A wick set us both to fire set us both to anxious plight
separate loving chimes in our throats
Melody cracked Crevices between last dialogue.
In the kitchen I threw a phone at you which ruptures on your chest
Like that respect for heterosexuals
Who use the word “faggot” meaning dumb and weak
Or perhaps that one faulty line on your lips
About someone you love who cannot be with you
At all this was a channeling of different strength
Broken between two brown boys but one indistinct groan
Like that I sink under assimilation & pressure
Third time’s the charm
I like to break everything I touch
Friends run rampant out of my life
Chaos is that white hand at my brown neck
Dark liquor in blood-shot eyes
what is the truth we omit?
Draining our best perspectives lingering in a red cup
Or if the single most well-known plan
was you here & not elsewhere
How fast would you leave?
She’ll run into you harder than a train into this brick wall sentiment
Come complain about what triggers you.
we were the same distinct broken men
Now in flight with your first thought
After the mighty impact.
You’re making me swell up
agitating drizzle into drought
pulsing passed me & taking everything.
I am growing in the water of your indifference
melting wax figure in your heat & hand
hoping that this waiting is essential
a mask of maturity in every low point
pointing us downward into our old selves.
Beauty was irrelevant in your eyes
right? when I’m down on my knees
& your thighs are shaking
fantasizing meteor showers, burning my name up
plummeting old stars into abdomen.
My shoulders are heavy with “right now” & “too soon”
lick me up like I lick you up
hold me up like I lift you up
welling like those planets exploding among this lazy darkness.
Tell me something is changing
I feel it sway through a pipeline of you
straight across this dream
straight down my spine.
Mateo Lara is a latinx queer poet working towards his degree at California State University of Bakersfield. He has a chapbook out callled, ‘X, Marks the Spot,’ available on Amazon. His poems have been featured in Orpheus, Empty Mirror, and EOAGH. You can find him on twitter @killeremm.
You always say I make things up,
that I’ve never told the truth
about anybody’s life. You say
some things are better left unsaid.
I sit patient at your side. You drift
in dream and drug. I run one
finger along the slick silver rail,
smooth wrinkles from the sheet,
within the buzz and hum of your new
mechanical breath, the bump and line
that monitors your heavy heartbeat,
too large for even all your years.
You say I make things up,
like storytellers do, conjure whole truth
to half lie, twist good rhyme
to hone a poem. I do.
I make things up as weavers
of tales must, steal the dramatic edge,
pitch a lilt to voice, steady a trembling hand,
flutter the still eye. I exaggerate.
I get it
Let Me Live This Life Here and There
Let me go forward, this time, next time.
Sail me seaward to where I have not been before,
to Martha’s Vineyard or some isle off Greece.
Let me plant bulbs there to bloom wide-eyed
before the wine. Draw the bath, rub my
traveled feet, peel back artichoke leaves
for me to scrape the chew off on my teeth.
Let me go back this time, next time.
Fire the coal stove, fluff the feather quilt
in Johnstown. Take warm bread from the oven,
pull the wet hot centers out and dip them
in churned butter for me to eat. Run my fingers
round a pudding bowl and lick them clean.
Pour strong coffee bittersweet as chocolate
on the street beat back in New Orleans. Fly me
on to England to plant a twilight garden there.
Walk me through the green, stretch with me
among the lavender toward last slices
of light in pleasure skies. Give me
this life like no other. Let me repeat myself.
Let it begin here and there where I surprise
the window glass as I look out and sip
Rioja, wondering if I will ever make it
to Spain. Then take me someplace I have not
been. Begin again. Draw the bath, rub
these feet, kiss my forehead off to dream
to live again this life like no other.
School Day for Catholic Girls
Outside, little Polish girls hedge
the step sides
at Prince of Peace School,
pleated plaids smooth,
white blouses and postures
Except for one—
she hiccups cries
that she is afraid
Sister with break her fingers
if she cannot
get the words straight
between the lines.
Inside, at the window for good light, I decide this is a day
to play hooky from classrooms and paper restraints
of my teaching job. Hazelnut steam drifts up in an ease
from morning coffee toward a thin rain drizzle
and a moon that still remembers the up-all-night
octaves of a room full of women with birthday wishes
and stories of where we are going, where we have been.
In September this sky, like a weather report, is all wrong.
It should be an Easter of violets when a Catholic schoolgirl’s
guilt skipping catechism for a cherry coke and bag of chips
at the corner drugstore could be easily assuaged
by a soda jerk’s advice to drop change in the poor box
and a good act of contrition at the altar of an open-hearted Jesus.
Outside, the little girl’s cries
soften, nudge the air.
She moves on, chorusing in
behind the other’s murmurs. They,
like cloistral notes and chords
tuning up, pass through
A life I survived floats
with a sugar cube in coffee.
Only the blank
school house window eyes
as I take up a basket full of summer’s last gifts—
squash, fresh mint, purple-veined kale, overripe
tomatoes, and bottle of old cognac to perfume
my cup, to celebrate being off work. After all,
it is my birthday, and the first year
no one dared ask my age.
(in pre-revolutionary Managua, Nicaragua)
I raid the quiet of the night kitchen
bedroom, mahogany and pine scenting
night slippers, hungry for sleep.
Listen with me. You can hear
there is a padded sound,
pell-mell of men’s footsteps
along the marbled entry hall.
They come like guns with silencers on
in militia boots and imported jackets.
I must be imagining this
from this room—the garden wall
lipped with barbs and broken glass.
Listen with me to an ox cart
wheeled to a halt, jeep patrol braking
on a splash of a laundry maid’s soapy
Lysol water. See their cylinder shafts
take aim out the window
toward anything that might move.
I walk softly on my toes,
slowly cup my ear to the wall.
In the other room
they are meeting tonight. You can hear
words congregate around the chew
of Havana cigars, language roll
like a millstone over maize. At my ear
pressed in like fingertips to shape
wet tortillas, hear their trills drop
small beans from the tongue, syllables
gulped down with scotch laced salutes
at the ends of their words.
I must be making this up
these bankers, ranchers, minstrels
of sound stitched in together
in Guatemalan whites, gold coins
jangling in the pockets of Japanese silk.
Listen. Maybe you can hear them talking.
These are the words sung on a house
parrot’s tongue, words anyone can
understand about disposing a regime:
Sandanista, communista, junta,
Somoza, asesinato, la revolucion.
Words rush off now in the dark
from that very room where
in the broad and early light
my mother-in-law washed down
Valium with gin on the news
her husband listed another bastard son
onto his chain of heirs, in the room
where I fingered like worry beads
the string of pearls that once wooed her,
her tears welts across her face,
mouth swollen as anyone’s bruised
from too many harsh kisses.
I pack things into the brass banded
leather trunk: pumice stones
from the black sand edge of Tipitapa,
hamaca woven by children in Masaya,
negrito pottery I carried by mule
from Madagalpa, snake baskets
from the mercado. I toy with what will be
rumored in whispers behind those doors,
that an American bruja once stayed
to herself in this room, ear to wall,
charting movement of planets with pen,
collecting the useless things: lizard skins
torn on the garden wall, pond pebbles
small as a woman’s tears, letters
scratched out under mosquiteros,
all the little bits of bark.
Come run from this room with me,
fast and hard as a child rocketing
tunnels, arms outstretched like eagle’s wings,
end light in sight. The geography
here will remain all unmapped sky.
It spits and stutters now constellations
of spark and ash against the night,
some like comets self-consuming,
some shooting whorls of steamy wishees,
distant Vulcan god about to cast
lightning in the path.
The tattling lid slam brings
my father-in-law in without knocking.
He says he knows I was listening, sees
I am leaving, warns I am too much
like his wife, worrying about night visitors.
I argue this is a dangerous place: war is coming,
Concepcion that only trembles now
will blow open walls, volcanic disaster
on the rise. He dismisses not now, not today,
waving his hand, his voice a throaty rumble,
cigar smoke on his breath. Maybe tomorrow,
he concedes, when I take leave to invent
a life away from here, like Americans
who think they are bigger than this,
who are no better than this can become.
Andrena Zawinski is an award winning poet and educator, born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA who has made Alameda, CA her home. She has authored several collections of poetry: Something About (Blue Light Press, San Francisco) received a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Traveling in Reflected Light (Pig Iron Press, Youngstown) was a Kenneth Patchen competition winner in poetry. Her chapbooks are Taking the Road Where It Leads (Poets Corner Press Honors Publication), Zawinski’s Greatest Hits 1991-2001 (Pudding House Invitational Series), Poems from a Teacher’s Desk and Six Pack Poems To Go Postcard Collection (Harris Publications). Her individual poems have appeared in Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Nimrod, Slipstream, Rattle, Many Mountains Moving, Pacific Review, Psychological Perspectives Journal of Jungian Thought, The Progressive Magazine and others with several Pushcart Prize nominations and work widely anthologized. She founded the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon in and is editor of their anthology: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down (Scarlet Tanager Press). Her latest book of poems is Landings (Kelsay Books, 2017). Zawinski has been PoetryMagazine.com’s Features Editor since 2000.
No one-size-fits-all cards for you and me this year. We want to express our love with homemade valentines instead. I rush to the craft store to gather the necessary supplies: pink cardstock, dozens of heart stickers, and a Sharpie as red as the stitches in a baseball. “I love you,” I write in my fanciest script, then embellish the words with stickers.But you outdo me with a creation sure to last longer: Using a bobby pin heated by the flame of your lighter, you dig into your flesh to form a red-hot heart and carve my initials inside.
Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in more than two dozen publications, including Fictive Dream, Ink In Thirds, Riggwelter, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review. Links to her work can be found at https://loricramerfiction.wordpress.com. Twitter: @LCramer29.
A trick shooting priest
palms a canary. Swallows it.
Tents brood gaily on the brown lot.
The sword swallower and
dancing bear swap jokes and recipes.
The circus can’t wait
to leave town.
ON A THEME FROM LEWIS CARROLL Mind the volcano!
—The Red Queen
A looking glass object objects
to being reduced to an object.
It sees itself as real, if reversed,
and worthy of consideration and respect.
It looks back through silver
and glass and begins to question
the world it reverses. Its cool
surface is the only contact.
It asks: Are you looking through me
or do I see through you?
Mark J. Mitchell’s latest novel, The Magic War just appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in the several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks— Three Visitors, Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics—and the novel, Knight Prisoner are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.. He lives with his wife the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster and makes a living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco.
A meager online presence can be found at Facebook.
His outpost is a place of edges.
He hears a woman cry.
Nearby there’s a mile-long trestle;
the bridge won’t swing aside
for those like her without means
Something dark is happening here.
He clarifies the line between what is and was
and the ability to accept there’s no return
without paint. His middling canvas
plays there a few blocks down and over
in that empty room.
He may only mimic her tragic beauty
but such is the fruit of receiving.
And such is his gift of tongues
in a land without
Our still-moving lawn joins a larger drifting,
white-cloud mountaintops a hundred miles
away like a blurred migration, a lost exodus
processing. Frenzied, our empire is a llano peopled
with the anxious, the unready. It’s already started.
A smell of fire and flesh spreads out.
The death of older ways, it blows wide, strong and
everywhere. Starlings flutter; they rise from clearings,
their unison almost weather. But we’re earthbound
solo or twos and threes on the edge of breaking. We
stand on separate rolling plates, while budgies rest
like buddhas, plural and one in the garden.
We need a Constantine, a welder of great schisms
whenever they happen. We cry, “Rid us this divide.
Show us the birds’ way. Renew in us that common wing.”
Open Space / Open Country
Our tight space
our small room shades
walls, dotted flashing
russet white and black.
A forced green but
You’d have to call it
pale what with
the fading day angled
less fleshy than death-hued,
informed by sketches
So what becomes of us
when we who are
made from big places
crave a return to wideness
a scattering that
when asunder may be freer
than when peopled
in the towns? Even
as art freezes a blur, an old
Polaroid shot tries
collective linseed oil
streak across to touch but not
touching what is now
an otherwise sky-colored wheel.
But all shades have bled-out
into our water table.
So it’s no good.
The lonely number tonight
looks for his
After the Pulpwood Trucks Have Left
Red cut land oozes
around the cicatrice
from tracks from moss
a greening a shadow.
Drones gather sentient wings,
a camp meeting of shimmering.
about all the eyes after dark.
You can see them
now their table turned,
gilded blinking nights.
L. Ward Abel, poet, composer and performer of music, teacher, retired lawyer, lives in rural Georgia, has been published hundreds of times in print and online, and is the author of Peach Box and Verge (Little Poem Press, 2003), Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006), The Heat of Blooming (Pudding House Press, 2008), Torn Sky Bleeding Blue (erbacce-Press, 2010), American Bruise (Parallel Press, 2012), Cousins Over Colder Fields (Finishing Line Press, 2013), Roseorange (Flutter Press, 2013), Little Town gods (Folded Word Press, 2016), A Jerusalem of Ponds (erbacce-Press, 2016), and Digby Roundabout (Kelsay Press, 2017).
The penny tiles
invite me to sink
to their cool surface,
black and white,
the floor is an easy
decision, but I wonder
how to lay myself
down, willingly, carefully,
too strong to crumple, yet
not strong enough for
15 steps back and up
into bed, knowing I will
be back and weary
too soon, so I ease
to one knee, two, settle,
stretch and pull knees
in, curled safe, hands
tucked under my head,
and quietly await
SidelinedI didn’t think you would be
able to I wait for the next words
handle the chaos
I let out my breath. She is
Even I get um dizzy, with people
and spinning and
running, so you...
If I had the skills I would
not hesitate to join but then,
she’s right, the spins would
set in and would linger
long after the game.
It surprises me that
at eleven she worries about the vertigo,
while I was worried that she
I’m bad at basketball.
A Shadow of Rachmaninoff
On the wall there is a shadow
of Rachmaninoff, and in the air an echo
of Chekhov, of Kandinsky. The markings
of those who have come and gone
ever present an ocean and more
from motherland, where, here,
Moscow becomes a chronotope
of another place, another time,
of suffering beauty, condensing wisdom
into art that is breathed in still, now, and out
with the vodka, and with the light of dawn.
Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her work has recently appeared in The Capra Review, Juniper, The Literary Nest, Eunoia Review, Rogue Agent, The Same, and other journals. She lives in Jersey City, NJ where she teaches English at New Jersey City University. She is on Twitter @annwlace409.
The infinite wisdom of bones – how they know to merge together
and gather strength – the solid white flesh of its meaning.
Dusty ash shakes off from my skin -how strong it looks when i run.
See my slippery blood so smooth running down the length of me.
I open my glass mouth and it carries bubble words through a tunnel hollow/tubular.
We think we know what our bodies say in the deep crumpled sheets of ourselves.
I fold up square by square and close my arms wide gathering up
the me of who I am.
This freckled arm like a narrow map traces with the lightest touch
Its beginning and end – meeting at the edge of my wrist.
Wild thoughts in my minds’ eye will get sewn together with the loose threads of my hair.
My hands learn to touch before the wisdom of hope takes its greedy arms
and wraps it around my heart -strangles my neck full blown in turtleneck wool.
I strain to remember all of me in the loose trace of my skin.
If you peel back my eyelids to see inside my head – you would find landmarks and place setters deep in the earth;
criss-crossed wires with their honeycomb thoughts.
It is tempting to be happy.
To live on that satin smooth of the ribbon;
to have the belief of each new dawn,
It is promising to rise/chin up –
against the possibility of battle,
tease it with your red scarf;
sweet talk it with your fat arms of hope.
It collects itself in the bottom of the ledge-
misty fresh rain –
separated only by the single moment
you neglect to see the floating bug;
It’s hands up in defeat,
only halfway through the summer.
Mary's mother crossed herself when they drove by a church or a cemetery
held her breath for the dead I was told -
collected their souls in the crumb-filled baggies at the bottom of her purse.
She wore black that whole summer her eldest brother died in Nam;
she scratched the surface of every day scabbing them over-
picking them apart.
Mary's mother held her breath at the morning news
crushing tissues fiercely into the mad ball of her hands.
White lace curtains in every room -
she swept and dusted the shiny surfaces of thick wooden tables/chairs.
The air was combed straight into thin shades of grey.
Mary's mother placed sugar cookies warm from the oven on a lacy flowered plate;
looked at me hard - tilted her head,
"eat" her expression said.
She watched me as I broke the cookies into two solid pieces;
the glassy slivers of sugar disappearing onto my tongue
like they were never there.
My mother saw faces in everything.
The bathroom tiles would hold a Saint - complete with open mouth parted in warning -
hands crossed in prayer -
right there on the floor by the side of the tub near the wall.
We would be called from our deep holes of a bed and stand balancing on sleepy feet
searching between the random splashes of water that formed pools around our curling toes.
We saw nothing.
Angered, she would pour herself another glass of scotch and stare at the face until the cloudy shape became another.
Before long we shuffled back to bed our failure finding a space between the loose puzzle pieces of our bedroom.
Jesus once sat for two and a half hours on a crumpled paper bag in Poe Park.
We were shopping for Easter shoes for Danny and she wandered off following pigeons
into their spaces in the gazebo-
their lonesome hiding spots on building ledges behind bushes.
They spoke to her sometimes.
Danny would listen for hours - his anxious ears turned up to her urgings
but i gave up two years earlier when i realized they spoke to everyone.
And no one ever listened.
A crowd gathered at the benches;a group of bargain shoppers their elbows
competing for space sliding against each other anxious to see the screaming woman announcing that
He was there -
that if you looked 'here, here' -
if you stared down your own nose at the right angle - you would see Him.
He was there.
A Spanish mom with her two kids crossed herself furiously before deciding that there was nothing but
a Vieja Loca.
My mother cried that time - her eyes swirling around in her head;
she pulled at the blinking lights on her sweater that danced like sparklers on the fourth of july.
We never saw them.
The blinking lights.
Once - in church - the priest was talking in his low church voice -
eyes closed -
wailing front row ladies were bowing their hats feathers like soft silky strands in bright purple and gold.
My mother said the picture of the lost kid from the news had formed in the stained glass windows on the right side
by the chorus.
That he was there-
the lost kid -
and that it was a sign from God that he returned home.
All the church eyes drilled on my mother -
Danny crying as the people behind us pulled their kids away like we were made of fire.
Their eyes flash cards hatred peeling off my church coat like a grape.
People shook their heads at her - pointed their fingers -
their shame dancing around our feet like marbles rolling under the pews-
hiding under the kneelers.
The Priest handed a phone number to my grandmother -
their whispering voices covered the back of our heads like a slap.
The schoolyard faces were the worst.
My mother would come screaming from across the street
when the devil himself appeared wedged between the rungs of the slide
or sat waiting for us in the pool of water that carried popsicle sticks around and around
in the dusty Bronx rain.
We spent the next summer without friends holed up in our room watching the grainy re-runs on our black and white TV.
We stabbed at our closets and curled ourselves into balls.
My mother saw faces in everything.
Eyes, lips, all breathing there like an extra heart.
Amy Soricelli has been in the world of higher education and staffing her entire professional career. A LinkedIn Guru and lifelong Bronx resident, she has been published in camelsaloon, versewrights, Cantos, poetrybay, Blue Mirror, Turbulence, The Blind Vigil Review, Little Rose, and have appeared in assorted anthologies…….and way back in the 70’s …won the Grace A Croff Memorial Award for Poetry.
The work, the workstation,
The state of the work station,
The coworkers, the questions,
The dread of dreading
Going to work and breaking down
While listening to a mix
Of Beck and Phillip Glass,
Their work, your work,
How your work fails to compare,
Your comparisons with others,
Their apartments, their heating,
The hissing that keeps
The last legs of winter away,
The cold of the office,
The white shine of the buildings,
Memorable quotes you try
To remember and fail to,
So you try to recall that poem
You thought of before
Going to bed, the one about
The poem in your head full
Of fears of boxes tumbling
Over you in the morning,
One great wall of paper
Falling down and ending
An illustrious career in temping,
And if you get this far down the list
It’s back again, then, to the work,
The workstation, the mess,
The paperwork and the work
With paper full of letters and lines
You did not write but have to read
Results of a Summer Vacation
I finally managed to produce a cover that sold,
afterwards, I abandoned the theme of the rose
and went off on my own, riding a bus
to ponder the future of my synapses
I can’t say why I got into the language,
I was inspired by visual remnants of the sixties,
that influenced me in terms of structure,
plus the two-thirds of a whiskey carton I slept on
I was often mad, getting too twisted to come out,
Now there are plenty of good reasons for anger,
and I have nothing against anger,
but all it gave me was a wild and paranoid vision
Romping Around the Bend
Have your mountains, your human-less forests,
your people-free hills, call it a frontier,
call it as a wilderness, though be careful
with the name and the claim you stake into it,
a wilderness is a troublesome thing
to preserve when given that title to wear,
it flags it for others to come visit, tourists,
and settlers, plus those who like to think
that they carry the frontier inside of themselves.
But I’ll stay here in the city, among canyons
of towers and peaks of church steeples,
when I need green I’ll seek gardens in summer
and the emerald isles of eyes in winter,
and if I need an empty space, it’ll be within
myself, a hollow so hallowed no one can claim it
as wilderness or otherwise, not even me,
the void which devours cocaine, gold, and sex,
unless or until it starts to choke on faith
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.
Curling into a question mark
long dusty shafts
down into dank cellars.
Leaving behind faded day.
That last cup of sunlight
pouring from fingertips.
Lulled by rattling trains,
sighs of motors.
Bringing nothing but
memory into night.
Now I will untie knots
tear off wrappings
opening wide bundles of dreams.
Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary zines such as Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Blueline, Halcyon Days and included in Bright Hills Press, Kind of A Hurricane Press and Poppy Road Review anthologies. She has been nominated four times for Best of the Net.