Monthly Archives: March 2013

Terry Ann Thaxton’s The Terrible Wife

© Image by Don Stap

© Image by Don Stap

Terry Ann Thaxton is the author of Getaway Girl and The Terrible Wife, both from Salt. Her book Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide, due out in October 2013 from Bloomsbury, is a result of more than a decade of work, training college students to provide creative writing opportunities to community members who might not have the means to attend fee-based classes. She and her students have worked with alternative populations throughout Florida, including homeless shelters, nursing homes, treatment facilities, public schools, prisons, and domestic violence shelters. She is associate professor of English at the University of Central Florida.

Her poetry and prose have been published in numerous journals such as Rattle, The Missouri Review, Connecticut Review, Comstock Review, Hayden’s Ferry, West Branch, Tampa Review, Cimarron Review, Main Street Rag, Cold Mountain Review, Teaching Artist Journal, Connotation Press Online Artifact, and others.

The Terrible Wife 
The Terrible Wife, in this new collection of poems by Terry Ann Thaxton, has married four times and imagined marriages to a soap opera star, her brother-in-law, and any man who will give her a ride because she “wanted to be/ part of a wall of women dancing/ water falling from the sky or a fountain”. Taking cues from her own mother — who is, to this troubled soul — “an argument against becoming a wife” — she sets out to find meaning: “We march out into the trees/ or fly off our balconies looking for a man,/ any man”. But still she judges herself through the lens of the men she clings to for comfort like “a woodpecker … clings to [a] hollow/ tree”. Thaxton does not find easy solace for her terrible wife, but instead lets her confusion and weaknesses clink and jangle like wind chimes in an approaching storm. This broken resonance with its disarming images and unpredictable movements is given to us in a voice devoid of self-consciousness and posturing. Thaxton’s poems are as compelling as a lifetime of snapshots spilled on the floor, discovered in a box that, moments ago, one didn’t know existed.”
“Terry Ann Thaxton’s new poems are uncompromisingly tough self-reckonings, unsentimental but always vulnerable examinations of how the past invariably haunts us. They are about what Richard Ellman labels the “controlled seething” from which enduring art must derive. They are also marvelously inventive in their ability to let the memories of Eros morph into occasions for exorcism, and to allow straightforward narrative to suddenly swerve toward the surreal. In other words, these are the durable and always impassioned poems of a grown woman — and the sort of poetry that American verse very much needs these days.”
— David Wojahn
“Tangled in lush Florida landscapes and laced with birdsong, Terry Ann Thaxton’s rich new book is as toughly accepting as her own small town protagonist girls, who are unforgettably beaten, duped and finally opened into a womanhood that makes them too smart, too sad, and too dangerous for any one man or lifetime.”
— Terri Witek
“Terry Ann Thaxton’s new poems are filled with birds and silence … she is open with herself, even about the hard things … She shows us how it went, from young fantasy to brutality to more fantasy to betrayal (sometimes her own) followed by near-despair. Finally, she settles into a quiet joy which she proceeds to undermine because she is wise enough to know that everything, even that, changes … Thaxton says that what we think about all this is up to us, but we know what’s true. We hold the tenderness to our chests and take it home.”

— Lola Haskins
The Preacher’s Wife
He is kind. They have been married for five years,
but she no longer wants
to be saved. His smile keeps telling her he’s
comforting the dead, but really he’s watching
skirts for hire in dark rooms,
hung in all their glory, while she totes a child
through rhymes. This wins her a riot
and the water shivers
away from this life that she thought she wanted.
She lets her hair stand on end, then her dress stinks.
She and the crows in the yard scheme,
but suddenly, the preacher ends it all
by whining. Rumor insists she have a knife
in her hand, instead she finds a gift:
warblers swerving in tribes, and when she opens
their bedroom door an old wound
opens. The birds wait outside.
The Night I Married Jasper Jax
“And he took a woman with him. It’s so damn typical.”
          — Jasper Jax, on the American soap opera General Hospital
We had to switch hotel rooms, but Jax had already unbuttoned
his shirt, revealed his soap opera body. Sure his hair
was a mess, but at the wedding,
I was in my gown, a few ruffles,
and even though I’d bought it at Wal-mart
it stood out. Someone chanted African songs
from down the unseen hallway
and a woman danced instead of a flower girl.
The only part I did not like was the poster presentation
of my previous four marriages. I didn’t want everyone to see
how cute my first husband was,
how stupid I’d been with husband number 2,
how husband number 3 had grown fat. And where was
husband number 4? Why didn’t he get
a poster? The poster for husband number 1
included a video, and someone at the wedding had seen
him recently. Told me he’d widened in his age. Good,
I thought. Someone that cute should get fat.
And then our hotel room was a public place,
the wedding guests wanted to see our bed, which
is when they applauded. It took a while to convince
them that the reception was somewhere else
down a long road. My sister drove me and a few guests
through mountains. She kept swerving too far
off the side. Someone next to me, not Jax
kept yelling at her to slow down, to stay on the road.
“This works,” she kept repeating. “This works.”
Last thing I remember was a big turn in the road,
Jax back there in another car, wondering where
his new bride was headed, and the road, endless,
all of my husbands far, far behind.
The Terrible Wife
Something is dragging me
into a room, screened in — a dream
in which I am about to have
an affair. I run my fingers
through the other man’s hair while
my husband circles
the building, and I realize
we’re in a picnic shelter,
like the one my family
went to when I was
a girl, at the state park, where
a friend of mine jumped
into the pond at dusk and
was killed by an alligator.
The room laughs, and I kneel
in the corner, curl into a ball,
like a hog-nose snake and hope
my husband will not
see me. He keeps his face
turned away
from the screen, as if
he is refusing to return
phone calls of long lost
friends. I stay in
the corner until the
man I’m with is handed
a note along with a flashlight,
the message: shine the flashlight
in the corner so you can see
who’s there, and it’s me,
of course, still huddled there
as if I am mud
tracked in on the back
porch, but it’s more
like I’m standing
naked in a field
of pond apple. I go back
to rubbing the man’s temples,
and we both realize there are school
projects to be completed
by morning, and he helps
my brother while I help my son,
and then I am in my car
but I can’t quite
catch the bullfrog that jumped in
beside me, so I go back
inside. I want to
stay here. I know the note
and flashlight were from
my husband who, now, obviously
knows about the affair, and I
think I should wake up,
end this thing, but right now
I want to be terrible.
Once when my husband left town for a week
I adopted a dog. She followed me
around the house, and even though
it wasn’t a child I’d picked out
and taken to the store where I bought new toys, food,
and a bed; even though it wasn’t a child who rode
in the back seat of my car, we returned her.
We had not discussed adopting a dog.
Instead, we signed papers, agreeing we’d never call to ask
whether the dog was adopted again or euthanized.
Weeks later when I left town for a business trip,
I returned home with a new haircut.
In the distance, the Indian Temple’s chants
steamed through the trees, over saw palmettos,
across the dirt roads toward our barren house.
Even after my husband assured me
over and over that my hair was wickedly smart,
I dreamed I brought home two more dogs, hid them
from him, and an elephant — easier to hide,
only its gray trunk a problem. When I was a girl,
my cousin and I cut each other’s hair.
We wanted “Shag” cuts, layers across the back. It was the
mid-’70s, cutting hair seemed easy enough. Two girls
with scissors. Lines stacked in our hair
like on pieces of notebook paper, lines so straight
you could write on them. The teacher
at the elementary school where I volunteer says
with my new haircut I look like Tina Turner,
cropped with highlights, and I dance for her:
“What’s love got to do with it?” I don’t tell her
what Tina and I share — how my first husband
held a gun to my head, how he demanded
we have children and then beat one of them out
of me. Instead the teacher and I laugh,
and the children tumble into the room
from lunch behind my back — their sweet dark heads
covered with cornrows, Zulu knots, braids,
locks, Bantus, extensions, finger waves, twists,
and weaves. They run their fingers through my
stringy never-stays-where-I-put-it hair.
These children are all hugs and pouts
and pictures they draw of me —
sometimes, in their drawings, my hair is yellow,
sometimes red, sometimes curly, sometimes
long. I’m there to write
with them. We are strangers, and soon
their stories become letters on the page,
and nothing else in me needs to be filled.
Burden of Memory
One day you will lie on a boardwalk over marsh
you will hear a spring of blue-winged teal
rise from water like leaves of corn stalks
touching the wind.
The birds will tell you how much
they have lost in this life:
we can touch clouds
but, destined to the earth,
we cannot go beyond the sky
even on a clear day
you will remember that as a child
you lay in cornfields looking up, needing birds.
Displaced Housewife
          after Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

1.     Displacement
The amount of water a vessel displaces
expressed in displacement tons. But usually it is merely
the act of displacing, the state of being displaced,
or the amount or degree to which something
is displaced, as in, I have displaced my feet,
lost ground, can’t find footing.
Physics was the first known use, in the 1600s
of displacement, and it was displacing space of one mass
by another, as in a housewife of the 1950s or 1960s exiled,
voluntarily or forced, and then she replaced her mass of a husband
with the mass of a typewriter or an order pad.
Compare Archimedes’ principle which is, instead,
and thankfully came earlier — 287-212 B.C., the law
that a body immersed in a fluid is buoyed up
by a buoyant force equal to the weight
of the fluid missing in the body.
And now, displacement is the linear or angular distance
in a given direction between a body
or point and a reference position. Bodies floating
in a single house or in separate houses would collide
if they were not displaced. Now we have distance,
the distance of an oscillating body
from its central position or point of equilibrium
at any given moment. Instead of blades on a ceiling fan
it could be four or five human bodies oscillating
from the central motor, where humming drives
all of us mad. A husband, a wife, three kids.
Like machinery, like clockwork, but specifically automotive,
displacement is the volume of the space through which
a piston travels during a single stroke in an engine
or pump. It is the total volume of the space traversed
by all the pistons, all the children sure they’ve
created the displacement.
2.     Exile
Prolonged separation from one’s country or home
as by stress or circumstances: like wartime or a burning house
or anyone separated from his country or home voluntarily
by stress of circumstances. Work can be exile.
Expulsion from one’s native land by authoritative decree
a woman who’s burnt the toast too many times
or not set the plates out by the time her husband
returns from his exile of drinking at the bar with the boys.
To live in exile. A person banished from her native land:
disagreements exiled her from her family. To expel
or banish from her home/family.
The French, in 1300, created essilier — to drive away, as a wife
who drives away her husband if she does not
spread herself open for him. Sometimes she wanders off
voluntarily, roaming about, and in her own
way finds a place to land, or more like the Ancient Greeks
who created exile from solum, meaning soil, meaning where I
decide to put my own foot, how a woman walks out
of her own house, finds a different path, her own displaced soil.
The Empty Trail
The empty trail is an opened scarf
that carries me into the oak shadows
until the day is lost, and I am lingering
in a bed of straw and leaves.
At home, my housedress became a floating umbrella,
a memory from the heavy cart of night,
but here summer brushes my face.
I’d trade all of my wedding rings
for weeds and dirt and swamp.
I do not call on anyone’s worn hands to hold me up.
I have no one to follow into the air.
Here, light opens upon vines.
Hunger is one swoop, an osprey pounding water,
and I keep walking down the long thread of the river
toward the grass of forgiveness.
from The Terrible Wife (Salt Publishing, 2013).
Order The Terrible Wife here, here or here.
Visit Terry’s website.
Read eight poems from Getaway Girl (Salt Publishing, 2011).

Angela France’s Hide

© Image by Derek Adams

© Image by Derek Adams

Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, and has been anthologised a number of times. She has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire and is studying for a PhD. Her previous publications include Occupation (Ragged Raven Press) and Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press). Angela France is also features editor of Iota and runs a monthly poetry cafe, Buzzwords. Hide (Nine Arches Press, 2013) is her third full collection of poetry.
“In Angela France’s third poetry collection, Hide, what is invisible is just as important as what lies within plain sight. Layers of personal history are lifted into the light and old skins are shed for new; things thought lost and vanished long ago are just on the edge of perception, yet certainties before our eyes vanish in the blink of an eye.
These poems possess their own rich heritage of stories and experiences; themes of magic, wisdom, age and absence are woven into the fabric of this skilful and succinct collection. Readers should also keep their wits about them, for these poems are cunning and quick; they hide nothing, but delight in camouflage, disguise and secrets, patiently awaiting someone who will seek.”
“France’s writing engages sensitively with the world as she searches for meaning in the ordinary and movingly explores the borders between shared and private experience. These are poems that make an honest deal with discomfort, following the trails and ‘ghostly outlines of existence’ with integrity, thoughtfulness and care.”

– Deryn Rees-Jones
“‘Invisibility must be achieved for success’, writes Angela France, revealing one of the truths of why the best poets serve language and are annihilated in the process. Hide is a book of wisdom, dignity and first witness. It offers poems of scrutiny and strength of character. And the poet’s language possesses and is possessed by a gloriously sheared weight and shared music.”

– David Morley
“Angela France’s new collection is a deft and resonant exploration of the half-hidden, taking us ‘over there’ and ‘in there’ under the hide of the ‘other’ and the liminal spaces they inhabit, all evoked with an uncanny command of language and image.”

– Nigel McLoughlin
Some of These Things are True
I learned about waiting, the sour tang of it
I had long conversations with my bicycle
I lived in a cave, learned the rhythms of bats
I stopped whispering, tongued the roundness of breath
I discovered a mad child and held the door open
I spoke a long truth and lived with it

I discovered an ocean with too many waves and no shore
I built a shelter in the valley, roofed it with paper
I wore khaki and army boots, but couldn’t keep in step
I learned to walk on stilts, saw a different horizon
I found a new land with no borders, no checkpoints
I told a lie and gagged at the lingering taste

I learned about weight and what I could carry
I swam a sea and found a lake within it
I counted rats running from a dog in the stable
I cut through strands and tangles, took longer strides
I lived on a cliff-edge, looked down every morning
I made a people, named each one a colour

I sipped at displacement, turned it over on my tongue
I watched a fox stalk a goose, counted leaves on clover
I found a hidden door, felt a songbird fly from my hand.
Living with the Sooterkin
Every home has them, nesting in dark corners
or playing in the rafters; dusty grey faces
peeping from under beds and round chair legs.

Sooterkin are sly, secretive about their long lives,
their complicated families. No-one knows
why they migrate at random times of year

or why they breed in some houses, congregate
in others. I’m on to them; I glimpse their sharp faces
at dusk as they slip along the skirting, see glints

from black eyes on my back seat when I drive
at night. Sooterkin are bold in the dark;
anxiety excites them; they chitter in packs,

sliding over and under each other, claws tapping
a tarantella on the floor. They grow strong on insomnia;
slither over the bed-head, under the covers, tangle

my hair with their long toes, tease bare skin
with soft whiskers. They communicate in scuffles
and squeaks at the edge of hearing; I am learning

their language, studying scratches on the floor
and recording noctural creaks. I can read
their discomfort growing; they don’t like to be known.
I think they’ll leave.
The Evolution of Insomnia
Men don’t tend the fire;
they follow their spear-points
to the hunt’s rank heat and fury,
limp back to fall into sleep
filled with fight and fear.
They don’t make old bones.

Younger women are busy
with breast-suck or belly-weight;
their gaze on the seeking and keeping
of a mate. They watch the fire
between other demands, attention
like sparks from green wood.

Past child-bearing, past mate-catching,
older women give their nights
to the fire, stare into the flame
and serve its sullen greed. They learn
to doze and wake through the dark hours,
leave behind the feel of long sleep.

Awake in fidgety heat at 3am,
I know it started with fire, the mystery
and need of it, its fickle demands;
I know it’s my place to foster the blaze
and watch the coming dark.
The Man on the Clapham Omnibus, to a lawyer, is synonymous with the pinnacle of reason in humanity: an ordinary London transit rider as representative of all rational thought and action.
– Gray’s Law Dictionary
The man on the Clapham omnibus is tired
       of being reasonable. He is bored
with his average intelligence and sees little use
       for being moderately educated.

From the window he can see tidy houses,
       rows of cars parked at the kerb.
He wants to jump from the bus while it’s moving,
       run along the roofs and bonnets,

tap-dance to feel the satisfying dint and ping
       while he yodels a rebellion. He wants
to leap over hedges and walls, bang on every door,
       laugh from the far side of the road.

Tomorrow, he will wear an eye-patch and fix
       a stuffed rat to his shoulder.
He’ll stand on the bus to declaim Shakespeare
       on his way to the library

to become an expert on New Guinea Tapeworms
       or Fungi on Stamps. He’ll share
his knowledge in the café for several hours
       before he goes home to rest

on his doorstep with a beer bottle in his hand
       and Handel’s Messiah at full volume.
He’ll shout occasional phrases from Zadok the Priest;
       no-one will interrupt him.
from Hide (Nine Arches Press, 2013).

Order Hide.
Visit Nine Arches Press

Claire Trévien’s The Shipwrecked House

© Image by Richard Davenport

© Image by Richard Davenport

Claire Trévien is an Anglo-Breton poet. She is the author of poetry pamphlets Low-Tide Lottery (Salt, 2011) and Patterns of Decay (Silkworms Ink, 2011). The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013) is her début collection. She is the co-organizer of Penning Perfumes, the editor of Sabotage Reviews, and the co-editor of Verse Kraken.

The Shipwrecked House
“Ultimately does it matter if the pearls are real or not?
The earth is a pearl, blinding and flawed,
nestled inside the mollusc of the milky way.
Do you prefer your pearls cultured in the art
of oology, or simply coated in fish scales?
Anchors, shipwrecks, whales and islands abound in this first collection by Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien. These poems are sketches, lyrics, dreams, and experiments in language as sound. Trévien’s is a surreal vision, steeped in myth and music, in which everything is alive and – like the sea itself – constantly shifting form. Fishermen become owls; one woman turns into a snake, another gives birth to a tree; a glow-worm might be a wasp or ‘a toy on standby’. Struck through with brilliant and sometimes sinister imagery reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth or an Angela Carter novel, The Shipwrecked House is a unique and hallucinatory debut from a poet-to-watch.”
“Whenever I read new poetry I’m looking for someone else’s delight in language and ideas; for work that commands and sustains my attention. What I never expect, but what I found in Claire Trévien’s work, is a voice already so mature and refined it reads like a previously untranslated classic rather than a debut. These are serious, visually stunning poems of nationality, history and memory, but they’re personal and generous in their wit, as formally innovative as they are endlessly engaged and engaging. Reading them is like spending an hour in the company of someone you secretly admire.”
— Luke Kennard’
The Shipwrecked House I 
The ceiling is tugged by the moon
it expands above us, an opaque dome
through which we guess the stars.
Other ships will be built from these rooms,
other seas and currents eroded by a figurehead.
Walls tremble violet-blue, weave the song
of seagulls into their granite veins.
An empty wine glass fills with cowries.
My mother twists her ring like a weathervane,
east to west; still the sun refuses to set.
Cowries are claimed from the sand;
fingers sniffle through broken claws.
We hinge the stones in pools to watch life
dart out and hide beneath other shelters.
The glass fills but is still half empty.
Ironed darned sheets cover old mattresses that spill
over the frames of beds.
And Cesária Évora sings of homesickness.
After Rimbaud’s ‘Roman’


You can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one —
the evenings flare, a rolled joint behind your ear,
drunk on Wednesdays, university veteran!
You talk in your backyard of us all being queer.
The weed smells great on those June afternoons!
So sweet you could sleep through any exam;
the wind carries laughs, it’s humming a tune
older than you, Johnny Wright’s Hello Vietnam.


The sky is all yours, you spy it through brambles
palpitating like grass you would like to caress…
You think the answer’s there to be unscrambled
if only the stars stopped changing their address.

June nights! Twenty-one! Easy to be wasted.
The cheapest wine is as good as any champagne…
You ramble on about the Bourdieu you tasted,
your lips crumple like a Communist campaign.   
You bildungsroman through books until
you spot a leading lady perched on a stool,
with the fruit machine lights pulsing her still
face red, green and blue. You think of Kabul.
She calls you a kid when you try to explain
— as her long nails trot gamely on the board —
why you are superior to her boyfriend,
but she leaves with her glass, looking bored.
You are in love: rented until August!
You are in love. She finds your poems laughable.
Your friends leave, your laundry starts to encrust
when at last, she responds to your madrigal!
That evening, you stroll out in the sun,
you order a kiss or a ginger beer;
you can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one
and there are summer evenings to premiere.
Cyrano de Bergerac Takes a Last Bow
He says fuck you to Death, for looking at my nose,
raises a glass to the sky that clouds like a noose.
The moon’s a limp pancake, dripping with syrup.
He pours more wine; the cork still has its stirrup.
He knows the bottom of the glass is near but beauty
is in the useless half-swig, the attempt to bounty
unbroken beads of wine on the tongue for a second
longer, to feel it slip away and still think it extant.
Yes! he cries, You take everything away from me!
He surveys the debris of bloodied glass, frowning.
But when I go, there’s something unsmashed
I can claim’s still mine, my fucking panache.
from The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013).
Order The Shipwrecked House.
Visit Claire’s website.
Launch of The Shipwrecked House and Human Form
Join independent poetry press Penned in the Margins for the launch of two debut collections: The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien and Human Form by Oliver Dixon.
Entry is free.
Date:  Thursday, 21 March 2013
Time:  19h00
Venue:  The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, E1 7EX, London 

Marilyn Kallet’s The Love That Moves Me

Marilyn Kallet 
Marilyn Kallet is the author of sixteen books, including Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press, 2009. Her translations of The Big Game, by Benjamin Péret, 2011, and Last Love Poems of Paul Eluard, 2006, were also published by Black Widow Press.

Kallet is the Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, where she directs the Creative Writing Program. She also teaches poetry for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.

Kallet has been awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in Poetry, and she was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in Poetry, 2005. She has performed her poetry internationally, as well as in theaters and on campuses across the United States.
The Love That Moves Me 
This collection of love poems was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Rimbaud’s relationship with Verlaine, and by Orpheus and Eurydice. These days Beatrice and Dante find themselves in France, Indiana, and in East Tennessee, bickering over Nascar. Love is the unifying factor, song is the vehicle, descent is a constant, with re-emergence thankfully part of the narrative. Surrealist humor abounds as Benjamin Péret bursts some Romantic bubbles with his exclamations. This sensual and resonant collection offers hints of heaven in the love lyrics and touches upon a range of forms, from traditional pantoums to experimental verse.

“Brash and sassy, Kallet roars in, pulling in her wake Baudelaire, Dante, old lovers, dead parents, Eurydice, Beatrice—a whole cast and chorus. Embracing myth, the holocaust, both hemispheres, and Charles Darwin with a headache, this is one big book. What can’t she do? The tone: Funny, dead serious, and everything in between. Her advice? ‘Tell your words/ to put their cards/ on the table/ and on the desk/ and on the forest paths”. Why not. ‘I’m Marilyn/ of Tennessee’ she announces in her irrepressible voice. You better believe it!”

– Alice Friman
The Love That Moves Me is Marilyn Kallet’s passionate homage to Baudelaire and also to Dante … and a billet-doux to Auvillar, France, where she teaches every summer, to Hawaii and Mount St. Francis in Indiana.”

– Marge Piercy
“Kallet’s poems are like a huge box of fine chocolates, both light and dark, to be savored one by one. They are exuberant and urgent. The ones wrapped in gold foil are hilarious.”

– Bobbie Ann Mason
What Would Baudelaire Do?
He’d gulp stars
& forgetting

prowl the allée
beg her thighs’

for a price

pray with his tongue
on her cat-tongue

spill cream
she’d lap

then smoke
inhaling long

his flesh     not his breath

her perfume
on the bureau

bottled lure, chanson
vert et blanc:

“Poet, I am not
all poison

drink my

behind the eyes
starburst of

& yes

out of this

world with

poetry or
virtue, curled

in your
dark hair.”
Note: The last three stanzas revisit Baudelaire’s ‘Enivrez-vous’, from Le Spleen de Paris, 1869. My poem also refers to another Baudelaire prose poem, ‘Any Where Out of the World – N’importe où hors du monde’, Baudelaire: Oeuvres completes, Gallimard, 2012; 1975; 227; 356–57.
Previously published in Blue Fifth Review.
Playing André
I am playing André Breton
to your Joyce Mansour,

by the book this time.
No sampling the goods,

though mourning doves in the garden
coo throatily.

Unlike André I am not scandalisé
by mechanical toys—au contraire!

You’re working me and I know it,
gaming and scheming,

never enough.
André and J might have felt this way,

yearning their loyal companion
as they toured the Loire Valley,

haunting the marvelous.
Not in the skin,

no, love was all lines,
literary passion.

Just as well, Puritans
tossing vibrators into the incinerator.

Where’s Eluard when we girls
need him?

Artaud’s burning at the stake, Desnos
nods at the wheel, and no matter how

I fudge the verbs en français, mix
hours, years, heuresannées, we’ll never

arrive together, baby,
not even manually.
Note: ‘Playing André’ refers to Surrealist André Breton and his younger friend, writer Joyce Mansour. Mansour inspired Breton, and they traveled together, but remained platonic. In his later years, Breton wanted to protect his marriage, according to Mark Polizzoti’s biography, Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton, Black Widow Press.
Previously published in New South.
Annoying and Winged on the Garonne
They sound off like tugboats, mais non!
Blaring, they’re turtledoves,
tourterelles, honking like mad taxis.
They’d be taken down in Manhattan.

Blaring like whacked-out cabs,
they’d be blasted downtown, sautéed
in Chelsea. They couldn’t hack
Avenue B, street-grade wings,

con chiles. Buttered in Chelsea.
Fried quicker than jacked-up taxis,
these birds wouldn’t last a beat on B.
They’d give poets and drunks a migraine.

Downed, beer-battered, not tugs.
Saffron Finches
So that’s what they are, news
from the Caribbean.
If we call them wild canaries,
they don’t care. They bob,
lively corks untroubled
by mad love or mortality.
They have their own
bulldozers chomping
trees, vacuums sucking up rushes.

Still they don’t live like humans,
bickering and tormenting one another.
Osama means nothing to them.
With a whistle, they float
away from the thrum of
lawnmowers working the monster
hotels. Like poets they dream
of warbling,
strong currents of air.
from The Love That Moves Me (Black Widow Press, 2013).

Order The Love That Moves Me.
Visit Marilyn’s website.
Read more of Marilyn’s poems.
Read poems from Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game
(Black Widow Press, 2011). 

Robert Peake’s The Silence Teacher

© Image by John J. Campbell

© Image by John J. Campbell


Robert Peake is an American poet living in England since 2011. In that same year, his collection Human Shade was published by Lost Horse Press in the United States, and he was long-listed in the UK National Poetry Competition. His poems have appeared in North American Review, Poetry International, Iota, Magma and others. The Silence Teacher (2013) is part of the Poetry Salzburg Pamphlet Series. Robert writes about poetry and culture at
The Silence Teacher 
“Written in the seven years following the death of the author’s infant son, these poems explore the sometimes quiet and often startling nature of love and grief. Through a range of forms and panoply of figures—spiders, fish, a famous cellist, and prophetic apparitions—this collection probes what William Faulkner called, “the human heart in conflict with itself”.”

The Silence Teacher is entirely remarkable for its dignity, its beauty, its many strengths of word and of witness. Robert Peake’s lines and images polish the hardest of grief-stones until it gleams, until it becomes almost bearable to hold. Here is poetry’s task and gift to us – untransformable loss made malleable and sustaining by the ways it is met, said, and seen.”

– Jane Hirshfield
“If one locked a mute into the bell of a trumpet, changing the color of its song, its spectral envelope, one might approximate the timbre of Robert Peake’s threnody. Anyone who hears this wailing song written by a father for a son’s brief life will be haunted by its beauty and restraint.”

– Sandra Alcosser
The Silence Teacher
Seeing friends for the first time after his death
tested the silence a room could hold. The rest
was a kindness like holding our breath.

My wife’s oldest friend offers her best
brave smile, tells us about the first time
her daughter, in new hearing aids, passed a nest.

Pitched as high as a tin wind chime,
in a sphere beyond the rumble of speech
she only knew “tweet” from what her mother had mimed.

But birds’ hunger songs seemed as far from reach
as the angels Blake saw perched in a tree,
and sweeter than any science her mother could teach.

Her world was based partly on what she could see.
The rest was a guess – the flailing of a street preacher
seemed like the swats of a man attacked by bees.

Quick lips make it easy to misread a speaker,
and once at a party, based on what she had seen,
the girl introduced her mother as a “silence teacher”.

Grief’s small hands cupped before me,
reliving the news of our infant son’s tests,
his brain as quiet as her soundless sea,

and still as winter in a robin’s nest,
I did not say: I was the one who held him last
until the ticking heart stopped in his chest

or what that silence taught, and how it pressed.
from The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013).

Pre-order The Silence Teacher here or here.

Visit Robert’s blog.