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Vol. 16, Issue 1
"Temperate", is the word you keep repeating
as we walk our daily path side by side as always
the pasture on our left, on our right the farmhouse,
all white, red-rimmed windows stare at us.
The sun is high. The sky an azure dome of light.
And all around the air is filled with birds, and bees,
and butterflies, and other little busy-buzzing facts of life.
An unfinished symphony of small voices. So poignant, say,
compared with the thoughtful calm of a horse munching hay.
Or, with the forced tranquility of trees, such self centered
pillars, tied down by their own maze of roots.
Or, a different matter yet, the golden promise of a field.
Sheer harmony this scale of sounds, this array of silences,
these ultra sweet smells of flowers past their bloom,
overripe fruit, and freshly cut grass.
You hold my hand, carefully leading me through thorny bushes
of your contentions. All the berries were picked.
Only a few shriveled nipples still hang, here and there,
upon collapsing branches. "One's aim should be," you stress,
"the golden mean," and I watch the sun setting
silver in your hair –
I think perhaps you're right, perhaps I should accept,
call a truce, quit the strenuous climb up mountains
of expectations, always on the lookout for some providential sign.
Be content, I tell myself, you are allowed to tread
this multicolored carpet spreading from horizon to horizon.
Be content, I tell myself, to be a thread passing through
the moment's eye.
"Fall is almost here," you say, pointing to a treetop
splashed with wine. I can already hear echoes of unseen
bells among the boughs, chiming in gold and silver and copper
and brass, as if rehearsing a concert about to begin.
It's still warm and peaceful. All is quiet
in the little cemetery across. Even death seems pacified,
not as hungry any more. Almost friendly, he smiles at us,
teeth gleaming in white tombstones.
I can't bear the idea that summer is nearly over.
That soon all the green will turn rusty and dry leaves,
already in earth's brown, will pile up the path
to bury our footprints -
Walking Danny‑Baby in Washington Square
in the first Fall of his life,
in the late‑afternoon of my day.
Quick Danny‑baby, let us get to the swings
before the smoky evening thickens.
Quick, the hour is shifty.
Tall and white is the arch above us
and we cross the threshold to a promised land.
Danny, oh child of milk and honey,
sits in his carriage and drinks in the sights.
Walking Danny‑baby in Washington Square,
golden secrets locked in his hair
silver ones in mine. And leaves
in many yellows, and reds, and browns,
are falling down, last kisses of light,
and blood, and wine, particles
of some far away sun.
In a gilded garden in a fairytale land
I am trying to page the swings, delayed
by side‑plots of so many things:
Trees leafing through the story of their fife;
squirrels amazed, their tails scattering
question‑marks all over the place;
pigeons, commuters from all the city parks,
in search of some kind of substance, be it crumbs;
children playing, shouting and laughing;
barking dogs running unchained, forcing us away
from the main course;
hurried passers‑by moving like robots
toward a destination unknown to us, who seem
irrelevant to the scene, so utterly out of context -
All of these and so much more...
Like the spellbound benches nailed down
with nobody to lift their burden of emptiness;
Or, the greening statue of Garibaldi, standing up
so still and so completely becharmed, he cannot
even raise his arm to chase away the impudent
little pigeon pecking at his top.
Quick Danny‑baby, here are the swings
awaiting you they are in suspense -
But sitting upright, his head tilted on one side,
Danny is already fast asleep.
His carriage wheels go on spinning a yarn
of early twilight in Washington Square.
And the air itself, drunk with fragrance
is holding its breath
putting the moment to rest.
To the long list of my shortcomings is now added
shortness of breath –
Still, worst of all is my time that keeps getting shorter & shorter.
Incredible how it was largest at its inception, which coincided with
my own birth, and how as I started growing up, it proceeded to decline.
Now I live in continuous fear of its disappearance.
I am a tall woman who often falls short.
“Whether large or small, tall or short, matters not,
things are bound to come around if you only persevere,” was
one of Dad’s sayings, before he stopped saying anything at all.
This occurred when to my friends I suddenly became
a graceless ostrich amidst pretty little chirping birds -
I keep recalling other sayings of his, such as:
“Remember there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
Yet, he failed mentioning that the state of the eyes was the key,
for what’s the use of light if one cannot see?
In the dark wake of his death, I’ll never know whether he saw
that promised light at the end.
To the long list of my shortcomings is now added
shortness of breath –
Still, worst of all is my time –
Constantly on the run and formless like water and wind, it may yearn,
on occasion, for some sort of incarnation. Perhaps, this is why sometimes
it takes the shape of my father, who similar to my time towered high
above me when I was little, and proceeded to shrink as I was growing up –
I visualize him as last seen from the window, shriveled and bent ambling
down the street, smaller and smaller with each step, till swallowed at the
North West corner.
Thus Dad left me with all my old shortcomings as well as my new
shortness of breath, perched on the window-sill as a bird that lost its song,
alone in the all engulfing sunset -
Previously appeared in Literary House Review Dec. 2009
Rena Lee, penname of Rena Kofman, is poet and writer, a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of New York, and the author of twelve books in Hebrew. Her work appeared (in both Hebrew and English) in many magazines, anthologies, scholarly journals, etc. Her chapbook “Captive of Jerusalem: Song of Shulamite” was published by Finishing Line Press. For more information please check her internet site: www.renalee.net
Explosions Of Iris
that could not be contained
even in the wintry airs,
the frost being less of a challenge
than you might suppose.
From the long habit of their lineage,
they know the fight they must wage,
keeping their blue pride
alive and upright through the winds
and rains, as they move in and out
without pattern, random encounters
the iris are determined to win
in their season.
The extortions of fall begin early,
and the reluctant trees relinquish
their panoply of leaves. You almost
wonder why they accede so readily.
Even the slightest breeze makes its claims.
Soon you are walking in a crush,
seeking something solid beneath your feet.
This is not easy virtue at work; yet it
is a giving-up that becomes almost natural,
where a simple asking yields so much.
Co-editor of Ekphrasis, Laverne Frith has chapbooks from Talent House, White Heron Press, Rattlesnake Press, Choice of Words, and Finishing Line. His full-length collection is from Cherry Grove Collections. He was runner-up for the 2004, 2005, & 2006 Louisiana Literature Prize in Poetry, and his work has been accepted or appeared in Poetry New York, Christian Science Monitor, Sundog, Comstock, Montserrat, Dalhousie, & many others. He is on the reviewer panel of New York Journal of Books.
Match me a maker
not the kind
you sip in the closet,
a secret you think no one knows
until he finds you drooling on boots,
the soles imprinted on your cheek
a kick-ass knock down drag out
last chance fool, you feel
smaller than dirt-
but the white light beacon in the sky
that if you close your eyes and pray
you see a calmness, feel it cover you
with a blanket of warmth.
When We Became You
Somewhere along the way
we became you, and I
withdrew from us.
It wasn’t the usual
fork in a road where
you follow one path, and I
another; it was more of a
you took the lead, left
me behind like a rare
opportunity that failed, and
somewhere along the way
we became you, and I
withdrew from us.
Advanced Art 101
Draw the picture:
start it with a bruise
watch a field of wildflowers burst,
ripple down her inner arms-
the glow but a reflection of poor health.
Add people drinking beer, peeling shrimp;
a backyard party where she began to see
the sudden sting, the bright marks
all from volleyball
each split-second bump pass
a crash to purgatory,
a chisel pierce on fragile skin,
a soiled crumple in the earth
and behind each crouch,
each deep knee-bend,
a beat of anguish
begging for redemption.
Can you draw that?
Laurie Kolp has won some awards and been published lots of places, but she’d rather you think of her as someone who likes cardinals. She was once told that life is not about the goodbyes, but what you learn from them. Why don’t you stop by her blogs, Laurie Kolp Poetry and Bird’s-Eye Gemini, and say hello.
“Do I look like an old man?”
I ask her as I’m peering into the mirror,
at my graying hair, wrinkled forehead,
and baggy eyes. Aging is something (like death)
I try never to think about. Better
just to keep going forward day by day
towards the future making the most
with what you have.
But sometimes, the whole aging thing
sneaks up on you, catching you unawares,
and you blurt out,
“Do I look like an old man?”
before you can retract it or restate it
or pretend you’ve said something else
or crack a quick follow-up quip or
create a clever diversion.
“No, I think you look handsome,”
which I know, of course, is a silly lie,
and now I feel so much older.
William Wright Harris
skull with burning cigarette
almost bleach white
against the contrast
of the black
in limbo lighting-
filling the space
that was once
its lungs with rich
unable to be tasted-
knuckles gnarled &
calluses carved from
a life of toil
as if attempting a fist
& stretched upwards
van gogh begging
salvation from a god
deaf or apathetic
from the poet: “I wake up for poetry. My work has appeared in twelve countries in such publications as The Cannon’s Mouth, Ascent Aspirations, generations, and Write On!!! I attended the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, where I studied poetry in the workshop setting. As a hobby, I collect places I have been published.”
Midnight Shift at the Supermarket (1979)
Dragging myself through automatic doors
after drinking cold beer under harsh lights
at the local disco
Now, the only rhythm is the click
of price guns on cans
No summer-dress women
in night-glo lipstick
keeping the beat
with swivel chair hips
The only beat in here
from midnight till 8 a.m.
is the pulsating hum
of the Hussman Freezers
keeping things in
waiting for the
These, the kettle corn days
popping vibrantly at dawn –
the blue already on and bold.
Towers of green
a vivid and constant contrast,
creating a real estate portrait,
though no one's wishing
Cars, new and old,
early walkers at the sides,
their voices singing
chamber music song –
I enjoy their leisurely tune.
I play one all day too;
my solo piece for
my best intentions
thought and said-
a gift to me,
I do not count ahead.
I take one as it
comes each day
and hope that
future August mornings
unfurl their beguiling
music to me.
from the poet: "I am a full-time freelance writer from the Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada. My short screenplay PARCHED won First Place in the American Gem Short Screenplay Competition in 2006.. My poetry has been published online at Poet's Haven, and this November (2012) my poem "Mercy Rule" will be published by Foliate Oak Literary Magazine at the University of Arkansas-Monticello."
The Torturer, Now Captive
The torturer, now captive,
is a thing of transparent cages,
a maker of vast solutions,
a ruler of torn clothes, who lives
in a prison of dusty windows,
a room of silent bars, of polite
diseases, of sullen trances, and
searches for a kiss among dead faces
like a man of creative wars who
knows the obligation of
power is to raise the blood it despises.
Greater than experiments of death,
of futility, insights of blood, boundaries
of insatiable law, is the corpse of light
hair and dark skin, wearing
broken shoes, badges of courage, who
day and night, keeps a journal of blood,
in motherless air, while the sun blasts
palaces of freedom with the
body of voices and the odour of decay.
Softly like a viper shaking itself free, the
profound world of evening is still.
Softly out of stone fingers
oozes the club of strange faces and eyes.
The Blood of Her Matchless Suffering
Daunted by snow she spreads
her torch of wings and the ferocious
winter is like a shadow of pure passes,
Gone is the frozen breath of stern praises
in which her heart festers.
Proudly at the sink of death she washes
herself the colour of light.
In perfectly green
music the blood of her matchless suffering.
In her womb immense dust settles like a mist
of shallow diseases.
Mirrors she is made of but to shattered glass
she is alien.
Her skin is brighter than flames, smoother than
rivers of gold, of gutted mansions.
love of chaos, she sleeps in a desert of machines.
the sun she celebrates the evening of her power.
In Silent Contemplation
In silent contemplation
I remove the wind from a garden
of autumn trees
and a shadow from the foot of light.
In October few insects but I measure
the soul of a dead fly
and commend it to the offices of air.
In the dirt a rose with humble thorns
is like snow of a yellow sun.
Gone is the threat of a magnificent birth
time I pass is smoother than devotions.
the whole world crumbles with delight?
I hold my breath,
but who would not make a death of fasting?
The poet is from New Zealand but has lived in London for many years. His poems have appeared in various magazines in the U.K., France and the U.S.A.
Time to fold away shorts,
last week’s necessity
an impossibility until spring.
As fifty slid into sixty
and seventy now like
a howling, cold wind
about to tear off shingles
and loosen windows,
the questions persist:
Is this the year the shorts
will be put away for good,
and why? Circulation poor,
or hiding varicose veins from
the pained eyes of others?
The questions become
the daily task of the old woman,
patching up resolve, like
repointing an old stone chimney
for strength, to drive changes
from choice, not weather.
Anita McKay is freelance writer and poet. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Women’Synergy, Chronogram, and Mused. Anita is an avid traveler who enjoys seeing new places, learning the history firsthand, enjoying the food and meeting people. The most significant part of travel for her is the encounters with people, including herself! She lives in upstate New York.
In the Beginning
Adam never asked
And we’ve wondered ever since.
As the First
He had the privilege of naming things.
Beasts, Stars, Honeysuckle,
Were called as they moved him.
Adam gave three names
To himself and five more
To Woman. Eve added
One more for herself and never
Adam called himself
Hunter, Gatherer, and Woodcutter.
He called Eve
Lover, Mother, Peace, Gazer, and Home.
Adam called the Snake “Deceit” for he
Often mistook it for a branch on the ground
Or a vine in the trees.
Woman called it “Power” because it was not afraid
Of anything larger than itself.
“Say your name,” the Snake tempted Eve.
“Which one?” she asked.
“The one only you know and Man doesn’t.”
“Why should I tell you?” Woman asked.
“With it I can give you Power,” claimed the Snake.
“Go see if Man wants Power,” said Eve,
“it is enough I have to carry his Sins.”
Preponderance is myth,
so too center of gravity.
Things meaningful to me
feathers and hair,
or have no center
like smiles and good-byes.
Nothing I seek is grounded:
music, poetry, aromas,
but reveal themselves in contrast
snow on glass, a kite between two clouds…
and the lusty smoke,
dim light cast through a butterfly wing,
your lingerie floating at my touch.
from the poet: "My poetry and short fiction appear in BLUE UNICORN, THE CAFÉ REVIEW, XANADU, THE ICONOCLAST, FREEFALL, SPEAKEASY, THE GROVE REVIEW and numerous other fine literary journals. I am also the author of five published novels including The Anarchist and Literally Dead."
The night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon,
I was watching a black and white t v
At my girlfriend’s house.
In the kitchen, her mother was smoking and coughing,
And upstairs in his bed, her crippled, mad grandfather
Was howling at shadows,
“You, Bastard. You goddamn black Irish bastard,”
So loudly, I had trouble hearing the broadcast.
Then he’d bawl out his daughter’s name or his granddaughter’s,
Who, sitting next to me on their Naugahyde sofa, would answer,
“What do you want, Grandpa?”
“Nothing, God damn it, nothing,” before he gurgled into maniacal laughter,
And then a nick of silence,
Until he gathered enough strength to start yowling again.
I had heard his story many times,
And since I was still a kid, I accepted its inevitability:
How, in giving birth to my girlfriend’s mother,
His young wife had died;
How, as a widower, he had walked ten miles to a farm
To get goat’s milk for his daughter,
Though whether it were once or a hundred times,
No one seemed to know;
How he never remarried,
Because, as his family liked to tell it,
He still loved his wife too much;
How, through someone’s carelessness,
He was nearly scalded to death in a steam fitting accident;
And how, several years ago, he limped to their door
And asked to be taken in,
Because his legs and his mind were not what they were;
And now, family pride and poverty kept him in that bed,
In which he began again, “You’re all sons of bitches.”
Then the bed scraped against the hardwood floor and there was a thump,
Followed by a sickly whimper.
Her mother in her housedress shuffled past on her way up the stairs.
To my girlfriend, who was already on the landing, she hacked,
“See, see, if you had left his hands tied to the posts,
“Like I told you to,
“This wouldn’t happen.”
As Armstrong said something about a small step.
In her youth, this little woman was probably a head turner,
Before the effects of too much smiling wrinkled her face,
Like paint applied too quickly by the stiff bristles of a cheap brush.
But she wasn’t going to stop smiling,
At least not in her gallery, surrounded as she was by paintings
Of infinite hills and blue skies,
Of verandas lined with comfortable rockers waiting for people to view
The watercolor gardens that customers wanted to walk in.
“Our special offer is if you buy any of these local scenes,
“For a little extra, I’ll paint your image into it.
“If you want more than one figure, like a wife, if you have one,
“I’ll make you a deal.”
“That is clever,” I said, trying to be polite.
I couldn’t imagine how bored I’d be on that rocker
Looking forever at Mt. Pisgah in the distance.
“The first time I ever painted that scene, it was for my husband.
“He came from over that mountain in the distance.
“And I painted both of us naked on those rockers, holding hands
“But that was a long time ago, before I knew better.”
I didn’t have the temerity to ask to see that picture,
Or the interest to ask her to clarify what she meant, and so I said,
“It seems this whole town is filled with cleverness and art.”
“I guess we just we can’t help ourselves.
“We are forced to be creative.
“And if you’re not, like my ex, then you don’t belong here.
I asked her why her shop is named Onan.
“O, that’s just a joke.
“My ex used to call me Nano, because I’m so small,
“And my first name is Nancy.
“That was about as insightful as he ever got.
“He was the one who suggested I just reverse the letters.
“It was a long time ago when I was still trying to keep him happy.
“Now, most folks think I’m Irish.”
She smiled at me, as if she were putting me on, or flirting.
I can’t tell the difference.
For a moment I thought again of that canvas of her naked as a young woman.
“If I bought this, could you paint me as I was thirty years ago?”
“Why not? I can take forty years off you if I want.
“I’ll get rid of that grey hair and those extra pounds,
“Straighten out your nose and smooth out those worry lines
“Between your eyebrows.
“I can make you look as though you don’t belong here,
“Just like my ex-husband.”
from the poet: " I am a retired English teacher who, with my wife Jeanne, divide my time between Northeastern Pennsylvania and Winter Garden, Florida. My poems have appeared in Strong Verse, The Bijou Review, Amarillo Bay, The Edison Literary Review, The Wilderness House Review, Chantarelle’s Notebook, The Electric Poet, Centrifugal Eye, amphibi.us, The Write Room, Pulsar and Crash. I am also the author of the chapbook HOUSES: AN AMERICAN ZODIAC, which was published by The Poetry Library and a book of poems SOUTH OF SCRANTON."
While You Sleep
Thin stuff, I read lines
through your skin,
a sensitive issue,
dry and papery
with the consistency
of tissue, your breath
wheedles a long narrow
phrase that settles
across blue ink veins
under crepe, a slow
rise and fall, yet
still I read, a subscriber
for years and still
I cannot wait for each
page to end to turn to reach
what comes next.
from the poet: "I have an MA in literary studies from University of Iowa and I manage business systems at an insurance company. California Quarterly, Home Planet News, Poem, Hurricane Review, and Illya's Honey have most recently accepted my poems for their publications."
William G. Davies, Jr.
In the quiet
before the first snow,
the fire crackles
in the woodstove,
the cat pensive
above the chair,
both of us staring
into the gray air.
A woodpecker lands
on the suet cake
and for a moment
we are plucked
from our fixation
awakened by a kiss.
from the poet: "I’ve published in The Cortland Review, Bluepepper, The Blue Lyra Review, The Wilderness House Review and others.I live in rural Pennsylvania with my wife of thirty-eight years where we produce our own wine in good years. 2012 was not a good year. We have three children and four grandchildren."
Larry W. Kelts
Since our chain of letters broke down the box elders have filled the space
we cleared, closing the distance until the trees again push
the barn from its foundation and lift the roof from its beams, for we
have not returned to the homestead since that day when we
hitched tractor and trailer, loaded axes and chainsaws, and drove off
across the plowed field to the old rumpled barn crumpling
with tilted silo sagging and leaning hard against buttressing
box-elders, and everything surrounded by dense brush,
where my father, when I was young, held me fast to work beside him
raking corn silage from the high-sided wagons as
the blower flung green and yellow cross-sections of cob into an
open top, and where I paused one clear day to slide moist
slices of cob from a tine and wing them into an empty sky.
Son, the pasture now flourishes with the trees we planted
the day before we gassed and oiled the chainsaws, and you revved until
reason became muffled, and flakes of ash-leafed maple
flew catching us, hair and clothes, and branches began to bend and break
as we wrestled limbs from the high walls, cleared and dragged them
back with a chain linked to the Ferguson drawbar, and stumbled on
the tongue of an old horse drawn hay rake buried beneath
matted quack grass while all the time thick stems were dropping creating space
where shafts of sunlight flashed flinging streaks of light against
mossy trunks and tracing an old crack that creased the barn’s foundation,
and there, from a low branch, one of the rakes iron wheels hung,
embedded within years of box-elder growth, poised above the grass
while the saw continued to roar away, and you caught
a sleeve on a blunt scarred stub of past cuttings whirling the saw out
of control in the dense new growth—branches, seeds, and leaves—
until it ripped into your lose pant leg, snagged a bootlace and stalled,
but not before letting our blood splash into the leaves.
Today, the demolition machines rattle across the field to
the old cow barn where we cut away the undergrowth
until we could see row upon row of stiff black cracked harnesses
hung from wooden pegs—a straight line across the back wall—
come clear through a broken window casing. The machines push and shove
reminding me of how we parted, and, as they level here
everything that remains, how the out-of-control saw you swung limb
to limb as branch after severed branch fell free and we
continue cutting away as we did that day, and cries for help
muffle in the mute leafy screen growing between us.
In the years since have you chained yourself to the limbs of memory
and lost yourself in a forest somewhere and sometime
beyond beginnings until now we cannot feel our way back through?
Today, I ferret out the surveyor’s map tucked in
a trunk and scratch off as sold that section of our homestead and post
the rest for auction to settle our old debts, until
then, now, we’ve no place to grow old, no place still standing to call home.
In rain and dust we prepare for the sale, carry box after box
from the garage to a trailer already piled high:
a bed with cracked spine, five generations of toys, left over paint
cans spattered with the colors that cover our empty
rooms, baby food jars half full of twisted nails and screws saved because
nothing was ever thrown out—everything now destined
for the sinkhole and burning. My father helps me drag, from beneath
the workbench, a shard of recovered gravestone arranged
with letters chiseled from our scattered bloodline and lift and drop it
into the empty bed of a beat-up pickup truck
while my ex- stands watching, and then begins, again, to recite from
the open book of mistakes all that I’ve ever done.
* * *
I continue the cleanup, for in this shed my great-grandfather
worked, then his son and his son after him, and, if not
for time neglected, my son too might have hung his tools here, but all
is gone or going, and, as I toss on top a roll
of cloth tape beginning to unravel from its smashed cardboard tube,
my father rescues the measure and tells me how his
father had handed this tape to him with the story of how it
had killed a man—a utility worker walking
the power line above Miller’s Pond inspecting and cutting brush—
who had flung the tube over high-tension power lines,
unwinding to measure its height, all the time holding fast, the tape,
at one end. But the rough fabric of that woven tape,
reinforced with strands of thin metal capillaries, caught current,
passing, and jolted the man into another life.
My father rewinds the loaded line and shows me, dead-on the date
of my last wedding anniversary, a finger-
print, charred, and a thin ring outline still embedded in the cloth tape
where a man once had held on for a measure too long.
Larry Kelts grew up on a dairy farm in north-central Pennsylvania. After working as a farmer, factory machinist, laboratory technician, and research scientist, he obtained an MFA from Bennington College and now resides in Newark Delaware where he writes poetry and frequents the art scene in Delaware and Philadelphia.
Jostle Their Chairs
One man climbs into the cockpit of an orange tractor
And pushes a CD into the dash.
The cattle-man and woman shall strow hay for their Hereford .
The farmer’s museum shall be the field he works, the fields he tends.
Musicians jostle their chairs for the tune, as every song’s a holiday on the farm,
The show of shows for the children in their rounds,
The reels and rags, the splendor of the dances, calls, squares, fiddle-dee-dee!
Old McDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o!
Give me cotton, corn, collards, cabbage,
Black-eyed peas, turnips, tomatoes,
Hot dogs, french-fried potatoes,
Girls in sashes, twirling, boys in sand, hop-scotching ─
Playing marbles, darts, marking spots with shots ─ in churchyards tumbling cartwheels,
Bees in clover, seized, stalks, stakes, higher for love, old images out of the breeze,
The dance-halls waiting for slow dancing, the dancers shaped like crook-necked squash.
Bring back the farmed fields, the husband and wife and children, dogs and chickens,
The cow, the soft butter, the well-water’s springhouse − let chance
Dig fingers down into roots, holding the hole inside as a ring might fit a finger.
The world holds the tiny ring the daughter sports as token,
Its circle full devotion to dirt and air, fields and growing things.
Shelby Stephenson's Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize,
Allen Grossman, judge, and the Oscar Arnold Young Award from the Poetry Council of North Carolina, 2009, Jared Carter, judge.
J. Rodney Karr
Of course, I’ve lied---
to make sure I’ll win.
We argue what we understand,
wind words around our wrists.
Jobs propped on rusty wheels,
the laundry--we screw
our dreams into plaster,
make love from scratch,
arrange scattered bricks,
rewire the basement,
allow animals to den in debris.
I wait in bed until you leave for work
then open the windows to warm the room.
I'm lonely when you’re gone.
When you’re here, I want to be alone,
turning the knob on the radio,
boiling potatoes, thinking about poems
I will never write because you are here
and I’m afraid to be alone.
from the poet: "I have an MFA from the University of Arkansas. I've published most recently in dirtcakes. I teach English. I live in Denmark."
Heading north and east,
we make time toward
a rumor of fish.
A chill but snowless
April, far northern days
long and cold. To make
fish bite now is to gain
on stuff hidden since the
foundations of the world.
Shallow water over rock
and sand. Sharp, thin plates
of ice. Never a bite in
late April with the nights
short and dark and the moon
from the poet: "My poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Carolina Quarterly, The Cape Rock, and California Quarterly."
No More War
Berkeley, California, 1968
Swelling started in her feet.
Still, she managed the campus,
her wicker lawn chair wheeling
across the quad to the elm
for her weekly class in ethics.
‘”Think of spelunkers,” she’d say,
trapped in a cave like Plato’s,
and then asked, ‘Should one be
sacrificed for commonweal?’
Groups of students going by
yelled, “No more war!” “End the war!”
She, not frail despite her
illness, but pale and young, smiled.
Half the boys were sweet on her.
Hoarse from smoking Camels, she
argued her view: “Was there one,”
she asked us, “more vulnerable,
perhaps more willing to die?”
We haggled. “What if they’re all
doomed?” “Shouldn’t they draw straws?”
The elm leaves quivered and drooped.
How could we choose before we
knew that darkness days on end
with wet granite pressing down?
“Couldn’t they dig their way out?”
“Or eat mushrooms?” Finally,
we fell silent. We did not
want to think any more of
sealed fates we could not escape,
no matter how much we called,
pushing our voices up through
the rock. It made us angry,
this death, all the other deaths.
from Stand magazine (UK) spring 2012
Long ago fierce wind drove
redwoods from the homesteads.
Far inland now, the groves.
Dry, straw hills roll ahead
like folds of challah bread
sprinkled with cypress, oak.
The wind whips your black hair
into your face, between
steamy breath and cold air.
Hills halve the coast, halving
again at each ravine
the mare’s summer pasture.
Like the land, we grapple.
Our children skip ahead
on lanes of loose gravel.
I rake manure from sheds,
you knead and bake the bread.
We’ll eat when the loaves cool.
But night’s building his wall,
capstone of inky darkness
vised by ratchet and pawl.
How close the cypress,
oak, pastures, and coppice,
once night has fallen.
from Swimming the Eel, David Robert Books, 2011
Because in the Souk Dakhli, a woman
sheathed in blue burkha flashed her eyes at me,
because I was a girl, too, sparkling in my own way,
because fish glinted like silver loaves on the long tables
or, suspended on wires, spun their silver shingles,
because a grinning, toothless deaf-mute told
my fortune with his fingers, stroking
my cupped palm in his soft brown hands,
because I joined the other ex-patriots sipping mint tea
and smoking, because I lay down on the earthen floor
of the deaf-mute’s hut beside the spice mounds,
because the papers strewn about were charcoaled
with arabesques, because the crumpled scraps
looked like magnolia blossoms opening in the sunlight,
I did not notice the path to the latrines strewn with glass
or the uniformed men gathering on the beaches,
their boats flying a strange flag. I did not
take their measure, or see the darkness
coming in behind the light, but slept.
from West Branch, 2010
Zara Raab’s books are Swimming the Eel (David Robert Books, 2011) and The Book of Gretel (Finishing Line Press chapbook, 2010). She is a contributing editor to Poetry Flash, and her reviews and interviews appear regularly in the San Francisco Book Review. Her poems, reviews, and essays also appear in Arts & Letters, West Branch, The Evansville Review, River Styx, Redwood Coast Review, The Dark Horse and elsewhere. She grew up in rural Northern California, and attended Mills College and the University of Michigan.
The Affable Sun
On a day when the
passage of a homeless
cloud is the only one
in the sky I look for
the affable sun; it
presented itself shyly
as if weary from shining
so brightly and it warmed
only the roof of my house
and not the lawn. Before
it left I watched it edge
away wrapped in a deep
eternity of its own. That
night my heart was a
oneness like an isolated
lake and hope flattened
itself in my chest before
the sun visited my soul.
It carried me away in joy,
in peace; and, in my dream,
the tip of a matchstick woke
the candle inside of me.
One day autumn came
to my door and it took
awhile for me to see.
Waves of poppies had
yellowed in the dry
wind and paper shadows
invaded my door. Inside
my kitchen warmth does
not rest and I had not
learned healing from the
bird's song. Memory is
my sanctuary while outside
there was a new wilderness
of trees that grazed the sky
and sunlight coated the
leaves. No matter how lonely
I had been, the world offered
itself to my imagination.
When The Sky Wept
On a day when the sky
wept I went to the prayer
box in the rain, caressed
by the soft fur of a wet
wind. The folded prayer
in my hand was for my
father. Darkness came
too soon for him and
now the earth grieves
for the new star that's
appeared. I've played
hide and go seek with
my tears, cushioned by
the sound of his voice
I hear in my dreams.
from the poet: " I am a reviewer for the online magazine Specusphere and a poet. My poetry can be seen in places such as Pirene's Fountain, Bellowing Ark, Falling Star Magazine, and With Painted Words, among others. My latest book of poetry is Rain Song."
John Lee Clark
I didn't like that boy at first
Too cheeky and he had deaf parents too
I suppose that explains why I always found his hearing aids turned off
I told him you know the rules you need to hear if you're going to grow up
But he never listened to me
Sometimes he wouldn't even look up when I waved for the class's attention
I was sure he despised me
But I was mistaken about that
I will never forget that day I asked the class to make penguins and to give
them to their parents
I passed out egg cartons cut in half for them to glue construction paper on
First the black outline then the white chest and eyes and then the orange
beak right there and two duckling feet here and here
Simple but rather nice don't you think
At the end of class all of the children carried off their penguins but the
Clark boy came to me and gave his penguin to me
At first I didn't understand but then I asked him is this for me
He frowned and nodded as if to say of course
Oh he didn't want to admit how much he really liked me
Dear me I saw right then and there what a sweet boy he really was
And he was shy about it too the darling
When his mother came to pick him up I told her how very nice his boy was to
give me this gift
The boy saw me say that and he acted surprised and said I didn't know that
I realized it wasn't just that he was shy about liking me but that I'd made
a mistake telling his mother that his boy wanted to give it to me instead of
I don't know what came over me I shouldn't have said that to a mother
But it was fine she was deaf you know
So you see I was mistaken about that boy
After all those years I still have his penguin on my desk and every time I
look at it I know why I am a teacher of the deaf
John Lee Clark's poetry has appeared in many publications, including The Hollins Critic, Pif, Poetry, and The Seneca Review. His chapbook of poems is Suddenly Slow (Handtype Press, 2008) and he edited the anthology Deaf American Poetry (Gallaudet University Press, 2009). He is married to the cartoonist Adrean Clark, and they live in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota with their three sons.
Hushed Is the Day
Each breath of the sun
Blushes summer’s glow
To my skin.
Whispers like words,
Hot cross my face and my neck,
Casting small golden flecks.
Rich, bright sky marred by clouds,
Sojourn breeze slipping south,
Spidery tendrils of my hair,
Tickling at my ear.
Trees in their prime,
Rich deep green,
The creeping northern air,
That moans in despair,
As chimes to the wind,
The birds cry again,
As a harvest they spy,
And to the soil they dive.
The peace of day,
Endures not silence, remains not loud;
Hushed are the footsteps, the touches, the calls,
Hushed is the deep blue by the bright sun.
Hushed is the day.
Zuri Wren is a writer living in Maryland. She can be found either reading a book or writing in one. Her poem, "If I Could Paint a Picture", can be viewed in the web magazine The Pink Chameleon.