After SnowSnow has made headway impossible.
A long night of falling slowly is three-inch-caked
on all yesterday’s good work,
so any roof of slate is like a tilted rink
and every horizontal’s bearing white.
At the gate vans shelved down with tools wheelspin in
smoky fits, frustrated on frozen rutty ground
by winter’s hardest weather yet.
I said as much, backing off the ladder’s
bottom rung last night, said a sickened underbelly
of a grey sky threatened such non-cooperation.
On the roof now you’d mistake the makings
of a snowman’s head for a beam’s hard edge, for sure
footing; a quick slip’d uncouple you
and your work. You’d drop down for bursting
on a poured floor now like pack ice and
soil the concrete’s clean sheet as helplessly
as would a big bag of dampened down slack
offloaded from that height –
though in a different colour.
In the bottom of the leathery pouch
on my belt nails gang, lead heavy and lumpen.
They won’t come out but sit there nipping
stung fingers that can’t find them individually.
So we’re grounded for the day. Staying on
means doing big awkward things down here,
going is to mope at home till dinner.
We’ll dismantle planked scaffold, then slow circle
and get up another house in its infancy
for major surgery. We’ll pick up wasted half blocks
and wet bags with a fist of hard cement in each:
masons’ mess tossed off every finished gable.
We’ll clean up after other trades all day.
But there is no shame in that. Shame is recalling
yesterday’s roof to cut and the right day
to do it, yet how many times I cursed
what I thought was quitting time and wasn’t.
Now this morning everything’s in fancy dress
and crunches foreign under foot, everything
is fat in the hand and unmanageable.
You may say that too many miles
separate A from Z for you to squeeze
us closer on the bedside globe, or
even hold the distance between thumb and forefinger.
Turning leaves of a found school atlas
remind with old authority that one
can’t be in two places at once,
and an intercontinental ocean
that you might get your lips around
sunders us really, on a scale of one
is to forty two million.
But on this side geography’s no obstacle.
I’ve a map in mind allows free travel
the breadth and length of you, have found
the page that reverses cold ratio.
Remembering the fathoms of a hot bath
I have you (lines of the hands lat-
itude), encompassing waist line to land and chart up your long
back’s falling waters. I’m a mad staggering pirate
returned at the shoulders’ ledge: vista of the other side’s landlocked
soft hills, and all again my terra percognita.
Close both eyes at the head to breathe, beneath a
canopy of forestry feel rivers defining cool,
revising my geography of you.
Adam White, from Cork in Ireland, is 33 years old. He has been reading and writing poetry in earnest now for three years since he attended the North Beach Poetry Night in Galway City's Crane Bar. He is teaching English in France at the minute but worked for a long time as a carpenter/joiner before reading English and French literature in Galway. When he started to write poetry the pleasure in this type of physical work was his main subject matter.
I got a cloud up there
that I speak to.
The one on the right,
bulging at its middle mist,
holding the weight of my dreams
from high school of the girl
that never came back
and the hope of friends
to return from a war
in a far place
that swallowed some
and spit others back.
In that cloud is my past
and what I thought
would someday be me on easy street
with a wife and kids
and a two car garage
and the morning paper
strewn on the front yard.
In that cloud are my prayers,
the half oaths,
the “I’ll never do that sin again”
And forgiveness floating in tears.
Yes, that’s the cloud,
or is it that one?
from the poet: I began writing poetry when I was in the military many years ago, for relaxation and to express my thoughts in an abstract form. I enjoy the challenge poetry offers, unlike the articles I have written for my profession, which are straight forward. Poetry allows the writer to step to the side from general thoughts, thus creating a miniature story which in and of itself can bifurcate into other levels of literary form.
Sympathy for a Lobster
I am familiar with pangs
creature into the
boiling water made
me remember my
especially the screaming.
Sympathy from a Lobster
Although you are about to
boil me alive,
break open my body and
scoop out my everything,
I pity you.
Tomorrow you will be
hungry, and I never will be
The writer’s poetry has appeared in eight countries in such literary journals as The Cannon’s Mouth, Ascent Aspirations, generations and Write On!!! He is a student at the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, where he has been lucky enough to study poetry in workshop settings with such poets as Jesse Janeshek, Marilyn Kallet, Arthur Smith, and Marcel Brouwers.
PoppadomsHe stands here as a bonsai
in spite of his tall old body;
slightly stooped -- partially with age, partially in awe,
as romping children metamorphose clouds into commodities;
filling them in fragile bags of a grocery store.
He feels like a dated "new pictures" folder in the computer;
ready for being updated.
Sky has undergone desensitization
towards the birds
who are performing acupuncture on its cheeks.
The children create origami in the moist air
with the static electricity of their hyper hair,
and then leave their origami to float, grow
into something they can come back to, if they wish.
Some acrophobic patterns of clouds
exude their sighs -- rain.
like the ambidextrous tongue of a chameleon,
lunges out continually
to grab something between the earth and the sky
and then crackles it
in the sky.
Harrisham Minhas was born in India. She is an Electronics and Communication Engineer who currently works as a Web Designer in U.S.A. She won Honorable Mention in Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational 2011 and Second Prize in The Mainichi Haiku Contest 2010, International Section. Her poems have been published, or are scheduled to be published in The Tribune, Creations Magazine, paper wasp, Harvests of New Millennium, Barnwood, On Viewless Wings Anthology, LiteraryMary, Mu, Mayfly, Haigaonline and others. She is the inventor of two poetry forms: Harrisham Rhyme and Harrisham Sonnet, which are being internationally used by poets.
Chinese Chimes: The Confession of A Calendarit all began with an animal race Emperor Jade called to amuse himself and his earthly subjects...
yes, i admit betraying the cat as my only close friend
but i won the race, with my head rather than my legs
to honor my contract with the yellow sun
i eat green grass, yet give red meat to man
as the only feared king of the thick jungle
i am afraid and tired of my own timidness
with my cagey ears held so high
i will not miss a sound of peace
although my portraits hung lively above the clouds
no human eyes have ever seen my authentic being
the moment i sloughed off my old slim self
i forgot ever seducing any manhood in heaven
my body looks more masculine than a strong man
and my heart feels more feminine than a tender girl
when i bleat towards the passers-by
i never mean to speak in an other voice
each time i try to find any lice in the corner of my mind
i act like the humans outside the fence with barbed wire
with my wings plumed with the feathers of night
i can not fly but to crow loudly towards dawn
given my canine camaraderie and pack mentality
i feel at home before, among or behind soldiers
i spend all my lifetime wisely
to guard this single moment
Dao/Chan: Defining the Undefinable
Hard as the arctic ice
Tender as the summer cloud
Dynamic as a tsunami in the Pacific ocean
Still as the lakewater of late autumn
Chan is like Dao, rather
Dao is like Chan
The way, the spirit, the H2O
That can reach high into the sky
Squat still at the very bottom of River Styx
Flow towards the lowest terrain of each valley
Melt into salty tears, sweat, blood
Sweet milk, musky semen, mixing with
Fogs, mists, clouds, dewdrops, taking the shape
Of whatever it invades, occupies, vanishing
Into nothing and everything at the same moment
Within and without the visions of all naked eyes
Constantly moving, transforming
Between or beyond
Yin and yang
Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Chansons of a Chinaman, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan teaches in Vancouver and has poetry in nearly 480 literary publications across 19 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline,
Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto, Poetry Salzburg, SAND and Taj Mahal Review.
For Pete Seeger, Huddie 'Leadbelly' Ledbetter and Woody Guthrie.It was a long time ago
when you put your words into song.
'This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender' you scribbled on your old guitar.
You wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,
fiddling out a hail of truth.
Of immediate calls for peace.
You said of Leadbelly, that 'Huddie Ledbetter was a helluva man'.
You sang and spoke through dust clouds and relief lines.
You taught us all, to seek out hope wherever we can.
And when they tried to call all of you 'goddamned reds',
you sang on ever louder and louder, rattlin' their prejudices as they slept in their plush beds.
You rode and you rambled and thumbed your way around,
this land that is my land and your land too.
For you believed all this earth was shared common ground.
And when you sang of overcoming one day,
the injustice and the pain that you witnessed along the way,
they branded you a commie, a pinko, a nigger and a Jew-lover.
An enemy of the state.
While your banjo and your guitars wrestled their blind hate.
'This machine kills fascists' you etched on that guitar as well
but they were all deaf, for they could not hear the tolling of the bell
'the bell of freedom
the hammer of justice
the song of love between your brothers and your sisters'.
And they knew not that they were the ones who would sizzle in their own bigoted hell.
And then came the marches.
You were there too.
Marching and singing with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma.
And you faced their ugly spit, their venomous rage, their clubs and sticks and knives, but you always knew,
that your cause was just and that the truth would one day prevail.
However long it may take, you would never give up.
You sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves,
victoriously into their jail. Then they shot him down, they shot Dr. King dead, as they burnt and lynched many, many more.
Yet you stood firm, you never wavered, your blood was red after all, and they could not tarnish the truth's core
And so it came to pass, that Woody went on his way.
To his pastures of plenty up in the sky.
And Huddie too, said his last goodbye.
And you were then one, and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed by the battles and with all that was wrong.
But you saw that the people were with you.
As they had been, all along.
So you fiddled that old banjo,
dragging it through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam.
Through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,
across this earth, turning, slowly, putting smiles of amity on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns.
Today as I pen these poorly scribbled words for all of you,
for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,
I do so in gratitude, for after all the travails that you've been through,
I know that you know that this world still has its fair share of hate, and of loss and of injustice and of gloom,
but I also know that you know that though all the old flowers may have gone,
there always will be, as there always must be,
that will be ablaze somewhere,
driving away the apathy and reminding us all,
that this world has for all of us,
plenty of room.
Afzal Moolla was born in Delhi, India while his parents were in exile, fleeing Apartheid South Africa. He thentravelled wherever his parent's work took them and he still feels that he hasn't stopped travelling. Afzal works and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and shares his literary musings with his most strident critic - his 12 year old cat.
The RockerThis stone a couplet
Stolen from deep rest,
A hard silent source.
I hold one piece
Of untold transitions,
The gray simple silence
Of unquiet souls.
Last known address:
A cold blue-black river
An unwanted rescue
From ice-water floes
Where past dissolved,
And current bore time-flecks
Sloughing off eons
To wet sands of time.
I act: will it cleave?
Or will it crumble,
And do I have license
Andrew Frederic Popper has taught at American University, Washington College of Law for the last three decades. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 University Scholar/Teacher of the Year. He is the author of more than 100 published novels, casebooks, articles, papers, poems, and public documents.
Metamorphosis in ReverseImagine: Franz Kafka alive now,
Entombed as a petty apparatchik
In some government bureaucracy,
Writing his Metamorphosis in reverse.
No human Gregor Samsa, he, degenerating
Into an insect, a crawling bug --
But Gregor the Roach transforming
Himself moment by moment,
Ascending the evolutionary ladder
Before his very eyes from
Exoskeleton to endoskeleton,
From scurrying around on lots of legs
To standing up, bipedal -- and yes,
With it the back aches --
Sitting at a small desk, signing
And stamping endless papers
While the Ministers of Our Hate
Hurl atomic missiles on
The Ministers of Their Hate,
And they return the favor,
Ushering in nuclear winter,
And Gregor Samsa, the last human,
Wishing he were a lowly roach
So he would at least
Have a chance at survival.
Howard F. Stein, a medical and psychoanalytic anthropologist, teaches in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, where he has worked since 1978. He is author of 26 books, six of which are poetry. His most recent book is In the Shadow of Asclepius: Poems from American Medicine (www.asclepiusbook.com). In 2006 he was nominated for Oklahoma poet laureate. He has long ago fallen in love with the rural landscapes and culturescapes of Oklahoma.
After the appleHe thought back to yesterday,
when he had noticed her sitting in a pool of darkness
under branches leaf-thick, blocking a sun
that puddled the ground with light.
He remembered her quiet, the apple in her upturned hand.
She raised it to him. He ate of it,
the taste bitter, a burn in his belly.
He felt a sudden cool breeze
as dark wings circled and shifted the air above him,
a murder of crows in cacophonic rage
swirling in clouds of confusion.
Night came and dawn rose, grays with a slit of red,
blood red, expanding, a wound festering
in once perfect skies.
Janet Butler relocated to the Bay Area in 2005 after many years in central Italy. She currently teaches ESL in San Francisco. Some current or forthcoming publications are Mason's Road, Steam Ticket, Town Creek Poetry, and The Quotable. Her most recent chapbook is Searching for Eden (Finishing Line Press).
At Frost's Grave
Eventually the earth will fail you.
Work this hard land all you want.
If you turn your back on it,
In a couple of decades, it will all be forest again.
Poplars will shoot up from the side of the well you dug.
Blackberry bushes will gnarl through the legs of the buzz saw
Even your son’s headstone will fall and, face down,
Serve as a flagstone before a neighbor’s shed.
And the birches, that no boy ever climbed and rode to the ground
As a sort of game when his chores were done,
Will warp from an early ice storm,
And arc over the crumbling foundation.
And the cord of oak
That some young man stacked to age properly,
So that the squirrel running through the wood
Could get through, but not the cat chasing it,
Will dissolve into fibers and ants;
The apple trees will grow too old to bear fruit,
And the ladder that still leans against a branch and points to heaven,
Will have half its rungs rotted away,
And won’t bear the weight of a snake climbing it.
Only the rock walls you stacked,
Will still course through the trees,
Though fallen now, like a pile of chips in a hand of poker.
At one time they divided the land
Between the unloved on one side and the unlovable on the other.
It might have made a difference
If a master mason had dressed the stones
Into perfect building blocks,
Or if you had built them with only giant boulders,
As large as the ox that pulled them,
The kind that farmers boast that since they could move it an inch,
They could move it a mile,
Proving all the virtues that a man has, strength, intelligence and resolve,
Just not the one he needs,
Then the mortar of gravity might have given the work some staying power,
But the truth is, the stones here
Are too much like the lovers you knew,
Irregularly formed, and too insubstantial
For the load they were asked to bear.
Follow the logging road through the forest,
Past the abandoned apple orchard with its rotten limbs,
Through the stand of pine trees twisted and snapped by last year’s storms,
Until you get to the covered bridge that proves you are not lost.
Look into the shallow stream on the right.
Just beneath the surface of the polishing water,
Is the outline of a boot the size of a flatbed,
Drawn in boulders only a strong man could move.
On the left, is its match,
As if a forest god had stepped over the bridge
And stomped his foot like
A little boy splashes his sister in a storm puddle.
The old fishermen say that a fool farmer,
Whose home’s foundation is at the top of the hill, did this.
One evening, after a spring of stacking stone walls,
He and his border collie wandered down here,
And while his dog went for a swim,
He waded into the cold water,
Assured his neighbors wouldn’t catch him,
Such a powerful man, in a moment of play.
Ron Yazinski is a retired English teacher who, with his wife Jeanne, divides his time between Northeastern Pennsylvania and Winter Garden, Florida.His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Mulberry Poets and Writers Association, Strong Verse, The Bijou Review, The Edison Literary Review, Jones Av., Chantarelle’s Notebook, Centrifugal Eye, amphibi.us, The Talon, Amarillo Bay, The Write Room, Pulsar, Sunken Lines, Wilderness House, Blast Furnace, and The Houston Literary Review. He is also the author of the chapbook HOUSES: AN AMERICAN ZODIAC, and a book of poems SOUTH OF SCRANTON.
"One will never again look at a birch tree, after the Robert Frost poem, in exactly the same way." ~Paul Muldoon
And like Frost on that tree
a swinger of birches.
for a meaning where none
are still quietly done.
So, I shall climb that tree.
That’s the real focus: Be.
One cloud can’t hide the sun.
Variety is the Original Spice of LifeThe origin of life’s strange variety?
It can be found at the bottom of my purse.
On occasion, it is cause for a bit of anxiety,
but honestly? It could be much worse.
It can be found at the bottom of my purse:
some pens, loose change and a fuzzy dust bunny –
but honestly, it could be much worse,
with fuzzy pens and loose rabbits, but absolutely no money.
Some pens, loose change and a fuzzy dust bunny
give evidence of the evolution of our society
since fuzzy pens and loose rabbits, but absolutely no money
comprise the origin of life’s strange variety.
RJ Clarken's work has been published in Writer’s Digest, Möbius, AsininePoetry, USA Today Online, Sol Magazine and Trellis Magazine, among other publications. For the past five years, she was the editor of Goldfinch, the literary journal of WomenWhoWrite, a NJ not-for-profit women's writing collective, and she is the author of Mugging for the Camera, a quirky, humorous collection of poetry.
Chaos TheoryThis alley runs through a living museum
that displays layers of the octogenarian's life,
crumbs of linoleum,
threadbare carpet with wilted roses.
I fold myself into the only easy chair.
He ordered chaos all his life,
figured formulas, solved equations,
but can't locate his bathroom in the house
where he's lived for eighty-nine years.
How is this language called math?
It’s all so foreign and complex.
He lectured on fractals and Mandelbrot sets
from the podium.
Here this mix speaks in tongues.
Mine is not among them.
Each day he visits the bread line
for more ornaments to fill the shelves,
chimes, cherubs, substitutes for students
who once gathered to bask
in his brilliance.
previously published in the Buffalo News, in Pulsar Poetry Webzine, and in her chapbook, I Speak in Tongues
from the writer: “My background is in Special Education. I have an MS from SUNY College at Buffalo and I taught in city schools for over eighteen years. Now that I am retired, I spend most of my time traveling and writing. My first chapbook, I Speak in Tongues, was recently published by Foothills (2012). I also have work in Iodine Poetry Journal, Obsessed with Pipework, Buffalo News, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Barbaric Yawp and many other publications.”
Believing, FallingThe grandparents in the gray house,
their faces small gleams in the crowding
shadows, their winding of their lives
around the trunk of the shrinking calendar.
I sat unseen by the door believing
in the history of sorrows, love,
doubting my own minuscule existence.
I wanted to become them.
I wanted to grow silver hair
and eyes that looked inward
and hands veined like the strands
of the ultimate cobweb.
At night in the single bed
I imagined these two suddenly
moving in fast time,
their eyes fixed in the speeding
beyond, my frantic fingers
over and over.
MotionsWhat the call of mountains.
The winds there full of snows
that begin the dreams.
How long the reach from here
to far up where the mists
gather like hungry lions.
If you choose to climb tomorrow
I will join you
our shadows dressed in one another.
Too many years we lodged in
houses of words, their drapery of
grammar their brocades
Doors closed locking us in.
0n the ceiling we imagined the sky
even moon with its face of stone.
How we escaped I don't know.
But if you begin the path upward
I will join you.
Doug Bolling's poetry has appeared widely in literary magazines including Georgetown Review, Slant, Connecticut River Review, Earthshine, Cider Press Review, Blue Unicorn, The Broome Review, Common Ground Review and Italian Americana among others. He has received two Pushcart Prize nominations among other recognitions. Recently retired from college teaching, he now lives in Flossmoor, Illinois, outside Chicago.
Love in the WildGrashoppers deliver their clicking
pickup lines smaller and more rapidly
than the human ear can discern.
But their way of crossing paths
with improbable mates is quite like ours,
only more springloaded and in midair.
In these love moments, time
slows to a blur, the untended grass
swaying beneath them like a waltz,
each pass ekphrastic—an artefact
of the previous arc’s click-clacking
flighty promise of final passion.
Or He Could Have SaidTake, eat, this is my
favorite Neolithic expression
of human ingenuity—
simple grain and water
and division of labor
possible and necessary.
This table performs the same
essential function as the tree
from which it was fashioned,
giving our diningware
a little vertical personality
just as it once gave squirrels and finches
a home defined another way.
We must continue living
and eating at such a table
if we are to scatter from it
the crumbs that mark our passage.
from the writer: “I studied several years ago at Oberlin College under David Young, Pamela Alexander and others, and have recently reached a point where I feel I’ve accumulated a strong enough critical mass of quality work to start trying to share it. I was published a couple of times in college in Oberlin’s Plum Creek Review, and once since in Rosebud, but for the most part I’m only now beginning a full-court press to find a home for my work. In addition to my word obsession, I play saxophone and piano around Los Angeles from time to time, and have produced a number of short films and independent plays. I support these and other bad habits with a job as an editorial manager at
an online ad agency."
The Secret of Non ExistenceMany times the soul of my river
invites me into empty cathedrals
and still am I water and still I am
not sand or death.
On a carpet of stone earth groans and
I swim with its cruel legacies and the
blood on my arms and legs is not proof
but teeth marks from a wolf of light.
Picking at spiritual rubble I see breasts
exposed to wind quietly descend. I find
rings of torn garments and bodies of
vanished suns and books of unbearable
Higher than bricks of water or clothes
of air the lovely vision of a sleeping hand.
Softly I leave the raucous laughter of blood
and windows, of death and holy vigils, of
terrestrial believers and carnivorous shows.
Barely is the summer of time over and night
is published in spacious cities with hair of
silence and scraps of brave and tender meat.
I Encourage Inner CitiesI encourage inner cities
but my home is like
pieces of a made up street.
There is no space and everything
is sold for nothing
and I move sideways in and out of
tiny rooms, where children
reach struggle with vertical air.
In my garden water flows but in
like the hunger of trees for light.
for a cluster of beginnings I am like
sand, fitted to the root of vision but
unaccustomed to the thirst of water.
from the writer: " I'm from New Zealand but have lived in the U.K. for many years. Poems appeared in various magazines such as Great Works, Neon Highway, Van Gogh's Ear, California Quarterly, Camel Saloon and others."
The Focus of BinariesWhat light is left this room
if void of aroma and sound
unfamiliar? Would we drift
without those tethers? Walls swell
and curve closing - they intrude
yet hide our naked pale
so there is just the stick
of their dust abrading
as we twist these sheets
into smooth rope to surmount
the dark. What light is left
save that which is born
from the bellows of our bodies -
a fire enclosed by this cold plaster?
(I would collapse
into the heat of your exhalations
lifting myself that I could fall
again and again
forgetting the chill
dancing my back
forgoing the strain
of our hours together
outside this room
where we pace a dead landscape.
Our days are scant clouds
now passing before tonight's moon
in this moment's air like plasma.
My hand ascends your thigh
your eyes stark and open
just to close for a slow sinking
into refracted pleasure.
I catch their phases
slivers to full white round
glowing like teeth bared
the albedo of the fire between us
and I feel the burn
of your nails in my flesh.)
It is this flame that draws us.
This point of gravity
recession then resurgence
the cues for touch
in the writhe and moan
- sighs turned gasps
the perfume of breath and sex
settles dense layers
to nuzzle these walls.
the bright star of our bed
in the dark of a house
with its rooms of void
that produce no light
of their own.
Lance Calabrese was born and lives in California, has been published throughout the U.S. and elsewhere, and is self-taught.
Code BlackThe fickle blush of a songbird’s retreat
no more loose leaf journals tied in bows
no pen & inks inspired by blanket spread
red wine on sensuous lips
curve of reclining hip on lush, canopied lawns
of fingered branches tangled with nests
bud to bloom to fruit that sours
Storms that startle from slumber & dream
butter cream stains on loud summer skirts
no more blight & blast from winter trumpet
gnarled roots that rise above their place
the mood swings of leaves
greasy fingerprints on bark
cemetery trails of fire ant & fawn
No more amputated efforts for fire, for food
endless drilling of woodpecker
click clicking of beetles
the ride of rope & tire tube now withheld
emerald & black & pollen-yellow
shade for your children before a full moon’s glare
The lies of any season that all is well
Code Blue in the Hyperbaric ChamberThis is
the section of the library
you’ve always avoided
the way a slug senses salt
no time for skid marks
the book is simply overdue
Mad men pace the floor with clipboards
inspecting stool specimens
Road blocks & buttercups become a blur
The wet nurse shakes her head
resumes filing her nails
gurneys come & go
like balloons at a birthday party
All you can think about
are the pair of baby shoes
no one ever bothered
to have bronzed
Cameras pan back to deep cobalt blue
a flurry of pigeons
Cue up commercial
Joseph R. Trombatore is an artist and poet whose work has appeared in: Travois: An Anthology of Texas Poetry, Right Hand Pointing (online), Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas, and elsewhere. His poetry collection, Screaming at Adam, was awarded the Wings Press Chapbook Prize in 2007, and one of his poems received the 2011 Larry D. Thomas Poetry Prize (REAL, Regarding Arts & Letters). Other honors include two Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net Anthology nomination. Former Poetry Editor of: The Houston Literary Review (online) and Founder/Publisher of the defunct online journal, Radiant Turnstile, he now resides in San Antonio.
Piano FireIn a cowflop field up the Trebo road,
Old Gassett has a hundred or more, piled and scattered.
Uprights mostly, players, a few busted baby
Grands, a battle plain of the excoriated,
Decorated old soldiers culled from barns, emptied from parlors,
Unsold from estate sales, left-behinds
from foreclosures or auctioned off clans grown and moved.
They are long-toothed, exhausted veterans of kids’ scales,
booze breath sing-alongs, carols for the deaf
grandmother, and the waltz, the rag, the
boogie-woogie, Broadway and
the tuneless wanderings of sleepless
fingers in the dark.
It is senseless work, making this collection.
Gassett yanks and swears, levering them
onto the dolly up the ramp to the trailer
for the ride behind the pickup
Up the hill. Camp now to mice and wrens,
once prized ebony finishes now
mottled. Standing with splintered, warped tops like
wrecked tuxedo socialites, tilted and reeling,
wearing sprung collars and spattered
with insults from pigeons and bats.
Gap toothed smiles leer from curved keyboards
held in skeletal frames .
Gassett says he’ll invite everyone he knows up to see
when he decides its time. Grill and swill.
Haul ‘em all to the middle, huck in a gallon of kerosene.
And chuck on the smoking end of a Swisher Sweet.
We’ll stand clear of the crashed chords,
singing strings, moans of failing joinery,
skyward flailing sparks and the chorus of perfect ash,
And howl with joy at all noise, light, and upward endings.
Tight MonthOn the north side,
Of the back house, an empty feeder hangs from a beam:
Cut plastic milk jug hung by an unwound coat hanger.
I should fill it with some stale crumbs, but even
In this first snow, the local birds haven’t rallied to it.
Behind me, in the basement, the furnace is choking with age.
These rattling windows need plastic to keep out the wind.
Across the yard,
Juncos forage in the duff under the hemlocks.
A nuthatch is prying in the bark of the old maple.
Maybe in this season, they see the sense of less.
They know pendulous, expected gifts are a trap to mistrain us.
Pecking in the weeds they say, “Get used to getting it yourself.”
They say, ”Get used to getting almost enough.”
American KestrelShe is a pointed, purposed, surveyor and reaper,
Holding over the dusk median of I-70 in suspension, patience.
The taillights trailing away blood lit.
Her flight framed in the pulse and stream of traffic.
Hovering, her splayed primaries caught in our rushing high beams.
Flagging us off from her province, miles long and scant feet wide.
She is hunting in the margin between come and gone.
While she is poised beside a diluted moon
In my side window, I hope for her
The narrowest of blessings: a sustaining prize in the steppe
Of state-mown ryegrass. Her quarry sheltering in tires, cups,
Stained shirt or shoe: the interstate mouse, the pecking starling,
Red-eyed cicada or dusty shrew. Taken with reflex and expert eye,
And wary of hurtling disaster close to either side.
Before the FallBy the time we are able to notice,
They are hard-edged and drained of suppleness.
Semblances only of once high rare residents,
Now they cling to the hard sources of their days.
Swaying now in the risky air, their
Surroundings become less familiar.
Season and light shift away.
We wait hopefully with them for
Some final burning gestures, but pray at least,
Since they are after all, our parents,
That we are present to bear witness.
That they not descend soundlessly, or in darkness,
At our passing feet.
Flashlight’68 bike ride home from supper at Davey’s house.
It’s Friday night: hot dogs, Spaghetti-O’s and Chips Ahoy.
In the front wheel of my Stingray, a clothespin holds a ball card.
The fading yellow beam of a big chrome watchman’s friend,
Wobbles duck taped to the chopper bars.
Down the driveway and the D cells quit.
No high beams oncoming. No streetlights to race under.
No possum eyes or porch lamps, I’m piloting just by crickets,
thrush song, tire buzz and infinite happy blindness.
Which, as I lift my hands free as wings, slips into foresight:
Mom and Dad will die someday, then me, then my sisters.
All will roll away into murk and vacuum.
No birdsongs, stars, Laugh-in, no Hot Wheels.
There is only now, and the sudden ache
for the lamp light over my desk,
after the climb up the long hill to our garage,
So steep I have to get off and walk every time.
from the writer: “I’m an English teacher in an independent school outside of Cincinnati Ohio, and moved here 5 years ago from upstate New York. I’ve been writing poetry sporadically all my life but have become serious about the discipline and more ambitious about publication in the last three years, after receiving an award in a contest hosted by the Cincinnati Writer’s Guild last year and subsequent attendance at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. Like the subjects of these poems, I’ve lived most of my life on the border between the natural and “manufactured” worlds, as I suppose many people do today, and find it a confusing, frustrating and fascinating way to live.”
chance of rain— late night predawn a heavy driving rain — the failing
sprawl of an unseasonal depression drifting north
stalled out — over the drop by drop of sleep
a clear persistent sound — not the usual crack of light
thudding the shaken glass and naked skin of walls
instead — a faint staccato hiss jostled the surfaces
of leaves over the stillness in the windless distance
— distracted — like eyes scratched by secretions on a strand
of silk — wincing — a reflex out of proportion to the irritant —
rain rose in its indifference to the background of a dream
— taking our first-born — three months — to a dying fire
while my wife stayed bedded to her sleep till dawn —
what we knew was all wrong — odd — not in the forecast
— first light — forest raked past the door in an awe of flood
rutting familiar terrain too powerless to contain it —
perhaps thirty feet away a tumult of stones and limbs
off the slope and road above roiled uncontrolled
exploding surfaces into a fertile silt of pure erosion
— afterward — sapling — a black birch slim and supple
like a woman’s ankle — stood still rooted — stripped
of its bark — innocent in the chaos of its sweetness
a dam — alone it broke the water — forked the accident
of that coincidence of force away from woods
down through the field — an overgrowth of undergrowth
its delta pivoted that purblind will stone over stone diverting
the avalanche — two ways at once — scouring the orchard
left unpruned — deliberately let be to set a wild fruit —
and hurtling past the anchored deck and the door’s stud frame
— it cut a trench through the soil and subsoils — for a few hours
working on its own in the dark perhaps twenty-five — thirty
feet down by ten or so across — and never hitting rock
— the chance that a cool gray sun would soon warm
to let the extent of damage subside to an assessment
— leaf trickling on beaded leaf over the swollen valley —
twenty-four hours would need before repairs could begin
basket— it was your time to go — each of us has a few
chances to show what we have — then move aside
out of the ring of traffic and make room
— november — in the rain — we took you in —
instead — lost in the concentration taming
acuity to my own wilderness
at last you took us in out of ourselves
— your instincts trained mine better than ever distract
and look away — let go — as if — out of sight
— holding your ground — tight to a command to stay — as if
there’s no new flick of syllable now — to release
— while you were here — we both became devoted
to that background anticipating gestures and shadows
— abiding — teach me the obedience of your stillness
from the writer: “Teaching literature and creative writing, I turned to technical writing/editing. My plan when teaching was to write. The last few years I’ve returned to short lyrics, where I began and find myself. Poems are in a few journals, including Blue Unicorn, Cider Press Review, Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, The Pinch, and Poet Lore. It’s all about the poem,and the poem finds itself again and again looking through atonement into nature.”
Miller’s PondThe bonfires that edge
the frozen farm pond
spit brief sparks that light
the icy surface.
And I see therein
and a fierce wind blows
the ice free of snow,
and we remain two.
Such reflections stare
back at me today,
but if I could find
you in this fierce light
perhaps we would burn
again as before
when we skated on-
to that cross-linked rink
ringed with icy fire.
Pink SlipHome early and clinging to the fibrous strings
of sense, I carry the chainsaw out back
to a scattering of tops and trunks and roots.
Wind and lightning throughout sacked the night
and shattered years of work with one blow
to dawn now as toppled trees and broken lines.
With ax and wedge, stroke after stroke, I strike
a parting pose for some semblance of order
within this confused afternoon of letting go.
My stunned mind opens a wedge on why,
slips into a crevice and sinks until the split
breaks heartwood, and then, one last blow
to cleave and swing through memory striking
an accord to the forcing. But cutting away
takes time, and I slip and bleed separating these
trunk chunks into split pieces fit for stacking,
for this is locust and locust twists itself into
itself and holds fast as I carefully rearrange
stacks of kindling and chunks held together
with twisted fibers that lace before the fire.
Larry Kelts grew up on a farm outside Knoxville PA, not far from the actual Miller’s Pond. After working for many years as a research scientist in Rochester NY, he got an MFA from Bennington College and now writes poetry and frequents the art scene in northern Delaware and Philadelphia.
Two leap years
Per square midnight
With cubed whimpers
Of barbed wire
If you don’t believe me
Listen closely to the silence
Of your friends
Surrounding the word
John McKernan is now a retired comma herder He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. His most recent book is Resurrection of the Dust.