September 15, 2013

Issue 6

If this were a print publication, the cover art for this issue would be a photo of Walt Whitman. The caption would read, "The Interview." Your hand would pause at the black and white cover, and you'd say, "What the..."

But, of course, this is a digital release, and the interview is with Walt's reincarnation, who's tweeting at this exact moment at the helm of @TweetsOfGrass. I asked the administrator of that Twitter account for an interview because he/she's taking something old and finding a way to make it new. By "reissuing" Leaves of Grass 140 characters at a time, day after day, the administrator and the followers are able to find new ways of looking at poetry.

And the 10 poems in this issue also accomplish this task, of finding new approaches to revamping poetry.

I hope you enjoy the poems in Issue 6, and after you read the interview with Walt, check out the account on Twitter.

David Svenson

Priscilla Atkins

Hospitals & Guns

“They found a brain tumor,” Mark phones.
Later, I piece the scene into a hard quilt:
on a gurney, you linger in a terrible tick-tock
of hours waiting for a room. (Doctors
orders: “You can have a day or two to consider
which surgeon, but we will not release you
without the removal.”) A long stretch
of steroids messing with thoughts, with
sleep. Messing with life as you loved

it. Three weeks later, a seam across your head,
pills and a plastic bag. After, I dream us
hostages: you at the wheel of a strange car,
a masked man in the passenger seat
clasping a semi-automatic. You distract with
chatter (“this part of the city boasts big industry”)
then: abrupt, smooth, you slam the brakes,
yank the gun, jump out, nosing it
to the sky––bang!bang!bang!—you save the day.

Originally from Illinois, Priscilla Atkins studied at Smith College, the University of Hawaii and Spalding University, where she earned her MFA. Her poems appear in Poetry London, The Los Angeles Review, Barrow Street, Salmagundi and other journals and anthologies. She teaches women’s and gender studies at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan.

Henry Clover

for Ayurzana

He had built his home on the south side of the hill,
would sit gazing down the steppe until dusk
as his mastiffs coursed the north side's tree line,
immune to warmth. He spoke of attaining distance,
of how kilometers had come to be counted
in tossed vodka bottles and pot-
holes creeping out into the country
as trucks traversed the frost-heaves.

“Ulaanbaatar is not Mongolia,” he said,
“I try not to wander here too often.”
A swallowed diaspora—he felt

like a Kurd. And here the tiny wires
in our Chinese-built cell-
phones as we ex-
changed our numbers, overtaxing the grid
and unfeeding a third of those
same subsumed humans,
the sweet smell of coal smoke flow-
ing in the opened door
of the restaurant where we sat.

Here the absurd paternalism of impotent hope
in a city filled and brimming with smoke,
the continuing litany of grass chewed down by goats,
barren land leached for gold,
of power pumped in
over borders to pack the rare earth back out,
of larch saplings planted to die
in jagged craters in never-smooth sidewalks,
dropping their orange needles for a single season.

“This city shouldn't exist,”—
what the aid workers and neoliberals,
all in on the graft, won't say—
“gone boom and bust in a week's worth of Western articles.”

What the bored children won't em-
brace, more interested in bustle than breathing
deeply—all believing
propaganda strong enough to with-
stand seven hundred and fifty years.

Light, darkness, dust—the landscape shifts its layers,
alternating milk, tea, and salt—
as the globe fails to exalt its oppressions—
there will be nomads that outlast the city,
but more citizens, never gaining the civics
that they should rightly have attained,
won't know how to be no-
mads either, as the skilled and un-
skilled all go blind finally
together surviving the black storms
sweeping up from Ulaanbaatar's dust.

“You should come and visit sometime,
if you manage to get out of this place.
The dogs aren't friendly,
but you can stand at the top of the hill
and decide which climate you are willing to face.”

Henry Clover writes poems. He's happy that you've had the chance to read this one.

Darren C. Demaree

A Brief Suspension of all History #36

Quite soon, keen knife
I will praise

your separation of meat
from the bone. I believe

that is what it will feel
like to be honest
with my children
about adult things. To

confess vintage learning
about the vantage

of failed endeavors. I am
ideal to teach you,

Isabelle, Thomas,
because I have failed
right with the world,
but I have been triumphant

in phrasing the question
of your own, deep hearts.

Follow me! You will end up
right back here

with the ripe belly
of a butcher, a person
who knows the good meat
& swallows all meat,

because of the scarcity
of a lean, correct answer.

Darren C. Demaree is living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. He is the author of As We Refer to Our Bodies (2013) and Not For Art Nor Prayer (2014), both are forthcoming from 8th House Publishing House. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations.

Alan Elyshevitz

The Anthropic Principle

In our only viable universe we elbow
and crowd, and attract silver metals,
and grasp the rungs of ladders molded

for opposable thumbs. Binocular vision
facilitates our longing for birds in flight
and our fear of onrushing traffic

while mouths extract three-dimensional
succulence from even the oddest of edible
fruits. Smearing a napkin with papaya

juice, we say, Your lover is lovely
and perhaps good. Her necklace seems
to observe us, jewels alert, silver teeth

set in a grin or a grimace. She signals yes
or no, approach or go, but remains our only
source of tender birds and cruel traffic. Seen

through a monotheistic window, the moon
pretends to be flat and unloved. The more
distant planets live hard lives complicated

by ammonia. Just as our young crave cheap
American chocolate, our ears are compelled
to fashion adagios from January wind. Four

walls are an ideal fit for our noisy quartet
of limbs. And the rooms in which all of us
dwell have been carefully wired for sound.

Alan Elyshevitz is a poet and short story writer from East Norriton, Pennsylvania. His collection of stories, The Widows and Orphans Fund, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. In addition, he has published three poetry chapbooks: Imaginary Planet (Cervena Barva), Theory of Everything (Pudding House), and The Splinter in Passion’s Paw (New Spirit). He is a two-time recipient of a fellowship in fiction writing from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Currently he teaches writing at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Jessica Housand-Weaver

P. americana (The Avocado Tree)

You’re hunkered in a Ghillie suit
of pigweed. I’m resentful of the muhly
tickling spangled scars on your cheek

and of Tlalhuicole, the Aztec warrior
who offered to die, rather than return
to his country alive with a stain on his glory.

Three hours you’ve been there, digging
shallow trenches, raking your hand
over your eyes, the trellis a quandary

of twisted metal and star-thistle among
the rough, reptilian pears rotted on the ground…
—avocados, arising from the word for ‘testicle’

in Nahuatl

                                          the shape of men.

Jessica Housand-Weaver is an MFA graduate student at The University of Arkansas at Monticello and has served as co-editor of UAM’s new magazine, Gravel. She has been published or is upcoming in Stone Soup Magazine, Poetic Voices Magazine, The Dark Fiction Spotlight, Mused–The BellaOnline Literary Review, Mocha Memoirs Press, Malpais Review, Fickle Muses, and Poetry Pacific, among others. She currently lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband, a disabled veteran, their two children, two step-kids, four dogs, and a flock of free-range chickens. You can view her website at

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens


I dreamt I lost my son in a tornado.
We were in a hotel bathroom
twenty stories up.
There was no time to escape.

Cheap drapes anyhow,
I remember remembering.
I saw the black funnel cloud-
a black bull with horns that spanned the horizon.

Snorting everything up its nose
Coming straight for us.
My son was on my back like a prosimian.
My in-laws and husband played Scrabble.

We braced for the destruction.
I held onto a towel rack.
I laughed at my feeble gesture of stability--
Then, my son was ripped from me.

I looked down to where I had been
Where I always seemed to be- getting ready in a bathroom-
Just that tiny room sheared off-
Like a piece of tile cake.

How do you like this slice?
My husband opened the bathroom door and said,
“Look at that, she was right.”
And my son was gone.

The weight that grounded me and gave me something
To shoot for, vanished.
Now I was just a girl
Trying to stick a landing.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens has poems published in Superstition Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Burningwood Literary Journal, The Apeiron Review, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, Star 82 Review, and Iowa City’s 2013 Poetry in Public Project. She has poems forthcoming in Rufous City Review, Thirteen Myna Birds, and Eunoia Review.

Mike Oliphant

An Island Named Inaccessible Nightingale

I see the old hand-drawn map,
tattered and taped to the kitchen
wall. The dark water of the South
Atlantic is drawn in azure, high
ground in maize. The broad-
shouldered plateaus are shaded
in yearning. An island named
Inaccessible Nightingale is barely
discernible between, as if wreathed
with shipwrecks and shrouded in fog.
At the sight of the island, something
inside me unwinds like heavy
slackline knots. An incandescent
bulb drones fiercely above me ,
sounding as far off as a cicada’s nest.

Mike Oliphant is a recent graduate from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he completed a chapbook-length senior composition in poetry entitled A World Set Apart. He was the recipient of the 2013 Mary A. Flower Prize for the most outstanding senior student majoring in English and the 2013 Ione Sandberg Shriber Young Writer’s Fund for the graduating senior who excelled in the field of writing. He largely writes poetry but also short fiction and flash fiction. His poetry has been published in Every Day Poets and Carcinogenic Poetry. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, where he is embarking on a new career path and writing in his spare time.

Yaddyra Peralta


It is a heavy gift,
life of mornings accumulated
and then something like the smell
of freshly-tilled soil coming from a cup.

The coffee bush that sprouts from Honduran soil
thrives in the shade. Her vagrant berries
picked by children
spilled like marbles across the highlands.

Obscure and insignificant, Honduran coffee
is often smuggled into Guatemala
to be disguised and sold as native product.

I once saw a river the color of coffee with cream.
Those muddied waters daily carrying
the sediment of far-off soils
through the shifting foreign tongues of the forest.
From there: the moonscape of the ocean.

My kitchen is a moonscape and sometimes
the spaceship from my old home lands.

The things I smell and hear are not memories but recognitions.

Some things are meant to travel far
from home and never return.

Yaddyra Peralta is a poet. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Jai-Alai, Abe's Penny, Tigertail, Hinchas de Poesia, the Miami Poetry Collective’s Cent Journal series, and Lies and Truth, the poetry supplement to the Tabloid series accompanying Miami Art Museum’s 2010 New Work Miami exhibition. Yaddyra was a recent Writer-in-Residence at the Betsy Hotel's Writer's Room in South Miami Beach, Florida.

April Salzano

Who My Mother Is

She is buried
under so many layers of falsehood,
no one knows which parts are real anymore.
She is prairie woman, her long skirts dragging
dust of the plantation,
putting food by, wanting nothing.
Arthritic knuckles knead dough,
press, fold. She is farm
milk, unpasteurized. And lard
makes the best pie crust. Or maybe
she is dark rock
star’s mother, band chaperon, maternal
force to grown men she calls boys. She sways
to basement beats and tunes
their amplifiers. She is church deacon,
raised Catholic but born
again anew in the waters of adult anointment,
Baptist, Methodist, Realist,
until what is real threatens
to destroy the myth. She is
socialite, articulate, hiding
her insecurity like a dark secret. She is not
her mother, the thought that keeps her
awake at night. She is victim
of misunderstanding, nailed
to every cross. She is guilty
of crimes she has forgotten, passive
partner, witness, the second hand
that carries the story forward, spreading
it like the truth it couldn’t be further from.

April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons. She recently finished her first collection of poetry, for which she is seeking a publisher and is working on a memoir on raising a child with autism. Her work has appeared in journals such as Poetry Salzburg, Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, Convergence, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Montucky Review, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. She also serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Joseph Stern


There are no real solids and Buckminster Fuller
Explained that love is a kind of metaphysical gravity
So, as love begins, being swells and surges,
Like when you emerged from foam onto silica,
And I emitted an oscillation through space time,
Along with a transfer of energy, and you waved back.

Joseph Stern’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sanskrit, Poetry Pacific, Angle, and Main Street Rag.