Tag Archives: Crab Orchard Review

“Reverend Billy’s Boogie Woogie and Mom’s Gulbransen” by Gianna Russo

The Palladium Theatre, Saint Petersburg, FL.

We’re here for the Hillbilly Deathmatch.
Two balladeers duking it out:
heartbreak vs. boogie woogie
Les Paul guitar vs. Steinway Baby Grand.
The Friday Night music palace seeps age and glory–
rows of faded velvet seats, wooden backs worn smooth
from decades of sweat and delight.

The balladeer’s got the guitar: his fingerwork is a cheery stroll,
his second-tenor-muttered lyrics walking us around the yard,
down the block to the intersection of Heartbroke and Wanting More.
We’re referees: our seat-shifting and half-yawns call it:
no way is that round going to him.

Then Reverend Billy stomps on stage
in a cowboy zoot suit and kickass boots.
He pounces on the ivories, his hands
the tarantella, the electric slide, the St. Vitus dance of boogie woogie.
We hoot and jive in our seats.
It’s a musical K.O.

God, it feels good to get shaken this way,
after months of putting the house to sleep,
forcing a coma on one room at a time.
Rev says he want to slow it down, play somethin pretty.
Melodic and melancholy, it takes me
to my mother’s back room
where her old upright Gulbransen sags unsold, untuned.
She filled the house with show tunes and old standards–
South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun, her low alto tremolo.
It’s been mute for years.

Rev caresses the Steinway.
Behind him the velvet curtains are crenelated, ballooned.
Above him the stage lights are blue as my mother’s eyes.

Gianna Russo is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Moonflower (Kitsune Books), winner of a Florida Book Awards bronze medal, and two chapbooks, including one based on the art work of Vermeer, The Companion of Joy (Green Rabbit Press). Russo is founding editor of YellowJacket Press, (www.yellowjacketpress.org ), Florida’s publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published poems in Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Apalachee Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, saw palm, Kestrel, Tampa Review, Water-Stone, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. In 2017, she was named Best of the Bay Local Poet by Creative Loafing. She is assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is editor-in-chief of Sandhill Review and director of the Sandhill Writers Retreat.

 

“Jetman” by Jonathan Travelstead

I rebuffer the YouTube video of Swiss ex-fighter pilot Yves Rossi
& watch this man-cum-black wing let go the rails & bail out of the helicopter
like a Navy SEAL, whirligig in a tailspun freefall until his aelerons
& helmet’s rudder lock in, tilting into clean air.

I think of birds’ aerobatics. How the swift hatchling- plummeting
from the nest for the first time, remembers flight just in time. I see his manouevers
named in the comments. Falling leaf. Chandelle. Afterburners quilled
with kerosene for feathers, I watch him jockey in high definition

a wide, blue field & wish it were me barrel rolling the Alps with a ballerina’s
easy pirouette over shards of coal-dusted ice. I can’t see it enough,
the dream every generations’ boy dreams- whether Iron Man, or an eagle,
all of us wishing to attempt the split s. On replay I consider

his skull’s declension from the slab of black wing,
& the moment’s precipice where he submits to some higher plane of physics
that to the rest of us is only dark art. Shoulders camber forward then
he dives, puncturing cirrus, then cumulous cloud, contrails twisting

at a moment past the last believable one when he cranes his head & body
in a half pitch skyward once more, a cough of flame as he cuts power,
pulls the ripcord on a ballooned parachute which lowers him
to the ground in a landing he- incredibly, survives.


Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, and also as co-editor for Cobalt Review. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review, on Poetrydaily.com, and has work forthcoming in The Crab Orchard Review, among others. His first collection “How We Bury Our Dead” by Cobalt Press was released in March, 2015, and his “Conflict Tours” is forthcoming in Spring of 2017.

My Stepmother, Having Returned to This Earth, Becomes Hannya, by Tara McDaniel

Culling through the Winter/Spring 2010 volume of the Crab Orchard Review, published twice yearly by the Department of English, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I found this darkly whimsical play on Japanese imagery and knew I had found this week’s poetry pick.

According to the Contributors’ Notes at the time publication, the author of this poem – Tara McDaniel –  is a student at the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her previous work has been featured in Cimarron Review, Marginalia: The Journal of Innovative Literature and Gloom Cupboard.

My Stepmother, Having Returned
to This Earth, Becomes Hannya

When my stepmother unzips her body bags and snaps
The rubber tag from her toes, I know
She’ll creep into the kitchen and slake her immortal
Thirst with 6 bottles of beer. She’ll sucker at the glass
Greedily to get at its yeasty fizz, remembering – quite
Exactly – where they keys to my gate are. Down
Into the basement she’ll trundle, her tail
Growing long beneath her pile of dressings,
Making a hollow sound
Where her serpent-belly slaps at the stone. A likely darkness:
Black cabinet, squeaky doors, stale air, and Hannya
On a bed of velvet. A little key behind one eye.
Her claw will lift this wooden mask
To her face: slavering jaw, hard-boiled egg eyes
Cheekbones shaped like mallets,
Crescent horns rising from the wild hair
Weeping over her forehead and shoulders
Like spilled Japanese ink. She’ll put the key
Deep inside her throat, for safekeeping. Tomorrow,
When the sun rises again over my back garden,
She’ll wait out the morning till I’ve returned dozing
To cough up the key, graze her claw over my door.

Note: Hannya is a mythological Japanese character, a vengeful and jealous female demon. She is represented in traditional Noh theater by a horned mask.

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