TALKING TO LI PO by Neeli Cherkovski

Posted in Neeli Cherkovski with tags on July 27, 2015 by Scot


Dear Father
of drunkenness
and poesy
some of us
idolize you words
as they step into English
on a high wire
over raging rapids
of an anonymous river
that has cut a deep gorge
through the ceramic earth

we bow in reverence
to the gods of mercy
who lay us low in due time,

I want to ask you
if there is any reprieve
because the beams of death
do not fit
they seem so ill
with faint deception
and wild eyed delusion

mercy is
is a flower
you tickle on the trail

as you ascend
to the snow field
past the last
hearty pine tree

your jacket is
fine, you stop for water
from the canteen, your
leather-faced father
smiles, an elderly priest
hikes on past us
at the cosmic tear
in his complex
system of belief

he must be well over
one hundred and thirty
five years of age
by now in 2015, my father died
at ninety-five, an old
hobo, son of Russian Jews

we had no money
but we had plenty of
honey which he has passed on
for me

at thirteen thousand feet
above sea level he handed over
the tough sky and the hard slate
of the mountaintop

for the children I will
never have

Kitty At The Poetry Reading by Aurelia Lorca

Posted in Aurelia Lorca on July 27, 2015 by Scot


I am listening,
but cannot help but notice
a calico cat slinking through the audience:
Of course she stops and rubs against
the legs of Joel Landmine, who reaches down
to give her a little scratch without
taking his eyes off the poet at the podium.
The kitty moves on, she does not mean to be rude
or distracting. She slides against MK, the birthday
girl of the night, and purrs for a moment in appreciation.
I lose sight of her after she circles around Razor’s feet.
He later says how the same kitty had once
sat on his lap through an entire reading,
though what he read made it kind of odd.
I don’t know, I just think that like all cats
she embraces the ineffable effable deep and inscrutable
way of things and people and in other words,
has some damned good taste.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 27, 2015 by Scot

(Published by Punk Hostage Press)

Poet A D Winans is a native San Franciscan who came of age during the heyday of the beat generation in His hometown. The beat poets along with Kenneth Patchen and Charles Bukowski had quite an influence on the direction he would take in his own poetry. It’s a poetry of the streets and a poetry of the common language, going back to Walt Whitman. Over the years, Winans has written about some of his literary heroes, always with passion, always with a deep understanding of how the tradition of poetry is passed hand-to-hand down the generations. It is a great moment to see a few of his essays, or portraits, collected in one volume.

deadDead Lions is aptly named. Winans has chosen to write of Alvah Bessie, that heroic screenwriter who was one of the Hollywood 10, a victim of the Communist scare of the 1950s engendered by Senator Joseph McCarthy and others. There are tributes to three poets as well, Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline, and Charles Bukowski. One might read the text and feel as if they had been wandering through a portrait gallery. That is how keenly Winans does his job. I came away from reading this book with a new sense of all of these people. The three poets I knew well. Bessie is known to me only from a distance in the context of the persecution.

What really makes Dead Lions an important book is the intimacy Winans brings to the page. It’s that same sense of the intimate that is in his own poetry. Kaufman, Micheline, and Bukowski we’re true literary outsiders. For each of them it was a long pull to be given notice from the literary Community. Winans knew Bukowski in the days when he was a creature of the little poetry journals and a major figure in the Mimeo revolution of the 1960s, which now seems so long ago. He knew Bob Kaufman in North Beach hanging out with him at bars and cafes. He was closest to Jack Micheline and that comes through in his book. For Winans Micheline’s defiance of literary propriety was an important signal to younger poets. Once again, Whitman is echoed. Jack’s “barbaric yelp” was the ticket to freedom from academe.

I was particularly taken with Winans’ portrait of Bob Kaufman. He offers a good deal of biographical information that one rarely finds. He writes, “Kaufman considered himself a Buddhist and believed that a poet had a call to a higher order.” As one of Bob’s intimate friends, I remember him quoting from ancient Buddhist texts as we sat around the kitchen table in my apartment. He was never loud about it. Winans tells us, “He was an oral poet who didn’t write for publication or expectations of fame and fortune, which is what drew me to him.’

This is romanticism and it is charming to witness. I think of Nelson Algren’s book title, “A Walk on the Wild Side.” It reminds me of the poets Winans admires. He wraps up the Kaufman piece with a description of the pubic outpouring after his death as more than one hundred people marched through North Beach in tribute to the poet’s life.

Winans has written extensively on Bukowski. Once again, it was the rebellion in “Buk” that Winans admires, and he pays him tribute. This piece is filled with up- close and personal recollection. Winans indulges in a bit of psychological profiling, including Bukowski’s mistrust of friends. In contrast, he writes: “His first book, Post Office, was written in nineteen days. The book is filled with laughter that shines through the pain of working at a dead-end job that kills a man’s spirit and physically breaks him down. I know! I worked for the San Francisco Post Office for five years.” It was after reading this novel that Winans became an avid fan. The snapshot of the times he spent hanging out with Bukowski are memorable, including a jaunt into one of the famous San Francisco watering holes, Gino and Carlos, a venerable poet’s haunt. He recounts taking Bukowski to the Caffe Trieste in North Beach. The L A. bard would not enter. He just commented that the habitués were sitting there waiting for something to happen. “Hank, “as Bukowski was known to his friends, comes through with full flavor. One finishes the essay and wishes for more. Perhaps Winans will find the time to expand this interesting portrait of the raucous poet.
Jack Micheline comes through as the quintessential literary barbarian. Some biographical information quickly gives way to anecdote. Jack is plunked onstage by Winans and we watch him in court and jail, in one bar after another amid quotes from the man himself. Winans has a good memory and may have scribbled some of Jacks words down in a notebook. Describing the old days to A D. Micheline said, “Poetry was everywhere. Every day Kaufman and I read a poem. It is not part of history, but I was arrested for pissing on a police car the same night Kaufman was arrested outside the Co-Existence Bagel Shop.” It was the fervor of Micheline’s attack on our safe and sound society that Winans admires, and it comes through remarkably well. It is another one of those useful handbooks of poetic sensibility, with the added bonus of having insights into the life of Alvah Bessie.

*** The signed copy of the book can be purchased from the author (reserve yours by writing ( at a discounted price of $14.29 that includes free shipping. An unsigned copy of the book is also available at Amazon at the same price plus whatever shipping they charge.

Will you still love me? by Sissy Buckles

Posted in Sissy Buckles with tags on July 27, 2015 by Scot

Is there a line
that must never
be crossed perhaps
some night if you had
to work late
or be out of town
on important business
and I really do appreciate
how very much
you love your job
and as a general rule
‘keep the ends out
for the tie that binds’
but if I were
to get hankering
for some eight-ball and
walk down the street
with my vintage
linen wrapped cue
in the brass-hinged case
and hang out at some
fantastic new workingman’s
saloon I’ve yet to discover
you know how I need
to connect with my old
blue collar vibe.
And what if I happened
to drink that one glass
of wine too many
attacking you
in utterly abandoned lust
(as I do all day
in my mind anyway)
when we finally
hit the sack my mouth
a sangria bruise
crushed to yours
would you give me aspirin
and fix mineral water
with baking soda
in the morning
for my upset tummy?
Or if I should get gloriously
lost for hours in
poetry and music
and revolution
at the downtown public library
maybe bust out
my dusty old crony the
Oxford Anthology of
English Literature Volume I
for a tonic of Chaucer
playing defiant hooky
from work forgetting
the shopping list
or cuss up a storm
riding in redneck pick-up trucks
raise a little hell with
my denim clad girl crew
at the rodeo sporting a
Sex Pistols tee and saddle shoes
and Lord help the man
who tries to take
my gun away
sweetest little Smith & Wesson
686 plus .357 seven-shot
snub revolver
helluva kick but fits slick
and perfect
in my petite hand
bought at the
Del Mar Trade Show
after bozo #3 threatened to
burn all the hair off my head
and break my face
on a curb, I learned early
it’s a brutal world
six separate assaults
on women alone
in my city
just last month
make no mistake
about it California is
still the Wild West
shoot they’re even talking
secession up north
Jefferson Statehood Project
so it’s staying, too
put that in your hat
and smoke it
hopefully with me
and really, drilling
down to the heart
of the matter
sometimes it sucks
to be one of the last
honest women in America
(besides that crazy bitch
in San Antonio)
and say honey, por favor
while you’re at it
will you pass
a lousy beat poet
the lime?

Meeting Dad Again by Donal Mahoney

Posted in Donal Mahoney with tags on July 27, 2015 by Scot


My father emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the early 1920s. He had been released from Spike Island by the English who “occupied” Ireland at that time. Spike Island was the “Guantanamo” of that era, located just off the coast of Ireland. It was there the English warehoused prisoners of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

My father had been imprisoned by the English at age 16 for running guns through the marshes of County Kerry to aid the rebels fighting to free Ireland from the rule of the English. Young Irish lads were recruited for duties like this because they would be less apt to be captured by the English–or so the IRA thought. My father was not coerced into doing this. He volunteered for the duty and would have done it again if the English had not insisted that he and other prisoners leave Ireland as a condition of their release.

On arrival in America, he found work as a grave digger in Brooklyn, NY. Later he boxed professionally and sang in night clubs that catered to Irish immigrants. After he got married, he moved with my mother to Chicago where he was hired by the Commonwealth Edison Company. There he spent almost four decades as a lineman, often working as a “troubleshooter” who was called out in the middle of the night whenever a storm knocked out the power. He liked this work and was very good at it or so I was told by his peers when I visited him in the hospital. They had gathered in the hall outside his room after he had survived an electrical accident that occurred high on a pole in an alley. He survived 12,000 volts, an incident that got his name in the Chicago Tribune.

In January 2012, decades after my father had died, my wife discovered a photo of him on the Internet. It showed him as a prisoner on Spike Island, circa 1920. He was a farm boy, poor as the chickens he fed as a child, but the English dressed him up nicely for the photo that accompanies this story. Perhaps they didn’t want his age to show and to a degree they succeeded in that. You would think they had treated him well but they broke both his legs with rifle butts and let him sit on an earthen cell floor for a long period of time.


In the photo, my father is in the first row, third from the left. He is identified as “J. O’Mahony,” which was the family name until he became a citizen of the United States. On that occasion, the judge suggested he change his name to “Mahoney,” which was “more common” in the United States. My father agreed to the change but it was a decision he would rue for the remainder of his life. More than once he told me, “I should never have done it but I was a greenhorn, what did I know?”
My poem, “Meeting Dad Again,” was written many years later after my father and I reunited in Chicago briefly after he had been out of my life for awhile. His two years on Spike Island as an adolescent had taken a toll. He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) before that ailment had been identified and named. Despite this problem, however, he was a sober Irishman who labored hard in Chicago for decades to save money to put me through college. His goal was to make certain I would never have to “work with my hands.” He didn’t have to worry. I can operate a hammer but have no manual skills beyond that.

My poem records our reunion when my father, back in town unexpectedly, phoned me at work and, to my surprise, asked that I meet him for lunch. He suggested a cafeteria that was then a Chicago landmark. No fancy restaurants for him, even though in retirement he could afford a touch of the posh. I can’t remember for certain but I doubt that he let me pay the check. He knew that I had bills as the father of five stair-step children.

The lunch went well. Conversation was light. I did not ask him where he had been or what he had been doing and he asked only pleasant questions about me and my children. He showed no mood swings to indicate that he had once been a guest of the English, a confinement that affected him far more, I believe, than absorbing 12,000 volts. The voltage crippled his hand and gnarled his arm but the English crippled and gnarled his nervous system. On this day, however, he was in fine fettle, as he liked to say. This time he was more interested in seeing me than my report card.


Meeting Dad Again

Thirty years later, Dad came back
and we met for Ham and Yams at Toffenetti’s.
Pouring his tea, he told me he had
to restore power once
at a newspaper warehouse
and the storm broke again
and the lightning cracked his ladder.
He spent the whole day, he said,
sitting in that dark warehouse,
waiting for the lightning to stop
and for the truck to bring a new ladder.
He had a great time, he said,
sitting next to a flickering lantern
and reading for hours the Sunday comics
printed and stacked
six weeks in advance.

scene from a box by DB Cox

Posted in DB Cox with tags on May 23, 2015 by Scot

—For Mack H.

night comes down
like a gate on a chain
here is where i hide
from nameless things
a small lamp
lights the corner where i sit
there’s the sound again
a junk-sick headache
thumping & ringing
& raising hell
inside my skull

i bend forward in the chair
& lay my head on the kitchen table
waiting for the drugs to kick in
when it happens
the fog clears
& some of the bad things
i sit up
& stare at the cracked yellow paint
on the wall
i can feel the sweat
running down
from my hairline
i am sinking & rising
in slow, dark circles
my breathing is slowing down
& the nausea
is beginning to ease off
i let myself sink
like a rock
to the bottom of an abyss
where no one
can reach me

…in the mist-filled darkness
birds cry like human beings
alerting the viet cong
to our every move
the birds are like ghosts
that refuse to depart this world
above ground
threats come from every direction
any time i am moving
along a jungle trail
i can feel the holes below
tugging at the soles of my boots
the only place that i feel safe
crawling around in VC tunnels
with a .45 & a flashlight
inside, i am able
to lose the sense
of where i am
my underground sanctuary…

just to be moving
i get to my feet
walk over to the sink
& throw up
i turn on the faucet
& splash a handful of water
across my face
a sudden sense of dread
crawls along my spine
i let my hand
drop to the .45
strapped to my leg
i look toward the front door
the bolt is locked
i am safe

my headache pounds
like a runaway train
blood pulsing
through constricted veins
i take a flashlight
from the top of the refrigerator
& walk down the hallway
to the bedroom

the room is empty
except for a single throw rug
the walls are bare
no curtains or shades
on the windows
glass panes
all painted gray

i bend down
& slide the rug aside
i lift the trapdoor
& step down

the cellar is damp
& smells of mold
as i move across the floor
i use the flashlight
to scan every corner
of the concrete chamber

outside the night birds
are crying

when i get to my mattress
i kneel down
& roll over onto my back
i slide the pistol
out of the holster
& lay it on my chest
the weight is reassuring
i switch off the flashlight
& close my eyes

far away pinpoints of light
come & go
my mind cannot hold them steady
tiny doors opening & closing
vague reflections
of almost-remembered places
clean, well-lit spaces
that i can imagine
but never know

the flickering fragments
drift away
they are frail
& will not last the night

Five Poems by Amanda Oaks

Posted in Amanda Oaks with tags on May 23, 2015 by Scot

I Remember You 

I remember you,
your fingers on my back,
caterpillars crawling
across the dirty linoleum floor,
cold air whistling
through aged windows,
the rocking chair on the porch
creaking with each breath
from the sky.
I remember you,
flipping over that rock
& finding a beetle
stuck in the mud on its back,
legs running in place,
so much like a small town bride,
the hem of her dress
gathering water, darkening
her words.
I remember you,
heart made of whiskey,
that water of life
as valuable as gold.
I remember you,
the overturned trucks
in the yard, the rust staining
your cut-off jean shorts
when you would slink
between them
to get to the dirt road
where we would watch
the dust settle
as the cars passed,
twirling wheat stalks
between our fingers
while they hung out of our mouths like tightropes
for anyone but us
to fall off of,

I remember you.

As I Twist I Hold Tight

Drag her through the river
& she’ll come up dry—

she’ll beach herself
before she bows to bare

her swampland chest,
heart-soaked— bandages

dripping, a slow leak,
a roof holding years of weather,

a lamp that shocks the fingers
every time it is turned on,

the proof tucked away,
a rusty key broken-off

in the lock of a drawer
with no knob.


Messages for the Dead

They said you killed him.
Did you?

There’s a bicycle tire.
It’s sticking out of the heart
of a pond.

It waterwheels
when the wind
snakes through its spokes.

You have dirt in your eyes
& dirt in your hair.
Did you know?

There was hurt
& then a siren,
& the things the newspaper
would never say.

There was a pile of afghans
in a dark room
on top of a chair
sitting in a corner
for years
trapping dust

until we shook it all free.

There’s a tree
growing up towards the sun
in a forgotten silo.

you’ll be able to see her crown
from the road.

You Can’t Hold What I Hold 

There’s a city on my chest,
skyscrapers built of apologies,
guilt— piled in boats
in the river running
by its stadium
hosting the game
of heart vs. brain,

the crowd
had no fuckin’ idea
what is was getting into.

You told me once
that my heavy was easy,
that you spent years
building your arms sturdy for it,

I said, but I was born
to break them down,

there’s nothing easy
about street corners

with busted out streetlights,
or the lonely,
or the high cost of living
with me.

How To Tango 
Demimonde, half-world,
underbelly, rhythm
of a city
with too many men.

in the shadows,
in the streets
& the brothels,
out of thirst
for possession,

a marriage
between two bodies
speaking the language
of survival.


had her pick
from the men,

said, this
is how you tango
in a world where

when we leave you

you take


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