Roy Bentley: “Ferret in a Brothel”

Ferret in a Brothel

I was a gift from Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
after he was elected President of the United States.
The piano player with a glass eye took charge of me

and a Colt pistol that once belonged to Wyatt Earp,
the lawman-friend of Mr. Roosevelt who frequented
Madam Satterfield’s. My first home was a hatbox.

The whores passed me around until I bit one—
she’d fallen asleep in my nest of sheets. Rolled
over, and so it was wake the sleeper or suffocate.

A tolerance for being gently handled went the way
of dying, dark-skinned men: out the door. Gone.
A war and then my house of women scattered

by fire, fingers of flame creeping up the skirts
of the drapes like the hands of johns. The shrieks
of trick babies trapped upstairs—desiccated bodies

black and smooth as fur in the keeping of the men
who carried them down into the street. I escaped
that and the thud of engines, the crying woman

swaddled in a sheet on a bright avenue. I was
off into the grasses then into light again. It’s hard
being a ferret, but not as hard as being a whore

or the President of the United States.

 

Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry, including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press. He has published poetry in Shenandoah, Blackbird, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Tar River Poetry, and Rattle, among others.

 

Stacey Z Lawrence: “Last First Night”

Last First Night

I pose we smoke
(the pleasure we can
still partake in)
but
7 becomes 8
8 becomes 9
and you are still
on the other side
of the locked door,
ursus in hibernation.

So I mark time
mull red wine
with cardamom
and lemon peel
pour the spirit
into porcelain
teacups and pass
to my teenage children
late popsicles
on a summer night.

At 11:55 you appear
your once strong body
fading with the year
you hobble a few steps
in striped pajamas
that Jew from Treblinka
watching Anderson Cooper.

I graze your shoulder,
strands of
your silver hair-
too weak to inhale
you peck me instead
with chapped lips as
your last year begins.

 

Stacey Z Lawrence teaches Poetry and Creative Writing in a public high school in Northern, NJ. She is working on her first book of confessional poems which explores the untimely death of her husband shortly followed by her bout with Breast Cancer.

 

 

Thomas Piekarski: “Ars Historica”

Ars Historica

Ramses II had hieroglyphs of his father Seti I
Chiseled off the giant columns at ancient Karnak
And replaced with his own in an effort to swindle
History, and fool future generations into believing
The entire temple had been built during his reign.

But you can’t hide from history, nor alter it.
Once something is done it’s done forever.
Quasars billions of light years from Earth
May never be discovered by humans despite
Amazing technology, yet this won’t alter facts.

Facts support the quasars, Hittites, World Wars.
Ignorance of them can’t erase their efficacy.
The words wasted attempting to alter reality
Fall on cosmic ears deaf to insubstantial claims.
Humans can be mistaken, not so the universe.

You may have seen it with your own baby blues,
Heard it from a media source you always believe,
Experienced it in a frenzy of religious revelation,
Touched its fuzzy tentacles with fingers aflame,
Dreamed it repeatedly thinking yourself certain,

Yet it still could be contrary to history’s physics.
I think perhaps there are infinite dimensions
To time and space, but in this fragile life we lead
Will only know three or four, and many will plod
Along the path of ignorance while only observing

Two or three, essentially trapped in fleshy shells,
Chirping in the trees of free will, observed by gods
Manufactured by clouded minds of righteous clerics.
But this is no reason to cry or commit suicide since
History whispers sotto voce in our malleable minds.

We have the arts diverting our attention from death,
Houses and countries and cars and plants to occupy
Our fallible senses. We’ve neighbors between which
To build temporary fences, governments that preside,
And history laughing gaily at man’s misinformation.

 

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly and Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and interviews have appeared in literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Florida English Journal, Cream City Review, Mandala Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Boston Poetry Magazine. He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California, and his epic adventure Ballad of Billy the Kid is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print versions.

Peycho Kanev: “Irreversible”

Irreversible

I always write on my desk.
There is a big clock
on the wall against it.
The lower end of the clock’s pendulum
is attached to a shovel;
with every swing
it digs a hole in the floor
which gets bigger and bigger–
soon the hole will be my size.

And I write faster and faster.

 

Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and three chapbooks, published in the USA and Europe. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as: Rattle, Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Hawaii Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and many others. His new chapbook titled Under Half-Empty Heaven was published in 2018 by Grey Book Press.

Sara Epstein: “Loosestrife”

Loosestrife

I think that’s what it’s called.
August is suddenly full of this wildflower, this weed.

It spills from marsh to field to roadside
Splashing everywhere I go.

Green stems and purple flowers
Remind me that you are with me
Everywhere in August, even as you
Prepare to leave.

The blue sky, too.
The colors that you swim in,
That swirl around us both, now
Grow wild, unbidden, everywhere this August.

Heart-shaped rocks show up, too,
Warm from August sun and my fingers rubbing their smooth surfaces.
Since you mentioned them, I see them more easily,
I feel warm and slightly comforted that you will see them too, and,
Perhaps, think of me missing you,

Of open hearts and hope and love,
Of someone else who healed your heart,
Whom you, perhaps, still miss, this August,
While glimpsing fields of purple loosestrife everywhere.

 

Sara Epstein is a clinical psychologist from Winchester, Massachusetts, who writes poetry and songs, especially about light and dark places. Her poems are forthcoming or appeared in Silkworm, Paradise in Limbo, Mom Egg Review, Chest Journal, Literary Mama, and two anthologies: Sacred Waters, and Coming of Age.

Martina Reisz Newberry: “Initialed”

Initialed

A well-known someone
once wrote a poem for me.
To my delight, it showed up
in a literary journal of some repute
and then in an actual book.

My initials were there,
right under the title and following
the word for. I was delighted
that this fine poet had discovered
words meant especially for me

and I hadn’t even slept with him
or chatted him up flirtatiously.
My friends, I ask you to imagine it:
a poem for me who ground away
at her own poems—hustling

the hell out of every line,
always afraid that my lack
of credentials would become
oh-so-apparent in my ignorance
of literary intricacies. I must tell you:

that poem didn’t care one bit
about my lack of formal education.
It mentioned beauty and had an
understanding inside it that claimed
the right to know what beauty is

and what it is worth. “It doesn’t matter
that you aren’t beautiful,” my father said.
“It matters whether or not you are smart.”
He, too, had discovered words just for me.

This all happened years ago. The poem
with my initials happened 35 years ago.
When I remember or dream, I forget which,
it is those initials I see: for _______.
Those initials are what I believe.

 

Martina Reisz Newberry’s most recent book is BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY, (2019 from Deerbrook Editions). She is included in The Sixty Four Best Poets of 2018 (Black Mountain Press). Newberry is widely published in literary journals in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Los Angeles.

Edward Lee: “Too Late”

Too Late

I plunge my hands
into the soil
in an attempt
to feel the heartbeat
of the earth,
only recovering my hands
when I realise failure
is all I can feel;

looking around
I see dozens of strangers
on their knees,
clasped hands dirty
from digging,
their own found failures
bringing tears to their eyes,

the realisation of stillness
loud enough
for even those with clean hands
to hear.

 

Edward Lee‘s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England, and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection, Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge, was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.
His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com