Tag Archives: poetry

Modigliani in the Moonlight

Modigliani in the Moonlight

Gayane Haroutyunyan

Before Modigliani painted portraits

of dames and men

in his rusty old shack,

he used to visit a French brothel

ten blocks down

from his house.

He was after women and

hash, mostly not women

because they made him weep and fly

and then ache like a chopped willow.

By the time he was half way there

the sizable bottle of wine in his hand

was empty and he was not sure

where he was headed

or who he was.

The only thing he knew

was the shape of the object

in his hand

a blueprint of his life

and it was moist

and heavy.

Cosmology of Beat

Cosmology of Beat 

Rana Bose

In the Cosmology of Beat

            there are back-bent cars parked on roads, detritus beside lampposts.

Rooftops above the Five-spot, with curling smoke,

           rising,

           rising from black-grey still-shots on walls of poetry on fire with desire,

uppermost in the narrow corridors of prized lofts,

           going for cheap.

                                                                                                                                                   

Still-shots of a messiah standing slouched, 

           Spouting, pouting defiantly 

on Wooster and Bleecker,

                      mumbling!

Mumbling Sanskrit slokas

Le Sang des Poetes painted on the walls.

                                                                                                                                                   

Leroi Baraka, 

           the lone gunfighter,

           pensive in a loft up there, or

standing in the wings or

           leaning against a piano 

           that weeps and faints,

           that weeps and faints

as he begins to recite-

           the tale of his baptism by bop,

           in a black and white space, 

           septic, surrounded 

 by Peter and Jack, 

           pounding on Underwoods

fuelled by whisky,

           with handwritten labels.

                                                                                                                                                   

In the cosmology of Beat,

           there are black iron stairs,

           that escape to below

           that escape to below

where sulks a twist,

           at the end of a martini,

at the bottom

           of the glassy pit, empty,

           as muffled horns screech to a cued stop,

for jalapeno and chips

 and a squeeze break

 for the needy.

                                                                                                                                                    

In the cosmology of Beat

           the mind sits,

armed only with a swizzle stick

Swirling the dust

           from the Buddhist tantra

That makes the cosmos

           sound like physics-

gone to shit.

                                                                                                                                                   

In the cosmology of Beat

           there is hope,

that the hum and the swirl,

           And the chance that

           a sound will emerge

and bulbs will sway

           and faces will turn,

In corridors

where whispers and chants, 

Once did ricochet.

                                                                                                                                                   

In the cosmology of beat,

           It is said that

           Beats will come

In technicolour, 

in ekta fuckachrome,

           beats from a bongo, a harp

a piano will bojangle-

           and bo-beep 

           from a sax on the edge of the metro,

           will tunnel down,

           will tunnel down,

and take you away

in a whoosh, 

far beyond

           any obsession with Om!

                                                                                                                                                   

Notes:  

Five-spot: Five-spot Café (1956-67), a café and performance space in New York City that featured cutting edge bebop and progressive jazz and attracted a host of avant-garde artists and writers.

Wooster and Bleeker: an intersection of two famous streets near Washington Square, Greenwich Village.  Bleeker Street was once a major centre for American bohemia and remains an important nightclub district; Wooster is home to many boutiques, restaurants and cultural institutions including the The Performance Group (later the Wooster Group), an experimental theatre company.  

Peter and Jack: Peter Orlovsky and Jack Kerouac

SPECIES-EUPHORIA

SPECIES EUPHORIA

Karen Ocana

                                                                                                                                                           

I am having dinner with a goldfish.

It is not a dream, my eyes are open,

the fish is looking at me, swirling

   solicitous of my solitude.

                                                                                                                                                         

It seemed rude to refuse the waiter

approaching with the fish in a bowl, 

as if I were some character in a

   story book. 

                                                                                                                                                      

The fish sizes up my curries and naan,

I eyeball its buoyant swishes,

our body language slides into

   complicated complicity.

                                                                                                                                                          

I raise my fork 

and something spasms

            a flash of molten gold rises

                        light cascades in the fish’s wake, 

            an improbable message

making its escape.

INVOLUTION

INVOLUTION

Karen Ocana

A Purolator truck drives by the living room window 

as you listen to Sam Rivers’ Involution and expect a parcel, 

expect it to contain a dehumidifier.  UV index reads 9/10 

and a heat warning is in effect.  Blinds are drawn, windows shut  

and you’ve been watching the drama of leaves 

fluttering in the breeze 

reflected on the grey wall 

as you work out 

how to translate 

certain key phrases.

You’re waiting for the delivery of a parcel, a dehumidifier 

and your dress is magenta, clinging to your damp skin 

as you translate certain key phrases 

in the book you find impossible to finish,  

the phrase about obsessively tracing hands 

across the new and old decomposing walls 

sitting still in the white space of a room 

listening obsessively to the rollicking riffs 

of Rivers’ Involution.

Key phrases in the evolution of the tenor saxophone, 

subtracting oneself from death 

like engraving in white-on-black 

the risk of a window. 

Camera obscura.

            How do we see, exactly?  

Listen.

            Heat rises from her middle like frothy magenta foam 

on a strawberry milkshake, and she dreams 

of fording a river on a steamy night in June,

her blue pencil scrolls, pacing, spacing the words, 

the meanings trailing with the ease of jazzic fluidity, 

horns, percussion, heat, voices, 

the apparent free flow of highly stylized phrases

those of the conversation

those of the hushed 

lush conversation 

when you tell me the events,  the dates,  the places,   the spaces 

you last heard music like this.

            The record ends in the shimmering shade 

            of the living room where the sun lingers 

            like the risk of a door opening onto the street 

            where a crowd rears its head and no one hears 

            the roar of the rivers that scream underground 

            day in day out, as potholes creak

            under the weight of ambulances.

HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

Karen Ocana

                                                                                                                                                                            Dear one, 

Have you ever wondered which came first,

the poem or the letter? 

                                                                                                                                                                            I cycle to the canal to meet you —

you, who still smoke half a packet a day;

(We met at a poetry reading five years ago

among books and fine speakers with so much to say.)

                                                                                                                                                                            We saunter and speak but rarely in iambics

more rarely still in swishy hexameters

at best in blank verse, citing common parame-

ters, our aches and our nagging pains emblems 

of the strained life we lead in a metropolis,

with deaths in the thousands from

this novel coronavirus;

How the people we love we don’t see anymore

How friends have left and we’re tempted to flee

How chain-smoking was only recently banished

When ‘twas once the source of grace notes such as 

            these:

                                                                                                                                                                             Du feu s’il-vous-plait

             Haben Sie Feuer, bitte

                        Baby won’t you light my, um, cigarette?

                                                                                                                                                                             A writer we both admire once wrote

A poem called How to Quit Smoking

Where Felicity, smitten with Fred

Punches Bob in the gob, I’m just joking.

                                                                                                                                                                            It’s a poem wherein, as you know, the rhythm flows along quite unencumbered by rhyme scheme, in no way or shape bending to preconceived pattern, balanced on the triple knife edge of pathos, irony and delirium, along which it tiptoes acrobatically, following lyric chords strung invisibly like tight-ropes within our cerebral cortex, upon which stories of love and loss leap and pirouette…

                                                                                                                                                                            leaving me breathless,

              speechless

with visions of a simile

                          (Go ahead and blame the pox of romantic cigarette advertisements if you will)

                                                                                                                                                                          “… like the smoky whorls issuing from the rosebud of your dreamy lips…” 

Christmas tree

Christmas tree 

Louise Carson

Snow squalls tear at petals

                                                                                                                                                            and you can’t see this miracle

of intemperate growth in your own back yard

or remember the slanting lane

(vision of men in flat caps

walking to work past brick warehouses)

where the parent tree began one spring –

                                                                                                                                                            or the granary shed

made of sun-burned hemlock and tin

in front of which where it never was before

winter’s magnolia

transplanted from city shrunken leaf-nude

is dream – flowering

                                                                                                                                                            angels and glass candy woven in.

the werewolf

the werewolf

Josephine Gawtry

it’s true that if we were in a storybook you’d be the werewolf. slouching around the kudzu on the perimeter of my yard at night, with the rabbits and groundhogs quivering in their viney coves, the deer still and wide-eyed across the old fence in the shady spruce knoll—illuminated only by distant headlights from the main road—i would look out my window and think i saw something moving out there. dismiss it as one of the mountain creatures, a fox, a black bear;

in the long farm grass we walk in springtime. ticks tickle our hairy girl legs. we find a stream with a sitting stump and a climbing tree and a bushel of wineberries. we stain our cut-up, nettle-stung hands purple and red, place the berries on each fingertip and suck them off, giggling. on our walk back we fiddle with sweetgrass and tuck eachother in our palms. i bring home wild onions and my dad puts them in the salad.

its winter and we wear jackets and go to the bakery. i choose an elephant ear and my dad asks why they are getting more expensive. looking outside at the freeway, i pant mist onto the window, spelling my name with the J backwards in fingersmudge. we go back to the house we can’t afford (the recession just happened) and my mom yells at me, in the harmless way that i am used to. i have my own room now and change my own clothes, still hesitantly. 

in summertime, i see the werewolf again. at the edge of the neighborhood, where the new houses are being built—among the concrete shells and loose nails, he stalks, blue eyes studying me. he is a mixture of tenderness, confusion, seduction. my dad calls from behind me, tossing a ball with my little brother, and i turn away, running back home. the sun will go down soon, and mom wants me back.

after my dad and i watch the fall thunderstorm on the equinox, i go to the new school with real snacks (not ice cubes) and a plastic playground painted all different colors. i am perpetually in trouble and when i am, my mom comes in sweating from the gym and grabs me by the wrist. i lie about being sick and read my chapter books so fast that i hate them for being so short. scholastic book fairs and swinging outside eat me alive, and my blood is so red and juicy i drink with them, gleefully smiling, my mouth full of baby teeth.

it’s true that if we were in a storybook you’d be the werewolf. i would walk out in the woods alone, sidestepping the boulders by the stream, my skinny child arms pushing mountain laurel branches aside and seeing you in the unfinished lot. i would run to you and feel your bristled mammal hair on my cheek. i’d bite off the honeysuckle tip and kiss your wolf mouth so you could taste the sweetness.

Card House

Card House

Josephine Gawtry

for 44 nights i stayed up until the sunrise: bird chorus weeping, in tito’s and tea with clover honey we hold sacred

and no amount of melatonin or cbd gummies would sedate me so: i stole Restoril from my sister’s drawer and fell blank on my bedspread. 

golden like every morning and evening. the maps started to lie, twisting the roads and Wal-marts together, got so stoned i started seeing your face behind the closet door, your wrists and ankles scarred by ropeburn

listen. the question you asked, among spring trees flowering: what made you?  i was raised in the card house, i am the forever queen of sagebrush and toothbrush. Flat white and chewed like gum.

DORIS IMAGINES A RELATIONSHIP IN THE GROCERY STORE

DORIS IMAGINES A RELATIONSHIP IN THE GROCERY STORE

R. Nikolas Macioci

 

It is in her head to meet someone new.

In the Kroger produce department people

pause to pull plastic bags from spools.

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale drip

with perpetual water. A lean man

in khaki cargo shorts and a green golf

shirt strolls up beside her, reaches for a

head of lettuce, smiles, says hi, and walks

away. She hangs back then follows him,

stays at the top of the cereal aisle

while he grabs Wheaties from a shelf. He

turns, sees her and smiles again. This time

she wanders past him to the other end

of the aisle and disappears around the corner.

She’s embarrassed by brazen boldness, stands

still as if examining ingredients of a potato

chip bag and asks herself what best can come

out of this situation? Her chest hurts

from being desperate, from showing too much

vulnerability. Did she veil her face

with nonchalance? Was her need visible?

He’s two lanes down from where she’s checking out.

She can see only his head over impulse items.

DORIS AT THE HOLY BIRD BAR

DORIS AT THE HOLY BIRD BAR

R. Nikolas Macioci

She’s sipping a margarita when he

sits down at the next table with his back

to her. He’s wearing gray slacks, plain

twill tweed sport coat and shirt as white

as marshmallow. Her eyes keep going

to his neck as if to study its anatomy:

muscles, ligaments, tendons, but she is

staring at visible skin and hair touching

the collar. To change focus and distract

herself she looks around at Art Deco

glass, chrome, stainless steel, shiny fabrics,

streamlined geometric forms. Everywhere

she looks leads back to his neck. The

fascination defies ordinary explanation.

She wants to touch him, but it’s more,

it’s desire magnified, sensual need at

her fingertips the object of symbolic lust.

Again she attempts to look elsewhere

at the lacquered bar, inlaid wood, mirrors,

clean lines that bring her back again to his

neck. What if he turned around? Would

she feel the same? He finishes his drink

and leaves which breaks the spell. By

herself, she still imagines stroking his

hair, feeling her hand against his neck

like a hymn to passion.

MY TWO NOVEMBERS

 

 

 

MY TWO NOVEMBERS

 Abigail Warren

 

Not this freight train

barreling down from Canada

an unwanted guest

leaving mornings smoky

with a drunken sun

too tired to push

his belligerent fires

to that quivering hemlock,

standing erect as a boy

in 3rd grade who’s

pinched a girl

and is waiting outside the principal’s office

for punishment.

Not you, November.

The other one.

Where the pokeweed is still alive

with purple orbs hanging heavy,

trees still crimson

oaks, cinnamon.

No smell of fossil fuels,

but leaves gathered

in mounds where children

dive recklessly

in great leaps crackling

until some father gathers them,

and they blaze under a

November moon;

look close, the hydrangeas,

their fading heads droop 

like those sullen children, 

called in after evening’s play.

But let the children stay

let them gather leaves,

let them believe all this

will not end

THAT BEACH, AGAIN

That Beach, Again

      I thought 

  to put a piece

    of the sun in

a standard business 

    envelope and

  then stamp that

        for you

  loved the sand

    and seasighed

        song under gulling wing     

        as your skin

    drank salty day

to firm the borders

between bold bronze 

           and more shy

porpoise belly bare

  a little later there

with moonlight smile

  you know exactly 

      what I mean

     or once meant

         to you too

        and I wish

  I had and sent it

  if in mere meta4

        but it’s been

               than 30 years

           it

IT HAD THAT SWING

Ed Ahern

 

My mother spent evenings listening to records.

Years of evenings.

78’s and 33’s, and only big band swing.

All named after the band leader.

The bands are largely forgotten now,

but there were Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey,

Woody Herman and Harry James,

Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

My mother, widowed and jobless,

Played the music of her courtship,

Of a yet unburdened future,

At least twice a week.

I never liked the music,

But had nowhere else to go,

And absorbed it despite myself,

Melodies lingering decades later.

In cleaning out her house

I couldn’t throw away the records

And suitcased them back home.

Never played, almost forgotten.

They’re serious collectibles now,

Worthwhile selling off,

But I can’t discard the future

She almost had.

THE COSMOS

Madelyn E. Camrud

 

That summer of good rains, 

he scattered seed for her—the woman 

he loved; she his life, disease he wasn’t ready for; 

nor was she, young by standards today; 

brilliant; beautiful; loved before

she left; loved still and ever 

after because that’s how it is with flowers, 

tall and slender, growing below 

a mountain where breezes fall; where 

bears romped, rolled on seeds—

the hundreds of pounds he planted; 

stalks grown tall after good rains as if the love 

would not go away; as if all and every 

love is a story; yet never one so rare 

as The Cosmos; none so delicate, and true.

SEVENTEEN

SEVENTEEN

Jocelyn Cooper

 

My perky ponytail bobs

As I strut with my friends

New Hampshire

The White mountains

A hot August night

The Maplewood Resort

Harry Belafonte performs inside

He sings his haunting melodies

I hear Scarlet Ribbons for the first time

Poor teenagers like me are at the windows

Looking in longingly

He acknowledges the outsiders in a song

We’re young!

We’re thrilled!

THE FORECAST

THE FORECAST

Madelyn E. Camrud 

 

Temperatures below zero,

windows frosted over; 

rabbits chew shrubs 

to the nub; the willow 

curled crooked over the coulee 

like before—as if we 

hadn’t passed that day; 

as if nothing has happened; 

it bends ever so slightly above water like before—

                                         does nothing in nature know? 

How many buds cut—lost count; 

the sweet smell of narcissus—

ominous fills my house.

The days lead to Christmas: 

my garden grows grief in the cold.

           

          :/who knows what evil takes over a mind?            

^^^^^^

The willow remains unchanged—

ice on the coulee

thickens—

my skin 

grows thin.

 

Is there no measure 

to this sadness? 

 

I strain to see 

past the glass; 

something is falling—

neither rain nor snow.

 

                         

What country is this?            

THE TRACTOR AND THE FARMER’S WIFE

John Grey

 

It’s one thing to be private.

It’s quite another to be so obsolete

that your tires are flat

your flywheel’s shot

your gas tank’s empty, rusty.

and you’re abandoned

hi the far end of the paddock,

mid-winter,

smothered in a foot of snow.

It’s one thing to think that the ideal

is to be done with work.

cooling off,

when that work is what’s sustained you.

and you’re not cooling off,

you’re freezing up.

And sure, it’s one thing

to materialize out of melting,

with spring upon you,

the unplowed field ahead of you,

when there’s a newer model in the showroom.

and the bank is making loans

to every farmer in the county.

And it’s one thing to be a tractor.

But such a misery to be you.

LETTERS FROM HOME

LETTERS FROM HOME

Anna Kapungu

 

In the deserted days

Where the sun is my champion

And the blood thirsts for water

I tell the rays what I miss the most

Hear my breathing

Sweat drip down my back

My hands cracked  from the labour

Labour  without  gains

Split the grounds to pass the hours

Read the roads of my palms 

Roads that lead me back home

Then I receive your letters

Your words are like rain in the summer

Comfort my blackened heart

Feel the elevation of my spirit

My people,the force of humanity

I cannot pray to surrender my heaviness

I cannot cry to release my sentence

TALL GLASSES

Tall glasses

DS Maolalai

pouring our gin

onto icecubes

and limes.

enjoying              

the crackle

and crunch.

and summer

is trapped

by the walls

of our balcony;

the ice in a tall

glass of gin.

we lean back in tandem,

stretching like poolside

recliners. below us

the traffic is steady; locked

like a lime

in our ice. we stir

our tall glasses

with takeaway

chopsticks,

shifting the garnish

around.

IKEA

IKEA

DS Maolalai

on the floor of the bedroom

searching the carpet for screws

while the mattress stands over me

like the approach           

of a two-storey

truck. I slug a beer

and put it down somewhere

out of the way

on the carpet, (I know

before I’m done

I’ll knock it over). pick up a strut.

I work steadily;

place wood against

wood and screws

in holes. forget

where I left

the allan wrench. the screwdriver.

dust spews up

like spores out of mushrooms

or a movie

about discovering old cities – digging in, I find

forgotten books, dirty plates,

t-shirts and condom wrappers. outside

a broken box-spring

sits in the garden

and soaks – it will be there

at least a year

once we get used to it. the carpet

under the bed

thirty years fresher. I work

in spilled beer

and old receipts, hoping

to get things done

before chrys comes in

and decides we should change that

too.

Photo credit: Iris Yue, Unsplash

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