April Fool

Who’s the fool
I am the fool
I believed in your perfumes
I let myself spellbound by your blossomed trees
Showered by your petals
Tickled by your fresh leaves
Oh, and the tastes of strawberries….
All that boiled in my blood streams new hopes
Allured in my veins new dreams
And like a fool
A lunatic bewitched​ by you
Spring
I fly by your side with new wings

© 2017 Iulia Gherghei

Barricades and Beds — Aditi Angiras

Abandon


Aditi Angiras

1.
try to abandon everything everyday
barricades and beds
bar stools and bridges
break out of things
that are more prison
than places
2.
try to abandon everything everyday
promises and/in politics
pornographic power drinks
rip into pieces
things more disgusting
than dollar bills
3.
try to abandon everything everyday
mothers and memories
murder(o)us in black streets
pull bullets instead
in your own chest
your own skins
4.
try to abandon everything everyday
toxic shock tampons
trip trigger tessellate
chemicals crazy
crying over bodies
of born deads
5.
try to abandon everything everyday
religions like reading
red lights and rolling paper
turn on pages
with your fingers
and fuck poems
like rockstars
and then
abandon them
like everybody abandons
everything every time anyways


Geography


Aditi Angiras

Aditi Angiras

I always got
good grades
in geography
lessons, drawing
topographic maps
I would read
contour lines
study them well
but wonder
why do we need
to read them
when will I ever
need this
in real life
Years later,
lying here
next to you,
reading
contour lines,
neck to navel
I realise


Planchette


Aditi Angiras

it’s no coincidence
that a planchette
is shaped like a
heart or a shield
when you play
with my love
like it’s your ouija board
where yes or no
hello or goodbye
sound like sounds
haunting all
the four chambers


© 2017, Aditi Angiras

The Burgundy Madonna

Lady, was there always this distance,
this gap of mutual love?

Mixing his colours with holy water,
crushed relics and prayers, was this
what the iconographer perceived
dipping his brush deep into his soul?

Sturdy and capable, your right hand
supports the Child’s bottom,
thumb tip open, pointing away:
‘So, this is it … ’
And the Child perches,
stiff in blue and gold,
his face fitting like a flesh glove
between your cheek and eye,
feet resting delicately together,
onto the twin of that large hand.

There could have been a warmth
but, almost grotesquely,
you hold the figure of a young man:
head, limbs, torso
perfectly proportioned,
his face already written upon.

No infant dribblings,
no soft roundnesses,
no puffy vulnerability
of baby flesh,
no unmapped
innocence.

Was this it? Your eyes stare
at no-one but the painter.
And over decades, centuries,
into how many other eyes
in candlelit churches, hovels,
apartments, palaces, galleries?
So much looking.
Would there have been so much
if there was no way in?

© 2017, Patricia Leighton

Published in ‘Dreamcatcher: Issue 19

Common Ground

1
Check your assumptions at the door
of this Place. If you want them back,
Think twice before you enter.

A young Enrolled Blackfeet, six foot four
Wisdom behind his easy manner. His features,
Asiatic, I would not have guessed
save for his words.

We traded stories, walking through the twilight
of an Upper Midwest town
Life on “the Rez” for him; for me, growing up
in a former Spanish/U.S. colony
in Southeast Asia.

2
Lalo’s passion, rooted in Mexico
and South Texas
It crosses many borders; in its wide embrace
are children from Central America
following the Death Train’s tracks
Indigenous people in this Upper Midwest town
hearts yet bound to the Land
of which they were once a part.

All are Family, blood-ties or no. All are
Community.

3
Suddenly, today,
In deep soul-stretching waters
An epiphany struck me like a wave:
I knew the answer
to a 30-year old question!

In a country spanning the spectrum
from milk white
to brown
to Aboriginal black
I, a lighter-skinned Mestiza, the object of stares.

Was it aspiration in their eyes?
Or, worse yet — servility?
I still can’t quite describe
the looks, the unspoken conclusions
I so resented
But now I know Why.

4
What will you do with your assumptions
when we depart this Place?
I plan to leave a few behind
and travel home lighter.

© 2017 Dorothy Long Parma

dancing toward infinity

spiral galaxy in Constellation, Coma Berenices, 60 million light years from Earth
spiral galaxy in Constellation, Coma Berenices, 60 million light years from Earth


.

each
lively soul
worlds contained
a galaxy of one
our gases, our dust
our gravitational pull
our weak wills
our strong compulsions
our stark shadowlands
our gaudy stars
dancing toward infinity

© 2015 poem, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved

Don’t Let Fall Go – sonnet

.

Don’t sweep the fallen leaves, don’t wipe your tears,
don’t let this autumn pass a dream too soon,
don’t mix the joy of yellow with your fears
that it will fade, however, until noon.
Don’t let the scent of misty dawns go wasted
and let the drizzle soak in tired flow
the dust of summer days, that maybe hasted
so you can also feel the autumn’s glow.
For winter’s frost is nigh, and even nigher
the rust that eats the handle of this door
and swallows flying swiftly ever higher
next spring may not recall us anymore.
So don’t allow the sand to flow too fast –
don’t let your fall beside me be our last.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

Donatella D’Angelo | unpublished poems 2016

Per quella luce sospesa
tra le ciglia degli angeli
morirei infinite volte

e infinite volte tornerei
corona di spine.

 

For that light suspended
between angels’ eyelashes
I would die a thousand times

and a thousand times
come back crown of thorns.

 

*

 

Nel cavo della mano la verità
e le sofferenze colte appena
nell’indulgenza dei silenzi
di abiti dismessi:

Donatella D’Angelo

eppure

risorgeranno verticali i draghi.

 

In the hollow of the hand, the truth
and sufferings just picked
in the indulgence of silences
of clothing put off:

and yet

rise again vertically the dragons.

 

*

 

Spiegami il profumo del basilico
il passo invisibile della tigre.

Nell’antro salvifico della vita
separo la notte e i suoni scordati
il muto cadere dei corpi celesti.

Perché fa tanto freddo qui?

 

Explain to me the scent of basil
the unseen step of the tiger.

In the salvific den of life
I separate night and clashing sounds
the mute fall of celestial bodies.

Why is it so cold here?


© 2016, Donatella D’Angelo; English translations by Dennis Formento with the poet

Dreaming of Children

A landscape of memory littered
with pieces of dreams
children that once lived
once laughed
oft times schemed

she sees a house abandoned now
ought times with love filled
each & every birth an
auspicious moment still
& each year

she knows she has been gifted
that any tears shed
were merely a bridge
between yesterdays
& tomorrows albeit

as other mothers cry oceans
of salt filled tears
for children that lived once
without fear in loving arms
with kisses, soft still

their auspicious moment shattered
a broken memory like
shards of glass
now buried descending deep
earth’s grief surpassed

whose sorrow cannot rebuild
houses in ashes smoldering
whose dreams
hold ghostly remnants
pale & fading

where a timeless epitaph remains
of young lives interrupted
photos tinged yellow
touched by death
a noxious poison

thinking of this she turns pages
a book of photographs old
& knows dreams
will still be her comfort
will still unfold

that some mother’s dreaming will
become a vile nightmare
an interloper in sun rays
unwanted slumber
empty days

© April 2017 Renee Espriu

A few from the vaults …

April is (inter)national poetry month at the BeZine. I’ll be honest, my inspiration and muse have been mostly M.I.A. since the election. I keep trying to write, but most of what comes out is extremely negative, cynical and just plain awful. I wanted to contribute this month, because I have always loved poetry and think it should be celebrated. So, I’m offering three older poems in the hopes that they will be appreciated for what they are. Here’s hoping that all of you find poetic inspiration and keep writing for the rest of us. 🙂

~ De Facto Plutocracy ~

Corporate Fat Cat

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Can you break a dollar?

Can you make change?

No. Yes. And I don’t know.

Once, I believed it might be possible.

But those scheming snake-oil salesmen sold us

Out.

They convinced us to purchase our own slave-chains

Of Debt.

Of Doubt.

The only thing that “trickled down” to us

Was their whispered, decades’-long laughter,

All the way to the God-forsaken, rube-taken

Bank.

The American Dream hasn’t always been an illusion,

But “they”

found a way

to make it one…permanently.

Will any amount of shouting, shoving or even shooting,

ever be able to put US back together again?

There is no sanity, because the inmates OWN the asylum.

Bought on the bloody, broken backs of the ninety-nine percent,

The “Trust Fund” is long spent and squandered, then.

The nefarious, nebulous “They”…

They broke the Dollar.

But there was no

Change.

Yet.

~ C.L.R. © 2011 ~

~ Night Fog ~

Everything plays Hide and Seek,
When the clouds come down,
And dance on the ground.
The muted hush makes one
Reluctant to speak,
As the night-time world
Plays Lost and Found.

Crystalline drops bunched in the night air,
Coating the night’s kiss,
In a silvery mist.
Damp blanket of moisture;
Light dew, barely there,
Wrapping the darkness
In wet, velvet bliss.

Swirling vapors — breath of dreams,
Holds the silence close
In translucent repose.
Shifting shadows make nothing
As it seems,
And morning’s sun
Will mark the night’s fog as a ghost.

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2008

~ Feeling Blue in a Red State ~

Red state.
Full of red-necks,
And their red, ‘Murican blood.
Flag waving,
Non-white hating,
Cesspool of inbred brood.

Your ignorance is excusable.
Your stupidity is not.
You narrow-minded,
Backwards bigots,
Who seldom have
An original thought.

Thump your Bibles louder,
Maybe God, Himself,
Will hear.
Spread the hatred,
Pump yourselves up prouder,
Sow dissent,
And reap the fear.

Your Reich-Wing, fascist antics,
Sure collect a lot
Of wannabes.
Forget about arguing
Intelligent semantics,
You only mimic your idols,
On your big-screen T.V.s.

Never a thought,
Of how you
Affect the planet.
Never thinking about,
The future of ALL.
No concern for
How your so-called leaders
Straw-manned it,
As long as you’ve got yours,
The rest can just crawl.

The one comfort I have,
Living here, among you,
Is that I’ve already escaped
This cesspit of snakes.
Karma will catch you,
Sooner or later.
And reveal
All you gun-toting,
Beer-bloating,
Mindless voting,
Scripture mis-quoting,
Intolerance-promoting,
Haters
As fakes.

C.L.R. ~ © 2011

– Corina Ravenscraft

Four Poems by Reuben Woolley

histories

the girl
…………….who danced
the ibis moon  ………….she brings
the story of it all
& this
is the telling

close

& personal ………………my sudden
consent ………….& ……..distance
is full i have
my history here
in the pulse of it all

and this is the saying of it

the dark days
……………………………& my growing
in bones & bodies
& here ………………i’m doing
a telling of it

the legs ……………& mouths ……….. & hearts of it
she dances alphabets
in the crescent fire

& the boat returns the day

* * * *

this
is the telling of it all

there is mud
& reeds ………….. & a boat
in the sky ………..& i
have names for them

the threads of what it is
& what we know ……………..she
danced a world for us

* * * *

in my sinking
sands
………………things
do not occur successively
like gravity
………………..oh ……………then
………………..i’ll get up
………………..& fly

to all my ………..scattered
dependencies

it’s what this ……………..thing
says
when i’m not looking

words
of those hands i haven’t got
just these .……………………poor
counterfeits

hold.…………………………….. separate
like atoms …………………….do not
touch …………….she
……………………….stirs
……………………….the air
the cells are orphans
pointing ………………………further

……………………………………...she is
maker ………. in every outward
move

of that old…………………………. yellow
………………………..crescent

* * * *

…………………………all the rest
is outside
where a feather
…………………………………...is counterweight

the ghosts of real
come solid from shade …………………… they play
on red sand ……………………with a girl
who danced a bird

wings spread & beating
………….the ibis & the girl
she danced a boat
sailing she danced a ragged
book
………………& this
was the telling of it

 

hiraeth

hiraeth: (n) homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past – Welsh

give me the sea
for my dotage.i’ll wear it
in shawls / in weeds
…………………………..flowing

i’m rich in reflections
in dark & blue & once
there was a girl
& a song i can’t remember
……………………………the water notes
patient just breathing

* * * *

………………………………..i cannot bleed
sufficient & all my bodies
lie in other countries

let them burst
in all their broken splendour
shining

i clothe my scars
with care
i shall not be revealed

……………………………wear shrouds
walking ………………a perfect space
of death

* * * *

……………………….diving
into deep skies …………….are homes
that do not live
in this my circus
& dark matter

i twitch to distant currents
lost
& permanently delayed
there were so many
…………………………..varied
deaths………………. i know the way

…………………………...all ticking
backwards

* * * *

we bathe in dust
deep.it is
no gentle immersion
……………………………& the sun’s
a yellow ball
……………………………fading
out of a painted sky

wait

for rain
not coming

we fly black flags
upriver …………..watch towers
………………………………………………….fall

distance between

sewing together
every lasting piece
…………………….i make
a rose
……………..on folds
……………..on leaves

here’s a bloodthorn
& the lines.paint
ages / flowers
……………..& faces
everything fades.it is
the nature of dark
glass
……………….reflecting
not silver

…………………..& we’ll dance
a last tango late
……………………………..& lips
tire in substance.just see
the words lie deceiving
…………….like petals
…………….like blood
like smiles on old canvas

those lasting rites

………………………………dry

tides
the weed & rubbers &
…………………………….rusty
spades

& flooded castles
………………………scattered

………………………………….here
a life
in such offering

flowers & broken
stems / the blind
rats

………………………see them
scurry
in shadows in
carcasses of sand

………………………watch them
eat
through dying flesh.pink
& grey & red again
a heartbeat a breathbeat

tick

tock

© 2017, Reuben Woolley

Full Buck Moon and other poems by Lisa Ashley

 

Full Buck Moon

Native-named orb
of antler-hardening season,
it slow-rises
behind a Mt. Rainier cloud,
etching a snow cone Madrona
in its glow.

The bucks begin
their pointed clashes
for dominance,
for the does,
as summer moves into fall, ritual
not often seen or heard by humans.

Sipping, wrapped in a fleece robe,
visited by baby raccoon and elder black cat,
breath slow-moving in and out,
moon watching,
trying to let go of her story:
rape, then raging violence and death;
he raped and beat her
before she shot him with his own gun.

The moon glimmers in gold seams
inside the rock-mountain cloud
until bright beams burst,
flooding over
white gooseneck in the yard,
lighting up the fragile white butterfly.

Did he place his gun on the car seat
before forcing her?
Did she see it shining
in the streetlight?
Desperate,
she grabbed it up
to stop the pain.

Charged with murder one,
prosecutor claims pre-meditation.
She is old enough to know
what she was doing, they say.
Just turned 16, to be tried as an adult,
did she pre-meditate his attack?

Driven by self preservation
and testosterone
the bucks fight in breeding season,
mounting the does when they are in estrous,
un-witnessed.
Does the doe submit each time?

She waits for weeks, alone with nightmares,
in a limbo of fear-filled unknowns
abandoned by heroin-addicted parents
and friends who think they know what happened.
It’s like a surreal movie, she says.
Tears slide down like the setting moon.


Bacon Bits

Fifty years on I still love bacon.
You’d think the fry-smell would repulse me,
the crispy salted fat
choke in my craw.
I order it each time I breakfast out
refusing to tether this pleasure
to those early morning visits
when your heavy calloused hands
slipped under my flannels
while the others still slept.
You offered a back rub.
I never said no.

Your touch felt good
at first,
loving, comforting
as melt-in-the-mouth
crackling pork is still.
Desire for your love
outweighed the shame
that hung about me all the day.
I carried my dark secret
like a pregnant sow,
heavy in the belly,
smothered against my heart.

Sneaky hands
wandered with purpose
like pigs in the pen rooting for slop,
roaming up and down
then under
to my breast buds,
slipping under my waistband
down over my little piggy butt,
soft and tender,
smooth as baby powder.
This strange backrub-not-backrub
morning after morning,
why did you do it?

Summer of Birds

To Cooper

You and I discovered birds one summer.
Ten years old, you brought home
the stack of library books.
You sat with binoculars,
watched and listened,
learned movements, colors and songs
of different feathered ones.
You created a backyard habitat,
your checklist in hand.
Audubon would be proud, I said,
forty-five species recorded by summer’s end.
The love of those days exceeds my life list.

I spy the golden-crowned kinglet today,
his herky jerky flight
branch to branch outside my window,
unique from chickadees and juncos,
you taught me.
And now the bushtit flock arrives.
I watch them eat and travel on their way,
as they do every day.
Once you stood stock still,
seed-filled palm outstretched,
until the pine siskin landed for his snack.
You knew he’d come,
such patience, such faith
in your calm young soul.

I sit in grief as each news story
invades my afternoon solitude,
hatred unleashed.
We are behaving badly, taking sides,
raging and trolling,
transported into a nightmare
from which we cannot wake.
What burdens will four, or worse,
eight years of this travesty of a president
produce in your life,
so undeserved of your kind and tender self?
What legacy has been laid on
your young shoulders?

Low-slanting winter sun blinds me
as I hang hummingbird nectar
in the midst of afternoon buzzing tweets.
In the very early dark of this morning I heard
the eagle’s insistent calling again, close,
second day in a row, rousing me
from my dreams.
What did she want of me?
What was she declaring to her world?
Rain taps the metal roof,
fir branches sigh in the first winds.
You have fledged the nest.
Boundless mother-love spurs me up, up,
out into the new day.

I sit in grief as each news story
invades my afternoon solitude,
hatred unleashed.
We are behaving badly, taking sides,
raging and trolling,
transported into a nightmare
from which we cannot wake.
What burdens will four, or worse,
eight years of this travesty of a president
produce in your life,
so undeserved of your kind and tender self?
What legacy has been laid on
your young shoulders?

Low-slanting winter sun blinds me
as I hang hummingbird nectar
in the midst of afternoon buzzing tweets.
In the very early dark of this morning I heard
the eagle’s insistent calling again, close,
second day in a row, rousing me
from my dreams.
What did she want of me?
What was she declaring to her world?
Rain taps the metal roof,
fir branches sigh in the first winds.
You have fledged the nest.
Boundless mother-love spurs me up, up,
out into the new day.

Three Pleasures

I.
Whump-whumping grouse
softly booming out his territory
perches on the rocky ridge
in pristine air
ruffling his feathers
attracting his mate, he hopes
as we all do,
on this early spring day.
Faintly resonant,
that wing-beating sonorous sound
insistent, incessant,
until I was sure I heard and understood
the secret pleasure he promised.

II.
Plate planted before her,
steam softly swirling up,
she leans slightly forward
face stilled over the soup
curiously anticipating.
She pokes the onions, spears the toast,
slips a bit of melted cheese into her mouth,
slyly sniffing it first.
A tiny satisfied smile blooms, savoring.
I hide my own
at her politely hidden,
very obvious pleasure.

III.
Hiding in the bathroom with a novel,
Wandering the aisles reading labels
of sumptuous foods never before purchased
concocting lavish imaginary meals,
Coffee, warm-cupped in cold hands
on the summer morning deck,
communing with busy bathing birds,
People-watching in the coffee house
slow-sipping, delicious
eavesdropping behind the computer,
Chocolate melting on the tongue.

Sinless pleasures.

© 2017, Lisa Ashley

gary lundy’s poetics | 5 prose poems

gary headshotgary lundy‘s first book of poetry, when voices detach themselves (Is a Rose Press), delves deep into personal space and comes out with cultural revelations. His most recent book, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving (Is a Rose Press), dives even further, if possible, into the heart of matters and matters of the heart, uncovering the space for forgiveness and a desire for continued connection—even from deep within introspection. We feel the power of pausing in order to understand how the outer world shapes us, especially through the ideas of relation/ship and loss.

when voices detach themselves

gary introduces these pauses, deliberately interrupting the easy flow of reading, using full-stops so that a reader stops, thinks. The density of language and play of it in the poem forces readers to struggle with their own understandings and perception. Rather than the “easy-flow” of sound bites, social media feeds, Orwellian catch-phrases, or the slogans of the marketer or politician that wash our brains with pre-conceptions, gary’s poetics asks us to think about language, meaning, relationship, human connections and to thus find our own understandings. We are to use his disruptions as launching points toward generating our own sense of identity and the world.

heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving

Rather than sell us on “truths” with slick style, newspeak, or jargon, his poems force us to question what we think we know about ourselves, each other, our relationships, language itself and re-connect to how we sense self and world consciously—coming to our “meaning,” or at least our understanding (however flawed), through choice and choice of language. He doesn’t give us answers, but points to his questions in a way that allows us to ask our own—of him, his poetry, but, most importantly, of ourselves. His poems go to questions, not from or to certainty.

The deceptively “simple” form of the five new prose poems below contrasts his sophisticated use of language, which breaks through the facade of our (self-)constructed worlds. These poems may not be “easy” to read or understand, but they are powerfully that thing which we celebrate this (and every) April, poetry.

Michael Dickel
Contributing Editor


the sort of narrative found


gary lundy

in one of your unpublished notebooks. it’s true that each of us is preoccupied by our individual internal story even though it shares conjoined regulated passwords designated memory. that fleshly take on the skin cold wind chilled. where were they when we needed their help but felt betrayed instead. that long vacant block to the left of our imagination or parts prefabricated and satisfying read like a dictionary. naturally this is mine but an aggregate of ours suffering selective erasure. the moon large and near full bright uncanny. the overheard conversation compels a retracing of otherwise unmemorable mid morning energy. the shoulder of a narrow country road or of that lover whose nearness affects once again a hopeless satisfaction. they are afflicted with the community prejudices which compel their denial even while in participation. when you yell loudly against a hope to distract from what you deeply know about yourself.

suffice to say not one more than those many


gary lundy

a smiling sort of melody all the while kicking them in the kidneys. for many it’s a time of merely biding. we worry about how often sitting around fills time. taking off their glasses to aid in seeing clearly. you push against those others whose bodies flail against the hard surface of the music. melody disappears in the growing frenzy. their drawing of a rectangle to illustrate proportions of a room walls crooked corner cracked. it’s impossible to quiet the mind engaged in disarming disparate imaginings. there are many things we feel badly about but none qualify as mistakes. a red cup of coffee steam cleaned. earlier desire encroached upon their afternoon body. those others recognized in the shared experience minute differences. details attended to and those ignored as unimportant. were it possible to i might go back in time so as not to meet you. their flavor toys with whomever agrees. a spot deep inside under the skin that won’t stop itching. nearing a halfway you memorize the landscape to come.

because in such beginnings a single thread out of place


gary lundy

unravels it all. they wear their skin as if just purchased at a secondhand store. at least calm accompanies the heavy snowfall and brittle temperatures. when even the reflected image fogs over. return home alone. let that ampersand collect and connect those others now awash in group memory and sorrow. whose shadow suffers closures and over reaction tied to blame and wrong names and pronouns. you suffer from the assumption that age is merely an aggregate of an object circling around fire. never mind make up where can such a blue come from. we plod around our clothes draped and bleeding. how can it matter who they choose to be called when pronouns are indifferently attached to hundreds at a time. you admit it’s been ten days since you showered. frozen beards and brows deep in consensus. from a certain altitude we recognize how blood mobilizes against aggression. a young one sits and imagines flying a tornado in a wilderness of exchanges. i have nothing in common with this place except shared space. unless they unleash a stepladder in order to reach and remove broken edges.

after the fact those we answerable


gary lundy

grow somber and quiet. too much of a practiced and practical contemplation which wards off the unacceptable spontaneous. just now as small bubbles swirl surrounding the head of the one washing dishes behind the coffee bar. eyes that fracture what’s seen into small fragments of the identifiable. you will understand as soon as you find that dated page from which our conversation ought to have originated. gesture for them to sit should they wish to share space. honor their difference through deep satisfying swallow. it must be that the answer lies in the irretrievable rather than sitting in eye shot. their impossibility to know any other with precision. complexity a simple telephone ring or foot tap melody. in that as if verticality which offends no one. pause arose the rectangular box filled in by misinformation. as purple turns into flagrant blue i’m reminded that with you there are no secret scents. which reduces by at least a dimensional category those contours outside the radius of blame.

how many times have we attended


gary lundy

the same passage of time still unable to grasp the warranted memorabilia. they delight in the relationship of commitment and blindness. wind swept snow sooths those otherwise broken edges in a space devoted to horizontal lies. where our joined bodies compel spirals circulation surrounds and restores lingering melodies soft in gentle safety. we can never be the one who comes to open them into the day drift snowstorm invisible but its touch so often devastating. nostalgia for a past never lived as real as those dark creatures out of childhood. an overwhelming sense of futility. a closed impossible future. to everything a place even when forced displaces another. power hums overhead heating discarded moods. we live in our head which sometimes branches off deliberately indivisible. muscles atrophied stuck within boundaries of disinterest clamor. we search for a way to change or eliminate redundant inactivity. suddenly they understand that their collection is incomplete missing an integral digit. from the side you resemble the stranger that remained outside in the dark. i could only hope you meant to love me even though you hadn’t thought of that. blame conceals a far more dangerous intimacy. meaning subverts clarity of vision and rudimentary pleasure. this they connects you with me compounded within a framework of misunderstandings. as our name for you attempts to curtail choice.


See more of gary lundy’s work here.


 

A geography of memories | Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt

 

Handwriting

A black file in his study.
Dusty. Faded.
“Parts are brittle,” she cautions.

My very first “letter to the editor”
from Minnesota, April 4, 1990
to the Calcutta Statesman.

The letter of my first arrival in St. Paul.
Handwritten. It’s January.
A picture of me standing
in front of Florence’s 1978 Ford Fairmont.

The letter with my dream
I knew she had died.
I saw her hands, her face like marble,
her deformed left foot — floating.

And then I broke my arm
falling on new ice.
Letters filled with errors
And that letter of becoming     an          American.

A geography of memories
tied with my mother’s discarded hairband,
each neatly placed
inside a plastic folder
that was once blue
or maybe yellow.


until that day

the voice is coming back
the face is coming back
the smell of dampness is coming back
the sound of the dragging blue slippers is coming back
the words of the priest chanting is coming back
the hands holding the white flowers is coming back
the narrow streets are coming back
the lamppost that was never lit is coming back
the Black Diamond Express
the last journey, the old country
the crossings of the seven seas
are            all            coming       back.

Each piece of the mosaic
small and delicate and large
black and white
misshaped and misplaced
are                       all                 coming              back.

A face that now is marked by wrinkles
each thin line marking
the boundaries on a map
are                         all                             coming                           back.


For Sale

Our new house is on the old street
not red but purple,
not huge, but small,
like minds
absent.

New bricks, new floors
new flats, new kitchens,
new grills on windows
like soulless souls
living.

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt

And I don’t know
how to ever
go back
to that house
that was once red.

© 2017, Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt


Grandmother

It is early evening
But I, reading about the midnight watch
My nostrils of a sudden caressed
By the subtle scent of rose petals

Begin to dream of my Lola*
Who faithfully prayed the Rosary
Every night, in the dark of night
In her corner of the bedroom
Every night, without fail
‘Til she no longer remembered how.

She has been gone many years, now
But her memory once again graces my mind
With the freshness of the winter flowers
I laid by the Blessed Virgin statue

On Jan 19, 2007.

*Tagalog for the endearment “grandma.”

© 2017, Dorothy Long Parma

having found a stone in my shoe …

i’ve begun
to wonder
if hate
does not
permanently
dye
the soul
the color
of
dried blood
our
words
of forgiveness
to those
who’ve
wronged
us
are
but
pilate washing
his hands
all the while
a thin veil
of flesh
conceals
what lies
within
a darkness
that
spews
from our lips
gaseous words
of venom
when
passing
troubadours
wishing
only
to write
songs
of enlightenment
press
too tightly
upon
the fragile flesh
of
our
beliefs
and
fears
thus revealing
that
inert
element
hidden
in our souls

© 2017, Charles W. Martin

healing hands …

aunt bea
hasn’t been
feeling well
this week
her sister
suggested
that a visit
to a local faith healer
might not be
such a bad idea
aunt bea
said
some folks
don’t need
to go to church
to find god’s healing hands
all you got to do
she said
is open your eyes
look around
at
the wonders
of
nature
the art
created
without
one
human hand
a doorway
to
the heavens
above your head
filled
with a thousand
angel’s eyes at night
and
a thousand hymns
of joy
from birds
with light’s
first peek
into the new day
it’s laying
of
god’s hands
upon
the troubled waters
for
souls
seeking
something more
than
institutionalized
amens
and
hallelujahs

© 2017, poem and illustration, Charles W. Martin

Kali

Where did you reside before
you made your entrance here?
Was it in the darkness beyond the sun?
Did you dance within the Milky Way
and skip among the countless stars
that crowd the cosmos far and wide?
Did you slide down moonbeams
and have the glowing dust of
nebulae sparkle through your hair?
Did you sit at the feet of the Masters
who meditate in the ethers
to raise the vibration of all existence?

An astral body was your vehicle then, created
of light and prana that you transported
effortlessly between the myriad
planes of existence. Nothing hindered
your explorations and curiosity of
All That Is. You dwelt there in a state of
Connection to Every Thing with joy and delight.

O, Tiny Giant, now you have taken a human form
and chosen those who will guide, teach and protect
you as you journey on to continue your adventures.
What path will you seek to take?
Follow your light.
Follow your breath.
Ride the waves of nature and learn from the wind,
the water, trees and animals. They teach freedom.
You need nothing else but belief in yourself.

O, Divine Kali Devi, I hold you in
light and love as you expand
in consciousness
during your stay in this
Earthly realm.
May you be surrounded in love.
May you always feel safe.
May you live in peace.
May grace and acceptance be yours.
May you forever live in freedom.

The Wheel of Becoming
continues its spin
throughout your
comings and goings.
Its energy
propels you
ever forward
toward your
Knowingness and Ease.

© Gayle Walters Rose

Kinga Fabó | 3 Hungarian Poems in Translation

 

The Suskind Perfume

Now the maestro is rather uninspired
Baptiste procure one like in the olden times
follow her scent the woman
turns her head it’s foggy steal her

smear and wrap her in a sack
let her soak in grease for a time
to preserve her volatility
with her every drop

the grease sucks her in
she cajoles you to follow
the scent on the bodies
of every other woman

do you recoil – on all?!
What happens if your yearning
drives you mad
follow her scent
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(and you, fair scent, will evaporate)


Translated by Gabor G. Gyukics


Poison

I don’t know what it is but very ill-
intended. Surely a woman must belong to it.
And something like a laughter.

I am rotating the city on me,
rotating my beauty. That’s that!
Many keys, small keyholes whirling.

Gazes cannot be all in vain. And the answer?
Merely a jeer.
The vase hugs and kills me, can’t breathe.

Now my features—even with the best intentions—
cannot be called beautiful.
And her? The girl? Her trendy perfume

is Poison. For me a real poison indeed.
And the vase?
It hugs and kills me.

But what am I to do without?


Translated by Kinga Fabó


Androgen

The bees are tough, hard to break virgins.
Virgins, but different from us humans.
They have no ego. Hermaphrodites. Like the moon.

Butterflies. Phallic souls.
Soul phalluses in female bodies.
The daughter, daughters of the moon

Kinga Fabó

allured me but only until
I figured them out.
As lovers.

I got tired of my ego.
And theirs too.
I’m bored of their services.

It wedges an obstacle between us. Neither
in nor out. In vain
I keep trying. I can break through

mine somehow.
But his? How?
Selfish, inspiring; but for what?

Is he like this by nature,
subservient, dependent?
On me? That’s dispiriting.

He doesn’t even suspect, that I depend on him.
I am the stronger, the unprotected.
Tough as a woman, austere.

Delicate as a man, fragile, gentle.
What would I like? I want him to
wrestle me gently to the floor,

penetrate me violently, savagely.
So I can become empty and neutral.
Impersonal, primarily a woman.


© 20017 Kinga Fabó; Translated by Gabor G. Gyukics


 

Lead Boots

She recalls the time before

his lead boots had

muddied the dense waters

of her existence,

a time she left barnacled wreckage

undisturbed,

as if years since the burial.

 

Craving oxygen she’d surfaced,

portraying a dramaturgy

of frivolous, effusive behaviour;

Tourists view.

 

Witnessing purity wrapped in splendor,

he’d sought ownership of her narrative

trading pages of his own

from beer stained scripture.

 

Her creative non-fiction,

eyes and mouth in conflict,

detained him in a moments lifetime,

hogs tongue lapping,

craving intimacy.

 

In those, rib cage concertinaed moments,

one thumping heart,

arms and legs locked in twin-engine fury,

she steered him to the brink;

he sensed danger,

future stubborn as memory,

past quickening his stroke.

 

The greater the flaw

the deeper he trawled;

she longed for salvation,

he swallowed her whole,

feeding his hunger,

challenging debenture offerings,  

for full disclosure.

 

He gorged,

she wept upon a valedictory gesture.

 

And now?

as caution settled on debris,

a mere three hours from sinking,

she swore she’d

never surface again.

© 2017, David Ratcliffe (David Poetry Website)

 

levels

once upon a chapter
i was

rubbing your parched lips with sand
while date-trees shadowed your masochism.
you kept asking for water
with a raucous voice,

and camels ignored us.

you died in my arms then,
smearing my cheek with your last breath
and naming me Maya

and i sieved my sand over you
to hide your corpse from vultures.

the next mouldy morning
you grew through me
branching

into basic elements
you split me
seeking my water

ignoring the camels.

you planted a date
between my teeth
and closed my eyes
and taught me
that, which i already knew.

i died
winged by your breath then
and anointing you “unnamed”.

the date rooted in my mouth
and turned me into an oasis.
your oasis.

no camels – just water and date-trees.

and us.
undying.

© Liliana Negoi

from “The hidden well”

luke 10:25-37…

for some
just
stones
neatly stacked
along
the riverside
but
for a few
an alter
from which
inner peace
flows
into
souls
abandoned
alongside the road
a stone parable
left
no doubt
by
a travelling
good samaritan

© 2017, poem and illustration, Charles W. Martin, All rights reserved

Melissa Houghton | 3 Poems

i just want to be my imperfect self

I just want to be the imperfect daughter, the one who
borrowed thousands of dollars and never returned the money.
The one who spent her savings on gambling and psychics,
the one who said nasty things about her parents on social media.
I just want to be the imperfect girlfriend, the one who
contemplated upgrading to another man and ignored her
boyfriend when he wasn’t making her feel special. The one who
ordered him about and made him feel like he couldn’t get anything right.
I just want to be the imperfect friend, the one who
only called when she wanted a favor. The one who dominated
the conversation and got bored when it veered to something else.
I want to double-cross and gossip, backstab, blame, compete.
I just want to be the imperfect citizen, the one who
had the right to remain silent, and did so. The one who refused
to implicate herself, the one who wouldn’t follow the policy
and do things “by the book” if it would further suffering.
to those who “try”

do not try.

do not get distracted.
do not look at the flowers on the path,
the tulips that ruminate to themselves.
do not get sick from the blood swallow.
get into it, whether it’s devoid
does not belong to your cause.
rugged individual you are.
do not stop, signs outlined in white
are optional.
do not get handcuffed by a cop,                          a feeling, a caress.
even a breeze sparks bereavement.
even an anvil will tickle.
just ask the coyote,
just ask my mother,
just ask yourself,
and just move on
to something else.
we are something
else we are nothing.                          we are in this together
this is a test
this is a good test
life is a test
life is a testament to your goodness.
for goodness sake,
push off with the toe,
don’t mosey,
for goodness sake,
you are watching 
your life 
sashay
away.

Cashier

Melissa Houghton

A robotic scan of

Cans. Jar of pickles.

Box of Wheaties. The

Eye sees dinner, but

A musical ear hears

Music. Someone with

Perfect pitch might be

Able to identify the sound.

Key of “A.” Doesn’t this

Strike you as strange?

To be asked how your

Day was? And is…going?

Little is it known, that

This mandate, not only

To ask, but to answer, is

A type of force, subtle

Abuse. Wake up people!

Use self-checkout when

At all possible. The key

Of “A-buse” will not be

Lost on you.


© 2017, Melissa Houghton


Michael Rothenberg and Mitko Gogov

 


Morning News


Michael Rothenberg

Hold me back!

Lord,

wherever
you are,

Michael Rothenberg photo
Michael Rothenberg
@2015 Michael Dickel

if you are,
give me

the will
to keep

my mouth
shut.

 


The Forgotten Retort between Two Gazes


Mitkko Gogov
Translation from Macedonian by Aleksandar Mitovski

And so we role-play clockmaker and time
Both with hammers aimed at mutiny’s head
And a clock is a bigger bastard than both man and everlasting sun
As we forget burnt words and human dust

Ugly tongues and nasty minds
They drag the lent of the soul

The inner voice doesn’t (ever) go out,
Like angels’ dander or hell’s gasoline it just booms
Skip the small lightning bolts
Twist the lowest mountains
The force of forever would, like a mother to her son,
Bind
And barely ever
Alienate
In the rood of our heads
Like snails
We hide our true home
Not realizing that the slime of our soul
Leaves traces of disquiet in our sleep

We keep the stars in our hands,
Why is it when we throw them
They strike like heavenly boulders?

Stones have learned to resound
Yet our dulled hearing needs to wake up!

Both fire and abyss alike
Are eternal
Just like our pensive, darling souls
Just like a shard in marbles, when our bell breaks
We are of piercing glass, yet
Troubled as the soul remembers
But knows not to reciprocate

We’re birds that have decided to build their own cage,
We sing of the freedom we’ve created
But the space in which we act is
Barely as large as our wingspan is

Be the river that desires to break through the cold
And the ice of the mountain whose home is winter

We all want to see the whole
We all want to be a part of someone’s whole
We want to add to the whole, bid for it,
Increase it, make it rich

Or
Cripple it without realizing

As we don’t grasp we’re nothing but cutouts
A square on a Rubik’s cubepersevering, searching for its match
On the other side of the cube
We’re seemingly moving in a circle
Rolling all over the globe like a stolen bobbin of yarn
From grandma’s old chest.

We leave our people like
Forgotten church bells in our soul
Though we’d like their thoughts to echo
But you’d only hear the blood of your words
And angels pacing on the cobblestone road
Leaving without making a sound,
With a touch ingrained in us like a scar from child’s play
Like a mother’s hand holding a teaspoon of soup
Like a father’s lesson of how to chop kindling
Without losing a finger

We cut and we carve, but the truth can’t be carved,
Because, if we do, it will carve us back
And bury us six feet under
Even though we never brewed enough coffee
Even though we never leaped over enough bonfires
Even though we lied when we said that spirits came but we summoned witches
And the fairies choose our shadows as their mates
No, our shadows, like us, would rather hide in verses
And battle quietly for their hidden lives.

We’d rather be snow: white, clean, untarnished,
But you can’t keep snow in a jar, it won’t sit still,
Neither will love
Trapped, lonely, not shown, framed.

Love floats alone in a frame, like a cross-stitch
Of a woman spinning yarn as her wool is coming to an end.

Let’s make our minds ascent in a global fire
And resurrect the enchanted souls.

A forgotten retort between two gases
(therefore)

Please leave me
Leave my
Predicaments be

It’s not the time in which
The soil on its own and
By its own volition
Did turn over
And roll over

We all move,
Twist, roll over,
As we live we do not remember
Or notice,
While we’re dead
‘we do not eavesdrop
As others gossip about us’
And
Probably all spine issues are gone.

Leave the world be, darling,

It is not a part of you
Can’t you see in your naiveté, how,
Through your breath of lunacy they pass you by
They skip right over you
They won’t even cough anymore?
Leave the trams, darling,
In them fewer wishes are travelling these days

Mitko Gogov photo
Mitko Gogov
©2015 Michael Dickel

Towards you,
Inside you,
Next to you,
No more hands reaching out
No more raised voices

—we drown in our own outcry

We hope that hope as our last refuge
Will pay our debts
Will turn off the light
And in the end

Just like us all
Will leave
And go

To hell.

 


Michael Rothenberg has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 37 years but recently moved to Tallahassee. He is a poet, painter, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else. In 2011 he and Terri Carrion co-founded the global poetry movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

His songs have appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ Shadowhunter and Black Day, Blue Night, and most recently, TriStar Pictures’ Outside Ozona. Other songs have been recorded on CDs including: Bob Malone‘s The Darkest Part of The Night (Caught Up in Christmas) and Bob Malone (Raydaddy’s Blues), Difficult Woman by Renee Geyer, Global Blues Deficit by Cody Palance, The Woodys by The Woodys, and Schell Game by Johnny Lee Schell.

His poetry books and broadsides are archived at the University of Francisco, and are held in the Special Collection libraries of Brown University, Claremont Colleges, University of Kansas, the New York Public Library, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and UC-Santa Cruz.


Mitko Gogov lives in Macedonia, where he writes poetry, short stories, essays and journalism. He writes haiku, senriu, renga which he publishes occasionally in the micro blogosphere twitter, but once published in London by Yoko Ono as well. His work so far has been present and translated in several anthologies, collections and journals for literature and art in India, Pakistan, Philippines, USA, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Check Republic, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria … He’s current with his first collection “Ice Water” published in 2011. in Serbia, and in 2014 issued in Macedonia, in the edition “Fires” for the publishing house “Antolog”, supported by the Ministry of culture.

As conceptual artist with several exhibitions, installations, performances, scenery, short movies and multimedia projects he participated in a few international group exhibitions and projects in Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, France, Norway and Italy.

He is President of the Association for Cultural Development and Protection of Cultural Heritage “Kontext – Strumica” and organizer of the international movement and festival “100 Thousand poets for change” in Macedonia, Strumica. He is also the CEO & founder of the internet portal strumicaonline.net and one of the editors at the ezine for culture and literature in Macedonia, reper.net.mk. He organizes many other cultural and art events, collaborating with youth, art, film and theater festivals.

As youth trainer he provides different creativity workshops, such as: forum theater, multimedia, design, stick art, street art, graffiti, use of organic and recycled materials in contemporary art, handmade and social aspects as PEER & informal education, EVS, youth participation etc.


This post originally appeared on
Fragmentarily/ Metaphor(e) /Play.


Ms. Weary’s Blues

blues

the helpless, hopeless, remorse-filled blues
when you’ve seen the doctor and she’s seen you
when Time runs out and Eternity beckons

blues

the darkest hues with shivering slivers of
pewter muting to gray, muting to black,
muting to light fractures in a surface
permeable and permissible, heavenly Light

or, so “they” tell me …

But lost in that Universe of Light
will “I’ still be?
will “you” still be?
answer me that

What is the character of this Light?
Matter or myth?

Ah then…
after all, pondering on
I find I really don’t care
I’ll poem my blues and poem my light
until all that’s left of me is
what I leave behind…

and you?

Will you leave your unwritten
blue poem hanging in the air to be
sensed by the few who can?
Or, will you, like slaves of old,
paint yourself blue and boiling tears
dance round the fire’s edge and rebirth
your broken blue soul into wholeness?

This poem is written out of memory. Nothing untoward is pending … except, of course, for the fact of a world gone mad and who knows what’s next with that …

© 2017, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved

not with a bang but a whimper, three poems

BARUCH, THE BAKER

Your heart is smarter, my Baruch,
then your head,
which is smart indeed –
and your hands and gnarly fingers
are smarter still.
They fashion bread from
cream-colored flours,
silky to the touch.
Kneading the dough
patiently, patiently
letting it rise
while I sleep –
safe, in my bed.

Up at six a.m. we walk sleepily
down a lavender-gray street,
an apricot sun peeking at us
and, rising higher in the sky,
it seemingly follows us to you.

Cheer-filled arrival with greetings
and smiles from dear Baruch and
warm sugar smells, yeasty scents
and the sight of golden loaves,
some voluptuous rounds and
others, sturdy rectangulars.
You have baked cinnamon rolls,
a child’s delight, pies and
sticky buns too…and cookies!

“We’ll take a French bread” my Mom says
pointing to a crispy brown baguette.
“And a raisin bread.”
She adds …
“We’ll need that sliced.”

I watch your hands flit gracefully
like butterflies in a green valley
stopping here and then there
to pull fragrant loaves from display
and slicing them, neatly packaging,
then reaching down over the counter
you hand me a little bag of rugelach.

As I look up, reaching for your gift
I stop breathing, arrested by
a wisp of blue on your forearm.
I am studious, a reader, dear Baruch,
I know what that tattoo means …
Looking down, with a whisper I choke
“Thank you, Baruch!”
swallowing that lump of sadness,
trying not to show my tears.
What right have I to tears?
But then you, dear Baruch, come
bounding round the counter
with warm hugs and soft tissues,
as though I was the one hurt.
From that day forever more,
I saw you only in long sleeves.

At lunchtime, I demanded –
“Mom, tell me about Baruch.”
And she does.
I am pensive over our meal,
canned marinara and slices of
of your baguette.
Dear Baruch, with each salty bite
I eat your tears and
the blood of your daughter.
Nights she stares at me from that
sepia photo by your register.

Baruch, did she, like me, assume
a grown-up life
of school and jobs,
marriage and children?
And you! You must have assumed
the tender comfort of
her love in your old age.
Do you hold the vision of her
young and happy in your
brave, kindly old heart?
Does your ear still play back
her childish laughter,
the sound of her voice
begging for a story?
Do your warm brown eyes still hold
her smile in remembrance?
When you see little girls like me,
does your anguish grow?

Dear Baruch, our dear Baruch
how will you set your child free
from that faraway land and
cold, unmarked mass grave?

© 2008, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of a holocaust survivor displaying his arm tattoo courtesy of Frankie Fouganthin under CC BY-SA 2.0 license


SOME MOTHERS HEARTS HAVE STOPPED

Some mothers’ children stare unseeing
No sweet, wet baby kisses from blistered lips,

. . . . songs unsung

No wedding portraits to dust and treasure
No graduations or trips to the sea

. . . . just their bodies to bury

crushed
beaten
stilled

by the engine of nihilism

Limbs cracked and broken, bellies torn
Faces purpled, hearts stopped

Hearts stopped …
. . . . hearts stopped

Some mothers’ hearts have stopped

Some mother's children
Some mothers’ children

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of some mothers’ children killed in the Syrian Civil War, Ghouta massacre/uploaded by Bkwillwm to Wikipedia under CC BY 3.0 license (I believe it may be a screen shot from a news video)


THE DOVES HAVE FLOWN

what must it be like for you in your part of the world?
there is only silence, i don’t know your name, i know only
that the fire of Life makes us one in this, the human journey,
trudging through mud, by land and by sea, reaching for the sun
like entering a ritual river without a blessing or a prayer
on the street where you lived, your friends are all gone
the houses are crushed and the doves have flown
there is only silence, no children playing, no laughter
here and there a light remains to speak to us of loneliness,
yet our eyes meet in secret, our hearts open on the fringe,
one breath and the wind blows, one tear and the seas rise,
your grief drips from my eyes and i tremble with your fear

© poem, 2016, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Mindanao Bleeding-heart at London Zoo, England courtesy of Drew Avery under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

One of My Tomorrows

(for Celia)

Our last goodbye was casual
as if I would see you again
on one of my tomorrows

I touched your arm
you flinched. In pain.
I felt a persistent guilt

Born of carelessness
that only nervous uncertainly
could freely demonstrate

Born of the habitual assumption
that you were in charge
you weren’t. Not really.

You never were, save
your own sense o duty
to boss, ay care for everyone

Too much on small shoulders
that weren’t as strong as the
force of that inner being

The force that stopped being
that was someone once
whom I loved and miss

Some time after we’d helped you
to meet your God, one starlit night
I heard your voice as clear as the sky

O lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world, have mercy
and grant us peace. I swear

© 2017, John Anstie

Rachel Heimowitz | Three Poems from Israel

 

across the water

his eyes lashed
          in kohl, mornings alone
he sheathes his arm
          in prayer, sets another
between his eyes,
          kisses the thick skin,
the cured smell, the animal
          warmth beneath. these
are the salted days of august,
          days of hamsin
when even evening breathes
          hot on his neck,
each moment an empty
          pocket, each seam tarred, sulfurous
and sour. on the bus
          the old, sephardi men tell him, wet
your lips. go ahead
          and wet your lips
on sweetness. don’t think
          about the ecru of your skin
or the way it clings
          to the bone.
you too will wake
          to a man’s full weight
in a hand nailing
          your head to the bed,
will burn
          and crease into morning
sheets well worn. and death,
          that savage savior,
will walk across your water,
          enter your house,
a shabaknik in a flannel shirt,
          each shoulder stiff
with power,
          each shawled in prayer.

 

Originally in December, 2016


The Scent of Salt

Outside a cottage at the edge
          of a silver desert, a camel dreams to breathe  
                    the salt, the sea. He twists
                              his head around to view the woman
                                        he carries and where he came from,

over the hot, pitted hills and the many
          varieties of salt, the ones that stink
                    of sulfur, their crystal layers mixed with silt,
                              the ones that comfort his burning
                                        feet in talc, the ones that sit like ice

floes on briny water. The variety that forms
          a woman, her arms
                    outstretched, waiting
                              for her stolen sons, those who melted
                                        in the Land of Og,

burned and buried
          in a shallow grave. In her
                    dreams she rides the camel.
                              When he walks
                                        she knows the stormy waves have overtaken her.

When he runs she whispers
          the seventy secret names of God
                    from her peeling lips
                              and walks on water
                                        to where her sons play in the desert salt.

Their feet are oars, their hands                                                     
          braid the camel’s hair to baskets
                    painted gold. She crouches there
                              in the blistered sand, spitting the husks
                                        of sunflower seeds over

the fences men erect in fear.
          Salt coats their tongues.
                    The camel opens his dry mouth.
                              Like a woman lost, his cry
stretches over the desert.

 

Originally in Spillway 2015


Ode to a Young Girl Sold

little light rises morning within morning
hands chafed clean from defile,
knuckle after knuckle pearled, bread
and boiled water, alive and silent,
as wind, as snow, muted to two dark

Rachel Heimowitz

braids. yet the innocence of thin limbs,
winced in a bathroom, rashed red
across her delicate back, penicillin
inside the animal she carries
pierced to her skeleton. night
 
within night anointed in hard breath
and the oiled smell of lubricant.
little light, eyes bleached in the ice
of his smile, no hand, no belt, just frozen sweat
and the sound of a doll drowning in snow.

 

Originally in Tinderbox Volume: 3 Issue: 4



the red coat

the red coat ::

the red coat
was hiding
under layers,
but i saw it.
red it is, worn, shabby.

a friend you say.

lining cream silk crumple.
the label
harris tweed,
heather washed,
as old.

the back a thin satin sash
to tie.
oh lovely coat
i love you.

away for coffee
italian,
a biscuit.

back to the red coat,
tried it, and looked daft in it,
and imagined how it would be.

hungry i would wear it,
run on the moor, windy,
a cotton dress beneath,
grubby knees,

old boots, and wrap it round me.
night garden, pyjamas,
and the red coat looking
at the moon.

slight smell of camphor,
and lavender,
un threading,
pockets with notes,
and hankies
and all well, all well.

men will sing with three voices,
and dance in their suits,
and i will be headlost, and dizzy.
leaving the coat
to bathe in pools
of light, under green,
dripping back into
the coat , red coat.

they say i said too much about the coat last night,
and did I look daft, and i will never buy it
£500,
but it is already mine,
headed forever, calling it to at will

red coat.
i will say more, and more, red coat.

I love you red coat.
sbm.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA UA

Science Fiction

1

There are things that science doesn’t know,

things that science doesn’t tell us

except that our loins grow together

with the rising of Arcturus, and

while we shiver and caress and

watch a planet’s light diminish

our loins intertwine; flower

beneath the final

falling stars.

2

Merely a minor uprising on Sol 3 MW-4911:

The official and only recorded notice

of the final rebellion.

We killed their last poet

in the first wave to fall.

He said, “Beauty isn’t binary.”)

(Or similar cryptic summary that

I may not clearly recall).

We captured millions when

the third wave collapsed,

jettisoned them without life support

into space.

3

After 10,500 x 14 hours of computer simulations we deduced the only solution to forestall our desiccation is called water. Water could have been collected from Sol 3 MW-4911, except we mined its arctic for minerals no longer of value and discarded it after centuries of disuse.

4

Have you seen our moon?

It hung like a scythe

on the night you were conceived.

And soon, on this shelf,

as temperatures fall,

I’ll push and breathe,

push and I’ll breathe and

Fear your emerging face.

© Phillip T. Stephens

Image rights: Jskteez Vu – Licensed under Creative Commons Zero

Socks | Michael Dickel

My famous black socks

Michael Dickel

At three in the morning
I hand wash my socks,
my bladder emptied,
the toilet flushed.
These pressure socks
help stop the pain
and swelling from
my varicose veins.

I realize the water
will never run clear,
black dye running
away from the
responsibility,
I assume. And
I think, this poem
is not very sexy.

For that, I should
lay next to my wife,
who sleeps in
the next room as
I wring the socks.
We should share
a cigarette. You
know, how the
movies used
to show sex.

Except we don’t
smoke. And we’ve
spent the day
caring for her
mother with cancer
and a broken arm.

I caught up on a bit
of work tonight,
wrote to a couple
of friends, edited
something, sent
a poem or two
to editors who
know or don’t
know me.

Well,
my socks will be
clean. And, I think,
that’s not so bad.

© 2017, Michael Dickel

Spring in my Sundays

Swimming through Sundays’
meanders
the corners of my eyes are spinning with
the storms of butterflies
Refresh, Oh, Lady Spring
my will of life!
My core, my spirit,
let them be touched by
the holy wind of light and warmth
The law of colour green with broad brushes
splash it on my trees
Make no mistake when chirping birds
will call your blessing
Abandon us in your blue skies
Oh, Lady Spring
Cuddle my spades of grass with your smile and
Let me kneel at your broad altar

© 2017 Iulia Gherghei

Standing Post: Trees in Practice

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers.
I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves.
And even more I revere them when they stand alone.
They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.”
Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

No hard benches for me, or pulpits, altars or holy books,
give me skies of blue with cirrus wisps that scribble truths.
Gatherings of trees are my sangha, age old wisdom expounded
from the roughened bark and steadfast trunks that abide in calmness.
Their messages aren’t harsh and do not tell of hell and brimstone death
but instead teach trust in their brethren and nature as teachers.
Leaves and boughs happily greet as the breeze gently lifts in a
tender, quiet song of connected joy that is shared with those below.
Peace and harmony reign here in this sacred space of believers.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers.”

Their serenity is multiplied when gathered in great throngs.
There is no jostling for favoritism or pushing aside of others
so that they may be held in higher esteem; trees teach humility.
It is hallowed ground that supports trees. I whisper in their midst.
You, I venerate as I sit at your feet and feel your gifts permeate my soul.
Quiet, meditating in one place…be still, find earth’s hidden treasure troves.
Strong, yet yielding in the face of seasons’ harshness; I bow O Masters.
My heart is restored and a reverence is imparted to me that uplifts.
Mystical beings dance and play among your holy, secret alcoves.
“I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves.”

Isolated or living apart from one another, trees lift their limbs in resilience.
Though alone, rooted to the ground, they are visited and inhabited by
birds, animals, myriad bugs and even air plants that join them.
Stoic and steadfast is the solitary sentinel.
When separate and alone they stand like quiet beacons in the fog.
Having no others to entangle their branches, they sometimes feel unknown.
They stretch and reach out and up, vainly feeling for a neighbor.
But do their hearts languish or brood when kept to themselves?
O lone willow whose drooping branches caress a pond, here you are sown.
“And even more I revere them when they stand alone.”

Patience and endurance rule in the heart of the ancient oak.
Wisdom reflects from her heart where the Great Horned Owl resides.
Distinguished, with ancient ties to Vikings and Tigers, she rests.
These Masters of Stillness have taught contemplation since millennia.
Like the Crane poised to strike a fish, they wait in silence.
They draw strength from the community of all species.
Their brilliance is oftentimes overshadowed by their infinite modesty and grace.
The hum of om strums through their leaves gaining strength on the wind that then plays out into the universe.
These stately, wizened beings spend their lives in harmony, no need for treaties.

© 2017, poem, Gayle Walters Rose; photograph, 2017, Jamie Dedes

“They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.”

*Standing Post is a martial arts form based in Chi Kung. This Glosa was inspired by a dear friend who has mastered this form.

Teaching Poetry | Michael Dickel

 

Teaching that (in)famous “Poetry”


Michael Dickel

(apologies to Marianne Moore)

Her (dis)like of poetry showed through
her pure contempt while reading it. She thought
high interpretation of the unintelligible half poets
elevated an autopsy to a false revery for birth, and
that all the academics criticize what they understand
would be detrimental to their careers. She wanted
a genuine toad, not a prince, an imaginary secret
garden, no flowers, a raw poem eaten, savored,
complete with a belch after gulping beer.

My students hate the image of an autopsy,
don’t like to consider births except in the abstract,
think if someone says “poetry,” then, poetry.

Abstract amphibious poetry
Digital art from photos
©2017 Michael Dickel

What use definitions, declinations, nuance
or inflections? Metaphors just hide the truth,
what matters comes out straight and clear.
Who cares about red wheelbarrows,
blackbirds, or pigeons, for that matter?

And certainly, they argue, we don’t dislike
all that we don’t understand.


Originally appeared in Fragmentarily/ Metaphor(e) /Play.


© 2017, Michael Dickel

Terri Muuss | and the word was

 

and the word was


Terri Muus


1            light shimmering

           between curtains, mother’s
           salt, my
           two-year-old
                    tongue.

2            a single
           note and the symphony—
           swell of treble
                    into bronze,
           wings,

           the lost sun-streaked
           hour, staccato-punched
                    sky by five.

3            smoke and no
                    name, smeared
           pencil on graphed
           paper, mouth strung
           with gray pearls, bulging pockets—

           secrets, dry
           taste of letter-less envelope
                    on “sweet sixteen.”

4            unzipped carbon
           nanotubes, the union
                    of atoms,
           the space after
                    exhale, light

           particles and waves
                    in ordered
           chaos of the universe
           by thirty-one.

5            Now—

           GOD,
                    you are
           ocean-side waves beating
           tilde of sand,

           gold tenderness.

The Marks Remain

From the outset,
my wrists were bound;
wrongfully arrested,
I’d plea bargain without cause,
seemingly without choice.

Craving sweet bitterness,
rocking you like a cocktail,
I would remove your top,
release my passion, and
devour you in instalments.

You, my daily medication,
the essential dose of rapture;
vital, addictive, immediate,
sped venom through my veins
that led to the heart of my despair.

Each hit delivering a mark;
I’d await side effects,
like your incredulity on waking,
interrogation from burning eyes
that scorched my cheek,
parched my tongue,
stung my eyes.

On a trip, through the ruins of your mind
where you’d once held mass,
I heard misquoted passages
echoing around the inclined victims
of those that preceded me.

The marks remain,
however concealed
as day by day
the soundless damage remains
leaving me deaf to reason,
yearning still.

© 2017, David Ratcliffe

Three Poems by Paul Brookes

Path Of Seeds

O, Lady of the breath,
selfish and in control

you decide the path of seeds
you carry and drop in my grove.

Landscape architect place
an acorn here, a daisy here,
chestnut over there. No negotiation.

Blow my intricate clocks into half spheres,
my Sycamore immigrants spin
through your gusts.

Shoot moss into these worn mortared walls.
Broadcast grass between thess carefully
laid pavements.

With you I have no choice
you deliver into me
whatever you hold.

I welcome your unexpected gifts.

A Dawn Chorus

O, Lady of the Breath.
how to arc in your air?

A dozen or more tiny caves
sing you into the world

from the trillbudded barkskin
volume and delivery

a root that connects with
its origin tree,

broadcasts to my ears,
territory songs,

and chat up lines, a Saturday
night on the town played out

on a morning before the wormshop,
home repair, teach bairns how to fly.

My Shape

of saying took time
for us to practice.

for me to know how much
of you is needed for each word,

or phrase, how I must shape
Your entry and exit for you

To carry my meaning out
clearly and audibly and your

vibrations welcomed in the ears
of others. At a start without confidence,

I manhandled your curves, mumbled
and fumbled our airy pattern,

apprentice to your greater experience
that gently taught me not to be so rough,

to be considerate of my delivery, conduct
a gentle assault on my hearers.

© 2017, Paul Brookes

Three Poems by Phillip Larrea

Buskers and Blue Laws

North Carolina galoot sittin’ in a flophouse
sippin’ blue law Seagrams from a brown paper bag
with a side of 7-up. He had a face like a pine cone
for every smoke he ever toked in some forty odd years
earnin’ a little scratch doin’ this and that – mostly outdoors.
He told me then with conviction – a kind of piety really –
that he could smoke and drink as much as any man –
but bein’ a Baptist he don’t believe in it.
So he won’t vote for it neither.

Thirty years on and odd, I’m wanderin’ Santa Fe way
with that old codger’s logic still stuck in my craw.
I come across a busker trio outside a Smith’s Food and Drugs.
Feller with his gittar got a full-figured well-worn
case wide open for any to stop by, mebbe drop a dime.
Pretty little fiddle strokin’ the bow keeps her straps closed.
Got a banjo man too – but he don’t pay no never mind
to city folk just passin’ through .
Now me, I got no taste for Kintucky bluegrass.
Ain’t gonna catch me steppin’ no Tennessee waltz.
But I laid a dollar down just where the lady likes it.
A vote I suppose – ‘cuz I reckon I believe in it.

Live at the Troubadour
(After “Blackbird” and Fixing a Hole”
Paul McCartney)

Dumb blackbird ricochets ceiling to wall
after well-meaning plebes
plaster spackled the hole
where the song gets in

A few troubadours survived the seventies.
Their lucid albeit grimly sunken eyes
tell us the songbirds all up and died.
One late night TV cadaver claimed he
had been killed by clean living. Coroner
listed proximate cause- death by insulation.

Wandermind winging in the dead of night…
can’t find the hole where the rain gets in
shatters wing against shuttered pane instead.

Love Poem

A poem about writing a love poem.
It will be as painful as It can be.
A tablespoon of tears, a cup
Full of moon, naturally, which-

(Somewhere on a jukebox a singer sings a song about the lonely life of a singer on the road singing songs to a packed concert hall about the lonely life of a singer singing songs on the road somewhere…)

Elicits polite titters from the critics.
Later, one lover will say to the other,
“I HATED that!”
That is something like love, isn’t?

© Phillip Larrea, from Part Time Job (Sybaritic Press (September 29, 2016)

Three Poems from Albanian | Faruk Buzhala


Faruk Buzhala

My house

My house is a hundred years old.

My House
Digital art
©2017 Michael Dickel

The wounds of time appear on the walls
Even though I have tried to repair you.
You are as beautiful as a monument of the past.
I have lived and grown inside of you.

My hundred-year old house—
When it rains why are you crying?
The roof and ceiling leak
And I…
Run with bowls in my hands
To pick up the tears.


Here is the original, in Albanian

Shtëpia ime

Shtëpia ime qindvjetëshe
Plagët e kohës t’figurojnë në mure
Edhe pse shumë here t’i  kuroja
Je e bukur si monument i t’kaluarës
Për  muaqë në ty jetoj.

Shtëpia ime qindvjetëshe
Kur bie shi përse qanë
Pullazi tavani pikojnë
E unë
Vrapoj me tasa në duar
Të t’i mbledh lotët.



The ending

“Two thousand years ago ended the voyage of the prophets.”

We annihilated darkness
Digital art
©2017 Michael Dickel

People are left
at the crossroads of life
without knowing the direction to go:
Past, Present, Future, or …?!

Old wisdoms
We took for the worst
and put them into a bag.
Then we upload into time
the burden of our sins.

We annihilated darkness
But we were left in the dark,
with tired eyes barren of myopia
seeking the grace of god’s fire
wasted somewhere in the universe.


Here is the original, in Albanian

M b a r i m i

“Qe dymijë vite u ndal rrugëtimi i profetëve”

Njerëzit kanë mbetur
në udhëkryqin e jetës
pa ditur kah të shkojnë:
Kah e kaluara,e tashmja, e ardhmja, apo…?!.

Mësimet e vjetra i morëm për ters
dhe i futëm në thes.
Pastaj ia ngarkuam kohës
barrën e mëkateve tona.

E asgjësuam terrin
por mbetëm në terr,
me sy të lodhur shterpe nga miopia
kërkojmë hirin e zjarrit të hyjnive
të tretur diku në univers.



The above poems are from Faruk Buzhala’s second book, House without Road. Translated by Faruk Buzhala with Michael Rothenberg. Faruk wrote the poem below in English.



”Love… lost somewhere in the deepest cut of my heart, waiting for someone to awake feelings.”

With a candle
Digital art
©2017 Michael Dickel

to be alone when your heart wants to have friends near,
to wish one wish when your body burns for some youthfulness,
to think of the past when your nostalgia brings back all of the pictures of life!

With a candle in the dark spirit, walk easily through the passing years.



Faruk Buzhala
©2015 Michael Dickel

Faruk Buzhala is an Albanian from Kosovo. He currently lives in Ferizaj. He describes himself elsewhere as “an alien falling from the sky to earth…”

This post originally appeared on
Fragmentarily/ Metaphor(e) /Play.



To Our Broken Sandals

To Our Broken Sandals

from the hottest part of this land
we rode our horses
with the mouth broken
and the tongue dried like the sand
to the point that also a kiss would be painful

so we stopped in a caravanserai
for water to wet our foreheads and
horses to let sleep
and a bit of cool shadow
to drink with our eyes

so we slept
till the night was high
and the cold desert was
all in sound with the wind
and the sand danced
with twisting dreaming snakes

the morning rose
with the voices of merchants
and the prostitutes ones
and the adventurers ones
and the bakers ones
and all the other people
burned by the sun
frozen by the moon

so we started again
our long voyage in this desert
avoiding snakes
and searching for oasis

all here can erode our bodies
all here can drive us mad
all here can rive our ride
but not our broken sandals
filled with the same steps
filled with the same sand

© 2017, Mendes Biondo

To the Frog at the Door

Crane_frog4

To the Frog at the Door

if you kiss a frog, so I’ve been told,
there’s a chance he’ll turn into a prince,
a frog prince, which means you have
you absolutely have to love him
and i’ve loved a few frogs, at least
i think i have, they never became princes
nor did their love morph me into a princess,
i’m still a cranky old crow, we are what we are
loving frogs and crows isn’t transformative
….why should it be?
one woman’s frog is another woman’s prince

…….as for this old crow

………….she loves flying solo

…….not that you asked

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All right reserved; The Frog Prince by Walter Crane (1845-1915), U.S. Public Domain

Two Poems by Denise Fletcher

Poetry Books

Poetry books
Sitting on library shelves
Never being read
So many obscure poets
Lost
To the literary canon

What is Poetry?

Fragments
Memories
Scraps of the past
Thoughts that pass
Thru your memory
Bank on the way
To oblivion

By Denise Fletcher
Copyright © 2016

“What is Poetry?” has been previously published in Open Minds Quarterly and Kaleidoscope magazine.

Valérie Déus | 3 Poems

 

Misdirection


Valérie Déus

this place is strange and I am strange in it
this air catches at my nape
I notice, it’s darker than I remember
September to be
the way freeze commits its self
to my frame earlier and earlier
helps me forget I ever had a face
a version me bobbing away above my shoulders
a bold lower lip works out a gesture

tomorrow, everyone will go home
to their strangest dreams
we’ll take the lead and remake ourselves
into more than neon lakes

the night slicks our hair and I think this is like sex
our tender/ rolls redirection near this soft dark landscape
the last place to be when wanting this much


Told


Valérie Déus

Valérie Déus

I tell something
told
I remember blue
I let time pass
And I am now both
simple and much
It’s called blame
but blue is
so that it gets
hair and under the skin
and I suppose
I bring blame
back from my faithful beloved
I traveled
in all blush-of-the-world
not dangerous
but an unknown red
I tell and see sorry
from a position of hope
and not of blame
but to plead and to let one
be visible and twists
I become bared and contuse
stuck in children’s fables
about a prince who has no doctrine here
the time is long but
whatever happens
the call will be soon
right after
I find home


Body


Valérie Déus

are you my lonely poem?
dance near the line breaks
in a fit of rage
arrange the pictures
according to sly and sex
in low light they almost slip away
an unfamiliar memory
hidden below your 24 hour edge
but you name the work a body
a curious life emerges
from blade of moon
a net of risk and promise
this empty space is not empty when one isn’t afraid
it is a placeholder filled with premonitions
and it’s all tied up in the definition of being.


© 2017, Valérie Déus 

Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty

Teachers, parents, siblings, mentors of every kind leave their mark upon us.  I was in the fifth grade at Isaac Newton Elementary school in Detroit when my teacher, Mrs. Chapman, had us memorize Ozymandias, a poem composed in 1818 by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Then we had to recite it to our classmates.

I walked to the front of the room and paused, a dramatic device storytellers employ to command the attention of their audience.  Actually, I was just trying not to throw up: it was my first public solo performance.  I was terrified, but it was also electrifying to be able to convey such a compelling story, such unforgettable imagery.   Not only did I not throw up, but I got an A.  And I never forgot that poem.

My mother used to recite poetry to us, like “Daffodils” by Wordsworth and “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.  Over the years I’ve shared Ozymandias and other gems (okay, sometimes I sing jingles from the TV commercials I watched as a kid), to a certain captive audience–my children.  Occasionally I recognize my own words reflected back to me from the mouths of my babes.  Sometimes to my chagrin, but most often to my surprise and delight.

My son Eli is home between teaching assignments…

…and tonight Bea returns from Stanford on spring break.  It will be so good for us all to be back together again.  My ritual, when the kids depart for school, is to tidy their rooms, change the sheets, and drop a tear or two as I make their rooms ready for them to come home to the next time…and they are always grateful.

The last time Eli left I was tempted to hire a bulldozer…

…but it’s like spending a little quiet time with that absent child.

Last night, in a burst of inspired procrastination (he was tired of reorganizing his own room), Eli decided to surprise Bea by cleaning her room, and not just the sort of tidying I do, but a thorough reorganization, including the mountain of books stacked haphazardly in the corner, that pile of her things parked just inside the door, not to mention the surprise found in a teacup discovered under a pile of stuff on her desk.  It’s either a science experiment or a strange new life form.  It took Eli over five hours.  He found so many new ways and places to shelve books that they almost fit on her shelves now!

But nothing comes without a price tag.  In fact, after Eli was finished, everything had a tag on it.  Oh, yes.  He had made his mark.

I love this one…

But my absolute favorite touch was the greeting on the door.

I howled with laughter. “Oh, good,” said Eli. “I didn’t know if you’d get the reference.”  “Do I get the reference?” I asked, launching into a recitation of Ozymandias.  “How did you think of it?”  He said he remembered it from all the times I’d recited it.  Of course I  ran to find my book of Shelley…

When I opened it up in search of the poem, I saw that someone else had made her mark.  Upon the book…


…and maybe even upon me.

The poetry and the stories we pass from generation to generation enrich and prepare us for the struggles we will face, within ourselves and in the outside world.  I believe they will outlast the Mighty and their monuments to themselves, and, I hope, their wars.

Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Mrs. Chapman.  Thank you, son.  And welcome home, Bea!

All images and words (except for Mr. Shelley’s, of course) copyright Naomi Baltuck

Whispers on an April Morning Breeze

battle-of-lexington-1775-granger
Battle of Lexington, 1775

The standoff had not gone on for long, just after the sun began coming up over the meeting house, the far steeples of Boston and the ocean between us and who we wanted to be.

But the Regulars didn’t care if it was day or night. They could kill us with their eyes closed, if their commander, or we, let them.

A few hours before, most all of us were in the Buckman Publick House, drinking ale and rum, some smoking pipes. The rest of us, mostly lads like me, got our first real tastes of adult courage off the drink, the smoke and the rhetoric of our elders that night.

“Gentlemen, let there be no great fear of the regulars should they enter our town,” said Captain Parker, his own red coat hanging from the back of a chair. “We shall stand our ground and show them our resolve to hold onto what is rightly ours as lawful citizens of His Majesty,” he whispered and then coughed.

The Captain has the consumption, I’m told by Mother, his cousin, so all the smoke in the room from the hearth and the men’s pipes harmed his breathing quite sorely. That and his harsh coughs practically choked the great man, making him difficult to hear. So I edged up close to him. That seemed to make me feel braver. He’d fought for the Crown in the late war against the French and knew well the tactics and propensities of the Redcoat soldier. If he didn’t sound like he would die by next harvest, I would have had a run at Gage’s whole bloody army by myself.

At sunrise, Thaddeus Bowman, the last scout the Captain had sent out, come bursting into the tavern.

“They’re here, they’re here,” he said in a voice nearly as choked as Captain Parker’s, though not from the consumption. “They’re right behind me, Sir, and this time they are coming in force. Maybe three, four hundred of ‘em,” I heard him tell the Captain. I grabbed my Papa’s old fowler and headed for the door.

About half of us unknotted ourselves from the doorway and ran out into the front yard of the tavern. Everything had an eerie glow to it, ourselves included, from the combined moon’s and sun’s lights shining upon us. I took this as an omen of what lay ahead for us this day and said to my cousin Amos, “The Lord is with us, cuz. He most surely is. We have right on our side and will not be bullied from our own field by redcoated tavern scum.”

The fact that our whole company had spent the night in a tavern, many tasting its wares, and were blinking in the new day’s smoldering light, suddenly arose upon me and I’m sure my face took on a wholly different glow, the hue of a boiled lobster.

All eighty of us men and boys who had been in the tavern began to form ranks on the village common. It was a damned ragged line compared to the ones of the approaching Regulars. They looked like they had been formed buy some great carpenter’s square. We, while most resolute, took on the form of a snake-rail fence.

Over by the road, I could see my grandfather and sister out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and wave a greeting, but our sergeant, William Munro, gave me a strike from his musket barrel and whispered hot blasphemy and spit in my red ear. But now Grandfather and Deliverance could see where I stood.

Captain Parker walked down our column and looked like Grandfather when he had to dispatch poor old Benedict, his sorrel, when the gelding’s time had come. This did knock all those mugs of my previous courage from my head past my heart and from there to my feet.

“Men, we shall stand our ground, but not provoke the Regulars. Most of our militias’ powder and supplies at Concord have already been safely hidden away,” Captain Parker said. “We’ve all seen the Regulars on such fishing expeditions before. Once they find nothing, they will march back to Boston and we can get back to our lives until the next time.”

Sergeant Munro stalked up and down our lines out there on the Common, truing us up into a more respectable looking force.

“We’re not here to block their advance to Concord, lads,” he said. “We’re just going to show them we shall not be cowed by their brutish arrogance. And to insure we do that to our best abilities, I want you, boy, to move to the rear of our lines. Or better yet, across the road to your family. You are at heart a coward. You have no character and don’t deserve to stand with these honorable men.”

Mister Munro never did have much truck with me. Not since he caught me talking to his daughter, Abigail, behind the Meeting House without an adult family member within arm’s length. He pushed me backwards with the butt of his musket, but I just lined up behind Prince, the Estabrooks’ towering Negro, where he stood in the back row.

Now that Sergeant Munro had squared us up, I could peer through the gaps between men and see the Redcoats approach, their leader riding a fine black.

The sun had climbed high enough for us to see the Regulars advancing on the road to Concord now. They marched as one, dully, with little life to their strides and less to those faces we could make out. They looked for all the world like they were marching in their sleep, their shoes and gaiters caked with drying mud. The only liveliness to this red mass on the road to Concord were their drumbeats, the clinking metal of their equipment and the glint of dawn light on their buttons and weapons.

I felt a chill beyond the normal cold of an April morning and shivered as I stood with Papa’s fowler in my hands. I’d loaded it yesterday with birdshot and a ball, reckoning, if need be, my aim was poor with the rifle ball, I’d at least get a piece of one of the Regulars like he was a pheasant. Instinctively, I pulled the hammer to half-cock. My knees shook and I knew not if it was a shiver from that chill or from something I didn’t wish to admit. Perhaps Munro was right after all. Maybe I was a coward.

But I held my ground. I would not let Munro or the Redcoats run me off. No more.

Just as the wind shifted into our faces, Captain Parker raised his short sword and his rasp wafted over us, saying something like, ”Stand your ground, men. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” Or so Amos told me later.

I heard another click.

A murmur went through the men ahead of me. Out on the road, the column’s advance guard, rather than taking the left fork to Concord, turned to right and then toward us. I could hear the shouted orders run down their column. I saw the big black horse of their commander turn from the road, leading even more Regulars to the left, close enough for me to throw a rock and hit one. They now formed a solid wall of red before our motley line of farmers and tradesmen.

The officer on the black then rode forward, waving his sword, and called out for us disperse. On the breeze I heard him shout, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”

More orders were yelled down the lines of Regulars. Men within our company began to look at one another, talking all at once. The line looked like it was a row of rye waving in that breeze in our faces.

I could see our Captain Parker say something. I could barely hear his voice, it was now so faint. He lowered his sword and pointed it to the ground. Many in the front line began to back away from the regulars, others stood in alert position as if waiting for someone to say something like an order, show them what to do beside stand as statues.

At the shout of “Poise firelocks,” the Redcoats brought their muskets, bayonets shining in threat at their muzzles, to a position upright in front of them. Most of our men stood stock still.

Next across from us we heard, “Cock firelocks,” and saw the mounted officer shouting at his men and waving his sword, as angry at them as at us. Our line held as Captain Parker shouted in his consumptive whisper.

The breeze died and suddenly the whole world went quiet as the grave. Neither side appeared like it was going to move and no one wanted to stay. Sergeant Munro had left his position at the left end of our first rank. He walked back from the killing ground between the lines and came trotting toward the road with a fearful look as he stared right past me. I, the coward who couldn’t stand like a man to request permission to speak with his daughter. I, the boy who he wished was standing on the other side of the Boston Road.

I took a deep breath and let it out. This impasse between us all would end today.

I touched off my fowler over his head and watched Munro drop to the ground as if he was a baby cowering from a thunderstorm. Or he thought himself dead. Almost instantly there came a roar of a different kind. Red coated men advanced like lions, growling and howling like wild beasts, some firing their muskets. All of them thrusting forward their bayonets.

Some of our men fell like empty grain sacks where they stood, huge holes in their heads and bodies. Others spun like tops, choking on blood and prayers.

We ran for the trees, over rock walls and newly blossoming shrubs. More fell around me. Behind me all I could see was a cloud of sulfurous smoke with glimpses of shadow men, some in what appeared to be pink coats, and flashes of shiny metal within. But I could hear the screams of men so unluckily slow as to taste the steel of Sheffield, and not on their tongues.

Ahead lie the road to Concord, along which I last hunted turkey. That day, April 19, 1775, I hunted my fellow man. That night, I wept, my head upon Mother’s lap, and then gathered my things and marched toward Boston.

No one ever again thought me a coward, even though I don’t believe I took another full breath for the next six years. Not at Breed’s, Quebec, Valcour, Saratoga nor any other of the horrible places I never spoke of to Abigail Munro, who became my wife and the mother of our eight children.

They never met their grandfather, but know he was there with me the day the War for Independence began. That was the day his war ended and I began ours.

A short story based upon what’s considered the first bit of face-to-face armed resistance that ultimately lead to the independence of the thirteen colonies from the rule of the British Empire. In this case, it was a young man’s resistance to the strict and judgmental father of his sweetheart that led to The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch