21 March 2007

Featured Poet: Joel Craig


Let me try to lay out what I think I understand
about my life. I took a sip
of wine and plunged.
The new plague has worked so quickly we’ve returned
nearly to equilibrium.
What’s behind me has been built out of nothing
into a whole row of apartments
full of exotic people.
You can presume relative safety. I’m a quiet person.
I don’t make a lot of noise
in public.
The most I can ever do is establish what appears to be
a relatively safe level
for myself, for my own body and mind.
A flash of amusement, realizing the invitation
to pounce could be taken
more than one way.
I have two cats who live outside hunting gophers and mice.
There’s a bit more to climb
until we level out.
She was thin, shy and tended to be exacting and impatient,
but I was a good, caring father.
He had the heart and clearness of mind
to be a therapist. We could afford
little in the way of school.
Emptying his pockets we came across
a policy for trying out
new groups of people.
A safe level for particular bodies, nervous systems
and private individuals with questions.
They may be a bit uncomfortable about what
they think I’m doing
but they’ve no reason to stop me.
I used to have a dog called Bruno
but when he died I didn’t
have the heart to replace him.
I learned what it was to be really poor, what it does
to the human spirit.
Fundamental things still apply—
a greenness that makes Ireland
look grey encircling a perfect crescent bay.
A place in which only self-deluded, naïve people hope
for things to get better. Las Vegas
and the end of western history.
Above all is the ghost of sunk capital. Terrible assets
that won’t be born. Telling a cop
to fuck off.
It’s a strange feeling to look up the hill, across the grass, and see
those buildings staring down
where there used to be nothing but sky and trees.
She never really said anything I could count on, and I didn’t want to
waste any more time or energy than I had to
on people who play games.
So to you, yes. Yes for telling the truth. To your intuitive fingers
and all the rest of you, what are you
trying to say?
She’ll be coming to be with me for a while. I’m meeting her plane
tomorrow morning.
She’s wonderfully gentle. Down the stairs into the living room, the fire
is still throwing off occasional sparks.
Lit fingertips move thoughtfully
up over the top of my shoulder
and pause behind my ear.
Do cities decay differently in the New World?
There’s a faint touch of tease here—biological
warfare sort of stuff. Recreation crisis.
Keep silent in deference to the possibly
imminent end of the human race.
Seem comfortably at ease with private images.
Of course there are different ways to terrorize
from the sky.
If he’s the kind that gets easily irritated,
I’ll likely find out now.
Evolution rapidly manufactures new species or subspecies
out of their domesticates.
I didn’t know I was suffering from an illness
known as depression. For the first time
in my life, I thought I was seeing the world.
I sat for a moment, staring at my knees as I tried
to put broad, wide images
into small, tidy words.


After giving birth, she says, she dismissed the universe
and told it that it was
on its own.
Without my presence there will be no magic in your life.

Pretty intense, but okay.

Sometimes when you go through a miserable thing
you become allergic to everyone.
The nurturing mother reaches for her child’s hand,
feeling with pleasure the texture of the skin
and the solid bones of the fingers.
She takes the grossest materials and blows them
into shimmering bubbles.
So we rejoice in the salvage. The afternoon and evening clouds
through the window at a specific moment.
As long as you stay off the piano keys.

And the me who thought I knew who I was woke up
by the oyster bar.
He has no conscience because he has no need
of humility in his life. Somewhere, out there
in the shifting sands of Death Valley
is a nothing to repeat always—
Composed harmonies can be claustrophobic at first.
My recollection of the endless summer
is almost unbearable.
Tension between perception of reality and growing up
mesmerized me and my friends.
With the mirage of unattainable futures in the distance
it became urgent to wring as much
freedom from the night as possible.
Just a few minutes ago, I was looking out the living room window
and two dogs were playing
on the boulevard.
Actually I had a wonderful time. The only horse I bet on
was a winner despite narrow odds.
And it’s just so fun to speculate, to play a role
in making a nature scene.
When the rival withdrew from the field
their faces showed confusion
or something like embarrassment.
Taking pleasure to strut around with a gun in your belt.

And it’s just so fun to speculate—

In the kitchen, a soup was simmering on the stove.
On the tile counter were green lettuces and bright-
red tomatoes heaped into piles alongside loaves of bread.
I went through a few moments of seeing my worst faults.

Ceiling high bookcases thrust into the room.

There was a central room, surrounded by a veranda
sloping downwards, outwards on all sides.
Of course it’s not unthinkable that I’ve held several hands and waited
to cry and never cried but wanted to
but was filled with too much anxiety.
You’re not obvious for saying it’s dark & intolerable
outside. It’s a soggy grey fucker
giving dignity and purpose to small rebellions—
the monotonous hot-rod and beach
riots and motherly perspective.


What is needed is a recognizable molecule that carries the unstable
promise to the brain. A good-humored Buddha
area of the self.
I’ve tried and tried but it keeps slipping away. We stopped
at a spot overlooking the bay
at the same time both observing and performing.
After the patrolman followed us we joked about dodging a bullet,
the first stirrings of pleasant feelings evident
without introspective urges.
Afterward, sleeping was tricky but it worked out okay.
I said thank you but I have to go
on with the rest of my life.
It’s simple, I think. I open my mouth to say just that, but everyone
says something along these lines,
seeing places and things with their eyes closed.
A clear vision of big cities as actors in their own right.
When I close my eyes the first stirrings of
pleasant feelings become evident.
I rise and lead the way through the kitchen and dining room
and down the hallway to the bedroom
feeling solidly connected to the physical world.
A good humored Buddha area of the self. I spend the night
on a pad in their bedroom, for once
tired by the music, the air clean and cool.
The piano plays on, undeterred, and in my place on the floor
I imagine my preferred self-image
awakening to clinical sunshine.
It’s yet another distraction. How fast do you hold to yourself,
saying tiresome truths over and over again
to the tired people who rush into your life.
Have you ever been to Death Valley? I’ve wanted to see it for years
but haven’t yet had the chance.
There are personalities you never forget.
We packed the car with sandwiches and the makings of a good salad.
The idea appealed to everyone.
For the first time I missed the road.
At the entrance a small sign nailed to a telephone pole announced,
fresh oysters for sale, as if I’d built
an imaginary destination in my mind.
What will operate against a swift frame is a certain coolness in the work.
When we walked into the living room
my chest tightened, though I knew what to expect.
So far it wasn’t at all like my fantasy. The kitchen was comfortably large,
with a linoleum floor so old its original pattern
was lost in a general brown-ness.
He led me down the hall and out the back door. We walked along
a narrow dirt path, past clumps of early narcissus,
under buckeye and pine trees.
One scene in particular stays with me. The hero has wandered
into a valley where he sees, all around him
plants thrusting up by the tens of thousands.
For most of my life, whenever I was being introduced to a roomful
of people I didn’t know, the tiny muscles on either side
of my mouth would go into a twitching spasm

if I tried to maintain a smile. Noise erupted around the table.
Names of people and places I didn’t recognize
were flying everywhere. Outside was the green world.

© 2007 Joel Craig

06 March 2007

Featured Poet: Lina ramona Vitkauskas

Lina ramona Vitkauskas is the author of the chapbooks THE RANGE OF YOUR AMAZING NOTHING (Ravenna Press, 2007), Failed Star Spawns/Planet Star (dancing girl press, 2006), and Shooting Dead Films With Poets (Fractal Edge Press, 2004). Her poetry and fiction have been included in many anthologies and publications including The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (Cracked Slab Books, 2007), Van Gogh's Ear (Paris), Rampike (University of Windsor), The Prague Literary Review, The Chicago Review, Paper Tiger (Australia), Melancholia's Tremulous Dreadlocks, 3 AM Magazine, Bridges (The Lithuanian-American Journal), In Posse Review Multi-Ethnic Anthology (Ilya Kaminsky, editor), The Mississippi Review, The Wisconsin Review, Lituanus (Lithuanian Quarterly Journal), and Del Sol Review (featured writer). Upcoming publications: Another Chicago Magazine, Aufgabe.


each moment is a tragedy
Rosa has never yet
dwelled in, tabular
and peppered as cryptographs
a lowered unfurled bun,
snarled lashes, unturned
simpers, hands of fingerless
radioactive passion. at a commercial,
she stumbles on dark
grounds, marries a traitor,
dies with great emphasis.
Rosa may never know the
paroxysm stereotype
of her name, the stigma
of being a cutter, ooloo, mistress.


my mirage
not ready
to be red
your voice
a seed or
land mine.
in a muzzle
of girls, I
am your tutor,
X-ray the
and wristwatch.

I pour you the Rhine,
you Suisse my throat.
Resuscitate the
afternoon. We had
this habeas form,
these mechanics.

Maya, the dream,
I and you walk
and a few hairs
like Mrabet invite
this sand, this passion-
flower dissection. In
a crabshell you despond
and I vest my biology
upon it. There,
only three worlds
for my home.


isn't it you,
that guarded man
in navy standing
by the fish, blackberries
smeared upon doors
warning the hazel doves
of corruption in the tank

hatbox her, the men
recede the garnet wombs
new woman flesh
her Apollo mound
is a boy in space

fumbling with his
pinesap whistle carved
into a gellatin kirtle
of false eyelashes and rage.


In granite
everything stills
as we are plantiffs,
plantains, and misfits

with our nylon gardens
steeped in pine,
your mouth a dream
and needles of barren

slumber this floor
foresting for stems of
English pocketwatches
in your eyes of paraffin

and what I reach
I cannot undo
this next communication
a collage you must construct.


A catatonic Finn
with strings,
& a cigar box
trinket laid on a
stable boy's straw
bed, lapsed.

My hands still
thin tones of
varnish and frozen
flax, my killed beak
mangled breath.

A hollow chord
across Fjords,
cannot see my
blue brother
in the bramble,
my Oppenheimer
atoms a vaginal bomb

in miles of spoilers.
A capella this one
whom creates my violence!
I love these wars,

pontoon bridges
of masculinity,
death in the ledger
under my Slovenian notes.

© Copyright 2007 Lina ramona Vitkauskas