Still by D.R. James

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It all recurs for the maimed, how they remain,
or don’t, atop the plots of the buried. Those
who could do something table the question.
They relax in the rocker of their certainty,
a war, any war, an abstraction that walls off
the bursting specifics. A twenty-something friend
found he’d deployed to sort body parts. Arrayed,
they’d survive the fever sweeping a land we
could never know. Welcomed by the white-blue
atrium of a foreign sky, he’d prowl his perimeter
until his duty tapped him. Then the oven-sun
would relight his nightmare, the categories
of bone and flesh his production line. What
achievement could signal his success? What
dream in the meantime could relieve raw nerve?
The perfect tour would end when he was still
in one piece, a nation’s need ignoring the gore
behind the games, the horror nestling into
the still-living because still in one piece.

 

First published in Tuck.

 

 

D. R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for 34 years and lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. Poems and prose have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, his latest of eight poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box), and his microchapbook All Her Jazz is free and downloadable-for-the-folding at Origami Poems Project. http://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage

 

Photograph by Gunnery Sgt. Mark Olivia, USMC.

Unfamiliar Face of Death by Lazar Trubman

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Nagorno-Karabakh: May, 1988

Death has an unfamiliar face,
a face of a drunken, unshaved man;
red bulged eyes, bad breath,
strength, muddy boots, AK-47…
Begging for mercy – logs in the fire:
burn, baby, burn;
scream, woman, scream;
cry, old man, cry…
It’s over now; it’s in the memory
of our god-forsaken earth…

Afterword: June 1994

In the street in front of a hotel
two children are playing;
a boy of five, rachitic,
and a girl with a toy pistol:
they are playing on a serious note,
and the little boy,
rather petulant and unwilling,
is told to stand up
against the piss-stained wall;
he can’t understand that he is then
supposed to fall down;
the girl shows him how –
with all the experience
of her seven years…

 

 

Lazar Trubman is a college professor from Moldavia, one of the republics which comprised the former USSR. He immigrated to the United States in 1990, after spending four years as a political prisoner in Northern Russia. He was assigned to Arizona, where he taught the Theory of Literature and Roman languages for twenty-two years. In 2017, he retired to devote his time to writing. Since then, his poetry and prose appeared in Forge Magazine, The New Reader, Kissing Dynamite, Bending Genres, Lit Mag, and others. A collection of his poems and prose is forthcoming from Adelaide Books in July 2019.

Pontneddfechan by Phil Wood

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We trudge beside a rain-happy river,
busy with Dippers, squabbling for mates and nests.
It makes a change with no one about, she said.
The mud is squelchy, a primal glue. Waterfalls
cascade the ancient voices of hillside streams.

There’s a dead sheep nestled in silica rock
across the river. Headless. It spooks us both.
In these lichen-coated oak, where air dampens
the moss bright stone, a breath of the old ways
whispers myth. Daft I know. Such places gather belief.

 

 

Phil Wood was born in Wales. He has previously worked in Education, Shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including The Poetry Shed, Snakeskin, Ink Sweat and Tears, and London Grip.

My Mother Named Me America by Kathryn Collins

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My Mother Named Me America

without knowing that my coyote father
had been disappeared somewhere
in the wild whooping marshes of Socorro.
She could not know that his last gasping
thought was for the feel of her
long lashes
fluttering against his chest.

That was before I began
screaming with a hunger she couldn’t
to sate. My gummy voice was impossible
to understand,
just like the doctors
who hastened to clear her bed
for the next welfare case.

Later, when loss seeded her lungs
a wet whooping of her own
her native desert called to her between the shouts of
binners and sandwich-board men. Even
the cracked palms of the man who brought
blossoms
to the creek bank we called home
couldn’t hold her here.

If she had known, would she have stayed
at her uncle’s hacienda
until she couldn’t plead
no señor,
no, anymore. Would she have left
if she had known
her daughter’s voice would cry
those same words into the night?

At least here there was
a chance,
space to fill out her hopes.
Nowhere is perfect, but at least
here
my world is built with white words
and white violence.

 

 

Kathryn Collins’ essays and poetry have been published in CALYX, Flyaway Journal of Writing, The Rumpus, Months to Years, and Robo Book through Bank Heavy Press. She received her MA in Professional Fiction Writing from the University of Denver and currently works as a librarian. After a long period as an expat in Germany, Israel and Australia, she has returned home to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

#Mountains: Women Are Mountains Scattered by Wren Tuatha

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Red pill/green pocket/squire, asks then takes anyway,
can you see me or the planet from a crag in Arkansas?
Gynic peaks pull the moon in you by a string.

What do you orbit? How do you know when to alight if land
and women are mountains scattered, grounded but shifting
unfinished? You and Mohammed, playing pipes at mountains.

Two peaks, one in Africa, the other Appalachia, pour
water that makes the moonbow, marrying light and vapor.
Only two places on Earth does the moon lay this lyric.

Mountains in Nepal listen to gunfire. In Kentucky they
lay down for clean coal, rebranded. Lung forests in Sierras
truck downhill. Peaks in Switzerland take the breath away,

rare oxygen. Do you see me on the planet from Alps, Everest
or Kilimanjaro? Rice terraces and the perfect elevation
for quinoa. Who are you feeding? Who comes to the table?

Not women. When restless we erupt, rebranding, renewing.
We sway slow on our plates. My skin has regrown after lavas.
Sit down. Your babbling is corrosive, a tune in smoke while women

chisel, turn spokes. Narcissus drowning and other irrelevant kings.
No matter your heights, a king convinced of his wings and his view
brought us to this ledge.

 

First published in Thistle and Brilliant, Finishing Line Press. 

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and others. She’s pursuing her MFA at Goddard College.  Her chapbooks, Thistle and Brilliant and the forthcoming Skeptical Goats, are from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Butler, herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

She wonders about his tattoo by Shannon Phillips

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Maybe the small blue spiral behind his earlobe is a corkscrew into his skull, there to remind him that all life is suffering, even the good parts, the absence of which at times makes his heart sag, soaked in want. Maybe he got used to the pain after that. Or maybe it’s the slow wind up the mountain to Big Bear, the spooled line from the fishing trips he never went on with his grandfather because he was too young when he died. Or maybe his Middle Eastern students finally convinced him to smoke hookah and it was so good that he wanted to commemorate the revelation he had while staring at the cobra statue in the corner, curled in dance as if on the kaleidoscopic streets of Morocco. He’d almost gotten purple ink, in honor of Cheshire cat rings, but the tattoo artist talked him out of it; he was okay with that—the rings on which Alice slid down into the rabbit hole were smoke-colored anyway. Perhaps he got it because some part of him wanted others to ask about it. He remembered his mom worrying out loud one afternoon that he would become like her—lonely from preferring the inside of his own head. She even wished she’d been born into another culture, one where a child couldn’t run ten feet without smacking into someone who loved him. He remembered this while waiting in line during his lunch hour, the woman next to him wearing a scarf—the color of sunset—layered generously around her neck.

 

 

Shannon Phillips is the founding editor of Picture Show Press. Her most recent chapbook, Body Parts, was published by dancing girl press in 2017. After teaching ESL for 3 years, she decided to study Arabic and hopes to one day work in the field of translation.

High Priestess by Patricia Nelson

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High Priestess

—a tarot card

Narrow by narrow she rides.
Woman with a blue ball on her head
and a horn and another horn
and a no eye and a why eye
and a new moon through her dress.

To see her you must live in a jar
or a rock or an alphabet
or a planet balanced on a dark.
On a “why” of seed and stem and under
and made of wide by wide.

You must see white to white,
your heart stem paling at the leaf.
Face of chalk and torso hard as tooth.
In the high-low, pile moonlight silent as sand.
Release the cold and falling salt of judgment.

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Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who now volunteers with an environmental organization. She worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

The High Priestess card of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith.