Brad Shurmantine: “Head of the Metolius”

Head of the Metolius

It gushes out of a little cave in Black Butte
but originates in the Cascades,
a hundred miles away.
Cold! Too cold to stand in.
And clear. Right out of the ground.
And these old man poems–
where do they come from,
after so much dark and silence?
They burble out free, easy,
fresh and clear to me.
Sixty-odd years of tears & sweat
roiling in the caverns of my mind, 
seeping forgotten
into hidden caves and crevices.
Chilling there. And flowing out
as I tilt and head downhill,
hitting the light, sparkling there.

________________________________________________________________________

Brad Shurmantine (bradshurmantine.com) lives in Napa, Ca., where he writes, reads, tends three gardens (sand, water, vegetable), takes care of chickens, cats, and bees, and works on that husband thing. He backpacks in the Sierras and travels when he can, and has a serious passion for George Eliot. 

Elisha Osorio: “Ginger”

Ginger 

the moths flock in array upon
time immemorial, untouched.
like the love we were promised,
spectres of kisses descend
upon tabletops and bookmarks; they rest
and they decay, hand in burnt-hand.
do you remember where we first met,
the person i was, the person i thought you were
sometimes i cannot think
and this juts out and congeals–
to its source, its fossil.
and there is not enough time
in this plane of memory
to realize i cannot think like i cannot bleed
i have no desire to ask myself
what this means, i am meddling in a pool
of confusion, a pool i have always known
but i am a child still
caught up in the breeze of wonder
spiraling like the ginger in my mother’s tea
where did it all go wrong?
and i ask this,
again and again

________________________________________________________________________

Elisha Osorio is a student at The Winchester School, Dubai. She (unrealistically) aims to pursue journalism and creative writing in her undergraduate years.

Ellen Chia: “The Poem”

The Poem

Would the poem lurking within
Please announce yourself?
Are you nature?
A bird, a cloud, a tree
Or a lily?
Are you woeful or hopeful?
Dwarfish or epic?

Perhaps I don’t wish
To know just yet –
But to savor that moment
Of being seized unawares;
To gape with delight
When you rear your head
Exclaiming peek-a-boo
Along with the messy
Train of bones, sinews
And flesh tumbling
From your hiding place,
Rolling off my tongue
Onto the creamy leaf,
Giving birth to yet another
Slice of me.

______________________________________________________________________

Ellen Chia lives in Thailand and whilst pondering over the wonders and workings of her
tiny universe finds herself succumb time after time to the act of poetry making.
Her works have been published in The Ekphrastic Review, The Honest Ulsterman,
Neologism Poetry Journal, Zingara Poetry Review, The Tiger Moth Review, and Chiron Review.

Len Krisak: “A Sonnet”

A Sonnet

She, 91; he, only 54,
In disproportioned death (he’s here no more).
Nor do we need demons from Hell to tell
Us this, nor did we learn it in the stocks:
That everything in going goes not well,
By seemly precedence or proper age,
But serves the flesh more than its share of shocks—
More than the thousands it is mortal heir to.
Confused that she must now turn back the page,
Tear out a son she thought that she had read,
His mother seems to say she doesn’t care to.
She seems to wish that only she were dead.
Dazed now, she sits, re-mouthing without rest,
“He had the best doctors. He had the best.”

_______________________________________________________________________

Len Krisak is the author of several books and has been awarded the following prizes: Richard Wilbur Prize, Robert Frost Prize, Robert Penn Warren Prize, The Able Muse Poetry Book Award, and The New England Poetry Club Book Award. Len has poems in (or forthcoming in) The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, Raritan, The Southwest Review, and The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology—and is a four-time champion on Jeopardy!

Carol Hamilton: “Seing Yourself”

Seeing Yourself 

They say Mexican peasants were shown
themselves for the first time in Diego’s murals,
images walking about all blocky and simplified,
glorified. Given welder’s glass to observe
the solar eclipse by the National Geographic team,
disappearance of their Sun God,
the little Aymaran girls were instead
entranced at their own faces.

They say sitters for Daguerre’s first photos,
so stiff and grim, thought the captured-image eyes
looked out, watching them,
a Doppelgänger existence frozen on paper,
shocking for both. A chimp with a mirror
examined his own colorful behind
once the instant of recognition came
 …  the other is the self.

They say we hardly exist now if not preserved
on film and broadcast for all to prove
we are not figments of our own imagination.
We hold out sticks to dangle ourselves
onto all sorts of backdrops: an elegant plate,
a child’s ballgame, an upthrust feature of stone.
But a question always arises … which
is the created and who is watching whom. 

________________________________________________________________

Carol Hamilton is retired from teaching 2nd grade through graduate students from Connecticut to Tinker AFB Oklahoma, from volunteer translating, and storytelling. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 17 books: children’s novels, legends, and poetry and has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize.

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.

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).

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

Kenneth Pobo: Two Flash Fictions

Stone in the Lapidary

When you’re a stone in this museum, people stop and stare at you.  They either say nothing and move along or they say, often under their breath, that I am beautiful.  I guess that’s meant as a compliment, but I feel naked, like they are comparing me to other stones and rocks.  Do I make the grade?  I’m originally from southern New Zealand.  The Maori love me—but not like passersby in the museum.  I’m put to use.  They carve me and I am even more beautiful.  I lose parts of me to gain a better self.

Pounamou is my name.  You can see it written on the white card where I’m placed.  In New Zealand I knew the sun well.  Now fluorescent lights rain down on me like fine silt.  Bored children barely give me a glance.  They wait for rock candy.  I don’t understand rock candy.  How sad for anyone who becomes candy.

A few months ago a woman said I’d be perfect if someone smashed me so she could use my pieces in a necklace.  As a stone I am silent.  That doesn’t mean I don’t scream.  When she said that I screamed so loud that I almost made the museum walls collapse.  She heard nothing.  It’s easy to scream and not be heard.  It happens all the time.

I can tell you’re tired of me.  You’re thinking that a few stones away you’ll see jade.  The museum prides itself on the jade.  I’m not jealous, okay, maybe a little, but it’s just jade.  It may as well be sandstone. The best time of day is when they turn the lights out and everyone goes home.  Human eyes drop off me so I sleep well.  Until tomorrow.  Light on.  Door open.  I’m seen.   

Jade

Lenny drives almost forty miles to a lapidary.  No one he knows likes rocks.  He goes from stone to stone, a monk before stained glass.  He dreams of beautiful stones.  Jade carvings rest securely on a stand inside his head.  In the morning he wakes up refreshed. With jade you have nothing to hide.  You admire it.  The sun sees the Earth as a precious stone.  Someday the sun will take the stone completely in.  For now, the sun keeps distant.  The jade shines under artificial light. 

Lenny wants to shrink in order to fit inside the jade, own a house there.  He mourns his bloaty self stuffed behind a wheel or a computer screen, a stone-less world, not even drab pebbles that long ago lost their souls to erosion.

_________________________________________________________________________

Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections.  Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Human rights issues, especially as they relate to the LGBTQIA+ community, are also a constant presence in his work. For the past thirty-plus years he taught at Widener University and retired in 2020.

Allison Whittenberg: “Jane’s Veins”

Jane’s Veins
 
Two diaries: one lies, the other dreams until reality
Loops into illusion.  
Neither records terrorist attacks, murder rates, or evolving leaders.  
One contains measurements of her bust size; one holds friendship and love,   
     pursued, sustained, or in need of resuscitation.   
Both contain hate for prettier girls.  
Each smells soft as if sprinkled with powder.
One is black and plain, that’s kept under her bed.
The other is pink and has birds and flowers on the cover that’s often on 
     her desk.
The world is microscopic. Each night as her wrist moves the pages, she 
     scripts with red juice. 

_________________________________________________________________________

Allison Whittenberg is a Philadelphia native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author, she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer. She loves reading about history and true crime. Her novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored, and The Sane Asylum.