Skip to content
November 7, 2013 / johnoliversimon

Aldebaran Review Fall 2012

Aldebaran Review
Fall 2012

New Poems

Aaron Counts

Tobey Kaplan

Mariela Griffor

George Kalamaras

Bill Vartnaw

Laura E. Davis

Michael Daley

Linda Lancione


Many nights, as a boy, I woke to the sound of crashing.
My father, an insomniac, found solace in our unfinished
basement—a second-hand couch and a red-felted
pool table. He quieted his mind by shooting 9-ball,
something calming in the precise geometry required
to rattle a ball into a pocket with a soft thud.
Lying in my bedroom above, I could almost see
the pool balls spin across the felt and careen into
each other under the controlled force of my father’s hands.

His brother lived in that basement some months,
between jobs or wives. He slept on the worn couch,
coming upstairs to the fridge when he needed to
fetch beer or food. His laugh rasped from too many
cigarettes when he cracked jokes during the day,
but at night, drunk, the laugh often turned mean.
One night his girlfriend stood up to the bullying,
and their fight spilled upstairs, and instead of fetching
beer from the kitchen, my uncle came after a knife.

My father lay awake in his room, listening.
I squinted into the blinding bright
of the kitchen, and watched my father move
his body between the blade and a woman he didn’t know.
He gripped the thick shoulders of his only brother
and shoved hard, flinging the large man into the pantry.
The force of his collision shook soup cans loose,
and they rattled to the floor and spun towards
my uncle heaped on the linoleum. Wordless, my father
walked over and stood above his brother, paused,
then pulled him to his feet. The fight was over,
and they never spoke of it again.

On my own sleepless nights I miss my father most.
Insomniac is a lonely profession, so I haunt the shadows
of quiet rooms, looking for some life with which to commune.
I sometimes end up in my son’s bedroom, sitting on the rug
next to his bed. I wrap my fist around his and watch
his chest fill with breath. The crickets he keeps to feed his
gecko chirp, the cage clicks as one leaps a failed escape
through the plastic wall. I hold my son’s hand in the quiet,
and hope I, too can pass on what most of us only learn
the hard way: who to pull close, and who to push away.

—Aaron Counts

Another World

Before the fog lifts going up the hill
on my run home up the street
just over the curbside looks like a stick
but something makes me stop
because I saw it differently maybe a lizard a skink a gecko

with its tail cut off a few blood spots it was alive
and because I once had a leopard gecko
and often dogs chase lizards on local trails
I am trying to figure out
a lost pet or a feature of our landscape

I find a couple of candy wrappers
and carry the gecko home
put some rocks in the cracked yellow recycling bin
a hiding place a low plastic dish for water
use the worm scraps for insects
a little rug of mud leaf dry grass mulch dirt and compost
and as I’ve planned to take it the Vivarium later
so they could identify my reptile and what it needed

but I then I leave with the dogs
come home to find it
not hidden under my crude cave as it was earlier
in the sun no longer moving at all

I pull out the pitchfork find a patch of dirt I can stab
and turn over as I’m looking at it now for the first time really
gecko limbs pulled back against its body
gray green white belly design
alligatored scales diamond shaped head
eyes open to another world

—Tobey Kaplan


Chanco had endless rows of white houses made of adobe
with thick terracotta shingles.
Old eucalyptus trees, taller than 50 feet, formed a natural barrier
between the Pacific Ocean and the village.
The people made a living producing wine and cheese.
As a child I ran through the eucalyptus forest to the ocean
in a race with my half sibling.
Small roads of red clay covered by generations of fallen leaves
made for a cushioned walk for our sandals and bare feet.
I always won all the races.
Then, on the ocean, there would be another race
to get rid of our clothes
and be the first to jump into the water.
My mother would open a basket filled with bread, hardboiled eggs,
cheese, blackberries picked by our own hands
and soda, spreading an old yellow tablecloth out on the sand.

Meanwhile Clemente would cut the watermelon he carried
from the house to the beach.
In Santiago things were different.
The day of the Coup, Mr. Monzalves visited us.
He sat on a sofa in our living room beneath a print of Picasso’s “Guernica”.
My grandfather occupied one of the loveseats.
Later I came to know that Mr. Monzalves worked for DINA
(National Department of Intelligence).
My grandfather did not talk about what Mr. Monzalves said,
but it was clear that he knew that my grandfather
was a sympathizer of Allende and that he had come to deliver a warning.
Just before I left Chile the last person I met from the Front,
in Santiago was my commander.
His real code name was Wolf.
I told him I was planning to leave the country because I could not
avoid the surveillance anymore and my good friend,
the lawyer Insunsa, had arranged for me to go to Sweden or France.

The Swedes were fond of Latin America’s cause of liberation,
he had said, and they had been receptive to Chileans
from the beginning of the Coup.
Sweden is too far, go to the South, I can’t, my family lives there,
I told him.
He wanted to schedule a last rendezvous before my leaving.
I explained that it was exhausting to get to him in my condition.
I already had my visa and a plane ticket.
Still, I finally agreed to meet, changing between different
subway lines, moving to a taxi and then to a bus to avoid being followed.
I risked everything so that Wolf could make one last effort
to get me to stay.
He never appeared. I had wanted, at least, to say goodbye.
I left for Sweden on October 24, 1985, five weeks after
my daughter’s father died.
Spring was beginning in Chile, as Winter was in Sweden.
It would prove to be the coldest winter in one hundred years
with a mean temperature of -27.2°C in Vittangi.

—Mariela Griffor

A Mother Thing

After I was settled when I got “home” from the hospital
there was a bed and a baby bed beside it, and a letter
from my mother that was forwarded from the refugee camp.
In the letter my mother said that she had missed the bus
that would have brought her from the South of Chile to the airport
to say goodbye. Somebody told her that I was leaving.
She had read about J.’s death in the newspapers. More
than 1000 people came to his funeral and the riots
that followed were covered on national TV. Reuters smuggled
pictures out of the country and in the archives of the Agency
that I would read 20 years later it would say: …the case of J’s may
turn into another scandal similar to the case concerning
the death of the three “degollados”.The last paragraph
of the letter said “I hope now when you are a mother yourself
you can understand your own mother a little bit better.”
I couldn’t answer her. Not because I didn’t have anything
to say but because it was so hard to say it. I wish I could have written
something to her at that time to bring us closer together.
But I still couldn’t think clearly. It would be a long time before I could.

—Mariela Griffor

If Not Perfect

You said nothing about the stain on the cover of Vallejo’s Trilce.

You hand me an ostrich feather as if I had never been truly alive.

We end up dying over a lunch of buttered bread.

I collide with my insides and finally get the joke.

But the table shakes as if the earth had a friend.

You and I have known one another’s toe in a different shoe.

Walk like an animal and spoon me your source.

I could investigate finishing my life by walking room to room.

The way your singular kindness covers my infatuation with all things brassiere.

The sound of midnight trains has always been erotic in their long cat-crawl and dominating sleep.

—George Kalamaras

The Vicenarian or My Twenties So Far

My therapist says, “Tell me about your twenties.” At twenty I’m born

again. Bush vote. My heart turns purple and my insides become composted

totems of faces I’d forgotten. Grandfather starts dialysis. Get homesick

in St. Lucia while eating fresh mangoes. Buy my first vibrator. Men fly

planes into buildings while women inject collagen into their lips. My hair

is short and blonde. My uncle gets Parkinson’s disease. Sleep with five people.

Turn twenty-one. Do a shot called a Red-Headed Slut. Lock my keys in the car

five times. Diagnosed with ADHD. Bush says, “Mission Accomplished”

while standing on a boat. Have sex with a woman. And with seven men.

My heart is an onion, a flaky and potent organ of flavor. Taste-tongued.

Get my first cell phone. At twenty-two I have a threesome. Reality television.

My heart thumbs it to Kansas City without me, leaving a see-through escape

route between my sternum and spinal cord. I stop praying. Forget that I love

camping. My friend Jes punches a guy in the face outside of a bar. He spits

his blood on my shirt. I tell my brother I’m queer. Mom starts getting manicures.

Turn twenty-three and have an affair with a Marine. Takes me to Washington

where he cries at the Vietnam Memorial. Date a Buddhist who drives a Honda

Civic Hybrid. Finish college and buy lots of hemp products. Get engaged.

My gynecologist tells me I have HPV. I think about dying. Get married.

Twenty-four. Heart becomes one million avocado pits skewered on BBQ sticks,

suspended in jars, the roots leaping away from the water. Get an intrauterine

device. Vote for Kerry. Get a job selling home refinances. Stop eating meat.

Gain ten pounds and decide to have an open marriage. Get a boyfriend.

And a girlfriend. I start taking Welbutrin again and find my first gray hair

which makes me smile. My grandfather has a kidney transplant. I turn

twenty-five. Hurricane Katrina. I lose my job and start temping. Ian Frazer

develops a vaccine for cervical cancer. Then twenty-six. Tell my mom

I’m getting a divorce. I get my first apartment. Buy my seventh vibrator.

Heart develops a sense of smell, scoops up grubs in the topsoil, and seeks

quick fixes of musty armpits and the undersides of garbage can lids. Decide

I’m an atheist. I pose in a pinup calendar for charity. Twenty-seven. I am

alone for the first time in six years. Heart learns how to flap prophetic,

predict the weather and spot criminals behind brick buildings. Organize

information into death or almost-death and I have my first panic attack.

I do not wear Crocs. My uncle dies. Fall in love with an Italian. Obama vote.

Twenty-eight. Michael Jackson dies. My heart is a shoe that fits both your feet,

toes curling inside like a newborn with enough space for sighing. Get my first

teaching job. H1N1 vaccine. Grandpa dies in his sleep. I dream about him

whistling. I remember I love camping. Stand inside a family of Redwood

trees and kiss the Italian. At twenty-nine listen to Ginsberg sing Father Death

I’m coming home. I learn that we are always gray with fragments of color,

not the reverse. My heart resting on the kitchen table is a machine gun.

—Laura E. Davis

first published in SPLINTER generation and reprinted by permission of the author

Kiitos, Sylvi

kiitos, the one word in Finnish I learned there
“thank you” Aunt Sylvi taught me context in 1970, Sysmå

my grandmother’s & Aunt Hilma’s sister

we did not speak each other’s languages

whenever I looked bored,


coffee always came with sweets

extending the familiar, (American)

she showed me “Joy” liquid

she went to the well

cranked up the heavy bucket

poured water in a big pot
on her wood stove

when the steam started rising
she applied Joy

then her dishes

it took the grease right off

(like after a sauna)

of course, Veikko, her son

who lived next door
had all the modern amenities

she preferred to live as she always had

I’m learning that now

as I fail to upgrade this damned
& wondrous computer

—Bill Vartnaw © 2011

The Great Heart

The awkward boy,

his fingers open, sweeps hands

to brush past stray bees.

He cuts a path through wheat

beyond the other children

to keep them safe—

master of gestures—

the great heart is the taste of pears,

you’re outside, a bee,

heart that breaks its habits

when they disappoint, or

so it was in the last ice age.

—Michael Daley

The Taste of Blood

We grew up in gardens, we grew up

with hammers lying around.

At a family barbeque,

I bit you on the shoulder,

you a toddler, younger than my granddaughter.

The even teeth marks, tiny square dents

filled with red. Then the fuss.

In fourth grade, Cheryl Young slept over

and we played with your little prick.

The next day, Mom moved your bed

into the dining room. How was that,

to camp out where they carved the turkey?

No wonder when they got old

you took over the whole house.

I want to see you again, my brother,

I want to lay my hand on yours

at least once before it’s over.

But I’ll never forget that wild joy,

sinking my teeth into your tender flesh.

—Linda Lancione

Copyright © 2012 Aldebaran Review. All rights reserved.

I’ve decided to move the locus of my Web activity back to tghis blog. I’ll start by rescuing some of the terrific work I published last year in the brief virtual existence of Aldebaran Review (in print in Berkeley lo these 40 years ago and more). Enjoy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: