Monday, July 27, 2015

Joseph D'Agnese


Boosted the crimson Mont Blanc from my boss's desk.
She was in with a client. Too busy to notice or care.
I'd taken little things for as long as I could remember,
so small I'd never felt guilt or been caught.

But that day, I stopped by the zoo on my lunch break.
The snakes were being fed, too.
Terrible, I tell you,
watching a green sinuous thing
crush a trembling wretch in its grip,
its snout blood-red from that first snap of the serpent's jaws
The mouse kicked. Its tail twitched.
But the killer took his time.
Four fangs, moving independently,
gripped that tender furry flesh and coaxed it in
the way a sock slides up around a plump ankle
one side, then the next

Until at last there was nothing to do but slurp up
the rodent's tail
with a satisfied smile.
In three minutes' time
the shape of the meal
—the sharp bits of its bones—
was hardly visible against
muscle and scales.
Somehow it seemed less like nature
and more like fate.
Like Hell come to swallow
a pathetic wrongdoer,
sinner and fool.

I ran for a restroom.
The beast got its lunch but I lost mine.
That afternoon:
"Is this your pen?” I asked. “Found it under the desk where it rolled."

Joe Paretta reads "Predator and Prey":

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D'Agnese confesses: "A recent visit to a zoo in a small city inspired most of this poem's drama. The rest came as I thought about shiny things I’d love to swipe. The truth is, I have a larcenous heart, and a weakness for beautiful pens."

JOSEPH D'AGNESE's nonfiction appeared in Best American Science Writing (HarperCollins) two years in a row. His crime fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Plots with Guns, BEAT to a PULP, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. His short story "How Lil' Jimmie Beat the Big C" won the the Short Mystery Fiction Society's 2015 Best Flash Story Derringer. Another of his short stories was chosen by author James Patterson for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2015 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). D’Agnese is the author of three popular history titles, a children’s picture book on the Fibonacci Sequence, and some novels. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Peter M. Gordon


I use burner phones
So no one can find me
I always check my six
So no one gets behind me
I study Houdini
So no ropes can bind me

Don't try to reach me
I'm not friendly
Don't try to preach me
I'm a brick wall
Don't try to breach me

I'm not paranoid
They're really
out to get me

Peter reads "Off the Grid":

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Peter confesses: "I started writing this poem after the line about burner phones popped into my head. I had volunteered for a group that helped homeless people in Orlando. Once I thought about their lives living in the woods outside of town, the images came rather quickly. I don't usually write poems that rhyme, but it seemed appropriate for the poem's persona. I remain on the grid in real life -- for now."

PETER M. GORDON's poems have appeared in magazines, books and websites, including Slipstream, the Journal of Florida Literature, 34th Parallel, Cultural Weekly, and the Provo Canyon Review. He's President of Orlando Area Poets, the largest chapter of the Florida State Poetry Association. CHB Media published his poetry collection, Two Car Garage. Peter lives in Orlando, Florida and teaches in Full Sail University's Film Production MFA program.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Staying Tuned

I got a postcard from the Academy of American Poets a few weeks ago about two readings at the New York Public Library's Margaret Liebman Berger Forum this summer. The first was Tuesday, July 14, with January Gill O'Neil, Ross Gay, and Meena Alexander, and I invited my friend Five-Two alum Elizabeth Lash.

I became interested in attending after reading Ross Gay's "For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall", which struck me as similar in sensibility to what I publish here. I also read January Gill O'Neil's "How to Love".

O'Neil read from her 2014 book Misery Islands, dedicated to her children, Alex and Ella, who were in the audience briefly before setting off to explore the library. I particularly enjoyed some poems into which January snuck her name, and another with a reference to David Ortiz (though I am a Yankee fan).

Ross Gay invited South Indian-Filipina poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil for a surprise tandem read of poems based on correspondence about their gardens. He also read the moving "Spoon", about his murdered friend, Don Belton.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth's work meeting ran late, and she only caught the end of Meena Alexander's final poem, but after the reading I recommended Misery Islands to her. We bought copies and met January, who signed them. Yesterday, Elizabeth wrote to say I'd made a good recommendation, calling January "a fantastic writer".

The nitty-gritty of writing is sitting alone in thought, scribbling or typing up what insists it can coherently be expressed to someone else. Readings both reassure writers they are communicating well and suggest how they might communicate better. I look forward to the next one, August 11.