Thursday, May 30, 2013

On a Hot Afternoon in Jerusalem

detail: historic illustration: artist unknown

On a Hot Afternoon in Jerusalem
by Stephen Anderson

The sun-parched face of an old Arab
crowned with a kaffiyeh,
his nicotine-stained fingers clutching
a smoking Galloise,
peers directly at the

Is this a survivor of untold losses,
of so many blood-curdling mourning wails
of Arab women,
this very same man who sips black coffee
sugared to taste from a demitasse,
a sweet companion to his cigarette,
a sure soothing balm for desperate souls
in such toxic, war-torn environments,
here during a sweltering afternoon in the
calmer, narrow lanes of a Jerusalem souk
where Arabic words dance between
walls, then flee, muted, into the open air?

Does he dream too – that Allah
will some day
gunfire forever?

~ previously published in The Silent Tango of Dreams

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


photoart: sharon auberle

by Linda Back McKay

By now you have had a lot of practice. No art or science is perfect and that is why the art of grieving is practiced by all. This class is mandatory for matriculation into the next life, which may or may not contain grieving. Either way, you take your chances. When presented with the chance to choose nothing else, drop to your knees and lower yourself to the floor. Prostrate, let the tongues of anger and cooling sorrow wash over you in morning sunlight. After you are tired of being on the floor, pick yourself up again. Wash your hands in the bathroom sink with a strong soap that foams, you will notice, like malted milk. Above all, do not think about grieving or it will take hold of your thought and squeeze harder than you can bear. Take to clouds instead. Clouds like these, that swim above the aqua sea, skirting daytime and night time, content with their chameleon lives, neither coming nor going. Take yourself on a little journey to someplace small because big is impossible right now. Save big for when you are stronger. In your small place, watch for the smallest of things – a thimble, a fluff of dust wafting across the desk. The old quill pen that you can now imagine scratching a message to home, please await my return. Your humble servant,  

~ first published in The Wind Blows, The Ice Breaks (Nodin Press)

Monday, May 27, 2013


digital art: ralph murre

by John L. Campbell

A cool Caribbean breeze sweeps white sand across the veranda
at a villa overlooking the rugged rocks bordering the Atlantic.
On my left, a purple profile of Puerto Rico cowers under clouds,
and north, the tiny island of Culebra floats like a gray battle ship.

From my perch on the isle of Vieques I sip hot coffee and watch
a woman fish from a rock the size and shape of Moby Dick.
She's lean, muscular and wiry like a sprinter, a soccer player,
a tall, willowy Olympian in short-shorts, long legs and naked feet.

A tattoo of a purple-blue dragon peeks from her undershirt,
white against her tan skin shimmering as she twirls
a fishing line like a lasso glistening in the sun, a cowgirl,
arms akimbo, trying to cut the lead stallion from the herd.

She tosses the line and it sails up and out like a snake in flight,
the weight, then the bait, kiss the turquoise surf and sink deep.
She taps a cigarette from a pack, cups her hand and lights up
with the skill of a seaman on deck with the wind in her face.

Her smoke drifts upward, I inhale her breath, its tobacco aroma.
Who are you woman, where do you live, with whom do you sleep?
Perhaps we could meet between cinco y siete behind the stacks
in the library, or in a booth behind palms at Fat Jack’s CafĂ©?

Motionless, she watches the water, a bucket her only companion.
I want to climb down to those rocks, ask what she's using for bait,
ask what fish she’s caught, would she welcome a man's company?

~ first published in Free Verse

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us
by Mary Jo Balistreri

In a land where stone takes one breath
every thousand years, I watch my father sleep.
Rivers of his body rise and fall,
skin map-thin at 93, arteries bottle-necked, narrowed.
Heat sears day, dims distant sand dunes to mirage.

His eyelids twitch, a leg muscle contracts.
He awakens with a start—perhaps currents
strange and powerful burrow
through his memory’s alchemy and pass
between us, this landscape that throbs
with ancient rhythms and ancestral pulses.

Half asleep, he shuffles to the door, brushes my arm
aside and steps into the sun. He whistles and waits.
A quail in elaborate topknot and desert fatigues
struts from under the orange tree.

The bird calls back but stops, sociable only at a distance.
Dad knows not to move. In a few minutes,
she takes her nine offspring
in the opposite direction, legs spinning
like pinwheels. He watches until they’re gone,
the way he used to watch me.
Later, he strolls among other affections—oleander,
bougainvillea.  His fingers brush the vine of flowers,
and I remember his gentle touch as he lingers
by blooms of deepest pink.

            We rode on the Aerial Bridge. He held me tight
            against his chest, patted my back, soothed my cries.
            It will be okay he said over and over as we rose
            higher and higher.

Memory jolts like an alarm as he leans toward
the cacti, the spiny seeds of bursage.
He lifts his head to the sun, my panic spiraling.
Like the fresh smell of creosote after a rain,
love’s brief moment stuns.
I take his hand as we walk toward the house,
inhale the fragrance of Here. Now.
Breath that takes me forward, breath
that will take him home.  

~ first published in Mobius

Thursday, May 23, 2013


collage: daniel abdal-hayy  moore

 by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

The dawn comes up a very planetarium blue
red tinged at the lower edge
little birds are untucking their heads and shaking their
sleepy brains awake
cockroaches are running for cover
somewhere a murderer is nervously washing his
      knife looking over his shoulder
somewhere lovers are turning in each other’s arms
hating the day
somewhere a Bodhissatva is looking at
nothingness from nothingness’ standpoint
through slitted eyes and smiling

A ship is sinking coffee cups rolling on the floor
a deer is licking her doe awake long black tongue
my own eyes are burning from being awake too
my heart is brimming with the circling
       lariat of this song
trying to not try to let the song lines
         come through

as the sky now is a more
uniform whitish wash of blue

~ previously published in Millennial Prognostications
   (The Ecstatic Exchange)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


photoart: ralph murre


by Jude Genereaux

It could have been the wind
batten’ed ‘round the house

the brass chimes maniacally
clanging against the timbers

waking me in the hours
those wee small hours, I used to sleep;

it could have been the silent moon’s
furtive sliding through my window

branding it’s lament on your empty pillow,
knowing what haunts the little hours
                                              is you.

                        ~ first published in the Museletter

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


artwork: ralph murre

by Ronald Baatz

He mentioned seeing his
former lover on the street.

He said that she had appeared ruined
by time, by life's wretchedness.

He said that he had been shocked
when he looked into her eyes.

Other than this he didn't mention anyone else
in the letter, which was strange.

He was not the kind of person
who avoided heartfelt gossip.

I put the letter down on the table, but
when a breeze started playing with it

I stuck it in my shirt pocket.
It was the kind of beautiful day when

voices carried,
lovers married.

I wanted to write back immediately,
while my thoughts were still fresh.

A couple of pens and paper
were on the table.

I could smell the scented geranium
in my window.

I started my letter by saying
something about his old lover

apparently still leading the wild life,
then continued on to other matters,

my pen skating along in
a conversational tone.

I told him that there were small birds
making a fuss in the maple.

That there was a cat
sitting in the tall grass,

watching clouds turn into
flocks of doves.

That it was a Tuesday
and for me it was a


~ first published in Yellow Silk

Sunday, May 19, 2013


by Constance Vogel Adamkiewicz

Eyes squeezed shut, you watch a mangled newsreel of your life.  
The floor rumbles.  Something has unearthed the earth,
a great exhalation as if the whole world has breathed out.
The dog pricks up her ears, paces the bare floors,
her nails a metronome - click-click, click-click,
from twelve to two o’clock, when the bear 
of darkness crawls from its cave.
Drowsy, you plod to the porch,
where the dog has led you.
She stands, a statue peering out.
In the stillness you expect something 
to blast across the lawn - a coyote
with a bloody rabbit in its jaws, a burglar
with your jewelry in his burlap bag, or worse. 
Wide awake till dawn you rock in the wicker chair 
watching the black holes between the hostas and ferns.  
You can deal with a coyote or burglar, but not with your life.

~ first published in Willow Review

Thursday, May 16, 2013


digital collage: ralph murre

by Susan M. Firer

Before his doctor cut into his
7th cervical disk,
like an old Swede’s goat he clumped
climbed the black garage roof next door
thump thump to throw
down on me the lightest, most
fragrant bunches of lilacs.  I lusted
for the lilacs, the drunk
lilacs, the purple flabellum,
spodumene, sumptuous benedictional lilacs,
the Nerudian excessive lilacs.
Neruda’s desk came to him from a wave
off Isla Negra.  “Matilde! Matilde!
My desk!  My desk!” he yelled,
spotting the wood in the ocean.
Together Matilde and Neruda
“went down to the beach and sat
on the sand, waiting for a wave
to wash up the wood….”
Neruda placed the wood ocean view
in front of a window and placed
a photo of young Whitman on it &
a photo of old Whitman on it.
How Whitman loved lilacs.  You can
smell lilacs when you read Whitman.
Breathing lilacs our house falls dark
around us, drops like night clothing
days’ faces.  Convalescent hearted
lilac pilgrims cannot stop breathing
the wet dark lilac nights.
Put a bed of lilacs down
and I will meet you.  We will not sleep.
Friends all over are falling.
There are so many ways to fall.
Lilacs offer their transfusions.
In the Houghton Mifflin New
College Edition of AMERICAN HERITAGE
LANGUAGE, on page 757 (like/limb),
they show photos of the perfectly-postured
lily & the very well-behaved lily
of the valley.  What about lilacs?  I write
the editors.  What about scratch & sniff lilacs?
All over late May, lilacs like burglars
surround outbuildings,
& houses, & hospitals, & bus stops.
(On your way to your morning
bus, if you stop to pick Gabriel’s lilacs,
you will miss your bus.)
Lilacs heal lovers’
quarrels, and I swear they floated
the ship from Singapore
anchored outside our Memorial
Day lake breakwater,
making the huge ship look
like a ghost ship,
floating on lilac water.  You
already know a lot about a girl
if you see her carrying a sprig of lilacs,
if she tucks a sprig in her hair,
if she bathes in an evening tub
full of lilacs and water.
Night commendatory lilacs brush
the windows with lavender stars
of fragrance.  Dirigibles
of lilacs cover us beautifully
as a garden’s bell cloche.
I raise my lilac scratched arms
for the mammogram lady.
She arranges my breasts on her
just spray cleaned plastic plate
like cut flowers.  I believe in evening
she might be giving a formal dinner.
So much is conjecture,
subjective, history.
In the Downer Theatre yellow-starred,
emerald-green-tiled ticket booth,
the ticket seller sits like a fortune
teller.  She has put a wavy-script sign
in her window.  It reads: HOLD ON
It should read: LILACS ARE ALWAYS
LOVELY.  They sign pleasure (On our
dark, night living
room floor, he surrounds me with lilacs
& whispers, “Now you mustn’t move).
Tulips & pumpkins trip me.
I feel misplaced as poodles
in Lake Michigan.  Poodles in Lake Michigan!
My mother told me I was mailed to earth
in an envelope of lilacs,
there is not one reason to disbelieve her.
In lilac days, my mouth full
of ripe, yellow starfruit,
I swallow and listen to the already almost
lilium & tomatoes & delphiniums &
the always too brief flowering lilacs.
In the dark I sneak
out on the soft, moon shine yarrow-
yellow-caterpillar like seed softened
sidewalks.  I stand pelted by soft
green maple seed wings that helix fall
wind whip to earth.  (In sunlight
the children will split & wear
on their noses the same winged seeds.)
I stand in the ample
lilacs, the only flower with enough
fragrance to convert everyone
in the city to crime.
Dorothy visited the Emerald City.  Yearly
I surrender myself to the unrestrained
wash rabble lilacs,
the windy caravan of lilacs,
the narcoleptic steambath
invitation of lilacs.

                        ~ first published in The Iowa Review

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tai Chi in 4 Movements

digital manipulation (ralph murre) of garment embroidery (artist unknown)

Tai Chi in 4 Movements
by Jackie Langetieg

I.  The Beginning

The teacher wears black and white,
light in opposition to dark--the symbol
for yin and yang.  Unknowingly
over half the group does, too,
I don’t feel as fat as I dreaded.

The warm-up is just camouflaged exercise,
but the sparkling day bribes me to enjoy it.
My hibernated muscles stretch stubbornly
I’m awkward--an elephant trying to be a jaguar.

II. The Form

My body tries to forget itself
return to the rhythm of nature.
I walk heavy, like a bear,
filled with bear power.

My chest is a box, my spine a string of pearls
connected to the universe.  I shift my weight
to the left foot, my right arm lifts on the kiss
of a breeze--weight
an anachronism of no weight.

Practice anything, she says in today’s farewell--
even if it’s wrong.  Next time you’ll have something
to correct. 

She didn’t check my form, touch my leg.
Am I already perfect?
Or has she deferred to the old bear instead--
left it to its lost causes.

III.  The Practice

I am in the barefoot dark--I step out cautiously
turning my right foot, stepping strongly on my left heel
settling into my balance.
I loosen my belly’s tension, turn my head,
pulling it past stiff neck muscles
rigid prisoners of my clenched jaw.
Just when foot is firm and body balanced--
the lean in to the wind thrilling as an untried lover--
a new direction is demanded.
Practice.  I don’t know where my balance
will meet my movement. Practice.
Start again in the familiar footfall,
leaning out,
feeling the sweet soul-kiss of new space made mine.

IV.  Animal Frolics

Resting deer, walking deer
fall back
swing arm--not able to think like a deer
because I’m watching the teacher.

I close my eyes and become the deer,
drift through dark
                                pull back
                                        listen for danger
                                                 press forward.
The pond wears its cool scent--
I walk on small boned hooves toward marsh grass,
ears up, tongue on the roof of my mouth,
jaw relaxed.

Each cool Tai Chi morning
of these storm-surrounded days remains perfect.
My garlic and brewers yeast discourage lazy mosquitoes.
Perhaps another night I’ll become a mosquito,
bite the deer, take her heart into my own,
and fly through the woods bending and pawing the earth.

~ first published by The Wisconsin Academy for Science, Arts, and Letters

Monday, May 13, 2013


artwork: ralph murre

by Michael Koehler

I want to write
a death poem,
for no one in particular.

I won’t say how you died.
And I can’t speak  for
the others left behind.

It’s almost certain
your death wasn’t fair,
was years too soon.

Unable to make a quilt
from your shirt, or braid your hair
into a vase of flowers,

or cast your dear face
in whitest porcelain
to hang on the wall,

please allow me these small words,
flower petals, really, no more,
for no other reason than

you know I need to write them.

~ previously published in Red Boots (Little Eagle Press)

Saturday, May 11, 2013


photo: ralph murre

by Donna Hilbert

To change the water, I pluck
last week’s tulips from their vase,
but the turbans unhinge in my hands,
orange cups upend in the sink,
with underside bands
of stem-colored green revealed.
A still life subject, I think:
tulips in their disrepair.

My love is a painter. Daily I tell him,
paintings are everywhere
but poems, my dear, are rare.
I am not a painter,
so I drop the old petals into a sack
with over-ripe cheese, uneaten fruit
and down the back stairs I march
the whole tableau to the trash.

~ first published in Tears in the Fence

Thursday, May 9, 2013

At a Jazz Bar in Denver . . .

photo: ralph murre

At a Jazz Bar in Denver with My Son
and His Friends, I Learn Something New
by Mary Jo Balistreri

I sit and listen in the midst
of my son’s crowd, speak
a bouncy banter.
We kill time
with the Simpsons before
David plays jazz.
In jeans and casual jackets,
we drink Coors,
check the wind-tossed sky,
the flash of lightning, hoping
in spite of the weather, a crowd
will pour through the door.

After a while, I hear a shift
of tone, a carefulness
I hadn’t noticed before.
In a conversation of augmented fifths
and ninths, the friends address me
in safe thirds. I listen more carefully.
Where is the cutting edge,
the forward motion? We converse
in C major, squarely metered.
I sit back stunned. The lack
of dissonance strikes a new chord.
When did Youth leave me and move on?
I adjust my position on the barstool,
lean into her absence, wonder
how I never saw her go.

~ first published in the San Pedro River Review