Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another Time, Maybe

artwork: ralph murre

Another Time, Maybe
by Ralph Murre

Wasn’t there a time when it all seemed o.k.?
Mantel clocks faithfully wound, maternity wards
thriving, Montgomery Wards thriving,
a Ford in the garage? An occasional world war
or mob lynching, the atomic removal
of a couple of cities far away,
a case of Schlitz in the cellar?

Wasn’t there this background music,
a bearded man conducting a thousand strings
and Dinah Shore and a summer of cicadas
in a Hollywood Bowl of Cherries?
Wasn’t it just swell? And didn’t you get
that orange box of Wheaties with Eddie Matthews
when your dad got the job at the gas station
after striking for a couple of years at Kohler?

Didn’t you shine your little shoes and put on
your little suit and snap your bow-tie
on the white collar and look up
the skirt of the angel costume on the stepladder?
And how hard was it to swipe a pack of Luckies?
Wasn’t there a time when feeling-up the Schmidt
girl in her pointy little bra was pretty good?

And wasn’t it great to go to art school
and draw nude models and swipe packs
of Gauloises at the Knickerbocker? And
wasn’t it great when your brother
let you come along to a park and build
a fort with his buddies and then
that old guy drove up and was real nice
and wanted to see your . . .
touch your . . . Oh, that’s right,
you can’t remember that, can you?

And wasn’t it fun the time you and Billy
put sand in the fuel tank of that bulldozer
and busted the windows out of that cabin?
And wasn’t it cool when you didn’t get drafted
and got to mess around with chicks
who burnt their pointy little bras?

And wasn’t it nice when Ike, in his gray suit,
and Mamie, in her navy blue dress
with the little white dots looked up from golf
and told us everything would be o.k.?
Wasn’t that nice?
And weren’t her gloves just so white?

~ first published in the Peninsula Pulse

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lune Morte

photoart: ralph murre

Lune Morte
by Virginie Colline

The dead moon stares at us
In the garden of nettles
Behind the wall
A derelict church
Hides its secret dust

~ first appeared in Oberon's Law

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mona Lisa

artwork: william marr

Mona Lisa
by William Marr

There must be some d-e--e---p

Staring at her smile
a man tilts his head left and right
Beside him a painted woman
wears a wide grin

~ previously published in Between Heaven and Earth

Friday, November 7, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Karen Stromberg

We catch poems

the way fishermen catch fish:

by sitting alone for hours

in the little boat of ourselves,

nothing much going on,

just a finger

on the filament

that leads

to the anguished worm

~ first published in The Ever Dancing Muse (1999)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Berlin Sky

artwork: ralph murre

Berlin Sky
by Thomas J. Erickson

When daybreak surprised us that morning
in your hotel room, the Berlin sky was
the color of a healing bruise.

In my pocket were the chips of mortar I had
scratched out of the remnants of the Gestapo
headquarters.  The mortar was turning
to sand by the hour--free at last
to disintegrate for all time.

I asked you to think of all the people
who had looked into that sky awaiting
the knock of the Gestapo or the Stasi,
the concussions of the Allied bombs,
or the signal to escape from East to West.

We were too drunk and happy, though,
to confront the city and its past--safely
distanced, as we were, from divorce 
or the second thoughts of the newly married.

It was easy to look at the sky and write
our histories on the window pane
before passing into our Lethean sleep.

~ first published Mad Poets Review

Monday, November 3, 2014


photo - patricia williams

by Patricia Williams
Vivid autumn courses, bringing unwelcome news
of unknown but compelling forces
shrouded in time and season,
a world where myth and reason collide,
the magnetic pull of frost and fog,
bleak landscapes where gothic heroes speak.

A timeworn house and desolate downs, set amid
the rushing and moaning of the wind, 
hear tortured souls howling from parchment pages.
November bites, draws in the chill of winter,
overnight frost and snow settle and fall,
thoughts and feelings call and clash along the way.

Those most encumbered ones of Haworth,
all slumbered before their thirty-eighth summer,
unconventional, unwell, grave and quiet,
living in a limbo close to hell, clinging to one other,
happiness not brought about by change
on the bleak moors of Yorkshire.

Walk in the wilderness, the featureless and solitary
that haunts with hints of the extraordinary.
Pictures frozen in time, every twist having a turn,
each hillock of heather with scent sublime,
like elusive thoughts during sleep.
Those coldest pine for Haworth’s beloved heath.

~ first published in Middlebrow Magazine

Friday, October 31, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Wilda W. Morris

            Beginning with a line and a half from Li-Young Lee*

I was cold once. So my father took off his blue sweater.
He wrapped me in it.

I slid my short arms into the long sleeves.
Father leaned down and buttoned each button.

I was five years old
and the sweater had five buttons.

“Carry me,” I begged. “I’m tired.” Father picked me up.
As my arms flew around his neck, the sleeves flapped like blue wings.

Now I was warm
but Father was cold.

He carried me seven blocks and was worn out
when he climbed the steps to our door.

This is how I remember it.

But when I was five I was never wrapped
in a warm sweater with buttons down the front.

And I had no father.

~ first published in After Hours

Monday, October 27, 2014


photoart: sharon auberle

by Ronald Baatz

With the window open
you can hear piano music
softly coming from the house
like bread thrown to birds.
The night is calm, except for
some bright thunder that
accompanies the falling leaves.
Part of the mountain ash tree
is dead, though the music she plays
may turn it into firewood.
I could hide in the dark
of the barn, to rip the
skin from my thumbs.
The place is no longer used,
but then neither is the north star.
The situation surprises me,
as does a dream.
My blood has turned to ashes,
caught in a woman’s long hair
like confetti or dried
and broken leaves.

~ first published in Shenandoah (1974)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Return Trip

artwork: ralph murre

Return Trip
by Peggy Trojan
Coming back always went fast.
We fell asleep on the rear seat
in happy tangle, and were home
before we wished it.
My father carried us 
to our beds, my younger
brothers limp and soft,
easily moved.
I was too old
for such attention,
and feigning sleep
I’m sure he knew.
He picked me up,
all dangling legs and arms,
my face in his shoulder
of tobacco and wool,
trudged up the stairs.
By hall light,
he put me down gently,
took off my shoes,
covered me up, clothes and all.
Then, tip toed out,
leaving the door ajar.

~ first published in Wisconsin People and Ideas  

Friday, October 17, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Donna Hilbert

Dad climbs down
the telephone pole,
stretches out under a pepper tree,
opens his lunch box:
black metal,
substantial like a vault,
or a government building
in a Balkan country.
Under its dome
wire arms hold
a Thermos of coffee.
On the bottom floor,
Vienna sausages on a bed
of mayonnaise, white bread.
For dessert, butterscotch
cream-center cookies.
Dad unwraps a sandwich, eats.
He pours coffee into the cup
his Thermos lid makes,
dips a cookie, watches it bloat,
then holds his lips to the rim,
slips the sweet bits
into his mouth.
I like to think
he savors pleasure
before he stands the box on one end,
touches a forefinger to his tongue,
his damp fingertip
gleaning crumbs
to feed the sparrows who wait
in slender leaves.
Then, one foot
over the other,
he climbs the pole again.

~ first published in PEARL

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Richard Purinton

A laden scow slides in sloppy chop,
Pushed by a red tug.
Its black, smoking stack
Mirrors the propeller’s spin.
Muck and rock, hard pan bottom,
Crane swing, one scoop at a time.
Scow to truck, scow to truck, truck to dump site,
Muck trucked to landfill.

Rolling, snorting through intersections,
Horns blatting, diesels braking,
Dopplers released from the far sides of hills.
Then, engines rumble idly as the
Slippery spoils slide and stones scrape
From steel box to the waiting pit below.
A dirty earth jello.

Now night. Scow light.
The same red tug pushes
An empty scow away,
Engine loafing, not huffing.
Second shift will dig, dredge, tow,
Truck and dump.
Dig, dredge, tow, truck and dump.

 ~ previously published in Poem, Prose & Image (Island Bayou Press)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quick Step

photoart: ralph murre

Quick Step
by Barbara Cranford

Come with me, my old familiar love,
to that long, resounding bridge
over the singing stream
and remember when we tripped
lightly, skipping sprightly
with Amaryllis in the spring.

As once in another life
in another place and time––
we two the same yet not the same,
as no leaf on any tree is the same
yet not the same, as last year’s growth
or next year’s yield––we will step slowly
around this autumnal glade.

We will be forgiven
our forgotten dreams
and all our broken promises
as our stately minuet
slips into two-step,
double-time and rag.

~ first appeared in Pegasus

Monday, October 6, 2014

The chickens were cackling . . .

photo: robert lee haycock

by Robert Lee Haycock

The chickens were cackling
Over some off-color joke
About a man running around
With his head chopped off
I didn't get the punchline

~ first published in Medusa’s Kitchen

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lake Songs

photo: patricia wellingham-jones

Lake Songs   
 by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

On our usual bench
by Lake Almanor, we listen
to ravens croak among pines
and grebes call in the middle of the lake.
With our own words winding down
small water sounds emerge:
tiny slap of wavelets against a stony shore,
the rise of wind pushing its blue path
and the faint splash as ducks dive
beneath the sparkling surface.
Loon-song haunts a distant cove,
carries us somewhere
we never knew.

~ first published in Brevities

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Trip to Seoul . . .

detail of photo courtesy norman j. olson

A Trip to Seoul September 23 to 25, 2011
by Norman J. Olson

I traveled
from the intricate
branches of an oak tree
against a rainy blue/gray sky,
to an auditorium filled
with Picasso and his
millions of

I walked on old cobblestones
and rode on shiny steel rails

everyone was polite
enough not to laugh
a fat old American
artistic pretensions… I had no use
for the condom on the dresser,
but it did
remind me that love
is everywhere
can take many

~ first published in Sketchbook

Sunday, September 21, 2014

90-proof angels

photo: ralph murre

90-proof angels
by t. kilgore splake

     child’s tiny fingers letting go,

     bottles smashing against concrete sidewalk squares,
shiny glass shards flying,

     hard vacant stare, taut sun-bronzed skin,
rigid “don’t hurt” posture,

     angels falling to earth early this sunday
morning, wings shattering,

     absent for saving other, pious church-going

     smug narrow personas, already so damn sure.

~ previously published in winter river flowing (Presa Press)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Swan Lake

photoart - murre

Swan Lake
by Angie Trudell Vasquez

Girls in gossamer gowns
flit across the stage
little ballerinas in the making
before age and race add weight,
pink tights
light leather shoes strapped
on small feet,
before toe before
they are conscious
of limitations,
they all think they are
beautiful against the heat
of the mirror and balance bar
the instructor plays Swan Lake
and says imagine you are
nestled in white feathers
and draped tight in white silk
now see yourself soar
across the stage and jump
and leap and spin, see how
pretty and thin your shoulder blades,
now open your eyes and begin,
and all twenty girls run and leap
from one end to another
thinking, yes, yes
this must be how it is
to press against the sky and fly.

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin

Monday, September 15, 2014

Indian Summer, Denial

photo: jude genereaux

Indian Summer, Denial
by Jude Genereaux

What does it take
to bring Summer to an end?

In the month of shortened days
a moment of new light
casts shadows in wrong places;

I put the lawn chairs away
lower the deck umbrella
notice the first red leaf … turncoat maples!
A flyer advertising "School Supplies"
blows across the drive.

What does it take?
to redirect one’s heart to autumn …
I reach for my woolrich plaid
walk darkening roads,
shift the campfire to the woodstove.

~ first published in “Seeding the Snow”
(Chicago Journal )

Friday, September 12, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by John Flynn

Nomad flocks flood pale skies like
stippled notes scored, scoured, and
spilt from some sequestered staff.

Roadside orchards dapple
with ten thousand shimmering
wings. Their eagle hearts,

un-bated breath, endure
like a seabird soars
from shore.

~ first published at blueskirtproductions.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Varda, Train Station

photo: x bonnie woods

Varda, Train Station
by Donna Pucciani

No use crying for what used to be,
a station full of people
with someplace to go—
a grandmother in Croatia, a business lunch
in Budapest, the city of all longing.

Cracked windowpanes stare sightless
at the tracks’ blind sweep.
They tell a story in a lost language,
with tongues of dust and weeds,
abandoned farms, the cemetery
overgrown, the church splintered
by lightning, its belfry fallen through
the tinderbox roof.

We said our goodbyes long ago
amid the shorn hayfields,
the pens of spotted pigs,
the gnarled elms and tin-roofed sheds.
Goodbye, little village of unhappy accidents.

I saved a stone from the road out.
It shines like glass when held to the sun,
like crystal when cupped by the moon.
No station left, but a long-winded whistle,
the screech of brakes on steel. Together they call,
“We are the way out. Come.”

~ photo and poem previously appeared in Shutterverse2

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Crossing Guard

photo: ralph murre

Crossing Guard
by Marilyn Annucci

I drive toward her—
crossing guard who scowls into traffic.
So butch she might have been

an inventor of steam shovels.
Stop me! I pray. She steps out
Stronger than Steel.

Kids in knit hats,
nylon jackets, straggle before my car.

I want to rev my engine.

I want to stall out.

She eyes me, turns away.  Oh
to be crossed! She lowers
the brim of her cap, waves us on—

us, not just me.  You’re no one
special, her strut says

                       ~ previously published in Love & Lust: An Anthology
                          (Parallel Press)