Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dog Days

artwork: ralph murre

Dog Days
by Susan Elbe

July 5

In Utah, no one can sleep.
Millions of crickets five inches deep
trill like frenzied schoolgirls
speaking in tongues. In New York,
tripped alarms slam the air.
Someone wrenches open a hydrant
and blistering streets sizzle with steam.
Here, the heat leaches you of story
and radiance. Hard work, this
mucking through silence and sleep
so seamless no dream can unzip it,
not even an old ghost to tear at its threads
with long fingernails of memory.

July 20

This is how you want it—summer
forever, the sky, blue and lucent
as the moonstone of a baby’s eyes
and clean, white sheets
you lie down on at night,
someone outside on his way home,
whistling an old tune—
See the pyramids along the Nile. . .
while you slowly cross
the wobbly bridge to sleep
and somewhere behind clouds,
the dog star drops
off the edge of this cockeyed earth.

August 1

This is how it is—at 2 a.m. still 80°,
the air murky with dank breath
and fishy lake smell. The carp moon
belly-flopped in the sky. A lignin
of sweat cements you to the sheets.
Angled with shadow, the street
shifts like dream, turns a different face.
Stalling neon thips and fizzles, faded
to the hollow-heart pink of strawberries.
Toward morning, blue crackle, thunder,
rain pattering through the leaves
like a small dog’s toenails on linoleum.
That dumb darling, your huge need,
lazy and bloated with heat, lies
beside you, panting in its thick pelt of fur.

August 2

The cicadas and light this morning
rattle in the leaves like brass keys.
Last night’s rain trickles
from the eaves in long, silver strings.
Shucking sweet corn,
your fingers are slippery with silk.
Daddy longlegs traipse in all the corners.
Already so much starts to fall away
from the deep green, too-lush days
that prickle like stiff crinoline.
Imagine 20 years from now. Then,
with luck, 20 more. Loss is a dry well,
empty pocket.  It needs filling.

August 5

Not yet dusk, not yet
the underwater-blue time,
but the brief half-hour after sunset
when you glow inside out,
your slow-finned heart leaping
clear of fear, worry, what holds it
to this fraught world.
You give the devil his due
each time you care too much
about what doesn’t matter.
Something dark unwinds, snakes
up into the windrowed light.

August 7

Nothing keeps in this weather. Tomatoes
wrinkle and split. Cucumbers soften
and snap beans rust. Salt won’t pour.
The first dream in weeks begins.
God asks me what I want.
I say I’m lonely. Give me poems.
I’m hungry. Can I have the moon?
I say nothing is enough. Let me live
forever this life that exhausts
and scares me witless, yet brings me
daily to my knees in thanks.
But God turns up the underside of a leaf
and there’s death, riding
like a soft cocoon along the vein.

~ first published in CALYX

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Gathering

cover art: emmett johns

The Gathering
by William Taylor Jr.

It was a Monday night at the Jury Room

and maybe it was the beer but
the bartender looked just like
a fifty year old Charles Bukowski

and the guy at the table
with the bikers
could very well have been
Richard Brautigan
in his prime.

I watched as he sat there drinking beer
and telling funny stories.

I lit a cigarette and decided I was
James Dean
and suddenly we had
quite a party going on.

~ previously published in Bar Code (Little Eagle Press)

Friday, July 27, 2012


photo: sharon auberle

 by Sharon Auberle

everything we touch turns to a
poem, when the spell is on...
      ~  Linda Pastan

the mystery of cornstalks
murmuring among themselves

a brown-skinned man
in orange serape
walking between them

the slump of his shoulders
tugging at my heart...

from any of these
a poem might grow

but today
there is only the man
light streaming down on him

he, who could be an angel
for all might be holier
than we know

his serape, fiery
in morning sun
the wind lifting it

like wings

~ first published in the Peninsula Pulse

Thursday, July 26, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by Morgan Harlow

Worried about wrappings, cardboard laced with
BHT; Styrofoam cups and aluminum trays,
cellophane, Mylar and shrink wrap: the story
of a buddy’s bar pizza, microwaved and served
with the plastic wrap still on, bright patina

~ first published in cold-drill

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by John Flynn

Inspired by an oil painting,
“Waiting for a Chinook: the last of 5000.”
by C.M. Russell, known as The Kid

The old cowhand swayed serene
around the potholes. Every sinew
slack in the backseat of his
youngest son’s new Chevrolet.
His elbow high and out the window,
he watched the miles peel away
on the county’s arrow
straight red scoria road.

From a distance the red and
white big touring car kicked up 
cyclones and looked to be
on fire or re-entry from a
junket into inner space.   

From out the side he
assayed his time’s retreat.
Up front the windshield
framed a vanguard
trail of slag waiting to be
churned back into dust.

They lived here by
the thousands then,
in ones and twos,
on farms, in little towns.
Contrails lining up above.
Echoes seeping out from
missile silos underground.

Few folks remain. And
soon these few will
view the remnant herds
of settlers like the
buffalo used to do.      

Emigrants scrape something           
off the top, he thought,           
but not much more. Eventually
the plains reclaim what's theirs,
and plow black ash back
into white boned earth.                         

Charley Kid got it right. He painted it
a hundred years ago and more:
“Waiting…The last of 5000.”

Long shadows slick down the buttes
nearing home. The old man smiled
to himself alone: some say
I don’t recall but know,
I didn’t break down
or tumble off my horse.

Through the cranked down window I
catch the cooling scent of sage and
youth and recollect that
all I ever thought
to be I am.

I make no play
on maybes.
I do still what
I say I will.
I crippled
no one
up but me,
not the country, 
nor the spirits
camped out here.

Those things
I do recall,
and don't regret.                       

~ first published by the Gilcrease Museum of Western Art

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Father Writes to Mother . . .

photo: ralph murre

Father Writes to Mother from California
by Jackie Langetieg

I remember Grandmother’s voice
and crickets clicking behind the radiator,
feasting on dust from fresh baked bread

while I lay on the window seat
watching her polish the mound of dough
                        pushing and turning it on its powdery board.

Looking over at me, she dropped
a small plastic doll into the mix
folded and smoothed it into a ball

while she told me of earthquakes
in San Francisco

and how the ground would open
like cut dough,
then fold over a small girl and her mother 

rolling, kneading and sealing them
into the bread of the earth, sent to the oven to bake,
disappearing beneath the cooling crust.

~ first published by the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Science, and Letters

Monday, July 23, 2012

ITHAKA 2001 - 2008

ITHAKA  2001-2008                                                                                 
by Jim Barnes

                  Hope all your Ithakas are good ones.

Seems ages on the hill above the rocky point
I have kept my eyes on the horizon where sky
drops to sea. No sign of any ship I do not
recognize, just the ragtag wornout fishing fleet
about to sink. No single sail grabbing the wind
and fifty men at oars to tell us you are back.
This is no Ithaka now you would own up to,
your old wife mad, your queer son gone, your dog
years dead. The old men gathered here like the food
and wine, but do not give a hoot about the place.
You might as well have gone down in the fishy sea:

this is no Ithaka you would want to rule. Still we
hope for your long return, the foolish old friends of
the foolish king who went away to war for fear
of losing what we have lost anyway, although
you, somewhere landbound or adrift on the deep, still
may dream of coming back to stony Ithaka,
to a faithful wife and infant son. Wherever
you are, I send you these heavy words on a wind
that has treated us all badly: there is little
use for you to come back home old and mortified.
Ithaka is not the Ithaka it was. For god's

sake, be strong. We have grown even older hoping.
Perhaps you have found another Ithaka elsewhere
in the wide world, a soft and welcome country that
nourishes you in a way we never can again.
I wish you well, but I must keep on hoping that
you will come back again. You could teach us a way
at least to cope with the thing that has befallen
us. The tourist's shops and the garish touring boats
prosper, but they are in the hands of foreigners.
The breeding cattle prized by Philoitios, bankers
in Pylos hold for the debts Penelope incurred.

The suitors had no staying power when the booze
ran out. No one manned the presses nor tended vines.
Pirates from Samos got the last of goats and sheep
when we tried to take the herds across to Argive
lands. Hardly any of us are left who give a damn
about the state. I am here every day, though hope
runs thin. I know you will return sometime. It is
no Ithaka to brag about. Hope you will bring
our salvation in some form. Yellow gold would help
and medicine that would somehow cure all the pain
of mind and body. We are ill in Ithaka.

~ first published in The North American Review

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Junior

To Junior
by Wilda Morris

You swam in the cup of water our cousin Donn
said a person could drown in. You were the liquid
spotting grandmother’s pillow, Uncle Norman’s towel
that would not dry, the soundless wet circle
always on the dining room table.

You schooled me in fear of swimming holes, lakes
rivers, waves. When Mother took me to the city pool,
you dived from Donn’s cup, tried to pull me under.

Relinquish your power over me, Junior. I can no longer
live in the shadow of your swollen young body.

~ previously published in Encore: Prize Poems 2011

Friday, July 20, 2012

View From a Small Skyscraper

photoart: ralph murre

View From a Small Skyscraper
by David Scheler

An endless flow of headlights
snakes through city streets.

            Sub-atomic particles
            stream out from stars.

Riders stream to a London,
New York or Tokyo.

            Electron bonds with nucleus,
            electricity becomes composite.

The attraction atavistic;
a sense of grand potential.

            Stars spider galaxies.
            Sparks arc across neurons.

The snake of headlights
strings across spider galaxies.

            Genes snake across
            the spidered string of chromosomes.

In this equation, need is fleeting
while desire is a constant.
Chaos is its own precise pattern.

            In this equation,
            potential is the constant
            and the probable is fleeting.

~ previously published in Casting for Meteors

Thursday, July 19, 2012

To Paint Forgetting

photoart: sharon auberle

To Paint Forgetting
by Barb Cranford

Gesso a long narrow canvas thickly
and embed a gaggle of dirty bits
of rag, shards of bone, illegible lists.

Smear it carelessly 
with pale tints of some color 
I do not like––ochre perhaps.

There must be a broken grid––
maze after maze leading
to empty rooms without doors.

Lurid bursts of yellow, orange
and red will flash and fade,
throwing fearsome shadows.

A few gray feathers will float down
from a strange bird beating its wings
against the frame, top left.

I wrote down these instructions once,
but I don't remember why.

~ first published in FAR FROM HERE

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


artwork: william marr

by William Marr

Walking in the streets
he suddenly realizes
last night’s masquerade
is still going on

Everywhere he turns
he sees a mask
fastened to a face
like a second skin

~ first published in Between Heaven and Earth (PublishAmerica)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Things My Grandmother Told Me

digital art: ralph murre

Things My Grandmother Told Me
by Julie C. Eger

Wash the walls with hot soapy water but rinse with cool and clear.
Don’t rub so hard the paint comes off or the paper peels up.
Wear a hat when you’re out in the sun.
Don’t look directly into the sun
or you’ll burn your corneas and go blind.
Add this much salt to the soup.
Turn away when a man looks at you.
If he bothers you, kick him in the knee.
If he keeps bothering you, kick higher.
Mind your manners at school, especially Sunday school.
Sing your song loud even if you’re off key.
Don’t mind the ones who are always on key,
they don’t know other things.
Pull weeds, not carrots.
This is the way to use a hoe.
This is the way to use a rake.
This is the way to stack wood.
This is the way to use a broom.
This is the way to carry bricks.
This is the way to wash a dish.
This is the way to a fold a towel.
This is the way to fold fitted sheets.
This is the way to make a bed.
This is the way to carry buckets of water.
This is the way to flip a pancake.
This is the way to make beef stew.
This is the way to open a jar.
This is the way to pin your blouse
in the middle where it gaps.
This is the way to pull back your hair
when you are working hard.
This is the way to pull back your hair
when you are working hard to attract a man.
This is the way a whore wears her hair.
This is the way a whore makes a bed.
This is the way to wear your hair
when you want to keep a man.
This is the way to mark your calendar.
This is the rhythm to follow when you don’t want a baby.
This is the rhythm to follow when you want a baby to come.
This is the way to make your bed,
especially when you are expected to lie in it.

And if I don’t want to lie in it?

Then you haven’t been listening.
We all have to lie in it.

~ first appeared on Poetry Dispatch

Saturday, July 14, 2012


artist: leonardo da vinci - mona leo juxtaposer: david r. tribble (?)

by Karla Huston     
The virgins on the rocks were never
unhappy, yet you painted them twice. 
At least the twelve apostles could

gnaw meat off bones while they lingered
or leaned into a bit of gossip
or fingered silver coins.  Today

you want my hands folded just this way. 
Chiaroscuro, you call it,
a new way of seeing, but oh,

I am tired, wait like an unanswered
prayer or an angel condemned
to kneel forever, while you study

the slant of light and adjust shadows
with a thumb.  Today it’s your hair
that has me worried, flying out from

your head, your beard a silver nest
for insects and stray bits of food. 
And Leonardo, you have such nasty

habits: belching after every meal,
farting when you bend for a rag,
or scratching your balls and peeing

from the balcony into the lilies
below.  Now you could use a bath
and those nails clipped, but once

you might have been handsome. 
Maybe then you’d have painted me
younger, crowned with roses, my fingers

full of gold rings.  Why not ask me
about the scar on my arm or my crooked
little finger?  Will anyone remember

the smoky haze around my face,
the subtle shift of light and dark,
see how much it hurt to smile? 

~ first published in  Kalliope 

Friday, July 13, 2012


photo: sharon auberle

by Michael Koehler

Chew on the gristle of these words.
Do they fill that hollow craving
that yawns just below the heart?
I sit at the table of my life,
plates loaded with all I desire,
heavy wine glistening in the flagrant candlelight.
My ghostly guests raise a toast to me, their host.
Old Loneliness stares into his cups,
mutters what could be a curse.
The Little Boy who was rewarded with snacks
eats all the greens on his plate out of fear.
Sadness picks at her food, goes hard on the Cabernet.
The Junkie has abandoned the table altogether
and sits now in the light of the refrigerator.
With one expansive gesture I ingest them all.
If there are skeletons in any of the closets of my heart
they are the bones of ancestors picked clean long ago.

~ first published in Fox Cry Review

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lost Legacy

photo: ellaraine lockie

Lost Legacy
by Ellaraine Lockie

Houses a hundred years old
with Alzheimer's
Abandoned in isolation wards
on western prairies

Where homesteads were settled
on small town sanity brinks
Mine long ago lost
to profit margins
on a minimal Montana farm

Hospice where I come to heal
from city assaults
My heart heavier
than the hard timber
turned driftwood soft

Decayed gray matter
that once supported ancestors
Who spun stories
about pet horses in the parlor
and vigilantes in the family tree
Our only valuable heirlooms

Tales vanished
through windows without panes
Into snow silent waste
Recycled in spring's
meadowlark music
John Deere's perennial plantings
And in sage scented memories

When orphaned cottontails
came home with little girls
Who grew up and come home
for foster care from a past
fading into oblivion

Where fragments of facts
atrophy into fiction
In the waste away
of what once was

~ first published in Arizona Literary Magazine