Something to Remember You By
thank you for the memento
this piece of you for
my knick knack shelf
your sneer is gone
your rough palm
over my mouth
and the five olive bruises
on my forearm will
fade with time
so i’m glad you left me
something i could treasure
and that time will
not take away
i can look at it until the
light of day fades
and even then
i will always know
that it is there
I fall for you like
fell for the circus
I fall for you like
Fat Man fell
I fall for you like
My passion burns for you like
a helium balloon
in a solar flare
Like a noonday ant
under a bad boy’s
Like the Hindenburg
burns for the
Like a narcoleptic
on a tanning bed
I miss you like
a botched shot at
a charging rhino
I dream of you like
105 degree fever
in a funhouse
I desire you like
a bulimic longs for
chocolate bunny ears
I touch you like
a mink caresses
her leghold trap
I will love you forever
falling and burning across the sky
lighting up the ruins
of our abandoned church
on the train into sunset
my history is so brittle
ephemeral and fleeting
abandoned power lines
stand forgotten marching
forlornly along the tracks
old splintered poles tired from
half a century have dropped their
wire burdens into the underbrush
my eyes don’t focus like they used
to so I lean back like these poles
trying to see the details
afraid to touch the cable around
my ankles although I know
the charge is long gone
They found my fossilized remains
while excavating a freeway on-ramp.
They were encased in volcanic
rock, millions of years old.
In fact you can still see the site today,
abandoned within the cloverleaf of I-89.
Of course, after the construction
all that remains is a vague outline—
a foot, some hair, a couple teeth.
And there isn’t even a plaque
to memorialize the find.
When I drive past my remains,
camouflaged in the army green rock
twenty feet above the roadway,
I try to remember myself and
my life lived among centuries of extinction.
But every year the rain washes a
a bit more of me away.
Freezing ice dislodges
a tooth or a patch of skin.
Birds carry off my hair for their nests.
The fallen bodies on Everest
lie trailside for decades,
climbers glancing uncomfortably down
to see them become more windblown and tattered
with each passing summer.
Soon my remains will be completely gone,
and only the hum of the traffic will remain.
Tooth and bone and hair will
go the way of all that decays.
Nothing but dust and broken fragments
lost amidst construction rubble
and plans for the mall expansion.
summer sun pours wetly
through the convex lens of my desire
august heat weighs heavy on my chest
and the days are far too long
every golden haired thigh and muscled shoulder
gleams moist with need in midday heat
bearded and hungry faces meet my eye
and linger in the desperate imagination
of tangled limbs and salty tastes and sweat
that drips into the thirsty earth of dreams
dreams of the sunbaked barefoot path
that leads from his tongue to mine
of that fork where we do not part but grasp our
hair filled with summer heat bubbling our lust
into a frenzied cauldron of mud baked sweat tongued
too burnt to touch raw sunburned desire
dreams of the road less traveled thirst unquenched
baked earth and no shade but me under you under me
where i lie beneath your slick chest and
find solace in our hearts boiled together in blood
and meat and frenzied muscles that grip
salted shafts of sweat and mud streaked flesh
bearded hungry faces meet my eye and days are long
by fall heat will crest sweat dry thighs abate
but while august burns i will have that hot flesh at summer
crossroads sun cascading through the lenses of our desire
i will choose a path hoping it leads
to embers finally fanned alive in you
and us and in the red glow of a
setting august sun
I unpack my lust
in cheap hotel rooms
of cities I’ll never see.
I toss him carelessly
with my change and room
key onto the nightstand,
Where my lust sits forgotten
as I shower and gaze into the
night, dripping with neon.
My fingertips paint runes on
clouded glass, and we hear
laughter across the hall.
Fresh and clean and
newly dressed, my lust
I scoop my change
and room key back
into my pockets,
and leave him alone to
whisper his longings
to an empty room.
Wess Mongo Jolley is an expatriate American poet and poetry promoter living in Montreal. He is Founder and Executive Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project ( http://poetrypreservation.org ), and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast ( http://performancepoetry.indiefeed.com ) for more than ten years. As a poet, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, Danse Macabre, The November 3rd Club, The Legendary, decomP, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, RFD, Warrior Poets, and in the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America . After a quarter century living on 60 acres of rural Vermont, he now writes full time from his balcony overlooking rush hour traffic in Montreal; a gorgeous, dirty, gritty, artsy, ecstatic, appalling, and vibrant beast of a city, which he has come to love the way you love a good-hearted uncle with Tourette’s. He can be found on the internet at http://wessmongojolley.com , and at email@example.com.
Were any of us willing to say something.
Ghost women would not haunt headlines
task forces would be dispatched
a special officer deployed.
Instead, families tape
colored copies to hydro poles
Tabitha, 24, missing 8 months, 6 days
Jacqueline, 28, missing 3 months, two days
Symoboline, 32, missing 1 week, 1 day, 4 hours
Women abducted from Highway 16
where clothes, not cars are the attraction
tube tops, short shorts, stiletto heels,
bracelets, gleaming in noonday sparks
This is Canada 2016
native women are worth less, worthless
less worth than the cost of a national hunt
for the men who prey.
beg your Christian,
Muslim, Jewish, Hindi,
Buddhist gods for absolution
wipe the blood of these women
from your palms.
The ground is soaked.
blood of Ojibwa, Assiniboine, Sitsika, Nicola
no amount of condominiums, big box stores
can cover sins of ancestors.
This blood is fresh, adobe bright
A stop sign we refuse to heed.
The list is longer than the stretch of highway
where no cameras were installed, no police posted
no surveillance vans parked in the ditch.
The new Tabithas, Jaqulines, Symbolines
stroll back and forth, one eye on the cars
the other on kitchen knives
tucked in waistband of skirts.
Self-defense failed their ancestors
may fail them too, as the rest of Canada
eats dinner, watches television
pretends genocide is an atrocity
of third worlds located oceans away.
When these women are extinct
the tribes of our nation diminished
Canadians will console themselves with platitudes
fed to us since childhood. Fatty lies
that taste good on our serpent tongues.
Glossy photographs of these women will populate
our textbooks where their stories will spin to
mythical proportions. Disney will buy
the rights to their tale
granting them status never enjoyed in life,
status that would have saved their lives.
Soon, fall frost will freeze ground
sealing these women in soil,
their flesh the fertilizers of spring flowers.
If you see something, say something.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
& people are avoiding each other
Since Giuliani bleached the streets
Persons displaced, Cristy, and Mary-Jane
Tossed in Jersey’s trash.
Man pees in phone booth, look away
& secretly call Crime Stoppers at the next station
While a tourist asks, “Excuse me, do you have the time?”
What time is it?
It’s stop and frisk time
It’s drugs of the decade time
It’s fucking futuristic time
It’s push a button time
It’s the end of time.
“Press 7 to speak with a customer service representative
I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time.”
International relations are on rewind.
Make that double-rewind, where we regress so much
It must be the beginning of time.
So how come all we ask is, “Do you have the new iPhone?”
One minute you’re jumping for joy because Bin Laden is dead
The next, you’re thinking heightened security at LGA? No way!
Here come the tax hikes and long lines. Next, they’ll ask us to remove our eyes.
One minute it’s protect our country,
The next it’s wondering who will cover the cost.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
& everyone wants a little security.
We see al-Baghadi smoking a cigarette
With Bin-Laden’s fourth cousin on his mother’s side,
& wish we’d voted for more troupes.
Now, he’s the head of ISIS
So stop in for free tostadas at the corner bar
Except suddenly it’s a carnivore club specializing in hyacintho cadaver
& everybody here’s the 1%.
Because you get your fill of flesh without ever
Having to pull the trigger.
Except the menus are all in Arabic and how can you eat
Without giving thanks?
La tatliquu alnnar!
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
The Arab spring is dry.
El-Sisi calls for religious revolution
As Egyptians stand in line for makeshift shelters
Where Peacekeepers hand out day-old donuts.
At least Tunisians are free to fire assault weapons at tourists.
Palestinians have met and decided it’s not an Intifada
They’re going to change its name to be more marketable to the West
& the educated elite of Europe.
But for the time being, they’ll use the word tremor.
Tremor? Personally, I’m in favor of calling a spade a spade
Only this shovel of shit doesn’t soften daily stabbings
Or cover the stained steps of Damascus Gate.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
A lasting peace between sworn enemies is Obama’s legacy?
“The United States strongly supports the goal of two states
Israel and Palestine: living side by side in peace and security.”
I want security too, but there’s nowhere left to go.
At night, I fixate on the grayish glow of
Images and text provided for everyone,
But manipulated by a few.
Soon, everything will be ordered online and stores
Will become relics of a forgotten past.
The world is changing, but I’m not.
Trying to figure out where my taxes go
When, surprise! There is no accountability.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
Senor Banker! Right this way, please!
Excuse me, have to foreclose on this family,
“Let all of us reach for the American dream again,
A dream that says if you work hard and play by the rules
You can have a good life and retire with dignity.”
What do we say to the million people who are newly homeless?
It can’t happen here because it’s already happened here.
Healthcare catastrophe steals life till we don’t even see it,
A country haunted by ghosts, meeting Death before their mid-life crises
While the Supreme Court forces states to marry lesbian and gay couples.
& be sure to send your complaints to the Minister of Bullshit to make the list
That grants TSA workers the right to search your bags a third time
As you pay student loans for life, and never get the degree.
It’s time to be a great dog owner.
Work long hours to afford the best dog walker while you’re away.
My dog is a rescue from Williamsburg,
A mongrel who didn’t play well with others at McCaren Park.
Don’t worry! I live near Tomkins
Where dogs reject socialization.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
And everything old is new.
Bed-Stuy’s brownstones a bargain at seven figures and
A bullseye on Harlem’s back. Don’t
Shoot the messenger, we all have a job to do.
Texting is 24-7, as couples find true love using algorithms
Personal values plummet as rental prices soar.
We’re headed towards something in a somewhat
Self-destructive, adolescent kind of way.
We can’t keep up with our lives.
Come on Mitalipov, where’s my clone?
Someone call Seamless, I’m starving!
Get on it, ban fracking before it’s too late.
It’s Earth Day again, if you can find a pristine piece.
Paranoia used to be a disorder, now it’s a national pastime.
Protect that second amendment, unless it’s used to kill school children
& poetry is the newspaper of the world
Only no one reads newspapers anymore, not even on Kindles
Where we can download them for FREE.
There’s optimism at the college club
The sushi bar is open
Excuse me, is there mercury in that salmon?
I’ll take the organic, heirloom chicken with gluten-free stuffing. Thank you very much.
They don’t even know what it is, but they’re buying into it.
Let’s not broker this deal.
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
& there’s a woman on stage and she’s screaming at me
& she’s using words that don’t make any sense
It’s all prose arranged on the page like a picture
And it’s all irreverent ampersands highlighted in yellow
& all I can recall is the part about
& Iran has nuclear weapons!
& around the globe there is a ring of impending doom
As terrorists strap monarchs to plasticine thrones
The web our only witness.
Click on it! Click!
Click! Click! Click!
Elisha Wagman is a professor of writing at Parsons The New School for Design where she teach freshmen students to craft short stories, personal essays and poetry. She live in Brooklyn, New York where she shares a tiny apartment with her dog Nosh, and over a thousand books.
How will I know?
You always know, when you’re not in love,
You just know.
The air is turgid with desperation,
The wind giggles at you, not with you,
As it rustles through the grey leaves of Autumn,
And everything tastes like chicken nuggets.
No one can tell you that you’re not in love,
You have to discover it for yourself,
Like the wet towel of reality slapping you in the face
At the end of a really long day at the office.
But, ask yourself;
Is it not better to have not loved and not lost,
Than never to have not loved at all?
Have you ever been not in love?
No, at least not in a very long time.
I used to think that someday
Superheroes and I might be equals,
But I keep getting stronger
While they keep getting sequels
Henrik Hoeg is a Danish poet living in Hong Kong where he organizes and emcees Peel Street Poetry. His first collection 'Irreverent Poems for Pretentious People' was an awardee in the Proverse Prize 2015 and published in April, 2016. Both of these poems appear in his second collection, 'Away With Words'.
Poetry is not a luxury.
No crowd pleasers, please
leave your punchlines at the door and your soul on the mic dripping of inhibited inhibitions like
the solvent dripping free from the solution your truth is your solution your salvation lies within
you, poet, speak your truth.
Like deep creases in vintage mikes you cannot break free from your flaws find freedom within
them or wallow under the weight of the silence poet, speak your truth.
This ain't no cheap thrill, it will cost you your comfort. adrenaline rushes real raw reveal you,
relieve you, you live through, we love you, deep breaths we all feel you, poet, speak your truth.
Like time will tell your rhymes, though written well, won't trap your secrets or conceal the
silence of your insecurity in sound, there's no soundproofing your self, we hear you, poet, speak
Always come correct, if not for you then for us and always know if you ever feel your words
falling beyond your reach, if you feel nervous, there's no need to imagine us all in our underwear.
We all out here naked just hoping that no one will notice.
It’s Mourning Outside
(Previously published in Whurk Magazine, January 2018.)
It’s morning here. Here, it has rained for three days straight.
We don’t stop moving, we stay dry.
But this place is mourning the lives lost.
Here, the weather wonders whether they ever mattered. Water that splatters from puddles and
small pools in the streets be monuments of our shared memory that force us to feel just a little
something, even when we’ve chosen numbness as a coping mechanism.
Condensation be like repression as we hold deep breaths simply waiting to exhale these inhales
that burn like chlorine traveling up through our nostrils. Meant to protect us, and still it hurts us.
Kinda like the police.
Precipitation. We hold our breaths a little longer, but this place, this place around us has released
a storm of sorrow that it refuses to hold onto any longer.
I wish to be like it, but still I wince at each raindrop on my brown skin knowing that it won’t be
long before my Black body is drenched in the type of despair that makes me question my
purpose. I ask myself, is this shit even worth it? It’s hard to tell in a world that’s shown me time
and time again that my life ain’t never been worth shit.
I can no longer see past the sea of Black bodies to buried.
Talia Monet Sharpp is a student at Hampton University where she studies philosophy, conducts research on the roles of women in revolutionary socio-political movements and teaches F(read)om School, a program that guides middle-school students through an exploration of Black literature. She enjoys biking, beaches, and brunching. Talia competes in campus poetry slams and performs regularly at local open mics.
I am a counting girl
Laying, my back pressed
Against the silver-flecked tile floor.
Teardrops glisten like diamonds and fall
From my eyes and catch in the golden locks
Sprawled around me like a sunflower.
I take a strand and twist
The curl around my finger
Studying each hair and pressing
The soft strings to my lips.
“You’re so beautiful when you cry”
You said, words echoing against the glass.
Would you find me beautiful now as I lie
Rivers dripping down my neck
Streaking the tanned skin
And soaking the nape-curls dark?
I am unrecognizable from the girl
I pretend to be.
She has glistening white smiles
And a laugh like dripping honey.
She’ll say, “Yes, I’m good, great,
So much to be thankful for.”
But she won’t tell you about me,
About the girl that’s made a game
Of catching teardrops in my hair
To stave off the myriad of emotions
That threaten to choke me.
Completely Alone In the Company of Another
Sometime when the moon casts a silvery glow
the slit in my curtain I lie
In my bed with my eyes open just staring
At the crystal bowl of the resting ceiling light,
bare skin of my arm rests against another's,
My lover, but I couldn't feel more alone,
Like a child that sits on the edge
Of the sidewalk and watches
The other girls dance and play
In their fortresses beneath the play set
As I toss pebbles on the ground and watch
even they roll away from me.
My mind opens up and I feel a tear
down my face like rain on a window pane
And I don't turn to keep it from falling
Onto the ridges of my collarbone. I let it burn
Into my skin and I listen to the girl inside
cries for me to give her a voice.
I want to reach over and shake my lover beside me.
I want him to hold me in his arms and make me
Not feel so alone, but I don't. I simply lie
rain casts down on the landscape of my face
And I cry for the girl inside me. The one I've buried
Beneath in the basement of my heart
long she doesn't trust me anymore,
And know that these tears and the sound
Of her screaming inside me, scrapping at the walls
I've buried her behind, are the battle I've retreated
From so many times, locked away and almost forgotten
And I owe it to her to fight it alone.
The soft smell of freshly mowed grass
And light rain on the pavement brings
Me back to those mornings
I spent out in the garage with you.
My little white shoes tied tight and ready
To climb rough oak trees and skip fools
Gold rocks on the sidewalk and pretend
Those pebbles were our pirate loot,
For those few hours when I was allowed
To make the rules.
A hint of gasoline spilled from our new
Yellow Cub Cadet mower taints
The smell in the air the way
Your absence in the evenings
Does to the memories of summer dusk,
Catching fireflies in mason jars
And watching them illuminate your face
And light up your eyes, the looming blue
You gave to me.
I wish I could think about you
Without remembering the way
I ran down the driveway screaming
For you to come back,
But those unspoiled memories are lost
Like the hot pink butterfly
Catcher we left in the fields across
The street where we used to play.
And I want to be anything
But a grown woman with a child’s
Heart still whispering “daddy, daddy”
In hopes that you’ll come home.
Mary Jane Hale is a poet and novelist from Indianapolis, Indiana. She started writing as a young girl and continued her career by completing her Bachelor's degree at University of Southern Indiana and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Southern New Hampshire University. She enjoys writing while her cat, Eleanor rests on the back of her favorite chair and her husband tinkers with his antique restoration business.
This time, just as the last
I leave with a burning to create,
to write and purge the rush
that boils up through the voids
I can only see and feel
once the encounter is over
The man who doesn’t fully
Satisfy but has good parts
leaves room for fantasies
as an artist I craft
weaving through the gaps of
his unexpressed feeling, the
uncertainty of his attraction is
the man I dream up
Do I stay with all the doubts of
him to fulfill this freedom, to
nest inside him a creature I
Proximity and convenience are
gratifying qualities appealing to
the laziness in us both, keeping
Us coming back for the ease
of instant gratification
In any match there will be
checkpoints that are weak;
schedules, chemistry, shared
Values, sexual style, all
breeding grounds for the
Comfort of my imagination, the
strongest being the selfish kind
How to win him over, the victory of
When one finally gives what’s
been teasing me, the attention
paid to my parts only as a
Witness and not as a tool for
Amid the most ambitious of noises
Little voices peek out
They call to me
Without my primary inquest
I have disregarded the voices in times before
Not being the ones I picked to hear
Softness and ease
Drowned them out by my loud and anxious
To the mysteries of the forbidden
Unwanting, unseeable, unknowing
But the little voices have patience
They wait and continue to speak
Long after I tried to close my ears
Through the cracks between my fingers
Their words seeped
And because they were soft
They felt nice and I let go
Of my tight grip to avoid them
They whisper truths to me
Compliments or lies
It was truths I didn’t want to hear
Tell me I’m precious, beautiful, unique
Tell me anything to help me not think
But the little voices are gentle
They aren’t there to entertain
It’s something more simple, untrained
How are you doing?
Yeah, but, really, how are you?
The little voices didn’t think so
So they hung around, for just the right pause
Until I was so tired of trying
That there was nothing else I could do
And with the grace of a leaf
That catches the eye by simply falling from a tree
They little voices I fought
I am annoyed by the sound of gas-powered tools
It reminds me of my childhood
When a troop of sweaty men
would invade my yard
taking all the wild out of it
It would grow back
I could play in the tropical islands
hiding in the ferns
But every other week
bringing their noise invasion and blades
I’d wait at the window, watching, glaring
They’d smile and wave
I would go outside after they’d left
and feel sad
that the jungle was gone
The dirt would be smooth
Flower beds cleared
vast open spaces between the plants
where the rebels grow
I began to hate the smell of fresh-cut grass
The way one hates the smell of hospital
So when I hear a leaf blower, a lawn mower or
My blood begins to boil
My jaw becomes clinched
And I have to just breathe and remember
No matter how many times the men return
with their gas-powered tools
That the rebels are waiting
In little seeds
beneath the ground
ready to grow
The Heart Works
In all those times
it was never my heart
that was breaking
It was my ego
My Heart works just fine
I am a strange girl
In an era of digital domination
I find great nostalgia and satisfaction
in utilizing the US Postal Service
to my full advantage
Post cards and letters to my ex-boyfriend
make their way through the sieves and sorts
just to really fuck with him
He never responds
Did I mention I’m a strange girl?
I still call myself a girl even at thirty years of age
The latest use of the Pony Express
is to send a package, a bundle
of ripped out journal pages, poems and
the birthday card signed,
“You’re the fucking best, Love J.”
All of that paper is trash
And I don’t want to deal with it
Since it’s all about him
He who refuses to speak to me
He left a mess
So I’m just going to mail it to him
and make him clean it up
Did I mention I’m a strange girl?
L. Marie Cook is a freelance writer and the author of Lay Me Down, a First Prize winner in the Wild Card division at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she was the Arts and Culture Editor for Ke Kalahea. L. Marie has been published on Rat's Ass Review, Airplane Reading, Las Brujas de Yerbas, and Guerrilla Reads. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and plays the Ukulele. You can also find her work on her blog: underlmarie.blogspot.com
the summer I thought the sun would never set
the vine made a perfect swing
we felt the wind flow through our
we flew like the birds we threw
and we knew we'd miss
never was about hitting the things
it was a show of our innocence
the river went to my knees
soaked my shoes
they sank into the sand and mud
made a trail that would stain the river
and over the river I walked
along the wide trunk of a
scared to fall into the water below
water I'd walked in too often
and the prayer of the humming
cicadas pushed me on
past the trunks fork to the far side
far away from home
sunset kickball with ghost on second
he never made it home
because he was on second or third
I swear he was on first
we fought with our words
to end every sunny summer evening
letting the forgotten ball rest
at the sidewalk curb for the night
waiting for the next game
and argument over ghost-men
we kissed behind your house
I was ten and so nervous
we hit out teeth together
touched tongues off of a dare
and you tasted like honey-suckles
and the stalks of grass you chewed
our kisses were innocent and new
hidden away behind houses
and in the woods once in your bedroom
the rain made puddles
for out bikes
making tsunamis through sidewalks
soaking our t-shirts and hair
hands shaking on the handlebars
the rain was our god
thunder calling us home
but not until we touched
the next puddle and then the next
and the next never ending
even when we became the rain
water flowing through
the hallways of our veins
youth falling onto each
summer day and night
blocking the sun that would
never set but hang in the sky
past dinner time
past my childhood reading
and neared the horizon
as my eyes closed
and when I was eight
my parents gave me a journal
to write about what I saw
with my childhood eyes
and so I wrote and wrote
today is a good day
today is a good day
today is a good day
so much so that the
repetitiveness seemed to mean
that I wasn't paying attention
to what I was writing
but I was writing the way
that I lived in the forest
and in the hills that I saw
thinking they were mountains
my bones grew heavy
with the ink that filled them
there was a music
my writing spoke of what it
meant to have a good day
it was repeated
The Distance to Sirius
The star Sirius is 8.6 light years away;
which is over fifty trillion miles from Earth.
When I look up into the night sky in the early fall—
biking to work at 4:30 in the morning—
I see its old light shining.
Light that left the star when I was someone else.
It peeks up over the landscape made out of shapes
and I pedal the short distance in the cold
thinking about that light.
I am not seeing the star.
I am seeing a projection of what the star once was,
and I cannot know what it is now.
Like a time machine from the novels I read as a boy . . .
and still read,
I look into the past and see something that no longer is.
It's only a projection.
I read once—
in one of those novels that tell of things that
That we are all bugs in amber.
That we are frozen in time and that time means nothing.
It's only a label
to help us distinguish the good times from the bad,
but really all the good times and bad times
are but moments that neither pass nor progress
and just are.
We are all dead.
We are all falling in love for the first time
and taking a bite of a cookie our moms just made.
We are all skinning our knees and getting lost.
We are all confused over the first question on the big test.
We are all learning to ride a bike.
We are all alive.
When my son asks his mother if I am going to die,
after I'd been admitted into the hospital while he was at school,
she tells him no.
She tells him that I will be home soon
and that I will be fine.
But like the star Sirius, 8.6 light years away,
I am already dead,
but I am also so very much alive,
like my son is alive
and like I am alive when I come home
and when I am in pain
and when I can not get up from the couch
And when I take him to the park . . .
I bike to work weeks later
and Sirius is much higher in the sky,
tracing its way to Orion's belt and on to Pleiades;
each arching in the sky.
And I know each star is dead
or will be soon,
but it is their light that illuminates the early, dark ride.
And it is their light that I look at, and trace
and see within my mere moments of time
standing still in the sky
like bugs in amber.
We sat around the fire, stars blazing through a clear,
turbulent sky. Rivaling the sea-moon—
milk, pouring over the horizon.
There was understanding between all present.
All young boys, filled with Vonnegut wonder
at the worlds surrounding us.
An unspoken bond of carbon-things.
The deepest intimacy.
The night—never cold—crackled around us;
glowed on our faces between ghost stories
and shivers that had nothing to do with the air.
I first saw the galaxy Andromeda while laying
on my back in the sand, listening to waves crash—
mimicking the moon light in ways that show
the inconsistency of existence.
There was little space between the stars then.
A barely noticed black back drop . . .
no, it was the silver and white and red of the
universes—the hidden lives—and second-hand
stars that kept me up until the ghosts arrived.
For sixteen years
I have not seen the stars in such brilliant
nakedness. All things eventually lead to a dim
The wind and clouds on the first night.
The ghost that kept me up towards morning,
and the embarrassment in confiding my fears
to my brother.
The stars on the second night,
and in the same place years before—unchanged
and still brand new—their age incomprehensible
to my thirteen years of existence.
And now, even that, some memory barely held.
If I were to travel
I would go to the center of the galaxy.
I would ask Sagittarius A what it had seen
and it would answer, in radio waves, of the ghosts
that stretched out like a dog in the sun
as they entered the super-massive black hole.
Like the two boys I barely knew
from high school that died, only to haunt the
universe in memories and radio waves.
Or like Lindsay—long brown hair I touched once—
made bald; sick, with a brain that taught her to love
and turned traitor; provided tumors that
eventually took her life; now a ghost,
forced to wander through the halls of our high school.
Forced to ride the bus, answer her door with
staples in her head, to forever say hello to me.
I drove up the canyon mid-winter some time back
and parked, alone. The dog-star was high in the sky
that night, and I watched it for some time, lying on the
hood of my car, hands aching in my coat pockets.
The moon glared in my eyes,
the air was not warm
and no ghosts haunted me that hour as
I laid shivering, staring up at the heavens.
All that there was, and will ever be
is the space between the stars,
blackness draping behind the light that
creates and destroys, only to rebuild everything
we will ever know and ever become,
over and over again.
When I Go
Do not worry about my belief.
Because when I go—like we all must go—
I will be a part of something,
even if I am hesitant to name what that is.
My father once told me to hold truths tentatively
And now, thirty years old, I find it hard
to hold anything in my mind for any
significant amount of time.
When I look out side,
I see a gray sky,
barren trees, calling out for their
lovers. I see time pass through my fingers
and it worries me. I feel uncertainty
through the changes that seep into my bones.
I am a thing that only knows change
and so, when I finally go
read the letters I received—the good, and the bad.
Speak of my flaws. Praise my good days
and my bad.
I am human. I am me, and we all are
brought through this together so that we may all
experience what it means to be held. What it means to be
touched, to feel the snow fall on our shoulders
as it passes through the space between the tree branches.
When I go, let my words mean something
for they were always for you.
Every scribble and crossed out word,
everything I uttered—mistakes and all—
were for you; for all of you.
Let the snow under your feet show the marks of
the tears that fall from my pages.
Let the wind that begs you to go back indoors
carry me far away from all I love
so that all you have to hold onto are my memories.
When I go, I suspect I will know little more than I do now.
Things come and go and my thoughts tend to wander
towards a world that will always be a part of me.
When I look for god
I find him in you.
I find him in you
and in your beauty, in your suffering, in the snow
and in the space between the dark tree branches
in the middle of winter,
when we are all huddled indoors on a Sunday morning,
watching the snow begin to fall.
Please, when I go, tell me you loved me,
because I loved you—everyone.
Compare me to the evergreens.
Shake my ashes far and wide and watch them
disappear into the Earth. Into heaven.
Into whatever future may come of me once I am gone.
I will whisper each of your names on the wind.
I will write into your veins of the love you gave me
and of the words I gave you.
We are one, and we always were.
You are my blood. My skin. My legs.
You are my diseased intestines, and crippled leg.
You are me. I am you—your hair, your lips, your fingers.
When I run from this life
Let me run.
Let me run, and follow me leisurely,
so that we may meet again, on the wind,
on a winter branch, in the sky; raining down
into the mouths of praying children.
Into this church of air and earth.
No Words to Express Disease
There are pieces of me that
no matter how I stand,
and how I try to tear them out
I cannot share.
I once stood in front of a mirror
in only boxers
and felt my clammy skin
No one was home and so I wrapped my hands
around my thighs,
saw the bones stick out from my
sides and back,
felt the hollowness of my eyes.
I counted once, and never revealed
of times I vomited
in a single day:
my legs, my back, my head
bear scares I can't talk about.
This isn't something I overcame;
there I no glory to be found,
there is only a truth of the ugliness
There is only a realization
of how simple a complex thing,
like the body, truly is.
And I realize now
why I never write about the blood
the wish to die
that had nothing to do with
depression, but only out of
It is because there was never
a lesson in the words;
no meaning behind them
other than disease provides
that pain gives nothing.
That, while I may or may not have
grown from such an event,
the fact remains
that all lessons
derive from time.
And my time spent in bed,
measuring my thighs,
using a cane,
or trembling so bad
I could no longer catch my breath
left nothing but fear
that it will all come
Chris A. Peck is a high school English teacher and a member of the Utah Rock Canyon Poets. His poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Touchstones, Orogeny, and Wilderness Interface Zone. Other publications include the journals Intersections, and Essais, and Sci Phi Journal.
Mornings Are Only Good for Calling Off Work
She lies on her back after the call
To the crashing of white rabbits,
To the punk frequencies that are rising up, tired of sharing the air
with shitty hipster spoken word
Sighs, as lazy ghosts hitch a ride on her fingertips
as she traces the word DREAM on her ceiling
She sinks into herself and hitches a ride on echoes of ego
She remembers back when she only traced the word SLEEP
She is waiting for the headless swans to return
that the body is useless
And for the lake to pay off its debt to the moon
for keeping quiet
Fuck that lake
that lied to the swans for so long
Fuck going to work today, Fuck em all
She sinks into the bed and repeats
'I am not really here'
I Am Not A Ghost Yet
Your tongue was the only black you wore
to my funeral
You’re such a fucking rebel….
You were hovering,
salivating, breathing in my death
I felt your eyes dismember me
‘Everything was beautiful the day you died’,
you said as you touched my cold hand
You were hovering,
at having the last word
But I was holding a piece of the mirror
I had lived in for 3 years
Holding it tight in my other hand
New life filtered through
One casket to hold all these personalities?
Ha! Who planned this funeral?!
Split your jugular
You were asking for it
I am not a ghost yet
but you are already boring me
in the afterlife
Glowing and Sassy
I built a rocket named
and for 3 years, got lost in space
I gave in to the madness
and the blue-eyed abyss
My rocket ran out of fuel
and he was kind enough to replace it with
I got shamed for petty things daily
I forgot who I was before the suit,
before gravity was ripped from my vocabulary
and I mastered the art of drifting
I forgot who I was before
the empty, e m p t y
wished upon themselves
The moon said my spine was out of order
yet everything was in its place
The moon said a poet must drift sometimes
and I could only blame myself
for building the rocket
I told the moon tonight,
Don't think I won't reach up there
and slap your sassy ass
me like a kitten
You went away for a bit
to punish me? To scare me?
To keep me in line?
You know me
I will not stray
I only looked around (maybe too long)
But I never took off this black collar
I'll start whispering,
to you (retracing)my steps
since you last held me close
I won't leave out any details
Light the moon another cigar
cover my mouth
Throw me down like
you missed me
I’m your ragdoll, infinitely loyal
Casey Renee Kiser strives to expose the distorted mainstream ideas of beauty, while bringing quirkiness to the daring truth of self-reflection. With dark, abrupt and often unsettling humor, she writes about identity, relationships, depression, 'mental illness' and the human condition. Her recent work is full of undertones struggling to overcome the confusion, self-loathing and trauma of narcissistic abuse. She has birthed 12 collections of poetry and has been published with RaVenGhost Press, Holy&Intoxicated Publications, Horror Sleaze Trash and 48th Street Press.
Where You Call the Road Your Home
Nestled between Steinbeck Country to the north
and Point Magu to the south, lies a place,
A magical place,
Where you call the road your home;
Where the road is life;
Where the road is youthful laughter-
The laughter of children in summer playing on a sandy beach-
The laughter that comes straight from the joy in your heart;
Where the road is wind in your hair-
Gas in your tank-And freedom calling;
Where red-tiled roofs bake in the golden sun
Atop white-washed adobe Missions
Whose sonorous bells ring pure and true;
Where pier fishermen in the wee hours sit on weathered milk-crates,
Cast their lines off Stearn’s Wharf and wait;
Where orange poppies sparkle and crackle
Off the verdant hillsides like
Embers exploding from a California wildfire;
Where antique Spanish Moss drapes lazily
Across ancient oak trees;
Where the local favorite tri-tip sizzles and glows like red rubies
Upon red-hot charcoal barbecues in Santa Maria;
Where Hearst Castle resides high above on its splendid San Simeon throne
With all its decadent beauty;
Where “Farm to table” is a state-of-mind,
And trucks riding low with fresh-picked produce
Bounce up and down on two-lane country roads near Salinas-
The salad-bowl to the nation;
Where the fog slinks in cool, moist, and grey enveloping everything with mystery,
Above the rock-strewn, wild coast at Big Sur;
Where the wind-sculpted, deep green Cypress trees
March down the headlands to the craggy shoreline
Where the sun sets all fiery and red
Over the purply vineyards,
And the silver moon rises,
And brings with it the fragrant honey-scented
Manzanita bush and calls to you-
Calls you to the open road again-
The place where you call the road your home.
The Tale of the Urban Coyote
Frozen in my tracks, I hear her soulful wail,
She’s dressed in her mottled suit like Nature’s feral child;
With honeyed eyes averting mine, she slinks down a trail;
She casts a long shadow, this refugee from the wild.
For her journey is fraught with danger,
As far as the eye can see;
And dinner is an elusive stranger,
Which there can be no guarantee.
Hunted and exiled by those of narrow mind;
Who would forsake Nature’s accord to see this “pariah’s” life but short;
The world would be a starker place absent of their kind -
For conservation of our wildlife is not merely “A Gentlemen’s Sport.”
She sets the table for her pups -
The food they clamber for so dear;
And the yip-yip yelping reminds all its time for sup -
When the time has passed for fear.
So be mindful of our wizened friends;
When they sing beneath the blue moon -
That it’s not their evolutionary end;
And their lives of valor were gone too soon
James Dickman writes as if balancing on a high-wire; with the search for Truth on one side and on the other the search for meaning. He is a published poet and author that is enjoying the ride. Previous to that he was an executive in the deli meat business. He holds a BA in English literature from UCLA.
A Five-year Slump
We become older, grandparents locked in the bodies of youth. Soon
we’ll have separate beds and we’re not even married yet.
I feel the familiar brush of your hands on my thighs. We take
up the usual position, on the usual
night, for the usual stretch of time. You become
the boy I loved at fourteen pressing his huge
birdlike nose against my flesh. He’s off in Alberta,
becoming a doctor. We’d make love on the rocks
to the rhythm of the crashing river. He’d have bought me
a cabin in the mountains. You become
a friend, a class mate of mine. His beard neater,
and a softer voice as his great brown eyes peer into mine.
It’s strange at first, new, but he’s more near my
height and he listens when I tell him I need him. That evening,
he’d have brought me to see his play. You become
the man I saw on the bus, handsome, clean shaven.
Stroking my sides, he’d call me beautiful. He’d have
made dinner, something simple and hot,
have cleaned the kitchen before I arrived.
I lie back, you kiss me,
tuck me in with our quilt. We become one
great sleeping beast. We rest for tomorrow,
for dishes and work. To pay bills together,
eat dinner at four, grow old.
I want you
Pulled deep into me
Right to the centre
Where I turn and trundle
Full of mystery, history, and nothingness
Fill me up
Let me hold you
Let me pull you in with my weight
I love you
I’ll bend space to our will
You can spend eternity here
Kirsten Doggart is a writer and artist from the small town of Castlegar, British Columbia, too quiet for most, not quiet enough for her. Kirstin has a BFA in creative writing from UBC and her poetry has been published in The Ubyssey, Spill Magazine, ad Inside Passages.
so strange when trees climb up light,
When winter of life shakes off men,
And you eating bread or dim end -
Get on it, they too have red earth, knobbly trees,
Illiterate bodies that learnt
Just white, just seed, the old taste of life -
Soul, you think you play nice?
They say no, they say you write
Loss and amnesia too many times:
Of course the moon reads, but dare not say
They’ve just found some green on the road,
She knows you listen to act kind -
No more fibs, she’s right:
For years and decades the word stayed exiled
In the flimsy white of the waves,
Water for trees and night hunters -
Now she’s out, she meets stark bodies, raw food,
Gives them the slip then hides
Earthquakes, reminders and colours -
In the attic? -
They scare her, so used to the white -
All the while you rattle on, isn’t she an electric chair
The summer that hides from you
Jitters and heat in the heart of the days -
No one minds:
Men shake dust from tangled hair,
Women slake stares and desire,
At long last the resident scribe
Displays limbs to the creatures,
So foxes can rush and grip some stylish fair ladies -
All for the best, who knows, them
And their maddening white.
that you? C’mon, c’mon, don’t shy away,
Darn your polluted blood, there’s poetry there -
Death you don’t curse if old hags
At the bottom of the house give no shelter no food,
But simply live your breath, your enemy at dawn -
Stop saying fathers,
Not wombs nor hands fathers got,
Stop saying he worked by his hands,
Stop saying this stop saying that -
Oh, the dirt you can find in tabloids and souls:
Locked doors, shredded glass all over the floor,
The garden waits -
You know it’s bound to happen
So take care and hold your breath,
Those crooked old branches don’t look
Too keen on falling down, do they? -
For next misapprehensions, soul,
The garden still waits.
you believe me if I say how nasty?
So many seekers downtown, they play,
“The breeze, the breeze” grins an old psycho -
A friend of mine, yes, and she was lucky
'Cause you can't, you really can’t predict
Electra Glide skidding by chance,
They both blue -
Be it coincidence, fate or bloody choice
They always limp back in shreds
Comets, shut sky, a bruised light -
Now listen, hatchets and knives, don’t you dare
Mess up with soul’s photovoltaic spark:
In that cross-eyed fire, maybe a leak,
Kids are born, the missing blink on off,
Batteries die -
Yet among icy fields, icy shelves
She sowed colours and jokes -
The stones on her lips?
They go roots, don’t bother,
You know she fouls up
Outcomes and him hitting back
Among books, grass -
It’s the electric blue, yes,
The keeper of anger and trees -
Can you reach him? See, he lurks
And they’re different,
Yours comes from lust
His from burning births -
They both blue -
Thank God lust always plays nice,
If Love does not.
Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Blue branches”.
tamed, vengeance served;
Atrocities on rugged land:
I feed on rage,
I bled in rain.
An ant that eats flesh,
A bug who quaffs;
Spider knitting Web.
Filled with clamour,
How hell looks like:
Stinks all the time.
Repression: given in inheritance,
Survival in evolution,
Resilience in wounds,
unconventional, and unpredictable;
I stand up.
He won't eat, won't sleep:
chosen modus vivendi,
till armour crushed,
and nemesis crumbled.
Divinity in kindness, and sacrifice:
White Tiger of Armageddon,
forging stealth horde,
breaking the midnight dawn;
I'm ready my Lord.
feet in plastic shoes,
And filthy trousers;
curly uncut hair.
Pale faces of poverty;
finding diamonds in dumps :
Wet knitted socks,
on lean legs,
in a stolen childhood.
And aching hands:
Only cold winter.
yet ill treated.
Don't you listen!
show them you're happy:
Alas! Chap face betrayed.
In a laughing circus;
Jokers coming out:
A circus of pain.
Being from a conflict torn region, Hanan Muzafar saw misery found grief, saw violence met horror, saw rise observed fall. Somehow learned to survive, to be low and invisible.
Now that cancer’s pressed
into my grandfather’s body, we all
find reason to assemble.
Our throats go sore from laughter,
the vibration buzzing through walls, furniture, fine china.
He sits in the back—
captured by the orchestra in the room.
His body is a machine of faith.
Though we don’t see him, we know
It runs like a river. His prostate
a failing system urging the bladder
to burst without permission.
My grandfather has left the room.
There’s an ocean of urine pushing
out of him. A shock of embarrassment
sprinting up his spine.
He changes his clothes—
heads to the porch for a smoke.
He is met by his wife and children
who orbit around his towering frame.
As if he has anything
to be ashamed of.
Papa Sleeps While on Chemo
After Rob Griffith
I give attention to his body,
its supine position, the hands
meeting at the chest.
His exhale’s a soft tune,
a murmur. Hard to tell
if he’s breathing.
I find it difficult
to bare—his stillness, the silence. My father
sleeping identically in the next room.
There is no “in between”
the rise and fall of breath—
no halfway point for the lungs
to meet when they grow tired.
The body eventually gives in,
and looks exactly like my grandfather
Granny Meets Papa
My daddy had taken your Aunt Joe and I
to this tavern in Bowling Green.
My boyfriend at the time was the drummer
of the band who was playing there.
I was sitting on a Coke cooler when your papa came
over and asked me to dance.
Me and Joe had spotted him earlier—
talked all about how he dressed like a white boy
in his pattern shirt and round-toed shoes.
So we danced. And he kept coming over
asking me to dance—so I kept dancing.
After it was over, I went to my boyfriend
and asked if he was gon’ take me home.
He said, “No. You have that big-mouth-nigga
you been dancing with all night to take you home.”
So I went over to your grandfather,
and of course he said yes.
And that was the beginning of it.
Shame, Or The Last Time Papa Saw his Father
It was the year following Brown vs. Board.
I was talking with friends when I heard
a white girl scream my name
from the class room window.
“Is that your dad?
Weldon is that your dad?”
My father was walking
through the school yard, heading
to the feed store for work.
The railroad placed him
on medical leave the month prior.
The family needed money.
I watched as she studied him;
her eyes wide—paralyzed from shock
“Where is he going?”
“I don’t know,”
I told her, “I don’t know.”
For months you’ve been praying
for your grandfather. Asking God
to lay a hand on his pelvis.
You’ve been doubtful.
The youth in his limbs have lost
their fuel. He trudges through
the final stage of prostate cancer.
He could survive another 5 years—
a chance that keeps faith knocking
on your chest. You know it’s God’s
reminder he’s listening.
Still, you are nothing short of heartless—
a thing that only knows of self-serving.
What weight do these poems hold?
What good are they if he doesn’t die?
Benjamin Williams is a poetry candidate in the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago. His writing addresses speaking of the black and human experience and dissecting the human psyche as it relates to emotion versus thought. He is also a performing poet and has featured/read at venues such as Mojo's Pen, Young Chicago Authors, Sofar Chicago and The Poetry Foundation. He was a 2011 college slam finalist at the Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival. He has previously been published by Solstice Literary Magazine, and has work forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. He currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago.
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