January 19-25, 2015: Hal Sirowitz and Leah Mueller

Hal Sirowitz and Leah Mueller

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Hal Sirowitz

Bio (auto)

Hal Sirowitz’s latest collection of poetry, "Stray Cat Blues," won The Nebraska Book Award 2013 Poetry Book Competition. He was also the co-winner of the Noir Con 2012 Poetry Contest, judged by Robert Polito. He has been translated into fifteen languages. He’s the author of ten books.

The following work is Copyright © 2015, and owned by Hal Sirowitz and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Staying Away from the TV

My mother had a rule that if
we saw a movie on the giant screen,
we couldn’t watch TV that night.
Too much TV could affect your mind,
make you more trance-like
and less spontaneous. One day,
she took out a tape measure
to make sure I wasn’t sitting
too near the screen. She read it
was unhealthy to spend too much
time at the TV. One would start
sounding like the TV, signing off
for the night with the National Anthem,
flipping the stations instead of being decisive.
The TV was relatively a new invention,
and like all new things, the results
weren’t in yet. She used the TV
to listen to the news. It was better
than reading the papers which were
biased in their reportage. The TV
couldn’t be biased, because it didn’t
have time to cover anything in detail.
She would never buy a product she saw
advertised on TV, because she saw it
as an affront that salesmen would invade
the sanctuary of her home, trying to sell her
products. She didn’t believe in 3D glasses
unless you wore them with a doctor’s prescription.
And any doctor worth his salt wouldn’t dream
of prescribing them, unless he was in the employ
of NBC or ABC, or any of those stations
with other call letters, trying to confuse you.
She read TV was for the masses, but she
thought it was for the asses, who couldn’t
think of anything better to do.


She made a dash
for my zipper.
I was exposed.
"So that’s what
yours looks like,"
she said. "No," I
said. "I wear
an imitation
over the real thing."

False Alarms

I thought I was ready for coupling.
It turned out to be a false alarm.
You went back to reading Jane Austen,
where sex was not part of the picture.
Maybe, that was the problem –
for me, movies were sexier than books.
But blame should go to the causes –
our bodies. We just weren’t into it,
unless Jane Austen was somehow involved.
And as hard as I tried I couldn’t turn
her celluloid version into you.

Staying Away from the TV

Our relationship was losing
weight. It could not stand
on its own two feet. One
of us had to hold it up
at all times. It became
too much hard work. You
were in favor of burying it.
I wanted to cremate it,
instead. That way we could
argue about where to scatter
the ashes. You wanted
to scatter them on a lake
and watch them float. I knew
we’d end up watching them sink.

Leah Mueller

Bio (auto)

I am a Tacoma, WA-based writer. I’ve been writing for almost as long as I have been alive. My first poem was published when I was in second grade, in the school paper. Since then, I’ve moved on to more adult venues, such as Bop Dead City and Talking Soup, have appeared in recent anthologies published by Terminal Books and Writing Knight Press, and won one of the cool cash prizes in the annual Wergle Flomp humor poetry writing contest, sponsored by Winning Writers (75 bucks and lasting fame in 2012). I read my poems in public a lot, and on the radio frequently. People tell me that I have a nice voice, and that they love my poetry. It’s nice of them. Her collection Queen of Dorksville was released in 2012 from Crisis Chronicles Press.

The following work is Copyright © 2015, and owned by Leah Mueller and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Seasonal Affective

It’s one of those days when I turn on all the lights.
I need them because the gray upsets my digestion,
and I find myself staring too long at one thing.
This was a problem when I was in middle school,
that leering kid would wave his hand
in front of my face, while saying,
“Are you THERE?” while the others laughed
over their plastic trays, their eyes half on me
and half on their lumpy mound of potatoes,
staring at both with equivalent malice. I wasn’t there,
I was firmly entrenched in my own imagination
like I am today. Now those sounds are distant
as the cars that rev their engines outdoors,
impatiently, like they had some place important to go,
and not just to the convenience store for cigarettes.

It’s one of those days when I turn on all the lights.
I need it for my seasonal affective disorder,
which a lot of the people in the Pacific Northwest
swear they do not have, and in fact became enraged
if someone else suggests it. When a person complains that loudly
I always think of Shakespeare, and indignant protests
and I wonder what the person is hiding.
So I wander into the kitchen, make myself a sandwich
of hard peanut butter, check underneath the coffee pot
and discover that the coils are cold, and the day stretches ahead
like a long smear of grease, yet more slippery.
There is no place to go except my head.

It’s one of those days when I turn on all the lights,
and think about psychiatric terms, like “bipolar”
and marvel how some people throw the word around
like they say “happy”, or “car”, and they are
certain they know exactly what it means.
I try to imagine how it would to feel to be a sociopath,
able to justify whatever you do,
standing on balconies while the less fortunate expire
on the ground below, even laughing as they die-
yet we all seem to do this, because it’s only a degree
that separates the killer from the one who is murdered.

It’s one of those days when I turn on all the lights,
and wait for a sun break so I can take a walk.
The breeze twitches slightly, then changes direction,
and the clouds hold tight, like a gate of steel.
It’s another day, just as mundane as the others
and I haven’t yet lost the friends that remain-
all the people who keep forgetting to leave.
The leaves are bright orange, and nothing
stands in front of the doorway, except
for the low voice that keeps telling me
to keep quiet, and not admit to anything.


the fruit flies
swarm around
the rotting fruit
without bothering to land,
as if the experience
of eating
will be so much better
if they first wait
several hours.

the act
of actually landing
on the fruit’s surface
means they actually
must reach a decision
and they are not prepared
to do that, ever.

they are
expecting opposition
and I’m going
to give it to them,
but they’re way too small
for combat, and
that’s why they never
descend to earth.

Letting Go

I was four when my mother told me
that my best friend Alison
was moving to Hawaii
with her family.
She had a sister named Beth
and an exotic mom
who played bongo drums.
They would live on the beach,
and swim in the ocean
all year round,
instead of three months
in Lake Michigan, and they
had no immediate plans
to return to Chicago.
My mother explained carefully
that Hawaii was a long way
from Chicago, and visiting
would be impossible,
perhaps we could go some day
but it wasn’t very likely.
I nodded with understanding,
and we went to their apartment
to say goodbye.
My friend Alison was excited
to be moving,
she hugged me and screamed
and jumped up and down.
She was a great friend
because both of us would
always want to play house
and we had this routine
where she would say,
“I want to be the mommy!”
and I would say in reply,
“But I want to be the mommy!”
and then we’d both shriek,
“Let’s BOTH be mommies!”
and we’d get down to it.
After visiting Alison
for the last time,
I went home
and didn’t feel much of anything.
The next morning
I got up and said,
“Let’s go to Alison’s house”
and my mom
shook her head sadly,
and told me that we couldn’t
because Alison was too
far away.
It took me a while
to get it, but when I did
I got really sick
with such a high fever
that blood started pouring
from my left ear,
and the doctor recommended
that I be hospitalized.
Lacking money for the hospital
my mother took me aside
and told me that she knew
why I was sick,
it was because my friend
was gone, but getting sick
wouldn’t bring her back.
This made sense,
and eventually I got better,
but I’ve never done well
with transitions.





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