Offering You Are, Your Whole Body
Between readings, as the lector pauses
Before the cross, in that fixed moment
Of silence through which we’re meant to wait,
The unlearned wailing of a hungry gull
Clarifies my vision of perishing birds
At the end of Stevens’ Sunday Morning.
In which the wide water without sound
Is like the vast ocean of consciousness
As Jung renders it, a deep reservoir,
Paradise blue, to me, a bit cliché
But reimagined now,
Mingling along the carpet of memory,
With the burning particulars of a sun
Stretched out across the waves at Newport Beach,
I withdraw into an adolescent heaven,
Where the woman that Stevens praises
Lays like an hourglass atop the sand,
The curving mirage of her lower back
Disappearing into the white bottoms
Of her bikini, her top discarded beside her,
Upheld like a gift too delicate to touch,
No single grain of sand could hope to bare it.
All this, and now, ignoring the Priest
Blessing the sacraments, I return again
To the ocean-side desert of California
As a boy shy in his bathing suit, hiding
Among the archetypes Jung suggests order
Our symbolic world. Stranded on the beach
Like an exile, protesting the water,
Which one must be shirtless to enter.
Or unembarrassed. And if not for them,
Then the habit of looking down, discovering
The body I deny to be my own,
Refusing love in the waist-deep sea-foam,
The buoyant sunlight shrinking the genitals,
And the skin, forgetting itself in the rising tide.
And the moon, likewise, sanctions our devotion,
As we stand, accustomed to gravity,
Are given to rise and falter forward
Toward the alter, toward the gravity
Expressed on our knees. We elbow down, open
Our hands. Take. Eat.
No longer a mystery--
Changing bread into carbs; wine into calories.
The mind multiplies each bite-sized loaf
Into a hundred added pounds, enough
To deny myself the invitation
To the after service brunch I’m certain
I no longer need. I’ve been told, No amount
Of what you do not want will satisfy you.
Although, what one wants is different
From what one remembers.
The flesh-loving gull,
Encountering briefly in the sharp sea-glass
The blurred image in its own likeness,
Sinks its beak into the cold mirror,
Loosening some sunlight from the water,
All burdens and all unburdenings,
Drawn up—aired out. Like the woman’s breasts
I can only imagine now, the slow turning
In confronting the sun, back to the earth,
An offering she makes with her whole body,
Naked and guiltless before nothing.
Paul Tomes lives and works in Washington State. A student at Seattle Pacific University, he spends his inner-city days reading and writing, as well as volunteering at New Horizons, a shelter for homeless youth, where he helps cultivate a belief in the transformative power of poetry through a weekly writing group where youth have access to a safe space that welcomes creative expression.
The Pure Kingdom
pink cheeks in the blushing neon
with long arms and borrowed eyes
your skin crawls and seven days counts backwards
no more weak muscles
no more masks of your mother
you are a postcard vomiting time
you're a hospital sweating death
i waited on my knees
i watched you die twice
you swore i heard it right
on those highways of nothing
you sang sweet little god
on that harbor of impossible reality
where you kiss like a ghost
but hurt like a heart
the only blade that ever caught me blushing
each day i buried you
we grew old and cried like hungry dogs
drawing stars on my arms
leaving letters for the pure kingdom
love letters about cages and keys
all about the little men with big yellow suits
sick with radiation
watching you dig in the desert
watching you strip in the mirror
how much you love the west coast
how long it's been since you could see
i love you and,
see you real soon
Cody Hebert has been writing poetry for 10 years, always sharing with friends and family. Cody has read his work in open mics throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts presenting strong abstract and surreal form.
I received the call from the nursing home
at 8.00 P.M. My father was about to die.
I thought of a story I'd read of a doctor in some
South American country who was seized by the police
and spirited away. He had written a letter
condemning the government. My father's condemnation
of the government was his life. The nurse
said it was no particular ailment like the doctor was
charged with no particular crime. He was just old enough
to have had enough. The doctor had said enough to
have said too much. There's no guarantees. I was at
my father's bedside when the police came. They took his
breath by the shoulders and hustled it out of
there in the dark night of my comprehension.
They left his body behind like the ropes
he was tied with. He's now spirit my mother said.
Spirited away...it all made sense. Friends of
the doctor claimed sightings in the years
to come. One saw him in the market place
buying pottery or was that rugs or maybe
it was fruit. They shouted out his name
but he did not turn around. Turn around and
none of the stories are true. Sometimes, he
just faded into the crowd. Other times, he
dropped the goods he was considering buying
and ran faster than his pursuers. Not bad for
a dead guy. I'd see my father too, with men
his age playing dominoes in the park, in
crowds on city sidewalks, in the distance,
a familiar walk, a toss of gray hair, a slow
pace as befitting his years but one that,
even with my greater speed, would not let .me
catch up. I heard the doctor was more visible
than even before the death squad got him. He was
here. He was there. A day wouldn't pass without
a sighting. My father too, once he shrugged
off his disease, and the truth that went to
the grave with him, could be anywhere. He was
a man who gave context to the dead. They are more
than just a plaque, more than an old
photo induced memory. They hang around
us longing to be seen. They don't want
prayer. They need our attempted contact,
its continued failure.
John Grey is an Australian poet, and a US resident. He was recently published in New Plains Review, Rockhurst Review, and Spindrift, and has work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Big Muddy Review, Sanskrit, and Louisiana Literature.
My Parents May Be Clinically Insane
Perhaps it’s symptomatic of their age.
More obviously than in former years,
My ailing parents, as the darkness nears,
Regard life through accumulated rage.
The mind, allowed to languish, is a cage,
A prison even as it disappears,
A storage closet full of hoarded fears,
An ill-lit backdrop for an empty stage.
It’s possible they’re clinically insane,
Something no one is likely to admit.
Deep in the furrows of an aging brain,
Deformed and ludicrous ideas sit.
While moments of lucidity remain,
What can we do but make the best of it?
Robert Lavett Smith
Raised in New Jersey, Robert Lavett Smith has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past sixteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and the late Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Widower Considers Candles (Full Court Press, 2014). Two poems from this newest book have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Emily as the Shape on the Side of a Hill
Emily won’t move
until she affects
leaving the valley,
until the slight death
carries a meaning
forward. Emily says
I’ve done nothing
to help with race
in Ohio. Indignant
I point to her small
drowning the green.
Emily says I should
watch her stomp.
I spent my life watching
& sure enough,
that patch of growth
rose higher, scarred
it was carried upward
with our times,
which Emily elbowed
into proper being
& was resolute enough
Darren C. Demaree
Darren C. Demaree's poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, The Louisville Review, Grist, and The Colorado Review . He is the author of "As We Refer To Our Bodies" (2013, 8th House), "Temporary Champions" (2014, Main Street Rag), and "Not For Art Nor Prayer" (2015, 8th House). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology. He currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and children.
I Am Feathered by the Moonlight
Werechicken, wereowl, werehawk,
Each evening cracking the egg
Of the sun to tune my wing and peg
My beak, bristling in the moon-pocked
Darkness. Here I’m afraid, here I’m shocked,
Here I’m going brave to beg
Then catch her by the wrist or the leg,
To pull her into myself, talons loaded and cocked.
The sparrow of her soul is a little knocked,
The worm of her heart sags,
The mouse that runs her veins tags
The circuitry of her brains and rocks
The nest where we’re docked.
Our pinions fuddle and the stars flag,
The morning dumps its bag
Of light onto us. We start to talk:
Our feet go dull so we can walk
Through the feelings that gagged
Us, the alien avian lags
Until the beak is understanding, the feathers, locks.
Jared Pearce teaches writing and literature at William Penn University. Some of his poems are forthcoming from Angle, Far Off Places, and Belle Reve; others have recently been shared through Paper Nautilus, Interdisciplinary Humanities, Anthem, and Apeiron.
smelt the cast of gods
furnace the pillings of man
and child bullions
lay bare in stone and iron
casting off the foil of vanity
show the coil of ages run
stack the human parcels skyward
toward the warming star
that serves all needs
reveal the kin of atlas
with genitale and womb reveered
know the torment of minions daily lives
from creation to conclusion
dance among vestal virgins and
old men with worn loins
in a frolic of comraderie
amidst the sheaves of flower crests
serviced by pure unrefined glacial melt
wander the cosmic confines
of the Frogner asteroid belt
kiss the stone lips that warm
the hearts of vellum Viking voyagers vaults
treasure the silent voice and vices
of flesh and stone
this orbs strattorium
and hall of flame
then with a whisp of comprehension
fashion the mortal mind that
gestated this playground
for gods and visions of man
Jim Work has flowed with Big River Poetry Review since its inception in 2012. He lives mere blocks from the muddy banks of the Mississippi from which he draws inspiration from time to time. He writes for pure pleasure, not profit or publishing credits. This offering attempts to capture the legacy of an unsung sculptor, Gustav Vigeland, and his entire life's gift to the world in Frogner Park in Oslo. Jim has wandered and wondered on most every trail for many hours in three visits to this enchanted place. He submits this verse in hope that it may lure others to behold this fusion of man and art.
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.