E. Martin Pedersen


Monkeys Three


I put my fingers in my ears and press

it sounds like magma rumbling inside Mother Earth

I want to be back in her arms

rocked and cuddled, milk from the tit


I put my palms over my eyes and press

I see a blackness that will never lighten, 

the final dark, the best, longed-for victory

there are empty buildings out my window, where the world was


I cover my open mouth with my hand

empty skies, except silent clouds

spinning counter-clockwise

yet there is no movement, no sound

it is done.


Passing Through Rooms


as always on the move

in a city of buildings

in a neighborhood of danger

I lowered myself from a roof top

by cable, I think

through a fissure into an artists' colony and dope house

tiny bedrooms and studios

kitchenettes open with flimsy chalkboard walls

but all with heavy doors facing different directions


If I'm being chased, why can’t I see the chaser?


I explore left and right down

around corners

corridors stairways one floor to the next

in and out of catacombs

I come to a woman

legs crossed

with multi-colored baggy trousers

on her white bedspread

she's a painter

with thick glasses

not really attractive

but really attractive

squatting in a plywood panel apartment

in this crazy fruit-boxy pile-up


Let's get out of this maze and have some fun, she says.


we head for the carnival of disco lights 

a tall woman in a silver suit of armor approaches us with a smile

dressed like the tin-man she launches the challenge

"If you can jump past that nail, you can nail me"

what? from the bottom of the steps though, let's see, Kangy

I have no real trouble jumping up the steps and several feet beyond

past the sharp nail border of pleasure and morality, mortality

but are you a whore, aren't we all? is she a whore? of course, or loopy; 

you wanted springy fun, I did, who doesn't? I'm ready and willing then, one or both? 

in a non-Baptist attitude of well it's all a dream


I wish we were in a forest instead of trapped in little rooms.


and my companion seems pleased with herself, seems pleased

but my feelers catch an undercurrent of disappointment, of self-restraint

so I ask: would you rather, yes I'd rather

if she'd rather that's fine, says the silver lady presiding

thus a significant relationship begins

after giving up complete freedom of movement

for bare feet on the earth

as studied through thick glasses.


Shootout at the PSA


The Poetry Society of America

M16 bullets a-flyin'

lots of bards spread on the slippery ground

some merely scared, some dyin'

Who did the shooting?

bullets of solid ennui

bullets of solid angst

bullets of duende, look out

crystalized moonbeams

odor of wisteria gunsmoke

Why kill the messengers

do you all really care?

If you can't make it out the door

try to hide behind a chair --

Sharon Olds got hit in the back

Billy Collins took three to the head

Gary Synder saved a study group

but many other poets lie dead --

or, perhaps, lay dead, if license is taken --

Was it a rival wordsmith

jealous of their success

or another nut job in the wrong room

with a large ransom request?

The organization will however survive

on the artist's anxiety

but maybe they'll need to change the name

to The Un-Dead Poets Society.




Don't you love Wikipedia?

all the wackies and wookies

we get it, on one page

because we're



chorus:  We're all so super-ficial

Squirrels and chipmunks super-ficial

This nutty life is super-ficial

Super, super, super-ficial

Oh, yeah!


We get an idea vague

enough to mansplain on

but there's no itchy knowledge

that gets under our

skin --


War in Syria, Yemen too

gun violence at school

opioid epidemic hiding at home

climate disaster everywhere

we read (140-character maximum, now 280)

hostile takeover family meals

go to bed, get up


This poem.

(all poems?)

oh yeah, poems suck


Like white-faced clowns

we're screened in, curtained

off, holding ourselves back

from seeing the wonders

in a square yard of earth

from seeing our own corpse

sprawled out in the road

flattened by 18-wheelers

kissing the superficial.


What I Eat in the Cemetery


Every day in high school, my four years of mortification,

I had a peanut butter sandwich

from an American brown bag, later, much later

I walked, I walk, I do walk, I like to walk

in the north woods, the Cascades

Mt. Baker, Rainier, Adams, Hood

up where you only go by foot

where you can be alone

out of time and into space, into outer space/inner space, the last

of your race, iron-man fueled

by that same peanut 

butter sandwich, see George 

Washington Carver, climbing up trail

over the crest, down through

the thick forest, my mother made

by hand, wrapped in wax paper, around a

turn and into the awful clear cut

clear cut, I halt, all the trees

hauled away, a century's cemetery

of stump grave markers, I stop. hidden where no

one goes except crying birds, dragonflies,


I listen but the trees are mute, murdered

the creaking of guilt

the marmots squeaking, I'd pray -- 

I am praying, I take off

my pack to soak in the burning sun

sit on a stump, look out past

and despondently eat.


E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over 40 years in eastern Sicily where he taught English at the local university. His poetry has appeared most recently in Blacktop Passages, Millennial Pulp, Scrittura, Albatross Review, and Harbinger Asylum. Martin is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills and Smart Pills and a chapbook, Exile's Choice, just out from Kelsay Books. Martin blogs at:  

Bienvenue au Danse, Martin.