On Certain Sundays
On a Sunday morning we harbor nothing
But the assurance of a week’s worth.
No other agenda but the warm march of tea
Pouring its green fuel down our throats.
We combust in absolute silence
Over a newspaper as the rain causes
The glass to fill with light.
Our lives are pregnant. Our bodies
Lain back in a recline towards God.
And if the scheduled plight of the coming week
Bears down its stamp of obligation,
We can slip easily as whiskey
Into the warm and honeyed dark. Seth JaniSeth Jani was raised in Western Maine. He is the founder and editor of Seven Circle Press (www.sevencirclepress.com), and his own work has been published widely in such journals as Writers’ Bloc, The Foundling Review, Hobo Camp Review, and Gutter Eloquence. He currently resides in Seattle, WA.
A Song of SinnersSinners hurt.
Moonlight cracks open
like a walnut, spreads soft light
across open sky.
They dart to alleyways, bury themselves behind
their own trails shaking fists at the sky;
hiding their nasty nonsense in shame,
city buildings rattle their bricks,
mortar loose at their rib cage.
Where do sinners break out
from when their deeds are exposed?
All men think they are sword
men daggers in darkness.
All women think they are entry points
spotted lean on sidewalks past midnight,
nothing but shadows, twitching of lips.
Women look for no good in their makeup kits;
no one cares about how men are tempted,
jackals and scavengers in night.
Thunder hammers at their ears,
rain urinates those streets corners,
mice crawl away to small places.
Footsteps cry in mud holds stuck
as sunlight starts to sprout.
Misdeeds have no names
as they trip into each other blind,
as they race off to their morning jobs-
It’s early morning,
staples in women’s lungs,
staples in men’s ribs.
Michael Lee JohnsonMICHAEL LEE JOHNSON lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era; is now known as the Illinois poet from Itasca, IL. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, and photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography), and a small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. He has been published in more than 750 small press magazines in 27 countries, and is the editor of 8 poetry sites. Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom (136 page book), and several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises, Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems. He also has over 69 poetry videos on YouTube.
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Sometimes a deer bolting across the river
slips on a rock and breaks a leg. It dies there
or half-way up the bank, or conceals itself
in a thicket, as if its death were shameful.
What should we make of pain that figures
in neither history nor biography, but just is?
The chocolate lab, whose barking startled the deer,
finds the femur one night and fetches it home.
The man in the house cusses the dog and ties
the leg up in a plastic bag and buries it,
not without words. In the man’s bed sleeps
the Boy, the mother is gone, in Boy’s room
the man is painting the crosses that divide
the window panes. Muntins not crosses
is the right name for them. Dead, not gone.
Boy is dreaming: on suddenly long legs
walking is skating on wind; Mother has just
licked off the afterbirth. Everything is wobbly,
but soon he’ll be ready to leap. Then the dog
barks and Boy’s legs telescope in. He cries out
against the light and goes back to sleep.
* * * *
The stones are shifting slightly in the river.
It drives them seaward at the speed of lichen.
The man walks here to escape the smell of paint.
He is consoled by the lack of explanations.
Who could explain yesterday’s groundhog
on the shoulder of northbound 85?
The man had been shifting down
to enter the traffic, when he saw it—head
propped on forelegs, eyes turned toward
a line of trees, hindquarters twisted
90 degrees awry. The man was glad
it had reached the grass, a better place
to die than asphalt, where the buzzards
could safely get to it, out in the open
where someone could see and give it a name.
* * * *
Such are his musings as he paints the ceiling--
though waking or dreaming who can tell?--
how we break like toys the gifts
we are born to, how the groundhog
was broken by a driver who never saw it,
how each child has an angel whispering, Grow. Bird on the Tongue
i. What the Men See
At Benson’s Snake Pit and Reptile Farm
the grave girl with the orchid in her hair
is selling ice-cream. The men pay for their cones,
stealing a glance at the girl. They push back their caps
and look out over the wilderness of swamp
and two-lanes that make their home. The holy
is always present, but it can’t be labeled
like the gaboon viper or the fer-de-lance
pickled in brine and displayed in glass jars.
The air is heavy and wet. The afternoon clouds
heap up like scoops of butter pecan.
The men stay till the rain begins to patter,
but don’t see what they’ve come to see—the bird
that nonchalants into a gator’s mouth
to pick its teeth. They leave, telling themselves
they’re coming back, that maybe they’ll get lucky,
maybe speak a piece that makes the girl smile.
ii. What the Girl Thinks
Sacred alligator, you can bellow so loud
you startle the crows
a quarter mile out,
you can outrun a man
and eat a snake--
you are my sister,
flower of hunger,
whiplash of anger.
Nothing’s too big for you,
not even the God
whose blood is the river,
and nothing’s too small--
not even the bird
you hold in your mouth
like a fledgling word.
Let it fly from your tongue
and alight on mine.
iii. What the Gator Eats
In the beginning, God spit
mud and water from His mouth,
and sawgrass grew from the muck,
and here and there He dropped
bayhead and hammock.
He called the wilderness good
and set the gator to rule
and gave her leave to eat
whatever she could—turtle carapace
and flesh, pig-frog and snowy egret,
fishing weights and floats and lures,
rice rats and gar, mink
slippery and quick as a sinner,
shotshells and soda bottles,
and the left hand of Mr. Spenser
that stifled the screams of the ice-cream girl
when he caught her alone. The men
discover his body and hunt the gator
in hole and den. The girl tosses
her blood-red orchid on the water.J.S. AbsherJ.S. Absher has been an offset printer, missionary, bank teller, janitor, and consultant, sold mutual funds, surveyed scrub timberland, and taught a poetry class in Belize. He is a member of the Board of the North Carolina Poetry Society and co-hosts the monthly Second Thursday reading series at Flyleaf Books, an independent bookstore in Chapel Hill, NC. Absher’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Dialogue, Sunstone, The Dead Mule, Anderbo, Conte, and Kakalak. His work has won various prizes, most recently from the Poetry Council of North Carolina and the North Carolina Poetry Society, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He has two collections, Night Weather (Cynosura Press, 2010), and The Burial of Anyce Shepherd (Main Street Rag, 2006).
She made a present of her body
to the loaf, moisture in the skin and spit
and tip of tongue, pressure in the palm,
heat from the bands of muscles in the arm
and vessels that open in the hands like leaves.
Her feet braced the ocean of the knead,
knees absorbed the tide, fatigue,
and locked the torso to its commitment:
heave the chest and shoulders where the blood
was doing its unthinking, impermanent
work—striking time steady as a leaking sink,
softer than a red-wing babbles its affairs.
That the body can crush from either end
towards its center without collapse is what
bread means, and is not considered a miracle.
Neither that yeast lives invisible in the air
or under fingernails. A quotidian affair,
like raking leaves or checking into a hospital.
It was enough without the thrill or fuss of a guarantee
of grace, even with the inevitable sacrifice
to sandwiches and mold.
Jasmine V. Bailey
Jasmine V. Bailey's first collection of poems, Alexandria, was published by Carnegie Mellon University press in February, 2014, and her chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes It, won the 2009 Longleaf Press Chapbook Prize.
A Joyful Lamentation
Embossed on the bronze of Achilles' shield,
boys and girls on a harvest path
carry on poles baskets of grapes,
a gift from Dionysus, a joyful event.
They move in accord to an ancient tune
that a boy plays on a lyre and sings
in a sweet, clear voice. But listen! Listen!
It is a linos, a song of lamentation,
the same they will soon sing in the wine-press
where their feet will dance, then crush
the life blood from the god himself,
dismembering him in a kind of thanksgiving,
thus bringing brittle death to his vineyard,
and leaving for the cold season long
but one reminder of the certainty of spring,
the evergreen ivy that entangles the vines.
Warren Meredith Harris
Warren Meredith Harris' poems have appeared in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Main Street Rag, The Howl, Poem, The Anglican Theological Review, Pembroke Magazine, The Penwood Review, freefall, and a number of other publications. A recipient of three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he has been a college professor, a stage director, and the editor of a literary journal, and he has written several verse dramas and adaptations, one of which was performed on New York City public radio. He is the author of The Night Ballerina: A Poem Sequence in Seven Parts (BrickHouse Books, 2012).
My Parents’ New House, One Year After Hurricane Sandy
In the new house, my mother test-paints the walls
in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.
Paintbrush-width strips of six shades of beige
checker everywhere there is flat, white space.
In the living room, dining room, and kitchen,
my mother appraises the way sunlight plays on
the paintbrush-width strips of six shades of beige,
and she moves the new couch from place, to place, to place.
My mother appraises the way sunlight plays on
the many curtains, rugs, and pillows she’s bought.
She moves the new couch from place, to place, to place.
She returns the curtains she’s bought the very next day.
She buys more curtains, rugs, and pillows today.
If she likes these new ones better, she really couldn’t say,
so she returns all she’s bought the very next day,
but decides the couch is probably in the place it will stay.
If she likes one beige better, she really couldn’t say.
It’s been almost a year and still the checkers remain.
The couch is likely in the place it will stay.
But across the Toms River, her old home stands straight.
It’s been more than a year and still the checkers remain.
She labors and labors to make this a new place a home,
but across the Toms River, her real home stands straight.
If she likes the new house better, she really won’t say.
In the new house, my mother test-paints the walls--
paintbrush-width strips of six shades of beige.
She will return the curtains she’s bought the very next day.
But the couch is, at last, in the place it will stay.
Lauren Schmidt is the author of three collections of poetry: Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing; The Voodoo Doll Parade, selected for the Main Street Rag Author’s Choice Chapbook Series; and Psalms of The Dining Room, a sequence of poems about her volunteer experience at a soup kitchen in Eugene, Oregon. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal, New York Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and The Progressive. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize, the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, The Janet B. McCabe Prize for Poetry, and the Bellevue Literary Review’s Vilcek Prize for Poetry. Schmidt is an Instructor of Developmental English at Passaic County Community College. She also volunteer teaches creative writing at a transitional house for homeless mothers and is a Poet-in-the-Schools for Paterson Public Schools.
A Life in Dreams
¿Dónde está, … dónde está tu niña amarga?
Federico Garcia Lorca- Romance Somnámbulo Somewhere the soft wind slows, somewhere the soft wind stops
Where an old man sits under the light of the stars
And remembers the frogs singing of the apple births,
Or the virgins sequinning their backs with nettles
The copper bells are dreaming up her footsteps, still
Though the railings she caressed are not the green
Of flakes peeling away with the wane of the moon
If the sun tumbles from the tangles of his hair
To an open book of poetry, who will answer?
Who else has polished the trunk of the dying oak?
Who else has straightened the bodies of the seabed?
And kept a flame lit in the wax of her candle?
He is crying, the flesh of the watermelon
Tastes no sweeter than the blood of an extinct rose
That pours through the love in her mother’s name
Now he sleeps on a couch of cold steel, where her arms
Are torn linen streaming from an opal staircase
And a black butterfly floats from the bannister
Offering its residue of petrol and flames
Under gravestones she is calling, she is dancing
The oleanders sprout wild through her eyes
When a thief taps the window of the old man’s dreams
And slits the throat of the dawnCharlie BaylisCharlie Baylis covers the lessons of absent teachers in Nottingham, England. His poetry and short stories have most recently appeared in SAW magazine and The Delinquent. He spends most of his spare time slightly adrift of reality He blogs, sporadically, here: theimportanceofbeingaloof.tumblr.com.
Espíritu SantoBorn of the first stone, I am witch:
Spellbound by small elements,
snails in the throat, birds on the lip.
There is a hiding behind
the trunk of a dead tree,
a memory of morning, a reckoning.
There are no men, no children.
No women with soft worries.
No confidences or shared will.
But when I blow the lonesome wind,
the wooded land breathes in.
Together we become the ancient word,
a god released. Ana Maria CaballeroAna Maria Caballero worked in finance, journalism, wine importation, and even on an international drug awareness campaign for the Colombian government before recently becoming a mom. Now she focuses her attention on writing poetry and book thoughts. Her writing has appeared in Ghost House Review, Dagda Publishing,Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Boston Poetry Magazine, Actuary Lit, and The Fat City Review. It is forthcoming on Really Systems. More of her work is available at www.thedrugstorenotebook.co.
Never can too much be sung
about this world that, as we age,
lets us be young.
Never can too much be praised
as by birds' music, the baying of wolves,
the elements of our days.
Never, as humans, can we cease to reach
for the one thing given – not to bears, nor sparrows –
to us, to deepen our lives: speech.
Llyn Claque's poems have been published widely, including in Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, Main Street Rag, New York Quarterly, Ibbetson Street, and other magazines. His sixth book, The I in India and US, was published by Main Street Rag in 2012. Visit www.llynclague.com
I am the only one
devoted to war’s quieter moments:
Misheard whisperings of spies.
Sideways glances before the siege.
I replaced that plank in the Trojan horse’s ass
while Agamemnon’s army slept.
No one knows me.
While blue and grey faced off
amid choreographed cannon smoke,
While the bugle blared.
While the drum and fife serenaded
While history applauded
its own imperfect reflection,
I was there.
I am the conscientious objector
sweeping the V. A. asylum’s floor
clean enough for poetry; I see
the caged clock,
the night nurse,
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters, and his recent work has appeared in Conduit, Digital Americana, and Cloudbank.