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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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(From an Oroville, California, Case History)


The first blow, the accused admitted,

caromed off the old man's ear.

He sagged,

                 a cry on his lips

because his fingers scraped

the stove's electric burners

and "I hit him again

with the handle of the hammer

and he sorta slid down

but his eyes was open

so I hit him once more, hard as I could."


The old man's daughter,

sixteen and buxom

in the sloppy, fleshy way

of too many candy bars,

begged the police

not to handcuff her until she'd given

her baby

its nine-o'clock nursing.


                                    "She really loved

the child," the juvenile officer remembered.

"Hard to picture her

rifling the old man's pockets

as he lay on the floor

bleeding to death."


Imprisoned, the killer turned to God

--and gang rule--


when he had to submit


and the teen-aged mother

bore her second child in a Medi-Cal ward

remembering the way his father's

long, tawny hair

had lifted from his shoulders

and flowed into that final, fatal swing.

                                    -Robert Joe Stout


On the Rocks at Russian Gulch


Rain slams against the pines. The surf flings

filaments of white up through the fog. I brace

myself against wet barnacles: Trees, fog

and cliffs combine into a merging, moving herd

of gray that stifles its own roar. Sight

turns inward, ears perceive a cry.

I shiver, knowing it is mine.


She comes. Barefooted. Smelling of starched

cotton, lips a spring of flowing warmth.

We kiss. Tug at drenched clothing, claw a place

among the stones. The storm increases,

flails our screaming come-together. We

and it are one! My shout dislodges cloud-shapes:

I am here alone. And she, God help her,

suckles memories of children born

to someone else. I twist my coat around

my throat, squint racing coracles ashore.

They vanish like all dreams of sunlight in the storm.


I wait. The gray rain muscles cliffs

into a swerving waltz. Again she comes. I push

her back. And huddle, rain-swept, scheming

of a calm, blue skies, white gulls.

                          -Robert Joe Stout