Category Archives: Poetry

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

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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

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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.

What Work Isn’t

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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”

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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

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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.

 

All the Way in Charlevoix

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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.

Crab Apples

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BY MICHAEL WEBER

My doorbell sang till it was as out of breath as you.
Between huffs you said, you gotta see this,
it’s not too far. Far
meant something different then, a journey beyond
the concrete teeth of our neighborhood. Far
only required an imagination, a small pack,
and still being home for dinner.

You pointed to South Mountain—
the evergreens beyond our parents scream.
I knew well the lower ring of trails, trails
where the road was still visible, trails
who hinted but never dared. This time
at the fork we went up, right
at the white birch that V’d, left
at a mangled blue tent. You always led the way,
bragging about your new slingshot;
in foreign lands shooting acorns out of trees,
until I said, squirrel.

I stand in the road, somewhere
in the middle of thirty-two, looking up
to South Mountain, and I bet
it’s all overgrown—blended too many times,
no visitors to rewrite its way.
I spot a frantic squirrel, maybe red, rushing
from tree to tree, preparing for acorn-less months
this chill air promises will come.
I think of that red squirrel, its ombre’d tail
glowing crimson as it bled out in your hand.
Remember how fast it slipped? How that night
you sold Mickey your slingshot?
You saw my guilt, or maybe I envied your instinct.
I knew you could’ve been born in the trees—
cheeks always camo-ed in soil, callused
hands barking to climb, needing to know
you could survive here, sad
when you learned you could.
You buried that red squirrel in silence, sighed,
it’s just a little further.

We arrived at the orchard, your hands
still sticky with blood, insisting,
you first, I’ve had plenty.
I bit the first apple I saw. My face
went tart. I spit its bitter skin till you cried
laughing, stuttering crab between tears. My face
warmed with joy feigning anger. A jester
pretending to get madder, upon seeing you
roll in the fallen apples with laughter—learning
instincts of my own.

 

Michael Weber is a poet from Binghamton, New York. He has an MA from SUNY Binghamton and an MFA from the University of Tampa. Prior to his graduate studies, he savored a brief career as a professional hockey player in Turkey and New Zealand. His work has appeared in the Triple Cities Carousel. 

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BY SIMON PERCHIK

It’s a simple thing, you weep
and though your eyes are silent
they don’t reach –what you see

is your heart covered with stones
that have no mornings either
except far off where all mist starts

the oceans are grieving on the bottom
holding down your forehead
–so easy a flower could do it

say in its face-up way, Leave!
there will be no more kisses
and from your mouth all Earth

overflows, becomes lips and distances
–that’s why nobody asks you
lets you imagine you see her clearly

knitting a blanket, a white one
rusted needles in both hands, you
walking by, already thorns, roots.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013).  For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

 

Cardinal Call

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BY JEFFREY BILBRO

This afternoon we hung a bird feeder
in our back yard to be more neighborly
with feathered friends, especially the cardinal
we’ve glimpsed.  This evening, in the after dinner calm,
I googled “cardinal call” to learn what song
these brilliant birds could play.  Before the first
recorded clip was through, we heard its echo
from a distant corner of our neighborhood,
and as we played another variation,
the original answered from some closer perch.
At the third or fourth iteration, we saw
the curious red speck in the neighbor’s tree,
still calling, searching for this oddly insistent
intruder.  He finally flew to our back yard
and perched on the tree by our screened-in porch, then cocked
his head and peered toward the sound he’d surely heard.
He flew from branch to branch, then bush to bush,
foiled by this noisy but absent bird.  And when
he flew into a higher tree, one song
from my computer brought him back to the edge
of our porch to peer again, seeking out
the source of this mysterious voice.  Feeling cruel
to frustrate him, we stopped replaying the computer’s
call, and he flew to a high branch to sing
his repertoire again and again: to challenge
this hidden foe? to search for a companion?
merely to do what he did every night?
In all his baffled frantic flying he
did not once notice our proffered seed.

 

Jeffrey Bilbro grew up in the Pacific Northwest and recently moved to southern Michigan, where he’s an Assistant Professor of English at Spring Arbor University. His poetry has appeared in several journals, including The Clarion Review, The Anglican Theological Review, Radix, Windhover, and Christianity and Literature.