The Editors Write: Anis Mojgani’s writing is surprisingly delicate, almost brittle at times. This is a surprising characteristic for a poet whose name was largely made in slam, but it also goes a long way toward explaining his success: Mojgani is fearless in the face of exposing his own humanity in his poems, and his writing positively drips with emotion and even a deep sense of spirituality. His authenticity in these matters shines through, whether it’s in performance or in the pages of his books Over the Anvil We Stretch and the Feather Room, both available from Write Bloody Publishing. Mojgani takes all the tools available to the contemporary poet, from postmodernism to slam, and melds them into a staggering poetic force.

On the day his son was born, the astronomer screamed out the window: You! This! This thing that beats the inside of our hearts? Is a beautiful curse! Know this & fling it hard enough into the air to make new charts!
Shortly afterwards the astronomer realized his newborn son, his wife, & the birth all were but hallucinations, so he sat with a pot of tea & became a trapeze artist instead.

By Anis Mojgani

I found you inside a book of stars called
Sunday Starts at Saturday’s Dusk.

It was turned to a page marked “For when.”
I crumpled up my spine and became a mouse.
You were a planet.
I was the one prayer spoken
in the short little life
of a dust mite
trying to be a sword
hoping to become a twig
a constellation
or at least an answer
to somebody’s question.
I was born in the year of the swan.
My arms
were born in the year of the fish–
a corner of me was something truly spectacular.
My tongue felt like truth.
I had trouble swallowing it.
Names came from legends.
Or legends from names–
I forgot the order.
My mother wrote the origins of myth
on the inside of underpants.
I walked pantless to become closer to what I was.
I set the wheelbarrow on fire
climbed inside
and looked for a hill to ride down.
I was at the bottom of one.
I pushed the barrow up it.
Halfway up it rained.
Cussing doesn’t come from a lack of vocabulary–
I know all the other words.
None of them speak the same language that my fucking heart does.


Writes Mojgani: “‘The Badger is the thirteenth astrological sign./My sign. The one the other signs evicted: unanimously.’ Upon hearing Jeffrey McDaniel say those words at the Velvet Elvis in Savannah, GA, my life changed. A little melodramatic of a statement perhaps, but still no less true. As a college freshman who had spent the past year devouring anything slam and spoken word related that I could find, perhaps any poet performing in front of me that night would have had the same affect. But probably not. Cause most poets aren’t Jeff. His first book, Alibi School, was read by me certainly more than any other book I have owned. I learned so much from that book – it showed me the simile is not a second rate metaphor, showed me how powerful the imagination truly is. His work is equally commanding and arresting whether being experienced through his presence or reading it oneself. I thank him for writing such unique and beautiful work which in my younger days set a bar for me to try and attain. It’s still that bar.” (This poem appeared originally in The Sonora Review.)

poem beginning with a line from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues
for Gary Close

By Jeffrey McDaniel

Ah get born, keep warm,
short pants, romance, learn to dance

circles around the jackals
in their polyester grievances,
hawking fool’s neon,
like fake watches strapped
inside a huckster’s overcoat.
Hop, on the boxcar, baby,
we’re hitting the ri-zoad,
like a bottle of martian whisky.
Last week a cop held a radar gun
to my cranium, said my thoughts
were going ninety-four miles an hour
over the speed limit. Lately
I’m seeing men with shovels
lurking behind trees, smoking cigarillos
waiting to seal me in a maple envelope
and mail me to the mud.
The giant clock on the moon
says I have 7,304 days to live. Last week
I watched the shovel men slide
a kid I grew up with, now 45,
into the ground, then start piling dirt
when the last taillight of his loved ones
flickered away. Gary, you fro-headed,
no-dancing, spiral-tossing white boy,
with a Phillies flag in your casket.
You full-moon-of-teeth smiling,
22nd and Lombard crew,
with your cut-off mesh t-shirts
and ready-for-take-off tube socks
and three Mississippis in a parking lot.
You malt-liquor swilling, 8-ball sinking,
drum-stick breaking, Taney-hating,
laying all still in your silk box
in the cancerous skin that betrayed you,
the word daddy on a banner. At the gravesite,
your wife and daughters cried like birds
guarding the entrance of the underworld,
and your soul was little chunks of bread
being pried from their mouths
as the shovel men dropped you
down the chute to Hades. Keep warm
down there, skip the romance.
If you get re-born, this time
learn to dance.


Writes Mojgani: “I got introduced to Dave McAlinden last summer. We were both members of the 2010 Portland Slam team. And what I liked immediately about Dave’s work is that it was fun and charming and carried movement. The words are kinetic. Watching him perform, he looked like he was having a good time up there and was fearless in putting himself up to an audience; that whether he was vulnerable or dorky, it didn’t matter – the latter being something many poets are afraid of being. What carried his work further was his yearning to craft and discover beauty in his poems. He has written some lovely poems. Lovely poems. And they excite me to think where they will continue to go with that yearning to excavate that beauty with poetry.”

When The Belt Breaks You Will Remember Those Faces Were Beautiful
By Dave McAlinden

I grew up on this beach full of bones

It rains every day here;
Sometimes sideways

And times in-between
          Light tries to squeeze through this wet wool
                              Lain above us.
Sometimes, darkness, sometimes
I think god covered us with it
To put space between himself and failure

We’ll never know,
Most of us are just little atom bombs anyway
          Burning those close with the blast

Some of us—just open chests filled with guns
Shooting off directionless hoping to reach someone

In this windy heat
Heat every day,
Every day
Every day is a heart attack that seems to outlast the victim

And if you are from here

You have a defibrillator
          Called an asteroid belt buckled around your heart
Made of pieces breaking away from it trying to stay pure
But your gravity is too great for their weight so you wait
For those pieces to come back to beat you into who you once were

But that never happens

If you are from here

You have just as many secrets as you do dead friends
And just as many hopes as horrors that will continue to crush them
          Again and again and again

And if you are from here

You might remember sunlight.
And the beautiful faces that made those days sallow in comparison;
Every bonfire lit where we snuck to love in the dune grass shadows
          Where they bent towards the tide
          When the night was something perfect
And you might remember who once flew
Before those you knew who failed trying to fly

Before the coming of chemical after chemical;
Chemical after chemical
Before the bullet; the bullet
The cold boot;
The burnt bulb;
The razor’s edge—is this blood or is it rust? Fuck it.
The pill dust lined like stripes symbolizing colonies,
Rails of white, white lies locked into jaws imitating the act of smiling, smiling, smiling;
Before forget, forget, forget;
          Before gimme, gimme, gimme
                    Before “that fucker’s been talkin’ shit!” …Click!!!
Before arson,
Beach beatings,
Basement naked children,
Blind policemen,
The methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the dark, dark inward death;
The river net raising bones from a sleepless bed
Sin coughs
The bodies too weak to hold teeth;
          Minds too bleak to hold dreams;
          Arms too filled with holes to hold life at all—the wasted days whistle
through them:
          Broken breath through a cracked clarinet once used to keep rhythm rhythm
          rhythm for beauty
And before these wounds will not stop bleeding
          Screaming! Screaming! Screaming!
                    Before your life’s the death of dreaming


You don’t have to go fast to get a rush.

Remember that bones will eventually turn to dust
And your worth is never measured by what you leave,
          We all leave nothing eventually
What matters is what you believe
What you do proves what you believe
So remember what you believe

Act accordingly

And if you have
You have
And you have gone

And if you haven’t yet, son—
          Go now, go on. Don’t be just another little atom bomb

Find still peaceful places to breathe right
In this temple of poison gas.

And when the question is finally asked—Can I make this better?

The answer will most definitely come; even if you don’t want it to
Even if you don’t try
Even if you won’t look back
Remember: there is always a last laugh

Or a final cry.