Mushrooms by Patricia Nelson

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Picking mushrooms at the edge of dread—Adrienne Rich

What leads you to the soundless mushrooms,
still, cool moons in the black earth:
the low and loaf-white forest
slowly altering a vast, strange shade?

Not the work you walk through,
your task that seems to disentangle
you from nothingness.
Not the thrumming bridge of reality.

Maybe there’s a small dark flower
in your forehead, made of quiet,
ancient, simple, creased
from leaning on your dreaming.

Or maybe there are unborn unicorns
near the mushrooms, waiting
for the hoof and the wild horn
to take them to those who see them.

Or anything that slides the wilderness
of small lights, moth-pale and crooked
through the fluttering transom
or under the dark door.

How patient that light is,
holding the silent, dreamt things:
the bent and wild silver, twisted in the rock,
the soft, slant snails shining forward.

 

 

Patricia Nelson works with the “Activist” poets and has a new book out, Out of the Underworld, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Photograph by Nicole Gordine. 

Streaming by Victoria Crawford

 

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Streams sweat, viscous, vicious
like jet gems
of Victorian mourning jewelry
turned fluid
blood of war and wounds
circulate the Persian Gulf body
oil well trees blown to leak dark sap
clumps on shore, washed up
black jellyfish
the sand shivers under my feet

Back page photo in my thin newspaper
features half a manatee
his silly whiskered face
lost somewhere
could have been whirling swords
of tanker
or propellers of a rich man’s yacht
and he may have been the last
dugong on this Gulf edge
but the report claims a few hundred
still hide around Qatar

Bahraini BBC documentary
of inlets and outlets of Oman
streaming across my screen
tonight with a green turtle
swimming by a tube coral
whose feet wave farewell

Poet Victoria Crawford plunges into the waters of culture and nature from her Monterey home to points East in Asia and the Middle East. Poems of hers have appeared in Canary, Windfall, Ekphrastic Review, The Lyric, and Hawaii Pacific Review.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

Le chant du Styrène (Yellow) by James Miller

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This morning in the kitchen,
as I swallowed the last inch
of a near-soft
banana

I heard a neighbor’s cry,
wordless and brutal
as Babylon.

I asked my wife, deodorizing
in the bath, what she heard.
A cat, mewling, crushed
by a wheel?

Driving to campus,
I passed the remnants
of the old hospital.

With that bulk
wiped clean, you can see
the burnoff at the plants
across the bay—

throb of pale gas flare,
blurred and rippled
in a smear of heat.

 

 

James Miller is a native of Houston, Texas. Recent publications include Cold Mountain Review, The Maine Review, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Main Street Rag, Verdad and Juked. Upcoming publications include 2 Bridges, The Write Launch, Menacing Hedge, Thin Air, The Shore, Plainsongs and The Atlanta Review.

 

Artwork by Jenn Zed

To my plus one by DS Maolalai

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and yes, sure, drunk
at the wedding
I said some things
to you
which I regret,
like dropping a plate
of potatoes,

but of course
I have my usual excuses –
people
pushing the line
you always get at weddings.
what was I to do
but curl anxiety?

“I suppose
it’s you next,
right?”
the voice
at every wedding
I attend –
date on my arm
or otherwise.

can’t we just
watch the couple
make uncomfortable speeches
without
shitting lead
on any new romance?

bringing a girlfriend to a wedding –
like winning the most beautiful
goldfish,
flapping its fins in clear plastic
and showing it off
to blowtorches.

 

DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in The Eunoia Review, Kerouac’s Dog, Ariadne’s Thread, and elsewhere. He has  two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016), and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).

What We Could Do by Taylor Graham

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An old coyote hunts the field released
to daylight by the death of trees –
tall pines that edged the pond, victims
of bark beetle. We couldn’t save the trees,
but reconstructed the old village
in image of where tribes would meet
by woods and meadow, cedar-bark tepees
and lean-to, a circle for sitting, dancing,
drumming. Hear the beat in your pulse,
your footstep, or is that the wind?
The people lived until they passed.
There was a burning to release spirit,
a long cry. No burial a bear can plunder,
as miners plundered rock till it bled.
Once you touched a broken stone
still standing, and it fell away in your
hand. A chasm or a healing.
Grizzly is gone from the land, Raven
stays to tell the stories. An old Coyote
hunts the margins we’ve left him,
a leaf fallen between pages
of history and myth, unwritten spaces
for releasing the question,
the lament, a poem, a story in song.

 

 

Taylor Graham has been a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler for
many years, and served as El Dorado County’s inaugural poet laureate
(2016-2018). Married to a forester/wildlife biologist (Hatch, retired
now), she helped with his bird conservation projects and was a
volunteer wilderness ranger, with her search dog, for two summers on
the Mokelumne. She lives with Hatch, dog Loki and cat Latches on five
acres on the outskirts of Rescue. She’s included in the anthologies
Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold
Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University/Heyday Books). Her latest
book is Windows of Time and Place: poems of El Dorado (Cold River
Press, 2019).

 

Original photograph by Btcgeek.

Three Poems by Barbara Eknoian

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Baptism

My powerful father lay in a coma
I remembered when he said,
“I was never baptized.”
I thought then,
someday, when you’re an old man,
somehow, we’ll get you baptized.

I rushed home and called
my Bible prayer leader
asking tearfully,
“I can baptize my father,
can’t I ?”

I put some water in a small bottle,
and placed it in my purse.
At his bedside, I opened the vial,
wet my fingers, and made
The sign of the cross
on his bald head.

I said, “I baptize you
in the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.”

I was afraid he’d open his eyes
and say, “What the hell are you doing?”
Just to be certain the baptism took,
I did it a second time.

First published in Chiron Review.

Sunday

Up at five, I dress and drive to my son’s house.
He packs, while I sweep tile floors,
rake up kids’ tiny toys then vacuum rugs.

He fills boxes of odds and ends: food from the pantry,
lotions and medicine from chests,
a bicycle helmet and exercise weights from his office.

We put his dogs, Nickie and Miko into the back seat.
Raised outside, they’re not used to being corralled in a car.
My daughter holds on to them so they don’t jump up front.

My son is hiding regret that he’s losing his home.
We need to help and be here for him.
Today is Sunday, this is church.

First published in Chiron Review.

Going Home

I used to see her stooping down,
planting rows of lettuce,
resting sometimes on the stone bench
next to the goat pen.
Or, in her cellar kitchen,
the Italian radio station playing
while she busily stirred a large pot
of tomato sauce, or kneaded
huge mounds of dough to bake bread.

I never heard Grandma laugh out loud.
Her eyes were sad, soft and brown.
Her birthday, a secret, never celebrated
after she crossed the Atlantic
and her baby girl Mary died at Ellis Island.

I never knew much about Grandma.
She didn’t speak my language,
and I wondered why she looked so sad.
When she passed away,
Aunt Mary told me Grandma
once rode horses bareback in Calabria,
and had accompanied her father
to weddings where she played the mandolin.

Now, I think of her riding down a country road,
her long hair flying in the wind,
a mandolin strapped to her back,
and I hear her laughing
as she turns around and smiles back to all of us.

 

 

Barbara Eknoian is a poet and novelist. She is a long-time member of Donna Hilbert’s poetry workshop in Long Beach where she’s happy to practice her craft. Her poetry books and novels are available at Amazon. She lives in La Mirada, CA with son, daughter, three grandsons, and three dogs (which she never picked out). She’s always reminded that she has never lost her Jersey accent.

The Curious Case of the Lonely Owl by Trish Saunders

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I am thinking of the owl again. Last night, its shadow
moved across the wallpaper;
this does not mean the raptor was actually here.

Could have been another miracle, like the giant egg
that hatched beside my kitchen stove,
puny head poking out and croaking for its ma,
who didn’t answer, of course, being dead for a thousand years.

I accept these things, like I don’t argue with a scarlet sky
falling into the ocean

or a white cow of a moon bossing the tides around.

Back in the kitchen now, every cupboard door hangs open,
good excuse to pour a glass of amontillado.

My secret hope, my fear– the thing will find someone else,
or reappear as a moth, fluttering against a naked bulb.

 

 

Trish Saunders publishes poems from Seattle and Honolulu and, in her imagination, from the shores of Crater Lake, Oregon. Her poems have been in Califragile, Pacific Voices, Right Hand Pointing, Eunoia Review, among others.

 

Photograph by Twhelton.