Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sample poems from the Chapbook Contest!

1) Ellaraine Lockie
Autopsy Means to See with One's Own Eyes

In death she relaxes, parts her legs willingly
Watches with a spirit's fly eyes
the white gowns hovering over her
Hands holding, knives, chisels, scalpels and saws
in a room bleached of color

He bent over her
weight feeding through one leg onto her belly
The blade flashed an echo of car light into the alley
A siren slashed the night
Too distant to be a soldier's song

The first cut forms a Y from shoulders
to sternum to her pubic bone
Rivers of blood flow into a steel gutter at table's edge
Somewhere Chopin plays a nocturne

She smelled the blood before she felt its
hydrant flood from the ear-to-ear smile on her throat
Smooth and welcomed after the rage of storm
Then the red gargle

Curvature of stomach is cut and emptied
Intestines drained in a sink
The easy way to excrete
Even the stink lounges on impervious air
Behind masks come murmurs
about police awaiting what she had for dinner

Her spirit eyes didn't blink when a rat
ran over her face or later when cameras flashed
Red pools rusted thick and sticky
Dispatch radios scratched the surface of sound

Debris of Bordeaux, mesclun, escargot and green
peppercorns place her at the Encore Bistro Francais
from nine to midnight

She still sees the red wine, blood of Christ
gracefully drip from the bottle onto white linen

2) Marvin Dorsey
A heart beat

Things were moving kinda slow
didn’t know what was about happen
for me to see

I allowed my mind to masturbate
with a thought of an idea
whose time was none

I was in some shade
with some shadows
the conversations were far from being wicked

In the thicket of the bush
was the reflection of a tomorrow
where sorrow was replaced by joy
and chaos by calm

In the toy world nothing seemed to be happening
the sound of no hands clapping was silence
only my heart felt the vibrations
they came and went didn’t know were they had gone

In the end I couldn't remember
the time we spent together
like a leather strap
my skin became invisible
the air in my lungs became soft

And the only thing I could hear
was a heart beat

3) Toti O'Brien
Photo Album

last year’s
photo album
I see faces

Nobody ever
in the frames
that’s allowed
to kids

nobody argues or
in that case
you don’t click


Well our daily
I guess
skips those

Life is here
recorded indeed
like a flowing
stream with

Life goes by
storms or waterfalls
curled by a


And what else
is worth
after all
but those proofed
of grace

All the rest is
un witnessed
hanging from the
of our mind

4) Jon Epstein
Breasts Ala Carte

She handed me a condom with foreign writing on it. I'd only
used a rubber once before, and getting that first one on was
clumsy. I felt clumsy again. I felt awkward. I felt like I
may be possible prey to her or her man, who was probably
just on the other side of the closed door, listening.
Nonetheless, I stripped naked and got on the small bed. She
took off her skirt and panties and joined me. “What about
your top?” I asked. She answered: “That's five Guilders extra.”
I said okay, got up, and extracted an extra fiver from my pants.

I thought we'd first kiss and fool around. I drew her face
close to mine and she recoiled as though I were a hot flame.
I asked her: “What's wrong?” “There are some things only
my husband gets,” she answered. I thought Jesus, I'm
gonna fuck somebody's wife? I didn't know the rules.
I was wet behind the ears. I was in many ways still a virgin.
I had only slept with two girls before anyway. One I was
in love with, and the first one I didn't know at all; we'd met in
a park, but when the sun rose, I was in love with her too.

5) Anita Holzberg
Her Step, Your Step
For: Aunt Bern-- (Palm Beach, Florida)

In the sweeping
I took a look back
the vision startling

your face staring
into mine

your eyes fluttering on
bird's wings
your neck
strong unrelenting
of a life
rattling the silence

on white baked tiles
sea rolling in

an earshot

Your slim legs

I heard my Mom in
your step

Your step
Her step

Your slippers

Her slippers

so much alike

golden glimpses

You, the sun.

6) Jim Babwe

Sprinting from the stage,
she snatches a bathrobe from the hook,
fumbles with the terrycloth tie,
barely closes the knot
in time to shoulder through the exit door,
find keys, (please) start car
because her sister phoned
and how did Daddy find out?

You don't know, either.
You don't know he's on the way
to her apartment.

You don't know.

She knows she better get home first,
before he finds you
in front of the television--
finds you writing poetry--
finds you with your feet on the coffee table
while she works where she works,
does what she does
and brings home more cash
in a single month than you
brought home last year.

She better get home
before he finds you,
but she does not.

He will not knock.

The two of you
have never met,
but he will know your name,
and you will know who he is
before he introduces himself.

He will ask a question.

He will not remain calm.

Your answer will not matter.

He will ask to see
the current draft.

When you show him a piece of paper,
he will remove it from your hand,
and he will take the clipboard, too.

He will read fast,
will not be open-minded,
will quickly process
what he cannot believe she does,
clearly described by the metaphor—
cleverly included in the poem you wrote
to reassure her that it's okay;
you know how it feels
to stand naked in front of an audience
because you are a sensitive poet.

Her father will tell you to stand up.

Your answer will not matter.

You heard
he was a decent linebacker,
head-first sliding shortstop,
found Jesus (but not perfection) in jail,
and now you know--
given certain circumstances
(this one, for instance)
he will risk a little more time
in the slammer in exchange
for a kind of justice
frightened neighbors report
as a loud disturbance
followed by a single heavy thud
against the wall or maybe the floor
before police arrive--
too late to save the handsome contours
of your re-arranged face.

7) Maggie Westland

I started as a stone
dropped by a bird
of prey, sank into
Earth, split husk
and in the dirt
without sun or rain
came up despite the
dearth of warmth.

No hearth no heartwood
just a spindly strip
began to climb
as weak as tendrils
from a twisted vine.

Now full grown, I am
hollow, but a hull
unfilled, in want of
what I cannot even
comprehend I want.

My leaves curl in the
wait of springing up.

8) Tony Peyser

The former sees the glass as half full
even when it has poison in it.

The latter sees the glass as half empty
even when it has holy water in it.

Compared to hi-fi,
Wi-Fi is sci-fi.

9) Helen Graziano
A Sonnet for Mesoamerica

You are my siesta sleep of my soul
You-- aroma of earth—are my one source
Dark liquid in your heart along courses
Coffee the color of your skin—castagna

You are my supplicant, your limbs are taut
With you I do not need the sight of sun
You enter the portals of my heart
And are as a river, through it you run

You are my Macchu Picchu, my artist, my link
Conquistador, sun-god you are my lonely icon
An Aztec you’re Cortes who loved too, I think

Slave--you are my Sun-- no Anglo angst, no strife
No longer weary unfulfilled or bored
Like Frida, I grasp the calla lilies of my life

10) Patrick Thomas Jeffries
To Be Or Not To Be

The first move
The first movement to connect
The first my heart in your hands; “respect or reject”
Outside one of those famously adorned Halls of USC
Outside, o I remember the bricks; the name I can’t see
Outside standing with gay Hans looking at me in glee
After class soaking up my wild bullshit on Dostoevsky
After all, hehehe, it may have been the new philosophy
But we will just call it B.S. for the sake of playful modesty
Well you had come by forming a triangle that only Hans could really see
Entreated my overture telling me about your barbecue and inviting me
Flash forward and how a young man’s balls of fire can create chance
Flash back then forward and what is born of eternity can’t be advanced
We’ve mattered, had plenty of high times; mad fun while creating trust
Fattening me up to subdue bachelor lust; now Hans would look at me in disgust
There goes the triangle that never had to be stressed as I knew how to pass the gay test
My eyes locked on your treasure chest of bountiful breast wild brown eyes blessed
Over the years we would come and go, to and fro; filling any absences, any needs
Till there came the real feeling in us that I was actually for you and you for me
And this is true to me, as partners, I could ride with you till the sun does set
But in the moment is my Indy mantra while marriage seems your latent bet
And we discuss it and it is fun, cuddly and joyful to think happily ever after
But U & I know if we got married today our habits would make it a disaster
We will not discuss them here—we battle addiction with blood and sweat
One thing I feel confident about is it’s no longer about “respect or reject”
Whoa! Loving U w/ maddest of passions but my individual self I still don’t get
And I fiercely fear the disappointment you may feel if I move to protect
Myself— Married or not even w/ U the question is like a flip of the coin to me
Been burned real bad walking to the tune of that beat walking down that street
So, when it comes to marriage now got to say I am like Hamlet: To be or not to be?

11) Rosalee Thompson
To Live in a Plastic Bag

Your newly divorced father buys a round glass bowl
Martin Mills Profishent Goldfish Food
rainbow colored glass rocks from Mars
You kiss the bowl goodnight
like a sweet older brother
The same dream
Instead of dropping you off at Mom's apartment
Mom, Dad and YOU live in Dad's cool house
Everyone smiles like TV people
Floating on top of smelly water
your eyes open like a fish
The sound of ping pong balls skip
skipping on glass
Eyes open like a fish

12) Cliff Moore

A breeze flirted with the mercury but it was still hot
and Grace and i contemplated a stirring inside us
as a butterfly also enjoyed july.
we spoke and said more than we intended
not really knowing
but knowing all along about hope.
so we smiled a political smile,
this that we harnessed, the unharnessable, we let go
like you’re supposed to goes the old saying
and we entrusted our futures in the words of a cynic.
i held my breath as i passed her
she looked up and i hoped she walked fast
and was holding hers too.
she nodded ballet-like
when i knew then her parents premonition
and realized
as our paths crossed nine oh two, monday
that even a breeze has a pulse.

13) Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
Hipster Loft Party in Downtown L.A.

Scratchy band plays in the courtyard.
The city’s young, scarved, and booted mingle
by ambitious art. Only the red-lipped Mona Lisa
is captivating. She wows her enthusiasts
juggling conversations and drinks.
The French-Canadian composer proposes a party game,
“If you had a ladder, what would it look like?”
“Rope.” He flinches dissatisfaction.
I try again, “Tough rope.”
A bearded photographer fans like a peacock,
“Mine is collapsible. Made of gold,
and helps me reach my greatest desires.”
(Of course.)
The composer directs me a second time,
“Imagine a cube.”
“It’s a black box two feet by two feet.”
His eyes tell me I fail to feel the rhythm.
“And you can sit on it or use it as a table.
It can be what ever you need it to be.”
The French-Canadian smiles, “Yes. Wonderful,”
and turns to the red-lipped girl,
as if I was only the static interrupting her song.
“What would your horse be like?”
My horse? She closes her eyes. My horse.
Memory rushes through her like hot winds.
She is chocolate brown with little spots on her flank.
Her dancing tongue annunciates “flank”
by lifting L and leaping through K.
Little spots that can barely be seen,
like my freckles. She touches
delicate spots along a cheek bone
(We are all her Romeo).
And I hold on to her mane while I ride her,
she giggles, I ride her bareback bound for white sands
through a tropical storm.
Her shiny hair tosses back, and it becomes easy to see
the rain, wet clothes, trembling thighs
gripped around an elegant animal.
She opens her eyes. The collecting crowd clinks glasses.
The French-Canadian claps and bows at her feet.
She is a spectacular gold ladder, and I,
a black box two feet by two feet.

14) Jeffry Jensen
If I Were...

If I were a caterpillar on page one of a children’s book
putting its fuzz to the grindstone, I probably would not stop
believing in the power of camouflage to keep me safe from
the scrutiny of an English department that feeds on Foucault and Derrida.

If I were rummaging through a trailer home for
my childhood and I found furniture floating out of
a full-length mirror, I probably would not break out
the Yahtzee dice and roll up a storm of sixes.

If I were channeling Charlie Parker on a Saturday night with
clouds hugging the mountains as a wind tears through the
valley, I probably would not punish the babysitter who taught
me about nakedness in the chill of my parents’ bedroom.

If I were riding on the back of an Indian elephant through
a national forest with my feet talking trash, I probably
should not shock myself into believing that my ATM
card is home building up an empire of nondeductible debt.

If I were listening to the White Album at midnight in
bed with the covers over my head, I probably would not
want to be grinding my teeth down to the source of
the Nile with the clocks running backwards up Victoria Falls.

If I were flipping through a reference book in search of
the year a German novel was first translated into English, I
probably should not be expected to remember that I need to
pick up a new supply of filters for the house ventilating system.

If I were curled up in a sleeping bag on the beach just south of
San Felipe in Baja with a big wind blasting snakes out of the
rocks, I probably should not take the time to relive the Thirty Years’
War and how whole patches of ground were denuded by careless armies.

If I were standing in line at the market with five items in
my basket, I probably would not have enough time to run
down the list of all the girls whoever made me lose
consciousness with their earthshattering French Symbolist kisses.

15) Carolyn Siegal

Movie sex with cigarettes

It has been so long since

My naked toes curled in fresh cut grass

My back arched a waterfall

I followed

Alice running, Eve falling

Mistakes not forgotten

The warmth of the sun washed the back of my neck.

Leaned close to smell my spice,

Pressed dreams and flowers of another life

In my open palm, a shot of light across

A dark wall, I am whispering twisting dust

A piece of lint, a crumpled tissue

Falling through the air

Until I fall

We all fall down

Secret words spread peanut butter

On my wings, complicate things

16) Lisa Marie Sandoval

They arrive to the gathering
middle-aged with barrel bellies
some tall, some short, some thin, some not.
Gray strands stream through
their beards, heads of hair, or not.
The years have chiseled their course
on women’s hands, under their eyes,
rippling thighs they no longer show.
Soft-white curls cascade as each slowly bends
to sign the sheet and find a chair here
or there in the square of the café.
A single goal binds their words,
as all poets purge themselves of the past.

17) Erika Wilk
Silver Bullets

In the cold ocean waters
west of Cape Agulhas, South Africa
millions of sardines swim in unison this way and that

like a choreographed number by Twyla Tharp
aggressive one moment
gentle the next
resembling a floating silk scarf

the pattern changes when sensing danger
forming into a dense mass
moving as a unit at great speed
they huddle for protection

a shark approaches
he torpedoes into that tight ball of silver
it splits
as if struck by lightening

hundreds of thousands of the slender fish succumb
to the ravenous appetite of the shark
who swoops them up into his cavernous mouth
some get away

life continues in the deep
a new generation
of these agile fish will once again dance
in the cold waters of the African coast

at the aquarium I stare mesmerized at the
cylinder containing thousands of silvery
torpedo shaped sardines
I am enthralled by their beauty and speed

18) Michelle Angelini
Stirring the Stars: Galactic Playground

Epigraph: The stars are so close over your head you could reach up to them and stir them around. ~paraphrase from a Clark Gable quote from It Happened One Night~

don’t reach quite as far
as imagination leaping
into an unclouded night sky
blooming with constellations

I dream
of an island where
crystalline waters
reveal secrets
whose veracity
I never trusted
and white sand beaches
bump against star-crowded skies
so that my hands can reach up
and turn handsprings
on this galactic playground

I can
shake hands with Orion
pet the ruff of Cat’s Eye
unchain Andromeda
make a request of Cassiopeia
ride Pegasus to the Southern Cross
say a prayer for renewed prosperity

Each star
sends me on my way
diminutive bits of diamond
cling to each hand
illuminate a heart where darkness
sometimes crowds radiance
novas explode in a sky
where creation does not depend on mortals

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