Poetry Feature: “On Being Mean” by Olivia Sokolowski

On Being Mean


A man walks up to me at the gas station air pump

and tries to explain how to use the machine. I understand

how to use the machine. When he won’t take the hint

I get back in my car and he shouts, I don’t want to hurt

you! I’m just trying to help! And that’s when I get the urge

to lean out the window and smile I’m just a mean

person! Right, don’t I remember your voice from last year

calling to tell me the same? Or was it my mother’s

laughter, saying zippy, zingy, feisty—little tap-

dancey words, maraschinos? Oh man, by now I know

the artistry of Mean, its well-lit pastry case

haloing flavors: blistering pineapple, thoughtless

plum… Rich beyond measure were the egg yolks

plashing the windshield of that new Subaru. I once

stole back a birthday gift, a mounted painting, and stayed

thirsty for that urge days later. Were you not

in the car when A. read us his poem about the body

in his backseat, dying, white hair loosing

from that figure which must have been his grandfather

but turned out to be the treasured family dog? O,

how the rest of us laughed! Like shards of hard candy

shooting out of the sunroof and into the mouth

of the moon. The moon is kind because she eats this

kind of laughter, fashions it into an ambergris

waxed with sleek window cats and tulle-purple dusks, an average

she used to perfume the crags of the quiet stadium

we parked beside. But now, I only want to cross

the highway of that memory to touch the dark

noses of the cows that grazed theresweet and sad

beneath the moon’s blue spit. Why can I only

see them now with their faces to the earth, how the pulses

of their breath ask a question the grass still refuses?






Olivia Sokolowski

On Being Mean

Olivia M. Sokolowski is a poet currently pursuing her PhD at Florida State University. She earned her MFA at University of North Carolina Wilmington and her undergraduate degree at Berry College. Her work is recently featured or forthcoming in Lake Effect, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, and Nelle. You can also find Olivia streaming at twitch.tv/clockwork_olive.

Poetry Feature: At the Library by Josh Lefkowitz

Back at the library, trying to write

an interesting poem about ancient Greeks


but some little girl won’t shut up about horses

and the two librarians are being too Minnesota-nice.


They had six different words for love, those Greeks:

Eros, Philia, Ludus, Agape, Pragma and Philautia.




Eros, of course, is the most well-known:

Passion, driven by desire.




And Pragma, I think, is a worthy aim –

developed over time, as a river carves rock.




Y’know, I’m really trying to practice Agape here –

love for everyone, including annoying little girls –


but I’m also pursuing Philautia – self-care –

and that means writing, and that needs quiet.




Her mother – not deaf, just regretting her life –

hides in the stacks and swipes through her phone.


Back to the ancient Greek shelves I go,

this time not for love, but Euripides.


There’s some good ideas in here, I say,

interrupting the mother-phone session, handing her a play: