Poetry Issue #13

Curb Appeal

By James Reidel


The burnt orange of a dying coral reef,

The pockmarked brick,

The paint peels,

Which blister in great petals and dogears,

Which unfold on closer inspection to reveal an older layer of

That someone else got it right—
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*Image: “Evening Clouds” by Robert Tokley, 36”x46” Oil on Canvas, 2015

James Reidel

Featured Poet



Curb Appeal

The burnt orange of a dying coral reef,
The pockmarked brick,
The paint peels,
Which blister in great petals and dogears,
Which unfold on closer inspection to reveal an older layer of
That someone else got it right—
But who replaced one torn screen sees
The brass wire shimmer from the road as though lightly
By the velvet hammer of the shadows within.
You could hear it ring but for the grackles,
Their croakings in the upper stories of the beech before
      the house,
Converged to bill nuts and let the husks fall and tick through
      the branches
Drum the litter of dead leaves with these tricorn stars—
And you look around,
The hope among many.


Happy Hour

Night’s lampblack sifts from the east and trails the fired
The sun lowers his bright head and his red pall stretches
     across the horizon.
He plants his gold sandaled feet ever firmer so as not to fall,
For the ocean laps over the marble trench in the west and
     washes down,
Or when you pass the water wall in the lobby.
And as you cross the street the sun must really wade now.
His shining greaves are put out and his legs stiffen bathed in
     cold bronze green.
And that was just happy hour—now the crowd forms.
The long shadows that ran ahead at dawn return at your back
     because you are not going home.
Some crush their soft faces between your shoulder blades like
That chill down your spine,
Some mouth breathe the twilight in your ear,
What lights them up,
That dry gray drink as though the sidewalk were paved with
     something else but grit,
Broken clay nests stirred by your footfalls.


St. Marjorie All-Fours

When this happened my boy’s black missal had been worn
     down to a flipbook
Of smelling the ink from front to back.
Its cheap gilt pages had turned to brass from being sprung
Between my thumbs.
The girls knelt in their rows before ours.
Their small round white chapel veils made moons in the
     varnished mirror of the bench board,
Their unwashed wool skirts and snow pants bellows exhaling
     their late winter musk.

My lips moved with the other children’s and my thoughts
seated themselves,

Saddling the tallest girl’s swayback.
They weighed no more than a fat winter fly,
Still enough to ride out the folds of her blouse as she signed so
     fulsomely with her belly thrust out,
Her first of the first breasts,
Each barely a brown cheekful of air now,
For the feet,
The hands.


"October" by Robert Tokley, 44''x46'' Oil on Canvas, 2015, Mud Season Review
“October” by Robert Tokley, 44”x46” Oil on Canvas, 2015


Canalis Lacrimae

A hunter’s moon drifts in the black limbs.

Its pale light fills the roadway with silver,

Shallows before the current,


The curb of a stepped bank—

Where it would lap over my big toe,

Which has its moonrise to meet the other,


Like “Outlook Certain,”

Surfacing from beneath the nail.


I am nothing here but what I am,

Breath, pajamas, bare feet,

The sound of bins rolled to the street,


Both steered it to the driveway’s edge,

Hands that are the feel now for the tiller,

For my own boat on this river.



What Repurpose

When they lean this way and that after a summer storm,

The red player’s mallet forges

The tops of the tomato stakes even flatter.


What repurpose flies from my fist—


The butt of a spear,

The pommel of a blade,

The nock and fletching in a split,


With bent wood in hand,

I hammer out a longbow from where you are in the window.


Brown twists of twine slip down like ropes.

China rattles in the distance.

One rank green captive after another  . . .


Then the porch steps,

The handrails drawn by terrible goats


Back to your side.



Illustrative Imagery by Robert Tokley

Artist Statement:

Robert Tokley paints with oil paint on hand-stretched canvas. He derives inspiration from the Canadian art movement of The Group of Seven. Using pure, bright color he attempts to recreate for the viewer his feeling or mood of the actual experience of “being there” in the outdoors.

By James Reidel

James Reidel’s most recent book of verse is Jim’s Book (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). He is also the author of My Window Seat for Arlena Twigg and other poems (Black Lawrence Press, 2006). In 2013, he was winter-spring James Merrill House fellow. He recently published Fairy Tales (New Directions, 2015), four dramolettes (verse plays) translated from the German of Robert Walser and is currently working on new prose poems and a translation of the collected poems of the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard for Seagull Books.