Take a scalpel to the story
but let the little poem flow
go back and check your duplications
she sat and sobbed,
danced or pranced or meditated
what can be elucidated
but let the little poem go—
Take a scalpel to the story
but let the little poem dance
let it weave effects upon our hearts
let it chart our weakness, spot us swinging
open the page and start us singing
let the little poem speak— (or prance)
The world’s sense isn’t in us
unless we stop to listen
stop to breathe
what is it that we fear, my dear
let’s hold hands and sheathe our scalpels
tuck them in our belts
pause, to feel our feelings
let the little poem seethe—
And when the dance is done
the song is sung
the hunter home from the hill
we can read the story 'oer
discuss it, let it lull us, add some more—
Time to recite
put down the book
let the little poem spill.
Morgan le Fey and the Chapel Between the Worlds
I roll over; wake again,
enwrapped in my blankets, lying on the grass…
I look for my acolytes temple
gone of course, as is my palace.
How many years have passed this time?
When I last awoke, though Arthur slept on,
Avalon’s buildings were as solid
as when I laid him in the healing chamber—
That time, not long after he was wounded
in body, and I weary in spirit
I laid me down as well but woke soon
not so this time, my bones alone
cry a century of lying on the ground…
still, I spy our modest chapel standing yet
a portal between our two worlds
it seems not to decay.
Up, Morgan, stride to the chapel
daunting double doors made of oak
no longer bright as they were
when the first century after Christ turned.
still studded with black brads
large as those in dear Arthur’s buckler
each door’s handle, a large iron hoop—
Tug on the handles, Morgan
open both doors; enter our chapel on this side,
Avalon, Blessed Isle of Apples,
this door leads straight to the sanctuary
you, that is I, step in behind the altar
you, that is we, raise the cup, the chalice
the Grail, the blood;
our eyes sweep the chapel but see only light.
We know that the knights who find this chapel
stand amazed, and readily ken its sway
they enter from the opposite side:
from Carlynton, Glastonbury
they must breathe a prayer first,
and walk up the main aisle to face our Glory.
Christine Wolfe belongs to several poetry-connected groups in Pittsburgh, including the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, Pittsburgh Poetry Society, and "Madwomen in the Attic" at Carlow University.
for Mary Ellen O’Driscoll
Is there anything worse than a sad boy’s ghost?
When I heard about your head blown out,
wondered: coke, fan, the hubris of despair?
I couldn’t join the mourners on the coast—
Seattle’s misery, like Starbucks, seemed to settle.
I couldn’t get a ticket for the wake,
and worse, just as you feared, Nirvana’s fame
made you suspect: another rock star dead, another
stupid corpse. But then I heard the words
without the noise—all praise the veejays
for Unplugged—and saw how I’d been wrong.
You weren’t Hendrix, Morrison, or Mama Cass.
The Lord of Geeks erupting in the stale air,
more like. You figured high school
the root of evil and that, when it comes
to names for sex, we should relax. Mock
fame and good repute; support loud chicks
in all things. But mostly, calling to a world
hello that didn’t care for boys like us
Hello hello hello hello hello hello hello
Didn’t know you, so never going to.
But wanted to say, before I also go,
What is heard in the music even now:
The song will end itself, so fuck the ghost.
Rave, dead boy, sing even
after you are lost.
Strip Mining, or, Negative Theology in Bisbee, AZ
The woman curses
at the door to the bookstore.
You fucking hypocrite.
Is she talking to her dog?
Goddamn these bullshit Zonies.
O, she speaks to Arizona!
This funky mining town’s
got a ten-buck merlot
a tasty veggie burger
and a sweet slice of rhubarb pie.
Slicker wonders how they got so low
so many folk from Nueva York
in Queen of Copper land.
Like the Auld Dubliner
Pub in Tucson,
The Saloon in Bisbee
is more hallucination
than wicked brew.
At abandoned mines or
the Lavender Pit where
a mountain had been,
we hear Bisbee casting
doubt on every lapis ring.
To end at Bisbee undermines
the whole adventure.
When storm clouds gather on the peaks,
the clouds are not the katsinam,
the mountains are not the Ga’an
who deify Apache heroes.
Doesn’t drink the mist;
don’t invoke the water spout
by calling Quetzlcoatl
or confirm the local gods
with stolen chrism;
your keychain Kokopelli fails
the whitest shamanism.
Some shop-punk said
the Diné are in it for the money,
got jealous of Pueblo pottery,
started cranking out the bling
in the 1920s. This factory crap
in Bisbee, Arizona
is just a theft of a theft
on sale for thieves.
The mountains are not the Ga’an
the rain is not the katsinam
no water spout
nor Plumèd Serpent
plastic Jesus ain’t the Word
the plaster Virgin isn’t Wisdom
and in the chapel
at San Xavier del Bac
all the saints
Not the Ga’an
Not the katsinam
Not the Serpent
Not the Word
Not the Wisdom
that made the world.
In the pulse between
lightning and thunder,
the dark descends
between its names.
And for this reason
in Bisbee, Arizona—
queen of copper,
I made this song
in a monsoon season.
Anthony Lioi, PhD, of New Jersey, has previously placed poems in Watershed, Environmental Philosophy, The Dark Mountain Project, Assaracus, and Numinous. He is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of Writing and Public Speaking at the Juilliard School, New York.
The Effort of Still Life
This stare into a sunlit apple,
I long for nothing.
I am only hungry, dwelling
in the shadow of my memories,
my back remains rounded
fingers resting on thighs
but don’t mistake my stillness for relaxation.
No idle mind, nor movement consider calm
before violent winds, sharp rain,
placed directly behind swells,
choppy lake water in my eyes.
The apple glistens with drops of faded rain,
and in spite of the terror thunder brings
my soul casts mute color,
but don’t mistake my stillness for catharsis.
Don’t mistake my stillness,
a firm inertia, for courage.
Not a sit-in
of some higher purpose,
but further contemplation.
Still in prayer for a piece
that will quiet such anger,
distill the lightning clash;
and because I am still, I survive,
but don’t mistake my stillness for your victory.
There is greater judgment than broken skin
or a bruised apple
and I am still
until your death
allows me to rest.
Rebecca Suzanne Miller has been previously published in the anthology About Her: Stories of Grace, Grit, Grievance and Gratitude. She is deeply grateful to her mother, her sister, and her friend, Jody, for their encouragement and love.
Kitchen and Living Room, Both Dark
Of course I always think of him like this:
in my dining room, adjoined doorlessly
to both kitchen and living room, both dark
so the table was a womb of light.
In my dining room we adjoined doorlessly,
spoke in implications, but newly honestly
across the table, the womb of light,
the 3 a.m. air that dissolves pretense.
I spoke in implications, newly honest,undressing my own undressing,
3 a.m. air dissolving both pretense and armor—
what nudity it requires to discuss nudity.
to undress my own undressing,
unfurl the codes of body and glance, of reluctant
nudity. To discuss nudity
I need this warm light, this time of morning, this strange meal.
I unfurl my codes of body and glance reluctantly.
Exposure is always a calculated risk, even in
this warm light, this time of morning, this meal—
do I have reason to believe he will take me seriously?
Exposure is always a calculated risk, even with—
especially with friends, who expect to already know you,
fewer reasons to believe they will take you seriously
in your break from persona.
Especially with friends, who expect to already know you,
sex is dangerous, a negotiation, it is no more chances
to break from persona.
No matter how much I think I have learned my lesson,
sex is dangerous, a negotiation, loss of chances
to leave. Or say no. Or ask him to please put his shirt back on.
No matter how much I learn,
I have not learned to say what I mean at these times, but
we are here. Clothed. Saying tentatively yes.
Saying yes to unknotted speech, to eye contact,
to learning to say what we mean,
to lamplight and butter and salt.
When I said I didn’t like hookups because I
too often felt I was being conscripted
into expectations I did not consent to, he said
“You didn’t feel that way with me, did you?”
I do not remember the look I gave him, but I remember
the way it crumpled his face.
So we say yes to unknotted speech. We make eye contact.
We intentionally do not discuss the small things:
the lamplight, the butter, the salt,
our good friend sleeping in the other room.
We intentionally do not discuss the small things
and speak of the big in implication only, quietly
(our good friend is sleeping in the other room)
the reasons I did not invite him to my house, my city—
it’s too big. We speak in implication only
or not at all, never enough
I did not want him in my house, my city,
hated that he read invitation where there was none
at all. Never enough
assurances to be made when someone
reads invitation where there is none.
There is a trust that is hard to rebuild.
Too many assurances to be made,
too difficult to trust a man’s verbal contrition. Still
a trust begins to be rebuilt
in a pool of light and chest-ache and hindsight.
Difficult to trust a man’s contrition, still,
I always think of him like this:
in a pool of light and chest-ache and hindsight
between kitchen and living room, both dark.
Lauren Banka is a visual artist, poet, and organizer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. She has performed and competed nationally, and has been published in the Lake River Review as well as in two self-published chapbooks. She believes in the fundamental goodness of human nature.
(Marcel Duchamp at the Bibliotèque Sainte-Geneviève)
wishbone swan neck violin naked back
willow branch broken glass fierce ant bridal veil
catalogued, call numbered, shelved according to an intricate system
of letters and numbers and symbols only the librarian can understand
no substitutes allowed
the stacks are closed when he is away
dog’s breath baby hair funeral wreath white fox
fair game gamalon broken tile promise ring
archives hold a file for everyone who has lived he has named them all
every unborn child and all of those born
everybody, nobody, somebody, orphan
organize infinity, then let it go
what survives spins out of control
he picks up the call cards one by one, groups them according to an atavistic dream
everything connects: bow tie baby buggy lion’s head
one hundred days fur covered tea cup and spoon plate glass
giant wheel swan lights
Paris night as it comes on, at dusk the sky a specific shade of blue
a doll hangs in the window of a house beside a highway in the middle of winter
stars lost amidst the clouds
the sky filled with a million swallows, their wings darkening the air above Rome
wrought iron ring holy relic snakeskin thumb tack
shoelace broken glass hairline flim flam
The seamless quality is unmatched.
Cell by cell, nearly perfect.
The third eyelid’s extra protection.
Vision, a hawk’s, miles exposed to the unassisted eye.
The tiniest movement in the grass, epic.
Across my palms, the little cups that allow my companions and me to move swiftly
up the trunk of a tree, to cling there, defy gravity.
The ears, conch-like, large curled shells of sound.
The eardrums, so finely attuned a whisper from a neighboring street reverberates.
The nose, keen.
Each scent a book of who and what has been where and when and how long.
Useless muscles now employed in a proper carriage, a confident lope.
A leap up the wall or a low tree limb, nothing.
Moreau had it wrong.
Devolution on that tiny island: animal into man.
Here, the surgeon knows better, fits skin to hide to fur.
I re-grow the bristly hair lost to centuries of apathy.
I begin to let go of the great gift of reason.
And justification, its darker twin.
William Reichard is the author of four collections of poetry; most recently "Sin Eater" and "This Brightness" both from Mid-List Press, and is the editor of the anthology American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice (New Village Press, 2011).
Can’t Hardly Wait
She invites me to her room, it is what you would expect,
soft, feminine without being all pink hearts and flowers.
There’s a crucifix on the wall, over a cherry wood dresser,
Neruda on the nightstand bookmarked at Sonnet XXVII.
She is lightly perfumed, washes her skin with rosewater
she tells me. Her hair is loose, earlier it was tied back,
we were at a corner table, in the library where we first met.
I was thumbing through Basho looking for the perfect haiku,
stealing glances at her. She told me later, I looked lost in
thought, looked like a poet. There were accidental meetings
every week, small conversations, the hushhh of librarians.
She told me about growing up, finding answers in the most
unlikely places: at the bottom of a stream, on the branch
of an elm tree, on the dry scales of a garter snake. Outside
the air is still, the snow seems asleep and even the moon
hides in the quietest corner of the sky. All I want is to read
to her. Poems of love and loss, of tanned legs and the simple
beauty of her hands. How before her, nothing was my own.
How I ambled through days and weeks, wandered through
words without really reading them. Her eyes begin to close,
she falls into a dream, I promise to be there when she wakes.
Soul Man’s Blues
(for James Brown)
He could shake his way around the edge of
a dime and never lose the smile on his face.
- Marc Eliot
I came out dead as can be.
Glad Aunt Minnie whacked me 'til I could see.
Said I came out dead as can be.
Aunt Minnie whacked me till I could see.
In those early years,
home was just a shack.
No plumbing, no electricity.
Not even flour to make a flapjack.
Learned to glide on my feet.
Spiffed up shoes,
picked cotton for meat.
One day Mama and Papa split.
Papa stepped in and out
of my world.
So I had me a fit.
At fifteen, I jimmied cars,
went to jail at sixteen.
Holed up, I moaned
’bout sleepin’ behind bars.
Bobby Byrd helped me break jail.
Set free, took to baseball
’til my leg let me down.
Felt like a porch with no rail.
My tongue tried gospel,
switched to rhythm n’ blues.
With “Please, Please, Please,”
I snagged ladies from pews.
Over the years, life became a brawl.
A car overturned my boy Teddy’s life.
Hits slowed down.
I battled my fourth wife.
Still I kept croonin’,
swoll up in 1986
with “Living in America.”
That song’s my baddest mix.
Gone now that shack of early days.
I cling to the soil.
Gone now that shack of early days.
I cling to the soil.
No shack here: I’m restin’, soakin’
up the sun’s rays.
If I Get Married Again
I promise I'll wear shimmering gold lipstick,
dance a thousand jigs before dusk.
All my bells will flap their tongues when I
unscroll my life like a map for my love.
There’ll be no blues to stoke the fire.
No more will I hear those Bessie Smith moans.
The bridesmaids’ hair will blow like Spanish moss,
their hair ribbons fly like cranes.
Mist will airbrush night
followed by daybreak's auburn glint.
I'll sing, wave my glass, whirl across my lawn.
The clink of crystal around me will slit air.
I'll hear the chime of my clock,
catch a flight to Spain.
Grace Ocasio's poetry has appeared in literary journals including Rattle, Earth's Daughters, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and Court Green. She won the Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka Prize in Poetry in 2011, was selected as a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry in 2010, and was a scholarship recipient to the 2011 Napa Valley Writers' Conference.
Women Out of Love
She wants to donate her brain cells to build a better partner.
Maybe a clone who would melt next to her in bed.
After teaching a freshman class on Pascal's Wager,
she wonders: How many junkyards to transform into
a city of love? Her older lover, a woman named Sonia Reale,
who she must meet in exacty two hours at The Mercury Lounge,
has a habit of breaking all the wrong pipes, of setting off
a dangerous gas leak. Her worst fears: To live life as a series
of silent explosions. To die as the burning girl with no faith.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of three chapbooks of poems: Avenue C (Scars Publications), Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), and Amsterdam & Other Broken Love Songs (Flutter Press). He's been published in Gold Wake Press, Thunderclap Press, Blue Fifth Review, Step Away, and The Other Room. Kyle blogs at http://upatberggasse19.blogspot.com/
Poets should submit a batch of no more than five short poems or two long ones.
Why not one of these terms:
collection, (only if the bard is a lapidary, and his creations are gems)
compendium (a yawning assemblage of erudite blah, blah, blah)
sample, (fine for urine or stools)
specimen, (too close in nuance to sample)
store, (too commercial, and how many editors pay for poems?)
manuscript, (OK for those editors who do)
heap, (might be accurate for some submissions)
digest, (but if you're confronted with a heap, you might heave)
mass, (produces an inertial yawn)
ana, (only for confessionals, but they're all passe since Plath)
miscellany, (not for thematic editions)
anthology or compilation, (but if a poet reaches this level, then editors submit to the poet)
lot, (submissions are lotteries and not a lot succeed)?
How about bouquet:
a bouquet of five short-stem poetic wild flowers,
or two long-stem versified roses,
or one bashful sunflower?
Real Life Elocution
But offstage the actors speak like the rest of us
with ers, ahems, and that annoying Aya know.
When eloquence is truly spoken it's been rehearsed
or it's a one-in-a-million accidental bon mot.
Shakespeare probably rewrote and rewrote his rambling scripts,
honing bland dialogues into jeweled speech.
Yet even the Bard himself
must have belched, coughed, and broke wind,
when he paid his rent, fled the sheriff,
and ran that-a-way from his dear wife Anne Hathaway.
What a stuttering fool he must have been
before his audience with good queen Bess,
speaking offstage to her, unrehearsed,
without quill or parchment or immortal script.
For how many hours after being royally dismissed
did he mull over what rapier repartees he missed?
Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in Reed,Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Paris/atlantic, Canadian Dimension, Black Swan Review, Exquisite Corpse, Foliate Oak, Morpo Review, Ken*Again Oregon East, Southern Humanities Review, Morpo, Skyline, Touchstone, Windsor Review, Maverick, Parnassus Literary Review, Small Pond, Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Exquisite Corpse, Terrain Aroostook Review, Compass Rose, Whiskey Island Review, Oregon East, Bad Penny Review and many others.
i was action, a curvet
of blaze and crawl,
frantic from wind’s
birds had nothing on me.
my cartwheels streaked.
clouds were my
i catapulted wide
over mummified puzzles,
escaped the auspices
of blight and decay.
swirling back down
to percolate up,
i inhaled autumn’s
pumpkin and cherry,
brandy and corn,
erupted in me.
space rolled amok
in the riot
of my gymnastics.
order turned asphalt.
moats of streetscape
thwarted my spin.
i scuttled up a rumple
of old linden tree, tip-toed
like an hilarious spider—to wind up where i
had first been hanging,
loose and vulnerable
on a peak.
Editor's Note: Chris Crittenden's poem, Inside Metal, was included in the Summer edition (Volume 1, Issue 3) of Blast Furnace. Both Leaf Struck and Inside Metal were submittedto the journal simultaneously and accepted at the same time,albeit for two separate editions of Blast Furnace.
Arcimboldo’s Water Oil on limewood c. 1566
The man in the portrait, birthed from the sea,
presumed his existence a fait accompli
in spite of the howlerwind’s ominous song
and thunderbolts hurling through break of dawn.
But the sea level rose as the tempest rolled-in,
and soon the earth’s tears flowed up to his chin,
creating a stir. As swim bladders hummed
and tiny claws clicked amid pops and thumps,
a chatter of chirps joined burbles and yaps
while amphibians croaked and pincer-tips snapped.
Whisker-like barbels and tentacles twitched
as the torrent unleashed and floodwater drenched.
The man in the portrait, birthed from the sea,
reconsidered presumptions of fait accompli.
The arms of the octopus loosed their grip,
the eel and the lionfish started to slip.
Inspiring a mutinous seaside revolt,
the Dungeness crab decided to bolt.
And all in due time, yet before very long,
with the turn of the tide, man’s profile was gone.
Chagall's Poet with the Birds
The wistful poet implored, “Please sing to me
of windswept sapphire skies and phantom wings,
of gold-spun silk beneath the emerald trees,
and glowing fields of stained glass shimmerings,
glimmers of blade and leaf. In tapestries
that float above the village green, where magic
flute and troubadour weave reveries,
reveal young lovers cast upon a mystic
sea, whispering words of love. Paint me
a medley of dappled blooms in floral bouquets
where lyrics nest like childhood memories
of fragrant sweetgrass, warm-wind summer days.”
The painter knows the poet with his muse
awash in azure shades of luminous blues.
dl mattila resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she is currently pursuing an MA in Writing at Johns Hopkins University.
Iran; A Note on Cartography
Yours were the only footsteps I heard
you carried the fresh breads
for our breakfast—laid them, steaming,
on the table.
Times we could have spent
at a table.
A father who shares his morning
routine with his son. The ripe tomatoes reflect
red skin, cartographies,
to eat. Cucumbers, cold, whole, uncut,
began to drip
You placed a cut of honeycomb next to it all
as if respecting the roots of the vegetables
by presenting to them an uncontaminated labor
of nature, defined, horizontal, hexagonal, vertical, like
breakfast’s geometry, paired with walnuts
to the side, some butter, rectangular
sliced Valbreso, held under running water
to wash away the salt, and two glasses of hot tea.
Actually it was dawn, you woke up alone;
I woke up to find you gone. Unfinished
doors, still a sign that you continue to build
a new house for your family in Iran, show me
instances where wood and stone provide
more than materials to build, they become
signifiers, flags that promise to spell
our name in the image of your house
so that when no one is there to welcome us
we have still returned.
A Motivation for Yesterday
One green and black bike, unlocked, leaned
against the wall, waiting for me. I think
I rode it out through the front gate. I hid
the bike in the hallway of our fourteenth floor apartment.
Three days I rode it; three days it lived
again unseen, unclaimed. Then the first notice
appeared outside the lobby of my building.
In the hallway, with the bike sloped
against my mother’s wall, I confessed my crime
to her, my fingers lounged on its handle.
Our elevator never knew a night. Downstairs,
the distance between our building
and the other became a tableau of a woman
and a child who quietly returned a bike
across a four lane street in the middle of the dark.
My mother’s hands pulled the bicycle
up to where she sat in a tree
beside the boomerang-shaped luxury
apartment building that stood across from our own
high rise on Mailander Straße. It smelled like a few
hours before dawn. It’s hard to recall
twenty years ago. My friends and I usually climbed
those trees, their stronger branches only about three
feet away from the glassless windows. An easy jump
from tree to parking lot. I remember their black interiors,
vaguely lit, my mother’s hands—reaching
for the bike I roll up the tree’s trunk.
She carefully passes it over
into the darkness on the other side of the wall.
On Sepulveda Boulevard now, sitting beside my mother,
I can’t remember the other times I rode a bicycle.
I look at her hands, aged and spotted, their skin thin.
My mother puts her hand on mine, and wonders if I’m all right;
After Aaron Douglas’s painting
The glass is not his cage. This man studies constructs
on the window’s other side. Layers of green,
brown, yellow, black, and pink color industry
outside, buildings whose shapes and tones
contradict labor—promise ease
on their bricked skin; order, form.
The transparent blinds,
partially opened, distort
pieces of this skyline. Conceived decades ago
he started to watch then toward today. A window
in a window of a window to a painted world. We watch
his watching—enter to look out. Our distortions
expose the real shape of industry:
One of his white towels drapes over the table
beside the window's sill. The towel he uses covers
his right shoulder—down his back—on a white shirt
shadowed with black folds and creases,
reminiscent of a painting; the towel rests there
while the eyes in his face dream
somewhere else. His left fist digs
into the sill’s wood—nothing stands in his way,
but the outside remains, somehow,
off limits to him.
Nima Kian was born in Tehran, Iran, but left the country during the early years of the Iran-Iraq War. He spent his childhood in Germany where he witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, after which he emigrated to Los Angeles just in time for the L.A. Riots. A resident of L.A., Nima worked in the entertainment industry for nearly a decade before deciding to pursue graduate degrees. An MFA graduate of Saint Mary's College in California, he currently resides in Lincoln, Nebraska where he attends University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a PhD candidate with a specialization in poetry, a collateral field in Film Theory, and a certification in Nineteenth Century Studies, focusing on Iranian representation in the Western Literature of that century. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Saint Mary’s Magazine, Black Lantern Publishing, Mary, Muse India, Quarterly Review of Film & Video, Mythic Delirium, Mascara Literary Review, and others.
We Took Them To Raise
the sweet basil
the lemon balm
the rosemary, the peas
we took Adam and made
a world from that bone
took the vetch and the chicory,
took even the darkness
took dogs from the roadside,
took half-fledged birds and the fawn
Bambied into the backyard
and said we had a green thumb,
a soft heart, a kind streak
and congratulated ourselves
for our good deeds
Snow White Reconsiders
At first I knew nothing about him, imagined
his wide shoulders, his eyes dark as cloves.
My hand tightened on doorknobs;
he could be in any room. On the dining
table, the plates waited for his thumbprint,
each single knife yearned toward his grip,
I made the seven beds: I swept,
A trace of aftershave seduced a napkin.
The old woman brought me a coffin.
I bit, climbed in, was caught and paned, a kiss
galloped towards me carrying salvation.
Impact. My lashes sprung, inaction
was out of the question. The apple had been irresistible
but what woman doesn’t later regret her appetite for fruit?
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in Texas and in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. She is the author of Discount Fireworks and Reading Berryman to the Dog, both from Jacaranda Press.
A Patch of Grass
(on the discovery, by scientific means, of an earlier painting under Van Gogh’s ‘A Patch of Grass’, July 2008)
Well, why leave it there? I say, let’s go the whole hog,
palimpsests and pentimento! That’s the stuff
for a dour age convinced of conspiracies, chuffed
at every lid lifted, boundless redaction: why stop with Van Gogh?
Cavaliers’ arms incorrectly foreshortened,
a peasant’s stoop from a ruminative smear,
the girl with the earring’s secretive leer
feasts, dejeuners and Last Suppers haunted
by ghostly visages, sketches and scribbles.
A synchrotron: there’s a fine Kolinsky sable
for the twenty-first century! Prised from its Qumran, every codex
is ransacked for rough drafts of the Bible,
the Pieta’s armpit searched for labels
the sublime scoured for the residue of Tip-Ex.
Isi Unikowski is a Canberran poet, whose day job is working for the Australian Government. Isi's poetry is currently circulating Canberra on its buses through an ACT Government program. The poet has been shortlisted for the 2011 Newcastle poetry prize, and was runner-up for the 2009 ACT Poem of the Year Prize.
Perhaps Why Pushkin Inspired an Opera by Tchaikovsky
Early on, my Gumby doll could twist
& turn into impossible positions
with his pony pal Pokey. Later,
I fiddled around with damp clay balls
& barrels of Play-doh until they
dried out in odd shapes the dog ate.
Finger painting, yes, I made a mess
again & again, until I fashioned
one tree, & mom’s peonies & irises
into some semblance of our family’s
backyard. Summers, the sandbox
kept me busy. What cities & cultures
I crafted into moist realities. Pee
held most split-level houses together
if the garden spigot was stuck or
it hadn’t rained enough to spade
my concept of sprouting suburbs.
Winters I painted by the numbers
in gummy oils, milky watercolors
in a book of Audubon’s bright birds
which daddy mocked me—caw, caw—
though I never dabbled in crows.
Even a young artist can see what she
has done, steps back & spits on it
to blend mistakes into proper shadows
or let the cool figurine in plaster
from Vacation Bible School melt
in the bathtub into a smoother pair
of praying hands without bubbles & warts.
Somebody, somewhere always knows how
to appraise a child’s gallery of art.
Kindergarten pieces à la Picasso find
a place in the museums of our heart.
But the most intricate, malleable toy,
the most ineffable creative substances,
are those memories hammered years later
into the music of language, a few lines,
sometimes one simple syllable, one note:
Did I sing well?
Have I plucked the E strings
on this silent page?
Can I still play with words?
On the day of merganser and goose migration
over a blue April lake, it finally happened:
I cried. A month later, I cried my yellow topaz tears.
when my brother James Karl materialized
out of Pandora.com and I, the Queen of Hearts,
caught him red-handed as our song,
the Ronstadt version, spun its digital voodoo.
I cried because you refused to see
the rainbow above you
and the end of it at your feet.
Let somebody love you? No way.
You ignored the orange warning lyrics.
Get down from your fences and open the gate?
Booze didn’t make the grass greener, cowboy.
Guns didn’t fire violets, dude.
Go ahead, swig.
Go ahead, ghost, shoot.
On the day of an April lake
where migrating waterfowl are safe from you—
the killer who killed himself—
I had my three-minute cry.
The music ended.
You’re dead, desperado. And me?
I’m changing channels.
The Instrument of Happily Ever After
In storage, steel strings go slack.
Larrivée groans, bored out of her frets
out of tune and tunes,
half-mad with disuse.
A guitar can get claustrophobic, too,
after four-plus months clamped
into a form-fitting case,
red crush of velvet,
black bonds of leather.
A wooden atrophy sets in.
That woman’s guest room may be safe,
if a note too cheery for Larrivée’s tastes,
An audience is not among its furnishings.
It’s not the little sister’s fault
she can’t play her dead bro’s chords,
would make his simplest ballad blush.
Larrivée misses her Moses.
Larrivée misses his fingers, his voice.
Larrivée mutely sighs.
But she’s the silent urn of his soul.
Therefore her keeper, the poet, promises:
Larrivée, one day you will be free
from the hard-shelled purgatory
of your muffled grief.
Larrivée, a prince named Matt McGee
will come for you and together you will
do the old songs, do Bob Dylan, do Stan Rogers,
do Moses Merrifield again and again and again.
An Irish lad from New York City
shall rescue you, the guitar named Larrivée,
legacy of a folk singer whose soul
goes on in the sound of music.
Award-winning poet, National Park Artist-in-Residence, and assistant editor and book reviewer at The Centrifugal Eye, Karla Linn Merrifield has had work published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has six books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry, and her new chapbook, The Urn, from Finishing Line Press. Forthcoming from Salmon Press is her full-length collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North, and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica from Finishing Line. The Tchaikovsky opera inspired by Pushkin is The Queen of Spades. Read more about Kara Linn and sample her poems and photographs at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com
King Kong in the Big Apple
You were made for New York,
you big ape.
You were always too big to end up
at a Florida roadside.
You hate the bright lights.
At least your show lets out early.
It isn’t a Frank O’Hara stroll,
but you walk to the el, grab a train
(the A train for all I know).
You head for the Empire State Building.
The best view in town.
But you’re thinking Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, an affair to remember.
Comes love, as the lady says,
nothing can be done.
You’re a star and your life is everybody’s business.
You’ll learn too late it’s best to stay away from public places.
So you’re a little ham-handed—you’re still a gent.
When you set her down on a ledge, Fay Wray should be scared to death,
but she reclines almost languidly.
Nobody stays on top forever—fame takes its toll.
Machine guns chatter as you swat at the biplanes,
clutch at your heart. Your fall is a big deal.
Even a New York cop can’t say,
“Move along, nothing to see here.”
Somewhere reporters rush to the phones.
Tomorrow you’ll be yesterday’s news.
She will never forget you.
Robert E. Wood teaches at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. His poetry has appeared recently in Poets and Artists, San Pedro River Review, Blue Fifth Review, and Prairie Schooner. His chapbook, Gorizia Notebook, was published by Finishing Line Press.
Conesus Lake, Midnight
the white dock
as if the end
were an altar
and the waves
in their black robes
would rise up
to pronounce us
man and wife.
We hold hands,
our eyes pointed to the script of sky:
The Hunter shines his sword;
The Great Bear lumbers toward the moon,
a circle. Our feet go on, even though
one wrong step and the old lake,
with all its stories, would drink us.
At the altar, we sit
and shed our shoes
dip our toes into
cold navy blue
and our feet,
from the current,
I connect the lights from the sky
and the houses across the lake in cursive.
I make them say: Yes, I see you
holding hands, brushing feet.
We are still touching
our bare blind feet,
two substantial specks
under an endless sky,
and the dark is not so deep
and filled with hunger.
Sara Ries is a graduate of the MFA program in Poetry at Chatham University, where she received the Best Thesis in Poetry Award. Her first book, Come In, We’re Open, won the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition and was published in June by NFSPS Press.
He is lithe and long, like a reptile or power line,
downed by storms and whipping in the street
one leg bent like a square propped on an amp
leather dipped and painted on boots
tipped in steel
arms a right angle, muscled under his thin frame:
shirtless and hairless.
throbbing crotch pulsing, more things hidden beneath tight leather skins,
behind him and
beneath the steel toes tapping
Crackerman thunders as the band races laps across the stage
under his toes, the amp and the stage:
the mosh pit,
flannels and Doc Martens a dirt devil of elbows, knees and bloody noses
fat lips and torn cutoffs like snakes in an angry nest
t-shirts muddied and whipping from crowdsurfers
whisking rattle tails of bodies sweat and rock back and forth
like sex under leather they rise and fall on chords and choruses
he sings through a bullhorn
that distorts and twists his voice
at his steel toes we gather, storm beneath lightening
cobras to their charmer
our voices hissing and spitting together in united disharmony
sing back to him
his words, only louder
And if you're somewhere drunk and
Passed out on the floor…
- Concrete Blonde
It's no wonder I married an alcoholic. The raw cliff of Johnette's voice, a razorblade breakfast washed down with whiskey and cigarettes, was my song of the siren. It beckoned me towards the treacherous rocks and choppy waters of co-dependent love. She sings growlingly romantic in the way of Bukowski. There are high notes of Henry Miller swinging his dick around Paris, oh, to love a man determined to self-destruct! There are low notes, too: the urgent need to be their salvation, arriving with bail bond or breaking down the doors of the bathrooms they have passed out in. My stalwart presence a second wife in the emergency room while his stomach is pumped; she wipes his lips that are stained with charcoal. My love, like charcoal: forced down his throat to bleed out the poisons.
Our marriage processional is where he walks me down the aisles of the smoky bars where we get drunk together. My panties hang out, like a grotesque Mona Lisa, as I artlessly fall off the barstool the way I have learned from him. We fight outside under a streetlight whose glow is as dirty as our fingertips and clothing, before he screeches away to an impending DUI arrest, leaving me sobbing and skinned-kneed in the streets I am too shitfaced to recognize, much less home. Johnette has promised all this and more. She swore over echoing chords that these boozy pains will make me strong, paint an acid smile on my lips and twist me beautiful in the way of damaged women.
One day we will divorce. That, too, is destined in the lyrics. My own fear takes me towards the raw nerves at my core, where gritty howls unleash his name. My pain is a baptismal font, spilling and redeeming like the fiery amber from a tipped over highball glass. Her promises are all delivered: the misery of love is more attractive to my black heart than slick promises of beauty and joy. I am the napkin soaking up spilled drinks, instead, a damage sponge: the foulness of truth over the beauty of lies. I choose the anarchy of the raging sea: sirens, those bitches, singing me to shipwreck.
Allie Marini is a 2001 alumna of New College of Florida, which means, she says, that she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has appeared in Goulash!, Pan’ Ku, New CollAge, Scratch, Penumbra, Crash, Shaking Like A Mountain, Multi-Culti Mixerations, A Daughter's Story Anthology, Eyrie, and Interrobang?!. She has lived all over Florida and Washington State, but calls Tallahassee home. Allie is a research writer/part-time hairdresser when she’s not playing with her make-believe friends. She is pursuing her MFA degree through Antioch University, and is curious to see what’s behind door #2.
this is the land where my grandfather was born
in a silty memory—
his bones buried here too,
beneath the dirt away from the river
near to the place where the sun goes down
where purplish silks wrap tight the sky’s throat.
quiet days the sound’s only his blood
gurgling up cracks in the earth
for my sons to haul
with wide wooden buckets, splashing,
for dinner glasses.
the iron in his blood tastes keen, sharp.
the ground anchors it,
our lips reddening.
Cameron R. Graber is a recent honors graduate of San Fransisco State University's English Literature program. She has sold several hand-made collections of her poems at independent bookstores in San Francisco.
After Piet Mondrian, “Broadway Boogie Woogie”
What Dutch Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
wrought with his yellow lines intersecting
at times squares of blue and red:
Mondrian mutes screeching taxis
so Cab can croon Minnie the Moocher,
tunes in the Andrews Sisters harmonizing
the sunny side of our youth at war,
lets us see neon lighting lindy hop
through hordes of tourists and showy windows.
Winchell and Runyon beckon us,
juicy gossip jumps from the grids,
we relive the best years of our lives.
Piet’s 50 square inches of oil takes Manhattan,
stretches time—back to jazz age glitz; ahead
to parades for heroes who conquer different spaces.
Lee Marc Stein is a retired marketing consultant living in East Setauket, Long Island. His poems have appeared in Miller's Pond Poetry, Still Crazy, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Message in a Bottle, The Write Room and Blue Lake Review. He is working on a chapbook of ekphrastic poetry. Lee leads workshops at Stony Brook University’s Lifelong Learning program on Modern Masters of the American Novel and on Bob Dylan’s life and music.
“When a child gazes into his parents’ face, he is looking for a response that mirrors his own mind.”
- Mindsight, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
St. Francis of clay, of the earth, of terra cotta
stands shaded underneath pines
holds his bowl of seed for birds
offers hope for feathered love—winged
flights of fancy looping freely to open palms.
They chatter, cackle, coo and chirr annoyance
at our presence, owning, as they do, the open air.
It is vain to look into a mirror, study a loved face.
No preening or joyful adoration of presence—
avert eyes to focus on brushing teeth, combing hair…
but not too long—lest eyes rest on themselves—
a glimpse of self seeking self.
St. Francis brings me back to here. He does not
speak a word. He waits patiently for all comers.
What is trying to be known?
Only this—come, child, you are beloved.
There is no other way to be in the world.
Eyes dart elsewhere, anywhere but where they long
to gaze. Eyes that once traced another’s face for answers—
not seeing the coming smack to punctuate the lesson:
Do not look at me. Do not see who I am.
That familiar flush from disappointing others;
mirrored reveal of truth erased by shame.
Slight pulsed headache begins—
is the price of looking so dear?
St. Francis watches still and even though
I am not Catholic, nor never was,
his silent vigil is somehow reassuring.
My dear—you don’t need mirrors.
Look into Barbara and Alvaro’s eyes…
they don’t know you and yet see your heart.
Lay to rest that mirrored search.
He wrote it. He paints it:
The birds sing the world.
Julie Stuckey grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Delaware in business and currently lives in Pawling, New York. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming online in Dead Mule, Prairie Wolf Press Review, Verdad, Verse Land, and Wilderness House Literary Review; in print journals Ardent, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Moonshot Magazine, Pinesong, Punkin House Press, Seven Hills Review, Verseweavers, and WestWard Quarterly; and in anthologies from Little Red Tree Publishing and From Under the Bridges of America (forthcoming). A number of her poems have been finalists or honorable mentions in various contests.
It was a horrible trip botched from the beginning
With A French family, a jealous husband, ex-friends these days
I need to make the best of things and get out of their home
Wandering around cobblestone streets for hours, met a young French couple
“Where can I eat, not touristy?”
“Cannibale Café on Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, very close.”
My stomach yelling at me, craving meat
The menu on the stone-wall, steak-frites, perfect
Stepping through the wooden archway, I expected a foreign tune
It is Tom Waits, American, lives right around the corner from me
Song about a stripper, kind of jazzy, mixed with barn-yard instruments
The stand up bass hits five notes, and at each the woman behind the bar wipes the counter, sets a napkin down for a drink or an espresso
“Bonjour, comment vas-tu?”
“Ah hello, parlez-vous anglais? I am sorry; I am another American who doesn’t speak French well.”
Those five bass notes beating away, my heart skips
With one smile from her, glimpse of hope, brunette, she smells like ice cream
“I will have the Steak-Frites”
No need to say medium-rare, around this part of the world it’s the only way it comes
Deep thought, “Is my Stool from the late 1920’s?” I light up a cigarette from Denmark
No ash trays around, looking down at my feet, mountains of cigarettes, I love this place
There was an order to the disorder, quite dark in here too
Her hair twirls in front of her right eye slightly, bobby pin on the left side
Small diamond piercing in her right nostril
No ring on her left hand
She sets my meal down with her left, “Bon Appétit”
A slight flirtation, five bass beats turn into twenty
I start to eat faster
She scratches her shoulder at odd times, she is nervous, as me?
I shouldn’t have left my journal on the bar
Probably will think I am “poseur” as Hemingway would say
I take my last bite; she slides across the counter, pirates grin
Music changed to some acoustic jingle, it’s Tom
Heavy French accent, “uhh, what are doing later tonight?”
“Absolutely no plans”
Short dialogue, writer, musician, chef
She is a part-time ballet teacher, Aminor chord, empty wine glass
Ate at the same place for five nights
Five nights, room above the café, queen bed, expensive sheets, Egyptian cotton?
Day-spring, windows drawn open to a small iron balcony, thin white curtains dance beside me
and the sweet smell of Vanilla floats through the room
Tom, I owe you one
"Café" is one of several works from an unfinished manuscript Michael Keel is currently refining with the working title Pieces of Wayfaring. Many of his free-write poems, he says, deal with everyday things and have a lot to do with traveling around the world, life experiences, glimpses of a certain day/night and so on. Michael currently freelances for a few magazines with articles covering food, wine and local businesses in Northern California. He is also an ex-head chef, managing a kitchen. Presently, he is working on two other books. His passions lie in writing, traveling, learning about different cultures and eating different foods from around the world. Learn more about Michael at http://www.pwc.mfbiz.com
Zap the Abecedarian
after Magritte's Magie Noire
All the other women are putting on the Ritz.
Bedazzled, you make your move toward me, slyly.
Caught naked, it's huis clos for me. I'm a blue hex.
Dream woman for you: half sky, half in the raw,
evocative foray into magie noire. I recall the leitmotif:
frayed bowler hat, brown pipe, though I hear you
garble words about a pipe not a pipe at all but
hoax. Like Eddie Carmel––acromegalic of the Arbus
image––I'm the giraffe of Brussels, the bean stalk for
Jack. I'm Eddie's vertical Brooklyn Bridge times cinq.
King of my kismet, creator of my silhouette, hurry up,
lead me to the Grande Place Dance Pavilion. Mambo
me, rock 'n' roll me, squeeze my rigid hands. Then
nurse me back to flesh with steins of Stella Artois, arm
over disarm. Demystify me: I'm a Marieke, not a Brel.
Pack up our histoire, René, enough of this sight trick.
Qu'importe your reputation––get off your high raj;
rescue me from these clouds. You're no da Vinci; I'm no wiki
sideshow like Eddie in Times Square. Dig into my flesh,
treat me to emotion, baby, though you swear I'm a real hag
under your spell. Unveil the disguise, René––expose my grief.
Virago or angel? Quelle différence if you let this triste
Walloon down? Now draw your excalibur & do the deed.
X-acto me from this canvas born out of rhetoric
you framed, monsieur l'artiste. Unzip the rib,
zap the abracadabra, return my blue flesh to sizzling plasma.
Judith Terzi's recent poetry books include The Road to Oxnard and Sharing Tabouli. Her poetry has received recognition and prizes from numerous journals in addition to nominations for Best of the Net and Web. Poems are forthcoming in Raintown Review and Spillway. For many years a high school French teacher, she also taught English at California State University, Los Angeles, and in Algiers, Algeria.
What I Meant to Say
Thank you for the moist oysters
and the berries in clotted cream.
Do not turn from me so quickly.
Sink your teeth into this: It is
always the forbidden fruit that sparkles
on the vine. I saw you with him in the carriage
on the circle. You are not the first.
He has savored plump apricots, tart apples,
persimmons and prickly pears.
Their juices still linger on his lips.
He will never be sated.
This time it’s different?
My dear, he’s a boy
who always trots home
to replenish his own orchard.
A five-time Pushcart nominee, Liz Dolan has won an established artist fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, 2009. Her second poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, which is seeking a publisher, was nominated for the Robert McGovern Prize. Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was recently published by March Street Press. The poem "What I Meant to Say" was a response to Ethel B. Leach's painting of the same name in the permanent collection at the Rehoboth Art League, Delaware.
Arms Grow Lovely & Strong
(Trying to Raise Her Flag then Lower It)
At every rise she rolls & rumbles through
crisscrossing Americana’s landscape
on bikes & trains sometimes on the backs of trucks
where bundled within her patches whirling dreams her land
smells everywhere like roses
But learning is weightless & shapeless & nothing she can hold on to steady
wide & childish surprise waking confused & unfocused
Has she left off in the middle of this?
Days stare into the shifting face of paradox understanding where humility lives
is when she’s been certain the design was hers alone
to follow & fulfill & make visibly
striking & elaborate & proud with names & unknown corners now in the map of her
body she stretches across her country & weaves into her quilt a sad & missing history
but she’s going to admit the real mandate
is not to fulfill the futures she thought were hers but to stand still & brave in her own
living & thorngrowing predicament
She finds herself in everywhere something of a strewn nothing & the deliberation of mistakes becomes large in her patchwork as she wonders at what she’s woven well
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
This poem is from a larger manuscript by Mary Hammerbeck, entitled billy americana’s Poesía de la Frontera, which incorporates lyrics and themes borrowed from Americana, country, and border songs.
She smiles into her wineglass.
The woman at the next table
holds a dinner date, cradles
a cell phone in her free hand,
while Tony Bennet croons about losing
his heart in San Francisco.
As if on cue the phone at the front desk
rings like someone asking
for a second chance, but the song
has moved on to cable cars
climbing to the stars. It’s only
a recording, but at least one customer,
not so hungry as he thought,
puts down knife and fork. If only
the song weren’t a recording,
if only the vending machine
down the hall sold something
we really need, hotel guests
far from home holding on
to our cell phones, holding on
until the next flight home.
Later the bassoonist told me he imagined darts
of disbelief being cast from the steely gray audience
when he flubbed a pianissimo note during Mahler’s Ninth.
But to me the movement sounded perfectly fine.
I’m no critic, but I admire the bravery of performance,
the way musical notes translate nervous energy.
And the connections between phrases, as an engineer,
I understand that, know the danger points in a system,
where a single undersized bolt can lead to collapse.
That’s why I wasn’t shocked when, during intermission,
a functionary wearing tie and tails snuck on stage
palming a roll of duct tape to make that temporary repair,
wrapping a faulty chair hinge to avoid unseating
the bassoonist for the remainder of the performance,
to keep the audience in rapt attention,
so only his notes would tumble to the floor.
After the watercolor by Andrew Wyeth
Dressed for the past,
a woman rakes a farmyard
into October, separates
the living from the dead,
prepares the earth for what returns,
spring into summer.
Cornflowers in the foreground,
visibly blue, fade, while
the woman herself appears
ready to go to ground,
more water than pigment
or earthy tone,
vibration of who she was
in the visible spectrum.
I try to see her without
She says to me live
in the moment yes
but remember you were not
the first to discover
this place, earth’s predisposition
for flowers, for compost.
Dave Seter studied creative writing at Princeton University, where he earned his degree in civil engineering. Born in Chicago, he has lived on both coasts, and currently resides in Sonoma County, California. His first collection of poems, the chapbook entitled Night Duty, was published in 2010 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company.
Old Erie Canal
Manlius, New York. The towpath that skirts the Erie Canal. Thump of donkeys’ footfall replaced by the planing rush of automobiles jostling by. A dizzyingly warm day, early October. Smell of dry leaves thick in the air. The musky stench of the remaining underbrush so concentrated it is a perfume. Someone close at hand—scrape of leaves against the ground, flap of crows’ wings along the treeline opposite. The slow drag of the green and muddied canal an arc of divorce. One turtle sunning itself brazenly on a log in the middle of the channel, dark against the still, dappled water. One hawk circling over the autumn landscape, creasing its wings only when indolence threatens scuttle and crash. Its wingspan easily the equal of my height, and much more eloquent. One bee shimmering in its final hour of flight, none too sure of itself or of the day that sprung it from death this last and final time. One squirrel dashing out and then pausing beneath the red glove hung as memorial on the carved elm’s lowest branch. The glove a reindeer, a valentine. A single woodpecker hammering against the background, a new noise, and full. Green Lakes State Park a ripple in the sound. The fur of your coat. Your hands in my pockets, searching. The sun–drunk snake dropping off the ledge into the water. Your fear a scale, sloughed off in the crumbling dirt. Monarch coupled with a cricket on an overturned leaf, arching up over the yellow, the dun and bleached stain. Grass. A dragonfly where there should be none. You. A journey always already embraced, even here. And now. The emerald below us a lake. Further along, a mirror of snowfall, our anticipation. Sweat softening your arched eyebrows, slowing our twinned footfall. The canal. Then its loneliness.
Derek Pollard is co–author with Derek Henderson of the book Inconsequentia (BlazeVOX 2010). His poems, creative nonfiction, and reviews appear in American Book Review, Colorado Review, Court Green, Diagram III, H_ngm_n, Pleiades, and Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, among numerous other anthologies and journals. he is currently a contributing editor for Barrow Street, Inc., and is on faculty at Brookdale Community College, at Pratt Institute, and at the Downtown Writer’s Center in Syracuse, New York. Visit Derek on the web at http://www.twodereks.com/
Icarus on the Empire State Building
1. The Photo
High above New York City,
his feet twined around a cable
suspended from the Empire State,
Hine’s steelworker wears no safety belt
no helmet, nothing
between him and the street
but his muscled arms
all-American good looks
and casual—if posed—bravado.
Time to raise up the working man.
Who more spectacular?
2. Blue Collar
I didn’t know we were working class
only that my father
wore the blue uniform
of a guard on the MTA
only that he left the house
before anyone else got up
that he walked a mile
to the nearest trolley stop
that he got home earlier
than most fathers
smelling of cigars
and city sweat
that “union” was a sacred word
in our house
like the Virgin Mary
that a man who crossed picket lines
was a scab
that being a scab
was like wearing the mark of Cain
killing one’s brother
akin to taking another man’s job
taking the food off
his family’s table.
And my brothers were blessed
to be invited to join Local 7
the Ironworkers Union
to move up the ladder
from apprentice to journeyman
to full-fledged ironworker
that working on high steel
was like nothing else
the danger the freedom
the skill the sheer terror
of catching or firing rivets
ten twenty thirty stories
up, straddling a beam.
Nothing like that power.
4. My Father’s Number One Son.
Hero of World War II
special forces, Normandy: Jim
parachuting behind enemy lines
all the stories—if even half of them
Hero of the high steel
the wound in his gut
worming its way into his soul.
he was high-steel man
Hine’s Icarus incarnate.
5. One World Trade Center
Men in hard hats stride
like those acrobats
in Cirque du Soleil
in a quick thirty seconds
towards the Empire State
lifting its slender probe
they’re a little wild,
Or a lot wild,
And they’re all hustlers,
they’re all hard workers.
Phantoms of progress
risking their lives
isn’t it, Jim?
says the woman
who has seen Hine’s photo
in a magazine.
Though he was in knee pants
Jim agrees that yes,
and displays the photo
in his office
at Boston Steel Erection.
And his daughters
and son brag
about their father
and his smarty-pants sister
keeps her mouth shut.
Myths, everyone knows
they’re not true.
there’s some truth in them
even if the truth
begins in a lie.
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882
John Singer Sargent
Painted with power, said Henry James of the girls’ white pinafores, yet how staid
the pinafores would seem minus the mysteries of the dark background.
Is that a mirror? A window? In the cool depths, Jane confronts us, and Florence
sick to the death of posing for Sargent as if they were mere blades of grass.
Head turned towards Jane, she leans against the Japanese vase, taller than she,
and ultimately stronger for enduring seven transatlantic crossings.
Poor Florence, poor Jane, sisters in misery, mentally and emotionally deranged
in later life. Spare them: unbraid that future.
Leaning with her back against the vase Florence can close her eyes and imagine
herself as the figurehead on a schooner. She has led them all around the horn of Africa,
through waves swelling high as a Parisian town house. When they sight another ship,
she takes it on and they race towards Shanghai harbor, pagodas dotting the hillsides.
If Florence must endure being painted, she will refuse to look at Mr. Sargent,
such a homely stick of a man: that awful bumpy nose. She’ll gaze at the sister she reviles
for smiling, hoping the painter will make her look pretty. Florence is all-scowl,
contemptuous of the childish pinafore she must wear as if she were baby Julia
clutching her dolly. Or Mary Louisa standing with her arms behind her back, her hair
combed into ringlets, a shadow riding along her left side and down her shoulder.
Quick: spot the four sisters in the here and now. With the lash of his brush,
Sargent renders them immortal, fresh as a summer field ripe with corn.
Where I Am the Girl in the Backyard Photo
A girl in a cotton dress
sits on a kitchen chair, posed by her sister
with her knees clamped, her ankles crossed
in the usual places, only a thin layer of dust
between her and eternity.
Moths have eaten the secret
behind her smile. What else she should leave
to the moths: how to sit, how to stand and wait.
Say she comes across her sister, ages hence,
slumped over in her wheelchair.
She has reached eighty-five and weighs one pound
for each of her years, wanting to leave this life
and wanting to stay. She can not hear, only feel.
One son hates her other son. She hides her chagrin.
Though family, we are little more than strangers.
Say I lean towards her and brush my lips
across her cheek. Say she smiles.
There are no more secrets
only the knowledge that one will pass
though the gate before the other.
Only that nothing will remain
but a wrinkled photo: a backyard,
a chair, a girl in a cotton dress.
Claire Keyes is the author of two poetry collections: The Question of Rapture and Rising and Falling. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Prairie Schooner and The Newport Review, among others. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts and is Professor Emerita at Salem State University in Massachusetts.
from a window seat @ 35,000 feet
after Jackson Pollock’s Number 13A: Arabesque
drop/lets of every imagin/able color sp(l)attered onto the topography
a blend/ing of indiscernible and & pattern/less designs
—yet still open to shapes conjure/d up by the (Mind:
—A: 1) loved-one’s face
2) fuzzy stuffed animal
3) broken heart—
like paint on the wet canvas of an entranced —&d a n ci n g— Pollock
Flight attendants, prepare for landing.
Eryk Wenziak is a drummer, photographer, and teaches management at the graduate level. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in elimae; Short, Fast, and Deadly; Thunderclap Press; Used Furniture Review; Otoliths; Negative Suck; Psychic Meatloaf; Dark Chaos; Guerilla Pamphlets; Deadlier Than Thou (anthology); Phantom Kangaroo; Pipe Dream; 52 250; Bending Light Into Verse. His cover art was recently chosen for a chapbook of poems honoring Donald Hall, entitled, Olives, Now and Then.
Arm of Eve
after Albrecht Dürer
Everything that matters there.
The hand, not offering but weighing
before the first bite—
gray-black wash, the tip of the brush, white gouache.
It was not evil. It does not take a genius
to see this. What’s brilliant is weighing
consequences in a hand.
These hands held
The world will never satisfy.
Jacob Oet lives in Solon, Ohio. His poetry and images appear in Palooka Journal, Straylight Magazine, Moonshot Magazine, Petrichor Machine, and OVS Magazine, among others. His awards include the 2011 Younkin-Rivera Poetry Prize and the 2011 Ohioana Robert Fox Award. Jacob's first chapbook, Metamorphosis, is forthcoming in 2012 from Kattywompus Press. Student by choice, he is never sure which language he speaks. He says you may spot him in a park, forest or beach, with planted feet, arms stretched up and shaking in a breeze. But don’t let him see you; he likes to sing to strangers. He takes photos of snow, and hates winter.
Snow White versus Ivory Snow
She rewrites her life story
the one that ends
turns her page to describe
the small crack her prince made
in a laundry room mirror
thin white line
nearly invisible like his lie
steamed and dry-cleaned
faded memories, accusations
about his misplaced glasses,
lost bedroom slippers and
who is the fairest?
Snow White as wife or
another pink babe, soft toweled
displayed on the latest soap box
his fabric softening platform?
She launders daily for all his children
living in her shoe horn side split house
rewrites his life story
tipping his bathroom scale
with homemade baking
creating new fairytales
from gingerbread recipes
forget the cookie cutter man
and Grimm’s sugar house
characters Hansel and Gretel
sweet personalities consumed by
poisoned apple head witches
spitting out button mushrooms
at ivory snow now falling like
laundry detergent in rain barrel
the Emperor’s new threads unraveling
from Sleeping Beauty’s spindle
butter churned, brick-house pig
escaping, spinning tails, her dry wit
pink sponge curlers, rolling her hair, laughing,
splitting the ends, splitting with her husband
taking him to the cleaners
Debbie Okun Hill is a Canadian poet with over 190 poems published or pending publication in over 80 publications/websites, including Mobius and Binnacle in the United States, plus Vallum, The Windsor Review, Other Voices, and Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine in Canada. She is the recipient of several poetry awards; among them, the 2007 Ted Plantos Memorial Award. Another Trail of Comet Dust (Beret Days Press) is her second published chapbook.
Transplanting Rural Michigan
Sixteen steps up the dirt driveway
to her once-white house. Sixteen years
she’s been alive. Sixteen thumps in my chest
as we knock on her backdoor.
She’s due soon.
Next door, Gram’s Liquor Store fronts a home
with an aluminum pool in the unfenced backyard.
A rusted van hulks on the soggy patches of sod
that link these two lots of land,
as if a sunken ship had once floated there
where she, its treasured mermaid-child,
had ruled its fertile sea.
My new black pumps squish into wet grass.
The Lane Bryant blouse and blazer I bought for the occasion
clash against her hot pink stretch pants.
I stare at her protruding belly, her tight white t-shirt—
Who’s most uncomfortable this morning, I wonder?
I feel like a foreign body snatcher.
Across the street, row upon row of dark pin oak
extend their branches in our direction,
filtering sunlight to the marsh below.
I imagine a curly-haired boy swinging each one,
long brown limbs grown deft at forest life,
he’d know how far a branch could bend without snapping.
She and the trees tower over me.
My dwarfed heart—a circled stump awaiting
clearing amidst acres of green. Any other day,
I would strip off my nylons and rake my bare toes
through the cool mud, would pull my thick curls
into a messy bun, and drop, unashamed,
onto the peeling bench propped in the gravel.
Only here, I am the chosen one.
I’ve won her approval, the chance to be a mother
to her unborn son.
I tug at my hem as we pad through her doorway,
thinking of the family picture she spotted in us.
We can only guess at what she saw
in that Halloween themed Disneyland shot of us.
Brown and orange Mickey Mouse wreathes in the background,
Andrew’s long arms wrapped around my short and pudgy,
beige-sweatered frame, my chin-length curls pinned back.
We were laughing.
She welcomes us, yawning a smile, early
Our son beamed like Linus, who he’d
recently discovered. He lurched backward,
dragging the wagon he’d insisted
he was strong enough to pull through the dirt
parking lot, loaded with our three overpriced
winners. He’d wait to name his until after
he’d made it a face, he said. But I couldn’t
quite remember how to carve a pumpkin:
Would the seeds need to dry before salting
and baking? How long could a carved pumpkin
last in the open air before mold spores
began sprouting its gut? I wanted to rip
open last October’s carving set, unused
when that month bled bright red, its sonogram
shining clear and empty as the moon, my
stubborn fractured heart, or the backside
of a toothless grinning Jack-o-lantern.
We’d bought them three weeks early, so they sat
on the front porch like well-behaved children
day after day. Before we could carve them,
they were stolen. Our carving set, unused again.
Our son wished he’d given his a name even
without a face, then wondered if it went
where all once magical things go, like last
year’s Christmas tree or baby Juniper,
the girl who-might-have-been.
Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet who grew up in Imperial Valley, a small, border community in the Southern California desert. She earned my MA in English at CSUF, where she was the recipient of the Graduate Equity Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Verdad, Dash, Caesura, Mom Writer's Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, Cutthroat, Pinyon, Earth's Daughters, Rockhurst Review, Palabra, Prick of the Spindle, Mothering Magazine, Autumn Sky Poetry, Xenith, Write This, The Shine Journal, River Poets Journal, and are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, The Southwestern Review, and Poetry Quarterly. Jennifer was the 2010 recipient of the Emerging Voices Fellowship in Poetry through PEN Center USA and the November poet of the month at Moontide Press. She teaches composition and Chicana literature, and now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her family.
Nine days before he died the crows came at dawn
riding away from him on a bus.
Recent poetry by Tania Pryputniewicz appeared online at Autumn Sky, The Blood Orange Review, Connotation Press, and Linebreak. Her photo poem montage,“She Dressed in a Hurry, for Lady Di” (set to the music of Scriabin), was hosted by The Mom Egg in 2010; “Neferiti on the Astral” (set to Bartok) went up in April 2011 at Prairie Wolf Press. Poetry editor at The Fertile Source (www.fertilesource.com), she blogs at Feral Mom, Feral Writer (http://www.poetrymom.blogspot.com/). Tania lives in the Sonoma County redwoods with her husband and three children. She recently presented her montage work, facilitated and participated at A Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2011 women’s writing retreat at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
Terry Wright teaches creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas. His latest chapbook is Graphs (Kairos Editions). Terry believes his sunrise can beat up yours.