The Pen

Broker’s Pick
Carl Leggo


Photo Credit: Paul Sullivan/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

(for Rick)

years ago when my first book of poems
Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill
was published, my brother sent me
a silver Cross pen with my name engraved

my brother sometimes complained
I made money by writing poetry about
his mishaps and calamities (I always
explained, poets don’t make any money)

a year ago I lost the pen, and while I lose
a lot of pens, I was especially sad to lose
the pen my brother had given me, a gesture
he was glad I wrote stories, even his

on the eve of my birthday I was culling
clothes in my closet (a seasonal purging
to sustain balance amidst busy clutter)
with hope that the thrift store had room

I found the pen in the pocket of a winter jacket,
and remembered how my brother always
phoned me on my birthday with the boast,
I’m now two years younger than you, at least

for a week, since he was born one year
and one week after me, always my best friend
growing up on Lynch’s Lane, and for all our
differences, he was the brother I always needed

since he died last August, he will always be much
younger now, and finding the lost pen I knew
how a lovely mystery holds us fast, even in loss,
when my brother whispered, write more poems

pencil

Carl Leggo is a poet and professor at the University of British Columbia. His books include: Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill; View from My Mother’s House; Come-By-Chance; Lifewriting as Literary Métissage and an Ethos for Our Times (co-authored with Erika Hasebe-Ludt and Cynthia Chambers); Creative Expression, Creative Education (co-edited with Robert Kelly); Sailing in a Concrete Boat; Arresting Hope: Prisons That Heal (co-edited with Ruth Martin, Mo Korchinski, and Lynn Fels); Arts-based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching: Honoring Presence (co-edited with Susan Walsh and Barbara Bickel); Hearing Echoes (co-authored with Renee Norman); and Poetic inquiry: Enchantment of Place (co-edited with Pauline Sameshima, Alexandra Fidyk, and Kedrick James). Email: carl.leggo[at]ubc.ca

Two Poems

Poetry
Bill Yarrow


Photo Credit: J.A. Alcaide/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Collect Enough Fragments, You’ve Got Yourself A Poem

1.

The sun’s corona. Empty boxes
near the firehouse.

Red birth.
A bird’s lost wing.

2.

The bitterness of littleness.
Apples in a pile.

Early love.
A spider, swinging.

3.

A father’s harshness.
Twelve bills unpaid.

Leaves in a crevice.
A dream unwrapped.

4.

The future.
Its dizziness.

Christmas cookies.
A dollhouse all alone

 

Thirteen Syllable Poem Ending With A Line From K. Balmont

I attended a college where fauna was worshipped.
There I studied Biology of Mysteries II.
I had written twelves pages re: mountains near Venice
after I practiced devices I learned from bad men.
I rehearsed a short play about demons and pirates,
once assembled an army of recalcitrant prigs.
Forsaking the reward for returning the holy,
I visited the outskirts of a village of thugs.
When I lived with a group of itinerant schmoozers,
I strangled my impulse to incinerate tinder.
I have traveled to cities emissionless, suspect,
where I started at laws of strict carnal compunction.
I predicted weather that interrogates safety.
I organized committees for the reuse of tin.
I once taught classes in repudiation of bosh.
I led dead seminars in The Reduction of Soul.
I saw in government a lacuna of talent.
I arranged for the drug that will parry emotion.
I opened a fissure in the magma of thinking.
I had learned to ensnare the vague shadows far straying.

pencil

Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at Blue Fifth Review, is the author of Against Prompts, The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. Email: bill.yarrow[at]gmail.com

Are You There

Poetry
Amy Sherwood


Photo Credit: seanj/Flickr (CC-by)

I see you lying there, in the middle of your living room, set up as if you are on display. Put out in your own home with an open-door policy for others to come in and walk through. To view you like a New York City Christmas window display. Are you cold? Just under a blanket in your pajamas? We all just sit here, in chairs, around you, having a normal conversation like you are here, but you’re not. You were a woman who always had each hair in place, an outfit for every occasion, and a shoe in every color that would match every one of those outfits. When the seasons would change, and the weather would get cold, you could put on a wrap, or a coat that would complement the shoes and the outfit. And don’t forget the hat. One minute someone is saying something funny and laughing about you, the next minute someone is saying something sarcastic, maybe about how you had an outfit for every occasion. Can you hear them? I know you can hear the voices, the talking. You know they are here. You know they mean well. You have a heart of gold, that’s why they are all there. But you don’t want to be seen like this. In your night clothes. Having to let others clean you up. See your naked body. We all want to have you with us. But it’s ok to let go. It’s ok to go to sleep. Let your tired body rest. We will pick out the right shoes and outfit to meet you on the other side.

pencil

Amy Sherwood is a student in Professor Sandra Graff’s Creative Writing/Poetry class this semester at SUNY Orange in Middletown, NY. Email: aes31[at]sunyorange.edu

Rivers

Poetry
DS Maolalai


Photo Credit: Thomas Bryans/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

the blood
of a place
is the river.
movement
giving motion,
bringing forward ideas,
smells
and water-birds; shifting trash
and lighting off parks
like a fuse
leading to fire.
that
was what was wrong
with Toronto; pressed instead
against a flat lake
to sustain itself;
a mollusk
clinging on rocks. a grey city
against
grey water,
pumping grey
all over the landscape,

like trying
to suck life
out of sand.

pencil

DS Maolalai is a poet from Ireland who has been writing and publishing poetry for almost 10 years. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press. He has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. Email: diarmo90[at]live.ie

Sanctuary

Poetry
Carl Leggo


Photo Credit: Steve Baty/Flickr (CC-by)

most of my adult life I have spent Sundays
in church, but cancer has consumed my spirit,
so I now spend Sundays at the Sanctuary,
a coffee shop a few minutes up the road

Tim built the coffee shop, especially for cyclists,
where Coffee Cycle Culture is the slogan and highlights
of Tour de France races are presented on a big screen
hung over the coffee bar, a gathering place

for cycling groups from all over the Lower Mainland
who arrive in happy numbers in spandex and cleated
shoes with expensive bicycles and camaraderie
to drink coffee and eat raspberry and lemon scones

Tim remembers people’s names, asks about their stories,
he knows I am now often in the BC Cancer Agency
and he is always glad to see me, glad to hear treatments
are working, I might actually have some future left

perhaps I will ride a bicycle again, one day, as I often did
in Corner Brook, and one Christmas bought a Raleigh
ten-speed and had it shipped by train across Newfoundland,
with anticipation of riding it in the spring after a long winter

I look forward to returning to church on Sunday mornings
but for now I will sip coffee at the Sanctuary where
I can relax in the predictable pleasures of cycles of stories
that continue week after week, a simple air of repetition

pencil

Carl Leggo is a poet and professor at the University of British Columbia. His books include: Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill; View from My Mother’s House; Come-By-Chance; Lifewriting as Literary Métissage and an Ethos for Our Times (co-authored with Erika Hasebe-Ludt and Cynthia Chambers); Creative Expression, Creative Education (co-edited with Robert Kelly); Sailing in a Concrete Boat; Arresting Hope: Prisons That Heal (co-edited with Ruth Martin, Mo Korchinski, and Lynn Fels); Arts-based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching: Honoring Presence (co-edited with Susan Walsh and Barbara Bickel); Hearing Echoes (co-authored with Renee Norman); and Poetic inquiry: Enchantment of Place (co-edited with Pauline Sameshima, Alexandra Fidyk, and Kedrick James). Email: carl.leggo[at]ubc.ca

Two Poems

Poetry
Teresa Blackmon


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

Last Request

When he dies, I want a black-topped table,
one some sophomore used for biology experiments.
The smell of formaldehyde to stifle me.
I want safety glasses so I can see
all that’s there before me.
I will take the T-pins and hold this old body down.
I have waited all my life to see what lies beneath
this skin, what holds these bones together, what words
unsaid might spill freely from his speechless tongue.
I need no partner for this. I will stand over him; I will
have him where I want him. He will be mum; he will
listen now.
I do not want to see the blue eyes. I want empty
sockets that I can dig into. I want dumb lips and ears,
no foul-fake terms of endearment.
I want to fit my fat fleshy fingers into
the sticks of his hands. I want his crunchy knuckles
to beat upon mine. I need that music, the percussion
of nothingness.
I want to pick up his skull and hold it in my hands.
I want to look at it in wonder, rattle it—
The parts that worked his heart, his judgment,
His wayward feet.
His grey matter will not be fleshy like the summer’s watermelon;
it will be rotten, like the fall.
I want to open his empty mouth and see what fed him,
what satisfied his soul, what stuck to the roof of his mouth,
I want to cut out the kneecaps, smooth them out like worn pebbles
and carry them in my pockets. I want to touch them
when I reach for coins or grocery lists. I want them there,
immovable, depending on me to get from one place to another.
I want to paint his rib cage blue for town sparrows
that can fly only as far as the frame lets them.
One by one I’ll crack the bones
and free them. They will flutter past his lungs and heart
while I watch.

 

The Blue Top — 1960

Outside the Blue Top service station on the corner of Main,
middle-aged men balance on empty cola crates,
sit there hunched over, elbows to knees, work-stained hands full of chins.
Hats and caps tilted ever-which-a-way, fit heads all full of a day’s work
or next week’s intentions.
Stained fingers flick burned-out butts like fireflies in the night air
as Camels and Lucky Strikes send smoke in circles of angry clouds.
Old timers spit with the accuracy of rain.
Those that can, whistle, and every one of them snorts and coughs and reaches
for soiled handkerchiefs in pockets filled with case knives and loose change.
Their conversation rarely varies, only when the weather does.
Never enough or too much, rain, wind, heat.
They brag about garden plots and tobacco crops, their new mule,
their old Chevy. Their voices buzz and nag like mosquitoes;
fibs and exaggerations punctuate their chatter, a steady beat.
It’s as if they’re keeping score—who works the hardest, catches the biggest,
remembers the most, or finishes first.
Their stories play like songs we love to hate.
About closing time, they ante up.
Released coins sound like dinner bells as they fall into the fat red Coke machine
next to windshield wipers, motor oil and maps.
Pulling Cokes—
checking thick bottle bottoms for their origin, making small bets they can afford.
They pull their drink from the metal cocoon, walk away as nonchalant as cats at rest,
and check their luck as if it doesn’t matter. First one shouts “Raleigh,” a sure loser,
and then “Pittsburgh,” “Chicago,” a Fayetteville or two.
The farther away the better—distance wins the jackpot,
five or six case quarters and a palm-spread of nickels and dimes.
Arguing over mileage and geography a spell, they put their crates away
and head home, just down the street a block or two.

pencil

Teresa McLamb Blackmon is a retired Media/Technology Coordinator, high school English teacher and Yearbook Journalism adviser. She graduated from NCSU in 1984 with a MA in English and is an avid Wolfpack fan. She graduated in 1995 from North Carolina Central University with an MLS. Teresa lives on a farm near Benson with her four-legged babies, including dogs, miniature donkeys, horses, Brahma bulls, goats, and sheep. Her writing is an attempt to capture those people and places around Johnston County who shaped her life and her drive to create poetry. She has had poems published in Toasted Cheese, Absinthe, The News & Observer, Poet Lore, Cellar 101 Anthology and various local newspapers and community publications. Email: teachasso[at]aol.com

How to Eat a Haitian Mango

Poetry
Jerrice J. Baptiste


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

She’s on the hunt for the sweetest mango she’s ever eaten. In the late afternoon, Emile sits on the ground under the shade of her tree, after picking mangoes. A small pile is by her side. She delicately pinches the skin of each mango to loosen its juice. Emile makes a wish as she holds each one “Thank you for this fruit. I hope it is sweeter than the last.”

She smells the skin then carefully bites a small hole at the top of her chosen ripe mango. This is a sacred moment that goes back for many generations. Her grandmother has suckled many exotic fruits and showed her how to savor each. Emile’s fingers gently squeeze the mango as she sucks out more juice each time.

After the juice is done, Emile peels the mango and bites on any golden orange flesh left, then she slurps more mango juice dripping down her fingers. Each finger is licked as if it were a grooming ritual.

pencil

Jerrice is the author of eight books. She has also been published most recently in Kosmos Journal, Pivot, Breathe Free Press, The Write Launch and many more. Email: ellaninabillie[at]gmail.com

Five Poems

Poetry
Mandy Haggith


Photo Credit: Alex Schwab/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Araucaria

how still
still
still they stand

They have no rustling, fiddling leaves. They are poised. Calm. Open to the sky’s endless moods. Pumping quietly, breathing in what we expire. Perhaps preparing to dance. In their homeland they burn. They take sanctuary here, finger the breeze tenderly, tentatively. They have come with their fear and hold it like all parents. They cannot let it go. They know what happens in the world. They carry part of their forest here. They bring Gondwanaland. They give us the past.

how?
how they stand
still
stand
stand
still stand

Untarnished by our wonderings, they know no why at all. They embody one how and two wheres. But all the whens we can imagine and more are in the needles of just a single branch. Each is a treeful of answers to the only question worth asking. I ask it over and over. They answer with whorl upon whorl of time, and all the answers are the same. Now and then. Now, and then. Now. And then.

they stand how?
still
still
they stand still

 

Coco de Mer — Lodoicea maldivica

This is monkey Mojo’s hot house.
It’s tropics in a box.
We bathe in the steamy green,
dining on sea-coconut jelly
from a coconut bowl with a coconut spoon,
thatching our roof with palm leaves.

It’s a jungle of silence,
no breeze to tease the leaves to sound,
no insect whine, no bird calls from the canopy.
Just a flowering ginger, attended by an ant
and monkey Mojo whispering
his eerie, lush, lush, hush.

 

Greenhouse denial

‘Most of the things here are fake’,
says a boy with a big plastic gun.
His father remonstrates, ‘No, they’re not.
It’s the Botanical Gardens. All the plants
are natural. That’s the deal.’

The boy takes aim at a cycad.
Since long before the dinosaurs
its kind has survived extinctions,
earthquakes, meteors—it’s very real.
‘Fake,’ he says—and fires.

 

Pitus withami

John Playfair, ‘The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.’

Out of fossil depths
a 320-million-year-old tree
hauled up from a carboniferous swamp
perches on this precipitous edge of time’s ravine.

I am daring myself to peer down into the abyss
giddy with the vertiginous height
of this fleeting moment
of one brief life.

 

Triptych

a tree’s shadow on snow

the tree itself

words about a tree

pencil

Mandy Haggith is a writer and environmental activist living in Assynt, in the Scottish Highlands. Her poetry collections include letting light in, Castings and A-B-Tree, a celebration of the Gaelic Tree Alphabet written while poet in residence at Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens. She is the editor of Into the Forest, an anthology of tree poetry. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands and also writes novels and plays. Email: hag[at]mandyhaggith.net

Three Poems

Poetry
Holly Day


Photo Credit: Ikhlasul Amal/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The Letters Keep Coming

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

 

White Knight

it would be easier to think of my husband as being a white knight
if I wasn’t the one always killing spiders, digging holes for dead pets
waking up the middle of the night with babies and
going to work every day. If it wasn’t me putting food on the table
every night, I could maybe see him as some sort of hero.

I’m not sure why. My mother used to tell me that
being a wife and being a mother were two very similar things
that no matter how hard a wife works, she still has to pamper
her husband. I don’t believe this, but I still do it.

I think of the lessons my daughter is learning
from watching me clean crumbs up after my husband
at lunch, the way I shut down and just take it when he accuses me
of not contributing anything to the family, the horrible things he calls me,
his constant harping on the state of my hair and my weight. I want
to put my hands over her ears, fill her head instead with

Disney images of princesses
being worshiped by handsome princes
of housecleaning mice and flowers
that never stop blooming.
but mostly I want her to know
about the princes.

 

The Spot

Each day with the sun, I am up, running to each
new special spot in the yard,
uncovering patches of
frozen leaves and snow to look

at the little green buds waiting to
burst forth with the spring. Six months under

the snow and I, too, am ready to leap
forth into the sunshine, to surround
myself with yellow Thunbergia, orange
poppies and frilly red peonies. I breathe warm air
on the tightly-
curled buds, wish them life.

pencil

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle. Her nonfiction publications include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano and Keyboard All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and Stillwater, Minnesota: A History.   Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press),  I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.), In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), and A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing) will be out late 2018, with The Yellow Dot of a Daisy already out on Alien Buddha Press. Email: lalena[at]bitstream.net

The Dunes

Broker’s Pick
D.W. Moody


Photo Credit: Bernd Thaller/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

the dust swirled around us
the house
lost in view
behind hills of sand
we ducked and hid
winding our way
through the maze of hills
unseen from the world
the others somewhere behind
lost around
one or another turn
there in the sand
that caked my skin
I touched your hair
looked into your eyes
desired what my mouth could not say
as you turned
to the sounds of the others coming
I let you slip from my hand
like the grains of sand blowing through our hair

pencil

D.W. Moody grew up between California and the Midwest, lived on the streets, hitchhiked around the country, and held a variety of jobs in Kansas and Southern California until settling into life as a librarian. His poems have appeared in Shemom, The Avalon Literary Review, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. As a new father, life is busy juggling the demands of work and being a committed parent: he writes when he can. Email: d.w.moodysmailbox[at]gmail.com