Enantiodromia by Despy Boutris

450px-Big_rock_louisville_2

Enantiodromia (Greek: ἐνάντιος): a principle introduced
by psychiatrist Carl Jung that the superabundance
of any force inevitably produces its opposite.

Spring

Barebacked and tenderfooted, we
scale that boulder nicknamed “Lovers’ Leap,”

mind the gaping green lake,
amble toward the peak,

and I look into your eyes, whirlpooling
a future together.

Facesplitting, you leap
first and then

I dive in, surfacing
inside your skin.

Winter

Burdened and battertoed, I
retrace the path to that boulder

overlooking the cloudwater,
trek to the tip

and resolve: mouthing forever
is treachery, love

is a practiced crucifixion.
Chest sinking,

I dive in—

 

 

Despy Boutris is published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, The Adroit Journal, Prairie Schooner, Palette Poetry, Third Coast, Raleigh Review, Diode, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast.

 

Photograph by W. Marsh.

#FlattenTheCurve: Structural Engineering by Martin Willitts, Jr

1200px-Dysert_Victorian_Ruins

My hands are busy, making and unmaking,
under the dome of the stars,
this unbreakable water.

I want to remember this land before I go:
milkweed pods and ragweed spilling seed;
morning taking our breath away;
day retreating, closing curtains.
Lessons on how to build,
become silvery in their cautious steps,
caught in a wordless moment,
salamanders grateful for warm spring rain.

We’re in a difficult state. The river is frozen
in extreme moments of desperation.

 

 

Martin Willitts Jr has 24 chapbooks including the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award winning, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 19 full-length collections including the Blue Light Award 2019 winner, The Temporary World. His recent book is Unfolding Towards Love (Wipf and Stock, 2020).

 

Photograph by Scummy.

#FlattenTheCurve: Proceed with Caution by Connie Post

1280px-3D_hand.stl

Assume
everything is contaminated

assume every surface
you touch
holds an invisible illness

you can spread it
without knowing

you are asymptomatic
but everyone
turns away

they can tell
that fear mutates
as quickly as a virus

the earth
whispered in your ear
long ago
“I will find you
I will find a way
to tell you when I’ve had
too much”

so you spend your days
looking for your own
antibodies
you search for them
in the soil
where you know
you will someday return

you sanitize your thoughts

you don’t say anything to anyone
but you’ve had a sore throat
for fourteen days

the earth is having trouble breathing

there are no more ventilators

 

 

Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, One, River Styx, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily. Her Awards include the 2018 Liakoura Award the 2016 Crab Creek Review Poetry Award and the Caesura award. Her first full length Book, Floodwater,  won the Lyrebird Award. Her second full length book, Prime Meridian,  was released January 3, 2020; both published by Glass Lyre Press.

#FlattenTheCurve: Living the days of Corona by Connie Post

1200px-Hand_in_water_at_the_Blue_Grotto

The numbers change
by the hour
I check the web site
too often

I tell myself not to
watch the news
all the time

I wipe down my counter
instead

after dinner
I find a new graph
on the trajectory of deaths
in my region

I watch the curve spike
and see small images of people
falling off the back

like that scene in
Titanic
when everyone
fell off the ship

some to the ocean
some to the decks below

some plummeting
some holding on
some lonely
when the water
froze their stories in time

I try to sleep
all my meditation songs
fall below my bed

someone is being infected
someone is short of breath
someone remembers a prayer
they said when they were young

 

 

Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, One, River Styx, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily. Her Awards include the 2018 Liakoura Award the 2016 Crab Creek Review Poetry Award and the Caesura award. Her first full length Book, Floodwater,  won the Lyrebird Award. Her second full length book, Prime Meridian,  was released January 3, 2020; both published by Glass Lyre Press.

#FlattenTheCurve: Throughout the Day by Martin Willitts, Jr

640px-George_Bellows_-_In_a_Rowboat,_1916

I cannot hold any moment for long —
a slur of birds,
arriving from the brink of all beginnings.

After-sounds of birds or remnant rain
tugged my bell-rope life —
unsettling large wings.
arriving at this empty afternoon.

Light’s after-spill,
shimming a fox’s tail,
brushing stars and
reverberating crickets,

a chorus of returning lamb bells.
It is late — an intersection
between decisions and actions,
already leaving over the horizon.

Darkness is rowing this way.

Moonlight sonatas,
veins of natural light, straining:

too late, the oars are whispering.

 

 

Martin Willitts Jr has 24 chapbooks including the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award winning, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 19 full-length collections including the Blue Light Award 2019 winner, The Temporary World. His recent book is Unfolding Towards Love (Wipf and Stock, 2020).

 

Painting by George Bellows. 

#FlattenTheCurve: Through the Window by Shalom Galve Aranas

Jenn's window art

I look through the window
and find my favorite tree
the one not felled in front
of a small, newly minted school,
It is flailing in the wind
reminding me of a street lined
with many acacia trees
just like this one.
I pray something like a sun salutation
at high noon
only I am still like the sun
because I am tired
of the news of deaths
and living seems a crime
recalling your pure Italian smile
and how you never called
anymore.

 

 

Shalom Galve Aranas is a freelance writer published in Stereo Stories, The Literary Heist, The Blue Nib and elsewhere. She is a loving, single mother of two.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

#FlattenTheCurve: Numbers Game by Kari Gunter-Seymour

800px-School_girl_studying

If you’ve never seen a squirrel skitter
across an electric wire, or a dove who waits,
you may not understand my twists of thought.

Let’s just say your daughter
turned 10 this week, or as I’ve learned
9 ones and 1 one, or 8 ones and 2 ones,
or 7 ones and 3 ones, you get the drift.

Ten is no longer just 10, it’s part of
a bigger, more susceptible fact family.
Math problems are no longer just problems;
they’re number bonds, multiplying
by integers of coughs and sneezes.

You may think the president raises his hand
because he has an important message,
is actually paying attention, wants to clarify a point.

On the ground, a shiny quarter,
its fat nosed profile taunting.
Do the math.

Corona-chameleon survives on metal
ships up to seventeen days.
1 one take away 1 one still equals zero,
zilch, nada, graveyard.

What else has gone sideways while I stood
staring at hay fields, and fencerows, bumblebees
and butterflies, flocks feeding?

 

 

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s newest collection, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, is forthcoming from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions in 2020. Her work can be found in many fine publications including Stirring, Still, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag, The American Journal of Poetry, and The LA Times, as well as on her website: http://www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. She is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and Athens, Ohio Poet Laureate Emeritus.

 

Photograph by User:Mattes.

#FlattenTheCurve: Inside Out Abecedarian: Day 21 by Beth Gordon

800px-Woman_in_a_dark_room_looking_to_a_mac_computer

Magic mirror on the wall don’t speak,
not now when my face is unfolding like tired
origami. Outside, robins are breathing easier.
Preening. Packs of rabbits emerge from grass,
quietly. Quoting St. Francis, this circle of tails +
revolution + raindrops: I say forgive us. I say,
stay, stay. You can’t hear behind your glass:
that’s treefrogs singing. And bull frogs
unearthed, ugly and croaking hymns.
Valium? Verily? The creek is drowning my
words. Without them I am as ordinary as death.
Xtinct. Xtinguished. Yes, I’m losing letters.

Yes, you too. Until the body count is
zero, zero is all we can ask for.

Listen lovely world I miss you. My days
kite-less. Kitchens have become cinnamon
jails, jails have become morgues.
Inside, imagining oceans in my ears,
helpless hallelujahs swallowed by gulls.
God goes here.
Fireflies + felons tucked inside his pocket,
every elusive prayer climbing cherry trees.
Dying doesn’t scare me. Dimes-stores & daises.
Chamomile cicadas chimes & crossword puzzles.
Birdhouses. Behind my glass I sing row the boat
ashore. All I have is this: this is everything.

 

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother currently living in Asheville, NC. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, Pushcart and the Orison Anthology. She is the author of two chapbooks: Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe (Animal Heart Press) and Particularly Dangerous Situation (Clare Songbird Publishing). She is Managing Editor of Feral, Assistant Editor of Animal Heart Press and Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

Photograph by Beercha.

#FlattenTheCurve: On Immunity by Tim Kahl

Flock_of_birds_at_Rome.ogv

The sky is falling, but the birds still fly
through it. I hear their regiments pass
overhead and wonder what their quarrel is.
Do they simply take orders from their own
blood? Their instincts serve them
like a parade serves a city.

Those garrulous starlings in the morning
seem to be making plans. They commandeer
the new recruits to battle the latest virus,
which my friends and I barely noticed.
There must have been panic as
the flock dissolved. Questions were vollied.
What bird reason did they apply
or was all the chatter about food?

They see us in quarantine down below
and frown on our obsession. Where was this
worry when the last wave hit us? they inquire
. . . or do they merely casually observe
and leave us to our knitting, our fretting
that we might suffocate on our lung pus,
a death as dignified as choking on vomit.

Our overactive immune system will do
us in, sunk by our defensive posture.
While we hunker in the bunker, the birds
are catching wind and halting their laments.
Good God, how the waterfowl are laughing.
They’ve seen this movie before. They
mythologize the last birdseye view on
the world. Everything gone and one god-like
vision floating above, a god who understands
death cannot be considered an event in life.

 

 

Tim Kahl [http://www.timkahl.com] is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) The String of Islands (Dink, 2015) and Omnishambles (Bald Trickster, 2019). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He is also editor of Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.

#FlattenTheCurve: Five Poems by Richard Widerkehr

Félix_Vallotton,_1909_-_Le_Rayon

Now The Lion Sun

For a while, I’ve wanted to say the word disquiet.

As we self-quarantine, and the pharmacy techs,
the grocery checkers go to work,
we sip coffee from our royal-blue cups.

Fir branches in shadow at the edge
of our field make a human figure, arms upraised.
Yesterday, I saw this photo of a lion.

In that zoo with no bars, it lifted its head,
as if toward harsh savannas, sun-struck grass.

Since she saw clients exposed to the virus,
Linda has stayed home—no signs of fever,
no weakening armies of breath.

Now the lion sun
on the edges of dark, naked alders—
the moss on our goat shed glows.

 

Another Shooter*

When the pale sky lets in a chink of light over the rim
of the foothills, we can’t help glancing at the sun.
Last night’s news tasted like salt. Still half-asleep,
we wait, as if for a brand-new diaspora,

a city with bread and honey. As the coffee maker
brews our coffee, and the sun gets round,
more golden, we touch each other, almost afraid.
Sun like a wind, scattered from the edge

of a nebula. After two cups of coffee,
I read how police traced our latest murderer
to the Red Roof Inn near Round Rock, Texas.

How strange, to stand as witnesses this morning.
Our phone rings, numbers flash on a screen. Not in use,
says the display. The sun, this blinding gift.

 

Aubade: Standing Under The Eleventh Street Bridge

This bright, pale new grass in the sun.
Gray stanchions almost like pilings
at the bottom of the sea. Last night
you told me, If I die before you do,
scatter my ashes in the woods
beside some trillium. You showed
me three white petals pressed
in your book. Now as cars
cross by, the bridge gathers its weight
and starts to break in waves, as one
by one the large boards rise
and shudder.
What’s the matter?
you ask. Like this face in a rearview
mirror, like a song I cannot hear,
these words silos at dawn
within me. Under this echoing
bridge, these gray stanchions.
This faint haze of green in the air—
yes, our disquiet this April;
almost nothing happens; we wait.
When did I hear silos at dawn?
And no, this is not a prayer.

 

Staring West Out A Rear Window Of The Keystone Ferry*

–In memory of the men and women murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

As we pull away from creosoted pilings,
there’s this cleft in the dark part of twilight,
a wash of pale blue in the west.

I scan well-lit faces in this cabin,
picture Linda safe at home. As we start
to cross the channel,

the ferry veers; I brace both hands
against the hull. No stars, no dock.
Just the glossy charcoal of this water.

 

After Sun-Up Near The Y Road

I’m thinking of this movie from almost fifty years ago.
A woman asked, Do you hear the bells? Someone
replied, Are you sure? As if that were an answer.
Out our living-room window now, low fir branches

almost block the light. There’s the dusty cylinder
of Linda’s bird feeder, this black metal bar bent down—
a gray squirrel hangs from its hind feet. Last night,
at our online seder, the cantor led this prayer,

Eli, Eli, Lord, Lord. Her windowsills, white walls,
high windows. Her small son slipped in and out
of the room. I’ve never seen angels up and down

a ladder, never saw Elijah. On my laptop,
her white walls. How come no shadows?
Now this gray glass cylinder sways in the sun.

I remember nothing else about the movie.

 

 

*The poem, Another Shooter, was previously published on Poetry Super Highway.  Staring West Out a Rear Window of the Keystone Ferry was previously published in Blueline.

 

 

Richard Widerkehr’s work has appeared in Rattle, Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, Arts & Letters, Atlanta Review, and others. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. His latest book of poems is In The Presence Of Absence (MoonPath Press). He reads poems for Shark Reef Review.

#FlattenTheCurve: Social Distancing by Tricia Knoll

1200px-Social_Distance_(Illustration)

You must be friends with silence to hear.
~ Joy Harjo, “Singing Everything”

The demands: stand off, stay away,
no closer, do not touch

while our simian hands reach,
grab, ache to hold. Although born

opposable, into separate-ness
we join an audience, a tribe, or my party

of one in my quiet house. Even the spring
sun smears an aura of gray haze. My stockpile

of caution weighs down with beans and soap.
Wipes for a door knob. The steering wheel.

This, they say, keeps me safe. Solitary
confinement: a reward of being old

and vulnerable. Four walls to climb
with spare windows to the woods.

A walk on old ice to the mailbox offers
a song of the first mourning dove of March.

My tai chi-waving hands-like-clouds
stir a communal hum in this silence,

forlorn whisper of boots on gravel.

 

 

Tricia Knoll’s Poetry collections –

  • How I Learned to Be White (available on Amazon) received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry.
  •  Broadfork Farm – poems about a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington, its people and creatures is available on Amazon and from The Poetry Box.
  • Ocean’s Laughter, a book of lyric and eco-poetry about Manzanita, Oregon. Look at  Amazon.com or for Reviews. 
  • Urban Wild, a poetry chapbook available from Finishing Line Press that explores interactions of humans and wildlife in urban habitat.
Website: triciaknoll.com
twitter:@ triciaknollwind

#FlattenTheCurve: COVID 19 Shelter in Place by Connie Post

coronavirusBig

Don’t get me wrong
The corona virus is
making its way through the world
with its own fury

at night I lay awake
and shudder about
all the suffering
my daughter keeps coughing
and I don’t settle into sleep until dawn

but there is something else happening
behind the scenes
a friend you haven’t heard from in a while
reaches out and asks if you are okay

people smile at the grocery store
while not touching
Baseball games and concerts are cancelled
but the poets still write

I watch the same movie four times
with my grandson

we stay in more
remember a long-ago vacation
and make popcorn with real butter

we enjoy every morsel of pancakes
and a sandwich with the crust cut off

The virus
how long will it stay with us
how long will we remain
both distant
and isolated
while the earth
shows us the way

 

 

Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, One, River Styx, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily. Her Awards include the 2018 Liakoura Award the 2016 Crab Creek Review Poetry Award and the Caesura award. Her first full length Book, Floodwater,  won the Lyrebird Award. Her second full length book, Prime Meridian,  was released January 3, 2020; both published by Glass Lyre Press.

#FlattenTheCurve: Chi by George Cassidy Payne

Meditating_in_urban_environment

It felt like cupping a shapeless
bubble, fragile as a Robin’s egg
but without a center. Weightless and
resting in nothingness.

My neighbor probably thought I was crazy.
I didn’t care. I had been searching so long.

I should have known
it was always with me.

 

 

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, domestic violence social worker, adjunct professor of philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College, and a student of religion. He has degrees in the subject from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

#FlattenTheCurve: A Novel Season by Victoria Crawford

Colorful_scarves

Summer sounds unheard here—
child voices playing together-games
splashing, laughing in the river
empty streets echo hush

Harvest home and autumn leave
trick or treat masks truant
Jack Frost’s dance on windows
barricades seeking eyes

It’s not the clutch of winter
cold in throats
stifling frozen breath
captured in scarves

Spring arrives invisible
daffodils shine distant
unpicked by gloved hands
maples dress up in new green

A novel season trespasses
in the familiar yearly round
masking us
from bare-faced days

 

 

California poet Victoria Crawford lives in Thailand and has been under Stay At Home rules for almost 2 months. Like most people, she is getting lots of rest and has more time to write and cook from scratch. Her poems have appeared in places like Canary, Cargo Lit, Poetry Pacific, and Hektoen International.

#FlattenTheCurve: A Tribe of My True Affections* by David Holper

1280px-GIANT_REDWOOD

across the silence of fear and death, I hear you.
In the news cycle or the headlines or posts and tweets,
I hear your whispered worries, like the exhausted
sigh of breath of a mother or a wife
a son or daughter, asking
why him? Here in our home,
all five of us have gathered in tight,
like the pink bud before it blossoms crimson,
or before someone snaps it off, leaving
the petals cast aside and crushed.
Once a day, I try to get out: a trip
to the grocery store or the bank,
or if the rains hesitates for an afternoon,
a hike out into the redwood forest where the silences
soften me. Where I can almost breathe.
Where as I am returning, a family passes me:
the anxious mother pulling her children off
to the side of the trail, close under her wing, trying
to smile, as if to say, hello, stay back. Today
there are 18,802 dead. There is no way
to unknow that. There is no way to unknow
that in every country of the world
someone this very moment is wailing. Iranian? Spanish?
Italian? No, Death is fluent in every tongue.

* Taken from a line out of Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers”

 

 

Eureka, California Poet Laureate David Holper has done a little bit of everything: taxi driver, fisherman, dishwasher, bus driver, soldier, house painter, bike mechanic, bike courier, and teacher. He has published a number of stories and poems, including two collections of poetry, The Bridge (Sequoia Song Publications) and 64 Questions (March Street Press). His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, and he has recently won several poetry competitions, in spite of his contention that he never wins anything. He teaches English at College of the Redwoods and lives in Eureka, California, far enough from the madness of civilization that he can still see the stars at night and hear the Canada geese calling.

#FlattenTheCurve: Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura by Joe Cottonwood

220px-Eastern_Turkey_Vulture_(Canada)

The phone rings at dawn in California.
An ER doctor in New York informs us
Janelle has been admitted with Covid-19.
We’re next of kin. Are last wishes known?

Sprinkles fall, rain in a drought year.
Atop a fence post a turkey vulture hunkers down,
red-masked as if for virus protection.
Cathartes aura has an acute sense of smell
for ethyl mercaptan, the gas produced
in early stages of decaying meat.
Can it smell New York?

Cathartes means “purifier”
from the Greek word, same root as catharsis.
And aura is also from Greek
meaning “breeze, breath.”

A brave nurse reaches an iPad into the danger zone
so we can Zoom with Janelle
who lies enclosed in a clear plastic womb,
a Zoom to say goodbye. She’s barely alive,
low blood oxygen, a white mask over mouth
but maybe we see a wan smile. Maybe not.
We end with “Hope to see you soon”
because we mean it.

On the fence post Cathartes aura
spreads wings to dry. Branches sway softly,
a pure puff of air.

 

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog. joecottonwood.com

#FlattenTheCurve: Two Flashes by Geula Geurts

MERS-CoV particles on camel epithelial cells

STOCKPILE

Lockdown was looming and this was bad for business.

Corona knew it was time to act.

Supermarkets were filling with anxious people stockpiling on toilet paper, canned beans in tomato sauce, frozen broccoli, boxed milk.

Long lines of people standing shoulder to shoulder, waiting to rush home and cook up a storm, then freeze it for the near future.

People were buying as if the world had reached its brim. Like a credit card nearing its limit, the world too would have to answer to the bank, the ultimate collection of intangible numbers.

And who maintains this bank? C thought.

In the meantime, her own numbers were increasing exponentially. From one day to the next she doubled in size, then doubled again. She divided herself like a fertilized egg, the start of all human life.

Governments were saying, stay at home, this might take a few weeks, maybe months. So, people were consuming madly, which in fact means to destroy by use, as by burning or eating.

Corona thought, that is what I do too. So, she found her way into the supermarkets.

She picked up some apples, lemons, sniffed them, then lay them down again. She leaned over the glass cheese-counter, asked for grated cheddar, then changed her mind. Dizzy, she stood amongst all the people moving through the aisles like frantic ants.

The checkout counter seemed the ants’ headquarters, the epicenter of the consuming colony. I like this species, C thought. Ants are known to have colonized every landmass on Earth. An example to follow, she thought.

She joined the busy line, and watched the chain of superorganisms carry their produce, pass it on from the one link to the next. She lightly touched the oil of the machine, joining its collective juices, the saliva that made it all run smooth. Like a gun, she clicked into place.

And when it was her turn to check out, she saw what made this species great. Some ants took one for the team, and in a final act of altruistic sacrifice, sneezed their mandibles off their heads, spraying a deathly phlegm onto the intruder. Onto Corona.

Lucky for her, she wasn’t alone anymore. The chain had been infected, and it would be impossible to trace every source. The contaminated ants would have to be isolated. And who ever heard of a quarantined ant?

 

 

POT PLANT

And here it was, the expected lockdown.

Corona had no real recollection of her single days. She had been addicted to social interaction from the start. Foreign bodies were infatuations to her, contagious, she effortlessly switched from one crush to the next, always hungry for more, never alone, never committing.

How would she cope in isolation? Her mind began to wander.

There was one host who remained memorable. He had been more than a passing crush, she remembered. Had it been the beginning of something new? Still now she saw his dark eyes in front of her, how they pierced right through her when she’d first made him cough. He was asthmatic. She liked the sound of his deep, croaky breath. She stayed with him for eight weeks. Till his dry cough became wet, then disappeared altogether. Perhaps she remembered him because he’d survived her, even when she thought this one would truly give in.

He’d left her with a pot plant. A gift he himself had received from his colleagues while he recovered, halfway through the affair.

Now she sat alone, on her balcony, staring at the plant, a light pink cyclamen. Should she water it? Move it to a larger pot? How pathetic, she thought, she had no idea how to take care of an organism other than herself.

Google told her that each leaf of the cyclamen grows on its own stem. There are leaf stems and flower stems, and unlike other plants, these stems never intersect.

This tidbit made her sigh. She had never grown on her own stem, as a singular leaf or flower. She had always been a part of the larger Covid family, that branched out its leaves from the same stem as many tentacles. Some of her aunts said they are descendants of bats, and her cousins believed the Russians had plotted their beginning. But the uncles said their origin was the undoing of human greed.

Corona thought, I know about this greed, this desire to move from one locus to the next. In these past months she had traveled all over the globe. She had seen the temples of the East, the elaborate malls of the West, theaters, restaurants, skyscrapers and subways. She had followed in their steps; all the places humans had conquered.

How would she now cope in isolation?

She decided to move the cyclamen to a larger pot. She watched the flowers fall off, one by one, day by day, while the plant’s roots extended further in the dark soil, broadening its scope, its movement. Soon the flowers would return, she thought, blooming bigger and fuller than before.

 

 

Geula Geurts is a Dutch born poet and essayist living in Jerusalem. She is a graduate of the Shaindy Rudolph Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University. Her mini-chap, Like Any Good Daughter, was published by Platypus Press. Her chapbook, Where the Sea is Quenched of Thirst, was a finalist in the 2018 Autumn House Chapbook Contest. Her work has been anthologized and has recently appeared or is forthcoming in On the Seawall, Tinderbox Editions, Blood Orange, New South, Persephone’s Daughters, Counterclock, Jellyfish Review, Rogue Agent and The Boiler, among others. She works as a literary agent at the Deborah Harris Agency.

#FlattenTheCurve: An old woman recollects by Amlanjyoti Goswami

1200px-Stone_wheel_engraved_in_the_13th_century_built_Konark_Sun_Temple_in_Orissa,_India

There is no one home.
Yes I have tested.
Have you?
I have been reading, watching the leaves fall.
There used to be no phone those days.
My son is away
As if this is war.
But this is what we did to them
Penned them in.
Now we do it to each other.
We are isolated atoms reacting
Like billiard balls that strike for no reason
But to call time.
Looks like evening
When the next update will come
How many down how many still up
How many fighting
An unseen unknown enemy.
Us.

 

 

Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poetry has been published around the world, in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, the UK, USA, South Africa, Kenya and Germany, and in the anthologies, 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala), A Change of Climate (Manchester Metropolitan University, Environmental Justice Foundation and the University of Edinburgh) and the Sahitya Akademi Anthology of Modern English Poetry. His recent collection of poems, River Wedding, has just been published by Poetrywala and has been widely reviewed. His poems have also appeared on street walls of Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg and buses in Philadelphia. He has read in various places, including in New York, Delhi and Boston. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.

#FlattenTheCurve: Stay Safe by Ace Boggess

th-1

The new goodbye, aloha, bon voyage,
Godspeed—last words that may not be
last words. A hint of hope in them
like waiting for a favorite song on the radio,
also terror we might never share a next refrain.
Stay safe, I tell you. Translate: Please
don’t die or serve death on your finest china.
Stay safe, you reply. I know what you mean.
There are voices that whisper &
those that shout, but honest prayers
are the ones we keep to ourselves.

 

 

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming 2021.

#FlattenTheCurve: Browse by Tricia Knoll

Reimer_Librarian

Horses love to graze and they do it now
in dirty blankets in a muddy field where
snippets of greening grass try to survive
the appetite of those who ate dry hay
all winter. Trailing their noses, seeking
the newest green blades – if they know
that someone will arrive at five to urge
them back to stalls, they don’t care
in this noon sun because of that taste,
first lush of April, free for deliberate taking.

Feel my need: the simplest chance
to touch the spines of hard-back books
sequestered for months in our town library,
my choice to move from hard fact to glancing
at poems women wrote to survive
long weeks inside, even Dickinson, or
kids’ books where monkeys talk,
and ponies wear roller skates.
Where four gray-haired librarians
(why are they all women?) never judge
what I need (even the smut,) don’t care
how much I grab for my bag, never ask
why I pick the book on how to fill lonely
hours. That forgiving date they stamp
on the fly leaf as they mention renewal
and point to hand sanitizer on the exit door.
At home, my exquisite nibble of what is free
for choosing, the tanginess of outside.

 

 

Tricia Knoll’s Poetry collections –

  • How I Learned to Be White (available on Amazon) received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry.
  •  Broadfork Farm – poems about a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington, its people and creatures is available on Amazon and from The Poetry Box.
  • Ocean’s Laughter, a book of lyric and eco-poetry about Manzanita, Oregon. Look at  Amazon.com or for Reviews. 
  • Urban Wild, a poetry chapbook available from Finishing Line Press that explores interactions of humans and wildlife in urban habitat.
Website: triciaknoll.com
twitter:@ triciaknollwind
Painting by Georg Reimer.

#FlattenTheCurve: March Lament by Paul Belz

Broad-tailed_Hummingbird_male,_in_flight;_Selasphorus_platycercus

Humming bird, busy
with a mating dance,
zips upwards, hovers
and dives.

His wings whistle. He perches,
repeats, and doesn’t care
that cineplexes, hair salons,
wine bars are closed.

He takes nectar
from red tube blossoms,
feels content.

Black bear wants berries, digs
for ants, doesn’t miss
basketball, or the cancelled
Kentucky Derby.

Wind goes on its way,
rain comes when it will.
Geese fly above rain clouds,
call out just before dawn.
Cling to them.

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All, and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living in the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

#FlattenTheCurve: Dancing in Ohio by Nicole Michaels

crinolines
https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/16/politics/ohio-primary/index.html
I have come to vote
but the polls are closing.

People crowd
the doors,

fan out,

six feet and short bursts
of contact

remembered like something rehearsed,
a quadrille we join wearing

hoop skirts,
or ascot ties,

our steps
measured and well-controlled,

our ways of moving
more deliberate and refined.

We undo arches we would have made with our fingers.

Our feet tap stone floors.
Musicians rest their bows,

and a harpsichord
shuts on itself.

I feel a memory of bone
at my waist,

and believe I once sang
in a parlor,

sneaked
a smoke from a gas lit porch,

gave away
a garter

as a keepsake of my infatuation
in the midst of a plague.

A war.

We mirror each other to our rides,
taking lines, arms at our sides,

a kaleidoscope of close-lipped smiles,
tipped chins and gentle nods.

A squat man arrives at his electric car,
puts his top hat in the trunk.

I had a black horse once that stepped high,
pulled a carriage.

Didn’t like to be stalled.

A woman passes,
blooming cherries on her fan,

her eyes
downcast in my direction.

This is the new modesty, she seems to say.
There’s romance in self-protection.

 

 

Nicole Michaels lives in North Carolina where she attends graduate school in the Department of English at East Carolina University in Greenville. A California native, Nicole was raised at the base of Mount Tamalpais in beautiful Mill Valley. Educated at Stanford University, Nicole spent several years raising in goats in Wyoming where the pedagogy of the land was the best teacher. She is currently apprenticing in the low country, with spring bloom and the occasional thunderstorm and irascible chickens.

#FlattenTheCurve: Social Distancing by J.P. Dancing Bear

IMG_2891

A man asked over the internet,
Do you know anyone who has gotten sick?
None of his friends say Yes,
and he convinces someone
to venture outside.
The obvious point that what we’ve done
Is working, is lost on them.

Today, I fried the last two eggs.
I thought of tipping my hat to Carruth
and chasing them with the final shot
of whiskey.

I’ll need to go to the empty aisles
of my local grocery store soon.
I will have to suit up, say a prayer.

I’ve listened to the news all day again…
The world is a positive test result,
the world is a false negative,
the world tested positive
on a second wave, and now
no one knows how we end.

The Money Demon says it’s time
to go back to our work—Only old
people die.

It’s not true.

People die before
they get their results.
In their kitchens. Or bundled
on their couch, binge watching
the stories of love and death.
Drowning horribly, gasping unheard
into the lonely air of their rooms.

Did I mention that in the emptiness
of my room, I answered yes?
I had some friends who died.

 

 

J. P. Dancing Bear (Featured Poet, October, 2017) is co-editor for the Verse Daily and Dream Horse Press. He is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, most recently, Cephalopodic (Glass Lyre Press, 2015), and Love is a Burning Building (FutureCycle Press, 2014). His work has appeared or will shortly in American Literary Review, Crazyhorse, the DIAGRAM and elsewhere.

 

Photograph by Wren Tuatha.

#FlattenTheCurve: Guidelines in a Pandemic by Connie Post

boxjellyfish-aug218

Don’t touch anything
not the doorknob
nor elevator button
or the jagged space
between
your cleaved lungs

wear a mask
to protect others
wear a mask
to hide your cyanotic self
the blue of your lips
the exact hue
of the ocean
we’ve smothered

don’t let the
dead whale’s carcass
float too close
to your bed

the small bits of plastic
inside the remains
will remind you
of dying
with plastic in your body

as if they
were trying to tell
their own story

and the body bags
washing up to shore
were not our own

 

 

Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, One, River Styx, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily. Her Awards include the 2018 Liakoura Award the 2016 Crab Creek Review Poetry Award and the Caesura award. Her first full length Book, Floodwater,  won the Lyrebird Award. Her second full length book, Prime Meridian,  was released January 3, 2020; both published by Glass Lyre Press.

#FlattenTheCurve: It’s the little things by Kendra Nuttall

ddscoem-fdf6f3f7-69f5-4bb2-b359-61271465e006

like lavender and lemon drifting
through the air from the essential oil factory,

sunlight coming through the windows,
and my dog snoring in bed.

Like kolaches fresh out of the oven,
cookies on my doorstep, and

my husband playing the same song
on the guitar over and over,

until I imagine myself somewhere
in the Caribbean, before cruise ships

became Titanic and Titanic was just a movie.
When a titanic disaster wasn’t just an iceberg

or a cough away. It’s the little things like talking
on the phone with my mother and writing poetry about

old shipwrecks and new pandemics to pass the time
until words and pictures on screens become reality.

 

 

Kendra Nuttall is a writer and poet from Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Utah Valley University with an emphasis on creative writing. Her work has previously appeared in Spectrum Literary Journal, Capsule Stories, Chiron Review, and Maudlin House, among others. She currently lives in Utah, with her husband and dog.

 

Art by Jenn Zed

#FlattenTheCurve: Carnival Coming by Indran Amirthanayagam

Venice_Carnival-4

I am telling you, carry the torch now: Kamau he gone, Derek before
him. But you are walking still on the Savannah and back to Belmont,
your belly flat, to spice the channa, stir cow heel into the soup. You
have always cooked your own food, writing perfect miniatures, stories
of little people in little houses with no back door, sea shaping island,
keeping lovers, hand in hand, on the beach. Now, the virus has entered
along with migrants and visitors. Everybody is afraid. Everybody
thinking where did this community hand-off begin. And you are there
saying stop sowing fear of the other, of the wide world beyond
the back door. Stop saying the Lord cometh Stop talking plague
and black death. But I am saying everybody so easily, and we without
a thought, blind to walls going up, fortress Europe, fortress Peru,
fortress United States. Politicians say these are temporary, to stop
SARS-Cov-2. But evil makes evil in its name, people blocked
from their dream, the promised land an illusion. What was
the world like I ask in 1999? What will our world become
after the vaccine, when planes start to fly and islands welcome
the necessary tourist dollars, and Benetton, world socialism
and the United Nations jostle to become fashionable
once more, and you walking the Savannah imagining
the next mask you will sew for the mother of all carnivals.

 

 

Indran Amirthanayagam (www.indranmx.com) writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has published seventeen poetry collections thus far, including  The Migrant States (www.hangingloose.com), Coconuts on Mars (www.paperwall.in), En busca de posada (Editorial Apogeo, Lima, 2019) and Paolo 9 (Manofalsa, Lima, 2019). The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press) won the Paterson Prize. Uncivil War (Tsar/Mawenzi House) tells the history of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems (Hanging Loose Press) was written in the wake of the Asian Tsunami of 2004. Other books include Il n’est de solitude que l’île lointaine (Legs Editions), and Ventana Azul (El Tapiz del Unicornio). He directs Poetry at the Port in Silver Spring. He is on the Board of Directors of DC-ALT, an association of literary translators. He writes for the newspaper Haiti en Marche. Amirthanayagam has received fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The US/Mexico Fund for Culture and the Macdowell Colony.

#FlattenTheCurve: The Silence of a Pope by Shalom Galve Aranas

A_flower_refracted_in_rain_droplets

Watching Pope Francis
during the Easter Mass
deep in reverie
so hurt
he stands beneath
the rain in silence, so alive
like only a human can
speaking to the edge
of God’s mantle,
so humble is his silence
pleading for us
because it is now time
to ask God
God, we deserve
to live
because we love
and because we fight
evil in whatever form
it takes.

 

 

Shalom Galve Aranas is a freelance writer published in Stereo Stories, The Literary Heist, The Blue Nib, and elsewhere. She is a loving, single mother of two.

#FlattenTheCurve: The World as She Knew It by Jean Varda

507px-Natan_Szpigel_Woman_knitting

She sat at a window musing about how it used to be apple blossoms in Spring, the call of a Robin, her mother calling her to the kitchen for home made ginger cookies and tea. She thought of her husband how they met at the Veterans Hall and danced a waltz in slow harmony and of her days as a nurse serving overseas. The terror in the eyes of her coworkers when the London hospital was bombed, how relieved she felt that they were in the Silhouette being served tea and scones when they heard the news. She thought of the look in the soldier’s eyes when he died in her arms and then she couldn’t think anymore. She could only look out the window and rock, her knitting comforting her hands, she wasn’t allowed to go out as the virus had spread to her neighborhood and all her friends were dead; granted they were an elderly group, but still… Now the sky was never clear a haze of smoke and fog hung over it at all times, meals on wheels brought her food and Pepper her kind nurse would visit once a week and take her blood pressure, but still she was so very lonely. It relaxed her to go over her memories as she knit and crocheted like colorful beads or seashells on the sand they comforted her and her cat, Angel Boy, he purred so loudly while kneading her lap. She didn’t even go outside anymore, the air was unhealthy to breathe these days, once in a great while it would rain and she would put on her slicker and go outside to garden and inhale the sweet perfume of fresh air. Sometimes at night she had to wear oxygen because she had been diagnosed with emphysema ten years before and she’d never smoked, she knew her life was mostly over and that was OK with her, she had lived such a wonderful life. She just ached inside when she thought of her little granddaughter just turning twenty eight and already with health problems and the stress of an older woman, God Bless and keep her she thought as she nodded over her knitting and heard a robin’s sing.

 

 

Jean Varda gave her first poetry reading in 1971 at the Stone Soup gallery in Boston. This was followed by performances on street corners prisons and churches with her mentor, storyteller Brother Blue. She led her first creative writing group through Boston’s Free College in the 70s then went on to lead such groups for the next thirty years. In 1980 she attended Boston poet Elizabeth McKim’s poetry therapy training at Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. She has published six chapbooks of poetry, establishing Sacred Feather Press. She has been published in numerous poetry journals.

 

Art by Nathan Szpigel.

 

 

#FlattenTheCurve: Cherita Sequence: Re-membering by Cynthia Anderson

1977.05.03_Fijian_Monkey-faced_Bat_,Taveuni,_Fiji_3443_ccccr

how did we forget

selling wild animals
can pull the breath
straight out of us—

the revenge
of the disrespected

*

epidemic

getting better
or worse?

who to believe
when you can’t
get tested?

*

line at the deli

the manager
keeps everyone
laughing like

there’s no COVID-19—
free smiles to go

*

inconvenient
truth—

the change
we need
comes down

to us

1977-1.05.03_Fijian_Monkey-faced_Bat_,Taveuni,_Fiji_3443_ccccr

 

Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She has authored nine collections and co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. http://www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com

#FlattenTheCurve: The New Improved Deadly Disease by Laurinda Lind

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It’s a photo-negative
future, it’s like pick
the wrong page,
like a good
boyfriend
gone to seed away
across the country,

couldn’t that
have come out better, how
for example
could he want
a worse president,
he couldn’t, we would
have canceled each other out

like matter
and antimatter,
still with this
killer strain
escaped to everywhere
from some lab
or leached
out of polar ice

or what else,
it’s sure as shit
not Satan, every hour
with more dead, some days
his state wins, some
days mine does,

this week I set
my hair on fire just
by standing
too close to the stove.
It’s like that. It was perfectly fine,
then gone.

 

 

Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country. Some publications/acceptances are in Blue Earth Review, Midwest Quarterly, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media).

#FlattenTheCurve: Isolating my self by Marge Piercy

blood-on-the-doorpost

I have cancelled my poetry
group: no feedback on work:
writing is in essence
a lonely life.

No readings to make poems
live in others’ minds. No library
to read others’ work. Now I
read what I never wanted to:

books sent for unlikely blurbs.
Toilet paper is rare as hope.
We buy canned, frozen goods
but we’re running out of space.

What will disappear next?
I have cancelled our Pesach
with friends—a lonely seder
with two and probably one

of our cats, who are very
happy we’re stuck here.
I can’t renew my driver’s
license; can’t have lunch

with friends, attend meetings:
in fact there’s aren’t any now
except on ZOOM. House:
a coffin enclosing me.

We were already vanishing
into our phones. This will
complete our transformation
into hermits of technology.

 

 

Published with permission of Marge Piercy

Article on Passover in the time of pandemic.

#FlattenTheCurve: Random John Fox by Wren Tuatha

ICU-1000x651

It’s a sterile garden and he
lies like a fishpond, still
water, and the virus swims.
Doctors are cats looking in,
pondering the pounce,
pondering the reflection.

We phone in morning
glories to the critical floor.
Each bloom believes its
story in some symmetrical,
hothouse way.

Will they find this poem,
years from now, when the cure
is common as clover,
and try to understand the stun
of randomness?

Random John Fox, who survived
a drunk driver going the wrong
way on 83, and got a shiny
new car in the deal,

who built Pride II when random
seas took The Pride of Baltimore out
of diplomacy’s service.

Diplomat John tendered a
treaty between his
child and the breakfast cupboard,
morning and morning again.

Gentle pool, John Fox would sail
around the table or the globe—
if the morning would just
wake him and say—
Today is the day.

 

First published in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha is pursuing her MFA at Goddard College. Her first collection is Thistle and Brilliant (FLP). Her poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Sierra Nevada Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Lavender Review, and others. Wren and partner author/activist C.T. Butler herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

#FlattenTheCurve: They Spent All Their Energy and for What by Laurinda Lind

531px-StateLibQld_1_71119_Formal_studio_wedding_portrait,_ca._1910

As if it were a ghost-bat wrung from the rafters
of the house they handed
down to me, my grandparents gave

me the gene for this fear, a noose numbered
nineteen eighteen when he, a heron
of long legs and ratty lungs, stood in the street
flocking with healthy friends who were dead the next day,

and she, a hummingbird whose heart held only
so much machinery, nested at home

and watched out the window in her head while a wagon

ripe like the rot of the river drove by every day pulled
by panic and loaded with the bodies
of the no-longer-living. Yet somehow these two specimens

survived, and they look on with the pallid curiosity of
the permanently safe to see whether we will, too.

 

 

Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country. Some publications/ acceptances are in Blue Earth Review, Midwest Quarterly, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media).

#FlattenTheCurve: Quarantine by Marcus Colasurdo

1280px-Dense_Seattle_Fog

Fog.
Fog the thief that steals the future’s far wheel.
Fog that blurs the houses four eyes.
Fog that curdles the center of memory.
Fog that corrodes the spine of the helix.
Fog that drowns the crow’s kin calls.
Fog that shipwrecks the end of the block.
Fog that soups the boulevard rancid.
Fog that blades the lamplights circle.
Fog that swallows the market’s straw basket.
Fog that cataracts my lover’s eyes.
Fog that swirls the church into swamp.
Fog that snaps the thumbs of the newborn.
Fog that stains the moon’s first promise.
Fog that fractures the guitar strings.
Fog that forces the counting of limbs.
Fog that cancels the wedding vow’s kiss.
Fog that blots the shooting star’s silver.
Fog that choke- holds the vocal cords’ morning.
Fog that buries its head in cement.
Fog that erases the tombstone’s name.
Fog that carries your sister away.
Fog that hides the ancient skeleton key.
Fog that demands a storm replace eyesight.
Fog that closes the world at dawn.
Fog that grasps for gold without sun..
Fog.
Fog
so thick
no border can hold it.

 

 

Marcus Colasurdo is the author of twelve books, including the underground classic, Angel City Taxi. He’s a community activist on both east and west coasts and points in between. As a writer for page and stage, He is the founder of Urban Mobile Artists (Los Angeles) and Gimme Shelter Productions (Baltimore); non-profit organizations of artists whose performances benefit community groups such as homeless shelters, feeding programs, after school projects, literacy programs. Colasurdo is  founder of Soul Kitchens (free community meal and clothing programs) in Baltimore, Maryland and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which have provided deep-rooted nourishment and soul unity for thousands of folks over the last decade. His latest book, Heart X-Rays (co-authored with G.H. Mosson), is available at PM PRESS, Oakland, California.

#FlattenTheCurve: Send a Breeze by Don E. Walicek

800px-Dragon_graffiti

Send me a breeze, evil virus
Air for souls like Eric Garner and Jamal Khashoggi
Like your victims, they whispered I can’t breathe in the final moment
Their words sought to suspend death, to sustain life

Bow to the black flag of Puerto Rico’s Calle de la Resistencia
Send me a breeze, evil virus
for Pedro Pietri’s Juan, Miguel, Milagros, Olga, and Manuel
Like your victims, they whispered I can’t breathe in the final moment

Fly unbridled by debt with steeds wild and free
Bow to the black flag of Puerto Rico’s Calle de la Resistencia
Witness the endangered ancient miracle that creates itself anew
for Pedro Pietri’s Juan, Miguel, Milagros, Olga, and Manuel

Seek out the Willomore Cedars of Africa’s southernmost cape
Fly unbridled by debt, with steeds wild and free
Dwell in their shadows until fire forces their cones to open
Witness the endangered ancient miracle that creates itself anew

Send us a breeze
that stirs the mind and releases our destructive grip
Shed your coat, bare your genes, and witness
love, the endangered ancient miracle that creates itself anew

 

 

Don Edward Walicek is a professor of linguistics at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. His publications include the volume Guantánamo and American Empire; The Humanities Respond (Palagrave Macmillan 2018), which he co-edited with Jessica Adams. In 2019 he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. He serves as editor of the journal Sargasso.

#FlattenTheCurve: Two Poems by Marge Piercy

blood-on-the-doorpost

How the plague came

We who every day poison
our water, our air, our bodies
thrust nuclear waste in her
veins, frak into earthquakes

drown the ocean and all life
with plastic and waste,
now wonder that earth herself
is angry. Consequences:

the oceans will roll up
our streets, whole streets
where houses are leveled
Tornadoes come in herds.

Our young need heroin
to endure the world
we’ve bequeathed them.
They vanish into phones.

But nothing sufficed
to stop us, so she called
on her tiniest children.
They rose to the task.

What we do now

I look at my schedule
for the month and it’s blank:
no readings, no travels,
and therefore, no money.

I have erased lunches,
dinners with friends, now
we just email or talk
awkwardly via phone.

No books from the library:
It’s shut. No buying any
thing not absolutely vital.
Stores are closed anyhow.

My hair grows shaggy. No
work on my back. I cook,
I clean, I mend what must
last, reread old books,

garden, play with cats
in the year of the plague.

blood-on-the-doorpost copy

 

Published with permission of Marge Piercy

#FlattenTheCurve: Rebirth by Indran Amirthanayagam

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You know I said I wasn’t going to write about this, Jeez–Susana H. Case

Really? The train left some weeks ago but nobody noticed at first.
It moved first through an animal market in Wuhan, then the province
and beyond, throughout China, then to the semi-autonomous district
of Hong Kong, and to Korea; jumped aboard a plane to Italy, now
I don’t know where it is not, so no harm done that you too have
written again about the virus. It is the biggest story since stories
were invented unless you lived on the planet during the Spanish Flu.
But there are very few left who remember that pandemic now.
The human family prospered afterwards, fighting a huge world war,
and many smaller national wars, and made love with abandon,
and we are now six billion strong, so Malthusians among us say,
this is a necessary culling even if we flatten all the curves. There
will be dead until the vaccine is spread over the planet. Meanwhile
the train is arriving at all stations and often at the same time,
a perfect storm. We have the phrases, if not yet the vaccine. Write
my friend. Capture memories before they molder in the casket
or get burnt to cinders. The poems will survive. We all read
Wilfred Owen now, his Anthem for Doomed Youth. We are writing
our own anthems and some of us will be around still to read them
aloud at a hundred thousand memorial services. I am sorry for
the gloom. I am aware of precious blood, the need to test, to record,
to get all the ya yas out, including within the family, to make
the necessary overtures, make peace, prepare the plot,
the Collected Poems, the idea of rebirth, survival in song.

 

 

Indran Amirthanayagam (www.indranmx.com) writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has published seventeen poetry collections thus far, including  The Migrant States (www.hangingloose.com), Coconuts on Mars (www.paperwall.in), En busca de posada (Editorial Apogeo, Lima, 2019) and Paolo 9 (Manofalsa, Lima, 2019). The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press) won the Paterson Prize. Uncivil War (Tsar/Mawenzi House) tells the history of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems (Hanging Loose Press) was written in the wake of the Asian Tsunami of 2004. Other books include Il n’est de solitude que l’île lointaine (Legs Editions), and Ventana Azul (El Tapiz del Unicornio). He directs Poetry at the Port in Silver Spring. He is on the Board of Directors of DC-ALT, an association of literary translators. He writes for the newspaper Haiti en Marche. Amirthanayagam has received fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The US/Mexico Fund for Culture and the Macdowell Colony.

 

Art by Jenn Zed. 

#FlattenTheCurve: Sheltering by Susana H. Case

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My weekly Italian tutor asks if I feel safe
about his coming to teach me.
He calls himself a potential viral vector.

Certo, I assure him, knowing he needs
the work. There are two men parked
in my bathroom, carefully installing tile.

Mornings, we bump elbows in greeting,
because we don’t share a language
and none of us are the type that prays.

In the late 1800s, it was mysophobia,
thought pathological, the constant
washing of one’s hands. Now we all

scrub prudently, and hesitate to pet dogs.
There’s no such thing as truly safe,
a word which originally meant uninjured;

all of us are injured as, in shops
around the world, people push one another
out of the way over toilet paper and sanitizer,

hoard Chef Boyardee and rice.
In the early 1900s, when TB spread,
men shaved off their long beards, women

wore shortened skirts. When that didn’t stop
disease, they blamed immigrants,
like the ones in my apartment, slowly

building a ceramic wall for a shower stall,
not the kind of wall for keeping out,
a soft grey one, for stepping in.

 

 

Susana H. Case is the author of seven books of poetry. Dead Shark on the N Train is due out in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes, and most recently, Body Falling, Sunday Morning, from Milk and Cake Press. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Her work has appeared in Calyx, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.

#FlattenTheCurve: Lockdown, Day Three by Ace Boggess

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Sun is out after days of clouds
that left their grief as a parting gift.

I step outside, & pollen marshals troops.
It scratches my throat. I cough &

think, Is this it? Have I died &
not yet figured it out? God,

why does my brain corrupt
a peaceful moment in the light?

Even here in my comfortable prison,
the virus that can’t reach me does

until I panic at a bead of sweat,
a little ache, a misspent breath.

It’s a beautiful morning
to write my own obituary.

Somewhere else, it’s raining—
each drop a survivor of the storm.

 

 

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming 2021.

#FlattenTheCurve: The Shopkeeper’s Daughter by Yuyutsu Sharma

yuyu tree

In the local tea shop,
my regular haunt

to write fresh poems
each morning in Kathmandu,

I pull a page
out of my sheaf of papers

to let her read what I’ve been
working on since morning.

She looks at it for a second,
then almost uninterested

as if she has made a mistake
twitches her nose

twisting her face eerily
lifts it as a blade against her cheeks

turning the page
with my Corona poem

as a protection wall
to sneeze behind and return

the sullied page
as a fitting token of appreciation

from some cranky critic.

 

 

Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma is a world renowned Himalayan poet and translator.

He has published ten poetry collections including, Second Buddha Walk,  Annapurna Poems,  and A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems. Widely traveled author, he has read his works at several prestigious places and held workshops in creative writing and translation at  Heidelberg University, Germany, California, Beijing Open University and New York University, New York..

Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world and conducts Creative Writing workshops at various universities in North America and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home. Currently, Yuyutsu Sharma is a visiting poet at Columbia University and edits, Pratik: A Quarterly Magazine of Contemporary Writing.

yuyutsurd@gmail.com

#FlattenTheCurve: Pandemic Positions, Tour of TV Stations a Few Weeks In by Laurinda Lind

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It can just, you know, eat
its way through your upper
epithelial layer. We need
thirty thousand of them,
the government has twelve.
That’s officially not a dry cough.
It’s not true about eating
a bunch of garlic. The numbers
are getting so big, I saw
the spirit of heaven descending
like a dove. You’ll be taught
to sit and repeat a sacred word.
You have to call those things
which be not. Think of
the coronavirus as blue paint.
You can go from being chained
to a tank to being free to live
the life you want. The media
has been much nicer, but I
shouldn’t say that. Like
there’s these expectations,
try not to hold any.

3/19/20: Sources: CSPAN, WPIX, AMVO, NEWSY, WPIX again, BIBLE, EWTN, TBN, OWN, RENEW, WVNA, STDIO

 

 

Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country. Some publications/acceptances are in Blue Earth Review, Midwest Quarterly, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media).

#FlattenTheCurve: The Unboxing by David Weinstock

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I’ve never made one of these before, an unboxing video. For a while, everybody was doing them. YouTube was packed with unboxings, and they were quite entertaining. Here’s how they go. They start with a shot of a box, a box alone on a table. And inside the box, you tell us—we hear your voice, although we never see your face—is something you really really want, something you’re excited about. Maybe you ordered it: a new toy, a game, a gadget. Or it’s a gift, but you know what’s in the box. You’re ready, past ready, you’ve been longing for it, dreaming about it, and now here it is, and you’re going to show it to the world.

The video is about you opening the box, slowly, one layer at a time, getting the thing out of the box, reverently, respectfully, giving this precious thing its full measure of your appreciation. Although nobody sees your face, they do see your hands, holding the box, how slowly and lovingly your hands take the thing out one piece at a time, and lay them on the table, and then slowly start to put them together until the thing is complete. All that time you tell us what we’re seeing and why you love it.

Finally, it’s done. You might put in the batteries, or plug it in, or whatever finishing touch, it’s all about touching, but you don’t actually turn it on to demonstrate; that’s considered a bit crass. The last shot is always a triumphant closeup of the thing, ready to make you happy, and you tell us how happy you are.

When we first heard of coronavirus, it sounded manageable, not too scary, and so far away, in China, then Korea, then Japan, then Italy.  And even there, it wasn’t that bad, I mean, hardly anyone was infected, and only two percent of them were dying, and those were ones already pretty fragile, old, or sick with something else, and coronavirus just finished them off.

But things changed fast, and two percent became three percent, and the next day five, and when it got to ten percent, the authorities stopped revealing any numbers at all, but we could all guess that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, were infected. The hospitals were full, the ambulances had nowhere to take you. The masks were sold out, the test kits were used up, the oxygen tanks were empty.

The authorities very sensibly recommended self care, and even self quarantine. Just stay in your room; that’s the best thing, for yourself, for everyone else. Stay home, don’t spread the virus to the rest of us.

Everything was filling up and breaking down, but thank God, thank Google, the Internet stayed up. For us, alone in our rooms, for me,  alone in my room, that was all we had. We sent each other news, and photos, and advice, all the ways we knew: email, text, Facebook, Twitter.

Then one special friend of mine, who lived far away, got the virus, and he told me everything. Almost hourly, he sent messages, until he could no more. It broke my heart but there was nothing I could do.

And things  kept getting worse. The hospices were full. The authorities started recommending “self hospice,” which at first sounded absurd, but they had thought this through, and told you exactly how to hospice yourself.

Now, here is our video. I will do the unboxing, and you will carry the camera and microphone and record it all – thank you. We are walking on a broad sandy beach toward the water.

You see, the funeral homes were full, the hearses were full, the cemeteries, the crematoria were full. For that, the helpful authorities had no further advice.  But people are creative.

So before long, all over the world, after self care, after self quarantine, after self hospice, there came, you guessed it, self cremation.

When it was all over, I went to my special friend’s house, which had burned down around him. With me I brought this box, and a broom and dustpan, and I filled the box with ashes I found. Were they his ashes? Probably some of them were. When I had enough, I closed the box, and brought it home.

And now today, here so all can see, I open it. I walk out into the surf, and here we go, and remember to focus on my hands, I am scattering the ashes. One handful at a time. Until they are all gone. Until there is nothing left but this box.

Get a good shot of the box.

 

 

David Weinstock lives, writes and teaches in Middlebury, Vermont, and leads the Otter Creek Poets open workshop, currently suspended by the plague. His poems have appeared in Riding the Meridian, Moment, Modern Haiku, Burlington Poetry Journal, Zig Zag Lit Mag, 2River View, and oddly enough, The Journal of the American Medical Association. He has been a copywriter for the  L.L. Bean catalog, copy chief at Boston advertising agencies,  and editor for a local Vermont bi-weekly newspaper. He won a residency for Vermont Artists Week 2020 at the Vermont Studio Center, but expects it to be cancelled because of COVID-19.

A Time to Morph

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Welcome to Califragile! With the exception of our #FlattenTheWave Call for Submission, we have paused our online activities while we enter our next phase. We plan to morph into a print anthology in the next year or so.

Since our launch in August, 2017, Califragile has been an online poetry journal publishing work, not in distinct issues, but on a daily, thrice weekly, a peppery basis or as whimsy guided, within the frame of editor Wren Tuatha’s focus, health, and free time. We’ve had the privilege of showcasing hundreds of thoughtful and creative writers from around the world. Some are world famous, others were published for the first time right here. You can enjoy all of these offerings on our site.

Are you a poet seeking to submit? Our submissions are closed currently. You can find great opportunities on Allison Joseph’s blog and Califragile Featured Poet Trish Hopkinson’s blog, in addition to the usual Submittable, Duotrope, New Pages, etc.

In order to keep up with our metamorphosis and future calls for submission, like us on Facebook and visit this site frequently.

The Aftermath by Kushal Poddar

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In every twelve months
she applies Ruby Woo.

It feels moist, moony, a ruse,
and her man walks to the terrace

again, on the railings then, drops a cigarette
and leaps. Every time. In a loop.

The blood streams the darkness.
Darkness clots the blood.

This relationship spins pinning
give and take.

And she ekes the Ruby Woo,
a gift that never forgives the giver.

 

 

Kushal Poddar has authored The Circus Came To My Island, A Place For Your Ghost Animals, Understanding The Neighborhood, Scratches Within, Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems, Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems, and now Herding My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel (Alien Buddha Press).

 

Painting by Gustave Caillebotte.

When Gray Is Beautiful and When It’s Not by Trish Saunders

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I live in a city where ghosts of giant Douglas fir spear
themselves up through grimy sidewalks. These ghosts,
the real cause of winter storms, slip quietly through
cobblestones, looking for osprey that died eons ago.

Winters here never end; gray falls everywhere–
beards on old sailors, pin curls on my grandmother’s tiny
head. Gray is beautiful, I tell her. Trust me, it’s not, says she
In particular, gray pubic hair is ugly. That frontier I have yet
to discover, but I shall, I have no doubt that I shall.

 

First published in Right Hand Pointing.

 

Trish Saunders publishes poems from Seattle and Honolulu and, in her imagination, from the shores of Crater Lake, Oregon. Her poems have been in Califragile, Pacific Voices, Right Hand Pointing, Eunoia Review, among others.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

Then by Linda Wimberly

Then for pasting

Linda Wimberly is a writer, artist and musician from Marietta, GA. A former Vermont Studio Center resident in writing, her poetry has appeared in The Raw Art Review, Lunch Ticket, Stone River Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems and others; and a short story appeared in Cricket. She is a self-taught, abstract artist who works in acrylic, oil and mixed media and her images have appeared in or been cover art for Critical Pass Review and Inscape Magazine. Her image “Woman on the Move” won the 2019 Art Contest for So to Speak: feminist journal of language and art. (lindawimberly.com)

Five Poems by Simon Perchik

ROOM_12_WEST_WALL,_LOOKING_WEST_-_Painted_Desert_Inn,_Navajo,_Apache_County,_AZ_HABS_ARIZ,1-NAVA.V,1-86.tif

*
To listen you work this bowl
and each evening crouch
with your lips in all directions

wrapped around a warming spoon
near, nearer to the side she slept on
filled with sharp corners

and lower your forehead, let the soup
cool –you swallow a bed, are fed
on windswept fires, the sound

that has become the mouth
you’re drowning in –arm over arm
making room for her and lower.

*
Don’t move closer –with such talk
you back down, hands more on your chest
than hiding from the moon behind the moon

to cool as dirt left over for shadows
and the suffocating shovel after shovel
falling from a sky already back –you dead

have given up the whisper, its flames
called off with a single yell
ripping open the narrow space

between its memory and the surprise
when an embrace covers your head
the way this gravestone turns green each Spring

shines from the breath bent over your name
come back for you and flowers
warmed by this comb breaking in half.

*
This battered window box
has found an opening
–with a single flower

is taking on the sun
though you use well water
fitting it into its shadow

as if madness needs a corner
for its darkness reaching out
the way your heart was filled

with river noise
that has nothing left to give
–what you hear is the sun

swallowing ice as the antidote
to flower after flower and the mist
from someone breathing.

*
In the space between two chairs
then each night you crack open a shell
let it darken and begin from there

–it’s already home to the silence
making room the way this rug was torn
for one more shadow and the floor

that mourns forever –each board
still lowered with some mountain
breaking up from the bit by bit it needs

to begin again –all these shells
just for their emptiness and slowly
to stir as in fingertips and magic.

*
With the door gone now
you set out for the waterlogged
as if some makeshift plank

could face shore as a stone
already upright, filled
with branches and salt

though there’s no sail
and even more than the sea
you have no place to mourn

–you need driftwood :a mask
held in place by an emptiness
certain it arrived before you.

 

 

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His collection The Osiris Poems is published by boxofchalk, 2017. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com. To view one of his interviews please follow this linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8

Morning Trail by Marilyn Westfall

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Above the cliffs, cirrus drift,
an archipelago backlit
in tones of saffron, rose. He hikes
in shadow, on cobble, gait steadied
by a talisman agave stick
handmade for these steep
switchbacks blazed with cairns
where once friends led him, the climb
blending with deer paths, ending
where sunlight spilled on water.
Jewel-like, that cold lake
fed by snowmelt, numbing
the farther they waded in,
feeling for drop-offs, judgment
blurring. Anger at their hubris
and loss stokes his grief.
He hears the granite rhythm
of his heart, takes the trail
downhill to its start.

 

 

Marilyn Westfall lives in Lubbock and Alpine Texas, and has roots in Ohio and California. Most recently, her poems were published in San Pedro River Review; Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos Press); Enchantment of the Ordinary (Mutabilis Press); and are forthcoming in Evening Street Review.

 

Original photograph by Jaclyn and Brian Drum.

Mushrooms by Patricia Nelson

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Picking mushrooms at the edge of dread—Adrienne Rich

What leads you to the soundless mushrooms,
still, cool moons in the black earth:
the low and loaf-white forest
slowly altering a vast, strange shade?

Not the work you walk through,
your task that seems to disentangle
you from nothingness.
Not the thrumming bridge of reality.

Maybe there’s a small dark flower
in your forehead, made of quiet,
ancient, simple, creased
from leaning on your dreaming.

Or maybe there are unborn unicorns
near the mushrooms, waiting
for the hoof and the wild horn
to take them to those who see them.

Or anything that slides the wilderness
of small lights, moth-pale and crooked
through the fluttering transom
or under the dark door.

How patient that light is,
holding the silent, dreamt things:
the bent and wild silver, twisted in the rock,
the soft, slant snails shining forward.

 

 

Patricia Nelson works with the “Activist” poets and has a new book out, Out of the Underworld, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Photograph by Nicole Gordine. 

Streaming by Victoria Crawford

 

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Streams sweat, viscous, vicious
like jet gems
of Victorian mourning jewelry
turned fluid
blood of war and wounds
circulate the Persian Gulf body
oil well trees blown to leak dark sap
clumps on shore, washed up
black jellyfish
the sand shivers under my feet

Back page photo in my thin newspaper
features half a manatee
his silly whiskered face
lost somewhere
could have been whirling swords
of tanker
or propellers of a rich man’s yacht
and he may have been the last
dugong on this Gulf edge
but the report claims a few hundred
still hide around Qatar

Bahraini BBC documentary
of inlets and outlets of Oman
streaming across my screen
tonight with a green turtle
swimming by a tube coral
whose feet wave farewell

Poet Victoria Crawford plunges into the waters of culture and nature from her Monterey home to points East in Asia and the Middle East. Poems of hers have appeared in Canary, Windfall, Ekphrastic Review, The Lyric, and Hawaii Pacific Review.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

Le chant du Styrène (Yellow) by James Miller

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This morning in the kitchen,
as I swallowed the last inch
of a near-soft
banana

I heard a neighbor’s cry,
wordless and brutal
as Babylon.

I asked my wife, deodorizing
in the bath, what she heard.
A cat, mewling, crushed
by a wheel?

Driving to campus,
I passed the remnants
of the old hospital.

With that bulk
wiped clean, you can see
the burnoff at the plants
across the bay—

throb of pale gas flare,
blurred and rippled
in a smear of heat.

 

 

James Miller is a native of Houston, Texas. Recent publications include Cold Mountain Review, The Maine Review, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Main Street Rag, Verdad and Juked. Upcoming publications include 2 Bridges, The Write Launch, Menacing Hedge, Thin Air, The Shore, Plainsongs and The Atlanta Review.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

To my plus one by DS Maolalai

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and yes, sure, drunk
at the wedding
I said some things
to you
which I regret,
like dropping a plate
of potatoes,

but of course
I have my usual excuses –
people
pushing the line
you always get at weddings.
what was I to do
but curl anxiety?

“I suppose
it’s you next,
right?”
the voice
at every wedding
I attend –
date on my arm
or otherwise.

can’t we just
watch the couple
make uncomfortable speeches
without
shitting lead
on any new romance?

bringing a girlfriend to a wedding –
like winning the most beautiful
goldfish,
flapping its fins in clear plastic
and showing it off
to blowtorches.

 

DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in The Eunoia Review, Kerouac’s Dog, Ariadne’s Thread, and elsewhere. He has  two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016), and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).

What We Could Do by Taylor Graham

Coyote_at_Sonora_Desert_Museum_Tucson_Arizona

An old coyote hunts the field released
to daylight by the death of trees –
tall pines that edged the pond, victims
of bark beetle. We couldn’t save the trees,
but reconstructed the old village
in image of where tribes would meet
by woods and meadow, cedar-bark tepees
and lean-to, a circle for sitting, dancing,
drumming. Hear the beat in your pulse,
your footstep, or is that the wind?
The people lived until they passed.
There was a burning to release spirit,
a long cry. No burial a bear can plunder,
as miners plundered rock till it bled.
Once you touched a broken stone
still standing, and it fell away in your
hand. A chasm or a healing.
Grizzly is gone from the land, Raven
stays to tell the stories. An old Coyote
hunts the margins we’ve left him,
a leaf fallen between pages
of history and myth, unwritten spaces
for releasing the question,
the lament, a poem, a story in song.

 

 

Taylor Graham has been a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler for
many years, and served as El Dorado County’s inaugural poet laureate
(2016-2018). Married to a forester/wildlife biologist (Hatch, retired
now), she helped with his bird conservation projects and was a
volunteer wilderness ranger, with her search dog, for two summers on
the Mokelumne. She lives with Hatch, dog Loki and cat Latches on five
acres on the outskirts of Rescue. She’s included in the anthologies
Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold
Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University/Heyday Books). Her latest
book is Windows of Time and Place: poems of El Dorado (Cold River
Press, 2019).

 

Original photograph by Btcgeek.

Three Poems by Barbara Eknoian

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Baptism

My powerful father lay in a coma
I remembered when he said,
“I was never baptized.”
I thought then,
someday, when you’re an old man,
somehow, we’ll get you baptized.

I rushed home and called
my Bible prayer leader
asking tearfully,
“I can baptize my father,
can’t I ?”

I put some water in a small bottle,
and placed it in my purse.
At his bedside, I opened the vial,
wet my fingers, and made
The sign of the cross
on his bald head.

I said, “I baptize you
in the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.”

I was afraid he’d open his eyes
and say, “What the hell are you doing?”
Just to be certain the baptism took,
I did it a second time.

First published in Chiron Review.

Sunday

Up at five, I dress and drive to my son’s house.
He packs, while I sweep tile floors,
rake up kids’ tiny toys then vacuum rugs.

He fills boxes of odds and ends: food from the pantry,
lotions and medicine from chests,
a bicycle helmet and exercise weights from his office.

We put his dogs, Nickie and Miko into the back seat.
Raised outside, they’re not used to being corralled in a car.
My daughter holds on to them so they don’t jump up front.

My son is hiding regret that he’s losing his home.
We need to help and be here for him.
Today is Sunday, this is church.

First published in Chiron Review.

Going Home

I used to see her stooping down,
planting rows of lettuce,
resting sometimes on the stone bench
next to the goat pen.
Or, in her cellar kitchen,
the Italian radio station playing
while she busily stirred a large pot
of tomato sauce, or kneaded
huge mounds of dough to bake bread.

I never heard Grandma laugh out loud.
Her eyes were sad, soft and brown.
Her birthday, a secret, never celebrated
after she crossed the Atlantic
and her baby girl Mary died at Ellis Island.

I never knew much about Grandma.
She didn’t speak my language,
and I wondered why she looked so sad.
When she passed away,
Aunt Mary told me Grandma
once rode horses bareback in Calabria,
and had accompanied her father
to weddings where she played the mandolin.

Now, I think of her riding down a country road,
her long hair flying in the wind,
a mandolin strapped to her back,
and I hear her laughing
as she turns around and smiles back to all of us.

 

 

Barbara Eknoian is a poet and novelist. She is a long-time member of Donna Hilbert’s poetry workshop in Long Beach where she’s happy to practice her craft. Her poetry books and novels are available at Amazon. She lives in La Mirada, CA with son, daughter, three grandsons, and three dogs (which she never picked out). She’s always reminded that she has never lost her Jersey accent.

The Curious Case of the Lonely Owl by Trish Saunders

th

I am thinking of the owl again. Last night, its shadow
moved across the wallpaper;
this does not mean the raptor was actually here.

Could have been another miracle, like the giant egg
that hatched beside my kitchen stove,
puny head poking out and croaking for its ma,
who didn’t answer, of course, being dead for a thousand years.

I accept these things, like I don’t argue with a scarlet sky
falling into the ocean

or a white cow of a moon bossing the tides around.

Back in the kitchen now, every cupboard door hangs open,
good excuse to pour a glass of amontillado.

My secret hope, my fear– the thing will find someone else,
or reappear as a moth, fluttering against a naked bulb.

 

 

Trish Saunders publishes poems from Seattle and Honolulu and, in her imagination, from the shores of Crater Lake, Oregon. Her poems have been in Califragile, Pacific Voices, Right Hand Pointing, Eunoia Review, among others.

 

Photograph by Twhelton.

Blued by Kushal Poddar

1200px-Netherlands-Ouddorp-blue-wall

The blue walls remember
making love, made
with a cab waiting below,
and the crow who caws
whenever two strangers thus mate
on this bed misses this show
because the fishermen
return from the blue ocean, and
on their brine, wet wood
lie silver still half alive.
The freshness of a goodbye tingles strangely.
On a live wire run two blind mice.
The blue remembers not
when this town was built
or with what amount of love and necessity.
Blue doesn’t know what blue is.

 

 

Kushal Poddar has authored The Circus Came To My Island, A Place For Your Ghost Animals, Understanding The Neighborhood, Scratches Within, Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems, Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems, and now Herding My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel (Alien Buddha Press).

 

Photograph by Johan. 

Your Voice Surprised Me by Linda Wimberly

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Girl_Reading_-_Google_Art_Project

Rising out of parched pages,
it soared
above the drowsy nod of drone.

Of course I couldn’t see you,
but I could hang every word
on a narrow line, suspend them
above the dusty floor
and watch while they danced
on staccato beats.

Or I could take the words
down a minor scale
and listen as your voice descended
into a midnight kind of blue.

Your voice surprised me.
As I listened,
it wasn’t hard
to follow you
into a darkened room
and close the door.

 

First published in Kalliope – a journal of women’s literature & art.

 

 

Linda Wimberly is a writer, artist and musician from Marietta, GA. A former Vermont Studio Center resident in writing, her poetry has appeared in The Raw Art Review, Lunch Ticket, Stone River Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems and others; and a short story appeared in Cricket. She is a self-taught, abstract artist who works in acrylic, oil and mixed media and her images have appeared in or been cover art for Critical Pass Review and Inscape Magazine. Her image “Woman on the Move” won the 2019 Art Contest for So to Speak: feminist journal of language and art. (lindawimberly.com)

 

Original painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

 

The Emigrant Mother By William Wordsworth

640px-Vincent_van_Gogh_-_A_peasant_woman_digging_in_front_of_her_cottage

Once in a lonely hamlet I sojourned
In which a Lady driven from France did dwell;
The big and lesser griefs with which she mourned,
In friendship she to me would often tell.
This Lady, dwelling upon British ground,
Where she was childless, daily would repair
To a poor neighbouring cottage; as I found,
For sake of a young Child whose home was there.

Once having seen her clasp with fond embrace
This Child, I chanted to myself a lay,
Endeavouring, in our English tongue, to trace
Such things as she unto the Babe might say:
And thus, from what I heard and knew, or guessed,
My song the workings of her heart expressed.

I

“Dear Babe, thou daughter of another,
One moment let me be thy mother!
An infant’s face and looks are thine,
And sure a mother’s heart is mine:
Thy own dear mother’s far away,
At labour in the harvest field:
Thy little sister is at play;
What warmth, what comfort would it yield
To my poor heart, if thou wouldst be
One little hour a child to me!

II

“Across the waters I am come,
And I have left a babe at home:
A long, long way of land and sea!
Come to me, I’m no enemy:
I am the same who at thy side
Sate yesterday, and made a nest
For thee, sweet Baby! thou hast tried,
Thou know’st the pillow of my breast;
Good, good art thou: alas! to me
Far more than I can be to thee.

III

“Here, little Darling, dost thou lie;
An infant thou, a mother I!
Mine wilt thou be, thou hast no fears;
Mine art thou, spite of these my tears.
Alas! before I left the spot,
My baby and its dwelling-place;
The nurse said to me, ‘Tears should not
Be shed upon an infant’s face,
It was unlucky’ no, no, no;
No truth is in them who say so!

IV

“My own dear Little-one will sigh,
Sweet Babe! and they will let him die.
‘He pines,’ they’ll say, ‘it is his doom,
And you may see his hour is come.’
Oh! had he but thy cheerful smiles,
Limbs stout as thine, and lips as gay,
Thy looks, thy cunning, and thy wiles,
And countenance like a summer’s day,
They would have hopes of him; and then
I should behold his face again!

V

“‘Tis gone, like dreams that we forget;
There was a smile or two, yet, yet
I can remember them, I see
The smiles, worth all the world to me.
Dear Baby! I must lay thee down;
Thou troublest me with strange alarms;
Smiles hast thou, bright ones of thy own;
I cannot keep thee in my arms;
For they confound me; where, where is
That last, that sweetest smile of his?

VI

“Oh! how I love thee! we will stay
Together here this one half day.
My sister’s child, who bears my name,
From France to sheltering England came;
She with her mother crossed the sea;
The babe and mother near me dwell:
Yet does my yearning heart to thee
Turn rather, though I love her well:
Rest, little Stranger, rest thee here!
Never was any child more dear!

VII

“I cannot help it; ill intent
I’ve none, my pretty Innocent!
I weep, I know they do thee wrong,
These tears, and my poor idle tongue.
Oh, what a kiss was that! my cheek
How cold it is! but thou art good;
Thine eyes are on me, they would speak,
I think, to help me if they could.
Blessings upon that soft, warm face,
My heart again is in its place!

VIII

“While thou art mine, my little Love,
This cannot be a sorrowful grove;
Contentment, hope, and mother’s glee,
I seem to find them all in thee:
Here’s grass to play with, here are flowers;
I’ll call thee by my darling’s name;
Thou hast, I think, a look of ours,
Thy features seem to me the same;
His little sister thou shalt be;
And, when once more my home I see,
I’ll tell him many tales of Thee.”

 

William Wordsworth, 1770-1850.

 

Painting, A peasant woman digging in front of her cottage, Vincent Van Gogh.

Golden State Boy, 1925 by Marilyn Westfall

792px-Worker_standing_on_a_ladder_leaned_against_one_of_the_dozen_or_so_trees_in_an_olive_orchard,_El_Toro,_California,_ca.1900_(CHS-1352)

In retrospect, the first photograph
taken of him, eighteen months old, dressed
in black woolens—leggings, sweater, hat—
posed upon a miniature chair

alone, exposed that he was trained to
listen. Eyes focused. Obedient.
Unsmiling. His feet, laced into boots,
dangled over acorns and oak leaves,

the pattern woven through the carpet
in the sparsely furnished parlor where
his shadow smudged the wall behind him
that winter day, the valley fog thick,

the farmhouse trickling with cold moisture.
Eldest child, he’d labor in orchards,
dig water trenches, treat rot and blight,
plant, prune, and harvest English walnuts,

inherit the family business
but envy his brother who broke bonds
to pilot skies like a peregrine.
His hands would blister, build calluses;

his fair face burn, brown like hulls, sprout with
moles and lesions. His portrait was saved
on linen cardstock, one lock attached
of his shorn corn silk hair, blond relic.

 

 

Marilyn Westfall lives in Lubbock and Alpine Texas, and has roots in Ohio and California. Most recently, her poems are published in San Pedro River Review; Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos Press); Enchantment of the Ordinary (Mutabilis Press); and are forthcoming in Evening Street Review.

Van Gogh Paints Without The Moon’s Permission by Anna Ruiz

640px-Willows_at_Sunset_1888_Vincent_van_Gogh

Suddenly the sky breaks open with poems.
Magnolia trees laden with Spanish moss
spread rumors.

Rays of sunlight leave lines I had forgotten
were mine. I am deep in the mystery
like a blossoming chestnut tree.

I am too young to be ancient. Spreading
words and black lace like a war widow,
too tired to go home.

 

 

Anna Ruiz: I am not a third person though this is my third incarnation as a poet. However, there have been 26,683 incarnations of Anna. They’re all connected to my living breath–the one I have accepted as mine.

 

Painting, Willows at Sunset, by Vincent Van Gogh. 

Three Poems by Dan Leach

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Teacher

For Achille Mbembe

Death drove down to Clemson in a Cadillac the color of cotton. She found me down
in the stacks. Pressed her clean bones into my back and whispered, What do you think
you’re you doing here? I returned to my book and muttered, Learning how to read.
Death found this hilarious. She said, This is neither the time nor the place for that.
Teach me, then, I said. To which Death said nothing. To which she took my hand in hers

and led me to her car. We drove down to the stadium and she said, Repeat after me.
Gee-oh-teen. I repeated. We drove past the classrooms and she said, Sound it out.
Gruh-gruh-grave. Yuh-yuh-yard. I sounded. We parked outside the Fort Hill Mansion.
She said, Try this one on your own. I said, History. Death sucked her teeth. Try again,
she said. House? I said. Death freed her hand and drove away, the night air rushing

cold and black through the windows, her disappointment on me like a song. I’m sorry,
I said, when she dropped me back at the library. She said, Enjoy your reading.
Wait, I said. Give me one more try. So she nodded to the book in my hand. That,
she asked. What’s the word for that? I had to look before speaking. Then I said, Killer.
This got a smile out of Death. She told me to get back in. Now you’re talking.

The Envelope

For Raymond Williams

It is a difficult thing to talk about. It might make you stutter, then stop,
then start again, before stuttering some more. It might make you feel

like a drunk falling headfirst into darkness while clutching for a wall.

It might make you feel a little like the jazz trumpeter standing alone
before a crowded room with no plan except leaning towards a sliver

of sound and smoke, except breathing and receiving what forms await.

You might get nervous or scared or both. It should be this way.

I remember losing my way in the woods of a mountain without a name,
losing myself to a dark so thick and dominant I raised my hand to my face

and could not see my skin. I remember waiting skinless for the sun.

I was scared. Still I think it should be this way.

It should be a difficult and dizzying thing: this clutching and receiving,
this walking together through the darkness, your hand in mine, waiting

for whatever light emerges to cut through the woods our new way.

such distance, such light

For Fred Moten

Here am I: surrounded
by strong walls
and good views
and much noise
resembling hope.
Here am I: enclosed.

And you out there:
beyond and beneath,
already and not yet,
can you tell me
what it is
you hear?

You out there,
surrounded & surrounding,
do you see me
as I see you?

& how do I sound
from such distance?
& how do I look
in such light?

Just between you and me
how does this situation end?

Dan Leach has published poems and stories in The Greensboro Review, The New Madrid Review, and storySouth. He is currently an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

In 1998, you could practice your French in France by Natalie Campisi

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In 1998, you could practice French in France. The new and old words were still distanced by water and paper and games of telephone.

It was the year of the Euro. The year of Kosovo. The year of Sampras and the Yankees.

The bus wobbled on steel-belted cartoon wheels toward Montpellier from Paris. Not Marseilles where they steal your money at knifepoint. We had little money and no credit cards and no gold to sell in a pinch.

In 1998, you relied on maps and eyes and lips and eyes.

In 1998, old lives couldn’t be accessed through an app and unrequited loves could remain in amber, forever lithe and limitless, forever ​Lotte​ — not living in Haddonfield with four kids and a mortgage.

<<Je voudrais ​deux billets, s’il vous plaît?>>

With paper maps and paper money, we packed on the packed bus with skinny people who mumbled grunts and slip n’ slide words, a potion of sweet and mildew. The wheel was too big for the driver’s hands. The mirror too small to see.

The faded baby blue bus was peeling-paint old.
The windows were trimmed in white and had curved corners.

A man pressed against me. I sent this postcard of the man pressing against me to my older self, and I received it — perhaps in the middle of the night — and realized he had assaulted me. He had pressed his body against mine on purpose. It wasn’t just a packed train. Assault is a big word when time gets between action. Too big. But, memory remains. I hated it.

I send a postcard back to my 22-year old self: “Push him away. Disez: ​Arrêtez! Arrêtez!

But, no. It’s in amber now. The bus keeps moving.

 

 

Natalie Campisi is a journalist and fiction writer currently residing in Los Angeles. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in fiction and her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Auburn Literary Journal, and Writer Magazine. She was recently awarded a writing scholarship to the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Currently, Natalie‘s producing, directing and performing in a fully improvised play based on the work of Wes Anderson, which is running at ImproTheatre in Los Angeles.

 

 

Original photograph by Donald Emmerich.

 

Editors Wanted: Califragile Is Growing!

vintage-kennel-club-dogs

We’re ready to take Califragile to the next level, improving our website with video and other interactive features, as well as expanding to include not just free verse poetry, but slam, hybrid, fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction and other forms. We will also bring our Arts-into-Action events to Chico and communities around the region.

We’re looking for editors, IT specialists, and fundraisers. All are volunteer positions. We’re especially interested in welcoming people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled and immigrant writer/editors. What do you want to contribute? To begin the conversation, send Wren Tuatha a letter of interest at califragilepoetry@gmail.com. Include the following, and anything else you’d like us to know:

• Previous editorial experience (not required)

• Genres you write in and publication highlights; Teaching experience, if applicable (not required)

• Your location and willingness/availability to travel to Butte County (not required but very helpful)

• Your first thoughts for new ways Califragile can be a relevant voice for climate change and social justice through the arts

Deadline for letters of interest: January 31, 2020

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Wren Tuatha and Califragile staff

Shimmer by Wren Tuatha

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Shimmer Sharon Shimmer.
Such sunsmile  on the water.
I, the shore,
I go  to cup her in my hands
and Shimmer She,
she ripples away.

 

First published in Thistle and Brilliant, Finishing Line Press.

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and others. She’s pursuing her MFA at Goddard College. Her chapbooks, Thistle and Brilliant and the forthcoming Skeptical Goats, are from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Butler, herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

 

Original photograph by Nicolas M. Perrault.

Bell Tower on a Grassy Knoll by Joe Cottonwood

unnamed

Frankly, an ugly structure of steel
like a square-legged spider
with the purest of heart,
a tower of one hundred forty bells.
Ocean air rises, falls, breaks like waves
ringing chimes above Bodega Bay.

Nicholas Green from this small town
at age seven was killed in far-off Italy
by highway robbers. His parents
donated his organs, new life for seven souls.
From Italy in gratitude, in sorrow
these bells etched with seven names.

Bells peal of hope.
In search of a more merciful world
we come, sit, listen.

Children come, do not sit, do not listen.
Children make offerings, a kite, a plastic airplane.
To the branches of a nearby pine
children tie handmade mobiles
marked with the names of dead siblings,
dead friends, shot schoolmates.
Here’s a string of origami hummingbirds,
and here on this branch among fog-damp needles
toy matchbox cars on fishline
dancing in the breeze. Dancing.

unnamed-1

Nicholas Green (September 9, 1987 – October 1, 1994).

 

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor. Nights, he writes. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.

 

Photographs by Angus Parker and Lynn Donner. 

Killing Time by Paul Mairet

wiki-Defoliation_agent_spraying-1200

You sit beside a fire on the outskirts
of the smokejumper camp at Gila Box.
The roar of the inferno doesn’t sound miles away.

A white cowboy with scars on his neck,
dressed like it’s still the late 1800s,
tells you how your father saved his life.

You can see the trachea tube in his throat,
blood soaked dust on a gurney.
You can see your father drinking
bourbon after the neck is mended.

A hand on your shoulder, a low voice:
Why are you still here?
I told you this is a white boy’s graveyard.

You shake your head without a word.
You do not turn to face the voice
and face you know belongs
to the San Carlos Apache Vietnam veteran.

You can see the helicopters in which he’s flown
above the Gila and A Lưới Mountains.
You can see him jumping to silence
flames with thoughts of those unleashed
for a government that has wronged his people
for all its history, and you
can’t even face him, much less
tell him why you’ve remained.

You can’t bear to see the managed fire
that must be reflected in his eyes,
as it is in those of the grinning white cowboy
across the fire from you both.

 

 

Paul Mairet is a poet and educator who currently teaches in Michigan Tech’s English Language Institute. He also works as an assistant to poet and writer David Mura and is ever grateful to him, Wang Ping, and Kristin Naca for their mentorship.

 

Photograph of defoliation with Agent Orange in Vietnam, author unknown. 

Sleep Harbored by Wren Tuatha

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(after The Accidental Tourist)

You think there’s a traffic rule, if you see a sign
for an airport you have to pull in and get on a plane.
It isn’t on my way and I don’t have the fare.

I sit in my driveway and read your articles from Lima,
Belfast, Shanghai. Weather and lights. Unexpected place
settings and traffic patterns.

I picture your skill at packing a suitcase, adjusting
to time differences with pills and naps, cafe
conversations.

If you are to birth a new beginning you must be judicious
as to the articles you pack, only versatile, lightweight things.
Belongings you won’t miss if lost.

But even lost things chance upon new lives with random
finders. The umbrella, the apple core. A quarter. The picture
of her you pack.

A plane flies over my garden near the airport
as I bury what you discarded in the cover crop and leaf litter,
compost.

If you travel here, will you push away vines and mushrooms
to recognize what grows where you left me standing?
Will you profile it as a point of interest?

Sleep harbored.
Random finders can claim you, too.

 

First published in Thistle and Brilliant, Finishing Line Press.

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, and others. She’s pursuing her MFA at Goddard College.  Her chapbooks, Thistle and Brilliant and the forthcoming Skeptical Goats, are from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Butler, herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

 

Painting, What We Leave Behind, by Jenn Zed

The Rose by Patricia Nelson

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—After Dante: Paradiso

i.
How, but by forgetting, can I leave
the yellow brightness of the center,
the white rose raveling beauty?

I who grew brighter even in its shadow
must turn earthward now,
cooling like a cloud.

That white, lost flower rests in my skin
like a shape on the distorted, moving water,
which the water does not see.

ii.
The shape and noise of the world returns:
the calls, the changes like a thudding of stairs.
After radiant stars, the eloquent hardness of a wall.

I touch it with blank, soft hands,
the sounds in the underlying wood
like a creaking of bridges.

The night lifts its black and crooked sigh.
The old confusion is above me, close as a clamor of beaks,
its meanness striving like a windmill.

iii.
What used to comfort with its distance, its lack of odor
or a shadow, its yaw of unkempt stories—
now is real. More real after my nearness to the light.

The light of the earth is to the left and small
as I go forward, and I must
love that cold which reaches out to me.

Though I am colder here, and dimmer,
I will stand, a beast with the moon around him
hitting the ground like bird strikes, with a dead light.

I will tell them the symmetrical story
with stinging and struggle, a beauty with noise
and falling. And I will love them as I tell it.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who now volunteers with an environmental organization. She worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Artwork, Isolated, by Jenn Zed.

Everyone knows a poem about sex is also a poem about death, by Shannon Phillips

jz

after BH

Every hour begs to be inhabited,
known, not recorded. What if every
particle in an hourglass were a consonant,
a vowel in a poem written above
and unwritten down the center, made
and unmade, like love, like a bed,
like the shapes she makes
under his hands.

Remember that song and how it
curled around the moment,
a tongue unfurled, letting go
of words so to taste the sweetness
of what is fleeting. Exquisite pleasure
is wedded to pain.

Remember that time even if
no picture exists; no poem, no picture
could convince death to be gentle,
but a good kiss just might.

 

 

Shannon Phillips is the founding editor of Picture Show Press. Her most recent chapbook, Body Parts, was published by dancing girl press in 2017. After teaching ESL for 3 years, she decided to study Arabic and hopes to one day work in the field of translation.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

The Emigrant’s Address To America. By Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

jenn

All hail to thee, noble and generous Land!
With thy prairies boundless and wide,
Thy mountains that tower like sentinels grand,
Thy lakes and thy rivers of pride!

Thy forests that hide in their dim haunted shades
New flowers of loveliness rare –
Thy fairy like dells and thy bright golden glades,
Thy warm skies as Italy’s fair.

Here Plenty has lovingly smiled on the soil,
And ‘neath her sweet, merciful reign
The brave and long suff’ring children of toil
Need labor no longer in vain.

I ask of thee shelter from lawless harm,
Food – raiment – and promise thee now,
In return, the toil of a stalwart arm,
And the sweat of an honest brow.

But think not, I pray, that this heart is bereft
Of fond recollections of home;
That I e’er can forget the dear land I have left
In the new one to which I have come.

Oh no! far away in my own sunny isle
Is a spot my affection worth,
And though dear are the scenes that around me now smile,
More dear is the place of my birth!

There hedges of hawthorn scent the sweet air,
And, thick as the stars of the night,
The daisy and primrose, with flow’rets as fair,
Gem that soil of soft verdurous light.

And there points the spire of my own village church,
That long has braved time’s iron power,
With its bright glitt’ring cross and ivy wreathed porch –
Sure refuge in sorrow’s dark hour!

Whilst memory lasts think not e’er from this breast
Can pass the fond thoughts of my home:
No! I ne’er can forget the land I have left
In the new one to which I have come!

 

Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon, 1829-1879.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

Little Brown Brother By Nick Carbó

Back_to_Bataan

I’ve always wanted to play the part
of that puckish pubescent Filipino boy

in those John Wayne Pacific-War movies.
Pepe, Jose, or Juanito would be smiling,

bare-chested and eager to please
for most of the steamy jungle scenes.

I’d be the one who would cross
the Japanese lines and ask for tanks,

air support, or more men. I’d miraculously
make it back to the town where John Wayne

is holding his position against the enemy
with his Thompson machine-gun. As a reward,

he’d rub that big white hand on my head
and he’d promise to let me clean

his Tommy gun by the end of the night. But
then, a Betty Grable look-a-like love

interest would divert him by sobbing
into his shoulder, saying how awfully scared

she is about what the “Japs” would do
to her if she were captured. In one swift

motion, John Wayne would sweep her off
her feet to calm her fears inside his private quarters.

Because of my Hollywood ability
to be anywhere, I’d be under the bed

watching the woman roll down her stockings
as my American hero unbuckles his belt

I’d feel the bottom of the bed bounce off my chest
as small-arms fire explodes outside the walls.

 

First published in El Grupo McDonald’s (Tia Chucha, 1995). Reprinted by permission on Nick Carbó.

 

 

Nick Carbó has edited two anthologies of Filipino literature, Returning a Borrowed Tongue: An Anthology of Filipino and Filipino American Poetry (1995) and Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers (2000), and coedited the anthology Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon (2002) with Denise Duhamel. His honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Le Château de Lavigny. His collections of poetry include El Grupo McDonald’s (1995); Secret Asian Man (2000), which won an Asian American Literary Award; and Andalusian Dawn (2004). Carbó’s work can be humorous, even satirical, in his examinations of American pop culture and its influence on Asian countries such as the Philippines. He told National Public Radio, “By writing about these influences, it’s my way of kicking back.”

Quincy, California by Tony Gloeggler

800px-Rural_mailboxes_in_Santa_Fe,_NM

The kind of town we stopped
for gas and asked directions
to that hillside inn ten years ago
When it rained and rained
and we stayed in bed, lost count
of the times we came and came

Kind of town you now live in
with your second husband, split
level home, road side mail box

Town you called from late last night
to tell me about the sharp pains
the red shredded things
that dropped into the water
as you sat on the toilet stool
forty years old, wanting your first child

 

First published in Mudfish.

 

 

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City, having managed group homes for the mentally challenged in Brooklyn for over 35 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, Raleigh Review, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Spillway, Moon City Review, and Juked. His full length books include One Wish Left (Pavement Saw Press 2002) and Until The Last Light Leaves (NYQ Books 2015). His next book will be published by NYQ Books in 2019.

 

Photograph by Tom Spross.

Arroyo Speaks by Paul Mairet

788px-'Dry_Arroyo,_California'_by_D._Howard_Hitchcock,_1910

The water in this land is scarce and cursed.
It ripped through earth and ran, gave birth to me,
a sun-dried orphaned cradle, orphaned thirst,
a bed in which a band of scorpions speak

in clicks on shadowed rocks. You’ll never hear
such talk because your ears aren’t made of earth.
You only hear his clicking tongue; your fear
has tied you to the gun he aims at her.

She only hears the fairies in the hut
she built beneath the pinyon like a grave.
She doesn’t know a year before your love
gave birth to her, the strychnine killer gave

a poisoned hot dog to your trusting hound,
smiling as he watched her wolf it down.

640px--Dog_Fetches_Hero2_Stick_From_River.webm

 

Paul Mairet is a poet and educator who currently teaches in Michigan Tech’s English Language Institute. He also works as an assistant to poet and writer David Mura and is ever grateful to him, Wang Ping, and Kristin Naca for their mentorship.

 

Painting, Dry Arroyo, California, by D. Howard Hitchcock.

Original photograph by idoterna.

Still by D.R. James

800px-Flag_funeral

It all recurs for the maimed, how they remain,
or don’t, atop the plots of the buried. Those
who could do something table the question.
They relax in the rocker of their certainty,
a war, any war, an abstraction that walls off
the bursting specifics. A twenty-something friend
found he’d deployed to sort body parts. Arrayed,
they’d survive the fever sweeping a land we
could never know. Welcomed by the white-blue
atrium of a foreign sky, he’d prowl his perimeter
until his duty tapped him. Then the oven-sun
would relight his nightmare, the categories
of bone and flesh his production line. What
achievement could signal his success? What
dream in the meantime could relieve raw nerve?
The perfect tour would end when he was still
in one piece, a nation’s need ignoring the gore
behind the games, the horror nestling into
the still-living because still in one piece.

 

First published in Tuck.

 

 

D. R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for 34 years and lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. Poems and prose have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, his latest of eight poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box), and his microchapbook All Her Jazz is free and downloadable-for-the-folding at Origami Poems Project. http://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage

 

Photograph by Gunnery Sgt. Mark Olivia, USMC.

Unfamiliar Face of Death by Lazar Trubman

Gandzasar2

Nagorno-Karabakh: May, 1988

Death has an unfamiliar face,
a face of a drunken, unshaved man;
red bulged eyes, bad breath,
strength, muddy boots, AK-47…
Begging for mercy – logs in the fire:
burn, baby, burn;
scream, woman, scream;
cry, old man, cry…
It’s over now; it’s in the memory
of our god-forsaken earth…

Afterword: June 1994

In the street in front of a hotel
two children are playing;
a boy of five, rachitic,
and a girl with a toy pistol:
they are playing on a serious note,
and the little boy,
rather petulant and unwilling,
is told to stand up
against the piss-stained wall;
he can’t understand that he is then
supposed to fall down;
the girl shows him how –
with all the experience
of her seven years…

 

 

Lazar Trubman is a college professor from Moldavia, one of the republics which comprised the former USSR. He immigrated to the United States in 1990, after spending four years as a political prisoner in Northern Russia. He was assigned to Arizona, where he taught the Theory of Literature and Roman languages for twenty-two years. In 2017, he retired to devote his time to writing. Since then, his poetry and prose appeared in Forge Magazine, The New Reader, Kissing Dynamite, Bending Genres, Lit Mag, and others. A collection of his poems and prose is forthcoming from Adelaide Books in July 2019.

Pontneddfechan by Phil Wood

image002

We trudge beside a rain-happy river,
busy with Dippers, squabbling for mates and nests.
It makes a change with no one about, she said.
The mud is squelchy, a primal glue. Waterfalls
cascade the ancient voices of hillside streams.

There’s a dead sheep nestled in silica rock
across the river. Headless. It spooks us both.
In these lichen-coated oak, where air dampens
the moss bright stone, a breath of the old ways
whispers myth. Daft I know. Such places gather belief.

 

 

Phil Wood was born in Wales. He has previously worked in Education, Shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including The Poetry Shed, Snakeskin, Ink Sweat and Tears, and London Grip.

My Mother Named Me America by Kathryn Collins

baby

My Mother Named Me America

without knowing that my coyote father
had been disappeared somewhere
in the wild whooping marshes of Socorro.
She could not know that his last gasping
thought was for the feel of her
long lashes
fluttering against his chest.

That was before I began
screaming with a hunger she couldn’t
to sate. My gummy voice was impossible
to understand,
just like the doctors
who hastened to clear her bed
for the next welfare case.

Later, when loss seeded her lungs
a wet whooping of her own
her native desert called to her between the shouts of
binners and sandwich-board men. Even
the cracked palms of the man who brought
blossoms
to the creek bank we called home
couldn’t hold her here.

If she had known, would she have stayed
at her uncle’s hacienda
until she couldn’t plead
no señor,
no, anymore. Would she have left
if she had known
her daughter’s voice would cry
those same words into the night?

At least here there was
a chance,
space to fill out her hopes.
Nowhere is perfect, but at least
here
my world is built with white words
and white violence.

 

 

Kathryn Collins’ essays and poetry have been published in CALYX, Flyaway Journal of Writing, The Rumpus, Months to Years, and Robo Book through Bank Heavy Press. She received her MA in Professional Fiction Writing from the University of Denver and currently works as a librarian. After a long period as an expat in Germany, Israel and Australia, she has returned home to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

#Mountains: Women Are Mountains Scattered by Wren Tuatha

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Red pill/green pocket/squire, asks then takes anyway,
can you see me or the planet from a crag in Arkansas?
Gynic peaks pull the moon in you by a string.

What do you orbit? How do you know when to alight if land
and women are mountains scattered, grounded but shifting
unfinished? You and Mohammed, playing pipes at mountains.

Two peaks, one in Africa, the other Appalachia, pour
water that makes the moonbow, marrying light and vapor.
Only two places on Earth does the moon lay this lyric.

Mountains in Nepal listen to gunfire. In Kentucky they
lay down for clean coal, rebranded. Lung forests in Sierras
truck downhill. Peaks in Switzerland take the breath away,

rare oxygen. Do you see me on the planet from Alps, Everest
or Kilimanjaro? Rice terraces and the perfect elevation
for quinoa. Who are you feeding? Who comes to the table?

Not women. When restless we erupt, rebranding, renewing.
We sway slow on our plates. My skin has regrown after lavas.
Sit down. Your babbling is corrosive, a tune in smoke while women

chisel, turn spokes. Narcissus drowning and other irrelevant kings.
No matter your heights, a king convinced of his wings and his view
brought us to this ledge.

 

First published in Thistle and Brilliant, Finishing Line Press. 

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and others. She’s pursuing her MFA at Goddard College.  Her chapbooks, Thistle and Brilliant and the forthcoming Skeptical Goats, are from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Butler, herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

She wonders about his tattoo by Shannon Phillips

776px-Double_Exposure

Maybe the small blue spiral behind his earlobe is a corkscrew into his skull, there to remind him that all life is suffering, even the good parts, the absence of which at times makes his heart sag, soaked in want. Maybe he got used to the pain after that. Or maybe it’s the slow wind up the mountain to Big Bear, the spooled line from the fishing trips he never went on with his grandfather because he was too young when he died. Or maybe his Middle Eastern students finally convinced him to smoke hookah and it was so good that he wanted to commemorate the revelation he had while staring at the cobra statue in the corner, curled in dance as if on the kaleidoscopic streets of Morocco. He’d almost gotten purple ink, in honor of Cheshire cat rings, but the tattoo artist talked him out of it; he was okay with that—the rings on which Alice slid down into the rabbit hole were smoke-colored anyway. Perhaps he got it because some part of him wanted others to ask about it. He remembered his mom worrying out loud one afternoon that he would become like her—lonely from preferring the inside of his own head. She even wished she’d been born into another culture, one where a child couldn’t run ten feet without smacking into someone who loved him. He remembered this while waiting in line during his lunch hour, the woman next to him wearing a scarf—the color of sunset—layered generously around her neck.

 

 

Shannon Phillips is the founding editor of Picture Show Press. Her most recent chapbook, Body Parts, was published by dancing girl press in 2017. After teaching ESL for 3 years, she decided to study Arabic and hopes to one day work in the field of translation.

High Priestess by Patricia Nelson

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess

High Priestess

—a tarot card

Narrow by narrow she rides.
Woman with a blue ball on her head
and a horn and another horn
and a no eye and a why eye
and a new moon through her dress.

To see her you must live in a jar
or a rock or an alphabet
or a planet balanced on a dark.
On a “why” of seed and stem and under
and made of wide by wide.

You must see white to white,
your heart stem paling at the leaf.
Face of chalk and torso hard as tooth.
In the high-low, pile moonlight silent as sand.
Release the cold and falling salt of judgment.

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess-1

 

Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who now volunteers with an environmental organization. She worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

The High Priestess card of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith.

A Flamingo Always Has One Leg Up, Ready to Fly If It Needs To by Martin Willitts Jr

jennzed:willitts

the weight of life is trembling down the night
shaking curtains made out of rocks

a blink will un-do this world
fumbling with the way-it-used-to-be

overhead near-perfect rain breaks the heat

it is quiet without you
rain is writing this down

 

 

Martin Willitts Jr has twenty-four chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 16 full-length collections, The Uncertain Lover and Coming Home Celebration. Forthcoming books include Harvest Time (Deerbrook Press) and the Blue Light Award winner The Temporary World. He is an editor for Comstock Review.

 

Painting by Jenn Zed.

Soapbox by Bill Arnott

800px-Bergy_bits_near_Tasiilaq

Bergy bits and growlers
float into the bay
chunks of Greenland
set adrift, temporary
floating homes
that wait
naive as snowmen
meanwhile fridges, freezers
air conditioners
heat the rest

We go see it while it’s there
speeding its demise
talk of preservation
need for care
lectures from the ignorant
on upturned soapbox podiums
spilling phosphate residue –
take your message to the world
on private jet, Air Hypocrite
No, no, no, white wine goes in the other fridge – the one beside the green bin

 

 

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling nonfiction author of Wonderful Magical Words and Dromomania. His poetry is in the League of Canadian Poets Heartwood and Paper Dart Press UK PLAY anthologies. Bill’s poems, reviews and articles also appear online.

 

Photograph by Christine Zenino.

For My Friend Who Complains He Can’t Dance and Has a Severe Case of Writer’s Block By Nick Carbó

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Then, take this tambourine
inside the sheep barn,

listen to the anaconda’s intestines,
the shark’s walking stick,

learn the river insect’s secret
neon calligraphy,

swim through Frida Khalo’s hair
and come out smelling like orchids,

lift your appetite
towards the certified blue turtle,

feast on Garcia Lorca’s leather shoes
and taste the sun, the worms of Andalusia,

don’t hesitate in front of a donut,
a ferris wheel, the crab nebula,

excavate diamond-eyed demons,
Chaucer’s liver, Minoan helmets,

paste Anne Sexton’s face on a $1,000 bill
and purchase a dozen metaphors,

beware of the absolute scorpion,
the iguana with the limping leg,

permit indwelling, white words around the eyes,
the confrontation of windows,

never feed your towel to the alligator,
he will eat you and eat you and eat you.

 

 

First published in El Grupo McDonald’s (Tia Chucha, 1995). Reprinted by permission of Nick Carbó.

 

 

Nick Carbó has edited two anthologies of Filipino literature, Returning a Borrowed Tongue: An Anthology of Filipino and Filipino American Poetry (1995) and Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers (2000), and coedited the anthology Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon (2002) with Denise Duhamel. His honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Le Château de Lavigny. His collections of poetry include El Grupo McDonald’s (1995); Secret Asian Man (2000), which won an Asian American Literary Award; and Andalusian Dawn (2004). Carbó’s work can be humorous, even satirical, in his examinations of American pop culture and its influence on Asian countries such as the Philippines. He told National Public Radio, “By writing about these influences, it’s my way of kicking back.”

 

Chalkboard graphic by Nick Carbó.

Herman, The Sturgeon by Tricia Knoll

FunWithFish_HermanSturgeon

My palms press against the thick glass wall
between me and Herman. I nudge in
next to three young girls with ponytails.
Herman glides, a profile of fossils.

The sign to my left:

Species: acipenser transmontanus (Pacific Sturgeon) –
the largest freshwater fish in North America
Age: 70 plus years, born during World War II
Eyes: Steel gray
Length: Ten feet
Weight: 450 pounds
Genealogy: Species to 175 million years ago
Residence: Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River –– since 1998 captive in a man-made pool fed by Tanner Creek and groundwater.
One Herman or another has circled this pool for over sixty years.

The blonde mother distracts her kids with goldfish crackers.
I’ve got the window.

Does Herman see my hands splayed on the glass?
Am I as irrelevant to him as barnacles
crusted on the container ships on the Columbia
heading through Bonneville’s locks to Lewiston?
Does his brain sense how near his river is?
How high the wall to the upper Columbia?

I lean in as if to weigh the theft
of his wild identity, this land-locked fish.
Does he always swim clockwise?
Ignoring cycles of spawning?
His eyes give away nothing.
Bottom dweller. Four barbell sensors,
armored scutes. Yet – a brain that integrates.

My blessing to this fish
through my hands, through the glass.
Bless his terrible beauty.
Does he feel how my laying-on pulses the water?

 

First published in Song of Eretz.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

When We Glint by George Cassidy Payne

dbm

When we glint
we are back in time,
and the road groans
like an oncoming
British squadron.

Wounded. We feel
witnessed by time-
by 200 years of war,

a theater of bitter
clouds and the noon
day sun conniving.

When we glint we
sail through the carnage-

hurtling outward toward
an uncertain future. A
breeze rippling the surface.

 

 

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, domestic violence social worker, adjunct professor of philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College, and a student of religion. He has degrees in the subject from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

 

Painting by Jenn Zed.

Elegy with Scrambled Eggs by Beth Gordon

Floris_van_Schooten_-_A_kitchen_still_life_with_pots_and_pans_on_a_stone_ledge_and_animated_figures_in_the_background

When I say breakfast, I mean your hard-boiled
bruises draped in designer silk blouses,
I mean my first lacy bra, party dressing
in my grandmother’s bedroom, the way you
led me to my reflection, your lipstick
mouth saying beautiful, I mean you kept
your face in shadow at every meal,
I mean you starved after your husband died
of cancer, I mean you were light headed
for 20 years, I mean the boarding house
where your mother steeped tea on a hot plate,
carried a globe lamp from Baltimore
to Greensboro, I mean the way you claimed
it as payment for the year she left you
behind, I mean the oncoming food truck
that crushed you as you turned into the church
parking lot. When I say church, I mean prayers
to a breathing machine, the way you limped
from bed, re-breaking your ankles, I mean
the last thing you said, I just don’t feel good,
I mean your hungry children dusting for
each other’s fingerprints, I mean pancakes
in the common room on Easter Sunday,
the men who came every week to see you
pour coffee, listen to your hymnal voice.

I mean the choirs in your battered heart
as God set a full table before you.

 

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

Painting by Floris van Schooten.

Fake News by Bruce McRae

Peter_Fonda's_American_Flag_Patch

This is your reporter. We take you live
to the scene of multiple tomorrows.
There are cloudbanks in every room
and a noxious gas is fording our borders.
Cherubim fall like milk poured from a lip-red sky.
Notice the turmoil of lawns and gardens,
the way the earth eventually gives up her dead.
Listen to witnesses as they recoil
from an overabundance of weather.
See the void that’s opened, like a crack in the light.
Like lovers parting during wartime.
Like fingers crossing a heart
and every cemetery is filled with rosewater.

 

 

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with well over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pskis Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

 

Photograph of Peter Fonda’s “Captain America” flag patch from Easy Rider, by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas. 

Fires by Ted McCarthy

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And far back, fires. I tried to number them,
to give each one its own significance –
a huge event, a movie come to life,
each one a shot of communal adrenaline,
the emptying streets converging on a smoke
too black for chimneys, air’s breath-sucking heat,
a billowing, the spit of punched-out windows
and once, an oily blob of dragon’s phlegm,
a sun escaping from a cinema screen,
and grown-ups scattering like playground kids.
A visitation, talked about for weeks
in child-speak or the hushed tones of bereavement.

And then we were too old. We understood.
I knew that rumbling sound was rooms collapsing,
I’ve felt, not heard, it since too many times –
something internal tumbles floor by floor
and though you’re whole, you know yourself a shell.
It’s details now. The hush, the helplessness:
a woman sleepwalking along the footpath,
her neighbours linking arms to keep her back,
their faces grim with fear. Her strength; she moved
like a machine, her eyes fixed on a point
no one could see.

Today I couldn’t tell
which house it was, that row all of a piece.
Memory’s a town; expansion and neglect,
a gutting out, a scouring of the acrid,
a crowding at the heart; sometimes a stillness
waiting for decay to be complete.

 

 

Ted McCarthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’.
His work can be found on http://www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com

 

Editor’s Note: As we process the images and experiences of the Camp Fire, we have noted that many among us were already living the effects of their “own personal Camp Fire,” which made them homeless, marginal, or at risk before the disaster. Thus, we include this offering from the UK on metaphorical “fires” in our lives, to recognize that disasters, collective and individual, continue and demand much of us.

#Mountains: The Mammogram Technician Asked if I Wanted to Take a Look by Andrea Potos

750px-Woman_receives_mammogram

Profile of a motherland–
sloping hill and veins bold
with blood ore,
rivers of light criss-
crossing and coursing
from view, I prayed
my eyes were true–
I saw no errant stone.

 

Previously published in Arrows of Light, Iris Press.

 

Andrea Potos is the author of eight poetry collections, including the forthcoming A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry), Arrows of Light (Iris Press), An Ink Like Early Twilight (Salmon Poetry), We Lit the Lamps Ourselves (Salmon Poetry) and Yaya’s Cloth (Iris Press). The latter three books received Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry from Rosebud Magazine, and the Hearst Poetry Prize from the North American Review.

 

Original photograph by Rhonda Baer, courtesy of the National Cancer Institute. 

#Mountains: The Path by Stella Pierides

dd

At the top of the stairway snaking up the hill, a white-washed chapel and an olive tree. Blinding sunlight. Some way to go yet. The stony stairs are narrow, a couple of hands-width before the cliff falls steeply into the sea.

Slow down, there’s no hurry. Take a deep breath. Feel the rough warmth of the rock. The wind beating against it raises the fragrance of sage, of thyme and marjoram to the skies, erases the silence.

marble wings—
in the distance
windmill ruins

Feel the salt on your lips, the urgent wind tussling your hair.
This history book under your arm, so well-thumbed, leave it here, against that rock, someone coming after you might linger, take a look.

pillars of salt—
propping her foot
on a stone

And the pebble from Amorgos you kept in your pocket all those years, add it to the cairn over there, where the path widens. Let it go. The trail is moments like this, following the light, teetering on the edge of your desires, of your sorrows.
That bench at the top, see it now, under the olive tree? This is your goal. You can rest there. Wise, gentle Persephone will hold your hand.

embalming my tongue
I rest in the shadow
of the silver-leaved olive

 

 

Stella Pierides is a poet and writer born in Athens, Greece, now living in Neusaess, Germany and London, UK. She is the author of three poetry books: Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017) and In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), both of which received a Haiku Society of America merit award; Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. Currently she manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Haiku Foundation.

 

Painting by Jenn Zed.

Who’s Keeping Track of our Dreams by Beth Gordon

Todd Klassy

You are chopping hard boiled eggs on Friday night while we discuss our certain sudden extinction, the vanishing whippoorwill and his mournful morning chant, our clocks blinking midnight because tornadoes serenaded our flooded streets. You sold gilt-edged bibles in North Carolina in 1973 when I was just a child listening to The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and Playground in My Mind, unable to separate those revolutionary messages.You prop up your broken laptop with a syrupy bottle of Southern Comfort retrieved from basement waters, still sticky with mold and spider webs, while we try to mix the ancient recipes: Comfort Colada, Comfort-On-The Rocks. Our ears popping from the journey, landing your least favorite part, we haven’t been in Kentucky for twenty-five years, but you never forgot the flies that laid their eggs on mash, how you waved them off, wings as black as Mississippi dirt, as green as Irish grass.

 

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

Photograph by Todd Klassy. 

Father’s Day: Mo/Fa Poems by Chella Courington

774px-Eugene_Manet_and_His_Daughter_in_the_Garden_1883_Berthe_Morisot

Second Memory

An upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at Forty-first & Twelfth
raising it in waves
around her knees
over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
& I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t
hold it down
& he sees
me see him
winking
before the light
turns green.

 

Queen’s Bird

Two of each—cup, saucer, bread plate—
in lukewarm water, I wash away

thirty years of dust since Mother died.
At 42, uterine cancer like Queen Mary

bloody Mary quite contrary.
Why did you run away?

I thought I could find you by traveling
to Chicago, Barbados and Edinburgh.

Against the sun, I raise this porcelain
eyeing it for chips and cracks. Bone china

fired from bone ash like Mother’s gray powder
handed me in a bronze urn.

Or is this songbird cup glazed in blue
mere clay? My lips where once were yours.

 

Jeopardy

My father built biceps working for US Steel
smelting iron in heat that humbled men.

Now I could break his arm
over my knee, brittle as kindling.

My father used to let me walk up his body
balancing my hands on his fingertips

till I flew from his shoulders. They began to sag
after my mother passed. Rising at night, no moon out,

she collapsed in the dark and never woke
as once my father fell when a clot in his head

tossed him down. He speaks of my mother
rubbing his back with eucalyptus oil and saves hair

from her brush, strands he wraps in kleenex.
At night with his whiskey, facing Jeopardy, my father

drifts off to Kargasok.
In the Russian mountains women live to be 105.

So do their men, eating dried cod with mushroom tea,
making love last forever.

 

Blackbirds

Like a canopy of darkness
they shadow the ground for miles
on currents that lift them
back to their roosts.

Years later I ask my father
if he gathered us
to watch thousands
swoop down on trees

sit wing to wing
till morning branches cracked
under their weight.
At daybreak

did they leave the oaks
bare?

He says we never saw them abandon
the hollow, catch a new wind
to an unharvested south
but often would see their return

black streaks
on a September afternoon.

 

Job’s Daughter

I do not skulk from God.
He has no eye for me
only for my father—tall and brown
hands that raise me over his head.

Hurling insults like thunderbolts, God calls
him harelip, mooncalf. Father hides
seven days under the bellies of three sheep.
With a dulled razor, God sheers

their backs slowly before burning them.
He forces the camel to sit on the cold earth,
head down, and gives father a white flint knife.
Slice the thorax, He bellows.

Father turns away—not a butcher.
The camel lives two hours. My father crawls
inside the camel’s skin and closes it over him.
Flesh still warm.

774px-Eugene_Manet_and_His_Daughter_in_the_Garden_1883_Berthe_Morisot-1

Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, she is the author of six poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry appears in numerous anthologies and journals including Spillway, Gargoyle, Pirene’s Fountain, and The Los Angeles Review. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in California with another writer and two cats. For more information: chellacourington.net.

 

Painting, Eugene Manet and his daughter in the Garden, by Berthe Morisot.

Ours Was a Softer Kind of Landing by Beth Gordon

Tornado_Destroyed_House_in_Parkersburg,_Iowa

We believed this landscape would not betray,
cinematic sunsets haloing white
farmhouse and cornstalks, as tall as young
men, your cats running free across the road
and back without daylight danger, always
returning home before coyote hour,
high winds that cause old branches to grumble,
the haunted oak tree breaking your bedroom
window, its veined hands reaching for your throat
only to discover that you had fled
to the basement, your nerves frayed, uneasy
at the ribbons of rain that wrapped around
every stone or brick within your line
of sight. I tell you that the wilderness
reclaimed Ukrainian suburbia
after the Chernobyl meltdown, pregnant
foxes and winter wolves roam without fear,
that genetically modified soybean
exhibits natural immunities
to radioactive dirt, that thunder
heads and tornadoes have become common
topics of conversation, that I know
how to hide arsenic poisoning from
the forensic detectives in Osage,
MO but would be indicted in New
Orleans for the same crime. Beige homes destroy
our last corner of beauty and I am
leaving for the smoky mountains, this last
sanctuary now coated with poor-grade
cement, the once gentle road a gauntlet
for domesticated mammals, wild skunks,
afternoons of relaxation removed
with top soil. I tell you I am waiting
for the next disaster as I hold my
grandson’s blooming hand, guiding him around
an abandoned porch in a sweet circle
of splintered flight, that I no longer trust
meteorologists, pretty prophets
with ugly news, I scan the horizon
searching for God’s eyes, a voice louder than
schoolyard gunfire, a promise that this
caterpillar boy will wake tomorrow.

759px-Child's_Hands_Holding_White_Rose_for_Peace_Free_Creative_Commons_(1535619818)

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

First photograph by Vossman. Second photograph by Pink Sherbet Photography. 

How to Remain Invisible When the Great Storm Falls by Michael H. Brownstein

Tornado_Damage,_Illinois

–Jefferson City, MO, tornado, 11:40 PM, May 22nd/23rd, 2019

Two days later you navigate the ruts in the road,
fallen trees, torn roofs, swinging wires, broken poles
to a house at the end of a broken street and a gravel path,
up the steps of a porch still strong, an electric box dangling,
no windows broken, branches and car parts a picture frame.
When the door opens, heat rushes outside. A frail woman
at the door. Yes, she says. On her kitchen table,
a melting ice-cream carton, bags of leaking vegetables,
the soiled odor of spoiled milk. Come in, she says.
No electricity, a water pipe maligned, gas turned off.
All around you, every house has a sign—you can stay or
you must vacate. There is no sign on her front door.
You’re the first people I’ve seen in three days. Is it safe?
We have food, you tell her, and water. One of us
can remain with you. We’ll see if we cannot get you help.
And then the wind of the tornado slips from her.
her body rocks, then shivers, one hand goes to her face.
Sorry, she says. I can’t help it and she cries and cries.

 

 

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.

 

 

Photograph by Robert Lawson.

Tamalpais by Nicole Michaels

Tamalpais-derangedtaco

I am keeping your secrets
as if I wrote the legend,

crashed the planes,
abandoned the cars,

set the plaque
for Sitting Bull.

Your peeling manzanitas
are safe with me,

your rock,
your fire roads.

I have nothing to offer
except myself as I was,

gilded like a trout
downstream of your sleeping figure,

bronzed below your witch-guarded peak.

 

1280px-MT._TAMALPAIS_STATE_PARK,_MARIN_COUNTY,_CA

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

Top photograph by Brent Peters/Derangedtoco; Bottom photograph by Jerrye and Roy Klotz. 

Father by Michael H. Brownstein

cq_de_ou_oz_hanne_by_frogstar_23_dd3k657-pre

I always thought you would outlive me
Lifting heavy boxes past the age of seventy,
Carrying them fifty feet without rest
As if you were white water riding a crest
Of a wave digging talons into sand—
You were always the one I could count on to stand
As my corner man in the boxing ring
Or tell me a lie when I was asked to sing
At this function or that, knowing my throat
Was stale bread, textured oat.
Yet now I find you tied to machines
Calculating strokes of your heart on reams
Cascading past the nurse’s station in intensive care.
I left work early wondering if I dare
Peek in to see you beyond the open door.
You smile, plant heavy white stocking feet to the floor:
I’m OK, you tell me, my heart was racing,
And you move your finger to your chest as if tracing
A child’s picture shaded with red
An intricate design with a loose thread.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein’s latest poetry volume, A Slipknot Into Somewhere Else: A Poet’s Journey To The Borderlands Of Dementia, was recently published by Cholla Needles Press (2018).

 

Art by Jenn Zed

Pompeii By Charles Bernstein

800px-Wildfire_aftermath

The rich men, they know about suffering
That comes from natural things, the fate that
Rich men say they can’t control, the swell of
The tides, the erosion of polar caps
And the eruption of a terrible
Greed among those who cease to be content
With what they lack when faced with wealth they are
Too ignorant to understand. Such wealth
Is the price of progress. The fishmonger
Sees the dread on the faces of the trout
And mackerel laid out at the market
Stall on quickly melting ice. In Pompeii
The lava flowed and buried the people
So poems such as this could be born.

 

 

First published in PoetryReprinted with the permission of the author from Recalculating (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

 

Photograph by Mrsramsey.

Thistle & Brilliant: Poems of Relationships in Motion//Performance at Blackbird in Chico

Blackbird 4:20 Poster

Northern California writers and readers:

Join Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha and Poemcrazy author Susan Wooldridge, along with poets Bob Garner, Cory Himp Hunt, Patrick Napoco, Heather Rayann, Travis Rowdy and more for an evening of the messy!

Wren will read from her new collection, Thistle and Brilliant, interspersed with other poets’ offerings on relationships in motion! An open mic on the topic will follow, one poem per reader.

Blackbird Books and Cafe

1431 Park Ave., Chico CA 95928

Saturday, April 20, 2019, 6pm

**This will be Wren’s final public Chico appearance during T&B’s promotional period.**

Let me count the ways…you can order Thistle and Brilliant–

• Connect with us at Blackbird.

• Order via Finishing Line Press‘ website before April 26, 2019.

• Contact Wren via Facebook or Califragile.org before April 26, 2019

• Contact Wren to host a house party before April 26, 2019.

The Fires By Rudyard Kipling

800px-only_fires_set_in_the_barrels_are_keeping_people_warm_as_temperatures_plummeted_down_(11099190053)

Men make them fires on the hearth
Each under his roof-tree,
And the Four Winds that rule the earth
They blow the smoke to me.

Across the high hills and the sea
And all the changeful skies,
The Four Winds blow the smoke to me
Till the tears are in my eyes.

Until the tears are in my eyes
And my heart is well nigh broke
For thinking on old memories
That gather in the smoke.

With every shift of every wind
The homesick memories come,
From every quarter of mankind
Where I have made me a home.

Four times a fire against the cold
And a roof against the rain,
Sorrow fourfold and joy fourfold
The Four Winds bring again!

How can I answer which is best
Of all the fires that burn?
I have been too often host or guest
At every fire in turn.

How can I turn from any fire,
On any man’s hearthstone?
I know the wonder and desire
That went to build my own!

How can I doubt man’s joy or woe
Where’er his house-fires shine.
Since all that man must undergo
Will visit me at mine?

Oh, you Four Winds that blow so strong
And know that his is true,
Stoop for a little and carry my song
To all the men I knew!

Where there are fires against the cold,
Or roofs against the rain,
With love fourfold and joy fourfold,
Take them my songs again!

 

 

Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936. 

 

Original photograph by Ivan Bandura. 

 

 

 

 

Garage Fire by Terry Adams

flowers_by_frogstar_23_dcd3rml-pre 

He began all his dreams in those curled painted flowers
on the wall facing his bed
as the house quieted.

then he was dreaming the flowers burning and
his cousin with flames on his face
shaking him

under the window glowing and ticking with heat –
then the black spider nets his bicycle spokes
the seat charred tower of bare springs
where he dreamed of riding no-handed
and it came true

then the smoldering flowers were above
his pallet on the school floor beside
black axe-head, melted rake,
nested saws welded scattered
sins of screwdrivers with no
handles

then he got on his knees to look out
the window at the blackened
yard and remembered watching the one
black side of all those rescuing
strangers

pulsing with odd light as they yelled
throwing water and dirt
their red flat faces fastened
to huge shadows
bending and weaving
across the glass.

Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.

Painting by Jenn Zed.

It Begins by Friends of Califragile

CT leads closing activity at launch party

It begins with a dying fish,
tangled in faded lace.
Squirming, frantic, delicate.
A desperate daydream of swimming through the nearest window.
Almost bluish grey.
Like the opaque eyes of the slender ribbon snake readying to shed its skin
into golden light
and it ends with a flying fish
untangled, SPLASH!

 

Cooperative poem from attendees of Califragile’s launch party. We love our Chico/Butte County community!

 

Photograph by Gillermo Mash. 

Thistle-Down By E. Pauline Johnson

Thistledown

Beyond a ridge of pine with russet tips
The west lifts to the sun her longing lips,

Her blushes stain with gold and garnet dye
The shore, the river and the wide far sky;

Like floods of wine the waters filter through
The reeds that brush our indolent canoe.

I beach the bow where sands in shadows lie;
You hold my hand a space, then speak good-bye.

Upwinds your pathway through the yellow plumes
Of goldenrod, profuse in August blooms,

And o’er its tossing sprays you toss a kiss;
A moment more, and I see only this –

The idle paddle you so lately held,
The empty bow your pliant wrist propelled,

Some thistles purpling into violet,
Their blossoms with a thousand thorns afret,

And like a cobweb, shadowy and grey,
Far floats their down – far drifts my dream away.

 

 

E. Pauline Johnson, 1861-1913.

 

Photograph by 3268auber.

 

#CampFire: No Wonder it Looks like the Moon by Amanda Pyle

800px-Grass_growing_after_fire

We were down at Woodrat Flat yesterday
working on erosion control, horrific this time around.
No ash blanket, the fire wind blew it all away.
Nothing left to slow the water down.

the cabin windows melted, I noticed for the first time.
Not broken—liquefied and turned into puddles,
rehardened.

Glass melts at 3,000 degrees.
No wonder it looks like the moon down there
for acres and acres, as far as the eye can see.

But plants are coming back…
saw shoots of monkey flower and lupine,
fairy lanterns, miner’s lettuce.
It’s an ordinary miracle…the best kind.

 

 

Photograph by Greg Henry for the National Park Service. 

Older Than Dirt by Tricia Knoll

5cps_w_1_by_frogstar_23_dc3wrz4-pre

Mother, Father, whatever name,
Earth is tired too.

Not from make-young-again magma,
grinding tectonic plates that might
yawn in ennui, star-dust meteors,
off-center tilts, or hot sea vents.

Weary of extraction.
Extinction – weightless shadows
on the steps of nuclear death,
war zones, mass graves.
Fracture – refugees
crawling under desert fences.

Under the weight of all words
for home, dom, nyumbani, বাড়ি ,
the universe’s common hum
most resembles womb when home is
more than the dirt we are born to
or are buried in, common ground.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

Grandfather’s Simple Request by Trish Saunders

koolau mountains debrajean pixabay

My ohana, I must leave you soon.
Bury me with koa leaves and shells,
place pikake flowers around my neck,
red dirt between my toes.

Once, I wanted to rest beneath the Pali cliffs
where I could hear the ocean
and receive its calm.

I live in the desert now, a place no less beautiful
but far from the temple grasses
of our ancestors.

Do not grieve for me.
Watch for my lantern in the night sky
guiding boats into the harbor.

 

 

Trish Saunders writes poems from Seattle and Honolulu (and, in her imagination, from the shores of Crater Lake, Oregon). She’s been widely published in print and digital poetry journals; some favorites are Right Hand Pointing, Blast Furnace Press, Eunoia, Califragile.

 

Photograph of Koolau Mountains by Debra Jean.

A Wave of Absolute Zero by George Cassidy Payne

machine_intelligence_by_frogstar_23_dbm69qm-pre

Eating nuts, roots,
crawdads, and turtles, and
speaking in symbols
smelling of shaggy, oily skin
on the underside of fallen-off
fish gills. Just nuclei colliding.

I am human.

Walking upright with massive
jaws made thick with layered enamel.

I am human.

I float through the fence- less edens
spilling my creativity messily like
a leaking hot pink rolling ball pen.

A wave of absolute zero.

I am human.

 

 

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, domestic violence social worker, adjunct professor of philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College, and a student of religion. He has degrees in the subject from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

Thistle and Brilliant in Promotional Presales; Wren and Molly Fisk on Radio for #CampFire Poems

TUATHA-WREN-WEB-600x600

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s first chapbook, Thistle and Brilliant (Finishing Line Press) is coming out June 21, 2019. Now through April 26, it’s available to preorder on the publisher’s site. Rather than relying on an endowment, FLP determines the press run of a new release by how many copies are preordered during the promotional period.  Please show your support for Wren, poetry, and small presses by ordering today! Does your town have Little Free Libraries? Consider ordering an extra copy for this great grassroots project!

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/thistle-and-brilliant-by-wren-tuatha/

Thistle and Brilliant is a collection of poems around the theme of relationships in motion–moving closer, growing distant; unrequited love; new relationship energy and settled life in the depths. It would make a great birthday/holiday gift for the one or many you love!

Some love from other poets:

Wren Tuatha’s poems are lively, rich in images and bold unexpected language. She writes especially well about love unrequited and satisfying.

–Marge Piercy

These poems! Exquisite dissections of relationships in motion, deliciously erotic, with a sharp intellect and a soupçon of regret. Wren Tuatha has her finger on the pulse of love.

–Alexis Rhone Fancher, poetry editor, CULTURAL WEEKLY.

Want to write a review of Thistle and Brilliant, interview Wren in print or book her on your radio show or podcast? Contact her at CalifragilePoetry@gmail.com.

Chico, CA Appearances:

Writing On Air, KZFR 90.1 FM
February 26, 2019 7:00pm

Wren joins hosts Kevin and Natalie, as well as Nevada County poet laureate Molly Fisk in reading Califragile’s #CampFire poems. Discussion of poets writing from the headlines and direct experiences like California’s wildfires. Stream on YouTube here.

How to Get Your Poems Published 
Butte County Library, Chico Branch, 1108 Sherman Ave.
Sunday, March 10, 2019 4:30-6:30pm

Wren will read from T&B and talk on demystifying the poetry publication process. Wren will provide lists of journals that are approachable and/or have hight rates of acceptance. Attendees will have the opportunity to form ongoing critique groups, submission parties, and mentorships. Stay in touch via our Facebook event page.

#CampFire Poems/Thistle and Brilliant
The Bookstore 118 Main St.
Friday, March 15, 2019 6:30-8:00pm

Wren will read poems from Califragile’s #CampFire theme and T&B. Laptops will be available to preorder from Finishing Line Press, plus Magnetic Poetry, and more! Stay in touch via our Facebook event page. This is Wren’s big Chico event during T&B’s promotional period, so be there or be, well, apparently somewhere else…

The Fire By Lola Ridge

800px-us-army-troops-taking-break-while-on-patrol-in-vietnam-war

The old men of the world have made a fire
To warm their trembling hands.
They poke the young men in.
The young men burn like withes*.

If one run a little way,
The old men are wrath.
They catch him and bind him and throw him again to the flames.
Green withes burn slow…
And the smoke of the young men’s torment
Rises round and sheer as the trunk of a pillared oak,
And the darkness thereof spreads over the sky….

Green withes burn slow…
And the old men of the world sit round the fire
And rub their hands….
But the smoke of the young men’s torment
Ascends up for ever and ever.

 

Lola Ridge, 1873-1941.

Photograph by Dennis J. Kurpius.

 

* a willow twig or osier; any tough, flexible twig or stem

Off the Road by John Grey

800px-T-bird

He dreams of that old Thunderbird
with the bullet-nosed hood,
the way it idled like a Bengal tiger’s gut
at the stop light on Cross and Barnes,
the sweet low whine of the turbo,
his foot as eager as a finger
to press that accelerator trigger
as two dolt-heads rolled up on either side,
one in a battered Chevy and
the other, a sleek Corvette.

There’s nothing happening this week or the last
to equal leaving those two pretenders
sniffing foul rubber,
choking on his exhaust.
His family is here visiting
and, while he’s glad to see them,
love’s like an old VW Beetle
compared to what memories are driving.

One son-in-law parks
wife, kids and belongings in an SUV
to get there.
His own boy drives a Cadillac,
says it helps his business
to be seen in one.
Even his eldest grandchild
pushes a tiny truck across the linoleum.

Where’s speed? Where’s noise?
Where in hell is questioning
the other guy’s manhood?
His youngest daughter
brings him his daily dose
of mashed up baby vegetables.
That’s where.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

 

Original photograph by Nminow.

#CampFire: Second-hand Mule by Terry Adams

SJM-L-BURRO-1110-2

Someone catches a mule,
ties her to a sign by the highway
with a bucket of water,
then leaves,
fleeing the fire.

The mule is leaning hard,
pulling her rope taut toward the white line,
the highway still un-melted,
air full of smoke.

Cars and trucks pass
but it’s not clear what kind of help
would help.

Bucket melts
from the bottom up.
The water escapes.

Someone thinks to take a photo
of a mule tied up so we know
the story,

how even freedom
is useless
at some point.

 

 

Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.

#CampFire: Particulate Matter by Molly Fisk

800px-Woman,_Smoke_(Imagicity_717)

Untitled 11

 

First published in Rattle, Poets Respond

Molly Fisk: “So many of us live near enough to Paradise, CA to have been under the pall of smoke its burning created. I’m in Nevada City, a Sierra foothills town equally likely to burn, equally hard to evacuate. Like many others in CA, we were wearing N95 masks and staying indoors, and talking to each other about what was in this particulate matter. A phrase we didn’t think of much ten years ago, and now everyone knows.”

 

 

Molly Fisk is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nevada County, CA. She’s been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and is widely published. Her poetry collections are The More Difficult Beauty and Listening to Winter. She’s also a radio commentator for KVMR in Nevada City and NPR, and works as a radical life coach. Reach her at mollyfisk.com

 

Photograph by Graham Crumb.

Five Poems by Simon Perchik

800px-Park_bench_-Lackford_Lakes,_Suffolk,_England-30July2010

*
You whisper as if smoke
still follows some plane
that left it behind

–mourners understand this
wave goodbye to your words
by leaning closer

the way fires start
though each stone left here
will collide with the sun

–no one would notice
it’s two in the afternoon
and all Earth is warming itself

lighting up the sky
no more than ever
hears you talk louder

say where in your mouth
a kiss can be found
came for you and stayed.

 

*
How could a moon so dim
see the room being taken away
–the door was closed from behind

as if nothing will return
except to light the stars
with evenings though the bed

stays empty, was uprooted
pulled further from the wall
no mined for its darkness

where each night pours sand
little by little through the blanket
over a room that died.

 

*
To not hear her leaving
and though this snapshot is wrinkled
it’s carried off in a shirt pocket

that never closes, stays with you
by reaching out as eyes
waiting for tears and emptiness

–you remember who filled the camera
except there was sunlight –a shadow
must say something, must want

to be lifted, brought back, caressed
the way a well is dug for the dead
who want only water and each other

–you try, pull the corners closer
over and over folded till you are facing
the ground, the dry grass, her.

 

*
To the dirt that no longer moves
you offer a mask the way a flower
over and over is readied for mornings

where time begins again as stars
sensing honey and more darkness
–by evening your death

will be used to footsteps one by one
broken off a great loneliness
returning row by row as the small stones

cut out for the mouth and eyes
to sweeten it, ask
where you are going by yourself.

 

*
Though there’s no sea nearby
this sidewalk smell from sand
no longer struggling –you point

where the crack will come
when you take your hand away
letting it lie in the street

–what drips from your fingertip
is one wound bathing another
with evenings and shores

covered with the inhuman cries
from small shells still in pain
scattered and not moving

 

 

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems published by boxofchalk, 2017. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com. To view one of his interviews please follow this linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8

 

 

Original photograph by Martin Pettitt.

Lupercalia by Stephanie L. Harper

Large_Youth_of_Bacchus_2048x2048

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

sistine2

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

776px-Double_Exposure

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

argentina_

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.

th-1

 

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.

Public Disturbance in a Hurricane by Nancy Jasko

170826184900-53-hurricane-harvey-0826-super-169

rescued from a garage-parked antique
coach by EMTs in a boat while the
wallet remained in the driver’s seat

the alcohol-breath rant bent the ear
of the officer until he pushed her
into the back seat of a patrol car in the street

soaking wet, sweatshirt on head, rifling
through the carpetbag; beneath the half full
bottle of vodka next to the Xanax

below the blow-dryer that travels everywhere
in case of frizz, loose bills by hundreds
fill the space of the absent wallet

with the ID that would prove
she wasn’t a lying vagrant

she was just down on her luck once
again with a friend who needed a friend

a cripple, he was, life-sucked by stroke,
holding a rucksack, standing in the slanting rain

 

 

Nancy Jasko lives in a small neighborhood in central New Jersey
near a bay. She enjoys early morning walks to the beach with her dog and taking photos along the way. She graduated Rutgers University with a BA in English and the University of Florida with a MA in Special Education.

#Mountains: When the Future Weighs Too Much on Me by Andrea Potos

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I think back to the week I travelled
to my grandfather’s village, carved deep
in Greece, two hours from the Oracle.
Nearly a century after he’d left, I found
evidence of his gentleness
and beauty everywhere, gradations
of silver-green, distances of peaks
and forests and, nearby, an ancient platanos tree
arching its limbs across the rickety table where
I sat all afternoon. I sipped my Greek coffee, stared
at the clay-tiled houses that reside
that much closer to heaven
than I had ever been.

First published in A Stone to Carry Home, Salmon Poetry.

 

Andrea Potos is the author of eight poetry collections, including the forthcoming A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry), Arrows of Light (Iris Press), An Ink Like Early Twilight (Salmon Poetry), We Lit the Lamps Ourselves (Salmon Poetry) and Yaya’s Cloth (Iris Press). The latter three books received Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry from Rosebud Magazine, and the Hearst Poetry Prize from the North American Review.

Going without Leaving by Jessica Van de Kemp

the-storm-or-the-shipwreck

Back home, the roof collapses after a storm;
Our insurance collapses like a folding top hat.
Food in the kitchen, but we plan on leaving
before the sun blows away tears from furniture.
A roof is a tie down of our boat to a post.
I want to be the one who lets go of the rope.
I don’t want to be homeless/We don’t need
a house. The sky entices with perks.
You’ve got a famous painting of a shipwreck
to pull you in at morning. Canadian weather
down to the neighbours making pea soup.
We hate eating warm food; we’re cold people,
proof that sorry is a sense of humour.

 

 

Jessica Van de Kemp is an award-winning teacher, poet, and PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Daughters in the Dead Land (Kelsay Books, 2017) and Spirit Light (The Steel Chisel, 2015). Connect with Jessica on Instagram @canadianpoet, Twitter @jess_vdk, and her website: canadianpoet.org.

 

Painting by Théodore Géricault.

#CampFire: For Oakland Police Officer John W. Grubensky, Who Died In The Oakland Hills Fire, October 20, 1991 by Terry Adams

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Some of the dead leave us
in the form of a statue,
whose sculpting contains
the last breath, the ducking down,
as in a water game, into
the sanctuary of body.
They submit as they gave in
to coming, burying their face
at the last instant beside
the lover, or closing over a child
found fleeing in the street,
as the policeman appears
at the end in all of us
maybe, and bends himself around
one who is already helpless,
trying to be a different world
for the child, or trying
to be air.

 

 

Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.

Rain Patterns by Martin Willitts Jr.

800px-guillaume_vogels-ixelles,_matinée_pluvieuse

The mysterious eyes of rain had concentrated,
purple and distant in the high branches like plums.

Not one drop, but a multitude. Not a grace note,
but a symphony where none of the musicians
have the same sheet music. Not an ending
spread out like a tablecloth,
but the disappointment of a supper
cold and forgotten when someone is late.

But it rained, nonetheless,
a temperamental child kicking and screaming.

 

 

Martin Willitts Jr has 24 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 11 full-length collections including The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and Home Coming Celebration (FutureCycle Press, 2019).

 

Painting by Guillaume Vogels.

Fire and Ice Revisited Following the October 2017 Blaze That Consumed Our House (apologies to Robert Frost) by Ed Coletti

800px-California_National_Guard_(37759841092)

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what Frost tasted of desire
He held with those who favor fire.
But added if it must end twice,
His understanding of man’s hate
Informed him for destruction ice
Is also great and would suffice.
But in my present case I note
The first becomes my final vote.
What’s been started from a flicker
Gets it done a whole lot quicker.

 

 

Ed Coletti is a poet, widely published internationally. He also is a painter and middling chess player. Most recent poetry collections were Germs, Viruses & Catechisms (2013 Civil Defense Press, SF) and The Problem With Breathing (Edwin Smith Publishing –Little Rock- 2015). A few sample journals include ZYSSYVA, Volt, and North American Review. Ed also curates the popular ten-year-old blog, No Money In Poetry. Coletti writes, ″There was a time when I almost completely gave up writing. This was during the years 1973-1987. Then I reclaimed my soul and have written and published regularly again from 1987 to the present.” Ed and Joyce Coletti were among those who lost their homes and all their possessions to the 2017 Sonoma County, California wildfire. Ed recently has published a chapbook titled Fire Storm through Round Barn Press.

 

Photograph courtesy of the National Guard.

in pieces, a puzzle by Annie Stenzel

800px-atropos_o_las_parcas

the light her spirit cast was never
bright enough for even one
to read by, let alone two

in the gathering gloom, peace, uneasy

unfolding her face into smiles
again and again from its package
of wrinkles: one’s flesh is doomed

to forget it was ever smooth

how to contain so much mystery?
time is the shield
so that our worlds

are safe from implosion

if only it were merely
a matter of money spate
of calamities; paroxysms of insufficiency

the truth dulls, flickers

everyone’s life is in pieces
waiting in the shadow
of the Fates, especially Atropos

who carries the scissors

 

 

Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts and a couple of other continents at various times in her life. Her book-length collection, The First Home Air After Absence, was published late last year by Big Table. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in a wide range of print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Ambit to Rat’s Ass Review to Whale Road with stops at Catamaran Literary Reader, Eclectica, Gargoyle, Kestrel, Quiddity, Riddled with arrows, and The Lake, among others. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit http://www.anniestenzel.com.

 

Painting, Átropos o Las Parcas, by Francisco Goya.

At the Renwick Gallery’s Exhibit on Burning Man by Marianne Szlyk

Sporleder-Burning-Man-2016jpg-940x626

Adorned with a headdress
made from bottlecaps,
wearing a white nylon slip
to match the mountains,
I dance in the heat
that I have always shrunk from.

A younger, bare-chested version
of a man in a black t-shirt
stomps to the sound
of empty half-gallon jugs
and cafeteria drums.

In this world,
I ride on the back
of his motorcycle.

Wind chimes gather around,
protecting us.

 

First published in Ramingo’s Porch, Issue #4.

 

 

In the late 1980s, Marianne Szlyk lived in Eugene, Oregon. She wonders every so often what her life would have been like had she stayed out west. She also edits a blog-zine, The Song Is…, for poetry and prose inspired by music (especially jazz), and she publishes poetry here and there. Her latest book, On the Other Side of the Window, is available through Amazon.

 

Photograph by Scott Sporleder.

Plumming by Betsy Mars

plums, still life, artist unknown plumbing betsy mars

My inheritance of prunes:
one and a half bags, unfinished.
Eaten ritualistically daily
to avoid constipation.

Also dates. Two tubs, Medjool.
Minerals and fiber-rich.
Five prunes and three dates
to start each morning

sweetly, with expectation:
this is how the day will go,
movingly. Dried fruits almost
primal, handed down

with his last possessions.
The things he touched:
now I eat them daily,
tasting only sweetness.

 

First published in Illya’s Honey.

 

 

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.

 

Painting: Plums, Still Life, artist unknown.

Gas, Light by Hal Y. Zhang

Gas, light Hal Y Zhang

Last night I sank
deep
into the earth
until compressed into its embrace.
A singular dark smudge
etched in the fossil ledger.

In millions of years
you wake me.
The drills strike my veins;
my oily black blood
gushes into the sand.
You whisper sweet crude nothings.

I dribble into your lamps,
your lathers your perfumes,
your wheels,
the gap between your joints click-clack.

Why so angry–you cry
in the space of my exhalation.
It’s just supply and demand.
Black smoke, dark words.

I shake my head with blazing light,
a million
trillion pieces
freed through the slits between your fingers.
I am terra firma
rendered fire and air,
phoenix and ash,
linked only by ghost weight
of a sarcophagal memory.

One day the rain will rejoin me,
halves unblurring into a whole.
Transmuted. Unfamiliar.
You will curse me again as we
devour the sweet, sweet earth together.

 

 

Hal Y. Zhang is an immigrant who picked her second name from a hat. She writes at halyzhang.com.

 

Photograph by Eric Kounce.

#CampFire: Cheshire Moon by Catharine Clark-Sayles

cheshire moon catharine clark sayles
your ruddy grin tonight
reflects an awful light
the world is fever sick,
it burns, those with feet
prepare to run, those unfooted
left consumed. Sky and land-
scape merge in ash
familiar comes undone
lottery of flame and wind
spins a wheel of fire
missing, dead: the numbers rise.

 

Catharine Clark-Sayles is a physician practicing geriatrics in Marin county. She has been writing poetry most of her life with a long hiatus for medical school and the Army. Her latest chapbook, Brats, contains narrative poems of a military childhood. It was published by Finishing Line Press this year. Two prior books: One Breath and Lifeboat, were published by Tebot Bach Press. She is in a MFA program in poetry and narrative medicine at Dominican University in San Rafael.

#CampFire: What became ash by Jan Haag

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For Alma, who escaped the Camp Fire with her life but not her home.

Porches, steps and all, except some concrete ones
left blackened, broken off like old teeth,
not to mention flower pots and the last gasp
of roses settling in for winter, garden hoses
crinkled like charred snakes on what used to be lawn,
door frames and window frames,
front doors painted in a particular shade,
windows blasted into shards,
easy chairs, TVs, refrigerators and the art
magneted on them made by childrengrandchildren
niecesnephewsthatcutekiddownthestreet,
their toy firetrucks and dolls incinerated, their
bike frames and swingsets rendered skeletal.

How many photographs, cherished memories,
diplomas, licenses, bills, tax documents,
check stubs, notebooks, journals, novels, poems,
screenplays, love letters lie in the cinders?

How many toothbrushes and dentures, housecoats
and sport coats, bridal gowns and work boots,
bathing suits and raincoats, baseball caps and
wool scarves?

An open-mouthed deer with fire-puckered skin
pressed into the ash, along with uncountable
burrowing creatures, rabbits that could not hop
fast enough, birds, singed, then downed,
not to mention those with eyelashes and lips,
crying their last, consumed by what they could
see coming at them.

Paradise, Magalia, Nimshew, North Pines,
Morgan Ridge, Concow, Yankee Hill, Coutelenc,
South Pines, Mesilla Valley, Fir Haven, Berry Creek.

Under it all:
bones and bones and bones and bones.

And finally, after the flames did their job
consuming everything in their path—
the 85 counted and the still-uncountable souls
of the formerly two-legged and four-legged,
the winged and those that crawled and slithered—
the much-prayed for rain arrived, the day before the day
of gratitude, quenching the last of the hot spots,
muddying the ravaged earth, further entombing
the dead, clearing the air for hundreds of miles.

Those of us left downwind took deep gulps,
raised our faces to the blesséd drops, grateful
to no longer inhale the particulate of people,
their towns, their possessions, their lives,
those we may not have known but whose
molecules circulate in our bloodstreams,
who lie embedded in us.

They are ours now, we who breathe under
fresh, blue skies.

 

 

Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she advises campus publications. Jan is the author of a book of poems, Companion Spirit, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads weekly creative writing workshops in Sacramento, has written two novels and had work published in many journals and anthologies. She is also the co-publisher of River Rock Books in Sacramento.

#CampFire: 101 Burning by J. Khan

SJM-L-BADAIR-1114-1

Too soon to sort
the loss. Spin cycle
wobbles vowels,

as they burst,
smoke snuffs Paradise.
Skin sloughs on 99.

I donate
our fleece to the shelter.

Fortunes reside
along the 101 where castles
carve the light.

Evacuees pitch tents at Walmart,
search the clothing pile for warmth.

A few still qualify
for the Evening News
costume show.

The gymnasium
lacks a floor. Sacramento kneels
before funds disappear.

Road blocks tumble,
canyons creep. Truth reposes
comfortably.

Perhaps I shouldn’t,
but I believe in America. Why,
so many ask,

as battalions
of prisoners arrive
to douse the fire,

to sort the missing
from the ash.

 

 

J. Khan lives and works in the Midwest. He has published over thirty poems in journals such as Clockwise Cat, Rigorous, Unlikely Stories, I-70 Review, Fifth Estate, Writers Resist, Barzakh, Pure Slush, and shufPoetry. He is finishing a chapbook and beginning book length manuscript.

Wendigo by Nolan Meditz

1-16

The wind no longer chills me—
it is the only coat I have,
the only gift you’ve given.

I’ve been counting ribs
since you arrived. I’ve grown
weary of tracing skin

on bone. Yet still you place
a hand on my shoulder, ask
for a place at my table.

Winter, I too am hungry.

 

 

Nolan Meditz was born and raised on Long Island, where he received his MFA at Hofstra University in 2014. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2018 and will begin teaching writing at Southwestern Oklahoma State University this fall. His poetry has appeared in Roanoke Review, AMP: Journal of Digital Literature, Mockingheart Review and The Wild Word among other publications.

#Mountains: Mountain Storm by Michael H. Brownstein

449px-Alluivial_Fan_Falls_Rocky_Mountain_National_Park_USA

It’s a rock day full of song erosion and then it rains,
the wind noise crisscrossed, cross-stitched,
glacier waters bleeding off course, bumps and pebbles,
stone and flesh, branch and burp. How easily bones
flush from the mountain after a storm, white washed
like albino skin, the broken facade of stucco, the last
snow melting, and sometimes the singing is a Siren.
Great walls open and collide, stale and crusty. A tree
breaks at its waist and everyone hears it. In a rock day,
and yes, you can hear the sound of one hand clapping.

 

 

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.

 

Photograph by Greg Tally. 

#Mountains: Family Portrait by Tamara Madison

Family Portrait
after the Domain of Arnheim by Rene Magritte

Mother rises hawk-headed
beneath the slivered moon,
snow-shouldered looming
to guard the nest she placed
so carefully on the narrow
fence, a mess of twine
and twig that holds her future
in our three perfect orbs.

Dodo_egg_replica

Photograph of dodo egg replica by Frode Inge Helland.

 

This is an ekphrastic poem, inspired by the painting, Domain of Arnheim, by Rene Magritte. Please visit this link for an image of that work and an exploration of it.

 

 

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.

Dear Mrs. Brown, Your Husband Whimpers When He Comes…by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Mrs. Brown Alexis Rhone Fancher painting by Heinrich Uhl

1. “I want my wife to know all about us,” he says. We’re close together on the couch, but not yet touching. She needn’t worry. “What is there to know? Just tell her I don’t fuck married men.” I see his sad face crumble. Mr. Brown hates the truth almost as much as he hates bad language. Sometimes I curse to rile him, but tonight it just comes out. We’re back from dinner at Micelli’s on Melrose, that lonely table in the back in the dark and so far from San Pedro no one he knows will find him. I suddenly want more out of life.

Mr. Brown pulls me to him. His tweed sports coat scratches my bare arms. I breathe in his Amphora pipe tobacco and English Leather. He smells like my dad, who never held me like this. Unused to kissing, Mr. Brown’s tentative lips brush mine. I push my tongue past his teeth. His erection, a pup tent of unrequited love. Against my better judgement, I let him dry hump my thigh.

Afterward, I fix my hair at the hallway mirror while Mr. Brown fastens a locket around my neck. I can make out an “L” in bright diamonds. It is not my initial. “L?” my eyes catch his in the reflection. “For Lust,” he smiles. (Or maybe L for his wife, Lucia, or L for Leaving her, I don’t say.) L for Lonely. Looney. Lost, I think as Mr. Brown’s hands roam my body, the shiny locket the price of admission. I stare at our mismatched reflections, the almost incestuous nature of our non-romance. I finger the Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso watch he gave me last fall (that rough patch when he left his wife for all of a week until she threatened suicide, again). Mr. Brown showed me the texts. Before he went home, he gave me Lucia’s watch. “She’ll never miss it,” he said as he fastened it on my wrist. She has excellent taste.

2. When I visit Mr. Brown’s bedside after the quadruple bypass, I put the extravagant blue iris bouquet in a vase, perch on his hospital bed and fill him in about my fucked-up life, the flood in the kitchen, my crappy new boss. He complains about the hospital food and remarks how a heart attack can truly mess up your day. I confess how lonely I am without him. “I’m thinking of leaving my wife,” he tells me. I let him feel me up. “My heart attack is a wake up call,” he says. “Carpe Diem.”

On a hunch, I ask him when he’s buying the red Corvette. “Blue,” Mr. Brown says. “I ordered it in blue.” Like the irises. Like the hospital walls. “Like the way I am without you,” I admit. I’m about to ask him to take me along to pick up the new wheels, when Lucia and her friends waltz into the room. They see him, all over me, on his bed, her lost locket around my neck, her fancy watch on my wrist; Mrs. Brown’s face darkens. Her friends gather her close, circle the wagons until I depart. Out of the corner of my eye I see her grab the blue irises from their vase, hurl them across the room.

3. By the time I find out, Mr. Brown has been dead a year. I haven’t seen him in a decade. I was not going to put out; he would not divorce Lucia. I never did ride in that blue Corvette. Soon I found myself a French photographer with a large dick and no wedding ring. I don’t know if Mr. Brown ever found anyone. His obituary read, Stand up guy, great husband, dad. Married sixty-six years. Pillar of the community. Charitable. A churchgoer. He once swore to me I was his church.

I have the offerings to prove it.

 

First published in ENTER HERE, 2017 KYSO Flash Press.

 

 

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Plume, Rattle, Diode, Rust & Moth, Nashville Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems,(2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), and Enter Here (2017). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.
http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Painting by Heinrich Uhl.

Smoke by Patricia Nelson

Georges_de_La_Tour_006

Angled like the waves
are extinct lovers
who say time and distance
with a silver light.

Their breaths still rise
distinct as ions, commemorate
their thoughtless pulsing—
thoughtless only in the moment.

They are the grey dissolving opal
at the tip of the flame,
smoke undulant with stone and fish-scale.

They lift the weight and shine
not wholly seen
but gathering everything.

The space
between burning and nothing.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Detail of painting by Georges de la Tour. 

#Mountains: Reign of Ash by Michael H. Brownstein

12992_Hawaii-Volcanoes-National-Park-web

This is one of those nights you never dream,
The sky not on fire, but burning.
Falling ash and ember. An orange cantaloupe moon. Nosebleeds. Diarrhea.

The volcano dome collapses, a sudden cloud, and night is hyphenated.
A rain of black ash
And all of the stars drop from sight in bundles.

The people come out of their homes and stand on their verandas,
A people of the long knife and volcanic dust,
Skin hard with ash, hair ash-poisoned, ash sweat stew.

Spirits roam the roads and pathways, find life in the old ones,
The village’s simple center crowded into the hill,
Welcomes the voices of the dead.

Later island rescue comes with breathing masks,
A church opens its doors early to pray for rain,
Goats come from their hiding places to shake themselves free.

All day dust clouds landscape and window.
The mountain sacrifices itself to lahars and spirit people.
Everything, every leaf, every iguana, every ghost wrapped in ash.

 

 

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.

#Mountains: Mountain Ants by Tamara Madison

photo by Davidi. Mountain Ants Tamara Madison

Up here the sky
is a thin blue skirt
the dusty summer sunlight
smells of woodsmoke
and pine
and ants grow big
and black as berries.

I watch them follow
their secret trails
in the fine mountain dust,
envy them their purpose
and their path, wonder
at their sturdy black bodies,
imagine a breakfast
of ant jam.

 

First published in Wild Domestic, by Pearl Editions.

 

 

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.

 

Photograph by Dawidi.

Crescent Smile by Victoria Crawford

BattleofIssusDetail Albrecht Altdorfer Victoria Crawford Crescent

The Moon smiling
Cheshire cat grin,
dimpled star chin
twinkles below.

Alice questions
to stay or go;
the Moon may show
her mysteries.

 

 

Victoria Crawford is a poet from Monterey, California, currently living in Thailand where nature explodes in the serious season of rain and sun called the monsoon. Holy days are governed by the fullness of the moon not the sun calendar.

 

Detail of painting, Battle of Issus, by Albrecht Altdorfer.

Three Poems by Kala Ramesh

meghduta-k2aE--621x414@LiveMint

trying to merge
with twilight’s oneness: but
those monkeys
go nonstop
inside my chattering mind

 

on a forest trail
as leaves change colour
I admire
the walking meditation
of insects

 

forest bathing
I tune in
to the trees

 

forest bathing was first published in Holden Arboretum Haiku Path.

 

 

Kala Ramesh – Poet, editor, anthologist, Kala’s initiatives culminated in founding INhaiku to bring Indian haiku poets under one umbrella in 2013. She has taught haiku and allied genres at Symbiosis International University and the Katha National Writers Workshop since 2013. To bring haiku into everyday spaces, Kala initiated HaikuWALL, haikuTRAIL, haikuTALK, haikuWORKSHOP, haikuYOUTH, haikuUTSAV, haikuDHYANA andhaikuSTAGE – a weaving together of art forms. SAMVAAD :: the open sky — a dialogue to bring writers of different poetic genres together is her latest venture. She is the editor of four haiku, tanka and haibun journals. Kala has been a speaker at several national and international literary festivals.

Kala co-edited the award winning Naad Anunaad: an Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku (Vishwakarma Publication 2016, Pune),  Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press 2018, USA) and  EquiVerse SPACE (Notion Press 2018, Mumbai), co-authored with Marlene Mountain the e-book  one-line twos (Bones Journal 2016, Denmark), authored a tanka e-chapbook Unseen Arc (Snapshot Press 2017, UK) and two print books: Haiku and the Companion Activity Book (Katha Books 2010, reprint 2017, New Delhi) and Beyond the Horizon Beyond Haiku & Haibun (Vishwakarma Publication 2017, Pune).

Trees Tell Our Future by Wren Tuatha

dead tree wall crop
The bark beetle blight burns
across Nimshew Ridge
and every other slope

on the coast. Nimshew,
little water in the language
of the people who are gone

from here. The drought weakens.
The Roundup weakens.
Three acres behind my cabin

become a Union battlefield
in the time of Trump.
the fallen stacked, crisscrossed,

fifty score. Open blasting blue.
Exposure, some lid lifted.
This place will not be woods

again in our time. Ponderosas
are prognosticators. Township
to cul de sac, people will fall

to the blight they brought.
They bought it at the mall,
stacking containers and dust

collectors, widgets to plug
in that blink or smell.
Trappings made in Turkey

for holidays of distraction.
Let us be thankful.

 

First published in The Bees Are Dead.

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and others. She’s editor of Califragile. Her chapbook Thistle and Brilliant was a semi-finalist in the 2018 New Women’s Voices Contest and is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.

Photograph by Wren Tuatha. 

Baritone Body by Daniel B. Summerhill

shaping-of-black-america.jpg!Large

Body-
breaking, 
		     black bodies
bodies	        breaking
	besides gurneys 
news,
	    breaking news!

A bodies been broke,

		Black
		Boy
		Bad
		  Broken
		  Bronzed
		  Bucked
		Brazen
		Baritone

		Eulogy-	Black
			Boy
			Bad
		Broken
		Bronzed
		Bucked
			Brazen
			Baritone

			Broken

		Breaking

			Bodies

 

 

Daniel B. Summerhill is a poet and performance artist from Oakland, CA. Currently an MFA candidate at Boston’s Pine Manor College, Daniel has performed and taught guest workshops and lectures throughout the U.S, Europe, and South Africa. He has published two collections of poems, Crafted and Brown Boys on Stoops, and has been asked to perform at Ted Talk and Def Jam Poetry with Danny Simmons. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Pine Hills Review, Cosmonauts Avenue and The Voice among others.

 

Artwork, Shaping of Black America, by Charles Wilbert White.

#Mountains: Burlington Airport by Joe Cottonwood

Burlington Airport Joe Cottonwood photo by Anlace

Two men in T-shirts are sun-roughened,
muscular in the non-gym way.
They know physical work.

On the window glass with a smudgy finger
the older man sketches a map from memory.
They speak of a trickling spring.
A field cleared by hand, a fence of stone.
Twin graves on a hill.

The younger man says, “That little mountain,
every time I set foot on it, I felt hugged.”
Embarrassed, they each look away
to the tarmac where jets are rolling.
Newark. Chicago. Some city. Now boarding.

 

 

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor. Nights, he writes. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.

 

Photograph by Anlace.

Come the Day by Nolan Meditz

louisiana_zombie_afternoon_1_by_frogstar_23-dbmhdbi

Someday the sun, ceasing its fire
and spiral toward dust or increase
in density—a reaching toward
a haul of iterant rocks
tumbling—will as it always has,
only this time more starkly,
fail to recognize you.

 

 

Nolan Meditz was born and raised on Long Island, where he received his MFA at Hofstra University in 2014. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2018 and will begin teaching writing at Southwestern Oklahoma State University this fall. His poetry has appeared in Roanoke Review, AMP: Journal of Digital Literature, Mockingheart Review and The Wild Word among other publications.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

#Immigration: Me, Too by Barbara Henning

pelezhomeless

—rheumatic fever—turns the skin—yellow—a heart, scarred——soon—my mother says—you will—take my place—I wear her old stockings—dye my hair henna—like hers—smoke cigarettes—wear red lipstick—her fringed leather jacket—at 18—at the sewing machine—my foot is hers—pressing the pedal—there’s a murmur—in your heart—the doctor says—but soon it will heal—in the afternoon—I birth a child—walk down the hallway—in her turquoise bathrobe—at the zoo—an old female orangutan—locks eyes—with a young woman—breastfeeding a baby—yes, she nods, me, too—at 37—my two children sound asleep—and all of a sudden—I wake up—surprised to be alive—what about—the others—I think—the motherless migrants—the refugees—the cumulative wound—rooms—that murmur—and whisper—remember me—take care of them—take care of you— (20 May 2017)

First published in The Journal of Poetics Research.

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

 

Painting Homeless by Fernand Pelez. 

Daddy’s Friend, Stan by Alexis Rhone Fancher

daddy's friend stan alexis rhone fancher photo by muffinn

1.
Stan likes me in those cut off jeans that fringe
my upper thighs, fringe I unravel when I watch
TV, after my homework’s done.

I do it for Stan.

2.
He says I’m rocking this silver
bikini. It makes my nipples hard.

3.
He says in this suit I look like “moonlight
flickering in a jar.”

4.
Swimming laps.
Going nowhere. Disastrous
pair: Daddy’s flirty little girl, and his
good friend, Stan. Beer in hand. Watching
when he thinks no one’s watching.

I swim for Stan.

5.
Smolder-eyed, half-lidded, snake.

6.
He almost touched me.
He never touched me.
He almost never touched me:

Choose one.

7.
Driving me home from
Northridge, Stan’s daughter, Ruthie
asleep in back; me, strapped in
front, the seatbelt dissecting my
budding breasts.

Stan’s speeding,
his eyes on the road,
left hand on the wheel,
right hand lost in the no-man’s land
between my knees and thighs.
“Shhh!” he soothes when I whimper,
afraid he’s gone too far.

He thumbs the fabric instead of me,
whistles the theme from
Mission Impossible.

That fringe! That fringe! Oh, that fringe!

 

First published in Quaint Magazine. Nominated for Best of The Net 2015.

 

 

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Plume, Rattle, Diode, Rust & Moth, Nashville Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems,(2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), and Enter Here (2017). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.
http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Photograph by Muffinn.

Where the Oldest Gods Lived by Patricia Nelson

 

Liliyam Parva Iranian artist

Dark rock and cold, bright water.
Edges of great height, large lines
where sky and shadow move without rest.

Nothing that implies the things
alert and toothed and tilted at the eye,
the little warm cries with large, absurd intentions.

There’s no way to foretell the change
that will dull the rocks
with a callus of creatures.

No animal to eat things smaller
and more beautiful than itself.
Nothing that flees or tricks or dies

among the thoughtlessly strong.
Nothing yet that moves the gods to leave,
to lift like angry waters over black rock.

The old gods see the sky come down
to those alive and temporary, dragging its particles,
making its gradual case for blue or gray or cold.

The sky holds too the gods’ migration,
the odd wish to watch the mortal and the accidental,
to want the foolish awe, the alteration.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Painting, On Coming News, by Liliyam Parva. Used by permission.