Wednesday, February 29, 2012


by Lisa Cihlar

Birds begin writing secret messages
in the autumn. I watch out the window
as the starlings start to spell their stories
in the air, swing to and fro and flash black
to silver. Cuneiform I suppose, or some
Asian script I cannot read.

At the pet store I want to buy an African
grey parrot with a perfect scarlet tail,
but the clerk tells me he is a mean one,
destructive too, chewing anything he
can reach through the cage of bars.
Maybe I would like the blue Macaw
with its lemon colored belly that laughs
out at odd moments when nothing is funny.

Or a turtle, surely a turtle would fill
my life with some kind of joy. And the Macaw
laughs. Against advice I take home
the African with all the accessories designed
to make him happy. In the cage by the window
he stares at his reflection, refuses to translate
anything the migrators have to tell, engrossed
in how his wings fan. But when cloth covers
the cage at night he begins to whisper things—

Hold this paper up to the light, back to front,
read the cursive left to right. That is all
they are saying. If you can’t understand it now,
try again when they fly next year. The story
may be different then, but there is always
a jungle and storms over the ocean. And fruit.
Crows don’t tell tales you know, too busy
telling the truth, always literal, flying straight.

~ first published in Wisconsin People and Ideas

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 Big Dogs . . .

3 Big Dogs in a
by John Lehman

We’re driving
down the Interstate
at seventy miles an hour,
the air…crisp,
cloudless and clear
except for one
sinister tear
wiggling its way
up the windshield.

The dog in back
is moving to the front,
the one in front is
moving to the back,
and a third
who was in front
then moved to the back
is now
sitting in my lap.

We’re skiing
down the highway
through an ocean of rain
three heads of dogs
between windshield and dash.
There should be four dogs
in this car
and I, blinded and wet,
in bed
at home
with the cat.

But the wall of clouds
brightens from behind
and opens
like a movie theater curtain.
I honk the horn.
We howl in delight.
There’s more to life than
petty cares—
we’re four guys in a car
cruising for girls.

I feel so happy,
I climb in back
and let the Labrador drive.

~ previously published in Dogs Dream of Running (Salmon Run Press)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Longing for Casita del Mar

Longing for Casita del Mar
by Gillian Nevers

It was prettier painted rose. A Mediterranean color
against the turquoise sea suited the small hotel,
where each year they paused on the landing
to watch white light flicker across the water.
They never turned on the air conditioner, murky with mildew,
but cooled themselves licking salt from their bodies,
a silky breeze played across their skin.
In the shallows male luminescent threadworms swarmed
through an aura of glowing greenish white
toward a bright undulating sliver of light.
They slept lightly, aroused by the gecko––
geck. . geck, geck. . geck. “Is he in the room?” she whispered,
not knowing anonymous couples coupled
in downstairs rooms, no ocean view, rented by the hour.

~ first appeared in Miller’s Pond

Saturday, February 25, 2012


photo: john brzezinski

Prayers of Old Men
by Ralph Murre

I’ll bet you think the old men
are praying to be young men
with young lovers, but
they kneel now beside your bed
and pray for the things young men
haven’t heard of yet –
the high plateaus of you
and the rivers rushing
to the deep sea of you.
Old men pray for height and depth
and the quivering leaf of your ear
touched by a tongue,
for that quiet cove of you
where they may lie sheltered
for one more evening.
They pray for the light
of sunrise in your eyes
and they pray to believe
in whoever they pray to,
for they want to believe in everything,
because believing in nothing didn’t work.
And they pray for the touch of you on me.
They’re all praying for you and for me,
the high ground of you towering
above me, and the river,
they’re praying now for the river of you,
and they’re praying for me
to go adrift in the river
. . .to the sea of you,
. . .to the sea of you,
praying I’ll be lost at sea in you
and they’re secretly praying
that this storm will drown me
in the depths of you,
because they are old men
and they know I am a sailor,
and they know that drowning
is the only way for sailors
to get home.

~ first published in Iconoclast

Friday, February 24, 2012


photo: cathryn cofell
by Cathryn Cofell

Eden, in Genesis, is a garden.
Fred, in Norwegian, is peace.
I, in Edenfred, am stymied,
the reflux of first sin and false men:
. . . . . . .How Eve loved the apple more than Adam.
. . . . . . .Adam loved Eve more than God.
. . . . . . .God loved to lay traps in his trees.
. . . . . . .Treed is how I felt by loving Fred.
. . . . . . .Fred loved to cheat on his girl (but she wasn’t me).
. . . . . . .Me? I loved all the wrong men, those
. . . . . . .snakes loved to tempt and I bit every time.
. . . . . . .In time I grew to love poison,
. . . . . . .but it was venom to bible verse and love.

A garden should be a well-cultivated place,
peace should be a freedom from disquieting thoughts,
Edenfred is built for both,
but I am demolished:
. . . . . . .a belief in the dogma of Fred more than Eden,
. . . . . . .that both quit me before I quit believing in them.
. . . . . . .I like to believe I found a safe love or
. . . . . . .that love believes it safely found me.
. . . . . . .Safe? Don’t believe it. I am Newton:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .bonked on this head full of sin,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .a discovery of the sins of gravity,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .that wrongs can’t help but roll downhill
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .to this place I now pace seeking redemption,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .seeking penance for resurrecting Eden and Fred
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .but craving apples, big green apples: juicy, tart.

~ first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal

Thursday, February 23, 2012


At a Pawnshop in Houston
by Richard Merelman

The way he strokes my string of cultured pearls
Is virtuosic. I forget to bargain.
My best is a hundred, he says. A blush swirls
From his cheek to his dimpled chin. Come again

He urges. It doesn’t take a month to drink
The money up. Next is the silver tray
Embossed with jade. He feels for dents; we link
Forefingers. Tiffany style, he sighs; passé

But half a grand
. I sip his voice, like wine.
This morning it’s the Portuguese candlesticks,
My favorite wedding gift. Exquisite design,
He whispers, lingering. Is this love or shtick?

Soon we’ll see. I bring him only me,
No pawn at all. In fact, he’ll find I’m free.

~ first published in Loch Raven Review

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


photo: ralph murre

by Judy Roy

You came into the room, sat down to read,
unaware that I was at the desk,
puzzling over line breaks in a poem.
I am so often in this long-shared space,
I’ve morphed into a blue-jeaned sofa cushion,
a blinking photograph upon the wall,
a standard fixture in the landscape of a marriage.

Never mind. Just yesterday I failed
to see you sitting cross-legged on the floor,
repairing electronics gone awry.

Then again we speak of politics,
or grocery lists and children turning gray,
what might have been and what may lie ahead,
all sorted out inside my head
while you have gone to town
and I am knitting yet another shawl.

~ first published in Wisconsin People and Ideas

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


artwork: jeffrey winke

Just Touch the Wizardry of the Moment
by Jeffrey Winke

This shiny black night
With its colored birds and neon nature
Reminds the summer that it is us

There is juke box music and restless cars
But it does not matter

Because I am in your deep night
Where meteorites and lightning bolts
Just touch the wizardry of the moment

To each other. . .
We are alive tonight.

~ previously published in the Third Coast Archives and
in an opus to the likes of all

Monday, February 20, 2012


photoart: sharon auberle

by Constance Vogel Adamkiewicz

Beside a marker in the park
a fallen plastic champagne flute, empty
vase of dented brass, a cherub
propped up on her elbows, smiling
at the granite day.

Before the last lamppost
where the winding path divides,
I turn into a nearby woods--
a circle of buckthorn, thicket and oaks
bordered by a river branch,
a place where symbols
are carved on trees,
a sweatshirt once hung upon a cross,
a handgun box jumped in the wind.

I wonder if a sudden parting
...of the water,
a sun ray through the thatch
will tell me where you went
...and why so soon.
But the river flows as always, confusing
the path,, the snowmelt and sticks.
White lichen clings to tree bark
like clues in a treasure hunt.

When I reach the circle's end,
the still-empty glass and the battered vase,
the cherub smiles like a discount statue an outdoor marketplace,
its chiseled eyeballs staring hard as stone.

~ previously published in The Mulberry (Finishing Line Press)

Saturday, February 18, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

Critique of Pure Reason
by David Clowers

"An intellectual is a person who has discovered
something more interesting than sex."
Aldous Huxley

While my hands are fidgeting on your back, I think
about Jung saying that if you showed him a sane man
he would cure him for you—which
makes me wonder if anyone who is sane
can ever love, because love means losing yourself
in your lover. “Le petit mort,” the French have called it,
but then the French always have love
on the table with some red wine and a crisp baguette,
and Brecht could have been talking about love,
as well, I guess, when he said,
“First feed the face, and then talk right and wrong.”

But I think I’ve lost my place, my love.
Please take me around that curve on your body
that makes me stop thinking about everything
and puts me in touch with my hands.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse

Friday, February 17, 2012


artwork: bonnie t. summers

Inside Out
(How Body Psychotherapy Feels)
by Bonnie T. Summers

Inside out. That’s what happens when my eyes make U-turns, take off on a roller coaster ride down the spine. I become a 35-foot diameter Deep Tunnel project, overflow, then wait, empty. My face unravels. Seismic waves echo through honeycomb chambers, evaporate. Bones rearrange like Tinkertoys. Familiar handrails disintegrate into grotesque cartoons. I turn inside out, I tell you!

I discover that I have been speaking in binary code.

Snakes enter and emerge from my pores
my hips are glass—shatter; steel—corrode;
become the moon—give birth to lava, flame and smoke
my heart turns inside out, welt exposed,
its rhythms, wet and loud, demand to feast on presence vital organs dazzle, now turquoise, gold, malachite I braid myself together, tie my ankles with ribbons, walk through funhouse mirrors
climb up the drops of water that form Victoria Falls two by two Thunder and Lightning Parents shrink, shrink until they are wisps I send far away,
like this: wh—!

I descend on a double helix exhale, secure on my own DNA All I want is a carnie there, someone who takes on sleaze and rats,
knows the gears grips the switch brings me down ready
shows me to the next ride All I need is a ticket and to step into the red car.

~ first published in After Hours

Thursday, February 16, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by John L. Campbell

Dead men’s clothes haunt my closet,
Dick’s sport coat, Paul’s slacks,
and Grant’s sweaters, Art’s high
winter boots hang in the garage.
Widows never give me anything,
they offer to my wife, a go-between,
with words like, Maybe this’ll fit.

I often wear a blue whachamacallit,
a pullover with half-zipper front,
once worn by my friend, Grant.
He didn’t give it to me,
his widow gave it to my wife,
and my wife said, Try this on,
and I asked, Where’d you get this?
And she said, It was Grant’s – nice
fit, so I wear it while walking,
which makes me think of Grant.

The day he died, I crept out, left
his room, unable to watch him
shake, tossing in bed, out of it,
trying his best to die with dignity,
me, angry, cursing sotto voce,
asking if God was on holiday,
and our wives chatted on and on,
as though we were just visiting.

~ first published in PLAINSONGS

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


from a photo by amy murre klemm

by Amy Murre Klemm

this One, I never knew the name to call when the Image
again flittered through my brain, of the place I ran
like a savage as a child through swamps, forest, junkyard;
of the Scent of sawdust in a hand-me-down coat, the one fragile
yellow Lady’s Slipper on the hill of ash trees, which returned
every year, alone; of the Purity of muck and soil, bobcats
spooked and running through rows of late Summer corn,
angry red-winged Blackbirds and Cattail hearts so sweet;
of the slow descent back into the Earth, so much metal settling
down to sleep, the smell of rusting and of the Sun on glass, the
eerie presence of a million Souls in all those blank windshields

~ first published in the Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle

Monday, February 13, 2012


photo: susan deer cloud

by Charles Rossiter

the basement kitchen
stood up
straight and tall
but you,
you stooped
again and again
getting out the
dinner things
like some great
bird all
and form with
eyes that see
past the simple
solid things you
touch and place
the table or
the roaring flame
with Buddha care
and reverence
you stir the
boiling pots
mix the secret
take the bread and
place it on
the rack, stretch
and breathe and
call to me,
whose poor soul
is spotted
with countless
to feast
and be cleansed in
your holy

~ originally published in the Bugle-American


artwork: ralph murre

Dance Man
by June Nirschl

danced with every woman, danced every dance –
polka , waltz . schottische . . . excelling at the polka
no one faster or more joyful
yip . . . yip . . . yip
swirling in a mist of blue cigarette smoke
glare of naked bulbs like a dozen pseudo moons
girls glittering this night with ribbons and satin
headbands holding marcelled hair in place
light glancing off
bottles of Corby’s and nickel glasses of beer
hardwood floor cleared and waxed
sawdust scattered to ease
the dancers’ rounds
first notes of music drawing young women
edging young women toward the floor
concertina rallying rhythm
drummer hitting cymbals hard
Depression day faded and Depression night
became a magic place where Prince Charming
moved with confidence, spoke without stammer
with his dancing feet ruled a minor principality;
his eyes assessed each potential princess
before sauntering toward three young ladies
who, self-conscious, tugged at their dresses,
they on tenterhooks waiting for the invitation
to spin across the floor firmly guided
kindly held by this country boy gone city,
this guy with moonlight in his eyes
who chose a rose by any other name.

~ previously published in Slightly Off Q (Marsh River Editions)

Saturday, February 11, 2012


photo: jeanie tomasko

Blue Morningby Steve Tomasko

Hoping to find God, I cut up the delphinium.
—Sharman Apt Russell

It’s an indigo-bunting-blue morning.

A delphinium-blue morning.

A forget-trying-to-pin-it-down-to-one-color blue morning.

A no-reason-to-cut-up-anything blue morning.

A here-I-am-smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-life blue morning.

It's a life-feels-so-damn-good-you-can’t-always-be-a-cynic-because-nature-really-is-grand-sometimes blue morning.

~ first published in Echoes

Friday, February 10, 2012


digital art: ralph murre

by Jackie Langetieg

(fox-fire n. A phosphorescent glow on rotting wood)

When all sound has sifted away,
streaming lamplight and car beams
gone like the moon turning her back,
darkness caresses with dense electricity
the bone and breath of the sleepless.
These are not night terrors
or machinations of the worrier
or daydreams of the romantic
but the held breath of the dying
evading the hound whose eyes search the forest,
tongue lolling, saliva dripping with anticipation.
I try and hide my luminescence
wrapped in this unraveling garment,
hoping to arrive at yet another morning
where we all look alike.

~ previously published in Confetti in a Silent City

Thursday, February 9, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

Sorting Old Family Photos
by Alan Catlin

Looking through
a lifetime of my
father’s photos:
places they had
visited we had
never seen or heard
much about except
as a paper trail
of medical bills
in unusual places.
One photo, in particular,
of my father, reminds me
of last self-portraits
taken by a photographer
known for outrageous
personal pieces of
family, friends &
self; last frames taken
on a grassy hill
looking at the lens
as he rises, walking
away until he leaves
the frame completely
and disappears leaving
the unoccupied hill behind.
These photos of my father
on a path that is labeled
on the back as, “Bill in
the Cumberland Gap
in Fall,” then another
shot, identical to the first,
“Cumberland Gap in Fall,”
my father gone.

~ first published in Grasslimb

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


The Blue Water Buffalo
by Marilyn L. Taylor

One in 250 Cambodians, or 40,000 people,
have lost a limb to a landmine
~ Newsfront

On both sides of the screaming highway, the world
is made of emerald silk—sumptuous bolts of it,
stitched by threads of water into cushions
that shimmer and float on the Mekong's munificent glut.

In between them plods the ancient buffalo—dark blue
in the steamy distance, and legless
where the surface of the ditch dissects
the body from its waterlogged supports below

or it might be a woman, up to her thighs
in the lukewarm ooze, bending at the waist
with the plain grace of habit, delving for weeds
in water that receives her wrist and forearm

as she feels for the alien stalk, the foreign blade
beneath that greenest of green coverlets
where brittle pods in their corroding skins
now shift, waiting to salt the fields with horror.

~ Previously published in the Emily Dickinson Awards Anthology

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Skiing Curtis Prairie, Jan. 3rd
by CX Dillhunt

Over 1,000
times this trail holds the poem I
could not carry home.

~ first published in Hummingbird

Monday, February 6, 2012


photoart: ralph murre
Fourteenth Blackbird
by Mary Wehner

Leaning over the newspaper
this morning, reading a piece by a local
writer on spring, I was startled to find
a reference to a poem, the one
about blackbirds. Just two lines
pulled from the poem’s long, lyrical list,

The river is moving
The blackbird must be flying

missing the rhythmic connections
one makes while reading the thirteen ways
of looking, missing too, you might say,
the underlying impact, and yet,
I can see him at his desk, googling
“blackbirds” looking out the window
of the bright newsroom, down
on the narrow, winding river
with its scrawny willows, listening
for the clean, thin whistle of the redwing.

~ first published in Shepherd Express

Saturday, February 4, 2012


artwork: norbert blei

Blue Roof
by Norbert Blei

Dogs hang in trees
cats spark from
cows float upon
the creamy waters
of last summer’s creek,
red roosters rise
from the snowy fields . . .
I sit naked with you
on my blue roof,
gathering soft
black birds
between your legs,
licking the moon
out of your eyes.

~ previously published in Wisconsin Poetry, Transactions

Friday, February 3, 2012


photo (c) 2012: peggy barnett

I Said Coffee
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

I said coffee
I didn't say,
"would you
like to cup
my warm
soft breasts
in your
ringless fingered

I said coffee
I didn't say,
"would you
like to
run your tongue
along my neck
just below
my left ear-lobe?"

I said coffee
I didn't say,
"would you
like to
hold me
in your arms
and feel my heart
skip beats
as you press your
hard, lean body
up against mine
until I melt
into you
with desire?"

I said coffee
as we stood there
in the jasmine
scented night
my car door
like some modern day
bundling board
separating us,
protecting us
from ourselves
and lust

I said,
"would you
like to go for
a cup of coffee?"
I didn't say,
"would you
like to brush
your lips
across mine
as you move
to bury your face
in my long, silky,
raven black hair?"

But you said,
"I can't
I'm married
I can't trust myself
to be alone
with you."
So I looked you
dead in the eye
and repeated
"I said coffee"

~ first published at eThis

Thursday, February 2, 2012


by Charles P. Ries

Sitting on the porch outside my walk up with Elaine
watching the Friday night action on Birch Street.
Southside’s so humid the air weeps.

Me and Elaine are weeping too.
Silent tears of solidarity.
She’s so full of prozac she can’t sleep and
I’m so drunk I can’t think straight.
Her depression and my beer free our tears
from the jail we carry in our hearts.

Neighbors and strangers pass by in the water vapor.
Walking in twos and fours. Driving by in souped up
cars and wrecks. Skinny, greased up gang bangers
with pants so big they sweep the street and girl friends
in dresses so tight they burn my eyes.

I can smell Miguel’s Taco Stand. Hear the cool
Mexican music he plays. Sometimes I wish Elaine
were Mexican. Hot, sweet and the ruler of my passion,
but she’s from North Dakota, a silent state where
you drink to feel and dance and cry.

Sailing, drifting down Birch street. Misty boats,
street shufflers and senoritas. Off to their somewhere.
I contemplate how empty my can of beer is and
how long can I live with a woman who cries all day.

Mondays are better. I sober up and lay lines for the
Gas Company. Good clean work. Work that gives me
time to think about moving to that little town in central
Mexico I visited twenty years ago before Birch Street,
Elaine and three kids nailed my ass to this porch.

~ first published in Nerve Cowboy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


artwork: francha barnard

WEAVERS(for the Hickey Brothers fishermen)
by Francha Barnard

They stand side by side
in the low-ceilinged shack;
two strong young men
practicing an old man’s art.

Net pulled to line,
hold tight,
over, around and through.

Gossamer nets hang low between them.
Two taut nylon lines stretch
waist-high through the room
attached to opposite walls.

Ten phrases of six,
then three on the float,
over, around and through.

Bobbins in hand, they snail-pace backwards,
catch net to line and tie it tight,
eyes never lifting; rhythm unbroken,
hours a day; days for weeks.

Ten phrases of six,
then three on the lead,
over, around and through.

Summertime catchers of fish;
wintertime menders of nets,
from their deft hands grow new webs:
Arachne’s opus before Athena’s ire.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse