Poem of the Month
SEPTEMBER 2014, "For Closure," by Mark Burgh
When I turn down the street
signs vex lawns, a bible of bad law.
The roof of clouds that scuds
through, turns the day cold
crushes trees. Houses emptied
find rooms filled with forced light,
more powerful than the people
that lost everything, since
this illuminated family will never
be evicted. Now, shaded rain grabs
onto panes like small children
trying to get in among the silhouettes
cast by curtainless panes, join the
patterns shifting on the wooden floor.
On the road a bank receipt, grease-stained,
bleeds blurred figures onto cement.
Black numbers run into blue, green, grow
inchoate, their tidy sums drip away.
Mark Burgh's writing has appeared in many journals, including
Slant, Jersey Devil Press, and Fiction Vortex
AUGUST 2014, "Bird on the Tongue," by J.S. Absher
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. 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).
JULY 2014, "Sourdough" by Jasmine V. Bailey
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.
JUNE 2014, "A Life In Dreams" by Charlie Baylis
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 dawn
Charlie 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.
MAY 2014, "The Legend of the Moon" by Jeff Burt
The Legend of the Moon
Ringing bell, Holsteins moaned
for the milking, bellowed for the barn.
A wake formed in the August wheat
behind the boy's body and wind mussed
the hay left a week after reaping, unbound.
The spaniel was gone, the spaniel
was gone, and hills could not echo
his call the long night, nor pulse
the homing signal his voice wished to send.
Nighthawks hung in the heavy sky,
stalled, then dove, pulled up
with culled prey, the shriek
of the dive commenced in silence.
He looked in the stars for the swift hawks,
watched the field and roads for the dog
to return, wet, molested, dying, but home,
and stayed till the bell was no longer heard,
the barn turned dark, the hawks flown off,
the wind filled holes in the wheat
his body had made and dried the traces
of tears on his face, and stayed till the moon
rose yellow on the haze, then walked
to the road and over four hills and down
the last knoll and looked back at the road
with the moon now full touching
the surface of earth and she was there,
the spaniel was there floating
in the soft pond of the yellow moon,
carried by the tide of light, the moon
mending the first break in his heart.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, and works in manufacturing. He has work in Nature Writing, Dandelion Farm Review, Barnwood, and forthcoming in Windfall, Thrice Fiction, and Rhino. He won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award.
APRIL 2014, "The Transitory World" by Martin Willitts, Jr.
The Transitory World
All day, begonia petals number across fields
as the sky trembles behind its gauze screen.
At the edge of a mountain, a scarlet bird
dips into a lost stream, then tries to escape
the lack of sound in its own frightened heart
Now there will be no love poems
between sheets, whispering and cooing.
Everything is endless when this happened.
I keep thinking of you, even when you've gone.
Everything is out-of-focus when you are far.
All day, all night, into the forever,
birds river in air, mountainous formations of birds
escaping, returning, shouting: Beloved, beloved, hear me!
When one has a secret lover it is like this.
Each year turns into a hundred poems of Love
never sent in fear of rejection,
Each day, we wait for what never arrives.
Love is that empty boat, drifting away,
someone else might see it — but not me.
If only I was the water,
I would have something.
Instead, I have the instead.
An evening bell is ringing monks
with incense in quiet air.
What separates us from the world?
What is turning years into darkening trees?
I can only drink your distance.
Soon, there will be parting-sorrow,
the poetry of relationships.
But for now, there are the evening bells.
I have left the garden of troubled nights,
more mist than lover.
I had entered every room of myself, shaking dust,
calling your name. But you could not answer.
Willow trees keep everything out of sight.
They do not hide tears falling as your hairpins.
Nothing I could count on was the same anymore.
I called out to you — and loons respond.
The sun traveled from the west
to when we first found each other,
one begonia petal among many.
There are two types of longing:
one is the desire for togetherness,
the one where our shoes are next to each other
trying to mate;
the other is the fierce loneliness,
when one goes on their journey
leaving the other behind,
wishing for the return to togetherness,
a river of Love poems,
a hundred suns, a toss of begonia petals,
boats moving slow lovers holding hands,
birds spiraling air
into begging songs for Belonging,
the sky weeping shooting stars.
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He currently evaluates Prior Learning Evaluations for SUNY Empire State College. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. Martin has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize eight times and and nominated six times for Best of the Net. His 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, e-book), “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), and national chapbook contest winning “William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man” (Red Ochre Press).
MARCH 2014 "Leaving with the Geese" by Corbin Buff
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.
FEBRUARY 2014 "Painting the Underside of Clouds" by Keith Lesmeister
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.
JANUARY 2014 "The Young'll Lie Down" by Jesse Breite
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.
DECEMBER 2013 "In a Flash" by Lisa Cihlar
In a Flash
In rural New York the eel weir is shaped like a woman. Stone legs spread wide, fish swimming into her womb as they try to return to the sea. Back in California at the Shrine Circus a tiger escapes. Over the speakers people are told to stay calm and remain in their seats. A woman who hurries into the bathroom is surprised to find the tiger there. She slowly backs out with a scream stuck in her chest. Trainers catch the tiger and return him to his cage. Here in the Midwest we are having a late-spring snow. The daffodils are bright against the icy white. The maple sap season will be a long one this cold year. These three things are beautiful though none of them last. The tiger eats meat and naps. Buds finally break open and turn the hills pink. A flood washes down the river and ruins the weir. All the eels continue toward the sea like eels will do.
Lisa J. Cihlar's poems have appeared in Blackbird, South Dakota Review, Green Mountains Review, Crab Creek Review, and Southern Humanities Review. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was also a Best of the Net nominee. Her chapbook, “The Insomniac’s House,” is available from Dancing Girl Press and a second chapbook, “This is How She Fails,” is available from Crisis Chronicles Press. She lives in rural southern Wisconsin.
NOVEMBER 2013 "Maiserville" by Clyde Kessler
Fear has dreamed its summer.
Now it’s teasing through the moon-rise,
the slow wheat fields of a drought
with some devils riding a shadow ditch
standing up and counting the dust,
acre by acre to the sun.
It was never the latest news
in a heartbeat, the weevils, the locusts,
the plagues all huddled up in a new Egypt,
this side of a mute, squelched people.
It became a hole in the head, a sprig of steel.
The soul’s now preaching its own collapse
like a paper on an ember. The body
is hanging on a bridge with its name lost
and farmed out, framed with every seclusion.
The mourners are the buyers and the sellers.
The children are laughed to another town.
Some rabbits hide in a thistly field,
some dogs yelp with the stars. The mourners
listen deep into the earth and past themselves.
Their evening is crammed into silence and weeds.
Clyde lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife, Kendall, and their son Alan. He is a founding member of Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an environmental education organization in southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina. His poems have been published in Sugar Mule, Referential Magazine, Shampoo, Rose Red, and Blue Hour, with others to be published soon in Cortland Review, Flycatcher, Metazen, and Silver Blade.
OCTOBER 2013 "Curiosities of Nature" by Yvonne Zipter
Curiosities of Nature
As befit his greatness, no doubt,
Peter’s tended toward the realm of rarities,
infants with a couplet of faces,
lamb with a trinity of eyes, the boiled bones
of a giant Frenchman, the baby limbed
like a milking stool—a general surfeit of self--
kunstkammer of nightmare and sorrow--
while my imagining kindles
with the novelty of nature in its own modest light.
Here, on the dresser, the lake-bronzed turbans
of snails; the discarded digs of a paper wasp;
fragments of shell, robin’s egg blue;
a possible fossil; the hearty wombs
of plant life in waiting:
acorn, pinecone, jimson weed pod.
Life’s varied houses. And in the garage,
a hummingbird nest and, once,
in the rusty wagon, the head of a cardinal.
Bone, trinkets, bits of alphabet on a page:
the hard fact of something that was,
but not the whole truth
of breath, and sap, and impulse.
Yvonne Zipter is the author of the chapbook Like Some Bookie God (nominated for a Dog Writer’s Association of America award) and the full-length collection The Patience of Metal (runner-up to John Frederick Nims's book for the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist). Her poems have appeared in numerous periodicals over the years, including Poetry, Fogged Clarity, Rufous City Review, Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, Metronome of Aptekarsky Ostrov (Russia), Bellingham Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, gender forum (Germany), andIsotope, as well as anthologies such as My Lover Is a Woman, The Poetry of Sex,and Where We Live. She is also the author of two nonfiction books, short stories, and a novel in progress. She works as a manuscript editor and massage therapist in Chicago where she lives with her partner of 25 years and their retired racing greyhound.
SEPTEMBER 2013 "One Morning" James Owens
Outside during a short break, I see that the hill across the road
doesn't just stand there, it comes forward to the gaze
like a stained butcher's apron in the doorway of a shop
when the butcher pauses there for a smoke.
The crows that land in a tree
never align like crows in a wire;
they are the dissonant tangle of notes
that ache against stained glass
when a broken-fingered organist
mourns over his loss,
and as for the small gray cloud
blowing across a corner of the sky;
here, God stitches back a flap of skin
to heal the breast of a tortured heretic.
James Owens divides his time between central Indiana and northern Ontario. Two books of his poems have been published: An Hour is the Doorway (Black Lawrence Press) and Frost Lights a Thin Flame (Mayapple Press). His poems, translations, and photographs appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming pieces in The Cortland Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Flycatcher. He has an MFA from the University of Alabama.
AUGUST 2013 "Tor House" Martin Willitts, Jr.
Robinson Jeffers was sunning on granite,
laying skyward, composing on paper,
the idea of rocks, hewn into uneven squares,
because the world is not perfect. These rocks
would be the meditation of silence. They would
make a Irish castle with a turn-gate, as a pathway
to walls of poems filled with hawk-joy, loam kisses,
lichen freckles, dizzy with word-blend.
The rocks would remember heron shadows,
everything concrete and isolated, in tune
with nature and heart. He would ask the rocks
for permission. He would carry them over the barrens,
beyond the periphery where surf collides with shore.
Over the promontory, pass the outcrop of sea-grass,
where the bitter place of winds coil and spring,
away from where water does not think
before it smashes. This house would become lyric
of love, where to touch stone would remind of love.
He would build low to the ground, to take the worst
of storm and loss. He would sing like terns in swoop
and sway, wheeling cursives of love in breakwater sky.
Granite walls would be in perfect-pitch. He’d read loud
into star-spray, use block and tackle lift. Not easy,
this work; not prideful either, the work of hands .
Where else could love feel the earth quake of heart?
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts, Jr.'s forthcoming poetry books include “Waiting For The Day To Open Its Wings” (UNBOUND Content), “Art Is the Impression of an Artist” (Edgar and Lenore's Publishing House), “City Of Tents” (Crisis Chronicles Press), "A Is for Aorta" (Seven Circles Press), "Swimming In the Ladle of Stars" (Kattywompus Press), and he is the winner of the inaugural Wild Earth Poetry Contest for his full length collection “Searching For What Is Not There” (Hiraeth Press).
July 2013 "In Anticipation of Summer Solstice" John Walker
In Anticipation of Summer Solstice
-- Anchorage, AK
What belongs in the city but the grime
on the hands of the anchored man
and the oil rig that spews what he gathers,
settling deeper into the mud April left?
A lone flugelhorn told him to drop
his own free will and sink with the lot
of the surrounding buildings. It was
a miner’s tune after the gold rush.
Nothing gleams quite like
the afflicted banks of a river
of words and in some spaces
there is no sunset, only evening
that lasts, and its colors that don’t
and shouldn’t are prayers: Requiem!
It is a new year now for the dead
who’ve stopped counting, whose
cowboy hearts have been thrown
sidelong from the broncos of lust.
The diamond roads cut by our forbearers
shine like sweet lies against the razor truth
of the Chugach mountains. Green of this city
is the just the color of the wood survived
the hatchet and there’s a bare tree inhabiting
the evil spaces we cannot see in the damp and din
of the untouchable mind saying:
what doesn’t kill you makes you.
Jon Walker teaches English and Creative Writing in Greensboro, NC. When he’s not doing that he writes plays and poetry. He earned his MFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. A graduate of Appalachian State University, his poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Convergence Review, The Orange Room Review, and Two Review.
June 2013 "When Lilacs Bloom" by Dana Yost
When Lilacs Bloom
The neighbor’s lilacs in thick bloom,
lavender and lush.
A thrush, startled
by mid-morning door-slam, darts
to refuge between blossom and branch.
I am reminded of Whitman’s
tribute to the dead Lincoln,
a pair of men who saw the world
not as a line to be stood upon one side or the other,
but as a freshly born sphere — every slight turn a bending lead
to new sets of angles, perspectives,
the sunlight leaving shadow neither black nor white
but infinite gradients — azure blue to buttercup to Tuscan red,
on and around the arcs of a spectrum.
And they trained their minds to absorb thought
the way their eyes took in color,
gradations of ideas and opinions,
none fully right, none fully wrong,
but each, if seeded in a meadow,
sprouting another stem, blade, leaf
that springs in shouting vibrancy from the sphere.
Have I taken you a long way from lilacs?
I don’t think so:
behind the lilacs,
our neighbor’s tall ash is luscious green
and our red maple bears leaves a waxen maroon,
and beneath them, grass green, yellow, brown,
and an intersection of city streets: faded-to-gray asphalt,
dirty-white curb and gutter.
See the world in all its colors.
Not just with your eyes,
but with all that pulses in you.
When lilacs bloom,
bloom with them.
Dana Yost is the author of four books: 2008's poetry collection Grace; 2010's The Right Place, a collection of essays and poems; 2012's A Higher Level: Southwest State Women's Tennis 1979-1992, a work of sports, regional and cultural history; and the recently released Good Shepherds. He was a 2012 nominee for a Pushcart Prize in poetry, and his poems have been published in several magazines and journals, including Verse Wisconsin, New Plains Review, Red Booth Review, River Poets Journal, Lingerpost, Still Point Arts Quarterly, Stone's Throw, Turtle Quarterly, Stymie, Awakenings Review, Open Minds Quarterly, Relief, and many others. He also was included in Storm Cycle, a best-of-2012 poetry anthology from Kind of a Hurricane Press. For 29 years, he was a state- and national-award winning daily newspaper editor and writer at papers in the Upper Midwest.
May 2013 "The Isolation Room" by Carol Hebald
The Isolation Room
In the Tabernacle of Hell
her spirit fanged with lies,
the daughter of the queen
the devil reproves
each time the steel door clangs.
Because she chose madness
as a way to sense
the serpent in the cell
leaps into his genital,
shyly takes her hand,
beckons her to dine
then he rides her home again
under a glimmering wave,
when the great grave eye of the Dove
beams across the sea,
flings wide the wings of agony,
upon her breast breaks in--
and she is Adam and the Maiden
swimming for the light
and by the Holy leash
treads into the spheres.
Christ comes sometimes,
Mother sometimes too.
Her child’s soul in flames
She quenches with Her tears.
She gives her to drink.
God comes too;
unlocks the door of heaven with His hand,
His little bird he takes into His nest
and lets repose;
observes it flutter all the day
and strive with all its might.
She makes Him songs among His jewels:
a song for the beasts of the field,
a song for the blackened skies.
She prays, a queen in that kingdom,
sits all day long and prays:
“Let His absence be my gift,
His child my final blessing.
But my womb is barren and full of thorns;
in the desert places are wild beasts.”
“In the temple of your soul
is a garden,” He replies.
“A Lamb is feeding in your garden.”
A former Teaching and Writing Fellow in fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Carol Hebald received her MFA in 1971. Having taught Creative Writing at the university level for the next thirteen years, she resigned a tenured associate professorship in English at University of Kansas in 1984 to write full time. She has since published two poetry collections with March Street Press: SPINSTER BY THE SEA (2005) and LITTLE MONOLOGS (2004); the memoir, THE HEART TOO LONG SUPPRESSED (Northeastern University Press, 2001), and a novella collection, THREE BLIND MICE (Unicorn Press, 1989). Her poetry awards include The Elias Lieberman Award, The Ralph Weinberg Award, and Kansas Quarterly's Seaton Award. Links to reviews of, and excerpts from her books are on her Website: www.CarolHebald.com. Her poems have appeared most recently in: Commmonweal, Pen International, Confrontation North American Review,and International Poetry Review. They have been anthologized in Little, Brown's WOMAN, AN ISSUE, Bantam Books' INTRO II, and POEMS FROM THE HAWKEYE STATE (Iowa State University Press). They have appeared also in Massachusetts Review, The Humanist, Antioch Review Free Inquiry, New Letters, and Ararat.
April 2013 "Things I Cannot Say" by Sandy Olson-Hill
Things I Cannot Say
I can’t say sane.
In the same sane breath,
comes your blood calvary,
in bruised back alleys,
of rosaries and rape.
A mean moon fistful of why,
between broken bottle glass stars,
black face sky.
And it was dippity do, comic books
A pocketful of cool and mutiny;
boys with wine smooth eyes.
And it was you out on the avenue.
Cars weaving by;
you prostrate, preaching,
novice bones to blacktop,
peace novenas to the street.
And virgin mother,
it was a pocket locket, crucifix,
candy, scapulars full of angst
And bless me father,
it was the beer, the boys, smoking red bud,
sun, the protestants,
sin, the knife, the gun,
It is the anti dance
of lithium, slit wrists, thugs,
thorazine and hospital beds.
Of schizophrenic saints
inside her head,
I can’t say grace.
I can’t say prayer.
In the same lame breath
I say rape.
A brute knife kiss,
punched blood love,
left naked in the rain,
where you were found,
the keening sound
of wounded clouds.
the cops, the police station,
the hemophiliac red,
half moon scars
flaming rain around your eyes;
blood stars confess,
who makes the crying skies rage
certain broken stars weep fire.
VSA Teaching Artist in Residence,Sandy Olson-Hill's poetry and prose has been published in Mindprints, Specs Literary Journal, Word Gathering, Our Stories, Best of Our Stories, Dead Flowers, and numerous other literary journals. Awards include Open Doors First in short fiction and Arden Goettling Academy of American Poet's prize.
March 2013 "What My Fingers Know" by C.M. Rivers
What My Fingers Know
Traveling the north country,
let me have my weather, my hammer, my horse.
Let the thin-skinned air
quiet the furnace of my thick body,
cool my sandy head beneath its hat.
Northward I ride with open arms,
northward I am bound, and there I may remain.
My desire now is a simple life of quiet peace
among broad clear rivers.
Queen Anne’s lace sways along the stony path
and my fingers know that I am
traveling the north country,
and there I may remain.
We all sleep, we all breathe,
we all need the glitter of midnight
once in a blue-moon while, we need our memories.
Let me listen to the speech of birds,
let me ignore the weather report
and feel beach-grass against my legs,
near shadows close to slumbering driftwood
illuminated by a wounded sun cut off at the knees.
My old north country,
on your strong back and sturdy shoulders
I was born, and my mother was born,
and much of my family has blossomed and composted.
We all sleep, we all breathe, my old north country.
Let me have my bones, crows, rocks and rain.
Let my smoke cut through the drizzle
and leave a mark on the windowpane.
The sea stacks along the coast
draw me ever nearer to my hammer, my horse,
as I put my hands in the earth,
as I dip my feet in the water.
My hands are the bread of my life
and my fingers know who I am.
Let me have my weather, my hammer, my horse.
C.M. Rivers has been walking in the woods and writing poetry since he was ten years old. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and cat, and his poetry is forthcoming in Rosebud Literary Magazine.
February 2013 "A Series of Photos of Legs" by Tricia Asklar
A Series of Photos of Legs
I swear at the birds to keep them off the lawn
and plan the evening meal of flounder.
I wish I had thought to pack the camera,
but somehow the new digital gave me the slip,
or perhaps it’s still at Mom’s house, or my brother,
a trucker, pocketed it on his last leg.
A lady bug crawls up my leg
as I adjust the sprinkler toward the lawn.
It’s not that I don’t love my brother,
it’s just that at times our relationship flounders
as it did that last time, right after the slip
that sent Mom down the stairs while aiming the camera.
He’s never had the skill she does with a camera.
Mother had a series of photos of legs
that won a regional juried prize, then a scandal about slips
showing quashed her career—that, and the lawn
wedding and the sixth-month pregnancy, cause her to flounder
into a house, a husband, and a few months later, my brother.
I have always planned my life, while my brother
is bothered by the mechanics of his manual camera,
how the hand-advanced film flops, flounder-
like into its place, sometimes the first shot is of a leg
or a foot. One of my eye, framed on the right by the lawn
won an award among high schools and my brother got a slip
for a free class at Ivy Tech where he’d slip
out to smoke pot with Darrell’s brother,
who also won something once, maybe best lawn
seed mix, a sample patch captured by camera.
And I don’t know how to account for my leg,
the one that drags behind me like some lolling flounder.
It’s not that my disability has caused me to flounder,
but it has incited a certain Freudian slip
now and again, when referring to chicken legs,
say, or the legs of his routes, the legs of wine. Oh brother,
I mumble as I pull each fat-headed dandelion. The camera
is in his hand as he strides across the lawn.
I’m unsteady on my legs as I embrace my brother.
Look, I know I tend to flounder, he says, You know I slip,
but here’s my old camera and while you’re gone, I’ll fix the lawn.
Tricia Asklar received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She currently lives with her wife, daughter, and twin toddlers in Sharon, Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in The Bakery, Bateau, Boxcar Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, juked, Neon, Poet Lore, The Portland Review, Redactions, Red Wheelbarrow, So To Speak, and Verse Daily, among others.
January 2013 "^" by Quinn White
Tell us why our house is on fire.
Because it's burning, I said.
How can you help us if you don't know why
it burns? I replied, your curtains are green.
True, but what about wires?
Your closets are full of puppets.
True, but what about firecrackers?
Your toilet sounds like a seashell.
Yes, but what about papers?
Your lamps are glass dragonflies.
We know, but consider sockets.
A little girl lives inside your air vents.
We hear her, but remember termites.
She enjoys her job. Is she safe?
She's been rescued. You state the obvious.
I'm sorry. Your things are beautiful.
Quinn White is a MFA poetry candidate at Virginia Tech. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from publications such as Word Riot; Bayou Magazine; A Clean, Well-Lighted Place; Weave; Hot Metal Bridge; Sixth Finch; The Bakery; Sow's Ear Poetry Review; The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; and A Handful of Stones. Last year Bayou Magazine nominated Quinn's poem, "My brother tells a story" for a Pushcart Prize. Quinn's chapbook, My Moustache, is being published by Dancing Girl Press in spring 2013. You may visit Quinn's website, quinnwhite.net, if you'd like to read some of her poetry that's appeared online.
December 2012 "Arbeit Macht Frei" by Matthew Guzman
Arbeit macht frei
They go out into the fields, sunrise –
cornmeal and pork still held
in mouths clings to fading tatters hung
over bone and muscle. Morning
is quiet as the first earthy leathered
hand reaches out gently to strip the white fluffs.
Tejas dust rolls over the warm grass
while two girls collect stray apples. Fruit
sways on a high branch, sweet.
The girls compete to see who
can find five ripe ones; their father and mother
wait near the road, hoping a car might stop.
Power has been off for three days. Another
week, and he won’t have an apartment to read Thomas
the Train by candlelight to his little boy. Overnight
he stocks shelves, colorful labels, food he’s learned
to think of as any other object; stacking soup cans;
he cannot tell you whether it’s tomato or split-pea.
Shaft lights flicker, coal dust caked on fourteen pairs
of steel-toes, a descent to Tartarus, muses one self-educated
eighteen-year-old who reads bits of Latin verse.
Others mostly think of their warm beds. The cold metal gate
slams shut and they descend. Light will burn only thirteen sets of
retinas when they emerge from sixteen hours of darkness.
Matthew Guzman is currently in the graduate English program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Matthew's work has recently appeared in magazines such as Quantum Poetry Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, and CC&D. Also, he has a recent poetry chapbook entitled Interstice that was published by Scars Publications.
November 2012 "How Plain and Simple the Words, How Complex the Understanding" by Martin Willitts, Jr.
How Plain and Simple the Words, How Complex the Understanding
“Whoever discovers what these sayings mean will not taste death.” - Jesus, according Thomas in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1st saying
You are burning inside.
I tell you,
if a bird ate out of your hand, you would not know why.
If the sky was to write the answer, you would not look.
If you glanced upon the writing, it would not speak to you.
If I told you any plainer, you would still not understand.
Such is the lack of vision.
Such is the deafness to every shouting thing.
Who among you have noticed the leaves wanting your attention?
Who have heard the silence and heard nothing?
Everything is bringing you messages of such deepness,
it goes through one end of the earth straight through to the other side
because you do not listen.
Still you look puzzled.
Confusion is a wind where there is no air.
Do I need to make it clear as a window into darkness?
How many times must I whisper inside your blood so it moves?
If I knocked on your door and open it just the slightest,
would you see me?
I swear, if you were to silence me
the truth would still seep in.
It would slide under the door casing, or through the window slat,
or sieve of moonlight, or tunnel through your feet.
“Know what is in front of your face and what is hidden from you will be disclosed. There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.” – Jesus, according to Thomas, Dead Sea Scrolls, saying #5
When a bird hatches, it knows it is intended to fly.
Study the mystery of the unknown until it reveals itself
as a hush after a wave finds a shore.
When you look at your hands, what do you see?
See right through them into the heart of mysteries.
What is greater?
The seed? – or what follows after?
You might ask, why does it matter when they follow each other?
It is this lack of understanding that keeps you from moving.
It is better for a bird to get lost in the skies
than for it to fall from the heavens.
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts Jr has appeared frequently in Big River Poetry Review. He has several full length books, "The Secret Language of the Universe" (March Street Press, 2006), “The Hummingbird” (March Street Press, 2009), and “The Heart Knows, Simply, What It Needs: Poems based on Emily Dickinson, her life and poetry” (Aldrich Press, 2012). His new poetry books include “Waiting For The Day To Open Its Wings” (UNBOUND Content, 2012), “Art Is the Impression of an Artist” (Edgar and Lenore's Publishing House, 2012), “City Of Tents” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and “A Is For Aorta” (Seven Circles Press, e-book, 2012).
October 2012 "Climb Out" by Steve Klepetar
Climb out of yourself forever.
That is the only way to read the world.
Be like a snake and leave your shredded
skin iridescent on the trail, become tall
and new in this strange weather of silence
and heat. Everything that happens
happens twice: clocks repeat their ticking
and their chimes. Place your hands
on the highest rung, even on cold metal
or splintery wood. Nothing buried deep
can help you now, or ease you into rest.
Pull your body to the surface and to light--
let your new eyes burn. Hours split
and moan and your voice breaks
hoarse and rusty from a throat unable to lie.
Steve Klepetar teaches literature and creative writing at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. His work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His latest chapbooks are “My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word” and “My Father Had Another Eye,” both published by Flutter Press.
September 2012 "God in Pittsburgh" by Catherine Simpson
God in Pittsburgh
And when I was eleven, my grandmother
Took me to Eucharistic Devotion once a
Week, and we sat in front of the Body
Of Christ, clasped in the disc of the
Eternal, gold-maned, imposing in its
Stillness. My grandmother bowed her
Thin shoulders, her head covered with a
Plastic rain-veil. The pews were dotted
With other thin-shouldered women hunched
In navy-blue dress-suits, with the same
Tumble of mutters: for thine is the kingdom
And the power and the glory now and forever.
The sound was punctured by the gun-shots
Of cracked knees at genuflection, the flow of
Holy water, the rustle of plastic candies from the
Bottoms of leather purses. Statues clutched their
Bloody hearts in the naves, and the flicker of
One-dollar devotional candles lit their rolling eyes.
Later, my grandmother would take off her shoes
Two sizes too small and complain about corns, and
Then would show me her rosary, the silver chain
Threaded, in places, with gold. "Don't tell your
Mother. She'd say I was losing my marbles.
But the Blessed Mother has been good to me,
Yes, she's given me the signs that my Johnny isn't
In Purgatory." The chain softened against her blue-
White hands, the light off the gold reddening her cuticles.
At Eucharistic Devotion, to keep myself from
Falling asleep, I'd think of praying so much that
My own rosary, plastic and thread, would
Harden to gold, and of showing everybody--
And I thought of the body of Christ,
There, there, the body of Christ, there, there--
The face of God in Pittsburgh, and the clack
Of slipping rosary beads echoing against stone.
Catherine Simpson is a cellist from Santa Barbara. She has been previously published in U.C. Santa Barbara's poetry journal Into the Teeth of the Wind.
August 2012 "Revisions" by Joan Colby
Lunching al fresco
on old brick pavers
Beneath the filtered shade of a vast
Black locust, I think about your poem
And want to say that fact
Must genuflect to drama,
The narrative of the act
inflamed despite what
Actually went wrong.
It’s hard to give up truth,
What cannot be unsaid
Roots in the heart like this
Tree that still holds on
Surrounded by high walls.
Observe the urns of faux stone
Antiqued to fool the eye
A beautiful deception
Ablaze with roses.
It all comes down to fire.
What kindles is what works.
Stir embers into lies
If that’s what it takes to burn
The house down.
Joan Colby's books are The Lonely Hearts Killers, Spoon River Poetry Press; The Atrocity Book, Lynx House Press; How The Sky Begins to Fall, Spoon River Poetry Press; The Boundary Waters, Damascus Road Press; Blue Woman Dancing in the Nerve, Alembic Press; Dream Tree, Jump River Press; and Beheading the Children, Ommation Press. She has published widely in journals including Poetry, Atlanta Review, GSU Review, Portland Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, Mid-American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Kansas Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, Minnesota Review, Western Humanities Review, College English, Another Chicago Magazine, and others. Her awards include the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature; Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, Stone County Award for Poetry, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry. She was a finalist in the 2007 GSU Poetry Contest, and an honorable mention in the 2008 and 2010 James Hearst Poetry Contest (North American Review), a finalist in 2009 Margie Editor’s Choice Contest, and a finalist in 2009 and 2012 Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize. She also received the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award 2007. She has been the editor of Illinois Racing News for over 25 years, a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation, published by Midwest Outdoors LLC. She lives with my husband and assorted animals on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois, and has three grown children and six grandchildren.
July 2012 "Sestina: Huck Finn Summer" by Danny Earl Simmons
Sestina: Huck Finn Summer
I turned twelve during Huck Finn summer
just after spring delivered baby brother,
red-curled and dimply. All I wanted
was to teach Stevie life’s important things,
but his crib bars kept him jailed from playing
bare-footed outside or climbing in trees.
Squishy brown fruit from our apricot trees
aimed at my sisters - two prissy summer
targets, pigtails and sundresses, playing
house or dress-up - splat them mad, our brother
laughs as they chase me inside. “There’s one thing,”
I holler, dashing by – I am Wanted.
Our house was full of holes we each wanted
filled – Mom, by herself, could not trim the trees;
big sister’s silky quilt, a threadbare thing;
little sister drew one picture all summer
long, over and over: baby brother
and our father, loves of her life, playing.
Calloused against sharp dry grass, I’m playing
with the worn brown boxing gloves Dad wanted
me to have. “Don’t you mess with my brother,”
I warn unseen bullies, jabbing at trees,
smelling old leather, apricots, summer
sweat, and the rank taste of some big lost thing.
I wag my head at how tiny a thing
it takes – the sound of children playing,
wet dew between my toes, summer
afternoons hammocked with nothing wanted,
peanut butter and apricot jam, trees
with swings – I was a lousy big brother.
Between his bars I say, “You’re my brother
and you won't have to play alone. One thing
you can count on is me. We’ll climb high trees
and have adventures, just us two, playing
pirates like Tom and Huck – outlaws wanted
dead or alive. You’re gonna love summer!”
Each year as trees grow bare, I wonder how my brother
marks the passing of summer. Can he see that things
age and hue? Playing with me was all he ever wanted.
Danny Earl Simmons
Danny Earl Simmons is an Oregonian and a proud graduate of Corvallis High School. He is a friend of the Linn-Benton Community College Poetry Club and an active member of Albany Civic Theater. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals such as Naugatuck River Review, Avatar Review, Summerset Review, Strong Verse, and Pirene’s Fountain.
June 2012 "The lightning conductor for my illness" by Martin Willitts, Jr.
The lightning conductor for my illness
Based on Van Gogh's painting, Irises, 1889
Irises, irises, absorb lightning around me,
draw it into yourself, into your blue arms,
a tension-storm hovering over our horizon,
painting everything with pain. Relieve me.
Spare me. Your blue words are in my fingers.
You are a woman with delicate hearing,
knowing my suffering is seasonal. Listen,
the dawn is blue as illness, and no one listens.
Irises, irises, absorb the lighting out of me.
I do not understand the world and its lack of flowers.
Where I am staying is shut off from the noise,
but the noise is moaning from the pores of the walls
with incredible pain. Life is wood-blocks of loss.
Irises, Irises, absorb the lightning towards me,
hold my breath in your sad blue arms.
I want to be in the unusual angle of love.
There is no fall of light when you are away.
Irises, Irises, you are a woman that never stays.
Drag me out into sunlight, fill my day with blue rain,
pull out the agony, and fill my pond with lilies.
Return to me. Drench me in blueness.
Become quick washes of heartbeats in terminal clouds.
Be an asylum from hurt and shame. Heal me.
Irises, Irises, strike everything with blue lightning.
You are a study of air and life, of a lonely country
side, a woman neither here nor there, fragile as my heart
when you are gone. Petals of words on my floor
whisper, I am here for you, I am here for you.
Irises, Irises, your words are blue lightning surrounding me.
Your odor sizzles in air, painting a landscape with love.
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts, Jr. is a retired Senior Librarian in upstate New York. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and nominated twice for Best Of The Net awards. He has twenty-three print chapbooks and three full length books of poetry, including “How to Find Peace” (Kattywompus Press, 2012), “Playing The Pauses In The Absence Of Stars” (Main Street Rag, 2012), and “No Special Favors” (Green Fuse Press, 2012).
May 2012 "Knowing The Enemy" by Pam Uschuk
Knowing The Enemy
This is the house of my enemy
constructed from the honeycombed vertebrae
of my spine, house where I snap off lights
to navigate the leafed labyrinth of my enemy’s desire.
These are the riddled hands of my enemy
yanking the pin from a phosphorous grenade
to toss into the nest of questions
hollowing out my rebellious heart.
These are the eyes of my enemy
nearsighted as my own, lids thin as moth wings,
opening to the shadows of deer oozing like messages
from the dead through pines outside our doors.
These are the pelvic bones of my enemy
glowing alive with my blood, aching from cold stars
tattooing the uniforms of generals issuing orders
as I squat behind an exploded Humvee in Kabul.
These are the thighs of my enemy
smeared with the same wet earth as mine,
tangling the sheets of passion, unhouseled
by bullets fired into the unarmed students we’ve become.
This is the brain of my enemy
ticking with plans for peace, lifted
on hope’s deceptive wings flapping
dark feathers just out of our reach.
This is the tongue of my enemy,
inarticulate with passion, slurring the wet syllables
of my language as it learns the triggers
and skrees of love’s hunting songs.
This is the heart of my enemy,
scarring my ribs as dawn bruises
sky’s intent, drum of fortune beating against
the vast loneliness of unknowing we frantically build.
Pam Uschuk's six books of poems include CRAZY LOVE that won an American Book Award in 2010, and her latest, WILD IN THE PLAZA OF MEMORY, April 2012, from Wings Press in San Antonio, Texas. Translated into a dozen languages, her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies worldwide, including POETRY, AGNI REVIEW, PARNASSUS REVIEW, and THE BELOIT POETRY REVIEW. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and she is Editor In Chief of CUTTHROAT, A JOURNAL OF THE ARTS.