If you say he’s serious
BY Justin Hamm

If you say he’s serious
you can be sure he is not.
If you say he is not
you can be sure he will
pry open the liquor cabinet
of the divine
and fill up two shot glasses.
Reach for one. He squints
and tilts his head,
maybe even offers up
the impression of a smile.
Now look back down.
Both glasses are raven’s feathers,
the table a wooden galleon
sailing the constellation night.

Strutting and Fretting
BY Thomas Palaima, University of Texas

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi


You were seventeen
when the explosion went off
when a plane went down
when you were transported
through “Cottonfields”
into a world you’d never known
walking in darkness
and then there was light.


Then you were nineteen
winter of 1960
the cruel rain and the wind
blowing in early.


Lyn Castner gave the okay.
Flo’s brother, you recall.
You used his turntable,
played one by one
his eighteen
Woody Guthrie


Each time
the needle dropped
your head spun
the land parted
some heavy anchor plunged
into the waters of the harbor.
You felt more like yourself
than ever before.


Now you’re eighty-one.
You’ve songed and danced
masked and anonymous.
You’ve slept down in the parlor
as Alias and Jack Frost.


How does it feel?


How does it feel?


You’ve been to the bottom
and followed the river,
saddled a big white goose,
imagined life as
one big prison yard,
stood over a grave,
and hurled seven
incinerating curses.


You’ve left your heart
in the Highlands
while drowning in the poison.


You nearly drowned
in Delacroix.


You’ve been hunted
like a crocodile.


You’ve taken in,
peeked on your knees at
and looked right through
lies, dreams,
forgetful hearts
and some kind of pain.


Over by the cypress tree
enroute to Parkland hospital
between the windows of the sea
you’ve heard sirens and mermaids
and hoot owls singing
above and near
revival tents, slave markets
and medical butcher’s shops.


Their song has been
a fitting soundtrack
for Zapruder’s film
for sixty long years,
years that someone called,
you remember,
the age of the anti-Christ.


Sir Christopher asked you,
“Read any good books lately?”
You were re-reading
Richard the Third.


Do you ever wonder
whether your pasts
have ever been?


And if they were,
what scenes you were truly
featured in?


Is life a walking shadow?
If we’ve been poor players,
where was our director
and who wrote our lines?


Who staged our scenes?


And who kept hidden
all that went unseen?


Did the needle just skip?


And where must you and I have been?


My deep thanks to my many UGS 302 students over the years and to Tony Attwood for their many questions and their thoughts towards answers, darkness to pre-dawn light.

Some Other Kind of Place
(Birmingham, Alabama, June 1991)

BY David Bond



Once, in late August, I was in the mountains,
almost six thousand feet. It hailed golf balls
of hard, pure ice. I knew nature included
the mind. On that day I believed it.



Today, I watched a movie in technicolor,
ate chocolate milk duds and saw the true
incongruity of past and present. I saw
Thurgood Marshall leave his post: the only
one able to understand his loss. I saw a Black
father gently monitor the wandering of his five-year
old son in the pre-film darkness of a movie theater.



I have talked about Jesus. I have talked about the rain.
I have stolen words. Elvis. Memphis. Sophistry.
All of them ripped off from the ancient Greeks.



It is easy to use we, or they, or you, almost anyone
else. It is horrible to use I: almost as bad as trying
to finish the latest self-help book, or finding myself
so close to it, I can’t even remember when I last
put it down.


BY Randy Turley

I’m in Oklahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,
Where the oak and blackjack trees kiss the playful prairie breeze,
Where the Bob Dylan Center casts its dancing spell my way.

I am tangled up in Bob

As the snippets of songs, albums and photos, and
The mumbling voice of the reluctantly interviewed poet
Loose me across the swamp of time—propel me through my life—

I am fourteen,

I am a high-schooler lost in my room,
A love-crazed man,
A law student,
A rotten doctor commie rat,
A divorcee,
A teacher,
A father,
A human being,

Simultaneously confused and comforted by nasally sonics
That impart more meaning than the naked words and tune,
That dredge the cryptic, mystic lyrics which convey more than they say.
I am in Oklahoma where the words hit heavy on the border line
Where the music and a tapestry of rhyme define my life, my soul, my time

I am at Bob Dylan’s Center
. . . and he is at mine

Don’t Look Now: Reading Aloud to Ghosts

By Thomas G. Palaima, University of Texas


“You ever seen a ghost? No
But you have heard of them.”


The blind side, they say,

is what hits you by surprise.


It can drive you

to your knees,

tap your shoulder,

caress you gently.


The sudden smell

of smoke

upon the air.



poured on cereal.



on the soil

in a flower pot.



poured on coffee

in your coffee cup.


A place of one’s own,

they say, too.


How was that

on the blind side?

And when?

And just that?


Sometimes the blind side

is a mirror.


Or conjures up a phrase

from Bob Dylan.


“You give something up

for everything you gain.”


Sometimes the blind side

is not there.


Never was.


How can you take

precautions against

what never was?


“So pay for your ticket

and don’t complain.”


A ticket delivered

from the blind side

can have exorbitant

handling fees.


It can admit you

to the blind side

in the mirror.


To see the father

fallen short.


The lover


by love.


The person

placing belief in

what is

no more.


And maybe

never was.


In others.


In oneself.


A deep breath

is calming, they say.


It takes

the blind side

into the spirit



Like light tendrils

of cream

spreading through

strong hot coffee.


Like water


in darkening



Like milk

that makes cereal


or sink.


Like the caress

that had

no meaning.


The touch

that called


to nothing



The force

of a

sledge hammer





A whispering





What’s that?


Don’t look.


But you




And you’re

“left looking

just like

a ghost.”

POEM BY Jacqueline Osherow, University of Utah


One chord of a harmonica can take 

me back, or a name — Johanna, Mr. Jones

to that Eden of stretched-out afternoons

on the living room carpet, an open math book

neglected at my elbow, index cards

untouched beside it in a fallow stack.

I’m halfway in a trance, half trying to crack

each cipher in the snarled onrush of words

surging through the stereo’s dark mesh.

Something is happening and you don’t know 

what it is . . .  I’m fourteen. Of course that’s true 

but I get an inkling — as limits vanish —

of word as lightning flash, wick, whiplash, arrow

and soon-to-be accomplice. Dylan, thank you. 

Visions of Desolation: Cleveland 1965 Austin 2012

POEM BY Thomas G. Palaima

Ecce homunculus.

This new blank document
could remain blank
for all I care
to reveal or conceal.

Ask me.
I ain’t sayin’.
Coax me.
My lips are sealed.

I could turn myself inside out.
My soul could slowly spin about.

Spin? Turn? Rotate? Whirl?
Like a chicken on a spit?
Like coffee in a microwave?
Like a top? A dervish? A compact disc?
A vinyl record from my youth?

What would you like me to play?

The needle in the groove works
its wonder in high fidelity,
but faithful to the max to what?

The songs from cheap speakers,
two-bit, sentimental,
still sound good to me.

But who cares?

If I stood naked, who would hear?

My dried voice
is more than quiet
and less than meaningless.

Not a whimper.

“Peanuts, here, four bags for a quarter.”

“Buy your rags from Daddy Wags!”

A naïve young
Roman Catholic boy,
thirteen going on ten,
by way of the CTS
(Cleveland Transit System)
Number 35
—“Trowbridge next!” —
after eighteen miles
and fifty minutes
of fading storefronts
run-down bars
reading the same
lexicon of Polish,
Czech, Hungarian,
Irish, Croatian
and now Puerto Rican
steps off
at Lorain Avenue
and 25th Street,
walks from the West Side Market
five blighted city blocks
to the red-brick Jesuit high school,
and sits among other boys,
among, but not with.

What was that shell,
what kind of envelope
kept him sound,
and soundless?

Move, move, move,
you splendid little machine.

Not quite a robot.

What did Eliot really know
about the butt ends of days?

Who can count
the butt ends
of the ways
that life can play
blind man’s bluff
with your soul,
and for keeps?

There isn’t even any key chain.