Author Archive

The Osiris Poems by Simon Perchik

boxofchalk press is proud to announce our premier publication: Simon Perchik’s The Osiris Poems, 1993 – 2016.

At 93, Simon Perchik is one of America’s living treasures; solving the problem of subject and rejecting narrative, while retaining his vernacular, sound, and beat, he invents a truly original verse, both abstract and deeply personal: these are poems that reach our inner-mind and draw us back again and yet again.

“Simon Perchik’s extraordinary lyric talent is one of the best kept secrets in contemporary American poetry… surreal leaps orchestrate very personal material into archetypal configurations that approach transcendence.” —Edward Butscher, Confrontation 

“Perchik is the most widely published unknown poet in America… Often dense, often difficult, Perchik’s poems nevertheless lead to strange, unanticipated conclusions that usually reward the pursuit.” —Library Journal 

“Let others jockey for position. Perchik’s poems are obdurant and honest and will reach those who need them most.” —James Tate

First Craft Interview with Simon Perchik

Second Craft Interview with Simon Perchik

Cloudy as Absinthe

by Linda Neal

 

They spent the morning.

They spent the afternoon.

They spent the evening.

Then it was time

to spend the night, but

the where and how grew

cloudy as the glass

of absinthe

that sat between them.

 

With each sip

more slur,

batons conducting bagatelles.

With each sip

a livery of tongues,

as if words mattered.

 

Their life was living itself,

becoming more unfamiliar,

growing more foreign

as the hours pedaled by.

 

What she said.

What he thought.

It was time to sleep.

 

In the night mist

the sound rose

from the roof above them,

a strange beating,

a trio of hammers

throbbed like wings,

and a light bore down

through the darkness.

___

Linda Neal’s award-winning work has been published in California Quarterly, Embers, Lummox, ONTHEBUS, Pacific Coast Journal, Peregrine, and more. Her poetry memoir, Dodge & Burn, was published by Bambaz Press in 2014. She has attended the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Squaw Valley Writer’s Conferences among others. Neal has studied Method Writing with Jack Grapes, Healing Writing with Deena Metzger, and has taken workshops with several instructors in the UCLA Writers’ Program. Her love of words and the subtle complexities of language led her to a BA in linguistics. She lives with her dog, Mantra, in a ’40’s cottage in Redondo Beach, California. 

August 2: Homage

by Linda Neal

 

A prodigal ache sets in when the plumeria blooms

and fat watermelons lay their bellies on the ground

to escape the hot smell

of the season’s first Santa Ana wind.

 

It’s never just any hot beach of a Saturday,

August second, not just any smoggy, windy weekend,

but a day as dead as a mussel

washed up on the rocks.

 

A shell of a day that would have been

the anniversary

of a marriage that got lost

somewhere between the move from double bed

to California King.

 

Maybe between a springtime rain and

one of those Santa Anas

that comes too early,

before the summer sand and dust

can settle.

 

I picked a white rose, put it in a vase,

and wondered if he did the same.

___

Linda Neal’s award-winning work has been published in California Quarterly, Embers, Lummox, ONTHEBUS, Pacific Coast Journal, Peregrine, and more. Her poetry memoir, Dodge & Burn, was published by Bambaz Press in 2014. She has attended the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Squaw Valley Writer’s Conferences among others. Neal has studied Method Writing with Jack Grapes, Healing Writing with Deena Metzger, and has taken workshops with several instructors in the UCLA Writers’ Program. Her love of words and the subtle complexities of language led her to a BA in linguistics. She lives with her dog, Mantra, in a ’40’s cottage in Redondo Beach, California. 

Meditations on dear Petrov

by Susan Tepper

 

(Set in nineteenth-century Russia during a time of war)

 

Sound

 

All night the guns echo off the mountain.  I am your partner and your slave in this collusion.  The sound seems so near.  As if it were you come stomping up my path.  Unexpected.  Unexplained.  Banging the filth of war from your boots.  Blood of untold secrets clamped between your teeth.  How many days and nights, dear Petrov.  Is it a matter of a lifetime spent.  Used up. Folded like your tent when your regiment moves on.  My body has gone to powder.  Entombed like the mummies.  Long ago on a pleasant day you spoke of Egypt.  We strolled. The sage bright in its purple glory.  Yet again death ruled our conversation.  But not our death that day.  Ours is a cold death.  The snows have covered many houses.  Does your tent collapse and die under the snows.  Then what is to be.  You must die with it.  Along with your comrades.  Surviving the guns to be buried under the Russian winter.  A cruel irony.  Born in such a place.  I lie on the straw mattress under my eiderdown saying the prayers.  My horse with me in this room.  His heat the only heat.  Neighing and my prayers that mingle.  Sound.  The only other living being.

Beasts

Cast from molten steel a girl named after a male saint.  I never gave it any thought.  Salt being salt.  I slept on the river bank during clement weather.  My father didn’t come searching.  Encased in his misery.  Grieving my mother ‘til his own death.  Preposterous name some people claimed as I grew into a young woman.  I didn’t understand.  My mother chose this name. In the manner of all things fine.  Yet I never hear it whispered from your lips.  Even spat in an accursed way when a thing annoys you.  I hear nothing, dear Petrov.  Melting back in shadows cast by the stairs.  Darkly dancing.  Spinning.  Climbing toward what was forbidden.  War has decoded that mystery.  Women such as I.  Admired. Welcomed. Showered with gifts and perfumes.  Gowns folded in silken boxes.  Bouquets.  Flamboyant hats feathers high as the low branches.  And waltzes. I have heard stories of these wonderments.  Candle lit rooms where music transforms.  No longer beasts.  Opulence.  I would prefer to hear my name.  Spoken softly.  Across the breadth of my body.  Lips.  Tongue.  Saying my name.  My skin the flesh of peaches you once remarked.  Any which way.

Logic

The room faces onto a sea.  Promenade to stroll.  Floral bouquets bursting out of large stone pots.  Roman style.  I’ve seen them in books.  Now moldering in this house.  Once vital. Orange and yellow and pink blooms.  Flowers that don’t flourish in a harsh climate.  And walkways.  To contemplate the sea.  One entire wall of windows in this room.  Odd magic. The sea beyond is a blue-gray.  Flat as a piano key.  Soundless.  Strange to see no birds swooping for fish.  A room of glass here in this cold.  Land of war and death.  What is the logic, dear Petrov.  Only one bed in the room.  Spare of other furnishings.  Bed pushed in a corner.  Already occupied.  I wonder where I will sleep tonight.  A man and woman on the bed in the throes of love.  Mindless of me standing close by.  They are fully clothed.  I notice she isn’t especially pretty.  Would this woman appeal to your tastes.  Their eyes seem to follow me.  I notice a tall door in a wall next to the glass.  Similar to a barn door.  Smaller.  But clean and white and shiny.  Leading out.  My heart leaps forward with my step.  Pushing it open I emerge into misty wet warmth. Flowers in big pots filling my nostrils.  Dampening my skin.  So unlike this cold place.  When I reach to shut the door behind me there is no way back.

Anyone

The river will take anyone.  No payment required.  Its banks are welcoming shoals.  Step in step in.  Shoes filled with sand then the soft slip under.  Solitary.  Last few seconds.  Do they try and breathe.  I ponder this while floating on my back.  Cold river water.  Summer arrived late.  The drowsing at windows.  Flies buzzing food.  So little time before the huff of winter returns.  I feel the water holding me high and dream of rapture.  Hands.  Silk and satin.  Fur muff and hat with impossibly bright feathers.  Everything perfumed.  Stalking.  The earth to the sun.  Furious.  Flowers poised on long mushy stems wearing tall vases.  The beginning and the end.  I think of that night we walked the meadow.  Animals braying.  A hawk that screamed.  You tensed, dear Petrov.  Every muscle grinding.  Such a pity.  But then you are always at the ready.  What a pressure to carry on the chest.  So thick it can lead to pleurisy.  In battle an illness can bring out the end.  You manage to dodge the shells and cannon fire.  One germ.  Can bring you crashing to your knees.

 

 

Relinquish

 

What is spare can be taught to be plentiful.  I have seen bounty in bunches of wild strawberries caught in the tangle of their own vine.  On my belly in the summer eating those fruits.  Juices dripping down my face and onto my dress bib.  Dirt grinding inside my shoes despite the many button hooks.  Bites from tiniest unseen insects.  It is a time of great abandonment.  Alone in the field with my horse hovering.  His steady breathing.  Tail swishing at the flies.  Would you know of such delights, dear Petrov.  Though I doubt it would occur to you.  Needing all sorts of things to surround your day.  Drink.  A hamper of meats and cheese.  Loaves of roughly textured bread.  Can you not relinquish.  Adapt to what is abundantly here.  I like my bread soft as the berries I stuff in my cheeks.  Fat red pockets with soft textured hides.  It almost makes life bearable.  Use honey, you say, whenever I pour the tea.  I try explaining that honey is a cloying thing.  It jots at the mind as your teeth stick together.  I would once like to see you here, dear Petrov.  Prone in the field.  Wild strawberries stuffed in your face and pockets as if it were the end of the world.

___

Susan Tepper is a fiction writer, poet, interviewer and essayist.  Her seventh book, a novella, will be published in the fall by Rain Mountain Press, NYC.  Tepper is the recipient of many awards and nominations, including ten for the Pushcart, NPR’s Selected Shorts, 7th place winner in the Zoetrope Novel Contest (2006), Second Place Winner in storySouth Million Writers Award (2014), a Pulitzer Nomination for her novel What May Have Been (Cervena Barva Press, 2010) and more.  www.susantepper.com

Hand of the Hilt of His Short Sword

by Jeanine Stevens

 

~circa 1590 AD

London swept over me.

The street was filled with people

carrying huge bundles,

selling pastries and pamphlets.

Carts clattered

over the cobbles, splashed up muck;

flies buzzed everywhere.

The whole street smelled bad;

so did the people.

I scurried past delights

and horrors. A dog

with no ears or tail snapped at me

beside a bank of glorious roses.

I caught a glimpse

of the flat brown River Thames.

We crossed over;

the street was the bridge.

Above the roofs, on the farthest pole

grinned a white skull.

I stopped abruptly

and heaved my breakfast

into the reeking ditch.

 

(Found poem from King of Shadows,” Susan Cooper, 1999, p.38-30)

___

Jeanine Stevens’ second poetry collection, Inheritor, was released by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Her most recent chapbook, Needle in the Sea, was published by Tiger’s Eye Press. Her next chapbook, Brief Immensity, winner Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award will be published in 2017. Jeanine has other awards from the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, the Ekphrasis Prize, the Stockton Arts Commission and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio. Her poems have appeared in Stoneboat, Arsenic Lobster, Rosebud, Camas, Evansville Review, The Connecticut River Review, and Sentinel and Dragonheart (UK). Jeanine recently received her fourth Pushcart nomination. She studied poetry at UC Davis and California State University and has graduate degrees in Anthropology and Education. Professor at American River College. She was raised in Indiana and now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Frenzy

by Jeanine Stevens

 

When I see gypsies select brilliant madras

at the dry goods store in Edinburgh

I think of you.

 

When I notice all things yellow: calendula,

canary, butter, camel.

 

When I buy exotic carpet I don’t need, the wrong

shape, that strange mustard color.

 

When I refuse to eat the dark meat of a goat.

When the sky mottles blue

above pale and heavy oak galls.

 

When April winds scatter cottonwood debris

in the breezeway

and crows scold the resident hawk

 

cawing above the redwood, flames reflected

in a beaded eye, I think of you.

 

How your stride cuts the brief day,

anything particle, flakes, sun dabs. Icons

 

like confetti, shred, invade, settle into me.

I fold, hold and cut scraps,

a collage of brass hearts.

___

Jeanine Stevens’ second poetry collection, Inheritor, was released by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Her most recent chapbook, Needle in the Sea, was published by Tiger’s Eye Press. Her next chapbook, Brief Immensity, winner Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award will be published in 2017. Jeanine has other awards from the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, the Ekphrasis Prize, the Stockton Arts Commission and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio. Her poems have appeared in Stoneboat, Arsenic Lobster, Rosebud, Camas, Evansville Review, The Connecticut River Review, and Sentinel and Dragonheart (UK). Jeanine recently received her fourth Pushcart nomination. She studied poetry at UC Davis and California State University and has graduate degrees in Anthropology and Education. Professor at American River College. She was raised in Indiana and now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

10 Poems—Spring 2017

by Simon Perchik

 

*

Not yet finished melting :the sun

—you can hear its sea struggling

spilling over though each morning

 

it comes from behind now

brushes against this cemetery gate

that’s still shining, floating past

 

—to this day you go home

the back way —you don’t see

your reflection or the ground

 

face to face with shoreline

—what you hear are waves :one hand

reaching for another and in the dark

 

you let your fingers unfold end over end

then close, gather in these fountains

as if they belong one side then another

 

are nearly too much stone —here

where this gate is filling its lungs

and you tearing it in two.

 

 

 

 

 

*

Again The Times, spread-eagle

the way these subway doors

once were waves opening out

 

as the faint wings beating now

between your arms and the track

—a dark, single thread

 

pulls this sea under

though on the bottom

you can’t be sure it’s morning

 

or two shorelines, side by side

crawling into that slow, climbing turn

half sand, half you never get used to

 

—page over page

covered with weeds :feathers

from a long way off  —you can touch

 

their darkness :words still dangerous

circling with seabirds :your eyes

don’t want you, are closed.

 

 

 

 

 

*

Lower and lower this fan

smells from stone and the ice

broken off your forehead

 

still in the same, tight turn

holding on, almost back —you stare

even with sunglasses, the ones

 

you wear at funerals, cooled

the way this small room

has already started as snow

 

not yet the invisible arm in arm

louder and louder overhead

without a trace and no place to go

 

to harden, take hold, darken

let its wings down, close

your eyes and the ceiling.

 

 

 

*

Appearing and disappearing, this gate

you wave between one hand

after the other and doves on cue

 

break through the way each flourish

opens midair, is helped along

clearing the rooftops, palms up

 

—on your back as the aimless path

that has such low windows

—from nowhere, no longer white

 

each stone is closing its wings

letting go the sky, the graves

and just as suddenly your shoulders.

 

 

 

*

These graves listen to you

though they lean too far

half side to side, half

 

taking hold your spine, blinded

in front by sunlight, in back

by its endless bending down

 

as if together these bones

would steady you, in time

your limp disappear

 

already the small stones

buried here, there, in the open

to tell you what happened.

 

 

 

*

To clear your lips —a simple wipe

though once spread out

your sleeve fills with shoreline

 

follows on its own, washed

with enormous wings

shaken off the stale crumbs

 

half sand, half seabirds

half before each meal

—you don’t use spoons

 

they won’t resist enough

would empty the way this bowl

is still looking for what will pour

 

easily through your heart

letting it drip and for hours

one arm circles the other

 

closer and closer, the one

that will stay with you forever

—always the wide, lower and lower

 

reaching in —your mouth

no longer clears the rim

broken open by its cry

 

to jump! and you bleed

again from your arms letting go

their dead breeze, dead sky, dead mouth.

 

 

 

*

It’s a risk, these clouds

gathered in the open, grow huge

take on the shape they need

 

though once inside this jar

escape is impossible

—you collect a cloud whose mist

 

no one studies anymore, comes

from a time rain was not yet the rain

pressing against your forehead

 

and your mouth too has aged

coming from nowhere to open

as some mountainside

 

believed by all the experts

too high for predators

or a dirt that devours

 

even its place to hide in flowers

yet you will date the jar

for their scent and later on.

 

 

 

 

 

*

And both arms more and more

spread-eagle, clasping the dirt

tearing it side to side —another sore

 

cut out the way a shrug

is divided piece by piece

carted away in songs about love

 

that no longer depend on lips

reaching across as mist

not yet sunlight or useless

 

—you dig two holes, one

for bells, the other no longer bleeds

is already moving the sky closer

 

letting it lean forward

emptying the Earth, kept open

and listening for kisses.

 

 

 

 

 

*

And when the tide slowly at first

though the palm underneath is smaller

girlish, clinging to sand and each other

 

the way all night these clams

are etched by your gentle waves

already the bond all water

 

grows used to :hand over hand

tasting from salt and each shell

counted as two —in the dark

 

it’s easy to mistake all that’s left

with a single shoreline —the sea

led down, emptied clam by clam

 

to close it, knee deep in madness

in some vineyard, kisses and kisses

counting as if you are still uncertain.

 

 

 

*

With all its weight this wall

just built and is already

tugging at your side

 

as if with every birth

its twin will block your path

with those same flowers

 

mourners still pull up

try to climb a bit longer

reach out the way these stones

 

half marble, half bubbling

interlocked, higher and higher

almost crushing you

 

with their garbled cries

as hillsides, to bring

more, to cool and one another.

___

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The B Poems published by Poets Wear Prada, 2016. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

How To

by Dave Nielsen

 

Sometimes the instructions

for the most mundane task

can be poetic—

step-by-step guides for how to tie one’s shoes

or boil water;

 

so too instructions for something

theretofore private,

rare,

or exotic:

 

dressing the dead, for instance, or dancing a rumba:

unstick the elbow;

now glue the lips.

 

Point the nose

as if staring into the future.

You can see

how these things might move you.

 

___

Dave Nielsen is the author of a collection of poems, Unfinished Figures, by Lynx House Press. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Winter Camps

by Andrea Moorhead

 

The woods glow tonight

your hands snowing

in the red raw

and thunderous

although the light shifts

from time to time

switching from eyes to wind

to the deepness under the stars

___

Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris and author of several collections of poems, including From a Grove of Aspen (University of Salzburg Press), De loin, and Géocide (Le Noroît). Recent translations of Francophone poetry include Night Watch by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui (Red Dragonfly Press) and Dark Menagerie by Élise Turcotte (Guernica Editions). Her work is featured in Phoenix 23 (autumn 2016 issue). In 2017, Red Dragonfly Press will publish her collection, The Carver’s Dream.

Beside the emptiness

by Andrea Moorhead

 

You haven’t chopped wood in a long time, the shed is almost empty now, bark and leaves, nesting mice, the thin veneer of activity leaving tracks in the dust, you haven’t even taken out the axe, sharpened the blade, the sledge hammer and wedges are rusted now, brown sheen where the heavy iron has split its coating, you are wandering too much, moving too slowly, you’re lost again out beyond the trees, trying to follow the deer early in the day, forgetting their tracks melt under the sun, disturb direction, indicate a false pattern, hopeful and illusive, but the woods remain closed, and you haven’t even chopped wood in a long time, the rain water leaks under the eaves and you sit by the guttering fire, wondering if birch bark burns as long as oak.

___

Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris and author of several collections of poems, including From a Grove of Aspen (University of Salzburg Press), De loin, and Géocide (Le Noroît). Recent translations of Francophone poetry include Night Watch by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui (Red Dragonfly Press) and Dark Menagerie by Élise Turcotte (Guernica Editions). Her work is featured in Phoenix 23 (autumn 2016 issue). In 2017, Red Dragonfly Press will publish her collection, The Carver’s Dream.