More Poets Getting Published With Suicide Bluff

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  This former blue-collar suburb has become “The Brooklyn of Greater Boston,” with more poets per square mile than any other zip code in New England.  “You can’t throw a brick without hitting a poet around here,” says Marty Schloss, owner of The Tired Owl, a used book store.  “I know, we tried last week, nearly killed a guy.”

Given the art form’s particularly unremunerative nature, a fair amount of angst is felt every morning when Sylvia Plath wannabes turn on their computers and find email rejection letters that mean their day of fame is further delayed.  No one has been more vocal in her disappointment than Chloe Nath, who is so far unpublished while her roommate Siobhan Clough is building a resume that may soon land her a low-paying teaching job, in addition to her current low-paying job waiting tables.

“Chloe’s a loser/this she knows/we don’t need to tell her so.”


The two women woke up one January morning to identical notices from bRoken sPoke, the student literary magazine of the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk, but their reactions were as different as their hair color, blonde in Nath’s case, black for Clough.  “They send the nicest rejections,” Clough says as she reads the lit mag’s encouragement that she try them again.  In Nath’s eyes, however, it was one more symbol of her failure and, after she allowed herself a remorseless little laugh, she turned her mordant wit on the publication that had just turned down her seven stanza tercet as “not quite what we are looking for right now.”

“Thanks for your prompt reply,” she wrote back.  “I guess I’ll go take a warm bath and slit my wrists,” she added, then went to the kitchen to pour herself another cup of coffee.

Chloe:  “Really?  You don’t think it’s terrible after all?”


By the time she was back at her desk, however, Nath had received a follow-up email from bRoken sPoke.  “Dear Chloe,” the faceless editor said, “upon further review–like a football referee if we may be allowed a vulgar simile–we are accepting your ‘Gulls at the Town Dump,’ which will run in our Summer Fun and Despair issue.  Congratulations!”

The budding poetess’s inadvertent success spread by word-of-mouth through coffee houses and craft beer brew pubs, and when imitated dramatically increased the acceptance rate of those who used it.  As a result, a firestorm of controversy has broken out in the small but highly-competitive world of literary verse, with two camps taking opposite sides of the question “Should poets fake suicide in order to scare the crap out of lit mags and get published?”

“She’s using sleeping pills, right–no bloodshed?”


Robert Ricciardelli, interim editor-in-chief of plangent voices, says no, pointing to the high cost of liability insurance he must carry in case a poet’s family or lover comes after them for staring down a suicide threat.  “We have no way of knowing if someone is serious,” he says as inspects a poorly-written sonnet for symbols of desperation.  “If I wrote stuff this bad I’d kill myself too, but you never know what reserves a person can draw on in a time of crisis–religion, philosophy, money.”

But Nath says the highbrow quarterlies are fair game for the pain they inflict on literary artistes such as herself.  “plangent voices took two years to turn down Burnt Potholders,” a six-poem cycle on disasters that occurred in her kitchen as she worked her way through The Moosewood Cookbook.  “I went through fifteen boyfriends in that time.”


The Runner’s Heart

The runner’s heart beats hardest
as he rounds the final turn.

The finish line in sight at last,
he feels the chambers burn
from blood that pumps within his chest.
His pace is labored, not as fast
as when he started out; anxious, sick
in his stomach. The bile is now burned,
expended in the work of the race.

A few steps and he will have earned
relief from pain, but his legs are thick,
he now wears a different face

than the one he wore before.

Valentine for a Homely Couple

Carl’s wife sits shotgun in his truck
Her doughy face baked whitish red.
He gets out and climbs the semi–
Smiling, he asks “How’s it going?”
We just grunt and nod our heads
at the auger hole, and how it’s stuck.

“Better you than me, boys,” he says.
“I’m enjoying Sunday off.
Got a beer and my old lady.
It ain’t much, but it’s enough.”

Bill and me look at each other;
He’s the type to make a crack.
Me–I just want to get this load done.
We’ve got 18 miles to drive back.

“Your wife, she sure is lookin’ sweet,”
Bill says–I don’t pay him no mind.
Carl’s wife smiles, then she says thank you.
“You ever seen her walk the streets?”
Carl asks, all innocent.  “From behind
Looks like two hogs fightin’ under a sheet.”

Carl’s wife laughs, she likes attention.
Backhanded flattered, and it shows.
Her flabby arm hangs out the window
What attracts him, God only knows.

“Have you lost weight since I last saw you?”
Bill asks, and then he calls her “Dear.”
“Naw,” Carl says, “she’s like the State Fair–
Bigger and better every year.”

We see her laugh, she’s missing one tooth.
It’s clear she’s heard this joke before.
Old Sam arrives to check our progress–
It’s his dough that we’re wasting now.
He kicks a dead mouse out the barn door
As we prepare to tell untruths.

“Howdy, Carl,” Sam says
surprised to see his foreman in the bay.
“I give you the day off and what do you do?
You just can’t tear yourself away.”

“You know my wife, Earlene–right Sam?”
Carl says with somewhat misplaced pride.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
Can he be pleased by one so wide?

They talk of things, while in the trailer
Bill and I unclog the jam.
The fescue seed begins to flow
As if from out a hydro dam.

Carl takes his leave, with mock regret.
“Sorry to see you break a sweat,
I’ll keep a cold beer waiting,” he says,
“In case I haven’t drunk it yet.”

Carl starts his truck, Sam farts around,
He sticks his hand into the seed.
“This stuff’s too wet, it’s got to dry out,
A day in windrows is what it needs.”

Sam stands up straight to watch them go.
“That little peckerwood’s a card.
Before too long they’ll have them six kids
And a beat-up truck in their front yard.

“I know that it ain’t none of my business,
where ole Carl puts his prick.
But for me, I know one thing;
Them Bohunk women sure go to pot quick.”

Image result for couples country 50s

We’re silent, Bill and I, for once,
as we attempt to take this in.
It’s true, of course, there’s no denying,
and yet to say it seems a sin.

Happy the man, and happy the mate
Who care not what the world may say.
Here’s to the two whose matches are few–
May they find love on Valentine’s Day.

My Out-of-Print Novels

Why am I down? I’ll give you hint–
My two novels just went out of print.
The publisher called me and said with alack:
They aren’t selling—do you want them back?


I heard his words with a sense of gloom–
Take them back? I don’t have room.
When I finished them I thought they were gone for good
now they’re back skulking ‘round in my neighborhood.

One is autobiographical, he’s the one
that by rights ought to be my favorite son.
The other’s about a baseball team in Worcester–
There’s no word that rhymes with that central Mass. town.


They came to the back door, all by themselves,
and asked if they could climb back on my shelves
next to Ring Lardner and also George Ade,
and I said “I’m all out of room, I’m afraid.”

They whined as wayward boys are wont
and said they’d do anything—even change fonts.
“We’ve downsized,” I said, “since you flew the coop,”
but they hung around, and sat on the stoop
like tacky neighbors you want to get rid of
but I happen to be the father they’re kids of.


And so I took back every box
and stacked ‘em neatly, floor to ceiling.
They’re in the garage where I use no locks–
the critics concur that they’re not worth stealing.

About your SAT Score . . .

Of all the varieties of world-class bore
my fav is the man whose SAT score
he casually drops into idle conversation
hoping you’ll be impressed by his sly revelation.


I work with a guy—now approaching senility—
who uses this measure of intellectual ability.
He achieved in his youth (which is none too recent)
a score on the test of one hundred per cent!


When he tells you of this most remarkable fact
he’s expecting by way of your response back
an homage recited with appropriate awe
at his vast erudition, with wide-opened jaw.


Instead, I treat it as quite inept bragging
and can’t help myself from starting in ragging:
“Really?” I ask, an ingenuous ruse,
“How many number 2 pencils did you use?”


He looks at me with offended pride
as if an internal flame in his honor has died.
Then I ask the question that makes the man wince:
“Why haven’t you accomplished anything since?”

Please Don’t Try to Blow My Mind

I’m struggling really hard not to be unkind
but I wish you wouldn’t say you will “blow my mind,”
when you send me a highlighted internet link,
with some curious fact that will “make me think.”

If you’re amazed that folks have forgotten bands from 1980,
Sorry, that’s not enough to make me matey.
A five-year-old girl who wowed TV judges?
I’ll probably just add it to my pile of grudges.

Those “one weird trick” memes that you see
on the ‘net seem like run-of-the-mill stuff to me.
And about those starlets who have gone to seed?
I’ve seen far too many more than I need.

You see, I grew up with psychedelic drugs
that gave supernatural powers to area rugs,
stucco on walls, air bubbles from goldfish,
just about any humdrum item you might wish.

So when you say that my mind will be blown
you’ll have to top all the weird things I have known
The phrase is so hackneyed, my mother-in-law uses it!
So like the drugs of yesteryear–please don’t abuse it.