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Poets in the pond.....

Erie Chapman

Tom Sheehan

Andrew Grossman

Janet Butler

Richard Dinges


Erie Chapman

Too Late

    "If you're coming, you'd better come soon," Dad said with prescience reserved for the dying.
    I didn't.
    My brother beat me to our father's deathbed so that he could say, ever sensitive to his own feelings, "I'm so glad I was here when Dad died."
    We walked the driveway through the garage, past aged oak logs stacked winter-ready, past the trunk of his car emergency-ready: road flares, coiled rope, Sealtest milk carton full of gravel for tire-traction in the coming snow. Folded near the rope a worn gray blanket waits to warm his wife until the tow-truck charges into sight welcome as bugle-blowing cavalry.
    I kissed smiling mom & crying sisters, remembered how my father was never late for me, up in dawns I never saw, early for Rotary meetings, in time to report to me, by his watch-checking, my tardiness.
    His body was already gone. Delivered to the medical school to be sliced & studied by students who would find, there, no evidence that I arrived too late.


Erie Chapman is Editor of The National Literary Review. His poetry has been published in various journals including, most recently, The Aurora Review. He has taught as adjunct faculty at Vanderbilt and runs a charitable foundation in Nashville. His academic background includes Northwestern University (Bachelors) Vanderbilt University Divinity School (Masters) George Washington University Law School (Juris Doctor).

erie.chapman@HealingHospital.org



Tom Sheehan

Canadian Émigrés

Onstage, from behind
the Laurentian Shield,
abundant of wing and body,
came tuxedo gray geese,
white jaunty Fred Astaire
scarves around necks
black as top hats.

They declined low
over the lake, their single
file pattern close as buttons
on a tunic front, choreographed
by a seamstress. A scrutable awe
trailed behind them.

Dance hall precision,
what comes to us by rote
and to them being what they are,
built parapets of that awe;
unerring decision
and accuracy in maneuver,
mastery of thermal lift
from an open December
lake hip deep in water,
ankle deep in food.

But too quickly these victors
of flight strike upon the very air’s
dominion further south, where
swamps stretch feet under
cypress and yellow pine,
and secret morning mists
are quietly infiltrated
by design and the guarded
odor of gun oil.

       - published in Facets Magazine



Child of the Canal

With cold iron we pulled her
up through a mouth of ice,
the pale blue and white dress
twisted as if some unearthly god
had fouled her further paleness,
eyes hammered shut, her hair
caught in one final sweep. Night
too trod silver on her face
where a faint star shone.

Parents, rooted, twined, came
part of the moaning adrift
on darkness, wind and water
at turmoil. This was her
great step forward, escape
from smaller joys, a mouth
of water at elsewhere sears
away the parching, leaks down
through the dry scars of July,
a throat driven arid by August
with its harsh fistfuls.

At another time she ladled
the worn pewter cup at well,
cooled her lips with a moment
of deep rock, roots shifting
underground, years of sediment
from up this other rocky throat.

Stars shine there, passing
softly through the bucket handle,
where the Seven Sisters see
Seven Sisters in that low field.

Oh, we raked her in from the stars.

       - published in Samsara



I Who Lost A Brother

and nearly lost another
remember the headlines, newsreels,
songs of bond-selling, gas-griping,
and movies too true to hate.

The whole Earth bent inwards,
imploding bombs, bullets, blood,
shrieking some terrible bird cry
in my ears only sleep could lose.

Near sleep I could only remember
the nifty bellbottom blues he wore
in the picture my mother cleaned
and cleaned and cleaned on the altar

of her bureau as if he were the Christ
or the Buddha, but he was out there
in the sun and the sand and the rain
of shells and sounds I came to know

years later moving up from Pusan.
I never really knew about him until
he came home and I saw his sea bag
decorated with his wife’s picture,

and a map
and the names
Saipan, Iwo Jima, Kwajalein,
the war.

       - published in Split Shot



Transworld Flight

In dawn’s wing-lift, when great gulls
tell time, he let go her hand. She
counted syllables rounding up silence.

Onto the damp, fashionable driveway,
slabs of it powdered by salt, she heard
a gull drop a noisy quahog for openers.

Feathers filled her mind, flight elements,
a warm thermal climbed upon, migrations.
Now all my birds are flying, she said.

A last time she held him, his bones fled,
heart at smithereens, never looking back.
He was an auk, open mouthed, pleading

for forgiveness, the cold take of muscle
racing far ahead of lungs last exercise,
nerves at plastic wire ventures, the fire-

place of his chest banked in ashes.
Overhead, in trails of blue flight,
the company of birds climbed outward.

He rose to the east of morning, left her
and Nahant touching an edge of departures,
fingerprints carried aloft on feathers,

and all the way out, like broken promises,
the sea morgue-cold and valid,
she felt him newly forming over waters.

       - published in Ken*Again


Tom Sheehan’s Epic Cures, a collection of short stories, has just been released by Press 53. A Collection of Friends, memoirs, was issued in 2004 by Pocol Press (nominated for PEN America Albrand Memoir Award). A poetry chapbook, The Westering, was issued 2004 by Wind River Press. His fourth poetry book, This Rare Earth & Other Flights, was issued in 2003, by Lit Pot Press.

tomfsheehan@comcast.net



Andrew Grossman


Detainee #895263v

I.

Smaller than the roach I am,
Therefore I see many openings.
I could skitter to the hills
On planks of blackness between the bars.

I am cousin to an ant, uncle of mosquito.
Cameras cannot detect me.
To one who rides a river of urine,
The nostrils are a train track home.

II.

Because of ugliness, I have become a movie star.
Not an inch of my face escapes attention.
Societies exist to study my bumpy nose.
My adoring public, why do I fascinate you?
I am merely reading a script, pacing a stage,
With directions issued from the darkness.

When I retire, no more fakery.
No false hair, no lights that make me sweat.
I will be the good guy, someone of whom they say:
‘He is very private, very down to earth.”
I give the microphones and the cameras
Fabric from a long unwinding cloth.




Detainee #393463c

I.

I am a tiger.
In a leap of fire
I break your limbs
One by one.

Far from anger,
Disarmed by strength,
I wait for time
To undo you.

II.

Once more I write you a letter
Regarding the sparrows you sent last year.
The birds wake me each morning,
Squawking and snapping their beaks.
I have dreams of out wheeling the rain,
But when sleep is denied me, I see the mistake.
Tightly held stillness keeps me alive.
Please consider taking back your gift.




Detainee #193993s

I.

I live in the seventh cell.
I burn in the seventh hell.
I rise at the seventh bell.
Allah free the soul.

Allah free the soul.
Free me from the jailer’s smell.
Spread the Word I cannot tell.
Allah free the soul.

II.

A girl thought she would have her hair done.
This happened in a small town deep in the mountains.
When she reached the hair dresser’s house, the girl saw
the women of her town waiting in line.
That night, soldiers arrived.
For the first time, the streets were full of uniforms.
The girl ran from that town to a larger town.
She saw the local hair dresser, who said:
“You’ve come at the right time. Please help me
make our women pleasing to the soldiers.”

Andrew Grossman’s poem, “The Efficient Nurses of Florida” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been widely published and anthologized. Grossman’s new book is 100 Poems of the Iraqi Wars, comprised of work from the Middle East, Israel and the United States. He resides with his wife, Nancy Terrell, in Palm Beach, Florida.

andrew@andrewgrossman.net




Janet Butler

release

sun shines on a cool spring day
peppermint scented freshness
of tender things, budding

dainty flower heads
nod and bob
on elegant stems
green sap rising
thirsty
to drink the golden light of day

scuttles of lingering wintry leaves
scrap the lengthening sidewalks
that fade in golden splendor
as sun sets
and rotting flesh feigns
peace
waiting the final, blessed moment
of longed-for agonizing
release



NightCity

A sun sets.
Vapors of darkness
rise from shadows

deeper than night,
redolent of hidden things,
desire.

Solitude becomes form
in obscure doorways
merging with
night people
night sounds
echoes that clatter the streets,
vibrations in low bass
twangs that lift into the night,
star-chilled.

Published in now defunct but fondly remembered
FrontStreet Review, Sept/Oct 2004

Janet Butler lived in Italy for many years before relocating to the Bay Area, California. She translated the poetry of Romeo Giuli while there, and in 2004 decided to dedicate herself to her own poetry, which has been published in Scrivener's Pen, Prose Toad,Carnelian, and MannequinEnvy,among others, and in forthcoming editions of The Penwood Review and The Indented Pillow.

janetleebutler@hotmail.com




Richard Dinges

After the Storm

Strangers with orange buckets and yellow gloves
and empty faces step carefully between shards of glass
to glean the broken pieces of the shattered village,
houses and business buildings turned to piles of garbage,
tree trunks splintered to reveal yellow hearts,
couches twisted into sodden heaps,
nothing higher than eye level. The wind
still blows but silently and softly, sending
cool shivers down sweating backs, the trees
reduced to trunks, stripped of leaves
that once whispered the morning breeze.
One man stoops, hands on his knees,
hoarsely mouthing a word over and over,
looking down into an exposed cellar,
calling for his cat, to find at least one token
of his previous life to hold again unbroken.





TGIF

The cottonwood leaves applaud
and hush the sprinkler's staccato
thrust of crystal candelabra
that explodes and expands
into fragments of sunlight,
my calm diminished from
frantic last minute orders
in tiny black letters of emails,
black holes from which no light
returns, now drop from the screen
into a pile of ashes
washed away by Friday afternoon.




Why I Open the Window at Night

Night wind whispers questions
that begin with why. Answers
pose briefly by the sky when
a cloud dims the full moon,
a respite from light too bright
to sleep. The movement of air,
a breath on sweaty skin,
raises shivers in anticipation.
The hope of a dream floats
in the wind's lisp, a sentence
composed by the sibilance
of leaves that sounds like sleep.
Sometime in the night, after sleep
curves around closed eyes,
ears open to allow
the whisper to form the dream
and the hope it will not be forgotten
at sunrise, the memory of what to do.




Richard Dinges manages business systems at an insurance company. Bogg, Nebo, Karamu, Phantasmagoria, and Poetalk have most recently accepted his poems for their publications.

rdinges@alltel.net