Lupercalia by Stephanie L. Harper

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Lupercalia by Stephanie L. Harper

 

Stephanie L. Harper is a Pushcart Prize Nominee, and the author of the chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press, June 2018). Her poems appear in Slippery Elm, Figroot, Harbinger Asylum, Califragile, Panoply, Isacoustic, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with her husband, two teen children, and a cattle dog named Sydney.

 

Painting by William-Adolphe Bougereau.

Three Poems by Michael H. Brownstein

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An Affair with Love

Now that everything is over,
The speed bump, the crack in concrete,
A chapbook by Steven Steven Schletor
Open to pages four and five
Waving its torn hands in the wind.
When it rains, when it snows,
After the hail, after the heavy sleet,
After the weather breaks to a drizzle,
The staples bend and rust and break,
But this is nothing. Water has a way
With cardboard and paper, rock
And sandstone, love and ink.

 

Errands and Other Things Occupy My Time

and now I look through my list of poems,
a silence so concise it swells into me.
Is there no room for hunger or shame,
the loose breath of the injured fawn
leaning terribly against the injured oak,
its new buds wet with the last blossoms of snow?
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is spring.
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is fall.
The homeless man from the corner tells me
water is the hardest thing to find in the city.
“Can you spare fifty cents? I need a can of cola.”
His teeth are like mine, coated and spoiled.
I give him a quarter and he buys a bag of chips.

 

In the Morning It Will Still Be Okay

This is not who I love. This is not what I love.
Love is a god-stone, thick and sometimes valuable,
strong-wristed, one arc of a finger
stretching.

Love has the weight of god, the weight of Eve’s sister,
Lilith, and vomit, water mixed with salt,
A mottled permutation of tear strained skin,
pink and ordinary, thinly veined and iridescent,
the sigh of sun arriving into day’s orange blue.

This is who I love. This is what I love.
An evening of chimneys and steam,
a cloud of feather and frog,
green eyes,
you.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk – a squirrel falls through where he just stood – what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.

He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.

He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry – they really do go together.

On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.

 

Detail of Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo.

#CampFire: Two Poems by Heather Rayann

 

Burned Trunk 5

You Have to Listen with Soft Lips to this One

After the Camp Fire consumed my home in Paradise, California.

The rain came a week late,
battling a dream that
refuses to leave.

I found a lantern.
One bent and warped from holding
too much light, whose
filaments dissolved into the ash
where life once lingered.

Twisted glass whose gnarled fingers
clutch at the remains of empty spines that
once held the wise words of
wretched men and
loose women.

“It’s not enough,” she said
to the beard behind the bar.
“Fill it to the top.”

Flickering light in the corner where
Emergency Exit leads into a
bathroom brawl
hauls her out of a daisy dream
where she slipped that fall,
when the sky broke
and the earth rolled over
in ashen blanket of defeat,
toes to the sky in supplication
to the heat that singed our
souls.
Singing a dirge for the
things
that are only just beginning
to die.

Burned Trunk 3

Fire

After the Butte Fire consumed the home my father built over 30 years ago, where I spent many a reluctant summer vacation.

That redwood tree
has a burned out hollow
just the right size for me.
The fire swept through at
three thousand degrees,
burning the tree
from the inside out.

If I slip inside,
I can smell the iodine
from that time I skinned my knee
but the bandage would not stick.
I covered it with posies
and rose petals,
then wished myself
away.

Burned Trunk 1

 

Heather Rayann is a lifelong lover and writer of poetry, a painter, a teacher, and a mother of two boys residing in Northern California.

 

Photographs by Wren Tuatha, of charred trees at her home in Magalia, California, within the Camp Fire zone.

Pine Cones Evolve into People like You by William Doreski

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A man attempts to drown himself
in a washing machine. Dragging him
from the Laundromat by his feet

I dump him in the street, wring him out,
and chide him for shocking the women
laundering weeks of smutty diapers.

Of course he was lately your lover
but was disbarred over foolish crimes
you incite with a grisly smile.

The day looks too disheveled
to risk accidents and incidents
we’d both regret, so I steer him

to an outdoor café and ply him
with strawberry liqueur until pores
open, blackheads pop, and he talks

that talk that topples unwary souls.
He believes that pine cones evolve
into people like you, masses

of tough carbohydrate and gristle.
He believes that nose-flutes simper
reckless melodies when you pose

on an elbow after fatal acts.
I offer him half my bagel
and he scarfs it down so greedily

he must have lost the will to perish
in a slather of harsh detergent.
You shouldn’t pick on men like this,

born tender as chicken pot pies.
You should choose from the thunder
of pagan heroes, the grumble

of satyrs fresh on the gallop.
You should bury your victims with full
military honors rather

than allow them to roam freely
with their spent organs dangling—
their long and bloodless afternoons

inscribed on the faces of clocks
that tick with grim persistence
in low tones no one need hear.

 

 

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in various journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.

 

Painting, Wotan und Brünnhilde, by Koloman Moser.

Communion by Betsy Mars

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He ghosted me everywhere,
like Jesus appearing
on toast, I elevated him
and found him popping up
when I least expected it –
in songs or scents –
in a bearded man similar
in appearance. When he dis-
appeared I despaired
and prayed, drank wine
like water, held his ashes
like relics, and doubted
they could be the body,
wafer thin,
I broke bread and hoped
to make him whole again.

 

First published in Sheila-Na-Gig.

 

 

Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, mostly California-raised poet and educator. Her parents gave her an early appreciation for language and social justice, which her childhood years in Brazil reinforced. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from USC which she puts to no obvious use. A mother, avid traveler, and animal lover, her work has recently appeared in Tuck Magazine, Writing in A Woman’s Voice, and The Ekphrastic Review, as well as in a number of anthologies and the California Quarterly.

 

Art a self portrait by Leon de Vose II.

In the Next Yard by Helen Hoyt

O yes, you are very cunning,
I can see that:
Out there in the snow with your red cart
And your wooly grey coat
And those ridiculous
Little grey leggings!
Like a rabbit,
A demure brownie.
O yes, you are cunning;
But do not think you will escape your father and mother
And what your brothers are!
I know the pattern.
It will surely have you—
For all these elfish times in the snow—
As commonplace as the others,
Little grey rabbit.

 

Helen Hoyt, 1887-1972.

Painting: Winter Hare by Bruno Lilijefors.

#Campfire: We Were Called By The Same Name by Trish Saunders

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We were braided, beribboned girls, selling mints, collecting
badges. We slept with our mouths trustingly open.

In such haloed light, we were possessed by animal spirits no
more terrifying than rabbits, unicorns. Our lives folded

easily into knapsacks. We Kumbaya’d around the lit logs.
How splendid the fire, how benign the darkening sky.

Now at night, I grab my beloved’s hand on waking. Briefly,
shadows of coyotes and elk bolt in terror across the wall.

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Trish Saunders divides her time between Seattle and Honolulu and, in her imagination, in Yosemite National Park. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Blast Furnace Press, Eunoia, Pacific Poetry Review, and many other online and print publications.