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miller's pond

Spring 2015

Kyle Heger Roger Singer M.J. Iuppa Jennifer Lagler Barbara A. Meier John Grey Fred Dale
Lee Slonimsky Mark Vogel Zebulon Huset Lee Marc Stein Kurt Praschak

Kyle Heger

Bone Scan

A stranger's heart blows kisses at
me from one screen, while, on the
other, my wife's bones are redrawn
at a rate of eight times a minute.

As it progresses down her body,
turning her insides out in more detail
than we care to see, a relentless tube
approaches our entwined hands, and
we try to elongate the seconds that
stand between us and the moment
when we must let go.

A Compromised System

To protect your compromised immune
system after you complete a stem-cell
transplant, we have cleaned this house
with the grim determination of soldiers
or exorcists. But a simple beam of sunlight
pins me into immobility, making dust again
visible everywhere, and I am cursed with
an X-ray vision of what lies beneath the
surface: a world of nightmares and
contaminations. The most innocent of
movements — a shifted weight, an opened
door, the gentle breeze of a whispered word
— can send germs floating in mid-air, rising
from each surface as if every atom is eager
to contribute its share in a cataclysmic
conspiracy.

Our five-year old son stands transfixed by
this same beam, but then he charges forward,
scattering motes with somersaults, trying to
touch them, dance with them, capture them
on his tongue like snowflakes, raising tornadoes,
hurling lighten bolts, calling down avalanches,
releasing genies, wrestling demons, rearranging
molecules and the cosmos, creating life.

My hand rises unseen behind him, heavy with
horror and responsibility, but I do not call him
back. The dust will be there whether or not he
stirs it, and have we not in our own time known
such joy in chaos?

The Repose of Doves

Enviable, the dove sleeps
on a ledge three floors above
ground, altitude safeguarding
him from predators below, a
double pane of protective glass
protecting him from people who
pace insomnia stripes into the
carpet of the hospital hallway,
his ability to fly forestalling
a fear of falling, one great round
eye condensed to a contented
slit.

An inspiration and an affront,
he retains his repose as I knock
on the window in warning, in
applause, in threat, my hand infused
with an urgency to startle him into
flight, at least to see him open his
eye in fear.

For I have just remembered the
raptor’s shadow. But nothing that
I do disturbs his peace, so I return
with clenched fists to my attempts
to wrest day from night, struggle
against gods and maintain solidarity
with the dying.

Home Invasion

With volley-ball team tans and
pony tails, two young women
in uniforms park their van and
flounce through our house, trying
to look serious but eyes still bright
and faces flushed from laughter.
Trailing a scent of bubble gum and
sweat socks, they exit with a gurney
in their hands as if it were an ironing
board, knocking against walls and
furniture, as if it didn’t hold the body
of my wife.

Rendezvous

As a conspicuous absence,
you keep this rendezvous
here tonight with me, our
five-year-old son, Luis,
and our host, who trains
his canon of a telescope
in a Berkeley back yard at
the night sky to gratify a
passion he developed as
a political prisoner in
Northern Ireland, staring
out between cell bars.

The first time we came
here several months ago
you were still able to
furrow a brave trail of
broken dew drops on
the grass behind the
fluorescent tennis balls
on the feet of your walker.
Our appetites had been
whet by the scent of warm
bagels, fresh from the oven.
Luis and a white whippet
raced elliptical orbits around
each other in a newly planted
garden. Our host was happy
to be out on bail, only the
wireless signals from an
electronic anklet keeping him
within the perimeter of his
property. But we spent just
a minute looking through
the telescope, our ambitions
to see the stars frustrated by
the benevolent blue blanket
of the sky as the sun’s rays
bounced off the shell of our
life-sustaining atmosphere.
And so we agreed to return
some night and lay siege to
heaven’s secrets when the
tumblers of circumstance
had fallen more propitiously
into place. By the time the stars
were in alignment, and a night
had come in which the Pacific
condescended not to exhale its
obscuring breath over the land,
and Luis was awake late enough
and our host had time off from
his battle against extradition,
cancer had already claimed you.
But we kept our rendezvous still,
and as I gaze up, I take a cold
comfort in the knowledge that
we are seeing light from stars
that died so long ago.

Kyle Heger, former managing editor of Communication World magazine, lives in Albany, CA, with his wife and three sons. His writing has appeared in The Binnacle, eFiction, Foliate Oak, Milk Sugar, Nerve Cowboy, Poem, The Santa Clara Review, The Thorny Locust, and other publications.

M.J. Iuppa

Wishful Thinking

Two days of warm weather has made us
giddy in the aisle of the local Dollar General
where we pick up packets of marigold seed
& shake them over our heads like castanets
to see if their weight is true & will be
an awaited cure for winter’s impotence.
But we know better, two days past April Fools,
the buzz of flies & peepers singing brashly—
their brilliant chorus of alive, alive is a tease.
Someone has predicted snow for Easter, which
wouldn’t be the first time the baskets left on
the porch held its cache of cold eggs, but it
would be so mystical if today’s sun decides
enough is enough. . . .
Wishful thinking, I can hardly resist it.

Last Day of Lent

Dizzy in winter’s dust, the ladybug spins
on the sill, unable to shake the boredom
that gets in its way of flight . . .
The practiced revs of its tiny engine re-
mind me of those idle threats— I’m
leaving, leaving, leaving
left me no choice but to think of what
to make for supper.

Wheel of Fortune

Meaningless, at first—
spider silks balloon over-
head, in bright sun.
You don’t look where
you’re going, which
is more about life
than living, so
you act like every-
thing is intentional,
like this day’s whirl-
pool, spinning you in
the direction of what’s
waiting for you.

Sundial


Upon an upturned face a splash of sun, a breeze—
ticklish as seconds— sweeping into so many minutes
spent sitting here, waiting for an hour called Spring.


M.J. Iuppa lives on Red Rooster Farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Most recent poems, lyric essays and fictions have appeared in the following journals: Poppy Road Review, Digging to the Roots, Ealain, and Poetry Pacific Review, among others. She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College. Her musings on art, writing and sustainability  are on mjiuppa.blogspot.

Fred Dale

TWO CONFESSIONS (FOR GLENN)

Protected by the other conversations levied in wine, I
turned to you my cuffed image to judge and burn.

It seemed the right hour to let it go, to bring imperfection
to bear on the man you might have drawn. You,

Nephew, took it in like a simple, hello—balked at the
shame that remained, and directed love to take its place.

Nothing, after all, was distorted by the harming truth.
The surprise of this pulled me away, nearly away.

You have reached an age, not a year, and suddenly in the
quiet interstice of those moments,

I saw your parents’ faces swimming in your own. A life
has taken hold and is placing things in a past,

like the day you walked next to me at Disney and reached
for my hand. Unsure what to think of your need,

I felt the lie of it, that strangers walking by might have
thought you belonged, in part, to me.

I confess to you now another secret thing I’ve withheld:
On that afternoon in the mindful sun, I let myself believe,

with no child of my own to consider, that I was your father.
I tried it on, let the idea of it break fully on my heart.

It’s a certain kind of stain I reveal—your arm
connected to mine and the belonging it meant to us both.

The tendril of that time extends back to us, unspoken.
Let strange eyes read what they want.

MIGRATIONS

Over tea, or a walk with friends,
a grain of persuasion is released
against the resistance of instinct,
and they begin their migrations
from us; the sad wanderlust
of growing from unexpectedly
ticks ahead.

There is no preparation for it,
no way for them to know the best
crease in our days to return, to us,
our childhoods.
It happens with the suddenness
a warm glass cools to cold water.

They rush to gather us up in boxes,
the marks of our aging: ribbons,
report cards, a handprint in plaster,
held together by a paper plate
they took from us years ago, happy
in the deception it was our idea.

But mostly the box is inhabited
by photographs of our first,
uncertain steps into life, the kinds
of pictures mothers wait lifetimes
for in the developing, never sure
what our faces will look like,
small squares of our small poses.

Only when she looks at them now,
she sees what her mind left out
all these years: the people around us,
the ones who are soon to wave
good-bye. Something must be done.
She can’t just look us away.

Our lives return to us because
no one else will take them from her.
We never ask for these trinkets
of our abandonment, only unfairly
expect that she’ll house and protect
them.

So she gives us back what she’s
done, offers the bundle into
our arms and tearlessly spins away,
answers ricocheting amongst
the other mothers, born as they are
to their air, their own company.

from the poet: I’m an avid road cyclist and a part-time community activist. When I’m not grading papers, I read for pleasure and spend time with my wife and dog. I received my master’s in English from the University of North Florida, where I have been teaching since 1997 and currently serve as a Senior Instructor in the Department of English. I have studied with William Slaughter. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in Forge, Glassworks Magazine, Stickman Review, and mojo.

Jennifer Lagler

August in Escalon

Here in the land of
churches and gas stations,
we move sparingly and slow
in the simmering heat.

Peach fuzz rises with the sun.
Days, over-exposed and glittering,
melt into the same twenty four hours
of recycled white noise.
Asphalt softens like canal bank mud.
around concrete malls.

Outside, roses cremate
themselves colorless;
blackbirds haven't the energy
to flap or complain.

A slow freight screams,
drags itself toward the cool Pacific,
steel and grease churning
along burning rails.

I sweat, lean into the open vents
of a straining swamp cooler,
nineteen, pregnant, newly married,
wonder how the hell
we ever made it this far.

previously published in Song of the San Joaquin

Cambria Sunset II

Fiery culmination of a cloudless afternoon--
gold skies mesmerize, etch pine tree silhouettes
against molten horizon.

Ghostly spindrift glistens from glittery breakers.
Fog banks smolder, brassy denouement of day,
vivid herald of darkening night.

I celebrate celestial transition, sprinkled stars.
White slice of rising moon hangs in curdled sky
above glowing waves.

Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry as well as in a variety of literary magazines. Her latest book, Camille Vérité, was just published by FutureCycle Press. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains several web sites, web sites and also helps coordinate monthly poetry readings in Monterey Bay.

Roger Singer

OPEN WATER

Words and mist drifted over open water
like innocence
searching for allegiance.

In the distance, ships silently cross
flat horizons;
dark smoke rises from them,
appearing as fingers, directing their paths.

The sky and ocean merge into a
corner of blue; small clouds dot the surface
as if lost in a theatre of greatness.

The ships fade. Dusk rolls in a carpet of gray.
Birds sit quiet.
The earth sounds firm beneath me.

Dr. Singer has had over 750 poems published on the internet, magazines and in books. Magazines that have accepted his poems for publication include Westward Quarterly, Jerry Jazz, SP Quill, Language & Culture, and Indigo Rising. Recently, Dr. Singer recently published Poetic Jazz, a collection of words describing the music and people of jazz, available on Amazon.

Kurt Praschak

Willow

Staring through macchiato steam and beyond Starbucks, out across Forbes, I recall the lyric dance of willow branches stroking my boyhood window, drowsy, intimate, until a late September bolt cleaved my tree, blistering, crackling, and next morning dad set upon it with his screeching McCulloch, supple leaves turned ghostly in a petrol haze, and as I ponder this memory, I hear university traffic and watch you stride resolutely away, realizing I won’t have you again.

Washington Street bridge

S’pose it would have been fire water, a generation back, even a decade, from that dented flask Uncle Stu left me, holding at bay November’s bite, like an umbrella opened on some cantankerous mutt, and I sit on this oaken stump, boots descending among the newly fallen, beneath maple skeletons venerating stars, in lieu of a moon, boughs raised in adoration, and over my left shoulder the American vein courses, petrol-scented rush, hypnotic halogen stream, the frantic rattle of flatbed crossing a seam, and the river grouses below, abusing stoic boulders, sluicing on toward the wood-encircled reservoir, reflectively placid, and the Washington Street bridge spans above me, two-hundred yards of grace and steel, as tonight it’s coffee flavored by cream and some nut, toasted almond, within guilty Styrofoam, and this latest bridge is adorned by streetlamps, elegant, ornamental iron, painted lustrous black, where its too narrow predecessor was but cement, ‘1919’ in humble relief at the south end, and it’s gone eight years now, removed piecemeal by rugged county trucks, yet here in autumn's moonless murk, something lingers, tangible in the manner of phantoms, hauntingly infused, as if even a bridge possesses spirit, and I was off to college, clever boy in wool sweaters, beside the Charles, while Frankie remained, brooding, and on a night intimating winter, he stalked along the ghost bridge, clambered over the railing, and from the far side downward, to the unfeeling water, the fall is prolonged, perhaps sufficient for pondering, questioning, shedding resolve, for realizing doubt, dread, possibly even regret, before the change ... and I fill my mouth with coffee, barely warm, inhaling spectral remnants of toasted almond, and the leaves are dead, and I miss Uncle Stu’s flask.


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 miller's pond and 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.

Mark Vogel

What dad wants from the Ozarks


Maybe library archives say which Frenchman
named the St. Francois River, and what
he thought of a land where snapping turtles grow
big as a table, and prehistoric catfish emerge
covered in algae. Where ticks attuned to blood
drop from vines. Or who mapped first the myriad
fast Ozark rivers carving paths in woods and undergrowth,
and who discovered crystal springs bursting
from limestone ridges. The explorers would be
surprised how little has changed in dappled shade
where the hickory oak maple sassafras rocky slopes
frame the clean transparent Current River flow.
For sure zoology texts map how ivory-tongued
river muscles in blonde shells open for
the currents, as they nestle deep/
blending with mossy rocks.

We rookies skirt the wild shoreline trail,
living the story where overhanging trees shade
cottonmouth water moccasins and us from the sun.
When birds explode in panic we see dad
smiling at the water, dropping trout-line hooks
hooks weighted with chicken gizzards and minnows.
Thrilled to stall and wait, he doesn’t need
a trophy, or desire the quick. He will admire
his collection on the metal stringer,
and clean whatever emerges as found treasure,
because an explorer uses all resources,
and anticipates ahead the bones.

On vacation he savors the dream of the possible
where acts are felt at the core, the slow motion movie
documenting in/out precious breath.
From the beginning he was drawn from afar
to this mythic homeland so far in the sticks.
Though once permanent to us kids,
and cool in the hottest summer,
this world today may or may not still exist.
Fearing disappointment, we are reluctant to return.

Madapple

Untamable Jimsonweed coming from afar
like a living mind tempts creatures
to eat the fruit and seeds, and live as
chiral image inside and out, tall and unique,
the plant functioning as spirit. Under
other names Datura Stromonium spreads on
wasted borders, coaxing molecular story
from shimmering moonlight, making
a focused quivering breath and dance
toward killing the stilted. Because mad-apple/
green dragon/loco weed now thrives
behind the barn, this morning’s beckoning
panic grows from the last congealing manure,
so even the earthworms are wary,
for the lethal dose is always close,
and the correct witch’s potion is so
impossible to gauge for those playing
the life/death game. No time to reconsider
in the throes, when time is ready
like a teenager to be hot as a hare/
blind as a bat/red as a beet inflamed wild.
Like a teen passion song ephemeral flying
wild, soaring with the local just out
the back door, Devil’s trumpet is dangerous,
volatile, tempting. Though Grandma would say
best not choose to proliferate madness
and hallucination, a high without limits
is nearly impossible to resist, and
my accidental history aches to document
Datura grinning in nether-land,
holding close vibrating possibility.
A moonflower patch is pale and beautiful,
a wild opening not cultivated by me,
or mine to own as garden, no matter
how hard I work—another in a line
of alternate yonders existing on its own
terms/the turning to the side/the surprise
alive in the clown smile both evil and fun.

tiresome

Red polyester glued to his fit frame,
           with black hair permanently shiny perfect,
Coach Philips’s wry smile reveals that when he leaves
unseen for alien country he knows adult roles beyond
concrete walls on trails light years from middle school.
           We see only his moves in hard locker rooms
among squirrely tender skin, the determined half-
developed becoming. We are thriving despite his
           bellowing perfected drill sergeant bark.

In a movie designed to shock the scene freezes—
           his signed paddle hitting with surprising
force an exposed white-as-fresh-milk butt—
punishment for popping Steve Meyer with a towel
in a misty communal shower. Stoic peers gather
            in religious quiet, and sit close,
eyes gauging boyish poise tested—happy their
awkward sins remain hidden. The temporary star,
           me, isolated, stands in for them,

with a grimace revealing consequences for
           spontaneous breathing, for smiling wild.
Later, in secret late night checking, I admire blistering
in the mirror, and for days after, black/brown patterns
of bruise evolving, as the accomplishment grows.
            So blissful and necessary at fifteen
to be unaware, and play in the unknown,
though elsewhere is a permanent grand jury
           judging dated slaps of discipline,

and working to create refined punishments designed
    to linger—suspension, detention,
background checks, permanent files of digitized
sin open for all. Too many eyes panting to invent
new pain captured with cameras. Without our
    noticing, they gloat while hoarding
evidence, and plot with vengeance how to try
    us in the future as adults.

Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.

Zebulon Huset

Light from an Adjacent Apartment

God beam on your car as it zips down the Eight East. Only for a second, by that pizza place someone said was the best, and someone else, when they’d left the room, said was disgusting. Your car around the bend by the time I reach their sign, hovering over the plain building like an overzealous red halo.

Friends of friends ring the room buzzing around light sources. Condensation clings to red plastic cups in groups on the coffee table posing as chic. Sooner or later individual beads will merge, get too heavy, and melt into the oblivion of faux-oak—rings to be eyed with a pfft the next day. The part in your hair a parenthesis around the words I arranged internally to perfection until the key stopped its counter-clockwise turn in my apartment doorknob. How hollow they sound whispered alone in a glowing white bathroom. How hard the tile, cold.

Blue ice cube tray remains on the counter. Tiny bergs bobbing as the fridge shuts. Someone’s showering upstairs. What’s left of their day freefalling the pipe behind my head, sandwiched by drywall. The plaster's gypsum white insides are dark as my bedroom. I could punch into the next apartment. I could make my fist disappear into their light. I can punch right through the wall and reach into that room for that brightness I can’t see, grabbing and grabbing and grabbing.

Lifeguard

The night was waiting to chastise me.
Somewhere between the beach and El Cajon Valley
the fog had lifted eight feet off the ground
so you could see the white guidelines leading
to certain death, but also away from it, home.

I’d left Alex at the beach,
passed out, dead-drunk.
I couldn’t carry him back to the car
so I left him in the sand behind the lifeguard tower.
He’d be safe there with no money.
He needed to sleep it off. He needed
to drown himself, just a bit.
I should have stayed so I could be there
when he woke up and looked around for her.

I learned a lifetime of his little sister that night.
How he would always pick up the Easter eggs
she spotted in the woods behind their Louisville house.
How he walked her to school when she first started
so the others wouldn’t steal her crutches.
They didn’t understand that sort of thing in Kentucky.
When they couldn’t find homes for their kittens
and their mother announced they’d be drowned,
she hid them under the porch and fed them
generic Lucky Charms and stale bread crust. I learned
about the fight when their mother died two years before,
how he wouldn’t go back and live in their old house.
She sold it and moved into a small apartment
she could afford with government disability checks.
How she always used to wheeze when she slept,
how she woke with a smile and puppy dog breath,
not the dog-shit morning breath he had, hers smelled cute.
A little sister smell.

He showed me a picture from his last trip home.
Three years ago, she’d just made the wheelchair her legs.
She was smiling. Alex leaning over, hand on her shoulder.
Before he drained his eighth jack and coke, glass in hand,
he slid the Polaroid across the bar top, nodding, no one home.
He also gave me the funeral home’s pricelist and brochure.
All three sitting in my passenger seat, where he should be,
but I left the beach alone. How we all end up.

Pulling onto the exit at Avocado Blvd.
I saw something moving in the road.
A dog, a mangy old dog with spots of fur missing.
Pacing back and forth in front of something on the shoulder.
Another dog, dead, deflated and partially flattened.
A little ravel of pale pink intestines
intruding on its matted black fur.
As I drove by, I saw the pacing dog stop pacing,
lean over the dead dog, silently,
and try to lick the guts back inside.

In the Shadow of the Queen Mary, Long Beach

Rows of palms feather
the night as lights project
the sun, lending gold to
the underside of cloud-
cover over the steel skeletons
in that wicked bone-yard.
In the distance a car
squeals its tires, a cable
snaps or gun shoots, the wind
carries the acrid scent of burning
metal. Somewhere there is fire,
fire enough to melt this car,
those buildings and ships,
to steal the water from
under the sky, and then
the sky itself, and someday
that fire will be in this
very spot, of that we can be
certain, more than that
I am actually here, that the breeze
is what’s lifting the hair
from my forehead, or the
cold, cold fact of solitude.

From the poet: I've been teaching a community creative writing class in San Diego since receiving my MFA from UW where I was the coordinating editor of The Seattle Review. My writing has recently appeared (or is forthcoming) in The Southern Review, The New York Quarterly, The North American Review, Harpur Palate and The Roanoke Review among others.


Barbara A. Meier

The River Rogue

The smoke plume on the horizon
speaks loudly in the silence of blue skies.
What started as an ember,
in the heartwood of the forest,
whimpers in the cackle, snap,
and crevices of fleshly joints,
igniting resin bubbles
and riddled insect bores.

The dance of fairy sparks
in rings around the trees,
leap high, crowning kings
and queens in joyous roars.
The plume, to cloud, to pyrocumulus.

The bed of needles
we've made ourselves,
lies in blankets
beneath the throne of night.
The touch, this micro torch,
is deadened silence,
against the burble
and hiss of river voice.

Heat emanates in the space
between hand and heart.
Energy leaping up
between the bark
of skin where worming sparks
linger in woody shafts.
Tongues of flames against the rough
jabber and prattle
of decomposing leaves.

The forest scales itself
to our bed of earth.
This adagio, at eventide,
Ends in a cricket's crescendo,
where the flume of our passion

billows,
curls,
and roils
in pyro winds.

Full Moon Rubicon

(to do something that commits you to a particular course of action)

The twists,
In the habits of mind:
Disequilibrium.

You've disturbed my sense.
I can't breath for the desire.
And you are so far away.
I look at that moon.
I would be that shard of light.


"Can you see the full moon?"

My words are careless
in its light.
I can't get them to refract, bend or shape
thought.
I am oblique in moonlight,
sloping and slanting in beams
in the night sky.
Diffraction:
Avoid objects
that bend the waves of light
at the edge of mountains
(catching beams in their gnarly teeth)

redistributing my energy,
scattering it on the high plains.

And would you gather up that dust of me?
Or leave me in drifts of prairie grass?

I am invisible.
The light sears
inward,
Wraps a stroke,
finger cold in moonlight.
Your touch leaves a phosphorus trace,
moonlight green,
Patterns of a Luna moth flying silent
under the radar in the night.

My heart on the beams of refracted light,
Irregular, off beat,
Death strokes my brow,
Caresses my body,
I decay at a touch...

Lee Slonimsky

A WALK LONG AFTER CLASS

Three ways to start a poem, I tell my morning students:
an image, word, or an abstract idea.

“Shimmer” is still my word that evening and
it’s not too long before I see it, radiant
in thick-crowned grove of oaks; the way their leaves
reflect a pale red sun , a deep slow glow.
I walk under the tangled canopy
and spy a bright red apple--
yes apple tree, amidst these oaks--
a shade or two darker than
the rosy setting sun.

Amazingly

I suspect it’s that apple tree
as if to add idea to image, word:
Eden’s fruit still hanging for decision.

I pause, quite hesitant, as fading rays
splash light of purpling sky upon this fruit
that dangles like a piece of history
and seems somehow to bring Fate very near.

I choose to just hear crickets, watch the wind
shake leaves into small shimmers. Branches sway.
Then suddenly the apple drops, and rolls away.

I take a bite, instead, of evening air;
I haven’t found a poem yet, but there’s truth
in rising hawk that scythes this purple night,
in shimmer that’s now dark as evening’s breeze.

POET AT WORK

A courtesan of loops, this wind-smoothed oak:

at 10 AM, branch-curlicues of white
flash brightly as surrounding snow. One look,
and twenty blackbirds settle down, alight
on this or that sharp twist in bark. Their eyes
can help this tree see winter’s end; blackbirds
have fallen for tree-twirls. And, no surprise,
you’d like to turn such winter love to words:

“How loops are quite seductive. Morning light
caresses branches with such delicacy
that birds arrive, to savor rapture. Quite
a grand tableau, black feathered tapestry
of wings at rest upon a writhe of branch,
so convoluted.” Then: ten larks. A finch.

STOCK TRADER’S NAP

I brood

this summer morning, trading on my phone
alone in sunsoaked woods. I am worn out
by market math: no breaks. Yes quite fatigued,
and then I hear my own blue atoms’ moan,
electrons’ whine mixed with the protons’ shout.

I’ve never felt so thoroughly besieged;
electrons, protons, me, we all should nap,

slow down,

become one with the sun until we’ve found
the silence of pure stillness. All around.

PHOTON NOSTALGIA

We used to dance delightedly last May;
we’d shimmer on streams and sparkle on quartz, and gleam
on airplane wings six miles above the earth.

And summer’s fever sparked yet wilder play
with midday lightning’s crackle; our fused beam
of noonseethe warming glaciers.

                                                           What’s it worth
to go back to those days in this sad freeze?
No calculating that! We’d settle for
an inch of warmth to glow amidst. A breeze,
majestic as a falcon’s deep blue soar:
south-stirring, tickling naked branches. We
cannot bring warmth, when air’s cold steel, to trees
but oh, we thrilled to dance once! Lovingly,
we dwelled in May’s soft splash. Her brilliant leaves.

Lee Slonimsky’s poems have appeared in Best of Asheville Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The New York Times, North Dakota Quarterly, and Poetry Daily, and have received one Best of the Web and seven Pushcart Prize nominations. His fifth collection, Wandering Electron, was published in 2014 by Spuyten Duyvil Press. As a day job, he manages a hedge fund with a special interest in companies that hire the developmentally disabled, and also conducts a monthly poetry writing workshop in New York City.

Lee Marc Stein

Tangled Up in Tanglewood

On Sunday afternoon the soloist
rocks me with Rachmaninoff 3,
his hands a hummingbird’s wings.
He’s Teddy Ballgame in the zone,
Vermeer focused on the girl’s earring,
Planck making his quantum leap.
The mind rebels at such perfection.
Suddenly the chords are choked
by my surreal scenario for a tragedy:
A fly buzzes onto our hero’s nose.
He can’t swat at it, sweat one more bead
nor even acknowledge the intrusion.
One mere blink and his career goes splat.
Three curtain calls disentangle
my unseen Gordian knots.

John Grey

WE WHO WAIT

I'm pacing back and forth in the hospital waiting room.
I don't touch the Sports Illustrated or the People magazine.
A team loses the big game, a celebrity couple divorce -
I don't stride anxiously back and forth on their behalf.

Andrea's in the operating theater this very moment, I'm informed.
Don't worry. We're merely cutting her open. It's all so routine.
No, I reply, what I'm doing is a routine.
In a better world, it would strip the pounds off me,
not the confidence that only the best things happen.

Of course, the procedure is successful.
These surgeons sure know what they're doing,
I tell myself after the fact.
One even washes up then comes out to see me.
He shakes my hand.
Never have fingers gripped so confidently around mine.
I'm willing to believe he's an utter genius
when it comes to appendixes.
And an adroit part-time neurologist
as my nerves can attest.

PUNCH DRUNK

He rattles off the heavyweights,
Ali, Dempsey, Marciano, Joe Louis -
they're pounding away at blurry midriffs,
or lording it over some nameless soul
who's face down on the mat.

His fists emerge
from his crumpled body,
undeterred by his cloud of a mind -
he's all these ancient heroes,
not the suckers who took the deadly blows.

"Ten.. .nine.. .eight,"
he counts down,
saving his loudest roar
for an impassioned. "You're out."

There's a winner inside him.
There's a man who's still champion.
His thin red eyes applaud.

Meanwhile, the rest of us
can only watch,
would much prefer he played by our rules
and not those of the Marquess of Queensbury.

But we're nobodies to him:
no titles, no championship belts.

Old age is a contact sport
but no one's making contact.

HIKE UP THE HILL

We do it tougher than anything else.
The pines, the firs, stay put,
grow at their leisure.
The ferns, assured of their roots,
wave gently in the wind.
The chickadee, titmouse,
stick to their range.
The crows do nothing for exercise,
and their loud caws approach laughter
at our sweat, our red faces.

The deer come out from distant hiding places
to feast softly on the grasses
that grow slowly, quietly, for the
ease of both stalk and beast
They make no journey
longer than it should be.
Squirrels burrow in the leaf-quilt earth
to bury food for later,
not to work their arm muscles.
And there's no hurdle race for chipmunks,
merely the nervous leaps, the squeals,
of necessary fear.

Up the hill, we struggle,
past a farm where, even with nobody
in its fields, we can feel the stamina,
the hardiness that keeps it going,
holds it fast against the tides of wildness.
But a hare darts across
the trail in front of us
as if pulled by a string.
A hawk rises on the thermals
like it doesn't even need wings.

We finally reach the top of the hill,
look down at a beauty
we feel we've earned.
A woodpecker, meanwhile,
hammers a nearby tree,
not a turn of head, a flicker of eye,
to distract it from its task.
Its reward is insects.
Ours is the view from here.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.