ALL SHADOWS POINT NORTH

L. WARD ABEL

I’ve got a clear view of the west here 

losing interest in eastern drones  

up and down the coast. 

 

Dryer air, the air of jaggedness—October   

always scares me. The lines are too clean: 

bolded black edges, 

 

mortality, all waking thoughts, the moment. 

Like coyotes, the world rummages through 

my garbage. 

 

Across the creek bottom, into woods,  

I rummage too. As the flyway moans  

due east of me I hear the train 

 

on its way to Manchester. It drops down  

to farmlands through feathers and the brass  

of autumn. 

 

I melt back along the creek beds and find 

convergence, hearing my name spoken like 

it’s misspelled,  

 

sung like a crow sings. The air shifts 

to a southerly. All shadows 

point north. 

THREESOME

GALE ACUFF

Before God kills me dead, which is the way

of the world they teach me at Sunday School

I'd better get my immortal soul saved

or I'll spend my immortality in

Hell and that means endless suffering and

I don't want that, they tell me, and I guess

I agree so Heaven's where I should go

and have fun forever, I guessing fun,

flying around with other angels and

playing the harp and singing even though

I can't carry a tune in a bucket

and maybe hopping from cloud to cloud to

cloud like in my room or a trampoline

but never land on the floor or ground but

to get all this I have to believe that

Jesus is the Son of God and died for

my sins and is also God Himself and

maybe even the Holy Ghost though I

don't really know who He is but at our

church God comes in triplicate, triplets, threes,

an odd number but I guess that's okay

but that's a matter for regular school

and I also have to be well-behaved

and helpful and love my neighbors as my

enemies or maybe that's vice versa

but even if so isn't it the same

and try not to sin though I always will,

I'm fallen they say at Sunday School, No

I ain't, I said the first time my teacher

told me, I'm just short for ten years old and

sometimes I wonder about being dead,

whether I'll miss real life, life in blood

and guts and bones and a little baby-fat

and did I say blood and as I grow hair

in strange places and a deeper voice and

another use for my tallywacker

other than to u-ri-nate, babies it

makes I hear though I'm not sure how but I

can ask my Sunday School teacher, maybe

she'll draw me a picture, I only want

to know before I'm dead and know it all

anyway but the diff will be in how

much hands-on practice I'll get. Thank you, Lord.

IN ONE STORY

SCOTT BADE

humanlike beings visited this earth

millennia ago although it wasn’t

Earth couldn’t have been couldn’t

have had a name in our language it

was full of huge creatures who ate

each other and some of the plants

although fauna and foliage weren’t

even those things because we know

language evolved and we believe

somebody drew it in air and then on

cave wall with their earth- dipped

implements and fingers and they

uttered it made it into sound that

signified: fern and unfurling song

of language what we hear under the

black signs of this kept on singing

and these humanlike beings

recorded in their own songs sounds

of giant creatures on this wet grassy

rock and upon those recordings

they built stories about those

creatures numinous and immense

their appetites nothing short of

legendary and these humanlike

beings from elsewhere used their

stories to show themselves how to

make them- selves how to hurt and

love and how to die which they

considered the most precious of all

gifts they had been given and when

these humanlike creatures returned

to earth millennia later they found

the huge creatures had disappeared

and had been replaced by smaller

but just as powerful creatures

maybe even more powerful but that

couldn’t be the case could never be

they said and they were right which

is both true and false

BEGIN WITH

SCOTT BADE 

a random mandarin

or something musical 

and sweet like the song

she sang when

darkness 

tried to displace

day’s green grace. Or

what 

she said when nothing

but your body’s liquid 

grew between you and

her and your breath’s 

collective wreath. How

do we encircle the sphere 

in which only touch

and thought

matters? 

Do we call it desire

and move on to tricks 

magical and

otherwise? And if so,

what do you 

see when I hold up this

card? And when will you 

tell me what it is that I

know I must know? 

BENEATH

SCOTT BADE

What is ground but something guttural green layered upon a sphere this heated ball swimming in its solutions and songs, not so different those rooms of suspension and belief. I’m praying because it’s cheaper and less invasive than surgery. Beneath the cursor: light rages. Beneath a sheet: another sheet jealous. Beneath the white field: black soul—I thought I wrote soil. If we’re being honest about history, shouldn’t the default screen be black with white text? Nevertheless, the current presentation will be continued with the knowledge that eventually black always fills the frame, completes the picture, takes the page’s stage. Beneath chair: structure’s strong legs. Beneath faith: structure’s strong legs. Beneath ink: skin and blood. Sin was there. Son, too. Beneath sky: one giant breath. Beneath rug: floor’s stories of story. Beneath hat: hair and hare. Beneath illusion: hope. Beneath hope: a hand writing a poem. Beneath a poem: every poem that came before. Beneath language: a body’s music. Beneath saying: feeling. Beneath feeling: lightning tracing us into life. Beneath life: black fields folding into black fields. 

AN IMPLEMENT

KEVIN CASEY 

Even as a boy, my father would say 

I was hard on tools--the lips of shovels

I left bent and blunted, the spading forks

and post hole diggers snapped at the socket, 

rake tines bent and twisted like tortured fingers,

mauls and headless hatchets snapped at the neck.

 

And power tools that should have eased my effort

were sent to the dump with burned out bearings,

their gears sheepish grins of shattered teeth,

their drive belts snapped out of frustration,

unwilling or able to keep up the pace.

 

If I could, I’d craft an implement to match

my simple needs to create and destroy,

something solid and balanced in my hand,

hammered on the anvil on my stubbornness,

annealed in the forge that glows within this chest.

BEDDING AREA

ZACH LEE GROESBECK 

     antlers cast above     brome 

treeline      billowing      a light 

     haze    velvet boughs 

suggest nothing                   but 

late autumn      fescues, forbs 

     all                the color of deer 

      hide             this hue: a spill of 

field dressing     the field’s margins

 

        dappled        red       stray 

lilies         dusk          a cedar

 

     cambers to            a stump 

HEARD IN A BAR IN SAN MATEO

MARK JACKLEY 

It started as a spot, a small one, on his leg,

 

          Dennis with that van, 

          those crooked teeth, that grin.

          Nothing lasts, not heat pumps, 

          toilets, HVAC units, 

          fishing boats, erections, 

          hot coffee or first wives,

          nothing but the fog 

          rolling in from Half Moon Bay,

          and the human need 

          to burn it off with words.

INSTANTS IN A CHAIN OF INSTANTS

 DIARMUID ó MAOLALAí 

startled by trains in motion, 

they ebb and clatter

as if somebody somewhere

had dropped a handful of coins. 

my hands are in my pockets - 

I stand like a stork 

in a marsh of sparse bushes,

watching clouds of starlings 

as they rise among the roofs.

 

they scatter in circles,

reform in clustered outlines. dandelions

seen at speed on video, extending 

wings of petal 

and bursting 

to collapse. another train,

the same occasion. 

the fling forward 

and the back again. the air 

 

clear in autumn; 

cold as found pennies. wind blows.

I wonder how they do it, this group,

how they move so carefully - a game of soccer,

the choreography of instants,

and of instants in a chain of instants. 

 

my train arrives. the crowd pulls forward,

collecting at the access

and crushing itself in. it's 8am. people in motion, 

with purpose and no 

communication. seem from above,

it must seem very fine. 

INTO THE DAMP

 FABRICE POUSSIN 

The simpleton attracted by the light

walked into a slippery trap to the deep

falling in the sleep of the ignorant.

 

If only he had seen the writing upon life

that these days are numbered and cruel

perhaps he would have been safe.

 

Mere little human with dreamy eyes

he may have been a maggot in the earth

pushing at dirt until his final hour.

 

A thin layer of sunshine appeared through the gate

inviting with the voracious appetite of an ogre

the neophyte plunged with the faith of the meek.

 

High above the slither a voice thundered 

bearing its poisonous saliva to fill a new sea

yet the mere human heard not a sound.

 

Buried below the molasses of her plotting soul

he swam in a desperate attempt to reach a shore

prisoner of the unending will of an ever-dying courtesan

OPEN HIPPEDNESS

 GERARD SARNAT 

My good friend 

the orthopod,

as distinct from

Kafkaesque

arthropods, may

be beyond 

redoing 2nd hip 

which pulls

on ventricular

heartstrings

to make boomer

wandering

until death way

more upbeat 

than just gritting

a few teeth 

left to this X-hippy

who despite

fire tries to meditate

but now finds 

it too hard to bear 

since returned

from his previous

place of work

where he was an MD

respected by

patients and staff

as well as

the medical director

but now no

one can bear to look

at me wheeling

in on a steel walker.

MEMORY OF BODY

 CAITLIN THOMSON

I am sick with you.

The space you take up

 

within me is minuscule

and my body is unhappy.

 

It will fade. This is not

my first time holding a person

 

in my womb. The sick vanishing

when my body is so full

 

of you, that there is too little

space for myself.

 

My body will know you then,

before my hands ever

 

hold you, before your toes

are free, not to walk

 

but to wiggle in the

filtered hospital air

LISTING

JOHN TUSTIN

I remember not ever being happy

During childhood

Except for moments.

Most of my happiness involved discovery

And investigation:

Bugs, dinosaurs, The Bible.

I would dig for bones, deeper and deeper in the backyard.

I studied Fireflies and The Revelations to John with the same zeal.

Such a silly boy,

Sweaty hair in the summer twilight, watching ant wars

On the neighbor’s slates.

Later Steinbeck, then Bob Dylan,

Charles Bukowski.

My happiness rarely involved direct contact 

With another person.

Mere moments, though:

When Traci Lauterborn shared the seesaw with me,

Raking leaves with my father,

Drawing pictures my mother would laud,

Genuinely or not.

Listening to my mother’s 8 Track of the Hair Soundtrack

Or her old Bill Cosby records

Was the epitome of emotional education:

No personal connection necessary or wanted.

 

My life always hinged on the people 

I have never met,

Never will meet.

Still, it is so.

I know people 

But I do not really know them.

I meet them and then

I invent them.

They eventually become not my invention but themselves.

Then they are gone.

I would rather masturbate than fuck,

Fantasize than make love.

My dreams are made of ether.

Nothing human exists within them.

All the sun blanched to shade.

All the shade becoming black.

I thought I knew her, 

Maybe I invented the her

That I knew.

 

I toss the book I am trying to read on the bed:

I have read it before. I don’t remember it

But I know I kind of liked it.

I remember kissing her;

The taste of her, the feeling of the room,

Us in it.

I want nothing more than to kiss her,

The booze on our breath,

All mouths and hands

Until I sleep with her body

Beside me,

Us drunk, snoring, content

If but for one sunset.

Reading Hafiz, looking for that 

Daily Affirmation

But finding nothing.

 

I remember nights with her

When my heart would burst into flames

And my body would tremble in a thankful

Supplication.

 

Fluctuating,  

Vacillating 

In my emotions and beliefs

The way I do,

I imagine the truth lies somewhere inside

My beliefs and my fear.

I am a bird who flies without destination. 

I am a bird who falls to the ground

With a well-aimed rifle shot.

At least I am the bird refusing

To meet his demise flying into a mirror.

I am the bird who flutters terrified on the ground

For your amusement.

 

Reading Bukowski and Hafiz tonight,

It is almost like reading Point/Counterpoint.

I am going to step outside for a moment,

Allow the moon to sneer at me

And contemplate her and contemplate me,

Reading and listening to music

As I list in this ocean of night,

Not a paddle or a port

In sight.

If you hear me floundering,

My lungs filling with the darkness

Of death,

Just turn up the music

And close your eyes.

The noises will stop.

 

Good night.

CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #5

 THOMAS ZIMMERMAN 

—fat bluejay   / pregnant mama   / screeching // there   //

the backyard feeder rocking with her weight   //

and you   // you fight a headcold   / drink your coffee /

try to leave a record   // just how badly 

do you need this   // stay outside and play

awhile   / your mother told you   // morning getting

darker you as write   // and when the dusk 

had thickened   / come inside   / the call almost

eternal   // come inside   / dark angel sings   /

like Mother   / turn a page and lift a pen   /  

there’s light enough to sort the gathered darkness   //

coffee’s gone   // the sky has paled to milk   //

the thing delivered might just horrify   /

but you must nurture it and not ask why   ///

CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #6

 THOMAS ZIMMERMAN

—a John Cage composition squeaks and hums   /

a random headiness you’ve come to like   //

the speakers   / even though they’re inexpensive   /  

aren’t liars   // nor are you   / it’s just

that truth keeps changing   // all this need / the way

that speaking clouds it   / seeing clears // a bluejay 

hogs the backyard feeder   / spruces suck

the filtered sun   // your slight hangover now

receding   / like your hairline   / like your gums /

and like the tide on Marco Island ten   /  

eleven New Year’s Eves ago   // remember

scotch   / the ocean’s moan   / the married sex //

collecting shells   / at least // you kept them zipped

in plastic   // lasted till spring cleaning came   ///

CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #9

 THOMAS ZIMMERMAN 

—that Escondido open mic   / your nephew

killed it on guitar   // you kept your folded

poems   / pale vagina   / in your pocket   //

sunburned forehead flaking snow   / you’re drinking

local beers you brought back warm   / packed

like ingots in your dirty clothes   // when flying

in and out   / you saw the ocean   / never

touched it   // socks got wet while walking shoeless   / 

drunk   / in midnight rain around that gated 

subdivision   // cell-phone photos just 

a husk   / the wispy kernel’s here   / between

the ears   / the hauntings of all travelers

so lightly here   //   last morning hike   / your brother’s

wife said   / “god /   your legs are so damned white”   ///

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