Monday, November 20, 2017

Charles Rammelkamp

CRUEL POETRY

"I'm not working on your poems,"
I told Carrie, out there
on the sidewalk in front of my house
with the two policemen,
my voice patient as a shrink's.

I hadn't wanted to call the cops,
but when she started banging on my door,
wouldn't go away when I told her to,
she’d finally crossed the boundary.
The months of voicemail messages,
the landline ringing off the hook all day—
annoying, but I’d learned to live with it.

"Please, Charles! I need you!
You have to help me!"

I rolled my eyes at the policemen,
shrugged my shoulders, helpless.
Obvious she just didn't listen.
Not her fault, but not my problem.

"I've been taking my meds," she pleaded,
as if asking to spare her life.
"Doctor Shiller's balanced the dosage!"

Born the day JFK was assassinated,
Carrie had been a student of mine
at the end of the twentieth century,
now back years later,
convinced I would edit her work.


Charles reads "Cruel Poetry":



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Charles confesses: "Back when I was an adjunct in the writing program at a community college, I would sometimes have students with serious psychological problems – one boy whose grandfather drowned his grandmother in the bathtub, a “mercy killing” since she had dementia. Others manifested in different ways, and years later."


CHARLES RAMMELKAMP Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives. His most recent book is American Zeitgeist (Apprentice House). A chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press. Another chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is also forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gerard Sarnat

SQUARES

Me plus my penniless buddies went to
Bucharest for our bachelor party since
its cost of living's deep down in a toilet.
Shit occurred during the Eighties before
the Soviet Union Warsaw Pact blew up
and before that Romanian Ceaușescu clan
cult of personality couple was executed
on Târgoviște's public plaza for crimes
against humanity including starvation by
a three man firing squad from hundreds
of eager volunteers including some who
possessed flat heads because they weren't
turned, no less had their diapers changed,
as hapless newborns in state orphanages.


Gerry reads "Squares":



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Gerard confesses: ""Squares" was inspired by a sequence of stimuli. The opening riffs on a TV show, The Bureau, which portrayed Albania as a pass-through country for people trying to 'disappear.' The ending riffs on what a friend experienced adopting. Since the shape isn’t quite square, maybe the title should be 'Rectangles'! "


Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, GERARD SARNAT has authored four collections: Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016). He has worked in jails, built/staffed clinics for the marginalized, been a CEO of healthcare organizations and Stanford Medical School professor. Married since 1969, he has three children, four grandkids. Visit www.gerardsarnat.com/.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Peter M. Gordon

CONFIDENCE MAN

I met Bill in a bar on the lower East Side.
He liked to drink and I liked to listen.
After one martini Bill shared his secret:

"Always tell the mark what he wants to hear."
Bill made good money on the grift, as he
liked to call it. Now in his sixties, hands

no longer steady enough to deal off the
bottom of the deck or switch two-dollar
bills with twenties, he reminisced about

how he roped marks like a rodeo champ.
Ponzi schemes, wire cons, badger games,
the Iraqi dinar, the Spanish Prisoner.

He played them all in his heyday. Lived
high. When drunk, Bill could still give a
cold reading to raise the hair on your

neck. I wondered why such an artist
sat on a stool night after night swapping
stories, caging free drinks. After I paid the

tab Bill snapped, "Give me a fin."
I passed him a fiver. "Come back
tomorrow," Bill said. "I’ll bilk you again."


Peter reads "Confidence Man":



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Peter confesses: "I met hustlers of all stripes growing up in New York City. I was reading about current cons in AARP and remembered how hustlers liked to brag about their scores. Bill is an amalgam of several guys I knew when Hell’s Kitchen was still a tough neighborhood."


PETER M. GORDON's poems have appeared in magazines, books and websites, including Slipstream, the Journal of Florida Literature, 34th Parallel, Cultural Weekly, and Sandhill Review. He's a past President of Orlando Area Poets, the largest chapter of the Florida State Poetry Association. He has two collections in print: Two Car Garage and Let's Play Two: Poems About Baseball. Peter teaches in Full Sail University's Film Production M.F.A. program.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

30 Days of The Five-Two (2018)

April is National Poetry Month, as "inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture."

The Five-Two joins the celebration with a month-long blog tour inviting you to post about poetry. If you don't have a blog, email me your entry and you'll be my guest here.

Your entry can be as creative as you like:

  • Interview Five-Two contributors
  • Write about a favorite poem from The Five-Two or elsewhere
  • Post your own poetry or fiction in response to a Five-Two poem
  • Contributors, discuss your Five-Two poems in greater detail.
  • Voices of The Five-Two, discuss the poems you've performed
  • Promote your own poetry books, sites, or products

I'm fine scheduling multiple tour stops on the same day or about the same poem. Everyone has a different perspective after all, and I'm glad to add entries even after April 1. To book a date, email me

The tour also links to poems to encourage you to join, many not from The Five-Two. Crime bleeds into more than you'd suspect.

Feel free to follow and add tweets about the tour with #30OfThe52.

Participants and promoters of the tour may download the badge image above and add it to their entries or follow these instructions to copy-and-paste the image HTML code.

All April revenue from Five-Two and Lineup books and merchandise is donated to the nonprofit Academy of American Poets, supporting poets at all stages of their careers and fostering the appreciation of contemporary poetry.


  • Sunday, April 1 -
  • Monday, April 2 - Poem of the Week
  • Tuesday, April 3 -
  • Wednesday, April 4 -
  • Thursday, April 5 -
  • Friday, April 6 -
  • Saturday, April 7 -
  • Sunday, April 8 -
  • Monday, April 9 - Poem of the Week
  • Tuesday, April 10 -
  • Wednesday, April 11 -
  • Thursday, April 12 -
  • Friday, April 13 -
  • Saturday, April 14 -
  • Sunday, April 15 -
  • Monday, April 16 -Poem of the Week
  • Tuesday, April 17 -
  • Wednesday, April 18 -
  • Thursday, April 19 -
  • Friday, April 20 -
  • Saturday, April 21 -
  • Sunday, April 22 -
  • Monday, April 23 - Poem of the Week
  • Tuesday, April 24 -
  • Wednesday, April 25 -
  • Thursday, April 26 -
  • Friday, April 27 -
  • Saturday, April 28 -
  • Sunday, April 29 -
  • Monday, April 30 - Poem of the Week

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Place of Poetry

For the past few days, I've tweeted a call for holiday-themed crime poems to fill The Five-Two's four December 2017 slots. While such poems would be fine, The Five-Two also has an obligation to reflect the crimes of our times, including the October 1 Las Vegas shooting and yesterday's New York City bike path truck attack.

Resisting summary, narrative, and rationalization, poetry is uniquely suited to address tragedy.

Carry on.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Roger Netzer

SUNDAY EVENING AT HOME

Dad was a mild guy usually, but he had
a temper. This one time he laid into me
because I would not shut up.

It started when mom and he nixed something fun.
Street hockey, say, or seeing Doctor No.
Whatever, their ruling drove me to my room.

From there I let them know how "STOO-pid!"
they were, shouting myself raw
over the laugh track on their TV.

No one stirred. Were they deaf, too?
I yelled again. Still nothing.
Took a deep breath. “You're so STOO..."

Third time’s the charm.
Strangled sounds rumbled in his throat
then dad came pounding up the stairs.

Big and bald and red-faced he rounded
into view, yanking the belt from his pants
like the pin from a grenade.

I was screaming before the first blow landed.
Whap then backhand whap again,
the big forearm going and coming.

I made my hips a chaos to shield
boy bottom and other soft parts
from the rhythm he was trying to build.

There was no end to the tar
he meant to whip out of me.

Try shutting me up now.


Roger reads "Sunday Evening at Home":



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Roger confesses: "'Sunday Evening at Home' attempts to be a straight telling of a real incident, aided by a visceral and physical memory—not just of the violent climax, but of the one-sided dialogue that precipitates it. Thanks to Edward Field for telling me to continue past the word 'grenade'."


ROGER NETZER's poems have appeared in Mas Tequila, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Potomac, and Chiron. He is old enough to have seen Doctor No in a theatre on its original release, accompanied by his father. They both loved it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Robert Arellano

MARS NIGHT

And the fact it belonged to a girl,
a beautiful young woman
whose murder was never solved,
does not help your case at all.

It was Mars Night:
the girls, the Farm Boys, the free,
greasy spread. You'd had more
than a few. Josh was leaning on you.

When you got home,
the dog barked like mad and Josh
was up a tree; he'd left early,
climbed your fence, you caught him.

He told you he had
something to hide; you knew he knew
you had some land, a fence, a dog.
You were his friend.

You guessed he needed you.
It was a gun, and it had a body,
as they say, it had a body
on it.

"Do it in the night," you said,
"when I put the dog up. But do it good:
I don't want to know where; if I can find it
in the morning, then I dig it up."

It was easy to track
to the oak tree.
The dog went right to it.
You covered it with a rotting trunk.

A lot of time went by.
You thought of it there and appreciated
how the blackberries
brambled over that way.

All that time. Iron. A fossil, an artifact.
It would be rusted, gunked up
with mud; the earth had swallowed it
back again.

When they finally turn it up,
Josh is doing time
for another offense and tells a fellow prisoner
who turns out to be a snitch.

And it turns out it is not a gun;
the gun turns out to be a hand.


Bob reads "Mars Night":



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Bob confesses: "Omar's is Ashland, Oregon's oldest cocktail lounge. In the 1940s, before Omer and Hazel Hill could lay the foundation, they pulled mastodon bones from the tarpits of the dry Berkeley Hot Springs. Wednesday is Mars Night (free fry-food, drink specials), but any night a barfly might ask a strange favor."


ROBERT ARELLANO is the author of seven novels including Havana Lunar, which was shortlisted for a 2010 Edgar Award. The standalone sequel, Havana Libre, comes out next month from Akashic Books.