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.

#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.

#Mountains: Family Portrait by Tamara Madison

Family Portrait
after the Domain of Arnheim by Rene Magritte

Mother rises hawk-headed
beneath the slivered moon,
snow-shouldered looming
to guard the nest she placed
so carefully on the narrow
fence, a mess of twine
and twig that holds her future
in our three perfect orbs.

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Photograph of dodo egg replica by Frode Inge Helland.

 

This is an ekphrastic poem, inspired by the painting, Domain of Arnheim, by Rene Magritte. Please visit this link for an image of that work and an exploration of it.

 

 

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.

#MeToo: A Wolf Girl Enters the World by Wren Tuatha

Monstorium Historia

A wolf girl enters the world
through a slice in the air
that catches eyes all around.
Is her name ordinary, Maria,
or pedestaled, Dulcinea?

The air in the village square
tells the story of the pie
she carries. Younger wolf sister
stays close, dropping mental
breadcrumbs through
the forest of eyes.

To be a wolf girl and to be
a girl are redundant. Everyone
is entitled to look at will,
on the sly or not.

At court, brocade
flowers on her gown
fit in, but she will always
be queer.

Her Italian language is
baroque with syllables,
civilized. She has written
a poem. It feels natural
to choose the attention
of others.

She will recite her poem
now.

 

First published in Danse Macabre.

 

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

#Immigration: A Well-Lit Ocean by Trish Saunders

Row along, children, nothing to see here,
it’s not an oar that floats in the seaweed
but a branch, slender as hope;
that stifled cry was a gull—

how much time have I spent reassuring you?
probably not enough;

a beached boy lying face down is not a boy,
but a large doll,
eyes closed
in sleep;

waves turn his face
from the pitiless sun,
but keep his blue shorts on,
one last kindness.
Stars wince.

Alan_Kurdi_lifeless_body

 

 

Trish Saunders divides her time between Seattle and Honolulu. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Snapping Twig, Gnarled Oak, Busted Dharma, Blast Furnace Press, Off the Coast, Poets and Poetry, and Here/There Poetry.

 

Photograph of Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving in Greece by Ggia. 

Photograph of the body of drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi by Nilufer Demir. 

Compassion Moves the World by Michael H. Brownstein

After the sculpture Compassion Moves a World,  by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany

In the days that followed
The blue ink of sea broiled over

A child, a vulture, a lack of seed.
Everything spreading outward.

Wind whined into place and rained.
Sun spread its thick arms and stayed.

One person can make a world.
A strong wind can swim in acid and wake.

Water in turmoil thickening.
Hold on with all of your might.

The earth has not broken open yet.
The legs of the strong are stronger

Than the waves of the cloak of life.
We will come to cross this path,

We will make it across this continent,
We will find the child, the vulture, the seed.

We will change the shape of water.

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Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).