Saturday, June 29, 2013

Memento Mori Minnesota

artwork: nicolaes berchem

Memento Mori Minnesota
 by Sarah Busse

End of June. In a few patches
in the upper reaches green
turns orange—the early
stages. Minnesota’s like
the Middle Ages, never far
from death, from dark, from winter.
Here, only doctors
and cereal boxes
talk any sense.
Eat fiber. Say your prayers.
The Renaissance
was born in a temperate
zone, with more lenient
weather, a kinder clime
altogether, where
sublime angels of perspective
tread the balmy air tuning
their lute strings. Of course
we know all along
those trees are wrong, but,
when we learn a friend might
have cancer, we don’t talk of it
with the windows open,
for fear our neighbor, Fate,
might hear. When she knocks,
we don’t open our door.

~ first published in White Pelican Review

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heaney Whispers

photo: erik richardson

Heaney Whispers

by Erik Richardson

Sitting in the Dublin airport where runways left
a surgical scar in the midst of green-bellied fields
the country stares at me through Heaney’s eyes
through time. His picture whispers from the terminal wall
of railway children and telegraph wires
slightly out of place here. The whispers
move on through, me waiting like others before for a plane
with scalpel wings to sever me, history.
As the wings slice, peat-black shadows
bleed out to pool under me under crumbled ruins
unhealed and held in place
by rain and dark, by vigilant sheep, tangled
with winding roads
themselves cut through time
through the midst of green-bellied fields

~ originally published in Chiron Review

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All this shake

photo: ralph murre

by Tom Montag

All this shake
of day and night,
that woman says;

all the lay
of shade and light;
all the bounding

silence; the green
streak of earth;
yes, the water;

yes, the sky;
all of everything
today. Amen.

~ previously published in That Woman
  (support provided by the Friends of Lorine Niedecker)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Night

artwork: ralph murre

Saturday Night
by Peggy Trojan                                                                                          
We choose the top shelf where veterans go,
Sixty, in my prime, four, in his.
One hundred seventy degrees coaxes us to sit still,
adjusting to the heat.

We’d partnered before.  He knows the rules.
No clothes, no rough talk, no throwing water,
no obvious stares.  Church manners.

The room is small.  Lined in cedar, three tiers of bench.
Stove in the corner, topped with rocks.
Thermometer, dim light, water basin and dipper.
Birch bough switch for the penitent.

Having shed all visible signs of status at the door,
we sit side by side, equals.
Talk is sparse.  No chatter.  Quiet observation.
We sense the spirits of my parents, and their parents,
and parents before them.  We feel Finn.

We dip wash cloths in the basin between us
to cool our flaming faces.  Smile.
Talk becomes confident and wise.

“Did you ever notice, Gramma, that men and women
look the same from the back,
but not the front….?

Then dumps the communal water
on his head.

~ first published in The Finnish American Reporter

Friday, June 21, 2013

Notes from Skinner's Elbow

digital manipulation by ralph murre of photo by larry lemski

Notes from Skinner’s Elbow
by Michael Koehler

The wind never stops.
It is tireless like the river
and aloof.
The wind sometimes talks to the ground,
two hundred-year-old trees
shake at such dire language.
The moss crawls to the underside of boulders,
branches bump each other like angry men shoving.
Other times
it whispers to the top branches
of aspens,
trades secrets like shy young girls
who sit in the sun,
mouth to ear.
The wind can sound like a lullaby.
After the sun dies
I sleep in the arms of cedars.
When the sun is reborn
the first things I see are Kingfishers,
perched two to a branch
all up and down the river.
Their diving for minnows is a gentle blue hailstorm.
One time,
like a nightmare,
I heard the wind scream.
After the lumbermen left
the wind had no branches to rest on,
or sing through.
The wind became a gale,
furious, blind with anger.
Defeated, it left that part of the river.
Now it visits once or twice a year,
finds whatever it seeks,
comes back stronger the next year.

The time comes to put away the reels,
the rods, the tackle boxes.
There comes a day when it gets too dark
for hearts to intrude with hook and sinker.
A time when the river says
You have enjoyed my bounty.
Now you must listen to my story.
The deep grumble of the night river
glows over the fire pit
where oak and pine warm hearts.
So terrible is the river’s tale
that we might freeze to stone
if unguarded by flame.
As the moon swims through its bed of stars,
I listen.
When the story ends and light returns,
all I have the courage to say is,
River, my friend,
I have no place to stand.
Between water and land is a space
too insubstantial to hold me,
knowing what I know.
My brother tells me
the quest may be for each heart alone
but the journey can be shared.

We sit on the banks of the river
at Skinner’s Elbow and play our flutes.
The sun rises and blesses us,
who have asked for nothing
but another day to live, to love, to learn.
Because our flutes sing songs from our hearts,
we hear a question not meant for our ears;
a question trees ask the wind, rain, and the shadows:
Have our Brothers returned?
The red squirrel says to the white pine,
They play strange songs.
The raven says to the trillium,
They sing like mourners.
And the wind says to the eagle,
Yes, but they have learned their way here.

~ previously published in Notes from Skinner’s Elbow

   (Wolfsong Publications)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

JUNE 18, 2004

JUNE 18, 2004
by Cathryn Cofell

This is the day you wake
and say: Who are you
and why are you wearing
those ridiculous pajamas? 
What happened to the sexy nightie
girl who used to slither up in you,
whisper Nancy Sinatra songs
but not the one about the boots?

This is the day you fall
out of love with yourself,
that day you realize
you will have to come up with
the all-time best break-up line,
but even as you think it, you know
it will never happen;
you will never leave your wretched self.
You will stay and stay and take it,
become the someone you really are,
a sloshy, spineless thing, old
and whiny, the fat outcast in glasses,
she’s back from the milk carton,
she’s back.

~ previously appeared in Sweet Curdle (Marsh River Editions)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Domestic Arts

photoart: ralph murre

Domestic Arts
by Donna Hilbert

I am a young mother
so bored staying home
I agree to play Bridge
with my neighbors,
whom I suspect put up with me
to find a fourth to fill the table.

They are goddesses of domestic arts,
and between games hold forth
on finer points of decoupage, macramé
and the transformation of cans
into casseroles.

Still I am smug,
for I have gifts of my own:
precognitive dreams
and gift of the phone,
which I demonstrate by chanting
Mother Mother Mother Dear
call me now while my friends are here,
and when the phone rings
they are believers.

Because I love an audience,
I tell them my dreams:
how I see trash cans burning
the night before they burst in flame
behind my house,
how Papa’s heart attack
awakens me from sleep.
How I knew the night before she labored
Jan’s baby boy would be born dead.

Now the neighbors play three-handed games—
Pinochle, Euchre—
keep their children indoors,
cross against the light
when they see me coming.

~ first published in Tears in the Fence

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Little Blue Horses

artwork: franz marc

The Little Blue Horses
by Pat Tompkins

Bold swoops of color, the canvas filled
 by three muscular blue animals,
 round haunches foreshortened
 black manes trace their curved necks.

Grazing a bright yellow and green field,
 heads tucked, shy, they do not gaze at the viewer.
 Pure potential energy of the new century
 before the war. The artist died at Verdun.

A quarter century later: Munich,
 an exhibit of “degenerate art” hosted by Hitler.
 “Die Kleinen blauen Pferde” shown
 with works by other artists. Verboten.

Picture Nazis angry about a painting
 of blue horses by Franz Marc.
 Goebbels and his ilk upset by horses
 the wrong color. Imagine the danger.

~ originally published in Everyday Weirdness

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Returning to Work

artwork: ralph murre

Returning to Work
by Donal Mahoney

After the others had welcomed him back,
had shaken his hand and returned to their desks,
another as ancient pulled over his chair
to inquire of him who six months before
had been taken away
on a pallet of interlocked arms
and parallel faces:
“What happened that day?
No one would say.”

Both men talked softly,
held cigarette rites:
the delights of the tapping,
the lighting, the stubbing,
the one man explaining,
the other one listening,
both of them knowing
a matter of months.

~ first published in Cinquefoil

Monday, June 10, 2013

Playing the Train

Playing the Train
for Donald Byrd

by Karl Garson

Nights, noise out of time
drove him from the building
and into the subway where tracks
clicked like the good sidemen
he couldn't afford.

He'd work the valves quietly
and ride them to the end of the line.
Dozens of trips and he'd know
the flip side of silence
is recorded alone,

and being there has nothing
to do with where you are.

~ previously published in Barnwood

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How I Got My Wings

public sculpture, buenos aires

How I Got My Wings
by Lisa Vihos

They began                                                   
as an annoying itch                          
between my shoulder blades                                   
running along the scapula                           
like poison ivy                                               
turned pins and needles                               
turned porcupine quills                                
instigating an irritation                    
so profound I had to drink                           
myself to sleep each night;                           
a half bottle of cabernet                               
per side. I was beside myself                        
with grief over a wide array                        
of losses over a long trail                              
of years and tears.                                        
Tears, I had shed                               
by the bucket.                                                           

But one day
the itch was gone.
I woke up with a feather
tickling my nose, realizing
my own wings caressed
my face like the hands
of a phantom lover
who wanted me blessed,
wanted to tease me awake
and surprise me
with a gift. The gift
to fly up out of the pain
at the drop of a hat
or the flap of a wing
like going airborne
in a dream.

~ first published in Seems

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sundays on the South Side

artwork: ralph murre

Sundays on the South Side
by Robert M. Zoschke

one day driving over to Auntie’s
a huge red sign appeared
on a rubble strewn street corner
along Cicero Avenue

Gas City the sign hollered
and watching that joint
rise up from the ground
was a thrill

first Chi Town station
with a mini mart
and huge signs
warning not to shoplift

I was a young kid then
staring at those signs
I was still a
good kid

best part about going to Auntie’s
was Uncle waiting
on his racing pigeons to
land and hop into the coop

two years of pleading with Auntie
please let me sit outside with Uncle
finally she talked to him
and he said okay

Uncle never said anything
he just sweated it out
waiting on his birds
corner of 59th and Hamlin

before she died I asked Auntie
why Uncle was always so serious
sweating out those birds
coming home

Auntie said Robert those men
bet a lotta money on them birds
and Robert I mean
a lotta money

~ previously published in THE LOWDOWN (Street Corner Press)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Brassai I

self-portrait: george brassai

Brassai I
by Jessica Goody      

Reclining nude,
Charcoal shadows
A bare torso
Arching taut.

The narrow pit
Of the navel a cavern,
A black hole
In the galaxy of your frame.

Breasts rolling like eyes,
Nipples glaring;
Bands of light stretch across your abdomen.
Armpits and pelvis lined in black
As though streaked with tar.

The line bisecting your body
From breast bone to uterine point
As though a white-gloved
Surgeon is standing
Out of frame, ready
To press down
With the silver arrow of his scalpel,
Drawing blood darker than any shadow.

The portrait of your
Sinewy, bare expanse of skin
Lying helpless as a suicide risk
Strapped to a stretcher, a velvet chaise lounge,
Stylishly accessorized
With leather bands;
Not so much a fashion statement
As a tool of self-preservation.

I can imagine
Your silvery skin
Peeled back, pinned in place
Like a biology-class vivisection,
Flesh butterflied
And anchored with hypodermic-sharp
Nails from Jesus’ cross.

Your bones,
Pearl-white and gleaming in bas-relief,
Like black-light posters
In a crack house,
Like Limoges
Glowing in grandmother’s teak hutch.

Not a photograph
Or a French postcard
a la Bellocq’s cathouse nudes,
as an x-ray
glowing on a neon screen.

~ first published in Cyclamens and Swords