by Frederick Pollack
Consummate bureaucrats in any field
(familial, relational included) learn
to put you on edge at ease:
to have all the cards, state
parameters, sanctions, outcomes
without committing themselves, while you
commit yourself with each question
you must repress or ask, and every wrinkle.
They see you suffering
out on the rim of the web that has
no center, and believe
that if one could afford
to leave one’s soul in one’s body
one would commiserate with or be you,
but since they can’t, they are the victims here.
And you ride down to the lobby and sign out
beneath the eyes of someone with a life.
The street is a big open room
where every thought or contact
you follow vanishes
and is as clichéd as this
convention of telling you
what you already know.
The most degrading thing to do next
is to think about the past;
the unemployed and unwanted
live only in the future, if at all.
And yet that last rejecter seemed
congenial, almost human, almost
reachable (given endless time) by love,
that secret love which keeps the system going.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
photo by Gary Cope
Place an X next to completed tasks
[ ] Try to pack everything in your closet.
[ ] Plan the first three months of your trip, unilaterally.
[ ] Try and summarize an entire week in a single journal entry.
[ ] Imagine yourself writing a poem everyday you travel.
[ ] Fall in love with the first country you encounter.
[ ] Forget you are an outsider to even the locals who know you intimately.
[ ] Stay 3x longer than intended because you can’t get Grad School applications together.
[ ] Pretend that you never wanted to leave in the first place.
[ ] Try and explain to yourself why you are there in the first place.
[ ] Stake claim to the role of victim in the case of robbery, highway or otherwise.
[ ] Imagine yourself as something besides an interruption.
[ ] Fish with homeless people alone and give them money whenever they ask.
[ ] Buy cocaine in an attempt to get laid.
[ ] Refuse to bribe a Peruvian policeman and spend a day in jail.
[ ] Expect that anyone besides the staff get laid at a hostel.
[ ] Promise your fishing rod to a travel buddy, then change your mind.
[ ] Use a guidebook to plan your day.
[ ] Ignore guidebooks when planning your day.
[ ] Eat bull penis.
[ ] Eat street food until you end up in the ER on an IV antibiotic.
[ ] Attempt to take pictures of every meal you eat.
[ ] Lose the scraps of paper they give you at the border.
[ ] Punch your travel partner in the face.
[ ] Forget to travel alone at times.
[ ] Share travel secrets with people who don’t deserve them. (You be the judge)
[ ] Pay more than 5 soles for a meal in Peru.
[ ] Tell an Argentine girl she’s beautiful.
[ ] Ask a Chilean for directions.
[ ] Walk alone at night in Brazil.
[ ] Walk alone at any time in Ecuador.
[ ] Try to write a book of travel poems.
Stephen Rosenshein studied creative writing at San Francisco State University. He welcomes your comments at stever4204[at]gmail.com.
photo by jrambow
by Tantra Bensko
There, in the rainforest,
The forests move.
Here, they don’t.
Sloths, “the old man of the jungle,”
Stink, with claws.
Dreams, there, pass through foliage,
Arms slide through the humid
Some tribes can’t be seen
Or heard or thought.
The animals don’t hide,
They move, wind moves,
Rain moves the trees.
In Panama, the forests move.
The helicopters blew
The minds away, blew
Longing with them,
Flying free of loss.
But now, loss stays,
It stagnates, in its welling
Up of nothing, still inside.
Forests here are mirrors
That will not spin you through.
Tantra Bensko’s work recently appeared in an anthology called Women Writing the Weird (Dog Horn Press). She has had a few books published including Lucid Membrane (Night Publishing). She teaches fiction writing and runs Exclusive Magazine.
photo by lightbrigade
by John Grey
The road ran beside a wooden fence
choked by wild ivy.
The field it bordered was all high grass
and a group of men, forgoing machinery,
were cutting it with scythes.
With every spirited hack,
insects, birds, burst from the flowered tips
like dust and smoke.
The men sang. voices deep and loud enough
to tremble our nerves like
they were the ground beneath.
We looked on as these field hands cut their furrows,
saw one of them sharpen his blade
on a whetstone holster,
another wipe his weathered brow.
We weren’t aware of studying men at work at all.
They were more insects buzzing about
the new mown path.
Or birds trilling the pleasure of the day.
They were the grass heads soaring,
then floating down, resting on a bed of brethren.
Red faces sure but it’s only work when the watchers sweat.
John Grey is an Australian born poet and US resident since the late seventies. He works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Xavier Review, White Wall Review and Writer’s Bloc with work upcoming in Poem, Prism International and the Cider Press Review.
photo by IFPRI-IMAGES
by Les Gottesman
Planes without wings
bear a strange united fruit.
One seatbelt across the world as
down an aisle of epochal dementia
a blond Cyclops scuttles
like a crustacean late for a manicure.
Lesson: Don’t fondle merchandise
at the camel market of Birqash
or the etheric motorcycles
of San Francisco.
Les Gottesman’s poems have appeared in print and online journals and magazines including Juked, FutureCycle, Anamesa, Beatitude, Harper’s, Antioch Review, and Columbia Review. He received an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts in 2011 and has been a teacher in San Francisco for over 30 years.
photo by Ed Kimber