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Other notable work by Susan Berger-Jones.

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Stoolie

I have an imaginary lover,
Don’t you? Fortunately
I see him only when my husband

Is away. It’s convenient
That he lives across the street
So I can just run right over

After doing the breakfast dishes.
I worry a lot about what
The neighbors will think

If they catch a glimpse of us
On his wrap around porch.
For that reason, we usually

Confine our activities to his bathroom
Or basement. We couldn’t
Do anything at my house because

I don’t know him well enough
To let him put his head
On my pillow. What if he has

Dandruff or one of his nose hairs
Were to fall into the sink? My
Husband doesn’t like finding

Hair in the bathroom. My husband
Doesn’t have much hair on his head
At all. When he comes home, I

Stroke his bald, egg head and smooth
My palms on its nascent bristles.
We dispense with the pillow altogether.

_______________

Caesura

And then she stopped, as if
The irritable reaching found
Its source, as if the roses were

Now painted red, as if each
Wayward thought met a new
End, as if drifting did not

Lead to calculated hysteria.
She followed her mind, her mouth
And shut up her heart.

_______________

Oracle

We’ve got a knack
For joining routine
Cults. Sign here

To make amends
At the intersection
Of melody and

Mortality. The goat
Meat dries on the rack.
We sacrifice what

We don’t need and
Can afford to kill.
Offer us a pigeon

Breast plumped with
Harmony and we will
Nourish our fear

Of flying, or is it
Falling? We’re fond
Of windowpanes and asphalt.

_______________

Pit Stop

I became a pilot
because I liked flying
through altitude.

I’d pack clouds
in my brief case
and bring them

home to the kids
on weekends. Once,
flying to Zurich,

I forgot my landing gear.
I developed a fear of telling
stories I could not finish.

_______________

At Least We’re Over

Yesterday with it’s gritty
insistence on ruin.
If the sutures holding
all of it together
get snipped, then
the wound reopens
and its discharge
will flood the foyer.

Such drama over
silver polish. Are
our grandmother’s
eating utensils to become
the elements of our
last meal together?

_______________

Climbing Out of the Marvelous

I have learned that knowing a man
is not as easy as it seems.
I have learned that knowing
a woman is even harder.

When I stopped sleep-walking
in concentric reservoirs,
the nurse installed a muzzle
in my chamber pot.

So buoyant was I that no
pipsqueak omen could connive
to smudge my vital gargle. I
camouflaged myself as a warbling hero

and nuzzled up to the organ
in the alcove. Here, kiss-kiss,
our apparent paradigm traipses
to alleviate the superfluous.

We take advantage of the hubbub
and sandwich ourselves under
the hospitable treble clef. We live
for sex or did you know that already?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sally Van Doren is the author of two books of poetry, Possessive (LSU Press 2012) and Sex at Noon Taxes (LSU Press 2008) which received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She divides her time between St. Louis, where she is a curator for the St. Louis Poetry Center, and New York, where she will read at Hunter College on September 29, 2014 and teach at the 92nd Street Y starting in February 2015.

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Susan Berger-Jones-

If I could sue a cloud

Loving you is not an act
invested in ferociously
trained seals –

as if one could sue a cloud –
or place an elephant momentarily on edge –

my lap dances are all in the audience –
swinging on so many trapezes
they sleep in oriental combs –

of moonshine
in the face, you I carry –

milkier than a white rat –
your tent floats in my eye –

who else is too small
to be a paper lily?

_______________

Making a hole where the hair gets in

Let us love musak and the macabre –
Let us utter everything we spell –
An army bulldozes the turned over –
When I wake up a person might be me –
Swiftly I turn her into mingled steps –
No one else confesses –
The country is a blank sheet –
Our children grow up compact and crowned with teeth –

So, let me introduce you to my navel –
A beautiful mind has come for this –
Hatching the blueness of each queen –
Whether or not the sky is less than –
A law made of water and therefores –
We are only ounces and pounds –
We dream of things but do not think –
When you sign on the dotted line – you are done for —

_______________

On international mustard day

I run a lightening rod through your hair—
a little like a person who stands a moment by the stair—
I lose things—

widening rings, retrograde Moons, the sacre bleu—

but you may always be my geisha—
who hides in our bodies dear—
who thinks in terms of kingdoms?

I am just doing the backstroke—
as mine as nobody ever was—
like a Hollywood agent for circumcision—

we charcoal ourselves by hand—
when images are caught in our hair—
I am grateful to be licked clean every night—

Love, look, now you’ve changed the color of my eye shadow, here—

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Susan Berger-Jones is an architect and poet. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, No Exit, and two anthologies of poems on paintings edited by Off the Park Press. In 2012 she was a finalist for The Center for Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Poetry Competition. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

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Other notable works by Sheila Black and Kyle Hemmings.

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Elizabeth P. Glixman-

“Straight To The Moon Alice”

One of these days Pow! Right in the kisser! One of these days Alice, straight to the Moon!
The Honeymooners
Ralph Cramden (Jackie Gleason)

She is a hard ass with her man
She edits his thoughts one by one
Telling him they are
Stupid
Foolish Senseless
Over stocked armies converging
In a copycat Cecil B. De Mille Hollywood extravaganza
Where nothing will be successful
She says they remind her of seaweed floats
On empty sun tan lotion tubes
Bobbing in the chaotic sea
Day and night day and night useless cacophony
Hitting the shore
His outer Ralph Cramden stays silent.
She becomes Ralph
When he goes with her to the dentist
To get her teeth capped
She grinds her teeth

His silent Ralph watches her Ralph
Pop her off his inner Neanderthal
Says quietly whispers inside
Pop her off
He would like to pop her
Off
He was taught not to hit women
He wants to Send her
straight to the moon.

His fist would send her into outer space
Among space debris
When she was gone
He would watch football
Play pool
Look at the moon
See her face
All puzzled and quiet

from out of print chapbook Cowboy Writes a Letter and Other Love Poems (Pudding House)

_______________

Rabbi Simon

Rabbi Simon sits in a wooden box in the basement
His human mother died of cancer.
He was to be euthanized
The vet said, “Not on your fat human ass, husband.
This is not ancient Egypt.”

Rabbi Simon lives in the square room
In the rectangle box with the humidifier
In his rescuers basement next to Max,
who is twelve years old and abandoned.

Wizened and gray templed Rabbi Simon
looks like Uncle Herbie
Walking against the wind for exercise,
Joe the pharmacist waved when Herbie plodded by.

Rabbi Simon knows Aramaic. He
once floated on the Dead Sea
in a dream and he knows about terrorist,
They slapped him with newspapers
And belched at breakfast,

“Get that F-ing cat out of here, Mildred.”

Rabbi Simon longs for a home
Any home upstairs in a house
On a bed with a rose quilt.
Then he will put on his prayer shawl,
chew words embedded in the esoteric grass codes,
Sing praises to his person and the Lord,
who gave people hearts.

From out of print chapbook A White Girl Lynching ( Pudding House Press)

_______________

Cat Patoum

He puked green today.
The rug is wet
Who would keep him around?
The soiled rug.

The rug is wet
It was rose blue cream
Oriental and proud bamboo–
A clean scheme

Who would keep him around?
Spit on his paws
Though handsome clever
He watches me clean.

It was rose blue cream
What’s the cost of perfection?
Perfect pristine
Empty sad rug.

Though handsome, clever
Will she keep me he thinks?
Watches me clean
and dreams cat dreams.

He puked green today
Ripe grass delicious.
Will she keep me? he thinks.
And dreams cat dreams.

From out of print chapbook A White Girl Lynching ( Pudding House Press)

_______________

I am holding one pear in my hand

My ill neighbor handed me two pears as appreciation
for bringing mail to her each day
It is winter
She cannot walk to the mailbox
I hold one green pear like it is an envelope
that slide in the mailbox
when no one saw the magic of roundness
become flat
Abundance become empty.
I read each discoloration on the one pear
Then the next
They are addresses to awakening
My neighbor recites Buddhist chants each day
The sounds slide through the door
carried by the smell of incense
I hear the chants in the colors of the pear
I hear the prayers in the soft knock on my door
I see them in the open hands of my neighbor
I hold abundance in my my hands for you
Take them she says
I fall into heart fullness like they are
letters from a lover
who once brought me
joy

_______________

Beasties

We wait for National Grid
five strangers
stand rigid upright like pianos.
No one makes music.
We look for light to fill the blankness
a pop
a ray
a scrunch a sliver of light against
the black trees and colorless sky.
Each of us has a story of darkness
about governments and plots
of rolling blackouts
that could come to our neighborhood
if the electric company
turns off the grid.
.
One neighbor says we will need to remember
how to make fire
how to illumine the night sky
with sticks and friction.
We can live without living rooms
looking like Times Square or Las Vegas
or Christmas trees on steroids says another.
But we will miss our shadows.

We look at the door.
The no exit sign is gone.
Remember the dinosaurs and dark forests
my neighbor says.
We imagine a beast looking at us
from the dark woods across the street.
Remember she says
when there were no lights to read
a daily search for wood to make fire
no switches to create light
when there was only dreams death
and darkness when the sun went down.

_______________

My Husband’s Teeth Are All Crowned

My husband the dentist and I
met at the free dental clinic downtown.
He loved my poor bite and eroded bicuspids.
In the pre –nuptial I agreed to not eat candy-
To cosmetic surgery
To get that whiter brighter Rembrandt smile.
In sickness and in health
I agreed that all that would
Be sweet in my life would be him.
He slid the ring on my finger
That was clean of the recent M& Ms
I had eaten in the church’s ladies room.
Today it is the week before Easter
I ate six ears of six hollow chocolate bunnies
I hid in the basement
Near the freezer
And his wall of books on orthodontics.
I can hear him say
“There is nothing I love more than straight white teeth.”
My husband is a racist.

I am an addict on chocolate heroin
There is nothing I can do about defacing the bunnies.
I am not Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.
In my defense
I was addicted since birth
My mother’s milk was sweet.

My husband’s teeth are all crowned.
He is on the city’s campaign
To put fluoride in the city water.
And ban candy bars machines in elementary schools.
If he knew about the bunnies would that be the end?
Would he be Silda Spitzer at my public confession speech
looking at me with ominous eyes?

from out of print Pudding House chapbook

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Elizabeth P. Glixman is a poet, writer and artist. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks A White Girl Lynching, 2008; Cowboy Writes a Letter & Other Love Poems, 2010; both published by Pudding House Publications and The Wonder of It All, 2011 published by Propaganda Press http://altcurrent.com/pp/pp_item.html#the_wonder_of_it_all. Her latest chapbook I Am the Flame was published by Finishing Line Press. I Am the Flame can be found on Amazon.com.

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Sheila Black-

Travels with Eliza

She wants to know if the other universes have a
consciousness, “like maybe we are like cells in a
giant, giant body. The body has no idea
what we are thinking.” She wants a pomegranate-
blueberry-lemon smoothie from Sonic. “It is
healthier because it has fruit,” she says. She says,
“My thighs are sooo huge.” At Fort Stockton, she chants
“Windmill, windmill, oil well, oil well,” drawing
hearts on the sleeve of her notebook, then with her
finger on the dust that has crept across the car
windows. Roadtrip—destination “Land of Enchantment.”
“It doesn’t look any different than where we
came from,” she says. “Where are we going? Cells
just travel round and round, you know this?”
She turns up the music on her iPhone. The band
is called “Five Seconds of Summer.” If she had
a wish, she announces she would be surfing with
them instead of road-tripping with us. “What is
healthier,” she wonders aloud. “Cheese fries or
tater tots?” “Tater tots,” we all say at the same time.
In ten minutes we will exit the highway, drive thirty
miles to a bald flat-topped mountain. We will get in
a short line and view the telescope which scientists
claim can peer so far into space it is the same as looking
at the beginning of time. What will we see? The dust
on the lens, a muzzy cluster of star? She will tell us
outer space smells like barbeque because the stars
keep burning up, because the stars keep burning.
She will squint up through the glass. Run her finger
across the star map. Outline her lips in Burt Bee’s
Berry Bliss. “Whose cell am I?” she will ask. “Universe,
Universe, it is I, Eliza, calling.”

_______________

Calenture at the Y

The woman shouting at her small
daughter now only
rumor—two fins and a paddle.

Under, where their forms are
only blue shapes—smoke, puppets,
where the slightest motion

assumes the tension of longing.

Here the nineteenth century
sailor, the “Westward ho,” in his sails

and such streams and Saharas,
the dry grasses so like the wet waves—

and the name for the pathology of
wishing it home:

A lonely person
chanting the names of
every tree she knows:

Chestnut, hawthorn, boxwood,
poplar, sycamore, sycamore.

_______________

Western Elegy

You are waiting for the difference to be made
manifest, our manifest destiny, a ritual by

which to mourn rust, industrial cleanser, the fake

strawberry flavor in coffee or creamer,

the hazelnuts and caramels distilled in fine glass
pipettes, the chickens raised in plastic cubes

that cover the fields and acres of salt-blasted land.

The remnant silence. I will fight no more

forever above the Wallowa-Whitman and the
felled firs that would take six men to section.

Thin glaze of cerulean over aqua, the spring freezes,
the snowmelts, whippoorwill, canyon wren—

so many notes pitched to descant.

And no fur like the dangerous,

the glass deer in a windowsill in the sun and
that they might turn abruptly to light.

And I want you to know

that I mourn in increments

aware of our decay like the radium from pitch-blende,

the pain of distillation

like the mouths of the drowning,

the gild of mustard at the edge of the slow fields.

And the white horse gelding left alone

to rack his bare chest against the barbed wire fence.

And to parse light as in the sap-running ponderosas

when you cut to wick

and burn fingers, the ends of hair.

Above the meadow where the coyote run and their howls
along the train tracks and the train whistling

like the rattle of teeth in a mouth,

and the neon light pictures we construct as if species-map
above the old cinemas— Pine Cone, Rialto.

And what was that world of black-and-white and

so-many-owls-in-the-trees staring?

October rain/firehill/dead lupine/transoms/green heron—

lists and lists of what won’t be recovered.

_______________

Shalem Colony

Imagine you were to write your own Bible
or invent your own angels. You might come
here where you’d have to dig six hundred feet
to hit water. You might imagine you could
make a farm like the ones you grew up in—
apple orchards, waves of grain. You might
decide later the coldness of the sky deceived you.
You might blame the angels’ voices or the
sign of the wand or the sword or the stalks of flower
held out to you, a window broken by light
that said it was possible to love anyone, the lions
and the lambs lay down, etc. And kids are so
cute wherever they are from. What the women
could have told you if you listened—to raise
up anyone in this world is a task of blood-flay
and fury. Even though I don’t have a hard time
picturing what drove you here, forgiving you
is not easy. Why didn’t you just remain a dentist
with a painted sign, bloodying mouths and doling
out opium? Why not confess that being holy is
beyond the purview of most men? Here is no
kind of memorial, only a remnant of an adobe
wall, a place where the well was, a cracked bell
on the ground, and in the museum across
town, beside your name, a typed listing of
the eighty-some names of the children of
your heaven, who fell back to earth. I see
them in the high yellow grass that bends in
our Sonoran wind. Most died before thirty. Simple
sentences define them: Found froze by railway,
jumped out window, died of fever in brothel
.

_______________

Fort Sumner

Billy the Kid killed twenty-one men before
he was nineteen. In the house of his
mother, a sister made a doll called Miss Kitty.
Miss Kitty was a gaiety girl in black lace
and calico skirts. Her pet a stone cat
with a tiny bird perched on it and “Everyone
knows cats kill birds because they love
them,” his sister said. Later he would think
perhaps he loved the men he killed as
he loved the gun he named Kate, caressing
her long barrel, smooth-hipped and slick
as the Silver City girls who could dance on tables
and send a blue smoke into any room.
His sisters—they scattered like corn. He
forgot them. He spied a doll in the window
of a saloon he shot up once not far from
Mesilla, the windows so clotted with dust
they resembled gilded mirrors. This doll—
no cat nor girl, just a blank head.
“Little Stone,” he called it, two slits of eyes as
if had been made by a person who barely
remembered what it was to memorize
the precise shape of any human face. He
never learned what became of the homestead.
The soil too thin and/or acidic to grow
corn or cotton, to graze even the thinnest-
chested cattle. “You ride the long horse over
the arsenic- white trail,” Billy explained,
when he got good and tired, in his pockets
river stones with tracks of birds on them.

_______________

Carrizozo

We buy cherry juice from the half-desiccated
orchard up the road and come here to this
egg-white wash under an egg-yolk sun to watch
the thin waters silver across the badlands.
This is the season of the birds—they fly down from
the Great Salt Lake, gather here by the thousands.
Somewhere a train is stitching its track along
the hills of bitterbrush. Somewhere someone
is picking chiles for a daily wage of under
$50 dollars a day. We keep our motel room dark,
divide the space into factions. Here the spot where
happiness-the-garter-snake. Here the spinal tap
of we-should-never-have-done-this. Here the
shin-splint of dinner-out-with-the-kids. At the
bosque, we pass binoculars back and forth, watch
the cranes lift and disappear. We can’t see
a single large bird or wild mammal anymore
without a rush of guilt, like visitors at a zoo.
We are looking up at the haze on the sky; we are
looking into the dangerous sun, and any unveiling
we can imagine will be terrible. But who knew
that cranes tuck in their necks, flying shy as
new brides, and then—all of sudden—stretch
out like hands splaying their fingers wide like that
moment in Freeze Tag when you are caught
unawares, arms, legs akimbo? We watch them
skid to landing, water flying like a game
of summer. Such big birds they appear almost
human as they cool their stick legs in the slim
lick of water, bending their long necks as if
looking for a ring they lost.

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Sheila Black’s books include House of Bone, Love/Iraq (both CW Press) and Wen Kroy (Dream Horse Press-forthcoming in May 2012). She co-edited with Jennifer Bartlett and Mike Northen Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press), named a 2012 Notable Book for Adults by the American Library Association (ALA). In 2012, she received a Witter Bynner Fellowship, for which she was selected by Philip Levine. She was recently a featured poet at the 2014 Split This Rock poetry festival. She lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.

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Kyle Hemmings-

The Colonel’s Younger Lover

Among other things, all her lovers are stale, imitations
of imitations. They hold umbrellas over Paris & have no
sense of blue fifth jazz. When it rains, it doesn’t necessarily
pour a healthy broth. All wars are on hold. At the window,
she is cabbage-patch sad and confides in toy dogs. Memory
is a polka of exhausted I-told-you-so’s. In the distance, there
are insipid pinwheels that upon squinting turn out to be the
neighbors. She turns. The maroon dress, one-piece and
bought at a bargain, falls to the floor. Today, she gets naked
for no one. The windows stay neutral like Switzerland. She’s
a demure alp of fog, a slip of misplaced vanity. At the knock
on the door, everything will be alphabet clear, reassembled
with the old stitches. The corners of the room recede in
their erogenous red dust. Sure.

_______________

Last Night I Dreamt of Virginia Woolf Walking across the Thames

Your first and only lesbian lover is a chemistry student named
Esther. You meet at a frat party where the cheese is free and the girls
sputter their theories of love while pressing chilled wine glasses
against their cheeks. At least one girl, named Penny, rumored to
spread a mysterious social disease, gets up to puke. They find her
body, years later, half-naked, in the backseat of the professor’s station
wagon. He teaches myths of the Mid-East. But tonight, you find
yourself lying next to Esther over your mother’s hand-knit blanket,
laced with pictures of. . . little horses? Palominos? Your head buzzing
from the wine, you freely admit you never did it with a woman
before. “Isn’t it strange,” says Esther,” how my name almost rhymes
with aether. You know, Aristotle’s fifth element.” Her voice is somehow
desert-dry, falling in shafts, as if excavating old truths. Even
when she comes up for air. From now on, whenever you make love
to a boy, you feel heavy, about to gush white lies, cultivating the
energy required to hold them. When Esther calls, you cry for no reason
or for a whole chain-link of non-sequiters. The room spins
whenever you are alone in the fundamental element called night.

_______________

Greta Garbo Loved Sea Monkeys

I pull her in from the low tide again
and turn her on the side where she is still speechless,
but is able to scrawl with her better dry-ink hand–
Never trust a submarine with a crew of only two.
I remember that line from one of her silent films
where she and a married lover were catching squid off Greece,
just to throw them back. I hold her to my chest,
the way I always wanted to snag a low cloud
and impress my man-ray nipples into it. I glance sideways–
the horizon is flamingo pink and the moon is too high.
She tells me to please throw her back into the sea.
Perhaps she has always felt eel-elusive and would never be loved if caught.
She says that like her, all her ex-lovers had flat heavy feet.
They could only pace the ocean floor, exchanging bubbles for baited breaths.

_______________

Star Mother

As a child you clung to walls, stumpy fingers turning
to claw-and-ball or cautious paw. Running your hands
over walnut wood, its veneer and lacquer, you traced the
curves of scallop shells, scrolls in Braille, Ping dynasty servant
girls serving tea. What you didn’t know, your father,
master and commander of sash windows and gingerbread
calamities, filled in the blanks. Then, one day, you couldn’t
hear your mother scream from her version of darkness.
But you had a cat’s sixth sense of events on the horizon.
Your father placed your fingertips over his cracked lips,
explained it like this: Your mother was a faraway star, per -
haps, the sun. The sun fell into the sea.
All the things you said to him in the dark turned into a tall stranger
who had no concept of light. When you turned beautiful, your
sight partially restored, he followed you everywhere, groping
like a fugitive. You turned and asked him, Are you my
father, the one I had before the house burned down, the one
I cried over for years?
He turned and fell on his weaker knee. You helped
him up, noting the terribly scarred one eye, the splat
black. From that point on, you became his walking cane,
as he walked in reverse. Until you became his last words.

_______________

Healthy Diets

The mother once told Alicia that love starts out as a happy puppy but ends up as lice and some serious ticks. She died from so many bruises under the skin, three clots that ruined her night vision. What she did leave Alicia were the small but resilient lives of elderberries, Nodding onions, Japanese Knotweed. In the garden, on Alicia’s ceiling–always the same footprint. She had dreams of her mother raiding the nests of wild honey bees. Throughout the years, a gaggle of lovers ruined her stews, left her skin itching. Her ears rang with their tasteless jokes. When love came, it was in the form of a man mysterious as a medieval monk. She made him Pumpkin Kugel and she blanched sweet corn. He gave her a fistful of Stinging Nettle to quell the inflammation left by previous suitors. If only love could be as healthy as ghee, he told her. He cleaned her house of feathers. She asked him to stay forever, but he revealed that he was dying of a twisted heart. She buried him out back in a domed straw skep, the very one he built. She left him with a sealed jar of honey and her invisible fingerprints.

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Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He holds an MFA from National University, CA, and has helped in editing such zines as Grey Sparrow Journal. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Matchbook, Aperus Quaterly, and elsewhere. He loves cats, dogs, and garage bands of the 60s.

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Other notable work by Christine Redman-Waldeyer, Aline Soules and Sharon Chmielarz.

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Carol Smallwood-

Ice in Lemonade

is for those with time
to study the wonder
of summer’s brevity

* originally published in Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences (Lamar University Press, 2014).

_______________

Photographs

of Earth from space reveal
an impersonal blue marble
with partial cloud cover.

I make Florida orange
Japan purple like my
childhood globe sewed by
longitude and latitude.

* originally published in Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences (Lamar University Press, 2014).

_______________

Wind

Where wind comes from and why
leaves rustle can be explained
by science on the Internet.

But there’s a pleasure in mystery,
guessing, and imagining the truth
like hearing Mass in Latin.

_______________

Main Street

I drive with march music or
symphony, crowds calling my name,
cheering storekeepers joining
under marquees.

Tires hum, clouds change as time
and space blend, vanishing points
always changing.

_______________

The Scent of Smoke

I inhale deeply capturing
the past companionship of
smoke filled worlds;
crane my neck to
see the politically incorrect
smoker with superiority–
and envy.

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Carol Smallwood’s over four dozen nonfiction books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers. Bringing the Arts into the Library, her sixth book for the American Library Association, is a 2014 anthology. Her first poetry collection that appeared after a chapbook was nominated for the Pushcart Prize; hundreds of her award winning poems have appeared in literary magazines in the United States and abroad. Carol, a Michigan resident, has founded and supports humane societies.

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Christine Redman-Waldeyer-

Amulet (The Hand of Miriam)

Miriam leads the women in a dance while singing:
“Sing to the Lord, for God is highly exalted. 

Both horse and driver God has hurled into the sea.”

She sings silently to herself,
pulls out a marker
begins to fill scratches

on the surfaces
of her latest antique.
In the laundry room,

she soaks the white curtains
caked with last night’s dinner,
moves to the bedroom

to turn down sheets stained
with the loss of a child
she can’t bleach out.

She is spring cleaning.
She will finally pack up
her childhood dollhouse

on display in the dining room
brought out each year for Christmas.
She will note the missing window,

take the baby from her crib,
take the children from their beds,
the mother from her kitchen—

will consider the father figure
poised on the couch
facing the miniature TV.

She will wrap them carefully in paper,
pressing each set of arms
to their sides.

She will remove the furniture,
the kitchen table, the stove, the sink—
the tiny, tiny dishes.

It is the larger furniture—
the beds and cribs,
armchairs, and armoires

she has the most difficulty
arranging in the box.
She will carry her once

beloved family, their belongings,
and the house to the attic.
While covering the dollhouse

with an old sheet decorated
in images
of cookies and milk,

she will remember her nightmare,
the ominous hand outside
the dining room window,

remember how the chandelier’s
lights flickered,
remember their eating,

her growing fear.

_______________

Endless Summer

There are roses
and there are roses

that bloom all summer—
Hydrangea.

Blue or pink,
it all depends on the acid level

of the soil;
I love that there are no thorns

when I cut their precious heads off,
arrange them in a vase.

_______________

Eve Asks

Adam to wash and fold
the laundry,

to remember to keep her first,
though Adam’s Father

is also mother.
She asks him to tend

the children when they cry,
when they hurt,

when they have made
someone else cry or hurt.

She asks him to remember
each curve,

how the bends of her body
are meant to bear more than

she thought she could handle,
but did.

She asks him to forgo
the housemaking out dung.

She doesn’t care if it is all he has.
She can’t take the smell.

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Christine Redman-Waldeyer is a poet and Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey. She has published three poetry collections, Frame by Frame, Gravel, and Eve Asks (all with Muse-Pie Press) and has appeared in Paterson Literary Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Texas Review, Verse Wisconsin, and others. She founded Adanna, a literary journal that focuses on women’s topics. She is a graduate of Drew University’s D.Litt Program in writing. She will be a workshop instructor in the forthcoming “Summer Institute for Artists and Writers” at the College of Saint Elizabeth, New Jersey 2014.

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Aline Soules-

Links

With your infant mouth
round my nipple, we are one,
as I was one with your father
the moment you began.

I feel your tug
as we rock under the old quilt.
Unclear shapes
loom in the dim light–
crib, dresser, shelves,
a mis-shapen box.

Downstairs, snores mingle
with the hum of the fridge,
the guinea pig
rustles his cedar-shaving bed,
and air rushes from the grate
as the furnace kicks in.
The smell of fried onions
lingers from supper.

Outside, leaves respond
to the growing wind,
while trucks whine
on their journey up the freeway,
and trains crash
in the freightyard a mile away.

Thunder closes in.
Lightning casts eerie shadows.
Fat rain spats the sidewalk
and the smell of just-damp earth
seeps through the open crack
in the bedroom window.

The half-light of street lamps
diffuses under clouds
that hide distant stars and planets,
but the moon finds a narrow path
through the storm to find
your face.

Nothing changes your rhythm,
eyes and fists clenched,
brow sweating with effort,
center of the universe.

_______________

Jogging

With loping stride,
my son starts his daily jog
down the sidewalks
of our neighborhood.

Long and lean,
he moves with easy grace,
so different from the jerky
toddler who chased a ball
too close to the street.

He is no longer the boy
who kicked stones from his path
on the way to school,
the taut-muscled kid
who rushed to play with his friends,
the stumbling youth on a walk
with his first girl friend.

I watch him grow
smaller in the distance,
turn the corner
and disappear.

_______________

Apart

I’ve given you away.
I don’t know who got
your lungs or eyes or
bones, but your heart
went to a young woman
with two small children.
She wrote to say that it will
slowly give way to her body’s
disease, but not before
she sees her children grow.

Are you breathing in the chest
of a man just down the street?
Do you look at a lake
through the eyes of a boy
who has only known
the sound of its lapping waves
or the chill of his first
plunge of summer?
Can you climb a mountain
in the now-sturdy legs
of a woman on the other side
of the country?

The more those legs
take you away from me
and your heart pumps in another,
the more you breathe
to a different rhythm
and each of us sees people and places
the other will never know,
the more my empty heart
wonders if we have met again,
neither of us able to recognize
that we are together still.

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Aline Soules’ work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, such as Houston Literary Review, Poetry Midwest, and Kenyon Review. Her latest chapbook, Evening Sun: a Widow’s Journey, was published in 2014. Her collection of prose poems and flash fiction, Meditation on Woman was published in 2011.

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Sharon Chmielarz-

Starry Nights of Pantry Labor

“I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be, so I’m on my way home.” Bob Dylan

Maybe a soulscape begins as door.
Your hand, hesitant on the handle,

not sure where you’ll feel at home.
Yours won’t come looking for you.

A sea rushes in only so far. Deserts demand
you bumble onto them.

Your search is a little like flirting, like
the flirting between Jesus

and the Samaritan woman at the well,
her oasis in an arid land

where they prattled on, each sharing
their thoughts on water.

Sometimes you follow the harsh back
of winter to find the scape

that matches you. Insight may happen
on a starry night of pantry labor:

what is missing, what is at hand.
Light streams in, wave after wave

moves through your rooms,
traversable mountains.

_______________

On Time and Its Progress

through catacomb-like cubicles (what is
the fate of boxed warblers in the souk?),

through a claustrophobic labyrinth, what
is the distance to the exit? (Balak! Balak!)

Odors register in jabble-hustled dates,
wool djellabas, bloody slabs of beef,
cedar chips and leather purses–Freudian
interpretations in muted colors–
nougat and donkey dung, a shoulder

clinging aroma that surfaces
in a more recent century and is bused

to a hotel established a long time ago
when floor tiles gleamed and a bar’s armchairs

faced a window wall, a view of this hillside
city, all nine hundred or so years of it.
Time stops on today, a chair I sink into.
A server, a tall, dark-suited man, arrives
and, more polite than anyone I know,

offers to bring whatever year I desire. With
or without sugar, he asks, wielding his tea tray.

_______________

Looking at an Interior
Degas, Intérieur, 1868-69

The name of this room could be loss,
a view taken at dusk. The shadow
stands at the door like a beast
on four legs, and a pool
of pallor throws itself forward

icing the walls, here, too small
or too large, turned in not out
like the bed, like the mirror’s reflection.
The corset on the floor, too great
or insignificant to be stepped over

by shadow or pallor. Admit
the interior had nothing before
they paid for the use of the room.

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Sharon Chmielarz’s eighth book of poetry, Love from the Yellowstone Trail, was published in June, 2013.

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Other notable work by Jason Allen and David J. Bauman.

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Brian Fanelli-

My father never carried a briefcase

never wore a suit with cufflinks
polished to gleam like shoes of lawyers or doctors.
He did wear white dress shirts, loosened top buttons
after work, the weight of his footsteps heavy enough
to make floorboards sigh.
Some days he scooped me in his arms,
until my world blurred,
until I dizzied and laughed.
Other days he yanked off the tie,
said nothing, even at dinner.
I never asked what he did,
only knew he clocked in at an army depot,
his Ford gone before dawn caressed my face,
the hours grinding enough that each night
he dozed on the couch, remote resting
on his belly, rising, falling with each breath.
Before he blared Chuck Norris westerns, I begged
to play catch, and sometimes, he complied,
despite muscle throbs and headaches,
despite the way a son notices
wisps of gray in his father’s hair.

_______________

Hearing Nirvana’s Nevermind

Electric Mindshaft on Lackawanna
is where I bought my first album—
Nirvana’s major label debut Nevermind.

I drifted through dusty stacks of CDs and LPs,
a consumer hooked by the cover of the naked baby
swimming towards the dollar bill.

Home, I cranked the boom box,
moshed with no one as Cobain’s tortured howls
and Dave Grohl’s snare drum kicks rattled walls,

the sonic assault loud enough to drown out
mom’s demands to shut it off
before my eardrums bled out.

Lost in “Lithium’s” booming bass,
I forgot about the girls who laughed in gym glass
after their boyfriends blocked my shots, pantsed me half-court.

Months later mainstream mags plastered Cobain’s face
on their covers, while he proclaimed,
corporate magazines still suck.

That fall, Nevermind thundered from cars.
Jocks head banged to “In Bloom,”
then pummeled punk rockers in hallways.

Concerts swelled with frat boy fans,
slurring, Play “Teen Spirit” again,
so they could bash more heads in the pit.

The rest of us rocked out alone,
too scrawny for mosh pits, but certain
Cobain’s pained screams were meant for us.

_______________

At the Front Door

I am always afraid you will show up at my doorstep,
demanding to know why I haven’t called or texted,
why I accepted your Facebook request
but never wrote on your wall or liked your status updates.
I am always afraid you will show up at my doorstep,
your hands still tightened to fists, ready to brawl
because of the time I threw you out of the apartment
after you said, Go on hit me, College Boy,
while your breath stunk of coke and whiskey.
I am always afraid that you will forgive me
and want to hang at The Bog again,
until you down enough shots and slur enough pick-up lines
that I have to drive you home, like all those times I did
after I returned from college and found you
working at collection agencies, where you counted commission
and sold pot on the side to pay rent.
I am always afraid you will show up at my doorstep
and ask where I’ve gone, why I no longer call the old crew,
or drink Jack Daniels until I puke,
why I moved out of Scranton, into the ‘burbs,
why I got engaged when the activist I used to be
always said, Marriage is part of the fascist patriarchy.
I am always afraid you will show up at my doorstep
and show me how personal politics and ideals change,
that you now zip around town in a BMW
and no longer spit and snarl at bankers, but have moved on
to hustling more expensive drugs or managing
collection agencies, circling the floors in a suit and polished shoes,
your barks and commands like the snap of whip
causing workers in cubicles to dial faster
and not hang up until the other end pays up.
I am always afraid you will show up at my doorstep
and confess that you’ve burned the Chomsky books
and no longer protest the mad money oligarch
because after years of working doubles,
you’re just too drunk or too tired to care.

_______________

The Gambler

Every Friday at 4 he circles cubicles,
waving lottery tickets, calling out,
Who wants to play Mega Mill?
Got a buck for Mega Mill
?
He looms over work spaces
while women fish in their purses
and men dig in their pockets
like red-eyed casino players
scrounging for change for another round.
On breaks he props the duct-taped soles
of his Payless shoes on plastic chairs and dreams
what he’d do if he hit it big—
punch out forever, yank off the tie,
toss the employee ID in the air
like a cap on graduation day.
He can almost see clear water beaches and hear
gulls caw, until the phone
buzzes back at his cubicle.

_______________

Road Warrior

By noon he logs 200 miles,
zigzagging from school to school,
downing Dunkin’ Donuts coffee
until his hands shake.
He pumps quarters into meters,
hikes six blocks to campus,
where full-time faculty fill parking spots.
He slips and slides,
like an ice skater losing balance,
then bends to fetch spilled papers
scattered across snow. He scurries
to another class where another set of students slouch,
text, fidget, pretend to care
about MLA, a lecture he gave twice already,
using the same air-chopping hand motions,
though such gestures could rouse the academic dead.
By 8 p.m. his feet throb
inside Payless shoes, pressed to the gas pedal,
while books slide across his back seat, then crash
to the floor, burying stacks of papers.
By 7 a.m. he unlocks his car, his office on wheels,
the Taco Bell burrito stench still strong.
Spent ketchup packets and crumbled wrappers litter the dash,
as he fishes for change to buy another coffee
on his way to another class.

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Brian Fanelli’s poetry has been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Boston Literary Magazine, Blue Collar Review, Portland Review, and several other publications. He is the author of the chapbook Front Man (Big Table Publishing) and the full-length All That Remains (Unbound Content). Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and teaches English full-time at Lackawanna College, while completing his Ph.D. at SUNY Binghamton. Find him online at www.brianfanelli.com.

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Jason Allen-

Pale As Milk

I live in a constellation of memories
of visits to Grandpa Roy and rides on his bulldozer,
visits to the hospitals where Uncle Jeff insisted on illness
for the free room, free meals, the free cable TV,
visits through the phone line after midnight
when Uncle Culby wanted to play me a song
by The Who after a few days off his meds—
we never visited him
in the psych wards or in jail,
we never visited Jeff on the skids,
we never visited our own Pop
aside from Sunday afternoons,
and I wonder now
where he spends his Sundays,
or if his last was spent alone.

We never visited our family’s men for any celebration
until we collectively broke the law
when we broke into that golf course by moonlight
to scatter Grandpa Roy’s ashes
and I sat there in Pop’s driver’s seat, sixteen,
permitted to drive only with an adult
but only my thirteen-year-old brother beside me

as I gripped the wheel and squinted at the shapes
approaching from the darkness—the strangest
figures in full stride—my uncles,
wet from the golf course sprinklers, laughing,
and then Pop’s boots crunching gravel—
the first time I’d seen my father run.
And he too was wet, but also pale as milk,
not laughing, not even in the neighborhood
of a smile,
as I turned the key
and he shoved me from the seat
to drive.

_______________

Naked As The Night Is Long

Stopped at a red light, just after midnight,
I gazed up at a billboard and read:
If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs,
we’re here to help
. I reread the words
again and again, the streetlight still glowing red,
not another car in sight, no movement on Burnside,
not even the air—

not until a bicycle wheel flashed across my headlights
and the rider, an older man, pedaled by
naked as a winter tree limb.
The light turned green and a naked woman wheeled by
and then a sudden herd of bicycles,
a herd of human bodies all proud of their pubic hair,
proud of their flab, proud of their love handles,
their floppy chests, their bird-like pecs,
all those private parts shriveled upon their seats—

a laughing, smiling herd of children
unashamed of their aging flesh, their gray, their scars
and faded blue tattoos. A hundred of them or more
clogging Burnside, whooping and zinging handlebar bells,
until I’d waited there for three full cycles of the streetlight—

glad to have witnessed the naked bike ride,
glad to see the billboard offering hope
still had a phone number along the bottom,
glad not to have had any warning
that tonight would be the ride
that would bring the smile
I hadn’t known I needed—

as I understood how the drowning must feel
more joy than you can imagine
when they break the surface

and take in all the oxygen
of that first deep inhale.

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Jason Allen is a poet and prose writer with an MFA from Pacific University. He is currently living in upstate New York and pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Binghamton University, where he is an editor for Harpur Palate and at work on his first book of poetry, a memoir, and his second novel. His work has been published or is forthcoming in: Passages North, Oregon Literary Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Paterson Literary Review, Spilt Infinitive, Cactus Heart, Pathos, Life With Objects, and other venues. He hopes to one day meet Tom Waits and buy him a cup of coffee.

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David J. Bauman-

Swing

While I was waiting
for the bus, Miss Shaffer said
“Get off the gate!
It’s not for swinging.”

But I knew better.

Another, on the playground—
I don’t recall her name,
But she yanked
me by the arm, right off

the swing set, and screamed,
“Don’t call me ‘old Lady!'”
I was only trying to yodel
(Yodaladie, yodaladie…).

And one time I wasn’t doing anything,
so I was sent to the principal’s office.
That was when days were for doing
nothing when you could.

When swings were for singing
anything that came to mind.
Fences were just in the way
and every kid knew the truth;

gates do that for a reason,
and it goes against nature
not to swing them.

_______________

Stray

In the Bible it happened—Fishermen, Levites
They just went away and kept on going
.
—William Stafford, from “Saint Mathew and All”

He asks me with a grin,
What advantage do you
young guys have over me
?

He stands there with his neat blue
cap and casual shoulders.
I cannot think of one.

Certainly not smarts, I say.
Wisdom would be the word, but seems
too cliché, too patronizing.

Not charm, for sure. I follow him
toward the door, while a clerk
shouts to me, holding up my bag.

He smiles and waits
as I retrieve my groceries.
When I was a boy, he says,

my mother’d make a list,
and I sat reading comic books
while the grocer filled the sack
.

We pass a few moments in the parking lot,
lingering for what reason, wondering aloud
where we had parked. I could leave
more than what I’d bought.

Someone else would eventually find
the car. My inadvertent tempter smiles,

Take care now, friend.
And I think, one could do worse
than follow strangers.

_______________

George

As children in the grave yard
we used to play a game
with flashlight and fear,
our minds scrambled
with a nervous delight,
a desire to be missed—
and then discovered.

Now we do like then,
but headlights pass on,
engines fade. No one waits
behind a tombstone here.

Tonight I help you home—
not far, just down the street
and across, but it takes time.
Weaving the sidewalk, we find
a stoop with three steps,
and rest a while.

No moon. No stars. No ghosts.
The other bars let out hours ago.
You and I discuss wives,
children and exes, our need
for gods, or not, thoughts
on the cross, crusades,
and inspiration, scripture
and verse, muses
and the history of prayer.

Eventually we rise,
walk wavering and slow,
not wanting you to go
as other greats have, downed
by a taxi near the tavern.

Seven more steps to the curb,
under a halo of light, you
bobbing slightly as I bring
you around. I am happy we are
here, aiming for your door,
and more than a little relieved
that the grave yard is outside of town.

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David is a blogger, birder and father residing in central Pennsylvania. His poetry has been printed in various student and faculty journals. His awards include the Savage Poetry Prize from Bloomsburg University and the Academy of American Poets. He has recent poems published or forthcoming in T(OUR), The Blue Hour Magazine, Word Fountain, Watershed, a Journal of the Susquehanna and the Tic Tock anthology from Kind of a Hurricane Press.

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Other notable work by Richard Merelman, Sharon Auberle and Catherine Jagoe.

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Timothy Walsh-

Chanterelles, Portabellas, and Morels

The very first day the ice left the lake,
two loons appeared on the wind-awakened water
as she walked the rocky shore.

Within herself, she felt ice
still encasing her soul—
or if not her soul, at least the place
her soul should be.

Weeks later, at the farmer’s market on the square,
she held the enchanted horn of a giant morel,
thought of her husband that morning in bed,

remembered how the severed arms of the apple trees
bled.

At the kitchen window above the sink,
she cuts the stems from a box of chanterelles
while watching the backyard birds—
the plump mourning doves, always in pairs,
the peacock iridescence of the grackles
when they catch the sun.

Having known the lift of wings,
she feels her arms nearly useless things.

She takes a star anise pod from the sill,
the seeds still perfect in their astral case,
remembers how starfish littered the beach at Hatteras,
the red sands of Malpeque Bay with northern lights
quivering aloft.

For months, she was bewitched by human music,
the melodies seeming to offer a secret doorway back.
Now she wants no music, sits at dusk beneath
the front-door yews she no longer allows
her husband to trim.
Mushrooms are her music—
chanterelles, portabellas, and morels—
bloodless flesh feeding on rotted roots.

She sits in silence, waits for the stars,
looking up through the trees’ wingspread limbs,
yew needles furrowing the dark, filtering
the moon.

She wonders if there’s a way these evergreen combs
might remake her extravagance of hair—
some whispered spell or chant or curse—
or if she might best become a tree,
flying aloft in the breeze
while steadfastly rooted in the ground.

_______________

Tilt

“People persist in the mistaken assumption that winter is caused by the earth moving farther away from the sun. But this is not at all the case. The cycle of the seasons is caused by the fortunate accident that the earth is tilted on its axis as it orbits the sun.” —Maurice Gampf

On this golden October day,
I can’t help thinking how this marble of a world
twirls around the sun—
the slight tilt of its axis the only reason
for these falling leaves, this deliciously slanting light,
the coming winter,
the resurrection of spring.
This slight tilt the only reason for eons of mythology
about solstices and equinoxes, sun gods, harvest gods,
Yule logs, and Easter eggs.

Without this slight tilt, without the four seasons
revolving on their merry-go-round way,
wherever would we be?
No land of midnight sun. No fall colors.
No winter-bare tracery of branches at twilight
bestowing glimpses of something beyond.
No migrations of birds or butterflies.
No hibernation of bears, bees, or frogs.
No such thing as perennials, dying back to earth
and rising again.

What would become of our deciduous minds—
shedding our sorrows and shattered dreams
as trees shed their leaves?
Our vernal resilience, budding hopes, and flowering desires
tutored by the temperate earth?

Without this slight tilt, what interminable sameness
there would be—
the days always equal, never a new slant of light,
the weeks and months running together
like successive bowls of oatmeal.

So let us all thank this tilt-a-whirl
of our slightly tilted world,
say a soft prayer, as I have done today
when I woke to this benediction of frost,
these crisply tart apples,
walked out among hay bales and blue silos,
the luminous pumpkins dotting autumn-brown fields.

_______________

Reversing Gravity

You might be wondering what I’m doing here,
hanging upside-down from monkey bars,
a mature, middle-aged man
not in playground clothes.
It’s my back, you see—my neck a nest
of tension and stress—
and my chiropractor tells me that traction is good,
anything to reverse gravity.

So I stopped here at the playground,
saw the monkey bars, smiled, and upended myself
as I’d done often enough as a child,
and I’ve been hanging here ever since, unencumbered,
looking curiously at the upside-down world,
feeling all the pressures and stresses drain out of me,
dripping down onto the playground sand.

First, my keys fell out of my pocket,
followed by my wallet and a rain of coins.
A clench of worry passed, and I felt a thousand pounds lighter,
wondering what life would be like in an upended world—
no keys to open the doors that have closed me in,
no wallet bulging with credit cards, IDs, cash, receipts—
and the world, you see, the world—the sky, the trees—
looked so utterly fascinating from this tumbled
point of view….

And so I’ve been hanging here from the monkey bars
for perhaps longer than I should,
but I just can’t seem to find it in myself
to put my feet back on the ground.

_______________

Twelve

At the stroke of twelve, feel
how each day teeters,
teeters on a precipice,
clock hands pointing straight up
like two hands joined in prayer.

The twelve inches etched on rulers,
the twelve hours marked on clocks,
the twelve months of the year’s creaking wheel—
all tell us to measure well our allotted time,
our plotted space
and count each breath that brings us closer
to our last.

We package things by the dozen fatalistically,
as if it’s foreordained—
the eggs we carton so carefully,
six-packs, twelve-packs, a case of twenty-four,
a box of donuts, always a dozen,
the perfect circles of dough
whispering of eternity.

Why this endless catalog of dozens?
We are taught to think in tens,
but our lives are bound by twelves.

At the piano, count the twelve notes within each octave—
seven white keys and five black,
darkness interpenetrating light.
The ladder of tones follows the wheel of hours.
C ascends to a higher C, just as twelve comes round
again to twelve,
midnight to noon, noon to midnight,
the hours growing narrower and narrower
like the tightening frets on a guitar’s notched neck.

How easily we could measure out the difference
between destiny and desire—
the shortfall of shattered hopes and scuttled dreams
recorded as so many inches, months, or hours…
as so many minutes, miles, or days not granted us
before the dark auctioneer nods.

Tomorrow, pick twelve apples
and savor one each day,
then pick twelve more before the last is gone.

If pressed, barter apples for hours,
handing apples across to death’s boney hand,
the apple seeds hidden within
like shards of hope infiltrating
the land of dust and stone.

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Timothy Walsh’s most recent poetry collection is When the World Was Rear-Wheel Drive: New Jersey Poems (Main Street Rag Publishing). His awards include the Grand Prize in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition, the Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize from North American Review, and the Wisconsin Academy Fiction Prize. He is the author of a book of literary criticism, The Dark Matter of Words: Absence, Unknowing, and Emptiness in Literature (Southern Illinois University Press) and two other poetry collections, Wild Apples (Parallel Press) and Blue Lace Colander (Marsh River Editions). Find more at: http://timothyawalsh.com/

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Richard Merelman-

A Practice Piano

The used upright Steinway that our entire savings have bought dangles overhead
like a cargo container
being off-loaded from a barge. Its ebony bulk sways from a hook on a hoist
three stories above

the pavement. It should fit by an inch through our window. It’s too heavy
for any dolly
to mount the back stairs. Jane and I have been married a month of squabbles
about laundry, meals, cold rooms.

She is eager to sight-read a Schubert impromptu for her first class at the Conservatory.
The Schubert should flutter
like a hummingbird among poppies. But can it, on such worn strings, so gravelly a bass?
Still, there’s a burnish

despite the sound board crack that reminds me of my own voice whenever
we argue
about who should scour the bathtub. Plus the damper pedal muffles resonance;
harmonies are hard

to sustain. Some keys virtually plead for new felts to synchronize the hammer-strokes.
The timing is off,
like her hour of yoga at bed time while I drink wine, or watch the late show,
or read myself to sleep.

These are kinks that patience will repair, the way a good piano tuner will wait to hear
the pitch lift
less than a quarter-tone. Now the piano’s shadow engulfs us. I rub Jane’s shoulder blades.
The movers winch their load

toward our casement. One of them mentions that a baby grand recently slipped
its belted riggings
and splattered the street. The piano wobbles, tilts, bangs the sash, skims the sill.
“Here we go,” Jane says.

_______________

The Inheritance

His wife phones from the adobe house
where her mother has lived alone, and lies near death.
The house squats at the end of a dry wash where only
cactus grows, a species that mirrors her mother
in its spartan lines; its spear point spine;
its spiky stems, like needles that inject venom
into those it punctures, those with skin
that is easily pierced, like the skin of his wife.

While her mother sinks into the sleep that erases
every dream, his wife confesses that she
slipped outdoors, heard the howl of a distant coyote. The wind
sandblasted her face. She staggered to a ragged thicket
of cacti, a jagged tangle with magenta blossoms.
She says she pressed her breasts against the thorns, dug in deep,
mimicked her mother’s breathing, bled.

She begins to sob. He murmurs “I hear you,”
guesses that she hasn’t eaten, can barely brush her hair.
Soon she’ll scatter her mother’s ashes, gather tattered letters,
board the plane home. What should he say when they meet?
Should he even speak? She could cry for weeks
in a blackened room, fingernails ripped to the quick,
her back to him in bed. He imagines her arms barbed,
clavicles pricking her neck. Will her wounds
fester, raise scars, or yield smooth pale skin?

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Richard Merelman taught political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as other universities, for thirty-five years. His poems have appeared in MAIN STREET RAG, MEASURE, STONEBOAT, COMMON GROUND REVIEW, and VERSE WISCONSIN, among other journals.
His sonnet, “Civil Inattention,” won Third Honorable Mention in the 2012 Triad Contest (Poets’ Choice) of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. His first volume of poems–THE IMAGINARY BARITONE (Fireweed Press)–appeared in 2012. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Sharon Auberle-

THE HOUSE ON PIPER STREET

on the street of crooked houses
it’s the only yellow one
and I wonder if Becca’s dad painted it that way
to match the bus he drives everyday
the one we kids who go to Holy Angels
don’t get to ride because Becca’s dad
only goes to Lincoln Elementary
where kids don’t have to go
to Mass every morning

and they don’t have to confess things
like how lots of times they hate
their dad for not being there
or how sometimes they lie
that it wasn’t them who broke the vase
or threw that eraser at Tommy
who’s always looking up girls’ skirts
on the playground and it makes them mad
enough that they call him the worst name
they can think of and then
they have to confess that too

but it’s okay because tonight
I get to sleep over at Becca’s
and pretend that her slow-talking
pipe-smoking daddy is mine
and the yellow house too
and even her brother James
who sometimes calls me bad names
yes, even James…

_______________

RESOLVED

in the next life
to be brunette
answer to Sophia
play flawlessly
a Stradivarius
while wearing only
sleek red dresses

resolved next time
to henna the tips
of my hair into flames
blaze out of darkness
imagine my whole life
I am fire

resolved yes
in that future life
to carry always
the audacity of belief
that you will not
again break my heart

_______________

ANGEL FIRE

…everything we touch turns to a poem
when the spell is on.
~Linda Pastan

the mystery of cornstalks
murmuring among themselves

a brown-skinned man
in orange serape
walking between them

the slump of his shoulders
tugging at my heart…

from any of these
a poem might grow

but today
there is only the man
light streaming down on him

he, who could be an angel
for all might be holier
than we know

his serape, fiery
in morning sun
the wind lifting it

like wings

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Sharon Auberle is the author of three poetry collections– two of which also contain her photographs. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her work has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, both on-line and paper copy. For reasons which are still a mystery to her, she has authored a blog–Mimi’s Golightly Café for seven years, which contains a potpourri of her images and words.

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Catherine Jagoe-

AND STILL

After Louis MacNeice

As if we were still so deep in love as if
the seas had not ganged dry or sands run on
and you and I stand locked together on that cliff
where skylarks burble new as first world dawning
your eyes a deeper blue drowning and drinking
one another in this one interminable kiss
sundazzle spangling sea below
a cup of sky our tears unshed sea pinks
a sweet breeze blowing and your face unlined
and all our years unlived drink from this cup
of eyes sky sea and lips and time will stop
our fears unrealized the dregs of rancor
still undrained and still that summer’s day
we two enfolded blended melting fused

_______________

WARGAMES

At Target I survey the clothes available for boys.
All sports or war-themed, in drab loden, navy, brown.
My son is tugging us toward the video games and toys.

No turquoise, grape, cerise for them, no coy
velour or glitter, sequins, ruffles, gowns.
At Target I survey the clothes available for boys.

How soon they are cut down, hemmed in, small joys
denied them—painted lips or toenails frowned on.
My son is tugging us toward the video games and toys.

Take my friend’s ex, who owns a .22, thrives on noise
and gives his son a buzz cut every time he comes around.
At Target I survey the clothes available to boys.

Face-painting is for girls, except for camouflage, when boys
can daub themselves, or football. Touchdown.
My son is tugging us toward the video games and toys.

A man I know loves watching how a fighter jet destroys
a Baghdad target on his laptop, smoke puffs on the ground.
At Target I survey the clothes available for boys.
My son is tugging us toward the video games and toys.

_______________

The Dogs of Love

I hear him crowing on the wooden fort,
the boy my mild son worships like a brother,
hear him taunting and my child’s faint answer
from below, defensive, sounding hurt.
For something in the air has shifted. A cry,
repeated. Impatiently, I trudge around to see,
and find my child weeping, laced with pee,
dark ribbons on his hair and shirt, while I
am speechless. Visions of my own best friend
whispering to us girls once, “Let’s be men
and piss on that wall.” When I demurred they swore,
ranks closed, claws out, street-tough.
How savagely we punish difference, weakness, love.
And yet we keep on going back for more.

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Catherine Jagoe is a freelance translator and writer. She is currently spending a year in Spain, although her home base is in Madison, Wisconsin. She has a PhD in Spanish Literature from the University of Cambridge, England, and is the author or translator of six books. Poems from her collection Casting Off (Parallel Press, 2007) were featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Poetry Daily. Her poetry and essays can be found in Gettysburg Review, Chautauqua, Apeiron Review, The Common online, American Athenaeum, North American Review, Ninth Letter, Atlanta Review, and other journals. Her website is www.catherinejagoe.com/.

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It is with nothing short of elation, Contemporary American Voices is back up and publishing.  After fifteen months of non-compliance due to a major life event, I plan to re-spark CAV in May 2014.  As CAV’s editor and creator, I can offer no excuses, only to say it was with great grief and sorrow I was unable to stay on task.  I ask for forgiveness and a second look.  New work expected beginning May 2014.

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Other notable work by Janet E. Aalfs.

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María Luisa Arroyo-

Odilia, Tell Me the Story of Your Name

for Odilia Galván Rodríguez, August 2012

Odilia, tell me the story of your name.
Is it a flower in bloom? Or does it mean patria,
or the mirage of a childhood home, now lost?
Through Google, I learn of Santa Odilia
and find poetry in the story of an 8th century nun,
who was born blind but granted sight
after being baptized into this world.

Odilia, you share truths as painful as bee stings
about this patria, the mirage of promise,
as SB 1070 flays the rights of our peoples,
whose names bloom with “o”s and “i”s and “a”s.
May their names blossom with thorns in the mouths
of those who mispronounce and persecute
as they grope for our identity cards.

_______________

In Search of the Word before Aftermath

Aftermath, I understand.
But is there a word for the stage before that?
Terror skewers open your eyelids
12 nights in a row in a room that you share
with ancient men who imagine walking
when they have no legs.

DNR or full code. I cannot understand
the asking. My voice flattens
when you want me to explain the difference.
Standard procedure. You are in a ward
for the dying. On the 13th day,
you come home.

Arteriovenous Fistula. You don’t understand
the need to create a portal for your blood
to flow into and out of your failing body.
Your heart forgets to beat 50% of the time.
And your kidneys, exhausted beans in your back,
forget to remove the water that bloats
your amputated legs. You pee perpetually.

Is this now the time for faith?

_______________

What Matters is Space

Mami, it doesn’t matter the number of saints
you dust off and cradle upstairs
to line the bureau of the bedroom
that you share with Papi
as he frets about the possibility
of an a.v. fistula to save his life
because his kidneys are dead.

It doesn’t matter how carefully
you measure out the cups of water
he can sip per day or sort the pharmacy
of pills he swallows, dry-throated,
or how you read the scale
as he, double amputee,
trembles on air.

What matters is space.
Space for him to rail against God
And then beg for life.
Space for you to retreat
and to stop hovering
like a hummingbird of death.
Space for me
to find the words for him to hear
that it is his choice
that – life or death –
it is his choice.

_______________

“Pain Becomes a Source of Wonder”: An Oxbow Gallery Visit

for poet Janet E. Aalfs and visual artist Susan McDonald White

Tremulous eyes leak blue love as we walk through the doorway.
Her body, taut. A harp unstrummed for months.

I taste your energy on your lips- milkbreathpure. Full open.
Willowy Crane, you are sister to Turtle Woman.

Hyponatremia: The artist, S. M. White, shows a brain
splintering and “pain becomes a source of wonder”.

Sculptor, the fullness of your statues has fled, as has your love.
The thin slate plates pressed against the wall flatten your spirit.

Here is there. Gears are worms. Carrots are swords.
Balls are breasts that spurt graphite milk. Under/stood.

Wool gloves burn as we dare to turn each page.
Tiny French words landscape each figure’s round flesh.

Umbilical and telephone cords are cut then dangle in space
like thick pasta. Eyes ogle, mouths gape. No words.

Words over here fragment and slip under white-out.
If you find the place where love fires up in my brain, press it.

_______________

Die Nur-Frau: The Only Woman

after “Die Nur-Frau” aquarelle by Hannah Höch, 1943
[originally written by the poet in German]

I am alone, the only woman here
in this forgotten Eden
of trees near Berlin. It is 1943.
Naked, I plant my feet,
curl my rooting toes in earth
and walk slowly, the rub
of my trunk-like thighs a whisper
of silken flesh. My left hand
I extend behind me – a tiny goddess
wing – while the other brushes my thigh.
My breasts hang heavy and free.
I am not retreating into Nature.
I am Nature – female, organic,
vulnerable, strong, resilient,
and ripe with hope. It is 1943.
Naked, I plant my feet
and know that I am safe – for now.
When the Nazis storm in, I know
they will overlook the art of my body
stained with watercolors
because I am only an old woman
and the only woman here.

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A Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Fellow educated at Colby, Tufts, and Harvard, María Luisa Arroyo has published poems in journals, including CALYX and PALABRA. María Luisa’s first collection of poems, Gathering Words: Recogiendo Palabras, was published in 2008 (The Bilingual Review, ASU). Her poetry workshops include “The Power of Code-Switching: Poems Don’t Have to Be ‘English Only'” at the 2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival. With acclaimed playwright, Magdalena Gómez, María Luisa co-edited the anthology, Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions, Catharsis.

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Janet E. Aalfs-

THE MEETING

Eyes on the ground, branches
bare, drawn like a flame-
blue thread through silken
mesh to the other side, I felt
my mind pulled upward, gaze
precisely tuned, no startle,
no flight, as dark antlers held
the light between us taut.
So skillfully the weaver stitched
our meeting fully shimmered.
That moment spread like wind
in feathers across the Oxbow.
Then a car appeared
on the empty road, and a man
jumped out, phone in hand
to shoot. But all he got
were the trees the buck
had stood among more still
than my heart, palms together,
fingers soft on my lips,
and the sky kept bleeding
gold, and hoofprints in the leaves
told nothing.

_______________

STARCRAFT

A stranded Starcraft, windshield jagged, sits

in a cornfield, tipped to leeward, hull full of leaves

and river sand from the Oxbow shore.

The January wind must have floated

it in from Mars, no motor,


no gas, not even a ghost

to steer it through deeper currents

that hold me now. In the bow

a plastic rug, aqua as a swimming pool.

In the stern a purple ice tea can dented in rust.



My father loved the salt on his arms,
and sun
 splashing his face.
When I drove that boat

I was nothing less

than an osprey hitting the waves

eyes first, and the stun


of clear green ocean in my beak

shattered every sound.

All these years beyond

I’m only beginning to speak of

what I found.

_______________

THREADS

I watched her open
a spiral of hair
the way I remember
dividing embroidery thread
one strand into many
each able to slip then
through the eye
of my needle multiplying
the number of stitches
I could sew

Now I recognize
that long ago
motion in her hands
able to find
in every breath
the listening
uncoils a fiber
the weight of light
between us
stars that guide
and blossoms to mark
the crossroads
stitching
freedom’s quilt

_______________

PREACHER: Coal River Mountain

he opened the ground like a book
to plant his chosen words
in glistening soil by the headstone
that tilted like a body wanting
to fall into moon-drifts

our long starving hopes

fearing the dark too close
in their eyes he shivered
like a golden bird
caged in the damp shaft
poison gas prayers dispersed
lighter than breath

thine image

doubting his own music
he applied his hand
like a bandage
or a wound

stamped upon this clay

irises that wilted
shoulders hunched
in the chill
raindrops sliding
through the gully
at the base of his skull

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Janet E. Aalfs, former poet laureate of Northampton, MA and artistic director of Valley Women’s Martial Arts/ HAVPS, has been a Dodge Festival poet, performer/ educator in Cape Town, South Africa, workshop facilitator at Split This Rock, and presented her poem-movement weavings all over the world. Her books include most recently Bird of a Thousand Eyes (Levellers), and her writing has appeared in A Fierce Brightness: 25 Years of Women’s Poetry (Calyx) as well as many other anthologies and journals.

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Other notable work by Peter V. Dugan and Claudia Van Gerven.

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Christina M. Rau-

The Trouble With Glasses

The dead look so awfully
dead except in the dead of winter
when the lenses fog up
transitioning from cold to warm
even in cooler temperatures
inside of homes for corpses and coffins.

This prescription is five months old,
lenses thick and heavy,
growing thicker every
six months or less,
smeared with fingertip oil,
proof of why museums don’t allow
human touch towards antique statues,
ancient sculptures, modern paintings.
The prints blot out the city views,
ocean views, reviews of theatre,
films, novels, and the ballet.

The macular degeneration slow-
ly creeps in. The optic nerve
deteriorates to the point where
fashionable frames become just that:
fashion—as do the need for lenses
lest the magnified appearance of
blind eyes becomes chic.

No power or curve or laser
will assist in making
blurs become less of themselves,
or even more of themselves.
Arms squeeze too tightly.
The bridge pinches too much.
Better glasses than these
get buried after morgue and mortuary.

Muscles take too many breaks.
Pupils to pull towards each other.
Lids pull down. Tired of seeing
a live world. Tired of seeing
in-
complete.

_______________

The Trouble With Sleep

This would be Fall—
late-September-early-
October—before true
Autumn gives way to
iced winds.
There is a night within
the night.*
The inner drains souls dry
more quickly than death;
the outer welcomes sleep,
restless and false in peace.
Any light that seeps in
casts more darkness
in the shape of shadows
that move in the periphery
through sideways glances
that make heads jerk to see
nothing there except what
they thought was there before.
Sometimes we’re more boring
in the dark, less ugly,**
but the beauty of the night breaks:
so fragile the bone structure
so weak the contours
so thin the skin of it.
Loudness is a horrible secret***
revealed in the stages of R.E.M.
It screams from skull wall
to skull wall
until the paralysis wears off.
The pinch shoots straight up
into the cerebellum and beyond,
that shock, that scent,
that envious grasp of timeless spice,
the mottled, cratered, nullified surface
the hand sweeps across
accidentally and shakes away
like a spider web,
only the spider stays
when the web dissipates.
Its seven and a half legs
crawl with endless reach
as it searches for warmth,
a glistening thin line tracking behind
until light comes,
but it’s a temporary remedy.
It fades, always and every.
It succumbs to gnarled, desiccated trees.
It defaults to a gavel slammed down.
It loses to thick muddy Earth, frozen,
sticks in and sinks down,
devoured daily
in an effortless flow of ether.

[* Frank Bidart’s “To The Dead”
** Graham Foust’s A Mouth In California
***Norma Cole’s Where Shadows Will]

_______________

The Trouble With Swimming

Even a thimble-ful of water
kills oxygen dead.
Little sacs inside pink lungs
give up the attempt to pump
when they get wet.
One second of drowning
becomes the longest two days
of your life, the time to ponder
lessons by Georgia O’Keefe:
“Nothing is less real than realism.”
or by J. Benys:
“Before I was shot, I always thought
I was more half-there than
all-there.”
or was that Warhol?
Under water
in dull-almost-
deafness,
sometimes it’s hard
to remember
who said what.
It’s like being a drunk sailor
at the mermaid bar
trying to make all the gals
flip and flick their tales
by buying round after salty round,
but all that really gets accomplished
is wasting a paycheck that would have
been better spent on spinach
or an anchor tattoo.
The mermaids will never be
impressed by men with two legs
who can’t walk a straight line.
They know dolphins who can do better,
and dolphins don’t even have limbs.
Dorsal fins are highly underrated.
Yet the call is there:
the sweet, littering, soft crash,
water over sand over water
over sand over
and over again
into the breakback
harmony to the Siren’s
melody, back to the break
of dawn the body remembers
even though the waking mind
does not, back to before
when oxygen came from liquid
straight into the lungs—
that’s the appeal of it,
that’s the false security,
or it could be real
if the will is real enough to test it.

_______________

Chasing Zero

I want to know what green is.
I want to know if what I call green
is what everyone else calls green
when we all watch Dorothy
walk down the yellow brick road.
I would have to be in someone
else’s head to know for sure.
I would have to be John Malkovich
plus everyone else.
Max Weber told me on a museum wall
that “color must be more than a color,
a form more than a form.”
Yet he still cannot clarify for me
the green conundrum.
Color can play tricks on your mind,
making you mistake vanilla for marshmallow
with a simple slight change in white hue.
There are some chemical compounds
we can smell only when they evaporate,
like coffee and chocolate.
Those compounds are volatile.
Green is not one of those compounds.
Instead, green is a reflection of light
caught inside the prison of a prism,
locked in the middle of a rainbow’s arc.
There are people who can taste color.
They call themselves synesthetes.
They say green tastes like almonds.
I’ve heard cyanide does, too.
The liquor store up on Sunrise sells
propane and cigarettes.
That is an interesting business model.
That’s also the place where after
a rainstorm the sky grows clear blue,
clear enough to relieve your sinuses,
where the buildings part and reveal
complete rainbows as the humidity disappears.
It smells like springtime.
It tastes like grass.
Grass is green,
a non-volatile substance
that smells freshcut long after
the gardeners leave with their
gasoline-fed mowers.
Maybe that’s what green is.
A lingering newness. A fresh break
from time. A universal subsiding.
Something that simply clicks.

_______________

Consumption of Space

A bright room is a vacuum,
all heat and light,
all colors vibrant and willing,
pulled in towards one apex
dull and hard.
The speed of light is
186000 miles per second
700 million miles per hour
denoted by c.
That makes breathing near impossible.

The nothingness fills the room,
pushing against itself
while the rest pulls
towards invisible boundaries
that grow out and up.
The formula for volume is
length times width times height.
The point when taking notice will
mean something passes.
Only remnants of that point
remain to mock, to scold,
to turn scornful eyes.

Under a magnifying glass the room
grows but so do its objects
so that illusion won’t work anyway.
The area of a triangle is
one half its base times its height.
The shortest path between two points
backfires on itself,
proving what it was trying to hide all along.

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Christina M. Rau is the founder and director of Poets in Nassau, a reading circuit on Long Island, NY. She teaches English full-time as Nassau Community College, where she serves as Editor In Chief of The Nassau Review. Her works have most recently been published in Prime Numbers Magazine, Aunt Chloe, and Handful of Dust. When she’s not writing poetry or blogging, she’s watching reality tv, of which she is only a little bit ashamed.

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Peter V. Dugan-

The Ho-Hum

Inside the poisoned ivy covered walls
of the center for termination,
a room is filled with witnesses
as the eternal deathwatch continues.

A lifeless body lies on a bed surrounded
by bouquets of gargoyle gladiolus and black dragon lilies.
On a table to the side, a pineapple pen and paper await,
a death certificate to be signed in black-cherry ink

Artificial life support ceased.
A do not resuscitate order will be enforced.

The cardiac monitor still beeps and bumps.
The chest rises and falls in faint rhythmic breath.
Cerebral intellectuals and other attending physicians of the inhumanities
predict death is imminent and wait for the patient to flat line.

While, wild-eyed overzealous, overeducated academics,
coroners of literature and art, are at the ready to dissect
and perform an autopsy on the body of work.

Morticians pace the hall in anticipation to embalm the corpse.
But don’t know if it is to going be cremated, buried
or mummified.

The body begins to spasm and tremor
Is this the rattle? Is this the end?
The body bolts upright,
sprouts wings,
rises above the bed
and flies out the window.

Out on the streets, life goes on.
Little or no crowd gathers any moss
amid the blend and meld of music
a cacophony of natural and unnatural sounds
flow into the jazz like euphony of existence
but no one seems to pay any attention
as it never was
but forever is
Poetry.

_______________

It’s Totally Art

The city skyline is invisible,
or is it just
a consciousness contrived
by a counter-culture conspiracy.

There is no point of reference.

You’d chase that high
all the way to Manhattan
to experience a systematic instamatic
cinematic collage of images
granted powers beyond the nature
of their existence
by linguistic acrobatics presented
by illegal Mexican midget wrestlers
and
aliens from outer space,
who only rant and rave
wreaking havoc and mayhem
curled in the fetal position,
weeping like virgins
leaving graffiti marks on the walls,
bruising egos and shattering self-esteem.

But, you are always filled with the fear
of being deported to a jazz bar in the city
like a rogue asteroid exiled
from the community of planets.

So, burn them in a sacrificial flame
scatter the ashes in the wind.

That’s why God created IKEA.
But they don’t deliver
in the red rust glow of twilight.
Focus,
it’s time to face reality.

_______________

Oasis of Chaos Theory

innocent satanic goat heads
adorn art class avatars
street level Cossacks
and Dali wanna-bees
as the silver bullet trio of snobs
play clarinet, tangy steel piano
and out of tune cello

anemone gladiators spew verse
recite odes of gun-port malaprops
while the sharp edged co-anchor
co-authors unveil a wired vat anthem
of misnomer ear candy epaulets
filled with alien slang sarcasm
to garner old flame Elysium stand-ins
and amuse runner-up vestal virgins

shed rabbit tears
as a village voice cries in the wilderness
tied to a gothic chain link fence
enforcement of a weedy leash law
enacted by red face rat race atonal icemen
who inflict seedy red-hot exclamations
to provoke a bar room brawl

whiteness wastes away
as they drink low end olive oil
a spot of tea and manta ray ale

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Peter V. Dugan
was born and raised on Long Island. He is a graduate of The New School in New York City. He has published four collections of poetry, Medusa’s Overbite, Members Only, A Cul-de-Sac Off Of Main Street and Getting IT@The Oswego Tea House. He is the Nassau County coordinator for The North Sea Poetry Scene and hosts readings at the Oceanside Library and Wyld Chyld Tattoo and Café on Long Island. His major influences have been William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Frank O’Hara and Jack Kerouac.

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Claudia Van Gerven-

The Uses of Angels

–If an Angel deigns to come, Rilke

all moon-pearly and gorgeous as an iceberg
will he melt and leave the polar bears
to master the back stroke?

Or will he dissolve a lone star in a pale heaven
fizzing like expensive champagne?

There must be a song in this–

or at least some bit of musical theater, a rousing
chorus with lots of high-stepping
amber-lit as sunset, moon
a slim slice of vermeil.

Geese keep coming and going–
lonesome honking–
quills shed by the lake as if
they had words in them.

Are they heralds, those restless V”s
scrawled across the moon,?
Do they presage something Other?

Why do we pray
to every four-leafed clover– its fate
as green and perilous
as our own?

_______________

Beacon

Isis swirls a swift wing, whiff of ozone
surmise of thunder in your shiver

wink of a dark iris
and you are alone again on that shore.

Plovers thrust small white breasts across
unaccountable seas. Do they conceive

a destination? In what do wings believe?
The goodness of air. A wave ripe with fishes.

What do nets of coral retrieve? Tiny first
urges tumbled in sea and the forests

of kelp tangling at your ankles, a cat’s
cradle, blooming new

with each wash of waters– and it happens
without your consent, like air

green and sticky in your lungs, coming
and going without thought.

What can you know in that slim throb
of light and the vast

heave of night– there a stone sea washed
in moonlight, here the muscled door

of oyster? In her shouldered shadow
in her sweep of winged light, slices

of what’s lost, what’s found.

_______________

Later Than You Think

Swaying is a discipline to the sea grasses
rooted in a vast restlessness
as stiffness to mourners among headstones
another casket draped in skirl of pipes lurching
toward pearling gates we don’t believe in

The one-eyed imaginary rakes the desert
from its green pyramid of symbols. The masons
have deserted their temples. The sphinx waits
a mouth full of accidents. Shoppers huddle
in their tents waiting for Black Friday

The fallout, they say, was a cloud of
purple dust, a fiduciary wafture
through the weeds, under the docile hooves
of cows. Childhoods withered among
the nettles, the red stone

Dying takes a long time. The gingko unrolls
her green ampul into the flat palms of
an new era. Wars are no longer cold, but scorching
gritty. Debacles at six and then cocktails
We collage lives with pixels and glue sticks

Think of the rigors of rowing, the dragonfly
lifting transparent signal
flags across the waving heat
of Utah desert, lighting on pointless
needles of Saguaro

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Claudia Van Gerven is a published poet who teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder.. Her chapbook, The Ends of Sunbonnet Sue, won the 1997 Angel Press Award and her full-length manuscript, The Spirit String, has been a finalist for the Backwaters Poetry Prize (1998), the Verse Poetry Award, (2000) and the Bright Hill Press Poetry Prize (2003). In August of 2003, she won a Residency at Hedgebrook Farm Writing Retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. She also researches and writes about feminist pedagogy, writing pedagogy, and women’s literature.

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Andrea Potos-

LIVING BY WATER

Give me the nearness of water–
boats cleaving wind-brushed
gem-green, molten grey, and sails
birthing full colors to air–
the way a child might wish
for the sight of her mother
through an open door,
arc of her mother’s hands
turning the pages of her book,
stirring the broth on the stove;
the ruffling of her skirts
as she moves, her hair
accepting whatever light
passes through the window.

_______________

AT FOURTEEN

My daughter tells me she doesn’t like
the light of late afternoon, those hours
when the sun
is drawing down and the air
takes on a molten hue
that makes her think of autumn.
I hate fall, she says, the beauty
of the leaves
doesn’t make up for their dying.
I don’t know how to refute her,
nor can I manage to agree, looking still
to hold those moments
of ochre-gold, before the falling
my daughter already can’t help but see.

_______________

TUG OF WAR

Before I laid
down this rope–

spent hiss on the ground–
I admit

I joined
the continual

pull,
being pulled–false

friction of desire

that chafed
and sliced

the palms
where my lifeline lay–

hidden,
burning.

_______________

ETERNITY HAPPENED
Oia, Thira

once when the Greek sun
had its say
over the terraces and cliffs,
the lapis water of the caldera
waving and blinking Yes.
Even the feral tabby settled
on the veranda
where we stared,
where we breathed
stricken by beauty,
future
a word we would not understand.

_______________

BACK FROM ROME

When people say: Welcome back
to the real world
,
I want to tell them how I awakened
to Romans passing through the piazza
outside our windows, how one day a woman
in a red coat eating a pastry stopped to clean
her sticky fingers in the fountain that sang
even through the nights,
that men strolled with their newspapers
and cigarettes, and children chased pigeons
on the uneven cobblestones everywhere
that made me aware how it is
I walk on the face of this earth,
on my way to the forno where a tall,
silver-haired man sliced long slabs of
pizza bianca just emerged from the ovens,
how he smiled Prego! when handing me
the gold bread glistening with oil and a sprinkling
of peccorino romano, and I left to devour it
while walking in the Campo di Fiori where
vendors sold me plums and berries,
miniature bottles of limoncello and bags
of rigatoni, spaghetti, and candied almonds
that dissolved on the tongue; along with pendants
of murano glass and jackets stitched with ³Italia²
in red and gold letters–Italia–that country where I
slept and breathed and dwelled for
nine spacious days, there in the Mediterranean–
on the map nearest to Albania, Croatia,
Greece, beside the life-sustaining seas.

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Andrea Potos is the author of four poetry collections; her newest is We Lit the Lamps Ourselves, just published from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. Potos work also appears in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry East, Wisconsin Review, Women’s Review of Books, Southern Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Beloved on the Earth (Holy Cow! Press), Claiming the Spirit Within (Beacon Press), and A Fierce Brightness (Calyx Books). She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her family.

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Other notable work by B.Z. NIDITCH.

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John Grey-

SHANNON

In darkness, heart pumping, just enough blood manufactured
to make a difference to my dozing body.
Laughter rises up out of the lawn. I’m on my bicycle
steering it in ever greater circles. Shannon is
tossing baseballs like the girl she is. One lobs near my head.
Almost topples me from the saddle. The day is
composed of its elements: oxygen, nitrogen and Shannon.

Even before I sleep, dreams are restless to get to me.
My head is clean white canvas. Summer-scapes are all the rage.
Back comes the trembling moment right before the sigh.
Stream gurgles. Eyes pop. Grass smells like another species,
soft, scented, fortunate in its spreading ease.
Shannon takes my pale white hand. Shannon…
no lovelier bearer of that name.

All night long, recollections tip-toe around an ancient August sun
Blood thinks it has the night off but no, it must feed my brain,
wash away the leftovers.
Feet dangle from bank. Some swimming is accomplished.
Boy, girl, emerge dripping from the water.
They kiss. Girl says his name softly. Boy can only whisper “Shannon.”
This never happens when I am wide awake.
But the unconscious mind has more of me to go on.

_______________

RUTH

You have thought about it interminably,
in grubby kitchens, on trash-littered tenement steps,
how you never asked to live
and yet here you are,
how Bobby never wanted to die,
so why isn’t he dawdling home now,
across the park, by the basketball court.

The lids of your eyes dig into your cheeks like knives.
How do the murderers, the thieves, the liars,
ever get what’s coming to them, you wonder.
Your brain feels like an overweight backpack.
Nothing more will fit and yet more has to fit.

And here comes the mailman
no postcards, just bills.
No one says, wish you were here.
Just stay where you are and pay for it.

_______________

TWO BUMS

What can I say? It’s an alley-way.
It’s a rough part of town.
There’s an old man sprawled
with his back against
the crumbling brick wall
of an abandoned shoe factory.
The best warning he can give
is the sight of himself
He grips a bottle like it’s his Bible.
It saves him from everything
but his thirst.
What can he know if me?
Has he ever read “The Great Gatsby,”
listened to Erik Satie,
indulged his European forebears
on the Grand Canal in Venice.
Maybe he was a fighter.
Maybe he drove a truck.
He can’t be me.
Bet he has no scrawled record
of every busted love affair,
each family slight.
Can he open a book of
himself at twenty, at thirty, at forty?
The only drunken poet I know
is Dylan Thomas
and this sure isn’t him.
Probably the past is so drunk out of him
that only today happens.
“Spare change?” he grunts.
What can I do?
I need my changes for my work.

_______________

WHAT HASN’T HE CHEATED ON

He cheated on the car as well,
the lease in both their names.
And that couch has been cuckolded
in the extreme, likewise the television
where the deceit on-screen is merely play-acting.
In fact, the entire room where they
sit together is such a victim of duplicity
its paper starts to peel, once bright green
turns sickly yellow.
What doesn’t feel something even if it
doesn’t know the woman’s name?
The bed? No way three fit
but does the one now lying in it
know she isn’t even there?
And what about this kitchen?
Wasn’t the way to a man’s heart
through his stomach?
She feeds you him but that
dumb stomach has no way these days
of passing on the romantic information.
Pots and pans, relentlessly cheated on..
Knives and forks… if they only knew
they’d jab the life out of the traitor.
He turns on a tap to wash his bands.
Dirt gurgles down the drain.
So that’s what water is… collusion.

_______________

COFFIN SHIP

The rickety ship rattles as much
as it tosses.
The grizzled man beside me
is glad just to be sea-sick.
His cousin died of cholera yesterday.
His baby caine down with typhus this morning.
His wife curls up in a corner and sobs.
There’s as much blight on us here
as rotted any a potato crop.
We huddle down in our field
of rats and sickness
to putrefy, to fester,
while we whisper of our days in Ireland
like we’re talking of the dead.

The ship lurches, the sails
slap into a wild frenzy,
the cables whip across the decks,
lash the squealing masts.
Will we ever reach America, I wonder.
I fall asleep a little.
A dream of Kerry hills.
is quickly dragged into
the swell of nightmares.
My head floods with the heaps of corpses,
too poor to be buried,
and the faces of the landlords,
grim and hard as unfertile, rocky soil.
And there’s the crowds of the nameless,
down at the gray and foul-smelling docks?
shunted into such a coffin ship as this,
and the eyes turning around,
staring back at that
green, despairing land
with the last of their bitter love.

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John Grey is an Australian born poet, works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International and the horror anthology, “What Fear Becomes” with work upcoming in Big Muddy, Prism International and Writer’s Journal.

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B.Z. NIDITCH-

NEVER SLEEPING CITY

That nervous blind
conundrum
of the blues
here at midnight
drawn
in packed clubs
living in the torque
and tongues of Bird
a stranger sweeps
by open doors
with a fugitive face
ashen with pale
runaway snow kisses
in spare arms
of chaos
asking to dance
“the pocket”
she made up her own
downtrodden steps
in unfamiliar corners
blushing
on the clay floor
in unfamiliar corners
absorbed by whispers
in vigilante beats
against a graffiti wall
of a lost sax
taken up by flashlight
of mercenary love.

_______________

WHITE MOUNTAINS

Very seriously
the first of winter
is here
emerging flakes
beside us
as blind snow
kisses chestnut trees
your eyes open
as volcanoes
on cold mountain air.

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B.Z. NIDITCH is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and teacher. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world, including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art, The Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Hawaii Review, Le Guepard (France), Kadmos (France), Prism International, Jejune (Czech Republic), Leopold Bloom (Budapest), Antioch Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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Masthead

Editor, Lisa Zaran

ISSN: 1095-732x

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2007

January - Roger Humes
February - Jimmy Santiago Baca
March - Graham Burchell
April - Ruth Daigon
May - Anne Fraser
June - Corey Mesler
July - Scott Malby
August - James Keane
September - Maurice Oliver
October - Robert Pinsky
November - Louis Daniel Brodsky
December - Bill Duvall

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2008

January - Kelley White
February - L. Ward Abel
March - Maura Stanton
April - Dr. Charles Frederickson
May - Peter Magliocco
June - Penny Harter
July - Gary Beck
August - Jéanpaul Ferro
September - Fish and Shushan
October - Kenneth Gurney
November - John Gallaher
December - Carmen Alexandra

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2009

January - Karen Rigby
February - A.D. Winans
March - Donald Illich
April - Stephen Ferreira
May - Tracee Coleman
June - Ernest Williamson
July - Sally Van Doren
August - Nanette Rayman Rivera
September - Gianina Opris
October - Judson Mitcham
November - Joel Solonche
December - Peycho Kanev

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2010

January - Louis Gallo
February - Buxton Wells
March - Labi Siffre
April - Regina Green
May - Howard Good
June - Carol Lynn Grellas
July - William Doreski
August - Sari Krosinsky
September - Ben Nardolilli
October - James Piatt
November - Robert Lietz
December - John Grey

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2011

January - Robert Philbin
February - iolanda scripca
March - Tad Richards
April - Katie Kopin
May - Jacob Newberry
June - George Moore
July - Rae Spencer
August - Jim Richards
September - Antonia Clark
October - Tannen Dell
November - Christina Matthews
December - Charles Clifford Brooks III

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2012

January - Anniversary Issue
February - Jim Davis
March - Ivy Page
April - Maurice Oliver
May - Lori Desrosiers
June - Ray Sharp
July - Nathan Prince
August - Robert Klein Engler
September - Jenn Monroe
October - John Grey
November - Andrea Potos
December - Christina M. Rau

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2013

January - Maria Luisa Arroyo
February - Journal on haitus

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2014

April - Rebirth
May - Timothy Walsh
June - Brian Fanelli
July - Carol Smallwood
August - Elizabeth P. Glixman
September - Sally Van Doren
October - Sherry O'Keefe
November - Robert McDonald
December - Gerry McFarland

Artwork

Image of bird by contemporary artist, Courtney Smith
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