<< whatnots << cover

Whatnots by
Susan Lewis

Music by BacBacLove
Art by Melissa Stern

A Synthesis of Obstacles

Artwork by Melissa Sternor a Goldilocks machine, clinging like white on rice, eyelids drooping like the mother we never dropped. A moving target, in pare pareto. In omnibus unum. In hypnotic stupor. Stoop or get off the step. In other words, you & me & baby makes three. Which is & is not company, a question of syllables & other hammered bastions of respectability. In the long run we cannot expect a long run. Which puts poet of the future cheek to cheek with Chia pets. (Abort! Abort!) Which has something to do with superannuated confusion & the price of survival in this servile role. By “servile” I mean 69% or whatever you say, boss. Who glower one to th’other, beating chests like the grandfather none of us knew. This talk of heritage might make anyone angry-hungry, recalling you silverbacks baring your pearly whites while the rest of us crouch ignominiously in the back of the mouth. In the interregnum, the air has been thick with avoided conversations, converging on these looming conversions. Connective tissues flexed & stretched, snapping back like the voting public. To recapitulate, let’s capitalize on our panoply of beloved mistakes, stroll through the battered gardens, & apologize while we regretfully demolish.


In Quest

If words were pixels I could lighten these shadows. If words were pixels, my logic could be leavened. If words were binary, machines would chuckle at the right moments. The sun, alas, will still be reprehensible. I‘m not talking about death-dealing or its opposite, but something anomalous I can’t disclose. Tell me your deepest secret, as soon as I forget. There is this nagging lack, there is this honeymoon of cones & rods as colorful as any Indian wedding. Black, black is the rarity some of us are bound to crave. Call me contrary, call me besotted with soot or unwilling to put this idea beside its natural brother. What I won’t revisit is the Age of Affront. You vibrate with sympathy for a plethora of accidental beauties, although they are no less probable than the rest of us.



On Saturdays

Artwork by Melissa Sternthe cleaning boys flap their wings & pray for rain. This comes after the usual ceremony, in which nothing is made of something, to the swell of strings. Simply put, there is little or everything left to believe in. Simply put, ignore what I must say. You swat at totalities like the pests they are, evolved to outlive us. You say all is nothing, which is all the same to me, at least on Saturdays. I’ve heard Tuesdays are more forgiving. Tomorrow we’ll talk about novelty & other surviving options, so bring your personal supply of oxygen & any scraps of judgment you can spare.


Then Again

you might disagree with what I was going to say. There is reason to be timid, my grandmother might have warned, although she didn’t, being not so much fearful as disdainful of the species, as individuals & en masse. I’ve always hoped her advice would come in handy, if she had any to spare. I do have this loose tooth & one flapping ear. Your ancestors, on the other hand, walked on all fours, which is more constructive. I was hoping to marry someone with wings, or at least an aptitude for lift. I was hoping not to fight to the death. This has been a resounding success. Shed the superficial so the insults can roll off your back. I’m not sure about the learning curve, or if you should throw another curve until I’ve found a way to incorporate these blows into my ever-evolving routine.



Introduction to Sympathy

Artwork by Melissa SternDon’t be concerned if this exercise steels unfamiliar. Don’t be surprised if you stop getting invited to the trite parties. On the same hand, you may become a font of magnification. There are more sensations where this came from, all too valid to endure. No invalid, I have spied your brilliant blue peepers, veiled like coy babes in chadors. No one wants to hear about their sown damage, so don’t throw your sightings around like toy bills, without building more garish & glowering hotels. You know why neither predator nor prey makes the first move. You have no doubt tried to stir it up, even watched it percolate. Sip or climb, dodge rhyme or the Ancient Mariner just might come to haunt your cellular divide. Perhaps you have sighted a secret cove. Perhaps you have blighted a sacred dove. Either way, the price of participation is mortifying, if no one will step up to pick up the peaches.



Susan LewisSusan Lewis is the author of “How To Be Another” (Cervena Barva Press, forthcoming), “Some Assembly Required,” (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming), “Commodity Fetishism,” winner of the 2009 Cervena Barva Press Poetry Award (Cervena Barva Press, 2010), and “Animal Husbandry” (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Her poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and published widely in such journals as Raritan, The New Orleans Review, Seneca Review, The Journal, Cimarron, and Phoebe, and online venues such as Cutthroat, Fact/Simile, Pantophobia, Other Rooms, Snow Monkey and Verse. For more, visit:


Melissa SternMelissa Stern is a seminal figure in American letters. Emily Dickinson wrote of Stern, "Brothers and sisters, she has none, Melissa Stern's father is my father's son." She lives in New York City with her dog, Max. Stern is married but does not like to talk about it. Stern began her drawing career as a graffiti artist on the New York City subway system. Struck down by an F train running uptown on the downtown tracks, she now paints with one foot and her tongue. "I love poetry," she says. "Just not poetry in motion..." Visit her website for more information.


Music Credits: The performers are Jonathan Golove, electric cello; Steve Baczkowski, saxophone and winds; John Bacon, percussion (We call ourselves BacBacLove). The composition is "Alone in a Crowd" by Jonathan Golove.


to top

spacer   spacer