Two War Poems by Hugh Martin


Found in Willow Springs 67

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Friday Night, FOB Cobra



Smith, shirtless, curls forty-pond dumbbells,

veins burst, worms over biceps.

The curls are part of his plan for home:

a sex life.



On burn detail, Ritchey stirs shit with a metal rod,

asks Carter--standing back with a smoke--Doesn't it make you




Jones' brother sent him a twelve-pack

of Ultra Sensitive LifeStyle condoms. The box reads:

almost like wearing nothing at all. He cuts it out,

tapes it to the front of his flak vest.



Sergent Thomson has been in so many fights,

there is no cartilage left in his nose.

In line for the phone, he shows us:

bending it like an ear with one finger,

flat against his cheek.



Kellerman's wife divorced him over e-mail.



When asked why his hands are so hairy,

Kenson says, with a cup of coffee and a ball of wet Copenhagen

bulging beneath his lip, I ain't a fuckin' girl.

He sips four pots a day, changes the grinds

once a week. The coffee tastes of steam and heat.



In Tower Ten, Stevens discusses mutual funds,

interest rates. He says a young guy like me

might spend all his money on a bike, a truck, a house.

He's taking his wife

for a cruise, investing the rest,

and that's what you do with money.



On marriage, Perry says, It ain't like that.


You think you just walk in the door,

and she hands you a beer,

gives you a blowjob.


It ain't like that, he says.


Just wait,

it ain't like that.



Ski boils water in a canteen cup,

adds ramen, slices of expired Slim Jims.

He discusses the meaty juices, how the heat

sucks them out.

This meal is sacred.



Sprinkling hot sauce over cold, boiled potatos

Demson talks about reading the paper, the names

of the dead.

All of us know he's slept with ninty-seven

women. After we finish our food, he tells us

about one.



Observation Post


Hanley spits strings of saliva-laced dip into cracks of gravel.

Hours ago, a dud dropped on the south side of the FOB,

sent up a breath of dust.


Marwan, the interpreter, drives to the entrance gate,

picks up his two boys. Their summer job: filling sandbags for dinars.

One mile down the road, at the intersection,

a three round burst, a precise

incision through the windshield. Neck, mouth, nose.


In a Humvee, we drive the captain and find the two boys

crouched together, hands over their head on the floor,

their father wet on their bodies.


Captian takes a photo, and we lean

toward the backseat window,  as he points to red scrapes of Marwan,

bedside the seatbelt buckle.

Later, he'll show everyone, magnifying the camera's screen,

That's skull right there, that's skull, as if needing others to agree.


We watch crow carry the body bag

through Sadiyah's streets.

Peshmerga arrived in jeeps with RPGs, Kalashnikovs;

they drag suspects to the police station,

where they'll take turns with the rifle-butting.


I'm cleaning my fingernails with a Gerber; Hanley whispers,

A shooting star. When I look, he says, Go fuck yourself. Before dawn,

we see movement in the retreating darkness. Through the binos: a donkey

mounts another in a field.


When our relief shows up, we say if they're bored,

there's two donkeys fucking at three o'clock;

a dud hit before midnight; and Marwan is dead.

Three Poems by Laurie Lamon


Found in Willow Springs 67

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This Poem Doesn’t Care That It Isn’t a Sonnet


This poem doesn't care about the movie Avatar,

dosen't care about IPods or Notebooks or

the divorce of reality from reality; it isn't

thinking of animal shelters, three million plus

deaths per year; this poem isn't thinking

of oil or children or ice melting with climate

that is here or not here; this poem has nothing

to do with the bodies of women which have

ceased to move on cots or sidewalks; this poem

doesn't know the legal age of marriage for

girls in Ethiopia, Sir Lanka, Saudi Arabia etc.;

it has stopped looking for the name of the one

killed in a bus by a bomb, in a car by a sniper,

on the path by a tripwire, in a house, in a crib.

This poem isn't waiting for pain's reprieve,

for grief to pack up its tools for another heart's

pale. It is hungry for milk, for the messages

of pillow and sheet; it wants the drowse

of the  egg in the open nest, a plain thing, in-

effable brim of shade, yellow apples ripening.



Pain Thinks of Black


This is damage the body



a snowy landscape

Pain swept with one hand.



Pain Thinks of Still Life


without landscape black beneath

white without wind without interuption

Pain thinks of still life without charcoal

& seeds without burnish & soil Pain thinks

of iris lapis lazuli light without leaf

without breath Pain thinks of still life

without eternity meeting the air

Two Robert Hedin Poems Translated by Dag Straumsvåg


Found in Willow Springs 63

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They stand before the priest and will never be happier or any more heroic than they are at this moment. The bride spots a fly crawling across the nose of the crucified Jesus and sneezes before she can answer. A mother stares at her child and can't remember the father. Across the street, a man stands on a stool and washes his store window. A motorcycle cruises by. The priest looks up. There's a light drizzle. Good weather for fishing, he thinks. He likes to fish, likes to stay out all day, even if its windy and pouring rain, even if the lake is empty. Out there, fishing, everything is of interest. Minnows, and old boot, the bottom.



The police telephoned again today. "We're sorry, Karl, but he got away this time, too. You better lock your doors and stay inside until further notice." This is the fifth time the officer has called, and it's always the same message for a man named Karl. Each time I want to tell him he's got the wrong number, that I'm not Karl, I don't know any Karl, but I end up holding my tongue. It feels so safe to be updated this way, to know the police care and look after you. But then, of course, there's always Karl. I don't trust him. There's something elusive about the man. Actually, no one has heard from him since this all began. It's as if he has completely vanished from the face of the earth.

“S. Sgt. Metz” by Dorianne Laux


Found in Willow Springs 63

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Metz is alive for now, standing in line

at the airport Starbucks in his camo gear

and buzz cut, his beautiful new

camel-colored suede boots. His hands

are thick-veined. The good blood

still flows through, given an extra surge

when he slurps his latte, a fleck of foam

caught on his bottom lip.


I can see into the channel of his right ear,

a narrow darkness spiraling deep inside his head

toward the place of dreaming and fractions,

ponds of quiet thought.


In the sixties my brother left for Vietnam,

a war no one understood, and I hated him for it.

When my boyfriend was drafted I made a vow

to write him a letter every day, and then broke it.

I was a girl torn between love and the idea of love.

I burned the letters in a metal trash bin

behind the broken fence. It was the summer of love

and I wore nothing under my cotton vest,

my Mexican skirt.


I see Metz later, outside baggage claim,

hunched over a cigarette, mumbling

into his cell phone. He's more real to me now

than my brother was to me then, his big eyes

darting from car to car as they pass.

I watch him whisper into his hands.


I don't believe in anything anymore:

god, country, money, or love.

All that matters to me now

is his life, the body so perfectly made,

mysterious in its workings, its oiled

and moving parts, the whole of him

standing up and raising one arm

to hail a bus, his legs pulling him forward,

all muscle and sinew and living gristle,

the countless bones in his foot tapped in his boot,,

stepping off the red curb.

“Self-Portrait as Sycamore in Copper & Pearl” by Kathy Fagan


Found in Willow Springs 66

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I may look smooth

shouldered just stepping

from the soak, my planes

flushed pink, angles

ocher, my tresses

oxidizing in reverse,

but take a long hard

look. Take a biopsy.

Interrogate my juices

under your scope &

you'll survive as I have

the sylvan hallelujah

moment, bullion bars

fanning through the showy

oaks & maples & the sweet

sweet gums. When blue is

dominate all over

the earth, atmosphere is king

the air so hammers-on-

strings so perfect it steals the

voices right off

the birds. In the double-dutch

sunlight of American mid-October,

therefore, I may look like a

pearl, but try stopping one,

their cheeks packed with

gold, silver, & blood.

Observe their divots

& dents. Likewise, I

am flawed, with flaking

crusts, molds, blighted bits,

& not a few limbs dead

as a gelding's part.

I know the need to admire

one's cream blushes & metallic

finishes, to take a copper

leaf for your collection

& break the ricochet

silence en plein air with your

sighs. But understand, rainlight

is the truest pearl,

my ugly friend,

with whom I have neither

inhibitions nor differences.

“Improbable Wings” by Katrina Roberts


Found in Willow Springs 66

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After months

the raccoon family finds

a loose hem of chicken wire.

Grey brindled steel

wool, sticky viscera.


somewhere within

my daughter

eggs that may become




One handy trick

is to use salt.

Everything is personal.

How clean and soft beneith

my stroking hand, how quiet

and still the two left

are--as if practicing

for death. Once upon a time,


one at a time

each of these urchins

curled within me. Three

times over I've been a woman

with two hearts.

Wings wands stars tulle

ribbons capes sequins. All flash

All flash and approximation. Tricky

hands; thick skin.

And windows


cannot necessarily keep out

what the wind throws

against them.

Two laps

round the vineyards

make for sleepy kids. I hold

close as before

I wake they will have



Hierarchies of all--clouds,

cats, dreams, vintages,

hues. O, miracle of feathers!

Barred Rock silver

and jet. Ticked orange. White

Leghorns--tufts caught

where they shouldn't be

in high holes.


One trick is to use tonic.

One trick is to use sand. O fleet

of foot. O, fine as dew evaporating.

Pale brown shells,


Q: "How big is the egg I was?"

A: "Vast as wind you were

named for and equally

invisible." O, utterly reliable

osmosis. My own


words come back

to baffle me. I've been loved thin

as a plush rabbit, threadbare

even--shined to one more

myself than ever

like heavy gold icons

rubbed through

to wisps

by the reverential.

I like to think


our one downy girl

whose carcass we have

not found might come scrabbling

today from underbrush

skirting Caldwell Creek

when she hears

in the pail



“American Revolver” by Jan Beatty


Found in Willow Springs 68

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I knew a guy named Red from Concord

who robbed whorehouses for a living.

You couldn't tell just looking at him:

his time in San Quentin, his love

of the stolen .44--he was good in bed,

biceps hard and waxed from years

of prison workout--a real American

centerfire revolver--When I asked why

he did it, he said: to see the look in their eyes.

We took long walks on Stinson Beach,

talked Social Science & World Geography--

what he studied in prison. He god hard

when he talked about the suffrage movement:

all those heroic women & their struggles.

Sometimes he would turn me over, call me

Susan (like Susan B.), and then come

reciting the 19th Amendment:

The right of... citizens... of the United States

shall not be denied... or abridged...

he could never make it past abridged,

something about that word let it all loose.

But his eyes most electric blue

when he talked about the robberies:

in Richmond, Martinez, Pittsburg,

down Highway 4, when he'd yell:

Give me all your money!

and the hard girls in gauzy nighties

& push-up bras squealed with fear

wooden doors slammed, & half-naked men

did a jittery dance with their socks

Those nights he'd fuck me standing and yell:

give it to me!--the whites of his eyes glazed

& gleaming, immersed in the maelstrom of

peril & hot thrill, then he'd run to the waters

within him, to that solitary jubilant lake.

Two Poems by Austin LaGrone


Found in Willow Springs 69

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Tableau with Rockets Redglare


At home with Wild Turkey, I hear

someone yell Piss yellow gypsy

cab colored moon! and, looking

out the window, notice

that it is orange and full

and competing for the sky

where the Pussycat's marquee

reads Girls-Girls...

and then just failed light.

There are days meant for loss.

Others, for holding on.

Either way, I understand permanence

by placing things inside my mouth.

And, like the nickel on the needle

of the record player

or the Eldorado double-parked,

ticketed and towed, I feel

the usual rhythm of life

repeating. My ex-wife

sleeps with the television on,

says the flickering light

scares away the roaches.

We make love on Thursday

as though we are still married.

It is comforting and endless,

and afterwards we play 'Deluxe' Othello

and watch Down by Law with the volume

down. The Newton's Roach and Flea Powder

I sprinkle on the floor makes little difference;

week after week they return

to an understanding.




Linger for a moment and trust

your cigarette. Hasn't its ritual

kept you sacred, through cheap

wine and that tall brunette

down at the Dollar General?

--Forget what she says.

You won't live long enough to need

one of those terrible voice boxes.

Besides, isn't out of smokes

a kind of silence? When I tap

ash from the balcony on Royal

and Orleans I'm saying, I will

always be keen on young breasts.

You've probably said something similar

turning the cherry against the lip

of the curb, or in the bed

of a shell, or along the tongue

of your shoe. And you've said more

with less. I can see dark breath

rising as though you're looking

for answers. That slow exhale

portends the full scope of your live-to-ride.

I don't need need the tarot, or a bloody yolk,

or even Yeats to see your Hierophant

eating bad oysters with sticky fingers.

“War Poem” Translated by Andrew Wachtel

JPG Issue Cover

Found in Willow Springs 91

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Ты так далеко,
что не доплывают
смоленые лодки,
и плечи мои
от тяжёлой работы
и вёсла мои.
И рыба, которая шла за кормою
в неравном скитании,
однажды вернется домой.
Осталась звезда в терновом, далеком
созвездии звёзд.
Но всюду меня покидали
и компас, и кормчий -
кто путь этот не перенёс.
Ты так далеко,
что мир заточенья неважен.
Не суть,
что в лодках смоленых великое знание,
и что эти плечи несут.

War Poem



You’re so far away
that the tarred keels
can’t reach you
and my shoulders
and oars
are worn out
from hard work.
The fish that has followed the rudder
in its random wanderings
will simply return home.
Only a star remains, in a thorny
far-off constellation.
But my compass and the helmsman
who couldn’t endure the voyage
have abandoned me.
You’re so far away
that the prison of this world is irrelevant.
No one cares
that tarred keels are filled with deep knowledge
or what these shoulders are carrying.


“Witness” by John Hodgen


Found in Willow Springs 64

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Predictable to some degree that a man with a red and white striped stick-on umbrella hat

and a portable public address system bullhorn would be working the heart of Bourbon Street

in the name of the Lord. Telling all the jesters, masquers, Red Death revelers, that God

will not be mocked, that His patience is running out, that He sees us all, unblinking.

Predictable as well, perhaps, that his sidekick, his long-suffering Fortunato, would be hauling a life-size cross up the street with him on the Via Dolorosa, the road to the Superdome.


Less predictable the college kid, clean cut, a Chuck Palahniuk Fight Club type,

having to be restrained, pulled away by his friends, physically lifted off the ground,

his feet moving in mysterious ways. Screaming at the Jesusers that they don't belong here,

that this is our holy place, our last sanctuary, that this is where we come for the sole purpose of getting away from Jesus, that this is where we worship, that we should be free to mock God whenever we want, that someone could get hurt tripping over a cross like that in the street,

that we should just be left alone, that we are all being crucified each and every day.

His friends haul him away, John the un-Baptist, God's true warrior in sackcloth and ashes, His burning bush, His voice in the French Quarter wilderness, blessed troublemaker,

not to be mocked, not to be saved, crown of thorns messiah of the way things really are.