DS Maolalai: “A Perfume”

 

 

A perfume.

winter crowds
through windows
in the ellis
quay apartments.
the stairwell, thick
with a perfume
of spice and frying
steaks. someone
on the landing
has opened
their apartment,
clearing the kitchen
while they cook. steam
comes out, rushing
like a person
late for a train,
their wallet
in their mouth,
keys frantic,
fiddling their folded
up jacketsleeves.
it rolls along
the windows
which run on down
the stairwell,
makes mushroom
shapes which flatten
on the glass and frame
of winter. rises
on my footsteps,
like I left
something behind.
I turn, stepping brightly
along another flight,
quite delighted
and searching
my pockets for keys,
tasting the savoury
perfume.

 

About the Author: DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

 

Image Credit: INTERIOR VIEW, THIRD FLOOR, NORTH ROOM, NORTHWEST WALL, VIEW THROUGH DORMER WINDOW – Gambrill House, Urbana Park, Frederick, Frederick County, MD, The Library of Congress (public domain)

Ajah Henry Ekene “Of Aging”

IMG_20191210_130322555_HDR

 

 

Of Aging

Ma, your adult son is home. Things are not the way they look.
I have put a foot backwards. Many feet backwards. 
I have fried my dreams. My eyes are teary from smoke.
Ma, I cough. Bouts of sneezes. My internal rooms are hazy.
The dreams were large, too many. And when they burnt
They made enormous fire.
Growing up has been walking on hot oil. Each step tells me to hurry.
But hurry didn’t do ma. The sole peeled and peeled. 
Then I saw new skin and smiled.
Then it blistered ma!
My memory is turning. It cannot remember. 
Or it remembers too much; too much uncertainty. 
So, I do not know what I want to tell you:
Whether a confession of weakness; an acknowledgement of sorrow;
An admission of failure; or the subtle regret of not being enough. 
As I return to you, like we all do to dust, I know you will recognize me.
The familiarity of origin will absorb me home.
And should I have a choice in these things;
I will return to you once after this journey and refuse to be born again.

 

 

About the Author: Ajah Henry Ekene lives and writes from Nigeria. Some of his works are on Brittle Paper, New Contrast, AfricanWriters and The Kalahari Review.
He won 2nd place in NSPP (2017) and partly enjoys practising Medicine.

 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Tahquitz Canyon” (2019)

 

 

Author Conversations: Jenny Drai and Elizabeth J. Colen

 

JD: Hi Elizabeth! I thought I’d jump right in and say that as I was reading What Weaponry, which you call a novel in prose poems, and The Green Condition, which you call an essay, I started thinking a lot about the concept of story as somewhat separate JDraiHeadshotfrom what we (or at least I) often think of when I hear the word ‘narrative’. (I suppose I’m thinking of what I encounter when I read what is termed ‘narrative poetry’.) To me, your work seems to speak very much to the power, and to the necessity, of telling stories, even as you let the reader create connections from what’s left unsaid in the spaces between lines, between sections, in the silences. I’m reading your work as a series of impressions that build, that accrete, into whole pieces. Lyric stories. Could you say more about the importance of story in your work and how/if that influences the mode you write in for any given project?

EJC: Well, they’re both hybrid texts, both poetry and. And so, as such, I’m interested in the tensions between genres, the tensions between modes of meaning-making. So while in each there is intense play with sound as well as a forward motion (the simple way I define narrative or story), there is also a haltingness, a turning back, echoing, re-vision of events, etc, that takes place. Which also adds to the sound-play. And is more like the way memory works: wecolen_light_2 obsess over the details, rarely thinking big picture all at once. I like what you say, letting “the reader create connections from what’s left unsaid.” That’s very important to me. What Weaponry is certainly story in jumps, gaps that intentionally wait for a reader to co-produce narrative, which happens in any work no matter how seamless the narrative hand-holding. I’m interested in making those seams apparent. As a reader we expect the writer to bring content and structure; I like to turn that back a little: I’ll bring the structure and let’s both bring the content and see what we can do together. I hope the collaboration is more inviting than vexing, though I’ve had both responses.

In reading your work I’m also interested in your relationship to narrative. It’s definitely not a straight-forward endeavor, but that you align your work with existing narratives says something about your desire to tell a story. What made you come to align your story for example with Young Werther’s in The New Sorrow is Less than the Old Sorrow? Of course Wine Dark also immediately conjures connections with Homer. How important is that parallel?

JD: I think the parallels are important in the sense that I, as the writer, am saying something like, “This is epic. All of this has happened before. (And will again.) You/I/We aren’t alone in this phase of your/my/our existence and even though many of our experiences will differ greatly from each other’s as we move through time and space, maybe the connections, the points where our lives touch each other’s, as well as how they touch pre-existing cultural narratives (as found in stories, literature, etc), may be what can, ultimately, offer comfort.” I’d say epic isn’t necessarily comfortable, so there’s a tension there, in my trying to make the epic lived in, livable. Comfort is important to me, in the sense of coziness as a soothing balm for frazzled nerves, restorative warmth, safety. My whole life, I’ve looked for this comfort in the books I’ve read and I think this is why I am so apt to involve pre-existing literary narratives in my writing. In The New Sorrow is Less Than the Old Sorrow, for example, the Speaker comforts herself by comparing her loss to the great literary loss of Werther, who loves Lotte but can’t have her and therefore commits suicide. But my Speaker decides, meh, maybe her situation is less tragic than it seems. She goes on. In Wine Dark, in my mind at least, all of the poems have the same Speaker, someone who is a bit at sea maybe, who connects to blood and the sea as she literally sails the ocean and figuratively sails in and out of the personae she climbs into—Heloise, Jane Eyre, Scheherazade, Elizabeth Bathory. So even though Wine Dark consists of separate poems, they comprise, again in my mind, an unofficial series, and in fact were written during a relatively short period of time, then revised over months, years even. To me, it’s a book-length project in feel (but maybe all books are!!), if not in name. I think what I’m trying to say is that these poems always lived together as a group.

Since we’re both clearly interested in longer projects, serial narratives (or stories, if you will), I want to ask you about the importance in your work of going on, as opposed to, say, ending. It occurs to me that there is always going to be a tension, in story, between continuation and ceasing. In What Weaponry, for example, you begin the text with the line, “We build a place to be safe, start talking in circles and so build that way.” And you go on to describe a process of building concentric circles with found objects that widen out and grow. It seems, to me at least, that a text that begins in such a way can never really end. How do you negotiate in your writing the tension between having to impose ending, structure, and arc, with the fact that, I think, you are also very much writing in order to continue?

EJC: Yes! I am interested in books that are controlled in craft, while the content and concept gets out of hand. Books that consume themselves uroburos-style. Books that refuse completion. In What Weaponry I have what feels to me like both the ultimate ending and an anti-ending. The last poem “No One Waits in the Side Yard” is, I think, the loneliest poem I’ve ever written. It serves as anti-ending in that all sentences written in negation, everything spoken is also taken away. Everything both there and not there at the same time. Part of this might be my lifelong interest in The Twilight Zone. There is often the world and the not-world and they replace each other at will. Isn’t this a little bit how life is though. Nothing’s ever wholly there, there’s also the fear of the thing’s absence and the language that keeps it there.

What is your writing process like? Do you have rituals? I’m interested in writers as conjurers. Like, for me, I’m always reading out loud. And that’s what makes the writing start up for me. And also do you have a whole-book plan before you sit down or do you figure it out as you go along?

JD: I’d say my writing process is pretty structured, and yes, I often have a plan going in, and rituals, like organizing my pencils and highlighters and index cards at my desk before I start writing. The preparation of hot beverages also plays a role. But for me, what makes the writing start up is reading. I especially love pouring over history, legends, hagiography, fairy tales, and any sort of criticism taking any of that into account. I love to do research, albeit in a not-so-academic fashion. The worst part about living in Germany is that I had to leave a lot of books behind in a storage space in Vancouver, Washington. If I could go back in time and do one thing over, I would make different choices about what books to bring with me. I have a lot of books on medieval history and on Anglo-Saxon England in Vancouver that I would die for a look in right about now. But I did make some good choices too, and I’m happy to have those books here, all my books on fairy tales, for example, which I’m using a lot right now in the fiction I write. And there’s also the internet. There is so much online and a lot of time I copy and paste text and create MS Word files for myself of research I’ve compiled on different topics. So to answer your question more succinctly, reading (a lot of different things) and then research is what inspires me, what wakes me up, what gets me going. I would only add that sometimes I read a lot on a topic but end up writing very little. “Bathory,” for example, in Wine Dark is a very short poem, but I’ve read quite a lot about Elizabeth Bathory and watched several movies about her life. Although, to be fair, she shows up in a poem sequence in an as yet unpublished manuscript. I don’t finish with topics/figures easily, I suppose, and possibly this is because I spend so much time with them as part of my writing process.

But what about you? How did you approach writing What Weaponry? Did you write these pieces as individual prose poems and then see the larger connections or did you have the idea of them as a novel beforehand? Also, I’m curious about order. Did you write the pieces in the order they appear in the book, because I do see a narrative arc as I’m reading, or did they come to you differently?

EJC: We’re alike in that with a lot of what I write (especially The Green Condition and Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies) I do a lot of reading / researching / thinking far in advance of any writing happening. I tend to work project by project, slowly establishing some strong concept of a book-length project (or multi-book-length) and not so much writing towards that, but holding that concept at the back of my head while I write whatever it is I’m writing. At some point the pieces start to cohere into the bigger plan. Then I see what I have, the unexpected connections, and revise heavily to bring those to the surface. So I start with the grand plan, but the project never ends up being exactly that. It’s just something to keep me grounded.

My daily practice before writing involves reading poetry out loud. It’s the only way I know to get started. And when I read poetry, I always read it out loud. So you should know, when we traded books for this, I stood in my kitchen reading your work out loud.

What Weaponry was written on the train one summer. The Coast Starlight and the Southwest Chief. I had less of a plan with this book. I had plucked these two characters out of my first book, and was existing within / writing from a place of strongly conflicting excitement and deep sadness. I had a loose story after a few poems; the thrust of the narrative was built during the many-month revision process a year or so later, once I was clear of my own emotional upheaval and could let the characters do their thing.

***

Jenny Drai is the author of Wine Dark and The New Sorrow Is Less Than The Old Sorrow, both from Black Lawrence Press. Her first full-length collection of poetry, [the door], was published by Trembling Pillow Press in 2015 and her novella, Letters to Quince, was awarded the Deerbird Novella Prize from Artistically Declined Press. She is an Associate Poetry Editor at Drunken Boat and lives in the Rhineland. She has recently completed a novel.

Elizabeth J. Colen is most recently the author of What Weaponry, a novel in prose poems. Other books include poetry collections Money for Sunsets (Lambda Literary Award finalist in 2011) and Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies, flash fiction collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake, long poem / lyric essay hybrid The Green Condition, and fiction collaboration Your Sick. She teaches at Western Washington University.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RON KOLM

ron kolm photo parkside oct. 13th


WALT WHITMAN
By Ron Kolm

You,
Walt
Whitman,
Like
God,
Are
Everywhere
All
At
Once.



(Today’s poem originally appeared via Brevitas, was published in the poetry collection Divine Comedy, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Ron Kolm is a member of the Unbearables, and an editor of several of their anthologies; most recently The Unbearables Big Book of Sex! Ron is a contributing editor of Sensitive Skin magazine and the editor of the Evergreen Review. He is the author of The Plastic Factory and, with Jim Feast, the novel Neo Phobe. A new collection of his poems, Divine Comedy, has just been published by Steve Cannon’s Fly By Night Press. He’s had work published in the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Live Mag! and the Poetry Super Highway. Kolm’s papers were purchased by the New York University library, where they’ve been catalogued in the Fales Collection as part of the Downtown Writers Group.

Editor’s Note: At a recent reading in Brooklyn featuring SPS-beloved poet Leah Umansky, a man walked up to me believing we’d met at another poetry event. I told him I did not believe that we had, and in response he gave me a copy of his most recent poetry collection. This is poetry. Community. Going to readings and meeting artists whose work you love. Books given as gifts because poetry is connectivity; poetry is love.

I read Divine Comedy from cover to cover on my way home on the train that night. Gritty, blunt, and overtly sexual, it is not a book for the faint of heart. But what I found was that the backdrop of harsh reality made the book’s quieter moments shine more brightly. Today’s poem was found within those pages, a peaceful and meditative beacon of calm amidst an ocean of neon lights, graffiti, and chaos. There is room for all of this in poetry, of course, but I am a sucker for the beautiful, for the contemplative, and, of course, for Walt Whitman. Whitman who, as Ron Kolm so simply and eloquently points out, “Like God,” is “everywhere all at once.”

Want to read more by and about Ron Kolm?
MungBeing
Sensitive Skin magazine launch reading – Youtube
The Villager
Poetry Superhighway
Urban Graffiti

A Review of Heather Cousins’s Something in the Potato Room

Cousins Potato Room

A Review of Heather Cousins’s Something in the Potato Room

by Jennifer Dane Clements

Something in the Potato Room, the book-length poem that won Heather Cousins the Kore Press First Book Award, is an unexpected ars poetica. It is about many things, but ultimately about moments that surprise and redefine us. The constraints that birth new freedoms.

These constraints stripe each page: lines or coffins or boundaries, asking the reader to look beyond. Boredom. Routine. Depression. Sometimes—adulthood. Stillness is a rope, solitude a tether. We enter this book with an unnamed character bound by each of these things, exhausted by the details of her own routine:

“A pot of
paperwhites. A green
mug. A bottle of ibuprofen
and a sheet of Sudafed, the
little red gems sealed in foil.”

It is a dead boy, emerging from the basement earth, that breaks from his own hiding place and ultimately pulls the unnamed character from hers. Sometimes you are the skeleton buried in the basement of a newly purchased home. Sometimes you are the homeowner buried in the minutia of a tedious job and a solitary life. The unexpected makes you feel suddenly “pink/and full of skin.”

Sometimes a poem is a constraint. Sometimes a book. Mutual exclusivity can have that feeling too—the entrapment of either/or. We feel it for the unnamed character, and for Cousins too—for her poem that won’t be tucked in to notions of brevity, for her anthropologist’s eye for charts and medical illustrations and the things they only suggest.

We see the tidy boxes, squares and rectangles of text on the page, holding in what needs to be suppressed.

And we see the things that emerge from constraint. A discovery, an adventure. An excuse not to dress and go to work. A skeleton in the basement of a house. Death reimagined into life—and this doesn’t just mean the skeleton. The book, too, emerges from the brevity and smallness expected from the word poem. The book is a poem, the poem is a book, and the bones of a dead boy swim through layers of basement dirt to the surface to insist these constraints are all imagined.

“It seemed as if it hurt—
the coming-back-to-life.
Like frozen toes in hot
water. The ache and
shiver of blood breaking
from its sluggish sleep.”

The skeleton is dead, then reborn through imagined story. The unnamed character is alive without playing a part in her own existence. That thing that we expect, that very simple fulfillment of definition, is shut down and broken apart.

“Life
doesn’t stay still, and
death doesn’t stay still ei-
ther”

And here, still, are the things that can be made whole from the dirt, from the seeming emptiness of an unsatisfying routine. Here is a poem that was made a book, the skeleton made flesh through Cousins’s imagining.

Heather Cousins, Something in the Potato Room, Kore Press, 2009: $12.99.

***

Jennifer Dane Clements received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language & Art. A writer of prose and plays, she has been published in WordRiot, Nerve, and Psychopomp (forthcoming) and has had plays produced by Capital Repertory Theatre (Albany, NY), Creative Cauldron (Falls Church, VA), and others. Clements currently works at a theatre-service organization and serves as a prose editor for ink&coda. jennifer-dane-clements.com.

The Wives Are Turning into Animals

MWSTHB_Cover_04.27

The Wives Are Turning into Animals

by

Amber Sparks

The husbands are almost sure of it. They have strong memories of an earlier time, of the wives with soft smooth faces and ten fingers and toes.

But lately, things have changed. Some of the wives have grown scaly patches, or sprouted thick pelts. Some wives have shrunk considerably. White, wide wings have unfolded, horns have appeared, tongues have grown longer and rougher and pinker, noses wetter and more sensitive than before.

The men have grown uneasy at night, listening to the wheezing and snorting of the wives as they sleep, as they embrace their husbands with tentacles and talons and long tails. The husbands aren’t sure what to do, whether to say something. They wonder if it would be rude to ask about the wives’ new appetites, their sudden hunger for mice and mealworms and raw, wriggling fish. They worry that they won’t be able to keep these ravenous wives fed. They worry that the neighbors will complain about the carcasses littering their lawns.

The husbands worry, most of all, that their wives will finally fly or crawl or swim away, untethered from the promises that only humans make or keep.

 

***

Amber Sparks is the author of the short story collection May We Shed These Human Bodies, and the co-author, with Robert Kloss, of the upcoming The Desert Places—both published by Curbside Splendor. She lives in Washington, DC, with a husband and two beasts.

Book Review

Sloth by Mark Goldblatt (Greenpoint Press, 2010)
reviewed by Duff Brenna

Air the color of khaki, soot on windows prismed with sunlight, neon-skewed dust, the smell of engine fluid and pralines, steam rising from the hood of a truck, a cluster of taxis. Throw into this assortment of images an unnamed narrator trying to prove he isn’t crazy: “Despite appearances, sir, I am not out of my mind. Quite the reverse, it is sanity itself which moves me to this exercise. Sanity itself which moves me to accost you … “

Dostoevsky permeates Goldblatt’s Sloth, especially Notes from Underground with its duality and layers of unreliable realities. Add a large lump of adoration for a TV aerobics instructor named Holly Servant worshipped and wooed from afar by the love-struck diarist of this story and you have what amounts to a word-rich ride, rollickingly inventive.

Will Holly ever respond to the letters of the man who gives himself the pseudonym Mark Goldblatt, whose Medieval beliefs rely, in part, on the notion that beauty of flesh testifies to higher virtues of the soul, the inside reflecting the outside? Truth is beauty, beauty is truth, that’s all ye know on earth and all ye need to know. The nameless narrator a.k.a. Mark Goldblatt builds his dizzying “metronomic dance” around Keats’ famous insight into what makes males tick, especially horny young males transfixed by “areolae shining like tulips through her leotard … pixied blond hair clinging to her moist back and shoulders.” Goldblatt, the real one, the author self-reflexively observing the fictional one, could easily (if he wanted to) write literary pornography that would rival (possibly surpass) anything Robert Cleland wrote when he was obsessed with Fanny’s fanny. But though Sloth doesn’t shy away from things sexual, titillating sex is not its primary purpose, which is rather a somewhat philosophical search for identity.

Who is a.k.a. Goldblatt? And who is Zezel (also known as Mark Goldblatt) who dips in and out of the narrative, playing the role of “best friend” and perhaps in the past a.k.a.’s lover, a great perhaps that a.k.a. denies. No: “He is my dearest friend, yes, but an odd case.”

Who is Mrs. Zezel? Mrs. Zezel is “a Vassar girl … summa cum sassy.
She is, in sum, the very locus of reason, a geometric proof of the soul …” And also trickster devil-may-care “cross between Lauren Bacall and Leo Gorcey.” Mrs. Zezel gets a.k.a. a date with Allison Molho, but he stands her up, an insult for which Mrs. Zezel will never forgive him, even after she finds out her husband Zezel has taken a.k.a.’s place and is in full-blown adultery mode. Mrs. Zezel’s revenge falls on a.k.a. This comes later in the book and is aided by a kitchen counter. Let your imagination loose, Goldblatt certainly does.

Into the author’s cheerful tongue-in-cheek muddle concerning the vicissitudes of love comes a.k.a.’s desperate need to make enough money to buy a VCR, so that he can rent Holly Servant’s Sunrise cassettes and watch her aerobic gyrations, until he is sweat-soaked and satisfied—at least for a few moments.

His main source of income comes from being a waiter. Not a waiter who waits on tables, but a waiter who waits in line, standing in for those who don’t want to show up too early and wait for doors to open for shows and/or events to begin. But the meager income a.k.a. earns from waiting is not enough to afford the coveted VCR. He reads an advertisement asking for volunteers for a scientific experiment. He signs up and is given some green pills, which might or might not contain a new psychotropic drug. His instructions are to take the pills and record his moods or behavior and return to the office every two weeks to have his finger pricked. Each time he is pricked he also receives one hundred dollars. What a deal! He’ll have that VCR in no time and will be able to spend his days and nights wallowing in Holly’s mesmerizing pulchritude.

The plot thickens when a young gay man is murdered and a.k.a. becomes a person of interest. At this point Zezel has already fallen for Allison Molho. The woman who pricks a.k.a.’s finger has also fallen for Allison Molho. Then Mrs. Zezel has that encounter with a.k.a. on the kitchen counter. But even before such a frightening event, Holly starts answering a.k.a.’s letters at last. Their correspondence moves them ever so slowly closer. Maybe he’s her soul-mate. He tells her he is a writer and sends her some of his stories. Problem is: Zezel wrote the stories. Zezel wrote them under the pseudonym Mark Goldblatt. So right away a.k.a. is misrepresenting himself. He’s already lying to the woman he loves more than anyone else in the world.

And then they talk about meeting.

And the detectives keep questioning him.

And a menacing-looking man is spying on a.k.a.

When Zezel breaks into the apartment and reads a.k.a.’s journal, what he finds there makes him want revenge for the kitchen counter incident with Mrs. Zezel.

Will he do something desperate? Will he hurt a.k.a.? Will the spy kidnap him? Will Holly really show up for the rendezvous? Will the detectives try to pin the murder of the gay man on a.k.a.?

Well, it just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Sloth is a work full of artistic flavor and Rabelaisian slumming. It is funny, serious, insightful and as unique in style and substance as any seriocomic novel I’ve read since Steven Gillis penned The Consequence of Skating or Junot Diaz wrote The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Some novels leave you with a smile. Some leave you thoroughly satisfied. Sloth does both.

***

DUFF BRENNA is the author of six novels. He is the recipient of an AWP Award for Best Novel, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel Award for Favorite Book of the year, a Milwaukee Magazine Best Short Story of the Year Award, and a Pushcart Honorable Mention. His work has been translated into six languages.

Flash Fiction Series: Sarah Sarai

Vows

by Sarah Sarai

It is no secret that there is a lot of jabber in the world coming from everywhere including the streets and the houses with their people and telephones and radios and TVs, all of them blasting at you day and night so there is no peace.  I know none of these things, these inventions or these people, are really saying anything to anyone, let alone to you or me.  This is a fact.  Some of the people who live here claim otherwise.  They slink up to me real nefarious, ask me if I’ve heard the message and then slink off.  I walked into the communism room last night, with all these empty chairs but one and the TV going real loud and this guy sitting but kind of jerking towards the TV.  He looked at me like I was an emissary of the third coming — the second coming is past tense to most of the people around here — and pointed like we had this shared secret knowledge, at the tube, then directed his eyes right into mine as if there was anything in his stupid mind to communicate.  I said, “Shut up,” and walked out.  I said it loud to make sure he heard me because if you don’t stick up for yourself it isn’t my problem. READ MORE

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ANNE SEXTON




THE TRUTH THE DEAD KNOW
by Anne Sexton

For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton (1928 – 1974) was an influential American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. Themes of her poetry include her suicidal tendencies, long battle against depression, and various intimate details from her own private life, including her relationship with her husband and children. (Annotated biography of Anne Sexton courtesy of Wikipedia.org.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is dedicated to the poet Norma Liliana Valdez, who recently shared an audio recording of Sexton reading today’s selection. Keep an eye out for the work of Ms. Valdez who, like Sexton, has the ability to transform emotional turmoil into a poetic experience that transforms her readers.

For me, this piece slices as close to the bone as a poem can. That inevitable human experience of losing my parents is my greatest fear.

Despite the inherently personal nature of the poem and of Sexton’s experience, a distance can be felt in her choice of words and images. In another country people die, not in this, her own country. The dead lie in boats, not here with her. And Sexton’s discussion within the poem is directed to her darling, to someone among the living with whom she is sharing an experience of touch, of connection, of living and of not being alone. It feels as though in order to even comprehend the overwhelming experience of losing her parents Sexton has to distance herself from that experience and throw herself into connection with another living being, with the notion that “no one’s alone.”

Want to read more by and about Anne Sexton?
Audio recording of Sexton reading “The Truth the Dead Know”
Modern American Poetry
Poets.org

FRIDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: Kenneth Fearing

X Minus X

by Kenneth Fearing


Even when your friend, the radio, is still; even when her dream, the magazine, is finished; even when his life, the ticker, is silent; even when their destiny, the boulevard, is bare;
And after that paradise, the dance-hall, is closed; after that theater, the clinic, is dark,

Still there will be your desire, and hers, and his hopes and theirs,
Your laughter, their laughter,
Your curse and his curse, her reward and their reward, their dismay and his dismay and her dismay and yours—

Even when your enemy, the collector, is dead; even when your counsellor, the salesman, is sleeping; even when your sweetheart, the movie queen, has spoken; even when your friend, the magnate, is gone.


Kenneth Fearing(1902-1961) was an American poet, novelist, speechwriter, editor, and journalist. One literary critic named him “the chief poet of the American Depression.” He helped found the Partisan Review and took an active interest in leftist politics while also churning out pulp fiction that sometimes bordered on the pornographic under the pseudonym Kirk Wolff. His poetry uses contemporary vernacular to probe the grotesque in the urban landscape.