Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 6

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EPISODE 6: An E-Mail to William Logan
Cc: David Orr
Bcc: August Kleinzahler; Garrison Keillor
Subject: Inquiry from a Lone Wolf

Good Morning Mr. Logan:

I am a 47-year-old administrative assistant for some company that I imagine does some good in this world. I hold a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, but I really don’t remember much how that happened. I have a vague recollection of nearly wanting to minor in Religion. Today, I live in Bridgeport, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (bang bang). I sneak cigarettes behind my wife’s back, but I’m certain she knows this – she tells me as much. I love her with all of my heart, she’s truly my better half, and I apologize to her for this constantly. Anyhoo …

Since the mid-90′s, when I first became a Guns n’ Roses-loving subscriber to The New Criterion, your criticism has plagued me as an encouragement to take my own quest for poetry with acute seriousness. Thank you for being a stepping stone in my ever-establishing suspicion that a poem deserves to be more than poetry, and that the poet must risk his stake in poetry for the sake of the poem. I must convey here, however, that I am quite apart from you morally: my tactical view of survival in this labor that is our art shows as a mostly informal process. Side by side, the emotions of our work would show we hang amidst pointedly different crowds – mine is the slightly burned out but still smoking, not the flickering. We may not ever be drinking buddies, but my respect for you is of solid stuff.

I have calculated a course of obscurity that promises to properly unveil the booty of my vision for language’s use. That’s to say, I have been setting myself up to be discovered by the literati, as opposed to engaging the literati for notice. I am fully aware that it is important for the artist to move beyond the self to embrace an empathetic notion of the greater possibilities for art to actually mean something in the world. (I also understand that our particular art is of absolutely no use/interest to a huge majority of the reading public.) I understand the artist must share, must partake in the artist community. Blah, blah, blah. That said, it does seem to me that in such a chosen course it is wise for the no-name recluse to poke his utterance out of his hole every once in a great while and attempt to have an influential individual or two of the culturally curious and critical world become interested seekers of his potential.

This is one of those instances where it would be advantageous of me to pull my head out of my ass, and reach out from the grave I’ve been digging for myself: Below is printed a 1218 word opinion piece that I would like to see published in NYT‘s “Sunday Review: Opinion” this month. I imagine with the subject I take on, and with myself being an unaccredited basement-dweller, I will not be taken entirely serious by the editors there. I believe I will need some backing, someone of esteem to place my piece in their hands with an encouraging word about it. I hope you will find the opinions I express about the poet Michael Robbins to be deserving of an audience, no matter how street-thuggish they may be.

I thank you advance for your time and efforts on my behalf.

Chalice Sinclearly

Satellite vs. Probe
by Chalice Sinclearly

The hoopla that cropped up around poet Michael Robbins’s debut effort in 2012 propelled him into “Rock Star” status. Well, as “Rock Star” as one might become within the American poetry scene. With his sophomore effort about to hit the shelves at month’s end, this is an opportune time to illuminate the failings of the poet who popped up within the book Alien vs. Predator, and in doing so also reevaluate the very character of poetry.

Though the choice Robbins conjured for the content of his debut – various elements of Pop Culture: Pop figures, Pop slogans, Pop products – could indeed seem to position his work as being an invitation to the nonpoetry reader, and though while this promise of accessibility might evoke the sense that his poetry is offering something audacious, it must be argued that within the big picture of contemporary American poetry, Robbins’s work is just the same old same old. That’s to say, his craft is totally safe for consumption – like a seemingly devious craze that brings deep pleasure to delinquents but happens to strike no fear in a parent’s or community’s conception of complacency. I have no beef with Robbins’s highly developed technical chops and the energy he brings to his execution of these skills (and as an aside, I will also acknowledge that such a command of rhyme and meter should be practiced every now and again by any poet wanting to prove his weight). Rather, what I find miserable is that his craft exudes a carefully chosen roguish pretense that is unwittingly betrayed by its fluff. Robbins is all pretense, no substance; all exuberance with no elicit afterparty. In this age in which folks are too quick and so damn happy to confuse information as being wisdom, the poetry within Alien vs. Predator proves to be the perfect poetry for the contemporary poetry world to grandstand: it’s academia donning a “School Sucks” T-shirt.

It is my fear that Pop Culture is all Robbins really has. He reaches out to the easy accessibility of Pop Culture with the presumptuous assumption that such entities as Camel Lights and Motörhead hold within their reference some edifying metaphorical ambience, when in all actuality such things as Fruit Stripes and Theraflu are really only that: only Fruit Stripes and Theraflu—unsweeping, self-delineating objects. Pop Culture is by no means weightless and without its place in poetry, it just doesn’t work when it is being used as poetry. (Let’s not even get into the drawbacks of obsessive name-dropping here, which Robbins heartily practices, what with such peeps as Milton and Swinburne popping up in his lines.) The occasional placement of an entity of Pop Culture in a poem reveals the poem as an entity concretely present in the real world, while, at its best, simultaneously acting as a simple, unclogging, stepping stone in the meditative disclosure of the poet’s greater offering. On the other hand, when attempted to be used as the poet’s greater offering, entities of Pop Culture end up acting as dumbed-down markers. Think of that sweet little pop tune by R.E.M., “Man on the Moon” (not a poem, undoubtedly, but the words serve my purpose here): turn right at Mott the Hoople and drive until you pass by Fred Blassie and arrive at Twister, take another right; you’ll come across an impersonation of Elvis, but keep going straight till you come to Newton and his apple – stop right about there, look out the passenger’s side window and you’ll see Andy Kaufman in a wrestling match. Now that was a fun little ride, wasn’t it? Sure it was. But that’s the makings of a log; that’s not the makings of a poem. Overly employing entities of Pop Culture in the endeavor to achieve a tangible, poetic atmosphere will only ever have one result, and that is the quaint rendering of nostalgia. A nostalgia for the ever-observable, to be specific, which is a characteristic of the poet who hasn’t learned the road grids of a dare taken or grasped the progression of addresses within a compromised imagination – a characteristic of the poet who lacks the intuitive understanding of direction needed to navigate off campus towards a genuine investigative experience.

Robbins is asserting—one might even say plainly inserting—objects of Pop Culture in the reliance that they will cumulatively promote his voice as being that of a crafty personality. In her review of David Bowie’s offering, The Next Day, NPR Pop Critic Ann Powers reflected upon the song “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” by commenting how with references to the likes of Brad Pitt the song plays out as a rumination on celebrity. She commented, “He is making modern myth out of our everyday lives.” Could this be in some fashion what Robbins is up to in his debut? Well, I’m not even sure if that’s what Bowie is actually doing. To my mind, the essence of Robbins’s failure lies in the fact that he satellites; he does not probe. When Robbins mentions CSI: Miami or Slash or the like, it’s just that: all mention, no meaning. Likewise, when Robbins references a meth lab it’s just that: a reference—the bottom line being you can tell without reservation he’s never seen a tooth decay inside a drug house before. At this stage, Robbins’s work seems best suited for providing such high-end critics as The New York Times’ Dwight Garner with the license to himself go Pop and impress the kids by laying down such a supposition as, “You can also imagine Florence Welch, the soaring voice behind Florence and the Machine, wrestling these lines into bat-black song.”

What-evs. …

As evidenced by the aforementioned quote, Mr. Garner expresses much excitement for Robbins’s debut. However, two sobering observations within his review of Alien vs. Predator prove Mr. Garner is able to see through Robbins’s pretense, see beyond the publisher’s press release, and recognize the poet’s inconsequentiality (basically, quite conveniently servicing my point of view herein). Mr. Garner says, “He’s not confessional; I doubt he has much to confess. He’s not particularly soulful. He doesn’t, as yet, have overly much to say,” and “In bad young poets, knowingness is to knowledge what truthiness is to truth, as Mr. Robbins’s lesser stuff makes plain.” These observations speak volumes. For in his review, Mr. Garner is only able to comment upon how Robbins’s poetry speaks to and of poetry; sure Robbins references Pop Culture – the outside world, as it were – but it’s only done so in the cause of poetry. His craft is all about craft at this point, meaning he does not complicate language, he patronizes it: his sensibility is that of a boy band, not of a spiritual.

The worthiest poem is the one that is found guilty of being more than poetry: It becomes within the reader’s experience an emotion that risks against self-righteousness to menace the toil inherent within a disclosure of the imperceptible (even the lightest of poetry achieves this; well, at least within accomplished hands). Not that the poem becomes a thing of life affirmation; rather, it’s that the poem becomes a life of things affirmed. The poet couched in Alien vs. Predator relies too heavily on smoke and mirrors, rather than ball and chains. Here’s to hoping Michael Robbins’s sophomore effort is more difficult.

This is publisher/poet John Hospodka’s kind of bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Crown of Roses – Micro Essay

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by Adriana Gonzalez

I met you when I fantasized about walking into the sea. I remember it was a time when I outgrew my funeral dress, a time when I collected rosaries out of anxiety and impulsion. I met you when I was falling into various cracks and disillusionment—attempting to sift through fog and glassy transpierces. And no one knew about my fascination with seaweed. No one knew that I slept all day after learning about rocks and wavelengths in my last semester of college. I didn’t tell anyone that sleeping was the only thing keeping me from tangling in the folding water. You have to understand why you creep in so soundlessly, how you made me aware of the crisscrossing cells that make up my skin, how you taught me about sage baths and how imperative it is that we love our mothers.

We were bred from a fire town, a dry splintered city tucked away in southern California and you taught me about watering dirt to reduce the heat that would soak in our soles.  You told me so often, you have to hold things in your hands and really feel their edges, cup their form and burn it in you because what we hold in this life is all we have.

When I found myself in front of you again, you asked me, how did we get here?

I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how my sister getting married brought me back, how I sat in my green dress and thought about your t -shirts and your picture frames and your porch.

Will you promise me things? Can we carve out ledges in the Montana terrain and swell with the soil? I’ll make us an herb garden. I’ll only use vinegar to rinse out the sinks so the cats won’t be poisoned.

Let me tell you how I imagine your dusty hands melting on me, how I want your palms on my thighs, an engraved permanent burn where my children will ask, whose hands are those? I will turn to you in your boots, and you will smile down at the floorboards, your palms full of iceberg roses you’ve just pruned.

I’ll keep rosaries and follow the beads if it leads us to our own ocean or lake or a dirty dust where we tangle in our golden limbs. We will shake ourselves into various foundations where we chart up maps and have a home with our daughter who we named Barcelona, and we will put her to sleep with diamond skies and a wooden house—maybe some brick pasted to the walkway so her toes won’t splinter. And if they do, you will pick her up, hold her to your chest while I take her tiny feet in my hands and pull out what does not belong.

Adriana is currently studying Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches first year writing, a Follet Fellow, and an assistant editor for Hotel Amerika. Her work appears in the August issue of Hippocampus.

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A Series of Poems

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by Michael Estabrook


I step over a penny in the street
Dad you can’t leave it there
bring it home save it
it’s bad luck if you don’t

Okay honey I didn’t know
I pick it up promptly & drop it
through a sewer grate

Dad No!
she stops and stares
her hand over her mouth

Bring it on you bastard!
come and get me
I yell to whoever this vindictive
petty penny-pinching god might be

Nothing happened
(but you already knew that)

Heat Wave

When you get to be my age
95 degrees is dangerous
stay indoors
in front of the fan
hydrate obviously

Time for me to get up
on the ladder shirtless at mid-day
finish painting the gutter and overhang
I enjoy taunting the gods
they’ve been doing it to me
for 65 years already
the sons of bitches!


He doesn’t watch the news
because it’s awful, sad, frightful
and frightening, depressing
and mindlessly redundant
and most of the “anchors”
are clueless idiots
more concerned
with their own celebrity
than reporting the news.
Although many of
the “newswomen” are pretty
some even have long legs
and cute bottoms.


Decades ago
as a traveling pharmaceutical sales rep
I managed to take care
of my customers
perfectly fine without
the urgent necessity of laptops
cellphones, iPads, tablets
email, voicemail, texting and tweeting
by frequenting an old-fashioned pay phone
in the Howard Johnson’s lobby
in the Cranford rest area off exit 136
of the Garden State Parkway.


Swaggering, shoulders swinging
thick-legged golfers clomp
into the clubhouse lobby
after their games are done
glaring this way and that
in their shorts and baseball caps
brash voices bellowing
their exploits on the links
so everyone within earshot
can enjoy their triumphs too
and notice them in their post-game splendor
big-baby boys really
still playing king of the hill
in the schoolyard at recess
trying to impress the little girls.

Michael Estabrook is a recently retired baby boomer poet freed finally after working 40 years for “The Man” and sometimes “The Woman.” No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms. Now he’s able to devote serious time to making better poems when he’s not, of course, trying to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List

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“Twenty-Something in Los Angeles”

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by Morgan Nikola-Wren

we’ve transplanted
our gargantuan movie collections
into bigger apartments now

the previous tenants have left behind
a lifestyle that we are still
growing into
like a hand-me-down sweater
from an older cousin halfway across the country
a college drinking game
splays across a glass table
that we’ve only just
been able to afford

now we
host devilry
turned dinner parties
and the concept is as new
as this popping in our joints
now we
crick like this
tick like this
we are time bombs
counting shitty drafts
sub-par songs
and scathing reviews
until our dreams
reach their expiration date
and we sour
into stereotypes

this silicon city
gives you an eternity
to grow up
but only a second
before you grow old
so i fight time
like some climactic battle scene
stifle the ticking inside me
soak the burning fuse
in fast-chugged beer
till my belly swells
round as a cartoon bomb
till all the stories i burn to tell
drown in questions

like how many
found words
ten times as sharp as whiskey
in their throats
by my age?

and how the hell
my hair has begun to thin like this
before i’ve even
been to Europe?

Morgan Nikola-Wren attended college to study Theatre Arts, but ended up scribbling manically until 3 AM for many-a-night. She favors sweeping, lyrical prose with a satiric bite, and moments that stir you from a place inside you can’t even name. Morgan lives in Los Angeles’ backyard and swims in fountains when she has writer’s block. Follow @WrenAndInk on Twitter.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 5

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EPISODE 5: The Astounded Pale

There resides within Chalice Sinclearly an intrigue, the sort of which I can only imagine would get up under the skin of a reclusive cinematographer who is addicted to the recollections of a bipolar mother’s forbidden pleasures, and who has quite recently handed his talent over to an Icelandic-scribed screenplay about the too grateful ghost of an old Chicago Blues man whose lyricism is the upshot of a lecherous virginity. … Maybe it’s more an impulse than an intrigue, really, like that which backs the sickly sweet schemes of a self-swallow into a corner of the souring saliva swelling and simulating as a wannabe interloper amidst the anti-scenario of any single valid security – puts them suckers’ backs to those soluble walls and, with a silence salaciously devoid of nonsense, spooks them even further from the truth. … There resides within Chalice a predilection that aches to be inched into description where it might stand to declassify the subterranean sensibility, and show that there is within the inescapable possession of his writerly ambitions a wayward wish, one that rears itself as an immediate challenge to the potentiality of his impish voice ever being elevated in the haughty presence of a literary system inexcusably based in the metaphor-slacked justice of a selfishly surmised sympathy.

Understand, friends: Chalice can comprehend no greater wish a daily fondler of the pen might have other than to hold clout and clarity in the mind and soul of the Lone Wolf. With a well-calculated indifference that resigns its anonymity-seeking soul to a survival just outside our heartfelt interpretations of tears and holidays, with a blasé sway that bespeaks its affinity-rebuffing soul directly upon the very edge of our everyday reactions to unwanted overtime hours and much needed rough sex, the Lone Wolf stands for Chalice emblematic of what cultivates the curious draw of subtle unease. The Lone Wolf stands as Chalice’s beacon, as the unusual condition he must aspire to risk his pride for.

O, they are out there, those aficionados of good hiding spots who make believable his lusted-for readership. They linger out there secreted away in windowless basements; oddly comforted down those many stairs by the ever-encroaching dankness of untouched possibilities – downstairs where he or she plays luminary, designing a posthumous structure to the confirmation of exquisiteness as being the gist of what it is to be isolated. The Lone Wolf is the astounded pale you catch from the corner of your eye as he pokes his face out a sec from behind a second or third floor window’s sunburned and brittle lace curtain – the waver, the aftermath, in that crumbly curtain as you come to stare at it straight on offers sure proof of question-as-finest-answer in this pissant world wherein the sad truth is we perceive before we spirit.

They are not inexpert, these of a deep minority who seem bizarrely chosen – they survey the words fated to the hollow of a Jethro Tull lyric’s mold to reinforce the lesson they continue to attain from the manifestation of peculiarity within their perception of the self as a whole (that’s whole with a “W”, which you here as a reader no doubt plainly see; however, this parenthetical statement is for my imaginary listeners who I fear could easily mishear). And thusly, my dear and mostly appreciated friends, they exist advantaged amongst us. Theirs are the sights that lay measure to the endeavor of Chalice’s vision. They are the freaks others on their blocks – hell, in their own families – never gossip about, never confront with an everyday act of psychiatry. Inside neighborhoods, right next door to family homes, the Lone Wolf lives the life of a true poet’s true hero: a thrill isolated into the granular slo-mo psychology of the unspeakable’s resolve.

This is publisher/poet John Hospodka’s kind of bi-weekly instructional blog.

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by Jared Pearce

In the spirit of coming clean
I confess that, as a boy,
I played video games and
was never once very sorry

To be pirating seas
or slicing imaginary cosmos—
to fall so far into the dream
that I could be as wonderful

As I could make my avatar be.
But now such wasted
hours damage the fragile
years of youth, the experts

Explain, drawing a bead
with their laser pointers
on a three-dimensional graph
much like a maze I’d like

To solve on a rainy Sunday.
Still, since my priests say
I’ve got to realize my inner life,
my latent talent must

Be rendered to Jesus
(though I wonder if God plays
us like real-time),
who sees through all the screens

To the heart’s truth. Yeah,
I’m pretending to practice
my guitar (I stink); hallelujah,
I’m back in shape by running

The mile (I stink); Praise Him,
His Holy Word like cinnamon
erupts in crimson poems
off my tongue (that stink);

Love me Jesus, say
I’m holier as I drift
image to image to image,
from level to level to level

Of holiness—let my High
Score of Divine Grace
demolish that of the other guy
so the me you make

Is the token you played,
dragged through a dungeon,
resurrected to perfection, and,
frustrated by the puzzle, lost

When you crashed the whole
damned machine, angry
that a mere scene outwit you,
then hurrying back for a revision.

Jared Pearce often teaches literature and writing at William Penn University. Just as often he teaches how to get life to mean something. His poems have recently appeared in The Deronda Review, Of(f) Course, Marco Polo, Tiger Train, Hospital Drive, Earth’s Daughters, and etc.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 4

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EPISODE 4: Be Heroic: A Newer Personal Pledge
A Poem

Allow those in your conversation to complete their thoughts before chiming
In with yours. (You have no right to speak for or at; and you must yet earn
The discipline to speak of.) But mostly make a display of discontentment
In any case where anyone does cut off others in their acts of communication,
Do so with the intent to make all present uncomfortable. Love her harder –
The wife: know when she suggests you don’t need to skip out to the tavern
Every weekday evening she is trying to get you to read again, to create time
To better experience the possibilities of your time all over again. That said,
A Saturday morning beer here and there would still never not be worth it—
But only one, work to keep it at one, remember you’ll unendingly have things
To accomplish in making a stable home of your character. (Embrace beefs
With stripped screws and manufacturer instructions; 4:20 makes its way back
Around again soon enough, brother) … Open yourself to the realization of scenes
About showing how haters need a better vocabulary. Go to town on the humor
To be found in differences: thank your liberal media for making a conformist
Of your gay conservatism. Be gayer. You know American musicals, share this
Wealth of ourselves. Beat washed-up punkers and wannabe aldermen in RIPing
Famous folks on Facebook. (Really, I kid.) Really make more of you than you
Can really be, could ever be, like not being afraid of the weather, like not being
Afraid all the time of the coming weather. Along those lines, don’t respond to
Posts by family members who are being supreme jagoffs – be rude rather than
Oblivious. Teach the hard lesson, seek to teach the hard lesson: but you can
Choose your own family just as fucking easily. But again, love the wife harder:
When she doesn’t want Mexican food know it’s not an assault on your taste;
It is her attempt to give you more focus, to make you a better goal setter. Write
Her a love poem, finally, you fruitcake; or try your hand at writing something
For the children. (And I dare you to try to leave your childlessness behind.) …
Bear in mind what’s caged your heroes in that nasty but unignorable claptrap
Your heart knows as being your writerly aspiration: inappropriate laughter;
Not interruptive, but rather slyly interpretive laughter. Inspire your own presence
With heroism: keep the ice tray full; suggest sushi for supper; put the pen down,
Unless you intend to shake the piss out of your faith. … You have a basement: go
Down, Moses: go whisper over revisions that will finally influence this resolution;
But stop getting yourself all properly creepy down there amidst the undulating
Breathiness of the boiler’s pilot light, spare time once in a while for the ghosts
To reveal themselves. Tread slow up stairs, stop bounding up them, eyeing back
Over your shoulder, praying for no face. (When driving, I can’t believe for a sec
A plane’s going to fall on your car—stop it!) It’s hard, has been so far, to revel
In the reality you’ll never be a player in the mix of it all—bygones are never quite
Bygones to a man thanking each new gray hair that comes to light in his muff;
And a poet’s just a piss-poor excuse to reckon poetry’s not ever worth man’s ruin.

This is publisher/poet John Hospodka’s kind of bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Stalking Horse – Micro Essay

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by Ann Clark

There’s a glob of perethrin ointment two inches thick cupped in the fingers of my hand, and it is the most ridiculous day-glow pink and smells like liquorice and pine-trees. The mare is edging away no matter how slowly I ease up on her. The ointment won’t help her heal faster, but it will keep bugs away from the wound. Flies especially have to be kept out because that thing about maggots only eating dead flesh is a myth. You definitely don’t want to see them in a live animal—you just don’t.

This mare is the ugliest horse on our place. She’s physically ugly, with an old-fashioned boxy quarter-horse build and a ridiculous ox-head, and she’s bad-tempered with the other horses, taking sly nips out of them when she gets a chance and bullying mares and geldings lower in the social order. She’s barn-sour and herd-bound, too, so she gets stubborn if she’s ridden out on the trails, adopting a machine-gun trot that leaves even experienced riders sore for days.

We brought the horses into the barn for vaccinations, and a five inch flap of skin was hanging open on the mare’s throat, blood clots dried down her chest. “Any further up or over, and you’d be calling the mink man,” the vet said. She was talking about the guy who farms mink for fur coats and takes slaughtered animals for feed.

The vet’s best guess was the mare had caught herself on a thorn apple tree and panicked, pulled up hard, and ripped half her throat out; we don’t use barbed wire because it can cause just these kinds of injuries. But, God, as I’m looking at the raw flap that couldn’t be stitched up, it’s as if the horse’s head is going to fall right off even now, two days later, and I think of the horse in the movie guy’s bed in The Godfather. It looks that bad.

 But this isn’t a horse that would make me or my husband scream until the echoes chased around the farm buildings if we woke up at dawn and found her head in the bed. I mean, first, fat chance on sneaking into our house without getting your ass shot off. After that, this is the horse we could probably most spare. She’s the horse whose head we might leave in someone else’s bed, and I know I’m not the only one who is just a little bit admiring of that tactic in the movie.

I’m inching closer to the horse, who’s quivering and flinching at the flies landing on her. I do wonder if she could really have done that kind of damage to herself on a thorn bush because the tear seems very neat and straight, but then, we’re on the end of a dead-end road and nobody much knows about our place, and besides that, if I were the kind of person who wanted to hurt something beautiful, she really wouldn’t make the cut.

Ann Clark teaches English at SUNY Jefferson and is a student in the Ph.D. English (creative writing emphasis) program at Binghamton University. Her work has been published in Blueline, Ragazine, and Poetry Quarterly.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 3

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EPISODE 3: A Private Public Pissing

Pissing in public is a pleasing primitive practice, one which Chalice Sinclearly has been privileged to perpetually and quite pleasurably perform. …

Dig, Chalice’s imagination has always been more active in the morning than it has been in the evening. His mornings are his fellow inmates, convicted deviants who are at one with Chalice’s devotion to the ball and chain of challenge; his evenings are the armed guards, civil servants who by the audibly tinny response of their outer organs to the quick “How’s work going?” betray they seized the occupation solely for the pension. Evenings are an inorganic, jaundiced, time for Chalice. This is the time of day when he is most vulnerable to being watered with booze, for it is in the evening when his imagination most often becomes a cracked and flaking tongue. Under the blackening blue dome of evening, existence becomes a tiny flame that’s bouncing and teasing atop a lighter, bound to last only another second or two, and Chalice’s imagination becomes an arthritic hand that’s fumbling with a pack of smokes, trying desperately to pluck out a cig and place it between the lips before existence dies out. It is then that Chalice Sinclearly recognizes his stroll is required.

Chalice has used the alleyways of Chicago at least once each week of the past two decades. When I say that he’s used them, I do not mean in the predictable sense of them pre-existing for his shortcut from point A to point B. Rather, he’s used the alleyways as passageways – remedies, really, that will inevitably lead his imagination back to the pool of action, and in the process he has come to experience alleyways as being exhilarating lavatories – cumulatively his office, an office without a throne.

The lonesomeness of an alleyway is now an essential ingredient in the continued maturation of his sensibility’s voice. At night, as he paces his way through an alleyway, he is encompassed by the sensation, by the promise, that the city possesses the ears of an old-fashioned American reader. That’s to say, ears that understand listening – true patience – the ability to arrest one’s character to selflessness for a spell within the egotistical surge of our passing time—ears that understand listening – the shrewd and ethos-progressive timeless pause—listening, yo, is the prerequisite to all inspired foretelling. And as he begins to submerge within himself the city begins to hear the content of an excruciatingly honest soliloquy. For it is only when Chalice fully submerges within himself that he begins to experience the communion of comedy and tragedy. This is where solitude comes into play. Solitude accords in man an equal amount of self-existing space for both comedy and tragedy. Solitude allows for comedy and tragedy to be expressed simultaneously, and with equal volume. The communion of comedy and tragedy, which is made available to man by the steadfast workings of solitude, has but one result: the pronouncement of honesty, excruciating honesty.

There is a name for the swag of Chalice’s soliloquies; it has been known to go by a crude alias out here in the inexorable world where your DIY neighbors secret their arts into nostalgic troves of latter day detoxed sensibilities wherein the only present decadence is a parental yearning to be realized anywhere within any six degrees of separation from a Ramone. But you, friends, you who harbor no intimidation with having your craft’s raised middle finger perceived by cookie-cutter editorial boards as being merely uneducated guesses, you have given this honesty a real name, a name that does not define, does not draw a distinction, but rather affords revelation. And through these years wherein gravity has proven to be a most radical emancipation, you have ever so bravely avoided being pedantic and condensing its moral fiber with a nickname. … “Accountability” is its full name; “Lone Wolf Poet” its crude alias. …

Simply put, the soliloquies Chalice Sinclearly stages before the ears of an old-fashioned American reader are remedies that wet and soothe his imagination after it’s become a parched and painful tongue, after it’s dried out from a morning-in-through-afternoon session of making salt of language. They repair him to the craze of daydreams and to a rogue’s desire to work the real deal into a blank sheet of paper. They lead him out into the alleyways—out into a space in which he does not need to be concerned with the maturity of lifting a seat, nor with the etiquette of making sure a seat is put back down.

This is publisher/poet John Hospodka’s bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Birth and Death in a Microcosm – Micro Essay

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by Colleen Wells

Our screened-in porch is a cavernous space with a large wooden table and chairs. Lights are strung haphazardly around the perimeter. Candle holding fixtures and wind-chimes hang randomly on hooks left by the previous home-owner. In one corner sits a pile of wood for fires we rarely make. In another, a grill we only sometimes use. The bead-board ceiling is a burnt red. My hand painted birdhouses boast more whimsical colors like lime-green, teal, and lavender. Embellished with lost buttons, lids from bottles of Heineken, and beach glass, they sit on the ledge below the screen.

A small tree abuts the middle of the longest wall. Pressing against the screen, it holds an abandoned bird’s nest wedged in its branches. That Mama Cardinal who inhabited it recently, had taken such good care at feeding her three hungry chicks, then teaching them how to fly. My husband and I cheered her on, and yet one of the babies didn’t make it.

Birth and death occurring in a microcosm.

I take a sip of my now stale and cooling coffee, noting stuff piled and strewn on the slatted table in front of me. Mounds of books about writing, magazines, journals, notes from the kids’ schools and file folders filled with submission guidelines and looming deadlines surround my spot. My family is occupied, so I’m feeling both grateful and guilty about this alone time. While I sit, insects chatter.

Even though it’s humid, I can no longer smell the acrid, musky scent of dog urine. We put our incontinent blind and deaf Rat Terrier down last Monday. He had always been without sight, but when he lost his hearing he began circling. He’d circle fast, too, to the point I wondered if he was slowly going insane. The vet could not find a biological cause for his behavior. Rusty had always been a regal beast, holding his head high. But the circling was causing him to lose weight. Not having the ability to hear his unseen world proved too much, and yet he’d seem to go round and round with purpose, sometimes until he stumbled. As he declined and continued to circle, I wondered if it was his way of committing suicide.

A small table I am restoring sits at the opposite end of my workspace. It is only half-way painted. Like everything else, it begs for attention. I hear the sound of claws on glass, then the swooshing as Louie, our young, Rottweiler-Shepherd mix pushes the sliding doors open. He scampers over, nudging his nose into the crook of my arm.

At almost two he is still full of puppy. Because he is a large dog, it is unlikely he will live as long as Rusty did. Louie’s exuberance reminds me that life is fleeting, but full. As I pet him the swell of birds chirping to one another from the Oak and Sycamore trees fills the air.

Colleen Wells writes from Bloomington, IN, where she lives with her husband and three children, three dogs and three cats. Her favorite number is 333. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, volunteers at a homeless shelter and state hospital, and loves to craft.

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