Joe Milazzo: “absolute clearance”

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absolute clearance

one crewman is singing
as he sucks the old cellulose
(basically paper one contractor tells
me as if balancing the enormous sphere
of his expertise on the tip of this detail)
out of the attic so his buddies
(so I assume) can start
doing their remediation for us

later I hear him laughing
the laugh of a thin man
pitched high but languid
the space between each “ha”
a left foot working the sostenuto
almost as if he were laughing
at the reflex itself (maybe all the
involuntary stuff sardined
in the rising and falling of a chest) (maybe
the deus ex machina dancing
behind laughter’s stunts)

their day is done once
they’ve blown in new snow
drifts of fiberglass to hide
our home’s irregularities and
obstructions and penetrations
waiting for the crew chief
(one of those chummy guys
covered in pale orange fur who
we’ve never seen not
wearing shorts) to come
and inspect their work their talk
turns theological at least I hear
them talking about god as if
they know him (or it) or maybe
they’re gossiping about a pastor
who fleeced a woman of her
powerball jackpot but I think
their conversation is less a matter
of bullshitting and more one
of apologetics or anagnorisis (shut
doors sheetrock that needs to be
depopcorned and my own Sisyphean
posturing crossing up any interpretation)
but I think someone is under some
pretty terrible conviction
maybe the thin laugher has strayed
or keeps aligning himself with
error and his friends are endeavoring
to steer him from perdition baptizing
him in the mold and rodent pheromones
(shit and piss) that as briefly
ago as this morning (before
these men showed up on our doorstep)
were hanging above our jitters
our foreplay our role-playing our time
in front of the TV and now
to pad their hours they’re sweeping
out of our garage into the alley
and from there who knows where

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About the Author: Joe Milazzo is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie, two volumes of poetry — The Habiliments and Of All Places In This Place Of All Places — and several chapbooks (most recently, @p_roblem_s). He is an Associate Editor for Southwest Review and the Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Surveyor Books. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, and his virtual location is http://www.joe-milazzo.com.

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Image Credit: Mike Whye ” ATTIC, SOUTHEAST POST AND THREE BEAMS IN CENTER AREA OF ATTIC, LOOKING SOUTHEAST. – Fort Leavenworth, Building No. 17, 20-22 Sumner Place, Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, KS”  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mike James “Generations Apart: Two Poets on One Theme”

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Generations Apart: Two Poets on One Theme

A Review of Once Upon a Twin, by Raymond Luczak

and New York Diary, by Tim Dlugos

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Here are two books (one poetry, one prose) which cover similar material in different ways. The approaches are informed as much by generational shifts in attitude and sense of self as they are by genre.

Tim Dlugos is one of the many poets, artists, and musicians who died from AIDS. (The list is too long for one article, but Jack Smith, Jim Brodey, Karl Tierney, and Klaus Nomi are among the not-often-mentioned-enough.)

Dlugos was in the generation right after Ted Berrigan’s and his work often has a similar chatty, try-anything feel. David Trinidad, who edited New York Diary, also edited A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. That book is a must-have for anyone who loves poetry or for anyone interested in that era. (Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader is another key and recent text.)

New York Diary serves as a sort of appendix to A Fast Life. The diary chronicles the summer and fall of 1976 when the twenty-something Dlugos moves to New York City. He’s appearing in magazines. He’s already published one small collection. He’s helping with readings and presses. Most importantly (to the diary and to a lesser extent the poems), he’s living. He’s flirting with the famous and the near famous and having anonymous sex with the unknown.

There are two audiences for New York Diary. The first is Dlugos completest. His fans are not legion, but they are devoted and passionate. This book will not disappoint them because it shows Dlugos working on his poems of “spontaneous goofs, flights, body motions” while also tracking his day-to-day.

It would be wrong to state that New York Diary should be read only by scholars and devoted fans. The book is enjoyable for any fan of poetry gossip because Dlugos is such a wonderful line-by-line writer. His entries can be notational, but he sketches out the ambience of his time in quick, jagged, and jazzy lines. Here are a few entries which can be read without context:

“Reminds me of a nun, without the saving gutsiness.” “In middle of a dance-floor sound bombardment, I discovered S&M component of disco.” “Clean, salt-water taste of his body.” “So much time still taken up w/ indecision.” “Phone booth has been put up outside front door. I haven’t sunbathed in a week.”

As much in his diary as in his so-necessary poetry, Dlugos is joyfully quotable. Within ten lines he can be graceful, funny, sad, and catty. On rare occasions he can be all at once.

Raymond Luczak is from the generation after Dlugos. He is a queer, deaf poet who is very much alive. He is as concerned with recording his life in his poetry as Dlugos was with recording it in his Diary. Maybe more so, since Luczak never seems to draw a line in regards to what he is willing to share with his readers. The only adjustments he makes are the adjustments of craft. Luczak is a skilled craftsman and this collection shows him operating within a variety of syntactical styles. The poems are all autobiographical, but he speaks in many voices.

It’s often dangerous to suppose that a poet’s work is autobiographical. Rimbaud and ten thousand poets since have made it clear that “I is another.” Luczak, however, confirms the autobiographical nature of these poems in a brief and interesting afterward. Instead of muddying the poems with explanations, he provides context for the catalysts behind his writing life.

Luczak’s skill is shown throughout, but he especially excels in small, subtle touches. The longest title in the collection has the fewest words. It’s a list poem called, “the easiest words to lipread in a school yard (even if you’re not deaf.)” Here are the last five words to the poem: “sicko / showoff / stupid / you girlie.” The additional word in the last line surprises the reader and frames the collection. The poet is not only deaf. He is queer. And he is Catholic. And then he is a foster child. His life unfolds and the hits keep coming.

He weaves his themes together throughout in poems where “anything forbidden / becomes even more desired.” The collection shows his growth from being a timid and clumsy child into a “serpent tongue of hiss” with a “catalog of grievances.” All the while, Once Upon a Twin may or may not be a false narrative. The memories are real, but stories and the lens they are viewed through change over time.

One of the many striking things about this collection, as well as Luczak’s poetry in general, is the immediacy and directness. He is not a poet who hints. He is a poet who reports. In Once Upon a Twin he has submerged a diving bell into his memory. He makes his readers grateful for the inventory he brings back.

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Books Reviewed:

Once Upon a Twin, by Raymond Luczak
Gallaudet University Press, 2021
Poetry, $15.95

New York Diary by Tim Dlugos
Edited by David Trinidad
Sibling Rivalry Press, 2021
Prose, $15.95

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About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His 18 poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), He has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.

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More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

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Image Credit: Charles Demuth “Zinnias” (1915) Public Domain

Alex Z. Salinas: “Auditorium”

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Auditorium 

I dreamt I was invited to Vladimir Nabokov’s
Auditorium to read some poems & impart
One piece of advice to his advanced English
Students—as in, they all possessed diverse
British accents—& I was jittery, butterflies in
My stomach, my face oleaginous (an adjective
My geology professor friend once used to de-
Scribe that vampiric doofus Ted Cruz) & upon
Conclusion of my reading, Nabokov cleared his
Throat as if to say, Now onto the business about
The 1 piece of advice, Salinas, & all I could
Muster in all my oleaginous splendor was,
“People suckle on doom & gloom’s teat less
Pleasurably than you think”—less so advice &
More so self-help spewed into a mirror,
Refracted as a monochrome rainbow—to
Which Nabokov’s students stood & clapped
Thunderously, whistled, wanted more, begged
“Encore! Encore!” & it was clear I was finally
Accepted by academia, I’d punctured the dubious
Membrane of the ivory tower, & then I glanced at
Nabokov who sipped from a bottle of Diet Coke,
The flesh around his eyes slack & bored, an un-
Tended mausoleum sculpted from an iceberg.

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About the Author: Alex Z. Salinas is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Hekate Publishing: WARBLES and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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More by Alex Z. Salinas:

Pen Dream

Neruda in Six Haikus

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Image Credit: “AUDITORIUM, LOOKING TO SCREEN – Hamilton Field, War Department Theater, Between Main Entrance Road & North Oakwood Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA ” The Library of Congress

Maryfrances Wagner: “Dreaming Through Covid”

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Dreaming Through Covid

Most nights I dream of the dead,
my mother telling me, my father agreeing,

that we all feel afraid sometimes.
That’s what the counselors tell us.

I rescued a dog but she bit my friend.
Someone is dreaming about her daughter.

I want my mother to come back
to dream about me.

I stand in a crowd and everyone offers me
caviar, wine, and crisp crusts with smoked salmon.

Will someone come to get me when I die?
Today my nephew called to say he dreamed

about his Nonny and Papa, about going
to their house on Sunday, but I wasn’t there.

He said that he didn’t want me to die
until I gave him Nonny’s red sauce recipe.

Today the peace plant unfurled two new
cupped white heads, shiny and perfect.

Only two days ago, I considered, its leaves
tiresome, moving it downstairs.

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About the Author: Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, The Silence of Red Glass, and The Immigrants’ New Camera. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al. She co-edits I-70 Review and served as Missouri’s Individual Artist of the Year for 2020.

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced illustration excerpted from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. South African botany London, Longmans, Green,1922. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/37736321 Creative Commons License 2.0.

Damian Rucci: “For the Parking Lot Kids”

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For the Parking Lot Kids

Don’t listen to what they say;
you know the ones, the beautiful,
the clean faced, the scornful eyed
yuppies whose parent’s blood money
bought them a lease on the good life.

Their path was never meant for you,
their bridges are made with gold,
their teeth are porcelain, their homes are warm,
they have never met the world as a stranger.
But you’re still out there, in that parking lot,

burying your dreams with pitchers of disbelief—
doing the same shit with the same people
like you weren’t meant to cast a shadow,
living a life that you never agreed to
makes you greet death as nothing but a fool.

Even grains of sand are lifted by the wind,
even bad seeds can grow in fertile soil,
even the damned can be forgiven—
but you’ll let another day pass, won’t you?
Tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow?
Tell yourself that you need a plan?
You don’t make your appointment with destiny
you just make sure that you show up.

The only thing worse than fear is regret,
sitting on the fence your whole life just leaves you sore
there’s a world beyond this damn parking lot
hell is already filled with men who have never tried
there’s a fire in your belly, so what’s stopping you?

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About the Author: Damian Rucci is the unofficial poet laureate of every 711 in New Jersey. His work has recently appeared on gas station bathroom stalls throughout the Midwest. He is probably banned from your local bar but you can find him on Twitter @damianrucci or at damian.rucci@gmail.com

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More By Damian Rucci:

One For Cory

Hound Speak

Melancholy and the Afterglow

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Image Credit: John Margolies “The Barrel, 6th Avenue, Devils Lake, North Dakota” (1980) The Library of Congress (public domain)

John Dorsey: “Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain”

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Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain

because he has to be doing
something up there
besides playing shuffleboard
& singing duets with john prine

he says harry crews
sucked all of the air
out of the room
reading one of his poems
croaking like a frog
who had gainesville
by the throat

saying something about how
he ate all the good flies
in a dancehall

that was never
meant
to last.

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About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Rainbow and complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California ” (2012) The Library of Congress

Aarik Danielsen: “Prefilled Communion Cup”

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Prefilled Communion Cup

I break the seal
constraining the body of Christ,
finger the wafer like a gambler
handles his last chip.
This one’s gonna payout
or bust me for good.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”
I let it ride.

“In the same way Jesus took the cup …”
I finish the juice in a single swallow,
and feel the blood of Christ
pass greedy lips,
skate across stale breath,
settle in my purgatory gut.
Shot, meet chaser.

Liquid courage
to walk out into the world and bet it all,
believing in something
—anything—
for another day.

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About the Author: Aarik Danielsen is the arts editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri and teaches at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He writes a weekly column, The (Dis)content, for Fathom Magazine, and has been published at Image Journal, Plough, Entropy, EcoTheo Review, and more.

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Image Credit: William Butterfield “Qu’Appelle Church: communion plates and chalices” [Canada], 1892. Digital images courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Jason Ryberg: “Dreams of Empty Houses”

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Dreams of Empty Houses

Time is always calling
or dropping by (without calling)
at all the wrong goddamn times,

always unexpectedly just coming around
and turning up at the absolutely most
inconvenient and inappropriate moments,

inviting itself in and over-staying its welcome,
bumming all your cigarettes and beers,
using up the minutes on your phone and finally

leaving you, this time, with nothing but
a useless ring of keys, a head full of
crack-pot schemes, a vague sense of having
forgotten or misplaced something, and,

for some strange reason, dreams of empty
houses and apartments where you just can’t
be sure you’ve ever been in, let alone
maybe even lived once.

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About the Author: Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell (co-authored with Damian Rucci, John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2020). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

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More by Jason Ryberg:

Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner

Sometimes the Moon is Nothing More than the Moon

All of the Above

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Image Credit: Robert Hicks “VIEW OF BUILDING 54. BEDROOM. FACING NORTH. – Winehaven, Rectangular Three-Bedroom-Plan Residence, Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot, Richmond, Contra Costa County, CA” (1996) The Library of Congress

Lisa Creech Bledsoe: “The Magician’s Handbook

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The Magician’s Handbook

 

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Twelve years old, heads together. Impatiently unbraiding the twisted paper fuses of a Black Cat half brick, fingers smeared with charcoal. Then: mailbox, culvert, tin can, matchbox cars exploded. We sliced open smoke bombs and bottle rockets, argued Spy vs Spy, dueled with matches. We smelled of saltpeter and sulphur and pumped the air with both fists, exactly who we dreamt of being.

 

2.

The spies. Costumes, possibly dresses. Funny, mad, bold. Could have been anything. Amazing recuperative powers.

 

3.

In the basement below the silversmith’s shop was a magician’s working studio. I would have sneaked down, too. When the Great War was over, the sneak sawed a woman in half. Everything changed.

 

4.

The woman. Tied by wrists, ankles, and thin, pale neck, locked into a coffin, holy blessed mother.

 

5.

“As an effect it has a neatness about it,” said a magician-in-residence at Imperial College’s department of surgery.

 

6.

They begged to see the pretty lady dismembered live. “Watch her face closely; even she doesn’t mind! Perhaps it only tickles.” Suddenly everyone wanted a woman to be the one subjected to ropes, saws, knives, bullets. She wore less and less, smiled more and more.

 

7.

He once famously invited a well-known military leader and suffragette to be the woman sawn in two. She had studied law but wasn’t allowed to practice. She had been imprisoned for shouting for voting rights for women. Imprisoned over and over again. She declined to be roped and tied, locked up and sawn in two. She knew about war.

 

8.

The spies alternated winning and losing.

 

9.

Some of them had feet of dazzling turquoise, or red. Landing on decks of sailing ships, they were easily captured and eaten. The English name booby was based on the Spanish slang bobo, meaning stupid.

 

10.

Of all the heavens and the earth, there are no animals that live always and only in the air. We must land somewhere. At sea, few choices.

 

11.

Pills, screens, couples, marathons, atoms. Things get divided, sometimes with illusions maintained. It has been a season of loss. You & I: we are still here.

 

12.

Unable to escape, a magician sawed himself in half.

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About the Author: Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others.

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More by Lisa Creech Bledsoe:

Some Revelation is at Hand

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Image Credit: “Harry Houdini, king of cards” Chicago : National Pr. & Eng. Co., [1895] Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

K. Andrew Turner: “We still call it the Strawberry Patch”

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We still call it the Strawberry Patch

Sketches of fruit succulent
half-remembered
    like picking strawberries
    in the summer with Mom
the cool New England breeze
perfect and each berry
ripe, juicy, and sweet.

Math, calculations adjacent
to red, faded like the fields
south of the 210—now an
outdoor strip mall.
    Numbers like ledgers of
sales, the taxes more money
than strawberries can bring.

for the art Strawberry Fields by Melissa Macias

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About the Author: K. Andrew Turner writes literary and speculative fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. He teaches and mentors creative writers near Los Angeles, where he lives, works, and writes in the San Gabriel Valley. He is the Publisher of East Jasmine Review and a freelance editor. You can find more at his website: http://www.kandrewturner.com

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Image Credit: Melissa Macias “Strawberry Fields”