- Robert L. Giron
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
In this issue, we feature
poetry by Arnaldo Batista,
poetry by Grant Chemidlin,
poetry by Natasha Dennerstein,
poetry by Octavio R. González,
poetry by George Klawitter,
poetry by Keith Moul,
an interview with Katherine E. Young
poetry by Karenne Wood,
poetry by Paul Hopper,
poetry by Maryann Hurtt,
poetry by Sally Zakariya,
poetry by Amy Young,
poetry by Christine Sloan Stoddard, and
poetry by Michael A. Schaffner
Marsha P. Johnson Is Arrested for the One-Hundred-and-First—and Last—Time
look at you.
I could throw pebbles
at the Christopher St Pier, darling,
and hit ten other men
with the same
bloated gut belly, dear,
the same triple-chin-layered boar face
you sport proud like a fisherman
props up his trout, honey.
You think you are so different
from the men who shackled me,
who shot me,
who raped me
just two nights ago, love?
I am from Elizabeth, darling,
don’t you know, you can’t throw
down a girl from Elizabeth,
a drag queen from the slimy stone
boroughs of Manhattan, honey,
so, don’t pester me, boy.
I could throw one brick
at the glass window of the paper house
you call America, darling. Then,
watch it, honey, watch it cake-crumble.
Copyright © 2020 by Arnaldo Batista.
About the Author
Arnaldo Batista graduated from Florida International University with a degree in Physics and Interdisciplinary Studies. He’s a queer, polyglot, dog-loving, Gen Z Miamian poet with a passion for all things beautiful, hoping to use his craft to amplify the diminished voices across the world. Batista’s work is forthcoming in Lucky Jefferson’s Introspection (2020) literary journal, Florida State Poets Association 2020 anthology, [PANK]’s LatinX Lit Celebration 2020 Issue, and this poem was a finalist for Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award of 2020.
When I Realized I was a Green Tree Frog in Another Life
It was a dark and rainy day in sixth grade science
and the canary-colored light of the overhead projector
showed us picture after picture:
a montage of camouflaging creatures.
The name of the game was simple:
Who can find what’s hiding in plain sight?
And I did. Every time. The only member
of our sleepy-eyed tribe who could raise their hand
and give the answer. Oh, their baffled eyes,
the looks of frustration on their flushed, red faces,
when they couldn’t understand the advantage
that I had, how I knew all the tricks of the walking stick,
of the green tree frog and the phantom moth.
They begged and they begged, for me to spill
my sacred secret (that I knew because I lived it.)
Because prey sees prey, and I was keen
on all their cleverness, their tactics
Take a closer look and see the seams
of my disguise:
the backwards ball cap, the Abercrombie clothes,
my use of “dude” in every sentence,
all just fabrics, a hand-stitched invisibility cloak
to hide my burgeoning gayness,
to disguise the boy who used to try on all his sister’s
who liked to play with dolls
when no one was around to stop him,
who wishes now,
that when the teacher asked the final question,
he had pointed to himself.
Copyright © 2020 by Grant Chemidlin.
About the Author
Grant Chemidlin is a queer writer and poet living in Los Angeles. His first collection, He Felt Unwell (So He Wrote This) was self-published in March 2020. Recently, he was named a finalist for the 19th Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award. Follow him on Instagram @grantcpoetry for more of his work.
for Amanda Lepore
O, my synthetic Madonna, with your nylon
heart, acrylic liver and polyester face: let me
worship you with my plastic love. Let me
place you on a lucite pedestal,
shower you with transparent adoration
with all my rayon, leisurewear soul. Let me
drape you in diaphanous, flammable
lingerie of gossamer, neon pink
and spandex your buttocks with grace.
O, my silicone angel, how your Kevlar body
is your sequined canvas, how you embody the will
to change; to re-create; to define our
Selves, how you are Doctor Frankenstein
and monster, both. Watch as the villagers come
to burn crosses before your astroturf door.
Copyright © 2020 by Natasha Dennerstein.
About the Author
Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne, Australia. She has an MFA from San Francisco State University. Natasha has had poetry published in many journals internationally. Her collections Anatomize (2015), Triptych Caliform (2016) and her novella-in-verse About a Girl (2017) were published by Norfolk Press in San Francisco. Her trans chapbook Seahorse (2017) was published by Nomadic Press in Oakland. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is an editor at Nomadic Press and works at St James Infirmary, a clinic for sex-workers in San Francisco. She was a 2018 Fellow of the Lambda Literary Writer’s Retreat.
Octavio R. González
Love Potion #9 (Revisited)
has he called? i ask, and my friend
suppresses a laugh.
anoint the memory
with the meaning
of what isn’t
how you kissed me
on microwave popcorn
or the fleshy gyrations
on a porno screen:
a pas de deux
a hand loosened,
a grip unfastened.
(when alone, these
could be mistaken for needs.)
i’ll be watching the replay
in a flawless
a pattern to
the name you gave to what
your lips, eating
your salty cum,
that the stillness
never leave me.
and it did. as it always
and i quell
the urge to converge
back somehow onto your bed
now that your shoulders
with the brutal
for me, then, to retain
the memories of a few months
and save the plot for another
day, another’s ways
the language of decay
as old as
a bitter gamble, this
ever refuses to claim
i could go on
let’s rewind to the
About the Author
Octavio R. González is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Wellesley College. He teaches courses on queer literature and culture, including Sapphic Modernism; The Gay 1990s; and Writing AIDS, 1981-Present. His monograph, Misfit Modernism: Queer Forms of Double Exile in the Twentieth-Century Novel, is forthcoming from the Refiguring Modernism Series at Pennsylvania State University Press (October 2020). His first poetry collection, The Book of Ours, was a selection of the chapbook series at Letras Latinas, University of Notre Dame (Momotombo Press, 2009). He is currently working on a second poetry manuscript, entitled Limerence: The Wingless Hour. Some poems from this collection appear in Lambda Literary’s Poetry Spotlight (shorturl.at/bgxKN), Anomaly, La Guagua, and the “Taboo” series at La Casita Grande Salon, as well as an anthology of Dominican poets in the diaspora (Retrato intimo de poetas dominicanos, https://amzn.to/2Sz051V).
Love Potion #9 (Revisited) was a finalist for the 19th annual Oscar Wilde Award for best LGBTQ poem, sponsored by Gival Press.
Other poems appear in Puerto del Sol, OCHO, and MiPoesias, among other journals. You can follow him on Twitter @TaviRGonzalez.
Winner of the 19th Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award-2020
As a doctor, he’ll know the secrets
of the heart: when it skips a beat
he’ll sense the truths of chemistry, he’ll chart
the rise and fall of close encountering.
I saw him once, a man of no regrets,
take poetry, dissect it clean and neat,
squeeze metaphor, take simile apart,
then smile in simple pride, a flowering.
He’s rather like a daffodil in snow,
caught between reality and promise:
he dances in the cold of wild dreams.
My only luck is to watch him grow,
pentameter at hand, a sweet surprise
jetéd into my life of ifs and seems.
Copyright © 2020 by George Klawitter.
About the Author
George Klawitter, retired professor of English (St. Edward’s University), has edited the poetry of Richard Barnfield and published The Enigmatic Narrator, a study of John Donne’s poetry. His poems have been printed in various journals including The James White Review, Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Evergreen Chronicles, Milkweed, and Cumberland Poetry Review. His first book of poetry, Country Matters, appeared in 2001. His book Let Orpheus Take Your Hand won the Gival Press Poetry Award in 2002. His book of poetry The Agony of Words appeared in 2004, and his book of poetry Gareth came out in 2014. A volume of sonnets (The Priest) will appear in late summer 2020.
A killer passes through my county, going north.
No crime occurs, or no crime is reported, yet.
Community people know from the police
that the police were informed and alert.
Not much has changed since.
This event affects only the miasma of dark thought,
not how we understand history, or the law.
Copyright © 2020 by Keith Moul.
About the Author
Keith Moul has written poems and taken photos for more than 50 years, his work appearing in magazines widely. His chapbook, The Journal, and a full-length volume, New and Selected Poems: Bones Molder, Words Hold were recently accepted by Duck Lake Books. These are his ninth and tenth published works.
Katherine E. Young
Interview of Katherine E. Young (KEY) with Robert L. Giron (RLG)
Katherine, I know you recently got a grant from the Arlington Commission for the Arts. Had you thought of doing the collection you have just completed or was it the grant that motivated you to create this collection (Written in Arlington: Poems of Arlington, Virginia, 2020, Paycock Press)?
This collection was an idea I had as poet laureate that we (Arlington County’s Cultural Affairs Division, which oversees the laureateship, and I as laureate) lacked the time and resources to do. The position of laureate in Arlington is intended to be community-focused—not all laureateships are—and this project seemed like the perfect way to not only bring a large number of poets together, but also to remind the broader community that poetry has a role to play in our civic life. Once my tenure as laureate ended, I applied for an Arlington County individual artist grant that funded the project. By the time the anthology went to print, we were deep into the Covid-19 pandemic—at that point, it seemed even more important to produce a collection that reminded us of who we were collectively, rather than as individuals huddled in our homes.
What was your vision for the collection?
I wanted it to reflect who we are as a community and to represent all the various poets who live or work in Arlington, as well as those just passing through. I wanted spoken word and performance poets as well as page poets, and also people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as poets but just happen to write poems. For several years, I was lucky enough to judge the Hear Arts poetry contest at the Arlington Detention Center, where I found some marvelous poets; I wanted that work included, too.
Did you think about only including past or present Arlington, VA poets?
Arlington is a relatively young community, even by American standards; Arlington marked its centennial in 2020. Up until the start of World War II, we were quite rural and sparsely populated. We did have some interesting poetry written before 1920 in what is now Arlington, but not enough of it to form the basis of a historical collection. It wasn’t really until the last two decades of the twentieth century that we came to have a critical mass of poets living, working, and interacting as poets here. That interaction happened thanks in part to the vision of Kim Roberts, then working in Arlington County’s Cultural Affairs Division, and Miles David Moore, founder of the Iota Poetry Series in Clarendon, among others. By the way, the anthology does include the work of six poets who have recently passed on (John Elsberg, Alexandra Delaine Hailey, Carol Heller Nation, Hilary Tham, and Karenne Wood); I just couldn’t imagine a collection of Arlington poetry that didn’t include their voices.
How did you choose the poems in the collection?
I had two general pools of poets: poets who lived, studied, or worked in Arlington, and poets who had passed through at some point. For the first group, I was interested in pretty much anything that spoke to everyday life in Arlington; the anthology includes a number of poems about holidays and other kinds of family rituals, for example. For some reason, I received a number of poems about fox sightings—so many fox poems, in fact, that not all of them made it into the anthology! For the second group, I was stricter: those poems had to be related to Arlington in a clear way. Several of the poets in the second group know Arlington mainly because they visit loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery; one attended Yorktown High School for a short while; others lived here for a few years after college and then settled elsewhere.
Did you have any difficulties getting the material?
For the most part, no—I put out calls for submissions through social media, and I also visited area reading spots to make announcements to the poets in the audience. I talked to everyone I could think of who might know about Arlington poets and poetry to track down poets and in some cases their literary heirs. I had help from Kim Roberts, Richard Peabody, Karren Alenier, Jenny Sullivan at Arlington Magazine, and poet-journalist Kim O’Connell in tracking down hard-to-find poets who had left the area. Amy Wathen at Wakefield High School helped me find student poets, and Sushmita Mazumdar at Studio Pause introduced me to poets whom I hadn’t met elsewhere in Arlington. There were several people whose work I would have loved to include but whom I just couldn’t reach by phone or email, and a couple who submitted work but didn’t wish to be edited—I’m still sorry that work didn’t make it into the final collection.
Is there a theme in the collection?
The collections follows a succession of themes: poems of approaching Arlington from the river or the sky, neighborhood poems (Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Ballston, Fairlington, Madison Manor, Westover, Green Valley), poems of finding oneself, poems of music and nightlife, poems about making human connections, poems about healing and health, poems of loss and grief, love poems, poems of remembrance, poems about Arlington history, poems about Arlington National Cemetery, poems of immigrant Arlington, poems about landmarks, about daily rhythms, about seasons, and even a few translations.
Does the collection feature a diversity of poets/voices?
The collection is made up of 150 poems by 87 poets from very different backgrounds. It includes the work of “page” poets, as well as spoken word and performance poets. Various poems evoke the writer’s connection to Africa, Bolivia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other far-flung points of the globe; a few were written by native speakers of a language other than English, including poems translated from Hindi, Russian, and Spanish. The poets range in age; the youngest is a student at Wakefield High School. There is one mother-daughter poet pairing, Cathy Hailey and Alexandra Delaine Hailey. The late Karenne Wood, a member of the Monacan Indian Nation, represents something of a tradition of Native American poets with ties to Arlington. Among the professions represented here: mental health counselor, university professor, minister, journalist, special education teacher, security specialist, health care lobbyist, and literary translator.
Were you free to choose the work for the collection or was there some other feature of the grant that had to be met? If so, what was that?
I was completely free to design the project and choose the poems. The grant stipulated only that the project should seek to build community.
Which poets or poems stand out or spoke to you and why?
When I started this project, I knew of exactly four poems about Arlington: three I had written as poet laureate, and Miles David Moore’s “I Love Barbie Taylor. T. Mc.” about graffiti along I-395. You could call “I Love Barbie Taylor” the mother poem of the anthology. What has utterly astounded and delighted me is that every single one of these 150 poems has something compelling and often quite beautiful to say—and says it in a way that feels absolutely authentic to me. I am not kidding when I say that they ALL speak to me.
What was the greatest unexpected pleasure of working on this project?
I’ve worked on anthologies before in various roles, including as editor-contributor. But in all those cases, someone else chose the poems and established the order in which they would appear. In this case, I just had a large pile of poems, and I got to put them together myself. It was very much a process of listening to the poems, letting them resonate with one another. Once I did that, they pretty much sorted themselves—the poems about late-night music, bars, and diners all just seemed to belong together, as did the poems of loss and healing. The last section of the book follows the natural cycle of seasons: poems of winter, spring, summer, and fall, followed by poems of leaving and passing on. The poems just seemed to flow together naturally—I’m not sure I can even take credit for arranging them. I really believe that when things work in poetry, there’s a little magic involved—and I loved feeling like a magician.
How does the project fit in with your writing career or how has it enhanced your skills?
I am partial to the Russian tradition of civic poetry: the idea that the poet has an important role to play in the greater community, above and beyond (although not in opposition to) an American tendency to navel-gaze. I don’t mean that all poetry has to be “accessible” (although I think more of it could be), just that we poets have the right, if we want to claim it, to speak for the collective as well as the individual. I’ve always been quietly activist in my writing, but the last four years for me have driven home the lesson that we poets need to use our gift with words to fight for the values we hold dear. Being poet laureate and having the chance to bring poetry into conversations where it had long been absent has been a tremendous honor; I look at this collection as giving something precious back to the community where I’ve been lucky enough to live for nearly four decades.
What advice to you have for anyone contemplating putting an anthology together?
Organize early and keep good records—a spread sheet can be a pretty useful tool when you’re dealing with 87 poets and multiple poems! And don’t be afraid to ask for help—in Arlington we have poet-publishers, poet-translators, poet-visual artists, poet-journalists, poet-educators, and poet-bureaucrats, to name just a few. I called on every single one of them—including you, Robert—at some point during the project for their non-poetry expertise. People have been remarkably generous with their time and their knowledge. This project belongs to all of us.
Thank you, Katherine, you’ve done the Arlington literary community a service by bringing forth this collection. I’m sure it will be well received.
Here below is a sampling of the poems in the collection.
At this hour, who could discern where land ends,
or water, where creek becomes bay, bay becomes
river and stretches across to a blue verge
of Maryland, all the way black now, invisible.
Through July’s haze, the first light is a brushstroke
of gray seeping in. Ducks totter up the beach,
short bowlegged sailors. Over the water, duck blinds
loom as improbable creatures who graze a pale field.
From the marina around the bend, two crabbers set out.
Their diesel chugs reverberate as prows cut new waves.
Mockingbirds swoop, flash their shoulders like women
advertising summer dresses. Herons cast themselves down.
What matters? At the end, we become what we have
loved, each thing that transfixed us in the rapture
of its moment, its grace of its own making, ours the same.
We grow around the land as it grew around us, and
dawn crosses over us, whether asleep in nests or
berths or in the ground becoming life again. Here is
the moment: here, among herons, ospreys, morning,
river. I believe in this light: it is the light of the world.
Copyright © 2001 by Karenne Wood. Published by permission.
Karenne Wood (1960-2019) authored two poetry collections, Markings on Earth, and Weaving the Boundary. Her work was included in the native writing anthologies Sister Nations, New Poets of Native Nations, Sing, Willow’s Whisper, Ghost Fishing, and The People Who Stayed, as well as on former US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s podcast, The Slowdown. A member of the Monacan Indian Nation, she was recognized in 2015 by the Library of Virginia as one of the notable Virginia Women in History. “First Light” appears in Markings on Earth.
Patterns in Darkness
The sky and river grow dark;
tall buildings in Rosslyn grow light.
Their windows form patterns of board games
that no one I know has played.
Some thinkers will make their mark
in the metropolitan night
by spreading the patterns larger
in an analytical braid.
Copyright © 2020 by Paul Hopper. Published by permission.
Paul Hopper, formerly a teacher of German (and related subjects), is now a translator of written texts into English, mostly from Russian, German, and Italian. He has also been writing and translating poetry since college. He works in Foggy Bottom, where he has a good view of some of Rosslyn’s tall buildings. Besides occasional visits to take classes and eat lunch, he has enjoyed visual art, music, and literary readings in various parts of Arlington.
The Bones Still Wait
Lost cemetery, North Kensington Street
back when I was thirteen
I sat in a magnolia tree
and read To Kill a Mockingbird
weedy graves below me
buried old slaves
their descendants and who knows
who or what else
beyond the cemetery walls
Arlington inched toward change
still I sat
getting ready for “I Have a Dream”
but now fifty years slip by
the walls and markers are forgotten
lost in the sprawl
of even more homes
but those bones
they keep telling the stories
Copyright © 2020 by Maryann Hurtt. Published by permission.
Maryann Hurtt is thankful for Arlington schools, where she learned to diagram sentences at Nottingham, wrote ledes in Williamsburg journalism class, and helped edit Yorktown’s Sentry newspaper. Now living in Wisconsin, she is a retired hospice RN and has had poems published in mostly regional presses, online, and in a chapbook, River. She also co-authored a book on hospice care-planning.
Katherine E. Young
Columbia Pike Blues
Columbia Pike Blues Festival, June 17, 2017
What is it that we want from our roads?
To cart tobacco to port, raw grain
to mill, cattle to abattoir.
To take us out in the morning,
crossing footpaths made by others,
past clay forts turned to brick works
where a man and woman born enslaved
are buying supplies for the first
brick townhouse. To take us to the river,
the ferry, the bridge, the school, the store,
diner, theater, botanica, iglesia,
taqueria. To lead us back home.
You have to sit a spell in a place
to capture its full flavor. To watch
from your front porch as the road’s straightened
and smoothed, see the couple from Barcroft
throttle the bus gamely uphill.
Watch abandoned pastures sprout
radio towers to talk with Paris,
thrust up garden apartment blocks
where bachelors starch clean uniforms
for tomorrow’s shift at the Pentagon.
Embrace a church. Rebuild a school.
Bury a loved one in its soil.
You have to listen to a place
a long time to hear its blues:
forest to farm, hills sown with stones,
Freedman’s Village, Queen City paved
to park cars. Streetcars falter,
no longer leave the lot. Metro
junctions gape empty, the line unbuilt.
Even the porches are long gone, now.
And always: the quiet padding of feet
from longhouses by the river
as the ghosts of the land’s first settlers
carve out new trails up ahead.
Copyright © 2017 by Katherine E. Young. Published by permission.
Katherine E. Young is the author of Woman Drinking Absinthe (forthcoming), Day of the Border Guards (2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist), and two chapbooks. Her poems appear in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Subtropics, and many others; her translations of Russian-language poetry and prose have won international awards. She was named a 2020 Arlington Individual Artist Grantee, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow, and served as the inaugural poet laureate for Arlington (2016-2018). “Columbia Pike Blues” was written for Arlington County as part of the poet laureate program.
We heard the train each
afternoon, first the whistle—
shrieks of an angry child—
then the hiss of wheels
on rails, the howls
of neighbor dogs.
The track was half a block
away, close enough to see
the dusty freight cars from
our window carrying folks
to the city from somewhere
near the mountains.
The track was one short twig
on a branching railroad
that once carried Civil War
troops and later took vacationers
to Virginia spas.
The rails have given way
to a bike trail now, and a park
nestles close where the trains
once rolled. A red caboose sits
stationary on the spot.
Copyright © 2020 by Sally Zakariya. Published by permission.
Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some seventy-five print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife. She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the
Arlington National Cemetery: Winter
Blanket donned silently without request.
Blanket a casket can rest on.
Blanket that cannot be folded
into a triangle.
Carpet of snow.
Carpet of prayers.
beneath a canopy.
Dear God . . .
Dear Daughter . . .
Dear Son . . .
Dove motionless on a bare branch.
Each stone a monument,
a moment of silence
A hawk shifts its weight.
Light and lilac shadows
Palette of white.
Pallet of earth.
Rest now, soldiers.
White stones rising.
Copyright © 2020 by Amy Young. Published by permission.
Amy Young has spent twenty years traveling through Arlington on her way to work at The Lab School of Washington from Alexandria, VA, where she was poet laureate from 2010-2013. Her oldest son was born in Arlington in 1989, and she fondly remembers kissing her future husband on the bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, where they have continued to enjoy walking and bird watching.
Christine Sloan Stoddard
lore and tradition
in every bite.
All sung in that
Copyright © 2020 by Christine Sloan Stoddard. Published by permission.
Christine Sloan Stoddard is a Salvadoran-American writer, interdisciplinary artist, and the founder of Quail Bell Magazine. Her latest book is Desert Fox by the Sea, a collection of short stories that won the Four Chambers Press fiction competition. Another recent release is Belladonna Magic: Spells in the Form of Poetry and Photography, which was praised by editors at Ms. Magazine and Art in America. Born and raised in Arlington, she lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Michael A. Schaffner
The Lees of Arlington
The waiter’s music on the tape—
all nasal laments and reeds—
flutters like the tassels on the fan,
and “My Country” is a fragrant tea,
a leaf of which garnishes the cup.
Special just for you, he says.
On my third visit I get his card.
The title, Electronic Engineer;
the time, as bad as when he left Saigon.
Near closing we talk over the pale brew.
In my country, dinner like this,
two, three dollar. You should go see.
So it’s like we’re friends, but does that mean
a larger or a smaller tip?
I look again at his name and wonder
if his English is up to irony;
if his History is up to the other Lee
who left his home because of war.
In a dream that night,
the old ghost in a gray frock coat,
ashen beard, and starred collar tabs
lunches with this Asian Lee
in some Saigon that feels like memory
at a sidewalk café with cuttlefish and rice.
And I think he gives his host a gift:
a bourbon, or some wine he calls
“My Country,” meaning Virginia.
Months pass before I return.
He’s still there but his smile is subdued
and the tea is bitter oolong, nearly black.
When I ask him how the business is,
he shrugs and says, Long time, no see,
almost as if he always talked that way.
Copyright © 2000 by Michael A. Schaffner. Published by permission.
Michael A. Schaffner is a retired civil servant. His publications include the novel War Boys, the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels, and poems in Shenandoah, Agni (online), Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, Stand, Poetry Salzburg, Orbis, Poet Lore, and a bunch of other places, mostly ephemeral. “The Lees of Arlington” appears in Lee Highway: Beyond Pavement, a collaborative project published by Arlington County Cultural Affairs.