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Other notable work by Marianne Szlyk, April Salzano and Barbara Bald.
The View from All Four
A place is not a form of absorption
for wishes or really sweet justifications.
Those fall to the river shaft, exit
like true pioneers via debt and distance.
Occasionally hope will intervene,
tunnel below driveway or moat, mingle
with the edges of communication,
make an awful mess of recreation
that can take weeks to scour
from inside walls.
I Dream of Hemingway
in the rain, standing beneath the lights
of the Eiffel Tower. He has a bottle of wine
in one hand, a pen in the other. I refuse his offer
of both despite the fact that they have no strings.
I know drowning when I see it.
Instead I turn towards the rising dawn, watch
silently as distant hills melt into memories of white
waters, welled in forgotten baptismals, I am
forcing my own rebirth. A burning
seed has unfurled, rooting around
my skeletal structure. The intangible touch
of blessing blooms, flowers through my tongue,
touch, eyes. Anything open flashes. Signs
hover, ghostly auras, screaming
welcome, home reflected
back from the skies.
There are Cages for Gods
that only capture angels. They swing
inside clouds masquerading as candles.
I wish I could answer their call, lock
myself inside a silver-lined cotton sanctuary
of silence. My imagination might,
once again, grow wings, fly south for a second
summer, learn to understand the desire
to consume life from accompanying birds
A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing) are now available from their respective publishers. She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming: Degeneration from Pink Girl Ink, and A Bizarre Burning of Bees from Transcendent Zero Press. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2200 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.
dreams of standing on a ridge in Britain,
looking down on cathedrals and car parks,
on pubs and Morris dancers ,
albums she knew from
used record stores and
long-lost friends’ collections.
Dirty blonde hair
streaming in the wind,
she would be barefoot,
wear white, in spite
of mud and wet grass.
At fifty, she sits in traffic.
Through mousy- brown bangs,
she blinks at mist
falling on her windshield,
the line of cars
snaking on past the exit.
As violins on the CD swell,
a young man sings
about growing older
on a morning like this one.
He has just arrived in town;
she has lived in this state
for a dozen years
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Thelma and her husband sing along to Pet Sounds
when driving to the Cape. Jerry Cole’s guitar
begins “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and they launch
into song, his voice too wild, hers with
the Texas accent she never can lose. They
plunge in, splashing past strip malls and swamp.
But this instrumental is the song she loves best,
the vibraphone like sunshine against drums like surf,
the horns like the wave that crashes furthest
onto the rocks, not quite the highway.
The strings are clouds, meringue she has whipped
up in a stainless steel bowl at home.
She almost forgets that the east coast
has weak surf, and slimy seaweed clings to
waders’ calves in warm, knee-high water
as she and her husband waddle in among
the thin girls from Boston. She then remembers
cold, cloudy Mondays when the two of them
drive back home, listening to their inland music:
Chicago blues, Texas swing, Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’”,
the old songs that better suit their voices.
Maybe she likes that this instrumental comes before
anyone can see the bridge or the traffic.
Or she likes to catch her breath
before “Sloop John B”’s lyrics grind her down
like the refrain of a whiny child.
She catches her breath.
One Spring Morning at the Historic Icehouse
The perfect cube of ice descends.
Having wrapped it in plastic for protection,
volunteers are lowering it
into the historic icehouse.
The perfect cube chills this brick chamber
large enough for dozens of cubes
in the days before this icehouse
was historic, when no tourists
came to Florida.
Rough to the touch, red clay walls
protect this cube.
It will never melt.
The cube’s chill keeps
mold and moss
from forming on the walls.
The icehouse smells of nothing
but cold, nothing
but straw and the dirt floor.
Unlike the zoo’s dazed baby elephant
or the polar bear with yellowed fur,
it appeals to the tourists.
Lowering the perfect cube
by means of a historic hook and pulley,
the volunteers forget
the thick air outside
as imperfect oranges
and grapefruit spoil,
the corpse flower blooms,
and tourists’ overheated
past this historic site.
Shivering, not sweating,
forget this spring morning,
these air-conditioned years.
Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is… and a professor of English at Montgomery College. Recently, Flutter Press published her chapbook I Dream of Empathy. Kind of a Hurricane Press published her earlier chapbook, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking Up at Trees of Heaven.. Her poems have also appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Long Exposure, The Syzygy Poetry Journal, Yellow Chair Review, ken*again, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Flutter Poetry Journal, Black Poppy Review, and the anthology Our Day of Passing.
Placebo by Proxy
I am staring straight into the eye of the son,
the blue-green confusion of autism,
and wondering if the decrease
from 2ml back to 1.25 ml of Prozac
is making him feel less anxious.
His fingers are still on his lips,
bending, twisting, contorting
them into little balloon animals,
pink origami gifts that will be given
to no one. I imagine each sigh
has meaning, each gesture is a form
of communication, as I wait
for the thank you that will never come,
for assurance that will be taken
from whatever it can be taken,
fact or fiction, myth or dream.
Here Is My Father
forming noose knots of clothesline,
graffitying his parents’ garage—
This is the place where Napoleon
pulled his bone a part, a phrase I took
years to decipher. My father was less
than half my age when he sprayed it
in crooked yellow script on the second
story, a place of disregarded memories
disintegrating in sun-scorched boxes.
These walls meant nothing,
just another space to desecrate. My body
collapsed under the weight of his rage,
bones separating, tissue remembering to tear
along old fault lines, long before I learned
to hate him, then love him again in spite
of all logic, which I eventually found hanging
lifeless from a rafter in a long-forgotten room.
Burying the Hatchet
The wood is grateful for the blade,
to be split then quartered, long
before winter. July is all rain,
intermittent bouts of whorish sun
scalding wet flowers. If I am
asked, I will say it has been a great summer.
I will tell no one of the doubts
that fill the sink like dirty dishes,
that the shed is half full,
the bed, half empty.
April Salzano is the co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press and is currently working on a memoir about raising a child with autism, along with several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Award and has appeared in journals such as The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is available from Dancing Girl Press. More of her work can be read at http://aprilsalzano.blogspot.com/
Early Lessons: Shaping an Artist and a Man
My mother held my hand
as we entered the principal’s office,
first day of school, mandatory registration
for first grade. She found us a seat
before a large man in a black suit,
white shirt and red bow tie.
Mr. Gridley, behind his massive desk,
sat like Poseidon, god of the sea,
keeping the oak barrier between us.
I found myself wondering if
he had a trident in his closet, like the one
I had seen in an encyclopedia.
Benevolent or maniacal, I could not tell,
didn’t yet know those words, but
the many framed letters on his wall proved
he was either very smart or very important.
My mind imagined, body sensed,
he could swallow six-year-olds whole.
My mother lovingly sang my praises
added I was a creative boy who loved art.
My face glowed as I told him
I worked hard with my sisters, making
paper dolls with pink-ribboned hair.
Poseidon smiled, but his eyes gave it away.
He said, We don’t do that sort of thing
at this school.
I didn’t hear all his words, but somehow I knew
making paper dolls was not something
I would ever do again.
When we left his office, my face still flushed
and my belly heaved from traveling rough waters.
Lessons had already begun.
As we closed the door, I swear I saw sharks
swimming beside his desk.
I wonder about my mother, who she really was¬¬––
not the mother who yelled at me
when she was late for work;
not the one who’s belt buckle left black and blues
on bare skin;
not the mother who warned an eighth grade kiss
could ruin a reputation;
not even the parent who tithed her paycheck
to the church so I could get a good education.
I can quote her one-line admonishments,
recall her probing questions and boundary violations,
still hear her criticize her own flat feet,
stubby thumb nails and cracked tongue.
I know how at ten she threatened her father with a knife
if he dared hurt her mother again;
how she carried coal in a stocking as a weapon
against threats risked on city streets;
how ashamed she was to wear hand-me-downs
to her graduation when others wore frilly frocks.
But who was she, really?
Did she smile with eyes closed when the sun
touched her face, like the feel of beach sand
between her toes, or ever, like me, weep in loneliness?
What was she thinking when she told me lost a baby,
then in front of other women, denied she ever said it?
When headache pain from an aneurism struck, how did she
have presence of mind to remove the curlers from her hair?
Did she sense she would never return home?
I found unexpected things in her house when she died:
news clippings of my Dean’s List honors folded in her purse,
exercise tape for seniors on the tv table,
pink crystal rosaries nestled under her bed pillow.
I did not know this mother. Like neighbors mowing lawns
on our own sides of a tall wooden fence, our walls
were high. Who’s wall was higher, who nailed the first plank
is now irrelevant. The structure remained permanent, but
I wonder who she really was, how much love we missed
and how many secrets flew with her ashes in the wind.
I wonder if Tchaikovsky thought about dying,
envisioned his unwritten concertos calling
from the grave.
Did he pine for new symphonies soon silenced,
fret about unvoiced operas stifled by soil and stone
or weep for movements the world would never hear?
Did he work at fevered pitch to fan creative flames
still trapped inside or lose himself so deeply
that passion sang its own sweet tune,
blurring all lines between now and the end?
And what about Einstein, Earhart and Monet—
their unborn theories, daring dreams
and brilliant brush strokes thwarted by time,
buried beneath bedrock or vaporized into thin air.
Walking now on winter’s frozen ground,
I wonder if they too could have imagined
no longer seeing the sparkle of sunlight on snow,
regretted not being around to witness spring’s thaw.
Hurry, hurry, light breezes whisper.
Carpe Diem, strong winds shout.
Slow down, slow down, chickadees chastise
from bare birch branches just beginning to bud.
Barbara Bald is a retired teacher, educational consultant and free-lance writer. Her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies: The Other Side of Sorrow, The 2008 and 2010 Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire, For Loving Precious Beast, Piscataqua Poems,
The Widow’s Handbook, Sun and Sand, In Gilded Frame and other anthologies published by Kind of Hurricane Press. They have appeared in The Northern New England Review, Avocet, Off the Coast and in multiple issues of The Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s publication: The Poets’ Touchstone. Her work has been recognized in both national and local contests. Her recent full-length book is called Drive-Through Window and her new chapbook is entitled Running on Empty. Barb lives in Alton, NH with her cat Catcher and two Siamese Fighting fish.