Feature Poet: Bill Gainer

Bill Gainer is a storyteller, humorist, poet, and a maker of mysterious things. He earned his BA from St. Mary’s College and his MPA from the University of San Francisco. He is the publisher of the PEN Award winning R. L. Crow Publications and is the ongoing host of Red Alice’s Poetry Emporium (Sacramento, CA). Gainer is internationally published and known across the country for giving legendary fun-filled performances. Visit him in his books, at his personal appearances, or at his website, billgainer.com.


Old Burns

I knew a guy
back in the sixties
had a scar
from a clothes iron
on his belly
just above
his belt line.

You could tell
it was an iron
kind of looked like
a just launched
It must have hurt like

He said it happened
in the Navy
loading shells
over by Vietnam.

He lied
let the truth slip out
one night—
too many cocktails
at the Busy-Bee Club.

His second wife
had put it to him—
she liked to fight

Cost him fifteen hundred
to replace three of her teeth
from the punch
that knocked her out
that night.

In those days
they called it passion.
When the blood boiled
you let it

He said the marriage lasted
another year
until she came at him
with the pruning shears
and even though
she’d moved to Reno
he still carried
a Mexican switchblade.
Just in case
she still loved him.


A Rickety Hotel—on a Cliffside, Hwy 1, Long Ago 

I think I
rented a room there
Was asked to leave
because of the dancing.
My partner was a big girl
thick thighs,
we liked to Mambo.
I thought it was my moves
causing the world to sway.
They said it was the foundation
She called me her
Little Peach.
We’ve lost touch
but I still remember those
thick thighs
and every now and then
in a crowded room
a quiet bar
or a sleepy bus stop
I’ll bust a move—
Just in case
she’s out there
looking for me.
Christ, I’m sure
she don’t look
the same either
but it would be nice
to hear her voice,
“Don’t I know you?
You ever spent time
up on the coast?
I used to dance with
a guy up there.
He drank bourbon.
You drink
You dance?”


All Hail! Bill Gainer’s full-length collection, Lipstick and Bullet Holes (Epic Rites Press, 2015), is available on Amazon. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .


Previous Feature: Stefanie Bennett

Stefanie Bennett, ex-blues singer and musician, has published several books of poetry, a novel, and a libretto. She has also tutored at The Institute of Modern Languages (Cook University), and worked with Arts Action For Peace. Of mixed ancestry—Irish, Italian, Paugussett-Shawnee—you can learn more about her most recent collection of verse below . . .


The Debit: The Re-United States

Once I hid behind lost things:
The shoebox where
My father kept
Tobacco pipes, war medals;
Madre’s kitchen drawer
Full of banished
Love letters, curios,
And Blue Grass perfume.

Invisibly, I stalked nine grandparents’
Mysterious origins
Making them my own—
Tripping across
Siracusa, Killarney, Again,
America “the beautiful,”
Berlin, Naples . . .
Questioning how language
And customs coalesced.

Immigrants, I learned,
Build harmony
By rational misadventure,
Letting loose
The strings
Of a sometime sorrow
Spilt when
No one’s near.

And I? I’ve yet to uncover
Which part of me now
Is rain squall
Or rock
Mossed over.


Own It! Standing Rock

They talk of corn—Caribbean blue.
Tri-gold. Matte-white.
Geordie, Tipperary Tigress
Astride her sun-kissed vale.
Vittoria, immigrant. Mother
To three at eighteen
Light years. And—
Melissa, stately in deer-hide
Polishing a nation’s bloodstone.

“You are the husk of our dawn star,”
They intone. “You are
What’s left of the coup.”

I am The Straw Woman
My own eyelids
The bone walk’s
One half octave


All Hail! Stefanie Bennett’s most recent collection of verse, The Vanishing (2015), is available via Walleah Press. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

 And, take added note, Stefanie’s book is also available via Amazon.

Previous Feature: David Spicer

David Spicer has, in pursuit of the word, worked as a paper boy, dishwasher, bottle loader, record warehouser, carpet roll dragger, 11th and 12th grader babysitter, medical journal proofreader—to list just a few. He has the usual poetry wall of his own work, but tries to keep that in perspective.


Ballad in Plain D of Orange Head, Cher, and Stackalee

Jack Frost leaned into the trashy Idiot Wind bar
after I told him I’d be there in a yellow chair,
chatting with Mona, Isis, Donnie the orange head.
Hurricane, the waiter, wrote down our drinks:
Mona a Highway Blues, Isis a Frozen Mary,
Jack and I craved a Dos Equis, Donnie a mirror.

Stackalee swaggered in with gypsy gal Lily and a meer-
cat, Baby Blue, in a Panama hat nibbling a Mounds bar.
Drinking, recounting stories about Baby Blue, merry,
the duo bought pickled eggs from bald barmaid Cher,
who joked, “What does Baby Blue wanna drink?”
Stackalee muttered, “A root beer with a lotta head.”

We snickered, except Donnie with the orange head,
loud mouth, and small hands groping for a mirror.
Jack Frost offered Donnie a kick-ass drink.
“Thanks, man! I’ll whirl over to the bar.”
Roller skating, half-lounging in his swivel chair,
he ordered Cher, “Baldy, gimme a drink I’ll marry.”

Cher didn’t like that, said, “Alrighty, Orange Mary,”
and, flames in her eyes, poured beer over his head
as the room applauded, jeered the buffoon in the chair,
who skated to the john, combed his hair in the mirror.
“I’m great,” he told himself, rolled back to the bar,
slowly asking Cher to make an ass-kicking drink.

Cher mixed Donnie a delicious bourbon drink,
warning him in a stern tone, “You can marry
this, but call me Baldy, I’ll kill ya with my crow bar.”
He smiled, “Believe me, I wanna keep my head.
I know you run this great place–and I’m a mere
mortal–so I’ll mosey to the table in my tall chair.”

Cher glared at Orange Head in the swivel chair
returning to the table with an orange face and drink.
Growling at Baby Blue, “You’re too ugly for a mirror,”
he knocked off her Panama hat: “Can I call you Mary?”
Lily screamed, “I’m gonna smack your fuckin’ head!
Hey, Cher, toss me that goddamned crow bar!”

Stackalee didn’t need a crow bar. Sitting in his chair,
he pointed a Glock at the buffoon’s head, gulping a drink,
and trumped Donnie, who loved to marry a mirror.

Poet’s Note: This poem incorporates characters from Dylan songs.


Too Many Choices

SWAT stomped and stormed
into my basement, commanded
“On the floor, motherfucker!”
It wasn’t like I was a mercenary
or samurai. Hell, I was twelve,
though tattooed with spiderwebs
and longhorns. I slept in a hammock,
freezing and frowning, had played
hooky from my Catholic school.
That’s the crime I committed.
Soon SWAT cycloned out of the house,
but not before “Go to school or get a job!”
My dog Caesar barked, and I changed
into some rags, snorted a little
something, uncorked a bottle
of Merlot. A precocious child,
I calculated whether they found
my Smith & Wesson. Nope.
I had a ripping hangover, scrawled
a poem to Grace, my godmother,
a chiropractor on the reservation.
Caesar barked again an hour after
SWAT’s departure. “Heal me,”
I commanded and searched
the cupboard for my Bowie knife.
Confiscated. Now, I realize,
I had too many choices:
preach from a bully pulpit,
create cartoons for money,
be a windshield salesman or a poacher,
among other useless occupations.
“Who claimed life ain’t fair?” I say,
and now I’m richer than the devil.


All Hail! Copies of David Spicer’s first book, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press, 1987), can still be found kicking around over at Abe Books. Please, click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

Previous Feature: Larry D. Thacker

Larry D. Thacker is a poet from Kentucky, currently working on his MFA in both poetry and fiction. His work can be found in more than eighty publications including Appalachian Heritage, Ghost City Press, Jazz Cigarette, Mad River Review, Mannequin Haus, Mojave River Review, Poetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and The Still Journal. His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia (Overmountain Press, 2006), and the poetry collections, Voice Hunting (Finishing Line Press, 2011) and Memory Train (Ibid., 2015).


Mass Inauguration

Hail to men in black
dispensing with justice,
dispersing unwanted
crowds with smoke.

Hail great chieftain,
The Illegitimate One,
braggart, liar, author
of inaugural utterances
upon which the world
must chew and choke.

To hell with the men
in black, dispensing
dispensations rather
than justice, through
screens of trick smoke.

To hell with legitimate
leaders they promote,
the popularly chosen,
frightful by gender,
our pant-suited lady,
not an orangified joke.


The New Old Death March

I stroll the concrete squares, zombied
against the world’s mythological roundness
and truer colors. A line of bumpy grayness

in our viewfinders. Like well-conditioned ants,
heads nodding at blurred feet, building top
beauty long forgotten. Sidewalk fashioned

in endless rectangles, a flatness folding
over the horizon, littered with assumed
obligation to the dead. Absent any glancing

left or right, behind or inwardly, we snack
on sugar cube morsels through IV drips,
trudging along this ever washed out path

toward that evasive somethingness we crave,
for that thing we lost last winter, tasting of hope,
surely, just over the horizon, but that keeps

its sadistic distance. We smell it in the TV.
Smell it on the breath of the scam preachers.
Smell it in that new car scent pumped through

the office cubicles we’re all marching for.
Smell it in our empty wallets. Smell it
at the ATMs. Smell it passing fast food joints.

Smell it in our own shit. It’s so very yummy.


All Hail! Larry D. Thacker’s newest collection of poetry, Drifting in Awe (2017), is available by Finishing Line Press. Click on the cover image below to learn more:

And, be sure to check out Larry’s personal site, at www.larrydthacker.com

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