Arsenic Lobster poetry journal
Issue Nineteen
Spring 2009
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Issue Nineteen,  Spring 2009
to the House of Bedlam

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time
Of the tragic man
That lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch

                      -Elizabeth Bishop, from Visits to St. Elizabeths


In my seminar this semester with poet John Murillo, we are discussing how to write poems with duende. In fact, next class, we are bringing poems that have duende and I immediately thought of Elizabeth Bishop's, Visits to St. Elizabeths, as an example. Why? —because I read it and I fall into darkness. Because this is the time. This is the hour. Because this is the watch. That tells the time. Because it is frightening and honest and haunting. And I am the woman who sings in the house of Bedlam.

What Bedlam? This pining as large as my forearm. This hour. This folding house. Not this house. Not this hour. But this darkness pining from the curtain rods. This cradle of crying. This 37.5-hour-work-week. This death for dinner. This pine tree in the neighbor's lawn that smells like piss. This Chicago spring. This sleeplessness. This godforsaken angel who dances weeping down the ward.

This wiggling worm for a spring-snowman's smile.

These are the years and walls and door—
and these are authors in the house of Bedlam:

Janie Gleason: Not sure you'll like living in a house built of pink flesh but it was the best we could afford.

Christopher Citro: The last person to see the spacemen was Emily. Before ducking into the shelter, she looked back and saw one begin to lift off into the sky.

Bruce Cohen: By spring his family, though he seems to live alone, is carried out in body bags. The police gather in small circles, matting the front lawn.

Christina Cook: Pollen seeking itself again and again to seed in the soil of the vandal.

Lois P. Jones: Your mouth opened and closed as you sucked air through your abdomen, hind wings fluttering to regain flight.

Travis Kellogg: Beat spilled out of the drums and the bevelled echoes hum to settle until we let go of the dumb ugly neck-hold.

Mercedes Lawry: The gardener is still missing. Leaves pile up, roots angle dangerously.

The Octocurse by Naomi Haverland     
The Octocurse by Naomi Haverland
About the Artist
Linda Lerner: Her eyes riding over your face like soft bells like child’s fingers, and it feel good, doesn’t it, to guide her.

Kristine Ong Muslim: The dolls have nothing to hide. They envy our show of white light, our puffs of nicotine breath.

Susan Slaviero: The whiskey mingle of steak, marinade, a woman’s reddened hands.

Jason Spear: I remember- your croquet dress, the myth of its virginity and the way they shipped it back to me in your old straight-jacket.

Lindsay Marianna Walker: I’ll don the apple hat you bring the dart.

Michael Homolka: The house was always so clumsy on its tiny stilts, it had a laugh like goofy’s.

This is the poetry that lies.
This is the poetry that tells the truth.

Just the same, eating arsenic lobster for dinner
in the house of Bedlam.

Susan Yount
Editor & Publisher, Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal

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