A Poem by Autumn Meier

This One Should Rhyme

 

 

They say the universe was once so close

That the space between atoms was erased

And the true meaning of intimacy arose

As the first particles united, unchaste

 

Time, matter, and energy combined

As the knotted thread of life began

And in a story oddly predesigned

I think you were there, holding my hand

 

The explosion saw the dust of stars

Scatter through the vast landscape of space

And like the puff of slow cigars

The scene evolved like gently-worked lace

 

Our atoms were lost in the cosmic dance

But for billions of years the search never ceased

I knew we would once again meet by chance

And the heaviness of time would be released

 

Then—in a little coffee shop, on the outskirts of Kyiv,

I understood why, all these years, I’d believed.

 

 

 

 

Autumn Meier‘s work can be found in Straight-Up Magazine and Carcinogenic Poetry. She lives in Waxahachie, Texas with her husband and 438 books.

A Poem by Devi S. Laskar

Instructions for Driving at Night

                                                             After Tarfia Faizullah

 

He pulled me over. Third time this week. First time

at night. His sirens screamed red. The sky a ripe

melon. The sky a girl on the street driving

 

into the open mouth of dark. He swatted

my face with his baton. He swatted my lips

with the butt end of his flashlight. He wielded

 

the baton like a finger to touch my breasts.

He used his flashlight to get a better look.

His car was full. His colleagues joined in. I fell

 

against the parking brake, the car rolled forward.

I fell and he used his baton. I remember

I love marionettes. I love how a string

 

is pulled and its puppet jerks to life. I did

not apologize to him for making him

pull me over. The girls on their hot pink bikes

 

and matching helmets cycled faster past us.

Girls breaking away from our bloodletting. Girls

tossing their bikes onto grass behind the white

 

picket fence, and running inside. I fell when

he pulled me out of the car. I was too dark

for them to rape me. He thought my skin was a

 

contagion. His friends joined in, rendered my

body fruit salad. My face cherry compote.

My pomegranate heart exploded open.

 

I kept watch for Hades and Persephone.

After a while I closed my eyes. I saw stars

being born, the big bang that comes before light

 

travels. I knew not to speak. I knew not to

cry. I knew it would get worse. But I cried out.

I cried out for my mother, hundreds of miles

 

away. I cried for hundreds of mothers, ones

on the other side of those picket fences.

I cried for my friends but I could no longer

 

remember their names. I cried though all I could

see were their faces, milky outlines, makings

of constellations. Stars already dead but

 

still shining holy, night after night. Flashlights

moving the traffic along, his breath a spray

of petrol before the fire starts and looting

 

begins. He wished aloud for my death. Someone

called an ambulance so I lived to hear

on the six o’clock news that I was a slut

 

with a car, resisting arrest, deserving

the prizes I received from his giving arms.

My mother did not cry but asked if I had

 

apologized, kept my head down low, staring

at the mat under my sandaled feet. I said

no and through her sudden tears, she smiled.

 

 

 

Devi S. Laskar is a native of Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds an MFA from Columbia University in New York. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer and artist. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, Fairy Tale Review, Noyo River Review and The Raleigh Review, which nominated her for Best New Poets 2016. She is an alumna of both TheOpEdProject and VONA/Voices, and poetry workshops at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Finishing Line Press published the first of two poetry chapbooks, Gas & Food, No Lodging in March 2017, and Anastasia Maps in December 2017. She now lives in California.

Two Poems by Robert Knox

The Leaf Washers

“The plants eat light.” From Michael Pollan’s “How Smart are Plants?” in the New Yorker

 

Yesterday we washed the leaves

Today they salute us

Reaching out, waving their storybook lives

Like the pages of a book

Fluttering long fingers

Beckoning, or speaking the gesture language

Heavier creatures invent upon their fingers

They pulse their high wire stories through the air waves

 

The leaves live in the air, the air is home, shelter, food for them

The current of breath that fills my senses

Orders time for the dance of the hours

The leaves make time for us, filtering the world

The minutes emerge from pores and make sense for us,

Slow as the waves of the world

They save the voices of the children

They lie still before the whine of the engines

To still them is to deafen the magic

They droop like ears silenced by the humdrum of machines

They turn the salutes of the hours into triumphs of air

They sluice and filter the music of the world

They are the companionate senses of the wild green earth,

A bowering neighbor,

A grotto of tuned and tasted pleasure, pre-digested by fertility,

A porous protection, a second self

They guide the sun to my temple

I am—we are—within the village of the world,

Inside temples among the jungled cities

The leaves salute our fellow travelers in their journeys through the sky

As friends, superiors in life, elders, survivors of earlier days

They know where they situate is all the world

They mediate the base of things, the fundamentals,

Molecules, waves, atoms, energy-matter—the rain in Piccadilly,

The fountains of Beirut, the voices of the stars

 

 

 

As A Tree

 

 

Tannish tassels smudging the plants,

bedecking leaves like off-color tinsel,

a plague of dust tarnishing the green.

Mannish flowers these, gifts of the oak,

a thing made all of secrets.

You never see it sleep, or shout, or breathe, or blow, or natter

or rumble, or do anything.

The wind “does.” The birds leap and shout.

Leaves appear. Branches fall.

Catkins parachute softly in the spring,

a daring raid behind enemy lines; success assured by numbers.

The oak is ever that which is, not that which shows

in its becoming.

It is always being a tree.

Surely we all have heard this moralized explanation of “giving”—

these theatrically magical seeds

these time-lapse photographs of “stages”:

the seedling with the corny hat, a sproutling, a slender sapling (like a boy with a bat),

branches that shoot outward like crosses

held against the terrors of a world of fire, seething winds, clinging ice,

quaking thunder, shaking earth.

Time passes through the tree.

It perseveres in thereness, wise in the way of treeing.

We encounter, witness, regard, visit,

become what we will, in our endless evolutions.

The oak always was what it will be

whenever I behold it:  then is now.

 

 

 

 

Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet and fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Suosso’s Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in Every Day Poet, Off The Coast, Houseboat, Yellow Chair Review and other journals. His chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty (Finishing Line Press) was published in May 2017.

A Poem by Richard King Perkins II

An Astounding Perimeter

 

It’s not a dream

but a slightly bygone world

covered in frozen mist.

 

Sparrows alight on the small shoreline

of an astounding perimeter—

a sanctum whispering in white.

 

I study the icebound bracken and reeds,

gazing past the embankment

to this vacancy of snow where your car once slept.

 

In the old meeting place, I still look for you—

where our conversations spilled upon gentle light;

simple confessions of twigs and soul.

 

But we’re left with only a few desperate sentences;

having spoken of things to deny or embrace,

the evergreen ghosts of our endless north country.

 

Now you’re stranded on a bridge in St. Louis

with no money and no credit cards

and your passenger side window broken out.

 

I’m in the bristling pines laced ivory

where someone once wrote a song about you;

how your eyes extinguished sensibility,

how your eyes painted light into every corner of darkness.

 

Can you recall how desperately we believed

that the return of robins and sharp shadows

could change everything;

that crocuses would ignite life in themselves?

 

 

 

Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

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