Sic Gloria Transit Mundi by Conor Walton
David Kirby | DeWitt Clinton | Jessamine O’Connor | Tyler Raso | Jenna Rindo | Rebecca Starks | Lena Khalaf Tuffaha | Jacqueline Kolosov | Julie L. Moore | Mike White | Iyanuoluwa Adenle | Anna Weaver | Robert Fillman | Anne Pitkin | Katherine Soniat | Robin Turner | Ken Craft | Terry Blackhawk | Kathleen A. Wakefield | Margo Berdeshevsky | Bonnie Naradzay
Walt Whitman is Dying
You say, Can you sit with me a little longer?
and I say,
Yes, I can, Walt Whitman, and your mind travels back
to the 1850s,
to Pfaff’s restaurant on Bleecker and Broadway,
where actors, artists, comedians, poets, and novelists
shout at one another,
tell jokes, spill as much beer as they drink, and fill the air
with cigar smoke,
where you and your friends cling to the innocence
of simpler times
as the rustic world disappears, factories spring up everywhere,
workers become specialists.
Give me now libidinous joys only! you say.
Give me the drench of my passions, give me life coarse and rank.
The newspaper says the doctors think you might not have more
than three or four days
but that you replied, We may beat them all yet.
In 1852, the characters in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance
enjoying poetry readings, concerts, and tableaux vivants
along with their daily work.
You laugh and say, O you shunned person, I do not shun you.
I come forth in your midst, I will be your poet,
I will be more to you than the rest.
In 1888, the work in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward
is done by machines,
and the citizens of Bellamy’s utopia don’t have to go
all the way down
to some band shell in a park to hear a concert.
Instead, live music is piped into their apartments
so they can enjoy it alone.
The newspaper says you are so weak that it’s doubtful
you will live until morning.
The old weird America you remember is a country
of street preachers, con men,
hobos, frontiersmen, wandering musicians, slaves on the run,
Native American shamans
and shape-shifters, folk heroes and villains.
They say Johnny Appleseed sowed seeds randomly,
but in fact
he planted nurseries, built fences around them
to protect them from livestock,
left them in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares,
and returned every year or two to see how things were going.
Johnny Appleseed was against grafting, though, so his apples
weren’t fit to eat
and could only be used for cider.
Johnny Appleseed was our American Dionysus.
In those days, you say, our American Kronos
might have been
Samuel Mason, who robbed and killed passengers
on the Natchez Trace
and was said to have eaten them.
Kronos ate his own children, I remind you, which is worse
than eating strangers.
You’re right, you say, but still.
You say you get a sense of the old weird America
on board Melville’s Pequod,
when Ishmael and pagan Queequeq, who have
spent the night
cuddling happily in a boarding-house bed, join
a polyglot crew
to serve maimed Ahab in his vindictive quest,
and you sense it as well in The Confidence-Man
as the paddle boat halts in its watery path
to let on one group
of eccentrics as another disembarks,
with barely a person among them whom he or she
seems to be.
And don’t forget the Zouaves, I say, who fought on both sides
of the Civil War (seventy Yankee companies, twenty-five
for the Rebs)
in faux-Algerian pantaloons, fezzes, and embroidered waistcoats.
You always loved a man in uniform.
You say the Zouaves cut quite a figure on the parade ground,
though in the name of efficiency, these days soldiers
all dress alike—
they can kill better that way.
The newspaper says Walt Whitman continues
He is gaining strength every day!
He sat up in bed again today!
The newspaper says you had tired of milk punch
and have only eaten
two oysters in the last thirty-six hours,
one yesterday morning and the other this afternoon.
You say poetry always fails, that to work, it has to.
Joy consists of union, you say, poetry of the search for union.
Wrenched and sweaty, cool and calm then my body becomes.
I do not know it—it is without name—it is a word unsaid.
Perhaps I might tell more.
I ask you if you feel any pain, and you say no,
but I can hardly hear you.
Walt, the war killed your dream of a world
the blissful love of comrades and replaced it
with the horror of brother killing brother.
When you learn that your brother George
has been wounded
at the battle of Fredericksburg, you rush to find him.
George’s injury is slight, but when you see
the sufferings of others,
you become a great mothering sort of man
who visits the hospitals
in and around Washington for the next three years,
bringing ice cream,
tobacco, brandy, books, magazines, pens and paper.
You write letters for those who cannot.
More than a few die in your arms.
You look like Santa Claus with your long white beard,
and bulging bag of presents. Small wonder that,
each time you leave,
many of the wounded soldiers, some of them still
in their teens, call out, Walt, Walt, come again!
Ah! You look over your shoulder at them and think,
If you want me again, look for me under
and even then, you won’t find me.
You sleep—you sleep long.
Still, you can’t help yourself. Can you sit with me
a little longer? you say.
And I say, Yes, I can, Walt Whitman. Yes, I can,
David Kirby‘s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” His latest poetry collection is More Than This. He teaches English at Florida State University.
What Do You Think the Stars Are For?
We are all candles, aren’t we, flickering away
Our lives so much we hardly have time to just
Pause, yet we do, even if some illuminate more
Of caved ceilings in the Pyrenees while some
Of us just look up from the fields of grain planted
Before we knew their names. Now we wander
In and out of houses, some plastered, some wood,
Some with the new iron of our age, some going
To the bathroom, some finding someone to spend
The night with, some planning away the future
As if it was there. But always we return to what
We think we’ll be, or who we might have been,
Even Uncle Raphael’s new painting in the Uffizi
Gives us all a moment to hold our breath. Still we
Do this, watching our lives flicker, wondering if we
Get to do this tomorrow. A few of us, including
Gertrude, don’t want to go on this path, rather we’ll
Just saunter down to the white sand beach, and ask,
How long can we stay, did you bring a book? Some
Of us will make others lunch, and some, so rude, will
Not even think about the service we’ve given, even
If it turns out the Greek salad needed a few more
Olives, a few more chunks of that sweet, white cubed
Milk we love to call feta. For some this is pretty much
It, as we are not ever going to get to go behind what
So many of us think is out there, beyond the stars.
Perhaps we can invent something that will make us
Wake up, even though the forecast is for more snow.
DeWitt Clinton is the author of three books of poetry: The Conquistador Dog Texts and The Coyot. Inca Texts (New Rivers Press), At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), and a fourth collection is in production: On a Lake by a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters, (Is A Rose Press).
Sky Burial on a Peckham High-Rise
The only flight we will ever take
together, the three of us
and the first thing you do on arrival
you leave us for hours
and when you land back
get straight at it, gouge out
on the couch and only come round eventually
to my fury –
this was meant to be a holiday, and besides
you didn’t even keep me any.
In a few days it’s forgotten
when vaguely in my peripheral vision
suddenly the lump of your body
as it’s dragged out to the landing.
They explain slowly, how you can’t call an ambulance
here, because the police follow,
that they always leave the OD’s outside
at someone else’s door.
Propped four floors up at a grey brick wall
in the lilac twilight with blueing lips, not breathing,
you look so peaceful
I start screaming.
There’s a dark satisfaction in slapping
your flaccid face, like returning an unwanted gift.
Hitting harder, I hear myself beg
wake up wake up wake up
but you won’t.
Lights swing and swoop across the car-park
far below, wink blue and orange and I’m wrenched off you,
pulled inside, the door held shut, and hushed. We listen.
You are left out, exposed
to the sky, crows and paramedics.
Through the hours that follow
hearing nothing, you are both dead and alive.
Not knowing which, you can be either
at the same time. Our child sleeps –
simultaneously in a state of having a father,
Jessamine O’Connor moved to a train station on the Sligo Roscommon border twenty-one years ago. Currently studying Writing & Literature at Sligo IT, she facilitates the Hermit Collective, recently made her first poem-film, and is obsessed during the lock-in with making postcards, watching Countdown and playing Bananagram. With five chapbooks and some poetry prizes, her first collection Silver Spoon is published by Salmon Poetry this Autumn.
Loneliness Lullaby, or My First Grade Teacher Tells My Grandmother She’s Worried About My Social Anxiety
And a broken pink breath is the first word of every sentence
And I am swallowed by the carpet like a nutshell
And there is something heavy in my hands
And I am inside it is recess and my grandmother
gets a phone call like a shiver And it is every day in my heart
And the teacher says He is just so lonely And she says Lonely
like a proper noun like turning inside-out like something
heavy And that phone call is an unwound clock And
that phone call is a window open like dropping something
fragile and that phone call is somebody else’s daydream
And I do not remember if anyone cried that day
And I am holding hands with the carpet like closing your eyes
but not for sleep And I am seven years old because the sky is tall
and shrinking because there is something heavy in my hands
telling a story about a boy and a growing balloon And the boy
holds the balloon like something fragile And the boy loses the balloon
like the moon And I am rooted in the carpet like the tender string
that holds the sky And the teacher tells my grandmother His loneliness is
asymmetry And I am not in that phone call because there is something
heavy in my hands like a railroad And she is still
naming my loneliness And she says it is crumbs And she says
it is being left behind And she says it is a metaphor for something
fragile And I do not remember if anyone cried that day
because nobody had to because there was nobody to cry for
because I had something heavy in my hands with a sky and a sun
like dimples And there was something heavy in my hands
in the shape of a brighter and brighter lonely And there was something
heavy in my hands telling the story of a balloon that became the sun
And somewhere there is a train whistle which means two people will never
see each other again And somewhere they become symmetrical
with rain And they remember who cried that day because they had somebody
to cry for And somewhere loneliness is a sleepy animal with a reflection
in the timid water And that animal sees the tall sky
behind him like a story And that animal doesn’t remember
the timid water because the loneliness of the sun made
the lonely sky warm And that animal does not know if it is beautiful
to be cried for And that animal does not know if it is beautiful
to be remembered And that animal was warm like everything between
the sun and the soft hold of the lonely earth And every perfect
night that animal swells into sleep like something fragile
Tyler Raso is a poet currently based in Chicago, where he teaches elementary school cooking classes. His work has previously been featured in The London Magazine, burntdistrict, and elsewhere. In August, he’ll begin his MFA at Indiana University-Bloomington.
First Run after Cougar Sighting
"DNR believes at least two male cougars have been wandering Wisconsin since August, before that no confirmed sightings since the turn of the century."
— Ripon, WI Commonwealth Press, January 2018.
Each whisper of ditch-weed, each
passing shadow from leaves is the
movement under stillness before the cougar
leaps. He is packaged in power while
you’ve run yourself weak. You are scrawny
and anemic to his plush, tawny, sleek. You run
with some blessing of Boston, chase an
undeserved grace, the rhythmic sound
of your minimal shoes, laced over porous
fractured feet. He bounds through the Western
Hemisphere, scraping soil and snow
with secret codes. You repeat random
advice that’s been offered:
never turn your back,
be filled with some primal, cellular power.
Resist the urge to run.
Since you carry no pack and wear no coat
let down your long hair.
Shake out your matted tangles then
stare into his amber eyes.
Chant his preferred prey in lieu of prayer–
mice, marmot, hare, fawn,
Become zen but do not crouch down.
Lower your heart rate,
slow your breath and hope to flow under
before he pulls apart rows of slow-twitch
muscles you have nurtured for races with
recovery protein and water bottles, placed
in the crotch of tree branches. Know he will
bury your hundred pound carcass in the
exhausted sepia acre behind the farmer’s
fieldstone border. Your marathon training
will sustain him, give him strength
to find his screaming in-estrus mate.
Jenna Rindo lives with her husband on five acres in rural Wisconsin where they raised five children. Her poems have been published in Shenandoah, AJN, Natural Bridge, Tampa Review, and Verse Virtual. She has worked as a pediatric nurse and now teaches English to non-native speakers. She competes in 5K’s to full marathons and trains outside 12 months a year.
When she stopped eating I brought her inside,
and holding her in my lap read out loud
where Hazel leaves his body in Watership Down
until she stretched out, rasping in her throat,
and her littermate pushed at the towel
to bury her. I was aware of my mother
in tears and my father turning away.
Night after night I cried myself to sleep
until my father stopped me in the hallway,
or was it out on the broken brick walk?
the memory restores its surface tension
both ways—but then he often repeated himself—
to tell me I wasn’t crying about my rabbit
but about all the time I’d spent with it.
He taught me something I want to pass on:
if you want to stop crying, don’t think happy,
think evil—the way, when you taste something bitter,
salt is a better antidote than sweet is.
Now it is clearer to me: upstairs, his mother
was dying. Later that month he would wake us
and lead us to where she lay, her eyes part-pearl.
Each spring I’d move my rabbits from the garage
to an outdoor hutch where the wild reached them—
their ears and nose twitching, feet thumping alarm,
alert to a world I read poems over
that I couldn’t taste, like the wild clover.
The salt wheel rattled. When they shunned my hands
I stopped eating meat, their silence my conscience.
Now it is clearer to me: I conflated
my rabbit’s consciousness with my own
Cosmic No. No—truer to say some people
will always think of grief—think of it—
the way lawyers think of trust, economists
of generosity. Truer to say:
attuned to hers, in its wildness, mine had grown.
When I read of the migrant children warehoused
on the border, orphaned by law, secured by walls,
what am I crying for? I’ve spent so little time
thumping my foot on that cement floor, sick
of the same stale food, looking at no windows,
deciding how to use my one rough blanket.
And when I stop—what taste has worked its cure?
Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press this fall), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Valparaiso Review, Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Ocean State Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.
We are five in the van, three of us southerners or maybe two; one has migrated
west. Americans now, our shoes and proclivities indicate, practitioners
of liminal freedoms. We can identify and describe what will undo us.
We upend our stories with bilingual euphemisms. One recalls the curses
of a father. Another re-enacts his child’s slippage between words, mother
-tongue and moment. What kinds of trees are these I ask, noting lacy canopies
shading the sidewalks. It is engineered to look accessible, the American
city, the distance from one to another in this country. We know our names
are gray-zone enough to demand exercises of classification. They may
or may not be oak, though one of us doubts, lists the qualities of bark, of leaves.
Likely pecans, a southerner suggests, recalls a childhood neighbor’s tree.
Years ago, my mother confided as we drove north past a pleat of snowcapped cedars:
Some mornings I imagine it all returned, asphalt pulled up, all our structures
and transgressions undone. We are always learning the original names of trees.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first full-length collection of poems, Water & Salt (Red Hen) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award for Poetry. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Arab in Newland (Two Sylvias, 2016), and Letters from the Interior (Diode Editions, 2019)
On this first day of the new year
may I abide like the Afghan pines
some wise other planted here. Rooted
deep in red earth, and sky high,
theirs is a pride unlike the hawk’s yellow
eye, more kin to the jack rabbit’s
streamlined ear, a lean keenness,
this way of being urgently alive.
Mine is not the longing for flight, only
to be ferried on my good horse’s back,
his body nourished by grain, hay, and
juiciest apple. Before clearest morning
gave way to wind-blurred, wind-stirred sky,
I held the fruit to his whiskered mouth,
watched how greedily he gobbled sweetness
down. The new day, the new decade,
seemed to spool from his lips onto my hand.
What did Bishop say about rainbows—?
Oh well, too much sun here…Flecks of amber
flint the gelding’s brown eyes, this twelve-
hundred-pound teacher of laughter, patience,
but also of will, and sometimes fear—.
Apollo, my apple-sweet god of manure-and-
more-trot-than-canter who grunts through and
against hard work. Impossible to measure
such sweetness, except in the green height
of living pine when he and I are united
not as one flesh but as one force
catapulting out of the star-shard dark and
into the light.
Jacqueline Kolosov’s third collection of poems is Memory of Blue (Salmon, 2014). Her fourth, “Prevail,” is forthcoming from Salmon in 2021. Also a prose writer, she has published several YA/NA novels along with stories and essays. Jacqueline coedited 3 anthologies of contemporary prose and lives on acreage in West Texas with her animal tribe.
It’s like hearing the hum of the universe, she says,
mahogany shades of a Stradivarius
in one ear, piccolo and flute
chiaroscuro in the other,
permeating every waking moment
as she prophesies pain in the power lines.
She seeks the source in the faint
heartbeat of a rabbit, its percussion
fading into the earth beneath the shed;
in corn tassels outside her door,
their anthers whirring,
before the crescendo of the combine;
in the tires of vehicles
inking their lyrics on the road’s
slick vellum a mile away.
And everything throbs, even her scalp.
Do you hear that? she asks,
then describes the way the sirens’
flare amid impending rescue
accumulates notes on a treble clef—
a canary warbling like a carol
carrying glad tidings—then sinks,
settling into an ominous bass, a sign,
she fears, that her very breath may disappear.
Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s 2018 Book of the Year.
Without Question I Am
The blind man
on the crowded night bus,
tap-tapping his way
toward a dark window
mirroring the lot of us,
with a brisk wave
of his hand my hand,
which he knows
without question I am
Mike White is the author of the collections How to Make a Bird with Two Hands (Word Works, 2012) and Addendum to a Miracle (Waywiser, 2017), winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. His work has been published in magazines including Ploughshares, Poetry, The New Republic, The Threepenny Review, and The Yale Review.
i found pleasure in counting with my fingers when you left. though i counted time in order of tens, i still poke at the memories. all this time, and i still wasn’t sure there was an end to anything. all this time, and i question the chances of our fingers locked together in this lifetime. though i pretended the miles stretched out between us was insignificant, i worried it grew wider while my back was turned. my bones, heavier from carrying the weight of what could have been. & the world, running out of grace, running to hell, for the fun of it. blame the wildflower’s lack of will to thrive on its own. blame the butterfly for its half wing.
and forget the small miscalculations of the universe.
Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a poet and essayist from Nigeria. She makes a conscious attempt to explore the basic human conditions based on grief, loss and love in her writings. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Kalahari Review, Africanwriter, Empty Mirror, The Hellebore and elsewhere.
part of me is more than willing to be wrong
to remain inside the circle of this
here i am again
small as ever
and looking out through a fringe
of bangs at someone i want to love
but cannot talk to—
this one shows some promise so i try again
reading “Muy Macho” as Rorschach
and watching his eyes for a tell—
for signs that he could swing
from the lines like the page was a tree in the jungle
of our entangled expectations
a little fear in the eyes is good
it means he’s paying attention
means he knows something might snap
and expose his hungry male mythology
right here on my couch and shit
it’s only our third date
but it’s not just that
truth is i need a witness
i want something on his face
to realize or recognize or maybe resemble—
something at the mouth or eyebrows
something that tells me he sees it too—
that says there he is
slouched and enjambed where he’s been all along
which is a kind of everywhere-i-wasn’t-exactly-looking
and answering somehow
for this man and all the others—
ask yourself again how guys like this keep finding you
i finish the poem
brush away my bangs
and look up at my date—waiting
for him to speak in his own voice
one more unusual man
lent to the chorus of baritones
I’ve spent a life auditioning
in unison now
telling me yes
he got it right
Anna Weaver writes as a former soldier, a lover of flatlands, and a woman “with loyalties scattered over the landscape.” Her poems have appeared in Connotation Press, O-Dark-Thirty, and elsewhere, earning nominations for the Pushcart and other prizes. She lives in North Carolina with her two daughters.
Losing the Bed
Sometimes when my wife and I
make love, she loses feeling
in her legs. It surprised me
when it first happened, gave me
a false sense of confidence,
as if my skin against hers
was somehow the reason for
the dead weight, the twitching that
followed as she lay next to
me in the almost-dark. But
in truth, it’s a disease, her
heart’s inability to
pump blood throughout the body.
Last night I woke from a dream
in which the shadow of her
former self rose from the ash,
took me by the hand, walked me
down a long hallway toward
our past, only my feet were
the ones dragging on the floor
as my mind tripped over each
healthy memory of her,
how she used to play tennis
at the park, or pull the kids
in their little red wagon,
or push a grocery cart
down the aisles of the Wegmans.
Now when she is beside me
I am afraid, knowing what
she’s been forced to surrender,
how even the comfort of
our bed can’t make us feel safe,
can’t restore the world we knew,
can’t shield us from the sickness
we’ve become for even one
naked second of the day.
Robert Fillman is the author of the chapbook November Weather Spell. His poems have recently appeared in Nashville Review, Poet Lore, Salamander, Tar River Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and others. Fillman earned a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University and is an Assistant Professor at Kutztown University.
I dreamed I heard a pan pipe’s unappeasable music.
The teacher said “Orfeo,” one song in the opera
Wounded Soldier. Aren’t all soldiers wounded?
Orpheus surely played that pan pipe music
for my own fallen warrior, grown, whose song
I’ll never hear again, singing to her children.
Some days, she once said, the first time
she was sick, I just have to sing a little.
The sky swirled over and around,
a few stars like motes floating through.
I woke up slowly, dreaming I was tied down by sheets
that coiled and bound.
(Did she struggle to get free,
held back by a body that was done with her?)
I untangled myself endlessly and woke up
to write it down, to write down as if I could,
where I’d been, where she might be
lost or unlost. Might not want us any more.
Did I think to map the infinite? I would have
dragged her, even unwilling, back into our little lives.
Anne Pitkin has work most recently published in the Alaska Quarterly Review and Prairie Schooner and forthcoming in Nelle. Work has appeared in One, Poetry (Chicago) New Orleans Review, Rattle, Verse Daily and many others. Her books are Yellow and Winter Arguments.
Wet cool and pluvial
shaggy-natured the clouds roam
after ice dragged and puckered the earth Fault lines
shake from inside out cracking
Nothing to blame on those old disturbances
called the mountains
Can’t you hear that rain fall sun dripping
as if in no time the sea bottoms came to point
up in the air Ascent of Shiva’s Pinnacle
in the canyon the rosy corals sunning all morning
Swaths of hematite and limestone
Gorge-dark evenings of silence Four months old
I could not see my father walk out the front door
on his way to war Blank check
to misery on Earth
closed on years of lost calendars bodies
turned under It’s the unknown I miss Never am I missed
in love as I seem with absence
Katherine Soniat has published seven poetry collections, including Bright Stranger and The Swing Girl, both from LSU Press. The Goodbye Animals received the Turtle Island Quarterly Chapbook Award. Her work has been published in such journals as TriQuarterly, Poetry, Crazyhorse, Gettysburg Review, Antioch Review, New England Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New Republic, Georgia Review, and The Southern Review.
The Chocolate Factory
for Kenton Turner, 1958 – 2019
After you died I dreamed confusion—
strange airports and lost tickets,
neon signs and missed flights,
my glasses misplaced, long
corridors to nowhere, no one
to help me find my way through.
I dreamed playgrounds deserted,
chess games discarded, tossed out books,
box of dust, a child’s cape of red.
I dreamed Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory episode.
They were trying so hard to get it just right, grabbing
at candy all along the conveyor belt, scooping it,
stuffing it, madcap, into their mouths. All that candy
they couldn’t manage to wrap. Everything
passing too fast.
Robin Turner is a teaching artist in Dallas, Texas, and an online writing guide for homeschooled teens. She has recent work in deLuge, Glass Poets Resist, Unlost Journal, Sweet Tree Review, and Virga Magazine. Her chapbook, bindweed & crow poison, is available through Porkbelly Press.
My Brother’s Bedroom
Mother steps past the worn bedroom rug
and a kept bed, sheets crisp beneath,
bedspread fenced in brown and black
plaid. The tiny lamp on a nightstand remains,
its yellowed shade still smiling with cowboys
waist-deep in lasso circles, pistols and holsters.
From the window, she can spy the sagging
swing set, bent beam alive with the thrum
of a nest, rusty holes inhaling dark whispers
of wasps as they return from where they came
in the endless samsara of being. Each
day, my mother translated by glass, the room
a black veil behind her as she counts
the prodigal returns of each sleeping sting.
Ken Craft’s poems have appeared in The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, Plainsong, Spillway, Slant, and numerous other journals and e-zines. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Lost Sherpa of Happiness (Kelsay Books, 2017) and The Indifferent World (Future Cycle Press, 2016).
Of course you are not here
but you left me
these tilted telephone poles
of another era, a car I can almost
see, and a triangular warning sign
in bright red contrast to the deep
ochre and cobalt shadows crossing
the center line of the road.
It could be the way your dusky trees
in the background swell against
the horizon, amorphous there beyond
the vanishing point—which is of course
where you are now or almost
on the verge of taking your last breath—
but this road you gave me led me
into sleep so often
I’ll go down it now keeping track
and of course also not.
This garage on the right—I could pull into it
on an ordinary day, find perhaps a path
alongside, and a bungalow
a few paces ahead, its porch
half hidden by bushes. I’ll meet you there.
There must have been some ocean
in the air the day you painted this, maybe
that’s why the trees rise and fall
like waves and the sidewalk’s edges
seem so liquid, almost ebb and flow.
for Neil Frankenhauser (1939-2019)
Terry Blackhawk is the author of three chapbooks and five full-length collections of poetry, including Escape Artist (BkMk Press) selected by Molly Peacock for the John Ciardi Prize. Her most recent collection One Less River (Mayapple Press) made the Kirkus Reviews “Best 2019 Indie Poetry” list. She has poems in many journals and anthologies and on line at ONE, Verse Daily, Solstice, Interim and elsewhere.
Nearly One Thousand Full Moons
The nearly one thousand full moons rising over Tashla
have not found the unmarked grave of Levi Isaac,
no stone that says age eleven, brother you never knew
though he lived with your family as an angel of grief,
for you, formless, ungraspable, hovering.
Every night the same moon plods its way from here
to Siberia and back, shining on that place where
earth took him up, where, could you find it,
you’d lay down your face, a blessing.
What is a brother? You must invent him:
colt legs kicking up snow glistening in moonlight,
laughing face teaching you to spit into the dust,
snapping of sticks over and over to drive you crazy.
His fingers lift the translucent snail from its leaf.
Little sister, do not be afraid. See how slowly it moves.
Kathleen A. Wakefield has published two books of poetry, Grip, Give and Sway (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and Notations on the Visible World (1999 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, 2000). She taught creative writing at the Eastman School of Music. She shares her love of poetry with children and adults through public libraries.
Kneel Said The Night
I sell mirrors
in the city of the blind. —Kabir
Kneel said the night
her full paunch moon mute
as I am. Ask for words said
the night instead. Instead,
a turning autumn path where
the shepherd and his dog
lead their x marked flock, where
morning’s cry is a hundred made
single bleat made soon
a thousand dry leafed whispers
— made sunrise — to its lover the breeze.
The lambs and sheep are x’ed for killing.
Hurry their soiled white woolen bodies as
one toward sun. Slaughter ahead but not
yet. And my own marked tongue
like a taut wound watch ticks
trees, ticks bodies, ticks the veiled
and the beheaded, ticks presidents,
ticks light. Ticks
stain I cannot say or bend.
Ticks last year’s dead.
This morning’s mute as a moon killed
The lambs will be meat before
any plea is answered.
The reddening forest can hear.
Urges syllables like breath to a fire.
Can speak to leaf, lamb, path, moss,
stone. — It can. Then I —.
Land, I mouth — hill of the dead —
as if a voice — I have heard of ancient
bones unearthed mere roads away from
here. Skeleton of sounds, poem,
said the night. Kneel with me now with
the slaughtered sheep,
in case there may be any reply.
—for us, for the Kurds, in solidarity and yes love for a humanity if there is any left—
Margo Berdeshevsky’s 5th collection is in the pipeline. Author of Before the Drought (Glass Lyre Press/a finalist for the National Poetry Series,) Between Soul & Stone, But a Passage in Wilderness, (Sheep Meadow Press,) Beautiful Soon Enough, (Univ. of Alabama Press,) recipient of 1st Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for FC2. Other honors include Robert H. Winner Award from Poetry Society of America.
Winters were mild. We imported peyote,
practiced missionary acts on rattan mats.
Cockroaches waved their ludic feelers at us.
We faked our IDs.
Mr. Aycock, in Existential Lit,
taught us that free will is just like refusing
painkillers when sitting in the dentist’s chair.
It sounded easy.
Real flamingos hung out at the nearby pool,
idly standing on single legs to see us
walk the plank by falling off the diving board
because we felt free.
We scanned Sapphics and crammed marijuana seeds
in Louisiana Picayunes just to
blow smoke rings in the air near our professor,
a sad PhD.
Eels lurked in reeds that grew submerged in the lake
where we waterskied. Nearby, cypress trees were
strung with curlicues of gray-green Spanish moss.
Our own Innisfree.
Bonnie Naradzay’s poems have appeared in New Letters (Pushcart nomination), RHINO, Tampa Review, The American Journal of Poetry, EPOCH, Poet Lore, Pinch (Pushcart nomination), The Ekphrastic Review, Split This Rock, Kenyon Review Online, AGNI, and elsewhere. She leads poetry workshops in a homeless day shelter and a retirement center, both in Washington DC.