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crashing waves and pounding surf
hum hypnotic regularity
lull to sleep or Siren’s death
he stands alone with steely gaze
on hope-filled dreams before
oh the wonder! joy! and awe!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
distorted into practice.
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
daylight entering through the tall
in a front parlor.
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,
the physicians, the rooms extended
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
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 Place, At Park and East Division, The 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.
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
he settles to dinner
in the extra chair, eats nothing, drinks
He is the one common relative.
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.
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
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!
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.
OF GREEN MOUNTAIN MEN
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.
Stillness beyond dusk;
deer have come, grasped
at frozen apples
from branches as reluctant to give
as a miser,
The shroud of night
unlamps the landscape
before moonrise— navy night,
still as a stone.
through a one-way glass;
Mars specks red
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
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.
I went to the movies with my sister instead of waiting for Steve
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.
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.
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.
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
She rises, hat akimbo,
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
I have spent too many nights
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.
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.
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wry cynicism, middle of the roader, nothing permanent,
all offers more or less considered. Contact before noon: firstname.lastname@example.org. Insist! Desist?
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WON’T LAST: 30 Angel Sonnets, signed, celestial cond.,
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best price, no hidden fees, instant delivery, don’t delay.
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like a nightingale, virtuoso flute, trumpet, clarinet,
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vibrato, stellar mystic lyrics. Serious only contact: Gabriel&Rafael&St.Cecilia@Eternalmusic.org
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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
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the Zion Galaxy & Sunflower Nebula, 75 alliances,
82 treaties, loves animals, children, refs: St. Francis,
St. Nicholas. Contact: Peaceconnect@paradise.net
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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?
Wet joy smears my face,
bundles of tissue
miss the waste basket.
My daughter became a-big-somebody
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,
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.
I praise you in my arms,
will serve you well,
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 Rambler, The 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 Barnes, Teisha Dawn Twomey and Mary Benson.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
Log Jam (Former Presidents Chapter #53)
Black tips of the long hooking white horns cut
The roof of the forest like twin dorsal fins. Breathing
Heavily, boots unlaced, Paul Bunyan stumbled in the
Mindless, pulverized wake of the ox.
Its blood and ash flecked snout
Spewed smoke. Where the hell’s
My hat, my ax, he asked
Out loud. He sat, mopping the great pale cliff
Of his forehead, listening to distant explosions, choking
On gasoline fumes. He’d known this would happen
Eventually. Nothing lasts forever. An army
Transport came flying out of the forest
Into the clearing, catching him right
On the ball of his ankle. Goddamn it he hissed, limping off a
Distance as the truck’s engine exploded, bodies drooping from
The windows like drying wash. A couple of soldiers
Hopped out the back and ran into the forest.
As of now, he thought
Or said out loud,
there’s no way back.
This, he thought,
Is a much different story.
He could hear the beast
Roaring in the distance.
The rest of the story unfurled
In his mind like acrid smoke.
He’d been recast. No longer
Did the wilderness need tamed.
He saw how it would end, and shrugged.
Paul Bunyan stood, ground his heel against the smoking heap of tin,
And went to reap the brittle souls of men.
Darren Daulton crouched behind
the plate, ligaments in his knees
crackling like campfires
in a primordial forest.
he’d been pulled from the shadowed alleys
of Philadelphia and pushed
squinting into the Miami sun,
like a broken nose on a mannequin,
like glass on the beach.
warming up he caught without a mask, spitting black
through splintered teeth. at bat
he ground down like an old man
fighting with a rusted lugnut
on a tractor wheel, muscling
into the right field stands.
whyn’t you do that in the game, asked the gawky kid, the
million dollar kid, the kid
just back from the
that ain’t my job, he said, looking
like a tree stump in a coastal forest.
looking like a man-shaped patch
like molded loam and ligneous
clusters and the moving shadows
of living things.
like a man who the woods
had eaten. a frog
in the throat
of the woods.
what is your job asked
the kid, looking back to the other kids,
who knew enough
to look away,
to fiddle with the laces on their mitts.
my job, said he, and the sky went black, my job, he said, and the blackness
bulged, like bulbous eyes…
my job is
now or never.
and the kids, their eyes
like coins, for the first time then
the thousand dawns
in your eyes.
of your hair.
like a thousand
staggering dawns staggering
up off the beach at midnight.
do this now
said Dutch Daulton. do this now
or die. you will die. you will
do this, do this now, and/or
you will die.
and those boys, these
pretty pretty boys grew teeth and took
the field with hearts and eyes
already punctured in their minds.
they cut you
off of me- lightning twitched in a hot black sky-
the face of the sky snarled- He
wrapped a strop around my heart, threw
it like a stone- my heart
tumbled slowly, a stone through blood, for you my
missing half, I spun with one
big eye, half lips, I dread
what you may have
been going through.
I traveled a great distance
to a swamp- I sat, my
half, watching lightning strike
germs into fish and
fish into men- The gods felt bad. I heard half
my name. You
had a son- I had
The sky unfurled
and slapped the ground-
an altar, a cistern, a man
in a robe the light
shone on- I felt exposed, my half, my
bad side- your half
of the universe called
my name- I fought
through a cloud- where did all
these people come from-
burned- I kicked in the air.
you were a blade
fulgurating on the horizon- my story
has gone on too long
My name is Adam Phillips, and I make my living in Boise, teaching at-risk junior high kids how to write, read, and dominate on the basketball court (these are three separate things…the kids don’t write and read on the court). Every non-living-making moment is spent in Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast. Everywhere, I’m outrageously lucky enough to hang with my disproportionately fantastic wife and two small sort of bizarre sons.
What I remember is a worker falling
toward driveway asphalt,
muscled like my father,
paint can hurling from his grip
that loosened as the ladder lost
its footing on uneven earth.
What I remember
is the smooth arc cerulean made
and the way its spill formed
an almost-question mark
as if to mock the importance of celebration
Someday I’ll return to the place
depicted by my memory, overgrown
with carpetweed and hedges,
and through the chipped cerulean
I’ll find the little closet
with my rumpled clothes,
and sit down, drinking nothing but
the musky air by the window,
and wait for my babysitter to finish
dressing, one pant leg, then the other,
until the atmosphere of the room
takes back the oxygen in the dawn,
until each wrinkled crease
in the sweaters and khakis
is as smooth as childhood,
At a certain time, that closet,
that room, that house,
will turn completely into sunlight.
I would pull my pants down
and listen for the faint zipper
on blue jeans, and…
the chance of maybe not this time
fickle, oblivious, a hummingbird
launching off its branch
for another tree-
my hand hurrying to strip the T-shirt,
to get there,
that moment of undoing.
The roar of the worker’s howl,
and the complete uncertainty of cerulean,
as it curved and shimmered in the light,
and the inexplicable candor
which my babysitter
made his presence known,
then wiped his body with a rag-
the birthday, the nowhere, the nothing-
the perfectly baked cake
and the spilt paint’s sprawl.
Elegy for a Death In Utero
Before I crack open a beer,
my wife points out
the father digging holes
in the sand with his daughters,
who starts to cough
and clutch his chest, twisted
skin flushed and shocked-
I shouldn’t stop to watch
toddlers splash each other,
leaden risk of storm
taking baby steps forward
from the skyline,
until all wonder is erased.
The writhing freezes his family
under their umbrellas,
to my pleas
to call an ambulance,
clear the picnic basket
and the cooler away…
When I reach him
through a current of panic
he’s not breathing-
I can’t stop shaking
to plant my palms
on his chest,
which like a cedar barrel holds strong
until I begin compressions…
But he’s still the pale cobalt sheen
of the suffocated,
and clouds have blurred the sun,
murky light swirling
as I try to jump
the motor of his body,
heart’s sporadic wheeling and wheeling
a cruel continuation
of a stubborn will,
and I believe he’ll die,
and I drown in my failure too,
until he swims back…
and stares around the beach,
as if in an afterlife,
with his family, only strangers,
repeating his name
over and over-
their syllables gathering little
of what’s left
in the way of sunlight.
Photo of an Excavated Grave
Time Magazine, Guatemala, 1998
The young man just kneels
by the grave,
His elbows relaxing
on his bare thighs.
He is wearing
only ripped khaki shorts
and a stained white tank-top
that doesn’t cover his beer belly.
They hardly comfort his flesh,
which fails with tears.
And his face, illuminated
by festive candles that fence the grave,
is silent like any photo-
like the stark, bare bottom
of an airplane cruising overhead,
blinking with its crucifix of strobes,
though there are no airports
for hundreds of miles.
I can only imagine
the abundance of lime trees
that border the field,
their ripe fruit-little traffic lights
at crossings-which seemed
to signal go to whomever
ordered the extermination of the village.
When surviving families visit
they must see the same green,
bright and flagrant,
in the rare spots of saw-grass
breaking through the soil, there,
where their relatives
have been forced to sleep.
Usually the bones aren’t found.
The land never cares
who tends for it, or why.
Does the man think of farmland,
of tilled rows ready
to be seeded?-
But, he’s maybe only twenty,
too young to own a farm,
too young to search
until the Guatemalan ground
gives back his family.
He never stirs, never moves.
And now it’s too late for him.
No one, surely not me,
flipping through the glossy pages
of this magazine,
full sunlight flooding through
understands why he’s kept on
kneeling there for twenty years-
Alone, half his body
almost cut out from the photo.
Old Town Square, Prague
When I make it to him-
hand-sculpted mannequins suspended
behind storefront windows-
the overdosed homeless man
looks like a mystic dreaming
that his jar has grown full.
It took only seconds-
seeing him there,
syringe still stuck
in his forearm,
and brown-bagged fifth of whiskey
spilling its comfort
all over the cobblestone sidewalk-
to plunge back down the chasm
of my animal anger…
I’m sick of the drugs,
the addicts scrounging
on the corners of the seedy districts,
outstretched palms turned up
as if to receive Eucharist,
the squalid sidewalks,
the fleshy pigeons refusing to fly.
I am sick
of the spirit of sympathy over everything,
that pleasure in sharing,
that religious understanding of pity-
I am going to be unmoved by the addict’s death…
and stare into his face,
and walk away…
I am not going to stand
in the frantic crowd,
with the rubberneckers
and self-proclaimed paramedics,
and celebrate the camaraderie
and lose myself
in the immortal tendency to cling-
Still, my hands are a little shaky
from his stiffness,
and my eyes have to blink away
the sight of his curved fingers,
and unkempt beard,
his brunette curls lifted by a breeze.
Domenic Scopa is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His poetry and translations have been featured in Poetry Quarterly, Reed Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and many others.
Oh! those who don’t believe in
this sun here are real infidels.
–Vincent Van Gogh
There is no brighter sky. Deep
And wide, these colors reach
Beyond themselves, each short
Stroke of speed assaulted
By light until it must burst
And the trembling land glow
Beneath this magnificent sun.
What more could there be? What man
Could resist the power here, the air
Of imminent explosion? And yet,
Toiling in the right foreground,
This wooden-shoed peasant,
His head too large, his arms
Too short, and on his face
A look of angry desperation,
Does not sow this ground
With the proper reverence.
Scattering an apronful
Of seed in an act of what
Appears to be spastic
Convulsion, he strides toward
Something out of sight.
His hat low on his neck, he is leaving
Behind him that sun, that sky,
The half-sowed fields as if
He imagined he could somehow
Abandon them, escape to some
Other place where he could teach
His shadow to believe in something
Anything except this impossible sun.
WHAT THE HOROSCOPE SAID
For George Garrett
Maintain your balance: avoid the new,
Forget the old. When the telephone rings,
Study the hollow sound of air.
Waving the loud flag of love,
A mysterious woman shall enter your life.
It will be too late. Remember the mailman,
And spend some time resisting pain.
The silence of wisdom is everywhere;
Bite your tongue and listen for fools.
Enjoy whatever pleasures you can,
But avoid the night, all those trees
Shaking their arms of dark thunder.
With luck, you will keep one jump ahead
Of whatever is always somewhere behind,
So forget that hand, that web of bone
Scratching its way across your wall.
The sun will set and nothing will happen.
The moon will rise and nothing will change.
A blind man will bring you a terrible gift,
And you will remember what you tried to forget.
LES FAUVES: RADICAL INVENTION
It has bothered me all my life that
I don’t paint like everyone else.
— Henri Matisse
But, the color ! Your brilliant color!
Slabs of aromatic blue ,
Stripes of iridescent green,
Goldfish struck like stamped medallions
Suspended in a bowl of ether.
You opened windows to bold cathedrals,
Moroccan landscapes redolent with spice,
Aberrant hues and the falling light
That bleaches color and flattens form.
Your loving and confident hands caressed
Breath to canvas. Languorous nudes
Embrace their moment as eyebrows evolve
Curving to aquiline nose, just so.
Carving with color, your brushstrokes stung,
Left Salon dandies dazed and dumb,
Eyeballs scorched to the light.
That mystic beard you wore with such grace
Did not muffle your growls for perfection. And what
Dull brute dare tame this delicate beast?
In deserted houses, floorboards speak
For the strangest reasons. When shutters bang
Or an unwatched door suddenly swings shut,
We say it is the wind when there is
No wind. Birds, rats, shifting foundations.
We are quick with answers that keep the peace,
But who can be sure? On every wall
Moonlight illuminates subtle designs
And these patches of light survive us to say
The past does not die. We let it escape.
WHAT MY GRANDMA SAID
From a Czech proverb
No matter how sad
Do not trust the man
Who never wants to sing.
He will bore you to death
With the speech of the deaf
And your ears will turn to stone.
After a lengthy career as an executive with Eastman Kodak and Fuji Photo Film, I have returned full circle to my first post graduate job: College Instructor. Although it is certainly intimidating to return to the classroom, it is incredibly rewarding to be able to give back.
Poems recently published and accepted for publication in The Sierra Nevada Review, The Stillwater Review, The Outrider Review, River Poets Journal, Falling Star Magazine, and The Tule Review.