Degrees of Apprenticeship: the MFA

This is the first in a series which will profile MFA programs in poetry. Since I am a graduate of the Brooklyn College program (1980), it is natural to start there.

In 1974, I left Washington D.C. (ABD, Catholic University) and moved into a 12-room Brooklyn duplex full of talented musicians, writers, psychologists and artists. Some stayed for a month; others stayed for years. It was a house of non-stop creation (much like the farm Mark Seiltz describes in his essay). Writers now well-known and musicians now heard on the radio came there for dinner, workshops and talk.

But as great as it was, our house just wasn’t quite enough. I needed the space for sustained, professional, artistic achievement--and the time to accomplish it. I went through all the catalogues of programs in the City and elsewhere, and settled on Brooklyn College.

My unfinished dissertation was to have been a theoretical examination of the difference between poetry and prose, as exemplified in the letters, notebooks and sermons of Gerard Manley Hopkins. In my application to the Brooklyn MFA program--for me, the equivalent of doing a dissertation--my stated purpose was to combine confessional poetry with surrealism. I was not the first to do this. Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Mark Strand, James Tate, John Ashbery and Thomas Lux, to name a few, had done it as well.

As a student and graduate assistant at Brooklyn, I was fortunate, not only to study with John Ashbery, Mark Strand and other remarkable faculty, but also privileged to be in the company of classmates like Peter Morris, Gyorgyi Voros, Donald Lawder, Patricia Farewell, Star Black and Lisa Berman. However clichéd the notion, this community of writers helped each other write better poems, and write more poems. We were "eating poetry."

I can tell by the submissions I have received that these traditions, official and otherwise, are still going strong. Writing poetry is always an experiment, and it is always heartening to be encouraged to try something new, and to witness that attempt.

Limited space does not permit comment on every poem selected here, but, among them, just consider the span of Amy Karp’s "Love", Richard Loranger’s "Intrinsic Train", Saladin Ahmed’s "Beirut", Matt Rotando’s "Chant Down Mighty", Jessi Roemer’s lyric-driven "This Business of Consciousness", Matthew Burgess’s "Now You See Her", Robert Bové’s "The Compassion of Jargonelle", Tina Dubois’s "How to Pack a Suitcase", Jen Robinson’s "Chronomena", and Jacqueline de Weever’s "Maps". Then go back and consider them all: Together they shape an unearthly bridge that takes you from here to there.

Thanks go to Lou Asekoff, Richard Pearse, Julie Agoos, Nancy Black, students and alumni for contributing time, effort and the many poems that appear in this profile of Brooklyn’s MFA program.

-- Nicholas Johnson, Senior Poetry Editor



Director’s Remarks on the Program

L.S. Asekoff

Rick Pearse
Elder Hostel
At the Grand Speeches

Thomas Devaney
When Things Shake
The cold I got from the cold

Wil Hallgren
Et tu etude
Tom at double happiness approaching the speed of lamp

Robert Bové
The Compassion of Jargonelle
The Days

Richard Loranger
Intrinsic Train

Audrey Raden
Wife on the Porch

Jen Robinson

Amy King
Dear Tightrope

Jack Shuler
The Politics of Speaking for Yourself

Tina DuBois
How to Pack a Suitcase

Jessi Roemer
This Business of Consciousness

Matt Rotando
Chant Down Mighty

Stephen Turtell
Four Landscapes

Amy Karp

Saladin Ahmed

Alicia marie Howard
Easter Sunday

Matthew Burgess
Now You See Her

Zahera Saed
Nomad’s Market, Flushing, Queens

Jacqueline de Weever

Christopher Grosso
Sasakwa #2


The Brooklyn College MFA Program in Poetry

by Director, L.S. Asekoff

The strength of one frail hand in a dim room
Somewhere in Brooklyn, patient and assured,
Restores my sacred duty to the Word.

--- Derek Walcott

Since its inception, the Brooklyn College Master of Fine Arts Program in Poetry has balanced a firm grounding in the history and tradition of the craft with cutting-edge experimental writing. Moderately priced and highly selective, this two-year program offers intensive workshops (limited to ten students), private tutorials, and courses in the craft and history of the genre. Attracting a diverse student body from all across the country, it has graduated such exciting new writers as John Yau, Sapphire, Paul Beatty, David Trinidad, Star Black, Karen Kelley, Tom Devaney, and Anselm Berrigan.

Brooklyn's "experimental tradition" is best exemplified by the "Twin Towers" of late-modernist American poetry, John Ashbery and Allen Ginsberg, who were, for many years, master teachers in the program. While at Brooklyn College, John Ashbery published some of his most acclaimed work, including Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, for which he received the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A decade later when Ashbery went on MacArthur Prize fellowship leave, he was replaced by Allen Ginsberg, who taught poetics workshops and courses in the Beat tradition and Black American literary genius until his death in 1997.

Other teachers in the program have included Mark Strand, William Matthews, Ann Lauterbach, Douglas Crase, David Shapiro, C. K. Williams, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Joan Larkin, and most recently, Ron Padgett.

At present, the permanent staff includes Julie Agoos, author of Calendar Year (1996) and Above the Land (1987), winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1987; Richard W. Pearse, author of Come Back Vanishing (1998) and Private Drives (2001); and L.S. Asekoff, author of Dreams of a Work (1994) and North Star (1997), who directs the program.

The experimental tradition of the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing is being continued by the three program directors: L.S. Asekoff (poetry); Carey Harrison (fiction), author of a highly praised quartet of novels, To Liskeard, as well as more than 150 plays and scripts for theater, film, television, and radio; and Mac Wellman (playwriting), Obie-winning playwright (Sincerely Forever, 1993), poet, and novelist. While maintaining the traditional genre workshops, they will be initiating interdisciplinary craft and writing workshops open to fiction writers, playwrights, and poets. And, with the help of the newly-endowed Donald I. Fine Fellowships in Creative Writing, they will be bringing onto campus many young and established writers working in and across the genres.

Those interested in further information about the Brooklyn College Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing can contact:


L.S. Asekoff

Knitting the bones of the dead, you say.
What makes us different is what makes us the same.
(With writing comes forgetfulness.)

viz, the origin of Chinese ideograms - silhouettes of birds in flight,
tracks in limestone.
Others find their alphabet in shape of constellations, animal organs.
(The Chaldean aleph, for instance, is a map of early migrants out of Eden.)

Writing from Ravenna, Cassiodorus notes: the Venetians live "like sea birds
with their homes dispersed across the surface water,
and secured only by osier and wattle against the wildness of the sea."

So we return once more to the scene of the crime.
(This time the statues are wearing togas of snow.)
Yes, Life, the great gift, calls to us & we must come.

It began, Fish, fish, where does the water begin?
& ended with an aria from "The Barber of Seville."

In between, a disquisition (in German) on Cold War immunology,
language as communicable disease,
how everything is constructed against its own shadow.

Distinctions melt in that subdued light
Where you are walking backward through your own body
& a child sings, I am already nothing . . .

(L.S. Asekoff has published two books of poetry: Dreams of a Work (1994) and North Star (1997), both with Orchises Press (Washington D.C.). He directs the MFA Poetry Program at Brooklyn College.)


Richard Pearse
Elder Hostel

What did I come in here for?
Shafts of whitewashed light
burrow the dark deeper
into my head and shoulders.

The right tool is somewhere
in the room I left. Outside,
a woodpecker has started his tattoo:
somebody being drummed out
of the regiment, in the old westerns.

Here are some shirts
I haven’t worn in years,
and a dim negative--
the cabin where our younger selves
bled inside out, her hair and my beard
prophetically shock-white.

Here is a hand of aces and eights;
which one do I lead?
A spider tickles the hair
on the back of my head; he knows
what he came in here for.

Outside, others make the noises
of knowing too:
their tires’ screams are falling
on this room, whose walls
wave deeper out of reach.


Richard Pearse
At the Grand Speeches

On my way there
this old lady lay in the road,
her flung arm relinquishing
all daylight. At first

I took her for a sack
fallen off some truck;
her canvas house dress,
after all, and her white hair

could have been cotton anything.
But I was late so I left flares
at her head and feet
to warn all traffic.

At the grand speeches, the jokes
were falling off the cuff
into the ceremonial sweat
before the robes and gowns

ushered us into the cocktail room
where the Dean issued
a personal: Desire seance
with martyr declared legally dead

The old lady--the very thought
of sacrificing her!--and I
did, broke down, too easy
a weeper, I confess, but only

a small scene, no comparison
to the grandeur of this occasion.

(Richard Pearse’s latest book is Private Drives: Selected Poems, due out soon from Rattapallax Press. He has published work in The Paris Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner and Fiction. He teaches at Brooklyn College.)


Thomas Devaney
When things shake

The urge to put question marks after everything.
Counting the loss, magnetically stripped:
1-800 generally desensitized.
Now that I'm saying this keeping it going isn't proof-
They're fighting in Atlantic City, in Atlantic City.
Legs on a chair and 3 fingers resting lightly on her shin.
You don't have to get abstract to see everyone's beat up badly
It's not the future it's Lunchtime all around.
The many ways you think about shaking off the outfit.
The kindergarten teacher's countdown to silence.
This quiet, this time of day - call it a nap.
The fried salmon burger and the salad were good.
Where did we leave the exclamation points?
The G train took me home in 20 minutes-I was grateful.
I don't live anywhere.


Thomas Devaney

Can you send a net
to catch (I guess) the
seventeen thousand butterflies
swarming in the stomach-
Make it a small one, they are very tiny.

Tell the cab to take
me home
so I can wash my face,
which I do not wish to save.

My face is a computer
powered by a pocket of coal.
No parade today.
I'd rather walk anyway,

and anywhere
with your red scarf
and Sunday bookstore.
I'm not trying to be sincere I just want to leave.

St. Patrick's Day embarrasses me.
I hate the Irish
for hating themselves so much.

Some friends in East Austin agree
there's something very Irish.
I don't really know what to add-

You have your own troubles, so
send what you can.
Whatever you want.
The parade will be waiting.


Thomas Devaney
The cold I got from the cold

There was no poetry in my eyes.
I was wearing the soggy novel of a hard March rain.

It was night and it wasn't just because it was night
That everything I said was night.

Everyone who was supposed to win was winning
The Academy Awards. When the sound was on

We all listened like there was a soccer game.
I tried listening to Clifford Brown's "Easy Living,"

Though I couldn't, or decided
Because I love that song so much, not to.

The view from the window was all night, but still good.
The lower vistas of Crown Heights had its many windows lit-

Dark outlined building soaked in night.
Someone said certain lights were the ocean,

I said, No. But didn't and knew from the silence
I was most likely wrong, it was still beautiful.

That night all the televisions played the same muted commercial
Out the window stupidly where I thought I needed to go.

(Tom Devaney’s first book is The American Pragmatist Fell In Love (Banshee Press, 1999). His writing can be found online at readme, can we have our ball back, Jacket #11 and Exquisite Corpse. He is features editor of Lungfull! Magazine.)


Wil Hallgren
Et tu etude

Has something like this ever happened to you?

The phone rings and you answer. The voice
asks to speak with Ethelred the Unready.
"Of all the European Monarchs,
Ethelred the Unready?"
Then you inform the voice that it has
the wrong number and hang up the phone.

Moments later, the phone rings again.

The same voice still seeking Ethelred,
but this time less sure in its declension.
Still being polite, you inform the voice
of its error. Muttering and a second voice.

After a slightly longer pause, another ring.

This time it’s Latin, but the voice is the same.

Trying to be of some help,
"Have you been dialing the numbers,
or pressing re-dial?"
There is a brief and awkward pause,
the sound of a head blow and the dial tone.

In the silence of the uneventful evening afterwards,
you begin to wonder if, in your haste and annoyance,
you have been somewhat less than accurate.


Wil Hallgren
Tom at double happiness approaching the speed of lamps

one) Brutus interruptus, or the bar talking bagpipes

If Caesar’s assassins had waited two more days,
the Irish would have even more to complain about.
The bars of Brooklyn and the Bronx would all
have well-thumbed copies of Geoffrey of Monmouth,
the covers aged with a patina of dried Guinness.
While waiting for their pints to rise, old men, even
older young men, and pony-tailed barmaids, would muse
upon the anachronistic capacity of . . . your man Brutus.

For the both of them, you see, had to be in the pay
of the British, and the British anticipated St. Patrick.
So, they laid down contingencies to spoil his day.
And, O, the evil is in the preparation! For they did this
ahead of time, before he was even born. The British
can be blamed for almost everything
. . . except for bagpipes.

Not even an Irishman in his pints can blame the pipes on the British.
and whatever you say about the Scots, they’re not British.

(Wil Hallgren is a 1999 graduate of the Brooklyn College MFA program and that year’s editor of the Brooklyn Review. A founding editor of Crossings art Magazine, he teaches at Long Island University.)


Robert Bové
The Compassion of Jargonelle

Chilled, little bastard musk?
Take my great blanket,
skinless Casolette rose.
Doubt my sincerity?
Haven’t I thrown manna and
eggs among the landry wilding?
You know I’ve never failed to
comfort a burnt cat with dry martins.
You know that at my door
even the unknown of la Fare
never wants for an orange tulip.
Take my keys. Please. Why not
take that virgin of Xantonee
for a spin in my cadillac. Ply her
great mouth water pears.


Robert Bové
The Days

Before tide brought us rubber and steel
we dressed in bright feather hats and coats
our plumed roofs shook off rainy season
a one-egg omelet could feed whole villages
we laid newborns in its nests to stay warm
our enemies trembled and ran before it—
gone, gone, O, elephant birds of Madagascar.

(An editor of Brooklyn Review No. 15, Robert Bové is a 1998 graduate of the MFA program. He teaches English language and literature at Pace University.)


Richard Loranger
Intrinsic Train

Reap iconoclastic
burrow domain.
The whistle blows
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Contact nigh.
Cotillions in the grime,
a generation leaps,
hands upon hands,
children’s voices
as they always were.
Quick snap
hiss shut
thump rattle and roll.
Beyond the screech,
certain plans
a query
weary day
we all know what
the way it goes
live beneath
gain the floor,
values of a new
deep shudder
of the will,
toading forward
chute dark and
back before brain.
A new resiliency.
Further ferment.
Thump and bloom.
Crack of the crust.
Dark flower of the planet,
meet the stars.

(Richard Loranger is the author of a collection, The Orange Book (International Review Press, 1990), and six chapbooks. He curates the Brooklyn Voices reading series at Tillie’s in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.)


Audrey Raden
Wife on the Porch

You have such an exquisite long neck the besotted husband tells me.
Holding my hair above my head, I look this way and that
in the spitty mirror. Perspective is so emotional, I think,
when, after a wet kiss on a Flatbush playground he dramatically
re-arranges the erection in his spotty, saggy suit. Oh, he says,
burning his lip on the joint again, oh, I could never do this with my wife.

We have driven past his house at least two dozen times says Patrick
and nobody ever comes out. She's a heavy smoker, I assure him,
keep trying. Twenty-fifth is the charm, or it's Fred in the back seat
or it's the daylight outside. One more time around the block, I beg,
and out the back window Fred sees movement. Around again
and there she sits, back to the universe, blowing in sharp-jawed jerks
smoke rings at the doors and windows love made.

Let me just ask for a match, pleads Fred, or directions. Patrick hits
the child-proof back locks and windows, executes a precise, three-point
panoramic turn in the cul-de-sac. Smoke rises behind her perfect orange

Watch Divorce Court with Someone You Loved, says the D-Train station
on Avenue J. What a harsh face, I say, can we open a window now?
says Fred, and Patrick says, I guess today isn't the end.

But today is the end. She swivels her diaphragm enough to see Patrick
holding his earnest 5-Borough map, Fred squashed against the back windows.
She sees me. One eye through menthol, she watches my fingers tendril
the pregnant breeze, and blinks me off the dead-end street.
She fills her lungs with resolution. Time, she thinks.
Time to put down the crossword puzzle, time to put the teeth
back in, time to re-arrange the face out of lines of NO: time to set up shop again.
The birthday of her new life offers her face brown shingles and she shivers
her perfect orange pageboy, covering the hardware that bolts her,
head to shoulders, through their happy life.

(Audrey Raden is a 1998 graduate of the MFA program at Brooklyn College. She teaches literature at Hunter College and is pursuing doctoral studies at City University. Her work has appeared in Hanging Loose, The Paterson Literary Review, Downtown, The Squaw Valley Review, and elsewhere.)


Jen Robinson

The lamps upon
the light bulbs prey, while the
Moon nibbles morning in the dark,
anxious for the company of old men
in pee-soaked pants.
In the suprachiasmatic nucleus,
two species of reef-building coral
release gamete into the ocean
after the full moon in August. Heliotropes
hibernate in total darkness, Circadian rhythm
undisrupted by absence. Petals open, close
in the time-garden of Linnaeus, reproduction
glorious arranged, adorned
perfumed with "why not?"
Every-day stomach-blood slides down
cold air under my arm,
Cyclic human
tissue exchange, enzyme activity,
cell division. Palolo worms
in coral reefs breed the last quarter moon,
a gelatinous mass at sunrise rising
and thrashing. Untouchable height,
wind, the arousal period of repetitive cycles:

It’s still only a small halo, nobody sees it,
but out of it
a tremendous fire will come,
and us smack in the middle of it,
we’re going to have to adjust,
to keep on living as before
(How you doing?
O.K. and yourself?),
ravaged by the conscientious
devouring fire.

(Jen Robinson is a May 2000 graduate of the Brooklyn College MFA poetry program.)


Amy King
Dear Tightrope

when you’
re br
will you
ens, little
man fell
ward back
to back,

An iride
scent banjo
sings the
on the dash,

What you
don’t do
who you
are she
knows her
lays hand
on head
to show

I strip
for you
the ceil
ing fan
in it

(Amy King is a May 2000 graduate of the Brooklyn College MFA poetry program, and a 1999 recipient of the MacArthur Scholarship for poetry. She has published in the online magazine, Riding the Meridian, Women and Technology, and elsewhere.)


Jack Shuler
The Politics of Speaking for Yourself

Strongmen outpolled, political apparat,
regime props at cyberspeed--my inbox
is full. Unhorse the autocrat, the euphoric
prickly partner. Discontent dashed ruins.
It's time to cook better results.
Everything needed to make
the change is suddenly here. And why
should it be different this time? Call it
ballot box gumption, meat and potato
therapy. But the lesson we learn
from this people power comes on the second day.


(Jack Shuler is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College where he teaches first-year English and works for the Wolfe Institute of the Humanities. He has written numerous articles on contemporary poetry for The South Carolina Review.. His review of Rattapallax No. 3 appears in this issue.)


Tina Dubois
How to Pack a Suitcase

Do not leave the rocking chair in motion after you have left it
Or a ghost will find its way into the house
And rest its tired soul in the rocking chair.
Do not touch Memere's magnets on the fridge
Or the plastic fruit on the table
Even though the grapes pop at the seams when squeezed
And the magnets just seem to want moving.
You're King Pharu whenever you ask for too much
Or refuse to fill Daddy's water pan so he can soak his swollen feet.
If you drink a lot of water you've got Daddy's diabetes
And you're sure to die early if you wear green on Sunday.
Never tell Memere she is dans les champs patate
Even if she mixes baking soda into the gravy.
Do not eat near the microwave or your body won't have babies.
If you ask for griaux in a restaurant they won't know what you mean.
Do not let Memere find you with your arms laced in her jewelry
Or staring too long at the picture of Pepere in his uniform
Because she won't stop talking about how trespassing
Isn't just going into the neighbor's yard as Mom explains it.

(Tina Dubois is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. She reviews Rattapallax No. 4 in this issue.)


Jessi Roemer
This Business of Consciousness

This morning I was so sleep I couldn't swap
dreams for waking.
I was so souped by green
and sopping blossoms, squirrels
scuttling the wall.
I was so drugged, so slept up I couldn't
tell that half the day had dripped down
and pooled in the backyard;
I couldn't tell that half the day
had washed through crevices of concrete,
down the sewers,
out to the bay.
This morning,
I was too sleep, too soaked
with dreams
to slip the cloak, and arch
my sanguine spine.

(Back in the U.S. after seven years in Jerusalem, Jessi Roemer is currently writing music, teaching English, and pursuing an MFA in poetry at Brooklyn College.)


Matt Rotando
Chant Down Mighty

Can you chant down love,
Young humans in the kiss?

Can you chant down peace,
Or you fearful of the fist?

Can you chant down sweetness,
In the cold green grasses?

Can you chant down mighty,
Like the prophets in the past?

Can you sweat out riders,
Horns spinning on them heads?

Can you sweat black fright,
And you beat in working fields?

Can you sweating all the ghosts,
Down in devil kitchen hole?

Can you sweat out mighty,
Come where lonely man grow?

Can you break old stone,
In the middle of the world?

Can you break five thousand,
From the shark he made of bread?

Can you open 'til it's over,
Can you get up out of bed?

Can you chant down mighty?
Can you chant down mighty?

Can you ready, can you chant?
Can you chant down mighty?


Matt Rotando

Choza de palos,
Lleno de ranas
Cantando en el crepúsculo azul.

Alas de paloma
Grabadas blanco brillante
Contra un abanico de plata.

De luna irisada,
Párpado de un lagarto viejo.


Matt Rotando

Little wicker hut
Teeming with night frogs
Chanting in blue twilight.

White dovewings
On a silver fan.

Shell of the moon,
An old lizard's eyelid.

(A recent graduate of the MFA program at Brooklyn College. Matt Rotando is currently on a Fulbright Scholarship in Sri Lanka, writing a book of poetry entitled "The Comeback's Exoskeleton." He has an article forthcoming in BLUE Magazine about the Appalachian Trail, which he hiked in its entirety in 1996.)


Stephen Turtell
Four Landscapes


Three and a half rocks
More air than water
Floating room only


All the hate you can eat


Crystal marbles
Crystal vase
Glass table


First the cat
Then a pigeon


Amy Karp

This is it, I think
watching you in a chair
next to the hospital bed.

Steroids pump for your numb hand and foot,
your brain to repair irreparable damage,
rain to cease its jab of ten thousand needles.

Your eyes flicker pupils thicken
noticeable because I have spent days
memorizing your image.

We play poker for one hour
until I watch your fingers go slack
cards scatter to the floor,
beautiful in their flight.

I want to place them back in your grasp
pretend that your body does not betray you
that limbs do not move without your permission.

When the bag has run empty I take your car keys
stop at 7-eleven for Tylenol and water
and drive us home.

(Amy Karp is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. She has published in Artemis, OFF, Hatikvah, Full Circle, and will be featured in upcoming issues of Folio and Sophie’s Wind.


Saladin Ahmed

City of leaded fuels and labneh!
City of the scything silver moon!
Make me drunk with your beach-heat!

O muezzin! I hear your call
in the pawn shops of the brown and lonely.
Hashish and Hezb'Allah rallies -
is this my Detroit, come back to me?

This city of purple and
pink flowers like fists,
unnamable trees and clock towers,
everywhere, everywhere,
your bullet holes, your bomb craters -
your pimples, your scars,
this face you
could be beautiful girl.

(A current MFA candidate at Brooklyn College, Saladin Ahmed's work has appeared in the anthologies What Are You? (Henry Holt), Post Gibran (Syracuse/Jusoor Press), and elsewhere. He represented Detroit in the National Poetry Slam.)


Alicia marie Howard
Easter Sunday

From a burning house
the risen lord is a small boy in Florida,
ripened, picked and carried off.

Star nursery, my country,
with your quarter-horse history
turning into a full house,
a dealer’s choice,
everything is so full of leftovers,
in neat plastic bags of formlessness.
Doesn’t that bother you?
and why does it bother me?

Can I trust you? You have your
"Let’s make a trade," face on--
and the t.v.’s tuned in, dressed in blue:

It’s a would-be melancholy novel
full of absent everyday heroes
for the World.

I want to run spontaneously off course
and away from the "special" sharpening hour
where my premonitions glint like feverlight

I see street fame and inferno

I see the future is someone’s girl in a maddening yellow dress,
    it could already be what we’re doing—

    is what we’re doing fine with you?

Parts of the body, everybody,
reborn, revoked and returned.

(Alicia marie Howard is a 1999 graduate of Brooklyn College. Now teaching at a private school in lower Manhattan, she has published in Hanging Loose, Lungfull!, and elsewhere.)


Matthew Burgess
Now You See Her

The girl's in the shark's mouth
she's in to the waist, straight-faced

the shark has half-eaten the girl
and the girl wields a pointer

the girl dictates exactly how
the shark means to devour her

she's giving a lecture
on being devoured by a shark

she's in to the chin
with a pointer in her teeth

her face is straight as the pointer snaps
and the shark devours her and the pointer

the girl and the pointer
are inside the shark

the shark swims away with the girl
and the pointer inside it

an x-ray of the shark reveals the girl
straight-faced, with half a pointer

giving a lecture on the insides of sharks.


Matthew Burgess

Why are you such a puddle? If I squat
& peer in I see you clutch your chest,
crestfallen, watery eyes cast skyward.
But that was before the saint's pose
grew so loathsome you flung the halo
with a flip watched it sail over heads
of acolytes. That felt nice as any dip
in the Sea of Galilee unfortunately
old lyrics stuck in your gums. Poomf!
A blank scroll falls at your feet
unrolls toward the horizon into the un-
foreseeable future bright with the glare
of possibility or are those headlights
of oncoming semis? In your knapsack
you find an 8-pack of Crayolas, one dead
aunt's gold tooth & a tattered postcard
of an Acapulcan cliff diver "P.S.
Your newfound grimness becomes you."
How many Mississippi do you count
before opening your eyes to the fact
that nobody's in the auditorium? Nobody.
True, your invisible entourage RSVP'd
& the dead always show in one form
or another, yet as you eye the clepsydra
the old dilemma snickers wickedly
so give it a swift kick in the teeth.
You've nothing & if you leave words
on the counter all afternoon
they'll get syrupy & lose their fizz.
But before you can make up your mind
it drifts off to ascend the Alhambra's turrets
& finger its pink Moorish reliefs.

(After eighteen years of mild forecasts in Southern California, Matthew Burgess fled to Virginia and then to New York and took workshops at St. Mark's Poetry Project. He expects to graduate from the Brooklyn College MFA program this Spring. He has publishedin Brooklyn Review, Tamarind Review, and the forthcoming Lungfull!)


Zahera Saed
Nomad's Market: Flushing, Queens

Who would have thought I would come here?
Two hours by train from Brooklyn
to wander in shops named after lost cities,
enamored by bags full of the overpriced
ingredients to my parents' stories.

Holidays have been lonely
since the swarm of children
tugging at my elbows grew up and
went to high school.
Even lonelier since, I grew
out of my frocks and into ankle length dresses.

The shops are obsessed with maps here
and enlarged pictures from Afghanistan.
I can sketch the map in the air from memory:
its shape a human heart.

An immense pop singer winks at me by the meat freezer,
Ahmad Zahir, who may as well been Elvis,
guards the freshness of halal.
I remember him from pirate videotapes
passed from family to family
until his face was a white blur on the screen,
but my mother and all seven aunts
danced in the living room while their children were hypnotized
by Bugs Bunny in the next room.

Grand mosques with turquoise domes,
gleaming above plastic bins of tea leaves,
saffron and dried violets,
bless the shop with prosperity.
The small television placed on the counter
run musical videos of beautiful women
singing folk songs from Jalalabad
and Kandahar, decked in gold,
eyes swept with surma.
They keep their eyes averted
and carry themselves as if
being arranged in a marriage.
There is no dancing here.

The shopkeeper's son
circles around me, pretending to rearrange
boxes of spices and sweets.
He brushes by me lightly
murmuring something polite.
This is an invitation,
I know there is a way to decline
sweetly, but I can't remember the words.
So, I turn my back and busy myself with saffron --
a waste to buy, something for display.
not even mother knows how to prepare it anymore.

(Zahera Saed is an Afghan-American poet. In May 2000, she co-founded Up-Set Press Inc <> with fellow Brooklyn College MFA graduates. She has begun doctoral studies in English literature at City University.)


Jacqueline de Weever

The blank spaces of old maps
blank because the explorer
could not imagine the people
who live in such spaces
what they coveted
in their mysteries, those blank spaces
hold my histories,
several of them because I am composed
of many ancestries.

Ah! the abyss and its possibilities,
the spur knowledge,
spice to the all-encompassing greed,
those spaces left blank by design
could not assign
a place for a creature not the three-toed sloth,
even when Lake Parima,
held a magical beast, which,
under the binoculars

of exactitude, yielded only water.
Yet the old map, tinted with
my shape to come hidden there,
with the scarlet of macaws or the red ibis,
in the black abyss,
my mixed races haunting the cliff of my cheekbone
like swift waters on the lip
of the waterfall’s rock-face, those gaps where I live
not marked on any map.

(Jacqueline de Weever is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. Her work has appeared in American Poets & Poetry, Medicinal Purposes Literary Review, and elsewhere.)


Christopher Grosso
Sasakwa #2

to grow a ludicrous beard is wizardry.
despise razors or punctual.
too aloof to think "on a whim."
an offensive hat.
too drunk to say "say."
inappropriate as a nickname.
in public as private
lick your fingers after baiting a hooker.
if you still want her there in the morning
then marry her. if not
concoct a potion
to disrobe her onion. concubines seem okay.
skip the first word. fast, proceed home.
pave some asphalt in the jungle
ignoring the natives.