Five Poems by Jim Daniels

Basement Bathroom

The ache in the fist
from punching through the wall
forty years ago, angry
at my father and the world.

Ordered to repair it myself
I left the faint outline of spackle
around the new drywall.
No matter how many times

I repatched and sanded
it comes back. The ache
it comes back. I’d be lying
if I said I remembered why

the fist, why that time.
I moved out of that house
a long time ago. My father,
and that world, died.

Bones burned or buried.
The bones never heal right.
The imperfect fist
sanded smooth.

 

 

Landscape in Early November 

The cat in the grape arbor above me
hunts birds hunting the last shriveled grapes
knocking November’s leaves onto the patio.

Wild and dreamy, the cat blends into leaves’
brown-yellow crackle. And the birds! Shitting
on the glass-top table. Why am I out here

amid killing and dying? I hunt for pockets
of light emerging after leaves fall. I imagine

I know how these things play out,
but the green bug upside down beside me
cannot right itself. Someone has to write

the graceful shadows of its legs
flailing in the cursive of the dying.

 

 

My God is a Superstitious God

 

with his mismatched socks

and rabbit’s foot, his knocking

on wood and rubbing the belly

 

of the Buddha who himself

is making the sign of the cross.

But rainy days and Mondays

 

still get everyone down.

Did you pick up the new Grim Reapers

record? They got back together.

 

Bring your souvenirs and lucky charms

to the reunion tour. The Four-Leaf

Clovers are the opening act, but their set

 

promises

to be short.

 

 

Beating The Dog to It

 

When you spilled cereal on the floor

—which happened often, handling

those no-brand plastic bags

of puffed wheat and puffed rice—

you were ordered to sweep it up

and dump it back in your bowl.

You had to beat the dog to it.

If you asked nice maybe

a brother or sister might slip you

their daily spoonful

of sugar. If the cereal had a little grit

it was family grit. Almost

a comfort. Your mother stood

at the sink—coffee and cigarette.

Your father long gone to the factory.

How did they make them puff?

Add the milk, and they floated

on top and spilled on the table. Of course

you ate that too. She didn’t smile

much in the morning. Up early to make

the six bag lunches lined up next

to the door. If you poured Tang

on your cereal instead

of powdered milk, the Tang rule

went into effect. After all,

some families had no tang.

 

 

 

The Sad Cookouts

start asizzle: family, neighbors, beer,
and hardy-hars. Then, the heat, the beer
(already, more beer?), the tears (already, tears?),
dropped hot dog, nipping dog(s), screaming child,
(another screaming back), the horseshoes,
the bullshit, more bullshit (already), the lack
of horses, men and women in flushed, huddled teams,
scoreboard broken, potato salad starting off bad, turning
badder, weak bladders, errant water balloons, the affair,
(the other affair), the manic smokers, the angry cigar,
the amateur, the professional, the charred, the raw,
eat, eat, eat, ice cream melting down sticky sticks, hurt
feelings, the shove, the tackle, the bugs,
the spray, the burns, the sun getting the hell
out of town, melted ice, warm beer, coals
abandoned to dust, then windblown into ashes
of expectation, what could go wrong, gate left open,
who kicked the nipping dog, the toddler, the new bike,
the skateboard, the feigned apology, the short hug,
the long hug, the hard kiss, the sloppy kiss, the changed will,
the home improvement rusting in weeds, the soiled
deck of cards, anteing up, doubling down,
work in the morning, but first the drunk-
driving home.

 

 

Jim Daniels is a poet, fiction writer, and screenwriter. Born in Detroit, Daniels currently teaches at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He has written and edited many books, most recently The Perp Walk, fiction; Street Calligraphy, poetry; RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music, anthology.

Four Poems by Nicole Caruso Garcia

Landay #4

Cancer takes his wife before fifty,
the boy who, one June night, tossed clothespins at my window.

 

Ghost Ship

At a distance, candles guttering
can look like party lights. The way a ghost ship
might seem from shore.

It may have seemed I was carousing. It may
have hurt you seeing my illuminated
decks, my painted flags livened by wind.

Despair is so immaculate a plague.
A healthy vessel still will float, although
you pillaged all the spirit from its hold.

A ship like that may run aground or wreck
against the cliffs.

Adrift between the quick and the dead,
it is not sorry, does not love or hate—
it lists.

 

When They Called My Name at Graduation

Perhaps you cast one final sidelong glance.
Across the lawn I drifted, a buoyancy
that everyone mistook for joy, despite
the chiseled smile of my figurehead,
the stirring of my black and aimless sails.

 

At the Field’s Edge

I knelt & dug

was there another choice? / I had to
clear these stones these land
mines if / I hoped
to get across

no sharper pace / if I hoped
to ever plant one good
green thing

 

Nicole Caruso Garcia is Assistant Poetry Editor at Able Muse and a Board member at Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference. Her most recent poems appear or are forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Light, PlumeRattleSonora ReviewSpillway, and Tupelo Quarterly, with previous work in Measure, Mezzo Cammin, New Verse NewsPANKThe Raintown Review, RHINO, and elsewhere. Visit her at nicolecarusogarcia.com.

State Of Flux by R. Gerry Fabian

State Of Flux

There are scraps of paper
scattered all over the place.
Reminders.
Milk and cabbage,
use the word ‘vespertine,’
pay electric bill,
water dog & walk plants,
(a personal favorite)
and
one in your handwriting.
“Call me.”
Dated three month ago. 

 

 

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has published three collections of poetry, Parallels, Coming Out Of The Atlantic and Electronic Forecasts, as well as three novels, Getting Lucky (The Story), Memphis Masquerade, and Seventh Sense. He lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com

Two Poems by Vasiliki Katsarou

The Reading

     after a 1976 filmed poetry reading by Jack Gilbert and Linda Gregg

her hair is a curtain
her man worships behind

*

he is dressed in fatigues

*

she might be a chain smoker
growing glowing ash
so that a floating star is always before her

*

he once disintegrated

*

he put himself together with words
glued to his chest and innards

*

as he reads, her look of horror and admiration
as she reads, his look of perfect indifference

*

her laughter dissipates like smoke
but her voice is undertow

 

The Branch

my mother leans
into the kitchen doorway
dressed in my old clothes

digging and weeding
and now gleefully, she brandishes a question,
a branch–

wayward branch,
she found you jammed
inside the flowering azalea
hard by my front door

how she pulled you,
broken thorny dead thing
from the shrub of flowers
and offered you to me

misbegotten bouquet of dry bark,
and how tickled by my lapse
she stands in wait—

how it mars the face
of the house
I show my neighbors

how the unsightly
has indeed hovered
at my doorstep

and I willfully
blind to its presence
came and went
and never once stopped

to thank her

Vasiliki Katsarou’s poems have appeared in Contemporary American VoicesPoetry DailyNoon: Journal of the Short PoemRegime Journalwicked aliceLiterary MamaWild River Review, as well as a number of anthologies. Her first collection, Memento Tsunami, was published in 2011. She read her work at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry festival in the United States. Her website is http://onegoldbead.com/.

Two Poems by Marge Piercy

Sacred stone

When I was twelve or so, I had an old
Native friend, a Wyandotte, Bill.
His white wife thought she’d married
down and rode him like a donkey.

I thought the Indians had been right.
Renegades were villains in the books
but I want to be one and fight with
Natives for their land and rights.

On our first long family trip after
World War II in our first new car
in years, I persuaded my parents
to stop at Pipestone, a spot sacred

peaceful.  The pipestone was red
on a walk past two quarries, ending
at a waterfall. The place moved me.
It had a resonance like stone rows

on Dartmoor I visited decades later
again and again.  Some places feel
strong and holy. I picked up a small
piece of soft stone, kept it for years

carting it with my books through
Detroit, Ann Arbor, Paris, Chicago
until I left my French husband with
just what I could carry and lost it.

I’ve collected stones in other places
that moved me, but still I miss it.

 

Selective forebears

We pick and choose antecedents.
Some count father to father, as if
born from cabbages as perhaps they
were told to quell curiosity.

Some like me choose what pleases:
my mother’s side, Bubbah who
shared my bed half the year,
grandfather of stories, legends.

Welsh speaking father’s mother
the one my mother liked, soft spoken.
Children urged to shame her speech;
the Lloyds — coal miners who sang —

my cousins. For me, never father’s
father who carved tombstones
for a hobby, built railroad bridges
insisted two daughters stay home

to wait on him, suitors dismissed.
Those aunts studied genealogy
back to Norman invaders. Mother
knew only of her own family.

Jews often lost our ancestry, names
changed for safety or by law.  We
vanish into the smoke of history.
Ancestry is largely a tattered myth.

 

Marge Piercy is the author of 20 poetry collections and 17 novels.

 

Two Poems by Jo Taylor

Ingenuity

The spider,
Nature’s mystery.
To leave home her first need,
To escape the devouring of family.

Through her jeweled and silkened weave,
She sends warnings and receives messages.
Her gossamer ensnares,
Her venom paralyzes.

Humans, like spiders,
Liquidate their kind —
If there is no communication or
Retreat.

 
The Septad

(With a line from Mary Oliver)

I’m child seven born the seventh month.
I do not have to be good
because I am already perfect, you see.
The prime, boasting about the seven wonders
of the world on everyone’s bucket list,
singing of seven colors of the rainbow
and the seven holes in your head.
(Go ahead, right now, and number them.)
I am Joshua’s horn blown seven times
at Jericho, I’m trumpet seven at the
resurrection of the dead.  I am finished,
complete, whole.  I am luck and mystique,
the winning jackpot at the gambler’s slot.
Popular, powerful, holy, I’m the septad, and
I do not have to be good.

 

Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia.  Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it.  She has been published in The Ekphrastic ReviewSilver Birch Press, Poets Online, Literary North, Redheaded Stepchild  and Heart of Flesh Literary Journal.

Four poems by Faith Shearin

Navigation

That night in your uncle’s house all hallways
were plunged into darkness and a fog

hung over his mountain, the moon too new
to be any use; I felt my way through the foreign

landscape of his living room: the piano closer
than it had been on my mind’s map, the cat

a low softness against my ankle, each table
rising suddenly, each doorknob a strange planet

in my hand. Returning from the bathroom
I mistook the library for our bedroom,

the couch for our bed. It was like this for ancient explorers
who were often wrong about where they landed:

Columbus who returned from Cuba convinced
he had visited the coast of China, John Cabot

who thought Nova Scotia was Asia; it was like this
for widows who lived alone in married rooms:

arms outstretched, hands searching.

 

Bridges

I grew up on an island so you will say
it makes no sense to fear bridges

when my life has been surrounded
by water; you will point out the gorgeous

engineering of arches and beams,
cables and cantilevers, suspensions

and trestles, and you may name
the great ones: the Golden Gate glowing

red over the strait between San Francisco
and Maris County, the Rialto that spans

the Grand Canal of Venice,
the Wind and Rain bridges of China.

You will remind me of the Bering Strait:
mythic land bridge across which

humans must have migrated
from Asia to North America; I can only

say you have not swayed in a cottage
during hurricanes, or read about

tourists, asleep at the wheel, who
drive over low railings and cannot open

their sinking windows or doors; you
have not considered John Berryman’s

leap between Minneapolis
and St. Paul. Bridges are liminal spaces,

passages between one land mass
and another. Think of the failures: the collapse

of the Angers brought about by synchronized
soldiers, the Silver Bridge drifting

into the Ohio River, The Tacoma Narrows
giving way.

 

Watching Zombie Movies With Our Daughter

Mavis and I watched Zombie movies that first June
after you died; maybe you saw
us walking through rain

without umbrellas, along the avenues of Amherst
where peonies grew so fat they fainted
and children caught fireflies in their cupped hands,

opening their fingers to flickering light; we favored
a cinema with a triple feature, bought
popcorn and candy, sat at the back

where the seats were broken, behind rows
of strangers in hats, and considered
the undead: reaching through the silence

of cemeteries, digging their way
back to this world; we watched
zombies return to the neighborhoods

where they once rode bikes and climbed trees
and kissed and dreamed: skin chalky,
arms extended, slack-jawed, stumbling.

 

How You Loved Me 

Every February you left
a single carnation in my mailbox and,

the year I turned fifteen, you stopped sometimes
in front of my window,

walking home with a friend whose name
I’ve forgotten, the two of you out later

than everyone else because your families lived
across the road in the long, low houses of faculty row;

you threw snowballs to get my attention
and, even now, I put down my books and part the curtains,

your face on the other side of dark glass; I am told you
pulled a car over to the side of the road in Midland, Michigan,

1987, to tell a friend’s mother you meant to marry me
while I fed horses on a farm in Vermont,

utterly ignorant of my own importance,
and, in college, when the George Michael song Faith 

was released, you played it while driving, your windows
rolled down, belief mixing with desire; you sent love letters

to me in New York City where I unfolded them
on trains, the world blurring; I didn’t deserve to be loved

like that and I still think the person you longed for
lived in the acres of your own imagination

where the flesh of cherries reddened
in the orchards off Old Mission Peninsula,

their blossoms refusing to fall.

 

Faith Shearin’s books of poetry include: The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), Moving the Piano, Telling the Bees, Orpheus,Turning (Dogfish Poetry Prize), Darwin’s Daughter, and Lost Language (forthcoming Press 53). She has received awards from Yaddo, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems have been read aloud on The Writer’s Almanac and included in American Life in Poetry. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

 

Two poems by Barbara Crooker

INERTIA

Night knocks
over its cup of black coffee,
but I’m too tired to wipe it up.
I’m sitting in a metal lawn
chair thinking it’s too much
work to lift my wine glass, drink
the last bit of Blanc de Blancs.
And it’s too dark to see
if there are any fruit flies in it,
gone to their happy reward.
Fireflies rise
from the tired lawn,
flash half-heartedly,
“Pick me, pick me.”

 

WATER MUSIC FROM THE LITTLE JORDAN:

Singing over rock, breaking over riprap,
strands that separate, then braid again.
Three blue jays land on the grass,
mirrors of a sky that’s in love with them.
They flap off, all discourse and discord,
like a squawk of politicians.  The water
keeps moving, seeking lower ground,
always in a hurry, muttering to itself.
Water says life is nothing but a brief
rush, a gush over obstacles,
and then, the sea.

 

Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian Americana and author of nine books; Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series, is the latest. Her awards include the Best Book of Poetry 2018 from Poetry by the Sea, the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

5 poems by Ethel Rackin

This Late

in the day
the sky’s thirsty tilting
staring down on us—
all of it—the drinks—drunk—
as you and I might slip
into the kind of trance
we were in
at the beginning
if we’re not careful
if it’s still possible:
trust—arrive
on another side.

 

A Solitary Box

is arranged
to you it’s just
a box
but to me it holds
so much
forgiveness.

 

A Way Out

The shells you wear you
withdraw into—
by staying motionless
you prepare
a temporary explosion—
not to say whirlwind—
it’s in your nature.

 

Sun

Someday you’ll rise
and face the sun
head into the hills—
your heart’s interest—
nearly stunning
in your vicissitudes
you’ll shun that sun,
shadow.

 

Small Things

get to you
wherever you are you are
whether or not you leave
you leave—
this flowering triangle
will come to nothing
if you’re not steadfast
or true. Be the wind
in sail. All precious
metals.

 

 

Ethel Rackin is the author of three books of poetry: The Forever Notes (Parlor Press, 2013); Go On (Parlor Press, 2016), a National Jewish Book Award finalist; and Evening (Furniture Press, 2017). She is currently at work on Crafting Poems and Stories: A Guide to Creative Writing (Broadview Press). Her collaborative lyric sequence, “Soledad,” written with Elizabeth Savage, was awarded the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred by Elizabeth Robinson, and another collaborative sequence, “Silent e,” is included in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, Jacket2, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Volt, and other journals. The recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship, she has taught at Penn State Brandywine, Haverford College, and Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania, where she is a professor of English.

Words by Ace Boggess

Your words are a drug
to quicken my focus
for a long journey,
rest me nestled in dark at night,
add vigor, which is a sort of hope.

I crave your words
as I would an addiction
I know well, shouldn’t
return to, will.

They maintain my heartrate
at its steady racing, treat
my cancerous lethargy.
Your words, praise them,
bring euphoria & stillness.

Could save my life with capsules
of your words. Your words
I swallow greedily
as if a squirrel
that found a stale bun.

 

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—MisadventureI Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It SoUltra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.