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The Houston Literary Review
Spring 2007 Poetry Issue II 
We are happy to present the work of Texans Christopher Woods & Jeff Crouch as well as the works of James Whitley, Eddie Kilowatt and Pete Lee.

 

 

Illustration & Poem by Christopher Woods & Jeff Crouch

 


 


Poetry of James Whitley 

 

James Whitley’s work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in several publications, including Barrelhouse, Can We Have Our Ball Back?, elimae, Gargoyle, Mississippi Review, The Oklahoma Review, Pebble Lake Review, Poetry Southeast, the strange fruit, and Texas Poetry Journal.  My first book Immersion won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award.  My second collection This Is the Red Door won the Ironweed Press Poetry Prize and will be published in 2007.  He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Piet and The Golden Web.




 

Pop

 

Every Day of Every Year

 

It’s Not Unlike the Sea

 

When a cell screams

 

no one hears it, which,

 

although it may reek of

 

deception, might be

 

an indication that we were

 

meant to be spared from

 

the full drama of the body’s

 

inevitable mutinies.

 

We are shown so few

 

mercies in our lives, it seems

 

only appropriate to acknowledge them

 

where we can.

 

Still, truth reigns supreme in

 

the dark halls of our bodies—

 

these little engines of grief,

 

these fading ledgers

 

of experience—

 

where some ritual is always

 

ending and another is

 

always beginning

 

to the muted cannon fire

 

of balloons rupturing

 

all along the cavern walls,

 

corks bursting in the

 

recesses of our sacred

 

temples.

 

James Whitley

 

Another wreckage,

 

another crippling

 

sadness, another elegy.

 

Another lost

 

something or other—

 

cent, sock, soul.

 

Another something

 

slips through a sieve

 

ruining a recipe.

 

And every hour

 

of every day,

 

another shadow

 

of another cortege,

 

another pair of

 

tightly clasped hands.

 

Another sharp word

 

slices clean through

 

another unwary heart.

 

Another wind whistles

 

through another

 

hollowed-out space.

 

And every second

 

of every minute,

 

another crushed shell,

 

another clipped wing,

 

another bird

 

plummeting abruptly.

 

Another life

 

leaves behind

 

its debris, its residue,

 

faith limps

 

away from yet

 

another devastation.

 

James Whitley

 

Several rumors about it are indeed true:

 

its seductive undulation, its brackish greens

 

and lambent blues, its penchant for depth.

 

And yet, despite what you might infer

 

from its avatars of steam and ice,

 

it is content to be what it is.

 

And I’m not talking about water here,

 

but love—the murky bottom of it,

 

the inviting waves seen by those not yet

 

immersed, how even the most buoyant can

 

drown in it, the surface then calming again,

 

healing, leaving no telltale scars behind.

 

James Whitley

 


The Goddess of the Tainted Garden

 


 

The Goddess of the Everlasting Otherness

 

 

 

Lessons learned from the war:

 

they only keep shooting

 

if you insist on moving.

 

So lie still, shut up and

 

let the enemy pass.

 

It’s possible to survive the jungle if they leave some life in you.

 

Dear departed deity:

 

maybe you were presented

 

as a lesson yourself,

 

to teach us that, despite

 

its sun showers and perky

 

daffodils, the world is

 

also the place of rotting

 

apricots and venomous

 

snakes just waiting in tall

 

grasses, of voracious fires

 

and black widow spiders

 

devouring their lovers

 

at the height of passion.

 

The world is everything

 

everyone can ever know,

 

everything we trust

 

or fear—the aberrant cell

 

stretching its first tentacle

 

into the unexplored cavern

 

of the body, the mother

 

animal abandoning her

 

dependent newborn in

 

the wild, the father beast

 

killing his offspring for

 

reasons we may never

 

fully comprehend.

 

James Whitley

 

Out of respect or duty,

 

the cast members

 

stream in like small

 

pebbles forced onward

 

by a gush of water.

 

 Though unsure of their

 

lines, they immediately

 

take to their assigned roles:

 

the bereft mother,

 

the weary-eyed father,

 

the surprise cameos made

 

by siblings and various

 

smoking buddies,

 

the empty seats where

 

the wounded sons would be.

 

They have come to say

 

their bon voyages as you

 

travel to your enviable

 

destination, as you sashay

 

through the pearled fence.

 

And they’re suspicious

 

of the smile spreading across

 

my face like a mysterious

 

syrup, but I view heaven

 

as a different promise than

 

they do—no gold brick

 

streets, no pass harp music,

 

no robes covering up all

 

of that glorious nakedness.

 

I like to think that all passed

 

souls are finally allowed

 

to experience pleasure

 

unscripted and that they’re

 

all partying on some

 

archipelago of boundless rapture—

 

an impossibly large disco ball

where the sun used to be,

 

a never-ending supply of

 

the most scrumptious

 

hors d’oeuvres falling

 

into every joyous mouth,

 

cream sherry and creamier

 

milkshakes flowing as freely

 

as prayer, the music beating

 

fiercely like the spent hearts

 

they’ve all left behind.

 

James Whitley

 

 



 
 
Poetry of Eddie Kilowatt
 
 
 Eddie Kilowatt is a sometimes wanderer who calls Milwaukee, WI home. After releasing his first collection of poetry, Manifest Density, in spring 2006 he began a project of riding a motorcycle across the U.S. with a digital voice recorder attached to a microphone in his helmet, taking pictures and providing a real-time stream of consciousness view of the country. His work has been accepted to Thunder Sandwich, remark., Word Riot, Ugly Accent, Thieves Jargon, LauraHird.com and My Favorite Bullet among other places. He is currently compiling his next collection of poetry, Carrying a Knife into the Gunfight.

 
 
 

 

glorious

 

 

 

Well put, Tony

 

The Youth in Asia

 

bartending

 

at a restaurant

 

no one seated

 

at the tables

 

no one at the bar

 

quiet music ignorable

 

I lean my elbow

 

and hip

 

against the counter

 

while I get paid

 

$8 an hour

 

bathed in the sun of large

 

southern facing windows

 

to read this book

 

 

 

 

it's guys like us

 

that sleep

 

with women

 

married to

 

guys like

 

you

 

 

 

 

sometimes I wonder

 

with all these things

 

I do

 

if I am actually

 

some pet animal

 

that keeps

 

going off

 

hiding

 

under the kitchen table

 

or in the garden

 

ensuring the ability

 

to die

 

alone

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Art work by Sina Ann Millikin

Poetry of Pete Lee

 

Pete Lee lives with his wife in Ridgecrest, California, where he works as an independent bookseller. His poetry has most recently appeared in the online journals Antithesis Common, Alba, The 13th Warrior Review, Shampoo, Bolts of Silk, and The Rose & Thorn.

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Modern Art

 

Would someone please send...

 

Elegy For My Earning Power

 

Like a book to a blind man,

 

it looks just fine upside down.

 

It looks even better sideways.

 

And right side up? Well,

 

I don't know art, but...

 

I don't know art, but...

 

And right side up? Well,

 

it looks even better sideways.

 

It looks just fine upside down, like a book to a blind man.

 

 

 

 

me a list of names and

 

contact information of any

 

or all of those people,

 

whoever they are, who are

 

actually motivated to buy

 

a new SUV or luxury car

 

by a celebrity's voice,

 

or a paraphrased pop song,

 

or an imaginary image of

 

themselves behind the wheel

 

amidst mountains or

 

ahead of slower and/or

 

smaller cars containing

 

their social inferiors,

 

or by a silicone-

 

breasted, collagen-

 

lipped college girl? or

 

at least of those who

 

confuse cigarettes with

 

penises? I know they're

 

out there somewhere,

 

because I, too, listen

 

to the radio and read

 

entertainment magazines

 

and watch TV, and I

 

just want to offer them

 

a deal on some really sexy,

 

high-octane,

 

extremely fashionable,

 

status-enhancing,

 

shiny-new

 

poems.

 

 

 

 

Looking down

 

the business

 

end of the arts,

 

I shot myself

 

in the (variable)

 

foot.

 

My aim was poor:

 

bull's-eye.