Tag Archives: poetry

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.

Aleksis Rannit

Translator’s Note:

In the third line of this poem, lehekuiselt (nom. lehekuu) could be translated simply as “May.” But its root meaning (lehe, leaf + kuu, moon, month) is “the month of leaves.” Similarly, in the last line, the root meaning of küünlakuu, February, is “the month of candles”: (küünlal, candle + kuu, moon, month).

 

Aleksis Rannit (poet) was born in 1914 in Kallaste, Estonia, and served as curator of Slavic and East European collections at Yale. He is the author of seven poetry collections as well as numerous essays on poetry, art, and comparative aesthetics. His selected poems, Valimik, appeared shortly before his death in 1985.

 

Henry Lyman (translator) has published his translations from Rannit’s work in Poetry, The Nation, and other periodicals, and in two selections brought out by The Elizabeth Press. A collection of his own poems, Late Fire, Late Snow, was published by Open Field Press in 2016.

 

Winter      

Winter with no trees.
Touch me
as a month of leaves
would bless a month
of quiet candles.

 

 

Talv

Puudeta talv.
Puuduta mind
lehekuiselt
vaikinud küünlakuu auks.

 

Ron Rash

Above the Waterfall
by
Ron Rash
Press: HarperCollins
Pages: 253 pages
Copyright: 2015
Reviewed by: Kathleen Brewin Lewis

 

The Poetry of Petrichor

A year or two ago, on Facebook of all places, I ran across a word I’d never heard before: petrichor.  Its definition moved me: the good scent that accompanies the first rain after a long dry spell. I had such a crush on this word that I wrote and published a poem about it and occasionally recite it at my readings. But it’s not the sort of term you see or use on a regular basis. I hadn’t encountered petrichor again—until I read Ron Rash’s rich novel, Above the Waterfall. You might say that Rash “had me at petrichor.”

Above the Waterfall is Rash’s sixth novel, a multi-layered book that showcases his considerable skills as storyteller, poet, naturalist, and chronicler of Appalachian life. (He has also published six short story collections and five volumes of poetry.) The story is told from two alternating points of view: that of the pragmatic sheriff, Les, who at 51, is just a few weeks away from an early retirement made possible by years of payoffs from local pot growers, and that of the socially-awkward, poetic park superintendent, Becky. Both characters have been damaged by tragic events in their pasts, Becky even more so than Les. “I’m not autistic,” Becky tells Les, “I just spent a lot of my life trying to be.” They care for and are attracted to each other, but can’t seem to overcome their accustomed loneliness and years of pain to become a couple.

Through Les’ voice, Rash shows the reader his talent as a storyteller; with Becky’s voice, he evinces his gifts as a poet. “As evening’s last light recedes, a silver birch glows like a tuning fork struck,” Rash has her recount. And this: “Honeysuckle vines twine green cords, white flowers attached like Christmas lights.” So it’s no surprise that petrichor would appear in one of Becky’s chapters. “Petrichor,” she writes in her naturalist’s notebook, “the smell of first raindrops on long-dry land.”  Mmm.

At the center of Les and Becky’s shared story is Gerald Blackwelder, an elderly, embittered man with a heart condition, who has lived alone for years after losing his wife and son, the latter in the Iraq war. Becky checks up on him regularly and solicitously, as if he were one of her beloved grandparents. Gerald’s land adjoins a fancy new fishing and golf resort. Gerald occasionally cuts through the resort to visit a place he cherishes, the still, clear waters above the waterfall, where the native speckled trout thrive.

After the resort owner complains that Gerald is scaring the visitors to his resort and poaching fish, and orders him to stay off the land, the trout below the waterfall are poisoned. Gerald is suspected of the deed. Les is pressured by the developer and his public relations director, childhood friend C.J., to arrest him, and by Becky to leave Gerald alone. Les’ final task before retiring becomes solving the mystery of who-actually-done-it—and why.

Because Above the Waterfall is written by Ron Rash, the reader can expect to find bleak depictions of the devastation that crystal methamphetamine is causing in Appalachia; Rash writes consistently of the horrible scourge of the drug on the region. He also evinces a deep appreciation for the natural world in his work. Becky may be the naturalist and poet, but Les is similarly appreciative of the flora and fauna of his native land.  When he drives into the national forest to look for evidence of meth production at one of the campsites, he can’t help but notice the rare lavender wildflower, Blazing Star, blooming amid the empty Sudafed packets, the syringes, the used-up Bic lighters, and the plastic Mountain Dew bottles.  He takes the time to spot five more of the endangered plants.

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the paintings of Edward Hopper figure into the novel to highlight Rash’s themes of spirituality in the natural world and a sense of isolation in the modern world. The cave art in Lascaux makes an appearance as well.  But it is Becky’s (Rash’s) poetry that sets this novel apart: “If not today then soon, gray clouds will gather. Let it come so I might hear leaf splats, watch the wet blotch, taste on my tongue, feel on my face the pentecost of petrichor.” The book ends with a gorgeous poem and Les’ hope that he and Becky can forge a way to be “alone together.”

––––––––

Kathleen Brewin Lewis is the author of two poetry collections, Fluent in Rivers and July’s Thick Kingdom, both published by FutureCycle Press. Her poems, short stories, and essays have also appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Still: The Journal, Cider Press Review, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. V: Georgia, among other publications. An avid hiker, Kathleen’s writing focuses on the natural world. A graduate of Wake Forest University and of the MA in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State, she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Ron Rash Poetry Award.

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.

Issue 6.1 Spring 2017

Click on a title to read an author’s work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra. Also, consider leaving a comment for everyone to read.

"Crying Girl" by Alexander Chubar
“Crying Girl” by Alexander Chubar

"Moon Through Window" by CinCin Fang
“Moon Through Window” by CinCin Fang

"Skull" by Alexander Chubar
“Skull” by Alexander Chubar

Poetry:
(Guest Edited by Kristin LaTour)

Mischelle Anthony | Blackjack
Rachel Bunting | One Who Is Typically Accompanied by Unease
Jessica Cuello | The Whale Looks at Painted Depictions of Herself: Moby Dick Chapter 55
Stevie Edwards | Against Desire
Jack Giaour | dear kafka
David Greenstone | Family Vacation
Zoe Hitzel | Gender Dysphoria versus the February Skyline
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke | Summer Sonnet for a Sears House
Gerry LaFemina | Pocket Watch
Marlo Starr | Speech
Annie Stenzel | Posture [im]Perfect
Donna Vorreyer | Like Tree Rings, We Count the Years
Ian Randall Wilson | Anniversary
Monique Zamir | On Television II

Fiction:

Diane Payne | Harmony

Nonfiction:

M. J.  Arlett | South American Leaf Blight in Rubber Trees
Miriam Mandel Levi | My Gaza War
Nancy L. Penrose | Time Missing in the Grand Canyon

Translations:

Anna Akhmatova | The Heart’s Memory of Sun… | **Domenic Scopa
Aleksis Rannit | Winter | Henry Lyman**
Rainer Maria Rilke | My Body | **Susanne Petermann

Book Reviews:

John Guzlowski | Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded | Review by Sandra Kolankiewicz
Ron Rash | Above the Waterfall | Kathleen Brewin Lewis

Spotlight on a Press:

Dos Madres Press | Review by Nettie Farris

 

**Indicates Translators

Annie Stenzel

Annie Stenzel’s poems have most recently appeared in the print journals Kestrel, Ambit, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Quiddity, Lunch Ticket, and Unsplendid. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Best of the Net. She received a B.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, both from Mills College. Stenzel is also a letterpress printer, never happier than when her hands are covered in ink. She pays the bills by working at a mid-sized law firm in San Francisco.

 

Posture [im]Perfect

Bearing in mind the long hall of the tract home
you walked up and down with your sisters while Ma

watched gimlet-eyed and you three held your breaths
and stared raptly before you, heads fixed firmly

beneath whatever book you had chosen to balance—
two things are now sad, or three, on a good day:

what book did you carry? why can you no longer
walk with your head held high? and especially, why,

why did you never forgive your big sister before
her untimely death and actually not quite even then?

Mischelle Anthony

Mischelle Anthony is Associate Professor of English at Wilkes University specializing in poetry and eighteenth-century literature. Her poetry has appeared in Slush Pile, Mudfish, Watershed, and her collection, [Line], is available from Foothills Press.

 

Blackjack

my father wrangling 200 million
in assets and driving
a Cadillac so many decades after
it means something.  Wading
through moneyed clouds,
the 13th green, and Dr. Seuss
trees, the glut of couch pillows,
carpet of such luxury we whisper.
Every Sunday drive, my father,
past sanded-down alfalfa
fields, acres of memory and
church, that squat brick altar
of primary shapes.  Triangle,
square, circle of trays.
The pale wood witness
to your wide-eyed wedding
asks why you return
to this place.

Look, there’s a blackjack
tree gnarling its way
up the sky.  You don’t know
why they call them that.
I do. 

Rachel Bunting

Rachel Bunting lives and writes near the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. Her poems have been included in both Best of the Net (Sundress) and Best of the Web (Dzanc Books) anthologies, and her work can be found in print and online journals including Muzzle Magazine, Tuesday: An Art Journal, PANK, Toad, Linebreak, and Weave Magazine.

 

One Who Is Typically Accompanied by Unease

You are the vibrating air between the alarm
bell’s hammer and body or the gentle rustle

of the split-flaps announcing another departure
too soon. When the sun shines through windows

you are the glass it passes through; the alternating
expansion and contraction that moves a clock’s

brass hands across its face. A constant body thrum,
the tension of metal against metal as a train slows

its approach. You move inward as the earth asserts
its elliptical path through the universe and explain

that infinity is a comfort: there is intention, after all,
to the way your bones come together, but the watchful

eye of the painted sky is not focused entirely on you.

John Guzlowski

Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded
by
John Guzlowski
Press: Aquila Polonica Press
Pages: 200
Date: March 7, 2016
ISBN: 978-1607720218
Reviewed by: Sandra Kolankiewicz

 

Lives Tattered by War

If you have read one of John Guzlowski’s poems about his parents’ Nazi work camp experiences, most likely you remember it, even if you don’t remember who wrote it.  I still feel the anxiety of trying to give support to a man who is being crucified—a feeling created by his poem “What My Father Believed.”  If you know Guzlowski’s work, you are in for a one-stop treat of familiar territory, a golden arc of experience, exquisite anguish, compassion, outrage, and love.  If you have never had the fortune of exploring his, get ready.

The title “Echoes of Tattered Tongues” creates many images.  First I consider the physicality of the tongue; in death it no longer speaks.  Then I think of ‘tongue’ as language: WW II happened in so many languages that conveying the experience is blocked without translation.  Finally, I understand that, upon their arrival to the United States, Guzlowski’s parents were forced to speak a tongue unfamiliar to them.  Except for their small neighborhood and apartment, Polish was no longer available to express and to be understood.

The book is divided in four parts, some of them drawn from former collections.  Structurally, the book begins at the end.  The first piece is an essay about the “Wooden Trunk” that came with them from Poland.  So many families have a trunk, idea vessel to cart your few belongings with you to another country.  Guzlowski is also his parents’ ‘trunk.’ Without knowing or realizing it, he internalized their voices—and the stories and voices of all the people they had known. Through his description, we physically see the trunk, but when he writes his poems, we discover the nonmaterial contents of the trunk.  Just like his father transformed the prison walls into a vehicle to carry their belongings, John has been transformed their pain into a greater purpose.  He writes the story of the trunk, paralleling its existence with his mother’s death, like a coffin.  Though the reader mourns the loss of the trunk, Guzlowki knows it was good to let it go.

How fitting that the poem which follows is about the destruction of the Polish Cavalry, which marked the beginning of the unraveling of his parents’ lives.  Eventually, they retired to Arizona, but still we see in the poems the need not to waste things, born out of a poverty that few can imagine.  The poems about his mother have an anger, a tenderness, an awareness of unforgiveable cruelty, the finality of death—we hear her voice dispensing wisdom, recounting mindboggling torture.  Safe in Arizona, the sun shining above—but always the darkness beneath.

One of the most brilliant aspects of this book is that these poems are the poems of anyone who has suffered in war.  Whether you were/are a Jew, a Pole, Syrian refugee or— you name the international disaster—John Guzlowski tells the refugees’ story.  He writes of unimaginable terror from 70 years ago—but he might as well be describing our current world.  This poem from “ IV. Liberation”:   “But the British moved them again to another camp,/ and they had to leave the wood, even though/my father tried to carry some on his back./ And it was cold in the new place, and many of the babies died, and my sister was very sick,/ maybe from drinking the dirty water.”   Or from “V. What the War Taught Her”: She learned that the world is a broken place/ where no birds sing, and even the angels/ cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.”

However, in Guzlowki’s work, there is always hope.  For all the terror, the mutuality of sorrow creates an interdependence: “Maybe this was why my mother stayed./ She knew only a man worthless as mud,/ worthless as a broken dog, would suffer/ with her through all of her sorrow.” (“Why My Mother Stayed with My Father”)  His father plants an orange tree when he is nearly too sick to move.  Why is it hopeful when his dying father calls out for his own mother?  Because love endures.  And “Souls Migrating in the Rain”!  When you are a middle aged orphan (which we will all be, unless we die first, when we lose our parents), you’ll be moved by his description of the sea’s “…moving first toward me/ and then away, toward me/ and then away” as your past dissipates with their passing.

Section II, “Refugees,” is a mix of short creative nonfiction pieces and poems.  Like all of Guzlowski’s work, in spite of its focus on the Polish experience, his observations and ability to channel the refugee’s experience is astounding.  Disorientation, expectation, relocation, finding a job and a place to live.  His family ended up in Chicago—in an area where many had similar histories to the Guzlowski family’s.  In a new city on the other side of the world, the past is ever present.  Clearly Guzlowski’s parents were suffering from what we call PTSD, all wrapped up with memory, superstition, and grief.  However, what strikes me constantly in his poems—which appear to have been channeled from his parents and their generation—is their decency, their sense of right and wrong, their moral compass in a world that appears not to have one, the drive to survive.  Even in the poem “Fussy Eaters,” we see the mother trying to explain to her daughter the folly of restaurant food, reminding me of the mother in Ernest Gaines’ story “The Sky is Grey,” who beats her child for being unable to kill a redbird because it’s pretty.  Mother knows that if he is going to survive, he is going to have to be able to do what it takes to get food.

On the second page of Book III, “The War,” Mrs. Guzlowski is quoted directly.  When asked if she would like to send a message to the audience at one of her son’s readings about the war, she says “Yes.  Tell them we weren’t the only ones.”  You have to read only the titles to understand this section of the book: “Landscape with Dead Horses, 1939,” “There Were No Miracles,” “III. German Soldiers Stealing from the Dead.” Words like “Cattle Train” and “Boxcar.”  I’m mesmerized, for this morning as I listened to the news reports from the Middle East, I was holding Echoes of Tattered Tongues in my hands and marveling that even when he writes about war sixty years ago, he’s writing about war now and its rules of decency: “If a German soldier comes to you/ and asks you to shoot the man/ next to you because that man/ isn’t even bones in his striped suit,/ tell the soldier, “No, you’re the Devil….We are brothers in death and brothers in death don’t torment each other….”

The epilogue presents one of my favorite stories about Guzlowski’s mother.  She is 83 and dying, unburdening herself of memories, telling him one story after another, each worse than the one before.  John stops her, doesn’t allow her to tell a story he knows will be “the worse thing [he’s] ever heard.” I don’t know if she was just angry that he wouldn’t allow her to speak or just aware that those of us who have not directly experienced war, will always be somehow immature, but she calls him “a baby.”  I don’t know why, but I love her for it.

The last poem, “In Heaven,” makes me want to be with my dead friends and relatives, eating poppy seed cake.  This is a peaceful poem, made more so by the flashes of darkness provided by the “cows dying suddenly in the field.”  By the end of the book, John’s family are all reunited after death, catching up on lost time, telling stories.  The last line of the poem, and of the book, is, “Did you miss us?”  Love, most importantly sharing love, holding a lost one in your heart, is all that survives and matters.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Translator’s Note:

I was as surprised as many readers of poetry to find that Rainer Maria Rilke had written a large body of poems in French.  It was 1994; an earthquake in southern California had just dumped my books onto the floor and I sat down among them, hoping to find some comfort in their pages.  At random, I opened Rilke’s French poetry in translation, with the original on the left-hand page.  I knew French well; I had just returned from living in France and Morocco for four years.  So when I compared the English with the original, I was not satisfied.  I wanted poems I could chew on, learn by heart, poems I could love and use as a mirror for my life.  I especially wanted poems that didn’t sound like translations.

Gingerly I began replacing a word here, a phrase there, until re-translating these poems became the project of my life.  Why did Rilke write in French?  A partial answer may lie in Rilke’s particular love for a handful of French words he considered untranslatable, at least in sound, rhythm and spirit.  One of them was verger, orchard.  The title poem of the series called “Orchards” begins thus:

Perhaps, dear borrowed language, I’ve been
so bold as to write you because
of the rustic name whose unique domain
has taunted me forever: Verger.

He was fluent in French, having learned it as a child.  Still, it was his second language, which may explain the fact that the French oeuvre is syntactically simpler and more straightforward than the German.  That’s not to say they are easy to translate.  They simply present a less ornate doorway into the same complex, paradoxical ideas as those in Rilke’s German poems.

It is important to note that Rilke wrote the 325 French poems during the last four years of his life.  His health was deteriorating and the French poems, especially “Orchards,” serve as a farewell letter to his beloved world and the audience that had become so loyal to him.  Because of his fear of doctors and hospitals, he sought medical help only when it was too late.  A rare form of leukemia was diagnosed only days before his death on December 27, 1926.  He was just 51 years old.  Many of the French poems were found among his papers and published posthumously.  “My Body,” a poem from “Orchards,” was published by Gallimard in 1926.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke (poet), born in 1875 to a German-speaking family in Prague, was a prolific poet, essayist, critic and correspondent who never did anything but write.  Well-known for his restlessness, he often became dissatisfied with his current “home” sometimes only days after moving there with his custom-made standing desk.  Among many other places, he lived in Paris, most notably in 1902-03 when he worked for Auguste Rodin.  Inspired by the great sculptor, he began to look with an artist’s eye at objects, developing a new lyrical style in his so-called Dinggedichte, “thing poems.”  During the last years of his life he lived mostly in Muzot, Switzerland where he wrote over 325 poems in French.  Rilke died of leukemia in December, 1926.

 

Susanne Petermann (translator) graduated with a B.A. in German and French from Macalester College in 1979.  She spent almost a decade traveling in Europe and teaching English in Morocco before returning to the USA.   After discovering Rainer Maria Rilke’s French poems in 1994, she began to re-translate them, while also writing original poetry and essays on the relationship between healing and writing.  Her translations have appeared in Transference, Agni, Epiphany, Solstice, Jung Journal of Culture and Psyche, Inventory, and Rhino, among others.  Her forthcoming book When I Go (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR) is a selection of 125 translations of Rilke’s French poems.  She works as a personal organizer in southern Oregon.

 

My Body

How sweet sometimes to agree with you,
O my body, my elder brother,
how sweet to be strong
with your strength,
to feel you, leaf, branch and bark
and all that you are still becoming,
you, so close to the spirit,

so free, so at one
with the obvious joy
of being this tree of gestures.
You slow heaven down
for a moment, and give it
a place to call home.

 

 

27

Qu’il est doux parfois d’être de ton avis,
frère aîné, ô mon corps,
qu’il est doux d’être fort
de ta force,
de te sentir feuille, tige, écorce
et tout ce que tu peux devenir encor,
toi, si près de l’esprit.

Toi, si franc, si uni
dans ta joie manifeste
d’être cet arbre de gestes
qui, un instant, ralentit
les allures célestes
pour y placer sa vie.

Donna Vorreyer

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She serves as the reviews editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and teaches middle school in the Chicago suburbs

 

Like Tree Rings, We Count the Years

We hike the forest after fires, trunks
and brush blackened, consider
the cobbled streets we left behind,
their curves cold and confusing.
We embrace instead this chaos, ash
against the rusted undergrowth,
a darkness that coaxes us to wander,
branches hovering close but out
of reach. We swing our arms, unleash
our caged tongues to share a laugh.

I recall the casual courtship of us
clasped ragged, dirty with days
of dust, our hands threaded, a bag
of down to cover us, sweat stiffening
our clothes. Our smooth-skinned
bodies in the morning cold among
the trees. But I cannot conceive
of this cool youth any longer, can
only dream it under these clouds
that threaten but bring no rain.

We stack and restack rocks,
uncover what is hidden from the eye,
barnacled geodes whose insides dazzle
only when the crust is breeched. Words
unsaid simmer beneath fleece, stoke
our private refineries. We make camp
and, in the chill, the tinder catches.
We bank the flame, careful to contain it.
Warming, we peel each other open,
astonished that we still shine.

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (poet) was a leading Acmeist whose poems were sensationally popular during the early twentieth century. After the Bolshevik revolution, her personal life and public career went from crisis to crisis. She was effectively barred from publishing. She continued to write “for the bottom of her chest” as she said. Her third husband and adult son were imprisoned and sent to Siberia during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Her great poem “Requiem” reflects this experience. It circulated among friends and later in samizdat, but was not published in the Soviet Union until the “thaw” of the 1950s. In 1942 she began her long masterpiece Poem Without a Hero, which occupied her for much of the rest of her life. After Stalin’s death, she was gradually rehabilitated and her work was again widely published in the Soviet Union.

 

Domenic Scopa (translator) is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry and translations have been featured in Poetry Quarterly, Reed Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Belleville Park Pages, and many others. He is currently an adjunct professor for the Changing Lives Through Literature program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and at New Hampshire Technical Institute. His first book, Walk-in Closet (Yellow Chair Press), is forthcoming in 2017. He currently reads manuscripts for Hunger Mountain and Ink Brush Publications.

 

The Heart’s Memory of Sun…

The heart’s memory of sun fades.
Grass yellows.
Some snowflakes blow in the wind,
Faintly, gently.

The narrow stream no longer flow?
They’re frozen over.
Nothing ever happens here?
Nothing…

In the empty sky a willow spreads
Its bare-boned fan.
Maybe it’s better that I’m not
your wife.

The heart’s memory of sun fades.
What’s that??Darkness?
I don’t know. This night unravels
Winter.

Ian Randall Wilson

Ian Randall Wilson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of literary journals including the North American Review, The Gettysburg Review and Alaska Quarterly Review. A short story collection, Hunger and Other Stories, was published by Hollyridge Press (2000). He has an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College, and is on the fiction faculty at the UCLA Extension.

 

Anniversary

The hours toss off the words’ imprint
easy as rain.

No boy.
No everything.

All the useful data has been collected.
Now plastic rules the night.

The newest statues in the square
are artificial.

Budget constraints in the new millennium.  We will be
separated and catalogued.  Replaced.

Tomorrow prefaces its arrival with fire.
In the final quarter minute spirit turns weightless.

Out there in the park all the voices have stopped
and the citizens are milling aimlessly.

The blackbirds who nest in the trees
are scolding them.

We have reached
the threshold of repetition.

Words toss off
the rain’s impressions.

Who knows what to do
or when to do it?

Some of us will deliberate.
Some will act

At sea level far too long
a few men look backward toward the heights.

I have opened the drawers
and cannot find what I am looking for.

I have examined the foundations
and they are cracked.

Any man would be a fool
to buy this place.

Any man would be a fool
to stay.

The elevator drops without reservations.
The doors refuse to lock.

The lights providing order
are flashing in distress.

When I was a boy I imagined
buildings of great size.

Seen from the recesses of outer space
they are quite small.

The earth no more than a marble
in a terrifying beautiful spin.

Jessica Cuello

Jessica Cuello is the author of Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016) and Hunt, winner of The 2016 Washington Prize from the Word Works. She was the winner of The 2013 New Letters Poetry Prize, a winner of LUMINA’s poetry contest (selected by Carolyn Forché), the recipient of a 2015 Saltonstall Writing Fellowship and the recipient of the 2014 Decker Award from Hollins University for outstanding teaching.

 

The Whale Looks at Painted Depictions of Herself: Moby Dick Chapter 55

I opened to a page and saw my face
my legs, my backside
My skin was paper, two-dimensional

I recognized the printed torso first,
before my own, which was underwater,
a room unlit, a room I never entered

Mirrors in the sea are iridescent
mirrors in the sea are other creatures
waving back silk arms, beckoning

They have pictures of me,
none of them right
I am the brain with two eyes

I am not a brain to stop burning
It formed inside my mother
and burst out, my cells multiplied

To dive is to capture light, paint me
down there on the ocean floor,
or paint my nursing eyes, retracted

What is a face? My eyes have focal length
They see your trajectory at sea, dotted lines
that crisscross like a lie

I never wore that color or lifted my teeth wide
I never went back and tore that rope
I never swallowed those men

They drew me bursting out of waves,
they watched me from the sidelines
I left my body and entered their eyes

and looked back at my flank
and looked back at the places
where the tools would probe,

the outline, the nipples for feeding,
the endometrium absorbed
I thought it was another just like me

circling in the water
pounding her tail for home
I didn’t burn their papers,

I looked for her, my lost mother
What is reflection?
I cannot live outside of water

Guest Poetry Editor: Kristin LaTour

Kristin LaTour’s most recent chapbook is most recent chapbook is Agoraphobia, from Dancing Girl Press (2013); she has published two others: Blood (Naked Mannequin Press 2009) and Town Limits (Pudding House Press 2007). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Fifth Wednesday, Cider Press, After Hours, dirtcakes, qarrstiluni, and The Adroit Journal. She teaches at Joliet Jr. College and lives in Aurora, Illinois, with her writer husband. Readers can find more information at www.kristinlatour.com.

Marilyn Kallet

Marilyn Kallet has published 17 books, including The Love That Moves Me, poetry from Black Widow Press. She has translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, Péret’s The Big Game, and co-edited and co-translated Chantal Bizzini’s Disenchanted City (with J. Bradford Anderson and Darren Jackson.) Dr. Kallet is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Each spring she leads poetry workshops for VCCA-France in Auvillar. She has performed her poems on campuses and in theaters across the United States as well as in France and Poland, as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program; recently she performed with Ivy Writers Paris bilingual poets series, and with Plume at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris.

 

Paris Elegy

On Rue Bichat
on the shattered street
you want a poem

for Friday.
I have only
words

that hang heavy
in the air
like church bells.

129.
129.
129.

Notre Dame
stays locked
until Thursday.

A precaution,
you understand.
Words?

I have Sunday
blue sky above
the Seine,

police boats
and foot patrols,
grumpy tourists

who “came all this way”
and can’t enter
la Chapelle.

I have one family
at home
in Tennessee,

another here,
in Paris,
smaller now,

reduced to long echoes,
130
low sounds.

 

 

Ode to a Lost Poet

You abandoned me
during the worst violence
Paris has known

since World War II.
You are no
friend,

no human.
True, humans
do this.

And worse.
Worse.
You are no longer

a poet.
Poets must have heart.
True, some

manage words
without love
or courage.

The moment you
were not center
stage, you backed

out.
No word.
I sat alone in

Hotel Quartier Latin
watching the loop
of butchery on TV.

You created
a black hood of
silence for yourself.

“You can read
if you want to,” you emailed, at last.
“But my poetry must wait

for a more tranquil time.”
I was strapped into the plane
at LaGuardia on

9/11, waiting
to take off.
Sorry, the pilot said.

Now I’m here,
in our beloved Paris.
Writers and friends do not wait.

Delaville Café
stays well-lit, open for poetry, camaraderie.
The amps have been plugged in.

The audience wants words: comfort, rage,
anything. Attendre? They attend.
“We need to laugh!” someone says.

Down the road, Place de la République
is packed, despite warnings.
Almost midnight: friends and strangers

raise candles, compose notes.
Wait for peace?
Yours will be long, Madame.

Your poems can
rest, tranquil as dust,
as a drug.

You lost me
in the dark night
of treachery

and self-love.

Nancy Chen Long

nancychenlongNancy Chen Long is the author of Light into Bodies, winner of the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry (forthcoming, University of Tampa Press, 2017) and the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). You’ll find her recent and forthcoming work in Crab Orchard Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Bat City Review, the Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. Nancy received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She lives in south-central Indiana and works at Indiana University. www.nancychenlong.com

 

nancy-chen-long-poem

Barbara Sabol

barbara-sabolBarbara Sabol is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Original Ruse (Accents Publishing) and The Distance between Blues (Finishing Line Press). Her work has most recently appeared in The Examined Life, San Pedro River Review, Ekphrasis, Common Ground Review, Pentimento, Chrysanthemum, Modern Haiku, and Pudding Magazine, as well as in a handful of anthologies. Barbara holds an MFA from Spalding University. She won the Jean Irion Prize in poetry in 2014. Barbara reviews poetry books for the blog, Poetry Matters. She is a speech therapist who lives and works in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with her husband and wonder dogs.

 

Echolocation

Sound prevails under the ice small light in the depths—where
the beluga travels, north to Cook Inlet. Apart from mating, breath
her strongest instinct; Eskimo, spear, an afterthought. The burden of ice
is relieved by the echoes of her twitter-clicks, telling her here is a sliver
of open water, here is your breathing. The ice-bound ocean her intimate
aquaria, the white whale navigates the margins of air and water.

Above the ice the polar bear waits, waits for the streak of white to pass
beneath his paws, for the first pulse of water between the floes. He is learning
to decipher her song, learning exactly where to stop, when to scoop his great
foreleg against her heft. But this one, ah, she has tuned her voice not only
to the air above, but to what it shapes itself around, and with that knowledge
she swims backwards, holding her breath.

Triin Paja

Triin Paja is an Estonian, living in a small village in rural Estonia. Her poetry has appeared in The Moth, BOAAT, Otis Nebula, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Gloom Cupboard, The Missing Slate, and elsewhere.

 

Murmuration

you say its kindness, the way dusk gathers 
its skirt-hems, walks to the wheat field, 
leaves. how a cat leaves an old woman’s lap,
ribbons of light fluttering in the wind.
kindness, you say, as the sun disappears in
your throat, leaving me beneath the grey belly
of the whale-sky. I hear spring shatter its
perfume bottle, the clouds clinging to tin roofs
with soft hands. I have kissed your hands.
when we cannot speak, we press our bare skin
against silence’s bare skin—I want to say
when you die they will not find blood but birds 
in the body. how kindness is always forgiveness,
the thrushes covering us with the insect netting
of their song. how somewhere we pearl into
a bone-white memory, rising, collapsing,
like a lover’s breathing after a vodka-darkened
night, after the ghost of the orgasm leaves us.
how somewhere the stones are writing us,
the dandelions flickering in a kind of light.

 

Thanatos

we hear the conversation between the wind,
the reeds. we hear the church bells where
there is no church. we’ve come here to be
forgotten, here, where the deer touches
the mildewed stones. the linen of fog
dresses the river—the river Lethe
running through our bodies
when we touch. this light of bodies,
flickering, climbing into the night
of another’s limbs, the moss of skin.
you say the world has become Lethe.
you say, and the bird of your voice grows old,
the wings spread slowly. you enter me
as one enters a river, your warmth on my skin
like paint. you say the speed of forgetting is a river,
your wheat-bruised hands in a mustard field of light.
when I touch you in the river, I do not know
if it is you I touch or the water.
are you a river? are you a dream?
your pulse in the river

like a blue stone, like a song.

 

Senescence

the wine begins to glow like a gas lamp inside us
because in this city no one has hands. we saw the boy
with the purple scarf. his silhouette was a monolithic statue. 
the vegetables begin to rot. we forget the nightmares
of the oiled seagulls. how our mothers waited for hours
for the sugar, the flour, beneath the moth-flickering factory light.
there are nights when the lilium becomes the moon.
the hair of the wheat swells in the snow and we become
what the crows didn’t take with them. someone cries
in the tractor shed but here I am washing your back.
I gather up the yarn, the mandarin peels. moon-soaked, desperate,
our memories begin to disappear like elephants from ancient china.
to be this feral with emptiness. to come to you as to a body
tied to an oak tree. the paint of your name peeling from the walls.
the moon clinging to a branch like a luminous owl. the river
where I gave names to your bones. a polaroid of Rome.
a boy, a man. a hand, trembling, and trembling.

Sarah Nix

sarah-nixSarah Nix is a writer and artist living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received a BFA in 2006 from Herron School of Art and Design. Her poetry has appeared in CALYX Journal, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and Sugared Water. Her blog is sarahonpaper.blogspot.com.

 

 

The Easel

Where paint
dripped
where his brush
missed the canvas
or color
rubbed off the edges
where each
of his pictures
left its mark

 

 

Museum Pieces

Cup, Sasanian Period

When he brought its lip
to his lips, he closed his eyes.

He could not see
thousands would come to look

into the void of its mouth.

 

Egyptian Cuff

For how many years
did it clasp
her wrist like a hand?
Come here.

Don’t leave us with this
emptiness.

 

Dutch Timepiece, 17th Century

pinned open like a specimen.

 

Bowl, Song Dynasty

White pedestal,
glass case.

The way we imagine
it held by hands.

The way
it will never be again.

 

 

Seascape

This is the dark butterfly of the mountain,
its image rippled in the water.

The rocky coastline softened
by fog.

The instance we knew iridescence:
close-up of the beach, fragments of shells.

And this—taken just before
my hat flew into the wind

and was lost to the ocean.
Let it go. Forget

the rust-bitten signs,
tangles of power lines.
How we framed out the crowds,
the traffic and trash, our quarreling.

This is the mountain. Fog.
My dress in full bloom. Our wind-

posed hair. These are clouds,
trees. This is the sea.

Sherry Chandler

Sherry Chandler has published four collections of poetry, most recently The Woodcarver’s Wife. Her work has received three nominations for a Pushcart Prize. Individual poems have been published in the Louisville Review, the Cortland Review, The William and Mary Review, and other periodicals and anthologies. Her website is http://www.sherrychandler.com.

 

 

 

Guest Poetry Editor: Karen George

karen-georgeKaren George, author of Into the Heartland (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Inner Passage (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Swim Your Way Back (Dos Madres Press, 2014), and The Seed of Me (Finishing Line Press, 2015), has received grants from Kentucky Foundation for Women and Kentucky Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Louisville Review, Permafrost, Naugatuck River Review, Still, Wind, and Blue Lyra Review. She holds an MFA from Spalding University, reviews poetry at http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/, and is fiction editor of the journal Waypoints at http://www.waypointsmag.com/. Visit her website at http://karenlgeorge.snack.ws/.

 

Annie Hinkle

annie-hinkleAnnie Hinkle‘s poetry is published in Ascent, Mid-American Review, Best of Ohio 2014, Express Cincinnati, and Southern Poetry Review. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Miami University and a PhD from University of Kent, Canterbury, England. When she is not writing poetry or fiction, she is teaching high school language arts and directing The Writing Center at Ursuline Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her poetry chapbook, Composition Studies, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

 

annie-hinkle-poem