The Curve of Smiles


Susan Terris, Two Poems
( California )
Depression of a Woman Without

Hard and thin were assets. Undone now, 

she grabs at brief passions: weaving, the dog, 
the poetry, the poet. But no context. Does he care?

And, if so, for how long? She keeps using 

the cottage—his—shuddering pipes and dull paint. 
But she wants Manolos and Cartier,

wants a fine house. These would be context.

A literary allusion might work here, 
but she has none. Only illusion.

Only movies: big screen life, reflected gloss,

a kind of Viggo-Mortensen-romantic-saga.

Viggo, she knows, is a poet, too, but he has money. 
Doing without is hard, though deprived, 

she is trying on her poet's context. But depression 

makes her powerless. Will he agree to better 
or worse with a woman without?

Doppler Effect

Reckless peonies, the abandon of a blown rose:
some kind of Doppler effect.
No gravity. Madwoman in the attic who 
dreams of fire, who’s given too much away.

You can hear thump of the bass yet no melody, 
and this is the moment  you might
walk out of a life and never look back.

Too much restraint. Next time don't listen 
to the echoes of the younger self. Why pursue
dust mice under the bed or cut 
stems in water and hope for a span of time?

Once you had the illusion of calm. Once flowers
brimmed the windows but now waves of 
omission: things which will not  burn or bloom.

Kristine Ong Muslim
( Philippines )

The girls are taking away 
every thing that they do 
not need: headphones, lamps,
lip balms, night creams,
yellowing ephemera.

We let them get away, let the
doors slam like coffin lids.

Only their eyes cannot judge 
the distance this time.
Translation has cut 
their prayers in half.

The curve of their smiles 
like wrong turns.

We will wait for them to come home.
We will.

Sam Silva
( Fayetteville, North Carolina )
Live for the Present

At Atascadero State Hospital
The present tense!, like
the difficult act of excretion
into a basin like a black pot
...pain, effort, animal sweat
where the window's  outdoors
stitched by a screen,
like everything,
is cold steel
and acrid air
...this being a winter
in a city close-to
and much-like
Los Angeles...but frozen instead.
In the present tense
the living
kiss the dead!

Bob Bradshaw
( Redwood City, California )
Edvard Munch. On His Painting The Vampire

“Women,” Strindberg said, “are a lure
for desire and loss.” The smoke from his cigarette 
curled off into the dark air.
Our nightly prayer, Ducha, was scratching 
belt buckles with a young novelist
on the dance floor. They were in no hurry
to find an exit, and a night’s sleep.
We stared as they glided
in slow circles.
“She’s as comfortable to be with as any man,”
Strindberg whispered. I nodded.
“Remarkable, for a woman,” my friend admitted.
“If only she had bigger breasts...”
I would like to paint her anyway.
“You haven’t slept with her, by chance?” he asked.
Not by chance, I answered.
He leered. “Neither has anyone else. 
They dance remarkably close. Her nipples
are probably raw.” In the dusk
of the Black Piglet shadows drifted by.
I kept close watch on Ducha.
We drank our liquor
as my old friend leaned over, to whisper
“I know you’re trying to poison me.”
It was the absinthe talking. 
Yes, I answered. The poison’s
in your glass. He raised his glass
and fell forward onto the table,
gurgling, like a man with his throat slit.
Cheers, I whispered, straining
to see Ducha. I could picture her,
leaning over a man’s neck,
her red hair spilling over him like blood.
I already had a name for it:
The Vampire. 

The Rest 2007 by Leslie Marcus

( California )

Theresa Boyar
( Helena, Montana )
Blood Honey

I’ve hidden all the clues. 
The gag-shop car freshener, Van Gogh’s ear, 
came down last week. Its fetal semblance, 
red honey smear, too much to bear.
We’ve worked around this, you and I.
The balancing blade act, tilt and shimmer,
tilt again and eviscerate. It’s delicate labor.
I’ve toyed with the various ways to forget you.
The beautiful duo erased? Impossible.
A train ride, that long stare through miles of flat
land. Groves aligned in perfect geometry.
The empty carriage, the rattle beneath my feet.
It’s all there. Permanent. Unlike you.
And how many of you are there in this poem?
I’ve forgotten the nurse-you. The one who 
swore it would be okay. The one who hung
beach towels over the windows, a simple 
operation to dull the sun.
Really, it was for my own good.

Peter Roberts
( Mansfield, Ohio )
Wind Chimes

listen, i
will tell you
the truth
silence knows

Lynn Strongin, Two Poems
( Victoria, B.C., Canada )
Broken Robe

My bathrobe is broken
the way a wooden object would break.
Tie won’t fasten
loops are undone
trailing hem as though another woman had worn it a lifetime.
How can I slip it over my bones
like Jesus robe in the children’s illustrations?
When I type
the small bell rings
like the Floorsheim Shoe bell at New York department stores.
Without my robe, I have goosebumps in this island rain
this whole island which is church-going.
Blue, plaid with faded white,
I lay it across the bed, consider clothespins smooth as satin
on a sky aflame
the match which lit it the country to which I did not return
seventeen years south of here where my mother died
unseen for my eyes that long time.

Seventeen Years South of Here,

you died
in another century.

Looking in water I could see my darkened face.
Another country, melanin.

Moments of ferocious ovation.
We might walk all day around this cabin in square-necked nightgowns

rain slapping cabin sides
like a pelt.
Closed all doors of the star shaped room

like during war: I’m the girl in the square necked trailer flannel nights
       & I am aflame, I
burn lovely planet, fire, welding, where you are.

Sam Vargo
( Jacksonville, Florida )
Still Life

Playing by the rules we wait out thunderstorm
After thunderstorm. The Man sent two more down
Today for what, who knows; and all I can say

Is this Homo Sapien ape is about the cruelest
God ever made. Once I saw a man across a lake
Standing there so still I thought he was a statue.

Then he moved and he alarmed me. All this
Still life, I thought, then this movement.
A crescendo after a pause. Playing by the rules

Will get you filled with wet, bloody gauze
And don’t ever think this world’s fair –
It’s not and I’ll tell ya’ what buddy

We wait for the God of Nature and it never comes.
It must be either that we’re way off the moral mean
Or this Homo Sapien ape is corrupted beyond repair.

r. l. swihart
( California )

	Mountains of dirt survey a landscape scarred by bulldozers, big trucks,
and bellied little men with scrolls, transits, and prophylactic hats.  

	Overnight the mountains move.  Sometimes they wake in plastic jackets.
This water main wasn’t on the map.

	Exeunt: the little men.  (Feed them Jelly Bellies in the wings.)
	Rolling over green hills they return in white robes singing ballads of
O long ago and O golden future.

	Nimbus their heads by gutting thought (flying fish, spawning salmon,
rainbow trout). God their mouths with your severed ears.

Melissa Buckheit
( Tucson, Arizona )

Inside her skull the raving eyes with their
shrieking voices their two thousand volts of hysteria 

right to the left lobe where she beat on her 
with the kitchen drawer left to the right lobe

with Grandma’s brass fire poker love the 
heavy thump beautifully rhythmic echoed

her brain extends to daylight, gray hair bleeds
angry women with their nails and teeth biting

through flesh, field of medusas, mental with 
their migraines the crazy sick bitches should be

locked up with their raving, all in their heads

II - To Sleep Inside a Scream
III - Minarets, Incense, Beggars

Featured Poet - Mark DeCarteret

Current Issue - Winter 2008