Fall-Winter 2012

Featured Poets


Fall-Winter 2012

Rich Murphy

Changming Yuan



David Salner


David Sullivan

Fred Moramarco

Stewart Mintzer

Elly Cummens



Connie Wanek

Ellen Bass

J.P. Dancing Bear

Lucille Lang Day



Winter 2012

Rich Murphy

The Wait for Lame Excuses

The lopsided war
between the tribal
and infantilized peoples
continues until the men
with spears, spare time,
and misogyny wound themselves.
The lollipop populations
hand out diapers
to hunters in slings.
The happy ending
that thumb suckers demand
comes in various flavors,
but it arrives.
Asymmetrical gangsters
gather here and there in the hills
to lob disasters
when schoolyards fill
so that lessons lapse unlearned.
Hopscotch and jackstones
pass the time for fabled hares
with car keys waiting
for accidental injury.
When Brute Billy comes
looking for first aid,
the conflict subsides
and Nancy Nurse Coerce cuts
a deal so that the nap mats
absorb another playmate
with a life expectancy.

20th Century Proem

At the formal introduction
guilt shook the heirs to aristocracy
from fingertips to feet:
the dead store clerks and death camps
rubbed school boy faces in conscience.

Riddle by riddle the bourgeoisie gained access.
Cured by the killing, the privileged
hand filled a pen with anguish and frailty
so that an incomplete writer fled an island
threatened by a pure race to become a poet.

Among the buildings groping the sky
one unhappy present recited the past
until irony shone each morning
allowing a future to exit the wardrobe.

The Statistics Bureau, chalking up
an outline around the arts in a nation,
was caught Avant-garde by the change
in guard. Edward Taylor in 20th Century
English learned how free verse survives.

Rich Murphy's second book Voyeur was published in 2009 (Award Winner 2008, Gival Press). The Apple in the Monkey Tree (Codhill Press), was published in 2007. Chapbooks include Family Secret (Finishing Line Press), Hunting and Pecking (Ahadada Books), Phoems for Mobile Vices (BlazeVox), Rescue Lines (Right Hand Pointing) and Great Grandfather (Pudding House Publications).  He lives in Marblehead, MA.


Changming Yuan

Replacing: A Parallel Poem

Running short of bulbs
I planted some root words instead
Along the fence
In the backyard of my mind
All winter
They seemed dreaming under the frozen soil
When the last dews fly away
You will see certain three-colored tulips
Blooming aloud
Towards the early summer sun


My Crow

Still, still hidden
Behind old shirts and pants
Like an inflated sock
Hung on a slanting coat hanger

With a prophecy stuck in its throat
Probably too dark or ominous
To yaw, even to breathe

No one knows when or how
It will fly out of the closet, and call


A-Z: Zeugmatic America

Every time you stage a play or an election in your own yard
You cannot wait to shake hands with your audiences and their wealth
No matter whether it is the passage of a new bill or an old dilemma
You excel particularly at manipulating public will and private property

With your weeping eyes and hands
You keep waging war and peace far beyond your boundaries
While you kill non-Americans and their hope together
To turn all others and othernesses into biblical dust

More often than not, your selfish intentions prove
Much more destructive than your smart bombs
Your invisible fighter jets strike far farther
Than your visible arms of peace effort

You are simply too great for a small criticism
Too super-powerful for a weak opposition
Too democratic for a totalitarian competition
And too single-minded for a double standard


Changming Yuan, author of Chansons of a Chinaman and 4-time Pushcart nominee, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to North America. Currently, Yuan teaches in Vancouver and has had poetry appearing in 420 literary publications across 18 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto and Poetry Salzburg Review.



David Salner

Three-Hour Reprieve
For Troy Davis (September 21, 2011)
A hard rain fell on the deck
and the recycle bin all night
as if the war far away had come
to our home, and bullets of rain
got sucked into the eaves
drowning us in the sound,
distracting us by the way
it slashed against our lives,
but by the time Barbara
and I went to sleep, they’d
already granted a reprieve,
a reprieve, which meant
they wouldn’t do it to you
that night. The reprieve.
And it rained as we slept.
Downed limbs and puddles
and the muck of fall leaves
plastered to the sidewalk
greeted us by first light.
And the news—guards
took you from your cell
to a room where you stared
at one-way glass then spoke
to no one you could see,
to us— “I am innocent….”
And it was your innocence
that they had ignored
for three hours and more,

and it was your innocence
they tried to strap down
and shoot with a mix
of heart-stopping chemicals.


David Salner’s second book, Working Here, was published by Minnesota State University’s Rooster Hill Press in 2010. His poetry appears in recent issues of The Iowa Review, New South, and Threepenny Review. He worked for twenty-five years as an iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, and general laborer.




David Allen Sullivan

Shatha’s Share

During sanction years
we became recyclers—
everything doubled

its life span—the mud-
colored mo’aads on my feet
came from plastic bins

we snipped with tin shears,
laced with leather strips. Mother
shaped the leftovers

into spatulas
and when she dished up samoon
to dip in gaymer

she murmured: Sahtay—
two healths to you. There was
not much else to share.

Since my college shut
I have no stomach for books.
We talk less, pray more.

In each of her eyes
I bow my thanks. When I rise
she has been taken.

The nights are thicker.
Electricity shortages
blacken our faces

as we pray past fears.
This life is not possible:
if I eat she is

alive; if I don’t
she will return to feed me.
Dough dries out my hands.


Fred Moramarco


Always there are others—

people you haven’t met,

you’ve all but forgotten,

who’ve died or simply slipped 

beyond your mental reach.


Stand across from them and look:

On one side there’s you,

on the other, the others,

and other things as well.

In fact, everything that isn’t you.


Watch as the other crowd gets larger,

stranger as more time passes.

You see more of it stretching

across the landscape of your life,

darkening in the early evening twilight.


Yet there is no other you’d rather be;

except younger, smarter, better looking,

richer, more sophisticated, wittier,

a more seasoned traveler, a better writer,

more influential, happier, healthier.


Nothing other than yourself,

leeching all the best of the others from them.

Why not, what’s a life for but to dream it?

A greedy dream, you say? Yes, but like yours,

it’s not nearly as greedy as those of others.




Stewart Mintzer

Indian Canyon

The Cahuilla Indians say
the Heart is fire
and the land was created by Heart
and when you know your language
you know who you are.
They know the rocks, flowers,
trees are alive
and when you sit with mesquite,
burroweed, desert mallow,
you sit with song.

I touch the tall palm
on its unbranched trunk,
fan-like leaves at its apex
plaited like an accordion,
shut my eyes to listen
and hear
all of it is medicine.

A desert stone
has been in my car for weeks
dying in the field of strip malls,
exhaust, survival.
I give it to the fast fire of the stream
running down the rock
and it sits there, part of the flow
from Mt. San Jacinto.
I lift my tee shirt
balm my touch starved body
with the wet.

I am song here.
In this language
I am Friend.


Elly Varga Cummens

Long Term Survival

Old Man Basalt sleeps inside a cliff spilling silver falls
For him the last millennia has passed faster than
a bee can suck a wildflower dry of its nectar
His somber gray pockmarked cheeks hold circles
of Penstemon blooms that glow violet
from splashing kisses of noon sunlight
His Monkey Face petal eyes flame caution yellow
as they reflect the irony of his ageless profile
highlighted by entwined floral beauty
Ongoing dreams stir pleasure from a pageant
of glorious seasonal colors while he compares
the nearby landscape filled with historic changes
from events that extolled his worth
Icy streams channeled the great Multnomah Floods
into a roaring cacophony that sent huge boulders
leaping over his chest to smash down against
the smooth volcanic bed at his feet
Still fast asleep, ancient images become the present
His discontent is mumbled with a sad watery gargle
"No pictures of my forest bride will last at high altitudes
if my mind is clouded by smoke stacks, traffic exhaust
and farm tractors plowing pillars of dust."
So he naps on uttering deep sonorous rumbles
recalling the daunting sounds of Pleistocene trumpets
and the high-pitched mating echoes that floated on
Pterodactyl wings across the valley
Prehistoric images fascinate him until his revelry
is disturbed by the foul-breathed whine of chain saws
that muddy his sparkling brew as they tear through brush
and cross pristine riverbanks to clear-cut the forest
A deadly quiet follows the terrifying boom of falling trees
leaving a crushed understory that supported a complex
dependency of woodland birds, fish, insects, and
animals . . . the human bedrock of life
The thundering roar of lumber trucks and log lifting jaws
clamber so close they rudely awaken him . . . yet
after they finally leave he scarcely relaxes before he
hears a quiet new sound . . . the thin faint trickle
of his once abundant flow


Contributors' Notes


David Allen Sullivan’s first book of poetry, Strong-Armed Angels, was published was published by Hummingbird Press, and two of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac. His second book is a series of poems concerning the Iraq war, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, which will be published in Spring, 2012.

Fred Moramarco is Founding Editor of Poetry International and Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University.  He is the author or co-author of six books.  He's also Artistic Director of Laterthanever Productions and co-produced the award winning Hannah and Martin in 2006.  His latest collection of poems is The City of Eden by Laterthanever Press.  Click here to read selected poems from The City of Eden.

Stewart Mintzer earned degrees from Stanford and UCLA. He has worked as a lawyer in the public defenders office and now spends as much time as he can at the redwoods and the sea and at libraries. His work has been published at The Portland Review, Rattle, The Pedestal Magazine, SoloNovo.  He's presently at work on the "Permission Slip" project.

Elly Varga Cummens is a semi-retired teacher. She is an avid hiker in Oregon. Her work has been published in newspapers and journals. Elly Cummens writes about her environmental efforts: "In 1995, I was appointed by an Illinois judge, along with another woman, to be lawyers for a community fighting the wholesale tree cutting. The Federal Harbors and Rivers Act of 1893 allows this anomaly. I had never been in court before. We fought to save the river banks and a complex variety of wildlife, both vertebrates and invertebrates and rare plants living along the North branch of the Chicago River. In the process, we united seven mayors and city mangers (Bannochburn, Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Highwood, Northbrook) with the Army Corps of Engineers against a local drainage district lawyer and engineer who were paying themselves outrageous sums to hold public meetings in a private office that no one knew about. They posted notices on a tree in the corner of the county where no one saw them and didn't get a levee as required by law first. Needless to say, part of our work was frightening when we discovered an apparent misuse of public funds.

We won after 12 court sessions and tons and tons of research at the Lake County law library and work to make our own court exhibits.

I was a photographer from a Cessna shooting floodwater abatement, attended conferences on water purity and river habitats, and also an expert witness because I had drawn maps of downtown Chicago for a convention."



Connie Wanek


First you’ll come to the end of the freeway.
Then it’s not so much north on Woodland Avenue
as it is a feeling that the pines are taller and weigh more,
and the road, you’ll notice,
is older with faded lines and unmown shoulders.
You’ll see a cemetery on your right
and another later on your left.
Sobered, drive on.
                         Drive on for miles
if the fields are full of hawkweed and daisies.
Sometimes a spotted horse
will gallop along the fence. Sometimes you’ll see
a hawk circling, sometimes a vulture.
You’ll cross the river many times
over smaller and smaller bridges.
You’ll know when you’re close;
people always say they have a sudden sensation
that the horizon, which was always far ahead,
is now directly behind them.
At this point you may want to park
and proceed on foot, or even
on your knees.



Ellen Bass

When You Return

Fallen leaves will climb back into trees.
Shards of the shattered vase will rise
and reassemble on the table.
Plastic raincoats will refold
into their flat envelopes. The egg,
bald yolk and its transparent halo,
slide back in the thin, calcium shell.
Curses will pour back into mouths,
letters un-write themselves, words
siphoned up into the pen. My gray hair
will darken and become the feathers
of a black swan. Bullets will snap
back into their chambers, the powder
tamped tight in brass casings. Borders
will disappear from maps. Rust
revert to oxygen and time. The fire
return to the log, the log to the tree,
the white root curled up
in the un-split seed. Birdsong will fly
into the lark's lungs, answers
become questions again.
When you return, sweaters will unravel
and wool grow on the sheep.
Rock will go home to mountain, gold
to vein. Wine crushed into the grape,
oil pressed into the olive. Silk reeled in
to the spider's belly. Night moths
tucked close into cocoons, ink drained
from the indigo tattoo. Diamonds
will be returned to coal, coal
to rotting ferns, rain to clouds, light
to stars sucked back and back
into one timeless point, the way it was
before the world was born,
that fresh, that whole, nothing
broken, nothing torn apart.


J.P. Dancing Bear

The Turning

I see the whale bone sky
through the fog of my glass coffin

water falls asleep in my hand

and silversmith dripping a ticking

clock of my days—I have a recurring dream
of white fire girls trapped in icebergs

of the arctic—holding their breaths
against the warming

each a siren warning of a certain doom
each locked within a case

fragile as an eagle's egg

I go on envisioning fish

drifting around the frozen reef
of my aquarium

of the quick damage
and the slow healing of an age

a geologic period
a fossil in the Himalayas

currents fishtail through
my calcium bars

and I hear the song of snow
spindrifting off the highest peaks

my sleep remains a starless one
I shall attempt no further footfall

—everyone has their own stories
of how god loved them once

before turning away


Lucille Lang Day

Business in D.C.

At thirty-three thousand feet
I think of my ancestors: the one
who yearned for his wife as he tended
the sick the first winter in Plymouth;
the one whipped at the post in 1645
for fornication; the ones who gathered
in the longhouse, wove bulrush mats
for floors of their wetuash, and taught
the Pilgrims how to plant maize.

What would they think of this view
of wrinkled hills, quilted farms
and glittering cities? Of cell phones,
e-mail, fax machines and DVDs?
Would they be awed by ice-blue peaks
that rise from twisting river valleys?
Have fun Googling? Be shocked
by the war in Iraq, the Pacific
trash vortex and global warming?

I’d take my great-grandfather
who joined the Union Army in 1863
at seventeen to Ford’s Theater to see
the single-shot pistol used to kill Lincoln,
the ones who fought the redcoats
to see the Star-Spangled Banner
at the Smithsonian, its tattered wool
and cotton spread on a table where
conservators work behind glass.

At the Museum of the American Indian
I’d show all of them the baskets
whose designs mean people emerge
from previous worlds to enter this one.
I wish my forebears could gather in DC
for a stomp dance, then visit the National
Museum of Dentistry to contemplate ivory,
gold and asses’ molars, all bound together,
in George Washington’s false teeth.


Continued: BP Gulf Oil poems by Ken Pobo and Jacqueline Marcus


Contributors' Notes

Connie Wanek's latest book is On Speaking Terms published by Copper Canyon Press. Ted Kooser wrote that many poems from this new selection will "stick with you for the rest of your life."

Ellen Bass's most recent book of poems, The Human Line, was published by Copper Canyon Press in June 2007. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973), has published several previous volumes of poetry, including Mules of Love (BOA, 2002) which won the Lambda Literary Award. Ellen Bass' webpage:

J. P. Dancing Bear is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently, Inner Cities of Gulls (2010, Salmon Poetry). His next two books will be Family of Marsupial Centaurs through Iris Press in 2011, and Fish Singing Foxes through SalmonPoetry in 2012. His poems have been published in Mississippi Review, Third Coast, DIAGRAM, Verse Daily and many other publications. He is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press. Bear also hosts the weekly hour-long poetry show, Out of Our Minds, on public station, KKUP and available as podcasts.

Lucille Lang Day's memoir, Married at Fourteen, is scheduled for publication by Heyday in the fall of 2012. One chapter received the 2009 Willow Review Award for Creative Nonfiction and another was cited as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2010.