Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Friday, June 29, 2012

Back Then and Write Now

by Donal Mahoney

When I began writing in 1960, there were no website "magazines." Print journals were the only place to have poems published. Writers used typewriters, carbon paper, a white potion to cover up mistakes and “snail mail” to prepare and submit poems for publication. Monday through Friday I'd work at my day job. Weekends I'd spend writing and revising poems. Revising poems took more time than writing them and that is still the case today, decades later.

On Monday morning on the way to work, I'd sometimes mail as many as 14 envelopes to university journals and "little magazines," as the latter were then called. Some university journals are still with us. Some are published in print only and others have begun the inevitable transformation by appearing in print and simultaneously on the web.

"Little magazines," especially those published in print without a presence on the web, are rare in 2012. One might say, however, that their format has been reincarnated in hundreds of website publications that vary in design, content and frequency of publication. Depending on the site, new poems can appear daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. For many writers, these websites are a godsend. Some "serious" writers, however, still feel that a poem has not been "published" until it has appeared on paper.

I can't remember what postage cost in the Sixties but it was very cheap. Nevertheless, it would often take six months or more to hear back from many editors of university journals and little magazines. Sometimes I would get no response despite my enclosing the mandatory stamped self-addressed envelope (SASE).

Submission etiquette at that time required that a writer send nothing other than the poems, usually a maximum of three, and the SASE. What's more, simultaneous submissions were universally forbidden. I don't remember any editor wanting a biographical note until the piece was accepted and sometimes not even then. All that mattered was the poem and how much the editor liked it.

Today, in contrast, some web editors want a letter from the author up front "introducing" the poems and/or some aspect of the author's life. I've never been comfortable providing that kind of information in front of poems I'm submitting. I can't imagine lobbying for poems that I hope speak for themselves.

In the Sixties, my average acceptance rate was roughly one poem out of 14 submissions of three poems each. Two or three poems accepted rarely happened but my hopes were always high.

The rejected poems I'd revise if I thought they needed it; then I'd send all of them out again to different publications. Often the poems would have to be retyped because the postal process or some editor's fondness for catsup or mustard would result in messy returned manuscripts. I followed this pattern of writing, revising and submitting for seven years. I loved it because I didn't know any other way. I had no idea that in 30 years there would be an easier way to submit poems, thanks to the personal computer. What a difference. No more carbon paper. No more catsup or mustard.
In 1971 I quit writing after having had a hundred or so poems accepted by some 80 print publications ranging from university journals to hand-assembled little magazines. I even made it into a few commercial magazines and received checks for as much as $25.00. I was on a roll or so I told myself.

The reason I quit writing poems is because I had accepted a much more difficult day job as an editor with a newspaper. Previous editorial jobs had not been that taxing. I still had enough energy to work on poems at night as well as on weekends. But the new job wore me out. The money was good and helped me deal with expenses that had increased as my responsibilities had increased. Other demanding jobs would follow in subsequent decades. As a result, I didn't return to writing poems until 2008 after I had retired.

I hadn't really thought about working on poems in retirement but my wife bought me a computer and showed me where I had stored--37 years earlier--several cardboard boxes full of unfinished poems. It took a month or more to enter drafts of the 200 to 300 poems in my new computer. It took longer to revise and polish them. Finally, I sent out the “finished” versions by email to both online and print publications.

It took a few weeks at the start but eventually lines for new poems began to pop into my noggin. Alleluia! I was ever so thankful to "hear" them because it answered an important question--namely, could I still write new poems after such a long hiatus?
I found submitting by email a joy. For a while I sent an occasional poem by snail mail to journals that did not take email submissions. But in six months I stopped doing that. I did not want to lick envelopes any longer. Looking back over the last four years, I'm thankful for the response my work has received from various editors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Since I am an old-timer writing and submitting poems, I'm sometimes asked if I notice any difference in the "market" for poetry in 2012 compared with the Sixties. I'm also asked if I would I do anything differently if I were starting out today.

Yes, I notice a difference in the "market" today, and, yes, I would do some things differently if I were starting out now.

If I were starting out now, I would revise poems even more than I did when I was young. I revised a lot back then and I revise a lot today. I believe strongly in something Dylan Thomas once said—namely, that no poem is ever finished; it is simply abandoned.

It's taken four years for me to gain some sense of how the "market" for poetry has changed over the last 40 years. In preparing my own submissions, I have had a chance to read a lot poetry by young writers, some already established and many unknown. Sometimes I compare their work in my mind with the work of poets I remember from the Sixties.

Although Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, among others, had their followers back in the Sixties, and still do today, I find that in 2012 "confessional" poetry has become even more prominent. Some of it strikes me as good, both in content and technique, but that is a subjective assessment. Much of it, however, strikes me as "raw," for want of a better word. In some cases I also find it difficult to distinguish certain poems from prose disguised in broken lines. I don't remember "prose poems" as a category unto itself when I started out. Today prose poems seem to be very well accepted in some circles but I suspect they would have been a hard sell in the Sixties.

I suppose as a stripling and now as a codger I have written what some might call "confessional" poetry, both good and bad. Nevertheless, I think a young writer does well to write about someone or something other than one's self. Observing other people carefully and writing about their mannerisms and aspects of their behavior can help to develop one's craft. This is important because as most writers know, writing poetry or fiction is as much a craft as it is an art and without craft, writing may never reach the level of art.

Perhaps it is my imagination but it seems that over the last couple of years there has been an increase in poems written about broken relationships or other distressful matters of the heart. The writers of these poems seem to be primarily women who sound very angry and no doubt with good cause.

Apparently male poets find it easier to move on from a break-up and seek love or companionship in all the right or wrong places. I don't think that's a new development, men being who they are. I hope it's not chauvinist of me to suggest that the power to motivate a man to behave better usually lies with the woman. I feel that a woman has a gift she should not unwrap too quickly no matter how eager a man may be to undo the ribbons. Not many ribbons were undone in the Fifties prior to vows. In that era, of course, women were old-fashioned by current standards. The ones who were not "old-fashioned" were called a lot of things but not "liberated."

There are other types of subject matter common in poetry today that didn't appear too frequently in the Sixties. Graphic sex, science fiction and horror seem to appeal to many male writers, although some females also like to write about these subjects today.

I've never been interested in horror and I doubt that I would have the imagination to handle it well. I never fantasize about anything that even borders on science fiction. Sex, on the other hand, is a different matter. But sex has always struck me as the easiest subject to write about. I could write about sex well, I believe, but why should I? Why should I make my wife angry? Even if I were single, I suspect I'd be restrained by a line from Emily Dickinson that I first read it in college. Ms. Dickinson wrote, "how public like a frog."

In contrast with my early years in writing, I am never satisfied today with a poem even when it has been published. If I go back and re-read a published poem a year later, I am certain to find something "wrong" with it and I feel obligated to fix it. Sometimes I can't fix it but in the process of trying, I occasionally find that I am suddenly in the middle of writing a different poem, an offshoot of the original piece or something entirely different. I've found benefits and problems in that.

Rodin's "The Thinker" is set in bronze and marble and not subject to revision but few if any of my poems acquire that status in my mind.  And if one of them does, I eventually come to feel the poem could be improved, even if at that moment I might not know how to make it better. Maybe in six months I'll read it again and hear something errant in the lines that I will suddenly know how to fix. It doesn't hurt, I believe, for a writer to listen to a poem the way a mechanic listens to a motor. Both want to get everything right.

My purpose in writing this piece has been to record "for the ages" what it's been like writing and submitting poems in two distinct eras. I certainly like the ease with which technology today has enabled me to compose a poem. The "delete" key is wonderful. But there is something to be said for the anticipation caused by finding an envelope in the mailbox from an editor, the way a contributor might have done back in the Sixties. One knew immediately by the thickness of the envelope whether all three poems had been rejected or one or two of them had been accepted. That was a wonderful time for a young writer to cut his or her teeth.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three Sheets to the Wind

by Lisa Vihos

I find them hanging on the line.
They willy-nilly catch the wind
and pull everything else with them:
socks, underwear, pantyhose.

Large, like spinnakers, they billow
on the summer breeze like three sighs,
three graces. They are reminders
of where I have been and where

I am going. First, the swaddling
sheet of infancy, when the world
was my oyster and all things miracles.
Second, the sheet of paper, the blank

on which I wrote my life story, inch-
by-inch and hour-by-hour. I made
an airplane; flew my craft to far-flung lands
where no one knew my name. A place

I could reinvent myself with the right words.
And last, the shroud. The coverlet in which
I spend the next few hours spread out
on this hard floor, tasting eternity.

She is one up on death

by Jagannath Rao Adukuri

Yesterday the poet Szymborska died in sleep
Of heavily smoked lungs and yellowed age.
Death's possibilities are immense and other.

Upstairs might not have had enough space
And the moment was not for death to knock.
Like death was not strong enough to swat a fly
In a death be not proud moment of triumph,
When she was immortal, in the very moment.

The business of dying in sleep makes it hard
To pinpoint the very moment of death's victory.
Her immortality remains an open-ended matter.

(Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska died at her home in Krakow on February 1, 2012. She was 88 years old. According to a New York Times obituary “Szymborska, a heavy smoker, died in her sleep of lung cancer… surrounded by relatives and friends.”

"Possibilities" is one of her poems. Another of her poems, "On death, without exaggeration" is being referred to here)

Gator

by C.B. Anderson

A hissing cousin to the crocodile,
the alligator stands a monument
to everything American; and while
its bite may sometimes seem benevolent
compared to our Amendments Two and Nine,
its rugged constitution guarantees
tough times for those who wrestle one.  Malign
it if you must, though better just to please
it with a lavish gift of food -- alive
if possible -- and save the old judgmental
stereotypes for times when you survive
by means that don't depend upon your dental
superiority.  In a fair fight
the gator's still there by dawn's early light.

Sugar Pawns

by John Pursch

Ants bark before rocky branches lift the flowing scrunch of cool hands and smiling African friends, clapping a glove at looming veins. Yellow petals mail pale blue legs to quail hatcheries, freaking into wobbling tanks of warmth, grafting lucidity to falling leaflets. Shuddering brakes caress a torrid emblem’s worthy gazebo, spilling blotchy instep seasons into brown melodies. Hooded nuances moisten a ladder’s envious plop, startling a hydrant, creasing the trammeled milk run’s throttled shack. Sectarian sugar pawns offhand stirrups for propositioned hawks, resting aural egrets on lusty cartels, nixing a cratered wheel’s flexible nib. Continual grain leakage peers about engraving skit mews, chiding a gratifying inch, heckling the pram’s precious, hefty virago. Uncommon zeal purloins the boon’s oily berm, sanding under blip machines, singing dirigible arias to hexed cargo fans, moaned in a medical key.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Place

by April Salzano

You ask how much I want you. With a consistency            
that tears at my skin, centrifugal spin                      
to my core. I want your touch on my body my mind
your breath in my mouth, open,
quiet. I belong to you already. I remain still,          
uneasy, unsettled. How often can I
touch you before you vanish like light edging
at the blinds, before the sullen fog of morning reaches      
in to take you back, leaving me wet from your tongue,
drunk from your smell, tracing my way back to my own
reality, a place I barely recognize.

Ask me tomorrow. Ask me a year from now. Ask me
to describe how it feels once I’ve gotten
what I wanted, taken what wasn’t mine.
Ask me then when you know my fear of failure
overrides my stubborn refusal to relent. Ask me when
we’ve finished consuming each other, breaking silences into
sound, heroically battling each other’s ghosts
back down where they came from. Ask me

when we’ve finished memorizing
our respective lines, scars, the place
I twice tore open and was sewn back together,
the eyes inked into your weathered skin, watching
me watch you. Ask me when
the engine has finished killing the track. I cannot
define my reasons while I am still
carrying you around, a half formed idea, something
I created on my own. I cannot

reach you where you are. I am again consuming
leftovers, half eaten ghost rations, discarded.
And I am tired. I have already waited through this season
in another life, its weather blowing a restless black wind,
its sun scalding my skin, which I would sooner crawl
out of than be this untouched. I have been here before

crouched in a dark hole waiting to be found. Waiting through
the words of a language
I do not know, a dialect I never learned, cannot
translate or articulate, whose words promise to bring you here,      
to make you rush headlong to where
I exist, waiting.
Waiting for you to come,
not back, but forward, to this place you have never been.
This place is who I am. I am this place.
It is where I will be, waiting.  In spite of myself.
I am inside this place and I do not
            know how to
                                    find my way back out.

Cryptic Triptych

by Mike Berger

Got an e-mail.
Asked if I would like to teach abroad.
Fascinated by the idea
wanted to know more
e-mailed back.
"What's her name,
and what does she look like?"

Recently retired.
I was a practicing psychologist
for 30 years.
Wanted a part time job.
Answered an ad for
a head mechanic.
Never got an answer back.

Asked to make a batch
of Kool-Aid.
I tried and failed.
I couldn't get 8 cups of water
in that little packet.

LUKE

by Marc Carver

I walked into the coffee shop
The big black man was there
and we talked about the weather.
He stopped talking
and i moved on.

I ordered a coffee
and i began to chat to the man there as well.
"Do you realize between us we are half the gospels."
He thought about it for a while.
"Yea, i guess we are."
"Hopefully you will remember that little ditty. It has made your day memorable."
"Yea, most people tell me star wars jokes."

I grabbed my coffee from the oldish biggish woman.
"Thank you, you are a beautiful lady."
"I just serve coffee." She said.
I sat down
and stared out the window, looked at some women.
Then finished my coffee and walked out.

LEARNING THE WAY

by Brenton Booth

They get us thinking ahead.
making goals & working to
achieve them. & days, months,
years, decades pass by. & our
only recollection of them is
that we are slightly closer to
getting what we need. though
what we need keeps growing
year after year. & we are never
really satisfied. & before too
long we all end up the same.
living without life: banking
ourselves for the future.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Belly Up

by Lisa Vihos

I bellied up
to that hard place
where you belly up
when you carry
the whole weight
of every sad, sick
thing that ever
happened to you
and ask to have it
rinsed off
in fire water
moonshine
one fifty proof something or other
I really don’t care what; just anything
to cauterize the
gaping wound
ripped open
every time
I have to see you
and think about
how we once were
and how we are
not now.

Time is a Trojan Horse

by Perry L. Powell

Burn the midnight cow and beat around the
horn; face over fist for the bait and the bend
over backwards to close early and change
knife hands that beat the complete picture and
dangle a dead cat in front of a house
divided where you eat your own fly by
night in the red and black who knocked the nose
off the grindstone and get your arms around
gang busters (come to a hard stop) firing
on all cylinders while taking one for
the shop and thinking outside the ante.  So

what have you been wiping clean, apprentice?
Pick the low hanging kimonos when at
thirty thousand feet and sell out to the
sharks when the bottom falls out of the bath;
you can scratch my back and sweeten the pot,
but it's all business and no sweat equity
can build a better business at hand for
that eight hundred pound gorilla when he
beats the street to the path to your door, babe.

Cold Front

by Nicholas Damion Alexander

A sudden surge of wind supported the forecast
a cold front pending
descending
from the north in this the year's final month
moist wind traveling
from the tip of the Caucus mountains
raging down on our little island paradise
like slavery
Snapping winds like the curl
of cruel whips lashing our ancestors' backs
oppress us now-Romans to Christ
And then, rain, rain, rain!
Like the rising waters of the Middle Passage
drowning us now in a sudden surge of frigidity
like the greed of imperialism's rage.

Talk, Don’t Talk

by P.A. Levy

mind the gap
the atm told me
in the voice of an end
of pier speak your weight machine
that i had a fat chance of any cash
if i want some money to take you out
it sacastically suggested i rob
a bank
access denied
the sat nav said
all was lost
told me this was a dead-end road
i should head back to where i’d started from
home
alone
except for some fading photographs
mail doesn’t need your attention
lol
smiley face
your voice mail sounded full of contempt
almost delighted that you was unavailable
even concluded that our relationship
never had any chance of happiness ‘cos
i was a total network failure
after the bleep -  and bleep of a bleeping bleep
i deleted your messages i had previously cherished
press 3 – gone and forgotten
doors closing – mind the gap please

Hardscrabble

by C.B. Anderson
 
When all you've got is beer, wine seems like whiskey.

When all your fear's used up, the things you dare
to think about doing don't look as risky
as they might otherwise -- nothing can scare
a person who has peered into the eyeball
of his own death.  The now-abandoned dream
of a large life got stuck inside the pitfall
of dread.  It's time to hatch another scheme:

Throw caution away.  Learn a few choice Latin
phrases such as tempus fugit and carpe
diem.  If you are offered sheets of satin,
demand silk.  Don't let some movie star play
the roles which you would like to make your own.

The dog that growls the loudest gets the bone.

The She

by Sarah Hartman

She moves her body
like a hypnotic dancer
and ties up all your wet dreams
with her ribbons, bows and her cancer
Venus is a whore for the show
will you admit all the things
that you wish you could know?

She catches your ego
between her teeth
and chews you 40 times
between her top and bottom row
Justice is a bitch like that
does it turn you on when
I talk about her like it is tit-for-tat?

She smiles with vacant
empty eyes
and dies with hips full
of weeping, bitterness and lies
Fate is morbid that way
would you still fight
to bring her another day?

You're lying.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Watchingstoned, T.V.

by John Pursch

Plunged into cooling actions, steering docile transports on curvature’s familiar blend, pilots wiggle toes and waggle handy signatories, flashing jacked-up neuronal musing towels in message cod truth. Sailing internal overtures to a cloud-top stricture’s fencing dream, they ply a scalar wielder for his jellied orangutan mist, plotting the double-crested monocle game’s penultimate wooly ambit, seeping into entendres in human endives, soon to be orphaned.

“Better on elfin wash time, windowed to annual bleats,” croaks a Deputized Commodore of third-charge peanuts, smearing on encoded yearnings. Grazing an oily pie toon, she makes for annular disjunctions, presto full of threaded otter, coddling to caramel kits. “Crochet, clapboard datum,” barking into nearly spatial quip-free zines, fixative be mined for strip solids. Molecular bumblers startle android moving cartridges, sifting landing cores for opposite broach captors, waiving leftover strumpets.

“Onto clear walls, enter homing pages, bloop twenty for fiftieth wok,” an automatic tower ripples back. Screaming segregates slipstream pines from eardrum edge marimbas, locking the lead transport into filial ape regard, scampering dimpled grates upon an urban veil. Osmotic welters opine suites of notarized trees, bubbling down a finitary flue, crossing the hollow till the empty centaur cries for mercantile express, trending to a punctured disc.

“Ellipsoidal annuli in catching-glue freeze,” a tertiary pilot beams, eyeing Watchingstoned’s gleaming pyres. Endless yawning maws of tunneled glows accept the carnal gaze of teleported steel, cased in fleshy guns, mesmerized in planet souls, abridged to merging bees. Cataracts inherit clipped arcades of motive breath, glancing down conical lakes of duplication’s cadence, faulting over caught exuberance, splashing tones in guesthouse gusts, lauding the ringed embers.

Envelopes crawl shut above, soupy and enfolded, clearing thought dust antiques, wafting pending ideation into spooling traits. Freely now inside the Tunnel of Vision, pilots think to clash with grammar’s ontic phase, hoping against certainty for reef wilters; laughable to flee the grid, but knowing of a solitary mythic case of tunneling in the Tunnel… Grooved, entrained, and intertwined, they nod into obviated silence, catapulted down annealing strips, coiling into phase.

A standing rumor holds for decadal drone’s impugned, incipient sigh, fueling the rabble’s strident cries, fouling the rightful heir’s thrown visage with flushed miasma. Sealed by seminal crackers, the story’s pedigree reminds us all to check intention’s dotted tears for trebled clearings, waning in the smooth rotation. Craving gravitation’s certain spiel, pilots wake to timing hooks, teetering onto rapid eye-scan vowels, taming the cargo list impasse, per spectacular windage.

Switching to welled nominals, they seed thematic pendants, flopping startled onboard minions, lifting state to funneled view. Small talk wends to taut consensus, vibing green occlusion; synchronized approval’s heartfelt beat. Reaching for dock, theses deplete in crescent wings of rooming halls, seething with transposed feet, encasing pliant boons. Obligatory sleet contains arrival’s blister fuzz formality, somehow still bona fide to psyche cream, despite diurnal traction’s technical gains. Enforced slippers caress timed owners, easing emotional inclusion, reeling into landing.

Meltdowns and E! News

by Isabel Sylvan

I worked in real estate when the mortgage meltdown hit.
I wasn’t one of those heartless sales agents that didn’t care.
I worked in the office, handled all the calls, I cared.
Too much I cared.
After a while, I couldn’t leave the house in the morning
without hearing the day’s jobless claims, the foreclosure rates,
hoping over caffeine while I was dressing someone would
tell me I can give them good news.  I could tell the ten people
who called me daily that houses were selling again,
people are working again.  But it never happened.
I became obsessed with the news.
I became the news.
The people I dealt with at work were the news.
Though they never mentioned us individually in their reports,
it was us they were talking about.
Before the crash,
the news was something that happened out there,
happened to other people.  But now, the news was
going to call me six times that day crying and eventually
she would ask me if she should divorce her husband,
though I had never even met her in person.
I wasn’t her real estate agent, just the receptionist.

Two years after the mortgage meltdown I quit my job
in real estate hoping to avoid my own personal meltdown.
But it was too late.
It was unavoidable.
I crashed.
I stopped watching the news.
I was the news.
I ended up in intensive outpatient therapy.  I spent my days
in group therapy with men who attempted suicide, men who
used to be happy, men who used to know who they were
and how the world worked until one day they lost their job,
another day the house, and then finally the wife and kids.
They were rarely mentioned on the news, but the rise
in mental health issues was still thoroughly reported
back when I was still  watching the news.

But I had stopped watching the news.
I had switched to E! News instead.
It was the news that didn’t matter.
I didn’t have to care.
Celebrity personas wouldn’t be calling me later that day crying.
I wasn’t going to see them in therapy after the bankruptcy.
It was the news about no one else, nowhere else.
It was entertaining, but not true.
Fiction doesn’t walk up to you.
Fiction doesn’t need you.
You don’t have to care.
It’s just trying to entertain you.
I still watch a lot of E! News

Jeremiad

by Mark Blaeuer

The pessimists are prophets in disguise,
tut-tutting at society’s decay.
The optimists are Pollyanna-wise,
intent on manufacturing surprise:
a novel climate opens every day.
The pessimists are prophets in disguise,
and I’m one, confident that if the skies
are staying up, it doesn’t follow (a)
that optimists are Pollyanna-wise
or (b) that humans won’t earn their demise
in yet another horrifying way.
The pessimists are prophets in disguise,
alright: we stand for reason. I advise
a ton of resignation also. Pray,
you optimists, you Pollyanna-wise,
to Mammon’s oil. His anthracitic eyes
are gimleting your final Chevrolet.

Your Hushed, Stealthy Looks

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Sudden fruit swells leaf circles,
Moves bits of brown, sweeps red, then pulls

My heart as does your blue-green-gray
Sparkle. I return my shine your way.

Little nut-gatherers, we steal
Autumn’s fresh treasure, through our appeal

For surplus. Your hushed, stealthy looks
Catches mine near housework, brooks

Lashes, lips, freckles, smiles; we praise
Cool seasons, bright nights, shortened days.

Walk Away

by g emil reutter

Confusion ruled and it was
the only stable thing there
was. And they would shout
dance and lay hands on one
another. Declare the power of the
Lord. Speak in tongues and
shake about, fall on the floor
and everyone loved Jesus
and each other.
Every Wednesday and Sunday
repenting would prevail as
forgiveness always followed.

It was almost thirty years ago.
I walked from this great joy.
Never have heard from anyone
there, although I am sure they
prayed for my condemned soul.
I must say I haven’t heard from
God either.  The silence is
peaceful.

LOVE IS DEAD

by Bradford Middleton

Love is dead or
At least that’s what my heart says
Never shall it feel the joy of
That first pulsating kiss or
That first furtive look across a room
When the eyes suddenly meet
And all you want to do is talk
Talk, drink, eat and fuck
If you get lucky enough
More than likely it’ll be in a bar and
I would have misread the signals
Ill stumble over to a barrage of laughs
And a torrent of abuse

Then again what if she says hi
What could happen then?
We sit and chat about the stuff we love
The great books, the great music we cherish so much
As we drink our drink our ever so plentiful drink
We talk and talk until closing time
When we stagger out into the night air
Swapping phone numbers before continuing home
Maybe love ain’t dead after all!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spring Anguish

by Amit Parmessur

my slim tongues want to lick the sky
I wish I could lose this crowd forever,
slowly, and with no one’s knowledge
I dream of growing new tastes
and buds in a nameless city,
of changing everything
about this nothing
sprawled in bed
with an eye slashed
and feeling like
a toothless Cyclops I
muse about what life is
there’s a pit of
darkness that’s deepening
in my stomach, these days

time will tell
people say, but my
clock does not speak to me
so much pain I remember
I remember I’ve forgotten
to remember I need to forget you
My heart will walk up to
my mind maybe and in unison
they’ll try to kill what’s
trying to kill me
I care about those who don’t care,
and how I really fail to care
about those who care
maybe it’s time—
it’s time to change
my beard into cotton
candy so that
only syrupy
tears may splash against
the shower floor, every season

Heaven’s Sunset

by Chris Butler

Heaven’s sunset
is paradise across
hell’s horizon line,

to melt the flesh
and burn our souls,

as blood red clouds
shoot blinding beams
through the pupils of
earth’s onlookers.

From the atop the hills,
the angels and the devils
bask above the scents.

Heaven is a gated community
and I’m in the ninety-ninth percentile.

you broke me

by linda m. crate

you took my pretty little red heart
and promised me that you'd never
break it, but you shattered it a broken
mosaic of glass littering my rib cage the
pieces of which punctured my lungs I swam
an ocean of crimson and crashed into rocks
of you that eroded away at my heart with
words of arsenic that pierced through my
very soul with their daggers; the only
comfort I had was that you were never
made aware of the fact that I loved you,
never were you given the power to destroy
me further than you had done already.

Tree

by Jagannath Rao Adukuri

A girl of woman called from the mind of a child
Beyond hay stacks on horizon rising like temples
Mounds of golden straw for making little houses,
And soft cud for ruminating cows in moonlight .
Tall palms stood in lines on paddy field hedges.
A river snake slithered in the dry plains of gold.

I ask where is girl, body and mind, minus body.
When the mind merely existed the body laughed
Now there is only laughter with no laughing body
Now girl shall be a tree that will do the laughing
Whenever there is a gentle breeze from the sea.

River

by g emil reutter

Wind blows west to east
tide of river rises
Sun still as clouds pass
wrought iron fence sits
atop retaining wall
where he stands, cups hands
looks upon waters glare
as Seagulls rest on the
nubs of abandoned pilings

Wind churns along non
existent railroad tracks to
the crossing  sign whose
warning lights no longer blink
as the diminished totem pole
stares blankly at the river
named for a people who
grow fainter each day.

Wind rustles blades of grass
pulls at succulent leaves of
trees that refuse to let go
as the tide goes out crumbling
steps lead to the pebble beach
of another era relinquished to
the squawking of the gulls.

STILETTO

by Claudia Rey

She always wore high heels
platform, wedge, stiletto
pumps, sandals, boots.
She wasn't exactly short
but her inner self was much taller
and the world had to know.
Her husband of course disapproved.
After the divorce
she started wearing flat shoes
and let her hair grow
for balance.
She also quit smoking
but that's another story.

Invisibility

by Sarah Hartman

I am a nothing
lost somewhere in a sea
of somethings
an abstract no one
left to wander amongst
the everyones and someones
I am invisible
the surreal contention
you find divisible
I fall apart
cascades of revelations
ill-conceived across a series
of tragic escalations
there is no remedy
with nothing more, evermore, nevermore
to be found of me
I am a ghost
wandering your halls
railing against the echoes
rebounding off of your calloused walls
you never heard me
I was never here

YOU’RE IN THE NEXT ROOM

by John Grey

I cannot see you sleeping      
but I hear you breathing.                  
The sound of you inhaling,
exhaling, is my companion.
I whisper to the oxygen
fueling your lungs.
i reach over and kiss
the gentle issue like
the slow bleed of air
from a balloon.

I lie down with the
unconscious things you do.
I walk with them
in the night forest,
show the buds on the
spring branches,
taut with waiting
for the dawn.
I promise the heave
of your breast
the first flower.

Your night noises
are beneath the open sky now.
stirring the starlight.
They break off a piece
of dazzling fire,
divide it into breaths.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For My Dead Father

by April Salzano                       

I called you from my pocket this morning. My phone
dialed random contacts, yours among them. As if
I could summon you from the dead to wish
you Merry Christmas. As if
I could tell you now what I never told you
while you were alive. And now,
maybe it’s the holiday lights or the cold
so harsh it hurts like some lost fragment of time,
but I miss you. I didn’t have time to love you
before your kidneys finally failed,
before dialysis stopped working,
before the last breath
slipped from your exhausted lungs
like smoke.

How is it that I managed to
resent your angry hands, your
bad temper, your rattlesnake wit, your sadistic
sense of humor, but never managed to
love behind my anger, to admire beneath my surface? How
is it that I let slide
the times I could have told you, but sat silent
instead, watching you fall asleep in your chair
as I gawked at the pulsing port that allowed
bad blood to be made clean and put back in? It took
hours to drain you, longer for you to recover
each time. You had been tired
for years. You had been trying to tell me something
I was not willing to hear.

There is a part of me that reaches for you
that holds you and strokes the yellow
ash of your skin, that watches the corners
of your eyes wrinkle when
you smile, every time I am hurt,
every time I am kicked
when I am already down. A justice you could never
set right, a cross you felt obligated to bear.
I had in mind a catharsis
 that never materialized at your death.
I mocked you
while I was learning from you.
I resented you for not loving
me enough. I heard you outside and I
didn’t let you in. I am carrying you now,
and you are heavy though whittled
to half your size. I am holding on tight
even though it’s too late. I am
holding and I will not let you go.

Meeting Dad Again

by Donal Mahoney

My father emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the early 1920s. He had been released from Spike Island by the English who "occupied" Ireland at that time. Spike Island was the "Guantanamo" of that era, located just off the coast of Ireland. It was there the English warehoused prisoners of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

My father had been imprisoned by the English at age 16 for running guns through the marshes of County Kerry to aid the rebels fighting to free Ireland from the rule of the English. Young Irish lads were recruited for duties like this because they would be less apt to be captured by the English--or so the IRA thought. My father was not coerced into doing this. He volunteered for the duty and would have done it again if the English had not insisted that he and other prisoners leave Ireland as a condition of their  release.

On arrival in America, he found work as a grave digger in Brooklyn, NY. Later he boxed professionally and sang in night clubs that catered to Irish immigrants. After he got married, he moved with my mother to Chicago where he was hired by the Commonwealth Edison Company. There he spent almost four decades as a lineman, often working as a "troubleshooter" who was called out in the middle of the night whenever a storm knocked out the power. He liked this work and was very good at it or so I was told by his peers when I visited him in the hospital. They had gathered in the hall outside his room after he had survived an electrical accident that occurred high on a pole in an alley. He survived 12,000 volts, an incident that got his name in the Chicago Tribune.

In January 2012, decades after my father had died, my wife discovered a photo of him on the Internet. It showed him as a prisoner on Spike Island, circa 1920. He was a farm boy, poor as the chickens he fed as a child, but the English dressed him up nicely for the photo that accompanies this story. Perhaps they didn't want his age to show and to a degree they succeeded in that. You would think they had treated him well but they broke both his legs with rifle butts and let him sit on an earthen cell floor for a long period of time.

In the photo, my father is in the first row, third from the left. He is identified as “J. O’Mahony,” which was the family name until he became a citizen of the United States. On that occasion, the judge suggested he change his name to "Mahoney," which was "more common" in the United States. My father agreed to the change but it was a decision he would rue for the remainder of his life. More than once he told me, "I should never have done it but I was a greenhorn, what did I know?"

My poem, “Meeting Dad Again,” was written many years later after my father and I reunited in Chicago briefly after he had been out of my life for awhile. His two years on Spike Island as an adolescent had taken a toll. He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) before that ailment had been identified and named. Despite this problem, however, he was a sober Irishman who labored hard in Chicago for decades to save money to put me through college. His goal was to make certain I would never have to "work with my hands." He didn't have to worry. I can operate a hammer but have no manual skills beyond that.

My poem records our reunion when my father, back in town unexpectedly, phoned me at work and, to my surprise, asked that I meet him for lunch. He suggested a cafeteria that was then a Chicago landmark. No fancy restaurants for him, even though in retirement he could afford a touch of the posh. I can't remember for certain but I doubt that he let me pay the check. He knew that I had bills as the father of five stair-step children.

The lunch went well. Conversation was light. I did not ask him where he had been or what he had been doing and he asked only pleasant questions about me and my children. He showed no mood swings to indicate that he had once been a guest of the English, a confinement that affected him far more, I believe, than absorbing 12,000 volts. The voltage crippled his hand and gnarled his arm but the English crippled and gnarled his nervous system. On this day, however, he was in fine fettle, as he liked to say. This time he was more interested in seeing me than my report card.

Meeting Dad Again

Thirty years later, Dad came back
and we met for Ham and Yams at Toffenetti’s.
Pouring his tea, he told me he had
to restore power once
at a newspaper warehouse
and the storm broke again
and the lightning cracked his ladder.
He spent the whole day, he said,
sitting in that dark warehouse,
waiting for the lightning to stop
and for the truck to bring a new ladder.
He had a great time, he said,
sitting next to a flickering lantern
and reading for hours the Sunday comics
printed and stacked
six weeks in advance.

Donal Mahoney
Father's Day, 2012



THIS HALF THIS TIME

by Robert E. Petras

A son spends half his life trying to please his father,
the other half trying to piss him off,
my father’s voice swilled inside my head
as I ran my fingers along the scrolled pine
of the outdoor chair he had made for me years before,
dry-rotted beyond repair as did become his body.

Dutiful to myself
I set aflame what my father had crafted
with silvered hands,
trying to fulfill the self-pact
to please my father the short half of my life.

Friday, June 15, 2012

SIX PACK

by Ed Werstein

Vampire Nun

Teaching fullfils me.
Be good students. Leave me some
blood in the inkwells.


Nosferatu's Garden

If Nosferatu were a gardener
he would raise beets
and beets alone,
fang-rooted Rumanian blood bulbs,
vampire of vegetables.

Sucking redness from radish veins
leaving its innards colorless.
Rutabagas, potatoes, parsnips
are no match for its red-robbing wiles.

Only the longer rooted carrot
has managed through the centuries
to cleave to a bit of orangeness.

There is an eastern European wives tale
claiming that before the beet bit
you could get blood from a turnip.

Bubbling in a borscht bowl,
the beet could sustain our fabled count
through those long cold damselless nights.


Frustration

is an orator
carries his own soapbox
for impromptu speeches
in the park
trying to convince people
help them see things
the way they really are
how close to the brink we are walking
how green the park used to be
how it’s slipping away
and we’ll never know
what too late is
until it’s too late.

Frustration wants to shout
that soldiers are still dying
even if they are (mostly)
someone else’s kids
that innocent people are still dying
even if they do (mostly)
live somewhere else.

Frustration wants to get off
his soapbox and buy
a ladder and a megaphone
but knows
he’d just be doubling
the number of people
he’s not reaching

Frustration takes a deep breath
and knows --
but doesn’t know
what to do about it.


Politics

1
At the circus greedy
irresponsible elephants
ridden by fat cats
pilfer peanuts from spectators
throw frightened children to the lions
retroactively raise the price of admission
and laugh when they’re asked for a refund.

2
Down on the farm idle
domineering donkeys
ridden by fat cats
watch as laborers pull plows
and continue losing ground
day by day.
Yet, the laborers feel forced
to work for the donkeys
fearing they’ll give their children
to the greedy elephants.

3
At Sunday services
circus spectators and farm laborers
pray together
that greedy elephants and idle donkeys
might change their ways
as fat cats sitting in the front pews
smile, knowing futile prayers
when they hear them.


Chile

corn, grapes, olives, squash
spices that taste of the soil
shape of a pepper


Still Life
on February 27, 2010 an earthquake,
magnitude 8.8, struck the central coast of Chile.

In the photos,
taken just hours before the earth shook,
you are smiling,
happy to have a Wisconsin visitor,
happy to talk baseball and American politics.
Happy to introduce someone new
to the flavors of pastel de choclo,
that most authentic of Chilean cuisine,
which sits cooling in front of you,
its thick, sweet, corn crust,
like the crust of Chile, still unbroken,
but bubbling beneath its surface.

Later, after the meal
and the malbec, our friend,
your visitor, walks to his hotel,
and you, your wife, and my grandson
board the metro heading for home,
all of you still smiling,
still unaware
of the earth’s deeper motion,
unaware of the trembling night ahead.

Unaware that just off the coast,
frantic fish are already heading
for deeper waters.


Nosferatu's Garden was originally published by Verse Wisconsin

Thursday, June 14, 2012

just before leaving

by Ben Rasnic

these days
gray cloud cover
looms
over Appalachian
mountains
once a homespun quilt
to blanket
my insecurity
shrouds me
now
an angler’s seine
to snare
stray fish;
a black widow’s
cruel artistry
to secure
my foolishness
as to think
that simple
geography
could hold me
like a
lover.

Green Lights

by Sarah Estime

people in the city i can't stand.
people in the city don't live in reality.
they live this pretend life where
they're the kings of themselves,
telling people how to dress
and how to act
in order for them
to be a part
of their royal lives.

how gracious it would be to be divine.
to be
surrounded by the rad individuals who create.
they're loud,
they're vibrant,
they're each needles in the hay like an ugly duckling in a pond;
a black sheep chomping in the graze.

they're egotistical
and their lives are prompts prompting them to brag.
a roster far from mediocrity.
a life of wine and champagne and design and things.

**

and, meanwhile, there's a woman who's staring at the stars;
who's soaking in the beauty of mud and cement and tar.
she's in a floral dress and she pats her hay hat down
she’s inhaling the oak and she’s smelling in the sounds
and there’s an ant and she notices and she frowns.

it’s the needle in the field, pressed hard in the dirt between the grass,
far from where it might know best
because the countryside is lost and tormented.

and she doesn’t know what to do as crickets harass her to relax.
she can’t think of anything more than what she has.

Survivalism

by Sarah Hartman

I am, I am, I am...

a schizophrenic
schism
an enigmatic
prism
catching your eye
drawing you down
drawing you in
to craving a wish
that will never come true

I am, I am, I am...

a victimizing
victim
a recycled
rhythm
repeating and depleting
the same old,
same old
tried but
still true
yet nothing is ever new

I am, I am, I am...

merely
survivalism

Good Taste

by Will Monigold

I knocked on the door
When it opened
He was still in his uniform
I bought a bag
You better be
On time in the morning
Was all he said
French girls taste better
It’s probably their diet
The wine maybe
We all shared
The same works
By the time
You slip the needle
Into your arm
You’re shaking
I think I loved her
It’s hard to tell
When you’re high
But she was French
In the morning
I made formation
I asked the sergeant
If I could buy another bag
He never refused
She was rail thin
This French girl
And tall, but I
Really dug her accent
And the way she tasted
The sergeant didn’t use
Or maybe he did
It was hard to tell with him
At noon me and Pete
Fixed Kiki
That was her name
She’d come to visit her sister
Studying economics
You can’t live
After you’ve seen
Things that should be forgotten
I’d met her in Germany
Hitching from Paris to Athens
And now she was
Sitting across from me
At my table near the lake
When I got out
I swore I’d never use again
But it was a curse
Not a promise
She was beautiful
The way only French girls are
And I think I loved her
The way she tasted

Oftentimes

by Amit Parmessur

Oftentimes I wish to read the message
hidden in the Turkish clouds.
Oftentimes I wish to feel the liveliness
hidden in the Guatemalan rain.

Oftentimes I wish to capture the songs
hidden in the Wellington wind.
Oftentimes I wish to taste the tranquility
hidden in the Pondicherry stars.

Oftentimes...

Oftentimes I wish to imitate the madness
hidden in my wallpaper’s waterfall.
Oftentimes I wish to collect the fire
hidden in my neighbor’s sunflower.

Oftentimes I wish to learn the language
hidden in Asia’s rich utensils.
Oftentimes I wish to tell Mother

You are my playful rain,
my peaceful star,
my perpetual sunflower.

Oftentimes I wish to tell Mother that
She is my clouds, my wind, my sole God.

Oftentimes...
Oftentimes...

Oftentimes...

undeserved love

by linda m. crate

you have an assortment of roses every
color of the rainbow, and still you are not
pleased; you have every jewel and gem
that glitters pleasantly in the light and
yet it's not enough not even the world
could slake your thirst or satiate your
greed and avarice which runs with wild
and reckless abandon - he bled you a
river of him and all the love he could
give and even then you demanded more;
cruel hearted harpies like you deserve
nothing but you're the one that won his love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

OVERFLOWING YOUR BANKS

by John Grey

You say you flooded tears  
so where’s the brown water,
the swirls and eddies
up and down your blue carpet.
You want me to believe
your pain comes up to waist-level,
that the current’s too strong to swim against
and even wading is futile.
You say flood
and I think impossible swelling,
cars floating, coffins uprooted,
people on rooftops
with a few choice possessions,
not someone in a rocking chair,
face dry as moon rock.
I don’t hear a thing in your whining
about the barber shop boarded up,
farmers hustling cows
to the top of the hills.
Your life wants to believe
there’s no crops this year,
not a soybean, an ear of coin,
that the best way of moving on from here
is at the helm of a canoe.
It wants to hear how many died,
how many vowed not to return to this town.
A real flood and you’d be drowning by this.
A real flood and rescue would be one of my options.

Cards

by g emil reutter

street lights stand guard
above salted sidewalks
sun rises, sheaths of ice
fall from bent tree limbs

heater rumbles, coffee pot
steams, gurgles, oatmeal
pops in microwave

closet doors slide open, closed
cars engines rattle in parking lot
trash truck lifts dumpster
bags thud like hail in an
ice storm

it is Thursday, like any other in
any week of any year. some may
say it is nothing special, this Thursday,
glib and routine

 unless of course you are not
 around to hear the sounds, smell
the coffee, taste the oatmeal and
live the life dealt to you.

After His Death

by Anastasia Placido

She smells of smoke again
   It's not just on her clothes
but surrounds her like an aura
            hangs in her hair
she is trying to replace her grief.
    The smoke clouds her emotion
As she inhales vast amounts
                         fills up her lungs
                     attempting to feel anything but
the emptiness.
   She cannot cloud her eyes.

The heaviness is there
and her face sags under hard glances and
     newly forming worry lines
I can see it
  the shift
It hurts to just look at her
    her hugs make me cough
the acrid smell of sorrow makes my eyes water
      But I hold tight.
Squeeze her like a bellows
      and stoke her back to life
I've followed the smoke to the dying flame
  And
I'm not about to watch another one
           go out.

Negative Nancy

by Chris Butler

Negative Nancy
possessed no positivity,
expecting the worst
since aborting her birth.

Negative Nancy
could not see
the bright side
of the sunrise.

Negative Nancy
trampled pansies 
because she thought
they’d cry rain drops.

Negative Nancy
waits outdoors on rainy
days just to color over
rainbows with dark markers.

Negative Nancy
was only a lonely
loner finding comfort
with strangers.

Negative Nancy
slept in cemeteries
for the peace
of quiet company.

Negative Nancy
stomped atop the streets  
until she met Mr. Nice Guy,
who made her smile.

I Want Something Tomorrow

by Amit Parmessur

Don’t smile –
I’ll be too happy, and regret being mortal.
I’ll rue being able to breathe
the garden’s cozy breeze, that afternoon.

Cursed be my fingers
which couldn’t reach you again,
And speaking to my heart
now is like knocking at a stone.
I want something tomorrow!

Don’t smile –
Let us learn to reinvent each other’s soul.
Ask only to your heart, if I used to tempt you.
Do not ever show gold
to someone who cannot dig.
I want something tomorrow!

Don’t smile like this –
I dread myself. I’m scared of memories.
They have preserved your lips
that often haunt me.

It seems that your ease is
stamping panic on my heart.
I want some poison for tomorrow!

Pearl

by Anthony Ward

At first they despised her
Because she wasn’t like them

Taunting her and tormenting her
Until she could no longer take it

Their grotesque countenances contorted
With demonic expressions of detestation

That caused her to isolate herself
Bringing her out into the open

In the hope of entertaining them
All motivated by her pain

Her soul bared for all to see
While she was exposed to the world

Eager to be put in the spotlight
To see what they made of her

Becoming lost to the crowd
Looking on indifferent

As she sung her heart out-
Dedicating her life to them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

my wrath

by linda m. crate

my wrath
I'll tear this city open
until it bleeds scarlet sunsets,
squallid scents masked by the musk
of black blood; dance over me
measures of kindness unless you
want the sticky symphony of blood
dripping down my arms like moss
upon rocks, flowers sprout their lies
their fires siphoning out paltry truths -
one day you'll drown in the flames
of my rage winging like sparrows
through white wine clouds.

I’m Better with Numbers

by Sheldon Lee Compton

Let me count the ways. Allow me that, and listen closely. Please.

One. Through and through, a blessed stone arrowhead beneath the tree root to the far end of the ridge.

Two. Miles suspended in all the water the earth offers while seconds, for once, gear down and step away, giving in. Just this once, in this life.

Three. While spinning in a ramble like a blackbird breaking the morning, even then, more then maybe. Never less. Dark-walking across those words, my fingertips chopping at the places where light once lived. Rambling with my heart slipped from shoulder to sleeve to palm.

Let me count the ways, and count and count and count. I'm better with numbers when your breathing can be heard.

Good Run

by James Babbs

I don’t know her
I only see her
sometimes
jogging past the house
her long blonde hair
flowing out behind her
like a banner proclaiming
her presence
black headband keeping it
from falling into her face and
I see the way her black pants
cling to the curves of her body and
I stand at the window
probably
longer than I should
watching her ass move
until it disappears from view and
then
I’m undressing her
imagining
what it must be like
holding her
the feel of her body
so close to mine
when I ask her
if she had a good run

Loud Sober Thoughts

by Travis Campbell

Knocks on doors at irresponsible hours
Wait for answers and in the calm,
Collected speech, ask for a cup of flour
Enjoy coarse looks and avoid striking palms

Trip board skaters and roller bladers with sharp
Broken sticks from trees that don’t belong
To you or anyone else who passes
As hands brush bark and scrap life away

Particles drift through stiff air and swirl
Up nostrils, into eyes, against tongues
Pieces of everything, vaporized, blended
Dispersed to the masses, a drug.

We are all addicts.

Lunar

by Elisabeth O'Neill

I belong to the fields
that shelter your home –
a stitch in the patchwork.

My wrists,
twin umbilical cords
torn from Earth,
are stained purple and bleeding.
Your fierce adoration
floods rivers of vein,
their flesh banks
smoothed faultless by rain.

Word of spring in the circles
of water on water
outwards to nowhere.
Still they remain.

Wandering,
flawed and fragile as parchment
beneath the blood moon,
I suffer the blindness
of traffic fume cloud cover

feeling your hands
in the lunar pull.
Shore to my tidal swell
homewards.

Through mud, thick
with the hours awake,
I stumble
on seconds urged forwards,
your arms never nearer

my name ever
graced by your lips
as you wake.
I wonder

if I became air,
my life marked by a stone,
would you move each one
until you uncovered me?
Would you shape
living blood to dead skin,
and descend to me
making us one again?

I take the path
of the stardust within me,
that once passed through yours
when we were the dark
before knowledge.

Memory

by Jagannath Rao Adukuri

It is now four in a late dark time
For the memory of a girl who died
Clutching a cloth bundle, flashing
A child's eyes that had gone blank
From a body defiled anonymously
By men with greedy body-hunger .

On the rail track her cloth bundle
Was left with a memory of cousin
A cousin who had often felt a body
Protruding from a bundle of rags
As many hard bones, some flesh.

When body is defiled anonymously
The fire gets put out from the eyes
Embers of a body burning that will
Quickly die out, the ash collected
In a bundle, left on a dry river bed.
The cousin will now collect the fire
From the gray ashes, fill it silently
In the deeper folds of his own cloth
That will burn anonymously with it.

Body burned all night with no mind
That was found missing from its hole
Good that way since they could save
Fire wood, so expensive these days.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Number of Objects

by Savannah Stuitje

Today I woke up
And took pills
Swallowing them down easy with the contents of a can
I was pulled outside by a synthetic ringing
Sounding in my ears and I wasn’t sure if I imagined it or not
I laughed
But I can’t honestly remember if anything funny was said
Today I sat, and I walked, and I ran through a maze of an assortment of boxes
That I don’t know if I could call a home or a hell
With a sort of despair tinged with painful joy and anticipation
Today my fingers danced, they twitched and clenched
They smoothed over rough edges
They ran ragged over surfaces with too much love
Leaving each thing damp with emotion
Too much emotion
I was regretful as I let go
Today I gripped a number of objects to my chest
I let my nails bite into them intimately
But I couldn’t tell now you what they were
Because I let them all go and they left only dust on my shirt
Petty things, trivial
And yet I can’t be rid of them now
I can’t be rid of the birds
Roiling across the sky
And I could swear I hear your voice
Speaking faster and faster, your words sweet
Loving
Faster and faster
I can’t understand you anymore
Today I looked in a mirror
And I didn’t recognize myself
I liked it better that way
That girl had nice legs
Today it rained
It rained but for the first time
The world was not clean after
And I liked it better that way too
I let the polluted air tunnel through my pores
And I like to think I’m stronger now
I like the music in my head
I let your words filter through
Like sunlight through the blinds in an old folks home
Soft and melting
They smelled like maybe they had been outdoors once in the last month
And I wanted to capture them in jars
Slide stiff paper beneath them
And rush each one outside
Lay it on the grass and give it mouth to mouth resuscitation
Until they gasp and open their eyes
You can smell the earth dabbed behind my ears
And I think the time might be soon
We will leave, we will take flight
Not into a bollywood sunset
But we will be together
And I am comforted because I would know you anywhere
Even if I was blindfolded
We will be gone and people will wonder if we died
But in all my haste you will find a trail of bread crumbs
DNA scattered on the wind
Peeling from the walls like old paper
The tiles shiny with tainted affections
You might swipe at me with unrelenting bristles; leave me out with the trash
And the air might smell like lemons from a tin
But I couldn’t forget this if I tried
I feel each brick is steeped with something
The way they steam in the rain
Exorcising our demons
The air plunges down and warps the hot pavement
And I might have learned enough by now to know
When it is time to sit on my hands and let this wash over me
I think I know enough to know you have a beautiful smile
I’m not sure what else there is
But the chip in your front tooth is encouraging 

Red Recliner

by James Babbs

on my way to the bookstore
while driving through the country
I saw a red recliner
near the side of the road
someone had thrown into the ditch
and it stood there
upright
like it was waiting
for someone to come along
and sit down in it
it looked in pretty good shape
I didn’t see any holes in it
I had no idea
how long it had been there
I thought
maybe
there was a story attached to it
you know
something really interesting
involving drugs and money
and somebody got murdered
or maybe
it was just a chair
someone threw out
I guess I’ll never know

Canyon in the Cold

by Travis Campbell

There upon levels so high, they stand out
Hanging heads over edges with wide eyes
To witness below the growing of sprouts
That bloom and die before the dark does apply
From these fantastic heights, they have no control
Able to offer no help to lives fall down
Underneath their world with rope bound souls
Forced to witness new buds choke and brown
And then comes the strong rooted warrior
Explode through boneyards of decayed stem
Toward the watchers, a fresh carrier
Reaching branches to touch as god did Men

Snap twigs and break limbs and pile them as tinder
Strike the flint; throw the spark, the chill night ender

No Heroics Near Cars No More

by David McLintock

Bauble configurations of metal, plastic, glass,
Cushions, radios, air-bags, stashed on low radials,
Squeezed round a magnificent empire-owning face
Whose little brow flickers in the mirror above the dash.

How they harry me, horn up behind me, pursue and pass
At puddle-splashing speed as I hunch in the thin width
Of pavement edging their city-piercing whooshing traffic.
How they hector constantly blurring by, how they hoot.

How can I walk a reverie, when every route
Walks me toward their flow? I hear the hum, and the air
Congests rubber, diesel, metal, a thick, sickening
Perfume, loud to the back of the throat. I lose bravery,

And seek the Green Man, a pagan atavism.
What committee commissioned him, mooing tradition?
I press on hm, and wait. Finally, engines tamp down. I cross:
A frail man targeted by impatient lions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rock Springs, Wyo.

by M.R. Smith

Those are badlands, the highway
straight. Pick a motel, it won’t matter.

This one has a sports bar next door,
more rigs than cars, more cars than
bikes, it might work. The big woman
lives in the back, I can see the crocheted
doily on the divan, the very big TV on a
cooking show. While I’m signing my AMEX
slip, handed over 5 copies press hard after
the chu-chunk chunk of the clunky imprint
machine, I’m pretty sure I saw someone
else moving around back there. Check-out
is 9:30 a.m. unless you call me. I need
to be gone early so… Well, there’s breakfast.
She raises her chin behind me and I see the
Bakelite rack that will hold white bread and
English muffins by 6. I’ve never seen a toaster
like that before. I back in a spot near my door,
217, right under the sign no backing in and toss
my possibles and folding garment bag on one
of the two twin beds .I like to take the one
farthest from the door.

I walk across the joining lot great enough
for turning big rigs, and pass underneath
a sign reading Kar kee, a misspelled O in the
weeds at the base of a paint-peeled post.
Inside it’s a hangar, like a tin building shut
around a random amount of space regrettable
when winter comes. But when the gas fields
let out we can fill the place. I imagine I come in
as a foreigner, wrong clothes, wrong money,
so I saddle up to the bar backwards with elbows
hiked and watch a pool game. Waddya have Doll?
I spin and look down the bar at the Buds, the
Ribbons. The only beer on tap I see I’ll drink is Sam
Adams. Sam Adams. Draft? Please. You all want
a menu? Please. There’s a guy setting up for the
show. He’s got on long cargo shorts, tidy-whitey
socks and white low-tops, his untucked shirt is
rolled to the elbows and unbuttoned just one
to reveal a crisp white tee-shirt. To my utter
amazement there is a line at the DJ station
signing up to sing. Tight Wranglers, boots, lineman
boots, oil wranglers, cattle wranglers, a woman
in a square dancing dress. The DJ attends politely
to each and every one.

I am in love with my night, the potential,
and I grip my glass with both hands and hope
like hell this isn’t my last chance at redemption
with my god. When the first one goes it is a
bust but the crowd stays with him. Then comes
a degrading Steve Perry, bad Boston, silly Styx.
I am transformed. I order deep fried clams,
where the hell the clams come from who knows,
and I eat them with cocktail sauce so sour that I
consider cutting the taste with a shot of Dewar’s.
When the Mexican irrigation worker sings his
“Like a Virgin” there is no clever irony, and I can
see money changing hands at his table full of
raucous fun. He is only a bad singer who knows
the words to one inexplicable song. I look for
cameras. I think of which of my friends have the
means to pull off this prank, which of my enemies
I have transgressed without impunity. Not a soul,
save Sherri the bartender, has said a word to me.
Once or twice I try to catch the eye of a fellow
stool-warmer but they are seemingly rapt.

At the first break I whirr a 5 into the nearest
video poker machine. I play it down to 2 bucks
and then bet it all. I draw to an inside straight
and it pays more than 20 times. The machine
clatters for a time and makes me feel like a
winner who could still go big. I’ve had 4, maybe
5 Sam’s and I am warm and full of Rock Springs.
I leave the poker credit and hope for the Mexican
man to find it. But If not, for the beautiful woman
in the square dance dress who sang Streisand
and who was the only one I clapped for. I pay
with cash since they won’t take American Express
and wonder across the lot in the pale glow of the
Kar Kee sign, where a raccoon slinks across the far
edge of the gravel. He seems headed for home. So
am I, as soon as breakfast opens and I can get a slice
of toast for the road.

I Spent The Night with a Moth

by Emma Ambos

I found him when I stumbled in,
drunk on the navy breast
of the star-spangled sky.

There he was,
brushing flutter-by lashes
against my cheeks
wishing me silent hellos
scattering roughage kisses
up and down my lips

A lover in yellow and brown,
the color of a spent sunset,
He waxes and wanes,
steady as the moon.

Silent, he tells me of his journey
of the road not taken
and the static forest trees
that took his colors
in their boughs

Silent, he tells me of his flight
A silent strider over night
over eyelash rocks and snakeskin streams

Silent, he told me how he found the sun.
How he found the sun here
in all my darknesses
and it brought him to life
shuttering-fluttering life
frantic as a nightingales heartbeat

He begs to come closer,
he deigns to back away
He grows vain and inspects
his cheek in the mirror

My lover, graceful
in his yellow and brown,
settles above me,
when the coyotes yawn
and the sun dims,
there he sleeps
a dark spot on the wall,
comforting and quiet,
he sings me to sleep.

And into dusty sleep I fall,
my lover a moth,
my sun a light bulb,
my journey a ripple of bedclothes

I sleep with a moth,
innocuous butterfly,
beautiful as a calla-lily.

Civilised Wilderness

by Elisabeth O'Neill

We took the same places
As our younger selves.
The changes ignored
By moving bodies
Beyond the glass walls
Stood with the verse
Between us
And the unaltered city.

Street performers
Displayed their feathers,
Crowns and anklets.
On any other rock
We would have stopped to dance.
Even the music,
Exotic in its step
With the air,
Was tempted by the static
Nature of our island.
The ink in the papers
Assures us with rumour;
The borders won’t shift.

Among the birds and us
A collar is arrogance.
Colour suggests
The intent of the bearer.
We are content with this.
We don’t threaten change
Or invite it.

This is life
At its most adequate.
Our bonds chafe
But mouths
Must be still.

Whose Brutality

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

On the mountainside,
Where morals slide
Past snowy sheep tethered
To numbered customary behaviors,
Unscrupulous men win.

Their often hidden places,
Locations, where duplicitous faces
Seize citizens marching,
Wobbling past
Yesterday’s righteous.

Within familiar mysteries’
Staggering, jagged histories
Form from broken terracotta.
Few remain alive;
Kindnesses get forced.

The hospitality of water snakes,
Stoppages and famine makes
Believers from discontents.
Otherwise, troubled power shifts
To entertain effacing rebels.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

spinning

by Linda M. Crate

you spin me aimless
as a winter leaf, like
to dance me around
in pyramids of sand
that lick the zephyr
in tears of dusty balm —
you erode me like the
ocean does rocks; yet
I stick around because
you’re the only place
that’s felt like home;
I’m afraid of crumbling
if I build my solace
elsewhere, and you
utilize this to your
advantage; I always
wanted to be a stronger
person like you, like her.

Depraved Indifference

by Sarah Hartman

I struck him once
and he recoiled with a smile
a sly, cold expression
some degenerative connotation
that he rather liked it

so I struck him again

and I watched the blood ooze
from his lip
as his eyes began to shift
to a state of thwarted arousal
and heightened confusion
that tinkered on the brink
of the realization of my own
inner depravity
but I wasn't satisfied

so I struck him again

Episodic Lollipops

by John Pursch 

Most of us meet the repair team all alone, flipping through state machine output to pass the queuing trill. Exchanging identifiers de rigueur, ceding contrails on worn rugs, we prod the timeline, step by ungainly scuff, heaving lone assemblies of interrupted teens. Hooked retorts imply a lackey’s habitual restraint, filching a buttoned sheet of cottonwood world, chipped to sawdust stammering. Cradled calm ensues, prevailing under soothing symbolic silence, pleasing dual handedness with asymmetric toast. Autonomic hearses remind the stapled scrawler to belt a crooning colt’s dangling vial, dribbling through encapsulated walls, reaching into packed chores. Greetings peer at idiomatic stallers, excreting a gruel of rising smiles. Notice pends, angelic histories elude episodic lollipops, and newborn formulas fend for notebook pleats.

Hard Whiskey

by Devlin De La Chapa

It’s 11 in the morning
I’m sitting in a bar
drinking hard Whiskey
Everyone is talking but
I hear nothing but the sound
of heavy breath fucking my ear,
fucking with my Whiskey breath
A nice old man, around forty or so
but not for this girl who is all but sweet of sixteen
who loves hard Whiskey in the morning
when her mama thinks I’m learning in school,
while her daddy sinks his big rig in the dirt
all to support my secret filthy habit.
It’s now 11 something in the morning
I’m lying on a bed in a motel room somewhere
beneath the seedy ruins of LA’s misbehaved
A bottle of Whiskey resides beneath the pillow
as the thick of some prick’s dick drowns my sorrows
My pussy, a vacant hole beaten to a tender rawness
is absent of no tender mercy, just detached from pleasure
I contemplate going Cold Turkey but the measure
of hard Whiskey is no challenge from its promiscuity;
I am a drunk, I am a teenage whore, I have a problem