Rebecca Ruth Gould: “Signless Sky”

Signless Sky

For Khaqani (d. 1199), prison poet of Shirvan

Ever since I was a child,
I loved to stare at the stars.
Before I could trace the Pleiades,
I wanted to be an astronomer.

I learned to decipher the skies:
Perseus, Aquarius, Scorpio,
& Hercules gave me a compass
to navigate the heavens.

Khaqani,the Persian necromancer
who fancied himself a god.
taught me to read
the signs of fate inscribed above.

My childhood cosmos
rearranged Greek fantasies.
You read the signs of the Ka’ba
from your prison cell.

When the sky was stripped
of signs & my gods died,
our visions became one.
Khaqani, my troubadour.

Now, when I gaze upwards
at midnight, the signless sky
gazes back at me with your artful,
ineffable, incarcerated sighs.

 

Rebecca Ruth Gould‘s poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Waxwing, Wasafiri, and Poetry Wales. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems, by Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and Other Stories, by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). A Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry (2017) and (with Kayvan Tahmasebian) for Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize (2017).

Ilya Gutner: Two Chinese Poems

1

Four pigs, three dogs,
two patient apple-acres waiting
wrapped in brown papers
for the Market Act
of their life’s drama.

From the goats to the pigs
I walk picking up fallen apples
and bring food to the dogs.

Let me change the water in your bowl,
let me sit with you, friend mutt, forgetting
without wine the one fact of my life.

_______________Visiting a farm
_____near the Northern Capital about nine months
_______________into my psychosis.

2

I take the keys, take money,
close the door, cross the tracks
where trains approach the city’s heart
and then I cross the bridge
and go down to the river.

Green plant floating
under drizzling rain.
Good-bye, my friend.

The way back up
not burdened by you
is steeper than before.

__________Giving proper funeral
_____to the green plant with brown leaves
__________on my balcony.

 

Ilya Gutner writes, “These poems are written in a style adapted from the English sonnet, reduced to its minimal components, number of lines and metric numbers. Instead of counting syllables, one counts the words, and counts the title as part of the poem, setting out its context. Since the great majority of English words are either monosyllables or natural iambs, the sound remains a unity even without the steel string of the syllabic meter. Since the English language has a great variety of natural demetrifications which make it be a choppy, backward language except where it has had its hair combed slick for a presentation, the same counting of words instead of syllables makes also for the variety of sound. Then, too, the lines are varied by units of equal number of words, which again makes for a local unity and a local variety of sound, making for ordered units in a chaos of loose parts. As to the author of these things, his (that is mine) name is Ilya Gutner and he (I, that is) used to live in the United States, a PhD student at Brown in a department of Slavic Studies but now live in China, a PhD at a university in Shanghai, reading philosophy at a department of Chinese Politics. These poems are offered now to the wise interest of their readers: to improve on leisure and to exercise the mind.

Lara Dolphin: Two Poems

Nordmarka

Imagine each spring
a writer goes to a forest in Norway
to hand over a book
that will not be read for 100 years
until the trees are cut for paper
and words once hidden
wake from silent madness
tying nature to art
and the past
to our unknowable future.

 

In This Silent Room

in the quiet of the Deichman Library
a century of words will wait
for one thousand growing evergreens
for our children’s children
and for the promise of tomorrow.

 

 

Lara Dolphin is a chocolate addict, slacktivist, and determined dreamer. A recovering attorney, novice nurse, and full-time mother of four amazing kids, she is elated and exhausted most of the time.

Sofiul Azam: “Who Doesn’t Want to Make Love to Someone’s Wife?”

Who Doesn’t Want to Make Love to Someone’s Wife?

I

Right from the word Go, I knew well that I’d have to
__cut down on fantasies, that I might even have
to hide from society’s moral pretension
__the process of pupation to get transformed

as a well-loved butterfly. You know people do wrongs
__lovingly or so they say. Yet while it’s
not totally wrong, I’ll go the extra mile for it;
__who doesn’t want to make love to someone’s wife?

What it boils down to is that its manyfold answer
__might sound harsh. Could I borrow you?
I promise you will be returned unhurt to him
__who’ll know nothing of rain’s work on a taro leaf.

It’s not a long distance love affair, rather a thrill
__of honey collection from a wild forest. Rekindle
your fantasies about how or when love is enjoyed at its best.
__Let’s do it in whatever ways we can.

II

I’m sure both of us have never been to a vineyard.
__Yet the moment someone utters “vineyard”
I start dreaming of making love
__to you who I’ll do everything to live with forever,

on a vineyard’s drained soil
__littered with gray leaves and pruned canes,
yes, of course, between rows of vines full of red grapes
__with the sunlight making them look like rubies.

I also want to do it with you under the moonlight,
__between rows of vines with clusters of ripe grapes
staying covered except for the star-spangled sky,
__before harvesting grapes rich in color starts in late summer.

But I don’t think the owner of any winery
__will let it happen. Maybe you to whom I hope this won’t
seem to be a one-night stand know
__most of our fantasies might remain fantasies.

 

Sofiul Azam has three poetry collections Impasse (2003), In Love with a Gorgon (2010), Safe under Water (2014) and edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed (2009). His work has appeared in magazines across the world. He is working on Persecution. He currently teaches English at World University of Bangladesh.

 

Robin Ray: “Antics”

Antics

Grandma cooked swill again tonight. She
hates us. Brother shaved the dog with a
one-blade razor tossed by the roadside.

No salve to its nicks. Sister snipped off
every rose’s flower. Peonies and dahlias,
too. Claimed Morticia Addams spurred

this behavior. Brother blazed the trash
bin in World History class. Blamed the
quiet autistic kid in the back. Sister

blackened her ex-friend’s eyes. Joked
about us being abandoned by a duo
currently drugging it up in a seraglio

somewhere. Swill settles the gurgle but
won’t palliate the ridicule. Maybe
running away can.

 

Robin Ray, formerly of Trinidad & Tobago, currently resides in Port Townsend, WA. Educated in English Composition at Iowa State University, his works have appeared online at Scarlet Leaf Review, Darkest Before the Dawn, Red Fez, Fairy Tale Magazine, and elsewhere.

Mike Maple: “Pulling Silver”

Pulling Silver

On my 21st birthday
I pulled a single silver strand from my head
and saw my future life flash before my eyes.
I saw myself through the mirror
waiting by the phone for my grandkids to call
pulling the final white strand from my bald head.
Trying to remember the day I pulled my first.

 

Mike Maple is a 4th-year Communication, Culture, and Media undergrad at Michigan Technological University. In his spare time, he participates in the local music scene and writes songs for the band We Should Be Laughing.

Holly Day: “Summer Love”

Summer Love

The places he’d been, with convoluted names
were as exotic as the places he’d lived
men bent spades into birdhouses

I wanted so badly to be with him in Colorado
to stand in the exact spot where four state lines met
and survive it all. He kept saying, Next time, next time, I promise.

I waited by the lake for him to come and get me
visions of Indianapolis burning holes in my brain
but he never came back to get me, never took me away.

 

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review.