Reading virtually

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One more today in the Boston Literary Magazine. The editor, Robin Stratton, makes a decision within a week. I had one turned down there pre-p.


I knew right away,

but it was 45 minutes

before I stopped wrestling the pillow

and gave up on the night.

My approach has always been

warm milk and cookies,

although the milk is now

some fat free oat brand

with all the comfort

of rutabaga 

on yesterday’s rye.

Heart happy

the carton screams,

but there are many

ways the heart might

be made happy.

There was a time

when I would

manage the night

with a deck of cards—

I knew a dozen

kinds of solitaire,

and growing up

in a house

where you needn’t ask twice

for a cup of coffee

or a game of cards,

you could often count

on some sleepless

someone else—

my grandmother

for 500 Rummy

or my mom

for games like Spite and Malice

she seemed to make up 

on the fly.

These days I rely 

on the muted cacophony

of TV or iPad.

But tonight I find a worn old deck

that counts to 52.

Simple Canfield to start—

soothing rhythm of the mix

and half an eye for first light.

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I’ve a new poem on MacQueen’s Quinterly. Here it is:


My brother 
would light up a room—

take the spotlit stage 
and turn wake to party. 

I marveled 
at our differences. 

I learned, early on, 
that all knowledge 

came from books 
and lectures 

in chalky classrooms 
my brother 

would have none of. 
What alien universe 

had hosted his birth? 
Bequeathing him 

a perfect pitch 
for human interaction. 

And yes, 
he made a mash of life—

enamored of girls 
and gangs and guns 

and stuff you smoked 
or snorted. 

His parole officer 
was with us so often 

she seemed 
a member of the family. 

But, we forgave 
him all that, 

his easy charm 

and sat back—
ready to enjoy the show.

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Two new poems

I had two poems published by Rat’s Ass Review yesterday. Cool name, huh?

Here are the poems:

Beneath the blare
and buzz of station crowd
I thought, just now,
I caught
that old pet name
you used so long ago—
to torment, to tease,
and to endear.
I scan the faces
with care—
looking for?
What do we
hold to
in the passing
of our years?
What do we
fail to?
By choice
and reason?
Or is it just
the pick
of a card
in a well-mixed deck?
If I had
a hundred lives
like this one
would I remember you
in one, or nearly all?
Or would I come up
as empty
as I do today?
By now, we gravitate
to a few familiar places—
today we are camped out
in our local bar—
dark and dank.
But it’s cool,
the beer is cold,
and we have
been coming here
since we were
barely legal.
It’s an odd comfort
that nothing
has changed
in more
than thirty years,
the tables
still etched
with the names
of long dead loves—
hearts and arrows.
Have I told you
about Marty?
My old friend,
a man of few words,
prefers an occasional grunt
to sustained conversation.
And that works for me—
I love to talk
and the grunts
are enough
to convince me
I’m not talking
to myself
But today he is
busting to tell
me something.
So I go on and on
about the five bucks
Sal owes me
from a bet on the Mets
and watch him twitch
and try to be polite.
As I pause
To drink my beer,
He says—
with a face
I’d never seen before,
“I ran into my dad
Last night in the diner.
And, it’s as if
a dam had burst.

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Leavings by Sarah Russell (PRIME MOVERS Series)

from my friend Sarah, a wonderful poet

Silver Birch Press

licensed sandor kacsoLeavings
by Sarah Russell

Leavings are untidy. Remembering
what you want to say as the car pulls away,
or the cell phone drops into your purse,
restraint in an embrace, the casual

see ya, when you ache for more.
There was that time my mother died—
a stiff, proud woman who did not touch.
She lay in bed, while her brothers and I

hovered. We asked if she needed a blanket,
if she wanted music, if she were hungry,
thirsty. At each offering, she jerked her head
from side to side, tight-lipped, angry.

Then the young, Hispanic hospice aide reached
out and took her hand. She knew what leavings
needed, what my mother couldn’t bring herself
to ask for, what we didn’t understand to give.

My mother sighed and held that gentle,
reassuring hand. The aide leaned in, caressed
a wisp of hair on her forehead. My mother smiled,
and took…

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A reading of What the Breeze Brings

Here is a link to a video of me reading my poem, What the Breeze brings, featured on Panoply this week. It’s a gentle one. Enjoy.

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A gentle poem just published on Panoply

What the Breeze Brings

This is the perfect spot
for daydreaming—
just the proper combination
of light and breeze
and easy chair.
I often take refuge here—
with a book for a prop,
wistful and open.

Once, in Kyoto
along the philosopher’s
walk, I imagined myself
a 15th century monk—
wandering here and there among
ancient trees and temples—
mossy breeze humming gently
of the past—
of the greening of a first spring—
when dreaming
and waking
were one.

What small misstep
of evolution
has made us a race
of make-believers?
“What’s the good of daydreams?”
I ask myself.

Something for the monk
in me to ponder
as I settle in
by the half-open window
on the easy chair
in dusk’s half light.

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What Trump left unsaid.

Early and Often

President Trump would like to remind you to take lots of hydroxychloroquine tablets and a slug of bleach before venturing out to vote twice. Stay safe! And remember, you are likely to run across a few Democrats at the polls—easily identified by their masks. They are spreading COVID on purpose—just to hurt me—because they are not true Americans. Make sure to bring your weapons.

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Free with Purchase

The vaccines are coming! The vaccines are coming!

Smart money says we will have a vaccine before the election. Many of us would like to know how, where, and when we will get it. Today, The White House has instituted a plan, under the direction of Jared Kushner, to make getting the vaccine as easy as presenting your Visa card.

“We will set up vaccination sites all across the nation,” said a Kushner spokesperson, Stony Cold. “Buy a Maga hat and get a shot for free, hissed Stony. What could be easier.”

Attorney General, William Barr, when questioned said, “This plan violates no law, that I am aware of, that cannot be ignored.”

House Democrats have threatened hearings as early as December 2020.

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Are you?

Are you?

At the tail end of the presidential campaign of 1980, Reagan posed the question “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Carter honestly answered, “No.” And Reagan went on to a resounding victory.

You still hear the question asked at about this time in presidential campaigns. So, we at Stevieslaw would like to ask you once again

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Take your time. We’ll wait.

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