The Country Dog Review

Spring/Summer 2011

Kate Angus


GUIDANCE

In the old stories there are dark woods
where you must find your fortune, somewhere inside a wolf

or in a house that stands on restless chicken legs in a clearing.
The path’s illuminated: lanterns made from skulls.

A witch rides a mortar and pestle; another will let you lick
sugared walls to grow fat. Occasionally luck sparkles

like the sun on water and you come home with a prince, with a handful
of magic beans, or that mixed blessing of literal eloquence

when each word in your mouth is a diamond. On the one hand,
inordinate riches; on the other, you can never again whisper

and must always stay silent in bed or else you and your lover
will be sleeping on stones. Bright shiny ones. I am not very good

at taking the long view. When young we are told
we can be so many things. Here’s a snapshot

of me today: a sleeping machine, a bitter little robot, an old car
where you must turn the key over until rusty gears shift.

I am all dead leaves! In a pile where the wind
and the children come. It will not be so easy to leave this world after all;

there are cupcakes and, on Molly’s kitchen table, plastic ducks in a row
on a mirror laid down to mimic a pond: her daughter’s first grade diorama.

Small pebbles and reeds and soon, from a bottle, she’ll add what’s called
Realistic Water. Dear ships in a bottle, tiny trees

unshedding always, it seems that it’s true: you can
buy a small anything. Campfire, tombstones,

pile of snow-dusted logs. Not so in the larger world, which is fine.
We’re not supposed to want very much after all.


*

YES TO ALL OF THAT

These lips dyed red: what color
fear is. Dear, these bones
jut through

drape of fabric,
drape of skin. I’m in
the cage I wanted, made

to locate myself easier.
Inside me,
all these pinprick holes.

That’s where
the light comes in
and projects

camera obscura
pictures. It’s where
the wind sings. Someday

you’ll have them too.

Kate Angus’s work has appeared in various places, including Barrow Street, Subtropics, Gulf Coast, North American Review, cellpoems, Third Coast, Verse Daily, as a portfolio introduced by David Lehman for Poet Lore’s “Poets Introducing Poets” feature, and in the Best New Poets 2010 anthology. She lives in New York where she teaches poetry at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and is an editor at Augury Books.


***

Paul Scot August


COTTONWOODS
 

A summer snowfall begins on our block.
Cottonwoods release themselves to the wind.

I look up and see them carried
on the updraft, mini cumulus against

a deepening sky. The late afternoon sun
brushstrokes angles of light against the slat-

wood fences, shrub rows, and stumps lining
our street. A car passes by without noticing.

A dog tugs its owner along the cracked
sidewalk and in the distance, a siren cries out.

I want to look upon your face one more time,
but perhaps it is better that you moved away.

A freight train crawls through the village,
adds staccato bursts of air horn, opens up

the next crossing. The white noise of urban
silence envelops the street and seed-flakes

settle onto the lawn, descend over the porch,
drifting into piles against my unlaced shoes.


Paul Scot August is originally from the North side of Chicago but has now spent half his life in Wisconsin. He has an MA in Creative Writing from UW-Milwaukee and has worked as an upholstery salesman, a roofer, a dishwasher, a mail room sorter, an automobile mechanic, a daycare worker, a pizza delivery driver, an independent bookstore owner, and a software developer. He is a former poetry editor of The Cream City Review. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Sugar House Review, Hobble Creek Review, Stone's Throw Magazine, Dunes Review, Naugatuck River Review, Passages North, Poetry Quarterly, The Cream City Review, Scribble Magazine and elsewhere. He currently lives in the Milwaukee area with his two children.


***
Vanessa Blakeslee

THIEVERY

On the first day of summer,
I perch on the floor in the attic.
The rain drums down the rooftops.
From the television, a gamelon orchestra
clangs and trills.

Cross-legged, I nestle my notebook on my lap.
I should be taking notes;
I should be peering intently at the tapes
borrowed from the office of my anthropology professor.
I should be studying the blurred figures
of the two cocks on-screen,
out of focus yet squaring off.
Every few moments, one of the cocks flies
at the other.
Spurs flash in the sunlight.

But instead I fill the notebook with desires,
trials between the boys of summer and me.
The thunder claps overhead,
and the attic air smells of clothing long boxed-up
and old shoes.

But I only lived in that house one summer.
The tapes sighed and moaned in the VCR,
the boxes abandoned underneath the eaves,
the boys like the two cocks, fighting,
only never over me.

Another summer in Florida,
Only we haven’t had rain for weeks.
Smoke billows across the shrunken lakes.
So again, I write indoors, holed up like a thief,
stealing from the past,
the gongs sounding with the clap of thunder in the attic,
the Balinese mask jeering at me from the wall.
One night in Bali dampens my page.

I leave and stroll to the lake,
the scent of wildfires burning
like the incense drifting across rice paddies.
I wanted to hold your hand.
But you never offered once.



Vanessa Blakeslee received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been recognized by grants and fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and the United Arts of Central Florida, and has appeared in The Southern Review, Harpur Palate, The Bellingham Review, The New York Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. She is completing a novel. Find Vanessa online at www.vanessablakeslee.com.


***

James Ellenberger


IN SUMMER, MY MOTHER CUT HER HAIR ON THE PORCH

Fallen in a circle, the brown chaff was needlesoft
on bare feet, like roughhousing beneath a pine.

She eyed snips in a hand-mirror, her dark curls,
sheared as if from iron, splashing in puddles.

Afterward, she swept the hair into mounds
for goldfinches and arrow-quick chimney swifts.

She loved the careful needlework of their theft.
Brailed by their flitting, she stood there till dusk:

each flight clipped beyond the screen door,
weaving gold, sap-amber, and the swoop-cursive

of wingtips. They stitched her scraps in the eaves
of the porch, in places the flightless could not reach. 



James Ellenberger is currently an M.F.A student at The Ohio State University. His poetry has most recently appeared in Stirring.

***

Russell Evatt


DESERT WALK, ODESSA

All this vegetation but no trees.
Everything a shade of sand.  The thorns
of the mesquite.  The petals of snow-on-the-prairie.

Two lovers sit in the grinding shadow
of a pumpjack.  Mala Mujer,
or bullnettle, grows with its stiff, stinging hairs

and though the seeds are delicious,
the lovers won’t take the chance.  There’s a limit
to how far they will walk before deciding

to turn back, this isn’t the way and it’s getting late.
Then, when there are only a few thoughts left
to parse out, there is I told you

and I knew this would happen.  They might
as well be alone.  The sun and its dusty
orange filter leans farther into the earth.



Russell Evatt recently lived in Krakow, Poland where he studied the Polish language.  His work has appeared in The Cafe Review, Specs Journal, and The Louisville Review.  He has an MFA from the University of Illinois and currently teaches at Parkland College.

***

Michael James Gossett



REACH, FOR THE MIDWIFE

Sister midwife, child in your toweled hands,
my infant child slipping out into your hands
born, still a small slippery soap bar, sister, clean,
cleanly sliding in your hands like a bar glass
swaddled in dish towels, a glass child held
the way jumpy fish are held, in your hands,
a first child, children will jump their hands up
the bat this way to see who will bat up first,
climb way up the rope this way to sound the bell
in gym, rope child, swaddled, in your sound hold
like a clean bell, now slipping through your hand holes,
a jumpy gym infant slipping out to the ground whole,
my sliding fish child slipping to a bar of ground,
in this moment he’s alive, breaking toward ground,
sister, watch him as he lively breaks in a moment
the way a clean dish breaks in a small moment,
my stillborn child, across the clean tile foolishly,
sister, standing on the tile with your glass hands
reaching out, batting around this way, foolishly.



Michael James Gossett
is an MFA student at the University of Maryland, where he teaches composition and creative writing. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he studied poetry and philosophy at Rhodes College. His work has most recently been featured in Glass.

***

Anya Groner


CRUSH

I don’t know who threw the first grape,
but it was soon pandemonium, glorious
fruit hurdling faceward on tooth pick arrows,
exploding webs of pulp. You dropped
raspberries down my shirt and I smeared
papaya on your sun-ripened neck. Later
we traded pants and collapsed to watch,
breathless, the star shower of oozing fruit,
the detachable genitalia of plants.  Your hip
brushed my thigh as we invented a future
where flora rules fauna and families
of daffodils admire human privates in vases
on summer tables, commenting breezily
on their sweet odors, downy petals,
and thick purple stamens. When your toes
punctured a stray plum, I blossomed,
my pollen drifting onto the tile. I could’ve
devoured your Adam’s apple. That day
we said nothing. Our side-by-side sex
mere ornaments on a daisy’s buffet. I waited
for gusts to blow seed to my velvet.
I begged, voiceless, to be smashed.



Anya Groner
's poetry and fiction have appeared in journals including Flat Man CrookedstorySouthMemphis Magazine, Juked and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Mississippi where she was a John and Renee Grisham fellow. She teaches and writes in New Orleans.

***

Matthew Haughton

VESPERS

The drive through Flatwoods
in an old ‘71 Cutlass
you resurrected,
gave us our first taste
of worldly freedom.
Comic books thrown
in the backseat,
Led Zeppelin in the tape-
deck, we cut over
to Short-White Oak
so we could drive
fast on the back-roads.
In passing fields
came the blurred
sense of counties,
steep cow pastures —
barns on raised stilts,
past nooks with names
like Hensley Hollow,
the old Pentecostals
baptizing their numbers
at the creek bed.
You let your little brother
ride shotgun,
with no thought of a turn
in the path ahead,
only the widening world
swallowing itself
down narrow back-roads.


Matthew Haughton is the author of the chapbook, Bee-coursing Box (Accents Publishing). His poetry has appeared/set to feature in many journals including Appalachian Journal, Now & Then, Still, and New Southerner. Haughton lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

***

Heather Price


CURSED BY APOLLO, CASSANDRA TRANSFORMS HERSELF INTO A DOG

It is not the thunder outside,
but the weight of her that wakes me
when she jumps onto the bed.
Flashes through the Roman shades
reveal her dark form, trembling.
I turn on the light. The other dog
looks up, cocks his head and,
determining there is nothing, settles
back in his spot on the floor.
But Cassie won’t lie down.
She stares at the wall, catatonic,
the pressure in her ear
a warning of something unseen
but not far off, the outside
trying to get in. I know enough
to understand not to comfort her,
that a touch on her neck from me
would only reinforce her fears.
I could ask her, what is it, girl?
But she doesn’t have the words.
Instead, I tap Mississippi’s
under the covers, counting distance,
then time. She is seven; I am thirty-three,
her dog years now having passed me.
Her brother gnaws at his bone,
insensitive to barometry,
immune to the smell of ozone.
These are my only children.
In a matter of years, I will outlive them.
Only one of us knows. Who am I
to assure her nothing is coming?        
She, whose ears have been licked clean
by temple snakes, their forked tongues
dripping with Apollo’s spit,
its gift and its curse.
She, who navigates through tropotaxis
the here and out there,
the now and to come.
If a name can be a curse,
I have cursed her unintentionally.
Like Cassandra herself, her grace is
her punishment—how tragic to feel
a truth but never taste it on the tongue.
The storm rattles the wind chimes,
something bangs the house.
She doesn’t blink, doesn’t even
whimper, just sits, still as a sphinx
waiting to be struck down,
even as her brother yawns his limbs
into down-dog—oblivious
to every coming strike—
curls in on himself and goes to sleep.
Who am I not to heed
the grumblings of an ancient sky,
promising, if not today, then soon enough?



*


to a woman to a man how to talk
                                 --after Pam Houston


skins or blankets: a woman’s muffled voice:
a man desires this: the satisfaction of
his desire will drop the stick at his feet every time:
tell him it don’t come
easy: tell him it’s just another word
like the house key another kind of lie
the card will say: get out:
something like from your not-so-
:get out of the house quickly:
-secret admirer: open it: examine each truffle: feed them
to the dog: tell him: you don’t speak chocolate.
a woman desires the condition of.
desiring you and he cannot speak.
he’ll pull you back under the same language.
if you can let him sleep alone if you can’t.
plan to be breezy and aloof and full of interesting.
anecdotes about all the other men you’ve ever.
plan to be hotter than ever in bed and a little cold out of.
necessity is the mother be flexible this is what.
love means letting go of the mule deer on the wall.
play willie nelson’s he’ll be humming.
in your ear he’ll be taking off your clothes.
setting you hovering with.
tinsel shudder and blur the record.
will end one long low howl break.
the quiet of the frozen.
night the nights are getting shorter now know
you could never.
shoot an animal and be glad of it.


Heather Price was born in Texas and grew up in New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. She holds MA degrees in fiction and poetry from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and has taught creative writing and composition at Roger Williams University and Bryant University. Her poetry has been a finalist for The Yalobusha Review’s Yellowwood Prize and was nominated for the AWP Intro Award and Best New Poets. Currently she is completing her MFA degree at The Ohio State University in Columbus, and is working on a book-length poetry manuscript.

***

Steven D. Schroeder


MY EQUATION FOR YOUR EXPLOSION

My brick for your break
My mother for your fucker
My finger for your cutoff

But your letters written
So hard the neighbors heard

Your spoon bent by the force
Of blunt forehead trauma

Your mind your own business
For my own my own business

My has his father’s eyes reminder
Lidded under grown up a man

My lied again. Our tic, our tick,
Our one more time. You’re mine.



Note: The title is from Sandra Beasley's “My Los Alamos”

Steven D. Schroeder’s first book of poetry is Torched Verse Ends (BlazeVOX [books]). His poems are available or forthcoming from Pleiades, The Journal, Copper Nickel, Washington Square, and The Collagist. He edits the online poetry journal Anti-, serves as a contributing editor for River Styx, and works as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

***

Joshua Michael Stewart


I WANTED TO BE A BLUE JAY OR WEAR A FLOWERED APRON


Steam rises from my coffee like fog off a lake
at dawn. This must be how the pond near
our home appeared as my father stood at its edge
with a suicide note in his coat pocket, scanning

the calm water for a scar. But I was behind the shed
in the backyard, taking swigs out of a swiped
bottle of vodka and shoving handfuls of Vicodin
into my mouth, the dew from the grass soaking

through my jeans. Blue jays flew in and out
of the pines. I delighted their squawking—I thought
of tenement women airing laundry on fire escapes.
I wanted to climb the branches for the same reason

I want to walk into a house of strangers when I pass
the glow of their kitchen windows—to sink into their lives,
their chicken soup. Didn’t William Matthews compare
heaven with the eternal light of talk after dinner?

After awhile I heard footsteps wading through leaves.
He didn’t call out, not wanting to wake my mother
and sister before he found me. I waited for him,
for his shadow to cool the side of my face

where the sun had been. But why think of this now
at Mocha Maya’s on Halloween? Hordes of plastic
jack-o-lanterns stuffed with sugary loot zip between
tables while parents order extra shots of espresso 

and complement the costumes, especially the mouse’s
and her sister’s, the cheese. One year I dressed up
as a haunted house my father constructed out of cardboard,
rigged with a tape recorder that played a loop of creaking

doors and ghostly moans. There was even a chimney
with real smoke. These days with his tremors, he’s unable
to button his shirt. He forgets to eat, so I bring him
pork braciole every Thursday. When our plates are empty

except for a smearing of sauce, he’ll occasionally mention
that morning behind the shed. I didn’t take into account
that he’d blame himself, that with or without death
guilt would haunt him. He looks at me as if I’m a puzzle,

and he no longer has the lid with the picture to make
sense of things. I may never know why I couldn’t feel
the warmth of the fire inside his house. What can you say
to your father after you’ve tried to kill the one he loves?


Joshua Michael Stewart
has had poems published in Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Cold Mountain Review, Georgetown Review, William and Mary Review, Flint Hills Review, Pedestal Magazine, Evansville Review and Worcester Review. Pudding House Publications published his Chapbook Vintage Gray in 2007. Finishing Line Press will publish his next chapbook Sink Your Teeth into the Light. He lives in Ware, Massachusetts.

***

Brad Whitehurst


FEAR OF MOLES

A labor of nocturnal creatures
        skitters at dusk through crackling desert scrubland,
horny-nailed, furred fins that oar

the cooling sands and smuggle blind
        cylindrical bodies underground. They glow
in infrared, like negatives

on monitors in a bunker staffed
        by strategic, square-jawed men who firebomb
and fill, firebomb and fill

the tunnels snaking beneath the miles
        of earthwork where the blast wall rises. Dawn
horizon shimmers, bristling rebar

as another form is poured
        and sets. Their shell-shocked ears still ringing, the live ones
check for shrapnel, engineer

another way to go around.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Brad Whitehurst teaches at The Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City.  He has earned degrees in English from The College of William and Mary, Georgetown University, and the Bread Loaf School of English.  His poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Meridian, The Sewanee Theological Review, and other venues.