Bell Tower on a Grassy Knoll by Joe Cottonwood

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Frankly, an ugly structure of steel
like a square-legged spider
with the purest of heart,
a tower of one hundred forty bells.
Ocean air rises, falls, breaks like waves
ringing chimes above Bodega Bay.

Nicholas Green from this small town
at age seven was killed in far-off Italy
by highway robbers. His parents
donated his organs, new life for seven souls.
From Italy in gratitude, in sorrow
these bells etched with seven names.

Bells peal of hope.
In search of a more merciful world
we come, sit, listen.

Children come, do not sit, do not listen.
Children make offerings, a kite, a plastic airplane.
To the branches of a nearby pine
children tie handmade mobiles
marked with the names of dead siblings,
dead friends, shot schoolmates.
Here’s a string of origami hummingbirds,
and here on this branch among fog-damp needles
toy matchbox cars on fishline
dancing in the breeze. Dancing.

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Nicholas Green (September 9, 1987 – October 1, 1994).

 

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor. Nights, he writes. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.

 

Photographs by Angus Parker and Lynn Donner. 

Sleep Harbored by Wren Tuatha

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(after The Accidental Tourist)

You think there’s a traffic rule, if you see a sign
for an airport you have to pull in and get on a plane.
It isn’t on my way and I don’t have the fare.

I sit in my driveway and read your articles from Lima,
Belfast, Shanghai. Weather and lights. Unexpected place
settings and traffic patterns.

I picture your skill at packing a suitcase, adjusting
to time differences with pills and naps, cafe
conversations.

If you are to birth a new beginning you must be judicious
as to the articles you pack, only versatile, lightweight things.
Belongings you won’t miss if lost.

But even lost things chance upon new lives with random
finders. The umbrella, the apple core. A quarter. The picture
of her you pack.

A plane flies over my garden near the airport
as I bury what you discarded in the cover crop and leaf litter,
compost.

If you travel here, will you push away vines and mushrooms
to recognize what grows where you left me standing?
Will you profile it as a point of interest?

Sleep harbored.
Random finders can claim you, too.

 

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.

 

Painting, What We Leave Behind, by Jenn Zed

Little Brown Brother By Nick Carbó

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I’ve always wanted to play the part
of that puckish pubescent Filipino boy

in those John Wayne Pacific-War movies.
Pepe, Jose, or Juanito would be smiling,

bare-chested and eager to please
for most of the steamy jungle scenes.

I’d be the one who would cross
the Japanese lines and ask for tanks,

air support, or more men. I’d miraculously
make it back to the town where John Wayne

is holding his position against the enemy
with his Thompson machine-gun. As a reward,

he’d rub that big white hand on my head
and he’d promise to let me clean

his Tommy gun by the end of the night. But
then, a Betty Grable look-a-like love

interest would divert him by sobbing
into his shoulder, saying how awfully scared

she is about what the “Japs” would do
to her if she were captured. In one swift

motion, John Wayne would sweep her off
her feet to calm her fears inside his private quarters.

Because of my Hollywood ability
to be anywhere, I’d be under the bed

watching the woman roll down her stockings
as my American hero unbuckles his belt

I’d feel the bottom of the bed bounce off my chest
as small-arms fire explodes outside the walls.

 

First published in El Grupo McDonald’s (Tia Chucha, 1995). Reprinted by permission on Nick Carbó.

 

 

Nick Carbó has edited two anthologies of Filipino literature, Returning a Borrowed Tongue: An Anthology of Filipino and Filipino American Poetry (1995) and Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers (2000), and coedited the anthology Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon (2002) with Denise Duhamel. His honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Le Château de Lavigny. His collections of poetry include El Grupo McDonald’s (1995); Secret Asian Man (2000), which won an Asian American Literary Award; and Andalusian Dawn (2004). Carbó’s work can be humorous, even satirical, in his examinations of American pop culture and its influence on Asian countries such as the Philippines. He told National Public Radio, “By writing about these influences, it’s my way of kicking back.”

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.