Poetry Issue #22

Romantic Sensibility in Urban Pop Culture and Why it Persists

By Bruce Alford

Everything that is old is new again. Taoism says

Be natural and unconstrained, like flowing water—

perhaps this persistence has something to do with

speed, movement without return; the essential to go

on forever at the end….
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“Core” by Dave Petraglia, Photograph

Bruce Alford

Featured Poet


Romantic Sensibility in Urban Pop Culture and Why it Persists

Everything that is old is new again. Taoism says
Be natural and unconstrained, like flowing water—
perhaps this persistence has something to do with
speed, movement without return; the essential to go
on forever at the end.

This is how some poets feel at spoken-word events
Short of breath, filled with such uncertainties they

Now, look at the bathroom mirror, the shower’s
mist and someone shouting

He still believes in imagination and dreams.

He echoes visions of Coleridge and Blake; she is
the poet as vates or prophet who represents God to
the people; this is a troubling, priestly role, he
knows infirmities; she knows how impotent life can

They keep the mythology. Knights, castles, pawns
and queens; the con with the horse on his arm
All four legs off the ground at once.

So many of us are falling from our horses.
What knight would not wish for recompense in
triumph, who would not rise from the hill and say

Going around, in the sense of periodos from ancient
Greek, until the word becomes a weaving, a stable
vice of the horse who sways from side to side.

Romance makes us swoon. Every time she sees him
behind bars, her heart goes all aflutter. They spoil
romance by making it last forever. Ah-h, the things
of this time, the shifting forms of Romanticism, the
affection for fornication and prison terms

when the body is too shut up and the chessmen
appear to shelter repeat offenders—

“Now something incredible happens … the game
becomes serious,” says Nietzsche.


The Quarters

My mother used to grow collard greens next to the
steps. The steps and greens were specked with paint
flaked from her house.

There were all these little houses with their funeral-
home calendars, the stench of bitter-tasting instant
coffee, urine, and collard greens.

Don’t worry so much, what people think.


Using the F-Word in a Poem

O Fuck!

The kitten can’t keep it in. Be careful how you hold
him. It does not pass but rather comes out the wrong
end. I … God … the heaving dark hard upon a coil

But the body persists with waste, and we recoil

You would think limp, but no; the body’s not. The
emptier is hard and filled with too many thoughts

You say, It’s all right, and think it’s not your fault
this finite pain; and then the absence comes, which
comes more keenly, after felt flesh, after some
time—I am after something here perhaps the sound
of a chancel vault, after the choir has performed a
hard song, after the flesh tiring, after feeling too

The kitten curls upon your lap and forms an O

A letter pure and full of woe

"Light Play" by Sheri L. Wright, Photograph, Mud Season Review Artist
“Light Play” by Sheri L. Wright, Photograph



The Retourné

The Pecan Festival at Tillsman Corner, Alabama where
there are no pecans

For pity, shouldn’t a thing be the thing it purports to
be and not ironic, the storm that lulls a person to
sleep a deluge of desert rain desperate consolation
The difference between what one expects and what
one gets, that gap-and-connection.

Really, there isn’t much here, only fretless guitars in
the humid air, broad banners and broad faces, a lot
of old cars, a merry-go round unfastened by rust and
a Dartmoor pony God bless his soul that an elderly
man and an overweight woman have tied to a pole.

They charge $3 a ride.

O the poor pony knows. Someone has blundered.

So, he shakes his head, and he doesn’t know why
And I write the word he when I mean I or the pony or
love, which is so damned tired.

Over his head, an opaque moon re-moves so slowly
from one circle to the rest and the rest of the world
too indifferent for love.

O, now I’ve messed up, and I’ve used the word.

Yet, I hope to renew my Love and that other holiest
of words, ecclesiastical and open O Lovers know
the just value of love. Jesus of Nazareth,
that tender and abused cabinetmaker, drew love in
the dirt, first, one circle and then a second coming.

But not to insist upon ancient examples so much
Let us come to this pony, this place. A child is now
slipping sideways, letting the bridle fall from her
hands. And the pony circles and passes

And the sunshine and grass deepens and darkens.

And it rises again. And again, I can never rest

Lying in bed, I think of this O and nothing else.

An animal turns in my belly, stealthily returning to
what is left, I have horns in my belly, a tightness in
my chest. However, I also have a way. Watching is
meditation, following a breath into silence, from one
circle to the rest. Ritual talks to me. You can have a
religion without a god.

I will not be understood, yet I think and I do what I do.
I can only hope, and love cannot be broken.

Grace to you all and peace. Love cannot be broken
because of me.

Imperfection engenders sympathy.

O. In January 1889, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
folded in the street, overcome with sympathy at the
sight of a fallen horse that had been loaded down and
slipped on ice.

Nietzsche, who said pity is the practice of nihilism.

James 5:11: The Lord is very pitiful.

O. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of a donkey that
he passed every day, Poor little Foal of an oppressèd

We passed a few fields on the way. I am moved by
what they say. Wouldn’t it be right to take that pony
put a lily in his mane, a laurel on his head?

Wouldn’t it be requitable love to let him wander over
some meadow where he might rest?

With mercy and peace with patience
He will enter the sacred place
Grace to you all and peace who pray
Rest is not so far away

A bluegrass band plays onstage, and a spindly man
with a Jew’s harp in his hand, sings and repeats and
lets his emotion lead.

The pony circles in, then out again. It is a pity, how
they do this thing to him. Pray for him O Please.

At least he will not lose his way
With mercy and peace with patience
He is bound to make it home
Every moment leads him on.

Something rides in my chest whenever he passes.

He is bound to make it home
He makes the holiest of forms
Round and more round
O so beautifully and so old.

Every moment leads him on
He is bound to make it home
With mercy and peace with patience
At least he will not lose his way.


Mating Season

The booming choruses of bullfrogs keep
you up Another warm, May night
thrushing throats yearn No matter which
way you turn again resentful and alone.

At a still, later stage, you turn again.
Once you have surrendered, you start to
sleep, having put aside desire and belief.

By Bruce Alford

Bruce Alford is a columnist, reviewer and creative writer. He has published fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry in journals such as the African American Review, Comstock Review, Imagination & Place Press and Louisiana Literature. His first collection, Terminal Switching was published in 2007 (Elk River Review Press). He received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama and was an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama from 2007-2011. Before working in academia, he was an inner-city missionary and journalist. He currently lives in Hammond, Louisiana. About the Manuscript Alford’s Devotional and Guide to Poetry combines writing instruction, autobiography, devotional, and philosophy (based on the writings of Nietzsche and specifically on his philosophy of anti-pity). This book was his way of working through his mother’s death from cancer and his father’s death from West Nile virus two years earlier.