Other notable work by Peter V. Dugan and Claudia Van Gerven.
Christina M. Rau-
The Trouble With Glasses
The dead look so awfully
dead except in the dead of winter
when the lenses fog up
transitioning from cold to warm
even in cooler temperatures
inside of homes for corpses and coffins.
This prescription is five months old,
lenses thick and heavy,
growing thicker every
six months or less,
smeared with fingertip oil,
proof of why museums don’t allow
human touch towards antique statues,
ancient sculptures, modern paintings.
The prints blot out the city views,
ocean views, reviews of theatre,
films, novels, and the ballet.
The macular degeneration slow-
ly creeps in. The optic nerve
deteriorates to the point where
fashionable frames become just that:
fashion—as do the need for lenses
lest the magnified appearance of
blind eyes becomes chic.
No power or curve or laser
will assist in making
blurs become less of themselves,
or even more of themselves.
Arms squeeze too tightly.
The bridge pinches too much.
Better glasses than these
get buried after morgue and mortuary.
Muscles take too many breaks.
Pupils to pull towards each other.
Lids pull down. Tired of seeing
a live world. Tired of seeing
The Trouble With Sleep
This would be Fall—
Autumn gives way to
There is a night within
The inner drains souls dry
more quickly than death;
the outer welcomes sleep,
restless and false in peace.
Any light that seeps in
casts more darkness
in the shape of shadows
that move in the periphery
through sideways glances
that make heads jerk to see
nothing there except what
they thought was there before.
Sometimes we’re more boring
in the dark, less ugly,**
but the beauty of the night breaks:
so fragile the bone structure
so weak the contours
so thin the skin of it.
Loudness is a horrible secret***
revealed in the stages of R.E.M.
It screams from skull wall
to skull wall
until the paralysis wears off.
The pinch shoots straight up
into the cerebellum and beyond,
that shock, that scent,
that envious grasp of timeless spice,
the mottled, cratered, nullified surface
the hand sweeps across
accidentally and shakes away
like a spider web,
only the spider stays
when the web dissipates.
Its seven and a half legs
crawl with endless reach
as it searches for warmth,
a glistening thin line tracking behind
until light comes,
but it’s a temporary remedy.
It fades, always and every.
It succumbs to gnarled, desiccated trees.
It defaults to a gavel slammed down.
It loses to thick muddy Earth, frozen,
sticks in and sinks down,
in an effortless flow of ether.
[* Frank Bidart’s “To The Dead”
** Graham Foust’s A Mouth In California
***Norma Cole’s Where Shadows Will]
The Trouble With Swimming
Even a thimble-ful of water
kills oxygen dead.
Little sacs inside pink lungs
give up the attempt to pump
when they get wet.
One second of drowning
becomes the longest two days
of your life, the time to ponder
lessons by Georgia O’Keefe:
“Nothing is less real than realism.”
or by J. Benys:
“Before I was shot, I always thought
I was more half-there than
or was that Warhol?
sometimes it’s hard
who said what.
It’s like being a drunk sailor
at the mermaid bar
trying to make all the gals
flip and flick their tales
by buying round after salty round,
but all that really gets accomplished
is wasting a paycheck that would have
been better spent on spinach
or an anchor tattoo.
The mermaids will never be
impressed by men with two legs
who can’t walk a straight line.
They know dolphins who can do better,
and dolphins don’t even have limbs.
Dorsal fins are highly underrated.
Yet the call is there:
the sweet, littering, soft crash,
water over sand over water
over sand over
and over again
into the breakback
harmony to the Siren’s
melody, back to the break
of dawn the body remembers
even though the waking mind
does not, back to before
when oxygen came from liquid
straight into the lungs—
that’s the appeal of it,
that’s the false security,
or it could be real
if the will is real enough to test it.
I want to know what green is.
I want to know if what I call green
is what everyone else calls green
when we all watch Dorothy
walk down the yellow brick road.
I would have to be in someone
else’s head to know for sure.
I would have to be John Malkovich
plus everyone else.
Max Weber told me on a museum wall
that “color must be more than a color,
a form more than a form.”
Yet he still cannot clarify for me
the green conundrum.
Color can play tricks on your mind,
making you mistake vanilla for marshmallow
with a simple slight change in white hue.
There are some chemical compounds
we can smell only when they evaporate,
like coffee and chocolate.
Those compounds are volatile.
Green is not one of those compounds.
Instead, green is a reflection of light
caught inside the prison of a prism,
locked in the middle of a rainbow’s arc.
There are people who can taste color.
They call themselves synesthetes.
They say green tastes like almonds.
I’ve heard cyanide does, too.
The liquor store up on Sunrise sells
propane and cigarettes.
That is an interesting business model.
That’s also the place where after
a rainstorm the sky grows clear blue,
clear enough to relieve your sinuses,
where the buildings part and reveal
complete rainbows as the humidity disappears.
It smells like springtime.
It tastes like grass.
Grass is green,
a non-volatile substance
that smells freshcut long after
the gardeners leave with their
Maybe that’s what green is.
A lingering newness. A fresh break
from time. A universal subsiding.
Something that simply clicks.
Consumption of Space
A bright room is a vacuum,
all heat and light,
all colors vibrant and willing,
pulled in towards one apex
dull and hard.
The speed of light is
186000 miles per second
700 million miles per hour
denoted by c.
That makes breathing near impossible.
The nothingness fills the room,
pushing against itself
while the rest pulls
towards invisible boundaries
that grow out and up.
The formula for volume is
length times width times height.
The point when taking notice will
mean something passes.
Only remnants of that point
remain to mock, to scold,
to turn scornful eyes.
Under a magnifying glass the room
grows but so do its objects
so that illusion won’t work anyway.
The area of a triangle is
one half its base times its height.
The shortest path between two points
backfires on itself,
proving what it was trying to hide all along.
Christina M. Rau is the founder and director of Poets in Nassau, a reading circuit on Long Island, NY. She teaches English full-time as Nassau Community College, where she serves as Editor In Chief of The Nassau Review. Her works have most recently been published in Prime Numbers Magazine, Aunt Chloe, and Handful of Dust. When she’s not writing poetry or blogging, she’s watching reality tv, of which she is only a little bit ashamed.
Peter V. Dugan-
Inside the poisoned ivy covered walls
of the center for termination,
a room is filled with witnesses
as the eternal deathwatch continues.
A lifeless body lies on a bed surrounded
by bouquets of gargoyle gladiolus and black dragon lilies.
On a table to the side, a pineapple pen and paper await,
a death certificate to be signed in black-cherry ink
Artificial life support ceased.
A do not resuscitate order will be enforced.
The cardiac monitor still beeps and bumps.
The chest rises and falls in faint rhythmic breath.
Cerebral intellectuals and other attending physicians of the inhumanities
predict death is imminent and wait for the patient to flat line.
While, wild-eyed overzealous, overeducated academics,
coroners of literature and art, are at the ready to dissect
and perform an autopsy on the body of work.
Morticians pace the hall in anticipation to embalm the corpse.
But don’t know if it is to going be cremated, buried
The body begins to spasm and tremor
Is this the rattle? Is this the end?
The body bolts upright,
rises above the bed
and flies out the window.
Out on the streets, life goes on.
Little or no crowd gathers any moss
amid the blend and meld of music
a cacophony of natural and unnatural sounds
flow into the jazz like euphony of existence
but no one seems to pay any attention
as it never was
but forever is
It’s Totally Art
The city skyline is invisible,
or is it just
a consciousness contrived
by a counter-culture conspiracy.
There is no point of reference.
You’d chase that high
all the way to Manhattan
to experience a systematic instamatic
cinematic collage of images
granted powers beyond the nature
of their existence
by linguistic acrobatics presented
by illegal Mexican midget wrestlers
aliens from outer space,
who only rant and rave
wreaking havoc and mayhem
curled in the fetal position,
weeping like virgins
leaving graffiti marks on the walls,
bruising egos and shattering self-esteem.
But, you are always filled with the fear
of being deported to a jazz bar in the city
like a rogue asteroid exiled
from the community of planets.
So, burn them in a sacrificial flame
scatter the ashes in the wind.
That’s why God created IKEA.
But they don’t deliver
in the red rust glow of twilight.
it’s time to face reality.
Oasis of Chaos Theory
innocent satanic goat heads
adorn art class avatars
street level Cossacks
and Dali wanna-bees
as the silver bullet trio of snobs
play clarinet, tangy steel piano
and out of tune cello
anemone gladiators spew verse
recite odes of gun-port malaprops
while the sharp edged co-anchor
co-authors unveil a wired vat anthem
of misnomer ear candy epaulets
filled with alien slang sarcasm
to garner old flame Elysium stand-ins
and amuse runner-up vestal virgins
shed rabbit tears
as a village voice cries in the wilderness
tied to a gothic chain link fence
enforcement of a weedy leash law
enacted by red face rat race atonal icemen
who inflict seedy red-hot exclamations
to provoke a bar room brawl
whiteness wastes away
as they drink low end olive oil
a spot of tea and manta ray ale
Peter V. Dugan was born and raised on Long Island. He is a graduate of The New School in New York City. He has published four collections of poetry, Medusa’s Overbite, Members Only, A Cul-de-Sac Off Of Main Street and Getting IT@The Oswego Tea House. He is the Nassau County coordinator for The North Sea Poetry Scene and hosts readings at the Oceanside Library and Wyld Chyld Tattoo and Café on Long Island. His major influences have been William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Frank O’Hara and Jack Kerouac.
Claudia Van Gerven-
The Uses of Angels
–If an Angel deigns to come, Rilke
all moon-pearly and gorgeous as an iceberg
will he melt and leave the polar bears
to master the back stroke?
Or will he dissolve a lone star in a pale heaven
fizzing like expensive champagne?
There must be a song in this–
or at least some bit of musical theater, a rousing
chorus with lots of high-stepping
amber-lit as sunset, moon
a slim slice of vermeil.
Geese keep coming and going–
quills shed by the lake as if
they had words in them.
Are they heralds, those restless V”s
scrawled across the moon,?
Do they presage something Other?
Why do we pray
to every four-leafed clover– its fate
as green and perilous
as our own?
Isis swirls a swift wing, whiff of ozone
surmise of thunder in your shiver
wink of a dark iris
and you are alone again on that shore.
Plovers thrust small white breasts across
unaccountable seas. Do they conceive
a destination? In what do wings believe?
The goodness of air. A wave ripe with fishes.
What do nets of coral retrieve? Tiny first
urges tumbled in sea and the forests
of kelp tangling at your ankles, a cat’s
cradle, blooming new
with each wash of waters– and it happens
without your consent, like air
green and sticky in your lungs, coming
and going without thought.
What can you know in that slim throb
of light and the vast
heave of night– there a stone sea washed
in moonlight, here the muscled door
of oyster? In her shouldered shadow
in her sweep of winged light, slices
of what’s lost, what’s found.
Later Than You Think
Swaying is a discipline to the sea grasses
rooted in a vast restlessness
as stiffness to mourners among headstones
another casket draped in skirl of pipes lurching
toward pearling gates we don’t believe in
The one-eyed imaginary rakes the desert
from its green pyramid of symbols. The masons
have deserted their temples. The sphinx waits
a mouth full of accidents. Shoppers huddle
in their tents waiting for Black Friday
The fallout, they say, was a cloud of
purple dust, a fiduciary wafture
through the weeds, under the docile hooves
of cows. Childhoods withered among
the nettles, the red stone
Dying takes a long time. The gingko unrolls
her green ampul into the flat palms of
an new era. Wars are no longer cold, but scorching
gritty. Debacles at six and then cocktails
We collage lives with pixels and glue sticks
Think of the rigors of rowing, the dragonfly
lifting transparent signal
flags across the waving heat
of Utah desert, lighting on pointless
needles of Saguaro
Claudia Van Gerven is a published poet who teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder.. Her chapbook, The Ends of Sunbonnet Sue, won the 1997 Angel Press Award and her full-length manuscript, The Spirit String, has been a finalist for the Backwaters Poetry Prize (1998), the Verse Poetry Award, (2000) and the Bright Hill Press Poetry Prize (2003). In August of 2003, she won a Residency at Hedgebrook Farm Writing Retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. She also researches and writes about feminist pedagogy, writing pedagogy, and women’s literature.