Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unconditional Love

digitalized photo: ralph murre

Unconditional Love
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

I was thinking of your mother today
the first woman you ever loved
the one all others must measure up to
the first sound you ever heard
the beating of her heart
as she nourished you
and dreamt of you
before your birth
cradled there
in the warmth
of her body
which now
has turned
to silver
in your

~ previously appeared on Quill & Parchment

Friday, June 29, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Charles Ries

I never thought of it as evolving. At least not like this.
Never thought about when it first raised it’s proud little head.

But a 425-million year old fossil found in Herefordshire, England
changed all that. The oldest record of an animal that was unarguably
male made me stop and take stock. A tiny crustacean, only
two-tenths of an inch long -  with an unmistakable penis.

They christened it Colymbosathon Ecplecticos which means
“swimmer with a large penis.”

Scientists say it had copulatory organs one-third the length of
its body. Wow. Makes a guy sit back and think about all the
evolutionary outcomes. The cars we’d drive or the clothes we’d

Monkeys became men.
Fish learned to fly.
Penises roamed prehistoric earth.
I guess some things never change.

~ first published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Thursday, June 28, 2012


by Shoshauna Shy

So that coworkers would not joke
that Val was a total loser,
she took vacation every year
the way they were supposed to
even though she preferred to stay
booking reservations
for the exclusive historic lodge
in the Sangre de Cristo mountains
with its children riding horseback,
waitstaff performing cabaret,
plates boasting crepe suzettes.
The pine-shrouded stone chateau
was a primo destination
for the international jet set
who lavished appreciation
when she saved them a favorite suite
a season in advance.
Since Valerie lived two towns away
in a studio apartment
disowned by her parents
soon as she turned 18,
holiday dinners were at the lodge
amongst the owners’ children –
Christmas, New Years, Easter Day
each savored by her Nikon.
When she did manage to vamoose
one week every August,
she checked email and Facebook posts
in every internet café.
In Sacramento she found out
her boss dumped his latest mistress;
in New Orleans the bellhop
got fired for cocaine.
A maid’s diamond find in the whirlpool
was the highlight of Ann Arbor,
and the gardener’s proposal to the chef
her memory of L.A.
The cab ride home from the airport
was the best part of the journey,
and by dawn Val was in the dining hall
with Cook Cody’s basted eggs.
If it weren’t for the blackened postmarks
on the cards sent to the office,
nobody would believe that “Velcro”
had actually gone away.

~ first published in MO: Writings from the River (Montana State University in Great Falls)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


cover art: emmett johns

by Charles Rossiter

I'm the voice of the old ways
that can take you back to the days
of grandparents when things were
one telephone and one tv set
per household, wringer washers,
78rpm, ice boxes, victrolas
and people who owned cars
were on top of the world.

I'm the voice of the unpaved road
dusty, pock-marked and ribbed
by spring rain, I can take you places
the long straight interstate
never imagined where the air is clear
and the woods are deep,
places that make you want to
throw your head back
look up at the stars
and breathe.

I'm the voice of the front porch
where you can sit sipping iced tea
and talk to the neighbors
and your children, about nothing
but the day behind you
and the night ahead
as the world slips by.

I'm the voice of your own music
that doesn't need an agent
or a stage or even a microphone.
I'm the song inside you that talks about
where you've been and how you feel.
I'm the high note you can't quite reach
but sing out anyway, loud and long.

I'm the voice of the hearty handshake
the arm around the shoulder
the straight-forward look in the eye
that says hello friend, we're here together
you and me, let's enjoy it
while we can.

~ previously published in Back Beat (Cross + Roads Press)

Sunday, June 24, 2012


by Cathryn Cofell

She tells me to pick up golf, as if telling me to pick up milk
on the way home or a song where she left off.  She says
the competitor in me will thrill when the club connects to the ball
like a bone to the socket and the rocket takes off, soars into blue
like a great blue heron and lands exactly where it should land,
for one second only me and that ball and I have kicked its ass.

I remind her of the last time in my car, how I almost
killed us juggling the stick, phone, latte and a need
to speak often with my hands, question why she
believes I could manage that multitude of in-sync
movements. Those tiny balls. Standing still. Silence.  

She appeals to my heart, the brisk walks and the heft of a bag
that never feels heavy on a good day, the immaculate beauty
of the green, how on a clear Sunday with the sun cresting
and the last dew steaming she can almost see god.

I tell her that’s what churches or children are for,
and cost about the same, and that simply banging
my head against a wall would burn 150 calories
an hour which I already do on a frequent basis. 

She cajoles the career woman in me, insists golf will make me a champ
in the game of schmooze, adds there is no other sport worthy of my
intelligence, my fashion sense, my utter determination to accomplish
the manliest of deeds.

She knows I would wrestle mud eels if a man suggested
it wasn’t my place, but I am over 40, should be beyond that. 
I say honey, I am a poet first (well, 3rd or 4th after the son
and husband and 60 hour job and the chores).  Maybe
if there were a short course, or if I could write and dust
at the same time.  Better yet, she should pick up poetry,
fill her holes with words.

This is where it always ends.  Poetry scares the hell out of people,
even more than golf.  This is where it always begins, friends wanting
each other to be each other, to become someone we’re not because
isn’t that what women do, fill our lives with purpose after purpose
with no passion, smile and nod, say yes when we really mean no?

~ first published in Main Street Rag

Friday, June 22, 2012


by John Flynn

This day Old Sol  hides. The        
count stands three and one.               
You stare in, take the sign,
stretch, and let fly.
Your leather target  explodes
in dust and thunder.
A minor deity erupts and pumps.
“Strike two,” he scalds.

You get it back.
Thumb the herringbone seam,
roll it in the palms of your hands.    
All the senses feast.
Sweat it, stain it, dry it with dirt.
Rub it smooth.
Make it stick.

Late inning overcast absconds. 
You are Zeus in sunshine.
The orb of the earth is    
in your hand. You conjure up
players and saints. Gehrig, Dimaggio,                                                                                                                                                            
Whitey Ford, Emily Dickinson,
Christ, what a poem!

Down to one pitch. Throw harder
than you’ve ever thrown before.
Make it smoke.

Your leather target explodes
in dust and thunder.

He didn’t even see it
leave your hand,
but heard the thunder.  

~ first published in the Minneapolis Observer Quarterly                

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bait Shop

artwork: lucha (marie skrobot)

Bait Shop
by Jude Genereaux

You know that smell the minute
you walk in
know you’ve been there
reached back and arrived again
The old bait shop, milk & bread store
at the four corners by the water.

Could be up there at Walloon Lake where
Old Hem hung out on his way 
north to the Big Two Hearted or the
one in Baileys on the harbor
- any hundred others on the Brule, the U.P.
Up North Wisconsin, Michigan
smells the same

and you’re 10 again
waiting for Dad to take you out in that old row boat
one with the slats in the bottom, sloshing water
a can of worms in your hand
waiting at Uncle Hank’s dock
morning mist steaming off Horsehead Lake.

The cheap wooden screen door Bang!
slams behind you
bakery wrapped in cellophane,
bags of chips & donuts beckon.
“Indian” souvenirs - birch bark canoes & 
sweetgrass baskets, an ice chest full of soda pop, all
For Sale, next to post cards of black bear & trout

and the over-riding scent of old wood, damp
musty closed-for-the-winter stored stuff & mildew
overpowers all else
as you walk back through the door
to summers gone and memories
of when you were ten.

~ first published in the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"back to LAX"

artwork: norman j. olson

“back to LAX”
by Norman J. Olson

my eyes roll across the dusty floor
through spilled coffee
out the door…
like a cockroach among the ladybugs,
I have to leave… I have to
become another metal mole on the 405…

I see swirls of lights that
William Blake could not have imagined
in his wildest dreams
of heaven and hell… yellow sparks
in the night and cars
everywhere but no
people… no legs or lips…
no hair or hips…

just electrons firing photons
red plastic and tricks of memory…

imagine Francois Boucher standing by
the freeway
with his wig blown sideways… with his big
and tiny brushes painted with
road dust… imagine a horrible teal
green seeping through
the craquelure of
this oily vision

vast shards of unbroken
plate glass are mirrors and
I guess Joni Mitchell was right that
are angel hair
but where
in this tangle of
cartwheeling street lights and
have the angels

~ first published in Ascent Aspirations

Monday, June 18, 2012

Praise More . . .

artwork: robin chapman

Praise More Than Can Be Told
by Robin Chapman

And what’s left out, unseen, unnamed—
the shifting soil and rock, the fungal mesh
that knits the roots to living cloth; the tamed
path and homestead cellar stairs, its bush
of lilacs blooming in the undergrowth;
the hummingbird who comes to the red shirt
you wear, chokecherries, the chickadee who goes
ahead in the greening wood, the whirr
of a tractor’s plough far off; wild straw-
berries ripening in the poison ivy patch; high clouds;
the wind like a river pouring down the draw,
aspen's shaking grey-green leaves; turned clods
underfoot as you gain the ridge; skylined friends
as you descend again into the mystery of woods.

~ originally appeared in Poemeleon

Friday, June 15, 2012


artwork: william marr

by William Marr


dozing off
in the virgin forest
beneath the feet
of Picasso’s strange animal
when suddenly a long yell
TIM --- BER ---
awakens me

I raise my head
and in the sunlight that leaks through
I see the skyscrapers
      all slanting towards me


winter day
even steel trembles
so do teeth

red lights burn in turns
at each icy corner
the eyes don’t

on two feet
with two hands
pulling down a hat
and tightening the scalp
you greet the wind

~ first published in Autumn Window ( Arbor Hill Press)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Night Train

artwork: ralph murre

Night Train
by Wilda Morris

As a child I fell asleep
to the whistle of the night train
moaning like a woman in pain,
the wheels on the track
more rackety than an old walker
pushed across a wooden floor.

Tonight I’m at the old home place,
one ear tuned and waiting.
Let me be small again
in this house warm with love
and the scent of apple dumplings.
Let me lean against Mother
as she sings or deals out cards
for a game of rummy.

Let her tuck me in,
read me a goodnight story,
her kiss warm on my left cheek.
Let me be a child again one short hour
before I take the night pills to Mother,
tuck her beneath the quilt,
touching my lips
to her wrinkled forehead,
before the night train passes.

~ previously published in Cradle Songs: An Anthology of Poems on Motherhood (Quill and Parchment Press)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pornographic Literature

artwork: ralph murre

Pornographic Literature
by John Lehman

Appleton, WisconsinI drive here
to read from a new collection of
poems. Inside the store a poster
and pyramid of books make me feel
good until it’s ten minutes after seven
and nobody has come. I sign copies
as if a public cared, feign interest in
the contents of a nearby shelf and
twenty minutes later grab my poster
and quietly disappear.

On the long ride home I stop at an
adult bookstore in a metal shack
along a frontage road. Here the
patrons take literature seriously,
groping video boxes and plastic
bags of nude bodies copulating
on covers of magazines. Who
ever caressed a book of poetry
with such urgency or quivered
from thoughts of what might wait
inside? A pudgy, post-pubescent
clerk with an eight ball tattooed
on his arm surveys the shadows
as if to say, “Buy something,
people, it ain’t art for art’s sake,
and don’t even think of pilfering
the fucking merchandise.”

You, standing in Barnes & Noble
wondering about this jumble of
abandoned, autographed books,
have you ever stolen a collection
of poetry, slipped it in your belt
so its corners poke the inside of
your legs? No arched back or
joyous spasms here, but a thrill
of rushing toward the night with
this forbidden shape pressed
tight against your groin.

And afterwards, when you’re free
of sex, you can read a poem or
two, they’re at least as good as
something else and, unlike porn- ography, a book of poems can
be placed upon your coffee table
so if friends you want to impress
ask, “Do you get off on poetry?”
you can reply, “Yes, I put my arms about it, yes and draw it down
to me, yes, I say yes, I will yes.”

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

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Brief Excerpt

photoart: ralph murre

A Brief Excerpt
by Jackie Langetieg

What must it have been like
swimming beneath her heart in that dark, silken sea?

Wind has frozen the lake into a black mirror. Its endlessness reminds me of a birth night: traveling through space lit by pinpoints of stellar ice.  (She comes at night when I'm asleep, entering the room on the whim of a breeze, waits for that one second during everyone’s night--a pause between breathing out and the beginning of breathing in. She leans down and whispers a single astonishing note like the cry of a forest flute on the breeze. Whenever I hear that memory song, a shutter snaps; perhaps I glance behind me on a too quiet street or wake in the dark and know that what woke me was more than just a sound.  It stops me; I see into her eyes, wait a second and go on.)

~ an excerpt from White Shoulders ( Cross + Roads Press ) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by David Scheler

From the wooden observation tower
the green solace of summer
drifts over the watershed ––
lush valleys and hills
roll through fields
then disappear in mist
of the horizon.

The hawk holds the sky
under his wing
on twilight breeze;
he neither descends
nor rises on wind,
tethered like a kite
on invisible string.

These silent moments drift away
as Venus descends.
But the hawk
lingers on the waft
as sunset folds into the night.

~ previously published in The Aurorean

Friday, June 8, 2012

Miriam's Song

Miriam’s Song
by Ronnie Hess

 In 19th century Austria-Hungary it was not uncommon for Jews to have several first names – an official name, such as Mari (or Mary), and a Hebrew one, such as Miriam.

The census man asks an impertinent question:
not just how many children but how many pregnancies.
As if this is his business. She decides to tell him the truth.
He writes the numbers in each small box, six and ten,
while she moves in and out of the room’s shadows.
The first one came soon after they were married,
when she was in her teens, a dull ache in her back,
the blood running down her thighs
the morning she plucked and gutted the chicken.
The village women told her she was young yet,
had good hips, was made for bearing,
and within a year there was Regina,
their little queen, the fair-haired girl.
May it please the Emperor, she had laughed.

Still, there were the others, in the middle,
after the two boys. It was her own fault –
she had carried in the wood,
lifted the laundry tub, visited her mother
after the hailstorm, bumping up and down in the cart.
Each time it happened, Benjamin had brought her
an apple, cornflowers, pinecones,
asked for her forgiveness.
Miriam, beloved. the name God meant for her.
Mary, Queen of Hungary, what bureaucracy had required.
She had held the presents to her nose.
He had touched her cheek.
Each time, she had wrapped her legs around his.
Still, she gave them names she never mentioned,
Dora, Sonia, Erszebeth, Rifke, imagined their faces,
the shape of their hands, their dispositions.
They would be old enough now to bring in extra money,
haggle with the butcher, fetch groceries up the dank staircase,
sit at her feet, listen to her singing in the day’s released heat.

~ previously published in Whole Cloth (Little Eagle Press)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
I sit in a garden of rocks.
I watch the woman of
the house burying a dead bird.

She begins to sing like the dead
bird. Her hair flaps in the
wind. Her head bobs up and down.

I see her lay flowers over
the grave. The day is sad
in this garden of rocks. I sit.
I’m restless like the wind. I want
to go and salute the
dead bird. But I lay down instead.

I sleep and have a lazy dream,
where a fragile bird dies.
I do not see how it happens.

I see only the gentle bird
down in my lazy dream.
I caress its soft, injured head.
I am awakened by the scent
of the flowers. The blue sky
and the green trees appear sad.

The woman of the house sings like
the dead bird. Her perfume
extinguishes death’s scent. Inside

she opens up a window and
she sings like the dead bird.
In a garden of rocks, I cry.

~ previously published in Garden of Rocks (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Last Party

artwork: ralph murre

The Last Party
(For Josie)
by Cristina M. R. Norcross

It all begins to fade
in the land of forget-me-not years.
One moment I am dropping a slice of lemon into my tea –
the next moment
the back of my bed raises
with the click of a magic button.

Crosswords are my saving grace.
All of the clues –
a familiar comfort.
I wonder who keeps filling them in?
She should be more considerate and use a pencil.

There is a woman who comes and points
to pictures on my dresser.
Sometimes I am good at the guessing game –
sometimes not.
She is kind though and brings me a new nightgown
with each visit.

In times of joyful suspension,
the room is filled
with people I have not seen in years.
Gertrude’s fur wrap was always too showy,
but it looks good on her now.
Bill is busy serving cocktails,
while they set up another Canasta game.
It is a party of laughter and noise.
You should come –
before it all disappears.

~ First published on Your Daily Poem

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Things I Would Have Given . . .

Things I Would Have Given My Mother Had She But Asked:
 by Sharmagne Leland-St.John

A piece of my liberal mind.
5 more minutes of my time,
the night she called at 3 am
from Halls Lake, WA to L.A.,
drunk, slobbering down the phone,
a repetitious sobbing,
tongue thick with Canadian whiskey
and a cacophony of "I love you!"

I told her to call back
when she was sober,
so I'd know she meant it,
then put the receiver down
and returned to my lover's arms

I would have given her
the framed watercolour of the roses
in the blue and white pitcher
resting on a white Victorian lace doily,
The one I painted for her Christmas gift,
after I got to know her,
and decided I actually liked her.

The painting I knew
she had no worldly need for
on Thanksgiving eve
the night the phone call came
from an incoherent brother
on his birthday.

Did his stunned words not make sense,
or did I just not want to believe
I was hearing him correctly?
Could not fathom that she could be gone.
just when I had come to cherish her.

I would have given her
My father's love
if it were mine to give.
My brother's honesty
if there were such a thing
My sister's non-judgmental side
If she had one.

Her father's gold pinky ring
in my safe keeping.

The black velvet scarf
with the French silk ribbon-embroidery.
Tiny roses with cultured pearls
on their stems.
I sewed stitch for stitch
with deft and slender hand.

My treasured first edition copy
Of Green Mansions.
A favourite from her own youth
during the war years
when she herself
was a young girl growing.
A senior at Hollywood High
winning Chamber of Commerce awards
for her own fanciful writing.

The gaudy flowered dress
She admired
bought at The Pleasure Dome
on the Sunset Strip
when I was a Hippie,
a motherless child,
reinventing my own self
to erase her DNA
from my cells, my bones, my ovum,
and from the strands of
bleached blonde hair
worn down to my waist
with baby's breath intertwined

i would give her 24 hours of my own life
just to tell her the things
that have gone unsaid.

For Rosebud

~ Previously published on Quill & Parchment