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Volume 18, Issue 1

Winter 2015

Gary Beck Roger Desy JD DeHart Joan Colby Nabila Nowshin Anika John Grey Jane Blanchard Gil Gale
Frank De Canio Cleo Griffith Eira Needham Judith Skillman Kurt Praschak David Bauer Mike James
Richard King Perkins II Cristine A.Gruber Ashley Warren

Ashley Warren


Always fighting my peripatetic urges, my poetry frequently digs into the nature of 'place' and asks, "what is the importance and purpose of 'here'?" I tend to explore themes of struggle, both mental and physical, as well as freedom through my interest in sound, wildlife and the climate. You can find my work in the Southwest Journal, Eye On Life Magazine, Current Accounts, Convergence Magazine and Full Moon Poetry Society.

Synonyms for Bones and Air

All this time,
now I realize that the gray could
never be described in one-word
synonyms
like slate.

It can only be understood
when my chest is open—

like after an empty orgasm
when I wish to crawl into
my skull
like a snail.

Or the long years it takes
to forget how love has disfigured us.

Or like now as I sit
in front of the sea,
that solitary whale,
and know that heartbreaking
things like faith and sweaty hands
and nights spent outlining your bones
are out there, anchored,
like a boat many miles from shore.

Or really any moment

or plan

or wanting lost

in that tired space between
now and nothing.

But alas, I have to smile
now as my left cheek grows warm
from a lazy sun
creeping upon me
with a smirk on his face.

He points to the waves,
now a dusty emerald, and I know
it’s okay to say all of this.
Even still, everything we know
could fit into the crease of my brow.

For now, I know what’s in focus—
this sand I wish your feet were in.
The phone call later tonight.

The light pressing its mouth
to my face.

Gary Beck


Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines, and he has also published chapbooks, novels, and a short story collection. He currently lives in New York City.

Commuter Trip

Before the birds get cold
instinct reminds them
it's time to go south.
Unlike cluttered humans
they don't pack their bags,
put Picassos in storage,
cover furniture with plastic.
They simply leave the tree
without a backwards glance,
no sentiment for a snug nest,
no nostalgia for a good season,
just the need to go where it's warm.
Like all migrations
some will not arrive,
others so depleted
they will not survive.
But there is no mourning,
no lamentations for the lost,
only joyful chirping
at another sunny day.

JD DeHart


JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His blog is jddehart.blogspot.com and his first chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is due Fall 2014.

Finding the Boundary

No, I will not take your grandson
across Time’s Square to the bathroom,
and no I will not add you to my circle
again subsequent to the last explosion.
I will not settle for this pain in my jaw,
this discomfort in my chest,
I will not again wrap myself in fear.
My coat is made of something better.
So, no, I will not smile and waver
at your careless remarks,
never even taking the time to notice
the shape of my face, the outline
of my hair, or the tenor of my voice.

Joan Colby


Joan Colby has published widely in many journals, including Poetry, Atlanta Review, and Prairie Schooner. She has received many awards, and one of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News,
an associate editor of The Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois.

NIGHT SWIMMING

The moonlit quarry. You, swift kicking
In a determined crawl. Me, lazily side
Stroking. The water dark, cold, smeared
With starshine. Some boys arrived on the far bank
Calling to us, we could have feared
But didn’t, just kept swimming
From shore to shore, our arms glistening
With precision. Those boys gave up and left
Shouting things that we ignored. We were so sure
Of our abilities, how the evidence of swimming
Justified our young and slender bodies.
Of course, it was forbidden. A squad car shone
Its lights as we dived deep, unseen.Surfacing,
We watched the tail lights flee like animals.
Water in our mouths, our eyes, our long
Streaming hair.We shook ourselves dry,
It was past curfew, how we loved ourselves,
Our daring, our invincibility. How the water had
Been motionless except for our inscriptions.
 
Years later, the quarry dredged,
A sedan of murdered bodies recovered.
How all that time we swam
Above their bloated faces, letting the water slide
In a slick ambush over our small breasts,
How we could not then, begin to guess
What would befall us.

ILLINOIS

 Horizon to horizon, the flat
Landscape newly tilled. Still too wet to plant. It snowed
This morning, May 16th, dropping like pearls
From the grey shell of overcast. Now at noon,
Dissolved to rain, chill and briny
With the new-flushed green
Of emergence. The pear trees in bloom. Lilacs
Stuttering with last night’s frost.
 
Intractable shifts in the Antarctic
Where the heart of ice has warmed
To a sinister liquefaction. The way words,
That can’t be taken back lap at the mind
In the small peaked waves of a Japanese woodcut,
To erode the beaches where we once sunned
In a generous springtime.
 
Consider how the earth is sealed with cement
Like a Mormon marriage or fracked for profit
To reorder history. The facts debatable
As if our good black dirt were not blessing enough.

Nabila Nowshin Anika

FREEDOM

It has been a long time
      Since I have seen the sun,
A long time since I’ve felt the breeze in my face
      And ran wildly and fell in the mud;
And they say-
It’s because I’m black
      For black can’t see the blue sky,
      And black can’t feel the white wind,
      And black can’t walk with arms wide and brown earth underneath
 
 
“Black cannot”
They say- “black cannot”
I say- “I can”
I say- “I will”
 
I say-
When I will touch those leaves of the banyan,
          They will be green
When I will breathe in the open air,
           It will be free
When I will see those butterflies,
           They will be beautiful
When I will be in your life,
            It will be complete.


John Grey


John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in Paterson Literary Review, Southern California Review and Natural Bridge with work upcoming in New Plains Review, Leading Edge and Louisiana Literature.  

WHEN I CAUGHT COLD AT WUTHERING HEIGHTS

Emily Bronte...I've been saving her for a chest cold,
for lungs wheezing like her Yorkshire moors.
As Isabella suffers, as Linton suffers,
so must I ache, congest as if my insides
are a rising fog, while medicine at the tip of a spoon
makes for such an ineffectual rising sun.
Romance is nightingales and gardenias.
This is obsession and I am as obsessed as Heathcliff
as I hack and spit and curse my way back to health.
The ghost of Cathy is not tapping on my window exactly.
But the man who breathes as if air's his birthright
is out there in the bright light of day somewhere.
If anything, the ghost is in here, choking in lieu of wailing.
Tap tap tap tap. Let me go to him.
I've taken a time release capsule. So, plan is, at first gulp,
I'm in some cobwebby room in Wuthering Heights,
shivering under blankets but, by the time the
shell breaks open, sends its healers to all parts of my body,
I'll be up at the Grange, in a bright lit room, inquiring
of the good housekeeper: how long have I been sleeping?
Meanwhile, I read on. Catherine joins in loveless marriage
with Edgar. Heathcliff marries and brutalizes Isabella.
I'm not sure if those are symptoms or the disease itself.
Then characters begin to die off. The next generation
of Lintons and Earnshaws are born into my raging discomfort.
More brooding. More violence. More passion. More mania.
More vapor rub. More runny nose. More complaining. More sneezes.
But somehow it gasps and rasps its way to a happy ending.
So come on in. You're looking at the union of young Cathy and Hareton.
My remedy worked. After all, I could have picked Hamlet.
 

HELENA PONDERS

If you pay the bill, what do I owe?
If you snatch it swiftly from the table,
 
then I can't see that damage, must prepare
myself for damage of a different kind.
 
Besides, the waiter almost drops it in your lap.
Is he in on this? Does he know you?
 
A house salad. How many buttons does that undo?
Veal Cacciatore. Is any zipper safe?
 
The soufflé was so light but its full weight
comes later. And as for the drinks...
 
my head's so light. Must I pretend my heart
is also? Time to leave, you even help me
 
with my coat. How gallantly you dress me.
My nakedness begins right here.

Jane Blanchard


 Jane Blanchard divides her time between Augusta and Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia.  Her work has appeared in many journals, magazines, and anthologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, as well as online.

Method

 
There’s more to a fire than a flame,
Or so my dear husband does claim:
Past stacking, there’s stoking,
Appropriate poking,
Unless a mere spark is the aim.

Conjugation

 
If you should ever need to know
Just how the sexes differ so,
Then give well-wedded folks the chance
To speak about their own romance.
 
The wife will likely reminisce
About the first long luscious kiss;
The husband, though, may banter some
By asking when the next will come.
 

Roger Desy


I write poems — sonnets and other lyrics.  Sonnets, yes, giving an old form new room, perhaps a new freedom. I taught literature/creative writing and edited technical manuals.  My plan was to write, and I’ve remained grounded in lyric poems.  Samples are in The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Poet Lore, South Carolina Review, and other journals.

I like to think that observing nature in its phenomena preserves not only nature and the observations, but saves us.

But predawn, after the birds, it’s the poem.


natural


— their population browsing overpowers the buds and bark
of hibernating saplings — they do of course cause damage

— however never the destruction of their environment


no matter how bitter the winter — never the roots of grass —



the fields erupt again in spring — the incidental damage
decays to nutrients that germinate renewal into new growth


— injuries grow their scars and heal — as latent second buds
under the tips of spurs nipped off to satisfy survival

fill in the space filled out to full leaf in the sun — nothing



is missing — nothing taken — and though their own survival at times
forecasts starvation — satiety even in famine is given back

into the nakedness of the humility it came from — it’s rare


almost unnatural — to find even debris of their remains in woods



— more than unnatural that the ground they trespassed — grazed
to its exhaustion — blow stubble of spent furrows into windy dust



"natural" was first printed in Poetry Salzburg Review, Spring 2014.



notesfrom a train


on a platform blown
    by oncoming snow — we braced
against the whiteout


through cold glass — study
    surrounding erratic snow
condense clear beads


the mind’s track — snowbound
    to the staccato echo —
passes through mountains


averted — blinding —
    shards of birches cut the sun
to isolation


racing — near trees blur —
    windbreaks on a distant ridge
freeze the retina


stands of random spruce
    buried in drifts lose themselves
on the exposure


under the surface
    a faceless river trespasses
the dead of winter


snowed in in shadows
    of a windy light — facets
define the boundaries


wilderness of lakes’
    exquisite excess excites
reddening deepening


with the horizon
     inflaming the glaze — we burned
bridges behind us


pursuing the storm
    we met and greeted it and
found the very fire


a depot — sleeping —
    squalls coiled a quick oblivion
over grids of fields


snow’s weightless pressure
    insinuates the sift of its
accumulation


hard to the frostline
    still soil insulates the depths
of its forgiveness


cover of snow rests
    on seasons’ gestation of
a decaying silt


winter remembers
    the imprint of its finches’
fierce acuity

Gil Gale


 from the poet:  I have published poetry previously in The Avocet,The Jewish Literary Journal, and Bear Creek Haiku.   I have also written science articles for The Montana Naturalist and Montana Outdoors.   I work fulltime as an ecologist and land manager for the U.S. Forest Service in  Montana. 

Beyond Here There Be

Broad rolling waters nudge the east,
prying  open the day,
liberating a blurred opal light
that diffuses through the fog hemming in our
wooden planked  and paint peeled long liner.
Diesel throb of the ship draws us slowly
through the steady graceful swells.
We could be circling all the points
of the compass with our senses dangling aimlessly.
A single gull skims close by,
wings immobile, whole perfect form
lifting in synchrony,
as the sea lifts.

Out there on the other side
of this mist that has absorbed us,
we hope is home.
Sometimes though, it seems
we will drive on,
bow hissing soft on
the deeply breathing sea,
as we stand watch,
each possessed by the feeling
that we could disappear
into the whitening vapor,
and discover another world,
awaiting us.

Winter Watch    


Tousle-haired, the girl woke with a start.
A premonition pulled her down the old wooden stairs
creaking and cold under her feet.
He was gone from the porch,
leaving an indent on the pillowed bed.
Outside, following the lone set of tracks towards the creek,
she found him lying acquiescent on a snow dusted sagebrush rise
a short distance from the house. 
In the scented months, he liked to station himself there
watching for the emerging crop of ground squirrels .
 
Arrayed above, the northern lights danced silently
before a million winter stars while 
to the east, a sliver of moon edged up over
the jagged rock ribs of a distant ridge.
A chilled breeze streamed down around them,
emptying out from the twists and turns of the
narrow canyon darkness that split the foothills
behind the two forms, now clumped together,
rooted, unmoving.
 
Drifting, faint and mingled with the canyon’s exhale,
a slow ululation of a single wolf,
reclaiming the mountainside,  joined them.
Their ears perked slightly, simultaneously
at the unfamiliar sound,
then their thoughts pulled back inward.
 
And in a quiet fused moment,
as she sat on the hard cold ground
stroking his head,
the murmering evening air
deftly stole the old dog’s last breath
and carried it away into the night.

Frank De Canio

from the poet:  I was born & bred in New Jersey, work in New York. I love music of all kinds, from Bach to Dory Previn, Amy Beach to Amy Winehouse, World Music, Latin, opera. Shakespeare is my consolation, writing my hobby. I like Dylan Thomas, Keats, Wallace Stevens, Frost , Ginsburg, and Sylvia Plath as poets.

Ardent Caveat    

 For those obsessed with women, I can show
you that the wiser thing is letting go.
She may be just a one night stand or, oh!
the woman of those dreams that sandmen blow
into the bunk bed of one’s bungalow.
But clinging men must reap the fruits they sow
when they refuse to heed a woman’s “No”.
Yes! Sadly, there might be those women – though
I may seem paranoid - who let buds grow
dependent on their jutting branches so
that they could feel the warming afterglow
of cutting striplings from their kindling bough.
But that’s why it’s important to bestow
upon one’s world an infinite tableau.
Though tempest-tossed, become a Prospero
whose magic power is a quid pro quo
of finding happiness in what you know.
For love becomes a constant curio
to those who just sit back and let it flow.

Housebroken

Since he’s already learned each trick
she otherwise would have to teach
him, his response is double quick
to facial gesturing or speech.
Thus she’d be daft to have him chained
and make him wonder what’s beyond
her sphere of influence. For trained
with doting love, he’s grown so fond
of her. He happily retrieves
her slippers when she comes home bushed,
and gets assurance when she leaves.
him for her office, once she’s shushed
him with a kiss. And rain or fog,
he isn’t loathe to walk her dog.

Cleo Griffith


Cleo Griffith is Chair of the Editorial Board of Song of the San Joaquin, a member of the Modesto Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, and Chair of the Annual Aileen Jaffa Young Poets Contest in Stanislaus County, CA.. Her poems have been published in multiple locations, and she is included in More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets, an anthology available on Amazon.com.

Carvings

Carve the letters from a piece of pine
or from cork, all light and fluffy
carve them into an apple
or bake them into a pie
all the letters will still mean the same
whether light or dark
these words you have made
lie upon the plateau of existence
as solid as ivory,
as ephemeral as fireflies
there can be no fear of loss
so, carve away, and keep the shavings,
some fine things are made
from leftovers.                                    

Consistent, The Dawn

The pigeon on the roof above
is cooing constantly.
The monotony!
Yet, he is only doing what he does
as I am trying to do what I do
and am being distracted from
by this insidious sound…
    no, it isn’t that,
it is the ache inside that stops me.
I know that. I know that
it is not the bird, so close,
it is the sun and its persistence
in the face of everything.
Can’t you grieve with me one day,
not show that gleaming visage,
show respect for my dark heart?
I am unnerved…
it is not proper to begin
to feel so light
in this, another dawn,
after such a night.

Eira Needham


Eira Needham is a retired teacher, living in Birmingham UK. Her poetry is eclectic and has been published in print and online. Recent  publications are in Voices From The Web 2014-2015, Poppy Road Review and Red Fez. She has also been Featured Writer in WestWard Quarterly.

Salad Days


Wearing different masks
for each of life's compartments
my boy lingers, concealed
within a man.

Sometimes I peek through
chinks in his masquerade.
My maternal psyche smarts
to witness him
nursing growing pains.

I anoint his contusions,
before he departs,
carrying a slice of me
in his shirt pocket.

Judith Skillman


Judith Skillman’s new book is Angles of Separation (Glass Lyre Press). Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Cimarron Review, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry. Skillman is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, Washington State Arts Commission, and King County Arts Commission. She has taught at City University Richard Hugo House, and Yellow Wood Academy.

A Cockeyed Optimism

I’ve risen like the day moon
into a sky entirely azure. I’m a venture,
the angels will invest in me.
 
Little by little I trained myself
on  wine—now I can put away
half a bottle. I’ll fill the gaps
in all your conversations. Nothing
stagnant will grow, no rest marks,
no space between notes of this allegro.
 
I’ve no room for any silence
except the one I make when I pick up
my needles to knit—when
from the circular needles
Joseph’s coat grows in cabled stitches
you’ll wear when winter freezes
the machines idling now between
chops at gratuitous trees, those
that keep sun from infecting rooftops.
 
I’ve risen like Jesus from the dead
and no one can hold me down,
not the stone, nor the women who’d nag
a Roman soldier till he caved.
 
I’ll limp
along beside you, lenticular as a cloud,
undeniable as a mountain, and you
won’t know what hit you—whether
it happened in Prague or Paris,
Venice or Rome, only that love’s
an old woman with a tear in her eye
from laughing, and death’s a cliché
holding its sides, ribs broken, the whole
carapace crumbling like the Parthenon
when time was at its best
 
and still had a chance to affect
what I built sidewise in order for you
to learn to lean—but nobly—akin to the tower
of Pisa, into your own shadows.

(appeared in Cascadia Review)

With Each New Moon

            after René Char
 
A crescent hangs above mountains tinged with late-evening sun.
A bright wing counters the despair of those who leave their dwellings
to become panhandlers on streets filled with cars whose drivers
inhabit a private music.  Its reed-blade stems insufficiency.  For those
who depart, nomadic, the desert sands equal waves of wind
beneath swaybacked horses.  Worn saddlebags tear fur.
The night darkens and groans with hunger’s iconic animals—
lion, hyena, jackal.   Yet, for the refugee, each new moon signals
what can be felt but not believed: that every beginning
mirrors the largesse of a sun turning its face upon countries
of forced emigration.  Of water running underground in its hidden labyrinth
from spring to spring with the lightness of fire, and the terrible children
laughing their way up from many floors below.
 

Kurt Praschak


A lifelong New Jersey resident, Kurt Praschak owns a bachelor’s degree in English, and has spent his professional career as a public relations counsel, journalist, and freelance writer. His poetry has appeared in Stepping Stones Magazine. Married with two grown children and a granddaughter, Praschak is tormented by a 12-pound Jack Russell terrier who insists on twice-daily walks in even the most abominable weather.

Concordance of color

As if God spent an hour fingerpainting with white and black tempera, streaking November’s sky in unsettled grays, mostly dull, with a whisper of threat, and walking below I watch the drab shades run, seeping down on trees, across lawns, transforming unremarkable structures into mansions of film noir moodiness, absent all hues, save for you -- solely immune to this visual desolation -- sauntering in a concordance of color, of crimsons, blues, yellows, drifting along, and I'm induced to follow, enthralled by your conspicuous magic.

David Bauer


David Bauer is a freelance poet, artist and elementary teacher. He has taught grades 1-12 in Arizona public schools. Presently he teaches grade 3 in Las Vegas, Nevada. His poetry seeks the magic, mystery and beauty of his Midwestern upbringing. Poems of the wonder, wildness and metaphor of nature are at the heart of his writing.

Do You Ever Dream Of Painted Moon?

Do you ever dream of painted moon
Of screeching hawk—of calling loon?
Do you ever dream of cloud billowing high,
Of castles that hide in the spaces of sky?
Do you ever dream of misted shore,
Of musty swamp and fog-filled moor?

Come climb with me then, up the black oak tree,
We’ll lay on our backs—just you and me,
It’s a secret house that no one knows,
Except for squirrels and cackling crows,
We just have to lay there for 3 hours or more,
We’ll shimmy up the ladder and shut the trap door,

All you do is climb up, up with me,
To the tippy, tippy top of my far, far tree,
We’ll dream a thousand painted moons,
We’ll hear that one lone calling loon,
We’ll see the prince and princess fair,
In their floating castle, in the summer air.

Richard King Perkins II

Fencepost of Salvation

Incaution is my legacy—
I give to you my scarred hands
and laughing thoughts thrown into heaven’s courtyard.
And now, the tranquil earth melts away
into silver runes ringing
in the sweet throat of morning.
Later, barricades will fall and broken depths
descend past the curve of my rescue.
Remarkable supplication, all these things;
how giving, stark and filled with murmur.

You stride like light in that barest place,
feel the living body of a valley
brace against your feet.
You heal my broken hands at the fencepost of salvation
until they are entirely your own.
You replace the lost sound of my voice
so that I boldly sing.
In the flower valley and white meadow,
in the white tale of tomorrow
on the planet you’ve inherited from so many;
you repair my being
until I’m simply an ancient fracture restored.

Incaution is my legacy—
my scarred hands,
my laughing thoughts thrown into heaven’s courtyard;
and yet, you are.

(appeared in december)

Mike James

from the poet:  I live and work in Douglasville, GA with my wife and five children. Recent work has appeared in Comstock Review, Town Creek Review and Iodine.  New work is forthcoming in Negative Capability and Thrush.  My two most recent books are Elegy in Reverse (Aldrich Press, 2014) and Past Due Notices: Poems 1991-2011 (Main Street Rag, 2012).  I also serve as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review

A Photograph of W.S. Merwin

 
a half-smile on
his lips
 
as if the very
thought of speech
is pleasure
 
light through the window
behind him
 
green light on leaves
light on distant hills
 
no sign of rain
 
left hand beginning
to rise
gesture in the air to beckon
 

Homecoming

                “No dog knows my smell.”
                                                                Robert Lowell
 
 
pulpwood had its way here
 
what land hasn’t been clear cut
is a county away
 
the town gave up fixing roads
six years ago
 
potholes are the new industry
 
relatives no longer ask
when you’ll move back
 
instead, they ask about
other places
curse you in their prayers
 
at a gas station
an old teacher doesn’t
remember you
your voice or  any charm
you imagined
 
she treats you like the stranger
you are
 
when the last mill closed
the town
should have had a party

with fireworks, speeches
and confetti like dreams

Cristine A. Gruber

Cristine A. Gruber is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in numerous magazines, including North American Review, Writer’s Digest, California Quarterly,  and The Homestead Review. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Lifeline, is available from Amazon.com.


Rise

Wondrous
glowing skyline,
that moment just before
dawn, when all the world explodes with
color.
 

Moment

                  “Life isn't a matter of milestones, but moments.”
                                               Rose Kennedy

 
If ever there was a moment so ideal,
so precious by all the world’s standards
 
that it made you want to hold your breath
as if to capture it for all eternity
 
and savor it for all its beauty,
indeed relish it for all its uniqueness,
 
a moment when the tomatoes on the vine
can be smelled from the patio,
 
and the garden path seems to
invite nakedness,
 
as they must have been
in the original garden,
 
before their indiscretion,
prior to the Fall,
 
holding hands and unaware,
of all but each other,
 
in their calm before the storm,
this then, is such a moment.