Stanley Kaplan has published poetry in a number of journals, including Onthebus, Midstream, Chiron Review, Ragazine, Mobius and Quiet Courage
with others forthcoming. He lives in New York City where he paints as well as writes. He is the recipient of a Pollack- Krasner Foundation grant.
His paintings can be seen on their web site, pkf.org.
PRAM TO PRANK
A big ado admonish. Confess you threw the confetti.
You, a trobriander trudged to school.
Scout, scramble, forget everything, because your
potluck life ran from pram to prank. Your opera is
QUINTET IN QUARTER NOTES
Good and Plenty consecrated her quintet in quarter notes. The atonality quibbled with every
quick shift while she shunted two parts together. Drinking port, she shoveled note upon note.
Shrapnel sounds, musical tidbits discharged into the air, stunned and clattered.The harmonious
clink clenched and called us home.
Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published sixteen books, including Our Hero in the Cradle of Confederation (Novel, Pottersfield Press), Disturbing Identities (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), An Affection for Precipices (Poetry, Serengeti Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), and Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies internationally, and over forty of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.
Time Travel and Praying
Tiring of time travel
despairing of praying
on a day with little wisdom
yet clouds as perfectly shaped
as ancient guilt and future regret
a nondescript theologian ponders
the perplexing differences between
deterministic and nondeterminstic
existence and nonexistence
sense and nonsense
when a sudden vision of an airbrushed Hell
disrupts the pondering
then the nondescript theologian
rushes to an intersection
strangled with tourists and shoppers
crazed supplicants and childish devotees
the now disrupted nondescript theologian
does an awkward yet elaborate dance
in front of the gathered crowd
no applause, little questioning
goes home crestfallen and stares into
a mirror, repeatedly replaced
broken too many times to count
seven years times seven years
times seven years or more bad luck
and resumes both time travel
and praying simultaneously.
Pretend You Are Not Pretending
a slight noise, a quiver of light,
you are stopped in the street
nothing sinister you can readily define
their uniforms are without insignias
or adornment whatsoever
simply freshly laundered uniforms
the colour of old photographs
yet you are frightened
for a response is required
a measurement of your life’s worth
details from the last year or two
of sleight of hand and artifice
you fear the evaluation
but silence is an even deeper denial
to last another night
to be allowed to walk away
as if nothing had happened
as if there is no distant or near past
as if words can escort you to safety
you concoct a life with some substance
hope your breaths shimmer something memorable
argue your scream has import
rationalize your departure as for the best
pretend you are not pretending
I Intend to Dream Another Captivity
The two interrogators jostled for position
like two old-time comics trying to save their careers
all over who would in what order
ask me questions that were
more circuitous than a perfect maze
more convoluted than an imperfect prayer.
First the one then the second
you’ll never see your loved ones again,
their threats copycat clichés.
The old-time comics become shoddy B-movie actors
mangling their lines, getting the accents wrong
like winter weather in the middle of summer:
Why are you here?
Where are your papers?
Who sent you?
I stopped listening
be they comedians or inept actors
I had other images to contemplate
another life to invent
besides, I intend to dream
this one is more tedious
than even the last.
Scott likes to fly airplanes, ride motorcycles, and drive just about anything with four wheels. He's just finished reading the Eragon series and is looking forward to his next reading adventure. His latest training article on how to improve your short and soft-field takeoffs appeared in the January issue of Flight Training magazine. He's currently writing a short film inspired by a blind date.
for not waking you
when I left
I didn't know
were still upset
just the way
you like it
It's snowing here in Harrisburg
It's time for me to leave
Packed my dreams and happiness
Left with nothing to believe
I took the train to nowhere
Tried but couldn't reach the clouds
I wish I had a warm coat
I'm a sucker for big crowds
It's a cold night in Harrisburg
I need my bleached brown gloves
Share a coffee with a stranger
And kiss the woman I love
The boy's fallen to his knees
I'd wake him up if I could
Such perfect purple snowflakes
What would you change if you could?
I need a cold drink and a hot night
Been snowing since the clock struck midnight
Packing my bags and leaving this town
I think tonight I'll put the top down
Boys and Girls
The young boy dreamed of girls and sports
Though not always in that order
After school he played basketball with friends
and kissed a girl while playing pretend
In class his eyes followed her close,
speaking to her only when spoken to.
Her black hair covered her soft, pale face.
He longed to play pretend with her.
He watched her from his window next door
as she picked flowers with her friends.
He'd shoot hoops, stripping his shirt for
her attention. She never took the bait.
She'd laugh and play with other boys
but paid no attention to him. She'd sit
in the shade of the tall oak tree that
separated their yards, reading stories until
dinner was made.
He didn't read often, partly because he didn't
want to wear glasses that pinched his nose.
That and he never saw her kiss a boy that wore them.
He wrote poetry in school, about love and hope.
But he made the mistake of sharing it
with one of his friends who told him
he didn't want to know about that part of his life.
On the school bus he teased her, taking her flute
and pulling her hair. She slapped him and made fun
of his nose. He taunted her for more. She obliged.
He didn’t go to the prom. She went alone.
After graduation, they never saw each other again.
She married her college sweetheart and read poetry to her son.
Her son didn't like to read. His glasses always pinched his nose.
And he never saw the girl next door kiss a boy that wore them.
A Jealous Look
When I saw
you look at him
I was jealous
and felt alone
looked at me
since we had kids
but I'm witty
Slipping into the darkest hour
Outrun since losing his willpower
Dirt and sand was conquered last
By the boy who forgot the past
Autumn’s sand whistled and raced
Played with ghosts that never chased
Her heart was heavy for a boy
His boxes emptied of their toys
She wanted to inspire him
Names thrown like scattered limbs
She took him to the stars and back
Showed him love when odds were stacked
For this he gave her what she craved
All his dreams forgotten saved
She knew he'd play with her at last
He saw the flicker in his past
She showed him that when darkness falls
It's because his progress stalls
And when he gets back on that horse
His hope and love is reinforced
He feels nothing that can be felt without
That's why his passion must thrash out
So they played together like children do
Not a care in the world to bump into
Cathy Bryant worked as a life model, civil servant and childminder before becoming a professional writer. She has won 22 literary awards, including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize and the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, and her work has appeared in over 200 publications. Cathy's books are 'Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature' and 'Look at All the Women' (poetry), 'How to Win Writing Competitions' (nonfiction) and 'Pride & Regicide - a Mary Bennet Mystery' (a novel). See her listings for cash-strapped writers at www.compsandcalls.com , updated on the first of every month. Cathy lives in Cheshire, UK.
The Huge Paws of Country Fog
It hunts in packs, unseen until it roars
down the hillside, swallows you and kills you.
Today it ate us and the car and all
we could see was a fur of verge and grey
We did actually scream as oily paws
of panther-black fog tumbled over the road,
alive and young and fierce
against the immovable wall of paler mist.
It is unquestionably a living thing.
The car inched forward, terrified, crawling
- we had to speak in soothing voices,
then just touch it with the whip -
whimpering down Winnats Pass, glacier gorge,
to the hopeful village.
We knew it was there all the time,
the place of safety, with kettles
and lights and known roads.
Muffling our minds and scratching our eyes,
though, the fog does not go, not quite
and its feet are not small, but huge
and deadly, until the sunshine comes,
if it does.
Anuja Ghimire is from Kathmandu, Nepal. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and two little children and writes poetry. A Pushcart nominee, she has been published in several literary journals like Red River Review, Shot Glass Journal, Right Hand Pointing, Cyclamens and Swords.
More poems can be found in her blog saffronandsymmetry.tumblr.com
There once lived two sisters
Who loved each other a lot
Prema was under Leela’s wings
Leela was her world
One stormy night,
Leela asked Prema to lock the door
“I did,” said Prema, without checking once more
That's when something unseen had crept in
That's how the wall had cracked
Prema saw the fissure with the light of the dawn
Right where Leela’s shadow began
Every night, Prema fixed the wall
It never seemed whole
Leela saw through the paint, the fingerprints and all
As if the storm brewed again to watch the shadow crawl
Waxwings are crashing on the glass
The fermented stench
Is never a warning enough
They pluck and pluck
Pink stain spreads
On the stuffed beaks and the fluffy cheeks
Like Rorschach’s inkblot
Even forests have open secrets
Songbirds switch lanes sans signals
They don’t sing when they’re high
Sometimes, birds forget how to fly
Waxwings are crashing on the trees
Ethanol crosses the border
The flattened heads
Are never sobering enough
They suck and suck
Red stains spread
Like shadows in the alley
The berries in their beaks
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, and interviews can be found. He is a Best of the Net nominee whose words have appeared recently in venues such as Eunoia Review, Your One Phone Call, Visual Verse, The Literary Nest, and Green Panda Press. Scott's chapbook "Songs of a Dissident" was released in 2015 through Transcendent Zero Press and is available on Amazon.
It’s a bit strange
how the mind works sometimes
Sitting here on the front porch
when for a split second
it feels as if Dad is there
in the chair beside me
and we’re about to discuss
any old thing in the world
But the sensation is gone
as soon as it arrived
and all that remains
is the sad thought
that it has been
nearly two damned years at this point
since the last time we talked
Wind, Rain, Shiver
I don’t always preach about love
because I am not a charlatan
I save such words
for when I truly mean them
Away from the light,
scutter past spiders
to hide in the shadows
where silvery scales
can wait in the bathtub
for the house to fall silent.
Creeping and crawling
while the world is asleep
the pests of the night
head to the bookshelf
for a feast.
With the dawn
in the morning
we are early to rise,
and head to the office
to wake up our minds…
only to find
that the words
which our eyes
seek to read
have been devoured in full
by our foul enemy…
that has slipped away
without a trace,
torn and shredded pages
in its wake –
Love is a spasmodic explosion
Love is a tidal wave of passion
Love is a womb bursting open
Love is a scream across the void
Love is an aching in the bones
Love is a fire deep in the marrow
Love is an agony without satiation
Love is the electric pulse of skin friction
Love is the tip of the tongue tasting center
Love is hot flesh pressed tightly against hot flesh
Love is a stain found between bedsheets
Love is a wild dance in the midnight hour
Love is the first sip of wine in a new day
Love is the seed shooting out its first sprout
Love is the dirt into which roots burrow
Love is the evolutionary fervor of mutating genes
Love is the unstoppable swarm of progressive adaptation
Love is a widow weeping in despair
Love is the sorrow of existential desolation
Love is the pain of seeking perfection
Love is trying again when rejection strikes
Love is the thunderclap of gods in the sky
Love is the rumbling storm of righteousness
Love is a fat wad of cash filling up pockets
Love is a space of shelter in the midst of chaos
Love is the entropy that wails and gnashes
Love is a tooth being cut on hardships
Love is getting back up after failure
Love is the new dawn rising above far horizon
Love is a truth that cannot be rationalized
Love is a force beyond all comprehension
Love is justified violence against atrocity
Love is blood, sweat, sex, cum, and tears
Love is war, baby…
Come and get some –
Craig Kurtz has vexed aesthetic circles since the 1981 release of The Philosophic Collage. Recent work appears in Dalhousie Review, The Madras Mag Anthology of Contemporary Writing, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sheepshead Review, and Tower Poetry; many others would just as soon string him up. He resides at Twin Oaks Intentional Community.
The Levellers’ Song
We are the Levellers
and we have all the answers;
we’re going to liberate people
by making them all miserable;
we’re going to ban all sport and drink
and tell you what to read and think;
all city life is decadent
so we’ll make it non-existent;
we disapprove of theaters,
the beau monde and entrepreneurs;
the mere sight of the town’s smart set
gets us lusting for a gibbet;
we plan to plan human affairs
and kick all dissent down the stairs.
We are the Levellers
and we’ll cure mankind’s errors;
we’ll have nothing but farming toil
and eat raw food drenched in top soil;
because we’ll ban snuff and small beers
we’ll have good health to work more years;
we found the cure for poverty
is making you as poor as we;
we’ll have a state of martial law
to quash all things we call bourgeois;
we all agree with our leader
says me, his top bottom feeder;
and never once will we complain
because the ‘we’ is inhumane.
Honor Among Thieves
A DROLL FROM THE ALCHEMIST
We’re in this all together
‘tho we can’t stand one another;
the pelf is equal, it’s three cuts,
so what we hate each other’s guts;
our reputation’s on the line,
so unionize, or else be swine;
who cares what some novice believes,
team effort makes us better thieves.
Cooperation’s our by-word,
we keeps our flimflams in accord;
fraternity preserves the peace
as we assess fresh gulls to fleece;
we run our gambits by the books
and that’s why we’re such classy crooks;
it’s true we don’t much get along,
but our cartel’s three times as strong.
We’re scrupulous with our ethics,
we’re principled in turning tricks;
we countenance by-laws and rules
for quality-controlling fools;
we certify gyps in escrow
with the better business bureau;
it’s all for one and one for us
with cheats three times as infamous.
We’re not here for a social call,
I’d just as soon poison you all;
but I respect contract and clause,
even skullduggery has laws;
we’ve all got swindles up our sleeves,
yet abide honor among thieves;
although we make each other retch,
tripartite better conies catch.
D.G. Geis divides his time between Houston and the Hill Country of Central Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Houston and a graduate degree in philosophy from California State University. His poetry has appeared in 491 Magazine, Lost Coast, Blue Bonnet Review,The Broadkill Review, A Quiet Courage, SoftBlow International Poetry Journal, Blinders, Burningword Literary Journal, Poetry Scotland (Open Mouse), and Crosswinds, He will be featured in a forthcoming Tupelo Press chapbook anthologizing 9 New Poets and is winner of Blue Bonnet Review's Fall 2015 Poetry Contest.
Tips on how to choose clothing for the deceased.
Something dark is best.
Perhaps a Sunday suit
or formal business attire.
Something you might wear
for a special occasion--
like interviewing for a new job.
Your new position
will require a certain panache.
and a resolute smile
should make a lasting impression
on your new Employer.
Later, as your suit empties
and you fade slowly
into the woodwork,
it will come to you
life’s roots really run--
two of which
are already knocking,
at your new front door.
This Potemkin village barely stands.
Even the slightest breeze shakes its walls.
Look closely and you can see the seams
Where the set designer joined them together.
There are no actors or extras, only half-dressed
Manikins beckoning from storefront windows like
Whores in Amsterdam—and, of course, standing
On the sidewalk, cash in hand, their customers.
Behind the curtain, standing in the wings, is Pinocchio,
Nose sharpened into a pencil, palms open, moving
Now to center stage, eyes on the audience, back to his
Maker, waiting for the first tug of the strings that will
Move his enormous painted mouth.
Peauladd Huy was born in Phnom Penh. Her latest work, published by Connotation Press: An Online Artifact was nominated for the Sundress "Best of the Net," the Dzanc "Best of the Net," and the Pushcart Prize. And with deep gratitude to Connotation Press she’ll have a book, forthcoming soon.
Think of a river
The water is not named
From every depth it runs
Water is water
The river is not without
Its flow. Its life--
The life of a creature is in the blood
When he enters the water reddens--
You are not wrong: blood is thicker than water,
If permissible, blood can float a river
And what remains
A river are found.
Where I can be of most use?
I can be the pit the rain
Pools after they emptied and filled,
The flood now sits over the rice plains,
The great lake stars
Space like eyes on the moon
Tonight. The moon. The moon
(What can I say?). Sometimes light I can see
Flickering over the water they are watching.
It returns like a missing father. Staggering
Bruised night to night, in various shades of light
Eaten by a monster
Darkness in my nightmares.
And nightmaring (what to say about it):
It is an eye. Opening
The theatrical darkness I’ve entered, not once
Was I permitted to be bored
With his torture, his resourcefulness to disguise
And ambush—the gnat is not always a gnat, the spider,
The web, the young girl looking on the garden
Of white lotuses suddenly turns bone-white
Genocide, those rice fields: when will they stop
This constant façade over these years
Old bones, scaffolding with every intricate
Part I am to them? In this blank space, this vacant dark wall
Spanning a grotesque mirror and its flat face, the moon I see
The children following, me not far, breathless with questions, my mother and her death
Camp of mothers calling here and there: Are they there?
Are they here? in the corner
Back I first did not see. Are they too, they still have hidden in rice
Acreages, I am to appeal for (to poetry of all)?
Now dirty bits broken up and stuck together (they too don’t want
A whole mirror regarding such images distorting their perfect poetry).
So I’m torn once and twice (are we right
Calling on the service of others
To view our deaths?) Once committed; twice visited
(Day and night); and three times I am real
Real is real to disguise
You all amongst night
Trees, blooms as common as rain, flood and fog
Fields, my mind
(You all’s actually) in voices of petals and leaves
Falling, faces cut features—a human collage
Of planetary deaths: can you see
One’s falling dark a million stars are shown?
Naushena is a poet, an early years teacher, a healer and a mother of three. She has been writing poems since her teens about the complexities of life and developed her passion over the years. Besides poetry, she writes essays and fiction too. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Mothers Always Write and is forthcoming in Mamalode.
The Street Lamp Light
At night had you passed by the spot
Hope you could miss it not.
The pole; tall, slender and old
With a belly wrapped in gold.
In winter serving as a lantern
For travelers who to their home return.
Shrouded by a sheet of mist
But she would secretly peep through it.
Few sat studying under the little lamp light
To make their future prosperous and bright.
Few burnt to death at her feet
At last, they had accepted their defeat.
Years passed, seasons went
To give light, she was meant.
Children’s play she had witnessed
Not a sight had she missed.
Now her body has bent low.
No more does she glow
But she’s happy with this even
For she has become, a bird’s haven.
My Shape Poem
They say, may be fifty.
Nay, more. I say. My life’s a book
Zealously preserved with all the events I have seen.
A silent spectator, I have been of travelers, who stood under
My shade in the
Scorching heat when I played with the Sun, hide and seek. Who would
Attempt to cast his rays upon them and I swayed to and fro, to protect them. I was
A home of many birds, a quiet partner of children in their games, their favorite escondite.
My long roots like the golden tresses of a woman were their swings. My coarse trunk, engraved
With the names of lovers, is a testimony of their fleeting love. Here I am alone at the causeway
With open arms. Cut
My boughs to light your
Fire, if you want. After
All, who can burn and
Still give comfort? Here
I stand unreservedly,
To serve and I will, as
Long as I am let by you.
Last time, just last time,
Just tell me that you are sorry.
Sorry for disrespecting me,
For abusing me,
Tarnishing my image.
With both hands, apologize
Say that you should not have insulted me
In front of others.
Last time, confess that you did not regard me
As a selfless soul
Who walked along through thick and thin
When others left.
Who sold her possessions for you
When you possessed nothing.
Last time, just last time
Admit that your words
Pierced through my body
And wounded my soul
Leaving invisible marks
That this self will always behold.
Last time, kneel down and repent
That you killed
My love, my respect
And my compassion for you,
Only then, perhaps,
I may forgive you.
Louis-Daniel Boulanger is a husband, father, professional procrastinator and extremely part-time scribe living just outside Toronto, Canada. Considering Haiku's little word puzzles he spends some insignificant time crafting his own short and sweet confections.
Ed: A collection of (mostly) absurd little haiku’s. Not to be taken seriously.
no sight of nature
resignation settles deep
tradition no more
A form-free Haiku
Both lovely and most absurd
A neat little gift
Nose thumbing at con-vention is a most grati-fying rebellion
Writing haiku's with
five/seven syllable words
trite, mad and sublime
Stunning madness; the
poems hold little meaning-
bring joy nonetheless
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo
LITTLE JOHNNY'S GOT THE BLUES
It's almost midnight.
It's quiet out
but for an oak branch
that taps upon his bedroom window.
From the small radio
plugged to his ear,
a disc jockey, three states away,
spins old southern blues records,
rough and raw, whiskey-stained,
to a white kid in the upper Midwest.
His father's playing poker with his buddies.
His mother's drunk on the couch.
Theirs is a strung out kind of blues.
Not three chords and a growl.
More red faces and raised voices.
Mississippi John Hurt is wailing
"Spike Driver Blues."
In the pain of that leather throat,
a railroad's being built
on the backs of poor black men.
That sounds nothing like
the ache from a belt across the legs...
until, by the second verse, it does.
Nightfall, I'm back
from a jaunt through
the land of the grizzly.
woods have turned black,
mountains melted into sky.
I made noise the whole way
so the bears knew that I was coming.
I saw one in the distance,
drinking at a pond.
I did not go in that direction.
As much as I love nature,
I'm aware that, being human
bestows on me a mental superiority
but not a physical one.
Should one of those great creatures
decide to take me on,
what chance has acuity
against rapacious claws, sharp teeth.
I'm back at my den
turn on all lights,
report to the kitchen
where with a cut of meat,
a slice of bread,
locked doors and windows,
I'm returned temporarily
to the top of the food chain.
My poetry has appeared in a handful of literary journals, including CrossConnect, Epicenter, RiverSedge, the South Carolina Review, the Squaw Valley Review, and the Wisconsin Review. I am the author of Wine Songs, Vinegar Verses and Spring’s Fall (Autumn Numbers, Book I). I am also an alumnus of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.
THE MOST MISTAKEN
Stan called it an accident of God--
“the Most Mistaken Revelation”—this
enhanced determination to subject one’s enemies
to release judgment and to forgive their trespasses
as they trespass on the correct way to grasp and
“The Eleventh Commandment. It’s perverse. A one doesn’t fit
inside a one,” Stan contended as he stripped down and strapped on
his vest of many favors: bulletproof, fireproof,
and a flotation device. It covered an array.
But it couldn’t delay the inevitable.
“Past time to put what’s right right. Even the odd.”
And thus Stan began his war with and for his God,
saving Him, correcting Him, by sacrificing himself
as he set out for his job, maintaining the water park,
at dawn on the day
devoted to Pride.
WHAT MORE IS THERE TO SAY?
It could not be worse
than when he answered
“Favorite fictional character?”
later adding “God,”
and “Satan”—an odd conflation
of artistic cons,
some called it. The Artist who purposely limits
potential influences simply to achieve a pure
and surely limited audience may get a side
effect for his cause: apple-saucy applause,
So many years without one date
can force one’s mind to feed on more than memories
when making queries of history, carried and
left to be parried by future myth-makers tracking
their way back to ruin, then (maybe) reinvent.
“The only fact to leave those not yet born is a warning:
‘The greatest trick Love, hustling, might play is
to make would-be lovers believe It doesn’t exist, save
as a joke, a gas, the ghost of a pact between deities
who divorced on an orchard’s stage.’
“Can you imagine a situation where the population regards Love
as nothing more than a minor character in a fantasy?”
TO BREAK A WORLD
Mary, mirror your lover’s error;
pass the lipless kiss, Word
without letters, to flow,
sowing waves—no sound,
dry witness, no bounds--
Imagine the blue mute Singer,
her green seeds growing
a dirty ditty in all
willing and open to cut
but immaterial cords.
Stephen Regan’s poems have appeared in: Envoi; Killing the Angel, Provo Canyon Review, Reach Poetry, and the Best of Manchester Poets anthology. His poem ‘Red-bricked’ is part of a permanent art exhibition at Wigan Wallgate railway station in Lancashire. He’s the founder of the Liver Bards poetry group in Liverpool.
Bright and earnest
He comes to the stand
proud of his leaflet;
invites us to admire
the glossy thing,
It outlines a ‘radical
new service delivery,
now gaining support’.
Can’t speak for the rest
but I’m not impressed
and my face shows it.
I shouldn’t be here
among these PR tarts.
I shouldn’t work in PR;
can’t admire on request;
can’t get excited about
leaflets – or PowerPoint.
My authentic distain
is out of place among
the stretchers of truth
and reality. Wan smiles
flash around as the leaflet
passes its test.
The bright and earnest
one insists his glossy
the way we do things
going forward’. I don’t
want to go forward.
I don’t want to be here.
Give, smile, lie
Go and give that man some money,
commanded Mum, pointing
across the way to a beggar.
We’d been watching him
while on a fag break from our
Mothering Sunday lunch in Manchester.
I’d taken Mum to the expensive
restaurant. She spotted
the ragged man and felt compassion.
She can barely walk, so asked me
to cross the street and give alms to he
sat on the pavement, smoking.
I fumbled for two quid, handed it over.
There was a pause. I passed him
a cigarette and proffered my hand.
He took the fag, tucked it behind
his ear. We shook hands, fairly normally,
then he stared up at me – harshly.
I must have seemed distracted to him.
Well, I was distracted and confused
for most of that year. The man said,
Look me in the eye if you shake my hand.
That shocked me. I clasped
his palm again, made eye contact.
I’m always prepared to look someone
in the eye, I said. I walked back to Mum.
She said, thanks love. What did he say
to you, that man? I looked at Mum,
not quite in the eye. I told her,
he just said thanks for the money.
She smiled at my lie. Mothers know how
to smile at lies. They get much practice.
It was from the beginning
uncomfortable being human;
being the beings between
the angels and the beasts.
We factored in gods
and moral law,
emanating from the ineffable,
interpreted by the f-able.
Make that work and survive!
We did, with big casualties
and many paradoxes,
including this …
to achieve peace and justice,
lasting long enough to be
worth the effort,
we sometimes had to go
Glad I mentioned justice.
It’s arguably more important than equality
in these revolutionary times,
as in earlier ones.
Try to enforce equality
among humans and de facto
you impose injustice.
Ask the libertarian socialists
about that. They’ll have many opinions
and arguments about it.
And look back; it’s always wise to do so,
even for revolutionaries.
We’ve survived so far under strong chieftains
and /or ethically-justified laws. In the West
it worked like this, theoretically;
we lived and died in freedom,
under the law, within nations.
I know, I know! We need to change
the paradigm and the power dime.
In the Year of Our Lord 2016
we can’t go on like this.
Oh God! I’ve mentioned Our Lord.
Well, I can’t help it; once a Catholic
and all that, and besides …
revolutionaries are in favour now,
and Jesus was one, and much more,
arguably, regarding the destiny
In this revolutionary era
‘arguably’ will be often said.
There will be no consensus.
Cilmate crises, capitalism, military suppression,
twisted faiths, widespread worship of the self,
and Evil emboldened to promenade –
it’s all in the mix with clamorous expression
of support for revolutionary impulses,
given by ‘The People’ digitally –
intemperate, hate-filled and stupid
most of it, as you expect
from social media.
Where will the revolutions lead to?
A new dawn? Apocalypse?
Rescue by intelligent extraterrestrials?
It’s hard to judge but doubtless
the arguments will
The dynamic of my love
Thought of her, smell of her,
sight of her, rooted for life.
Seeing her eye,
all that’s human in me
down from vision to throat,
down, down, flooding.
Her always, moving in me,
All I am,
Thea Schiller, a Long Islander from New York, holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from The City University of New York, and an MS in counseling from Western Connecticut State University. For over two decades she spent her summers abroad in France with her late husband and daughter. She is the Orchard Prize winner for her poem, "Sarah" published in Furrow, University of Wisconsin, and has been published in other University literary presses. Currently, she lives in Westchester, practices psychotherapy in Connecticut and is writing her first novel.
There is “No Exit.”
Two morning doves defy winter.
The son turns East on the icy branch and prays.
The mother bird puffs up her beige chest one last time;
God’s flakes fall full and translucent.
Crystal diamonds open up the promise of world
Beyond isolation into memory.
Hope expands past personal stores into Kingdom,
Beyond Sartre and literature
To find entrance.
Christina Murphy’s poetry is an exploration of consciousness as subjective experience, and her poems appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including, PANK, Dali’s Lovechild, and Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, and the anthologies From the Roaring Deep: A Devotional in Honor of Poseidon and the Spirits of the Sea, The Great Gatsby Anthology, Let the Sea Find Its Edges, and Remaking Moby-Dick. Her work has been nominated multiples times for the Pushcart Prize and for the Best of the Net anthology.
Before There Were Rebels
Before there were rebels, there were prodigals;
before there were prodigals, there were fathers;
before there were fathers, there was God.
Perhaps. Or maybe God was a conventionalist,
not a prodigal, or a rebel, and only peripherally a father.
Deciphering is the key because there is no way to know.
So the mind plays with logic and the heart plays with need,
and any of the three will work depending upon how it is
one needs to see or understand stability or chaos.
God the conventionalist would have created out of duty
God the rebel would have created out of spite
God the prodigal would have created to re-create a lost unity
Seeing God as the conventionalist, it is easy to praise
God’s work ethic. A lot was accomplished—beyond
perhaps even God’s expectations
Seeing God as the rebel gives one sympathy for those
who feel angry at being in someone else’s world
on someone else’s terms
Seeing God as the prodigal makes one aware of
transgressions and the desire to make amends by
replacing a broken trust with a new world of second chances
Seeing God as God lacks the human touch, which might
be fine with God, but is too limiting for humans,
who might wish to think of God as one of their own
So perhaps God was none of these but just a child
seeking to play in a world of no playmates,
in a vast darkness before the Let there be light
And God the child was a visionary, and the ideas became
visions, which became the three-dimensional forms
that humans came to know as reality
Ah, the prodigal plays, the rebel fantasizes,
and God the child mourns for companionship
equal to God the child’s abilities and interests
And everywhere, the Universe mourns for lack
a North-Star God who is centered within
the darkness and defined by light
The world is a dream of perfection that falls
from grace in every pensive moment
of a human or God-like heart
Rebel on, oh God, while prodigals you have created
look for the way home in the bittersweet melancholy
of stepping stones into stillness
Yuxing Xia is an author and poet who has been published in 10 different countries in journals and magazines such as Society of Classical Poets, Strong Verse, and many others. He hopes to retire to an ostrich farm.
Within the crest of a lasting rain,
I held an umbrella hostage for a friend.
I stood wide-eyed for several hours,
waiting for a shadowy figure to emerge
and greet me with a sigh of relief.
I wondered if I (or my friend?)
was at the wrong spot and we wasted
time waiting for each other to reach
the other, only to find ourselves
lost inside the labyrinthine self.
Take a spin around the block
and let me know if you like the new car
because it’s your birthday and I wanted
to give you that pickup truck.
Run through some mud and a few mail boxes,
go opposite the one-way lanes and I will follow
the trail of twigs and leftover paint to your home.
As I savor this moment in the back seat,
we will make new memories along the highways
and floating dust, speeding under the cover
of moonlight and bumper stickers.
The moments we sacrifice
along the journey of increasing velocity
will not be lost once the brakes break.
Legions of time couldn’t fall
when we crossed the colored seas,
sailing with a creaky boat. Our heads
were raised above the mast
with salty air swelling our faces.
We could twist that old raft
in whichever direction we wanted
jumping up and down.
And the wear in the rudder
was telling of our clumsiness.
We knew the first sliver of land
was going to be cooked and eaten,
then stepped on and colonized.
Deborah Rocheleau is an English major, Chinese minor, and all-around language fanatic. Her writing has been published by Tin House, 100 Word Story, Flights, and Thema, among others. She is currently writing her third contemporary young adult novel.
Waiting for the elevator to the Washington Monument
our tour guide informed us the structure is free-standing
No mortar holds all those marble blocks in place
but their weight alone anchors them to the Earth.
No nails were used
an architectural trait it shares with the Japanese pagoda
made not with stones like their Chinese equivalents,
but wood, paper, earthen tiles
and a heavy central mast, the shinbashira
that keeps the building upright through an earthquake
weathering a natural disaster
better than the Washington Monument.
The day after our trip up the Monument,
an earthquake rattled the Capitol
sending a crack down through the free-standing stones of the obelisk
like the mark from a bolt of lightning when it kisses the top
of a stripped, branchless, cypress tree.
Although pagodas withstand the earthquakes
inevitable in Japan
random lightning strikes
are claiming them
at a time.
Fabiyas M V is a writer from Orumanayur village in Kerala, India. He is the author of Moonlight and Solitude. His fiction and poems have appeared in Westerly, Forward Poetry, Literary The Hatchet, Rathalla Review, Off the Coast, Structo, and in several anthologies. He won many international accolades including the Poetry Soup International Award, USA , the RSPCA Pet Poetry Prize, UK, and Merseyside at War Poetry Award from Liverpool John Moores University, UK. His poems have been broadcast on the All India Radio.
The Lunatic Holy Man
Hole in the ozone layer
of his sense increases.
He mutters to the tomb
of his father, while
flash on his face.
A hundred fools
watch him with awe.
they chant holy verses.
He has a big
formed from offerings.
He heals the insane,
patting on their crests
or tying black cords
around their waists.
There’s a panacea
for peace for many
in his absurd mantras.
He became a holy man
after his dad’s death
with the privilege of birth.
Lunacy adds charm
to his character.
a friend to folly.
Even the distant mother
comes with her daughter
for a cure.
There’s a relief in belief.
It wasn’t monsoon
but toxic rain.
in the doldrums.
Her head bloated,
brain turned barren.
Her body curved
as a cashew nut.
Her legs and arms
Aches and anxieties
in the cashew farm.
Sad sap oozes
out of her mouth.
Her doll lies dead.
Now she isn’t a girl
but a remnant
on an empty mat.
(Endosulfan is a deadly insecticide.)
James Croal Jackson lives in Columbus, Ohio. He spent a few years in Los Angeles working in the film industry, but now he releases electronic rap albums under the pseudonym 'Layzerus'. You can find some of his poems at jimjakk.com.
For two weeks I bathed deep in the sweat of whiskey.
Submerged vocals yawed to 3am caresses together, together.
The silken bed turns itself over, its base an earthquake.
Listerine breath hurls to vortex the two years of refraining
from the holy riptide– how its arms reach
and withdraw, reach and withdraw.
You would drown in the salt of married shells,
sheathe your crackled forearm in the tide's tattoo.
You would let it embrace and clear
your pearls. Thus begins the tide anew.
The Photograph Was a Drunken Winter
slackened falls into chaos: each plod
a sobering imprint on snow
buzzing cavernous hearts
white honey swathes the air
the dewdrop pale of her shirt, arms curved
from the door in bent-seven candles, icicled
waxen breath hissing this
is the moment sculptured to ice:
a future with gluey trees barren at night,
tongues born licking telephone poles
static moments stretched to angel hair
feel like rare dreams caught in dim light
in the vacant living room
our packed boxes never touched,
black mold assumes the ceiling fan.
it awakens every morning
wanting to spin,
to slice into the air
with its fine blades
a surgery of breathing
and the chest waits
for your steady palm
those numb nights,
when our billowed heat
cooled our voluminous bits
We were the hardwood floor. Cold squeaks,
outstretched panther palm, red hand,
expected the chlorine. Wax splashed
baby oil eyes and it is citrus– cinnamon, acidic.
Where we were wanted, the pitchfork path
and jagged rim,
this fungus crust metastasis, you twirl
and twirl your index finger until it leaves.
we bend and fold to keep
some memories alive
we with our doughy cores–
salty to the lick–
rose and contracted,
twisted into rope,
into ebb and echo, ripples
of the faintest caress,
indented on the crust
Elizabeth S. Wolf lives in MA with her daughter and several pets, where she maintains a day job as a Technical Metadata Librarian. Elizabeth has previously published poems in local anthologies (Merrimac Mic: Gleanings from the First Year; 30 Poems in November 2014; Amherst Storybook Project). The Amherst Storybook Project is published in print and on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6d3pUd8jR0
Grateful for Good Neighbors
for Tom and Marge Crosby
Thank you, kind sir. You saw
something not right- a child?
a doll?- tossed awkwardly in a
pile of leaves. But what’s important
is this: you stopped. You went back.
Out of your way, late for work,
you listened to that little voice-
something is not right- and you found
a small girl. A toddler, naked and weary,
burned and bruised- tortured- alone-
in that pile of wet leaves. And you and your wife,
you gathered that child up, in your
arms, in your coat, and you brought that
baby home. Thank you. In a crazy mad world
we are told to look for the helpers. And you,
you and your wife, on that morning, by that act,
you saved a small girl, and also
a shred of my soul.
This poem was inspired by a local news story:
The Inside Scoop
If I decide to tell you what I see,
would you love me still?
Trapped tumbling inside are
my comrades from the madhouse:
the woman who swore
invisible poodles pooped
on the rugs. She swore, in her pink
tattered robe, ragged fringes
framing her face; she stared
from under chunks of eye liner,
stale streaks of blue eye shadow,
stared and saw poodles by the
the country club pool, where her
soon- to- be ex- husband and her
ex- nanny lay stretched beside her
children, the babies she had born,
panting and pushing and
crowning, children who feared her
now, who lay safely outside,
in the sun. Here in the hallways
a skeleton is staring, drugged eyes
sunk in bony sockets; he tried to
starve himself, wasted away to
nearly nothing; now he munches
rye toast, walking slowly on skinny
white legs, leaving a trail of
dry crumbs; walks passed the jew who
decided one night that he was
the true jesus, who walked out
barefoot through the snow,
proclaiming his message and all
that was divine; who was carried in
raving and now sits rocking, rocking,
rocking, cradling feet swathed in
white bandages, covering blackened
frostbitten skin, nearly lost
toes; he believes the doctors from
the ER drained all of his
powers, all of his divine love;
he seeks his debrided skin as if
the shredded scales are holy, as if
he could still be saved.
Salvation. Lo I have seen
the writing on the wall,
heard the silent scream,
the hollow men,
the stuffed men. So
will you, won’t you,
will you, won’t you,
come and join the dance?
Just this morning I noticed
the door was ajar.
The opening line of this poem was inspired by "If I were to tell you what I see, would you love me still?" from: A Case Against Old Habits, Janet Longe Sadler, Amherst Writers and Artists Press
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Oh how I love to go
up in a swing,
up in the sky so blue.
Three years old,
three years old.
Yesterday he was
laughing laughing laughing
at the little dog
with an upturned tail.
Mummy we can see
where he goes poopie!
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Oh how I love to go
up in a swing,
up in the sky so blue.
Mummy mummy mummy
I can’t breathe. The wheeze,
the cough, the wide
lips turning blue.
Mummy mummy mummy
where my medicine?
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Oh how I love to go
up in a swing,
up in the sky so blue.
To the park! His very
favorite place. Over there
we look for dandelions, we
puff and blow off all
the fluff. Here in summer,
the sprinkler comes on.
Look at me, mummy.
Look at me! Look!
There’s where he toddled
at two, chasing bubbles,
on stubby chubby legs.
Here’s where he fell
on his pampered butt,
looking so surprised.
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Oh how I love to go
up in a swing,
up in the sky so blue.
Yesterday she looked
couch cushions flying,
flung open, drawers
overturned. Where is
the inhaler. Where is
the epi pen. Mother of God,
where is your Child:
please let my baby
Back and forth,
back and forth.
Oh how I love to go
up in a swing,
up in the sky so blue.
She dressed him in
his Blue’s Clues shirt.
She dressed him in
his red red shorts.
She carried him down
to his favorite park
to the swing he used
as a baby; the swing
with a seatbelt to
hold him in. Back and
forth. She sang. She
prayed. When the sun
went down, she recited
In the great green room
was a telephone,
and a red balloon…
Back and forth.
He is not giggling.
Back and forth.
He is not pumping
his sturdy legs;
back and forth
not tossing his shoes
into the grass;
back and forth
he is not breathing
back and forth
Mummy’s best boy
back and forth
keeping in rhythm
back and forth
just the two of us
back and forth
up and down
Mummy and son
forever and ever,
Dawn came. The coffee truck
opened for business.
The police came.
The neighbors watched
from a few feet away.
The baby left on a stretcher,
the sheet pulled up
over his head. The momma went
in another car
to a different place.
Somewhere nobody ever
wanted to go.
Goodnight noises everywhere.
Mummy loves you
now and forever,
my little angel.
Sorrowing was inspired by a story in the Washington Post in May 2015. The events in the poem are completely fictional; I have not followed the continuing story in the news.
24 March 2015
It was a mild mid- morning in March
when the plane, after a short delay, took off
from Barcelona. There were 56 empty
seats; there were 144 passengers
on board; there were 6 crew members.
There were no survivors.
There were 16 German high school students
heading home that Tuesday. Sixteen lives on the cusp,
aborted. The girl in row 16 sobbed,
wished she had kissed that boy who stared at her,
wished she had hugged her mother and not
turned away, not refused to let her mother help
pack and carry her bag. Iche liebe meine
mutter, she says, over and over, her stomach in her
ears, her ears throbbing, now she is screaming,
I love my mother.
The pilot knocks at the
locked cockpit door.
The copilot breathes steadily
The baby in row 11 wails.
His ears hurt, thinks the mama.
She starts to shush and rock her child.
The papa points out the window
with a shaking hand. Look.
Now the mama rocks and prays,
singing the lullaby her mama sang to her:
Sleep, baby, sleep.
Sleep, baby, sleep.
She calls on all of the angels of God
to spare her only child.
If this impossible thing is happening
maybe a miracle is possible too.
The businessman in seat 3A gives up
doodling on his expense report
and cries for the child that
he won’t see grow up; for the wife
he won’t kiss again; for ever leaving home
for a stupid business trip. The businessman thanks God
for life insurance, hopes that his wife never finds
those pictures tucked up and zipped into
his briefcase pocket: Please, God,
spare her that. And mama,
meine gelibte mutter,
I love you.
The pilot backs up,
lunges at the unrelenting door.
The copilot breathes steadily
The retired grandma in row 22
closes her eyes
thanks heaven for this last week
with the children
and their children, precious
kindele; she wings a prayer
to her best friend through all these
last long years; remembers
being fond of her husband,
and prepares to meet him
and her blessed mother
when the plane plunges
into the blanket of snow
spread over the rugged mountains.
The bass baritone in row 9,
whose honeyed low notes
resonated with dramatic emotion,
is reduced to sobbing and calling out
for Ave Maria,
Mother of God.
The pilot shouts orders and codes,
thrashing at the door.
The copilot breathes steadily
The stewardesses hug each other.
They know crash position
won’t do a damn thing.
They think of the hours spent
trying to identify the enemy in the crowd
while all along evil
was standing beside them,
in uniform. And this is how
it will end.
The high school boy in row 17
is sorry that insisting on sex
ever made Annika cry;
hopes his father remembers
how proud he was
when he made that basket at the buzzer,
and when he stood up to those
jerks at the park, even though
the kid they were picking on
really was a dork.
The pilot steadies himself
pictures his mother, young and
tender and sleepy, tucking him
back into bed. He apologizes for
his hubris. The pilot, bellowing,
tries to overthrow fate
but he can’t.
The baby in row 33 puts her hands
to her ears and shrieks. Her mama
screams too, counting her rosaries
on baby’s flexed toes,
for minor forgettable sins.
The copilot, breathing steadily
in silence, disables all alarms
his deliberate descent.
The American mother and daughter in row 27
clutch hands as the earth hurtles closer;
the mother closes her eyes, refuses to believe;
the daughter screams “What is happening?”
over and over, as if
translating into a different language could
change the certain course.
The unthinkable happens:
the plane crashes in flames.
For days the crews search at the Ravin de Rose´,
melted snow refrozen around
chunks of char and melted metal. They find
scattered teeth and bones. They report
headaches, some nausea, some
shortness of breath. Possibly
high altitude sickness; the plane
hit the mountain at 5,000 feet. Possibly
the sudden release of 150 souls
returned to stardust and ash.
At night the inspector from the local village
goes home, scrubs away the grit and
warms his hands; climbs into bed
giving thanks for his home and family,
for the mother who loved him and the father
who raised him to be the kind of man
who walks into the wreckage of hell and
tries to mend it, or at least
comprehend. He prays for a dreamless sleep,
but awakens again and again
to the phantom cries
of the anguished pilot
on the cockpit door.
The reporter on the spot
once so jaded and cynical
always good for another round of drinks
sets aside his cell phone
ceasing to follow and retweet;
turns off the TV with captions
the radio with constant commentary,
and closing his tired eyes, thinks back
to the last time he told his mother
he loved her; the last time
he saluted his father, lost in
old stories of a forgotten, predictable
war. The reporter is haunted
by the madness of the copilot
breathing steadily, in silence,
for the 10 long minutes
he dove towards destruction.
The restless reporter
feels his lips moving in prayer
for the eternal salvation
of the pilot
by the locked cockpit door.
This poem was inspired by the widely reported actual crash in March 2015. The occupations and ages of the passengers, type of plane, site of the crash, and actions of the pilot and copilot are taken from news stories or twitter. The thoughts of the passengers and crew are solely fiction.
Marie Kilroy has recently been published in Allegro Poetry Magazine, Loveliest Magazine and the Lummox Press. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a B.A. in English and lives in New York City.
“…things and animals – and our enjoyment of it is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is full of inherited memories of the engendering and birthing of millions. In one creative thought a thousand forgotten nights of love come to life again and fill it with majesty and exaltation.” – Rilke
I lie flat against the flat Mexican plateau.
The cacti’s silhouettes
stand silently in the sunset like soldiers,
arms raised skyward.
In the early evening the stars flood in like girls in Quinceañera gowns,
grasshopper salt on their shiny lips,
and they float above on the sky’s dance floor
as the volcano with its icy hat
puffs his pipe to greet them.
Rilke believed in a future poet who comes
to say the ecstasies that are unsayable.
I believe him and the owl uttering words
I cannot repeat. The black witch moth’s
seven inch wingspan sets in motion a fire
on the coast. Small animal skeletons litter the sand
like diamonds on a rich woman’s arm. We are all birthing all the time.
I vow to love it all, even the solitude. I can see the seeds alight
in the wind, birds to new births, the world over
in majesty and exaltation.
In the late evening in Central Park lies the edge of the lake--
glowing in the little light from the moon
lies the swan, from song to silence and stuck in the little laps
of water against earth, beak tucked in a U
as if she was trying to un-see,
to look around the still-rooted trees
in their black gowns like willows at a funeral
mystical, ethereal in gossamer nightshade
the feathers still satin, the wings unfolded, leaving her round body exposed,
her tiny feet in mud –
O, mythological Swan; O regal Swan—felled, felled--
A homeless man laughs at the sight—“That’s what’s next!!”
and pees into the grass, stance askance
the vinegar smell, a fog smoking upwards in the branches--
her body hardening against the soft waves.
Ananya S Guha lives in Shillong in North East India. He has has been writing and publishing poetry for the last thirty years. He has seven volumes of poetry to his credit and his poetry has been widely anthologized. He has been published in Gloom Cupboard, Art Arena, Other Voices Poetry, Glasgow Review, Osprey Journal, New Welsh Review, Dead Snakes, Dissident Voice, Poetry Life 7 Times, WritingRaw among many others on line journals and print magazines/ journals in India & abroad. He holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.
In March when dry winds
arrive, and the stooping woman
still continues to sell
last vestiges of her fruits
to the haggling, irate buyer
whose bitter mouth
would savour that one last
when school children
will shed off inertia
and behave like this
irksome wind, I will
sit by the window
and dream of poetry
in hour glass
in a transparent house
of books, words, shelves
with a dancing elf, and
the wind's legerdemain
to write a poem, with these
emerald shaped hills,
standing in vastness of monoliths.
History unceasing, high priests calling;
the dahlias fading, and streams bursting
into seams of violet hues.
The winds will whisper of evenings
and encrypted souls who lived
in this hill town traversing history
like gladiators in a war of hope.
I will go to the monoliths again
to see their ancient inscriptions
while those sacred groves remain
in muted silence, horizons of
Robert Knox is a creative writer, a freelance journalist for the Boston Globe, a blogger on nature, books and other subjects, and a rabid gardener, who makes his home in Quincy, Massachusetts. A graduate of Yale (B.A.) and Boston University (M.A. in English literature), he is a former college teacher and newspaper editor, whose stories, poems, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. His poems have recently appeared in Verse-Virtual, Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal, The Poetry Superhighway, Bombay Review, Earl of Plaid, Rain, Party & Disaster Society and Semaphore Journal. He serves as a contributing writer for Verse-Virtual, an online poetry journal. A collection of his poems, titled "Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty," will be published this year by Coda Crab Books.
The Alligator's Approach to the Birds
It is not for everyone,
this Paradise of Birds
The wingless ones who stand beneath the shade-cover
on the boardwalk pavilion
are given leave to watch,
a dozen brown and watery feet away,
the color of old trees glimpsed in a window's reflections,
bits of shell and water-eaten leafage at the base
We'll get no closer
The birds know how to measure distance --
and ability, we have no wings to fly --
They land on a dime, on a dollar-sized island
We stand on ceremony,
the gnawing anxiety of wet feet,
as if water itself were toxic
We are lingering glances and superannuated vigilance
But eyes cannot hurt them
We pose no threat to the Paradise of Birds
Who brings the stork's babies?
We question one another
A head like the curve of an umbrella handle
turned upside down,
The wood stork is patterned silk on top,
yards of plump white plumage below
Its young both indescribable and hard to glimpse
Not half-brown like the Anhinga,
whose adolescents are caramel feathered
and bear allegiance to a race of beige and mustard-colored snake people
and live below the waters now
in a world we cannot see
We satisfy our craving for vision with the Paradise of Birds
Birds, we know, are merely people
in a different dress
(though cannot the same be said of trees?)
They too enjoy a fine March day
in the face of a smiling sun, fish a-plenty
(where we live no such days exist)
They toy with the furniture inside their nests,
adjust the framing, smooth the slipcovers,
content to ignore the squawks of the babes
demanding to be fed
They are beyond such needs
in weather like this --
pellucid, clear as glass, free of insects and parasites,
holding wings high to dry in the sun
like Washing Day in some earlier century
(though without the elbow grease)
all pleasure, no work
They are nature's machines for turning air and water
into the grace of flight
that miracle of which we are always bereft,
banned forever from the Paradise of Birds
The herons, winged heroes, glitter-glide besides the humans,
aging creatures who crave to worship
in the glow of their beauty
Who will fly only when they leave
this heavier career behind one final time,
seeking in immaterial flight some greater good
(seeking entrance then
to the Paradise of Birds)
Who now fly only eyes closed, limbs inert
in the phantasms of the liberated chambers of the brain,
those rooms they cannot decorate or conform to will
Who soar only in their minds,
their mind's eye of stimulus and love
Who gaze with longing, and
at the Paradise of Birds
Only one beast disturbs the Paradise of Birds
It syncopates the water
in brownish segments
a disturbance in the watercolor
as if old paint got up to walk
It motors in silence,
or time, or the silent renewal of
solid earth beneath your feet
Arrives like surprise
Like thought made visible,
an idea given shape
Like Hegel's notion of history
a submerged and troubled mass forming for revolt
Yet though subtle as a reptile
its metrics are known
by those clear-eyed cousins roosting
in the bare tops of the cypress trees,
mere skeletal frames and furniture
for the Paradise of Birds
And when the stick-legged guardians of heaven, their rapiers
in their faces,
their light and parried weaponry
tied snuggly to their brains
espy the ancient enemy
They hoot their worries, in airy segmentation,
a ceaseless one-two-three,
warning all of the creature's trespass,
the reptile in the sally garden waters
of the Paradise of Birds
Neil Slevin is a 26 year-old writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland.
A former English teacher in the U.K., having graduated with a B.Sc. in Physical Education with English from the University of Limerick in 2011, he has returned to university to complete an M.A. in Writing at N.U.I. Galway and to pursue a writing-based career.
His work has been published by The Galway Review and various American journals.
When My Colours Run…
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Learned old men tell the story of Cathay’s emperor,
a man who avoided the future
like the plague;
who, in his divine wisdom – and facing death –
forbade his people from using the future tense,
because without him they could have no future.
And they muse about time and how we tell it,
highlighting that before Christ we had no such thing,
and that after His birth we had options…
Did you ever make that mistake at school (you know the one),
believing that if B.C. stood for ‘Before Christ’,
then surely A.D. meant ‘After Death’?
And later, did you read of Macbeth’s raging against tomorrow,
of Othello’s beseeching kind-hearted words
written in hindsight-parted letters?
Wiser now, I wonder if old Cathay and Christ,
Macbeth and Othello were one and the same,
perhaps not in face or nature, but in outlook:
all believing that Time would wait for them
to find their way back from the ether,
as if men could forbid the wind from breath and stars from smile,
their fellow man from a life
of dreams and death,
while they packed up the moon and dismantled the Sun.
And I wonder who will care when my life-clock stops ticking,
whose day will speed up
and whose night will slow down…
Who will remember me not as I was –
but as I am and always will be –
when my dreams die and my colours run?
“Have you ever
tried to remember
that you’ve never remembered before?”
his face asked
curling into a mischievous grin,
like a magician’s goatee laughing
at its master’s double chin.
Incredulous I thought he was joking,
but soon realised he was not;
he wanted me to summon something I couldn’t remember –
something that I’d a long time ago forgot’…
So with my mind unleashed
(like the good Catholic boy that I am),
I looked away from him into the distance,
in hot pursuit of the bait thrown from his hand;
I wandered off, all alone in my dark,
scratching at the lower backdoors
of unvisited memoirs,
resisting the soul-consuming urge to bark.
Before pawing at the contents
of my mind’s toilet-bowl mixture,
as around they swirled,
all refusing to unfurl,
and resorting to gnawing at my still-beating heart.
Up all night I played with the frayed edges
of images long before torn apart,
chasing the cars speeding away from me
with far too much of a head start.
All this before, finally,
and slowly made my way home:
no longer was I
a foolish dog of the night,
seeking the bitter reward
of a juicy bone.
Memory-chasing I remembered
that I accept what I can remember;
that I want to forget
what I’ve come to regret;
that my memory is a fire
full of burning embers,
some aflame, some smoking,
it’s one I can’t relight or re-set…
So after a long pause I met his unsmiling eye,
his star-twinkle now buried deep and within,
“No,” I said, forgetting myself –
wishing I could forget him.