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Chapter 2

poems by Kathleen Taylor, Michael Lauchlan,

Peter Neill Carroll, and Sara Backer








2 Poems by Kathleen Taylor






The Cold Eukaryote


These timorous, cemented tentacles

outstretched in trenches wait on plate

subduction. Bearing foreign bodies of

abandoned stars, our xenophyophore

performs the work of God. An atlas of

coarse mineral deposits punctuate

the skeleton. These sunk uranium

enriched specimen root tubers in

the mud, feed foot to gut. A scientist

slopes, persuades himself experiments

that profit white coat pockets pardon

biopsies of limb. Enveloped in

the cartilage are messages.

Decodable, inferior testaments.




Beetling Mortification


The heart-bruised bombardier felt bitter in

her bifurcated abdomen. Disturbed,

defensive, popping noxiously, she smoked.

A breach occurred after her last molt.

Maturity exposed vestigial,

provocative blue appendages.

She found herself machine to virile engines

disrupting chemical equilibrium

after each union. Her humors stopped

approving after that. She sought quarters

in a sodden fissure to dispose of

surfeit fetors. Postured on her back,

she purged. She bathed in her own toxic stream.

She exacted complete evaporation of her genes.




Kathleen Taylor is an MFA candidate, specializing in poetry, at the

University of California, Riverside where she serves as

poetry editor for Santa Anna River Review. Her work has

appeared in New Limestone Review, Peacock Journal, Foothill

Journal, Southern Women's Review, The McNeese Review,

and White Stag, among others.

poem by Michael Lauchlan



Raise it again man./ We still believe what we hear. Seamus Heaney


Song of fenders of a car junked

after oil drained and engine seized,

of a hardware broken down


and broken into, of sheet metal screws

scooped from bins. Song

of the Michigan Central Station,


its evanescent interiors, its hope trains

and grief trains, of red bricks

from a church crushed to make


more room for GM,

of charred timbers from one

blown up by the Klan.


What does it mean to sing,

to take in breath and let out gift,

to shake as though in the throes,


as though we do this wholly

of the body when we’re blowing out

mostly soul--not only ours,


but everyone who ever sat

around our table, and everyone

who should have sat here


but died instead or stayed behind

in Glascow, Slovenia, or Cork?

Harold McKinney sits here,


his lined face and big voice,

though he’s been gone years.

Once he stopped between sets


to hold a baby we’d taken out

in the snow and wind to hear him

play at a downtown bar--Ray,


his brother on bass--bringing back

Ellington, Monk, ragtime and blues,

the torn story, its ache and its arc.



Michael Lauchlan's poems have been included in anthologies and have landed in many publications including Turtle Island, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Ninth Letter, English Journal, The Dark Horse, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, Collagist, Summerset, Southword, Poetry Ireland, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, Canary, Lascaux Review, Marathon, The Punch, and Barnstorm.


His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from Wayne State University Press.





poem by Peter Neill Carroll

Our Town



Back then, heads of household were men

gray at the temples who could fix any leak. 


Jack, senior bowling champ and waspy Son

of the Golden West, built all four rooms himself.


McNally, Boston-born war hero, boxed

wholesale produce at the San Francisco market.


The two 49er fans dragged underground wire

and cable for Pacific Gas & Electric.


The fire fighter died too young. Ditto

the software guy, installed my anti-virus, twice.


Widows cling to homes with good bones,

leave doors open for their adult sons.


The boys of meager opportunity, bless them,

take care of overgrown trees, the yard weeds.


Daily they bring in the mail. I see them Wednesdays,

dragging recycling bins, wheeling back empties.


We talk about the hawk at the pinnacle of my redwood,

deer eating lemon trees, the advantages of wood chips.


When possible, I pay them for mechanical tasks

beyond my reach, my strength, my age.


Soon but not quite yet I’ll be like their lost fathers,

and the aged mothers will leave deep gaps, in time.


The first choice I faced here—

an appliance warranty—five years or ten?


I picked None. Still I linger, though now, as

ever, there’s no need to repair my idle rooms.


Someday a wrecking ball and the backhoe,

will straighten all my crooked walls, and


some ungrateful millionaire will fill everything

unfulfilled by my hesitations, plain neglect.


I’ve watched this quiet village stretched thin

like a frayed rubber band about to snap.




Peter Neil Carroll’s newest collection is a narrative poem, An Elegy for Lovers (Main Street Rag, 2017). Other titles include The Truth Lies on Earth (Turning Point Press, 2017); Fracking Dakota: Poems for a Wounded Land; and A Child Turns Back to Wave: Poetry of Lost Places which won the Prize Americana. His poems have appeared recently in Southern Humanities Review, Tar River Poetry Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, Southern Quarterly, Chiron Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, and The Aurorean (nominated for a Pushcart). He is the Poetry Moderator for




2 poems by Sara Backer

I Notice a Nest

A gray mummy head dangles—

a hanging lamp in a foyer—

but instead of lighting the inside,

it darkens the outside.


My urge to look into the black slit

a-crawl with wasps—thwarted

by an instinctive flinch,

the way you can’t stare at the sun.




The Green Room


The sunrise surfers wake and walk and wait in darkness

through mist or rain, as gray dawn evolves

an edge of yellow, pink, or paler gray.

Each morning, these surfers paddle into cold wet salt

to find the line where weighty water breaks

and wait again for waves—flat or barrel,

smooth or chop.

Regardless of weather, sky, or waves, they practice

balance and strength,

entrance and exit.

The powerful part of the wave is the pocket

ahead of the break.


The word love—like dude—can mean anything

depending on inflection.

The heart releases trauma when it loves,

when it takes the drop

into the tube and soars

through the green room

on and under the ocean.

The perfect wave does not show up for us;

we show up for it, embracing imperfection,

even when waves draw back and expose the sea bed—

even when they suck the sea bed dry

and strand us in sand and rotting kelp—especially then.

For love is not a gift but a job:

every morning no matter what

into the ocean.


Poet and novelist Sara Backer was raised in Massachusetts and Oregon. She earned her BA from Oregon State University and MA from the University of California at Davis. She is the author of a novel, American Fuji (Penguin Putnam 2001), and a hybrid chapbook of poems and essays, Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork 2015), which won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award. She received fellowships from the Norton Island Artist Residency Program and Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and has garnered Pushcart nomination for poems, essays, and short stories. After having lived in Costa Rica and Japan, she currently resides in New Hampshire



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