Howie Faerstein & Jessica Piazza

Please join us Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm, when poets Howie Faerstein and Jessica Piazza will continue the twelfth season of the Collected Poets Series! Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)

Howard Faerstein

Howie Faerstein’s newest collection, Googootz and Other Poems, published by Press 53, came out in September, 2018. His first book, Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn, was published in 2013. His work can be found in numerous journals including Great River Review, Nimrod, CutThroat, Off the Coast, Rattle, upstreet, Mudfish and online in Gris-Gris, Peacock Journal, and Connotation. Considering himself an “adjunct emeritus,” he presently volunteers as a citizenship mentor at the Center for New Americans and is Associate Poetry Editor of CutThroat, A Journal of the Arts. After living in Brooklyn for fifty years, he now lives in Florence, Massachusetts.

Jessica Piazza

Jessica Piazza is the author of three poetry collections: Interrobang (Red Hen Press), This is not a sky (Black Lawrence Press) and Obliterations (with Heather Aimee O’Neill, Red Hen Press), as well as the children’s book Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft (FemInEm). Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jessica now lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches at the University of Southern California. She co-founded Bat City Review (Austin, TX) and Gold Line Press (Los Angeles, CA), and curates Poetry Has Value, which focuses on the intersections of poetry, money and worth. She is the recipient of the Amy Clampitt residency, and is spending the first half of 2019 in Lenox, Massachusetts at Amy Clampitt’s house, working on a poetry collection and a novel. Her poems have most recently appeared in Best American Poetry 2018, Smartish Pace, and 32 Poems.


I HAD BUCKETS / Howie Faerstein

There were arctic ice dams & bent busted eaves
in that ramshackle house in the woods—
ceiling falling, plaster peeling,
lath exposed—& I had buckets,
though of different colors,
strategically placed so the five cats,
exiles also, could lap water
at any time in any room.

That was when my nails began breaking,
then bleeding, my first term
as a professor, age fifty, having left the city
to teach argument to college freshmen.
The Chair provided advice,
just remember you’re smarter than they are.

& the students questioned why
I wore bandages on every finger
& I confessed my envy of them
& lectured them on rhetorical formulas
when composing essays on controversial issues;
for instance, capital punishment:
how my father had killed two men,
in self-defense he’d said;
environmental sustainability:
how Mao’s Four Pests campaign
eradicated sparrows, leading to the Great Famine
when twenty million perished & the locusts grew fat;

& we spent a class on Stalin’s Night of the Murdered Poets
when we took up censorship,
also how Alan Freed’s rock & roll show
was banned in Boston & later in the semester
I spoke of the silence between brothers,
of young men in India dialing wrong numbers
hoping for love, on the rising mortality rate
among white, midlife Americans,
& how I’ve always wanted
in the soft wallow of time
to witness snow falling over an ocean.

Then I told them about my ex-wife’s abortion,
never mentioning the father.



In the end our bodies curl like leaves unfurled
from trees arisen from the earth. Death hurts,

or it doesn’t, but it hunts us one way or another.
Say I’ll live forever. And if I can’t, say I’ll die

in jungles, in mountains, in the air. Say you’ll
follow me there. Because, my love, after that

what legacy we might have left is concrete
and grit, rubble and stone. Yes, we leave alone.

But first, we’re motion and light: our waking days,
our weekend nights, a hand in a hand hard-gripped.

We all are sinking ships, eventually lit and flung
to the sea or shrouded and set in the ground. So let’s

go, now. One day we’ll retire here, where the grass is
greener, but nonetheless inert. Its roots interred in dirt.

First published in Smartish Pace.