August Invitation by Adrian Slonaker

Dance with me in that fountain with all the stone egrets,
but curse when your toes touch the chill of the ripples.
Recall the twilight bliss of Ghost in the Graveyard.
Scratch my chin in the glare of the warehouse window.
Press my hand under the Perseids,
Share an avocado milkshake with me,
and let’s endeavor to remember
that legend about sloths
and owls.


Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with interests that include vegetarian cooking, wrestling, and 1960s pop music. Adrian’s poetry has appeared in Better Than StarbucksCC&DAmaryllisDodging the Rain and Three Line Poetry.  

Summer Writing and Revision is Fine

This summer, I have been availing myself of the use of the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library’s study rooms to focus on several writing projects.

This is the first summer that the library has offered reserved study rooms to faculty, and it all came about in response to popular demand and the advocacy of the Faculty Writer’s Retreat facilitator, Lynn Cherry.

The retreat itself, held during most school breaks, is quite a boon and one that I participate in every chance I get, which has been four times thus far. Unlike a writing conference, which usually involves craft lectures, panels, readings, seminars, and, perhaps, workshops, the College of Charleston’s Faculty Writers Retreat simply provides a distraction-free study room, daily lunches, afternoon snacks, and a sense of accountability. Faculty can apply for a 2, 3, or 5-day stint and available spots fill quickly. Participants agree that they will not use the time to prep for classes, grade or browse social media. Most everyone finds they get a lot done during their selected time period, and even when there are struggles or blocks, most faculty are glad to have had the time to deal with those, too, as it actually helps them  move forward.

Though I come away from the Faculty Writer’s Retreat with a different kind of same kind of high that a conference might generate, I always come away feeling productive, and centered and with plenty of evidence of my hard work. The difference is subtle but important.

This year, after a number of participants expressed just how useful it was having access to a study room, myself included, the retreat facilitator inquired into the matter on our behalf. Thanks to her initiative the good folks at Addlestone agreed to set aside three rooms for faculty to reserve for up to three days at a time during any given week this summer, up until the week that classes begin.

And I have been in one of them every week that I’ve been in town.

The first several weeks of the summer I worked almost entirely on the New Mexico Poem anthology, since that was my focus during the retreat in May, and more or less wallowed in rereading every contribution and reconsidering the organization and title of the sections. What I found interesting about the process was how I paired some of the same poems together in the revision as I had paired in the first collection, which I discovered after reviewing both manuscripts. In other instances, and maybe because of the new section titles and focus, poems wound up in very different locations.

I’m sure I’ve spent over 100 hours reconsidering the collection in detail, not including the breaks I took to remain as fresh and as objective as possible. It’s no lie that being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired will drastically affect one’s judgment, so I made sure not to deliberate while experiencing any of those states.

I sent the manuscript off to my co-editor in mid-June, right before taking off for Kansas City to visit family.  As is usually the case, I found it very difficult to shift my mental state from contemplating poetry to focusing on family for those few days but finally let go and shifted my focus to the present moment and to enjoying my time away from Charleston. Now that I have returned home, the opposite is more true and I struggle to ease myself back into a life groove.

To help with my re-entry, and in the spirit of easy does it, I “suited up and showed up” to my reserved study room on Wednesday, after three weeks away, determined to work on something. I set no specific goal or objective – just brought with me a hard copy of my own manuscript and my computer. After getting settled in, I was able to revise a few poems, rearrange my MS into sections, and, eventually, assemble and submit a six-page manuscript for a literary magazine In which I would very much like to have my poems appear. I think the day was more productive than it would have been had I fallen into either of the two habits that are most common to me: 1) overwhelm myself with a list of a dozen possible projects on which I might focus, or 2) frustrate myself with an improbable goal. It is much better, I am learning, to have an open mind as I approach one small project at a time.

I did wind up canceling my Thursday study room reservation, however,  to meet with an exterminator regarding the Yellow Jackets that have taken residence in my yard, most likely as a result of our neglecting yard work those seven months we were living in an apartment while repairs were being made to the house after Hurricane Matthew. (Yes, I can find a way to drop that bit of info into most conversations.) Yellow Jackets, I decided, are just a little more pressing than having a study room for the afternoon.

The week ahead is a busy one. I am to attend a Writing Across the Curriculum conference and have about a half-dozen appointments to see to. I was tempted to cancel my study room reservations for the week, seeing how I will only get a few hours here and there to utilize the space, but decided against it, for when things are especially busy it is especially important to hold space open for my writing. I may not get as much time as I would prefer, but any time I do capture will go under the column for successes this week.

 

 

Years Later You Walk In by Maryfrances Wagner

Tangled under a blanket
we could melt curbed snow,
smoke up windows,

desire unable to hold.
Boiling water, morning
after, sudden laughter.

You walk into my dream:
older man, panzer tan,
builder hands.

How could I have imagined
you would turn: spoiled meat,
October leaf, yellow teeth.


Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas (Mammoth) and Pouf (FLP). Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America:  An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing WitnessThe Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al.  She co-edits I-70 Review.

To find out more, enjoy this previous interview with Maryfrances:

Zingara Interview Maryfrances Wagner

Renting a Room on Magazine Street

The obvious is difficult to prove
in a room with ceilings high enough
for giants to unstoop, where glass doors
introduce a garden plot of chickweed
and empty pots. Upstairs a piano
plays all day, plinking made-up melodies
like a drunk weaving patterns
in a Sunday parking lot. Sometimes
the songs are funereal, marching

the dead on bright white keys. I never
see the player, never slip past
in narrow veins of hallways. He works
nights, sleeps days on the hardwood floor
above my head. It’s the nights that take
their toll, the tireless jangle
of window fans, babies crying
as if they know their mothers moan
in the deep sleep some lover’s arms.


Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook — The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) — and a full length poetry collection — What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC

Affirmative Through Toledo by Paul Grams

Say me that only word
the one counts one and two
in the sweet book of love
that Ima write wit you

saying how this really could
be time to say it best
now that the moon be nerve
air chill and lay it rest

Whisper me like tires
reading the pale gray road
sufficient love for this next
kiss
word up kids ax you bogue
lets light one closer fire
between the stars      say yes
this

Paul Grams earned degrees in Linguistics and English Literature; he taught in the Detroit Public Schools, mostly grades 6-9, for 30 years; he ran scholastic chess programs there. He’s retired to Baltimore with grandchildren. Two books of his poems have been published.

Consolations after a Birth by Beth Sherman

My books are sniping at one another
Hurling accusations concerning inaccurate information
On blood sugar and forceps.
Later on in the week I will make a bonfire
In the kitchen and scald their flapping tongues.
A mobile over the crib jiggles uncertainly.
The yellow bunny sneers at the spotted cow.
It knows nothing of midwives. Quaint word
From a simpler time when mothers died
With rags stuffed in their mouths to muffle the screaming.
I’ve discovered that I don’t need God.
A gazelle sleeps beside me.
I can feel its fur choking my breath,
I can taste the grass on its hind legs,
Alone in this angry house.

Beth Sherman received an MFA in creative writing from Queens College, where she teaches in the English department. Her fiction has been published in The Portland Review, Sandy River Review, Blue Lyra Review and Gloom Cupboard and is forthcoming in Delmarva Review and Rappahannock Review. Her poetry has been published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Hartskill Review, Lime Hawk, Synecdoche, Gyroscope and The Evansville Review, which nominated her poem, “Minor Planets” for a Pushcart Prize this year.