William Doreski: Two Poems

The Purples in the Painter’s Eye

You can’t sneer away the clouds
knuckling their great abstractions.
You can’t rename every street

after your few brave followers.
I’ve tried to appraise you with song
on the tip of my tongue, but lack

the requisite melody. Stones
rattling in a mountain brook
would more likely catch your ear.

Today we expect to hear the truth
or read it in the New York Times
where every nation has a say.

We also expect the rain to arrive
in a cornucopia of wind
tinted by solar distractions.

You refuse to credit the mind
that mapped the atom forever.
You place no faith in the art

that names itself after silence.
You expect celestial glassblowers
to render landscapes so fragile

and elegant that your old aches
and pains will find no place to settle.
I wish you luck and favor

but don’t believe the purples
inherent in the painter’s eye
will rescue you from suffering

you wrought to punish yourself
for disowning the nation you crossed
a dozen times driving alone.

Let’s agree on something small
enough to pocket when we tire
of fondling its many contours.                           

The day exposes a yellow rind
under a sickly overcast.
Let’s read the newspaper at home

and leave the absences grinning
in the public streets where anyone
can mistake anyone for themselves.

 

_____

 

Puddles Shaped like My Enemies

Last night’s metallic rain left
puddles shaped like my enemies.
I hadn’t known I had so many,
but here they are, bearing weapons 
of quicksilver, chrome, and filth.

You advise me to stomp right
through them, shattering their calm.
You have no enemies, no trace
residue to rebuke you for
famously missed opportunities.

The hard rain blinded the night
so absolutely no response
seemed possible. The cats cried
nervously, the windows rattled.
We stayed up as late as we dared,

aware that pale forces were plotting.
At dawn the sky was meringue,
the trees stood around embarrassed
by a night of hysterics. You roused
the household and told me to don

my boots and splash those puddles
before they sulked underground to plot.
We’re being silly. These puddles
don’t resemble people except
in their slouch and selfish glaze.

Besides, my enemies aren’t yours,
so you don’t have to worry.
I plumb the puddles and determine
that they’re too shallow to drown me,
even if I flop face down.

______________________________________________________________________________________

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities and retired after three decades at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is Stirring the Soup (2020). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.

paul Bluestein: “Subway Benediction”

Subway Benediction

Running for the subway shuttle
from Grand Central to Broadway,
I heard music drifting through 
an open door. I swung into the car 
and there he was. Long-haired, bearded 
standing in the aisle 
with his mismatched socks on display,
singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow 
in a voice so open and sunlit
that I forgot I was underground. 
Even the wheels squealing 
as the train rocked along the tracks 
could not pull me out of the song 
spinning through the crowded car
like a spider’s web, holding us fast 
for the ride that was suddenly too short.
A hat on the floor in front of him 
held some silver and some paper
and I added my thanks. As I left 
the train and headed for the exit, 
I could still hear him singing 
to the empty car, words that poured 
out into the station and were  reflected 
by white-tile walls, spattering 
the passengers with red, violet and green.

_________________________________________________________________________

paul Bluestein is an obstetrician (done practicing) and blues guitar player (still practicing) who began writing poetry in 2018 after joining The Poet’s Salon in Fairfield, Connecticut.. His work has appeared in The Linden Avenue Literary Review, Third Wednesday, and Penumbra among other publications. His first full-length collection, Time Passages, was published in 2020 by Silver Bow Publishing. 

Dan Nielsen: “Oatmeal”

Oatmeal

_____“Coffee, Sugar?” the waitress asked in passing.
_____Warren looked up from his book and nodded. A cup and saucer appeared. Coffee was poured.
_____“Anything else, Sugar?”  
_____“Eggs over easy and rye toast, please.”
_____She wrote something on a notepad, tore off the top sheet, and placed it beside the saucer.
_____“Do I pay now?”
_____“Whenever you like, Sugar.”
_____“I was going to order oatmeal, but it’s not on the menu.”
_____“We only have the packets.”
_____“Oh.”
_____“Right.”
_____The waitress tore off another sheet and handed it to the cook through a little window. The cook said something that made the waitress laugh. Warren tried to think of something funny to say. He added creamer to his coffee. He turned over the bill. There was the dollar amount and a name he didn’t read.
_____The eggs arrived. Warren ripped off a corner of rye toast, dipped it in the tiny tub of grape jelly, and used it to break open a yolk.  
_____“Want me to warm that up, Sugar?”
_____“Please.” Warren thought of something. “Is there a pay phone?”
_____“You passed it on your way in, Sugar.”
_____There was a phone book attached to a wire. Warren thought about the alphabet. He hummed the song. He found the page with the name and went down the list with a finger until he came to the full name. He dropped a quarter in the slot and listened to it fall, hitting a little bell somewhere along the way. The dial tone was a dead person in a hospital. He stared at the book and dialed a number. He stared some more and dialed another number. He lost his place. He started over. He made it to the end. Someone answered on the second ring.
_____“Hello.”
_____“Hi?”
_____“Warren?”
_____“You said I could call.”
_____“And you did.”
_____“Is this a bad time?”
_____“No, I’m interested in what you have to say.”
_____“I found the place. It looks good.”  
_____“I was a little worried.”
_____“There’s no bed, but I saw a lunar eclipse.”
_____“That’s nice.”
_____“I slept in a chair that smells like cat.”
_____“Is there a cat?”
_____“Not now.”
_____“You have a phone?”
_____“I’m in a restaurant.”
_____“Are you having breakfast?”
_____“Yes.”
_____“Oatmeal?”
_____“They only have the packets.”
_____“Oh.”
_____“Right.”
_____“It sounds like you’re okay.”
_____“That’s why I called. To let you know.”
_____“Are you okay?”
_____“Yes.”

_________________________________________________________________________

Dan Nielsen is a part-time standup comic. His least flavor of jelly is petroleum. Recent FLASH in: Connotation Press, Jellyfish Review, (mic)ro(mac), Necessary Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, and Cheap Pop. Dan has a website: Preponderous, you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES. He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art/folk band Sugar Whiskey.

Eugene Stevenson: “Need is Cold with Cloud”

Need is Cold with Cloud

Trees by the windows of the bus,
mountains by the wing: troubles
fade with distance, how many miles.

Need is cold with cloud, street
good for suitcases, sodden breath,
questions laid down on pavement.

A familiar voice glides its answers in
the wind, but wears the face of
a stranger, whose sidewalk, street.

A cut strong enough to out the abcess,
fills the void with piano concertos or
the monotone analysis of toilet training.

There is a hole in the park outside,
the earth’s blood curious & clear:
points of reference on a creased map.

Trees, mountains, personal history,
all as inarticulate as the adulterer
asleep with another in his own bed.

In the brain’s convolutions, study is
no help when ghosts of past & future
congregate for dialogue & confusion.

_________________________________________________________________________

Eugene Stevenson is the son of immigrants, the father of expatriates, & lives in the mountains of western North Carolina. His poems have appeared in Angel City Review, DASH, Gravel, The Hudson Review, The Loch Raven Review, October Hill, The Poet, South Florida Poetry Journal, Swamp Ape Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal, among others.

Mike Lewis-Beck: “Mexican Wedding Cake”

Mexican Wedding Cake

Carlos puts the .45 automatic in the glove box, then waves as he pulls away from the Morelia cathedral in his 1957 Desoto sedan. for the banditos! he says, just married. Dolores of the river sits on his lap, head veil flowing. the rear window plastered “amor de corazon” in lime paint, they drive off to lake Patzcuaro swerving left for the little white fish and their love, as the fireworks castle ignites, and everyone eats hand-machine-peeled oranges.

Watching a play, Miguel reflects, it is watching a play, but not the Cherry Orchard. Chekhov hides the bandits, and the women are old, old maids, or married already. the violence is the purse not the pistol, testaments from a house servant. estates to be protected, land not wives.  peasants starved, but not enough. the manse to be sold, the servants to go, the orchard cut down for development.  

Whack!  whack!  whack!  ax felling cherry trees. who will nurture the land? who serve the tea?

Lorca?

Lorca?  what has he to do with this?  

He wants to speak.

Green. green. green. verde, verde, como te quiero verde. the land must be saved. it is dry, always dry, lost Spanish land, before and after the conquistadores. feed the land, if nothing else feed the land, it must be green.  

My little piece of earth, already it has shade and birds, it carries the green on its shoulders, in high wind and low…

So?

There are no bandits anymore, the brides are for nothing, and the servants have gone. but the earth still wants manure.

_________________________________________________________________________

Mike Lewis-Beck writes from Iowa City. He has pieces in American Journal of Poetry, Alexandria Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Big Windows Review, Blue Collar Review, Cortland Review, Chariton Review, Guesthouse, Heavy Feather ReviewPure Slushand Wapsipinicon Almanac, among other venues. He has a book of poems, Rural Routes, with Alexandria Quarterly Press.

Jeff Burt: “Farmer’s Market Portola Ave, For My Daughter”

Farmer’s Market Portola Ave, For My Daughter

I walk amid the market’s masked crowd astonished
I could have spent such time in hibernation.
The yellow-jacketed girls swirl
until their jackets touch like a melding of two suns,
the blue-jeaned throngs sand their legs together
as if polishing their knees or like beetles
removing scents from where they’ve been.
Old and young men’s shaved heads shine
in the early sunlight, and a bag of corn,
tassels slightly blackened by summer’s scorch
stand like photographic negatives
to bleached blondes with darkened roots.

I have missed the sight of you,
but in the market am among your people,
the young woman selling dahlias and squash
with a green apron and blue headband,
the flickering eyes of a babe
bobbing in the backpack of her mother
not knowing whether to look or fall asleep,
in the strolling and lolling of women
looking to highlight a day
with a splash of radish
or the dull green of kale
and a small bouquet of blue asters.
And now, I miss your arm, your hand.

_________________________________________________________________________

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, and works in mental health. He has contributed to Tar River Poetry Review, Williwaw Journal, Heartwood, and Sheila-na-Gig.

John Rodzvilla: “Port O’Connor”

Port O’Connor

A carpenter shaped the table 
A medium uses to contact the dead. 
Has she ever run her finger over a whorl 
To hear the tree sing its life?

I tried to read about the starfish that dot 
The sky down south, the ones left in tide shifts. 
The ones that crawl over lovers on beaches
In Texas, but small spots prevented
The words from forming,
Always forming,
Always foaming,
Like vinegar on an open cut.

I once tried bleach but it made our limbs too brittle.

It could have been the sun,
Or the sugar in the blood,
Or the sap in the xylem,
Or the toddler screaming in the pool,
Or the swimmers who formed a union 
To combat the entrenched disinterest.

You choose. 
I need to find my eye-patch before this 
Becomes a nightlong battle with a migraine.

Later Orion will skinny dip in the motel pool,
His sword over by the lounge chair. 
I got a little lost looking to find my way back, 
Reading the guide book under the winter sky.

When the clock strikes twelve
It has no arms to hold me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

John Rodzvilla teaches in the Publishing and Writing programs at Emerson College in Boston. His work has recently appeared in Harvard Review, gorseDecomP, and the Alexandria Review.

Rich Ives: Two Pieces of Fiction

The Way a Month Still Cares for a Year

Golden Hairstreak Butterfly

June has someone’s ocean in her closet, but it’s dried out and hangs with her blouses and old homies, the neighborhood just not the same hood anymore. The darkness has settled in but has a great deal of trouble swallowing these days.

June nibbles on chinquapin, oak, one eye on her father, his topside golden yellow with brown outer borders, wider than her mother’s. His short tail makes him angry, his underside pale yellow with a faint inner reddish brown mark like a label for what he does. You’d never guess it from looking at him.

In the forests June selects the leaves for her pale blue eggs, attaches them to the undersides of leaves, often near the tallest branch on the bush. They go unnoticed all winter and open in the spring.

Chinquapin is June’s source of golden nectar and dreams. This life is not something you can do alone.

June used to be afraid of her father, but now she too has touched evil¹ and it is not the terrible thing she feared.  She’s gone deeper than damp clothing. She’s arrived at the gates one life before departure and waited, just waited.

June wants her night back. She’s sleeping in the clouds without a candle. Her angels are softer now, beginning to leave home, which scares her.

¹ found rolled up in a bullet casing beneath an empty armadillo shell shellacked to a nostalgic sepia sheen beginning to flake off 

__________

First You Must Be Erased and Then You Can Walk Slowly Home

Golden Skipper Butterfly

It’s a frightening pleasure to be knocked down by a wave of the sea’s long hand, to find how much not dying feels like love, the male above brilliant light brass-gold with narrow scalloped dark margins, the female mixed brown and tawny-orange below with violet pronounced at the busy lips.

This is how the mind’s other reasoning works. You don’t even have to be there to participate. The happier response often creates a saddened question, vast seas minnowed with insignificant possibilities and unimaginable mortality rates.

Putting things together wrong amused Nicholas. His confidence leaked and got all over things he shouldn’t have questioned. Already I’m not drunk enough to notice something like that. It’s not your story either, is it? (The deep wacked laugh of youth still appears to be random.)

One brooding assignation is enough in the shaded gullies and valley bottoms, the grassy areas near waterways, the pine forest clearings. There were no names then for Nevada, Wyoming, the Dakotas or Nebraska and the lovers dribbled south to New Mexico, Arizona and Northwest Mexico, equally nameless. Nicholas the Name Boy squeaked alone, so softly he barely heard himself.

But Nicholas’ big bright skipper grows active in cloudier weather than most will tolerate, his wave-drawn cutter lifting and lifting, one fluid obstacle after another. The approach is the life, not the conclusion. If only we could never arrive. No one should be able to fly away now, your last wish and the one after still approaching.

_________________________________________________________________________

Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission, and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation, and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books—stories), Old Man Walking Home After Dark (Cyberwit–poetry), Dubious Inquiries into Magnificent Inadequacies (Cyberwit–poetry), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit—stories), Incomprehensibly Well-adjusted Missing Persons of Interest (Cyberwit—stories), and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–stories).

Simon Perchik: Five Poems

*
You cover the mirror that’s facing the man
standing for hours inside a shop window
staring at your eyes  ̶ it’s a hand-to-hand place

sells jars, tubes and side by side, small tins
filled with the daily guarantee there would be
no more loneliness once the glass is shattered

by stomping the one heel kept wet for the sound
each bottle makes with its ship full sail inside
where business is business and you lay down

with sea gulls, close to shore for the cries
from stars on the lookout for someone
to shut off the light, find you in the dark.

*
When this pen is lifted to your lips it hears
the ink is just beginning to disguise itself as words
that will feed all night from the page pulled closer

and closer  ̶ there’s not enough room to turn back
once they dry the way a heart first learns
how much blood it lost only afterwards

as an endless sadness still pouring from one page
into the other till all that’s  left
has no word for it though it’s a fountain pen

knows all about emptiness, what will stay black
turn cold and from out your hand the wound
from a sheet stretching out for the snow.

*
And though you left the sheet blank
the police are still investigating it
as some make-shift wall left in place

when the day after tomorrow arrived
all at once  ̶ they’re waiting for the lab
to come up with how the ink

could have been swept away when the words
already had a place to stay and one by one
carried you off on a raft made from paper

with the pen no longer making estimates
how far the edge is, how deep the corners
the silence you finished working on.

*
And though it has no name this puddle
is full, was fattened on those afternoons
the rain stopped by to hear for itself

how much each splash sounds like the sleeves
as they emptied thread by thread
stripping her arms to the bone  ̶ you grieve

in water that’s kept warm :the dress
must have found room between her whispers
where water becomes water again

has her eyes, sees you’re older
are leaning over the Earth
the way the first rain was already filled

with loneliness, is still struggling to find
the sun  ̶ just one star and for that
you weep forever, constantly wetting your hands

the way this makeshift wishing well was filled
̶ rusted rings and coins to hear her shadow rising
as the arms that was your home for so long.

*
The rapids flowing through your hand
takes in tow this day-old bread
̶ from the start impatient for the end

is already sliced the way every waterfall
tries to bring its river with it
become the cry in that faint echo

it needs to find the shattered
̶ it’s not a rock you’re holding
though what’s inside the splash

was left out to dry on this round table
as a lone crumb for that ancient necklace
you still glue to a fingertip for later

 ̶ you need bread that’s a year old today
has mold whose shadow stays green
lets you sit where there is no grass

in a chair each night smaller, sure
it hears her when you close your eyes
to put out the light, use the other hand.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Simon Perchik‘s poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere.

William C. Blome: “Untitled”

Untitled

There was a coyote that had no trouble in the world safely grasping in her teeth the hanging wire on the back of this framed photo, but what she was not able to grasp, of course, was that because her love for Franz Joseph was so great that she forever lugged around his cottony-faced portrait and always propped it close to her as she dozed in daytime hours, nasty folks who wished her harm eventually came to understand they had only to locate this much-scratched picture of the Emperor to know approximately where in their community the coyote was sleeping and dreaming during the late morning and afternoon.

________________________________________________________________________________________

William C. Blome wedges between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he clutches a master’s degree swiped from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has appeared in PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, and The California Quarterly