Colette by Francesco Lombardo
Richard Jackson | Judy Kronenfeld | May Livere | Tricia Knoll | Sharon Hashimoto | Jim Daniels | Eric Nelson | Joseph Zaccardi | Sally Bliumis-Dunn | Karen Luke Jackson | Sean Kelbley | Thylias Moss | Aidan Rooney | Jude Marr | Jon D. Lee | Denton Loving | Sara Eddy | Lisa Masé | Mercedes Lawry | Ron Riekki | Mark Dawson
A Theory of Touch
For some of us there were many years of living past
Anyone we would have died for.
As far as an elegy goes, your canyon of the morning,
that we all live in, will do. But, along that narrow creek
on the canyon floor, how do we measure the depth of its
shadows? It’s like being in the little slit of consciousness
between our dreams.
A shaft of light blinding the canyon
walls prompts a hawk to suddenly lift from the cliff, leaving
its own shadow behind to follow its own dreams. In my dream,
there are newspapers with blank pages, maps with no place
names, words that will never be spoken, loves that have never
begun, vapor trails already frayed into ghosts of another time.
But what time? The past we try to create always creates itself
despite us. Its stars have faded because they have no choice.
The embers of last night’s log collapse into themselves.
The watch’s numbers move but have nothing to do with
Is there no memory that remembers us? Even our
old photos have their own laments. They are like those two
ghost moons, balls of cosmic dust, circling earth, unseen
but for a polarizing lens. Or like the dust of the solar wind
that protects us from invisible cosmic rays. I want to think
that we are all part of some dust trailing forever from one
dream to the next. Or like the Northern Lights that seem
to beckon us towards whatever it is they signal from beyond.
There’s no footpath here to follow, but further on the canyon
will widen into whatever it is going to be. In the distance
the walls seem to slant towards some unmapped floor.
The longer we walk the more we track an unseen dream.
It is as if one version of our dream touches another version.
It seems true, according to one theory, that every atom we touch
touches every other atom. The light first begins to touch what
it will illumine. Where we are begins to touch where we will be.
A few clouds have started to become their own shadows.
They are changing on the creek’s surface that itself seems
to know what river or sea it will merge into. The wind holds
the flight of the hawk. Each breath holds another breath
inside it. We follow our own shadows by letting one word
touch another word, letting their dust falling all around us
never so much alone, never so much a part of each other.
Winner of numerous awards, Richard Jackson’s twenty five books include fifteen books of poems, most recently Broken Horizons, several chapbooks from Italian, a chapbook of prose poems, Fifties, and translations of books from French, Italian and Slovene and a collection of ekphrastic poems related to the artist Metka Krasovec.
How It Is, in Time
The thin skin of the arms
imprinted like sand
over which waves have drawn
back and back and come hissing in,
sweeping across each other, leaving
their echoes like netting.
And invisible beneath the skin,
the bones of translucent porcelain,
and, within those, the lattices
growing lacier, starker,
like branches in a winter forest
And hair of hoarfrost feathers,
retinal smoke and mirrors,
spindle ankle dizziness…
then, something—a silvery harp
arpeggio, ice-sheathed twigs
tinkling in a mild wind—a prelude to
some memory, but after,
only an unblemished
Arctic whiteness, like music’s
Judy Kronenfeld’s most recent books of poetry are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, 2nd edition (Antrim House, 2012)—winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. She is Lecturer Emerita, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.
anguish works its way up a scratchy
tree trunk behind a wooden shed
left to age in the wind.
passes down the same trunk
and shrivels up in the groin
of a thorn whose tip grasps
a full, juicy lemon.
Like-minded lemons flourish
on the thorns of a few forgiving twigs
for the flowers to ripen, to un-do
the sadness on leaves as sticky
as the third of December.
Every third of December
great-aunt Imelda locks herself in
and smokes weed until the flowers
walk out of the garden
and sit with her in the living room.
Flowers ready to spray the air
with the fragrance of things
about to change, while graying fuzz
spreads on the underside of leaves
that forgot to open. And cobwebs
curl them in tight.
A flowered beetle whispers that
there should be no love in there,
a courteous exchange of worlds will do.
Roots are keepers of the groundwork
and other expenses. If disgruntled
roots peek through the surface,
they will be folded back into
Because it holds favour in its hand
or uprooted weeds and a drop of joy.
Expect the breeze to pass and the sky to remain
intact while all else undulates. Expect the seed
in the fruit to be planted everywhere.
May Livere is a writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Garden of Black Joy: Global Poetry from the Edges of Liberation & Living (Black Table Arts, 2018), Kalahari Review, Active Muse, African Writer, and Africa Book Club. She lives in Kenya.
Somewhere the snow is sooty and rimed with salt.
In the lower latitudes the sea floods the island’s shores.
Somewhere a man with a chainsaw felled an old tree
that did not have to die, not today. Does what happens
in those over there’s have nothing to do with me here
waiting for news that never comes, the longer wait
a certainty that the news is not good, the outcome
worse than I anticipated yesterday or the day before
when I was also waiting. The icicles have melted.
The poets are lining up at the microphone
to save the day, the planet, the dark, to explain
how someone left the door to the freezer open
and all the cold spilled down and down
to even cover me, the poor me I find myself
to be when the waiting turns inside out
and nothing good seems to come of it.
Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet. Her collection How I Learned To Be White received the Gold Prize for Poetry Book Category for Motivational Poetry in the Human Relations Indie Book Prize for 2018.
The Feral Cats
The uneven curtains widen with light at dawn—
a golden iris staring him awake.
Why does its magnetism pull him down
the stairs? While slippers scuff the floor, he hikes
the waist of his pajamas as he yawns.
Through glass he spies a calico, black smoke
the coiling of her tail. Other half-grown
survivors mew with rheumy eyes. Blue jays
ratchet a call. He grunts: They want their goddamn
peanuts! He’d planned to sleep late today.
The cats keep up their high-pitched choir. He thinks
of when his wife lay in the ICU. There is joy
in being needed now. He mixes chunks
of tuna fish with Friskies pellets. A pan
balances in each spread palm. They eat by rank;
big toms first, brushing his legs—unclean
withers, a wildness he can’t touch. A tub
lies tipped on muddy ground. Hungry raccoons
have washed their hands. The shadows ebb
to morning sun. Who else will care
for all this life—his thankful, thankless job?
Sharon Hashimoto has had poems and stories in Shenandoah, North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, Moss, and others. She teaches at Highline College. Her book, The Crane Wife, was co-winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Currently she is at work on a novel.
Hammock on Rome Street
Fraying green canvas, metal frame
rusting on the driveway in fading
summer light of what was she thinking—
she, my mother. For Father’s Day,
she tells me now, blind, fifty years later,
when I ask, sinking into the thick couch
beside her in their thin condo.
My father never lay in that unsteady
thing, splayed to bake on shade-less
concrete. How many trees died
in that tiny yard in Detroit before
he gave up? Five kids furious with swinging,
the overturned clunk of bones against
concrete, then tears, our mother uncranking
the kitchen window to scold. The concept
of hammock, too advanced or absurd, despite
her desperate dreams: coconuts, palm trees,
cool drinks, our father relaxing, home
from work. The what’s wrong with this picture
of our grim weedy yard dimmed by factory spew:
hammock. Our only tree: the streetlight
and its cynical stare, creosote heart.
What made you think of that? my father asks,
packed with cushions in his La-Z-Boy, weak
from treatment. He’s never called himself
a survivor, and he won’t start now. Overtime:
the what’s missing. What kept him upright,
pale, out of light, away from us till night.
We wrestled on green canvas over
his absence, the canoe tipped in the rapids
of our rage summers without shade
while our father built cars in searing
factory shadow, blinded by welding
sparks, steel parts, and five children
waiting for him. We tore the canvas
into flags of surrender. Garbage men
took it away, dismantled and bundled
next to dented gray cans painted
with our address in sloppy white drips.
Its pipes left rusty stripes of memory.
They live on Meals on Wheels and our
bland leftovers. What’s for dinner,
my father asks. In that deep still silence,
no one sways.
Jim Daniels‘ recent poetry books include Rowing Inland, Street Calligraphy. and The Middle Ages. His next book of short fiction, The Perp Walk, will be published by Michigan State University Press in 2019.
Like after poker that night when Jim backed his car
Off the driveway into the ditch, and the five of us
Pushed first from the back, then from the front, then
Side to side, each time thinking the wheels were about
To spin free. When we finally gave up, the car was stuck
Even deeper in the muck, and our shoes were caked.
Or the time the fallen maple blocked the greenway
And two joggers, a dog walker, and a biker leaned in
To shoulder it just enough to make a small passage
But only managed to break off a limb and nearly crush
The dog. Or when the stone bench caved in
After the hurricane washed out the ground beneath it;
There were enough of us to right the legs, but when
We lifted the granite slab to reseat it, someone’s grip slipped
And it sank into the soaked ground like a grave marker.
There were almost—but not quite—enough of us writing letters
And calling for swing sets instead of asphalt, parks before parking
Lots, the woods rather than condos called The Woods.
Almost enough voted against coal ash pits and pig shit ponds
So hurricanes of the new climate won’t sweep ash and shit
River by river to the ocean, fish rising up dead as they go.
There‘s almost enough of us to wipe oil from a thousand gulls
Before they suffocate, almost enough to drag dolphins
Into water deep enough for them to dive away from us, almost
Enough of us to pull the arrows from the eagle’s grasp,
Pass the dimmed lamp to the smallest hands, almost enough
To save, a bucket at a time, the house from burning down.
Eric Nelson’s most recent book, Some Wonder, won the 2014 Gival Press Poetry Award. He has published five other books, and his poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, The Sun, and The Oxford American. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and teaches in the Great Smokies Writing Program.
To Feast on the Flesh of Decay
Suppose first light spikes between limbs of the black ash
into the dog kennel where hounds brace their paws
against chain links and their spittle turns to vapor
as the farmer brings them water and a kettle of scraps
then goes back to the main house to help his wife in labor
and suppose he genuflects and counts her rapid breaths
and feels the thrum of blood move through her body
his trousers’ knees and shirt sleeves wet as he waits
to catch the stillborn they’ve named Maia of the Angels
while outside a breeze rattles the wheat stalks and stirs
the chaff left on the field hayed days before it flowered
suppose this farmer returns to the barn for a shovel
to bury their child and in the rafters hears the rustle
of rats in the loft while his hounds bay to stalk a fox
while his wife Marta wraps their baby in white cloth
if you think everything disappears fully think again
suppose come late spring she digs up her child’s
scaffold of white bones and presses them to her breast
to suckle her loss and what if she eats the grave dust
under her own nails and what if the farmer does
what needs doing back in the hayloft
by pushing down a bale of fodder
for the milk cows
Joseph Zaccardi served as Marin County, CA poet laureate (2013-2015), and during his tenure published and edited Changing Harm to Harmony: Bullies & Bystanders Project. CW Books published his fourth poetry book, A Wolf Stands Alone in Water. His poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, Poetry East, Spillway, and elsewhere.
The strand of milk
twists like a satin ribbon
from the pitcher’s terracotta lip.
You can almost hear
the milk speaking
into the worn clay bowl.
And what luxury of looking
knowing that you won’t be seen
by the milkmaid,
gaze fixed upon her task,
her eyes downcast
beneath a crisp white cap,
the risen bread spread with light
on the small wooden table.
Her rolled cuffs and sleeves,
the mustard-colored bodice,
the glint of hooks
that run from breast to waist
stretch the bodice too tight,
her full blue apron painted
with the expensive blue pigment
that Vermeer treasured.
Maybe it holds the light
from the window in its folds.
Sally Bliumis-Dunn teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her third collection was published by Plume Editions Madhat Press in March of 2018. Shortly afterwards she was interviewed by Nin Andrews for The Best of American Poetry.
Ugly old woman or girl with fair
hair? Lost in the woods or lured
into the forest? Whichever
version of the tale you choose,
the chair breaks, the broth spills
and the bed is filled with a babe
who does not belong
there, in that room,
with those bears
and no matter how many homes
one peers into, none are just right
and many a mother
has told a daughter, it doesn’t matter
if your bed is too soft or too hard,
“If you make it, you have to lie in it.”
And lie in it Goldilocks did,
through two centuries
as bards altered her from
hag into naughty child with silver
then golden hair, and then into a lass
eating porridge, plumping pillows
because too many stories featured
nasty old crones, and the once
frightful tale of a mother
rescuing her daughter from grizzlies
became a damsel longing for hearth,
dating one man, too hot, another too cold,
a third just right, until she wakes in his bed,
jumps from the story, and exits through
a window that has always been open.
Karen Luke Jackson lives in a cottage on a goat pasture in Flat Rock, NC. Her poems and stories have appeared in Ruminate, Friends Journal, Broad River Review, moonShine review, Great Smokies Review, Emrys Journal, Kestrel and Kakalak. When she’s not writing, she’s companioning people on their spiritual journeys.
They are an invitation
and petition: the woman
kneeling, arms outstretched,
hands open, offering crumbs;
the child trying not to catch
and hold 100 fluttering hearts.
your helicopter blades. Stay blank
and barefoot for the moment.
What flocked us here is done,
is doing, will be done. Look
how the pigeons pool like oil
slicks, fly different fractal planes
so closely, beautifully not into
each other. I didn’t see I didn’t
see until the smartphone shutter
clicked—our definite coordinates
arrayed in fluid iridescence; God
a constant math, recursive,
Sean Kelbley lives on a farm in southeastern Ohio, in a house he and his husband built. He works as an elementary school counselor. His poetry appears in Crab Creek Review, and online at The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, The Rise Up Review (2017 Best of the Net nomination), and elsewhere.
Shawsheen Philtrum Temptation
The way you stand there
You are nothing but temptation, even
Your philtrum reaching your upper lip, pulling
it upwards on the left, slight rise I also
Love, mouth wink, your hair is grayer than this,
So white I would imagine those snows around
Uncle T’s cabin, you have also called me T, I even told
You how to pronounce my name; you wanted to be sure,
You were pronouncing it correctly, thereafter typing it
So that I could see that you were saying it correctly
In your mind where it really counts
And I know that I have spoken, well written, Love more
Than any sacred book allows, wasn’t difficult considering
What I feel, one Kiss filling your philtrum and dripping
Sweetest tallow ever, landing drop by luscious drop
At your feet then begins to climb you, sweet wines also red
Arteries like string candy licorice, sugar extractions into
A kind of glass, a climb my hands and mouth make, sugar casing
Sweeter each centimeter of you, toes to top of your head, sugar chrysalis
That you are also all in, such wrapping even more inviting than philtrum
I remember those “Eat-It-All” cones, but never one six-feet-tall, but
Here it is before me, so I follow the embossed directions and Eat all
Of You: Sunday Philtrum Brunch.
Thylias Moss is a multi-racial Professor Emerita in the departments of English and Art & Design at the University of Michigan. Moss is a recipient of the fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations, among other honors. This poem is from a forthcoming collection, Shawsheen Memorial Broom Society
for Derry O’Sullivan
Sléibhín (little mountain)
is the name given to the black-headed gull. As noun or
adjective, sometimes anglicised as sleeveen –
sléibhín also refers to one of untrustworthy
character. The sléibhín population in Ireland swells
in summer when the birds, otherwise white-headed,
don dark hoods.
I dare not leave the edibles outside
behind my tiny home on Blackrock Road
overlooking Crowley’s Lounge and Bar backfield
five farmed-out blackface sheep have cleared
for fear that some sléibhín black-headed gull
might off with one in its beet-red bill
and end up rummaging in the bin
out back of Box of Frogs in Bridewell Lane
for one of those decadent Maltesers
let melt this afternoon in high sun that showed
the not-black-at-all but brown-plumaged hood
the sleeveen white-headed gull puts on
on the flight over from France or Britain
to skim these milky skies and vie for scraps
in the clipped back gardens and alley skips.
Aidan Rooney’s third collection, Go There, is imminent from MadHat Press in 2019. A native of Ireland, resident in the US since 1987, Aidan teaches at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts. Awarded the Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Poet in 1997, his collections Day Release (2000) and Tightrope (2007) are published in Ireland by The Gallery Press. In 2013, he was awarded the Daniel Varoujan Award from the New England Poetry Club.
Bird on Barbed Wire
what looks like nonchalance is all
calculation: the placement
of feet: picklock claws
among a tangle of raw steel
bird feet can feel
wires hum: between barbs
warnings come: twisted
strands predict catastrophe
barely-balanced bird, feathers
riffled by a stiffening
wind: eye-beads unstrung—
tensile wire’s weaponized: waves
vibrate: trembling bedrock
cants: bird, unhooked, gyres—
my coat is caught: wingless,
I watch: wingless, I will sing.
Jude Marr teaches, and writes poetry, as protest. They are currently an aging PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and their chapbook, Breakfast for the Birds (Finishing Line), was published in 2017. Recent credits include Anit-Heroin Chic, Harbor Review, and Juke Joint Magazine.
poet: directly from Latin poeta “a poet”;
and earlier, from Greek poetes “maker,
author, poet”; but rooted in *kwei- “to
pile up, build, make,” from a mother
language so many millennia dead
there is no direct evidence of its existence—
only reconstructions based on sounds
and meanings of common words among
the third of the world who speak its daughter
languages: Bengali, English, French,
German, Hindustani, Italian, Marathi,
Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish.
The Yidindji remember how the world
changed at the end of the last Ice Age: recall
through stories passed down for millennia
how they used to walk between what are now
islands & fish the rivers in the Great Barrier Reef;
how marsh birds landed among the reeds
that rotted long ago beneath the bays. Then
one day the ocean filled the hollows, submerged
the cliffs, drove away the kangaroo, fragmented
the land. They did not write these stories down.
For a thousand years, Minoans scratched meaning
onto clay and stone: a syllabic logogram of roughly
ninety symbols, written in occasional boustrophedon
whose vaguely rectilinear construction might be
reminiscent of cuneiform or kanji. Extant fragments
display repeating grammar and rudimentary mathematical
complexity, with dedicated symbols for weights and
fractions, and since many of the markings appear on the
lips and shoulders of pots and vessels, it’s assumed
the logograms tracked trade and barter. One of the few
translated words is ku-ro, or total. What remains bears
little relation to any known language, and is unlikely
to be deciphered. The extant texts, set in modern type,
wouldn’t occupy both sides of a single sheet of paper.
In a well-lit corner of St. Peter’s, behind a wall of bulletproof
glass, Mary holds what remains of her son. One carved brow line
breaks the otherwise peace of a mother who only now can see
the absence of agony. Robes stream from her shoulders like
water, flow beneath the boy on her lap & fold between her legs
into chasms that swallow light. The boy is almost weight-
less, his muscles nearly translucent enough to show bone. One
foot hangs over emptiness; a fold of the mother’s robe slides
between the fingers of his hand. From a distance, he seems
to simply be asleep, as if a knife slipped across the thick veins
in his forearm could still bring blood. Only the mother’s left
hand resists the gravity, floats its open palm skyward, fingers
slightly curled, as if they once held a much greater weight.
Leningrad starved for 900 days until the Germans retreated. Citizens
ate bread made from sawdust, shoved away shrapnel to suck water
from shell-holes. Families boiled their dogs and cats; single mothers
were rumored to have cannibalized their young. 100,000 a month
simply fell as they walked, and lined the streets with mounds of snow
and dust. & through this a group of botanists walked daily to a secret
vault where, before the war, they’d assembled the largest mass
of seeds on the planet: an assembly they’d intended to crossbreed
& solve hunger, but now guarded against the end of everything,
hoping that when it was over, someone could rebuild what was lost.
They starved one by one, rather than eat their hope. & in the end,
were found dead at their desks, surrounded by bags of rice.
roots crack rock & bone
the poet opens an eye
wine tastes of its soil
Jon D. Lee’s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Sierra Nevada Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, Connecticut River Review, The Laurel Review, and The Inflectionist Review. He has an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University and a PhD in Folklore, and teaches at Suffolk University.
The Mystery of the Hereafter
after the sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Do not call it Grief
even if grief is all you see.
It was meant to ask a question
not to give an answer
said the husband who paid the artist
to shape the shrouded figure
molded from clay, then forged in fire
to mark the grave of the wife who drank
her photo chemicals, the taste
of death as pungent as bitter almonds.
Which was more genius—
the inspiration or the execution
to give a bronze face to Nirvana—
beyond both joy and sorrow
neither man nor woman
with water-like robe and hood
flowing over the inscrutable
mystery of life and death.
I hear you, Henry Adams:
Do not call it Grief.
But I confess. Grief is all I see.
Denton Loving is the author of the poetry collection Crimes Against Birds and editor of Seeking Its Own Level, an anthology about water. His writing has recently appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, and The Threepenny Review.
What muscles did I lose
to atrophy that year I spent
on the couch, while my hair
fell out and my blood
rearranged itself? Because
here, just a couple years later
while climbing down
a stoneway to the river,
carrying my breakfast
and a book, I find
that the strength in my
haunches that once let me
hike and climb and thrust
myself into this life
is not there, and I am falling
and no one is around but
the white tree mushrooms
watching as my bag flies open
and a hundred black raspberries
confetti the air and fall
on the slick yellow leaves.
I’m fine, I say, out loud to myself
and the mushrooms, and
I’ve still got the croissant,
though the river will get the berries.
Sara Eddy is a writing instructor at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared recently in Meat for Tea, Forage, Gyroscope, and Zingara, are forthcoming in Sum and Dandelion Review. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with a teenager and a black cat and three beehives.
What’s Worth Keeping
If no one had told you your grandmother
was unstable, refused her lithium
and kept a kitchen drawer stuffed
with packages of cream-filled chocolate
cupcakes, you might have looked back
on that time with the fondness
some have for their memories.
You could never have imagined
that Wednesday afternoons with Papi
shaping dough into pumpkin ravioli
and braising foraged mushrooms
in your apartment kitchen could end.
What if it didn’t matter that your parents
left to spend a year drilling for fresh water
in Somalia, took you from cobblestoned
Ferrara to live with Kansas grandparents?
What would remain of those days
eating boiled hot dogs with pickle relish
on white buns, going barefoot into
the backyard, crouching down for mint,
eating it but not daring to share it
with the second grade classroom?
When you returned to Italy, it was not you
who emerged but a stunned girl wearing
the delicate gold bracelet her father
gave her as though to make up for it all,
a third grader who stayed after school
until she’d memorized her times tables.
Lisa Masé (she/her) has been writing poetry since childhood. She is a culinary medicine educator, food sovereignty activist, translator and herbalist living with her family in Central Vermont. Her poems have been published by Open Journal of Arts and Letters, Wander Lost, the Long Island Review, 3 Elements, Zingara Review, River and South, and Silver Needle Press among others.
Liar says grass yellow.
So it be before it’s dead,
roots curled and brittle.
Says no rot in the back porch.
We see down to the old tin buckets
full of rain’s echoes.
Liar goes high over the bent tree,
tells us this is flying. We scratch
our heads, confused. Where are wings?
We walk among false
Solomon seal, delicate as little
birds seeking insects tunneled
in moss. Liar gives us a reason
to escape the ruined Saturday
we knew would separate into jagged
pieces by nightfall when we might
rue these hours spent with Liar.
Now we hope for forgiveness
from those who cautioned.
Liar is pretty, his words pretty.
We want to swallow them with no
choking, spit them out our own selves.
Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner, and three chapbooks. Nominated for a Pushcart four times, her manuscript “Small Measures” is forthcoming from Twelve Winters Press. She’s also published short fiction, essays as well as stories and poems for children.
“I could almost believe”
—Jane Clarke, from “Snow”
I grew up so far north that sometimes we didn’t have dawn, the
night indistinguishable from day. & the wet winds
beat us home so that we bricked ourselves in each evening
with the snow as high as the roofs. I’d look out at the drifts
& see ghosts. My father said phantoms are in the walls
here. Everywhere, really. Even in the clumped haystacks
that are buried like my mother. Then the dog disappears
one night, out in the snow, lost, one of multiple miracles
where it’s on the doorstep alive in the morning. We received
food on our doorsteps too during the strike, & when hunger ripped
through the city with the mines closing, the ghostly tunic
of poverty brushing against my skin constantly, all of us dinged
with depression. & my father yelling, telling us to believe
in God with the fury of carnival tents in a hurricane, the dinner
of God, where he fills your stomach with bread & your feet with boots.
Years earlier I saw him outside, naked, drunk with the pain of snow.
*(Saami word for “where the snow has melted”)
Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017). Each line’s final word above from “Snow”.
It’s 10PM. I love this hour, I really do.
To bed? No! I’m too awake for that.
But yes, we are in double digits now –
Right now is the last moment I may
Embark on some original plan and fold it,
Neatly done, before midnight – the hour
When the earth’s curvature divides my thoughts
Into half-moons, and visions not my own
Become my own, like fish bones in the throat.
But glorious 10PM! Only those like us
With special permission venture out of doors.
Someone smoking a last cigarette stands
Still, at the apex of her reaching,
Streetlight shadow, a heroic sentinel.
And me? I carry trash to a street side basket.
I turn and see that clover has formed
A river in green grass. I have to think of
Myself thinking up a clever thought
Before I wonder if a buried sewage-line
Has broken. I do not, do not want to greet
The happy couple approaching as smoothly
As skaters on ice. It’s 10PM!
Under its spell I make my way back,
Across the grassy expanse to where it ends,
And pause to gaze at the clover Milky Way…
Mark Dawson’s poems have been published by Aralia Press (letterpress chapbook), The North American Review, The Colorado Review, Willow Springs, Flyway, Nimrod, the Antioch Review, and THINK Journal (featured poet). He edited The Black Warrior Review at the University of Alabama (MFA) and won an Academy of American Poets Prize.