And the winner of the 1st Mystery Box Contest is....


J.M. Green, for "Cummins's Eleven"



With three runners-up (alphabetically by title):

Heli Jeffrey's "Abstract"

Sandra Soli's "Dora Evelyn Thaw Before Her Husband Commits Murder"

Gretchen Fletcher's "His World Tipping"





It was sometime last spring, or maybe early summer, when I first began considering starting a contest. I wanted to do something different, something fun. I mentioned this to Maureen and Ren and they both thought it was a great idea. Maureen, who is also a visual artist, had purchased a small box to use in one of her collages. She generously offered it up, and in so doing gave us our first "prize", and so the "Mystery Box Contest" began. We decided that there would be no rules, other than the poems had to have been inspired in some way by the box, and that there would be no ending date; the contest simply would end when we the right poem came in.

We received about thirty entries for this, the very first Mystery Box Contest. There were several that came close, but ultimately we editors chose J.M. Green's "Cummin's Eleven" for his inventive use of the box, and for all the fun references to other contemporary poets. "Abstract", "Dora Evelyn Thaw Before Her Husband Commits Murder", and "His World Tipping", were contenders until the end, and so they appear here, as evidence of the varied takes on the box we received. 

Hope you enjoyed our contest. Check the "Mystery Box Contest" page again in a few days for a new box! 




A former curator of the Getty Museum was indicted for conspiracy to acquire looted works. The Met and at least seven other U.S. museums have been accused of illegally taking items. This is the job of the curator.


Cummins’s Eleven

11:20, 25 July 2005
During a Nick Adams discussion in American Lit, Rich
had mentioned he served with Marine Recon. So, Jim
Cummins gave him an F on his midterm with a short note
that ended with “See Me!” “Oh Shit! He knows
I lean right,” Rich thought. Rich wore a tie-dye shirt and faded blue
jeans for his afternoon meeting at the Elliston Poetry Room.

14:00, 26 July 2005
“The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems is in this room,”
said the voice from the bookshelf shadows.  Of those, Rich
said his favorite was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue
Fish. “You want that F turned into an A?” Jim asked Rich.
“Then pay close attention to the carrot in front of your nose.
First you’re going to be tutored – take good mental notes.”

27 July – 10 November 2005
Professor Drury tutored Rich almost daily. Rich’s notes
dissolved minutes after their meetings, meetings held in rooms
like a Ray Chandler novel. Rich replied with simple yeses and noes. 
John taught hand and arm signals, challenges and passwords. Rich
learned how to beat the polygraph. If all else failed, John
told Rich to yell German profanities until his face turned blue.

11:00, 11 November 2005
At a booth in Bruegger’s, Rich whispered,  “Your father favors blue
stonewashed denim shirts.” On a napkin, Margaret scribbled a note – 
“They complete his collection of blue Oxfords. Got gum?”  Margaret
wore a Perry Mason suit and a felt fedora with too much room. 
She slid a half-eaten smoked salmon sandwich towards Rich. 
He retrieved a ticket and left wearing plastic glasses with a large nose.

10:22, 12 December 2005
Rich stood on a curb at La Guardia wearing his large nose
and plastic glasses. He took off his jacket, exposing a blue
T-shirt that read “Diamond Jim’s.” A cab pulled up. Rich
asked if this was the A-Team. His Holiness passed Rich a note – 
“Are you the angry boy with a gun?” The Dalai Lama made room
and Rich jumped in back. “We’re your security team,” said Bill.

10:45, 12 December 2005
Bill Wadsworth told Rich the man seated beside him was Gary
Snyder, Master of Disguise. Gary handed Rich a new large nose
and glasses (this pair with a moustache) and keys to a hotel room. 
Gary jumped out at Times Square, morphing into a member of the Blue
Man Group. “Am I safe?” Rich asked. “Are you safe? I’ll have you note
Rushdie was safe.” “HE was with you?” “Hey – kill the questions, Rich!”

15:35, 12 December 2005
In a West 35th hotel, scared out of a recurring dream of being a bellhop, Rich
fumbled to answer the telephone. On the other end, Denise
Duhamel whispered, “He smiled at my two vaginas.” Rich replied, “Note
to self, they laughed at my half a penis.” Denise told him to keep his nose
in the room and to stay away from the door until the fuses blew. 
Minutes later the lights went out. A silver box lay outside Rich’s room.

15:45, 12 December 2005
Rich picked up the box and double locked the door to his room. 
The box contained bleach and other ingredients from the S.A.M.  Rich
also found a receipt from Strand, two erotica paperbacks, and blue-
prints.  On the back of the receipt Rich read, “Enjoy yourself! – Nick
Carbo.” For ten minutes, Rich “enjoyed himself” to Ignacio Noe’s
Doctor, I’m Too Big. Soon after, he left with a book and Nick’s note.

16:20, 12 December 2005
Rich marched down Broadway repeating his response to the next note. 
“Forget the nose, worry about the brows.” Back near Strand’s stock room
was a discount table. Rich searched the piles until he read “Is my nose
too big?” – written on the cover of Where Shall I Wonder. Rich
drew a Sharpie from his pocket and wrote the response across John
Ashbery’s face. He hid it and returned Nick’s copy of Intense Blue.

19:15, 12 December 2005
Wearing a jacket with a spoon in the lapel button hole, Rich blew
into the KGB Bar and sat under the photo of a Soviet soldier. He noted
the featured poets at the bar. Strutting in her cigar girl get-up, Beth Ann
Fennelly approached Rich. “Bonjour.” “Konnichiwa.” She scoped the room
before handing Rich a Monte Cristo No. 2. The wrapper read “Rich-
ard H. is a codger in Harry P. glasses.” She shrugged and said, “No sé.”

11:30, 13 December 2005
The Times quoted an NY Public Library official who stated, “It’s no se-
cret, our security guards suck.” NYPD found a T-shirt with blue
lettering (JC & The Boys) amongst Wachenheim 3 Gallery rubble. Rich
would later buy papers reporting the heist. The Voice headline noted,
“Whitman’s Grass Gets Smoked: Not one original leaf left in the room.” 
Employees had left their posts to assist a “stroke victim” named Archie.

09:05, 14 December 2005
Rich paced outside Federal Hall with the silver box and waited for David
Lehman. David hustled towards him carrying an attaché, “Lord knows
Hoffman should play me in the movie.” “But will there be an orgy room
scene with three French broads?” After the exchange, Dave zipped his blue
floor trader’s jacket and vanished. Rich cell-phoned the boss. “Note,
Dave and I switched.” “Dave or Gary?” Jim laughed. “Man, that was rich.”


J.M. Green teaches at the University of Cincinnati. He received his BA from Ohio State University and his MA from the University of Cincinnati.  He spent four years as an active duty Marine and two years as an analyst for the CIA. Recently, he was an editorial assistant at The Cincinnati Review.



Runners Up, alphabetically by title




Tubal sterilization with silver clips was clinically performed on 541 volunteers, aged 17-59. Postoperative follow-up indicated a failure rate of 3.95% over one year. Slippage accounted for the vast majority of pregnancies, the way a solo trombone slides in gliss. Spontaneous loosening is also postulated, the way small fingers release too soon a frantic mother’s grasp. The way a grasshopper springs before a snuffling dog. Six weeks into the study, seventeen women reported a metallic taste at the cup of the throat—the silver spoon they would’ve birthed, leaching ions into their barren rivers.

Imported clips fared better in non-national women, and volunteers who completed the study received engravable boxes for post-menstrual reversal and storage. The initials of unborn children were the monogram of choice in 34.8% of the cases. Does silver glint where no son rises?

Thirteen clips remain unaccounted for.


18923334 Indexed for SterMedweb. To view full article, register today.

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-- Heli Jeffrey






Dora Evelyn Thaw in Pisa Before Her Husband Commits Murder


Inside a thumbprint of sun
I am waiting for you
on Hotel Francesco's terrace,
the afternoon winding down
like a clock whose churchkey
has been lost.

Piazza dei Miracoli's tourists
screamed in my direction, cameras
clicking B yes, Floradora herself,
the girl who sparkles dust
motes in the Rialto's whirring dark.

I played the coquette, as expected,
smiling postcard smiles, happy
in stunningly graceful poses
but today I am tired, Harry.
My poor feet!

Lucky Floradora is worn out,
I tell you, from razzle dazzle.
Their Field of Miracles in the wrong
shoes. Hurry back, can't you?

Now the scented Gauloise
(careful, don't damage the manicure)
from the silver case
you chose at the corner shop
on Via Santa Maria,
my new initials engraved
even before you proposed.

You were so sure of me --
unlike Stanny, though some said
I was not the first to perform
in his red velvet swing.

The pinch of gossip (flick ashes here).
He knew I loved expensive toys.
Even Garbo could lust for
the future I have yet to imagine:

Star of the courtroom drama,
a million dollars, a million readers
binging on the news of murder,
our divorce, the greedy scrambling
for tarnished mementos I once touched.



-- Sandra Soli


Sandy Soli's new chapbook is What Trees Know (Greystone Press, 2007). Poems have appeared in The New York Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Negative Capability, Ellipsis, The Grove Review, and elsewhere. She served in Oklahoma's artist-in-residence program 1990-2000 and for nine years was columnist and poetry editor for ByLine magazine. 





His World Tipping

Cuban sun mirrored off his silver case
makes Benito Estevanico squint.
He selects a slim cigarillo, snaps
the case shut, and sits in the shade
to smoke with his afternoon rum.
From his rattan chair he can survey
his waving acres of sugar
and watch his workers machete
their way through his canes.

In his wildest dreams he cannot see
the machete-wielding rebels
who will one day march out of
the fields they'll claim as their own.
He cannot envision his world tipping,
leaning precariously, finally falling.

The silver cigarillo case will be
the last thing Benito slips into his pocket
as he leaves his finca for good
and the first thing airport guards
will order him to toss onto the pile
of rings, bracelets and watches
soon to belong to The People
whose names will not match
etched monograms.


-- Gretchen Fletcher