Two Poems by Theric Jepson

Doline

The realtor failed to mention the spiritual sinkhole beneath our home before we signed here and here and there and once more on this one to trade one third of our income these next thirty years for a home surrounded by the dying and the absent. Someday we’ll no longer be the youngest couple on this street and the land shall flow with milk and honey and, more to the point, wifi, letting evil find easier passage through our lives rather than taking up residence a thousand feet from our front door, signaling the lost and the angry of our wired world that here is the hell from which thy demons came.

El Niño

And there arose false messiahs shewing
forth great signs and wonders insomuch
that they deceived even the very elect….

Matthew 24:24

March 2016

A pair of atmospheric rivers merging on the Bay
brought cries of allelujah to our parched lips.
Our Savior was a showy savior, blowing rain
across the Bay Bridge—for our Lord was in the wind
(better the wind than an earthquake!)
making the same patterns any god makes
when he pounds mud with his fist. He dashed water
into the bridge’s towers making surfable waves
rebound, blowing our Mazda5 to the edge of its lane.

Dams are spilling by morning,
but the Central Valley floor
has sunk a hundred feet since Chinatown,
and California is not a balloon.

We can’t repay to a shuttered bank
no matter the nostalgia
for our flirty teller’s perfume.

(Her name was Betty
and her hair was manzanita.)

Theric Jepson’s poetry has appeared in a number of publications, most of which have never claimed regret for their decision. His chapbook After Chadwick was released in 2015. If you wish to visit him online, alas, thmazing.com is currently crippled by corrupted code, but googling thmazing and seeing what comes up is probably more fun anyway.

Two Poems by Lynne Viti

Skin and Bones

Signs of age mount in a crescendo—
colonies of skin tags behind the knees,
rough to the touch, subdued by Vaseline,
Centime-sized liver spots, identical to my mother’s
when she reached this age, forty years ago, Watergate days.
The nasolabial folds are more pronounced, engraved.
Small puffs have risen up under the eyes.
The fingers stiffened, two swollen at the midjoint
No point in dwelling on it—better to swallow naproxyn
two at a time, smear on arnica or diclofenac,
keep spinal fluid moving with cat and cow pose,
never stop—except to sleep, dream of youth’s body,
strong hands on the piano, on bicycle gears, or
fingers meeting palm in a tight, clenched fist.

 

Near Christmas at Newbury Court

From the fourth floor, through French doors’ dusty blinds
you can see black trees etched against fading blue-gray sky,
sky punctuated by a strip of pink near the horizon.
Then night sweeps in, not like summer
when the sun takes its time, hugging the world’s edge,
leaking its last light onto the bay.
On the sofa the old woman snores, jolts awake
says it must be time for supper. I help her to her walker,
I’m her balance because hers is gone.
I shuffle with her to the elevator,
shuffle with her down the windowless hall.
The smell of bland food hangs in the air.

 

 

Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. Her second chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in I Come From the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

Drip Drip Drip by William Doreski

This morning the plumbing sighs
that impatient sigh that suggests
how the world’s water supply
has tired of servicing humans.
The hot water faucet dripping
in the bathtub angers you
with a waste of the resources
on which our retirement relies.

I’m too gnarled to turn a wrench
the way a wrench wants to turn.
Too rusty to handle small parts
like plastic washers and O-rings.
Too intemperate to sweat-solder
the copper piping we reclaimed
from the landfill. Blue jays creak
in the yard. Their harsh noises
sound far more fatal than plumbing,
but they aren’t serious enough
to follow up on their threats.

You’re tired of smutting curses
over every naked surface
and taking the shine off objects
that were new in our lifetimes.
You dislike the washer, dryer,
refrigerator, toaster, and range
but have tired of saying so.
Only the microwave oven
escapes your sultry expression.

But you hone your most poignant
silence to scrape the plumbing clean
of the foulest words. Maybe thus
unburdened, the faucet will heal
and we’ll save the plumber’s fee.
Then the water of the world,
pumped from our modest well,
will restrain itself from unholy
baptisms of the psychic void.

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Click on this poet’s name in the rectangle at the bottom of this post to see more of his Califragle work!

Three Poems by Lana Bella

Entropy

Snow falls from
the pale green eyes
of the pines,
but what can it see
through the frenzy
of loose innards
and blunt clippings
of entropy?

only in silence
do we give audience
to the roughhouse
that shifts our breaths
and bones into wake,
like a sequined light
who becomes alert
only to the dim terrain
through the weaving
of leopard geckos and
snow fireflies.

 

(Previously published in The Galway Review.)

 

 

Calico Water

Paradise lies at the skirt of calico. Like wisps of cloud
spanning across a flat sky. Drifting into small brooks
and riverbeds, riding miles on the halos of plume, wear-
ing the skin of summer crops. I watch teardrops from
the heavens break over blue masonry walls. Almost at
once a fluid motif free fall to its reservoir, in sequence
of colored glass and tropical rinsed green. Shapes turn
into a template of lakes, flowing away and back from a
whisper of the dying wind. And colors upon loose petals
press a coat of rose dye as pink fish eggs, with tips rise
and dip at the tears of water. Swarms of dots, perching
there where the ankle of lights flirt in the dream-let
pilgrimage. Life moves languidly, pale grey about the
brick rocks and moss sprouting weeds. A fluid map of
childhood games drawing the score of new breaths. This
dream of water, under the bevel of glass, tinsel acrobats
cut with jewels, curl their limbs on the bottom stones.
Brain to matter, matter to earth, earth to water, all glow
from colors of rhizomes spilling and spinning through
millions of silver lights. Waiting to die and be born.

 

(Previously published in Elsewhere.)

 

 

Obsidian

since night itself has become a kind
of blindness,
you drink as fast and as much as you can
in order to keep
from leaping off the highway platform—
lurching back,
your consciousness wrestled you forward,
and this seesawing was more unsettled than the one before,
and the one before that—
but then you would forget as you always did,
because the effort of dissolving while cleaving to
the edge of the bar stool with another drink felt
lacking and sad,
so you washed your blood down in spirits ever-presence,
again and again
like a lunatic,
wet, damned and grinning—
nothing for better, nothing for worse,
yet somehow,
you still cannot empty enough this remains of human shame
that grew heavy and crude like obsidian

 

(Previously published with Poetry Salzburg Review.)

 

 

A three-time Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured with over 400 journals, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, Expound, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Rogue Agent, Word/For Word, among others, and work to appear in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps.

Two Poems by Paul Belz

Point Reyes Remains

Imagine limousines slicing through Pacific winds.
What if putting greens sprawled on coastal scrub?

This never occurred. No cul de sacs now.
Thirty pelicans rise, dip, bounce over waves,
turn and wheel above sandstone cliffs.
No Mercedes-Benz, just brown and gray quail
shaking tassels, herding young into coyote bush,
away from fox. Praise us a little, why don’t you?

Some dreamt of asphalt here. Split levels,
Chandeliers, saunas, dry bars,
picture windows facing the sea. They lost.

No wine bars or chateaubriand
with weekend jazz. Just osprey
flashing white from their wings, sticks in beaks
for nests in Douglas firs. Sometimes we got foresight!

No hair salons, just great egrets, tall white birds
strolling through marshes, beaks poised for frogs.
No cars – just sparrows singing in pines.
No cigar shops, only wildflowers and elk.
Houses don’t thrive here. Whales rise,
spray the sea, flash tails and flukes to the fog,
dive deeper than light can reach for a feast.
Sing our praises just this once.

The Lizard Catcher

Ten years old, she named the lizard Jim,
held him gently by his neck,
that blue belly she caught without my permission.
He twisted his head, nipped her with tiny teeth.
“Stop, Jim!” she giggled, and shared him with the class.
“Let him go!” I told the uncontrolled girl
of deep voice, shoulder length hair,
demim shorts, paintless nails. She grinned.
All the kids longed to touch his scales,
this bit of bumpy wildness in their friend’s hand.
“Set him free!” Contented by his rough touch,
she placed him on an oak’s root. Her friends sighed.
Reptile scampered over crunching leaves, dusty soil,
to darkness and safety in a log’s crack.
“Bye, Jim,” she whispered. “I’ll join you there.”

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All, and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living in the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Three Poems by Thomas Zimmerman

Deep Montana

We’ve stepped into a pool of silence. Deep
Montana. Haze from distant fires. High
up there, above the tree line: speck of white.
A mountain goat? A patch of snow? Won’t know
unless it moves. We’ve eaten huckleberries,
thimbleberries, heard we could survive
on old man’s beard in dire times. We’ve seen
a black bear flipping stones along the shore
of Waterton. Bald eagle. Osprey. Bighorn
rams have butted heads before our eyes
at Logan Pass, the sound a muted gunshot.
Later, ewes and kids, fifteen or twenty,
trotted past us at Two Medicine.
As if we needed proof that we were healed.

Sprout

Don’t miss your life while it gets lived. Sounds trite,
but my insight is clear as beer these days.
Career’s become at times like digging ditches.
Lots of grind, as if a sorcerer
had turned my witch into a hoop and left
me chopping wood, my dreams reduced to ravishing
his daughter. Yes, that play’s too tired. Instead,
let’s try black coffee and a sturdy symphony,
say Beethoven’s Pastoral. And crack
the window. Breeze is cool, the spruces taller
than the house and whispering of things
we don’t have language for. The cones like turds
or sausages upon the mulch. A matter
of perspective. Let’s say to even bad seeds: “Sprout!”

Naïve and Sentimental Sonnet #4

Our half-remodeled house looks like a Roman
ruin. Shostakovich Seven’s on
the stereo. Porch columns lopped off at
the waist. The bones exposed. A wartime symphony.

But then comes reconstruction. Memory’s
like this. I’m drinking huckleberry-flavored
coffee, razing sensory perceptions
quickly—quickly building pasts that I,

that we, can cope with. Spruce trees in the backyard
keep their green all year. Last week, a former
student, now a colleague, told me that

I hadn’t changed: “This life is genre exercise,
and death is just a failure of
imagination.” Wish I’d said this. Wait, I did.

 

 
Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared recently in Blood & Bourbon, Brickplight, and Visceral Uterus. Tom’s website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/

The Next State by Trish Hopkinson

“To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.” –Pope John Paul II on his visit to Hiroshima, Feb. 25, 1981

Every moment becomes
the past in an instant.
Our hands ache with despair,

the inability for reparation.
The unimaginable loss of thousands
imprinted into a copper etching.

The wax melted onto the surface
of subsistence. Curls of copper
burr into engraved cities

and the crosshatching of civilizations.
The ink of history seethes
into grooves, awaiting impression.

This is the first state.

Every moment becomes
the past in an instant.
One divergent force, an impression

so high-pressure, the plate
can no longer produce
a distinct replica—

the hollows disfigured, the edges
distressed. It takes years of work
to repeat the process, to resurface.

This is the second state.

We are stationed here in copper,
in dark ruts and muddy ink.
We are the products pressed

onto paper, products of all
that came before us, products
of passion and of pain,

products of art and wisdom
and learning and of the other,
the not-knowing,

and the witnessing of all
this through individual experience.
The impression is lasting.

This is the next state.

–originally published in The Day After by Art Access & Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

 

 

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Chagrin River Review; and her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at https://trishhopkinson.com/.

 

Editor’s Note: Trish Hopkinson is Califragile‘s Featured Poet for September! Visit again on the next two Mondays for more of her work!

“Trish Hopkinson may describe herself as a ‘selfish poet,’ but her site is an indispensable community hub for poetry lovers, with news and event listings, writing resources, and much more (including her own poems, of course).”–WordPress Discover

For poetry and writing resources, no fee submission calls, editor interviews, and essays on craft, you can follow Trish Hopkinson’s blog via email or your favorite social media here: https://SelfishPoet.com.

 

The Last Blue Pigeon by William Doreski

The last blue pigeon has died,
leaving a hole in the sky.
Once the air darkened with bruise,
stifled by wingbeat. Now the cries

of filthy children suffocate
the distance from here to the sea.
You want to pose on the shore
with blue pigeons circling above—

their song a solo high note
that carries a friendly threat.
You want to rake the guano
from rocks above the tideline

and sell it to perfumeries
advertising in Vogue and Elle.
Blue pigeons were big business
in our childhood when the rivers

stank of acid and dyes from mills
churning out cottons and woolens
we wore to school, church and dinner
with our parents’ creepy friends.

The last specimen died of lust
naked air couldn’t fulfill.
It fell from the sky like a bomb
and exploded in depths of science

the intellect hadn’t yet plumbed.
The hole in the sky looks large enough
to stick our heads through to see
daylight stars brimming with pride.

Maybe if you stood on my shoulders
you could reach that hole and look
into both the past and future
where the latest colors evolve.

 

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Watch for more of William’s work this week!

Storm by H.D.

For our Floridian friends and family.

You crash over the trees,
you crack the live branch—
the branch is white,
the green crushed,
each leaf is rent like split wood.

You burden the trees
with black drops,
you swirl and crash—
you have broken off a weighted leaf
in the wind,
it is hurled out,
whirls up and sinks,
a green stone.

 

(H.D., 1886 – 1961)

Thin Fabric and an Empty Bowl by Dana Bloomfield

For Dan

I come to your country
in exile,
thin fabric and an empty bowl.
You come to my woods
in resignation,
bare trees and leaves into compost.
You wrap me against the leaving breezes
in long johns,
your old coat and trail hugging shoes.

Your uncle, my father,
is gone/crazy/homeless/missing/dead.
There’s no train of numbers on his forearm,
no Southern rope around his neck,
no chalk outline, no ransom call or suicide note.
But his place is just as vacant,
his absence incurable.

I hold out my bowl,
Oliver Twist.
Word soup: You look just like him.
We trade photographs
like baseball cards.
Into my bowl: The Missing Years.
When I offer my bowl to the waiting faces
my gratitude
spills out upon your feet.

 

(Previously published in Digges’ Choice and Baltimore Women’s Times.)

 

Dana Bloomfield is a retired preschool teacher. Her poems have appeared in Baltimore Review, Digges’ Choice, Baltimore Women’s Times, Green Revolution, and the anthology Grease and Tears.

 

Dan Atkins was a seminarian, social worker, polio survivor, and father of three daughters. He lived the last nineteen years of his life homeless, missing to his family. He died of a heart attack on the streets of the Mission District, L.A., at the age of fifty-three. His family learned of his passing nine years later.

Folding Chair by Wren Tuatha

I told you then I would take it out back
and kill it with a knife. But I couldn’t do it.
You stumbled upon my love today as then.

It’s a folding chair, forgotten in the woods,
rusting beside living oaks and rotting, jutting stumps,
unsuitable seats. Your mind tries to pick up its stories
from the air around. A picnicker, a hunter, absent minded
yogi. But stories are noise, excuses. Mute air transmits
this year’s bird noise, same as the moment before
and the moment after this chair was left here.

You realize the years, four legs grounded through
snow mounding and hurricanes, the inflating
and shriveling of mushrooms. Fox and mouse,
mouse and beetle, squirrel and squirrel.
Food and urges and panic. I remember loving you.
There was noise.

Mute, awake air, used to being taken in and released,
doesn’t suffer seasons or fools, doesn’t root for predator
or prey, doesn’t pray that you find your own heart
among curly, restless ferns. I still do.

 

(First published in The Cafe Review)

 

 

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in Avatar Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Poetry Circle, and Bangalore Review. She never found out how that folding chair got there.

Two Poems by Kelly Shepherd

Songs Around the Prickly Pear

Dry grasslands sing you
bleached-tree hilltops sing you
scrub flatlands sing you
yellow marmot trails sing you
acres between ponderosa pines sing you

Parched gravel creekbeds mourn
by singing you

You exchange melodies
with porcupine, and wild rose, and urchin

You are fire, you gather in crackling circles
to sing around yourself
then break up to sing alone
the traveling songs of hoof and tail,
hiking boot and trail

For a human being to learn your lyrics
they must first eat of your flesh
and the one who would taste you
must first be tasted by you –
there is a ritual that must be adhered to –
prickly pear harmonizes best with bloody fingers

You sing only sharp notes, your voice is spines,
ancient green and reptile dry
you are the spiky back of a crusty fish
that has given up on ever finding water again
its bones sing you

Of the Grotto

The self seeps red
back down the thread
to the beginning of the spiral

to the knapped point
where human realized itself
out of animal

and we scraped on stones
until they spoke
intricate lines, bounded shapes,

music of hoof and hump
and antler, but it wasn’t enough.
Precise to the tendon

we imagined animals,
and ourselves coming out
or going back in.

Even with Ariadne’s thread
the poet does not emerge
unscathed from the labyrinth.

The blood on your horns
might not be your own,
but the blood in your fur will be.

 

 

 
Kelly Shepherd has worked as a kindergarten teacher in South Korea, and a construction worker in northern Alberta, Canada. His first full-length poetry collection, Shift, was published by Thistledown Press in 2016 and longlisted for the Edmonton Public Library’s People’s Choice Award in 2017. Insomnia Bird, a second full-length collection, is forthcoming from Thistledown Press in 2018. He has written six poetry chapbooks, most recently A Hidden Bench (the Alfred Gustav Press, Vancouver, 2017). Kelly has a Creative Writing MFA from UBC Okanagan, and an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Alberta, with a thesis on sacred geography. Originally from Smithers, British Columbia, Kelly lives and teaches in Edmonton, Alberta. He is also the poetry editor for the environmental philosophy journal The Trumpeter.

Rogue Elephant by A.R. Ammons

The reason to be autonomous is to stand there,
a cleared instrument, ready to act, to search

the moral realm and actual conditions for what
needs to be done and to do it: fine, the

best, if it works out, but if, like a gun, it
comes in handy to the wrong choice, why then

you see the danger in the effective: better
then an autonomy that stands and looks about,

negotiating nothing, the supreme indifferences:
is anything to be gained where as much is lost:

and if for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction has the loss been researched

equally with the gain: you can see how the
milling actions of millions could come to a

buzzard-like glide as from a coincidental,
warm bottom of water stuck between chilled

peaks: it is not so easy to say, OK, go on
out and act: who, doing what, to what or

whom: just a minute: should the bunker be
bombed (if it stores gas): should all the

rattlers die just because they rattle: if I
hear the young gentleman vomiter roaring down

the hall in the men’s room, should I go and
inquire of him, reducing him to my care: no

wonder the great sayers (who say nothing) sit
about in inaccessible states of mind: no

wonder still wisdom and catatonia appear to
exchange places occasionally: but if anything

were easy, our easy choices soon would carry
away our ignorance with the world-better

let the mixed-up mix and let the surface shine
with all the possibilities, each in itself.

 

(A.R. Ammons, 1926-2001)

Why We Need John Lennon by Paul Belz

Years earlier, I hated the Beatles.
All girls I longed to kiss screamed,
The Lads smoked (I was a good boy),
they played loud, and that hair!
Daring me, you dragged me to “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Defiant goofiness hooked me for life. Years later,

we listened to John again and again –
“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small…”
our mantra. We shared Ruffles
with sour cream onion dip and Cokes.
“Yeah, after the Air Force, I’ll be done with the Draft,”
you matter- of- factly said, your eyes softly screaming.
Safe with a student deferment, I found no words,
life- long friend.

We’d chased Nazis and Commies
out of town with cap guns and toy tanks,
guzzled buttered popcorn and watched King Kong
smash Godzilla again and again.
After all the summer nights we spent on a porch
wrapped in soft sleeping bags, lullabied
by crickets and woken by work bound high heels,
after all the marshmallows we burnt to a gourmet ash,
and the nights we blammed rock’n’roll
on amplified ukes and bongo drums
driving my poor mother mad, after the make out parties
you described to shy me, I hid in pacifist dreams and had no words.
“…they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool…”
Reach him, John, I wished, opening more Cokes.

One New Years, I bought your Air Force weed.
We sat, stoned, motionless, and scared in a slow car
full of old pals while some cop followed us
three miles and shrugged us off. “…’til you’re so fuckin’ crazy
you can’t follow their rules.” That was our last time.

You wrote my mother from Vietnam
and survived. I had no words when the Air Force
released you to that canoe trip
where white water threw you helmetless
to boulders. I was helpless again,
but our brother John caught you,
helped you dance and howl.

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living In the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

Editor’s Note: Watch Califragile in the next week for some of Paul Belz’ nature poetry.

The Usual Conspiracy Theory by William Doreski

Diesel rigs snoring uphill
four miles off sound near enough
to run us over. Crickets sawing
leg to leg play alto chorus

to the trucks’ basso profundo.
Summer always ends like this—
slabs of music simmering.
You’re reading another book

on Robert Kennedy, while tenth
or twelfth time I’m attempting
to finish The Maximus Poems.
Something teary in the distance,

maybe a scrap of tropical storm.
Something opens into a dark
we know we’ll never satisfy.
You touch the lowest level of sky

to determine if the paint has dried.
Afraid of all that depth I place
one hand on the worm-warm soil
of my favorite garden plot.

We look awkward enough to laugh,
but the crickets douse our humor
and the roar of the trucks seems
closer, personal enough

to absorb our favorite sins.
I’d better return to reading
about the history of Cape Ann,
the agony of facing the sea

every day, the depth compelling,
almost as cruel as the bullet
Bobby Kennedy’s assassin
lodged in our collective brain.

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Editor’s Note: Watch for more of William’s work this week!

Two Poems by Kenneth Pobo

King Spacker

Half drunk, he talks
to his friend DABO,
Dave August Braller,

that he’d like to be king.
Henry VIII could get rid of
wives when they outlived

their usefulness. As king
in Micah, he’d ban everyone,
walk into stores, no clerks—

take whatever he wants
for free. Soon he’d rule
the state, America,

the world until death performs
that single revolutionary act
and dethrones him.

Bonfire

Ida’s mom sewed coats
of rules. After she died,
Ida bequeathed them
to her daughter Amy
who piled them in her front yard,
poured gasoline, lit a match.

Amy remembers her grandmom
as a book of a thousand pages,
mildewing on a shelf,
untouched.

 

Kenneth Pobo has a new book of poems out from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. His work has appeared in: The Queer South anthology, Caesura, Colorado Review, Mudfish, and elsewhere.

Three Poems by Muriel Stuart

Lady Hamilton

Men wondered why I loved you, and none guessed
How sweet your slow, divine stupidity,
Your look of earth, your sense of drowsy rest,
So rich, so strange, so all unlike my sea.
After the temper of my sails, my lean
Tall masts, you were the lure of harbour hours, –
A sleepy landscape warm and very green,
Where browsing creatures stare above still flowers.
These salt hands holding sweetness, the leader led,
A slave, too happy and too crazed to rule,
Sea land-locked, brine and honey in one bed,
And England’s man your servant and your fool!
My banqueting eyes foreswore my waiting ships;
I was a silly landsman at your lips.

 

In The Orchard

“I thought you loved me.” “No, it was only fun.”
“When we stood there, closer than all?” “Well, the harvest moon
“Was shining and queer in your hair, and it turned my head.”
“That made you?” “Yes.” “Just the moon and the light it made
“Under the tree?” “Well, your mouth, too.” “Yes, my mouth?”
“And the quiet there that sang like the drum in the booth.
“You shouldn’t have danced like that.” “Like what?” “So close,
“With your head turned up, and the flower in your hair, a rose
“That smelt all warm.” “I loved you. I thought you knew
“I wouldn’t have danced like that with any but you.”
“I didn’t know. I thought you knew it was fun.”
“I thought it was love you meant.” “Well, it’s done.” “Yes, it’s done.
“I’ve seen boys stone a blackbird, and watched them drown
“A kitten … it clawed at the reeds, and they pushed it down
“Into the pool while it screamed. Is that fun, too?”
“Well, boys are like that … Your brothers…” “Yes, I know.
“But you, so lovely and strong! Not you! Not you!”
“They don’t understand it’s cruel. It’s only a game.”
“And are girls fun, too?” “No, still in a way it’s the same.
“It’s queer and lovely to have a girl…” “Go on.”
“It makes you mad for a bit to feel she’s your own,
“And you laugh and kiss her, and maybe you give her a ring,
“But it’s only in fun.” “But I gave you everything.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have done it. You know what a fellow thinks
“When a girl does that.” “Yes, he talks of her over his drinks
“And calls her a – ” “Stop that now. I thought you knew.”
“But it wasn’t with anyone else. It was only you.”
“How did I know? I thought you wanted it too.
“I thought you were like the rest. Well, what’s to be done?”
“To be done?” “Is it all right?” “Yes.” “Sure?” “Yes, but why?”
“I don’t know. I thought you were going to cry.
“You said you had something to tell me.” “Yes, I know.
“It wasn’t anything really … I think I’ll go.”
“Yes, it’s late. There’s thunder about, a drop of rain
“Fell on my hand in the dark. I’ll see you again
“At the dance next week. You’re sure that everything’s right?”
“Yes.” “Well, I’ll be going.” “Kiss me…” “Good night.” … “Good night.”

 

The Seed Shop

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry –
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June’s magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee seek here roses that were his.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams,
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

(Muriel Stuart, 1885-1967)

I Dive by Sergio A. Ortiz

I dive

into those tiny pitfalls that set us up for life,
traps as small as the cages to hunt sparrows.
Some days, on specific days, Mondays and Fridays,
when opening my balcony, I look and see
with all my senses, hear with all my senses,
smell with all the senses. I am a stubborn fiddle
in evidence, a delusional excuse
and life flips on me like a card game.
It makes me fall in love with new lips,
hurries and makes me as essential
as driving credentials, a: here is my hand,
my millions of hands.
My skin quivers with infinite pity.
Humankind kills, dies, lies, steals, gives up
with its back to Beethoven’s Ninth
in the voracious desire for permanence.
Confuses freedom with movement.
Sleeps armed against other men
and against the little man inhabiting
the clearest corners of my chest
despite that music, despite the sun
that rises. Despite the fierce, clean, morning Ode
to Joy denying the spoils of yesterday’s dinner.
Life today presents itself in a costume
and I know it’s a trap. But I give in,
get drunk, and accept any kind of a truce.
I’m a spiral, a seesaw, a chorus, because when
I open the balcony door, when I look, see,
listen, and smell with all my senses, and know
life has taken a deck of cards from its sleeve.
And all I can do is beg in my favor.

 

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.

The Hatchery by M. Stone

Trout crowd together in narrow containers
with wire mesh covers, their scales glinting like motor oil
on the surface of a mud puddle.

For a quarter you can buy pellet food
and watch suckling mouths emerge from the water.

When the fish are sufficiently fattened,
the state releases them into lakes and rivers
where they will endure the hook’s bite,

the haul into stunning daylight. Some will be tossed back,
only to fall for the ruse again and again, recalling
the human shadow, the benevolent hand.

 

 

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.

Jeremy’s First by John Grey

It’s his first time with a hooker.
Luckily, she makes the arrangement easy for him,
fills in his stutter’s gaps.

And there is none of this
quickie-behind-the-Mexican-café business.
She takes him back to her apartment.
He gets to see where his money’s going.

It’s a cozy place.
Not seedy at all.
Somewhere a real person might live.
On a dresser is a photograph
of what must be her family.
As she undresses,
he tries to figure out
which of the three little girls
grew up to be the woman in the room with him.

“If that bothers you,” I can turn it around,
she says.
For a moment, it is her life
he so wants to see turned around.

But then he begins to unbutton his shirt.
After all, he is paying for this.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in The Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.  

Letter #51 by Sergio A. Ortiz

Today there’s a self-drawn sketch
of rice on my forehead, a tiny sorrow.
This mourning is the unhappy reward
of what we never talk about.

Today I tire of birds,
I cut off my wings. A tiger
devours my legs,
an old disgruntled tiger.

He drinks my blood,
disappears like smoke
resembling the roar
of an insomniac ocean.

Today I walk into the surf
with my pockets full of rocks.

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.

Dolphin by Robert Lowell

My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
a captive as Racine, the man of craft,
drawn through his maze of iron composition
by the incomparable wandering voice of Phèdre.
When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body
caught in its hangman’s-knot of sinking lines,
the glassy bowing and scraping of my will….
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself
to ask compassion… this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting
my eyes have seen what my hand did.

 

(Robert Lowell, 1917-1977)

Slaughtered Stalks by Dana Bloomfield

Corn ghosts linger
over slaughtered stalks
in Elmer’s field, where

thirteen deer, songless, bound
out of the neutral zone
of the land trust.

In foliage-free turns
of the wheel, no antlers
betray prize kill

as it jetés on a bullet line
toward muted woods
and crouching fluorescent terrorists.

You know to deflect
from my car. If I were
my neighbor, you’d go home

a dozen.

Dana Bloomfield is a retired preschool teacher. Her poems have appeared in Baltimore Review, Digges’ Choice, Baltimore Women’s Times, Green Revolution, and the anthology Grease and Tears.

3 Haiku by Timothy Pond

Focus

World watches Harvey.
Trump arrives, claims camera:
“What a great turnout!”

Charlottesville

In Greenland time burns,
peat smoke seen by satellite.
In Charlottesville, tikis.

The Silo

The silo holds firm
what is placed inside curved walls,
food or destruction.

 
Timothy Pond loves the Staten Island Ferry because it’s orange and a free way to escape Manhattan. She is named after the grass.

Restless by Sergio A. Ortiz

Youth carries with it the demanding, relentless need to relate everything to love. Martin, I sat on the doorsteps of your house. I saw flowers with leaves like swords. They looked like soldiers. You were a soldier. You marched into my life. I came to say, I love you but you were not here, so I wrote it down on a notepad. Martin, I stopped writing to let my arms hang uselessly over my body.

I always sat down and waited, even as a child I bided my time. All women wait for a future life, their images forged in solitude. We see bridesmaids walking towards us, a promise, a man, a pomegranate that opens and displays its red, shiny grains, a pomegranate like a thousand mouths. Oh, my love, we are all so full of inner portraits, so full of unappreciated landscapes.

 

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.

April in Myth by Wren Tuatha

April is old like water, prehistoric, recycled. Womb
and bladder. To my Third World parched skin,
she’s America, running the tap.And now, in a foreign
hot tub, she mothers me, as if she has it to spare.
Water and muscles, air and my salty grief.

April has bloomed before, on schedule, sometimes
an early surprise. She has chased and she’s been cupped
to the lips, been drunk in, and done someone’s share
of drinking. Me, too, always in August.

On April’s flesh, tears and kisses evaporate,
leaving shine. On mine, brine, crusty, leaving in cakes
like the ice shelf. I watch it go, with foreboding
that natural disasters will result.

But water and her children won’t be possessed.
In time, she does the possessing, pooling foolish souls
like shrimp, pulling us through hurricanes and extinction
and silence from space.

Mammoths, raccoons, wrens and Americans.

Like water, April is old, knows how to crest and trough,
be a beating organ of the beast, a good germ on the living
planet. Some herons are like pterodactyls pulled by hunger
too far from shore. There are fools and there are fish.
Drink, says April. Extinction breeds myth.
And oh, what a magnetic myth we make.

(Previously published in Antiphon Poetry Magazine.)

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Poetry Circle, and Bangalore Review. She still has no hot tub of her own.

The Fish by Marianne Moore

wade
through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like

an
injured fan.
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the

sun,
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices—
in and out, illuminating

the
turquoise sea
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron through the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,

pink
rice-grains, ink-
bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.

All
external
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice—
all the physical features of

ac-
cident—lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is

dead.
Repeated
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.

 

(Marianne Moore, 1887-1972)

Sea Iris by H.D.

I

Weed, moss-weed,
root tangled in sand,
sea-iris, brittle flower,
one petal like a shell
is broken,
and you print a shadow
like a thin twig.
Fortunate one,
scented and stinging,
rigid myrrh-bud,
camphor-flower,
sweet and salt—you are wind
in our nostrils.

II

Do the murex-fishers
drench you as they pass?
Do your roots drag up colour
from the sand?
Have they slipped gold under you—
rivets of gold?
Band of iris-flowers
above the waves,
you are painted blue,
painted like a fresh prow
stained among the salt weeds.

(H.D., 1886-1961)

On My Way to Disbelief by Sergio A. Ortiz

There are times when everyone
remembers the living as if they were dead,

the way time disappears
from noisy places.

I want my life to fade from the globe,
be inspired by the silent rotations

where all things are hushed
and not even God survives.

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra Of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal. 

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.

The Flood by Robert Frost

Blood has been harder to dam back than water.
Just when we think we have it impounded safe
Behind new barrier walls (and let it chafe!),
It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.
We choose to say it is let loose by the devil;
But power of blood itself releases blood.
It goes by might of being such a flood
Held high at so unnatural a level.
It will have outlet, brave and not so brave.
weapons of war and implements of peace
Are but the points at which it finds release.
And now it is once more the tidal wave
That when it has swept by leaves summits stained.

Oh, blood will out. It cannot be contained.

(Robert Frost, 1874-1963)

Tupelo Coyote by Wren Tuatha

We were tracing Jack’s Creek
where the woods abducts it from the rolling
hills of dairy cows and tobacco.
I on the asphalt, you behind the tupelos.
You stalked me like a fan
afraid to ask for my autograph.
Those alien eyes,
calculating,
measuring my marrow
bend after turn, always
thirty paces aside.

Now you trot out in the farmlands,
legs like tobacco sticks, mapping the median line.
I am roadside, reading.
You are storybook real.
I speak to you, familiar,
as if you are the family dog.
Your answer is a glare-beam
that rips me, rights me.

You put me in the landscape,
that’s all.

(First published in Canary, A Journal of the Environmental Crisis. Upcoming in The Paddock Review, the new journal of Finishing Line Press.)

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Cafe Review, Poetry Circle, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Bees Are Dead, and Bangalore Review. She accepts that coyotes want nothing to do with her.

Three Poems by Yehuda Amichai

Half the People in the World

Half the people in the world love the other half,
half the people hate the other half.
Must I because of this half and that half go wandering
and changing ceaselessly like rain in its cycle,
must I sleep among rocks, and grow rugged like
the trunks of olive trees,
and hear the moon barking at me,
and camouflage my love with worries,
and sprout like frightened grass between the railroad tracks,
and live underground like a mole,
and remain with roots and not with branches, and not
feel my cheek against the cheek of angels, and
love in the first cave, and marry my wife
beneath a canopy of beams that support the earth,
and act out my death, always till the last breath and
the last words    and without ever understandig,
and put flagpoles on top of my house and a bob shelter
underneath.    And go out on rads made only for
returning and go through all the apalling
stationscat,stick,fire,water,butcher,
between the kid and the angel of death?
Half the people love,
half the people hate.
And where is my place between such well-matched halves,
and through what crack will I see the white housing
projects of my dreams and the bare foot runners
on the sands or, at least, the waving of a girl’s
kerchief, beside the mound?

(Translator unknown)

 

Wildpeace

Not the peace of a cease-fire
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill, that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
A peace
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds – who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)

Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.

(Translated by Chana Bloch)

 

My Child Wafts Peace

My child wafts peace.
When I lean over him,
It is not just the smell of soap.

All the people were children wafting peace.
(And in the whole land, not even one
Millstone remained that still turned).

Oh, the land torn like clothes
That can’t be mended.
Hard, lonely fathers even in the cave of the Makhpela
Childless silence.

My child wafts peace.
His mother’s womb promised him
What God cannot
Promise us.

(Translated by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav)

( Yehuda Amichai, 1924-2000)

For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

Relinquunt Ommia Servare Rem Publicam.

(They gave up all to serve the Republic.)

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.
Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the crowded, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sign still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
a girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens’ shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage’s earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half of the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city’s throat.
Its Colonel is a lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound’s gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man’s lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic

The stone statutes of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year-
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns…

Shaw’s father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son’s body was thrown
and lost with his “niggers.”

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statutes for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the “Rock of Ages”
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
when I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessed break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

The ancient owls’ nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft! a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!

(Robert Lowell, 1917-1977)
 

Willow by Anna Akhmatova

And I grew up in patterned tranquility,
In the cool nursery of the young century.
And the voice of man was not dear to me,
But the voice of the wind I could understand.
But best of all the silver willow.
And obligingly, it lived
With me all my life; it’s weeping branches
Fanned my insomnia with dreams.
And strange!–I outlived it.
There the stump stands; with strange voices
Other willows are conversing
Under our, under those skies.
And I am silent…As if a brother had died.

(Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966)