Four Poems

Baker’s Pick
Jim Zola


Photo Credit: J. Mark Dodds/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

To the Nail Found Under the Pew

Mine is the church of the smoldering limb,
the burnt self, the flesh missive.
At work, Geraldine sits across from me
plump in front of her screen
sings from shift start to shift end—
hymns, gospel. I call her Sister Hummingbird.

The church of the cracked jelly jar,
the knocked over bucket,
the broken spoke.
After I quit, Gina calls to tell me
Geraldine passed, hospitalized
for simple surgery, she never woke.
What church do you go to?
The first question asked when we moved South.
Church of the nevermind, church of the random
rancor, of the chewed nail.
At the service, we are whitecaps bobbing in the sea.
A blue-robed choir and four-piece combo lead the way.
The bass player has someplace else he needs to be.
The preacher shouts how the dearly departed wouldn’t want
wasted tears. The woman next to me shoots up,
slaps her thigh three times in praise.
Church of the ball peen hammer,
of the rusty shiv,
of the rotted plank.

 

Purlwise

I’m dreaming of beautiful trains bedazzled
in graffiti balloons, body part clouds adrift

upon random cars of sky. Sitting
at the crossing I watch this cumulus

of mysterious cargo pass into
eternity, into a heavenly

sadness that I long to wear like a sweater
my grandmother knits each Christmas, always

wrapped in shiny red paper. Eventually
she knits herself into an afterlife

of beautiful trains in clouds of red paper.

 

Sonnet Wearing a Mask as Disguise

This not answering the phone’s bring-bring is a kind of a sonnet
or a mask you buy because someone says it looks good on you
but the truth is it makes your monstrous head appear even bigger
than it already is. Back to the sonnet—bring-bring
it refuses to rhyme and the lines grow ragged, a single mom
waiting to order McNuggets for mistake number one
pinching the fat wailing cheek of mistake number two

while outside clouds sing like Ray Charles. See the girl
with the red dress on, she can do the Birdland all night long.
Because isn’t it all about desire? Fornication grows
ordinary. One chicken hawk waits on the leafless branch
for a nut drunk squirrel. Somewhere construction workers break
for lunch, pails filled with corrugated stars
and the homeless hold hands and pray for us all.

 

A History of Selfies

We had them.
We had mirrors for posing and zit checks.
We had other reflective things—
shop windows, hubcaps, butcher’s knives.
Not puddles, although more romantic types
might disagree. But their faces are
rippled and wet. We had shadows, still do.
We had artists, if that’s what you call the guys
at the World’s Fair who did
caricatures. Then our selves
had elephant ears, ski slope noses
and crazy cowlicks. We had Polaroids
to point and flash and wait and shake
while cheesy smiles magically emerged
from paper, first outlines then ghostly more.
We had photo booths with dusty curtains,
boxes guaranteed to produce giggles
and goofy mugs once the quarters
were inserted and the signal flashed.
I had a brownie camera held together
with lots of tape. I used it to take
pictures at the Berlin Zoo. Now,
all I have is a photo album full
of cockeyed stills of the giant walrus
who never ever smiled when I took his pic.

pencil

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook, The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press), and a full-length poetry collection, What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC. Email: jimzola[at]hotmail.com

Anniversary Waltz

Beaver’s Pick
Donna Pucciani


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

November 24, 2016

I’ve always hated
the dark of November, the suddenness
of night at four in the afternoon,
after custom has dictated
the changing of the clocks.

As it happens, we were married
forty years ago this day, while
the world was still light.
The autumn afternoon slanted
our shadows on a leaf-strewn lawn,
colored us through the stained glass
of the university chapel.

We never feared the night,
never even thought of
the blunt forces of darkness.
Now I’ve learned to hold my breath,
awaiting the inky tentacles of time
to squeeze the life out of our
blissful dailiness.

We’ve spent the past in noisy classrooms
of adolescents resisting Chaucer.
What we know now are
four decades of drifted leaves,
friends and cousins falling
in the wind, backlit by a setting sun.
The real pilgrimage begins here,

in our small house silhouetted
against a reddening sky and the arthritic
fingers of surviving trees. Our eyes
tire of the light, perhaps readying
to frame the arc of a harvest moon.
We are a floater in the eye of winter,
its aura reflecting the whiteness
of our breath.

pencil

Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poems on four continents.Her work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Italian and German, and has won awards from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Illinois Arts Council, Poetry on the Lake, and others. Her seventh and most recent book of poems is Edges (Purple Flag Press, Chicago). Email: dpucciani[at]yahoo.com

Four Poems

Poetry
Judith Taylor


Photo Credit: Amy/Flickr (CC-by)

Hindsight

Funny how old illusions stay.
I want to write: when the long black car
came for me, curtains flickered
all over the building

and where I used to live
it would have been true.
They knew me better, there
than I knew myself, so they believed

but here in the city
it’s a different story. People go to the city
not to be known, or not
to be asked for.

Eyes don’t meet.
When even the most unlikely
awful thing draws up at your door
you know your neighbours will

turn up their distraction
so as not to hear how your footstep on the stair
is taking you out to meet
whatever it is that’s waiting.

And it finds you
as you chose to be, as you came here
in the hope you’d be. Unremarkable.  And
alone.

 

Underway

Dark water now. Water you find
when you descend to the foundations
a torch in hand, a handkerchief at your mouth.

It has been waiting all this time.
It knows about cemeteries

and timber piles in the banks of missing rivers
under the avenues.

It is water the fish would die of
water the rats go out of their way
never to cross. Not cold, precisely:

but where it touches you
you’ll never be warm again.

Its scent will cling to you,
evaporate with your footprints

and anyone coming close to you will know
you’ve been a cellar-swimmer, skin-to-skin
with shadows.

But what to do
when you find yourself surrounded?
Nothing but

step down
and into a boat as tremulous as an aspen leaf
hoping whatever steers it

is a breath of air that has strayed in
from the bright world

and not some ancient current
deep beneath it, taking you down-
stream

on a heading you find
you can’t change

so gently
into the dark.

 

The Gift

Somebody gave me
two trees, as an emblem of endurance
or permanence, or the like
without a warning.

I was living
in an unfashionable district of the city, then
at a small hotel
best described as spartan:

they were good about the trees though
which arrived while I was out.

They had a narrow strip of garden
off to the side. When I got back
they had already planted the holly
and were digging a hole for the sycamore

which lay full-length on the pavement
its roots carefully packed, its leaves
grey and brittle, traumatised
by the long way it had travelled.

I stroked its bark and wondered
if it was going to survive.
And since they had everything under control there
I went inside, to telephone the giver.

I was going to say
the gift had fairly summed him up:

more trouble than he was worth.
That the hotel and I were pretending
the garden was a temporary measure
but we both knew

I wouldn’t add a couple of trees to my baggage when I checked out.
Which day seemed suddenly nearer now.

He wasn’t there
and I didn’t leave a message. I took a long breath
and went to talk to the concierge
and organise some water.

 

Here I Go

the sun’s late
and the sky is still
indigo but I’m
not staying for fanfares
or a sunrise

I’m stepping out in the cool
morning
knowledge of where
these boots are walking

stepping out
in the dark of a night that lingers
as I do not linger

one bird
in a bush to give me
warning notes as I pass
but I’m singing bye
bye birdie

care and woe
and everything
in the blue bag
with the polka-dots on the lining

and an early train
my destination

there will be light above us
when we reach the river
full sun
when we find the sea beside us
for the journey

voyager
now
it’s time

for stepping out
with your low
shoes and your settled mind
a whole day
out there is
where you’re going

pencil

Judith Taylor lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she works in IT. Her poetry has been published widely in magazines, and in two pamphlet collections: Earthlight (Koo Press, 2006) and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010). Her first full-length collection, Not in Nightingale Country, will be published in Autumn 2017 by Red Squirrel Press. Email: j.taylor.09[at]btinternet.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Spencer Smith


Photo Credit: Daniel Damaschin/Flickr (CC-by)

Afterimage

That which has gone before
slowly seeps through,
new bleed from an old wound

or faint pentimento of some
framed landscape, with
artificial borders to hold in

water and wind, or less:
merely rumor of a memory
of a dream, but somehow

still present, taking up space
or the illusion of space, or
more precisely, the space

vacated by something else,
untitled as a poem or
royalty on the outer branches

of the family tree, withered fruit
with only vague recollection
of any existence at all.

 

How You Feel

I know exactly how you feel:
like an anthill trampled by stampeding hooves,
or a pinecone exploding in forest flames.

You feel like tender shoots masticated
in the maws of grazers, or the lonely blades
ignored as restless cattle feed all around.

You feel suffocated in dark trenches
of foreign seas; you gasp for air
on airless moons of distant worlds.

You feel the hunger of month-long fasts,
the thirst of desert exhaustion,
the accumulated weight of sleepless midnights.

You feel the bright sharp pain of days
and the dull aching pain of months
and the tired quiet pain of years.

You feel as if poets of no consequence
who do not know your name
are always trying to tell you how you feel.

pencil

Spencer Smith is a University of Utah graduate and works in the corporate world to pay the bills that poetry doesn’t pay (i.e., all of them). His work has appeared in over forty literary journals, including Main Street Rag, Potomac Review, Plainsongs, RHINO, and Roanoke Review. Email: paiute6[at]comcast.net

Dog and Man

Poetry
David Sermersheim


Photo Credit: Devin Smith/Flickr (CC-by)

the man thinks
he is leading the dog
but the dog knows
the opposite is true

where the dog goes
the man follows
when the dog tarries
the man waits patiently

collecting warm souvenirs
the dog left
in its wake

a subtle reminder
of the man’s
function and presence

the dog has mastered
all of the tricks
of the trade

entangling himself around impediments
probing crack crevice and undergrowth
for evidence of those
who came before him

pausing at random moments
to leave his trace
off the beaten path

straining at the leash
like a kite
catching a whiff of air

hoping to pull free
bound off and away
leaving the man
holding the dangling leash

pencil

David Sermersheim taught at The Hotchkiss School (Ct.) for 33 years; has had poems published in the Aurorean, Ancient paths, Sacred Journeys, Cloudbank, Iodine Review, Everyday Poems, Writing Raw, Poetry Pacific, Poetry Superhighway, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Blue Collar Review, Miller’s Pond, Blueline, Oddville Press, Third Wednesday, Wild Goose Review and other journals and quarterlies. He was a MacDowell Fellow and has a book, Meditations, listed on Amazon. He lives in Westbrook, Connecticut. Email: dsermersheim[at]snet.net

Reading the Bones

Poetry
Marchell Dyon


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

She said open your hands
When you did
Her black hands held your dark palms

She began to trace the lines
Every stitch of DNA in your hands
She tells you to flexed your fingers

She tells you,
To hold your fingers straight like a ruler
You watch as she reads the bones

She tells you more than a gypsy’s fortune can
That these are not lines in your hands
It’s your life tree

Branches connecting you to your history
The lives lived before your time
This is your life tree

She said branching out into your existence
Through this life and into the stars of the next
These are your life lines

Roads bending and cross with few dead ends
She considers your hand like a pool of water
A watery veil of knowledge raining down from heaven

“Look!” she assures you, “your lines are long
Your gray hairs will be many
Before your soul spirits away from this world.”

You look to your hands, your eyes all glassy
dancing with wonder, dreaming out loud,
envisioning for one long moment that maybe she is right.

pencil

Marchell Dyon is a disabled poet. She believes her disability has inspired her creative spark. Her poetry has been published in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Full of Crow Poetry Magazine, and Rainbow Rose Ezine, Blue Lake Review, A Little Poetry, Medusa’s Kitchen, The Stray Branch, Strange Horizons, Mused Bella Online, Convergence Literary Journal, Silver Blade Magazine and Torrid Literature Journal. She is from Chicago, IL. Email: marchelldyon[at]yahoo.com

 

Celebration

Poetry
Deborah Bacharach


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

If you are celebrating silence, I will bring you snow.
If you are celebrating happiness, I will drive
you to the beach in a red taxi and give you a green
daiquiri and a yellow umbrella. I will sing
morning drum songs for you.
If you are celebrating your first period, I will wrap
fear in a blanket and caress it slowly.
I will whistle long and low just for you.

pencil

Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Publications, 2015). Her work has appeared in 2River, Arts & Letters, Calyx, and Blue Mesa Review among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. Find out more about her at DeborahBacharach.com. Email: debbybacharach[at]me.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Sam Payne


Photo Credit: Ed Dunens/Flickr (CC-by)

The Lakehouse

Each day I wake
to the sway of your breath
gentle as a lake

see your naked back
glistening in the morning light.

Drift a finger over your skin
and watch the hairs rise
like rowers lifting their oars

then I wait, treading water
until you turn and the current
pulls me under.

 

The Silence Bird

You may see it gliding in the low light
above the surface of a lake. Perhaps you
could catch a glimpse of it hovering
in the look of lovers or soaring high
in the sky of a snow field.

It has been known to perch
on the white lines of a poem
and dip its wings in the instant
between heartbeats, between breaths
before a new-born cries.

But it always returns to nest on the white stretch
of a blank page, fluffing feathers, closing its eyes
waiting for art to make a noise.

 

The Boy Next Door

He liked to map the stars and count the craters
on the moon, he liked the way blue ice pops
stained his tongue and sitting on the back
of my bike as we flew down the street
like debris from a comet shooting through
the earth’s atmosphere.

He liked collecting tadpoles on Sundays in spring
and every year with sleeves bunched at the crooks
of our elbows and grubby knees and knuckles,
we’d lie flat on the ground, scoop them gently
into our palms before placing them
in an old margarine tub.

Once he showed me a pip in a petri dish
nestled in wet cotton wool, said he was growing
an apple tree before telling me everyone thought
his mother was crazy, and even as I shook my head
I thought about the time she cursed at the clouds
and threw a chair across the garden that bounced
three times before landing in mud, churned up
by the paw prints of their dog.

And in our kitchen, my mother sighing and shaking
her head, drying her hands on a tea towel, before
quietly closing the windows.

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Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She has recently completed a degree in English Literature and she would like to write a novel but poetry is a small child forever following her around and demanding attention. Email: sampayne1978[at]live.co.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
Salvatore Marici


Photo Credit: Kyle Strickland/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Amid Life

New immigrants from
North Africa, Eastern Europe, live with French
in this working class Paris neighborhood.
During this fall evening
young couples, a few with strollers

stroll the avenue
eat at Little Cambodian,
visit a bistro where people drink
beer, wine, and coffee. Two men
raise their glasses, Tchin Tch…
Blast drowns the clink. Gust broadcasts
metallic shards. Walls, furniture, flesh
take. Black masked men run
into the ruin carry assault rifles,
shoot anybody with movement.
Outside as if on a carousel
they rotate, clench triggers.
Five bullets pierce a bakery.

Next morning
the Moroccan-born owner
bows his head at a makeshift memorial
across from his store
then turns, walks to the door.
Inside he sweeps slivers of glass,
tapes holes in the store front window.
Then he kneads white dough,
shapes loaves, lets rise, bakes bread.

Sweet goodness sprinkles streets,
the shock breathes.

 

Spilled Wishes

Left hand grabs the brown bottle
right twists plastic cap
glued to a cork. Plug squeaks
above twelve-year-old scotch
where the whiskey waits
to breathe
decanting
like a genie
trapped in stuffy air.
She asks what she can grant.
Knuckles knock the glass
before I answer.

pencil

Salvatore Marici’s poetry has appeared forthcoming in Toasted Cheese, Descant, Spillway, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Earth’s Daughter and many others magazines and anthologies. Marici has written a poetry book review for Toasted Cheese. He has a chapbook, Mortals, Nature and their Spirits, and the book Swish Swirl & Sniff (both Ice Cube Press). Ice Cube Press scheduled to publish his third book in spring 2017. Marici served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and he is a civil servant retiree as an agronomist. Email: redwineandgarlic[at]yahoo.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Michael Paul Hogan


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

Cape Cod

Atlantic-facing, Eastern seaboard,
the white-framed houses are splashed and flattened
before the wind. Their galvanised metal windows
have a snow-coming brightness,
a lathered razor’s edge,
open and angled
like a Cubist painting.

Along the waterfront
the men wear thick white sweaters and woollen caps
that contrast strangely with their still-suntanned faces.
Their thigh-high rubber boots are blistered with fish scales
and they practise an economy of language,
staccato and functional,
an index of first lines.

The sunlight is pale, the color
of whiskey with too much water…

This is the transitory gap
between fall and winter. The oilskin-yellow and orange leaves
caulk the New England gravestones, clustered
like oyster shells above the town, and even the sails
of the Atlantic fishing fleet
have a chiseled edge, white
as the whalebone, tall as the harpoon.

 

Interiors

I / The Garden of Allah

The evening has smoothed itself out
like cellophane. The girl across the court
talks on the telephone in her underwear;
talks from room to room, disappearing
and reappearing, as though performing

in two plays at once: now angry, now
pleading. An actress with two leading roles
and an audience of two: one listening, the
other watching… I light a cigarette and,
strangely, she does the same. We smoke together

across the silence of the courtyard and
it’s listening she’s doing now, half-sitting
on the back of a canework chair, half naked,
twisting the telephone cord around her hand
as though reeling her lover in.

 

II / Valldemossa

Typewriting at two a.m.
I listen to the spatter of the rain
against the leaves. The air slips cool
and eel-like through the open windows,
leaving a film of moisture on the keys.

Three a.m. Four… I think of Chopin
composing his preludes at Valldemossa,
can almost smell the wet orange trees,
and find myself playing the Corona
in time to the sound of raindrops on the leaves.

There is something unreal about morning
when the night has been seen through towards it.
I smoke a cigarette and watch
the world develop like a photograph,
rippling into focus through the rain.

 

III / Manhattan

The dress she wore shone like a movie screen
before the movie. Like parachute silk.
Or the label on a bottle of vodka.
A collapsed star
absorbing color.

She was alone, that much was obvious
from the wary looks the other women gave her,
but her detachment was something deeper,
the loneliness of the vampire,
of Dracula’s daughter.

I watched her across the room,
holding but not drinking a pale blue cocktail
and staring intently at a (genuine) Mondrian
as though recognizing
her own abstraction.

 

Circus

This is a high-wire act.
The hawk on the wind’s invisible trapeze
scorns a safety net of heather,

prefers to perform over rock
or risk the juggling harvester,
will not be hurried, but waits

for the perfect moment
then drops
in silent freefall, grips

his struggling partner
and swings back up, triumphant,
to the tent’s blue apex.

The act is done.

pencil

Michael Paul Hogan is a poet, journalist and literary essayist whose work has featured extensively in the USA, UK, India and China. His poetry has appeared in over thirty literary magazines and in five collections, the most recent of which, Chinese Bolero, illustrated by the great contemporary Chinese painter Li Bin, was published in 2015. He currently lives in England and is working on a new collection of poems. Email: michaelpaulhogan[at]yahoo.co.uk