ASK JUNE: The Scandinavian Scandal and 7 Rules for Crafting Good Political Insults

I am growing more and more upset at the level of vitriol and vulgarity in political discourse, if you even want to call it discourse, these days. At the same time, I can’t help feeling happy and as if “our side” has scored a point when I read about a really good insult. Daylin Leach made my heart leap the other day when he called Trump a “fascist loofa-faced shit-gibbon. ” Lately I have been sharing and retweeting all sorts of coarse and insulting stuff, even writing a few mean and/or filthy lines myself. Should I stop?

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MOTHER-MAILBOX, poems by Emilie Lindemann, reviewed by Rachel Summerfield

mother-mailbox is a private life, the private mode of womanhood, made public for all of us who have ever felt empty, questioned if there was more (or made new subs out of Subway sandwich wrappings to feel such a thing) and questioned how we should be feeling, but also those of us who have found beauty and humor in the “fade-proof plum lip-root mess” of it all, for those of us who seek a home within ourselves and those we make of ourselves; for those of us whose mothers or children have made spiraling, fairytale messes in our lives, flitting in and out as fragile as a flower until they suddenly take solid root.

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SWIMMING LESSONS, a novel by Claire Fuller, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier

“A book becomes a living thing only when it interacts with a reader,” says writer Gil Coleman, the rogue central character of Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons. When he tells a bookshop assistant that “first editions don’t matter,” he seems to argue that access is more important than ownership, that a book’s content is more valuable than the object enclosing the text. But the impulse behind the sentiment is hardly democratic; his words cast light on his unequal marriage to Ingrid, a student he impregnates, derailing her education. Infamous for a single work (the lurid and presumably autobiographical A Man of Pleasure), Gil is oddly less interested in an author’s words than in “the handwritten marginalia and doodles that marked up the pages,” and “the forgotten ephemera used as bookmarks.” By the end of his life, his wife is gone and his library is full of “bits of paper with which he could piece together other people’s lives, other people who had read the same books he held and who had marked their place.” It’s also full of clues to solve a mystery at the center of this skillfully structured and satisfying novel: Where did Ingrid go, and why?

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ASK JUNE: The Frugal Friend and the Presumptuous Partner

Jean-Michel is a music professor. He sometimes writes reviews, and he gets free thickets to things. Yesterday he called me and said he had two tickets to the symphony for next Saturday night. When he told me the program and soloists, I said, very sincerely: “That sounds fabulous! Thank you!” I was just about to add that my husband and I would be thrilled to have the tickets when he said: “Great! I’ll pick you up at six and we can have dinner first.”

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ROLLING BLACKOUTS: DISPATCHES FROM TURKEY, SYRIA, AND IRAQ, a work of graphic journalism by Sarah Glidden, reviewed by Brian Burmeister

Throughout its 300-plus pages, Rolling Blackouts provides valuable historical contexts and multiple viewpoints to help any reader better understand the region and its people. Glidden incorporates the voices of government officials, aid workers, refugees – even a former terror suspect, among many others, in order to showcase the complicated realities of life in those countries. We meet those whose lives were improved from the Iraq War as well as those whose lives were destroyed. We meet those who love the United States, and those who say, “I don’t want to bring children into a country that could be bombed by America.” As Glidden writes: “I think sometimes journalists get caught up in the hard news part, in investigating an unknown angle. But they forget that for most of our audiences, it’s all an unknown angle.” Incorporating a large chorus of voices, Glidden hopes to inform and challenge her readers.

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CHILD’S PLAY: How Creative Play Helped Unlock My Nonfiction Writing, a craft essay by Megan Culhane Galbraith

Playing in my Dollhouse has been important to my writing. The scenes, photos and videos I make match the imagery of the color Polaroid photographs of the 60s. I have a deep affinity for the babies, in particular. Staging a scene mimics the feeling of writing the first draft of an essay, achieving a mythic freedom on the page where my voice is alive and unconcerned with self-editing. I remember playing this way as a child, immersed in my fantasy world, and utterly happy. Children are metaphor makers and their language is play.

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TWO POEMS by Gemelle John, featured on Life As Activism

So They Will

Time is the lightbulb burning for the first three traffic lights
And blinking after that
Is the side street slick with remainder
And a storm cloud trying to drown

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WE’VE ALREADY GONE THIS FAR, stories by Patrick Dacey, reviewed by Tyson Duffy

In Patrick Dacey’s first story collection, We’ve Already Gone This Far, available now in hardback and due out from Picador in paperback June 27, we find out what happens when we yield to life’s despiritualized strangeness in the twenty-first century’s overweening atmosphere of hogwild commercialism and ideological rigidity. (His first novel, The Outer Cape (Henry Holt & Co), will debut in hardback on the same date.) Dacey seems to be an interesting character himself in this regard, a bespoke and downtrodden seeker of his own soul adrift in corporatized America. The descriptions he’s given in interviews of a difficult youth and family life, the bouts of poverty he endured as an adult, are evidence of a nature informed largely by pain and wonder. His father was a gambler who went broke repeatedly and thereafter took his son on long door-to-door sales trips. Later, Dacey raised his own son while living hand-to-mouth on hourly wages, after studying under George Saunders and Mary Gaitskill at the Syracuse MFA program. The agony of the peripatetic writer undergoing economic uncertainties comes through strongly in his work; Dacey’s writing often reflects the rawness of material poverty, a certain yearning for inner enrichment or a scatterbrained longing that is as essential to his stories’ characters as their spinal cord.

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BABELIA: Living and Speaking Spanish in Seville Spain, a travel essay by John Julius Reel

BABELIA Living and Speaking Spanish in Seville, Spain by John Julius Reel 1. Learn Spanish in Your Car If you consider yourself capable of learning another language in less than two years, without immersing yourself in it twenty-four hours a day, either you live in dreamland or you’re a genius. I know how these quick-and-easy language learning programs advertise themselves, but they just want your money. After you spend forty hours, or whatever it is, or even six months in a course, perhaps on the Internet, and you earn a certificate qualifying you as “fluent,” you’re still just a beginner, taking baby steps. Even if you go the traditional route, spending 150 or 200 hours of quality class time in a legitimate language academy, don’t expect too much. You can learn a language in an academy just like you can learn to dance flamenco in an academy. It’s a mere … chop! chop! read more!

ACROSS THE DIVIDE AND BACK: How Writing Poetry Is Changing My Nonfiction, a craft essay by Vivian Wagner

Writing poetry has also reminded me once again to pay attention to the rhythm of language. Rhythm is central in poetry, but I often overlook it when writing nonfiction. When we read anything, there’s a hidden music to it. We hear the words, as well as the relationship between the words, the stressed and unstressed syllables, the complex intertwining of word and phrase and sentence. Listening to rhythm is understood and expected in poetry, but I’m now more conscious that it’s just as important in nonfiction. I’ve been thinking much more about rhythm and flow. I’ve started reading my nonfiction aloud, as I do with my poetry. Since I’m a musician, I’ve always at least unconsciously understood the relationship between writing and melodic line and rhythm. Writing poetry, however, has reminded me of that relationship, made me sit up and take notice. And in recent months, my nonfiction, such as my short essay “Cut,” has become more rhythmic and musical.

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MY ITALIANS: True Stories of Crime and Courage, essays by Roberto Saviano, reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

The essay collection My Italians: True Stories of Crime and Courage, the provocateur Robert Saviano’s newest nonfiction work, is a startling condemnation of contemporary Italian life. For about a decade, Saviano’s one-man campaign against organized crime in Naples has made him famous across Italy. But he’s little known in the U.S., or he was at least until recently when a TV adaptation of his 2007 bestseller, Gomorrah, about the crime syndicate, la Camorra, began airing on the Sundance Channel (Italian director Matteo Garrone also made a 2008 film by the same name). Yet Saviano’s expertise on the malavita and how it’s infiltrated legitimate business knows no borders. Last year, he gave a talk at a conference in England about how business transactions in London’s much-vaunted City financial district are in fact influenced and manipulated by organized crime.

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ASK JUNE: The Snobbish Sister and The Secret Sickness

My husband “Albert” has stage-four cancer. He has been given no more than six months to live, and possibly much less. So far he has been able to do some work in his home studio, but he tires easily and is starting to look quite frail. He has been very brave and, considering the circumstances, cheerful about the situation. I am glad to do almost anything I can to make things easier for him. But there is one big area of disagreement: except for our kids, who are both in school hundreds of miles away, and of course our doctors and lawyer, he refuses to tell anyone about the cancer, and has sworn me to secrecy. He says that he does not want people to feel sorry for him or treat him differently from before.

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IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, poems by Rachel Slotnick, reviewed by Carlo Matos

IN LIEU OF FLOWERS by Rachel Slotnick Tortoise Books, 48 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Rachel Slotnick’s debut collection, In Lieu of Flowers—an eclectic combination of lyric poems, flash prose, and mixed-media paintings by the author, who is also an accomplished painter and muralist—is part in memoriam and part Ovid’s Metamorphosis. The paintings are of particular interest because they play an essential role in how we understand the poems rather than being simply decorative or extraneous as can sometimes happen when paintings and poems are paired up together in such a context. Most are essentially portraits, though not purely mimetic ones. Her paintings have a surreal quality, the edges often blurred as one image becomes another: a beard becomes a fish, a shirt melts into the coral of the sea floor, and flowers, always flowers sprouting where they desire. “I tried to paint my grandfather,” says the speaker, “and the figure … chop! chop! read more!

BEAUTIFUL IN ITS SLOWNESS: An Interview with Rachel Slotnick by Millicent Borges Accardi

Everyone kept telling me that I was writing and painting in a way that inhabited the same space and when my publisher decided to link these two worlds, at first, I was ambivalent. It was not something I thought possible. I was always working in both realms, often reimagining stories as portraits, and vice versa. I knew I was tapping into the same world, though there was a different sort of energy depending upon my point of entry. No matter how tired I was or how much my head ached, painting always made me feel better. I walked away energized, enthused, even daresay, upbeat. But writing was much more morbid. After writing, I felt drained and would often collapse into bed. It took something from me whereas painting gave me something back. I think by performing both behaviors I achieved stasis.

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A GREATER MUSIC, a novel by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith and reviewed by Justin Goodman

Bae Suah’s newest English-translated work, A Greater Music, describes the Austrian composer Franz Schubert as “a short, fat, shy myopic.” As brutal as this description is of a man who unhappily died before his 32nd year, it seems altogether different in tone when used to describe Bae’s novel itself. Filled with observatory indifference and an almost disembodied airiness, the novel comes across particularly as commentary, and as particularly rebellious. But what’s striking about A Greater Music is that it treats the work of Schubert above the man, treats the novel above the social, giving grandeur to otherwise short, fat, shy myopics. They are breathing things that were trapped in frames ill-suited for their sublimity–short in length, fat with substance, shy about their revelations, and myopic in their attentions, they are beings greater than their comportment can present. Something so heavy has rarely looked so light.

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VOTE TRUMP CHALKED ON A WALL IN MY RUSTBELT CITY, a poem by Freesia McKee, featured on Life As Activism

Walking home
from the protest We pour
water from the bottle another marcher
gave us over this temporary
sign With my wet and dirty
hand Lifting the fist
I would vote with Taking the side
of my arm and smearing it out

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AND SOMEHOW THE MAN ON CNN IS ASKING IF JEWS ARE PEOPLE, a poem by A.K., featured on Life As Activism

and horns crawl like an apology out of my skull;
my tongue splits in two and gropes the air
in front of my mouth. I need two tongues, you see.
One for me and one for my grandmothers.
One for Yahweh and one for Shekhinah.
One for the body and one for the blood
they would have you think was theirs.

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ASK JUNE: The Shell-Shocked Citizen and the Expectant (would-be) Spouse

After my initial shock wore off I found that I was very, very happy at the thought of being a mother. But Jeremy’s attitude is freaking me out. The absolutely first thing he said when I told him was: “I don’t want you to think that this means I’ll marry you.” This response devastated me for a lot of reasons. It seems ominous that this was the very first thing he thought of, not the joys or even the burdens of parenthood, much less my or our child’s welfare. I was also insulted by the tone of what he said, as if I were the supplicant for some wondrous gift he was withholding from me, not half of an equal partnership between equally committed people.

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TWO POEMS by Jeanne Obbard, featured on Life As Activism

Suspect in transgender slaying says ‘manhood’ was threatened”
– NY Daily News, April 1, 2016

Manhood: more fragile

than the hollowed-out egg I practiced pysanky on.

More frangible than the hem

of snowbank in early March.

More delicate underfoot

than the infant sea

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FACT CHECK, a poem by Laura Yan, featured on Life As Activism

yes, let’s
argue over semantics while
decapitated bodies and babies litter
hospital floors in aleppo and
not-my-president unites with Russia in
a fight with common enemy number 1
terrorism and extremism and
hoses spray ice and gas and bullets
against water protectors protestors while sophia’s
arm is exposed cartilage and elders ache from
head wounds let’s argue over safety

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HUMAN ACTS, a novel by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith, reviewed by William Morris

First published in South Korea in 2014, Han Kang’s new novel Human Acts is now available for the first time in the United States. American readers first encountered Kang in 2016, with the translation of her 2007 novel The Vegetarian. This strange, dark, poetic novel, about a woman who decides to stop eating meat after having a horrific nightmare, was met with great acclaim. Translated by Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian went on to win the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. While Human Acts is a rich, powerful novel in its own right, and should be read independently of The Vegetarian, it is often interesting to situate a novel against the writer’s other work.

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INCANTATION ON THE EVE OF 2017, a poem by Monica Rico, featured on Life As Activism

I turn bread into tortillas.
I leave dried guajillo chiles in my wake.
My hair is wild cilantro.
My footprints are poinsettias.
My tongue is an eagle whose wings will shout.
The fringe of my rebozo is made of infinite braids.
I dare you to touch.
I am a field.
My hands are dirt, my fingernails roots.
Diego Rivera has painted them.
My bones are made of corn and chiles.
My stomach is arroz con frijoles.
My lungs are comino y canela.
My blood is lemon and salt.

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F M K, a poem by Sybil Kollappallil, featured on Life As Activism

Two months ago they played FUCK MARRY KILL
He picked me as Fuck and the other brown girl to Marry
Kill was a white girl who changed her name a lot
Anna then Ann then Anne then Anna again
Marry Girl told me, I wasn’t there
He would have been my Kill, so you know
Then when the president was elected he yipped his pitchy yip
Marry Girl shrugged and told me, don’t forget
That they think of things when they see us
And especially when they see us together and recall
There is more than one here

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OCTAVIA E. BUTLER’S KINDRED: A GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION by Damian Duffy and John Jennings reviewed by Brian Burmeister

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER’S KINDRED: A GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION by Damian Duffy and John Jennings Abrams Comicarts, 240 pages reviewed by Brian Burmeister Crowned the “grand dame of science fiction” by Essence, Octavia Butler was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed science fiction writers of the 20th century. Her career spanned over a dozen novels and, among her many awards and honors,  Butler was the first science fiction writer to win a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, before being cut short. In 2006, she  tragically passed away at the age of fifty-eight. Thirty-eight years after its original publication, Butler’s best-selling novel, Kindred, and by extension Butler’s own voice and vision, has been given new life. Considered by many to be her most accessible work, the novel has been adapted into a graphic novel by cartoonist/writer Damian Duffy and editor/artist John Jennings. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, like the … chop! chop! read more!

THE DAY AMERICA DIED, AGAIN… by Joel L. Daniels Featured on Life As Activism


this is not an essay. no, this is not that. not a poem. not a bomb. not hydrogen. this is not blackface. not a pledge to a new allegiance. there will be no cotton picking. there are signs – a cross stump stuck in a lawn, a flag burning. there may be a march, some spring uprising to coincide with fall palettes and patterns, of bodies being flung to concretes, red pastels overshadowing the grainy elements of white hoods floating in the background.

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ASK JUNE: The Cherry-Picking Chore Guy and The Dog-Kicker’s Lament

My husband likes to tell people that he pulls his weight at home and does his share of the family chores and daily housework. The problem is that he always seems to do the jobs I actually like to do, and leaves the less pleasant, usually harder, jobs for me. I will come downstairs after a shower and he will say: “Honey, I just wrote little personal messages on the Christmas cards—now if you can only address them… and make sure the addresses are up-to-date. You might want to do some cross-referencing. Oh, and get stamps.” Or he will announce that he has emptied the dishwasher—which leaves me to sort and scrape and prewash all the dirty dishes and load them, and then do the pots. After these announcements he will pause so I can thank him. It makes me crazy….

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THE LOVERS’ PHRASEBOOK, poems by Jordi Alonso, reviewed by Claire Oleson

Jordi Alonso’s collection The Lovers’ Phrasebook shelves itself precisely in the lexical gap between languages, working with absence to depict presence and utilizing singular words to display relationships. These poems are able to gesture at miscommunication and a lack of sufficient vocabulary while also creating space for new conversation. The Lovers’ Phrasebook excels in its bravery and conceptual construction, working to translate without obscuring or whiting-out the original word in favor of an English counterpart. It’s a book that hails the multiplicity of loves and languages, largely favoring an experiential approach to definition rather than a literal one. The Lovers’ Phrasebook is an invitation to re-imagine how we move between languages and what the space in between words and their translations means and can be used for. By placing love in the space between fluency and confusion, Alonso has turned what could have been a dictionary into a romance.

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Ask June: The Squirreling-Away Spouse and the Prolix Writer

Dear June,
…I am troubled and, although I haven’t yet spoken to her about it, a bit angry that, without consulting me, my wife decided to put all her art-therapy earnings in a separate bank account. The account where my salary gets deposited is a joint account, and has been since before we were married. So is our small savings account, all of which is either money from my earnings or sale proceeds from a house I used to own before we moved in together. She is the beneficiary on my 401(k) and insurance. I just don’t see why the money I earn is our money, and the money she earns is her money. What do you think?

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SIEG HEIL/Their Shoes, a poem by Howard Debs, featured on Life As Activism

The shoes are made of iron
presumably to preserve the
symbolic footwear, but they are
attached along the Danube’s
stone embankment, so
perhaps the sculptor intended
that the splashing water
would with time
have its own effect;

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A BRIEF GLOSSARY OF IRELAND for the American Tourist Trying to Cram Thousands of Years of History into a Ten Day Tour by Sarah Ann Winn

Carvings: Everywhere there were stones, vines, and leaves twined together, along with knots and crosses, where animals often played in the hewn greenery, or people’s faces peered up at the top of columns. In some places, they’d been knocked away, in others they were restored from drawings, and in still others, most amazingly, the originals retained their details. A monkey sat at the foot of a monk. Saint Catherine held her book with the cover cross intact. At Maynooth University, the College Chapel featured fantastical creatures and plants in rare wood and marble, which never repeat after that first appearance. Between the gold leaf, the hand painted ceiling, the chorister which seats four hundred and fifty people, the pipe organ with three thousand pipes and bells and spinning stars, and an ornate marble alter piece surrounded by five small chapels, equally extravagant, the effect is exactly what each craftsman and designer over the two hundred years of construction intended — provoking marvel and wonder.

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NIGHT IS LONGER, a poem by Leonard Gontarek, featured on Life As Activism

anarchy isn’t for everyone can you hear me now
find your soul paint here on a saturday night
light is grandfathered in we sit in an ancient garden
dropping flower seeds and breadcrumbs dripping blood
beauty and music descend leaves and petals circulate
in the world the world grows dark and people grow older
x-rays float in the stream two car doors slam two doors down I sing

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TWO POEMS by Leonard Gontarek featured on Life As Activism

Walt Whitman With Light On A Lake

The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.
The land and the sea, the animals fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and
the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers, are not small themes … but
folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which
always attach to dumb real objects … they expect the poet to indicate the
path between reality and their souls. Men and women perceive the beauty
well enough … probably as well as the poet. You shall ratchet up the moon.

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WHIPSTITCHES, poems by Randi Ward reviewed by Hannah Wendlandt

Whipstitches is, at its core, an examination of all the many aspects of a rural home, especially a rural childhood home. The pastoral is tinged with loss and decay because the world is, it is colored by the lives drawing strength from it just as is the earth, and so this small somewhere becomes a whole and complete universe. Randi Ward’s poems are neat and well-edited impressionistic snapshots that interact in a novel way to create depth despite their length. Ward is triumphant in her presentation of a rural childhood; you know this girl. You’ve seen her at a diner or a gas station. Come hear what she has to say.

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Ask June: The Eternally Barking Border Collie and the Sneaky Saucier

Dear June,
Last week we went to a dinner party for ten, hosted by our friends Barry and his husband James. Barry, who always makes the main course, is a good cook, but his meals are usually on the bland side. This time the linguini sauce was wonderful—if anything, it was a little challenging, a little edgy. Although I did notice that James was silent and looked a bit discomfited, everyone else at the table praised the meal and Barry, the cook, seemed delighted. I remarked on the uncharacteristically flavorful sauce to Frank, my husband, during the drive home. He laughed and said that while Barry was off serving drinks, he (Frank) had seen a container of salt, along with jars of some other spices, standing near the simmering saucepot and had doctored the sauce with liberal additions of salt and two or three of the spices. I was appalled, but Frank—along with the couple we were driving home—said that there was no harm done, and indeed some good, since we had gotten a funny story and a tastier meal out of it.Who was right? And what, if anything, should I or anybody else do about this?

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Only More So, poems by Millicent Borges Accardi, reviewed by paulA neves

Only More So is a read for troubled times. War, climate change, cancer—it’s all here in forty-six poems of mid-life contemplation that simultaneously remind us that forgetting the past condemns us to repeat it and that celebrating the remembering is a necessary act of resistance and transcendence. Appropriately, the former sentiment originates not from Churchill, the statesman who appropriated it in wartime, but George Santayana, the poet who believed “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

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My mother’s mother,
Widow of the Episcopal
Bishop of Idaho, sat her namesake
My sister, seven,
On her lap and sang to her
You’re so ugly, you’re so ugly
You’re such an ugly child
While Carolyn cried and cried.
The lines repeat.

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AFFIRMATION by Ben Nardolilli

Any interested parties herein? I sought to execute a release, they ended up executing me.
The conscious pain and suffering, while extreme, lasted approximately 30 years. Yes,
I sought to execute a release. Just the good air and the silent situation. All necessary releases.
I left New York behind, the only decent discovery zone for games and diversity.

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Get cozy. You pull me
under starlit covers, coax
the past from my throat.
The blue-veined suburbs.
Winters gathered like sticks.
My father, when he was there.
Face-first mornings pressed
to the blacktop, the boyish
crackle of skin on ice. And
in the window, a comet
falling, clearing a path
through the trees.

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SEVEN PIECES by Karen Donovan

Lighting for your soul in purgatory, for deep nights at the end of the dock, for gravetenders on vacation, for the silencing of aspersions. Discounts for camping without a lantern, for al fresco dinners at the café of nevermind, for attending the flatbed truck parade, for packing a canyon with parabolas. Call for a second lighting tomorrow, for delivery of your complimentary rope ladder, for the flame annuity option, for your name on this grain of pollen. Twelve tapers included.

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NO REPEAT CUSTOMERS by Josh Wagner Early one Sunday morning Dean and I stumble past the First Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, the only church in town old enough to have God’s own handprint cemented in the walkway. We’ve been up a while, still not quite ready to pass out. It’s the corkscrew tail end of hour six or seven where synchronous waves start desynchronizing. The afterglow before the crash. Our general consensus is what the hell, so we sway on over through the courtyard where crocus buds pepper juniper hedges and murky stained glass islands float on seas of dried blood brick. A sign says welcome. The door creaks as it swings. The last thing I see before going inside, carved into the arch in vaguely medieval script, are these words: A riddle: How are we desperate and empty half of the day, but content and satisfied the other half? … chop! chop! read more!

CONDITIONAL [FALL 2009] by Nicholas Fuenzalida

if he hadn’t planned to go hunting with his father

if his father had kept the rifle locked away

if that day had been overcast, a variation in our state of sun

if I hadn’t been in a distant country

if lightning rods didn’t have to watch the storm clouds come

if the air took shape as a barrier, and not a field for the bullet to seed

if someone was in the house when he came home

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THE MAESTRO by Amin Matalqa

William, who was a cockroach, had a deep love for the music of Beethoven. Born and raised behind the walls of the Cincinnati Concert Hall, he grew up nurturing a passion for the romantics, much like his forefathers, with an affinity for the operas of Wagner and Puccini. To say that music ran in his blood, while biologically inaccurate, would be an understatement. It traces back to his great grandfather, Wilhelm the first, who was an immigrant from Germany, famous for boasting to the uncultured Cincinnati roaches about life behind the walls of the Berlin Opera House (legend had it that he once sat on Herbert Von Karajan’s shoe while the maestro conducted Brahms’ Requiem); and his grandfather, who was taking a stroll to contemplate the thematic development of his first symphony when he was stepped on by none other than Leonard Bernstein. When he was still alive, William’s father longed for the day the family would return to the motherland and hear the acoustics of the famous venues there, but he died while scouting the route to the airport (he was captured and swallowed by a drunk man over a $20 bet).

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WELCOME HOME by Michael Fischer

For 23 years you’re free. Then you go to prison.

You arrive in an orange jail jumpsuit, thin and see-through as a dryer sheet. You sit in a cage until a correctional officer calls you out. State your full name. Any aliases? How tall are you? Yeah you wish, how tall are you really? How much you weigh? Hair color? Eyes? Any scars? Any tattoos? Where? Of what? What size shoe you wear? Pants? Shirt? Get back in the cage.

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DECEMBER by Matthew Burns

I will, and I will
Walk into the morning
Light falling like snow: a flurry:
Life. Cold is and I am.

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What Phi Dees saw that morning may have disturbed him. At least he has not forgotten and has noted the way the memory prowls unfettered in his mind. What happened would seem to be a simple matter; indeed, natural. A neighborhood cat down low in the grass, inching toward the feeder, leaping through the air to bite a finch off its perch. No skirmish or even sound of a ruffle. There and then not. And the cat turning to look back in his direction.

But what he saw was this: a view of himself, looking up from his reading, observing too quietly the silent scene. Even waiting for its denouement, not unlike when he once watched someone fall slowly down a flight of stairs.

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A red-stemmed vase of lightning lifts the sky toward heaven’s permanent farrago of space and time: heavy, religious, worth thinking about, we agree. God might rest easier tonight blessed by our toast, a toast raised above the fold, the mad superciliousness of the headlines, the narcosis of the many. Lincoln, you would’ve reminded me, lives on in the few. We do well, I might have replied, to thank the weather for this breeze, and that bottleneck guitar climbing those angelic blues might be the ultimate apotheosis, yet another reason to go on living as if this day might last forever. Lilacs and a shot of bourbon, neat.

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CHAMELEON and CAMERA MAN by Justin Jannise


He liked to watch me change.
I slipped a bra strap over my left shoulder.
The room darkened.

As if I could maintain myself.
I dream of living under a bluer star,
a sky more deviant with color.

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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18th, 2015 by Kimberly Ann Southwick

the glass of water he breaks
after our only night out this week,
a slow drown for him at the bar,
almost ruins a roll of postage stamps
when he comes home and falls down.
i am holding his eyeglasses.
i’m not even sure how
and you move away from him, from us.

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SHEEPSCOT WELLSPRING CEMETERY by Michele Leavitt Mercury shrinks to the bottom of the gauge, and you follow the stone wall to a gap too narrow for more than one, past a granite foundation pit, an abandoned orchard, and down through a dark hemlock stand to the ice choking the headwaters. You imagine the gurgle of strangled water, the unbreathable gap between ice and slush, and you’re grateful for spaces between stones in the wall, where your breath, which has now left you for good, collects with the fresh snow. Michele Leavitt, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, and former trial attorney. In 2016, her essays appeared in Narratively, Guernica, and Catapult. Poems appear most recently in North American Review, concis, and Hermeneutic Chaos. She’s the author of the Kindle Singles memoir, Walk Away. Image credit: Tom Hilton on Flickr … chop! chop! read more!

THE HALF GLASS by Olivia Parkes

You could say that the fundamental difference between them was that she was a glass half-fuller and he was a glass half-emptier. Or that she drank water, and he drank.

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