The Failure of Medicine

BY Brandon Courtney

He lies alone in a poster bed, a bloody hand in a nest of sheets tied above his heart, two fingers cut clean with a corn knife.  The more he bleeds, the more transparent the angels look, peering through the windows like thieves.


The thunderheads draw enough breath to collapse the dome of the sky, bringing weather to the windows, and my father, undone by a single pill, finally understands the failure of medicine.


If ten stitches could mute the music of his wound: a gust through the filigree of limbs masking hidden hives, white chambray, unfastened by the weight of wind.


If he could only see the sun’s small routines: shaking darkness from the doorways, flaring arrows through the skin of a river, parchment of birch, ink of sunset, touching and being touched.


Let children shake fire from their apples, let the stars realign.
Let the floor of the forest read fallen branches like sentences.


In the morning, he counts the channels of bone in the outstretched wings of a bird, a smear of taupe, fallow, vermillion. He sees only the piping of lead, the stained glass of cathedral windows.


At night, he counts his teeth with his tongue, thirty two thorns for a prayer to snag, like a bat caught midflight in barbed wire. He says nothing, touches the trellis of bones in his throat, praises the well; the way it swallows the fawn, the way the fawn swallows back.


And he sees burial in its simplest forms:  an egg yolk cracked into a knoll of bread flower, his wife slowly palming one cup at a time over the yellow crown.


Where once there was a body, now just a curtain of hail. Both have broken the spines of corn stalks in a field, both will be buried inside of what they have ruined.


Jesus Dreamt Only Once

& He saw his Father’s garden;
stepped into the sea,

smelled the crushed odor of weeds,
knew thirst for the first time,

the compulsion to drink –
and drink of it his fill.

He prayed for mercy and mercy came
in the shape of waves,

crushing Capernaum to sand, floating
the sternum of his body like an empty boat.

& He dreamt the sea kneeling
at the entrance of his mouth,

the swells that unstrung the necklace of breath
from his throat, beating their gospels against the fence of his ribs.

He dreamt of his Father’s coffin.
Just yesterday, men were bathing in it,

spitting, moving through it, swimming,
pressed as close as the bones of a wrist.

& for the first time, He heard his Father’s voice,
swallowed like the blade of an oar,

tongue swollen, black, filling his mouth;
the dark hymns cast like nets.

He dreamt of salt burning in the beaks of birds,
their atrophied jaws paralyzed in an arch of praise,

the sea giving up her dead, the corruptible bodies
there & there & there, swaddled in sailcloth, white flotilla –

then gone, cut reckless from their mooring.
& when the men finally woke Him,

he erased the names of Heaven with his hands:
Canaan, Elysium, Kingdom of Incorruptible Crown,

& for the first time, fruit fell from its branches,
heavy & bitter, scrubbed blank of fingerprints.

He unfolded his palms into a compass of stars
as the pilgrims, lost, marched into the sea.

When all he heard were the compressions of
waves against boat,

He, like the pelican of piety, tore from His breast
enough flesh to feed the young,

& His name was like a stone on their tongues,
pulled from a place where light could never exist.


Ghost Ocean


Brandon Courtney spent four years in the United States Navy. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets 2009, Linebreak, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. When not writing, he obsessively collects records from the early nineties. He will be attending the M.F.A. program at Hollins University in the fall.

everything must go

BY Robert Lee Brewer

most of our weight is liquid; that should tell
enough about our needs. we shift our words
and drift from one island to another.
why bother awarding names to the dead
things we'll soon abandon? our bodies can't
remember our souls after they depart.
they'd rather insinuate they're more than
stars that explode back into the vacuum
of the universe, patient to create.

dozen fortune cookies

all good things must end. do not leave your house
without an umbrella. only you know
why it's a bad idea. count your blessings.
every downhill has an uphill. don't
do the math. forget shooting for the stars,
watch them instead. raise the living, bury
the dead. you will wake up tomorrow. are
you sure you're okay? even the trees need
room to grow. shave before making amends.


Robert Lee Brewer has four boys with his wife, the poet Tammy Foster Brewer (formerly Trendle). He edits books, blogs about poetry, and is nice to his mother. He can be contacted via e-mail at


New & Selected

BY Flower Conroy

Words for empty
and words for full:
noose and hook.
The floating bridge?
No Heaven.
Flying at night?
The invention
of the kaleidoscope.
Love on the streets—
red sugar; shadow ball;
leaping poetry. 
In praise of falling:
view from a temporary window.
For a limited time only:
questions about angels.
Dismantling the hills
domestic interior
          domain of perfect affection. 
The art of drowning:
picnic, lightning.
Night clerk at the Hotel
of Both Worlds,
my brother is getting
arrested again.
The endarkenment: 
the contracted world—
Cloud moving hands.
The last person to hear
your voice:
Burn and dodge.
After the fall:
this clumsy living.


Flower Conroy is a poet and collage artist. She earned a BA in Literature and Language from the Richard Stockton College of NJ. Ms. Conroy has been published in the American Literary Review, Oberon, Serving House Journal, Psychic Meatloaf and/or is forthcoming in The Moose and Pussy. Her favorite color is the spectrum of green. She currently resides in Key West, FL.

"New & Selected" is a found poem, extracted from Pitt Poetry 2010 titles.

The Umbrella

BY Cee Martinez


Mari Dinelli walked alone under the moonless sky, through the soupy
air, her chest twisting as if filled with smashed glass. A gleaming,
milky man slid his arm into the crook of hers, sliding hot fingers
down her forearm. The shattered pain in her chest lifted, and the
relief turned into pleasure so intense it slicked her groin. Even her
mouth moistened and filled with a taste like melting chocolate.

Into her hand he slipped the handle of an umbrella.

“It will rain again.”

A strong gust tore the umbrella right from Mari’s fingers; it spun
onto the roof of a building across the lot. The slicing pain in her
chest returned.

Just as she knew the pleasure was Satan, she also knew, the pain was God.


The election results, decided after 12:23, sent Luca Dinelli’s family
and friends into a frenzy of excited perspiration. Paper plates of
gnawed pizza crusts hit the ceiling. A searing wall of human flesh
pressed in, lips both male and female smearing kiss-spit over his

“It’s to the moon from here, Luca-boy!” His florid brother-in-law
howled, hands cupping Luca’s face, his Irish blue eyes varnished like

Luca smiled but made eye contact with no one; squishing and weaving
through the crush. Mari stood alone by the door amongst the empty
pizza boxes. Her dark eyes were wide, her smooth, large forehead
creased as she stared at the wall.

For a moment, he saw her fleshy limbs whittled spindly, her soft belly
caved in, and her honey-touched auburn curls gone, leaving only a bald

The next morning, as Luca took the garbage out, he met a white rabbit
of a man in a pale pink shirt and holding a pink and white striped
umbrella. The man smiled, his features were smooth and his eyes a
watery, indigo blue. “Congratulations, Mr. Dinelli.”

Luca thanked him.

The man held the umbrella to him, “Mari will be fine, as long as you
get her help to cut down on the work she does around the house. The
public will rally around you now; just get her the respite she’s

Luca took the umbrella and stared at it.

“She dropped it last night,” The man said.

Luca whistled as he went back inside, leaving the umbrella on the doorstep.

Just as he knew the man was telling the truth, he also knew the man
was an angel.


The first interview had been done by phone, and although Anne had
never had a job, she’d always been in charge of cleaning around the
house and cooking some of the meals. She’d always obeyed Mom, and
because of that, Mom was allowing her today to actually inquire about
getting a paying job.

Her employer, a newly elected politician named Luca Dinelli, gave her
tea and explained how she would be taking care of the cleaning and
lunches for his cancer stricken wife.

She munched on a powdered sugar cookie. Dinelli leaned in and wiped a
corner of her mouth with the corner of a napkin, causing her to blush.

“You look just like a rabbit!” Luca said. He had large, soft lips, and
he smiled.

Anne wrinkled her nose. “You might as well just say, ‘you’re an
albino’ and leave it at that.”

His jaw tightened and he sat back, looking away from her, the tips of
his ears reddening. “Where did you get that umbrella?”

Anne blinked rapidly, sweating some as she worried that she may have
just been rude enough to lose the job. “I found it on the sidewalk. It
totally protects me from the sun much better than my hat.”

“My wife threw one exactly like that away, recently.”

Anne sucked the last of the sugar off her bottom lip and then
muttered. “It’s trash day. It could be the same one.” She didn’t
particularly want to give the umbrella back, but didn’t know if she
should at least offer.

“Probably is,” Luca replied.

“It’s really nice. Why did she throw it away?” Anne kept her voice
soft, hoping to win him back with meekness, like Mom’s church friends.

“She’s convinced Satan left it here,” he said with a sigh.


The relative safety and monotony of modern suburbia has actually been an inspiration for Cee Martinez who cannot stop herself from turning over the rock on any idea and using the worms for inspiration. She has spent her entire life in a suburb of Denver, Colorado where she teaches piano on top of the time she spends writing, and doesn't imagine she'll leave that life anytime soon. Links to her other published works can be found at or you can tweet her.




I see
while spotting in slippers
practicing fouettes
around the kitchen.
You’re remaking your cappuccino
and comparing the chords of Paul Simon
to tropical fruits.
I told you I hear colors
and that I think sweat
rolling down a lemonade glass
looks like a lullaby.
You told me how you like to watch the black-eyed suzans
to the tisking of April showers.
I hear
heartbeat under my lips
when you’ve biked back from the fields
with friction burns on your forearms
from the corn leaves.
We get to the penches
through wafts of garlic bread
careful not to kick
the homemade tomato paste.
And when I told you that gravity was greedy
as we did lifts
in the theatre alley
it released me.
Like you were the moon
and I was surrendered to you.
Girl, a man said, you should make your life story into a poem.
Oh honey. I taste poetry with each breath.

Bare Shoulders

Something about the waves kneading the sand
and the moon
crouching behind an organic market
and the old song
my mom would bounce me to sleep with
puts the whole world together in my lap.
My hair is up
in what I imagine is a graceful bun.
I am alone on a massive lovesac
and I imagine that I look
sweet when I bounce my bare shoulders
with the beat.
There is a beautiful self-consciousness
at 2 AM.
Nothing makes me feel more alive
than holding a cone between my hands
while cream runs over my fingers
in intricate, sticky ribbons.
I have nothing to feel
but my own skin
and no one to please
but the man in the moon.
Here I realize that the world
is not always shattering with tears
that I am not always crushed
between demands.
Life can be as simple as
a Paul Simon song
and the hush of a palm leaf
while an old poem waits under your fingertips
and the rows of apartments


DSD is a 19 year-old college student who will soon graduate from Drake University in Iowa. She does not like pina coladas or getting caught in the rain, nor did yoga ever work out for her.

Gorgon Waltz

BY Nick Kimbro

The sisters dance back to back in an arena of statues, over long misshapen shadows that lengthen as the sun sinks. Their gazes drift toward opposite horizons, past the stone effigies surrounding them and the snow-capped peaks in the distance, all glowing faintly orange in twilight.
They twirl among the statues—the heroes of some nation sent to destroy them—and remember their sister Medusa, turned to stone by her own reflection. They wonder if she was able to recognize herself before it happened, or the figure of Persues crouching behind his shield. Life is a matter of faith. It is a tree falling in the woods. And it might be worth the sword that followed if they could only see who carried it, alive and in motion, just once.
They clasp each other’s hands behind their backs, and are careful to keep their serpent locks apart. Error though, is inevitable. One day a misstep will bring them face to face, and they look forward to it with fear and hope. They can have no idea what they’ll see in that moment: perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. It depends upon questions they don’t have the answers to.
Left, one two three, step, one two three…
Still, grey figures whirl past, and they recognize none of their faces. To them, they have never been anything but stone.


Nick Kimbro is a graduate of the creative writing program at Berry College and is currently working toward his MFA at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has been fortunate enough in the past to have fiction featured in Ramifications, Underground Voices, and Splash of Red. He has work forthcoming in Vivid Magazine and on


In Conversation

technology as simultaneously empowering and oppressive: ghost ocean talks with Susan Slaviero


Susan Slaviero's first full length book of poetry, CYBORGIA, is available from Mayapple Press. She is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: An Introduction to the Archetypes (Shadowbox Press, 2008) and Apocrypha (Dancing Girl Press, 2009). Her work has appeared in Fourteen Hills, Flyway, Caffeine Destiny, wicked alice, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Eclectica, RHINO, and others. She has a BA in English / Creative & Professional Writing from Lewis University. She blogs occasionally at


Ghost Ocean: You've previously published two chapbooks, An Introduction to the Archetypes and Apocrypha. What was the transition like from chapbook to full-length collection?

Susan Slaviero: I think putting together a chapbook manuscript is one of the best strategies for discovering the different ways in which poems fit together and to find the recurring threads in one’s own work. I like looking for connections, whether it’s form or theme or a certain kind of language that makes each poem part of a larger whole. Both chapbooks and full length collections can function as a kind of mega-poem, with each piece building on the other.  I approached writing Cyborgia in much the same way I did Apocrypha: with a specific concept—this time the female cyborg as opposed to the female Catholic saint—and expanding on that central image with a complexity that I hope can be interpreted as something larger and more prismatic than the cyborgs we sometimes see in films or commercials or mass market science fiction novels. Putting together a full length manuscript differs from a chapbook primarily in allowing the writer to explore the subject in greater detail than might be possible in a smaller collection. I think the process for creating both large and small poetry collections is the same.

GO: I think Cyborgia does exactly what you've just mentioned: expanding on the central image of the female cyborg and characterizing her in a much more substantial way than we have seen in films or mass market novels. How much of the personality and ideals of your female cyborg(s) can you attribute to yourself? What else played a role in the characterization?

SS: While the cyborgs in the poems represent various personae, I think many women (including myself) have experienced technology as simultaneously empowering and oppressive. The speakers within the poems represent different aspects of the mechanical woman—they are wives and warriors, maidens and monsters—the archetypes that exist within us all. The characters are inspired by the fairy tales of my childhood, Catholic saints, film, art, literature and popular culture. I owe a special debt of gratitude to the short stories of writers like Alice B. Sheldon (writing under the pseudonym of James Tiptree Jr.), C.L. Moore, Anne McCaffrey, and others. Their work interrogates the concept of the female cyborg in ways that I admire.  

GO: One moment in particular, in "Pandora's Robot," where you write that she "opened the brass plate over her sternum / and let out language," seemed reflective of you and what I might guess is your general approach to poetry. How do you view and value language in poetry, from both a writer's and a reader's standpoint?

SS: One of the things I appreciate most about language in poetry is the way in which it can be both visual and auditory. During the writing process, I always consider both how the poem looks on the page and how it sounds when read aloud.  

As a reader of poetry, I appreciate both the written and spoken word. I have been enchanted by pieces I’ve heard read aloud that might not have captured my attention on paper. I’ve also been intrigued by how certain poems are arranged on the page, gleaned something new from the visual structure of the piece. I’d like to think “Pandora’s Robot” is one of those poems that can be experienced in one way by listening to a performance and in another, slightly different way within the pages of a book.

GO: With that in mind, consider the well-worn "If you were stranded on a desert island..." question. What one book would you want to have with you in print? And if you had an mp3 player (Solar powered, perhaps? Use your imagination...) what audio book would you want to have with you?

SS: Just one book?! What a dilemma! Is it cheating to say I'd want a hefty anthology of literature by women writers? That way I could bring Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Octavia Butler, and many others along to keep me company...

I'd want the complete works of William Shakespeare on my mp3 player, to be read aloud by Sir Patrick Stewart. (No, I would not substitute William Shatner! Okay....maybe.) That would keep me entertained for a long, long time.

GO: Any final words of wisdom for the struggling poet?

SS: I'm a struggling poet, too! I try to write about the things that fascinate me, to find a balance between work, family, and creativity. I use writing as both a mode of discoveryto learn about things like science, history and culture by exploring them in the privacy of my journaland a mode of communication by revising and crafting finished poems in order to share ideas with an audience. Writing is a solitary activity, so be sure and spend some time among your fellow humans, when you can.