A Poem by Jayne Moore Waldrop

Coming through Cumberland Gap

 

 

The well-marked trail leads straight uphill,

crossing a stream that roars and echoes

through a cave, once a shelter for travelers.

The water cuts through generations of stone,

nine generations to be exact since my people

walked this way. My thighs and lungs strain

but I push on, shod in appropriate footwear,

swathed in tick repellant, lathered in sunscreen,

energized by abundant color and surprise along

the path. Shocking pink blossoms line redbud

branches to frame electric blue skies,

and patches of wildflowers vary with shade

or sun through the woods. How hard, I think

as I climb, it must have been to head off

into the wilderness, to find the notch between

mountains for admission to a place called

Kentucky. The path wasn’t new and it wasn’t

theirs, but one long worn by others before

we claimed it and made it our own. While I

can’t change the history of loss and taking,

the road conjures those who came before. My

eight-great-grandmother came on foot

with children who were surely hungry, tired,

and with soiled pants. Was it her idea to make

the journey? Did she believe it was her way

to a better life? Were they cold, barefoot, sick,

scared, snakebit, peaked? Her risky story makes

me feel modern, fragile, and in awe

of what it took to make it through the gap.

 

 

Jayne Moore Waldrop is a Kentucky writer, attorney and former book columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her work has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Limestone Journal, New Madrid Journal, Kudzu, Minerva Rising, Deep South Magazine, and other journals. Her stories have been named Judge’s Choice in the 2016 Still Journal Fiction Contest and as finalists in the Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the Tillie Olsen Fiction Prize, and the AWP Intro Journals Project. A 2014 graduate of the Murray State University MFA in Creative Writing Program, Waldrop lives in Lexington.

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A Poem by Seth Jani

The Cottage Rows

 

 

The trees are just themselves,

Green and decisive,

And they have absolutely

Nothing to say.

The child walks beneath them

Following the line of shadows

With his hand.

No one can explain to him

How the trees change colors

Without being angry or sad,

How sap circulates through their bodies

And is transmuted into delicate

Drops of gold.

Those lush sentinels

Devoid of any ego or “I”

Are all it takes

To strike the heart with silence.

How then to tell him

That such miracles

Simply happen?

That the apples

Filling with sweetness

Are a plain and living truth?

 

 

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress (www.sevencirclepress.com). His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron ReviewPretty Owl PoetryEl Portal, Phantom DriftCommon Ground Review,The Hamilton Stone Review, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal  and Gravel.

His chapbook, In The House Magisterial, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. Visit him at www.sethjani.com.

A Poem by Jeannie E. Roberts

Living the Miracle

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle;
you can live as if everything is a miracle. ―Albert Einstein

 

 

Today, I’ll live as if everything’s a miracle―

watch light dawning in waves of amber,

 

lengthening across hills and meadows,

observe maple leaves greening, widening

 

after spring rain, spot antennaria rising,

softening like toes of kittens, follow

 

danaus winging, gliding, landing

atop milkweed, regard solidago spiking,

 

tipping in golden refrain, revere osprey

ascending, diving through morning air,

 

honor robins feeding, behold life

burgeoning―for when we notice Nature’s

 

blessings, witness their divinity, every day

is nothing short of that.

 

 

 

Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Her fifth book, The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She has authored three poetry collections and one children’s book. Her most recent full-length poetry collection is Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poems and photos appear in online magazines, print journals, and anthologies, including An Ariel Anthology, Bramble, Off the Coast, Portage Magazine, Quill & Parchment, Silver Birch Press, Verse-Virtual and elsewhere.

A Poem by Heather Corbally Bryant

The Easterly

           For CH

 

 

The easterly, you say, will be coming in today,

This afternoon—I like the way you say easterly

With such certainty—the way you know the

 

Tides—when they will rise and when they will

Fall—when they will come in and when they will

Go out—but it is the way you say easterly that

 

Touches me—the way you know this land, this

Sea, this shore with complete certainty—the

Currents of water are etched in your mind,

 

Time after time—the sands, the winds, the rain—

The moons, the dredges, the shipwrecks, the

Ocean lives in your mind for all time—today,

 

As we cross sandy cove you look seawards and

Say yes, yes, the easterly will be coming in today.

 

 

Heather Corbally Bryant (formerly Heather Bryant Jordan) teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She received her A.B. from Harvard, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. She has given academic papers and poetry readings in Ireland throughout the United States.

She published How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War,” (University of Michigan Press, 1992). She also has six books of poetry either published or forthcoming: Cheap Grace, The Finishing Line Press, (2011); Lottery Ticket, The Parallel Press Poetry Series of the University of Wisconsin Libraries (2013); Compass Rose, The Finishing Line Press (2016). My Wedding Dress, her first full-length volume of poetry was published in 2017, and Thunderstorm, her second full-length volume, was published from The Finishing Line Press in 2017; later in 2017, The Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Eve’s Lament. Her work of creative non-fiction, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper, will be published in early 2018, as well as her new forward to the reissue of her grandmother’s autobiography, Assigned to Adventure, originally published in 1938.

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 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.