Lines on a Used Book

The man who sold this book to me
said, "The book, it comes as is."
Standing before the college library
it became my possession, leaving his.

Whoever owned this book before me
broke its spine and wore it worse
as they read this poem repeatedly,
leaving pencil lines beneath the verse.

But whoever owned it prior to me
marked every foolish passage and
made notes I don't want friends to see
and think them written in my hand;

or that they note importance, in this poem, to me,
because the chosen parts are worn and trite,
including parts I don't want friends to see
that I've re-underlined, because they're right.

by Gordon White

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Gordon White lives in New York and is a connoisseur of good beer, terrible haircuts, and tasteful plaids. Although his poetry has appeared around the Web, the last time he read an actual printed journal was at his mother's house over the holidays. She also doesn't know how to use her iPhone and she still gets her internet from AOL. She hasn't seen The Wire, either. Get a clue, Mom! Anyway, to visit him in a world without limits (well, character limits), check out www.grizzlyspectacles.com.


Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Columbus

Five days have past; five sunrises, with them
Five long nights! And again, in stride, I hear
The cute rustling of plastic garbage bags,
The turning of aluminum cans, moved
Through the dirty waters of the river,
Brought still by the clash of a rubber tire.
Once again do I behold the mountains
Of a thousand cigarettes, placed gently
Against the banks, where any bird may find
His dinner in the ash, or tobacco,
He finds lined in the leftover filters.
   These beauteous forms have not been to me—
Forgotten are the pale images of
Homeless men, shouting with their signs for food,
But mostly, they are hungry for money,
Which they might spend to redecorate parks
With broken bottles and their paper bags—
For it has been too long since I have seen
The murky waters of that sweet river.
   How oft! How oft, in dreams have I returned
To you, O humble Olentangy, you
Have killed a hundred depressions. Tranquil
Has my heart become when I turn to thee.
   And now I see the picture of the mind,
Which, long gone, I thought to be extinguished.
Now here I stroll, my soul filled with the thoughts
Of freshly cut grass and blooming flowers,
Of children running barefoot in their yards,
And you, my darling city, allow me
To forget these horrid things, and remind
Me of a better world: where pavement and
Concrete are more plentiful than the air
I breathe, the ants on the ground, or the dreams
A million terminally ill children
Pray to God before drifting to death's sleep.
   Still I am a lover of the meadows
And the woods, but instead of trees and ferns
I walk in glee through skyscrapers and plants
Made of molding newspapers and dead mice.
I run among the cars—a herd of deer—
Who breathe the fragrant black smoke while they sprint;
A blackness that covers all the city,
Which hides me from the antagonistic
Sun, that murderous ball of Apollo's
Hate, light that darkens ev'ry person's skin.
Give me clouds and sweet drops of acid rain!
Hide the stars and moon for eternity;
I only want to see the synthetic
Glow of street lamps and reds of traffic lights.
   If I should be where no more could I hear
The gentle whisper of your gurgling oil,
Nor could I see the fallen autumn leaves
Covered in candy wrappers just as brown,
Wilt thou forget me, too, Olentangy?
Forget the numerous days spent list'ning
To the homeless puking on the creek side,
Or seeing the graffiti as I walk
Under the bridges passing over thee?
May I never see the day that I could
Let the memories flee my aging mind!
This place, so dear to my heart and my soul,
Shall be with me ever more, for myself,
But most importantly, 'tis for thy sake!

by Matthew Thompson

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Matthew Thompson recently graduated from Otterbein University, where he got a degree in English. Suggestions on how to productively use such a degree should be sent to mdthompson0103@gmail.com.


A Few Things I Ate

There are a few things I'm sorry I ate: a piece of fried chicken
in an all night diner that bled when I cut into it,
a soup in an elegant French restaurant where I encountered
a mysterious ring of plastic. Also: a bowl of spaghetti served
with so many long strands of hair I wondered who,
in the kitchen, had gone bald. I'm sorry I ate the fast food
cookies that tasted like paper the same way I am sorry
I let certain men kiss me or hold my hand. I'm especially sorry
I ate a certain hot dog on a train that had been twirling for days
on a lukewarm display. Forgive me for all that cafeteria food
in college: packaged, bland, frozen so long it could not
remember flavor. And, hungry in my dorm, I ate bags
of stale lies from vending machines, once even a pair
of expired Twinkies filled with a terrible chemical cream
I am still digesting. After my daughter was born I bought
so much organic baby food my husband found the jars
everywhere: little glass wishes. One winter I ate exotic fruits
from upscale stores so expensive I might have flown instead
to a distant tropical island. Then, careless, I ate
from containers only my microwave understood. I know
what food is supposed to be but often isn't; I know
who I might have been if I ate whatever I should have eaten.
Remember the time we ate Ethiopian food and spent
a week dreaming so vividly our real life grew pale?
Or the day we ate so much spice in our Thai food
that our mouths were softer? I'm not sorry I ate
all those ice cream sandwiches from my grandmother's
freezer and drank those Pepsis with her on the way
to Kmart to buy more pink, plastic toys. She liked
the way sugar made me lively and, anyway,
she was suggesting the possibility of pleasure.
She made a vegetable soup that simmered all day
on the stove: growing deeper, more convincing,
and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing that floated
on my tongue like love. Now I am middle aged I am fat
and eating salads or, before bed, talking myself
into rice cakes that taste like despair. My father
is diabetic and must have everything whole wheat
and lean and my sister can't have any salt. I'm sorry
I ate all that cereal when we first got married,
by myself in the kitchen, the milk pale and worried.
Remember how I covered my fruit with cheese
and mayonnaise? I'm not sorry, whatever
you might say. Then there were the lunches
we ate on the beach, watching the seals
sun themselves: thick chicken sandwiches wrapped
in a foil so silver they must have been valuable.

by Faith Shearin

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Faith Shearin is the author of three books of poetry: The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), The Empty House (Word Press), and Moving the Piano (SFA University Press). Recent work has appeared in Poetry East and The Southern Review and has been read aloud by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac. She is the recipient of awards from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work also appears in The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poets and Good Poems, American Places. She lives with her husband, her daughter, and a small, opinionated dachshund, in a cabin on top of a mountain in West Virginia.


Flour and Rice (A Celiac's Hell)

Some say the meal will start with flour,
Some say with rice.
From what I've tasted midst devour
I hold with those whose favor flour,
For if to me they fed it twice,
I think I know enough of grain
To say that for digestion rice
Is also pain
And won't suffice.

by Daniel Schall

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Daniel Schall is a poet and teacher from Philadelphia, the City of Loverly Broth. He enjoys reading poems from drunk people and researching Bigfoot footage online. He is obsessed with pizza flavored Goldfish crackers, semiotics, breaking the rule of three, and promoting Obsession Literary Magazine (www.obsessionlitmag.com). He has a short attention span and...hang on, I have to take this.


Sonnet to the Dollar Store

Where vagabond dollars find their place,
at last, unbroken, their value decreed,
safe from voodoo economics of greed,
the gold standard greenbacks earns their grace.
These dollars empower modest buyers
of stock staples: tools, canned food, white soap,
plastic spoons, pins and pens, glue, twine and rope,
and grab bags, like fruit on trees, inspires.
This humble boutique, its shelves are proud,
its mission honest, in service to plain folks,
no scam, no hoax, no deceit to provoke
the ire of trusting customers unbowed.
One item, one dollar, an oath abides
Here, a dollar is what a dollar buys.

by Gregg Sapp

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The biggest joke in Gregg Sapp's literary career is that he wrote 60 academic articles and four learnéd monographs, not a word of which (he is convinced) was ever read by anybody. As a 50th birthday present to himself, he wrote a novel: Dollarapalooza, published in 2011 by Switchgrass Books and soon to be found in bins at better dollar stores. Since then, he's published in Zodiac Review, Midwestern Gothic, and Marathon Review. Whether anybody reads this stuff remains an open question.