Tom Mandel, Part One

by: Tom Mandel

Header art, entitled “Rudie Can’t Fail,” by: Jim Flahaven

About the disconnections that plague our current situation, Tom Mandel’s poetry is seriously playful and playfully serious. Employing syntactic sleight of hand as modus operandi, his work flows in fits and starts, moving the reader ever closer to a freedom that can be only found in art. Or as Mandel puts it: “this babble is the right babble.”

Rudie Can't Fail 2

The Unraveling of Wishes
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++for Kit Robinson

Relations hate a mystery
Belligerence is toast
Freedom feels a lonely stoner’s pressure
Time equals two times time
The early hurly-burly barely works

In a count from one to tense the East pops up
Art drags antithetical weight
Go taste wine May fairy
Drinking coke from an abrupt cup
Tired list plus additions makes lunch too tall

But I digress
It’s to wonder whether either tether’s talking walking
Was a time I took green juice from bottles
& then began to take it from the stem
White boy on white board on on agenda not

Many “S” words coalesce in tryst
A stressed out rendezvous to ponder
Cartoons erupt all through evening
Fissure can’t crack this joke
Mini-tour chain letter unravels chain-mail history

When movement meets movement to come
The long run stalls heroics
A never-trending wrong haul trail
Not all days are ripe for keeping
Time fits trial to its tee

The ten year committee hands out five stars
Day & night touch but briefly
Too much credit is given past ages
Travel merges the bright forest to a dandy beach
The unraveling of wishes

More & more those who say say less
A series of bubbles riven by song
Hours after others are late the first to arrive still stare
This babble is the right babble
Go ahead if you want any time take it back


Relic Taste

Surprises last forever
unknown folds of dawn
the tyrant’s letter follows
words stare down

Words last forever
dawn folds the letter
unknown numbers follow
tyrants stare down

Tyrants last forever
letters fold surprises
words unknown follow
dawn stares down

Dawn lasts forever
surprise folds the word
unknown tyrants follow
letters stare down

Letters last forever
words fold the tyrant
dawns unknown follow
numbers stare down

Numbers last forever
known tyrants unfold
letters follow the word
surprises stare down.


How Relaxing

To see more of me lately
that another might miss

or in case you did
my ‘good old used to be’

routine just burst into flame
in the kitchen gadget aisle

so you’d better be clever
it’s now or never

to sing me those ‘back
in no time’ blues


Poet Tom Mandel is the author or co-author of more than 20 books, including To the Cognoscenti (2007), and The Grand Piano, an experiment in collaborative autobiography. His work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and anthologies around the world, including Best American Poetry, 49+1: Poètes Americain, The Norton Anthology of Post-Modern Verse (First Edition), and In the American Tree. Tom grew up in Chicago and was educated in its jazz and blues clubs and at the University of Chicago. He’s lived in New York, Paris, San Francisco and Washington DC, and now resides in a village on the Atlantic coast. More about Tom at and on Wikipedia.

Artist Jim Flahaven is originally from the Midwest; far off places like South Dakota and Kansas. He has been drawing and painting for over 25 years. He received his BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Texas, and his MFA in Painting and Drawing from Ohio State. In 2000 he moved to Maine to work and live closer to the ocean. There he teaches drawing, painting and color theory at the University of Southern Maine. His most recent body of work is inspired by a number of mid to late century abstractionists (early DeKooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Terence Lanoue). His work has been described as “lurking, rather than hanging on the wall.” There is a sense of divine transition or awkwardness that he tries to distill in his paintings and one can find in this work a metaphor for the condition of modern life, with its accelerated pace, constant change, and the notion of competing ideas or ideologies grinding against one another. His work can be seen at

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