This will be my first cover taken in the city of Sheffield in Yorkshire. Never having been before it caught me pleasantly off guard to see it. It is dedicated to Harry Brearley.

This will be my first cover taken in the city of Sheffield in Yorkshire. Never having been before it caught me pleasantly off guard to see it. It is dedicated to Harry Brearley.

Editor’s Note



April: my birthday month: the 19th. I tell you this not to elicit congratulations or condolences (61!), nor to observe the tragic events which lately have plagued this star-crossed date: Waco and the Oklahoma City bombings. Terrifying, incomprehensible. Yet: one recalls Braudel’s observation: “Events are the ephemera of history; they pass across its stage like fireflies, hardly glimpsed before they settle back into darkness and as often as not into oblivion.” And so these great catastrophes, and great they were, pass by me like those fireflies on my birthday now; neither managing to silence much less dislodge from its perch the ratty little songbird that trills each new year, ensconced in its perpetual cage of 1967, when at 13 I smoked my first joint and drank my first beer in the woods near my home in Louisville, Kentucky.

I say “woods” but of course, in a city, even one as pint–sized and southern as Louisville, that is a relative term. Indeed, these woods amounted to little more than a half a dozen un-developed acres a few blocks from my house. Still, it was here that, like the confluence of two great rivers, my childhood and adult life commingled as never before or since. Here, or more specifically, the fort – again a term of art, whose definition was fluid – referring sometimes to readymade structures – large drain pipes and abandoned packing crates – and sometimes to those of our construction – treehouses, tunnels, and the like. This fort in the woods belonged to the second category. It was a tar paper shack, really, the sort that would not have been out of place in one of Mr. Evans’ photographs. Perhaps 8’ x 10’ x 8’ with a trap door cut into the first floor’s ceiling that led to a truncated second chamber, whose image I recognized immediately in Being John Malkovich. All of the fort’s constituent parts, from 2 x 4’s and plywood sheets, to nails of all sizes and the hammers used to drive them, to remnants of shag carpeting and even an intercom system, were stolen from the new-home construction sites that bounded the woods and would soon encroach upon and finally obliterate them.


And what did we do there? Not much, until that birthday – and even that was largely symbolic: if it hadn’t been for the good fortune of an open garage door and its case of Schlitz left unattended by its owner, and the generosity of Mike R.’s older brother, who left also unattended on his dresser drawer a dime bag of Kentucky’s finest (a derisory moniker even then) nothing would have transpired that wouldn’t have transpired in a week or a month, anyway. But that, of course, is the stuff of fact: indeed it might have been around that time, but in memory, it is always my birthday. The point is, it happened, and happened at the fort, which was like all such habitats defined not by its form but its day-to-day function, by nature vestibular, an intersection at which to pause, a place of shadows not entirely one place or the other, where slowly we became what we were not yet but shortly would be. A place where for a little while we might shed our shells in relative safety, and the preoccupations of our childish selves – candy, baseball, bicycles, cartoons – coexisted not-unnaturally with the more complicated circumstances of teenage-dom. In practice, this meant many things – one afternoon that casual appropriation of building supplies (hovering, appropriately, in monetary value between petty theft and grand larceny) in the midst of which an earnest debate erupted regarding the relative powers of Two-Face and Mr. Freeze; the high-enhancing property of Kool cigarettes versus the superiority of grape to any other color of Kool-Aid; the smiling visage of Alfred E. Neuman beside a Playboy centerfold.


But what of that birthday? Honestly, I don’t remember much. A burning in my throat, quenched by fire: the acrid malt of that (warm) beer. A slight discombobulation and then a great big one. Nausea. Whoops of laughter, some queasily manufactured, evidential; some more real than I had ever experienced, body-shaking to the point of exhaustion and fear they might never subside. Heart-pounding paranoia at the passing paw-steps of a dog, and feelings invincible: which girls’ bras we would expertly defuse, what cars roll silently from which parents’ driveway, what cleverly encrypted graffiti we would spray-paint on the walls of Grant’s. A game of Tonk. Funyons, Slim Jims. The immense shudder of night’s mystery as we exited into the evening air, cooler now, and the strobing of the streetlamps on Eleanor Avenue. Spearmint gum for my breath. Home. Where my family awaited, with bigger fish to fry (my siblings’ illnesses) and so unconcerned about my previous whereabouts. Did I race to my bedroom, or in a magician’s feat of misdirection stoop to casually pet the cat? I don’t know; I do know I wasn’t caught. Perhaps there was even a cake and candles I blew out and presents I opened gamely, though apparently they have been left on the editing room floor.

Still, I felt something had transpired that would not be undone: or rather feel, now, that something had transpired, yet so stealthily I might not have noticed then. To take Billy Collins’ famous lines from “Tipping Point”

Like the sensation you might feel
as you passed through the moment

At the exact center of your life
or as you crossed the equator at night in a boat.



And so we come to our secret poem this month, towards which this brief reminiscence has pointed. A poem by Mark Jarman that gets at what I mean, aslant – he, or rather his narrator, at age 16, three years older, and his poem widening into an everything I have not remembered here, and so poorly! — transfigured into an exquisite mediation on surfing, joy, and death – a poem about when and where in the inextricable knot of place and age, things begin, for many of us, in earnest.



Ground Swell



Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,

Going on sixteen, like a corny song?

I see myself so clearly then, and painfully–

Knees bleeding through my usher’s uniform

Behind the candy counter in the theater

After a morning’s surfing; paddling frantically

To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me,

Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor’s

Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt.

Is that all I have to write about?

You write about the life that’s vividest.

And if that is your own, that is your subject.

And if the years before and after sixteen

Are colorless as salt and taste like sand–

Return to those remembered chilly mornings,

The light spreading like a great skin on the water,

And the blue water scalloped with wind-ridges,

And–what was it exactly?–that slow waiting

When, to invigorate yourself, you peed

Inside your bathing suit and felt the warmth

Crawl all around your hips and thighs,

And the first set rolled in and the water level

Rose in expectancy, and the sun struck

The water surface like a brassy palm,

Flat and gonglike, and the wave face formed.

Yes. But that was a summer so removed

In time, so specially peculiar to my life,

Why would I want to write about it again?

There was a day or two when, paddling out,

An older boy who had just graduated

And grown a great blonde moustache, like a walrus,

Skimmed past me like a smooth machine on the water,

And said my name. I was so much younger,

To be identified by one like him–

The easy deference of a kind of god

Who also went to church where I did–made me

Reconsider my worth. I had been noticed.

He soon was a small figure crossing waves,

The shawling crest surrounding him with spray,

Whiter than gull feathers. He had said my name

Without scorn, just with a bit of surprise

To notice me among those trying the big waves

Of the morning break. His name is carved now

On the black wall in Washington, the frozen wave

That grievers cross to find a name or names.

I knew him as I say I knew him, then,

Which wasn’t very well. My father preached

His funeral. He came home in a bag

That may have mixed in pieces of his squad.

Yes, I can write about a lot of things

Besides the summer that I turned sixteen.

But that’s my ground swell. I must start

Where things began to happen and I knew it.


Mark Jarman, From Questions for Ecclesiastes, Story Line Press, 1997.



Or as I say didn’t know it, or sort of knew it, as the case might have been.


And so to business, scant this month, as I write before leaving for AWP, hoping that my anxieties – people, small talk, public speaking, people – are not realized quite so vividly as I imagine them. But, honestly, I do look forward to meeting many of you, poets and readers, who have been so kind to Plume, to me, over these last almost four years. You who have, most of you, remained incorporeal figures represented solely by your emails and submissions, sprung to life in the best version of yourselves, which is the one I carry in my mind, of course,


I urge you, too, to subscribe (as almost a thousand of you have) to our Newsletter – brief, with a monthly link to each new issue. But, more important, where you will discover our other “secret poem,” introduced of late in a new feature by an evolving list of emcees. This month: Dore Kiesselbach ushers in with cogent commentary Stuart Friebert’s poem “Submarine.” Next up, Marc Vincenz, with a poem as yet unselected. ( If this task appeals to you — if you have a poem you wish to present – please, contact us at )

And, this, filed under “bears repeating”: We’ve made a small change to the anthology, moving from the year designation to simply a number, in the upcoming case “3”. Something, I am told, to do with the advantages of securing an SPD number. And, I can tell, immodestly, it is going to be…something: living up to our Mission Statement’s (so audacious in in its pre-first issue conception!) promise to publish “the best work by the best poets working today, nationally and internationally.” E.g. Shamsad Abdulloev, translated by Alex Cigale; Kim Addonizio; Kelli Russell Adagon; Sandra Alcosser; Meena Alexander; Kazim Ali; Kelle Groom; Ralph Angel; Rae Armantrout…and, obviously, that’s just the A’s. Copies will be available at AWP and thereafter through Madhat/Evolution Arts, Amazon, etc.

A sneak peak at the continually evolving, but very close to the final, cover:

plume v3 front dark blue style 2 (1)


Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection, a round of “Orgasm” poems from Nin Andrews with a splendid introductory interview (that looks like way too much fun to be enlightening, except it is  both) with the author by Plume’s Nancy Mitchell, Associate Editor for Special Projects, look for extended work of Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; a revelatory essay on revision by Carol Moldaw; and portfolios of poems by Kelle Groom, Linda Pastan, and Chris Kennedy. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at ).


Our cover art this month is from Eleanor Leonne Bennett, an internationally award winning photographer and visual artist. She is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography and The National Trust to name but a few. Eleanor’s photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Life Force Magazine, British Vogue and as the cover of books and magazines extensively throughout the world. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in New York, Paris, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Washington, Canada, Spain, Japan and Australia among many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run “See The Bigger Picture” global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. In 2012 her work received coverage on ABC Television. Her website is



Finally, New Work Received this month includes pieces from Jürgen Becker, translated by Okla Elliott; Philip Metres; Paul Nemser; Peter Leight; Suzanne Lummis; Brian Swann; Elaine Equi; Lloyd Schwartz; Sydney Lea; Margo Berdeshevsky; Jerome Sala, and others.


As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!


Daniel Lawless

Editor, PLUME


Sandra Alcosser


On the great estate her Great
Aunt said stay until you grade
Those papers. One student exclaimed
She loved Sham pain .

On hands and knees
The maid asked how’s teaching ?

Fine, if not for papers.

That’s why I quit said the maid
Testing polish on worn parquet.

Upon his death bed, to ease
his parents, Gerard Manley Hopkins said at least
There will be no more student papers to read.

And then — I am so happy.
I am so happy. I am so happy.



Sandra Alcosser ‘s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, Ploughshares,  Poetry  and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her books of poetry, A FISH TO FEED ALL HUNGER and EXCEPT BY NATURE,  received the highest honors from National Poetry Series, Academy of American Poets and Associated Writing Programs. She founded and directs SDSU’s MFA each fall and serves on the graduate faculty of Pacific University.


Tara Betts

The Courting

after Gerald Stern


In every dark jazz club, in each smoky corner
among empty glasses and rickety chairs and cabaret tables
I have never seen a man dressed
in a tailored suit
nor heard Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” how I might
in 2006 within the dimmed hollow
of Smoke Lounge, nor blushed as I did
then, my dress all snug, my hair just curled,
my eyes bright with nerves, his face lit
with awe across his cheeks, smiling the smile
of Puerto Rico, the tempo of Cuba part claves,
part guiro, the diaspora finally bridged,
the two of us smiling and watching, the two of us
wondering and listening, as if we were fusing,
as if we would always connect—in 2006—
in New York City, grimy crowded New York, home
of the Vanderbilts, some buried nearby
close to this Uptown flirting, in the Bronx.
Oh Jesus of colonizers, oh Jesus.



Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and THE GREATEST: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. She is a a Cave Canem fellow; her writing has appeared in VillanellesGathering GroundA Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona PoetryDISMANTLEPower LinesCallaloo,Crab Orchard Review, and Ninth Letter, among others.


Andrei Codrescu

cedar top goddesses from phil’s sawmill


The cedar goddesses lie down on saw-horses

debarked by rain smooth like movie stars

sinuous knotty tops sloped with open eyes

we lock gazes forged in what I’d like to think

is inter-regnum lust but is only my artsy awe.

The sawmiller’s wife was just about to toss them to the fire.

They weren’t good enough for lumber. Their fragile skin

accomodated no smoothing tool. She gave them to us

gladly moments before tossing them into the pyre.

They should make me a fine arbor for sitting in to think.

Is art worth saving anything from fire?

Or they’ll frame another something no less tragic.

Maybe I’ll ice the pond and slide on them, let’s say,

a woodophile atop those eyes that do not look away.


ozark sonnet


i like to live where (human) sensibilities are still

shockable though nature sees to its own business

adding winter stash to its wank tank its jack sack

jack please take that to the bank keep the change

only a pine tree can teach you what a pine tree is (basho)

but any particular pine tree has an encrypted password

that depends on what it is you want to know from it

every degree of curiosity requires an equivalent hard skin

from the writer who thinks herm want to know

and is tough enough to go on when the pine asks

what are humans for. the obvious answer (to the pine) is

this book is made from pine. that’s me. so take back

your questions people   words are cysts give back my sap

all philosophers are fascists looking for cheap coffins


Andrei Codrescu ( has been a commentator on All Things Considered since 1983. He is an homme-de-lettres whose novels, essays and poetry have been infiltrating the American psyche since he emigrated from his native Romania to Detroit in 1965. He is the author of forty books of poetry, fiction, and essays, and the founder of Exquisite Corpse. He has received a Peabody award for the PBS version of his film Road Scholar, and has reported for NPR and ABC News from Romania (1989) and Cuba (1996). His new books are The Poetry Lesson, (Princeton) and Bibliodeath: My Archives (with Life in Footnotes) (Antibookclub).


Stephen Dunn


 After Aesop


If the lion wants more
than his share, give it to him.
At least try, for Christ’s sake,
to strike a deal.
Forget your zealous politics.

Don’t be the ass, and want
to divide things equally
when equal you’re not.
You’ll be visited in broad daylight.
The jungle has its government.

The fox understands. After the lion
kills the ass for being an ass,
that is, for not knowing the limitations
of being clawless and without a plan,
the fox gives the lion a lion’s share.

What’s fair is for goose and gander,
for those capable of love, and even then,
even then… life being what it is
the rest of us spend most of it
dreaming of revenge.



Stephen Dunn is the author of sixteen collections of poetry, including the recent   Here and Now (Norton 2011) and What Goes On: Selected & New Poems 1995-2009. Different Hours won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, and Loosestrife was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 1996. A seventeenth collection Lines of Defense is due out from Norton in January 2014.


Angie Estes


                       It’s a far cry from the blaze we light
in our time, far from the rising
                       of the lights, from which eleven
                                    persons died in London during the week
            of August 15, 1665, the same period during which
three people died from grief. Nepenthe
                       was given to Helen of Troy to quell

her sorrows with forgetfulness. It’s Ancient Greek
                       and like all history, without grief, as in
                                    let he who is without it
            win a free trip to Nepenthe
restaurant—perched on the cliffs
                       above the Big Sur coastline, once the home
of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth—which offers

                       a quiet meal with a view.
At 5:45 on the evening of
                       August 27, 1783, the inhabitants of the village
                                    of Gonesse, ten miles northeast of Paris,
            saw what appeared to be the moon
descending from the sky. Some ran, some
                       knelt, while others pelted it with stones, chased it

down, tied it to the tail of a horse and dragged
                       that first hydrogen-filled balloon, launched
                                    from the Champ de Mars,
            back to Gonesse.
From the balcony, we watched
                       the moon rise above Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
because it was the brightest and nearest

                       moon of the year, a sequence
of sequins skimming
                       the sky like the lamb’s-tongue
                                    edge of prayer that rises
            to an ogee arch, fingertips
pressed together. But it’s too late
                       for Pluto, who’s now planet-struck

as I was when I was
                       seven: my mother pressed each tight
                                    curl of hair flat with an X
            of bobby pins so that all night, sputniks
orbited my head.
                       High above the sea
on the crest of Cap-Ferrat, Béatrice de Rothschild

                       built Villa Ephrussi, her fin-de-siècle
Creamsicle with its ex-voto gardens
                       in the shape of a ship, immune
                                    to bouleversement. My mother
            always asks each time
the moon appears, how long do you think
                       it will stay? When November’s cold

snaps, the ginkgos finally give up
                       their leaves, but the ground beneath them
                                    is radiant.





Angie Estes is the author of five books, most recently Enchantée (Oberlin College Press, 2013), winner of the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Tryst (Oberlin College Press, 2009) was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her previous book,Chez Nous, also from Oberlin, appeared in 2005. Her second book, Voice-Over (Oberlin College Press, 2002), won the 2001 FIELD Poetry Prize and was also awarded the 2001 Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America. Her first book, The Uses of Passion (1995), was the winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize.


Annette Hagemann

Annette Hagemann

Translated from the German by Anatoly Kudryavitsky and Yulia Kudryavitskaya




I almost bought a lucky dragon
at the Chinese market this morning
they had just started putting up the stands
when I noticed it: very friendly
very complaisant with the wind
with a big grinning head made from paper
or papier-mâché and curly eyebrows: a head
made from pink salmon-coloured paper
and a pink salmon-coloured tail
two to three meters long trembling in the wind
ready to ride as far as my eyes could see
we gave each other a smile and I almost
snapped it up no matter how much it cost
but I wasn’t quite ready for so much luck


china town


fast hätte ich den glücksdrachen gekauft
an jenem morgen auf dem chinesischen markt
da bauten sie noch die stände auf und schon
hatte ich ihn gesehen: sehr freundlich
sehr entgegenkommend im wind
mit einem großen grinsenden kopf aus papier
oder pappmaché gelockten augenbrauen:
einem kopf aus lachsfarbenem papier
und einem lachsfarbenen schweif
der zwei bis drei meter lang im wind schlug
bereit zum ausritt das konnte man sehen
wir lachten uns an und beinahe hätte ich ihn
mitgenommen: egal zu welchem preis
doch ich war noch nicht so weit für so viel glück



Annette Hagemann was born 1967 in Münster, Germany. She studied German literature and cultural anthropology at Göttingen University, and later worked as a freelance journalist and as a museum educator in the Lower Saxony State Museum Hanover. Since 2001 she has been working in the Literature House Hanover. Her poems appeared in the best German-language poetry magazines, e.g. in Das Gedicht and Neue Rundschau.  In 2009, she published her first collection of poetry titled “Competing with the Sun God” (Wehrhahn Publishing). Also in 2009, she received the literary scholarship of Lower Saxony. Since then she has poems published in various poetry magazines. Her second poetry collection titled “Siren of the Shower Room” (Horlemann Publishing, Berlin) appeared in autumn 2014.



Anatoly Kudryavitsky lives in Dublin where he is the editor of Shamrock Haiku Journal. He has published three collections of his poetry, the latest being Capering Moons (Doghouse Books, 2011), and three novels (the latest title is DisUNITY, Glagoslav, 2013). His anthology of Russian poetry in English translation, A Night in the Nabokov Hotel (Dedalus Press), appeared in 2006. He has also published his English translations from Tomas Tranströmer and Myron Byaloszewski.


Yulia Kudryavitskaya is a German haiku poet and translator based in Berlin. Her haiku appeared in Shamrock, and won honourable mention in the World Haiku Association Junior Haiku Contest 2008. Her translations from German and Swiss poetry have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Wolf , Two Lines, The Construction Magazine and on She is the daughter of Anatoly Kudryavitsky.


Sydney Lea's

Old Husband’s Tales


I’m one who tells old husbands’ tales, not wives’,
And the stories and I keep growing old together:
For instance, my friends and colleagues and family members
Have often heard how I got myself lost one night
In the deep Maine woods. Yet I speak of it year after year

In an effort to re-experience a fear,
Which it turns out I could only feel back then.
Today its charge is irretrievable. Gone.
But I mostly repeat the tale to myself, aware
All the while that it must end in disappointment,

That its only remnants are sensory: my ancient
Autumn comes back with a squabble of owls, a chime
Of tuneful water through beaver dams, and time
So sluggishly passing that I, both scared and impatient,
Tore many more limbs than I needed from nearby cedars

For the fire by which I sat for hours and hours.
Darkness had dropped so quickly it overtook me,
But at dawn, the sky would go pale in the east to guide me.
All these details my body still remembers,
Yet that knife-edge thrill in my soul has left no trace,

A duller kind of dread having taken its place.
Other kinds of darkness and lostness loom.
My children are having children just in time:
There are days when they’re all I’ll ever need, it seems.
Yet more and more in these later days I am,

As the poet famously said, the stuff of dreams.



Sydney Leas most recent book is I WAS THINKING OF BEAUTY (2013), He has  a twelfth collection due at the end of the year, NO DOUBT THE NAMELESS. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Grays Sporting Journal, and many other periodicals, as well as in more than forty anthologies. He is the Poet Laureate of Vermont



Nancy Mitchell

Smoke Ghost Smoke


:           Its smell didn’t wake my husband

as well—ceiling fans paddling the night air—

he’d married me only

on the condition I quit; claimed just a whiff

swelled his eyes to slits, throttled

breath, although I never did see it; fifteen years

and if he catches a fugitive

wisp in my hair, I’m quick

to wash it out; into any guest smoker’s hand

he presses clam shells and shoos

them down the steep stone steps to our pond

dock; morning mist after, his robe blacker

he’s kneeling like a supplicant,

fishing out tossed filters, miniature derelict

buoys bobbing along the shoreline. Shielding


his eyes with a pillow, I turned on the light and found

no sign of smoke; the smell could not be tracked beyond our bedroom.

:           Yes that exact smell and the staccato of tap water hitting the copper

kettle bottom were the only signs my mother was

up and about; her feet, our family joked, never

seemed to touch the floor, in contrast to our father’s window-shuddering tread,

her warning to douse the Virginia Slim and switch on the stove’s exhaust fan.


(Likewise at his shoe’s thud on the first stair riser, my sister would spritz

Aqua Net while I’d stub out our cigarettes—pilfered from our mother’s Kotex

box stash—and flick them out the window where butts littered the porch

roof like pigeon dung,


so by the time our father flung open the door and lunged

flushed and huffing into our bedroom, in surprise, we’d raise our iridescent

blue linered-eyes from the glossy pages of Seventeen.)



:         YouTube BBC TV clip in which a young lawyer, breasts

doubled in tweed asserts most certainly that her deceased Italian

  grandmother often accompanies her traffic-snarled

commutes as the smell of garlic

freshly grated and split garlic on a cutting board;

punctuating with a twisted, arthritic finger, an elderly man insists

while alone in the waiting room of a Manchester Jiffy Lube, it was his late

wife in the chair next to him wafting Easter Lilies blossoming in snow-

covered late March; the pierced-lipped teenager lisping


swear to f-ing god it was him, a year now just dropped

dead her father shrouded in Old Spice

scrim soothing her nightmare jagged sleep.



:           School mornings it would wind upstairs,

twenty minutes of sleep before she’d Rise and Shine

us out of bed, until eighteen and crazy

 in love I left to live with a boy who left too soon, his car

exhaust evaporating in hot noon.



To say this was the not the visitation I’d hope for from my late mother

would be ungrateful; she was scrupulously fair, took great care to make things

equal if not the same. In no way does it compare


:          to my sister’s account: awakened by soft cheek

strokes to behold mother’s smooth face, brow

unfurrowed, radiance of her

favorite yellow roses   haloed by billows of blond

Bacall hair. Smiling she kissed my sister’s forehead, and floated on a pink

chiffon cloud into the night, trailing

a wake of Glycerin and Rosewater.


:           But no,   this was my mother all right     smoking

alone         waiting        for the kettle to sing

steam into the dark kitchen   watching        her face

vanish    in the windowpane

glass as the sky lightened         smoking

as was her wish     smoking       as was her wont

smoking        as was her      only

do   as I      damned      well please.


Nancy Mitchell, a Pushcart Prize 2012 recipient, is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002) and Grief Hut, (Cervena Barva Press, 2009) and her poems have appeared in Agni, Poetry Daily, Salt Hill Journal, and are anthologized in Last Call by Sarabande Books and Make it Sound True, a teaching exercise using sound as a poetic device is included in The Working Poet (Autumn House Press, 2009). She teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland.


Lia Purpura

Loud Walk in Fall


There is something else
noise hurts.
Not just me.
Flinching abounds
in the open air
which hasn’t a body,
but still, is bare
and has been
walked in on.
That truck with no muffler
embarrassed it.




It’s definitely a place.
A land
I wish I hadn’t
visited, but
from where I’m standing
I belong there.
It’s a field,
it’s wide
and operates
by admitting
new thoughts,
by charging
It was expensive there
once, very costly,
but not
until now.



Lia Purpura is the author of 7 collections of essays, poems, and translations.  Her awards include a  Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, NEA and Fulbright Fellowships, and three Pushcart prizes. On Looking (essays) was finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Herpoems and essays appear in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, Field and elsewhere. In 2015, her collection of poems It Shouldn’t Have been Beautiful, will be published by Viking/Penguin. She lives in Baltimore, MD and is Writer in Residence at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County.





Barbara Ras

God we need rain. And white flowers.
Petals mimicking teeth and eggshells.
And don’t forget the christening gown.
Though lapsed I still respond to Holy Water,
all the fingers before me, all the fingers to come,
adding to a familial juice, whose trace on my forehead
foretells a boatload of trombones.
Doesn’t it startle you to walk into the kitchen
and find a cockroach belly-up, wonder how long
it took to roll onto its back or was it
one heroic flip, legs and antennae reaching skyward,
defying gravity, that evasive everywhere force
still shaking off our big-brain attempts to explain it,
while walking on our blue ball rotating at a 1000 mph,
but just walking on the ground
feels miraculous.
Once in a Moroccan market
I watched a man and his donkey deliver bread to a stall,
and after one round flat loaf fell
on the dusty cobblestones, he picked it up,
brushed it off, and kissed it.
I’d have eaten that bread, hugged the donkey,
danced with the kissing man, one hand in the air,
waving the way an olive branch waves in a slow wind,
the amber notes of oud music
vibrating in my heart.


Barbara Ras is the author of three poetry collections: Bite Every Sorrow, which won the Walt Whitman Award and was also awarded the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; One Hidden Stuff; and The Last Skin, winner of the Award for Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Ras has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Tin House, Granta, American Scholar, Massachusetts Review, and Orion, as well as in many other magazines and anthologies. She is the editor of a collection of short fiction in translation, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. Ras lives in San Antonio, where she directs Trinity University Press.


Terese Svoboda

Carry her the way it has to hurt:
arms outstretched, tears caught.

Shrimp-curled, she weighs a shell’s worth.
Worse, no nurse lurks.

The flag’s furled in every way—
she whispers Go Away.

Reality singes.
A Cortez

she made you, no piker—
at every conquest, anger

you needed to guy
yourself to her bedside.

Muscles, pectoral or invented, signal
terror—you can’t put her down. Moral

imperative, that of social stigma
probably Darwinian, militia-

ready, beats its chest. The gods are plural
and cruel. You won’t weep at her funeral.

You wait, the dark doesn’t, it presses down.
You can’t possibly walk. Then it’s dawn.

Terese Svoboda‘s When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems is forthcoming from Anhinga Press, 2015. Anything That Burns You: Lola Ridge, Radical Poet will also appear from Schaffner Press next year.


Santiago Vizcaino
Lost Dream of a Sleeping Jaguar
by Santiago Vizcaino  
translated by Alexis Levitin


The guards said he was close to madness.

Juan Manuel Roca


It was never he,

he never escaped from the nightmare of that self.

He rattled his bars in the night

–lost dream of a sleeping jaguar—

He didn’t even know his sentence was

to perpetual silence.

He didn’t know what to say about his innocence

except that it was obvious

and, therefore, he was guilty.

He never noticed that his groans went no further

than his own marbled body.


And they said he rattled his bars like one possessed,

like a shaman.

They also said his feces smelled of gardenias.


But that was not confirmed.

When a man decides to be himself,

he has already lost the idea of himself.


Memory is an enormous stain

that grows smaller the closer one comes.


And while the bars lighten the weight of that trunk,

that is turning to ghost,

each moment more ancient,

while the hours pass

and turn to autumns,

although he has never seen the denuding of a tree,

nor ever seen his own leaves fall,

a kind of changing of the skin,

all this from the gaze of the guard


who dreams that a man is groaning

and rattling his bars.



The Abundance of Things without Limit
by Santiago Vizcaino                        
translated by Alexis Levitin


One might say I’ve fulfilled the miserable obligation of constructing myself.

One might say anything so as to consummate the act

of stripping away the heights of my anguish.

Is there someone who would say that abandonment

is like the banner of someone marching,

but no,

the path through the meadow is marked

by the boots of a deaf gardener.


One might say I’ve lost my direction

like a cat burning in heat,

but no,

there could be someone who would say no,

who would despair over my peacefulness on the rooftop,

with the rain giving oxygen

to the breath of mosquitoes.


One might say that I am hiding the reasons I deny their whispering,

their stripping me down,

a cabbage in the meal of the guard who closes down the theater:

a sour soup that calms the consummation of the final act.


One might say, as well, that my share is poorer,

that I fall apart in the struggle of the miner with his stone,

with its uneven light that spreads over a thin ingot of copper.


But no, behind my suffering glow-worms are feeding,

fireflies with their fluorescent smiles are on parade.

Behind me there’s so much pleasure I will let

the caymans kneel before me as they gaze.

One might say that I discover in every pulse a shadow,

But no, let them laugh like hyenas before a sleeping tiger.


One might say that they conditioned my so benevolent urgency,

but no,

they forget that this prostration

prevents me from reaching the match

with which to light the stove.



Los carceleros decían que rondaba la locura.


Nunca fue él,

nunca escapó de la pesadilla de ser él mismo.

Agitaba en la noche los barrotes

—perdida ensoñación de tigre dormido—.

Nunca supo tampoco que su condena

era perpetua de silencio.

No supo decir de su inocencia

más que lo que era obvio

y, por ello, culposo.

No advirtió jamás que su gemido no penetraba más allá

de su propio mármol.


Y dicen que agitaba los barrotes como un loco poseído,

como un brujo.

Dicen también que sus heces tenían el olor de las gardenias.

Pero eso no es cierto.

Cuando un hombre decide ser él,

ya ha perdido la idea de sí mismo.


La memoria es una mancha enorme

que se vuelve diminuta a medida que se acerca.


Y en tanto los barrotes aligeran el peso de ese tronco,

que se vuelve un espectro,

cada vez más antiguo,

mientras las horas pasan

y se vuelven otoños,

aunque jamás haya visto ese desnudarse de un árbol,

aunque tampoco perciba su propio deshojarse,

que es un cambio de piel,

a partir de la mirada del vigía


que sueña que un hombre gime y agita los barrotes.


«La abundancia de las cosas, que no tiene límite»


Se diría que cumplo esta miserable obligación de construirme.

Se diría cualquier cosa con tal de consumar el acto

de deshojar el culmen de mi angustia.

Habría quien dijese que el abandono

es como la bandera del marchante,

pero no,

el camino está marcado sobre el pasto

por los cascos de un jardinero sordo.


Se diría que pierdo la dirección

como el gato enardecido por el celo,

pero no,

habría quien dijera que no,

que desespera mi placidez en el tejado,

con la lluvia oxigenando

la respiración de los zancudos.


Se diría que oculto las razones con que niego

este susurro,

este desnudarse como una col

en la merienda del centinela que cierra el teatro:

una sopa agria que calma la consumación del último acto.


Se diría incluso que mi bocado es más pobre,

que me deshago en la lucha del minero con su piedra,

con su luz desigual que se extiende sobre una parca riel de cobre.


Pero no,

detrás de mi dolor se alimentan las luciérnagas,

desfilan los cocuyos con sus sonrisas fluorescentes.

Detrás de mí hay tanta complacencia como para dejar

que se arrodillen los caimanes y me miren.


Se diría que descubro en cada pálpito una sombra,

pero no, dejo que digan como hienas ante el tigre dormido.


Se diría que condicionan mi urgencia tan benévola,

pero no,

olvidan que esta postración

me impide alcanzar el cerillo

para encender la estufa.



Santiago Vizcaíno’s first book of poetry Destruction in the Afternoon won the Premio Proyectos Literarios Nacionales award from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Culture in 2008. It will be published in English next year by Bill Lavender/Dialogos Books. His second book, In the Twilight, won second prize in the Pichincha Poetry Prize competition in 2010. His work has appeared in a number of US and international journals and magazines.


Alexis Levitin’s translations have appeared in well over 200 magazines, including New England Review, APR, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review and Prairie Schooner. His thirty-four books include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words, both from New Directions. His most recent books are a bilingual edition of Salgado Maranhao’s Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012), a bilingual edition of Tobacco Dogs by Ecuadorian Ana Minga (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2013), and The Art of Patience by Eugenio de Andrade (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013).


Nin Andrews

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection from Nin Andrews, we present an interview with the our own Associate Editor for Special Projects, the estimable Nancy Mitchell, followed by the work itself and some more detailed biographical material. Enjoy!




Hey Nin! I’m getting a serious kick out of this feature. How did you come (no, we will not stoop to such low lying pun-plum) upon this idea for this particular installment in the continuing adventures of O?



As you might know, the first book I ever wrote was The Book of Orgasms. Ever since I have suffered the consequences. Because you can’t just write a book like that and expect that anyone will want to hear or read or publish anything else you write. It’s a problem. When I give readings, people want me to provide an orgasm or two. Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Maybe I have a headache. I ate too much. Or I am wearing the wrong outfit for an orgasm. And really, you can’t just keep having the same old orgasms over and over again. One night I decided I’d had enough. I announced it at the beginning of a poetry reading, I’m so sorry. But tonight there will be no orgasms. One red-faced man protested loudly. A woman in fishnet stockings got up to leave. A student in the front row raised his hand and asked, Why do you think we’re here?


Clearly, I needed to write new orgasm poems. But I had this fear. What if there is a limit to Nin Andrews’ orgasm poems? Or worse, a limit to the appeal of Nin Andrews’ orgasm poems? Granted, I used to pride myself on the idea that the orgasms chose me and only me. I even had this mini-poem on my desk, a take-off on Frank O’Hara’s “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” that went like this:


The orgasm woke me this morning, loud

and clear, saying, “Hey, Nin Andrews,

I’ve been trying to wake you for hours.

Don’t think you can ignore me. Because

you’re the only poet I’ve ever chosen

to speak to personally.”


But I decided I needed to introduce the orgasm to other poets, poets whose work I admire, whose words and attitudes and ideas have moved me so deeply, they’re wandering around in my brain late a night, sometimes having moonlit snacks or sipping martinis in the dark, other times sitting down at my desk, chatting or fooling around with my lines and dreams. And I, with theirs. The orgasm, of course, was only too happy to enjoy a three-some. I have to admit, I was a little sad to realize I wasn’t the only poet the orgasm enjoyed.




Ah, Ms. Nin, as much as your agile wit and charm do dazzle me near dumb, this series reveals not only the prodigiousness of your imagination, but a deep intimacy with these poems; no doubt a result of your novitiate residency within the body of each to which you pay homage. It’s clear that like the Dude, you have abided, long eye/ I; only a devoted scholar could note such meticulous architectural detail.


Now, in this particular series of Orgasm poems—hey…why are there fewer words for the female orgasm than for female sex organs…is it a Taoist thing like what can’t be seen can’t be named…the unnamable is the eternally real? … and why the proliferation of words for that tacky evidence of male orgasm; they sound like hip-hop frat boy-nicknames; Jissom, Jism, Jizz, lil’ Spunk, Spurt, Spooge and, of course, Squirt.


Orgasm, to me at least, sounds like an unfortunate implosion of organ and spasm, and looks like an orange, gourd-shaped organ writhing on a tree branch in a Dali landscape…intermittently gassy…hmm…but I digress…




Yes, I think you’re correct. The female orgasm is that which cannot be named. And why would it want to be? Consider the male names you have listed, and you know it doesn’t want any part of that conversation. After all, it was Adam who named everything, and thereby limited his experience of all that is. Eve had nothing to do with it.


The female orgasm likes to live life incognito. She’s like a member of the CIA. She doesn’t allow a definition, not even another word for orgasm. She doesn’t want to get mixed up with names or ideas or hairstyles or the wrong kinds of people. You know who I mean. After all, she has so many lives, and inside each one, there is another, each one defying definition.


But I have to tell you, you aren’t the only writer who has complained to me about the word orgasm. The late Eleanor Ross Taylor once asked me the very same thing. Nin, she said, I like your Book of Orgasms, but that’s such a vulgar word. Can’t you call them something else? Like fish? Or horses? We tried, but the orgasm would have nothing to do with fish and horses. You can try it, too, and see what you think. Call them lemons, Buddha, Sarah, Miso soup, it makes no difference. The orgasm won’t respond.


Mitchell: Well, I’m honored to be in such esteemed company; tell me, did Miss Eleanor, a southerner like myself, call you Nee-yen with our entrenched, generous penchant for making a lil’ ole one syllable two?


Andrews: Oh, Eleanor. She was so lovely, so well-spoken, so smart. She did have an accent but not as strong as that. And she wasn’t a natural admirer of the orgasm. She made allowances for me.


Mitchell: Again, I digress


Now, if I know anything about Lady O—no; you’re right; it won’t work; she’s not even batting an eyelash—she wants what she wants; she wants who she wants to come inside.   Like Lola, what O wants, O gets, but never by asking.

Male or female, speaking or spoken of, the O in these poems lures us across the threshold into what appear to be familiar, faithful, dutiful homages to prosody, device and even ars poetica. Unless we pay close attention—to distract us, O has slipped a mickey into our drink, queued up all our favorite tunes, surround sound, but not too loud-that comes later— we’ll miss that O has made just a few renovations…oh, ok, maybe just knocked out a wall or two…to the original.


As I don’t want to deny the pleasures of such discoveries to our readers, I’ll note just a few examples:

In the Orgasm Supermarket; yes, we know its after Ginsberg’s A Supermarket In California, and we understand the inclusion of Lorca alludes to Ginsberg’s address, but it isn’t until your poem’s second stanza’s as if I were walking the aisles is contrasted with Ginsberg’s I went into the neon fruit supermarket do we realize O has split the scene, although the previous stanza is strewn with clues: and a loneliness/brought on by my persistent longing, the full moon and longing for you.


Yes, O has hijacked Whitman’s ferry, re-purposed it with oars and eloped with Lorca! Yes, I’m afraid O has kicked poor Mr. Ginsberg to the curb, left him howling with a headache under a full moon with only a crust of Shwebel’s bread to last him the infinity of unrequited longing.


And do we, can we blame O? Who would choose to mingle with pointy bearded, lonely grubber(s), poking meats, fruits greasy with the sheen of neon’s ghastly gleam if one could flee to a sentient province where one sobs and leaves sing in the wind, rain begins to fall, dogs howl and dust cries out beneath our bare feet?




Yes, the orgasm prefers to end up with Lorca. He is irresistible, right? I remember years ago, sitting in a class with David Lehman, one of my all-time favorite professors—his passion for poetry runs so deep, it’s contagious—and he began quoting Lorca. “When the moon rises/the ocean covers the earth/and the heart feels like an island in infinity.// No one eats oranges/ under a full moon./ One must eat/ fruit that is cold and green.” Hearing that poem for the first time, I thought I was going to break open. I asked David to repeat it, and he did. What I felt then—it wasn’t that my whole body went so cold, no fire could every warm me, but quite the opposite.


I’ve seen that Lorca poem translated in different ways—the last line, for example, as “one must eat green fruit and ice,” maybe a more literal translation. But every translation makes my heart ache. Just the sound of the title in Spanish,“La luna asoma,” it’s enough to make me swoon.



Do swoon dear, and I’ll swoon right along with you! Oh, yes, Lorca, and homages to two of my favorites, Vallejo and Jiminez …ah, boys…you and your Spanish with its perfect sexual symmetry; no mystery why we find O in tributes to this holy trinity.


In the poignant, tender and funny In Orgasm in Therapy, after Jiminez’s Sea, we find O’s little rowboat in the above poem has foundered on the rocks; premenopausal, wracked with a crisis of confidence, she fears she’s no longer that kind of orgasm who, without even a companion or a compliment could enjoy the pleasures of naked solitude without at least a cover-up or a caftan! O pleads for help I need an iron, a hair comb, a masseuse/ to smooth the endless mess in myself and in doing so has the orgasm’s nerve to ask of the poem the unthinkable: to compromise its poetic integrity and suspend Jimenez’s principal of non-adornment. Yet, the audacity of that request is redeemed by the absolute fidelity to Jiminez’s signature tone of desolation.


Like Madeline Kahn sings in Mel Brooks’ classic film Blazing Saddles, s “ she’s tired:” But now, in her mature years, so much effort is required/just to exist. Exhausted, she petulantly kvetches Some nights, panting, /she wonders, What is this? Childbirth?


But even this rich humor can’t disguise the pathos of her crisis; we empathetically despair at the therapist’s useless platitude to Just be your infinite matchless self:

our arm around O’s shoulders in solidarity we both look out at the window at the sea/ with its smooth waves rising and falling, and together ask But who is that? And the unequivocal answer we get, the gulls screaming like women in grief, is an image so utterly, heartbreakingly gorgeous it borders on blasphemy.


Nin Andrews, thank you, thank you; this conversation has been an unprecedented delight, and your poems a double pleasure; true homages, they respectfully and faithfully return us to that which they pay tribute.


Orgasm Poems: Nin Andrews


The Curse

after James Wright


You might think by now the orgasm would be used to it. After all, he has seen the annual crop of young lovers pull off the highway in Poland, Ohio and step over the barbed wire fences to lay their blankets in the empty pastures. He has watched them closely, their eyes lit with anguish and desire as they gasp for breath. He has grazed freely on their nude skin, there beneath the willow trees.


But when all is said and done, when the lovers return to their clothes, their minds, their cars and homes, they slough off the orgasm and leave him outside like a peeping tom to peer through their windows at what was so briefly his: the slender legs, the bent swan necks, the soft flesh of inner arms. And the orgasm realizes how alone he is. How he has no soul to call his own, no body to break open again and again or to shuck off like a husk of corn. There is no such thing as a blessing, he sighs, as his mind darkens with twilight, as the wind sweeps softly through the grass.

Henrietta’s Dream Songs

after John Berryman



God damn college guys!
They’re all rats, Henrietta says.
In her head is romance. She’s not shy.
She’s not lonesome. Much.
But tonight is a Friday night solo
in her twin bed
in the dorm called Rockefeller
(everyone calls it the john)
and her sweet little ass is itching.
Pityish, it is. So maybe she is just
a regular American woman, not
the wild girl in her dreams
always out with some boneheaded guy.




I wonder, one of her boneheads says. Doubtful.
But let’s you and me investigate this.
Come, Henrietta. Diminish me.
Say yes.



College men, Henrietta thinks, are boring.
She’s sick of thinning & games of guess
and, moreover, she says, My mother told me
you gotta’ suffer to be gorgeous.
That’s why she’s gorging on chicken
paprika and rice. And God,
I want to scream, she’s gross.
At least eat with your mouth shut! I say
and go faint with disgust, but she tells me
the bonehead of her dreams
likes his woman hungry, all right?



So when Henrietta stands up and pirouettes
(she’s wearing a gauzy purple skirt
and a leotard that clings to her bra-less breasts)
the college boys turn and gasp.
(They’re such low-lifes, yes?)
One whistles & shouts, Hey Babe,
Want this? He points at his dick
& Henrietta feels almost as delicious
as a greasy chicken leg.




The orgasm, Henrietta tells me, is God.
She’s smoking dope on the chapel steps
I watch the wind lift her black hair
as she inhales deeply, like she’s sucking it all in
and in. And in. Then she gets all weepy
and sleepy and hungry, and says
she wants to eat this boy called Hans
who put his hand in her panties. Wet and hot-like,
she sighs, I could eat my Hans
whole. I could eat my Hans Solo.
And then adds,
I’m a poet. Yep, Henrietta’s a burning hot soul!


It’s true. Henrietta is on fire.
Henrietta is stripping off all her clothes.


The Similarity Between My Life and an Orgasm

after Robert Bly’s “The Resemblance Between My Life and a Dog”


I never intended to have an orgasm. Believe me—
it just showed up. I had no choice
but to act like a dog, panting and wagging my tail.


It’s good to accept the orgasm. But I’m not one
to watch it in the mirror. It deranges my face.
I never look as pretty as I’d like.


I always expect to have time
but the orgasm is gone in a flash.
Don’t think about it, I tell myself. Then I think about it.


The orgasm is like a bird.
If I try to hold on, it flies away
or breaks into wild singing.


Some days I fear the orgasm is abandoning me.
It’s flown south for winter.
I wonder if it ever loved me,
Or I, it.


The Orgasm in Therapy

after Jiminez’s “Sea”


It seems the orgasm is struggling to find herself.
(And I, her, alas.)
Oh, she whines, my life is such a mess!
I need an iron, a hair comb, a masseuse 
to smooth the endless mess in my self . . . 

To show me once again
the pleasures of naked solitude.


She thinks how it used to be simple
without even a companion or a compliment.
She was that kind of orgasm. And proud of it.
But now, in her mature years, so much effort is required
just to exist.  Some nights, panting,
she wonders, What is this? Childbirth? 


Just be yourself, the therapist suggested.
Just be your infinite matchless self. 
But who is that? she asks
and looks out the window at the sea
with its smooth waves rising and falling,
the gulls screaming like women in grief.



But I Am That One

after Jiminez


I am that one hovering
above you whom you don’t see
(or pretend not to)
who sometimes manages to visit you,
but who, too often, you forget.
(Or say you do.) Oh why
did I have to fall in love with you,
who remains calm when I whisper,
who ignores me when I beg, who walks away
tossing her long, black hair behind her
sashaying into the night,
her soft white skin,
cold as the moon?



In the Orgasm Supermarket

after Allen Ginsberg and Garcia Lorca


What thoughts I have of you tonight as I walk the suburban sidewalks of Poland, Ohio under the flickering streetlights with an ache in my bones and a loneliness brought on by my persistent solitude, the full moon, and a longing for you, love, yes you whom I picture again and again in all your lovely shapes and sizes and flavors


as if I were walking the lit aisles of my supermarket of desire, selecting orgasms from every you, or rather from every occasion with you, orgasms as ripe and red as these heirloom tomatoes, as illegal as dark chocolate, as ordinary and soft as a loaf of Shwebel’s bread, and some so cold and green they must be eaten under the stars on a night like this


when I look up at the sky and see not the stars or the moon but a thousand faces of you, a thousand shapes of you, each so soft, so nude, so white, I sob out loud until the leaves sing in the wind, the rain begins to fall, and the dogs howl with me as the dust cries out beneath my bare feet, and my heart becomes a rowboat in infinity.



I Know a Man

after Robert Creeley


the orgasm says,
and he’s, like, always talking,
so I say to him,
Hush why don’t you?
Enjoy the night!
The stars are shining.
And he says, Baby
I can’t see a fucking thing!
And I say, Slow down
for Christ’s sake.
And he says what a man
always says, even if
he doesn’t say it:
I’m driving,
baby. I’m driving
this GD car—
so you hang on
as long as you can.
Let the wind fool with
your red hair.


In Memory of the Female Orgasm
after W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of Sigmund Freud”


There are so many of us to mourn.
Our grief, after all, has never been made public.
For we do not wish to expose our frailty and anguish.
Besides, who would we talk to? And who would listen?
Some old orgasm doctor? Another male
to threaten or flatter us or ask our obedience
as if it were as simple as that?
Or to enter our shadows with a flashlight
and seek the fauna of the night?
And would he cure us? If so, how?
By analyzing our parts? Our past?
By causing us to abandon our wardrobe of excuses,
those masks and patterns of frustration,
and wishes for revenge?
All that rage against men who thank God
instead of us?


Would the doctor question our posers? Our Fakers?
Those among us who let out such convincing utterances,
their features replicating bliss,
their one word, Yes! a fib?
Should we explain such protective imitations?
How the female orgasm has lived among enemies too long?
That even our honey is nothing but fear and worry?
We are calmest when assured of escape,
or lost in the grass of neglect—lonely yes
but safe to feel precious again, and the need for love
when no one is looking.
What delectable creature we become then,
our large sad eyes opening in wonder
begging dumbly of the evening air with each gasp.



To the Orgasm

in memorium


after César Vallejo


Love, I no longer look for you
or feel you in the warm breeze of a summer afternoon.
Nor do I worry how long you will stay away
or where you’ve been hiding all this time.
Nor do I seek you out
or call for you at dusk.


For I am outside my body now
watching the sun set over the water,
remembering how we used to play
at this late hour.
Nothing could stop us,
not the neighbors stomping overhead,
not your boss’s voice on the answering machine,
not the bill collector banging at the door.
Sometimes, remember? You made me cry.
Other times we screamed and danced.
And many other times we simply sighed
and sighed.
But gradually we grew calm. Or I did.
Yes, calm, like an evening prayer,
a ritual at the end of the day.
We held on to one another
lingering at the entrance of night,
as if we could keep each other
from sinking into that dark lake.



The Six Realms of the Orgasm

after Claire Bateman’s book, The Locals


In the first realm of the orgasm, a vote is taken to see which humans are allowed entry.


In the second realm of the orgasm, also known as the suburbs, all orgasms remain silent and offer only controlled doses of euphoria.


In the third realm of the orgasm, also known as the business district, orgasms are tracked, counted, and rated for their annual performances. In this realm orgasms occur three times a week, and never on a Monday.


In the fourth realm, also known as the government offices, orgasms take balletic leaps into the dark. What happens next is classified information.


In the fifth realm, also known as the Vatican, orgasms call out to God and moan about the fleeting nature of existence. Some seek newer and younger lovers to ward off feelings of mortality.


In the sixth realm, or the grave, the orgasm wakes to discover one of three things: a) it has been reincarnated (b) it is but a ghost or a memory of yesterday’s orgasm, or (c) it is with the angels now, setting the sky on fire.


The Sleeping Orgasm

after Larry Levis


Once an orgasm clung to a man’s shoulders for dear life. Why it chose this man’s shoulders from a long line of shoulders, it couldn’t say.   Only that the man went on working without looking up, without looking back. So the orgasm took the shape of a wren and flapped its wings. It took the shape of a hat and sunk down over the man’s brow. It took the shape of a small sun and warmed the man’s neck. But the man still didn’t notice it.


How could he? He was too busy, working over the gleaming machinery at Tyson’s meat factory, slicing and packaging birds into drum sticks and thighs and breasts while he thought of his ex-wife who left him with a pile of unpaid bills, like the bad weather—the Polar vortex bringing record cold to his town, like the Iraq War, which was just beginning. At least he was packaging dead chickens, he thought, not dead Iraqis. He sometimes looked on the bright side.


On the way home from work, the orgasm still clinging to his shoulders, the man walked briskly over the town’s bridge. He listened as the river called out to him, Jump! Please jump! But the man did not jump, even as the wind stung his face, even as a feeling of inconsolable despair wrapped around his heart. Is this all there is to life? he wondered as the orgasm hovered above him, afraid of what might happen next.


The man simply tucked his head in his coat and walked home to his doublewide where he flopped down on the couch, too tired to take off his work clothes, and fell into a deep sleep. But oh what a sleep it was! Only then could the orgasm cover the man like a warm blanket and listen as his breath became a raspy hum. The man dreamt he was a boat in the sea, the waves were rocking him, slowly at first, then washing over his toes, his legs, his belly. He cried out again and again, but didn’t wake to hear his own high-pitched voice. Sleep, the orgasm realized, was the only orgasm this man ever had.


Some Relevant Originals


The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog


Robert Bly


I never intended to have this life, believe me—
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain.


It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look


Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.


Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,


But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.



A Blessing

James Wright


Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.



I Know a Man

Robert Creeley



As I said to my
friend, because I am
always talking,–John, I


sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what


can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,


drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.



In Memory of Sigmund Freud

H. Auden, 1907 – 1973


When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public, and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish,


of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living.


Such was this doctor: still at eighty he wished
to think of our life from whose unruliness
so many plausible young futures
with threats or flattery ask obedience,


but his wish was denied him: he closed his eyes
upon that last picture, common to us all,
of problems like relatives gathered
puzzled and jealous about our dying.


For about him till the very end were still
those he had studied, the fauna of the night,
and shades that still waited to enter
the bright circle of his recognition


turned elsewhere with their disappointment as he
was taken away from his life interest
to go back to the earth in London,
an important Jew who died in exile.


Only Hate was happy, hoping to augment
his practice now, and his dingy clientele
who think they can be cured by killing
and covering the garden with ashes.


They are still alive, but in a world he changed
simply by looking back with no false regrets;
all he did was to remember
like the old and be honest like children.


He wasn’t clever at all: he merely told
the unhappy Present to recite the Past
like a poetry lesson till sooner
or later it faltered at the line where


long ago the accusations had begun,
and suddenly knew by whom it had been judged,
how rich life had been and how silly,
and was life-forgiven and more humble,


able to approach the Future as a friend
without a wardrobe of excuses, without
a set mask of rectitude or an
embarrassing over-familiar gesture.


No wonder the ancient cultures of conceit
in his technique of unsettlement foresaw
the fall of princes, the collapse of
their lucrative patterns of frustration:


if he succeeded, why, the Generalised Life
would become impossible, the monolith
of State be broken and prevented
the co-operation of avengers.


Of course they called on God, but he went his way
down among the lost people like Dante, down
to the stinking fosse where the injured
lead the ugly life of the rejected,


and showed us what evil is, not, as we thought,
deeds that must be punished, but our lack of faith,
our dishonest mood of denial,
the concupiscence of the oppressor.


If some traces of the autocratic pose,
the paternal strictness he distrusted, still
clung to his utterance and features,
it was a protective coloration


for one who’d lived among enemies so long:
if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion


under whom we conduct our different lives:
Like weather he can only hinder or help,
the proud can still be proud but find it
a little harder, the tyrant tries to


make do with him but doesn’t care for him much:
he quietly surrounds all our habits of growth
and extends, till the tired in even
the remotest miserable duchy


have felt the change in their bones and are cheered
till the child, unlucky in his little State,
some hearth where freedom is excluded,
a hive whose honey is fear and worry,


feels calmer now and somehow assured of escape,
while, as they lie in the grass of our neglect,
so many long-forgotten objects
revealed by his undiscouraged shining


are returned to us and made precious again;
games we had thought we must drop as we grew up,
little noises we dared not laugh at,
faces we made when no one was looking.


But he wishes us more than this. To be free
is often to be lonely. He would unite
the unequal moieties fractured
by our own well-meaning sense of justice,


would restore to the larger the wit and will
the smaller possesses but can only use
for arid disputes, would give back to
the son the mother’s richness of feeling:


but he would have us remember most of all
to be enthusiastic over the night,
not only for the sense of wonder
it alone has to offer, but also


because it needs our love. With large sad eyes
its delectable creatures look up and beg
us dumbly to ask them to follow:
they are exiles who long for the future


that lives in our power, they too would rejoice
if allowed to serve enlightenment like him,
even to bear our cry of ‘Judas’,
as he did and all must bear who serve it.


One rational voice is dumb. Over his grave
the household of Impulse mourns one dearly loved:
sad is Eros, builder of cities,
and weeping anarchic Aphrodite.







To My Brother Miguel in memoriam

César Vallejo, 1892 – 1938



Brother, today I sit on the brick bench outside the house,
where you make a bottomless emptiness.
I remember we used to play at this hour of the day, and mama
would calm us: “There now, boys…”
Now I go hide
as before, from all these evening
prayers, and I hope that you will not find me.
In the parlor, the entrance hall, the corridors.
Later, you hide, and I do not find you.
I remember we made each other cry,
brother, in that game.


Miguel, you hid yourself
one night in August, nearly at daybreak,
but instead of laughing when you hid, you were sad.
And your other heart of those dead afternoons
is tired of looking and not finding you. And now
shadows fall on the soul.


Listen, brother, don’t be too late
coming out. All right? Mama might worry.






The Poem Returning as an Invisible Wren to the World

Larry Levis



Once, there was a poem. No one read it & the poem
Grew wise. It grew wise & then it grew thin,
No one could see it perched on the woman’s
Small shoulders as she went on working beside


The gray conveyor belt with the others.
No one saw the poem take the shape of a wren,
A wren you could look through like a window,
And see all the bitterness of the world


In the long line of shoulders & faces bending
Over the gleaming, machined parts that passed
Before them, the faces transformed by the grace
And ferocity of a wren, a wren you could look


Through, like a lens, to see them working there.
This is not about how she thew herself into the river,
For she didn’t, nor is it about the way her breasts
Looked in the moonlight, nor about the moonlight at all.


This is about the surviving curve of the bridge
Where she listened to the river whispering to her,
When the wren flew off & left her there,
With the knowledge of it singing in her blood.


By which the wind avenges. By which the rain avenges.
By which even the limb of a dead tree leaning
Above the white, swirling mouth of an eddy
In the river that once ran beside the factory window


Where she once worked, shall be remembered
When the dead come back, & take their places
Beside her on the line, & the gray conveyor belt
Starts up with its raspy hum again. Like a heaven’s.




“I Am Not I”

Juan Ramón Jiménez

Translated by Robert Bly



I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.





Juan Ramón Jiménez

Translated by Mary G Berg and Dennis Maloney



It seems, sea, that you struggle
—oh endless disorder, incessant iron!—
to find yourself or that I may find you.
How incredible that you should show yourself
in all your naked solitude
—without ever a companion
neither a he nor a she—projecting
such an image of our
entire world today!
You are as if in childbirth
—with so much effort!—
of yourself, matchless sea,
of yourself, just yourself, in your own
solitary abundance of abundances
. . . to find yourself or that I may find you!







Dream Song 4

John Berryman


Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her


or falling at her little feet and crying
‘You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry’s dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.’ I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.–Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.


–Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her     feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
–Mr. Bones: there is.




Dream Song 13



God bless Henry. He lived like a rat,
with a thatch of hair on his head
in the beginning.
Henry was not a coward. Much.
He never deserted anything; instead
he stuck, when things like pity were thinning.


So may be Henry was a human being.
Let’s investigate that.
… We did; okay.
He is a human American man.
That’s true. My lass is braking.
My brass is aching. Come & diminish me, & map my way.


God’s Henry’s enemy. We’re in business … Why,
what business must be clear.
A cornering.
I couldn’t feel more like it. .Mr. Bones,
as I look on the saffron sky,
you strikes me as ornery.




Dream Song 14

John Berryman



Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no


Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,


who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.







Nin Andrews is the author or twelve poetry collections including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum , and Southern Comfort. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. Her most recent book, Why God Is a Woman, a series of inter-connected prose poems about an imaginary world where the women rule, is just out from BOA Editions.




Nancy Mitchell, a Pushcart Prize 2012 recipient, is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002) and Grief Hut, (Cervena Barva Press, 2009) and her poems have appeared in Agni, Poetry Daily, Salt Hill Journal, and are anthologized in Last Call by Sarabande Books and Make it Sound True, a teaching exercise using sound as a poetic device is included in The Working Poet (Autumn House Press, 2009). She is Associate Editor for Special Features with Plume poetry journal, and teaches Eco-Art in The Environment Program at Salisbury University in Maryland.