Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall 2010

A great poet, Suzanne Harvey, passed away this year. I promised her son that I would include a note about her passing, so after the review of her last book, A Tiara for the Twentieth Century, I have placed her obituary. She was a very talented writer and - though I never met her - a wonderful person.

It may be possible that I will be taking a break from Illogical Muse. In two months I will be starting my medical classes, and I'll need to focus harder on my studies. There will be one more issue following this one and in January I will release the Best of 2010, however, after that I am uncertain.

~ Amber

American Life In Poetry Column 174

American Life in Poetry: Column 174


I’d guess you’ve all seen a toddler hold something over the edge of a high-chair and then let it drop, just for the fun of it. Here’s a lovely picture of a small child learning the laws of physics. The poet, Joelle Biele, lives in Maryland.

To Katharine: At Fourteen Months

All morning, you’ve studied the laws
of spoons, the rules of books, the dynamics
of the occasional plate, observed the principles
governing objects in motion and objects
at rest. To see if it will fall, and if it does,
how far, if it will rage like a lost penny
or ring like a Chinese gong—because
it doesn’t have to—you lean from your chair
and hold your cup over the floor.
It curves in your hand, it weighs in your palm,
it arches like a wave, it is a dipper
full of stars, and you’re the wind timing
the pull of the moon, you’re the water
measuring the distance from which we fall.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Joelle Biele, whose most recent book of poetry is “White Summer,” Southern Illinois University Press, 2002. Poem reprinted from “West Branch,” Fall/Winter, 2007, by permission of Joelle Biele. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Artwork by Tiana Godfrey

Incoming Tide by James Piatt

Crusted gems sparkling
In the green stained sand
Kiss the incoming tide
Translucent glowing colors hug
The receding sun dipping into impossibilities
Sirens entice me into the black velvet sea
And the inelegant currents
Pull me into coral doorways
Where eel eyes of colorless blue
Glare at the multiple facets
Of my foolhardiness

Instinct by Brandon Rushton

I sit quietly at my window
A mere spectator to the world around me
Blind to ambition
Paralyzed from propaganda
Yet the evening always comes
Blanketing us with the shadows of the universe
Revealing the pseudo sphere
In the night we grasp the truth
For the stars are our guides
The sun conceals us from our surroundings
It is the sunlight that allows us to feel protected
While the night introduces us to the vastness of our being
The clouds tend to disrupt our sight
In life we are held back from the haze
It is in the dark that we use instinct
It is that instinct that guides us home

See The Pig by Larry Jones

see the pig walk
walk pig walk
see the pig fall down.

see the man
see the man with the red board
beat the pig senseless
ill it's battered and bloodied
just because the pig
wouldn't stand up.

scream pig scream

see the piglet
see the teeny weeny piglet
squeal runt squeal.

see the woman
see the woman pick the piglet up
by it's hind legs
slam it's head against the floor
till it's brains fly out
just because the piglet
was to small.

die piglet die

see the animals suffer
while the people
make their money
and this little piggy

The Earth Within by Michael Keshigian

We awoke in light,
wriggling in the palm
of a muddy hand,
divided into portions
under a stone,
we were the life
that delighted the sun
as we edged toward an empty cave.
Heaven rinsed us with a sigh
and set afloat
the Earth in our veins.
Behind our eyes
loomed the ocean,
beneath out fingernails
vegetables slept,
between our toes
hovered the air of discovery,
a model universe floated
undiscovered in our brain.
The great plates trembled
and the chatter of teeth
shattered the ensuing silence,
glacial ice masses cracked
and the capillaries of vision
slid into a sea of fascination,
a body born
under sunlight, in sand,
saturated with rain,
blossomed skyward
to propagate the world.

Dark River Night by Roger Singer

“Kep!” demanded the young woman, eyes afire, fingers grasping the loose thick cotton shirt of the determined young man before her; his boyish face smirked away the threat of probable danger awaiting him. He played off the fear with wide eyes of foolishness, shaking his head, sending wild rolls of curly brown hair bouncing onto his smooth forehead.

“Kep! You stop that you hear!” A fevered crawl of anger heightened the seriousness of her intentions. “You think this here is some kind of a joke!” She twirled on her toes. A wall of stiff shoulders separated the marble of sadness within her from the young man. Her head dipped. A quivering chin blessed the motherhood of her chest. A soft sobbing filled the immediate air.

Kep felt moved to hold her; he felt awkward at her expression of sadness. His eyes looked skyward, wishing to escape. Instead he placed the palm of his right hand on her shoulder. “Now Lyda.” His voice speaking to the back of her beautiful dark hair; a tortoise shell clip held a tight queue onto the whiteness of her neck. “It’ll be ok.” His hand rubbed assuredly in small familiar circles. “We’ve been offering this here topic up for two weeks and I keep telling you not to be a worrying.”

The young woman snapped an about face, startling Kep; the hand on her shoulder found thin air, his eyes a moment ago filled with adolescent sorrow sparked into a wide shock, as the face of Lyda captured his countenance.

“It’s easy for you to stand here, telling me everything will be just fine, when the truth is men are dying for a dying cause.” Kep tried to interrupt; she placed her fingers over his lips. “You hear me out Kep.” She stammered. “I see the sadness haunting the mothers, wives and girlfriends of soldiers fighting and I also see the dark struggles in faces over news of the dead.” She paused, looked down. Late September breezes circled noisily within branches of a leafed out dogwood above them. A scattering of leaves touched easily at her ankles; like homeless children begging for comfort. A cloudless cool sky weighted over them with an ocean of blue. To Lyda, it was her favorite time of the year, though now the saddest as she unwillingly relinquished her lover to war; summer falls from the arms of time, yielding to fall.

The lovers yielded to the powerful grief and lust of the moment. Slipping to the ground, they unwrapped the presents of their youth; the energy of breathing melted onto their lips.

“Kep. Kep.” Lyda’s voice filled warm the memories within his head. Her face freshly painted with each calling of his name. “Lyda, Lyda.” His hand trembled, reaching as the elderly do, attempting to capture the past with crippled fingers.

Kep passionately extended his hand, discovering a welcome patch of warmth. He stroked the familiar between the pads of his fingers. His lips broadened, eyes closed, head tilted back he moved his hand deeper into the wetness. Kep’s innocent smile of lust quickly vanished into the paths and dungeons of his darkest fears. Beads of sweat rained onto the surface of a dirt stained forehead. A cold tree top wind above him beat into branches resembling witches arthritic fingers. Dry life evaporated leaves beneath him rustled at his slightest motion; the death bed of autumn welcomed him onto a brown canopy. He labored to remember bright images of explosions, land clouds of gun powder obscuring his vision, men crying and extremities scattered like twigs under his attacking, ever advancing boots. He yielded to nausea, vomiting onto his bloodied shirt; a tight acid gripped his throat. His eyes opened with the slowness of a man drugged by thieves; he was wounded, severely, dying in a forest, a place foreign to his feet, on the bank of a river, the Rappahannock , across from a city called Fredericksburg .

He called softly, a voice meant only for angels nearby gathering the dead and those wishing for an end. “Lyda, Lyda.” He hoped to return to the dream of his lover, standing behind her. This time he promised to turn her, kiss her passionately, tell her of his love, over and over until he ran to the end of words.

A thousand needles of pain griped him. He pulled his knees toward his chest, easing only for a moment the forever damaged tissue ripped apart within him. The dream of her did not return. Kep turned his head to the waving treetops high above. He imagined for a moment he was at the bottom of an ocean of air, laying on a sandy bed looking up at tall strands of seaweed. He thought of climbing the weeds to the surface, escaping the bottom ocean of death, then swimming to shore, running home, never to leave, never to leave Lyda again.

The pain circled his abdomen, moving roughly within as if demons were dancing loudly on what remained, stabbing him for the sins of his past. Dusk walked over the river, dampening his face, chilling the skin; the last border of life. Kep could see lights from the city across the river. The undercarriage of clouds ushered in by night reflected a gray glow. Voices of men echoed from the city. Men at rivers edge speaking words, jumbled by distance, gathered roughly into baskets of sounds, indistinguishable to Kep. He could tell the voices were stationary, not moving in his direction; nighttime fostered courage in groups not in shadows of one. Kep lay his head back. Weakness caught him up into a level below sleep; rest was broken by the sound of slow deliberate footsteps walking near.

Kep remained motionless, refraining from stirring the leaves below him. Each step of the closing footsteps signaled salvation at the hands of a local farmer or the act of immediate death at the hands of enemy stragglers for his paltry personal possessions. At this moment, exhaustion being the only life form maintaining his breathing, he welcomed the option of death over the pain of being moved. Kep purposely stirred, moaning into night covered air. The approaching steps halted almost immediately. Kep moved some more. Silence maintained the close environment of a stranger and the dying soldier.

Kep called out, “Who’s there?” silence answered back. “I knows someones there, I hear you coming. No sense in hiding from me.” The words spoken by Kep caused him to writhe in pain. He rolled onto his side like a dog beaten with a stick. He sobbed, mentioned Lyda’s name then slipped into unconsciousness.

When he awoke, he could see the broad shoulders of someone leaning over him. The face was obscured by night. An owl high above called into the chilly expanse, echoing onto the river. For a brief moment the gray rolling clouds above offered a separation, allowing a sliver of silver from a December moon to run the face of the stranger. Kep was startled at the face of a black man looking down at him.

The man was bald, heavy set, someone who was sure with their fists. Kep leaned back exposing his neck, hoping the revengeful black man would slit his throat for all the ills imposed upon him by his southern generations.

The stranger spoke as if a wind opened a back door. “What’s you got wrong with you?” he asked, leaning away from Kep; the clouds over him closed like the red sea, the man’s face once again hidden behind a curtain of night.

Kep leaned up slightly, bracing his head on a mound of dirt, observing the large figure before him. It was a poor presentation for a white man before a slave, being partnered with the ground as he was. “I took a slug in my side.” Kep slowly opened the lower tail of his jacket showing the man a dark stain; the brightness of blood extinguished by night. “I’ve been lying here for a day maybe two, I don’t rightly know if it’s more than that.” Kep covered his wound. The black man sat down, any fear of being apprehended by this man was out of the question. His shoulders relaxed, fingers scratched the dirt before him, he looked up at the clouds then at Kep.

“What you expect to do with dat hole in you side?” Kep didn’t answer. The black man continued. “I come across a good number of you boys all shot to hell, none as in good a shape as you dow. One boy ask me to kill him out right, like a pig for slaughter. I told him no way could I do dat. My moma, bless her soul, would come back from the grave an’ whip me out. Sure as day she would, whip me out.” His fingers pushed the dirt again. Finding a small stone he cleaned it off and tossed into the black before him. The pebble skipped on several leaves before settling to the bottom.

Kep spoke up. “Can you find me a doctor?”

“Now where in hell would that be?” answered the stranger angrily.

“There must be someone near this place or across the river. Someone who could get me up. I know if someone could see me they would gets me. I know they wouldn’t just let me die.” Kep lost his breath, coughing lightly and holding his side, he sobbed softly, embarrassed of his weakness before a slave.

“If Iz to go across that there river an' scrounge up some doctor help for you, I would be captured and whipped sure as there is a hell. Boy you’d be long dead before help ever got to you.” The man reached into a small leather pouch. He removed a piece of cooked meat. Kep could smell the spices, causing him to gag. “I guess you ain’t gonna be asken for none of my supper is you?” The man chewed heartily.

“You got any water?” Kep asked. The man reached under his coat. He untied a rope with a canteen attached. Turning the top he held it up to the mouth of Kep. Kep slurped at the water, droplets formed at the corner of his mouth. His eyes thanked the man. The black man wiped the top with his fingers, swallowing hard from the canteen. A few months ago Kep would have never thought of drinking from the same container as a black man, and now, well now he was dying, and the prejudice ingrained to him was washed away with the act of a man’s sharing. He now realized there were no lines dividing white and black; a swallow of water baptized the hate from him. Kep sighed but said nothing; the soul of a dying man gains wisdom in seconds after a lifetime of wrongs.

“Where you headin?” asked Kep.

“North.” Said the man. “As fast as my feet can carry this here frame.” He took another swig of water, wiping his lips with a tattered sleeve. “I gots a little money I stole from my master when he done and left the farm I was on. Took some prime meat to. None of dat shit dey serve up to us workers. Yes sir, dis here chicky is the master’s best and I done serve myself to it.” The man took a mighty bite from the meat, tearing at if as if he were a wild dog.

Kep asked, “You got family?”

The man laughed, sounding more like a growl from a wolf about ready to strike. “What family I gots is scattered like the dust from a dead field. My wife sold to a man in Louisiana . My two boys both gone, sold like mules. ”One to Mississippi, the other . . .” The man looked down at the ground. Clouds above parted. Moon light captured tears escaping onto cheeks familiar with pain and suffering. Kep reached out, placing his hand on the man’s boot. “I don’t know where da udder one is. Somebody done told me he was dead.” The man wiped his face. Anger found life in his words. “He might as well be dead, all of us for dat matter. We is dead the moment weze born. Shackled and beaten into doin for udders. Weze only alive so white folks don’t get dere hands dirty. From da beginnin we is treated like scum, doin da work that dat keeps dere hands clean and wealthy!”

A dog in the distance barked. The man hushed his words. His shoulders bent down. Eyes scanned left and right. “I gots to move on.” The words came as a crushing blow to Kep. He knew there was no holding the man, no convincing him to gain help from the city across the river. Certainly threatening the man was beyond consideration.

The man removed the leather satchel from his waist, placing it with the canteen next to Kep. Kep reached out his hand. The shadow of the black man was motionless. Slowly he moved his right hand clasping Kep’s. The man stood. Slowly at first he moved through the brush, until nervousness pushed his feet into fast; his footsteps merged with night like waves blending onto shore.

White Trash

Photo taken by Daniel Robinson

Two Poems by Sara Crawford


Four hours, mostly on a deserted
two-lane road,
with fields of corn, cotton, and
cows whizzing
by outside of the car windows,
we drive
past a sign that says,
“clean restrooms here!”
with an arrow that points
to a brown house
still standing
(not like the ten or so
houses I counted
along the way)
where an old man in a straw hat
sits in a squeaky rocking chair
on the front porch,
selling boiled peanuts.

We arrive in a town,
smaller than a University,
just above the Georgia-Florida
and pull into the parking lot.
This is my brother’s house now,
underneath the Spanish moss,
next to the palm trees,
behind the barbed wire fences,
and a policewoman who
looks at her watch.
Visiting hours, already.

We get out of our car,
stretching our legs
looking similar to a family
I saw in a van
a few miles back
starting their summer vacation.
The little sisters used beach towels
for pillows in the back seat.

After we give the policewoman
our driver’s licenses, fill out the
appropriate forms, walk down the
waving away
South Georgia gnats, unwelcome guests
that invade every room,
we sit at a table.
In brown metal folding chairs that must
hurt my mother’s back.
My brother,
dressed in orange,
sits across from us.

As visiting hours pass, we catch up,
laughing, pretending
everything is normal.
The fluorescent lights shine brightly
down on us, and a fan
in the corner
of the room
blows a little girl’s blonde curls
as she hugs her father, his tattooed arms
tightly around her little white dress.

For a moment, we are just a family
around a table,
like when we used to play Risk.
My brother always won.
I wish we could all get back
into the car
and follow that van down to
But this is my brother’s house now.
I guess we’ll have to wait until next summer
(or maybe the summer after)
for beach towels that can double
as pillows.
For now, we have the gnats and metal folding chairs.
At least, we have that.



I wish that I
were Frank,
the cat,
as he rams his tiny
head into the bottom
of my chin,
as if to say,
“nothing else is
as important as

He gets distracted
by the silver earrings
on my nightstand,
fascinated by
he paws at them
until they
on the floor.
He stares in amazement.

Crossed Wires by Diane Klammer

The telephone cries
to be held.
She cradles it to her face,
feeling it’s cold pliability
pressed against her cheek.
She wonders about the outcome
of another conversation.

How strange that a twenty four year
marriage can be compressed
into a machine,
distanced into
a telephone connection.

One thousand miles separate them.
A void stretches over and over
into words of wired speech.
They can hardly connect.

He said he wouldn’t leave
before having to fly
into another time zone
to keep his career.

When she hangs up
she and their children
work on a puzzle.
A crucial piece is missing.

They try to find
the one piece
to fill in a part of the sky
while they crawl along the floor,
searching throughout
the room’s emptiness.

Finally she finds a pair of scissors,
and begins cutting a box
to create a facsimile
of what would complete the picture.

The lone grey cardboard cutout
looks tawdry and dull
against the other bright colors
which do not fill in to whole.

Incomplete and off balance,
she cannot stop the ringing in her ears.

Traveler by Phil Capitano

borne aloft in meadows blue
I taste of sunshine, morning dew
traveling with eagles grace
all satin, linen and lace.
I am milkweed feathers, dandelion hair
freedom floating with careless flair
pewter mugs and lion heads
castle walls or loaves of bread
while Mother turns in her delight
coriolis gives me flight
forceful winds to skies unknown
o’er lakes and seas my brothers sown
even in nightfalls darkest hour
I shall not tally or cower
but wait for the joyous light of day
into laughter fields I come and play.

Two Poems by Santiago del Dardano Turann


Orion lay upon his side
Beneath a sheet of urban light
Whose fuzzy electricity hides
His form in layers of lazurite.

The secret forms of stars are query
He hunts across the endless plains
With windy arrows whistling mutely
Across the bending cloudy grain.

He rises through the blooming spheres
In nighttime’s gardens velvet petals
Ungnawed by the corrupting years’
Hard unforgiving worms of metal.

But through a lifetime’s many nights
Mankind is dulled by regularity,
And walks on with his narrowed sight
Unconscious to life’s mystery.


The Roman camp in the Teutoberg Forest , German frontier
September 8, 9 AD

Our eagle glitters in the pasty gloom
From gleaning patches of the moon’s dead light
Within this forest icy as a tomb
In realms of Orcus, land of ghost stalactites.

Our fires seem to suffocate in fog
No cloth or metal guards us from the moisture
Exhaled by yet another nearby bog
Whose spirit looks upon us with his anger.

My centuria, who are all in fellowship with Mars,
In their rough way will only joke with fear
But whisper prayers to gods and family lars
In voices they would rather that none hear.

Even to me, who’s just a raw centurion
Who cannot chirp in Greek or quote a poet
That German’s clearly leading us deeper on;
Yet Varus does not seem to see the threat

Nor heed the warnings of that old Cheruscan
That we are chasing wind in these deep woods.
He said, “Arminius is a Roman equestrian
And can be trusted. Leave off your private feuds.”

Yet I was told by Priscus that he saw
Arminius and others going from the camp;
Trickling away like water in a spring thaw
Before the dribbling brings down icy clumps.

But do not worry, we all make up three legions
With six cohorts and six alae of cavalry
And we’ll sort out these blue-painted barbarians
Then I’ll be home to greet your new born baby.

Cassius Charrea
Legio XIX, Capricorni

The White Magnolia by Donna Marie Miller


Brenda was a tall girl with curly, black hair and large green eyes that changed with what she wore. Sometimes her eyes were very light green, and sometimes almost blue, and sometimes, grey, but they were always large and sparkling and clear and beautiful. She had fragile, thin skin, so fine and clear that her delicate veins showed through here and there, but it was the skin of a very fine, but fragile and delicate nature. She had skin like a magnolia blossom, lemony fragrant, very lightly freckled, that didn’t tan, so she had to keep out of the sun, and that kept her looks delicate and winsome for a long time.

As a little girl, Brenda would sit on a swing in her front yard and watch the passersby in Tupelo, Mississippi, on Sundays or on weekends. She would put on her prettiest clothes, nice fluffy dresses with shiny shoes and pretty delicate stockings, and she would sit on the swing and look at people passing and they would look at her. She liked to be all dressed up like that, sitting on the swing and let people look at her. She wanted people to think she was pretty.

Brenda’s father was a preacher and her mother a fundamentalist Baptist, and so Brenda’s life was sometimes curtailed and hampered by the rigidness and lack of understanding in her families views. Her mother referred to her often as “the original rebel without a cause” but Brenda’s rebellion took the mildest forms, and was in no way calculated to make her seem openly rebellious at all. She wore lots of makeup, carefully applied, like most Mississippi girls did, and she did as her parents told her, cooking dinners for the family at an early age, and dating at 13 as most of the girls in Tupelo did. So she really didn’t rebel in very obvious or public ways.

She had a sarcastic way of representing things, and she thought for herself. She rejected racism at an early age, as something that just seemed to her sensitive nature as ungodly. She rejected church at a rather early age, too, not because she disliked or didn’t believe in God or in Jesus, but because she didn’t believe in hypocrisy, and that is mostly what she felt in the local churches, not Jesus’ love. She believed in freedom, but she didn’t really know how to go about getting it, except by opening her home to those who needed friends and a haven from injustice, sort of an underground railroad for local women.

She married younger than most girls in her generation, at 18, right out of high school. Her wedding was the day after her graduation, and she married her girlhood sweetheart, a young man named Bill, whom she had dated from the age of 14, and according to Brenda, was her best friend from the age of 15.

Brenda wanted to stay home and be a classic homemaker, but circumstances forced her to work all of her life at various jobs. She worked at a Sears coffee shop for years, and then at the Book Nook, where she was a popular public person whom people came to for conversation, food, coffee and her fun and sparkling personality and wit. She had many girlfriends, most of whom were professional women, but Brenda longed for no profession, just wanted to be a stay at home mom, and was unhappy that she had never really been able to afford to be that. She used to tell me about that and I found it hard to believe, but it was true for her.

Brenda was a public wit, a private humanitarian, and a personal splendor. She was not a “Steel Magnolia” like the women in the movies had portrayed southern women, she was a white magnolia, lovely, fragrant, resilient, but fragile, as the large, pale magnolia blossoms for which her state was famous. She was a real magnolia, without any steel.

God had sent Brenda to a little town that was awash with racism and sexism. Brenda tried to practice what she preached, which meant that she was at outs with the fundamentalists churches, most of which practiced a mean narrow-minded form of small town judgementalism rather than Christianity. At any rate, they didn’t appreciate Brenda, except for what she tithed, or whatever she did for the as she so succinctly put it “ their dreary little bake sales and cookbook sales and especially their way of trying to sell Jesus like he was some sort of insurance policy for health, wealth and success. You don’t have to sell Jesus. He is there all the time, in good times and in bad, but life is still going to happen, you know.” So she had written to her dear friend Sugar Magee, stuck up in horrible upstate New York, where she had been lured by a handful of painting sales, got stuck there, and the damn sexist small town Yankees had robbed her of her car, her savings of $7000, any job she managed to get that was decent, and finally, were trying to rob her kids of any chance of a decent life.

All this was because Sugar had protested sexism in the arts in that community, and had objected to being sexually harassed by hideously ugly sexist old men who were old enough to be her father, Ugh. Sugar was too pretty and too smart to want to hang around with men that much older than she was, and she certainly didn’t have to date them. She had plenty of chances to date with men her own age or younger, and she didn’t need nor want the attentions of elderly sexists, so for that reason, the old buzzards had blacklisted beautiful Sugar and her entire family of brilliant, gifted sons, and they were nearly down to nothing, without even enough money to pay the gas bill, and behind on rent, too. And Sugar was a genius if anything. Poor Brenda tried to advise her, but what could she say. Sugar certainly didn’t want to come back to Tupelo, where it was even worse, if anything.

So Brenda comforted her by phone and by letter and Sugar comforted her back. But this wasn’t unusual for Brenda, she did this for everyone. She was the town confidant, that is, the confidant of decent, good women and many girls, too, and she had done her best to make that little town a good place to live. She had done a good job of it, like many Southern women, she had created or helped create a subculture that was true to decent human nature if it wasn’t true to the overriding bullying and violence that the more ignorant of the men tried to play out against the rest of the population. The southern women just looked at men like that as “stupid”, this was the universal word for them, and they just outmaneuvered them and avoided them, didn’t tell them anything at all of any value or worth, and finally, lied to them if necessary to keep on keeping on. They didn’t have scruples about this; if you are a Jew you cannot tell the Nazis the truth and aren’t under any obligation to tell where your friends and relatives are hiding in the walls, nor when they are going to escape, nor anything at all. You out smart them, and the Southern women did the same to the Southern men, that is, to the worthless kind who bullied and tried to domineer by meanness and brute strength. That was all, and they succeeded at this sort of thing rather well.

Southern women were very good at rolling their mascaraed eyes at such men, behind their backs of course, direct confrontation wasn’t their style, unless it was in the form of sarcasm that was sure to be waaaay over the heads of those at whom it was aimed. Or they would lift their delicately plucked and shaped eyebrows at such or other such methods of expressing disapproval without expressing it. Brenda was a master at such, and this is how she handled everything from sexual harassers in the grocery store, to ignorant and over made up librarians who were jealous of Brenda for reading so much and being much smarter than the school teachers. But as before mentioned, Brenda didn’t want a career, so she didn’t work at making one, she just took the jobs she had to get to help her family survive, and to help her skin flint husband make ends meet.

In high school Brenda was both popular and a misfit. She was pretty, that helped, she was middle class, that was ok, upper class would have been better though in small town Mississippi, she was smart, but she may have had an undiagnosed learning disability in math, though she was certainly good in English and an excellent and avid reader. She was kind and outgoing, and she had lots of girlfriends and dated a lot, but she also had a very introverted and spiritual side that was constantly questioning hypocrisy, and meanness of all kinds. She gave up racism long before it was popular to do so in Mississippi, and did her best to treat all blacks with respect, though she was prevented by local customs and her family from inviting them to her inner circle of friends. This would have raised hackles in her family and her neighborhood and Brenda was not the type to raise hackles. As before mentioned, she didn’t mind raising eyebrows, but like most all Southern women, her rebellion was of a behind the back eyes rolling, telling secrets and keeping all important information away from men who were the “stupid” kind and the like. Outward rebellion wasn’t her style, and didn’t have to be. She didn’t want to be an activist; she just wanted a life.

Brenda's First Adventure

Brenda’s first adventure came long after she was married and had kids. Her best friend Sugar was running into all kinds of weird trouble up in the Carolinas where she went to school, and up in Chautauqua, New York where she had moved to try to make a living and was not making it, quite.

Brenda stood up for Sugar, of course, over the phone, but she didn’t know that Sugar’s issues were going to hit her right in Mississippi, for Sugar’s enemies were afraid, now this is funny, but they were actually afraid that she might become president or something, a president who would actually fully intend to free women, not some token like the Clintons or the like, but a real bonified women leader who planned on eliminating sexism in the United States. Why this scared people, who knows, but it did. Mainly old men who made their living oppressing women, and who didn’t want to give that wickedness up, unless forced to do so by God. Now why would this effect Brenda?

Those wicked men sent one of their whores to seduce Brenda’s husband. Now Bill wasn’t really an oversexed guy, so this was a hard task. In fact he had terrible back trouble which had interfered with his sex life for years, and seemed likely to end it completely, so it wasn’t needing sex that caused Bill to fail. It was a power struggle.

Bill was a person who rarely said a word in company. He would sit and watch TV and let Brenda do all the talking. Even Sugar, who had known the family for years, since Brenda and Bill were dating, had never heard Bill say anything at all, except one sentence that she remembered. When she and Brenda had been talking politics, and George Bush, the elder, was running for office again, he had said, “Bush’ll be hard to beat.” That was truly the only thing she had ever heard him say that indicated that he had a thought in his head about anything but the motorcycles which he fixed and sold for a living.

So some company whore seduced Bill, mainly to make him keep Brenda in her place, and she succeeded, by persistence, in breaking up the marriage. This just about killed Brenda, who truly loved the silent Bill, even though he wasn’t much of a lover, and never hardly said a word even to her. They had been best friends, as she told Sugar, since she was 14 years old, and it was hard. But Brenda saw the woman once, and as she stated, she wasn’t pretty at all. But that wasn’t the point, the point was to injure Brenda, and stupid Bill succeeded in that so well that it almost killed her, but not quite.

The adventure was that Brenda survived. She survived to become the biggest flirt in town, and she actually had fun flirting around her small community, cute as she was and full of life as she was, and she found that suddenly, she felt not only more alive, but free. She went to a community college and went back to school to study, of all things, nursing. And she had fun. She made good grades for the first time in her life, and sold her little house, renting an apartment on the IJC side of town, near the community college which she attended, and she started to live a life that was unknown to her. She even considered running for public office and finding a better community to live in.

And she found, suddenly that life without stupid, silent old Bill was pretty good. She bought a little trailer instead of the house, put the money from the sale of her old house into savings, and she had a royal blast with going to different churches and checking out different belief systems from her old fundamentalist stuff and nonsense. She even attended the Catholic church once, sort of a mission church it was out in Bible thumping Mississippi, and she found that she could make friends anywhere, just by being herself.

That was part of the adventure, but the real part was that Brenda started taking her car out and just driving places. She had never gone much of anywhere without Bill and now she just got in and drove for no real reason but to get moving and go somewhere. It was fun. She liked it immensely, and soon she started taking her girlfriends with her and sometimes her daughters, even though they had gone to live with their father (he had bribed them by offering them cars if they did, which they promptly totaled) and she started exploring.

One thing she found out is that not only could she live without a man in the house, but she liked it. She did what she wanted to do when she wanted to, and she didn’t do dishes at all if she didn’t want to , or cook, but went out to eat at the old Sears coffee shop where she used to cook. There was a new woman, one who wasn’t nearly as friendly or as nice as she had been, but she liked going for the French fries and hamburgers. She liked having the girls gone from the house, and she felt healthier than she had ever been in her life.

As a girl, and young woman, she had always been somewhat sickly, subject to anxiety attacks and other ailments that were mysterious and almost impossible to diagnose, but she got healthier and healthier and all her ailments seemed to vanish in the exhaust fumes of her car as she explored farther and farther. Finally she did something really extraordinary, that is, extraordinary for a woman born and raised in Mississippi. She decided after her first year working as a nurse in the local hospital for women’s health, she decided to take a yoga vacation with her friend Sugar, who wanted to get certified as a yoga instructor.

So Brenda’s adventure was to go on a yoga retreat in Hawaii, with Sugar Magee, the artist who was starting, finally to get a name for herself in some of the more progressive galleries and museums out west, and see what it was like to become a yogini.

Brenda The Yogini

Brenda liked it at once. She liked getting on the plane and meeting Sugar in Los Angeles, and she liked getting on the other plane and going to Hawaii. She even liked going out to dinner at the yoga center and all the vegetarian food, though Brenda had never gone vegetarian in her life, and was used to breakfasts of fried pork chops, fried potatoes, eggs, biscuits and the works. She liked it. She sat with Sugar and they giggled and laughed at the cute Hawaiian men who were young and tanned and looked like they lived to surf. She liked being a pale southern white women trying as hard as she could to be flexible. And she found that after two days of trying, she actually became flexible, or at any rate, flexible enough to do at least the beginner stuff without looking like an idiot.

Her friend Sugar had been doing yoga for more than twenty years so she was busy trying to learn handstand, and do a more advanced form of backbend. She was taking a more intense form of classes meant to earn her teaching certification so that she could start up a little studio out in Colorado, or join one to teach there. They all did their asanas out on the beach, so she and Brenda could see each other from far way, and they would wave and laugh at each other trying new things. Their instructors were both brilliant suntanned experts, good at being humble and great at the same time. That alone was a yoga experience.

Then it happened; Brenda fell in love with an adorable teacher, not hers but the one who was teaching Sugar’s class. He was really good, really vital and he just loved Brenda, in spite of her lifelong avoidance of physical exercise of any but the lightest kind. It was a case of opposites attracting.

Whereas Brenda liked making new men friends, Sugar did not. She was involved in too many theoretical works to have much time to be involved with men, anyway, and besides, she was having fun just being herself, something that she had not found much time to be during the years of her marriage, and the years that she was in school. It was an adventure to become herself, and required all of her time. And besides, her work on color and light theory was achieving national prominence and seemed to indicate that she would be developing this theoretical work to its full potential in order to protect the security of the country, which was in jeopardy because of the stultification that sexism had imposed on cultural and scientific works.

Waiting For Work

Photo Taken by Garrett Smith

Broken Silence's Vow by Clifford K. Watkins, Jr.

There was a flash of obscurity when our eyes met
And our meager strands soon shuddered in puddles of regret
Yet we reached for the firmament from respective abysses
Aching for the warmth of flesh
Coupled with give-and-take bliss
Only to recoil to our dimly lit streams
To release our inhibitions through befuddled compositions
Pretending to be whole
We struggle with the dismal realm of fragmented dreams
Questioning the construct we call a soul

The Afternoon Light In Slanting by Linda Woolven

Chrome legged table
stale mug
morning grind
oil cloth slips to the floor
in weak sunlight.

Tired woman
brown spotted hands,
folds and wrinkles
surround her,
enclose her in age,
she sits longer each day.

unable to remember
why she should move again.

Small breakfast
of few bites
turns to soggy, sour lunch.
Her stomach lurches
fixes her with inevitability.

Her bowels run
in noisy
life emptying spills,

The disease claims
her a little more
each day.

swollen from her own fluids,
a skeleton walking,
mostly sitting,
her surviving hair
pinned loosely,
it comes out grey
and lank,
falls dead
as she too must.

The afternoon light
is slanting,
her ride is here,
the volunteer,
her chemo awaits.

She goes on weak tea
two bites of toast.

Leaves behind
the kitchen
who knows her
so well.

Biking Over Bridges by Carol Hamilton

The wooden ones are the best
with their clattery complaints,
the shuddering forward motion,
the gulleys, canals, streams below.
Down there, it may be green
and humming with insects.
As a child, I feared three things:
Nazis at the door, furry spiders
in my bed, and quicksand
under the long metal span
needed to get from somewhere
to somewhere. Bridges are never
for nothing I am saying here,
but it is only an article of faith.
As I pedaled, I used to fear
these passages with their narrowing,
with their sharp turns before
and after, the rises and fallings off.
Now, I sail up and over,
love the railed-in connections
someone thought to prepare for me
well ahead of my need of them.

Rain Check On That Cup Of Coffee by Holly Day

It had been so long
since I’d had a dream about Christ

That it kind of took me
by surprise when He

Appeared at the foot of
my bed, floating

A couple of feet above
the shag carpet in that way

He used to when He was
a regular

Guest in my college dorm

He used to talk to me a
lot back then. This time, though

He just stared at me
from across the length of my Amish-made quilt

His eyes so sad and
sorrowful that I honestly felt

That I had done something wrong.
“Can I get you something?” I asked

Because even if I am
some sort of sinner

I am always polite to

Jesus, He used to talk
to me, and maybe

He would still, if I
didn’t have a man asleep in bed next to me

But Jesus is just so
damned polite I think

He was afraid of waking
my husband up.

A Tiara for the Twentieth Century: A Book Review By Amber Rothrock

A Tiara for the Twentieth Century
By Suzanne Richardson Harvey
Fithian Press
ISBN: 978-1-56474-489-0

Suzanne Harvey writes words that embrace the reader, at times with a gentle hug and at others like a vice grip. The emotional detail and grittiness of her poetry will leave readers nodding their heads in agreement. She is a true writer, meaning she uses her life experiences to write poetry many can relate to; as can be seen in this excerpt from “Sins of Omission: Remembrance for a Birthday.”

Sometimes all you remember
Are the mistakes you made
The things you didn’t do
Those small sins
Of a mother’s omission
That can wear a hole in a child’s heart

Like the time
He cried from 10 till 2
You shut the nursery door
Till all the tears dried up
You wonder if they left
Some permanent desert in the heart

One poem I particularly like is “The Velvet Garrote.” It reminds me a lot of my mother and me. It displays the lengths a daughter will go to for her ailing mother. It also shows some slight bitterness to someone else (perhaps a son?) who enjoys the finer things in life while his mother is reaching the end of hers.

I feed mother broth
Scrub out the grime between her toes
Clean her crotch
Stick a Q-tip in her ear

You’d be coasting at anchor in Sausalito right now
Or maybe dipping escargot in spinach sauce on Fisherman’s Wharf
Perhaps you’re fondling a jade Buddha in Chinatown
Or worshipping the beach at Monterey

If you have read the works of Suzanne Harvey than you already know that she has a gift for bringing skeletons out of the closet and making them stand up and be counted for with elegancy. A Tiara for the Twentieth Century is a full length collection of her poems and a must have for anyone who enjoys her poetry.



Suzanne Richardson Harvey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1934 and married there in 1956. She was a member of the Academy of American Poets as well as a member of the National Council of Teachers of English. She passed away on Saturday, July 17, 2010, in Walnut Creek, California.

She received her B.A. from Mount Mercy College, now Carlow University; an M.A. from Northeastern University, with a thesis on George Meredith; and a Ph.D. from Tufts University, where she specialized in Elizabethan poetry and wrote a dissertation on Edmund Spenser.

After teaching at Pine Manor College and Tufts University in the Boston Area in Massachusetts, she and her family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where for almost two decades she lectured in the English Department at Stanford University. Nearly a decade of her time at Stanford was spent as a resident fellow (together with her husband) in an all-freshmen residence hall. They co-authored a book about this experience entitled Virtual Reality and the College Freshman: All Our Friends Are 18 (Alamo Trails Press, 1999).

While at Stanford, she also was a visiting lecturer in the English
Department at the University of California at Berkeley. For nearly a
decade, she regularly taught editorial workshops offered as part of the
curriculum for the Publishing Program at the University of California
Extension. Her teaching produced the volume A Functional Style: Logic and
the Art of Writing, which she used as a teaching device not only in her
university courses, but also outside the classroom at workshops for the
University of California Regents, for Bank of America executives, and at
Asilomar for the American Medical Writers Association. Upon retirement from Stanford in 1997, she remained active, lecturing for Emeritus College and for Diablo Valley College near her home in Alamo, California.

Her collected poetry has appeared under the title A Tiara for the Twentieth Century (Fithian Press, 2009), with individual poems published in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Austria. She is survived by her husband, Robert J. Harvey, cofounder and former chairman, CEO, and president of Thoratec Corporation, now in Pleasanton, California; and her three sons, Dennis, Brian, and James (Duke); in addition to five grandsons, Kevin, Sean, Gregory, Patrick, and Matthew.


Artwork by Tiana Godfrey

Ocean Of Love by Easter Dodds

Boundless depths
Reaching far and wide
The ocean of love
Takes you for a ride

Plunging in heart first
Love comes pouring in
You leave reason behind
And let faith take wind

In a whirlwind of emotions
You let yourself go
You’re free as a bird
Love is all you know

Till you reach its boundless depths
To seek all that is pure as gold
You’ll ride the ocean of love
And see true love as it unfolds

Abstract Blues by Jacob Erin-Cilberto

for William Carlos Williams

wheelbarrow's dilemma
rain under its skin
rusty repose
a farmer's hands crooked from life
the chickens gone hungry
sustenance flew the coop
the grass around his castle
trampled hopes with suspendered eulogy
like an emptied moat
an acre of being drained
erosion's implement
the only tool left
to wield.

Illinois Farmers by Michael Lee Johnson

Illinois writer in the land of Lincoln
new harvest without words
plenty of sugar pie plum, peach cobbler pie,
buried in grandma’s sugar
factory sweets and low flowing river nearby-
transports of soy bean, corn, and cattle feed
into the wide bass mouth of the Kishwakee River.
It’s the moment of reunion,
when friends and economy come together-
hotdogs, marshmallows, tents scattered,
playing kick ball with that black farm dog.

It’s a simple act, a farmer gone blind with the night pink sky,
desolate farmer, simple flat land, DeKalb, Illinois.

Betsy and Phil invite us all to the camp and fireside.

But Phil is still in the field, pushing sunset to dusk.
He is raking dry the farm soil of salvation, moisture has its own religious
quirks,dead seed from weed hurls up to
the metal lips of the cultivator pitting.

The full moon is undressing, pink fluorescent hints of blue, pajamas,
turned inward near midnight sky against the moon
now fully naked and embarrassed.

Hayrides for strangers go down dark
squared-off roads with lights hanging,
children humming school tunes, long farmhouse lights
lost in the near distance.

Humming till dawn, Christian songs repeated over God’s earth.
Dead go the sounds of the tractor, with the twist of a switch off,
down to the dusk and off the road’s edge.

It’s the moment of reunion.

Gotta Take This Call by Richard Lighthouse

no. you're breaking up.
call me back on the land line.
that's my battery
about to lose power.

well i left the charger at home.
it's got one of those funky
wire ends - doesn't
fit anything.

can you text me? LOL
well i'm driving too!
yeah - dialing and driving
that's me.

OMG. that's another call.
can i call you later? shit.
well call me back and

then i'll have your number.
right? no, i never answer
around the boss. he gets mad.
well jesus.

just send me a fax. it's easier.

E-mail To God by Alexander Russo

Dear God:

We know how pissed off you were
when Adam and Eve screwed up
your beautiful garden, and ever since
you’ve been taking it out on us
with plagues and earthquakes
and thunder bolts — You, the perfectionist,
could never admit to a faulty creation —
and now we’ve done it again — thanks to you.
Because you gave us a fantastic brain
we’ve invented super-hypo reality —
which you must abominate,
since we can commit any sin.
You name it, we’ve done it — and much, much more.
Why we’ve advanced so far we can create
our own body parts, make twice as much trouble
by zip-zap cloning.
We are inventing our own creatures, recycling souls.
We've eliminated Heaven and Hell.
There’s no limit to what we can do.
So listen.
Now that we’ve developed the Power, and
with all due respect, knowing how hard you’ve worked
since the beginning of time, we are retiring you
with the title “God Emeritus.”

Cues by David Hassler

When I was small we all lived low,
in old places by tracks and on-ramps.
Our flannel shirts and canvas shoes
objects of ridicule to those
who lived up and beyond the hill,
my new junior high classmates.
Usually tall, often blond, their
feathered hair bobbed down the hall.
Those with older brothers fared better;
the rest of us left to ponder how best
to avoid the taunts and laughter.
The months taught us to band
together, chess players and readers.

Invited up to another awkward boy's
house, I tried to hide the hole when
told to leave my shoes at the door.
His place like a kid's liquor store:
a pool table and trains, video games,
a VCR, guitars and horses,
a room full of books you never returned.
His mom made a Sunday dinner on Tuesday.
Didn't see why I needed two forks --
had to watch, take cues from folks
who didn't own TV trays.

Country Livin'

Photo taken by Amber Rothrock