Shame

Poetry
Rodd Whelpley


Photo Credit: Martin Fisch/Flickr (CC-by)

Here is how to do it.
Fix your eyes forward,
the left wide, rounded,
unblinking,
the right squinted,
as if barreling down
a rifle sight.

Rake
your right index finger
repeatedly
along the back
of your left index finger,
pointed straight ahead.

Harder—
from the knuckle past the nail.
Make some sound,
like a Boy Scout,
vigorous
with a book of blue-tipped matches
working to ignite a fire.

That slight,
deafening swoosh
says
You do not belong.
You deserve
to not belong
for the thing you did,
the person
you fail to be.

This is serious stuff.
This is not ballet.
Never
practice this
before a reflective
shiny surface,
a mirror,
or a window
when it’s dark outside.

pencil

Rodd Whelpley is an “outside the academy” poet interested in the intersection, operation and value of poetry in the work-a-day world. He manages an electric efficiency program for 32 cities across Illinois and lives near Springfield with his wife, son, a dog, and stacks of books. His poems have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, 2River View, *82 Review, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Spillway, The Naugatuck River Review, Eunoia Review, Antiphon, The Chagrin River Review and other journals. Email: rwhelpley[at]imea.org

Three Poems

Poetry
Alex Stolis


Photo Credit: anyjazz65/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 1 — St. John, N.B. Canada

I keep all your letters in a cigar box under our bed
next to grandmother’s wedding dress. This is a city
of ghosts of bars of brown pastures. You send me
postcards from all the places I’ll never go. They are
on a map I do not own. I am left with ink on fingers,
smudges of black on white on an unpunctuated loss.
Truth is something only paper can be witness to. I’ll
never wear that dress. Instead, I’ll meet you where
the earth is covered in blues and greens.

 

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 2 — Woodstock, N.B. Canada

I’m a girl on a dragon-fly on the back of a horse heading
straight into the wind under an unbreakable sky. You are
not here. You are made-up words in an invented language
spoken in whispers. I remember every detail of the world
we created from scratch. I remember that day the moon
eclipsed the sun and for a moment the earth turned cold.
The sky turned deep green no stars in sight. You wrote me
of a dream you had; lost, afraid and miles away from home.
You heard the low beat of wings. You felt the steady pound
of hooves and I readied myself for flight.

 

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 3 — Edmundston, N.B. Canada

Disregard my last letter. If you have not yet received it
bury it away when you do. I’ve tried to stop loving you.
It’s easier than I thought. Miles and time only sharpens
every memory. You would no longer recognize the land
but the sky is the same. I look up at your moon and your
stars. Imagine a blanket of quiet descends on us. I close
my eyes, can almost hear nothing. I’m an experiment in
exile. We don’t ever really lie. We believe and then find
out later we were wrong.

pencil

I have used the Al G. Barnes Circus Route from 1934 which began its season March 31 in San Diego, made a circuit through the United States and Canada and ended the season October 29 in El Centro, Ca. Each part of this series consists of one month from the season, April-October. The intention is for the work, as a whole, to be a narrative; a novella in chapbook/prose form. The original concept included photos as part of the narrative. The first four parts are completed. The entirety of part four was published in Verse. Individual poems have appeared in Drunken Monkeys, Autumn Sky, Blinders and Origami Poetry Project. Email: stolisalex[at]gmail.com

Defiance on my Tongue

Poetry
Susan Richardson


Photo Credit: Henrique Simplicio/Flickr (CC-by)

She seeps through bullet holes in
the window and down stairs that threaten
to crumble under the anticipation of my boots.
Her strides are peppered with impatience as
she paces to the brutal strike of the clock.
I step quietly through a crack in the door,
holding my breath in the pit of my throat.
I am ten minutes late.

Peering through glasses perched sternly
on the end of her nose, she looks down
at me as if I am debris that sullies her shoe.
She glances sharply at her watch and
tells me her time is valuable.
I feel the sting of her disdain in my mouth.

Copies of my poems lay strewn across the
table, torn apart by her overinflated ego,
slashed into tatters by a bleeding marker.
She tells me no one cares about my feelings.
Setting a timer for thirty minutes, she instructs me to
write about what I hear and smell and taste.
I taste defiance on my tongue and hear the rustle
of a sweater that carries the stench of conceit.
I attack the lines of a blank page.
My time is also valuable.

Sparks of disillusionment crowd the room
and ignite my impulse to escape.
I paid to savor the abundance of her language,
but she is barren and blends immaculately into
burning walls, singeing the fabric of my adoration.
Her imprint leaves a stain on the taste buds of my day.

pencil

Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice and Sick Lit Magazine, with pieces forthcoming in Amaryllis. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize. Email: floweringinkpoetry[at]outlook.com

Route 640

Poetry
Kurt Rasmussen


Photo Credit: Rigers Rukaj/Flickr (CC-by)

It is a dark November morning. The early riders are quiet
because the usual driver is training a new man.
She tells him about each railroad crossing, every stretch of potholes
and what to expect when approaching each stop.
She has something to say about each quarter-mile.

To hear her tell it, this bus route is a teeming river
with eddies and backwaters, rapids and depths.
She knows almost every rider, most of us by name
and whose son is currently at the wars
and whose daughter will be graduating soon.

The new man will recall not a tenth of her words
but there is no need. The route he will drive
will not be this one, even if it follows the same roads.
The purpose of her speaking is not to instruct.
She is telling us all her poem about our city.

I sit back and think about what makes things go.
How would you ever write it down in a manual?
People keep telling me that the world runs on greed.
They must get to work some other way.

pencil

“Got myself born, learned to walk and talk, went to school, played, ate, slept, started writing (first story about a baseball player that my sister made fun of), fell in love, got my heart broke (occasionally used “bad” grammar intentionally, sometimes not), got married, had kids, wrote stuff once in a while, got divorced, finally got some stuff published, became ruler of a small nation state in my mind, wrote this biography ending with this period: .” Email: godonefiftyone[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Kenneth Pobo


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

Indoor Garden

As winter sprints near their driveway,
Jerry lugs in fuchsias, a plumeria,
an abutilon, a waist-high gardenia
for a warm bay window, transfers
a salmon double-flowered Christmas
cactus to the dining room window.

Buds look like people
standing in a crowded elevator,
no hope of the door opening
soon. Snow

makes the window ache.
Color trembles on the sill.

 

Flyover America

Flyovers, acres of sunflowers,
yellow memories coming
into bloom, yellow raincoats,
yellow July moon haze, yellow frosted
cupcakes after Marsha’s funeral. Still,

I prefer to avoid flying over bodies
of my dead in the ground, yawning
cemeteries with a hidden-knife silence.
Wherever I go, the dead stay near.

They aren’t sleeping or waiting
to come back. They’ve let go. Prairie
winds dust where they lie,
not rest.

 

pencil

Kenneth Pobo had a book out in 2017 from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. Forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Press is a book of his prose poems called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Email: kgpobo[at]verizon.net

Broken

Poetry
Katherine Davis


Photo Credit: Prudence Styles/Flickr (CC-by)

So easy, until you found it: the china.
Rosebud-embossed cups and saucers, tiny spoons.
Would the proprietor notice if you swiped (just a few)?
Your plastic bag is capacious. If only the stolen
Would not clink or shatter. Such beauties tend
To be brittle, develop fractures.
Desire makes the sweat run, sets the tongue to twitch.
Your palms need to cool, as in pillows of petals.
O the smoothness, pleasure of silk under fingertips.
The pink is the color of a baby’s cheeks.
You don’t have kids to care for—only things.
You would protect the china as if it came
From your grandmother. Unbelievable, the gift
Which made Sundays in upstate always spring;
Mass shorter; Father’s hands, more delicate.

pencil

Katherine Davis earned a Ph.D. specializing in American poetry from Duke University. Her poems have previously appeared in Weber, Stepping Stones, Wild Goose Review, and Convergence. She has written and taught around the United States and currently lives in western Canada. Email: davikath[at]gmail.com

Batten the Hatches

Poetry
Emile Benoit


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

What doesn’t kill us doesn’t always make us stronger. We can die weakly too. We can suffer the kind of death that slowly leaks and hemorrhages or eats its way through the marrow with tiny mouths and teeth. The kind that shatters the soul while leaving the body unbroken. If a mother is told that her child has died, don’t believe that she’ll be strengthened. She will be hollowed out like a gourd instead, a few dry seeds rattling from within if shaken. She will be extinguished except for those smoldering embers that were not thoroughly saturated with her tears. What doesn’t kill us can still make us pray for death.

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Emile Benoit is a writer and teacher who lives in southern California with his wife and two daughters, Brady and Miranda. He’s written three books of philosophy in the literary style: Essays and Aphorisms on the Higher Man, The Artistic Perspective, and Beasts in Eden.

Five Poems

Poetry
Devon Balwit


Photo Credit: Marina del Castell/Flickr (CC-by)

After Ishtar’s Descent into Hades

Since the lady Ishtar descended to the land of No-return
The bull does not spring upon the cow, the ass does not bow over the jenny
The man no more bows over the woman in the street,
The man sleeps in his chamber
The woman sleeps alone.
(from Ishtar’s Descent into Hades, An Assyrian Ritual Poem)

I.
After you abandon us
for the land
of the dead,

do not expect us
to continue
as usual.

The knot
means little
until unraveled.

Neither man
nor beast embrace
in your absence.

Our desire has seeped
from your departing
footsteps.

We bellow and moan,
but cannot say
why.

We miss
the smudge of you
in the carbon

on votive-glass.
Will you return
on your own,

or do you need
rescuing? Advise us
so that we may

intercede.
We will risk
the bigger gods

to lift our need
of you
on quivering palms.

II.
I meant
to go back,
but found

that once I had shed
crown, ornament,
and breech-clout,

and stood naked
before Ereshkigal,
the darkness comforted.

I did not mind
the maladies
waiting to go forth,

the quiet shimmer
of piled bones.
It is not that I forgot

the living
with their frantic
getting and begetting,

but rather they hung
above me like fruit
still on the tree,

like the sun
in haze.
They seemed fine

as they were, like spray
paused
at the lip of a waterfall.

 

All This Time You’ve Been Speaking; I Never Knew
a collaboration with Jeff Whitney

I.
Evening unfolds its immense question, the stars
deep in a quarry where somebody plummets.

Every story catches up to its conclusion.
Every overtone sours, grinding like teeth.

An entire plane lost to a mountain, what
conversation should we have with mercy?

Lower, ants roil a million apostrophes,
careless as spilled seed, dark as new moons.

Fire takes a distant hill. A magician’s final act
is to submerge, even his exhale cloaked.

II.
Midwinter, I come upon a dead sparrow.
I call it flinch, corpse compelling as a relic.

I seek a religion that doesn’t bruise,
scarring my private wonder. The dead

walk one way and I another, repeating
a prayer of a single word, God, as in disgust

or orgasm. When things bleed together,
even rocks drown. Fence posts scud like clouds,

the earth rises. I lie on my back, fingers roots,
body a cairn. I await weathering, the slow

crumble. I have to name names, or they are lost
from the world. Even so, they are lost.

 

Devotion’s Weight

Like a female mantid, he has taken
his lovers’ heads

clean off and now lies surfeited
on no field,

but a silken blankness, unwrinkled,
all lids down.

A depleted god, his penis brumates
along his alabaster

thigh. He awaits new worshippers’
lit censers to fire

him from indolence. Already one
approaches, fingertips

reaching. How wearying to be
so adored, heavy head

hoisting upright, skin shivering
as new hands find him.

(after Mimmo Paladino, 1983)

 

Estancia al Sur I

The snowy egrets pass, one after the other,
towards someplace unseen, ignoring the bristle
of satellite towers and human habitation.
Each time I point out their elegance, they blur.
Isn’t that like a gringo, a gringa condemns,
thinking herself a swan. The city suffers
from success, history crusting the weeping
sores of high-end boutiques. Hiding from need,
I pretend not to see the beggar women
sheltering in doorways. They do the same,
rattling coins at my shoes, rebozos veiling
their faces. My parents have become old,
and I hard. We jostle each other, the world
narrowed to a single rutted road. My son,
I hope, isn’t watching, forming a template
for the future as he screws in a new blade.
Half the battle is remaining upright,
stumbling from shade to shade.
I am both here and elsewhere, tugged
by wants. I go off the wagon and swig
down bitterness. Regrets await my return,
disgorged from the jet way.

 

Birthday of the Nation

The house-boards’ heart, the hearth, the brazier flush of ripening, the heavy-headed grass, stalks wind-swung sideways in July thunder, the pump handle’s skree-skree become the drummerboy’s muster, all leaning towards parade, towards the picnic blanket, the land a faithful hound, pressing against us, following with its eyes, knowing us good citizens unpredictable, hands prone to rapine, to blood, yet also tender in our begetting.

(after Willem de Kooning’s July 4th, 1957)

pencil

 

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out, among them: We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (a collaboration with Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic); Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders); and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, the Aeolian Harp Folio, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, The Free State Review, Red Paint Hill, and more. Email: devonbalwit[at]gmail.com

*

Jeff Whitney is the author of five chapbooks, two of which were co-written with Philip Schaefer. His poems can be found in journals such as 32 Poems, Adroit, Beloit Poetry Journal, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Daily.

The Heart of Song

Broker’s Pick
Roger Singer


Photo Credit: Nicole Marie Edine/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Two blocks into Harlem. White shirts,
black ties, flowered dresses, patent
leather shoes, tattoos and beautiful hair;
the streets are always alive.

The beat mixes up. The man
with a full beard smiles, exposing
a picket fence for teeth. Conga drums
call out the dance in people. Red and purple
cotton hats jive like released shadows.
Tired feet get the sleep slapped out of them.
A guitar strings out a solo,
drawing an applause from a child.

A warm unexpected rain washes everything
down. Clouds soon part. The city
begins again.

pencil

Email: Cabanaph424[at]verizon.net

Five Poems

Poetry
Bibhu Padhi


Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr (CC-by)

Sickness: Morning

A dry mouth troubles this
body, the mind is stuck
to the taste of sand.

The salt-taste is long gone
into some other mouth,
its residence far from mine.

Drops of Hanneman and Nash
are believed to be an assurance
against further loss, any savage rite.

But the body, now getting slowly
introduced to a tired unevenness,
looks for consolation elsewhere.

Limbs go cold, like winter,
curled around themselves
to restore warmth and peace.

I go slow with things, like a leaf, pray
for a return to the basics, even as
the mind is a prisoner of disbelief.

 

Mother

I recall the day I saw you for
the first time. The white cloth on you
shone like the stars, like sunlight on

northern snow. You lisped my words
in numerous ways, so I might repeat the same,
my joy filling rooms and corridors

in magnificent forms. I wonder
if you taught all your children
the signature of your pain.

Would you mind if I misspelt a word
that was attached to your name.
Something tells me you will not;

you always misspell my name.
Mother: Today, you seem to be far
From me, in another sphere,

Under another name. Do you see me
From where you are? Do you feel worried
because I am nowhere near you—

thrown away by a wind that shakes
hills and plains, the sea’s divinity? Are you
still in the sea, the hills and the plains?

 

Once More, Faith

However you try, the surrender
is hard to come. All aspirations
have touched only the periphery
of the place where she is believed

to stay, have stayed back with you
or dissolved in the long night sky.
The stars might have seen these
just as the heart somewhere here.

How does acceptance come,
in which miraculous way, which
modes of faith and submission,
which postures of prayer?

You have merely heard about
the subdued matters, the last
line of giving oneself away,
the first words of superior grace.

Waiting is not the only answer.
It should have been over by now,
given you enough to live with
and distribute, to live for.

 

Nothing Shows Clear

Summer is large over the small
town. March is hardly here.

Margosa buds have shown themselves
earlier than it has been in years.

I touch my dumb eyes behind which
another pair rests, ready to take over.

How far is meditation from a mere
closure of the eyes, a stiff brown gaze,

the inspiration of the first view
of transparencies, heaven’s gate?

The answer seems nowhere near, like
the last winter, the first rains of the year.

 

Thinking the Now

What comes is only other than
what you thought you would receive.
The struggle for the whole continues
beyond the boundaries of reason.

Some say that is how things come,
even delay in arriving where
they are awaited by eager hands
and minds, all that is darkened

by the world’s grim ways, useless
intent for passions and possessions,
blocked by the mind’s old habit of
looking back and discovering the lost.

You have to be cautious in choosing
things, shed your past and memories, all
that you held so proudly as your own—
your body’s performances, mind’s dreams.

You must know that you might lose
what is with you now, under a sheet—
the half-line that would not come
to completion, the likelihood of its loss.

pencil

Bibhu Padhi has published eleven books of poetry. His poems have appeared in distinguished magazines throughout the English-speaking world, such as Encounter, The Contemporary Review, The Poetry Review, Stand, The Rialto, The American Scholar, Colorado Review, Confrontation, Mid-American Review, Poet Lore, Poetry (Chicago), The Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, The Antigonish Review, The Toronto Review, Queen’s Quarterly, The Bombay Review, The Illustrated Weekly of India, and Indian Literature. They have been included in numerous anthologies and textbooks. Three of the most recent are Language for a New Century (Norton), 60 Indian Poets (Penguin), and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (HarperCollins). Email: padhi.bibhu[at]gmail.com