Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. She is a faculty member at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Visit www.judithskillman.com
Thinking about the Bull
I imagine it must be quirky,
male and stupid. Blinded by sweat,
making the same charge towards
the same fuchsia flag
kept at a distance
by the matador.
Picadors fire Lilliputian arrows
at leather skin draped in folds
as if to stitch
a garment over rage.
Flies bother eyes that ooze goo,
tail swatting as it groans,
a heavyweight held aloft by jelly legs.
Never quite feral enough to win.
Fond of the steaks thrown by keepers
who fatten this animal of festivals
for young men who carry
the torero on their shoulders
through town as what’s ordained
lies slain on sawdust, seeping.
It must be the illness
Settled in to her mind
and undid an ability.
Maybe for math, as things
have slowed. Reading
pages. Seeing into the children.
It must be some kind of finite capacity
in the brain as in the body.
Now the storm relents
she hears a memory.
To be this staid, this plain.
To have no more razzmatazz
than the road behind
this lot, where a single car
threads its lights
through still standing winter firs.
The subject comes again,
where I am to travel
across the water.
I turn to leave
through many houses
carrying my useless cell,
An old terror follows,
many women, French accents.
The day comes late,
full of beauty.
Blue jays rest
between green leaves,
songs come in waves.
and twist lingers--
the paper money
in my purse,
I handed to the one
who seemed in charge.
My skirt wet,
my linen jacket
not quite covering
enough of the danger,
the liaison. When
to the station
the train has left
for Prague, not Seattle.
There will be no way
to go home
except by exposed streets
and what if I am young?
The men will offer
and force themselves.
Night comes to this day
like every other
with its cast, its crucible.
Soliloquy of the Misanthropist
The Asplundh monkey climbs firs,
waits for the all clear before
four-foot lengths hit earth. Thuds
shake my own be it ever so humble.
Those neighbors I hope never to meet
will have their new alleyway. Cut the forest
in half, allow Mercedes access
to a three-car garage where, if it were
mine, the first do-it-yourself LHC
with temps colder than deep space
would send killer particles
around magnetic tunnels to collide.
The socks I wear: fourteen pairs
of tubes all the same white flinching
bright. Who has time for laundry?
My ex-wife thought dinners
communal deals—almost Biblical,
her standards exponentially high.
No sirree. I like uncooked top ramen,
a zip-lock bag full of nuts and raisins
and popcorn in the microwave, kernels
getting so excited they crackle and riff.
The Band-Tailed Pigeons
You called ring-tailed doves are merely average.
It’s true the feathers gloss liquid in sun.
The appearance of a necklace adds
a bit of luxury as first one, then two,
then thirteen come to eat the seed you throw
out on our moss driveway. One evening
through your telescope, you photographed said dove
at the top of the farthest fir tree
on the acre. Look, you said. I believed
the circle of lens, the inside story.
I believed because I was gullible,
hungry for those whose rank and file it is
to perform the will of their leader.
B. Abbott the Boston-based writer, whose poems have been featured in the Boston Globe, Your One Phone Call and many other online publications, has found his stronghold in the world of social media under the moniker of @HighPoetsSociety. His writing is most recognized for its mesmerizing rhyme scheme and clever wordplay. His debut publication High Poets Society is an Amazon best seller and can be found at Barnes and Noble nationwide.
There's plenty of fish
in the sea.
But only one I wish
to be caught by me.
We are zero.
in this world
me and you.
The greatest rematch,
the most amount of fights,
with no clear winner;
Day vs. Night.
I just want a big empty hole, where I can yell so loud with no echo.
I'll fill it up (andemptymysoul)
with all the thoughts I don't want the world to know.
If you break my heart
you'll fall through the cracks
and once you're out,
there's no coming back.
Samantha Seto is a Writing Seminars graduate (B.A.) with a History of Art secondary degree of Johns Hopkins University. She is a third prize poet of the Whispering Prairie Press who has been published in various journals or anthologies including Ceremony, Soul Fountain, and Black Magnolias Journal. Samantha also has work published in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Brown University's Cornerstone Magazine, Yale Logos, and The Harvard Ichthus. Her twin sister is named Sarah. She lives in Washington, D.C. and went to college in Maryland.
The wild flowers are tall and reach my waist.
A map is pointing north in two – diverge.
The ink just smears like blood; I will release
crumpled paper into the blue river.
Like God put trees on earth, a tear may drip.
A veil of lavender covers my face,
it trails over the ground in bright sunlight.
The berries ooze into my hands like sweet
honey, the pond has round water lilies.
My hands submerge in crystalline water.
I trace the moon, it’s bigger than my palm.
A waning, holy light of fading hues
like Michelangelo is painting frescoes.
The willow sheds its leaves in branch water,
the birds are chirping, bells that ring in ears.
My eyes are glassy, a rose inside a vase.
The cacti wither away in heaps of soil.
I gaze at twinkling stars in darkened sky,
my skirt is gently carried by the wind.
I remember the awe of last sunrise.
New Year’s Eve arrives in 2016,
it fades away like the thick peppermint scent.
A basket of tiny cranberries and warm bread
on the wooden table in a dimly lit room.
A snow angel pressed into white powder,
golden sparklers wave in the dark sky,
we take Polaroids and hear the music.
My friends are dancing, raising glasses of
champagne; we wait until the big ball drops,
they chant 3, 2, 1, in Times Square on TV.
At midnight, I sit on the stairs of beige carpet.
His Neptune pale blue eyes like pristine water,
he presses his ruby lips to mine and hugs me.
I pat the wrinkles in my dress and walk
to a velvet chair. I read a note – I love you –
in cursive handwriting sealed in a gift.
We stare at crumpled mail on the floor.
The gold angel shines like a star at the top.
I fix my eyes on the Christmas balls hanging
from tree branches and notice the plain, carved
wooden trinkets of the Nativity,
Mary and Joseph cradling the baby
Jesus on the mantle. I dream of God.
The very minute I wake, I walk to the train
station and hop on the first arriving on the tracks.
I end up on gray pavement in the town-square,
en route to the rose-window of a Gothic cathedral.
The old wooden floors are creaky, it’s empty,
but I tiptoe to the white altar and pray
for my dear resolution to come true.
I watch a monk in red cloth light a candle
to honor and respect God’s holy throne.
The smoke disappears. At the grand church, I wish
to mindlessly carve doves into brown wood.
I sit alone in a pew near the front and open
the Holy Bible’s thin, creased pages to read
the fine, black print in the Book of Genesis.
The paint is peeling off the wall but it’s
covered by a gold-framed portrait of
the Lamentation of Christ. Treasures of
a church like long rosary beads and a cross
are lining the thick, brown wood to praise the Lord.
The Pope who lives near the Vatican would approve
of this vast house of God with his whole heart.
(Yet, the President prefers the White House
to govern the entire country. A leading voice
in politics for the democracy;
which proves there is a separation of
church and state.) I stare into the pitch dark,
until suddenly a stern, elderly man
touches my bare shoulder. I gasp. His face looms
over me. I glance at his stiff cane
and hunch. The old man gently says “hello.”
His soul will rise to Heaven very soon.
The guards point to the door, and then I freeze.
Candles release smoke diffusing into thin air.
I leave through the door into the coldest winter.
The moon and stars glow bright in the obdurate sky,
brisk snow falls down and brushes against my cheek.
I see this year’s resolution is gone.
I was born, Mom says, and held in her gentle arms
with tears in almond eyes on the blanket in May
my parents recite prayers to God every day.
The wool sheep trinkets were my holy charms.
I know she saw me take a breath of air
and heard my voice whisper a prayer at night.
My life is filled with bright, everlasting light,
the gifts of a loving heart like my brunette hair.
At mass, I open the Bible in my lap,
a gold, beaded rosary sits in my palms.
The crowd closes their eyes, but I read the Psalms
and pray to God in my mind with a silent zap.
A glass window floods the brightest light in the hall.
I sing a hymn to praise the Lord at the pew,
and I watch the choir fade to a gray hue
the angel’s halo shines as if she were a doll.
In a dark church near the beaten railroad track.
the wood beneath my feet, creaky and old
and ruby blood spills from my fragile skin. I told
them, I will die as my eyes roll to black.
I weep into my half-knit, woven sweater,
a snowflake purple, and my nose is red.
My mother puts tea to my lips. “My God, are you dead?
Have a sip,” so I take the cup and write a letter.
The Lord hears my “Amen” after my prayer, but I love
listening to the minister recite the scripture,
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and picture
the Holy Spirit rising like a white dove.
A cross and saints on the mosaic ceiling,
the crucifix on the table and page creases.
The stairs crumble into a million pieces
the church, a few centuries old with wallpaper peeling
with cracks in the broken wall and a caved-in dome
I bow my head while the mass falls to their knees
to God’s mighty throne and I hold the keys
to the gates, knowing that I will make it my home.
The bells are ringing, a candle flickers in the room,
the crowd is yelling as the walls crash and pound.
They begin running out over the quivering ground
yet darkened hallways are like long tunnels of doom.
A day will come when God will save His people,
my soul will rise in the air, but I see my body
at the hearse with my strange family dressing too gaudy
to bury me in dirt at my grave under the steeple.
The church is collapsing in ashes, I flee
and exit through the door to the trees and houses,
children are hurt and cry in their mother’s blouses,
I watch it burn, whispering a plea.
My spirit emerges as I walk to the quad
in light. A silver lining to uplift and leaven
a life that belongs in the greatest kingdom of Heaven,
I’m reborn, an angel on pearly clouds with God.
A once in a lifetime plane ticket – to fly
to Palo Alto “the city of haloes” and down
at white clouds of the sky – in the stiff, blue chair,
then race along a row of houses and care
to visit a friend at a café in the town;
tour-de-force – the couple – my husband and I.
On a steady bus: the engine churns to bother
the luggage – a thick Steve Jobs novel – falls
on the wide vinyl floor, and the bus seems to freeze.
We walk to the French café – “a creampuff, please,”
the waitress stares (I order a café by the walls)
at God, the – “Holy Spirit, Son, and Father…”
“We’re your second family,” politely. The kindest power –
genuine, respected – drinking her tea;
I peel an orange in my calloused hands on the CalTrain
moving (away) on the wooden tracks. Mon Copain,
El Camino Real. The New age, my plea
will pray for the world. The heart of a wilting flower
falls down the aisle, moving on. Shine
in the hall of mirrors, friends, the day in L.A.,
amazing entire postulate, tough to send
dreams. I never predicted reaching the end,
end for all I know. He yells, “hey,”
and runs to the gate, walking a fine line.
To The Writer
This day, a press release from The Wall Street Journal,
“a Chicago, gray typewriter sits at the desk,”
The paperback at Barnes & Noble – the published
best-seller with awards and a film offer –
to find a home with curtains on windows, and
tread on. A kitten stares at tiny pills.
If a twist in the narrative and circumstance (“writing,”
on the jacket has printed, “a best book of the year”)
makes you put your little black journal down
– but this is a soul, is blood, is me! – to keep
my intellect’s true rights. The love affairs,
promise and herbs, revise, know by heart.
In mid-chapter, the conflict rises with
an intense death; the brave hero will live,
And what about the lines that character
will deliver? A powerful, divine
Maker of all things allows them to fade away
or tolerates it, massive chaos in the world.
And would you plan to explore the characters,
(In the novel in the palm of your right hand)
to give them life in the story as if they’re real? –
since they alone will never compare with yours.
You’d prefer to imagine the dramatic plot will appear,
If only a great Dane1 would be a fearless, strong wolf
to close the timeless novel at the “author page,”
yet a climax rises before a dénouement
and leads the concerned writer, author of virtue
to reach the clichéd effect, “bread of life”2 –
as God created life – but, Christ is. Life…
Anyway, the last thought that runs in your mind
before you gaze at a stack of books on the table,
is a very worthy, good life that has started
another day, genuine, tough to perfect.
1 Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf. Old English Poem, 1815.
2 Eucharist, blood and body of Christ. Holy Communion / Lord’s Supper.
Blanca Alicia Garza is a Poet from Las Vegas, Nevada. She is a nature and animal lover, and enjoys spending time writing. Her poems are published in the Poetry Anthologies, "Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze", and "Dandelions in a Vase of Roses" now available at Amazon.com. Blanca's work can be found in The Poet Community, Whispers, The Winamop Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Tuck Magazine, Raven's Cage Ezine, Scarlet Leaf Review as well as Birdsong Anthology 2016, Vol 1