Thirteen Myna Birds


12 Cents


I'm supposed to love the Lord with all my
heart and soul and some third thing, is that's my
money maybe He wants most, I slide half
my allowance to Him each church service
and I have perfect attendance Sunday
School-wise so I can't stop showing up and
it's as if God can buy a comic book
every week but I could buy two with my
quarter before I give Him twelve cents and
keep thirteen for myself, that's twelve cents for
the comic and a penny for Georgia
state sales tax, it's four cents on the dollar,
so if God was really going to buy
the new Batman He'd have to scrounge up one
penny. Once I found a nickel in our
parking lot and blew it all on bubblegum,
a penny per piece and I chewed it all in
a single day, I wonder if that's world
-record bubblegum-chewing, blowing it,
too, if so then I can be famous and
buy all the goddamn bubble gum I want,
not to mention comic books with plenty
of Lincolns left over for taxes to
render unto Caesar, and maybe God
doesn't pay taxes at all, Father says
that our church doesn't, then he sighs and says
Jesus, that's sweet. I wonder if He knows?

~Gale Acuff~



There's an Afterlife they say at church and

when I die I'll go there or my soul and
if it's in Heaven then that will be good
but if in Hell then eternally bad
but I don't want to die at all, not when
I can live forever here on Earth or
there's the least little chance, look at those old
trees and those Galapagos tortoises
and Great-uncle Sam, who scored 99
out of infinity you might say and
that's pretty good, even greater than God
because He's got no number at all--mine
is 10 but I wonder how many more
I'll make before I lose every damn one
and die. I guess when I do then I'll know.

~Gale Acuff~



I hate everybody at Sunday School,

they'll all go to Heaven when they croak but
I'll go to Hell, at least I'll be special
in some way but wouldn't it be something
if they all went to Hell and I alone
to Heaven--I wouldn't rub it in since
I'll be having too much fun up yonder
while they're burning in boiling oil in Hell
--it's funny sometimes how God loves us--but
anyway they'll figure out when they find
me missing down there that I lucked-up and
am spending Eternity without them
in the last place they thought I'd ever land.
Now we're all still alive but already
I'm alone and it doesn't matter where.

~Gale Acuff~




I fear wishing

I won’t shake hands with the monkey’s paw

They say you should have goals, and work hard to better yourself

but they say the saddest thing in life is to get what you want

I find myself astride Envy

and change horses in midstream, fetlock-deep in the rushing shallows

Sloth is a quiet ride

I wanted to be drop-dead gorgeous and wear elegant clothes

but at home she screamed unforgivable things at her children

and muttered as her hands shook

and made sure we knew how stressed she was

I wanted a clean, beautifully decorated house

but no matter what she did it wasn’t good enough for her mother-in-law

and she became angrier and angrier

and finally ran off with the man who built their deck

I wanted well-behaved children with perfect grades

but he left her for another woman (the second one)

after whispering when they were alone

that he had thought of killing her

I wanted to be thin

but I didn’t know about her grandfather and her uncle and her brothers

or the baby her boyfriend made her lose

or what happened to her teeth

I wanted the self-discipline to finish gardening and cooking and sewing projects

but she met a man at the resort she went to with her best friend

while her husband stayed home with the baby

and she told her husband about him in bed one night

and then turned over and went to sleep while he stared into the darkness

She didn’t want custody

I wanted to be invited to parties and have everyone like me

but he was always interrupting conversations to answer his phone

we didn’t know that he was doing $2500 a week

until the cops found him folded up in the trunk of the abandoned car

So the house is a mess and our stuff is crap and we never get anything done

but nine-tenths of everything is below the surface

~F.J. Bergmann~




      Rollover in volcanic crater lakes: a possible cause for Lake Nyos type disasters

            —Journal Of Volcanology And Geothermal Research

Some people wear all their warnings on the outside of themselves:

Danger! Poison! Don’t Touch! I Bite! Don’t Tread On Me!

the signals of risk, like a nocturnal animal

seen fearless and staggering at noon.

They have extruded their agonies

like spines slithering through the pores of their skins,

an iron maiden imagined inside out.

Deep-sea creatures, dragged to the surface, explode in the thin air,

everting each misshapen organ; I keep everything weighted down

under the water, far below, in the black depths of pressure.

On the surface, little white boats glide in sunlight, reflected in mirror,

waving to the gilded ecstasy of the beach.

Would you think you knew me better if you could see my past

and future?

Would I be easier to understand with visible tattoos?

Would I gain credibility by displaying bleeding stigmata?

What if I were bar-coded?

What if there were a little digital display on my forehead

showing time running running

running out

Would you feel more secure if I had a smaller vocabulary?

Would you love me better if I wore only black?

(I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was the only

only one at a Metallica concert wearing pink …)

Would you identify with me if I had long white scars

down the insides of my forearms?

Would you like it if I were naked under a trenchcoat?

What if I smoked?

What if I smoked other stuff?

What if I were diseased?

What if I amputated everything that was useless?

What if I reinvented myself, no longer submerged

under the effects of age and gravity?

It all waits under waves, under a sparkling afternoon at the lake:

a Borgia Excalibur,

the deadly secret of the waters cradled in the hollow mountain.

Lurking toxins accumulating, molecule by molecule, invisible

doom seeping up from out of the netherhells, gently, undetected,

into the base of the water. Dissolute gases waltzing

on the crater floor, the ballerinas of chemistry pirouetting

closer to critical saturation, so that only a small disturbance

(perhaps heavy rains, or a tremor in the earth)

forces everything to overturn. The poison-rich layers rising

toward the atmosphere coalesce into a bubble of death;

oblivion descends the slope of the sleeping volcano.

~F.J. Bergmann~



Think About Red Onion

First there was meditation.
Second there was red onion.
Solipsism incarnated in balloons.
A point. Then meditate the self.
A point with a point inside.
Then meditate the self meditating the self.
A drop of blood juice with a point inside a point inside.
Then meditate. Layer. Layer. Layer.
Red onion the layer layer.
Autotroph minds eat imaginations and grow new minds
in series, in dirt.
Red solipsism burning eyes like dwarf stars up close.

~Terry Trowbridge~



                            I Get Emily Dickinson

Not her poems
but her grief
that knocks her to her knees
in the flower garden
of goodbyes

my cat just died
I helped her along
planted and mourned
I am heartbroken

then my father-in-law
on top of that
not a second dad
still, now I have none

then my friend
my next-door neighbor
my co-worker
my favorite singer
: all gone

oh Lord, I sit looking at my
garden and don't really care
if the flowers bloom this year
if everything finally turns
to weeds of relief

as Emily quit writing
after too much death
a pandemic of global proportions
in one small Amherst plot

I quit words, go mute, lose faith
the world is dark
and violent and cold
nothing grows on the moon

I desire the other side
all to myself
with the myth of joining them
all 15 million
found in the crowd

standing shoulder to shoulder
in silent love
that I no longer feel
for life.

~E. Martin Pedersen~



                                        In their day, they blocked out the sun

Raptors -- big as gliders
fill the sky over canyons
swing down to backyards and parks
swoop down on babies and pets
until the national media
and political spokespersons
are in an uproar, an outrage
citizens are given license to hunt
but their aim is terrible
the creatures snap off the shooter's heads.

-- Raptors must be exterminated
so smart people devise steel blinds
for automatic weapons
so the flying monsters die or move
to another neighborhood
to pick on kids and pets there
so a 'stay indoors' movement arises
but only Europeans adhere.

-- Raptors are killed and dissected
or poisoned in the desert or
captured to study a way
of eliminating them completely --
the black wings of the newborns
are torn so they cannot fly so they
depend on handouts of food
from other birds, initially
then a 'save the big birds' movement
is founded and the chicks are raised
in cages, fed baby pigs and
live chickens.

-- The giant Raptors survive
but seem sad and purposeless
they start to kill each other
and must be separated.

~E. Martin Pedersen~



Laocoön Speaks on the Death of his Sons
(after the unattributed marble statue “Laocoön and His Sons” in the Vatican Museum, and the poem “Laocoön” by Jack Chelgren)
(CW recent school shootings)

Of course, I die too
That’s what the gods wanted, right?
I said not to trust the Greeks
I mean, the politicians
I mean, the NRA
For this I was punished
I told them to burn the horse
I mean, the guns
But they still let it inside the walls of Troy
I mean, an elementary school

But they didn’t need to kill my sons
I mean, my students
I mean, a student told me I was more of a father figure to her this year than her own dad
I mean, I didn’t know how to comfort her the morning after
I told her it was going to be ok
I mean, I tried
I mean, I didn’t know how to convince the Trojans
They told me it was going to be ok
I mean, I tried

I name the snakes Uvalde
And Buffalo
I could have thrown a dart at a map
And named them just about anywhere I hit
Perhaps I should just call them America.
There is no fighting some snakes*
I mean, guns
I mean, gods
I mean, spineless legislators that bow before their altar
I mean, the numbness that comes from googling “recent school shootings in America” to see if I have missed any
And find out that the answer is yes

I have not been terrified of dying in a long time
But I am terrified of how numb I am to the idea of dying
To the idea of school shootings
To the idea of nothing changing in a decade
Or longer
Since Newtown
Since Columbine
Since the fall of Troy

A statue shows us frozen in agony
Straining to escape our fate
I mean, our classroom
Crafted in marble
I mean, flesh and blood
I mean, terror for its own sake, with no consolation prize at the end
I mean, so much blood students smear it on themselves
Because a snake
I mean, a gun
Might think you’re dead
I mean, encased in marble
And leave you alone

And if the trick with the blood
I mean, the thoughts and prayers
I mean, my warnings to the Trojans
And the horse
I mean, the snakes
I mean, the guns
Of course, I die too
I mean, I tried
Protecting my classroom
I mean, my city
I mean, my students
I mean, my sons
I mean, a gun
I mean, a horse
I mean, a snake
I mean, the gods
It’s what they wanted, right?
Isn’t that why they sent them in the first place?

*(Author’s note: the line “There is no fighting some snakes” is from the poem “Laocoön” by Jack Chelgren)

~Berent LaBrecque~



Walking The Dogs In The Park

I was walking the dogs in the park

That used to be a fort

Where there used to be war

I don’t get this countries obsession with war

The dogs they smell the grass all around

I wonder if they can see history

See the battles going on around them

Much like a psychic touching an object

They can see the blood that the Earth holds

~Michal Grover~



Reservation Dogs

They’ll eat stale french-fries,
a block of discarded commodity cheese,
old rancid bacon grease
and the poor cat who got mauled
trying to sneak her way past.

They’ll raid garbage cans,
gorging themselves on anything
and everything life’s circumstances avail.

That’s everyone’s life on the reservation.

You take what you can, when you can,
where you can and as much as you can,
because often, there is nothing to be had.

~Daniel G. Snethen~



The Moon Was Full

I thrilled as the evening scent,
of her oxygenated iron permeated,
filled the very air I breathed.

Summoned up the primeval nature
manifest in every cell of my being.

Her, the young fertile vulpes
and I, the ancient dire wolf.

And the moon was full,
the moon was full,
yes, the moon was full.

~Daniel G. Snethen~



Raptor’s Repast

birdfeeder songbirds
suet and seed fattened prey
feed accipiters

~Daniel G. Snethen~



Through the Eyes of…

I see the world
through the eyes of
a Shaolin Monk,
the crow
or even a hobo
sleeping with rats on the Commons.

But I’ll never see the world
through the eyes of Donnie
or Nancy
or Weird Uncle Joe.

And I pray that if ever I should,
I’ll have the courage
to pluck them out,
choking on them first
before dying.

~Daniel G. Snethen~




With the gap-toothed grin of the common rat,
mother is a month of savage and rainy Sundays
as she stands before me in her bloodied apron.

I’m struck on my ass with the roaring striker,
sent to my room crying without even a prayer
for love. She caught me humming folksongs
in the rock garden again and would not have it.

Fingernails cut scars across our innocence.

Mother boils a pan of rice, only to fling gobs
of it at her hungry children.

Mother cracks our sandcastles over her knee
with maniacal laughter.

She invades our dreams.

My father is gone far away in the rice fields
with a rifle and his knife.

When all is quiet, sometimes, I run fingertips
along the edges of my brother’s crib as he sleeps,
still as an iron girder under a blanket full of holes.

When I hear mother approaching, I hold my breath
and hold my Mickey Mouse close to my chest.

~Mike Hackney~



Whip and Chain Games

I lash low.
You skip like a school girl,
advance, chain whistling,
drive me toward the pit
of flaming oil.
My back heating,
foot groping,
I’m about to go when
you pause.
A quick flick
and jerk of my whip
snatches the chain,
and I turn the tide,
rawhide firecrackering ‘round you.
Your hair wafts in the breeze
from the giant buzz saw,
its teeth aligned
with your spine.
I call time,
grab the wine sac
and squeeze a stream
into your mouth,
leaving a playful drip
on your cheek.
You smile the goatskin from me
and grip a gusher into my eyes.
I grin back the sac,
flood your nose.
You drench my face.
The whip snakes back to life in my hands.
Your chain picks up the song again.

~David Henson~




I need to write a poem
about the severed head
sitting on the dresser.

I want it like the old stuff,
warm and touching,
romantic to the point of gushing.

I need to write a poem
about the severed head
as if it were a whole being

but dammit if it doesn't
come out grisly, no pretty words
just drops of blood.

Can't do that kind
of stuff I guess
with all the tools I'm into now.

Truth is, I need to write
my poems with pens
but all I have are axes

~John Grey~