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What Are the Best Things Ever Grackled?

10yearsTen years ago, a recent college graduate with trailing clouds of liberal arts glory still fading behind him decided to make and sell a print literary magazine. Who knows what was going through his mind or why he ignored everyone who told him this was a bad, impractical way to spend his time. But now Grub Street Grackle has produced seventeen issues and is ready to celebrate its 10-year anniversary in a big way.

Over the past few months, we’ve been posting some of our favorites from the first ten years, many of which have never appeared online. (Many more never will, as we often publish work whose meaning depends on its appearing in print.)

You know what to do: like and share, fave and retweet, reblog, whatever buttons you customarily press when the internet gods chatter fervidly in your ears, do it for these stories, please!

Mouse over the images below for quotes, and click to read the full piece.

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iowa skies3cons




dear scholarAustinamoshtwojuly6patience

duck head

egg2 copy

monika cooper





Featured image: “Making His Point…” by Pat Gaines, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 // caption added

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Hermitage Piece

This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

by Amos J. Hunt

The span of winter afternoons
spreads out between the hollow moon’s
two distant ends. It is a bear
gone far ahead. It is elsewhere.

Original bio from the Fall 2008 edition:

Amos J. Hunt is pleased that he gets a contributor bio this time.


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Austin Sonnet

This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

Sitting next to you as the sun goes down
And dies a world of fire upon the lake.
A raised glass empties all the sunset
To your cheek; the table spreads horizon-wide.
And we sit as we have come, apart
By inches. Hundreds of miles of inches.
Night comes on. A few boats. Voices drift
From the water until they become music
Later, in the city, and smoke around us.
A club. And we sit next to the jazz band,
The notes of miles between us, our silent
Inches swelling to something kind of blue.
Is it water, your eyes, this empty music,
Fallen smoke and lonely between us here?

Jason Stevens is a retired Ghostbuster who now splits his time between pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and chronicling supernatural events in academia. Ask him about Dr. Wegemer’s projectile eye.


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July 6, 1535: London


This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of “Grub Street Grackle.” It appears here online for the first time.

Then the axe fell.
And the weight of the crowd immeasurably shifted.
The soul of the quiet man no longer drew
their eyes—whether miserable or indignant—
to some convergence on the little scaffold.
Some turned uncomfortably to their neighbor,
but felt, instead of the easy word or glance,
a hollowness about the throat,
and read upon each other’s face
the raw expression of a vacillating expectation
suddenly and forever obsolete.

This was not how a criminal dies,
a rebel, or a hero, or a saint,
but more how a son can be robbed
of his dear inheritance, by a litigation,
folded, creased, and stamped
on foolscap’s whisper-thin translucence.
The gathering climax indefinitely now
postponed, they drifted home.

Those who knew him though had learned to live
forbearing with his quiet way.
They took his painful invitation,
focused wills and energy upon that blank
between the lines of red and black,
that difficult and hidden thing that holds
the phrases of the daily psalter to the page;
that held the good man upright on the day
that God obscured the glory of his face.

Original bio from the Fall 2006 edition:

Adam Cooper has no problem standing in a long line only to leave when he gets to the front. He is an expert at that.

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a flower crackled into sense, burst out in tongues of ruddy gold

Zucchini Cabaret

This poem first ran in the September 2005 edition of Grub Street Grackle

This poem first ran in the September 2005 edition of Grub Street Grackle

I thought the thing was fully pitched.
Its kicked out limbs had gone knee high,
daring themselves to show some more,
and fanned out hands extended curled
come-hithers on all sides.

Yet when my full eyes made so bold
as to roll down the long green shanks,
a flower crackled into sense,
burst out in tongues of ruddy gold,
in golden tongues of red foretold
a fresh extravagance.

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Daddy Drinks

This poem first ran in the Spring 2015 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

This poem first ran in the Spring 2015 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

I gave my dad a whiskey flask for Christmas.
He laughed. He’s never had a taste for whiskey.
But because I gave it to him, he treasured it.
He brought it to work and showed it off,
trying to hide the proud pucker of his smile.
It had my school crest on it.

When I was small, I would be jealous of
my cousin (a grown-up), smoking spicy cigars and drinking
on the porch with my dad, under thick, warm light
decanting through the tree trunk silhouettes.
They would talk, and nod genially toward the window
at the sight of me.

He favors wine, but when I come home he pours me
a tumbler of Scotch—smooth, slow, golden—
as he asks me what I am thinking. I sip, and answer
in excruciating detail. And I pretend it is
the harsh heat of the whiskey making me choke,
as I drink with my dad.

Original bio from the Spring 2015 edition:

Therese Eby is not a selkie. She might, however, be a Rhine Maiden.


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Odysseus Adrift

This poem first ran in the Spring 2015 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

This poem first ran in the Spring 2015 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

“Son of Laertes and seed of Zeus, resourceful Odysseus,
let no need for a guide on your ship trouble you; only
set your mast pole and spread the white sails upon it,
and sit still, and let the blast of the North Wind carry you.”
Odyssey 10, 504-507

The boards I cut and planed and joined together
press into my back.
The white sail hangs and shudders in the dark—
as when a gallows body,
touched by moonlight witcheries of wind
is seen to stir again,
wheezes, and faintly gleams.

My eye drifts toward the manless rudder,
leaning, righting itself … once more to lean
into the all-enravelling eddies
of Ocean’s endless stream.
Above, the stars shift left and right
to whispered musics of the untuned breeze;
they make the movements of a Maenad chorus—
fitfully dancing, half dancing fitfully still—
but the god is no longer in them.

In dreams the goddess hovers over me,
and whispers in my ear,
laughing lightly, mocking me,
“Where now, O man of devices?
Navigator, mind like Zeus?”
For I am craftless now,
a useless burden on the well made wood.
All round me, Ocean flows into itself,
and darkness melts into darkness.
The images of men I never missed
return and drift around me, catch my eye.
Should I be sorry, angry, sad for them?
I do not know what they can want from me,
or I can owe to them.
Neither do they.
Our glances disengage, and they flit by.

That laughing voice again,
“Where now, O man of devices?”

When every destination has been won,
or lost, is there still somewhere
you can only get to by not trying?
A land whose absence warps the squares of maps,
and turns the compass dizzy with distraction?

I dream that someone, something waits for me
in the immortal night. My hairs stand up.
Is it the beast that always stalks
the fringes of my vision, and my dreams,
waiting for its cue to rip me up?
Is it Achilles, smiling grimly, sadly—
I have seen him smile and pause like that—
before he moves to take another’s life?
I do not know.

I do not know what would be right,
if right and wrong come into it at all.
I dream of every end but, more and more,
one dream keeps on returning:
I seem about to enter
the welcome home of stranger-arms,
a spousal, unforeknowable embrace
of one delaying long, and long awaited.

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This poem first ran in the Late Winter 2009 edition of Grub Street Grackle

What an appetite! Moonbelly would have eaten everything—earth, sky, ocean, stars, lakes, comets—swallowed all of it, given a lifetime long enough.
That’s how awfully violent, hopeless love afflicted him: lifelong love as makes men empty, turns terrestrial hearts to an alien element.
Food’s the stuff when you’re hungry, but lovers’ stomachs want thicker fare: stones, mortar, concrete, iron—all inedible objects are lovers’ aliment.
So they starve, so what’s new? Isn’t that the oft-repeated and age-old theme of lays, odes, sonnet cycles, ghazals, and hasn’t that song been sung enough?

Here’s the difference: Moonbelly’s hunger wasn’t metaphor—no pale mime of real gut hunger. No, he wanted the world in his stomach, bodily.
Having once heard Veronica singing, seen the way that her songs would load her rash, soft, smile with echoes, suddenly sharpening every entity,
nothing else but to harbor the whole—which saturated with those rich strains, now ran him through with aching emptiness, longing of boundless quantity—
could have satisfied Moonbelly’s craving, quelled his ravening. Next best was a piecemeal banquet, downing sequently one then another victual.

He ate the nearest things first: several thousand meals, compacted in one night’s dining, was what his immediate prospect amounted to: broiled asparagus,
steak and french fried potatoes was what he’d made for dinner, but could not sate him: he had yet to eat his plate, and the place-mat and table under it.
Still unsatisfied, Moonbelly stood with cracked alacrity, ate his chair and tore his dining room to pieces and—taking no time to ponder it—
threw it down, in a frenzy of biting chewing, swallowing. Next day, though he was still hungry, scads of sodium bicarb and foul saxifragous

oils were all he could think of consuming—things conducive to sound digestion. But no good. It turned out Moonbelly’s gastric constriction called for a
stronger treatment. He roamed in a bloated craze, partaking of each thing which he thought might have medicinal properties: boiled aconitum, milk thistle,
dandelions, banana peel extract, mercury by the fistful, bacta, birch bark, frogs, ammonia, gerin oil, terrigen crystals, darthisol,
uncut ginger root, buckets of fresh volcanic ash—
he ate all these, but ate not least the acrimonious gum of the laurus camphora.

All the same, the unbearable constipation, dyspepsia, heartburn, retching, bloat, aches, gas, and reflux kept him as sick as a whole infirmary.
Still, his hunger had nothing abated. Now—no hope in his song-wrecked heart of eased pain, nor contentment—at random Moonbelly stuffed his orifice.
Almost half of the town he had swallowed whole, or chewed, or somewhat nipped before Moonbelly’s mad campaign could be stopped, and he exiled, shorn of his
access to his Veronica. Still, if music be, as they say, love’s food, yet this love needed no more sustenance than the remotest memory—

though, of course, if its food is the fruit of geological stock, Moonbelly had his fill: for now his diet was nothing but stones. A carat or
two at first was a mouthful, but soon his intake stoutened.

Now in those days, a blood ore forest covered untold expanses of country, whence if it
can be true what was said of it, men of iron spirit in times long past had come, intent on taking hold of the world, but a fateful deficit,
not of might, but of libido, cut their conquest short—for their empire, though successful, fell in time for want of an heir to become its heritor.

There stood columns or trunks of a crimson hue, so high that a man might wonder if their roots (or their foundations) were sunk into earth or firmament.
Thither Moonbelly’s way was inclined, as though magnetically drawn; five hundred miles at least he had to travel, until the blood-red horizoning
thickness split into towering pieces, looming suddenly each by each and cast rock-hard obscurity over Moonbelly’s rabid reasoning.
Huge with weeks of unceasing intemperate gorging, swaying now towards these piles of doom-frought stone, he eyed them just as a conqueror surveys his armament.

Now I’ll tell you the ending: our hero knocked one over on his way in—his girth outstripped his inner sense of his body’s extension. Thousands of
pillars toppled like tenpins, and pitched in all directions—our man had no recourse but stretching out his jaws as he never had done and swallowing
whole each copious morsel of this his most cacophonous meal. Stones into his mouth slammed hard—he gulped, his cheeks and his belly aflare and billowing.
Still, the forest was tumbling around him—fallen columns were heaped up higher with each passing moment. Finally, one of these pillars, propped on a

pile behind it that served as a fulcrum, see-sawed up, and it caught Moonbelly by both legs and catapulted him skyward and into orbit.
He flies there even today, and at times stoops low and blood-red, and draws out from the earth faint ghosts of his Veronica’s song with his gluttonous gravity.

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This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle

This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle

Life spelled itself in letters, black, tight-lipped:
I’ve bled my passions out in spates of ink.
The margins bloomed like flowers on a crypt.

Once, when my hands were empty, and I dipped
them in Night’s waters, there, I seemed to think,
life spelled itself in letters, black, tight-lipped.

So much was written there, the pages dripped
with more than time could bear or death could drink:
the margins bloomed like flowers on a crypt.

I came too late to mark the manuscript:
a seal bound it, on which in ancient ink
life spelled itself in letters, black, tight-lipped.

In desperate, errant strokes that shook and slipped,
I filled the text’s outside up to the brink.
The margins bloomed like flowers on a crypt.

I waited for the pages to be flipped,
till waiting out of time I seemed to sink.
Life spelled itself in letters, black, tight-lipped:
the margins bloomed like flowers on a crypt.

Original bio from the Fall 2013 edition:

Amos J. Hunt delegated his bio to a lazy and unrelialbe peerson who sometimes.dsdf….eh


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Impressions of a Bird Song

This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle

This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

Its wings spread wide,
feathers like spikes
to frighten or chide.

The eye shocks,
suddenly fierce.
With violent squacks

its cries pierce
twilight: it hurls
and chokes its curse

on impudent squirrels,
on sparrows, dumb
churls whose demurrals

free bread crumbs.
A man leans back,
laughing. He becomes

the sound it crackles,
the death-song of grackles.

Original bio from the Fall 2013 edition:

Ben LaVergne is surrounded by books he never reads. Now that he has a Kindle, he can ignore his unread library without ceasing.


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The Grackle is a production of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Imagine Dallas Literary Arts, Inc.