Janet E. Aalfs: Queer
When my mother at the table noted
the roast tasted queer,
I watched my father stare
as if to freeze the air
that sizzled like spit
on an iron skillet
No one saw me
Every nerve and current spoke
Like the slap he had meant
to stop a boy
from kissing me, or worse,
the girl he did not see, silent
lips to mine.
I trusted every feeling.
And learned the meaning
of mercy then – love
blessed that word my choking
parents swallowed to live.
And pierced my heart.
And pushed me out.
published online: VerseWrights
Janet E. Aalfs, poet laureate emeritus of Northampton, MA and founder/director of Lotus Peace Arts at Valley Women's Martial Arts in Easthampton, MA is a master instructor and practitioner of Karate, Modern Arnis, Tai Chi/Qigong, and empowerment self-protection. She performs weavings of interpretive movement and spoken word, and works as a community educator and peace activist locally, nationally, and internationally. She has been featured at many events and conferences including the Dodge Poetry Festival, Mass Poetry Festival, Hollihock Writers Conference, AWP, Power of the Word, NWMAF, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, and ITD's U.S./ South Africa artist exchange.
Kim Addonizio: What Do Women Want?
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
Kim Addonizio, “What Do Women Want?” from Tell Me. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio.
Kim Addonizio has published five collections of poetry, two novels, two books on writing poetry, and a collection of stories, and has co-edited a book of writing on tattoos. Her latest book of poems is Lucifer at the Starlite (W.W. Norton). She has received Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, and been a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2014 she will publish My Black Angel: Blues Poems & Portraits with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones, and The Palace of Illusions, a collection of stories. She volunteers with The Hunger Project, a global organization empowering the most impoverished people in the world to end their own hunger. Visit her web site at www.kimaddonizio.com
Kathleen Aguero: Jewel Box
Each morning when my mother dumped her jewelry on the bed,
I’d help her sort it into piles:
daughters daughter-in-law granddaughters
each allotted her hoard of sparkle and shine.
Take it home with you, she’d tell me. I won’t wear it again.
But not that, and not that ring your father
gave me when he left for sea. Not yet,
And piece by piece she’d restore
her wealth, her history.
At night, restless, she’d jumble the piles
and the next morning we’d start again.
Some days I went for value:
the cocktail ring with its fifty-two diamonds spiraling.
The next I’d opt for sentiment:
her charm bracelet, each figure holding
a story I remembered from childhood.
We have to do this now, she whispered.
Anyone could come in here when I’m gone.
Like who? I began to ask, but the word gone
hung between us, a clue so terrible and bright
we both turned away.
from After That, Tiger Bark Press, copyright Kathleen Aguero 2013
Kathleen Aguero’s latest book is After That (Tiger Bark Books). Her other poetry collections include Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth (Cervena Barva Press), Daughter Of (Cedar Hill Books), The Real Weather (Hanging Loose), and Thirsty Day (Alice James Books). She has also co-edited three volumes of multi-cultural literature for the University of Georgia Press (A Gift of Tongues, An Ear to the Ground, and Daily Fare) and is consulting poetry editor of Solstice Literary Magazine. She is a co-winner of the 2012 Firman Houghton Award from the New England Poetry Club and a recipient of grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Elgin-Cox Foundation. She teaches the low-residency M.F.A. program at Pine Manor College and in Changing Lives through Literature, an alternative sentencing program. email@example.com
Justen Ahren: Gone
The last hydrangea flowers in the cold
autumn morning continuing after
happiness is happiness no longer.
In my housecoat, in the window, I watch,
the pollen-dusted faces of the bees
a pane’s distance from my hunger.
And just as I’m prepared to let go,
the blue flowers whispering draw me back down
toward the same collision the bees are steered.
All of my stinging, alone in the night,
calling to you from the darkness of known things,
is gone, leaving me stunned in the quiet.
West Tisbury, Massachusetts’ Poet Laureate Justen Ahren has published poems in numerous literary journals including, most recently, Fulcrum, BorderSenses, Borderlands, Texas Poetry Review, and Comstock Review. A graduate of Emerson College’s MFA program in creative writing, Justen is founder and Director of Noepe Center for Literary Arts and the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency. He teaches poetry and writing workshops on Martha’s Vineyard and in Labro, Italy. His first collection, A Strange Catechism was published in July. To read more of his poems, or to find out about his work, visit JustenAhren.com
Alan Albert: Essay on a Son
I had this in a dream: Tom will marry once. He will have
two children and be happy in his marriage and it will be a long one.
This will come from me, his father, though I did not marry once
and have a long and happy marriage. He will have children
and be a good father. With his beloved wife he will have
a home in which he shares the great goodness of his life and heart.
He will get old and remain healthy. He will have friends
all his life who love him and consider him among them.
His wife will love him and not grow tired of his ways,
as he will be a good husband and understand that a thing
is a thing, that there are numbers which add up to four,
and that one-hundred can be divided many ways,
that there are beginnings, middles and ends, no matter how
the universe was created. There is a you, there is an other.
He will understand this. He will always understand this.
And now I’ll tell you something I can’t say to many because
they may not believe me: when he was three, he gave off light.
It came from inside of him and flowed through his skin
into the air and what I saw was light shining off his face.
I was father of the boy. The boy was mine. The light was his.
Alan Albert’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including The American Poetry Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Mississippi Review, and Poetry East. An audio recording of his poem on divorce has appeared online in The Cortland Review. He has received Artist Residency Grants from The Vermont Studio Center in 2010 and from The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada in 2013. His book, Fragments of the Natural, will be published by WordTech Press in 2015.
Judith Askew: Moments
i. Edward Hopper’s “Office at Night, 1940”
Each person and object in the room stands out
starkly alone. One window is closed, the other
open and filled by Hopper’s inevitable
breathing shade. The light lies, an odd
intruder, another character in this scene
of barrier, inhibition, restraint—or is it
anticipation? The woman in her very tight
blue dress turns from the open file drawer
with a tiny smile as she looks toward
a paper on the floor. Or is she peeking at the man
behind the desk holding a report unnaturally upright?
Will they collide awkwardly, both springing
at once to pick up the paper, warm hands
touching, his tie so straight,
her stockings and heels shaping her legs just so?
ii. My Office, 1990
By this time offices are frenzied:
stacked papers pile on every surface, men
answer their own phones, windows clamp
tightly shut. Once, down into my 17th floor
view, a window washer silently glided,
dangling boots, then knees, then the scaffold
where he sat sweeping his arms like a snow angel,
clearing swaths of sparkling glass through his soapy
scrim. I jumped up, pretended to trace
hello on my side of the barrier, greeting him
as he slid by, his airborne seat and skyward ways
rigidly controlled by distant machinery.
He didn’t even smile. He, his bucket, squeegee
and sponge disappeared as suddenly as they appeared,
like a song from a passing car window.
Originally published in Rattle
Judith Askew grew up on Cape Cod and lived in San Francisco for some years before returning to her birthplace. Her poetry appears regularly in Slant and has been published in other journals such as Rattle, Ibbetson Street, Cape Cod Poetry Review and others. She appeared in the anthology World of Water, World of Sand, a collection of Cape Cod poetry, fiction, and memoir. Recently her collection On the Loose was selected by Tony Hoagland to be the first publication of the new Bass River Press, an imprint of the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. It will appear January, 2016. She received second place in a San Rafael poetry and art competition and one of her poems was recently selected as a Broadside on the Bus. She is a founding member of Steeple Street poets and has appeared for seven years in the Cultural Center's Mutual Muses annual poets' and visual artists' event. She has worked as a corporate editor and writer and college teacher of writing. She co-edited Out of the Cellar and authored Here at the Edge of the Sea, a collection of poems and photographs. For her, a poem is an event in itself, with attention given to language, rhythm, and sound.
Linda Bamber: Intoxicant
Music like a changing weave
of longing and satisfaction; enough alone
to bring her to her knees . . .
the evening full of kisses;
promises, which she believes . . .
Desire’s snakebite liquefies its prey
spreads word within
not You will be eaten but
You will be loved.
Linda Bamber is Professor of English at Tufts University. Her recent collection of fictional Shakespeare re-makes, Taking What I Like, was published by Godine, as was poetry collection, Metropolitan Tang. Her scholarly book on Shakespeare, Comic Women, Tragic Men: Gender and Genre in Shakespeare, was published by Stanford University Press. She has written fiction, poetry, and essays for such magazines as The Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The New York Times Book Review, and Agni. Her short story "Time-to-Teach-Jane-Eyre-Again" won a Ploughshares award for best fiction of the year.
Rita Banerjee: Chicago Ode
You came quiet on
cat feet with
for minor names
aortal and stung—
off grids and arcs
bending like yellow,
red and unglued blue
You moved like
a river under
Boul Mich elevated
kept sails and lovers
lit on harbor
like bodies lit
on grass, you stood
unlike concrete, too
contained in no
form, no limb
that would move
your eyes grew
catlike, calling to
locking lakes in land,
you asked time to
sneeze, hiccup, to not
speak at all—
asked to linger no
longer or to
stay longer like
cracklers at night,
the firework’s parched
breath & Ferris wheel
lights that held
like ships & whistles
Rita Banerjee is the Executive Director of Kundiman, the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and a Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Fordham University. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, Electric Literature, VIDA, and the Los Angeles Review of Books among others. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming Approaching Footsteps in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel and collection of lyric essays. Banerjee says, “As a writer, I am interested in liminal spaces, the place where language and intentions breakdown, and where emotions, gestures, and inexpressible things are borne. Within this space, the self finds a way to activate, to vibrate and push back against societal norms and dogma and to push back against the biases and limitations inherent to the self as well. This space of exploration and of the unknown is where I’d like my poetry to find home.”
Jennifer Barber: Before October
with its gleaming promises,
the red green silver gold
leaves on the copper beech,
my hand on the smooth trunk.
Standing under those branches,
who could stop
from burnishing the lines
that arrive like birds
making the most of what remains?
The crown of the tree is its own
language, that likes to ask
questions about death.
The leaves toss; their syllables
combine and separate again.
Jennifer Barber teaches at Suffolk University in Boston, where she is founding and current editor of the literary journal Salamander. Her poems have appeared widely in magazines and journals, including the New Yorker, the Missouri Review, Poetry, Post Road, Upstreet, Poetry Daily, and the Gettysburg Review. Her poetry collections are Given Away and Rigging the Wind, both from Kore Press; her new collection, Works on Paper, received the Tenth Gate Prize and will be published by The Word Works in 2016.
Julie Batten: Hurdles
for Erika Grace
My daughter jumps hurdles in the foyer,
crouching low enough to miss
the cut-glass ceiling fixture,
high enough to quiet doubt.
It begins with a scraping noise;
the wood-gouging gathering of obstacles
into a Lilliputian fortress of furniture,
the spires and roofs of her making,
a What you got girl?
that she must silence.
I hear the thump of each landing
as I sit here in my study writing,
wishing the noise would stop, cease,
fade to Bach, slippered feet.
She has been pretending to be a horse
since she was three, whinnying
in a way most girls don’t. In summer
she threads lawn chairs with broom sticks
and raises the benchmark to four feet.
I watch from the kitchen window,
as she lengthens her line each time
stretching her lead leg into a perfect oar
with which to pull herself across.
I know, in the same way
that the late October air knows
when to dust the meadows with gleam, and wait -
that she will know, as foals in the first hour
of their elegant lives, still laden with vernix, stand,
when it is time to jump the neighbor’s barn,
set the iron-bound chanticleer to spinning,
hoof the gathered audience of pines, and
breaking into a canter at the first sight of morning,
toss her mane, not look back.
A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Bennington Writing Seminars/Bennington College, Julie Batten teaches creative writing and composition at both Salem State University and the University of Massachusetts. Thanks to the financial support she receives from both of these universities, she also runs an outreach program for the homeless that brings accredited college-level Creative Writing courses into Lifebridge/Seeds of Hope transitional living center in Salem and the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston. She is recently the recipient of a President’s Creative Economies Grant from the University of Massachusetts.
Joseph Benavidez: Casualties
Soft and young
these babies have no defenses
against the war raging in this apartment.
Door slams reverberate like bullet casings
bouncing on concrete floors.
Hiding under beds to block bombs
disguised as words,
but sounds slip througha
poisonous gas that burns
sense of safety.
My treatment is slow, painful,
resetting bones and ripping open scars;
triage on the battlefield until an evac team arrives.
But medics don’t treat cats,
and kitty psychiatrists don’t exist.
Six months later and my fur babies
still run for cover
whenever I laugh too loud.
Joseph Benavidez is a proud cat daddy, enjoys reading fan fiction, loves traveling by boat, and is an editor for Buck Off Magazine. His accomplishments include hugging Tyler Hoechlin and having his work featured in newspapers, magazine, and museum exhibits. Joe hopes to meet Chris Evans before turning 30.
These poems are from a collection Joe wrote about seeking a restraining order against his brother. He hopes to publish his first chapbook later this year. These poems have not been published elsewhere.
Jayne Benjulian: Printemps
You might step on someone’s head—hey,
Fred said, watch out,
we cut across the plots to find
fresh dirt mounded on mother’s grave,
watch out, Fred said.
wedding gifts, a cancelled union
the year: 5776,
may it taste like buckwheat honey
a late, senseless mouth remembers.
About to write
the dead, live to twelve or twenty,
have a black dress (bare arms) to wear
in the heat, a jacket, a hat,
The red scarf she piqued from Printemps
to write about.
“Printemps” first appeared in Barrow Street
Jayne Benjulian’s poems appear in Agni, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, Women’s Review of Books, Nimrod International, and elsewhere; her essays, in Money, Ms., The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, HowlRound and The California Journal of Women Writers. Jayne is an accomplished new play dramaturg and editor of books about the performing arts. She has taught at Emory University, San Francisco State University and University of San Francisco. She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. In previous incarnations, she served as Fulbright Fellow in Lyon, France, chief speechwriter at Apple, director of new play development at Magic Theatre and investigator for the Public Defender in King County, WA. “Printemps” is from her new manuscript, Five Sextillion Atoms.
Jayne Benjulian firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Bennett: Expedition Notes 34
[Instructions for explorers on their own extinction]
When you become the last animal
to walk standing upright,
a single skyscraper will rise
from a golden pond. The sky
will hold every dead animal.
There’s sun. Turn your face to the sun.
Walk across that bridge
of shining windows. It goes on.
On the other side you will find
a pasture so green it will hurt
your skin. When first you lose
your ability to smell, then your taste,
then your hearing, and finally
you’re left in an alley that will always be
dark, reach for something still breathing
to hold. Press your face into its fur or feathers.
You will think of water. How
your throat is dry. How there is always
some small current moving forward.
Or wind to wipe away this world.
Don’t be sentimental about walking
under a cluster of white lilacs
in the late evening. How in your dreams
the same deer was your shadow.
There is no next life. What you wasted
will be spread before you like a coral reef.
What was the last image you saw?
Did you memorize it?
That you can’t see won’t matter.
That you’re still human, even for only
an hour. That you have hands
that can no longer harm.
That this is your final gift.
~ from my new poetic project, Expedition Notes
Carrie Bennett is a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow and author of biography of water (The Word Works, 2005, winner of the Washington Prize) and several chapbooks from Dancing Girl Press: The Quiet Winter (2012), Animals in Pretty Cages (2013), and The Affair Fragments (2015). Her second full-length collection, The Land Is a Painted Thing, was selected by Kimiko Hahn for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection and will be published in 2016. Poems from her newest poetic project, Expedition Notes, have appeared or are forthcoming in Anchor, Horse Less Review, Salamander, Small Po[r]tions, and as an ephemerabook at Letter [r] Press. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a Maytag Fellow. She teaches writing at Boston University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her family.
Susan Berlin: False Witness
There must have been some good in him,
but all I remember is our father calling every
now and then to say he’s getting married
again and would Bobby and I care to come.
True, there was that one time he spent the entire
day with us, those pictures he took:
the front of the bus with its grimy promise
of Coney Island; the green mildewed boats
that moved slow enough to go around
only once; Bobby and me in pea-coats, collars up
against the off-season gusts, backdropped by various
games of chance. There’s that shot with our heads
cocked at the same strained angle, our lips
puckered like fish, pulling at the cotton candy’s
sticky mass. And then
all the exposures he took – the remainder
of the roll – of rides we didn’t get to go on,
restaurants where we didn’t eat.
This poem was first published in Mudfish.
Susan Berlin’s poems have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Georgetown Review, Harvard Review, Mudfish, New Millennium Writings and Ploughshares, among many others. Nominated for The PushcartPrize and twice a finalist for the National Poetry Series, she was awarded First Prize in the 16th Annual Galway Kinnell Poetry Contest by the Rhode Island Arts Council and has received an International Publication Prize and an International Merit Award from Atlanta Review. She lives in Massachusetts.
Richard Berlin: A Headlong Act of Love
from a line by Pablo Neruda
It was a headlong act of love
when I kissed her. She was gone.
No one could have saved her.
The dialyzer hummed a little love song.
The way I kissed her (she was gone)
was a reflex, a hand to break my fall.
The dialyzer hummed a little love song.
No one saw us, the curtains were drawn.
It was a reflex, a hand to break my fall.
My mouth was on her lips!
No one saw us, the curtains were drawn.
I’m a man who doesn’t take risks.
My mouth was on her lips!
I closed my eyes, but not for long.
I’m a man who doesn’t take risks.
The corridor was quiet, it was close to dawn.
I closed my eyes, but not for long.
Her lips on mine felt soft and warm.
The corridor was quiet, it was close to dawn.
She was dead, but I sang her a song.
Her lips on mine felt soft and warm.
No one could have saved her.
She was dead. I sang her a song—
It was a headlong act of love.
Richard M. Berlin is a physician and poet who received his undergraduate and medical education at Northwestern University. The winner of numerous poetry awards, his first collection of poems How JFK Killed My Father won the Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions. His second collection of poetry, Secret Wounds won the 2010 John Ciardi Poetry Prize from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and was published by BkMk Press. In addition, Secret Wounds was chosen as the best poetry book published in America by the USA Book News Awards 2011. He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Code Blue and The Prophecy. Berlin’s poetry has been published in a broad array of anthologies, literary journals, and medical journals including his column “Poetry of the Times,” which has been featured for more than twelve years in Psychiatric Times. He has also established a creative writing prize in honor of his father for medical students, nursing students, and resident physicians at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Senior Affiliate of Psychiatry at the medical school, he is the author of more than sixty scientific papers and has edited Sleep Disorders in Psychiatric Practice and Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process. He practices psychiatry in a small town in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.
Ben Berman: Close to Closure
Say someone dies and leaves an envelope
buried in her underwear drawer, sealed
and carefully inscribed: to be opened
after my death. Imagine the usual
sentiments inside – regret and gratitude,
perhaps not a complete baring of the soul,
but a distinct voice, at least, an attitude
you’d recognize – until you reach the slight
slights and buried barbs – grievances that allude
to you. The last word’s not the lone word to last –
still, it would be nice if the words inside
of letters were as mutable as the letters
inside of words – if we could set aside
those hurtful asides – or turn them into clauses –
watch how the intent would shift from incite
to insight if even if we weren’t that closes
lid to the beginning of the sentence –
the even if evened out in the closing.
Or what if we switched the tense – to not tense?
Oh, I know we can’t change what words mean
but we do have means to negotiate distance –
measures to slow us down, marks that demand
separation – so that for a few seconds
we might step back and with a clear mind
observe our surroundings through a second
lens – all that guilt that had just enveloped
us, suddenly feeling sealed off, contained.
First published in Solstice Quarterly
Ben Berman teaches creative writing classes at Brookline High School and with Grub Street Writers. He has received fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council and honors from the New England Poetry Club. His first book of poems, Strange Borderlands, is coming out soon.
Tamiko Beyer: The Flood
In the theater of the former capital, dancers and musicians swept bullets and pieces of rotten wood off the stage. Their costumes fluttered, rags in the updraft. Rigged lights flickered, intermittent bird calls, then steadied. On the night of the performance, the audience breathed like a single, taut animal. From the curtain’s rise a wail seeped from every one of our throats, the slow procession of tears from eye to chin to lap. The dancers raised their arms. The drummers drummed. Wind and string instruments winged through bullet holes and hunger. When we all finally swallowed the last note, the theater was a salty lake. Folding chairs became boats on which the audience floated out into the night, our bodies strangely light: mirrors to the stars stabbed in the cloudless sky.
Originally published in Hysteria
Tamiko Beyer is the author of We Come Elemental (Alice James Books, winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award) and bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Volta, Tupelo Quarterly, Quarterly West, and elsewhere, and her haiku were once turned into an avant-garde operatic composition.
She has received grants and fellowships from Kundiman, Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, Hedgebrook, and Washington University in St. Louis where received her M.F.A. in creative writing. Beyer works at Corporate Accountability International where she harnesses the written word to challenge some of the most powerful and abusive corporations in the world.
She lives in Dorchester, next to the Neponset River, in a former chocolate factory. Find her online at tamikobeyer.com.
Frank Bidart: If See No End In Is
What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is
new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if you once see what is there to see.
You cannot see what is there to see —
not when she whose love you failed is
standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know-
ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if
again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end
achieved by the unappeased is burial within.
Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within
whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see
by what necessity the double-bind is in the end
the figure for human life, why what we love is
precluded always by something else we love, as if
each no we speak is yes, each yes no.
The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no
better. The eyrie where you perch in
exhaustion has food and is out of the wind, if
cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea
for movement, though the promise of sex or food is
the prospect that bewildered you to this end.
Something in you believes that it is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.
Frank Bidart’s first books, Golden State and The Book of the Body, both published in the 1970s, gained critical attention and praise, but his reputation as a poet of uncompromising originality was made with The Sacrifice, published in 1983. All three books are collected In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-1990. His position in American letters has been solidified through his later works, including Desire, Star Dust, and Watching the Spring Festival. Desire was nominated for the triple crown of awards—the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award—and received the 1998 Rebekka Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress for the best book of poetry published during the previous two years.About his work, the former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück has said, “More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since Berryman (whom he in no way resembles) Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma.” And about his career as a poet, she said, “Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country.”His honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, and The Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky” in 1981. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.
Sherwin Bitsui: River
When we river,
blood fills cracks in bullet shells,
oars become fingers scratching windows into dawn,
and faces are stirred from mounds of mica.
I notice the back isn’t as smooth anymore,
the river crests at the moment of blinking;
its blood vessels stiffen and spear the drenched coat of flies
collecting outside the jaw.
Night slows here,
the first breath held back,
clenched like a tight fist in the arroyo under shattered glass.
But we still want to shake the oxygen loose from flypaper,
hack its veins,
divert its course,
and reveal its broken back,
the illusion of a broken back.
Sherwin Bitsui received his BA from the University of Arizona and an AFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. While at the Institute, Sherwin studied poetry and painting and received a Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship. Additionally Sherwin has been granted an Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, a Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency, a 2006 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2008 Tucson MOCA Local Genius Award, a 2010 PEN Open Book Award and an American Book Award for his book Flood Song.
David Blair: Golden Library
There are golden moments
of sun triumphant
maybe twenty minutes
after the lifeguards blow
their whistles, Get out, get out,
and everybody does just that,
except on the surfer beach
where the rich surfer kids
stand in their footless rubber
one-piece S & M training jammies,
as anything, anything that needs
accoutrement will do for a season.
I would not have spent less time
in the sandy golden library.
Early summer, the sandpipers
have not arrived yet in numbers,
but the builders of castles are here.
Towards dinner time, the ocean
eats them too, one runnel
and moat at a time. Eats
Earle Stanley Gardner novels.
are by John O'Hara, landlocked.
Ellen was reading A Rage to Live
when Reagan was president.
The waves round out
in big blue pizza pan patterns,
the lifeboats all pushed back
to the dunes. I have known
giants, Mexican wrestlers
and punchy boxers,
who stood for hours
in the backs of kitchens
at night in the world surf
in dockside restaurants,
scraping shells and bones
from plates and platters.
I could ask this thin old
country club blond
with her permanent lemon
wry in her bored mouth
about Nora Roberts
these are the real stories.
rake the bedrock
where the road will go.
It's not just a beach,
but a neural pathway
to poetry and focus,
the natural light, beer
and white wine, cigars.
The daytime dunes
are a continuous meadow,
a final one after the vast marsh
out to these islands,
a green and yellow ribbon
that becomes a dark tangle,
home of skunks and rabbits.
Whatever people are reading,
the other side of the page
wants the romance of black night,
the tidal pools, the sand,
the world as handles and planes
of furniture without lamps.
David Blair grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter. Lately, he has taught at the New England Institute of Art and in the MFA Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire. His first book Ascension Days was chosen by Thomas Lux for the Del Sol Poetry Prize in 2007, and he has two books of poetry coming out in 2016, Friends with Dogs in the spring from Sheep Meadow Press, followed by Arsonville from New Issues Poetry & Prose in the fall.
Lorna Knowles Blake: Sisters
Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts, High Tide, 1870
— Winslow Homer
We are not told they are: its plain to see—
Euclidean beauty has connected three
fore-grounded girls in sibling geometry.
The eldest, who anticipates the tide,
is standing, hair capped, slightly to one side
and at right angles to both other girls.
The middle one, face hidden from our view,
is shaking out her wet and yellow hair
and as she does, she sprays the other two,
while the youngest, hunched upon the sand,
looks up in frank annoyance as the cold
salt water stings her face and each drop lands,
a surrogate for worn insults and spats.
Their small red-collared puppy seems about
to jump back with a yappy bark, and that’s
a matter of contention too: which he loves best.
Love is contention always, as they test
its boundaries. Whose flag was planted first?
The self in each they know to be unique
is sometimes contradicted when they speak
in the same voice, or when a gesture’s shared
or when a feature (ankle, neck or knee)
is slightly changed by reproduction’s whim.
A different night, and she might be you or me,
as Homer saw, that North Shore afternoon,
blending their shadows on the sand in places.
One girl looks up—mirror of two other faces.
Lorna Knowles Blake’s first collection of poems, Permanent Address, won the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize from the Ashland Poetry Press and was published in May 2008. She teaches at the Brewster Ladies Library and serves on the editorial board of Barrow Street. She lives in Cape Cod and spends the winter months in New Orleans.
Luke Bloomfield: Other People’s Certainties
Where am I? I’m on a couch I call my own.
From my couch I can look out the window
And see parts of a world I also call my own.
What am I thinking? I’m thinking
There isn’t an apple tree in the yard
But there should be. I could put one there
If I’m not overwhelmed by the enormous
Science of it all. These days--to begin by
Saying these days as in these and
Not those, which I’m sure are no different--
I feel are above me. I jump and my fingers
Graze against this day. To be looked down upon
By nothing in particular, is not so bad.
To stand in the shadow of someone else’s experience...
The shadow of a tree is as good as the tree itself.
The tree’s reflex is different than mine.
The tree is active. I react to the tree.
Plagued by uncertainty, there’s an expression.
Infected by it or inoculated against it...
Those objects I give place to remain
In their place, which is a certain comfort.
But language that gives place to the immaterial
Inverts certainty. The negative space
Of a tree burns in my brain.
The multitude of other people’s certainties
Pummels from without.
This is why an apple tree is so important.
This is why I haven’t moved from this couch.
Luke Bloomfield is from Massachusetts. He is the author of the chapbook The Duffel Bag (2011) and Russian Novels (2014), both published by Factory Hollow Press. The featured poem was written in the sleepless spring of 2016 with one hand while the other hand held his two month old son.
Mary Bonina: Sorcery
On this island hummingbirds drink
from blue banana flowers, and orchids
in the cloud forest attach themselves
to every tree, making you fall for them,
leading to confusion and forgetting
who you are you begin to think:
am I a flower, a bird,
or maybe I’m a tree?
On this island you will find
The Valley of Desolation and also
the sometimes dried up Boiling Lake.
You will hear, too, the dove,
its awful sad cry, because
in the rainforest even the sadness
of a dove has more muscle.
And the pigeon with a red neck coos,
comforting the trembler,
and the pearly-eyed thrasher.
from Clear Eye Tea, Poems, (Cervena Barva Press, 2010)
© Mary Bonina
Mary Bonina is author of My Father's Eyes: A Memoir (2013) and poetry collections Clear Eye Tea (2010), Living Proof (2007) and Lunch in Chinatown. Boston Contemporary Authors UrbanArts Award winner, her poem "Drift" is carved in a granite monolith permanently installed outside Green St. MBTA Orange Line. A set of three poems, Grace in the Wind, commissioned by Paul Sayed for his composition for piano, cello, and soprano voice premiered at Longy School of Music, Bard College (November 2012). Her work has been in Salamander, Hanging Loose, Gulf Stream, The Worcester Review, etc. and anthologies, including Entering the Real World: VCCA Poets on Mt. San Angelo.
A fellow of Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a member of the Writers Room of Boston and its Board of Directors, she narrates Talking Books for the Blind at Clive V. Lacey Recording Studio, Perkins School. She earned an M.F.A. at Warren Wilson College Program for Writers.
Karina Borowicz: Window Watching at Midnight
Again the circle of green light.
My neighbor is sewing. With the two
natures of a moth, his hands
hover there, one futility
the other wing hope. And the fabric
is bunched up, from here
it’s not clear what until a shirt
dangles its arm.
Other nights it’s something
else, a square of cloth, a sock.
The work smaller and smaller till it appears
nothing’s there, but the needle still moves
or what might be a needle, and what might
be thread is pulled, up and out.
From Proof, Codhill Press (2014). First appeared in the journal The Café Review.
Karina Borowicz is the author of two poetry collections, Proof (Codhill Press, 2014) and The Bees Are Waiting (Marick Press, 2012), which won the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer's Almanac and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry series. Trained as an historian, Borowicz also holds an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She makes her home in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts.
Victoria Bosch-Murray: Traveling Mercies
Let the train be there.
Let it be the right train.
Let there be a seat.
Let these things be unsaid.
Movement is relative:
a plane forms a contrail like a mower
on a Saturday morning, like memory,
or time. A finch is a common bird,
it will nest anywhere—
between morning sleep, no
alarm, awake to sun on granite
ledge, snails in the hedges
alone, and the Boston of
sweet buns, bums
and business suits, spicy
sausage and onions,
spring sun and sin
on the Common in June.
There’s no such thing
as a trip to nowhere.
If a clock is time, what is a map?
How to know if it’s you or the other person.
Let sunset be graffiti in chain link.
Let a triple-decker be the color of birth.
Let the price be mercy—
A wrong turn can be meditation.
A coin can be the whole fountain.
Victoria Bosch Murray’s poetry has appeared in American Poetry Journal, Booth, Field, Greensboro Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Salamander, Tar River Poetry, The Potomac, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of poems On the Hood of Someone Else’s Car was published in 2010. She has an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College and is a contributing editor at Salamander.
Partridge Boswell: Upon Mistaking “pressure” for “pleasure” in a Poem by Anne Carson
There is a certain kind of pressure in humans to take
whatever is most beloved by / them and smash it.
We thought of it as play but in truth
our parents had no clue where we were
or what we were doing. One path led
to another. What little bread we had
we ate en route and left no crumbs
so even birds would starve. Riprap
uneven and lethal, ties too narrow
or wide, never matching our stride.
Tracks so long their chiasmus singing
mercy in both directions. What did we
care if opposites were true? We knew
where we were going and there was no
going through; the fear shunting us here
always only boxcars boxcars boxcars
never people. We thought less and less.
At first we only wanted to see what would
happen to the penny, then everyone had
their own penny minted with their own
likeness. Soon we were so rich everyone
wanted to see what would happen. It was
like a sickness, but only like. Everyone
liked their own likeness. Everyone liked
owning their own likeness. Until all that
kept us sane was a promise of disaster.
We knelt and placed our ears to the rail,
waited for the iron’s faint ringing to grow
real and unstoppable as a comet they said
would never hit us though it would take
one to prove a penny is still worth saving.
—Originally published in Salmagundi
Recipient of the 2016 Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize for his poem “Flying home after the protest,” Partridge Boswell is the author of Some Far Country, winner of the Grolier Poetry Prize. His poems have recently surfaced in The Gettysburg Review, Salmagundi, The American Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Co-founder of Bookstock literary festival and the poetry/music group Los Lorcas Trio, he teaches at Burlington Writers Workshop.
Marguerite G. Bouvard: The Art of Living
The mind should learn to go barefoot
to see all that surrounds us,
the native Wili Wili tree
which converses with the wind,
its trunk growing horizontally
among Hawaiian grasses.
Or the Melos those dancers,
trunks that flow in arcs,
in all directions like elbows
holding up the sky.
They tell us how we are related
to the shifting currents
of air and water, susceptible
to wasps and fungus.
The elegant Eucalyptus
that rise vertically are strangled
by kudzu, like houses
on the mainland felled
by sub primes and securitiziation,
telling us that the heart too
should go barefoot.
From the book The Light That Shines Inside Us
Marguerite G. Bouvard is the author of 8 books of poetry two of which won awards, including "The Unpredictability of Light" that won the MassBook Award for Poetry. Her poems have been widely anthologized and published in numerous literary magazines. She has also written 12 non-fiction books on human rights, grief, and more. She is a resident Scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University.
Lucie Brock-Broido: Freedom of Speech
If my own voice falters, tell them hubris was my way of adoring you.
The hollow of the hulk of you, so feverish in life, cut open,
Reveals ten thousand rags of music in your thoracic cavity.
The hands are received bagged and examination reveals no injury.
Winter then, the body is cold to the touch, unplunderable,
Kept in its drawer of old-world harrowing.
Teeth in fair repair. Will you be buried where; nowhere.
Your mouth a globe of gauze and glossolalia.
And opening, most delft of blue,
Your heart was a mess—
A mob of hoofprints where the skittish colts first learned to stand,
Catching on to their agility, a shock of freedom, wild-maned.
The eyes have hazel irides and the conjunctivae are pale,
With hemorrhaging. One lung, smaller, congested with rose smoke.
The other, filled with a swarm of massive sentimentia.
I adore you more. I know
The wingspan of your voice, whole gorgeous flock of harriers,
Cannot be taken down. You would like it now, this snow, this hour.
Your visitation here tonight not altogether unexpected.
The night-laborers, immigrants all, assemble here, aching for to speaking, Longing for to work.
Lucie Brock-Broido, "Freedom of Speech" from Stay, Illusion. Copyright © 2013 by Lucie Brock-Broido.
Lucie Brock-Broido is the author of four volumes of poetry, A Hunger, The Master Letters, Trouble In Mind, and Stay, Illusion, which was nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. She’s been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as awards from the American Poetry Review and the Academy of American Arts and Letters. She is a devoted teacher who’s held professorships at Bennington, Harvard (where she was a Briggs-Copeland poet), and Columbia, where she is currently the Director of the poetry program and a recent recipient of a Presidential Teaching Award for outstanding teaching.
J. Lorraine Brown: The Elk
Coffee ice cream was his favorite,
tomato soup with a pat of butter,
smooth peanut butter out of the jar.
He loved big band music—
Glenn Miller’s Poinciana.
The Red Sox drove him crazy.
Sundays, he sat on the bench
in our breakfast nook,
invoices sorted into jerky piles,
adding machine arched like a dragon.
He wore work pants ironed
by my mother, a tan shirt
with a Mobil patch on the pocket
(silver tire gauge tucked in the corner).
Cold weather cracked his hands.
But he astonished as an Elk
when he wore his black tuxedo
and a jeweled medallion on a chain—
the “Tiler” who stood by the door
to introduce the other Elks
like a butler at a fancy ball.
They met in the old church basement
where he introduced the “Exalted Ruler.”
Exhausted Rooster, he told me,
and the medallion was real,
not some cheap little trinket.
J. Lorraine Brown is the recipient ofa MA Professional Development Grant and a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. She has been published in such literary journals as the Cumberland Poetry Review and the North American Review. She received a PNWA Zola Award, and Poet Laureate Ted Kooser selected one of her poems for his nationwide newspaper column. Her chapbook, Skating on Bones, was a 2012 “Must-Read” Book of Poetry. Her 2nd and 3rd chapbooks were nominated for this award as well. Her poetry is part of Broadsides on the Bus, 2014, a collaborative effort celebrating Cape Cod poets and artists
Philip E. Burnham, Jr.: Quantum Entanglement
The theory is simple - if unbelievable.
Two particles - say electrons - interact,
Then move apart - across a room,
Across the universe - it does not matter.
What matters is that, if one particle
Is asked to ‘dance,’ the other will
Instantaneously ‘dance’ in parallel.
The New York Times, November 16, 2014
Once you and I came to be one of two
Together, word for word and eye to eye,
Flesh with flesh, hand in hand close before you
Were obliged to leave. Your dusty goodbye
Of wandering particles carried where,
Among the stars, the galaxies, you are
No longer bound within my atmosphere.
Your voyage perhaps infinitely far
From me, and yet simultaneously
There seems to be, between us, no distance
To be crossed. I am deliberately
Entangled in every dance you dance.
No cosmic obstacle exists that will,
While you are dancing, force me to be still.
Philip E. Burnham, Jr., is the author of six books of poetry. He has twice received the Gretchen Warren Award from the New England Poetry Club and was the winner of the Loft Poetry Prize. His latest book, Winter Dreams, was published by Ibbetson Street Press in December 2015. His website is pebjr.com
Lucile Burt: Someone Loved Returning
Even if all those we ever loved,
leaving, went lightly,
and we knew they would return,
even if we recognized them when they came
as hurricanes or cardinals,
and we could speak
the language of weather and birds,
even if we had the patience to wait,
listening, and let them come
in their own ways,
however terrifying or trivial,
and when they came, we forgave
history and old hurts, willing
to hear their songs or howling,
even if we knew we ourselves
would return as reeds or beetles,
forgiven for our whispers and hunger,
even if we saw in every tremor,
every saxophone wail,
every stone rolled by waves at our feet,
someone loved returning,
would you and I, now,
meet like the horizon at twilight,
dark and open, edges blurring?
Lucile Burt is a retired high school English and creative writing teacher. She currently lives in Wellfleet MA. Her poems have appeared in various small press journals and in the anthology Teaching with Fire. Her chapbook Neither Created Nor Destroyed won the 2012 Philbrick Poetry Prize from the Providence Athenaeum and was published in April 2012. The work of writing poetry, with its careful attention to sound and rhythm, is a kind of meditation that helps her see connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Nan Byrne: CRAZY
When we talk about the old man
(my mother rarely)
My brothers and I all the time about how crazy he is
with his demands for tub baths
And Tommy Dorsey music in the middle of the night
we thrust my father's name between our teeth like a matchstick
We are cocky we say
eighty years old Alzheimer's
the sulphur is a dull chemical on our tongues. But
because we lived in his house Once
when he was young with all his wits about him.
It is a bitter stick we chew.
No one of us has forgotten
what a crazy tune we played then
when his hands were about our throats pressing
our windpipes like trumpet keys
Nan Byrne has worked in television production since 2006 and is the writer and story producer of seven award winning documentaries. She is the editor of a short story collection, Bar Stories, a collection of essays, Ourselves as Students: Multicultural Voices from the Classroom, and a chapbook, Uncertain Territory. An MFA graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, her poems and stories has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including Seattle Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Fiction Southeast, Other Voices International, Canadian Woman Studies, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of grants from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center and lives in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard where she is a member of The Martha’s Vineyard Poet’s Collective.
Rafael Campo: Iatrogenic
You say, “I do this to myself.” Outside,
my other patients wait. Maybe snow falls;
we’re all just waiting for our deaths to come,
we’re all just hoping it won’t hurt too much.
You say, “It makes it seem less lonely here.”
I study them, as if the deep red cuts
were only wounds, as if they didn’t hurt
so much. The way you hold your upturned arms,
the cuts seem aimed at your unshaven face.
Outside, my other patients wait their turns.
I run gloved fingertips along their course,
as if I could touch pain itself, as if
by touching pain I might alleviate
my own despair. You say, “It’s snowing, Doc.”
The snow, instead of howling, soundlessly
comes down. I think you think it’s beautiful;
I say, “This isn’t all about the snow,
is it?” The way you hold your upturned arms,
I think about embracing you, but don’t.
I think, “We do this to ourselves.” I think
the falling snow explains itself to us,
blinding, faceless, and so deeply wounding.
This poem appears here courtesy of Rafael Campo’s website.
Campo is a prolific poet and essayist who is also a practicing physician. He currently teaches at Harvard Medical School, practices internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and instructs in the Lesley University Creative Writing MFA program. He has published five books of poetry: The Other Man Was Me, What the Body Told in1996, Diva (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards) in 1999, Landscape with Human Figure in 2002, and The Enemy in 2007. He has also contributed to several poetry collections, as well as the author of two prose collections: The Healing Art: A Doctor's Black Bag of Poetry and The Poetry of Healing (winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Memoir).
Shari Caplan: The Ground Speaks of Clouds
Once, he was mist. Clung to my long face singing
wet whispers to kill the evening as if no one had ever touched
me before, I believed in the transformation he spoke of.
Hanging his white hat on their coarse fingers, he brushed
the nearby evergreens praising juniper and sounding quite feminine.
Yes, he touched others. I know better.
A few mornings of the week, he slips into womanhood,
wanting to minister, to coddle us with healing water, dons a dress
and keeps low to the ground, kissing, kissing, humble as blue.
Until I met him, I feared the rains like they were my own body
but now welcome his routine. See him engorged, trotting mountaintops
with a band of cousins, gray as a military coat, coming for us all.
I don’t flinch. He will never stay low to the ground, never hear
the earthworms hum, never watch the child’s foot grow
or be first to catch the dawn sneak in like a teenager radiant
with forbidden love of the night before, never hold his own
heartbeat, his own breath, his own tongue,
as I do.
Shari Caplan is the author of Advice from a Siren (Dancing Girl Press). Since receiving her MFA from Lesley University, she has created Poetry Circuses, a Fairy Tale Walking Tour, and dozens of poetry/music/visual art events through the series The Theatre of Words & Music and through The Salem Athenaeum. Caplan has read for The Sugarhouse Review, counted for VIDA, and co-edited Soundings East (Salem State University). She has led workshops in Movietelling and on presenting one’s work to an audience. Caplan was a scholarship recipient at The Home School and a grant recipient for the Vermont Studio Center.
Caplan says, “I write to connect to others on the plane of imagination, where we know one another instinctively, deeply. I write to end the mistreatment of female bodies and psyches. I write to unearth my own inner workings. Theater infiltrates my thinking about poetry. Image, metaphor, sound, and the act of play are vital to my work. Folklore, history, pop culture, badass women, true and false love, cross-pollination of art forms, and the surreal inspire me. Community, more important now than ever, invigorates my work and life. Mass Poetry is an integral part of my literary and personal journey.”
Kevin Carey: Newburyport
Last week packing our things to move
back to the North Shore after renting
near Boston for a year, my daughter
and I argue outside the rented house.
She’s already leaving me.
I will miss the coffee shop on
Dorchester Ave, the quick ride into city,
the track at Milton Academy and
I’m still mourning The Celtics loss
to the Heat in seven games.
Now as I fly home from Chicago
after moving my son into his apartment
(we carried furniture in 100 degrees
and today we hugged after breakfast on
North Michigan Avenue) I’m reminded
of a friend who found out he is
going to lose his colon, and it’s
about all I can take, the sadness
like a wave of heat in front of me
and I wish summer would hurry up
and get over so I can start new while
all the leaves are dying around me,
forget that these moments are racing past,
grab a goodbye from the air
and hold it, maybe let it pull me back to
a simpler time when I was too busy
to wonder as much, too tired to think,
when I’d drive my kids to the playground
in Newburyport, the thick gray blocks
piled twelve feet high, watch them
climb like squirrels in and out of the
open spaces, up and down the slide.
It was all I needed then, a cool fall day,
my kids climbing something, my back
against a wooden bench watching,
a cup of tea warming my hands.
Published in Paddlefish
Kevin Carey teaches in the English Department at Salem State University. His work has been nominated for a Push Cart Prize, won Best of the Net 2011, and was a finalist for The Million Writers Award 2012. His co-written screenplay Peter’s Song won Best Screenplay at The New Hampshire Film Festival and his one act plays have been staged at The New Works Festival in Newburyport, Mass and The New Hampshire Theater Project. His new book of poetry is “The One Fifteen to Penn Station.” Kevin is also a seventh grade basketball coach in Beverly, Mass and a part time filmmaker. He has recently completed a documentary film, with photographer Mark Hillringhouse, about New Jersey poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan, called All That Lies Between Us, which will be screening at Passaic County Community College and Hofstra University. Kevin is also a long time, dedicated fan of the Boston Celtics.
Martha Carlson-Bradley: Man in the Moon
With the naked eye, just before dusk is best
for perusing the Moon. The Sea of Crises
off by itself—a beauty mark
that graces the left temple—
is easy to locate. The Sea of Cold,
though faint, stretches to meet the lakes
called Death and Dreams: they form, in a row,
a long, single eyebrow.
As the softest shadows reveal themselves,
darkness, on this face, is not
one thing—but various tones—
till night sets in, truly black,
and the Moon starts to glow in contrast,
hiding its finer details in light—
when we notice the mournful eyes,
mostly, and the mouth ajar, dismayed.
At the lowest rung of heaven
the Moon is looking the wrong way,
toward the blindfolded man who feels, hot and moist
on bare thighs, bare belly and scrotum
the German shepherd’s barked-out breath.
Again, the dog is growling, 1940, 2004,
while the Moon reminds us, in vain as it rises,
how every place is one place under the sky.
First published in Bellingham Review, “Man in the Moon” appears in Martha Carlson-Bradley’s second book, Sea Called Fruitfulness (WordTech Editions in 2013)
Martha Carson-Bradley's latest chapbook, If I Take You Here, was published by Adastra Press in 2011. She has received fellowships from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the American Antiquarian Society and leads the Book Club for Poets, a book-discussion group for practicing poets. More information about Carlson-Bradley is available at http://mcarlson-bradley.com and http://yourownsmallcraft.wordpress.com.
Anne Babson Carter: A History of War
“A slight man, the youngest of five brothers, Mohammed al-Azawi of South Bagdad, had loved birds since he was a boy. He owned a pet shop and raised nightingales. On this particular morning of November 27, he had just finished sprinkling food in his birdcages when a car filled with gunmen pulled up and in front of a crowd he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off. His body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. He had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot.” - The New York Times, Sunday, March 26, 2006
You’ve stayed with me young man of the nightingales
I’ve imagined you with your caged birds
affected by a loveliness I want to remember
unlike the morning it became necessary
for their dulcet sounds to mourn instead
a lament – for you
to the rush of your own blood gushing
like a river in spate
pouring faster than any man can die
I would have heard you screaming
It takes time to hate that way, day after day
They did not spare you their inhumanity
Young man of the nightingales
come back to us
we will change the ending of your story
into songs your birds might sing
from the branches of a Hazel tree
in the sweet centuries to be
Anne Babson Carter’s poetry has appeared in The Nation, The Paris Review, Theology Today, The Christian Century, The Western Humanities Review, and Borderlands, among other journals. Her collection of poems, Strike Root, won the Four Way Book Prize for a first volume of poetry and was published by that press. In addition to Strike Root, the poem “Cobb’s Barns” was included in the anthology, The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute to Edward Hopper, edited by Gail Levin for Universe Books. A second poem, “Undivided Measure” was set to music for mixed chorus and organ by the late American composer, Steven Paulus, and given a world premiere at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN. A founding member of the Guilford Poets Guild in Guilford, CT., she has twice been a Fellow of the Yaddo Corporation in Saratoga Springs, NY. She resides and works on Cape Ann.
Karen Chase: Hilling with My Love
Step out under the Potato Moon
onto the cushion green plateau,
forget the bad times, revel in some cheer.
Your palms awash to the sky,
behold the flat-flown heath adrift with sleep,
numb clouds, a rage of thirst.
Spuds in the larder, stout in the cup,
the moon full-fledged golden, brims
with service and sound, tingling my knees
of yesteryear, mightily, when I was a girl.
Who but you my love could dance terror away --
throw it off, your getaway, your flair
for gold stucco salt paint.
Holy Moly! -- the crows’ caws mix
with your stews of potato and corn.
High climbing this nighttime cliff,
qualms from times gone by vanish
as if before an Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger.
Hunger no more. Shasta daisies hold promise,
the coreopsis slurps the sun like a slushie.
Terra cotta pots swim with pink and red
and orange blooms, like corn and sugar,
like sugar dirt. Everything roars.
Karen Chase is the author of two collections of poems, Kazimierz Square and BEAR, as well as Jamali-Kamali, a book-length homoerotic poem which takes place in Mughal India. Her award-winning book, Land of Stone, tells the story of her work with a silent young man in a psychiatric hospital where she was the Hospital Poet. Polio Boulevard, a memoir, is forthcoming from SUNY University Press in September 2014. Her work has been widely anthologized, including poems in The Norton Introduction To Poetry, Andrei Codrescu’s An
Exquisite Corpse Reader, and Billy Collins’ Poetry 180. Chase lives in Western Massachusetts. Visit www.karenchase.com
Chen Chen: The Psychic Speaks to the Nonbeliever
After the palm reading, but especially after
the séance, you will become more
atheist than ever. During the cab ride home,
you will turn to your date, who is hot
& fairly smart about other things,
& you will say, That was kind of cool.
But you will look out the cab window,
notice leaves falling, clouds reconfiguring,
& you will wonder, What else
does this person believe?
At home, over the next week,
you will rewatch Cosmos, the original
& the rebooted, Sagan & Tyson, your people.
At work, you will sing
measured praise, you will debate
& reason, seeking out your people.
You will leave for Thanksgiving
with renewed atheist fervor.
You will refuse even to mouth
half of grace at the dinner table,
to take seriously an argument over the Pope’s
most recent sound bite on the sanctity
of whatever. Your uncles will be appalled.
Your aunts, amused. Your parents,
accustomed already & mostly just full
of various parts of a turkey.
One day, much later than you think,
you will break it off with the hot & smart
about other things person.
You will cease to believe
in online dating
for a while. You will sit
with a bowl of freshly
microwaved vegetable soup.
& try to blow on the spoonful of liquid
& miniscule carrot slice
without blowing too much soup
back into the bowl. You believe
that someone is out there
who also likes your shows & loves
hating the word aura. You sit,
blowing on your soup, unsure
how long it will take.
Like the speaker of his poem, Chen Chen does not believe in astrological signs or spirits from the beyond. He does, however, believe in human beings’ capacity for creating meaning and connection. He also highly recommends the Cosmos TV series—modern science can be as gripping a story as the ancient epics, especially when narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Chen’s first full-length collection of poems, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, is the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and will be published by BOA Editions, Ltd in spring 2017. His work has previously appeared in two chapbooks, Kissing the Sphinx (Two of Cups Press, 2016) and Set the Garden on Fire (Porkbelly Press, 2015), as well as publications such as Poetry, Gulf Coast, The Massachusetts Review, and Indiana Review. Chen grew up in Amherst and the Boston area. He holds degrees from Hampshire College and Syracuse University. Currently, he is a PhD student in poetry at Texas Tech University and lives in Lubbock, TX with his partner, Jeff Gilbert and their pug dog, Mr. Rupert Giles. For more, visit chenchenwrites.com.
Ching-In Chen: oral history revisited: interview with assistant
after Michael Lin
Each house curves a may-open story if you follow his way. Do not open touch-up doors. Some days each empty family get magnify, get reproduce. Under blue pattern, specific parameter. Only within my limits, our glazed family under spotlights. Place myself in pattern of protection. Brother bright and bent over each small man, kiss belly and grip, each whiskey put off to sea. Dream door came
open in my hand, dream you open my hand, back rose in air, no limit to our small men empty, your back free of payments, your brother in doorway, grows teeth at dawn.
First published in Better: Culture and Lit
Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. A Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. They have also been awarded fellowships from Can Serrat, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Norman Mailer Center and Imagining America. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing, The &NOW Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. They are a senior editor of The Conversant. Find them online at www.chinginchen.com
Chen grew up on Massachusetts’ North Shore, visiting the Peabody Essex Museum as a child. This poem was written in conversation with Michael Lin’s work and the history of Asian export art displayed at the Peabody Essex Museum and shared during the “Revolution and Art: Ekphrasis by Kundiman Asian-American Poets” panel at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in 2013.
Robert J. Clawson: Grappling
New River, Snead’s Ferry, N.C., circa 1950
The sergeant sets the throttle: troll.
You’re marines. You’ll take turns with the hooks. If we hook him and he surfaces don't look at the colonel's eyes, unless you want him watching you the rest of your fucking lives.
(...the colonel's bobbing, loon-wet head, nostrils gorged with algae...)
Rain for days. The estuarial gray's gone toffee brown. The marshes' grass mats decompose. Shellfish strain decay.
(...squirrel rotting in the mess hall's ceiling… sweet and sour soup...)
My first turn on the hooks I say,
We've caught a log.
The log's lurch settles in my gut. It surfaces: threadbare, Goodyear. A chopper whops overhead.
(...he tasted it, till packed silt drove his teeth past grimace, tossed his SOS-ing tongue...)
The limb I'm hooked to now peels from the trunk. It's small, but turns like toweling in our wake. Four mushrooms sprout: fingers. Then, a thin black wrist, a black bicep, armpit, some lat.
All I got is arm. A skinny black kid! Come about.
Throw it back!
(...I relish gale surf, the rush to crackling rock... our rubber boat scrunching sand...)
The grapple picks a piece of turquoise shirt and pectoral.
Throw that back too.
He's only five feet down. Can I just dive?
(... moonless trips across Trapp's Bay for heaps of crabs, hogs of beer, Snead's Ferry's hook...)
The sergeant's on the radio: Roger. Out.
Kid, this ain't your day. Some smartass flyboy's found our man. That's it. Stow that grapple in your lap.
Through outboard spray, I watch the harnessed, swinging silhouette rise into the olive bird. The colonel's corpus leaves first-class.
(...told our waitress, Twyla, that New River was oldest in America...she didn't bite.)
I coil the rope. My hands ooze blood. I taste my finger: too much salt. Ashore a crow rips gristle from a whelk.
First published in The Southern Review, Spring 2001
Robert J. Clawson A country kid, Bob attended a two-room schoolhouse. At Kenyon College, he studied poetry with John Crowe Ransom. Did a hitch in the Marine Corps. Taught high-school English, then entered business, where he wrote, edited, and directed a creative department. Time for poetry dwindled, but stalked him like a brindled hound, all ribs, tongue and tail.
Published in The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Christian Science Monitor, The Lancet, and several other journals, Bob’s featured in NYC; Galway, Clifden, and Cleggan, Ireland; Spetses, Greece; Forsyth Chapel, Nantucket Athenaeum, and many other venues. He’s a founder of the Robert Creeley Award and the Robert Creeley Foundation.
Cassandra Cleghorn: Milagro
The sun off the snowfields is too much today.
I live in a cathedral whose interior reaches
cannot be taken in, not now
with the scaffolding risen
and these walkways of fragrant plywood.
A cathedral is a world, clusters of people
doing things together, some singly,
tower of crutches stone-torqued into sheaves of wheat.
There are no fixed pews. Chairs may be dragged
or carried to where they're needed.
What if five or six people want to sit facing one another
in a circle or in a line knee to knee
before one of the lesser windows
or the still wet fresco?
I see them there where they've been
for days, the vigilants.
Behind them, our cabinet of reliquaries
several splinters and one gray bone--
I believe but cannot prove
that the sun will begin to lower
later today than yesterday.
May one less soul plummet
in this hill-town tomorrow
A ray passes over the golden foot of Christ
There! a fish shimmers,
(pub credit: Four Weathercocks, Marick Press, 2016)
Cassandra Cleghorn is the author of Four Weathercocks (Marick Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in journals including Paris Review, Yale Review, New Orleans Review, Poetry International, The Common, Narrative and Tin House. Educated at University of California, Santa Cruz and Yale University, she lives in Vermont, teaches at Williams College, and serves as poetry editor of Tupelo Press.
Maggie Cleveland: The Machinery of Apology
You cannot use a false car to hoist doors from floor to floor.
The tension device needs to move freely with the brush
as it follows irregularities. Molten babbitt can cause water
to flash into steam and spew babbitt.
A sleeve bearing quietly wears.
Such conditions result in fractured brushes, vibration
due to imbalance. Tension on brace rods
will cause excess stress on stiles.
The problem may be corrected by turning
and undercutting. Retract at either or both
limits of travel. If motor shunt field current drops,
a relating device is required.
All of the material remaining after this operation
must be carefully vacuumed away.
Maggie Cleveland hails from the seacoast town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where she works as a writer and administrator for the National Elevator Industry Educational Program. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies including The Offending Adam, qarrtsiluni, the Newport Review, Elephant, Flying Fish, BURP, Out of Our, Amerarcana, Ocean Voices (Spinner Books), and Tingujt E Erës:Lirikë E Re Amerikane (Sounds of Wind: New American Lyrics). ATOM FISH, a chapbook, was published by One Time Press in 2012. Maggie received an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.
Joshua Coben: The Wreck
The boat is washed
and washed to bone.
Its open ribs
describe a skiff
more wind than wood,
the hull a safe
whose lock the sea
has learned to pick.
A surge of foam
shoots through the frame
and then retreats,
its shadow salt;
the brine dissolves
what will not break.
Only the sand
can bear the swell,
knows how to wrest
from crashing fists
the long caress.
The ocean casts
but does not save
its molten shapes.
How much of sea
is water then,
how much is wave?
Joshua Coben’s first book, Maker of Shadows, published by Texas Review Press, won the 2009 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, College English, The Evansville Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and other journals. Born and raised in St. Louis, he studied and taught for two years in France before moving to the Boston area, where he teaches fifth grade. He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his wife and three children
Charles Coe: DNA
The young woman on the bus
has a mole on her neck.
Perhaps the same mole
in the same place
on some ancient ancestor
itched with sweat as she crawled
on hands and knees
through the king’s garden,
back bent, pulling weeds.
I know someone whose husband
died a month after their baby's birth.
Years later, she had to turn away
when her teenaged son brushed
the hair from his girlfriend's face
with exactly the same gesture
as the father he had never known.
Some mysteries are greater
than the birth of stars;
that sound you hear
the moment before sleep
is not the wind,
but your own flesh, in a timeless,
whispered conversation with itself.
From All Sins Forgiven: Poems for My Parents, published in 2013 by Leapfrog Press
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He was selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.” His novella, "Spin Cycles," was published in November, 2014 by Gemma Media. In addition to his work as a writer, he has an extensive background as a jazz vocalist and has performed and recorded with numerous musicians throughout New England.
Martha Collins: [white paper #6]
They lived in the colored
section of town, as if the White
Pages map had been crayoned,
little squares, inside the lines,
as if they too had been covered
with color, something added to what
was given, i.e. ourselves who did
not know, not even our teachers,
that they were the given, that we
were the altered, that we (who still
were they, there was no difference
yet) lost our color, slowly erased
it as we moved north where a distant
sun could not get through, and on
we went, making roads and maps
of rivers and roads, assuming
we owned it if we could draw
it and color it in and give it
a name, and still we are drawing
lines and calling them borders
and coloring in and naming
people who shall not must
not cross, who live in the colored
sections of our white minds.
Martha Collins is the author of White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012), as well as the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), which won an Anisfield-Wolf Award and was chosen as one of “25 Books to Remember from 2006” by the New York Public Library. Collins has also published four earlier collections of poems and two collections of co-translated Vietnamese poetry. Her other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes and a Lannan Foundation residency fellowship. Founder of the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College until 2007, and is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.
Wyn Cooper: Chaos is the New Calm
Chaos is the new calm
violence the new balm
to be spread on lips
unused to a kiss.
Left is the new right
as I brace for a fight
with a man who stands
on his remaining hand.
Fetid harbor harbor me
until someone is free
to drive me away
from what happened today.
Don’t strand me standing here.
If you leave, leave beer.
This poem is the title poem in Chaos is the New Calm, published by BOA Editions in 2010.
Wyn Cooper’s fourth book of poems, Chaos is the New Calm, was published by BOA Editions in 2010. His poems appear in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry and more than 100 magazines, including Poetry, The Southern Review, and Slate. He has taught at Bennington and Marlboro Colleges, the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, the Frost Place, and at the University of Utah. He has written songs with Sheryl Crow, David Broza, Jody Redhage, and David Baerwald. Songs from his two CDs with Madison Smartt Bell can be heard on six television shows. He lives in Boston and Vermont, and recently worked for the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, a think tank run by the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. He currently works as a freelance editor of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. www.wyncooper.com
Sam Cornish: Land
After Dorothea Lange
What God has given the dust has taken away
Rain has settled and made
Lush and green alive in our thoughts
To pass away like this man buried here
With a hat on his grave
To keep the sun from his face
For those who remember
Him by what he wore
What has been given
The dust has taken away
Sam Cornish grew up in Baltimore, MD and has lived in Boston, MA for the past 40 years. In the 1960s, he was a literature consultant for the Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore, where he created and co-edited Chicory, an anthology of writing by Baltimore residents. Following his move to Boston, he was a teacher at the Highland Park Community School in Roxbury, MA, and was also active in the Poetry in the Schools program in Boston and Cambridge, MA. During the 1970s, he was a curriculum specialist at the Educational Development Center in Newton, MA where he developed curriculum materials for the public school systems of Philadelphia, Delaware, Washington, DC and other places. In the early 1980s, he was the Literature Director of the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities and subsequently, an Instructor in Creative Writing at Emerson College until his retirement in 2006. During that same period, he created for UrbanArts an anthology of writing engraved on concrete slabs installed in subway stations on the MBTA Orange Line. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Council on the Arts and St. Botolph Society, among others. In addition to his nine books of poetry and for children, he has been published in dozens of periodicals, including Essence, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe. From 2008 through 2013 he served as the first Poet Laureate of the City of Boston.
William Coyle: More Things
How level-headed our reductionists are:
the mother wildebeest defending her young
establishes, not that animals feel love,
but that all love is instinct, pure and simple.
Fed into a computer, Moby Dick gives up
the same dates - Pearl Harbor, JFK's murder -
encoded in the Bible, proof the results
are random, not that hidden meanings abound.
The more fanciful among them will allow
how alien spacecraft might have parted the Red Sea,
appeared as a pillar of cloud or fire,
condescended to speak to Moses, Ezekiel.
With Horatio they have positioned themselves
at the borders of the permissible world:
there they stand guard, their drawn swords shining like stars,
refusing admittance even to the angels.
Originally published in PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.
Bill Coyle's poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including the Hudson Review, The New Criterion, the New Republic, and Poetry. His collection of poems, The God of This World to His Prophet, won the New Criterion Poetry Prize and was published in 2006. He is also a translator from the Swedish, and his versions of the poet Håkan Sandell have appeared in PN Review and Poetry and in the anthologies The Other Side of Landscape (Slope) and New European Poets (Graywolf). In 2010 he was awarded a translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has worked in Salem State University’s Writing Center for more than twenty years.
Steven Cramer: from Clangings
I hear the dinner plates gossip
Mom collected to a hundred.
My friends say get on board,
but I’m not bored. Dad’s a nap
lying by the fire. That’s why
when radios broadcast news,
news broadcast from radios
gives air to my kinship, Dickey,
who says he’d go dead if ever
I discovered him to them.
I took care, then, the last time
bedrooms banged, to tape over
the outlets, swipe the prints
off DVDs, weep up the tea
stains where once was coffee.
Not one seep from him since.
What, you wander, do I mean?
Except for slinging my songs way
ward home, how do things
in people go? is what I mean.
Steven Cramer’s just-published fifth collection of poems, Clangings, is a book-length sequence comprising a single dramatic monologue, the speaker manifesting the thought disorder known as “clang associations”–mental connections made between dissociated ideas through rhymes, puns, neologisms, and other non-linear speech. Steven is also the author of The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (1987); The World Book (1992); Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (1997); and Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande, 2004), which won the 2005 Sheila Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club, and was named a 2005 Honor Book in Poetry by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Steven’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, and Triquarterly; as well as in The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poets (first and second editions), The POETRY Anthology, 1912–2002, and Villanelles (Everyman’s Library). Recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, he currently directs the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge.
Patty Crane: Something Flown
Nothing wants to be itself
for long: winter loosens hold
drips off soffet eave branch
seeps into stone’s creases
and the pond transluces—
its language rising from its throat
in an upseep— a reverse kind of weeping
(What is the Inuit word for ice
that buckles under your weight
but doesn’t break)
And it is here I flushed a bird from the story
of a pine
like a pale hand a hand-
kerchief crying as it flew—
one note for every wingbeat
Dove I said
What I meant was daughter
you’ll be alright I meant
child come take my hand
I should have said break my heart
I should have said world
Published by The Massachusetts Review, Spring 2011
Patty Crane’s poetry has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Fugue, RUNES, The Massachusetts Review andWest Branch, among others,as well as reviews and essays in Poetry International and The Writer’s Chronicle. Hertranslations of the Swedish poet and Nobel laureate, Tomas Tranströmer, have appeared in Blackbird and Poetry Daily. A 2011-2012 Stanford Calderwood Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, her other awards include Atlanta Review’s 2005 International Publication Prize and Two Rivers Review’s 2004 Poetry Prize. She lives in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts
Abbot Cutler: The Swallow
My father always said that if the Buddhists
were right he would want to come back
as a swallow. He loved the quick swoop
and glide, the way a swallow would ride
just over the still surface of the lake,
dip its beak, drinking on the fly, loved
it more than the high imperial red tail
hawk, the way he loved the double play
more than the home run.
Yesterday, mowing the far field, a barn swallow
swooped and dipped picking off insects
as they flew up and it occurred to me
that it might be my father paying a visit
out there in the late afternoon light. Usually
swallows arrive in groups of three
or four, but this one was alone as
my father often was. I’m not sure
I believe in visitation, but
why not? Seems as likely as the stone
thought that it just ends, that’s it, no
see you later.
So I asked him how
he liked life as a swallow. He liked it,
the entire soar and loop of it, the snatching
of bugs out of the July air… and if he
was lonely? On a day like this? And besides
I was there, his son. He said
he liked seeing me up there on the tractor.
I seemed content. I was. What
did he miss? He gave his feathers
a shake. He didn’t know
what that meant. And then
he was gone and I turned
back toward the house
and the oncoming night.
Abbot Cutler has published two collections of poems: 1843 Rebecca 1847, published by Rowan Tree Press of Boston, MA. in 1982 and The Dog Isn’t Going Anywhere by Mad River Press of Richmond, MA. in 2000. His poems have appeared in numerous publications including Orion Magazine, Ploughshares, and Blue Sofa Review, and in several anthologies, among them What Have You Lost, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. He is currently a member of Slate Roof Press and has a third volume coming out with them in the fall of 2012. He lives in Ashfield with his wife, the photographer, Sarah Holbrook.