The Fire By Lola Ridge

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

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

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

 

Lola Ridge, 1873-1941.

Photograph by Dennis J. Kurpius.

 

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

Off the Road by John Grey

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Original photograph by Nminow.

#CampFire: Second-hand Mule by Terry Adams

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

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

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

Bucket melts
from the bottom up.
The water escapes.

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

how even freedom
is useless
at some point.

 

 

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

#CampFire: Particulate Matter by Molly Fisk

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Untitled 11

 

First published in Rattle, Poets Respond

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

 

 

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

 

Photograph by Graham Crumb.

Five Poems by Simon Perchik

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Original photograph by Martin Pettitt.

Lupercalia by Stephanie L. Harper

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Lupercalia by Stephanie L. Harper

 

Stephanie L. Harper is a Pushcart Prize Nominee, and the author of the chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press, June 2018). Her poems appear in Slippery Elm, Figroot, Harbinger Asylum, Califragile, Panoply, Isacoustic, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with her husband, two teen children, and a cattle dog named Sydney.

 

Painting by William-Adolphe Bougereau.

Three Poems by Michael H. Brownstein

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An Affair with Love

Now that everything is over,
The speed bump, the crack in concrete,
A chapbook by Steven Steven Schletor
Open to pages four and five
Waving its torn hands in the wind.
When it rains, when it snows,
After the hail, after the heavy sleet,
After the weather breaks to a drizzle,
The staples bend and rust and break,
But this is nothing. Water has a way
With cardboard and paper, rock
And sandstone, love and ink.

 

Errands and Other Things Occupy My Time

and now I look through my list of poems,
a silence so concise it swells into me.
Is there no room for hunger or shame,
the loose breath of the injured fawn
leaning terribly against the injured oak,
its new buds wet with the last blossoms of snow?
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is spring.
Somewhere children are flying kites. It is fall.
The homeless man from the corner tells me
water is the hardest thing to find in the city.
“Can you spare fifty cents? I need a can of cola.”
His teeth are like mine, coated and spoiled.
I give him a quarter and he buys a bag of chips.

 

In the Morning It Will Still Be Okay

This is not who I love. This is not what I love.
Love is a god-stone, thick and sometimes valuable,
strong-wristed, one arc of a finger
stretching.

Love has the weight of god, the weight of Eve’s sister,
Lilith, and vomit, water mixed with salt,
A mottled permutation of tear strained skin,
pink and ordinary, thinly veined and iridescent,
the sigh of sun arriving into day’s orange blue.

This is who I love. This is what I love.
An evening of chimneys and steam,
a cloud of feather and frog,
green eyes,
you.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk – a squirrel falls through where he just stood – what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.

He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.

He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry – they really do go together.

On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.

 

Detail of Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo.