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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 19 — Thomas Rain Crowe, John Del Peschio, Steve Fellner

Thomas Rain Crowe

The Thief of Words


there is an old man or woman

who sits in a field

or at a table

and thinks original thoughts.

The thoughts they think

are heard by someone

who is also in the field or

at the other end of the table

which is long and out of sight.

The original thoughts go in the ear

of the one listening and are taken home.

Stolen, like the slight-of-hand of ears.

The next day the thief tells what he has heard

to this friend who is a sweeper of streets.

The sweeper pretends not to notice

or hear

the words as they fall from the mouth of the friend talking,

but takes them home with him

where they enhance his sleep.

In his dreams he passes the oracle on

to a mermaid to whom he is making love,

who the next day passes it on

in the sound of wind and waves

to Hemingway’s old man out alone in his boat.

Hemingway’s old man thinks he is hearing

voices of angels and

writes down the liturgy

the moment he gets home on an old paper sack, and

he tells his wife who works for

the parson scrubbing the rectory floors.

The parson hears her singing

what sound like sacred hymns that

have been set to the music of her voice

and he takes them from her lips and

slips them into the sermon he

has been trying to write all day.

On Sunday, the original words are

heard by every Lutheran in town

and are taken home and repeated

at dinner to a thousand children.

One of the children hears this

and takes one of the words she likes

and begins writing a poem.

It is a poem about the thing

about speech that is almost as good

as silence, and so said.

It is a poem about the moon.

It is a poem about love.

She thinks she is thinking these

things for the first time.

And she is excited by the

sound of her pen on the white page.

The next day the young poet

gives her poem to her boyfriend

who reads it and later throws it away.

His father, the sheriff, finds the

poem on the piece of paper in the trash.

He thinks it is subversive

and written by an enemy of the State.

The poet’s name is on the paper

and the next day soldiers go to her house,

arrest her, and take her to jail.

In her trial, she is accused of

stealing original thoughts from

the old man or woman in the field

or at the long table in town.

The girl tells the judge the truth

and pleads her case eloquently

as only a poet could. But it does no good.

The judge cannot believe that

a young girl could have thought up

these precious words by herself

and finds her guilty of

“stealing words.”

She is sent back to jail

where she is sentenced to

life in prison, and to

the dreary work of editing the truth

from the Book of Laws.

This is how the story ends:

The girl will die an old woman

writing love poems in the blank pages

at the end of the books she is

working on for the judge.

A hundred years later

someone somewhere

will find the writing in the back of the books.

Will collect all the poems scribbled

on all those brown pages,

and sell them to a publisher

as an original book of poems.

All the old books on law

missing the truth

will be burned and

the published poet will travel

around the country reading her poems

to large cheering crowds.

The critics will call her “a genius.”

And rich young men will send her flowers.

This story will be repeated

over and over

for a thousand years.

A handful of poets

made immortal in print, or

as the singers of songs.

Writing the same lines.

All originals.

Convicted felons.


The thieves of words.

The Thief of Words has been previously published in Poems Niederngasse (Switzerland, 2006); Les Aretes Editions (France, 2007) as a special broadsheet; and in Pisgah Review (USA, 2007).

Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Thomas Rain Crowe.

peace will come

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When the mothers of lions lie down with the lambs

and the fathers of governments give up their scams

and the cops they lay down their guns, to pray -

and peace will come one day.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When lover meets lover unafraid in the night

and the monger of races gives up the fight

and Christ comes to Earth, but to stay -

is when Peace will come one day.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When farmer and factoryman together turn to the earth

and the living outnumber those dying since birth

and a sweetness outlasts the scent of decay -

is when Peace is going to come some day.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When rockets and weapons are no more for war

and nations rejoice that no man is poor

and there are words which we don’t have to say -

is when Peace will have arrived one day.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When a lie is the truth and the truth does not lie

and the one who is watching no longer a spy

and the greedy escorted, away -

is the promise of Peace that is coming someday.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When the earth and the air are not what divide

and the difference of skin only something, inside

and as brother and sisters we rave -

that Peace, it is coming, one day.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When religion is taken away from its books

and the sacred is a whole lot more than it looks

and to stand in awe and ignorance is to play -

then we’ll know that Peace is on its way.

Peace will come.

Peace will come one day.

When there is no need for singing nor neither the song

and the chorus of numbers has long since long-gone

and only branches from wind in the trees they do sway -

is when Peace will have, finally, come one day.

Is when Peace will have, finally, come to stay.

Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Thomas Rain Crowe.


Thomas Rain Crowe is an internationally recognized poet and translator whose work has been published in several languages. He is the author of twenty books of original works, translations, anthologies and recordings including The Laugharne Poems, written at the Dylan Thomas home in Laugharne, Wales and published by Welsh publisher Carreg Gwalch; Thomas Rain Crowe & The Boatrockers LIVE, which received praise by such poet-musicians as Joy Harjo and by Pete Townshend of The Who; and the multi-award winning book of nonfiction Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, published in 2005 by the Univ. of Georgia Press. As an editor, he has been an instrumental force behind such magazines as Beatitude, Katuah Journal and the Asheville Poetry Review. As a translator, he has translated collections by poets such as Hafiz and Yvan Goll. His archives have been purchased and are collected by the Duke University Special Collections Library. He lives in the Smoky Mountains of rural western North Carolina.

John Del Peschio

On the subway

thinking of you with such longing

I looked up.


I thought why would I want to hold a door?

It would be hard to do,

hard and cold to feel.

And I thought open them, open them.

But a moment later I realized the sign maker

simply wanted me to let them go,

to let them close.

In my confusion

again I thought of you

and all that I misread:

your glance some speech,

a door held open?

For My Father

At the grave

what will lower you in

is an elevator made

by The Frigid Corporation.

Your casket’s cherry wood

so stated by a little tag.

After this

we’ll eat iceberg lettuce

at a place called Le Mirage.

My tears are real

but even they are self-aware, promotional,

playing the son

before this silent, unrelated crowd.

As an adult I disappeared from your heart

but lying beside you as a child

watching “Sea Hunt”

was my adventure.

A friend’s “Sea Cunt,”


after a stranger’s underwater kisses.

Sorry, Dad,

I hear rhymes

even when it’s inappropriate.

It’s automatic

like your need for wives.

I’ve always wanted men,

starting with you.

I have words.

They tickle me

as once

your hands.

Emily Dickinson

Nature held you

in a solitary room

whose windows were

enough of universe.

There you’d encode

anonymous creation,

illustrate loss

ably as sunset,

gauge with a gaze

the heart’s minutest jump.


John Del Peschio lives in Brooklyn Heights. His work has appeared in lodestarquarterly and modern words. He often walks past a wooden building that in the 1840s was a meniac's hairdressing parlor as he likes to think Whitman went there.

Steve Fellner

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008.

Slumber Party

Because my mother was bothered by my lack of popularity, she forced me to throw a slumber party. This was another way of protecting our future, my future.

My mother said, “Out of all the kids in your class, who do you wish you could be?”

I said the name John Fitzsimmons, which belonged to the cutest kid in my school, the one all the girls loved. He got caught making out with a girl behind some bushes. Our teacher didn’t punish him. Girls said that John was so cute that even the married teachers had a crush on him.

“I’m calling his mother right now,” my mother said.

“He probably doesn’t even know who I am.”

“All the more reason to invite him,” she said.

She walked into her bedroom and made the phone call. She came back out and said, “Who else do you want to invite?”

“What about John?”

“His mother said no. Doesn’t think this is a safe neighborhood for a young boy.”

Eight kids from my class came to my slumber party. We barely knew one another. Drinking ginger ale and eating pizza, we sat in the living room, watching cartoons my mother snickered at. Every time a commercial came on, I got nervous. We had nothing to say to each other. These kids weren’t my friends.

“Let’s crank call someone,” one of the kids said. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know his name; he didn’t seem interesting enough to remember.

“O.K.,” I said, “Who?”

“Mr. Roberts,” another kid said. I couldn’t remember her name either. I knew that after the party I wouldn’t have any memory of her. My mother admitted to me a day before the party that she struck out in getting anyone fun and popular to come over.

Mr. Roberts was the first grade teacher at our school. Rumor was he was a homosexual. For a decade, he taught at another school in the district. One of the kids at that school claimed he tried to touch him. To settle the matter, they shipped him to ours, as if placing him in a new setting would eliminate his questionable tendencies.

I was bummed he didn’t teach the advanced grades. I wanted someone to take advantage of me.

“I’ll call,” I said.

Someone got the phone book. We found the number. Someone dialed.

“Is Mr. Roberts there?” I asked.

“No,” the woman on the other end of the line said, “Who is this?”

“This is a boy who he is having sex with,” I said.

There was no answer on the other end of the line.

I tried to feign a lisp: “I am having sex with your husband. He makes me moan.”

All the other kids started to laugh. I decided they weren’t all that bad. They knew I was funny.

“Tell me you’re at least eighteen,” she said, “That’s all that matters to me. That’s what I told him. You can do what you need. Just no one underage.”

I wanted to meet this woman. I wanted to hug her, tell her everything was O.K..

“My husband is a good man,” she said.

“He is,” I said, “That’s why I called.”

I could tell she was stifling her tears. I hung up. That was when my mother walked into the room.

“Stephen Michael Fellner, I need to talk to you,” my mother said.

I walked into her bedroom.

“Posing as a queer? What was that about?” she said, “The performance was awfully convincing.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Don’t apologize,” she said, “That makes it even worse. Every one has a reason for committing their sins, so do not apologize. Do not live your life like a woman. So many women live their lives apologizing. Never say you’re sorry.”


I never understood why someone would want to do the same thing every week. Why did my parents feel compelled to arrange their schedule in such a predictable way? Why engage in conversation with people you would never otherwise talk to?

I was the sort of kid who avoided people I knew whenever I saw them in public. I ducked into bathrooms, hid behind clothing racks, tied my shoelaces. My parents went out of their way to say hi. Going to church every week, we encountered boring people who loved their brand new clothes and loved them even more when they saw the shabbiness of our own. We were poor. One week it was over a hundred degrees outside. “It’s too hot to go to church,” I said.

“Then wear your shorts. It’s not like you have any brand new clothes to show off anyway.”

We all wore shorts. On the drive there, our skin stuck to the vinyl; the lifting of our legs made a funny noise. “You farted,” my brother said.

“Shut up,” I said.

“He did,” my mother said, “He let a big one go.”

As we approached the front entrance, people stared at us. Here we were, dressed in shorts and t-shirts. I was scared that God would see us as disrespectful and launch a thunderbolt at the church.

Good thing the sky was clear. Not a single cloud.

As we walked past the altar boys and their mothers, I heard someone say in the loudest whisper, “They came to church in their underpants!”

My mother turned around and said: “You think God cares what you wear?”

Then with one hand she held on to my hand; the other grasped my brother’s. We marched to the last pew where we always sat, proud of our consistency. We wanted God to know that he could depend on us.

It was a lot shorter than the other pews, but it didn’t matter to us. Sitting so close, our legs touched; my brother and I couldn’t resist poking and pinching each other. How could we resist?

As a family, I never felt closer.

My mother knelt and said a prayer. It began: Dear Lord, forgive me for causing my sons’ embarrassment. I gave them bad advice.

I started to echo her words. They seemed perfect.

My mother stopped and looked at me. “You’re cheating,” she said, “That’s my prayer. Make up one of your own.”

“I like yours.”

“Then get it right. You are messing up some of the phrasing,” she said, “If you can’t paraphrase me accurately, then quote me.”

“I like your words too,” my brother piped up. I knew he wasn’t paying attention. But I didn’t say that. He was sweet in a dumb way.

“Why don’t we do this?” she said. She held my hand and then reached for my brother’s. She added, “Why don’t we say my prayer together? That way God will know how intense we feel about Him.”

“O.K.,” I said.

“After me,” she said.

Then she started the prayer: My Lord, forgive that lady for mocking us. She does not know better. She is rich. The rich don’t know any better. Pay more attention to them than the poor. The poor know how to take care of themselves. We’re survivors. The rich are petty, because they don’t know what’s important. Yet. But they will, my Lord. They will know. They will know once they’ve lost everything. At some point we all lose everything. So please, love that lady, my Lord. Don’t worry about me and my sons. One day she will have room in her heart for You.


Steve Fellner's first book of poems Blind Date with Cavafy won The Third Annual Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, judged by Denise Duhamel. It was released early this year. He currently teaches at SUNY Brockport.

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