The Allegory of the Paddle Boat

The Allegory of the Paddle Boat

You and your paddle-boat-mate are on a paddle boat at sea, which, according to the owner’s manual, is “not recommended.” You toss the owner’s manual overboard. The sandy ocean bottom disappears, but you could still swim back to shore in case of mutiny. You pedal until the water becomes choppy. This makes you nervous, and the owner’s manual is on the ocean floor. It rains on the water, dramatically, and great waves fill the paddle boat. One of you holds the steering handle with both hands while the other bails water with a baseball cap. You are pleasantly surprised to survive. You realize that it would have been easier to have lightened the load, but you didn’t think of it like your paddle-boat-mate must not have thought of it, and you feel an unbearable warmth pooling within you. You imagine jumping paddle boat into a great white’s hungry jaws to prove this. But the water is calm now, and you pedal on. You notice there is one steering handle.

You wake up pedaling airyou are caked with sand. You must have rolled over in your sleep, must have tumbled overboard. You can’t see past the shore for the fog. The water is two steps in every direction. There is a palm tree with some coconuts. There is no pistol because this must not have been the planbut what a salty fear fills you, even after the baseball cap and the great white. Surely the sloshing of the paddle boat will soon return. Eons pass. You realize the current is stronger than the pedaling and always has been. But this warm pool inside you. The fog clears, and there you are on the shore, peering across the waves. You see other islands with similar shores and their waiting faithful, standing solitary at the water’s edge. And you realize how mistaken you were, thinking all this time that you were alone.


Jenelle Clausen received an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University and resides in Madison, Wisconsin. She drafts poems on loose-leaf college-ruled notebook paper with an 0.5 mm black gel pen, sometimes in the fluorescent glow of her living room floor lamp, sometimes in the incandescent glow of her side table lamp, and sometimes in a commingling of artificial lights.

Merry Olive-Drab Training

By John F. Buckley

You have to be very good.                   
You have to suck shakes
through the straightest of straws.
Down on your knees for a bit
by the pond, you have to stop
feeding the wild geese Raisinets;
they are not healthful bugs.
Look in the mirror and contemplate:
have you replenished the household
emergency kits? Have you purchased spare batteries?
If you bite into too many beloved clam bellies,
hot from the fryer, you will not be the sleekest of beasts.
Despair of reaching the mountaintop, you,
and I will comfort you briefly, in a seemly way.
Meanwhile, tsunamis.
Meanwhile, the wildfires and mudslides
sweep toward the cabins,
waiting to scour the earth of those
spending too long brushing their teeth.
Meanwhile, another rack of disappointments
in a six-pack of Capri-Suns.
Hit the road, ranger, and seek
a land without moss. Look for a clan
with a lean and hungry look, look for them
over and over, over the hills and through smog,
somewhere to express your intents
in your cruelest lisp. Write those things a ticket.


JFB at Kabuki(1)John F. Buckley has been writing poetry since March 2009, when his attempt at composing a self-help book went somewhat awry. After twenty years in and around California, he now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife. His publications include various poems, two chapbooks, the collection Sky Sandwiches, and with Martin Ott, Poets’ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network. His website is


by Mark DeCarteret

For a second, the sea was the color of slate
and my to-go cup of tea had gone to smog.

But not even you or that crow that woke saddled
with night could talk me down from the tower.

I’ve got an acre of droppings and rocks
that need to be raked with incomprehensible care.

And my fingernails look slain with curry–
an older, more storied gold, than my ring.

How is it, the lost-then-found doubles in meaning
while the what-won’t-ever-be still holds out for one?

I locate case studies in these sorts of details
but any antidotes are come upon much too late.

So, so much for the cat spilling out on your lap
licking itself far too skillfully for our liking.

And the petals, like wet condoms, stuck to the sill.
You will roll over, volunteering yet another sigh,

getting that look like you’re thinking of leaving–
this cutest of grins suctioned into your veil.

Something ghostly threads through the door lock.
I take a cocktail-sword to where my heart was.                                                                                                                 


Mark DeCarteretMark DeCarteret has appeared next to Charles Bukowski in a lo-fi fold out, Pope John Paul II in a high test collection of Catholic poetry, Billy Collins in an Italian fashion coffee table book, and Mary Oliver in a 3,785 page pirated anthology.