Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Shopping for Pomegranates at Wal-Mart on New Year’s Day

Beneath a ten-foot-tall apparition of Frosty the Snowman

with his corncob pipe and jovial, over-eager, button-black eyes,

holding, in my palm, the leathery, wine-colored purse

of a pomegranate, I realize, yet again, that America is a country

about which I understand everything and nothing at all,

that this is life, this ungovernable air

in which the trees rearrange their branches, season after season,

never certain which configuration will bear the optimal yield

of sunlight and water, the enabling balm of nutrients,

that so, too, do Wal-Mart’s ferocious sales managers

relentlessly analyze their end-cap placement, product mix,

and shopper demographics, that this is the culture

in all its earnestness and absurdity, that it never rests,

that each day is an eternity and every night is New Year’s Eve,

a cavalcade of B-list has-beens entirely unknown to me,

needy comedians and country singers in handsome Stetsons,

sitcom stars of every social trope and ethnic denomination,

pugilists and oligarchs, femmes fatales and anointed virgins

throat-slit in offering to the cannibal throng of Times Square.

Who are these people? I grow old. I lie unsleeping

as confetti falls, ash-girdled, robed in sweat and melancholy,

click-shifting from QVC to reality TV, strings of commercials

for breath freshener, debt reconsolidation, a new car

lacking any whisper of style or grace, like a final fetid gasp

from the lips of a dying Henry Ford, potato-faced actors

impersonating real people with real opinions

offered forth with idiot grins in the yellow, herniated studio light,

actual human beings, actual souls bought too cheaply.

That it never ends, O Lord, that it never ends!

That it is relentless, remorseless, and it is on right now.

That one sees it and sees it but sometimes it sees you, too,

cowering in a corner, transfixed by the crawler for the storm alert,

home videos of faces left dazed by the twister, the car bomb,

the war always beginning or already begun, always

the special report, the inside scoop, the hidden camera

revealing the mechanical lives of the sad, inarticulate people

we have come to know as “celebrities.”

Who assigns such value, who chose these craven avatars

if not the miraculous hand of the marketplace,

whose torn cuticles and gaudily painted fingernails resemble nothing

so much as our own? Where does the oracle reveal our truths

more vividly than upon that pixillated spirit glass

unless it is here, in this tabernacle of homely merchandise,

a Copernican model of a money-driven universe

revolving around its golden omphalos, each of us summed

and subtotalled, integers in an equation of need and consumption,

desire and consummation, because Hollywood had it right all along,

the years are a montage of calendar pages and autumn leaves,

sheet music for a nostalgic symphony of which our lives comprise

but single trumpet blasts, single notes in the hullabaloo,

or even less—we are but motes of dust in that atmosphere

shaken by the vibrations of time’s imperious crescendo.

That it never ends, O Lord. That it goes on,

without pause or cessation, without pity or remorse.

That we have willed it into existence, dreamed it into being.

That it is our divine monster, our factotum, our scourge.

That I can imagine nothing more beautiful

than to propitiate such a god upon the seeds of my own heart.

-Campbell Mcgrath

Friday, November 25, 2011


Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street

You have tried leaving
a trail of bread crumbs
that will take you
back home to father,
but the grackles
eat them as soon
as your little sister
quits shooing them away.

The rest of the story
is scarier. There’s
a witch at the edge of town
who will lock you
in a rabbit hutch.

She plans
to eat you, once
you’re fattened up. After
which, the plot turns
confusing. I’ve
blocked it out

on account of the
violence, but I know
that you are pressured
to eat fast food: French
fries, hamburgers, chocolate
shakes. You’re
required to stick
a bone, rather than
your finger through
the chicken wire.

Of course, only a moron
would confuse
a chicken bone for a finger,
but the word on the street
says you have to fake
your weight-gain. Eventually,
you’ll catch the witch
off-guard. Then,
you slip out of the hutch,
push her in a pot
of boiling canola, and
get this, you eat her
candy house.

The witch, they say,
is mostly blind, probably
in the late stages of
macular degeneration. She has
lost her glasses,
and that’s another part of
the story that I just
can’t digest. The old
lady is shrewd.
She has chewed up little
boys like you for years.

She works chat rooms
for gosh sakes.

She deploys multiple
user-names like Sweet Thing,
Tootsie Roll and Honey Buns. So surely,
a hag that savvy
owns dozens
of Wal-mart reading glasses.

-Al Ortolani

Friday, November 18, 2011


The big secret is
that there is no big secret,
no code to break,
no great conspiracy but money and power,
and certainly no celestial shine to that
certain 1% of very often disarmingly
charming narcissists and sociopaths
or their(most certainly charmed) lives;

everyone of us drifting,
minute by minute,
closer and closer to that dreaded
edge of the cliff and its Big Drop Off,
out into who knows where or what...

The blue wind that encircles the Earth?
The white light of sudden universal conciousness?
The total blackout of unknowable nothingness
(by which the torments of the flesh
and the mind must surely be rendered
null and unto the void and finally
done away with for good)?

Or maybe there is some non-corporeal (yet
somehow cohesive and sentient) part of us
that survives the death of the body
and occupies eternity in either some
wholesome, middle-American (and otherwise
asexual) Hometown, USA,

or is, instead, tortured, mutilated and burned (forever
and ever, Amen), presumably, because we met
someone’s pre- or post facto requisites
for being a bad (or merely naughty or
disobedient) person or simply refused
(or never had the opportunity) to sign
on the dotted line at the bottom
of the last (of many) page(s)
of the membership contract to the One,
True and Spiritually Correct Social Club.

Seems to me that the theory
with the highest degree of probability
is that we most likely come from
some configuration of dirt and to some
configuration of dirt we eventually return.

For so many people,
this rather innocuous meme
seems to be the icy, intrusive finger
forced rudely into the tender, pink
sphincter at the back of the mind,

the first crack in the quaint, little
Christmas snow-globe in which they live
and which, apparently, must distort
the sights and sounds of the outside world,
beyond the glass, in truly frightening ways...

No, it’s not a hurricane,
it’s just a little mist.

No, I’m not going to rob you
or try to indoctrinate your children
into the
homosexual lifestyle,

I’m only going to the garden
to get some tomatoes,

which, I would be
more than glad
to share with

-Jason Ryberg, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

-Marianne Moore