Breaking Up

You take the crab, now bright red
and grimy with Old Bay, and
pull its legs off. They don’t work
anymore. Crack them open; suck
the meat out, lips tight around
the soft casing. Bite down -
that’s fine. Some people
turn the thing over
and pull the penis off,
shiv the knife in under the shell.

My sister used to pile all the edible bits
to one side, to have all at once,
a feast.
I eat each piece when
it’s hot. The spice burns

the mouth.

~Louise Robertson~



Back in College

He told me how he gets himself off, the position
of his fingers, how they penetrate, how
the knobs of his bones push on him.
I kept this to myself to prove something. I had to give up
the sneer on my face when I would have told it.
I had to be in the club of people who know
him like this. I wanted to put it down, a rock in the yard.
A rock in someone else’s yard.
I wanted to curl my face and spit out
everything he told me. He’s the guy who
thought I ate too much when I ate at all.
This showed his soft insides,
his yield and let go. No one should
ever know he was that human.

~Louise Robertson~



Photoshop Man

One of the fake images that slides onto Facebook
timelines is supposed to be the x-ray
of a 700 pound man. The narrow skeleton
was grown like all the other baby
frames, full of bend and flex.
I put my imaginary arm around
its Photoshopped shoulders, a friend.
I run my hand on the inside
of its humerus, a lover looking for dust.
I bring my broken teeth
to the meniscus of flesh outlined
around its bones.
Look at the kindling of elbow and knees,
so exactly no bigger than they ever are.
Its ulna did not stretch
with the flesh, a grace of extension
to accommodate a body with more to love.
Or did it? In repose
this body’s circles and rounds

bunch on its scaffolding.
There’s the perch and lean of the clavicle.
Shivs and flesh, shivs
and flesh. I put my imaginary
arm around it again. Is it fair
to compare shoulders
to fists, fists to
fins, then split
the fins into feet, making
the toes out of dice and teeth?
Not fair, but I will do it anyway,
measuring each piece against
another piece, against another
piece, against another person,
against another person,
against another.

~Louise Robertson~




Your Hecate
pendant goddess swings
between the mass of you

and the tract of me.
Make it hard I say
(so I can feel).

You shake your head
fearful of what monsters
might come

as (Hecate falls in my mouth)
you thrust
(where I am weak).

So why is it when I tell you
I am (scared) done
and push away

you think
to bare your teeth
and bite my breast
(and this
you do not mention)
is okay?

After, you sleep as (he slept) men do,
snoring, unbroken
moon dreams

while I cover (give birth to)
things swollen, things
women know

unto ourselves
and in the dark.




Bed cranked up like a recliner,  
warm blanket shawl, open book,
pedicure pretty on emergency
room sheet, a monitor scripts peaks,
valleys, like a plot in a Russian novel.
Who knew when I picked ‘Drop Dead Red’
off the rack that I'd fly it
to Detroit, walk it into hospice.

And who could imagine him waiting there
bobbing in warm narcotics
his blue eyes smiling in the rain.
Who knew I'd sing a case of you,
he'd nod a beat and wave
his thin arms like terrible kelp, capture
my head, draw it down, press
blue Vaseline from his lips to mine.

Tenderized, I told him I remember everything.
His mouth was empty but he said me too.

But that was not the truth.  I don’t remember everything.
Not the name of the cheese we found in Cortaillod
that’s like camembert married to gorgonzola.
Not our address on Beaver Island where I turned
to see his hand up the bartender’s shirt
nor the name of the pitying nurse
who waited with new mother and child
 – the blue pickup running late.

There's a long dim hall between then and now
where I sit hand over my heart
counting, then not counting
the cadence of breath.

~Harriet Stratton~



Dead Bodies Make Good Umbrellas

It was raining outside.  He listened
to the soft explosions of the drops
colliding with the window’s pane.
They seemed to echo the heavier drippings
slicking the floor of the garage.
Hands sliding up the freshly exposed bone,
he raised the arching canvas of flesh
it held over his head, and walked into the storm,
secure in the knowledge that his latest kill
would ensure that the more sanitizing of these showers
could not erase the luxurious traces of entrails
christening his skin.

~A.J. Huffman~




Mocking laughter turned
my world numb.  Visual
images of abusiveness
flashed, moments of electric
clarity.  I could see
his thoughts spewing
from mind to lips.  Loss
of feeling did not equal
paralization, could not stop
the knife in my hand
from intercepting.
The resistance of vocal
chords under the blade
was as unsurprising as
the eruptive red
silence that followed.

~A.J. Huffman~



I Dream in Devastation

War is nightly
concept I cannot extricate
from myself.  Bodies litter my bed,
blooded and broken.  Faces
I know, faces I don’t
down my throat. 
I choke on feelings
of helplessness as I stand,
armed and planted to this
nocturnal mirror of pain.

~A.J. Huffman~



False Alarm

Sirens pierce the day,
citizens freeze
for a tense minute
fearful the terrorists
have struck again.
Then a convoy appears,
the entourage
of a minor  head of state
in a swollen moment,
illusion of grandeur
pleased to disrupt
a nervous city.



My Book About Cats Will Never Happen

I can't write about this cat because this is the one that I dream about
I can’t dream about this cat because this is the one that I write about

I can’t talk to this cat when I see her in person because this is the cat I write fan letters to

I can’t collaborate with this cat because this is the one that won’t sit on my lap
I can’t buy merch from this cat because this is the one that I watch on television
I can’t exercise with this cat because this is the one that drives their own car
I can’t dress like this cat because this is the one that I admire for her manicure
I can’t travel across the country with this cat because this is the one that will not leave my lap

I can’t put this cat in the basket on my bicycle because this is the one sprung a leak and I had to patch the hole in her leg
I can’t hide this cat in my coat because this is the one that bit the vet

I can’t ask this cat to forgive me because this is the one that I could not line up his vertebrae in proper order

I can’t wire money to this cat because this is the one that shakes every object in her mouth like she is breaking its neck

~Valerie Loveland~



I Was Buried at Sea While I Was Still Alive

He said he only pushed me in the pool but it is not a pool
if you think about the ocean as you fall in. If you think of salt
as you drift down. Not if you remember
there is no functional bottom to an ocean.

Alternate title: Every Time I am Under Water, My Whimsy Drowns.

I only wear a bathing suit to get in and out of the water. It barely matters
when it is this dark. I wish the pool light would finally turn
on so I would know which direction to swim.

I considered wearing a dress that catches on the waves. Instead,
I wear the whole ocean as a dress
and it flows to the same effect.

I thought I heard laughing but when I poked my ear out
of the water, it was just water rustling.

Lungs allow no room for water. Air-soaked,
they are like two paintbrushes that only paint with oxygen.

Alternate title: I am Positive I am Heavy Enough to Sink Straight to the Bottom.

My phone still works under water, but there is no wifi
because of ocean currents. If you don’t know where you want to go,
just lift your feet off the floor and the ocean will decide.

The ocean is the only place my hair is voluminous.

Alternate title:
I Know Why They Make You Walk Out on a Plank Instead of Letting You Jump Overboard.

Where did all the salt come from? I have never seen a fish cry.
All marine animals acquire high blood pressure.

Why doesn’t the salt settle down
to the bottom with me? Why doesn’t it answer my questions?
Why does it keep asking me the same question over and over?

~Valerie Loveland~




a hot muggy day
no one to play with
all the kids gone
to the beach
Charlie Baguette told me I could go
with him, his family
I ran home for my suit and towel,
when I returned
they'd already left...
I climb the tree in the yard
and sit
hidden by leaves.
I pick my nose until it bleeds.
The sky turns milky-white
and I am glad,
maybe the Baguettes will be drowned
in the coming storm;
I climb down and lie in the
driveway on hot cinder
that feels like sand:
I hope I get run over.
I watch a bird
a speck
far above
it disappears.

~Wayne F. Burke~




a nickel-sized sun
on the roof of the
building across the street
a block of shade
with a fish above
a pumpkinseed I tug
out of the weed-choked lake
it's sharp spiny fins
the hook stuck deep
the fish panting,
in pain,
my Uncle takes it from my hand
and beats the fish like a paddle
on the top of the pic nic table
and throws it back
into the black water
where it floats
on its side
like a reminder
to those
who swallow
hook, line, and sinker.

~Wayne F. Burke~




I watch a girl punch another
twice in the face
at the edge of the park
and I shout “hey!”
and the punched girl runs
away, through traffic
and across the street
while the other girl exults
“I punched her twice in the face!”
I feel the punched-girl's pain
and I start to sink,
Such is life, I think;
I did not create it
can not remake it,
best to forget about it:
the girl's pain is mine
only if I make it

~Wayne F. Burke~




don't want to die
while watching a mystery movie
on TV
as the old lady calls 9-1-1
and before the ambulance comes;
want to die in a shoot-out
with cops or
don't matter which,
on the docks of
on a foggy night
beneath a streetlight
with a dame bending over me
saying “don't die!”
while she slips her hand
into my pocket
to feel for more than
my wallet.

~Wayne F. Burke~