Poetry Issue 11

  • Jona Colson: Retina
  • Brendan Short: The Burning Boy
  • Briton Shurley: depp dreams he is kafka on the price is right
  • B. Z. Niditch: Aboard The Vera Cruz
  • Charles Legget: GINSBERG
  • Elizabeth Majerus: Ex Machina
  • Jim Hart:And The 72 Virgins Weren’t Saving Themselv es For You Either


Jona Colson

No sudden darkness, no curse, but a slow black 
curtain falling, almost like being born 
again, my mother said.
                                And the next day: surgery, 
to fasten the retina, like wallpaper, back to the frazzled 
optic nerve and satisfy its hunger for impulse 
and clear astonishment of light.

                                When I saw her after, 
I felt like I was catching the sun in an intimate moment. 
Still drowsy from halothane and smelling like blood, she slid off 
the hospital bed toward the bleached bathroom. The bruised eye 
beginning to focus the first wave of vision with the bandaged removed, 
the angry slivers aligning to the raw unmediated glare 
while I held fast to her and we both 
stared until it hurt.

The Burning Boy


Brendan Short

        You should have seen me
today among the sea
anemone, burning. I was all
the rage—impulsive
immolation, mundane emulsion
of liquid cinder and drowning
fool. Life’s at times this frantic
         blood and ache—

                       It passed—
the moment, and moments
Later—dry and spent
as a dead pressed drop
of rain—I forgot what had held me
under and what
        had held me up.

depp dreams he is kafka on the price is right

Briton Shurley

he dreams he has come since childhood. first, his hand held tight 
in the pin-prick palm of a grandmother who speaks only 
of mending socks. later, he returns on his own. the price of coffee 

inked on his forearm, his high school sweetheart’s name 
tattooed across his wrist. he is always in the same plaid trousers, 
the same white t-shirt, reading – prague is in love with bob. 

every year, there are the names: suzanne, william, enrique sanchez jr. 
every year, someone other than him is supplied for life 
with ben-gay, cold & sinus tablets, or a silver four-door hatchback 

with power locks & windows. from his seat in the back of the studio 
he has begun to question god; he wants a list of written reasons 
on why some find their way to the stage & why others are merely applause. 

in these years without answer, he feels he’s grown old. 
his lower back now aching, his feet more unsteady, his heart 
so weak, he fears it would burst at the sound of his name. 

THIS POEM ORGINALLY APPEARED IN Johnny Depp Saved From Drowning 

Aboard The Vera Cruz

B. Z. Niditch

Was it not given to us
warm months broken into summer
on butterflies woven 
into your fragile eyes 
you laugh amid the mud 
beaten by even-tides’ angry waters 
with the smell of garlic 
now houseless in steamship rooms 
and seas with bottom fish 
exhaust sings in engines 
belching of children. 
So it is we live alone 
with unopened coffin 
amid a sea surrounded with the sick 
outstretched over blackened stomachs 
of the poor box bed springs 
rent clothes and once-soft garments 
cut in fringes like the pious Jews 
as lightning flashes congealed eyes 
and whores weep for love. 
Mexico’s token of births and deaths 
not even reported 
(like aliens) 
you eye caterpillars 
in the moisture of bread 
insects now spread honey jam 
from the tables of the rich 
whose horoscopes lie star-folded 
in wishing welts, first class 
soon we shall leave the Vera Cruz. 
You, Enrico, 
empty of cowboy hands 
your pocketed volume hid 
in the pea-jacketed suit 
hover by swells 
and a lightning storm 
hammers justice in a glass of tea 
your twig legs open between steerage 
as you breathe in salt water 
smelling all flesh of tropics 
a rental of an Inca exiled 
who will never beg guitars.


      Charles Legget
Ginsberg I’ve given my thousand per cent and I am solvent.
April 15 1994 I am in the black.
I couldn’t lose a penny in the Potomac.
Ginsberg when will we end the tax war?
Go fuck yourself with your employer mandate.
I am psyched what can I do for you?
I’m ready to open up your markets.
Ginsberg when will you be angelic?
When will you put on your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through an income bracket?
When will you be worthy of your million Liddies?
Ginsberg why are your libraries full of books?
Ginsberg who says India wants my eggs?
I’m sick of your beating off in public.
I can go into the supermarket and sell what you need with my good looks.
Ginsberg never mind perfect you can only sell what’s perfect once.
Your Rockets are too much for me.
You made me want to be a beat patrolman.
I didn’t start the argument to begin with.
Burroughs is hawking Nikes but it’s all a lie because they couldn’t even get the shoes to
stay on his feet.
I’m not being sinister this isn’t a practical joke it’s a poem can’t you tell?
It’s 1994 and you’re still trying to come to the point. You are loquationally challenged.
Ginsberg I know you know what you’re doing that’s what bothers me.
Ginsberg to hell with the plum blossoms I got money growing on my family tree.
I read six newspapers twice a day I subscribe to murder trials.
Ginsberg I feel sentimental about the Freedom Fighters.
Ginsberg I used to be an Eagle Scout when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I drink wine coolers every chance I get.
I sit in my condo for days on end and interact with my Sega.
When I go to the mall I buy the kids Orange Julius and instruct them not to come here to
get laid.
My mind is made up everything’s peachy.
You should have seen me reading George Will.
My stockbroker thinks I’m perfectly right.
I don’t need to say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visionary cosmically vibratory flat-out pure good luck.
Ginsberg you keep your hands off G.I. Joe when he gets back from Haiti.
You’re not addressing me, you’re undressing me with your sim-ill-eyes.
My emotional life is not run by Time Magazine. My intellectual life is run by Time
Magazine. My emotional life is run by one of the leading indexes plus three per
cent and my political life is run by the Columbia House Records Club.
My obligations to the Columbia House Records Club are very serious and because of the
Columbia House Records Club my stamp collection is very serious.
If it occurred to me that I was Allen Ginsberg, the last person I would talk to is myself.
Asia is just better organized than you.
They just pawn off their old-time religion on you so you’ll sit around trying to make
sense of it while they laugh all the way to that bank of yours they just bought.
My national resources are a matter of public record, thank you very much. References
available upon request.
Did I mention my stamp collection?
I have abolished the coca fields of Panama,—even while I’ve saved the oil fields of
Kuwait—the poppy fields of Afghanistan are the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite that fact that FUCK YOU ALL I’M A CHRISTIAN
Ginsberg how can I write my shopping lists in your bitchy mood?
I will continue like Christopher Columbus every shopping trip discovery and conquest
I won’t just sell you what I buy on my shopping trip. I will sell you my entire shopping
trip. Mark your calendar. See your travel agent. Buy my shopping trip.
Ginsberg free Leona Helmsley.
Ginsberg save Bob Packwood.
Ginsberg Menendez and Menendez must not die.
Ginsberg I am the Keating Five.
Ginsberg when I was two Father took us to Republican Party Conventions they sold us
peanuts the starch felt like steel the men were puffy like cartoon superheroes and
the women didn’t say much at all the Hilton floors were alive with family values.
Ginsberg nobody calls it war anymore.
Ginsberg what they do call war nowadays is just good business. That’s why The Wall
Street Journal nowadays reads like a combat manual.
Most of the problems have taken or will take care of themselves. Look at them Russians.
That’s a problem that took care of itself, that went from being very, very good
business to being good business with milder threats.
We were wondering about the Chinamen ‘til they sprung a big zit in 1989 granted they
popped it with aplomb but adolescence is an unstoppable force and the Chinese
culture has clearly arrived.
Them Native Americans and them big black African-Americans—again, clearly these are
problems well on their way to taking care of themselves.
Ginsberg I know you think it’s all quite serious—that’s what bothers me.
Ginsberg you’re not meant to get impressions from the television set, you’re simply
meant to believe it.
Ginsberg of course it’s correct, it wouldn’t be on television if it weren’t.
Even Paulie Shor wouldn’t serve next to your queer shoulder in this man’s Army. “Don’t
Ask/Don’t Tell” isn’t just for poets anymore.

Ex Machina

Elizabeth Majerus

Saying no to your father
is no easy machine.
You were never good at
building things.

There’s no kit for this.
You must go and scavenge
parts, not knowing
what salvage you require.

Broken things work best.
Shards fit in ways you wouldn’t
predict, and sharp edges are
expedient. This machine

can’t ever be childproofed –
keep your young ones penned
elsewhere. You are another
story: you must run it yourself,

you must touch it and you will
bleed, a tedious sacrifice. Small
price, though, to say no
and no and no. Run it alone,

then with a friend. Rehearsal
is crucial, but you’ll never
use it. Once it’s built, he won’t
come around anymore.

And The 72 Virgins Weren’t Saving Themselv es For You Either

Jim Hart

He believes Heaven
is anything you want
you can do anything you ever wanted to
by gaining admittance

I mean
suppose you always wanted
to break All the commandments

But you didn’t
you wanted to get to Heaven

So now you’re floating on a cloud
and you see a guy you known
and hated

I mean he stole your job
                     your wife
                     your kids
                     your life

you shoot him
with the gun that magically
maybe even miraculously appeared in your hand

you always wanted to give him one
right in the head

Even assuming
he was the biggest A-hole
in the world he somehow got to Heaven
and I can’t imagine
even for one minute
that his dream scenario
was catching one
right between the baby blues
from a bum like you
who couldn’t even hold on to a job