FEBRUARY SONG(for Sylvia)
Dormancy will not argue with cold air, well settled over ground,
yet among your songs for Oriental lilies, your accents for anemones,
your tunes for tulips or tree peonies, you till under any dead, any dying
that like quaking stalks resist their ends, resist your reducing them to dust.
You judge the cycle turning on itself; you abet the earthworm with aeration;
you prune each branch to bear its fruit - but you will not leave the field
to rodents, or sacrifice the rose of your delight, Madame Alfred Carrier.
Mulch and mud cake your elbows, sciatica skates up your leg and back,
every joint quivers from coddling your plants, a leader commanding space
more than quelling a rebellion: you promise a spring of laughter, you lay
a place for joy. Who can figure what this joy says about the human spirit:
how many subtle and flagrant colors you will coax from muck; fragrances
literally smother flowers’ silky flesh; summer roses unfold like strippers
brazenly to titillate? How you weary for your garden without complaint.
And when the garden blooms (if allowed by moles), you freshen leaf mold
to entice the lolling blooms to drop their guards, as black spot makes no scar,
you drop your guard too, dancing and thumping your cadence on the dirt.
I see cosmic order in a leaf vein, sure;
I cheer the anarchy of branching trees;
I trust to coming sorrow of green grass --
but the engine of your pith I cannot sound;
nor an urgency you greet early each winter;
nor valves frozen, fences locked in blackberry;
nor the quintessence with water, air, earth and fire.
First published by Red Paint Hill
My latest chap is called The Future as a Picnic Lunch, to be released very shortly by Finishing Line Press. I continue publishing photos as well as poems.
EarthboundAre we supposed to settle for a planet
lagging behind our expectations?
We want reversible time,
admission into past or future
easy as changing our minds.
We want teleportation, so we can
zip anywhere for the afternoon,
maybe Iceland or Argentina,
where we'll make new friends,
agree to meet up for lunch
next week in Greece
on only an hour's break.
We want to get past
greed and suffering and war,
And death? That's awfully primitive
for souls with so much left to learn.
That said, this planet does a lot right.
Birds, for one.
Water in all its perfect manifestations.
Those alive poems called trees.
The way a moment's glance
can reveal a kindred spirit.
Which we all are, really.
The oneness between self and everything
is this planet's secret, kept imperfectly.
That's more than we might expect.
Although time travel would be nice.
First published in Writing for Peace.
Laura Grace Weldon is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning. Laura has written poetry with nursing home residents, used poetry to teach conflict resolution, and painted poems on beehives. Her work appears in such places as Christian Science Monitor, Literary Mama, The Shine Journal, Red River Review, and Pudding House. Connect with her at lauragraceweldon.com
NativeDakota, Choctaw, Wampanoag, Comanche –
names that echo off canyon walls,
blow in the wind over prairies,
rise fiercely from flames of burned villages
in smoke as ephemeral as government promises
Warriors, weavers, hunters, herders,
once their drums were the heartbeat of this nation
they called home
before they lost the land,
sacrificed it in trade for horses, guns,
boundless land exchanged
for desolate reservations,
countless lives lost in vain.
Yet, the names live on
as we speak the places:
Ma-sa-chu-sett, Minnesota, Monongahela,
Tehachapi, Narragansett, Rappahannock –
as we breathe life into the names
the land remembers
Confession to Anne FrankI am your Judas,
the betrayer of your secrets,
but I am not an anti-Semite.
What I did has nothing to do
with your yellow star, Torah,
or denial of The Divine;
what I did came from selfish fear
of the same Gestapo agents
who terrorized your dreams,
the ones who would accuse me
arrest me with the other employees,
send us all with you to Westerbork
if I didn’t write that anonymous note,
expose your location.
Now, you haunt my dreams,
starved, skeletal, bald,
weak and broken,
a tattooed number on your arm,
as you haul rocks, dig rolls of sod.
The world will remember your strength
while my identity remains forever hidden,
but I want you to know this:
I speak your name on the third day
of every September,
the day you boarded the very last transport
headed to Auschwitz,
I speak your name, and for you,
I say Kaddish.
On “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”(painting usually attributed to Pieter Bruegel)
Charleston, Aurora, Columbine,
Newtown, Virginia Tech,
Paris, San Bernardino –
places that roll off our tongues too easily,
a litany of violence become commonplace;
shock worn off, once riveted to news broadcasts,
we pay less attention now
or don’t look at all,
like the plowman and shepherd in the painting,
absorbed in the routine of their daily lives,
too preoccupied to notice the tragedy,
even as Icarus falls from the sky
in the blue-green waters
Nancy Haskett is an active member of the poetry community in Modesto, CA. She is a member of the Ina Coolbrith Circle, National League of American Penwomen and other local writing groups. Nancy has presented her poetry at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, CA and has been published in many places, including the anthology More than Soil, More than Sky; Penumbra; Homestead Review; Song of the San Joaquin, and more.
Afterwardsas death—“what’s happened to my son?”
the eyes, so tightly closed
elvin frail and pale
questions she should never ask.
screams and tries to look behind the smile
reclining in his midnight coffin
pulls apart his lids
in hope of finding answers.
Lost SummerThe horses would let him drop onto them
from an overhanging tree branch
when it was finally warm again, when we let the horses
in the front yard. I’d always be the Indian
in an obstacle course between the gray stacks of
grain silos and weathered, tilted barns.
He married young, so young, and his wife
a twenty-year-old maniac drove her truck with a kitchen knife laying in her lap
told me he had confessed to being in love with me
when we were out in the stable feeding baby goats new grass.
I fell in love with Jason because the horses did, I think
dreamt of him holding me in his strong, sunburned arms
his wife tried to kill me the first time she met me
he had told her all sorts of quiet things about me.
I tried to explain that things happen when kids grow up together
my cousin, the cowboy, the boy I ran screaming after
she just didn’t want to listen.
Holly Day 'spublished books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.
Migration PatternThe middle class
flocked to Manhattan
to live the cultural life,
than outer boroughs.
Then rents and prices went up
and they moved to ethnic neighborhoods,
not chic, but affordable,
driving out the locals
who couldn't pay higher rents,
to delude the gullible
that it was improvement,
rather than displacement
of the unprotected.
When rents went up again,
the middle-class moved
to outer borough neighborhoods,
again driving out the ethnics
and upgrading the area,
at least economically,
that weren't very cultural
but comforted the migrants
that they still belonged
to Western civilization.
The LostThe forgotten men
walk city streets
tired, cold, hungry,
leaving corrosive despair,
existence day to day
in the Information Age,
lost to communication,
trapped in isolation.
Gary Beck has 11 published chapbooks which include Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press) and Displays (Winter Goose Publishing). His novels include Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press) and Acts of Defiance (Artema Press). His short story collection is A Glimpse of Youth, and his original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway.
Hurricane Ridge*Often shrouded in clouds, today Hurricane
Ridge bathed in the sun. After breakfast we
peeked towards it from Washington Street—
‘Let’s go’ my grandfather said, so we did.
During the drive, grandma asked repeatedly,
pleasantly, ‘Where are we going?’. He told
and re-told her as the mile markers clipped
by—‘You remember: our favorite lookout.’
Earlier that day at the diner, when she
didn’t return from the Ladies Room
we found her roaming the parking lot, looking
for the car they had sold seven years before.
At the Ridge, we leaned on a low stone wall,
and blinked at shadows which cut themselves
away from rocky peaks and plunged deep into
evergreen valleys. We noticed she was missing
at picture time--we fanned out and I found her
quickly. She had wandered past the rows of
Winnebagoes into the fringes of the forest.
In the cool of the trees, she stared at me
through her bifocals, her hands bunched
into fists: she was seeking an exit from
the broad, too bright panorama, seeking
an exit from the present, seeking herself.
* Originally published in the Spring 2016 edition of Third Wednesday Review
Jonathan lives with his family in Vancouver, Canada, where he works in the property business. His poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in various publications, including The New Plains Review, The Statesman Journal, and Poetry Pacific. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A Mythology to Live ByAll of my prairie-born education
tended towards diagramming
and memorization. My myth world
was of the Bible and Hollywood.
The rest was as random and abrupt
as the storms that still whip these plains.
My grandchildren and I share the Greeks.
I learned and told the stories
to my gifted students,
shaped lessons of my own making,
the main one being,
"It is best not to know the future."
Oedipus, King Laius, Joseph K.
might all have done better
without dreams or oracles.
This gallery of unreliable witnesses
forms my Greek chorus,
and with it I plunge ahead, day to day,
trimming sails and stories as I go.
Leaving Traces of OurselvesThe cattle are ear-tagged
to be read by a computer
as are the bison, just a clip
like ear piercing, soon forgotten
We humans chip and tag ourselves
trying to become hard-to-lose
My daughter-in-law bought a safe
for keeping the scrapbooks secure
and I had shelves built to hold
my plethora of photo albums
Like cottonwood fluff
we spread ourselves in hopes
some purposeful current
will catch and carry us
to a sure immortality
When today's photo of earth
arrives from a satellite
onto my computer
it only just now
has occurred to me
that I am RIGHT THERE
... somewhere. That very shot
will hold me forever
Carol Hamilton, a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, has recent and upcoming publications in PONTIAC REVIEW, SANSKRIT LITERARY-ARTS MAGAZINE, POET LORE, LIMESTONE, LOUISIANA LITERATURE, OFF THE COAST, PALAVER, SAN PEDRO RIVER REVIEW, HAIGHT ASHBURY LITERARY JOURNAL, and others. She has been nominated six times for a Pushcart Prize.
blueSitting out on the back deck watching
the sky with all its blue
tumbling down through the branches and leaves
of the trees reaching
all the way to the ground.
I bring Gertrude Stein along each summer when
we vacation on The Cape but after
one or two of her poems I get distracted
by the waves and the gulls, leave her alone again
in the beach bag beneath the big blue umbrella.
But every time the petite blonde waitress
comes over to our table in her short blue skirt
and tight white tank top
with a tattoo of purple morning glories
forever blooming on her forearm we’re 25 again.
mysticismSomehow sometimes I’m above myself
looking down watching as I move
like a snail across the side of a glass tank
listening for the sounds of my own breathing
rising from out of the water.
Somewhere deep in a man’s life
is something more than life, larger,
something which lives on after Death the Coward
has claimed its cheap victory; something
that lives on in us who remain, and beyond us too.
Sometimes in the early morning shrouded
in gray mists as I’m driving to work sipping coffee
I feel that someone’s watching me
and I need to be on my best behavior
if I want to get into heaven.
Dogwood MorningCurtained by evergreens,
jacketed by cotton fog
slender branches display
keen white stars of dogwood --
queen’s riches on this lazy mountain morning,
night smoothly tucked away,
dawn’s reflection cool under violet water.
Never Too Early Comes SpringOur steps outside are slow at first,
our hands outstretched to test and search,
but yes, the winter ice has burst!
Small flowers, purple, entertain,
our walk no longer dimmed and plain,
the path renewed by springtime rain.
A bird sings in another yard,
we turn to answer, drop our guard,
each pulse runs fast, each heart beats hard
and if the snow should fall again
it will not stay nor can it win
against the strength of warmer kin.
Quick flash of iridescence falls
from icicles on outer walls.
The bird, the bird, the bird still calls.
Other Things Than RainbowsI will leave you pears,
yellow apples too,
and stacks of poems I’ve written in the night.
There are other things than rainbows
I will leave you energy,
the surge of strength you’ll need
to right yourself into your old routine,
you know the one I mean:
running toward the other side
of rainbows, and me…
I leave you memories,
in a light-struck crystal bowl,
champagne chilled and bright, and…
since I cannot fight the ethered rainbows…
I leave you
I leave you.
Cleo Griffith was Chair of the Editorial Board of Song of the San Joaquin for twelve years. She has been published in miller’s pond, Cider Press Review, Iodine, Main Street Rag, More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets, POEM, the Aurorean, The Furnace Review, The Lyric, Tiger’s Eye, Time of Singing and others. She is a member of the Modesto CA Branch of the National League of American Pen Women.
Nothing Coming through the Doorbut bridesmaids balanced on the blade of a knife,
the smell of galoshes grilling on the backs of sleeping dogs,
the sniper’s sucked-in breath as he tightens his finger
on the peel of his morning banana.
Last night we camouflaged the gates of paradise
so well against the infidel that today we can’t find
our way back in. No matter: we’ve plenty more
second thoughts in the think tank to plug the brain drain
in this down market apocalypse.
Now that we’ve all got herpes, no one need dampen
first-plunge ardors by confessing what the tattoos really cover.
Plenty of crime to go around, no need to take a number,
stand in line; you’ll know you’ve been electrocuted
when the lights in the money towers flicker and dim.
Ignore the names of those your indifference condemned at your peril.
In the mouth of the friendliest dog grow the sharpest teeth.
Like a skeletal hand thrust through disturbed soil
where last week I spiked a vampire,
tendrils of bindweed thrust above concrete driveway lip.
Goethe, the original good German,
saw the fractal shatter of the euro
in his poem The Metamorphosis of Plants:
“Mutably fashioned each leaf after the last one unfolds,
More extended, spikier, split into lances or segments
Which, intergrown before, lay in the organ below.”
And so we come again to the naked bodies on Baltic beaches,
every stretch mark, wrinkle, fat fold, and gray hair exposed
and flapping as the succulent teens tan their thighs and cringe
at the infringement of Pluto on the hot sands of Mercury.
Planets fall through my fingers like gumballs from the vintage coin globe
in the café of torn Naugahyde, but all I have to chew on are words,
words, words. Half of the planet’s surface is paved,
the other half given to grazing cows we hamburgle
above steering wheels aimed at the cinderblock wall
muraled as our orifice of choice.
Bridesmaids balanced on the edge of a knife.
There must be an app for what I am trying to say.
The flame I hold in my hand
is not the fire that burns me.
The woman the young man kills
is not the one who spurned him.
The match only remembers being struck,
not what it ignites.
David is a West Coast poet living in Seattle but he has friends in northern Germany who live in a 300-year-old mill over a stream, though the pond that used to be there was diverted when they built the bridge over which NATO tanks would have rolled, had that ever been considered necessary. Mostly he reads at open mics but occasionally the urge to submit overwhelms him, and here we are.
Lay me downI ramble through the old pine woods, indulging the piney scents,
hearing again that these old stands—these old firs—make no noises,
trying again to make no unsettling sound.
The path opens wide, I take long views of spaces near and far,
on the left side, on the right side,
I see to darkness, and, I think, still farther to the almost seen,
to where tomorrow’s further ramble may entice me to walk on.
The forest floor is everywhere, of course,
invisible in my span of sight and thought,
this moment, looking down, I see what had been naught.
I dare to say aloud in quiet words how wonderful
to stand at ease on this endless blanket of such spartan weave
and cushioned spread,
this muffling cloak of countless specks,
this yielding quilt of scarcely patterned brown,
this lingering layer of cast-off bits of these old trees
that offer me at every step a bed of rest,
and a pillow of softest needles for my head.
Rick Subber is a freelance editor, a writing coach, a historian, and a former newspaper reporter/editor who now indulges his love of the right words.. He lives with his family in Natick, Massachusetts and is a proud grandpa who is teaching his granddaughter to read and write, in case there is poetry in her future. His poetry has been published in miller’s pond, The Australia Times Poetry Magazine, Northern Stars, Whispers and elsewhere.
Salt Marsh Soliloquyunder a pewter sky
a meandering stream
wends its way
through straw-brown sea grass
a musky essence rises
with the ebb and flow
of tidal rhythms
from the Sound
down and round the bend
a tilted fence
sifts gentle breezes
through weathered gray slats
a snowy egret
poised on edge
of its reflection
melds two images into one
an Osprey returns to her thatch
dangling her catch
over three eager beaks
straining for a piece of the prize
to see and not be seen
is the way of the day
playing out its rituals
in the fading metallic hue
of late afternoon
fully freely and well
waiting a lifetime
for nothing to happen
LAKE PRAYERFor Romas and Delphine
the Great Lake massive with
her million eyes upon us
her lips gush with velvety wine,
foam shapes gently against
the strongminded wall
of her shoreline
sun slants across her sand
flutters with shadows of gulls in flight
a fallen pine like a skeleton
patiently walks toward the grace
of her vapors
we hear what she hears:
the vast motion of this breathing planet
moist at this juncture with her blood,
blood held close to the earth
as to a sponge
we, all being rooted communally
upon her shore,
affixed by the weight of our souls
like the weight of a billion sand grains
stacked as beach
inviting each of her waves in time
to lap against our shore.
LOST THOUGHTSI pace careful steps outward
from the consistent racket
out to the river
freighter horns, boat engines
I spot the first swallowtail butterfly
flying with that clumsy sense of
sputtering as though lost
in the breeze
it floats off over rock
down the edge of riverbank
stealing all surplus noise
Mark Senkus lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in proximity to a forest known as the Delirium Wilderness. He has appeared previously in Chiron Review, Pif Magazine, Rattle and Main Street Rag. Senkus holds a Master of Social Work degree and is employed as a psychotherapist with a Native American tribe.
River Syllable, or Catfish Swan SongWhen I was a boy, I could not leave the table
until all of my milk was gone. About the same time,
it took me close to a year to understand the story
of Pete and his friend RePete (both sat on a log)
after first hearing it. And then I began to see girls
and their milk-thighs carefully flashing from
the alcoves of couches as I bravely smiled back,
jeans agog, parents upstairs, God in the neighbor’s attic.
Next came the asperges of tobacco smoke
with the windows up, fumbling with the presets
under my dashboard altar, that talkative shrine.
I was happy with KSHE as I drunkenly explained
the green in a highway sign, and how this,
too, will be redeemed. We had a conversation
and I didn’t get hard once. I later tasted these things in wine.
A filthy white catfish (like a fork, whiskers flopped
up onto the historic shore) is my brother-in-law
on this tilted brick, leaving us to wonder with the mud.
Riparian women of quiet responsibilities, ulcers
of thought, waiting for that half-word actually
understood. These days, my river and her sesquipedalian
murmurings wade into a jetsam connection. Swim any
brackish river with no bottom to touch and watch bottom-
feeders chuckle a prayer: “This is too dirty, even for us.”
NoonHow pleasant to read poems
referring to night, titled Night,
black meditations of arbor shadows
in the morning, after you’ve been up
for an hour, feeling like you’ve bested
them—the starry pessimists.
You’ve got a unique coffee mug
and an entire day to snack on.
You will bend a book and worship
the sun. As the sky gets sloppy
with her wine, you remember
you had something to do that day
but can’t remember what. Then,
wrapped up and bothered by linens
as you sleep in red sediment drying:
outside, barking through each window,
sniffing under your door,
the very truth of the first page.
Henry Goldkamp, originally from Saint Louis, lives in New Orleans and often taps the Mississippi River for inspiration. Most important to him is the spirit of gratitude and realizing how damn lucky all this is. He has been recently published in Mudfish, Waterways, Asinine Poetry, Poets' Espresso Review and others. If you want to know more of his work, simply search “Henry Goldkamp” with a fresh drink of your choice—there’s plenty to read.
CARVING WITH ICEThere’s something about the Hand of God that takes me back. Rodin’s sculpture, I mean. Divinity emerging from the base. Like a pearl hunter’s hand breaching the surface of rock, it clutches its prize desperately. Life! Its smooth, stone fingers sit wrapped around our rough, human clay. Its own wrist buried in that same stagnant marble. Our flesh - hewn from the earth - is but a piece of this hand’s whole. There is no difference between them. The creator, itself, composed of its creation.
Ross Destiche is a film and stage actor in the Washington D.C. area. Originally from St. Louis Park, he earned a BFA from the University of Minnesota before moving to the east coast for his career. Find out more at rossdestiche.com