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Volume 14, Issue 2

Spring 2011



Sharon Rothenfluch Cooper Robert Lesher James Owens Bruce McRae Cinthia Ritchie
Eric Heller Richard Davis Clinton Van Inman Robert Nordstrom Nancy Scott
Marilynn Talal Jason Alan Wilkinson Elizabeth Swados Jackelin J. Jarvis Gerald A. Saindon
David Lee Garrison Lee Marc Stein Holly Day William Ford


Sharon Rothenfluch Cooper

String Of Sand

The mind is despondant,
today’s blank state
unraveling around my neck
drawing away reserves
chasing at the darkness.

My shadow leaves me
to stand alone
hovering in segments
of vacant space.

I exist in seconds
that lurk unseen and swirl
my very existence.
and this string of sand
stretches into tomorrow
my existence left dangling.


There’s regret
in something unfinished.

Silence is a dark song.
I hunger for sound
but my gears work slowly
and I spit silence.
Moisture clings
where words should slide
and my mind stretches out
to hold thought but it dribbles
through my memory.

Words clamp and tangle
with constraint
to collapse in disorder.
I am broken – endure
the perishing of sound.

Out of sorts I wish
to finish this trip.
Deep down inside I know
there won’t be a sequel.

Visions And Dreams

I don’t know this quiet place
and my head holds nothing at all.
Speech is strung out in the air,
words spread too thing.
Tiny bits dissolve and I’m here
shouting into silence.

Sentences dwindle, phrases die
and my brain
forms circles releasing nothing.

Dreaming I swim in visions of you.
What I want you to know
is you are in my thoughts,
the aftermath of the unspoken word
and I reach out my hand
to catch your smile.

Don’t go your own way for I’ll
be left alone in this silence.

From the poet:  Sharon's poetry has appeared in numerous International, hard copy and internet magazines. Her chapbook, Reach Beyond, was winner of the MAG Press 2005 International Chapbook Competition. In April 2005, twenty-three of her poems were presented in the play, Soldier’s Heart, at Portland State University to sold out audiences and recorded on DVD.

 Robert Lesher

Upon Bonnie Lee’s Passing

Within the past year,
I gather in three deaths;
my biological mother, my wife’s older sister,
and now yours.

Once more
I package it back into my chest;
the gaze towards the window,
each morning.
There is always room for it.
We were created
with it in mind.

Our spirit,
prepares for it,
folds napkins
and places silverware
in straight lines
as we
live parallel to the Beatles,
and later on
ponder deeper and deeper
into glasses of beer.

Still, most of us
do not invite it,
say, like the surprise
in a box of Cracker Jacks.
It doesn’t offer that sort
of uncontrolled anticipation.
It is more like
the inconvenient friend,
seen from afar,
in a crowded terminal.
We slip into the rest room
before they see us.

When Bob Dylan Went Electric

It was
a speed freak
super jazzbo,
hammering mystic Talmud’s,
dry umbilical cords
and stretching them
across the longest
evening sky.

From the poet: I live, with my wife Jana, in Fullerton, California, in the house that I was raised in. I have had poetry published in The Cathartic, Voices International and Electrum magazines. Recently, I had a non-fiction short piece published in Splash of Red online magazine. For the past forty-plus years I have been a professional musician, within the blues idiom, living in Southern California and on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

James Owens


A scent from the devil’s translation of Proust:
ant-spray coils its meaning into his head
when he kneels about the yard and pumps the red---
for danger--- handle on poison. He smells the past,
a child again, those summer noons she crossed
the air of shaded rooms with insecticide
to quiet the plaguing flies. Tight-lipped, she sprayed
the stink of nausea, the hiss of sick and waste.

The years’ accumulation of little deaths
that makes a life --- he finds and soaks the nests.
No angel, though raining fire, he kills or allows.
The fly-spray settled in shallow breaths,
on lamps and beds, his father’s hanging fists.
Anger lingered a sticky film in that house.


Blackberries fattened in sun, sugary
in their clutch of hooks. A breeze

counted whisk-ing tongues of corn.
Grandmother smacked dough under floury fists,

teeth gripping a word like a blade.
Grandpa snapped beans and whipped

a fascinating .38 from his back pocket,
though stray dogs loped into the woods,

untouched by his clapping anger.
Cousins visited. Hide-and-seek

in the forbidden well house --- barefoot,
a green puddle on the cool concrete,

hard mineral smell when the pump
thumped and sucked the earth.

Elsewhere his lovely mother wrestled
the loud doll from her body. His tired father

left the room to bring roses
for her long red pain.

After supper, chucking rocks
at fish in the creek, the dark-eyed girl cousin

pulls him close to whisper, teach
the new word tucked under her tongue,

“the worst word in the world …
fuck,” plump

as a blackberry on its dangerous briar.

Rural Landscape from the Seventies

Wounded cars behind the henhouse
bled oil into the dirt,
wore badges of rust
where the paint blistered.
This was the derelict summer,
the one I will insist is not
a story about suicide.
The boys’ grandfather, too broken
for work, watched his days
seep from the TV, time
worthless as flowers on a grave.
The boys ran crazy, tracked robbers
across rotting corn stubble,
shied rocks at stray dogs,
bruised arms and legs.
The boys’ fathers were away,
in a war, maybe,
and their mothers drove to town
each morning, longing.
The fluffy hens mourned
as they scratched for bugs
or snuggled into the dust,
fluffed it under their feathers.
Sometimes the boys found an egg,
barren on a junk car’s back seat,
smashed it to yellow slime the dogs could lick.
When the afternoon wind
grayed the trees with dust,
when dust leaned on the windows,
the old man trembled in his chair.
I will say he didn’t die then,
the fathers returned whole,
the mothers laughed,
bubbling over with secrets.

From the poet:  James Owens teaches writing at Purdue North Central University. Two books of his poems have been published: An Hour is the Doorway (Black Lawrence Press) and Frost Lights a Thin Flame (Mayapple Press). His poems, reviews, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals.

Bruce McRae

Methinks I Am Too Savage

Reading Macbeth is the same as not reading Macbeth.
It’s as if I have two apples and you’ve given me five,
or I’ve been locked overnight in a department store.

Reading Macbeth reminds me of a train station in the drizzle.
It’s the equivalent of a lifelong nervous disorder.
It reminds me of a job I had in ’79 and disliked intensely
or when our dog ran away and was consequently hit by a car.
I’m reminded of a regrettable past and the ones I’ve loved.
I’m quite tempted to pencil in a plan for tackling the future.

Reading Macbeth has over-stimulated my imagination –
great thoughts but in tiny and unremarkable circumstances.
You’re forced to ask yourself some awfully big questions.
There are long walks by the seaside and letters to be written.
You realize your own tragic history is nothing exceptional
and come to appreciate our planet’s natural beauty.
Once, you laughed so hard you wet yourself, then began to cry.
It’s suddenly becoming apparent you’ve misused your time.
That lives are for wasting.

Dreaming Of Dali

The ponies have eaten the people,
the toxic mushrooms, the oil wells.
I may be drunk on the wind of memory
but the ponies are seeing into the earth.
They’re green, with eyes of lace curtains.
Their thoughts are an immeasurable honey.

The ponies run wild in New York City,
walk upright, converse in downtown bistros.
But I know how ponies operate.
I’m aware of their curse and unbearable burden.
Ponies betting everything on red.
Ponies with rough hands and leather reins.
In the depths of weather.

They’ve come from a place without love,
hounded from bedrooms of the gentry,
economic migrants with green spaces in their chests,
where children frolic and wolves sip cocao,
where the last dollar bill lies dying,
the rooster and ant conspiring discretely.

They’ve arrived by courier, three inches high
and half a foot from the cold cold ground.
They enjoy bone soup and the musings of widows.
Their god is a dandelion envying the moon –
which isn’t the moon, it’s the ponies’ blue meadow.

I’m painting their portraits in a snowstorm.
I do this for you, because of the midwife’s legacy.
For the museum, abattoir and zoo.
And please, be very still; the ponies are resting
in the next room, tired from playing on the swings,
aching, weary from contemplating contentment.

Thank your stars you’re alive to witness this day,
this covenant of creation and discord, this tragic June.
That you’re here and can celebrate the passing of genius.

Cinthia Ritchie

To the Woman in the Mass Grave, Iraq

I kissed your bones
in a dentist office,
in Anchorage, Alaska,
magazine photo bright
and glossy, and dear
sweet Jesus, honey,
you looked so small
and defense-
less without your shield
of skin.

Fabric twisted
with femur,
shreds of plastic,
something dull and muted
that might have been a shoe,
and around you
husband, mother, sister, brother,
or maybe strangers,
but still, an arm reaching
to touch see feel
this solid weight
of another’s death.

But your bones!
hideous yet lovely,
pure with another’s stain, hip
angled as if escaping
a blow, ribs scattered,
a few flat phalanges tarnished
the lonesome sheen of lost coins.

Listen, honey, be patient.
Soon I’ll sneak into your grave
fold you away in satin,
bury you inside my quilt
as I breathe you another life:
that quiver, that fight
and then white spaces,
blue sounds,
my breasts growing fat and heavy
for your cold, cold mouth.

Destruction Bay, Yukon

Fog across the water,
it’s hard to see the mountains,
we’ve been camped here for days,
your body so familiar it feels
like my own skin, ordinary, warm,
the surprise of no surprises,
we swim through nights without
darkness, wake to
eagles down the beach,
bear prints around the tent,
we hang our food from tree branches,
drink dirty water,
sit on the shore for hours
losing our capacity for words,
mouths, meanings,
out here with the wind,
the waves,
the long cool stretches,
and wild.

Hay season

My youngest sister steers
the tractor, the rest of us following
the baler as it shoots squares
the size of grocery sacks, our gloved
hands sliding beneath twine and lifting,
there’s a rhythm to it, a mindless solace:
kick with one knee, lean forward, clutch
and heave, hay seed flying,
we’ve been stuck
in this field for hours, days,
palms bleeding, faces cut,
later we sink down in warm baths,
count our scrapes and bruises,
go to bed early and lie
in country darkness,
crickets, wind,
we know nothing of streetlights
or traffic, but still we dream
of cities, subways,
the song of heels over pavement
as we lick blood
from our scabs, our tongues
experienced, clever.

It wasn’t if we would escape,
only when,
how soon.

From the poet:  Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Alaska. Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction can be found at Memoir (and), Ghoti, 42Opus, Sugar Mule, New York Times Magazine,Under the Sun and others.

Eric Heller

First Date, 1992

I don’t mean that time in the diner
when I bought you a ham sandwich
before I’d ever heard the term vegan
and I don’t mean that morning at Rutgers
when our fingers touched with electric promise
and I said to myself
never for me, only if…maybe...
and I don’t mean that day we walked down
Halsey Street, and had tofu stew in that steamy restaurant
and sat near the sun-gleamed windows, watching
Newark pass by as the owner watched us, smiling
the way people might when they see a young couple
with children: No. I mean that night you drove your Jeep
through the tangled streets of my tree-lined town
and you brought brown rice tea
and charmed my parents
and we lit candles in my room
and you let me turn off the lights, trustingly
and we lay talking in the flickering dark and felt the earth
shift, ready or not, towards our everything.

First published in US 1 Worksheets, Vol 54, 2009

I Dreamt About My Father, Young

he came to me in the shadows one night
his aftershave sweet in the air
his whiskers rough as he said goodbye
and then I was ten years old again
seeking him out shyly for a catch
watching him work wrench, pulley and paint
feeling again that buzz and delight
at the garage door rumble
bringing him home at night
and sitting on the edge of his bed
as he put jacket, tie and sweater
back into that dim closet
I’ll roam when he has gone.

First published the Delaware Valley Poets Anthology THATCHWORK, 2010

From the poet:  Eric Heller has been a teacher, technical writer, and is now a director of marketing for a technology company in Princeton, NJ. Eric’s poems have appeared in Kota Press Poetry, U. S.1 Worksheets, and the Delaware Valley Poets’ anthology, THATCHWORK; his 2010 U.S.1 Worksheets publication has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Richard Davis

The Potato Eaters (1885) Van Gogh

The five of them gleam under a sallow lamp, casting
The cluster of poverty well into the night, deep night
Not black night but brown night, moist and loamy rich

The earth molds us to them, enchanted they
Pick their morsels thriftily, while she pours
Deliberately, quietly listening for redemption

Of the close to another day, the quelling wind
Chatters outside, 7 o’clock, the potatoes cut
They look to themselves, to each other, to supper

Much must be said, much must be remembered
Of the working day, with the grit of it covering them,
Plainly, they are tired, incomplete, they reset themselves

Under the cross, of light, of icon, they dwell wholly
Together, in waiting for a promise, numberlessly
Time wears on them, a promise wears on them, salvation

From the poet:  Richard Davis was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1957.  His style encompasses an observational expressionism blended with post-modern and classical philosophies. He sees “Art is the freedom for civilizations to excel."

Clinton Van Inman 

It was no accident my coming here,
They must have known long before
I wandered to their farmhouse near
That soon I’d knock upon their door.

Call it more than a good neighbor’s sense
In snow to leave the porch lamp lighted
Or post the sign on the picket fence,
For those in need are all invited.

From the poet:  I am a high school teacher in Hillsborough County , Florida . I am 65 and a graduate of San Diego State University.  Recent publications are, Tower Journal, The Hudson View, and to name a few.

Robert Nordstrom

Norman Rockwell’s Nursing Home Epiphany
(the painting not painted)

There’s Charlie
pulled up pushed in
to the TV gates
yellow pillow-head hair
electric in the flickering light
watching Weather Channel tornadoes
race across the Midwest

and there’s the nurses and aides
in their blue scrubs and pink smocks
sorting pills and chores
the grandchildren nephews nieces
staring in open mouthed nonplussed
amazement at
heads bobbing and weaving
like broken down stallions
whose races have been run

and Norman
who painted the happiness
he did not know how to live
there’s Norman
alone in the corner
lower right
partially hidden
by the fern’s green fingers
his own elongated finger raised
and pointing—
he may be pointing
we wish him to be pointing—
to the narrow window
where a single amber leaf
falls through splendent light

Saved by a Law of Physics

Just as I Am—
this haunting hymn
pricked my childhood
like a doctor’s needle,
corralled my adolescent hormones
into a pen of penitence and doubt
that finally lifted me off the pew
and up the aisle
just as I was
when I was twelve years old.

The man kneeling next to me said
just invite Him in and be cleansed
by the blood of the lamb shed for me:
a new boy 
           bound for glory
                           born again
this time outside his mother’s womb.

What superhero aficionado could resist
such miraculous and transformative power
though he and He and I
did not count on that
cleavage placed strategically by Satan
two kneelers down

or my parent’s triumphant smiles
in the car on the way home

or my best friend’s plans for a shoplifting orgy
of squirt guns and yo-yos the morning after

or that incontrovertible law of physics stating that
every action requires an equal and measurable reaction

From the poet:  Robert Nordstrom is a retired editor, poet, free lance writer, and school bus driver delivering precious cargo over snow-covered roads in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. His mission for the school year is modest, though a bit subversive, and that's to teach high school students how to respond when an adult says good morning. He has published poetry and fiction in The Paris Metro, Peninsula Pulse and Verse Wisconsin, among others.

Nancy Scott

The Barrette

after Woman in Blue
by Danish artist, Oda Peters, 20th Century

Young woman, soft slope of shoulder, tilt
of head, teal dressing gown, which shimmers
like silk in the dun-colored room.
She perches at the edge of a bed without frills,
bare walls, dull light casting shadows.
Some thing I can’t see in a small jewel box
captures her attention. Perhaps a silver barrette
set with turquoise he bought for her
on their trip to the New Mexico,
where a palette of clay, sand, and burnt sienna
fires imagination, but here in this room fades
to quietude. She fingers the object as if to recapture
that moment, when he unclasped the barrette,
releasing a flood of ash blonde round her shoulders,
but only that once. Perhaps he died in a war
or left her for somebody else; no matter the truth,
she has coached her heart to live in the past.

My nightmares are like that...

after an oil painting, entitled The Empire of Light, II,
by René Magritte

A single street lamp, not illuminating anything,
the street’s bathed in darkness, and I’m running
and stumble, and there’s a house, maybe two,
maybe three, I lose count as I’m running, out of
breath now, and light from a window, here
and there, but the street is deserted, no people,
no cars, not even a stray dog, and yet behind
one of those closed doors may be what I’m trying
to reach, but I can’t stop to find out, so I keep
on running, and will myself not to look up,
because over the trees, above this desolate street,
there’s a bright blue sky frothy with clouds, and
if I could get a good running start, I could lift off
and soar, leave this endless street where no one
goes out, not for a smoke or to walk their dog,
and if I stay steady, I could float forever
in perpetual day, but I know that’s not what
I’m looking for, so if I can reach the corner,
I’ve got a hunch that on the next street, day is
day and night’s night, and with my legs aching,
I’d settle for that, so I keep on running, past
the same windows, same trees, still hopeful
I’ll make it, because as I said at the start,
my nightmares are like that.

First published in Segue, 2010

Nancy Scott is the author of two full-length books of poetry, Down to the Quick (Plain View Press, 2007) and One Stands Guard, One Sleeps (Plain View Press, 2009), and two chapbooks, A Siege of Raptors (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Detours & Diversions (Main Street Rag, 2011). She is the current managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey, which has met continuously since 1973.

Marilynn Talal 

Sarah Watches Them Leave 

I still see them leaving
with gestures I cannot stop
leaving for the high places

the bronze shouldered hills.
Bees simmered early in the field.
My husband iron

in his voice with iron
movements saddled the ass
The air shuddered

my throat closed
he took dry sticks for the offering
and took the boy

whose cheek in the dawn bloomed
ripening peach.
Flapping my skin before the tent

useless useless watching
until the knife edge of horizon
cut them away.

Van Gogh:  "Landscape with Couple Walking and Crescent Moon"

The slender crescent quivers in the sky
as though it were a saw
held between the hands and knees
of a farmer who draws the long bow
slowly over hills and a couple walking,
the woman with one uplifted hand.

Now the moon has become an ear
listening between cypress spires
that raise their own churches, content
the way a farmer bowing a saw
sends his tune out the windows of his room.

The music of the painting sings to me
and the farmer who planted the olive trees,
joining us into the grace
of the woman in the yellow dress
walking with the man in a smock,
as she moves her hand in the air,
into the harmony of cypresses
and a man bowing his saw over the hills.

From the poet:  Marilynn Talal earned the Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston where she was awarded a Stella Earhart Memorial Award. She has also been awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The New Republic and elsewhere.

Jackelin J. Jarvis

The Man's Lantern

Producing an ancient orange glow,
your dreams draw webs on the stars they sew
Tonight you sing into a universe which speaks,
while watching tunnels of bats spew forth and sneak,
and swarm up a ladder to your quaint windows under a slit moon,
and descend like a rush of night-lights to bleach black leaves on your spoon

It's a blessing to shadow the heart of the sea,
or watch birds of a gull washing up for the moon's bedtime tea
Slice of an eye burning your tower rust,
is the man's lantern churning the crust
Tips from the moon to the lighthouse pop,
brings incandescence to brighten your bell-black top

The wind does not blow the onyx bristles below,
that line and silhouette the spirit of Van-Gogh

From the poet:  I never liked school, and waited five years to go back to college which I loved, but soon ran out of money and couldn't finish my studies in Nutrition Science. But I was always artistic. One day I started to write after I moved to Italy which 'changed' and rearranged me with its culture-shock.


Gerald A. Saindon

Dawn Patrol

Whatever rain may have fallen
last evening is gone.
the earth, awash while people
slept, now creaks
in arid dismay this sunrise, present
to our need for something
to stand upon, to gaze across,
to worry with our business.

I find the open door
that let the rain in, that kept
no creature out, that worried me
as my dream, I thought, banging
against the sink. Rainwater washes
my floor, my shoes, my three books left
waiting for my indulgence.
another hour or two of soaking
and the books were dissolved
into puddles of turgid, verbose muck,
food for no one’s thoughts, bookworms
gasping for rescue.

Shoes can dry, can shrink,
can crack, can be worn, be mundane
and useful. But I need to find
the refugee animals hiding
or foraging within my castle,
within the dry shelter of my house,
itself atop the dry planet
of wounded certainty, no longer
merely fruitful.

Perhaps I can await an apparition of skunk
or raccoon, a bird’s delirium.
In peace and numbness, I drink coffee,
whetting my wonder at Nature’s
incorrigible sense of humor.

From the poet:  I live on 5 acres, have a nice size pond, and sit thereabouts whenever I can. I write some poems, and have been urged by a son-in-law to get moving on the publishing side of things. I'm 62 now, retired and loving all but three minutes a day.

David Lee Garrison

Camden, Ohio on a Winter Evening

Wet snow clings to branches
like clothes on a line,
moonlight slides up and down
the asphalt, street lights
buzz in conversation
above the empty sidewalks.
A plaque touts this little town
as the birthplace of Sherwood Anderson,
whose Winesburg stories echo
off the storefronts, beyond the bridge.

The door of a Main Street bar swings open
beneath an arrow-shaped sign
that reads WHISKEY
and spills out a man with music
rolling over his shoulders.
A worker in a white apron
smokes in front of the supermarket.
Two lovers linger on a doorstep
despite the cold, phone lines
wag and gossip in the wind.

From the poet:  The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared in journals such as Connecticut Review, Rattle, and Poem, and in a number of anthologies as well. Garrison Keillor read two poems from his book, Sweeping the Cemetery (Browser Books), on The Writer's Almanac, and Ted Kooser featured one on his website, American Life in Poetry.


Holly Day

When Summer Comes

I bury their heads in peat and think of the day when
the sun warms the soil and the clouds bring the rain and the white
snowy fields that once seemed to stretch endless will
be a fuzzy memory of a cold and irrelevant past.
the seeds so carefully planted before the first frost will
unfold like origami and send thin furry roots tunneling
through the chilly dirt to find footholds in the earth.
I'll wake to find a thin coat of green covering
the warmed soil surrounding the base of the old birch tree
in the back yard.

eventually, the thin frost of green will grow into a thick carpet, obscuring

the domed hills marking the entrance and exit of traveling worms,
the triangular footprints of excavating seasonal birds, even the
occasional fox footpad, preserved in wet mud. but
today, snow falls in soft clumps outside my kitchen window, barely
heard or felt by the tiny cocooned bodies of insects and plants
lying dormant beneath the soil. I stare past the snow
dream bright, grand dreams of far-off
summer days, imagining the crackle
of night crawlers moving beneath decomposing leaves, the way
the stars look so fuzzy in the sky on
hazy, summer nights.

The Wife

hand in hand, fingers locked
in a bright show
of marital bliss, smile for
the outside world
to see. no reflection of nightly
rituals of blood
and bone, of skin against metal
the room with a

drain in the floor. her smile is
carefully controlled, quiet
years of hiding
a mouth full of
chipped, dying teeth, lips rouged to hide the hairline
splits in her flesh, the way the

skin puckers
in too many directions
when she tries to speak. he shelters her with
his body in public, banishing questions from
friends and family who ask
why she never calls anymore.

From the poet:  Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Oxford American, The Midwest Quarterly, and Coal City Review.


William Ford

Basketball Star

Your ducktailed hair bobbed
and wove among us crew cuts
with moves we couldn’t match,
your sneakers with their laces
lined up perfectly, your socks
and uniform a decent fit.

Then you fell to second team
and on your way to third
because we slow to get it
finally did and used our bulk
to hard foul any move,
though it was practice only.

One day we found you
razor blading through
those sneaker shoe strings
and ripping up your sweats.

“Not to worry, guys,” you said.
“I’m not tough enough
and never will be,” then left
the room and told the coach
you quit.
The rest of us lived on
in a world of letter jackets
and newspaper clippings
while you built a street rod,
smoked and drank,
and stayed up late, scoring
with girls we couldn’t date.

From the poet:  I appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of miller's pond. I've published two books and two chapbooks and am just about finished with a third chapbook. Lyrical Iowa, Valparaiso Review, and Prairie Schooner also published poems of mine in the last year or so.


Lee Marc Stein


Is Max Schmitt out of his scull?
Does his mind drift to his great win
in last month’s club race as he recalls
his shell speeding like a shutter click?
Or does he silently crown the real champ,
friend Tom, brave and able enough to paint
the stillness and movement of this sporting life?

Warm russet late afternoon light; lucite
blue sky; odd cloud cluster that clones
and brackets the boat below; clump
of willows crowding the Schuylkill;
network of ironwork on distant bridges
disrupting the rhythm of masonry arches;
dark mass of hill leadening the landscape.

Our eyes climb toward the horizon; oars
that caused the wake itch in the victor’s hands;
two-man red boat streaks in the background;
far-off steamboat puffs white smoke.
Visual echoes abound: Eakins rowing away
contemplating his subject; river mirroring
Max reflecting; the scene’s stillness reverberating
in our minds like an ancient triumph reborn.

ekphrastic poem, after Thomas Eakins, Champion in a Single Scull

What Do We See?

You would not expect this painter dubbed
Pier den Droll to depict such unspeakable
solemnity – blond guiding blond perhaps,
or the cast of Saramago’s Blindness,
but not these violent-looking sightless men
living hell on earth in Middle-Aged Holland.

Nor expect this planter of four seasons
of idyllic landscapes over-populated
by happy harmless people to strip away all
but a withered tree in front of the useless church,
to adopt the drear of the Reformation
and tear that pastoral smile from our mouths.

Doctors see in the art five diseases of the eyes.
What made Bruegel so boffo about blindness:
waves of science storming dikes and pulpits;
Dutch Humanist streak staining his palette;
fear his old style would tag him Grandma Moses,
or that Luther would be nailed by neo-Torquemada?

Do we see us in Papa B’s magic mirror:
Being led into inevitable ditches by alchemists,
media priests and altered statesmen;
pulling children and grandchildren headlong
down paths pretending we know the pitfalls;
at the church’s door watching others stumble?

ekphrastic poem, after Pieter Bruegel, The Blind Leading the Blind

Lee Marc Stein is a retired marketing consultant living in East Setauket, Long Island. His poems have appeared in miller's pond, Still Crazy, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Message in a Bottle, The Write Room and Blue Lake Review. He is working on a chap book of ekphrastic poetry


Jason Alan Wilkinson

This is not about a ‘World Gone Mad’

Or those imagined consequences
derived of such a harrowing prospect.

This is not about a truculent gallimaufry of feather-weight rebels
hell bent upon setting things right.

It’s not about all the more conventional philosophic mechanisms
which have failed at similar pursuits.

This is not another sleek advertisement
beckoning you and your family to an ‘Island Paradise’
beyond whose tourist areas a small battalion wouldn’t feel safe.

It’s not about amending tax regulations or cutting back pension fund spending.

It’s not about what you or I, or anyone else on planet earth, would do for a square chocolate-coated bar of ice cream.

This is not about the day that your last functioning brain cell packed up and moved out

Or the rather odd variant of separation anxiety which ensued precipitately upon its departure.

It’s not about a Tea Party For Idiots

Nor the institutions of demonstrably inferior repute
through which Conservative slander has found an audience.

This is not about how many disingenuous morons one is expected to transact life among
for the sake of remaining buoyant in a global economy.

It’s not about what you should do with your piss-pot inheritance of worthless bric-a-brac.

For the love of God this is not about your mother in law!

Nor the mean frequency with which she has been known to disrupt the equilibrium of
your otherwise quiet abode.

This is not a loud wake-up call for all of the people whom would do themselves a greater turn should they ever choose to
pay way more attention to their own lives.

This is not about the ‘well-intentioned prank’ that cost your uncle his right leg.
Don’t worry, this is not about refining the American Healthcare System.

It’s not about the public school lunch program of the future, which will likely consist of
nothing beyond ill-tasting protein bars and bottled water.

It’s not about how many politicians will be disgraced by the time it is implemented.

This is not about a witch living on your sister’s block, who, for the sheer pleasure of
countenancing her neighbours, has made a flamboyant show of observing Christmas for
the past nine years.

It’s not about the untold number of household pets that went missing between that
development and the nearest Chinese takeout facility.

It’s not about the ethnic violence in Nigeria.

Or the virtual monocracy of Yemen.

This is not about the five hundred pound gorilla that some genius thought would make an
ideal pet.

This is not about a religious hierarchy that is more concerned with defending child
molesters to The New York Times than it is protecting children from abuse.

It’s not about an imaginary band of nomadic aliens whose invented history includes
manufacturing the first humans in a laboratory, and strip-mining our universe for gold.

Or how such dubious extraterrestrials have, according to an equally incredulous agent,
lately found themselves mired with intergalactic sanctions.

It’s not about the utterly barbaric fashion in which the most vulnerable members of
Civilization are often treated.

Or the collage of useless judiciaries whose despotic machinery refuses Justice to those
whom have suffered the worst.

It’s not about the first thing that you plan to do after reading this.

Nor the fact that most of your friends have not read a book for the better half of a decade.

This is not about how many disinterested jackasses are required to stop an oil spill.

It’s not a lucid editorial scrutinizing their largely ineffective practices.

This is not about placing blame.

Elizabeth Swados


The wind takes Mercer Street
Up in its hand
And slaps it against the windows.
This is unusual for late November
And we are titillated
And scared.

How many of you on this block

Still believe in Greek gods
Or Native American spells?
I do!
Oh, not my new neighbors
With their double Decker strollers

Not the hedge fund boys
Or the Wall Street analysts
Or even the anthropologists
With their twins.

Twins in Nigeria have sacred meaning.
I once knew a Nigerian rock singer
Whose mother had seven sets of twins
And they all died except him.
He named his band:
Twins 77.

Someone is leaning on a horn
As if the wind is traffic
Holding up the commute
To the ranch houses outside
The city boundaries.

I am dancing naked in my window
Waltzing with my poodle singing
“When you walk through a storm,” from The King and I.
The world is in terrible, terrible shape
The Gods rarely visit and we never listen.

Cleaned Out

The Basement has finally over flooded
I kept as many books there as I could
and CDs going back some thirty years and
poems cruddy typed on yellow paper
more and more as the years added on and
this year for some reason even more
and a card board box shifted or a
pile of books slid to one side
changing the balance of the whole room
and what had been a tower crashed
and what had been a delicately put together puzzle
come apart, made an avalanche of papers and
unfinished ideas
and I couldn’t get in the door.


If I can’t close my eyes
lean over the piano keys
and see Akhmatova doing a handstand
on a coffee table, then what
good is lasagna or a cliff bar with salad.
If I can’t walk on Broadway
toward the Tisch building and hear
what whispering Biork song
Isabelle Eberhart might sing
I don’t see the point of putting on my shoes.
Without you I am empty and in danger
but without my songs and plays I won’t live.

From the poet:  Elizabeth Swados is an award winning author and composer; she is a Tony nominated, Obie award winning theater artist, Guggenheim and Ford Foundation recipient, as well as a Pen/Faulkner citation. . Recent publications include: My Depression (Hyperion), and The Animal Rescue Store (Scholastic). Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as Meridian Anthology, New American Writing,  Emory's Journal, Runes and Home Planet. Her first book of poetry, The One and Only Human Galaxy, was released in April 2009.