten years
            or ten days
            maybe the first time I ever saw him cry
            and definitely the first time
            I cried with him
            as I watched my grandfather’s body
            weak and frail
            carried out to be burned
                        to be made into dust
            my father told me
during a call to him
from a diner
in Poughkeepsie
that we have gypsy blood
            like my grandfather
            and my great grandfather
maybe this is why
my leather lasts
soaked in blood
my blood
my father’s blood
gypsy blood
Wesley Scott McMasters is a poet and professor in the eastern part of Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains, where he lives with his dog, Poet (who came with the name, he swears).

Two Poems From Thaddeus Rutkowski

Where I’m From
I don’t think anyone outside of a ten-mile radius
has heard of where I’m from.
The one-street town lies downstream
from another one-street town.
I never made it more than a mile or two
from my childhood home.
For transportation, I used a bike, my feet, or skates.
Surrounded by nature, I had no choice but to appreciate it.
I was raised as white, but I’m not white.
My father saw no difference between races,
while my mother never forgot hers.
My goal was to learn to drive,
then climb into a car with a full tank of gas,
floor the accelerator, and blow out of there.
In The Buddha’s Tooth Temple
We walk into a temple in Singapore to see the relic:
a tooth of the Buddha found in Myanmar,
long after the Buddha was alive.
We stop at a series of altars,
one for each sign of the zodiac.
In each section are a hundred tiny Buddhas,
each with a unique hand gesture or facial expression,
like those of the soldiers in China’s old capital,
whose terra-cotta bodies are identical,
but whose faces are individual.
We proceed upstairs, as all around us
the chants of monks
come through an amplified system
and fill the temple.
We pass a giant prayer wheel
and reach the room with the relic.
(I wonder if it is a molar or an incisor.)
No one is in the room.
There is no crowd around the pedestal
holding the tooth of the prince
who gave up everything he had
to gain everything he needed.
Thad at Red Room
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of six books, most recently Border Crossings, a poetry collection. His novel Haywire won the Asian American Writers Workshop’s members’ choice award, and his book Guess and Check won the Electronic Literature bronze award for multicultural fiction. He received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.