Issue 10


Nude New Hampshire News
Shae Savoy
Finalist, Runner-Up,
The Real Prairie (Sheyanne National Grassland)
Clara Bush


Luke M. Jones

Bridge Out
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

Farmer on His Land
Hadeel Salameh

Jim Brennan

Flash Fiction
William Orem

Once Upon A Time When I Was a Mexican
Gilbert Arzola

The Edge
Randall Brown

The Ninth Story
Zan Bockes

For the Children
Ronald J. Pelias

Everything I Know of Love I Learned from the Funny Pages
Robert Kinerk

Brian DiNuzzo

Avenida Balboa, 1999
Ben Feldman

The Mechanics of a Thing Like This
Julia Fox


Ms. Bovary Goes House Hunting in 2014 
Chrys Tobey

White Hoodie
Mario Duarte

After Reading Morose Short Stories by García Márquez While in Winnipeg for a Conference
Mario Duarte

Natalie Busarello

This Place of Scraps
John Sibley Williams

Christopher Shipman

The Sun
Stephanie Baird

The Realest 
Joseph Rathgeber

Southern Gospel
Samuel J. Fox

Dew-Damp and Sap-Scented 
Holly Day

I Am All You’ve Got
Holly Day

I equals 1
William H. Upjohn

Gerald Stern

Song of Deborah
Gerald Stern

Blue Jay
Gerald Stern

Ich Bin Jude
Gerald Stern

A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs
Kristina McDonald

Hearing Loss
Jim Daniels

My Job is to Convince You
Lynn Schmeidler

Vincent Street
Stephen McGouldrick

Snow in July
Ira Woodward

Abigail R. Shaffer

Smugglers All
Lisa Harris

Megan Rowlands

Jessica Drake-Thomas

i see you near the bus stop for the first hundredth time
Michael Passafiume


All Sorts of Things and Weather, Taken in Together
Randy Osborne

The Melding Tree
Thomas N. Mannella III

You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine
Jacqueline Doyle

Interview with Gerald Stern
Nancy A. Barta-Smith

Kelly Miller

The Big Texan
J. J. Anselmi

Fore and Aft
Orman Day

Any Boy Can Give You a Nickname
Katelyn Jones

The Devil’s Forest
David Potsubay


Daily Geology 
John Peña


Shae Savoy
Nude New Hampshire News

—To My Poet Friend, Over There

She calls it Universe.
Syllables same, capital U.
Same. The doctors want to pull

it out. Livermetimbers, how the waters come
rush in. They told her she’s got a brokedown
liver, locked-up jaw. Iron knocks

but it can’t get in, won’t walk
the red rope, cabaret of red-hatted
ladies dancing upstream.

She writes bone density
poems, striated muscle
theatre. Her brown hair sounds. Sparks

heart sharp her words, meticulous knife
her pen pulls back
the skin, cobwebs

She speaks
in constellations: stomach plus
teeth, stitched-up previous

breach, eyes gone liquid. When an animal
falls sick here they plug
it into the wall. Whites surround. Blade

medicine. Barbershop doctors hum
a razor quartet. Remove the offending
planets. Sometimes the lips break, run

sloppy. Okay to slip
slack, my friend. Weep

the universe.

Finalist, Runner-Up,
Clara Bush
The Real Prairie (Sheyenne National Grassland)

It’s easy to be selfish here,
the planet all grassland
and sky and no other place
but the corners of your eyes
where the light starts to dim,
too vast to absorb until
you squeeze it into your chest
in small doses—take the clouds
into your vena cava, black-eyed
susans to the right atrium,
let the tricuspid swing
shut with the wind, open
for the garter snake, a black
and yellow hose curled
in the ventricle, and the pulmonary
valve open like a hognose mouth,
swallowing prey, shut it to
the flow of flash flooding
wetlands filling the pulmonary
artery, the lungs, with fluid,
let it back again, through
the veins, with the sticky pollen
of invasives, into the left atrium,
fluttering like a kingbird’s wings
leaving earth for weightlessness,
let the meadowlark sing echoes
into the left bottom chamber,
the mitral beat flapping in time,
the meaty ventricle pumping
out vibrato, the lub-dub
like the sound of a lek
of sharp-tailed grouse,
let it move into you like bluegrass
into prairie, until your whole
blood is filled up, thick
with the very piece of your world
you never want to share, building
the pressure to keep you alive.


Chrys Tobey
Ms. Bovary Goes House Hunting in 2014

— “She was the lover in every novel, the heroine in every play, the vague she in every volume of poetry.” —Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

I don’t want to live in the sprawl, somewhere in the stifling
heat of the wide streets; I want to live in this tiny two-bedroom
with the pulse of the city beneath my feet; I want
a sink that works and space for a desk. But a woman should
want bay windows and velvet drapes and material things!
A woman should want a house big enough for little feet.
A woman should honor her mother’s words—We’re here to have

A woman should marry a doctor. A woman should
be a muse. Oh, silly me. But place your finger over
the in muse and see what’s left, and trace the lineage
of women held hostage by a man’s pen, the lineage
of women whose hearts were stilled by booze. No, there will
be no pitter-patter in this room. The backyard is big enough for
my dog.

This house may be big enough for my thoughts.

Natalie Bursarello

We once thought that we could
bottle up all of the nectar
of the honeysuckle bush
along the fence.

We thought
we could take back
all of the summers that the flowers
watched us grow
and hide their sweetness in mason jars
beside our dimming glasses of fireflies.

Each day, we would sit in the dirt
drawing the liquid from the bud
and wonder how much we’d need
to hold us over until next summer.

There was never enough.

Holly Day
Dew-Damp and Sap-Scented

He smiles as if he’s made of wood, coarse flesh
rough bark, I am unable to leave. I imagine
we’re posing for a photograph, holding hands only because
we were planted too close together.

If I turn my head, I am alone in this forest
shaking apples free from my limbs like new babies
set free. I am feverish with rattlesnake venom
from this dream that will not pass
strengthened by a wind that sucks
the sound of your breathing away from my ears.

This is my campsite now
and you are only allowed to see me through
the tiny crack between the zipper and cloth of your sealed tent flap.
When the sun goes down, we will meet just long enough
to exchange horror stories around a fire
tales of marriage believable only in the middle of the night.

Gerald Stern

One of them poured hot lead
into a bucket of cold water so he could
make determinations from the shapes
of the hardened metal for he was chasing
the odd intrusions in a small girl’s body;

the other had a small tobacco factory
on the third floor of his house and he engaged
lehrer for the women there co-determinous
with Tampa and Havana though the language was different

so I was only half crazy at the most,
for there was a little sanity in both of them
though more I believe in him with the three floors
than him with only one workable room,
the kitchen and the bedrooms unthinkable,

and I am loyal to the nth degree
whatever they would have thought of me
and for one of them I would have carried one book,
for another, another.
It’s all written down in the steam of my bathroom mirror—

if you can read it.


Gerald Stern
Song of Deborah

When she gathered her people
she said “enough of hills” and “stop climbing”,
especially women, especially if you don’t want
muscular calves like that
and block the entrances for I will sing you a song of
lush meadows and show you where to plant your
corn, though your tomatoes nearer the tents,
and peppers too, for there will be soups, but in
the meantime I’ll start my song for that is
good for breathing, especially at these heights
and don’t look back for you could lose
your balance—after all, you don’t have hooves
to jump from rock to rock and, after all,
your babies make you heavy, the poets you carry.


Gerald Stern
Blue Jay

At least I am luckier than that blue jay
hopping along the bulwark
his rubber leg falling back under him
absolutely doomed, the way it is out there.
My heart goes out to him
though he’s more a bully than
any other warm creature that came my way.
I never thought I’d plead for a blue jay
I who haven’t pled for seventy years,
I who got on my knees every night
to go through the ritual of my own devising.

I who had no grievances then.

Gerald Stern
Ich Bin Jude

Who was it threatened to murder
a streetcar full of fucking Nazis in Wien
when he was in the country only two hours
and watched the car empty
including the festooned conductor and the decorated motorman?

The rain wouldn’t stop.
The cheapest place in Europe—
September, October, November, 1954.
Your darling city.

Jim Daniels
Hearing Loss

I thought she said, Come visit my vagina, 
but apparently I was wrong. Something
about China, it turned out. Embarrassed
by wind, I turned my good ear to the ground
to listen for China, the one we dug for
until we could no longer dig. I turned
my good eye to watch a dog humping
a leg across the street. Do this in memory 
of me, it barked. Shake a leg, buddy, 
I may have said. Last day of drinking
in the yard, sunny November Saturday.
In the wet grass, my ear tickled. I listened
for the sea. Our kids long gone, no one
to trample that grass. Happy Anniversary, 
by the way. I always wanted to go to China.
Did she just call me a booze clown? No.
Lose something down there? A small plane
pulling a banner advertising God
passed overhead, and I heard that.


Hadeel Salameh
Farmer on His Land

When you watch a Palestinian farmer tend his land just before the bullets fire, that’s exactly what you do: watch.
You can call out to him.
You can wave your arms to the old man and yell, “Put the olives down and look!”
You can point towards the settlers aiming from the hilltops.
You can drop your shoulders and take that long held breath when he ducks to pick up the ripe lemons.
You can nod your head and smile when he looks in your direction, showing off the fruit.
You can take out your phone send a snap of this farmer who refuses to move.
You can stare at the farmer, who continues to brush olives on the branch before you, in clear view of an afar settler’s shot.
You can watch two worried villagers stare at the farmer and call for him from the unpaved road. These men, who may have orchards of their own to tend, could be hoping that they would be approached by their brethren if they were in plain sight of a settler’s shot. The men from the street make their way to the farmer. These men make it a conscious responsi­bility to look after this farmer as though he were their family member, “Hajj,” they call him. The farmer seems to under­stand this concern, he is old and used to all the village men looking after him like how he, too, looked after older men such as his grandfather and father. The moment slows down, the men continue to warn the farmer of possible danger and it is evident that the farmer doesn’t care. This frustrates the men, who begin to say, “Think of your son, think of us, if your fa­ther was the stubborn one, you would act like us.” They ex­plain themselves in as many ways as they can, repeating that the farmer was once his father’s son and how that should be enough justification for his leave. It’s true. And now he is his son’s father.
They continue to exchange arguments and it isn’t long until the men place their hands on the old man’s arms and try to take him away. I stand on the other side of the stone gate entrance. I feel my palms sweat and stick them together and wait. I watch the farmer fight the men, he doesn’t want them to touch him. They cannot lift him, this shriveled old man, they cannot pull him away. His feet are buckled to his sandals and his sandals are dug into the drying mud. “The land will be lost, that’s what they want!” he yells.
“Would you rather lose yourself over your land, Hajj?” one of the men asks.
The farmer becomes quiet and curses the man under his breath for the question, “I will not lose anything,” he says.

But as I watch him say this, with his head dropping to the gaze of his dragging feet, I think that in reality, his father was lost, he is lost, his son will learn. We do not know how he will learn, but in this village, on this land, boys will always learn. They will learn that to be Palestinian, they must watch.

A neighbor runs over and tries to calm the scene, “They’ll shoot, Hajj Abu Karim, they’ll shoot,” he tells the farmer. I watch this neighbor, I am not sure where he lives or who he is and wonder how he came here. The three of them beg Abu Karim to come with them, they beg him to leave his orchard and follow them to the street.
It is early morning, the air is humid and heavy and the sun is hot. I would leave, I think to myself. I would go inside. But he refuses. He gets on his knees so it could be harder for the men to drag his body forward. He refuses their help and I watch him sit on his knees and I watch all three men exchange looks of confusion and anger. He is a stubborn old farmer. He does not explain himself, not once, not even when the men ask why he insists on staying with the settler shouting from the hilltops warning, “Get off my land, you filthy Arab!”
But he doesn’t explain, not even once. With his resistance his voice is raised and lowered in fragmented moments, and then silenced.
The men carry his limp body to the side of the street and I think, this man is no longer on the land, what do I watch now? Who do I watch now?
The three men scream and yell over the farmer’s body. They call for help and village men are already making their way up the street to where the blood flow starts. They follow the red lines up to the neighbor, the two village men and the old farmer, each with a deeply distraught expression. They rush discussion and decide all at once to lift the farmer and walk towards the village doctor’s house. Once they reach Bilal’s house the door is already open, his wife is already outside waving for the men to go in.
I wait outside and watch the wife. She is praying, lifted hands to the sky and asking for mercy on Abu Karim’s soul, I watch her assume he’s dead until I see him come out hours later, limping with his arms around the two men who fought him. He was going back to his land. The men lead him down the road to his orchard and my eyes follow their steps. He is resting under the olive tree, holding a branch of leaves in his hands and struggling to brush off its last olives.
The men give him a nod and part ways. I was expecting something more from them. I was waiting for them to give me meaning, to show me passion, to teach me balance of de­spair with hope. But they simply walk away. They were fight­ing him hours ago and now they are not, they comply with his wishes and I wonder if they understand why.
The hilltops seem empty and distant so I walk through the gates of Abu Karim’s orchard and sit next to him under his tree. The farmer who was tending his land, who refused to pick up his heavy feet from the deep soils of the land, now sits under an olive tree. I am not the only one in the scene, some­one else is calling for him from a distance. When the haze of the heat clears I see it is his son, running and yelling. He has a son, who he watched grow and now, as he closes his eyes, his son, out of breath and sticky from sweat, watches his fa­ther. He watches his father and I know that he is learning.
When I leave Palestine I tell everyone about the farmer on his land. I want to share all the details of his story and, at the same time, I find myself holding back from telling it all; perhaps I do not want to tell his story. I think that maybe I watched what happened, but that my seeing is not enough witness to what happens regularly, to the farmer, to the neigh­bor, the villagers and the sons.
I give it a try anyways and I tell my friends in Pittsburgh, for they’d understand my reasons and my emotions.
I tell my family as I sit around the dinner table one evening.
I tell my roommate and I even tell my roommate’s boy­friend and his friends.

I tell my teachers and my peers.
I tell myself, over and over again in the mirror that what I saw was a man on his land.
They say, “No way.”
They say, “I can’t believe it.”
They say, “That’s awful.”
They say, “The settler shot him and then what?”
They say, “The men just walked away, there was no hos­pital?”
They say, “What can you do, Palestinians and Israelis will never get along.”
They say, “Are you okay?”
They say a lot of stuff.
They say nothing at all that matters.

They talk and I find that instead of listen, I watch, because they change the subject. I witnessed what was felt and felt what I watched absorb the reality of the moment. When you watch a Palestinian farmer tend his land just before the bul­lets fire, and after the bullets fire, that’s exactly what you do: watch.

Robert Kinerk
Everything I Know of Love I Learned From the Funny Pages

I worry about dogs, for obvious reasons. But even a cat will sit and watch you. Cats lead such privileged lives. Their religion is disdain, though when they speak of me what they speak about is love.
I know that from a neutered male I took to feeding pack­aged treats. He learned my rounds and waited till I left my house, usually around 10:05 p.m. I got the feeling, eventually, that he wanted to reciprocate. I mean, he’d eat from my hand and then stroll away tossing this look back over his shoulder. It was like he was saying, “You want to see something? OK. Come on.”
I actually did follow him once. But just that once. He took me down between two houses and around to the yard in back. Even before I made my way to the window I could hear people inside yelling. A man and a woman were having it out. The man looked like he had a job pounding on metal, perhaps in a car body shop. He barked what he said, but the woman wasn’t a person who would stand for being barked at. She was giving back as good as she got, so eventually he reached out with his paw, not to slap her, but to show her how close she was to getting slapped. She took a swipe at his hand.
I had to turn away. “I can’t take it,” I said to the cat. I started to leave, and the cat stared after me, on his face that look of sarcasm only cats can get. Perhaps I should have told him violence is a thing I do not like to see. I like it when two people are just sitting there not doing anything. She might be reading and he might be cutting his toenails. There’s so much beauty in the way a person cuts his toenails, the way he’ll lose himself in a task that takes great concentration.
I’ve kept a notebook almost since I started. I try to jot down brief descriptions of memorable observations. Exam­ples would include:
The whipped cream couple.
The levitators. Don’t even ask me about those two.
The elderly threesome.
The guy who did it while he also ate a tomato.
The couple who got up immediately afterwards and care­fully remade their bed.
The indefatigable youth.
You never know what you’re going to see. A lot is fantasti­cally boring. You’d be surprised how many couples just turn the lights off. That’s it. Click. Darkness. It makes you wonder how there’s any reproduction in the world.
I was in a neighborhood a while back I don’t go to very much. There’s plastic Madonnas on everyone’s lawn. What you read into that is long nighties. The house I had in mind was nondescript, a dark-brown three-decker. The back had the standard wooden stairs with generous landings. On those landings people store their bikes and barbecues and so forth. There are bedrooms on both sides of such a house. As a rule, I’m not fond of side bedrooms. Often those houses are built cheek by jowl to their neighbors, maybe fifteen feet apart, so when you’re looking in one set of windows your back is to the set behind you. Not something recommended. What kept me from chickening out was the fact that a) there were bushes, and b) I am such an expert at standing still, I can be lost in shadows to a person even spitting distance away. I am one of the shadows, actually. I pride myself on this. Put me in dark clothes; stand me in shadows; even on a moonlit night, I’m invisible. It works best when there’s been snow, because shadows in a yard of patchy snow are so wonderfully mottled. It’s the calmness I like, the stillness at the heart of things.
I was about eye-level with the bottom of this building’s bedroom window. The shade was pulled, but not enough— one of those tan paper shades on the wood roller you know is going to go whacky on you and not roll up someday. It had a string pull, and the pull had a round, decorated catch. Homemade, I think. Knitted or crocheted. I’m very touched by things like that, by homely utility.
The bedroom was crowded. Way too much junk. Photo albums stacked up on the dresser. Belts and scarves draped over the headboard. The closet door wouldn’t close because something blocked it on the floor, shoe boxes probably, and God knows what was in the shoe boxes. Not shoes. The shoes were underneath the dresser. I also saw them lying in the hall. The light came from sconces, a kind of mellow light. The kindness of the light was something I appreciated because there was a woman undressing who wouldn’t have stood up to the intensity of higher wattage. Gravity had done its job on her. It had tugged her fleshy arms. It had tugged her pulpy breasts. There was a sagging to her seat, and her stomach made a pouch. A Rembrandt nude, but all within the bounds of what’s acceptable. On the plus side, she had gorgeous auburn hair. Not a natural color, but whose hair is? It came down in waves to the top of her back. It had the kind of bounce you associate with youth, although, like I said, she wasn’t all that young. Her hair caught the light and her bangs were so abundant their shadows hid her face.
It wasn’t till she finished with her stocking work and gave her head a toss that I could see how delicate her looks were. Intelligent and delicate. The nose, the mouth, the chin all fine. Her features had aristocratic leanness, different from the weighty rest of her. Her face made you think she must have had movie-star looks at one time. That’s the thought that occurred to me, and when I thought it, I construed at once this scene in which she’s on a set with moody lights, like in a smoky bar. She slowly turns. She’s looking for the male lead, a guy who’ll lack her class and amperage but who’ll be sexy in a hood sort of way.
About her eyes there was something that should probably be left unsaid. She looked like someone who had given up a lot.
She was nude for just a second, and the light was less than kind to her bulges and the places where she’d stretched. The reason she was so briefly nude was because she had a silken nightgown laid out on her bed. This was something del­icate. You could even say delicious. It clung to her. It graced her roundness and gave it mystery. The color was a kind of burgundy, so there was this hint of tonal harmony to her, gra­dations not of red exactly but of that part of the spectrum— the roses and the ports.
She next attacked her hair. There was a hairbrush in among the dresser’s mess. She lifted it up and slowly went to work. The brushing gave more body to her.  That’s the thing I was privileged to see. She was brushing her hair to commune with herself. I saw that in the leisure of her strokes. She pulled the brush completely to the end of each worked strand. She released it and that strand gave a little jump. It drifted back among its fellows. I couldn’t see what her eyes were focused on, but I felt almost certain she was studying the sculptured look her nose had and the creamy smoothness of the space above her eyes.
While she was giving her hair its coddling, a guy came in the room—her husband or whoever, a guy about her age. He wore cloth slippers and he shuffled. The slippers were so big they would have fallen off if he took ordinary steps. He was wearing moss-colored sleeping shorts that kept him covered from his belly button to his knees. He was dark-haired, with a chest hair pattern that gave his pale belly too much promi­nence. I couldn’t see what his eyes were like because the glasses he wore had dark frames. He was carrying a book and was using one finger to mark his place. He crossed close to the woman and she moved just enough to make room for him. He was on his way to his side of the bed, and he hesitat­ed for just a fraction of a second when he understood they’d touch. It was like he hoped she might give way. She didn’t, though. When he passed her—a moment marked more by the rippling of her fine garment than by any kiss between their flesh—she followed him with her glance to see what the touch had stirred.
It hadn’t stirred anything. He hadn’t registered her liquid presence, or the nightie swaying, or the round softness un­derneath. He still marked his place in the book he carried. He turned the sheet down. The night was warm. They didn’t require blankets. He plumped the pillow up and set it on its end to be a backrest. He shuffled off the ugly slippers. He climbed in bed and, sitting up, the sheet to his waist, he twist­ed around to change the angle of a shade so he could get a clearer beam aimed at his book.

Meanwhile, the woman at the mirror had finished with her hair. She found a place on her cluttered dresser clear enough to set her tortoise shell brush down. She spent some mo­ments picking through objects I couldn’t see. She was looking for something in the mess before her. When she lifted it up, I recognized the pixie-sized bottle that scents come in. She read the label. She must not have been quite convinced it was the scent she wanted because, while she continued to hold it in one hand, she was busy with the other pushing back the belts and hair bands and whatnots on the dresser to look for a, maybe, more potent perfume. Or that was my guess. If that was the case, she must not have found what she was looking for because she stopped as she had before and read the cho­sen bottle’s label. She undid the cap. To get the thing open she had to be dainty. Her hand took on the look of a Balinese dancer’s. She brought the opened bottle near enough to kiss. She inhaled its aroma. While she sniffed, a kind of pleasant thought must have come to her. She put the thought in words for her partner’s benefit. Her comment wasn’t enough to steal his attention from his book. He didn’t raise his eyes to watch the delicate wetting of her fingertips and the touching of those fingers to her neck.
She slid up next to him in bed. She wasn’t pressing him. He had built a psychic fence, but her drifting scent and warmth must have been palpable. She made stabs at conversation and arranged the sheets and plumped up her pillow, which was, like his, turned on its end so she could rest her back.
A mellow light. A bedroom setting. A woman’s worn but pretty charms. There might have been music, but I was out­side and couldn’t hear. What I witnessed was this little offering made of herself. I wanted a happy ending, but he continued reading. There wasn’t any kiss. There was just lights out.
I slid out of the bushes. I made my way out to the street.  I was fingering my notebook and patting pockets for my pen. This hadn’t been a viewing like the whipped cream couple, nor even like the geriatric threesome. I wanted it written down, however. Not for the sex but for something else. For valor maybe, like I could make a note that would memorialize her and in that way render my respect.

When I opened my notebook, the neutered cat came mewing up. I was sitting in a park on one of those wrought iron benches with plank seats. Not in the park so much as on the edge of it, near a streetlight but still in the shadow of trees. I was surprised because I’d never seen the cat that far from home. His little wafer of a tongue flicked out. He had groom­ing to attend to—his striped forelegs and his dainty paws. I reached out my gift-giving hand. He could see it was empty. No treat this time. He barely gave my hand the time of day. He continued licking his paw and wiping his head until he had accomplished those necessities. He got to his feet again. His dainty steps brought him closer to me. He looked up with that intelligent look cats have. He opened his small mouth, and although he didn’t speak, I could have sworn that he meant to speak, and if Nature would have allowed him to do that, what he would have said was, “She wants to come with you.”


Randy Osborne
All Sorts of Things and Weather, Taken in Together

My forearms and the backs of my hands are faintly speck­led and sketched with blood. Like when, in grade school, you twiddled the ballpoint pen between your fingers and let the tip touch paper for quick, light slashes. Like when you made dots by pressing.
These traces on my flesh–they heal, and are remade, but they will heal again–can pull a stranger’s gaze, can make him look away. Neither defined enough to signify cutter, nor dug-out enough to say crank bugs, the marks mean something else.


Upon waking, Sciurus carolinensis, the Eastern gray tree squirrel abundant in my Atlanta neighborhood, yawns and stretches. It sees the world in color. Its hands bear vestigial “thumbs.” Its body temperature ranges from 98 degrees Fahr­enheit to 102.
Its brain weighs 0.25 to 0.35 ounces, relatively large for a mammal, in proportion to body weight. This is not because the squirrel is extra-smart, but because it has parallax vision– looks at you with both eyes at the same time to judge your distance, for the purpose of fleeing—and spatial memory (it doesn’t find buried acorns by odor alone. It remembers), and because a squirrel’s keen sense of hearing needs more gray matter. Its ears face sideways, like ours.
The family name Sciuridae is Greek for “shadow of the tail.” Used mainly for keeping warm and dry, the tail adds 17.8 percent of protective value to baseline when raised. Someone has measured this. Below the tail rests a cluster of blood ves­sels that the squirrel can dilate or narrow to warm up or cool off–no small matter for endotherms, creatures that make their own heat, like us.
You may detest squirrels. Many urban people do, given the raiding of bird feeders that goes on, and given the chew­ing up of attic insulation, which compromises our own heat-making, and given the mad, kamikaze severing of electrical wires. “Tree rats,” you may call them, ignoring the many differ­ences, or worse. I loved one.


In June 2012, I was making more money than I had ever made in my life. My first foray into the corporate world, with its murky, ever-shifting demands–I’d been a journalist most

of my life–meant a nicer apartment, with a pool and gym. Joyce and I dined at snazzy restaurants. We talked about having kids. My boss flew me out to work in the home office, a skyscraper that gleamed in the San Francisco sun.
Abruptly one afternoon, by phone, I lost my job. Down­sized and restructured, I drifted, uncertain about my future. Ours. Although I didn’t realize this when we met a few years earlier, the matter of children was a deal breaker for Joyce. “Not your willingness, I mean, but whether you would be open to the idea,” she said.
I was. With three grown kids from two previous marriag­es—three, by the way, is also the average size of an Eastern gray squirrel’s litter—I felt ready to consider fatherhood with Joyce. But even before the job trouble, there was a potential snag. Our ages differ by twenty years. The gap is wide enough to worry over, especially considering the already shorter life span for men. Twenty years is how long squirrels are esti­mated to live in captivity. In the wild, only about half that.


In August, a friend asked me to substitute as host of her literary reading series. A simple chore. Welcome the turn-out, introduce each of three writers, wind up the show, good night. But I felt nervous, an impostor. Although I had com­posed a few pieces that seemed OK, I was not a member of the scene, not a bona fide person of letters. I admired the others as they sped past, trailing bright streamers of irony.
Since I had planned to attend as a spectator anyway— and with, after all, not much else to do—I said yes.
We strolled in the near-dusk, making our way toward the coffeehouse. I saw a few people I recognized, no doubt bound for the same place. Suddenly, someone cried out, pointing to a spot in the street beneath a massive oak. We hurried over.
A tiny curlicue twisted slowly on the asphalt, its sparse fur (pelage, I would learn) unruffled, eyes open. Blood seeped from the nose and mouth. Delicate whiskers (vibrissae) twitched. About twenty-five feet above us, we spied the leafy mass of nest (drey).
Joyce’s artist friend Hilary retrieved an old T-shirt from her car. She lifted the squirrel from the pavement as if han­dling smoke. Her fingertips arranged the fabric around its wee body, which all but disappeared. Most squirrels don’t survive their first year, and this one fell hard. Internal injuries, most likely.
Of the night’s event, I remember only the end, when Hilary approached me with the bundle, a cleaned-up nose peek­ing out. She had asked around—nobody wanted to take the squirrel home. Made sense to me, hardly a fan of the rodent class. Everyone probably recalled well, as I did, all the ba­by-bird failures of the past, and couldn’t face another. Hilary tucked the corners, a final tidying of the package.
“It’s a boy,” she said, and held him out to me.
At home, after a Google search, I witnessed myself driving to Publix, where I asked the pharmacist for a batch, please, of 1-cc, needle-free syringes. Then to the infant-care aisle, where I seized a liter of Pedialyte. Next, PetSmart for a can of Esbilac puppy-milk powder.
Within two hours, my squirrel had a name. Removed from his wrap, Bug fit in my palm like a miniature doughnut with a licorice-whip tail. He kept his eyes closed, as if to say either, “Let me get some rest, it’s been a long day,” or, “I can’t bear to watch what the human is about to do to me.”
I loaded the syringe with Pedialyte. Here goes.
As soon as he felt contact, he gripped the nozzle with bony hands and sucked, eyes half open now, gulping, as my thumb delivered a slow push.
Baby squirrels in the wild gain sixteen-fold their weight in two months. In humans, this would be comparable to an eight-pound baby reaching 130 pounds in the same period. The squirrel mother’s magic milk consists of twenty-five per­cent fat and nine percent protein. Compare Esbilac powder, stirred into Pedialyte, at forty percent fat and thirty-three per­cent protein. Close enough, it turns out.
During those first weeks, Bug took six syringes of formula at each meal, with feeds about four hours apart. He would drain the first syringe, swat it away, and grope frantically for the next. In about a month, he was downing less formula, and rejecting the syringe after emptying two or three. He munched bits of apple. A few weeks later, diced raw green beans and broccoli stems. Shelled nuts. Before long, he was cracking into them himself.


“Imagine,” the wildlife rehabber tells me, “having a two-year-old child who is emotionally dependent on you—only you, they latch onto a single caregiver—and who will never grow up. I mean never.”
I think of my kids as two-year-olds. Hadn’t I wanted them to grow up? Of course, I did. Yes. And: no.
The rehabber is realistic in describing my options. She is predicting from experience how things will go. Did she say “emotionally”?
Until her, I didn’t know that people exist who specialize in the process of returning squirrels to their natural habitat, after well-meaning humans like me snatch them out.
“But it doesn’t always work,” she says.
I keep her number.


“The majority of mammals live solitary lives; estimates suggest that at least eighty-five percent of mammals can be classified as asocial animals that aggregate only briefly at a seasonal food source or to mate.”—Michael Steele and John Kropowski, North American Tree Squirrels (Smithsonian Books 2001).
Joyce and I watch squirrels jump, dart, and scurry in the park. On a flat surface, squirrels can travel as fast as 16.7 miles per hour. Their crazy trajectories, never in tandem or to­gether, bisect each other across the grass and up the trunks of trees. Lyrics from a Patti Smith song come to me, the one she wrote for Robert Mapplethorpe as he was dying of AIDS. “Paths that cross will cross again.”
In the traffic behind us on North Highland Avenue, we hear a pop—the sound a plastic bag with trapped air makes as tires roll over it.
Together, we turn. The squirrel lies near the center of the road, still alive, hands clawing pavement, unable to drag the rest of its body. After a few seconds, stillness. A light, almost merry wave of the tail, goodbye.
How far away the curb must have seemed, in that squir­rel’s fast-fading, parallax, big-brained vision. The Stephen Dobyns poem, “Querencia” (Spanish for “a secure place”), describes a bull tormented in the ring as the audience cheers:
Probably, he has no real knowledge and,
like any of us, it’s pain that teaches him
to be wary, so his only desire in defeat
is to return to that spot of sand, and even
when dying he will stagger toward his querencia
as if he might feel better there, could
recover there, take back his strength, win
the fight, stick that glittering creature to the wall. . .

The glittering creature in this instance is not a matador but an SUV, now a block away. No bloodthirsty crowd, only a few pedestrians who seem not to notice what happened. Maybe the driver didn’t, either.

One of the many reliefs of no longer owning a car is that I don’t have to worry about killing anything with it, but I remem­ber instances. A thump, the glance in the rear-view mirror. That wad of flopping misery. My sick, jarred sense of a fatal suffering so great and so nearby, yet unfelt by me, impossibly, its cause.
In Dobyns’ poem, the afternoon proceeds messily, the bullfighter proves inept, and “everyone wanted to forget it and go home.” Joyce and I do, too. Cars make sad arcs around the squirrel corpse, which I know I should relocate before it’s transformed into a meat rag.
The squirrel’s up-tilted, almond-shaped eye, with that tight rim of lighter hair, is still moist and shiny. I’ve had my eye inch­es from Bug’s. Like this eye, his are strong-coffee opaque, yet suggestive of a depth.
The body is warm in my hands. I think of Hilary’s fingers. I feel crushed bone pieces, many bone pieces, jostle amid the limp flesh. Before situating it in the grass, I sneak a glimpse at the lower abdomen, the pink nub there. Male.


Tonight’s sunset must be glorious to somebody. On Eliza­beth Street, I stand gaping, unfazed, at the orange-scarlet and indigo riot in the sky.
I’m hungry.
Scientists at Wake Forest University devised a chamber with an oxygen analyzer, put a squirrel inside, and gave it something to eat. The idea was to find out whether squirrels know which nuts are smartest to consume, i.e., which offer a “net value” (calories) that justifies their “handling costs” (effort taken to split the shell, determined by oxygen use). As you may have guessed, they do know. They budget every sliver of energy. Gray squirrels do not hibernate, which means that, even in the harshest winter, they forage. Searching and often not finding.

Squirrels budget, and so must we, the privileged. Dinner done—burritos, cheap New Zealand white wine—it’s playtime for Bug. He’s ready. He charges madly up and down the levels of his tall cage. We do this twice a day, to keep his skeleton supple and because I can’t resist him.
Metabolic bone disease is the main cause of death in cap­tive squirrels. Like humans, when they are not exposed to enough sunlight, they make no vitamin D and can’t absorb calcium. I send away for Bug’s food. The fortified blocks, in sealed plastic bags from Florida, consist of pecans, protein isolates (whey, wheat), and thirty other ingredients, including vitamins D, K, E, as well as B-1, -2, -3, -6, and -12, with all the important minerals. A month’s supply, $25.
He springs out. Perches on my shoulder, rotates to in­spect the room. Hops atop my head.
For the next hour, he scrambles over and across my arms, legs, hands, and torso—somehow he knows to avoid my face—pausing only to wrestle. This involves tumbling be­tween my hands, losing then regaining the top position. Over and over.
He nips, and I feel the promise of his incisors, but not their full gift. The damage is done by his inward-curved claws. Evolved for tree bark, they slice and puncture flesh. I endure this abuse in trade for the moments between, when I touch his pelage, soft belly, and cold wet nose. His tail, plumy, snow-fringed, sifts through my fingers.
I offer a hazelnut, which he snatches and “buries”—finds a cranny in the sofa or an empty shoe or even a vacant pocket, jams the nut in as far as possible, and pats around the area. Scatterhoarding. During play, he will not stop longer than a few seconds.
In the mornings, though–yawn and stretch–he positions himself on the cage’s upper tier, where I can reach him, tucks his snout into the crook of my thumb, and submits to a few minutes of drowsy massage. As if he knows breakfast follows. He does know.


Squirrels mate twice per year, once between December and February, and again in summer. Estrus lasts eight hours. All day, males chase the female, who copulates with three or four. Each gets about twenty seconds. The older, dominant ones usually prevail, but not always. In “breakaways,” the fe­male escapes to a secluded area for a few minutes of peace. She mates with the first male that finds her.
Bug’s downy testicles are huge, about the size of butter­beans, loaded with baby-making potential. In “active” mode, his balls weigh seven grams. They shrink to one gram, when the season of lust passes. Why shouldn’t he get his chance? Even if it’s with a girl who’s just tired of going through the paces with more virile types, and willing to take whatever guy comes along.
But I fear for him in the wild. Predators hover and lurk. Hawks and owls. Cats, foxes, and snakes. The hodgepodge of parasites that want him includes six protozoans, two flukes, ten tapeworms, one acanthocephalan (thorny-headed worm), twenty-three roundworms, thirty-seven mites, seven lice, and seventeen fleas. There is also the odious botfly, which lays its eggs under the squirrel’s skin. Larvae become disfiguring lumps the size of olives, called “warbles.” Eventually, the pupa drop out of dermal holes to finish growing in soil.
What’s mating worth?


In the fall of 2013, I see reports of squirrel migrations in north Georgia. A bumper crop of oak acorns in the previous year led to a high birth rate, followed by a mild winter and rainy spring, which caused the supply of nuts from oak, beech, and hickory trees (mast) to dwindle. That’s one theory. Less obvi­ous forces could be responsible. Naturalist P.R. Hoy of Racine, Wisconsin, reported gray squirrel migrations across his terri­tory during three satisfactory mast years—1842 (four weeks, a half-billion squirrels!), 1847, and 1852. No one knows why.
In more recent history, our state has not seen a migration of 2013’s magnitude since 1968, a year when other stories pushed aside news of wandering Sciuridae. The war in Viet­nam raged that year, with the Tet offensive in January and the My Lai massacre in March. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in April and Robert F. Kennedy in June. President Lyn­don Johnson gave up on seeking a second term.
Quieter history was made in Greenwich Village. “In retro­spect, the summer of 1968 marked a time of physical awak­ening for both Robert and me,” writes Patti Smith in her mem­oir. They had begun to understand what was possible, and what was not.


Winter’s almost here. Joyce and I continue our talks. I bring up parenthood oftener than she does, she who has yet to become a mother (nulliparous). At the same time, I wonder about my fitness for doing the dad thing yet again. It doesn’t always work.
For more than a year Bug was, other than Joyce, the last thing I saw before sleep, and the first thing I saw in the morn­ing, his cage and towel “nest” situated opposite our bed. I woke to the squeaks when he dreamed.

At odd moments, almost every day, memories of him rise. Images. Sniffing inside my ear. Smacking on a chunk of avo­cado, his favorite. Balancing on my hand, his teeth scraping my thumbnail. Nuzzling me as, from the other side of the bars, I trace his flanks and ribs and feel his heart tapping there.
I see him leap from branch to branch in the forest cano­py, his body made for this. The “overstory,” botanists call the green ceiling, limbs almost entwined, leaf and twig so close together that the vibrissae of tree squirrels grow longer than those of ground squirrels, the better to detect what’s near. There’s an “understory,” too, down where I am. Paths that cross will cross again. I picture him in mid-air.

Jacqueline Doyle
You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine

Our lives are constructed around narratives. They are provided by our parents (“You were always a talented musician. Remember the time…” “You never dealt well with losing. Remember the time…”). And by our friends (“You were always the crazy one. Remember that time…”) By our lovers (“I’ve never known anyone who lives in the now like you”). And ex-lovers (“You’re so fucking passive aggressive, it’s unbelievable. I mean over and over again”).

We also construct narratives about ourselves. This process of self-fashioning becomes particularly evident as we get to know new lovers or friends.

“You do not think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it. . . fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf—your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in flight from real reality.”—John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine. Should I start with my first lover? Or my last? I could start with my fucked-up childhood. Or my sorry-ass mom and dad, and their fucked-up childhoods. Or maybe my childhood was pretty normal. There’s that way of telling it too. Beginnings are always hard. Then there’s the long version of the middle before us or the short one. The funny version or the not so funny. There’s the time I almost died. There’s the time I wished I’d died. There’s the time I was really happy. Which didn’t last. Another time when I was really sad. I mean really sad. There are things I wanted to do and didn’t. Things I did and wished I hadn’t. There are things I might whisper some night in the dark, or maybe I won’t. It all depends. There are things I’ve tried to forget, and others I’ve actually forgotten. Some that I’ll remember with you. Some that we’ll forget together. There’s the version I’d like to believe, and another I’d like you to believe. For a while, there’s what we both want to believe. Endings are hard too. The when, where, why, and how of it. The conclusions and reflections, anger, sadness, relief, maybe ennui. It’s all happened before, after all. There will be your story of us, and my story of us. And the version of us I’ll tell to the next one who says Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.

“I met her ex. Believe me, she didn’t tell you everything.”

“She was always a fanciful child.”

“A complete and utter liar. And I’m not just talking about lies of omission.”

“According to her, she broke up with him because he wasn’t spiritual enough. Give me a break.”

“She told Jonathan that she almost died of scarlet fever. She told Bob that she was in a coma for a week after a car accident and it changed her life. How many near-death experiences did this chick really have?”

“So did she grow up in a trailer park with a mother who was a drunk, or in some suburb in Connecticut with parents who neglected her? I mean, there are abandonment issues and there are abandonment issues.”

“Did she tell you about her out-of-body experience? She’s supposedly writing a memoir.”


Nancy A. Barta-Smith
Interview with Gerald Stern

This conversation with Gerald Stern is part of a longer in­terview conducted at his home in Lambertville, New Jersey, a few days before Thanksgiving in 2014. Mark O’Connor and I had been fortunate enough to visit with Gerald Stern dur­ing the City of Asylum, Pittsburgh 10th Anniversary Jazz Po­etry Concert in September. He had generously offered SLAB poems for its 10th Anniversary edition and had mentioned that his latest work of poetry, Divine Nothingness, soon would appear in print. He also agreed to the interview below. The poems in Divine Nothingness, some of Jerry’s most autobio­graphical, are at once lyrical, tender, erudite, joyous, outraged, funny, and wise. They offer a window into his remarkable, as he would say, lucky life. If recognition came late to Gerald Stern, no one would know it now. For he is widely beloved for his enormous contribution to American poetry—always in his inimitable voice.

As I crossed Pennsylvania on I-80, in many ways it did not feel that different than crossing the fields of Iowa near Iowa City where Stern taught in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop before retiring nearly twenty years ago, but turning south to­ward Lambertville I was entering new territory. Lambertville is a lovely, old town nestled on the east bank of the Delaware River. It has changed little over its one-hundred year history, its tree-lined streets still sheltering its Victorian homes, art gal­leries, fine restaurants, and antique shops. The walking path along the canal to which so many homes offer a back en­trance is laced here and there with bamboo. The canal itself so perfectly reflects its old bridges that the surface of the wa­ter vanishes entirely. It was fall. The color was all rust, yellow, and red. I arrived on Thursday, shortly after one. After enjoy­ing Anne Marie Macari’s hearty chicken soup, our conversa­tion lasted until nearly seven. The rest of the interview was conducted the following day in the hope of finishing before they were traveling to New York for the weekend. Jerry had just returned from packed readings at several universities in California. If time has slowed him down as he approaches his ninetieth birthday, it’s hard to see how.

—Nancy Barta-Smith

Let’s talk about your newest volume of poetry. When I read the title of Divine Nothingness I thought first of airy substance and soul, that old dichotomy between Being and Nothing­ness, things and spirit, and then I thought about all the small things and dead things that are the subject of many of your poems and of how you have said you have done what no one else wanted to do. So can you tell us something of how this book came together and how this particular poem became the title and how other poems came to coalesce around it?

Well, first of all, this poem is not a project. It does not real­ize or hope to realize a certain set of conditions that I thought of or imagined in the beginning. It’s just the poems that I wrote in the last two or three years. Even the title poem, which I chose as the title of the book because I like that title, is not a description of, necessarily, of what goes on in the book.
I remember when I was teaching at Iowa in the work­shop—some of the teachers there would like to plan a book with the students. They’d spend hours, they’d spread the po­ems out into section one, section two. I never interfered with the students’ work. I let them. . . , as far as my own work was concerned, I’d more or less set it up in a book form in the or­der it was written, unless two poems were too much like each other, two long ones, or I wanted attention to a certain one at a certain time, so I’m not into organizing books in that way. Though critics, reviewers, sometimes talk about sections of the book, “this clearly means this,” and I let them go. It really is not the case with me.

So you are playing off of Plato’s the divine madness of the poet on the one hand and the love of the small things on the other.

As far as the title itself, it’s very Jewish. And I’m interested in God, who is nothing, and who has been defined by most Jewish critics or Jewish philosophers or theologians as. . . . It’s almost a Jewish definition—God is nothing. It’s another way of saying he is everything. But let me just take a look at that poem. Let me look at your book. Divine Nothingness. We’re talking about the poem “Divine Nothingness,” and it is on page eighty-five. And I’ll just quickly read it.

I have to say I can’t find The Book of Brightness
anywhere, not Amazon, not even the library at
Princeton, though I almost scream at the librarian
“it was carried across the border
from Provence into Spain and Portugal
and tied with hemp under the warm saddle
of the wisest donkey east and north of Madrid,”
and for herself I show her my ten fingers
and explain the separations and what the messages were
and how the years of baseball had interfered
through breakage and swelling now permanent and how
there are ten candles [this is . . . all of this is from Jewish mysticism]
there are ten candles waiting to be lit
and what the permutations and distortions were
and how I wasn’t crazy but had to find
the book to round out my education
and I was losing faith in Princeton, what with the
shoes and dresses in the windows and I could have
gotten in touch with the unfathomable
if only Princeton had it and I gave her the
title in Hebrew as well as a short lecture
and what came out of what but I had to go through
the glass doors with nothing but an egg sandwich
wrapped in plastic the way it used to be wrapped
in wax paper and either go down to Trenton
or figure out the permutations by myself
and I blamed Allen Ginsberg for all this
since I know they had the Book of Pure Suffering
written in the same century as The Brightness.

So, it’s funny. It’s playful. It’s serious. It changes the sub­ject. It begs the question, all of those, and also it’s an attack on Princeton, which deserves to be attacked endlessly, which doesn’t let me use its library, by the way.

Oh, it doesn’t?

It’s the only major library near me, and I asked permission to use the library and they said no. I said “I’m the only person who was the poet laureate of New Jersey.” “Doesn’t matter.” “I used to teach at Princeton.” “Doesn’t matter.” If I lived in Princeton I could use it. So they’re snobs and arrogant. So I, I go down to Trenton, to the state library, or up to Easton, to Lafayette College. I mean . . , I hate Princeton. Okay so that’s so much for that question. Let’s just continue.

I know you have said that you are always writing on bits and scraps of paper and I remember you telling me once in Iowa City that sometimes you discover these scraps in stray places even years later. Were any of these poems partially rediscovered poems?

Absolutely. If I wandered through this first and second floor, I would discover countless beginnings of poems, thoughts, and first lines, last lines, and a lot of the poem started out that way. As far as the issue of sound or substance, it’s an endless argument when it comes to poetry. I’m more the musician and though it sounds like I’m just talking about things, it’s the sound that matters to me. That always comes first, or the music. I could elaborate on that but I think that’s enough to be said.

How does [your] gift for combativeness live peaceably with your affirmation in “Demystification” in Stealing History of “interconnectedness, infinity, and unity,” your dislike of hierar­chy, which you equate with mystification, and your final litany in honor of the close attention we should pay to each other”? How does one balance such a life with the life of a poet, with all of your wanderings and ponderings of clouds and waves? Isn’t there an inherent need of leisure to write? I’m thinking here perhaps of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. In “Out of the Blue” you fantasize about living in a hotel and collecting mail in the lobby and going up in the elevator to a “clean and vacu­umed room”! The poem “Love” makes attentiveness seem like time-consuming work! When did you finally feel as if you had leisure to write? How does anyone “Mule” [title of one of the poems in Divine Nothingness] or poet find time to love? Was it this right to leisure that you were defending in railing against exploitation of workers?

I never was an absolutist in my pursuit of poetry. I never, to be honest with you, I really never sacrificed anybody. I didn’t sacrifice my children, or my ex-wife. Au contraire. And I never believed that the artist had special privileges because he was an artist. Jack Gilbert over there [points at picture], he did. Does. That was his whole life. That the artist is God-given and he can do anything he wants. He never paid for a meal. He never paid rent. He never paid for anything.

But you take care of people.

I’m a caretaker.

You are. So how did you find all this time to write then, too? Or is it that why you started late?

Now, of course is different. Now my life is given to writing, in the last twenty years. I’ve been blessed with a long life and a long life to come, I hope. And if not, not. But even before, you know, when I was. . . , let’s say, fifty years old, forty-eight, I bought a house, arranged for everything, came down week­ends to work on it—alone.

Later, my wife did a little painting and she had a nice gar­den. I at the same time was teaching in a community college, I was head of the English department, head of the union, head of the state union, and head of poets in the schools in Penn­sylvania, hired and trained forty poets, and was emerging into my vocation fully, teaching places like the Y, workshops at Columbia, NYU. I was doing all of that at one time, buying all of the food, buying the furniture.

In What I Can’t Bear Losi have you learned by writing so autobiographically in Divine Nothingness?

These poems are autobiographical. All poetry, especially that which pretends not to be, is autobiographical. It all comes out of the mind, the thoughts, the words, of the poet. There are various quarrels going on in poetic theory. There is a battle against narration. There is a battle against first-person, but it’s all bullshit. It just makes an opportunity for people who get a Ph.D. in poetics to have something to talk about.
All poetry is autobiographical. There’s no question.
I’m more and more unashamedly autobiographical in my newer—I have sixty poems written since this book came out and I’m going to read a couple of them later to you.

What was it like when you first went to Europe? Did you even think of yourself as a full-fledged expatriate or did you know you’d return? At what point did you know when you’d have to return? How important are such experiences in the development of a poet? How did you support yourself? Is that what you mean in “Bio IV” by the government loving you and giving you time. Where could you eat for sixty cents? Was that in Europe?

I was on the GI Bill and I got seventy-five dollars a month, which I collected at the embassy, the American Embassy. And the reason I went to school is so I could get the seventy-five dollars a month because to go to school in France, you don’t have to do anything. You could hear the lectures on the radio, and so on, and I wanted to hear language in French. Abstract, ng you say you are surprised at how you are suddenly driven to write autobiographical es­says but your poetry is autobiographical too. You said that you are instructed by what interests and excites you. What theoretical stuff so that I could understand French, which I succeeded in doing by taking, sitting down in classes in the Cours de Civilisation Française.
I was just going to Paris, like everybody did before and after me. Now, seventy-five dollars doesn’t sound much, but I think my room rent was twenty-seven cents a night, a room in a hotel. A meal cost about eighteen or nineteen cents. I couldn’t buy a car or a refrigerator, but I didn’t want a car or a refrigerator. And I was offered and accepted a job in the. . . , I went to see the Minister of Education. His name was Mr. Fox and he was on Boulevard Raspail and I asked him about these Assistantships [English word spoken with a French pro­nunciation]. Everybody, tout le monde veut aller en France” and he goes on and on and on. Then, he shows me seven or eight different job openings. One was in Brittany. And I always liked to go to far away, exotic places, and I took one in Brit­tany. He thought I was crazy because everybody in France wants to live in Paris, I mean all of the educated people. Later, I changed it to Toulouse. And I was going to teach ten hours a week, in English, at a high school, being paid, you know, a nice little salary.

But I turned it down. I chose to come home because I was engaged. I felt responsible to Pat, who I had forgotten what she even looked like. And I came back, and I fell in love with her again, and we got married and we had kids and we lived together for twenty-five years.

So you didn’t really go over there expressly as, to get “the poetic experience.” It was about the language, or were you. . . , you were writing poetry?

I was already writing. Life magazine and other. . . , Look magazine, treated Paris as a magic place. If you went there, you’d be touched by the magician or the muse or something. But, you know, it’s just a fucking city. Like Slippery Rock, PA.

Oh no, hardly.

Anyhow, that was my experience there. But, I had a won­derful time there.

In What I Can’t Bear Losing you take after the Calvinists for thinking of forgiveness and therefore, I presume, salvation as only God’s free gift. So how has your attitude toward for­giveness been shaped by what appears in “Bio IV” to be your gift for fighting?

Well, I guess they’re opposites, aren’t they?

Well, I was kind of thinking they were, but I didn’t know
whether that’s exactly what you had in mind.

I know in “Bio IV,” I mention a guy named Figgy Dutch.


And when I moved to the new neighborhood where I spent my tenth to my eighteenth year, I had to fight the tough­est guy. It was Figgy Dutch. Neither of us could win. Eight years later, I fought him again in college. We wrestled. Neither of us could win. I could beat everybody up but Figgy Dutch, and he could beat everybody up but Jerry Stern.

So it was always a draw.

But, you know, I liked the guy. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. It was just a challenge to me. As far as forgiveness, I came to forgiveness slow. I grew up in anger, really, in rage. Part of it was the extreme Anti-Semitism that existed in the world that I grew up in. Extreme.
I was beat up on my way to kindergarten for killing Christ. When I came home, I said to my mother, “What is Christ?” “Who?” I didn’t even know what “beating up” meant.
I say, in a later essay, “Forgive but don’t forget.” And that’s my motto now, “Forgive but don’t forget.” Though, there are, some things happened to me, to be honest with you, that I don’t forgive. Is there a poem in this book called “What Hap­pened to G.S.”?

Yes, there is.

Let me find it. You know, I don’t know if you know this. You may have read about it, when I was in the army, I spent six months in the hoosegow.

You’ve mentioned that a few times although I’ve never known the details.

And I sort of describe it in general. Oh, I don’t get into details. In my book of essays, I have a long essay about a relationship with the police and it’s all contained in that book.

Is that in What I Can’t Bear Losing?

Yeah, and it’s four stanzas. And I’m really paraphrasing what the Provost’s Sergeant said to me, as a powerless pris­oner, when we first met and fought.

Here is the Hole and here is the Sledge Hammer
you have your choice
since I am your guardian.

We don’t practice beating the genitals here
with metal pipes or removal of teeth with pliers
or dislocation of fingers; also you can
eat and drink what the others do
but you have to sit alone with me.

My favorite song is “Now the Day is Over,”
“Shadows of the evening steal across the sky.”

Only I am no longer your guardian
now that I have a knife in my chest.

I was teaching in Indiana [PA] and a guy arrived there, as a new teacher. And we went out for a beer. And it turns out he, though he wasn’t a lawyer, was a defense counsel in the army. At this very camp. I can’t remember the name. It was in Maryland, where they were doing work on chemical warfare. We blame Iraq, but we had. . . , we were the best.
I mentioned staying at that camp and my trial and every­thing and that I chopped rocks for six months. He says, “Oh, I know the guy. He was persecuting a young black prisoner. And the black prisoner’s brother plunged a knife into his chest in the courtroom.”

Oh my.

“Only I am no longer your guardian/now that I have a knife in my chest.” So it’s solipsistic. I don’t . . . it has to go with the language alone. But it does have a narrative underneath it. The song, “Now the Day is Over,” goes like this [sings “Now the day is over. Night is drawing nigh. Shadows of evening steal across the sky”].

Can you tell us more too about your embrace of fighting and love of boxing? What do or did you admire about it? Is it the victim you admire most? Of did that come later?

I knocked people out and then I helped them up from the ground. That was the important thing. I was always shocked when I knocked them down. I helped them up. I didn’t have enough anger and hatred to really be a boxer.

So what period of your life was this?

I was twenty-one . . . twenty-two. I was in the army. I had just gotten. . . . I was just found not guilty in a special court martial, from the time. . . , you know, in the army you’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent. And I was given a thirty-day furlough. Big deal.
And I came back, and I was going to school in a place called Hollow Bird Signal Depot, which was in Baltimore, Maryland. And I was studying to be, don’t laugh, a secret agent in the Counter-Intelligence Corps. And I was study­ing, I was going to go over to Germany before the war had ended, to be in their program called denazification where you asked people who were journalists, school-teachers, what­ever, where were you between 1931 and 1945. And where you had absolute power, got the biggest house in town. You could arrest a general if you wanted.

You were a staff-sergeant but the rank didn’t show. It just said US. In order to go over, the war-time draft ended. I had maybe three or four months to go till I would have to be le­gally discharged. In order to go to Germany and do that job, I would have had to sign up for two years and I didn’t want to sign up. I just wanted to go home and be rid of the army, and I went home and dumped my barracks bag into the Monon­gahela river. Later I regretted that I didn’t go.

So what year would that have been?


What have you been reading? I remember one day enter­ing the library in Iowa City and you said you wished you could be a scholar, yet you read constantly so what do you call the reading you do? Aren’t you actually skeptical of the univer­sities as hierarchical institutions? The wish amazed me be­cause you read constantly and knew so much and had such liberty to read eclectically in a way a graduate student didn’t. So what is different about the reading scholars and poets do?

Do you see that book over there?


I got it at the Trenton library and a friend of mine down the street, Jean, drove me there. It’s [for research on] the last chapter of a prose book I’m writing about death, and I’m writ­ing about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I can’t wait to get into it, to read it, though I know a lot about it already. So I love research and I guess I said somewhere I would’ve been a scholar if I wasn’t a poet. I think I would’ve been a labor lawyer or some activist of some kind if I wasn’t a poet. In fact, I was both.

So you weren’t really defending, well, what were you de­fending in defending the workers?

It was anger at oppression and it was always connected in its own way to Anti-Semitism, though they may have been Anti-Semitic themselves, you know, came over with hatred of Jews, Catholics from Southern, Eastern Europe, and felt op­pressed, not by the Jews, but they didn’t know the difference, who the oppressors were, Frick and Carnegie and Mellon and those cocksuckers.
So that was interesting stuff. And for the same reason, I got involved in civil, in the sixties, organizing things, always local, always in towns where I was and stuff like that. The town I lived in, Raubsville, we woke up, one day, some peo­ple knocked on our front door. They lived there, about fifteen houses on that back street, some of them were unfinished like basements, poor people.
[A] mailman was there, a guy that owned the garage, but a real poor garage. And two people, friends of ours, sort of, said they learned that they were going to, that the county, the headquarters was Easton, that was the county seat, was going to seize that land. Which was really a kind of island be­cause the main Route 611 had bypassed it, so we were an old 611, empty road, nobody there. And they were going to make a recreational park of it.
So, we organized an organization that I gave it an acro­nym: LOLA, Leave Our Land Alone. I was president of LOLA. I had this many papers, which are in my papers at the Uni­versity of Pittsburgh. They didn’t know what to do or how to do it, and I found out what was going on, who the planners were, what the source of it was, what we could do. We had a huge meeting in the county courthouse in Easton, old build­ing, and the county commissioners were up there, three of them, I think, and the artists, the guys with the drawings. And we saw the drawings.
And my house, that you saw, was turned into a canoe. They were going to have canoes. It was going to be all rec­reational. They kept using mystification. They kept confusing us about, they said they blamed it on the artists, and “well we didn’t intend that” and da da da. I got up, with a corncob pipe, which I used to smoke, and I said, “You know, I’m a little confused as to why my house is a canoe ramp now,” and I went on and on like that, after a while I had them against the ropes.
We demanded a vote at that moment. They said we’ll take it into consideration. We said, “You’re going to vote now. We’re going to vote now on whether you are, cause we had about four hundred people there, on whether you are going to be reelected or not. We’re going to take a vote right now.” They backed down and canceled the entire project.

What year would this have been?


That was about 1975. And after that, my town, there were plumbers and electricians, I never got charged for anything. It was amazing! So, I did that and why did I do that? Because I was called upon, somebody knocked on my door and I was summoned. I mean I could say—

But you respond.

Yeah, because I was summoned. I felt, and I did that with a march, you know, and when those three guys from Missis­sippi were killed, we had the biggest march in Pennsylvania. It was amazing. I called the Indiana PA president of the college and I said . . . first I called this woman, very close friends of ours, they were African-Americans, Mary Vowels and her hus­band was Bob Vowels, and they had two kids.
She knocked on our door on a Friday afternoon in tears. They lived across the street from us and said that they wanted some kind of march, or some kind of gesture for the black community which was gerrymandered out of the city. They had wells. They didn’t have city water, and there were only two people, two black [people] who lived in the city—Bob and Mary, and their two kids. He taught at the university. He had a Ph.D. from Harvard in economics. And a guy that worked for Social Security that weighed three hundred pounds of solid muscle and wouldn’t join our civil rights group. He says, “I inte­grates wherever I goes. I integrates wherever I goes.” And she had gone to this minister from the First Presbyterian Church, the enemy, because that’s St. Peters in Western Pennsylva­nia, the Presbyterians, and the guy said, “Well I have to go to the council of churches,” and he gave her the runaround.
So, I called ’em up, I said, “Mary, do you want to march on Monday, you’re going to have a march.” She summoned me. And I called this minister up, and he kept giving me the runaround. I said, “Listen, are you willing to say a few words for Christ?”
He said, “Well, I can do that.” So, I had a bank of people because I was social so I knew everybody. I knew the guy that ran the student union. He gave me a bank of phones. I got four, five, or six or ten students; we called up every church in Indiana, most of them Holy Rollers or God knows what, and told them there’s going to be a march led by the minister for the First Presbyterian Church, in honor of the people who had been murdered in Mississippi. They didn’t understand. I said, “Will you come, will you say something?”
So I got about twelve people, ministers, who made little talks and there was one rabbi and I had to write his fucking speech. Then, I called the president of the college, who had had a stroke and didn’t talk well, and he said, “Hard world we’re living in, Mr. Stern.” He hated me. He couldn’t be there because his brother-in-law had died. He was going to the fu­neral.
So, I called the provost and I said (I can’t remember the president’s name), [he] couldn’t be there but he wants ev­erybody to go to this march. The provost said, “I’ll see that everyone is there” and he ordered all the departments to go.
I called the state police and asked for protection. They said, “Dr. Stern, we’ll have people with rifles on the roofs, the flat roofs, of all the houses. There will be no trouble, we can guarantee that.” The entire school—fifteen thousand people then, now it’s about twenty-five—they marched down Phila­delphia Street. Biggest march they ever had in their history. And we were on the courthouse steps, and I was in charge with a friend of mine, Bob Burnett, a musician, and he said to me, cause my work was done at that point, and I was through, and he said, “Don’t laugh.”
And then there was a woman there who sang “We Shall Overcome” and everybody sang, in this fascist town, and the newspaper the next day, in banner headlines, like end of World War II, “We Shall Overcome, a New Song for Indiana.” That was the biggest march in Pennsylvania, one of the big­gest of the country.

So that would’ve been in sixty-four?


Was that the Freedom Riders?

Yeah, what year was that?

Yeah, that was sixty-four, cause it’s the fiftieth anniversary this year.

You remember them, three guys. So I was summoned there too. And by the way, they had a swimming pool in In­diana, it was in the state park, the county park, but it wasn’t really publically owned. It was owned by McCrory’s Five-and- Dime, and they paid one dollar rent and blacks didn’t swim in the swimming pool in the mid-sixties.
I knocked on Bob Vowels’ door one day and I said, “Come on, come on down, bring your boys, we’re going to integrate the pool.”
He said, “I’m not going to.”
And I said, “You’re going to do it.”
We came over there and [when] the guy in charge saw me he said, “Dr. Stern, I don’t want any trouble. I have a bad heart.”
And I said, “We’re just taking a little swim.” I was the only white man who was permanently disbarred from the swimming pool. Lasted about a week, and then the students got wind of it, and they pledged to stop buying anything in Indi­ana. And like that [snaps his fingers] the pool was integrated. So, that was my activism. But I never, you know, it was sort of a thing I did, en passant.

Okay, so, one of your poems is called “Oaxaca,” so I wanted to ask you about your memories there and when you traveled there. I’m assuming you did.

I’ve been there many times. It’s a city in Mexico I love. As I recall, that poem is talking about being lifted up, riding as they do in Mexico and standing up ten or fifteen people in the back of a truck. But I had some great times in Oaxaca. It’s a city in central southern Mexico where every year all the schoolteach­ers congregate. They’re on strike every year and they make speeches against the government. I like that.

I know we wanted also to have you read the poems that you gave to SLAB.


One of them poured hot lead
into a bucket of cold water so he could
make determinations from the shapes
of the hardened metal for he was chasing
the odd intrusions in a small girl’s body;

the other had a small tobacco factory
on the third floor of his house and he engaged
lehrer for the women there co-determinous
with Tampa and Havana though the language was different

so I was only half crazy at the most,
for there was a little sanity in both of them
though more I believe in him with the three floors
than him with only one workable room,
the kitchen and the bedrooms unthinkable,

and I am loyal to the nth degree
whatever they would have thought of me
and for one of them I would have carried one book,
for another, another.

It’s all written down in the steam of my bathroom mirror—
if you can read it.

So, they had a contract from the tobacco workers union, which was organized by Samuel Gompers, who also created the AFL-CIO. It was such boring work that they would have a reader, a lehrer in Yiddish, read them short stories while they rolled tobacco. The same thing existed in Havana, Tampa, only there it was Spanish. My grandfather was very kind to the people, he provided weddings in his back yard for the young women who worked for him, gave them dowries and stuff like that.
So Deborah [moves on to next poem] wrote, was the first poet in the Hebrew Scriptures. She wrote maybe the first poem in the world. I mean, I’m sure there were thousands of poems written by Neanderthals. The first one that was re­corded.

Song of Deborah

When she gathered her people
she said “enough of hills” and “stop climbing”,
especially women, especially if you don’t want
muscular calves like that
and block the entrances for I will sing you a song of
lush meadows and show you where to plant your
corn, though your tomatoes nearer the tents,
and peppers too, for there will be soups, but in
the meantime I’ll start my song for that is
good for breathing, especially at these heights
and don’t look back for you could lose
your balance—after all, you don’t have hooves
to jump from rock to rock and, after all,
your babies make you heavy, the poets you carry.

So as a little kid, I had a series of prayers I made up, and that’s pleading for the blue jay.

Blue Jay

At least I am luckier than that blue jay
hopping along the bulwark
his rubber leg falling back under him
absolutely doomed, the way it is out there.

My heart goes out to him
though he’s more a bully than
any other warm creature that came my way.

I never thought I’d plead for a blue jay
I who haven’t pled for seventy years,
I who got on my knees every night
to go through the ritual of my own devising.

I who had no grievances then.

This last poem, “Ich Bin Jude,” I’m a Jew, this describes what happened to Pat. We were in Europe for three years, and we had tickets to come back on a boat from France to New York, and it was called The Italia, I believe.
We had three and a half months to spend, we had just enough money for that, and the two cheapest places to live in Europe then, were Spain and Austria, believe it or not. So I said to Pat, “I’m going to make peace with the middle Euro­peans. We’re going to go to Austria,” like an idiot.
So we went to Venice, I mean Vienna, to Wien, and we did what we always did, we took a streetcar to the youth hostel, looked at the ads and found an apartment. We got into a streetcar, an old, little, wooden streetcar, maybe it held thirty people. And there were two or three people in charge, a conductor, a transporter, and so on, and they all had coats with medals on. It was in the fall. It was a beautiful day. And I was sitting at the edge and I crossed my leg and accidentally touched the coat of the guy sitting over here and he started to yell at me.

And I went crazy. I said, “I’m a Jew” and I said it in English and German, “and I’m going to kill every fucking person in this car!”
They emptied out the car, including the conductor! They all ran away!

Ich Bin Jude

Who was it threatened to murder
a streetcar full of fucking Nazis in Wien
when he was in the country only two hours
and watched the car empty
including the festooned conductor and the decorated motorman?

The rain wouldn’t stop.
The cheapest place in Europe—
September, October, November, 1954.
Your darling city.


Can you tell us a little about your life now as you approach your ninetieth birthday in February? Do you still feel “like a hare, like hare, like a hare” ? Are you still trying to catch up, or are you the tortoise roaring with virtue? You have lived, now many decades since those lines of “The Bite” in which you talk about having gotten serious about writing later than you would have liked. Do you still feel that way? Do you feel, now having had so many years and so much more time to write than many are allotted, that the scales of lucky life have evened out? Are you like Edith Piaf? Rien, Je ne regrette rien? Lucky? Grateful? Mournful? All of these at once?

Actually, it’s the tortoise trying to catch up.

Well, the tortoise was ahead of you. And you were like a hare, like a hare, like a hare trying to catch up because you were dillydallying.

Oh, right, right, right. That’s from Aesop.


I was a dillydallier. You know that fable is also, is called by James Joyce, what the hell does he call it, “The Ondt and the Gracehoper”?


“The Ondt and the Gracehoper” Well, I like how the ques­tion turns at the end, “are you like Piaf? I’m a little taller than she was, but I share with her the notion [sings: Moi, je ne regrette rien. La, La, La, La, La”]. I mean more and more ev­erything seems to have been useful to what I’m doing now. That’s in a way obvious, it’s like saying this block . . . we need­ed all of those blocks for this final block.
But I’m now more contented than I was before. I didn’t— you know, other poets of my generation, they wrote their first book of poems, they published it when they were twenty-two or three. Then the second and by the time of their third book, they were at home. I didn’t publish my first two books. I threw them away, they’re in the attic someplace.
I was too thorough a critic of my own work. But I, you know, I’m getting the recognition now that is due me. I was just in California this last week and Bob Hass—who is sort of the main . . . big figure [out] in the Berkeley area—he said—he is ten years younger or so than me, twelve years younger— when he arrived on the scene, there were the New York poets, the academics, the rhymesters, and he named a few of the groups. And then when I arrived people had to move over cause I had my own thing. I really don’t belong to any group. That was the reason it took a long time for it to materialize. I’m lucky, I’m grateful, and I’m mournful. Yes, all those at once.

The editors of SLAB are deeply grateful for Gerald Stern’s generous gift of his time, and for the music of his words.


David Potsubay
The Devil’s Forest

I passed the Devil’s Forest for the third time. The two lov­ers on the sign seemed content in their painted forest, but they didn’t know the red devil was in the background, waiting in the shadows between the trees. Below this hanging scene, I could tell the pub was certainly Scottish. There was a giant moose head placed above the polished wooden bar, and on the walls were portraits of men in kilts. These bushy men were stationed above a dozen tables that were divided by glass panes advertising Bushmill’s and Glenfidditch. I knew the in­side by now; I just kept happening upon it, glancing at the near empty inside. I never did go in. The devil on the sign just watched me pass, laughing in his trees. We both knew that in the narrow streets of Venice, it’s easy to get lost.
I had reached St. Mark’s Cathedral earlier that day, the surprise of sunshine breaking through an overcast sky, but at night, once the train takes the last sluggish group of tourists home, and you leave the main tourist drag, Venice becomes an empty maze, full of quiet ripples in the dark, an occasional overfilled bar, and typical sleepy streets. It was calming; the atmosphere seemed practiced at being beautiful and mystic, the water lapping the buildings like a song that you have to listen close to hear.
Walking through Venice in twilight was a dream from which I would never want to awake. I had spent countless nights imagining myself roaming these corridors between the shut­tered houses, which were sometimes partially lit by light posts in the water. Though I was taking in everything, and absolutely loving every minute, the only thing on my mind was inevitable mortality. Would I ever return to the city of my dreams? How much time do I have left? Have the first twenty years of my life been a total waste? All of these questions flickered off and on in my mind, like a failing light bulb, flashes of illumination and obscurity. I was wondering what I would look like in fifty years, afflicted with rheumatism and dementia, wasting away into the earth. The damned inescapability, and the morbid con­templation, slowed my stride. That smiling Scottish devil, he knew. And we both knew, Venice was sinking.
The week before my departure for Italy, I had found my first gray hair, the silver clearly contrasting the black of my beard. I was staying in my girlfriend’s apartment for the week­end in Pittsburgh. I spotted it while washing my face before bed. After plucking it out, gingerly, with a grimace, I showed her. She was more dismayed than I.
“You’re too young to be finding those already!” she cried, hugging me.
“Well, it was bound to happen eventually. We die a little each day.” I kept preaching about death for a little longer, until she got upset and started to cry. I consoled her, as best I could. It was a more sensitive subject for her than it was for me.
As I crossed the Rialto in the wrong direction, again, there was a young couple holding hands, wide wrinkle-less smiles, drinking Chianti at a small table outside of a café. They looked like they were in their mid-twenties. I thought about how they would die before me, they being further on their mortal time­line. Their relationship would probably expire first, like mine will someday. She and I will slip quietly into our separate lives, and then our separate graves. Like Kierkegaard once said, no one enters the world without tears.
Feeling discouraged from an equal mixture of my thoughts and being lost, I sat down at the edge of a lesser canal. I al­lowed my feet to dangle above the seaweed and trash accu­mulated water. I was alone, not a soul in the street or a boat idling past, and there was hardly any light. If I were to fall in right now, no one would notice. It would just be a splash, and even if that was heard, I still wouldn’t be seen in the darkness, and by then, it would be too late. There weren’t any stairs on this little channel either. The slime-covered walls would pro­vide no hold. It would basically be a certain death, unless you could tread water long enough, bearing the weight of being fully clothed, for a rescue.
I speculated on how many people drowned in Venice each year. I’m sure none of them would be Venetians; they’re more amphibious than most, their lives revolving around the preva­lent water, unless they were children. Kids see themselves as invincible, nothing can hurt them, their innocence much purer than this dirty water below my feet, and they have no concep­tion of death and decay. A vision of my grandfather appeared in the shadows, with his plaid shirt, old jeans, and Irish tweed cap. He was like a child again before he died, afflicted with dementia and senility. Three years ago, I remember having to hold him by the hand, leading him to the bathroom. His face was contorted with confusion and fear. It scared me to see him like that. If he were here, lost in that second childhood, he could just as easily fall victim to these dark waters. The worst part is that will be me in fifty years, a confused corpse, and a bald head hidden under a cap.
I decided to turn back; I could try again in the morning at least. I lifted my body from the edge. A graffiti sign told me, in black spray paint, the direction of St. Mark’s, so I went the opposite way towards the Rialto. The sign lied to me before; I was curious if it would again.
After another half-hour of wandering, feeling tired and wretched, I made it back to the tourist stretch, where there were bright lights and people still eating in various outside establishments. I felt exposed as I emerged from an obscure side street, walking out from the shadows. It was such a sharp contrast to the part of Venice I was lost in: an old couple was laughing at one table, and a family was being entertained by an accordion player at another, two young people were kiss­ing in front of a closed Murano glass shop, and a gondolier was crooning a slow song under a bridge. Everything was bathed in a soft electric light, alive with a magic that only Ven­ice could offer.
I hurried onward to the hotel, where I was supposed to meet two friends, for cheese, bread, and wine on their bal­cony. The important part was the wine for me; I needed it. I also bought a bottle of limoncello, to split between the three of us, and a beer, all for tonight’s little repast, and I just hoped it would be enough to placate me. I met them in the lobby.
“Sorry, I’m late. I got slightly sidetracked,” I told them, my face feeling sweaty and red from my quickened pace. I must have looked rough; they both seemed a little concerned.
“That’s ok. Did you find St. Mark’s?” one of them quietly asked.
“No, I never did.”
Trying to rub the wrinkles from my jacket and fixing my hair in an attempt to not look like I had went for a depressive stroll through the entire city, we headed for the balcony.
* That night on the balcony, drinking wine and limoncello, and eating the best cheese and bread of my life, was exactly what I needed. The three of us just talked and laughed for hours about everything. I had forgotten my depression tem­porarily at that table, along with all of my morbid thoughts and the laughter of the red devil. We looked down at the people passing below, making comments on their appearance, cre­ating stories for these strangers. We talked about the trip so far, and what we had seen, about literature and movies. We poked fun at the Italian tour guides. It was so late when I finally left that the hotel clerk had already locked the building up for the night. He was angry that I wasn’t a guest. I apologized, and he let me back out into the street.



John Peña
Daily Geology



In addition to providing a biography, our contributors answered the following:
1. Aliens are in the backyard! How do you react?
2. If there was a literary character you could kill off, who would it be?
3. If you were a sandwich, what would you have on you?
4. What is the most painful thing you’ve ever had to read?
5. What is your least favorite or favorite pieces of clothing?
6. What is the best thing you can buy for $1?
7. What author should every serious writer read?
8. What would your pen name be?
We hope that you enjoy their answers as much as we did.

AARON ANSTETT’S fourth collection, Insofar as Heretofore, will be published in
2014. His poems recently appeared or are forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine,
The Laurel Review, and [PANK]. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Lesley, and

1. Ask if they’re hungry.
2. The boy in The Giving Tree.
3. Horseradish and onions.
4. A draft grant proposal whose author accepted every grammar suggestion
proposed by Microsoft Word.
5. My black-and-white skeleton socks.
6. A bargain-bin book.
7. Bill Knott and/or Marcel Proust.
8. Increase Riddle.

CATHY BARBER lives in San Mateo, CA, where she serves on the advisory council
of California Poets in the Schools. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine
Arts. Her work is forthcoming in Literary MamaSlant, and San Diego Poetry Annual.
In addition to poetry she writes a humor blog: Is It JustMe.

1. Run! I picture an alien landing much like Europeans landing in North
America—they bring lots and lots of diseases the locals have no immunity
to. Think smallpox.
2. I don’t want to kill anybody off. Even Moriarty made for great fun.
3. Avocado and cheddar cheese.
4. I couldn’t take the Orphan Master’s Son. Things just kept going from
bad to worse to even worse. Loved The Fixer, though, so go figure.
5. Anything with wool is both my favorite and least favorite. Wool looks
great, all those great weaves, but I can’t wear it.
6. I recently found not one but two used copies of poetry books by Baron
Wormser at Green Apple books for .92 cents each.
7. Edith Wharton.
8. Catharine Parker.

MORGAN BAZILIAN is a poet and short story writer. His poems appear in Exercise
Bowler, Pacific Poetry, Angle Poetry, Dead Flowers, Poetry Quarterly, and The Innisfree
Poetry Journal. His stories have been published: in Eclectica, South Loop
Review, Embodied Effigies, Shadowbox, SLAB, and Glasschord. He enjoys scuba
diving and walks in the rain.

ANEMONE BEAULIER’S poetry has appeared or is forthcoming on Poetry Daily, and
in The Southern ReviewCimarron ReviewMain Street RagPoet Lore, and elsewhere.
She lives in Alabama with her husband and two daughters and writes about
motherhood on the blog Bloom, Baby.

1. Bake them a pie; hide a kitchen knife under my frilly apron.
2. Most literary characters who deserve “death” get it, so I save my homicidal
fantasies for the living. If I could save a character, it would be Kate
Chopin’s Edna Pontellier.
3. I regularly sport peanut butter and jelly, since my tot uses me as a
napkin after lunch—so probably a dollop of creamy and a spoonful of
4. Instructions for assembling a crib. Hormones could not be blamed for
those tears.
5. Favorite: a good bra lifts even the spirit.
6. Chocolate. Any sliver of chocolate.
7. Christian Wiman’s Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.
8. It’s impossible to top “Anemone Beaulier.” Thanks, Mom, Dad, and

DOUG BOLLING’S poetry has appeared widely in literary reviews including Georgetown
ReviewSlantTribeca Poetry ReviewConnecticut River ReviewStorm Cellar,
Wallace Stevens Journal and Basalt, among others. Most recently online in The
Missing Slate with Poet of the Month and interview. He has been nominated five
times for the Pushcart Prize.

1. Hey—do help us out of this mess!
2. Iago.
3. Peanut butter & jelly.
4. My best friend’s obituary.
5. It’s a secret, really.
6. A solar rock.
7. Tim O’Brien.
8. Mark Train.

KEVIN BROWN is a Professor at Lee University. He has published two books of
poetry—A Lexicon of Lost Words and Exit Lines—and two chapbooks: Abecedarium
and Holy Days: Poems. He received his MFA from Murray State University.

1. Just like Billy Pilgrim: go out to greet them, knowing what will happen.
2. I would say Moby-Dick, but we see how that turned out for the Pequod.
3. Anchovies. Very few people would want to eat me.
4. High school poetry (I may or may not have written some of it).
5. Bookstore T-shirts.
6. A used paperback.
7. Herman Melville (seriously).
8. I don’t know what it should be, but when I was in college, I wanted to
be William Ichabod Coleridge. I’m glad I was not.

CLARA BUSH is an undergraduate at Texas Tech University. She studies Environment
and the Humanities and minors in English and Chemistry.

1. Depends. Are they crashing a birthday party or destroying the world?
I’d grab a video camera and record them.
2. Harry Potter. Love the series, but he’s such an annoying character.
3. Salami and pepper jack cheese.
4. A bad love poem.
5. Moccasins I bought at a garage sale for a couple bucks. I wore them
for about three years until they started falling apart.
6. ChapStick.
7. Pattiann Rogers.
8. Clara Jane.

KEVIN CALLAWAY is a graduate of Belmont University and winner of the 2013
Treadway Creative Writing Award. He lives in Milan, Italy where he works as a high
school English language teacher and private tutor. He enjoys tea, chocolate, beer,
and coffee. This is his first published work.

1. “Hi? Can I offer you some tea or coffee?”
2. Zarathustra, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.
3. Chunky peanut butter and homemade raspberry jelly.
4. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier.
5. Least favorite: pants. Most favorite: sweatshirts.
6. Those slappy wristband bookmark things from bookfairs.
7. Dostoyevsky.
8. Brian Arnold—crime novelist and amateur botanist.

MARCY CAMPBELL’S recent work can be found in The RumpusThe McSweeney’s
Internet TendencyThe MillionsThe Writer, and The Awl. Her flash fiction has been
nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s currently working on a novel and blogging as
The Closet Creative:

1. I’d hide in a location where I could watch them and take notes, for
future writing inspiration.
2. The grandmother from O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,”
though The Misfit beat me to it.
3. Crunchy peanut butter and honey (just like me, a little sweet and a little nutty).
4. The letters to the editor in my local paper.
5. I like my oversized nubby grey cardigan. Perfect for writing in my chilly
closet office.
6. Silence, in the form of two .50 cent gumballs for my kids.
7. Lorrie Moore.
8. Cranky McSassBack.

LAURA CARTER lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she also teaches. Recent work has
appeared in Hambone and Whiskey Island, and her fourth chapbook, Chaos Provisions,
is forthcoming (Dancing Girl, 2014).

1. Run and hide somewhere; or else, think to ask them to read me a
poem in their language.
2. None.
3. Vegan (rice) cheese and possibly some glitter.
4. Lord of the Flies.
5. Least favorite: scarf. I dislike cold weather, but I’m getting used to
winter (it’s January now).
6. Target on-offs in the front of the store, on the aisle with the $3 goods
(also needed).
7. Oh wow. No answer to this one.
8. Something with “Lulu.”

SUSANA H. CASE, Professor at NYIT, is the author of: Salem in Séance
(WordTech), Elvis Presley’s Hips & Mick Jagger’s Lips and Earth and Below
(Anaphora), and 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple, forthcoming 2014). Please visit her online

1. I grab my camera, and lock up my dog, just in case.
2. At this point in my life, I no longer want to kill off anyone, not even in a book.
3. Mustard, or hot sauce.
4. Anything in legalese
5. Favorite=leather jackets, black, any style
6. You can’t buy anything in New York City for $1, not even a soda.
7. All of them.
8. Susana Casanova, a variant of my grandfather’s surname.

LISA M. COLE has written six chapbooks, Living in a Lonely House (Dancing Girl,
forthcoming), Tinder//Heart and The Bodyscape (Dancing Girl, 2012 and 2013),
Renegade//Heart (Blood Pudding, 2013), Negotiating With Objects (Sundress,
2013), and Ghosts (The University of Arizona Poetry Center, 2008).

1. I would say hello and ask them who their favorite poets were.
2. I would kill Robinson Crusoe. Then, I never would have had to read his
silly, stupid story in college.
3. I would have peanut butter and jelly on me.
4. See question 2.
5. My favorite piece of clothing is my John Lennon shirt.
6. A cup of coffee from McDonald’s, or Super Hit incense from the dollar
7. Emily Dickinson.
8. Elisabeth Maxwell.

DEBKA COLSON has published fiction and poetry in North American Review,
RoarSol: English Writing in MexicoPoetry Cram 11ConstructionNEWN, and in
Open to Interpretation: Fading Light, an international juried book competition. She
received her MFA from Lesley University and was the 2013 Ivan Gold Fellow at the
Writers’ Room of Boston. She is currently working on a hybrid memoir and a novel.

1. I would invite them in for a glass of wine. (After all, some of my best
friends and lovers have been resident or nonresident aliens).
2. All zombies and vampires.
3. I prefer my sandwiches naked.
4. Painful? I was once asked to critique a story that ended with a lengthy
soliloquy, loss of limbs and eternal damnation—all in the final paragraph.
5. Least favorite: winter boots and wool socks. Most favorite: flip-flops.
6. I could buy 6 Tibetan momos or a plate of dal bhat and tarkari in Kathmandu,
Nepal for the equivalent (in Nepali rupees) of $1.
7. Pablo Medina (my favorite book: Cubop City Blues).
8. In the tradition of morphing pet names and old street addresses into a
pen name: Greta Scenecliff.

JOAN CONNOR, a professor at Ohio University Among many honors she has
received a Pushcart Prize, the Ohio Writer award in fiction and nonfiction, the AWP
award for her story collection, History Lessons, and the River Teeth Award for her
essay collection, The World Before Mirrors. Her most recent collection, How to
Stop Loving Someone (2011) won the Leapfrog Press Award for Adult Fiction.

1. I do not react. I do not believe in aliens.
2. Daisy in Gatsby.
3. I would not choose to be a sandwich. Maybe a cheese omelet.
4. The Old Man and the Sea.
5. Do headbands count? They hurt. I like my nightdress.
6. Anything at the Dollar Store.
7. Nabokov. (Can you tell that I hate filling this out?)
8. Siobhan, my name in Gaelic.

LIZ DOLAN’S manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for the Robert McGovern
Prize, will be published by Cave Moon Press in 2014. Her first poetry collection,
They Abide, was published by March Street. A six-time Pushcart nominee and
winner of The Best of the Web, she has also won an established artist fellowship in
poetry and two honorable mentions in prose from the Delaware Division of the Arts.

1. I hope they’re here to rake the leaves.
2. King Creon for his cruelty to Antigone.
3. Roast beef and Dijon.
4. Carlyle.
5. Shoes.
6. A fine point pen.
7. Cormac McCarthy, Coetzee.
8. Justin Time—I started late

BRIAN FANELLI is the author of the poetry chapbook Front Man (Big Table) and
the full-length collection All That Remains (Unbound Content). His poetry has been
nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Tillie Olsen Creative Writing Award and
published by The L.A. TimesPortland ReviewSpillwayOklahoma ReviewWorld
Literature Today, and elsewhere. He teaches English full-time at Lackawanna College
in Scranton, PA. Find him online at

1. I would invite the aliens into my home for some tea and then ask if they
could share with me the answers to the mysteries of the universe.
2. Sometimes when I re-read Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man
Is Hard to Find,” I wish the grandmother died earlier because she’s so annoying.
3. If I were a sandwich, I would have roasted veggies on me because I’m
a vegetarian. No meat!
4. Reading the elegies about my father from my two poetry books can be
painful because they cause me to revisit the heavy loss.
5. I enjoy my sweaters the most. Northeastern, Pennsylvania winters can
be long and cold.
6. Gummy bears!
7. Poets should read as many poetic movements as possible and the
main players of each movement. The Modernists are still important
to me, especially William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Marianne
Moore, Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, and Pound, though more so his
essays on poetry than his poems.

DJ GASKIN has placed poetry in GargoyleIodine Poetry JournalThe Fairfield
ReviewZillahLiterary Salt, and others. She was a finalist in an Arlington, Virginia’s
“Moving Words” contest and is featured in two anthologies. DJ lives in Springfield,
Virginia, where she is currently working on a novel in poems.

1. Grab the camera!
2. N/A. . . I don’t even kill spiders.
79677 Working Txt.indd 201 3/24/14 12:51 PM
3. Cheese. And cheese. And maybe a little more cheese.
4. My first rejection letter.
5. LOVE my folk couture dresses!
6. A handful of Hershey’s chocolate kisses.
7. Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
8. Rachel Melancholia.

GAIL HOSKING is the author of Snake’s Daughter: The Roads in and Out of War
(U Iowa). Her poems and essays have appeared in The Florida Review, Post Road,
Lillith Magazine, Hiram Poetry Review, and Nimrod International. She was a finalist
for the 2012 Center for Book Arts Chapbook contest as for Iowa Review’s creative
nonfiction contest, 2012. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and teaches
at Rochester Institute of Technology.

1. I’d like to say I’d stay and say hello, but given the day, I might also shut
the door and go somewhere else.
2. The mean slave owners in Edward Jones’ novel: The Known World
(Pultizer Prize).
3. Some soft lettuce.
4. Probably high school English books I did not get like Silas Marner.
5. A bikini.
6. Gum.
7. E. Annie Proulx.
8. Rose Conrad.

SUSAN JOHNSON received her MFA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts
Amherst where she currently teaches writing. Poems of hers have recently
appeared in The Kerf, Hawaii Pacific Review, Freshwater, Pinyon, Oyez Review, and
others. She lives in South Hadley MA.

1. I would give the aliens time to settle in after their long trip.
2. I would rather not kill off anyone, but rather resurrect Septimus Smith
so the poor guy can give it another go.
3. For me sandwiches are all about the bread, not the spread. Sourdough
whole wheat.
5. My favorite piece of clothing is/are my hiking boots.
6. I can walk miles on a piece of gum and a pack costs less than a dollar.
7. Virginia Woolf should be on every reader’s list, not just serious ones.
8. The name of my pen is Iza.

JEN KARETNICK is the author/editor of eleven books, three forthcoming in 2014:
Prayer of Confession (Finishing Line), Mango (U of Florida), and Brie Season (Kelsay
/White Violet). She works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter
School and as a freelance dining critic and food-travel writer for several outlets
including Modern Luxury Group, Onboard Media, and USA Today.
1. Offer them a glass of wine.
2. Christian Grey. Except that he’s not literary.
3. The works.
4. Finnegan’s Wake. Except I didn’t really read it. Has anybody?
5. I’m old enough to appreciate a good quality push-up bra.
6. A cigarette from a homeless guy at the Metro station.
7. Margaret Atwood.
8. Juanita Cruz. In fact, I’ve used it, as both a pen name and the name of
my “publicist.”

CHUCK KRAMER is a Chicago writer of fiction, poetry, journalism. Fiction online at
Scholars and,, Flash, Blue Lake Review,
forthcoming at Off the Rocks; poetry in various anthologies; journalism in Chicago
Tribune, Sun-Times, Reader, and Windy City Times.

5. Least favorite clothing: wool overcoat and snow boots
7. Author for serious writers: Philip Roth.

MOLLY KUHN graduated with a B.S. in English & Creative Writing from Slippery
Rock. She works with AmeriCorps’s KEYS project, serving at risk-youth In Allegheny
County, PA. In her spare time she makes pop-up books, tells stories from found
objects, performs slam poetry, and reads children’s books at coffee shops and
elementary schools.

1. When I see aliens I tie pastrami to a fishing pole and dangle it out the
window. They like brined mutton. It makes them gregarious.
2. Franz in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He should have been
mugged a lot sooner.
3. Sourdough bread with a very wooly inside, maybe a tad bit moldy from
sitting out too long. Thinly sliced pieces of nightingale—engineered to
sing even after being butchered, the fleshy part of a tomato—baring
no hard layers, kiwi—unnecessary garnish, with one of those plastic
swords pretending to hold everything together.
4. Abraham Lincoln’s A Letter to his Sons Teacher, December 15th of last year.
5. Nylons. They go all the way to my belly, and roll downwards as the day
goes by, creating a halo of fat above my thighs.
6. Glue. If you put your ear to a bottle you’ll hear the hooves of horses running.
7. Nicole Krauss.
8. Thunder . . . or Gamy Whistles.

MERCEDES LAWRY has published short fiction in several journals including Gravel,
Cleaver, Garbanzo, and Newer York. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry,
Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.
Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.

1. Hum the tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
2. I am blanking on this—not because I am too kind to kill someone off but . . .
3. Good cheese.
4. The Pearl by John Steinbeck because of a legendary horrid quiz in
English class.
5. Fave—pajamas.
6. Lottery ticket.
7. Nabokov.
8. I don’t need one—unless I was writing something I was embarrassed
about— romance??? Then Clarity Peel.

Recently named one of 30 Poets in their 30’s to watch by MUZZLE magazine,
JESSICA HELEN LOPEZ is a nationally recognized award-winning slam poet, and is
the 2012/ 2014 Women of the World (WOW) City of ABQ Champion. Her Zia Award
winning poetry collection, Always Messing With Them Boys (West End, 2011) made
the Southwest Book of the Year reading list.

1. Should aliens ever land in my backyard I will attempt to provide them
with naturalization papers, field hand employment and enroll their
children in a local public school. Whether they be armed with lasers or
the idea of the American Dream my reaction is to provide aid/amnesty
first and foremost. And yes, the term “illegal alien” is both dehumanizing
and ethnocentric.
2. If I had my own punk band it would most certainly be named Daisy
Buchanan Must Die. Such a cruel, privileged and heartless socialite
should have been writ by Fitzgerald as meeting her demise in a horrible
mansion-fire just after she decided to not attend Gatsby’s funeral.
3. If I were a sandwich I would have plenty of pastrami and then some
more pastrami and lastly some tasty, succulent pastrami heaped between
my heavenly Kaiser buns.
4. The instructional manual for putting my bookshelves together.
5. I hate shoes. When it snows I wear sandals. In the summer the bottom of my feet are happily dirty. Again, I repeat, I hate shoes.
6. The best thing I have ever bought for a dollar was una carne asada taco
con cilantro y cebolla from my favorite taqueria in Albuquerque. Delicioso!
7. I am not a serious writer so I cannot answer this question. Currently my
tongue is in my cheek and therefore, I suggest every un-serious writer
should read David Sedaris. Or Sherman Alexie. Or both. At the same time.
8. If I had a pen name it surely would be Jessica Hellcat Lopez.

LUCIAN MATTISON’S poems can be found or are forthcoming in apt, Digital Americana,
MUZZLE, Stone Highway Review, The Quotable, and other journals. He edits
poetry for the Green Briar Review and Barely South Review. In his spare time he
enjoys cooking and playing backgammon. Email him at Lucian.c.mattison@gmail.

1. After the initial bouts of bewildered pacing between rooms, pinching
myself, and repeating the words holy shit, I’d most likely give them a
stern lecture about manners.
2. Clifford the Big Red Dog. Hung, drawn, and quartered in a public
square, so as to make an example of his body and warn his comrades.
3. I imagine spicy mustard, any kind of pickle available, half an avocado,
and a piece of bread sitting atop my head.
4. My own prose before I found out I wanted to write poetry.
5. In the summer, my favorite article of clothing is a rad ass tank top. During
winter, my least favorite article of clothing is a rad ass tank top.
6. I saw someone on Craigslist selling Star Fox 64 for $1, so definitely that.
7. Pablo Neruda.
8. J.K. Rowling.

MICHAEL P. MCMANUS is an Altoona, Pennsylvania native who now resides in
Louisiana. He has received the Artist Fellowship Award from the Louisiana Division
of the Arts. His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications.

1. I’d ask if they are members of Steelers Nation.
2. Anton Chigurh.
3. Whole wheat.
4. My stepfather’s obituary.
5. Least favorite—suit. Most favorite—shorts, hikers, Tee.
6. Advice from a homeless man.
7. Hemingway.
8. Siddhartha Gautama.

JED MYERS is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. His poems have appeared in Prairie
Schooner, Nimrod, Barely South Review, Atlanta Review, Grey Sparrow Journal,
The Quotable, and elsewhere. He’s a Pushcart nominee, winner of Southern Indiana
Review’s Mary C. Mohr Award, and winner of the Literal Latte Poetry Award.

1. French roast or oolong?
2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
3. Sliced Lithuanian beets, Murray’s Delicatessen coleslaw, West Bank
falafel, political hash, Dean Martin Hollywood Roast, several of the
pickles I’ve been in, a sunny-side-up egg, splash of lavender bitters,
spoonful of Cascade Mountain wild blueberry jam, spread of coho roe,
and, unforgivably, plenty o’ blood-red ketchup.
4. The words of a Libyan father insisting that his missing son must still be
alive in the days after a government assault.
5. Most favorite: new socks. Least favorite: socks worn through at the
heel and toe.
6. A single shot of good espresso in a real demitasse cup.
7. Albert Camus. To get the real spirit of freedom through commitment.
8. Yehudi Nussbaum (given my known and unknowable history).

DR. J. SUNITA PEACOCK, Associate Professor of English received her PhD from
Southern Illinois University. She teaches World, Eastern, and Interpreting Literatures
at Slippery Rock University, PA. She has published articles in Commonwealth Novel
in English, Pakistani Women’s Journal, International Journal of the Humanities,
South Asian Review, Mosaic, and has essays in the anthologies Violence and the
Body (Indiana UP , 2003) and Transnationalism and the Asian American Heroine
(McFarland, 2010).

1. Invite them for a cup of tea.
2. Bartleby the Scrivener. He annoyed the heck out of me throughout the story.
3. Hot sauce.
4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
5. My PJs.
6. Vanilla latte from the coffee machine in Spotts. Unfortunately, the machine
does not work anymore!
7. Zora Neale Hurston.
8. TW (Tropical Woman!).

JOEL PECKHAM is a poet, essayist, and literary scholar. He has published four collections
of poetry: Why Not Take All of Me: A Cycle of Poems on the Life and Music
of Billie Holiday (FutureCycle), The Heat of What Comes and nigthwalking (Pecan
Grove), and Movers and Shakers (Pudding House). His poems have appeared in
The Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. In 2012 he published
his memoir Resisting Elegy (Academy Chicago).

1. There comes a time when every man must ask himself that question.
2. Tom Sawyer. I have my reasons.
3. Honey mustard.
4. We’ll say just say Little Dorrit. You don’t really want to know the truth.
5. Beatle-boots.
6. Four Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies
7. Faulkner.
8. Tom Sawyer—I have my reasons.

PAMELA PETRO is the author of three place-based works of creative nonfiction, and
contributes to publications from Granta to the Paris Review. She teaches writing
at Smith College and on Lesley University’s MFA program; her visual work may be
seen at

1. Invite them in for a drink.
2. No question: Gilbert Osmond in The Portrait of a Lady (Isabel Archer
deserves better!) And I’d give him a long, hard death, too.
3. Cheese. No meat.
4. Section B of my parents’ Medicaid report.
5. Favorite: a sleeveless top that reads Ptown.
6. The Gazette (Northampton MA’s local newspaper)
7. Alison Bechdel, preferably Fun Home (every writer should read a literate
graphic novel now and again; graphic novels and memoirs lay bare narrative
8. Pentre Ifan (it’s a 5000 year-old cromlech in West Wales. Read the “f” as a “v”).

RANDOLPH PFAFF is a poet, editor, and visual artist. His work has been featured in
[PANK], Word Riot, H_NGM_N, Open Letters Monthly, and The Destroyer, among
others. He also edits the literary journal apt and runs Aforementioned Productions,
a small press. He’s not very good at free time.

1. Quickly.
2. Big Brother.
3. Thanksgiving leftovers. It might sound like a bad idea, but it’s delicious
and you’ll keep coming back for more.
4. My father’s obituary.
5. My favorite piece of clothing is my wedding ring. Does that count as
clothing? I mean, I wear it, so that should count. Right?
6. Some peace of mind by giving that dollar away to an organization that
will help other people/animals/places.
7. Italo Calvino.
8. I’d use my first name and a much less confusing last name. Something
famous. Randolph Obama? Randolph Kardashian? Randolph Gordon-Levitt? It’s kind of a toss-up at this point.

SAM PIERSTORFF received his MFA in poetry from CSU Long Beach and became the
youngest Poet Laureate in California when he was selected to the position in by the
city of Modesto where he teaches English at Modesto Junior College. He is the editor
of Quercus Review Press and author of Growing Up in Someone Else’s Shoes.

1. I would make a trail of Reese’s Pieces that stretched from my home to
my horrible neighbor’s backyard.
2. The literary character I would kill off would be Bella Swan from Twilight,
which would leave Edward and Jacob to recognize their latent homosexuality
and live happily ever after.
3. My sandwich would have Dijon mustard, garam masala, and fried tofu.
4. Poetry from students who say they’re poets but have never read any
poems but their own.
5. Most favorite: my swimming Speedo. Least favorite: my swimming
Speedo when it fades thin from chlorine.
6. Advice from a toddler.
7. John Fante.
8. Shakespierstorff.

FERGUSON PORTER grew up in Dallas, Texas. He earned a degree in Cinema-Television
in 2005 from Southern Methodist University. His story “The Party Will Go On
Without You” won the 2013 Annual Short Story Contest of the California publication
The Desert Daily Guide. He lives in Palm Springs, California.

1. I go inside and make a fresh pot of coffee. It’s a well-known fact that
aliens love coffee.
2. Holden Caulfield.
3. Miracle Whip. Repeat: Miracle Whip! Don’t give me that disgusting
“real” mayonnaise. Also, sliced ham, sliced turkey, cheese, and lettuce.
4. An email from my cousin essentially saying how my boyfriend was not
welcome to come with me to our family Thanksgiving.
5. I look really good in my blue blazer and pink shirt.
6. Coca Cola in a glass bottle.
7. Just one? Gore Vidal.
8. Matthew Barnabas.

SEAN PRENTISS is the co-editor of a forthcoming anthology on the craft of creative
nonfiction. The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre is being published by Michigan State
University Press. His essays, poems, and stories have appeared in Brevity, Sycamore
Review, Passages North, ISLE, Ascent, River StyxSpoonRiver, Nimrod, and many
other journals. Sean lives in northern Vermont and teaches at Norwich University.

1. I’d invite them over for a beer. I love hearing travel stories, so we could
chat about where they’ve been.
2. Since I focus on creative nonfiction that seems like a bad question to
answer. But my favorite literary death is Everett Ruess’s. He wandered
throughout the Desert Southwest in the 1930s until one day, poof, he
disappeared, never to return. But he left behind beautiful letters and
journals. And mystery.
3. Since I’m a Pennsylvania boy by birth, I’d be a Philly cheesesteak.
Though I’m not from Philly (I’m from rural Bangor), I sure love a good
Philly cheesesteak.
4. Not sure.
5. I love my Dickies work pants. I have probably five pair in various stages
of decay. Some have no knees. Some have paint stained on them.
Some are new enough that I wear them out on date night with my
fiancé, Sarah.
6. A slice of pizza. It’s a glorious thing!
7. I think of favorite books rather than great authors. Read Desert Solitaire,
read Sometimes a Great Notion, read Moment to Moment by
David Budbill, read T’ao Ch’ien, read Fool’s Progress.
8. Sean Prentiss. I love my family. I’m happy to wear this name.

ROBERT REID studied journalism and political science at the University of Iowa and
earned his MA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is
currently working on a novel.
1. Feed them. I assume they’re here for the barbecue.
2. Gandalf (no second chances).
3. Raspberry jam.
4. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families:
Stories from Rwanda/ Phillip Gourevitch.
5. Least favorite: socks
6. A bargain book from my local used bookshop
7. Jeffrey Eugenides.
8. Robert Reid.

JOHN REPP’S fourth full-length collection of poetry, Fat Jersey Blues won the 2013
Akron Poetry Prize and has just been published by the University of Akron Press.
1. “Take me with you.”
2. Raskolnikov.
3. Swiss cheese.
4. The most recent administrative memo.
5. Favorite: My newest New Mexico T-shirt.
6. A package of Oreos.
7. Tolstoy.
8. Junior J. Walter.

JENNY ROBERTSON’S poems and stories have appeared in Dunes Review, Greatest
Lakes Review, Dislocate, and Bite: An Anthology of Flash Fiction. She studies
fiction in Pacific University’s MFA in Writing program, and she’s working on a novel
about a 1923 Finnish mining family living on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

1. Close the shades and pretend I’m not home. Just what I need, another
interruption. But I’d probably cave after an hour or so and go out and
bring them sandwiches and shoot the breeze.
2. Independent People’s Bjartur of Summerhouses. He causes so much
pain and hardship for his family, for reasons he finds sane and good;
had he died early in the book, his wives and children might have lived
happy Icelandic lives.
3. Lots of melted cheese, caramelized onions, spicy greens and a slice of dill pickle.
4. The Reader Comments on an article about rape in a college fraternity.
5. My favorite pants are long and green and lined with flannel.
6. Four Andes mints.
7. Ms. Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro.
8. Ynnej Nostrebor.

CYNTHIA SAMPLE lives and writes in Dallas Texas. She holds a MFA in fiction from
Vermont College as well as a PhD in finance from UT Dallas. Her stories have appeared
or are forthcoming from NumeroCinq, Summerset Review and Sleet as well
as Love After 70: an Anthology.

1. Good Lord, I was NOT expecting guests! Quick, get me my lipstick and
check the fridge for sweet tea.
2. I’m a thorough pacifist and couldn’t possibly kill off anyone, but the
characters I would dismiss would be the ones who are flat, bless their
hearts. But wait, they’re already dead.
3. No question . . . peanut butter and Hellmann’s mayonnaise on white bread.
4. After my dad died, for my writing group, I wrote a story called “Duty: a
Study in Grammar,” about him. When it came my turn, not only was it
necessary for me to ask a colleague to read it for me, after only sentences
I had to exit the room.
5. Least favorite: Honey, I already threw those fat pants away. Favorite:
Pearls, of course.
6. The smallest bag of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms. Christmas colors.
7. Everyone serious about their soul would benefit from reading the Dead
White Guys (you know who I mean: Hemingway, Faulkner, Flaubert,
Carver, and on and on and on). Then as slowly as possible, read every
word that Flannery O’Conner wrote; imprint Eudora Welty on their
brain. To clean out the mind, read aloud Emily Dickinson and Dorothy
Parker. Along the way, study the fiction and essays on writing that
master-teacher David Jauss recently published. If you must have only
one writer, there is no substitute for Alice Munro.
8. Zellah Kellogg Blakely, after my great-grandmother of sainted memory.

Pushcart Prize nominee FRANK SCOZZARI resides in Nipomo, a small town on the
California central coast. His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous
literary magazines including South Dakota Review, Oklahoma Review, Berkeley
Fiction Review, Ellipsis Magazine, The Nassau Review, and The MacGuffin, and
have been featured in literary theater.

1. I’d invite them in for chocolate and wine.
2. Ebenezer Scrooge (especially this time of year).
3. Onions and mustard.
4. Warren Commission Report.
5. Favorite clothing—blue jeans & a scarf.
6. A newspaper.
7. Hemingway.
8. Never thought about a pen name. If somebody writes something, they
should put their name on it.

FRED SHAW is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlow University. He
teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow. His poems have
been published in 5AM, Permafrost, Floodwall, Nerve Cowboy, Spry, Burlesque
Press, and Mason’s Road. He also reviews books for Pittsburgh City Paper.

1. I’d get them a beer and a chair.
2. Old-Man Warner from “The Lottery.”
3. If I were a sandwich, I’d be brilliantly concocted by my wife using leftovers
from the fridge, a homegrown heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella,
and basil on toasted ciabatta bread.
4. Poorly written student essays.
5. My least favorite clothing is a V-neck sweater that makes me feel like I
deserve to get beat up.
6. A newspaper.
7. Don DeLillo.
8. Rabo Karabekian.

SHERRY STEINER lives in Housatonic MA, originally from NYC. Published writer of
off-beat poetry, monologues, flash fiction and musical performance pieces, arts
educator, exhibiting visual artist and more. For detailed background information:
1. I would salute them.
2. None— I don’t believe in violence.
3. A credit card.
4. SAT scores.
5. Socks.
6. Dark chocolate Kit Kat.
7. Me.
8. Pen.

PHILLIP STERLING’S most recent book is In Which Brief Stories Are Told, a collection
of short fiction (Wayne State). He is also the author of the poetry collection
MutualShoresand three chapbook-length series of poems: Significant Others,
Quatrains, and Abeyance.

1. My reaction to aliens in the backyard would depend upon whether I
found them attractive or not.
2. I’d hunt down and kill Moby Dick.
3. As a sandwich I’m simply peanut butter (generic, crunchy) and jam (black
raspberry, made on the stove from the berries that grow wild in my yard).
4. Divorce papers (the accusations therein).
5. Favorite piece of clothing: LL Bean insulated work shirt. Least favorite:
academic gown (doctoral).
6. $1 will buy a newspaper with several crosswords in it.
7. Every serious author should read Alice Munro.
8. Maitland Boczek.

TAYLOR SUPPLEE is a Creative Writing student at Missouri State University where
he serves as an associate editor of Moon City Review. His poems have appeared in
Midwestern Gothic, Paddle Shots: A River Pretty Anthology, and The Missing Slate.
1. If aliens were in the backyard, I’d greet them with Vulcan pleasantries.
2. I would kill off the speaker of every Edgar Allan Poe story and poem.
3. I’d be a pork tenderloin sandwich; terrible for you, but oh so tasty.
4. The most painful thing I’ve ever had to read was my own poetry after
the introductory workshops.
5. I do not understand the scarf trend, and I can’t resist a good pair of
self-made skinny jorts.
6. The best thing I can buy for a dollar is the idea of buying something for
only a dollar.
7. Every serious author should read W.B. Yeats and Lynda Hull.
8. My pen name would be Robert Taylor.

J. TARWOOD has been a dishwasher, a community organizer, a medical archivist,
and a documentary film producer. His poems have appeared in magazines from
American Poetry Review to Visions. His books are The Cats in Zanzibar and Grand
Detour. His latest, And For The Mouth A Flower, is due in 2014.

1. “Thanks for the ride from Alpha Centauri! Good to see you again.”
2. Why kill when you can simply close the book?
3. Atomic Horseradish.
4. Manual for the International Computer Driver’s License.
5. Flip-flops.
6. Shinga beer.
7. Himself, herself, itself.
8. Yengoagea Nodaddy.

CHARLES FARRELL THIELMAN was born and raised in Charleston, S.C., moved to
Chicago, educated at red-bricked universities and on city streets, Charles is a loving
grandfather for five free spirits who has also enjoyed working as a social worker and
as a city bus driver.

1. After peeling my 3 dogs off said Aliens, I’d invite the Aliens in for brownies,
and Band-Aids.
2. Francisco d’Anconia, CEO of fictional Anaconda Copper, main character
in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
3. On days when I’m sandwiched between this & that, I want to jump into
a vat of mustard mixed with sprouts.
4. My parents’ obituaries.
5. Least favorite: suit and tie. Most favorite: a formerly-dark blue writing
sweater w/two remaining buttons that spawns many metaphors while
avoiding my wife’s clothes donation bag.
6. Our community newspaper.
7. John Steinbeck.
8. Kokua Farrell.

CHARLES HARPER WEBB’S latest book, What Things Are Made Of, was published
by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. Recipient of grants from the Whiting
and Guggenheim foundations, Webb teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing
at California State University, Long Beach.

1. Depends on how dangerous and/or attractive they appear.
2. Sanctimony S. Squirrel.
3. Mustard, tomatoes, and a big slice of cheese.
4. A tie between The Adventures of Sanctimony S. Squirrel, and my first
girlfriend’s letter saying her family was moving to Tulsa and she had to
break up with me.
5. Certain scratchy sweater that I threw away, rather than give to Goodwill.
If there’d been an Illwill, I’d have dropped it off in a heartbeat.
6. A Lamborghini, if you know how to drive a bargain.
7. Shakespeare. (I’m too in awe to joke.)
8. Charles Harper Webb is my pen-name. My real name is Bomba Fudge.

PAM WOLFSON has published stories in Inner Landscapes, Other Voices, and Quality
Women’s Fiction. Her flash fiction appeared in 375 Views of Boston, an exhibit celebrating the city’s bicentennial. Pam earned her MA in literature and received a merit
scholarship to the Southampton Writers Conference for her novel Stolen Daughter.

1. Get out my binoculars. If I like what I see, ask them to tea.
2. I can’t. Nasty as he is, he reveals my shadow self.
3. Ripe avocado slices and spring greens.
4. A bad, bad revision of my own work.
5. Scarves with splashes of teal are best.
6. A bottle of bubble soap to blow in the wind.
7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
8. Nomi de Plume.