Five Poems

Poetry
John Zedolik


Photo Credit: Nicole Yeary/Flickr (CC-by)

The Image Persistent

The El stop toward the back of the Loop,
not so far from the river, comes to me while
I read a Katherine Anne Porter short story
featuring a structure similar but in the Big Apple
set well more than half a century ago;

however, the image of the Chicago El has come to
mind repeatedly in the last thirteen years without the
obvious prompt, so

I wonder why those patterns of steel and wood hover
then dive at times to me without a connection to
current image in mind or sight. They

must push the air eternal, waiting with
wings to brush my vision at the slightest
summons, unknown to my conscious self but
apparent deep below but not deep enough to

avoid those dips from distance, staying,
not so far

 

Hot Core

She is frustrated in her student fervor,
crumpled upon her problem, a world
intent upon its mantle and core, where
writhes the heat and

magnetic pull generated of molten
iron and in turn generating aurora
australis and borealis to battle the
cosmic rays of that sun which can
sometimes

be killer—so she continues, intent upon
solution, when she can turn toward sky
and add her own beams to the display—
and the fight

 

Scent Sign

The bathroom is redolent of licorice,
a not-unpleasant sensation, on the first
floor of the career development center,
where

the job-seeker takes steps to end his
search and the unpleasantness of his
life, so takes

the sweet scent as a harbinger of coming
prosperity amid the tile and stainless steel
hard as

the world outside that must, the seeker surmises
—even so—
contain air similar.

 

Benign Business

We siblings called
the hollowed-out,
irregular pit

around the telephone pole
at the edge of the yard
“the factory,” for what reason

I cannot recall but do remember
the small, rounded stones we
scooped and manipulated

even when they were wet
with water from some unknown
source that I do believe

was relatively clean since I
don’t recall any ill effects,
as would have occurred

in say, seventeenth-century
London, wiping us all out
as a result of our play,

not making particularly
anything but piles of
innocence in that

imaginary manufacturing concern

 

Ever Ripe

The banana card came back even though it was the
best birthday card because it was about getting spotted
but getting tastier as it and you aged—

because you had no more use for it in your new state
where you will not receive any cards or cake but we will
celebrate the date anyway, and I will keep the

banana card, the fruit curving as if gesturing “tah-tah” to time
or turned on its side smiling in whimsy,
in all its yellow glory ripening and preserving
your presence in time even as yours has been over

pencil

John Zedolik’s iPhone is now his primary poetry notebook, and he hopes his use of technology in regard to this ancient art form continues to be fruitful. Email: principium14[at]gmail.com

Grandfather’s Fingers

Poetry
Sarah Valeika


Photo Credit: Brandon Fick/Flickr (CC-by)

There were cracks along the ceiling,
And one of them looked like a middle finger.
Like my grandfather’s middle finger,
spindly and dwindling flesh, knobby and grotesquely twisted—
thin.
By the time he used his finger like that,
meant it like that,
it was thin thin thin

He showed it to me once,
when I laughed at him for his potty chair
And his smile smirked but that finger
oh that middle finger was thin thin
just like a crack in my ceiling—
long, just like the crack in my ceiling

And just like a crack in a ceiling,
its very there-ness meant
a beginning of an endpencil

Sarah Valeika is an Illinois poet who, when not writing, performs in theatrical productions (preferably period pieces!) and in small orchestral ensembles, playing her viola. Email: sarahavaleika[at]gmail.com

Five Poems

Poetry
Simon Perchik


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

*

These gravestones left stranded
warped from sunrises and drift
—they need paint, tides, a hull

that goes mouth to mouth
the way seagulls come by
just to nest and preen

though death is not like that
it likes to stand and lean
scattering its brilliant feathers

—look up when you open the can
let it wobble, flow into you
till wave after powerful wave

circles as face to face
and your own loses itself
already beginning to harden.

 

*

You need more, two sinks
stretching out as constant handfuls
though each arm is lowered

by the darkness you keep at the bottom
—a single cup suddenly harmless
not moving—this rattle you hear

is every child’s first toy
already filled with side to side
that’s not the sound a small stone makes

trying to let go the other, stake out
a cry all its own, fill it
on your forehead without her.

 

*

You collect grass the way each star
Eats from your hand, trusts you
To become a nest for the afternoons

Not yet at home in the air, named for nights
That circle down, want to be night again
Take root in your chest as the ripples

From the long stone fallen into the water
Teaching it to darken, to stay
Then smell from dirt then shadows

—side by side you dead pull the ground closer
—with both arms need these whispers warm
already the place to ask about you.

 

*

And though this stone is small
it has more than the usual interest
in the dead, waits among tall grasses

and water holes, smells the way dirt
still warms the afternoons
that no longer have a place to stay

—you leave a nothing in the open
letting it darken to remember
where you buried the Earth

as if the sun could not be trusted
to take back in its light
and by yourself turn away.

 

*

You read out loud the way this bed
listens for the makeshift seam
loosening each night down the middle

and though there is no sun
you peel off page after page
as if underneath what you hear

are her eyes closing—word by word
louder and louder—you think it’s air
that’s falling—everything in your hands

is too heavy, becomes a shadow, covers her
with a single finger pointed at the ceiling light
what’s no where on the pillow or closer.

pencilSimon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems published by box of chalk, 2017. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website. Email: simon[at]hamptons.com

Dear Kelsey

Poetry
Matthew Heston


Photo Credit: Nevenka Mazic / Flickr (CC-by-nc)

By the end of the night, I’d looked into
your eyes for so long, I had forgotten they were

attached to you—like when you repeat a word
so many times it starts to lose

all its meaning, or when you stare at a
Seurat and forget each dot means something

larger than itself. Sometimes, our eyes
play tricks on us, like the kid who knows magic

that no one invited to this party, but he
still showed up, and he brought his deck of cards.

It’s true there’s probably a logical explanation for
every ghost story you’ve ever heard, but that doesn’t

make them any less spooky—it’s worse
knowing that the truth is out there, but still

made itself invisible. Whether we like it
or not, a lie told enough times to enough people

becomes a truth. But the opposite is true, too:
a truth repeated for long enough becomes

common sense, and that’s the easiest sense
to destroy, because you forget why

you believed it in the first place, or if you
ever really believed in it at all.

pencil

Matthew Heston lives in Chicago, Illinois, where he is a graduate student at Northwestern University. Email: matthewheston[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Miki Byrne


Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

In the Shadow of Sand Point
Somerset, U.K.

The coast is not bitten into bay-curves,
chewed away by tides to leave a flat spread of sand
but is a backwashed muddy curve
nestled close to the Point.
Shadows of rearing rocks darken salt-streaked debris.
Dried, hooked by every rocky nook and finger.
Even ubiquitous plastics of civilisation are faded,
scoured, scraped,
where sea’s abrasion scrubs them raw.
Until even they take on a seared beauty,
all lumps and labels rubbed salt-clean,
or scratched milky-opaque by the sea’s glass-paper rub.
Sea-kale ties its ribbons into knots, grasses root in mud
that crusts in summer, oozes in damp.
At the horizon, clouds show.
Sun-caught, limned and illustrated, as if an artist
has lined them with a silver pen.
An expanse of tide-cleared mud, rippled like a dog’s palate,
runs toward the sea.
Sharp indents of seabirds lay patterns of their progress.

 

Angels

There are no angels in Tewkesbury.
Once they glided in loop-the-loops
over the Bloody Meadow.
Shuffled bones of old soldiers beneath the sod.
Exploited their interest in archaeology,
where battles once melee’d.
Or they played ‘skim the river’ along the Severn
till one caught a wing against a bridge
and broke bones.
They once danced waltzes at night
through the old flour mill,
flushed rats from their holes with celestial singing
but local kids freaked at the whiteness of them
when they wandered outside,
toes barely skimming the grass
and rolled balls of starlight along Back of Avon.
Sometimes they were seen on The Ham,
floating ghostly and serene through meadow grass,
only visible from waist up
and made wildflower circlets for their heads.
I’m told that they left overnight.
Offered neither notice or reason,
left the town in a state of sad puzzlement.
Others say one still lives in the Abbey belfry,
weaves love into wedding-hymn words
and surreptitiously dabbles his fingers
in the font at christenings,
to bring blessings on the child.
He accepts bells tolling, as it is always
for a good purpose and in the name of God.
I’ve never seen an angel.
Though I did find a fine, white feather
by the abbey’s great door.
I looked up in hope but it was only
the passing swoop of a bright and sunlit swan.

pencil

Website: mikibyrnepoetry.com Email: mikiandharry[at]yahoo.com

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