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.

Broken Doll by Kim Whysall-Hammond

I broke the doll almost on purpose
Trying to fit her into the toy tank

Determined to play my way
My own game not theirs

Broken dolls littered the playroom
Symbols of a girl who wasn’t

Broken dolls litter the promenade
Broken bodies strew the road

He broke them all on purpose
Because they do not play his game

 

 

Kim Whysall-Hammond trained as an astronomer and now works in IT (specifically data networking). She finds beauty and wonder in what others consider strange places. Although she’s been writing poetry since girlhood, she’s only recently started submitting. Her work is published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Your One Phone Call, In Between Hangovers, Amaryllis, and Peacock Journal. She also shares poems at
https://thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com/ [1] in a rather free fashion for an Englishwoman.

To the Mothers at Buffalo Creek by Catie Marie Martin

On February 26, 1972, Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam broke after several days of steady rain, unleashing approximately 132,000,000 gallons of black waste water. With a crest of 30 feet, the water flooded the homes of over 4,000 people and killed 125 members of the surrounding West Virginia mining community.

What does it feel like when it rains? Do you clench
your teeth, drown out the pitter-patter with the screech
of the teakettle? What does it feel like to catch your face
in a sidewalk puddle, as the gasoline swirls about your reflection
and turns your cheeks to a kaleidoscope? Are you afraid
it will swallow you up?

Surely the day will come when you no longer shy
from grocery carts, from rotisserie chicken,
from bicycles. Surely knotted necklaces will cease
to remind you of fallopian tubes. Surely tulips,
bending from their jars, will cease to remind you of the
gravitational tug of your knees to the ground.

I know the measures you have taken.
I know you cleaned your ears with sponges
after the flood pulled down your walls
like pants.

I know Russian dolls in perfect rows mock you,
with their hollow chests that are so easily filled
by one another.

So, I have to ask:
If your day will come, you,
whose bones and branches all at once
broke in two, whose backyard oak trees
turned to sand as the earth devolved and crunched
against itself, as the river browbeat your home to rubber –

Then surely I, who tapers away from windows like a curtain,
I, to whom the entire world smells like a Carolina motel
and sounds like a mistuned clarinet –
Surely I will one day dry like mildew
and unfold like cardboard. Surely I will unfurl
like ribbon and settle like stone.

 

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.

American River at Twilight by Jeff Burt

From the crushed granite foothills of the Sierras
I hear the call of Steinbeck in the river,
the struggles of laborers in the field
three hundred miles away,
the reservoirs flush with winter melt
peace-full yet not waters that will stay put,
never the still waters that Psalms has called,
the rush to reach roadside eucalyptus
shedding ribbons of bark in the winter
winding along Highway 101,
cascading to the curse of rocks pulled
from the outcropping by Jeffers to build his house.
I hear mariachi bands, sweeping water
like strums of vihuelas, the triumphal brass
of the common man in the deep splash
of water eroding the rocks of property.
In the river I see a flash of gold, my eyes search
the dry pan of the Sacramento Valley,
then, like water, head for the coast.

 

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.

Chartreuse by Stephanie L. Harper

Artwork: Chartreuse, by Stephanie L. Harper

 

Sour-apple-flavored candy

The team color of your alma mater’s rival

A jacket that never gets misplaced

The labial-nasal fricative of choice
for cicadas & fire-flies on a summer’s night

The vaguely perturbing chortle
of that quintessentially hip grandma
who reclaimed her youth through Yoga

The tinkle of that crystal bell
you long ago purchased in Prague for a song

An herbal cold remedy’s fizz

Key-lime pie’s tang

The fizz & the tang of a Midori Sour on the rocks
& the fuzzy socks
that you wouldn’t be caught dead in

The vinyl stool you still covet in your mother’s kitchen
& the satiny ribbon you once got for honorable mention

In other words:
the dessert menu’s less lethal option
for the lactose intolerant on a date

 

 

Stephanie L. Harper grew up in California, attended college in Iowa and Germany, completed graduate studies and gave birth to her first child in Wisconsin, and lives with her husband and children in Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Rattle Magazine, Ground Fresh Thursday Press, Figroot Press, and elsewhere.

Three Poems by Ali Jones

Oracle Bones
It always begins with a dance,
one that goes on and on for hours,

with old women shouting and stamping
their weight. You have to dance

out of your body and cast your bones
into the blaze before the story

can be told. Open the door to the fire,
coil yourself tight to the embers,

part the shadows and peer
through the world’s fabric.

Awake, swift in the blood,
make a tent for the moon

and a drum, pitch it beyond
the everyday, at a cross roads,

where people play knuckle bones
and no one can reach around the edges.

Oracles are only every ordinary,
the magic is in the eye that seeks,

an everyday spelling of piles of stones,
stacks of beans, the unravelled yarn

in a bag, deep within, where the heart
of a dream fire never burns out.

Howl
Low head, a gleam of teeth,
she could not avoid the gaze
of green fire and mountains,
the pack with singing voices
calling to one another
through the silvered trees.

Stretch out your hand,
the moon is waiting
like a tight skinned drum,
the cold white light,
flashes of stars, needling
through like shards of glass.

Together they cruised
dirt road and old tracks,
in blue afternoons, searching
for something almost found
again and again.

The fretwork fingers of thorns,
the copper fire of the river bed,
the sun bleared deer, eyes
remembering panic, the faint traces
of shit and loam.

Never be late for your meeting
with the pack, beyond the trees,
in a place with no name, between
parallel lines of momentum,
from laughter to skin and bone.

Pack is all, shadows, formed
in slant light, that linger
in the blue hour, a fear
in your fabric, worn like blood
and fur. It is what we dream about
behind our names, when we fear
losing everything in the forest,
when gods step through shadows
to meet us, in the blackness
of the everyday, a pinprick away,
like something wild, tethered.

Flood
The water has taken back the land,
broken things and floated them away,

as if it were following a plan, plastic bucket
bicycle, red mouthed toy, whirling beneath

the shock headed trees and shattered rooves.
Under it, things rise to the surface,

weaving through roses and lilac,
water snails, minnows and sticklebacks

wake at night and dream their way up.
Old things dislodge to bone puzzles,

skin tremors away in the clouding dark,
and water smiles in the empty faces

of the submerged.

Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She has also written for The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press in 2018.

Denial by Trish Hopkinson

The surface of silent sorrow
where eyelids fold, half-rimmed
and wrapped sober over

Hiroshima and Dresden.
Colored by denial and closely
guarded, loss has haunted us.

Three generations unforgivable
and past knowing. An ancient
self-portrait from a different dimension

fell from the lemon tree in nameless grief.
The firestorm of emasculation heated
the force of life, horrifying, enormous,

flat, and arranged. The unmanned walls
of flame, unblinking in death-dealing—
a stalemate in exhaustion reflects

the inferno truth. The extraneous layer
more alive than not. Its body tenses, blurred
in abandon, grasping the essential,

and transforming space. It whispers
of progeny—a sea of corpses,
a field of bodies. In transgression,

the atmosphere speaks
her name again
and again.

–a found poem from A Chorus of Stones by Susan Griffin, chapter 1, pgs. 3-17.

–originally published by The Fem.

 

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! Visit again next Monday for more of her work! Click on her name in the rectangle at the bottom of this post for a list of all 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.

 

Two Poems by Theric Jepson

Doline

The realtor failed to mention the spiritual sinkhole beneath our home before we signed here and here and there and once more on this one to trade one third of our income these next thirty years for a home surrounded by the dying and the absent. Someday we’ll no longer be the youngest couple on this street and the land shall flow with milk and honey and, more to the point, wifi, letting evil find easier passage through our lives rather than taking up residence a thousand feet from our front door, signaling the lost and the angry of our wired world that here is the hell from which thy demons came.

El Niño

And there arose false messiahs shewing
forth great signs and wonders insomuch
that they deceived even the very elect….

Matthew 24:24

March 2016

A pair of atmospheric rivers merging on the Bay
brought cries of allelujah to our parched lips.
Our Savior was a showy savior, blowing rain
across the Bay Bridge—for our Lord was in the wind
(better the wind than an earthquake!)
making the same patterns any god makes
when he pounds mud with his fist. He dashed water
into the bridge’s towers making surfable waves
rebound, blowing our Mazda5 to the edge of its lane.

Dams are spilling by morning,
but the Central Valley floor
has sunk a hundred feet since Chinatown,
and California is not a balloon.

We can’t repay to a shuttered bank
no matter the nostalgia
for our flirty teller’s perfume.

(Her name was Betty
and her hair was manzanita.)

Theric Jepson’s poetry has appeared in a number of publications, most of which have never claimed regret for their decision. His chapbook After Chadwick was released in 2015. If you wish to visit him online, alas, thmazing.com is currently crippled by corrupted code, but googling thmazing and seeing what comes up is probably more fun anyway.

Two Poems by Lynne Viti

Skin and Bones

Signs of age mount in a crescendo—
colonies of skin tags behind the knees,
rough to the touch, subdued by Vaseline,
Centime-sized liver spots, identical to my mother’s
when she reached this age, forty years ago, Watergate days.
The nasolabial folds are more pronounced, engraved.
Small puffs have risen up under the eyes.
The fingers stiffened, two swollen at the midjoint
No point in dwelling on it—better to swallow naproxyn
two at a time, smear on arnica or diclofenac,
keep spinal fluid moving with cat and cow pose,
never stop—except to sleep, dream of youth’s body,
strong hands on the piano, on bicycle gears, or
fingers meeting palm in a tight, clenched fist.

 

Near Christmas at Newbury Court

From the fourth floor, through French doors’ dusty blinds
you can see black trees etched against fading blue-gray sky,
sky punctuated by a strip of pink near the horizon.
Then night sweeps in, not like summer
when the sun takes its time, hugging the world’s edge,
leaking its last light onto the bay.
On the sofa the old woman snores, jolts awake
says it must be time for supper. I help her to her walker,
I’m her balance because hers is gone.
I shuffle with her to the elevator,
shuffle with her down the windowless hall.
The smell of bland food hangs in the air.

 

 

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.

Drip Drip Drip by William Doreski

This morning the plumbing sighs
that impatient sigh that suggests
how the world’s water supply
has tired of servicing humans.
The hot water faucet dripping
in the bathtub angers you
with a waste of the resources
on which our retirement relies.

I’m too gnarled to turn a wrench
the way a wrench wants to turn.
Too rusty to handle small parts
like plastic washers and O-rings.
Too intemperate to sweat-solder
the copper piping we reclaimed
from the landfill. Blue jays creak
in the yard. Their harsh noises
sound far more fatal than plumbing,
but they aren’t serious enough
to follow up on their threats.

You’re tired of smutting curses
over every naked surface
and taking the shine off objects
that were new in our lifetimes.
You dislike the washer, dryer,
refrigerator, toaster, and range
but have tired of saying so.
Only the microwave oven
escapes your sultry expression.

But you hone your most poignant
silence to scrape the plumbing clean
of the foulest words. Maybe thus
unburdened, the faucet will heal
and we’ll save the plumber’s fee.
Then the water of the world,
pumped from our modest well,
will restrain itself from unholy
baptisms of the psychic void.

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Click on this poet’s name in the rectangle at the bottom of this post to see more of his Califragle work!

Three Poems by Lana Bella

Entropy

Snow falls from
the pale green eyes
of the pines,
but what can it see
through the frenzy
of loose innards
and blunt clippings
of entropy?

only in silence
do we give audience
to the roughhouse
that shifts our breaths
and bones into wake,
like a sequined light
who becomes alert
only to the dim terrain
through the weaving
of leopard geckos and
snow fireflies.

 

(Previously published in The Galway Review.)

 

 

Calico Water

Paradise lies at the skirt of calico. Like wisps of cloud
spanning across a flat sky. Drifting into small brooks
and riverbeds, riding miles on the halos of plume, wear-
ing the skin of summer crops. I watch teardrops from
the heavens break over blue masonry walls. Almost at
once a fluid motif free fall to its reservoir, in sequence
of colored glass and tropical rinsed green. Shapes turn
into a template of lakes, flowing away and back from a
whisper of the dying wind. And colors upon loose petals
press a coat of rose dye as pink fish eggs, with tips rise
and dip at the tears of water. Swarms of dots, perching
there where the ankle of lights flirt in the dream-let
pilgrimage. Life moves languidly, pale grey about the
brick rocks and moss sprouting weeds. A fluid map of
childhood games drawing the score of new breaths. This
dream of water, under the bevel of glass, tinsel acrobats
cut with jewels, curl their limbs on the bottom stones.
Brain to matter, matter to earth, earth to water, all glow
from colors of rhizomes spilling and spinning through
millions of silver lights. Waiting to die and be born.

 

(Previously published in Elsewhere.)

 

 

Obsidian

since night itself has become a kind
of blindness,
you drink as fast and as much as you can
in order to keep
from leaping off the highway platform—
lurching back,
your consciousness wrestled you forward,
and this seesawing was more unsettled than the one before,
and the one before that—
but then you would forget as you always did,
because the effort of dissolving while cleaving to
the edge of the bar stool with another drink felt
lacking and sad,
so you washed your blood down in spirits ever-presence,
again and again
like a lunatic,
wet, damned and grinning—
nothing for better, nothing for worse,
yet somehow,
you still cannot empty enough this remains of human shame
that grew heavy and crude like obsidian

 

(Previously published with Poetry Salzburg Review.)

 

 

A three-time Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured with over 400 journals, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, Expound, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Rogue Agent, Word/For Word, among others, and work to appear in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps.

Two Poems by Paul Belz

Point Reyes Remains

Imagine limousines slicing through Pacific winds.
What if putting greens sprawled on coastal scrub?

This never occurred. No cul de sacs now.
Thirty pelicans rise, dip, bounce over waves,
turn and wheel above sandstone cliffs.
No Mercedes-Benz, just brown and gray quail
shaking tassels, herding young into coyote bush,
away from fox. Praise us a little, why don’t you?

Some dreamt of asphalt here. Split levels,
Chandeliers, saunas, dry bars,
picture windows facing the sea. They lost.

No wine bars or chateaubriand
with weekend jazz. Just osprey
flashing white from their wings, sticks in beaks
for nests in Douglas firs. Sometimes we got foresight!

No hair salons, just great egrets, tall white birds
strolling through marshes, beaks poised for frogs.
No cars – just sparrows singing in pines.
No cigar shops, only wildflowers and elk.
Houses don’t thrive here. Whales rise,
spray the sea, flash tails and flukes to the fog,
dive deeper than light can reach for a feast.
Sing our praises just this once.

The Lizard Catcher

Ten years old, she named the lizard Jim,
held him gently by his neck,
that blue belly she caught without my permission.
He twisted his head, nipped her with tiny teeth.
“Stop, Jim!” she giggled, and shared him with the class.
“Let him go!” I told the uncontrolled girl
of deep voice, shoulder length hair,
demim shorts, paintless nails. She grinned.
All the kids longed to touch his scales,
this bit of bumpy wildness in their friend’s hand.
“Set him free!” Contented by his rough touch,
she placed him on an oak’s root. Her friends sighed.
Reptile scampered over crunching leaves, dusty soil,
to darkness and safety in a log’s crack.
“Bye, Jim,” she whispered. “I’ll join you there.”

 

 

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.

Three Poems by Thomas Zimmerman

Deep Montana

We’ve stepped into a pool of silence. Deep
Montana. Haze from distant fires. High
up there, above the tree line: speck of white.
A mountain goat? A patch of snow? Won’t know
unless it moves. We’ve eaten huckleberries,
thimbleberries, heard we could survive
on old man’s beard in dire times. We’ve seen
a black bear flipping stones along the shore
of Waterton. Bald eagle. Osprey. Bighorn
rams have butted heads before our eyes
at Logan Pass, the sound a muted gunshot.
Later, ewes and kids, fifteen or twenty,
trotted past us at Two Medicine.
As if we needed proof that we were healed.

Sprout

Don’t miss your life while it gets lived. Sounds trite,
but my insight is clear as beer these days.
Career’s become at times like digging ditches.
Lots of grind, as if a sorcerer
had turned my witch into a hoop and left
me chopping wood, my dreams reduced to ravishing
his daughter. Yes, that play’s too tired. Instead,
let’s try black coffee and a sturdy symphony,
say Beethoven’s Pastoral. And crack
the window. Breeze is cool, the spruces taller
than the house and whispering of things
we don’t have language for. The cones like turds
or sausages upon the mulch. A matter
of perspective. Let’s say to even bad seeds: “Sprout!”

Naïve and Sentimental Sonnet #4

Our half-remodeled house looks like a Roman
ruin. Shostakovich Seven’s on
the stereo. Porch columns lopped off at
the waist. The bones exposed. A wartime symphony.

But then comes reconstruction. Memory’s
like this. I’m drinking huckleberry-flavored
coffee, razing sensory perceptions
quickly—quickly building pasts that I,

that we, can cope with. Spruce trees in the backyard
keep their green all year. Last week, a former
student, now a colleague, told me that

I hadn’t changed: “This life is genre exercise,
and death is just a failure of
imagination.” Wish I’d said this. Wait, I did.

 

 
Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared recently in Blood & Bourbon, Brickplight, and Visceral Uterus. Tom’s website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/

The Next State by Trish Hopkinson

“To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.” –Pope John Paul II on his visit to Hiroshima, Feb. 25, 1981

Every moment becomes
the past in an instant.
Our hands ache with despair,

the inability for reparation.
The unimaginable loss of thousands
imprinted into a copper etching.

The wax melted onto the surface
of subsistence. Curls of copper
burr into engraved cities

and the crosshatching of civilizations.
The ink of history seethes
into grooves, awaiting impression.

This is the first state.

Every moment becomes
the past in an instant.
One divergent force, an impression

so high-pressure, the plate
can no longer produce
a distinct replica—

the hollows disfigured, the edges
distressed. It takes years of work
to repeat the process, to resurface.

This is the second state.

We are stationed here in copper,
in dark ruts and muddy ink.
We are the products pressed

onto paper, products of all
that came before us, products
of passion and of pain,

products of art and wisdom
and learning and of the other,
the not-knowing,

and the witnessing of all
this through individual experience.
The impression is lasting.

This is the next state.

–originally published in The Day After by Art Access & Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

 

 

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! Visit again on the next two Mondays for more of her work!

“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.

 

The Last Blue Pigeon by William Doreski

The last blue pigeon has died,
leaving a hole in the sky.
Once the air darkened with bruise,
stifled by wingbeat. Now the cries

of filthy children suffocate
the distance from here to the sea.
You want to pose on the shore
with blue pigeons circling above—

their song a solo high note
that carries a friendly threat.
You want to rake the guano
from rocks above the tideline

and sell it to perfumeries
advertising in Vogue and Elle.
Blue pigeons were big business
in our childhood when the rivers

stank of acid and dyes from mills
churning out cottons and woolens
we wore to school, church and dinner
with our parents’ creepy friends.

The last specimen died of lust
naked air couldn’t fulfill.
It fell from the sky like a bomb
and exploded in depths of science

the intellect hadn’t yet plumbed.
The hole in the sky looks large enough
to stick our heads through to see
daylight stars brimming with pride.

Maybe if you stood on my shoulders
you could reach that hole and look
into both the past and future
where the latest colors evolve.

 

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Watch for more of William’s work this week!

Storm by H.D.

For our Floridian friends and family.

You crash over the trees,
you crack the live branch—
the branch is white,
the green crushed,
each leaf is rent like split wood.

You burden the trees
with black drops,
you swirl and crash—
you have broken off a weighted leaf
in the wind,
it is hurled out,
whirls up and sinks,
a green stone.

 

(H.D., 1886 – 1961)

Thin Fabric and an Empty Bowl by Dana Bloomfield

For Dan

I come to your country
in exile,
thin fabric and an empty bowl.
You come to my woods
in resignation,
bare trees and leaves into compost.
You wrap me against the leaving breezes
in long johns,
your old coat and trail hugging shoes.

Your uncle, my father,
is gone/crazy/homeless/missing/dead.
There’s no train of numbers on his forearm,
no Southern rope around his neck,
no chalk outline, no ransom call or suicide note.
But his place is just as vacant,
his absence incurable.

I hold out my bowl,
Oliver Twist.
Word soup: You look just like him.
We trade photographs
like baseball cards.
Into my bowl: The Missing Years.
When I offer my bowl to the waiting faces
my gratitude
spills out upon your feet.

 

(Previously published in Digges’ Choice and Baltimore Women’s Times.)

 

Dana Bloomfield is a retired preschool teacher. Her poems have appeared in Baltimore Review, Digges’ Choice, Baltimore Women’s Times, Green Revolution, and the anthology Grease and Tears.

 

Dan Atkins was a seminarian, social worker, polio survivor, and father of three daughters. He lived the last nineteen years of his life homeless, missing to his family. He died of a heart attack on the streets of the Mission District, L.A., at the age of fifty-three. His family learned of his passing nine years later.

Folding Chair by Wren Tuatha

I told you then I would take it out back
and kill it with a knife. But I couldn’t do it.
You stumbled upon my love today as then.

It’s a folding chair, forgotten in the woods,
rusting beside living oaks and rotting, jutting stumps,
unsuitable seats. Your mind tries to pick up its stories
from the air around. A picnicker, a hunter, absent minded
yogi. But stories are noise, excuses. Mute air transmits
this year’s bird noise, same as the moment before
and the moment after this chair was left here.

You realize the years, four legs grounded through
snow mounding and hurricanes, the inflating
and shriveling of mushrooms. Fox and mouse,
mouse and beetle, squirrel and squirrel.
Food and urges and panic. I remember loving you.
There was noise.

Mute, awake air, used to being taken in and released,
doesn’t suffer seasons or fools, doesn’t root for predator
or prey, doesn’t pray that you find your own heart
among curly, restless ferns. I still do.

 

(First published in The Cafe Review)

 

 

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in Avatar Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Poetry Circle, and Bangalore Review. She never found out how that folding chair got there.

Two Poems by Kelly Shepherd

Songs Around the Prickly Pear

Dry grasslands sing you
bleached-tree hilltops sing you
scrub flatlands sing you
yellow marmot trails sing you
acres between ponderosa pines sing you

Parched gravel creekbeds mourn
by singing you

You exchange melodies
with porcupine, and wild rose, and urchin

You are fire, you gather in crackling circles
to sing around yourself
then break up to sing alone
the traveling songs of hoof and tail,
hiking boot and trail

For a human being to learn your lyrics
they must first eat of your flesh
and the one who would taste you
must first be tasted by you –
there is a ritual that must be adhered to –
prickly pear harmonizes best with bloody fingers

You sing only sharp notes, your voice is spines,
ancient green and reptile dry
you are the spiky back of a crusty fish
that has given up on ever finding water again
its bones sing you

Of the Grotto

The self seeps red
back down the thread
to the beginning of the spiral

to the knapped point
where human realized itself
out of animal

and we scraped on stones
until they spoke
intricate lines, bounded shapes,

music of hoof and hump
and antler, but it wasn’t enough.
Precise to the tendon

we imagined animals,
and ourselves coming out
or going back in.

Even with Ariadne’s thread
the poet does not emerge
unscathed from the labyrinth.

The blood on your horns
might not be your own,
but the blood in your fur will be.

 

 

 
Kelly Shepherd has worked as a kindergarten teacher in South Korea, and a construction worker in northern Alberta, Canada. His first full-length poetry collection, Shift, was published by Thistledown Press in 2016 and longlisted for the Edmonton Public Library’s People’s Choice Award in 2017. Insomnia Bird, a second full-length collection, is forthcoming from Thistledown Press in 2018. He has written six poetry chapbooks, most recently A Hidden Bench (the Alfred Gustav Press, Vancouver, 2017). Kelly has a Creative Writing MFA from UBC Okanagan, and an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Alberta, with a thesis on sacred geography. Originally from Smithers, British Columbia, Kelly lives and teaches in Edmonton, Alberta. He is also the poetry editor for the environmental philosophy journal The Trumpeter.

Rogue Elephant by A.R. Ammons

The reason to be autonomous is to stand there,
a cleared instrument, ready to act, to search

the moral realm and actual conditions for what
needs to be done and to do it: fine, the

best, if it works out, but if, like a gun, it
comes in handy to the wrong choice, why then

you see the danger in the effective: better
then an autonomy that stands and looks about,

negotiating nothing, the supreme indifferences:
is anything to be gained where as much is lost:

and if for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction has the loss been researched

equally with the gain: you can see how the
milling actions of millions could come to a

buzzard-like glide as from a coincidental,
warm bottom of water stuck between chilled

peaks: it is not so easy to say, OK, go on
out and act: who, doing what, to what or

whom: just a minute: should the bunker be
bombed (if it stores gas): should all the

rattlers die just because they rattle: if I
hear the young gentleman vomiter roaring down

the hall in the men’s room, should I go and
inquire of him, reducing him to my care: no

wonder the great sayers (who say nothing) sit
about in inaccessible states of mind: no

wonder still wisdom and catatonia appear to
exchange places occasionally: but if anything

were easy, our easy choices soon would carry
away our ignorance with the world-better

let the mixed-up mix and let the surface shine
with all the possibilities, each in itself.

 

(A.R. Ammons, 1926-2001)

Why We Need John Lennon by Paul Belz

Years earlier, I hated the Beatles.
All girls I longed to kiss screamed,
The Lads smoked (I was a good boy),
they played loud, and that hair!
Daring me, you dragged me to “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Defiant goofiness hooked me for life. Years later,

we listened to John again and again –
“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small…”
our mantra. We shared Ruffles
with sour cream onion dip and Cokes.
“Yeah, after the Air Force, I’ll be done with the Draft,”
you matter- of- factly said, your eyes softly screaming.
Safe with a student deferment, I found no words,
life- long friend.

We’d chased Nazis and Commies
out of town with cap guns and toy tanks,
guzzled buttered popcorn and watched King Kong
smash Godzilla again and again.
After all the summer nights we spent on a porch
wrapped in soft sleeping bags, lullabied
by crickets and woken by work bound high heels,
after all the marshmallows we burnt to a gourmet ash,
and the nights we blammed rock’n’roll
on amplified ukes and bongo drums
driving my poor mother mad, after the make out parties
you described to shy me, I hid in pacifist dreams and had no words.
“…they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool…”
Reach him, John, I wished, opening more Cokes.

One New Years, I bought your Air Force weed.
We sat, stoned, motionless, and scared in a slow car
full of old pals while some cop followed us
three miles and shrugged us off. “…’til you’re so fuckin’ crazy
you can’t follow their rules.” That was our last time.

You wrote my mother from Vietnam
and survived. I had no words when the Air Force
released you to that canoe trip
where white water threw you helmetless
to boulders. I was helpless again,
but our brother John caught you,
helped you dance and howl.

 

 

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.

 

Editor’s Note: Watch Califragile in the next week for some of Paul Belz’ nature poetry.

The Usual Conspiracy Theory by William Doreski

Diesel rigs snoring uphill
four miles off sound near enough
to run us over. Crickets sawing
leg to leg play alto chorus

to the trucks’ basso profundo.
Summer always ends like this—
slabs of music simmering.
You’re reading another book

on Robert Kennedy, while tenth
or twelfth time I’m attempting
to finish The Maximus Poems.
Something teary in the distance,

maybe a scrap of tropical storm.
Something opens into a dark
we know we’ll never satisfy.
You touch the lowest level of sky

to determine if the paint has dried.
Afraid of all that depth I place
one hand on the worm-warm soil
of my favorite garden plot.

We look awkward enough to laugh,
but the crickets douse our humor
and the roar of the trucks seems
closer, personal enough

to absorb our favorite sins.
I’d better return to reading
about the history of Cape Ann,
the agony of facing the sea

every day, the depth compelling,
almost as cruel as the bullet
Bobby Kennedy’s assassin
lodged in our collective brain.

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Watch for more of William’s work this week!

Two Poems by Kenneth Pobo

King Spacker

Half drunk, he talks
to his friend DABO,
Dave August Braller,

that he’d like to be king.
Henry VIII could get rid of
wives when they outlived

their usefulness. As king
in Micah, he’d ban everyone,
walk into stores, no clerks—

take whatever he wants
for free. Soon he’d rule
the state, America,

the world until death performs
that single revolutionary act
and dethrones him.

Bonfire

Ida’s mom sewed coats
of rules. After she died,
Ida bequeathed them
to her daughter Amy
who piled them in her front yard,
poured gasoline, lit a match.

Amy remembers her grandmom
as a book of a thousand pages,
mildewing on a shelf,
untouched.

 

Kenneth Pobo has a new book of poems out from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. His work has appeared in: The Queer South anthology, Caesura, Colorado Review, Mudfish, and elsewhere.

Three Poems by Muriel Stuart

Lady Hamilton

Men wondered why I loved you, and none guessed
How sweet your slow, divine stupidity,
Your look of earth, your sense of drowsy rest,
So rich, so strange, so all unlike my sea.
After the temper of my sails, my lean
Tall masts, you were the lure of harbour hours, –
A sleepy landscape warm and very green,
Where browsing creatures stare above still flowers.
These salt hands holding sweetness, the leader led,
A slave, too happy and too crazed to rule,
Sea land-locked, brine and honey in one bed,
And England’s man your servant and your fool!
My banqueting eyes foreswore my waiting ships;
I was a silly landsman at your lips.

 

In The Orchard

“I thought you loved me.” “No, it was only fun.”
“When we stood there, closer than all?” “Well, the harvest moon
“Was shining and queer in your hair, and it turned my head.”
“That made you?” “Yes.” “Just the moon and the light it made
“Under the tree?” “Well, your mouth, too.” “Yes, my mouth?”
“And the quiet there that sang like the drum in the booth.
“You shouldn’t have danced like that.” “Like what?” “So close,
“With your head turned up, and the flower in your hair, a rose
“That smelt all warm.” “I loved you. I thought you knew
“I wouldn’t have danced like that with any but you.”
“I didn’t know. I thought you knew it was fun.”
“I thought it was love you meant.” “Well, it’s done.” “Yes, it’s done.
“I’ve seen boys stone a blackbird, and watched them drown
“A kitten … it clawed at the reeds, and they pushed it down
“Into the pool while it screamed. Is that fun, too?”
“Well, boys are like that … Your brothers…” “Yes, I know.
“But you, so lovely and strong! Not you! Not you!”
“They don’t understand it’s cruel. It’s only a game.”
“And are girls fun, too?” “No, still in a way it’s the same.
“It’s queer and lovely to have a girl…” “Go on.”
“It makes you mad for a bit to feel she’s your own,
“And you laugh and kiss her, and maybe you give her a ring,
“But it’s only in fun.” “But I gave you everything.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have done it. You know what a fellow thinks
“When a girl does that.” “Yes, he talks of her over his drinks
“And calls her a – ” “Stop that now. I thought you knew.”
“But it wasn’t with anyone else. It was only you.”
“How did I know? I thought you wanted it too.
“I thought you were like the rest. Well, what’s to be done?”
“To be done?” “Is it all right?” “Yes.” “Sure?” “Yes, but why?”
“I don’t know. I thought you were going to cry.
“You said you had something to tell me.” “Yes, I know.
“It wasn’t anything really … I think I’ll go.”
“Yes, it’s late. There’s thunder about, a drop of rain
“Fell on my hand in the dark. I’ll see you again
“At the dance next week. You’re sure that everything’s right?”
“Yes.” “Well, I’ll be going.” “Kiss me…” “Good night.” … “Good night.”

 

The Seed Shop

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry –
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June’s magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee seek here roses that were his.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams,
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

(Muriel Stuart, 1885-1967)

I Dive by Sergio A. Ortiz

I dive

into those tiny pitfalls that set us up for life,
traps as small as the cages to hunt sparrows.
Some days, on specific days, Mondays and Fridays,
when opening my balcony, I look and see
with all my senses, hear with all my senses,
smell with all the senses. I am a stubborn fiddle
in evidence, a delusional excuse
and life flips on me like a card game.
It makes me fall in love with new lips,
hurries and makes me as essential
as driving credentials, a: here is my hand,
my millions of hands.
My skin quivers with infinite pity.
Humankind kills, dies, lies, steals, gives up
with its back to Beethoven’s Ninth
in the voracious desire for permanence.
Confuses freedom with movement.
Sleeps armed against other men
and against the little man inhabiting
the clearest corners of my chest
despite that music, despite the sun
that rises. Despite the fierce, clean, morning Ode
to Joy denying the spoils of yesterday’s dinner.
Life today presents itself in a costume
and I know it’s a trap. But I give in,
get drunk, and accept any kind of a truce.
I’m a spiral, a seesaw, a chorus, because when
I open the balcony door, when I look, see,
listen, and smell with all my senses, and know
life has taken a deck of cards from its sleeve.
And all I can do is beg in my favor.

 

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.

The Hatchery by M. Stone

Trout crowd together in narrow containers
with wire mesh covers, their scales glinting like motor oil
on the surface of a mud puddle.

For a quarter you can buy pellet food
and watch suckling mouths emerge from the water.

When the fish are sufficiently fattened,
the state releases them into lakes and rivers
where they will endure the hook’s bite,

the haul into stunning daylight. Some will be tossed back,
only to fall for the ruse again and again, recalling
the human shadow, the benevolent hand.

 

 

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.

Jeremy’s First by John Grey

It’s his first time with a hooker.
Luckily, she makes the arrangement easy for him,
fills in his stutter’s gaps.

And there is none of this
quickie-behind-the-Mexican-café business.
She takes him back to her apartment.
He gets to see where his money’s going.

It’s a cozy place.
Not seedy at all.
Somewhere a real person might live.
On a dresser is a photograph
of what must be her family.
As she undresses,
he tries to figure out
which of the three little girls
grew up to be the woman in the room with him.

“If that bothers you,” I can turn it around,
she says.
For a moment, it is her life
he so wants to see turned around.

But then he begins to unbutton his shirt.
After all, he is paying for this.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in The Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.