Jason Baldinger: “this ghostly ambience”

 

 

this ghostly ambience

stop me if you’ve heard the one
about the pregnant waitress
and the zamboni driver

yeah, I can’t think of the punchline
either

what would you expect, holding
my breath and drinking a beer
at the same time is a new skill
like spiritualism, I practice it sparingly

I’m trying not to think about the soul
of the prime rib in front of me
or to notice past myself waiting
at the bar, another beer
and a photo of an illuminated
zippo sign before I shuffle
up to buffalo, catch a predator

ever wonder if leon czolgosz
got into heaven?

I overhear the pregnant waitress
say she still hopes they’re here
in twenty years, the sentence
was innocent in her mind
now it’s dead on the floor

I would go through the stacks
for another conversation piece
but fuck all, sometimes
it’s best to leave it there

dead. I’ve got my mask
there’s a sunset out there
where american flags
outnumber people
I should strike up conversation
with my addled sense of wonder instead

pregnant waitress returns
offers me another beer
suddenly dusk is nonsense
suddenly american flags are nonsense

I missed this ghostly ambiance
mask off, yes to beer
i suppose I spend more time than
I thought talking to the dead

 

 

About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and  former Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community. He has multiple books available including the chapbook Blind Into Leaving (Analog Submission Press) as well as the forthcoming Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) & A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.

 

More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

When Cancer Comes to Evansville, Indiana

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing

 

Image Credit: ” INTERIOR VIEW LOOKING EAST – White Crystal Diner, 20 Center Avenue, Atlantic Highlands, Monmouth County, NJ” The Library of Congress (public domain)

 

Allison Grayhurst: “Prometheus Speaks”

 

 

 

Prometheus Speaks

Prometheus speaks
from my bathroom tiles, wailing
his defiance and fiery nightingale burning
with his tongue still unrooted
and his limbs bound to the rock, spread
like wings – Titan of the windfall, humanity’s
hope and champion, more brilliant than
his dumb and primitive siblings, more committed
than their arrogant and willful offspring.

Prometheus in the shower curtain, dripping
liquid fire down the drain, plunging
into the underworld depths
then up for a greater torment to meet the predator bird,
dispelling all screams and ghosts and holding tight
to his suffering-throne and his compassion
for such a flawed creation.

Prometheus finally rescued
as the warm water exerts itself from on high,
– strong Herculean flow –
the wounded centaur accepting his fate.
Flow Prometheus,
trustworthy, burning, speaking
your conquering gospel,
the first crucifixion
the first flame ignited
before love’s great inception.

 

 

About the Author: Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Five times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017/2018, she has over 1250 poems published in over 485 international journals. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com

 

Image Credit: Jan Cossiers “Prometheus Carrying Fire” (1638) Public Domain

The Eden of Perhaps: An Interview Between Poet Agnes Vojta and Chase Dimock

 

 

 

The Eden of Perhaps: An Interview

Between Agnes Vojta and Chase Dimock

 

 

The genius of Agnes Vojta’s poetry is in its simplicity. In just a few neatly composed short stanzas, she can contain entire ecosystems of thought. Never overstated or garish, her work bears the influence of her background as a physicist.The poems have their own neatly defined gravity; poems in motion stay in motion. She can sketch a mountainscape in the Ozarks with the same topographical precision as the folds and crevasses in the human mind.

I want to call her poetry objective, but the depth and rush of human feeling in her lines makes that word misleading. It’s more that her work is authentic, like you’re reading a 1 to 1 ratio of her perspective translated into stanzas. After a few pages, you feel like you really know Agnes Vojta, not because she is easy to interpret, but because you can feel each word is her exact truth.

 

***

 

Chase Dimock: Your title, The Eden of Perhaps, recalls the Garden of Eden, a mythological moment in mankind’s history of existing peacefully in an unspoiled natural world. There is an abundance of nature poems throughout your collection, and I know from your facebook you’re an avid hiker and student of nature. What do you hope to express about your relationship with nature in your poems? Do you go on hikes looking to find subjects for your poetry and/or the peace of mind to reflect poetically on nature?

Agnes Vojta: I have been hiking for decades and need it for my physical and mental health. Even in times of greatest stress, one day of the weekend is sacred and I must spend it in the woods. Hiking is also a spiritual practice for me, my way of meditating. On an easy trail, you can let the thoughts wander and percolate; difficult terrain requires intense concentration that forces you to be completely in the moment in a way few other experiences do. Getting away from the chatter of civilization and connecting with nature grounds me and puts everything into perspective. The forest, the rivers, and the mountains speak a deep truth that surpasses what we try to grasp intellectually, and when I can hear those voices, I feel balanced, connected, and at peace.

When I write about nature, sometimes I simply want to share these feelings and my sense of wonder; I wish everybody could experience what I do. But I don’t write to get people to go out into the woods – for that purpose, I run a hiking website and facebook page. Nature often gives me the metaphor that expresses what I cannot otherwise put into words, teaches me lessons that extend into other areas of life, and mirrors my interior landscape. In my first collection Porous Land, a seasonal arc of nature poems reflects an internal journey from loss to acceptance. Nature has to be experienced directly, not through abstract linear thinking. So one might say, trying to put these experiences into words is paradoxical, but the words are not there to explain and analyze – they try to recapture an impression, a feeling that then creates understanding that goes beyond words.

I do not set out on my hikes with the intention to write or look for poetic subjects, but I often get ideas for phrases and poems, and I carry a little notebook. It is always a surprise what I will find, and in which way nature weaves into my thoughts and feelings. The key is to remain open and receptive. Conversely, writing has affected the way I see. After my emigration from Germany, I was unable to write poetry for ten years, and when I resumed writing, I found myself observing more closely and being more attentive – being a poet has enriched my hiking experience.

 

Chase Dimock: The “Eden” in your title also recalls mythology. Some of your poems contain allusions to classical mythology, including the muses, Sisyphus, and Persephone whose pomegranate spreads its seeds across your book cover. You also invoke fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. What is it about these enduring tales and archetypes that draws you in as a poet? What do you hope to add to these stories and characters with your poems?

Agnes Vojta: I grew up an avid reader in a house filled with books; Grimm’s fairy tales and Greek and Norse mythology were the stories of my childhood. Invoking those tales taps into the powerful symbolism of the mythological figures: Sisyphus epitomizes human struggle; Ariadne’s thread evokes the navigation of a labyrinth with a monster lurking at the center.

Grimm’s fairy tales abound with archaic gender stereotypes. I enjoyed subverting the story of helpless Sleeping Beauty and, instead of letting her wake from the prince’s kiss, giving her agency: she awakes on her own and chooses to defy expected gender roles. I let Rapunzel cut off her hair, the symbol of her femininity and her most defining characteristic; she is no longer willing to play her old role. Awakening, rebellion, and the questioning of dichotomies and gendered expectations are recurring themes in my collection.

On an underlying layer, both poems that reference Sisyphus allude to Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus which deals with humans’ search for meaning in the face of an absurd world, a topic deeply connected to the themes I was wrestling with.

 

Chase Dimock: In addition to being a poet, you’re also a scientist and a professor who teaches physics. How does your scientific research and knowledge of physics influence your poetry? Do you find an overlap with how you see the world as a scientist and how you see the world as a poet?

Agnes Vojta: Before I became interested in physics, I was in love with the elegance and logic of mathematics. I studied physics because I wanted to know how the world works and became a theorist because of my fascination with math. I find it wonderful that natural phenomena have rational explanations our brains can understand, that there is order, and that there are theories that describe even the chaotic. Contrary to what one might believe, this understanding does not dispel the sense of wonder, but deepens it.

At the same time, so much is inaccessible to our rational linear thinking and cannot be explained by mathematical theories – it must be felt and experienced. That is where poetry comes in for me; it is a way to capture what is beyond logic, what cannot be neatly packaged in an equation. Physics and poetry complement one another as I try to make sense of the world.

Sometimes physics sneaks into my poems when I borrow metaphors from physical concepts. Occasionally, I write about physics themes, for example the discovery of gravitational waves in Einstein’s Heirs, which is in Porous Land. One day, I saw a research paper with the title Dirty Hardcore Bosons (yes, seriously) – that was sheer poetry in itself, and I had to write a silly poem about it.

 

Chase Dimock: In a previous response, you mentioned your emigration to the United States. How do you feel that your emigration plays a role in how you view the world around you and how that shows up in your poetry? Does being multilingual affect how you translate your ideas into poetry?

Agnes Vojta: Emigrating from Germany changed my writing. For a year or two, I still kept writing in German, but that felt less and less relevant and atrophied until I stopped. I was unable to write at all for ten years. It was frustrating. I tried to translate my own poems from German into English, but translation is immensely difficult, as it is impossible to retain meter, rhyme (yes, back then I still wrote in form), sound, and precise meaning all at once. Translation is always compromise, and the attempts have given me a great appreciation for translators of poetry; they’re the unsung heroes who enable us to read Pablo Neruda or Francis Ponge. The inability to write in English had nothing to do with a lack of proficiency; I was fluent and teaching at the university. It just took many years for me to arrive here emotionally, to feel that this place is “home”, and it wasn’t until English had become the language in which I feel and dream that I was able to write poetry again. Although German and English are close cousins, I feel that my writing is different in English. I am a minimalist and find that it is easier to express myself concisely in English.

Emigration, even under the best circumstances, always carries trauma: the loss of family and friends, of culture and native language. I have been working on a series of poems about that experience, and also on a memoir about growing up in communist East Germany. The wall came down when I was in college, and that past makes me appreciate the civil liberties in the US more than if I had been taking them for granted all my life.

Living in two cultures gives a wider perspective and makes you understand that people can do things differently without either of them being “wrong”. I wish every young person could have the opportunity to live for some time in another country; it would broaden horizons and make us more open and tolerant.

 

Chase Dimock: Many of the poems in The Eden of Perhaps involve stories and themes about journeys that either you or the characters you address embark upon. Why is the idea of journey something that you return to time after time? What does the tale of a journey enable you to explore as a poet?

Agnes Vojta: I wrote the poems in The Eden of Perhaps during a period in my life when I felt I was undergoing a big transition and was on the cusp of a significant change. Transition and change were the themes on my mind; they are the threads that run through the entire book and tie the collection together.

The image of the journey contains all the emotional elements of a life transition: the reluctance to leave the safety of the familiar; the longing for new places; the hesitation in the face of uncertainty; the exhilaration when the journey is finally underway. In the poems, the journey becomes its own purpose; the destination is only glimpsed on the horizon, but never reached. A journey involves risk, but motion is life; to refuse change and remain stationary means stagnation and death.

 

Chase Dimock: My last question is a two parter: First, now that you have a couple of volumes of poetry under your belt, where do you see yourself going next as a poet? Are there forms, genres, topics, etc. that you are dreaming of exploring in your future work? Second, Who are you reading right now? I often like to end with this question because writers are readers, and we are each other’s audience. Who are some writers you think deserve a wider audience?

Agnes Vojta: Right now I am working on a collaborative project with the painter Greg Edmondson. I am writing poems based on a series of his paintings on black Arches paper. The project is titled Dark Matter, and we are planning to have an exhibition at the Smalter Gallery in Kansas City next year. I also want to continue exploring my emigration experience through poems and possibly a prose memoir. I have always been a singer and recently started writing songs. I discovered how very different writing lyrics is from my usual style of poetry, and it’s a lot of fun to work on that.

What am I reading? Not nearly enough! My great inspiration is the late Mary Oliver to whose poems I return again and again. I love the work of Aliki Barnstone and Miranda Field. The one good thing that came of the pandemic for me was that I met many poets through online readings whose paths wouldn’t have crossed mine otherwise. Because of that, I am currently enjoying books by Amy Irish, Valerie Szarek, and Amy Wright Vollmar.

Thank you so much for talking with me, Chase!

 

The Eden of Perhaps was published by Spartan Press and is available on Barnes & Noble and from the author directly

 

About the Author:  Chase Dimock lives among mountain lions and coyotes in an undisclosed location between Laurel Canyon and the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. He serves as the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be Magazine and makes his living teaching literature and writing at College of the Canyons. His poetry has been published in Waccamaw, Hot Metal Bridge, Faultline, Roanoke Review, New Mexico Review, and Flyway among others. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his scholarship in World Literature and LGBT Studies has appeared in College Literature, Western American Literature, Modern American Poetry, The Lambda Literary Review, and several edited anthologies. For more, visit chasedimock.com

 

More Interviews by Chase Dimock:

Letting the Meat Rest: A Conversation with Poet John Dorsey

Dandylion Riot: A Conversation with Artist and Poet Jeanette Powers

First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places: An Interview with Poet Mikes James

 

 

Stew Jorgenson: “Dead Books”

 

 

Dead Books

Eventually

the past moves offshore

and memories blear

in the sad vermilion of history

like a dream

you almost remember

as it passes by

the legacy of besmirched heroes

covered in hearsay’s

ancient dirt

transmogrified

in dead books

unsung forgotten tongues

tarred

feathered

and on the run

in a country where

Emerson is a foreign language

no one speaks anymore.

 

 

About the Author: Stew Jorgenson is a part-time wordsmith who has more words than he knows what to do with. Sometimes he uses the extras for poetry, celestial navigation, or target practice. He has worked on farms, fishing boats, and in factories. He’s skilled at mistakes, guilty by association, and suffers from occasional bouts of inspiration. He is working on a cure.

 

More by Stew Jorgenson:

5 Geezus

Waiting for the Quiet

 

 

Waiting for the Quiet

By Teresa Yang

 

 

They just appeared one day, these huge black flies rubbing their legs together as if anticipating a roast beef dinner. My husband accused me of leaving the front door open for too long and allowing the invaders into the house.

These days the front door remains closed. Any opening is strictly as needed and transactional, to grab the UPS delivery. I leave the package on the table near the door, where the hostess gifts used to sit, so any residual virus can die a natural death.

That Saturday, though, the door was ajar for a full ten minutes. I was excited to see my friend Flo. I hadn’t seen her since February, since our last restaurant meal in a crowded, overpriced Santa Monica eatery where the virus was surely replicating as it was being invisibly transported on the burrata salad plate.

Flo’s visit had purpose. She was picking up some medical grade masks, ones that, to my surprise, I had offered to procure on her behalf. Flo’s mother had a heart valve replaced last year.

Mother’s lost some weight, Flo said.

Even though I no longer have a dental office, I continued to cold call my suppliers in search of masks and disinfection wipes. Once I even awoke at 5am to call a national dental supplier on the East coast.

I saved my rationed purchases like lifeboat seats, risking trips to UPS during quarantine to send protection to my children and elderly father.

When Flo’s shipment arrived, I inspected the flimsy boxes for the telltale ASTM3 label and could find none. So, from my dwindling supply, I gave Flo some authentic ASTM level 3’s.

Reclined in the front seat of Flo’s car, her mother said, “I’m going to compare these to my non-medical ones.” I was glad I had switched the masks. Flo’s mother knitted and crocheted, her eyes expert at detail work.

The flies must’ve snuck in during those ten minutes. Continue reading “Waiting for the Quiet”

Ryan Quinn Flanagan: Movies with “Momo”

 

 

Movies with “Momo”

Sam Giancana
would start the projector
and watch the same movie
with his wife every night.

Always in my Heart,
starring Kay Francis
and Walter Huston.

In that very same Chicago basement
he would later be killed in
cooking sausage and peppers
for those he thought were his friends.

But decades earlier,
the basement was where he and his wife
would watch Always in my Heart.

And after his wife died,
“Momo” still retired down to the basement
each night.

That empty chair beside him,
Sam would start up the projector
and sit and watch in silence.

 

About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

 

More by Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

Artisanal Birds

Before Evening Med Pass

He Brought His Canvases Over

 

Image Credit: Still from “Always in My Heart”

 

Andres Cordoba: “The Summer The Apricot Tree Died”

 

 

the summer the apricot tree died

I had been asked to tend to the still ripening
apricots that hung as small green bulbs
from the branches of a young tree
in its first flower.

Sown two falls ago.

Father pat the earth with hesitance
as he first lay the seeds to rest.
He smiled before pressing up his glasses
with a dirt covered finger tip.
It then began to rain.

Steady mercies.

 

 

About the Author: Andres Cordoba is a Massachusetts born writer. He has received honors such as the Ginny Wray Poetry prize, the Thayer Fellowship For the Arts, the Patricia Kerr Ross Award, and was named a 2019 Breakout 8 Writer in poetry by Epiphany: A Literary Journal. His work has appeared in Italics Mine, The Gandy Dancer, Gravitas, and Epiphany Journal. A real self-starter, a go-getter– a team player, if you will– his mother refers to him as the Michael Jordan of mutual losses.

 

Image Credit: Pomologie française: Paris, Langlois et Leclercq,1846. (Public Domain) Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Delora Sales Simbajon: “Wednesday Eve at the Doughnut Shop”

 

 

Wednesday Eve at the Doughnut Shop

One has to grip the glass first
before he can throw it,
he tells me as he moves his hand

towards our shared glass.
Far from our table,
a couple is wrapped

in their murmurs.
Now and then balloons
of laughter float around them

as their eyes mirror mist
for no other reason.
They’re having buttered

doughnuts, I conclude.
Far from their thoughts
but before them, I presume,

might be glasses with chipped edges.
He does not see
them, his eyes fastened

on our own glass. He firmly
holds it while I stroke his hand.

 

 

*This poem first appeared in Philippine Panorama, 1997

 

 

About the Author: Delora Sales Simbajon writes poetry from Mindanao, Philippines where she is based with her husband, Daryl. Some of her works have appeared online, in magazines and in anthologies: In Time Passing, There are Things; Brown Child: The Best of Faigao Poetry and Fiction 1984-2012; femi.nest: History and Poems of the Women in Literary Arts, among others. She is a recipient of the Home Life Magazine poetry award (Philippines). She works in communications but is also a certified life coach. She looks forward to publishing her poetry collection soon.

 

Image Credit: John Margolies “Dohman’s Donuts sign, Vicksburg, Mississippi” (1982) The Library of Congress

 

 

 

Jon Bennett: “Roundabout”

 

 

Roundabout

He was looking at a traffic map
thinking about his son
“Put a roundabout here,” he said
An anarchist in college
he read about the Paris Commune,
Mutual Aid, a lot of George Orwell
Then he had kids
“…those roundabouts take
some getting used to…”
and his son was named
after Jack London, but
now he was a Republican
a good kid though
He bought a house
and had a mortgage,
and was often
almost satisfied
“…in the end
it will work out better
for everyone.”

 

 

About the Author: Jon Bennett writes and plays music in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. You can find more of his work on Pandora, Spotify and other streaming websites, or by connecting with him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jon.bennett.967.

 

Image Credit: Wassily Kandinsky: “Circles in a Circle” (1923) public domain

Diana Rosen: “Hollywood Freeway”

 

 

 

Hollywood Freeway

Jazz transports from the John Anson Ford stage,
crowds entertain from their seats, everyday angst
dissipates on every downbeat. No recluses, no
agoraphobics, no shy people in the audience, just
lovers of this pure American music. Danger
accompanies me after the concert as I cross
the concrete overpass, stories high above
this strip of the Hollywood Freeway with racing
crayolas of cars seen in splatters through open slats
in walls shorter than I am. Purple wildflowers wave
from the western hillside, shout, Go Now! No, Wait.
Go Now. I gauge the speed of traffic. Are the drivers
alert? No, not now, too many, too fast. Now! Now!
I run faster than I know I can, jump like Joyner, land
like Lewis on the indifferent sidewalk, run downhill
without stopping til I reach the crowded Hollywood Bowl
bus stop with people oblivious, full of Mahler. I stand
nonchalant, hunt for exact change, cradle the coins
in my hand, step up into the Number 20 where I collapse
into the cracked leatherette seat scratching my thighs
hello. I say a thank you to the God of Errant Jaywalkers
and, yes, the Ray Brown bass solo was totally worth it.

 

 

About the Author: Diana Rosen writes flash, poetry, and essays with recent published flash and poems in Existere Art & Literature Journal (Canada), Potato Soup Journal, and WildforWords (UK) and an essay in “Far Villages”, an anthology from Black Lawrence Press. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. To view her work, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen

 

More by Diana Rosen:

Dinner at Six

 

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Nightime skyline view of Los Angeles, California, looking north over the U.S. 101 (Hollywood) Freeway” (2013) The Library of Congress”