Saturday, March 28, 2015

Adventures in American Poetry 101

artwork: ralph murre

Adventures in American Poetry 101
by Mike Orlock

When my students needed him most,
Walt Whitman was nowhere to be found.
He’d resided for the longest time
in the section on “Post-Civil War Literature,”
tucked comfortably between selected poems
of Emily Dickinson and three excerpts from
the vast literary canon of Mark Twain
(carefully expurgated to reflect racial sensitivities
in these troubled times); but when students were asked
to turn to him for an example of vernacular
free verse, all they found was space
empty as the American plains in those days
where Whitman, shaggy as any buffalo, roamed.

Perhaps he’d tired of loafing and lazing
his legacy away. After all, a man in his boots,
so used to wandering, had to feel impatient
that a new world so alive with song
had relegated him to the silence of stuffy libraries
and textbooks thick as headstones.
There was grass out there to be contemplated
and hawks aloft to admire. Still,
when I directed my students to the designated page,
where together I intended to Sing the Body
Electric with them, eleventh graders
already juiced on cafeteria junk food,
I never expected Whitman would have ditched my class
(along with two chronic truants whom I hadn’t seen
in weeks) by abandoning the hallowed space
that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had reserved especially for him.

“Where’s Whitman?” I asked aloud in disbelief.
What does one do when an American poet goes missing?
Especially one as unpredictable and iconoclastic
as Walt Whitman? To be honest,
my students thought it was “kinda cool” that some long dead
dude had “booked” for parts unknown
in a text few of them had ever bothered to open.

It became a game of “Where’s Walto?” for the remainder
of the period: Was he “kickin’ it” with the Realists,
“chillin’” with the Naturalists, or “bangin’” with the Beats
some seventy years down that long literary highway from home?

In the end, it was “Spacey” Staci, the day-dreamer
at the back of the first row, who found him
just before the dismissal bell,
hiding among the Contemporaries.

He was sitting on a stone wall,
bathed in the gold light of a late afternoon,
examining an apple Robert Frost had just tossed him
from the second step of a ladder.

Both looked so comfortable in the other’s company
we left them there to their musings,
and, so as not to disturb them,
quietly closed our books.

~ first published on Your Daily Poem

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Susan Tepper

The veil has creased the morning
into aftershocks— an unmade bed
will stay unmade, wet towels
drape an uncertain future—
about this place, did you see

the garden turn crumbling gray
during the winter storms

It was a matter of privacy.

You rushed to set the stones
back where nature had upended
But, still—

~ previously published in The Green Door

Friday, March 20, 2015


dig. mod. from image by litlnemo

by Estelle Bruno

I have invaded your privacy—
the privacy of the dead.
So many books and files of your writings.
Impressive diplomas, framed letters from famous people—
Governors, actors, congressmen,
all displayed on your wall.
When I entered your writer’s sanctuary
my hand automatically reached for the light button.
I had no idea I would find such a treasure.
Perhaps you were writing a book on humanities.
I did not read your writings, only what was visible
to my eyes on your wall.
So, rest easy Isabelle.

We moved your books from another place
and brought them into your space.
You must have been suspicious of me.
I left your dusty place knowing full well
I would have to come back.
I did.
This time you were ready for me.
I searched everywhere for the light button.
It had disappeared.
Yes, you were ready for me this time.

~ first published in Poesia (2006)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


detail: artwork: marc chagall

by Ronald Baatz

The empty
Lancers wine bottle,
product of Portugal,
serve chilled, has
pussy willows in it now,
standing in the sun,
Sunday morning. 
I guess Eva put them there
so I'd see them
when I woke.
how such a thin creature,
exposed to all the
deteriorative elements of
nature and the chaotic
nature of man,
can blossom such
round silk beauty.
So beautiful,
and so thoughtful
too as to
leave pussy willows
in the empty wine bottle
next to my bed.

~ first published in Kansas Quarterly (1972)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


photo: ralph murre

by David Scheler

He watches her fade
on the other side
of the glass

between them,
kept so clean,
even the evidence
of fingerprints
is absent

and he beckons her
to slip back
from a place
he’s already gone
before she vanishes

~ previously published in Reed Magazine

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hot Flash

artwork: sharon auberle

Hot Flash
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

To forge weapons
with fire
is a sign that we are civilized
but the taste of knowledge
had its price
dealt in a currency
of fertility
in calendar clicks of counted days
a real blood bargain
paid periodically
paid in labor pains and
in pre-menstrual syndromes

but now I wield
my own damned fire
to cauterize the wound
the first sin settled up
my womb
now sweated caustic clean
Adam’s bones are mine
and he is scorched
turning on these embers
he re-arranges and adjusts
looks at me
across his stiff
cold shoulder
and winks

~ first published in Red Cedar 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


photoart: ralph murre

by Charlie Rossiter

Some mornings it’s so cold
the car won’t start on the first try,
or the second, or the third.
In youth, that made me
hit the dashboard.
Now I simply sigh
go back inside,
take out a book,
get on with my life.

~ previously published in Winter Poems

   (FootHills Publishing)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ice Storm Woman

photo: ralph murre

Ice Storm Woman
by DyAnne Korda

When winter isn’t cold enough, you collect this natural loss in bits—like you might pocket specks of light from oak caskets.  You remember frozen caves lined with dried pine needles and mauve crystals drifting…where water is stone, and stone is your companion, the reflection of your translucent bones pulled down by the pulse of forest roots.  Rest now, for soon you will search for another home, like an ordinary woman who takes fond leave of her old lover.  I offer you sienna ribbons of prairie cord grass alongside this ice water creek.  Let the winds deliver themselves.

~ first published in Wisconsin Academy Review

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


maple-leaf ironwork design: r. murre - execution: big horn forge - photoart: r. murre

by Joan Wiese Johannes

It is syrup time,
and Tom tramps, taps, and talks
about the bear who took ten buckets
and left tracks around his camp.
He shakes his head and says
he hopes the fire
keeps it away when he boils down,
tells me he applied for a permit
as he mimes the pull of a trigger.

But I like his bear
will follow the trail of white buckets,
drink sap clear as streams.
I plan to walk circles around spring
before the big boil-down turns me
dark as bear fur thick as blood.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse

Monday, March 2, 2015

Organ Grinder

photo: ralph murre

Organ Grinder
by Ed Werstein
            One donor can save up to eight lives.
                                    -Donate Life Website

But who except an organ grinder
would want these?

Sixty-five year old eyes
cataracted, full of floaters,

Who would want a graft
of this old skin
easily bruised

Dry, pocked joints
without cushion
that grind and pop
ache and bind.

Ears ringing with bells
that aren’t there.

Brittle brain.

Heart long past its warranty.

~ first published in Red Cedar

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shadows and Reflections

artwork: ralph murre

Shadows and Reflections
       by Nancy Haskett

My mother’s face and voice,
once as familiar
as my own signature
or the soothing sound of rain,
have become mere memories yellowed with age,
like lace and appliques on the gown
she sewed for my wedding,
dimmed like old photographs
no longer vibrant with color,
her aspects eluding me even as
I run my fingers down the surface
of an oil painting,
searching for the softness of her hand
that created it.

Today, in this year that divides
our thirty-two years together
from thirty-two years apart,
I look for traces of her in my own reflection,
catching a glimpse, sometimes,
in the gray of my hair,
the slight swell of my belly,
but more often seeing shadows of my father
in the set of my jaw
the turn of my mouth,
and I worry she is lost to me
until I find her again,
just for a moment

in my daughter’s smile

~ first published in Penumbra

Monday, February 16, 2015

You said I should write more love poems . .

photo: ralph murre

by Steve Tomasko

You said I should write more love poems and
I said, I’m sorry, but I’ve been thinking about
sloths. Well, actually, the moths that live
on sloths. Nestle into their fur, take the slow,
slow ride through the rain forest. Once a week
the sloth descends to the forest floor. Defecates.
Female moths leap off; lay their eggs on the fresh
feces; jump back on. Their caterpillars nourish
themselves on the fetid feast, metamorphose
into moths, fly up into the canopy to find
their own sloths. They prefer the three-toed
over the two-toed. Who can figure attraction?
The algae-covered sloth fur is the only home
the sloth moths know. The only place they live.
I know it’s a Darwinian thing but fidelity
comes to mind. Commitment.  Patience.
The world writes love poems all the time.

~ previously published in The Fiddlehead

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book of Synonyms, p. 997

photoart: sharon auberle

Book of Synonyms, p. 997
by Jeanie Tomasko

valentine, n. 1. This morning when the cardinal
broke my sleep, I started thinking Corvette, 
cherries, Russian Revolution. 2. This morning
when the cardinal sang on, I thought of beets
and roses and relentless. 3. This morning
when the cardinal wouldn’t stop, I said out loud
I want to be reckless with desire. 4. I decided
not to spend the day cutting hearts out of paper
to spread here on your pillow. 5. Love,
instead I am going to fledge a thousand
cabernet-colored feathers to cover my own
small beating heart. 6. It’s the middle of winter,
who cares if we don’t last the night?

~ previously published in Sharp as Want
   (Little Eagle Press)   

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


artwork: william marr

by William Marr

It’s still there
for me to

Looming from the distant childhood
my father’s


~  first published in Autumn Window ( Arbor Hill Press)

Sunday, February 8, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Ellaraine Lockie

I like the not knowing
The span of time
that suspends in exquisite tension
When possibilities are endless
and optimism animates ambition
without ignorance deceived as denial

I like the not knowing
The span of time
after submissions are sent
And suspense is delivered
daily by the mailman
Dreams of literary immortality
that stay alive in his empty hands

I like the not knowing
The span of time
since failing the mammogram exam
When statistics leave space for faith
Between fresh appreciation  
for perfectly balanced breasts
And the scalpel that slices
symmetry into grave reality

I like the not knowing
The span of time
where you live luminous in my mind
Wishful thinking and what ifs
with fairy tale endings
Before facts dim the delusion
or convention devours us

I like that span of time
The not knowing

~ previously published in California Quarterly

Thursday, February 5, 2015

one from ~ Haiku Page

translation: jq zheng

by Jeffrey Winke

spilled moonlight
on a near-calm lake
I bathe in her touch

~ previously published in row of pine
   and translated for Haiku Page

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Primo, Secundo

oil painting: l. da. vinci / digital image: r. murre

Primo, Secundo
by Margot Peters

So long we've played duets,
hips spreading on piano bench,
now merging, you Humpty
me Dumpty, making music together.

You play above middle C
hands darting like finches
over the green field of my bass.
I drive the bus below, striving to set
the tempo.

We clap earmuffs on Mozart's bust
to spare him the bad notes.
Schubert throbs on your vintage Steinway,
Ravel falters on my Yamaha grand.

You said to me yesterday: "I've always
wanted to play secundo."

Conductor lowers his baton
Orchestra scrapes back its chairs.

Truly, have we been making music
for thirty-five years, you wanting secundo?

Do I know you, friend?

~ first published in Free Verse

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Paz Usted y Yo

artwork: ralph murre

Paz Usted y Yo
by Bruce Dethlefsen

of all the words
the only three
you ever need to know
paz usted y yo
peace and you and me

~ previously published in small talk (Little Eagle Press) 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

E. Poland
January 27, 1945

   by Ethel Mortensen Davis

Deep January
never felt so warm--
when the strong arms
of the Red Army
picked up
the skeleton-like people
and set them
on blankets in the snow.

The evil snake
had reached down
deep into their bodies
and tried to snatch
their very souls,

but the soldiers
gathered them
like sick dogs
in their arms
and set them
into the sunshine.

Libertacja was like
the swinging
of a thousand swings
up into the air--
a day when poetry
began to be written.

~ first published in Gallup Journey Arts Edition (2011)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2 O'CLOCK . . .

artwork: ralph murre

by Shoshauna Shy

His cousin arranged this                                                                  
so he agreed to show up
to find that the 30+ woman
seated beside the ficus plant
has a head of amber curls
which gives her face a spritely
flourish, and he likes how
her sweater sleeves are pushed
to the elbows signifying
a take-charge demeanor.
The woman sees his thick crop
of sun-streaked hair and dark
lashes, but would trade either
for another eight inches in height. 
Even six.
Still, his jacket with the loosened
hip buckles and stylish cuffs
makes up for it.

He figures he could excuse
the lack of cleavage if she listens
to Duke Ellington or drives
a newer car.
And after she orders a second
almond steamer, he bets it
could become endearing
the way she pronounces the “t”
in “often.”
She gives him the benefit
of the doubt that he doesn’t
always tap table tops or rock
a knee (he is simply nervous
as is she), and thinks it charming
the way he tests his latte
with his tongue.

He surmises he could adapt
to the smell of strawberry
shower gel if she enjoys
spending hours in a kitchen.
She hopes his broad palms
indicate an affinity for shovels
and bandsaws, though an aptitude
for engines would be equally
She wishes he had left his ex-wife
instead of the other way around
for the name Krissy  has cropped up
more than is pleasing,
and she estimates that 40% of his tone
is regret and 60% relief,
but it’s rather tricky to determine.
She is not convinced she wants
a dinner date to follow

and he has no idea that the only way
a dinner date will follow
is if he harnesses his impulse
to suggest it, then doesn’t contact her
again till Thursday.

When their mugs are near-empty,
the badminton birdie exhausted
between them, and she has given
him a shy little wave outside
before hopping onto a bicycle,
he decides that if it turns out
she is partial to Star Trek reruns
and never votes Republican,
he could forgive
the thick ankles.

~ previously published by Milk Sugar Literary Journal