Poems by Gail Thomas

Sweet Hope

After the divorce, you decide to stay. The streets
have names like boats, Sweet Hope, Constant
Friendship, Amity. Vinyl split-levels and garages
wait on cul-de-sacs for SUVs to come home.

There are no kids playing ball. One neighbor waves
and asks about the dog. The fridge holds two jars of mustard,
a hunk of cheese, baloney, juice, and milk. You stand
at the sink to eat, watch golf on TV.

At 5 you uncork a bottle of red, listen to radio blues, check
the computer for weather and winks from Match.com.
You pick up the patient guitar that has waited to be
touched again, curse fingers that have slowed. But calluses

come back like any story of missed chances. You coax
notes that will lift the barnacled weight of a great
ship, bright fish flashing, battered hull still visible
above the dark, lapping water.


Gallop to the lip of a precipice, feel
++++++the magnet pull of tide below
stretch its fingers. Lean over,
++++++dig your toes into each crevice
of ledge. Notice how
++++++the scraggly pine slumps as if
growing in a high, wild place
++++++has sapped its best intentions.
Tell your orphan heart to stay,
++++++even though you know the rushing air
will thrill on the long
++++++flight down.


Poems by Terry S. Johnson


The tangled cord was sliced
with one successful stroke,
my first born.

The child,
now grown and gone,
is man.

I gnaw
the muscle of motherhood
with my bare teeth.

The tissue repairs itself
each time. A lizard’s tail
severed, stubborn.

Perseid Meteor Shower

Late at night a few leave
soft beds, shuffle outside
to watch shooting stars arc
across the moonless sky.
One keeps track, the number
in fifteen minutes multiplied
by four, the hourly statistic.
You’d think he were the Greek
himself, counting snakes
on the Gorgon’s head. Others
ooh and ah, the wonder of it
all. Some stare as dust drifts
mute through the solar system.

By day the meteors also flare
but are unseen and thus
nonexistent as we push carts
in the grocery, choosing between
so many kinds of mustards,
musak mangling the mind
as a saccharine voice reminds
us that Diet Cokes are two
for one, today only.

July 28: Terry S. Johnson and Gail Thomas

on Monday, July 28, 2014

at The Deja Brew Cafe & Pub, Wendell, MA

Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

Open mic starts at 7:30 p.m.

Sliding scale admission: $1 – $5

Terry S. Johnson photoTerry S. Johnson has explored careers as a newspaper advertising clerk, a library reference assistant and a professional harpsichordist before serving as public school teacher and educational workshop leader for twenty-five years. She earned her M.F.A. in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. Coalescence, published by WordTech, is her first book. You can find her website at:
Gail ThomasGail Thomas has published two books of poetry, No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (Haley’s) and Finding the Bear(Perugia).  Her work has appeared in more than 30 journals and anthologies, and she has won national prizes for poems that appear in her new book, Waving Back, which will be published by Word Tech in 2015.  She has been awarded residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Ucross, and she teaches at Smith College.

Three Poems by Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

Themes and Variations

for Eric Malone

Something keeps sneaking in
between the clarinet and the guitar
In the corner of my eye a blur, a streak,
something red. In the corner of my ear
scurries, little feet, paws, antlers rubbing
against the wall, perhaps a tail dragging
across the floor. And that
shrill wail? It’s certainly not an
accordion, not a violin.
Could it be an organ grinder
with a trained monkey?

Something keeps sneaking in
underneath the clarinet.
I think it’s hiding
in the canebrake
or just beyond. But I more than sense,
in that non-sense
sense, in the downward sweep,
the upward plunge,
the tintabulant tin tin tin
at the OK chorale
a hurricane stalking the reeds.

Something keeps sneaking in
between the radio and the clarinet.
It has bison horns
and cloven feet and
huge black eyes
and ears that waggle
in the prairie wind.
It refuses to announce itself,
just stands there, arms akimbo,
as if to say my presence
is your absence.

Something keeps sneaking in
encircling the sampler and the clarinet.
Which is the way it is these days
as the dark grows longer
than Pinocchio’s nose
and the light only stands still
for a brief moment before
giving itself up for dead.
Down by the river the horizon grows.
And I think I see a muskrat
foraging in the brown skunk cabbage.
Something keeps sneaking in
playing foosball with the clarinet.
“Cleared out of the clear.”
Or something akin. Something larger
than the “s” in snake, serpent, stupendous.
surprise, serendipity. It’s there.
Hunkered in the bunker
with an old Gene Autry 45
(record, not revolver). Yet on approach
it disappears, only to reappear above us
dancing in the cold clear light.


Magic Music

for Gerrit Lansing, word musician/magician

The Chinese gong is tuned
in accordance with the cymbals,
and in the large hushed room
rhapsodic  intervals

swell an embellished scale.
A few crane their ears,
divine a hidden madrigal,
a lucent score that soars,

whirls, dances on tiptoes,
whispers for a moment, then
descends like hailstones
chasing summer rain


Valentine’s Poem

for Patricia

Depth now
+++++++and perhaps time
+++++++++++++but surely depth

Not the harsh wind
+++++++++++++blowing the snow across the path
+++++++but the sun melting
+++++++++++++the whirling flakes in mid flight.

We collect without collecting
+++++++++++++hold precious
+++++++what some would think fool’s gold.

We utter each other’s words and thoughts,
+++++++anticipate movement,
++++++++++++++++++++uncover desire in a glance
+++++++++++++or your arm in mine.

We know that time does not make poems,
+++++++that feeling truly is first
++++++++++++++++++++and that struggle becomes a gift.

And we know at the last hour
+++++++we will hop a rumbling freight train,
++++++++++++++++++++share an orange,
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++on a San Francisco hill.

Three Poems by David Bartone


sitting warmly over a window
where six dark-eyed juncos
play in the upper branches,
probably doing something beautiful
to keep alive—too dizzy aphorism
otherwise meant to be found


Song: Pink Fray of the Spray Mum

Across western horizon to be here.
You, Nebraska-coated and uprooted to be east
with me.

Long natured satin scripture.

How you love bring me flowers
at our pennilessness.
Eileen, thank you.

Talking the spray mum, talking ripening
beyond to its end.

First farmers experimenting, dropping
pink droplets on the petals, hands
coated in boron lush soil, men

with strong hats/straw hands/
strong hats. Aches and aches
of acres.


Quixote in the Bedroom

The sixteenth century collapsed into one bronze Don Quixote around the corner.

He so immersed himself in those romances that he spent whole days and nights over his books.

Permit me be bold in these ways. Permit me some knight-errantry. Permit me harvest eyes like two folding moons.

I want to make classic beauty, to elope into it.

Elope from the sixteenth century French, abscond, run away. But before that from the Norman Anglican, to leap.

I want to elope from where there is no tradition into a tradition and then out again, the sweaty grip of tradition.

There is no wandering in search of chivalrous adventures for me.

There is the dim lit home collapsing all space between two people like two folding moons sitting in opposite chairs like two opposite rooms.

Is all.

I have never been very good at describing the ways my lover touches me.

There seems no act that more exaggerates the insufficiencies of both lyricism and realism.

I have tried to narrate her motion her eyes her face, but searching, I find alone snapshots that are alone and by the way and in third person.

The gross move that occurs in literature, the desperate default of third person.

I finally said it.

She brings one knee up to her chest. A little.

I bill and coo.


June 30: David Bartone and Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

on Monday, June 30, 2014

at The Deja Brew Cafe & Pub, Wendell, MA

Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

Open mic starts at 7:30 p.m.

Sliding scale admission: $1 – $5

Read poems by David Bartone and Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno on the ASC blog.

David BartoneDavid Bartone 
is the author of Practice on Mountains, selected for the 2013 Sawtooth Poetry Prize at Ahsahta Press. He is also the author of Spring Logic, a chapbook with H_NGM_N. His poems and translations have appeared at Colorado Review,Denver QuarterlyThe Laurel ReviewMountain Gazette,HandsomeVolt, and others. He is faculty at University Without Walls at UMass Amherst. He lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts. 
chissawyerlaucannoChristopher Sawyer-Lauçanno is the author of more than a half-dozen books including biographies of Paul Bowles and E.E. Cummings, and a group portrait of American writers in Paris 1944-1960, The Continual Pilgrimage. He is also well-known as a translator and poet. His new book of poems,Mussoorie-Montague Miscellany, is a meditation on time, place, and space. Until his retirement in 2006, he taught writing at MIT for nearly a quarter-century. He lives in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, where he edits The Montague Reporter.

April 28: Howard Faerstein and Mark Hart

on Monday, April 28, 2014

at The Deja Brew Cafe & Pub, Wendell, MA

Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

Open mic starts at 7:30 p.m.

Sliding scale admission: $1 – $5

HowardFaersteinHoward Faerstein’s full-length book of poetry, Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn, a selection of the Silver Concho Poetry Series, was published in 2013 by Press 53. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals; publications include Great River ReviewNimrod (finalist in the Pablo Neruda Poetry Contest), CutThroat (featured as Discovery Poet), The Comstock ReviewOff the CoastMudfish, and on-line in Gris-GrisThe PedestalConnotation Press, and The November 3rd Club. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts, and teaches American Literature at Westfield State University.
mark hartMark Hart’s first collection, Boy Singing to Cattle, won the 2011 Pearl Poetry Prize and is a finalist for the 2013 Massachusetts Book Award. His poetry has appeared in Atlanta ReviewChautauquaRATTLEThe Evansville ReviewTar River Poetry, and The Spoon River Poetry Review. Raised on a wheat farm in the Palouse region of eastern Washington State, he now lives in an apple orchard in western Massachusetts. He works as a psychotherapist, a Buddhist teacher, and a religious advisor at Amherst College.