July 7–13, 2008: Gabrielle Mittelbach, Margot Lurie and PJ Nights

week of July 7-13, 2008

Gabrielle Mittelbach,
Margot Lurie
PJ Nights

the judges of the
2008 Poetry Super Highway
Poetry Contest

Listen to a live broadcast with the contest judges
Sunday, July 13th at 2:00 pm (pacific)
and call in with your own questions
More at PSH Live.

click here for submission guidelines

Gabrielle Mittelbach

Bio (auto)

Gabrielle Mittelbach is a Los Angeles poet and the first place winner of the 2007 Poetry Super Highway poetry contest She has had poetry published in journals such as Rattle and Nimrod She is currently editing her first book of poetry called Kisses for the Possessed.

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Gabrielle Mittelbach nd may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

He Held My Head Under Water

The body gets used to things like
lack of oxygen at high altitudes,
shoulders hunched from worry or
blurred vision and bubbles,
those bubbles that slip out of one’s mouth
One doesn’t really notice when
you live with it day in and day out,
when there are grease cairns on the stove
and the books collect dust on the shelves and
no one says anything anymore
Even I got used to the occasional
sting of a jellyfish and my bloated
body that floated and he
got used to using one hand
We lived like that for a long time and
I don’t blame him now that
it’s over and done with.

Under water, I learned to swim Now there is only one thing I wish
when I think of all of this,
I wish my children had a father
rather than a buoy lost at sea.

He Knew Me

.I see it in the mirror The light falls differently on my cheeks now, my hair, my eyes,
completely new, plans redrawn and rebuilt from scratch, from teeth,
like shark teeth in a queue, new shark bone, sharp and ready to bite Sometimes they break off and float slowly through the fleshy red water
where they come to rest on the soft sandy bottom
Those pieces from my repertoire have fallen away My fingers
have forgotten how it felt to play those strings, the calluses
have smoothed out, softened Sometimes the memories
float down like leaves, they twirl around and bounce on the wind
My grandmother said, “Never throw away a leaf “
Her garden paths were lined with softly decaying leaves, ancient bark,
bits and piece of anyone who ever knew me for a moment
when some piece of me was on its way down,
when I floated and glided through the air.

Breaking Down the Elements

I spent a whole Sunday cleaning my slat windows Carefully, I slid each glass rectangle out of its slot and
scrubbed the dirt and grease with dish soap I wrapped them in towels like small shivering
children and dried them sparkling and clear again
Almost all of them cracked around the edges,
bits flew straight off even though I was gentle,
even though all I wanted to do was to see through,
to see the magenta bougainvillea drape over
the fence into the neighbor’s yard and watch
as the gardener cursed over its belligerent spines
I wanted to see the doves line up on the roof,
to see how they sit and watch us like an impartial jury That day they nodded and cooed as I made
arguments and presented evidence
All along the top of the low cinder block wall
my son had left offerings for the little neighbor girl A slinky lion prowled and paced by her window
and a letter in green highlighter stuck on both sides of
the wall and flapped happily in the first autumn rain
Every day I stand in front of the windows
at the kitchen sink where my footprints
are dug into the linoleum like sand and my stomach
has found a nook in the curves of the counter I stand there and wash my plates and crack
my coffee cups and spit sour milk into the drain I stand and think as the glass windows turn to dust.

Margot Lurie

Bio (auto)

Margot Lurie lives in New York, where she works at Parnassus: Poetry in Review.

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Margot Lurie and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


The frogs were not pithed properly for the lab There was one that twitched when I pinned it down, 

Its pale thighs open like a baby’s I shivered too,
and its jaw seemed to slack with unregistered pain

A hand reached across me to kill the thing It dug its scalpel in the frog

I hadn’t reacted quickly enough
To life as an annoyance, disrupting the lab.

Baby Feeds

From under the blanket a bawl Careful oddment
urging its lifting, I take the mummy-bundled

body to nurse No high-relief madonna or her oversold
son, no opera concluding with

passionate applause— only the rough animal
deliberation, the beat of its eyelids, the acid smell

and the faces squashed against the observing
window Around my neck it is nevertheless

a million miles away, a centipede holding its hundred legs
to my breast, its mouth all mouth, all bubbling, 

like the bright intentional hum of a submarine,

What Happens in Heaven

the cistern is heavy with selves

and parables

as simple as putting an arm through a sleeve

we enter

and our faith bubbles up from some deep fissure

you cannot complain

there is no more emulation

God hides so we must hide to be Godly

God is hidden

and we are hidden in His Hiddenness

and God says I love you I love you

as He probes our empty shapes

PJ Nights

Bio (auto)

PJ Nights was born and raised in the wild and ravishing state of Maine, from which outpost she teaches physics, stargazes, and publishes and edits the quarterly journal, “from east to west: bicoastal verse ” For her, poetry is less about the concrete and more about the emotional and spiritual, about the sense of wonder she gets from a unique image or a surprising use of language No particular formula works to elicit a reader’s “gasps”, but those quick breaths of appreciation when a poet’s intent strikes home are what she looks for in poems and hopes to achieve with her own She writes to keep her brain from turning to mush, and, hopefully, to leave little bits of beauty in her

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by PJ Nights and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

failing to break it down smaller to find infinity

a grazed edge of a curtain

and there are eyes behind

I feel them     the instruments

of atom dissection are on the tray

tweak the electrode, power up

the magnetic field   she’s sucked

to the starting gate, a proton

knowing her place in the big bang

moves as fast as she can

into anti matter—the black side

of a proton into

antiproton     her heart spirals

into the bubble chamber

her momentum expiring

in a top quark, deconstructing neruda

it was green the silence ; the light was moist

the month of June trembled like a butterfly

  of of a of of ;

    like green of of the trembled

         it the ; month green of

break it down to smallest parts, smaller

than words to syllables

                  the green of like

          it was — moist was ; trem


          June month but a fly


              light      ter

              si     lence


it was a green fly sail

patron alighting moist

with June-bled butter stopped

        who dared touch her hair

 her stopped it who

        patron who green hair dared


butter her hair her butter who stopped

It begins with the Brooklyn Bridge

the only new worlds are unexplored

minds—their manifestations

(this, a glorious leap from shore to shore)

                        a window, a wormhole

       enter in at the straight gate

arched portals in neo-Gothic stone,

an approach [to a city]

for which (wo)men die(d)

she’d climb, too, its catenary sweep

strung like a harp, its breathtaking peek,

if not for a fear      not of the accidental slip

but an irrepressible urge to fly

  and millions of worlds await—

         but how can she ever know a city?

from the markets of the neighborhoods,

   this one, upper-funky class

where shoppers buy ready-made

gourmet for one         do they care

     to know her as she does them

from her spoon hovering over Kalamata,

        Atalanti stuffed with herbs

spicy green purple black—her dropped-jawed

      awe over so many olives,

at counters of a thousand cheeses, bakery of

a hundred breads

                             but where are the children?

    there.    [one small girl in a sunflower dress]

she hears the city in its poets—

    Urbanaslam / open mics

                  at the Bowery, the crowd’s hoots

and hollers for a wizened man’s “shit” and “piss”,

a virgin’s reasons why they ain’t gonna have her

                              in its musicians

clues from the drum kit of a drummer of trash

a pickle pail, cookie tin, patina of his frying pan

(where’s he been? which alleys, which kitchen?)

  —an oven rack swings on old shoelaces—

she learns        from young boys’ faces, 

pink with dance

                                (with admiration)

              from the dogs people walk

fashion accessories / family

                         a Pekinese to match a purse

      crippled bitch in the baby stroller

              the Basset whose owner has his eyes

she’s a shadow on subways, skims books

over shoulders      peers into doorways

of brownstones and boxes; she flips her nickels

out on the streets

                                   back at the bridge

and weights her stockings

as Clara did, a pioneer, the first to fly

                           enter in at the straight gate

her feet hit first

                          she lives to / why /

        and millions of worlds await

A Birthday Ghazal for Ray 

To make poetry’s possible
At home even briefly in the human wild
                                    ~Olga Broumas

As you raise a beer to December’s long night moon in the sky,
your poems soar above the page like a second
moon in the sky
As the candles of years to come blaze brightly, the sun will rise
again and again, soft as a deer, gold doub-
loon in the sky
I’m sure of these things, sure as you’ll play Prine’s Christmas in Prison ,
sure you’ll blow from east to west like a ty-
phoon though the sky
I wish I could fly you a snowball from Maine, packed in dry ice,
sent overnight to Georgia like a maca-
roon through the sky

so you could toss winter high, and confound the neighbor’s wife who’d
exclaim, my goodness dear, is that a second
moon in the sky?

in the wee hours 

you blow jive lingo, rattle paper shades
between us ‘til they
snap! let in the light
and curtains shimmy lace in a Lindy hop
a jazz-riff zephyr wafts your word, invades
my sweet peach like a hot mosquito bite
I’ve got to scratch—my head’s a spinning top
though I ain’t had my coffee yet, but those
are sly high ways you wind me up so tight
I call you up ‘cause I can’t wait       
be-bop       meet me in five at Uncle Joe’s
Truck Stop


(birds & bands)

purple-banded pigeons fly over the band
the trombonist weeps for his wife between slides
and suzy tries to catch a melting italian ice

outsizing the season, thorns of wild oaks
dip both ankles in olive oils
finding my toes at the root of the mandrake

I string the needle with a bamboo sword


(breakfast & men)

the smell of his hair rolls through the air
pearls to pink push men to the diner
I like waffles-he scrambles eggs

the shoemaker the baker the candlestick taker
all are alive in the birdhouse on maine street
wee women paint peace signs on toe nails

my toe ring still in place these three years gone


(fruits & songs of the 70’s)

flutes and grapes and umbrellas
fend off pleas       please come to boston
finish this hysterical novel
, she simpers

open fans slice at orange airs
I trip over his saw-dusty lunch box
beetle shells in flames, the well runs over

play a graceful game of hopscotch, drop the stone


(wishes & fish)

half a green window gapes open
a sewing machine churrrrrs making shoes
the paving stones rush to the door

pock-marked with temporary violets
in a box in the corner, herrings soak in salt
loving tongues lick the vicious

at the end of this hall, here I am

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