Category Archives: Poetry

The Letters Keep Coming

The Letters Keep Coming

Holly Day

 

cringe. draw away from me out 

of me slough away

promises burn holes

in dreams I know 

you, silent in the darkened hall, white armor 

stripped and revealed to be paste. tell me why 

I need you. don’t leave me yet. run. pull 

yourself off of me out of me get

as far as you can from 

me, I exile you because 

I know. once a week 

she calls me to let me know you’re still 

sleeping with her, tells me about 

the life you have planned 

for the two of you. she wants forgiveness. 

she wants to know if I’m okay with all 

of this. 

I tell her I’m fine

Election, 2019

Election, 2019

James Croal Jackson

 

Another rainy voting day– this time,

I crossed Main Street without looking.

I know traffic patterns enough

to know around noon there’s no one

 

out here, and so I walked into

the alley by Tina’s, the anti-social

route past people’s fenced backyards.

I met a hanging skeleton and

 

a wooden turkey two houses apart,

and when I walked downhill to

get to Woolsair a man in a Tahoe

pointed to the school’s side door.

 

In other years, there are people

lurking who want to tell me how

to vote, but this time, no signs,

nothing– just an empty gym, three

 

old men and my neighbor, Nolan,

who I didn’t know volunteered

here, told me there have been

just a few today, and thus as I

 

tapped my choices saying no

to oligarchical, corporate forces

as best I could, I temporarily

felt the weight of my fingers

 

multiply, that my choices would

count as thousandths not

millionths on the grand tv ticker

tonight– no. I know enough

 

to know that if it’s only me,

my vote will never matter.

A FATHER SHAVING

A FATHER SHAVING

Juanita Rey

I stand outside the bathroom door.
peek around the corner
when I can work up the courage.
But he doesn’t even notice me.
His jaw is clenched, eyes focused.
No matter how many times he’s done this,
he still must let the blade know who’s el jefe.

His hands are hairy, his knuckles gigantic,
his grip shrinks the razor.
The whiskers are helpless before
this foam-bearded man.

From chin to lip,
he carves out a wide swathe,
but not once does he cut himself,
That blade obeys his every order.
It would not dare penetrate the skin.

He wipes his face dry
then braces it with aftershave.
The end comes with a step back
and an admiring glance in the mirror.
Then, as he leaves the room,
he pats me on the head.

If I was a boy,
he’d say something like,
“You’ll have to do this someday.”
But I am a girl.
I can only look forward to more watching.

Hannah

Hannah

Laura Sobbott Ross

 

I’d heard about you before you became

my daughter’s friend at the Christian school.

You were once the girl, buoyant and uncombed,

with just a can of soup at the lunch table

and no way to open it, a name on a list

of a family asking for Christmas presents,

a wicked chant honed to the jump rope’s beat.

I snickered at your clever nicknames for the pious,

the cartoon of our pastor blah-blah-blahing,

and yet, I’d wanted to complain to the same ones 

about your influence on my daughter. 

The two of you flipping your plaid bible skirts

at the adolescent boys playing soccer; a creed 

shivering down the spine of their spiral notebooks,

the corners of their pages licked damp with turning;

hearts and flowers sketched in the margins of yours.

The last time I saw you, you’d thrown yourself

fully clothed into a swimming pool amid 

indignant snowbirds in a hotel downtown

and were led away dripping, a raspy sea siren.

You’d had babies early, lost them in a ruling,

wandered cowlicked, inked, and dimpled

down the highway toward Daytona

where you died, a stripper living in a van.

The final photo you posted was of a manakin 

in white fishnets and a wolf mask, a macabre

piece of art meant to affront what terrified you. 

At least that was the last thing you wrote.

A red jellyfish scribbled where the heart would be,

skirted in a current of smarting veins. 

A third eye vortexed in onyx

across the flat plane of the plastic belly. 

I wish I could have told you that

sometimes, Hannah, if we are just a body, 

not somebody, just a body, maybe it doesn’t hurt 

so much. That giddy smile of yours studded

in hard spangles, the lobes of your ears opened

wide as the well of a spoon. I wish I could have

taken you in, Hannah, pushed you skyward

on the tire swing in our cul-de-sac, filled your 

pockets with all the things girls should have— 

birthstone charms and candy karmas and lullabies.

I wish I could have fanned that hard spark in you 

into something more than what would consume 

you. Your skin, a span of moonlight.

Stars lashing themselves against the metal room

of your van. Earth’s infinite spin, warm and 

quaking the palm fronds like a loose spirit.

 

photo credit: Harry Rajchgot, 04-2020

Fipple

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fipple                            

by  Louise Carson

 

     ‘the sounding edge of a side opening’ – Webster’s

Sounds like a word old as creation:

Adam’s pain: his rib-mouth constricted, plugged.

Eve’s voice pops the cork: champagne for everyone.

On Iceland, where only the land is indigenous,

magna thrusting, they have a word for a horse’s lip:

flipi, related to fipple, as Iceland relates to England and Norway.

So this northland pony, little fjord horse,

opens his mouth to the side, blows air over that plug, his tongue,

plays his penny whistle, his fipple of unknown origin.

 

photo by:

Rebecca Rajchgot: Iceland Ponies, 2014

RECOVERY AGENT

RECOVERY AGENT

Juanita Rey

A month of me in bed
and you pull back the sheet
and it’s like finding
a baby bird
abandoned and shivering.

How can this creature
ever fledge,
you must be thinking,
when it can barely
flutter a feather.

Sure, whatever was wrong with me
may have worked its way
out of my system
but what’s available
for a replacement?

You think a soft kiss
on my cheek might do it.
But I’ve been sick
and am now in need
of my old self.
Not unloved
and requiring you.

I just want to know
that my wings will work
when I need them to.
Only then,
can you make me
want to fly.

photo: Harry Rajchgot

THE OFFICES LET OUT

THE OFFICES LET OUT

Juanita Rey

 

At last, the inexorable traffic

has run out of places to be.

The haunting, blinding, 

no longer need blaze a trail

through the inner-city warren

with those intense yellow eyes.

From the tenement window, 

I see the face of the night’s last driver,

then the back of his head,

then tail-light and a couple of letters

from a license plate. 

After that, nothing.

All is quiet on the street below.

And the only lights 

are scattered between the 

surrounding buildings. 

And these are not seekers,

not trail-blazers.

They merely illuminate 

whoever stays put,

who has no other place to go.

Immigrants, the poor,

the jobless, the itinerant –

we will sleep tonight 

in our version of America.

Come morning, the cars return.

Where they’ve been

remains a mystery. 

I FOUND HIM THERE

I FOUND HIM THERE

By Tammy Huffman

I found him there

Wave walking wild seas

Frantic to snare

Gurgling mysteries

 

Racing to rope

Far fluttering gleams

Of thrown off hopes

And cast away dreams

 

Laughing to land

A misshapen curse

Heart God, head man

Blubber universe

 

Losing his grasp

He shakes bloody fists

A useless cast

A trashed, muddy mess

 

Give up, I sighed

Why stir up dead men?

Come out! he cried

And cast nets again

Branches and Fences

Branches and Fences

Esme DeVault

 

looking out 

my bedroom window

I see                         you

throw branches

over the fence

into our yard.

“It’s their damn tree!”

you shout,

“Why should everybody else have to fucking pay for it?”

I quietly close 

the window

and turn 

away.

 

later,

I write               you a note.

Hello neighbor!

I was very sorry

to see you so upset

this morning.

Please come by

any time

so we can talk about it.

I mail the note to 

you

in a pretty pink card

afraid 

that if I knock 

on your door

you        will        spit

in my 

face.

 

I feel better now,

perhaps in part because I know

that                              you will never knock

on my door

as                                  you 

are far too afraid 

of my dog.

 

photo by Rebecca Rajchgot (2020).

 

Callery Pear


Callery Pear

Ilona Martonfi

At Ground Zero

buried in rubble

one branch still alive

last living thing to get out 

of the Towers 

gnarled stumps 

trunk blackened.

Now after ten years 

in a Bronx nursery 

finally returning home

this spring

third week of April

white blossoms

in Lower Manhattan.

ii.

She remembers,

burned and torn paper.

The voices.

People falling.

Blocking out the sun.

 

The video of the remarkable story of this survivor tree, barely survived the 9/11 attacks, can be found at on YouTube.

In the society of anxious mothers

In the society of anxious mothers

Brandy McKenzie

 

How easy it is to slip into old habits.

How easy it is to slip into old lies.

She tells me about her son, his prostitution.

I write nothing down.  I have nothing

to give her that’s full or empty, just

reassurance.  I hint and I hem and I haw.

I don’t even know how to haw.

Her boy, her beautiful boy, & she’d given him

all a boy could there’s love, and then

there’s this line.  I can’t help but think

of mine and mine. And me: I’m so

introverted that way.  Turned inside out

so all my pieces shine. No, glisten.

She’s as raw as I, but won’t say so.

I won’t speak a line.  These children, tied

as they are to our bodies, pricking apart

innards like scribes. No, scriveners. No:

prognosticate, procrastinate, read the guts and tea

to see the what’s mine?  I don’t know.

I have no words for her.  Not mine, 

not hers, not wry homunculi we birthed

and named into this world.  I’ve lied,

again and again.  She’s cried, but lies about it.

I Want to Say

I Want to Say

by

Jan Ball

They’re taking four-

    year-old Reuben

to the hospital 

for his last goodbye

        to his mother,

my young friend.

I know about replaced

knees, and a mined abdomen,

but not terminal cancer,

especially in a young woman.

I want to say…

I want to say…

the sun flings silver stars 

like lucky dice across 

the lake this morning and 

popcorn clouds puff high 

in the tomorrow sky. 

 

Photo: Harry Rajchgot

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

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)