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Other notable work by Charles Fishman and Norbert Krapf.

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Sheri Vandermolen-

Artful Garden

The Picasso heads
perched, boldly,
atop bird-of-paradise stems
wear their blue eyes
on the side of their angular
orange noses, maroon chins,
satisfied with their askew
view of the burgeoning world.

All the while,
the eccentric heliconias
suspend static, multi-lipped
Chagall smiles,
in brilliant vermilion,
from their waxy green aspects,
parasoled by big-top fronds
that shelter them
from the silvery notes
dripping off the bow
of the blue-sky violinist.

Although the sunflowers’
saw-toothed girasoles
and desiccated stalks
were tilled up ages ago,
their nutrients still infuse
the fertile soil,
out of which grow
stalks of Matisse bamboo.

Fluidly mercurial,
their paper-cutout leaves stir,
in the slow breeze,
dancing, with fragile unawareness,
to music of the spheres,
even as waning day
daubs a Miro-red orb
upon the western horizon.

Old-school points of view
glibly espoused by day-Jatters
wither on the vine,
while wilting cubes of time
theatrically scatter their pollen
into surreal expanses
of the twilit post-modern sky.

_______________

Ganesha Chaturthi

A Macy’s-sponsored gay-pride parade
would be tragically subdued,
in comparison to the pageantry created
by the legionary rows of rainbow-boisterous idols
stationed, under makeshift tarp-tents,
in prodigious Pottery Town.

Ranging from a few centimeters
to nearly five meters high,
the playfully vivid Ganeshas (Ganeshi?)
loom in numerous plaster-of-Paris poses —
sitting, standing, leaning, twisting
in dreadlocked, crowned, turbaned forms
of Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna,
Sai Baba, Gandhi, Chhota Bheem,
Tarzan, possibly Yoda too.

The craftsmen spend nap-inducing hours
applying layers of neon basecoats, glazes,
hand-painting Ganesha’s trunk, ears, nails,
with glittery accents and Om symbols,
laboring to perfect their masterpieces,
which customers size up, admire, haggle over,
then cart to their homes, for worship.

Days later, the statues boomerang back
to Ulsoor Lake, just a few streets away.

The fenced perimeter is brimming with devotees,
each family performing a lush puja —
burning incense, smearing kumkum powder,
sprinkling coconut water,
offering ghee, fruits, and flowers —
before handing off the smiling elephant god
to an eager-grabbing orange-vested city worker,
who steps knee-, thigh-, waist-deep, into the flow,
dunks the statue, ritually, and then casts it adrift,
returning with a tray of the now-blessed water.

Processions of six, ten, twenty, more,
chant “Ganapati Bappa Morya,”
whistling, pumping their fists, and beating drums
as they haul large statues through the side gate,
while police clear paths, usher the groups
to a metal platform dangling from a crane,
so that their multimeter sculptures
can be placed on the tilting edge,
swung to the basin’s hazel-hued center,
and then ceremoniously tipped into the depths.

As night dilates, activity reaches fever-pitch,
with carnivaled sound-and-sight delights
caroming in every frantic direction —
auto-rickshaws disgorging eight customers at a time;
families posing for phone photos;
posses of children coursing through,
waving their arms, roaring their joy,
smiles gleaming through their face-paint;
vendors roasting corn, stringing jasmine garlands,
selling heart-cluster hydrogen-filled balloons;
news crews conducting TV and print interviews.

The crowd disperses, upon city curfew,
leaving the chemical-laden god figures
to dissolve into cadmium and mercury plumes,
which diffuse throughout
the heady waters of the vast tank.
The pollution is an obstacle left for Ganesha to question.

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Harmony

February 2, 2014, U.S.A.:
Coca-Cola airs its daring game-day ad —
sixty diversity-embracing seconds,
featuring a gay couple
and a seven-language take
on iconic “America, the Beautiful,”
penned by Katharine Lee Bates,
who shared twenty-five years
with life-partner Katharine Coman.
Reaction is swift and harsh,
the tweets derisive, bitterly divisive.

February 2, 2014, India:
Bright-tipped wicks
send their illuminated dirge to the night sky,
in remembrance of Nido Taniam,
a young Arunachal Pradesh student
who was beaten to death,
January 29,
with sticks and iron rods,
by five men who mocked his hair, his style,
his very face, into which they hurled
their bruising racial taunts.

The world awaits the day
we’ll stand in perfect harmony.

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Into the Slipstream

Pulsating constellations
fade into esoteric black-drop,
rendered androgynous, darkling,
by the implausibly bright moon,
even as ageless silver stardust
falls from the milky slipstream,
drifting into the nebulous musings
of the anonymous few
who night-stroll the banks
of the shimmering Kabini River.

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Sheri Vandermolen is editor in chief of Time Being Books. From 2008 to 2014, she resided in India, exploring the subcontinent via camera and pen until her repatriation to California. Her verse has appeared in various journals, including Ashvamegh, Camel Saloon,Contemporary Literary Review India, Earthen Lamp Journal, Foliate Oak, Muse India, Jersey Devil Press, Papercuts, Taj Mahal Review, and Verse-Virtual, as well as in the anthology Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women.

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Charles Fishman-

Through the Ice, 1953
in memory of Skipper Broich

I think of you now: how your short life ended,
as if on schedule. While you lived,
something invisible seemed to batter you —

a demon or force field that smashed you
against every wall. Yet it’s not the car crashes
or concussions I recall

but a scene, like a circle of ice, sawn
from the frozen past, its edges jagged, its hues,
even then, minimal, now bleached to a dwindling fire

of colors. Do you remember how you almost died

late on that winter evening? how the thin crust
of blacker ice broke under you

and you dropped in the dark so deep on your downward journey?
We’d been coasting all day on some white-dark hill
between trees that brushed our faces

and were walking quickly toward the shortcut
through the woods that lay on the bank of the lake
we trekked over like travelers in the Arctic.

In our triple-knotted boots, our wool scarves
and scuffed bomber jackets, we trudged toward home,
toward the dim light over familiar doorways

and the rich aromas of food our mothers cooked
at the first tinge of twilight. The January sun sank
in slow gradations, each slight hint of darkening a tick

on the clock of childhood. Skipper, you must have been
more hungry, more tired, or just plain younger,
and ran ahead of us to where the thin fabric of ice

ripped into sheer strips of translucent frost.
Shocked to stillness, we held back, then rushed
to where you’d vanished and then returned.

It must have been your brother who calmed you,
who begged you to settle deeper into coldness,
to trust his high and broken voice. Yes,

it must have been Dave who promised
we’d rescue you, who slid his Red Ranger sled
into that gaping hole in the universe

where it found your hands.

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Paul Granger’s Wound

You were the smallest, Paul —
the shortest, leanest, blondest, bravest
in our crew — and you have retreated less far
into darkness. I remember the day
that would etch your wound into my mind,
each catch and notch of memory glistening
with your blood. There was bright sunlight
and deep blue sky a blaze of white roses
and the dark gray haze of the new state road
the highway commission had bulldozed
into our lives.
You were wearing a round-necked
polo shirt and rolled-up jeans, a black leather belt
and high-backed sneakers. Zigzag stripes crested
on your chest in vertical waves that flowed
from neck to groin: a map of some watery terrain
no friend or parent could decipher. I remember
how the dark blue denim rippled over your thighs,
the lapping rivulets at your knees, the way
your gold-brown hair was parted.
At our water hole
between parkway and woods, your clothes dropped off
and you dove into the cold spring water all of us knew
to be sacred: a dark pool released from the dictates
of nature where we could breathe without constraint
without the harsh odor of fear stinging our nostrils.
You dove and we cheered, living for the moment
in the rare oxygen of the underlife you had plunged into
feeling again the icy waters of time wash over us.

And then you broke the spell, bursting the surface
as you held up your hand, gashed open with that raw
diagonal slash that even now, five decades later,
wildly pulses — that wound written deep in your flesh
with the jagged edge of glass from a smashed beer bottle —
your ruined hand held up for us to witness
in all its bloody splendor your wound, Paul: the sky
ripped open just when we needed it whole.

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My Father on a Sled, Smoking
winter 1953

There he is on the sled, which is parked
on the front lawn. He’s going nowhere fast,
yet the reins are in his hands — no, not
the reins but the rope this small vehicle
is towed with. And he’s a happy man —
anyone who motors by can see that:
the way he sits erect, his knees jutting
but not quite skyward, his feet in rubber
boots, jammed to the rudder and ready
to steer. The weather is mild and clear.

Now look at the lit cigarette that droops
from his lips that resist speaking, at his
ungloved hands that revel in their strength
and will not heed the cold. My father
is not yet old though, unknown to him,
he is dying: if he continues to smoke
like this, his lungs will wither and blacken
his hands fall open in his lap. Though the day
is frozen in memory, his world is rushing
forward. Father, this is no time to relax.
Stand up now: you need to wrest control

from this poisoned future. Pitch the fresh pack
hidden in your jacket into the glitter of ice
and snow. Take off your cap and let it go.
Breathe in the sweet chill of this undreamt of
moment when life offers you a choice. Father,
listen to my voice that calls out to you
across the snow-bound void: you will swerve
at the last jolting second, and death’s branches
will scar your face but, five decades later,
you will sit, knees wrapped in a white wool blanket:
a dear scared frail old man, dozing to Frank Sinatra
and almost at peace as sleep drags you down.

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She Remembers Winter
for Kathleen Horan

1
She remembers the overpass
along Sunrise Highway
where she would sled all day
with friends in that winter
of 1970: how the sled would freeze
in late December coldness
making it hard to steer, the way
her feet extended over the wooden slats
and her stomach and chest pressed
flat to them so she could breathe
only in shallow gasps as the wet snow
raced under her, how she would put
her whole being into turning
as momentum built and each small
adjustment became necessary.

She remembers that downhill rush
as her first lesson in freedom:
how her heart raced with the sled
and beat with a frantic pleasure
that opened gates inside her.
It was heaven to let go, to feel
briefly supported yet unable
to control speed or direction,
to be lifted in a gentle rocking flow
or bumped along roughly
but released from confinement
and stricture, bruised and cold
but brushed with glittering whiteness.

She remembers how she played
all day with friends that winter
at ease with herself and the weather,
proud of her white snow jacket and its
black buckles, in love with her
stocking cap and its rainbow colors,
and at one with the fleece-lined boots
whose scuffed toes she dug
into the hard-packed snow: how
the boots, cap and jacket — and cupfuls
of hot chocolate — had kept her
from totally freezing.

2
It all comes back like a rush
down a long white hill and she
remembers, two decades later,
mothering her own children
as if they’d been precious jewels
she’d misplaced in winter snow,
as if they’d been snow angels
whose ice-cold toes and fingers
she would hold to her racing heart
to her stove-warm body.

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Forgotten Songs
for Glory Sasikala Franklin

1
What links us together? Isn’t it untrammeled
energy, affinity, green shoots of the body?

Not long ago in India, the rare home radio
marked the passing of time. In Kolkata,
you had a small Telerad with a winking green eye
and started each day with the All Asia Service
of the Sri Lanka BC. At noon, you’d switch
to Burma Broadcasting and listen for a single
delicious hour, then jump to Yuvavani in Calcutta
for Lunch Time Variety.

The day would fly like that: to Vividh Bharati
for Hindi songs, then back to Yuvavani again.

Never mind the distances: each station zinged in
with true fidelity, so that Cliff Richard, John Denver,
Glen Campbell, the Everly Brothers, Elvis, George Baker,
and Susan Raye all seemed to sing just for you.
Their voices spilled into your body and took up residence there.

Your favorite was Pussycat’s “Broken Souvenir”
and you still hum that song. And you still hear “Listen
to the rhythm of the falling rain . . .” You, too,
are on your own again. “Good evening, sorrow.”

2
Glory, you were so taken by the radio’s power,
by the songs that poured from it, you named your daughter
“Rimona” after Wolfe Gilbert’s “Ramona,” respun
by the Blue Diamonds in 1960. Remember the Carpenters’ song,
“Those were such happy times / And not so long ago”?
For you “Every sha-la-la-la, / Every wo-wo-wo /
Still shines.”

3
Before he died, your father taught you songs
and had you sing the words while he strummed his guitar.
You were not yet ten, but not a nerve in your body
has relinquished them.

There was “Lonely Cowboy,” “Goodbye Hawaii,” “Oh, Susannah”
and “Queen of My Heart.” Your father was gone too early,
but you recall each tune. “Beautiful dreamer,” he sang, “wake
unto me, / Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee.”

And you sang along with him.

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Charles Adès Fishman is poetry editor of PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators. His books include Mortal Companions (1977); The Death Mazurka (1989), an American Library Association Outstanding Book of the Year; Chopin’s Piano (2006); Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (2007), his world-renowned anthology; In the Language of Women (2011); and In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems (2012). He is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English & Humanities in the State University of New York.

Note from the author: Since Time Being Books is folding in December, and will not be replenishing stocks for online booksellers or distributors, readers who are interested in purchasing a copy or two of In the Path of Lightning may not be able to find it. I encourage readers to contact me if they would like signed copies of the book. The easiest way to reach me is via my main email address: carolus@optimum.net.

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Norbert Krapf-

Last Sunset: Ida’s Father Ben Hagan, Jr.
Is Buried in the Pinkston Cemetery

On November 30, 1939, Matt Durcholz
borrowed two white horses from neighbors
and hitched them to Ben Hagan’s spring wagon
from which he had sold vegetables in Huntingburg

and Ferdinand. Matt and his son Raymond rode
on the wagon carrying Ben’s wooden casket,
followed by Larkin Pinkston, friend and brother-in-law,
on foot behind, to the cemetery on the knoll bordered

by cedar trees. Following them also were black relatives
from near Dale and Grandview on the banks of the Ohio.
“It was a blustery day,” Matt said. “Even the rabbits
were in their holes.” Ben’s relatives sang “Last Sunset”:

Nighting as the day ends
take it slow as we can.
You never know it might be
The last sunset we’ll ever see.

Ben and Matt had hunted many hours together,
Matt said, and Ben taught him how to plant
watermelons “by punching the seeds in the right
kind of soil.” This was the end of the Settlement.

Nighting as the day ends
take it slow as we can.
You never know it might be
The last sunset we’ll ever see.

Some of the residents worked for the Airline Railroad,
laying the tracks for the first train from Rockport
to Ferdinand Junction at Johnsburg, not far
down the road from St. Henry where my father

was born and grew up. Ben’s friend and brother-in-law
Larkin Pinkston tried living in a house left standing
in the Pinkston Settlement but grew too lonely
to stay and moved to the Providence Home, Jasper.

And all I possess
Blows away in this wind.
And as I came in
So I’m leaving.

Larkin died in the Providence Home in 1940.
Matt Durcholz bought Ben’s property and most
of what was the Pinkston Settlement is now
part of the Huntingburg Conservation Club.

Larkin was buried in the old Jasper City
Cemetery overlooking the Patoka River.
Even the rabbits stayed in their holes.
It was a cold and blustery day.

Nighting as the day ends
take it slow as we can.
You never know it might be
The last sunset we’ll ever see.

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Ida and a Gemini Twin

Ida, I have learned you share a Gemini
birthday with a man who has devoted
his life to starting over, being reborn,
to making himself find new ways

and means of expression as a songwriter,
of pushing himself beyond where
the familiar no longer satisfies. In your
seventies, you must have been aware

of his prophetic cry that the times
were changing, that a new order
was raging, that the executioner’s
face is always well hidden and asked

how many roads a man must walk
down before they call him a man,
before he turned his attention
to the inner life of the individual

self and spiritual growth, a Jew
who converted to Christianity
thereby alienating his followers
for not the first or last time ever.

Did you hear him sing in the mountains
that he saw his life come shining,
from the West down to the East?
If so, this song must have sounded

familiar to a woman who grew up
in a Freedom Settlement, pushed
herself to new levels of achievement
and accomplishments, learned a new

language, converted to a new faith,
learned how to help people heal,
moved on and away from where
she grew up, became a city girl

who devoted herself to helping
her people while remaining true
to the call of the life of the spirit.
You must have heard him ask

how it feels to be on your own,
no road left to lead you back home.
If you didn’t listen to his songs,
you must have been aware that

she who’s not busy being born is busy
dying, as you were ever being born
and reborn, ever striking out anew,
pushing onward to new possibility.

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Hearing the Blues in the Pinkston Cemetery

When I look at this light
falling on the broken stones

meant to mark the lives
of those whose names

are lost to us now I hear
Jimmie Duck Holmes

thumb and pick his thumping
blues with a deep bass line

and sing in the high and lonely
Bentonia style about how one day

he’ll grow old, though we know
his primal blues will never die.

I savor this light that shines
in these far woods where

the Pinkston Settlement once was,
a few miles from where my father

grew up but which I did not know
about as it was deserted a few years

before I was born. Jimmie sits
on a plain old chair in front of

a back door swung and propped open
as the sunlight comes in and kisses

his guitar as both the guitar and his voice
keen, keen the primal songs that spill out

of him nonstop in his Blue Front Café.
Ida Hagan, I would listen with you

here in the woods as Jimmie plays
and sings the Mississippi hard-time

blues that keep coming out of him
from the same spot where my brother

and I once sat listening to him
make his music as we sipped beer

and late afternoon sunlight light
came to play on our faces,

as we three sat on the front porch
and he played his Epiphone and sang

with light sinking into evening as the sun
set and a train passed us by on the tracks.

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Norbert Krapf, former Indiana Poet Laureate, lives in Indianapolis. His latest
of eleven poetry collections, is Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing and
this year his prose memoir, Shrinking the Monster: Recovering from Clergy Abuse,
appears this year. Norbert believes that song and poetry are kissing kin and he has
been in love with the blues for about fifty years.

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Linne Ebbrech-

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Returning

I have been trying to remind myself
that kindness is only kindness –

it’s what people try to give
as much as they can,

perhaps for what comes after or
a guilt free pillow to sleep upon.

Perhaps it is just humanity
helping

humanity – leaving
themselves behind

for just a moment, to hold
a hand. To stitch a wound.

They must go back
to themselves – you must go back

to yourself. Lick your
wounds. Hold yourself together.

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Pelts

“We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err.”       -Henry Beston, The Outermost House

Take a small axe. Remove my feet and tail at the hairline. Take a knife
and cut me, from my base of what’s left of my tail to my belly and stop
at the bottom of my lip. Switch knives now – the one with the rounded end.

This will fit cleanly underneath my skin. You will pull
it away from my muscle. Peel it away from the rest of me,
the way you will slip off your socks after this day’s work.

On this fleshing beam, my skin becomes your skin now. As you scrape
away the last of the pink tissue, my hide shows white. My skin
becomes paper. My skin becomes profit.

How could you not recognize the genius beneath
the water. You mistake nations for nuisance. You
mistake earthlings for mere things.

This is the way my world works – without my knowing. The home
I’ve built becomes a trap I could never predict. I leave,
I am stopped

by metal – sharp and unforgiving.
I panic
for fifteen minutes. I drown for ten minutes more.

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The Noises You Don’t Want to Hear

I think it was April when my Mom got the call, she was cleaning
and she didn’t stop
even after she hung up.

I assume my Grandpa told her
“Brian’s dead” – that he was found in his apartment, that
he had electrocuted himself.

I remember how she kept cleaning
the kitchen table with a damp paper towel and how
she was crying and the way her words

sounded like they were caught in her stomach and
almost didn’t get out. She asked him
“What?” – hoping

that somehow Grandpa had made some sort of mistake
in his simple sentence.  I remember that I
was in the next room over when Mom got the call and when she hung

up, I asked her “what happened?” and she told me
that her brother was gone – gone – not dead.
Missing.

I remember not saying anything else, just walking to my room
and sitting at my desk and scrolling through Facebook. I listened
to my Mom still moving downstairs.

She came to my room, I think
ten minutes later, to check on me –
and asked if I was okay

I remember I wasn’t crying when I told her
that I was. Her eyes were red and full. Her body
reacting.

Her body still moving in her
responsibilities as a mother and a wife.
I remember

she still made dinner that night.

_______________

Drag

I imagine that I feel
the way a smoked cigarette looks –
The filter yellowed and broken
in from being held too roughly

and taking deep and deadly breaths
from me. I am
an expensive price to pay. I am
your bad

habits – coming back
to me is so easy, even once
I’ve blackened your lungs
and took away

a year from your life.

_______________

Virtuoso

There are things you don’t want
to hear from your mother – like when she tells you
that “you don’t have to sleep with a boy
to get him to like you.”

It’s a sort of backhanded compliment
when she tells you this. A slap
across the face that tells you that – Hey,
at least you’re good at

something. She’s always been good
at telling you these things, the way you’ve
mastered the art of showing up in beds
that are not yours and making them

disappear. Making the boys come
and go.

In a way, you prove
your mother wrong. They like you
for at least twenty minutes and they tell you
that “They had a good time.”

There are things you don’t want to hear
from your mother – the way she suggests that
your body is not perfect. The way she tells you
“maybe you shouldn’t buy a two-piece this year.”

But those boys will still want to
touch you and you let them – you let them
come and go.

There are things you don’t want to hear from your mother –
like when she meets him and she tells you “he’s handsome.
Just don’t get in his way.” Remember that

boys only like you if you sleep with them – if you let
them touch you. They come and they go

onto something better – that is not so sedentary
and sad. To girls who don’t need
to make the boys stay
with this sort of talent.

To girls who have bodies
that are more difficult to acquire and somehow
easier to touch. They don’t stand in the way. But

some boys will stay, even when you expect them
to go. You expect him to leave –
so you find him every night, desperately.
So that he just might stay.

______________________________________________________

Linne Ebbrecht resides in Oswego, NY where she is finishing up her B.A. in Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego. She has poems published in the Great Lake Review and Ishka Bibble. When she isn’t writing she is probably enjoying the outdoors where she finds most of her inspiration.

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Holly Day-

Daffodils

he walks among the dead
walks stiffly to
the bar, orders
an ordinary beer
from a menu that
specializes in drinks
with names like Corpse Fuck
Brain Hemorrhage

the leather-clad sow
in the corner blossoms at
the sight of his teeth
he glides across the room, slipping beside her
into a red plastic booth
her cheap perfume reeks
of dirty sex, dying things
“my place,” he smiles, he says
and kisses her blood-clot lips

they walk out to the night
she holds his arm with
both hands and talks too
loud he pulls her through the
gates of the cemetery
locks the gate behind them.

_______________

Alive

they found her small body wired into the heart
of the church, small LEDs sprouting through her skin
blooming like tiny red flowers
too far deep for sunlight to reach.

she was sheared clean through to bone
by claws big enough
to belong to the God hanging
over the spot her mangled body lay.

_______________

The Impossibleness of Abstract Representation

where are we now? one man asked
we shone our flashlights around the cave

saw only stone, tall ceilings, dark passages
darting off in every direction. The map

showed us which random tributary
would take us back to sunlight, although it was hard to believe

that we were somewhere on that flat piece of paper, a cluster of flies
in a network of blue spaghetti loops. But yes, there was the pool

right next to our path like it was on the map, tiny white fish
darting about in the light of our flashlights, blind as the furry brown bats

circling overhead. So when do we start going up? asked another
man who looked too tired to go on. Are we almost there?

_______________

Still Away

I missed you so much when you left I couldn’t breathe. No, I didn’t miss you at all,
I just kept thinking about all the things, the tiny things, the big things, the wanting
all the dependent little creatures you left behind, helpless, trapped
little creatures in your house, left
alone without food, without water, pacing, pacing, pacing, ears perking
at the sound of new mail pushed through the squeaky slot, behind the locked door
that would never open again,
all the things left behind.

In my dreams, I am still dreaming about your goldfish, the little blue-flecked translucent
minnows, the over-zealous tank snails
their bodies moldering in the bottom of the foggy glass fish bowl, the over-zealous
tank snails stripping their corpses to hair-thin skeletons, the long-nosed dolphin fish
I picked out for you
the last to remain, competing with tank snails to suck thin strains of green mold
from the clogged air filter, overturning the blue pebbles at the bottom

in search of more algae, more rot, more decay. I don’t remember
if you had a cat, but in my dreams, you had many,
they’re fighting with each other, they’re drinking water
from the fish tank, the toilet, they’re clawing at the window, begging passersby
to let them out. I wish

you’d left me a key.

_______________

Tiny, Pointed Teeth

Sometimes I still dream about the kittens clawing their way through my shirt kittens
With tiny claws and tiny teeth and tiny mews kittens
That once lived inside me, populated my dreams with tiny
Paws and fingertips and skin so pale and soft and white those kittens

Shoved under my shirt stuffed beneath my skin those kittens
I would never have been able to take care of those kittens
I never asked for and never wanted those kittens
Who would have died a long time ago even if they had managed
To make it to the outside world.

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Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Music Theory for Dummies (3rd edition), Piano All-in-One for Dummies, The Book Of, and Nordeast Minneapolis: A History.

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Susan Palmer-

*It is not my intention to write “haiku”. However, I am fully in love with the basic concepts of haiku…that the poet presents an experience to the reader with a minimum of words and no personal emotions, each experience hinting at a season in which it is placed. I was never fond of the artificial modern rule of syllable counts, and will not indulge in such.

Here you find poems without titles, just as snatches of life are without title. Ideally, the Tao poem does not include any references to the writer….personal pronouns. “we, I, my, our, your,” Etc. The purpose is to immerse the reader into his/her own memories of the season, the embarrassment, the wistful sigh. It should stimulate without shouting or sobbing. As an observer, we come to see our experiences of the past are common to all humankind. *

On windy days
My front door whispers
The secrets of Life.
The cats listen to its wisdom.

_______________

On the lake
Cloud and sky
A fish dashes through.

_______________

Under the green elm
Ants explore silken fabric
Lovers sleep entwined

_______________

Monday morning
Snap-crackle-pop cereal
Sighs tiredly in a milk bath.
Book-bag sags on the counter.
Even my shoelaces dread
Another week.

_______________

How did this great plant
Fit in that tiny seed?

_______________

Who can tell if fish cry?

_______________

The kite dances over the ocean
Admiring its reflection
Dangling its tail
This way and that

_______________

The Dodgers baseball cap
Takes advantage of the gusts
Whenever the front door opens
To swirl gleefully around
The top knob of the coat rack

_______________

The horses gambol about
Drunk on fields of yellow dandelions
Laughing in horsey whickers

_______________

The wild dun mare
And her summer colt
Touch noses

_______________

Three on horseback
Feeling their way through fog
Is that a cougar?

_______________

Cougar lapping ripples
Fish kissing top of pond
Disturbed barrier between worlds

________________

Trees droop in the heat
Yawning fills the office
Eyelids sag

________________

Here,
Trees and vines
Dining on the bones
Of a wooden house

________________

A few Old Woman Poems

Though I resemble an old tree
My skin rough and discolored
My roots disengaging from the soil
I may yet make one cherry
For one traveler

I am a book
Full of words
And fading photos.
Do not presume
The ending is dull
Until the last page is turned.

My boat has crossed the lake.
When I look back, I see
I have left no impression.

Now I am old
I wonder
Whatever happened to
My little red wagon

Like calligraphy
Done in water
On a hot sidewalk
Such is my life

I was never a beautiful flower
But now, in Autumn,
I am a brilliant leaf.

A silent white world
Footsteps three inches deep
An empty mailbox

A forest of pines
Snow suits glisten in the sun
One naked oak sapling

Butterflies never
Get to play
In the snow

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Susan Palmer lived on Maui for almost 30 years and was deeply impressed by the Japanese ways of understatement and peaceful quiet of the “elder” Japanese philosophers. It draws her still, to be peacefully quiet myself, to be the observer more than the doer.

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Other notable works by Michael Meyerhofer, Denise Sweet and Brent Goodman.

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Tom Montag-

CEMETERY, ALBERTA

It’s a high, dry place on the short grass where
we pause in a sharp wind among the graves.

Oh, the great sadness, the distance tawny
with it, the color of wind, of wind and

desolation, here where it seems we are
alone, even as we stand together.

_______________

FIELD WITH CROWS

So all the crows settle down
to sort things out, though there’s
not much difference to sift.

We are at the edge of
the road. They are in the field.
Their darkness. The black dirt.

Oh, the blue sky, one of them
wants to talk about. The creek.
The last of the seeds. Which tree

shall be yours, and which mine?
What of love, another asks.
So they pair off, as we do.

Evening comes. The darkness —
theirs and ours. They don’t know
what to say to us. And we don’t

know what to say to them.
We have never known.
Love remains the mystery.

_______________

CHOICE

She stands
at the window,

then turns
from it. She has

lost the will
to resist and

lies down now
into sadness.

The world is
grease and smoke

with no one
to say good-bye.

_______________

JUST MUD

thrown at paper
like paint.

Hang it
up to dry.

Say This is
what I mean
.

_______________

MARRIAGE

Marriage, like those
night dogs calling

across the water,
coyotes singing

in the distance.
Sometimes we speak

their long, high vowels.
Their needs are simple:

eat meat, get sleep,
pass on their genes.

Ours, not so much,
or so it seems.

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Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013. Other poems will be found at Architrave Press, Atticus Review, Blue Heron Review, The Chaffin Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, Little Patuxent Review, The Magnolia Review, Mud Season Review, Plainsong, Portage, Red Fez, South 85, Sand, Third Wednesday, Town Creek Poetry, and other journals. He blogs as The Middlewesterner and serves as Managing Editor of the Lorine Niedecker Monograph Series, What Region?

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Michael Meyerhofer-

KINDRED SPIRITS

Let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop
reading a book of poems when
someone in the next room
starts playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano
which reminds you of your mother,
then you turn and page and here I am
describing the exact same thing.
Sure, you’d marvel at the coincidence,
but what happens next?
What social networking program
will carry the news, which will
likely fail to impress your friends?
I suppose you could write me a letter
but what if I’m dead by now?
It happens. So many years since
the invention of language, let alone
sadness. And every year,
more bones rinsed clean as those
oversized cups resting upside-down
on a black tray behind the counter.

_______________

TANTRUM

My friend, the single mom, is trying
to keep her cool as her thirteen-year-old boy
kicks the dog, throws his plate across the room,
lies on the floor pounding with both fists
like his skinny arms will help him
break back into the womb, but really
I just want to smack him across the cheek
as her sautéed asparagus slides down
the wine-and-canary wallpaper
and she tries counting backwards
like one of those uniforms in a missile silo,
just want to grab that crying face
the color of the pan-seared salmon
steaming on her fine plush sofa and squeeze
until his eyes swell up like radishes
the way mine did the first time
I took a straight jab in boxing class,
then a blurring right hook that undercut
all my faith in angst—which,
as it turns out, is weaker than knuckles,
than the skin they wear like an apron.

_______________

AUBADE

Last night when we were lying in bed together,
everything good, death and separation
as distant as those stars with Arabic names,
I suddenly thought of another night many years ago
when I found myself in a Walmart in Indiana
at three a.m. and I was so damn lonely
that I bought a body pillow to cuddle with,
only when I got it home and took it out
of the box, it was about as soft as partially
cooled lava and smelled besides, some kind
of factory-born cleaner to keep the bugs away,
only by then the sun was coming up
like it is now, and it’s hard to care sometimes,
and heat you know is really just atoms
moving faster, that’s all it is, but I like the heat
we make under blankets in the throat
of winter, how just by existing, parts of me
move faster whenever yours are close by.

_______________

ODE TO THE REPAIR GUY

While Dale the repair guy addresses
the charred out fuse box in the kitchen,
persistent lust of his saber-saw
kicking the smell of sawdust
throughout the whole apartment

I am trying to write poetry
about chopsticks, reading the latest stuff
from the ezines, pausing whenever
it sounds like he might come back
and catch me with verse on the screen:

a haiga featuring a naked woman
some might mistake as pornography.
I’m having trouble with a tanka;
another poem about astrology requires
a reference to fine scotch I can’t find.

Twice, Dale walks in and interrupts me:
once to explain how two-by-fours
aren’t actually two inches by four inches
anymore, which is why he has to cut
and trim the space behind the cabinets

to make the new box fit; the second time
to ask if I mind him smoking.
I say I don’t—as the blue smoke
drifts from his lips, he tips his head like
a Japanese dragon and comments

on how his biopsy came out negative,
shows me the crescent scar on his chest
in a moat of tangled gray hair. I find
the reference I need, roll the word
ballantine on my tongue, again and again

until I can almost taste its syrupy musk,
feel justified weaving it into a poem.
Meanwhile, Dale goes out to his truck
to look for a longer blade, comes back,
goes out again for more cigarettes

then asks me what I’m working on.
I want to tell him my frustrations over
poets who think modern haiku
must be written with seventeen syllables
the way others who don’t write poetry

expect all of it to rhyme in pentameter.
Instead, I answer Just some school work
then explain how in exchange for a master’s
degree I’m teaching composition
to a class of nearly illiterate freshmen—

his attention drifts, he saws some more
then goes out for some lunch,
returns later with a faint smile and
tells me it’s snowing outside. I like that,
he says, how it makes them bare trees pretty.

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Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy trilogy and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Mid-American Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Rattle, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and other journals. For more information and at least one embarrassing childhood photo, please visit troublewithhammers.com.

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Denise Sweet-

The Lost Maya

At Panahachel, I sat in cathedrals,
lit candles to invoke the patron saint
of beggars, a statue poised to gaze from
within the wooden alcoves, his eyes
bearing down on me in stone cold indifference.

Light fell through stained glass as I gave prayer
a chance; cofradias swung tin cans at each
doorway burning pendulums of copal while
the stiff planks beneath my knees show
years of anonymous penance.

As I leave for the plaza, I hear the click and low
whistle of young boys sitting outside on the
cathedral steps; though my skin brown,
my nose Mayan, and I call myself Indigena,
I bear an unearned pride that makes no sense here.

To them I am the gringa who hides her privilege
like a birthmark, groomed, well-dressed, and
unused to the heat, I am the foreigner of
complaint of El Norte. I st each day in the zocolo
sip espresso, ask for photos, touch huipiles aquapiles
from Aititlan, Cortes bloodred as the lava from Pavayu.

I watch the bonegames of chance in the parke central:
black candles, popping eggs, glint of gold in the smiles
of Mishimon amidst the smoke and fire, the chatter of
the daykeepers, and as they sing, the sound of kachikel
dancing barefoot on the edge of the world.

_______________

Farmer Takes A Wife

Hard rains came the end of spring. Riverbanks melted into slur. New watermarks each morning the day before, just shy of flood stage. The long fever does not shake loose this time. Chills and night terrors sweep through the house until dawn. He cannot place the line once drawn from delirium to fever and insanity anymore, unable to decide whether to to sharpen his axe or to grease his brake lines of the family Buick. Who can blame him for wanting to drag for days through acres of the black, musky soil, listening to Patsy Cline, chew packed hard into his lower lip? No amount of prayer will lift the heavy weight of Black Earth crop failure this time. Another favorite barncat, clinging like wet laundry to the woodpile. The baby rests on a damp mattress, waiting for a burial. Bread sits soggy in the pantry while his wife gnaws on the windowsill. The farmer has not moved from his chair for days, looking at the fields that once held seeds of everything he was to become. The Farmer’s Almanac sits open to the charts of annual crop predictions while sprouted seeds ferment and bubble, their yeasty odor.

_______________

All the Animals Came Singing

I. Somewhere between nowhere and shadow
you held still and quiet, and quick slip
and you would totter over the edge of the world
Taking with you ancient songs of love, of devotion
of longevity; songs that celebrated
the simple elegance of living in balance.

So many whimpered in your absence
the throat singers tried in vain to call
you back, other winged creatures felt lost
and caught off from the harmonious crane song
that once trumpeted across the marshlands
the width of the riverbanks.

It was in our ignorance we fell silent.
Helpless, anxious to be of use,
we began to think of swamps and bogs
as eerie, ugly and useless.
We drained those drained those windigo wetlands
paved them over or planted crops
that floundered or refused to take root;

We tried to fill and give function to the emptied camps
of the whooping cranes: or were we trying to fill
that empty nest in our hearts shaped by your absence?

II. We are told that it is inborn in all living beings
to return to the place of its beginning, to rise and sweep
with what strength is left and begin that wondrous trek
towards home, no matter the distance, no matter the passage.

One day, you appeared shy, secretive, you appear in the bright mist.
As in your own emergence account, you stood before us, waiting
for us to send out a simple prayer, greet you by simply standing still.
You stood before us, elegant, erect, majestic in form, a hooded shaman
from the farthest sky out of range of the naked eye.
And all of the animals came singing.

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Denise “Dee” Sweet Anishinaabe (aka Ojibwe: aka Chippewa, enrolled at White Earth) Professor Emerita, Humanistic Studies,English, First Nations Studies

WI Poet Laureate, 2004-2008

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Brent Goodman-

In the Middle of the Music

The secret to drawing symphony from a cello
is in the angle you rest its neck along yours,
and recognizing your lover the only other hips
you cradle your knees around this relaxed.
Lay a waterfall on its side and call it whitewater:
both names equally blurred and beautiful.
Art intentionally slows time to dilate the present,
the voice calling faint from midpoint suggests,
and as soon as I find my center he’s the first digits
I plan on dialing. The way I planned my mid-life crisis
to feature a hospital rooftop helipad landing scene starring
a medevac nurse who radiates light like young Mother Mary
in an orange flight suit and radio helmet. Let’s say I arrived in style
and survived to discover I will live to enjoy exactly 74 years,
or at least until I change my mind again. As if every choice’s
unchosen branches grow through your living room drywall
to pierce someone else’s living room, where they’re called
“opportunities” I guess, by a man who, like you, thinks
he’s just doing the goddamned best he can. You’re both
right, which just might explain how a bow unspools song
from nothing but taut wound string, a hammered note,
and the star maps folded within a cello’s body.

________________

Views From the Backseat

Alabama’s Greatest Hits cassette tape
thumb-pressed into the player console.

Endless green freeway exit signs
audience to argument and silence alike.

Downtown interchange concrete ramps
and blue sky, a smokestack, coal barge.

Fast food drive thrus drive thrus drive thrus
and oily paper sacks crumpled at my feet.

The line between two brothers, his side,
my side, the invisible brother between us.

Sure: a rainbow, heron, bikini, ambulance.
Bank tellers and their great sliding drawers.

Gas pumps. Cathedrals. Driving through forest,
windows down, a song from the radio returning.

_______________

And If The Body Were Not The Soul

On the elevated giraffe feeding platform
a grey prehensile tongue wraps and grabs
the rye crisp from my hand (2 for $1),
this head wide as any horse now absurdly
eye to eye, neck taller than my entire body
stands. I’m with my partner (whom I love but
cannot marry) and his sister (whom I love
but cannot marry) at The New Zoo.
Where earlier I beamed Reiki to a llama
who carried a dirty rug on its back. Jesus –
what is the soul, anyway? Spotting cell towers
during the drive made me wonder just
how many conversations speed through us,
what wind between our molecules, writing books
on the fly. The crowd on the feeding platform
is shoulder to shoulder, and yes we touch,
and yes I shiver easily, and yes emotion
creates weather and the heart is a pulsar.
Over picnic we question if a giraffe eating nothing
but rye crisps, standing in a sunken cement pen
licking strangers fearful hands all day is healthy
for anyone. What is the body? my Soul asks,
serving me chopsticks of cold golden tofu.
Later my partner and his sister baby-talk the newest
Japanese Macaque when suddenly I notice
there’s strollers everywhere, children screaming
in fear or delight along the winding concrete paths.
O couples who must marry but might not love!
I was walking past a sullen jock carrying his unexpected
infant in a sling when his cell phone called mine:
My life has mistaken me for someone else.
Orgasms can do this, and more. Before I was born
I chose my parents, how about you?
Between molecules conversations breach lightspeed.
I most wanted to visit the 40-yr old
giant tortoise and simply climb inside.

________________

Pockets of Sheer Wind

What’s the name of that song that goes
I love you I love you I love you
right before the pedal swell of a steel guitar?
The wolf tooth moon wants to know,
not me. I want to know if I can take
a train through a mountainside, and if so,
where one might hop on. I carry an eclipse
in each eye, just in case. What’s the name
of the place where the back of my hand
brushed the ass of your Levis and we
both pretended it didn’t. I want to dance
there, to that song the moon wants
to know, with you, until we do.

_______________

The Night Longer Than Algebra

and above the dark blue sundown
a thumbnail tear in the sky reveals
the universe is nothing but white light.
But little numbers all painted white.
And what the window frames also
always moves. I asked a bird and
the answer was algebra, and the tree
was geometry and the sickle sweep
above the horizon is growing brighter,
or has the blue now all but left us?
Gratitude is the act of greeting
every stranger as if they approached you
in dream. Or every letter the moon
tries to hand you. The curved light equations
pouring through – operators, variables,
expressions and like terms too, all pollen
on a bee’s hind legs. What the mind frames
also always moves. I asked a hive
and the answer swarmed everywhere.
To create the most realistic 3-D animation
of a waterfall, special effects teams employ fractal
algorithm programs. Only when you divide
water-rendered spheres by the divine proportion
layer after layer to infinity does it begin to appear
both falling and rising into brilliant mist at once.
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Brent Goodman’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Sou’wester, Pleiades, Green Mountains Review, Pank, Diagram, and elsewhere. Goodman is the author of The Brother Swimming Beneath Me and Far from Sudden, both from Black Lawrence Press.

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Sarah Brown Weitzman-

ODE TO YOUR FEET

How modestly and unashamed
your feet peeled out of their socks
like a secret revealed.

Almost hands
but more square, white
as wrists. Shy
shadows between each toe.

Never brazen
as big toes can be
sticking out from under sheets.

Never flinging themselves about
like hands. Never bending
or scraping like knees

or bulging obscenely like muscles
and loins. Solid as columns
of legs but stupid

as cauliflower, yes, stupid.
Stupid, stupid feet
that carried you away.

_______________

TONGUE

Pink oyster thick-tied to its shell
an uneasy existence
between neighboring gnashers

Snide in the cheek but always the danger
of a bite or a slip
or the proverbial cat
not to mention that limbo
poised at the tip

With none of its own
at the beck and call of a brain
yet a master of any language
or twister

Tasting the budding delight
as far as it goes
of licking the lips
to invite a juicy dance
with another’s to follow it in

_______________

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN MIDDLE-MANAGEMENT EXECUTIVE
Class visit, 2073

He was one of the very last to have to die
as young as ninety-eight. A man of his age

he followed the then nostalgic trends
of turning for comfort to mashed potatoes

and Prozac. Low-fat cooking and his trainer
kept him fit as a Third World laborer.

He had a really good heart
harvested from a thirty-year-old DWI,

two facelifts he admitted to but still he died
before the pills that stop us from aging now

and without a clone so he couldn’t take it
with him. Instead he left his considerable estate

to his children: the daughter who came out
right after Ellen, the oldest a fanatic

fundamentalist and even the son who believed
that O.J. was innocent. The post-modern

paintings he collected so confirmed his
Twentieth Century anxiety, they actually lulled him.

Yet he shook his head when he read
the newspaper accounts of fatal child abuse,

new detention camps in Bosnia,
and corporate take-overs by the Russian mafia

in Brooklyn. But he felt genuinely patriotic
during the war after Iraq War. Most of all

he loved mega-chain discount stores,
serial killer novels and was truly grateful

for satellite intimacy. He had no trouble
accepting life’s normal losses

but he sincerely mourned
the frogs when they became extinct

as much as he did the daily rises in the Dow.
A man who had no illusions and encouraged

sub-prime mortgage lending, we think
he spoke for his era. Note his motto there,

one of Jeopardy’s recent daily doubles
and lately taken as the slogan

of the Druglords Party’s presidential candidate:
“Who really gives a damn?” (Emphasis ours.)

_______________

WOMEN’S FANCIES

Treading the men-lined city streets we
women would like to turn those men around
and pinch their behinds
or sit next to them on buses or subway trains
with our knees spread out so wide
they’d have to sit all tensed and small
as possible to avoid any contact
or we could give them our seat
and then stand over them to look down their shirts.
And we’d never let them forget
that they have a penis or that we have a thing
for chests. We’d call them dear and doll
so we don’t have to remember individual
names and when we talk to them
we’ll stare at them below the belt
and when they’re walking down the street
we’ll keep up a barrage of whistles and comments
to keep them continuously aware of us.

In business we’ll judge them
by their looks and how they type.
We’ll pay them less than women
working in the same positions.
In bed we reassure them
that we’ve had hysterectomies
and we’ll tell each one of them
You were great, baby, you’re my main squeeze.
And when they demand equal rights, a male ERA
we’ll mention the selective service
public bathrooms, the closing of their clubs
and cite some vague religious reasons
to explain that their masculinity would be in jeopardy
and that it is ludicrous to make such a fuss over status
since we usually buy them whatever they want.
But when we finally run out of arguments
and they still insist on equal rights
we’ll just have to tell them how awful it would be
for us.

_______________

WHEN I WAS YOUNG

our a radio was a substantial piece of furniture
and the telephones had a rotary dial.
The refrigerator freezer was the size of a shoebox
My father wound his watch every evening before
he went to bed. His La Salle car had a running board.

At the movies there was a double feature, one
coming attraction, a news reel and an aged matron
with a flashlight who shined it on you if you misbehaved
and hauled herself up the stairs when the boys
in the balcony threw their chewed gum down on us.

When my grandmother died a telegram was delivered
right to our front door by the brother
of the girl who worked in the 5 & 10 cent store.
Everyone wore black to her funeral even though
they weren’t related. My mother said the word,
divorcee, in a whisper when a cousin arrived. Copies
of the death certificate were made with carbon paper

I remember when our doctor made house calls.
A dollar allowance went a very long way
because with a penny I could buy twenty jelly beans
or a long strip of candy dots on paper.
My mother believed that steak was good for me
Nothing we ever bought was labeled “Made in China”
and poems rhymed

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Sarah Brown Weitzman, a Pushcart nominee, has been widely published in numerous journals including ART TIMES, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, RATTLE, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW, THE WINDLESS ORCHARD, POET LORE, POTOMAC REVIEW, POET & CRITIC, etc. Sarah received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her latest book, a departure from poetry is a children’s novel, HERMAN AND THE ICE WITCH, published by Main Street Rag.

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Other notable work by Daniel Wilcox.

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Charles F. Thielman-

Chicago Series

’64

Headlines promising a day
of dark wings fed by thermals, sirens
circle below the plank of a dangerous night.

A paper carrier, fingers darkened by newsprint,
his arms full, walks beneath an arch of birdsongs,
porch to cement stoop, dropping The Chicago Tribune

on welcome mats, eyes and ears tracking the slow cars
and suspect doorways, pre-dawn sky like new skin,
a veneer over balsa grain, today being his turn
to raise the flag above half-mast, much
still held sacred this spring.

_______________

Jazz Lounge

Carrying spurs of transit staccato,
I retreat to here from driving city bus,
yellow brake-squeal turns, ear-drum lanced.

Hair-trigger sidewalks prepped for war,
lined with saplings.

I retreat through thick wood doors,
long fingers thrumming bass,
blued drinks slaking August throats.

My lists of angry speeches left to simmer
as guitar ignites a fire, piano smoking.
My back relaxing into the sways
of this good time crowd full of color.

A tall jazz woman broils a love song
and spoons it out, musk sauce
brushed into marrow.

All of us down for this cool balm,
spooning jazz across our full canvas,
straight from soul onto scotch burning ice.

O, she throws her full indigo song
into the rhythm-thrummed floor,
fingers snapping all here, all here,

and the specific names of trees
ease into murals of shade,
into murals of our children

holding their arms out,
waiting for doves.

_______________

Brush-Tip

Insights unfold beyond
the wishbones of wants.

Opened wings drying
above rock strata,

she’s focused on what blooms,
brush-tip carrying a bead of dark blue.

_______________

Bridge Fed

He swears his oaths, by word and choice phrase,
staccato fogs and gray scarfs drawn away by wind,
ice building on his moustache and beard
as he snowshoes towards the bridge made brilliant
by January sun, with snow etched on struts and railing

by a 16-hour blizzard, now limned bright white,
riverbank to riverbank, along that ferrous,
linear and sub-zero route.

His college rises red-bricked and heated,
across from the snow-drifted riverside park.

Balancing with ski poles, he lifts and pushes
his snowshoes over and through powder then thin crust,
salting his commitment with chant and rant,

urging his legs through snow and wind to the workshop class,

planning to deliver for critique a poem appreciating winter
writ for and to a certain young woman,
the blue-eyed dawn skier with a tropical heart

who tongues vowels into his dissonance,
brings out his laugh,
asks if the strong poles she gave him
help him to maneuver?

They have lunch at the cafeteria after the class,
dessert to be occasioned
and celebrated via his spontaneous and confident decision
to go with his first draft.

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Daniel Wilcox-

earstopper

she cadences the leavened dusk,

a sweet musician of love-summer’s night

opposite from the Haight far-coasted away;

her cute auricles dangle Beethoven notes,

in this late ‘67 Philly rock cave of peaceniks,

while outside world-round Nam explodes;

a concerted violinist with me, her conscientious

objector–we’re subjected to sought blasting,

only 10 feet from huge blockbuster speakers,

utterly noise-‘numbled’ by Moby Grape

in the dark flashing psychedelic night—

torrential storm of noise,

led heavy,

thundered down,

in trashcan-split,

eardrummed crescendo;

but then suddenly she, my classical lover,

plugs her aural openings

close-fingered shut,

fearing tonal loss

–like her mused mentor;

oh, my dear

ear-achingly beautiful girl, not swaying here

one true

earstopper for the glorious,

melodic Light.

*Originally published in different form in The Write Room

_______________

Gazing on Gaza

Like Samuel, Vonnegut gets called up from the grave
to say—

Judge for yourself,
No one’s got eyes

To see, no one with a Kingly, Martin sort of vision/dream;
Only strident martinets

Now heaving/hurling—ethically sick,
While UN diplomats ‘jawbone’ us to death

With nice resolutions; Samsonlite…

Where has their gaze gone?
(I mean gaza)

Samson’s at it again
Bringing the building down

Because he’s lost his gaze or gaza;
Only covered women (and children)

Walking wounded,
Or buried, burned, abandoned

Like the 4 youths (3 versus 1), and a few thousand,
Got cornered

Boxed and shipped,
Or cowering, smoking from past rockets

In Tel Aviv or Gaza City

No Delilah here;
Just Philistines rage on and Samson’s might holds

And many less hairs or heirs
Till Sheol…

Judges 15-16

_______________

our ‘checkered’ past

we three sons in new shoes squished hot
sticky blacktop that veined our street,
so many cracks–twisting to rock ‘n roll,

but then encountered our ogre parent;
“scrub off all that!” we got told.

i countered, “it’s the other sun’s fault–
chubbycheck mate!” with a twinkled glint.
we got railed and tarred down

to that asphalt sin
on our outer souls.

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Daniel’s wandering lines have appeared in many magazines in the United States, Canada, and overseas including Word Riot, Centrifugal Eye, Write Room, Static Movement, Camel Saloon, vox poetica, Poetry Pacific, Counterexample Poetics, and Unlikely Stories IV.

Before that Daniel hiked through the University of Nebraska, Cal State University, Long Beach (Creative Writing), Montana, Pennsylvania, Europe, Arizona, and Palestine/Israel. He now lives on the central coast of California with his quilting wife.

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Other notable works by Bonnie Maurer and Daniel Carpenter.

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Liza Hyatt-

Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

Ode to My Broomstick Skirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

A Dreamed Koan

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

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

_______________

Mythic Menopause

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

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

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

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

_______________

For Maggie, in Costa Rica

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

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

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

We have seen caterpillars
becoming blue morpho butterflies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bonnie Maurer-

Searching for the Warsaw Ghetto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

On this city bus to Auschwitz

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

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

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

Originally published in Poetica Magazine, 2013

_______________

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

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

* Originally published in Wabash Watershed online mag.,2014

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

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

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

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

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Daniel Carpenter-

Blind Love
March 2011, After Fukushima

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

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

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

_______________

Harry

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

For You

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

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

please heart
translate
her smile

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Other notable work by Cindy Stewart-Rinier.

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Gerry McFarland-

Gunner and Chuck Ride

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

_______________

Gunner’s Go-Go Girl Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

Gunner Sweats The Small Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-K Pollock

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

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

_______________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

After Three Angels Come to You in a Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sherry O’Keefe-

Living inside a Diamond

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

The Round Trip to Bonners Ferry, Mile Marker 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

Beatrice Says I May Call Her Jeep

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

_______________

Rock, Patience, River

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

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

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

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Shevaun Brannigan-

Helium Shortage: A Retrospective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

1994

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

King-Sized Bed

Evidence of the infestation:
rotten raspberry scent,

smears of feces along the mattress,
the bugs themselves

engorged from feeding,
my body puckered with bites.

At night, they crawled
on my skin and found

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

maps of their travels—
the ones to touch

my body, I thought
it has been so long.

I brought the bed
outside, struggled

to pull its weight.
The bugs burrowed

deeper into the mattress,
away from August heat,

nestled themselves
among coils, the quilting,

waiting for night
to emerge and look

for my body as
I do each night for yours.

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

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Risa Denenberg-

Reading Psalm 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I travel in this shadow, alone and unafraid.

_______________

Yellow Star

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

Saving Moses

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

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

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Mike Harrell-

Even As a Child
(after Charles Simic)

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

_______________

Pamlico*

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

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

*A sound in North Carolina.

_______________

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

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

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

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

grinning into the canvas–
remembering how beautiful we were.

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

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

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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
February – Julia Travers
March-June – Journal on hiatus
July – Simon Perchik
August – Hiram Larew
September – Kevin Casey
October – Ditta Baron Hoeber
November – EG Ted Davis

Artwork

Image of bird by contemporary artist, Courtney Smith
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