Dan Sklar

Issue 16

Circus Performer, 40 Years, Dies
—Mauled 100 Times

”And now, in the most dangerous,
blood-curdling, suicidal,
wild-animal display ever
conceived, the world’s greatest
wild-animal trainer,
Clyde! Beatty!!”

A dramatic, intense and chilling
flirtation with death–a flirtation
that left him scarred, clawed,
and spotted with fang marks.
It was a flirtation, too, that made
him a symbol of the eerie, bizarre world
of the circus, a world of hokum
and high drama, of show biz
and sudden death.

“I want people to see me close.
I want them to see the cats
right up to me; to be close
enough to smell the cats.”

For eighteen minutes, in a cage
filled with between 12
and 30 lions and tigers,
Mr. Beatty whipped and cajoled,
whispered and shrieked.

If a lion lunged at him,
he would stop talking,
he would freeze and stare
at the big cat with the chair
poised and the whip held back.

If a tiger clawed at his chair,
he would push it free
and blast away with his
.38 caliber pistol.

The audience,
of course,
loved it.

“It was a rough afternoon,”
he would say after a performance,
sipping a highball, recalling the show
during which the big cats performed
body rolls, body spins,
walked atop a huge roller and,
for a finale, lay side by side
in a straight line.

“Everything was all right until
the brothers started acting up.
It’s Caesar who’s peculiar.
He has a way of hitting the chair
so it twists my wrist.
For six months now he’s been doing it.
Last Saturday he got me.
He tore my shirt off.”

“When I get ’em fresh from the jungle
they’re afraid of me,” he said.
“As I work ’em they get used to me.
And they’ll turn. Tigers go awful quick.
One day they’re fine, and next day
they’ll run me out of the cage.”

“The last time a tiger had me down
I wouldn’t have gotten up except
a lion attacked the tiger,” he noted.
“9 times out of 10,
a lion will kill a tiger in a fight.
But the tiger is more ferocious
toward me. Lions bluff.
When tigers come, they mean it.”

“Brutus came in today,
maybe you noticed he
circled out front.
He was looking for Buddy,
up on the perch.
Brutus was looking around
for him to say, ‘c’mon,
let’s get this guy.'”

“The worst I ever got was Nero,
a big lion born in captivity.
That was back in the thirties in Indiana.
I had females in the act
and Nero was after one of them.
I stopped him and he got over me,
with his mouth in my face.
I grabbed his mouth and pushed him away.
That’s when he grabbed my leg
and carried me around like a rag doll.
I was unconscious the better part
of twelve days, and they just about
gave up on me.”

SOURCE: The New York Times Obituary, July 20, 1965

Dan Sklar teaches creative writing at Endicott College in Massachusetts. He rides a bicycle to work.

Photo by Tom van Hoogstraten.

Pamela Joyce Shapiro

Issue 16


A traveller who walks a temperate zone
between us, that wherever we went, nowhere
comes the time when it’s later.

Days came heavy with regret,
every poem an epitaph. And any action
forgiveless, unreconcilable,
glittering like pools of ink under moonlight.

How hard it is, we say—
I turn away.

Just like a shadow in an empty room,
knowing myself yet being someone other—
like an object whose loss has begun to be felt,
my life without a life, my life in a life, my life impure,
now mumbling words like wistful and wan.

Out of nothing it came—
poet’s imaginings
quelled or quenched in leaves the sleeping sun.

Rhyming or trailing gerunds, clumps of words
singing without sound,
the weariness, the fever, and the fret
unloose themselves like stones.

Vaguely, as if not wishing it to stay,
we have erased each letter
except for one thing
you opened for me like an underground door.

Zoom out of the curved night trees,
zoom close.

1.Kingsley Amis, Against Romanticism
2. Amy Clampitt, A hairline Fracture
3. Robert Creeley, A Wicker Basket
4. Richard Hugo, Salt Water Story
5. T.S. Eliot,Four Quartets: Little Gidding V
6. W.C. Williams, The Wanderer Clarity
7. Rita Dove, Adolescence II8. Theodore Weiss, Clothes Maketh the Man
9. Margaret Atwood, Daguerreotype Taken in Old Age10. John Ashbery, The Songs We Know Best
11. T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding II
12. John Ashbery, Lost and Found and Lost Again
13. Kenneth Koch, To Marina
14. Diane Ackerman, The Dark Night of the Humming Bird15. William Butler Yeats, Fragments
16. William Butler Yeats, The Tower III
17. Gerard Manly Hopkins, Binsey Poplars

18. Marilyn Hacker, Feeling and Form
19. Anne Sexton, Letter Written on a Ferry
20. John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale
21. Paul Muldoon, Making the Move

22. Rainer Maria Rilke, Blue Hydrangeas
23. John Ashbery, Life as a Book That Has Been Put Down
24. Leslie Marmon Silko, Long time Ago
25. Pablo Neruda, Swan Lake, translation by Ben Belitt

26. Yusef Kounyakaa, Crossing a City Highway
27. Margarita Engle, More Dangerous Air

METHOD: A dear friend suggested writing an abecedarian cento. With no theme in mind, I began searching the index of a Norton anthology for lines beginning with A, B, and C, trying combinations until something felt narrative with interesting prosody. Those lines set the theme. The rest evolved line by line in order, each line requiring something specific, yet unknown, for the next. I expanded the search to every poetry book in my collection, ending with two Z lines, partly to balance the extra A of the title, but more for the added power and resolution of that closing line.

Pamela Joyce Shapiro is a cognitive psychologist intrigued by memory and language. She teaches psychology in Philadelphia and writes poetry to capture thoughts and moments otherwise forgotten. Her work has appeared in Poetry Breakfast, Better Than Starbucks, The Ekphrastic Review, and is forthcoming in SageWoman.

F. J. Bergmann

Issue 16


These are the things we do
And do not do.
Give us the money and walk away.
We’re going to do things.
If we gave you 2.7 million dollars
What would you do with it?
Call us back in half an hour.
The difference is scale.
The way we’re hearing
It’s supposed to happen.
Tractor-trailer trucks
Backing up.

SOURCE: Taking ostensibly relevant notes, verbatim, during a presentation.

F.J. Bergmann is a foundling who once was lost but now is dumbfounded.

City Saunders

Issue 16


SOURCE: Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Federal Bureau of Investigation (30 December 2018) The United States vs. Michael T. Flynn, Crim. No. 17-232 (EGS), CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/17/politics/mueller-memo-doc-flynn/index.html/.

METHOD: Found from court filings from the Special Counsel office (Department of Justice).  I read the legal briefs & chose words that I wanted to use in the new poem.

Melissa “City” Saunders is a writer, artist, student, and native of Dorchester, Massachusetts. She is a Virgo sun, Taurus ascendant, Libra moon. Saunders loves writing and loathes writing bios.

Laurie Kolp

Issue 16


Out from behind this mask
rise. From fathomless deeps,
on the beach at night
rise from fathomless deeps.

Out of the rolling ocean,
shadow. My likeness
out from behind the mask
the terrible doubt of appearances
from fathomless deeps
on the beach at night alone.

To the east and to the west,
a glimpse
of the rolling ocean.
To the east and to the west,
a glimpse
of the terrible doubt of appearances.
From behind this mask,
shadow my likeness.
Rise from fathomless deeps,
whoever you are holding me now.

SOURCE: Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Poem titles.

METHOD: Methods include searching for titles or phrases that I like and looking for themes within them. There is a lot of copying and pasting involved; and many drafts are drawn up. To me, writing found poetry is like a puzzle with multiple end results. It is a very rewarding creative endeavor that has gotten me out of dry spells time and time again.

Laurie Kolp is the author of the Upon the Blue Couch and Hello, It’s Your Mother. Some of her found poems and centos have been published in North Dakota Quarterly, concis, Prelude, Deep Water Journal, After the Pause, and Whale Road Review. Laurie lives in southeast Texas with her three children and two dogs.

Photo by Matt Hardy 

Walker Reynolds

Issue 16


There Is No Liability

Systematic Motion

After the Date

SOURCE & METHOD: I used randomly selected pages from the text of Ohio HB 49, the budget bill for the state of Ohio for FY2018-2019, to highlight the beauty and cruelty that can be found within legal language and governmental bureaucracy. All of the language used can be found for free in the publicly-available version of the bill.

Walker Reynolds was born in Ohio and is determined not to die there. He is a fan of dada, a writer of weird music and fiction, a public servant, in debt, and deeply uncool.

M.A. Scott

Issue 16


remember a sapling a dog a field

it is enough or too much

wild and wanting ripening

we grow apart the ocean it was became me


every morning

trees depend on your darkness

I feel the world explode or disappear

I let it


you reappear riding a rabbit

a small thing

the field needs a revolution

I feel the need to stomp and gallop

the field rides me

SOURCE: McKuen, Rod. Celebrations of the Heart. Simon and Schuster, 1975.

METHOD: This poem is a condensed erasure of one section of Rod McKuen’s 1975 collection Celebrations of the Heart. While I usually do erasures from prose sources, I found this book in my parents’ basement and it presented a true challenge and opportunity for transformation.

M.A. Scott is a paralegal, clarinets, collagist, and poet who likes to spend time with trees. Her poems can be found in The Adirondack Review, Heron Tree, Dream Pop Journal, and elsewhere.

Photo by Jonas Weckschmied 

Natalie Jarrett

Issue 16


Down by the river,
they take sandbagged positions and
eye the rainbow across the water.

Blow torch
the facilities
of my baby,
she fertile like circuit boxes.

On the condition of
anonymity, I shot
her dead.

The world powers who fought here
take me for a ride
in metal canoes. They
send me away from
the hulking here.

Sources and Method: I combined small sections from the song “Down by the River” by Neil Young with sections from the article “An Ancient River in Syria Sections Off a Modern War” from the New York Times. Though the former exists in no strict time or place and the ladder is very grounded in a historical and geographical context, both are very similar in that they document violence where there once was life.

Natalie Jarrett is a high school senior from the Bay Area, California

Sara Pirkle Hughes

Issue 16

I can make the sky any colour you choose. – James Turrell

Light is the fact of vision.
Humans are light-eaters,
subject to memory, beliefs, time.
Paint on windows. A solid wall.
Television screens. Childhood.
The ability to convey information.

Placing two colors beside one another
changes our perception of both.
So too does the sky change at dawn,
that deep expanse of crisp edges,
the threshold between the body
and the life-giving sun.

Therefore, an absence is a presence.
The human eye is the brain exposed,
looking at oneself looking.
Enter this world, this new
landscape without horizon,
without a vanishing point.

Do not allow the ground to remain
in control. Feel the floor end.
Let light pilot in. Embrace the shift
that comes with viewing
the earth as a maze, space as light,
life as a limitless series of tunnels.

SOURCE: “James Turrell: Into the Light”; MASS MoCA pamphlet, Spring 2018

METHOD: This poem has been constructed with the “erasure” method; the original source material are pamphlets from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). I was captivated by the ideas in each of the artists’ work described in the pamphlets, and after I eliminated large parts of the texts, I found a poem resided in each pamphlet. Therefore, the words in the poems appear in the same order that they appear in the pamphlets, but as I deleted the majority of the text, most of the word combinations / lines sound completely different from the original text.

Sara Pirkle Hughes is the author of The Disappearing Act, which won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. She is the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at The University of Alabama, where she also hosts the Pure Products Reading & Lecture Series.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana 

Eric Fretz

Issue 16


Aim a poem at you, center of the forest at night,
But these are words that all can use –
Calm, alone, the cedar guitar
Denied the small desire.

Every poem an epitaph. And any action,
Free from the least knot, equal to the strain,
Grazed the delicate words
Having been steered there only by the heart’s mistakes.

I have strip-mined love for poetry,
Jointing syllables, drowning letters,
Kneeling down in the hot raft of daisies.

Lost poem, I know
My words jingle
Never encircled, and now I’m
Off my rocker. Oh Rachmaninoff!
Possibly that’s the reason I write these poems,
Que no tenga el secreto de mis palabras,
Reality enclosed in the heart.

Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The poem will resemble you
Until our beating hearts, our violins,
Various in arms, in habit, and in tongue,
Will never more be seen?
Expressing myself precisely, of
Your eyes that once were never weary of mine:
Zealous flesh, wild, yet godly divine.


Ashbery, John. “A Box and Its Contents,” As We Know
Lord Byron, “The Giaour”
Cohen, Leonard. “Calm, Alone, the Cedar Guitar”
Dickinson, Emily. 876 [“It was a Grave, yet bore no Stone”]
Elliot, T.S. “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets
Frost, Robert. “The Axe Helve”
Guest, Barbara. “The Screen of Distance” Collected Poems p.229
Hollander, John. “West End Blues” Visions from the Ramble, XII
Issacson, Bruce. “Lost My Job & Wrote This Poem”
Johnson, Ben. “A Fit of Rhyme against Rhyme”
Koch, Keneth. “With Janice”
Levertov, Denise. “An Embroidery” IV
Myles, Eileen. “An Attitude About Poetry”
Notley, Alice. “Poem”
O’Hara, Frank. “On Rachmaninoff’s Birthday” [“Quick! a last poem…”]
Pinsky, Robert. “Poem with Refrains”
Quessep, Giovanni. “A Reading of William Blake” trans David G Murray
Rexroth, Kenneth. “The Spark in the Tinder of Knowing”
Stevens, Wallace. “Sunday Morning”
Tzara, Tristan. “To make a Dadaist poem”
Updike, John. “Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle”
Virgil. Aeneid, book 8, trans. Dryden
Wordsworth, William. “Lucy Gray, or Solitude”
Xi Xi, “What I’m Thinking of Is Not Written Words,” trans Jennifer Feeley
Yeats, W.B. “Ephemera”
Zaimis, G.F. Excavated: Athens to Alexandria, p.43.

METHOD: The constraints for my centos are that each line is a full line in a previously published poem. I cannot change a single letter of the line, but let myself alter terminal punctuation and initial capitalization. Here I adopted a ludicrous Oulipo-derived Abecedarian constraint: the poem is 26 lines long, the first line starting with A, the second B, and on through the end of the alphabet. To make it more limiting, the original author’s last name matches the letter of the line. I tried to create a poem that referred to the process of writing such absurd poems.

Eric Fretz studied contemporary art at CUNY graduate school, and is the author of Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biogaphy. He is not a poet, but has a weak spot for Oulipo experiments and constructing centos.