When the Pendulum Swings

The brief hesitation at the top of the swing

where some things happen

and the swing back

where nothing happens

and the arc between where

some things happen and some things


until the pendulum slowly stops

and the poverty we live through

and the eternity we end in

appears to all of us whether we

want it or don’t

don’t we?


Jack McGuane


A house in a tornado of sound

A spaceship heft with music


Imagine you were hammering

on that house for the first time, hammering

in the basement, on the roof, Thor finding roof

with your hammer, all anti-gravity, finding where

the shingles go, floating loose with your steering wheel ear


Could you imagine if you were

the architect and the carpenter and got

to hold that fucking hammer


What if you were holding

that fucking hammer on your spaceship,

Miles above Earth, banging out the orbit,

inventing the most important work

in the Universe



limited potential

just a bit

over my head

I couldn’t reach

that far

but I kept trying


by now

my arms

should be longer

instead I have some

kind of annoying arthritis


if I only knew then

what I don’t know now


maybe I could have just

been ok

rather than

stretching myself

further than I can go


Kimberley Nelson 

the last thanksgiving

my parents were alive

my mother disoriented

my father bewildered

by my mother


and i brought

the food from

Boston Market


i promised

one more year

no strokes

no heart attacks

and i will make the turkey


today i make turkey

for myself

and my pets


i miss my parents

and 2007


when anything was still possible



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hopeful monday

scrubbing of the brain
scraping off of last week’s crap
fresh head for new week


Christmas Eve Eve

they’re out of egg nog
no holiday drinks tonight
the hipsters are sad


one scary night

off year election
they want their government back
tea bags in the sink


funeral for a young man

so many of those little black
dresses came to your funeral
i don’t think they’d known death
in this way before
i thought about
how many of those cocktail dresses
you must have pillaged
and i couldn’t remember
if it was three
or only two women
whom you’d gotten pregnant
within a few months —
of all the young men
driving their jeeps
through the nineties
you were the most
rocking back and kicking
both feet against the constraints
of this world —
this priest has no conviction
in the dry gravel of his voice
and i have trouble
that you’re folded in the great mother’s wings
until your father tells us
that he asked for a sign
and on the bridge
he found the laminated picture
of the saint who watches over departed souls —
i can’t imagine
you in heaven
where all the spirits
are quiet and well-behaved
i don’t know
where someone who is two hundred
percent alive
when they leave this place;
maybe you’re on your way back
right now
slipping inside the body forming
of a wild colt
getting ready to kick back up
onto your feet again

wendy shaffer

my experience as a teacher

when i was in graduate school, i taught
the short story. once, while my best student
and i were drinking at howard’s, a bar
downtown, i told him that ‘who’s afraid
of virginia woolf’ was originally
written about homosexuals.
after that, he raised his hand at the
beginning of each class, entertaining
us with some bogus homosexual
fact. when he told us that bartleby
was a homosexual, i said,
“class, the reason john is giving us
all these homosexual facts
is because I am a homosexual.”
that shut him up. after that class, all
the students that had sat up front with their hands
in the air, participating the fuck
out of every story, moved to the back
and never spoke again. and all the silent
malcontents who’d sat in the back doodling
moved to the front and began to talk.
that’s when i decided that i was better
at being a waitress than a teacher.

wendy shaffer