Poetry by Laura Bernstein-Machlay, Len Krisak,Trevor Pyle,Jill Rachel Jacobs,Colin James,Anca Vlasopolos,Larry Oakner,Kristin LaFollette,Colin Dodds,Dustin Pickering,Ron McFarland,Allison Whittenberg

Laura Bernstein-Machlay

Three Poems by Laura Bernstein-Machlay

Last Trailer Park in an Up-and-Coming Suburb

On one end a barricade

of shops—Gap Pier 1 Ethan Allen

punctuated by deli patisserie coffee bar

with unpronounceable name. On the other,

saws snarling all day long, hammers thud

thudding like an oncoming parade

as from fields and parking lots new houses rise



Between, a neighborhood 

of rectangles, stackable as sugar cubes,

trim as playing cards, haphazard

as dominoes. Charmers of lightning,

beloved of funnel clouds—

affixed to earth by a nightly chorus

of prayers for empty skies.


Peel back the rainbow

siding to reveal a fully-functioning man 

a moveable woman with working parts.

Add or subtract your favorite

cliché, the hungry-looking yellow dog

or child. The wood-paneled station wagon

on blocks, beat-up pick-up with teeth

painted onto the bumper—or more


likely a great SUV that shadows

entirely the green smudge of grass

between doorways—this being the land

where everybody dreams of driving 

into a private sunset, toward luminous

colonials that settle in with the evening

mist and wrap us tight as birthday gifts.


Satellite dishes shining like ribbons

against  every pretty face.



 In this age of electric whir and buzz, when wire

and tape make song,

what becomes of superfluous bells,

working bells that startled crows into flight,

that lured starving souls

to earth? Are they melted and recast,

ship’s bells layered by skins of salt,

fire bells that proclaimed calamity

for miles? Bronze and brass cathedral bells,

their female curves inviting the brush of fingertips,

tower bells that not only called

but commanded the hour?


Once metal becomes bell can it forget

the singular gesture as clapper strikes crown,

as vibration rises into the sky and bell clamors

its name to the world? As people stop speaking

in the middle of sentences and wait

for what will come? Listen—


I want to tell you this story

complete with fault line. Enormous

bell warehouse at the end

of a bustling street. The ground shaking, then open, hungry

as desire. Women, men, caught short, out

of context, out of luck.

Tossed like crickets in circles

and buried finally beneath thousands

of bells, dippers clapping furiously, crazy

ovation echoing deep in the Earth.


For Doug

Doug who disappeared 

west where he changed

his name to Magnus. Who played bass  

in Burning Man. Doug of the Gumby arms and legs,

collarbones crooking inward towards the slow

moan of his heart. Fond of doodling palm-sized

barbarian princes, be-thonged musclemen

with shoulders like twin mesas, quads like canned hams.


Once I followed Doug to an abandoned house

crowded with boys and girls stoned and

groping. Deep in its candlelit,

graffitied insides, my high school’s other ex-fat-girl cut

across the joint’s lazy circle, breathed

in my ear, Doug likes you.

I might have kissed him then

but for his teeth, already dwindling crumb

by crumb, shadowed

like a charcoal sketch erased in a half-assed way.


Doug who first appeared to us like a despoiled Jesus 

at the local mall, slouching beautiful

in our direction, his mud hair fused into Mohawk

in the bogus light. Suburban kids, we mistook real

poverty for cool—Doug mirrored in chrome and glass, shredded

leather jacket prayed together with duct tape.

He engendered compassion

for awhile, crashed in guestrooms or garages,

on couch after couch.

I never asked, too busy


hiking my skirts

painting my eyes into bruises for weekend

sprees downtown, to clubs that served me

without a wink at my fake ID.

It was the 80s. I was too busy cutting

slivers into sweatshirts I bought new.

And late at night as the TV murmured reruns

of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie, as I picked

the flecks of eyeliner from my cheeks

and swallowed whole

my mother’s cardboard leftovers,

carving secret 

bloody profiles into my arms and thighs.


And always Doug, strangely alluring

to strung-out, down-river girls who fed

and watered him in his rock star incarnation. On stage

he hunkered over his bass, long

fingers stroking the strings lightly

as a girl’s face, my hands thick

with bar smoke, leaning toward Doug through the fog

—what can I say? I stopped every time

at the broken teeth, the crescents of black

lining his every fingernail.


Now I hear he came home

for a night, complete

with resplendent new smile

to play a Burning Man reunion show.

I hear people among the crowd stitched his legend,

Magnus, to the backs of their leathers.


You’re a legend, Doug,

not least of all for me. I found out too late

to make the gig, but I thought about you

for a while and, unable to help myself,

I wrote you this.


Len Krisak

Singular by Len Krisak



            —for T. M.

My hunter friend says that they’re known as Blacks,

These golf-course geese called Canadas by most.

And one can see the justice of the name

Their striking headsman’s-hoodedness attracts.

But when they fly by night, then all is lost

In darkness, every color dyed the same.


Flat on your back in bed, half-past eleven,

The window open to the summer night,

Listen. Above the un-axed, unseen oaks:

A creaking hinge that squawks to highest Heaven,

Begging for chrism that will bless this flight

Two wings extend by countless sweeping strokes.


The sound cries out for oil, for balming grease.      

Alone aloft against the belted asters,                                                

Orion buckles in, one Black wings by—

Intact, anointed, luckiest of geese

To slip the commonest of all disasters                                

That prey upon what flies the lethal sky.


Trevor Pyle

Two Poems by Trevor Pyle


Letter to a Friend

I’m so sorry

I wasn’t at your funeral

but I was too busy

investigating where you had gone.

Not in the sense of heaven or hell,

but the literal mass of you,

the atoms and molecules.

I looked it up on the internet

but the answers wouldn’t stick in my head.

I called a friend who studied science

and she asked if I had been drinking —

It turned out it was very late.


Later, she explained to me

how we are made of everything

like stars and air and exhaled breath

things from another age

undone, then knitted back together.

I guess it’s easier to believe

about a broken clock

or a piece of driftwood

rather than a thigh you’ve

watched shift under a sheet,

the right eyelid that always twitched

after a long night  turned into morning.


I wanted to end this poem

saying I look for you

in the foamy waves, the stars overhead.

It’s a sweet sentiment. A lie.

In truth I want

the waves to be waves,

your thighs to be thighs,

your knitted form in front of me

arguing Emerson in a coffee shop

as the employees loudly stack

the chairs on the tables,

trying, failing, to get us to leave.


My OCD is Largely Under Control

The phone distracts

with its cry

and the television tempts

with its murmur,

but I’m  busy looking

at the man

with no eyes (cornea transplant)

and the woman

who lost her face (shotgun blast).

It’s a jagged world

out there (stray bullets) —

the only way to stay safe

is to pull my fears

over my head

like a blanket

warm from the dryer.

I remind myself to steer

clear of balance beams (spinal fracture)

and educate myself 

on the dangers associated with

swimming pools (bacteria, drowning).

At 1 a.m. the

teakettle shrieks (second-degree burns).


I eye it suspiciously from across the room.


Jill Rachel Jacobs

 Five Poems by Jill Rachel Jacobs



 You’re a petty thief,

who stole my heart,

ripped it right from its core,

leaving a gaping hole,

not to mention considerable irreparable damage,

There will be no transplant here.


You also stole my favorite blue jeans,

the perfect worn-in pair,

with the perfect fit,

with the perfect hole in just the right spot,

With perfect memories of you and me.


I want them back;

All the things you took from me.

I want my CD’s, my Kindle,

and everything else you swiped the day you left,

And tore my heart in two.


I’m not like you.

I haven’t decided to go on without them.

What a ridiculous way to live.

Perfectly worn, faded jeans

are not as easy to come by as you may think.




So keep the jeans.

I don’t really care.

But the rest is not negotiable.


 There is always a question,

whose answer will remain unclear,

until it’s clear.  (Like, duh?)

Because since you’ve returned, 

There’s been this ginormous elephant,

planted right smack

in the middle of the room. 

(Oh come on, you see it, don’t you?)

Rearing its ugly head here and there,

Yet, always resigning itself

to its respective corner,

Patiently awaiting its turn.

No!  I’m not calling your wife an elephant!

Don’t be ridiculous.

(Although she could very well be the size of an elephant—

How would I know?)

No, I don’t want to see her picture!

I would prefer to pretend that she does not exist. 

(That’s been working fine ‘til now, don’t you think?)

No! I’m not calling her a fat, pig! 

(That’s actually redundant, by the way.)


Come to think of it,

I really like pigs.

They’re a really sweet animal

that is often misunderstood and maligned.

Perhaps you’ve misunderstood me, too.

I’m sure your girl is lovely.

You must bring her for a drink 

when you come sometime! (Hubbell).


The Naked Truth

I’m naked!  Can’t you see?


Naked as a jaybird,



reporting for duty.

Naked as I came,

naked as I will go.


No! You’re wearing your

navy pants and blue-striped shirt.

Can’t you see?


But it’s too late.

Dementia’s in the house.

chewed up,

swallowed up,

spit out whole,

without warning,

or trace of resemblance,

to Harry and Adele’s

second oldest daughter,

bride of Jerome,

The woman who climbed

a mountain and back,

with six children in tow.





Case closed. 


An insidious conundrum,

a malicious malady,

a vicious viper,

burrowing far beneath,

leaving a trail of shattered dreams

and devastation,

While the walking wounded

search for higher ground.


Who are you?

Why are you here?

Where is my daughter!

And scene. 


Disrobed, divested,

bald and bare,

Raw and exposed,

she dances in the air. 

Will they know me when I come,

naked and splendid in all my glory?

I will dance on wings of light,

and carry your heart in mine forever. 


Will my people be there for me,

as I will be there for you?


Even as my candle grows dim,

my eternal flame will grow stronger,

magnetic, fierce,

as constant as the Northern Star.


Unyielding, infinite,


A mother’s love,

burns unrelentingly,

Long after this earthly light is extinguished—

Even after I die a thousand and one deaths,

It will shine on.


Yet, as this insufferable silence grows louder,

I still wonder:

Will anyone ever love me the way she did-

As she lay naked,

exposed, in repose,

Waiting to go home?


My First One and Only

I don’t like the rollercoaster.

I never know what to expect.

Also, I don’t trust the people hired to run the rides.

Instead of screaming in excitement,

I yell in terror,

spending most of my time wondering,

where the ride operators got their training,

Or even worse,

if they received any training at all.


I like the merry-go-round;

with the flying, faux colorful horses,



in an ethereal, equestrian ballet,

And the corny circus music,

playing on an interminable musical loop.

If I fall, I probably won’t get hurt,

since it’s not too far to the ground.


I don’t want to fall again,

But if I do,

would you catch me this time?

Will you take me somewhere

I’ve never been,

At least not since I was last with you?


Or take me to that place

that only we know;

Timeless, ageless,


Where we are old,

and we are new,

and we are wise,

and just born.

Drifting endlessly,

in aqua-blue Aegean seas,

There are no sad stories today.

And the only thing I hear

besides the sound of trickling, melodious water,

Is a voice that feels like home.


My first, my last,

my love,

Has brought me here again.

Melding into the ocean,

I hear you calling my name.

Without your voice,

I’m stuck on the rollercoaster.

It’s terrifying.


Hydra and the Jellyfish

 Surrendering deep into your eyes,

But you are not there.

Tethered to unseen images,


cloudy and obscure,

emerge in a darkroom far from here.


“Will we meet again?”

He asks once more,

On this earthly place,

Full of new moons,

hot licks.


Permeated by a disquieting indignation,

She sees him as he is today;

Making his daily trek

toward comfortable oblivion,

Down the winding, snaky road,

The path that nearly took him away for good,

though he’s still light years from her.


Ticking and tocking,

his mind wanders,

as he wonders,

“What color are her eyes?”

Though his words quickly vanish

into a speck of dust of yesteryear;

long before time turned itself around again.


Enveloped by Hydra’s aqua warm waters,

blissfully unaware of Cronos' suffocating tentacles,

A wiser man would have taken cover,

at the sight of the morning’s first light,

as it teased and taunted

upon the window shade.


But these days are much clearer.

Not like yesterday,

when drowning in murky,

fathomless oceans,

stung by Medusa’s fatal blow,

I just resigned.


Now you are everywhere;

In taxis,

reflections of store windows,

in crocuses and ice storms,

and children’s eyes,

innocent and clear.


I see your eyes, everywhere.

Haunting me.


Colin James

That Obligatory Realm of Inadequacy

by Colin James


             That Obligatory Realm of Inadequacy


             I am in and out of consciousness,

             in touch with my feminine side.

             It's a beautiful day.

             My assailants possess that rare ability

             to restore a pulse.

             Not a cloud in the sky.

             I'm being eaten alive.

             A slight breeze, westerly.

             They began at my crotch,

             taking large mouthfuls.

             It took a while.

             Humidity is at an all time low.

             Seeds are floating in the pleasantness.

             My devourers have ceased munching

             and are holding an informal meeting.

             My vitamin D source is flourishing.

             Someone just commented they could see into my soul.

             That would explain this slight bout of constipation.

             The air and sky have reached their purple zenith.

             I think I have lost enough blood to die.  


Anca Vlasopolos

Three Poems by Anca Vlasopolos


Cleansing the Haunted House


break the cobwebs

            they’ll stick and you’ll try and try to rid

            yourself of filaments                 clinging on as if for dear life


            in this corner


                                    not ectoplasm

instead a murder of crows you raise as you break through rotten


they’ll go for the eyes


                        weeping furious tears

you swipe at them

catch most        you hope   between covers contain  though you


            quite kill them


           old loves          long gone         the love or those who loved

whisper to you anew from crumbling leaves

those too you must

            give rest to


            damaged shutters obscuring light

                        triumphs no less than griefs

you send to become pulp                     reincarnated

                        to root in other brains


wipe away layers

            particles that still utter their small shrieks



look now

            the roll-top desk

                        so clean            like a change purse

            ready to shut with an emphatic snap

                        upon its guarded essences



Record Winter in the Midwest


            before they push up from their infoliate dark

what do they dream? for dream they must           a cue   a tug

                        must move them


nothing short of rabbit’s teeth

will stop them


they push                                 toward what they know

             and       yes      they know as surely as the male finch does



push through sheets of ice we take pick axes to


keep moving upward

            into whiteness of deep drifts

                        they couldn’t in worlds of springs get through


            like the male finch

                        rakishly sporting

                                    half a black beret over one eye



             snowdrops crocuses hyacinths daffodils

                         driven by fierce indomitable cravings    sun-soaked


            (they do not dream of me i know

                                    though they explode within my dreams)

keep pushing up


Venus in Feathers




             with brush        with chisel

they made her


                        draping her slippery veil over her nethers

                                    arm barring a glimpse of breasts


floating on her half-scallop

                                    hand chastely

                                                holding long red waves of hair

                                                            over her pubis


but wily ancients

knew better


she a creature of cum


these her birds

            harnessed in their brazen multitude

            to her juggernaut





you might even call it sordid

this hedge

            forced against concrete

                        of a dim parking structure

            grillwork stuck

                                    without a fleeing thought to craft

                        as if to keep miscreant parkers behind bars


the male hops back and forth


female watches

flattens her back

he mounts

            wings fluttering for balance

gets off

mounts again                again

a dozen times                           (i confess i counted)

looks peaked

takes off


female preens

turns from the scene

            with an “I’ve had better” shoulder shrug


            in the bedraggled evergreen

Larry Oakner

 And then, Zen by Larry Oakner


And then, Zen


1. Sitting still


The exquisite pain—

Doing zazen the first time.

Spotted cat stretching.


2. There’s no denying it


A wild fox trots along the median strip pausing

to glance beyond his brushy tail.

He pants through his thin black lips

while traffic whizzes by—oblivious.

Am I the fox? Is the fox me?

A monk was condemned to live

five hundred lifetimes as a fox

for asking the wrong question

until he was released in a word:

Ignore karma and embrace it.



3. The measure of emptiness


The beaten bowl of blackened copper

clad inside with purest gold—

Which holds more value,

the vessel or the void?



Kristin LaFollette

 Five Poems by Kristin LaFollette


On the road, sitting in the passenger

seat to your right, there were:


Fields of corn stalks and soybean

plants so green they hurt my eyes;


Eyes watering and swollen from a

summer season full of cottonwood


and tree pollen. 


There were:


Trees hovering over barns in the

distance, housing high-voltage


power lines, ones that you would

stand under and I would take your


picture, the buzzing sound of the

electricity enough to keep the


mosquitoes away. 


There were:


Flocks of birds diving into the

tall grass surrounding the


country road we were driving

on, a road that I was unfamiliar


with, lost, but that you said you

knew “like the back of your hand,”


something our father would say,

something he’d probably taught


you without even knowing it.


There were:


A mix of smells in the air—

Something like iodine and

maybe blood, a summer day

so hot I felt as if my skin and


bones were swelling, like the

cottonwood had gotten to them, too.


There were: 


Nervous Tissue

Listening becomes so

difficult at times—


The ears, not my best sense;

The act of seeing, so much

more acceptable,




Eyes, taken away—

Eyes, I was born with

brown irises, darkness

the color of cocoa mixed

with just a bit of water,


the color of belief,

the sound of doubt,


questionable in the

way dreams can be—


Dreams where I see

people I’ve made up

in my mind, dreams

where I hear your voice


and wonder if it’s real

even though I know


it is—


Those waking moments

that feel numb like

electricity, like a dream,

when I feel your guidance,


a hand on my shoulder

that reminds me of diving

headfirst into water warmed


by summer heat.


Marriage of Two Poets

Her blood is silent


Overused, red and black paints

The author’s interpretation is

meaningless, anemic


(Sometimes blue is just blue)


Does anyone know the difference

between psychologist and psychiatrist?


She knows the body must be

constantly imbalanced—


Good ideas come from trauma

Bad ideas come from trauma




How old do you have to be

before you stop being afraid

of the people around you?


As if a gift, “free will,” is only

something humans know


And, finally, one last thing:

Anxiety, it must be real?



I feel like I’m in Nebraska, but I’m not

Everything looks so much the same


Small stream, a creek—

My sandal, still there after so many

years, consumed by clams that cut

my feet when I walk


Floor boards, old wood, sanded

down to hide the world map that

was once on the surface


I think if I leave this Midwestern body,

you will



From your window, the one with

colored pitchers above it, watch

birds with straw colored wings


Like animals would bring messages

from the outside

Drink too much water from glasses,

calcified with hard water—


Fluid in the lungs, endocarditis,

watch the chest rise fall rise




Breathing, paper umbilical cord


After My Birth

I’ll travel with you,

a bike with red rubber


tires.  A girl that is me

jumps over a cement


embankment and looks

back, probably searching


for a mother to tell her

to be safe, more careful.


The girl, she climbs a

tree, her hair the color


of brick getting tangled

in the branches—


She sees a duck floating

in the pond, its feathers


deflecting the water—

The girl, she has the


soft bones of a child and

spins on her toes like a


carousel horse.


Colin Dodds 

Four Poems by Colin Dodds

The Word in the Third Millennium

Just a little bit of art separates

the light from the light

and the air from the air.


But it is all here,

the deep song, the dream song.

Shout out a name and the thing exists,

and reorganizes the crowded world

with itself on top.


That’s creation—

as indiscriminating and incriminating

as eating and drinking.


Persephone in the Third Millennium

After a century of spring and rich summer,

what a winter must await!


From the peace kept by nuclear missiles

and professional sports franchises

to the orgiastic, violent dreams

that we rate restricted, but cannot live without


From the starless nights in parking lots

—the oblivion made of safety

to the thousand opinions and petty preferences

—the safety made of oblivion


The tightening whirlpool of marketing,

narcissism and fraud closes in on us


It can not last, it seems


No longer guided by what we assume

are the good intentions of our forbears,

the age dangles from the future

like a chimp on a sagging branch


Sowing ten billion human lives on the earth—

what can the harvest be?


Mortgaged, leveraged and ordered by the wealthy

to be hopeful,

even our cosmology speaks of precariousness

in which our ancestors, selves and descendants

are but a soapbubble of anxiety and error

in an unbounded, merciless void


It can not last

We fear and pray

We boast and plead


Olympus on the Coast in the Third Millennium 

The twin nothingnesses of desert and sea,  

force up a city. 


Drawn by promises of sunlight and midnight, 

then delivered into a conundrum. 

The sprawl of the stars gives way

to pornography on a cell phone.

A city of traffic, a city of no fixed address,

a city like a probability cloud, and a dirty one at that.


It billows and swirls like the new truth,

after God, and after reality.


Hades in the Third Millennium

In the conference hall,

the evidence of the senses

holds no sway.


Death triumphs in the shaven and moisturized faces,

thin like death’s heads or fat like drowning,

reciting that day’s USA TODAY to each other.


Voices fall at the end of sentences,

like an imitation of seriousness,

or the first moment of emotional collapse.


Who sees? Who sees?

By the escalator?

By the fake trees?


They beckon to me.

I must be scarred by something.

But why this?


Down in a basement hall

with no windows,

they start the Powerpoint.


Dustin Pickering

 Blooming by Dustin Pickering


Birth through the moon

an unknowing promise

awkward and gay, blooming like dust.

Water will pass through;

nothing is sound as the atoms sleep.


I choose to know nothing.

The facts surround me like antiques

in the horrid disease of Age.

O Flame, I would rather not grasp!

As I pass the golden hours without sacred space,

my hurting will never stop.

The desolation of belief—

grander prospects beg before me.

Light lingering to touch the hands

of the clock.


Ron McFarland

Three Poems by Ron McFarland

The Character of Place

Well, it’s got to happen somewhere, right?

And Hemingway says there’s got to be

weather in the damned thing. In the supreme

fiction it’s where these particular people must be.

They find themselves, almost surprisingly, stuck.


Consider Chekhov’s characters and just like that:

Russia somewhere, somewhere in Russia

and likely the nineteenth century at that,

late, or early in the twentieth. They’re stuck

with the tsar and probably bad weather.

It all happened in the village of N __________.

But really, what are we to do with that?


Give us, at least dear Anton, a muddy road

and an ill-tempered peasant, probably drunk.

Vodka of course, cheap vodka, tsarist rotgut.

That helps. A drab and dirty little tavern then

in the village of N __________. It’s April

and the small redbud’s struggling to bloom.

Maybe it’s the only tree in town? Ridiculous.


Let’s give this story a much more Russian

tree or shrub, something unlikely to show up

in southern Ohio, and why have just the one?

Let’s say everyone’s wearing black or gray.

It’s Russia, okay? Eighteen-eighty or so, maybe

nineteen-o-one, before color came to the provinces.


A cold wind blows up, blows through dry grass.

Old Semyon misses his daughter Olga who lives

far away in Minsk. Chekhov needs to get him

into the tavern so Mikhail Ivanovich can buy him

a couple glasses of bad vodka, so a few icy

snowflakes suddenly bluster in from the west.


That does it. Now he’s inside and the coal oil lamp

sputters in the gathering darkness and the bartender

ignores him pointedly because his in-laws

are visiting from Moscow for two months.

Old Semyon has grown hungry but there’s nothing

but pickled herring and he hates pickled herring.


Mikhail comes over and buys him a glass of vodka,

bad vodka, and then another. Gradually. Where they are

doesn’t matter much. The character of place fades.

Even the weather doesn’t matter all that much in this

nasty tavern on the great broad Steppes of Russia.


The Decline of the Family Farm

The farmer’s daughter remembers harvesting row crops,

endless rows, dawn till dusk with a few hours off around noon

resting under the sprawling live oak bearded with Spanish moss.


Cucumbers, bell peppers, melons, the year they tried okra:

she can’t forget how sick she got that miserable summer

suckering tobacco. After that her father let her drive truck.


The farmer’s daughter remembers the four-year drought

when she was in high school, how she couldn’t afford the prom

or the homecoming dance even though she was chosen queen.


She can’t forget the lurid jokes: the travelling salesmen,

city slickers, the comical real-world crawling with creeps.

She’d have given anything to meet a nice guy from a small town,


any small town about a thousand miles away from the farm.

She went off to college and met some guys, some smart guys

who knew nothing about farming or farmers’ daughters.


The farmer’s daughter married one of those smart guys

and had four smart kids and moved two thousand miles away

from her father’s farm. And now it’s all she can think about:

watermelons, bell peppers, cucumbers, okra, even tobacco.


Vespula Pensylvanica, the Western Yellow Jacket

            “If you encounter a yellow-jacket nest,

            contact a local pest control expert immediately.”

Amy, our crazy neighbor from across the street,

shows up with her broom to battle the yellow-jackets.

She has designs on three papery gray nests

set in the ivy on our back deck where Tommy,

her teenaged son, has contracted to do some trimming.


We greet her at the driveway, me with my deadly

fourteen-ounce black can of wasp and hornet spray:

“Kills the entire nest!” “¡Mata el Nido Entero!”

Somehow, having it spelled out in two languages

enhances my confidence even more than the chemistry:

Prallethrin and Cypermethrin in such miniscule

percentages they challenge my faith in entomology.


I’ve used it before and can attest it lives up

to its fatal billing: “kills on contact instantly, sprays

up to twenty-two feet” (I’ve paced it off, not being one

to take chances when it comes to insecticide).


But crazy Amy came of age in a commune,

double-majored in communication and life

sciences, what in my day they used to call biology,

and here she comes with her black-handled broom

like a pretty witch ready to sweep our ivy

clean of the nested yellow-jackets so her boy can safely

collect a few sweaty dollars trimming the vines.


It’s late afternoon of a day in the nineties.

She has it in mind that my can of lethal ingredients

topped with a black plastic cone to direct the spray

(I’ve seen these at the end of machinegun barrels)

may do irreparable harm to less threatening species:

bees and butterflies, lady bugs and what not,

common house flies, mosquitoes, and then perfectly

innocent and beneficent birds might perish utterly

in the aftermath of their insectious, dare I say, entrees.


Crazy Amy is not at all dressed for the job—

just shorts and a simple halter-top, no gloves,

not even a hat to keep the angry, unhoused vespides

out of her long brown hair, but she’s intrepid,

there on her knees knocking off a pair

of nests and telling us to stay back just in case,

and I’m yelling at her uselessly to be careful

and reminding her these are not endangered species,

and the manufacturer of my product guarantees,

and I quote, they’re “A Family Company.”


Allison Whittenberg

The Quickening by Allison Whittenberg

The Quickening

Because I believe in perfection

I believe in abortion

Babies are asymmetrical

They/she/he/it squander

The silken grammar of  routine

But, a fetus can be edited

Its absence assures a lacy indefectibility

In the vacuum, I can breathe 

It’s not right

It’s not the right time

I don’t want to hunker down in Staten Island

Or be on bed rest

Or buy big clothes

Or rush to alter with a gown and a groom and a promise

With rice raining on me

like fallout. 

I don’t want to be folk like my mother was folk. 

Children growing out of her hairdo. 

Dull eyes and unpainted nails. 

Waking on the hour to feed.  Feeding.  Always feeding the hungry.

The weeping. 

Little ones pursuing happiness.

Little ones rob happiness.

Fuzzy fussy  responsibilities piling like landfills

On and on and on, like a heartbeat.



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