Ashes denote that fire was;
Respect the grayest pile
For the departed creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile.
Fire exists the first in light,
And then consolidates, —
Only the chemist can disclose
Into what carbonates.
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost, 1874-1963.
Photograph by Terry Lovejoy.
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.
Last night I sank
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.