Category Archives: Poetry

jesus was a dog like you

jesus was a dog like you

john sweet 

 

and in the frozen sunlight we

are burning gods and

their bastard prophets for warmth

but it still hurts growing old

 

it’s inevitable that every truth we

find will be lost again

 

that you’ll be crushed by the landslide and

i’ll be crucified by the zealots but

                                      right here

                        in this barren field

                    in this upstate desert

the air is bright blue and as

beautiful as any poison

 

the naked man falls asleep on the

railroad tracks and wakes up sacred and

we are hungry but not defeated

 

we are liars

but never alone

 

just an army of crows 

waiting patiently for the corpse of

                        the future to arrive

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a painting, for beth

a painting, for beth

john sweet

 

or here where

shopping carts rust at the river’s edge

or here where empty parking lots

fill in the spaces between

abandoned factories

 

here where plastic bags flutter

like the flags of defeated nations

from the branches of february trees

 

spent all day in this forgotten

room searching for the sun

 

took the pills but still didn’t

feel much like eating

 

didn’t feel much like breathing

 

just kept waiting for the end of a

winter that never came

 

Kintsugi (金継ぎ,)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kintsugi (,)

Michael Smith

 

Time is a writer

of little diffidence – a sprite

who draws on everything:

the wrinkle next to the eye, 

the fading of the light,

into an artistry of go(l)d — 

wabi sabi, loving imperfections

we ponder.  

Oh, the strange splendor of despair, 

I’d despair, for as we age

we all age, and 

these marks, a kintsugi 

upon fragility, whose fragility is

persistence .

Such is the dialogue

Our faces hold, sans word

In the more golden years.

 

Painting: “Young”, 1975, by Vania Comoretti, as seen in the Municipal Museum, Salo, Lake Garda, Italy

Note from the poet:

This poem is part of a collection on lost (or dying) art forms.  They play the part of ode and lamentation at the same time.  Calligraphy speaks of its namesake, which has deep roots within both the Western and Eastern worlds.  In some cultures, calligraphy was (and is) seen as the epitome of art.  Dark Room is on print photography.  Printing photographs using traditional light sensitive photo paper is dying away in the digital age.  Even the materials for printing photos in a darkroom (film, developers, fixers, various chemicals, etc.) are becoming less available with fewer and fewer companies manufacturing them.  The day will probably soon come when only niche boutique companies catering to artists will make these materials.  Kintsugi (金継ぎ,) is an art form in which broken pottery is visibly repaired using lacquer and gold dust.  Underpin fragility and make virtue of not concealing it.  The objects are made stronger and more valuable by repair. The poem above uses this as a metaphor for the body. 

last night

     

 

last night

             by milt montague

 

last night

sleep eluded me

my mind kept churning

scenes of long ago

in the flush of memory

a small white light

penetrated the shadows

growing brighter

a beacon

shining on a gravestone

         Morris Kaplan

         loving grandfather, 

         father, son

         survived the horror of

         World War II

         1924-2018

          rest in peace

rest well old buddy

our years together

were few but memorable

I fell into a deep and tranquil sleep

when I awoke

there on my night table

next to the alarm clock

sat a small white stone

Spiegelgrund

Spiegelgrund

Ilona Martonfi

 

I would go and gather stars 

 

bury the black urns at the cemetery

by the Kirche at the top of the hill

 

remains kept in glass jars

sealed in paraffin wax.

 

Lay the children to rest

 

killed under the euthanasia program 

Kinderspital am Spiegelgrund

the ward where the children died

 

say never, never again

 

located in Penzing, the 14th district of Vienna.

The gassing of the inferior

for the defense of the Reich

 

patients with hare lips, stutterers, the slow ones, 

idiocy. Epileptics. The useless

 

photographed before their death:

Hansi, Herta, Jörg. Annemarie.

 

Lay the children to rest. 

 

Unworthy of life.

 

I would go and gather stars 

play the funeral sonata by Beethoven

 

place white roses at the field of stelae.

In the meadow, we built your body

In the meadow, we built your body

Shaman Keyote Wolf

 

Out of loose buttons, found a fresh way to

Weave clothes around thoughts so we had

Something to tear away;

Our idea of revelation was to absorb

The other in a way that settled

Deeper than flesh, until breath became

A flurry of footsteps through

The street of dreams, where thoughts kissed

Our strength back; and we could somehow say

That faith was an emotion

Born between us, a line always ringing,

We knew we could walk across the world on,

Never feeling the fall;

You said: “We will never be more beautiful than

We are right now.”

I told you: “Now is an eternity.”

Stuffed Animals and Small Men

Stuffed Animals and Small Men

Kaileen Campbell

He says

he stepped through the woods.

His feet falling on

the leaves of trees. A man

seeing through his gun.

He looked to pull another deer from its skin.

He sowed this tale into my young ears. How he walked

into a perch 

to be cradled by a tree

and two red ears heard anew. He said he put out his hand

and it taught a fox into movement 

by inches

until its nose met a new friend.

Then his gun

sang to its head.

Wedge

Wedge

Louise Carson

 

Wedge. A great word

      caught in my beak.

          Wedge heel. Can’t be

              caught in the grate.

                  Wedge the budgie

                      yellow

                  in his cage.

              A wedge of geese

          honk no surrender in a

      Wedgewood sky. The manuscript

wedged under my door keeps it open.

Did You Ever Think of Love This Way?

 

 

Did You Ever Think of Love This Way?

Michael Robins, Lieutenant and Commander, Tank Corps, Canadian Army, during the Italian Campaign of the Second World War

Did you ever think of life this way?

Away from all the things you dream by day

Alone where battles rage and wars are won

In inwards eye see things bygone

Did you ever think of life this way?

 

Did you ever think of love this way?

Parted from loved ones who had to stay

To keep hearths burning and love aglow

For men who might not return you know

Did you ever think of love this way?

 

Parted from loved ones who had to stay

To keep hearths burning and love aglow

For men who might not return you know

Did you ever think of love this way?

 

Did you ever think why wars are fought?

Has not world’s history the world taught

That men can live in bliss and peace

Not kill each other like savage beasts

Did you ever think why wars are fought?

 

Did you ever think of death this way?

Away from all the folks you’d like to say good bye

Torn by either gas, shell or mine

Never wholly using life’s full time.

Did you ever think of death this way?

 

Did you ever think of death this way?

Alone in cold, damp, blood stained ground

Without a guiding light or sound

To lead you on your final way

Did you ever think of death this way?

 

Did you ever think of why we fight?

Of death and torture a constant sight

Tired, hungry, worn men in flight

Never peaceful through the night

Did you ever think of why we fight?

 

Did you ever think of peace this way?

Of bliss and quiet through the night

No fear of bombers now in flight

No torn bodies, no ghostly sights

Did you ever think of peace this way?

 

Written, according to the poet, “in an hour of weakness”, on a battlefield in Italy, on November 21, 1943

A Glance in the Afternoon

A Glance in the Afternoon

Sarah D’Stair 

 

a dozen limp roses crackle with dust 

on the bedside table, rotten with 

fallen leaves and dewy residue

caroline should be the name 

of a flower children suck the sweetness from

I remember my own sweet little friend

an imagined embrace in the flesh of my arms 

pushed against the wall of sweet honeysuckle

later that day 

picnic table conversations pierced our wild faces

A Frozen Flower And A Tombstone

IMG_4168 - Version 4.jpeg

A Frozen Flower And A Tombstone

Suchoon Mo

 

she has become a frozen flower

in the darkness of winter night

and he stands in the snow facing her

he has become a tomb stone

mute and still

they are together

in this cemetery

 

Suchoon Mo’s musical work can be accessed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbr-1Kv8kmcAMmZw2EvFo_A

Wormwood

 

Wormwood

Ilona Martonfi

Black rain falling 

dust and ash

setting off down these village roads 

because there is no word for this colour, 

old newspapers from the day before 

26 April 1986, Chernobyl nuclear disaster

ninety kilometres northeast of Kiev,

as it spreads morning, there is no word for 

this every day and every morning and evening, 

now contained inside a birch forest

keening the loss, wondering if

coming here. I was lost. 

I couldn’t have been more lost

reinforcing the narratives told to me:

the ghost town of Pripyat

drifting from room to empty room trying 

to find what it is that I was after

marshes, peat bogs

at the insistence of loam and clay

radioactive cesium and strontium

a clock stopped at 1:23 am

loose words falling into a void, 

to this day I have no

notes and the space between the notes

going back into the exclusion zone.

Visiting babusya’s grave

its music, incantation in half-light. 

Urgent and elegiac 

foraging wild blueberries.

Tales He Told When I Was Ten

Õ

Tales He Told When I Was Ten

Steve Broidy

 

Standing tall behind his drug counter

Dad told his customers stories:

He’d speak of a man who knew better than taking

The pills that his doctor prescribed–and died;

stories concerning miraculous healings

of those who followed, religiously, regimens

Dad wrote out. Listening there,

behind the counter, I seemed to see 

those healthy faces grinning at him

in gratitude, for all of us 

believed him.

At bed times, Dad told me tales of the war:

how he traveled on ships across mountainous seas

making medicines, curing the soldiers and sailors 

the ship picked up all over the world.

He never spoke of being in battle;

but said instead that a shark ate his hair 

when he leaned too far over a railing

to wish that fish a good day. I

believed him.

I heard about Lollapalooza the hippo,

who befriended him once in an African port:

how the hippo taught him to swim underwater—

(which I’d dreamed of doing, though afraid in the pool).

He told me that reading his books late in bed 

had exploded a light bulb and burned down his house;

and how sitting too close to his old TV

had gradually ruined his eyes.

I stopped doing both those things,

because I believed him.

Dad told me the story—confidentially, of course—

of how seeing my mother for the very first time

made him lose his balance and fall down the stairs;

how it never hurt one bit;

how the year they got married, late in Fall,

he moved (without telling her) all their belongings

from Oakland to Columbus, to be close to her family.

Scratching his shiny scalp, he admitted

she wasn’t happy at first—but he thought 

she’d forgiven him ages ago. I said

I believed him.                                          [more]

He told me the pills he took all day

made him smarter and stronger—he would live forever.

And I believed him.

The Travails of Hunger

The Travails of Hunger

John Grey

 

Hunger is well-traveled,

knows its way around the globe,

the cities, even the countryside.

And it’s sometimes selective, 

sometimes random – it’s

there for a famine 

but also for a family man

who’s just been fired from the job.

I don’t know whether or not

hunger ever feels guilty.

It leaves conscience to those

who know where the fat resides,

keep it apart from the lean.

Hunger just takes like 

something that’s hungry itself.

So biting and gnawing,

swallowing, devouring, 

it sates its deprivation.

But hunger is never satisfied.

It’s acquired a taste.

No question where it stole that from.

I LEFT PARIS FIRST

I LEFT PARIS FIRST

Anna Kapungu

 

Knew in my spirit we looked over the edge

The edge of love’s season

Season where May apples bloomed

Bloomed in the sunlight

Their natures essence filled our path

That was the mystery of us

The wonder of love

We stand at the edge of the oceans

Hear the bells toll in the lighthouse

Breathe in the viridescent seaweed

That floats above the oceans

Hear my heart beat

Face the moon

Know my truth

Love was true

In the smallness of my being

Against the currents of the oceans

Through the tumultuous days

The days of twilight

Like days of war

Gloom ridden, bleak and dreary

Love was like a painting

Covering the unhappiness of our affections

Paradise laboured to delight in passion

 

GHETTO CHILDREN

GHETTO CHILDREN

 John Grey

 

We had to stay in

perfect position

not only throughout

the class

but even as the bell rang.

 

We carried

pencils and paper

for note-taking.

We took no notes.

 

For we were

the paper.

Our instructor

was the pencil.

 

He wrote all

over us –

“Good children.”

 

Come the war,

the words were rubbed out,

replaced by

serial numbers.

 

August Bloom

August Bloom

William Doreski

 

The flaw begins in my left eye,
expands to warp skyscrapers
and streetlamp posts, then nestles
in the contours of her body,
having firmly established itself.

Now everything looks slightly off,
but I’m always delaminating,
shedding parts I no longer use
and reopening wounds that healed
in the dark moments of childhood.

The lies and evasions return
like army ants. Moonrise over
fly-speckled ponds in the forest.
Insincerities caught in amber.
Those trysts in glib summer dusk

when music sagged in the distance
and kisses as vacant as craters
shared themselves without shame.
The flaw expands to include
tobacco fields ripened in August

and hail peppering the long sheds
where we hung the toxins to cure.
It warps the memory of lightning
spearing the family elm tree
six months after my father died.

The general erasure of time
no longer applies. Warping
that distance, the flaw speaks for me
in pearly tones a healthy eye
would reject because unnatural.

Funereal blossoms close the season
with sighs I can’t replicate,
even though such emissions
would reduce the pressure in that eye
and save me from going blind.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2008, New York City

My Suitcase Is Packed

My Suitcase Is Packed

Scott Laudati

i know you’re home somewhere out there
in colorado
where the desert flowers
wait all year to turn yellow
and horses with spanish blood
whip their manes under lightening
as the snows melt down to refill
the dried beds.
somewhere where enough was enough
and you had to put a continent between me
and new jersey.
i’ve seen that land and pulled over
to swim naked where the white crests shatter
and freedom is something more than a dream.
there are no dead ends on your streets,
the rain only falls straight down
and even stray cats
come when they’re called.
i bled for you once
when the war was still far from over
and the end hasn’t gotten any closer
so i guess
i’d do it again

 

image by Benbarka,2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Fortune Teller, Miami Beach, Fla.

The Fortune Teller, Miami Beach, Fla.

Michael C. Gebelein

I was on a beach in Miami with two beautiful girls.
they were both topless and, even though I wasn’t sleeping with either one,
I counted myself as the luckiest son of a bitch on that stretch of sand
and as we were laying there, joking and laughing,
an old woman, a fortune-teller, walked up to us.
she looked me in the eye and asked if I wanted my fortune told,
but before I could send her on her way she told me that
I looked happy but, really, I was very sad,
that something was broken inside of me.
I laughed, and said that it must be true for almost everyone.
and one of the girls touched my arm and
kissed me on the cheek and told me that
no, it’s not true for almost everyone,
that there are people in this world who are content,
easy-going, satisfied with the way things are,
but that there weren’t any of them on that stretch of beach that day.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2008, Miami Beach, Florida.

RETIRING

RETIRING

Kim Suttell

Lob wedge left at the bunker—dammit. Was
already mad for being there. Anger
ratchets to lawn sprinkler pressure when the club
is unreturned to the clubhouse. Trek back
to the trap. Re-skulk the whole damn course. Scour
the locker room. Guest relations is getting
condescending.
Glower over gimlets
to the end of afternoon, emitting patio
umbrella suspicion on every
felonious-looking foursome until
the gin, the nettlesome sun, drones of distant
trimmers, the steady sooth of polos all
soporific hues, pull the cumbersome
head down, down, aslump on the diamond-grid
tabletop mesh.
Ice settles. Men called Dude
bravado beers in the twilight. Spotlights
sputter on above the putting green. Balloon
bouquets are brought to the banquet hall where
groups collect like bagged clubs around tiny
crab cakes and lollypop drumsticks caddied
on trays. With genuine affection,
the honoree is presented with a
lob wedge. Applause lofts clean across the green.

 

image by George Jackman, Queensland, Australia, 1940. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Last Streetlight In Heaven

 

The Last Streetlight In Heaven

Scott Laudati

heaven’s filling up with diplomas from a youth
waiting single file on the will call line
listening to crows that learned a verse
when they sat above the schools,
“it doesn’t look like verona anymore” they say,
“there’s a dirt pit where the swimming pool was.”

i hope the boys can use their track marks
as road maps
and hold the hands of girls
who sold their final sacrament
on the newark streets,
where spring feels like december
where glass clogs the gutter
and no price is too high
for a whole generation to erase
some of its hunger.

these towns flood now
but the rains never come.
there are enough mother’s tears
to water the lawns.
and in every man’s poverty we
can see the origin of night.
the first syringe.
the abscene of god.
we were a town once
but nothing is left,
and there’s no sky clear enough
for the lucky ones to reckon under

a whole history of past sins
built above indian bones.
the interest keeps rising on americas crimes.
our parents lined up to vote
and hoped it would always stay the same
but the hurricane comes and the
shattered glass gets washed away
and they keep signing up fresh faces
to take its place

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2015, Cote saint Luc, Quebec

MANHATTANS

MANHATTANS

Kim Suttell

The sidewalk slips a little. I’m not worried
about it. Anybody could be my friend.
I totter forward, giddy and ravenous, gums
numb, teeth shrill. I must have onions.

Like a lurching sun I’m expansive and hot
and swirl in the distance of everything close.
Only blessed cold holds me up as curbs
loom. This is what is meant by bracing.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2015, Montreal, Quebec

Jerusalem Upon the Plain

Jerusalem Upon the Plain

Barbara A Meier

The radiancy is of wheatfields
fed to the craw of a John Deere combine.
The green against the gold
honeyed fields and milky blue skies.
The hills outside my car window roll westward,
flattening to shorn stubbled fields
and shaggy carpets of bluestem, buffalo, and switchgrass.
The tedium of our wheels on Interstate 70-
Sylvan Grove, Ellsworth, Russell, Victoria,Riga, Ellis, Hays.
My eyes sink, fade to my cheek, resting against the hot glass:

I contemplate ….
What bliss can be found in the plainness of the high prairie?
What pastures of the sick shine with a glorious sheen?

The halls of Zion in the basement of Hadley hospital
where martyrs sleep in hospital beds,
and sticky peanut butter girls behind urine green bathroom stalls
belt angelsongs- funneling through heating ducts
conjubilant with song
a feast to shout among the ailing throng.
It is: A blessed country sweet in death, a home to the elect.
Our song of triumph resounds
‘round floors, ‘neath beds, through IVs,
in comas, and last breaths.
It is: Jerusalem upon the Plains-
a throne of golden wheat, and milk and honeyed earth,
The conquerors, faithfully brought to rest upon the Armo plains.
Blood of earth and heaven pumping through our veins.
We are little girls clothed in robes of white.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2016, Montreal, Quebec

CACTUS

CACTUS

John Grey

I wouldn’t recommend the roadside.
And not on such a desert straightaway
where every passing car
kicks up a cloud of dust.

In a ditch of all places
and so small,
your roots get by
on water memory,
your fruit’s
a sun-scorched pebble.

But plants – not even cactus –
ask me the best place to prosper.
Seeds nestle down where they are blown
and try to make the best of it.

Besides, why else would an Australian be
on this highway in New Mexico?
A seed – an adaptation –
you have to believe
you can bear fruit anywhere.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2010

Jazz Notes

Jazz Notes

Renee Butner

This chaotic jazz suits my mood
after the frenetic day I had

Heavy on the drums
Brassy cymbals clashing
Piano pounding and lively
Scaling up and down
trying to keep up
with the beat

A lone horn sings out
Edgy and soulful
Leading the session several
golden shimmering moments
before backing off
To allow a bebop
walking bass line solo

Notes wrap around one another
Entwined in a dance
for the auditory sense

Jazz beat lines up with heart beat
I relinquish myself to
the new pulse

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Montreal Jazz Festival, 2016

Oświęcim

Oświęcim

Ilona Martonfi

 

Sown from the teeth of a birch tree
lashed together she

lives in a graveyard
paints a poem after Auschwitz

using Zyklon B gas
medical experiments

with a bundle under her arms
never took that photograph

the ghost plaint: here
remember the crematoria

living inside barbed wire
armed SS guards.

“Where are we going?”

Those feared as the other.
Those who rode in cattle cars.

Those whose voices silenced
fifty kilometres west of Kraków

Rajiya in the work camp.
Her only possession

a red knitted cardigan,
made by her Bubbe.


photo credit: Dr. Fred Leitner, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 2012

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

 

Today, cold December sun streamingly rushes –
bright radiant light downpours the stone wall,
where a sparrow clings in the mist and Iris
wonders what it is holding onto. A flat wall?

No, not entirely, there is a high raised relief
an embossed concrete line which it clings to
in mourning light – much like a Mycenaean
stele marking the borderline between the
world of the living and the world of the dead.

******
Dark-cloud eyes flashed thunder; and lightning
must have struck open her chest because a sparrow
was pecking through the bloodworms of death.

Humble print of the Pietà hung and from
Madonna’s eyes tear-shaped garnets fell like
a broken string of pearls spreading hopelessness
all over the Carrara marble corridor.

Over-stretched leather covering of her heart
drummed out a faint death-beat march. Not shaking
of a rattler’s tail, but a dull-weakening beat.

The line on the monitor’s screen flattening.
And there was nothing for Iris to hold onto.

One large lethal tear slid dangerously down
rode over the high horseshoe cliff of her chin
the way a black and white movie once shown

a man inside a barrel riding over Niagara’s rushing
white waters shattering into the sudsy
foaming jaws of splintering death.

The shivering sparrow pressed against stone – Gone

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Unclear

Unclear

M. A. Istvan Jr.

She would masturbate to the magazines
that she found behind her father’s workbench.
Shaved bald, the females seemed as young as her.
That made her okay with fantasizing about them.
It was easy—and helpful—to be unclear
about whether she was lusting for those bodies
or was imagining herself to be one of them.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

The Kick

The Kick

Cecil Sayre

 

Strange how a tree heals, its cells diverging,
creating a different path around the wound
for water to flow from the roots to the leaves,
the wound covering over with sap,
becoming a dark knot.

When I remove limbs from these wild trees,
I want them to heal into a dark knot,
but I never know where to make my cut.
Too close to the trunk, the wounds will not heal,
not close enough and new limbs will grow next summer.

Wild trees lined both sides of Ridgeview Road,
the shortcut Bryan and I walked to and from school
to avoid the older kids and their bullying.
We’d talk about our favorite kung fu movies
and attempt their kicks,

feeling we were hard to see in the shade of those trees,
and not thinking how someone could hide behind them.
But my son thinks about that, these trees outside his bedroom,
their branches smacking his window as he tries to sleep,
and for him I trim and cut them.

I hold a limb and work the saw and tell myself
I am holding one of his nightmares
and try to imagine its shadow,
the creature it becomes at night
as I tell myself again I am holding his nightmare.

In the shadows of the trees, walking home,
Bryan and I were arguing about a kung fu movie
and the hero’s amazing kick, one foot rooted to the ground,
the other smack up against the bad guy’s head,
an impossible act for any man, yet one we believed.

Bryan stopped by a large, white mailbox and tried it,
kicking the air beneath the mailbox.
I said, No, higher, and kicked the air above the mailbox,
neither of us seeing at the far end of the gravel driveway
the old man in the doorway of his garage.

He yelled at us, stood up, and raised his shotgun.
We ran, clearing the tree on the other side,
the wind from the shot breezing past my back,
bits of bark and wood hitting my jacket.
One could see the damage done,

a chunk of tree level with our heads, missing,
the wood blonde and bleeding, sticky with sap.
We used to laugh at the idea of anything being dangerous,
would want to touch and explore any wound,
study how it would heal, wait for the crusty darkness of a scab.

My trees now trimmed, I hope for healing,
hope for sunlight to fill my son’s window,
the shadows now dead limbs piled on the ground,
the naked space opened above them among the leaves
an emptiness only memory can fill.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Outremont, Quebec, 2017