Gregory Crosby Gives Us the Perfect Writing Advice
Sean Stratton

Sean Stratton

In the Clearing Stands an Eight-Track

Enter swinging, a circle with right angles.
This is what it means to have a hit. 
Hammers, curled like mist, in cherry mitts.
Below the belt, the pits.
A bell rings there, lapped by satin, flames in a fit.
Look upon civilization; look upon the bow-tie, a clip-on.
A Count in pinstripes, these Dukes, put up, put upon.
Reflections in a jaw.
Every smile a goldmine; a guillotine, lopsided.
The answers are blowing in divine winds.
The blows swear their fealty to death in a poem about death. 
Like a white hachimaki, brow-beat.
The rising sun, trickling into your right eye. 
It’s a trick of the light.
Red skies, southern cross.
The thought, uppermost, in the high mind of the uppercut.
Then the bottom of the world, stretched, taut.
The universe, described by numbers.
The blue roar of sweat & smoke.
The distant ropes like railings; beyond them, an ocean, a night.
Full of stars.
Get up, got up, a troubled bridge over waters. 
A round & around & another round, an other.
A name, file under What’s in: butterfly, bee.
Here’s the dance, the flutter, the sting, the lip & decision, split.
Here is the corner, the corner, the corner.
Here is that clearing that you are forever leaving.
After many an etc. dives the swan.
Here’s what it means to have drunk too much punch.
Here’s what it means to hit and be hit and be a hit.
Here, the whole exhausted world in a clinch; you, the clincher.
Here’s the lyric you thought went by the light, but is just lie-la-lie


Gun, Still Warm

No, she’s not a girl who misses much.
It’s not her aim, as such,
as it is her eye. She has a good one,
enough for two. She draws a bead

through a thread, & squeezes off
a few rounds of dread.
She wears headphones,
her hands steady.

She’s an interpretation,
one that never goes unread.
A writer, said Henry, is one on whom
nothing should be lost… in bed.

This is what mirrors atop
boots are for: upskirt shots
of all ye know & need to know,
truth-beauty, beauty-truth,

hot, transgendered, one-on-one.
Her chambers are Marilyn, never empty.
She looks straight down the barrel.
She’s an artist. She’s on.

This opening is surreal, quite droll.
It’s the history, said John, of rock and roll.
It’s history as pastiche. It’s nouveau riche
It’s corrupt as Ivory, as clean as lust.

You’ll have to take that one on Trust,
once private, now Nationalized.
Beauty-Truth is about to get facialized. 
She locks his gaze & loads it,

lying, naked, with his eyes
while his hands are busy,
working chords, over time.
Save me, he mimes. 

I need a fix, going down:
these bits couldn’t be more transparent.
White boy, what are you doing uptown?
Searching for a superior sort of mother, 

fucker. For not-a-nun, not For No One.
I was asleep for a few years, & then I woke up,
& they weren’t used to that. A journalist
wrote that he looked fat. Never again. 

Their bony hips, banging, coming together,
over, under. Christ, nothing could be
not easier. Or bigger. Love is real,
a real fix. When you jump the gun,

the wound arrives before the bullet.
The heart bleeds out. It just comes,
& comes, & comes.

When I feel my finger on your trigger,
I hear the eternal Footman snicker.
History is a backup singer,
a bang for a bang, a shoot for a shoot. 

Does this pistol ever cool? Imagine
the sweat that lingers after skin,
the fevers that never break. Nothing
breaks this skin. I wonder if you can. 

Ask where the other half of the sky begins.
Ask Mark Chapman, not yet dead,
if happiness is a voice inside your head.
When I hold you, in my arms, 

I know that nobody, nobody, nobody,
nobody, nobody: so warm. Mother,
I’m doo wop, bits of sweet soul,
bits of sound. A spent shell, 

falling through a cloud. There’s smoke
on your lips, little death. Kiss me.
I’m shot. 

Over Air

Two minutes after one: tail end, long lunch,
or the restless not yet toward last call.
Twelve hours ahead or behind? It’s all
I can do to decide. Outside, leaves crunch
under time’s clubfoot. It’s neither dark nor
light. It’s a sunny sort of night. No one
is about, but everyone is here. Sun’s
out. Remember Bauhaus? Radio’s a bore,

now. It was tedious even then. Still,
late, in the silence you looked to at noon,
it seemed indeed a sad salvation, a boon
unsought, found. Inside headphones, the thrill:
universe’s faint trill, tyrant night (& day)
destroyed by a wave. Ah, youth! Ah, cliché.

Q & A with Gregory Crosby and editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: When you were 15, what were you listening to? 

GC: Here’s what instantly conjures up 15 for me: Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads to Another,” The Police’s “Synchronicity,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s “You Got Lucky,” Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” But the crucial things I discovered at that age were The Beatles (a syndicated radio program played everything the Beatles ever recorded, in chronological order, over the course of five nights), which led me to the British Invasion and Dylan, and Delta Blues, which I discovered thanks to a program on my NPR affiliate called “Blues Train” that I literally stumbled upon late one night while randomly twirling the dial of my boom box. I got into punk and post-punk as high school progressed, and as I moved one level up in the geek hiearchy from D&D playing-comic book-collecting-sci-fi-reading-glasses geek to artsy-theater-literary-contact-lenses geek.

Who gave you the best advice about writing? What was it?

Two people, both indirectly. Twenty or so years ago, when my burning ambition was to become a fillmmaker, a slightly older friend who had actually worked on the fringes of the film industry said to me, “You know, even if you beat the odds to become a writer/director, you’re going to spend most of your life begging people for money.” That was like a light bulb going off—I realized that writing itself cost nothing, except time and effort and a few cheap notebooks, and that I would be better served simply writing for the page, where whatever I created would exist in and of itself. The other epiphany occurred when I started reading Anne Carson, and realized all the things that I thought I could only (or should only) do in prose could be done in poetry—that anything, really, could be done in poetry.

Why New York City?

The obvious reasons. Also, out of the five places I applied to MFA programs, I was wait-listed at one and was accepted at the City College of New York. And it was time for me to leave Las Vegas (again).

Where do you prefer to read and write?

Anyplace with natural light, though, oddly enough, I still find myself doing a lot of writing in the midnight hour. I used to cling to a Platonic ideal of the perfect study—and I to this day all I really want is to live in a secret apartment tucked inside a library—but I’ve realized over the years that writing and reading has to happen whenever and wherever, which usually means on the train. I never, ever complain about a long subway ride.

Favorite living poet?

My girlfriend. Alternate: Frederick Seidel. 

Editor's Note: These poems originally appeared on our old site in the fall 2013 issue.

Gregory Crosby’s work has previously appeared in Court Green, Epiphany, Copper Nickel, Paradigm, Rattle, Ophelia Street, Poem, Jacket, Pearl, and The South Carolina Review, among others. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. Prior to that, he was an art critic in Las Vegas, Nevada (which still works as an icebreaker at parties). He is the author of two chapbooks, Spooky Action at a Distance (Operating System) and The Book of Thirteen (Yes Poetry).