Wednesday, February 27, 2013


photo: ralph murre

by Stephen Anderson

Driving home that day
On the bleak, otherwise
Deserted road,
The man, trance-like,
Remembered deep green forests,
The picnic-worthy riverside
That was ever so pleasant with
Warm human touch, shared drink
And food, laughter – afternoons
Since lived and forgotten
By the aging man, now
On this isolated road across
His glaring current reality,
Across this path not of his choosing,
Not really sure where he’s heading
In what seems like time-travel so
Distanced from those memories that
He now feels courted by
A siren, seductively singing from
The other side of his river memory,
A call to go to that river’s edge and
Slide into its cool embrace, Zen-like,
Not pushing the water at all,
His fingers open-webbed like those of
A fetus free-floating in the womb.  

~first published in Free Verse

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where Water Might Be Blue

artwork: vincent van gogh

Where Water Might Be Blue
-after Van Gogh’s Rhônebarques, 1888
     by Kristin Alberts

Boats float easy in the thick river.
Ropes are heavy and hand-twisted,
made by some old man with leather palms,
half-blind from gazing at rising suns and
braiding frayed string ends
that bind the floating to the steady,
boat to shore, man to land.
Planks lay crossways flat, paths
between boats and docks, waving walkways
where sea-legged men stagger under
piles of supplies, filling the vessel
with all the land can offer the sea as sacrifice--
armfuls of wood for fires at night,
trunks of dried meat, drinking water kegs,
and heavier loads of dreams and wishes
for where waves would take them,
only the ropes holding them back
from finding days and places
where water might be blue.

~ previously published in Where Water Might Be Blue
   (Wm Caxton Ltd)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis
by Steve Tomasko

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly; insects, it seems, gotta do one
horrible thing after another.   — Annie Dillard

The horrible thing is not
that she eats his head
while he’s mating with her.
And it’s not that he moves
faster without his head.

Well, actually,
that is the horrible thing.

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


photoart: sharon auberle


by Sharon Auberle

Nocebo:  I will harm

I will harm you
by the silence
that may fill our rooms
silence more enormous
than a star.
I will harm you
by not seeing
you--across the table from me
or your arms, silvered
by moonlight, reaching out.
These will hurt you more
than the piercing blades
of words thoughtlessly
hurled in anger.
I will harm you most
by rendering you invisible.

Placebo:  I will please

I will please you
with my breath, warm
on the curve of your neck,
with the respectful intake
of your words into my heart.
I will please you with my eyes
my touch, my fragrance, my taste
as you have pleased me.
I will please you with all
this body, blood and bones.
I do not mean to harm you, ever,
yet—in love—it is inevitable
that I will.

~ first published in Fox Cry Review

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Lake Butte des Morts

photo: ralph murre

On Lake Butte des Morts
by Gary C. Busha

She speaks through her beauty
unaware her silence is perfect language,
while I speak careless rivers.

My voice penetrates her innocence,
lingers blatantly in ephemeral silence.
She watches lake waves ebb
against the rocky shore.

She sighs as we walk the wood dock,
while the wind flattens her blouse to breasts.
She had known all she wanted to know
about me from my very first word.

~ first published in the Wisconsin Poets' Calendar

Saturday, February 16, 2013

You Teach Me the Night Sky

artwork: sharon auberle

You Teach Me the Night Sky
by Jeanie Tomasko

Don’t say Milky Way
say River of Heaven, stars
like stones, woodsmoke.

No, not stars, say myths
of fire, say Cygnus, say — oh
the sky is filled with

sadness – don’t say sad
say moon, say orange, say —
the moon is an orange

tonight, Love, tonight
Aquarius brings water
for us the sky is

an old god in blue
and a boy with an orange
in his coat pocket.  

~ previously published in Sharp as Want
   (Little Eagle Press)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Our corner spruces

artwork: ralph murre

by CX Dillhunt

Our corner spruces
fingering the snowy sky
counting on each flake

~ first published in Hummingbird

Thursday, February 14, 2013


photo: ralph murre

by Nancy Rafal

I will give you my laughing eyes
            if you will caress my weary face.

I will give you my warm embrace
            if you will smile across the room.

I will give you the key to my heart
            if you take care to oil the lock.

I will give you the world on a string
            if you give me a ride on its ups and downs.

I will give you a map to places I’ve never been
            if you promise to drive carefully.

~ first published in the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Good Dog

artwork: ralph murre

Good Dog
by Robert Nordstrom

 My dog’s a liar and she isn’t very good at it.
Chin resting on her paws, she looks up at me
with her cartoon-cute eyes as if to say — Who me?
I have no idea what happened to the cracker.
But I’m not falling for her mendacious ways.
The soup cracker on the table was there
when I left the room and gone
when I returned. She has no alibi,
no sentient ravenous being to blame
so we lapse into a meltdown stare down,
which I know I’ll win because she,
like her peers, can’t bear confrontation
unless prepared to do something about it—
and she isn’t.

I step outside and light a cigarette.
This morning I told my wife I had quit
for good. Looked her dead
in the eyes and said — that’s it.
She smiled sweetly and gave me
a patronizing pat on the shoulder.

I flip my butt deep into the ferns
and go back inside. Dog lies
in the same spot, cracker
on the floor under the table
not two feet from her quivering nose.
Shameless, I pat her head,
Good dog.

~ first published in Rosebud

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do you know what it means . . .

artwork: ralph murre

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
by Albert DeGenova

Downstairs my son plays boogie woogie
Professor Longhair Dr. John
New Orleans-style stride piano.
It is Mardi Gras week.
He’s practicing for those
Fat Tuesday parties.
His foot stomps on the floor,
vibrates through the walls and up
to my desk. My head sways in time
to the rhythmic pulsing of his left hand
the dizzying parade of his right
sends serious thought into a funky pirouette
puts a smile on my face a reminder
of that old bouncing gait, of Bloody Marys
and Hurricanes mixed with rum and trumpets
and street dancers with bottle-cap taps on their shoes
a reminder of what this kind of blues can do
to a Dad who knows his son knows nothing
of Lenten sadness, only the joy of dancing,
a Dad who knows his own success
through the songs his son chooses to play –
Big Chief, Stagger Lee, Tippy Tina,
Laissez les bons temps rouler!

~ first published in The Blueing Hours (Virtual Artists Collective)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Long Bones

photoart: ralph murre

Long Bones
by April Michelle Bratten

She said she could smell the
strength from within you,
could feel the red climb your meat
like a ladder
as you flew down the stairs,
your breath coated in beer
and the euphoria of wings.

how thick was your marrow
as your head bent like a god,
and split apart from itself
as you crashed into the wall
at the bottom of the steps
in front of your young daughter?

Was your heart as swollen
as a bare orange in the hand
of a little blues singer
who thought the moon
was too bright in that moment,
slicing past the window,
a reflection of your chaotic speed?

She was right.
It was all too brilliant,
the light just perfect
for this head-dance,
and it was just an instant,
she said,
with the flapping of great wings,
at the top of the stairs,
being the angel,
becoming the devil-bird,
cracking the air with your long bones.

 ~ previously published, in slightly different form,
    in It Broke Anyway (NeoPoiesis Press)

Saturday, February 9, 2013


artwork: william marr

by William Marr

Even with a gutful of sorrow
he is unable to cry

The listless, unopened umbrella
becomes increasingly
a burden

~ previously published in Autumn Window (Arbor Hill Press)

Friday, February 8, 2013

if god were an impressionist

photoart: ralph murre

if god were an impressionist

     by Erik Richardson
if an impressionist had designed the world
there would be no edges sharp enough to cut
and letters and books would be far too blurry to read.

water would be made of blue and white cobblestones,  
of course. our hair would look like bird nests
as the fun-house mirrors would never show true.

there would be no rainforests or deserts
only lilypad ponds, and manicured parks, 
and fields of poppies or wheat spreading to the edges.

everyone would live near the bumpy water,
like the sea coast and the river’s edge,
riddled with sailboats or steamships or both.

and what night sky fireworks there would be
with every planet and orange-white-hurricane star
twisting and twirling the dark around it

while all along the street, smudged ballerinas
would sit in sidewalk cafes with gray-bearded men
with umbrellas and top hats, murmuring in french.

~ first published in Stoneboat

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Under a bushel

digital negative from argentine flag: ralph murre

Under a bushel
by Marilyn Zelke-Windau

Under a bushel
she hid the moon,
the neon city in a candle,
the year colored green, yellow, red.
A white-black wave of flash
exposed the switch,
and dimming the fire
of the night beam
she came, blinded, to the bright
and stepped into the ray.

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


collage: daniel abdal-hayy moore

 by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

An underwater oceanographer looks through his
round porthole and sees a

celestial city riding on silver clouds

An astronomer glues his eyes to a telescope’s eyepiece and
sees a convoy of whales just heading out

from a lunar orbit after a meeting of the Shoosh Clan

I look down at this page in the
act of writing and see

millennia of backbent scribes trying to
get it down in words before it

all turns back into sugar

The downpour is ceaseless but as we
glance out through the falling strands of water we might

catch a glimpse of the pearl necklaces God
dangles down from The Beloved’s neck

just near enough to earth to
entice us both forward and upward

with a glitter in our eyes only
magnified by the sights we see

A thundercloud that opens on Odin’s Peak

A rainbow backdrop to all the oceans
clapping their hands for joy at God’s

fishy banquet day after day

and at night when moonlight spreads its
elegant silken tablecloth out on the waves

~ previously published in Sparks Off the Main Strike
   ( The Ecstatic Exchange )

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roosters and Hens

artwork: ralph murre

Roosters and Hens
by Wendy Vardaman

At bedtime Mother told us about growing
up on her grandparents’ farm, chasing chickens
across the yard, peering into their dark home.
How Grandfather got the axe when Grandmother

wanted a bird for the stew pot and the time
she saw a crestfallen rooster on his feet,
the head cut off. Terrified at eight or nine,
she ran blindly in the other direction,

only to have him turn and chase her toward
the fence where she set one new white-sandaled foot
on a fresh cow pie. Grandfather roared, doubling
over his blade while she cried, hopped up and down,

tried to shake the shit from her toes. The sandals
were never the same, despite Grandmother’s “Good
as new,” when she finished scratching at the straps.
Mother said she could never wear open shoes

again, and left the farm, still a girl, to work
in the city, marry my father, and buy
painted porcelain roosters that collected
there, props from an unfinished childhood. They hung

from avocado walls, crowed at the sink, caught
grease and dirt near the stove, presided over
the orange island counter top where my dad
also roosted with soliloquies and beers

he never got himself but called for from his
bar-stool perch, demanding that we leave our ranch
house coops,  yelling no matter how long it took,
Mother clucking, “Wouldn’t hurt you two to help.”

~ previously published in Appleseeds (Sacred Fools Press)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bird: Avis

artwork: cassie marie edwards

Bird: Avis
by Joseph Briggs

-an instrument used for opening up the once-living & partaking in them for nourishment

-holds all the innate wiring that became connected time out of mind

-a large showy feather the August wind rips off & thus becomes flotsam & jetsam

-the furnace no one sees, only hears

-a tunnel, a maze, a rabbit hole

-a pendulum of skin closer to the dead leaves than the neck

~ first published in Black & Blue

Friday, February 1, 2013

Second Thoughts, a call and response

cover art: kenneth koskela

On Second Thought
by Ralph Murre

You know that conversation where they ask
who you want to be with on an island,
and you say Gandhi or Walt Whitman
or Slim Whitman or Penelope Cruz
or, maybe, a guy with a big    boat?

Well, nuts to that –

I want to be with the person
who first put a snooze-button on an alarm clock.
I want to be with the person
who first put an eraser on a pencil; that little,
curved, undo arrow on my computer screen.
I want to meet the guy who invented reverse.
Wouldn’t it be pretty good to meet the person
who figured out what to do
when you’d put too much salt in the soup?
I want to be with the person who found the antidote
for some kind of snakebite,
and I want that person to like me very much.
I want to be able to change my mind
if this person plays banjo or prefers Lite beer.

I won’t get all Henry VIII about it,
but I want to be able to change my mind.

On ‘On Second Thought’
by Amy Murre Klemm

Yes, my uncle –

These are all well and good –
and you’ve got me wondering why
it is always one,
What are the chances of just one?

But if it must be, if that’s the game,
and if like you say we can’t choose
the guy with the boat or the
one with a good shortwave radio or the
genius with a matter transporter or the
mama who can change you right quick
to one of the mer-people,

then it is time to ponder.

Your second set may well be better, for
Would Gandhi be too political, even way out there?
Would Walt be forever after your favors?
Would Slim yodel endlessly for help?
Are we sure of Penelope without her makeup?
Of Penelope at all for real?

Instead you want the innovator,
the second chances and thoughts,

And just so,
I believe I want the escape artist,
not the magician, but the pleasure artist,
the master of stupid and lovely acceptance.
The ancestor of all those who say, Ah,
Well, fuck it
He who first said, Nah, I ain’t shook.

The master horticulturalist,
the builder of stills,
one who can stay alive but not too much engaged,
and teaches it well.
Falling ass-backward into fresh water and
simple little foods as elsewhere
he might have into money,
reminding you that you’re fine.

I want the guy who first decided on
staying up all night drinking and
sleeping past noon,
who will ask me, with real lidded eyes,
What else do you have to do today?

The inventor-of-the-hammock type,
the discoverer of naps in the shade.
A builder of great fires. A dancer. A drummaker.

The bather in springs,
the gazer at horizons.
Quite possibly a tamer of small friendly animals.

Not one to panic when our hair gets growing
out of control, when our noses burn a little red.
The one who says, with a tip of the head, and
not long after you’ve washed up on the shore,
Well –
here we are.
So what do we do
while we wait?
and smiles,
and passes you a bottle,
or a little rollie, or both.

I wouldn’t even balk at the banjo.
Might even help him carve a rocking chair
for the porch on the little shack we’d build,
not too quickly or too well.

~ these two pieces first published as a pair,
  a call and response, in The Cliffs “soundings”