SCATTERED VERTEBRAE by Jerrold Yam Math Paper Press, 2013 reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke Jerrold Yam’s second poetry collection was titled with care: like the image of scattered vertebrae, these poems are at once beautiful, dark, and disturbing. Yam weaves family life, social expectation, religion, and tragedy together so ornately that at times one does not realize what they’re reading. This technique generally makes for compelling and delicate poetic image, but at times the disorientation feels less deliberate—Yam’s is a poetics that requires rereading, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It is a poetics of “pleated identity” (31), turning away from singular intent or simple subject matter, and its difficulty reflects the personal sense of unease that Yam confronts throughout: unlike some collections, here one can safely equate the speaker with Yam himself. Yam’s verse is elaborate, complex by nature, for the poet dives into his own conflicted psyche … chop! chop! read more!
by Rina Terry
Texture Press, 102 pages
reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat
We tend to equate the word “prison” with concrete, metal and despair, ostensibly as means of change or as a tool of rehabilitation. In her new collection, Cardboard Piano, Rina Terry reveals multi-layered evidence of the transformative power of art versus stone. Anyone who is familiar with Stephen King’s prison stories, The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (or at least with the movie adaptations thereof) expects to question the prison system and to explore the humanity of both the inmates and the guards. Terry’s words push the reader to consider the realities of an in-person search for and confrontation of that humanity, in all its potential glory and obloquy.
The opening salvo, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Inmates” offers a kaleidoscope through which we can feel the entire collection. Terry challenges our accepted notion of rehabilitative space as cyclical: “There is only one/direction. Single file/through metal detector.” Parole notwithstanding, the suggestion is that for most who enter, there is no hope, and what’s more, the system-keepers believe that as well. After all, “an inmate/is and inmate/is an inmate.” The guards do not see what Terry sees, the one man who holds on to his sense of self enough to iron his uniform, or the baptism trough as cleansing agent.chop! chop! read more!
SUPERLOOP by Nicole Callihan Sock Monkey Press, 72 pages Reviewed by Anna Strong The startling beauty of Nicole Callihan’s SuperLoop lies in the balance the poems strike between the specificity and universality of childhood memory. The strongest poems take us deep into a place of colorful, youthful imagination, full of the unexpected juxtapositions that only retrospection can bring. The poems retrieve those crystal-clear moments in childhood when we make our first brushes with what it means to be a grown-up—a death in the family, divorce, a new word, and ultimately, the realization that our parents are no more perfect than we are. Callihan constantly crushes and compresses those moments of innocence and experience together, as in the the title poem, where she writes “This is the way / the Tilt-a-Whirl ends / not with a smile / but with a nice ass whisper.” Every poem in the collection is richly … chop! chop! read more!
LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY by Ivy Hughes I held the handset of the house phone to my ear, the dull tone providing a soundtrack for what was sure to be the most humiliating conversation of my life. From the sitting room, the three-foot oil painting of Shirley and Laverne hovered like consequence itself. Posed with pink and blue ring pillows in their mouths on the day of their wedding, the great white poodle and hyperactive Yorkie were the only children my ex-boyfriend’s mother and stepfather shared. My ex and his family were spending Christmas in California, an event I hadn’t been invited to because my ex had fallen in love. With someone else. I’m sure if my ex’s mom knew I’d recently put myself in the category of mentally ill, she wouldn’t have asked me to watch her precious dogs. But there I was, day three, daily check-in number four … chop! chop! read more!
FLORIDA by Cullen Bailey Burns The pelican was a kite or vice versa in the way I was a wave in the body my mind made of ego and thread. How do we glue the ideas into order? In the gulf, warm water rocked me. A daughter floated near. The pelican dove and rose tethered to the habit of fish while the tide came in. Sunset was promised. Drinks at the hotel bar. But we meant a little more than that floating in bodies of salt and shell, a warm pool of Bethesda, a warm dusk, again. Image credit: Linda Tanner on Flickr Cullen Bailey Burns lives in Minneapolis and Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. Her second book of poems, Slip, was published by New Issues Press this fall. Her first book, Paper Boat, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Her poems have appeared widely, recently in … chop! chop! read more!
ICELANDIC KISSES by Shane Joaquin Jimenez The man in the fur coat paused in the electric blue of the porch light. He sniffed the air, as if trying to read some presence in the atmosphere and the ice particles. A blinding wind came shrieking from the city, flaring his coat behind him. The fringe brushed against the two trashcans, skittering the nearest lid into the snow. The man in the fur coat cursed and hunkered down to pick up the lid. But when he had righted himself and the wind had died, he stood very still and looked across the dark yard, to where I stood in my solus rex in the shadows of his greenhouse. The man very carefully set the trash bag in the snow. Then he very slowly chose a large rock from the ground. He walked along the perimeter of his backyard with very exaggerated steps, … chop! chop! read more!
TESTIMONY AFTER THE VARICOCELECTOMY by Peter LaBerge My mother changes the bedpan, the evidence of life. Stomach, definition of withhold, overripe plum I did not purchase. I would never crave this heaviness, the way she folds over my body with braided fingers. Meanwhile, I dream about a god shaped like a subway station. From the surface, she blames a dose of codeine. She is careful in her faith-giving tread, knowing morning is installed and foreign as a catheter. I wonder if there is a word to describe when your mother empties the evidence of you down the toilet, flushes. Image credit: MIT-Libraries on Flickr Peter LaBerge is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. His recent work appears in such publications as The Louisville Review, DIAGRAM, The Newport Review, BOXCAR Poetry Review, and Hanging Loose. In the past, he has been named a two-time Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medalist for Poetry … chop! chop! read more!
THE FERRY by Emma Greenberg “So your mom told you about the new houses?” “Yup.” I lunged too aggressively for the volume control and my seatbelt tensed and slapped me back into my seat. The second verse of “Livin’ On A Prayer” blasted from the speakers. He reached for the dial and turned it down slowly, eyes still on the road. “What did she tell you?” I shrugged and clenched my teeth. “Not much.” “They’re only a few minutes away from each other, we’ll all be close by.” “Cool.” I had been playing 80s music in the car since I got to boarding school the year before—before that, actually, after I had visited for a night in ninth grade and all of the girls on Hall II played it from their laptops as they got dressed for a dance or geared up for a field hockey game. By now I … chop! chop! read more!
from x y a && by Pattie McCarthy a couple of breaks of sunshine over the next couple hours, what little sun shine there is left. a view that outranks me : two baseball fields, two bridges, the dome (golden) of a church I can’t identify. a ludicrous little halo. a noun formal or technical. moxibustion vertex frank footling complete. (she turns) she turns (she turned) her own version. like ploughing a field like a furrow like verse or versus (preposition) against or toward furrow like a harrow (what a harrow is for) verso (on the turned) like the turn in a sonnet. sleep with arms around my children, as if— — II. 1 – 3. Kenneth … chop! chop! read more!
YOU ARE BUT A PILGRIM VENTURING TO A STRANGE AND HONEST LAND by Jared Yates Sexton On the cab ride in the driver turned and said, Did you know Hope and Despair are sister and brother and you their distant cousin? We were driving over a bridge. The snow was falling and people were trudging down the walk holding newspapers over their heads. I’m sorry, I said. I had been watching the people. What did you say? I said, he said, that Hope and Despair are sister and brother and you their distant cousin. For some reason I thought over my family tree to see if there was any truth. I was an only child though, the offspring of two miserably matched people who would’ve still hated one another had they been alive. The only glimpse of hope in my whole lineage was a cousin who had scored well on … chop! chop! read more!
blockage no. 8 by Marie Nunalee a bumblebee, Kamikaze pilot in disguise, balancing ancillary, damp sidewalk-situated, papier mache pinions flashing faintly. six coarse-haired legs flicker for the troubleshoot-detection of external demise; antennae circuits flip on, flip off, blow fuses red and bright. Image credit: Tiago Cabral on Flickr Marie Nunalee lives in Asheville, NC. She will be in indefinite space 2014, and can be found in various other publications, including theNewerYork, The Metric, Epigraph, Eunoia Review, Deadbeats, and Digital Americana. She writes at swordfishsermons.tumblr.comchop! chop! read more!
PEACE from The Names of Roses by Ann de Forest Peace Rose: Just before Germany invaded France, a French horticulturist sent cuttings of his newest rose to friends in Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the U.S. to protect it. It is said that it was sent to the U.S. on the last plane available before the invasion. Because the cultivators couldn’t communicate during the war, each country gave the rose a different name. In France it was called ‘Madame A. Meilland’ in honor of the breeder’s mother, in Italy ‘Gioia,’ in Germany ‘Gloria Dei,’ and in the U.S. ‘Peace.’ “Can’t I have peace at my own table?” Our mother’s war cry. The very mention of peace sets our teeth on edge, steels us, her adult children, into contention. My father glares at us, grits his teeth and shakes his head in frustration. “Listen to your mother.” But it’s always too late. Raised voices escalate … chop! chop! read more!
A HUNGER ARTIST by Henry Marchand The medium is biological, human cells crafted in a sterile environment to simulate body parts: an ear, a finger, a foot. Clyde Averill has become renowned for his work, the first bio-artist to achieve such astonishing, lifelike effects. After exhibitions in Italy, France, and China, in the Ukraine, in Moscow, he has come to Los Angeles and from here will go to San Francisco, Denver, and finally New York. In each city, in each gallery, he exhibits different works, and at the end of each showing he unseals the glass in which the apparent body parts are displayed and allows attendees to touch them; the shock of it always sends a murmur through the crowd, the tactile sensation indistinguishable from touching a fingertip to the lobe of a lover’s ear, a beloved child’s flesh. The finale never alters; cells not previously exposed to bacteria … chop! chop! read more!
TELESCOPES by Kristen Sharp In a dress with sequins the color of champagne, her legs like bone, she crouched on the beach and dug her hand under the packed wet sand. The New Year had been mostly Manhattans and whiskey-gingers and drunk finance hotshots from Murray Hill and Stuy-Town trying to buy girls out. The salt-cold wind blew grit down the face of the dunes. She drew her knees to her chest and drank vodka. People were getting engaged. But still she clung to her brick building in Morningside, to the holes in the walls where the electrical wiring had been gutted, to the hall light that was burnt out, to the bathtub where she’d bathed in two inches of water boiled in a pot on the stove, flopping around on her stomach like a beached whale to wash the suds off. She remembered being seventeen. As denim shorts and … chop! chop! read more!
LEXICON by Lori Lamothe I’ve forgotten the language of cities, of travel. I insert the room key upside down, stumble over a couch in the lobby, ride the wrong subway line, walk South instead of North. New York hems me in, surrounds me on all sides until I’m drowning in cigarette smoke, screaming horns, the kind of humidity that settles on skin and won’t wash off. The horizon is harder than the soft green sweep of home—stone and steel, mirrored windows that catch the sky and won’t let go. I’ve forgotten how to speak the language of strangeness. Years ago I drove up into the Himalayas at midnight, drank Georgian Cognac in Russia, photographed children in Peshawar. I ordered room service at Hotel de L’Opera and bunked on an old ship in Stockholm. I stood in Red Square in below-zero temperatures, allowed myself to be carried along by crowds at … chop! chop! read more!
THIS TOWN IS YOUR TOWN TOO by Anne Dyer Stuart The next morning at Paige’s, too many mamas were there. I didn’t know why they’d stayed. It made me feel like Mama was anti-social, which she was. But more than that, it made me feel—even though I’d lived in Greenville all my life—like I still didn’t know the rules. “What are we going to do with you?” Mrs. Grovenor was picking up a side of my hair and letting it fall. “What about layers? Those are the same shirts you’ve worn all summer, darling. Has your body changed? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I started packing it to my hips when I was sixteen—overnight. Just, boom. I swear, the next morning nothing fit. I mean, nothing. Have you asked your mama to take you to Jackson?” Jackson? For a second I thought she was talking about Dr. Dana, my … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Jesse Minkert Mesopotamian Ruins Eras apply dust victorious harden over masonry. Accomplishments in architecture and death; lives of sleep and food and shit removal. Dust sweeps off the table water in a flask, a bag of emmer. Thirsty soil drinks from the trenches cut down from the rivers. Orchards absorb more sun more wind where the crust has awaited this shovel and pick. ◊ Wednesday Night in the Juke The man in the pinstriped suit pumps the bellows on his accordion, pumps out the zydeco, stomps his foot on a bandstand by himself. My round, red, pinhole eyes follow the only dancer, curly, polished-copper hair on forehead, sheared up the back of her neck; crimson Lucille-Ball lips parted and gasping. Her canary shift flutters like a sail in a headwind, her torso the mast, her arms the yards. Her long legs sweep through the smoke- stained … chop! chop! read more!
PORTRAITS OF AGE by Donna Festa Interviewed by Anastasiya Shekhtman Where does your fascination with faces come from? When I was a young girl, I went with my mother on a regular basis to visit her sisters. She was the youngest of nine children. The three youngest sisters—my mother Betty, Cassie, and Tucker—were the core of the group, but others would join in on different occasions. You never knew who was going to be at the kitchen table when you arrived. These visits were either at my Aunt Tucker’s house (Sylvia was her birth name, but, due to her resemblance to the actress Sophie Tucker, she is still called Tucker at 90 years old), or my Aunt Helen’s house, the oldest sibling, in South Jersey. Aunt Tucker always had a homemade cake, and most always a pot of pasta sauce slowly simmered on the stove all day, filling the house with an … chop! chop! read more!
THREE POEMS by Jessica Morey-Collins Once Again A woman glances at her watch, one hand resting on the grip of a wheelchair, wherein is ensconced her mother. Both wear khaki sunhats and sea-foam green respiratory masks, coral shirts. Squawks and wing beats thunder among the buildings. The daughter shuttles her ward between the range-of-motion machines at the playground, settles her in front of a symmetrical set of yellow wheels. The mother lifts her arms to their handles. A toddler waddles up, her pink pants ballooned with newness and diaper. She squats, taps a foot on the platform of the hip-rotator, glances over her shoulder at her parents. The mother in the wheelchair swings her arms in two mild, mirrored smiles. A family squabbles over a soccer ball. Laughter rattles tiles and concrete. The daughter consults the time, peels her mother away from the park. A graying man bats a … chop! chop! read more!
R IS FOR RESTLESS by Christine Hamm Palm Beach, a fake emerald bracelet scratching your wrist. You crawl to the bed, the industrial carpet rubbing its cigarette stink all over you. You remember the man’s hands, the scars and words scrawled across them. A wilted yellow carnation on the nightstand. Your ruffled dress with pink and black diamonds sprawled across a chair. A ceiling full of tiny stabbed-in holes. The damp circle your body makes on the sheets dissipates. Eventually, you stop shivering. Image credit: Jeremy Brooks on Flickr Christine Hamm has a PhD in American Poetics and is a former poetry editor for Ping*Pong. She won the MiPoesias First Annual Chapbook Competition with her manuscript Children Having Trouble with Meat. Her poetry has been published in Orbis, Pebble Lake Review, Lodestar Quarterly, Poetry Midwest, Rattle, Dark Sky, and many others. She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart … chop! chop! read more!
WHEN SANTA CAME TO CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY by DC Lambert You could hear the sirens blocks away, and if you didn’t know, you’d think it was a real emergency. Santa Claus had trouble keeping balance, so the fire truck took it very slowly as it crept around Cherry Hill’s subdivisions and rows of fifty-year-old colonials in need of new roofs, furnaces, windows; they could not be replaced, just now, in this economy. Perched on the truck, Santa waved and weaved past illuminated inflatable reindeer and whirling pink snowflakes projected onto garages, and families ran outside to catch a glimpse, shivering a bit in the brittle winter afternoon. This was probably the last year Local 2663 would sponsor Santa. It was time to cut the nonsense. It was time to trim the waste. People waved at each other, too, as befit the season of joy. “How yez doin’?” “Good, ‘n … chop! chop! read more!
THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL by Anthony Wallace He sets up the Christmas tree in the family room, untangles the lights and strings them around the tree in lazy loops from top to bottom, drapes a few strands of tinsel at the ends of prominent branches. He gets a good hot fire going in the fireplace. Later his wife will come home from work and they’ll have dinner and then put the star on top of the tree. The star is not really a star but an angel from his wife’s childhood. It’s large, about ten inches high, with sheer wings like an insect’s wings and overlarge blue eyes that the man considers overly sentimental. Perhaps it’s not an angel at all but a fairy, like Tinkerbell. Whatever it is, there is something annoyingly Disneyesque about it. He opens the slider and goes out to see how the tree would look … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE ABSENCE OF CULINARY MENTORS by Kaori Fujimoto Mom When I was growing up in the suburbs of Tokyo, every evening at five my mother donned her white apron and set about preparing dinner. The fluorescent lights on the ceiling and over the sink illuminated the whole kitchen, which was dismally dark during the daytime, and they attracted little geckos that flattened themselves on the outside of the widows. I would hear a clack-clack of the kitchen knife on the wooden cutting board and then, in twenty or thirty minutes, my heart would sink as I detected the usual smells of fish or vegetables seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, and sake—conventional Japanese dishes I never found appetizing. She also made Western dishes, like a beef stew, potato gratin, and spaghetti Napolitana, because my father loved these rich foods and so did I; I felt exhilarated whenever the aroma of … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE MID-OUGHTIES by Sam Cha IN THE MID-OUGHTIES, we thought we were men. We were all married for a year and a half or so. Our wives played cello or bass and read two books a year. We left our doctoral programs and played competitive video games. We spent most of our time looking at Wikipedia and watching anime. Sometimes we’d wander down Broadway at five thirty in the morning. Those were the days, I think, when we were still wondering sometimes about the informational content of the Brownian motion of the water molecules in the steam from the vent on the east corner of Twenty-Third Street―how many ones and zeros? Water there, water not. Writhing water writing Ulysses, are you searching for lost time? How many slices of pi? Three or one or four or one and five? How many monkeys have you written, typewriter Hamlets? Who will … chop! chop! read more!
LEMON TUESDAY by Jo Beckett-King It was Lemon Tuesday and so far it had not lived up to expectations. His gran had made pancakes, smaller and fatter than any his mum ever made, and while he was eating, his mum had come home and talked quietly on her mobile in the hall, before coming into the kitchen and speaking to his gran using words he didn’t understand. He fiddled with the metal ball chain around his neck and felt the four corners of the cross with the tips of his fingers, before thumbing the raised ridge of Christ’s body. He knew that if he asked what they were talking about she would say in her most serious tone that it was an adult conversation, so he continued to cut perfect isosceles triangles out of his pancakes and decided that when he was a grown-up he would remember what it was … chop! chop! read more!
BIRTHDAY POEM by Monica Wendel There’s a secret 1950s housewife in me that loves amphetamines. Do you love it too? The zip zap? The blue boogers? Is that the right word? I found dark lipstick in my room and wore it when I met Kerouac’s ghost. He said I looked like a wound. Belly out, clammy skin. You would know, I thought. Let’s vote on it. Let’s settle this now. He put his arm out like a wing. Feathers came first, before the idea of flight. If I had been able to fall asleep I would have woken up. I woke up Chris and we looked at his painting. Stripes of seaweed. Jellyfish. My whole jaw hurt. In a painting nothing changes no matter how many times you look at it unless you reach up to the wall and turn it one way and step back all over again. Kerouac … chop! chop! read more!
CHRISTMAS 2009 by Catherine Mosier-Mills The family was crowded around the small white gazebo in the middle of the yard. There was a map, too, pasted on the corkboard floating high on the gazebo’s walls, confining the chaotic compound in abstract squares and rectangles. Ruth didn’t touch the peanut brittle, the haphazard compensation present from her middle child, the feminist from Philadelphia, who’d brought her two kids. The conversation was a facsimile of previous email exchanges that she’d intercepted from her late husband’s computer, carrying the buzzwords of a telltale worrywart: college search, apnea, bullying. Whenever Ruth tried to make her way in and say the words she wanted so desperately for them to hear—state’s coming to get me. I don’t belong here, Russ is having an affair—they all looked away, like she was some kind of contagion that would spoil their perfectly planned afternoon. And then she stared at the … chop! chop! read more!
LOOK, HERE by Lisa Piazza For this, I use my grandfather’s axe. Pull it carefully from behind the dead cat’s carrier in the garage, where it rests dusty and dull, subdued by seasons more or less come and gone. More because fifteen winters is a long time for a dormant blade—idle through fifteen springs and summers followed by fifteen hopeful falls glimmering with red-gold readiness. Less because it is only my bony fingers that inexpertly grip the heavy wooden handle ready to hack the camellias crowding the far corner of my backyard. Mine is a small job. I have hated these trees for years. Still—some warning would have been nice. A short note typed by my sensible grandmother, attached by thick garden twine to the long handled axe, stating: to clear is not to clean. Maybe then my breath would not have stuttered when two lops revealed a fibrous system pink … chop! chop! read more!
FRANCESCA by Mohammadreza Mirzaei I was exhausted. It was an hour since we parked the car down the mountain and came up the slope. I had spent all my life in Tehran, but I had never been in Tochal, which was one of the city’s tourist attractions. And interestingly, this time, I was there with someone who was from elsewhere in the world. Her name was Francesca. She was an Italian girl, from somewhere near Naples, a student of Eastern studies in Naples. She had been to Iran several times, once as a tourist, and again as an intern at the Italian embassy. She was here now to take a course at the Dehkhoda institute to improve her Persian. Maybe it’s not right to say, “to improve”. She could say “hello” and “goodbye” in Persian and she might be able to learn “How are you?” and “Fine, thanks” this time. … chop! chop! read more!
HOW A HEART by Sean Lyon Tricia the three-toed sloth started to slipper my hand into her undergrowth. “Wow,” I clickered, “I’m in love with this rainforest.” Then she maffled her tongue down some other toucan’s throat. How a heart emflampers under such circumstances! “O,” I lunkered, “The bananarama is cancelled, it’s over.” I clambered up the stairs, my beak petricuckolded, clorping like a gaunt gibbous moon against each step on my sweltering accent to smither canopy. Just then an ocelot corrustickered my eye, slimmering over her tree-house-porch card table and trucing me hence with her manicured claws. I wallifer-fluttered, with all the agility of a milk frog whose leg’s been snippered by a plurching boa, to this ocelot’s treetop abode. She enfolded me. How a heart carditisizes under such circumstances! “I’ve been at solitaire for too long, kid,” she volupurred, “Let’s get to know us better, what do you … chop! chop! read more!
EXILED FROM TRUTH: NINE ALLEGORIES by Dmitry Borshch Interviewed by Anastasiya Shekhtman What made you decide on ink as a medium? Precision of the ink line. I love precise lines and was able to show that even in my first independent works. They were abstract, probably influenced by Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, and Soviet Nonconformists, many of whom were abstractionists. I saw their work at various apartment exhibitions in Dnepropetrovsk and Moscow that I participated in. The compelling mood of the images, a certain wintry bleakness, is evocative of Soviet Russia. What role, if any, does your national background play in your work? Dnepropetrovsk was certainly bleak, Soviet Moscow even bleaker and wintrier. My background plays every role in these pictures. Although I call myself an American or Russian-American artist, they are neither Russian nor American. If one calls them Soviet Nonconformist pictures, I would accept the label. USSR is … chop! chop! read more!
FIVE PAINTINGS by Tish Ingersoll Interviewed by Anastasiya Shekhtman How do you begin a painting? I often start a painting using a level and making several horizontal lines, varying distances apart. Then, using black acrylic, I use gestural lines to overlap them. Finally, I add color. I often use memories of places I have walked or otherwise experienced. The painting and content emerges over a long period of not painting. The transformation of paint, a loose substance, into rigid lines and geometric shapes in your paintings is particularly intriguing. How does the form of your work play into the content? For twenty years, I worked as a lead artist for the Mural Arts Program. When creating a muraI, I use a grid to work up my concept for the wall, using a 1″ to 1′ ratio. About nine years ago, I decided to use a grid for my studio work. Rather than make … chop! chop! read more!
YVONNE IN THE EYE OF DOG
by Kathryn Kulpa
If God looked for Yvonne would he find her? If God looked down, past stars and satellites, through storm clouds thick and grey as dryer lint, would he see Yvonne in a stolen van, Yvonne in a darkened shopping plaza with Ma’s Diner and A-1 Hardware, Crafts Basket and Pets Plus?
Yvonne is down on options, down on her luck. Listening to the sighs and snores of her dog asleep in the back seat, the beat of rain on the roof. Her world the smell of wet dog. Her face in the mirror, hair wild, curling in the damp. Everything about her seems high-contrast, vampirish. Face white, except for that bruise her cover-up won’t cover. Tired eyes. White eyeliner is the trick for that, Teena had taught her. No white eyeliner in Yvonne’s make-up bag. No black, either. Almost out of tricks. She pats more cover-up on her eyelids, feels the oils in the makeup separate.chop! chop! read more!
BLOODSUCKERS by Zach Fishel Having sliced mosquitoes From the air all week, he sits with mail Neglected like the quiet granite Of New Hampshire. The enormity of moths is felt here. Thinking of the letters. That even in this loneliness there is body to be held. Remembering the time spent with another, like practicing how to use the right hand to undress secrets, nervous until the curves become the angry smiles of highway waitresses. We tear through each other so quickly the language of stillness has lost itself. A solitary motion of the wrist, a quick release, splatter on the neck from the biting. Image credit: Anja Jonsson on Flickr Zach Fishel was born in Central Pennsylvania, but resides in the Berkshire Mountains working as an outdoor educator. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and has earned two Pushcart nominations. He is the author of two chapbooks, available … chop! chop! read more!
BLUE SANTA by R. Daniel Evans All the votive candles stood arranged in a circle before Blue Santa. First, Mirta lit the four red and four blue ones. Her favorite candle holders were made from yellow glass colored dark as old cheese. She placed two in front of the dolls with the sap-green insect heads, and two in front of the wooden Santa that she had painted blue the day after the collapse of the Towers. Mama came into the dimly lit room, luckily not noticing the mess of books and clothes on the floor. If only she would notice the dolls and say how pretty they were. “Mirta! What are you doing? Just like it’s a statue of the Blessed Virgin, you’re lighting candles in front of that Santa. I don’t know why you painted it that nasty blue—” Best not to talk about Blue Santa, which Mama had … chop! chop! read more!
PHENOMENON by Donna Vorreyer Homes awash in moonlight, in streetlight, the whole neighborhood hunched and hiding, watching the sky. All of the children are adrift, huddled in bushes, running under branches well past their usual bedtimes. It is a strange phenomenon, but one that goes unquestioned. In the morning, the grown-ups confess that they thought they saw a UFO, a strange streak that grew then slipped away too quickly for logic. For the next night, for the rest of the weekend, a vigil, lawn chairs clustered, poised to catch a second glimpse. The pleasures of these evenings were many—playing late in the dark yard, the low rumble of the men’s voices mooring us close enough for safety, even television allowed when it got late enough for pajamas and later still when their eyes would spot something moving—usually a plane—before they would laugh and finally retire, carrying us to bed. … chop! chop! read more!
TOURIST by Barbara Nishimoto It was July, winter in La Serena, Chile, and Lily sat in a pretty little plaza, her feet resting on the battered train case that her mother had bought at Sears long ago. Hard shell Samsonite. Part of a set for the family trip to Hawai’i. “Don’t pack it too full,” her mother had said. “You’ll break the mirror.” In all her travels with Adam she had never used the case; it seemed too old fashioned and clunky. But she was glad she had it on this trip. It provided a place to sit or put up her feet. The rest of the luggage was arranged around her—the rolling duffle, the cargo bag, the camera backpack. All within reach. “In case someone tries to rip us off.” Adam shook his head, smiled, “I’d like to see someone try to run with one of those bags.” … chop! chop! read more!
THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT by Lynn Levin The day of his wife’s forty-fifth birthday party, Norbie Bernbaum let Jerry Rosen talk him into an afternoon at the Dirty Martini, a strip club on the edge of downtown where Hot Pantz, Double Dee, and The Bride seduced the clientele to one degree or another. Rosen had been there a couple of times, mostly during weekdays, and he made the place sound so irresistible—the women were just like showgirls—that Norbie was panting to go. “But what about Donna’s party?” Norbie groaned as Schpilkes, the family dog, came by and leaned against him. “Just tell her you’re going out to buy her a gift,” advised Rosen. “You’ll be back in time for brisket with the in-laws. I promise.” Norbie hadn’t bought Donna a birthday present, so this sounded like a plan. He hurriedly splashed on a bit of cologne, brushed his teeth, and … chop! chop! read more!
VINYL by Brian Druckenmiller I was ready to die, so I jumped off the highest bridge in town, the river a dark frozen mass ready to accept my mangled mess of skin and insides. I detached from my descending body and watched it fall lifelessly while I drifted through the air with the winter breeze and the stars and those snowflakes that instantly melt when they land on you. I saw or imagined my mom’s house from the sky, about six miles from the bridge. Her house had been empty since I left nearly four years ago. Well, that’s not true. She lived there. I drove by occasionally but I don’t know why. Well, that’s not true either. I did know why. I wanted to make sure she still existed. Did she know I still existed? One time I drove by and she was unloading groceries or something from her … chop! chop! read more!
ROMEO & JULIETTE by Kevin Tosca Romeo sent this text to Juliette: “Goodnight Julie.” She didn’t respond. It was their first night not sleeping together in two years. He didn’t know what she was thinking. The next morning, he had to return to the suburb where they lived to get the rest of his stuff. They agreed he would call before he left, and he did so beside the stairs leading down to the subway. The call went to Juliette’s voice mail. Romeo took two trains. When he got outside at the appallingly familiar bus depot, he tried to call again, and again the call went to voice mail. He became worried, decided he didn’t want to wait for the bus, so he started walking toward the home they had made together. On the bridge, about a mile from their apartment, he stopped and sent another text: “Here. Walking. … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Teresa Leo Miniature Sawtooth sky reins in its pomegranates and the carnival shuts down. We duck behind the House of Horrors for in-touch, downright, face-to-face clarity. The ground’s a popcorn mess, stepped over and on, near a chain link fence to keep out what inevitably wants in: a man with a cartoon axe, then a lady with a halo for a head, unflanked but expectant, a mouth that is not a door but a chant, and in the distance a radio broadcasts what’s red-blooded and American— no secret society, no wind, no whole or scene or parts, just what’s left after premature E, teenage illumination, not the E in evacuate or in escape, the carnage an unnamable E— for now it’s all straps and buckles and snaps, what’s bluesy and small-town true. Over our shoulders the Tilt-A-Whirl, quiet now, the Zipper stuck in midair, Lucky Cups, the … chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE FISH: A MEMOIR OF A DIFFERENT KIND OF YEAR by Ramsey Beyer Zest Books, 272 pages Reviewed by Stephanie Trott It’s a familiar notion, the sense of being a little fish in a big pond. This awareness may arrive at an early age for some, while running inexplicably late for others. But for eighteen-year-old Ramsey Beyer, a lover of lists, lakes, and bonfires, this epiphany arrives with a traditional right-of-passage: the start of college. Beyer, now ten years beyond this awakening, chronicles her transition from Midwest high school senior to city-savvy first year art student in her debut memoir, Little Fish: A Memoir of a Different Kind of Year. Like many pre-undergrads, she precariously balances on the teeter-totter of change and consistency that comes with college acceptances, graduation, and the unstoppable arrival of the first autumn away from home. Beyer demonstrates maturity and insight when constructing a list of … chop! chop! read more!
by John Sibley Williams
reviewed by Anna Strong
Controlled Hallucinations is a collection of questions, interiors, and barriers—stepping into the world of these poems means being alone with your thoughts and the images and associations your brain creates only in its quietest moments. The title of the collection already suggests that these poems will occupy a space far removed from the outside world, but John Sibley Williams invites readers into this space with an introduction to the collection in the form of an untitled poem (following the dedication, which is to “the coming extinctions”). The introductory poem is a series of infinitive clauses (“To be the effect. / To be a thoughtful pause / and restrained response. / To the the passion of raking nails.”) which collectively define what can be expected from the ensuing poems.chop! chop! read more!
THE GRAVEYARD by Marek Hłasko (1956) in the first English translation by Norbert Guterman (1959) release December 3, 2013 Melville House, 140 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin The moment of truth in this book of deceit is treated in a most unusual way: it isn’t treated at all. Or more precisely: it isn’t even needed. The consequences for Franciszek Kowalski, the protagonist of Marek Hłasko’s unforgettable 1956 novel The Graveyard, indeed for all of humanity, are damning enough. Slender Citizen Kowalski had fought bravely in the underground in 1945; after receiving a nearly fatal chest wound, his faith in international socialism had willed him to live. Now, at 48, the sober Kowalski is a proud Communist Party member and a factory manager in a Polish city. One night, he runs into a comrade he hasn’t seen in years. The old fighters set off to a bar to reminisce, and despite … chop! chop! read more!
MY DIRTY DUMB EYES by Lisa Hanawalt Drawn and Quarterly, 120 pages Reviewed by Margaret Galvan My Dirty Dumb Eyes, released last May, may be comic artist Lisa Hanawalt’s debut text with a major publisher, but it highlights her preexisting popularity. Indeed, Hanawalt’s text shows its chops through its diverse array of humorous comic vignettes often originally commissioned for well-known print and internet periodicals—from New York Magazine to The Hairpin. A few months prior to its release, one of these comics, “The Secret Lives of Chefs,” first printed in the pages of Lucky Peach—a magazine co-created by Momofuku-founder, David Chang—was nominated for a James Beard, the preeminent award in the culinary world. In addition to “The Secret Lives of Chefs,” where Hanawalt creatively imagines bizarre skeletons in the closet out of the public personas of renown restauranteurs, she weighs in on the world of fashion and film in other comics. … chop! chop! read more!
A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR NATHANIEL POPKIN by Roberta Fallon Nathaniel Popkin’s new novel LION AND LEOPARD is set in early nineteenth Century Philadelphia, and features historical figures such as Charles Willson Peale, Raphaelle Peale, and the German painter John Lewis Krimmel. A historical incident sets the plot in motion—a mysterious death at a mill pond— and the novel’s descriptions are so earthy you can almost smell the cowpaths. Yet Popkin says Lion and Leopard is not historical fiction but rather a contemporary piece that deals with universal themes of originality, duplicity, family, friendship, power struggles and unexpected twists of fate. Indeed, the dialogue-rich writing uses slang that you might overhear on the streets today. And the issues are familiar. I sat down with Nathaniel earlier this month to ask him about the book. [Editor’s note: You can preview a sample chapter of Lion and Leopard, “The Dig“, in Cleaver Issue No. 1.] How … chop! chop! read more!
PACHYDERME by Frederik Peeters translated from the French by Edward Gauvin Harry N. Abrams Press SelfMadeHero imprint, 88 pages Reviewed by Brazos Price A cinematic opening: a woman’s heeled boot, a 1950’s traffic jam in bucolic Romandie, a downed elephant. Carice Sorrel, a woman who “simply must get to the hospital,” to see her husband who has been in an accident, heads into the woods rather than wait for the elephant to be removed. In Pachyderme, by Frederik Peeters, this transition from the road – through the woods – and into the hospital, quickly feels like a trip into the subconscious. When Carice first sees the hospital, the reader sees her have something of an out of body experience. Ultimately, the image seems to suggest that she is replaying, reinterpreting, and reworking recent events while asleep or unconscious or insane or dead. She wanders through the hospital and her … chop! chop! read more!
GILGI, ONE OF US By Irmgard Keun (1931) in the first English translation by Geoff Wilkes Melville House, 210 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin You push through the small, enclosed, almost claustrophobic rooms at the head of “Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, like an exile from a provincial village, and there you are face to face with Léger’s masterwork The City. Now free of the repressive ties of the parochial, you’re not there yet. The City—the city—looms, an inscrutable machine. “At once spacious in its lateral spread and aggressively frontal, it offers the eye no reasonable focus and the body no comfortable place to stand,” says the show’s curator, Anna Vallye, in the deeply informed essay, “The Painter on the Boulevard,” in the exhibition catalog. “To approach is to hazard.” But Léger’s painting is no warning. Rather it’s a syncopation of the moment … chop! chop! read more!
SIDEWALK DANCING by Letitia Moffitt Atticus Books, 158 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin A sidewalk dance is the step or two that strangers on a sidewalk make together in an effort to get out of each other’s way. Sometimes, says Letitia Moffitt, they naturallly move in tandem, like dancers, until they collide. Sometimes they stay that way, perpetually in each other’s path, never moving past each other. This suspended state of existence—one imagines cells tumbling around a petri dish—infects Moffitt’s novel Sidewalk Dancing (Atticus Books), the story of Grace Chao, a Chinese immigrant to San Francisco, and George McGee, a peripatetic and dogmatic city planner, who intercepts Grace at the diner where she waits tables, and pulls her half knowing into a life of mutual abeyance. The couple moves to Hawaii, where George designs an impossible house, fails to convince his colleagues of the importance of the latest planning ideas, … chop! chop! read more!
BLINDING: THE LEFT WING
by Mircea Cărtărescu, in the English translation by Sean Cotter,
Archipelago Books, 464 pages
Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin
It starts in adolescence. The questions come to you while lying in bed (certainly now with a growing awareness of your sexuality), the walls of your room expanding into endless grainy darkness, as if the room itself could encompass the entire world: why am I here, why is there anything at all?
The questions may haunt you at age 13 or 15 or 17, but by adulthood they tend to feel banal. Unanswerable, impossible, if taken seriously debilitating, they are in a word blinding, and so you tend to avert your gaze. But suppose you can’t, suppose the inviolable white light only draws you closer, to madness possibly, to paint or write or drink or pray (to what God, tell me?) almost certainly. And so perhaps you scribble, the pages of your notebooks filling with furious script, like eons of sediment piling into sad mute mountains no one else will ever excavate or carve or climb.
Unless, perhaps, you are a writer of the caliber of Mircea Cărtărescu, the celebrated Romanian author of the 1996 book Blinding: The West Wing. Cărtărescu is a poet, essayist, and novelist of unsurpassing imaginative vision and startling bravery. He has won several Romanian literary prizes, but beyond Romania and France, where a few of his novels have been translated, and Holland, where he has taught, Cărtărescu, a child of the post-War communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, is rather unknown. His only other novel to be out in an English edition is the 1993 Nostalgia, published here in 2005 by New Directions.chop! chop! read more!