for a few
alongside the road
a stone parable
Contributing Editor’s note: Melissa Houghton’s employer asked that she have her poems removed from my blogZine. As a publisher, editor, and writer, I believe the employer is wrong to do so. As a friend who respects Melissa and her work, I have removed it because she asked me to.
I have left the titles of the three poems so that Melissa can still list the publications on her literary-creative writing CV.
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,
And barely ever
In the rood of our heads
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
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
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
Please leave me
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
While we’re dead
‘we do not eavesdrop
As others gossip about us’
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
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
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.
the helpless, hopeless, remorse-filled blues
when you’ve seen the doctor and she’s seen you
when Time runs out and Eternity beckons
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?
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…
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 …
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
silky to the touch.
Kneading the dough
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?
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.
Swimming through Sundays’
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
“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.
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.
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.