Walt, Gus, & the Shimmering Black Elephant


          An essay by Mark Sebastian Jordan.


Fuck me.

Not in a bad way. In a just-got-laid-out-flat by the energy of the universe way.

Every once in a great, rare while, you hear exactly the right piece of music in exactly the right performance at exactly the right time in your life. And it will shake you.

For me, it happened tonight, October 5, 2017, in Severance Hall, when I heard the Cleveland Orchestra and conductor Franz Welser-Möst own Mahler’s Sixth. It immediately lept to my short list of greatest concert experiences, ever.

Why the piece matters and why this concert matters goes back a ways. It’s not performed all that often, glittering black beast that it is. Not only is this symphony fiendishly difficult, it’s also long—about 80 minutes—and ends darkly after tumultuous struggle. Not exactly a crowd-pleaser, it would seem, yet the piece is beloved by many, because it is a powerful emotional statement.

About what?

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Jerry Lang reading at Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge

Voices from the Borderland is kicking off our Featured Artist Friday series with Jerry Lang reading at the Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge. This reading took place a few years ago, but has never been made public. We hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned for more featured artists.

We Stand With Standing Rock


In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating their concern that a pipeline slated to be built encroached upon ancestral lands.

It’s a five dollar donation to get in the doors of the Standing Rock Solidarity Benefit show, to be enveloped in the warmth, the glow, the murmur of conversations cut frequently by loud laughter. It looks like someone’s family reunion with folding chairs and cheap plastic table cloths, a buffet set-up with six donated Two Cousin’s Gut Buster pizzas and cheap booze. As the place slowly fills with people, the room becomes a beacon in the cold night, a bright light in a row of dim buildings, a convention of friends new and old, setting the stage for solidarity.

September 4th, Dakota Access begins clearing ground for the pipeline, bulldozing over sacred sites and burials. Protesters are attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed.

It took just under two weeks for Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Mark Sebastian Jordan, Kathy Fetzer-Goodwin to bring this event into the public eye, being touted in the local papers and drawing over a hundred contributors and participants. It even received threats, though none came to fruition. The K.E. McCarthy building was donated as a space for the show and by door time, all money spent on food, drink, and entrance would be sent to the Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Mark Jordan opens the show as MC and performer and along with Jason Kauffman, Lucas Hargis, and Nate Weiland presents a spoken word piece (Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert). He repeats the question: “who speaks?” over the murmur of the settling audience and we listen, and finally erupt into applause on his final call-to-arms, that “We speak!”

This becomes the theme of the show, the different voices no longer silenced, but calling for an end to injustice. This is a shout for self-expression and for claiming a space in the land.

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Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert, Mansfield, Ohio, December 9, 2016



who speaks

who speaks


who speaks

who speaks


who speaks

who speaks


the hollow-cheeked mother of winter

is pulling her gray cloak across the sky

is pulling her white blanket across the ground


who speaks

who speaks


memories of the dead, the ones

who shaped families and lives

and hunted and farmed and worked

still linger in the still air


who speaks

who speaks


coyotes on a distant hill

snarl for scraps of power

until their masters in tall towers

blaze their shock collars


who speaks

who speaks


all the sad madmen rumble their trucks

hulking on the horizon—drill baby drill—

star-n-barring it from the land of kingdom went

to the door of the bulging bank


who speaks

who speaks

who speaks


We speak.



By Mark Sebastian Jordan

Nick Gardner & Susan A. Sheppard reading at Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge

November 19th marked the final Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge reading of 2016. Featured were Mansfield native Nick Gardner and West Virginian poet Susan A. Sheppard.

Nick Gardner took us on a wild ride through his struggles with drug abuse. It’d be easy to overdose on the dark themes in these poems, but for the Narcan of his startling images and subtle lyricism. This set of poems proves the redemptive power of giving oneself over to the creative impulse.


Susan A. Sheppard is a self described Appalachian poet. Her poems gaze toward her youth and are full of recollections of Indians, bootleggers, and banshees. Where the words of other Appalachian writers unfold like copses choked with bramble and draped with Old Man’s Beard, Sheppard’s work is delicate, tightly worked, and shimmering.

Borderlands: poetry on the edge takes place every 3rd Saturday, 2-4pm at Main Street Books. Each month Mark Sebastian Jordan invites two of the best poets from Ohio and the surrounding States to be featured. The reading is followed by a short open-mic.

Dennis Loranger reading at Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge

Dennis Loranger teaches music and literature at Wright State University, and writes poetry when he gets a chance. He has published in Rubbertop Review, Abyss&Apex, and elsewhere.

Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge is a monthly poetry reading hosted by Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio. The reading is curated by Mark Sebastian Jordan. Each month he invites two poets from across Ohio and the surrounding states to give extended readings followed by a short open mic.

Michael Veloff reads “Jesus on Front Street”

Michael Veloff reads “Jesus on Front Street,” a poem about addiction, at March’s Book Loft, Lit. poetry and prose reading. Visit Main Street Books every First-Friday at 8pm to read or listen to great poetry and prose.

Jesus on Front Street

Jesus and me on Front Street

I picked up Jesus on the Corner
of Xrosswood Drive and Main
he had no dime to take of His own Sacrament
to rejoin the Flocking
spent on broken glass and stockings
stuffed with yestern pain

coasting to the Depot
He showed me His wounds once again
pictures of his Children in another State
with Nothing on their P(i)lates

wheels and wheels of fortune mists
and portends, omens, twists and opportunities missed
a Mystery to be wearing Flesh
the way of Gentle Fists

“Mother is worried about me.”
He confided as I parallel parked on Front Street
“I’ll only be a Minute, you can’t come in.”

with Great difficulty, hobbled by
the weight of Worlds’ Forgotten
Hero hobbling to a side door Sacrament
on Front Street

I think of leaving
Him, fleeing at the site
a fleeting Glimpse of where I’ve been
and seem to Moth around

Days of yours and mine,
“Here…take this…”
“Are you sure you want two?”

wheels and wheels of wasted twists
Realities cast aside for Aethers’ Fists,
the Gentle Fists
the numbing wrists and opportunities’ mists

and Jesus wept
as we broke an Orange Pill in half in Sacrament
of helpless Bliss

© Michael Veloff, 2014

“Grumpy Cat’s Cat-thartic Afternoon”, by Alan Mathos

This feature is a humorous poem written by Alan Mathos, inspired by “Someone Else’s Life”, track 6 on the Waves and Wheels album. Please read Alan’s ekphrastic poem and then listen to the song that inspired it. Enjoy!

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A note from Alan Mathos about his poem:

“This is my ekphrastic piece for “Someone Else’s Life” by Sovroncourt. Hopefully, you’ll find it amusing. These could be alternative song lyrics, because they fit the general meter of the song. I was listening to it one day and the idea just came to me. Something about the tone of the song seems to fit perfectly with a certain iconic figure that has become popular in recent years.”

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Grumpy Cat’s Cat-thartic Afternoon

Grumpy Cat is the name I’ve worn
ever since the litter in which I was born
One of five clumps in the kitty litter box
raised with Rottweilers in the School of Hard Knocks.

My mama Sassafras
knows every tomcat in town
Now I’m related to half
of the bastards around.

And if my papa Boots
coulda heard worth a damn
he woulda noticed the sound
of that minivan.

Nothing cheers me much
Music rubs me wrong,
but coughing up a hairball gets me
through most love songs.

Only Cat Power can
make this cold heart stir
and that Euro singer Miss Kittin
can make me sorta start to purr.

You may be wonderin’
when I say I’m smilin’
Where is that sunshine, then
my black-eyed friend?

Just show me a bankrupt man,
a fire, or a pack of lies,
and you will see a gleam
begin to brighten up my eyes.

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“Swimming the Dam”, a letter from Llalan Fowler inspired by sovroncourt’s song of that title

This feature is a letter written by Llalan Fowler that was inspired by “Swimming the Dam, track 5 on the Waves and Wheels album. Please read Llalan’s ekphrastic piece and then listen to the song that inspired it. Enjoy!

* * * * *

My old friend,

How are you? I’m hanging in there–thanks for your last letter. This time of year is always hard for me. It’s that “certain slant of light.” I know you know that. Remember the day we drove to the lake? That was around now — early fall. I wrote a poem about it the next day. This was back when I wrote poems. The leaves were turning and some were dropping already. One line described a yellow tree across the lake from us that unravelled like a sweater, its gold leaves spiralling down onto the motionless lake. The water was so still it reflected the colorful hills back at us. In my memory we sat on a pale tablecloth, though I can’t imagine either of us having one back then. You carried a picnic in plastic grocery bags up the levee to where it flattened out. You brought hummus and chips and little sealed sandwich baggies with vegetables you had cut up. I didn’t eat much. I was busy pretending I didn’t notice you reaching for my knee or my hand, and you were busy pretending not to notice me scooting away from you, bunching up the tablecloth around my folded legs until I was wedged in one corner, almost in the grass. The grass was still bright green even though the leaves were turning, the way it is in southern Ohio when school starts. So green I thought of rolling away down the grassy hill. Bugs hopped around my fingers and I wanted to cry. I was embarrassed to be in my socks with you. We weren’t in the poem, just the tree and the water, but the poem is long gone and here we are. Thank you for the pictures. Your daughter is beautiful. I wonder what you will tell her about me. Tell her about the sky that day, that ecstatic blue and the bright alive smell of dirt and water and leaves. Tell her about the yellow tree.


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