Thomas Zimmerman, “Surprise”

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The century’s late teens, its acne bloom.
The street’s ice-scabs I pick at with my dog-
walk boots. The only bleeding, energy
and time; a lava flow, an avalanche
that swallows just to spit us out at death.
Cheer up, I tell myself. Good beer is in
the fridge. The poet that I’m reading now
glides smooth as cream and buries sweet dreams deep
The angel loves the animal in me.
A soft rain ticks, a clock reversed. That sax
that Ornette Coleman tweaks draws laughing birds
to perch inside the porches of my ears.
Is beauty such a rare thing? Hmm. I turn
the volume up, surprised by joy again.


Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, edits The Huron River Review and The Big Windows Review, and serves as faculty advisor of the WCC Poetry Club at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, MI.

“Surprise” is reprinted from The Future, a WCC Poetry Club anthology edited by Tom Zimmerman and Tyler Wettig. Copyright 2017.


Darren Morris, “Product Placement: Almost Albino”

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Product Placement: Almost Albino

Because I know her heart, I have peered inside it. I have listened to it nightly,
its plenitudes and aches. I have used it carelessly and sometimes with malice.
I have wanted to vanish it within my lust. I have wanted to crush it and hold it fast
and make it call the winter. And I’ve wanted to disappear at times within her
or our love, which is alien to us both, for it is the unnameable thing we make.
Because I know her desire, I know what she craves the most. By name it is
the Hermes Birkin Bag which, to me, appears to be only a bag, and yet I read
that it is impeccably designed by one artisan alone, the average taking
some 18 hours to complete, from design, to cutting the finest materials,
to assembling the final product, down to the last stitch. Yet there is no average.
The price range begins at $12,000 and, at top, a quarter mil. Some styles boast
a waiting list of six years or more. Ours is somewhere in between. A pre-original,
it was recently an unblemished, farm-raised alligator, fed fish and duck all its life.
Its recessive gene has produced a skin that is almost albino, a sort of pale green
translucence of virginal Earth. Its mother, the one at Disney World what snatched
the bathing child and stashed the body like Moses among the reeds.
What would we sacrifice for such a thing as the Hermes Birkin Bag? What might
we endure to possess it? I have seen people in suits of nails detonate in schoolyards
for their love. I find this so impulsive that it cannot satisfy an ancient god.
How ordinary and cheap to give one’s life, a life that would be taken anyway
by the great collector of our fears, that nothing will remain of us, even love,
even blood and waste. The clear skies and stars offer nothing next
to the fetishized object of affection. Something real. More than idea.
Something for which, should my name come up on their gilded list,
we shall claim as a kind of immortality, though it will ruin us forever,
and force us into the street. We shall have it to show, to fill our cup
and when the world begins to disappear, we shall climb inside and zip it up.

Darren Morris’s other publications include: The American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, North American Review, The National Poetry Review, Best New Poets, and many others.


Sandra Kohler, “Imperfections”

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November. Thanksgiving and family, feasts
and failures. My friend the therapist says
everyone’s issue with the holidays is the gap
between the happiness one is supposed to
feel and the reality of one’s own family life.
A perfectionist, she lives alone; every room
of her house reveals her mastery. I think I
should declare myself an imperfectionist.

Another friend emails: his dying sister says
she’s squandered her life and he tells her
we all do, no one’s up to the marvel it is.
He doesn’t know if she believes him.
My sister, who always turned away from
the pain of others, now diagnosed with
Alzheimers’, has begun to remember it:
our father going to work each day at a job
he hated, a family her young family knew
dying in a fire. Losing the present, her
past is transformed, a part of her she’d
kept imprisoned surfacing, crying out.

In a dream last night I resurrect a dead
woman and kill off her surviving lover.
The mourner is as lost as the mourned.
Fear and suffering all around me, I wake,
like Hopkins, to the fell of dark. I realize,
imperfectionist, one just has to live.


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared recently in Beloit Poetry Journal, Tar River Poetry, Damfino, and Mantis.


A new plan for a new year

Things are changing here at Clementine Unbound.

Since the election of Trump and the resulting threats to our country and  constitution, I’ve decided to devote less time to this site and more time to political activism, but I still want to keep Clementine Unbound going. With that in mind, I’m taking submissions again but publishing poems in an unscheduled way (more like a blog), rather than in monthly issues.

There will no longer be a printed journal, since that takes too much time. And I won’t be sending out notices of new issues. I apologize for all these “downgrades,” but there’s only so much time in a day.

Thank you for caring about little old Clementine. I won’t be sending out monthly emails anymore, but you can follow us like any WordPress blog.

Click the Submissions tab and follow the instructions there to submit your work.