and no spiders were harmed
—Winner of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets 2016 Chapbook Contest.
8.5" x 5.5" single signature with hand sewn binding
Published December 2015, Red Bird Chapbooks. $12.
Order from the publisher (link above) or from our store.
"In these phenomenal poems I was struck by the seemingly matter of fact Frank O’Hara-like discursiveness of Tomasko’s voice, his ability to simply meander conversationally about snow and metaphor, about sloths and love, spiders and 2 or 3 AM. And then the turn, “this punch-to-the-gut / feeling, this I-really-am / mortal,” musical as “the dock, warped, weathered, worn / smooth from years of sun and water.” For what seems so simple an aesthetic is actually deceptively complex. Tomasko’s eye is a keen notice of the minutiae of the natural and living world, both human and elemental that surround us. These are 21st century poems that build on the aesthetics of such 20th century innovators as the NY School of Poetry, with their discursive conversational tone, being produced up there, now, in rural Wisconsin. And imagined in places far across this world."
—Sean Thomas Dougherty, 2016 the WFOP Chapbook Contest judge and author or editor of 14 books. Find out more about him at: seanthomasdoughertypoet.com
"A poet who confessed to being "creeped out" by spiders and thinking of sloths while writing love poems Steve Tomasko shows us where we can go when we are aware of the places and spaces our minds wander. With a keen sense of the world around him, Steve connects and relates the "them" of the natural world to the "us" of the human world and he does it with honesty and wonderment. This collection of poems will make you more aware of the world around you and more likely to pause in the midst of routine to wonder. We should all write more love poems and Steve gives us examples and incentives to do so."
—From Red Bird's design editor
Dead Porcupine: No Metaphor
I came across a dead porcupine sitting on its belly
looking asleep—his only sign of injury a crooked
and bloody nose—and thought perhaps I’d get a poem
out of it—this corpse I nearly stumbled over
in the dark cedar copse. But the world
doesn’t always give you poems
when you want them. Why should everything
be fodder for my words? Neither the dead
porcupine nor those still in their trees care a whit
about me or my words. They don’t care
that I love the cedar scent I pull
through my congested sinuses. They don’t care
that I have only one good ear, and with it hear waves
clattering the limestone cobble, wind snaking its way
through the woods. The world is there for itself.
Sometimes a dead porcupine
[as Freud might say—if he were here,
still drawing breath, if he could pull
himself away from the wind and
greenwaterwaves, the cloud-jagged horizon—]
is just a dead porcupine.
Honorable Mention in the 2016 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters poetry contest.
Dancing on the Edge
It starts with a lump in the throat,
a shiver in the legs. Your fingers fidget.
You ask yourself, how did I get here?
You find Zugunruhe, a German word
whose glottal voice holds the restlessness
that shakes the feathers, trembles the legs of birds
before migration. It’s a kind of genetic jiggle—
an edginess that tells the bird go go go.
My older brother swings to the mambo,
the samba, the merengue. He’s always boogied
to socialist politics. He didn’t always dance.
He chanced upon his passion as a way to heal
his back. As a way to deal with cancer.
A better spine, a better world, some peace
of mind. A craving is a craving for.
My brother once danced 62 nights in a row.
Medication made him sensitive to sunlight.
After being inside all day he had to move
move move. I like his focus, his dogged
desire to live his passions. But I’m a generalist,
a coyote, a crow—a nip here, a dip there,
interests spread broad and thin.
It’s inevitable, he says; there will be a more just
and equitable world. We’re on the edge. Poised,
quivering, dancing on the verge of something.
Like the girl in a wheelchair he saw on a walking
path in the Oakland Hills. She wanted to cross a bridge
but her parents said no. The approach was steep,
rough, dangerous. No they shouted,
as she yeeehaaaah-ed down the gravel.
Published in Fire Poetry
Upon Reading Thoreau’s Description of a Pickerel as Animalized Water
I remember the dock warped, weathered, worn
smooth from years of sun and water. Plunked
face down I peer between the gray slats
watch the perch slide by, ignoring
my baited hook. My young eyes fix
on a shard of sunlight and color
that gradually resolves into a 2-foot pike.
Floating in place, its body ripples front to back,
front to back looking ready to lunge
for the perch. But with a quick muscular
flick it disappears, leaving eddies
of whirling sand. I shiver.
I read of a father who recently found his son
in their cabin boathouse surrounded by rods, reels,
fishing tackle—playing an electronic fishing game.
Published first in Verse Wisconsin
also Little Eagle's Re/Verse