Self-Care by James Crews

Self-Care

 

Some days it feels like a foreign language
I’m asked to practice, with new words
for happiness, work, and love. I’m still learning
how to say: a cup of tea for no reason,
what to call the extra honey I drizzle in,
how to label the relentless urge to do more
and more as poison. And how to translate
the heart’s pounding message when it comes:
enough, enough. This morning, I search for words
to capture the glimmering sun as it lifts
above the mountains, clouds already closing in
as fat droplets of rain darken the deck.
I’m learning call this stillness self-care too,
just standing here, watching goldfinches
scatter up from around the feeder like pieces
of bright yellow stained-glass, reassembling
in the sheltering arms of a maple.

 

 

James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of the popular Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The New Republic, The Christian Century, and have been reprinted in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and featured on Tracy K. Smith’s podcast, The Slowdown. Crews holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD in writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He works as a creative coach and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont.

Missive to Nancy by Cathryn Shea

Missive to Nancy 

Dear sister, you would be astonished to know
that I now occupy a house (with only my husband
and cat since the kids have left) which is the same
architecture and plan, built the same year
as that place on Santa Maria Avenue.
It’s a pattern house, a kit. A step up maybe
from ticky tacky, a little box nevertheless.
When I sit in my living room now,

I imagine you shaking your crib into the hallway
from our parents’ bedroom where you were supposed to be
sound asleep for the night per our mother’s anxious prayer:
God Almighty, make baby sleep. Amen.
But, no, you would appear in the hallway at the helm
of your slatted conveyance. Shaking, banging, rattling forward.
Pointing to mother on the couch in front of the TV.

So now I sit here and recall you in your Annie Oakley getup
with six-shooter and holster. Or I see you in your highchair,
bowl of cereal spilled over your head,
milk dripping everywhere, our mother wiping up the mess,
cussing then apologizing for words
that had no meaning to her little girls
who didn’t have a vocabulary for what would be
the design of their lives in this world.

 

 

Cathryn Shea is the author of the full-length poetry collection “Genealogy Lesson for the Laity” (Unsolicited Press, September 2020) and the chapbooks “Backpack Full of Leaves” (Cyberwit, 2019), “Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree” (dancing girl press, 2019), and “It’s Raining Lullabies” (dancing girl press, 2017). Cathryn’s poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and appears in New Orleans Review, Typehouse, Tar River Poetry, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for the annual Marin Poetry Center Anthology. See https://www.cathrynshea.com/ and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Whale Bones by Melissa Chappell

Whale Bones

That night we were in the ocean,
wonder cresting and breaking over me,
the crescent moon sailing on tides of spilled light,
its sails filled with a bitter wind.
You were the oceanic phantasm,
who left me yearning for more.
But as the sun shone
golden through the seam,
you had flown away.
I am left on the encrusted shore alone,
with whale bones and a bottle, emptied of spirits,
with no message.
Sorrow whistles through the bones
and by my wasting fire I weep,
binding my silent wounds.

 

 

Melissa Chappell is a poet residing in South Carolina where she leads a rural lifestyle on land passed down through her family for over 120 years. She enjoys spending time in the woods. She is also musical and is a novice player of the eight course Renaissance lute, along with the piano and guitar. She shares her life with her family and two miniature schnauzers.

1999 by Israel A. Bonilla

To see in the world a narrative one needs loss.
It is only then that the halt awakens a yearning for sense.
Half-hearted hands become a mainspring; disjointed calls, transitions.
We now reside above the frenzied outflows,
industrious masons who grow skeptical of movement.
It is the loaded truck and the run down engine
I think about when the end comes to mind.

 

 

Israel A. Bonilla lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Able MuseBULL, Hawk & WhippoorwillExpanded FieldFEEDÁgoraLetralia, and elsewhere.

 

Through Light Darkly by Fereshteh Sholevar

On the street, when summer was kindly green
The white doves flew over us and offered peace.
The sweet lyrics of summer called for lavish meadows.
Then, you and I took a stroll. You looked like a star at dawn
as if you had squeezed darkness in your fist.

Let me confide in you:
most people are dying in their own particular way,
birds’ wings have been clipped together,
the ghosts of cockroaches are following us,
old ladies have wept all their tears and prayed all their prayers.
The blinded eyes can’t see the fading color of the earth.
Tyrants rule, fools bow, and graves of innocents have become
a sight-seeing attraction.
Sobbing children play with bones
and dogs live no more,
forests are images in storybooks.

We were crestfallen!
Then we saw a basket of blue lights
hanging from the eyes of the moon
and we tasted the moonlight.
We slept in indulgence
and woke up in vigilance.
No more nightmares on the truth of the day.
At that moment the sun came up
and brought us a bouquet of pure light.

 

 

Fereshteh Sholevar, the Iranian born poet and writer, immigrated to Germany and later to USA in 1978. She received her Master’s degree in Creative writing at the University of Iowa and Rosemont College, Pa.  She writes in four languages and has authored 6 books of poetry (two of which are bilingual: English-German and English-Spanish), a novel, and a children’s book. She won two awards from Philadelphia Poets, Pa Poetry Society second prize in 2004, and three awards in 2019. Her new bilingual poetry book (English-French) is available on Amazon: Of Dust And Chocolate.

In Common by Jed Myers

In Common 

I woke wanting to dig, not for anything
underground, no need for a spade,

and not with some rude analytical
blade to cut through a bad attitude,

no pickaxing a tomb for artifacts
tucked in the dust of a lost adolescence,

no, this morning, hearing the crows
bickering over where to get breakfast

while they took turns disturbing a puddle
the rain left last night, while I watched

at an open window, a robin waiting
at a safe distance to wash its wings

once the crows finished and flapped off,
and in that quiet the wind’s come-and-go

musings in the tall throat of the maple,
I wanted to dig shallow, for what we hold

in common, just under a feather
coat as under my skin, in the cackle

and mutter and chirp, inside the jackets
you and I wear out the door some hope

some fear in our throats, in our pockets
a little cash scared up for a coffee

and snack at the stand. We might risk
a nod without seeing the other’s life.

 

 

Jed Myers is author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), The Marriage of Space and Time (MoonPath Press), and four chapbooks, including Dark’s Channels (Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Award) and Love’s Test (winner, Grayson Books Chapbook Contest). Among recent recognitions, his poems have won The Briar Cliff Review’s Annual Poetry Contest, the Prime Number Magazine Award, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Prize, and The Tishman Review’s Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize. Recent work appears in Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of PoetryTinderbox Poetry JournalSouthern Poetry ReviewOn the SeawallRuminate, and elsewhere. Myers lives in Seattle and edits poetry for Bracken.

Tom Waits For No One by Leonard Gontarek                   

Tom Waits For No One 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indelicate moonlight at end of summer in the discolored trees.
I am, I am afraid, a poster child for clarity.
We should, I think, approach the end of a friendship like death.
Shuffling imperceptibly at the road, plastic replica of wineglass in hand,
a drop or two at the bottom,
no one to fill it.

 

 

 

 

 

I remember in this sunset, all the red leaves,
this began days before spring,
a streak of blood in a mostly gray sky,
the smallest of wounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, right here, is a space to make notes.

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Gontarek coordinates Peace/Works, Poetry In Common, Philly Poetry Day, hosts The Green Line Reading & Interview Series, is Poetry Consultant for Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, and contributing editor for The American Poetry Review. He is the author of six books of poems, most recently Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket, Shiva. His poems have appeared in Field, Poet Lore, Verse Daily, Fence, Poetry Northwest, and The Best American Poetry. He has twice received poetry fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on The Arts. He conducts poetry workshops in venues including, The Kelly Writers House, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, and weekly workshops from his home in West Philadelphia.

Four Poems by John Ling

Strivers

We impersonate ourselves
badly but are getting better
saying “the pancetta
was a little underdone dear
but I loved the macaroons”
to seem impartial
about this new habit
different from the old habit
in its bigger forkfuls
and longer silences
its reminder our bodies
are to be shared
like the city park where
on an August day
under a flat stone
rest a dozen green slugs
who have known the world
in all its hardness
and chosen each other

 

After Roman Holiday

You are riding a stolen Vespa
down the wrong side of my heart
hapless gelato vendors

diving out of your way
the florist and the barber giving chase
scissors and daisies raised

yes you are in jail now but this is nothing
a dash of American charm
cannot fix

some days we are the FAO Schwarz piano
children stomping on us
for music’s sake

other days we are red stockinged figurines
in the Sears Wish Book
blushing at our chance to be picked

you tell me not to hide my emotions
but just today I saw one
out in public

princess waving to paparazzi
the whole city clamoring
to know its name

 

Optimists

It turns out everyone has done a bad thing
or two yet we all continue
drizzling balsamic on the ripe tomatoes
stocking our nightstands with pills
setting our bookshelves in order
not alphabetically but by color

the world is big
and full of people you can call
Darling even if only while affecting
a Mid-Atlantic accent
at a Roaring Twenties party where someone
dressed as a flapper says

Prohibition was a doozy
prompting everyone at the punch bowl
to nod darkly and imagine
passwords without symbols
or capitalized letters

we’ve all had brushes with clairvoyance
which has never gone out of style
just changed outfits
now in the Bay Area they’re trying
to bottle and sell it
you too can predict the next winner
of the World Series
and with a simple survey find out
which people you may love

the sun settles into my bed
pushing me out into the world
who am I to resist the beginning
of a day that might turn out
to have you in it

 

Transaction

Kathy you know my full name and social
security and how much I spent
at 7-Eleven on Tuesday at 2:03 A.M. and I know
this conversation will be recorded
for quality purposes
and dollar bills get thrown in the wash
by accident and generosity
gets mistaken for kindness Kathy
I’m not worried about theft
how can my identity get stolen
when even I’m not sure where it is
I have searched my apartment
and found only dental floss
and Camembert why talk
about overdraft fees
when there are so many new ways to love people
and only the same old ways
to be hurt
look at the city parks full
of newlyweds with matching
Lycra jogging suits
for themselves
and their dogs Kathy
right now you could tear off
your headset and nametag and storm
out into the pounding world
of steel drums and subwoofers
winter is over and here
on the corner is a man
with tiger stripe tattoos
handing a cup of shaved ice red
as a new Corvette to a kid
out past her curfew
for the first time

 

John Ling is a drummer and composer based in New York. His writing has appeared in Rust + Moth.

Two Poems by Robert Darken

Vapor Trail

My eye follows the white thread, finds the flash
of silver jet needling into the future, destinations blooming
in the imagination:  glass towers, a city, the smell
of a rented car, the way road meets sky atop a hill,
the cows standing together facing into rain.

Before, say eighty years ago when my mother was born,
there were no such trails in the sky; autumn geese
veed south, leaving behind a trackless blue.
Now lines divide one tract of heaven from another,
reminding me of the surveyor in the orange vest
who unearthed stakes at the boundaries of our yard,
marked them with bright pink ribbons.

Overhead the trail blurs like cotton, like sutures
dissolving in time and air leaving no scar but memory,
the boundaries between memories dissolving like water,
and I wonder if this is the way it happens with my mother,
writing and rewriting my phone number on a napkin,
the pathways in her memory washing away,
eroding in time, gentle as rain.

Once when I was sixteen and confident, I took
the wheel of her Mercury Topaz, drove us home
in a blizzard along a dark county road in Wisconsin,
my mother silent in the passenger seat, her eyeglasses
gleaming owlishly, snow crunching under tires,
road disappeared, nothing but snow and loss,
nothing but the memory of a road, the road
present and not present, my mother beside me,
the memory rock solid, memory to build a life on,
memory flickering like snow before the headlights.

 

The Time We Have

Childhood mornings I rose in the dark,
sat blinking awake in the living room’s quiet
as the clock turned 5:55.

My father shaved behind the bathroom door,
a transistor radio vibrating thinly of news and traffic.
In the kitchen he stirred coffee.

The teaspoon rang the bell of his cup, and I sat
in his lap as he opened and refolded the Tribune
with big papery sweeps.

There was nothing but time:  tableaux of bicycles
tipped in the grass, one yellow reflector spinning like
a googly eye.  Church prayers spoke of eternity

as a thing to be desired, prayers offered haltingly
by men, made genuine by stretches of silence,
as I shifted knees on tile floor.

And what did eternity mean to my widowed grandmother,
who stood at the kitchen sink each morning
scraping black from her toast like minutes?

This morning my daughter smiles, her mouth
clown-stained with juice.  The moment leans
into eternity, slanting like a late summer shadow.

 

Robert Darken earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in Education from the University of Michigan.  Originally from the Midwest, he now resides in Connecticut, where he teaches English at New Canaan High School.

3 Poems by Stan Sanvel Rubin

Code

Pish-Posh, Pish-Posh,
pebble rain at the window
calls in rhythm

the sound of a name
you have to decipher
to spell it in air.

Each drizzle of water,
each slap of wind
makes the cold inside colder.

It’s the thin signature
of leaving. It’s
the meaning of left.

 

Regarding Nature

The simple part
is the argument of flesh
we cannot leave behind

except in the world of dreams
where you become any animal
and roam any forest

or jungle or wide plain,
free as the wind
ricocheting off the cliffs,

innumerable scents in the air
under a blood moon,
hunting or hunted.

 

Regret

There’s no reason for the regret I feel
on a beautiful July morning

or if there is, I can’t see it
behind the sun on the leaves,

or the leaves themselves,
sprinkled with Summer.

If it’s out there I can’t find it,
lost like the squirrel that was here

just a minute ago, dancing on the deck
before disappearing into a shrub.

If you want to take this further,
and maybe I have to,

you and I both know that regret
comes with the world, comes with being

in the world, comes with being yourself
in a world you didn’t make and must leave,

whether you want to or not,
the way light leaves the trees,

when all I want to do
is dance.

 

Stan Sanvel Rubin’s fourth full collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press, his third, Hidden Sequel, won the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. Poems in numerous journals including Agni, Georgia Review, Poetry Northwest, Kenyon Review, One, etc. plus two recent anthologies, the 25th Anniversary of Atlanta Review and Nautilus Book Award winner, For Love of Orca. He lives on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.