Afterlife by Gayle Kaune

When I was a child and had ideas
about religion my father called
me smarty pants. He wanted no
interference to his way of thinking.
Maybe he was right.
I felt no empathy for the wan, tubercular,
desert fathers or others whose strings

were pulled by the Vegas mob.
Only ten, I knew there was an
underworld in my hometown
where people never slept
and mothers wore fishnet
stockings, taught their daughters
to mend the tears.

I can discuss these events — moldy
water recirculated in the swamp
coolers of childhood: My first kiss,
with Joe Spoleto, on his parents’ patio,
under flickering bug lights,
the air we breathed, laced with particles
from tests at Yucca Flats.

These memories like dust storms,
some drift away, some still glow:
Father’s photo on the front page
of the Review Journal, his face bruised,
beat up in the desert one night by crooks;
Mother winning a mink stole,
wearing it over a dress that flamed
her cleavage with rhinestones.

 

 

Gayle Kaune has been published widely in literary magazines including Poet and Critic, Crab Creek Review, Seattle Review, Milkweed Editions, South Florida Poetry Review, and Centennial Review. She has won several Washington Poets Awards, a Ben Hur Lampmann award, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her book, Still Life in the Physical World, was published by Blue Begonia Press; her latest, All the Birds Awake, is available from Tebot Bach. She also has two chapbooks: N’Sid-Sen-Star and Concentric Circles, which won the Flume Press Award. Her latest manuscript, Noise From Stars, is looking for a home.

Oracle’s End by J.P. Dancing Bear

Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892.

Oracle’s End

Truth, like love, has no winners.

This is why you never see
Casandra at the crap tables
calling out for snake eyes.
The old witches gathered around
the roulette table, their one eye,
bouncing and knocking into one slot
after another, as the wheel slows,
as fate is known.

No, Nostradamus did not catch a ship
to America, never opened a book shop
right off of Main Street. No kids
to legacy. No fortune in untold tales.

And even though there a jail cells,
there’s caldron with bones
that roil and roll from the trick of heroes,
even when the random bullet leaves its war
and finds a collateral skull,

truth, like love, has no losers.

 

 

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.

On the Occupy Savannah by Wren Tuatha

Intestines in trees and the births
of stars. These are my witnessings

on the Occupy savannah. So much brutal
beauty and belly breathing I can’t digest.

It’s a giraffe in traffic,
can’t get out of her own way.

And even with this stuck flow
Wall Street should be very afraid.

A giraffe in traffic is not on the payroll,
not towing your barge, not plugged in.

And a giraffe in traffic has
everyone’s attention.

 

 

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Poetry Pacific, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and Bangalore Review. She’s the founder and editor of Califragile and also an editor at PoetryCircle. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.

Two Poems by Seth Jani

Aftersong

Somedays the music helps you
Die a little death.
Mortis harmonious, and the stars
Rain extravagances, forming beads
Of light at the house’s edge.
We attend our silences
Until they swell with a second coming.
God or bird, or simply the flesh
Of soundwaves themselves,
We travel the river straight
To the instrument’s center.
The long diminuendo
Cascades into nothing.
Birds ignite the morning trees.

Eclipse

You open your eyes and are no one.
This is the way both life and death occur.
In between, the construction happens:
The jobs and personalities,
The yellow stone you call a god.
But sometimes, you might remember.
The wind blows through you,
The flowers bloom and diminish,
Happiness and suffering
Wax and wane.
You smile nonchalantly
While the night strings
The street in omens.
You don’t need to read the cryptographs,
The images stars paint
On the peeling wall.
It’s ok to just be a witness.
The sea is nearby,
The wharves full of echoing bells.
A stranger passes.
A great, orbiting moth
Covers the moon.

 

 

 

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven Circle Press . His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, El Portal, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. More about him and his work can be found at sethjani.com.

I Believed in Magic by Michael Chin

When Earvin Johnson announced he was HIV positive, it sounded like a death sentence.

That is, unless you believed in magic.

For though he wore neither the purple nor gold of the Lakers, but rather a plain black suit and tie, white shirt, like he was ready for embalmment, and though he announced a retirement effective immediately, he was still Magic. Still a champion, an MVP, an all-star. Still Showtime.

I believed.

Same story, different year, different world when Claudia told me she’d been seeing another man. That she wasn’t seeking forgiveness. She didn’t knead a dish towel like she had when she told me she couldn’t have kids, didn’t eye the spaces between wood panels on the walls like when she scraped the side of my Civic.

Looked me dead on. Hands holding mine. Nothing up her sleeve. Told me we were done.

I believed.

Believed in the Magic who came out of retirement for one outing, 1992, Orlando. The All-Star Game. One more round with the rest of the best and walked out the king of kings. Twenty-five points, the last three when he drained a buzzer beater from behind the arc. Most Valuable Player one last time.

Claudia told me I could keep the apartment. She’d find another place.

We’d moved to Crescent City out of compromise. After coming out west on her command, after the Bay Area proved too expensive. Crescent City kept us in driving distance for weekend trips, and let us breathe that Redwood air. A place to call home until one of us got a break, until things got better.

Magic played for the Olympic team, too. The original Dream Team with Michael and Larry and Charles. Won again. Another trick.

Claudia Left. Took the pots and pans. All the furniture we’d bought since college. Left me the futon from my senior year apartment with the busted frame, so it only folded out to two-thirds length. A closet full of old basketball jerseys, categorized in alphabetical order, from when I dropped money on such things, ranging from Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s Nuggets one to Jason Williams from the Kings. In varying degrees of collecting dust. Of decay. Age old orange crust on the collar of Anfernee Hardaway’s Orlando jersey. Number one.

The Orlando Magic.

I believed.

So I cashed in my vacation time and hit the road solo, east bound for Springfield, Massachusetts. A city I’d never seen, but the place where they say Dr. James Naismith first nailed peach baskets over a gymnasium floor. Where the magic started with teenage boys bouncing soccer balls, a gym class activity that became something.

Presto change.

Magic Johnson played point guard most of his career. But his rookie season, last game of the Finals, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the DL, Magic started at center. Caught the ball and faked a shot, only to drive as far as the foul line and soared, his best imitation of Jabbar’s sky hook, hitting nothing but net.

Now it’s my turn to drive.

To believe again.

 

 

 

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and his hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press. He won Bayou Magazine‘s Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

In Consideration of Things Seen or Only Felt by Devon Balwit

Approaching sirens wail, but I examine
glistening stonefly larva, balled

in an open palm, and a regal moth coif, elaborate
as any contessa’s. I count

the feathers of a barred owl’s wings,
for a moment shielded

by their spread blessing. I know the fate
of this and every other poem

having recently wandered the stacks
of the largest bookstore in my town,

pitying the slim volumes huddling
for warmth, each orphaned darling.

Better to consider the crystalline perfection
of snowflakes delivered

by the same technology that pinpoints
airstrikes but cannot spare

noncombatants, or to lose myself
in the archives of the surrealists,

a preserve for insomniac dreams,
the meticulous obsessions of three a.m.

As covertly as a masturbator, I pour over
Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis,

blossoms spread like blood-swollen privates—
all of this, species and souls,

evanescing, as it would even were the State
benevolent, and the earth not wheeling

at 1,550 km/hour, spinning skin into crepe,
bones into spun-sugar filigree.
 
 
 
Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out in the world. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.

 

 

Two Poems by Kierstin Bridger

Photo by D’Arcy Norman.

Flight Plan Interrupted

I often guess at names for towering clouds,
walk Wonder and Preconception on separate leashes,

try to picture where the other shoe has dropped
or where it dangles somewhere barely holding on.

Skyscrapers are nothing seen from the window
of our Cessna. Flat planes of gray concrete stuck to the land.

Never mind their stories, their poetic sighs
elevated and numerated from within.

Yet here I am floor 7, room 728 remembering
their silent geometries as I watch the citizens below

in matchbox cars and other combustibles
(addictions and intentions invisible

save for the wink of turn lights and the curl
of smoke slipping out thin window cracks).

From this vantage I can’t see the red satin slipper
we passed a half an hour ago.

The shoe was not without sex appeal
the mystery of abandon— one thin strap,

told tongue-tied tales of a date gone bad—
maybe a pilot, a cad, and some fresh rose

scented with vanilla and musk
dabbed behind her ears.

Too much tequila—too much, too fast—
details more mundane than sublime.

It seems whether aloft or on sidewalks,
Scuff and Speculation are the only dogs I know.

 

Snapchat/Snapshot

The soft hair of a mule deer
floats inside the open window sill
without notice.

There is no mesh screen, only a boy
entangled in his bedsheets,
a thin phone glows in his hand.

He takes photos of himself
naked torso, profile in shadow.
The ambient stillness of lamplight

is kind to his face
which is broken out but only a little.
He is thinking about the girl

across the country.
It is still early evening for her.
Dishes just cleared from her California table,

olives poured back into the jar, bottles
slick with sweat, glisten near her head.
She has stood so long in light of the icebox—

an old fashioned word
for a new and not so knew time— an hour
has slipped past without making a sound

save for the cool thermal hum.
The boy and the girl
exchange images over and over.

Her face tilted, filter of cartoon:
doe spots, lips parted in half pout
while his eyes grow heavy with sleep.

Outside an animal folds its legs into the sage,
tucks his new velvet prize in moonlight
and beds down for the night.

 

Kierstin Bridger is a Colorado writer and author of the 2017 Willa Award winning Demimonde (Lithic Press, 2016) and All Ember (Urban Farmhouse Press). Winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio Award, an Anne LaBastille Poetry Residency and short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Competition in the UK, Bridger is both editor of Ridgway Alley Poems and Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series. She co-hosts Poetry Voice with poet Uche Ogbuji. Find her current work in Prairie Schooner, December, and Painted Bride Quarterly. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. Kierstinbridger.com.