My Brother, a Broken Violin String, in Four Parts by Michael H. Brownstein

The tension in my brother a router bit
slipping away from its collet and shaft
tormenting all of us into worry and expense
as if money is the only matter between us,
the only act of love, of caring, of speech,
friction and the noise of friction, metal
and the noise of metal, wood and the noise
of wood, empathy and the basic spread
of impious injustice, a total lack of power.

He could have been a hurricane,
but when the storm surge came,
he backed away rather than move forward.
In the tension of rain and wind,
he howls, scratches, screams
and then opens the sky to quiet,
but he cannot sleep, he cannot dream.
What if my brother could take
his hurricane and run into another?

The Atlantic is heavy with warmth,
sun, wind, hollows, thick humidity,
even the moon a lampshade of light.
My brother, my brother, he sighs,
worries, asks the same question,
retreats within the same answer,
stumbles into rusted out landscapes,
tension and rusty bits of machinery,
decisions best made by someone else.

My brother hides in plain sight
near the frontier of Israel and Palestine,
a checkpoint, soldiers with automatic weapons,
armored vehicles, more automatic weapons,
summer heat, winter heat, shade and shallow imprints,
barbed wire and rusting barbed wire, water
caught in sand, wind caught in sand, tensions
a category three soon to grow into a five,
my brother, broken bits, maybe a hurricane.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

 

Detail of After the Hurricane by Winslow Homer.

A Well-Lit Ocean by Trish Saunders

Row along, children, nothing to see here,
it’s not an oar that floats in the seaweed
but a branch, slender as hope;
that stifled cry was a gull—

how much time have I spent reassuring you?
probably not enough;

a beached boy lying face down is not a boy,
but a large doll,
eyes closed
in sleep;

waves turn his face
from the pitiless sun,
but keep his blue shorts on,
one last kindness.
Stars wince.

Alan_Kurdi_lifeless_body

 

 

Trish Saunders divides her time between Seattle and Honolulu. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Snapping Twig, Gnarled Oak, Busted Dharma, Blast Furnace Press, Off the Coast, Poets and Poetry, and Here/There Poetry.

 

Photograph of Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving in Greece by Ggia. 

Photograph of the body of drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi by Nilufer Demir. 

Bottoming Out by Devon Balwit

“The neurochemistry is so similar that it’s scary,” –Julian Pittman

O blue piscine, droop-finned.
O saline sorrow, interested in nothing

but bottom-muck, ventral and anal fins
dragging pebbles, the world muffled

by glass, only boredom within reach,
circuit after circuit, the same effort

to go the same distance, gills laboring,
tank water ever less breathable.

Please—a scuba diver, a dropped leaf,
a stick, a new feng shui—anything

to lift her to surface dapple, to a scalene
of odd angles. Imagine yourself

in such nothingness and count days.
A handful would break you, a lifetime

and your mouth would be as hers—gaping—
streamers of shit looping slow circles.

 

Sharktank_at_Newport_Aquarium

 

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry); We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/ Complicated (with the Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic), and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found or are upcoming in Cordite, The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, The Ekphrastic Review, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, The Free State Review, Rattle, Posit, and more.

Tea leaves by Leah Angstman

To the family, the Sabbath lost would entail the loss of the home day—the day of domestic re-union, instruction, worship, and charity. Family government would lose its tone…domestic purity would be imperiled—for the two oldest institutions in the world are interlinked…
Rocky Mountain News Weekly, via American Messenger, April 23, 1859

 

Easy to gloss over, hidden words with more
than meaning. Instruction, family government.

But what it meant was I might have the ladies over to tea.
We might gossip about politics, a coming war in the South
that seemed so far from us, men’s talk, workweeks and
Walter’s suspenders always on the mend,
Elsa’s troubled children. (And they were trouble.)

But worst was the tea, to Frank. The tea.
It meant liberation, a mind inside mine. I could
hold a cup and see worlds in it, swirling around a
broken axis, cycloning apart from his center.
Family government would lose its tone;
make no mistake, this was Frank’s voice,
speaking through an edition, forbidding me to cyclone.

Sundays were for him, for him, for him.
For his pork chops, for his tall tales. For his instruction.
A list too filled with vanities of man to axis
around vanities of women—another day that I
must drop my cup to lift his.

 

 

Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Midwesterner, unsure of what feels like home anymore. She is the recent winner of the Loudoun Library Foundation Poetry Award and Nantucket Directory Poetry Award and was a placed finalist in the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Prize for Short Fiction, and Pen 2 Paper Writing Competition (in both Poetry and Fiction). She serves as Editor-in-Chief for Alternating Current Press and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and her work has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Slice Magazine, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. Find her at leahangstman.com.

 

 

Detail of Afternoon Tea Party by Mary Cassatt, 1891. 

Peel This Face Away by Jamie O’Connell

I am / eucalyptus bodies / pickpocket squirrels in
groves / I am always alone / planting crows
inside sand dunes / protect sandpipers from cement /
eucalyptus peels / like plastic tumbleweed / the
golden gate bridge constructed by sunken ships /
and ropes / anchored into pangaea / eucalyptus
bodies / sweep branches / rain into sewers / construct
the golden gate / with spongy wood / little houses on
the hilltop / receding sand on ocean beach / paint swept
by fog / street cleaning hours from ten to three /
I am always alone / sun scars on cars / disintegrate
sand cement / over peninsula / wrapped with clouds /
atmosphere holes and whole water / wrapped around
eucalyptus bodies / peel this face away / peel cement off
streets / construct ships of Pangaea / I’m always
searching for rip tides / pull sand / eucalyptus bodies
in sewers / pull pacific ocean / we are the invasive
species / the dunes are protecting or not

 

 

Jamie O’Connell currently lives in the Bay Area, where she received her MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Her poetry can be found in Menacing Hedge, Troop Zine, Newfound, and Forth Magazine, and her multimedia work has been exhibited in College Avenue Galleries in Oakland. She spends most of her time with her majestic zebra-striped dog/direwolf, Daisy. Visit her site here: http://www.jamieoco.com

 

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Jamais by Laura S. Marshall

I’d like to believe that you invented French,
that no words like frisson or frémir
existed before you breathed them
against the skin of my neck.

You took my tears and my sighs
and you gave them magical names like larmes
and soupirs, words and sounds and feelings
that never were thought or heard or felt

before you and me,
and now I speak courrament and can
understand without
a dictionary in my hands.

Now we only communicate in French
when we are together: We are all plush tones
and prosodic stress and soft sighs
and mots véloutés and grandes respirations

and we write multipage poems for each other.
Once you sent me a letter,
but it was accidentally in English,
which you still speak with your family

and the people in your office and at the store.
In the letter you wrote not of frissons
or larmes or soupirs but of things I couldn’t
translate or even pronounce. I held it

up to the light, pretending you were inventing
something again, a new way to say: “Oh,
here’s another gift for you, something
to unwrap like French” or “Now

we don’t even need words at all – I’ve made you
something better.”
But you never mailed
the letter. You never even wrote it. In fact

you just called, mumbling, humming,
a little drunk, to get a number
for one of my friends. You were hoping
she could teach you new words and new phrases

and when I gave you the secret code
you used a word I knew once and I said – what –
not hanging up the phone, though
I wanted to pretend that your voice lowered

to velvet and brushed new words
over my ears, my skin, to make me
shiver and tremble and sigh
and maybe even cry

with the magic of the names.
But of course you only laughed
and you thanked me with your flat hard voice,
with your stupid English words.

 

 

Laura S. Marshall is a writer and editor who lives in New England. She studied linguistics as an undergraduate at Queen’s University in Canada and as a grad student at the University of British Columbia. She has studied writing at the Ashbery Home School, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at UMass Amherst, and the College of Our Lady of the Elms. Her work appears or is forthcoming in literary publications including Epigraph Magazine, Lavender Review, Junoesq, and the Queen’s Feminist Review, as well as newspapers and trade magazines.

 

Detail of Les Deux Amies by Lagrenee.

#MeToo: Persephone by Caroline Zimmer

You went down, dragged
with eddies of dead,
foaming heads in the current
that welled like spit.

I went down,
his whore
on the trap house floors
that crumbled and caved in.

You went underground,
where triple hound maws
snapped. You spilled your blood
for their bruised tongues to lap.

I went, 90 pounds
with one clock to the jaw,
heard cockroaches in the walls
and his roommate fap.

He showed you his cock,
his sinkhole mouth,
bulge and roll scrotum
of pomegranate beads.

He showed me the jail lock,
the carnal brink
and bloodied my ass—
Persephone,

Our mothers don’t sleep;
who knows what they know?
When we come staggering back,
they stare, ash faced and blank.

The earth opens up like a woman, to waste.
Do they too suffer our surrender?
My mother picks scabs off her face.
We tie knots in our souls to remember.

The return is inevitable for us,
thawing through winter’s atrophy.
Pollen fails to mix with our hair’s death dust.
Mother’s leafy arms do nothing for me.

With the clotted seeds of the first dead fruit,
You descend again, stolen child, sovereign trapped.
Barefoot from the ER, I also get back,
fumble dreamily there with the needle in my lap.

 

 

Caroline Zimmer’s poetry, as well as her visual art, has appeared in The Maple Leaf Rag, Umbra and Unspoken magazine. She is a lifelong resident of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where she lives with her Doberman, Iris and her fiancé, fellow poet, David Rowe. Caroline tends bar and reads tarot cards out of her home.

 

Detail of The Rape of Persephone by Rupert Bunny, 1913.