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miller's pond

Fall 2012

Vol. 15, Issue 3

Larry W. Kelts Roger Singer Elizabeth Rivers M.A. Schaffner Tyrel Kessinger R.A. Allen Sy Roth Andrew F. Popper
De Jackson John Davis, Jr. William Robison Marshall Botvinick Carol Hamilton A.J. Huffman Mark J. Mitchell Richard Fein Robert Demaree

 

De Jackson

>5x


1(upon a)x she loved him.

2x
he bruised her cheek, leaving nowhere else to turn.

3x
she dialed the strange number
female voice answered, hung up.

4x
he didn’t bother to call
or come home
at all.

5x
she calculated
her escape
packed and unpacked
her bags, divided her heart.

>5x
he added insult
to injury,
stole every fraction
of her soul
until she was < zero.

Momentum 101

Snap blinders carefully into place, grind rearview
mirrors into dust. Face forward, obliterate all past
horizon views. Burn a few photos for good measure,
treasure the ashes but don’t watch them fly. Why

not dangle carrot in the interest of continual ongoing
motivation? Embrace feeling of wind on skin, dig in
heels and allow inertia to do its job (all hail Mr. Newton).
Sing ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’ at the top of your lungs

tongue in cheek, of course (checking forward placement of
this and all other wayward appendages). Wring regret from
fingers, linger not over one small thing. Forge onward, just go,
grow; for when you rewind you find only what you already know.

Float

She kept a bottle under the bed
of laughter lost and tears she shed

Poems and ponderings, pieces of pain
sliver of moonlight, drizzle of rain.

Broken
ready to breathe, begin
she opened the ocean and tossed it in.

De Jackson wanted to be a PoetPiratePrincess when she grew up, but is slowly settling into the role of mom/freelance writer. She writes advertising copy, runs gleefully with scissors and plays well with poems…when she can coax her mermaid muse onto dry land. Her heart beats best when accompanied by inky fingers and salty toes. De scribbles daily at www.whimsygizmo.wordpress.com.


A.J. Huffman

A Sphere of Fixed Attention

I know.
The Garden of Eden
needs weeding.
Let’s start
with Adam’s leaf.
So pointless.
A false modesty.
Even he cannot believe
in its need.
To entice?
What a dream.
Relax.
Have an apple instead.
Though I doubt
even that will help him
turn Eve’s head.

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida. She has previously published four collections of poetry: The Difference Between Shadows and Stars, Carrying Yesterday, Cognitive Distortion, and . . . And Other Such Nonsense. She has also published her work in national and international literary journals such as Avon Literary Intelligencer, Writer's Gazette, and The Penwood Review. Find more about A.J. Huffman, including additional information and links to her work at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000191382454 and https://twitter.com/#!/poetess222.

Carol Hamilton

A Little Past the Middle of the Book

Too many books, maybe.
        He’s not saying much today.
We all dither sometimes,
        even in print, and I’m hearing
a locust chirr at morning
       with a voice so constant
it is like the hum of the cooling air,
       only heard when turning away
from another voice that has gone on
       too long. I’m not leaving you
forever, Dear Wordsmith,
       but at this point, I feel
you were even getting a little tired
                   of yourself.

Help in the Garden

He needs it at his age,
all changing as it is autumn.
The crows cry like voices
from the sea at night,
a tanker leaving only
a spread of oil hinting
at colors in the moonlight,
leaving only echoes that pretend
to be calls still there
in the vast, black air.
These squash vines are skeletal,
eaten from within, and the green bean
plants have stubby,
amputated fingers.
I’m scanning the want ads
as my coffee cools in its mug,
looking for someone to hire ....
someone who might stretch out a hand
and turn it all to order.

Carol Hamilton has recent publications in South Carolina Review, Poet Lore, Tulane Review, slipstream, River Oak Review, Tar River Review, San Pedro River Review, Willow Review, White Wall Review, Bryant Literary Review and others. She has been nominated five times for a Pushcart Prize. She has published 15 books of children's novels, legends and poetry, most recently, Master of Theater:  Peter the Great and Lexicography. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.


Mark J. Mitchell

SESTINA: K. VISITS

“Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes part of the ceremony.”
--Franz Kafka, 3rd Blue Octavo Notebook



He came on time like a train to the station.
“Sit,” I said, “I’ll take your hat.” He said
Nothing, bowed slightly. Northern silence. “Your glass,”
I offered. “Some champagne to toast the season.
I’ll drink water until tomorrow.” He smiled sadly,
Lifted his flimsy glass, toasted, “Your grief.”

Then drained it quickly. “Yes, my grief.”
My face became brittle. “You’d call it a station
On life’s way, I suppose. Bear it sadly,
You’d advise.” I looked at his long chin. He said,
“I’d like to smoke.” “Of course, let tobacco season
The air, we’ll hide behind clouds. Oh, your glass

Needs attention. You see, it’s like I’m behind glass
Streaked with smoke. I look through this grief
And only see what it shows me. My dark season
Is outside liturgy, longer than a turn around stations
Of the cross. Each day I recall things he said,
And I hold back tears.” He sat straight, sad. He

Lit his pipe again, looked at me, nodded sadly.
I went on. “I’m not angry at the pane of glass,
But almost no one else sees it.” I said.
“In your day, I’d wrap myself in black, grieve
In public. I feel locked in a station
While a train pulls out into the long baseball season


I should enjoy. Coming out of this holy season
Used to open the world for me, and sadly,
I note, it will again. Today I’m a soldier stationed
On a forgotten border, reading poems written on glass.
Each morning my heart breaks. I laugh. My grief
Is hidden, not secret.” That’s what I thought I said.


He sipped champagne. He coughed smoke, then said,
“I died younger than you are now, but I had this season.
I disliked my father, true, but paid my grief
Like duty at a border. Your heart is different. Sadly,
I have nothing to give you. Break this glass
Yourself. Rake over your poems. Live in your station.”

That was all he said. I looked at him sadly,
Then refilled his glass. To all things, their season,
And now it’s grief’s turn. I live in the empty station.

FADO

Her voice is bleeding in an unknown tongue,
The sorrow is ripe, rich enough to touch.
A flower broken early, broken young.

Her song wraps its tune around you. It’s sung
Tenderly, the guitars don’t count as much
As her voice that bleeds in a different tongue.

It’s as if those words, unknown, caught and clung
To your body, like some tropical vine that clutched
You. The broken flower brushing your young

Flesh. Your mouth tastes it as it gently numbs
All your senses. You lean on her song like a crutch—
This voice that’s bleeding in that foreign tongue.

This record is scratched. The needle is stung
From the grooves. Vinyl’s delicate, it’s such
A broken flower, lost when you were young

And stupid. But the song, so sadly sung,
Strokes hidden nerves that no one’s ever touched—
That bleeding voice, this subtle tongue—
Her flower breaks early and she broke young.

Mark has two novels coming out from two different publishers--The Magic War from BeWrite Books and Knight Prisoner from Vagabondage Press. Fowlpox press is publishing his chapbook, Fishing in the Knife Drawer. His work has turned up in various magazines recently, too and in an anthology out of Romania of all places.


Marshall Botvinick

A Trip to the Closet

A shirt, a pair of underwear
Where to start donating you?
A closet full of clothes
A door I cannot close
While still in the throes of despair.
A jacket calls for arms,
A tie still binds,
And a cuff links to you.
Your life a mere size ten shoe;
Your spirit a wrinkle in your pants,
Yet the time is past due
For me to begin anew.
The clothes don’t make the man.
And so my love, my life, my rock
I end my chorus of “I can’ts”
With a sock.

Marshall Botvinick runs a fine arts program at Forsyth Technical Community College. His plays have been produced at South Carolina Repertory Company, and his articles have been published in Film International and HowlRound. Recently, he has taken up poetry as a new form of expression.

Richard Fein

TREE HUGGING POET

Grape juice from an overturned Styrofoam cup,
the purple dye is cast and penetrates my oriental rug,
and will permanently permeate this carpet.
Most of humanity would quickly find a paper towel to wipe it,
for the multitudes care little for the ecology of trees.
How many of the world's stains are wiped away
with the processed carcasses of those stately cellulose mountains.
But to serve as a prophylactic to this accidental purpling
of this somewhat frayed made-in-China genuine Persian almost facsimile,
I'd have to lift pen from paper and derail my train of thought
moving between the blue lines in my notebook.
And worst of all I'd have to get up, get the towel, tear off a precious piece,
and actually bend my back and even my elbows.
Instead I'll sit here, and on reams and reams of paper
declaim how poets care so very much for trees.


Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A Chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals such as Reed, Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Paris/atlantic, Canadian Dimension, Black Swan Review, Exquisite Corpse, Foliate Oak, Morpo Review, Ken*Again Oregon East, Southern Humanities Review, Morpo, Skyline, Touchstone, Windsor Review, Maverick, Parnassus Literary Review, Small Pond, Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Exquisite Corpse, Terrain Aroostook Review, Compass Rose, Whiskey Island Review, Oregon East, Bad Penny Review and many, many others.

William Robison

Almost Summer

Alice, lithe legs like a yearling gazelle
climbs up his back onto strong young shoulders
gladiator games, cold gravel pit pond

dark hair, doe eyes, olive skin, long lashes
bare feet brushing walking back to the camp
where a cherry bomb blows up the bonfire

embers rain, mothers shrill, he doubles up
laughing, hops with burned bare feet, recovers
too slowly, she winces at a cinder

her love lasts no longer than their blisters
swelling till bright red flesh fades, skin crinkles
evanescent moisture evaporates

the car boys come with report cards, no more
denim polishing chrome bike handlebars
he never even kissed her on the lips

but forty years on they still brush his lids
at dawn, waking the bitter fond fragrance
of springtide sweat, windswept sand, and Alice

God is a Redheaded Woman

God is a redheaded woman, or so it seemed
on Saturday evening at the Easter vigil
Creation narrated by a balding elder
but God’s ex nihilo pronounced in flagrante
by a rufescent mademoiselle on the altar

The white-robed monsignor always speaks for Jesus
while roseate, scarlet-slandered Mary Magdalene
never makes the liturgy until at the tomb
the shining angel proclaims his cryptic message
to lucindas unblanched by rubicund wrappings

Perhaps the ginger oracle had the best voice
maybe she won a coin-flip with the narrator
or simply reminded the priest of his mother
Still the Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush
and thundered his commands from a cone rimmed crimson

Stripped

Lee’s very first words as the cabbie comes to the curb
are where in town can we find some real good strip joints

the first is a major letdown—wig-headed matrons
with puffy lips, saggy tits, and spare tire bellies

doling out half-hearted hand jobs in Naugahyde booths
and dancing only when someone plays the jukebox

but then a sun-shaded tipster reeking of reefer
sends them to a tarpaper shack by the river

a harrowing quarter mile past abandoned storefronts
and across the levee on a path that stinks of piss

the tattooed bouncer checks out customers through a slit
before opening the door upon Babylon

the star attraction is an eighteen-year-old nymphet
who has just matriculated as a stripper

she started turning tricks out behind the snowball stand
at the carnival when she was barely thirteen

but then she turned pro and her smartass mouth got her sent
to the sheep ranch where psychopaths beat her bloody

after serving her sentence she turned to lap dancing
giving up ninety percent to the manager

rubbing her inner thighs raw, leaving a sodden trail
of golfing shorts, sans-a-belt pants, and overalls

onstage she doesn’t waste time with cute little outfits
none of those pole gymnastics, she just gets naked

the crowd cheers, her breasts are huge, she still has girlish hips
though she has had more abortions than she can count

she’s mastered the hands-free art of collecting dollars
though she flinches a little each time she snags one

bumping, grinding, she thrusts her bush right into Lee’s face
he recoils from the tang of unwashed womanhood

the help-me-please look has retreated behind her eyes
pretty soon it will disappear altogether

her only hope now is to be a mobster’s mistress
buying three or four years before she’s a has-been

someone to pay for her penicillin injections
or, God forbid, the new cocktail for HIV

but in the airport lounge on Sunday Lee reads the news
about a late night fire in the red light district

further down it mentions that police found the body
of a young Jane Doe left headless in the ashes

he puts down the paper, goes to the airport bathroom
where he washes his hands until they are wrinkled

he does the same thing in the airplane lavatory
so long that the stewardess asks him to exit

at home he takes a shower in boiling hot water
heads to church in search of a priest for confession

but when in the parking lot the mugger confronts him
he pays little heed to the razor-sharp switchblade

he only murmurs ‘lay on, McDuff,’ puts up no fight
he’s found lying in a pool of his own cold blood

William Robison teaches history at Southeastern Louisiana University; writes about early modern England, including The Tudors in Film and Television with Sue Parrill (see www.tudorsonfilm.com); is a musician and filmmaker; and has poems accepted by Amethyst Arsenic, amphibi.us,Anemone Sidecar, Apollo’s Lyre, Asinine Poetry, Carcinogenic Poetry, decomP magazinE, Forge, Mayday Magazine, On Spec, and Paddlefish.

Larry W. Kelts

Deer Hunting the Day After My Son Ran Away

I bagged my deer at dawn and dragged it back,
and now I rout for you. I stumble, fall,
then slip down, down the steep hillside alone
without a gun. Below, a quick black flash

past rotting stumps: a bear and her cub crash
through fallen leaves. I interrupt their play,
and instinct grabs us both. One lurch cascades
me back into the barren wilderness.

Next, no hesitation, a man without
defense, I must turn back. And they? They turn
as well, and so the distance grows.

                          May 14:

                                                  a page torn from Clark’s Journal

Subterfuge and artifice. The rain continues. No one can, or wants to, hold back. Small steps we measure will take us there. Our keelboat strains toward its breaking point. Adventures await, and the men, spent on suspense, kiss the girls goodbye and turn to face the rest. The garden needs tending, and tender grow the days. Led on to lead as a captain of empire I deny letting go, but who’s to know. Lewis led by leading, and I lead by being led. No matter, all’s well on the way, and, of course, we get equal pay. Poling and pulling we make our way up this muddy carpet of momentum. Goodbye, goodbye. Limit’s the sky. The habits of nation hold us back, but a season. Clear sailing through rain and sleet. The river churns beneath our intent. We’re on our way into the interior, and then, with luck, on to the sea. With progress up our sleeve we’ll explore all that we may become, and I’ll map the mind we make—the path we take.

                                                                         a young Indian girl twists away
                                                                         but the Frenchman has his way
                                                                         no one in the tribe has anything to say
                                                                         it is a bitter and rainy day
                                                                         a passage we desire—northwest
                                                                         so we push so we give our best:
                                                                         to dream and conquer without rest

Larry Kelts grew up on a farm outside Knoxville PA, not far from the actual Miller’s Pond. After working for many years as a research scientist in Rochester NY, he got an MFA from Bennington College and now writes poetry and frequents the art scene in northern Delaware and Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Rivers

DISCOVER BARK: AT THE ARBORETUM

I set a table with six cuts of bark:
paperbark pine, patched russet, olive, tan;
cherry dimpled with bracelets;
dull ash, ridged as a washboard;
flipping like a pad of notes, the birch;
ailanthus pocked with sun;
a peel of cork.

Two boys, maybe five and seven, pushed rubbings,
flattened crayons on computer paper,
pressed red scabs, purple veins,
bulging black warts, brown calluses.
Then I gave them paper vests,
tan outside and green within
to slip their arms through
as trees put on bark.

Stiff with new clothes,
their arms hung down,
a thicker shadow pressed out from each child.

Then it was time to undress.
I took the vests and stood back.
The boys moved slowly,
skinned.

SHIFTS

It’s easy to ignore
what holds the maple
as it works
towards glory,
the light-dazzled leaves,
until after a storm
the hill erodes
and roots
must edge an open curve,
bungees stretching beyond
the furthest branch,
roots near camouflaged
by muddy gnarls
beaten as river bottoms,
buried again first thin,
then thickening,
their final reach
unknown, lashing
the wind-struck maple
to a shifting hill.

UNLEAVING

You turn us back to the dust and say,
‘Go back, O child of earth.’ Psalm 90:4

A sudden rose-red circle
fell on my lawn, all untied
maple leaves––just yesterday––
now crumble brown,
become fresh-fallen ground.

Above me stretch the far
uncoiling arches, the tense
ballet leap of branches.

Oh crisis time, darkness
and ice––for this the maple
prunes itself––twigs cork
like rooms locked against loss;
chlorophyll, water sink
in stem or root until sun rubs
old sticks to green
and greener flame.

No treason’s done when trees
lose leaves; what of my death,
that certain fall?
Leaf breath
unseen, blows over all––
fresh oxygen to fuel
each doubt or prayer.
Can I shed terrors? Who
will keep my rose, my green?

from Elizabeth Rivers: My personal passion is to celebrate poetry writing by children. I help sponsor youth contests in my area, publish children's poetry on line, and work with teachers and students. Please check us out at poetrywits.com. I am also the Montgomery County Poet Laureate (2008), have been published in various magazines and won some contests. I use these opportunities to promote kids' work.

John Davis, Jr.

Dough-Punching

“Come here, my son, and beat this down for me,”
my mother asked, pointing toward the bowl –
ceramic tan with stripes of pink and red –
its center bulging with the rising dough
of Sunday nights alone, just her and me:
the only two left in the house betrayed
by one adulterous night and an exit.
In this same kitchen she’d been ordered to,
some subtle, struggle-strong satisfaction
arose like flour clouds from my small fist
that punished soft white, all-consuming curves,
sliced and served as bread after the oven
wrought her quiet housewife vindication.

John is a Florida poet whose work has been recently published in Touch: The Journal of Healing, Big River Poetry Review, and The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature, among other venues. He also has forthcoming work in Emerge Literary Journal and Petrichor Review. He is among the winners of the 2012 Robert Frost Poetry and Haiku Contest, sponsored by the Studios of Key West and a student in the University of Tampa’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.

Laundry Grading

My English-teacher father loved ironing.
Morning ritual: shirt inspection, assessment
made with a head shake and frown before
laying out the Oxford cloth like some horribly wrong
test essay ready for a starch-and-steam sentence,
punishment for grievously flaw-laden garments
in serious need of proofing and editing.
Hot flat black triangle: corrector of errors,
severer and swifter than any red felt-tip pen.
In minutes he’d be creased, seamed and pressed into perfect
APA format – pants panels punctuated by pleats
and half-inch, college-ruled margins outlining
his arms in starkest, sharpest blank space
created with heat and deliberate precision.
His pendulum necktie marked seconds passing
over a gleaming brass belt buckle,
seemingly saying with each silk swish,
“Time’s up. Pencils down. Pass your work to the front.”

Robert Demaree

U.S. ARMY RESERVE

FORT JACKSON, S.C. 1961


My friend is just back
From the flight of honor,
Service of a generation greater than mine.
Why do my days seem now unreal,
Six months active duty, actually less,
In a time between wars?
Trainloads of boys from Oklahoma ,
Sons of displaced natives;
Slim scraggly pines unable to shade
The sandy South Carolina soil,
Heat you could see rising
From the company street on Tank Hill;
A lingering Army fragrance:
Fatigues with dried sweat,
Aluminum cookware in the side sink,
Scalloped potatoes, detergent,
Spent shells on the firing line;
The empty threats of sergeants ignored.
Crawling the range at night,
Under wire that seemed to be barbed,
Fire we took to be live,
Preparation for the filing of dental records.
There have been no reunions.
I do not recall their names.
We did what we were asked to do.
I drove out of there at midnight
On the day the first American fell.

Robert Demaree, a retired educator, is the author of four collections of poems, including Mileposts (2009), published by Beech River Books. He has had over 550 poems published in 125 periodicals. .He lives in Wolfeboro, N.H., and Burlington, N.C.

Roger Singer

LOOKING BEYOND

Beyond my backyard fence
is a field of promises and shadows
mixed in the grace of youths uncombed
hair and sweat lined faces.

My lips lasso images, bringing voices
to life while the aroma of morning
rescues my thoughts.

Far is nearer to me, framed in sections,
held without prejudice in the smiles
of nicknames.

This is my inheritance, a legacy of time
carefully packaged at the back fence.

from the poet:  I began writing poetry when I was in the military many years ago, for relaxation and to express my thoughts in an abstract form.  I enjoy the challenge poetry offers, unlike the articles I have written for my profession, which are straight forward.  Poetry allows the writer to step to the side from general thoughts, thus creating a miniature story which in and of itself can bifurcate into other levels of literary form.


R. A. Allen

Honey Trap

Far away from a home long empty,
the globe-plodding delegate studies
screens scrolling riddles in the
glyphs of these latitudes. Caught up
in the polyglot tumult all round him
he strains to make sense of it all.

A representative from the department of culture,
cradling a clipboard in the crook of her arm,
red pumps clacking marble, finds him at the station.
In pidgin Esperanto she blithely narrates
their cab's transit through the pension-lined gullies
that lead to his hotel. Velvet satyrs garnish
its wallpaper. Tasseled lampshades, blackout
drapes fill a mise-en-scène for a mood not reviewed
in the official Baedeker.

Waiters clear the platters, bring Kirchwasser Frappé.
Music fades. The kohl-eyed dancing girls melt away.
Moonlight and citylight merge on the roof garden.
Her hand brushes him. Sir, a thousand pardons!
Ah, the primal stirrings. How little it takes. But
never would he trade state secrets for comfort—
his allegiance is steel! We'll see if it is,
she thinks.

My Mama

by the window, waiting for the
mailman, knobby fingers fighting
elder-resistant wrapping on
a blister-pack of light bulbs,
glanced up to see an exclamation point
crossing the driveway. No,
a garter snake chasing a frog.
Mama rooted for the frog, but foresaw
a National Geographic outcome.
Deus ex machina!—a flock of small birds
swooped down on Mr. Snake, scolding
and fluttering like mothers do.
The frog escaped. So did the snake.
The birds, being birds, flew away.

This was better than Days of Our Lives.
It beat The Young and the Restless.
But it wasn't Pharaoh's dream about
the gaunt cows eating the fat cows.
And it wouldn't cure her affliction.
So she got back to those light bulbs with
a pair of pinking shears, while contemplating
pale postmen with vials in their bags.

R.A. Allen's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Quarterly, Underground Voices, The Recusant (UK), Pear Noir, Word Riot, Gargoyle, and elsewhere. He lives in Memphis. More at http://www.nyqpoets.net/poet/raallen


M. A. Schaffner

Gentry

The quick red fox was very nearly caught
by the hounds of the estate. Strange to see –
hounds and an estate so close to Fifty.
I’ve seen foxes almost in the city,
but the sprawling manse, quaintly wooded lawn,
and iron-gated wall was new to me.
Vinyl mansions lack this sense of landscape
as family, being more about security
in a society that laughs at such.
The fox was nearly lunch, but then it gained
a rock wall and flowed over like water
with gravity reversed. My friends and I,
just visitors, laughed and cheered as our host
let a scowl break his hospitality
for a second of instinctive disdain.

Persistent Memories, Southern Georgia

The rough gray asphalt ended. The road
abruptly turned into red powdered clay,
ditched on either side. Scrub pine stockaded
the short escarpments that trapped and held
the traveler confined. Back and forth till
the car faced around. A road sign – rather
a pole with the sign removed. Some houses,
that may or may not have been occupied.
More ubiquitous vultures. The message,
one of poverty, unkemptness – people
wearing sloth and ignorance as medals,
too proud to look in the mirror, missing
only what they claimed to be cheated of,
wanting everything, but mostly strangers
to fall into their hands for a moment
so they might know the strength of their masters.

Again Little Coffins Filled With Candy

Acorn debris and inexperienced squirrels,
skeleton costumes on childless adults
too old to trick or treat, too young to stop
wanting everything they had or wanted.

The wind today turns cold for the first time
and the lovely Martian landscape begins
its journey to a Pennsylvania farm
or a village in western Maryland.

Now we could spin decades instead of years
back to the last time we did or went where.
How trivial it seems as we light the first
fire of another winter that should be

no more the last than others, just closer.
The ghost in the mirror, no longer a child,
is still not a real ghost, nor the pumpkin
a monster to be feared more than mirrors.

M.A. Schaffner has poetry recently published or forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Magma, Orbis, La Reata, and Prime Number. Other work includes the collection, The Good Opinion of Squirrels, and the novel War Boys. Schaffner used to work as a civil servant, but now serves civil pugs.

Andrew F. Popper

More Than You Know

I knew my great uncle (who sold men’s pajamas),
But you’d rather hear about thundering skies
Piercing black rain that saturates hillsides
And slickens the surface so no one can stand.

She fell with the calf on her way to the pick-up,
Old cherished pick-up, her true metal lover
When lightning illuminated help that arrived.
He appeared from the vapors, stable and solid,
All on a night when traction was scarce.

Together they found an ancient plaid blanket,
Folded and waiting on her leather front seat,
A woolen embrace to cover the brown calf
Soaked through and shaking, now held to his chest
On a night where iced rainfall
Had covered the mountain.

While it’s presumption, I think you’d select
The fate of the couple, the calf, and the pick-up
Over details of my encounter with a dental hygienist,
A pale bland hygienist who flossed and then plotted
With the office administrator to reveal baseless suspicions

Of marginal incompetence of the newly hired doctor.
I know this story all too well.
And God spare you
From what I know.

Better to inhabit the alto cirrus,
With a gossamer species who saddles the light
And drifts to the surface to enter a child
Who suddenly speaks Mandarin and rationalizes
Force as if recollecting the distant calculus
That orders the heavens
And untangles chaos.

I doubt there’s an interest in my last discussion
With a banker from Westfield, a gray shrinking man,
Who hoped summer would spare him
An evening with stepmother Melissa
Who informs him each visit
He should go back to school.
This, too, I know.
God spare you.

Consider instead the pick-up and blanket
The calf that was saved and the warmth
That evolved from the storm on the hillside
That silently joined them, salvation partners,
A clear braided future –
Then Harlan returned.

Harlan, her neighbor, her unlikely escort,
With whom she once danced at the fireman’s ball,
A sympathetic gesture she regretted intensely,
Harlan, from the feedlot, who wanted her always.
Harlan, who saw her and then walked to him.

Harlan struck the stranger, her sodden calf savior,
A brutal fist forcing red blood from his ear
When his head hit the wall, she reached for the pistol
And fired at Harlan, one single true shot.
As Harlan fell backwards, she walked to her calf-man
Holding his warm hand and touching his face.

She was at his side and promised him safety
Pledged to protect him as only she could,
While Harlan lay dying on pine from the hillside
Felled on the mountain
Where thunder still rolled.

This is about you,
Your rare and few moments
Stolen from footpaths your life has worn deep,
Borrowed from all you must do and should say,
Those few scarce segments when freed of inertia,
Quietly separate from life’s dry routines
You are owed difference, not more of the same.

Isn’t it better to be one with the pick-up,
To be with the calf and slow waking lovers,
On the side of the mountain
At sunrise in silence,
As fresh coffee brews and new life begins,
Than stuck with the banker and cloying hygienist
God save you, indeed
From all that I’ve known.

Andrew Frederic Popper has taught at American University, Washington College of Law for the last three decades. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 University Scholar/Teacher of the Year. He is the author of more than 100 published novels, casebooks, articles, papers, poems, and public documents. His novel, Rediscovering Lone Pine, is the first novel published by West/Thomson/Reuters. His novel, Bordering on Madness, is the first published by Carolina Academic Press. Professor Popper’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Grey Sparrow Review, The Hudson View, The Red River Review, The Tipton Poetry Review and other poetry journals.

Tyrel Kessinger

Blacksmithing

I can tell you what I prefer:

your eyes punched with lit brilliance
and the story of their building.

When I took the starry alloy
you picked out like flowers,
hammered out tiny planets,
chiseled color, your color,
and smeared the swarf
across white pupil lakes until
their warmth became familiar
with my nearness.

as opposed to what I do not prefer:

the unforgivable half-life
of ordinary stardust,
the sad skill of common blacksmiths.

Tyrel Kessinger lives, works and writes in Louisville, Kentucky. There’s the wife, two dogs, cat and all the other trappings of a fairly normal life. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Gargoyle, Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, and Grey Sparrow Journal among others. His most recent chapbook, An Absence Of Scientific Nomenclature, was selected for publication by the Red Ochre LiT B&W series. He also volunteers as a Contributing Editor for Black Heart Magazine and a Contributing writer for 22 Magazine.

Sy Roth

Locked in the Silence of their Signs


The armadillo lay at the base of the wall
surrounding the main branch of the New York Public Library.
Huddled among backpacks forming her own walls
her splayed knees awkwardly cradles a sign --
“Homeless, help me!”

An indelicate drizzle embraces the streets.
A hunch-shouldered woman pauses tentatively by a street obscurant.
The armadillo unfurls, electric terror no longer invisible
When the woman extends her a snack bar,
waves it like a red cape until she relents
stuffing it in a fold of her jacket.

Content she galumphs off to join her friends.

Hare Krishna parade passes by
resplendent in orange dhotis and ballooning Yogi pants
borne aloft on colorful floats
dancing to raucous flutes and tambours.
Like a snake it curls around the streets
books dancing in the library.

The armadillo folds back into itself.

Surrounded by backpacks on another corner, a street away,
a younger woman attracts little attention.
Her sign rests, as well, in her lap,
a franchise “Homeless, help me!” frames her eyes.
Nobody stops this time
her eyes do not follow the moving train of people
light rain consumes her.
She draws her rucksack walls closer.

The self-indulgent world hustles along
locked in the silence of their signs.

Sy Roth is a retired school administrator and has finally found the sounds of silence and the time to think whole thoughts. This has led him to find words and the ability to shape them. He has published in Visceral Uterus, Amulet, BlogNostics, Every Day Poets, Barefoot Review, Haggard and Halloo, Misfits Miscellany, Mad Swirl, Larks Fiction Magazine, Danse Macabre, Bitchin’ Kitch, Bong is Bard, Humber Pie, Poetry Super Highway and The Eloquent Atheist.