Category Archives: Words

After the Rehearsal, We’re at Rex’s Roadhouse in St. Paul

16592440438_58ce40750f_b

BY RODNEY TORRESON

where saddles hang from the rafters;
lassos brand the menus. If my friend Tom’s
feeling roped into this marriage, he doesn’t show it,
as he impersonates his profs at med school,
gets us laughing so hard our heads
are almost under the table
before coming up for air. But, later, behind
the restroom door, with its hearts and spades
and interlocking six-shooters,
Tom and I at the urinals, he stares at the wall
and says, “I won’t be at the church tomorrow.
Do what you want—stay away or show up.”

 

I feel like we’re the bad guys at the O.K. Corral
in a shootout with the Earp brothers.
“You should tell Robin, “I tell him, but wash my hands of it. “I can’t,” he says,
then it’s rock’n roll, with Tom drumming
the towel dispenser, singing the Bee Gees,
the song he’d wail and knuckle the table to
at the campus canteen when we were undergrads:
“I gotta get a message to you. Hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through,”
he sings through a grin.

 

Tom’s only message, though, is for me,
as I cringe for Robin’s family from Brooklyn,
friendly folks, not a woolly eye among them, who’d close
the great divide between the Midwest and the coast.
But the next day, without ceremony,
Robin’s plopped on the floor of the church vestibule,
family circling her in the aching off-limits,
her dress, hopped up on frills, looks more for mopping
than a sweep train, and I, standing around,
hands in my pocket, relieved I can’t reach her,
pretending to know nothing, and not once sensing
how a stone rubs up against the truth.

 

Rodney Torreson was the poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2007-2010, He is the author of four books, his most recent, THE SECRETS OF FIELDWORK, a chapbook of poems published by Finishing Line Press in 2010. his two full-length books are A BREATHABLE LIGHT (New Issues Press) and THE RIPENING OF PINSTRIPES (Story Line Press). In addition, his work has appeared in many anthologies and literary journals, including THE BELOIT POETRY JOURNAL, LOUISVILLE REVIEW, POET LORE and TAR RIVER POETRY.

Windsor, Ontario: Mount Francis

Windsor Star Demo (2013)BY CASSANDRA CAVERHILL

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

For fourteen weeks
the grasses grew
so high they turned
to accidental prairies.

The union tossed bottles
and wire hangers
into the parks
to stop residents
from mowing down
their wages, confronting
scabs in the fields
as they pushed
through the tangles.

The artists threw
seed bombs
into empty lots and
erected official-looking
habitat signs along the edges,
hoping that the wildflowers
would stay once
the dust of
mediation settled.

On Central Ave
the picketers chain-smoked
along a trash heap
dubbed Mount Francis,
after the mayor—
a businessman

balancing budgets
post-recession—
while squawking seagulls
circled above signs sporting
“No 2-tiers!”
“No takeaways!”

As the auto factories
hemorrhaged jobs,
folks flocked west
to the oil sands,
leaving those who remained
to undercut each other
for what was left of
the middle,
collecting garbage
for a dollar per bag.

It took a hundred-and-one days
for resentments to peak,
for the divisions sown
to overrun the parks,
the pools, the pavement.

It took a hundred-and-two-days
for the politicians
to trim the wilderness
back into a shape
that could be
controlled;

for the workers
to take their concessions
and clear the streets
of rot and rats; and

for the pundits
to market our descent
as a model for cities
being bled dry.

Cassandra Caverhill is a poet from Windsor, Ontario. She currently lives and writes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dream in Which a Coonhound Reckons the World

an acrostic Redbone Coonhound poem

redbone-coonhound1

BY GEORGE KALAMARAS

Ran into the woods, dream after dream,
easily lost in the sorrow-well of human dross.
Damned if I didn’t find me a hound,
backwoods-bred, Scottish red, calling my name,
ordinary-like, as if it was natural for a dog to speak—
not with the mouth but through the eye.
Eerie. But kindly so. Ginseng-brain—‘sang. Foxfire-wide.

Could not have been more right. Could
only be fear fencing other fears. Conjugating—confiscating—my heart.
Only be split rails or river rock, stone-walling off the world.
Not that it mattered in the dream. Franz Kafka.
How could he be there? Dark. Brooding. Scribbling onto a coon-hide.
Ordinary-like. And so much of me I wanted to turn
under the earth, as a way to reinvent flower-shape and size.
Not this, not that, the yogi from India—suddenly seated in the sycamores—spoke into the
        leaves.
Didn’t matter. Knew it was best to follow the hound, deeper, more deeply, where I lay,
        lying, lied.

 

George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011), and The Theory and Function of Mangoes, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series (2000). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

EARRINGS

Earrings by Leslie Brown imageBY LESLIE BROWN

I never been on this part of Hastings Street. This part is not like Grandma’s street. Maybe it’s different here cause all the buildings come up to the sidewalk, and the street starts right next to the sidewalk, so the only place that grass has to grow is between the sidewalk’s cracks.

Even in this heat, there are a lot of people on the street around here: People are standing in front of buildings fanning themselves, playing checkers, or just standing around and gossiping. Ladies and girls standing on the street, all made-up red lips, like the ladies in the movies, fixed-up for a party. There was one lady who didn’t have on make-up. Her hair was messed up, and her face was puffy; she looked sad.

Sometimes Grandma and me have to step into the street to get around the people. I don’t think they were trying to keep us off their street. They just didn’t have no other place to be, the sidewalks around here is just too skinny for people to be sitting and for people to be walking.

Even the cars on the street act funny, the people driving them didn’t seem in a hurry. I saw a car stop near the ladies and the sad looking lady went over to the car and lean against its door, and talked to the person inside. Then she opened the door and got into it.

Continue reading

What Work Isn’t

dumpster

BY TRACY MISHKIN

You’re building a machine that turns everything
into a joke. Pallets, clotheslines, odd bits
of hose. Every project half-finished or never quite
begun. How is sodden carpet worth saving?

I yank weeds, snatch black plastic mats, and load
the wheelbarrow again. Sweat spatters my glasses.
When rain comes, I slog on. Junk limps
into the dumpster—bricks and rakes and bones
the dog has long abandoned.

When I ask for help, you say the grass is wet
and you are wearing sandals. Your asthma is acting up.
You fell asleep on the couch. You late
and lazy bastard. I should throw you in that dumpster,
change the locks, and make love to the silence.

 

Tracy Mishkin is a call center veteran with a PhD and a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Butler University. She is the author of two chapbooks, I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and The Night I Quit Flossing (Five Oaks Press, 2016). 

The Answer to Your Question is, “Benevolence, Trees, and Horses”

image (1)
BY CAL FREEMAN

Considering a height that sheers
to concrete,
you remember that backyard elm from
your youth with its three forking boles,
how you’d lay a two-by-four
between them as a bridge
and move among the upper branches
on that precarious scaffolding
as if you couldn’t come to peril,
as if, looking down at the rounded backs
of garden stones, soul and providence
were givens. One night
as a summer storm approached,
you climbed to better hear
the dry leaves sing and to feel
the way the whole tree swayed
to keep from breaking, reaching
toward the fence line
and the dark ground. Years later
you took to horses in the same oblivious way,
bucked a dozen times into sand
and gravel and dirt, somehow never
busting a bone in any of those falls.
You’d read that trees speak
to each other through their roots, sharing sugars,
huddling against wind, and that their peril
was in being alone—they willfully
give us nothing and it might, after all,
be incorrect to speak of single trees—
suckers, widowmakers—but copses,
stands, and forests, whole subterranean
networks of roots and molds—
but isolated crowns in gales still resemble
the head of a panicked Arabian fleeing
your white-knuckled grip
and your shrill voice at a dead gallop.

 

Cal Freeman’s writing has appeared in many journals including Commonweal, The Cortland Review, The Journal, Passages North, and Hippocampus. He is the recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature, The Ariel Poetry Prize, and The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes). He has also been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction, as well as Best of the Net and Best American Poetry. His collection, Brother of Leaving, was published by Marick Press, and his chapbook, Heard Among the Windbreak, was published by Eyewear Publishing (London). Freeman’s book, Fight Songs, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in the fall of 2017.

Three Emily Poems

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 11.48.26 AM

BY DARREN C. DEMAREE

 

EMILY AS DEEP NIGHT

Reclined in the back
of a borrowed black
& gold truck, Emily

& I are not lost
& we cannot be found
& the short, metal valley

we’ve claimed as shelter
in the unending Ohio
night, is just enough

cover to leave fingerprints
all over the epic.
We are the evidence.

 

EMILY AS SHE’S NEVER BEEN MINE

Do you think
that Emily
isn’t choosing

these words?
She dressed
as fire

for Halloween
& now all
I can think

about is Emily
as fire
& she knows

that. I am
simple. She
knows that.

I am the act
of typing
& I am hers

& she is putting
together one hell
of a mythology.

 

EMILY AS THE ROOTS REMEMBER THE BLACK DIRT

I’ve had sex with Emily.
I am not, currently,
having sex with Emily.

This terrible withering
has me longing to be
fed by her existence.

I need to learn to
appreciate the sun without
feeling like I must

take over the garden.

 

Darren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently “Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly” (2016, 8th House Publishing), and the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. His poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

 

Dear Ms. Ainsley

BY JOEL STREICKER

April 2, 2003

Ms. Wendy Ainsley

Greenmoor Country Club

Winnetka, Ill.

Dear Ms. Ainsley,

I wanted to phone you after receiving your voice message last Thursday but thought it would be better if I wrote as I can put my feelings down better on paper. I purposely didn’t call either because of the guilt I felt for leaving such a rude message on your voice mail. I sincerely hope you can forgive me ‘cause I’m not a bad guy. I’ve been married for almost 56 years to the same blond girl I met after I got out of the Navy in 1946; I helped raise three great children the oldest just retired from Warner Brothers record Co. as their Senior VP, in charge of business and legal affairs; A Cum Laude student at Harvard University; a daughter who was rated the best attorney at the U.S. Government Legal Office in Portland, Oregon; the youngest son an anthropologist and an instructor at Stanford University. So what I’m saying is, I must of done something right although they didn’t get the brains from me; they all came from the blonde. I majored in football, baseball, and tennis in high school and college.

Continue reading

All the Way in Charlevoix

flags-922911_1280

BY ALEC HERSHMAN

In a Monday rude with sunlight
are each of many, native leaves

I no longer recognize. Two teens
on a bench laugh like lactic acid. One jokes

to the other about his “beef feather”
and the nearest tree seems to be made to be

taller by the smallish song of a new bird
I can scarcely make out. Light jazz like smoke

in its woozy branches. The heft of my stupor
is first lead, then wax, my satisfaction

both fundamental and ridiculous.
Forget the forgetting and my ears in the world

take on a preternatural tone. I am not surprised
at the bridge, for instance, when the siren divides

the town that was two towns in half.

 

Alec Hershman lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has received awards from the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts, The Jentel Foundation, The St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, and The Institute for Sustainable Living, Art, and Natural Design. More of his work appears in forthcoming issues of Cimarron Review, Western Humanities Review, The Adroit Journal, Bodega, and Columbia: a Journal of the Arts. You can find out more at alechershmanpoetry.com.

Grandville, Michigan: The Rose Room

BY CARLY SHISLER (Grand Valley State University)

StemsThis essay was an honorable mention in the 2017 Narrative Map College Student Writing Contest. 

Kelley hoisted the door open and a ding promptly followed. We peered around the empty shop, the vacancy of other people was unimportant because we felt welcomed into a room with only flowers. The scents met our noses with a cooling effect, almost like when mint Chapstick encounters lips. Our eyes were pleased with the blurred view of different hues coming from every which way. Without focusing in on a specific flower, the room looked like an abstract painting. We were stopped in the doorway taking it all in.

“This place is so cute,” Kelley spoke softly to me as she reached out stroking the petals of this grand, crimson, wonderfully fresh Chrysanthemum.

“I’ve never been to a place like this,” I claimed, sharing my awe. Kelley and I didn’t have much to our lives in Michigan but school and lacrosse. It wasn’t our home. This was the first place in Michigan I felt undoubtedly comfortable and serene.

The silence inhabiting the shop hushed us and forced our other senses. We waded through the aisles admiring the bushels and blobs of color that surrounded us. We took in the gentle scents of lavender, sage, and dirt creating the perfect blend. We took our time admiring the bundles of flowers, no two alike or the same. The stems already cut and the thorns already pricked. The room began to open up as we saw the flowers each individually and instead of them consuming us.

I started to think about Michigan in terms of why I was there and why I hadn’t decided to let go of where I came from. Michigan was completely foreign to me. Walking through those aisles, my mind kept flashing back to my hometown. I saw the downtown lights flooding the street sides as I looked at the ceiling lamps. I noticed some flower cutters on a back table and it took me back to hot sweltering days of poking and prodding the trees in our yard. My mind raced back and forth from my home to this new place, finally calming as another door came into my sight.

I curiously shifted towards the door. Grasping the handle, which felt like a car door in the middle of February, we shuffled through the door and into the chilled room letting the door collapse behind us. It was a long, narrow hallway-type room. Our pupils grew about two sizes bigger and mirrored the wall of colors before me. They weren’t mixed together this time though; the blues were in one place, the reds were bunched together, and the pinks covered their own space too. This was the rose room, filled to the brim and covered wall to wall with fresh roses giving us a sense of tranquility and relinquishing a bit of their purpose to us. We were in a trance. Time stood still.

We weren’t even acknowledging the presence of each other anymore, standing next to one another as if we were ghosts. I began to move forward, planting one foot at a time. Rooted in one place, I noticed a smaller clump of roses. An off-white base, almost cream, topped with a deep red color. The petals were big and full like the in drawings you see of roses. Perfectly imperfect in the way the petals seemed to fit together, like a puzzle. I reached for it touching the smooth stem between my fingers, feeling a chill run up my arm and then down my spine. I held that rose as I continued down the narrow hallway. I felt like Alice, but instead of Wonderland, I was in a room of roses that towered over me. The next rose I grasped was a vibrant, yet subtle yellow rose, and I kept wandering. The room seemed to continue forever. A new flower popping up as soon as I would turn the other way. Each flower represented another tie to this place, another memory for my mind to escape to. Something I desperately wanted away from home.

I ended up with enough roses to fill at least five vases. I could go on to describe each rose individually, as they each seemed to possess their own personality. We walked out the door, flowers in hand and grins extending beyond our faces. Nothing else at that moment mattered. My mind was numb with happiness and was content where it was. There was no curious racing from state to state. In fact, I still have the flowers. A bit duller and shrunk, but perfectly frozen in their state of beauty. I still think about that day every time I look at the roses. An insignificant day in the grand scheme of things, yet still holds power over me. I had found a place that manifested joy in the present rather than force a memory from the past.

Carly Shisler is a student-athlete at Grand Valley State University seeking a degree in Marketing with an Advertising and Public Relations minor. She was born and raised in Naperville, IL and came to Michigan to play lacrosse. She loves to write as a hobby and hopes to continue using writing within her future career.