_____________________________________________________________________

Ruth Kessler-

The Sacrifice
And Abraham put forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son
(Genesis 22,10)

So many questions unanswered
(even the ass’s)
So many screams
stifled
(even the knife’s)
So many silences

That story left
mostly untold Its
jealousy’s terrible flowering
glimpsed through the door of
religion left only slightly
ajar

And The Father
who unbound
one child
Only to tether His others to
bear His implacable burden
till the end of all days

_______________

flower*
Tamar

this dark stain
that will not be blotted –
the dried blood
of a maid’s tarnished honor.

this diminutive height,
downcast gaze,
this disgrace.

Whose cruel joke was it
to wed his iniquity and my infamy
in such lovely, love-
less bloom?

stitch my name to his.
No, nail.

*In Hebrew the name for pansy is Amnon v’Tamar – after King David’s oldest son and the half-sister he raped.

_______________

Suburban

Summer night: cats in
heat, droning chorus of cicadas,
the moon – our dream-hook dangling

from someone else’s heaven.
Behind lit windows neighbors toss away
the crumpled day’s remains, readying

to unfold the fresh morning of tomorrow.
(Only very few press out the passing day,
carefully caress its creases, cherish).

Under the callous gaze of stars the street
curves like a horseshoe seeking luck,
studded with silent, taciturn houses.

The trees, black-uniformed keepers of birds’ sleep,
stand stiff, capped with hazy haloes.
How scrupulously the eerie lawn-lights guard

the still-life of prim gardens
against August’s wanton conquest!
A bat swiftly swoops and

circles, swoops and circles, spinning
an opaque web of solitude.
Only in the distance a train’s sudden

whistle rushes through the
darkness into our careful lives:
a messenger from Elsewhere,

an arrowhead of secret
yearning, a fleeting echo of an
errant heartbeat.

_______________

May

Sky, smeared with careless scarlets and crimsons.
Sea, dappled with dusky dazzle.

And a young, cloud-hatted couple
carrying their future boldly between them –
like the magnificent cluster of grapes borne aloft
by Joshua’s spies from
the Promised Land.

_______________

Ars Poetica
Reason not the need
Shakespeare, King Lear

You reasoned the need:
would banish all weeds from that garden,
subject all irregular growth
to the shears of perfect necessity.

As if poetry was not about life –
meaning irrelevancies,
meaning rules constantly broken;
daring us daily to sift
through the rubble,
paste order from its debris.
Life –
whose business card is imprinted not
with the consequential idea,
the relevant metaphor,
but the but’s and although’s,
repetitions, digressions, silences,
the yawns between cannon bolts.
Life –
that sagging tissue that holds the skeleton together.

You insisted on efficiently planned expeditions:
always choosing the highway – clear signs, good maintenance.
Not meandering side roads with
their unruly clumps of unnamable grasses and
small songs of obscure birds leading, like
the heart’s undisciplined ramblings, to
strange destinations where
children and fools gather at dusk
to do nothing.
But dream.

You believed the poem
should matter like flag –
meaningful and precise
on its upright pole.

But
have
you
ever
closed
your
eyes –
listened
to
the
mysterious
music
the
wind
makes
rippling
randomly
in
the
pliable
cloth?

__________________________________________________________________

RUTH KESSLER grew up in Poland and Israel. Her publications include Fire Ashes Wings (poems giving voice to women in myths and the arts), and over sixty poems in journals and anthologies, several of which won special distinctions. Her full-length manuscript has been a finalist and semi-finalist in several book contests. A poem was made into a limited-edition artist book, and three poems were set to music and performed as a choral composition. Awards include Individual NYSCA grants and Yaddo, MacDowell, VCCA, VSC, and Saltonstall fellowships. She was invited as a guest poet to the Women in Music Festival and Women and Poetry Festival. She lives in NYC.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

Other notable works by Sophia DuRose.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kaitlyn O’Malley-

LAUDANUM

We love to give away that which we earn
Or sacrifice that we did once refuse,
Build up and then in raging fire burn.

When life ensparks a feeling of concern,
Without a sift of sheer intent to lose,
We love to give away that which we earn.

The accolade and laurel, in return
Are used-to-be’s; lowly, misused –
Build up and then in raging fire burn.

Often there are things that we can’t discern
Important this, the unexpected muse,
We love to give away that which we earn.

I tried to stop it but I didn’t learn –
Even the love we had which I did bruise,
Built up and then in raging fire burned.

It hurts; absent of a silvered touch, I yearn.
I’m done, no more will one inflame that fuse.
We love to give away that which we earn,
Build up and then in raging fire burn.

_______________

REBORN

If I die on a plane
Heading somewhere,
Then that is a good way to die.
Maybe I’ll sprout wings
And cocoon myself in the clouds.
Perhaps they’ll bury me in Turkey,
The Old City will be my tomb.
My soul will leave my body
And rupture into shivers of myself.
My spirit will pulse
Through the streets of Sultan Ahmet.
Maybe I’ll become a genie
Trapped in a merchant’s lamp.
Perhaps I’ll be an angel
In the mosque named for the sky,
Or melt into the Turkish strait,
My eyes, the seas, divide.
All will wonder who watches
Through their walls,
Whose presence lives
Within their city,
Which foreigner, a protector,
Follows.
If I die on a plane
Heading somewhere,
Then that is a good way to die.
My soul will leave my body
And rupture into shivers of myself.

_______________

BODY COMPOSITION

Anyone who we have ever feared
Or lost,
Is seventy-two percent H2O.
Two parts hydrogen.
One part oxygen.
And everyone who we have ever loved,
As well.
Me –
I am seventy-two percent water.
But it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.
We are hearts,
And brains,
And nerve endings,
The blood that runs through our veins,
The rib cages and shoulder blades,
The bones, worn down
And remade.
We are worlds inside of people.
We are atoms, 7 octillion,
To be exact.
Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon.
Signals and commands and cells, that facts
With science, studies can explain.
But it doesn’t feel that way.
Sometimes,
We are stardust –
Cloud people,
Shaped with the powder of a thousand stars,
Forged with the fires of the suns
That circle us.
The irises of our eyes are stratospheres,
Pupils black like telescopes set to the night sky,
And the universe whose true expanse
We’ll never know,
Or created why.
Because science can’t explain all of us.
Not the days when I’m alone,
Or lost in the world I am made of.
Not when dreams are the nightmares of my days,
When I can breathe, yet inside my lungs ablaze,
When my heart is pumping,
But stripped of love.
The sleepless nights,
When I’ve cried so much that
I’m down to one percent.
My functioning brain only torture and torment.
We are galaxies,
Complex in their simplicity,
More than statistics of science,
Or biology.
We are the memories buried in the wrinkles,
The bruises that only the dead can see,
The salt on our cheeks,
The smiles of our loved ones,
And the aches in our hearts.
We are people –
Made of water and stars.

_______________

THE GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING
based on the Johannes Vermeer painting of the same name

If a picture is worth a thousand words,
I wonder why I can find no explanation
For the turban-wearing girl
With apples in her cheeks,
And cherry lips, parted only for the single
Breath,
Save for her allure.
One request lest I should die,
I wish to live inside her canvas,
To discover the pleasures concealed
In paint strokes,
And the insecurities in blackened air.
Brush blue from her forehead,
Brown from her gentle skin,
Uncover the mystery of knowing.
Witness her golden headdress unbound,
If her hair matches the darkness of the room,
Or the sparkle of her gaze, like the sun
That is yet to rise.
If that pearl on her ear has a sister,
Hidden away in the secrets of her brows,
Or if she only managed to steal one.
That is all I wish to know.
Is her soul as pure as the whites of her eyes?
As fragile as the silver teardrop falling
From her ear?
Her hands as gracious as her glare?
Her heartbeat as quick as it is
To love her?
Is who she truly is
Tucked away
In the wrinkles of her robes,
The crook of her neck,
The curves in her back?
Or sprinkled into
The colors of the sky
Never to be found again?
That is all I wish to know.
See Vermeer’s muse in all her mystique
And beauty.
A stargazer under moonlit sky;
How ephemeral perfection,
That men search the world for
Their entire lives,
Is isolated in its momentary existence.
How the world’s displayed, so subtly in space,
By a girl,
In a tender stroke of white,
An earring of pearl.
That is all I wish to know.
And ask much, I do not.
For the price of imprisonment
In art,
I give away,
Lose, myself to find her,
Lose myself for knowing
Of things such as these.
For explanation of
The turban-wearing girl,
Save for her allure.
Of that I know too much.

_______________

INNOCENCE

I fear the time when dreams turn into
Simply sleep-induced sensations,
And tiny teeth under bedheads
Don’t conjure up mystical riches.
I fear when happy endings become
Trapped in children’s storybooks,
Hourglass eyes uncontaminated,
As long as you don’t look too close.
I’ll miss when friendship means forever,
And the skyline is crayoned blue across the page,
And the gay and happy, naïve feeling
That fills you when they ask your age.
When work means learning ABC’s
Chalked across boards with picture diagrams,
And gifts are macaroni painted red or blue,
Strung onto popcorn necklaces.
When birthday constitutes a number,
Said with a smile and not a sigh,
And the bed is something you don’t look under,
Home to the creatures standing by.
I’ll miss when life no longer stands
For the things we said we’d always feel.
I fear the time when all we dared to dream
Simply becomes not real.
But I suppose I know that’s why I’m here,
For the inevitable we must defy,
To remember all our innocence,
All we can do is try.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Travel has played a large part in my life. I was born in Russia and lived in Saudi Arabia before moving to America. The cultures I have experienced and the people I have met have all shaped me to be the person that I have become. I write because I know that words can make a difference in this world. I have seen it, and I hope that “Contemporary American Voices” will help me do the same.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sophia DuRose-

FDR Memorial

All men are eventually lain in their grave.
It only depends on when and who you are when you fall.
“It is not new and it is not order,”
Stretches across the back of stone,
Like a cape of historical bone, declarations of rebellion,
May 2nd, 1997.
The memorial’s hands are new and recently unveiled
Yet they yield the same lines of weather
And exhaled promises. His face was carved from memories,
Creases around the nose like parenthesis,
Even winkles on his hands like ink,
Lifelines in his palms,
And “systems of government” engraved instead of psalms.
The sky’s orange glow feels like a smile,
And the cherry blossoms in town bloom for a while,
Like flowers at a wake.
Sixteen years later,
His eyes have not blinked, and his hands have not moved.
His dog sits watch, never barking, only obeying,
Looking more like an old man than the guy in the green.
Leaves dance like crystal wasps, beating their wings in a silent room…
All men eventually die,
But only some remain breathing in a stone-cold tomb.

_______________

Amputee Therapy

I asked my mother for paper dolls
And my mother did comply.
I took my scissors, I took my string
And cut the dolls before her eyes.

I named each doll for a member of the family.
And sliced them how they each were maimed.
My mother sat there watching,
As every body part, I reclaimed.

Bob’s lost an arm,
Grandfather’s a finger.
Grandma’s both her legs,
And at mine, I did linger.

Most of them were lost to me,
Though I was still whole and young.
So I took my scissors, I took my string
And back on their bodies, I strung.

Markers and pencils questioned me
As a lilting scrawl filled the air.
My dolls were lifeless- simple paper,
But also solemn prayer.

Bob’s new arm said “Father.”
Grandfather’s finger said “Marines.”
Grandma’s legs said “Nurse,”
Their new limbs, fitted to their dreams.

_______________

Atonement

Arguments don’t write letters pitying the fools
Drooling on the doorsteps of trite and right-
They only curse the moons starving the sun rays
Of yesterday’s long-gone.
Arguments don’t find purpose in the mortar of
A Colosseum or the hoarder of flowers from a
Mausoleum.
Arguments don’t find cracks in promises
Because they are the tracks of bitter kisses
Across cheeks of forgotten ones and orphans.
They are the cigarette burns on skin
And the useless apologies of what could have been.

Forgiveness scratches x’s and o’s
Into thin little lines of understated love.
Forgiveness barricades soap from eyes,
Girls from back corners of streets,
Pushes insomniacs into sleep.
Forgiveness cares about the mishaps in your youth,
Co-signs the loan you make out to your own heart,
As you start to realize reclamation is costly
But not impossible.
Forgiveness does not mention the mistakes of
Rainwater and sardonic waves.

If Arguments were parents,
Forgiveness would be the flowers at their graves.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

________________________________________________________________

Lana Bella-

DARK WATER
 
In the drinking, your body imprints
origami sailboat over the blue night
air. Inside a cylindrical glass of dark
water, your gaze, black and spacious,
flutes the tissued-ridged helm, glazed
the achromatic berth polar to the sky.
With two volant tips of your fingers, 
the glowing hour threaded tinge from
the moonlight, murmuring zipperless
nest of nyctophobia. Albinoni’s Adagio
is the sepulchral song you ache to cello 
as the blood incurves on unforgiving, 
waiting just long enough to infiltrate
the salted wind unfurling like open fist,
tithing from felled alleluias of seraphim.
_______________
DEAR SUKI: LETTER Z FOR ZIMOGEN
 
Dear Suki: The Hague, March 30th,
Mauritshuis Museum, me beneath 
the celestial bulb of fantailed ceiling, 
you held its cheval glass with quiver
flowing from dark painted eyes. Girl
with the Pearl Earring kissed mute
on the wall; gold light fed runnels of
zymogen churned into waking ghost’s 
raw weight. In the absence of time,
we were flesh and bones woven from
chattels poached, dots and timbres of
silence danced with their notes beyond
our conscious etched in acid white.
Dearest Suki: musing of history but 
musing of ourselves, I bowed my spine 
across your sluggish tense in flight, 
feeling gossamer threads brushing up 
against the ridges of my dermis house.
_______________
OPHELIA
 
Ophelia. Teach her the trick 
of leaving, of diving into rivers 
in the arms of fish and algae 
bed. Start her with minnows
kibbling stardust from fingers
cracked of ice against shore,
and wild calidore of longhorn
beetles calling fog challenged
the goblin sky to war. At the
splitting of the old boneyard by
the river bend, where a broken
path sighed the silence of where-
withal realms, where no briar
bush nor bridle bell to earmark
passage of home beneath her
scythe-feet, she straddled the
edge as her eyes reached limp
dark of the bay willows, slender
as a thieving drink fed fervent
the parched pelican throat. Tidal
sounds barely above whispers
held her against hush-dappled
stones, animate with corpses of
damselflies that hid the spent
migration of her ankle-deep into
the weight of oft-bare kelp-chimes.
Hers was a silhouette tethered in
liquid aquifer, a quixotic conduit
of stillness hunting for its parable
in name.
_______________
QUANTUM

Old before the first cypress
on the homestead heaved to
brown, you seethed tendril
nerves through dandelion-
choked fields, maiden-fluted;
an ampersand lined for long-
itude, hollow as interlude in
an omnibus. Fireflies died on
fits of rain, purling, scoured
among the chattels of birds’
shivering wings, as you sped
eyes of pewter fjord over grey
coastal bells. Heavy feet held
in nomadic haunts of traveled
stops and time-shed rhythms,
river-spun a path angling over
the festooned cliffs. All around,
the lupine mist dovetailed with
imagined light; there you stood
shivered underfoot, teased by
notes of old time songs, salted
away in sea washed air, spired
forlorn to lightning’s quick stabs.

 
________________________________________________________________
A Pushcart nominee, Lana Bella is an author of two chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016) and Adagio (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 300 journals, 2River, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, The Ilanot Review, The Writing Disorder, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere, among others. 

Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever frolicsome imps. 
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
 

________________________________________________________________

David Brinkman-

crashing waves and pounding surf
hum hypnotic regularity
lull to sleep or Siren’s death
depending proximity

he stands alone with steely gaze
on hope-filled dreams before
oh the wonder! joy! and awe!
impending naivety

he does not know nor can he know
for crashing waves betray
the past that’s gone, the future yet
the ocean sings today

now sing my son! for death has died!
forgive, and love! be free!
at water’s edge, the dream is peace
hear Siren’s lullaby.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Jocelyn Heaney-

Waiting for the Dead

The fortune-teller shut the black curtain
wound the ticking clock and set the alarm,
assuring no revelation
spilled past the allotted hour.
He held my right wrist and traced
two divergent lines on the edges of my palm.
“You have the ability to transgress boundaries
and enter the world of the dead.”
This I already knew.
The paths inscribed in the body
mirror those I walk in the wooded past—
trails marked with faded red ribbons
blurred by rotting and growing.
I pass the serenity of beaver ponds,
the crude warnings nailed to trees,
the collapsed wedding altar.
But where are the dead?
Should I watch for them
in wilderness
or  feel them
rise and fall in every step?
I hear that the dead often appear
just beyond borders
So I follow the cold stone walls
up and down the leaf-strewn hills.
Once I dreamed that they wait for us
at places of transition—the parting of two roads
or the benches of lonely depots.
I remain alert when traveling alone.
They’re attracted to still, late hours
and fragments of their bright voices can be heard
fleeting transmissions
in moments of our greatest joy.
But most often the dead enter through sorrow
that old forgotten gate, past the whorled trees
in a forest of undeciphered lines,
of startled clearings and ever-widening paths.

_______________

Home

A moon-bright field raises hairs on the arms.
Wrists go numb remembering dark brooks.
Horses become instinct, thirst.

What it can no longer return to
in the old way, the body rebuilds, reclaims
as if to say: there was always only here.

Is this wholeness at last?
The translation of all loved things
to their essence

The barn less brick than silence
that agreed for a time
to gather itself into manger and beam

_______________

Sunshine, Liquor, Tae Kwon Do

Each time I pass that glowing mantra of Western Avenue, I recite the silent incantation: Sunshine, Liquor, Tae Kwon Do. Sunshine, Liquor, Tae Kwon Do.

Approaching the corner of Beverly, the old excitement grips me. Sunshine Liquor Tae Kwon Do. My talisman. My delight. It will be soon.
I pass the church. The trophy store. The Chinese Antlers.

Suddenly the sign blazes before me in the oily, starless night, half shattered, the bright white tubes beneath the words exposed.
Oh. Liquor then Sunshine.

No matter. Syntax didn’t change the purposeful march of the syllables, two and two and–I stopped at the third line. Tae Kwon Do had become a ghost, a flickering wound beneath a single hand-lettered obscenity: ZUMBA.

________________________________________________________________

Jocelyn Heaney’s poems Waiting for the Dead, Home and Sunshine Liquor Tae Kwon Do. Home previously appeared in a journal called Artemis. Her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Talking Writing and Hippocampus.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Robert Lietz-

AMONG THE COUSINS

A week ending cold but bright sets up the end
and the beginning of two seasons.  Sermons
we might have heard below gilt ceilings, pillars topped
by likenesses of prophets, saints, archangels
the sculptor’s kin and friends were ringers for, however
mussed or better kempt, remembered again, to ward
off sleep or welcome sleeping, and unavoidable dreams
we’d all been warned and warned again to be aware of,
an awareness shared, like a constancy there’d seemed
no way to master, with all that we made two wheels seem,
built by, and for, affordably, requiring our behavior
and attention, until the corners ended that, and persuasions
then, reports on authentic vehicles. You know, you think,
who painted this, who made the frame, from the old wood
scavenged, when the ice house fell from light, let collapse
upon itself, when lines were strung and cottagers trucked in appliances,
recovered and mitered, joined and pinned
and matched the ways hues were, and brush-strokes were
to purposes, the ways words were to seasons, summers
the lined walls housed ice, carved from the pond or what
there was to find on the Grand River, promising, and
framing the years hand-done, the art first born among
the cousins, the first I could meet part way, to think
how the earth or tiles there seemed slipperier in August,
how cold an ungloved hand could come to be despite
the season, or a  finger chilled, dipped into the blessed water
nearing midnight, and the gaze to see if there were some
who knew your family, in pews awash with history, sharing
some parts in the old yearbooks fingered through, almost
memorized, and in those front page pics from that 1930s fire,
so it’s like this just to breathe and be aware of it, to feel
the holiday, and the shape-shifting you’re nearly certain of,
struck by these wind-invested leaves, limb-lifted hemlocks
transplanted from the ridge above that river, though
the leaves want none of it, and will not admit themselves
there’s something terribly missing, some anything a time
of year’s just part to blame for, laid here among, or
there, beneath the hemlocks dreaming them.

_______________

A YOUNGER COUNTRY

1
Taking the Lead

What’s the next thought then, taking the lead it might
from a Friday holiday, from an economy
that starts you thinking anyway, a broadening whimsy
lighting the one side, or the one at Armistice?
And these sometime clouds, the clouds and tree-cast shade
and more ambitious business lightning interrupts,
with the kids re-gathering, safe, you should not mistake
their barter, or the feel of an election year
they settle into, driving these moods the season gives
apart from closure, when casts move in, on
barrel-sized wheels, like comments on themselves, on
large machines, on the implements
and myriad deployments, as unexplained as calendars,
as candidates, already in motion, in winds
and phrases like our own, and the phrase a mind
might just as well be lost in,
when such an extravagance entails, and
being right’s
distorted into practice.

2
The Hook

He orders the cheeseburger and fries indifferently,
meaning to appeal, remembering
the kid who passed on smokes and wrapped himself in wool
when winds took over fields, the lakes
turned treacherous, assuming himself so much himself
he hardly could be counted a believer,
tempted by that and all the concentration thrives on, just
to discover what? — as harmless
as bbs seemed, and wintering, and as the earth around,
until they re-imagined it — so that
the commotion crashed an unmistakably long slumber, on
the dreaming turned, tuned
to cross-winds and some study, under that hook, let’s say,
and the hook’s shadow, pitched
to the ceiling’s slope and the slope of barn beam
flanking it, maybe a foot or so above
the place nobody ever saw as a chaste angle, over
that antique hanging lamp,
un-lit indoors so not to smudge, but pearly
anyway, with
daylight entering through the tall
glass
in a front parlor.

3
Watermark

The lamp, the angle and pitch, the textures and shadow,
he thinks. recall another room
and hand-made papers, a craftsman’s watermark, and cards
sent out to celebrate a treaty,
collected yet, in the oak wall cabinet housing the mementos,
the wheeled chest, caddying the flat-panel,
in a farther century, so there’s no mistaking this, no missing
the mark or long guns there,
on the brick above the hearth, with parts in a family’s history,
in secrets they’d understood
in a young country, unexposed maybe, maybe under-studied,
caught in the preacher’s conjuring,
a preacher’s shame or pulpit ardor. Thirty’s warm enough,
and afternoons we walk, warm enough
in our snapped vests, and near as we get, looking back, on
birthdays, on the anniversaries
shared, over these cold-riffled Copeland waters geese
are not the least bit shy
re-claiming, finding their ways among the villas,
priests, and
the physicians, the rooms extended
care
necessitates.

_______________

FALL RITUALS

The window’s open to let air in, let the morning
in, on this bluff above the river, and
the window here, I slide it wide to let dreams enter,
to clear the steam from panes
the draining hot tub’s qualified. Then how should we
be pure, made new, should we
field the staggering or plain fit of accounting, when
the oracle’s intent
to play his role as funny man, who wouldn’t have told us
if he knew, or risked discrediting,
but welcoming adornments there, expecting still
another way of fitting in? See
how the leaves lie out or follow calls to dancing, how
the light this afternoon, all but exhausted
in its hurry, shows us the curbs and barrels ahead
and leaves, rising up as yard birds,
the ways some Persian might, ecstatic with his lyrics
or his data, ignoring the rush for phones,
for seeds freshened in the feeders, or only leaves
again, here in the light leaves chase,
this fabulous brulee, of an afternoon’s concocting,
since this is November, just,
and sunrise, nonetheless more southerly, with
daylight savings done, will
find us easier, now that the tub’s re-filled,
behind the windows
we’ll close a little while and re-open, to
sense how the season
shapes another day about, and
the cold
come, lingering.

________________________________________________________________

Robert Lietz’s poems have appeared in more than one hundred journals, including Agni Review, Antioch Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Colorado Review, Epoch, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah.  Eight collections of poems have been published, including Running in PlaceAt Park and East DivisionThe Lindbergh Half-century (L’Epervier Press,) The Inheritance (Sandhills Press,) and Storm Service and After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems (Basal Books.)  Besides the print publications poems have appeared in several webzines.  A net search for “Robert Lietz poetry” will provide a representative selection. In addition, Lietz spends a good deal of time taking, post-processing, and printing photographs he has been making for the past several years, examining the relationship between the image-making and the poems he has made and is exploring.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

Other notable work by Ruth Titus, Mary Marcelle and Jane Peterson.

_________________________________________________________________

Al Rocheleau-

THE DEATH IN THE ROOM

Is not always a palpable thing,
yet there it is—

I shall call it a him, crouched
on a stool in the corner, always present,
and obsequious in his negating way
as if to say, pay no attention.
He wears, for me, just now,
black pants and a black sweatshirt with a hood,
and he shades his eyes
against the contrast
of the colored TV. He is slight,
I mean his build is slight
like, what’s his name, the young actor,
always young, Sal Mineo.
He is a panther of conflicting emotion.

I see as redbirds flock and blow
in Italian breeze about the screen
and around the coffin
of a dead pope, he takes notice.
The scene that comes in threes.

Down the hall,
he is playing jacks with a comatose
child. And he follows at some distance
happy couples down walks
of the April snow
who couldn’t, couldn’t possibly imagine—
he dabs the darling eyes
of the survivors, second
and the seventeenth
to know.

Occasionally
he settles to dinner
in the extra chair, eats nothing, drinks
only water.
He is the one common relative.
More identical
in his difference
than the African prototype of man,
or the glowingest apostle
of the light. Centurion at the cross,
imported swordsman who takes the head
of Anne Boleyn, barrower
of plague-dead mothers and their kin.
The death in the room

serves a tallied clock
of the veiled god; he is not bad, not unpleasant,
not necessarily, by his smile, grim.
He is
what is that was, and what
will be in each dark corner
of each lit square, of each
soft footing of our imaginings
to get to him. Please, we say, please
must it be, or could it be, or no,
we most often forget about him.

He grants us in the majority of our moments
that silent wish,
the blind longevity
of the single, long, second of our lives
never to intrude, secondary player
without a line, and waiting

to begin.

_______________

TEAR

Rimbaud: a translation

Far from the birds, the herds, village girls,
I was drinking, kneeling in some heath
Surrounded by clusts of hazel wood
In afternoon mists of tepid green.

What could I have drunk of that young Oise—
Voiceless elms, flowerless grass, covered sky.
What did I draw from the colocasian gourd?
What gold of pale liquor made me sweat?

As it was, I should have made a poor inn-sign.
Then the storms transformed the sky toward night.
There were dark lands, lakes, poles,
Columns under the blue night, the stations.

Water from woods lost itself in virgin sand,
The wind, the sky, threw icings to the ponds,
And I, as fisher of gold or gold in shells,
Say I lacked the worry of that drink!

_______________

LARME

Loin des oiseaux, des troupeaux, des villageoises,
Je buvais, accroupi dans quelque bruyère
Entourée de tendres bois de noisetiers,
Par un brouillard d’après-midi tiède et vert.

Que pouvais-je boire dans cette jeune Oise,
Ormeaux sans voix, gazon sans fleurs, ciel couvert.
Que tirais-je à la gourde de colocase ?
Quelque liqueur d’or, fade et qui fait suer.

Tel, j’eusse été mauvaise enseigne d’auberge.
Puis l’orage changea le ciel, jusq’au soir.
Ce furent des pays noirs, des lacs, des perches,
Des colonnades sous la nuit bleue, des gares.

L’eau des bois se perdait sur des sables vierges
Le vent, du ciel, jetait des glaçons aux mares…
Or ! tel qu’un pêcheur d’or ou de coquillages,
Dire que je n’ai pas eu souci de boire !

_______________

MY POEMS ARE LITTLE CRIPPLES

Tootling along in a black space,
here and there a hum and squeak,
a quelled bellow, nervous laughter;

they preen in a mirror under matchlight—
jealous of one another they jostle,
love an audience of shut-ins;

they marshal themselves, motley
in a phalanx full of weaknesses,
are blown apart with the first volley;

they pick up their arms again,
their legs, prop their holey torsos
and speak with a silly hope,

go home sheepily to the deaf ears
as if already dead and the diners
talked around them and above them

wallowing in the stiff, prosy song
of the day, always the same—
more war for fodder, price of cheese,

addicts poised among sunflowers.

Close the poem! There’s tired newness
to it, that will fade with the hours.

_______________

YOU NEED NOT FEAR THE CATHOLICS, MARIANNE

I know the wryness tips comport to the wind—
we are devils before you, Marianne. But cardinal
is not our color, it was Torquemada’s,
and we are just as interested in your pendulum
and crossed cups as any irreligious squanderer
regardless of upbringing. I love your green agate,
your amethyst, your cockscomb and marigold,

they are better than the sameness of the host,
the wine that belittles in its dilution, the square
prance of the stations. But at our best, Marianne,
when the censer calls the smoke out of Purgatory,
when the nuns reach their highnotes, and the brother
scrapes a floor of humility, we approximate
your witch’s list with a zealot’s cast, kindred

to the last drawn hanged man, rune unwrapped
like a saint’s rib-bone, the flames at Beltane
mirrored in bright novenas of other women.
We are together on the night-air of Protestant
conversion Marianne, tickling ourselves with delight
of the true miscreant, the made-men of Zoroaster,
corporals of a Jesus-king, we mystics, we maids

of May, the singing things mattering, sing
good goodness into a morning of missionaries
who forget their orders, drawn like martyrs, merry
to the orange celebration of sky and surrender,
to understanding of the general, end of the specific,
where cherries are sweet, the water cold, glass-pure
and where any number of sacraments flash, awonder.

_______________

THE LANGUAGE OF THE ROLL

Keats to Woodhouse, December, 1818

Woodhouse, Richard, look.

As I said, the poet seeks the interior
as he smiles at the surface.

He disappears as he becomes.

The ivory, smooth to polish,
pregnant and solid,
the magnet of the elephant’s pride,
indulging the exotic, the India of its origin,
attracts to the ferrule, the shim’ring sheath
of its translation at the moment of
impact, tense to the sweet reaction
of the clack, self-speaks the language of the roll
steady and voluble in its rotation,
in its new preparation, the knock and bounding,
making a geometry no less complex to follow,
computing Io’s union
with the spotted orb.

This is us, this is what I mean!
Who would deny the billiard and its balls
our life, survivable for them,
for their context, their politics, not ours,
their religion of the never
inanimate life, even as they wait,
within our story to comment or relate,
I am of billiards in their bright majesty—
you are, we, they of us, they are, in the angles
of their love and their posterity,

what we are.

_________________________________________________________________

Al Rocheleau’s work has appeared in more than fifty publications in the U.S. and abroad. Journals include Confrontation, Potomac Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, Evansville Review, Pennsylvania English, Illuminations, Studio One, Slant, Ship of Fools, Iodine Poetry Journal, and Poetry Salzburg Review. In 2004, he received the Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry Prize. A manual, On Writing Poetry, was published by Shantih Press in 2010. In 2012, he founded the Twelve Chairs Advanced Poetry Seminars, a 180-hour course that offers full scholarships to high school students; it is accredited by the Florida State Poets Association. He lives in Orlando, Florida.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ruth Titus-

OF GREEN MOUNTAIN MEN

Ninety-four years
grounded by Holstein farms,
horses’ hames, maple sap,
a man reclused
in a Georgian-style home
where portraits peer at every step,
too many, long down the hall.

Snow cradles barn turrets
and gambrel curves
of salvaged wood and strong skill.

He recalls his labor
but cannot relive his antics.
“Keep me… “
Persists in asking women to keep him warm.
Old age, and its parasite, pain.

He moans his wish for a long walk
with a straight back to the stones’ end,
settles for stoked embers

and a stone heart.

_______________

COLD SNAP

Stillness beyond dusk;
deer have come, grasped
at frozen apples
from branches as reluctant to give
as a miser,
and gone.

The shroud of night
unlamps the landscape
before moonrise— navy night,
color-painted plein-air
still as a stone.

North star
emerges
through a one-way glass;
Mars specks red
without pulse.

Orion’s belt flickers a pale trail
now broken by signature of jet lights.

Silence is shattered.

I watch till my hands are consumed
by frigid degrees.
Time to retreat—
back through creaking hinges

where warm wood floors
and artificial day
arrives
at thoughts

in moon-filled windows.

_______________

THE DEATH PRINTS

Sirens plaint their wail at speed of light.
Angel wings will wax as breath slows flight,
called out in the middle of the night.

The younger auctioneer drives up the bid
on what surrenders of a waning life.
Sirens plaint their wail at speed of light.

Dürer’s block of death-prints strike a price
as angels fly around in coats of white,
called out in the middle of the night.

A shivered sea has given up its cries
to will of fate’s predestined time of sighs.
Sirens plaint their wail at speed of light.

Dürer’s reaper grimly holds his scythe
aside the ancient Bell Toller’s demise,
called out in the middle of the night.

The shimmery moon has lent its white to wing
on supple silver newness in its rise.
Sirens plaint their wail at speed of light,
called out in the middle of the night.

_________________________________________________________________

Ruth Titus is a graduate of the Twelve Chairs Advanced Poetry Course, a 180-hour program accredited by the Florida State Poets Association. (Al was her teacher.) My work has appeared several editions of in FSPA Anthology series, in CHB Anthology # 3 (with Al Rocheleau and Peter Meinke), and as part of the K9’s for Veterans Poetry and Music series, performed in major cites in Florida in 2014. I live in Oviedo, FL.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mary Marcelle-

I went to the movies with my sister instead of waiting for Steve

He’s glue.

Stuck to that vinyl couch like naked, fat thighs on a humid day
discussing outings we will never take –
The concert we won’t attend
The movie we will never see
The stroll around the park never walked.

Hermiting in his cinderblock cabin in Colonialtown
making plans for never.

I could have waited, insisted, cajoled, kidnapped –
but his emotions are already as malleable as clay
and I fear his further injury.

_______________

Storm

Gathering in a sea-glass sky
attended by a surly sun
are the intermittent clouds
bringing darkness into the inlet.
The peace and calm of this evening
will collapse under their weight.
Their gray advance closes the day
against the sun’s protests.
The water mirrors the golden bright orb
while giggling random waves.

_______________

Castaway

I float in winter, tethered to the world by U.S. 1,
missing the sun that bleached my bones
in a new-world walled city.
Writers and writers’ widows walled in enclaves,
names and numbers listed like old friends in the book.
Unknowns wear tie-dyed T-shirts sporting
peace symbols missing the vertical line
from center to bottom,
unknowingly symbolizing “Mercedes-Benz.”
Hemingway started it all
(or was it John Dos Passos?)
surrounding his yard with that rough
wall of bricks taken from the street.
This is an island of castaway bones,
scattered wherever there’s room –
under concrete and wobbly sidewalks
sinking under the weight of it all
into a wall of water.
In this current Cayo Hueso,
I dance with words
on a language made of mercury.
The beaches have all been sold.
And it’s the same as if by sea.
Waiters, way too thin,
bring breakfast and liquor.
Cuban cigar-colored chunks
splayed like sunflowers on the sidewalk.
“Is that Hemingway’s vomit?”
Papa called to me from the steps of a new vinyl
clapboard-covered shopping mall.
He was wrapped in a green blanket
like a wall around his writers soul.
I wouldn’t give him any money, and
he declared all women bitches.
Some years ago, in summer,
secrets seeped through cracks in the old walls
and love got lost where every plant needs a permit.
Cayo Hueso, take my troubles
and keep them there,
for tourists to sniff and touch.

_________________________________________________________________

Mary Marcelle published her first poetry at age 12. Her career in Journalism included working at both the Orlando Magazine and the Orlando Weekly newspaper, where she was entertainment editor. Currently, she is Membership Chair of the Florida State Poets Association. In Spring of 2016 her poem, “Genetic Engineering,” was included in “Revelry,” the literary magazine of the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jane Peterson-

THE BIRD LADY

The bird lady stands the church square
a little muddled;
her hat droops of a rain shower,
jaunty magenta rose on brim that
faded pink, now falsely dark.

She finds a bench smeared
of aster petals and melts
onto a seat of iron slats,
still bird waiting worm.
Twits and flutters
eddy the air. Wrens warble
in their scrum nearby.

They know the bird lady.

They expect her at ten, each ten
of morning timed by tolls
and bread. The wrens wren-dance,
legs tapping, head abob,
gabbling together till they eat
and leave.

She rises, hat akimbo,
shoes bedragged
to the cathedral, open door
candled with dusky light.

There is a trill inside,
above the fine marble
and wood, somewhere high
in that inner sky,
the melody of the organ
spinning a practice for vespers.

Near the vanishing point
of the far altar, she gazes up
to the stained image of God creating
a world of sevens.

Mumbling this: “let the birds
fly above the earth, across the firmament
of the heavens,” she retires
in the incense of a reverie.

We see her walking across
St. Paul’s Square, sad hat,
shabby as our own souls,
God’s peace resting
for a time on her shoulders,
birds in her heart.

_______________

HOLE IN THE WATER

There—
under the bed of lily pads.
Silver and gold sparks dart
like arcs of a blowtorch
reflected in the water.
A school of shiners in a deadly serious game
of life or death.
For now they elude the black bass
that stalk them for supper.
They escape the man in the boat
whose net is poised for a throw
over the hole in the water.
Drama! Fate!
Three are vying, each of private arena:
bubbles of story in a lake of chaos.
Will the bass catch the shiners?
Will the net snag them?
Or will they skirt free for another
chance at the game
they don’t know they’re playing.

_______________

MANDALA

The world sits in your perfect circle.

Quadrants of possibilities

dissect your space:

wind to walk backward in;

fire to stoke the muses;

water to wash the soul clean;

earth to magnetize us.

A pole star balances your universe;

helps us find peace in your belly.

Images lead thought

toward holy acceptance

and appreciation for being.

Mandala, map of the cosmos,

hypnotize me; release me;

calm my sizzling mind.

Bring harmony

to this chaotic existence.

Let me descend into your spiritual essence,

be absorbed into this refuge of peace.

_________________________________________________________________

Jane Peterson won first prize in the 2015 Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry Contest sponsored by the Gwendolyn Brooks Association of Florida. Her poems have appeared in  Revelry and Looking Life in the Eye.  She was invited to read her poem in the K9 for Warriors program in honor of Veterans’ Day, 2014.  Ms. Peterson is a member of Al    Rocheleleau’s Twelve Chairs Advanced Poetry Seminars, a 180-hour course that is accredited by the Florida State Poets Association.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

Holly Day-

The Poet

The ship crashes against the rocks and a poem
Forms in her head right as she flies over the railing
Something so perfect and beautiful it must be written down
Must be remembered. She invokes the first stanza

For the otters watching curiously from the rocks,
The seals lounging carelessly on the beach
The dolphins she knows must be lurking just past the shallows
Because there are always dolphins watching shipwrecks
And dolphins are smart and literate enough to understand.

She shouts the lines as clearly as she can
Despite the screaming of the other passengers
Despite the rending, grinding agony of the hull against the rocks
Despite the shrieks of the confused seagulls whirling overhead
Because she knows this is a poem that cannot be lost
And somebody has to be left behind to carry it on.

_______________

The Temporary Nature of Poetry

there’s no need to balance color
to be paced to a danceable beat

just turn the page
prepare the wooden frame
wrap the painting around your thoughts
pound the nails in one at a time

there’s no need to labor to match words
to music, to craft lyrics of need
just close your eyes
stop talking.

_______________

Under the Lights

I open my mouth and imagine birds are going to fly out
That inside me are flocks of birds that have struggled
With captivity for years. I will the birds to take form
Encourage them to force their way through my body, through my skin
Can almost feel their tiny claws struggling to find purchase
Along the slick, wet meat inside my chest.

Nothing comes out and I am empty, I don’t understand
I thought there was something better than me in here. The audience
Stares at me in impatient confusion from rows of folded metal chairs
they came here to see me do something special
they came to see something wonderful, or just something.
The bird song I thought I had dies in my throat, comes out finally

As only a croak, a whisper, a quiet and stuttering end.

_______________

The Funeral

I think about them dying and wonder
how I can be expected
to hand their bodies over to strangers
to be buried in a grave
far from home, far from me

when all I really want is to be allowed to
carry bits of them with me
for the rest of my own life
the fingerbones of children in my pocket
or on a string around my neck,
twin rosaries of vertebra wrapped loose
around my wrists

so I can raise my hands
to my lips, in prayer, to speak
to a husband
I will never let go

_______________

Beautiful Emptiness

I have spent too many nights
pantomiming nightmares—
I will not sleep
with her sweat on our sheets.

We will not get through this.
I am afraid to come home, afraid
that there is nothing left to tie us together.
I have spent too many nights listening to your breathing
with her sweat on our sheets.
You have me.

There will be no songs between us.
I have been drinking too many suicide songs
in your name, dreaming of walking in on you, on her–
we never existed.
I have spent too many nights
thinking of you to know

we will not get through this.
Together, but only
in my memory.

_________________________________________________________________

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared inNew Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

Other notable work by Terry Anastasi, Bartholomew Barker and Renata Lader.

_________________________________________________________________

Bruce Lader-

The Angels of Refugees

traverse the multiverse in no time,
blonde gossamer wings softer
than cashmere surround the diseased
and dying, like haloes, cocoon misery.
Weeping is the most heavenly music
the angels have ever heard.

The tears of dispossessed people
well up with agonizing prayers,
so tear-aholic angels (the sea’s
distances in their eyes) constantly
intercept dark notes of distress,
detect pheromones of fear,
watch out for children in wars,
radioactive zones, natural disasters.

When sunlight floods Earth
and the nightmares of violence erupt,
father and mother angels of sorrow
eager to help, poise for sacrifice,
unfold feathers. The divine divers drop
like exquisite pearls from the overflowing
cup of God’s dream of deliverance,
swallow seas of tears.

Traces of grief and pain disappear
like grains of salt in water,
complete euphoria removes gravity
from troubles, regret, old age,
the guardians of life rescue the refugees
in keeping with celestial order.

_______________

Angel Classifieds

FOR RENT: Like new 2,300-year-old seraph, all six wings
working, knows alchemy, philosophy, world languages, metaphysical conceits, oracles, utopian visions, recites
Homer, Bible, Quran. Interested in naughty cupid trade. Contact: Timeless@Kingdom.com

DEFINITE MAYBE: Kierkeguardian angel, knows alternate universes, bittersweet temperament, moderate mischief,
wry cynicism, middle of the roader, nothing permanent,
all offers more or less considered. Contact before noon: thisorthat@whybother.net. Insist! Desist?

LOOKING FOR WORK: Invisible op, mileage only 7,800 light-years, sent down in 1860, martial arts, Secret Service experience: Lincoln, McKinley, Kennedy, Reagan, details contact: deletesnowden@stopleaks.gov

WON’T LAST: 30 Angel Sonnets, signed, celestial cond.,
voltas off the charts, metonymies, scintillating slant-rhymes, sensual images, synecdoches, diacritics, fully annotated,
best price, no hidden fees, instant delivery, don’t delay.
Contact: The.Immortal@Antiquarian.edu

NIRVANA NOW: Escape reality, retire forever in fields of
flowers from remote planets, be enraptured by pastorals,
the euphony of floating blue bells, extinct butterflies &
birds. Final offer, pleasant dreamers preferred, contact: Divinerainbows@beautiful.prayers

MARRIAGE-MINDED: sui generis, tiptop shape, sings
like a nightingale, virtuoso flute, trumpet, clarinet,
recites sestinas, villanelles, prothalamia, enthralling
vibrato, stellar mystic lyrics. Serious only contact: Gabriel&Rafael&St.Cecilia@Eternalmusic.org

PROPHECIES REALIZED: Why stress the unknown?
soothsaying more accurate than Tiresias, Pythia,
Greenspan, Cayce, turn doubters into believers,
get the raises you deserve, the love you want now,
contact: Elijah, theotherside@séances.net

HAPPY MEDIUM: Seraphim Univ. grad., Messenger
the Zion Galaxy & Sunflower Nebula, 75 alliances,
82 treaties, loves animals, children, refs: St. Francis,
St. Nicholas. Contact: Peaceconnect@paradise.net

_______________

Cemetery Soldiers
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
—Wendell Berry

We took for granted
the Divine Rights
of kings and presidents,
the way we took for granted
infinite clean atmosphere.

We bought into convincing
spins on the domino theory
the way we took for granted
unlimited pure water.

Rulers wagering perpetual
infernal and cold wars
for the most crude,
deployed our platoons

like chess pieces,
parlayed heavy losses
into heavenly profits.

The way we thought supplies
of food would last forever,
we obeyed officers’ commands,
executed their strategies.

In the minds of children
and credulous adults,
the flares and missiles
looked like shooting stars.

Our side never pretended—
except to spy, collect intel,
outmaneuver the devious
enemy, give allied battalions
and flyboys the edge.

Honor seemed always at stake,
missions urgent, operations
in jeopardy, heroes rare
as Purple Hearts, Silver Stars.

Untold rows and columns
of monuments watch over
our regiments dealt like
video games, items of traffic.

Flowers of dust decorate
our uniform of eternity.

_______________

Depleting the Armaments

Fill the multilateral ceasefire
emulsifiers with grenades,
missiles, and mobile gun systems,

liquefy in gargantuan solvent mixers,
sprinkle Himalayan salt,
favorite spices. Serves millions.

Want a fast, low-carb energy boost?
Many dieticians recommend
yogurt rocket-launcher smoothies.

Order the gefilte warplane wings
at friendly franchises, and you get
a free Mazeltov Cocktail.

Reduce nuclear nervousness—
try a tenderized bomb or tank
marinated in the Mediterranean.

Enemies and allies agree
that nothing beats fondue of land
and sea mines in garlic sauce.

For disarming desserts,
taste the aircraft-carrier parfaits
drenched in chocolate syrup

and the surveillance satellite
coconut cake garnished
with powdered-sugar rifles.

_________________________________________________________________

Bruce Lader is author of five poetry volumes, including Fugitive Hope (Červená Barva Press, 2014) and Discovering Mortality (March Street Press), a finalist for the 2006 Brockman-Campbell Book Award. His poems have appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology,Poetry, New Millennium Writings, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Confrontation, Potomac Review, and many other journals. He has received a writer-in-residence fellowship from The Wurlitzer Foundation, and directs Bridges Tutoring, an organization educating multicultural students.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Terry Anastasi-

peeping tom-tom

peeping tom-tom goes the drum
skin stretched taut on hollow lusting
he is up from his recliner heading out
for a smoke his wife wishes he’d quit
no idea he is drunk with dusk night falling
called by the pattern of lights next door
leaving him crouching in the holly bushes
as a woman moves through rooms distracted
lost in a familiar routine unaware of him
watching her outline through the mini-blinds
peeping tom-tom goes the drum
blood beating surging tingling in his skull
a thrill hammering its own stake in his heart
trembling fingers fumbling for a cigarette
he places against his bottom lip but doesn’t light
biting the menthol filter drawing in a breath of air
electric that is when he remembers to breathe
he swallows casting shadows silence breaking
staccato barking of a scroungy dog nearby
a pumped up truck guns in the distance
peeping tom-tom goes the drum
moving closer to panes and sill and sash
he stares at her separated into a dozen slices of life
drinking her down like a long island iced tea
seven liquors drunker quicker an entire summer
spent stupid reckless roaming the neighborhood
peering into windows jerking off in a hand towel
cleaning up his messes quit the booze but stands
here sober with a buzz leaving him hard pressed
for an answer why he doesn’t head back home
peeping tom-tom goes the drum
he is a voyeur torn on wanting her to know
would depend on her reaction whether she
be warm wet from a window to a door opening
inviting or calling the cops about a man outside
toppling plastic lawn chairs with the ill wind
that brought him he lights his cigarette drawing
deeply a sigh of smoke exhales feeling foolish
unclear what is missing or why he’s risking
tomorrow he will give flowers to his wife
peeping tom-tom goes the drum.

_______________

SantaMonica

tourist driving 101 a ribbon of road wrapping the gold rush
on the California west coast, earthquakes mixing my mojito
slivers of lime stuck in LA traffic creeping through smog
bumper to bumper 10 Freeway West asphalt & impatience
SantaMonica
licks her lips tracing the outline of her mouth before she kisses
me hello, biting my bottom lip leaving gloss the color crimson
same shade as bougainvillea wrapped on the wrought iron railing it’s been three years since it rained, longer since I’ve seen her
SantaMonica
arches invitingly, nods in lustrous agreement as we lean in
anointing her flawless caramel skin, sun slides toward the Palisades
enchanted city sparkles across a terra cotta roof, her smile shimmers glo-stick spokes of a ferris wheel light the amethyst sky
SantaMonica
sets her pulse to swaying palm trees as the tide keeps time preferring the Promenade to Saint Mark drumming down in Venice
pounding out rhythm rising deep throaty growl hissing sex
urgent and animalistic beasts fuck on the boardwalk but
SantaMonica
makes love sweet endless aching appetite no drought of desire
salt-stiffened curls glisten on high thread count expensive excess
eyes shine sipping Prosecco listening to Betty LaVette’s cover of
“Love Reign Over Me” we are sun-drenched even in darkness.

_________________________________________________________________

Terry Anastasi was born in Western Pennsylvania before it became a notch in the Rust Belt. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master’s degree in Art Psychotherapy, working in mental health until 1995 when he relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina to make a career in child welfare. Terry has a lifelong love affair with words and is intrigued with the challenges facing the human spirit. His poetry has appeared in Chiron Review, Best of Fuquay-Varina Reading Series Anthology, Bloodshot Journal, Inspired Heart Anthology, Iodine Poetry Journal and Blue Fifth Review. Terry has a chapbook entitled “fending” published by Main Street Rag.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bartholomew Barker-

This is class warfare and we’re losing

There’s a club and we’re not in it.
Those serious men in suits,
when caught lying on television,
might lose a job for a month,
but soon enough they reappear,
even more tanned under Klieg lights,
having paid their pittance,
sitting quietly in time out.

No matter how many people die,
no matter how much money is lost,
as long as it’s ours and not theirs,
they will never have to choose
between insurance and rent,
gasoline and electricity,
medicine and food.

Once you’re in the club
as long as you don’t speak ill
of anyone else in the club,
you’re set for a luxurious long life,
wrapped in comfort and securities,
surrounded by spoiled children and trophy wives
while we work until collapse
and our family savings disappear
down hospital drains.

_______________

Our Little Secret

Like a black lace bra
under a frumpy sweater,
our love remains hidden,
therapeutic and dangerous.

At an affair with friends,
nothing bold as a wink
passes between us,
just narrowed eyes
and raised brows
across the room,
the subtle signals
that spark excitement

and revive the confidence
that time has neither drained
nor left us crumpled.
There are still desires to fulfill
and plenty of poor judgment
to exercise.

_______________

A World Without Eyes

Consider a world where
Humans have no eyes
Like deep cave fish
Whose ancestors relinquished
Useless sight eons ago

Consider a world where
Fresh snow is only wet cold
Bluebirds only a song
Oranges only delicious
The stars unknown

Consider a world where
A woman’s beauty is only
Timbre of speech
Scent of hair
Warmth of skin

Consider a world where
The sun is only heat
Art only sculpture
Poetry only voices

_________________________________________________________________

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry readers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. His first poetry collection, Wednesday Night Regular was published in 2013. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit. www.bartbarker.net

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Renata Lader-

Memorial Day Celebration

Goose bumps on my arms,
tears on my cheeks. I listen
to a famous singer in a sparkling dress,
her patriotic songs rise to the gray skies.
An enormous American flag flutters.

Thirteen years in Iraq and Afghanistan,
thousands dying – the ultimate sacrifice, they say.
Their souls departed, indeed free.
The surviving invalids angry, suicidal, bearing
survivor guilt – the ultimate sacrifice
of distorted minds and spirits.
“Pray for a miracle because you’ll need it,”
the words of a commander don’t mean much.

Year after year, after year,
uniformed officers stand at the doors of over 6,800 homes,
“I regret to inform you …”
The families left with this earthly life,
nights of shrunken hearts, clenched teeth,
their days lack a purpose.

On a screen in front of honored guests and the public,
video clips of hide-yourself-and-seek-the-enemy,
explosions in rough terrain, uplifting speeches,
mentioning World Wars I and II, dramatizations,
as if the real drama isn’t enough,
the overly theatrical voice of the narrator
make my fingernails dig in the couch’s cushion.
I yell “Shut up! Shut up!”

I do honor those fallen, I do respect those living
with their missing-body-parts, I send prayers to their families.
Still, my question stands: Why do we, the people,
let disastrous wars control us?
Why can’t we learn not to fight?

_______________

Father on the Wall

I watch her climb up on the couch, stretch her hand
and with the softness of a two-year-old,
she touches the cold, shiny paper. Her daddy
smiles to her from an enlarged picture displayed
on the living room wall.

Her eyes, blue like Forget-me-not flower in the
coloring book she will give him the next,
half-hour-visit in prison, look up at the picture.

She moves her fingers over his hair,
stops on the forehead, gently caresses his cheeks.
She gazes into his dark eyes then whispers,
“I miss you daddy, come back, I’m a good girl.”

I clench my teeth, tears on my cheeks.
How can she comprehend her daddy’s passion
for truth against a communist government
that left her joined to loneliness
and mama’s sad face?

_______________

Congratulations

Wet joy smears my face,
bundles of tissue
miss the waste basket.
My daughter became a-big-somebody
last Tuesday,
her financial future well-set.

At the same moment self-pity
crawls under my nails
ready to scratch
my aging years.
Where’s my promotion,
office party,
framed shiny letters
for the hard work
I have hauled three decades?
Why do these salutes avoid
my disappointing job?
A short “Good work,
here is your balloon
and a lollipop,”
never caresses my ears.

My child,
I praise you in my arms,
your accomplishment
will serve you well,
the way
you serve your country.

_________________________________________________________________

Renata Lader’s talents include photography, painting, jewelry-making, pine-needle basketry, Faberge and Ukrainian egg-making, quilling and quilting. She has published poems in The Final Draft, The Village RamblerThe Sounds of Poets Cooking anthology, and Heron Clan III anthology. Originally from Poland, Renata lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and two cats. She is completing a memoir about experiences during Communism and the Solidarity workers’ movement in Poland, and a book of poems about her perception of American lifestyles during her house-cleaning services. Her other hobbies are gardening and bird-watching.  www.RenataUniqueGifts.etsy.com

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________

Other notable work by Rusty BarnesTeisha Dawn Twomey and Mary Benson.

_________________________________________________________________

Timothy Gager-

Eulogy for “Dying Suddenly”

The boil on my back doesn’t know what dependence is.
The burn on my face is for me to see only

You are a bone I broke, arm dangled in a sling
Then I felt like eating what I killed, so I did

In the morning, a cigarette sandwich,
Coffee with sugar, because bitter I know

the cost of running my car straight into
a stanchion, the repairs will make me stronger

You were slumped over in bed, lips white, I protest
I never hunted an insect with a semi-automatic

The television turned on at 3:45 a.m.
something woke me that day. I knew

_______________

Tales Which Moved Me

I was never so stirred when surrounded
by death, you say, he, most imperative

the brother, who held the family together,
ODed plus Timmy, Stevie, Buddy shattered

the week with tiers of the departed,
I remain timeworn without comfort,

zilch—you and I filled the voids
with soft hips pushing at moroseness

pinned against a wall, smooth
perfection; the stroke of eye-shadow,

I watch your irises open faintly, the blooms
burst deep, into me, you’ve opened wider

_______________

Upon Leaving

We can split peas into little bites
feed the fish, walk on the grass

we all cry for approval, acceptance
is shelter, we take risks, we love

people who don’t love us
hide it in context, we go the

separate ways we lie
on a bed of nails all set.

I shalt not want a hammer
to cut my food. Accept the truth

like a sharp wind, the cold razor rain
in your face, finally opens up

Remember the shark tank?
I swam with the blood dripping in.

_______________

When We Talk About Love

We talk about the wrong things
We think about the other

young girls we danced with,
They must be desperate

Let me sell it to you
Sell you something of yours

There’s 13 steps you took
Then became lukewarm

the best kind of love, isn’t regular
it is with a cleaning lady, a mailman

Want to see something?
It’s how you kill the slugs

It’s how you plan to fly away
into a negligent nonexistent role

In the future, you will go home
to take a bath, we’re all unconscious

unhappy enough to smash rocks
over the heads of unwilling lovers

or denim wearing cheaters at a bingo parlor.
Did you clap when she cried out victorious?

Did you drink whiskey and keep fishing
when the body of a girl washed ashore?

A dummy near the water, built
an electric fence to keep our thoughts

_________________________________________________________________

Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan, (Big Table Publishing) is his first novel. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which ten have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rusty Barnes-

The View from Earth

If you were in space and you looked back
my love might be the biggest thing you see.

Fuck that Chinese wall and the trails
of Conestoga wagons in the midwest,

you could look just south of anywhere
and witness the mass of shooting clouds

and the triphammered horn of my heart break-
ing the bowl of soup the sea has become.

It says to you don’t leave don’t fly away
the things you part with as you leave earth

matter just as much as asteroids which shake
off pollen and continue on their merry way toward

planetary destruction, just ask the Tungusku
forest how nothing will grow in the impact

crater that is more like a radioactive no-fly
zone but what I’m saying is don’t die love

ever: make it so the cosmos knows your name
shoot it out in big bright lights so that when

you look at Alpha Centauri and feel that bigness
and muchness, come back to little earth. Look for

the guy standing next to the ocean in Revere
Massachusetts, the big one with the gray beard

and the perfect children and watch as he pledges
to give you everything all over again if he can

if you don’t leave and he don’t leave and the oceans
stay wet you might stand to see another lifetime

as codfish or snappers or even the tiny amoebas
tickling the anemone or giving the shark another

remora to support. The point is he said don’t wink
out like a star but be with me again and again, just again.

_______________

Earthquake

God is a liar. When an earthquake splits
the earth’s skin in front of you

the only recourse is to move or to invoke
some long-forgotten hope in an afterlife.

Plate tectonics will dictate the length
and severity of your punishment,

that not-so-silent and hardly penitent
prayer to the saint protector Emygdius.

Successful or not you may as well
piss on your fingers and call it rain

for all the good it will do. Both root
and branch will tremble, we’re told,

the very rocks break under the thundercrack
yet you will find no surcease in the after-

life. There are ways to die and then there
are ways. If the earth moves under your

feet don’t write a song about it. Prepare
yourself for a permanent vacation where

skulls and bony points finger you to sleep,
where the moons are mere dust reflecting

fire so far over you your breath fails to
catch you can think of welcomes suitable

to your new home, not of fire and saltpeter
and the bare ends of sanity but a place

where every day your toes crack the surface
of earth and you fall forward only for forever.

_______________

Poem on a Misremembered Line From Donald Ray Pollock

I sat underneath an apple tree
reading while my father and brother
forced a rebuilt transmission into
our old Ford Fairlane. Rotten green
apples littered the ground where
I stood. I remembered my mother
and Aunt Mary skinning a buck
hung from the same small tree,
my mother dressed in a headscarf
and a thrift-store letterman’s jacket
trimming the white-gray fat and tossing
it into the trees for the swallows and blue jays.
It was her job and later mine to shoot
the squirrels that stole the suet,
those scrapping skinny beggars who
took whatever they could find.

In my mind I am twelve years old though
I know that can’t be right because we
had the Fairlane in my mid-teens.
I picked up my girlfriend Theresa
in it and took her to the Fireman’s
Carnival in Southport. So long ago,
but it seems like yesterday and now
another memory: a fat woman sitting
on the hood of that same Fairlane at
Packard’s Pond in a suit too small to hide
her beauty.I got depressed because those
pearly pubes were as close as I had gotten
to the real thing at sixteen.The gap between
her thighs.How hot the memory remains.

_________________________________________________________________

Rusty Barnes is a novelist and poet living in Revere MA. His latest book of poems is called I AM NOT ARIEL, and his latest novel is called RIDGERUNNER.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Teisha Dawn Twomey-

Two men sit in a nursery

a baby swaddled in soft pink
reaches for them and everyone

and no one raises their hasty hands
at different times, two right hands

then two left ones drop from
their lofty visions like collapsing day

dreams she will continue to stumble towards men
their age. Drunk, she is a blind, deaf, and dumb

to their departure. Without genetic sampling;
the ground has rushed up to meet her face first.

She knows what kind of woman she is—
both captured and defended, in one

swift motion, by and by,
against and against

her fathers.

_______________

Ode to April

I should have been regretful but brimmed
wildly, had that deep run-off thing,

rich in my knowing I was dead
right inside, collapsing daily in the yard,

fingers sunk deep in the cool dark, digging
up strange earthworms I needed. I could say it

happened some ordinary day: I woke up
one Sunday morning and it was gone. I left

a note on your pillow. These things happen
in a familiar way. I envisioned each footstep

trailing from mudroom into your office.
I wiped my raw feet on a welcome mat–

HOME, as the screen door clicked
behind me. The whole world

had been tugging, in December
I’d known. April, it was time.

I was praying then, coming clean
to you. Last time we’d been fishing,

you pressed your ear to my barrel belly.
I begged, please, you, you bait the line.

_______________

Contraction

There is a cabinet with no bones,
a tiny dog shrinks at his bowl.

It is bare. If you become small
you get less of everything.

The cupboard holds on to a wall,
the wall holds down the floor.

The floor has a hole in it
A trap fills with a cave in

of muscle and bone. The dog needs
and paws, belly hollow as a drum

beating the dog, who gets less.
The world’s full of this

sound, the humming contraction,
a song of rats throbbing,

behind walls, their tiny hearts
holding tight to bare cupboards.

_________________________________________________________________

Teisha Dawn Twomey received her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University. She is the poetry editor for Wilderness House Literary Review.

Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous print, as well as online poetry publications.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mary Benson-

Stopping at an Old Friend’s Apartment Complex

Her mother stood on the rim
of the bathroom sink, smoking
through the ceiling vent

beside the living room smothered
with curtains, the carpet collecting
rent, the answering machine plugged
at the foot of the couch

flicking red messages from
a father who never lived there
and we’d lie on the tufted grass

in front of Building Three
smoking butts from her mom’s purse,
blowing ringlets into the black

of some high school winter
when everything seemed to suck—
I’d count the cars filling

and leaving the lot while she,
stuffed in an orange jacket,
counted the lit windows

turning off one by one.

_______________

The Dish Soap

Our dinner plates dimmed
like clouded moons.

My mother watered down
the soap until the red
oozed pink on the soiled sponge.

My father’s work shirts slouched
in a pile at the corner
of the kitchen table. I sat beside them
long past dinner— avoiding

the full glass of milk beside
my elbow fogged
with stains. the white
tainted with apple-juice

bruises, rusted well-water.
Bills and old receipts
leaned like weathered buildings
on the back kitchen sill,

and I stared out that window:
the moon a yellow tablet,
fizzing.

_______________

Apology in a Drugstore

I’m sorry I stole
The last tube of Crushed
Crimson Lipstick. Sorry
I bagged groceries instead

of going to prom,
sorry my stubbornness
lasted too long. Being a dark girl

wasn’t easy. You weren’t
cut out for the turmoil without
cause, the quiet spells. I don’t resent
you for that, and I’m sorry

I threw up your birthday
Cake. Sorry I ran your mother’s
treadmill to wire, counting to 500
while you watched sit-coms—
Sorry I left you to the dank
internal rooms of hips and breasts
while my body regressed,

wasting with no logic
other than the urge to scare them.
There are so many apologies
I want to tell the back of your head

but you’re wearing flowers; I still
wear all black. I still breathe
nicotine while you buy Clorox
for your kitchen floor,

but today I’m going to buy lipstick:
not shove it up the sleeve of my sweater.
See, I’ve grown too.

_________________________________________________________________

Mary Benson’s writing often stems from  service industry jobs and a working class upbringing in rural New Hampshire. She currently lives in Somerville, MA, and earned her MFA in poetry from Lesley University.  Her work has appeared in Fried Chicken and Coffee.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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
July - Sarah Brown Weitzman
August - Tom Montag
September - Susan Palmer
October - Holly Day
November - A.J. Huffman
December - Tom Pescatore

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2016

January - Richard Perin
February - Linne Ebbrecht
March - Sheri Vandermolen
April - Molly Cappiello
May - Caleb Coy
June - Paul Lubenkov
July - Domenic Scopa
August - Adam Phillips
September - Timothy Gager
October - Bruce Lader
November - Holly Day
December - Al Rocheleau

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2017

January - Robert Lietz
February - Jocelyn Heaney
March - David Brinkman
April - Lana Bella
May - Kaitlyn O'Malley
June - Ruth Kessler
July - Chanel Brenner
August - Darren Demaree
September - George Moore
October - Joshua Medsker
November - Ralph Monday
December - Howie Good

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2018

January - Simon Perchik

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.