Category Archives: Poetry

Rage Hezekiah

Rage Hezekiah is a Cave Canem and MacDowell Fellow, who earned her MFA from Emerson College. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2017, and her poems have appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Columbia Poetry Review, The Cape Rock, and Mud Season Review, as well as other journals and anthologies. The forthcoming collection Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse will also feature her work. You can find more about her writing at ragehezekiah.com.

 

Playing Fetch

You pull the ball from the jowls of our dog,
his tightened teeth clenched against
a round, familiar form. Let it go, you say,

I understand his resistance. Hind claws
piercing the mud in the dooryard, his hinged jaw
determined to keep what he’s earned.

Your pas de deux, a proximal tug of war
is a mirror, the relentless grip of his maxilla
and mandible, fixed on baring down.

Life asks me to release my grasp, to trust,
and I remain unwilling. Even daily meditation
won’t relieve my fear— I’m trained to fight.

Knowing you won’t win this, I stand beside you,
rest my face on your shoulder, my palm pressed
at the small of your back. Just let him have it,

I say, and watch your hand bloom open.
At the corner of the orchard, he holds
the ragged orb firm between two paws, regal

holding court. He gnaws the prize
he’s won, satisfied. Who are we
to teach him any different?

David Greenstone

David Greenstone is a trial lawyer and a poet. He insists there is no contradiction.  His poetry has been published or publication is forthcoming in Poetica Magazine, The Blue Lyra Review, and The Mizmor L’David Anthology. David is also co-author of the book Appropriate Apothejims: A Collection for Life. David was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where he still lives with his beautiful wife Joanna and their three precious daughters, Caroline, Olivia and Emma. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1995 with a BA in Government and Philosophy. He obtained his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1998.                        

 

Are these the Jews they took?

Are these the Jews they took?
This seventeen-year-old
this child so beautiful
and her friends who danced all night with us
as if they never had a care in the world.

And would these Jews have been jammed into filthy little boxcars
and shipped away to their slaughter?
These women who for one evening were girls
who stopped only long enough to let us in
so that we could see the people behind.

And would these Jews have been murdered with all the others
waiting in camps
praying for one more hour, or one more minute
or praying for nothing at all
nothing but that the end might come soon.

Are these the Jews they took
I ask, knowing only too well the answer.
These women, these soldiers
who carry Uzis and M16s even when they go out for a bite to eat
and who are so fearless and so strong
and so everything we never were before.
These women, these girls
who danced with us that one night in Jerusalem
these would have been the Jews they took back then.
These Jews that they could never take today. 

Richard Shaw

Richard Shaw is a poet residing in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. A former dancer and choreographer, he spends part of his time as a Rolfer®, aligning, balancing and making more spacious the human body.

 

Night Music

                        for Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2009)

1.

My house tonight
is a bathysphere
on a deep sea expedition
down into the Bach Cello Suites

we plunge steadily
as surface light disappears
and the pressures build
our small porthole beams light
that can be seen from the ocean floor

 

2.

The No. 4 Suite has just begun
the high-wire act of its opening bars
they pirouette unfettered
notes cascading loose-limbed
in perfect harmonic progression
hovering over an invisible net

it’s the maestro’s late recording
the one where he’s holding
as much loss between his arms
as cello

 

3.

The ocean floor ripples
from the vibrating strings
barnacled ribs of old shipwrecks hum
as the slow sarabande
echoes through the deep
bouncing off the bottoms of continents

through emerald sea light
eyes open since the Pleistocene
a giant manta ray sails
coursing through whorls of sound
while synchronizing the slow riffling
of its great wings

 

4.

These deep sea contemplations
transform each time they are played
even in my small sanctuary
in the middle of the night
with the candles guttering
and the pines shushing like waves

an old gnarled hand
nimbly balancing a bow
pleads out chords
the way an oyster meticulously
buffs a rough grain of sand
into the opal of rising moon

Hedy Habra

Hedy Habra has authored two poetry collections, Under Brushstrokes, finalist for the 2015 USA Best Book Award and the International Poetry Award, and Tea in Heliopolis, winner of the 2014 USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Poetry Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. She is a recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Awards and a six-time nominee for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her work appears in Cimarron ReviewBitter OleanderBlue Fifth ReviewCider Press ReviewDrunken BoatNimrodVerse DailyPoet LoreWorld Literature Today and elsewhere. Her website is hedyhabra.com.

 

Jim Daniels

Jim Daniels next two books of poems, Rowing Inland, and Street Calligraphy will be published in 2017. Other recent collections include Apology to the Moon (BatCat Press), Birth Marks (BOA Editions), and Eight Mile High (Michigan State University Press). He is also the writer/producer of a number of short films, including The End of Blessings (2015). Born in Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

 

Strawberries and Mirrors

We live on the same planet
as strawberries and mirrors, smoke
and breath, minor sin and major celebration.
Is an apple really that tempting,
even when glossed by a serpent’s skin?
In all the stories, it’s an apple—
as if betrayal needs such sturdy fruit.
What about the slipperiness of sin?

A strawberry from my garden—
smaller than in the supermarket,
but a red that takes in sun, spins it
into rich glow and melts in tender,
sweet collapse inside your mouth—
is more like it.

A mirror could bring down anyone.
My children adore strawberries bordering
on sin, to be confessed, if that was a box
we checked on the sin-meister’s list.

The hallway mirror, evidenced
by smudges as they check out
how they will be checked out
when they smile like this
when they dance like this
when they break down the gates
of hell like this.

There’s a rule against me watching,
though I pass that tollbooth a dozen times
a day, and they spend enough time there
to be accruing pension benefits.

All the snake dude needed to do
was stick a mirror tree in Eden
to stop traffic to eternal happiness.
If Adam and Eve were teenagers
they’d be out of there, sucking icicles
and bitching about the furnace
before He could even lock
the gate behind them.

The steam off a living thing
is my idea of heaven, though how much
does a doubter’s vote count?
Clouds of it rising today off my children
waiting for the bus, refusing all
my designations for them as they stand
between the strawberry and the mirror,
the serpent coiling and uncoiling
in the steam, like God’s smile
as he’s jingling his keys, saying,
have a nice day.

 

LETTER TO THE POSTAGE STAMP

I licked your glue like a bad kiss,
displaying my tongue for the sad doctor
of scribbled words.

Once in Italy they refused my postcard—
too much writing! One stamp
after another after another,

the mysterious bad luck of chain mail
and postage due. But I did love you—
displaying the flag or the famous. Simple,

certain. For years, just Washington, stoic
as a thumb. At college, I unfurled a roll
the length of my bed and posted a daily letter

to my girlfriend with the dutiful regularity
of tooth-brushing. I sometimes referenced tooth-
brushing in those letters, imagining doubt

overwhelmed by volume. The fact of the envelope’s
deliberate, folded, pages. The smoking mailman lingered
in the shade. The waiting, the forgetting, the surprise

of the arrival of what I had once longed for—
box-top prizes, lingerie catalogs, scissors and glue
and—and you, exposed to someone’s

extended tongue, faith in the sacrament of mail.
I will peel a self-adhesive and press it firmly
I will drop this in a mailbox.

Addressed to you, where will it go?
Remember my tongue among so many.

Carl Sharpe

Carl Sharpe taught high school English for more than three decades and later taught writing for a few more years at the community college level. The founder and publisher of the online poetry journal VerseWrights (www.VerseWrights.com), Sharpe lives on the South Shore in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts where he devotes himself to furthering the writing of others and composes his own poems. 

 

For Doris

The words I had at twenty are gone.
Old poems that made me weep
As I wrote them, amaze me even now—
But no one else.

And I can see you living
In your daughters’ eyes.

And I can see you gone
In your earth-love’s saddening face.

And I do not have the words, now,
To embrace how that feels for me,
Or for any of us.

But I loved you.

The dimmed, ashen suns within us
Struggle to regain their former lights,
Like the young words you asked of me.

Still, here is a last poem for you,
And for us who are left bereft, cheated
Of your joyous voice and roomful smile
Now blessed in the companies of stars.

Pia Taavila-Borsheim

Pia Taavila-Borsheim grew up in Walled Lake, Michigan, and lives now in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband, David Borsheim. She received her BA and MA in American Literature from Eastern Michigan University (1977, 1979) and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. (1985) from Michigan State University in English, Sociology, and Philosophy. She is a tenured, full professor and teaches literature and creative writing at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. In 2008, Gallaudet University Press published her collected poems, Moon on the Meadow: Collected Poems 1977-2007; Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Two Winters in 2011, and Mother Mail, was published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press in 2017. Her new chapbook, Love Poems, is forthcoming from Cherry Grove Press in early 2018. Her poems have appeared in several journals including: The Bear River Review, The Broadkill Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Comstock Review, Barrow Street, Threepenny Review, Wisconsin Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, storySouth, The Asheville Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Measure, Ibbetson Street Review, and The Southern Review. She is a frequent participant at the Bear River, Sewanee and Key West writing conferences. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes and she has just finished a new full-length manuscript titled Notes to David.

 

 

Nate Maxson

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. He is the author of several collections of poetry including The Whisper Gallery and The Torture Report’ He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

 

When It Rains

Videogame developers have a term they use

For giving the player the illusion of agency, of choice

They say “when it rains” to describe keeping the players engaged through use of relatively small details

Because someone playing a game, upon encountering a seemingly random event within the digital sandbox

Such as, for example: a rainstorm

Secretly feels like they can’t step in the same river twice

When actually,

They can

They feel like it has never rained on pixilated soil before

I’ve felt it, though I don’t play as many games as I did when I was younger

It’s a thrill

Believing the rain is yours and yours alone

It really is

Another example, in most games that have a purportedly open world

The path towards where one needs to go is brightly lit by lights of some kind

As if only one street in the whole made up city was afforded public utilities

The rest of the area is there of course, it’s formed and there are objects and things to look at

But they’re hmm, how to put it?

They’re just dim

Compared to the brightly lit primary quest

And most of the time players will simply follow along without needing to see the rest

Of course, most people don’t quite realize how these things work

They just keep playing

Rescuing the princess and the planet ad infinitum, unaware of the developer’s invisible hand

There’s an almost spiritual element to it, in my opinion

 

I was told these things by a friend of mine who is involved in that industry

Who, for reasons of security, must remain anonymous

He told me about what “when it rains” means

To those in the know

He whispered this over the table at Ihop where we had been drinking coffee and discussing

His career, my old hobby

But don’t think of him as some protagonist from a Lovecraft story

Discovering the truth and slipping away

Because we had a bit of a laugh

When the waiter, upon presenting us with the bill

Remarked as he pointed to the window adjacent to our booth

“It sure is raining hard out there”

Our silence like crickets

Punctuated in the springtime

By forced laughter, not as loud as the rain

Or the espresso machines

Barry Seiler

Barry Seiler has published four books of poetry, three of them by U of Akron Press. He lives in Roxbury, a small town in the Catskills, with his wife and cats.

 

Our House

Last night when the engines fired down the road
I was sure it was to our door.
But they continued.

Sweet sleep rise like a trembling ladder
Against this thin house of all our time to come.
Save us where we live.

Sue William Silverman

Sue Silverman’s poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon (Orchises Press). Her second poetry collection, If the Girl Never Learns, is looking for a home. She is also the author of four other books: The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew was a finalist in Foreword Reviews 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Award; Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction; and Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction is also a Lifetime TV original movie. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

If the Girl Turns the World Upside-Down

walking on her hands
exploring Blackbeard’s Castle,
one palm in front
of the other –
hair dusting
fever grass and the cracked
limestone floor –
Madras shorts sliding
up her thighs, seductive,
because did he, or she, really
sink beneath
the waves?

Later, the girl cruises
Route 17 in her doubloon-
colored, Rangoon-red-leathered
Plymouth, past disaffected
Jersey boys loitering corners,
a bottle of underage
Scotch between her legs.
Driving straight but drunk and
in reverse, for all
she knows, dashboard lit,
circling asphalt
like it’s a black scarf,
a sun-warmed boa,
constricting its grip.

She has no place to sleep,
so she won’t, preoccupied
as she is, with seaworms, salt
air, cannon smoke, warped
masts, frayed
sails – just another night
in the break-down
lane of mangled
axels, tire rims,
wheel covers, discarded
St. Christopher medals,
and bottle-tops – souvenirs
of mishaps, accidents,
and Acts of God
knows what.
She has
the only map to this
hoard of pirate loot.
No, that’s wrong. She is
the map.

Bruce Bond

Bruce Bond is the author of eighteen books including, most recently, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (U of MI, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, U of Tampa, 2016), Gold Bee (Helen C. Smith Award, Crab Orchard Award, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), Sacrum (Four Way Books, 2017), and Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017).  Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas.

 

Consolation of Shadows

Memory says it begins the moment
we stand at one end, walk toward the other,

walk a little more and make no progress,
and who can blame it, how it withdraws from us

the image we call ours, the space we beat
with shoes and reasons to abuse them.

Why condemn the leash if it stretches
in pursuit of something beyond our eyes.

Who can blame it if it inks in secret
the affidavit of a more conscious life,

if the flame we stamp gets longer, blacker.
Memory says let me tell you a story:

how Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty
mourned the death of a lover so deeply

his loyals made a shadow puppet, the first,
or the first we know, stitched the body

out of mule hide draped in lucid silks.
And the likeness of the silhouette

was neither anesthesia nor affliction,
but a kind of black flame to the moth

of the eye, come to join, again, the others.
The wings of theaters know a dawning

music cues the dimming of the house.
And yes, the stories that survive are kings

among the peasant eulogies that fade.
The lover was a concubine, I should mention.

The untold exchanges, be they currency
or vows, what are they now if not blank

pages shadowed by those who read them.
In the backlit panels of the royal boathouse,

a woman’s body emerges from a waver
of silk.  And from that body steps a man.

From the man an emperor, a wolf,
a flock of crows, a moral outrage, a more

seductive wolf, whose next self might be
selfless, when the beast offers to share

his slaughter.  And we walk to the end of our
shadows and kneel.  And the room goes dark.

Emily Grosholz

Emily Grosholz is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy at Penn State, and an advisory editor for the Hudson Review. Her recent chapbook of poetry Childhood (Accents Publishing, 2014), translated into Japanese by Atsuko Hayakawa, into Italian by Sara Amadori, and into French by Pascale Drouet, has raised over $2800 for UNICEF. The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, with drawings by Farhad Ostovani, was just published by Word Galaxy Press.

 

Here and There

What will I miss when I’m gone?
The squeak of the wheelbarrow’s wheel,
Grace notes that strike with every slow
Revolution, and then the hushed, rusty
Answer in triplets from the invisible
Bird in the lackluster maples.

Branches, weeds, last autumn’s leavings
Raked from the moss-eaten paths, beds,
Borders, still untrimmed hedges.
Also the silent pale blue bells
Of my half dozen borage, ringed,
Self-seeded from the woods.

Daylilies my mother liked to set
Roadside in June. Pale Greek anemones
She never travelled far enough
To find wild, as I did once or twice, but
Maybe I’ll bring her some, if over there
Windflowers blow beside a cloudy sea.

Carol V. Davis

Carol V. Davis is the author of Because I Cannot Leave This Body (2017) and Between Storms (2012)). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, her work has been read on NPR and at the Library of Congress. She received a 2015 Barbara Deming grant and is poetry editor of the Los Angeles newspaper, The Jewish Journal. She teaches at Santa Monica College and Antioch Univ. Los Angeles and in winter 2015 she taught in Ulan-Ude, Siberia.

 

Because The Porch Light Flickered

Because the porch light flickered
the moths circled first one way, then the other,
thrown off their habitual trance.

We watched the clouds
dependent on them for predictions:
Would the storm hit or bypass us altogether?

What passes for seasons here:
the towering Australian oak exploding in full leaf
when the other trees are shedding.

Searing heat on Rosh Hashanah.
We secretly plead with Abraham not to strike Isaac,
for God to give a last minute reprieve or failing that,

to suspend Abraham’s arm midair. One slip
of our attention and the story could rewrite itself
in a bloodbath, certainty lost before another sundown.

Faith and doubt jockey for position, the way
a marathoner sizes up the competition before
planting her feet in the front line.

Will her finishing time be dependent
on always wearing the same red shorts?
Or closing her eyes before the starting gun goes off?

Everyone throws salt over the left shoulder,
but how many of us blind the devil
so he can’t witness our misdeeds?

In the Middle Ages left-handed people
were burned at the stake.
I’m Jewish, so doubly cursed.

Starting on a journey with your right foot
is good luck, while if your left foot itches,
your travels will end in sorrow.

Nancy Chen Long

Nancy Chen Long is a 2017 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing fellow. Her first book Light into Bodies won the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. You’ll find her recent work in Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. She has a degree in engineering and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She works in Research Technologies at Indiana University. www.nancychenlong.com

 

He Takes Up Carving

after Susanna Childress

He’s been rummaging in the woods all week, scavenging
for the straightest pieces—rods of red oak, ironwood,
sassafras saplings—peels back the bark, sanding for hours,
then inlays intricate patterns of blue lapis, honey-striped

tiger’s eye, turquoise. Sometimes a compass recessed
into the top. Using his father’s engraver, he outlines pines
and cabins, the occasional deer, and always his initials
into each stick. They’re the reason why he’s hauled those boxes

up out of the basement—to clear a small work space.
Basketball cards catalogued by team and year, scores of plastic
cowpokes with no cows, a Hawaiian silk shirt, some army fatigues—
all transferred to the garage to make room for these walking sticks

sculpted and reshaped by his hands. Over sixty canes now,
arranged by size. Her head on his shoulder while he reads
another book on wood-carving, she daydreams of the last time
they parasailed, holding hands as they soared above Lake Huron,

before he was laid off, before he had his long blonde curls
shorn like sheep’s wool, before he renamed himself
Gottlieb. Curled up at their feet asleep, their Australian shepherd
lets out a whimper, paws twitching as if running. Yesterday,

the dog ran circles around her, nipped at her heels, darted back
and forth, barking as if to say “Go this way! No—go that way!”
herding her along the path from the backwoods. Such an urgency to it—
that need to be of use.

Kathleen McClung

Kathleen McClung is the author of Almost the Rowboat (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and her poems appear in Mezzo Cammin, Unsplendid, Atlanta Review, Ekphrasis, West Trestle Review, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, and elsewhere. A 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee, she was the winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Prize and finalist for the Morton Marr, Elinor Benedict, Robert Frost, and 49th Parallel poetry prizes. McClung serves as sponsor-judge of the sonnet category of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition and as a reviewer for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries. She teaches writing and literature classes at Skyline College and the Writing Salon. She lives in San Francisco. www.kathleenmcclung.com

 

Manhattan Ghazal

The waitress in the MoMA café brings us Quinoa with Pear Ripened Slow,
laughs, says she can peg tourists on her way to work: They all walk so slow 

along East 53rd.  Tom and I chuckle, polite to a fault. Are we that obvious—
arch support couple on holiday, trekking an island where nothing is slow?

 Years ago, at 38, I met a man through a personal ad,
a native of this city, lonely for love. We moved slowly,

wrote letters, talked long distance. J mailed me bootleg videos—
westerns, sci fi, noir—his gloss on legal pads, left handed, slow,

splotches of ballpoint ink where he’d scribbled out a word
he didn’t want after all. He called me mellow, which meant slow,

in a good way. He was afraid of flying, thought Californians all owned
convertibles, macramé bikinis. How could we last? Passion slowed

eventually, we two unbridgeable cement blocks on far edges of a continent,
my future with him blurred through sooty panes, elevator doors slow

to open.  Last week, I read J’s obituary online, midnight, no word
in years. The cancer must have moved swiftly in his body, not a slow

treading on his icy sidewalks, West 87th. A fiancée
was named, syllables steady on my screen, and I was slow

to turn away, to power down this slim machine—
our travel agent now, our docent for all that slowly

crumbles in Midtown. Through the wings of the museum—Gauguin’s woodcut
goddesses, Kahlo with her pet monkey—Tom and I walk, reverent and slow.

Aaron Fischer

Aaron Fischer spent his career working in technology-business journalism and is now an online editor for a politics and public policy website. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Chaffin Journal, Hudson Review, Prime Number, Redactions, Stonecoast, and Sow’s Ear. He was a finalist in the Prime Number and Sow’s Ear poetry contests and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

 

 

Henry Lyman

Henry Lyman’s book The Land Has Its Say was published by Open Field Press in 2015. The Elizabeth Press has published his translations from the work of the Estonian poet Aleksis Rannit. He edited Robert Francis’s posthumous collection Late Fire, Late Snow and an anthology of New England poetry, After Frost, both published by University of Massachusetts Press. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

A Pool in the River

Draining no less slowly than it brims it stays in sun
between two mudbanks, takes on a look of sky
at noonday, and where shadows cut across reveals
a few small fish suspended. It holds a shape where bare
dark women once undid their braids and swam
among the splashing children. Where a century later
farmers dropped their breeches and waded in,
cupping in hand what in two hundred years
Claire and Joyce would part with their breaststrokes
while Max stood waist deep and Ed floated face up
watching for some sign of rain. Sun and shadow mingle
as I dream of generations diving to the bottom
summer after summer and always out beyond them
off wherever Max has gone and Joyce a decade after him
then Claire. Behind me Ed at ninety-seven
is mowing even still, and I see him with the others
coming through the trees, making the best of a river
by handing each other down into it daily, canes
left lying at the edge of what would casually lift them.

Jen Karetnick

Jen Karetnick is the author of three full-length books of poetry, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016) and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), as well as four poetry chapbooks. She is the winner of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize for Poetry and runner-up for the 2015 Atlantis Prize and 2016 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize. Her work has been published recently or is forthcoming in TheAtlantic.com, december, Guernica, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner and Spillway. The Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and a freelance dining critic, lifestyle journalist and cookbook author, she lives on the last acre of a historic plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees.

 

Refrain for Rooftop Season

When the winds cease to Sousa around transoms
and piccolo suns melt embrasures into clouds,
the bees, no beats to waste, warm up their hums
and spiders pizzicato their mesh shrouds

in search of mates. Poco a poco, buds
break, crackle through the crust of last year’s scum
in pots on the rooftop we scrub with suds
when the winds cease to Sousa around transoms.

The dun of walls in catalog rooms,
we are a ragged quartet of city reeds,
grateful for the allegro impatiens
and piccolo suns melting embrasures into clouds,

the miniature maracas of seed pods
we percuss from their skins, those tight-lipped drums,
into the calore of a raindrop’s pout.
The bees, no beats to waste, warm up their hums,

eager to bow against saffron pistons.
The children run on malachite stems, plowed
into tar – two half notes, a measured sum,
like spiders who pizzicato their mesh shrouds.

 

Miami: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Me

I leap tall tales in a single bound.
My oceans are a pachanga, held fermata.
The ghosts who haunt me never take a vacation.
I welcome the invaders of all my bodies.

My oceans are a pachanga, held fermata.
My winds make no ladylike edits.
I welcome the invaders of all my bodies.
I give you the right to be forgotten.

My winds make no ladylike edits.
My disabilities will also become yours.
I give you the right to be forgotten.
The only language I recognize is my own.

My disabilities will also become yours.
You may find that I am a shifting foundation.
The only language I recognize is my own.
Upheaval takes solid root in me.

You may find that I am a shifting foundation.
I welcome the invaders of my body.
Upheaval takes solid root in me.
I leap tall tales in a single bound.

Stephen Bett

Stephen Bett has had eighteen books of poetry published: Un/Wired (BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2016); The Gross & Fine Geography: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2015); Those Godawful Streets of man: a book of raw wire in the city (BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2014); Journal for Breathing Arizona (Ekstasis Editions, Spring, 2014); Penny-Ante Poems (Ekstasis Editions, 2013); Sound Off: a book of jazz (Thistledown Press, 2013); Re-Positioning (Ekstasis Editions, 2011); Track This: a book of relationship (BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2010);    SPLIT (Ekstasis Editions, 2009); Extreme Positions: the soft-porn industry Exposed  (Spuyten Duyvil Books, NYC, 2009); Sass ’n Pass (Ekstasis Editions, 2008); Three Women (Ekstasis Editions, 2006); Nota Bene Poems: A Journey (Ekstasis Editions, 2005); Trader Poets (Frog Hollow Press, 2003); High-Maintenance (Ekstasis Editions, 2003); High Design Refit (Greenboathouse Books, 2002); Cruise Control (Ekstasis Editions, 1996); Lucy Kent and other poems (Longspoon Press, 1983). His work has also appeared in well over 100 literary journals in Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, and Finland, as well as in four anthologies, and on radio.

 

Lift Off 16 : textbook

I accept
(in this “book
of acceptance”)

I accept what
the doctors
tell me—

You, love, are
mentally ill
& our time
so abruptly
done

I accept,
what else
can I
say?

Except that
I still hurt
some days

What the fook
else can be
expected?
Bruised
memories
collide,
bruise
again

And you are
dying daily
within me
by slivers
(like they
said you
would,
such smart
people &
we are
simply
text-
book)

Moving
across its
sheaths
of paper

Though the
slivers feel
like shards
at times
—glass
cutting this
very page
you left
blank

 

Lift Off 17 : our own stunned heads

This bird was
blindsided
in a cartoon
sky

Feathers blown
out in all
directions
floating
ground-
ward

Like a rain
of fluffy
mass
abandon

And then
fine
white
snow
fall

On the
tops of
all
creation

Especially
on our
own
stunned
heads

Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2011’s Vanishing Horizon, three books of prose poems, In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his newest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic. New work has recently appeared in The Sun, APR, Gettysburg Review and other journals. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he is an associate professor of English at Frostburg State University and serves as a poetry mentor in the MFA program at Carlow University.

 

Chaplin, Modern Times, Lincoln Center, Autumn 2015

A late birthday present, even the way you adjust my tie. Like many silent films, it’s a love story, just listen to the orchestra playing the soundtrack: “Smile” cascading toward crescendo. And you, beautiful in a gown that touched you like I would touch you. Because these are post-modern times, nothing, not even romance, is so simple, not even the violin at the musician’s chin, not even applause and laughter, not even the way you will lean into me when we walk back to our door. Shipbuilder’s apprentice, factory hand, night watchman—what wouldn’t he do for her? It’s late September, so much ending we couldn’t foresee. At movie’s end the Tramp and the Gamin (Chaplin and Goddard) walk an empty road toward whatever future is beyond the last chord’s waning. Like missing you, the traffic on Broadway is relentless.

 

Toe Nail

It cracks like a mirror, comes with its size seven years bad luck. It breaks and splinters. There’s the fear of it becoming ingrown, of it just being gone (the way my mother’s is just gone, and how, in her vanity, she paints the skin where it once was red). But it remains, split like a windscreen hit by gravel. I’m no podiatrist. No pedicurist. I’m not pedantic in the least. Give me a foot, and I might take a yard, of course–that’s the type of guy I could be.

Yet the nail dangles like a tossed rag, the cleaning crew having called it a day. It won’t slough off, what with the bandages and superglue. But the whole toe, the bigness of it? You never know when it might vanish, taking the nail with it. That’s liable to be a bigger problem, a more pronounced limp.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as Redmond, Washington’s second Poet Laureate. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her web site is www.webbish6.com and you can follow her on twitter @webbish6.

 

The Luck of Foxes

The black fox with white-tipped tail
is good luck, while the red fox
is a trickster. Red, white, and black foxes together –
a bad omen. The gold eyes of the red fox
hold the sun in them. The black fox’s fur
sometimes fades to silver, sometimes not.
The fox is here to tell you: you can survive
on beetles and river water.
The fox’s lair holds two kits,

who touch muzzles with bared teeth,
a sort of affectionate threat.

Whatever the vixen brings home in her jaws
will be dinner. Three foxes together.
The fox has nothing to fear except you.
You have nothing to fear except your future, your luck,
the fate that you and fox together are weaving.

David Greenstone

David Greenstone is a trial lawyer and a poet. He insists there is no contradiction.  His poetry has been published, or publication is forthcoming, in Poetica Magazine, The Blue Lyra Review,  and The Mizmor L’David Anthology.  David is also co-author of the book Appropriate Apothejims: A Collection for Life, which was self published in 2014. David was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where he still lives with his beautiful wife Joanna  and their three precious daughters, Caroline, Olivia and Emma. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1995 with a BA in Government and Philosophy. He obtained his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1998.

 

Family Vacation

The first part of every trip is spent complaining,
If it’s not the car, it’s the drive, or who sits where or why do you even care.
And the drama turns up a notch as the house just wasn’t what we expected,
Not enough rooms, or not enough space, or too old or too quaint or too whatever.
But after about 15 minutes, none of it even matters.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that peace breaks out. It’s just that the volume turns down.
And I can see now the memories of their childhood.
Repeated back in endless photos of dancing on the beach and fighting at dinner
and all three of them stuffed together in one tiny room that desperately needs a paint job.
This is not my memory. It is what will be theirs.
These moments spent together when the world was kind enough to allow it
Before the other more painful memories drew near.

Stevie Edwards

Stevie Edwards is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muzzle Magazine and senior editor in book development at YesYes Books. Her first book, Good Grief (Write Bloody, 2012), received the Independent Publisher Book Awards Bronze in Poetry and the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her second book, Humanly, was released in 2015 by Small Doggies Press. She has an M.F.A. degree in poetry from Cornell University and is a Ph.D. candidate in creative at University of North Texas. Her writing is published and forthcoming in Indiana Review, TriQuarterly, The Offing, Ploughshares Blog, Nano Fiction, Redivider, Yemassee Journal, Baltimore Review, The Journal, Rattle, Verse Daily, Nashville Review, and elsewhere.

 

Against Desire

Bury me in a sexless parka and floral smock. Maybe khakis and clogs. I ask a man for a stick of gum and he asks, How does it feel to want? I guess a lot like it feels to run on a treadmill. I guess an electric hurting. I guess I need more support in my sports bra. Maybe an albuterol prescription. Maybe Obamacare. I’ll give you a thousand dollars to never touch my hair. That’s not true. I don’t have a thousand dollars. I like my hair too much to shave it off like my youth wants. I like the idea of my youth too much to quit birth control, online dating, contact lenses, shaving my shins, skirts above the knee when the spring tries at sun. I give my knees to the driveway to feel what gravel can do for me. The answer’s not that much. A nick on an old night  scar. No blood running away from me. No me running into the wet wind. Nothing wet running inside of me. I am all callous and motor. All calcium and rawhide. Not the girl in the music video licking her cherry chapstick. Never be the girl if you can help it.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and Nimrod. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida where she is a visiting faculty member at Florida State University teaching critical theory and creative writing.

 

 

Summer Sonnet for a Sears House

Welcome to a place where everything grows
and comfort comes from the smell of mold,

the sound of light rain on tin.
Take peppermints as communion,

this sugar be your body, these wrappers
be your soul to crinkle and toss away.

Here you are born anew in the blood
of a stubbed toe and a not quite dismissive

“Don’t look that bad now.” Here you rise
in the tea kettle steam and the yeast

of thick wheat bread. Here you sleep
in a house so still, the music of a Saturday night

floats in from a mile away and the creek beds promise
sanctuary, sanctuary, sanctuary.

Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2011’s Vanishing Horizon, and three books of prose poems, In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his newest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic. New work has recently appeared in The Sun, APR, Gettysburg Review and other journals. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he is an associate professor of English at Frostburg State University and serves as a poetry mentor in the MFA program at Carlow University.

 

Pocket Watch

Its is the face I hate looking at, the mirror in which I constantly appear older in increments, more cynical, more sallow. Yet, is there anything about this now I’d hold eternal?

Perfect anthology of 43,200 lyric moments, each one of them oscillating between breathtaking and forgettable, between mendacious and mundane, I open its cover, close it again return to the narrative of today in our year of the Lord.

At night, the rings on its jeweled fingers glow green to steer me toward some untoward destination,

and still not a compass, for there’s no true north, not even at midnight, not even at noon, not even in the hour in between, dawn lighting the east.  Each morning I tighten the spring the way I was taught, so taut it might catapult the sun across the sky.

Monique Zamir

Monique Zamir is a recent graduate from Oklahoma State University where she completed her MFA in poetry, and has received an honorable mention from the Academy of American Poets Scholarship for her poem, “Even the Stone Will Keep” and an honorable mention from the Marye Lynn Cummings Endowed Scholarship for a collection of poems. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Calliope, Crack The Spine, The Virginia Normal, Mikrokosmos, Lunch Ticket, Gravel Magazine, Josephine Quarterly, and others. From New York, Monique lives in Austin, Texas where she works for a startup.

 

On Television II

The cat follows the mouse into the dynamite
and the cornflakes. The child dons a hat and toy pistol
turns the knob, steps away from the screen
and screams. His mother
laughing all the while. Here, a smile in pill form,
a cake whipped
with butter, the razor blades piled
in your bathroom closet. The child watches people dance,
watches them swim with frogs, dapper in the reeds.

He can never situate himself accordingly.
He always moves to the tune of the blue driftwood
sailing abrasively along the carpet.

A composite of singer and dancer finesses syllables
of a love song, a heartbreak. A dolphin sleeps
with one eye open,
fighter pilots replay their final battles,
a bicycle meets its owner; his mother
wants to look away.
The mother watches
her neighbor get in the car.
The child looks at the carpet,

to be its fibers,

to be the dust, piling

in absent space.  

Marlo Starr

Marlo Starr is a writer and English PhD student living in Atlanta. She is the author of Vanishing Point, a chapbook forthcoming from dancing girl press, and her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Threepenny Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Atlas Review, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere.

 

Speech

what name to give this grief
this weight of stillborn sound
words pressed, throat like a coil,
crouched, immense, beneath the ground

the weight of stillborn sound
this animal, arched muscle
crouched, immense, beneath the ground
mouth tongue teeth mouth tongue teeth

this animal, arched muscle
backed into a corner, still,
mouth tongue teeth mouth tongue teeth
shaping the words, gathering breath

what name to give this grief
words pressed, throat like a coil,
shaping the words, gathering breath
do not make a sound

Zoe Hitzel

Zoe Hitzel earned her MA in Creative Writing studying poetry at Northern Arizona University, and nabbed her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Oregon State University. When not writing, she drums, tinkers with bicycles, plays online video games, and keeps a blog of her transgender experience, zenoted.wordpress.com. Her work has appeared in entropy, pacificREVIEW, The Chariton Review, and elsewhere.

 

Gender Dysphoria versus the February Skyline

You’ve noticed breath can pass unnoticed
if the time’s that good. Some hearts get to
eat time. Your heart forgets to forget it’s still waiting
for a better bridge or twelfth story
to present itself and invite you
to sway and mean it. You weigh less
when you fall though your mass hasn’t changed.

For years you weathered the accusations
of your body at and against your body
for being your body and not the other body
that just didn’t happen, dead channel static
swelling to envelop the sensate.

You think of your cells—are they not your cells?
Your molecules, what is their problem.

You consider death like a pill, one more
panacea or poultice to smear
until ailments evaporate, leave you
relieved, nevermind your dwindling electric.

It’s not that you can’t leave bed, it’s whether
you leave bed or not, nothing changes.
You’re just less disgusted than usual in sleep.
Waking kills everyone eventually.

What a catclaw is despair.
A hook in the heart, helmet of barnacles
calcified. Some wicked bulb
sprouts through the temples and grasps.

There’s nothing you haven’t considered
until a dream where the grayscale city wakes
and crushes people you love in its concrete
teeth. It takes.

A heartbeat to go from perch to flight,
a breath to go from flight to fall,
a surface from soar and splat.
What a wrist, gripped and latticed.
What a spine, to wish for wings.