Two Poems by Claudine Nash

You Might Have Saved a Life

 

 

You might have saved a life tonight.

 

On impulse,

you might have looked

a faintly-known stranger

straight in the eyes

and caught sight of a life

waiting to ignite.

 

You might have reached in

and kindled it,

 

breathed wind

into this heat that burns

without flame,

 

flicked a spark

into a field of dry grass

and yelled “Live!”

or “Fire!” or “There is a gift

in these ashes that needs

to be scattered.”

 

Tomorrow your stranger might

awaken alert and recalled,

 

they might set their Wild

Fire free and watch it spread

from sleeper to sleeper

until the world

 

shakes itself alive

and the murky sky starts

glowing.

 

You might have saved a life tonight.

You might have saved us all.

 

 

Previously published in Sick Lit Magazine

 

 

 

Certain Words

 

 

There are certain words you

would wait a lifetime to hear.

Like, “you didn’t ruin a

thing,” or “the ground between

us never turned to dust.”

 

Better still, “look, here’s a

stack of old envelopes

made out to you” and upon

inspecting their odd postmarks

and stamps, feel love leak

from their folds or read

 

scribbled between the lines

of the onionskin sheets within,

the explanation you’ve always

wanted interwoven with

the phrase “You were only

briefly forgotten.”

 

But mostly, you would

forfeit the scent of oncoming

rain or abandon the sight of

the swollen red moon just

to be told  “Please listen now,

there’s something I’m ready

to say.”

 

 

Previously published in The Problem with Loving Ghosts (Finishing Line Press, 2014)

 

 

 

Claudine Nash is an award-winning poet whose collections include her full length books The Wild Essential (Aldrich Press, forthcoming) and Parts per Trillion (Aldrich Press, 2016) as well as the chapbook The Problem with Loving Ghosts (Finishing Line Press, 2014). She also co-edited the book In So Many Words: A Collection of Interviews and Poetry from Today’s Poets (Madness Muse Press, 2016). Internationally published, her poetry has received Pushcart Prize nominations and has appeared in a wide range of publications including Asimov’s Science Fiction, BlazeVOX, Cloudbank, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Foliate Oak and Dime Show Review amongst others. She is also a practicing psychologist. www.claudinenashpoetry.com.

A Poem by Ed Meek

Sigh

 

It’s a relief sometimes.

this single note,

from a forgotten song

carried by breath

like a wave by wind.

 

It escapes unintentionally

before you can stop it.

causing you pause

 

between thoughts

or at the tail end

of a moment—

 

an afterthought

or a prelude

or an afterword—

 

a giveaway

or maybe a clue

to life or death.

 

Isn’t that last exhale

A sigh—the wave dissipating

on an unknown shore…

 

 

 

 

Ed Meek is the author of Spy Pond and What We Love. A collection of his short stories, Luck, has just come out.

Two Poems by Arthur Russell

Unbent Trumpet

 

 

I unbent a trumpet,

looking for Andrew, my first friend,

 

to answer an ache

to a deeper joint than knees.

 

Down the tool room,

 

with a propane torch,

a hard rubber hammer and a soft steel pry

I smithied out the bends of the horn I’d played in high

school.

 

If he were in there,

I would find him.

 

The blue flame burnt the varnish

and the stout tube sweated

solder like candle wax

and the air stunk sweet with flux.

 

The valve set—all three at once—came free

in my right hand.  I regarded it

like a pearl-capped grenade

and worked the valves with stupid insistence;

watched openings align and then move out of line.

 

The horn I’d played beside him,

disintricated and unraveled,

lay in straightened heat-stained

pieces on the brown bench

like orderly bones,

 

and yet the night disputed

what my knuckles insisted

and my jaw believed;

 

so I put it back together

as a jerry-rigged telescope,

 

a four-foot clarion

without heraldic flag

and now it was nearly morning.

 

and I loved that man before he was a man.

I loved him first, before I knew my heart

 

I held the straightened trumpet up;

 

I held my eye to the mouthpiece.

 

If he were in there,

I would find him.

 

I looked up through the trumpet

toward the incandescent

basement light,

 

and I saw him,

                  down Sheepshead Bay,

 

the summer after graduation,

with a soft instrument case

hanging from his shoulder,

thick curls parted in the middle

under a newsboy cap

and whitened blue jeans

torn at the knee.

 

There were fishermen on the pier—

fileting blues on the cleaning tables;

a cigarette caught in a crevice at the faucet

smoking thickly like a punk in the moveless air.

 

He stopped in the middle of the footbridge

that crossed Sheepshead Bay

from East 19th to Manhattan Beach,

to unpack his trumpet

and licked his little mustache,

 

where the sound from his lips first imagined

the air above the bay beyond the bell;

 

and he played that bell-buoy trumpet over the

glassy listless bay

majestic among the moorings

from Emmons Avenue

to Exeter Street

 

where anyone,

anyone could have heard him.

 

 

 

“Unbent Trumpet” was previously published in Red Wheelbarrow #9, October 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday Morning

 

 

A pigeon pursued by a shadow

shot the gap between buildings like a fighter plane

from the early sun toward my balcony.

Its skull rang the double pane

with a metal clang, and it fell

to the concrete floor, its grey chest heaving.

 

Specks of head feather made a circular mark

on the glass. I slid the heavy door aside.

 

The noise that fills our city courtyards

poured into my home like foam peanuts

in a shipping box.  I went outside

in my pajama pants and knelt between

the pigeon and my failed avocado,

whose chopstick crutch was stouter than the stem

I’d twist tied to it; and the bird I feared,

as a city boy, to touch, whose death

I feared to share—compassion caught like a foot

in the fork of a tree—lay breathing slowly.

 

It had a short, yellow beak with dark

striations like an old piano key,

and, at its base, instead of pince nez glasses,

waxy bulbs of whitish nostril rested.

The tiny head where it had punched the glass

swelled like the knot on a Sikh boy’s turban.

 

Its well-black eye was glazing toward milk.

 

On the next-roof-over parapet, nonchalant

and motionless, a pyramid of patience,

I saw the shadowed peregrine waiting

for the pigeon it had chased to panicked death

to die.  And I, with eyes made mother-hard,

stood and thrust my chin out at the falcon,

which turned its head to show me how its dark beak curved.

 

I reached back for the beach chair then, too intent

to turn away and set it like a tent

above the dying bird, and went inside,

and closed the sliding door behind me,

cutting off the noise.

 

The white quilt that enveloped my young wife

shown in the dark like the snow on the lawn

of our current home when I go outside

in the early dark to shovel.  I sat

on the edge of the bed.  I touched her hairline.

Our love, then, had a jigsaw fitting calm.

 

I told her I had looked up from my coffee,

seen the pigeon come, more bomb than bird,

and crash into the billboard of itself

that was our window,

and how I felt my heart at impact

shrivel like a nut sack in cold water

when the poor thing fell and lay there lifeless,

but for its twitching, tangled, scaly feet.

 

But when we reached the living room,

even before I slid the door aside,

I saw beneath the folding chair, the pigeon

where I’d left it wasn’t

there, and the dead

tree stem lashed to the chopstick, jutted

from its hilltop in the chipped clay pot;

and outside, in the noise and brick-walled courtyard,

neither on the parapet, nor anywhere,

the falcon with its terrible intent.

 

Nothing of the pigeon remained on the balcony

except the ring its head left on the door.

 

We stood that way forever; even now

we stand there in our sleep clothes, I, who saw it,

and she, who only heard of it from me.

 

 

 

“Easter Sunday Morning” was previously published in the American Journal of Poetry.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur Russell lives in Nutley, New Jersey. He won fellowships to Syracuse University and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His poem “Whales Off Manhattan Beach Breaching In Winter” was voted 2015 Poem of the Year at Brooklyn Poets, won Honorable Mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize for 2016, and was anthologized in Bettering American Poetry, Brooklyn Poets Anthology; and Paterson Literary Review. His chapbook Unbent Trumpet was a finalist in the 2017 Center for Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Poetry competition.

 

 

A Poem by Orchid Tierney

From Gyrotexts

 

moss expanding into monochrome shot of ice/the petronauts go south/
soon it will be too hot/between a rocket and a hard placenta/
No, BP Didn’t Ruin the Gulf/The Arctic is very sensitive to environmental change/
break the ice with one of these introductory exercises/‘Global cooling’
burning the mileage oligarchy/the atmosphere is a garbage dump/
What kind of ideas can the air give you?/the poem is a carbon sink/
fatally-flawed/carry Newscastle to the coals/the world at least for the time being
is growing warmer/a ten degree increase…will melt 70% of the polar icecap/
strum while the irony is hot/C02 will have a positive effect/suitable to colonization/
The surface of the earth is only dust and mud/a forgetting of air/when the starlings
begin to hulk, the earthworm will become a puffin

 

 

 

Orchid Tierney is from New Zealand/Aotearoa/Philadelphia. Her chapbooks include Brachiation (Dunedin: GumTree Press, 2012) and The World in Small Parts (Chicago: Dancing Girl Press, 2012), and a full length sound translation of the Book of Margery Kempe, Earsay (TrollThread, 2016). She co-edits Supplement, an annual anthology on Philadelphia writing.

Photo credit: José Alberto De Hoyos

A Poem by Charissa Menefee

Ants

I.

They find me in the living room

chair, on the couch, in the bed.

 

Anywhere I am, they are.

I can never find where they get

 

in, can never track a solid line,

and they appear only when

 

I am nursing—or trying to

nurse—my newborn.

 

Emblematic of my failure, they come

for the sweet breast milk, which

 

seems to be everywhere except in this

apparently ever-shrinking baby.

 

II.

When I lift the lid off the candy dish

on the top shelf, I see wrappers, still

 

round in the middle and twisted on the

sides, but with only pockets of air inside.

 

Digging around, I find a wrapper with a

tiny ant in it, carrying a minute speck of

 

candy—sugar ants have dismantled each

lozenge, piece by piece, and stolen them.

 

How many hours, days, weeks, months

has this operation been going on, workers

 

slipping in through a sliver of air between

bowl and lid, sneaking into sealed packages?

 

III.

Why are the sugar ants here?  So that I’ll try

to get at least one more ounce of milk in this baby?

 

I can see, somewhere, a hill, astonishing in size,

made up of tiny mouthfuls of candy.

 

 

 

 

Charissa Menefee teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University. Her chapbook, WHEN I STOPPED COUNTING, is available from Finishing Line Press. Her recent poems can also be found in TERRENE, ADANNA, AMYGDALA, and Telepoem Booths in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Her new play, OUR ANTIGONE, adapted from Sophocles, was premiered by Iowa’s Story Theatre Company in March.

A Poem by Elaine Reardon

Primavera Forest / Bosque La Primavera

 

This forest holds my heart

Este bosque sostiene mi corazón

 

Rio Caliente shimmers below us

a waterfall tumble with clouds of heat

 

we climb and and scramble carefully

over rocks as we cross the heated mist

 

sharp scent of pine and mesquite crackle

under our feet as the sun warms the hillside

 

below us the convent is tucked into a curve

of river where women come to heal

they are washed by the river

 

it arrives in their innermost places as the nun

muy vieja  brings vegetables herbs and prayer

 

 

The nun will look into your eyes to consider

your chances and her resources

 

Este bosque sostiene mi corazón

This river flows through my heart

 

 

 

Muy Vieja -very old

Rio Caliente— Hot River

 

 

 

Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook,The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, published September 2016, recently won first honors from Flutter Press as the top seller of 2016. Most recently Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MA Poet of the Moment, http://www.naturewriting.com and poetrysuperhighway.com. Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at elainereardon.wordpress.com

A Poem by Joan Leotta

Lilies of the Valley

 

Lilies of the Valley–

small white bells

whose fragrance ascends

to God with puff and huff

of spring’s new breath.

They grew abundantly in

Grandma’s rock garden

among her hosta

on the shady side of her porch.

That very first spring day

when grandma brought

her glider out of winter storage

I would stand on the cushions,

climb over the iron

railing , carefully

lower myself and crouch among

those tiny nodding bells to

fill my lungs and soul with their

aroma of hope.

 

 

 

This poem first appeared in the Peacock Journal.

 

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood. She is a writer and story performer. Her poetry, short stories, and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oak, the North Carolina Literary Review, the A-3 Review, Kai-Xin (award winner), Spelk Fiction, Hobart Literary Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Fourth River, Silver Birch, and Postcard Poems and Prose, among others. Her first chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon came out in 2017 from Finishing Line Press.When not hunched over a computer she is walking, shell hunting and daydreaming at the nearest beach.