Old Poet

Poetry
Timothy Pilgrim


Photo Credit: Francis Mariani/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I find it in The New Yorker now
easier to yawn about nothing poems—

self-obsessed men, depression, sanity
on the run, priests preying on nuns.

Phallic prayer naked, life, spread wide
for redemption, full-bosomed end.

So little depends on anything
when limp metaphors droop and bend.

pencil

Timothy Pilgrim, a Pacific Northwest poet and Pushcart Prize nominee in 2018, has several hundred acceptances from journals like Seattle Review, Third Wednesday, Windsor Review, Mad Swirl, Sleet, San Pedro River Review, Santa Anna River Review, Toasted Cheese and Hobart. He is author of Mapping Water (Flying Trout Press, 2016). Email: pilgrimtima[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Erren Kelly


Photo Credit: Nerissa’s Ring/Flickr (CC-by)

Esther

doesn’t have to save her people
from death and tyranny anymore
she just serves them coffee in
a little coffeehouse in Brookline

her heart no longer makes
King Xerxes go cuckoo
she shares it with the
brothers and sisters of
Brookline

to look into her eyes
is to see god’s love
at work
she is a vessel,
carrying his goodness
a transmitter for his
joy

Esther doesn’t fight her battles
in the scriptures anymore
she conquers apathy and
hate in a little coffeehouse in
Brookline

 

George

he stands on the corner asking for change
and yet he sings about change
the change only comes when we stop
finding our courage in bottles of
feeling sorry for ourselves
and in doing drugs of excuses.
he sat at the table
talking about change
asking others for change, mainly.
he never liked the green chairs in the front
always in the back
the orange chairs in front, always
he was always about dirty jokes
and solitaire and street wisdom
’cause everyone who came into the
soup kitchen had their own journey
just like he did, and he always said
good morning, and dared anyone
to stop him. sometimes, he gave the other
transients change
and it’s hard to stand on our own
when systems try to keep us down
when the haves get more and have-nots
find more ways to play the victim
but he always said he chose his life
even so, we all deserve the best

I walked to the T earlier
thought I saw him in his baseball cap, turned
off to the side, dispensing wisdom
while shamelessly asking for change…

does anybody have any change?

we could all use a change…

pencil

Erren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart-nominated poet from Boston. He has been writing for 28 years and has over 300 publications in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine (online), Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg and other publications. His most recent publication was in Black Heart Literary Journal; he has also been published in anthologies such as Fertile Ground and Beyond The Frontier. His work can also been seen on YouTube under the “Gallery Cabaret” links. He is also the author of the book Disturbing The Peace on Night Ballet Press. Email: errenkelly76[at]yahoo.com

Four Poems

Poetry
Garrett Harriman


Photo Credit: Greenstone Girl/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The Spider Poem Remembered

It had short lines
throughout,
only two or three stanzas
plus that extra bit
at the end.*

The spider was a pilot
then Quetzalcoatl
and the flies in its web “debris.”
An asphyxiation
of alliteration followed—
an anaerobic inch-and-a-half.

I remember looking
up the word spinnerets, too.
Grafting it oh so
strategically (like you do).

The final thought was offset:
no reason.

*(In the white right of here, nearly top
of the page: Perfection!
wrote the teacher, his blue
and damning praise.)

 

Knife

When Jesus broke bread,
did he pray
for a knife?
It would’ve made
things easier
to measure and spread,
pass from left
to right.

Instead
he pigeoned it,
brother pecking brother
round that table
for a night—
but all fed,
surely,
all fed.

 

Looking Like I Want to Jump Off a Bridge, I Find Myself On a Bridge

It hadn’t crossed my mind mid-crossing
and although it’s fine bridge-jumping weather
the plummet from this one
above an icy winter bank
(more geology than water at this point,
the skeletal musings of spring
barely high enough to break a fall)
would only snap an ankle or two, a wrist maybe,
soak my all-season hiking boots to their dusty rims,
and that’d be it.

I’d look up from that kids’ table
of failed suicide attempts, ass-planted, heels-deep,
into the bored, morbidly disappointed eyes
of the passing man who asked me
just before,
“You’re not gonna jump now, are you?”

How could I answer him? To anyone?
And what anemic imagination must he think an offing takes?
There’d be nothing to do—not really
besides waddle to shore and shrug my shoulders,
pull some line about featherweight pocket stones
and puff my Chaplin cheeks
as if I’d just missed the bus
and must now—with much sheep—await another,
presumably the last,
the bright idea of stepping in front of it
merrily whizzing by my head.
Hell, I can hear my voice apologizing.

And over there, not too much later,
in silhouette beside a two-log fire—my woolen socks
draped along a wooden chair back,
drip-drip-dripping for tomorrow.

 

How to Read a Birthday Card
For Kailey

Be young and crowd-shy,
harangued by a mother.

Come into your voice
like a mouse sniffing traps.

Your audience is a blind man?
Speak closer.

If nearly blind,
remember to linger on words.

Let the biggest card
buffer your blushes.

And the fold you wrote?
Read last like you planned.

That’s expected, sweet one.
Expected most of all.

pencil

Born and living in Colorado, Garrett Ray Harriman loves writing, playing saxophone, and learning languages. His poetry is published or forthcoming in Kestrel, Chrysanthemum, Atlas Poetica, and Naugatuck River Review. Lifting Smoke, Falling Mist, his first tanka-only poetry collection, also vagabonds online, and may someday find its published home. Feel free to follow his sporadic Twitter @Inadversent. Email: harrimangr[at]gmail.com

Sunday

Poetry
Les Wicks


Photo Credit: remykennyl/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

A silent gift
though you seem unaware
like an earring dropped
the mercy of care, this
unexpected drug.

We have each other clothed only
in buttered afternoon light.
It is understood
we will tread lightly.

Our dogs have always treasured
the mysteries of human fingers.
Digits give us directions
to lovely ruin & understanding.
They stroke away the dust, the pain
of another decade’s living.
We discover this much
in sweat & laughter.

I am rich,
my poker face is broken.

pencil

Over 40 years Les Wicks has performed widely across the globe. Published in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 28 countries in 15 languages. Conducts workshops & runs Meuse Press which focuses on poetry outreach projects like poetry on buses & poetry published on the surface of a river. His 14th book of poetry is Belief (Flying Islands, 2019). Email: leswicks[at]hotmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Tim Suermondt


Photo Credit: Vitorio Benedetti/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

The City Will Do

Best to go in later in the morning,
midweek, riding the subway
to the stop that has you come out
between the library and the church—
life and the afterlife staring themselves
down like gunslingers at the OK Corral.
Best to walk as aimlessly as possible,
chronicling everything large and small,
ugly and beautiful—keep moving,
with a pit stop at a café or watering hole,
until you tire and say that’ll suffice
and take the subway again, a good many
laps ahead of the rush hour, the work
days you remember for their exhaustion,
loneliness and, yes, moments of success
when the office bowed to you in thanks.
Watch the stations go by now in real time,
a few of your contemporaries on the old
concrete platforms waving you on home.

 

The End of the World Can Come Quickly

And when it does it will probably
find me sitting in shorts in my study,

trying to turn a recalcitrant stanza
into a dazzling display of clarity.

There will probably be scant time
for heartbreak, but a sober assessment

can be made beforehand, approached
like this: if I’m still writing, there is

another world—if I’m not writing, there is
no other world. How badly I want the former

to be true. I want to see my wife coming
towards me in the moonlight, waving,

oh waving with a book in her hand.

pencil

Tim Suermondt is the author of four full-length collections of poems, the latest one The World Doesn’t Know You. His fifth collection Josephine Baker Swimming Pool will be coming out from MadHat Press in January 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Toasted Cheese, Bellevue Literary Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. Email: allampoet[at]earthlink.net

For Sale

Poetry
Kenneth Pobo


Photo Credit: Richard Cuppini/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I can’t decide whether
to buy the red pair of gloves or the black.

A high school girl runs a kiosk
behind me. A shopper comes up
and says he wants to buy me—
I’d look good beside fireplace bellows.
I say I’m not for sale—the high
school girl has already begun
wrapping me up. I decide well,

why not? My life’s a failure.
I watch shows where Marie Osmond
says she lost fifty pounds. When he
gets me home, he stands me by the fireplace.
I look almost alive. The buyer

never talks to me. Why should he?
He doesn’t talk to his ottoman either,
dusts me twice a year, the same number
of times when he makes a fire
and heats my back.

pencil

Kenneth Pobo has a new book out from Duck Lake Books called Dindi Expecting Snow.  His work is forthcoming in: North Dakota Quarterly, Festival Review, The Fruit Tree, Backchannels, and elsewhere. Email: kgpobo[at]verizon.net

Cleaning the Coffeepot

Poetry
Barry Peters


Photo Credit: Cindy Shebley/Flickr (CC-by)

The nuns require weekly chores:
attendance taker, flag raiser, eraser clapper.
The one I fear is coffeepot cleaner.

The solitary confines of the faculty room.
The mysterious aromas of mimeograph and ammonia.
In third grade I know nothing about coffeepots,

their alien tops, thin cylindricals, perforated metal,
scalding water. The wet brown grounds:
Father Shriner might compare them to the muddy

sins of the soul trapped in odoriferous hell-heat
and I—well, I’m doing the good work, the purifying.
But no, Father, this is no metaphor,

no objective correlative. My first Sunday
as an altar boy, he tells me to light the candles.
I look at the matchbook, baffled. It’s foreign,

another coffeepot. I picture my mother
lighting a cigarette, my father lighting the grill.
Smell charcoal and methanol. I know nothing

about striking a match, the confident snap,
the angle that keeps flame alive. I touch it
to the wick—and to my fingers as well. That singe,

that heat, that fire: body and blood,
burning for the first time, the blister already
forming in the cold, candlelit darkness.

pencil

Barry Peters lives in Durham and teaches in Raleigh, NC. Publications/forthcoming include The American Journal of Poetry, Best New Poets, I-70 Review, Miramar, The National Poetry Review, Negative Capability, Poetry East, Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Southampton Review, Third Wednesday. Email: barry.peters79[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Edward Lee


Photo Credit: ALeX inSide/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

This
for A

Into your loneliness
we place our voices,
hoping our words
might comfort your wounded heart.

We do not mean
to remind you
of all you have lost
by extolling the manifold virtues
of your husband
now gone, but we are foolish
in the face of grief,
never knowing whether
to share our own
or simply listen to yours.

In truth, we know, without knowing,
there is nothing we can do,
nothing better, nothing worse;
grief spreads its wings
and only flies
when it is ready to fly,

and it will fly,
it will spread itself
across the sky,
becoming a gentler being in your world,
lighter and more forgiving.

It will, it will.
This much I know.
This much, at least,
I can give you.

 

An End
for PW

And that is it,
isn’t it, your life ends,
but our lives continue on,
days falling into nights,
nights renewing into days,
always, even as we wish
for time to slow, stop,
for just a moment, an hour,
a day, some amount
of time so we might catch our breath,
hold it, fall into senselessness,
that the pain of your absence
might recede from our hearts,
that we might know some of the peace
you now know, pain no longer curling
your being, your very soul,
that we might think of you
without tears staining our breath,

that we might grief
without grieving, and smile
without guilt, or regret.

 

Melt

You like the ice cube
in my mouth,
as I trace your body
with my tongue,
not wanting me to stop
until the ice is warm water
shining on your skin.

pencil

Edward Lee‘s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. Email: lastimages[at]yahoo.com

How to Clean an Empty Nest

Poetry
Tyrel Kessinger


Photo Credit: Patrick Maloney/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Misc. Yell a command to the house. Anything. Issue orders for a jacket to be put away, a trombone to be practiced (or mercifully stopped), video game controllers to be put down and that you don’t care they’re not at a “good stopping point.” You do it if only to hear a loud disturbance, to assure yourself that you still possess the authoritative tone of a parental figure known to light fires under asses. You remember the vow you once made: today you will clean out the junk drawer whose time has finally come. Dig your hands through the tangled mass like a greedy yet unsatisfied pirate. Organize the phone connectors and adapters and spare keys and all the various whatnot. Roll your eyes as you toss the odds and ends carelessly left behind: random pen caps, broken rubber bands, a bottle of long dried up whiteout, etc. Reach to the back and pull free the folded up paper wedged in the crevice, crinkly and nearly ancient. You open it and see a child’s drawing: a magenta-tinted, multi-eyed alien beast creature of some sort, posing clumsily under the auspices of a crooked rainbow, a malformed pincer claw presenting a simple flower the color of dirty cotton candy to the world. Out of reflex you look around for the child who drew it, itching so wildly to dole out praise that you can feel your heart beating through your palms. It’s beautiful. Perfect. A masterpiece. Oh yes, I’ll keep it forever, you think you told them, hope you told them—now worried you didn’t tell them. Wild horses wouldn’t stand a chance. (You probably had to explain that, telling them it meant that nothing you loved could ever be separated from you.) But of course they can’t hear you, even if you forgot that they weren’t there. You try your best not to get it wet. This was a mess some years in the making.

Sweep. Take your time. What’s the rush? As if there was anyone around to ask anything of you. Use a broom, for god’s sake, get some exercise. Push your body around the empty house and not think about how pregnant with life it used to be. Treat the cleaning apparatus like a dance partner. Queue up some eighties hair metal bands you like and go to town. Both a blessing and a stinging curse: no blushing, embarrassed faces to see you tango other than the house that somehow remains quiet even with Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love (A Bad Name)” arena-stomping the atmosphere.

Dust. The lack of constant movement, of wrestling bodies and no-sleep sleepovers, of treasured items being removed and returned, have afforded the grime and grit the insurmountable opportunity to proliferate and disseminate. You wipe all but one window sill clean, composing a message in the film with a finger, wondering if anyone will see it before the next generation of dust comes to roost in the empty spaces that give the words their shape.

Breaktime! You will consider taking up smoking again and why not? That’s what you did on your breaks when you were a server in college, that lighthearted rom-com era preceding the time of All This. As then, there are no kids to hide it from, no examples needing to be set. But there is time and empty hands to be filled. For now, you fiddle with your phone, bright with that initial possibility of hope that an armada of missed messages or calls or even e-mails await you. But there’s only a text reminder for your doctor’s appointment later in the week. (Dutifully, you text “OK” to confirm.) On TV it’s The Price Is Right. You doze off during Plinko. So many things change, you think, before you fall asleep, but not Plinko. Plinko has never abandoned you. You wake and eat the same leftovers you’ve been eating for three days now. Used to be everything was consumed by hungry, devouring mouths. Now the hungry, devouring mouths have licked their lips and departed, eating under the same stars and moon but different roofs.

pencil

Tyrel Kessinger lives in Louisville, Ky. He is the stay-at-home father of two wild animals. Occasionally he finds the time to write things. Email: tlkessinger[at]gmail.com

Coffeehouse Poem #339

Poetry
Erren Kelly


Photo Credit: Chris Blakeley/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Mourning doves coo
As the rain falls silent
As dreams
A girl types on her laptop
She wears her homeland
On her face
She shows me home
Through her eyes
They never lie
They tell me
Everything

pencilErren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart-nominated poet from Boston. He has been writing for 28 years and has over 300 publications in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine (online), Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg and other publications. His most recent publication was in Black Heart Literary Journal. He has also been published in anthologies such as Fertile Ground and Beyond The Frontier. His work can also been seen on YouTube under the “Gallery Cabaret” links. He is also the author of the book Disturbing The Peace on Night Ballet Press. Email: errenkelly76[at]yahoo.com