Who’s Keeping Track of our Dreams by Beth Gordon

Todd Klassy

You are chopping hard boiled eggs on Friday night while we discuss our certain sudden extinction, the vanishing whippoorwill and his mournful morning chant, our clocks blinking midnight because tornadoes serenaded our flooded streets. You sold gilt-edged bibles in North Carolina in 1973 when I was just a child listening to The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and Playground in My Mind, unable to separate those revolutionary messages.You prop up your broken laptop with a syrupy bottle of Southern Comfort retrieved from basement waters, still sticky with mold and spider webs, while we try to mix the ancient recipes: Comfort Colada, Comfort-On-The Rocks. Our ears popping from the journey, landing your least favorite part, we haven’t been in Kentucky for twenty-five years, but you never forgot the flies that laid their eggs on mash, how you waved them off, wings as black as Mississippi dirt, as green as Irish grass.

 

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

Photograph by Todd Klassy. 

Father’s Day: Mo/Fa Poems by Chella Courington

774px-Eugene_Manet_and_His_Daughter_in_the_Garden_1883_Berthe_Morisot

Second Memory

An upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at Forty-first & Twelfth
raising it in waves
around her knees
over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
& I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t
hold it down
& he sees
me see him
winking
before the light
turns green.

 

Queen’s Bird

Two of each—cup, saucer, bread plate—
in lukewarm water, I wash away

thirty years of dust since Mother died.
At 42, uterine cancer like Queen Mary

bloody Mary quite contrary.
Why did you run away?

I thought I could find you by traveling
to Chicago, Barbados and Edinburgh.

Against the sun, I raise this porcelain
eyeing it for chips and cracks. Bone china

fired from bone ash like Mother’s gray powder
handed me in a bronze urn.

Or is this songbird cup glazed in blue
mere clay? My lips where once were yours.

 

Jeopardy

My father built biceps working for US Steel
smelting iron in heat that humbled men.

Now I could break his arm
over my knee, brittle as kindling.

My father used to let me walk up his body
balancing my hands on his fingertips

till I flew from his shoulders. They began to sag
after my mother passed. Rising at night, no moon out,

she collapsed in the dark and never woke
as once my father fell when a clot in his head

tossed him down. He speaks of my mother
rubbing his back with eucalyptus oil and saves hair

from her brush, strands he wraps in kleenex.
At night with his whiskey, facing Jeopardy, my father

drifts off to Kargasok.
In the Russian mountains women live to be 105.

So do their men, eating dried cod with mushroom tea,
making love last forever.

 

Blackbirds

Like a canopy of darkness
they shadow the ground for miles
on currents that lift them
back to their roosts.

Years later I ask my father
if he gathered us
to watch thousands
swoop down on trees

sit wing to wing
till morning branches cracked
under their weight.
At daybreak

did they leave the oaks
bare?

He says we never saw them abandon
the hollow, catch a new wind
to an unharvested south
but often would see their return

black streaks
on a September afternoon.

 

Job’s Daughter

I do not skulk from God.
He has no eye for me
only for my father—tall and brown
hands that raise me over his head.

Hurling insults like thunderbolts, God calls
him harelip, mooncalf. Father hides
seven days under the bellies of three sheep.
With a dulled razor, God sheers

their backs slowly before burning them.
He forces the camel to sit on the cold earth,
head down, and gives father a white flint knife.
Slice the thorax, He bellows.

Father turns away—not a butcher.
The camel lives two hours. My father crawls
inside the camel’s skin and closes it over him.
Flesh still warm.

774px-Eugene_Manet_and_His_Daughter_in_the_Garden_1883_Berthe_Morisot-1

Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, she is the author of six poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry appears in numerous anthologies and journals including Spillway, Gargoyle, Pirene’s Fountain, and The Los Angeles Review. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in California with another writer and two cats. For more information: chellacourington.net.

 

Painting, Eugene Manet and his daughter in the Garden, by Berthe Morisot.

Ours Was a Softer Kind of Landing by Beth Gordon

Tornado_Destroyed_House_in_Parkersburg,_Iowa

We believed this landscape would not betray,
cinematic sunsets haloing white
farmhouse and cornstalks, as tall as young
men, your cats running free across the road
and back without daylight danger, always
returning home before coyote hour,
high winds that cause old branches to grumble,
the haunted oak tree breaking your bedroom
window, its veined hands reaching for your throat
only to discover that you had fled
to the basement, your nerves frayed, uneasy
at the ribbons of rain that wrapped around
every stone or brick within your line
of sight. I tell you that the wilderness
reclaimed Ukrainian suburbia
after the Chernobyl meltdown, pregnant
foxes and winter wolves roam without fear,
that genetically modified soybean
exhibits natural immunities
to radioactive dirt, that thunder
heads and tornadoes have become common
topics of conversation, that I know
how to hide arsenic poisoning from
the forensic detectives in Osage,
MO but would be indicted in New
Orleans for the same crime. Beige homes destroy
our last corner of beauty and I am
leaving for the smoky mountains, this last
sanctuary now coated with poor-grade
cement, the once gentle road a gauntlet
for domesticated mammals, wild skunks,
afternoons of relaxation removed
with top soil. I tell you I am waiting
for the next disaster as I hold my
grandson’s blooming hand, guiding him around
an abandoned porch in a sweet circle
of splintered flight, that I no longer trust
meteorologists, pretty prophets
with ugly news, I scan the horizon
searching for God’s eyes, a voice louder than
schoolyard gunfire, a promise that this
caterpillar boy will wake tomorrow.

759px-Child's_Hands_Holding_White_Rose_for_Peace_Free_Creative_Commons_(1535619818)

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

First photograph by Vossman. Second photograph by Pink Sherbet Photography. 

How to Remain Invisible When the Great Storm Falls by Michael H. Brownstein

Tornado_Damage,_Illinois

–Jefferson City, MO, tornado, 11:40 PM, May 22nd/23rd, 2019

Two days later you navigate the ruts in the road,
fallen trees, torn roofs, swinging wires, broken poles
to a house at the end of a broken street and a gravel path,
up the steps of a porch still strong, an electric box dangling,
no windows broken, branches and car parts a picture frame.
When the door opens, heat rushes outside. A frail woman
at the door. Yes, she says. On her kitchen table,
a melting ice-cream carton, bags of leaking vegetables,
the soiled odor of spoiled milk. Come in, she says.
No electricity, a water pipe maligned, gas turned off.
All around you, every house has a sign—you can stay or
you must vacate. There is no sign on her front door.
You’re the first people I’ve seen in three days. Is it safe?
We have food, you tell her, and water. One of us
can remain with you. We’ll see if we cannot get you help.
And then the wind of the tornado slips from her.
her body rocks, then shivers, one hand goes to her face.
Sorry, she says. I can’t help it and she cries and cries.

 

 

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.

 

 

Photograph by Robert Lawson.

Tamalpais by Nicole Michaels

Tamalpais-derangedtaco

I am keeping your secrets
as if I wrote the legend,

crashed the planes,
abandoned the cars,

set the plaque
for Sitting Bull.

Your peeling manzanitas
are safe with me,

your rock,
your fire roads.

I have nothing to offer
except myself as I was,

gilded like a trout
downstream of your sleeping figure,

bronzed below your witch-guarded peak.

 

1280px-MT._TAMALPAIS_STATE_PARK,_MARIN_COUNTY,_CA

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

Top photograph by Brent Peters/Derangedtoco; Bottom photograph by Jerrye and Roy Klotz. 

Father by Michael H. Brownstein

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I always thought you would outlive me
Lifting heavy boxes past the age of seventy,
Carrying them fifty feet without rest
As if you were white water riding a crest
Of a wave digging talons into sand—
You were always the one I could count on to stand
As my corner man in the boxing ring
Or tell me a lie when I was asked to sing
At this function or that, knowing my throat
Was stale bread, textured oat.
Yet now I find you tied to machines
Calculating strokes of your heart on reams
Cascading past the nurse’s station in intensive care.
I left work early wondering if I dare
Peek in to see you beyond the open door.
You smile, plant heavy white stocking feet to the floor:
I’m OK, you tell me, my heart was racing,
And you move your finger to your chest as if tracing
A child’s picture shaded with red
An intricate design with a loose thread.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein’s latest poetry volume, A Slipknot Into Somewhere Else: A Poet’s Journey To The Borderlands Of Dementia, was recently published by Cholla Needles Press (2018).

 

Art by Jenn Zed

Pompeii By Charles Bernstein

800px-Wildfire_aftermath

The rich men, they know about suffering
That comes from natural things, the fate that
Rich men say they can’t control, the swell of
The tides, the erosion of polar caps
And the eruption of a terrible
Greed among those who cease to be content
With what they lack when faced with wealth they are
Too ignorant to understand. Such wealth
Is the price of progress. The fishmonger
Sees the dread on the faces of the trout
And mackerel laid out at the market
Stall on quickly melting ice. In Pompeii
The lava flowed and buried the people
So poems such as this could be born.

 

 

First published in PoetryReprinted with the permission of the author from Recalculating (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

 

Photograph by Mrsramsey.