Spring 2016: A Change Is Gonna Come
Van Gogh

Van Gogh

Dearest readers,

Spring is my favorite time of change and renewal. We're coming to the end of this time of transition from winter to summer--from death to luscious rebirth. These poems are all about change, death, loss, and discovery.


Joanna C. Valente
Founding Editor

Kay Cosgrove & Lauren Hilger have their collaborative poetry published or forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, Ninth Letter, and Washington Square, among other journals. For more information, visit kaycosgrove.com and laurenhilger.com.


It’s safer to remember what isn’t.

When I die, I want there to be texture
of unbelievability—you can see a spot

on the water just before you go.
It’s safe to say, if you could believe

in other people, the process might fly by.
All the famous skirts, air, an afterword

written by so-and-so, they happily survive
you. Off you go. Off the board,

you’re a real-time Chagall.

Love Poem

There is a new time here.
You were told to work,
so you kept at it.

A digital dog wants your bone.
All the good in him is because of you—
he learned by getting very close.

At the meeting, dogs outside.
Only captains of industry allowed, no
Visigoths, no

psychopaths, no distant cousins.
What are your sisters called?

At the head of the table, regal, regaling—
You say it like it really is:
all the crowd’s gone home.

Even the dog closes one eye to your naked spine.
Even he checks the time.
It happens that even he will stray.


"The Moon Rides like a Girl—through a Topaz Town"

What is a voice if not armor?
Inside the jetway, passengers murmur

like a white sun on a stone floor.
Together, their breath larger.

They soften to know their stringed
instruments are now looked after, steady.

Mistakes like horoscopes happen.
Maybe tonight for  the woman

by their side. That latte-
colored coat has sat too

long atop her boots.
She has to master a scorpion, 

or force her life to open. 
Tonight they swear to be entire and present,

to knock ‘em dead, to be yours in heroism,
to list until they fall in bed the people they have been. 


Interview with Lauren Hilger and Kay Cosgrove with Founding Editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

K: We write until it feels right, I think. In revision, we get into the business of deciding things like how long our lines ought to be. Our process tends to be organic. We follow breath and intuition in equal measure.

L: Not every poem of ours has to have sharp, curated edges, but some do. Some take up a lot of room and spill over onto the next line and some are just blocks. Questions we ask: Are we giving away too much too soon if we don’t include breaks or space between ideas? Or with too much space around it, are we giving weight to a line that hasn’t earned it? If we were to take away all stanzaic structure and enjambment, would it still hold you?

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

K: I think our biggest theme--and obsession--is love. Love in all forms: lack of love, complications, beauty, etc. Love is what all of our poems are about, really. Sometimes we’ll say “let’s not write a love poem today,” but that rule just helps us into a love poem from a different door.

L: Kay is correct: there is no getting out of that admission. Other obsessions: foremothers, getting it right, high stakes, what outlives us.

How does your physical landscape affect your poems?

K: Since we started collaborating, I’ve been in Texas. Living in such different geographical locations has been useful to our writing, in part because I think landscape colors mood, and mood colors work. I really like the way our window-views clash together inside our poems. It’s fun for me to picture Lauren in New York, a place I consider home, as I look out on an unfamiliar place.

L:  I still see Kay walking around Brooklyn, though I know she’s in Houston. It affects our work by more often than not requiring us to go somewhere else.

 Who writes your poems—what part of you?

K: I wish I knew. The entire process is pretty mysterious to me. Lauren and I are always reminding each other not to overthink as we write. There is this 3rd person that exists between the two of us, and she has a definite poetic sensibility, one I could not replicate on my own if I tried.

L: These three poems span three years of cowriting. When I reread them, I can see where we were, what we endured, what was happening as the poems were being written, but what’s crucial to these poems isn’t specific to either of us. If one moment in our lives is introduced in a poem, it is reimagined by the other. Our worldviews open up.

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

K: It’s funny because when I write alone, editing is where I spend most of my time. But when we write together, I love the process of creating in real time with another poet. It’s really invigorating. Our co-poetry feels alive as it is being written, I think because there is a natural dialogue in collaboration. But I do agree with what you say about editing, and Lauren and I are always taking editing risks. We edit right after we finish a poem--removing a word here, adding a line there--but then we’ll also do big edits months after writing. Lauren is particularly good at this. She has a real ability to move lines around to cash in on the energy of a piece.

L: One of my favorite ways to edit involves one of us working from the beginning of a poem, erasing and reordering, while the other is still writing, so both of us are changing this object at the same time. Afterward, we see what stands. We recently revisited and conflated two older poems we had written from Berkeley and Houston. There were four perspectives in those poems that we reduced down to one. It became this miraculously new thing--I know this sounds obvious, and it’s not exactly thrilling when I do this in my own work--but by connecting two coauthored pieces that we’d spent years with, it really felt like we’d found it. Just like that. I think we always want to feel surprised. 

Jessica Morey-Collins is an MFA student at the University of New Orleans, where she works as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. She received a scholarship to study at the NYS Summer Writer's Institute and blogs on craft for the North American Review. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Vinyl Poetry, ILK Journal, Cleaver Magazine, The Boiler Journal, Black Tongue Review and elsewhere.

Something Tidal
          for Evelyn McHale

From asphalt sky slides

higher: violence transmutes

            into ecstasy. Every edge

begs.  The peripheral, you

see, glimmers. The wild well-
           worth forgetting, hence

            hills’ credibility, clefted
at center, magnetic edges

of any depression: everyone
bends inward as you fall



the sogged                                                        saturates—infinite granules,

needles underfoot                                            fragments of bone, shell

mocked the softness                                        relics, old pines

of her ribs                                                        crowded at the coast

he will stay well-                                             & fog clings—each bead

hydrated, his skin sea-bulged                           flings her image upside down,

                                                                        each needle bloats, sogged

the well-peopled world fills

with he-shaped holes                                       & mocking, he

                                                                        bulges, she floats

each silhouette spills, 


Interview with Jessica Morey-Collins with Founding Editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

JC: Sometimes my line breaks start out parsing the grammatical components of the sentence or the natural pauses, and then I’ll go back and rough-up the lines to see if I can create a tension that either enacts the content of the poem or challenges it. Other times, lines will come out rough and need smoothing. While I worry that I can be a bit gimmicky with it, I love making lines that support a meaning separate from the meaning of the sentence itself, or allow for multiple reads of a particular word or phrase. Having my attention drawn to the plasticity of language excites me, so I try to do that with my own work.

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

Lately, I vacillate between understanding poetry as a mechanism for expressing my personal, intimate experience of the world, and understanding poetry as the mechanism by which that experience comes to exist. Structures fascinate me—civic, power, linguistic, ecological, rhetorical—I love to find the grammar of a situation. What is it’s subject, verb, object?

How was that relationship established? For the past few years, this obsession has manifest in a curiosity about non-binary and non-linear forms of rhetoric, particularly as they apply to heteronormativity and privileging of neurotypical narratives and experiences.

How does your physical landscape affect your poems? 

I’m not sure I’ve fully figured this out yet. While moving from the Southern California suburbs to the dense urban landscape of Taipei, and later to the glitter residue and decadence of New Orleans has bled new words into my lexicon, I don’t often feel at liberty to write about (or from) a place until I’ve left it. I’m sure this is a character flaw—that needing distance from a geography in order to feel entitled to write about it stems from some base discomfort with writing from within a community. I also worry about appropriation, and want to take care not to claim a space that isn’t mine.

Maybe as a symptom of my fascination with non-binary rhetoric, I tend to approach my physical environments—particularly at the municipal level—with equal measures of intimacy and alienation. I tend to feel most connected to a place when I find the points that I can’t (or shouldn’t) access—the inscrutable, the dangerous, the unwelcome.

Who writes your poems—what part of you? 

A lot of my poetry comes out of an attempt to understand my own psychology or the structures that it operates within. I have type-two bipolar disorder, which for me has led to a lot of befuddlement at my emotional reality. Poetry allows me to experience intensity and strangeness with a kind of gentle curiosity, rather than with revulsion or resistance. By finding lyrical expression from my neurodivergence, I’ve been (sometimes) able to claim my abnormalities as constructive—as catalysts for creativity, rather than as obstacles to it.

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

I totally agree! More often than not I subscribe to the idea of writing as an act of inquiry. Particularly in attempting to write in service of ideological constructs—which for me are generally slippery—fiddling with diction over the course of the weeks, months, or years after a poem is drafted helps me to better understand the idea.  

Thomas Fucaloro is an NYC poet. He has 2 books out by three rooms press, his latest one, “It Starts from the Belly and Blooms” has received rave reviews. He has graduated with an MFA at the New School for Creative Writing. He has been on 3 national slam teams and was the Inspired Word’s 2012 Grand Slam Champion. He is a co-founding editor of Great Weather for Media and NYSAI press.  He is a writing coordinator at the Harlem Children’s Zone. He just recently won a performance grant from the Staten Island Council of the Arts and the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs.

I’ve been talking in poems lately 

Muttering words with no narrative

my mom has been talking in poems lately.

She has a shot glass of pills she takes at dinner
for everything she thinks is wrong with her body.

They calm the pain

while devouring the brain.

I’ve been talking in brains lately.

My brain has gone


to devour more brains.

You see, I’m a self-proclaimed-pharmacist
and I think my mom reading poems might
settle her symptoms better than caletrex
or oxicynal or pericuomo or whatever
made-up names follow the surname on top.

We all stumble into infinity.

And this will be my mother’s infinity.

A half eaten brain

and her back still hurts

and she still gets those headaches

and her feet, trying times on her feet

but her eyes glisten.

People always ask me, “Thomas Fucaloro, self-proclaimed-pharmacist-in-residence,

is there something that can make me forget my troubles yet make my lips look good?”

And I always reply, “Red wine is the best lipstick.  It goes with everything,

even depressed poets.”

Folks are always trying to cure seasonal depression
by what “real doctors” say
but I think the only way to not let the rain get you down
is ice cream.

I think ice cream is so important for the soul.
It’s those little things that we do at 3 in the morning
alone, in the kitchen, moonlit, that gives us the most

They should use ice cream for medicinal mental purposes.

I’ve been self-medicating lately

and there’s no ice cream
flavor for that.

I’ve been stealing pills from my mom’s medicine cabinet.

They taste like home.

We all do.

It’s those little things

that we do at 3 in the morning


in the kitchen


that gives us

the most.

How I killed my parents
How to look on the bright side of things

Part I: 

The Fireflies. 

Part II:

I rise
from the ashes
of the phoenix

a bright blistering orange
fiery beacon shaped
as a dying star

projecting our thoughts
onto the walls and labeling
them family.

I’m a father now.

I birthed an infant light.

I’m a mother now.

I birthed the infant night.

My family is an hourglass
that is constantly ticking
the orange beaded bland
of time, a sunburn
in the shape of my family

I will never have kids

but I will always have


the thumb
of my father
and mother’s
name stops here.

I am now the parent. 

I am the birth
of the death
of you. 

I am waiting for my parents to die.

They are waiting for me to begin my life.

Part III:

We know you are pregnant.

We know the dark lord lives
inside you so why birth anew? 

Why a new Fucaloro? 

My candy jar heart
doesn’t have a lot in it. 

Fingernail clippings.

Reminders of the growing
but never the growing. 

This poem is so confusing.

So is being a parent. 

Part IV:

is the only
I contain. 

What kills me
will make
my lifeless corpse
of a body only stronger.

I am
for me
to die

a bright blistering orange
fiery beacon shaped
as a dying star. 

Part V:

The fireflies. 

I wrote you a poem
It’s all I could do

Your depression is a single chrysanthemum
that blooms brighter and stronger everyday.

They say it’s a disease. They say it’s the result
of the society we live in. They say it’s a chemical
imbalance. They say anti-depressants can help.
They say anti-depressants help cure depression
because your body gets tricked into thinking
it’s working because your brain feels good.
They say street drugs can’t help. They say
street drugs can still help in causing depression
because your body gets tricked into thinking
it’s working because your brain feels good.

Well I say purple petunias to all of that.

They say therapy or just talking to someone can help.

I believe that.
Talking with someone
helps create
infinite connections
softens the heart

Talking with someone whether therapist or friend
or family or lover is a symbol of sharing.

You know what else is a symbol of sharing?

Giving someone a flower.

Flowers are a simple way of providing emotional health
triggering joyful emotions on the lapel of the sun.

The ivy around your throat
can be that single red rose of a voice
set in light, hope, motion—

The jasmine-lemon blossom-lily of laurel-lotus-orchids
will sing chimes so pure you will not only gain a voice
but you will harbor an island within your chest
and a small lifeboat to paddle you to every beautiful
crescent emotion imaginable.

I’m not saying flowers can cure depression
but it sure can be a purplish/blue honeysuckle
of a start.

I didn’t write you a poem.

I wrote you a garden.


Interview with Thomas Fucaloro with Joanna C. Valente

Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?

TF: Line breaks are a big thing for me. You can convey so many ideas with just breaking up lines and changing the concepts around them. 

So looking at something like a line, "These stars, their light years away," you can try to get a little more umph out of it if you simply break it up, "The stars / their light / years away." You can add another bit of context in there by simply knowing and feeling where the line should break and how it can add more to the poem. 

What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

Hmmm, obsessions, not sure, in terms of content I've really been reflecting on the past 10-20 years of my life and the mess I've made with it. So I guess sorting my own self out is my obsession. 

How does your physical landscape affect your poems? 

That's an interesting question (steps away from key board and comes back an hour later); I'm not sure. I'm so much in my own head and body that it has become my landscape. How narcissistic of me? I do think environment influences your writing. I definitely write differently in my room then I do in the woods.

Who writes your poems—what part of you? 

I think the Thomas that wants to be better writes my poems for me. So I guess my belly. Yeah I would say belly. I think I access a lot of gut feelings or my own relationship with my voice, comes from there. When I ever I read allowed I am always accessing my belly. It's my center I suppose. 

I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

I very much agree with that. I never go in trying to write a poem. I go in just trying to get it all out first. No edits, just trying to find whatever it is I am looking for. Editing definitely helps with that process. My writing process comes out in fragments. It is rarely linear. Editing to me is like a puzzle. How can I rearrange this poem to not only fit what it is I am trying to say, but also add some art to it.