Sunday, April 29, 2012


artwork : ralph murre
by Michael Estabrook

I think I made it through (keep
your fingers crossed) the latest rounds
of reorganizations, downsizings,
and vertical integrations. I know
(I’m a realist) we are never truly safe
in this cruel, heartless world of business,
or even in life. But still –
I’ve been terrified now for weeks,
dizzy with fear, nauseous over the thought
of having to empty my desk,
gather my paltry personal things
into a flimsy cardboard box, slink home
to my wife with my hat in my hands.
Through all of this frightening talk of layoffs
all I could think was, “What
am I going to tell my wife?” My wife,
my one true love, who recently said to me,
“You’ve always made me feel beautiful,
no matter what I’ve felt or how I’ve looked,
you’ve always made me feel beautiful.”

~ first published in Rattle

Friday, April 27, 2012


photo: sharon auberle

by Sharon Auberle

Only six people, it is said,
separate any person from another
anywhere on this earth.
I want to believe this. 
I want to believe,
with just six connections,
I could know an Eskimo,
an African tribesman,
a mother in Iraq.

I want to believe it would take
only six people to reconnect
with a gypsy I once saw,
the woman in cold rain
on the steps of the Duomo
in Florence, Italy
I would find her again,
her feet knobby and bare,
her black hair tangled in dusty braids.
Begging, she would whisper again
for my bambino, please,
for my bambino

and this time I would take
her chapped brown hand,
place lira in it,
close her fingers around the bills.
This time I would get it right
not turn aside
as her sleeve brushed my coat. 
This time my shame
would not outweigh hers.

~ first published in the Peninsula Pulse

Thursday, April 26, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Gary C. Busha

You see her
wearing jeans
in fields of
green clover,
and she sings
from her network
of wires.

When she sees you
in the marsh,
wading with feet
like a duck,
your hair is thick
with sand burrs,
your wire glasses
sag on your nose.

You are together
as tall grass flutters
and wets your knees–
your hand in hers fits
like a gate latch.

Along the path
thistle twist and weave
in the fence wire.

~ first published in KUDZU

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


digital art: ralph murre

by Cathryn Cofell

I took a digital picture of my hand
and sent it away,
emailed to a psychic in West Bend.
At first, undeliverable.
Then a suspicious attachment, needs
A third time she replied,
said my palm was fuzzy.
I became her $20 Pay Pal
and suddenly she had clarity,
a map quest, a maze of intersections.
She saw a scoundrel’s name,
Lucy or Cin,
a flamboyant but unremarkable life.
Wrong, I said, that was not my life-
line she was reading,
it must have been a silver hair
caught on the lens as the shutter closed.
But she held firm,
said it was more than the palm
she read. She knew me. She saw
how my lines crossed with others,
a flash of pain in every touch.
She saw a future as a circus act
or a hit man and I knew she had me,
caught in her sites, that day
I let you fall from my slick palms,
that endless Hitchcock drop,
hands forever clutching,
cliffs of straw and chaff.

~ previously published in Oranges & Sardines

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


collage: daniel abdal-hayy moore

by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Sometimes I get tired of all this talk about God
and I just want to go and sit under a tree

but then the tree starts talking to me about God
and we find ourselves in another conversation

No two people and no two things talk about God
in quite the same way

A wheel running down a hill all by itself talks about God
while its hub remains stationary and its spokes rotate

An ant has another way of approaching the subject
that has about it a certain collective resonance

Inanimate objects on the other hand often comment on their surroundings
and the pleasant or unpleasant sets of circumstances
that landed them there

Stars have the softest voices and you have to listen more attentively
but their take on the theme is always illuminating
and sheds light in many unexpected and even faraway places

A lover often speaks about God in incomplete sentences
with clouds of various colors and densities
moving slowly or quickly around their
faces and most unselfconscious gestures as they speak in
intimate whispers

And then I’m brought back again to the sweet syrups of this endless
talk about God that goes on every instant
even when no one seems to know what they’re talking about
or why they began conversing in the first place

The serpent winks the sunflower opens its concentric
mathematical mandala
flat and desolate wastes yawn and the air shivers

I stick out my tongue and God’s breath flows all around it
whether we speak or remain silent as we sail through the
divine events of the sky and earth’s decisive

theological arguments with all their perfect proofs and occasional
long and melancholy refutations

~ originally published in Love is a Letter Burning in a High Wind
(The Ecstatic Exchange)

Monday, April 23, 2012


by Irene Koronas

our village priest wears faded blue robe and a holy hat.
he drives his tractor back from his garden with the
detached look of one who has lived with God more years
than his youth

breeze brushes weeds, my gray hair. pheasant hurries
from one olive tree to another. women knead the dough
prepare cheese to stuff inside. wood beside the gray ovens
in every courtyard

relatives have been coming to the village since yesterday
everyone readies for the end of lent is near

the children play during church service
the old women bow, bend, bless themselves
the old priest holds onto alter for support

I walk the fields, foothills
the distance men wear

wild wheat in morning sun hums
bugs, birds, chickens,
dull yellow against sky chimes

snails cling under orange palms, bright pink freesia
queen ann’s lace, wild geraniums, the great mystery
koliva, boiled barley, confectionery for the dead

~ first published in Pentakomo Cyprus (Cervana Barva Press)

Saturday, April 21, 2012


photoart: karen mcclintock

by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Luis Omar Salinas
walks through the hills of Spain
in a dream.

Miguel Hernandez walks at his side.
In the quiet night
they listen to
softly singing.

Salinas says
to Hernandez,
I need to be alone.

Go forward, my friend, says Hernandez.

Luis Omar contemplates death.
He knows Hernandez is
a ghost, but also a
helpful guide and friend.

Hernandez walks away whistling.

Luis Omar looks to the sky.
There is a full moon.
He feels at home.

His dream takes him
to Central California.
His hands are calloused
and mulberry trees
appear in the distance.

Hernandez is with him again.

They are children playing
with imaginary swords
in a dusty field.

No one draws blood
in this dream like heaven.

Hernandez and Salinas say goodbye.

Miguel Hernandez walks
through the hills of Spain;
Luis Omar strolls
under a Fresno moon.

~  first published in Pemmican

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Windsor Rocker

The Windsor Rocker
by Barb Cranford

In the study, among the litter of books
and outdated papers, I toss a letter.
The angora cat stares at me, mewing
as though she wants to go out,
but when I squeak the rubber mouse,
she stalks away disdainfully.
I shuffle the papers, then drop
into the Windsor rocker and lean back.

To, fro, back, forth––I try to remember
a rhyme from A Child’s Garden of Verses
where a young girl tosses her tresses
and nibbles a crumpet. Out the window
the heirloom apple tree I transplanted
last season seems about to bloom.

Perhaps that letter will never be sent.
Later in the year I may leave this house,
find an apartment in New York
and compose a cycle of totenlieder.
The streets are crowded there, and noisy.
The people rarely watch the clouds.

~ first published in WriteOn!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I thought it was sunshine . . .

I thought it was sunshine I wanted
by Steve Tomasko

instead, the misty gray damp brought
four tiger salamanders crossing
my path, and

later, cantaloupe. Sweet
cantaloupe. Damn
good cantaloupe.

~ previously published in Hummingbird

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Winter Poet

digital art: ralph murre

Winter Poet
by Alice D’Alessio

Mostly a foul weather friend
my muse vacations in the warmth
and sun, stretches, yawns and naps;
strolls languid along the pebbled paths
inspects a heavy-headed hibiscus
samples a ripe peach.

Vainly I plead, bribe, flatter.
She raises indolent fingers to her lips
smiling that enigmatic smile.
Sorry, she murmurs,
I need some howling winds
to stir my blood; some angst and deprivation.
Just slip a randy lover through the door
to fire my pulses; we'll grapple on the hearthrug
by the flickering coals, and he'll inflame –
and he'll abandon.
Then play some Mahler for me to weep by;
sop me with bitter tea, and brandy, neat.

You want a haunting epic, rich
with many-layered meaning?
Call when November drizzle
rends my heart.

~ first published in Free Verse

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


photo: ralph murre

by A. D. Winans

Holy men on every street corner
Selling fake myths
Nuns in white with virgin toes
And mushroom dreams inside their loins
I am being followed by
Dick Tracy look-a-likes
With flat feet and bug eyes
The wolf’s eerie howl haunts my dreams
Evangelists pickpocket my empty wallet
My one good eye
Photographs the crime scene
The police lineup consists
Of six pygmies and a ham sandwich

Ladybugs ride on
The wings of butterflies
On A one way trip to Never Land
God wanders the universe
Carrying Jesus piggyback
On his way to a Lady Ga Ga concert

The Madonna confiscates my dreams
Holds me for a ransom I can’t pay
The insatiable night eats my thoughts
I’ve become a one-legged tightrope walker
Without a safety net
My poems turn into pigeon feathers
Fly off on the wind

~ first published by BOS Press

Monday, April 16, 2012

Magnolia Grandiflora

Magnolia Grandiflora
by Sandy Stark

My northern hybrid magnolia tree
is stingy with its leaves.
In spring the showy flowers come out first,
the greenery after, filling the spaces
where the browning petals drop.

Not so that big old Georgia tree
I used to climb in my grandmother’s yard:
it always stayed green, its huge, glossy
leaves taking on a darker sheen in June,
when the cup-like flowers poured out
a scent so creamy and sweet
it could make you drunk—
like my aunt, who drank herself
to sleep each night after she thought
her dead husband came back
as the new black cat on her doorstep,
wet, yowling, and thin.

She never dared to let him in,
but died alone in one of those
edge-of-town nursing homes
with rows of hedges and narrow trees,
the kind that don’t blossom,
but simply shed their leaves.

~ previously published in Counting on Birds (Fireweed Press)

Saturday, April 14, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Bruce Dethlefsen

monday I crossed off cowboy
tuesday fireman
wednesday president
thursday I couldn’t find the list
friday my own fishing show
saturday catching for the cardinals
sunday I took a nap
I had to
the moons flew by too soon

~ previously published in Unexpected Shiny Things (Cowfeather Press)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Grampa Joe's Barn

Grampa Joe’s Barn
by Julie C. Eger

Grampa Joe had
a salt and pepper moustache
green dickey pants
stuck his tongue out behind your back
drank his coffee from a saucer
ate his peas with a knife

lined his oil-stained workbench
with jars full of gasoline
and thick paint in old coffee cans
hung the walls
with hammer heads, bucksaws,
and rakes that grinned toothless smiles,
pitchforks that could not pitch a tune
parked an electric grinder atop
a Cities Service welder that patiently
rusted in a corner
of the barn.

The pine beam split during the last storm
and the second floor landed on top
of the 31 Chevy Coupe, straw sprinkled down
on the bones of the coon
a long time dead now.
Tools rusted in buckets
of nails that would never hold anything
together again.

He saw the double doors twisted open,
the sag in the tin roof
as he stood peering out
chained to his oxygen tank
by the hoses he would drag
from room to room
watching through the windows
as the old barn struggled to hang on.

~ first published in Free Verse

Thursday, April 12, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by Charles P. Ries

My grandfather often told us that on the day of his birth they put him
in the corner to die when he, the weaker of two scrawny twins,
came into the world. “But I didn’t die. Here I am,” he laughed.
His brother died a few days later. Funny how death works.

Shortly after my father died, my mother announced that she would soon
be passing, and eleven months later with a slight smile on her lips, she
released her final worry and said good-bye. Death was not in the room.
My mother didn’t believe in death.

At middle age I stand tonight on the field where we played 10,000 soft ball
games as children. Where I called my brother the longest litany of swear
words my ten year old mouth could spit out. I am standing here looking at
the sky trying to remember something.

Maybe stars are the souls of the glimmering dead, or perhaps meteors are
the tear drops of souls soon to be returned. Souls like me who dread their
plunge back into life’s unpredictable sea.

But tonight I mainly think of my grandfather Peter. Who at 94 could laugh
about the day he chased death from his door. He didn’t believe in death.
He died sweetly with a smile on his lips just as my mother did.

As a small boy, I sit under the Elm tree that spreads protecting arms over
my grandparents’ cream city brick home. I watch my grandmother as
she cleans her attic. Hurling, tossing the accumulated treasures
of a life time out the garret window high above me. Beneath her,
and before me, rise a pile of memories, treasure and heartache.

“I’m cleaning up. Clearing out. Getting ready to leave,” she says, in that
succinct way she spoke about everything important. “For what?” I wondered,
until eight months later she died.

Someday it will be my turn to die, and when it is, I will laugh, clean my attic,
and cast away my last worry. I will await release into an ocean of night where
stars hang suspended from the branches of a massive Elm tree and souls
who’ve returned home swing for eternity, shedding tears for the living.

~ first published in Free Verse

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seated Nude

georges braque: milwaukee art museum collection

Seated Nude
. . . . . .after Georges Braque, Seated Nude

by Mary Jo Balistreri

She bathes in the sun’s early glow,
that moment of splayed color
when magenta, yellow and violet spill
over the hills and brush her nude body
with pastel fingers.

In this first movement of spectral light,
she sits on the edge of an armless chair
and reaches a hand to her hair. Soon
she will turn, surprise her voyeur
and even herself. Easy in her skin, she bends
her back to the shadowed green shade,
sighs and relaxes her stomach. And yet,

her hair is not soft like the landscape, but bleeds
into the chair. Hard and bold, the fusion cuts
through the scene, does not try to belong.
She bends her arm at the elbow, angles
it like the back of the chair. She’s no longer
round and soft like the background.
She leans forward to added dimension,
swivels toward different views, desires
to be known by more than one perspective.

Although she allows this portrait of transition,
allows Braque to hold her one last time,
she demands her release, shifts her complexity
to greet the new century of angles, cubes and facets,
her curved past slowly fading behind her.

~ first published in the newsletter of the Milwaukee Art Museum

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


cover art: emmett johns

Mayor Ed
by Michael Koehler

In Tangletown
Mayor Ed runs the dry cleaners,
plays poker in the backroom
at Hunan Harry’s with the police chief
and Monsignor Cushman,
drinks dago red by the quart.
Ed pinches the waitress’ ass
and accepts campaign contributions
passed inside handshakes.
His wife gave me head
last year at the charity ball.
He has my vote.
Besides, it was nice doing to his
what he has done for years
to all us poor suckers here
in Tangletown.

~ previously published in Tangletown (Cross + Roads Press)

Monday, April 9, 2012


photo: jude genereaux

by Jude Genereaux

I’ve stayed on the straight and narrow
pretty much all my life
she said, explaining why
she would not spend anymore time listening
to his crazy love talk, especially
not at this stage of life with
kids grown, life in order, future secure;
and continued writing her daily lists.

Then you missed
he said
all the logging trails
that twist and turn into the
darkest part of the northwoods, winding,
running to unexpected
surprises, breathtaking
waterfalls, primitive
peaceful glens
otherwise unknown

she looked across the road
into the heart of the hardwood forest
laid down her pencil.

~ first published by The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters

Saturday, April 7, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by David Scheler

He looks through a hole
in the woven straw hat
that covers his face in the sun.

The glint that he sees there
creates prisms of spun glass
on a palette of sunset pastels

that lie behind black lines
which pattern themselves
as the organic rhythms

of tree rings, as malachite
and crystals
spilling the spectrum,

as striations swirling
like phantom fractals
embedded in a jewel.

In the hole of his hat:
the universe.

~ previously published in Avocet and in Casting for Meteors

Friday, April 6, 2012


photo: t. kilgore splake
by Linda Back McKay

When the world does end, it will all return to the breath.
We will all go back to whatever brought us here
in the first place. There will be no lingering by the remains
of a dancing bonfire. No more music, no more hors d’oeuvres.
There will be brief conversation among the terns
and then every sky and lake will go seamless.
There will be no great beyond, no weeds, no people
to conquer, nothing new to learn.
A great curtain will descend, black, of course,
the absence of color. The wind will abate
and a code of silence will be strictly enforced.
No more bouquets of swallowtail butterflies.
No more demonstrations for peace.
There will be no sun settling its ungainly bulk
at world’s edge, spilling gold all over
the upturned face of a mountain.

~ first appeared in “Water ~ Stone”

Thursday, April 5, 2012


photo: morgan harlow

by Morgan Harlow

his wife said
. . close your
. . .eyes and open
. . . your mouth
. . .motioning
. .to a spider
. . .dangling off
. . . . . .the roof.
. . no wonder
. . . . I don’t
. . . . . trust you
. . .one of us
. . . . . said
. . . . . .and
. . . . . .she went
. . . . .inside the
. . . . . . . . house
. . . .leaving
. . . . . . . . us alone
. . . .the spider
. . .spinning
. .and pulling
. . .away
. . . . a kind of
. . . . . .creepy
. . . . . .mistletoe
. . . . making me glad
. . ..we was
. .just buddies a
guy and a gal going
. . . . . . . .out to raise
. . . . . .hell on a
. . . Saturday
. .night.

~ first published in San Pedro River Review

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to Bow

photoart: ralph murre

How to Bow
by CX Dillhunt

. . . . . . . . . . . .Bowing to another is not easy, even with reason.

You must learn to bow alone, to bow to no one. To whom, will come later, if at
all. If you have to change places in order to bow to yourself, that is OK, in the
beginning. Eventually, if you are to bow, to really know how to bow, you will no
longer change places. Instead, you will have learned how to bow to yourself
from a single position. This is no different, bowing to another, but it does require
practice and patience and above all pleasantness. If you cannot bow alone, to
yourself, you will never be able to truly bow to others.

Practice on trees, flowers, clouds, memories, dishes, floors, birds, ponds, and
grasses. Be patient. When you least expect it, you'll begin to see yourself as
you bow slowly, pleasantly to another. Remember: You are never to practice
on people. Also, be sure to save your best bows for your best friends, your
favorite gardens, an unplanned day. If bowing becomes easy, you must practice,
patiently, pleasantly. If you do not see yourself each time you bow, you are not
bowing. Bowing is not easy, but bowing is what you must do.

~ previously published in Girl Saints (Fireweed Press)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


photo: ralph murre

by Ellen Kort

I'd want her to come for me
smelling of cinnamon. . wearing
bright cotton. . purple maybe. . hot
pink. . a red bandanna in her hair

She'd bring good coffee. . papaya juice
bouquet of sea grass. . saltine crackers
and a lottery ticket. . We'd dip
our fingers into moist pouches

of lady slippers. . crouch down to see
how cabbages feel when wind bumps
against them in the garden
We'd walk through Martin's woods

find the old house. . its crumbling
foundation strung with honeysuckle
and in the front yard. . a surprise
jonquils. . turning the air yellow

glistening and ripe. . still blooming
for a gardener long gone. . We'd head
for the beach. . wearing strings of shells
around our left ankles. . laugh

at their ticking sounds. . the measured
beat that comes with dancing
on hard packed sand. . the applause
of ocean and gulls. . She'd play

ocarina songs to a moon almost full
and I'd sing off key. . We'd glide
and swoop. . become confetti of leaf fall
all wings. . floating on small whirlwinds

never once dreading the heart -
silenced drop. . And when it was time
she would not bathe me. . Instead
we'd scrub the porch. . pour left over

water on flowers. . stand a long time
in sun and silence. . then. . holding hands
we'd pose for pictures in the last light

~ Previously published in If Death Were A Woman
(Fox Print, Inc.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

at a hip east side restaurant

at a hip east side restaurant
. . . . . . . . . . . . (Milwaukee, 2001)
by Charles Rossiter

where the grains heap high
. . . . . . and dark meat is taboo
cell phones twitter softly

. . . . . .the clientele is
multi-racial tolerant, straight
gay, lesbian, east side liberal

. . . . . . . . . . . .the waitstaff
are caucasians in uniform
LL Bean khakis
and blue oxford shirts
delivering food and drink

. . . . . . . . . . . .a young black man
with a head full of dreadlocks
walks among the tables
with pitchers of water and coffee

. . . . . . .a gangly Chicano teen
with the Virgin of Guadeloupe
tattooed on his wiry bicep
circles the room to clear the tables
of everything
the customers have left behind
except the tips

everyone going about his
or her business

customers, waiters, busboys,

as if they had agreed beforehand
to be hip, blase, and
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . color blind

~ originally published in Thirdspace

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Shadow Stash

photo: linda aschbrenner

Shadow Stash
by Linda Aschbrenner

Early every April we enter our woods
and gather pine shadows.
We peel them cold and wet
off the surface of the snow
and fold them into deep, clear bags.
The shadows feel like wet nylons.
We use twist ties to close each bag.
We carry the bags to the garage,
heap them in a corner.
Usually we get five bags.
Hot August afternoons we pull them out,
all the long, cool, blue shadows,
and prop them up around
our lawn chairs in the backyard.
We sip lemonade and shiver
in the delicious shade.

~ first published in Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar