by Ron Czerwien


One crow picks
At a knot of flesh and muscle,

Another in my neighbor’s hickory
Complains, complains, complains. . .

We forget to be astonished.

How else do you explain
Oak leaf shake and shimmer,

Tambourines and hallelujahs
In a late September gust,

Or the evening’s theme song:
A little rain, a little more. . .

Never the same, never the same.
Oh love, forget me often.

-originally appeared in Wisconsin Trails


by Lynn Patrick Smith

This is the Poem You’ve Been Waiting to Hear

unless you were thinking it would rhyme
and say nice things about
my mother, my wife, or my childhood
which I did capture, beautifully metered,
in my Pleasant Suburban Childhood poem
that I left at home because
the last time I took it out in public
it ran off and got drunk with that
gang of Miserable Urban Childhood poems
and said things about me
I cannot repeat in the poem
you were hoping I would read.
So, instead I offer you this.

Just imagine me reciting whatever poem
it is you’ve been waiting to hear.

-originally appeared in These Little Scenes,
Fireweed Press, 2006, by Lynn Patrick Smith.


by Lisa Marie Brodsky

Memory in Origami

Someday, I will remember what I learned to forget:

her morning coffee cup sitting
in a slant of light. Her head on her pillow,
lips slightly parted,
breathing, breathing.

Autumn makes me want to
go to your house and hide
in your arms, fold myself into
an origami woman.
How can a day pass without you,
without the reminder of what
I suddenly have?

You hold me when I hiccup with sobs, when
my teary eyes make oceanic earthquakes

You help me remember
what I learned to forget:

how she told me that I would find true love
one day and that it would stick.

I’d not lose it like a sock
in the dryer; it wouldn’t threaten me
with harm

like a bee doing crazy-eights near my ear.

Her hair smelled like Prell and cigarettes;
I can show you pictures of her in a sleek white
dress at nineteen.

Perhaps leaves fall

to embrace the grieving.

You unfold my body, welcome me to walk
on these paper-thin legs.

You write love notes on my thighs.


by Marilyn Annucci


St. Petersburg, Russia

The saint behind the picture frame is aloof
and otherworldly as anyone behind glass.
Not much of a conversationalist.

Yet someone in a flowered kerchief
stops, rests her face against the pane.
Her lips move soundlessly, her shoulders

tremble, as if this were the Gate,
the one partition that keeps her
from Heaven itself. The saint’s hand

lifts, but not to touch. Perhaps to bless.
He exists on the other side of these smoking
wicks, odor of stale coats, irreverent

clicks of cameras by curious tourists.
She doesn’t mind. She brings her lips
to the glass, pauses long enough

to leave her breath. Draws back.
She wears simple shoes
and a plain, almost school-girl skirt.

And I want to know her
sadness, what she whispers
to the entombed one, her heart’s desire.

When she leaves, an old man takes her
place, kisses near the smudge she left.
The human parts press against the holy.

-originally published in Sou'wester (Fall 2006)


by Marilyn Annucci

To Velcro: Two Sides


Friend of the arthritic,
athletic, prosthetic:

the ease with which
you insinuate yourself

is startling.
How you appear

on toilet covers
wall hangings

wrist watches
the cuffs of sweats

padded notebooks.
How did we manage

our hurry without you?
Scrubby paw

in manic hands.
Sweet relief

of press and rip.
Not like the noiseless, green

ABCs we pressed
to school boards as children

but the band aids
we tore from our knees.

What did we care of beauty then?
Give us safety

again, give us pockets
hatched down for lunch money.


Foe of silk,
wool and linen,

you have caught
my scarf in your scrubby paws

for the last time.
Cheap impersonator

of the burr.
Don’t even speak

of the children’s shoes.
It was hard to tie a bow

and hard was good.
Harbinger of sloth,

what more can we lose?
Churches know

you are louder than prayer.
Passion interruptus—

even underwear
may unfasten

like scratching on a screen.
Who will Velcro

the sun to the night,
the bull to its rider,

the roof to this house?
Go away.

Let me relish the quiet
unbuttoning of my blouse.

-appeared in Prairie Schooner (Fall 2007)


by Nydia Rojas


“Ma’am, is this your bag?”
the inspector politely asks. I answer yes
and he requests I open it.

Behind me, an Asian looking woman
awaits to go through the metal detector.
I saw her earlier, drinking coffee at the cafe.
Hard not to notice. We were the only ones
with black hair and a foreign accent.

The inspector moves shoes and socks around.
The bag containing personal hygiene items
sinks to the bottom of my suitcase.

“What did you see in there?” I ask.
I try to remember if at any moment after arriving
at the airport I left my luggage unattended.

I had declared no when
they had asked me earlier.

The white skin, white hair inspector
explains, “We are required by federal law
to conduct random luggage inspections.”

As I retrieve my bag, the Asian woman
walks through the metal detector. I wonder if her bag
will also be randomly selected for inspection.

I walk away. Blond hair heads begin to move
around me again while my bag trails
behind me on its wheels.

I walk away, search for the exit from
which my plane will be departing,
randomly looking over my shoulder.

-originally published in Flyby


American Life in Poetry: Column 146


Post-traumatic stress disorder is a new name for "shell
shock," a term once
applied only to military veterans.
Here the poet Marvin Bell describes a group
of these
emotionally damaged soldiers, gathered together
for breakfast. I'd
guess that just about everybody who
reads this column has known one or two men
like these.

Veterans of the Seventies

His army jacket bore the white rectangle
of one who has torn off his name. He sat mute
at the round table where the trip-wire veterans
ate breakfast. They were foxhole buddies
who went stateside without leaving the war.
They had the look of men who held their breath
and now their tongues. What is to say
beyond that said by the fathers who bent lower
and lower as the war went on, spines curving
toward the ground on which sons sat sandbagged
with ammo belts enough to make fine lace
of enemy flesh and blood. Now these who survived,
who got back in cargo planes emptied at the front,
lived hiddenly in the woods behind fence wires
strung through tin cans. Better an alarm
than the constant nightmare of something moving
on its belly to make your skin crawl
with the sensory memory of foxhole living.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The
Poetry Foundation
(www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher
of Poetry magazine. It is also supported
by the Department
of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem

copyright (c) 2007 by Marvin Bell, and reprinted from
"Mars Being Red," Copper
Canyon Press, 2007, by permission
of the author and publisher. The poem first
appeared in
"Gettysburg Review," Summer, 2007. Introduction copyright
(c) 2007
by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author,
Ted Kooser,served as
United States Poet Laureate Consultant
in Poetry to the Library of Congress
from 2004-2006.
We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.



American Life in Poetry: Column 145

If one believes television commercials, insomnia, that thief
of sleep,
torments humans in ever-increasing numbers.
Rynn Williams
, a poetworking in
Brooklyn, New York, tries here
to identify its causes and find a suitable


I try tearing paper into tiny, perfect squares--
they cut my fingers. Warm milk, perhaps,
stirred counter-clockwise in a cast iron pan--
but even then there's burning at the edges,
angry foam-hiss. I've been told
to put trumpet flowers under my pillow,
I do: stamen up, the old crone said.
But the pollen stains, and there are bees,
I swear, in those long yellow chambers, echoing,
the way the house does, mocking, with its longevity--
each rib creaking and bending where I'm likely to break--

I try floating out along the long O of lone,
to where it flattens to loss, and just stay there
disconnecting the dots of my night sky
as one would take apart a house made of sticks,
carefully, last addition to first,
like sheep leaping backward into their pens.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation
(www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also
by the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem
copyright (c) 2007 by Rynn Williams, whose most
recent book of poetry is
"Adonis Garage," University of Nebraska Press,
2005. Poem reprinted from
"Columbia Poetry Review," no. 20, Spring 2007,
by permission of Rynn Williams.
Introduction copyright (c) 2007 by The
Poetry Foundation. The introduction's
author, Ted Kooser, served as United
States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry
to the Library of Congress
from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited



by Brent Christianson
Listening to the President Threaten War

Silence is an ocean
Speech is a river

Effluent speech
wave after wave.
Words float
with broken branches
bloated bodies
in the stream
into the river
through the delta
into the sea
deep in the ocean.
The ocean silence
of dead empires.

-originally published 2004 in Out of Line