It is my great pleasure to be published in Heroin Love Songs XI, both online and soon to be in print. My poems Cracked Roads and Empty Skies, I’ll Lose It All in the End, The Wisdom of Johnny Cash, and W to the Third Power are available for viewing at Heroin Love Songs. Please stop by and read all the amazing work by other featured poets as well and support small press when the print version comes out. These zines are a labor of love for most editors and they appreciate your support. Thanks to Jack Henry for including me in this issue.
I have the distinct pleasure of being a part of a wonderful new literary magazine called South Shore Review. It is based in Nova Scotia and is filled with great fiction, essays, non-fiction, and poetry. It features beautiful photographs and art. If you would like to read my poem, “Our Labored Breaths,” then click the hyperlinked title. They do have a tip jar linked to the website if you’d like to contribute to the work they do.
Thank you for reading.
I’m pulling this one out of the way back machine. It was originally written in 2008 and published somewhere, though the place escapes me without searching records. I’ve always loved the power of dreams to tell me something about myself. I can still remember this dream even though it has been 13 years. I hope you enjoy.
I once dreamed of Bob Dylan
I once dreamed of Bob Dylan
in a tree house, one walled,
and built from looking glass.
The old man spoke to me
as leaves colored like imminent death
drifted and swirled, their reflection
a knowing torture, and he said
“You must walk the highway
to get to the by-way.”
I blinked twice,
flashing sea stones
at his face (cracked and dried
like mud in noon sun)
as he pointed to the lines on mine
that had not been written yet.
The Fine Art of Vigilance
This replication, this hidden secret
beneath my skin unlocked by
the sun has me searching
for shade and shadows.
Everything that grows
needs light and warmth.
It’s a power we all
take for granted.
I feel my mind fall into obsession
about times of day and UV index
about covering every inch of my body.
A hole in my face slowly fills in
with new skin and new life, the margins
deemed clean but suspicion lingers.
What happened once, can happen again.
Purple circles outline more areas of worry
like small targets the universe has given me
to remember the fine art of vigilance.
No more long walks on the beach
or sun filled moments in any season
or carefree days taken by the hand at whim.
There are only hats
and being unfashionably
This is somehow sad and beautiful
I realized no one has missed me
or my words as I faded from the poetry scene
silently as I arrived.
No one noticed I was gone
no one knocking at my door
or requesting anything of me.
I had settled into my life before
where poems rushed out
because I would die if they stayed;
no longer writing to be seen
or heard, after so many years of invisibility.
I miss them sometimes,
the writers and the connection
and the sense I belonged
to something greater than myself.
Most of them are in the same place I left them,
huddled in a café reading or putting out meager books.
No one has made it
like we all dreamed we would.
Many years ago I got into writing different types of formed poetry. I have always been a free verse sort of girl, but have appreciated what it takes to write in meter or form. This poem is a Sestina. I cannot validate how well crafted it is, but it was fun to write.
The joy of writing for me is the challenge to push myself past the comfort zone. I learn so much about myself when I do this. I gain perspective and open up my mind to being more accepting of different types of writing that I might not be familiar with. This is one of five or six Sestina that I wrote. My process is putting out a call for words and then taking some of them to create the poem. This makes it adventurous. Enjoy.
He moved slowly and purposefully through splintered
feelings. His heart pumping around the protruding tusk
impaled in his chest. It sang deeply of moon.
It pulsated and vibrated more intensely than the alabaster
skin of her thighs. How he wanted to blanket
his body with her; how he wanted to shovel
his way to her voice again. He knelt down, hands forming a shovel
and began digging earth, his mind splintered
into left brain and right with no meninges blanket
to force them to work together. He felt the tusk
burrow deeper with each movement, its girth of stained alabaster
shining like an iridescent beacon screaming at the moon.
“Burn, burn, burn!!” shouted the wicked moon.
Her rays laser beaming the flesh built shovel.
“I will not let you spoil her alabaster
soul again. I will not,” said the high, tight voice. His ears splintered
into a million fragments of universe on the ruined tusk,
laying dimensions of sound over the dirt like a sonic blanket.
It was all so invisible, her hatred, this blanket.
He pawed at it on the sparkled ground moon
forming in the lake of blood dripping from the tusk.
He never meant to lay his hands on that shovel,
never meant to enjoy the wood as it splintered
beneath his palms, as it cracked her alabaster
skull with resonance. She breathed untouched alabaster
no more; she was damaged. He had done it and now this blanket
of silence suffocated him as the night cursed him in splintered
tongues. He stood a devil redeemed under the moon.
The spade lay there detached, a broken tool, a shovel
no more. His head hung there now noticing the tusk.
She had closed in on him like lust, arms behind her, gripping the tusk
her daddy had killed for in Africa, its gypsum alabaster
shine his recollection to her beauty that could shovel
away a mountain as easy as folding a blanket.
She had kissed his lips in front of the testament of the moon
and punctured his faith with the ivory. He was splintered
morbidly by the pointed tusk. Her lies, an evil blanket
all along—alabaster lies forged deep in hatred by the moon!
He lay his broken hand/shovel down, now numb and splintered.
A Wall in Naples, 1782
One long white stocking
hangs from the balcony
swinging its toes, brushing
the tree tops, brushing against
the murderous beige wall.
Bricks birth through the stucco,
holes left from weather
and persistent birds
each perforating the sanctuary
of the stocking’s owner.
I wait for her to push through the door.
I wait for the window to throw its sash.
I wait for the sun to cease its brutal pummeling.
I wait for the stars
to give me a taste
of silk in my mouth,
against my teeth.
Recently, I have been reading poems at night and recording them. My friend and I send them back and forth. This is a helpful tool to understanding where changes need to be made in the flow of a poem. This particular poem is an old one and was previously published. Most of the poems you read here are published except for the occasional recent work.
My life as a nurse has afforded me the opportunity to see people in every shade of their personality and to imagine myself in their heads. This poem will someday be part of a manuscript I’m putting together called “Little Graveyards” which chronicles small and large deaths I’ve seen in the ER or just in vulnerable people in general.
Skin heals inside out.
We watch the wounds close,
pushing up new cells daily.
It’s her own small miracle
self-created again and again
and again and again
with the razor slowly biting
into microcosmic layers.
Each thickness its own
dimension in time. She stands
witness to blood rising
from skin folds, valleys made
of her innate need for destruction.
A river is nourished
with every ripple it pushes
up over the banks, spilling
into the empty valley
of her heart.
It’s easy medicine for her.
Each groove alleviates pain quicker
than any pill, or couch session.
Making her remember,
that despite it all, she’s still alive.
I wrote the bones of this poem last night and then cleaned it up this morning. Most of the time I share work that has already been published, but today, you get a freshie. Enjoy.
I pulled into the grocery store parking lot,
leaping from the car to race headlong
to the concrete wall separating the river
from the city it likes to drown
when too many tears fill its banks.
The sun set so fast
throwing amber rays into the sky
like a confident painter perfectly
placing a thick brush stroke,
its reflection on the water, a liquid fire.
These months in isolation
pull all the silver linings
from the bottom of my pockets,
remind me of what hard life used to be
and the pain of loneliness
and how this is an inconvenience,
a sheltered reduction of years and thoughts,
a gratitude building up for something as simple
as the evening star over our heads
always pointing us in the right direction.
Aleathia Drehmer 2020
It’s strange, but as a child I was not into collaboration. I feel like this is when we would be at our most viable to handle it. Our egos don’t get in the way. But as I have gotten older, the more I love to collaborate in some way. It pulls the mind open. It gets uncomfortable and this is where your craft grows. In 2010, I did a fair bit of poetry crafting with my friend Brad Burjan. Many of the poems we created together were published.
I would later go on to work on short fiction in a collaborative setting with people I had never met before and learning to trust where they were taking the story. It is an exercise that allows you to play and take chances you otherwise may not have taken. I started using conversations with other people to create characters for stories. Things began to have lives of their own.
Collaboration has so many levels of sharing. It can be in your face construction of a piece of writing or art. It can be subtle in the sense that another person’s presence in the room or the sound of their voice lends to creation. Often we take collaboration to be this big undertaking but it is truly about interaction with another person who has their own unique picture of the world. Never be afraid to try something that makes you feel on the edge of your comfort zone. You’ll come back happier than when you started.
Please enjoy this poem from 2010 by Brad Burjan and myself:
Generation of Guns
Sometimes these bones
are strangers, touching
each other in the night
like blind/deaf lovers.
They call each other
by name, their words
Morse code vibrating
into fresh cells.
Like frightened armies
cut off at the river,
they move together
in the trenches, faces
smeared with mud,
with their sentences
in the open mouth
of the air…searching.
Legions of men rise
and fall in this mist,
this place of stopped
time and stolen history,
exhaling the exposed
wounds we’d rather
All that dried blood
of reality pools
and hardens in
in a generation of guns
now frozen in the memory’s
trigger and I’d rather shoot
the teeth out of love
than admit defeat or truth.
I’ll just sit here
choking on every syllable
that weighs down
my throat, and cease
to resist destiny.
Aleathia Drehmer/Brad Burjan