Jay Barnica

Issue 19

An Ashbery Cento

It was during the week we talked about deforestation.
We gathered the threads into an equation,
a gay avalanche destroyed much of the town.
We could see it coming from forever,
but should we? Should we all? Perhaps we should.

Which reminds me that I dreamed I was walking
the other time, before the messenger came to your door
and in October, lots of weather, much of it cruder.
We mustn’t draw many conclusions from that, only
we can’t mask the anxiety for long.

I guess what I’m saying is
nothing unusual happened. Soon we were leaving home
in the medium-sized city of my awareness.
We kept on living because we knew how,
but why talk of housebreaking on a night like this?

As for the father, well, he’ll become hybrid, like most of us,
signing the night’s emeralds away,
while our time on the planet ambiguously finishes.
The beginning of the middle is like that,
which brings me to my original argument:

the first year was like icing;
those who came closest did not come close;
halving and having a new thing are the same;
the truth is always a bit further on, and sits there;
the narrative got punctured.

Don’t try this at home. On second thought, come in,
whatever stops playing is the enemy of the incomplete.
In all my years as a pedestrian
that was never an issue.
Fast forward to the beginning of your Christmas present.

Source & Method

“An Ashbery Cento” is comprised of discrete lines from poems in the following collections by John Ashbery: Quick Question, Breezeway, Where Shall I Wander, A Worldly Country, Chinese Whispers, and A Wave.

Jay Barnica is a professional writing tutor and freshman composition professor in Pennsylvania. He finds poetry everywhere.

Photo by Barry Duncan on Unsplash

Scott Stoller

Issue 19

Poem Beginning With a Line by Tom Petty

I’m the King of Milwaukee.
The wisdom of a billion years.
A uniquely charismatic figure.
Once, I’d jump oceans,
decorate front yards with body parts,
kill in horrifying ways,
an unexpected cure taking a sadistic turn.

I’m the King of Milwaukee,
whittled down to almost nothing,
settled in at a lower gear.
A flowerbed of withering mums.
Hills dark black.
Open skies face scrutiny,
buffeted by anything possible.
Too late to be helped.

I’m the King of Milwaukee,
unlikely to end
with all the right parts.
If current trends don’t change,
a lost opportunity to deliver a simple message:

Get a cookbook.
Afflict the oranges.
Their spirit knows no bounds.
Consult a doctor.
That old black magic
has us in its spell again.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Volunteers are standing by.

Source & Method: The first line, which gets repeated two more times, comes from the Tom Petty song “Honey Bee.” The remainder of the lines are composed of words and phrases from either the October 30th 2019 or October 31th 2019 Wall Street Journal.

Scott Stoller’s work has appeared in numerous online and print journals and anthologies including Right Hand Pointing, Weave, decomP and Best Contemporary Tanka. He has been nominated for the And Now award for best innovative writing, and lives in the Chicago area with his wife, kids and neurotic black cat.

Photo by Dark Rider