Sketch by Rae Cobbs

Georgia O’Keeffe, Hands and Horse Skull.

 

Sometimes I sit with one sock on,
not ready for whatever’s next. Last night
I stayed up until day turned over into dawn,
taking the hourly pulse of a troubled world.

Kids are starting school today. We are not
prepared. The history lesson’s incomplete,
new civics books disguise the colors blended
into white. For art, the students need their lives.

Miss Meadows gave us time, stubs of last
year’s pencils, the thin, unbleached Manila,
the hour’s quiet freedom. I drew my left hand,
discovering the bones and shadows I still know,

and married art. These hands have winnowed
lines through raw potatoes, imitating light,
discovering the leap of salt, the laugh
of pepper, kiss of garlic after water.

My mother’s hands, her ring, are with me.
When she died, I felt the cool indifference,
looked into her gold-flecked eyes, stained green
with all the shadows that revealed their fires.

She doesn’t feel me brush her hair aside, hear
silk whisper to itself. She lifts her voice,
the wave of loosened horsehair from the bow.
The piano vibrates with her laughter.

Her hands became the cool of peace. How
can she be silent? She keeps the key
of what it means to venture and to die. Everything
before me, all I am, is still blessing her goodbye.

 

 

Rae Cobbs is a Californian made into a Kentucky keeper. She has been writing and teaching since she came to Louisville, Kentucky, over half her life ago. Through poetry, she keeps in touch with the physical world, the desert, which she misses, and her own life. Her poems carry the weight of the personal, social, and political changes that are being wrought. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her partner and a house full of four-leggeds. She has twice been a recipient of a grant from The Foundation for Women.

Step Right Up, by Catie Marie Martin

Step Right Up,

We’ve got the best deals in town! I noticed you eyeing
our white wicker chairs; they’ll rock you back

to your mama’s front porch, to stray cats and Mississippi
gleam. You from out of town? Need a smaller souvenir?

What’s your favorite shape? Pulsing bulbs, aching half-moons –
we’ve got your trinkets, your anecdotes, your weapons of choice.

I can get you the hurricane at a discount, 80 mph winds
at 80 percent off! They’ll knock you straight to the ground.
Whatcha tryna destroy? You want flatland? Nuclear fission?

You want to take out Ward Street?
It’ll take that L-shaped bastard straight to hell.

Also! –

We’ve got a packet of New Hampshire quarters, in case
you’ve gotta make quick change. Right here’s a third date
oak tree, a cheeky apology, a wink, an unpaid parking ticket.

You want a tissue? No? Then I’ll take it the sight of redbuds
has never made you cry before. Jars of honey
never made your nostrils tingle? Just wait til the scent

of motel carpet fades,
til you caress nylon underwater,
til a tender minnow grazes your fingertips,
til your church’s organ mildews.

Then you’ll need a morphine drip. Then you’ll need the gospel.
Wait til your palms lose their slender, your collarbone its crevice.

Just wait til you wake, breathless, ashy against the morning.
Wait til you see another’s back against the kitchen window. Wait til

you catch the drift, feel the thrash of a bellyflop, notice
the drooping crape myrtle bleed onto hot asphalt –

then you’ll be begging me for an earthquake.

 

 

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Catie Marie Martin is currently a student at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BA in English from Mississippi State University, where she worked as the poetry editor for the school’s literary magazine,The Streetcar, as well as the managing editor for the student newspaper, The Reflector. Catie Marie’s poetry has previously been published in The Streetcar and in the University of Illinois’s Ninth Letter.

Two Poems by Jeff Burt

North Facing

Sometimes when I look at the low winter light
on the ridge of the mountains
it seems both could splinter,
light split into shining tines
like a well-used rake,
mountains riven
into multitudes of valleys
with their own dividing creeks
like wood driven by an axe down the grain,
the way trees of men shattered by war
become kindling by the wayside
of human traffic, broken, spokes
on a discarded wheel

Whips

At the beach persistent boys
like whips snap
each time they move,
tick like windy branches
annoyed by night,
then stand stagnant,
not accumulating algae
as much as becoming it,
bright and rank,
teeth exposed by lips
opened by jaws
set forward
like bulldozer maws
ready to rip
the soft tissues of earth,
t-shirts inked, bannered,
camouflaged, their links of mail,
as if a logo or statement
could keep the bite of the dog
from their thin underbellies.
Once, I wore them too.

 

Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods and two-lane roads wide enough for one car. He works in mental health. He has work in The Watershed Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Spry, Atticus Review, and The Monarch Review. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Narrative Poetry Prize.

Taken by the Wind by Howie Good

There was an explosion so loud that it shook our insides. When police arrived, we heard them yelling, “Hands up” before more shots rang out. They think they’re better than us. They say we’re created different from them. They even brag about cutting up bodies and throwing them in the river. We shut the lights and sneaked out. The stop sign on the corner was missing. People were fighting in the streets for what was left. The wind sounded terrible. There wasn’t one tree still standing. You asked, “Oh why can’t they get that baby out of the ground?” After all we’d been through, that seemed irrelevant. The next day I’m sitting on the park bench with my dog and I see my mother in the window of the plane waving. We have a strange way of repeating history. I say “holy fuck” about 1,400 times a day.

 

 

Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.

 

Photo by The All-Nite Images.

Walking Home by Lynne Viti

Driving, we see nothing, eyes always on the road,
We’re on the lookout for red lights, cars that veer into our lane.
We miss: Cigarette butts mounded near a sewer cover,
houses needing paint or new shingles, fronted by
drought-proof gardens of cosmos and black-eyed Susan,
coneflowers, sedum, wood asters a yard tall.
A turquoise flip-flop upside down in the gutter,
lambs’ quarters that spring from cracks on the overpass.
A wooden table and chairs in a sunken sideyard,
a snow thrower against the chain link fence,
brown crabgrass plumes packed with seeds.
Cars on the highway flying by under a new bridge of
bright white concrete, high chainlink fence to warn off suicides.
Abandoned gas station masked by ailanthus, blackthorn, scrub oak.
Behind them, a twenty-foot boat looms, shrink-wrapped in white plastic.
Old auto repair shop, windows broken, black paint faded to grey,
grass pushing up through concrete. Uninvited plants—
nothing stops them. Behind the wheel, we miss all this.

 

 

Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. Her second chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in I Come From the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

What, by Trish Hopkinson

After Sharon Olds’ Poem, When

This is what is going to happen—
the lone woman will stop the
rattle, the death breath from the chimney hearth,
when she opens the damper, then turns the urn’s mouth out
with her wrists, cascading the grayed decay,
from there, the ashes flurry up and out, into the
orange remnants of autumn skyline,
she will watch from the window, as they dissipate
against the end of day, the seeping dark,
the moon’s edge, sharp as dying,
its frowning tip tilted toward Saturn.
She will dust the hearth with feathers,
turn away from the sad moon, its slivered glow
and the dust that was once her lover—
she will love no longer.

–originally published in Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands, Shabda Press.

 

 

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Chagrin River Review; and her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at https://trishhopkinson.com/.

 

Editor’s Note: Trish Hopkinson is Califragile‘s Featured Poet for September! Click on her name in the rectangle at the bottom of this post to find all of her Califragile poems!

“Trish Hopkinson may describe herself as a ‘selfish poet,’ but her site is an indispensable community hub for poetry lovers, with news and event listings, writing resources, and much more (including her own poems, of course).”–WordPress Discover

For poetry and writing resources, no fee submission calls, editor interviews, and essays on craft, you can follow Trish Hopkinson’s blog via email or your favorite social media here: https://SelfishPoet.com.

Before I Was a Girl by Jessica Barksdale

Before I Was a Girl

I was a streak of light,
a hurricane
of every single thought
moving a thousand miles an hour.
I was yes
never no.
My father
not my mother,
a car, a jet, a bird.
I was a pair of pants
a sturdy shoe,
a thick rope
a plank of smooth wood
leather gloves, a saddle,
a hammer, a trowel
the sun, a beach, an entire town.
I was morning noon night,
flinging through the grassy
world, beaming, hearty, whole,
crowned by a halo of dragonflies
and dirt, my own true self.

 

Jessica Barksdale’s fourteenth novel, The Burning Hour, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in April 2016. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Little Patuxent Review, and So to Speak. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension. She holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.