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Volume 12, Issue 3
Cottage Living (with Curb Appeal)
Some might envision an eye-sore as a remodeling special.
To my eye, it's just a shack full of has-beens and almost-weres.
I get hung up on the neglect and decline and don't see the secrets
holding it together, keeping it from succumbing, no questions asked.
On the other hand, the trained eye will confide: it's also got curb appeal.
My spine shivers, and I'm left to assume the highly questionable:
it looks like my family, eating my dinner, at my table, in my home.
All the while I stand waiting, outside, on the curb, looking for the appeal.
Inside, inspiring changes are masked by layers of paint and the odors of time.
Today, multiple rooms are seducing multiple uses for multiple uses.
Architecturally, it's only a draft or two away from what you'd call a bungalow,
and well on its way toward becoming one of those happily-ever-after cottages.
But the untrained eye, hesitant, looks and wants to run away,
withdraw to a safe space with extra wide accommodations and inspiring renovations.
Instead, I wait, without coffered ceilings, under a picture-perfect sky.
I sit on the curb, blueprint in my head, my back toward all that old-fashioned charm.
It's written on your windshield
and on the tags of your wrinkle-free shirts.
Rain won't wash it away, and the
delicate perm press dries it fine, and delicately.
Whether dressed or driving -- or both.
as the situation dictates -- you move
noiselessly, punctually, and automatically at ease,
assured of guarantees that others cannot see.
Like so much in life now, you come equipped.
You have advisors to contact you and respond,
should your car break down, or your shirt get wrinkled,
or your birth-rite come under scrutiny.
You know the exact location of your car. And your shirt.
Even when you're lost. No one can take that away from you.
You're inside your car, inside your shirt, knowing
you can call for help without saying a word.
Spuler’s poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines. He is currently working
on a collection of short stories and poetry (Memorabilia and Other Assorted Forgettables).
For nearly 20 years he has served as Senior Lecturer in German at Rice University in
Houston, TX. He enjoys music and reading. email@example.com
BEFORE YOU WAKE
let me keep the curvature of your spine;
let me run my fingertips along each ridge
from the bow
to the cascade
and that point between:
bones stack atop one another like split change; though
imperceptible to others, i know how they stick and lock and
make you groan at dawn;
this night, while the street light fingers through our blinds and cuts our bed in two,
let me watch your back rise and fall with your breath,
let me warm my hands on your hot shoulders;
let me slip my fingers beneath these cool sheets and read your back like brail:
your skiing accident, that fall on black ice;
the homes we’ve packed and unpacked and packed again;
your love balled up in knots beneath the skin;
yes i know we were young and naïve and arrogant to imagine we were exempt,
that we could bind like barnacles to stone and withstand the whitecaps
yet i cannot unweave the musings of your mind,
the uncertainties and second thoughts and phobias,
no more than i can stop a spider from spinning his web:
yes i watch him spinning away the night,
your back turned from me,
rising and falling with each of his pinpricks;
memories fade as the sunset dips beneath the horizon;
hearts cool as magma, hot and glowing and unceasing,
hardens to obsidian, cool and dark and still;
wounds heal as the indent of a pillow softens and lifts and vanishes with time;
and people begin anew:
drawing together and drawing apart like the tide,
each time dragging away pieces of the other,
polishing seashells to sand;
but please ,
please let me keep the curvature of your spine;
let me place my head in that spoon
Will Fenton is currently an English graduate student at Fordham University. This summer represents his first active pursuit of publication. This fall his work will be featured in The Monongahela Review, Writer’s Bloc, and The Boston Literary Magazine.
DESCRIBING THE STORM
Would you start with Dixie, our dog, bolting
out the front door and tearing through
the downpour or with Jan calling
Kim to say that Ed had died
ten minutes ago and Kim dissolving
like a newspaper left outside?
Would you end with Kim scrubbing the shower,
naked and sobbing or
with the dog unloosed, galloping
through the storm because she could?
A PICTURE OF YOU IN CUT-OFF SHORTS,
GRINNING AT THE CHICKENS
is on the bulletin board,
but the pinhole's
in my heart.
When I work it with the dull point
of my grief
nearly enough for
a proper burial.
Mark Jackley is the author of three chapbooks, with a full-length collection, There Will be Silence While You Wait, forthcoming from Plain View Press. He lives in Sterling, VA.
Teenagers in Love
I chant superstitious rhymes
and stretch chest muscles; for you,
watch teenagers in the sun,
tangled arms and tongues
at bus stops.
I walk past; thirty-two.
I watch as other girls with bigger breasts
suck the wet lips of disposable men;
the same white light in the sky,
shining like something other than the moon.
In the defragmented, opium flame and glaze of sun,
in the silk-soft gilded green and bird song
of warm and cool afternoon;
gently softened skin exudes the absorbed
heat of the day, skin; soft, lush as the watered grass,
tender under the palm of him, whose palms are
somewhere else, wandering over someone else’s
skin with borrowed caresses, cupping undeserving shoulders,
drinking the evening in ignorance.
On benches or in the burning flare
of back-gardens; next to hosepipes,
trees. Tiny red spiders on thighs.
And we, in garden chairs with pens
blooming and fizzing
with impotence and infernal futility
cup the shoulders no-one will
Bank Holiday in New Brighton
Breadline children and their underbelly parents
in the sun on the damp, gasping beach
in tracksuits and bare chests
and generic, cheap logos in murky ink
on unwashed, public transport skin.
Auschwitz steel and rust in institutional tiers,
the scrubby grass and motorbikes of soldier films
and the windmill arms of a camp skyline.
The memory of American suits and feet
dancing with chewing gum on English coasts.
Blitzkrieg sirens, searchlights and engines
rolling in the relentless waves and every
recycled ancient breath of wind.
A sad, dole queue line of tents
on litter stained, dogtrodden common ground,
playing gypsy games of football
a metre from the road.
Families grasping a holiday on wasteground,
waiting in crowded, perspiring queues
for fetid busses in bank holiday shorts,
strained yellow light and thin warmth
on the cold and limey scumline of clammy skin.
Bank holiday barbeques and the bus ticket
safe in Dad’s pocket,
a fondly remembered holiday
on council-cut grass.
From Vikki Littlemore: "I have recently had work published in The Glasgow Review, Poetry Monthly International and Melisma,and was the second runner up in the Birds on The Line featured poet competition." firstname.lastname@example.org
in Vermont you wrote about donuts
newly made from the bakery, sweet cakes
with soft milk glaze that was broken
between two hands and slowly shattered
into flakes at the seems, dark frost quickly eaten
with chocolate smells, white drip
icing that made you sing, you and your friends
all high with the cicadas’ lively
blank notes and you wrote them into pop songs—
and you were eighteen, walking home,
stayed up all night, crept out
to the grocery to buy sausage,
fresh eggs, cream and bread crumbs,
a spice smell of pastrami at the deli;
and nothing to do, smile and lay out
to chew warm bread and feed a deep hunger:
and it all ended silent, you fell into sleeping
before dawn with five bodies tangling,
down forty years and you wrote it
with crooked teeth and a sweep
of gray hair along your neck,
a little whistle as you read it, in conspiracy,
leaning toward me with soft breath.
David is currently a writing professor in the Syracuse, NY,area. He has been published in Coal Hill Review, Red Rock Review and other journals, and is the assistant editor for Poet's Ink Review. email@example.com
Pharaoh walks along the Nile
escorted by a panoply
of guards, hearing only
the gentle lap of water
against the shore
and sparrows serenading dusk.
Who will listen for the cry
welling from the muck
beneath the surface,
the siren song of souls
afloat, looking for mothers?
Who will notice the red
tint of water polluted
by innocent blood?
Who will sing a song
of remembrance for each
small boy ripped
from the sheltering arms
of a compassionate father?
What mother will find courage
to stroll the path by the river?
What sister could pull herself
from the bank where she loiters,
What brother will stalk
the delta looking for bones?
Who will stand against
Pharaoh? Who will purify
his ears, teach him to hear?
Published in Rockford Review (Summer 2008)
During Radiation Therapy
It wasn’t the radiation
which bothered her.
It was laying there each day
Monday through Friday
with arms above her head
trying not to remember
that bleak Saturday,
in the shadowed doorway,
glint of light on the gun,
her hands above her head,
helpless to prevent anything.
Published in Free Verse (Issue 92, 2007)
Wilda Morris is Workshop Chair of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. Her book, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, was published Rockford Writer's Guild Press in 2008. Her blog at http://wildamorris.blogspot.com/ includes a poetry challenge each month. firstname.lastname@example.org
Once he returned from a long trip and found dozens of dead canaries. They littered the
terrace, his doorstep, every dirty windowsill, casting strange yellow light and tiny
shadows. That night he tried to clear the cobblestones of their otherworldly debris,
humming Dvorak and muttering to himself. A coffee pot rattled in the kitchen. Then
he stopped, leaving feathers to drift in each corner, the old grey house still an homage
to some other life.
On nights like this I would play my cello, the snow like tinfoil under a phosphorescent
moon. Before I knew it, you were there, with your handkerchiefs and your
melancholia. The light on my windowpane, a struck match all aglow. We would take
turns cradling the instrument’s long neck, its cavernous belly, watching the cold metal
strings shiver and hum. After each chord you’d swallow glittering nerve tablets,
whispering: Be still. Be. Still. Its sonorous voice faded with each blue pill. And when
the snow eddied and slushed, the cello safe in its towering white box, I took up
sainthood to pass the time. On winter mornings my teeth still ache.
Come in, the cellist said, showing her up a flight of dusty stairs. She recalled the thin
wooden railings from her last visit, when they found canaries nesting in a corridor.
Tonight, their song waxes with her restlessness, ticking like a metronome into the dark
blue night. At this the musician begins to stare. He brushes their pale feathers from his
tuxedo, buttoning his long silk gloves. The woman rifles through her pocketbook.
My instrument is a splintered viola that no longer sounds. And its strings snapped one
by one, curling like vines into the greenish night. When the connoisseur left, with his
gold pocket watch and unsightly bifocals, every concerto grew oddly dissonant. Our
conductor wanted nothing but to count aloud. The dark blue hall still rings with the
sound of his tally, a rapt audience humming along.
Or do I mean a mourning dove, rustling in the trees? Again, the harps are quiet. Ever
since her miracles stopped, the sisters have wept and wept. And when the organ starts
up, groaning under vaults and beams, light catches the dust in every window. Pews
begin to glisten as though they were polished steel. A dark bird warbles in the nunnery
while the hagiographers nod their heads, listening intently from the eaves.
**These five poems were previously published in Night Music (BlazeVox Books, 2008
Kristina Marie Darling is a graduate student at Washington University. She is the author of eight chapbooks of poetry and prose, including Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006). Her writing appears in The Boston Review, The Colorado Review, New Letters, The Literary Review, and other journals. Recent awards include residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Centrum Foundation. email@example.com
It wakes me with a kind of rough love,
faceless, churning in the dark. Mechanical
behemoth returned from the ancient past.
Traveling midden, sounding morning
prayers, reminding that dust to dust
is really this: supple, vibrant become
battered, flattened, ghostly lithograph
of the hours spent on sustenance,
shelter, ornament. Rumble of a beast
behind the furthest village wall
Chagall never painted, though he heard it,
breathing in the night, imagined it
in the goat’s coal-black eyes, the lovers’
embrace, levitating over the still sleeping
world, crooning its chronic elegy.
The Speed of Light in Winter
Five ducks idle on the pond, so still
their feathered torsos could be rocks
smoothed slick by water. They drift
past wheat-colored reeds, cattails,
loosestrife rimmed in thin skirts of ice.
My presence startles them as others
sometimes startle me when they enter
a room as I’ve drifted into thought.
Or as people in dreams sometimes shift
from place to place. The first dream
I had like that was of my mother:
I called to her from the top of the stairs,
thinking she was down there. When I
turned she was standing at my side.
Now, the recently deceased materialize
and I am powerless, whimpering until
someone wakes me, says It’s only a dream.
The abrupt dissolution of natural law,
the hard order of the world yielding
suddenly, alarms the spirit like those ducks
as they shatter the surface, rise in awkward
flight. Gravity—the weakest force.
“I Hear the Sound of Matter Pouring through Eternal Forms”
First matter, then spark, and life found form,
nucleus found cell. The rivers swarmed
with all manner of protoplasm and shell,
scale and bone. The glad air filled with sound.
Fireflies shimmer, flashing in synchrony.
Electrons spin in their shells. The rhythmic pulse
of night, the heart in its bone cave, the brimming
earth resounds. Its music tunes the ear to the soul’s
cold fires, drawing us out of and into ourselves
like the door in Kafka’s tale. The one the pilgrim
stands before, waiting to be let in, imagining
the answers to his questions secreted there,
not seeing until it closes the slender river
of light pouring out around the jamb.
Jackie Bartley’s poems have appeared most recently in Nimrod, Harpur Palate, and Calyx. Her second poetry collection, Ordinary Time, won the 2006 Spire Press Poetry Prize. She’s currently seeking a publisher for a third collection, Sleeping with a Geologist, and lives in Michigan with her husband John (the aforementioned geologist). firstname.lastname@example.org
L. Ward Abel
I want these bad times to be over but
I know if the times are erased
then so is the living that goes with it.
And there’s not much time.
Here in abidance the sun is golden green, truly.
Grass is high, gone to seed.
Birds are a carpet of talk. I’m sore.
Sore from the encroachment of history.
The blackblue of memory.
No honey to cure me. Only water
and the contours of spring; cruel, she mocks
she rocks on the porch back and forth
in her own sweatered embrace. Likewise
remembered, other marks have been left
as calling cards. Beyond the old lumberyards
pass the stout backs of real men from
a hundred years ago, apparitions recalling
the blade and stacks and blood and dust.
The travelers avoid all but their own
Not me. Not yet.
Angled lines from blinds
projected on a wall
golden like the source outside
way above the window. Dust,
contents of a sea,
breathes through this time of
evening out, shows in the shafts.
That sound is the color
a moment makes in this quiet room.
My movie plays on mute.
Poet, composer of music (Max Able / Abel, Rawls & Hayes), lawyer and spoken-word perform (Scapeweavel), L. Ward Abel lives in rural Georgia, USA, and has been or will be published at The Reader (UK), The Yale Anglers’ Journal, Versal, The Pedestal, erbacce, Kritya, OpenWide, and many others. He is the author of Peach Box and Verge (Little Poem Press, 2003), Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006) and the recently released The Heat of Blooming (Pudding House Press, 2008). email@example.com , http://arhband.com/ward/index.html
After the Pool
No one is swimming anymore—
we should take down the pool
before one of the grandkids toddles in.
The top rails, seats, whatever
you call them, are rusting out,
but the liner doesn’t even leak;
The filter looks like that atom bomb—
Little Boy. We’ll let it go
to a good family if they’ll haul it
away. We’ll bring in fill dirt
until the deck is the last thing standing.
Picture a playhouse at the end,
with a slide emptying
onto a trampoline. How about
a telescope with Mars so close
this summer. Or a chiminea stove.
Mesquite chips will glow,
the scent drifting for miles.
Hungry nomads may ride in
off the steppes. They’ll bed down
on leaves that will collect there
just as they did on the silted bottom.
The shades weren’t drawn
so he saw enough of what went on
to kick a hole in the older first home.
He had found her mouth
so tightly wrapped—still rapt,
even as she sighed after him: “Come
back.” With the sharp toe
of a zippered Beatle boot,
he made a hole in plaster. Lath
fell out like a wooden tongue.
He had to laugh at his mangled fist
after he’d bashed some peering
eyes to match.
A decade later, he helped the building
trades to thrive again:
In a suburban tract home,
he coached an adolescent stepson,
“Lift and drive!” Thick arms
were wrapped around his knees
and the tackle thrust him back
to crunch the dining room wall.
He sat in a puddle of chalk
and bits of cardboard wrap. Those
perfect butt-shapes proved
impossible to mend with spackle.
Christopher Dungey wrote, "60 yr old retired auto worker here. Haven't been sending work out for 3 years due to hiatus in feature journalism. Also substitute teach in anticipation of GM bankruptcy pension screwing. Most recent poetry credits credits would include Powhatan Review, Reed Magazine, Cider Press Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Lynx Eye, and Front Range Review." Cands11@aol.com
Steve De France
ANOTHER PRIMATE ON EXHIBIT
Fog bumps over the city’s mottled beach,
it swirls across a car-clogged
Ocean Boulevard & charges
the San Francisco Zoo.
It settles there---its ethereal shrouds
covering the animal exhibits & making mystic
the ubiquitous evergreen trees.
Caged flamingos--legs seemingly too delicate to survive
this world---stand etched on spider web legs,
like plastic sentinels on duty in this churning mist.
Obsidian flamingo eyes---forever unblinking
stare at my back---as a coven of shrieking kids
flush me from this exhibit, moving me
toward a more obscure & dangerous path.
Time has changed all.
The Island’s long gone & so too its
Today it is only a grubby unyielding
caged pit with two sinister chimpanzees,
a shambling gray & a one eyed black..
I wonder---were they part of the original
island population? Are they all that is left?
There were hundreds of these island comedians,
but then---there was sun & freedom.
I speculate about these two veterans.
Staring into their pit---their dilemma,
dismal---sitting---waiting for death.
Maybe I should bust them lose?
Set them free again?
I sit quiet---thinking on other kinds of prisons,
prisons we design for ourselves,
8 to 5---cubicled jobs, commuter coffins all in a row.
The chimps eye me---roll back their rubbery lips
and scream as if in fear...
yes, I, too, have grown older.
Have they recognized me? We stare now at
one another, as if looking for new questions.
Having long ago given up on answers.
Given up on on most everything,
Given up on hope except to receive
a few random acts of dispassion.
The air temperature dives.
Wind whines & a chill screen
of wet fog pushes across
the wrinkled slate-colored sea,
it rolls toward the ruins of Monkey Island,
rolls toward the ruins of the three of us.
We bind together now, blinded by memories,
dying of time & this enveloping fog.
Past suns & all freedom fades to darkness,
as our over due souls crash into an indifferent universe.
Reaching for my tail, I curl myself into the fog
becoming just another primate on exhibit.
I N F I N I T Y L I N E
Racing across the State line,
rolling on a gash of asphalt road,
radio station crackling dead static,
your blue Mustang
appears to float across painted rock.
Heat-blasted sand seems to stretch toward
an infinity line---and appearing before that line
a shadowed mountain chain rises
like the backbone of a prehistoric mammoth.
Steve De France MFA has traveled widely in the United States. On more than one occasion he hitch-hiked across America. He rode rails on freight trains, worked as a laborer with pick up gangs in Arizona, dug swimming pools in Texas, did 33 days in the Pecos city jail as a vagarant, fought bulls in Mexico, and dove for salvage off a small island on the coast of Mazatlan. His poetry has been published in most of the English speaking countries of the world. Some recent publications include The Evergreen Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Sun, Rattle, and many others. firstname.lastname@example.org
Pier 57, 4 am
He walked with a kind of
syncopated rhythm, like a
man moored to the music
of his mind, as if that
were all he had to say,
as if the sound of his shoes,
his clip clop polyglot, were
sound enough, bound as he was
to the life he bore. And bear it
he did, the thick tock of his heels
hammering the pier, and
no one there to hear except
the gulls and cormorants who
only squawked and beat
their wings into the wind.
They slit my sister's leg from
knee to hip, then stapled it together.
She stood up from her bed to show
their handiwork. Blue-black, the
crusted skin seemed something
from the Spanish Inquisition. She
looked hard into my eyes, her lips
not quite a smile, and I wondered
how much she had told them.
Arched across the road,
a russet rainbow,
an antlered bridge
between the aspens,
his muscled haunches
as if he were a
freshly oiled Raphael,
his bony forelegs
as if on tightrope, his body
afloat in sunlight,
lithe as falling leaves,
supple as grace,
a shuttered moment, the forest
caught unawares, exposed,
before a rustle
but silent pines,
the empty road.
Angelo Giamra writes, "My poems have appeared inTipton Poetry Journal, Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Freefall Magazine, Flutter and Atlanta Review." email@example.com
Lee Marc Stein
Damage Report: Divi Little Bay
Before we can luxuriate in the St. Maarten sun,
we must assess what storms have done
this season to our paradise found.
Waves pounded the Sea Breeze pool
into puddles of brick and stone; crested over
walkways crusting them with sole-cutting sand;
toppled the Toucan Bar; ripped apart
first floor apartments, exiling owners.
The sea is quiet now, replaced by hammers
roaring to restore the semblance of our resort.
The real damage takes days more to discover,
years more to heal (if not irreparable).
Two of our week-a-year friends battle cancer,
another suffered a serious heart attack.
Cohorts lost parents, children, friends.
Grandchildren went astray, businesses shut,
houses foreclosed, unseen hail pelted lives.
There is no hammer to help us.
We repair our tears by smiling at sea and sky,
grateful we are here, protected, basking, whole.
Lee Marc Stein is a retired marketing consultant living in East Setauket, New York. firstname.lastname@example.org
ARIELLA AND THE OTHERS
How can one chance—one breath and whiskbroom—change my lieutenant?
If the timber rattlesnake would stop breathing only once,
Then I would return to the bazaar and reintegrate this moment.
You (from crystal laird), a winged mesothorium with shimmering exudation,
To purify a passerby I almost sense
The hootenanny of mystical summer nieces, alive and enchanted.
I can exalt her smile, and Ariella reawakens my sleeping soubrette!
And the intensity of July, as the summiteer storms the Midsummer Day,
The lattice carries us through changing seasickness.
Her tote board, at last, on moonless evangelism,
The niece I woke and my spiral galaxy watches hers.
What is this Wiltshire that wages war on me?
The footwork we cannot hail, but its fatality rate is written
As our desserts collide at a Spanish bazaar.
No woolsheds, nothing necessary.
To brandish silence in Barcelona while the days pasture on forever—
It’s enough to survive, even while the timber rattlesnake breaths.
One chance, she whispers,
To change my lieutenant.
After graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Robert Hestand began work in Hollywood as a writer and music composer, and has recently progressed toward independent filmmaking. He has maintained an interest in writing poetry since youth, with an emphasis on experimental style and the exploration of wide thematic range. email@example.com
The mourning broke her while the crows
in peaceful murders slicked their shards
on very still waters, in haphazard rows
that, sane and forgotten, meander apart.
In a startling sheen, she was the lake,
the still and unrippling grief of
all but a mirror, lucky to break
this habit of drowning, calls for love.
She left crow feet, unfortunately
sliced under skin and tips of taste,
these sour buds too new to see
in bed, alone, in wobbly space.
A yellowing air forgives the girl
who left the morning breaking her.
Eating fog and coffee,
we sit around politeness
and swallow the Sunday afternoons.
Husks of hours fall
around my grandmother’s shoes,
ribboning words into silk tongues,
condemning only loud voices or spilling
things. Even then, the tea exhales
“nice to have met you’s” elegantly
onto lap napkins, spelling impossibly
warm vowels that confound my mother’s
generation and unburden me of my own.
ST. ANNE STREET
Balconies hang out nervously,
holding up the dirty and soulful
end of conversations. Below,
nothing so strong as the sour
grain mill assures us we’ve come.
Instead, it’s that long-ago wealth
that emptied out down cobblestone
streets, past their own straight-laced
trees that wouldn’t know a joke if it
felled them. The river,
that old lazy river that doesn’t run
but slides, had room to breathe
weary breaths that once were
us. We seeped through
those peeling walls and spread in
a house like that, where customs come easy.
Too-long feet skipped stairs
and whatever was left of our virginity
was lost on its threshold. On those balconies,
spring can still stomach whiskey and keep
sentimental empty bottles in window rows.
Olivia Olson writes, "I live and write in Rochester Hills, MI, and I currently have work forthcoming
in Jones Av." firstname.lastname@example.org
Everywhere the sky roams
the buildings come to
ties me to the
Is this it?
should be a river.
Grace, I reach out
Love, your face I kiss.
When all lines
I will call your name.
I am in this yellow
room six stories
above the ground.
You are everywhere.
My days rush like
They become water.
Let sail sky high.
Let’s go home.
My blue child.
Dominic Alapat is a poet residing in Mumbai, India. His poems can be found
Fun wherever we are
Sometimes morning sounds like metal being bent
and you can hear the floor surrender to the low warble
of the ceiling fan. It’s difficult to prop yourself up
when all of a sudden serendipity gets plucked off
your shoulder and you’re expected to remember every
last face of every last woman you tried to seduce the night
before. Other times morning is a song played over and over,
a song that skips in the same place: The window facing east
is open; it will shake slowly but looks and feels more like
a planned escape. The other one faces north and it’s closed,
locked and painted shut. That one will be a blank canvas
to write her name-the name of the woman sleeping on her side,
back to the door, hair drifting in the sheets. This is how Jane
explained it all; blame tucked neatly into the corner of her smile,
recrimination teetering20on the edge of her lip ready to fall into
her mouth. Jane said Stop. Listen Dick. Listen. Listen. Listen
But I never want to stop, I want to fish for answers to fit
into the three corners of this triangular world. I want to fiddle
with questions until they bend along the sharp curve of reality.
I want to limp and crawl and burrow my way to the other side
of last night. Last night when everything was open and green
and the smooth blue of expectations met the honey brown of her skin.
All shook down
one, two, buckle my shoe-there is nowhere for me
so I promise
not to die
I will remain faithful to the tomorrow you painted
each scene a reminder
each a talisman, one tethered to the next
a daisy-chain of memories
that haven’t happened yet
three, four, shut the door -there are three shots left and the glass is half
asleep, we become empty
outside, there is a storm brewing
you can feel the clouds closing in, you can hear
the sharp snap
of a cue ball breaking the rack
here, in our world
we hide the key to the apartment under the mat, a cliché
looking for a context
five, six, pick up sticks-- it’s too quiet to think, too late to make amends
for stories we’ve been hiding
in plain sight
seven, eight, lay them straight
We come & go
She’s finally asleep, the soft light that haloes her hair
will fade when the street grows weary of holding it up.
We work, we go, we travel roads and burn bridges
and never catch a glimpse of the traffic swarming
around us. Last morning she told me our sins are unfulfilled
promises, we should hold them close, in the pocket next
to our fears. Her breathing is slower now, almost in time
with the slow shuffle of the panhandler who is making his
way into the CC. The shimmer of cold wafts from the downstairs
apartment carried by shits and fucks and goddamns- soon
even the clock will give up keeping track. Her mouth twitches
with sleep making it look like she’s smiling at an inside joke.
The ashtray searches for another cigarette, the crack in the window
winks at me and I hear the bum getting tossed out to the curb.
The drip of a faucet mocks the silence and soon it will be time
to remember. I carry the past with me because it is a sacrament,
a balm, an ointment to cease pain, it is voodoo and snake oil,
it is a fraud, the next big thing and the last one and only, it’s the sound
that seeps from this radiator, the sound of loneliness tied to truth.
Fun with Dick & Jane
last night everything was closed and dark
the smooth blue of dawn is still too many steps away
for us to plan our escape
I pretend to sleep and can almost hear
Look. Look Jane. Look
at me run
a lone car rumbles past, its lights flash
against pale wallpaper and he’s bored but not lonely
enough to call my name.
More Friends & Neighbors
I feel uncomfortable with formulas, would like to escape
the gravity of prime numbers
that measure desperation against longing-
would like to forget equations that divide
a breath into quarters, leaving nothin g
but the skin and bones of truth.
in the fraction of a moment it takes him to call my name
I remember myself as a young girl-
a first kiss
and peering out the window at the rain
defining every drop,
waiting patiently for the sun
to decide to stand its ground.
tonight will be forgotten before it’s even half over,
we will be shackled to a future
of abstractions and additions, our efforts rewarded
in multiples of two.
I can barely see his shadow or feel his hand on my hip,
maybe if I sleep long enough, the difference between where we were
and where we are going
will add up to where we need to be.
Alex lives in Minneapolis. email@example.com
As If Nature Still Needed to Breach
I have come to the conclusion
all poems are environmental
in nature and pay marginal notice
to the redundancy.
When you write,
“a cancer has developed
in our relationship.”
It is shorthand for~
Detergents in the rain
have again matasized
their way into spring.
I say ebulliently,
“the corpulence of capitalism
corrodes our culture.”
Disguised in the bubble of thought~
Birds of prey feast
on smaller mammals
when hiding their paltry nuts.
We read that
“we would all like to end war.”
Between the lines we find:
Polar ice caps
do not differentiate
a long freeze from hot fire.
This nothingness lasts hours
then a comment on time past
which is neither here
We watch a bird
land in the thicket
twitch and twist its beak
in an effort to attract
an inattentive mate.
You speak as though
a whale has breached
to avoid an oil spill.
Lick of the Lion’s Tongue
for Foone, Mende Tribesmen 1841
August and everyday
the Earth’s breath rising up
to startle the African Foone
Like the lick of the lion’s tongue
as he stands in foreign cornfields
fattened on the sinew of his fallow soul
The morning’s exhale moistens
does not salve the wounds
of slave ship whips licked onto his back
Welts uprisen from a low boil
in the gallows of his body
Only the sound of the lion’s roar
that once bellowed forth
from his fellow Mende men
as they unshackled tongues of refusal
can lick his wounds free of want
Uprising, on the export ship
of the unwilling, called Amistad
This is the song Foone hears in his ears
and the taste he holds on his tongue
as he wades, longing for lion’s fields
into an ambivalent whitewash
of river that floods his mouth
and finally sets his soul
up and rising
Jeff Dutko lives in Farmington , CT with his wife, two children and their crazy dog. He often tries to give voice to the special needs children he teaches through his writing, but also has 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 and Haggard and Halloo. firstname.lastname@example.org