Jan 2012 Aletheia Reading at Avant Garden

Here is a recap of sorts for those of you unable to attend the reading of the University of Houston’s Honors College Aletheia Literary and Arts Journal’s new Spring 2012 Chapbook due to the severe thunderstorms and flooding during the day. One artist and three poets were present.

The venue for the reading was the second floor of the marvelous Avant Garden. As you can see from the photo above, the place exuded a very beat-like 1950’s atmosphere and even had a trio downstairs on stage performing melancholy soundscapes on cello, piano, and guitar across from the open bar.

Be sure to join the Aletheia Journal every 3rd Wednesday of the month for new readings at the Avant Garden.

First happening at the reading was a presentation and warm welcome for the amazing artist, Lindsey Slavin, whose work is prominently featured in the current issue. Then followed introductions of the readers, prior to each getting on stage. The readers, in order of reading, were Chris Oidtmann, Justin Carter, and Kurt Lovelace.

Below are listed their poems in the order in which they were read. Also, the full text of the poems that Chris Oidtmann and Kurt Lovelace read are included here in their entirety. Some of Justin Carter’s pieces are pending publication elsewhere, so he was not able to make them available here, but the titles of what he read are nonetheless included.

Chris Oidtmann

Justin Carter

    I Help You Create An eHarmony Account
    Poem For A Blind Friend
    Walmart Sestina
    I Hope The Motion-Detecting Cameras Did Not See Our Faces
    After Hoagland’s Color of the Sky
    We Discovered We Were Chewable
    Rita Repulsa
    Lord Zedd

Kurt Lovelace


Lindsey Slavin, Featured Artist in Aletheia Spring 2012 Chapbook

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Chris Oditmann

Chris Oditmann. photo by Kurt Lovelace

Mother Is Resting, Light the Match

‘76 Nova in the garage
papers piled on the kitchen table,
cups and saucers cracked
and stacked on the counter,
another log for the waning fire

basement flooded with gasoline,
pungent fumes creeping upstairs
saturating the carpets and drapes,

dogs tied to trees, pacing in circles
panting under relentless sunlight
that melts thin windows.

The smell of Weller and Pall Malls
burns his nose as he lies on her floor
watching the pious people on TV
proselytizing while Hank Williams
bleeds from the radio next to her bed

He looks at her,
then to the mirror
and repeats

“Forgive her father, for she has sinned”
Because unto her a monster was born
With flailing limbs, a balding crown
a demon in swaddling clothes.

He played his role today
and waits for the brimstone to fall
on the drapes and the carpets
and his own body, prone and naked
while he watches her stare
at machines gasping a last I LOVE YOU.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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I remember your black shoes with the silver buckle
Leaping across rocks and along jettys
Sending up splashes of salty water shining
In the moonlight like sparks from a bottle rocket

That same night you left your wallet by the bed,
And pulsed against the wall until it broke
Into a milky way of beige and fluorescent beige.
Sidney can’t sing any more. He’s dead.

Isn’t that how this began?
Drops of still gin fizz, so sloe
They fell into our laps and covered
The little boy’s overalls with mud?
Fuck the rabbit hole. He hit the concrete.

Great forces won’t come to our aid.
They know better than to hide under our
Pillows while we sleep so they can swap stories
And return to their rightful owners in Bakersfield
Where you gagged my mouth so we could kick,
Kick, and kick again until the headboard fell.

He was with us in that abandoned apartment
Looking for something to make it home.
One eye pressed against a crack in the door
Surveying the vacant parking lot for
Whatever left him behind by mistake.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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You asked me if I wanted you
and I did, so said I did,
and you asked
me which you
I wanted, so I told you.

The you who looked at me
with stained glass eyes
under stained glass stars,
into strained black eyes
weighted down by glasses
broken under the rose colored
weight of a thousand petals
pressed into books we read
when we chose thorns over petals
and pricked our feet on thorn
after thorn after thorn, but drew
no blood because we were covered
with roses that shielded our feet
from shards of glass and kept
the pains from breaking our stride.

When we left the Cathedral Rock
you asked me if I loved you
and I did
so I asked if you loved me.

You said you loved
the water in my eyes
and the boat in my mind
that carried us across a sea
where took to the shore
and saw reflections of ourselves
walking over sandy rocks
Because you said I was your rock
when you need to be strong
and I was the white sand
when you need to be weak
so weeks won’t become months
of seclusion hidden in jars
in the cupboard next to jam
and pickles, and peaches.

We agreed that the boat
would carry us across the ocean
until some lighthouse lamp
hits the panes of a church window
and reflects off the water,
the glory of stained glass

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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                       One Night Stand

A man in the corner catches my eye
                   He rejected me last month.
Coiffed admirers dangle from his every word.
	           Scenester bastards in skinny jeans.
Everyone who’s anyone is here tonight.
	           A festering pile of tweaked-out skanks.
It’s great when old friends get together again.
		   Heard Sam gave Ryan herpes.
Laser lights illuminate naked, nubile torsos.
		   I see you’re still snorting your inheritance.
Bodies pressed together in warm embraces
		   Your friend was much cuter.
Tongues intertwined for the very first time.
		   The acrid taste of liquor and cigarettes.
I wonder if he’s “the one”.
		   What the fuck is your name?
Fumbling hands unlock the apartment door
		   I went home with your neighbor last month
Hands gently caress soft cheeks
		   This apartment smells like cat piss.
Tender fingers trace down a shoulder and up a spine
		   If he has backne I’m leaving.
Two bodies fall gently onto clean linen sheets
		   Did I wear underwear tonight?
Tangled limbs move in unison to a single heartbeat.
	           Get your knee off my shin.
An arcane glimpse of the universe.  We’re decoding the secret.
		   Your moans sound like the loose timing belt on my car
He falls asleep, head resting gently on my chest
		   I like him better when he’s quiet
          His slow breathing matches mine
		   God, he looks so peaceful.
          I can feel his breath in the hair on my chest
		   That sort of tickles.
          My eyes are getting heavy, but I can’t look away yet
		   I wonder if he goes home with a lot of guys
               What does he thinks of me?
		   Am I special, or does this happen all the time?
               Did he see me spill that drink earlier?
		   He’s talking in his sleep.
	       I hope I didn’t seem too drunk.
		   Damn, he has great skin.
		        Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to be witty.
		   Didn’t he say he liked Siouxsie?
		        I should have gotten a manicure.
		   I haven’t been this comfortable in a while.
		        Was my cologne too strong?
		   I like a guy with strong hands
		      Maybe we can get breakfast tomorrow morning.
			Those eyes were pretty amazing
		      Where would I take him?
			The clearest blue I’ve ever seen.
		      I’ll let him choose.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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Before dawn she woke me
drove us to the race track
in the El Camino, 1976
with the windows down.
We parked behind the concession stand
so I could meet you
shortly after your first heart attack.

Asphalt pebbles shattered
under the weight of the well worn boots
that held you up.
You realized your mortality
and banished it to the ticket booth.
Place another wager.
Pray for a superfecta.

We sat and watched the horses run trials
with a stopwatch in my hand
held inside your hand.

Again, I rode to meet you at the track
on a motorbike with blue trim,
bought with court-ordered money
you never sent

My leather jacket reeked of pot
your denim smelled of Maker’s Mark and cigarettes.
We sat together on the ground
pretending we had no senses

You hugged me in that parking lot.
I turned my head
towards an abandoned truck
run down, full of scrap metal
hoping you didn’t crush the joint in my breast pocket.

My sister called at 7am
while I shaved for work
two weeks ago you died at last
I hadn’t known

I stared at my calloused hands, and thought of a child
leaving home in a starched white shirt
and black cotton trousers
running around a red dirt track
whipping red welts into pink skin
until a checkered flag signaled the end of the race.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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This Kiss is Unfinished

I don’t even smoke, but I will tonight.
sitting in the black vinyl passenger seat
as I laugh and wish I wasn’t there
listening to a Cocteau Twins tape he plays
because I said I liked it after he said hello
and I said hey and he bought me a drink
and offered me a smoke, and his eyes
slowly traced from the tip of my new heels,
up my stocking covered thighs.

When we get to his place I wonder why
men are so fucking clumsy with straps
and garters, why they always bite my lip
and softly pant in my ear “you like it, don’t you”
because this sort of thing should remain unspoken,
like the clock on his wall that moves in silence.

His hands moves across my breast and
I wonder why a blowjob is called a blowjob
because no one actually blows on anything.
We just move in and out of each other’s
lives and that’s the new handshake we learn
in charm school after they teach us how to hide
our text messages, and email accounts, and lists
of partners we’ve been with because the number
is too high and private and won’t get us laid
by a man we might want to marry one day.

When he sleeps, I look through his cabinets,
and his desk drawers, and his address book
next to his prescription for Dexedrine
and imagine the man back in Georgia
who makes my body crackle and hum
and accept the substitute sleeping next to me
and reach for the man I’m with
while the one I want
bounces through the sky like a positive charge
looking for my negative to make us whole again.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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The Sacking of Troy

I remember the moment
We abandoned solitude.
The moment we raised a flag
And Staked a claim
on the words we and us

Releasing two pasts
Beginning one future.

We were blessed by clergy
And paraded through a sea
of spectators and well wishers

But now we stand in the distance
watching the Troy we built
laying in smoldering ruins

Destroyed by six years
Spent casually tossing
Little Apples of discord
Like golden hand grenades
Back and forth, back and forth

Funny thing about hand grenades.
They eventually have to explode.

© 2012 Chris Oidtmann All Rights Reserved

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Justin Carter

Justin Carter. photo by Kurt Lovelace

Some of Justin Carter’s pieces are pending publication elsewhere, so he was not able to make them available here, but the titles of what he read are nonetheless included above.

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Kurt Lovelace

The last reader of the evening, Kurt Lovelace, read the following poems in the order that they appear here. Kurt addressed the audience, and his comments appear below in the green text.

"Hello, everyone, I am glad that you were all able to come out tonight. I'd like to make a few comments before I begin reading. Having just returned to school last year after a nearly 30 year career as a software engineer, I feel like a time traveler, being back where I was 30 years ago. I took Kevin Prufer's workshop along with Chris and Justin last semester, and so, it is a real privilege to be up here reading with my two classmates."

I'll begin with a few older poems written when I was in my early twenties, and I begin with these simply because they may be of interest in themselves and because they have never been heard by anyone before -- so it's a starting point in introducing you to my work, which now spans over 35 years. Then I will move on to my current work. The first of the three older pieces is called 'Taradiddle Smile' followed by 'Good Morning Captain Kangaroo' and concluded by 'Hunger' -- written at a time when I was perhaps too fond of John Ashbery, but they contain some fun and hopefully entertaining language in them."

Taradiddle Smile (#8 from Sewn Nets)

Dislocate that chagrin with a taradiddle smile
texturing into laughter. Realize that these tweed gearings
are success’s necessary dress, de rigueur
in the legato of getting ahead. You are commodity enough for your greed
rat-tailing through some echelon of employment, up-stepping
like a slinky down-steps. Your profit is
pragmatic redundancy, plus the intangibles of involvement:
no why for a house pregnant with family. Asking would
flabbergast you into a gypsy barreling over Niagara
for the gloat, thrill of it, a runaway reaction
like Caligula, claiming it made as much sense as
hiccups or Halloween, feeling your life like Sampson’s haircut, unfair,
yet you in fools-gold accord with its TV shine.

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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Good Morning Captain Kangaroo

my eyes open
every day with the front page of the news
breakfasting with the voices of legislators

and in the inkdots turned into the semblance
of photos, their hard noses flash there in the cameras
where they laugh they smile they grin

their papers their briefcases their limousines
tuned and humning my taxes
but I say, we all say

it is necessary:
eggs in their cartons, bombs in their submarines
and we go on

flipping to the editorials that explain

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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a small quantity of it
floats in my pocket.

I pass a poor man on the street,
his mouth
his belt about his waist
pulled tight.

His hand reaches out to me
shriveled. I pause.
Reaching into my pocket,
pulling out a dollar,
and leaning my mouth toward the man’s left ear
whisper, I wish you were a


© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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"Now, moving on to the present, all the pieces that follow were written in the last 12 months with the exception of Sculpting, a poem chosen for Aletheia that was, however, written sometime ago."

Put Some Relish on Your Plate, Pontus Pilate

I started out believing in everything:
the open field, plow in hand, horse
waiting to be worked, words
hedged in the furrow, irises open
to the moment of opening.

Perhaps I can ask you about it someday
and you’ll tell me everything I’ve ever wanted
was within reach, if only I would have put
out my hand, wide palms like bells ringing.

Say again, what?

Put your fears in a little box, and smoke it,
not this warm interrogatory weather we’ve been having
that no one really wants to talk about, that peels
shirts from bodies with an utter unconcern that’s neither
here nor there.

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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The cost of involvement is you get involved and there she is
and your her painting garden her kitchen things on her desk at the office and
she’s looking how it’s all arranged
your colors the smell of your herbs
why your dishes
aren’t put away are your pencils

then she sees
carrots need planting, the rhubarb
must go, suddenly
you need new dishes.

Then you start drunk serious writing poems about the cost of involvement
how her lips are not cherries but
red angry commandments painted in a delightful rouge
to elicit your obeisance

so softly
her requests patter
and when her such and such of such words fall
your obeisance
yawns lifts up its arms at her

she sculpts you

and one night reads your poems and thinks that they are very

But you are drunk and serious
you keep the gun in the drawer.

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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My wife, who hasn’t touched me in months, asks
would I perhaps take the trash out today
before the blue-green shimmer of the peacocks
flight to roost high in the safe night trees?

I stick my right pinky into cold vodka
and stir. Smoky Kahlua swirls. Sticky,
I lift out, then suck my honeyed finger.
“A moment,” I tell her, “in a moment.”

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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At Marfreley’s Bar in Houston, Texas

In a dim lit mural behind the bar,
two swans amble in front of a plantation:
its white house lies against the river, lonely

for the cover of more trees that the artist
left out, as the rushing river
empties into the dark dandelion breeze

of rewritten histories. And I had wanted to see
a single woman out, tonight, sitting
alone, like me at the bar, looking

at their life, the plantation, the swans swallowing
small sips of whatever they find in front
of themselves, any parts of a life that might

make sense, tell me I have done the right things.

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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Blossoms in the Salt-Sand Waves

“Geswind, geswind, wir hilft dem Kind?”
– 1960’s German 1st grade reader


Minding the green chain on our cockatoo,
my mother has coffee and oranges, spends
Sunday sitting in her sunny chair. Ripe fruit falls
from our plum bushes and banana trees, yet our boughs
hang heavy in the clearest blue. My father says:
“We’re here to track the rockets.” I am seven. Soon,
one man is going to walk upon the moon.
The beaches go on and on the water even more.
What about the man already in the moon?

As the Shipley brothers, and Buddy, and I
yank coral piled by the Shipley’s rusting Chevy
that hunkers, helpless in Bahamian sea-spray:
scorpions skedaddle, stick sticky, skitter or scatter
if we let them, but we leave them twitching.

Hammocked, I wake naked to the naked sun:
nose itching in salt-spray, head stuck out
the A-frame’s attic window. Sand-tufted plum fields
sway by seaweed bedraggled beaches, splashed
and resplashed and splashing in ambergris
waves that glint and pop with turquoise and white
bubbling froth the crabs scurry-up in, till waves pull back
leaving their wet-shaved arms on the shore
shiny, and smooth and new, invites us to play.


I eat hyacinths, their wet, red lips
flopped or folded open, sticky witch’s doors:
my tongue feels the ridges of her floor,
unswept, gritty with the bones of children, before
I swallow them, then pocket three gleaming cat’s
eyes. I’ve won the dare of Buddy Bogus
the 3rd. His mother holds me by my hair

hanging, just off the ground, above the dirt road
that her paneled wagon had banged against
from Freeport, with five of us screaming. But when
I said “shit”, she slammed the car into its own dust,
stopping. She shook when she said: “We do not swear!”
That’s when she’d yanked me out the door,
fisted my crew-cut, then lifted my brain
an astronaut, at T-minus zero, not counting,
pushed back by gravity: around me the hushed jungle
peed in it’s pants. But I sat on her hat
all the way home, naming the stars
just coming-on: Ursa Major, Andromeda,
Hydra, Cygnus, Draco, Vulpecula
poking through, their thin pinpricks of light
slow-moving against one fast satellite of ours.


My parents go to the Missile Base to dance
leaving me asleep. I wake up and run
breathless outside crying on sprinkled grass.
Back in, I pull out the TV’s boney on-switch:
a soda jerk on The Twilight Zone tips-up
his white hat: a third eye looks out.
Something scratches on the screen door.
I pull my hair under my mother’s milk sheets
and squeeze my eyes tight, and whisper:
“Make it go, make it go, make it go!” Asleep,
I fall into the same sticky hole, night
after night, I grab its edges but keep slipping
over into it only to slip over into it again.

Papaya grow with phosphorescent slugs
a breadcrumb’s throw behind the Blue Lagoon
Apartments where then we live, and two older boys
make me dance naked till I scream, pounding
through palm trees towards home, unable
to speak for a week. But once, I stole the night

pulling it tight like an enormous sheet
of black with dotted lights, and naked, swam
back into the sea from where I came;
and later sit on the shore with the storied moon,
wiggling my toes, squishy, in the midnight tides
pulling back drowned voices; I think I almost know
the sound of drowning.


Just in from Germany, my English played-out,
Dad tutors me, three months at the kitchen table.
I spell everything exactly as it sounds:
“Witch witch wood u bee?” At Saint Mary’s Star
Of the Sea, the nuns thought me dyslexic,
till someone told them I was bilingual
and could recite the Lords Prayer in Latin:
Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur
nomen tuum.
It made the nuns flutter, holding
white habits as if they might take flight, be
the sea foam that floats inland on the wind
as at noon, they air their prayers, the angelus:
Et verbum caro factum est. Et habitavit in nobis.
(and the word, made flesh, dwelt among us.)
And I kissed Eve, that morning’s milk break,
under stiff pines, the sea gulls shreeing, we ran
back, caught. Sister Anne ruled my knuckles raw,
beating their boney nubs on top her desk.


Dad floats a bright brochure at me: green eyes
burn in a panther’s face, peering out from a jungle
that fans its Stygian felt. “Let’s go,” he says,
and opens our white battled Ford. For half an hour
we bump the pebbled roads towards Freeport
to see a Brazilian emerald dealer in his shop
tucked away, in an alley of hallways going up
and down, around corners, and then two doors
both locked with slapping bolts, opened. He unrolls
black velvet in a curtained room, one bright light
shines down to show how black the velvet is. He
lays seven stones out, their rough edges “Uncut,”
he says, “from Santa Muerto,” and rolls them burning
in the blood between the tips of his fingers.

(Stanza 6,7,8 left out at reading…)


What was it then? What is it now? Let’s ask,
what measurements for us? If we stretch out our arms
the edge of ocean along the sinking sun
seems a dimming thing, encompassed
by the milk of the visiting moon. We bounce
off of the porch and walk toward the beach.

A stick bug extends its manifold hand,
and boysenberries ripen under pricking cactus;
in-between driftwood, ashore, a hermit crab
discards its shell, and in the shallows a leopard ray
wiggles underneath the sand, its spotted wings.

© 2012 Kurt Lovelace All Rights Reserved

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Photo © 2012 Lindsey Slavin all rights reserved