Category Archives: Poetry

Poetry from Five Points.

Featured Poem From Our Newest Issue: “At the Degas Exhibit” by Gregory Fraser

As you all know, our double issue of Five Points Vol. 15, No. 1 & 2 is on sale now, and we’d like to give you a little preview of one of the poems you’ll find inside:

At the Degas Exhibit

by Gregory Fraser


The docent wends us to The Dance Class

and it all flits back: the studio downtown,

few bucks an hour, ragging off the finger


grease of toe-shoed cygnets, tutu-ed swans,

scudding hardwood and ignoring both

of me—spray of acne, high-top Keds.


I would clatter on the local after school

(weekends once the Christmas pageant neared),

my face at every stop floating outside


the window beside my seat—a mask

tried on by stars in movie ads, commuters

cooling heels for later cars. Then Windex,


buff, till six, waving hello, farewell,

from glass to glass, plié to pointe—my hand

emitting squeaks, eliding dainty prints and streaks.


In my knapsack: comics, Catcher, lunch

untouched. And never once did I happen on

the courage even to speak to one of those


sugar plums of Rittenhouse, Society Hill.

Degas’s girls, our guide informs, practice

attitudes, inspected by their master


(one Jules Perrot) propped on his staff.

Note the Parisian mothers daubed

on the wall in back. Yet I see only tights


that bear the stamp McDevitt Dance,

hear gripes about third position, giddy talk

of boys. And search the sides and corners


for my Old World counterpart—some

sponge-and-bucket kid from a ragged edge—

undersized, near-sighted, invisible to art.


Here’s a little more info on Gregory Fraser:

Fraser.3Fraser is the author of two poetry collections, Strange Pietà (Texas Tech, 2003) and Answering the Ruins (Northwestern, 2009). He is also the co-author, with Chad Davidson, of the workshop textbook Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008) and the composition textbook Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing (Continuum, 2012). His poetry has appeared in journals including the Paris Review, the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, and Ploughshares. The recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fraser serves as associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of West Georgia.

Purchase copies of Five Points here!


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Featured Poem: Tolstoy and the Spider by Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

Tolstoy and the Spider

Moscow is burning.

Pierre sets out to kill Napoleon

and instead rescues a child.

Thus Tolstoy came today

to lift this spider in his large hand

and carry her free.

Now a cricket approaches the spider

set down inside her new story,

one hind leg missing.

The insects touch, a decision is made,

each moves away from the other

as if two exhausted and unprovisioned armies,

as if two planets passing out of conjunction,

or two royal courts in procession,

neither noticing the other go by.

Or like my own two legs:

their narrow lifetime of coming together and parting.

A story travels in one direction only,

no matter how often

it tries to turn north, south, east, west, back.

From Five Points Vol. 13.3

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Featured Poem: On Being Asked Directions to Drumcree by Howard Wright

Howard Wright

On Being Asked Directions to Drumcree

by two hacks from a London broadsheet,

I lean into their foul Isuzu 4×4, all bull-bars

and pocket phones, burger boxes and burnt stubs,

the black golf-ball compass floating helpless

on the dingy windscreen, and tell them

like everywhere else it’s a long way from here.

I elaborated with hand signals, the driver

thumbnailing a map and making a note,

his passenger tapping the compass as if it were

the oracle, the life-saver, as if it made

a button of difference here of all places,

after my parting-shot pointed them

in the opposite direction to arrive

sometime tomorrow or the day after that.

From Five Points Vol. 13.2

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Featured Poem: A Thousand Names and More by Katie Fesuk

Katie Fesuk

A Thousand Names and More


“. . . and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field. . . ”

—Genesis 2:19


Even last week’s orange moon, a sphere that set so big

and close to the ground that it looked

like trees had birthed round fire into the sky, had no name.

What will we call this season in me?

I save words on yellow notes inside desk drawers,

whisper them in prayers on the drive home,

lay them on the table like blueprints before your father each night.

In another world, I could give you a thousand names and more:

birch, elm, chinaberry, bark. I’d name you indigo.

I’d name you linen and silk and November.

You would be book, sonnet, syllable, revelation.

You would be psalm. You, heartbeat, sacrament, silver, iris.

You, mango and stone fruit and soil and amber.

I’d call you the smell of burning leaves,

cicadas that sent me to sleep when you were barely the size of a peppercorn.

You could be named the ocean’s warmth against my ankles

the day I suspected you within my body,

or the word—if there is one—for my face after that

as I watched other people’s children swim around me,

considered what color your hair would be, how bright your eyes,

whether your voice would even out to song someday.

I’d name you pear and darling and babushka. You would be called moonlight.

I’d name you the way it feels when you move now within my belly,

balanced at the highest lip of a rollercoaster before it barrels to the ground.

I would call you that dip, that fall. That fear.

You roll in me like a great fish, a speckled whale, but also the ocean.

You, the dancer’s feet, but also flamenco, also notes rising.

I’d name you the last drop of wine in a glass by the fireplace,

the grape it came from, and better,

its vineyard swallowing up hillsides in promise.

You should be called the quiet force

that stills me when I watch your father move across a room,

my silent wish for a way to explain devotion,

as if words or names are ever enough.

Your name should be the same as white columns

on his childhood home, and I’d name you the lake from mine.

Bone of my bone, my child, my son,

I can only give you the word that others will say,

the one somebody will love when you become a man.

You are the poem my body writes on the earth.

From Five Points Volume 13.3

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Featured Poem: Domestic by Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern


It was as if his gills were going in and out

and there was a croaking noise he made that scared her

almost to death he imitated while lying

under her heavy salty blanket she pulled

up to his neck and tucked in at his sides

for she was going to read a little afterwards

and put her glasses on that perched on the edge

of her English nose and held her head in her hand

while he took in, for a second only, the streaks

of lightning mixed with the moonlight as if one brightness

was not enough, two gods he thought, and how the

river would smell tomorrow as he swam over

the greasy rocks and she would take him again

in her brackish arms that more than reading and more than

music it was she overcame her sorrow

and that is why her elbows were sore and the rotten

underwater steps gave way and love

rushed into her mouth and mercy broke over her head.

From Five Points Volume 13.3

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Featured Poem: What was Left by Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn

What Was Left

The headboard to the guest room bed,

its mattress gone, the buckled frame

still joined to one unyielding bolt.

Three pairs of wrinkled dress pants

wadded at the bottom of the hamper,

six black T-shirts, an IBM

circa nineteen-eighty-six.

A snorkel, mask, and fins, white socks,

loose change, a broken film projector,

the television. Restaurant matchbooks,

tax records and old license plates,

boxes and bags of photographs—

Venice,Vienna, Cadaques—

the way that they once lived, the notes

and valentines sporting forever

and always, a jar of sauerkraut.


From Five Points Volume 13.3


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Featured Poem: The Voices in My Head by Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio

The Voices in My Head

God is a mental doll, the first one says.

Another says, what is that,

a doll in the mind

or a doll out of its mind?

The mind of God, says a third,

cannot be known.

But then again, says one more, look around:

tornado-flattened church,

coffins swirling in the floodwaters.

Does that give you any clues?

Doll with a skull in one hand

and in the other, pink clouds.

The plane flies over them, held aloft

by the fact that God chooses

not to drop it.

That’s three hands, a voice says:

skull, cloud, plane.

In the fourth hand a bag of mini-pretzels.

Above the seat back in front of you

a small head appears,

then a toddler’s face,

her eyes maybe proof of something.


From Five Points Volume 13.3


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Featured Poem: Snapdragon by Medbh McGuckian

Medbh McGuckian


It may be described as everybody’s flower,

Like an ordinary rose, choosing cloudy

Weather, quite unaffected by the rain,

Sunproof, with golden lip and light green

Eye, flounce upon flounce, and undercolouring

Of cherry, oversheen of clear, soft, old

Garden cerise. When in fourth leaf,

It throws a small percentage of blue

To its nodding pale cheddar pink or pleasing

Primrose companion, a shade more salmon

In the improved sunset’s strongest of orange,

Beautifully netted skin; expressing not more

Than five words of greetings to the young

Grass (it may be meadow turf)

Whose round seedlings feed off dark rays.


Published in Five Points volume 13.2.

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Featured Poem: The Meatball Department by Billy Collins

Billy Collins

The Meatball Department


There is no such thing as a meatball department

as far as anyone knows.

No helpful clerk as ever answered the question

where do you keep your meatballs?

by pointing to the back of the store

and saying you’ll find them over there in the meatball department.


We don’t have to narrow it down

to Swedish and Italian meatballs to know

that meatballs are already too specific

to have an entire department named after them

unlike Produce, Appliances, or Ladies’ Shoes.


It’s like whenever you get angry at me

for reading in bed with the light on

when you are trying to fall asleep,

I cannot find a department for that.


Like meatballs, it’s too small a thing to have its own department

unlike Rudeness and Selfishness which are located

down various aisles of the store known as Marriage.


I should just turn off the light

but instead I have stopped in that vast store

and I will now climb into my cart,

clasp my knees against my chest and wait

for the manager or some other person of authority


to push me down to the police station

or just out to the parking lot,

otherwise known as the department of lost husbands,

or sometimes, as now, the department of dark and pouring rain.


Published in Five Points Volume 13.3.

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The Sea

Five Points 10.2


Adam Zagajewski

Shimmering among boulders, deep blue at noon,
ominous when summoned by the west wind,
but calm at night, inclined to make amends.

Tireless in small bays, commanding
countless hosts of crabs who march sideways
like damp veterans of the Punic Wars.

At midnight cutters sail from port: the glare
of a single light slices the darkness,
engines quake.

At the beach near Cefalù, in Sicily, we saw
countless heaps of trash, boxes, condoms,
cartons, a faded sign reading “Antonio.”

In love with the earth, always drawn to shore,
sending wave after wave—and each dies
exhausted, like a Greek courier.

At dawn only whispers can be heard,
the low mumble of pebbles cast on sand
(sensed even in the fishing town’s small square).

The Mediterranean, where gods swam,
and the frigid Baltic, which I entered,
a skinny, trembling, twenty-year-old eel.

In love with the earth, entering its cities, in Stockholm,
Venice, listening to tourists laugh and chatter
before returning to its dark, immobile source.

Your Atlantic, busy building white dunes,
and the shy Pacific hiding in the depths.

Light-winged gulls.
The last sailing ships, white canvas
billowing on crosses.

Slim canoes are manned by watchful hunters,
the sun rises in uttermost silence.

Gray Baltic,
Arctic Ocean, mute,
Ionian Sea, the world’s origin and end.

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

From Five Points Volume 10.1-2

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