Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

From My Notebook

by Martha Landman

A year ago I dreamt a girl in a red bikini,
Of no fixed abode, took refuge out of

Wedlock. She dashed for me where I was
Nursing my depression at the back of the bar

I understood wild life, I spent years in animal
Conservation camps; here I had no user guide

I took her hand across the table and swallowed
Our encounter was brief; at ten o’clock she was dead

The idiots around us, in a stir of humanity,
Backed away from the blood patterns on the floor

The moment, eerie and odourless, spread like a chain
Letter: the cop’s writing was curved, single-spaced

His young passion hell-bent on a double episode
His steel caps shone eternally; the Keep Australia

Beautiful-guide in his pocket seemed irrelevant
Her beauty dwindled, compromised her reputation

Adrenaline pumped wild with possibility, my breath
Collapsed at the indiscreet shake of my shoulder —

The whole in the door doesn’t match, I heard
My wife’s voice in rich aroma: “Coffee Dear!”

Brittle Handles

by Perry L. Powell

Reach out and it’s missing. Reach out and all you touch is gritty air. Reach out and there is thick coat ice on all your branches and your work is unavailable.  Your work is unavailable and your power is out.  You have no power to play. And no play to power. When nipple to nipple, where are your warm ones? Reach out to remember. Not owning the world, you cannot fix it. Not fixing the world, you cannot own it. Not the world you own.  Not the fix you’ve blown. Not broken off like a figurine still on the shelf. So once this tree has fallen over your lines, you reach out and what’s to hold? Yet again here you go riding your bike in all directions over black ice.

Guardians

by Douglas Polk

grandpa and grandma were guardians of Spring and Summer,
working hard year around to keep the spirit alive,
preserving the sun in shelves of jars,
in a cellar dark and dank,
the taste of chokecherry and strawberry,
stored to battle the gloom of winter,
canned corn and beans,
evidence of the growing power of the summer time sun,
and wine of apple and grape,
and even some dandelion,
to keep the spirit light,
and the body warm,
in dark winter nights,
all the work of grandpa and grandma,
guardians of the Summer time sun.

ILSTON WOOD

by Byron Beynon

Returning again to the footpath
we followed it through the wood,
sounds of a nearby stream,
a fluidity of notes and fresh tones
for our breathing shadows,
alert to the surviving senses all around.
The sculpted faces of the trees,
with nature's canopy
wide-awake under which to meet
a memory of something real,
spreading towards a darkening green.
Swallow holes, summer banks,
birds we could not see,
with wild flowers rewinning the landscape;
this threatened gallery
where history blends
with the vital air,
a secret undergrowth
waiting patiently,
the way through
trodden by the ages
that brought us here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lines

by Nancy May

spring sunset
hanging from a feeder
hunger birds

On a Line Too Lightly Drawn to See

by Todd Mercer

The fire in the hearth dies down
so the small talk ashes over.
Delia fights her tendency
to spiral intellectual,
to unwrap the hour,
defeat the mood by
shifting into the role
of omniscient observer.
Delia’s cursed with heavy knowledge,
field studies of Game Theory,
she breaks down behavior mysteries,
can map pedestrian plans
of conventional men
with If/Then diagrams.
Anyway the coals glow orange,
and ahead is slumber before long,
or else insomnia,
a float in anomie,
an anesthetic fog.
Delia realizes
what happens next
is not of epic importance.
“Bring it.
Go home,” she says,
malaised,
ambivalent.
“Go, go,”
she murmurs
from some incredible distance,
“Go, go, bring it home.”

Pirate J's (Outside Looking In)

by Shaquana Adams

I wonder what it's like to work at Pirate J's...
Serving fish all day to strangers...

Side of hushpuppies, side of fries.
They don't care, it's your food.

But do they care who you bring?
No why? Who cares?

But would they remember if you came in
with someone different than usual?

I suppose...maybe.
Why?

An interracial couple might draw an
eye or two if only for curiosity.

(Silence)
...No one cares

No one cares about what?
I think it's interesti--

No one cares about a white boy who once came in
with a black girl, but now dines with a white girl!

(Silence)
Whether they care or not... they noticed.
~~~
I think about that old conversation
every time I go to that restaurant.

A part of me always stings
knowing that other people knew.

One day I'll ask them what it's like to work at Pirate J's
and they will tell me "It's interesting".

LEGEND OF A DREAM

by Richard Schnap

Where is the mountain you aimed to climb
Its sun-speckled peak higher than the clouds?

(It turned into a hill all humbled from rain
Its smaller summit much easier to reach.)

Where is the hill you settled to scale
Its simpler stair worn smooth by the wind?

(It turned into a rock just higher than my head
Where I wouldn’t fall far if I plunged back to earth.)

Where is the rock so creviced and cracked
Its surface offering an effortless ascent?

(It turned into a pebble I hold in my palm
And softly caress as I make other plans.)

And where is the pebble polished yet plain
You always would carry like a small precious pearl?

(I gave it away to a boy with bright eyes
And told him that someday he’d understand why.)

It was what it was now that it isn't anymore

by Amy Soricelli

i used to care enough on alone days to dig deep under the bed  searching like a sailor for buried secrets
maybe a love letter would uncurl its edges remind me why the heart beats the eyes flutter.
i don't care enough anymore for that.

i used to care enough on rainy sacks of clouds to warm up cozy with wine incense.
maybe a sudden shift in the air would drift by on a sensuous reminder of lust hair tossed back thrown down.
i don't care enough anymore for that.

i used to care enough to stomp my feet hard down i would say this i would say that i would drag my thoughts
along in a heaped up paper bag spill them out like blue glass marbles.
i don't care enough anymore for that.

i used to care enough to scrape the hate off the walls off the ugly world draw its bleak curtains fast into light
swirl the cement mixer shiny yellows pull cotton balls from  five year old sticky fingers.
i don't  care enough anymore for that.

now i roll away down a bridge.
hear me splash.
watch  me sink

Within the Depths, All the Days

by Ralph Monday

I never realized that the mind is a movie
Projector until one day walking the beach,
Used condoms, stink of dead fish, broken
Bottles, world flotsam dredged from the
Whale's belly--bits and pieces making up
Life's hologram. I could walk around all
Sides, explore each scene like a clock wound
Backwards, stop the film for a momentary
Gaze into the heart of darkness.
Often, at middle age, experience becomes
Surreal--once tender moments exposed as
Severed flesh unstitched.
Such was this time knowing two realities:
Electrical brain impulses resurrecting the
Vanquished, the earth's energies scratching
Out every moment tread—the way a record's
Needle conjours song.
The mother is out there in those depths,
Beyond memories’ horizon, in the dark,
Beneath waves feeding with sharks, sister
To piranha. She is the first witch encountered
In the moment when she refused the nipple,
Sprouted fangs, a cinema scene scripting
Infant horror. They all become naked things
In the forest with horns, pot bubbling, spells
Cast. When grownups read witch stories,
Confirmation that I was not insane, though
They could no longer see their black skirts.
Still they float about in homes, offices, schools.
Time now to give up Circes, put the film
In a can, like the octopus floating in a tidal
Pool that sees in color.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stars And Snowflakes

by Ian Mullins 

Sometimes they fall so fast
they're like snowflakes
you catch in your hands
and take home in your pockets
paste them to your duvet
and drop them into drinks

laughing to think
you ever stood naked in the cold
praying for snow to wipe out the world
and take your face with it

but other times
you take a shotgun into the street
shoot them down
one by one
then nail them to the wall
tell yourself it's not your fault
they don’t really shine
they’re just the glitter a little girl
washes from her hands

till you wonder why you wake up
so bitter and cold
why it’s only snowing
at the other end of the street

outside you feel a snowflake
melting rust on your face
but your eyes see nothing
the snow has burned black

your face is a bullet hole
you crawl back inside
proudly ashamed

saying yes;
I did that.

Two Roses

by Bhargab Chatterjee

I hope to know you again.
I do hope
because every flower starts glowing
being withered.
Who walked
between the rose of yesterday
and the rose of this morning?
Spines are the stony steps
to the caves of Altamira.
The bones could have been beemed
with the mellow light
of the yesterday's rose.
Or the bones could have been burnt
with the fire
of the rose of this morning.
Between the two roses
the dome of my pain
is now the only room
wherein I am cooped up
having fled from all suns.

                             

Now, when we should pull over and sleep

by Tyler Kline

Now, when we should pull over and sleep
my friend Jeff speaks up
and asks if we’ve heard the celestial gossip
that one day all the stars will die like a final breath to birthday candles,
all while Dire Straits grinds their way toward us
from the cave of ancient car speakers.

Maybe it’s just the distance that hides this issue from thought.
Or the fact that we won’t be alive to rattle bottles of aspirin dry
and gulp down cases of rationed water,
universally hungover from a Gatsby-themed end-of-the-world blowout.
– Our Burning Man
will be the vibrant star that cracks open the sky –
now rising in the rearview mirror
lighting a field of extinguished candles and singing:
             sometimes you’re the windshield
             sometimes you’re the bug.

So tonight’s sobriety of a cracked window and a good clean voice
will not make all the difference
when it comes time to lock hands and close eyes.
Instead of worrying, I accept it
 – fear.
Peacefully sedated,
like the scarecrow to the left of us.

Many Years Later When I Meet Her Again

by Donal Mahoney

Many years later when I meet her again
on my way out of the Russian Tea Room
I notice how beautiful she is dining with him,
a man more attentive than I was back then.

But I see chaos dancing in her eyes
and I wonder if she has told him.
I doubt she has since she needed
ten years to tell me.

I accept the offer to join them for dessert,
and when she goes to the powder room,
I have a nice chat with her newest suitor.
He's as decent as the others have been.

On her return, he leaves to use his cell phone
and that's when, struggling for words, I say
"If you meet the right one, you can get married
in many states and more are likely to come."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfection of Violence

by Matt Passant

River rocks are smoothed and rounded over great periods of time against their will, but not without their complicity. Currents of river and tributary, strong and weak, pour over the rocks, lifting sediment, other rocks and more than is known from the river bottom. The rocks, crashing and banging, scratching each other, weather themselves with force and abrasion. Tumbling over, one against the other, rubbing and worrying as the water washes over them continuously until there is a place to land, and silently they drift to the bottom of river or tributary.

The current, though, never stops. Strong or weak, its creation is illusion. Rushing over a fixed point: the river rock stationary in its place of refuge. An idea of motion created by force without truth, as misguided as the early astronomers believing the fixed sun circled the orbital earth. The river rock, in a constant inaction, is worn down by the perpetual motion of current.

Over time, there are no more jagged edges, no rough patches, only the roundness and smoothness of perfected river rocks.

In the Portage Bay Café

by Robert Nisbet

At breakfast time, the snow spins
its carousel through Seattle's winter streets.
Our meal out is an encampment
in America's gregarious heart, as waiters
teem, proffer their service's glad hand.
There are Rancher's Breakfasts, syrup,
pepper bacon, wafting coffee. In the midst,
in the steam of bonhomie, my grandson,
who is four months old, looks through
and at it all, the ketchup bottles
and the cream-topped rolls, with utter
wonderment. Behind him, down town,
sky-scraping blocks raise their challenge
to the ferries and the islands and the inlets
out in the sound. On again, and there are
mountains, out in the countryside's
long reach, their peaks capped
by the brilliance of snow.

Dali’s Window

by Ralph Monday

When Dali painted himself as a character in the
Persistence of Memory he gossiped about the Bible
in an unneighborly way, instructed to always clear
your throat before addressing Moses without concern
for other people’s feelings. Above all look down on the Bible
in the second person. If meat is involved, lubricate it
metrosexually. Start a rumor about evil while rolling your
eyes with dinner guests talking about women in a letter
of resignation.
His advice: only hypnotize a statue if you want to but explain
bells to your grandmother in a message in a bottle.
Don’t mention the window as if you are freezing to death.
Pile up words on regret in a language your mother would hate.
Let the ghost reconsider a guilty verdict, but above all
fulminate over postal carriers as a sacrifice to the sun
and hitch a ride with Christians while looking at pornography.

Entendres in Very Small Towns

by Todd Mercer

My lover loves the cock-
a-doodle-do of bucolic country settings
when the sunrise tries to pry her thighs
from spoon-lock, peels back the overthrown arm.
After racy dreams she wakes me
going down the root
cause of our stray voltage connection.
City girl in a rural village,
her hips humming invocation,
a pastoral prayer.

That old saw: they don’t go back
after they’ve had jet black
skies; the other saying: shit smells
like money to farm families—
they don’t teach those in the urban schools
where rock-hard Truth and endless concrete
examples came from nuns slapping hands
with rules, coercing obedience,
causing reveries of retaliation,
or stray notions of marriage
to the ultimate groom: Jesus fucking Christ himself.
A natural kneejerk reaction to
insistent men hell-bent on prying
good church-going girls’ mouths open, legs asunder
planting Grade A seed stock,
fertilizing fallow soil
broken open by first plowing,
more plowing to follow,
harrowing, discing.

My girl eats it up—every inch
of the long drive from town, invites me
to ease myself with her,
slow the persistent slapping noise
of tires on highway, almost almost,
sure we’ll make it,
up dirt roads the Christ-brides don’t take
where the green’s meadow, not money.
She asks if I’m up yet, if I’m finally awake, she asks
how I tune out birdsong chorus, roosters
bragging of their rooster manhood,
blessedly innocent of cocksureness’s comic cognate
to the wakeful within earshot.
“Are you up?” she asks once more
even though we’re spooned like this.
She knows full well I am.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Someone's Birthday

by Ian Mullins 

A green door that'salways locked
swings wide this morning;
maybe the storm-wind waving up
from the river slapped it open
with a palm of hail,

or maybe a pregnant homeless girl
realizing her time had come
to start being real 
in a whole new way

kicked the door open
with all her baby's strength
and there amongst the barbells and the ropes
poured blood and baby
out of her body
into the middle of a twelve-round ring,

screaming aloud
she will never be alone again.

Time

by Martin Tomlinson

A kind of sandglass, moving
As I sit awaiting the falling of an empty glass

In an armchair waiting,
for my love's true face to show

But all around me
voices sing
their melodies
with empty ear

Love

Nothing
is
as gentle

As
a kiss
in the night

Nothing
is
as sweet

As
our moving
sweeping dance.

Doghood

by Tyler Kline

The curve of the path straightens out
then bends back like an anxious tail –
ahead,              man and woman are walked by dog.

The pink, wet pelt of his tongue
arched outward, slurping air
joined by a pallor of white teeth.
Again, I begin wishing –

the wish that tells my shrink more than descriptions can –

for someone to please
just throw me a gnarled branch to retrieve

or spill a little beer at a campsite and let me lick it off leaves –

then praise me after I’ve run planes to LaGuardia and back
and end the day by bringing in broken creatures with jaws lined red.

Before the sun stretches back, my canine spirit-journey comes full circle –
while Rangers perform their rounds
the couple opens their car doors
in jumps dog – with a belly full of creek water
and insects crushed under paws – stealing shotgun

and resting his head out the window like a spent comma.

Before I get home, making sure no cars are in sight,
I try too –
balancing my head out with one eye to the road
and the other left free to wander –

spread my face wide and think,          maybe I’ve found the secret,
but the moment stops as quickly as it began:

a fork in the road springs up
and I duck back in to steady the wheel.

the largest wall man has ever known

by J.J. Campbell

wipe away your
tears with my
bloody hands

embrace the evil
you feel inside
and allow it to
be the shining
light to your
new tomorrow

take each
heartache
and form the
foundation of
the largest wall
man has ever
known

be the witness
to these broken
bones and
shattered dreams
and quickly get
over yourself

there is no such
thing as winning
when you are poor

Over and Out

by Donal Mahoney

Harley turned 70
the other day
and died

riding his motorcycle
through a pink dawn,
an old Suzuki

not a Harley.
He hit a fireplug
and soared,

a missile shot
over the handlebars.
He never made a sound

landed in
a rose garden
but never knew it.

Heart attack
while airborne,
never felt the thorns.

Entrances and Exits

by Richard Hartwell
           
Entrances and exits: doors opened or closed; or ones slammed behind you. It is of these that much, perhaps most, of life is made. It is entrances and exits upon which attention is riveted. All that falls between is merely dross of daily living, splinters of shattered doors.

How many times can you open a door, enter into a conversation, before it sticks in your mind that demons lurking behind it in the shadows are waiting just for you? I am revolving in my life. Spinning circles. Creating eddies; eddies flushing away the center of my being. I am tired of wasted days, missed moments. I feel expendable, except to a very few. It’s not so much a poor self-image as it is being so thick skulled that I don’t realize the door was stuck shut for a reason.

I seem hung up on this theme of entrances and exits. Many of these seem to be the moments by which I live. Not much in between seems to be of any use. I try, but my trying seems to try the nerves of those surrounding me. I wish I could find the master key.

The clock passes time much more smoothly than I. I am all fits and starts, progression by catastrophe rather than incremental advancement. The passage of time is not uniform, but is governed by the surrounding residue by which we judge how long it’s been since the pursued broke camp ahead of us.

What do you want from me when we have nothing left to say? It’s as if the conversation must be poked alive just to insure that neither of us is a quitter. Somehow I am at the point of no longer caring about labels used by others towards or about me. Many labels are true, but only momentarily. If moments are truly fluid, then labels are no longer valid immediately after applied. Each tick of the clock produces a new label that is then obscured by the next label, each piling up over one another during the course of a lifetime. I still cannot see the horizon or, yet, the exit.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Exiles of the Adjacent Chamber

by Robert Gross

We go through so many bodies in one another
A melancholy of six or seven behind the blinds
Stitch swarms of ravens on our coverlet
Roam in packs from waves to wasps to wolves

A melancholy of six or seven behind the blinds
Turn up the intersection on our conversation
Roam in packs from waves to wasps to windows
Encrypt a snarl of alertness on our bodies

Turn up the inquisition on our conversions
The static sparks of secret interference
Encrypt a snarl of aversion on our bodies
Scatter reconvene and flock again

Static sparks of secret illumination
Stick swarms of ravings on our coverlet
Scatter reconvene and flocks of pain
We go through so many bodies in one another

4

by Stephen A. Rozwenc

the philosophical butterfly
decidedly luxuriates
through the despicable net
of separate beings
within which useless feeling
and futile thought
splutter entrapped

seven days more
beneath still another unguent tree
and mind shattering sheer light
will doodle

Prophecy

by David Chorlton

Foretelling the future is a madman’s work.
When wild-haired wanderers
drifted in from the desert
with sand in their eyes and fire in every word
they’d at least attract a crowd
before everyone went on with whatever they’d been doing.

Harbingers of doom were ten a penny.
Only the most emaciated
attracted attention, and drew a little pity
while they brought down the heavens,
burned crops, and opened the floodgates
to a cataclysm so severe
even the locusts went hungry.
It’s a hard profession

to keep up now so many amateurs
are clouding the waters with doubt
and denial. The romance of attributing
disasters to the gods
is long gone, and it’s hard to spend all day
in the marketplace

laying blame and pointing fingers
and telling everyone to mend their reckless ways;
oh it just becomes
a kind of punishment to tell the truth,
it’s like having bad breath, it’s
a curse, it’s no way
to get elected, it’s spoiling the party, it’s
everyone’s last chance.

They’re Hanging Him Today!

by Paul Tristram

“Simply everyone is going to be there!
I am going to wear my new Summer hat.
There’s going to be a gypsy fortune-teller there
Mummers, Jugglers, Tumblers and Acrobats.
Aunty Edith’s coming down from Glyn Neath
with cousins Sian, Megan and Little Rhys.
We haven’t seen them since last Christmas.
Dai The Butcher’s slaughtered nigh on a dozen
for the hog roast, it’s going to be amazing!
There are only married men working the fields,
all the single ones are home having baths.
They’ll be wearing their Sunday Best later
even though it’s still only Saturday afternoon.
The last time that this happened in Neath
fifteen of them were married off in one go.
It’s so nice to see the town centre decorated
with coloured banners and ribbons again
and to hear everyone’s voices shrilling high
with laughter, excitement and merry song.
I’ll see you down the front at exactly 6 o’clock,
I’ll be standing with my dear Grandfather
he’s going to set his pocket watch by it, aww!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just Playing Around

by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

Ralph Henson's S-10 pickup barreled into Mickey's Roadhouse parking lot, kicking up a shower of white rock.  Couples groping in the shadows unclenched to witness him bolt from the truck, leaving the door hanging and ignition beeping.  His jaw set tight as a rusted vice grip, he cleared the distance to the front door faster than any young punk on the property.

Raising three girls had proved more challenging than rounding up wild mustangs.  He'd figured out early on there was small chance of keeping them corralled for long.  High-spirited, every single one.  But Ralph was still the papa, and responsible for protecting his fillies.

Good ol' boys Nick and Jake leaned against the bar.  Three shots of Wild Turkey under his belt had loosened Nick's tongue.

“Kelsey gave it up?  What is she, seventeen, eighteen?” Jake said, crooked mule teeth crowding a wide grin.  “How'd you pull that off?  Win a bet?  No wait, I know.  She lost at rock, paper, scissors.  And I'm guessing you cheated.”

“I'm not without certain charms.”  Nick pushed the brim of his custom Stetson back on his forehead an inch. “Problem is, she's calling everyday leaving messages.  Ain't no man wants a clinging ivy.”

“You done with her then?”

“Just moving to the next pond.  Plenty more fish to snag.  Catch and release––all the fun, none of the work.”

Mickey's door crashed open and twenty heads swung around as one.

Ralph took four determined steps forward, John Wayne's silver spurs jangling inside his head.  “I'm looking for Nick Butler.”  Bearded bikers scooted back from their beers and rose.  Ralph's elbows braced against his rigid torso.  “Anybody seen him?  The scrawny son-of-a-skunk wears a hat too big for his britches.”

A rodeo romeo stood.  “We're all friends here, mister,” he said, his hands outstretched in a welcoming manner.  “Nobody wants trouble.”  Three studded-shirt buddies joined him.  “Don't give us a reason . . .”       
Teeth clinched, Ralph snaked his way around the outer tables.  Tattooed toughs found their feet, outnumbering Ralph in number and brawn.  The barkeep hoisted a baseball bat as fair warning. 

“My oldest girl's name is Kelsey Renee Henson.”  Ralph spoke loud enough for the cockroaches inside the walls to hear.  “She's sixteen years and two months.”  He shoved past a frowning brute in a cowhide vest.  “I'll say it one more time.  I'm looking for Nick Butler.  Anyone has a problem with that, line up.”

“I got a daughter,” called from inside the crowd.  With mumbles and boot shuffles and bottle rattles, the room opened like the parting of the Red Sea.  “Just holler if you run out of knuckles, old man.”

Jake dove for cover.  Ralph spotted Nick, a frozen Bambi in the headlights, and charged; they hit the gritty floor in a grunting tumble.  Besting the boy to enthusiastic cheering, Ralph straddled Nick, a wad of shirt in one fist, the other poised to rearrange Nick's nose.

“Take a long look in the mirror, playboy,” Ralph said.  “Before it breaks.”

BROKEN RECORD

by Richard Schnap

Leaving him watching the sun rise
As the needle revolved on his turntable
Stuck at the end of a song

He remembered the black leather days
The gallons of vodka with grapefruit juice
The ten thousand packs of Marlboros

The parties in run-down houses
Where someone would collect money for beer
And then vanish forever in the night

And sometimes there’d be a woman
Who’d afterwards whisper goodbye
Like a line she’d rehearsed from a play

Leaving him watching the sun rise
As the needle revolved on his turntable
Stuck at the end of a song