April 2018 Poetry Feature

New work by our contributors TINA CANE and TOM PAINE 

 by Tina Cane

I can’t stop horses as much as you can’t stop horses,”

      “Other Horses,” Michael Klein


What is work    but a horse is a beast     to be one with the broom     I bristle

toil tool and trade     work is a poem I made    is my children is family a broken

phrase difficult to say     with a mouth full of teeth     sore from grief is another

kind of  work     or driving long hours through the night     only to start each day

in its middle     Spartan with a sparse meal to break the fast     a private kind

of penance one man makes     while another says     We use water to start over

how Baldwin used snow from the Alps     to write his way back to the Harlem

streets of his youth     whereas Debbie from Seekonk     says I’m Switzerland here

meaning you can tell me anything     and I almost do      keeping the most arduous

parts of the work     to myself for myself     sometimes comparing

my heart to a horse     sometimes fast & beautiful     often beastly

& burdensome     with my six shades of brown in each eye     I see work

in every corner of the earth     the way work always finds me where I stand

           list in hand        a clover in my pocket


HACK  by Tina Cane

He left his hack license on the bed-stand     with the pocketknife

we gave him     reluctant to renew     in case he didn’t make it back


there was a wall of books by his bed     stacks of articles he would have read

had he returned to spend the $65     on a photo of his eyes squinting

into the middle distance     of the gaunt days ahead


it’s said      that every unworn shoe in a closet     represents a unit

of work     a mark of time wasted     or money earned      but however

you look     a shoe is a shoe is a shoe

                                                                   An embarrassment of riches

my dad always chimed     as he ripped open his gifts     at Christmastime


when he finally let go     they gave me his belongings     in a clear plastic bag

that read Belongings     I couldn’t carry his clothes     while also carrying my baby

in my belly     down into the belly of the train     I took the buckle from his belt

and put the bag in the trash     on the corner of Lexington Avenue  

then caught the downtown express     empty-handed     brass in my pocket

         unable to end     even this poem     the way I want it



Would Jesus love them?
If your capital is love,
there is no time.

With you, I look at time
in light, my love.

Time was once deaf,
and signed off
with clownish arms.

An hour the short,
stupid arm,
then the long, angry minute—

but now, I dream of
the long, perfect plié
of a second—

in your hands,
seconds spin like a blade,
blur into a halo


America’s Hill  by Tom Paine

On the climb up the trail to the plantation ruin I did the ‘star prayer’.

I opened my arms wide like Jesus on the cross and spread my legs.

You said it was a pagan way to the divine. It was that or explode.

After the star prayer (and feeling pretty silly) I opened my eyes,

and saw the starfish web of an Orb Weaver blocking the trail.

Plump in gold and black, big as my fist, she sat regally in her web.

Blazoned on her hairy back: a yellow star. I doubled over and blindly

grabbed a little sapling as I wept for the first time. I don’t know why.

When the retching was over, I glanced at my hand, still clenching.

Around the silver bark, some stranger had tied a delicate grass bow.


Tina Cane was born in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC in 1969 and grew up in the city’s East and West Village. She attended the University of Vermont, the Sorbonne, the University of Paris X-Nanterre and Middlebury College. Tina is the founder and director of Writers-in- the-Schools, RI and is an instructor with the writing community, Frequency Providence. Her poems and translations have appeared in numerous publications, including The Literary Review, Two Serious Ladies, The Tupelo Quarterly, Jubilat and The Common. She is the author of The Fifth Thought (Other Painters Press); Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante, poems with art by Esther Solondz (Skillman Avenue Press); and Once More With Feeling (Veliz Books). In 2016, Tina received the Fellowship Merit Award in Poetry from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and she currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island, where she lives with her husband and their three children.

Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, Glasgow Review of Books, Volt, Fence, Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Stream, Tampa Review and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. He is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire. 

April 2018 Poetry Feature

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