Home Poetry

0

Wildfirelife

by Brad G. Garber

 

 

The black bear peered at us, from the edge of the wood
square nose pointed toward the forest fire we were
heading toward, having smelled it washing like ocean tide
up the flanks of a mountain glowing in moonlight.

It was a full moon, orange against a starless night sky
that followed the bear into a copse of trembling aspens
lighting ripened berries like sugar lanterns in the night
the bear’s nimble lips a soft smoke drifting through.

And, on this morning, as smoke descended like wool
the black bear peered at us, passing by like ashen waters
toward uncertain tides and ducked back into the wood
confident in the fruit of the earth and her place in it.

 

 

 

San Francisco Airport

 

The fog spills over the hills
like frosty butter poured
over boiled shrimp, curled
waterfalling, thick and soft.

This, in the land of bitcoin
wealth erupting up the hillsides
waves of black information
slapping against tender brains.

Around me, fretful travelers
swirling like fog, not noticing
the thick clouds descending
upon a threatened landscape.

This, where the earth aches
to move like a falling tree
uprooting its ageless innocence
laying waste to every excess.

And I wonder where will be
this airport, this place of flight
when the waters rise to meet
a slowly pouring, terrifying sky.

 

 

 

Storm Cycle

 

There is a storm building

            across an ocean of human heat.

            Take your pick . . .
intolerance, distrust, fear, ignorance, denial:

we don’t like
we don’t listen
we fear
we don’t care
it’s not us.

            The storm surge will kill
its stupid-foot waves

            prejudicial waves
            apathetic swells

            crushing, drowning, wiping
scouring the surface of the earth.

Left . . . a pristine beach, populated
            with hungry birds, winter foam
                        silent sunsets

Until clouds build along the horizon.

 

 

 

Syrian Literature

He was writing poetry
in a waning ray of sunlight
when he was picked off
the roof like a pigeon
by a sniper, his brain
a puff of feathers, floating
with his peaceful words
down to indifferent earth.

 

 

 

Nature on the Back Porch

 

The red dragonfly, as the hummingbird
has its hunting grounds, this afternoon
darts out to capture swarming midges.

I remedy my insecurities with bourbon
staring at the imperfections of my skin
capturing what I can of confidence.

Like the dragonfly, I return to the spot
where I can scan the killing field, full
of swarming memories and expectations.

Overhead, the hummingbird sucks water
a blooming fuchsia plant a distraction
from what is sustaining and what is not.

The red dragonfly eats its fill and leaves
and the hummingbird goes to its roost
leaving me to rattle the ice cubes in glass.
 

BIO

Brad G. Garber has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Five:2:One, Ginosko Journal, Vine Leaves Press, Riverfeet Press, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine and other quality publications. 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Desert Suite #8: Red Piano in the Desert

by Kimberly White

 

for E.J.

 

It is red, because the desert is red with small pianoesque shapes of scorpions,
lavarock concertos stripped to their bones

It is a piano because the keys of the desert pound strings of yucca leaf and
spiderweb, grace notes circle the raptors, trace ochre streams, carve red-vein
strokes of piano wind.  Tiny stones shift themselves in tune with the bars of
desert movement in constant orchestration, vibrating strings of connective
air, footsteps in sync with a jazzbeat heart, beat changing tides ebbing
flowing sunforsaken red

It carries, the hidden notes rustle to the surface, create subliminal bands of
disruption, fan waves of cold and heat, scatter themselves in leaf litter and
decay, die and resurrect before the echo settles backward into rest.

 


 

The Blue Dog of Midnight

 

Clatterdog paws on a kitchen floor
sniff out scraps of night

paws hesitate, then pick up,
follow a twitchy nose along
cupboard borders and pantry doors
and refrigerator floors.  I, the
insomniac in the back bedroom,
sweat through sheets twisted
with the haunted labor of counting
down the night.  The wages of
sleep earn themselves, disrespective
of my circadian plans.

Calloused dog paws scratch the back
door, wanting out, hungry for the
call of the moon.  Sleepwalk
footsteps shuffle his way, blind to
tender toes underfoot.  The sleepwalker
checks her sleep pocket for the gun that
lives only in her dreams.  A dog barks,
her hand opens a door, the dog escapes
to the welcoming moon.  In my sleep,
I hunt, I stalk, my prey recognizes
my gun and flees.  Possibly warned by
the dog

who has padded off to someone
else’s sleepwalk, maybe his own,
or to sniff another kitchen door,
ragged nails click time counting
down another ruthless night in a
wakeful backroom bed.

 

 

natural conundrum

 

If a fat-ass robin
hits a tree and the
poet is not there
to laugh at it, does
it make a sound?

Doesn’t matter.
Coyote will hear it.

Coyote,
he can smell stupid
a mile off.

 

 

 

BIO

Kimberly White’s poetry has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Cream City Review, Big Muddy, and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of four chapbooks and two novels. You can find her poetry and collage art on her website, www.purplecouchworks.com, as well as on Facebook and various refrigerator doors.

 

 

 

0

SEEP BENEATH

by Sara Truuvert

 

If there was a way
To take that face in my hands
And skip over the time in the evening
When my spine slips between metal
And my foot drums faster than rain
When far away fluorescent scatters
Its absence on my fingers
And my eyes sink into my skull
To make room for his
Eyes

My mind flattens like
Water drops finding flesh
To flow aside for the
Hands and
Lips and
Eyelashes against oak doors
I swallow them like a seed
But its tendrils bore through the back of my face
To bloom into his
Eyes

If I could keep them from seeping beneath my door
And up the sides of my mattress
I would
I would

 

 

 

WHIRLING

 

sometimes
like tarpaulin
the tension ‘round my mouth
slips down my left shoulder
and I’m left rather slack jawed
watching pure blue whirl
as we sit and talk in hot water

I watch
whirling
as golden squares from condominiums
glide over your nose and forehead
a thousand little acts of coming home
made glorious on your skin

on the street below us
            an old man in a stained white t-shirt
            thrusts scraps of paper at passersby
            blaring at them to believe

            a miniscule woman in a pageboy cap
            gathers recycling into a plastic bag

            a young boy crosses the street alone

up here
suspended in windows
still whirling
you smooth your hair from your ears
and tell me the price of a flight to Boston

and I think that
certainly
the spidering thoughts
that tried to drown me all those nights
are cleared with one sweep
of your fingertip

 

 

 

NEVER NEVER

 

You came through the door in your black fleece sweater and red backpack
(The kind with a nice mesh pocket for a water bottle)
You hug me and I shrink
Because you still smell like seven years old
When I couldn’t fall asleep because I’ll
Miss you if you die, Daddy

I want to sink and collapse
Easy
And fold like a paper doll in the rain
Graceful
Lie quietly with my face in your shoulder
And ask you to remind me
Where my breath has gone

I want to shift
I’m missing a limb in static
But you press sink weigh down on my neck
And my hips
Take me like a throw pillow
That caught your eye on a table at the back
Buy one get one free

Would you call me the names
Our teachers only spelled out in letters
I could not imagine saying your name aloud
In a quiet cushioned office
Making you an incident
A fresh manila file folder
Maybe I’d rather be those names

But now
You sit
Comfortable like a child
Open hands cleans hands
Like a child
I tell you silly playground stories
Because how do you begin to tell
How do you say
How some mother’s son
Gripped and pulled
And here I am finally
Mattering

And you would never
You would
Never

Never never

 

 

BIO

Sara Truuvert graduated from Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where she studied English, Drama, and the History and Philosophy of Science. She wrote humour articles for the student newspaper, The Strand, for which she was shortlisted for a John H. McDonald award. Her poetry has appeared in Cadaverine Magazine. Sara is also an actor and screenwriter with a short film in production with Toronto’s Labyrinth Pictures. In her spare time, she runs the web comic Marvin and Pip.

 

 

 

0

Disobedience

by Ruth Bavetta

 

 

I will wake the lilies under
the window. I will bite deeply
into the apple’s defenseless cheek.
And when the man comes in the dark,
I will show him the family
silver’s shining secrets.

I will follow the seagulls over
the waves as they etch the air
with their wings. I will ride
the tide. I will not be safe.
I will not be good. What
kind of love would keep me
withered in the nest?

 

 

 

Curves, but No Edges

 

When the faint gravity of her puberty pulls
through the family, it clots and breaks.
She curves her mouth into an arc as if tasting
something soft and unexpected,
her tongue sliding forward.

Nothing means what it did before.
Words sling past each other
with centrifugal force. Thoughts
sail like a curve balls,
slamming the windows shut.

She turns away
at the approach of those whose love
has become insufficient. She lives
in her body like music, slightly
out of tune, the melody yet to come.

 

 

Elegy for the Three-Cent Stamp

 

For the postman
with the heavy leather bag,

the house on the hill,
the mailbox hidden in the hedge.

For the new blue Studebaker,
the cheerleader in the knee-length skirt,

the stolen chocolate Cherry-a-let,
the can of Ipana tooth powder.

For the edge of the bed,
the crutch in the garden,

the shiny Schwinn bicycle,
the woman who loved to hike.

For the man in the lab coat,
the swing on the bridge,

the pink-eyed rat,
the three-legged dog.

For the girl with the broken
glasses. Who is she now?

 

 

 

Dialogue

 

Coyotes in the canyon
yipping like crazy,
Coyotes in the hills, racing
through the brush, coyotes
in the gullies running in a pack.

Neighborhood dogs going nuts.
Dogs behind walls, dogs behind
fences, dogs on decks,
dogs behind glass, barking.

Dogs singing of kibble and Bonz,
of nights spent warm
on the foot of down comforters.

Coyotes crying of hillsides and stones,
the crunch of rabbit bones, wild
nights under the moon.

 

 

 

Before Dementia

 

The Middle Fork of the Feather River
flows slowly in the summer,
arrives deep and still
at the old swimming hole.
My mother swam there
almost every day. Floated
on her back beneath the trees,
looking up at the sky,
until she fell asleep,
circling slowly
under the pines.

 

 

BIO

Ruth Bavetta writes at a messy desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals and anthologies. Her books are Fugitive Pigments (FutureCycle Press, 2013) Embers on the Stairs (Moontide Press, 2014,) Flour Water Salt (FutureCycle Press, 2016.) and No Longer at This Address (Aldritch Books.)  She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, and the smell of the ocean; she hates pretense, fundamentalism, and sauerkraut.

 

 

 

 

0

At Lúpulo’s Tavern

by Sergio A. Ortiz

 

Soft jazz, hugs, kisses,
promises and fingers intertwined.
Me, a young man afraid of the dark.
You, a man rattled by light. You dragged me
to the back between twilight and twilight.
A waiter arrives, I ask for a hot chocolate,
you order red wine, take off your coat,
put it on the armchair. I lay my hand
on trembling places. Lights lower.
Roof rises. Chair collapses.
Coat falls, the chocolate, the wine.
Outside, the rain. Tourists. Suitcases.
The smell of Burger King.
A poster advertising Cialis.

 

 

 

Sitting on my corpse

 

I’m picking up
the pieces of my life,

disabled, winged
in agony,

the latent bottom
of my illness.

Bodies like mine
               born
                              worn
flesh and bones
already ancient.

 

 

 

When the dead talk about sex

 

 

trees resurrect from their flesh.
They’re storytellers of clandestine love,
barbs of rivers that penetrate,
and those delivered to the sea.
They meander desires,
pantheons smell of cum.
They evaporate kisses in the
humidity of coffee plantations,
in canyons, and banana fields.
The dead talk about sex
and invent new caresses
on the altars of the dead,
offer flower collars in memoriam
of the pleasures of the phallus.

 

 

 

 

BIO

Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He won 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition sponsored by Alaire publishing house. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

 

0

FEVER DREAM

by Cliff Saunders

 

Yearning for unity, I whistle at the county fair
at just the right time and the hunt begins

for a bridal kimono. I baffle gulls everywhere
with nursery rhymes. It’s what I do.

For the first time, I need to strike a swimsuit
with a biscuit because I feel alienated,

anxious as a blocked artery. Crying and scared,
I thrash like a fish among rows of crash victims.

I bounce past three sisters beating the street
with Christmas trees but see no clouds

just over the horizon. I topple a barricade
of jellyfish and slip by a little robot

ruined by a mud ball. Along the way,
I collide with echoes of immaculateness.

Such snow and ice I have never seen!
I finally feel like I am alive again, soul

of blue and still in love with the wind.
Am I some rabbit hole? Some pumpkin king?

I’m just elated that great hair blooms
in every sea. As clouds gather, I finish

covering roses with metal whistles.
I rise before the storm gives voice

to its grief and reach for the sacred:
a glass of ice clouded by blue acid.

 

 

FREEDOM WARRIOR

 

Tonight, a drum has my name on it,
but is anyone listening?

Who inherits a self that never ends?
I, too, have a real dream

infected with tuberculosis.
It hits me when I go home and try

to sleep with stones on my heart.
I see chimney swifts returning

to lighthouses full of fast learners,
full of divers gobbling up turnovers.

Time arrives to harvest its bright spots,
its earthly campus of root, root, root.

A flutist hits the high notes, thanks to me
and my generation of painful goodbyes,

of shirtless young cousins.
I’m not one to let the grass grow

on the moon, especially in the evening.
Moral blinders still in place, I lift my dog

to find his soul wrapped like a piece
of birthday cake on the catwalk.

Better to tolerate clutter than stifle
freedom, it’s as simple as that!

 

 

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE

 

I hate my grass, and it hates me
more than a pink skirt on a witch.

How can I get a deeper shade of blue
in my lawn? I’m just totally lost.

The lizard in the house has created
a conspiracy against me.

The shuddering beast wakes me
with his big mouth while pondering

an afternoon of drift and mastery.
As the lizard lands with a thud

on the floor, I pursue a giant snail
around the edge of the porch,

but my heart is driving me nuts,
and I carve it up into toothpicks.

This is my home — I could turn
into an old putter, an abused

French mastiff, a hard autumn,
a newly opened book.

For a sweet few hours, I probe
the batting cage of the self

with a restless intellect, then
ride off into the real world

on a bicycle wrapped in mink.
Just doing my job, man.

 

 

BIO

Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Serving House Journal, Five 2 One, The Big Windows Review, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.

 

 

0

American Spirits

by Joe Gianotti

 

 

Do you live in a 600-square-foot home
in the smaller town ten miles south
of the small town, where you grew up?
How many children have you had
since you declared you would never have children?

Does your house need a new roof?
Do the windows leak heat?
Does the hot water run out too soon?
Do you have a fenced in backyard,
where cats come and go
like the transient you said you’d be?
Did you get that Indiana tattoo on your left thigh,
the one with the heart in the state,
meant to remind you of the roots
you’d never return to?

How much do you hate the man you’re with?
How much do you already hate the next man you’ll be with?
How much do you hate yourself and the life you’ve built?

How often do you think of the museum life
your old anthropologist self could have lived?
Brushing dirt from artifacts instead of dust from bookshelves.

 

 

 

Haute Couture

 

The Christmas card’s not right.
I got a balding headshot of the Senator
instead of the family photo.
What happened to the embellished wife,
the two appliqué biological children,
the flanking gilded labradoodles,
the tailor made adopted Downs baby
that would push his blue election
over the red hump?
Where are the green and white sweaters
each of them would wear in front of their
stitched Lockerbie Square fireplace?

She crushed them with judgment.
When she told me
that age one Lindsay’s left leg
would always thread out
like a brocaded baby from an O’Connor story,
she made sure to say
that cheerleading was out of the future.

She approved of the Senator’s robust porn portfolio,
adding a ruched Sasha Gray here
and a tucked Jenna Jameson there.
Have a drink
or two or three,
and go to as many Cubs games as you can.

Haute Couture begins so beautifully,
but in families like the Senator’s,
the lace gets sold on Ebay,
piece by piece.

 

 

 

BIO

Joe Gianotti grew up in Whiting, Indiana, an industrial city five minutes from Chicago. He currently teaches English at Lowell High School. He is a proud contributor to Volume II of This is Poetry: The Midwest Poets. Among other poets, he represented Northwest Indiana in the 2014 Five Corners Poetry Readings. His work has been published in Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review, The Tipton Poetry Journal, This, Yes Poetry, and other places. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgianotti10.

 

 

 

0

Try Not

by Garth Pavell

 

Try not to eat meat on the Chinese New Year
my girlfriend teased, egging on my fragile new
vegetarianism poking out like a pot-bellied silhouette
of a newborn leaf quivering in a cage-free wind.

I arrived at Wongs restaurant where her family occupied
four round red quadrants: immigrants and first generation
Americans mostly at the children’s table, which is where
we sat since chairs were scarce in the old country.

Her century-old grandmother crooned when the piglets
were brought out, eyeless faces charred to horrific perfection.
One teen saw videos online about the horrors of factory farming
so he supported (in theory for now) boycotting corporatized cattle.

I told him most people don’t realize protein-packed edible art
remains unknitted in the patchwork of our veggie sweater. I said
gold-leafed beechnuts and rosy-hued crabapples fall like confetti
as we breed and feed livestock under wrinkled rotting sunsets.

But then the Mongolian beef arrived with mashed plums and garlic.
I chewed the boneless flesh realizing it was seasoning that I craved.
I drank cold-hearted Tsingtao beer and picked at the seared scallions
until a plate of sliced oranges arrived to purify the cow’s candied blood.

 

 

 

The World Is Missing

 

I can see it in the faces of empty-headed subways at midnight or when the pavement follows me to the undiagnosed part of town. I can feel it while looking through my cross-eyed window at the rain in the alley lit by a dazed streetlamp where a homeless poet panhandles for stamps to send a letter back in time. He once told me the moon’s chipped tooth smiles upon a midwest wine-colored river where he fished as a boy and later got lucky before eventually hitching his way across the vascular highway.

The sugar-junky yuppie across the hall is perennially out of milk, bread, toilet paper and cigarettes but she doesn’t mind asking as long as snickerdoodle cookies bake into the counterclockwise ruminations of her brain. When we cram conversation in the elevator, she directs the naked truth like a go-go dancer that can’t be touched. I once kissed her sugarcoated lips; it was Friday and we were blowing off a week of words when the power went out. We opened our doors and made our candlelit bodies into personified furniture.

 

 

 

Looking Up

 

the other day I read how our Milky Way is destined to collide
with the all-night party permeating through the Andromeda galaxy

which gives one’s family tree a future forest of speculative poets
tinsel to testify that we’re on track for something infinitely touchable

surely you’ve heard between slutting in front of social media’s mirror
as the evolution of revolution bloodlessly streams captured kings

into soon to be corporatized countries coming in for a huddle
like fish must feel in depths we can only perceive by looking up

 

 

 

BIO

Garth Pavell writes stories, poems and songs. His writing most recently appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Main Street Rag and Mudfish. Garth works for an international animal welfare nonprofit in New York City.

 

 

 

0

Random Sound Bytes

by Lillian Hara

 

Holy Mother Mary
is not
the only woman
God screwed

It’s risky to live
In the corridors of life
Spirits lurk there
encouraging surrender
to distressing acts

Editing the Primordial Mystery
we’re quite confident
it’s we who created The Story
But I’m mindful it may all be
a roll of the dice

Last month was eventful:
I healed a grandchild
unhooked from my daughters
consoled my analyst
saved my marriage
and wrote a poem

When Jewish women
spin with wit
follow the thread:
it’s tinged with irony

Coming to terms with mortality
Is less thorny than acknowledging
greatness is not in the cards

Authenticity is the frame
that begs “truth” to hang
without quote marks

Human connections endure
when the partners evolve
a set of modest expectations
It’s defined as “compatibility”

Some poems are short because
they’re fearful of going on
Others – the scared few are brief
because they’re able to keep secrets

I’m not up on herons, hawks
or meadowlarks but I do know
the haunted old eyes
of the boy with missing front teeth
punched out by his father

Countless numbers of women
spend infinite numbers of hours
on mind-numbing tasks
They lose valuable time
because they don’t have a wife

Is it in the realm of possibility
to write a novel
fall in love
cure the cancer
bear a child
run a marathon
sculpt a poem
without a Holy Day of Rest?

Among my mother’s talents were
her homilies, often employed
to mutually rich advantage:
“Take better care of Mother Earth
or your poems will haunt you”

Poetry inhabits
a killing ground
pulling, tugging, ravaging – second only
to lung disease

There are images that persist a lifetime
the woman’s gown is electric blue
the man’s hooded eyes flood with desire
The vision haunts the decades

Octogenarians , nonagenarians
know they will not outrun death
Against all odds, the flame endures
something feeds the fire

Poets with cascading black ringlets
or silky blond locks perplex me
they appear to lack authenticity
Close-cropped or bald-headed
moon-faced prophets suit me fine

To doubt is
to make a stab
at the truth
When you stab
you shed blood
At times, it may be
the only way

When the fledgling Supreme Sorcerer
meets up with the Empathetic Caregiver
the dynamic is the predicament:
the mother-daughter dilemma

My literary agent tells me
poetry may be limiting, Memoirs
are flying off the shelves, she says
especially if you fucked celebrities

Q. Do you believe in God or what?
A. Well, I think there is a Universal Elemen—
Q. – Aaaah, you’re a chicken agnostic or – an atheist?
A. No, just chicken

What if Abraham, Isaac and Yahweh
were instead, all women
would the elements of
the crisis remain the same?
No way

Rumi said maybe God
is the impulse to laugh,
perhaps we are the joke
or it may simply be
a nerve signal
creating a sound

 

 

Peaceful Woman … Mother to Violence

 

The events of her life prompted the question
is death ever “The Distinguished Thing”*
It was so for her aged in-laws until their son
fell from the mountain. In their life plan
death was long established at a clear site
clear because one had a torn heart valve
the other boldly suffered varied octogenarian
closing stages; for both, it suited the order
of things. But the night their son died
they rallied against God, no one other

It was their son she had proposed sparking
the lively decades before he climbed the mountain
The pitons held until the summit; he slipped on ice
was gone. He frequently had said he cared less
how long he lived than how short he died
Snow, ice, majestic peaks – Hedda Gabler
would’ve found his death “beautiful”

That night one mourner fixed his grief on a portrait
above the mantel: a copy of Michelangelo’s Jeremiah
“A resemblance beyond a doubt,” he said, it was surely
the dead man’s father. A surge of laughter moved her
into a far corner of the room, ever mindful that her
heaving shoulders gave the image of a weeping widow
She heard the mourners: “a man utterly without cant…”
“keen to explore, question everything on earth…”
“He was the most guileless, the least vindictive of anyone…”

Knowing loss would distill the last into rectitude and roses
she conceded to a complex of thorns: his rage fierce, unbidden
its source in all the Bibles, its fountainhead Jehovah
It moved him to anger, to sorrow for the hungers of the world

Late one night, she dared to look into the abyss
She stuffed bedclothes down her throat gagging the horror
All three, mother and children shunned his funeral:
“he’s not in a hole in the ground, he’s here with us,” she said,
“forever.” Her daughters echoed without comprehension,
“here with us,” the years passed, they failed to find him.

Her two daughters married. Defying probability
both husbands died by suicide – one by immolation
An artist who tinted the world but couldn’t get it right
His wife held watch until the final breath of the charred body

The other husband, part mystic, all gentle spirit
dubbed himself her son-out-law. When his wife left
he drove a knife into his heart – violence learned in Vietnam
The three widows went to his house searching for a clue:
on his kitchen wall he had painted a rainbow; on the bedroom
floor, the mattress had an ineffaceable bloodstain

One daughter proposed they alter history: reject widowhood
claim divorce. In their finest family tradition, mirth damped
down despair, their laughter splashed across “The Days of
(their) Lives”

In time the scenario was perfected, love came to their pocked terrain
For all three it was welcomed: mother, daughters, peacefulwomen
they asked, they answered: Why us … Why not

 

*”Here it is at last, ‘The Distinguished Thing’”
— Henry James on his deathbed

 

 

Rilke and I

 

I sift the colors of the Poet
The Mystery of the word
winds with the simple stealth
of a rivulet
past my open hand
around my heel
to etch a print in the stone

The Poet wakes me
into pools of surprise
A stone drops rippling
a primal laugh
It lances my mouth
halts at my eyes healing

 

 

 

BIO

Lillian Hara is a poet and playwright. Her current collection of poems, Peaceful Woman … Mother to Violence, is a chronicle of loss and grief and renewal. Her work has been published in the University of California, Riverside periodical, Mosaic, and in Poetry/L.A. She has read her poems for the public at Mount St. Mary’s College, Women Writers West, George Sands Bookstore and the California Rehabilitation Center, a women’s prison. A member of the Dramatists Guild, Hara’s plays have been produced at the University of California, Riverside; Los Angeles Theater Center; Oxford Theater; The Jewel Box Theater; East West Players; and the New Playwrights’ Theater in Ashland, Oregon.

0

Damage

by Kristen Hoggatt-Abader

 

for Gabrielle Giffords

 

Of the five beds in the ICU
the only thing moving
was the damaged brain

.

I was of two brains
wasn’t I?
One of them was indisposed
I rose to the ceiling
and gazed at the damage below me

.

The pressure gauge needle aimed at red
and the top doc said Ah
That’s why the skin puffs out under the eyes
That’s the brain swell
indiscriminate in cases of TBI
Traumatic Brain Injury
The mother calls a priest
The father calls his lawyer friends
The sister stares at the fire extinguisher propped in the corner
seething at its red

.

A nurse and a doctor become one
tending the wet organ
A nurse and a doctor and a damaged brain
become one
late into the night
the doctor the brain’s borrowed pulse
the nurse its hand that sets the bone

.

I don’t know which to prefer
the beauty of the hospital’s silence at midnight
or the beauty of the hospital at midnight
when a rolling stretcher breaks its hum

.

This is not woodshop but the same principles apply
as a drill removes a piece of skull
Bits of bone drop to the floor
like irrational wooden dowels
One doc says Hold it steady
The cynic Watch your thumb

.

The brain rules the body
so when it’s away the body rebels
collapsed lungs broken jaw
extra bone growth in the knee
A hole in the neck helps it breathe

.

The damaged brain can’t signal the tongue to speak
The tongue is not damaged but it too feels the bruise
pulsing

.

When nobody’s listening the damaged brain says
NIPPLE

.

Even when the brain understands the words
double vision won’t let it read
Double vision is like having floaters in the eye
that are patterned to the scene

.

O skinny LPNs in your droopy scrubs
you loathe rolling over the body
to secure the piss pot under its bum
Celebrate that the brain is coming
the damaged brain!

.

I know numbers colors A through Z
the vocab of being
ten years old
I know I’m eighteen
I know chicken licked off the wing
but the damaged brain wants cinnamon and cumin seed
a fat purple crayon to color outside the lines

.

It was winter well into March
bone cold but no layer of white
softening the severe rocks on the horizon
The damaged brain hid behind a skull
shaved and scarred by a nonnative tribe

I am still a brain
knotted and crossed
by grooves of wisdom
that made the scalpel pause

Damage rocked through the brain like cat yowls
through the alley way that never
stop


 

Vocabulary Lessons

 

Lesson 1—“Stress”

“What’s the meaning, haboob,
in English?”

Haboob?
‘Dust storm.’”

“This ‘dust storm’ on your face
for two month.”

“Oh, you mean
‘pimple.’ “Haboob
can also mean ‘pimple.’”

“This ‘bimbel’ in your face
for two month.”

“This ‘pimple’ has been
on my face for two months—
I know. It’s stress.”

Yani eh, ‘stress?’”

“‘Stress,’ like when you’re scared
for no good reason.”

“No, no ‘stress.’
From the wedding party—
guests give you hasad.”

“The evil eye?!”

Ah walahi!
Because you beautiful.
We have people this way in Egypt.
Guests also give you ‘chress.’”

“No, it’s ‘stress.’”

“What’s the meaning,
‘stress’? Khaifa men eh?

“I’m not scared of anything,
really, just of bad carbs
and the imminent rebellion
of those tiny dogs
that women tote in their handbags.”

“Nermeen doesn’t make a baby.
She angry with her husband.”

“They’ve only been married
for two months!”

Yani eh?

Yani, they need
more time.”

“Why?”

“Stress.”

“‘Stress?’”

“‘Stress.”’

Lesson 2—“Mayonnaise”

“The girl in the taqueria is understanding
Arabic.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“I say ‘pescado burrito’ in Arabic
and I get pescado burrito.”

“What’s ‘pescado burrito’ in Arabic?”

“‘Pescado burrito.’”

“And she understood that?”

“‘Kamen’ in Arabic is
‘tambien’ in Spanish.”

“That’s cool!”

“It is same, no, close—
what I say?

“It is ‘similar.’”

“It is ‘similar.’
Do you want some
‘pescado burrito?’”

“No thanks, I don’t eat mayonnaise.”

“What’s the meaning,
‘mayohnees?’”

“ ‘Mayonnaise’—that
oily white stuff.”

“Why? It is good!
Yani eh, ta’m?

“Flavor.”

“Good flavor,
‘mayohnees.’
Easy.”

“What do you mean, ‘easy?’”

“This ‘easy.’ Put it on
and make stuff better.”

Lesson 3—“Forbidden”

“Don’t tell your friends
that we find this in the street.”

“Why?”

“Because, it’s haram.”

“But I cleaned them!”

“Still, haram.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re coming from the street!”

“But I cleaned them!”

“You don’t listen:
haram.”

Lesson 4—“Forbidden”

“Gamal, you really should stop calling people
fat.”

“But they are fat.”

“But people don’t say so here.
It’s considered rude.”

“What’s the meaning,
‘rude?’”

“You know, I don’t remember.
Mish qwais.”

“Like haram?”

“Yes, exactly like haram.”

Lesson 5—“A little bit”

“Can you help me?”

“What you need?”

“I’m trying to translate this poem.
What’s this mean, nabiyeth?

“No, listen: nabithu.”

“Nabidu?”

“No, nabithu. It means like
‘a little bit.’”

“But the dictionary
says it means ‘wine.’”

“Yes, it does.”

“It means both?”

“Yes.”

“But the dictionary—”

“Look Kris,
this book is full
of paper.”

Lesson 6—“Meaning”

“I need something to give
the poem more meaning.”

“What’s the meaning,
‘meaning?’”

“You know what it means!”

“Yes, but I think it means
something different
to you.”

Lesson 7—“My love”

“Kris!”

“What?”

“I read your poem!”

“Really? Do you like it?”

“Yeah.”

“Can you understand it?”

“Only a little bit.”

“What part do you understand?”

“I told you not to tell your friends
that we found those things in the street.”

“I didn’t tell my friends.”

“You wrote a poem about it!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. Listen—
‘Don’t tell your friends
that we find this in the street.’
It’s right here!”

“Habiby, that poem’s about us.”

 

 

 

BIO

Kristen Hoggatt’s chapbook of poems, ARAB WINTER, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. In addition to previously appearing in The Writing Disorder, her poems have been published in journals including The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Ledge Magazine, Nimrod International, and The Smart Set, where she was also the “Ask a Poet” advice columnist from 2008-2011. She is currently a Lecturer in composition at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

 

 

 

0

Margarita Serafimova

 

 

 

The crowns of people were gliding,
lighted by their mortality.
I hadn’t anything but the gaze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eyes are focused there,
and then, after a time, they look elsewhere.
Nothing can combat time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tulip has created red honey
of its inner sun.
The blood of smell is warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life, my life,
you have a mind of your own.
While you live me, you remain distinct.

 

 

 

BIO

Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. She has two collections in Bulgarian: Animals and Other Gods (2016) and Demons and World (2017). Her work is forthcoming in Agenda, Trafika Europe, The Journal, Waxwing, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, Poetic Diversity, TAYO, The Punch, Aaduna, Three Drops from a Cauldron, The Transnational, Sea Foam Mag, SurVision, and has appeared in London Grip New Poetry, A-Minor, Minor Literatures, Noble / Gas, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Obra / Artifact, Ginosko, Dark Matter, Window Quarterly / Patient Sounds, Peacock Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Wild Word, Plum Tree Tavern, MOON Magazine, Outlaw Poetry, In Between Hangovers, MockingHeart Review, Renegade Rant and Rave, Tales From The Forest, Misty Mountain Review, Outsider Poetry, Heavy Athletics, The Voices Project, and Cent. Some of her work can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/MargaritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel.

 

 

 

 

 

0

CHARLESTON

by Lana Bella

 

In Charleston, South Carolina,
there is a word that means
the rending from inertia
into the unbodied acreages of
an indigo past where ancient feet
take to running, as the hills warm
with red and the westerly dust
thrusts under the Carolinians’
lament. One could always feel
the idle precision of the heavy
lidded eyes of the townsfolk,
like a trail of cigarette smokes
filling their grapevine with words
they could only whisper behind
cupped hands.

An affluent town like this one,
thickly dank in vanity and
domed sight-line, doesn’t always
have a freight train cutting
through the bustling miles of
history. Still, time hangs over,
new prospects hum with
the dichotomy of all the old
obsolescence.

Tonight, the dead wakes to roam
without their bleached white
bones, in a world where the dark
is consumed by lark sparrows
and Brewer’s blackbirds fighting
for space, with the operatic
passion of Porgy and Bess
drapes like damp laundry over
the raised wall of Folly Beach,
while the moon pours more wine
over the earth and sings low
James Taylor’s Carolina in My Mind.

 

 

BECAUSE I KNEW YOUR FACE INSIDE THE EYE OF A VINTAGE CAMERA

 

A path to somewhere not here,
you pooled in hollow through film
of my vintage camera, a glowing
wyrm spun and interwove, raised
up the mounds of sand, shifting,
always shifting, cast me finally
over the spines of sun. I was inert,
orchard-lit with breaths of baying
horses, where you halted letting
in discord, immune to my concert
of shoulders above ribs, spilling
of bones refused to keep. But still
I coiled, shadows lie, imagining you
smooth saline held in my invisible
depth-strokes, fluttering gradations
from periphery to bitten shins, as
you broke pale into the embrace of
vines, sent buds to sheath of red.

 

 

UNDERWATER LAKE

 

Knife-palette trees touched fingers
to midnight, and how the cold
hurt you into a break like throbbing.
A collection of breaths closed in
on the pour of sky, your mouth, red,
agilely lithe, laughed away the firs
risen tall on algal blooms, where
bodies of birds laced through with
a continent of shadows. Already you
were bent with nightshade and fox-
glove, where the slightest tremors
may pitch you down the underwater
lake, around which the fossilized
bones of unnamed fishes silver
the currents in slime-spotted hymns.

 

 

 

BIO

A three-time Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks: Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured in over 400 journals including, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, Expound, EVENT, Ilanot Review, and Notre Dame Review, among others. She also has work forthcoming in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever, frolicsome imps. Her work can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/Lana-Bella-789916711141831/

 

 

 

 

0

Legacy

by Elizabeth Bolton

 

Green tears fall soft
Filth raked through thinning hair, what’s left
Plastered to the skull of the meek

The well wounded atop a glorious black nylon pyramid
Shorn by blades in want of new ways to be known
With a cool-fuzzed back of the neck.

Green tears lie cupped
Leather crushed in a hand
Small, fleshy, weak as a cherub’s

Squeezed to a paste and brought to the nose.
Pungent green Death; who knew of its savory spice
Until now?


 

Picnic

 

Winter’s knife won’t cut anymore. It bends, frustrates
Against paper plate against checked cloth
On top of grass abuzz and itching

Its mud-scalp sticks and peels, sticks and peels
Beneath the lush wet earth, burgeoning.
Ground drunk off winter lolls fat with it, belly up.

Winter tucks its useless blade beneath a napkin, decides
On bare hands, favors the sauced meal over dry crackers
Comforting only because we’ve seen it before

Every year the burying of instruments in napkins
The plastic clacks and snaps.
Livers thoroughly poisoned

We wriggle our fingers with greed.


 

The Thing That Laughs

 

The driest of horrors
Screeched through leathery throats

And the warmest wettest of murders
Thrown from twisted bellies

Are laughable. Laughable.

It laughs
As it watches one of us shout a great big word out into air
And the rest jostle bridesmaid-like for it.

It laughs
When it sees us stutter, slip and splat
Accidental comedians.

It laughs like the great big rumbling body of parents at a school play
A black and twinkling mass that waits out the years
Till it seems near well enough understood that down
After down

Is up.

 

 

 

BIO

Elizabeth Bolton is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto where she studies writing and its effects on the mind. In addition to poetry, she writes narrative nonfiction, though in truth she finds genre distinctions rather meaningless.

 

 

 

 

0

My Grandfather’s Piano

by Keiona Wallace

 

 

Grandfather played piano for me,
his hands like bruised peaches.
Withered fingers whispering to keys
as they’d stick to his frail skin.
He’d sit on unbalanced mahogany and dissolve
into dusted keys, each note a wave–
Crescendo of dysfunction crashing
into my hands– I dipped them into deep
blue and squeezed at strings
mallets tiptoed on tightrope stretched
in reddened palms. I’d listen to
thick wobbly notes bounce in an earthquake of echoes
from pastel walls and flimsy
liquor cabinet.

He sang about man’s desire, how one day, it will
wrap me in shredded sheet
music and leach onto
graveled skin until sad melodies sink
inside constricted lungs, he said
that I will be softened, withered,
and drained from love.

His tired fingers rest on hungry keys ready
to pry open aching bones
slumped over, shriveled, he only hums,
letting dark circles rummage
under sore eyes–
So I press down, feed these starved keys
and his sympathetic hands guide mine over
this lilac wave of sounds so sacred
and I smile because he is no longer drowning.

 

 

Aged Whiskey with Honey Colored Legs

 

Wasted woman lays
tipsy a trance.
My empty flask dangles in tattered coat pocket–
remnants of lazy bootleg liquor
squeeze, scratch, peel at my tongue.
Her bleached hair clamped between fingers covered
in last night’s bloody knuckles,
oily curls leave stains on pruned skin
as squashed cigarette butts burn rustic ashtrays.

Her bright beady eyes are gray smoke clouds,
her slim figure wrapped in midnight blue dress
skin tight– honey colored legs exposed.
unlike my wife who sits late by kindling fire braiding
autumn bows into my daughter’s charcoal colored hair.
pale fingers trace the petals of her rose like cheeks
as my wife murmurs to her that I’ll be home soon.
Soon enough to consume cold medium rare steak,
tuck her into thick princess comforter and
read blurry words scattered– dancing in book about
a prince who will always be there.
I hope he is there.

I penetrate her cracked layers,
squeeze inner thighs, rub skin raw,
kiss my way up to her bursting lips.
with my hand gripped around wrist
she lays there– shaking off parts of me,
barbaric smoke entangles with her lungs–
slight burns choke deep in throat from
aged whiskey and dirt flavored cigars.
I dream of dust clouds tasting of iron roads
and discarded nicotine patches,
littered with illegal A1 firebombs and full
glasses by empty
bar stools, waiting for me.

 

 

January 11th, Suffocating

 

1. Cherry Blossoms

On Sundays we walked
staring up at looming
cherry blossoms dangling towards the earth
caress smooth petals slow,
withering between my clammy fingers,
I hold them out to her.
She smiled at my offer
and tried to explain to me what life tastes like,

I said with baby cheeks, it’s warm vanilla,
cool lemonade during sticky summers
condensation trickling down the side of glass.
She hesitates,
“Only on your brightest days.”
It might taste like caked mud clogging, being
plastered in my throat,
or the thousand butterflies I swallowed in a single gulp,
and on those days,
she says it might hurt to breathe.

I lay on her chest, listening to her steady heartbeat, smothering
myself in the rich smell of her
coconut skin– Japanese cherry blossom perfume.
She squeezed my hand, spreading
wrapping me in a love so large she
can’t breathe.

2. Craving

Her ashes smell like a hospital room
filled with empty beds and smeared lifelines.
like automatic doors, syringes spill over with insulin
pulsing– 50 units.

The breaths she inhales don’t belong to her.
they are loans from bellowing monitors,
deconstruct bones that deteriorate,
pinch at flaking insides– unconscious.

I wondered if it all hurt.
the blood rippling, erupting, filling her skull
Thick staples holding together plates of skin
and memories.
My mother’s fingers so numb to pain
the diabetic test strips don’t hurt anymore.
Does she feel the insulin shot I was taught
how to penetrate through leathery stomach?
Does she remember the plastic tube nestled
down in her throat?

The sun shines,
breaks through cherry blossom petals
and I reach for them,
thin branches
and crisp bark, holding
frail petals between my fingers
I hear her laughter, imagine eyes a deep brown–
they resemble mine, but hers told deeper stories
I memorized her face, watched lips move, but
I could not remember the sound
of my mother’s voice.

 

 

BIO

Keiona Wallace is a senior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts studying in creative writing. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, working as the Print Editor for her school newspaper, The Artisan. Keiona wants to pursue writing in the future and hopefully work in journalism and print. She enjoys using poetry as an outlet for her overactive mind, questioning everything that comes in view. Poetry allows her to get in touch with all her emotions and deeply explore her feelings. She’s very charismatic and loves helping in any way she can, making any kind of detail impactful.

 

 

 

0

Where It Can Be Written

by Glenn Ingersoll

 

 

it was late but it was getting earlier
the earlier it got the more I had to fart
I was alone with the regal bubble
surely I was dreaming
I have no luck in dreaming
I had another bad idea which was the same one
my cat was snoring
I can’t sleep when my cat is snoring
I took medicine to go with the pain
listen – my intestines are singing
they don’t know how to sing
I know how to sing the wrong way
I played with the bad idea as if it were fun
it could get funner
my cat is my friend but is he, really
there’s a psychological term useful here
this is not a good position
my arm’s gone to sleep
congratulations, arm
fuck you, God! – I heard the Christian say
all the books are curses and nails
and pounded blood
only children are paper
the rest of us are bad ideas
there are places on which bad ideas can be scratched
but of all talking we need to claw
let’s not talk about the available skin
let’s talk up our divinatory alleys
there’s one down the center of the room
and a cat
another cat, seeing I’m sitting up
has come too

 

 

333

 

awake at 3:33 a.m.
what do you know

was reading a book of drug experiences
mostly psychedelics
learning experiences, some mystic

I hear the cats playing upstairs
rambunctious!
knocking something around

I pick up the flashlight by my bed
tiptoe after its circle

as I crest the top step
I hear a scramble to the back room
the cat flap’s slap

I open the human door and play
my light across the porch until two circles gleam back
from a broad band of black above a
sharp gray snout and a little growl

the bathroom linoleum slippery
the kibble dish empty
the water used to rinse a paw not clean

K, who’s followed me up, blocks the flap
with a bucket full of cat litter
was it a small raccoon? he asks

I say it was

the two orangies curl up by me
the black tabby checks in

I go back to reading
more on the drugs
some poetry

 

 

Mr. Smith

 

white? chapped-lips white
and folded and folded and folded
tight as a bud

or mouth sucking a secret like a hard mint
if I hold the paper by two corners
the letter curls, a giant petal

but if I bend it back, change
the direction of the creases
find words like a dusting of pollen

my fingers the thighs of honeybees
but this is a sore blossom
it doesn’t know how sweet it is

how sweet like a mouth
biting its lips to stifle
what is not unconscious on the tongue

no, it is not a mouth I press open
to words smeared slightly by movement
but what got said to a page to me

printed atop a rose bows
also just beginning to open
tipped toward one looking up

 

 

 

BIO

Glenn Ingersoll works for the Berkeley Public Library where he hosts Clearly Meant, a thrice-yearly reading & interview series. He has two chapbooks: City Walks (broken boulder) and Fact (Avantacular). He keeps two blogs: LoveSettlement and Dare I Read. Recent work has appeared in Poetry East, Askew, Futures Trading, and BlazeVOX.

 

 

 

 

 

0

de Kooning’s Women

by Steven Ratiner

 

 

pink black and azure smear maw leer
smile puce-and-seasick-green come
hither gesture neck breast belly sex
swell squeal enveloping ochre and gun-
metal-gray pubic tantric flesh eruption
I stare and some naked horror in me wants
to kiss embrace submit to her engulfing
hunger but I fight the urge thought
surging in the brain insisting aloud
lover lover lover lover and beating back
that forbidden that breathy raw-nerve slip
of the tongue between pressed lips:
mother.

 

 

The Sixties

 

“I never do this” she gasped – beginning
to buck, biting at my neck – “two men.”
Looking around in the dark, wondering
what she meant: two in one week?
In one night? Me and the man I might
become? Me and the dead beloved
she partnered with wherever she went?
Waves breaking on moonless Pescadero.
Black sand scouring the skin. Aching
at the outset, still aching at the end – we
hungry, heedless un-knowable men.

 

 

Her Lament

 

he fucks like he’s trying to tear
the skin from my bones or to climb
the hell out from his own animal
guttural bountiful pitiful as if I
were finally the woman who could
pluck the black thorn from his
weathered heart flailing gasping
his cry coming from my mouth
my tears from his eyes until every
damned thing comes undone as if
he wants me to mother him back
into oblivion and gathering him up
in aching arms easing down and
rising up believe me baby if I
could’ve I would

 

 

Morning

 

Black tide recedes.
Two nestled oysters.
The shovelful the rust-
nicked edge of a knife blade
prying just a
crack salt light flicker
of morning: my eyes
squint open dream brine
draining away along with
the last ferric taste of you.
Blue distance.
Stranded the love-
stung brain commands:
begin
again.

 

 

She Told Me Love

 

She told me love was
a fishhook, the steel-barbed
secret under slack skin so that

you won’t feel the strike until
after you’ve swallowed, knowing
that very instant you’ll be

swallowed in return. She spoke
(the lightless depths of her own
unblinking eyes) from experience.

I took in as much as a ten-
year-old could manage (whose
only chance at love was

the haphazard grace of inexperience) –
and yet the memory stuck.
Years later, in the emergency room,

I saw a young man with a mis-
cast fishhook neatly looped through his
ruddy cheek. I studied his pond-

green eyes, the pall of his grimace, and
wondered whose love had trawled for him,
and why had he escaped.

 

 

 

BIO

STEVEN RATINER has published three poetry chapbooks, the most recent of which – Button, Button (OpenEye Press) – was a collaboration with artist Marty Cain. His work has appeared in dozens of journals in America and abroad including Parnassus, Agni, Blackbird, Hanging Loose, Poet Lore, Salamander, QRLS (Singapore) and Poetry Australia. He’s written poetry criticism for The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post. GIVING THEIR WORD: Conversations with Contemporary Poets was re-issued in a paperback edition (University of Massachusetts Press) and features interviews with many of poetry’s most vital talents including Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, Bei Dao, Maxine Kumin, and the last full-length interview with Bill Stafford before his death.

 

 

 

STAY IN TOUCH