Textual

SO NOW

by Rodney Nelson

the badlands were not so to the children
arriving in a Medora forenoon
who ran on scoria and did not know
a rattler to spook at or wild lily
from other
        and who would return in age
to see a trail of man scat where the red
one had gone and take that way at midnight
in truckage and flare
                          have no mind to get
to an elk boneyard or bighorns’ when what
had lain empty meaning quiet was pocked
and infracted like this
        and their own kind
of a nether time have made the badlands
so after all where no one can do more
than ride memory out to a bend on
the warm but now imagined Little Mo

“Dissonance”

By JoAnn Bren Guernsey

     Our piano was an ancient upright, its tone rich in ambition, mistakes and moods. Long ago, when I was still a beginner, I loved watching the piano tuner work. His fingers would roam through scales on the keyboard, tightening and loosening metal strings inside the piano’s body, repeatedly playing each note until it was right with its neighbors.
     One day he saw my sadness—my parents had been fighting again. He sighed and paused in his work. Then he tapped a key with his calloused left forefinger and said, “This is F, right?” When I nodded, he played the white key a half-step lower with his middle finger. “And this is E?” I nodded again.
     Next he played both notes at the same time. “Dissonance,” he said. “You can hear that, maybe feel it under our skin.” While continuing to play the two notes, he reached inside the piano with his tuning tool to make the sounds slide further apart, then closer together. Until, magically, they shared the same sound. “The E becomes more F,” he explained, “and the F becomes more E.” After he tuned them back to where they needed to be, separate notes but resonating sameness, he said, “That’s the secret, young lady. And I’ve been married almost 50 years.”
 

Unfaithful Servant

by Howie Good

An old young man in a stained T-shirt, a bruise purpling his chin, lunges out the door of the Church of Holy Shit! “Mister,” he calls, “got 60 cents?” I can’t quite decide the right thing to do.  The street is crawling with spies and assassins, and all because of a faulty chemical switch in the brain. All any of them want to discuss are the free T-shirts for participants. It’s like a story from the Bible, God betting Abraham which sugar cube a fly would land on.

Stepdog

Stepdog

by Norita Jax-Dittberner

I was the only dog she knew
none in the childhood that she remembers.

The best times were riding in the backseat
of the old Plymouth station wagon

spinning down country roads
gravel flying out from the wheels

her face in the fur of my neck
my nose to the wind.

My nose to the wind
her face in the fur of my neck

gravel flying out from the wheels
spinning down country roads

riding in the old Plymouth
the backseat, the best times.

None in the childhood that she remembers
I was the only dog she knew. 

This poem is included in the forthcoming collection by Dittberner-Jax, Stopping for Breath, from Nodin Press.

Meadow Lilies

Meadow Lilies
by Francine Tolf

Each fluted white body
bears a stain of magenta
like a bright splash of pain.

Imagine your secret
exposed
to any grazing eye.

Now think
if it were
beautiful.

Carnival

Carnival

by Yvette Nelson

Revelry welcomes concessions
that by definition
 
take no stand, draw no red line in any sand.

This is pure abundance at play.
What might be called a fake or cheat or tawdry
is the shimmer and glisten and simmer of the sticky season of summer,
of every blessed thing,
the movable feast on a stick
the juices dribbling down our chin.

A yield at every turn,
a harvest now complete
the skin of it, the underneath: the marrow, the bone,
the fat, the eat.

----
Laces in Medieval times were sold at St. Audrey’s Fair. Over time the less than fine, was seen as tawdry.

Veal Calf

Veal Calf

Francine Tolf

He imagines more than we know,
this dreamy newborn.
No notion of profit or cruelty
in his milky brain.
Brown eyes sing creation
as the psalmist envisioned.

Quick, mother,
with a sand-rough tongue
fill the hills and valleys
of your baby with love.

Placards

Placards

by Ndaba Sibanda

Placards! Placards! Placards!
Go ye to monster-land, leave my motherland! 
Sellouts and tea-oldies, time up!
Fossils are too fat to fit in with time.
Companies have closed down, please close shop! 
Castrate rapists, criminalize fat-cat activities.
Save us from Savage Garbage of any age.

Poem 4

Poem 4

Pradip Kumar Das

Let the moment be still in 
the starry night.
let the indulgence of this 
moment be as quiet and  
secret as the opening of
the wild flowers.
sleep under the bed of grass
along the roof of starry night,
let the sleep be full of peace.
let only the shooting stars 
come from the celestial world
to fall like a rain and the 
fireflies dancing among them.
let the time be the only silent
observer in the play of night of paradise.

The Onion

The Onion

byLeanne Radojkovich

Ana lives with her Uncle and Aunty. Uncle has fat frog eyes and unwashed, uncombed hair. He eats nothing but soup because of his delicate stomach. Aunty never says a thing. She stands on a lean as if one shoulder carries an enormous weight. Her other shoulder constantly trembles. She resembles a moth with a wing plucked off.
Every morning Uncle slurps his soup, complaining, "Too much salt! Too much salt!"
When Aunty goes to market, Uncle drops the spoon in his bowl. He stands close to Ana. He smells of armpits and garlic.
Ana ducks away. Grabbing her shoulder bag she runs out of the house to the track at the end of the village that twists up into a steep treeless mountain. In spring orange strawflowers burst through cracks in the rock, but now they are shrivelled stalks crunched into dust beneath her feet. The sun rises as she climbs higher. Her shadow falls in front of her, growing longer.
She stops at the dry plots of land she tills for Uncle, opens her bag and pulls out a chunk of bread wrapped in a soft cotton square. Chewing very slowly, she gazes down at the village.
When she has swallowed the last crumb of bread, she takes an onion out of her bag and lays it on a rock. She lifts her skirt and pisses on it. Later, she'll take it home, chopping it into Uncle's soup, wiping away her smile when he exclaims, "Too much salt!"

Ars Poetica

 Ars Poetica

     by Howie Good

     Arrange 
     3 lbs. 
     in a pyramid. 

     Not just 
     the words, 

      but also 
      the gaps 
      in-between. 

      It’s all 
      the same 

      ocean.

Testing Turing

Testing Turing

Melissa Reddish
 
Last night I dreamt I was a robot— not a kill-all-the-humans kind, but a boxy model, friendly, perhaps a cousin of Wall-E. When I told my husband, he grunted over his Cap’n Crunch.  His dreams are all loose eye sockets & sloughing flesh. He imagines a nameless apocalypse & himself standing in a field with twelve-barrel shotgun surrounded by a ragtag group of survivors, beautiful & diverse like a United Colors of Benetton ad.  But in truth, after the first cloudy-eyed pile of skin & teeth shuffle-stepped his way, he would hide in the bunker below our high school, eating creamed corn & asparagus tips straight from the can. No, robots are better— their outsides polished & gleaming, their eye orbs glowing & red.  No dandruff, no hangnails, no sagging flesh at all—just a quick oil change at Jiffy Lube & they’re ready to go. You can’t hurt a robot’s feelings by laughing at her butchered pixie cut & orange pleather jacket more appropriate for “a fashion-blind dyke.” See, robot-me would just listen to your mucus-filmed cackle & say something like Does Not Compute. Who would look stupid, then? And I would glide away on my bitchin’ robot wheels, leaving behind your weak human body, rotting slowly from the inside out.

The Paris of the Midwest

The Paris of the Midwest

by Howie Good

It was a city of streetwalkers and stray dogs. What couldn’t be bought wasn’t worth having. An angel descended into the downtown district via a divinely sanctioned system of ropes and pulleys. “Who would you rescue if you could rescue only one – wife or child?” the angel asked the men he met. He beat more than a few to encourage them to answer. “I’d much prefer to be drinking coffee.” he assured them. The less resilient chose suicide, the darkness so thick they couldn’t tell what was grabbing at them with big, meaty fingers.

Sightings

Sightings
                              After Anne Carson

by Norita Jax-Dittberner

Rabbits on the boulevard
are a sign of God’s presence.

Night terrors, the visitation
of God’s angel, keeping you real.

The stubborn intractable presence
of the poor, God-with-us.

The first breath and the last,
God’s portion.

Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation,”
the God-particle in the artist.

God in the stance of the oak,
the surge of life upward.

In the child hiding from an embrace,
God’s love coming forward.

In the multiplicity of bugs, insects, birds,
God with an appetite.

God in the softening of sorrow, 
the throwing up of hands in defeat.

God in the pulse, heartbeat, 
drumbeat of the universe.

God in the fragments.

This poem is included in the forthcoming collection by Dittberner-Jax, Stopping for Breath, from Nodin Press.

"Not then or ever"

"Not then or ever"

Shaun rouser

Shadow paints the sidewalk, greyly,
a grey-eyed sun rises in the East.

The day, as Time understood,
Time as there was before there was an I,
concludes in the West.

Was it the same as before,
or was his understanding different?

There was an interminable pattern, 
reflected upon, in the limitless Mind.
He was not alone in its silences,
not then or ever

3. Winter

3. Winter

by Norita Jax-Dittberner

Low winter light slants through bare trees
lining the boulevards of my city.

I am driving through streets striped
in shadow and sun, living my life

against the mystery of the natural world.
How calming the news of a hard freeze tonight.

Trees intersect earth and sky.
Light and shadow.

A sudden elation --- everything is in order,

Anti-Midnight in the Kingdom of Yes

Anti-Midnight in the Kingdom of Yes

by Matthew Burnside

Begin with a simple ward like a prayer so beautiful it cannot be spoken aloud, or a corpse so small one could not heap enough dirt to ply her light. Sometimes you would pretend to be the weather station & treat me to a forecast, like expect a mudslide tonight in Toledo, tomorrow there will be snow in Tokyo. We swallowed ourselves in the homecoming parade when we knew home was lost, buried our grace in the sidewalks so only the footfalls might find us. Television sang us to sleep those nights our tongues failed to fetch us our words. Patio chimes tapped out our shame, the dogs yelped our fence had been left open. & your silent face is Mandela music. I’ve never seen anything as sinless as your pale thin wrists―file under Things I Should Have Told You When I Had You Here in the Passenger Seat. There is a cathedral on the far side of town we could spy its steeple from our house. Tomorrow while the children let out from school they’ll tear it down. But how the trees graft themselves to the lake, how the clouds hang from the moon like your memory swings from my chandelier: Remember this landscape, if nothing else, the way I still wrap my stain glass around your sunlight. This is where the ward ends, this is where you say goodbye. This is where you lean in close, pour your poison through my ears, whisper: Of the hundred billion types of light you were my favorite.

Don’t Step on the Snake

Don’t Step on the Snake

by Meg Tuite

Sister says, “You have no eyelids.” Snakes see everything, do not blink.
Breakfast slaps a pancake back at Mom because it is burnt.
Lunch is a basket of silence, the color of closed doors and no father.
Dinner tracks sockets of fear on every face, like a bus station at 3AM.

Brother shouts at me. “Incoming. Do you read me? Incoming.” 
Snakes don’t have external ears, but I am still forced to go to school. 
First bell rounds my globe like a belt that welts the being of my island.
Recess is carnivorous and too thick for me to wedge inside.
Last bell is resonant, a stampede certain of itself, and yet I linger between two predators, always wondering if there is an ulterior route.

Dad says there are no snakes in Ireland. I don’t know how he slithers out of that country and into this one? I creep through so many days, unhurried. I know there will be more.

I get bronchitis every year. One lung is all I live with. The missing lung bears the depths of coalmines, black and hallowed, clenched shut like mom’s heart.  
Girls at school talk about getting married. Their absurd fantasies slough off of me, stale, discarded skin.

I will never offer my face to betrayal. I am a reptile. My skeleton is an elongated thorax of locked vertebrae covered by a thin ocean of flesh, sexless as the thin space that separates my venom from the secretions of those who attempt to swallow me.

Tale

Tale
                                                                                                                 Experience is what we pay attention to. William James
by Yvette Nelson

Building a boat in the desert seemed a a good idea to him though others scoffed.

He dragooned the boys and set them to the task of steaming and tarring. I frowned on the whole enterprise, but I was committed to him, and there was no exit. I was the last to board just as the boat lifted and was swept along.

The steady rain sometimes fell clean and smelled sweet as grass. We gathered it in bowls and jars. The domestic animals stayed near--cats underfoot, canaries in the rafters. The wild animals prowled, their eyes alight. The birds, our lightest load, came and went according to their rhythm.

I thought to take inventory, but this proved impossible. I managed to talk him into letting the sea animals swim along. This lessened the tension considerably, though we lost sight of the amazing octopus, the plain barnacle.

The sea was often beautiful beyond our dreams. We said to one another we wouldn’t change our lot for all the receding world. This kept us buoyant, until without warning, the first morning bloomed bright.

We smelled the fragrant land sited west, and west we went. It was late afternoon when a rainbow appeared in the east and the land rose to gather us in.

Oncler

Oncler

by Sara Anderson

Days of small fat legs and dumpling feet
sippy cups and diapers and twice daily naps
of choosing the day’s primary park:
the red park the blue park the yellow the green

Days of kitchen sink baths 
your kicks soaking me, our laughter 
richoceting off cabinets toaster stove
Bubbles everywhere 

Days of pink lotion scent 
and you so delicious I’d gobble your neck
needing to devour whole 
your sweet-skinned perfection 

Days of hushed-voice blue park nonsense 
Whisper-ma-phone (yellow funnel-and-tube gizmo)
Woodchips, goldfish crackers, sand
burbled secrets: grass, sun, sky.

The Oddity`s Presence

The Oddity`s Presence 

by Ndaba Sibanda

The eyes shone with a measure of baffling shyness 
Seemingly menacing eyes that rolled in their sockets  

The head was human except that it was tiny like
A little child`s big rocking and twisting doll`s skull 

It sat on a boulder smoking a strange odorless cigar 
The hill with its trees looked awesome that night

It greeted me by my name in accented Ndebele!
Then it smiled childishly and switched on to English 

It told me about other peoples and planets far away
It said earthly people knew little about extraterrestrial life

When it said it was looking for a wife to capture and marry
I simply froze for a while before asking to be quietly excused!

It laughed a long but shrill laugh and said knowledge was power
Then while l was still wondering feverishly l saw it fly away on a shiny kite!

Working Our Way to Wireless

Working Our Way to Wireless

by Yvette Nelson

Our soup can telephone failed us.
We grew weary
trying to make ourselves understood from so far away

and so we came down out of the box elders
and wandered the grasslands coming upon the garden

the snap peas ripe. There we sat companionably
opening pod after pod after pod.

------------
Alexander Graham Bell’s words spoken into the first telephone were: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

River Love

River Love

by Ndaba Sibanda

Flow flow with fury
With buckets and buckets
Of love sweet love for my lover
Fall fall for me fall for all time`s sake

Rain on me fire none to put out
Each time l slap my eyes on you slow
I feel like pouring pouring my heart out
Oh flow flow rains of love in my veins flow

The man on the radio says be the tenth caller to win

The man on the radio says be the tenth caller to win
 
 by Alex Stolis

Thought I knew where I was: in bed, warm under covers,
asleep but not quite. It was a dream. I was watching some
one who looked like me. Watched someone who looked like
you wrap her arms around me, kiss my shoulder; watched
what looked like the sky turn a brilliant blue; the almost me
and the almost you made love. The brilliant blue turned into
a seascape. The phone rang, an old school rotary, the almost
me ignored it. The almost you smiled, said it was time to go.
I wait to wake up, patient, certain in my unknowing.