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Volume 13, Issue 2
Spring 2010

 

Nancy Bowman-Ballard William Ford Keith Moul Catherine OBrian Rena Lee
Adrienne Christian Robert Demaree Martin Kimeldorf Howard Stein Davide Trame
Robert Phelps William Doreski Serena Tome Andrea D'Urso CE Chaffin
Linda Mills Jeff Bernstein Frank Traverse Matthew Dexter Nancy Scott
William Alton Holly Day Marty Silverthorne Jeff Dutko
 

 

Nancy Bowman-Ballard

Of the Night

Rain slick streets
like mirrors
beneath the dark
skyscraper landscape
flash blue and red
and tires slap
the wet pavement,

laughing crowds
cross the street
and the lonely
lean against the
brick store walls,
looking at the ground,

"Give me some change!"
echoes a breath
that creeps down
the back of the neck,
hand out-stretched,
shoulders turn him away,

as bright light counters
dark alleyways
that lead to sins
hidden from the
glow of the lamplight,

and pretty girls
flash their smiles
across the bar,
drinking frothy beers,
fingers crossed
for love's calling,

in the dangerous
and bittersweet
beauty
of the night, the city.


Nancy Bowman-Ballard writes, "My writing credits include the Lynch Award from the Poetry Society of Texas for my poem, "Waiting", and the upcoming publication of "Quiet Hills" in the Dec/Jan issue, Pennine Ink Magazine, UK. Other writing credits include second place in the People's Choice Awards for a short story in The Storyteller, as well as publications of another short story and an essay in Redrosebush Press." 

William Ford


Christmas Pageant  

That’s how we shepherds appeared,
the long gray robes frayed,
not Mary’s blue or angel white,
0ur role simply to be on hand
for the great star’s hovering
like a satellite in the sky
and the coiffed men with far
away tongues praising God
for Jesus in the manger.

                                 
My heart felt pure then, not
fussing at rehearsal or trying
fo take off the robe though it itched
in every place not covered
by underwear—a sacrifice
of sorts, what the pastor said
would yield, at the final judgment,
a jewel to anyone’s crown.

More pageants would follow
until I was old enough
to walk down the aisle convinced
Utterly of my need for salvation
in spite of the years in church
and acting the parts of
shepherds and wise men
and, finally, Joseph, whose
Mary would glance up sharply
because he couldn’t take
his eyes off her budding chest.
 

Of the Later Duke Ellington 

 "Latin American Sunshine"

No, it hasn't the richness
of other melodies
or the gut bucket beat
of the libido.

This one's from later,
after the Sacred Concerts
and the Newports
and how many road gigs
when he'd sit in silence
tired and smoking
with just enough light
to see the keys.

It's one high note struck
and held a full beat
followed by a short bend
into the next phrase,
then a delicate staccato
swirl widening into
a little samba
of joy and thanksgiving
anyone can dance to
who has or hasn’t played
barstool solo
way too many nights.
 

For Sale : Church and School

Naved by trees, the roofs
pitch rusted nails,
and the towers untwist
unbelled ropes.
We've seen them before,
white, spired rectangles
conceived in New England,
moved west town by town--

Large single rooms, what most
people had to civilize
the beast imagined outside
but found in themselves
if not the small print wonders
of Milton, the Bible,
and, in lovely half-calf,
Bulfinch’s Mythology.
Along the Washington coast,
these two may be the last ones
for the sea congregates
the sea from this point on.


William Ford has published two books, most recently Past Present Imperfect (Turning Point, 2006) and his poems have appeared this last year in Brilliant Corners, Cafe Review, Free Lunch, The Iowa Review, Southern Humanities Review, and, this month, Able Muse.  Pudding House will publish a chapbook, Allen & Ellen, this fall.

 
Keith Moul

Taking Lessons

They had agreed that his crime
would not be labeled theft--
but surely he had taken:

lessons.

But he was as often self-taught,
as though life were a guitar,
fretted, stringed tight and tuned;
requiring only calloused fingers
nimbly pursuing expert chords,
or caution with sharps and flats.

She could not know
his longing to perform.
The guitar gathered dust,
but he kept it for potential sounds
and recollected scales.

Taking Refuge 1

They had agreed that his crime
would not be labeled theft--
but surely he had taken:

refuge:

from her
on a white day
bright with ambivalence--

so he holed up
in a billiard hall,
as a red ball clicked
off white balls,
all caroming
from cushion to cushion
by thud-thud-thud and whiz.

In a dark room,
among drowsy old men,
he discovered everything:
three cushion mathematics,
perfect globes
on a soft field
of green felt:
a lighted universe
holding firm.
 

Taking Up Residence

They had agreed that his crime
would not be labeled theft--
but surely he had taken:

up residence

in a Saxon farmhouse of mind
on a hill fostering illusions
overlooking meager fields.

Like a crow visiting a baleful place,
he swaggered and hopped over carrion,
then flew to a safe distance and watched.

She watched too, but from within a skirmish,
dodging projectiles from armed peasants.

Chuckling, he chronicled the action.

With paper so dear, she offered
no alternative version of events.

Keith Moul has written and published poems for more than 40 years, many in some respected journals and little magazines. These three poems are from a future collection called To Take and Have Not. He calls them idiomatic poems in the sense that they start with common phrases that include the verb "to take" and then try to make something new out of the language.


Catherine OBrian


Cartesian Doubt Revisited

At the core, uncontrolled
fires melt metallic dreams
neither realized nor remembered,

So rapidly are they rendered
amorphous in the flaming furnace
of the dreamer’s subconscious mind.

Beyond the biological determinism
of deoxyribonucleic acid, dopamine,
and molecularly imprinted memories,

Does free will exist or is it merely
a conceit that science will dismiss
with other dated dogmas, Cartesian
dualism and the pope’s flat earth?

Am I sitting beside you in blissful
contentment at the dictate of genes
and neurotransmitters, or do character and
love transcend molecular machinations?

Smiling you reply that relationships
shape us and I should not lose sleep
over the number of neurotransmitters
that might dance on the head of a pin.
  

Moon Dreams

Awaken from your recurrent
dreams of an irrecoverable past
to the recurring nightmare of your
exile with these skeletal remains.

Admire for once the stark beauty
in these smoothly burnished bones
and the history memorialized
in the marks and nicks that mar them.

 Listen not as the lying bones
importune you to let them
continue to breathe in the sun
and bleach to an alabaster glow.

Dig with your fingers to
encounter unearthed earth that
gloves your hands with pungent
loam as they bury brittle bones.

Pressing down the soil, splay
your fingers like starfish arms and
meditate on the dark crescent moon
dreams displayed beneath your nails.

Old News

Suspended in time, we lie
at odd angles on an unmade
bed casually reading the stale
news of the Sunday Times.

Sipping weak coffee in the
afternoon light, we wordlessly
exchange the sections we’ve
read or merely abandoned.

You offer me the week in review
as I give you the sports pages,
though our hands do not touch,
and our eyes fail to meet.

While you scan scores and stats,
printed words blur under my gaze
as my mind is suddenly crowded with
the cacophony of our imploding silence.

Yet I am unable to disrupt this spell with
speech when I look up at you, oblivious
and content, as you reach for a pen
and your Sunday crossword puzzle.


Catherine OBrian was a biomedical academician in a previous life with over 100 publications in scientific journals who now works as a medical writer and thrives as an aspiring if mostly unrecognized poet, with one poem accepted for publication at Penny Ante Feud this spring.

 

Rena Lee

Shoes

This is not about an old woman who lives in a shoe, or
any other nursery rhyme, but about one in a tiny apartment
on the tenth floor of a large walk-up dilapidated building.
This woman has no children, no husband, no next-of-kin,
in fact nobody, except the neighbor – a kind soul from
across the hall - who comes to check on her before
going to the supermarket.

This is an old woman who lives in her cramped stuffy
place utterly out of time. Nobody can estimate her age,
and even she seems to have forgotten –
Shriveled, ailing and often confused, she sometimes
doubts she was ever born.

The entire space is so full of the past that – for lack
of room - every new day is destined to remain outside.
In a blur she may recall when as part of a pair she used
to be whole, as opposed to the now diminished self
apart.

In a blur she may recall how then they were like a pair
of shoes, or gloves, committed and complementing
each other. For shoes and gloves make sense only
in pairs, a single shoe can go nowhere, and a lone glove
is indeed a pathetic sight -

How then they were going places together
hand in hand left and right. And how at night upon
returning home they’d put their shoes in a row at
the bedside, climb on the bed, and make lots and lots
of love, until the springs turned strings, the bed
transformed into a one-of a-kind musical instrument,
and the shoes below started bouncing and dancing.
She still can remember how wonderful it was, but not
how it felt.

There is this old woman who lives in a tiny apartment
quite by herself. Reduced and often confused, she keeps
watch over her beloved’s last pair of shoes he  had no
chance to wear. Those “New Balance” sneakers he bought
when balance wasn’t much of an issue in the wheelchair.
Now they’re standing over there where she can’t escape
their stare, and she doesn’t know anybody,
anybody at all they may fit -

Rena Lee is the penname of Rena Kofman poet and writer, a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of NewYork, and the author of eleven books in Hebrew, six of which are poetry.
A seventh comprehensive volume of poems is due to be published in Israel shortly. Her work appeared (in both Hebrew and English) in many magazines, anthologies, scholarly journals, etc.
For more details, listings, awards, reviews of her writings and samples thereof, please visit her internet site www.renalee.net


Robert Phelps

Sure

Among opaque commitments,
clarity;
Amid uncertainty,
a nod;
To strategic cunning,
yes to everything;

In fear of attack,
an open window;
Facing clamor for privacy,
an unlocked door;
In a world of fists,
a baby’s hand; At a time of mistrust,
a full refrigerator;
Where there’s lust for stuff,
empty pockets;
In complexities,
simplicity.
 
You simply said ‘sure.’


Robert Phelps writes, "I'm an almost (June) 70 year old Franciscan Capuchin priest, and have been writing 'things other than letters' since 1991, when I went on a private retreat in the rain forest of western Maui, and wrote my first poem called Indwelling. It was a terrible poem, but I was bitten, and have been compulsively writing ever since. I had a great opportunity, when I served in Hawaii, to audit, for free, classes under Susan Schultz and Steven Curry, and I've taken several times, the on-line course of the Gotham Writers Guild, out of New York City.

Adrienne Christian

Portrait of my Muse

Every word in every poem is for him,
the man who crept into my life like Claus down the chute,
wanting nothing more than to bring joy and laughter to this
once-broken girl.

Like a daily devotional, he massaged
the kinks from my soul. Like an amulet, a talisman, he took
the fear from my thinking, taught me to call darkness mystery,
to call unknowing adventure.

And like a rescue team searching for
survivors, he pulled my papers from the trash bin, smoothed
out all the wrinkles, explained it’s my job to do the
work, not judge the work.

The stories in his eyes incite me to
pen, the laughter on his lips inspire me to compose. With
his voice as calm as the month of May, he encourages me to
relax into the light.

Adrienne Christian is a Poet, Freelance Writer, and Associate Editor for Silk Road Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Michigan Chronicle, Today's Black Woman Magazine, and African Vibes Magazine. She is currently earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.


 
Robert Demaree

Virginia Tech

Film loops roll all day:
College kids, police running,
Another cable news orgy of violence
That Dylan Thomas might refuse to mourn:
Young dancers who will not see the stage,
Second Amendment rights upheld.
Politicians, journalists, poets
Insinuate themselves upon the grief of others.
What can be remembered that might help?
Two things: that college cheer,
Incongruous at first,
A cry of pain and hope;
And the old professor,
The Holocaust survivor,
Rising bravely to protect his students.
I picture him moving toward the door,
Thinking:
I’ve seen worse than this.

Epilogue

Across the campus,
Cell phones in lifeless trousers
Ringing, still ringing.


Extremeties

Etymologist, I think that
Digital denotes devices
Finger-driven, keyboards, cameras.
My grandfather’s generation
The last born expecting
To ride a horse,
Or get there on foot;
Ours perhaps the last to think
That books, magazines.
Newspapers, disks with music
Are things you hold in your hands.
We press the pause button
On the remote, aimed at the world,
Hoping frames will freeze.


Robert Demaree is the author of four collections of poems, including Fathers and Teachers, April 2007 , and  Mileposts, October 2009, both published by Beech River Books. The winner of the 2007 Conway, N.H., Library Poetry Award, he is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where he lives five months of the year. He has had over 400 poems published or accepted by 100 periodicals. For further information see http://www.demareepoetry.blogspot.com 

 
Martin Kimeldorf

Love waits subdued


Foreign policy
Strange policy in strange lands
prepares scorched earth
and bomb blasted bodies.
(Love waits subdued in a corner of our
heart.)
Everyone seems crippled by romantic myths
aborted in the rush of time.
Love lies subdued
unknown
unfelt
a fiction of commercial-land
an acne on the empire’s face
Love is sought in bottles and needles
in small unfit dwellings,
becoming simply moments freed from anger
(Love grows subdued,
and remains reluctant on our lips).
america's young gothic
People in a future age
People with embracing arms
Will look back in bewilderment, asking:
“How did they live such love-less lives?”
We were here
and not much more.....
Kept silent by vision-less eyes.
I whisper in your ear the breath of life:
”I Love You”


This poem will appear in Martin Kimeldorf’s forthcoming book How To Be In Love, Forever, published this summer by Fear Nought. It appeared previously in the summer edition of the Tower Journal. Martin lives with his wife Judy and dog Franky in Tumwater, Washington.  How To Be In Love, Forever is first book of poetry and photography. In retirement he never stops playing. His neglected website is http://www.kimeldorf.com.


Howard Stein


Maze    (After Franz Kafka)

 
It is a maze
Unlike any other
You have ever seen.
You enter at the beginning,
Wend your way,
Hunch upon error,
Certain you are learning
From your mistakes,
Only to realize --
Oh, so slowly --
That no matter
Which turn or corridor
You take, there is no exit
Comparable to the entrance,
And that through the entrance
You can no longer leave,
For now it is closed.

Howard F. Stein, a psychoanalytic anthropologist, has taught at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City since 1978.  He has published six books/chapbooks of poetry, the most current of which, Seeing Rightly with the Heart, will be published in late 2010 by Finishing Line Press.  


Davide Trame

Native Village, Now

Cleansed dents in the walls’ white stones
and in the chinks fresh, bristling, shining cement,
a lane of old just restored houses.
After the rain a swell of green on the hills,
the proud trees’ fists, the prints of branches an inch
behind rooftops, a mantle of bloom, earth’s
teasing cheek.
The new grave is beige granite, dry
and neat among the puddles stung by sunbeams,
he stares in his stone at the mountains, at hedgerows
just in front, and a football field, grass trimmed
on this Sunday, clappings, cheers, breaths
reaching down below, dotting the widespread
countenances in the roots.

Outside the cemetery the sun is hot
on the gravel, in the blinding glare.
You are stared at by an aged woman
pushing a bicycle, walking with a limp,
you are caught by a glimpse
of varicose veins like roots at her calves
and poppies on the roadside brushing
her black gown, in a gust of lime-trees
and a sweeping flash of motherland’s
lasting silence.

While a tune breaks in, a mobile ringing
inside a parked brand-new vehicle,
metal sheet’s shine answering light to light
grabbing you back in the fast
blade of the present.

School Flash

High ceilings, huge windows,
on the opposite wall an undulating marble ledge
and roofs on end, tiles in an expanse of brown-reds
with an unnoticed wilderness of tufts of grass
where pigeons paced and gulls, and your gaze
could find its oasis –the ten thousand suns.
Little I remember of the room that was my class,
my seat in a row of waves of desks and down there,
at the front, the big large one, and under it a pair
of perpetually crossed grey stockinged legs,
lean and muscular like a splinter from a rock
twitching into black shoes with stiletto heels
that seemed to pierce the wooden board they lay on,
heels that preached and probed.
“A dove” I declared one day from my desk,
while a booming homily progressed above the heels,
“a dove” my finger following on the roof a digressing pigeon
and the voice was on me like a hand clapping:
“Enough now, get out, you’ll stand outside, you are punished”.
So I was caught, surprised I realized
how fast the sentence can be carried out.
I was so easily caught, a fish risen to the bait.
But leaving the room I was nothing more than amazed.
Sun-struck: the floor was shaken,
windows chattered at my steps to the door,
the thin tapping on feet on the roof,
busy as ever,
so vast and untouched by any voice.

Embers

I am saying to myself
-be slow and taste
the autumn path, the leaves
orange and yellow, the shot
of their quivering glow.

On the rise walking
is hard, you hear the rhythm
of your breath’s labours
and smell the bonfire
of the dregs of the season.

But I’m never slow enough,
never stop enough
by the leaves’ countenance
that’s behind and beyond skin,
I can just briefly glimpse their sea
that distracts into concentration.

November is fast
like the after dinner sleep,
it slips quietly away
in a carpet of orange leaves
decomposing into the turf,
our softest burial.

No, I’m never slow enough
except in memory:
in fog waves the turf of a ditch
is close and bright, and slightly trembles
and these words are ants in the mulch
dragging embers.

The Long Road

The “longon”, the narrow  o’ s
of the local dialect is what I remember
in my father’s heavy spirit and voice,
o’ s pronounced as a burden to bear
when I took that road that seemed
to just continue, on and on.
In fact it only looks long,
after a bend there’s a single straight stretch
with a ridge crowded with green on the left
and meadows on the right where you would like
to glide with the whole of yourself.
Meadows with ditches sparkling with fingers
of river water, its source just behind
at the foot of a mountain.
A sunny valley on the right but on the left
a note of ongoing sadness and solemnity,
the ridge casting a steady shadow
which as a child I sensed
as the shadow and breath of life
when I cycled there, maybe unknowingly
carrying my father’s heavy spirit on my shoulders.

But I love this road, I’m cycling on it now,
this corridor of air, roots and sky,
where it’s cool even on a hot day,
at the end there’s a rise, you can already
see a patch of sun there, but it’s in the shadow here
on this passage, this transit, this ford,
where you always feel like gazing and going,
pedalling, just stuck to yourself and your way.

Davide Trame writes, "I am an Italian teacher of English.  I have been writing exclusively in English since 1993. My poems have appeared in magazines since 1999.
My poetry collection “Re-emerging” was published  by  www.gattopublishing.com in 2006."


William Doreski

Baby Rises
 

Baby rises from her crib and swims
through the violet atmosphere.
Her flipper-paws work as hard
as waterwheels. Her fin-feet slash
the ether till it bleeds. She smiles
a phosphorescence that ignites
a path through the living room, out
to the kitchen, where I intercept
and wrestle her back to her crib
and strap her down. She laughs that
unearthly laugh she made famous
on Oprah. As soon as I stagger
back to bed she’ll unlatch herself
and mount the air again, crowing
in a dozen shades of lampblack.
When you bore this evolution
you thought you could persuade me
that I’d fathered it. But Baby
resembles neither Mom nor Pop,
her mineral elegance akin
to wulfenite or tourmaline,
not to ordinary bone or flesh.
Already when unfolded she stands
taller than you. Eight months old,
she can speak, if she chooses,
Latin, Sanskrit, and Akkadian
but hasn’t uttered a word
of American. She never cries,
but when perturbed affixes us
with a railroad spike of a gaze.
We love her as if she were human,
but soon she’ll dogpaddle outdoors
and float above the village and fill
the sky. Her shadow will smother
the weakest people and shiver
the strongest till they weep. As soon
as she inherits the cosmos
Baby will embrace the planet
and squeeze it like a soccer ball,
and we’ll cry one unified cry
as she scrapes us off the surface
and we tumble into space.

Train and House Conspire


The train rattles and rackets
through New Haven and Bridgeport
but stalls before Stamford and bucks
like a bronco and tosses us

weeping into the suburbs to haunt
the ranch house we foolishly rented
from a stockbroker convicted
of cooking meth in his basement.

The house reeks of iodine,
phosphorus, muriatic acid.
Our train has progressed to New York,
leaving us to fester till dawn.

You in three shades of white and me
in SoHo black, out of date
as usual, could be characters
in a New Yorker cartoon. Too bad

the house has soiled itself so badly,
the rooms light and large, the heat
bubbling in copper pipes, the fridge
stocked with cold cuts and vodka.

We down the vodka and munch
a bag of Dorritos and listen
to freight trains unzipping the dark.
We don’t dare undress for bed

for fear the stench will permeate
the under-parts of flesh we save
for moments too propitious to skip.
At midnight you ask why the train

shed us, and how we survived
so frankly dramatic a toss
without at least wrinkling our clothes.
And how could we rent this house             

but forget to clean and move in?
We stare through the picture window
and let Manhattan’s distant glow
enrich our blood and restore us,

the stink of chemicals fading
and the sizzle of the freight trains
inscribing the night like music
stitched along half a dozen staves.

Sun-Flakes

Sun-flakes thicken the landscape.
They look as big as luna moths
but when I try to catch one

it passes through my hands like cash.
Your last message formed a clot
in my brain-stem, but the flash

of agony looked so brilliant
I thought lightning had spelled GENIUS
in the lowered sky. Then the storm

tripped and spilled like a piñata,
the snowflakes big as luna moths
but rich enough to taste like almonds,

like your quarrel in my ear.
That cyanide flavor doesn’t last,
but the aftertaste’s a lifetime

of old rubber boots and shopping carts,
broken bamboo fly rods and Ford
pickups that refuse to start. The frayed

look of the trees proves you right,
but the sun-flakes have no taste,
no substance, yet fill the air

like angels being didactic.
You don’t accept apologies
because your grandmother danced

the impossible dance of spring
with Diaghilev directing
and Nijinsky laughing behind

his fluttery luna-moth hands.
Too bad. I shovel the driveway
as if mining the landscape for clues

to the dismemberment of empires.
The clot in my brain still hurts
a little, but whatever slow bleed                 

it precipitated has healed—
and the loss of thought-capacity
resembles the muffling of snow

on boughs, and the sun-flakes whisper
like a million unborn children
who’ve never learned to regret.


William Doreski writes, "My work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently Waiting for the Angel (Pygmy Forest Press, 2009)"


Serena Tome

Blue

I am no longer Lancelot’s Guinevere
Jousting at the whispers of my foe
Living with the measure of peace
Found in a dark alley

Let me be proselytized by wisdom’s
Ancient philosophies, murdered at the
Hands of a bold life lived out

When the end finally comes, I’ll
Sip from the cool creek that holds
All my secrets, receive communion

In the presence of the firefly,
Bathe in the rain of the willow,
And wait as the stars guide winged
Watchers towards my light
 

Inshallah

Tears mean nothing in the desert
Mere precipitation
Offspring of folly
Cymbals mimicking the sound
Of discarded dish water, a hush
Between flats stacked high
Preserving the land of Abraham’s seed

Yellow manna bursts from between
Earth’s knees causing men
To walk as shadows behind wooden cradles
Carrying the remains of someone’s fears

Serena Tome launched an international reading series for African children to connect, learn, and participate in literary activity with students from around the world via video conferencing. She has literary work published and/or forthcoming in Ann Arbor Review, Breadcrumb Scabs, Word Riot, Calliope Nerve, Counterexample Poetics, The Stray Branch, and other publications. Her first chapbook is forthcoming with Differentia Press. You can find out more about Serena at www.serenatome.blogspot.com.  


Andrea D'Urso
 

The Dark Room

The cassia – bis road cuts through a degenerated countryside, but it’s still countryside.
The Macchiaioli would have had something to say,
even if displaced by the proliferation of Californian-style buildings.
But it’s when I get to the town that I suddenly realise
how life too has its pictures hanging up, its private galleries,
its Vermeers and its Hoppers, painted in the reflections of spring,
in the burnt dawns of the labourers and the workers,
in the bottom of the orgeat syrup that stagnates in the bottom of all the glasses.
How life too has its Italian gardens,
disseminated between reinforced cement, leprosy and the savoir-faire.
Life has everything. It lacks only one thing: the dark room,
that small but fundamental device that develops the negatives of our premonitions.
I ask myself then, if I should take my cue from the man with the beard,
who enjoys himself every day with charades, rebuses and the diagramless crossword.
In any case one needs great strength, real courage, to kill time
because it is time itself, that from the day it introduced itself to us
fatally wounds us and afterwards puts us all in a line on its panoramic terraces,
like hung up washing that never dries.
Maybe it would be worth getting used to the door banging continually, when there is no wind blowing.
To learn to forget, to forget by heart,
Because the present holds more nostalgia than it reveals,
because I and this long line of bobbing heads getting off the metro
are only a together of parts that do not make up a whole, but just another umpteenth of a part.

 

Andrea D'Urso, 39 years old, works for the RAI (Italian state radio and television network) as a Programme Assistant. He was theatrical assistant to actor Nino Manfredi and edited a publication on Rome and its literary citations in the 1900’s, for the bank Mediocredito. Some of his short stories and poems have been published in the following magazines: Storie, Poiein, Achab, Imperfetta Ellisse, Poesia e Spirito, Liberinversi, Nabanassar (Italy), La Nef des Fous, Chaoid , La page blanche, Decharge, Moutarde, Cahiers de poemes, LGO, Bordel, and Passages d'encres. 


CE Chaffin

Entropy

Aphids savage the rosebush.
The marigold sickens, browns.
Milk sours in the refrigerator.
Roaches pick at particles of cheese.
When there’s nothing to eat
they consume each other. 

Ashtrays fill as if by magic,
the trash barrel is always full.
Lifting it, the garbage man's
spine twists like a snake. 
He drives to the only hospital
that refuses his insurance
with its sawdust floors, straw beds
and spaghetti-stained nurses.

The near-sighted doctor can’t read
the overexposed X-ray
though the tech swears
it showed a death’s head
before the teeth rotted out.


Fish Planting

The fish and game officer
strains under the weight
of his long-handled net,
then dumps its squirming silver
into the glacial creek.

After the splash and shock
the trout obey the current,
huddled like monks,
snouts facing upstream.

One braves the mid-stream's force
only to be driven back,
twisting in foam;
others steadily wave their tails,
content to balance
their own propulsion
against the creek's.

A fisherman dangles bait
but they ignore it. 
Breathing comes before eating.
They work on breathing.

Singly they peel off,
planes in a squadron
diving downstream,
flashing over falls
into boiling pools
to seek the deep rocks
where the water is clear
but not too swift. 

After a night
in the strange water
they grow hungry.
The fiery salmon eggs
they snubbed yesterday
suddenly appeal
though they mouth them
several times
before biting
into the shock of hooks.


It 

Does it blister your eyes to read it?

Does it sink like a dental filling into your marrow,
touched by a spray of cold?

Would you trade it for enlightenment?  For gold?

Will it sing you to sleep like your mother did,
who was too shy to sing with the lights on?

Would you love it if it didn’t look like you,
if it had gills and fur?

Is it better than drugs, would you snort, inject,
rub it into the capillaries of your lip?

Would you recognize its sound,
whether a night bird screaming in the jungle

or the distant chill of a train whistle
beside the Iowa silos bent like toothpaste tubes

above the too-green, knee-high cornfields
while Judy Garland waves good-bye?

And if you waved back would you hug its absence like a favorite doll?

And if the doll were lost, could you be content?


C.E. Chaffin, M.D., FAAFP, is a contributing editor for Umbrella.  Credits include The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pedestal, The Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review and Rattle.  He published The Melic Review for eight years.  His new volume, Unexpected Light, was released by Diminuendo Press in 2009.  He also teaches an online poetry tutorial.  Inquiries can be made at http://www.cechaffin.com 

 

Linda Mills

Near Miss

Diving
Pelli’s beer bill
snaps shut behind a fish
while wings beat hard to skim rising
sea swells


Mill Garden                     

 
Early
bloom daffodils
sway in the rising flood
the old millwheel shivers with its
passing

 

Jeff Bernstein

A Winter Walk in the Late Twentieth Century

Sometime last century
we found ourselves walking
the main street of a small village
white and green houses
completely snowed in.

Front doors vanished
behind upside-down coconut ice
cream cones waving over blinding sands.
There were no visible routes
for ingress, egress, any gress.

The town library waged
a brave and unsuccessful battle
to keep its books available to residents
before it finally gave up,
conceded that only a January thaw

of biblical proportions or a spring outbreak
of Gulf air, would free its face
to the world – both as likely
as every elementary school student
coming down with the flu at the same time.

Those who wanted
to borrow a book, visit
in a neighbor’s kitchen
or deliver a package
would have to find another way.

Parenting, Waban Massachusetts, 1990’s

Morning drop-off at elementary school, kids so little I’d walk them into their classroom.  Depending on the speed with which we got through breakfast, we sometimes ended up parking far away.  It got so we’d measure our parking place in terms of states.  A close space, near the front door of the Albert Edward Angier school, was Rhode Island (or even still Massachusetts).  Often we ended up in the Midwest and then, as post-breakfast dawdling waxed, we would find ourselves on the Pacific Coast in California.  Heck, we visited all of the lower 48 before venturing abroad.  From there, it wasn’t too long before we were parking on the Siberian steppes, winter winds howling, so far away we might as well have walked the mile from our house instead of driving in the first place, risking frostbite and wild animal attacks.


A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein divides his time between Boston and Central Vermont.  Recent work has appeared (or will appear shortly) in The Aurorean, Avocet, bear creek haiku, Concise Delight, The Burlington Poetry Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, and Stone’s Throw Magazine.  He was a semi-finalist in the Naugatuck River Review 2010 Narrative Poetry contest.  He has completed a chapbook, Interior Music, which will be published later this spring by FootHills Publishing.  His writer’s blog is www.hurricanelodge.com.


Frank Traverse


Dillon’s Dream

Just as my bone marrow
runs out of tomorrows,
Diana’s tenderness brings
vivid visions of our soaring.

What turned her insanity,
the constant blame, screams, profanity,
back to strong, quiet love for me?

Did my almost not being
cause her to stop seeing life
through the broken mirror guise
of her dead father’s eyes?

Is my cancer her curse and our cure? 
Full recovery?  Nothing’s for sure,

I lie in my hospital bed,
no longer feeling “better off dead,”
awaiting the donor’s new blood,
dreaming of our rise from the mud.

Dillon Waking

The new bone marrow takes hold.
White blood cell counts explode
I eat, exercise, work hard, become
the hero of the transplant ward,
only to be exiled from my dreams.

Even days before I leave
the human cancer resurges.
Diana’s screams shatter my heart,
her lies pierce me, poisoning
mother, father, brothers, friends.

Awake, I face my true test of strength:
will love for my young son withstand
her sinister polarity, survive this marriage
whose wake of a wedding had cancer
written into its very vows?


Matthew Dexter
 
Seven Dwarfs

Mexican construction workers
Sing while they work
        Whistle, smile, file bricks
        A mile wide and high,
Stretching into the sky,
        Voices chant and drills
            Drown out the sounds of the waves
 
And the whales jump
        Above the surface of the sea,
Which shimmers beneath the sun,
Whispers beating against the afternoon
                Current
Of an interminable struggle
                    Between man and
                        Merchant.

Matthew Dexter is an American author and poet living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is fond of majestic sunsets over the ocean, crimson and turquoise, among other ethereal and breathtaking moments.  


Nancy Scott

My Trouble, Not Yours

It's not about color,
taut strings of silence 
or your turbulent heart
when night suckles demons.
 
It's a raindrop riff
as wind switches voices,
bodies glistened with sweat, 
you, sleek as a panther,
stalking my mind.
 
(First published in Rattapallax, 2000) 

Into the Wild 

 
She was in the woods digging
when she came upon
a cache of dreams.
 
She spread them out
on a pile of dead leaves
carefully detaching
one dream from the other.
 
A nascent dream quivered
its transparent wings
attempted to fly
but faltered.
Watch me, she said.
 
She stood on her toes
pressed her face to the wind
swooped and floated
floated and rose
over the treetops
the roofs, the mountains
 
until she could feel
her bones dissolve
and the dream
slipped alongside her.
 
Together they soared
shapeless as memory
straying farther and farther
into the wild.

Nancy Scott, author of two books of poetry, Down to the Quick (2007) and One Stands Guard, One Sleeps (2009) both published by Plain View Press, and a chapbook, A Siege of Raptors (2010) from Finishing Line Press, is the current managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets. A social worker for decades, she often writes about the plight of homeless families and abused children in her caseload.


William Alton


Cherry Blossoms

 
When I was a kid,
I saw the cherries
blossom
in Washington .
The pale petals reached
for the wind. I walked
through the pink lips
with my mother
while she smoked
a cigarette. I will forever
taste tobacco when I
smell an orchard
pushing itself to life.


William Alton writes, "I started writing in the Eighties. Since then my work has appeared in Main Channel Voices, World Audience Gloom Cupboard, Amarillo Bay and Breadcrumb Scabs among others. I earned both my BA and MFA from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon where I continue to live with my wife and sons."

 
Holly Day


Priors

I am afraid to go outside
because of what my mother did. I’m afraid
of making friend with people
because I might have sex with them
because my mother did that
and I don’t want to.
I’m afraid of seeing psychiatrists
because they might turn me
against my family, like that time
my father talked to one
and had some great revelation
and decided he should leave us.
I’m afraid of having these people
in my life, my husband, my beautiful
children, afraid of what I’ll do to them
if I don’t keep my mouth shut
if I don’t just
sit tight.

The Wolf

she hungers
from behind the stacks of boulders
crated in from her
original home, the mismatched groves
of pine and oak
that never quite smell
like they belong to the ground.
she waits
for the zoo to close for the night, for the crowds
of curious children, mothers with infants
men
to go home, taking with them
the longings that will never be met
pretending to be content with just
howling, alone, at the moon.

Mackerel

fish, all kinds
speak to me
from the streets
calling out loudly
as I pass
the merchants with their
ice-packed carts
and primitive refrigeration units
the newspaper
tells me
this is supposed to be
a sign from God
but no one
will tell me
what kind of sign
or what
I should do.

Holly Day is a journalism instructor living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and two children. Her most recent nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, and Walking Twin Cities. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Bottle, The MacGuffin, and Not One of Us


 
Marty Silverthorne

Playing Getting Married

It was two curly-headed girls
who ran up and down the sidewalk
in the rain out of sight of their mother
waiting in line at the clinic, they found
yellow flowers on a jasmine bush
and made a bouquet. They must’ve
been playing getting married as one
threw it over her shoulder. Hoping to
catch it, the other little girl tripped
and fell into a mud puddle; her mother
pink tongued from drinking down
her rainbow of methadone, sprang
out of the building, slammed the door,
lit a cigarette, called her girls, I thought
I told you two to stay in the damn car? 
The littlest girl got up out of the puddle,
wiped off her jeans, looked for the ragged
flowers scattered in the bushes outside
the window of my office where I had
lunch one rainy Thursday.


Jeff Dutko

Elegy for an Exorbitant Life of Rare Beauty

                                         for Chip

I didn’t think of beauty
wrestling you
locked arm through arm in the hallway
your hands
calloused and hewn rough on Vermont pine
gripping at my back and neck
commanding my body to any side you chose

as you waltzed me in work boot fashion
a step was taken
that parted the air
allowing only beauty to fill in the void
unexplainable and rare

from the pulse of your fingertips
I felt the surge and the swirl of
Whitman’s ageless and peripatetic prophecy
and from that earthen vessel which carried
your exorbitant soul
every atom of yours spilt out into that chasm of air
becoming mine, becoming ours

all of our lives touched in this way
giving something where nothing was asked
allowing us to walk with you
without the weight of the world

quietly whisping us away from the weariness of jealousy and conceit
into waves without the borders that hem in hatred
without the silence that confounds all laughter
without the distance that separates every embrace
without pride or presumption
a life without melancholy or malice
without the emptiness of accusation or entitlement
without these encumbrances, your soul exorbitant
and open to share a life worthwhile

forever, we will all wrestle with you
against the weight of the world
heavy now on our shoulders
as we search within
for a way to be without
 

What Else Do We Have To Offer?

What else do we have to offer, but our hands?
Words? We have left our words muted and incomprehensible
under the rubble remaining from our explosive lies.
Our hands have not heard our words
spoken above their work.

 
Our ears? We have given so duplicitously of our ears
that they have become unresponsive to even our honest words.
Our hands, uninterrupted remain too busy to be bitten
by the sounds our tongues wag into a pestilence
which buzzes above this palace.

Our tears?  We have disinfected the beauty in our own cleanser.
Any catharsis now contains the contaminants of our pain.
Our hands do not sustain the bias of salted memory
even as they wipe away our tears.

Our speech? The rhetoric of our new apostles
comes wrapped in the fur the covers the same jackals, same sheep.
Our hands have not heard the rumors
of our impatience with ourselves
and the innuendo of past pedagogues. 
Our hands speak in the silent symbols
that cannot obfuscate true meaning.

The mystery of our thought? 
No sooner do we give birth to an idea
than it disappears into the delivery room of deception.
Our hands will not rest in the vacant
caravansary of our minds.

Our visions?  Our visions scuttle about unframed
like vaporous clouds in foolhardy attempts
to imitate the patterns of our lives.
Our hands attempt to shade the eyes, still unseeing
even as we remove the shadows that fall upon our deeds.

No, let this day will differ from the residue of the rest.
This must be the day we offer up nothing
Nothing, but the open palms of our hands
proffering a place beside one another
to fulfill an uncompromised promise
that we may work parallel 
to disassemble this walled maze
that cordons us off from so much of everything.

Once we have cleared the way
only then can we open up our tired hands
leaving them ready to receive and distribute
the tools to till a new Earth
where the bread of our brothers
is passed along a never ending table 
where every mouth waits, but no longer yearns.
Where the only words we hear and say and think
are those of thanks and thanks to those that be.
Come. Come now.  Let us offer up our hands.
   

Broken Word Poetry Festival

 
The daughter’s sentences sloping and bent
as if the disease derailing her spine
had infected each letter of each word
as they hunched and shuffled toward their doom
If only these were her greatest concerns

At 16, there’s no more use
in commenting on the dyslexic inversions
and the omissions that leave her words unfulfilled
In the gaps that forgotten vowels should close
she disregards the parts of herself we have yet to see
Reemerging through the sliding glass doors
of misspelled names which she tangles into a tourniquet
barely holding back her insecure and discountenanced voodoo 

Somewhere past forty
her mother’s scratched script, bi-polar
dysfunctionally squiggles in short bursts of life
Struggles to holds its place for a moment
then quickly dies out exasperated 
The heart of her truncated vocabulary
succumbing to the stress of overuse

Punctuation litters her page
a vague reminder of some form
of formal education she must have attended
Periods and commas tossed into the alphabetical bouillabaisse
to save them from going to waste on the shelf

When forced to come together on the same page
the stumbling letters of both mother and daughter
begin to dance at the Festival of the Broken Word
A lively scene full of fiesta and fighting with little meaning
The words swaying and singing off key and arrhythmic
but with the discordant harmony found in oblivious content

Until the heads of the largest letters appear
to recognize a sound foreign to this gathering
They cock and peer over the top of this boisterous crowd
trying desperately to catch a glimpse of something
they sense is again passing them by 

Jeff Dutko lives in Farmington , CT with his wife, two children and crazy dog.  He often tries to give voice to the special needs children he teaches through his writing, but has also produced poetry for twenty-five years on a variety of themes and social issues.  Some of his most recent work has been published in Right Hand Pointing, Rattlesnake Review, Slow Trains, Haggard and Halloo, Miller’s Pond, Writer’s Bloc and The Furnace Review.