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The Houston Literary Review
Spring 2007 Poetry Issue III 
 Cactus Blossom by Sally Charette


 On this page we are proud to present Carol Carpenter, Corey Mesler and Don Bloch.
Poetry of Carol Carpenter

 Carol Carpenter’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Edifice Wrecked, Stickman Review, Margie, Yankee, America, The Pedestal Magazine, Barnwood, Indiana Review, Quarterly West, Carolina Quarterly, Byline, and various anthologies.  I received the Richard Eberhart Prize for Poetry and other awards.  Formerly a college writing instructor, journalist and trainer/consultant, she now writes full time. 

  Woman Transformed

Woman transforms herself,
chops off her hair,
pinches strands into spikes.

She blends in crowds
cleavage mounded,
rounded and held
up with Madonna's bustier
featured in late night
shows she can't escape.

Without her tiara, her bullet-
deflecting bracelets, she lost her
jangle. She is one of us
who battles on technicolor pages.

Now she paces Main Street, enters Walgreens,
circular in hand, her camouflage.
On her own, she goes
straight to comics, aisle 2
at the end of the rack.
She thumbs pages,
where Superman pales in fluorescent light
and Spiderman spins his web.
She will break gossamer threads
free herself.

At sixty, we both court
peace, a quiet space
where white votive candles
scented with orange
burn black night
into day.

We will rise refreshed
lick dew from ferns
make our way across Stony Creek.


 You come back to what you leave behind.
Like me.
Like litter on the roadside: Kentucky
Fried Chicken cartons. Bones spill
from red cardboard, bleach white in summer sun
or cover themselves with bluegrass

and grow toward you. You
roll down windows, breathe in
skeletons rising up, new life
alongside Interstate 52. You and me

dust to dust. The concrete median
crumbles moments into hours. Plaster
particles and sharp pieces of stone
puncture clouds above the moon roof
of your '99 Windstar. Metallic seeds

float there. Settle into cumulous
formations flat on the bottom.
Fuse with fish bones. Fragile
as your flight you chart with Magic
Markers on the map from AAA.


 You accelerate
safe limits, past lavender
twilight on your right. You look
left. Vacancy signs flash red ahead.

Iridescent neon tubes twist words
we said and unsaid. Our silence
cracks an open space between

us, unconnected cartilage. Bones
bring you back.

You press your breastbone against mine and both soak
in the salty brine of birth,
our fused vision of bones.

Past Life

No jersey cows meandered
in pastures or huddled under trees.
No chickens scratched dirt,
dried, cracked in this drought year.
No wheat, no corn, no family
garden rustled in hot air. Only
black-eyed Susans tilted gold petals,

waved me home, a place I fled
ten years ago. This tiny farm town
sizzled brown in heat, a slow death,
undignified. Our barn rotted, tumbled
to ground before I left, boards
black as coal dust Father wore
from the mines where he earned money
for seed, for livestock, for growing
what did not flourish underground,

a place he vowed I would never go.
My childhood house collapsed
inward, down into the root cellar.
Here I discovered one jar, uncovered
Mother's strawberry preserves.
The seal broke, red juice leaked, sticky
as sweat on my back, as what I would do

with this land now mine. Father willed his farm
to life before my life began. From birth,
my cries rose like a geyser, a column of steam
too hot to touch as I burned with fever.
Fever brought me back. I paced
these twenty acres dry-eyed. Burrs grabbed
my jeans as if to hold me here. Here
I searched for Father on fallow ground.

I found the cave he sealed with field
stones. Stronger now, I moved boulders
from the hole. One big black mouth
full of teeth moaned my name. I was a child
again. I craved this forbidden place,
what it might conceal in dark space. I probed
dirt sides for strength, for a foothold. I dangled
with a rope tied around my waist, the other
end twisted twice around the apple tree.

I dropped one stone. No splash, just thud. Not
far down. Hand-over-hand I let out rope,
my hands encased in Father's leather work gloves,
protected from rope burn. My booted feet kicked
dirt, descended, landed on rounded rock. Darker
than death. No flashlight could pierce a passage
in this tunnel where I breathed foreign smells.
Belly against ground, I wiggled through the right
tunnel where a spider wove me in its web,
released me to mud floors. Wet drips plopped
on my forehead, wiggled past my nose,
evaporated. Black, black night fell here

during day. A bat hung from the ceiling,
wings folded or fossilized or pulled
from a nightmare. Walls muffled outside sound
but I heard buzz, a bee or maybe machinery. I swore
sound echoed somewhere. Perhaps bones rattled.
Such tunnels might slope to middle earth. I might
find my father lurking here, waiting for my answer.



Poetry of Don Bloch


Don Bloch is an American living abroad – most recently residing in Amsterdam. He has published  novels. His poetry appears in Orbis/Cadenza/Jersey Works/Acumen/Werssl.






On the brink of death


It takes no little vanity


To care properly


For your own body.


To polish, peel, trim and scour


Hour after hour,


To confront the features


Of a stranger in the mirror


And on the spot, with artful


brush and tweezers, to reincarnate


a robust ghost who appears


far more accessible,


and smiles back at you


when you least expect him to.





Launched by despair,


I went rappelling


down the sheer


rock face of memory


eager to discover


some faint vein


of continuity.


It was hardly what


you’d call a great success.


Hand- or foot-holds


were few and far between.


Time and again


twirling in mid-air


I swung against the cliff


gashing myself badly,


nose, knees and chin,


until, sight blurred with blood,


hand over hand,


I managed, barely,


hand over hand


to hoist myself


back up top again.





 The Poetry of Corey Messler


In the Salinger Building
There are Nine Stories

In the Salinger building
there are nine stories.
Anyone using the street
entrance knows that the
doorman is a gorilla.
There’s a place to leave
packages, a long chute.
And up on top, in the sole
room on the ninth floor,
sits a raven, never answering.
Natives show out-of-towners
the Salinger building
and there’s always the same
question. What’s going
on on the other floors?
Friends, whoever knows isn’t
saying. Consider instead
the lobby, replete with pillows,
puzzles and bright crystal mirrors.
It is here that anyone can
find themselves. It is here,
really, that the Salinger
building is the Salinger building.



Say it. The poem lies doggo.
The lies are black, marks
in sand. The dog makes
new sounds, wanting only to
be let out. Say it. The last
word will be had by Poem.
Say it. The last god is Word.

Corey Mesler has published prose and/or poetry in Turnrow, Adirondack Review, American Poetry Journal, Paumanok Review, Yankee Pot Roast, Monday Night, Elimae, H_NGM_N, The American Drivel Review, Poet Lore, Forklift OH, Euphony, Rattle, Dicey Brown, Cordite, Cellar Door, others.