SMALL GESTURES FROM BIG HANDS

Yeah, yeah I could’ve conjured a better title for a press release but April has been unusually cruel this year with the debacle that was PoetFest and the juggernaut of a struggle with a spreadsheet poetry manuscript…’nuff said.

Our third release for National Poetry Month which is not spread sheet poetry…

Cover by Amy Renee Armstrong

Now when one of my former professors got in contact with me regarding a poetry manuscript from what seemed like a favored former student…I cringed a bit but I accepted due to the fact that he demonstrated compassion toward me and definitely supported me in ways when I was down at a bleak time in my life.

However when I started reading the blurbs by David Cope and Jim Cohn…my stomach dropped…I thought this is a lot of propping up for someone…please, please don’t be another rich kid who gets strung out on drugs then their parents get them a disability check as they slum it chic poor rendering them a writer…

“Melissa Wray’s Small Gestures is a masterpiece of short free verse forms,  

beginning with gendered struggle involving  

sexual harassment, and involving an arc of  

struggles with the self and with others that  

at times ends in madness, the nature of the  

beast as it slouches toward its own humanity,  

particularly charting one woman’s efforts to chart her own course. Wray is a free-verse Sappho; her book was 16 years in the making, leading at last to a mature vision of these powerful themes. The work is fearless, illuminating even in darkness, a worthy addition to the traditions of using “no word that doesn’t contribute to the presentation” while addressing themes that matter in human experience. “

—David Cope 

“Melissa Wray’s Small Gestures frames a feminine worldview of constant sexual microaggressions, scarred and wounded bodies, relentless indignities, poverty and crushed dreams. Her poems present the wracked minutiae of raw observations moving through our streets and institutions. Wray’s ability to imprint and acknowledge the torment and pain of the inhuman human circus in which she herself descended is a blessed healing she delivers, not simply to herself, but to us all. Who among us has not watched over the perishing of loved ones, including parts of ourselves, to the grinding meat-wheel of lost hope and self-hatred that is the daily sustenance of addiction and the sound of dark subterranean rivers flooding these poems? And then, as if defying gravity and the laws of physics, in the broken mirror of Wray’s own post-beat sense of a Coltranesque love supreme, she cuts through her own despair as if ego was a mango pit left behind, and floods in a multigenerational illuminated space where no one need fear “losing you / to happiness.”

 —Jim Cohn

Luckily, I’m not an asshole all the time.

The book is sixteen years in the making. Tight, short pieces with varying magnitudes of impact dealing with a slew of issues such as addiction, mental health and the death of loved one along with discovering yourself through the wilderness of youth.

It is good?

In my humble opinion being new in the publishing and writing game…it’s good but not for the reasons you think…you can tell by the intro who influenced the author’s work and it definitely shows through the first set of poems “Small Gestures” but once you start breaking into the second set “New Pictures” and “Iris” then you observe the poet Melissa Wray finding her actual voice, ready to cast aside those influences.

The entire collection is conventionally good especially on a technical level but watching Wray evolve or rather begin evolving from outside the wing’s of her mentors is the truly dazzling part of the work.

As cute as it is to be influenced by Walt Whitman and the Beats along with those who revere them, it’s best not to be a copy of a copy of a copy and Wray shatters that by the end of SMALL GESTURES…

Pink spaghetti straps 

and blond hair 

skimming 

sharp shoulder blades 

frail arms 

and slim wrists 

resting small hands 

on narrow hips 

short dress 

barely covering 

tight 

slightly spread 

thighs. 

Standing  

in front 

of a gas station 

on the corner 

of Wealthy 

and Division— 

he  

was beautiful.  

Home 

I am walking home 

in the dark 

rounding a familiar corner. 

“Hey precious, 

thanks for the cigarette,” 

she says, and 

“you better walk faster 

in this neighborhood.” 

I saw her 

days before 

in a seedy market 

buying Faygo pop 

with the last dollar 

on her Bridge card. 

She left that night 

as I was lighting up 

in the parking lot. 

“Can I buy a cigarette from you? How much you want, 

a quarter?” 

I gave her one  

without the quarter. 

“Oh, thank you! 

I’ll go home and  

have my dinner 

and a smoke. 

Thank you!” 

She remembered me 

and thanked me again. 

I continue walking. 

A man in front of me 

on the sidewalk 

is pulling up 

scratching  

guttural sounds 

from deep in his gut 

in rhythm 

with his step, 

he turns slightly 

and eyes me, 

I try to pass him. 

He taps me on the shoulder. 

I continue walking. 

He taps me on the shoulder 

silently 

unfolds a piece of paper 

may I have $1.00 

for foods? 

I reach into my pocket 

and hand him one. 

He thanks me 

in sign language 

then pulls me in 

for a hug. 

He approached 

politely, 

“Excuse me, ma’am,” 

in a high 

raspy voice 

whistling 

through his few 

remaining 

yellowed teeth. 

“I’m trying 

to catch the bus. 

Just need 

sixty cents 

to catch the bus.” 

I retrieved my wallet. 

He opened thick 

short-fingered hands, 

fingernails long 

and painted black. 

I gave him seventy-five. 

“Just need 

to catch the bus.” 

Blocked 

With eyes 

looking past me 

he tells me 

to write every day 

about mundane things. 

smoke leaks 

from his tight lips 

as he pauses, 

looks down, 

grinds out his light 

and says 

he doesn’t write 

anymore.

The Fruit Is Already In Our Mouths 

 Reach into the crate, hesitant hand hovering for a moment over the mango’s human heart shapes, until you find the one that looks “just right,” curved with colors that contrast and blend simultaneously. Pick it up to test it. If it is like a woman’s breast, smooth, its weight misleading for its size, move to the next test. Close your eyes and bring the stem end up close enough to touch your nose. If the scent is sticky-sweet, and there is the tiniest bit of give from its skin to its meaty inside, take it home. 

There is an art to peeling a mango. There is slowness and exposure involved. Don’t disrespect it by merely cutting off the flesh in aggressive, uneven strips. Start small. Make one incision at the stem end, just deep enough to pierce through the skin. Drag it down and around the bottom of the fruit, then back up to meet itself. Start again at the stem, move over to the other, uncut, side and repeat. You will leave two lines circling through its thick skin, barely touching the meat. 

Choose a side. Use one hand to softly sink your fingernails into the place where the two cuts meet. Sink in a little deeper, and lift, loosening skin from meat. Firmly hold the tip between your fingers. Slowly pull down toward the stem. There will be a soft tearing feeling, a moist sound. If you are patient and deliberate, the diamond-shaped piece of skin will remain whole even once removed. The meat underneath will not have a perfect smoothness, as it would have had you cut the skin off haphazardly. It will look a little torn. It will feel wet and granular. The smell will be raw and incredible. Your hands will become wetter and wetter as you continue to peel away the skin from all corners. The mango may slip from your hands entirely, its juice dripping down to your wrists, permeating the cutting surface. 

Don’t wash the juice away so that you can manipulate the fruit more easily. Don’t be afraid to lick your fingers. Wipe your palms on your upper arms. Delve back in, more aware now that you have to respect its slippery qualities. Slide it whole, in and out of your hands, then cut the meat into smaller pieces, to taste again later.  

The mango’s hard pit will be left behind, encased in meat that couldn’t quite be cut away. You can experience it, too. Bring it to your mouth. Circle a corner with your lips, and suck. The flesh will be so compliant that it may melt off without any urging from your teeth.  

Those seem to be the sweetest parts.

Grand Rapids poet Melissa Wray was born in 1982. She is a graduate of Grand Rapids Community College and studied Health Psychology at Bastyr University in Seattle.  She is currently a candlemaker. Melissa read with Dave Cope, alternately reciting work by Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg at the Wealthy Theatre celebration of beat writing in 2008.  She received 2nd prize in the Dyer-Ives 50th anniversary poetry competition for her poem “Iris.”  She has been published in Big Scream, Big Hammer, Napalm Health Spa, Gutter Eloquence, Voices, and Display.  Small Gestures is her first book.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Laszlo Aranyi

Circle

(translated by Gabor Gyukics)

 The furry duck’s crawling on his plate is withered-blue,
       satiated, and later had intercourse 

with his own daughter.

       A villain with a sublime face hangs on the doorknob,
       Jesus is taken away by a hoofed cop. 

                     On a leash, in handcuffs.

Sticky cum runs down on spread thighs:
                     steaming slugs.
       (She who is impregnated by the Holy Ghost, 

gives birth to a feeble idiot.)

       Still a restrictive God,
A homeland that stick us into the reservation 

of our language and tradition,


               hierarchical structure of Family.

       The fraudulent proclaims triple unity…
We are fittingly reborn

in the systematic perspectives. 

       And that’s fine…
But it’s the same thing all over again. 

And we’ll all go to hell. 

Scaly Remains

Evoking the calm breath of menace

             living loaf of challah soaked with the poison of toads.
          “Have you fornicated with the horny devil captain?”

A stray half-bred crucified on the chapel door,
      thick nails driven through him;
deadly twilight
drying dragonfly wing.

A dented, tin breastplate with a hole as big as a fist,
       and the slimy scales of a strained barrel-belly
       foreshadow the previous life of earth

Moon-goblet. Made from the skull of a dead hero. 

Lady Babalon drinks from it. And as an insoluble sediment of the regular intervals of rebirth
      she submerges in the tart wine of God.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: S.A. Gerber

Coffee

We met 

for coffee. 

I had 

No intention 

of hitting 

on her. 

I was  

married and 

her husband 

was doing 

time for 

some kind 

of telemarket- 

ing fraud. 

Besides, she 

has… rumor 

has it… 

f—ed most 

of the  

boys in 

the Buddha 

Garden poetry 

reading group. 

She hosted 

this group 

and was 

now droning 

on that 

my words 

were terrific, 

but my 

performance lousy. 

(What am 

I…a 

f—king seal?!) 

Also, I 

don’t care 

much for 

rhyming poetry, 

she added. 

(Probably because 

she cannot 

write it.) 

I smiled, 

continuing to 

scribble in 

my notebook 

as I 

have been. 

Do you 

know — 

—- —–?, 

she suddenly 

asked, knowing 

full well. 

I confirmed 

by nod. 

They say 

you, —- 

and ——– 

kicked ass 

at the 

Seattle ‘slam’. 

Nothing special, 

we were 

just better 

I guess. 

Must have 

been the 

coffee there. 

She smiled. 

Wanna’ go 

somewhere 

and show 

me how 

you perform? 

No, I 

said, barely 

looking up… 

I let 

the silence 

hang in 

the air 

long enough 

to be 

uncomfortable, 

before asking… 

You want 

more coffee? 

I hear…

the wind blow 

across the land- 

scaped, tended lawn. 

The flapping of 

wings skyward. 

The sound of 

children learning 

to socialize. 

The traffic yield 

for pedestrians. 

The shattering sound 

of hearts breaking, 

of unrested souls 

scrambling for sal- 

vation. 

The clouds gathering 

to form a 

peaceful shroud. 

I strain— 

to listen for 

pleasantries in 

the air. 

For voices to 

sing in harmony 

as one. 

For the cease- 

fire of all human 

hatred. 

I listen. 

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Cord Moreski

True Believer 

for Alicia Purpura

It’s quite an honor 

catching you in the act

ducking out 

of another crowded party 

in the wee hours of the morning 

road soda in one hand 

handlebar in the other 

riding gracefully 

down the sidewalk 

singing, “East Coast! Fuck You!”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Merritt Waldon

angelic madness

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Tiberuis Galloway

A Lost Thought

Feel like I’m splittin’ realities

Maybe I’m losin’ my faculties

All these thoughts insidah me

At first it excited me

Then it frightened me

Lungs tighten insidah me

Is the knowledge a parta me?

Or is it invading me?

The truth is all I can see

But all I want is to be set free

These words taste like insanity

Hold on, I’ll ask my humanity

Have my wits abandoned me?

Why won’t I answer me?

Don’t I know this is crazy?

Oh shit, I think I see

Trapped is all I’ll be

For the rest of eternity

If I could ask me

I think I’d agree

Cause thoughts aren’t free

And imagined me

FROM THE EDITOR

Yup, that blowhard again…

We continued with our original format with VOICES FROM THE FIRE this week .

VOICES will be returning possibly a day late, due to the fact that Dumpster Fire Press or rather I will be heading down to ST. Augustine PoetFest to sponsor the UNDERGROUND SOUNDS SHOW featuring Wayne Mason at SHANGHAI NOBBY’S

https://www.facebook.com/events/2466996233436421?ref=newsfeed

But that’s not all and pardon the shitty embedding of links…hopefully that be can pardoned…you did notice the flaming dumpster, right?

As Editor in Chief of DFP and low life poet, I’ll be taking part in a discussion on POETS FOR CHANGE…think poetry and politicism along with the assertion of the working class and working poor.

Followed by a reading but not immediately (otherwise there’d be a nervous breakdown) with fellow poets: Chris Bodor (brainchild of ST. Augustine PoetFest), Jamie Lynn Stannish and Damian Rucci who leading the New Jersey Poetry Renaissance .

After that’s…it’s over and I can semi peacefully die in a plane crash…

Hope to encounter some of you there…but not any diehard fans…in fact…give me your names so I can issue some restraining orders…

Bad joke…we dig our fans at DFP…not so much that we’d say “Much love” though…

April cruelty

Stay surreal.

Also check out the two titles we’ve released for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH so far…

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED BY ROZ WASHINGTON

PSLAM OF THE PSYCHE WARD BY ARI WHIPPLE

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Shane Allison

Bold New Mindscape

There are some books that you will read that will shake you to your core and remind you what real writing and art is all about in Ari Whipple’s hybrid collection of poetry and art.
These are some of the most courageous page ever to go into print from Dumpster Fire Press and it’s an honor to present the work of such a noble talent who was willing to forsake the thought of rapid-fire judgement and scoffing brutalization to chronicle their trials and explorations.
There’s cruelty in these pages
There’s hope and magic along with a healthy love for David Lynch but who doesn’t have that and if you don’t you are a fool but what the hell…

cover by Dillinger

I first came across Ari Whipple’s work via submission for VOICES FROM THE FIRE, like the biggest nerd, I jumped all over it and even offered to place some of it in the upcoming anthology WORLD ON FIRE.

I was astounded by how someone who practically lived in the same area as I did in West Michigan had a perfect pulse on world in which we live.

Whipple (and I hope they forgive me for referring to them by their last name, it just seems a tad intimate to otherwise in a book intro) takes you on a personal journey of their own chamber of horrors and dare I say, Zen revelations into a hopeful enlightenment giving a voice where usually these voices are anything but voiceless but tend to be shut out, locked out and beaten down.

Exposed Thinking

How am I ever to escape?

Asked plainly, I have faulty thinking

what a fool I am

to be made flesh

and not a ball of light

set loose on the world

I wish I were free

frankly, I wish I were

the sunrise or the wind

again

It’s so hard to stay together

my very atoms

wish to disperse

I am left in a pile of

experience made human

but I am not you

sometimes I have a hard time

conceiving of you

the whole of you

still trying though

as I get locked away from my
chimes of conspiracy

exposed thinking

I’ve been here long enough

they remember my name.

The Find

You said

“You can’t lie, baby,

I see the butterflies

in your eyes,”

and despite myself

I smiled

because

damn it

it was true

I can’t get over you

this feeling

causing me to rise up

after dark

to find myself again.

art by Ari Whipple

The Truth of My Reality

Loping like a dog, rabid

or like a lion just raised from sleep

I wish I had control

of my faculties

or my present

But it is controlled for me

I can’t sleep anymore

It has controlled me

I slept six and half hours

isn’t that enough?

They only count four and a half

since they start at midnight

robbing me of my time

robbing me of my freedom

I wish I were a bird

set loose in this place

flying to the highest corner

reality is so surreal

but not so much

that I can’t find it

he asked, “why do you even

play the game?”

and, at the time, I said I don’t know

but I really do

because it’s like an unscratched itch

I am a slave to finding a truth

art by Ari Whipple

The Lonely Gods

I am leaving

I think

I hope it’s true

there’s not much

to do except wait

and talk and sleep

and eat

I’ve waited for my number

to come up

I’ve waited for my time

to start again

living in a temporal distortion

it never quite matches up

to what is

gossip from above

it sets my teeth on edge

chattering like I’m sitting on the pier again

here it is

I’m the singing bluebird

flying high on the breeze

where all the gods

find themselves

in lonely places

tonight.

Ari Whipple

Ari Whipple is a writer and a poet from Muskegon, Michigan. They have lived in several places over the years including Iowa, Grand Canyon Village, Death Valley, and Seattle. They are 36 years old and have a love of the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan. They struggle with bipolar, which has affected them for the past four years as of this publication. They have two books out: Full of Now, a poetry book about bipolar and David Lynch is After Me, a memoir about their first manic episode.

art by Dillinger