Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Childhood Visit

A Childhood Visit
 by Marilyn Zelke-Windau

The Scotty dog, our only toy,
knew how to behave.
He, who stood stiff-legged,
black, in the corner,
under the window seat,
with perked ears,
He knew.
He had a red plaid collar.
He was stuffed, not allowed at table.

We were,
but not to speak.
Great Aunt Anna, with tight, grey
braid-pinned, circle hair,
who Mom, through family rights,
called Annie,
served us ham, and dill pickles
from a barrel
in the back yard
in Milwaukee.
We saw it.
It was wooden and had scum
on the brine surface
where the pickles bobbed.

I didn’t say a word.
I just threw up.
German was spoken.
The bathroom was tiled in black
and white. The towel was stiff
on my lip.
Courteous apologies were offered.
Come agains were proffered.

Dad drove home—
Mom’s usual journey.
A White Sox game voiced
balls, not strikes.
I slept in the back window shelf
of the Studebaker,
all the way to Chicago,

~ first published at

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mostly Basie with a Little Bach

digital artmerge: ralph murre

Mostly Basie with a Little Bach
by Donal Mahoney

Whenever I see a new woman, I know 
I should look at her hair and her eyes and her smile  
before I decide if she's worth the small talk
and the dinner later 
and whatever else she may require 
before she becomes taffy, 
pliant and smiling. 
But that never works for me.
Whenever I see a new woman, 
what matters to me is never 
her hair or her eyes or her smile;

what matters to me is her saunter 
as I stroll behind her.
If her moon comes over the mountain
and loops in languor, left to right, 
and then loops back again,
primed for another revolution, then
I introduce myself immediately
no matter where we are, 
in the stairwell or on the street
and that's when I see for the first time
her hair and her eyes and her smile  
but they are never a distraction since
I'm lost in the music of her saunter.

Years ago, tall and loping Carol Ann
took a train to Chicago
found a job and then one summer day 
walked ahead of me on Michigan Avenue 
while I surveyed her universe amid 
the cabs screeching, horns beeping, 
a driver's middle finger rising. 
Suddenly she turned and said hello 
and we shook hands and I saw her smile 
dart like a minnow and then disappear 
as she frowned and asked   
why was I walking behind her. 

I told her I was on my way to the noon Mass
at Holy Name Cathedral and she was welcome 
to come along. The sermon wouldn't be much, 
I said, but the coffee and bagels afterward 
would be plentiful, enough to cover lunch.
And Jesus Christ Himself would be there.
She didn't believe me, not at all, 
and she hasn't believed me since. 

That was thirty years ago and now
her smile is still a minnow
darting here and there but now 
it's more important than her saunter 
which is still a symphony, 
mostly Basie with a little Bach.

And I no longer traipse Michigan Avenue 
as I did years ago looking for new moons 
swirling in my universe. Instead, 
I take my lunch in a little bag 
on a long train from the suburbs
and I marvel at one fact:
It's been thirty years since I first heard 
the music in her saunter
and Carol Ann and I are 
still together, praise the Lord. 
Who can believe it? Not I. 
Carol Ann says she knew 
the ending from the start. 
Lord, Almighty. Fancy that.

~ first published in Eye on Life Magazine

Saturday, June 21, 2014

MIRACLE ~ Little Eagle's RE / VERSE Post # 500

digital art: ralph murre

by Sharon Auberle

  Though we have no wings to lift us up,
we have imaginations that will.”
-           Frans Lanting

Whatever you do in this life,
never ignore small miracles
like this flock of white pelicans
soaring in circles overhead,
their great bodies backlit
by the sun, radiance pouring
down through their wings
in waterfalls of light.

Consider there might be
angels among them,
but even if you don’t find angels,
know your heart has been softened
by these immense beings of grace.

Please do not dismiss such gifts,
for rarely are we so blessed.
And oh, don’t turn away
and resume your small life,
instead, rise up, for a little while
as if you had seven foot wings,
as if you realized, finally,
we are all made of light.

~  first published in The Nature of Door (Cross+Roads Press)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book, Lamp, Tree

artwork: ralph murre

Book, Lamp, Tree
by Karen Stromberg

I’m going to give you three words,
the nurse told my mother,
which was a lie--a moment later
she asked for them back.
Mother couldn’t find them,
looked around the room, dipped
one hand in and out of her pocket.
The truth is it was my fault.
I had plucked them out of the air
and locked them in my mind,
just to see if I could.

~ first published in Wordgathering

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Daughters in New York

artwork: ralph murre

My Daughters in New York       
by James Reiss                                  

What streets, what taxis transport them
over bridges & speed bumps—my daughters swift

in pursuit of union? What suitors amuse them, what mazes
of avenues tilt & confuse them as pleasure, that pinball,

goes bouncing off light posts & lands in a pothole,
only to pop up & roll in the gutter? What footloose new

freedoms allow them to plow through all stop signs,
careening at corners, hell-bent for the road to blaze straight?

It’s 10 P.M. in the boonies. My children, I’m thinking
you’re thinking your children are waiting

for you to conceive them while you’re in a snarl
with my sons-in-law-to-be who want also to be

amazing explorers beguiled by these reckless night rides
that may God willing give way to ten thousand good mornings!

~ first published in The Atlantic Monthly
and subsequently in the Pulitzer-nominated
Ten Thousand Good Mornings (Carnegie Mellon University Press)

Friday, June 13, 2014

1942 Snapshot of my Father

artwork: ralph murre

1942 Snapshot of my Father
by Donna Hilbert

He could be my child,
this boy at seventeen,
centered in front of a palm tree
in the parkway
of his sister’s yard.
This motherless kid,

in a borrowed sports coat
and slacks that fold
too deeply over his shoes.
His curly hair is combed back.
His lips part in an almost grin.

I know the history of this picture:
how he came to California to find work.
How he dug ditches, riveted metal,
picked fruit,
returned to Oklahoma to marry his girl
before he turned eighteen.  Nothing

to remark about, given the war.
And I know the life that followed:
the guns hidden in chimneys, bruises
under scarves, how the half-smile
concealed a boozy rage.  Still,

it moves me:
how he glistens in this picture,
the deep crease of his slacks,
his boyish curls.

~ previously published in Mansions (Event Horizon Press)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Radium Girls, 1924

artwork: ralph murre

Radium Girls, 1924
Radium Dial Plant, Ottawa, Illinois

by Peg Bresnahan

The tips of their tongues moistened
the brushes that daubed the dials
of clocks with a glow they thought
would last forever, but
it was the same as any comet’s
kiss, too close, too long. They painted
their nails and skin with its salts,
combed their hair, brushed their teeth
with it for that razz-ma-tazz look.
Young and ready to shine,
they sipped phosphorous cocktails,
danced the Charleston, the shimmy
in shadowed nightclubs until dawn.
Wrapped in pure energy they glowed,
most beautiful in the dark.

~ Previously published in the
   2013 Press 53 Open Awards Anthology

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Compline, Summer

photo: ralph murre

Compline, Summer     
by Jeanie Tomasko

1. Last light and the clouds are pink with it.  2. And the way
for a few breaths it turns the pines yellow.  3. And the way
the day lily  4. ends, and if  5. it is prayer to ask what color,
how long, when.  6. Sometimes the wind and the grapevine
feel like a prayer or  7. a want in me.  8. Late afternoon,
on the phone the nurse said we tell all our cardiac patients
to take their pills in the morning.  9. In the morning I was a nurse;
suddenly  10. I’m a heart and I’m wanting  11. a prairie
or a huge, forever, Wyoming sky.  12. Any edge will do.  13.  An old
friend emails to say: my heart, too  14. and, I watched a movie
and couldn’t stop crying, so I didn’t.

~ first published in The Midwest Quarterly

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Karla Huston

We clutched together in a screen tent,
nine of us lurching between
tent poles and gusts, watching
clouds gather up in the west,
the angry wave of them
hovered over the Mississippi River
bluffs like a black wall. 
Then the wind huffed down the face
of the limestone, threw clay
and trees onto highways
and shorelines.  We shivered
and while the sky slung bullets,
the old man reared back, spit mud
and clams and weeds.
The rain made sodden debris
of tents and sleeping bags
while under the plastic canopy
we passed the bourbon--an amber torch,
the burning liquor the only thing
that quenched the quarrel outside.

~ first published in Poet Lore: 2002

Monday, June 2, 2014


by Robert Lee Haycock

Nobody nearby was awake to see the neighborhood idiot standing bathrobed in his driveway gaping at the night.
The Sisters saw him.  Europa's Bull saw him.  Zeus saw him.  The Blind Hunter and Leda's Sons saw him there. 
Flags of cloud unfurled toward sunrise.  No more stars would fall.  He turned to the front door of his little house under the sky.
Just then a piece of Mr. Halley's wanderer rocketed into the sea of air overhead.  Ice dissolved in flame.
It made him smile to think that he would breathe it in and out someday along with the breath of Jesus and da Vinci and many another fool.

~ previously published in Medusa’s Kitchen