She says she wants to break. Not like two halves of a bridge, but a hundred. I want to rain down heavy in this shock of spring, want to make a noise you'll remember a lifetime from now. The kind of sound that wakes someone. Damage you can't just repair, baby. And she says if I'm going to be like that, then I want to be both the hammer and the broom. something different, for once, than this never-moving. I want to be the muscles, the machines, the brow of exertion. The way the highway smells at 75 and nearly June. Want to be the dust rising on the west wind. Some kind of song, then: go far, little shimmer. Want to see the coast for once. And she says I want to be the girl standing there in the sand. With the luxury of small shoulders beneath that good morning jacket. With a smile, she says. The kind of girl who can tell you I was there, I saw it all. But I was never like that. And you'd believe her.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

In Silent Ward

These North-facing windows seem contrary to hope. But here, hope is all once can endeavor to own. In silent ward, the doctor comes once a month. They line for him. They preen like birds who have only begun to divine their own colors. There is something about human touch, about a voice saying look at my light and now follow it with your eyes. This swallows the bitter pill; this sets the heart careeing into rib walls. At yard time, the sunshine smells like hopscotch. One nearly risks the whispered hush to the echoes when they're skipping. Here, recreation is another way to say reflection. There are a hundred souls and there is one. She is looking out the window, she is out there by the fence. She is pondering the way the moon mocks the distance; sends the tides scurrying this way or that way. She is watching herself, is blinking twice. She's waving her hands slowly, almost as if she's saying hello. As if she's saying goodbye.

Susan Culver-Graybeal 


The word itself is like an inappropriate response. Like sex or shame or girl. Like let down your hair, so enough of it. Let's rewrite the ending. For Rapunzel, I mean. Let's say she got tired of lighting the candles, of waiting. Then she realized, for once, that in the same way she bore his lovely weight, she could also bear her own. We could take it further, you know. Could say the way she was born for this. For knotting those godforsaken tresses to the bedpost and saving herself. We could talk of scraped knees, of how the city looked on the way down. Like another thousand candles. How she wanted the world to say her name. And what she got out of she remained tied to. Love, I tell you, I would do it like this if it were me. Would pull free each and every taught strand - then glossing over the middle of this - would stagger said self, sh shorn and unbeautiful, to the outskirts. To wait, like hurt waits, with lies like resolution on the tip of her wordless tongue. We're talking about her, love, waiting for him to pass by. On his way to empty windows, a bit of flesh. All those broken threads. The way, lifetiems later, he will swear she was only a dream. How nobody else will tell him any different.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

End of at least some days

The secular year is wearing out
a nub of sun, rotten leaves
fewer birds but closer to the house.
The cold from windows I stand
near pours over my arm.

What must I do as the year
wastes away? I feel a rush
like a sirocco wind that blasts
and dries. Yet calendars
are arbitrary. To the pines,

the oaks, the raccoons
and voles and coywolves –
nothing comes that midnight
but random human noise, more
than usual, fireworks, shots.

The hinges of the year are solstice,
equinox, the seasons building
and ebbing, the progression
of leaf and flower, brightening
of plumage toward mating and egg.

New Year’s is a fiction, like
Groundhog Day. The tethered
rodent blinks at the camera
Shadows mean nothing to it.
Where’s breakfast?

Yet there is a feeling of end,
a sense that means more than
remembering to write the new
year on a check. Something closes
down and darkness pushes in.

Marge Piercy

Your anxiety

You worry up a whole buzzing
nest of hornets inside your
skull while I circle outside
waving towels and sandwiches.

You wake in the night
the succubus of uncaught
money lying like a granite
headstone on your chest.

You make up stories of fire
and flood, dangers that beckon,
enemies behind trees, deadly
germs in a handshake.

Your world sometimes turns
into a video game of traps.
monsters, bombs and evil
twins plotting in the closet.

How can I ever defeat what
doesn’t exist? How can
I soothe wounds you give
yourself? Poisons you drink

to build up immunities?
My love feels feeble as an
aged horse you’ll never ride
to any place that feels safe.

Marge Piercy

My relationship with my vehicle

I did not learn to drive until adulthood
on the hills of San Francisco
in an elderly Peugeot whose
sunroof leaked rain on my head.

I had tried with my father in high
school but his pitbull temper
always got in the way of learning
anything but duck and cover.

All my years in Brooklyn and
Manhattan, having a car was like
owning an elephant. Where to
store it, how to get it anyplace.

I always drive tentatively, aware
of the car’s power like a barely
controlled bull. Mostly since
glaucoma stole part of my vision

I’m dependent on friends. Others
wear their cars comfortable as
jackets. I slip warily into mine like
someone strapped into a bomb.

Marge Piercy


red squirrel telegraphs
its anger, repeatedly,
on the branch above my chair.
With sharp trills, clicks,
and popping squeaks,
it throws it voice
like two squirrels arguing.
So, if you mimic the sound,
smacking kisses on the
back of your hand,
the squirrel stops, is still,
except for its heart,
small furry beat.
Clinging to the bough,
it delivers you its
nutmeg punk face.
Then it runs back,
up the trunk, another tree,
the I'm here now
no here, here I see you
here I am again.
It navigates effortlessly
the slim tip of a Norway,
dressing it like a slight breeze
to retrieve the pine cone treat.
Should I be the one upset,
jealous at its boldness and grace?
Or how, when it finally gets
what it wants, is silent,
desire buttoned in its mouth?
It races the highway of
branches without ever
touching ground.

Liz Minette 


Everything on standby:
clean, cold, dry, waiting.

When you drive, say,
a two-lane county highway,
with empty, turned over fields
on either side that reach
silently to tree lines, you feel
something should emerge.

Something should materialize:
a screaming red Lamborghini
that comes out of nowhere and races
past you, back to its hot city.

Or maybe something more realistic.

November is a deer that happens
upon the side of the road.

The doe is there,
ghosted from the ditch or swirling dust,
the skeleton stand of maple trees.

The deer's brown eyes
are ringed with white,
the moon before a storm,
before everything shatters.

You slow and stop, and the doe
clops safely to the other side,
then bounds away to the cover
of windbreak, and maybe further,
onto some path imprinted
in deer memory.

You let what occurred
surround you.
Perhaps you passed
some kind of test.

Whatever it is, you know
the sun is here for only
a moment less each day
until its turn in December.

Like right now, as you slowly
silk around a curve, the light
plays tricks with your eyes.
Makes shoulder gravel look
like broadcast amaranth,
in this time that
seems to stand even
as we move.

Liz Minette


i like to sleep
your soft expectancy
brushes my face
and i breathe you in eloquently
and lavender and sex
like life/this life
of heady seduction
my head rising
and falling in rhythm
as you breathe so deep

Jeffrey Spahr-Summers


You used my camera
to slice a blade of light into my face
yanking me from peaceful dreams
your shadow
silhouetted against my moonlit silk shades.

And in another
tranquil night
formed by the rhythm of
crickets and coyote songs
you set off my smoke alarm
cutting sharp screams into my sleep
and my smokeless house
your cell phone ringing outside
my shaded window.

Did it please you to scare me?
Did you watch me run to the kitchen?
in a panic to put a fire out
then crawl back under the
heavy comforter with my heart pounding?

I pray
for the woman you claim
to love now -
is it love at all costs for her too?

I wonder
will it take as long for her to
stand before
the judge
pleading for her safety?

Jan Marquart

Jigsaw Cosmology

I don’t cast spells anymore
Stopped trying to force the hand of destiny
Didn’t even plant an herb garden this year
I’m tired of tying things up
Drying them out
Burning them up
I need real magic
Red mountain stones
Efts in the spring water
The other half of my soul
Fitted back into place
The puzzle man says I need
Only one more piece returned
But this fragment I found
Belongs to a different scene
Fits in a jigsaw I never started
One way too complicated to contemplate
This bit fell out of a box I never opened
With a picture I never saw
Even so
It will leave a gap when I lose it again
Another little confluence
Where joy and pain swirl
Like a tiny galaxy
Terrible and beautiful
Containing all there was or is or will be
A window into the other realm
Where love flows freely without obstacle
Grows without me
A place where I can look out
On infinite possibilities
With infinite longing
Make wishes on tiny points of light
That could be stars
Or planets
Or satellites
Or souls made whole

Kit Muldoon

Chance Encounter

White dog emerges
From green ditch
Yellow ball
Thrown high
Game of fetch and toss
Or is it keep away?
Tag perhaps
Run and chase
Slap thigh, click tongue
Walk home together
What Love is This?
Kit Muldoon


You half-shaman half Franciscan
Me a sister of the holy blood reformed
You philosophizing your navel in adobe monastery
I live in the asylum making pots of soup and binding wounds
We both know something of immolation
Self-flagellation in dark rooms that no one speaks of
Crucifying martyrdom
Arms outstretched to catch the bullets in our backs
Sacrificial charity of spirit
Faith when there is nothing to believe
They will try to kill you
When you can’t love enough to save them
Coins pressed into guttering candles
Red desert dirt blessed with miracles
Empty belly drumming in your temples
Burning sage
Holy water dipped from rocky hollows
We tell each other’s stories in the nighttime
Sweep long white feathers from our doorsteps
In the dawn
Kit Muldoon 

Sestina as Woman

Before the investment in memories
When the absence of sorrow and shadow
Allowed us a few years of unearned grace
We befriended what now is a dust-soaked
Boarded-up abandoned lemonade stand
Where a nickel was something to treasure

All the while searching for buried treasure
First in the backyard, now in memories
In pockets at dances where we would stand
As wall, as empty, as none, as shadow
Our faces trembling, our collared shirts soaked
With the possibility of her grace

Sitting at strange oak tables saying grace
Stuffing faces politely with treasured
Family recipes, the brandy-soaked
Cherries evoke holiday memories
While, beloved mutt lounges in shadows
Filled with underhand treats, unable to stand

We keep saying we want to understand
How to live with both confidence and grace
Some enlightenment without a shadow
So lost, we will destroy what we treasure
And quarantine the beautiful memories
To the bottom where wood and dreams are soaked

In the doorway where she appears soaked
With a metallic smile braced to withstand
The downpour of unguarded memories
The stories of agony and disgrace
The youth that others secretly treasure
And the anxious years lost, lost to the shadows

Each episode serves to overshadow
The flirtation with innocence now soaked
With guilt and horror as what we treasure
Most is placed upon the witness stand
To defend the state of natural grace
Against the weight of store-bought memories

Infinite shadows woven into a stand
Of oaks, the star-soaked forest exhales grace
The faceless treasure of our memories

Jaguar Duffy

Hell is Other People’s Record Collections

Now that I’ve finally found her vinyl this
seems as good a time as any to say I'm sorry
Appearing on talk shows left and right
just always seems to make it worse
Figuring this would somehow blow over
I watched it all unfold with my arms folded
And couldn't help but lament with sour gusto
there goes my one chance at immortality

Stephen Caratzas

sleeper’s advice

“choose your destiny”, the unconscious orator
soundlessly raved, and i then think about
the phenomena of free-will, dutifully found
and of love, our jeweled species- creators of
the sequined seams of contemporary means
“choose your destiny”, he whispered in his
sleep, the words echoed in my ears and
unbeknown to him he reminded me
to pull a pen and speak, to fall btwn
ruffled beats under the drum bomb sheets.
i think about it everyday: the infinite and finite
choice of destiny(s), the jewel of our
species- love: is all, a free-for-all cross
btwn nite and day, soul-dark, sweeter than lychee.

Denise Summers

96. (22.6) los angeles

i will have returnd

wrinkld worn, a bit sad, torn

body slight burnt orange

Denise Summers

98. (18.7) irving park

a little death
on the sidewalk face
flies swarm and sweat
smears of former flesh
made in the humid misery
of waywardness and heat.
heat that entices one to crawl
to hide under cool rocks
to refuge or die,

Denise Summers

94. (15.6) tucson

waters ripple pool

hairs to static ‘lectric’ty

warm pee and mickeys

Denise Summers 

What Love is This?

Shiloh means “place of peace,” she tells me. I tell her that Freud endured thirty-three operations for cancer of the jaw. It’s already the afternoon when we’re visited by a man with sleep-tousled hair. Life has been reduced to the paper one accumulates passing through it. Years from now, we’ll make the rocks leap and split. Meanwhile, the circus bears must dance their creepy minuet.

I have a pale, wretched face, an injured hand, but your breath tastes purple to me and far from everywhere.

And when I fill you, you’re Atlanta, smoldering and in ruins, and I’m a cart loaded with the groaning wounded, we’re twelve grains of gunpowder floating mightily through the air, a new kind of pearl-handled combustion, and the only patch of snow to endure to evening on our quiet street.

Howie Good

Rimbaud in Africa

Business is down. The news is bad.
Only a madman stops here.
You leave in the company
of savages or imbeciles.
Home is always further on.

You didn’t find what you expected,
gold or salt or musk or ivory,
only a room in a feverish mansion
where you paced and muttered
through curiously long nights,
forlorn caravans forming up
beneath your window
and a flesh-covered dictionary
open on your desk.

The route you traveled
is no longer in use.
There is just this light,

Howie Good

Strange Weather

The sun, big feet, big hands, dirt under the nails, is selling key rings and other trinkets in the street. But why go on? Whatever the time of year, dead leaves always seem to be falling.

It’s too hot for curiosity. The heat tortures us night and day. Broken and crumbly, a corpse floats over warehouses and docks and empty, upturned faces. The destination is inscribed in a florid script I can only barely read.

Straight in front of me but wrapped in clouds, you step naked and small from the claw foot tub. Ancient voices of children sing outlawed songs. With what may be a smile, a terrible rain begins.

Howie Good


universe must be crying----

see's what my brother did.

not able cry---makes harder---

as living--all the pain there is.

we're ungrateful receiver--

trading or returning the gift.

need love---- as we're blessed---

not get back ten percent.

nor act like an animal--

we passed that curb.

onto bigger and better--

not stuck in basic material

ever look at stars---and kiss---

let's control our fires---

as world--not gun battle---

as children not sex trade---

nor unequal education, lack of nutrition---

dirty airs, worse seas!

it must be crying---

we say truth know we're lying!

love and stab at same tire--

a member of animal kingdom.

O! in waiting for our salvation---

universe does question!

Brian Stark

early morning

to ponder a thing
a poem for the spasm of brain
that lives
its own clock and so goes the madness
of a thing

i should write
in the morning
with the birds early song and a fresh outlook
to look out of
at another day
of Sun and World

as instead
I am worn
from such days
dish pit
and stains of various colors
on my chefs coat
tired young feet costumer service
serve palefaces
behind a counter
is the scramble
for money
we old humans
write not a glittery poem
but a dirty self at night un-showered
writing hopeless little lines
in a world of billions
line by line

wiggle by wiggle
quantum soup sip by soup sip
jungle and city
thing and thing
rose is rose alike

and so,
where to take this? and what can we feel? or what to lean on? or why anything?
no glitter.
no glam.
tie no leash to no poem
simply walk path subservient
give my poems wings
fly dreams together
say a trademark anything
make say able the soul
trade these scribbled marks for
some outside
into the very thing which
makes the poem

ponderous and content among the
rapids and front line
of each defensive little being
staking hold of something
willing to fight for
willing to die and they who dwell absent minded
invested in blah
to the violence
of suburban decay
and urban sprawls
the legitimacy of a person
significance of an action
to live for
to love
and the waves never
cease so neither will

Late night
and I am thinking
how strange it is
that late night is also
early morning

Kyle Sutherland

A Small Consolation

Back here again and she says to me, you always come back here. Today, she sits near the window, near the warm, September light. Watches as she watches. As if she's wondering what I'm going to do next. And I'm close enough now to see her mouth, to see that newer version of an old scar beneath it. Because my children are older now than she is, I have realized how easily children scare. How those little fears can follow, can haunt. So I don't tell her that she'll always be afraid of dogs or of monsters or how both can hide in the skin of men. I don't tell her how the monster can hide even in her own skin. This time, while not yet her friend, I am no longer her captor, but rather only a passerby. A reflection of her own curiosity. I show her my face. My wrists. Look, I say to her. Look how time makes the scars fade and I wait for her to breathe it in. Turn my hands over to show her. In a few years, you'll quit biting your nails, I tell her. You will swim a small sea and you'll live in a trailer. But they'll still say, I say to her, they love your words. They'll still say you're pretty. And I speak of it as if it is more than a small consolation.
Susan Culver-Graybeal

I was Thinking of Telling You

Of the dream, love, and I was dreaming of telling you that I would come to you, love. Had - in fact - already arrived, as I was whispering it to your skin. Too, perhaps I was counting the reasons that I should never move, never breathe. Should just stay like this, the mountain girl from the only unknown to you. The mountain world and what I would miss of this: spring when it goes all gracious and alive. To its knees before the newborn light. Yes, I was thinking of the Magi, love, with all those flowers and flowers. I was dreaming of telling you how afraid I am that your city would shatter me, was whispering it on your skin and then I turned away though you were real, were warm. Though you smelled like hope, like tomorrow, and I was thinking of me on the rooftops of all your highrises. Barefoot on the sidewalks of all your saddest streets. A sort of broken beautiful, love, all robin's-egg and torn at the edges. The shell of something flown away far. I was turning away and you were turning toward. I was thinking of telling you of the dream and you were whispering to my skin, love. Tell me, tell me, as if words were enough, will ever be. As if I could be enough, be more than just another sweet landscape beneath your hands. I'll tell you later, I said. And later is still a lifetime away.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

There, In This Memory

You're the girl, eighteen. On the bridge and you're thinking how easy it would be to simply step off for a while. And you're thinking because you always think. Because nothing is easy. And the only justifiable reason you have for not jumping is that you're already three days late. That maybe it will be a girl. The way you can reconcile yourself with suicide, but being a killer was never your style. So you step back. Braid yourself into some other dream. You're the girl, the waitress, the hairstylist, you're working day and night for the sake of the child. Because a princess should have a castle and it's all so damn hard sometimes and you are braiding, playing. Have made yourself a cellist in a place that looks like Red Rocks, is this close to the sky itself. Yet, when she cries in the darkness you will climb back down. Will find her because you always find her. And you will press her heart to yours, tangle your fingers in her hair, say look, look, beautiful. Can't you see the stars? Will hum your song for her and you will scale those walls again. The music will fade and art will take its place. Because you are never satisfied. Because she deserves nothing less, you will peel away the layers of clouds. Will be picking out the little planes you hid there. You are peeling away, pulling back. You are scrubbing off even the blue and even the black. You are taking this to nothing but the solid etching beneath. Can feel it now: that face of God. Still there the way it was when first you drew it. So very long ago.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

Yesterday'a News. Biggest Super Moon in 18 Years Amazes Sky Watchers

And somewhere past the pier, past the place so thronged with human need, there is probably a woman with a tattoo of Ohio on her shoulder. With small hands and she's felt both the water and the sand slip through them. And she's thought a lot about what it means to be alone, to grasp for some celestial empty as she's whispering to a stranger three states away. Love me, please. And somewhere, closer, the students wonder if the light from the moon equals, roughly, the glow from the flares, from the missiles, from the ache of certain reckoning. Because sometimes the woman slips the ring from her finger and she throws it away. Outside, those who gather have gathered to pray. They've uttered themselves past the notion of sin and they begin again. God said let there be light. Always this: the divining of gifts and punishment. How one random region after another spent their Saturday night under the cover of clouds. The way someone's daughter huddles under the porch light. Says she will never be enough and out there, Mrs. Ohio lingers over the word perigee sixty times. Years later and she has been a thin map, folded upon herself like this. A bit of sketchy details on a universe not suited. Because this is how it happens: her crawling across the floor. Plucking that ring from the trash. For a second it feels cold to her touch. But time passes quickly.

Susan Culver-Graybeal

Bad Wife

And he dreamt he gentled the filly. Took her past the hayfields, where morning danced with afternoon and it all spelled a chill on his bare arms. Cast the thought in golden light while his hands grew calloused from holding the rope. Gentled her, then, until she responded to his very whisper. Til she shimmered a little every time he touched her. In other dreams, he saw himself just rid of her. Casting his blue eyes to the ministry then and how he'd soften a bit for the common folk. He even practiced it: the way he'd stand before them, having been to the end and back. Would speak of her betrayal in terms of stripes. By His stripes, he would declare, we are healed. The flock would marvel at his strength. Would wonder how he even faced another day and then, if time allotted, he'd bring out the horse metaphors. Would liken the woman to any other faceless heathen, speak of how she couldn't be broke as they all nodded in unison - each having grasped some kind of unbreakable as they have. But, by the strength of God, he'd say, we can leave that horse to wander and wander. We don't have to follow. No, we don't have to follow. For we have a higher power. We have a better way.
Susan Culver-Graybeal

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.

Get Flash Player