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Joseph Reich-

Third Cousin Removed From Heimlich Maneuver

They met at the physical restraint class
for group homes and fell madly in love.
she was no dummy, he was, no matter,
pretty much interchangeable, and made
a connection on a physical, emotional
and spiritual, psychological level
both living real damaged fucked-up
lives and had the need to be held or
held onto or held tight. there’s this
keen phenomena during such types
of dynamics and training exercises
where you know you can only let
go once they actually start crying.

_______________

Making The Scene

I’ve decided gonna just be
one of those centerpieces
of wax fruit placed smack
dab in the middle of one
of those awful horrible
dining room tables
as believe upon
retrospect always
had a slight bit
of a social phobia
nor ever really had a heck
of a lot to say to the guests
as always liked them so much
better from that perspective
and think would just feel far
more comfortable just sitting
there as an undercover bowl
of wax fruit next to some
unused dusty piano and
whole half-crazed family
with insane pasted-on
smiles looking down
on me from some
family gathering
from some picture
frame just hanging
there suspended
in time with
my ear bent
to that good
ol’ grandfather
clock going off
on the hour
lulled to
sleep lulled
by trauma
and triggers
and rigid reminders
of 3, 4, 5, 6 in the morning
ya gotta be kidding! reason
wanna be a centerpiece
of one of those bowls
of wax fruit just being
left the hell alone if you
kinda get where i’m going?
like that cruise ship made up
of string stuck in a bottle
till the end of time
sailing off to eternity.

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Joseph Reich has been published in a wide variety of eclectic literary journals here and abroad, nominated five times for The Pushcart Prize, his most recent books include, “A Different Sort Of Distance” (Skive Magazine Press) “If I Told You To Jump Off The Brooklyn Bridge”(Flutter Press) “Pain Diary: Working Methadone & The Life & Times Of The Man Sawed In Half” (Brick Road Poetry Press) “Drugstore Sushi” (Thunderclap Press) “The Derivation Of Cowboys & Indians” (Fomite Press) “The Housing Market: a comfortable place to jump off the end of the world” (Fomite Press) “The Hole That Runs Through Utopia” (Fomite Press) “Taking The Fifth And Running With It: a psychological guide for the hard of hearing and blind” (Broadstone Books) “The Defense Mechanisms: your guide to the fragile mind” (Pski Porch Press).

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Other notable works by Bonnie Maurer and Daniel Carpenter.

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Liza Hyatt-

Time

It is, as you look forward,
a crossroad asking where you will go next,
a tower blowing into dust,
a mountain range, steep ascent, hills, steep decline,
a snail creeping silently along.

It is, as you look back,
an ear learning to listen,
the double-beat – dub-dub – of the heart,
a small house with the full moon rising over it,
a nail driven into the wood of a crib of a coffin.

It is, right now,
a beginner’s uneven embroidery stitches,
a question of self.

It begins with
a cross on which regrets soon hang,
followed by tears that bead then flow down the cheek,
followed by the arches of lips soft in prayer.
It ends with a swirl of wind, a sigh, a breath.

We can imagine all kinds of things about it.
It is a balance whose scales, for the moment, hang evenly.
It is a dot and dash of Morse code.
It is a flying buttress supporting an ancient cathedral.
It is a hoof print in mud.

And it is a pig’s tail roasted with the rest of the beast for a pagan feast.
It is yesterday and tomorrow, two buddies snuggled together.
One of its eyes is open seeing impermanence, while the other winks in jest,
and we limp along with it as our crutch

until we realize we were always whole
and no longer need it.

_______________

Ode to My Broomstick Skirt

Oh, maiden fair, floral skirt,
oh, twenty year old skirt,
given to my daughter this morning,
when I first desired you, it was because
your colors and patterns
of flowers and leaves
echoed the body-loved places
of my first thirty years,
Indiana woodland spring beauties,
lost, to city living,
roses and lilacs and apricots in Santa Fe
that ripened with young love,
Oregon’s sand and berries
and autumn rains of first fury, first grief,
all lost, all turned under,
as construction of new cities, adult decisions,
cleared the wild ground in the
skin paradise of wonder.

Oh, skirt of yestering, I loved you
because you swirled with the colors
virgin and awakening
and when I wore you I still felt beautiful
and I was still beautiful, still young.
I packed you in my honeymoon suitcase
and you flowed from newlywed hips in Athens
and you strolled through Minoan ruins
and dined on white and blue terraces
overlooking the ocean caldera of Santorini

and then you came home with me
and I wore you, still young, still beautiful
as a new mother, my daughter, body of my body,
sweet rose bud, apricot of delicious baby flesh,
summer mornings, with robin song and storybooks,
and I wore you to art fairs and festivals and reunions
still a free spirit, still an old soul,

until one day, my daughter,
grown to school-age self-consciousness
told me you were ugly,
not like other suburban mothers
in their black and grey yoga pants
of fitness and perfection

and still I persisted in wearing you
rebelling, longing, grieving
but finally saw myself a middle-aged woman,
wide belly, wide hips, no longer
the lithesome thing who first wore you
and you as old and tired, your fabric thinning,
and so for several years now, you have hung in my closet,
a relic of the past, almost worn, passed over.

But this morning, my daughter, now seventeen,
vintage clothing shopping in my closet,
finds you, desires you,
and I give her to you,
and she emerges from her room
slender and lovely
with sandaled feet and bare shoulders,
the maiden at the sacred grove
dancing her way to Aphrodite’s temple,
swirling her way out the door
to her car, her school, her leaving home
her falling in love,
more precious,
more beautiful
than any beauty that may adorn her,
as I once was, as I once lived.

Oh, my beautiful daughter,
oh, sweet, fleeting maiden,
oh, skirt of longing,
rite of passage,
clad in you,
she is just beginning
to give her body to the world,
and standing at the threshold,
letting her hazard everything,
wishing I could put you on again
and rush off with her,
I stand here rooted,
an old apricot tree,
waving good bye,
clad in the scarves of autumn wind,
becoming more and more naked.

_______________

A Dreamed Koan

The frustrated teacher insists:
There are only two choices.
Surface and depth.
For the life of the soul,
you must always chose depth.

The scared student argues:
Not always!
And then, without knowing it,
says even more
by falling silent
and taking a breath.

_______________

Mythic Menopause

Menstrual blood, before I must accept you will not be shed again,
paint for me the woman you’ve danced inside me all these years –
shape-shifter woman,
your henna hair, muscled arms and legs,
battle ready, blood spattered,
belly round with all my unborn babes
that you birth in the otherworld
where you are the leader of an ancient clan
from the Iron Age of the womb,
long before the one of men,
a tribe of sisters, mothers and grandmothers and grandfathers
who know you as the source, the earth, the root desire,
the belly of the cave upon whose red walls
we paint what we hunger and hunt for,
from whose mouth we are born
after every burial, every dream, every night.

Come wet, raw, juicy from my brush of blood
to stripe my cheeks with war paint
and tell me I have spent too many years
captured and enslaved by those
who reject and steal from you,
who would be healed if they did not fear you.

Give me skins of wolves and lionesses
and tell me I am free now
and tell me you are not leaving
for you were with me,
as sharp thorns and red roses, bursting open
in the green girl’s circle garden,
as mother-work to plant, harvest, nurture and feed,
and you are here, now, in flashes of heat, sweat,
fury to reclaim creative life,
and you will be with me as
hearth-fire and torch-light deep in the bone,
as crone in her marrow cave of underground rivers,
storms of wind, snow, vulture, owl wisdom.

Woman whose eyes see in the dark,
who dances with loss,
and is strong enough to grieve
a lifetime of loves and memories departing,
already, so soon, telling stories
that make my hair white, and my gut clench,
let me trust you do not lie
when you tell me not to fear,
when you insist that the dying woman
you’ll make of me is not weak;
she is the most brave.

_______________

For Maggie, in Costa Rica

In this once-in-a lifetime river,
we are in every moment just once , always
and today the boat has reached the place
where ringless trees are always growing,
and lizards run on water
and fruit falls from the sky.

We have seen the hummingbird rest, nest,
this always-in-motion being
another animal, utterly still, at peace.

We have seen sparks that daily rain doesn’t douse,
fireflies above the night forest.

We have seen caterpillars
becoming blue morpho butterflies.

And now, as we float in the tannin dark water,
high in the canopy, the trees stir, shake,
a troop of spider monkeys,
swinging from tree to tree,
crossing above us.

Its mother nearby, a young one hesitates,
then throws itself into sky,
falling, missing, just catching
branches far below,
and hurries back to where her mother waits,
tail wrapped around the tree they are leaving,
hands holding the branches ahead,
body suspended over the water,
a bridge which her child scrambles over.

Our boat sails on, and there are
cloud-covered volcanoes, hot-springs and thunder,
queasy roads, Pacific surf, and ocarina mornings
and then we are flying above islands
and looking down into storm clouds
busy with lightning

and then, you, my child,
who, in half a year, have acquired
driver’s license, car, and passport,
are leading me through
the customs maze in the Dallas airport

while in Tortuguero, that young monkey
is flying across wider and wider open spaces
high in the trees,
her mother watching, following,
every branch, every movement,
another arrival,
another letting go.

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Poet Liza Hyatt is the author of The Mother Poems (Chatter House Press, 2014), Under My Skin, (WordTech Editions, 2012), Seasons of the Star Planted Garden (Stonework Press, 1999), and Stories Made of World (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She has been published in various regional, national, and international journals and anthologies including Reckless Writing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, THEMA, Black River Review, Pudding Magazine, Indiannual 4, 5, and 6, Flying Island, Branches Magazine, and England’s Tears in the Fence. In 2006, Hyatt received an Individual Artist Project Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Liza is an art therapist (ATR-BC, LMHC) and adjunct professor at both St. Mary of the Woods College and Herron School of Art and Design. She hosts a monthly poetry reading at the Lawrence Art Center on the east side of Indianapolis. She is the author of Art of the Earth: Ancient Art for a Green Future (Authorhouse, 2007) an art-based eco-psychology workbook. For more information, visit www.lizahyatt.wordpress.com

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Bonnie Maurer-

Searching for the Warsaw Ghetto

I cross Warsaw streets with my dark images.
Ghetto walls up to ten feet high
topped by glass and barbed wire. You’ve seen them:
Families, gaunt and ragged,
smuggling a child out for a beet or potato.
A woman shivering from typhus.
Heaps of dead bodies naked in wheelbarrows.
Boys’ hands tunneling underground passageways
to live—maybe.

I ask the hotel clerk,
pressing my city map into his hands,
Where is the Warsaw ghetto?
“You are standing in it.”
“You mean last night I slept
on the feather bed, lingered
in the shower, hot and cleansing,
in the Warsaw ghetto?”
“Yes, he says.

I have come to Poland
to seek Holocaust sites
as if the seventy-year-old news
were as fresh as the fruit tea
I sipped this morning
in the lobby, in the Warsaw ghetto.

Between apartment courtyards
I find a remnant brick wall,
lean in and link my body
to family history in Poland.

I stroll through Warsaw’s lavish parks.
Who is complicit in the old faces I see?
Does the Polish gentleman staring
me down in the tram
see an obvious American Jew?
I ask one young waiter,
“Do you recognize Jews
on the street?” “What Jews?” he asks.

Late one night I stand
in the middle of Stawki Street
on painted white tracks. Here,
the drunk engineer loaded his steel
freight car to full capacity.
I step back between granite walls,
into The Umschlagplatz
Memorial—
collection point for 300,000 Jews
deported from the Warsaw ghetto,
taken to die in Treblinka’s gas chambers,
pumping day and night.

I read out loud the symbolic
Hebrew names carved on the wall.

Oh ears, summoning voices jostling, shouting to be heard.

_______________

On this city bus to Auschwitz

1.
We choose window seats.
We pass the houses painted yellow
sporting red gabled roof tops—
patriotic as the Polish flag,
flower boxes drooping light-hearted
petunias at every window and every
window framed by white curtains of lace,
fenced-in shrines to Mary,
willow trees and apple trees—full and plenty,
flat fields of corn and in one
field, smoke visible in the air, something
burning clear. We pass the Wisla River
smacking its pewter lips in the sun.

2.
And for the ashes dumped by truckloads
into the Wisla River, rolling its singular shame
through Poland without song,
it takes a math problem: Three
or four kilograms per person,
times more than one million murdered,
subtract the ashes spread onto local fields
as fertilizer and how many kilos escaped to town?
Where do the ashes blow today—
into yellow paint? On the shoulders
of Mary? In the apple dumplings?

3.
And we are told Nazis organized gardens
for flowers shipped to the Reich.
Imagine the young German bride
calculating her blissful steps down the aisle,
clutching flowers born from the ashes
of gassed and cremated Jews.
“I do,” “I do” the bride and groom
vow above the floral scents
of roses, lily, baby’s breath.

Originally published in Poetica Magazine, 2013

_______________

Himmler’s Lunch in Minsk 15 August 1941
(from his diary and excerpt on the museum wall at Terezin)

What did he eat for lunch
in the Lenin House, the SS headquarters,
at 1400, just after attending the morning
Einsatzkommando squad boys
taking turns to execute Jews near Minsk,
where reportedly brains splashed his face
and he turned a greenish shade of pale,
and hey! he told the boys there,
terrible it all might be,
even for him as a mere spectator,
how much worse it must be for them
to carry the killing out and
he could not see any way around it.
“And reportedly he came to the view that it would be
necessary to find a more suitable and effective
killing method that would not have
such a disheartening influence on the executors,
particularly with women and children among the victims.”
With what relish did he dig in his knife and fork? Was he
ravenous for lunch? With what eureka! This inspection trip—
the moment the gas chambers came into being.
With what hearty hale did he slug back his beer and lick his lips?

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Bonnie Maurer, MFA in poetry from Indiana University, author of “Reconfigured” by Finishing Line Press, 2009; “Ms Lily Jane Babbitt Before the Ten O’clock Bus from Memphis Ran Over Her,” Raintree Press and Ink Press (2nd edition),1979; “Old 37: The Mason Cows,” Barnwood Press, 1981; and “Bloodletting: A Ritual Poem for Women’s Voices,” Ink Press, 1983.

As a result of the 1999-2000 Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, she authored “The Reconfigured Goddess: Poems of a Breast Cancer Survivor,”2013.

Maurer’s poems have appeared in the New York Times, Indiana Review; Lilith, a feminist journal; Nimrod International Journal; Innisfree online journal; The Wabash Watershed online mag.; on the walls of Gallery 924: “The Contemporary Landscape Show, 2014”; on the ceiling of Indianapolis’ St. Vincent Hospital’s 6th floor and in the recent anthologies: And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana, (Indiana Historical Society, 2011); The Cancer Poetry Project: Poems by Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, (Fairview Press, 2001, 2013.)

Currently, Maurer works as a poet for Arts for Learning, as a copy editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal, and as an Ai Chi (aquatic flowing energy) instructor.

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Daniel Carpenter-

Blind Love
March 2011, After Fukushima

Lenten Sunday, Genesis the text,
naked couple dealt death in Eden for playing God;
our prayers for Japan, in Hell from His wrath
and in terror from its own creations —

the fragile Faustian nuclear ovens,
atom bombs of the target’s making,
seething to join their penitential ash
to the cloud that could reach this Garden

where my G.I. dad grunted into my clay
against the faint echoes of Hiroshima,
where I play Adam, split you beyond atonement
and we crunch the apple

_______________

Harry

He’s 85, thick, ruddy,
so far past that regal gig
— vice chancellor, SUNY —
he could just as well pass
for a retired shop foreman

he drops ponderous
names, titles, trends
into the conversation
lightly as a star waiter
warming up our coffee

a history maker
a history teller
he rose to importance
with his books, pluck, handshakes
but not to greatness

greatness he brought,
learned in the dawn
of a life pressed to the earth
of western Minnesota,
a grandmother’s battleground

“Tiny woman, tiny,
up every day before light,
caught the chicken, wrung its neck,
plucked it, had it cooked
by that same afternoon . . .”

for many years, he says,
she did it hunched over,
crippled by a falling windmill blade
and, till she took her rest at 92,
was never and always the same

_______________

For You

what is
our story
i asked
just read
she answered
i thought
i said
we were
writing it
how sweet
she laughed
it’s done
it’s here
look with me

the book
she held
was old
gilt-edged
and in Urdu
lovely tongue
only she
could speak
and could not
or would not
interpret

please heart
translate
her smile

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Other notable work by Ellen Foos and Vasiliki Katsarou.

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James Keane-

Bless

the home this house
becomes when brightened
by your love to withstand
the darkness only my eyes,
grown frightened, can hold
against your wishes. Bless all

trees and bushes
gracing the home this house
becomes when tended
with your love to withstand
love’s erosion only my anger,
grown distended, can mold
against your wishes. Bless your

heart’s flowing
warming the home this house
becomes when paned
by your love to withstand
love’s slowing only my heart,
grown self-contained, can uphold
against your wishes. Above all, bless your

soul’s knowing, no stranger
to the danger of my anger.
Brace the home this house
has become. Sprung
by your love to withstand
the death of my soul’s
knowing, growing no longer,

should it die
against your wishes.

_______________

From Where I Stood

the coiled cord
of the wall phone was
taut, a straight line
disappearing
down behind the counter
to – what? It was you
and resignation
slumped against the wall
in chorus
mouthing the name
of your brother – or was it you
and desolation, having
listened (hour upon hour)
to his wailing for
understanding, for
compassion, for
consolation
you will never
hear from him.

_______________

Nephew

A latch-key kid is not prepared to tread around
his robed mom, face a frozen yawn, dead

from self-infliction. Better to retrace your childhood
steps back through the door to the solid ground

of your childhood friends. Till the death you could not bear
was averted. But back inside again, you found your childhood

deserted. Youthful as your years were, they crawled, while
a new path to self-infliction cleared. Oh Danny, dead at 23,

what did you see

of beauty that makes a happiness of strife. Of peace that
happiness makes of life. Of love that living cannot touch

when living is too little, and too much.

Previously published in Gold Dust.

_______________

Hey, Hummingbird

Hey, hummingbird,
hovering, peering in
just outside my window
to life,
just be there when I need you,

where my sad son
can see you. Be tickled
your soundless whirring makes
him smile a little to fly
a little, forget to cry
alone, a little.
May he always know

he is good, and my prayer
through his window to life
be heard, and never misunderstood:

Keep him lovingly in your sights
all of my days, and all of his nights.

Previously published in my poetry chapbook, What Comes Next
(Finishing Line Press, March 2013).

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James Keane celebrated the publication of his first poetry chapbook, What Comes Next, in 2013 (Finishing Line Press). His poems have appeared in a number of online and print journals – most recently the East Coast Literary Review, The Bond Street Review, Out of Our, Scissors and Spackle, and the Tipton Poetry Journal – and in several anthologies, including The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military (Silver Boomer Books) and Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems (Ragged Sky Press).

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Ellen Foos-

Side Yard

When we tired of the backyard
there was the side yard,
accessory to our crimes,
a hideout, a conduit for racing
full circle around the house.
The best place to backtrack
when being pursued.

Lilac trees on the side
had a shaggy look.
It was easy to peek
into basement windows.
The neighbors were close
but never clear-eyed.

Corner lots expanded blandly,
we had two sharp corridors.
Here’s why I left New York City,
no side yard.
Who speaks of
the White House lawn
and thinks side yard?

When I lost my father,
I thought how it changed me,
the side yard I’ll never visit again,
the ladder he stored there.

_______________

Wreckage

Wherever they are recovered,
chunks of airplane parts
carry a weight never felt in midair.
What emergency measures can be taken
when all the fuel combusts—

it’s not printed on the card
in the pocket in front of you.
Best to cherish the small packet
of sweetly flavored peanuts.

Fish or flies may soon feed on you
while a flight list, perhaps even a plaque,
carries your name.

_______________

Fish Story

Flap they go and flip over.
All muscle and waterproof,
silent as the deep sea.
Keep them or clean them,
fry them or buy them a castle.
Pink gravel for a kitschy kingdom,
barbed hook for a pierced lip.
The wise ones grant wishes
or pretend to until they can escape.
The dumb ones try to blend in,
travel in schools.
You might teach one to play dead,
swallow one on a dare.
Repository for mercury,
taxidermied, legs tucked up.
Fantails in full bloom.

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Ellen Foos is a senior production editor for Princeton University Press. She is the founder and publisher of Ragged Sky Press and was the recipient of fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center. Her first collection of poems, Little Knitted Sister, was published in 2006 and her poetry has appeared in U.S.1 Worksheets, The Kelsey Review, Edison Literary Review, and Sensations Magazine.

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Vasiliki Katsarou-

Primary

The sun parted the painted clouds

rent a sun-sized hole
in my dingy tableau

a reality-hole

wiped clear years of hesitation
and tobacco smudge

So the dancers with red aprons,
stymied by music-less decades

gazed at the real sun in their artificial world
and lifted their skirts

to take one
tarantella step
forward

_______________

Elements

Light: first source
of fruit,

fruit: gifts of the tree
and the sea,

see, seek shelter in its shade

let shade scissor light
from dark

weave

we’ve a pattern
of these elements

and draw from them a home

dance in its shadow

Time
whirls
through us demi-
urgically

let the wind connect us
to the tree

let the rain connect us
to the sea

_______________

Unmined

Slate heaves forth
and sinks into earth

its layers unexposed
unslaked, unmined

Durable snow clings to slate
and burning lichen leaves
naked patches of dirt

Tiny twig etchings shiver
into reminiscences of summer

Durable snow wipes the slate clean
covers dung hills and all manner
of summer hiding places

Durable snow distills texture
from silence, adds the premonitory s
to s—
crunch—

provides a slick path through the treeline

(for Ellen Foos)

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Vasiliki Katsarou’s poems have appeared in Poetry Daily, Agave Magazine, Regime Journal, wicked alice, Press 1, as well as in the anthologies Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place and the forthcoming Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books). In 2014, she read her work at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry festival in the United States. Her first collection, Memento Tsunami, was published in 2011.

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Other notable work by Cindy Stewart-Rinier.

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Gerry McFarland-

Gunner and Chuck Ride

After drinking all day, a drive-in movie
was dullsville, man, so we blew the joint
in my Volkswagen, swigged from the Buds
in the open case. Chuck said
let’s get the Harley, put the wind in our hair.
Far out, man, I said. Just the thing,
and I swung the bug down Strange Street
and stepped on it. Didn’t see the thick,
white-painted posts at the end of the road,
drove right between and swept
like an albatross down the steep,
wooded gut, blacked out, and stopped
at the trunk of a California oak.
When I came to, blood ran down
Chuck’s sleeping face. I touched the handle
and the door thumped the dirt and I fell out,
face up in the cool, soft soil and I dreamed
I was at sea, calm and slow in the dark
under stars and the swells whispered
like angels. I heard Chuck’s voice.
Glass still breaking.
One front tire wobbled cattywampus.
The black windshield gasket dangled
from a branch like a giant rubber band.
Then Chuck stood over me like a bloody vision
of mercy under heaven’s dark trees,
his face blood red and his lips moving.
I crawled on hands and knees
toward the white angels whispering
hymns from the top of the hill
until they grew silent and still,
but I could see them above me in white robes
not singing, looking down at me
crawling up toward them, but when I
reached them they had turned to wood,
flakes of white paint broken loose and falling.
I could still hear them, their many voices
thick and heavy, louder and louder.
Lights flashed, my hands disappeared
and the angels, now wearing black
with guns on their hips, put their hands on my head
and blessed me into the open seat
of the black and white car.
Chuck stood by a huge red truck. An angel
in white anointed his forehead. Lights
filled the forest, brilliant and splashing.
My throat burned, my head throbbed,
my stomach felt hard and sharp and I thought
I was going to be sick but only words came out
Swollen and thick: It’s alright, man,
I told them. You guys are doing your job.
I’m a drunk, and we’re all brothers.
I sat all night on a concrete floor,
gambled with cigarettes.
Released at dawn on my own recognizance,
an aimless boat, I floated to the shore of the first open bar.

_______________

Gunner’s Go-Go Girl Dream

She turns on the bar top,
face lifted to strobe-lit heaven,
eyes closed, the little hills

of her ankles fluid as the surf,
the mounds of her hips twin
atolls that narrow

to the peninsula of her bare
waist under spare dim
moons. She is a human

island in a long dark world
of spilled beer and glitter.
Her moon face up in lights,

tropical as sand.
Does she, her face like a moon
over the ocean, desire?

My heart is at sea, my rudder
shifts port to starboard,
rises and falls in the body.

The stars of her own island
planet blink. She dances
on the bar top long

as a dock, a harbor break
in the darkness, and we,
her supplicants like little gigs

at the toes of her pointed shoes
bob in her wind. The door
to the bar opens onto

Broadway, San Diego.
Horns crash, engines
throttle and light from headlamps

and streetlights reveal the bouncer,
bored, sober, slumped
on his stool, checking IDs
with a flashlight. I could leave,
unmoor from this dock. But the beer
is cold and all there is

on the street are the hawks
selling gilt-edged Bibles.
Here the light softens

on her skin, her hips
drift in the rhythmic tide,
and her long, dark, curled

hair falls on the swells
of her breasts and gleams like the moon
and stars on the surface

of a black sea on a clear night.
She dances in front of me,
looks down at me from the glory

of her painted face,
into my adoration,
and dawns into a smile

meant for me alone.
and I dream my hands on the wheel
of a red Stingray top down

and bound for Tijuana
her fingers in my hair,
adrift in the familiar wind.

_______________

Gunner Sweats The Small Stuff

The Secretary of the Navy flies into the Tonkin Gulf
by helicopter to inspect the USS King. I shine
the 50 mm machine gun, fool with the belt of casings

until the shells curve sweetly from the breach to the box
and paint the bulkheads until the insulation shines.
The Secretary strolls the deck and passageways smiling.

Disembarks in the helicopter his elbow like a swell
as he waves at the USS King, a bellyful of steel workings
and we desire nothing but a story with an end

when we gather, paint-spattered, on the messdecks for the movie:
Ride Beyond Vengeance, starring Chuck Connors. Absent
five years without a word to his woman, he squares his jaw

when he finds she’s married someone else. What now? He asks himself,
hand flat on his six-gun, hatches latched open, the Gulf
like new paint to the horizon and the moon a bright

running light on the dark bow of the sky. The projector stops.
Chuck’s lantern jaw twists sideways as the film dissolves.
Lights die out. Fresh paint in the passageways, executed

yesterday, bubbles, melts and stinks in the hot smoke
when the after fire room erupts in flame and the messdecks
flood in black and roiling clouds. We shout and beat it

drum the deck and rattle the ladders in our pounding run.
The USS King, dead in the water, groans like a man.
Burned mates stumble forward choking to their knees.

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Gerald McFarland’s work has appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Crucible, Zyzzyva, Limestone, Bayou, and many others. One poem, “Skipping Stones,” was published on the Washington State Poet Laureate website last year. McFarland is an editor at Floating Bridge Press in Seattle, graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Rainier Writers’ Workshop in 2011, and teaches writing at University of Phoenix.
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Cindy Stewart-Rinier-

Pre-K Pollock

To study Jackson Pollock with four-year-olds we say Action
Jackson then play Action Jackson our only instruction:
Today make your brush into a bird that cannot land.
All over the room tail feathers begin to dip and lift
dribble and flick paper recording twenty paths of exuberant
flight. Small paint balls and trailed lines confetti the air
then fall and cross and weave themselves into flattened
nests. All but two children know when to stop. One by one
they rise and drift off to the sink where they remove paint smocks
and wash their spattered hands. But Matthew whose lines
are tangled dense as bramble asks for more black.
All his favorite animals have sharp teeth and some mornings
he presses his face into his mother’s legs as if he might be
inching back inside her. And Amelia the girl who used to pool
white glue so deep the edges of her paper oyster shelled
around it as it dried can’t get enough color or resist
touching down. She wheels her bristles leaving scuff marks
of beating wings in poppy geranium red lime streaked with black.
When it’s time to clean up Matthew sulks himself into a corner
and Amelia sucks in her bottom lip refusing to hear.
And I wonder is it what we pursue or what pursues us that resists
ending? Or are passion and darkness simply twin engines
that drive the restless bird?

*This poem first appeared in Crab Creek Review, 2011, v. 2.
and was awarded their Editor’s Prize for that year.

_______________

Summer, When Green Turns
for Candy Rogers, 1950-1959

Hot enough to fry an egg in dirt,
the grown-ups say, their weeping
cocktail glasses in hand.

Craving glamour, my parents dance
through the summer of ‘64
at Nat Park where Tommy Dorsey plays,

Dad in his sports coat, Mom in her strapless
blue dress and matching stiletto shoes,
while we teeter on the fence, stay outside

past dusk, five kids playing barefoot
Kick the Can, one eye out for whoever’s it,
the other for the scary neighbor boy,

then piling into the living room just in time
to see Hitchcock’s shadow step into
his nine-line silhouette, his dead-pan intros

to steamy episodes served up with a violent
twist, the blue light of black and white
fictions we preferred over the real suspense

of not knowing whether Dad’s drunk
would be jolly or wake us from dreams
with his threats and Mom’s screams.

Then another morning, outside again,
squatting at the end of the driveway, stirring
puddles of oil spewed onto Assembly Street

by road crews, our heads filled with volatile
formulas, sex and violence fused,
the woods across the street giving us the creeps,

ponderosas dropping needles and cones, tear-shaped
pitch seeping in summer heat, where,
four years earlier, police finally found the body

of the missing Camp Fire Girl at the bottom
of the old quarry under a blanket
of pine duff, as if asleep.

*A slightly different version of “Summer, When Green Turns” first appeared in the 2014 Summer Issue of VoiceCatcher: a Journal of Women’s Voices and Visions.

_______________

After Three Angels Come to You in a Dream

Wingless, middle-aged, wearing winter
coats, the three of them have come to grant
one last embrace to the newly departed
husband of a friend, you, the apparent witness.

But before they exit, stage up, one angel turns,
breaks frame, and facing the lenses of your wide
eyes full on, speaks directly into them: You,
she says, I’ll see a year from now. A dissolve

to waking life, the breathing landscape
of your love’s soft, freckled shoulder now
resolving into focus. You finger the time
frame in the dark: if one last revolution

of earth around sun is all that remains,
what then, what? After breakfast and coffee
that morning, you find yourself suddenly stuffing
handfuls of millet into the pockets of your robe,

walking to the round, glass table in your backyard.
There, you lay out an orbital ellipse in yellow seed,
then retreat to a bench to watch the winged ones
swoop in, descend. You listen to them consume

those small representations of a year’s moments,
their tapping beaks sounding like a typewriter,
like rain, until, full enough, they rise to the ash
tree and convert it all into shit and song.

*A slightly altered version of “After Three Angels Come to You in a Dream” first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of the Naugatuck River Review.

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Cindy Stewart-Rinier holds an MFA in Creative Writing from PLU’s Rainier Writing Workshop. Her work has appeared in such journals as Calyx, The Smoking Poet, Crab Creek Review, Ascent, Naugatuck River Review, and VoiceCatcher. She teaches Pre-Kindergarten and poetry writing workshops for the Mountain Writers Series in Portland, Oregon.

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Robert McDonald-

Grandmother’s House

I thought the noise
was a grandchild
knocking,
open-handed
slap against

my rough wooden
door; I should have
heard the scrabble
where his claws
crossed the grain.

When I opened the door
and saw the wolf,
I was not
quick, though I wanted

to be quick.
My husband
built this house
to stand up
to wind and hurled

stones, to withstand
the scrape of yellow
teeth. I only had
to slam the door
and turn

the latch. I never
grow accustomed to
the gait
of this body, the slow
movement

of my angled
and bluing
feet. I fall
to the floor, the wolf
leans over me, his mouth

a raked tunnel
to a terrible
city. Once
I was the girl
who carried cake

to lonesome aunties,
skipping
all the way, once
I was the girl
with daisies

in her fists. It’s dark
in this chamber but
I know it must
be red. Death’s
wet, and red, and hot,

Death smells like
a sausage
shop.
In the closet
of the wolf,

his heart beats so loudly it
confiscates
my own. I wait
here the way
a little girl might

wait, after another child
closed her eyes
and started counting.
Inside the wolf I doze
and dream

of my mother: her breath
at the end
was a bird’s
breath. Her fingers,
like my fingers, turn in

to frightened sparrows,
I’m a flock of frightened sparrows,
mottled and still on
a night
with no moon.

_______________

Sleeping Beauty’s Younger Brother

I used to think that cursed was another word
for blessed. Beauty was cursed, everyone
knew it, and servants

swept each step in front of her
with nubbed cotton brooms.
One maid’s only job

was to check Beauty’s bed for spiders. My mother
kissed her twelve times each time
she left the room.

A partial list of what I could not carry near her
or let her see: nothing silver, or sharp,
no edges or blades, no cats,

birds, or scissors. No stones or shards, teeth or spikes,
no guitars or wind-up toy dragons. My parents
always spoke to her

in voices designed to mimic water. Beauty begged me,
once, to show her my pocket knife,
and when I did

she told our Father. I was chained in the root cellar
for the next three days, and oh, how
the kitchen boys laughed.

Beauty drank mulled wine, she smoked Uncle’s pipe,
she grew her fingernails long, as if she hoped
to slice her own

butter-soft palms. And when the Peddler’s Wife
pulled the spindle from its bag, Beauty’s eyes
caught the torchlight

like a pickpocket grasping small green gems. I don’t think
she truly believed in the danger. I don’t think she
wished for us a century of sleep,

Mother splayed in the throne room, footmen slumped
in doorways and various corners, Cook snoring
in the larder still clutching a spoon,

Father dozing wherever it is fathers go.
I only remember scraps of dream,
a bell choir of mice holding silver chimes, a moon

that sang an aria, the dark footman who asked me
to kiss him on the mouth. We stretch, we stir,
we wake from long slumber,

we hail our bad fate, and just as before
do everything, every god-damned
thing, every task for Beauty—

Our friends are gone, even the children
of our friends, while the years
stumbled forward. Our sleep ended

with a kiss that was not my kiss. And now
a Prince rules the country, my sister
is his bride. Just chopping apart

the thorny vines will be the job
of at least a fortnight.
Her Prince calls

for a squire at once to fetch a sword. Beauty
rings for Champagne, cheeses,
a late-season apple,

she licks her lips and whispers to me, “Now
bring me what I really want, a sharp
and pretty knife.”

_______________

Little Red (A poem in Seven Parts)

1. Begin
with an ax, once
part of a tree, a log
once part of a forest.
A house made of logs a man
with an ax a blanket
on the bed. That bed
made of sorrow, goose down,
and time.

2. Begin again. A man
made of wood in a house
cut from axes while the girl
on the bed pretends
she’s made of moonlight.
She’s cold and she’s lonely
but she’s not
made of moonlight.

3. In one version of the story,
the girl with the ax ties
the man to
the bed.

4. A quilt made of beards
is one
cover
for the bed. Silver

patches because I worry.

5. The wolf was lying in
the grandmother’s eyes the wolf
was lying in the grandmother’s ears that
wolf recumbent in the grandmother’s
bed that wolf liked
to chew on
her cold
slippered
foot.

6. Bring your sharp eyes and bring
your sharp ears and see
these small teeth and love
this soft bed, be knife
to my apple and butter
to my bread, knife
to red apple splash
of honey for
my bread.

7. When she gained
the asylum she
called it her
house. She said
to the nurse, “you

look like my mother.” She
said to
the bed sheets,
“I remember
snow and you
smell just like
snow.”

They told her each day
that the wolf was not
her brother. They told
her each day that she
would not need
her ax, nor
the pressed roses nor
the dry scraps
of fish that she kept
in a basket.

They told her that her grandmother
was long since
dead.

“Let me wear
my red dress”

is all she ever said.

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Robert McDonald‘s poetry and prose have appeared in Sentence, Court Green, and Escape Into Life, among many other journals and zines. He lives in Chicago, works in an independent bookstore, and blogs at http://livesofthespiders.blogspot.com.

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Other notable works by Shevaun Brannigan, Risa Denenberg and Mike Harrell.

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Sherry O’Keefe-

Living inside a Diamond

She ran side-hill trails to reach dark places,
to stay away—she was born knowing how
to speak deer.

She didn’t talk, but would listen—
there, in tall grass a whitetail hid with wild asparagus
and a settler’s forgotten rhubarb, a nearby fawn
waiting for her mother’s quiver:
Now is not the time. Stay still.

Such will; such trust between the two
she could imagine, but she never dreamed of
even when camped next to the jump-twice river
where she waited

for Betelgeuse to appear, measuring the distance
between his night sky and her bedroll with cartwheels
spun from forest air. Sometimes thunder gave in
to earth. Sometimes she spoke
star.

*Previously published in Sugar Mule and in my book, “Cracking Geodes Open”

_______________

The Round Trip to Bonners Ferry, Mile Marker 32

The white lime sky, our world—tied with a thousand strings
to sandbags disguised as evergreens and boulders.

Snow banks eight feet high, a wintered majesty
with two wide-eyed deer pausing on the roadway.

Here is where you don’t want to be right now,
you turn the music down, hold your breath and

will the deer to let you by without collision. The flash
of plow and sanding truck, a ribbon of river, unfrozen,

a dab of yellow bobbing in the rapids—one man
casting upstream, his raft anchored to a stand of drift

threaded through a grove, tied—no doubt—
to sandbags holding on, to a corner of blue sky.

_______________

Beatrice Says I May Call Her Jeep

She told me how she’d been born to live
sixty-three Octobers—
not one November more. She scattered
her way through our town like a Great Dane
pup chasing crinkled leaves, unaffected
by the scent of baring trees. Wanting her ease,
some would mimic her, mirror the prisms
in her laugh. Once, by chance, she shared with me
her bench in Terry Park. While counting maple
shadows, she offered to reveal
how she keeps the possibility of Sixty-four
deep in her poker pocket, an ace hidden in her
green satchel. I thought to see the usual
when she undid its clasp: twigs and twine,
Aunt Jemima syrup bottles, tins of mustard seed.
She parted the forest of brown velvet
lining the cardboard bottom. I leaned forward to peer in—
it opened across blue water.

_______________

Rock, Patience, River

Crushed red rock on my evening
step says you were here.
I was gone. One smooth stone
in the post office box asks
Remember? Between
star charts and tide tables
there you are: sleeves rolled up,
reaching through slow water,
where once you knew of only your self
now you know how the river falls
outside my bedroom window. Here;
the Cheyenne can run all night
sucking water from a pebble. It is enough
until the rains return.

*Previously published in my book, “Cracking Geodes Open”

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Sherry O’Keefe, a descendant of Montana pioneers, grew up in a remote power camp on the Missouri River. She is a poetry editor for IthacaLit and an assistant editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal. Her work can be found in Camas: The Nature of the West, Art & Document, Escape into Life, PANK, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Avatar Review and many other journals. Her second collection of poetry, Cracking Geodes Open, was published by Aldrich Press in 2012. Visit her: http://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com.

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Shevaun Brannigan-

Helium Shortage: A Retrospective

We trapped exotic sharks in tanks, we over fished the sea. Kept tigers
in our backyards, then marveled when they mauled, watched weddings

on TV and made fun of hats for weeks. We used gasoline for moon bounce motors,
and jumped around without our shoes. What were we to do without balloons?

We celebrated by letting things go. Picture a dozen upside down apples
released to the heavens, stems as ribbons someone slashed. They float,

the sky as a barrel full of water. Though they caught on power lines,
though birds ate them, thinking them fish, a boy got me one for my birthday once

and I adored him. It was that kind of time—we did things we knew we shouldn’t.
I stayed in a state for twenty seven years just because it birthed me, I snared

the man I loved so he wouldn’t leave, and so he did. But when I was a child
and my father tied a ribbon around my wrist, like a corsage, and

the attached balloon followed me around the yard, I didn’t know to be frightened
of what was to come. I didn’t know that what you let go might not return.

_______________

1994

Kevin Carter, the South African photographer whose image of a starving Sudanese toddler stalked by a vulture won him a Pulitzer Prize this year, was found dead…apparently a suicide…He was 33—New York Times Obituary.

This vulture is a heavy breasted bird.
She carries her tension in her shoulders.

Her wings drag in the dust, she flicks them
clean. The ground below her is a graveyard

for grasses and their blanched blades.
The child she stalks is dying.

So thin, his ulna, humerus, wrapped up
in skin like beef bones in butcher paper,

the ground pulls him in close. His head,
a hard and heavy fruit, dents the dirt.

I am ten. I read the paper.
I have been hospitalized once

already for wanting to die. I have felt
something circling above me

since I was born,
I thought it a bird. It is not.

It is planets and their moons,
at most, a deliberate moth.

_______________

King-Sized Bed

Evidence of the infestation:
rotten raspberry scent,

smears of feces along the mattress,
the bugs themselves

engorged from feeding,
my body puckered with bites.

At night, they crawled
on my skin and found

the good spots. My arms
red-raised, my legs

maps of their travels—
the ones to touch

my body, I thought
it has been so long.

I brought the bed
outside, struggled

to pull its weight.
The bugs burrowed

deeper into the mattress,
away from August heat,

nestled themselves
among coils, the quilting,

waiting for night
to emerge and look

for my body as
I do each night for yours.

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Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House at The University of Maryland. She has had poems appear in such journals as Best New Poets 2012, Lumina, Rhino, Court Green, and Free State Review. She has been an Arts & Letters Poetry Prize finalist, received an honorable mention in So to Speak’s 2012 Poetry Contest, as well as a Pushcart nomination by Rattle.

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Risa Denenberg-

Reading Psalm 23

When the codicils of my life
were misery, I was selfish and miserable.
Who wouldn’t be?

And in my misery, I would read psalms
for succor, and so, felt less alone.
I still read these lines —

Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
The staff, certainly, to uphold me as I meander
through the valley. But this rod comforts me not.

Is it a curtain rod, saying, curtains for you?
Is it the rod of chastisement somehow being just
what I will need at the moment of trepidation?

Or is it a cudgel to stave off enemies,
while I eat the meal the Lord has prepared
for me alone?

Now the tenets of my life, while not meant
for comfort, suit me well. My gait is unsteady,
but I would gladly share my plate with anyone.

And I travel in this shadow, alone and unafraid.

_______________

Yellow Star

In my case, the yellow star
will be made of two perfect pink triangles
cut from cheap dry goods at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
where the women
sew stars on at the ready
hunched over their Singers
and, not wasting time on stairs,
work right up to closing time, then jump.

They didn’t want to die so young
and neither did the gay boys who died in droves
at the close of the last century. I would be one
who would beg you to shoot me
who would know that borders lie
that I could not endure the march through the woods
in the snow to the trains at the end.

We who say never forget
also know that it could happen again
to us
and we do not know more now
than we did then
how to make it stop.

The stitching never ends. For practice,
I have sutured my arm to my sleeve
with triangles made from pages torn
from the Book of Job.

“Yellow Star” was originally published online at Lavender Review in June 2012.

_______________

Saving Moses

There were rushes and a stream, a swathed Infant
in a basket floating, and no Miriam in sight.
I had always wanted to save Moses from the dry
swelter of the desert, the crash of tablets,
his vast disappointment in us idol worshipers,
but instead, because the earth didn’t turn and he was meant
to split the sea, I had to wet-nurse him and let him go.
All the water on this planet — the ponds and rivulets,
the swells and torrents, the sinkhole in Miami
where we took turns swinging from a rope
into the icy bottomless azure — these waters
run their course, but will not save us.

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Risa Denenberg is an aging hippie currently living in the Pacific Northwest. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner and has worked for many years in end-of-life care. She is a moderator at The Gazebo, an online poetry board; reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing; and is an editor at Headmistress Press, dedicated to publishing lesbian poetry. She has three chapbooks, what we owe each other (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2013); In My Exam Room (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2014); and Blinded by Clouds (Hyacinth Girls Press, 2014) and a full length book, Mean Distance from the Sun (Aldrich Press, 2013).

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Mike Harrell-

Even As a Child
(after Charles Simic)

you sought to be invisible,
lost in limbs of ordinary trees,
the world shrinking
to more manageable scale
as you pulled yourself further
and further above the ground;
with always a flush of fear, very near joy,
hidden from your mother
as she calls out in a high voice whose tone already resists
the possibility of your empty bed;
or on warm days when time
pools like a slow river,
you too far out and still
drifting, eyes almost
level with the water, and then a last breath
and slipping
under
as your mother rises from her blanket
and searching, shields her eyes against the glare,
in a gesture that looks like a final salute
and farewell;
and you seeing her there, willowed
by water and worrying, hearing
again her high voice, and wondering
how long you can remain
before returning becomes impossible.

_______________

Pamlico*

This morning, as first light strikes the sound,
still water draws down the sky, and someone
paddles away through an admonition of clouds. Below, birds
wing their way upside down across oil-black water, the steps at the dock
double back on themselves, Escher into Pamlico, and schools of menhaden
flash silver where they bullet to avoid becoming bluefish, or pelican.

We watch without words, aware of the drift toward our own undoing,
the way the body might refuse an order,
legs unwilling to bend, hands slow,
and unfamiliar as starfish.
If you could come back to me now, escape
the dominion of days, we too might ignore the admonitions, set off
through oil-black water, two small flashes where our wake converges,
struggling to slip the resolution of the tide.

*A sound in North Carolina.

_______________

The Big Punch
(When a boxer smiles after taking a big punch, you know it hurt him.–U.K. John)

And now I’m showing you my teeth,
lip-split, and loopy, a storm cloud of color
gathering under my cheek.

The red glove surprised me,
coming out of nowhere, and I still don’t remember
hearing the bell that ended the last round.

But the ten-count is somehow soothing,
and if it’s o.k. with you,
I’d really like to lie here just a minute,

grinning into the canvas–
remembering how beautiful we were.

(Previously published in slightly different form in 2008 in Barnwood Magazine.)

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Mike Harrell lives in Brooklyn, NY and makes his living in the film industry as a props person. He is a graduate of the University Of Florida where he received a degree in English. He has been published in Avatar Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, IthicaLit, The Centrifugal Eye, Clapboard House, Soundzine, Barnwood Magazine, Deep South Magazine, and The Alligator.

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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?

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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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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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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

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2015

January - James Keane
February - Liza Hyatt
March - Joseph Reich
April - Charles Thielman
May - Norbert Krapf
June - Lynne Knight

Artwork

Image of bird by contemporary artist, Courtney Smith
All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the copyright owner/author. Any unauthorized use is strictly prohibited.
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