In an earlier issue a chapbook by George Kalamaras: The Transformation of Salt


More work by George Kalamaras at the following websites:

Elixir Press.

Ugly Duckling Presse


Arsenic Lobster

Calibanonline: Calibanonline

Hunger Mountain (interview and poems)

They Will Sew the Blue Sail


Contributor Notes

Geroge Kalamaras

George Kalamaras

George Kalamaras



Letter to Ray from Livermore



Hey Ray.  There are likely only two Surrealists left

who still read Hugo with any depth.  Got a guess?

We know Breton and Desnos are dead,

though not in our poems.  I was thinking today

how we love the West.  The real West where railroads speak.

Everything now is air.  Rush here, fast there.

Our molecules jiggle enough as it is

when we microwave our food.  That baked potato

I ate last night still striving inside me to survive.

Of course you’ll visit in July and sleep

with your head to the north, aligning yourself

with the pines.  You remember growing up

on the border with scorpions, the desert

and its sting.  I recall Indiana fire ants

in the pump-house ivy.  My boyhood

bites.  John says they’re in my wrist.

And I believe him, standing some nights as I do

like the guy in Un Chien Andalou, staring

at my hand.  I know.  The wrist is not my hand,

but like those railroad tracks, our veins keep wending West.

Each year for me from Fort Wayne to Livermore.

I don’t know, sometimes, how we’ve survived this long

with a moth wing for a mouth.  Something is beating me

back, and I’m sure it’s me.  Part fly, part sky.  You named it

Luna, and started a magazine.  You got the night

just right.  I’ve gone inside, my eye open to the spiritual

fly.  Buzz here.  Land there.  Let the breath

and with it the jittery monkey-mind release.

It’s surprising we still have wives, the way our parents left

one another with pain.  We’re not unique.  Someone

is always throwing someone out, even with a word

or curve of earth.  Someone is always throwing

a bone to the dog.  In your case, cats.  Remember

when Punk and Whitey loved to eat cantaloupe,

as far back as Arvada?  God, we’ve known each other

a long time, even before them, in Denver,

knowing what makes our secret strain

exact.  When Desnos sleep-talked, he threw a thread

of speak that wound from the cosmic now into the lives

of human dread.  That’s why they were scared

and barred him from the group.  So there are strains

of purpose and strains of pain.  Which brings me

to how you and I do.  Which brings me back

to those two rails running West

and all the courage of the plains.  Of course, Hugo

could be a sap.  And he knew it.  But he stands naked,

letting the wind.  Like blood into a cup,

it pours out his mouth.  And the trees

speak.  Not only booze, dark bars, and shame,

but the hope of how to survive in Red Lodge,

Missoula, or Butte.  Desnos knew this

too, stumbling back from the camp, typhus

so tight in his spine, the Second World War

pouring out through his teeth.  As did Breton, by the time

he got to his third wife.  I love them most

for their blurring and slurring of word.  The how and why

my life.  As we love Hugo too, perhaps most

for his shame in how the West was won

and keeps losing itself in the lost.  Because living here

is pine-dead hard.  The how and why we cry.






Meeting Her at the Plains Hotel, Est. 1911


Cheyenne, Wyoming


It had rained hard for over an hour,

as if from some cave inside.

Caught in the Western Wear store, you tried

to convince yourself a sale was a sale,

as the petite twenty-something women

flirted on about the merits of fabric

that could stand fierce against fence.

Twenty-nine ninety-five was still twenty-nine ninety-five

you could shuttle toward books, you thought.

You window-watched the flood,

the street disappearing in a den of dark water.

Where’s the best coffee in town?

you and your wife had asked, when it calmed a bit.

The Plains Hotel was just around the corner.

The distance between here and there

is always across some swirling pond

or other, offering to drag you down.

Something is always flooding your life,

clogging the drain.  Built in 1911, across the street

from the Union Pacific, the hotel

had somehow brought Denver closer

to buffalo grass and pain.  You could still hear cattle

shuffle inside the tile floor and elegant wood,

the mahogany moan, smell the thin

cigar-thread of cattle barons

staling down oil men from 100 years back.


She looked up from her hostess stand

at the hotel’s Frontier Restaurant

like caught-in-the-wind.  You or her or both.

Certainly not twenty and perky.

Certainly not young.  But deep

coffee-brown eyes from living hard.

Could it be the rain flooding back

through you her strand of loose hair?  The bad

tattoo saddling her shoulder?  The gorgeous sore

of her voice?  The round child-or-two

tummy tucked in her jeans?  The way

her arm hair lay there, beautifully exposed

as a new-born calf among the smell

of broccoli and soup and rib eye

medium rare?  How could you eroticize

this chance glance over the eating of meat?

One body biting into another, so brief,

through all the possible strangers in time?


Surely her name must be Lynnanne or Lynette

or some form of Lynne that rhymes with sin.

Your sin, of course, of perpetual

hope.  This thigh or that.  Your wife’s

gorgeous ass as she unzips

her purse to cover the coffee to go.

How could those dark circles

staring back at you from the greeting stand

possibly compete with thirty-four years

together and the roundness of now?

She can’t be more than thirty, you think.

Could be your daughter, in fact, though life for her

was surely hard.  And you get hard, with the thought of it,

reaching out, a moment, to her pain,

or all the years of loss you imagine

you could belly-kiss away.


It must be the rain, you tell yourself,

that today is reaching the ground.

The street, the flood, the pouring back

from the animal den inside.  All the unwept fears

you’ve kept hidden, building up silt

against beaver lodge, snow-weight

bending good horse fence.  Maybe the fabric in the store

could have helped, though the perky slim-hipped women

there left you bland as a mis-sized shirt on the rack,

the sleeve, the youthful fashion, somehow incomplete.

If only it hadn’t rained you could have remained

faithful at the stand, even in thought, the denim

of your pants tightening still against all good intent,

reaching out into the lovely loss of touch.


But Lynnanne or Lynnette or any part

of her dark-circled self continues

to swirl out to you her pain—the give and dust

of serving never-enough-dollars

at the hostess stand of the fancy hotel,

of two children, perhaps, at home,

and a likely divorce, and an unclothed

ring finger calling to you your own great unclothing

in body, mind, and even poem, in which you

stand naked as any man.

You stare into the dark beautiful curves

of honorable work and the certainty

of a great exchange you know will never be

more than you can imagine, more

than the longing of four coffee-drowned eyes

this sudden wet July

pouring a pain-soaked day through one another.






I Am the Unmistakable Verb Tense



This is how I conjugate my grief.

If I loved you, a great voice of trees would crack.


In my chest, only this : two Chinese poets’ competing chi lu verse.

Hanging blinds.  A vexed cup.  Even the melancholy of private bamboo.


The collective unconscious of my voice could never eroticize one of Hans

Bellmer’s dolls.

They do more than celebrate a performed acrobatics.


Abracadabra.  What sexy Surrealist puts on an ostrich-feathered coat and even

after all these years still has a remarkable ass?

I am her unmistakable verb tense, always unsettling the nouns encamped in

my chest.


And now, all I can recall are Tao Kan’s willows and the handsome stance of a

bulrush reed.

I’ve thrown the yarrow and keep emerging in Vallejo-time, stalk after stalk.


If I loved her fur-lined cup, if I loved a great voice of trees, my own dark

water might llama-root and shift.

This is my how, this is my when, where, why.  And how come.                                         






Tongues : 18



I should love the apple

with which I bite


that part of me

I thought hidden.


In the salt shaker,

there are remnants of dying


white crows.  From Australia,

the ground of aboriginal drumming


bays back all the way, here,

to that part of the moon


hidden in eclipse.  I should

love your any and your all,


your completely with and your

most moist.  Mouth


upon mouth, we invert

The Book of Tongues.  We enter


one another, layer within

layer, from inside


out, as bits of star-scrape

flake out upon the plates


beneath us.  We should eat

one another, eat one another’s


qualms, with the calm intensity

of those dead who, startlingly alive,


have displaced the peculiar

rib by which they blame.


Anything different in touch shames

no one and nothing.  And I should


love, over and over, that scar

given me in your kiss, in the aboriginal


musk, in the apple’s secret collusion

with the way the worm


of our drumming

breath works heat from the sun


to mimic spoilings

of war.  We should feast one another


dry as any dying crow, or

the porous salt of forgiving


our bodies for giving

in, as any river bend


about to embrace the sunken

wood of a late burning


summer.  Elm-bone, antler-like,

floats downstream, bleached


barely visible as pliant tongues

or solidified tones we might eat,


might sound through one another

with our entire mouths and hands,


might touch, even, with the uncertainty

of a first forgivable intimacy.


 your any and your all