Poems by Gary Blankenburg

A REAL POET
For Mark

I phoned a young poet friend
and asked him what he was up to.

He said, Well, I’m eating a bologna
sandwich, drinking a glass

of whiskey, and washing out
my good shirt in the sink

with dish detergent
because I have a reading

in the city tonight.  I said,
You’re living the poet’s life.

You stay poor, stay lean, stay hungry,
shun the successful, keep at the work.


POETRY READING
for Richard Sober

It was his graceful
flamboyance--

the ease at which
he found himself

when so intoxicated,
with the audience--

that endeared him
to me immediately.

Besides being a poet,
he was also a painter.

One of his paintings won
my heart

because it had
blue chickens in it.

After his reading,
he gave away his art--

lovely, flowing abstracts
sprawled on flimsy paper.

When he scattered them
about the room

they fluttered, then paused
for a moment

on the still air.


LOST IN ILLINOIS
Chesterton, Illinois 2011

Winding my way off Interstate 74
going from Champaign to Sullivan
with my Google map beside me,
I’ve missed a country road turn-off
and find myself lost in the little
town of Chesterton.  I pull into
the gravel lot of an antique store
just as a plump Amish woman in full

black garb peddles toward me on her
bicycle.  Her basket carries whatever
it was her errand was about, and beads
of sweat have formed on her forehead.
I wave her to a stop to ask directions,
and she tells me to go straight ahead
and turn right after the one lane bridge
and proceed through Arthur.  Sullivan,

she says, is just seven miles further.
She adds that I will see signs.
I thank her and watch her pump,
her fat-tired Schwinn into motion.
It wobbles for several yards and then
straightens into a labored progress.
Her white bonnet and black dress
ripple as a car whizzes by.

I plan to watch for signs.


VITA NUOVA                                                 

The moon was many times full
while I was ignorant of its light,
while I, in moon-flooded night,
made love to my own mortality.

Each evening could have been the last,
but I would not be the one to say,
Let’s call it a night, because endings
are as bitter as the brittle moon--

the curved silvered moon I finally came
to know as a cuticle, a forecast, an eclipse.


THIS MORNING

The tall old elm tree that overlooks
the porch where I smoke and read

is ornamented with a dozen or more
vultures.  At age seventy, it’s high time

I put on my game face and commit
to a resistance of all things dark--

time to dispel all allurements of death
and man-up for the long haul.

I think about this while I smoke my cigar
and take a pull now and then on my iced tea.

This would all be so much easier if 
only whiskey were my friend.    


 

* * * 

Poems by John Buckley

John F. Buckley has divided his life between California, where he spent most of his adulthood, and Michigan, where he was born and raised and where he now attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, working toward an MFA in poetry. His collections Sky Sandwiches and Poet's Guide to America (with Martin Ott) were released in Fall 2012, as was his second chapbook, Leading an Aquamarine Shoat by Its Tail.

Deuteronomy 

These are the words their excited father spoke, no shame: “Here, oh, it’s real...your dad’s got...your dad’s won.” They loved him despite his sometimes ambiguous speech. His point: the trifling court cases were over, both of them involving accidental damage done by his mean rowboat
to the rotted-wood dock of his neighbor, A. Michael Light, preening brother- in-law to the sheriff. Their father had been fishing and only just possibly drinking, had come back and tied his boat to the dock at one end, not the other, had been in a hurry, had gone home earlier than usual with some irritation because their mother’s newish job at the hospital gift shop had scheduled her early that day. The kids needed watching. The boat drifted and spun a bit, knocking against the dock in the next slip over. Crackity!  Mr. Light had complained, so their father, a just man, had gone back to the lake a few days later with lumber and tools, had built the man a brand-new dock of good wood. An anus, A. Michael Light, talked to his kinsman the sheriff and others. The Man charged their father with mischief. Mr. Light sued their dad in small-claims court for damages. Both of these niggling cases took multiple months to see through, as justice wrestled law, as mercy hid under the sink. But! Justice won, as always, thanks to the mighty, terrible hands of the judges. So here we are now, cheering and chanting words of victory.

The Lifespan of a Stuffed Tiger 

The Orange County Fair is awesome, a testament to dry chicken kebabs and fried Oreos wrapped in bacon, a world of easy children, laughter, and beer-drenched humidity, including the world of the 1950s’ tomorrow, complete with silver-caped space goats dropping space turds at the space petting zoo. There are many games of supposed skill, skill at being an alleged winner with a presumably big penis, of cups and bottles and rings and piss-yellow ping-pong balls. His ancestors forged their prowess with iron blades on the battlefield, seizing fertile land and fruitful women as though raking in tall mounds of chips at the high-rollers’ table. He pays some limp bills for three laser-blip shots at the wooden duckies crossing the painted landscape eight feet away. Three pings, three electronic quacks mean one powder-blue tiger, which he gives to her, pleased, his lady on this first date, who thinks nothing at all about casinos and conquest.

It used to be all about love. After the deepening, after they move in together, the tiger perches on the headboard in their bedroom: their firstborn, they joke. They will never know about his actual low sperm count, the improbability that they will ever have children not stuffed with plastic fluff by slave labor in Guangdong Province. The tiger watches them make love. The tiger watches them not make love. The tiger watches them embrace both possessively and tentatively, increasingly awkwardly, then sleeping turned away from each other. She names it Tigey — not a family name — around the time he stops rushing home for dinner, because he has a stressful, demanding job and he has to take care of business and what does she have to do all day but take naps and write and maybe do a couple of dishes? Tigey does not cry when Mommy and Daddy fight.

When he really thinks about rocking her head back with one good punch with some body behind it, when she looks at the broken glass on the floor and wonders how much sharp dust she could really slip into his plate of beef and broccoli, the whimsy of Tigey seems superfluous, even during each one’s guilty cooling-off period. When the crack becomes a rupture, when the separation does occur, he ends up with the stuffed tiger by default, because he has a new apartment and she only has a new room in a house. She has no space or patience for unnecessary crap. Tigey does not cry. He cries. He buys a dog, a Labrador retriever that licks the tears from his face. Up goes Tigey! The dog brings it back. There goes Tigey! The dog brings it back. Over and over, artificial primogeniture gives way to fetch. The soft fruits of Guangdong Province begin to spill across the living-room carpet, like fuzzy plastic seeds in a land fertile with possibility, new seasons. Good dog, good dog.

 

* * *

Poems by Janet Butler

Janet Butler teaches ESL in San Francisco and lives in Alameda with Fulmi, a lovely Spaniel mix she rescued in Italy and brought back with her. Some current or forthcoming publications are The Blue Bear Review, The Chaffey Review, Miller's Pond, and Ascent Aspirations. "Searching for Eden" was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2012. "Upheaval" was one of three winning selections in Red Ochre Lit's 2012 Chapbook Contest. 

The Departed 

The news drones on and spills from the tv
while I knit. War ghosts and other griefs
drift like smoke around the room, weaving themselves
into the empty spaces of knit/purl, the forest green I carefully chose
darkened with their shadows of ash.
 
Faces flicker alive on the thin skin
of cyber space, their pixelled vibrancy a tease
that comforts imagination, while hands and fingers
long for the surface touch of a photograph,
real enough to press longingly against a longing heart.
 
My knitting needles grow heavy. They slow and stop.
I unravel the darkened weave of snared ghosts
freed to search for the dark road to heaven.


Bus ride

We meander though the city in wide time
our plump driver a happy Buddha, her flesh rolling
in waves over the small hard driver’s seat.

I catch a glimpse of sun-
light breaking 
scintillas on fenders and hubcaps.

Honeycombed apartments stack to the sky
their half-drawn blinds shadow interiors
 backing away from curious eyes.

The streets vibrate with disorder
disciplined by invisible walls that rise
from white lines harried cars nose up to.

I watch the crowd ebb & flow
a momentarily merge of disparate lives
awash through afternoon streets.


Why Moon is blue

She floats in her sea of salt
a knuckle of reflected light
agape with the pain of abandon,
tethered by old ties to that distant
blue dot, plump, ripe with life.

My love, she cries. 
Echoes fill the night with unease
and lonely women walk to windows,
search her sad eyes in sisterhood

they too  lonely moons that orbit
now distant planets, reflected light
grown dim,  mouths agape with pain
tethered by old ties, unraveling.

 
Dying mermaid

The day holds promise, limpid  
in early hours, and she feels the moment
cleanse her from worry. 

A soft breeze, light as dawn, cools
her.  A veil of curtain lifts,
throwing transparent shadows

over floor and bed, illusion of movement
 in the quiet room where he sleeps yet, his back
facing her, its stare mute.

She looks towards skies blue like that wide ocean
of promise they stood before in another life,
Eden gleaming in the distance. 

Currents that once buoyed a happy mermaid
heave her out to sea.  Her world pulls back,
its shores misting in the distance.


Walking the dog

My dog and I walk the early morning hours
when sky begins to crack and egg shell colors spill through
muted, spring-like in their freshness.

The air tastes of faraway stars
a lingering metallic tang become green-scented breeze
that clears the head.

We walk in a silence full of the bustle of waking things,
of trees  that rustle and stretch under a bluing sky
flooding  east to west.

Minutes thicken with life. A pale sun hardens,
shadows seep from sidewalk cracks and flood streets
as dog and I turn towards home.


 

* * *

Poems by Dane Cobain 

Dane Cobain is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he's not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found in front of a screen tweeting as @DaneCobain or developing his website.

Screech

The screech of rubber
and he hit him like a bad boxer,
broken bumper and three-starred
GTA.
I was omnipresent
but I didn’t get
the numberplate.
It happened like a shipwreck – 
they circled like a vulture
and took away the whiplashed
forever burning brake-pads,
no cops, no green, no
nothin’ but the gaslight.
It all happened in
the midsummer moribund
broken-carred regret
of Friday night
night-life.


Indefinitely

This is a real bad city
full of crazies
and between the drugs and the booze and the sex
there’s nothing to e-mail home about.
Mother turned 49 this year
and I’m living away from home
with a real job, this time.
And there’s a real bad place in this city
that I haven’t managed to find;
it’ll be out there somewhere,
like we all are.
I cut my hair short for the summer,
looked presentable at weddings,
prepared for a first and perfect pitch.
I sang songs along the motorway.
But it’s a real bad city
for my real bad posture,
slouching in the sunshine smoking cigarettes
‘til someone send me home.
I read the one true poet
and make a start on the Stella.


Natwest


Couldn’t peel a banana with their eyes open,
Couldn’t drink a glass of water.
Couldn’t manage money if he were a footballer.
Couldn’t make a hyena smile.
Tell you what though,
they’re pretty good at
stealing my money…


The House of Nations

Bobbie dressed to kill
Alex and Simon
who ran bars like rappers’
Christmas presence.
One girl,
with mismatched tits and spiderweb leggings
dropped a cigarette in to the road
and refused to pick it up again.
I know people
‘cause people are always the same
but I could talk about that
forever.
Meanwhile,
in the urinals,
I wonder why the hell
I piss so quickly;
 I’ll be washing my hands
while you’re still shaking.
This is public relations.


A Child’s Drawing

In the gutter,
rolled in to a jet black cone
with two gold stars
peeling from the paper.
It’s raining
outside the pub,
the smokers smoke and cough
cradling death with one hand
and an iPhone 4 with the other –
a cassette tape case.
One woman smokes it like a pencil;
I’m on my way home.
The rain’s falling fast,
cars roll by and splash
me with
oil and dirt;
the drivers stare
at me and not the road,
whispering my memos.
They’re building new houses
Across the road –
I wonder who’ll move in.
Honey, I’m coming home.

 

* * *

Poems by William Davies Jr.

William Davies Jr. has published in The Cortland Review, Bluepepper, The Wilderness House Review, Gloom Cupboard and others. He lives with his wife, Theresa, on 10 acres in rural Pennsylvania where they produce their own wine.

Along the Road

Globules of honey
in glass jars
on a porch
for sale, 
together with grasshoppers
sustained John The Baptizer.


Cornucopia

The bees, fatted
Over the goldenrod
Like Chinese junks
In a typhoon,
Sinking in
A yellow sea. 


Crickets

Early Autumn
A lowing from 
Jack-in-the-pulpits
Invisible music
Almost tinnitus
On sheets of dawn. 

* * *

Poems by Tatjana Debeljački

Tatjana Debeljački was born in Užice. She writes poetry, short stories, stories and haiku.


Oh Poem...

Yesterday I was enormously strong.
I immured wishes with no hope in love.
With cheerfulness I painted all the agonies.
Let the scents shine in flowers.
let the blossoms of my joy bloom.
I ‘m reminding with the poem of wrath.
Mature bodies are turning after the immature.
Their breathing varies, uneasy...
Loud resounding of panting secretly.
Liveliness wants to play the open hand.
Exciting liveliness has piercing tendencies.
Tickling with eye the pigeon’s feather.
Listen to the bird in mouth, imprisoned by vocal cords.
Dive into the river springing from the eyes.
I am walking towards your beauty through the world brightened with meadows.
Prepossessed conscious of immoral principles is waking up.
I found you cramped with rigor,
Asleep on the threads of moonlight.
Scarified dignity.
I’m always late in everything, held by demanding.
The sky is opening, getting bright for happiness.
You are lifting up still sleepy and unaware of your magnificence measured by centuries.


Japan In April

Truly stunning, sometimes careless,
I crave silently and far away!
Naked, filled up with perfection,
I am attending enjoyment!!!
Where there is trust there is always glee.
He never painted my passion,
Dreams from the color to the word,
Without suspense and shivers.
The moment of light strikes me.
Pressing Japanese air onto my face.
April is slowly spilling its colors,
above duplicate shadows dancing away.


Devoted

There is no truth,
the truth and the lie
support each other!
In every truth
there is something deceiving!
The ambitious lie
is not so deceiving,
fictional, not eternal.
There is no truth contained in it
adjusted by itself.
It is solving the riddle of mystery
not paying attention if the truth
when is twisted becomes the lie!
These two opposite powers
continuously set each other to motion,
they deny each other in word puns,
start up fury, revenging rage.
Riddling, solving, I’m ashamed of you!
My eyes are hidden under the veil,
colors of light astonishing scale!!!

* * *
 

Poems by AJ Huffman

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.

My Brain Is Off

today.  I will probably need a sticky
note to remind me to breathe.  I bounce
from misunderstanding to miscommunication
and back.  Apparently, my tongue has gone
on strike.  I am tripping over
my own thoughts, spouting
uncensored sarcasm at every corner.  Come back,
my beautiful ability for bodily control.  I long to paint
verbal pastiches across polygonal planes of muted white. 
A complete portrait of comprehension.  Instead, I hang
here waiting to remember if I am supposed to
hit the nail
or the frame.

A Representation [of Obliteration]

Tonight, thought is a landmine.  And I am
a desert made of glass.  Too clear,
I see the ticking.  Tolling.  It’s time to crack
or crumble.  I open (my eyes) to your wor[l]ds.
The spark is always there.  Catching.  (Me?)
Such a pretty light[ed time bomb].  So subtle.
Our destruction is epic[ally underplayed].

 

* * *

Poems by Patricia L. Johnson

Patricia L. Johnson edited The Green Tricycle, during its time as an online literary magazine. She has work in Foliate Oak, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Apollo’s Lyre, Ars Medica, and at the online blog for The Best American Poetry. She is an administrator at The Internet Writers Workshop and writes poetry book reviews.

Landscape with Two Sisters

On the way home from the Black Hills
Father bought us dolls – Native American
women with brick red pigtails. Each doll
straight as a totem, a desolate stare 
from brown iris dots of painted eyes.
Soft doe-skin dresses with fringe.
You were three and I was five. 
Mom dressed us in matching jumpsuits,
although we really needed jeans to climb.
You scraped your toe on a foothill’s jagged rock.
I hated how easily you opened yourself in a cry.
Red drops mixed with tears, 
flecked the soil a deeper red.
I comforted you, my arms around your waist.
Eye to eye, I saw our childhood lives dissolve
into something neither of us would name.
You quieted then. Behind us the wind discovered 
a crevice to bite. Its’ sound softened 
as it prowled off into the distance. 
We stood together several moments.
Winded, cut, thirsty. Two lost figures. 
Our fates sealed in the foothill’s rocks. 
If I had held you longer would we
still be friends? But our lives separated on the foothill.
Your crying warned and held a goodbye. 
Sister of a different path. 
Stubbed-toe towhead with sky-colored eyes. 
Flowered, scrimshawed sister.
I remember our jumpsuits 
had violet flowers printed 
on a white background.
I remember I left you crying on that hill.


Fortune 500

Inside the windows on the nineteenth floor
the company’s culture wants
folded hands atop the table.
Meetings, 50 hour weeks, volunteer. 
Volunteer even if you have less time 
to see your family. Volunteer.
Yes, I will do that; yes I will do that too.
Yes, of course I will.

Working late (again) on a Friday night,
my coworker and I finish writing and grouping
copies of reports – only 15 – but five of them
placed atop each other are two feet high.
I told her she had young hands,
her stress left her mouth in tonal oboe notes.

Saturday, two hours troubleshooting
more reports that must go out Monday.
Finally I leave the glass sky tomb
and walk a nature trail. Two deer 
under the outmost folds of a stand of maples
the only division between them and me 
is a tall chain link fence. 
A dog barks. The deer know
the canine cannot rise above or filter through 
the metal mesh that separates them. 
It’s early summer so the deer are less watchful –
no hunters this early with two months until fall.

It’s Monday; I come in early and add addendums
to the reports. I ‘do good work’ as Garrison Keillor puts it.
But can he imagine the confusion
of who may be downsized out next, the hyperawareness
in each face I pass? Got to look good, got to do more.
Got to be seen. Yes, yes I will. Yes, I can do that.

My coworker casually mentions
‘in October … I’ll be gone for a few days.’ 
When she returns it will be early November.
I wonder if I will be here to welcome her back.


After Reading Rumi’s Bonfire at Midnight

Squall at sunset; inside for six days,
silence wears worn slippers.
Our clipped wings itch more than ache.
Thunderstorms pass over all week- 
today softer rains from two storms.
Five years of marriage yin and yang.
We fight fair, if at all – little nits.
Your inattention, my inattentiveness.

Still, attraction for each other. 
Distraction in the rain; a feeder band off Lily.
We eat supper and plan our business trip. 
The squall moves through - threat of
a tornado passes, the weather channel 
cancels the alert; erases its red letters.
Danger passed our house once more -
do others consider their last day?

I envision it dressed in simple warmth;
not bathed in warnings and thunders.
Fountainbleu’s live oaks’ sun-splotched,
leaves holding droplets after showers.
You ask me if we should keep the
storm shutters attached – I ask you what 
you think – and down they come since 
we will not leave town until next month. 
For now we wish to view the sun together.


Dust Bowl

With a pointing finger Grandma described the depression, 
the acts committed to feed a family. “You don’t know hunger.” 
No one kept the innocence that full stomachs afford.
Decades laid hunger to sleep. We were sate.
Grandma planted red zinnias beside vegetables.

I handed grandma clothespins as she hung laundry 
in her small suburban yard. The clothes froze 
in the October winds. In my hand she placed a pod
filled with black specked poppy seeds.

Grandma told of cattle in a storm of lost top soil, 
farmers walking livestock to slaughter 
at a nothing profit. Her Irish daughter learned 
the trap flesh held inside her milky skin. 
Black and white snapshots bought a sack of flour.

Zinnias are an ‘old’ flower the young no longer plant. 
The clothesline is idle; it sags over the patchy lawn. 
The untilled garden turns to parched clods. For years 
I kept the poppy seeds in a trinket box. Rattled carelessly
until the pod broke, spilling peppery dots. 
An infertile legacy. Both box and seeds lost.


Silueta

"I have sent myself within the same elements
that produced me, using the earth like my
linen cloth and my soul like my tools."
----- Ana Mendieta

Ana in exile. Landlocked 
in the gouged hills of a new land. 
Sent by parents with her sister from Cuba, 
Mother and father remained behind,
island of no escape. 
Give our children better lives. 

Ana walked an Iowa footbridge. 
Art campus on one bank.
Steps above flowing water.
Each trip a rebirth of Ashe’s force.
The current knows her name - 
woman who spirits earth to art.

Ana carves granite into silhouette. 
Hands work rock with chisel and mallet. 
Her form emerges. Her shape altered 
into curved womb. Hard child-bearer, 
body cathedral. Ana scatters sacred flowers. s
Petals fall like sangre onto stone. 
Ana of Cuba. Iowa orphan. 
Mothered anew in effigy. 

First Iowa lay immersed in Ana’s ocean. 
Then marshlands formed. Glaciers cut 
rolling hills. Tall grasses thrived, burned. 
Crops planted in rich black loam. 
This was the land Ana knew.
Fertile body feeding the world. 
Bluestems survive on hidden prairies.
The wind still whispers over them.

* * *

Poems by Robert Laughlin

Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California. He has published 100 short stories, 200 poems and one novel, Vow of Silence. Learn more at his website.

Light Verse: A Serious Defense

The ancients knew the crying mask and laughing mask are peers.
So very much that’s human cannot be expressed in tears.

To those who say the tragic voice should claim especial height:
You’ve shown your darkness cannot comprehend the shining light. 


Punishment

What, send them to their rooms?
With not a thing to do but play with their computers, phone their friends, tune in their radios and television sets, et cetera, et cetera?
I had more smarts than that: I sent them to each other’s rooms.
Son Patrick found himself the only human in a settlement of Anna Lees.
Danielle found out her bed would be a giant football shoe, her company a captive scorpion.
Five minutes passed, and both of them came running out to promise they’d be good. 


Shot a round of eighteen (to the tune of “Sing a Song of Sixpence”)

Shot a round of eighteen;
A score card full of squares.

 Couldn’t roll a strike or
Pick up any spares.

Proving I’m an athlete
Is nothing but a dud.

Time to find myself a couch
And call myself a spud! 


Upon Receiving a Rejection Slip with No Publication Named

Dear Editor Mysterious, please hearken:
Which door is yours, the one I mustn’t darken? 

 

* * *

 

Poems by Lindsey Miller
Lindsey Miller is a printmaker who currently lives in Incheon, South Korea, teaching English.  Her hobbies include printmaking, writing, and running.

Means and In-Betweens

Julysia, oh, what were they thinking when
they dropped a name like that
on you?  Oh, July, Elysian, delirium, what were
they going for?  Unfair, Julysia, you
just born, saddled with that anomaly, before
you knew to suck in a breath, oh, before
they even had to gut-punch you so the straps
would settle right.  Oh, Julysia.

Oh, Julysia, July is the worst month
of summer anyhow, neither coming nor
going.  Give me a June, grow a fulminant radiant
halo clouding open on a May Day tree, white
petals snowing down, next pink baubles
cracking into flowers on the rose tree of China.  July
has nothing going for it, Julysia, by July
the shine of summer has worn off, I'm sorry
to be done here.

Remember the silky silverine
voice of the flute that night,
Julysia?  Remember how it emanated
from a window you couldn't see
through, a window like a cataract, and echoed
to the park where we sat, Julysia, holding
each others' hands, where that tin whistle slipped
a noose around each our necks and
strangled tears out of our eyes
with its sharps and rills.  Oh, Julysia. 

My Julysia, remember when we
flew?  When we broke through the clouds, floated
above all the mountains, looked down at
the spines of the ranges breaking clouds like
dragon's backs coming up through seafoam, oh,
Julysia?  Julysia, connecting our hearts
is a Chinese finger-trap.  I don't know why
I'm more enamored with romantic melancholy than
I am with romantic romance, but
Van Gogh who painted his setting sun-
flowers with those rising would understand.
Do I have you hypnotized now?  Have I held
your head underwater long enough, are you in
a fugue state yet?  Look at that, May Day
petals floating in a slick, carried by the
stream.  Are you ready to give it up?  I'm ready
to give it up, Julysia.  I'll count to three and you'll wake
up, your somnambulism will stop, the spell will break,
let's get on with it, oh,
Julysia.  Enjoy your next spring, enjoy
the May Day tree bursting
into a cloud.  Enjoy the gentle night
and the clouds haloing the mountains.  I don't
love you enough to give anymore.  I love you this
much: good luck. 

Three, two, one.
Wake up.


Having to do with Fire

A summer poised.  Full of running,
readiness.  Never seeing
the fire but knowing
the fire like a stranger
uninvited browsing the
adjoining room.  Smelling strange
sweat, feeling hot breath
drafting under the door.  Hearing
the alley cats scream
at the ashy moon.  A long
summer in waiting.

That summer we lived
in a suburb of hell.  The dry
prickle on the breeze drove
everyone mad, the skuzzed-up sky induced
depression, smoke refined its presence
as fire munched through the forest,
skirmished back and forth with the
fighters.  The night, moonless, lightless; the fire
ran us ragged, chased
people from flash
point to safe point.

The smell of smoke in
my hair makes my heart
pang, beat ready, ready, ready.
Makes my nasal membranes flash dry
and prickle remembrance.  Smoke still smells
like transience.


What is Silence?

The world talks. The world
talks to itself.  If you go,
go at night, go when the world
settles under the soft-feathered breast
of the dusk. Water speaks; cars murmur
with the voice of the water. Trees
converse with the wind. Birds squabble. The snow
grunts to itself. Dusk smokes the glass sky; the world
curls up against the cold, coils up tight
as the inner ear. Birds find shelter. Nothing
moves. The night unfolds its
black wing. The world listens. The world
listens to itself.


In Transit

Think about planes.  Think about
contrails, criss-crossed once, no other
point of connection.  Do you ever think
about all those people?  Those people
in boxes, thundering their own
directions.  Think about that.  All those
people you'll never know, lovers you won't
love, generals unsaluted, messiahs
unrevered.  Scientists, presidents,
artists, instrumentalists, any one of those
behind a bored face on its
way somewhere.

A musician coaxing wood and string
to sing, in the park, in the night.
Hear that?  Does she know
you're there?  Your ear up against
your cracked window.  Hello to
the cello.  Drink it up.  This is
the magic we get, this is it.  All of us
in the audience, packed close, jowl
on jowl, never having looked each other
in the eye.  Still the music and its
maker.  She might not know you're
there; this soundless, shifting audience,
watching her.

She might not know you're there.  The world
is like that, playing itself out to almost
nobody.  A frog,
a fish, all humanity, no difference;
the audience doesn't know
the score, the name of the song, anyone
else's name.  You barely get to know
your own name.  All those people moving.  Do you ever
wonder?  The world hushedly playing itself out,
blue hexagonal clarities ice shards
breaking from the whole into the sweep of
river.  You'll never know
the rest of that story.
Think about that. 

* * *

Poems by Mary Shanley

Mary Shanley is a poet/writer who lives in NYC. Two of her books have been published: Hobo Code Poems by Vox Pop Press and Mott Street Stories and Las Vegas Stories by Sidestreet Press. She publishes online at: Mr. Bellers's Neighborhood, Blue Lake Review, Logos Journal, Hobo Camp Review, StepAway Magazine, Anak Sastra Journal, Shangra-la Magazine., Underground Voices, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Poydras Review Poetry and Prompt Literary Magazine. 


It Wasn't Enough

You danced around the barbed wire fences
that cornered your life, like a harlequin,
laughing, colorful,  boasting, loving.

Your life was like crystal energy,
it brought out  the best
and the worst in yourself.

You were radiant, lit by a fire that could not
be extinguished. You suffered the anguish
of one who was never loved from first breath,
yet you somehow found your way to love
but it wasn't enough.
and then there came a pause,
and everything went dark.

When the birds flock to the fire escape
outside the apartment where you lived
they sense something is wrong
and they fly away, chattering in birdspeak.


The Stories You Told

The stories you told
were they wired into your head
some great novel never written
and so you told spoke your days in chapters
like the life you wanted to have
or the life you had
that was never clear
but you sure liked to talk about it.

was it the telling of the story
that you were so passionate about
or was it more simple than that
and the stories passed through your eyes
like strangers and when your eyes briefly met 
there was a surge of electricity
and you recounted your tales
and they quietly they passed on
swallowed up by the crowd
in the streets.


 

* * *

The Lucky One

By Mia Sara

On the lip of the bottomless abyss of disappointment,
My grandmother sits in the rec room,
sewing me a slip. The venetian blinds permit a greenish light,
so it must be Montclair, New Jersey:
light as cool as her old Frigidaire.
I don’t like to mention that I never wear skirts.
Her knuckles are swollen with leftovers,
But she’s very good with the scissors. She snips coupons
for dead sisters, “ ’cause ya still gotta eat.”
She was always the lucky one.

On the lip of the bottomless abyss of disappointment,
My sister pins a photo of our father to the inside of her slip.
It’s going to draw blood: blood the color of the roses in her hair.
I help her to walk down the aisle; every step is a calculated miss.
Soon, she’s going to shed her flesh and fly away.
It’s a girl thing. She can’t win, but if she did,
she’d have to be the lucky one.

On the lip of the bottomless abyss of disappointment,
I treat all the sisters to manicures at the mall,
nails the color of gravestones. I could finally let my hair down,
but I cut it off. Everyone’s getting along; they’re so chatty;
The dead aunties laugh at my sister’s jokes, and
I have to tell them when it’s time to go, or we’ll all be stuck
at Paramus Park forever, that cauldron for cut-rate alchemies:
no finer place to transmutate the losses.

On the lip of the bottomless abyss of disappointment,
my mother removes paintings from the wall of the hotel room in Paris.
Her slip is showing and the Eiffel Tower, tall and gray,
is standing at the window, singing a chanson with top hat and tails,
but she doesn’t notice. Some romance. She steps back to admire her work,
all the empty places. Her masterpiece.

On the lip of the bottomless abyss of disappointment,
My sister and I fly to Rome. She’s not afraid to keep me company.
The traffic is streaming all around us; it’s time to visit the ruins.
We consult a map and look just like tourists. She checks first one way,
then the other. She takes my hand and pulls me in. Way to go, kiddo:
how to be the lucky one.

 

Born and raised in New York City, Mia Sara made a reluctant move to Los Angeles to facilitate a career as an actress. Now retired after twenty-five years, she has taken up poetry to stave off insanity. Mia’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Saint Ann’s Review, The Dirty Napkin, Forge, The Kit-Cat Review, PANK, and Cultural Weekly. 

* * *

A Bum Goes Home for the Holidays

By Sam Silva

A BUM GOES HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Frosty is the nitwit mind
which stumbles Autumn
leaves... and beer
bristling at the lips
the savage poet coughs and spits
the chill within his wayward song
the song within his likewise leer
on such a wondrous holiday
...turkey day or Halloween
soaked in rum
and drenched in wine

..."I paint a hollow Saturday with words."
so moans the poet blind
stumbling on the freezing wind
...stumbling ever southward
after birds. 


Sam Silva has poetry in print magazines including, but not limited to Samisdat, The ECU Rebel, Sow's Ear, The American Muse, St. Andrews Review, Dog River Review, Third Lung Review, Main St. Rag, Charlotte Poetry Review, Parnasus... most (but not all) of these magazines are now defunct.

* * *

Poems by Jessica Tyner

Jessica Tyner is originally from Oregon, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been a writer and editor for ten years. Currently, she is a copy writer for Word Jones, a travel writer with Mucha Costa Rica, a writer for TripFab, a copy editor at the London-based Flaneur Arts Journal, and a contributing editor at New York’s Thalo Magazine. She has recently published short fiction in India’s Out of Print Magazine, and poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, Solo Press, and Glint Literary Journal.

Bouquet of the Body

What they don’t tell you about starvation
is that you hunger for nothing.
The pounds drop, an exhausted mother
letting go of a wailing newborn. Inches
slough away, callouses and tired skin
pumiced off with a burning stone.
I never once felt empty.
Instead, my stomach grew tauter,
crescent arrangements wilting beneath eyes
bruised and battered as wedding day gardenias
buried in creams and powders –
and my hip bones blossomed,
a quiet display of Asiatic lilies,
sickeningly sweet and nearly weeping
before the decay sets in.

 

The Carving Station

Miguel fed me sips of whiskey as he stitched
a nadie te pareces desde que yo te amo
across my rib cage in between
moles and scars and halting English,
discarded fragments of the cancer.
In the undergrad days,
my professor said always, always
have beautiful words – 
other than your own – 
running through your head.
You don’t want to wake up
locked in solitary confinement alone.
Every day comes in the end.
The malignancy is the shackles, you
were the padded walls
and a Chilean poet was my grasping hope
escaped from my slipping mind,
a pedestal beneath carved breasts.

 

Bronco Busting

The years whipped strap burns through my fingers,
gnawing on slippery palms as I scrambled
to tie-down rope you,
a cowboy cinching a calf’s noose.
We were in Pendleton,
the last stop on a lifetime of pulling leather.
You bought me a Stetson and snapped
roll after roll as the Indians strapped
on paper numbers and feathers,
dancing for the white crowds.
You,
above my huckleberry, I thought impossible
to break – 

clove-hitched to my post
as I slipped hobbles over your boots
in our heat-soaked boom town,
manure cloying as a perfume.


 

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