June-September 2006

Charles Wright

Jacqueline Marcus

Wesley McNair

Andrew H. Oerke




Charles Wright

Last Supper

I seem to have come to the end of something, but don't know what,
Full moon blood orange just over the top of the redbud tree.
Maundy Thursday tomorrow,
                                              then Good Friday, then Easter in full drag,

Dogwood blossoms like little crosses
All down the street,
                               lilies and jonquils bowing heir mitred heads.

Perhaps it's a sentimentality about such fey things,
But I don't think so.  One knows
There is no end to the other world,
                                                    no matter where it is.

In the event, a reliquary evening for sure,
The bones in their tiny boxes, rosettes under glass.

Or maybe it's just the way the snow fell
                                                             a couple of days ago,

So white on the white snowdrops.
AS our fathers were bold to tell us,
                                                      it's either eat or be eaten.

Spring in its starched bib,
Winter's cutlery in its hands.  Cold grace. Slice and fork.


High Country Canticle

The shroud has no pockets, the northern Italians say.
Let go, live your life,
                                the grave has no sunny corners

Deadfall and windfall, the aphoristic undertow
Of high water, deep snow in the hills,
Everything's benediction, bright wingrush of grace.

Spring moves through the late May heat
                                                             as though someone were poling it.



Jacqueline Marcus

Strip-Mining, Purgatory

                      for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

This is my last photo...
days when the rain rolled a long way down the mountain
like bright coins among the bristling pines.
Nights when the moon's pearls shouldered the river.
Crows, repeated their Whys,
and small birds gathered twigs in the birches.
It's gone now.  Nothing's left but the coal deposits.
Stockholders spent five hundred million dollars
for a jaw that decapitates the crowns of mountains
and drains the blood from the inside out.
Everything's up for sale in these dark Satanic Mills
where lobbyists dine with their friendly Senators,
trading cash for our national parks
out of sight.  Out of mind.
Acid rain, tree-rot, bloated fish floating on a lake of fire.
As for God's Sweet Grandeur, those purple mountains majesty...
take a good long look at their hollow craters,
like the bowl of a child's skull,
defenseless against evil.


Wesley McNair


After the one more day
of work that leaves his work
undone, he wakes

deep in winter in the farmhouse
on the curve of the road,
his dear companion

and children held fast
by the silence that seems
to him like death, and listens

to the muffled if,
if, if
of a downshifting truck
rounding the turn to discover

in snow and ice the nearly
impossible hill, then listens
to the car after car

traveling down, so intent
on how they slow
at the unpredicted, dangerous

turn just below him groping
in their cave of light,
no one could show him

what he sees in the corner
of his eye, these strange, beautiful
flashes moving by reflection

across the sky of his room,
each opening a window
quickly out of a window to make

its long, bright point, the stars
he has saved in spite of himself
all these years from the dark.

The Gangsters of the Old Movies  

The cars they stole looked as square
as the small-town chumps
who owned them, like a kind of house
with a step in front of the door

and two rooms inside that had couches
and vases for flowers between
the windows. Automobiles,
they were called, the name

of what it felt like for some sap
and his family to sit still
while their overstuffed seats
moved down the street

as if my themselves. Floor it,
said the gangsters of old movies,
squealing their tires, which had nothing
to do with pretty flowers or going

to grandmother's house. So what
if the thug on the running board
with the heater fell off right in front
of the cops, they were on their way

to the hideout to split the take.
The gangsters of old movies
were in love with motion,
which was why, among the others

who saved their cars in garages
for Sunday drives, they never fit in,
and why, when they entered the bank
to find the place as still

as a lending library or a museum
where all the dough was kept
behind glass, they felt like
shooting holes in the ceiling

and getting the tellers and the bank
president out from behind the bars
to roll around in the lobby and beg
for their lives. How could they explain

to these hopeless throwbacks
to another century that life
was about the pleasures of money
and screwing people out of it

with the engine running,
not quite knowing they belonged
in another century themselves?
Never mind that the little thug

who was always nervous
about making it to the big time
finally sings like a canary to put them
behind bars, too, and forget

the canned lecture on upholding the law
in the last reel that sounds
like a civics lesson by an old maid
in a one-room school,

and rewind to the getaway scene
of the largest heist in history,
where the Boss, in a back seat
with the life savings of all the pigeons

in the heartland tucked away
in his suitcase, sits as unfazed
as a CEO off for the holidays.
See how, in the perfect meeting

of speed and greed, their black cars
hit the mains street among sirens
with the authority of a presidential
motorcade. Look again

at how easily they ditch the cops
and turn their square automobiles
into spirals of dust, on the road
to the Future of Our Country.


Andrew H. Oerke


In a gasoline alley in Rome
hooves thresh cobblestone.
They harvest clops and sparks.
They wheel a face in a carriage
to my flashbulb, and click:
when beauty happens, it happens quick.

The secret of art is it berates
motion and commands it be still,
or sees through motion to the stillness
we stem from but try to kill.

The horse is gone, the horse is here.
The horse is here but long gone.
No one know how still he is but Time.

He clip-clops down the street of my Eustachian tube
as if my ear could hear infinity.
He flutters through my eye
as if my eye could scope eternity.
The horse still floats on its drumming hooves.
The carriage still dangles from a pair of eyes,
and everything else is a damn pack of lies.


If all directions were tied in a knot
that shrank itself to a point and turned
inside out on the far side of nothing,
these artists would be philosophers of paint
and believing would be seeing.  Under the tall
clock-tower sun, light’s punctuation stops
and starts as if sight exists in steps. 

Maybe life is punctual and stippled
from any point of view, and never stapled
or blended together, each note and nit,
whether tittle or jot, tattling not
at all on each other; every day and night
unique, discrete, and impenetrable
as a monad or Plato’s template of a table.
The Horse Illusion has only one stable,
and God like us is never a datum
but an infinitely dwindling and expanding item.
What lies behind the little white dot on white
but a big blank field with not a dot in it?
Maybe Stephen Hawking’s hawking his mind.




Contributors' Notes

Charles Wright is the author of many books. Chickamauga, his eleventh collection of poems, won the 1996 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. His other books include Buffalo Yoga (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004); Negative Blue (2000); Appalachia (1998); Black Zodiac (1997), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990; Zone Journals (1988); Country Music: Selected Early Poems (1983), which won the National Book Award; Hard Freight (1973), which was nominated for the National Book Award; and two volumes of criticism: Halflife (1988) and Quarter Notes (1995). His translation of Eugenio Montale's The Storm and Other Poems (1978) was awarded the PEN Translation Prize. His many honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. He is Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The selected poems are republished from his new chapbook, The Wrong End of the Rainbow; Quarternote Chapbook Series, Sarabande Books 2005.

Jacqueline Marcus is the editor of  Click here for bio.

Wesley McNair has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, an NEH Fellowship in literature, and two NEA fellowships. Other honors include the Jane Kenyon Award, the Robert Frost Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize, the Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry magazine, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, an Emmy Award, and two honorary degrees for literary distinction. His work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize annual, two editions of The Best American Poetry, over fifty anthologies, and fourteen books, including volumes of poetry and essays, and three anthologies. His new collection of poetry, The Ghosts of You & Me, will be out early in 2006. Samples of his work may be found at

Andrew H. Oerke is returning to poetry after many years in development work with the Peace Corps and other voluntary organizations.  His poems of mine have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, and in numerous other magazines.  This winter, two new books of my poetry, African Stiltdancer and San Miguel de Allende, were published jointly by Swan Books and the UN Society for Writers and Artists.