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Volume 12, Issue 2
"The nights seem to get darker," you say, "and quieter," I add,
thinking of all the neighbors who went South.
"Now you see them, now you don't," you motion to a flock of
birds performing in the sky.
Holding hands as we walk on. All around us trees proceed
to bare their hearts. There's a metallic ring to their
confessions. "One of those moods again?" you ask gently,
lifting my chin. Perceptive as always, you and I,
careful not to eclipse one another.
You and I: a couple past meridian
trying to salvage whatever is left of themselves,
jointly and severally.
"The nights seem to get longer," you say, "and colder," I add,
thinking of my shivery loneliness no blanket can cover.
Stranded on the banks of darkness like some shell rejected
by the sea, I feel time's creeping snail within me,
its ticking pierces my heart.
"Now that they're stripped," you say looking at the trees,
"their secrets are revealed in countless squirrels"
I can see them dancing in your eyes, little arrows of
distraction. I know you want to cheer me up, yet I find
this nakedness so painful, so much harder to bear
Watching your familiar profile I cannot figure out
the many angles of your smile.
I keep recalling how we first met,
once, upon an imaginary intersection of a longitude and
a latitude, on the face of this earth, when
dust mixed with dust and flesh with flesh –
Long before we turned into some sort of celestial bodies
solitaries of different orbits
and a shared space.
Published in Voices Israel, 2008
A Bagel for Breakfast
You sit at the table across me
calmly buttering a bagel.
Watching how your hands move,
I hold on to you by the fingernails.
It is late in the morning
and the rain never stops.
Its diagonal regiments
threaten to erase the world.
The windowpane is in tears
over losing its vision,
and the persistent crying
only aggravates its blur.
Between you and me
all is quite on the table’s front.
Knives and forks lie side by side
like good old couples.
Teaspoons rest on saucer-beds
tired of their endless stir
in effort to sweeten.
Around us, the room’s walls
are trying to square
the vicious circle of life.
You sit at the table across me
calmly buttering a bagel,
and all I can see is how we are
in a hole.
Published in Flutter, February 2009
To Her Sleeping Partner
Too fast and fast asleep
your knee is digging in my hip
your elbow stabs my heart.
I am as wide awake as pain.
Rage subdued by mountain sadness.
Clouds of shadows over our bed.
Far in the forests of night
sleep hides from me.
My eyes are open like a question.
Published in Bitterroot, Summer 1981
Rena Lee is the penname of Rena Kofman, poet and writer, a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of New York. Rena Lee is the author of eleven books in Hebrew. Her work was published (in both Hebrew and English) in many magazines, literary supplements, anthologies and scholarly journals. For more details, listings, awards, reviews of her writings and samples thereof, please visit her internet site www.renalee.net
In airless heat sweat trickles
puddles around soft curves
runs a river down her back.
Under mid-day sun she walks his bean rows
some with roots, it seems, deeper than theirs.
The Ford, weathered underneath to iron mesh
sits like a prize in the distance.
When they reach the end rows he’ll lower the tailgate
make a bench
pass a thermos between them
the unnatural sweetness of her lemonade the only thing on his tongue.
We need to get through the east corner;
thick with cocklebur
his voice vibrates, hoarse and unpracticed.
Thought I told you to park on the east side this morning
might as well drive over there before lunch.
In heat a fly survives
beats across field dust and hollow insects
rises to the rearview mirror.
Ruthless in plight it pelts its reflection
brought out of focus when hands were still woman.
I live and work in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My two kids and Adam keep me happy and busy. I have had other work published--one poem appears in the memoir The Summer of Ordinary Ways and another in a local art publication called Ariston.
Father fumbles with a photograph of
Mother, dead three years now. Alzheimer's has
him, creases and yellows him with losses
of memory. He hands the snap of her
to me. Do you know this woman, he asks.
Sure, I say. That's Mom. He squints at me as
he did her photo. Oh, he says. And you
are . . .. ? He waits for me to answer. Your son,
I say. And she is . . . ? He trails off for me
to respond. You son, I say. And I add,
before he can ask a third time, You're my
Father. He takes the photograph back, looks
at Mother, then me, then Mother again,
then walks to the dresser-mirror to to see
--to me--himself, and to him, he alone
knows. The hell you say, he concludes, dropping
the photo on the dresser, where it lands
face-down--a kind of burial, I suppose.
Father, I say (resurrecting Mother,
holding her to his face) that's a picture
of your wife. Look at her. Now look at me
--I'm your son. She's your wife and I'm her son
and you're my father. He looks at her, then
at me, and into the mirror again,
then out the window. It's too much for me,
he says. I'm confused. What's your name, he asks.
Gale, I say. Gale, Jr.--I'm named for you.
And what's my name, he asks You're Gale, Sr.,
I say Oh, he says. I'm pleased to meet you,
Sir, he says. I can't hold my Mother's tears
back. Don't cry, Sir, he says. Sorry, I say.
It's just that we used to be so close--now
you don't remember me. Of course I do,
he says. You live here and look after me
and cook my meals. He touches my shoulder.
For breakfast this morning you scrambled eggs.
Yes, I laugh. That's good--you ate every bite.
Sure, he says. Your mother and I loved them.
He laughs again--he can't remember much
beyond food and what, for me, is ancient
--his boyhood, the Depression, World War 2.
Come now, Sir, he says. Stop that sobbing. Yes,
I say. Alright. I'm still holding Mother
when he asks, What's that you've got there? Nothing,
I say. Let me see, he says. I give her
back and he looks at her again. Pretty,
he says. Friend of yours? He laughs. Old girlfriend,
maybe? Heh heh. You could say so, I say.
How was she, he asks, and winks. Pretty good,
I say--I guess. But she loved another.
Well, Sir, he says, God knows they always do.
Gale Acuff (Ph.D) has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank. His poetry has been published in Ascent, Adirondack Review, Poem, South Carolina Review, Ohio Journal, Florida Review, and many other journals; he has also had three books of poetry published: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse, 2004), The Weight of the World(BrickHouse, 2006) and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2009).
I am Eve’s daughter and feel
the pull of spirit languishing
in front of locked gates.
I find myself distracted
by horizons, distant spaces,
feel their taut lure
yet earth calls with it soft perfumes
its Aprils, Mays, Junes sun-soaked,
smelling of life
flesh sprouting in pale pink buds
that bloom to lust desire
and heated nights.
I am Eve’s daughter and feel
the weight of things earthborn
mud mixed root deep.
A daughter of the flesh, conceived
in bushes beyond the gates
where I wait
suckled by earth, shaped by winds
tormented by what lies, just there
where sun sets.
Janet currently teaches TESL and Italian in San Francisco. Some poetry favorites are Kay Ryan’s “The Niagara River” and “Dismal Rock” by Davis McCombs, while Sylvia Plath and the latest edition of Poetry are for coffee shop reading. She has published in Literary Mary, Plainsongs, Mannequin Envy and Flutter, among others, and future publications include The 13th Warrior, Cutthroat, Locust, and Ibbetson Street Press. She has had several online chapbooks published, and has two or three in the planning stage.
When I was a young girl
shoes were blasphemy
my toes had to wiggle and breathe
free and strong like my will
My black soles calloused
could walk through glass
I no longer stroll to the mailbox
without at least fuzzy slippers
The fire ants and bees laugh
The squirrels think me just
another nut but my tender feet
understand my heart much better now
A Dying Sigh
Li-Young Lee said of the exhale
it is the dying breath the last of us to go
like the one we use to speak
which is so profound to me
as I breathe shallow never quite
letting in enough life my lungs gave up
a long time ago my blue lips too
trying to make sense stopped making sense
so I keep letting out one last breath
another follows like an echo
Desperate to find something to show for it
I die a little with each poem just so I’ll remember
I’m still here
Sandee Lyles is an RN and the Publishing Editor of Oak Bend Review. Her poetry,fiction, art, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming online or in print in such journals as RATTLE, Cafe Review, Radiant Turnstiles, the ampersand, Up The Staircase, and elimae, among others. She has several chapbook projects in the works but is so OCD about perfecting them that there is presently no ETA.
Linda C. Straub
(Changing of the Guard)
She was all alone
when I stopped by,
was in the other room.
He smiled, I took my turn;
Mother and Daughter
sharing coffee and strawberries.
Some years ago, Linda’s work was published in the print version of miller's pond. She lives and works in Central Pennsylvania and has been publishing poetry since 1997. Her work has appeared in a variety of magazines, print journals, and ezines.
after the reception
dancing the night away
i will remember
of the china
and the small still
a bud vase
holding the wilderness
of your scent
the sense of it
— there is no god like that — no god like that at all — a sense
of it is in the balance clinging to a twig's tip in the windy light
outside the ecstatic static narrative enamoring the radiance within
the stained glass walls — within which genuflects the pieties of faith
hypocrisy first self-serves with the best of species its own survival
— where looking closer — a scented linen of self-flattery wipes
the gilded image from the feast and sacrifice of blood and sherry
at the bottom of the chalice — pore for pore too like its own
— the artifice of its magnificence exaggerates
the promises of a seduction with a predator's efficiency
isolated from all surrounding movement — infinite criticism
could forgive imagination in its poverty misspent on cathedral
architecture for example — it doesn't matter — the external
and internal structures are the same — starvation feeds itself
— settling on twigs — biting the tips of buds pure snow is motiveless
reprinted from Epicenter 11, Spring 2008
from Roger Desy:
Teaching lit and creative writing, I turned to technical writing/editing. Lucky at love and family, for the last few years I'm back at poetry doing what I should. The best poems are waiting to be written. With our ancestor misapplying the first tool, we’ll know ourselves after finding our nature outside ourselves. A few poems are in Blue Unicorn, Mid-American Review, Pinch, Poet Lore, South Carolina Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review.
The agriculture teacher is a woman now.
She cuts her saws in the workshop over crickets,
cicadas, the young emerging beans.
Behind her, Lover’s Lane crowns with spring.
To her, it is the beautiful history
rewriting itself, this place of her past
boxing out all the impossibilities,
how she ever could have made it
there, in two-door backseats
with the sitting room light on
in the house atop the hill.
Even now she can make out
every passing coupe, truck, and van,
laughing with a steady hand at naïveté,
at the village finally made romantic
at sunset, watching the orange fill
the schoolhouses, the greenhouses,
the lines of buses as if they were burning,
her shop saw the only thing she imagines
left alive, buzzing in place of buildings, everywhere.
the pigeon hurtles toward us,
dirty and sane.
You are the glass prism inside me,
the light bending this bird
toward this collapse.
Our window shudders
with the transference of loss.
Watch the body disappear
into a refraction of the animal
that existed before,
his flight now expired,
only his coordinates
left in blood
like stains he dropped
you said you’d kill him for.
Here it is.
Brendan Todt is a 2006 graduate of Knox College living in Chicago whose poems have appeared in After Hours and Beeswax Magazine. He has fiction co-written with BJ Hollars forthcoming from Hobart. In June he will be moving to South Carolina with a woman who, with any luck, will be his wife by then.
New York Times recorded on March 11, 1907: Loss to Body. MacDougall is convinced the soul substance gives off a light resembling that of the interstellar ether
On looking for the weight of our soul,
Dr. MacDougall asked his question:
a substance capable of being weighed
does leave the human body at death
not accounted for by known channels of loss.
How other shall we explain it?
my first subject
a dead male body on a silver metal table
arranged on a light framework
built upon very delicately balanced beam scales
the soul a cobalt orb tinged with orange
6 grams not 21
hottest fire particles glow opaque.
In measured people,
best to select
a patient dying with a disease that produces great exhaustion
no blood can be brought to the surface
not breath, bowels, or sweat
their blue translucent light flitting the body
leaves the briefest want.
But can we accept the absent ounces are not:
the weight of worry dissipating
kinetic energy’s end in a mass like ours
or blood slowing to a stagnant pool?
Perhaps (it’s possible) the soul lingers the body,
says goodbye for just the briefest time and the missing ounces only prove
death weighs less than life.
Phylinda lives in Philadelphia. Journals where her work has been published include: Bogg, The Rambler, RiverSedge, and Sierra Nevada College Review.
FISHING PORT , 7 A.M.
The church of St Sebastian
looms out of the harbor fog.
Some boats wallow in port,
others anchor in the distance.
Wind skims off the water
like flat stones.
Damp won’t let go
the smell of salt and fish
Pigeons and gulls
take to the wooden wharf,
crows to misty power lines.
Small homes hug to rock,
so narrow streets will find them.
Families sit at tables,
coffee steam under their noses.
spoons scraping the bottom of bowls.
For every horn blast in the distance,
there’s an old man blows his nose.
John Grey has been published recently in Agni, Worcester Review, South Carolina Review and The Pedestal. He has work upcoming in Poetry East and REAL.
Joseph R. Trombatore
Measuring the Moon
Here I am, walking the curb with a tape measure; just in case the mood
strikes. Wrap my arms around, take measurements of, my next door
neighbor's landscape; the girth of the blonde down the street who sells
fried apple pies on weekends. You could climb the balcony & dive into
azaleas, prized rose bushes, they wont mind. Inadvertently trip over
Dalmatians, foxtail ferns; they remember antebellum porches; the taste
of gumbo, the high-pitched buzz of mosquitoes; the sweet fragrance of
mint after a sultry spring rain. The cannon fire & screams of burnt flags.
It's me & my shadow, all over again. (For those too young & without
cable, this refers to an episode from The Dick Van Dyke Show.) The
reinvention of vaudeville & homespun whirligigs. Who will butter
the moon tonight? Maintain the grounds of carousels? Alice is all grown
up now, & doesn't see the point in measuring anything.
Moving the Piano
Let's show these boys how to do it upright; piano. No, it was a baby
grand; cherry wood. Originally residing downstairs, my sister wanted
it upstairs; had been teaching piano since the age of 14. Needed more
space; some privacy. Big cables, packing blankets, & a lot of strong
grown-ups that weekend. They had thought the hardest part was removing
the legs. Mother, praying over her just-waxed-oak-wood floors; the
knotty-pine walls. Even as a little tike, anytime Billie was on the keys,
I'd come running to hear her play. Not so, if she was with a student though.
It didn't matter if I was outside with my cousin, or playing in my room. I
had 3 favorites - Malaguena, Deep Purple, & Clair de Lune. Usually the
Pete deRose piece above the rest. Any shade of purple has always been
my color. When I first learned to walk, I ran. I always thought of myself
as a streak of purple, someone or some thing already quite accomplished;
a place where no struggle or warfare would be necessary; a throne just
waiting. I was so young, so deep in purple.
Thick & unrelenting as a Summer cold, this fluid from hardwoods speaks.
With the patience of a serial killer, it has an agenda; a mission to accomplish.
Blood stained snapshots to file & maintain. Nesting birds will peck & drill
thru trunks, like maple gatherers in New England. Trees become slick, sticky.
Snakes will forego their trek for egg or chick; tumble down like caterpillars in
Spring. Sunrises that anticipate a songbird's snare. This ancient resin is prized,
gathered like Easter eggs; the colors of cognac gracing necks of Queens. Their
story of captured travelers; the flight of bees, sting of wasp. Here, mosquitoes
whisper in slow motion; the kaleidoscopic dragonfly, still seeking its mate.
Joseph R. Trombatore is a Pushcart nominee whose award-winning collection of poems, Screaming at Adam was published by Wings Press, 2007. Recent poems have or will soon appear in JASAT (Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas), Origami Condom, Right Hand Pointing, Spoken War, Oak Bend Review, Dead Mule, Ken Again, Sugar Mule, Wild Goose Review, Word Riot, and Offcourse Literary Journal. He is the editor/publisher of the online literary journal of the arts: www. radiantturnstile.com.
How to Look Busy
There are all sorts of dodges, including
the stacking up of papers on your desk
in a messy fashion, the piles high enough
to hide behind, if necessary.
Your garb should be messy too, water-
sprayed sweat stains under arms,
the tie loosened, hair uncombed, and
of course a look of concern on the face.
You can always play a card game on your
computer, but be ready to hit the magic
key that switches over to a screen
showing the economy struggling upward.
Have photos of your family and families
of others, even unknowns, mostly smiling
kids' faces, all over your workspace -
look at them longingly with the boss present.
Surely this country is in irreversible trouble
if Looking Busy 101 catches on big time.
Bill Roberts is a retired nuclear weapons consultant who envisions a day when all WMD are negotiated into extinction. His poetry has appeared in about 200 online and small-press magazines over the past 15 years. He lives with a hyperactive wife and two untrainable dogs too near the edge in Broomfield, Colorado.
Epistles To a Poet Whom I Admire But Have Never Had the Courage to Write
I was reading some of your poems
and wondered how you can seem
so quiet and so vocal all at once?
I want to ask you if we can exchange
letters, and maybe trade minds a bit.
Maybe I could send you poems
and you could send me answers—
I could use a well-drawn map.
Tell me one thing you remember,
a story that dances in the sun of itself.
I want words from your lost pages.
And here are my pages.
This is what happened when I sat down.
This is what came from me.
How can I make it dance?
I took your advice and am glad
to know that everything is all right
in the West. Many things are changing.
Here is another poem I wrote:
The dawn rides in
on the sable back of starlight
in from the east and we settle on the morning
like leaves and ribbons of corn chaff
into deep frozen furrows
running to the horizon.
You said not to move
or disturb the hairs of coming
light; let everything in the world
flicker with the wind and the opening of
light into your palm. Who knows if it will happen
like this again; who knows what you’ll get to
witness each day. The dark is always
waiting for your eyes— the color
points the way. You told
me once, when I
doubted, the true
story of my birth—a king
who never knew his crown, whose
mother went away, whose father needed
him. You said my eyes would find the path and
all quiet directions need a spinning needle.
You said to follow the morning.
You said patience.
You said believe.
I have written one every day since
your last letter. The morning is best—
alive with silence and darkness—
I have the house to myself, but I wonder:
how do you keep your mind clear
without falling back to sleep?
I’m writing you from Barren River Lake—
this cove and canyon at dawn have been good for me.
Now I’m next to water, writing these words, listening,
and I heard for the first time, because everything was quiet,
the sound of a bird flying—his wings stoking the air, his lifting.
He flew out past me over the cold water—so close I could see
his feathers: obsidian slivers, a shot flashing
over the lake. I saw him blink before he hid in fog.
And it was for me what it was for him—a rising.
I was wondering if we could meet before you leave
town—I realize how busy you must be, but I fear
that it will be our last chance in this life.
Right now, I’m trying to fit words into their proper spaces,
but they keep bouncing away from me, so I’m going
to forget trying for now, and leave this paper here.
I’m going out to buy a hat and then I’ll go to the diner
for a bite. I’ll step out for a smoke around dusk.
I’ll be the one waiting on the corner, facing sunset,
leaning my shoulder against the streetlamp, a keen grin
under the shadow of my brim—I’ll be the one holding
out my hand. Take it into yours to say goodbye.
Two-lane farm road—
I’m wandering, lost,
in the dark of Kentucky.
I guide the car
to the gravel shoulder, kill
the wheezing engine, listen
to the dinging heartbeat of the door
ajar against the night noise where
I step out in the low fog.
The sky above is clear.
A plane glides
under the fixed stars.
I hear its sigh and slide back
years to a field near
my college dorm where
we took sleeping bags into the dark.
You opened your shirt
and took my hands
to place them on your body,
warm as breath.
The moon balanced behind you
to make you pale.
Around me now
the engine clinks to quiet,
and the world is soothing
itself with ripples
and wind. I’m driving
back to you, tired, alone, beaten.
And on the ground there is a glass bottle,
a clear arrow resting
in the ditch, pointing
me back down the dusty cut—
and I can hear your voice,
and I can feel your palms
on the back of my hands
guiding me again.
from David Harrity:
My work appears in or is forthcoming from issues of Ruminate Magazine, New Southerner, The Xavier Review, Confrontation, Copper-Nickel, Existere, and The White Pelican Review. A chapbook of my poems, Morning and What Has Come Since, (Finishing Line Press, 2007) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Kentucky Literary Award.
Dharrity01@gmail.com, http://warriorpoetgroup.com/, http://davidharrity.blogspot.com
Suzanne Richardson Harvey
THE SKI SLOPE AT SUNSET
The mountain is a sea of diamonds now
I must wedge with care
Carve triangles and parentheses
I must glide toward the scotch pine
And a blue spruce
I must arc in slow parabolas now at mid century.
THE LAST FRONTIER
It is possible
To trigger this final conquest
With a single christy turn
Provided we draft the will
To traverse slopes labeled
Out of bounds
To sever yellow warning tape
Decapitate slender poles that
Like lone sentinels separate machine groomed streets
From virgin land where we
Not some high priest worshipping
At the altar
Carve the lanes
And make the traffic rules
Where the snap of a boot strap
Or the wave of a pole
Through air charged with the voltage
Of civilized despair
Coursing through pine and spruce
Ignite the crescendo of our echo
Proclaims us rulers
Of the mountain whose answer
Suzanne Richardson Harvey is a member of the Academy of American Poets. For almost two decades she lectured in the English Department at Stanford University. She is now retired.
Her poetry has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Concho River Review, Mannequin Envy, Convergence Journal, Poetalk, Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria), SpeedPoets (Australia), Ascent Aspirations Magazine (Canada), NthPosition (UK), Current Accounts (UK), Poetic Hours (UK), Splizz (Wales),among other venues.