TOPLESS / McCluskey, Mead, Provost


In stock

poems by

Eileen McCluskey, Deborah Mead, Kara Provost

Poetry chapbook, 52 pages, $10 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-282-8

Release date: 2011


EMcCluskey_PxEileen McCluskey is a poet and freelance writer whose work regularly appears in MIT News, WPI Transformations, and other publications. Her poetry has appeared in The Main Street RagBoston College MagazineIbbetson StreetWomenWords, and Mothers at Home. Eileen is crazy about her teenage daughter, Maeve McCluskey, and Mani, their adopted dog.



DMead_PxDeborah Mead is a freelance writer and poet. Her articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor and FamilyFun Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in The Main Street RagIodine Poetry Journal and Haz Mat Review. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, dog, cat, fish and King George, the snail.



KProvost_PxKara Provost‘s chapbook Nests was published in 2006 by Finishing Line Press; most recently she published a micro-chapbook, Figures of Speech, with the Origami Poems project. Kara has poetry and memoir published or forthcoming in Connecticut ReviewThe Main Street RagHurricane AliceThe Newport ReviewTar Wolf ReviewThe Aurorean, and other journals, as well as in an anthology edited by David Starkey and Wendy Bishop, In Praise of Pedagogy.


“First I would want to know / the salt of things,” begins Topless, a collaborative chapbook that might just as aptly be titled Fearless. Mead, McCluskey, and Provost know the salt of things, along with the bitter and the sweet, and explore all three in poems that move between men and mermaids, art and suffering, lovers and daughters (“little pollywogs that will turn into women”), blood and breasts. In its exuberant variousness, Topless becomes a catalog of women’s experience — of human experience — that excites the intellect and cracks the heart. Ever returning to water — streams and oceans, swimming and drowning — the three distinct voices here become one music, “the river that sings over rocks, and never stops.

–Laura Cherry

Love, shimmering and slippery as a trout, darts in and out of Topless. Reading these memorable poems is like overhearing a lively conversation between three friends, Eileen McCluskey, Deb Mead and Kara Provost, as each poet explores the complex and often conflicting needs of the mind, heart, and body. Deb Mead waits for “the kiss that will crack the night” as Kara Provost watches “Little by little, soft shining fishes turn into men,” and concludes that all experience ultimately carries “us back to the body / and its contradictory flesh.” These are not poems that can be skimmed over, forgetting the last while reading the next because each is written with an unsentimental voice that provides an uncompromising encounter with the difficulty of being human. In a striking prose poem, Eileen McCluskey does not shy away from looking as “The light gives itself away little by little to hungry darkness.” These lyrical poems will resonate first in your ear, then haunt your mind but finally nest firmly in your heart.

–Vivian Shipley


Before Loving (Deborah Mead)

First I would want to know
the salt of things;
the sweat of the palm
or the air when it comes
off the flat of the sea,
the thick water bubbling
in foam on the shore.
I would want to know
the salt of the sand
and rock
and how the grains
work their way into being,
everything being salty.
How salt water can bleach bones
and how it moves through
cells like sieves.
I would want to know
the scallops’ ribs, the deer lick,
the weight of the Dead Sea.
To know what the gull knows
hunched on its piling
or the garden slug in its final
dark curl. The riptide runs
through granite and grass,
through juniper and yew.
At night the mollusks part
their dark lips, whisper
the brine of the sea.

This Other Life (Kara Provost)

I come from water.
My world is all L, O,
M, and S and sounds you have no name for:
crackle of parrotfish crunching coral
soft roar of current and the far-off wind.
Light falls through water
like gemstone shards
spinning and sparkling.
Down deeper it’s dark cool,
cold. Water presses heavy
as waves rock me on the sandy bottom.

I come from water
you can hear it in my voice
sliding, lapping, singing
sizzling like waves drawing back
over sand: water fills
my liquid hips, floating
arms; my feet flow
over ground like rain,
my hair a waterfall.

But this world is not
what I thought it would be:
movements choppy as the stop
and go of traffic; sounds grate
my ears-clanks, buzzsaws
electric chimes, raw sharp bangs.
Here are buffeting air and smells:
pizza grease, gasoline, but also jasmine wafting
sweet and green. You make amazing
things, many of them useless
and divide each other up in odd ways
only now and then seeing
one always flows into another.

I stand with my feet
in the soft shallows.
I thought I could always go back
with a splash or slip,
always go back to that deep
quiet world, as long as I remember
how water can be breathed.

Have You Tasted Her (Eileen McCluskey)

have you tasted her on the tip
of your mind your tongue your dreams
a sail a river in the rose wind
her eyes draw you
out by the heart the hope
she tastes like your own fingertips

each time you wake
the dream flees
but later returns
a wildflower breeze
touching your hair
folding your fears
draping them on the chair
wrapping her legs around your
the ones you had forgotten

she has waited for you
to close your eyes
and open your
of the past
let her near
to taste you
meadow oak ocean


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