Archives for posts with tag: Humor

salmon stream
Henrietta: A Summer Love
by Joe Cottonwood

I do not claim to own this creek
but it flows through my property
and perhaps I own each day’s gurgle
that wakes me, and beds me, alone
after a winter of slow goodbye.

Today, a new sound: splash and thrash.
A salmon the size of an otter
struggles upstream over gravel,
pool to pool where she rests, gathers strength
for the next leap and spurt
driven by a memory she does not remember.

Nine miles from the Pacific she stops
at this dark pool under my footbridge.
In a drought year, no farther. Henrietta,
I christen thee after my favorite aunt
who has your face.

I do not claim to own this fish
but all summer she hovers in shadow,
fins barely moving, facing upstream.
Water enters, water departs
too shallow each way for escape.

At the post office I happen to meet Debbie,
a biologist who knows salmon, who also knows loss.
Something compels me to bring her to my bridge.
A secret. In a town of anglers, we tell no one else.
Debbie says Henri is waiting for a lover.

Next day, and next, Debbie drops by.
I’m not sure why. Together, daily we watch.
Henrietta says little. Avoids eye contact.
Same with Debbie who says they often starve.
Waiting to spawn, they die.

One morning, October, I awake to the rush of rain.
I run to the bridge where Debbie is already waiting.
Her hand on my shoulder. Mine, hers.
Henrietta is gone.
Debbie says Henri might return next spring.
Please, she says, call me if and when.

I am still waiting.
Strange, the signs we miss.
The love. The fish.

PAINTING: Spawning Salmon by Julie, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The “I” of this poem is actually a good friend of mine whose creek became the summer rest stop of a fish that he named Henrietta. Taking weekly walks with my friend I always paused to visit Henrietta, so I am the Debbie of the poem. From such waters, the poem swam away and took on a life of its own. I am still waiting for my friend to chew me out about this.

Cottonwood Joe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes and writing books. He lives with his high school sweetheart under giant redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California where he dodges wildfires while caring for curly-haired dogs and straight-haired grandchildren. His latest book is Random Saints. More at

snorkler burdeny 1960
Snorkeling with Jesus
Keawakapu Beach, Kihei, Maui
by Carolyn Martin

Don’t even think of it! Walking on waves
without a paddleboard is embarrassing.
Anyway, we’ve agreed it’s your undercover day.

Over here. Let’s settle in the shade of this plumeria.
After years at the Jersey Shore, I’ve learned
a careless burn isn’t worth a tan’s vanity.

If you hand me your mask, I’ll show you how
to stop it fogging up. A drop of Spit® swished
around each lens will clear the visibility.

Wait! Before you put it on, tuck your hair
behind your ears. Don’t miss any flighty strands.
You want it sealed tight so water won’t sneak in.

Now fit the snorkel in your mouth and breathe.
Yes . . . it sounds weird and, beneath the waves,
acoustics will be more intense. But focusing

on breath will help you meditate as angels, tangs,
unicorns, butterflies, and – I’m showing off –
humuhumunukunukuapuaas go swimming by.

No, no! Don’t put fins on yet. Wait until you’re floating
in the waves. See that guy who pulled his on
onshore? Another drunken crab scuttling in reverse.
A wetsuit? Are you kidding me?
Boss Frog’s is three miles away and I’ve checked:
Maui’s water is as warm as Galilee’s.

You’re right. The graying coral is disheartening.
Some fish boycott the reefs and locals blame
chemicals lushing-up miles of golf course greens.

No . . . it’s not a good idea to annihilate country clubs.
Tourism would take a hit. Besides, eco-scientists
are working to solve the problem without violence.

One more thing before we head out:
if you should see a turtle entangled
in fishing line – I cried last week

when several struggled by – clap your hands,
say a prayer, do whatever you need to do. Beneath
the waves, no one will see the miracle I allowed you.

Previously published in The Esthetic Apostle. 

PHOTO: Snorkeler (After Misrach), Maui, Hawaii by David Burdeny (2011). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve been snorkeling on Maui for a number of years and have the preparation process down to a science. I thought it would be fun to share it with a famous person.

Carolyn Martin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 130 journals and anthologies throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments will be released in 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at

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How to Get Your Phone to Write Your Poems for You
by Steve Bogdaniec

Open an app that will save text, like email or a notebook. Make sure you have suggested words enabled, whatever that looks like on your phone.

Type in a word. It could be straightforward like “I” or “the,” or it could be wacky like “forsook” or “gigabytes.”

After typing that word, click on the first suggested word you are given.

I don’t know if I would want to do this in any case but I don’t know if I would want to do this

Keep clicking on every first suggested word until it starts to repeat or you feel like you have enough material.

Forsook is a great idea about the acoustics of the mental aspect of the mental aspect

Copy those words somewhere, then start the process again with different words. Be sure to experiment with different parts of speech.

Expanding things like yoga or dancing at a public or family event and is not taking the place of the service Valerie’s husband and I will be ready to go to the bathroom at a public or

Form your poem by carving out phrases, lines, and stanzas. The art here is creating meaning out of what might well be mundane gibberish. Decide what to cut and what to keep, and mess around with order if you feel it.

The art here is creating meaning out of what might be mundane gibberish and the two major areas seem to be appointments made by repeat customers vs unique customers and customers who have been able to call Valerie their friend and their customers vs unique

Slap on a title on it—picking an enigmatic 3 to 6-word phrase from the text usually works well—and your poem is ready!

IMAGES: Collage of paintings by Ed Ruscha.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I crafted my poem, “The Acoustics of the Mental Aspect” (included below) out of material gained from the methods I described in this piece. The “chunks” of text from my phone appear in the indented paragraphs, and one appears in the screenshot (included at right). In order, the starting words were “I,” “forsook,” “expanding,” and “the art here is creating meaning out of what might be mundane gibberish.”

The Acoustics of the Mental Aspect

expanding things like yoga or dancing
at a public or family event is not
taking the place of the

I don’t know if I
would want to do this
in any case

the two areas seem to be appointments made
by repeat customers
and customers who have
been able to call Valerie
their friend

it is a great
idea about
the acoustics of the
mental aspect


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College, Chicago, IL, U.S. Steve has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently in Eclectica Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Jellyfish Review. His work can also be found in the Nancy Drew Anthology: Writing & Art Inspired by Everyone’s Favorite Female Sleuth. Check out for links to published work and updates on new stuff!

How to Build a Lifeboat Out of Peanut Butter
by Kathryn Almy

First make a mold. Construct a mound at least twice the size of your body using whatever you have on hand: sand, driftwood, old clothes, a large boulder, or the bodies of your dead companions. Spread with peanut butter to an approximate depth of one-half inch and allow to dry in the sun for two weeks (three to four is better). Ideally you will have enough food, fresh water, and means to shelter yourself from the sun that you will survive until the peanut butter has cured. Pray it doesn’t rain. When the hull has dried, carefully lift it off the mold and fill in any cracks or holes with fresh peanut butter. Secure the hull to something buoyant such as a raft.

IMAGE: Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly) (After Warhol) by Vik Muniz (1999).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this for a prose poetry workshop taught by Kathleen McGookey. The assignment was to write a surreal poem, and I was intrigued by the notion of apparently useful instructions that are in reality entirely useless.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy lives in Michigan and works in a public library when not sheltering in place. Her poetry and essays have appeared in various print and on-line publications, including  Panoply, The Offbeat, Star 82 Review, New Verse News, The 3288 Review, and previously on Silver Birch Press.

When Living in Homo Bulla
by Mark Blickley

As a person of refined tastes, I prefer Van Gogh with ears.

I am living a life of the mind, but why does it have to be my mind?

Too many people are as shallow as a serial killer’s graves.

When others lose their way they find apathy.

All diseases are dormant until they attack.

When one is king of a pond, you fear ripples.

Smokers know every puff is a kiss goodbye.

The pressure is not to have pressure.

Errors cause evolution.

I lost weight but have found it.

The key to success is in the shape of a sword.

IMAGE: Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles (Allegory on the Transitoriness and the Brevity of Life) by Karel Dujardin (1663).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: These musings occurred to me during our year-long pandemic. “Homo Bulla” is the Latin phrase for the medieval theory that man lives his life in a bubble.

Blick at MoMA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Blickley is a New Yorker and proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams

PHOTO: The author standing before Socrates by Constantin Brâncuși (1922) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

crown.jpg!Large 1983
How I Avoid Assassination and You Can, Too
by Paul Jones

I dress like everyone else.
I walk, indistinctly,
in an easy confident gait.
Prepare my own food.
or if I must, I use a taster.
When choosing friends, I avoid the lean
and the hungry and the ambitious.
I’m careful about suppressing troublemakers;
they will go underground
and become more desperate.
I know exactly where I’m going,
particularly in contested territories.
While not often feasible,
isolation is preferred.
Surprise appearances thrill crowds
and confuse my adversaries.
I select taller bodyguards
which in my case is no challenge.
Armored limos attract
bombs and missiles.
Statistically, you are safer on foot.
Stay away from tall buildings.
Select bodyguards for their loyalty
whenever possible.
Use unarmed agents
for forward intelligence.
Only arm a few of bodyguards—
never the same ones each time.
Increasing the number of bodyguards,
like increasing the number of lovers,
can have a strong negative effect.
Risks can never be eliminated,
only managed and minimized.
Don’t be overconfident.
Don’t become paranoid.
I always consider multiple exit points.

IMAGE: Crown by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1983)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing is now my job. I go to my office. I sit down. I ask the duende for guidance. I drink coffee. I read a poem I’ve never read before. In the case of this poem, I remember things that were told to me. Maybe in southeastern Turkey. Or Guadalajara after the Archbishop was killed. Or in northwest India.

jones p

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Jones’ poetry has been published in Poetry, Broadkill Review, Red Fez, Journal of American Poetry, and in other journals and anthologies, including Best American Erotic Poems (1800-Present). Recently, he was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Web Awards. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon’s surface in 2019. Visit him at

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How I Fix Things
by Robert Bensen

I buy tools. Then I set them by the things to fix.
A ruler and hammer beneath the picture yet unhung.
Screwdriver by the door with the stuck-out handle.
Little brown bag of screws by a hinge that wobbles.
My wife says things will not fix themselves, but how else will they learn?
Paint is thin-skinned, so say nothing to it,
but leave a brush nearby for quiet contemplation.
Give the Honda a wrench, one for the road, so to speak.

A step that may save everyone time is to exercise
what I like to call “proximate preventive repair.”
In other words, set materials out to fix what isn’t broken yet.
Let them see what you have in store.
Thus warned, a lot of things stay unbroken,
though some enjoy the attention needing repair brings.
We know things break for any number of reasons.
Breakage enhances individuality, as in kintsugi,
or expresses dissatisfaction with your prior actions.
The pie plate in three equal pieces has broken for the third time.
Rebreakage is a clear omen. The fault may lie in the glue I used,
so I’ll leave several other kinds for consideration
while I face my failure as a kintsugi artist-in-waiting.

Whatever the situation, do not rush.
Fix something too soon, it breaks again and worse, just to show you.
A plaster crack I fixed too soon
now resembles, oh, I don’t know, Idaho.
The battery in the basement goes in the motorcycle in the garage, but not yet.
One day I’ll fire the bike up and discover all the things with it
that have gone wrong waiting for their turn to work.

Even this poem, if not utterly broken, is not entirely sound.
Taking my own advice, I’m leaving it in this condition
for the time being, possibly for good.
We’re always open to suggestion, this poem and I.
But that could just make it worse.

IMAGE: Untitled (from Ten Winter Tools) by Jim Dine (1973).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem began with a conversation in a grocery store between me and a financial advisor, whose husband follows the same tried and true methods of home repair.  A few days later, I thought some benefit to other inept homeowners might come from writing these few precepts.  Blind to the error of my wicked ways, nevertheless, I persisted.  I committed this poem—rather an earlier, even more flawed version—in my book called Before, published in 2019 by Five Oaks Press. Suffice it to say, having published this book, the editor quit and closed the press, and began anew under a different name:  Formal Feeling.  I can’t blame her.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Bensen is a poet, essayist, teacher, editor, and publisher in Upstate New York.  Most recent among six collections of poetry are Before and Orenoque, Wetumka & Other Poems (Bright Hill Press). Poetry and literary essays have appeared in AGNI, Berfrois, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, La presa, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Wales, and elsewhere. He taught writing and literature and directed the writing programs at Hartwick College (1978-2017).  He conducts the community-based poetry workshop “Seeing Things” at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center (Treadwell NY). He is the founding editor of two literary presses, the Red Herring Press and Woodland Arts Editions. Find more of his work at

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How to Become a Werewolf
by Alarie Tennille

Do you ever have insomnia?
Experience disturbing dreams
at the full moon? Then you may be

ready for an exciting change!
It’s easier than you think. That’s
right, for just $39.95 plus shipping

you can get our glow-in-the dark
instructional booklet and DVD (for rainy
night viewing). Sure, you could search

for a werewolf to bite you, but just think
how many ways that can go wrong!
Like violent death, duh. Our patented

DIY process has proven safe and effective
for a smooth transition. Why wait to explore
your wild side? You can start tonight!

That’s right, warm-up nocturnal exercises
will accelerate your training. Stay up till 1:00,
2:00, even better 3:00 a.m. (You don’t want

anyone around to ask what you’re doing,
do you?) Keep it a surprise! Your improved
night vision will be a plus in step 8: Learning

to Stalk through Dead Leaves. Call NOW…
Operators are standing by during the hours
of darkness in every time zone. Warning:

Avoid watching horror films. They’ll only
confuse you. You must find your own darkness.
Listen to those strange voices you don’t think

are you. They really are. We all have good reasons
to sing at the moon, to excavate the caverns
of our minds. Progress is remarkable.

By week six, most report accelerated hair growth,
a break in the voice, a craving for rare meat.
Consult your doctor if you develop persistent

homicidal thoughts. Symptoms may vary.
So how will you know you’re a werewolf?
Like falling in love, you’ll just know.

PHOTO: Lon Chaney, Jr., in a scene from The Wolf Man (1941).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: You might assume this poem grew out of isolation fatigue during the quarantine, but I wrote it a few months earlier than that. It was one of those strange ideas that pop into a night owl’s head at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., especially during a full moon. I don’t watch much TV at that hour, but an infomercial seemed like a great vehicle for the content.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry collection is Waking on the MoonHer first collection, Running Counter Clockwise, was first runner-up for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence (both books available on Amazon). She was recently honored to receive a 2020 Fantastic Ekphrastic Award from The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at to check out her blog and learn more about her writing.

hopper blue copy
How to Avoid Appearing in a Poem
by Tina Hacker

Don’t be friends with a poet. Don’t even
say hello to one you pass on the street.
Otherwise your chances of avoiding
poetic fame sink lower than a guy
stealing from the collection plate.
If you’re a poet’s relative,
you’re poetic booty.
Better than the Crown Jewels
because your luster can be captured
on paper without alarms going off.
Even if your name is changed,
everyone will know, “It’s you, isn’t it?”
If you share some coffee
and conversation with a starving poet,
people will soon be texting condolences.
“Didn’t know you had it so bad.”
If you live on a farm,
the whole spectrum of nature,
from plants that grow in Mongolia
to rivers that ran dry a century ago,
will be described in words that rhyme
with your name—first and last.
Sometimes a poet will ask permission
to write about you. Don’t answer.
Any utterance will signal your acquiescence.
Tell everyone you hate poetry.
Become the Scrooge of verse, free or otherwise.
Poets will shun your company.
Will they write about you? Of course.

IMAGE: Blue night [detail] by Edward Hopper (1914)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker is happy to announce that Kelsay Books will be publishing her collection of poems, GOLEMS, in July 2021. The poems are based on the golem character from Jewish folklore who has helped mankind through the ages. Each golem is conjured from the earth to complete a task. Then, after doing this, the golem disappears, returning to the earth or transported to another place. Tina has authored two previous collections of poetry: Listening to Night Whistles published by Aldrich Press and Cutting It, by The Lives You Touch Publications. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times.

How to Overcome Inertia
by Betsy Mars

Set an alarm. Don’t hit snooze.
Set more alarms

at fifteen minute intervals.
Let your phone fall beneath the bed

where it can’t easily be silenced.
You have to reach to quiet it.

Doze off while thinking
of ways to overcome your inertia.

Encourage the cat to sleep on your bladder.
Remember you are nothing

if not productive.
Forget the bird beyond the pane

unaware of your watching.
Feel the urgency of days and news

forever passing without observing.
Scroll your mind’s endless listing

awaiting scratching. Check
your time, just existing.

IMAGE: Still Life with Sleeper by Henri Matisse (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought about what I have gotten really good at during the pandemic and came up with the obvious answer: inertia! Of course, while practicing inertia so effectively, it was difficult to write. And then how to describe the how-to’s of inertia? Other than a blank page, which wouldn’t be very instructive, I strained to describe my techniques in a way I hoped could be replicated. I hope that you find them helpful!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. Her second anthology, Floored, is now available on Amazon. “Pyriscence” was a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series in 2020, and she was a finalist in both the Jack Grapes and Poetry Super Highway poetry contests. Her work has recently appeared in Verse-Virtual, Sky Island Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and Sheila-Na-Gig, among others. She is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz, coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at and on Facebook and Twitter.