Poetry, Poetics, Po-business, Stuff Like That


Surely Not

The clouds above
the Episcopal church

form Santa
grinning as he
gives the finger

but surely not
to the Episcopal church.

Originally published in Editors’ Picks, Poetry Circle

July 23, 1932

Uncle Lester wasn’t really John Dillinger

and the deputy who threw  him out of the barber chair

onto the hair-strewn floor knew that too

or was pretty sure

but there was that one little hairline fracture of a doubt

and through it was glowing all the gold of Hollywood.

Back up for air and drying off.

I finished the novel and I’m shopping for an agent.  It’s “alternate history” a subgenre of science fiction.  My mind is pretty blank of poems.  I haven’t felt this way in a long time.  A quantum leap into non-existence between obsessions.  I promise poetry eventually.  In the meantime, you can find me online at Poetry Circle.

Wanna Play?

Maybe you wonder where I’ve been the last six months.  I wonder that myself.  I couldn’t exactly tell you, because the place I’ve been is forming itself as we speak.  I’m writing this novel in poetry form, and though my characters and I are in the thick of it, None of us can tell exactly how it’s going to turn out.

That’s where you come in.  If you want, you can join us and comment on the story as it unfolds.  The story-in-poetry is called “Came the Revolution,” and you can find it in the Journalese section of PoetryCircle at http://www.poetrycircle.com.

Though PC is open to all for free, you will have to become a member to access Journalese, but membership is free, too.

It scares me a little to make this offer, because if you want to be mean and nasty, your comments could hurt.  But if you like the story and want to offer suggestions, I will gladly put your name in the Acknowedgments section of the book when it comes out.


Jaquie the Ripper

Something on one of the kiosks

upset a Regent.  The Provost told

the Dean, and the Dean told Ramona

his Administrative Assistant,

and Ramona told Jacquie the Work Study

to remove all offensive materials

from bulletin boards, walls, trees

and light poles on campus.


Jacquie was too scared of Ramona

(Who wouldn’t be?)

to ask what offensive meant.

She thought the Dean was pretty offensive,

the way he talked golf all the time,

but since he never got his picture

on any posters, she couldn’t take him down,

and nothing else bothered her —

not with the family she came from —

so she really didn’t do anything

till Ramona handed her

a copy of the University Speech Code

written by a bunch of PhDs,

and which Jacquie,

with only a high school diploma (Secretarial Track)

couldn’t decipher any more

than the blackboard after a Calculus class.


Look, said Ramona, I don’t understand it either.

Just get rid of anything

that might bother a rich Republican woman

over sixty.


So Jacquie tore down

any piece of paper with

a cute girl on it, figuring

they’d make an old lady jealous,

and she tore down anything

that made fun of President Bush

(Wasn’t he a Republican?)

and she tore down all

lesbi-gay stuff, anything

pagan or Catholic, Native American,

African American or Hispanic,

ads to sell musical instruments

(Old ladies like that

would probably hate garage bands)

and requests for rides

(Get your own car! she’d probably say).


So Jacquie was standing in Bluersch Hall,

trying to decide whether

a Green Party ice cream social

would bother the Regent when

a bunch of students surrounded her

and started yelling, which made her cry.


Then a bunch of suit people

marched into the Dean’s office,

and Ramona sat biting her thumb

while Jacquie tried to figure out

what she’d do for a job.


Finally they all went away

and Jacquie was transferred to Physical Education,

which was fine with her,

‘cause she could swim on her breaks.


Probably other stuff happened about the posters,

but over in PE they didn’t

talk about it, and Jacquie soon forgot–

except to remind herself never

to work that close to the bigshots again.



Snapshot of Child in Political Hat

Someone left it on my classroom floor.

(Every year the religion teacher makes them bring in childhood pictures “for discussion and reflection.”)

The girl in the frame is four years old, the hat a white straw boater, probably fake straw.

XYZ for President or Senate or Congress. Doesn’t matter who. She wouldn’t know or care.

Her head’s tilted slightly, though the hat is on straight. She’s got a do-you-like-me smile, so the photographer must be her father. Only Daddies can wreck their daughters’ dignity and still evoke that smile.

Who this girl grew up to be I can’t tell.

None of my student blondes would dare look that way now: silly, hopeful, sweet, sad. It’s a tougher world.

Maybe that’s why the picture ended up on the floor.

Maybe that’s why I saved it.

…………………………………………………………………………… Originally published in Expelling Trelnita (TJMF 1007).

The Alchemy of Worse Alternatives

The kids in the alternative school
are mad because Bill the Director
won’t let them
explore storm sewers,

so they write BITE ME, SHUT UP,
and DIE BILL on the walls
in colored chalk, and draw Bill
with a bullet hole in his head.

“Make the blood look real,”
one of them says.

Then a teacher laughs, “Hey
you want a sewer, we could
send you back to Main Campus.”

So the bullet hole gets
covered by a hat, DIE BILL
becomes a green cat, someone
hides BITE ME in flowers,

and SHUT UP becomes a big
fat peach in which nestles the moon
holding in her arms the sun.

(C) 2006 by Rick Stansberger, published in Expelling Trelnitz, TJMF Publishing, 2007.