issue 8 · summer 2019
Wait · Alan Halford
For grass to grow along the path
To make soft my crawl,
Lessen the dust in my mouth,
Pain in my legs, rain drowning my voice.
I will wait for the sun to make it pleasant.
So I can whistle and stand high,
Pretending flowers heard no cry
Or saw the pain that stung my eyes.
I have borne the cold of being alone.
Longed for the perfume you brought to my life
Whisper your name at the lonely end of the night.
I will wait for summer to make things right.
Cold Beer — Cheap Rooms · James Duncan
Every love once knew an ocean view, remembered in times of death and sorrow. Those moments are overlooked when ankle-deep in the lapping waves. We stared out into a dark eastern horizon, smelling fried dough but not quite able to hear the carousel yet. Quiet here, couples and small families with well-behaved children – we’d find the riot closer to the lights, screaming haranguing Americana with lobster hoodies and flip flops looking for sugar and cheap thrills.
We decided to find a café away from the tourists if we could and walked the streets of the coastal town, picket fences, Buicks in driveways, those yellow tufts of tall grass that sway on Atlantic winds, chipped B&B signage reading cold beer – cheap rooms, cracked pavement from hard winters. We ate oysters by candlelight and paid Manhattan prices but we didn’t mind. The fried oddities and sugar-spun delights would come later. She held my hand for the first time in three months as we walked north to the sound of tilt-a-whirl laughter in the distance.
We joined the pier alight with the fire of human entertainment as explosions pierced the sky. There’s a pause where everyone looks up, then goes about what they were doing, but some stay and watch. Fifteen minutes of red, green, blue, white, the impact of sound against my chest. We lost games and ate more, and I indulged myself in a beer by her grace, as she never drank but allowed it on special occasion. We took the beach on the way back, people still out on towels and bouncing balls back and forth in the darkness, lit shadow-orange by the towering rides behind us. The sand mosquitoes ravaged us. We ravaged each other. The sheets were smooth and warm with our bodies wrapped up and our heads buried into pillows, breathing each other in the coastal air.
The day comes when boarded windows sleep those memories away, the pier hunched against the tidal wail and winter maw, the drinks gone, the people gone, fled to places where ships do not sink. Some catastrophes are inescapable. On death beds and floors of sorrow you will remember the heat and lights, the cold beer and the cheap rooms of love blind to a future without. Easily overlooked. Not so easily forgotten.
Bubbles · Roberta Gould
to the top of the glass
those eager bubbles
A monster swallows them whole
bursting not seen
gas their new substance
what crosses membranes
gives a little “ping” to life
before the belch
before the thirst begins again
Intent · Roberta Gould
as making a bomb
Nothing could stop her on her knees
searching beneath the refrigerator
for the pin that had been swept under
Concentration of a cat!
Persistence of an ant carrying a ton on its back
Is this what one does with a life, someone asked
an hour devoted to finding nothing
Just to meet the challenge
fail with awareness
And to stop, ready for the next round of time
Men Who Are Afraid of Bats · Jennifer Martelli
. . . . it kills me when I think about it. The black leather gloves
and all cuts, all through the gloves on both her hands . . . .
– Sophia Farrar
D.H. Lawrence described the bats
in Pisa, Italy,
as serrated wings against the sky,
Like a glove,
a black glove thrown up at the light . . . .
He called the flight of bats
Dark air life looping and confused them
for a flight of swallows
in the Italian dusk. He feared them, too,
those old rags. Sophia
yelled to the neighbor peeking through the slit
in his apartment door for a towel, Karl, please,
for the blood
from the torn open cuts.
She was my friend
and I knew she was hurt
that was my reason for flying . . . .
At the Plaza de Sante Croce · Jennifer Martelli
indigo against the basilica’s terra cotta facade.
Before I could enter the cathedral, I had to buy a blue
paper shawl to cover my bare shoulders:
my left blade with its one-ink tattoo of a bass clef, the right,
the dark still face of Kitty Genovese.
The lady said to save the shawl for all the churches in Italy.
For one euro, I was winged and God wasn’t offended.
Growing Up in the Desert in the Age of Water Coolers · Melissa Rendlen
fried an egg on a car hood.
Humidity crept up,
made water coolers useless,
homes turned to saunas.
Two weeks in August,
a trip to the Pacific,
a motel near the beach.
Our car un-airconditioned,
we were put to bed at eight,
asleep by midnight, up at three,
a pre dawn trek across the desert.
My brother and I bundled
in the back seat,
Our old Pontiac crept
through the dark desert,
the sky filled with the milky way.
We made our way up mountain passes
strewn with boulders,
then down to the Colorado.
We reached Needles at dawn
in time for gas and breakfast,
sleep forgotten, replaced
the smell of the ocean,
then a beautiful sunlit blue
sparkled to the horizon.
Over days I became
the crash of waves,
the salt, the water,
A Quiet Life · Robert Carr II
cranky crows are first cry.
The world reveals it has a shape,
things to land on. Light sharpens
vinyl edges of bedroom
shades. Robins take up teaching
from their chalkboard. I want
to rip formulas from red
throats as they wake classrooms
of chickadee and sparrow.
Crows · William Kemmett
can teach a crow to talk by
splitting his tongue and he
will never curse in fear of
you. He will eat little and
cost you nothing. Furthermore;
he will not pluck at his feathers
like an angry parrot or spit vomit
at you like a vulture.
Why not then have a pet crow?
Because they will grip your shoulder
like an eagle and crap all over
your shirt. They live forever and
speak in the tongue of no known
faith. Though they are countless,
a funeral of crows is for the one
that is taken.
Frightening Toys · Alan Catlin
are the worst
The silver keys
that always break
when you turned
The doll they’d
animated all clacking
jaws and rolling eyes
Such a fearsome
The whole house
suffers with it
begins to gyrate
rotates on an
Where we go
from here is
beyond the realm
Trailing Her Die · David P. Miller
Tower Street, thirty degrees sharp.
Climb to Forest Hills Cemetery’s
side iron gate. Diagonal neighborhood:
funeral parlor roots the ascent’s first steps.
German shepherd, watches me, wary,
as her master phones in a ruptured pipe.
A home with two wooden emblems:
butterflies underscore Welcome,
sunburst adorns No Trespassing.
The street opens to stillness of pines,
unnamed puddingstone monuments.
Into the files of slabs and inscriptions,
I’m trailing her die. She an eminent
permanent resident, my map marks the route
to her family stone and all the way back.
No one is here. Scuff the new snow, track toward
Summit Avenue. The silence of near-arrival
replaced by traffic’s hiss. Winter’s first fall:
a slide and topple. I curse and mutter myself
to my feet, look for a tomb topped with detritus.
Her name surmounted with acorns, twigs.
Pheasant feather. Metal cufflink. Two red pebbles
with white paint mottoes: Communication
says one, the other effaced but for — r — .
Brown roses wrapped in cracked plastic
next to her footstone.
Return to the gate, past the chapel. I heard
a poet there eff her out loud, her suicide,
the horse she rode in on. Two more inattentive
collapses. Descending, the shepherd now placid,
her master holds palaver with a deliveryman.
At the busway, a step into Spanish palabras.
A girl carries a fragile collage,
six blue feathers and tissue,
across puddles and aboard to her seat.
For Anne Sexton
Someone Else’s Daughter · David P. Miller
or now as it moves it hurries, gains trackage
per moment. Your torso ticks left.
You put yourself upright. You can do this
with your eyes closed. Or the other way:
it slows to cover less ground per inbreath,
per outbreath. So your torso ticks right
on the metallic cloth seat. You right yourself
again and your head points to noon.
It’s half past five and your eyes were open
all day. The car was yours alone when
you sat down, let your lids fall.
The same train on the same rail
enters the same tunnel. Two faithful
train-on-track tones: the upper
thickens as tunnel walls resound
overtones against the body. Remember
how your dog always sat up when the Rambler
slowed, two turns before the house?
The train returns to open air and you rise,
open eyes, the dog coming home.
Two sandals on the floor with feet in them.
Skinny legs in cutoffs. The torso and arms
of a teenage girl. So now two people
in the car. Her face, cheeks glazed
with salt water. Her soundless shudders.
She pulls her eyebrows together
at the folded tissues from your pocket,
offered to someone else’s daughter.
It’s OK, they’re clean.
The same arriving bell. The same
open-door thunk. The same car
with a new solitary occupant.
Willow Harvest · Tohm Bakelas
the fog is thicker when the moon is full
the harvested willow was crafted into furniture
by patient’s seeking recovery.
today there is no more harvesting
there is no more crafting
the fog remains
it is thick.
the souls of the dead
roam amongst the willow
harvesting no more.
Naked on Easter Sunday · Pamela Miller
Mistranslated from Anna Akhmatova
Yes, it’s unbecoming to primp one’s own oxygen
but oh, my oblivious nerves!
Pablo, I laugh at your party hat,
your kleptocracy peeking through the eyes
of the not yet born.
Flocks of annoying pelicans,
four tons of crinoline from Ghana –
nix, no thanks, ptooey! I prefer Mexico
where I can soak my kneeknobs in the ocean.
That’s where Alonso popped the question:
“Come home with me, nymph of Ohio!
Tomato of the anonymous moon,
elope with me and my famous bones.”
I retorted: “Wait a minute, WAIT A MINUTE!
You’re too toxic for my toboggan.”
It’s Easter and I’m naked.
Baryshnikov trembles in my palm.
Thank you, darling Balthazar,
for cranking up my push-pull heart.
I’m the cluster bomb who loves you like no other.
Stuck at Atlanta Airport or what we did for our 17th anniversary · Lori Desrosiers
Airport morning at 2am with the news on one screen and Chuck Mangione (or an imitator’s) saxophone crooning on the other. The florescent lights are always on, an orange-vested cop rolls by on a segue, looking up like it’s no big deal. Another worker rides the floor-buffing machine across the tile. My husband is lying on the blue rug with my jacket and sweater under his head. I sit Shiva, mourning the hotel that was overbooked, the lost day of vacation, trying not to imagine the long hold with Priceline tomorrow to try to get our non-refundable reservation refunded. This means we bought and payed for the room, but the hotel didn’t actually have a room for us. Apparently, this happens all the time.
We have spent hours getting here, storms forcing our plane to reroute to Charlotte, refuel and turn around. We are not yet at our final destination, Jacksonville, Florida. The soonest flight is tomorrow morning. We were the only people at security at 1:30am, my briefcase rattling the rollers on the belt. Another worker vacuums enthusiastically beneath each chair. She is heading our way. She may ask us to move. She may not. I wouldn’t. I realize after ten minutes the song is the same one, repeated over and over. The news is familiar, I try to block out CNN, repeating the same three stories all night. Five more hours until boarding.
Older Boys · Mela Blust
sometimes evoking commentary
what I wouldn't give to disappear into
there are two fresh buds that
act of their own accord
regret comes in waves but
popularity is a hungry mouth
that finds me sucking something I never wanted
Some Musings on the Sons of God · Ann Gamble
Deafness to the clamor—
“Can we buy this?”
“Can I get out now?”—
I steer the wigglers
through crowded aisles
to the next item on the list.
But then the eldest exclaimed,
The hole in my shorts is big enough to fit my penis through!”
So I looked.
And lo and behold,
Of course it was Wal-Mart’s busiest hour of the week.
Of course the woman walking by at that moment
was wearing a T-shirt that read
“What Would Jesus Do?”
Snatch a pair of shorts (not on the list) from the rack we were passing
(coincidence, or proof of the existence of God)
A deep breath (or is that Buddha).
What would Jesus do?
What would Jesus’s mother do?
The carols say that the baby Jesus did not cry.
Did the child Jesus climb on the furniture? Dawdle?
Sing a song forty times while the Mother of God cooked dinner?
Did he stick up for the kid that the other kids picked on?
“Your friend Jesus shares his toys!”
Did the young Jesus test the size of every hole?
(Did the Blessed Mother mend his clothes right away?
Could She get stains out?)
Was he vocal at mealtimes? “What? Falafel again?”
My kids play super hero, and I picture them on a dusty desert street.
Cool Slim, Circular Saw, and Jesus the Kid
lean on the railings of the boardwalk.
They speak politely to the ladies pushing strollers,
chew on blades of grass.
Slim spots a bicycle thief, and he and Circ vault the railing,
run the guy down before he can ride away.
The Kid picks up the broken lock and lectures the would-be crook:
“How would you feel if someone took your bicycle?”
Another victory for the forces of good.
tartarus · tree riesener
not asphodel not for you
slammed into a truckload lost souls all
on that brightly lit bumper-to-bumper off-the-map road
headed to the hell within hell
you heard the man in red tell
not mormon hell catholic hell protestant hell
not even dante hell
US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility hell
under the oceans black roots reaching down into darkness
waiting for you
demons elementary school bullies fraternity rapists
graduates of abu ghraib
souls too evil for purgatory
as each transport arrives
the rocky labyrinth grows longer and wider
twisting over the rocky ground
a gordian knot too hard for any sword
triple walls topped with fire wire
surrounded by roaring a flaming river
fed by the tributaries
sorrow lamentation oblivion hate
fifty gaping black jaws
strip you of belongings clothes and flesh
shredded along with flesh sleep and guilty joys
what is left
grief anxiety disease fear hunger death agony
presiding over all in your nightmares in your dreams
tisiphone in her blood-wet dress
sleepless at the top of the iron turret
waiting snapping her whistling lead-tipped whip
How the Conquerors Settled · Gary Metras
Athens’s Archeological Museum
It is well known the Romans coveted
the bodies of Greek statues, the way a discus
thrower’s carved back bulges and sways
against the immovable horizon, the soft
curve of Aphrodite’s marble breasts, her dress
rippling to stone toes about to lift in dance,
but mostly they envied the grace of shoulders,
of buttocks soothing the ragged hills and
the rigid columns as the unforgiving summer
sun was leached of its harshness
by holy arm and calf muscles shadowed
on the parched ground, so that, as victors
settling into the next Hellenic city,
they removed the Greek heads and set atop
those worthy necks the stony brows of
Caesars and Hadrians, masters of all,
as long as they could conquer a body
to mount their ambitions on.
Neighborhood Run, Outskirts of Oaxaca · Robert Stout
panting. A ragged rooster yattered
what could have been a warning – or command.
Just beyond the uphill curve a scream
and wads of spark-strewn smoke. Deep breath
then running: Grass and weeds aflame,
a tripod overturned, hot coals crackling;
toddler, shirtless, barefoot, kicking dirt
against the burning; a woman, long hair swirling
past her features whacking with a blanket,
screaming admonitions. He seesawed
the loosely wired fence, a dog lunged
towards him barking, the woman shouted
and the dog hunched growling as he joined
their stomping out the crackling flames.
On hands and knees the woman
and the toddler searched and plucked up
scraps of pork rind they’d been frying,
scooped hot coals into a dented
cooking pan. He backed away and the dog
followed, nipping plastic from his running
shoe as he re-climbed the fence.
Sea Smoke / Euphemisms · Kelly R. Samuels
Though deep, deeper than any fresh water we know of,
still not deep as.
Nor smoke, no. Not that which catches in the lungs and
burns our eyes. That smote we try to rub out, looking petulant
& sullen as we used to.
Why call what isn’t this? Wish?
Far from salty basin, dreams? And from what only
wets our skin and dries – does not remain, pungent, in our hair, that
smell of wood fire that brings us back to something:
the blackening of marshmallow, pop & hiss.
You say, He passed away last winter.
When the ground was too frozen to dig and he had to wait, or:
his body had to wait to be placed there.
And there was no closure for you until.
You say, She fell off the back of a truck.
When she’s not there with you at the dinner party
where the seat to your left remains empty and the host
hurriedly removes the plate & the knife & the fork &
the spoon and, lastly, the napkin, white as fresh snow.
This – what they call sea smoke – is filmed in this season,
curling & retreating from shore, light banking and then
splintering and then
blinding from behind.
Carwash · Brad Rose
with an empathy so fatal #40 · Darrren C. Demaree
as a mirror