Wednesday, October 31, 2012


artwork: roger pfingston

by Roger Pfingston

Evening steals the grass,
still summer green.
The birds return instinctively
at seven, swoop and turn
as though invisibly webbed
before they tear and cling
in thickly pined acres
behind the house,
fluttering nervously
below a sky of cat eyes.

On the sofa we sit
silent in the perpetual trick
of our lives; one of us
is a demon.
though expected,
jolt the heart ahead a beat
while voices like wind chimes
tinkle through the walls
bargaining for treats.

We’ll keep this night
with sugar on our hands,
our hearts pumping us apart;
together we’ll answer the door
wearing our faces.

~ previously published in Something Iridescent (Barnwood Press)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No Firefly Summer

photo: ralph murre,  muralist unknown

No Firefly Summer
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

No firefly summers for my child
No mountain air clean and mild
Barrio born and bred
Unlike her milk fed
Country cousins
She's paid dearly
For our earthly
No skinny dips
In crystal clear,
Glacier chilled,
Spring filled
Swirling creeks
No rosy cheeks
No weekends by the sea
Ollie, Ollie, Oxen free
Never passed my child's lips
No daisy-chains or sweetgrass whips
Blind man's bluff, hide and seek
Were games she never played
For this round eyed, streetwise waif
I nightly knelt and prayed
Oh, Jungle Gods you have my soul to take
Just keep her safe
In every way
For one more god-damned blessed day
No summers in a cabin on Moon Lake
For my latchkey child
No cool ocean breezes sweet and wild
Life in South Central was cruel and tough
And violence never seemed enough
This quiet witness, silent mourner
Faced a thousand deaths each day on every corner
One can't ignore the crackheads, pimps, and whores
That lined the streets in droves and scores
No matter how she tried
She could not overcome my fears
She watched while winos died
Drowning out their tears
In their own vomit and filth in the churling gutters
She has seen the squealer as he stutters
Out his litany
And the skinhead dealers dealing tragedy
The gangs that travel wolf like in their packs
The hollow eyed junkies
With the monkeys
On their bleeding backs
With morbid curiosity
She views this horrid scenery
Uzi's, AK 47s
Bloody glinting blades
No idyllic glens
Or faery glades
This my child your legacy
Este mi niƱa su herencia
Mea Culpa
Me hija
Mea Culpa
Steeped in self doubt
My prayer is all I own to give
That you might live
Long enough to get out
Of the Barrio
Life in the hood
es muy peligroso!
Y puede ser peligroso a su salud
Get out baby,
Get out!

~ first published in Unsung Songs (Quill and Parchment Press)

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Speed Limit of the Universe

photoart: ralph murre

The Speed Limit of the Universe
 by David Clowers

The speed limit of the universe
is supposed to be the speed of light—
and I guess it is if you want to know
how fast a photon can travel—
but what about information
in the universe?
How fast does that go?

Let me tell you a story:
My love was in London.
I called to say I was on my way,
and wished I was already there,
not half a continent, plus an Ocean, away.
You are here,  she began,
as I felt something slide
over my shirt,
on top of my heart—
I even looked down to see—
then she said,
and I’m in your pocket, Luv!

~ previously published in
Shedding My Three Piece Birthday Suit (Birchwinds Press)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

the weaver

(detail) weaving: wence martinez

the weaver
by Barb Cranford

my life     the weft of it
the heft of all I am
the racing shuttle all I do
a lifetime to and fro
hunting in the warp of time
for patterns that elude me
yearning for order
striving to weave
sense     purpose     reason
into the next few passes

the drive     the thrust
always forward
precisely countered
by the desire to unwind     unravel
to do again but better
what willy-nilly
I have made
the random figures
of a lifetime’s ad hoc
trial and error
triumph and regret

~ previously published in Far From Here

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ci _ _ _ _ ; or, . . .

photoart: steve tomasko

Ci _ _ _ _;   or, They-who-must-not-be-named
by Steve Tomasko

The word cicada stops me in my tracks. Sorry. I simply cannot continue.
                                                                          —Billy Collins

It’s been a good year
for them. Those ci-
gar-stub-shaped insects
and their devilish red eyes.
With their portly green bodies
perched on trunks and limbs
they puncture the air above the ci-
ty with their electric trills.
As usual it’s the males
who bellow from their ci-
tadels at the top of a sy-
camore or other tall tree.

The female responds to the sy-
cophantic cry. They mate. She makes
a precise slit at the base
of a stem to deposit her eggs. 

Later, the stem falls to the ground
leaving behind a cica-
trix of her act, a blemish to mark
the spot. I’ve known people who
thought those calls were not  animate
but simply electric wires buzzing
in the summer heat. For some it’s a sick-
ening chorus. For me, the cries mark
the season. Just one more insect
doing what it needs to do—has done
for millennia without help
or hindrance from the likes of you or I
or those who can’t even pro-
nounce their name.

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin

Thursday, October 25, 2012


photo: linda back mckay

by Linda Back McKay

I was more of what I am, with all the sorrow.
I was what I saw in the pond and the pond

was gravely literal. It insinuated itself
into my dream. I dreamed of my grandson

as the night slid away and the sky lightened
and memory faded with the stars.

He is some of what I was in my candlelight
as he learns his colors and letters. Soon

he will examine cells under a microscope
and familiarize himself with the art of coding.

May he have what I never had. Scaffolding,
infrastructure, blueprints to navigate

a mountain range. He already knows
he will really be something. I know

shades of orange and gold and the star
above him. Now and then someone persuades

the sun to fold itself behind a muff of clouds,
despite its brilliant tendencies.

The times were not much different when
I decided to turn here instead of going there.

When his turn comes, he will pop the top
and let loose the fireflies.

~ previously published in The Next Best Thing (Nodin Press)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Charles P. Ries

I left it all; the paper and pens, publishers
and agents who could not love my inner
fantasy and joined the circus.

The make-up, big nose and fancy pants
helped me overcome my feelings of
obscurity. I created an identity grander
than my literary art. I now have something
worth writing about.

I married the fat lady, she gave birth to
a midget; I learned to swallow swords,
made friends with a contortionist who
told me to turn my pens into pretzels,
and live like a real man.

~ first published in Rosebud

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Jackie Langetieg

I'd like to make love to a man with long hair--
caught behind his head, tied
with the false cord of commitment.
Capturing his eyes, I'd slip the noose,
thread my fingers through dark silk,
listen to his lies.

He lifts me   
             his hair swings forward
                                      sears my cheek
                                                  becomes smoke  
                        In the half lighted forest 
        his skin burnishes to bronze
I hear drums
taste sweet tallow on his shoulders.

~ first published: Small Cards by Barbara

Monday, October 22, 2012

Backdoor Postcard

artwork: ralph murre

Backdoor Postcard
by Albert DeGenova

I read you Jack, Loud but not so clear anymore – you put the American landscape into words, made it your own.  But what did you leave for me in this new century?  On your quest for “it” – no mind – transcendence – leaving the post-bomb generation madness behind – as Charlie Parker would close his eyes and blow himself into the shelter of his crazy alto saxophone – Jazz man! you blew yourself into the pages of your notebooks and became the asphalt of sad Rt. 66, the gravel voice of all-night diners, the breath of the hungry wind that blows from San Francisco to New York to Tangiers.  You blew your words and brains out with a bottle of cheap wine – where is “it” at now, Old Angel Midnight?

I’m drowning in this new century, Jack – electricity and plastic and Wi-Fi nights of virtual conversation – programmed thinking, programmed wars, programmed music, programmed religion.  I’m thirsty for a glass of Grandpa’s dago red – Miles is in the sky – my bed was so cold this morning, the thermostat lost its memory – cell phone rings and no one is there, I’m out of signal bars.  Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go, we’re all gonna fuckin’ explode!

cold rain, sleepless –
beard grows
whisker by whisker

~ first published in Postcards to Jack (Naked Mannekin Press)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kitchen Secrets

artwork: ralph murre

Kitchen Secrets
by Julie C. Eger

The first time I heard Elvis
I was five-years-old.
Papa was gone
and I was peeking
around the corner
while Mama was
in the kitchen
with the radio on.
Come supper time
I danced to the table
with swaying hips
and bendy knees.
I used my spoon
as a microphone.

Papa gave me the look
and Mama said,
“That’s enough child.”
And I said, “No,
that’s alright now Mama,
That’s alright by me.”

~ first published on Poetry Dispatch

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Idea of Happiness

An Idea of Happiness
by Karl Elder
           Clear horizon; no clouds; no shadows; nothing.
                                                        —Alfred Hitchcock

It starts off innocent as hell.

You’re in a mall shopping for a razor
when in the bottom right corner
of a plate glass window
the transparent reflection
of a distant profile
steps into the picture.

The protruding abdomen and lower lip
are reminiscent maybe
of a Picasso line drawing
which causes you to turn
to find the man has disappeared.

You turn back and find
the phantom has disappeared.

Wind chimes across the way
play a melodramatic theme.

Now you are nervous and handle your pipe
the way you might wield a revolver.

There is the little girl who saw it all,
the one you’ve got by the collar
while her mother mumbles,
“For goodness sake let her go.”

You don’t know what’s come over you;
you’re truly sorry, you didn’t mean it,
it wasn’t entirely your idea,
and you tell her so.

Next thing you know you’re running;
your lungs are tattered sponges;
your heart is hitting its head against a wall.

From the beginning
you’ve been looking over your shoulder.

You take steps two at a time
weaving among these zombies
on an endless escalator.

Once you pass, their arms rise like a somnambulist’s,
their forefingers point in your direction.

Your scent is on the air.

The hordes are gathering at the bottom stair
and coming up.

They want satisfaction.

You turn on them.

They’re taken aback
and growl and scrap among themselves
for shreds of your leather jacket
you have shed in a brilliant diversionary tactic.

Your mind is a lens
which slowly ascends above it all,
through the skylight, past the low
overhanging clouds, while the scene
recedes, the city shrinks,
the continent grows small—
all contracts into a blue
and slightly oblong ball
falling into a wall-less well.

It is the inaudible plop
of the little girl’s penny in water
which echoes
your idea of happiness.

~ first published in the Cottonwood Review.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Forgive me, O Lord

photoart: ralph murre

Forgive me, O Lord 
by Jeanie Tomasko

I have been confusing window with glass. I have been confusing cup with water. Yesterday I thought white meant washed. I have said angel when I meant angle. I have been calling paper morning, morning afternoon, empty golden. I have even mistaken church for cement. I am blind. I am not the morning you made. And still, the tree outside my window is telling me everything I need to know about pink. The fire on the prairie is burning. The wine is saying how to drink. Dear Lord, show me how to unpray prayer, how to unbeseech seech, how to unholy wholly. I need to know how to uncup the words for window. How to unglass all this water.

~ first published in Right Hand Pointing

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The accidental navigator

artwork: henry denander

The accidental navigator
by Henry Denander

Scientists in Spain now claim
it’s not Christopher Columbus
who’s buried in the
magnificent Sevilla cathedral

but his son;

there was a mix-up when the
remains were moved
in the 17th century.

Columbus discovered
America but we all know
he believed he’d actually
reached Asia.

And when he landed on Cuba,
he was certain
he was in Japan.

Now it seems he’s lost
in Sevilla as well.

~ previously published in The ACCIDENTAL NAVIGATOR
(Lummox Press)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Point of Departure

photo: ralph murre

Point of Departure
by Christine Swanberg

When the last train trembles
              silent in its tracks
and the telephone’s ring becomes
              its whistle
or a lone gull’s cry
where you can be smaller
              than a hummingbird’s egg,
or where you can dance
              anonymous in purple socks.

Wear a cape with stars sewn on,
              a periwinkle ascot
and unbecoming bi-focals. In fact,
              unbecome altogether.
the brown and black jackets
              hung straight
these  working years. Unbecome
              your dreams of pencils,
black coffee, tests already passed.

Let loose
            the leather leash of approval.
Bark at anyone
             who insists you heel.
the hand that feeds you.

~ First published in WIND

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mischievous Eyes While Wondering

Mischievous Eyes While Wondering
by Jeffrey Winke

With a grimace of reluctance and a dramatic sigh, she gently peels away the sequin-encrusted magenta-color padded satin sleep mask that was custom crafted for her by the flamboyant artist-friend, Maximillian, who secretly collects office staplers - his favorite being the 1954 Tatum Aluminum Stapler with its "extra penetrating power" as the old advertisement boasted - and she rubbed the sandman's work from the corner of her mischievous eyes while wondering if her succumbing completely to the delicious enticements of the suave vampire had really happened last night or was it merely a longing fantasy in a dream that left her sweaty, breathless and satiated.

white of her teeth
after she finishes
a big yawn

~ previously published in I’ll Tell You So (Cross + Roads Press)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

CLOSING THE CABIN . . . RE / VERSE post #200

photo: patricia wellingham-jones

 by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Pine shadows stripe the blacktop,
vine maples spill gold on the road,
willows dance orange tangos in the breeze
as we drive to the lake in late October.

Our voices bounce across the water like skipping stones.
A flicker hammers his way up a trunk.
Jays demand sandwich scraps
the year is too old to provide.

On the far shore a loon pulls down a rain cloud.
We hear the slap of rising waves on the shore.
Lightning slashes through steamy black wool
and insects shrill their alien tongues.

Around us the air explodes with sound.
The storm breaks over our heads
like soup bowls thrown at a wall and I
want to cower with the dogs under the bed.

Next morning with pipes drained, windows shuttered,
we leave in the first sprinkles of snow.
The mountain prepares itself for winter—
lake black in the coming cold, birds silent.

~ previously published in Autumn Leaves

Friday, October 12, 2012

Part of the Deal

Part of the Deal
by Ralph Murre

was that you owed a good death.
Whether you were a good guy
or not, you had to die right.
If I came out from behind
something and pointed my finger
and said bang! before you did
and cried gotcha, you might
say no y’didn’t or gotcha
first y’dirty Nazi,
but in the end, we all had to die
with awful groaning and kicking
and many spasms and rolling
back of eyeballs and ultimately,
as anybody who’s ever seen
a dead guy knows, the tongue
must protrude, skewed
from a corner of the bluish lips.
And then, you had to stay
really still and painfully contorted
‘til you got bored and came back
to fight again or play red rover.
But it was not part of the deal
in the bang-you’re-dead wars
of South Sixth Street
that you got your balls shot off
or came back to play
wheelchair red rover.
Nobody on our street said
the way it happened when some
of us fought on other streets.
No amputees on Sixth.
No psych ward on Ohio Avenue.

~ first published in The Cliffs “Soundings”