Category Archives: Poetry

Said July to an August Afternoon

Said July to an August Afternoon

Joy Carter

“Did you know
You’re pretty?”
Said July to an
August afternoon,
Burnt umber in its skies
Bite in its air
Holding in autumn
Clinging to summer sun
No expectations
Of a flawless fourth of July
Or sweat mixed
With chlorine on your skin
Dandelions burned in those days
In Pentwater, Michigan
As the skies, the lakes
Dried away
Along with my skin
Still too white
From long winters
Whiteness turning to pink, to red
A flaming sun spot, dotted
With constellations
Across nose and cheekbones.

St. Agnes Hospital Final Tableau

St. Agnes Hospital Final Tableau

Gerard Sarnat

“When I am laid, am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.”
— aria from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas

My conference with Dad’s oncologist and infectious disease doc
goes as expected: Nothing suggests the sepsis which declared itself

is resolving. We reconcile not to further biopsy his medicalized life,

what to stop, what to begin to diminish pain, make breathing easier.
Brother-in-law inserted next to my wife — we shapeshift, share roles

seeing Poppy through. At the helm of the bed, I channel how to lean in,

lay on hands, where to kiss, when to cry, back off, exhort, forgive, let go.
MD finger on MD wrist, his pulse slowing, I guide Daddy’s journey

then posit everyone but my sister head out. She says to me,

“Gerry, you’re the overpriced doctor, so remove his nasal prongs.”
Just wanting to be a Father’s dutiful son, fingering

the room’s wondrous but alien crucifix, I try to hedge,

“Why don’t you check at the nursing station first?” Unmoved,
Sis counters, “Let’s take off the oxygen together.” We strip tape

from Pa’s mottled forehead. Other tasks fall to me — cut off

DNR bracelets. Shave. Change his gown. Detach paraphernalia,
daub his cheek. Wheel Mother in for last time alone. Regather.

The Christians Arrived

The Christians Arrived

Michael Lee Johnson

Salvation Army and
the Christians arrived today,
Christmas, like every other Sunday morning
feed the homeless, chasing the rats from the bathroom,
basement, kicking the dead flies out of the corner spots
where the cat used to lounge-
clean the toilet bowl, a form of revival and resurrection.
I privately pastor to these desires though I myself am homeless.
I forgot what it’s like to be a poet of the cloth,
savior in street clothing with a warm home to blend into.
I watch them clamp the New Testament in one hand,
And pull a cancer stick out of the pocket with the other.
It’s all a matter of praising the Lord.
Everything is nonsense when you’re in a place where you don’t belong.
Even praying to Jesus from a dirty dusted pillow seems strange and bewildering.
Someday I will walk from this place and offer spare meals by myself to others;
feed the party in between the theology, the bingo of sins and salvation.
I forgot the taste of a Stromboli Sandwich with a six pack of Budweiser
with or without the Chicago Bears – it would make every Sunday a Salvation
Army holiday.
Today is a fairy creating miracles from the dust of the floor
multiplying fish and chips, baked ham, ribs with sauce Chi-Town type,
dark color of greens and veggies tip me to the Christian
clock on the wall peeking down on lost and unsaved.
I feel like a fragment.
A birth date the way again to begin, fragmented.
Pinto beans mixed with graffiti fingers,
Christians arrived on Christmas day-
they always do every Sunday morning.
I pastor to these desires.
It’s all a matter of praising the Lord.
The Christians arrived today.

Breakup Haiku

Breakup Haiku

Virginie Colline

the intimate words
they should or shouldn’t have heard
the lessons they learn

nothing specific
a minor change in the air
her phantom has left

yet another tear
cracking the rosy façade
demolition ball

suitcase on the mat
his own tabula rasa
in the nascent sun

Girl in “hygge” refugee hut

Crackling_Fire

Girl in “hygge” refugee hut

Ilona Martonfi

In the mountains on the
other side of a fjord
winter solstice, 60 degrees north,
where the sun sets before four
one room timber cabin, attic loft
Magyar refugee family from Budapest

what’s hygge about grandmother’s
homemade lingonberry compote?

hygge at Yuletime
it sounds like “hYOOguh
–it’s even harder to translate
now that we have a name for it
–warmth, togetherness, family
and in the Nordic darkness unaware
five children, four girls and one boy
we’re hygge’ing right now
around an oak table for a meal:
spiced meatballs. Potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
For all of you to cuddle around the woodstove
on a December evening.
Ah, så koselig –so cozy.

Laced ankle boots, wool mittens
tobogganing on a snowy hill

tucked under sheepskin,
sipping tin cup of hot cocoa,
hygge by curling up on a bench
with a fairy tale book
mother brought from the old country,

teddy bear, a rocking horse
the glow of a log fire

spruce bright with white candles.

 

 

The Once That Was

The Once That Was

Joe Renzler

Your smile
Slit my throat
From ear to ear

The time it took
Was the brief forever
Of a child on a swing

Just a tick
Not even a tock.

I’ll never feel the joy
Of sadness again.

The fairy tales have sprouted wings
Their pages blind as kites
They now wander among daylight’s invisible stars

As darkness descends with its burning lights
I sit in the slow rush of traffic
From inside my car
The rain’s gallop sounds distant
While windshield wipers wave warily
As if sweeping the glass for mines.

 

*photo image: Wikimedia Commons

The Good Air of Buenos Aires

The Good Air of Buenos Aires

 James F. Olwell

The waves of sun shine dance
upon the leaves, under the floss silk tree,
fall in the pond in the Japanese garden ,
given by the Japanese community
to commemorate it’s own founding.

The enormous Koi carp (goldfish) there,
perceiving movement upon the pink arched bridge,
arrive as a multi-colored mob, open mouthed,
Certain there will be food.

While the Plaza Allegmana
presents it’s park, perhaps,
in honor of whom it was permitted
to let in, to keep out.

Elsewhere, even the pigeons seem
to have isolated the weak.
You can recognize the unsleek,
over-scratching, immobilized
while they rot in the corner.

Little green mountains of bags
appear at end of day,
neat and clean upon the sidewalk
‘til they meet a small army
of families or young boys or men,
pregnant women, an inclusive world,
to pick through, pluck any edible
combine into a meal, no
assurance here for open mouths.

No country from which tourists come
gave a park or leafy garden
to honor the hungry, ill begotten,
disrespectable mobs of mouths, worthless
to the great buildings, as of Europe,
great avenues of eleven lanes of cars.
No, no country gave, neither here nor home,
—in honor of the hungry families,
nor Argentina neither that,
oh one of many, one of many,
let in Nazis, didn’t let in Jews.

 

 

photo: by Luis Argerich, Buenos Aires, licensed by Wikimedia Commons

In Passing

In Passing

by Violet Neff-Helms

In the quiet moments when you pause above your books,

Lifting slowly your wine glass, casting back your looks at times now gone.

Watching firelight dancing shadows on the hardwood floor,

Smiling slyly, shaded eyelids, savoring Golden Never Mores.

Sifting like sand your memories where Time and Thought are kept,

Will you recall as I shall recall, or will you just forget.

A meeting of minds so long ago in a corner of this Earth,

A sharing of thought in passing there,

A moment of Peace and Mirth.

Brief as the breath of the living,

Quick as the flight of a dart,

I left with a smile and a memory,

You left with the wind and my heart.

She brings you down

DSCN0156

She brings you down

Louise Carson

She brings you down to her level,
splits with a flick.

Personally,
I don’t mind her house of moods.

Trumpets swell,
chocolate boxes rattle, full of shells.

Once you’re there, give up;
there won’t be any signals.

And what’s so funny about dipping your knife in tea,
when what you wanted was honey?

The fields begin to sheathe themselves

The fields begin to sheathe themselves

Louise Carson

The fields begin to sheathe themselves in some
soft metal underfoot as they ripen
into hardness. The air quiets. Except
for Christmas’ three-week hum, traffic thins.
Some life has left the earth, been driven down
and in. The metal spreads its silent hymn
that sings of hardship, night; of frozen beings,
their signals lost; records the broken keen
of almost dogs. They spread out as they run
for meat. Under the trees their lines bisect
the rabbits’ shorter curves. Life joins life:
gray fur, brown fur, metallic scent of blood.

Murmur

Murmur

by Jill Talbot

 

I have a heart murmur—they say

I’ve had it since birth, not to worry.

 

I’m afraid I have the same

off beat arrhythmia as you—

a beat no one can dance to—

 

awkward.

 

I tried to rid of your

crooked smile

but instead forgot

how to smile.

 

I tried to use reason

to put this off-beat-heartache-out—

damn straight.

I failed, again.

And again and again.

I didn’t even try to dance.

 

I don’t want to miss you

but it’s the only way to not

lose you completely.

 

Born with a murmur at St. Paul’s,

downtown,

a pink beaded bracelet.

 

And that was the end of the beginning—

until I got on my knees

and begged to have it back.

 

Again and again.

Beating, beating,

I missed you

again.

 

I missed you until

 

I could face a mirror,

beating harder,

I needed you.

MEETING THE ONE

MEETING THE ONE

by John Grey

 

So loneliness is an airless, colorless, dungeon

and nowhere drearier than in the heart,

with, as a food source, the worms at the base of the well,

slithered up by kiss-less lips.

 

And the joining up is what they will remember,

when they feel gratitude from all directions,

these young men marching hi full light,

chests swelled, arms reaching out.

 

Each one may have been a martyr to his ditch of darkness,

in the depths of a crevasse, in the shadows of the blind.

It could have been be a black hole maybe twenty miles deep,

with only the rats who occupy their minds.

 

And then there’s the one –

and that’s the last they’ll see of all that darkness.

For dungeons and wells, ditches and crevasses –

only the pit of a heart resembles these.

But press it soft against the breast of a lover

and shoot and explode, destroy and sabotage all dark places.

 

So here they all are, happier for being proudly selfish.

It’s a great day. It apologizes for the days not like this.

Jonah, or My Whale

Jonah, or My Whale

by Sheryl Halpern

 

I used to think that

I could tell the whale

Where to go

That, joggled in damp

Krill-swarmed darkness

I was still prophet, brain

Heart of the problem

Now I know

The whale goes

where it wants to go

Up, down grey ocean wide

And takes me blind

 

My up is the whale’s up,

My dizzy down is the whale’s dive deep

My steady rocking its stilled sleep

Its long whistling songs

What I hear most

 

I cannot see, just feel

Despair on my fingers

I could be near shore

Or on far sea mountains

Who knows but whale

Who needs no prophet

Who heeds no call

From me, within

Its mucky ribbed walls

Of fleshy, warty well

Black black black

bleak always

 

Somewhere outside,

The bible goes on

And I’m not even cited,

buried alive in sea paragraphs

 

I cannot speak here

Or be heard out

over low moaning

I am whale, no

I am in whale and

Whale is all

Godot Asks For Directions

Godot Asks For Directions

by Steven Mayoff

 

 

a confusion of arrows pointing to bliss, damnation,

childhood, fortune, remorse…

 

he unfolds his map reads between

the creases fraying into nonexistence and stares

 

out at the world through a tear in the fabric of cartographic

nightmares where beyond the edges be

 

dragons guarding our most treasured

islands: an archipel-ego of biblical distortions and revisitations…

 

in a rare flash of insight he realizes he is naked and pushes

his head through a torn crease wearing

 

the map like a poncho smoothing down

the edges to keep them from flapping against the hot winded

 

changes of sameness… we are here as

they are there as he is everywhere in the lostness of not now

 

and it keeps getting later according to the pocket watch chained

around his neck being in servitude to

 

his own reclusive nature scribbled

in the margins of an appointment book taped to his inner thigh…

 

excuse me would you be so kind he practices in his not right

mind as those equally faceless as he

 

walk briskly by at the busy intersection of smart street and drive-by

boulevard… wetting a finger to the wind

 

he circles once like a dog and settles on

an oblique north easterly direction straight into a cul-de-sacreligious

 

signpost warning of his imminent arrival… pardon me would you be

so good he inquires of the neighbouring

 

hoodlums who strip him of watch, map,

appointment book and all notions of a redeemer who liveth in the

 

bloody heart bombs lobbed in migratory fashion toward a bloodred

sunset… sorry to bother but could

 

you direct he asks the operator before

the disconnected line hums through his circulatory estimations

 

of how long…

how long…

how long…

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

by Harry Rajchgot

 

I forgot to shave today

As if I do things for you

That do things for me

Independent yet

Held to you by thoughts

Lost musings buried in dissociation

Automatic

Until

Thinking what is there

Beneath a transparent broken surface

Not aware of you perhaps

In your subtlest touches

Until you are gone

They break through

Like whales sounding

IT’S A DOG’S WORLD

IT’S A DOG’S WORLD

by John Grey

Why shouldn’t I jump from the roof?

The evidence:

coffee spills, bills, talk radio, canned food, clichés.

As for the last of these,

I’m always either dog-tired or sick as a dog.

Not forgetting the dog-eat-dog world

and the sleeping dogs within me

that I tease too much,

and have no one else to blame

when they snarl and bite.

As Hank Williams once sang,

“I’m in the dog-house now.”

And yes, my face never varies from

“you look like somebody just shot your dog.”

Forget the coffee spills, the bills, the talk radio, the canned food

I’m a trembling mess of canine clichés.

So why shouldn’t I jump from the roof?

Ok, so it makes more sense to chase my tail.

Or sniff somebody’s butt.

Or drink out of the toilet

Or tree squirrels. Or bark at strangers.

But I’ve done all that. None of it helps.

Besides, it’s a very low roof on a very low one story home.

I can easily land on all fours.

It’s just a show after all.

And if that’s what the pretty bitch next door wants…

ADDICTION

ADDICTION

by John Grey

I despise habit,

these patterns that won’t let up; my body keeps doing everything

my brain warns it against;

I’m combining cough syrup with cheap vodka;

I’m floating like a butterfly

where butterflies don’t belong;

I’m having sex

with the kitchen floor

and my body is molasses sticky –

let’s not quibble –

it’s really molasses sex;

and now I’m drifting above myself,

looking down at ordinary life,

a superior being

on a Wednesday afternoon

in August;

and there goes my brain again,

repeating over and over,

it really is up to me;

but my body is oblivious –

for all the addition my mind invokes,

I’m down with the subtraction.

Your Situation

Your Situation

Blossom Thom

 

I don’t know your situation.

Are you too busy with someone else,

too happy in your solitude,

too long alone to see me here?

To hear what I have to say? Your words fall tangled

from your mouth,

crushing any meaning.

Hear me now.

Know that I speak the truth from

my heart.

If my dreams are not yours, they are still mine. I love

them and me, then you.

 

A Series of Disjointed Images by Roxy Hearn

A Series of Disjointed Images

Roxy Hearn

 

I’m not sure how to say this.

I

My life consisted of a little green bundle

Of memories all rolled up into

One nicely packed joint.

And then I smoked it.

Through the dull haze I

Remember that it happened in chunks.

The time I lived in Nova Scotia, dancing

The lead in The Nutcracker and thinking

That it couldn’t get any better than this.

Realizing shortly after that perhaps I was right.

The time I lived in Toronto, knowing

What I wanted to do but not how

To do it. I trudged forward through the slush

Being heaped onto me

Accepting the wet socks for what they were.

Wet socks.

When I feel control slipping

Away I crawl into bed, sheets

Pulled up over my face. As

I lie there I look at my life backwards,

Examining every moment that led to

Each moment. What I did and

What I could have done.

But when I can no longer feel the words fall into order,

I rely on images that can barely express what

I am trying to say.

II

The cards can be stacked in

All the right places, and the

Unforeseen wind can still

Knock them over.

Through this muddled mess of

Cards I rebuild myself time and time

Again. Each time being careful to close

The window. To shut out the obtrusive breeze

That no number of bolts can hold

And will always find its way back in.

I search for the light though,

In hope that one day I will

Get it right. I know I

Have all the cards, even

Counted all fifty two, making sure.

The problem is in finding

That precarious balance

That I need. I crave.

When the frustration becomes too

Great, and at the end of the day

I am still left with a pile of

Mixed up numbers and faces

At my feet, I look for other

Ways to relieve the pressure.

A place where It’s okay to

Feel out of control.

Where I can allow myself to coast to the top,

And in that moment of suspension

Accept the fate that I caused,

Then fall.

Sometimes arms raised in elation.

Sometimes gripping the bar

White knuckled with fear.

Like that time I just said yes,

Rather than sitting there debating.

Instead, I packed my bags and was

On a plane the next morning,

Off to the island destination of

Rotan, Honduras, where I spent

A week with my feet in the sand.

But I digress.

While on these rides I can’t

Always control who is

Going to assume the seat

Next to me. These chance

Encounterings have the power to

Inflict change, start a watershed to

Whisk me into the next scene of my play.

It has been my experience

That these actors, without permission,

Simply write themselves in. Sometimes

(Rather always) they lack the Same sense

Of poetics that I myself prefer to

Weave, yet it provides a nice break

For the audience, just as the play

Starts to drag on.

And just when I think I’ve adjusted

To this change, and my writing has adapted

To their offbeat syntax, they quit.

Not even giving the customary

Two weeks notice.

III

And yet they were still there

No matter how brief.

So in my program

These extras take their

Credit:

The childhood sweetheart I’ll never see again.

The pot head I never could change.

The bad boy I never wanted to change.

The music man on top of that mountain.

The European who literally found me when I was lost.

The German whom I was forced to regret.

The jock I hate to love.

The Cabana boy under the stars.

The American boy under those same stars.

The friend who was there for it all.

They are only a small part of the

Stanza that make up my pieces.

Ink is expensive, after all.

And even when the theatre empties

The ballet continues.

For example:

I met a man last week

A faceless smudge from

Across the bar somehow

Standing out from the rest.

It starts with a point

That I’ve always needed to prove.

The competition I compete in

Alone.

So, High on the liquid cocaines

Pulsating steadily through me, I

Perform my well-oiled routine:

Starts with the eyes peeking out

From under long lashes.

Knees accidentally brush,

Lingering for the perfect

Amount of too long.

Head remains cocked

Quizzically, feigning Interest.

One suggestive bite

Of the lip later and

They are ready for

The grand finale.

But this time it didn’t work

The way it usually does.

This time it wasn’t feigned interest.

He had something to say.

Now I’m the one stuck.

He won. I lost.

Then one day he will be gone

Just like the rest of them.

And at that time

I’ll take a single moment

Erasing him from

My pages even though the grain

Of wood has already left

It’s print but I will continue

To scrub until the lead is

Only a phantom trace

And easy to ignore.

And then move on.

It’s usually for the best anyways,

I enjoy it while it lasts.

Besides, there is always another one

More than willing to take his place.

IV

I say this not to brag,

But to set in ink the girl

That I am today

Or yesterday

Because I do not know

Where she is going to be

In a year, or if I’ll miss her

When she’s gone.

V

For now, I suppose, I will continue

On my way,

Noting that the faster I walk

The more important the

Thing I have to do becomes.

That’s what it’s all about

I think

Seeing how much stuff

I can get done

In this short amount

Of time that doesn’t

Feel all that short.

So until that time I will fill my

Rhyme with senseless boys and

Useless toys.

I’ll float from job

To job, traverse the

Waters, allow myself

To be seized by the

Passionate throws

Of opportunity.

Maybe start a family simply

Out of unadulterated boredom.

Worse comes to worse,

Maybe I did miscount

And will be

Forced to improvise.

Forced to handcraft

New cards just so I can finish

My masterpiece,

Move into my castle, and then

Promptly move away.

I’m pretty handy like

That anyways.

But back to the socks:

Socks which are wet defeat the purpose

Of wearing socks in the first place. Yet

At least they have a set purpose,

A predetermined point.

I never liked socks much anyways.

 

Photo by Harry Rajchgot, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, 2005