Shared Edens of Thick Pages

Why I Can’t Finish Raymond Carver’s Biography
by Cheryl Rice

For months I slogged through that new
bio of Raymond Carver, that
massive headstone of a volume that
details his lumberjack childhood,
child bride waitress, educational gallivants to
Yakima, Berkeley, Iowa City, with
Israel thrown in as a stab at real class,
rocket speed lives propelled by
alcohol, ego, love, and I realize
I remember the best parts already.

They remind me of my parents, guessing at normal,
Sunday cookouts with aluminum grills,
charcoal briquettes and plenty of lighter fluid,
lawn chairs repaired with new plastic webbing,
easy weave repeating its Woolworth glory.
Their only major move, though, was South,
to Florida, when they’d finished off
life on Long Island for good, a final decade
of hard work off short piers,
illogical chemistry driving them into the sunset,
holding pattern horse track surrounding
their Eden of silent palms, around and
around, brass ring out of reach.

Here on my own carousel, I pick up the book,
put it down, thick pages turning too slowly.
I roll over, shut my eyes, try to go to sleep,
but see Syracuse blizzards, oil drum cannons
exploding with independent fire,
brown American Schaefers lining ancient
suburban sidewalks, awaiting inspection,
sacrifice of hamburgers, hot dogs on a rolling pyre,
Dad turning, turning the meat, Mom inside
constructing potato salad thick with mayo
and regret, biting onion tears.

I hear when I close my eyes the Good Humor man passing,
and the sun slanting sideways, Atlantic sparkling
like a rabbit’s watch, time trickling on the
way it does on either coast.


Founder and host of the Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, Cheryl A. Rice has run her RANDOM WRITING workshops throughout the Hudson Valley. Rice has lived there for over 30 years, after growing up on Long Island. Her poetry blog, Flying Monkey Productions, is at

The Cost of Routine Booze Madness

One Dollar
by Ryan Hardgrove

the old man
urban poverty thin
strapped behind his beer
and long Pall Mall’s
crustacean scale jowls
burnt red from decades
of routine booze madness

during the day
he sells $5 t-shirts
(fabricated by child slaves
three thousand miles away)
to big-eyed suburban tourists

and as the dull crimson urban dusk sets in
he finds a bar stool
and goes to work
taking long heavy gulps of barely cold beer
small beads of froth
seeping down his yellow-grey straw beard
as one of his Pall Mall’s smolders in the ashtray

his natural filth
mingles with the thin blue plume
pouring from his cigarette
and joins the perpetual
bar room smog
that hangs above the patrons
like leftover stardust
from the drunken supernovas
of yester-night

he makes eye contact with me
for the first time, finally drunk
and he smiles
dead brown stalactites for teeth
wrapped in five day old saliva

he says thank you
and walks calmly out the door
into the black heat of summer night

I slide a crumpled single from beneath
his empty 16oz. can of Iron City
and drop it into my hollow tin bucket


Ryan Hardgrove is currently wading through his late twenties as a feckless bartender and responsible father. He is also a writer and a musician. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his common law wife and their son.

The Bold Breath of Backyard Dreams

Peacocks and Peony
by Mary O’malley

Cleveland Museum of Art, Chinese late 14th century to early 15th century
Hanging Scroll ink and color on silk
Artist: Yin Hong Ming Court

It is spring, and large birds invade the walled
space with red and pink peonies.
Angelic white peonies burst forth from inside silk
from the death of worms spinning in trees.
Black willow branches droop
from the side.
Peahens allow peacocks to
boldly strut always
and forever demure.

I breathe in the bright colors
fall back into time
to the possibility of China
in dirt dug from my backyard.
The hole, never deep enough
for me to fall into,
the hole, my childhood failure,
the spring dream I failed to finish as a child.


Mary O’malley’s work has been published in literary zines for the last twelve years. She has a MFA and is the mother of five children. She also has a published play.

The Rocking of Gentle Nothings

Rocking Chair
by Sujatha Warrier

Whiffs of air
whisper sweet nothings,
Life gently rocks in its chair,
A soft heave backward
to browse the distant skies,
A smooth lunge forward
into the infinite horizon,
A sharp upturn
And the world is askew,
flipped right upside down.


Sujatha Warrier works as writer, editor, researcher and translator. Her poems have been featured by a few souvenir magazines and online literary societies such as Oz Poetic Society, and included in a few anthologies the most recent being Synthesis (a duet-poetry anthology), Anthesis (an international poetry collection), and Suvarnarekha (an anthology of Indian women poets writing English).

Dealing with Disorders

Anxiety Disorders
by JD DeHart

One has begun to strum
his fingertips like an instrument,
another meticulously plucks
her eyebrows when stressed,
and still another clucks his tongue
like a chicken.
We do not hear the slight rattle
of teeth grinding together
in the front row, but it is just another
strategy for soothing, for dealing
with the loud noises of life.


JD DeHart is the author of The Truth About Snails, a chapbook. His blog is DeHart is also a staff writer for Verse Virtual.