* scroll down for poems by Elaine Briney and Benjamin Lowenkron


                                                                                                                                        Chris Shipman

Cats and Dogs

Before she decided to move in
her Siberian Husky moved through
my apartment with cautious paws
backing slowly out of every room
my cat was in.

Before she decided to move in
she informed me of the dog’s shedding
and his pink tongue matted with fur
hung dumbly out of his mouth
as proof.

Before she decided to move in
we watched Ghostbusters on my couch
because I wanted to show her
what she’d never seen.
Her dog leapt on our laps
as if he’d been watching too
and didn’t get that it was meant
to be funny.

My cat, a black streak along baseboards,
laughed with us.

Since she’s moved in
the dog fusses back
by lightly biting the cat’s neck
when he thinks no one is looking.

Since she’s moved in
we watch movies neither of us have seen.

Since she’s moved in we fight
about not fighting but not about
fighting yet.

I wonder if she can tell
that while she is asleep
or opening the fridge
or tuning her guitar
I back slowly out of every room. 

Snoring through Denial

How many times do I have to tell you
it is not my snoring, but what I dream
that is keeping you up all night long:
hooves of one thousand snorting horses.

So please don’t poke me in the side
and whisper roll over when they stomp.

They disturb the ground burning beneath us
enough to fill all cold mornings with fog,
to shroud the house where our love lives
with the sound of our long journey there.

So plant a thousand kisses on my eyelids
when they flinch; try to dream horseback.

If you must jump from the flowing mane
of our love, wake shivering and sick of me,
even my Irish blood will forget your name,
but tread lightly, for you tread on my dreams.

I turn and you’ve been gone three weeks.
I’ve woke to the sound of my own snoring.

It still whips and lashes in my ears
like the passing gallop of an apocalypse
I have denied myself to hear: an echo
of a tiny voice in an empty apartment.

Eric at the Pool

Summer has him running nowhere. Sun says go
to the pool and back. His six pack of Coors
tall-boys bobs in the water. He hasn’t what
he’s after though wants nothing. The pool cleaner’s
a snaking robot, Eric says. It surfaces and spits
as he goes for more beer. He gets pit stains
along the way. He sees others smother like empty
sidewalks. Such heat rises ghosts. Eric loves
what hate means when streets smoke. He jumps
into the pool. He cannonballs. He drools chlorine.
He’s a snot-nose brat on a noodle raft. He pokes
the sun in the eye. He shrivels as old hands,
waiting to be covered up by the light in the dirt.
How long and white it is like snow in Eric’s head.

Eric’s Roaches

Eric’s been stomping on bugs
in the bathroom again. Every time
the door opens the light from dark

his whole body comes crashing down.

The dull bulb blinks unsure of itself
and this is when I can tell his insides
frown as if they were composed

of roaches— thousands of bugs black
and black and black as silent galaxies

stacked one onto the other. The falling
is now such loud noise. And I can tell
he’s not prepared to be judged by the gods.

One crawls under the rug and disappears.
His head tilts up. Light flickers. Fuck!

                                                                                                                                      Elaine Briney

Ode to Irresponsibility

He worries at the back of the darkest booth,                                                                                                                                        grading papers, making apologies                                                                                                                                                         for what he’s spilled on each one.                                                                                                                                                       An inky mess tries to explain:
Pineapple. Good. Rephrase? Marinara.

He contains something already soaked                                                                                                                                              through three pages in a red circle                                                                                                                                                      and draws a guilty arrow:
I don’t even know what this is.

Homo Ferens

I mark the time by what’s been broken.
Yesterday: Dishes. Tonight: Windows.
But I have faith – you’ll learn
how to unclaw your hands and take
the book without tearing the pages.

Even if you won’t say father or home,
even if you rip every sheet into pieces
and scrabble at the door after I lock you in
you must understand. I’m all you have.

I won’t watch the noise pour
from your throat night after night.
The angriest thing I’ve ever heard.
The most hollow. But my child,
you will be gentle.


                                                                                                                                                                    Benjamin Lowenkron

Tomi mi Mano


Sunrise                                    Bone River

                                                                                    a hatchet and a covenant


                                                            empty pit

                                                                                    ashes on the bank

                                    birds take flight

                                                                        Preacher sharpens his blade

                                                                                                sparks against whetstone

                                                                                                a requiem horizon

naked he wades

                                    bony waves                                         the rattle of dried bamboo


he slices his wrist                    his hand drops

                                                                                    the tide whispers

                        come                come               come


night    slinks to the deep

                        emaciated bear           

                                                            mange and nightmare

                                                            down the shore from a cypress grove

through the parish’s back roads

                                    Death’s black Mustang swerves over the yellow line                                                                         squealing tires

                                                                          break lights

                                                                                                the pines fill with blood             

                                                            the rising sun

                        swallows the bear

                                                he lodges in its throat

                                                it hacks up a dream 

                                                                                    a dawn with no sun

                                                            to drown the stars

                                    like rushing water 


Preacher lifts

               the dream                             bloodly wrist

                                                dead hand       cigar box       

                                                                                     bottom of the pit


                                                veil of fog off the shore

Preacher’s vows fill the trees


                                                the lastshooting star                       

                                                                                    kisses the river


sunbeam          a skeletal hand

                                                 ‘round Preacher’s neck                                                                                    dawn's fingers

                                                 ‘round the Parish’s throat


                                                             the sky  sounds the alarm   

                        first light 

                               a hole in the earth

                                                el entierro


                                    preacher bows to the river 

                                                                                    fills his mouth

                        he sinks to his knees             

                                                          the wind

                                                                         like dried rice against his shoulders


                                                morning bells peal


                                                            O river      my river

                                                                              I sing         your song

                                                                                                your waves     

                                                                                                        my chest


                                                                                                   heave and heave

                                                                                                                   and never let go.

Windy City


The Green Mill spins like roulette

                                                        crimson trumpet

                                                                                  charcoal drums 


I’ve come all the way from New Orleans for Al Capone’s gin

                                                                        simple order:

                                                                                    7 fingers flashed twice

                                                                                    flirt with the tattooed waitress

                                                her laugh steeped in Seagram’s

                        cold floor      our heartbeats loose pills                 rolling across the tile

                                                                                                this night an empty bottle

                                                who is the lioness

                                                            chasing hippos across the fields of Walgreen’s

an echoing roar

one day

all these drugs and all these lovers will drown in Lake Michigan

            and we will be free

                                                to sing about the butter dish at The Drake

                                                and the price of a ticket to the Bulls game


thus elevated       the grave

                            rumbles overhead

                            while we circle the Rosebud in the rain

                                                                           looking for a parking spot