After the Facts
My next door neighbor Mitch has been talking about selling
for several years now. His wife died around five years ago
when she fell asleep at the wheel, then was awoken,
then put back to sleep again by a big oak. Our lots are big too
so I didn’t learn about his wife until six months after the fact
when the daffodils arrived and we reacquainted ourselves
with the sun and the line at the edge of our lots.
Mitch’s forearms and elbows are distorted with odd-shaped
tumor-like bulges, though they may be misplaced pockets of muscle
from 40 years hacking and hauling choice cuts of beef
from the sides of steer. The pool he put in a couple of years before
his wife died to lure the grandkids over to the house
now features a layer of green scum, minus the grandkids.
The deck is falling apart and his lawn, never sullied by a dandelion
when his wife was alive, is now carpeted with thick green spikes
sharper than a butcher’s blade. Mitch had a girlfriend
a couple years back. My wife and I ran into them at a local restaurant.
They were holding hands but it seems his grip was tighter than hers
because she’s since slipped away. Yes, Mitch is talking about selling.
I saw him driving down the street today in the old Mercury,
slumped a little lower in the seat, steering wheel looking a little bit bigger,
as if that big old Mercury might be driving itself—which
made me think of Dad, who died back in ’93.
Toward the end, one day when I visited him at the nursing home
and noticed the empty bed on the other side of the room,
I asked him what happened to his neighbor—Henry…Hank…can’t
remember now who was lying there the day before--
and Dad said, “Oh, he died last night,” then went on to tell me
what they were serving for lunch.
Robert Nordstrom is a poet, freelance writer and school bus driver living in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. A member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, he has published fiction and poetry in numerous literary magazine, including, most recently, The Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, Upstreet, Main Street Rag, Stoneboat, and Blue Heron Review. His collection, The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press) was published in the spring of 2015. As a school bus driver, his most recent and worthy accomplishments are teaching kindergartners how to snap their fingers and warning that it's probably best that they not lick the seat in front of them.
Late and Soon
As the sun slips into the cold tallow
of a northern sea -- a wick of amaranth
to ignite the dimming sky --
I see myself regenerate
from so much wasted energy
now recollected -- retrieving cares
from the seven winds,
crashing free of the waves, heavenward,
restored into a monstrous form.
And in that dream, I throw down the host
of minor gods and lesser devils
I let cheapen all these days,
the blushing socket of sky stained
with the shadow of the sun hurled against it
by the radiance of my gathering wrath.
But the sky cools
through lavender to indigo,
and the vision grows diffuse,
and upon this wind-worn shore,
diminished and deposed, I’m left
beneath the night advancing.
Kevin Casey has contributed poems to recent editions of Grasslimb, Frostwriting, Words Dance, Turtle Island Review, decomP, and other publications. A graduate of UMass, Amherst and the University of Connecticut, his chapbook “The wind considers everything --” (Flutter Press) was published this spring. He currently teaches literature at a small university in Maine, where he enjoys fishing, snowshoeing and hiking.
The creepers undulating up from the stream’s cold
stone bed wrap her ankles as if death was intimate
while she listens to the water’s musical murmurs
in the braided roots of a wind-felled elm.
She locates the hooves of the bay roan pacing
on the grass, cuneiforms, four dark notes inlaid in air
then her hand sways to the mare’s tail as if
conducting the humming blue bottle-flies’ pandemonium.
The morning glories climb, their purple lips open where her hands
curve over the garden’s fence rail as if at an upright Steinway.
Allan Kaplan spends much daytime alone writing and revising, or watching endless late night movies with his wife. His books are: Paper Airplane (Harper & Row) and Like One of Us. His poems have appeared in journals of various persuasions over the years; i.e. Poetry, Apalachee Quarterly, Paris Review, Iowa Review, Quarterly Review of Literature, Washington Square Review, Barrow Street, Wind, Folio, Gulf Stream, Widener Review, Nimrod, and Bad Penny Review.
Even the lambs are gray. The ewes, new-shorn,
thin, seem bludgeoned by their children-each pair,
twins, butt too fiercely at empty udders.
This is the season when nothing is born,
when the weary mothers stolidly stare
through bare black tress, noses pressed to mud, or
sparse short grass. I don’t stop with my mother.
She clutches her boiled black coffee, her bit
of dried biscuit-no color here but those red
orange berries whose name I’ve forgotten, dead
fire burning in a roadside ditch.
I know now’s the hundredth time she’ll mutter
"this is my last fall," for the hundredth sing,
"but darling, it was a beautiful spring."
Was it spring when they set the blueberry fields ablaze?
And we watched from the village in grace
as the mountain burned, the smoke a fleece
blanket on our woods, songbirds and crows
circling above the smolder, the men dancing
hot feet on embers crackling, the wind’s howl
dreaded: perhaps a spark would howl
down into the village, set an aging barn blazing
then steadily leap through town, dancing
from roof to roof, and only by the grace
of lighting, of rain crackling across the crow’s
nest on a widow’s house, not fleecy
clouds, but thunderheads setting the night howling
against the bright and thundering blaze
against the small men and women dancing
in the rain, celebrating this moments grace
until the calm coming of dawn, of cock’s crow,
of calm flocks standing, damp fleeces
drying in the sun, whitening to snow-pure fleece
our flocks safe here as no wolf had howled
for a dozen years and more, our hunters crowing
at their victories, at their gun’s blaze
at gentle and fierce alike, all meat, table grace
before us and after as we said grace dance
heads bowed, breathing deeply in the dance
of our God, God of shepherds, pasture, fleece
blankets on our beds, wind dancing grace
full fall and winter coming, or had we howled
down one winter and now await spring blazing
our fields to life—overhead the crows
tell us nothing of the season, they crown
all skies, all light and darkness grace
to them, the black of their feathers blazing
as much as the purest white of the fleece
of the lamb of God. Let hunger howl
we may whisper, knowing we will dance
tomorrow, laughing at your graceful
trees, laughing at even the great clumsy crows,
at the raucous rooster howling
as he struts his foolish barnyard dance,
as his red comb flashes against the white fleece
of his neighbors, as even the blaze
on the crowned forehead of the little red heifer howling
for her mother, her heart blazing with fear, hooves dancing
in the grace of the barn, the peace of snow falling, fleece falling.
Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.
Finding Her Voice
God looked at everything He had made
and He found it very good. Evening came
and morning followed— the sixth day. Genesis 1:31
a red-brown cry
erupts from inside the new man
God’s own creation--
snap of a rib
first blood drawn
a busted alleluia
answered with nasal complaints
from raw umber mountains
valleys begin a hum deep in their green throats
river deltas wail in b-flatted blue notes
and He looks at the fractured bone in His own hands
feels the tremble
of a crystal soprano
trying out the full rainbow of her register
scatting over virgin seas and lands
filling her breasts with that sweet high C
enough to feed the multitudes
and on the seventh day
He tries to rest.
Marilyn Shapley is a graduate of LSU, and lives in Baton Rouge where she and her husband are small business owners. Her poems have been published in several college journals, including The Delta Journal, Louisiana Literature, The Comstock Review, and Riverrun 2 ,where she won a first prize.
Egrets, she said, the white.
They filled the yard:
strut and announcement
of all-colored presence.
I watched her. She stood
by the coulee, slipped off
her sandal, dipped her toe,
and wrote our parish name
into the slow water.
I wished I was praying
to grass as once I did.
I wished some clever word
could woo her whiteness. Well.
There are means of love. You learn
the currents. You know
toe from tow. You discover
what's under your feet.
You think you're looking at egrets,
but it's the mind that's white.
There are feathers. It might fly.
At worst, it's some highway
where they rise, confused
by cars but unharmed. Love
comes like grass, unasked for,
where egrets find their food
after I've spent all day
mowing. The sweat pours down.
I look at her in the garden:
one foot is out of its sandal;
a toe is writing in the dirt,
digging out of the earth our name.
Michael Alleman is an Associate Professor of English at Louisiana State University Eunice. His poems have been published in The Louisiana Review, and has poems forthcoming in Chiron Review. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives with his wife Angela just outside Lafayette, Louisiana
Damn Fool Concept of Note
I read that a water bed
has been developed for cows
and think, they couldn’t
have started there, maybe
snakes first. I fantasize
a bag of serpents let out
to shift their bellies into
oscillations against a feeling
new within the universe
of greater snakedom. Maybe
two of the six released,
linger atop the bed under
the eyes of two professors
so hard bitten by the lure
of science that they can hardly
talk to their wives anymore.
I see dark stubble across these
North Dakota prof’s chins.
I smell the reek of coffee
from the backs of their throats
as they bark at graduate assistants
to go easy picking up a
wayward rattler by the files.
Now there is only one
snake left on the water bed.
It is on its back, belly up
like never before. All its
side winding fervor gone
still, slow, stirless. Eyes
blink dim with yes, and yes,
and yes. Release. One snake,
one hour, so far from sand,
muck, stars. One snake,
given over to how we want to be.
Then I come upon the actual web-site
about some big-shouldered, shy
farmer-guy in Ohio who figured
a way to make a waterbed
“for the comfort” of his cows.
You try lying easy on your hocks
with a ton of beef to hoist.
Seems the bony prominence’
get such pressure from bare ground,
wears the hide straight through.
Infections: flies, eggs, fester.
Not for this Clem
who’s got the happy beef
swishing around all mid day,
munch a munch of alfalfa;
sawdust for to roll in.
If they weren’t just
headed toward the hammer
life could be so sweet.
Ed Ruzicka has published one full length volume, “Engines of Belief - Engagement in Modern Art (Abenbook, 2014), and his work will appear in the anthology “Maple Leaf Rag, Volume 5" set for release Aug.3, 2014. He was a finalist in the Atlanta Review Poetry Contest and has appeared in a variety of literary journals. Ed lives in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, and is an occupational therapist.
Evening settles on the lake
like snowfall on the prairie.
Wind drops, the gray of the water
subtly softens. Calm expands.
Beside a column of white smoke
above a sparking charcoal grill,
like air bubbles from the lake floor
bursts of laughter rise, and vanish.
Friends, fire, food, light
slap of wavelets on the shore,
intimate as fingertips. Hunger
and joy, under a dark, silent sky.
Llyn Clague’s poems have been published widely in journals such as California Quarterly,Atlanta Review, Wisconsin Review, Main Street Rag, Palo Alto Review, Ibbetson Street, The Avalon Literary Review and other magazines. His seventh book, Hard-Edged and Childlike, has just been released by Main Street Rag. Visit www.llynclague.com.
Who Will Care
Who will hear if a baby cries
And who will answer when a child asks why.
Who will feed the hungry man
And who will dare to take a stand.
Who will mend the broken heart
Of a woman afraid,
Who cares enough to hold the hand
Of the soldier dying on foreign land.
Who'll dry the tears that a mother cries;
Who will remember their sacrifice.
Who will pray to God above
To show us grace, and how to love.
Who'll build a fire to keep us warm
To lead us home from the raging storm.
Who will care if the truth is told,
Of the lives that were bought
And the souls that were sold.
Who will pay the ultimate cost
Of nothing gained
And everything lost.
Who will care.
Karen Teich-Cluster first wrote while in the sixth grade and won an essay contest open to the whole school. She has been writing since, and hopes to soon have a book of her poetry published. She is a member of The Pensters of the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama, where she resides. She has three children and three grandchildren.
In the Budding Green
for Al Stewart
In the budding green
and awakened air of morning
when the days blush
and the fat hills preen themselves
I will look for you
just beyond the far woods
where the Deptford pinks
strut and sway their lyrics
where red fox will perk her ears
to man or gun or kit
where the wild crab smears
its fragrant mysteries
where the eye croons
at the smallest sling of color
where sun's bed sparks
the gaudy dust of belief
and the moon entices
the vanished from their hiding
Allison Thorpe is the author of Thoughts While Swinging a Wild Child in a Green Mesh Hammock (Janze Publications), Swooning and Other Art Forms (a NFSPS chapbook winner),What She Sees: Poems for Georgia O'Keefe (forthcoming from White Knuckle Press), and To This Sad and Lovely Land (runner-up in 2014 Gambling the Aisle Chapbook Contest). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in South85 Journal, Scapegoat Review, The Meadow, The Citron Review, Front Range Review, Green Mountains Review, Trickster, Freshwater, Clapboard House, Third Wednesday, Appalachian Heritage, Agave Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, and Motif v4 - seeking its own level: an anthology of writings about water, among others. A Pushcart nominee, she is currently working on her first novel.