Category Archives: Poetry

Off the Track

IMG_1416.JPG

Off the Track

 Mark Trechock

 

At Creel we paid the two pesos

to see the woman living in a cave

the way her ancestors did,

soot on the walls, darkness and wood smoke,

newborn in arms and the older boy

running and running in circles.

 

We caught the train west,

saw the chasm at Barranca del Cobre

through the charcoal smoke of taco vendors,

bought a basket made from branches,

as supple and fierce as human thighs.

 

Back on the rails, we stretched

our heads from the platform between cars,

the wind remaking our faces

into shapes we could only imagine.

We thought of the Tarahumara,

somehow immune to the heat

running barefoot through the desert,

scaling the hot clay inclines,

keeping up with the deer.

 

Approaching the trestle we slowed

as if coming upon an accident,

but below, among the pines,

near the bottom of a vertical world,

the coach cars had lain for years,

positioned like disjointed limbs,

undergrowth pushing through their frames.

The Sister Between

The Sister Between

Laurinda Lind
She is like a strong
breeze layered in
sheets over old shale
& even when free to
flow she’s still brittle
& though young she’s

strung between her
head in the sky & her
feet on a line drawn
in the middle of a
road laid over a land
not yet geologically

dead to make it real
she needs to feel she’s
more solid than air yet
lighter than secrets
she’s stashed deeper
down in the strata.

Mammogram

MAMMOGRAM

Ruth Z. Deming

To please Dr Cynthia
I said I’d get a
mammogram, controversial
though it is.

The Mary Sachs Breast
Center right around the
corner fit me in
like a lost library book
assuming its rightful
place on the shelf.

Judy was my dark-haired
host. The all plastic
machine was a marvel
with Plexiglass shelves
that lovingly bore
down on each breast.

They seem to get bigger
with time, I said, making
polite conversation, to her
no reply

I helped her lay each
pliable fish-like
appendage on the
shelf, arm clasping
balance beam
and chin held high
like a Tolstoy princess

Then held my breath
one two three
one two three
until Judy, who
smelled like
Febreze, told me
to relax, like a
stiff soldier, and
finally bade me go
home.

Come round to my
house on the upward
slope of Cowbell Road.
No one feels my breasts
anymore. Let’s get
acquainted. What kind
of foods shall I
pleasure you with.
Perhaps later on
you’ll make me feel
like a college kid
on my first date.

So I’ve Heard

IMG_1832.JPG

So I’ve Heard

Barbara Ruth

It was fated that we meet
that we stop and speak in passing
that I reveal to you the softness
of my velvet wounds of sorrow
my mirror eyes.

And I came to dwell with you
and you showered me with jewels
you fed me what I did not know I hungered for
As you learned to dodge my mirrors, as you disciplined
your hooded eyes.

In return I showed my sign
then extracted vital essences from arteries unopened
taunted, haunted
finally caught you
in elaborate deception.

This is the way they say you’re telling it.

SISTER

IMG_0005 2
SISTER

Anne Lévesque

Perhaps she should have been
an actor – shyness not
uncommon in that profession,
so expressive is her beauty:
Wistfulness
Disappointment
That sober furrow between her brows
And then
A coy wink,
Fireworks of joy.

But never self-pity
Not even when she told me
“I guess we were too happy” he said
Words still solace then
He could summon none
That day I called
After the treatments had begun
She upstairs in the dollhouse cabin
The girl and boy playing some quiet game
At the table
Beside their empty soup bowls

And never on those Friday nights
Her face bleached tight
The week of chemo in Halifax,
The four hours in the car,
And still ahead, that long hill home

Only once did I see her cry
Her hair was as thick gold again
As long, as straight
As the perfect rows of her garden
Shiny as the pale scar
Below her neck

Our house was cold that day the floors muddy
The furniture in the truck
We were leaving her and she was late
Almost too late
To say goodbye

artwork by Adrienne Carrier

new tourist

new tourist

milt montague

 

manhattan
new york city
a hot summer day

people galore
crowding the streets
museums shops restaurants

all the sidewalks
bulging with tourists
cameras always at ready
logging their future memories

on this day
I play the visitor
in a very cool coach
gliding down fifth avenue
gawking at the store windows

disdaining
muggy sidewalks
bursting with sightseers
jostling for breathing spaces
expropriating my stomping grounds
my gilded carriage an air conditioned city bus

ALEXANDRA IN ISTANBUL

ALEXANDRA IN ISTANBUL

Carl Boon

New to the city,
she spends afternoons
rehearsing the shapes of clouds.

One day, they’ll reappear
in a notebook
with names of friends

she’ll have forgotten.
She swears the city
won’t swallow her, leave her

paralyzed, strangers
unconcerned if she’s the will
to get up, go home. I was

Alexandra, and walked
through Taksim Square
in the rain in November.

They sold me poison sandwiches,
seats for movies
that never played.

I am waiting to go home.
But the tangerines this fall
on Ergenekon Street

have just begun to sweeten,
and the bonito for sale
on the Bostanci sea-road

glisten in the morning.
Alexandra will put these away
for later, images of a lost world

when the calm of Gdansk
grinds her and the Long Market
on the Baltic becomes shadow.

-photo from creative commons zero

Whale Gate

Whale Gate

Casey FitzSimons

Cowell Ranch State Beach,
south of Half Moon Bay, California

Once an entrance to Aldo Giusti’s
many-acred field of brussel sprouts. Now
the twelve-foot metal gate’s chained shut, holds
back the headland fennel, canes
clawing damp air, rising lumpy with snails
climbing in slow, mute panic.

It couldn’t open anyway, without the chain:
bumpy ox-tongue thistle
and frilly poison hemlock clog
the gate’s swing-arc. On its face, wrought
in iron, a huge blue whale painted white, not blue
—rusted iron spoiling through,
flaking. From his blowhole he spews
an iron fountain, dribbling rust, raises
his curly fluke high into stylized waves
that surge along the upper rail, his tiny
dorsal fin submerged below them.

His throat grooves are
what I like best, rendered by the welder
like a Caddy Eldorado’s grille—rods of iron
parallel, criss-crossed by plowed crop rows
you see between them. Like me,
the whale heads seaward, ocean
half a mile out the gravel track.
An information plaque, pulpit-wide, erupts
right there in hemlock, pedestal flecked
with delicate wild-radish flowers.
It tells, though, about agriculture, how Italians
brought the artichokes, how brussel sprouts
began in 1909, now the coast’s
most lucrative crop.

What I wanted, of course,
was a whale story, perhaps a story
of a particular whale who liked
to breach, whose lobtailing fluke
inspired the gate, how he filtered krill
through his comb-like baleen and didn’t
need teeth, how he was warm-blooded
and had a four-chambered heart.

-photo http://www.everythingcoastal.com/2010/12/december-exploring-on-california-coast.html

Graying in My Life

IMG_2393 - Version 2Graying in My Life

Michael Lee Johnson

Graying in
my life
growing old
like a stagnant
bucket of
rain water with moss
floating on top-
Oh, it’s not such
a bad deal,
except when
loneliness
catches you
chilled in the
middle of a sentence
by yourself-
ticking away
like an old grandfather clock,
hands stretched straight in the air
striking midnight
like a final
prayer.

-photo Harry Rajchgot

When a night is named

When a night is named

Arlyn LaBelle

This is how I will keep you,
wrapped in Christmas lights.
Above me, you shiver like kite skin.
My young body is vanity
I thought I could be a home for anyone

But you, like light, are swelling
in a place I can’t touch,
you are rolling like the shadow
of a cloud.

We are both, so completely
lost to me.Winter window view

-photo Harry Rajchgot

Leaving Your Bed

Leaving Your Bed

Miguel Eichelberger

IMG_0102_2

When the quiet is silenced by sunlight
Stretching itself languidly over your skin
I see morning, unmasked.
A murderer! A criminal who sneak
On pointed toe into this bedroom to take last night.

Last night,
When I fell to sleep upon your lips.
Morning was loud of envy. Morning, the inevitable nuisance
Policing laze and comfort. Calls me aside
And pats me down. Morning bathes us in false heat, false
Light and heralds the interruption of day. The fiend is unrelenting.
He comes with the sun and swears to be a soldier of
Good. Know, lover, that the badge he presents is
Fake.

Morning is a jealous thief. Me from You, You from Me.
You are taken from me upon the contract of day.
Taken away, your blush, your smile draped like silk upon your lips.
Taken away, the arm resting above your
Hair. Fingers telling me to move forward. Too hot for covers,
Your body is embraced by lecherous Morning.
The bastard winking at me as he touches you.

What is Morning
But a thief in the day, masquerading as a new beginning
When it is but an end.
For I must leave your bed.

Babi Yar

Babi Yar

Ilona Martonfi

 

I have been to Babi Yar
a silent, sad earth
leafless chestnut trees, poplars, roses
inscribed in the sand of skulls
Symphony No 13 adagio
I couldn’t even ask:
Who is the bass soloist?
Baritone of speech song.
Fenced in with barbed wire
on the outskirts of Kiev
between Melnikova
and Dokhturova Street
beyond the Jewish cemetery.
A male chorus.
Cellist on this recording
cordoned off by SS soldiers
Nazi-occupied Ukraine

you couldn’t hear the shooting
September 29 1941
in a ravine at Babi Yar and there, I don’t know
a child. I touched her face.

Changes

Changes

Sophia Wolkowicz

 

Reservations are suggested with changes
except most of us are unaware
that we have travelled on a
one way journey until
we have reached its destination.
And whether suddenly or,
through insipid pace,
no desired accommodation
awaits our arrival.

It would be best to book in advance
a fortress to steel oneself against
any damages, loss or theft
and then affix a DO NOT DISTURB sign on
its entrance.

Seeds encased in jack pine cones
require fire to release their kernels
and spur new growth to an aging forest.
But restoration has no confirmed date.
Hovering branches
tangle against each other
and in successive days,
block out more light.

Changes can betray you.
They have a life of their own,
that intersect our itinerary
and shove us against time.
We grasp past moments
to regain balance,
but remain all the while,
the startled tourist.

Still point

Still point

Michelle McLean

 

“The only journey is the one within.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

To know what it is

to be cracked open
wide as the world –
Heart open as the sky,

and part the path for
that kind of space.

To uncover the buried blessings
of your pain;
To know that you will never again
be the same –
Your borders, boundless.

To feel the earth collapse
under your feet
and discover
your ability to fall,
to float.

To no longer run
from the wounds
of your past.

To descend
into the darkness
and mine the gems.

To arrive, again
and again
to further journeying,
returning.

To face unafraid
the plans that you’ve made
and to know
your plans are traced
in sand.

To make peace with this.

To slide back
into your story,
become its hero.

To celebrate the pulse of Life
here, now, this –
Arriving home gently
to yourself

with loving welcome.

The Monopoly of Marriage

The Monopoly of MarriageDSCN1012 2

Marlena “Zen” Johns

Glass shards fall.
Like the leaves of an autumn tree,
Baubles cover the ground.
Hands deflect a shower of
Splintering, slicing slivers,
Like threads of insulation.
My tiny paper cut scars
Seep blood,
Staining maroon seat covers.
My husband continues,
Smashing car windows with fist and club.
Bloody marriage knows no laws.
Vows protect heinous crimes.
Degradation follows destruction,
And police watch, bystanding pedestrians
As a stream of broken lives pass Go,
And no one sits in Jail,
The community chest’s gift-
Get out of jail, scot-free.

Sojourn

Sojourn

Lawrence William Berggoetz

I have arrived from an ancient city named for a nomad, bruised with black blood. I have not followed a star, my journey moves me in arcs, not in lines, as I study how sunlight changes once it reaches the shelter of June leaves in a young tree.

I would travel on roads, but I seek the echoes and mystery of caves, none of which are found along worn paths or marked by stone trails.

I stir when song arrives like dawn emblazoned in the blossom of the twilight world that is slipping away just as it appears. At night, I alight like a small bird upon its favorite branch as soon as rainfall ends.

I close my eyes and enter a field of wildflowers and clover, filling the air like breeze willing to carry the fragrance of summer across the lake to children who still see their guides, and know that inside each tree is a heartbeat’s vibration.

In silence, I see a child sitting as perfectly as a stone Buddha. I can observe my life from behind his folded body, in communion with the universe; I can see my back, my head quietly observant as my other body dances to each sound. Suddenly, I understand why I long to speak in colors, not in words, while my dreams bleed without the cost of wet blood, fallen like waves that cleanse the beach in the night.

Stepping toward a window, I peer beyond the North Star wondering how the dark side of the moon would appear to a comet thrown into a sudden orbit around the sun.

WE STRANGERS

IMG_2073WE STRANGERS

Carl Boon

We know, we strangers, we
who stand on the platform
whispering stories
to each other.

Her mother’s breast aches—
in the morning, especially.
Perhaps it’s how she sleeps,
or the fall breeze,

the crack where the window
won’t close. But we’ve foreseen
the issue already, the tender
flesh spidery and weak.

Or the man whose wife
disappears most Wednesdays,
the breakfast plates
in the sink, her best pants

specially creased. She’s not
going for the sale on sheets
at the English Home Boutique.
She’s desiring another latte

with the man with nice hair.
These people speak to us
with glances, as we listen
for our trains and wait.

-photo Harry Rajchgot

The Rain

IMG_0160The Rain
Shaharyaar Kamaal Siddiqui

The firmament splits asunder,
Limpid azure expanse engulfed by marching pellets of black.
As tortuous streaks of lightning rumble and thump,
Behold, as the heavenly chaos unfolds.
Under a divine decree, I descend and alight,
From the empyrean to the ground beneath!
I see,
Urchins swarming the streets like unfettered souls,
Gazing heavenwards with beseeching eyes,
Bashful bride frolicking in the courtyard,
Fresh from a morning connubial bliss.
Tenuous smile flickering across a coy vermillion face,
What unbridled joy I bring to thee…!

I see,
A hapless doting mother, a picture of misery,
Huddled in a corner, cursing her penury!
She scuttles and scurries, clasping the baby to her chest,
Drenched and distressed, collecting littered fragments of her nest.
Ravaged and wrecked, she laments amidst the debris of loss.
What unfathomable sorrow I bring to thee.

I am, but
A drop of tear from the lachrymose Observer,
One who said “Be”,and it was!
To see his creation riddled in strife,
Love lost in mankind’s giant strides!
Within flesh and blood a serpent resides.
Standing tall on the edifice of might,
Hallucinated by evil whisperers in the shadows of night!
Man beckons his doom, in an air of gloom.
Cometh His wrath, behold the creation charred into fumes.

Birthday

Birthday

Virginia Boudreau

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once, clover overflowed my pockets.
lambs cavorted upon shoulders draped in timothy,
and my breath was sweet with pollen.

When leaves blushed under the sun’s knowing,
orchards ripe with promise bore fruit
rich and crimson. I felt the weight of their bounty
pressed upon me and yearned for more.

Later, geese and the last delicate song
birds were blown southward, over deep
furrows and shallow stream beds.

 

The wind quilted my fields, clumsy fingers tied
squares of sepia, umber, burnt gold with brittle reeds
bowing to November rain and the glossy weight of crows.

Now, I am pristine, snugly tucked on all sides,
Briars at my head cushion blossoms of snow
I am deceptively soft, an invitation:
Come lie with me here. Let me remember.

And, promise when you leave, the footprints
on my cheeks will dry quick and silver as tears
beneath a benevolent moon with it’s face turned aside.

Hope Chest

IMG_2895Hope Chest

Virginia Boudreau

A few gold apples cling to black branches
on a twisted tree I pass every day.
I walk and watch, filled with wonder:
how can you be dying?

My driveway seems steep, the house further away.
The weeping mulberry is a chandelier
balancing crystal tears, trembling and precarious.
I think of your eyes that rainy afternoon last summer.

It was the day we unpacked your hope chest
to make it lighter for the move to your new house.
“It’s heavy.” you’d said, “It needs to be
easier to carry.”

Your voice was soft as fingers stroking
the worn scrapbook, I remember
loose pages falling like leaves
when you picked it up.

It took us a long time: memories
lingered and snagged on fences
that seemed too hard to climb.
So many photographs,
a lifetime of greeting cards full
of words we’d never spoken…
you’d held on to them all.

Dried rose petals and newspaper clippings,
ticket stubs and school projects,
scraps of ribbon, your button jar.
We took everything out, loaded boxes
for moving day. It seemed easier to laugh then.

Your trunk is at the new house now.
You were wheezing yesterday when
you told me you hadn’t gotten around
to unpacking cartons yet; some things,
you said, you can only do yourself.

I understand, but help me not to cringe
when I picture your hope chest sitting empty
as each dusk steals the fading light from your room.

MISSING BLUEBERRIES

DSCN1397MISSING BLUEBERRIES

Ruth Deming

You wouldn’t happen to know
a Miss Regina Ziegler would you?
I’ve been studying her handwriting
to figure out her first name,
I’m no cryptographer so
can’t rightly tell if it’s Regina
or Rina, but it’s a mighty regal
“R” she writes, with the sureness
of a woman who loves poetry and
may indeed write some herself.

It was Miss Regina, as I’ll call her
who once owned my sole
book of poetry by Robert Frost,
the cover of which states
“The Pocket Book of
Robert Frost’s Poems.”

Leave it to me to check where
apostrophes go. They ought to
get it right, don’t you think,
the editors, all dead now, I’d imagine,
as is the poet himself.

Regina herself met a terrible end
and not meaning to keep you in
suspense, bear with me a little, while
I prattle on.

With a number two pencil
Miss Regina has lightly
underlined some phrases,
not many; like me, she probably
doesn’t believe in marring a book.

“Plain language and lack of
rhetoric” is where her pencil
first touched the book. Then a
lapse of fifty pages until
pencil, resting in her mouth,
dared come down again
“For to be social, is to be
forgiving.”

And there we have it. But
half a dozen phrases underlined,
Miss Regina, a spinster school marm who
taught in the one-room school house,
a converted barn with only eleven
children, from blue-eyed Mary nearing
pubescence, to tough Frankie who
begged his daddy let him come and
learn instead of mowing hay and
minding the cows.

These were the children she never had.
Did she read them Frost? You bet she
did. They loved the one about the blueberries
“as big as the end of your thumb, real sky-blue and
ready to drum in the cavernous pail of the first
one to come!”

And that goodly Miss Regina had brought silver buckets
of blueberries and passed them around after class with
another bucket of cold milk she brought from a neighboring
farm. There were farms in those days. More than
you can count. Just like there are shops today
teetering on what used to be farm fields.

She also read them a few poems about the stars up above
in Heaven. Where we would all go when life has had
enough of us. The eleven children made sure they
wished upon a star every night, their little heads
pointed upward, hands clasped together in prayer
as their eyes skipped merrily across the sky.

Were those owls they heard hooting in the distance?
And the so-dark sky, a different flavor indeed
from the gay one they saw in the morning.
She introduced them to the wonders
of the world. Would it ever leave them? On their
death beds would they think, “It’s been a wonderful
life?”

One winter it was too cold to walk the deep snow
to get to school. Miss Regina turned on her coal stove,
glanced at the glowing coals, black as the night sky,
warmed her shivering hands and went back to
bed to keep herself warm. She heard the explosion
first, a sound like a million church bells going off
at once.

Was that her last thought as she catapulted, quilts
nightgown and all, from her straw mattress, floating up
up up in the air
like a bread rising in the oven?
Oh, they would miss her all right.
And I will miss her most of all for it’s
time to mourn her once again,
to think of Miss Regina and
the spell she bound. In her memory,
I’ll eat some blueberry yogurt
the kind where the cream
rises to the top.

LOVE AND THE FINER THINGS

Rodin's lovers - Orangerie

LOVE AND THE FINER THINGS

John Grey

Love.
not a German bellarmine jug
but a real wheelchair
with his left hand
flopped over the side.

It could never afford delftware,
though there were tunes
the fields, the fence, the firs,
were as dainty and detailed
as punchbowl decoration

It was willing to sacrifice
a Ming fish jar,
Spode earthenware hot-water plate
for slippers
and a kind of dance
when you lift him into bed.

Love
had in mind the Royal Doulton
and the green glazed tripod vessel
but settled on the weathered palm,
your fingers wrapped inside it,
like the roots of an ancient flower.

Love,
just an ordinary paperweight;
not St Louis crown.
A bare bulb,
no silver gilt figured candlestick.

Besides,
despite their worth,
the artisans are long dead.
And you are poor but breathing still.
Love takes that it into account.

Anniversary of My Death

Anniversary of My Death
Revere Beach, Massachusetts

Kristen Hoggatt-Abader

Firm to foam to the water lapping Thank you on this beach,
to the storm that won’t die,
to the rain that grieves,
to the drops that cool my skin and age my scars,
to the drops that come now in summer’s reprieve.

Last night, Anubis rose from the dark East.
Last night, he treated my corpse and put my excised heart
on a plate as Amir Timur’s crude feast.
Last night, fear, cold-boned: the banshee’s late-night shriek,

when that bitter poison reminded me of my precious health,
when the doctor’s cage saved me from myself,
when I fell out the back, when I fell on the black,
when my friends like Icarus flying,
when I launched into stillness undisturbed by busy hands.

To Arizona, to the ICU,
to that tube coiling fury into my voice,
to the wreck that marred the open road,
to the interstate, to the milepost,
to the warlike whir of airlift propellers,
to the dimming of sirens,
to the dimming of light—hours that tick away the sun,
to the drip as the IV’s begun,
to my black pen,
I await its coming, and it will come again.

Strolling the Hudson’s East Bank

DSCN0837Strolling the Hudson’s East Bank

Christopher Suda

 

Today, each moment
turned to kindling; gaps
alongside our knees diverged
while the Hudson scratched into
each window. Your hair continues
to muse through my sideburn,
then collarbone, both nostrils.
Beneath us, the rails charmed

Tarrytown’s soil with delicate
sparks while your face endured
its collapse against a shoulder.
When awake, look at those eyes.
you’ll find two monuments
long asleep, dream watching,
as still as spoke wheels.

Greenish Irony

DSCN0197Greenish Irony

Changming Yuan

 

You wish to be a Douglas fir
Tall, straight, almost immortal
But you stand like a Peking willow
Prone to cankers, full of twisted twigs

Worse still, you are not so resistant
As the authentic willow that can bend gracefully
Shake off all its unwanted leaves in autumn
When there is a wind blowing even from nowhere

No matter how much sunshine you receive
During the summer, you have nothing but scars
To show off against winter storms
The scars that you can never shake off