The snow half melted, the porch
never shoveled, a few houses still
adorned with wreaths, the smell
of crisp air laced with one
or two fireplaces in use throughout
the aging neighborhood. We walk
the labs to the school playground
where our youngest
is anxious to make it
across all twelve
time. We don’t
do much talking, just walk
and be present. We don’t have
other plans today. We walk
with no sense
of urgency, taking
the time to kick pebbles
out of paths and squish
the icy patches
to slush. “Quiet
today,” I say, the block
around the schoolyard
inordinately so, though
a few others, a mother
with an iPad in lap, yards
from two helmeted
a cement basketball
slab, presumably hers. What
through each of our minds? Around
my husband’s wrist
the rubber band bracelet
our daughter has made
for him, mine left
behind on the dresser. I will
my body forward, though the chill
on my earlobes is beginning
to gnaw and my mind
pensive. At the age of ten, our
daughter at that invisible
marker. In too short
the monkey bars will lose
warm appeal. How breathless
against the wind, change
Jenn Gutierrez has two collections of poetry. Her most recent, Silence Imbibed (2011), is available through most online outlets. Her previous work has appeared in such journals as Acentos Review, Bacopa Literary Review, The Texas Review, and others. Her new work appears in The Voices Project (2014).
Relativity, milkyways, black holes and all other stuff
Gravitation rules all. Emily Dickinson called it, the flood suction.
Next door neighbor believes life and objects are mostly down to earth,
except the human mind. He said,
"we just go about
mopping it up. I call it the theory of everything. Stephen Hawking
is still working on this symphony." So I asked him, "what about
quantum mechanics, is that sort of like a loud cantata
like a car wreck on a saturday night beneath
Or is it like string theory all wrapped up in tissue paper tied with
a pink ribbon or like rooms connected by sun light going through
opened doors?" Looking puzzled, he said, "I don't know.
Ask your barber or the bartender or the cook.
If anyone should
know it would be them."
I began peeling away zones of the inner mind like one big history
lesson. Searching about the hidden places. Turning all
skeleton keys. Making darkness turn the other way.
Backward, Turn Backward
Quiet in this square, stained wall-paper room, haunting low-toned
mirror and slow moving music dancing out the short ban radio. My
mind seem easily to walk backwards the steps of years.
reality is repeating my personal history with so many persons.
I lived through
their faces, voices, events like a movie. I do not need to meet them as they
are today. Some memories are sacred like fresh linen folded and put away
like rivers to the sea like beach bone-dried sea shells waiting for generations
to be collected. Remembered for what they were, and went like stamps on
Just to be put away in glass jars like red sweet jam held to sun light.
You wonder beyond yourself and with those who knew you as they are constantly on edges, disappearing, again and again—taking a little of you
them as if until now you had never been here, hardly lived, even known by others
Then fate like gravity soon has its way of placing you alone in this room
somewhere in this hour. And the mirror you look into is like an abstract image
you cannot fix. Becoming more invisible each time you take a peek.
to cut the lights off. Fearing next morning the mirror can no longer hold you.
It's the quietness, isn't it, that makes you think of these types of thoughts.
Stanley Noah has a BGS degree from The University of Texas at Dallas, and has been published in Wisconsin Review, Nexus, Main Street Rag, South Carolina Review, Poetry Nottingham and other publications in the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand. In 2006, he won The Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest and was named Poet of the month in September 2009 by http://www.fullofcrow.com.
obelisk of elephant eyes,
silk of muscular currents,
papyrus of the trunk,
you unravel into the flesh of canoes,
specters of curled ancestors,
or rib bones of sortilege.
some call you winter’s sextant,
others a pearlescent moth,
or a cloud-wrought stave.
yours is a stygian psyche,
established in the homage
of an asphodel mist.
in deciduous crib
under a mobile of stars, you gaze
from a rustling nursery.
with a dew coat
that startles ambrosine,
you exalt the dawn.
orange belly of log
glows hot under dorsal ash.
the fissured ribcage takes flames
like fingers swooning a piano.
outside, the vicious cold
makes the brine smoke,
eats the ears off strays.
radiators wax gelatinous
and so the world of finance
the hearth, suddenly,
is a magnetic storyteller,
pulls everyone close to confide.
embers crackle and murmur out sagas,
punctuated by the cast iron’s
it’s the same tousled ranconteur
who wooed our ancestors,
when the only roads
were hoof-stomped trails.
and though the night
swells more dark than it has been,
the stars, candent in simmer,
burst out waltzing,
so much more alive.
The tweak period spring licks winter
we stand nights on a hill in eastern Pennsylvania;
brisk air, galaxy clear above.
Unsignaled, we wrap arms about each other
awkward in heavy coats.
Below, lake in the valley still solid frozen.
Fish near its bottom huddled, gills trembling,
hope for the faint ripple to descend foretelling
ice-crack of the sun’s promise. More fortunate,
waiting, folded in each other, we have stars.
What tells the lemon to grow
so curved in flavor? You cup
the yellow of it like a
bubble bursting. I hold two more the same,
all bruised from juggling.
It is sticky hot inside.
A passive breeze necks around
the porch. The planks creak heavy
with afternoon. Mom lays out in short-shorts.
Says she is sick with
something only sunlight can
cure. Her hands are tight like plum pits
hanging at her side. We cut
a lemon and bite wedges, spit-sweet and
tongue-callous. Through thick
rind the bruises come bitter.
Sour snickers between our
teeth, puckered faces slowly
pulling apart from purple ruckle. Mom
sleeps while she tans, cleft
and fever-red. You ask me
to teach you juggling. I know
you are younger than you want
to be—than you think you are. I pick up
a new lemon; you
smile like mom used to. Two in
one hand, one in the other.
You watch closely how I toss
them up, a small sunrise every second.
Reverse cascade. Mom
drops, more bruises. You ask me
what juggling has taught me: To walk with hands
open; to hold on
to so much with just finger
tips; to never squeeze too hard.
More cascades, more bruises still.
Deep thuds stir mom awake. She is sun-stenched,
sky-blue in the face.
You want to juggle lemons
like me one day. I know that
you aren’t as young as I think
you are—as I want you to be. We bite
more wedges until
we’re sour-cheeked and bitter green.
In the next room mom watches
the TV through sand-bagged eyes,
glazed over when the weather report comes.
Her body is stiff
supine in the recliner,
palms open—so deep and black
with loss. We are prune-fingered
and yawning. All your eagerness, all this
like the tooth of a key deep
inside you, tumbling. I have
nothing to teach you. I just
keep picking up bruised lemons and dropping
them until we learn.
In this town, rock salt purples the snow;
the air too cold to see each other
downtown, amid the poor and busy
following the purple to avoid
stepping on toes. Elsewhere, an army
widow lights a cigarette, watches
the snowman in her yard begin to
melt. In her hands, a box full of her
husband’s letters. She flicks the tip—soon
the box will be bursting with ashes.
At the high school, a black boy thumbs through
his own copy of August Wilson’s
Fences. He feels the spotlight coming
when the teacher asks the class to read
parts—no one likes to say the word, but
all want to hear it. At the bookstore,
a skeptic buys a bible before close.
He takes his purchase to the corner
of the café and he reads, surprised
at how small and many the words are.
In this snow-strapped town, the raw air grinds
with gritting teeth—purple-footed folk,
breathe hard and step carefully on by.
The cross-eyed bible reader squints for
the truth. A widow turns to ash all
that had been steel in her. In this town,
the black boy stands before his class, says
Nigger right into their eyes, then sits.
This is how to remember me:
come to the morning colored window
cupped like porcelain smoke,
for a time—not like the vision,
so bitter red and broken,
so wet lip and kiss—
a ghost of poetry
wild with all our present breath.
Look slow-hearted where
dark glass marbles on the sky.
See what you want.
Let your corduroy voice
smooth your words
into velvet language.
When God asks if love or art
makes you cry more,
lie like a whisper.
Above the tree line, the world shows itself shyly, grandly
Like a bold young woman caught swimming in the nude
Walking without haste to the branch where a towel was hung.
Before she wraps herself she looks directly in your face
And talks as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
The crags and shallow tarns reveal their shapes
Outline and reflect the sky, defining and enlarging.
Mists from the valleys drift, dissolve
Snow fed brooks gurgle, slide away, showering
Mosses on the rocks while heading to the sea.
Freed from the shading forest, the sun animates the bees.
Flowers hurrying to come to seed.
Marmots gathering stores stuff cheeks and scuttle.
Mountain sheep laze their way through the pass
Browsing in unhurried companionship and amble on.
Behind this easy abundance a steady pulse—
Vole and songbird, spider and wolverine
Know that the fall must come, the elk in rut
Will fight and mate, the grizzly sow will hibernate
Bearing within the seeds of Augusts yet to come.
Little shocks, how we court them
not knowing how going far could go
too far, but here we are much later writing them down
I used to watch tv in the bathtub
reaching from the suds to turn the channel
I saw LBJ say he’d not run for president that way
Not to mention the temptation
of the old electric toaster still plugged in,
me advancing with the corner of a wet sponge
If I could get lightening struck and live
it might be interesting, especially
if accompanied by that symphony in my head:
the violinists in velvet tuxedos,
the voltage from conductor’s magic wand,
the overture as the curtain reels…
Small children attempt to feel by passing out:
held breath, elbows tucked, tight shut eyes,
quick body jerks to the head
even with the babysitter in the room
for the sake of those magenta fireworks,
the secret stash of sparks behind the lids
They scare themselves with incantations in the dark
try to waken slow enough
that the bed is still travelling out the window
or simply hang upside down to picture
the world newly strange, to feel the torrential
blood rush pounding to the ears
Something in us loves that leap,
the heart a blackbird wheeling in the sky,
and the coming back
Our houses were made of china.
Fragile facades that looked like they might dissolve
like steam from a morning mirror.
The tea we drank was pretend tea;
this left our ears open to the hortatory breeze
blowing in off blue fields.
A green bubble surrounded the town.
Mornings, we threw off the covers, spilled
our small, quaking hungers. The selves of self
fell in line: after you, my dear, after you.
Night’s encumbrances had snagged and caught
in the tall, tall pines. We left them behind.
We dug holes, hid in bushes, ran down alleys.
Enchantment came in a foreign tongue, ghost words
that eluded us. Out of the corners,
there were signs. We lived at the convergence;
dirt under our nails, the downward slope of the front
lawn. We saw how it might be done.
A time, near noon, when we thought
There has been no going back
to the frozen creek bank in Sugar Grove,
where as a child I pressed my feet onto the ice
hoping for the breaking through,
the shatter of what was built.
It had taken me seven years
to think I could be there again,
knowing it no longer belongs
to my sisters, my brothers, or myself.
The house brooding, something proud
but hurt about its red bricks.
Something about the hollyhocks stems,
hirsute and longing,
—they kept me while I was away.
In the summertime my father took us
to Hide-Away-Hills where Nancy
and her painted bird houses lived deep
in the woods. Her wooden walkway lined
with ceramic faces, the kiln burning things
until they became real.
The walkway of a lion’s mouth,
the mouth of a salmon, sunflower opened
next to the still legs of a blue horse.
My sister and I would swim
in the pool surrounded by pines and hills.
Water too deep, the metal so gray it was almost blue;
years of rust came off to the touch.
Sometimes I would dive into the water
stay low to the floor. Hold my breath,
let my arms and legs hang
as my body carried itself up.
My hair a diadem of flushed gold and russet
encompassed the back of my head,
an almost leaving of the body.
The slate sky quivered as thunder came.
I thought the rain along the water top
was a heartbeat of a god,
that it meant I was reincarnated.
I could come back as something else:
tongue of serpent,
the red fur of hound,
mouth of lion.
Light meant death,
noise was simply a warning
to leave the water.
He drove past boxelder and hackberry tress,
pointed out cabins he might buy
after he sold our farmhouse.
How he would downsize once we were gone.
How he would teach occasionally,
stay alone in the woods with his pipe and books.
A man like that thought he didn’t need much.
A man like that thought he was alone
no matter how close you were.
It has been seven years since
I have been to the land and the house I grew from.
After his death my siblings and I split up
his things: they took chests, vanities and artifacts.
I placed his books and briefcase
in the trunk of my car and left them there.
There is no going back to the season
before the house wasn’t enough,
before the lives of his children carried
out past what he could see.
There is no going back
to the fear of the creek bank.
And there it was, the weight of gold
laid deep within my chest. The sadness
that comes from a dream too real.
Why do we beg for our secrets to be kept
when only wanting the release of the self?
Oblivious to the radiance of the moon,
of what will be and never be.
As the bloodroot emerges from the bed
of the forest and then not. As Ohio was home,
the creek swaying but bound to the foothills.
We cannot betray this place.
The branches heavy with frost, give it time
to give itself up, give it time.
In an attempt to contain the body,
you sat me on your bed, placed me
on canvas. We have stars that fade
into stars. Light blue highlights
my kneecaps, cyan rounds my calves.
See the crossed legs, the stillness needed
to be vain. The glory of the brush, of something
that can teach you how to keep.
Vinyl skips and we lie down on the floor.
The greed of outside wind pushes on the glass,
keeps us against each other, near the heat of metal.
We practice restraint. We practice impulse and lying.
I feel the swaying of the gods, each thigh proof
of their singing. Da dra, Da dra, Da dra.
He covered the painting thick with gesso.
Da dra, Da dra. There is nothing
sweeter than forgetting the body.
It has not been the story of redemption.
Left there, on the sidewalk cracked from the attempt of dandelion weed,
in her silk nightdress bent and sobbing—
I held on to that image of my mother,
the unkempt blond curls, the glasses only used for night,
her hands reaching as my father loaded my sister and I into the car,
black doors closing with a slam.
I slept most the drive, dreamt of a mouth, open but silent.
Its silence the sort of high-pitched noise you hear in a room too quiet.
They meet at the south end
by the dry fountain,
dry for an hour.
Some use walkers,
others canes; a few
are shaky but upright.
They move slowly,
in a careful line, talk
about bone doctors,
Medicare, the price
of a decent funeral:
“Throw my ashes
to the wind; I always
liked the outdoors!”
They laugh and pass
locked shops for
the young trying
to look younger:
bras that push up, out.
At the first turn,
an old man falters,
drops to his knees.
The line breaks
and becomes a circle
Brought back to his
feet, he says he’s fine,
though they hover until
he can keep up. To prove
he’s all right, he tells
a filthy joke about
a preacher and a pig.
Everyone laughs and some
try to tell even worse.
At the end, the doors
about to open,
the fountain gush,
the oldest lady tells
the dirtiest joke.
“A hobo ate a woman’s
pie, then asked for
seconds; she said sure
and hiked up her skirt!”
The mall walkers are left
with that, still laughing
while their serious sons
and daughters help them
I tell Mr. Carter there's a crack in the ant farm
After the bomb, trees will wither, milk will glow.
You might live a year before the insects get you
but first you have to survive the blast.
Duck under your desks
and stick your heads between your knees.
I pretend to do as I'm told.
When he turns his back I crawl away
on six legs, triumphant.
I’m stretched across the back seat
sliding with each sharp turn
down tree-shrouded streets.
We hit the snaking highway,
headlights cross over my mother’s
Grace Kelly scarfed-head,
her cigarette-hand on the wheel.
The dingy tunnel, narrow and long,
launches us onto the Liberty Bridge.
Leaning against the half-open window,
the stench of rotten eggs fills my nose.
Mountains of coal and iron ore
stand along the black river’s edge.
Mill stacks shoot wild orange plumes
into the night.
Mom and I sing
with Doris Day on the radio,
Que sera sera.
My mother died at home at fifty-four,
under the window in the bedroom facing
the master bedroom, bath en suite,
fifth-floor corner condo
in a flat-field suburb south of Chicago.
I remember Dad’s call, that Sunday,
my two year old napping in her room.
Roads crossed so many times,
I crossed again.
That drive, that very day, the farthest.
In his clawfoot tub, he lounges: ankles perched on the ceramic
it’s about transformation. Water pearls down newly-shaved legs & he
wonders what it’d feel like to have scales, a tail. Pressing his legs
together, he pictures them melding: feet broaden & splay out, skin
flakes into scales, green ombrés fin to waist. But it all fades, like seafoam
breaking onto semi-dry land. Pain makes a mermaid. He raises the straight
razor he found in Father’s drawer & slits open both shins. Bubbles & blood.
Before descending into the subway’s maw,
Shop grates drawn, sleepers stretched out
on benches, in doorways, just beginning to stir,
but already someone with a broom has gathered
fallen buds into neat piles on the square’s red bricks:
heaps of fairy goblets on long green stems
left over from yesterday’s celebration—
Morris dancers in knickers,
jangling ankle bells, clacking sticks.
Already this early, at his coffee shop station,
the self-appointed doorman:
straggly hair and beard, gray, flecked with white;
paper cup in one hand:
patrons drop in their coins, no words exchanged;
his vest and trench coat, bulging with rolled newspapers,
slips of notepaper crumpled in shirt pocket—is he,
bum, bard, or bodhisattva?
Yesterday: I saw red-eyed Sappho, stumble along the sidewalk
oblivious to the crush— office workers headed home—,
her gaze downcast, mumbling verses as she passed shops
with pansies in window boxes and recessed doorways:
from their shadows satyrs and sirens, her familiars,
leaned forward, greeted her. This morning,
leather-skinned Li Po, staggers past, scattering pigeons,
ending a night filled no doubt with wine and song.
Strands of hair peeking from under knit cap,
he lurches from this lamp post to the next,
embraces one as a long lost friend,
spits curses—“Motherfucker”—at another
as at a sworn enemy, “Motherfucker.”
Early “patrons” at tables of the not-yet-open outdoor café,
my confrères: ruddy-faced men in hand-me-down work boots,
coats half-buttoned, sweatshirts showing beneath:
White-bearded Walt Whitman shares a cigarette
with someone who could be his twin.
Nearby, Basho, tonsured, in need of a shave,
scans yesterday’s headlines; at his feet,
two plastic bags stuffed with only he knows what.
And, just back from the west, Po Chü-i
sits under a shade tree in new leaf,
his one crutch propped against the trunk,
scribbling poems on paper scraps,
which he neatly folds, sticks into his pocket.
Parked beside cardboard boxes of books in a shopping cart,
his movable library, finally, here is portly Marx,
signature beard splayed on chest,
eyes fixed on a book propped open on his belly,
deep in conversation with himself—something just audible
about “oil prices . . . simpler times . . . bosses . . . ;”
one moment serious, holding up both sides of the argument,
the next chuckling to himself, amused.
Before descending into the subway’s maw,
before facing the mess on my desk,
such, these May mornings, such is the company I keep.
Mark Pawlak is the author of seven poetry collections and the editor of six anthologies. His latest books are Go to the Pine: Quoddy Journals 2005-2010 (Plein Air Editions/Bootstrap Press, 2012), and Jefferson’s New Image Salon: Mashups and Matchups (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). His work has been translated into German, Polish, and Spanish, and has been performed at Teatr Polski in Warsaw. In English, his poems have appeared widely in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, For the Time Being: The Bootstrap Anthology of Poetic Journals and in the literary magazines New American Writing, Mother Jones, Poetry South, The Saint Ann’s Review, and The World, among many others. He supports his poetry habit by teaching mathematics at UMass Boston, where he is Director of Academic Support Programs. He lives in Cambridge.
twelve years later
my neighbor’s chimney streaming
like a mirage among snow laced trees
invisible waves of warmed air, evident
by its rippling rise of currents cresting
hypnotic vapors against below zero
wind chilled temperatures, where
for the first time ever, I noticed
a sparrow by its own forgotten self
doused warm at chimney’s ledged edge
before flying intoxicated away, crooked
and distorted its flight like a drunk
leaving a bar.
Mad for not learning his last name
I think of Barry, the homeless man,
who lived periodically on a steaming
grate, one block off Broad.
When he appeared
I sent breakfast over from a street cart.
Just before Easter break, gave him a bike,
and before my second winter’s break,
during blizzard conditions,
phoned police on my way to class
told his location, to be taken to a shelter, until
several hours later, swaddled in rags,
head hidden under dirty blankets
I called Barry, Barry, Barry
and how he was mad because I called the police
and how I offered to a drive him to the shelter
and how he rose like Lazarus accepting
and how he cleaned the cars hidden windows, without me asking
and how I took the trunk’s carpet to line the passenger seat
and how I drove him there worried by his cough
and how I silently panicked that he may try something
and how I threw the carpet into a trashcan, after I dropped him off
and how I telephoned, shelter after shelter, inquiring about a Barry
and how everyone who answered asked his last name
and how across winter’s way
twelve years later
my handy man checking the heater
removed the metal covering
in my piped wall, then
calling me by my first name only
showed me a dead sparrow
trapped inside the flue, said
to close to the edge
it must have fallen down the chimney
trying to warm itself
when things got too cold to bear.
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is currently the Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review and co-curates The Fox Chase Reading Series. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Images of Being, (StoneGarden.net publishing) was released October 2011. She is a recipient of 2013 AEV Grant for Poetry and is the Poet in Residence at the Ryerss Museum and Library located in Philadelphia. Her work has been published widely in the small and electronic press. Diane has performed her poetry at venues along the east coast of the United States. Visit her on the web at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com.
Jesus is propped up against a storefront in Times Square sitting on an iron grate
flashing neon lights rain down color on his big brown feet and calves that stick
out of his too short pants. His coat is tied with a rope, and his fingernails are
crescents of black. People have left things in his lap—an overripe banana, a
take-out box from KFC—and someone has draped an expensive tartan scarf
around his neck. He looks a bit like a shrine, how the items accumulate around
his blue-and-white coffee shop cup for coins—the way you might adorn a beloved
statue to prove your faith.
I spoke to you during a summer storm in the Marigny
You crouched on the arm of the couch.
I sat on a rickety dinner chair by the front door
as raindrops encroached on my toes.
I spoke and something swirled inside me
gin, or a brushing glance—
I spoke of the wind and our breath,
the trash on the street,
our best and our most mundane thoughts,
all of our war, commerce, abundance and loss
all that we have never seen or considered
all of it
all at once,
the ongoing act of creation;
the body of god.
The comforting heat of your silence resolved
into a singularity of response.
Rain and lightning continued to flicker
over our neighbor’s lavender house and the crumbling
steeples of the old church across the street;
the storm swelling until we had to shut it out.
But there was no shutting out the life that loomed inside you
coming at us with as much beauty and apprehension as that night.
Trevor Tingle has tried and failed to sail around the world. He lives with his wife and son in New Orleans, and has work coming out, or has been published by Jersey Devil Press, New Laurel Review, Maple Leaf Rag 5, Prime Numbers Magazine, and Dead Flowers: a poetry rag.
I pulled the Poly-Fil’s tungsten luster
a voice that hung itself
around the black wings of my windowsill.
Under the moon, in a clearing, a dog
rearranged a pile of entrails
into a raccoon with its snout
and forepaws. In a few hours, the sun
will shellac the trees with its grease makeup.
The smell will overwhelm me: lavender
and dying cardinals.
The pomegranates that he’d bought dissolved
as the light that filtered through the window
sparked the dust, to peel away the edges of the world we see.
She built her kitchen out of books and set
her meals on top of Pushkin’s songs, and warmed
her fingers with the breath of mornings in the spring,
by Chaucer, then spoke the words aloud
dancing waltzes with the syllables that drive the mind insane
disappearing through the consciousness of words
that draw the bodies of soliloquies together
because it’s meant to be.
She hummed the romance of the bees, and honey dripped
as she stepped across linoleum piano keys
with bare feet—to set the portrait down.
He had no face, this vision, just the pink and orange
bled its pigment over her skin in the sink.
Fibonacci is a beautiful name; it rolls off the tongue
Of course, in math class, I always stared out the window.
Through the complexity of 0’s, 1’s, the browser
shouts “Bristol Palin leaves Hollywood, returns
to Alaska after a revelation about life with her son!"
I can’t help but hear the new neighbors. All day they sit
on the stoop, drink and smoke. It’s not clear who lives there
besides the woman, who rasps about beer at ten in the morning.
On walks we pick up natural detritus: leaves, rocks, sticks—
whatever snags on our eyes and hearts. We long to live
in the country where beauty can always walk over us.
The numbers were noticed long before Fibonacci.
Ancient Indian masters used them as memory tools
for religious rites—an invention to better unite with God.
Have you heard the news? Fibonacci’s numbers
are seen in tree branchings, leaves on a stem, pine cone
spirals, the Nautilus shell—even in the way a fern uncurls.
I uncurl to hear it, though I might not understand
the overlay of numbers on nature or exactly how to use them.
I might only be a one in infinity, but I breathe purpose.
Walker Bass received a certificate from Middle Tennessee State University’s Writer’s Loft program in January 2013, where Jeff Hardin was his mentor. The journals Number One and Third Wednesday have published a few of his poems. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sun twisted loose: a chill of pine & mist, unleashed,
into cellulose. Quilllike twigs snapped;
skullcap crushed underfoot. You’ll be swallowed by
dark if you leave. The pallescent, encroaching
moonlight, which you eased into, spilled through the foliage
like snowfall, dissolved like snowfall.
I lit the firepit. Thought: let the flames’ false balladry
seduce me. Moth allure, slow burning match.
You look like a doll, you breathed, a gypsy tart,
a ruby collared hummingbird. You traced my face, then my hair.
Underbreath: you smell of merlot, tobacco, a city
after rain. Behind your wall of teeth, murmuration.
Above, the satellites wallowed in their brilliant hollow
but I could no longer recall. What took you so long?
Flower Conroy ’s first chapbook, Escape to Nowhere, was selected as first runner up in the Ronald Wardall Poetry Prize and published by Rain Mountain Press. Her poetry is forthcoming/has appeared in American Literary Review, Poydras Review, Jai Alia, Sierra Nevada Review, and other journals. She earned her MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Hank and Waylon on the jukebox,
crunching to the marrow, scrounge
pizza shop dumpsters and orchards,
while Willie and George are singing
songs about Wyoming, about hollers,
songs about drinking whiskey, bleached
bones of dead cattle and lost children,
dusty answers in beer-cans and car-seats.
Those who say, “I hate honky-tonk” have never been
broken down, West of Illinois or South of Kentucky.
Their ears have been tarnished,
smoking alone in crowded rooms
stuttering the importance of age.
When everyone disappears for good, fireworks
fall from the skies and fanged amoebas drink
warm marrow from our charred bones, foliage
growing at the sight of blood and death,
tomorrows bringing strangers with tails,
beards growing on sea-cucumbers, slick.
Boil the carcass for several hours with the leftover onion skins and carrot ends.
Allow the drizzle to gather outside instead & let the aches and pains remote in from another
planet. The future: bleak and exhilarating. My body: a coal, ash still warm.
Home is States of relative Unity.
Home has been sitting on its ass for thirty years waiting for a hero,
when it was the one that should’ve been heroic.
Digress & wake. Awake in the dark every morning. Steal oneself.
Make a note of it. Head a mess of moldering leaves & 14 count them,
14 crows perched on a wire. A murder, like unprecedented silence.
Up with a start and follow the current through the wall to find better ways to be appreciative.
Home is a machete hid under the bed.
Home is besieged by pixilated tits and ponzi schemes, never enough money,
& several thousand of my neighbors running from a cloud of teargas.
Rise! I walk the floorboards in love. Give my plaintive regards to The Ronettes and Nina Simone,
and plan a winter garden. It spatters outside & The San Francisco Bay sucks in its gut to pose for
photos. The windows splinter and admonish. Everyone is so far away. They will need mittens,
scarves, chemical hand warmers, sleeping bags, beans and bread.
Home is a sun that gives no heat. Home humors me by saying:“everything’s gonna be all right.”
Home is also warm coffee on the back porch Saturdays,
and the sudden appearance of a friend bearing a bottle of cheap wine.
I write this from a cubicle built on a landfill, a precarious little bird nest.
Outside the window there are sundry examples of ugly public art, five acacia trees, two cyclists,
a sandwich shop, and a dead unicorn resting in the lap of a weeping virgin. To the west
lies a city of castles, a land of plenty.
Home is the roar, the voices of several thousand neighbors, a river coursing through the gorges
of Market Street, Powell Street, & Sutter Street. A massive reverberation. A poltergeist.
that didn’t make me wait.
I just picked it up.
No one ever asked you anything,
even when you took forever,
knowing you were exhausted
from filling other people’s dreams.
The night was shining
in the moonlight.
The moon added an extra letter,
mooon, it was that shiny.
A moment of moonlight.
The sun on the window.
Both poured in at once...
Ken Fifer‘s poetry collections include Architectural Conditions (2012, with architect Larry Mitnick), After Fire, Water Presents, The Moss That Rides on the Back of the Rock, and Falling Man. He has edited three anthologies of poems by children. His poems have appeared in many national and international journals, including Theodate, Barrow Street, New Letters, and Ploughshares. His translations of contemporary Turkish poetry (with Nesrin Eruysal) have appeared in The Wolf (UK), Söyleşi Üç Aylık Şiir Dergisi (Turkey), The Literary Review, and other magazines in the United States and abroad. He has a PhD in English Language and Literature from The University of Michigan.
Shower the Workbench
The grinding stone strikes the blade; sparks shower the workbench. The newspaper splashes
I shove my head and face way under the foundation. Hydraulic lifts the mower. I prop a
piece of wood for safety under the bushing.
The President of the United States ponders a change in tactics. He declares himself Your
War President. Foliage breaks out all over North Carolina. An enraged lover dismembers his
friend’s body in New Orleans. The authorities see the girl’s head on the stove when they
arrive at the apartment. The rest of her body’s in the Frigidaire. The killer leaves a note in
another city and jumps from a hotel window.
The dove flies out its second wind. The man with the gun marches toward his prey. His
heart beats faster for the bird with smeared feathers. Declared witches by the clerics those
walk to the gallows. Their heads fall, necks limp, feet barely touching the ground. Prisoners
peer from the high cells of windows. Relatives come to talk through the bars. My mother
feeds the tenants on our shanty’s porch. She stands in the kitchen and talks with them
through the screen-door. She’s pleased they liked her peas.
Workers crop tobacco all day and poke sticks of green up to hangers on tierpoles—
Lee Terry hefts a stick with one hand. R. J. Bell picks up the front end of a Model-A.
Skeeter lifts a Plymouth and My-Father-The-Strongest muscles straight out a 200-pound
sack of 3-9-6 fertilizer, raises it over his head—and yodels. The Pilgrims gather, 1621,
Thanksgiving. O Kill-for-Shade-South—let us sit and visit. October yarrows ditch-banks
the color of my mother’s apron. Yonder comes a cotton-picker coming down the road, puffing like
a locomotive carrying a load. Hey, Mister Cottonpicker, when you getting paid? I reckon as
sack gets weighed! The Academy of Politics and Education verify corruption. Mummers mum
and pincers mince. Differential joints whine; steel-guitars cry on. The journalist gets his
hand blown away—raises his nub. It looks like a bloody chicken’s neck, a band tying off the
blood. The Humvee’s burning in Baghdad. The victim’s missing moments with his family.
A boy’s cap sails across the moon and cheeses. Black cat crosses the road at vespers.
The priest kneels before his bench. Organist pedals into the sanctuary. Shoes squeak:
congregation exits. Headlights beam into the night.
Shelby Stephenson lived in Pittsburgh from 1965 to 1968, when those furnaces blazed while he attended the University of Pittsburgh.
We’d share coffee mornings in her little kitchen
so we’d both know what they really said.
She made me sleep in her twin bed,
while she curled up on the couch with Ralph.
A dozen mugs were in a cupboard,
no two of them the same. Her favorite had
a picture of Elvis, and a digital chip inside;
music poured out when hot coffee poured in.
She discovered once by accident,
if she placed the cup in a certain spot
and opened up the cupboard door,
light beaming in made it sing then, too.
She never moved that cup again.
Months and months later, after the wake,
I brewed a strong pot for the packing up.
I opened the cupboard, but Elvis was gone,
the cups all disarranged.
I found him lurking in the shadows,
moved him back into the light,
but when I closed the door
and re-opened it—nothing,
just a creak in the hinge,
the stale scent of cigarettes
and old cat litter.
Michael Albright has published poems in various journals, including Loyalhanna Review, Uppagus, U.S. 1 Worksheets, The New People, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and upcoming issues of Stray Branch and Wilderness House Review. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange and the Squirrel Hill Poetry Workshop. Michael lives on a windy hilltop near Greensburg, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Lori, and an ever-changing array of children and other animals.
Fluff white towels and place a wash cloth
and smooth its corners into small gifts.
Cover it with a white spread and fold
over its hem. Plump white pillows
and place them beneath his head.
In the chipped cup set pyracantha
in praise of him. Beware lest he pricks
his finger which will bleed like the huge red ball
you will pull down from the sky
until it sinks out of sight until it is a line
behind a blue-hulled boat drifting beneath a cloud.
Lint coats the fire extinguisher,
Ruby left a Stonehenge of lipstick,
I hover between spiritual
and shower curtains.
Swear she haunts the throw rug,
twists the bathmat into a periwinkle crepe.
Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. An MFA candidate living in Tucson, he is a recipient of the University of Arizona Foundation's Poetry Award. Forthcoming poems will appear in Plenitude, Four Chambers and Paper Nautilus.
Cooking a small fish over
three leaping cats with tongues
that hiss at the frying pan brings
minutia in contingency to scales.
Remaining conscious while
the earth moves beneath feet
demands that a hand roasts.
Learned early, the spices dusted
over the muscle, fins, and detail
nets the best taste possible
given flesh dead and alive.
Singed and singing, the bass
in the marinade reels with
a spatula whenever rhythm
provides motive and weight.
The heat in everyday surprises
twists any cold-blooded
slalom run into childhood
memorization. The line taut
with decapitation and gutting
breaks for enjambment and flares
from game oil. Baited parents
put a pout into the pond for
anyone evolved in hip boots
to land for a smile.
In the sea I lived with mermaids.
We got along because we had our own
ways of doing things: mermaids attracted
men to the deep, where they grew fins,
turning into tuna. Jellyfish stung swimmers,
electrifying them so they didn’t reach beaches.
Sea-monsters were shy, living inside caves,
but they sometimes crushed ships, and sharks
had their own theme music as they ate bathers.
I watched how they performed their duties,
making me envious of their activities.
I’d had to learn how to breathe underwater,
to drown at first, to gulp down the ocean.
Now I love being at the bottom, shaking
my chains, moaning fears for shipwrecks.
But I don’t mean it. Here, the moonlight
can’t reach me, or any human anxieties.
Only the dark here and my ghostly glow.
I want to float up to waves, to be a sign
that everything is doomed and beautiful.
The fire should glow red and orange.
People desperately attempting to escape
from doors and windows should glitter
with shattered glass over melted skin.
The firefighters know they’ll save nothing.
That someone else will identify the bones.
The chalkboard will vanish in white smoke.
Desks will become black and charred.
Textbooks will only add to the blue flames,
knowledge no one will be able to gain. Science
projects, mistreated plants, will be glad to burn.
No more rays of sun, then shoved deep in the dark.
Snow and sleet dumped from the sky
at intervals. By sundown
drifts of dense accumulation rippled and rolled out across the field
where deer find refuge
by a congregation of gnarled and heirloom
apple trees. When you looked, the light was so thin and magical
you could spin it around your fingers
and be in a million different places at once or be a million different
people. Or be yourself. Here.
Gary Rainford lives on Swan's Island year-round with his wife and daughter. His poetry is published in a wide range of literary magazines. Last year, he was a featured poet/reader on Wesley McNair's "Maine Poetry Express," and this past autumn, Gary was the featured author at The Roundup Writer's Zine. In February, he was poet-in-residence at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park.
Still Waiting for the Miracle
I’m still waiting for the miracle…
For the miracle to deliver me from this book store
shopping mall waiting room
These afternoon hours of compact disc fetishism
and trips to the bank
Repeating the same numbers to the tellers
day after indulgent day
For a temporary serotonin feast
Displaced by dinners of bland baked chicken
With barbecue sauce smeared on top
Like the anointed head of some 13th century monk.
I’m just a 90’s kid pushed forward in time
Made to walk the chewing gum streets
of the new millennium
With androids, apples, applications, Honey Boo Boo
lymph node surgeries gone wrong
Drugs that don’t work, side effects projected
onto bathroom walls
Vicious cycles beamed into my eyeballs
Along with armies of Jerry Seinfeld zombies
Regurgitating and swallowing themselves
as many times as it takes.
Brett Petersen is a lover of language who gets a kick out of arranging words in various combinations. He obtained his BA in English from the College of Saint Rose in 2011. His work has been published in journals such as Dear Abby Normal, Up the River and Penduline. He is currently working on putting together a collection of short stories and poetry. He has lived in Albany, New York his entire life.
This Fragile Web
Amy Wright is the Nonfiction Editor of Zone 3 Press and the author of three chapbooks, with her fourth forthcoming in spring 2014. Her work appears in a number of journals, including Drunken Boat, Tupelo Quarterly Review, Quarterly West, Bellingham Review, Brevity, DIAGRAM, Western Humanities Review, and Denver Quarterly. She was awarded a 2012 Peter Taylor Fellowship for the Kenyon Review Writers' Workshop.