issue 10 · winter 2019
IN TAOS PUEBLO · STEVE NICKMAN
Wait for a clear night –
most nights are clear –
Stars of the Dipper, stars
of Andromeda, so close
your eyes recoil, your hand
imagines touching them
on their blinding birthdays.
Their firework festoon
sends sulfur and silicon
(just atoms, just babies)
on solitary journeys:
sailors that reached
This dull bare dust shines
with the inextinguishable
light of our old, still
THE SENSES OF THE PROGRESSION · DAVID DEPHY
I am listening to the trembling of the rivers.
They say: “Remember us, the circumstances
of the present and the past shape the
possibilities of progression.”
I am walking on the Manhattan Bridge now.
I am listening to the rays around me. They say:
“See us, by your progression, you generate
a future that would not have happened had
you not interrupted the flow of happenings.”
I am walking on Williamsburg Bridge now.
I am listening to the dust of the trees. They say:
“Taste us, the progression is a reason of your
breathing and the possibility for moving
forward is shaped by the facts of reality.”
I am walking on the Queensboro Bridge now.
I am listening to the joy-voice winds around me.
They say: “Hear us, by progressing, you have
an effect on how the future unfolds rather than
drifting into the future that would inevitably
follow the uninterrupted past.”
I am walking on the Washington Bridge now.
I am listening to the echoes of the wishes. They say:
“Touch us, you can not progressed without
facing up to what’s happened in the past or is
happening in the present.”
I am walking on the Verrazano Bridge now.
I am listening to the premonition of the events.
They say: “Smell us, progression means participating
in the present, in light of what has happened in the
past, such that you generate and act on new
possibilities for the future.”
I am walking on my shadow on the street now.
The path is listening to my footsteps. I am speaking
with the path with all my breath full of the silence.
I CAME SO CLOSE · LANE SCOGGINS
Tying the noose-knot
White knuckled, but resolute
Praying to God for it to end.
Tying the marital knot
Swelling in my chest,
Praying to God for it to last.
To think that the same hands that held her
Held the rope,
Dropped the rope,
Called my father.
Really puts things into perspective.
BLUE HILL · ROBBIE GAMBLE
clambering through strewn piles of granite bone
almost by memory, to claim my watchtower
perch, and just in time to stand and mark the cold
gray seam of Boston Harbor broke by Easter sun.
But overcast hung dense and low, light strained the murk
to smudge a brief and sorry swath of tepid pink beyond
the outstretched hamlet arm of Hull relaxing in the bay,
and in its resting civic fist the windmill, still,
and vague in slow-attenuating light. I’d seen enough.
On my descent, I passed a fresh and jarring blow-down,
trees snapped off by winter’s recent violence, slanting through
the trail. One fallen trunk I stepped across, thigh-thick—
I didn’t count its rings, but surely they were fewer
than my fifty-eight accumulated holidays. And I was struck—
I’d crouched right here, sometime before this broken tree
had ever taken root, my brother Brad and I,
in shorts and Keds, just laughing, out of breath
so sure we’d shook our lagging Daddy down the trail.
Brad’s nine years dead. My father lives, too frail
to hike these granite slopes again, and I
turn down to trace the glaciated contours in this stone
still gray, but less so now, under the rising day, yet
always gray, across the years excoriating gray.
THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH· KENNETH POBO
Painting by Bruegel
on age spots, a dying coffee cup
looking for solace
from a Ticonderoga pencil.
Late last week my boss
crumpled laughter, tossed it
in a basket full of scorpions.
He seduces hieroglyphics.
Death works the elevator,
can swing from a fluorescent tube.
My skeleton co-workers
paw through the basket
to retrieve lost laughs.
I watch my skin fry up
like bologna. At closing,
a silver hot dog
falls into a campfire.
Smokestack · John Riley
to the steamboat's smokestack
sees nothing asunder
on the river's green green banks.
Few animals come out to notice
a human strapped tightly
to the big pipe that will soon
be filled with black heat
from the old boat's last voyage.
Steam is no more. The ladies
who had crowded the deck
in summer dresses and wide hats
can now journey
without having to worry
they'll burst into flames
from a freed ember.
Time is the price we pay alone
and it is best he pay his now
when the travelers no longer
fill the deck with chatter
and lust and anger and silliness.
He struggles now only for comfort,
not escape, and glides his thoughts
to how the birds,
his favorite small ones
with their busy, regulated lives,
will fling across the sky when he chugs
from the wooded inlet into the river
to travel downstream to the Gulf.
Something is Up · Judy DeCroce
A wheelbarrow of hats
dirty overstuffed clouds hang.
Something is up.
Late summer can be tricky.
Birds, deer, move in skittish bursts
or not at all.
We are waiting.
Something that was up
is ready to fall.
Plum Island, August · Jennifer S. Flescher
On Plum Island the sand descends
as if the world ends
and the sea takes on the hue of deep
close to the shore.
We drifted in the calm
built a castle
found fractured purple mussel shells.
You had just come home, hollowed.
If we slept at all it was huddled
You’d grown tall and small at once.
You made friends with a girl half your age
and the two of you played
with the breath of the sea.
I watched you almost laugh.
You said you wanted to go there
to make me feel better. I had that feeling
on the raft of that day.
Husk of a Whale · Sara Fitzpatrick Comito
full of the unknowing dead. A leviathan
isn’t supposed to die: get big as a 16-wheeler
and you set an example. Rivers traverse
counties inlaid by slavery and ill-financed
railroads; the tracks still birth flowers
of bees. Washing up it revealed over seven
days the secrets of a stinking God –
as big as we think we are, oxygen is common
currency. I stood atop Florida’s ridge
like a desert skink, looked upon
a tower from every angle of the working
class. In the rain the ground would not
stop rising, the tower now used for cell
phones, its bells consigned to rust, the bones
of its shadows mined like phosphate grants
purchase on shifting sand. The peninsula
slips its skin, beaches a husk of whale. Once,
the fossils tell us, there were mammoths.
Firefly · Xiaoly Li
sinks into dusk
upon the Blue Ridge.
Little disco stars
flit and hover.
One, two, three,
We stop along
the silhouette of trees,
one melody to hold
sweet cold lightning
in my hands.
broken pieces that September,
Everything on this wall clouds over · Simon Perchik
at first, a window then opens
swallowing the sky mid-air
though here you are, hammering
– this picture frame was already too heavy
is pressing against the glass
as the unbearable sorrow when its likeness
can only be found in wood
where you no longer hear your fingers tighten
from soaking in the sweat that clings to a nail
bent and bleeding then hidden in back, holds on
to what it remembers falling from the sky
as one after another, yet there it is
in drops – don’t you hear them telling you
to step back from her photograph.
American Sentences · Lisa DeSiro
Carolina. But what do I know, I’ve never been to Kitty Hawk
or anywhere else in that state. Westron wynde when wyll thow blow the smalle
rayne down and cleave this humidity and cool us all the f*** off. (Note
to self: quoting Tudor manuscripts might seem pretentious.) (Nervous cough.) What would Allen Ginsberg do? Let’s order a burger, fries, and a shake.
Weather Ghazal · Lacie Semenovich
I was born under a darkened sky of twisting weather.
Before going to the mountains, going to the ocean
we ignore the sky, check electronics for the weather.
My love, your heart beats with the constancy of a cloud,
your lips sting like winter rain. It is you I weather.
The sunflower blooms, a fallen angel’s halo, displaced
heavenly body, much like you, left on Earth to wither.
The estate sale over, porcelain figurines, photo albums, set
on the curb, unwanted memories offered to the weather.
To be loved imperfectly, from time to time forgotten, dismissed,
undesired even when dressed in crystals is to be like the weather.
My father taught me to sit the thunderstorm in reverie, in worship
on the front porch, to bow as a tree while the ground grew wetter.
Should you find Excalibur thrust into stone, remove her, yes her,
with a gentle touch, not a forceful glove. Rhythmically whet her.
We planted our bodies as roots on a street corner, grown tall but lithe,
branches laced together, there is no storm we cannot weather.
November 21st · Richard Luftig
Wet. An old push-
Shed. Clouds collide
In a wary
Sky. Sun low,
That line the wind-
Of these fields.
I wish winter
Would tell us
What it really
Intends when it takes
The faint pulse
Of these bare-
How to Make Meatballs · Ed Meek
who hired me as a short order cook
for the greasy spoon he owned in Southie.
The dead man’s shift, 12-8, was slow –
plenty of time to teach me what to do.
We tore Italian bread apart,
held the pieces beneath the faucet
and squeezed the water out.
We cracked eggs into a bowl
and mixed the wet bread
with the red ground beef, oregano and salt.
The meatballs baked while I fried
eggs, bacon and home fries
for the working girls and drunks
who stumbled in.
This was before Tony went away
for printing twenties in his basement,
before Joey broke in and stole our TV,
and the bank took their house.
College Dining Hall · Timothy Gager
Fish, bread and macaroni and cheesy spinach squares
To feed the multitudes, but we had to
add five shakes of salt for flavor
to force it down, till the sun didn’t shine
But, the next time it did I held up a salt shaker
forming a prism decorating a girl beautifully like
David Bowie’s album cover, the gal insane.
The bread just a loaf of Wonder
I planned to steal and she followed me –
a temporary pillar
of impermanent salt,
Undeniable Songs · Kathleen Clancy
and the bullets were hitting the girl in the back
she was trying to run from him. Shot in the front,
she had turned somehow, starting to run for the door,
but she fell on the ground. She was twisted. She pushed
but she couldn’t get up and her boyfriend got down
on his knees and he cried in his hands where she stood
right before she was killed. I was there. With the gun
and the bullets, the shooter he ran to my car
and he looked at me straight in the eye and I saw
he seemed happy and Next I thought I’ll be his next.
Or he’ll force me to drive him away. When he came
to my window and moved to the back of my car
he was gone. Then the signal turned green. It was strange
but I started to drive through the light like I drive
everyday. I was going to dinner nearby.
I arrived when I heard them – the sirens that sound
unlike sirens would sound – and I called the police
to describe how the stranger is living in part
of me now. She sings undeniable songs.
How to Set a Ruby · Dennis Daly
Like bezel to highlight its points of fire.
Set it not too deep. There’s much to admire
Above the rim. Allow the paradox
Of seen and unseen opportunity
To shine. Lay out a brilliancy in foils
Of choice. The reward of artistic toils
Is the deepening glow, the density
That compresses in this stone specimen
All desire that mortality can spend
In its abominable hastiness.
When positioned in its cushioned haven
The airtight gem will shift in tint, append
New effects, engage the bold and breathless.
Until You Cross the River · Daniel Moore
since what mattered then matters more,
your arms, like sticks, floating palms up,
backstroking daily prayer.
Your mouth filling fast with the sky’s
summer rain, quenching your thirst
like an Appalachian ghost drowning
in the Steel Mill’s shadows of rust
your Grandfather wore on his skin like dusk
the one you’re waking from now to see
that only the river’s timeless mind
knows how deep to deep can be.
The Tug of Gravity · Catherine Arra
I walk the market stalls among fishmongers,
find myself gutted, mouth agape, glassy eye staring.
In my rooms alone, bed pillow pressed to chest, I hold her,
lost daughter, luminous brown eyes searching mine,
infant fingers finding the heart thread that tethers and
weaves a bond, blossoms into labyrinths of bliss and sorrow.
I nursed her, witnessed her sleepy waking to sensation, delighted in her
glee when she recognized my voice, smell, the rise and fall of my breasts.
She is a specter staring back from mirror eyes,
the ghost that follows in long shadows.
Ajar · Gale Acuff
as usual and as usual found
Mother and Father at the kitchen
table, in old robes and bedroom slippers
and smoking Winstons and slurping Yuban
and waiting for me to go upstairs to
change out of my best and only Sunday
suit into jeans and a tee and tennis
shoes, then come down to fix their lunch and my
own while I was at it but instead I
crossed them up because when I got changed I
slipped outside my attic window and down
the ancient kudzu to the ground and lit
out for church again just to see what God
and Jesus and I guess the Holy Ghost
as well do when nobody's around and
if I could catch any of Them inside
our portable classroom building and sure
enough I peeked through the door – ajar – who
forgot to close and lock it, Miss Hooker
our teacher? and what did I see there in
the dark, darkness that comes only when day's
past lunch and napping through the afternoon,
the sun still high but not so high it lights
the rest of the day as it does morning
but myself, up front in Miss Hooker's chair
or was it just the hymnals stacked as high as
I am tall? Not that I am. But who is?
Bathtub Marys · Catherine Fahey
Our Lady of Highland Ave
Our Lady of Off-Street Parking
Our Lady with the Garden Gnome
Our Lady Music of the Squares
Our Lady of Late Night Burritos
Our Lady Comfort at the Bus Stop
Our Lady of Townies
Our Lady of Hipsters
Our Lady For and Against Urban Renewal
Our Lady Help of Sublets
Our Lady of Our Grandmothers
Our Lady, replaced with an Orisha
Our Lady Queen of Coffee Shops
Our Lady Star of the Bike Path
The Park · Gloria Monaghan
How many cats have trailed through
Victory Garden · Gloria Monaghan
falls malignant upon our shoulders
and we swear it will never happen again.
All that we begrudge
fits into a cat’s paw.
Absent · Antoni Ooto
ribbons forming in a field
after seasons had their way.
I notice the farmer and tractor,
a familiar couple staring
at the furrows…
he so still.
That’s where this poem begins.
A person does what needs doing
and so must I.
I saw it clearly
turning homeward without you.
Dream Sequence · Zofia Provizer
especially on Tuesdays.
I’m not sure what the population average is, but that feels like it could be too many.
The last one was life before death, life before control, контроль, my wings spread against the underside of my belly. There was something in my hands. It could have been a vibrator, or a pair of scissors, or a phone charger. I can’t remember the way I want to. I was on my dorm room bed, but it had become a California King and was floating on top of water so clean that I forgot the way things slip off alone to die. I saw huge, white pillars in the distance, past my unseasoned fireplace and the smell of chlorine. You, on a plastic raft in a sheer pink overcoat, covering a rose-colored slip dress.
You were spilling water from your soft mouth.
I pulled at the skin over the top of my knuckles, dying to stretch my bones out to reach the spit at the end of your chin. When I finally caught up to you my cell phone lost service. You were pouring a bottle of shampoo onto the marble ocean floor. I pulled us both under, bubbles and all. You didn’t even look surprised. I clung to your calf, trying to lay us under the water with our eyes open, staring up at the surface.
Last night, even with your hair touching the top of your shoulders, you still would not look at me. I tilted my head against its will, checking you out, and the way you sat with your legs crossed and eyes closed. I am the missed beat. All you did was pay attention to another girl.
I cried on my way down the ski slopes. I was desperate to tell the instructor that my heart was broken, that I had become a ghost in your black eyes, maybe even less than that. I tried to cleanse myself in the bathtub, but your dead dog was laying in the way. I felt too guilty to step over her even though my body was dripping with grease.
Far Outside, Into the Night · D. M. Kerr
You have broken something out of me, I said. You have drawn me far outside, into the night.
She smiled, and her dark blue eyes turned as soft as dusk. I do love being loved, she whispered, and turned her face toward the window.
I leave you your weakness, I said. You honoured me to see it.
She did not reply.
And – she has risen from the bed. She stands by the door. She says something I will not hear.
Is this what leaving looks like?
I choose what I have chosen, she says. Even if I do it for the wrong reason.
What stick have I left with which to beat this? You have taken it! I cry – but I catch the lie before it leaves my tongue.
I have lain down all my sticks. I cannot blame her for taking any.
She came back once for her gloves, once more for her book of secrets, but she did not come back again.
Dark covers me now. I have turned off the lights. My thoughts swell against the ceiling like reflections of a moonlit sea.
You have led me far outside into the night, I say.
And the ceiling whispers back: wait.
For what can I wait? I have nothing left of hers.
The silence, when the reflections had faded, whispers once more: wait.
I wait. Sometimes I get up from my bed to stand by the window. But mostly now I sleep, and wait.
What have I to do but this?