My great grandmother marie lavine
died at the tender age of 98

we all knew her as grandma sugar
her steadfast grace and passion
perhaps more immortal
than all the gods themselves

her humble abiding eyes
two portraits painted
like the proverbs of the cosmos
a universe not even Michelangelo could portray

her brittle skin stained a softer shade of coffee
and wrapped in a coat of creases
like an ancient oak tree
whose placid branches availed all who sought its shelter

and I remember the rare times I sat with her
as she spoke and sang with a beautiful voice
like a ballet of bells
tracing winsome rhythms across my mind

at her funeral, I was one of five cousins
chosen to help carry her casket
a casket which bore the weight of twenty-four years
of self-regret grinding in my bones
for not being around her more often
to hear more heavenly melodies, sage like advice
and experience a delicate intimacy
which could have wrapped my whole aura
in a flawless understanding of life, truth and

                – C. Allen Rearick
                   from Words Dance 8, Fall 2005

There is something to learn everyday by Brien J. Dawson

There is something to learn everyday

Today I met with a man about buying an old painting.
This is the first time I have broken routine in three months.
The old man looks like a flag pole with flesh hanging from it.

He looked so old I was afraid he will fall apart like a card house. So
skinny and frail, yet his voice booming like a Burglar alarm, with a
distinct scratchiness, the same scratch of old Lady Day records, Coltrane
and Monk Live at the Five spot.

After we talked business, he told me how his wife had just died
and now that she is gone, he had no use for anything kinda beautiful.

Everything is ugly put up against that woman.
He says into his coffee cup.

Driving home, I thought about how it must feel to grow connected with
someone over years, like bone connects to bone after a break. What does it
feel like to love like that?

When I get home, I wipe off the virgin wall facing the front room window.
I find the stud by rapping my knuckle until I hear something solid. I drill
a hole and screw in a toggle. The painting already has a hanging wire. I
spend the rest of the night trying to make sure the painting is perfectly
balanced. I move it slightly, walk around the thrift store couch and stand
looking at it- no matter what direction I move it, it never appears level.

I was at it all evening, until I finally gave up and came to the conclusion
that one of my legs is longer than the other, because nothing looks level to

                – Brien J. Dawson
                    from Words Dance 10, Fall 2006
                    guest-edited by Jessica Dawson

a red sea of burning bridges by John Dorsey

a red sea of burning bridges

as a boy i
swam in a red
sea of burning

i saw my face
on wanted posters
covered in blisters burning
my shadow in

and now if i
dance like a ghost
it’s because i wear
the skin of invisible

only the sun may
speak my name whispered
on the lips of
this generation’s underground railroad
its revolution just about
ready to protest and
sing out loud our
full tilt boogie

                – John Dorsey
                   from Words Dance 11, Spring 2007

Reflections of A Mind Corrupted By A Nightmare Childhood & Congenital Dysfunction by S.A. Griffin

Reflections of A Mind Corrupted By A Nightmare Childhood & Congenital Dysfunction

when asked recently
if I was
an optimist or a
I answered,
I’m still here.”

another time when
interviewing for a job
I was tested with,
“If you could have dinner
with any 3 people
in history
who would they be
& why?”

(most respond
with rehearsed or
programmed cliché

Gandhi or

I replied,
“My ego
my superego
& my id.

I could then put myself together
& I would be able to love myself,
everyone & everything around me

I didn’t get the gig
nor did I
expect to

such is the swarming wisdom
& compulsive convention
of ants

                – S.A. Griffin
                   from Words Dance 9, Spring 2006

Building A Sphinx by Glen Clark

Building A Sphinx

She sits on the couch
cross legged, thumbing through
a magazine article about ancient Egypt.

If she had better parents,
she would have been an archeologist.

It’s her nature to dig,
analyze, and delicately brush away
anything settling.

She turns another page
While I construct pyramids for her to exhume.

We speak in hieroglyphs
allowing time to erode the nose from our faces.

                – Glen Clark
                    from Words Dance 10, Fall 2006
                   guest-edited by Jessica Dawson

as you become by Adebe D. A.

as you become

the essence of your poetry
remains as a sleepless pain
while I rise,
ready to jump
above skies for you
or hit rock bottom for you,
you’ll be needing most
it’s the least I can do,
becoming your prayer
so that my body made from alchemy
can find you, call the gods all in
and send warm waves
of healing hands
to rest on your skin; waves like wind
fueling crimson rain hurricane
red sea,
blood ocean –

in such waters I will blow life force
back into you
so that I can be alive,
because you would be
and even break my bones if I had to
so you could
from my rib: the altered myth
but the reality
of you as permanent as a star itself,
and your death as a star’s own death
spanning ten thousand years after
when the arctic hearts of the world
will have melted down
like I imagine it,
and you becoming
not a second to spare.

                – Adebe D. A.
                   from Words Dance 8, Fall 2005

Muscle Memory by Gerald So

Muscle Memory

Two months before he died,
my father sprang out of bed,
said, “Have to get to the office,”
put his shirt and pants on
and was trying to
tighten his belt–
my mother pulling him back:
“Please. You’re retired.
You’re retired.
You have cancer. Please.”
I saw her words spread
from his mind to his legs,
flooring him
all over again.

                – Gerald So
                    from Words Dance 10, Fall 2006
                   guest-edited by Jessica Dawson



This painting makes me feel that I bet that if he were alive today, that Jesus would have a credit score that wouldn’t be worth bragging about. This painting makes me feel that life on the open seas doesn’t hold any real interest for me. This painting makes me feel that it is the end result of an explosion in a paint factory. This painting makes me feel that Marie Marie can still hit a perfect backward somersault – and when she does, landing casually on the balls of her feet, with a cocky flip of her hair, palm trees blaze and the world explodes. This painting makes me feel that it is God’s own medicine. This painting makes me feel that I remember all too well the time that Eddie Merrill bet Bruce Goldstein that he, Bruce, couldn’t fire a shotgun shell, if he, Bruce, hit it on the end with a bal peen hammer – Bruce accepted the bet, grabbed the shell, whacked it on the butt-end with the hammer, and proceeded to blow off his left thumb. This painting makes me feel that just because my mother felt compelled to share with me the news of every time she had a urinary tract infection; her confidentiality did not make us closer, in fact… This painting makes me feel that it was created with the intent to take the roof off with an axe. This painting makes me feel like I have been walking barefoot for five miles in the snow and my soles are starting to bleed a bit. This painting makes me feel that when I allow myself to think about it, I really regret playing William Tell with a pen knife and my little brother – I really am quite sorry that he can’t see out of that eye anymore. This painting makes me feel that it was pretty cool that in his senior year of high school, my brother was voted the male student with “The Cutest Eye.” This painting makes me feel that i really liked Warhol’s work before he was shot by Valerie Solanas – after that he took the safe route and went very high society – though all things considered, you really couldn’t blame him. This painting makes me feel that according to my uncle Hymie, Viagra hasn’t let him down yet. This painting makes me feel that nobody, I repeat nobody, can pour a magnificent Singapore Sling like I do. This painting makes me feel that if our son, Backtalk, would spend a little less time studying organic chemistry, and dedicated a lot more time to pushing the free weights, then he would really blast his pecs. This painting makes me feel that it is a real American Work of Art – not some near-sighted, mollusk eating, grey skinned, weak-kneed euro-style hand-job, but a big money beefsteak and gravy, monster Ford truck in the driveway, new suit, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue glorification of divine Yankee grit and execution. This painting makes me feel that it is a fake and a fraud. This painting makes me feel that mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord. This painting makes me feel that Elvis is everywhere. This painting makes me feel that on the day its final dab of color was applied, that the earth’s temperature shot-up several degrees. This painting makes me feel that despite what the poets claim, love is not nearly enough – after all, Milosevic loved his wife, Catherine the Great loved her children, Pol Pot loved his mother, Nixon loved his little dog Checkers, good Christ, even Hitler had a girlfriend.

                – David Smith
                   from Words Dance 10, Fall 2006
                   guest-edited by Jessica Dawson

Love in the Time of Couch Potatoes by Arlene Ang

Love in the Time of Couch Potatoes

There’s a beach somewhere, and sea lions
that rub their backs on the boulders.

The thumb on the warm remote is mine.
In last night’s documentary, a historian
was trying to disprove the phallic
symbolism of brontosauri in modern art.

I never look when you’re down feeding;
a pack of hyenas converge for the kill.

Since the second rerun of Casablanca,
I’ve stopped wearing underwear in public.
There’s always a train to catch, and you
crave the taste of graffiti in tunnels.

Tonight a chef teaches bananas flambé,
mussels risotto in olive oil and wine.

Here everyone keeps saying, Don’t touch
that channel
. We keep our hands on each
other, practice French with our tongues.
In Paris, lights go up and down the Eiffel.

Afterwards our backs are brailed with
buttons, and we fondle what to view next.

                – Arlene Ang
                   from Words Dance 7, Spring 2005