a portal to the arts from southeast Texas and beyond

Home     Poetry     Photography     Short Stories     Visual Art     Video & Music     Letters to the Editor     Book Shelf     2008 Publication Calendar     Site Map      
The Houston Literary Review
August 2007 Poetry I Section
In this poetry issue, readers will glimpse the work of returning poets as well as new writers from around the globe.
We are extremely proud to start this issue with the work of Kristine Ong Muslim of the Philippines, Jason W. Selby of Cedar falls, Iowa, Kenneth Pobo of Pennsylvania, and Edward Wells II who now resides in Mexico.

The poetry of Kristine Ong Muslim
The Decline

During the summer of redemption,
the children in my town chose names

for their favorite colors, shattered
the worlds that existed only in their

minds. They spent the season
watching television, mouthing

the lines of commercials, laughing
canned laughter out of the tin.

By winter, all was frozen down
to the splintered layer, where earth

could no longer be overturned
by dirty hands. Inside the houses,

the secret rooms twitched
in their cracks.

Evolution of Small Creatures

"For still they raced...
And were like two revolving suns;
A brightness poured from head to head...."

- from "The Brothers" by Edwin Muir (1887-1959)

It tests one mound after another,
looking for the right place,
the right way to die.

Twin elegies of spring-winter
cast doldrums, coefficients of beauty
until the hunger has been driven off
by camouflage. Now, its skin is the
essence of unlight, a precursor
to a mating call:

so pitiful it sings,
and the absence of echoes
is comforting.

 The poetry of Jason W. Selby

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

I am an advocate of altered states, remembrances between the deltas rolling out the hour of chance meetings on brick streets, coal smoke in the sky, soot embracing black hills, the horizon closing

like a wolf clenching its jaw, raising one side as the dog sits, resting against the dusty shacks with the dark sheets of clouds growing darker, dim lights glowing in town, nuances of shadows

fading, dark against the alleyways and lit signs inviting dog to window with the disposal of scraps, dark against the wall, half-illuminated by lamps.

There is no snow nor rain, only the coal-smoke clouds, the far-off light of a solitary house like a glowering, specious eye emerging from the mist in indeterminate distance,


staring at the town in the gloaming, the hour between dog and wolf.


Balance is achieved by balance.

Objects in motion tend to stay and yet there’s stillness.

The marble balustrade of statues bulge with veins, grayed with shadows while feigning frowns.

Heartbeats formed by chisel, furrowed brows frozen in thought. The dancer’s tendency to dream.

Somehow things come to rest. The nest of nebula couldn't contain the light that covers branches, straining to expel worlds in the silk of strands.

The light could not be contained.

The stars could not stand still, or sit or pause. Worlds were drawn to them—frozen in the dream of a million dawns the dancer holds in his palm.

When the Woman Whispers

Stars occupy heaven, running their courses, delineated through leaves, moving through branches in the milky path of millions.
One very close star arrives by morning,
orange and red and rising amongst irises
as beautiful as lips, glistening with dew.

The sandpiper dips into a pool, emerging,
strutting on long legs across the side,
nodding its head, dancing through reeds
with wings spread, catching the sunlight
in quick darts—stopping, staring down.

The woman speaks in whispers, wearing
sandals, the stars above—her candlelight
drifting gracefully, held between fingertips,
the massive suns becoming tiny points
condensed in her grasp, obliged to halt
for that moment in her hands, before she
releases them, wobbling like sandpipers

rising dizzily into the darkness of the night
out of their pool of light, out of the firmament the stars strutting on long legs across the side before melting in the sun when she whispers.

The poetry of Edward Wells II


Weep; the week is long.
Weak the whole time; long.
Fascination faded with the first hand
the first time round.
-and we have sat here for hours
waiting for her to come.
We never thought of motion
to beckon the beacon;
to weep or sleep

If crumbling:
Have we lost, we thought.
She smiled.
-and the while of time seemed worth its
words: the cost.


Where were the fresh and dewy
spring time petals?
When will the wilted flower shine?
The bloom is soon,
but mourning for you is nothing but,
memories of pain: like trophies.
To teach the well-taught better-
versed is but a dream.
To read those words.
To see that time.
Hold these to thy bosom and with
thine lips know me.


The poetry of Kenneth Pobo



That’s it, the end, no more
love poems. I savor Reese’s
Peanutbutter Cups, but why swim
in melted goo? Love

poems are to poetry what farting
Aunt Agnes was to Thanksgiving dinner.
Yet exceptions make rules prettier. So,
Titan, dear gorgeous hairy

moon of Saturn, I love you. I’ve said it. Now
you can return to your methane
and ammonia dreams. And I can go to bed
with my big-shouldered television set.


Look, you gray sky, ashen
as my sixth-grade teacher’s face
who said, “You’ll all grow up
to be gum-popping teenagers.”

He seemed stricken. We did.
I’d chew him too if I knew
it would kill him. Sky,
it’s not your fault, but why

tease up nasty memories? Take
your gray self and scoot along.
Drop a blue handkerchief
as you go

illustration by Diana Magallon