Omens were certainly present,
if not in Tarot or dark scrawls of tea leaves,
then on seismographs, thermometers,
between the lines in the pages of newspapers.
Heavy rains pummeled the Rockies,
transforming prairies at their base
into flood plains whose waters mirrored
skies the sickly color of sodden clay.
Late that summer, Yosemite burned;
smoke black with the heaviness of sap
drifted over its reservoir;
tap water as far away as San Francisco
tasted for weeks afterward of ashes.
Charlatan preachers blamed End Times,
citing chapter and verse, although it may
after all have been only smog that made
the moon appear to weep tears of blood.
In early autumn, along the coast,
weather unseasonably warm,
light beat hills to burnished copper;
wine that year was a fine vintage, full and rich;
as lovers, we strolled through long blue twilights,
wished on stars of unsurpassed brightness.
Robert Lavett Smith
Since 1987, Robert Lavett Smith lived in San Francisco, where for the past fifteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He is the author of two poetry collections, the most recent of which is Smoke In Cold Weather: A Gathering of Sonnets (Full Court Press, 2013). His work has appeared in places as diverse as Poetry Northwest, Hanging Loose, and The Hiram Poetry Review.
Leaving with the Geese
When a man is not loved well,
he turns his own love
toward things that love everyone,
barns with snowy roofs,
ice covered lakes,
bold geese leaving
their homes in odd formations,
things and happenings
that bare their hearts to the world.
When a man is not loved well,
he leaves home to sleep
in the dense music
that hides in the earth.
When the time is right,
he leaves with the geese,
ascending like the shrill cries
of crickets, loving
a life which
his world has never shown him.
Corbin Buff is a writer of poems and stories currently based in northeastern Pennsylvania. He has poetry forthcoming in The Lowdown - A Literary Arts Annual, an anthology edited by Robert M. Zoschke. He has a deep love for nature and solitude, and most of his poems express this affinity. This is Corbin's first publication in a literary magazine.
To a Crescent Moon
I walk under a harvest moon, a glow
of refracted light bounced from a remote star.
I too circle a distant star, once strong
fields of gravity still holding me captive
in a dance of elliptical orbit,
willing partner in this minuet
of desire. I read your phases
like that nearby barren rock, false confluence
of approach, retreat, gibbous blush that fades
to wan crescent, a stiletto
I hold in hand, tip pressing my heart.
Janet Butler lives in Alameda with Fulmi, a lovely Spaniel mix she rescued while living in central Italy. "Searching for Eden" was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2012, "Upheaval" was one of three winning selections in Red Ochre Lit's 2012 Chapbook Contest. She recently placed, for the fourth year, in the Berkeley Poets annual poetry contest. She is moderator of the monthly Lit Night at Julie's Coffee & Tea Garden in Alameda and is a member of the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, where she will teach a poetry course and Italian language class this spring.
Painting the Underside of Clouds
Winter mornings, before the world grows distant
and varied and the unequalizing tension of vehicle
noises, people rushing off to work or school,
or meetings, or the grocery store, to buy food or stuff,
there are those unsolicitous moments—coffee mug,
egg orange sun cracking the eastern sky, soon hovering
above the prairie grass, painting the underside of clouds
pink. I don’t sit in the mornings because the day’s
weight hasn’t been enough to weigh me
down. I pace our hallway, pictures guiding my path,
too early to wake my children. I peek in to admire
their fragrant faces, their bodies contained under
quilts, a slight turn, a soft yawn, a hand reaching
to scratch the high cheek bone or rubbing eyes,
a content mutter, they turn once over, bedsprings
creaking to life, I dash out, and back down the hall,
careful not to wake. Breakfast bound, I stand once more,
at the kitchen window, waiting, maple tree outside
still, hearty, branches growing toward the house
I wait for my children, their rousing, heavy-footed
over the floor, sleepy, and unmade, their hair messy
over their faces, the smell of sleep, unbrushed teeth
I hope they draw hope—strength—from these morning
moments— mom, dad, brother, sisters, breakfast and a hello
hug before morning is seized by bustling demands.
The sun, still soft in the east, sky,
winter white where the sun rises to consume,
earth brown prairie grass matted under smatterings
of snow, I can hear my kids, hungry,
rummaging through kitchen cupboards.
Keith Lesmeister lives and works in rural northeast Iowa. He is an MFA candidate at the Bennington Writing seminars. Other writing has appeared or is forthcoming in River Teeth, Meridian, Midwestern Gothic, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere.
“They make a desert and they call it peace.”
For long stretches
my heart beats
with heat. I look
for an oasis in
your eyes. You wake
me with a bleached
skull. It was the
dream, I try to tell
you, where I am
lost and far from home
and there is nothing
but sin, sin and hope.
Corey Mesler has published in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Esquire/Narrative4 Project and Good Poems, American Places (Viking Press, 2011). He has published seven novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon(2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (2010), Following Richard Brautigan (2010), Gardner Remembers (2011), Frank Comma and the Time-Slip (2012), and Diddy-Wah-Diddy: A Beale Street Suite (2013); 3 full length poetry collections, Some Identity Problems (2008), Before the Great Troubling (2011), and Our Locust Years (2013), and 3 books of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009), Notes toward the Story and Other Stories (2011) and I’ll Give YouSomething to Cry About (2011). He has also published over a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. His work can be found at www.coreymesler.wordpress.com.
Going To Town
Breath is getting
too damn scarce,
like everything else.
It takes time and energy
to save it up for a trip
into town to pay
all the bills he owes.
A brand-new woman
wants fire and water,
and all he can afford
is earth and wind.
Paul Dickey’s second full-length book, "Wires Over the Homeplace," was released last September by Pinyon Publishing. His first, "They Say This is How Death Came Into the World." was published by Mayapple Press in 2011. Dickey’s work has appeared recently in Prairie Schooner, Laurel Review, Pleiades, and 32Poems.
The Young’ll Lie Down
The old man’s got no forearm.
He called it “the stump of Jesse.”
Uncle Earl gathers Mose lost it
in the war, like his Uncle Warren.
But Eli, a county over, says
Mose cut it off, post-war, contrite
from the weight of his blood-sins.
I see him walking, sometimes,
in the cotton fields. He carries a stick
in his good hand; the other hangs
at his side like something unfinished
sprouting out of his elder chest.
They say old Moses mumbles,
If thy right hand offend thee …
He had a boy killed by the head saw
at the mill over yonder by Salem.
Now, Mose talks to hisself, says
he’s preaching to the sparrows.
He sits in the back pew of a Sunday.
He’ll ask you to the threshing floor.
Says his boy’s living over by Galilee
where the coyote licks the lamb’s paw,
where the violent wild is out of the lion,
the bear. He says the young lie down.
His boy—Davey’s out there. Says he can’t
see it, can’t hear it, but he knows it for true.
He holds the copperhead like a kingdom
where exiles gather on the placid highway.
Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared in Tar River Poetry, The Nashville Review, and Prairie Schooner. He has been featured in Town Creek Poetry and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. FutureCycle Press published his first chapbook, The Knife Collector, in November. Jesse lives with his wife, Emily, in Atlanta, Georgia, but he was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and considers it his home.
Landscape with Snow
Based on the Van Gogh painting, 1888
It is questionable which arrived first to Arles --
or the snow --
Both bringing forbidden beliefs, both
unwanted, both long stretches
both watercolor of cold.
I walked in snow, as snow,
my blue shadow ahead
trying to eclipse distance,
on a road no one cheerfully traveled
at this time of day
The isolated La Crau plains
taking longer than daylight,
in the distance,
the Montmajour abbey,
someone warms themselves
with prayer. Surely
someone knows pain,
where language is
colorful and strange.
Will it speak heart to heart?
Will it freeze and isolate me?
I bring prayer
like light and paintbrushes.
Although it is record cold,
already melting begins.
wash out details
and simplify forms,
reducing this absent world
to the sort of pattern
in Japanese woodblocks.
Effects of the sun
of composition and
to a few intense contrasts,
vibrant as prayer
in a snow front.
This diagonal road
crosses the landscape
of horizontal brushstrokes.
White and violet snow,
brown, green and blue puddles
and slush left
by melting snow,
tufts of grass
like my unruly hair
painted in yellow
along the side of this cold road.
The view is accented by red roofs.
Along the horizon, a brown dog,
and a man wearing a brown jacket
and black hat
walk in the field.
Strangeness is my companion.
With me comes a storm --
although the horizon is high,
my attention is focused
on the foreground --
the land takes me to a house
expecting to be welcomed
knowing full well
I will never belong
in this world
or the next.
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts, Jr. is a retired librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He has been nominated for eight Pushcart Prizes and six Best of the Net awards. He provided his hands-on workshop “How to Make Origami Haiku Jumping Frogs” at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. He won this Review's William K. Hathaway Award for Poem of the Year 2012. He is the co-winner of the 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest. He is an national contest winner of "Searching For What Is Not There" (Hiraeth Press, 2013). Martin's forthcoming poetry books include “Waiting For The Day To Open Its Wings” (UNBOUND Content), “City Of Tents” (Crisis Chronicles Press), "Swimming In the Ladle of Stars" (Kattywompus Press), “A Is For Aorta” (Kind of Hurricane Press), “Martin Willitts Jr, Greatest Hits” (Kattywompus Press), “The Way Things Used To Be” (Writing Knights Press), “Irises, the Lightning Conductor For Van Gogh's Illness” (Aldrich Press).
Cain in the Land of Nod
Mother, do you remember
our valley covered with corn
the morning my brother was born
and grew like the lily casting forth its root?
First up to till the soil,
I taught Abel to keep the sheep.
He’d hover round just watching me
stooped beneath my yield
of fragrant, new-mown hay
pass on tiptoe breathing by
the hind calving in the field
for fear that I might startle it.
So on the Sabbath Yahweh spurned
my gift of fruit from the earth
for the sheep and fat of Abel's sacrifice
I didn’t understand; I couldn’t
kill a speechless creature
or love a god who sanctioned it.
But because my brother was able,
what sense did it make--tell me--
to cede my birthright to him
when I struck the blow that proved
before the first death was another?
Mother of my mortal heart,
see within the dark of me,
permit me to press your hand,
find the house where I was born,
some remnant of my early youth:
a tree, a yard, a stone.
Secrete into my will
the skill of mastery, faith to feel
anguish has a footing,
Discipline by hunger,
bring me home again.
Carol HebaldA former associate professor of English at University of Kansas, Carol Hebald is the author of the memoir, The Heart Too Long Suppressed (Northeastern University Press, 2001); a novella collection, Three Blind Mice (Unicorn Press, 1989); and more recently, two poetry collections from March Street Press: Spinster by the Sea (2005) and Little Monologs (2004). Excerpts from and reviews of her books are on her website: www.CarolHebald.com. Her poems have been anthologized in Little Brown’s Woman, An Issue, Bantam Books Intro II, and Poems From The Hawkeye State (Iowa State University Press). Her poem,"The Isolation Room," which won this Review’s Poem of the Month Award in May 2013, has been nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared also in Commonweal, Pen International, International Poetry Review, Massachusetts Review, The Humanist, North American Review, Antioch Review, Free Inquiry, Ararat, The Same, Blue Lyra Review, New Letters, and Confrontation.
Along the Monmouth Shore
You can still make out the stars
though it’s noon and the beach
changes -–you can tell by the feeland listening for engine scrapbreaking apart, smelling from smoke
expects you to stand up barefoot
keep struggling with shoreline
--you’re not new to this
will start the grill weeks ahead
as if stars are never sure
are milling around, forgot all about
the darkness you’re breathing in
and no way now to pick and choose
the fires however small or close
to some ocean or daylight
till it creaks and your mouth
no longer lit for kisses
and songs about nothing.
Simon PerchikSimon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is "Almost Rain," published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.