Mary Kane: A Few Rules of Thumb
If a woman takes a poem
into her mouth, she will taste mint, a little bit of raw moon, the beginnings
If a woman invites a poem into her kitchen, she will speak
at length with the dead.
If she invites two poems to dinner, she will know the pull of infidelity.
If a woman plants poems
in sock drawers, knife drawers, library books, envelopes addressed
to old men, she will shudder with pleasure at unexpected moments.
If a woman writes poems
in the nude, the skin in her poems will wrinkle. If a woman writes poems
dressed in corduroys and a green
wool sweater, the skin of her breasts will glow
If a woman argues with a poem
you won’t hear her. If she wakes up on Sunday and continues arguing
with the same poem, a line will fly alongside her left ear, cardinal red
with a splash of black.
If a woman makes love to a poem, no one will be able to read it.
If a woman
makes love to a poem behind her husband’s back, the poem will explode
from a prickled pod like a poppy, a deep salmon color.
If a woman fears a poem, her toes will curl.
If a woman invites the poem she fears
over for tea, she will breathe images. She will spill shadows everywhere
she walks, a poem over her head her very own sun, her very own rain,
her very own umbrella.
Originally published in The Guidebook
Mary Kane’s poems have appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal, on Poetry Daily, the Hiram Poetry Review, The Guidebook and Casa de Cinco Hermanas. She has two chapbooks, She Didn’t Float and After We Talk About the Recent Deaths of our Parents and about Compassion as Handled by Chekhov. She lives in Cape Cod and teaches at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
J. Kates: The Ax-Murderer’s Daughter
The ax-murderer’s daughter
got a brand-new yellow tutu
and satin slippers
for her eighth birthday.
And today is Every-Other-Saturday:
time to visit with her mother
where he lives ever since the accident
she was too young to remember
How she hates the long drive,
the iron doors and corridors,
the dirty little room where three bored men
watch her mother talking to him,
two girls fidgeting.
What is she supposed to think
about the stranger she’s supposed to love
for her mother’s sake and Jesus’?
She will stop visiting when she goes away to college
but write faithfully every month.
He will learn about her own two children, her divorce,
her move out of state, her new home.
She will give instructions to the chief of police
(there is always talk of budget-cutting,
of letting the safe ones out)
if ever he shows up in town:
Shoot on sight.
But today she will dance for him
in the dirty metal room to canned music
borrowed from her teacher.
She will wear her yellow tutu and satin slippers,
her mother, sister watching
and three bored guards.
And he will watch her, too, saying afterwards,
my little girl.
That’s my little girl.
Originally published in The Briar Patch, Hobblebush 2012
J. Kates is a poet, literary translator and the president and co-director of Zephyr Press, a non-profit press that focuses on contemporary works in translation from Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry in 1984 and a Translation Project Fellowship in 2006, as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts in 1995. He has published three chapbooks of his own poems: Mappemonde (Oyster River Press) Metes and Bounds (Accents Publishing) and The Old Testament (Cold Hub Press) and a full book, The Briar Patch. (Hobblebush Books). He is the translator of The Score of the Game and An Offshoot of Sense by Tatiana Shcherbina; Say Thank You and Level with Us by Mikhail Aizenberg; When a Poet Sees a Chestnut Tree and Secret Wars by Jean-Pierre Rosnay; Corinthian Copper by Regina Derieva; Live by Fire by Aleksey Porvin; and Genrikh Sapgir’s Psalms. He is the translation editor of Contemporary Russian Poetry, and the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era. A former president of the American Literary Translators Association, he is also the co-translator of four books of Latin American poetry.
Judy Katz-Levine: Farmer's Market and Jam Session at Noon
Sharp baby onions at the farmer's market –
booths hosting bins of strawberries.
A friend appears, she can
play a hot djembe at noon.
We sit under a tent.
The slow beat rises like a raven.
With my flute pressed
to my lips, I summon a chant.
A mirage lifts from a girl's ebony hair
as, not shy, she sings our praises.
"Eiloo Eiloo Eiloo Eiloo" rising towards a tree's leafy shade -
the steady snap of the djembe in noon's blaze.
I take a drink of ice water. Someone
murmurs that we soothe -
over noon's parking lots.
*djembe- a hand-drum
Judy Katz-Levine is an internationally published poet who has authored two full-length collections of poetry. “When The Arms Of Our Dreams Embrace"(1991) and "Ocarina"(2006) were both published by SARU. Her most recent collection is "When Performers Swim, The Dice Are Cast" (Ahadada 2009). Her poems have appeared in magazines such as "Fence", "Salamander", "Blue Unicorn", "Ibbetson St.", "The Bitter Oleander", "The Sun", "Muddy River Poetry Review", "Istanbul Literary Review" and "Gravel", and she has been the recipient of a Massachusetts Artist Foundation grant in poetry. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have been published in Japan, and England as well as in the United States.
Meg Kearney: Carnal
with a line by Donald Hall
I suppose squirrels have their hungers, too,
like the one I saw today with the ass end of a mouse
jutting from its mouth. I was in the park;
I’d followed the stare of a dog, marveled
as the dog seemed to marvel that the squirrel
didn’t gag on the head, shoved so far down
that squirrel’s throat nearly all that was visible
was the grey mouse rump, its tail like a string
too short to be saved. The dog and I couldn’t
stop gawking. The squirrel looked stunned himself—
the way my ex, The Big Game Hunter, looked
when I told him I was now a vegetarian.
We’d run into each other at a street fair
in Poughkeepsie. The hotdog he was eating
accused me of everything I’d thought
I’d wanted, and what I’d killed to get it.
From Home By Now (Four Way Books, 2009); Originally published in Poetry
Meg Kearney is author of two books of poems for adults, An Unkindness of Ravens and Home By Now, winner of the 2010 PEN New England LL Winship Award, as well as two novels in verse for teens: The Secret of Me and its sequel, The Girl in the Mirror. Meg’s picture book, Trouper, is illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Scholastic, 2013). Her poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” and has been published in myriad literary magazines and anthologies. She lives in New Hampshire and directs the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. For more information: www.megkearney.com
Claire Keyes: What Diamonds Can Do
Some write poetry on glass windows
like Sophia Hawthorne at the Old Manse
with her wedding ring. Common enough
in the early 19th century, but it was like finding a note
in a bottle picked up on the beach. I felt a kind of awe.
Granted, Sophia was the wife
of you know who and could commit
what is, in essence, graffiti. With no repercussions.
And granted, she must have been godawful bored
when he took off the morning after the snowstorm
to visit Thoreau. And left her alone with the baby!
But still, scratching on the window
of a rented house in the room where his imagination
played with dark things. So like him
to face his desk to the wall. She stood looking out
the window. Snowy fields, icy river.
Was it really just being overwhelmed
by the pretty view, the trees all glass
chandeliers as she wrote? After coining
the metaphor, she incised it with gusto.
And like most mothers she had to brag
about her kid, Una, only ten months old,
and named for Spenser’s Fairie Queene heroine.
Did posterity really have to know
she stood on the window sill?
So we record the minutia
of our lives, gambling that significance
rests in our homely dramas. Thus Sophia
got down on her knees, diamond in hand,
proud mother, yes, but incidental
not at all, a someone
who signed her name with a flourish.
Claire Keyes is Professor emerita at Salem State University where she taught English for thirty years. She currently teaches for the Salem State Explorers, a life-long learning program, as well as leads the Poetry Salon in Marblehead. She has won the Robert Penn Warren Award from New England Writers as well as a First Prize in poetry from Smartish Pace. The recipient of a grant in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, she also received a poetry fellowship from the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. The Question of Rapture, a book of poems, was published by Mayapple Press. Rising and Falling won the Foothills Poetry Chapbook Contest. What Diamonds Can Do, her second full-length collection, was published by Word Tech Communications in 2015. In addition, she is the author of The Aesthetics of Power: The Poetry of Adrienne Rich. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Women's Review of Books, Spoon River Poetry Review and others. On-line, you can find her work at Verse Wisconsin, Newport Review, Umbrella Journal and Red-Headed Stepchild. She has lived in Marblehead most of her adult life and is married to Johnes Moore.
Lawrence Kessenich: Brief Vacation
I wash dishes on an overcast day
miles from the Atlantic. An East wind
unexpectedly delivers the sea to my window
like an invitation to Cape Cod. The briny odor
conjures waves falling over themselves
to get to shore, sandpipers motoring
up the sand to avoid them, the muffled
cries of children breasting cold surf.
My neighbor’s house has fallen away,
revealing in the blue-gray distance
a sailboat silhouette on the horizon,
the steamy spout of a whale. I breathe
deeply, hands submerged in water,
fill my lungs with an ocean of air.
Lawrence Kessenich won the 2010 Strokestown International Poetry Prize. His poetry has been published in Atlanta Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Cream City Review, Istanbul Review, Ibbetson Street, and many other magazines. His chapbook Strange News was published by Pudding House Publications in 2008. In 2012, his poem “Underground Jesus” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first full-length book, Before Whose Glory, is being published by FutureCycle Press in spring 2013. Kessenich has also published essays – one of which was featured on NPR’s This I Believe in 2010 and appears in the anthology This I Believe: On Love – and he has had two plays produced..
Kirun Kapur: Mango is the King of Fruit
for my father
The T.V. entertains itself. My eyes
on you, spattering the tabletop with pulp,
the orange fruit, the knife
of equal brightness. The story goes:
your brother stole the fruit,
khaki shorts lost up the trunk,
then shoes hung down, twin crows.
You played look-out: cane field up the road,
kept your school-shirt clean, stopped passers-by
with made-up Shakespeare, breaking news of Gandhi-ji,
until the coast was clear. The owner never caught you,
though he chased with rocks and threats of the police.
Your brother ran ahead,
while you tossed back, Sir—Uncle—
No need to be mad, even Lord Ganesh ran a race
to win a mango. And he was also fat!
Uncle-ji— don’t run so fast. Your face is getting redder
than the butt of a baboon…
You feed me straight from your hand,
saying Sorry, it’s not an Indian
mango. From Mexico, I think. Now your brother’s
five years dead. Your good arm shakes.
The juice has stamped a yellow hemisphere
into the placket of your shirt. You can’t go back,
the skin un-split, the flesh intact, so you feed me
the King of Fruit; I eat until my stomach hurts.
We turn to watch a cartoon cat with an axe
pursue a brown mouse over a ledge.
Underneath, there waits a pack of patient dogs.
We laugh, mop up. Run—you warn
both mouse and cat—run faster, brothers.
First appeared in Clapboard House, appears in her book Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist, and is anthologized in Best of the House.
Kirun Kapur grew up in Hawaii and has since lived and worked in North America and South Asia. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals and news outlets. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and has been awarded fellowships by The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center and McDowell Colony. Kirun is the winner of Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry and Antivenom prize for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. She is co-director of the popular Boston-area arts program The Tannery Series and is poetry editor at The Drum. More info at kirunkapur.com. She will be reading with Robert Pinksy for the Tannery Series in Newburyport on January 23.
Alice Kociemba: Paper Route
Ogallala, Nebraska. Population 25
or so it seemed. At quarter till dawn,
I biked to the station before it was demolished
by the engineer’s “speed and negligence.”
Drunk, no doubt when the 5:40
heading west to North Platte derailed.
We made the Evening News even in Lincoln.
It is still news at Ollie’s Big Game Lounge –
a sure sign the end of the world is coming, soon.
Over rattlesnake pizza and Coors
men with Marlboros
take that “told you so” stance
toward strangers and newcomers.
But they are right in one respect,
no city dweller has ever seen the sky.
So still, so deep, so bright – a safety net
for those who fall upward into wonder.
You forget for a while the littleness of people.
Until the whistle breaks the night
with one long blast and two quick
volleys of civilization,
as aching a sound as I ever heard
in that dusty time of yearning.
The train brought the world to town
at least for five minutes
when the Omaha World Herald
plopped on to the platform, headline up.
My ticket to freedom.
Published in The Atlanta Review.
Alice Kociemba is the director of Calliope – Poetry Readings at West Falmouth Library. www.calliopepoetryseries.com. She facilitates a monthly poetry book discussion group at the Falmouth Public Library, an outgrowth of “What’s Falmouth Reading?” selection of the Favorite Poems project in 2009. She is the author of a chapbook Death of Teaticket Hardware (2010). Her recent poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Off the Coast, Roanoke Review, Salamander, Slant among other journals. Alice is a member of the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and the Jamaica Pond Poets.
Sandra Kohler: Snowblind
Sunday morning, snow. An icy snow, thick,
crystalline. I sit in a white-lit room, looking
through white lace curtains at the white-draped
houses and cars and trees of Tonawanda
Street. The only sound the scrape, rasp of one
shovel, one shoveller. What is the language
for this white light, cold state, this steady fall
of winter: prison, embrace, beauty, blindness?
The house is soundless. A distant roar – truck
or plow. The freight of Sunday papers waiting,
their sections worlds: imagination, arts, sport;
war, bombings, concentration camps, terror.
All architecture is the architecture of desire:
what’s built from our wishes, dark or aspiring.
In today’s news, a Vatican statesman calls
Gaza a concentration camp, to Israeli outrage:
their blind claim to the moral high ground.
Is the claim always a sign of blindness?
I condemn Israel for bombing Gaza, while on
the Boston streets where I live young men are
shooting each other and I close my eyes, hope
not to be in the line of fire or ricochet.
The wind chime on the porch slowly stirs,
as if moved not by wind, but from within.
Across the street, a shadow’s shadow: crow,
black marker, is perched on the crest of
Miss Rose’s slanted roof, defining the line
between the white of snow, the white
of sky. Morning’s clear light is blinding,
unsparing. There’s nothing left to spare.
Sandra Kohler's third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 35 years. A resident of Pennsylvania for most of her adult life, she moved to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston in 2007.
Yusef Komunyakaa: Requiem
when the strong unholy high winds
whiplashed over the sold-off marshlands
eaten back to a sigh of saltwater,
the Crescent City was already shook down to her pilings,
her floating ribs, her spleen & backbone,
left trembling in her Old World facades
& postmodern lethargy, lost to waterlogged
memories & quitclaim deeds,
exposed for all eyes, damnable
gaze & lamentation—plumb line
& heartthrob, ballast & watertable—
already the last ghost song
of the Choctaw & the Chickasaw
was long gone, no more than a drunken curse
among the oak & sweet gum leaves, a tally
of broken treaties & absences echoing
cries of birds over the barrier islands
inherited by the remittance man, scalawag,
& King Cotton, & already the sky was falling in on itself,
calling like a cloud of seagulls
gone ravenous as the Gulf
reclaiming its ebb & flowchart
while the wind banged on shutters
& unhinged doors from their frames
& unshingled the low-ridged roofs
while the believers hummed
“Precious Lord” & “Deep River”
as the horse-hair plaster walls
galloped along with the surge,
already folklore began to rise up
from the buried lallygag & sluice
pulsing beneath the Big Easy
rolling between & through itself,
caught in some downward tug
& turn, like a world of love affairs
backed up in a stalled inlet,
a knelt-down army of cypress,
a testament to how men dreamt land
out of water, where bedrock
was only the heart’s bump
& grind, its deep, dark churn
& acceleration, blowzy down
to those unmoored timbers,
already nothing but water
mumbling as the great turbulent eye
lingered on a primordial question,
then turned—the gauzy genitalia of Bacchus
& Zulu left dangling from magnolias & raintrees,
Originally published on poetrysociety.org
Yusef Komunyaaka’s thirteen books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize, Warhorses, and most recently The Chameleon Couch. His many honors include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally and include Saturnalia, Testimony, and Gilgamesh. He teaches at New York University.
Jean L. Kreiling: Remnant
Well past the hurricane’s last gasp, a week
beyond the need for candles, several days
past panicking about our swollen creek,
and after sweating through the cleanup phase,
we put away the rakes and power saws
and hailed the resurrection of our phones;
at peace again with nature’s random laws,
we’d lost the terror blown into our bones.
But one branch still sprawled in our neighbor’s yard:
a gawky, wind-lopped limb some eight feet long,
leaves brown and shriveling—a calling card
left by the storm, a scrap of something strong.
It questioned, in its battered dignity,
our definition of recovery.
Published in Angle 1 (Summer 2012): 18. http://anglepoetry.co.uk/archive/ Also included in The Truth in Dissonance (Kelsay Books, 2014).
Jean L. Kreiling, a member of the Powow River Poets, published her first collection of poetry, The Truth in Dissonance (Kelsay Books), in 2014. Her work has appeared widely in print and online journals, including American Arts Quarterly, The Evansville Review, Measure, Raintown Review, and Mezzo Cammin, and in several anthologies. Kreiling is a past winner of the String Poet Prize and the Able Muse Write Prize, and she has been a finalist for the Frost Farm Prize, the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, and the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award. In her other life, she is a Professor of Music at Bridgewater State University.
Len Krisak: Somme Armor
From teapot tanks, gun-barreled short and stout,
No steam, no Earl Grey came, but fire poured out.
In retrospect, they seem like toys of tin
Almost—like children’s flimsy little banks.
On antique film, in cladding mica-thin,
They clank through No Man’s Land, treads, cogs, and cranks
A-whirring, threatening to tip over—creaking
Through late afternoon toward what they’re seeking.
Len Krisak's most recent books are Ovid's Erotic Poems (a translation), the complete Carmina of Catullus (also a translation), and Afterimage (his own poems). His work has appeared in the Hudson, Sewanee, PN Southwest, and Antioch Reviews. The recipient of the Robert Penn Warren, Robert Frost, and Richard Wilbur Prizes, he is also a four-time champion on Jeopardy!
Joy Ladin: Hadley Graveyard, Heat Wave
Heat turns air to water, earth to sea, graves to portholes
of ships without sails
becalmed beneath grass and granite.
Ahoy! They are underway, navigating earth's salt spray,
death-vessels crammed to the masts
with old age, genocide and plague.
I smell the salt-rot of their splintering timbers.
But I'm not dead, not yet. The dead sail away
past bicycle pumps and basketball nets,
stubs of mountain, dried-up streams, rivulets of sweat,
mailboxes, numbers, dates and names,
headstones baking like bread.
Joy Ladin is the author of seven books of poetry, including just-published Impersonation, Lambda Literary Award finalist Transmigration, Forward Fives award winner Coming to Life. My memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. My work has appeared in many periodicals, including Lambda Literary, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southern Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review, and has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship.
Courtney LeBlanc: Fence
You came back to tear down
the fence –
it was half-falling, rotted,
I thought it safe to go to work,
to leave you
to the physical labor,
to trust you
wouldn’t repeat previous mistakes.
When I returned home
the fence was gone, a pile
of rotten wood lay
heaped in the backyard.
In the bedroom I found
my journal left open
to the page you found
You’d scrawled SLUT
across the page
in large red letters.
I wondered where you’d
found the red pen
or if you’d taken to carrying
one with you should the
opportunity to shame me
I paid a friend to haul
away the warped wood
and build a new fence,
the smell of sawdust
filling my yard for days.
I changed the locks on my doors,
wrote in my journal
each night, hoped the fence
would keep me safe.
Courtney LeBlanc is the author of chapbooks Siamese Sisters and All in the Family (Bottlecap Press). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Connections, Welter, The Legendary, Germ Magazine, District Lines, Slab, Wicked Banshee, The Door is a Jar, and others. She loves nail polish, wine, and tattoos. Read her blog at www.wordperv.com, follow her on twitter: www.twitter.com/wordperv, or find her on facebook: www.facebook.com/poetry.CourtneyLeBlanc.
Seth Landman: Looking Up
In the beginning, there was a long pause.
There was an eruption of impossible heat.
There was a childlike gurgling in the firmament.
I could tell your mind was changing.
I could feel something was wrong. When you don’t answer me,
it feels like you aren’t listening and it feels like you don’t care.
There was a quiet fight between great forces.
There were so many herons in the rookery,
and patches of nests like constellations in the trees.
That day, there was the bluest sky I ever saw.
I don’t know exactly how to explain about Canada.
I went there, and it just felt like home.
I felt so sorry I made you climb that mountain.
I’m sorry for the terrifying trek down the shelf,
the implausible ocean, everything that’s between us now.
There was a chance it was all for nothing. We ate stew
and looked out at the sea. We had a language we used to say hey
I waited for you to come over. I nervously puttered around the apartment.
In the interim, I lived my little life. My cousin gave birth to a little girl.
She was so small. I held her and she made sweet noises.
The pioneers sang songs and the wagons rocked the babies to sleep,
but it was a desperate life with desperation all around.
They navigated by the stars while the country changed around them.
There was danger just beyond the visible perimeter.
You called to tell me the sky was pink. Are you seeing this,
you said. I was out in the world and felt like crying.
I was overwhelmed by the traffic. We don’t understand
each other. I’m seeing it, I see it. I’m sitting here
writing this and I don’t know what to do. I wanted you
to look at the moon, and you said, I have a window.
I can see it. I’m making you something to eat.
There is a kindness I can’t always articulate.
There I was in the forest, shouting into the ground.
Sometimes I don’t know who is talking when I get like this.
Human equality is overwhelmingly true.
You could be anyone, but you’re not. You’re just you.
Tell me about your life.
It’s just someone laughing in the next room.
The hospital called, it’s okay,
everyone’s fine. There was a face
in the moon and it looked relaxed.
We learned we were stardust, and I relayed that message
through the proper channels. I can’t help thinking
someone is watching. Someone singing to themselves
in the car next to you on the highway, being amazing, going on forever.
If we ran it back again, it would turn out different. I don’t know how I am.
Seth Landman was born in Boston. He is the author of Confidence (2015) and Sign You Were Mistaken (2013).
I’m thinking about the way the Coen Brothers frame people in their films. This video has a good exploration of how they expand the possibilities of shot/reverse shot structure, putting the camera in the middle of the conversation rather than outside of it. It's disorienting and emotional. In their shots, people are alone with you. Life feels like that sometimes. You are alone, but something might be watching. I’m preoccupied with framing, with the way context manipulates emotion. I love the way poetry—because its images are not beholden to the realities of what can be seen—can make a person visible even framed by the entire history of the universe.
When I wrote this poem, I was falling apart. I felt lonely wherever I went and whatever I did. My life felt enormous to me, but also pathetic and small. I was rehashing a conversation, blaming and apologizing, trying to get back something I lost. I was trying out different angles, different ways of looking at my life. I was trying to find out how I was.
Li-Young Lee: Have You Prayed?
When the wind
turns and asks, in my father’s voice,
Have you prayed?
I know three things. One:
I’m never finished answering to the dead.
Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his father’s voice,
his mother’s voice . . .
Or maybe he’s seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
dreaming, thinking . . .
Or is he the breath of God?
When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my father’s voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things.
One: A father’s love
is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and what’s left over
is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.
And patience? That’s to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.
And wisdom? That’s my father’s face in sleep.
When the wind
asks, Have you prayed?
I know it’s only me
a flower is one station between
earth’s wish and earth’s rapture, and blood
was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. It’s just me
in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?
Strange. A troubled father. A happy son.
The wind with a voice. And me talking to no one.
Li-Young Lee is the author of four critically acclaimed books of poetry, his most recent being Behind My Eyes (W.W. Norton, 2008). His earlier collections are Book of My Nights (BOA Editions, 2001);Rose (BOA, 1986), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University; The City in Which I Love You (BOA, 1991), the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and a memoir entitled The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (Simon and Schuster, 1995), which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and will be reissued by BOA Editions in 2012. Lee's honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Lannan Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 1988 he received the Writer's Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. He is also featured in Katja Esson's documentary, Poetry of Resilience.
Jeffrey Levine: Working With the Lepers
In my yard, you are not,
nor in my crab apple tree,
which I also claim, and so too the raccoons
nesting in the black oak across from where
last winter, the old picket fence was crushed
by that enormous stag who stood off-center
for as long as he liked,
pawing the snow
for as long as he liked,
until the snow turned into mud
and the mud into daffodils, which he ate until
love turned into water and the water into wine
and the wine — how I miss you
there, among the lepers, earning your sainthood
daily, fevered and fervent.
The Chinese say vinegar is envy,
but the Chinese don’t know everything.
See the papaya tree, its heavy fruit hinting at the visible?
Pluck this world from our vision of love.
Pour out the vinegar.
Bless the wounds.
Philip Levine: Let Me Begin Again
Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly and changes nothing. Let
me go back to land after a lifetime
of going nowhere. This time lodged
in the feathers of some scavenging gull
white above the black ship that docks
and broods upon the oily waters of
your harbor. This leaking freighter
has brought a hold full of hayforks
from Spain, great jeroboams of dark
Algerian wine, and quill pens that can’t
write English. The sailors have stumbled
off toward the bars of the bright houses.
The captain closes his log and falls asleep.
1/10’28. Tonight I shall enter my life
after being at sea for ages, quietly,
in a hospital named for an automobile.
The one child of millions of children
who has flown alone by the stars
above the black wastes of moonless waters
that stretched forever, who has turned
golden in the full sun of a new day.
A tiny wise child who this time will love
his life because it is like no other.
Philip Levine was the 18th U.S. Poet Laureate (2011–2012). Most recently, he was the recipient of the 2013 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. His latest book is News of the World, Random House, Inc., 2009. In 1958 he joined the English department at California State University in Fresno, where he taught until his retirement in 1992. He also has taught at many other universities, among them New York University as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, at Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, and the University of California at Berkeley
Sarah Levine: Sleigh of Geese
Let me wear your jacket for the longest time
after I cut my bangs too short
and pin a flower in your pocket.
I tell you if I could do anything
I would grow the longest arms
to scratch the moon because the moon
is my favorite mosquito bite.
You just stand and chew stand and chew
and I suddenly wish I had a sleigh of geese
to nip my ankles pink and make
the ground smell of half bitten apples.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a picnic in our geese’s shade?
As they huddle together like eggs in a carton,
lazy and watching
you tell me about the people we will grow into.
on my neck like a music
raising my arms into the air
like two skinny kites
searching for a gallop of wind.
Orinally published in PANK
Sarah Levine received her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Work is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2013, Handsome, and Green Mountains Review among others. Levine won Westchester Review's 2012 Writers Under 30 Poetry Contest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has a chapbook "Her Man" forthcoming from The New Megaphone Press in 2014.
Patricia Lee Lewis: On the Horns of Our Dilemma
Fences come and fences go,
it is the way with fences. In
the middle of nowhere, an idea
rises between us, fixed
and sturdy. Rains come, fence
posts settle, mud dries. No
thought of selling out, no thought
of dust to dust. Cedar planks
reverberate with cries
of Longhorn cows. And we
are sitting on the fence, both sides.
~ © Patricia Lee Lewis: From High Lonesome, a book of poems published by Hedgerow Books 2011.
Patricia Lee Lewis holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA from Smith College, Phi Beta Kappa. She is the author of two books of poems: A Kind of Yellow, awarded first prize by Writer's Digest International in 2005; and High Lonesome, published in 2011 by Hedgerow Books. Patricia was born and raised in Texas and has lived for many years on a little mountain in Westhampton, MA. She leads creative writing workshops and retreats in western Massachusetts, throughout the US and internationally, including this year in New Zealand and Puerto Rico.
Sandra Lim: Later in the Garden
Ennui and unemployment.
White cyclamens bruise their imaginations.
Oh my darling, says Adam, I don’t like the sound of that cough.
Mountains blacken above the water.
Time for spring cleaning.
They fashion the word moon to describe their hallucinatory loneliness.
They loosen the belts on their woolen bathrobes.
Now they have to live in their bodies.
A small crucifix opens to become a knife.
They see that the only reason they survived the first snake was their youth.
They consider how many times they have been loved.
Eve remarks, waiters are so much nicer than people.
Time falls upon them like an ox.
What need is there for me to tell you about the dry anguish in the evenings.
~ Originally published in T: The New York Times Style Magazine (August 2015): 222.
Sandra Lim is the author of The Wilderness (W.W. Norton, 2014), selected by Louise Glück for the 2013 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and a previous collection of poetry, Loveliest Grotesque (Kore Press, 2006). A recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, the Getty Research Institute, and the Jentel Foundation, her work has appeared in Boston Review, VOLT, Literary Imagination, Jacket2, and The New York Times. She teaches literature and writing at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Frannie Lindsay: Portrait of Mable Departing
... yet do not grieve;
she cannot fade, though thou has not thy bliss,
forever wilt thou love and she be fair!
-John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn
One clump at a time the dog fur abandons the dog.
Next go the toenails, tail-tip, abundantly tickled
insides of ears, the lacey detritus of her
slipping free with the nonchalance of a garter snake.
Next go her sepia teeth and the five dry kibbles that crust
her dish, next the trash bag that carries them out,
and the wheeze of the Tuesday truck and the handsome,
foul-mouthed boys clambering off the back,
next the corduroy bed stored in the basement
beside the ice skates,
the puttings away, the slow forgettings,
the knucklebone scarred with chew-marks a keepsake now,
next the siren with no howling to echo it, next
the grass her urine scalded
greened over, the cataracts dimming the days in August
and the nights that bring enough crickets to breathe
next the grit her paws tracked in from the street
finally the carpet grayed with it finally the house
and the key and the dweller finally
the street itself
Frannie Lindsay‘s fourth volume of poetry, Our Vanishing, received the 2012 Benjamin Saltman Award by Red Hen Press. Her other books are Mayweed (2009, Word Works); Lamb (Perugia 2006); and Where She Always Was (Utah State University Press, 2004). Her work appears in Best American Poetry 2014.
She is the 2008 winner in poetry of The Missouri Review Prize. She has been featured in Ted Kooser’s column American Life in Poetry, Writer's Almanac, and Poetry Daily. She is widely published. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Moira Linehan: America
To the America I know from songs—
the America of plains amassed with corn
and wheat. Of amazing purple mountains
majestic, a mirror of each passing cloud.
The America of songs from my childhood
at assemblies, parades, and still at ballparks,
a childhood on Delsole Road, fed from the same source
as were those songs. Seven houses amidst
a former apple orchard—our house at the end
and then, a field, the woods, Mill River
running through. No end of trees to climb. For Hide
and Seek, granite outcrops to crouch behind.
Pine needles amassed upon the forest floor.
We swept them into squares to form the rooms
of the houses of our dreams. Born to dream—
this America of immigrants, the masses
amidst her cities, amalgam of the poor,
the tired and the desperate, but ah, yes, also
all us children. America, mon amour,
a muse for Whitman and every explorer
who headed west, every pioneer who followed.
Summer evenings when our dad got home, he pitched,
we learned to hit, we tried to catch ground balls,
fly balls, all those amazing fireflies. Monarch
butterflies. Were there snakes? Of course. We looked for them
under rocks. We ran with them. Andy, the big kid
in the neighborhood, taught us to stone them.
Amen. America on parchment scrolls,
in presidents’ speeches, in the seas of flags
graveyard after graveyard. America.
Rainy days, my friend, my first friend Marilyn
and I amused ourselves by cutting clothes
for paper dolls from our mothers’ catalogs.
Every childhood: a muse for better or for worse
and mine, Amen, was blest. And so by chance.
Like those three turtles that lumbered into our yard
the day our dad had white paint on a brush.
He wrote my name, my brothers’—Moira, Mark and Joe—
upon their lacquered backs. I never saw them
again, though I knew they were out there, crawling,
surely crawling back to Mill River: Moira, Mark and Joe,
buried now in the land of that childhood’s songs.
America, my country. Mirabile
dictu. A match that still enflames, a mecca
a masterpiece, a mouthpiece, a must-read.
Published in Crab Orchard Review, Winter/Spring 2012
Moira Linehan’s debut collection, IF NO MOON, won the 2006 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and was published in 2007 by Southern Illinois University Press. In 2008 it was named an Honor Book in Poetry in the 8th annual Massachusetts Book Awards. In 2010 her poem, “Last Wishes,” received the Foley Poetry Award from America magazine. After careers as a high school English teacher and an administrator in high tech and academic settings, Linehan now writes full-time and occasionally leads poetry writing workshops. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Image, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly. She has had numerous residencies, including recent ones at the Cill Rialaig Project in Co. Kerry, Ireland; Fundación Valparaíso in Mojácar, Spain; the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan, Ireland; the Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor, WA; and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Linehan also holds a MFA in Writing from Vermont College. She lives in Winchester, MA.
Diane Lockward: The Third Egg
Far from woodland or savanna, a rafter
of wild turkeys, at least a dozen in my yard,
their black bellies and iridescent wings
glistening in sunlight. Behind the glass,
I sat still and watched, repulsed
by the fleshy caruncles across each head,
the jiggly red wattles and dangling rope-like
flaps of skin on the throat,
and from the center of the breast, a tuft
of small feathers that had failed to grow.
They waddled and strutted and swiveled
their long necks like periscopes.
They dipped their beaks into the bird bath,
investigated the feeders, and foraged
the ground for seeds and nuts.
They cast long, dark shadows.
Two hens moved away from the group
and poked the piles of dead leaves, as if
looking for something they’d lost.
The biggest gobbler looked in at me.
I heard his low-pitched drumming noise.
He was not afraid, but I clutched my belly,
beating with child, this time my last hope.
I prayed hard that these feathered creatures
were no omens or portents, just birds on a stroll.
After they left, I searched outside for a feather,
an amulet for the seed blooming inside me.
Reprinted from: The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement (Wind Publications, 2016)
Diane Lockward is the author of four poetry books, most recently The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement (2016). She is also the editor of The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop and the original The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. Her poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Her work has also appeared on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is the editor and publisher of Terrapin Books. A resident of New Jersey, she was a presenter at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in 2016 and 2014.
Shirley Jones Luke: Like Manna from Heaven
The children’s hungry eyes always haunted my mother,
eyes that searched hers for a knowing nod
and the food she served during the lunch period,
she urged them not to push each other, their hard
plastic trays eager for the Dickensian-like fare
that awaited them, my mother was their savior
often doling out extra portions whenever she could,
fruit, salad, rolls, allowing children that needed
to pay a portion of their lunch to bring her the money
the next day, sometimes the money came – sometimes
it didn’t - she would make up the difference out her own pocket,
telling the children that it was okay, relief and gratitude
washing over their faces like the Red Sea over the Pharaoh’s
troops, saving the fleeing Israelites from a life
of servitude and squalor, my mother was their Moses,
not asking for anything in return but a smile
or a thank you, instead she received plenty of hugs,
soft tears and the promise of a better tomorrow.
Shirley Jones-Luke is an educator, poet and writer living and and writing in Boston. She has written and submitted poems for most of her adult life, but poetry was always secondary to her, with fiction and nonfiction her main pursuits. Her view of poetry's position in her life changed one morning in March 2015 when she discovered a lump in her right breast. A visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fears - breast cancer. It was then that writing anything took a backseat to chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Many days were filled with pain and weariness, her mind to muddled to focus on writing. But it would be writing poetry that would pull Shirley back into its world. She has an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her chapbook is entitled The Soul's Matriarch and she is currently working on a full-length manuscript.
Henry Lyman: Sometimes on a River
We drift toward a stillness that holds
one moment to the next, as the river does
itself and does even the air. May things
be slow, thus, always, let them spread
their surfaces outward into time until
there is no forward or back, or time
at all, until the river’s mirror is all
there is of us and we are on the way
toward nowhere but here, leaves circling
in on themselves in the midst of their days.
Henry Lyman’s poems and translations have appeared in The Nation, New England Watershed, The New York Times, Poetry, and in two books published by The Elizabeth Press. He edited Robert Francis’s posthumous collection Late Fire, Late Snow as well as After Frost, an anthology of poetry from New England, and coedited Open Field, poems from the Northampton workshop Group 18. From 1976 to 1994 he hosted and produced Poems to a Listener, a nationally distributed radio series of readings and conversation with poets. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Janet MacFadyen: The Geese that Fly South in Your Dreams
Each night you sleep in your freshly washed undershirt
whose sleeves have torn from your shoulder blades
to the pectorals. I wondered how you did it—to rip
each new shirt as if birds attacked you in your sleep.
Then I saw how your restless muscles grew,
how they writhed with a muted fury until the shirt
stretched tight, it stretched to bursting—
Perhaps it was merely a trick of the eye: I know
how the moon transfigures with its rush
of white feathers that can catch and channel
the light down your back like water. Yet now
as I watch you struggle, your shoulder blades twitching,
trying to plow up the air, I can't help but think
of my father. He said the shoulder blades
were where the wings began, that muscles pushed them
out of your back like cotton out of a plowed field.
Each year he felt my small nubs of bone
waiting for the first pin-feather that never came.
Finally I sleep. When I wake, the shade clacks
against the window, curtains buffet the room.
Here, says the wind, come. I step, and freeze—
The distant light of an airplane moves, impossibly high.
Yet you soar under the moon's influence over rooftops,
mountains, and cold streams, your wings glittering with frost.
It would be better if you never returned
than to appear each morning in my bed, leaving
the incriminating feathers, the torn shirts, and making
those hollow cries in your sleep—
But you do return
to slip one arm over me, as if you were not
some wild thing waiting for the geese to call you.
Originally published in In Defense of Stones, Heathersone Press
Janet MacFadyen is the author of three works of poetry, most recently In the Provincelands (Slate Roof) and A Newfoundland Journal (Killick Press). She has held a nine-month fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and residencies at Cill Rialaig (County Kerry, Ireland) and at the Fowler and C-Scape dune shacks in Provincetown. A Pushcart nominee, she has published in Poetry, The Southern Poetry Review, The Atlanta Review, Rosebud, and Malahat, and online in Terrain, Mead, and Sweet.
Laurin Becker Macios: At The Balcony Window, Slid Open
you stand breaking a piece of mealy bread into scraps,
dropping them into the deep snow.
Three blue jays flit over and lift up
the wet cuts, toss them back
for grip in their light beaks
then wing away like a loosening breath.
Plucked naked by the season, and draped in it,
the fat branches of our old tree
boast five stark silent crows.
They are like heirloom broaches pinned
solemnly on a virgin’s gown;
we watch, stock-still and anxious
for the first to unclasp.
Laurin Becker Macios was born in Miami, Florida and raised just short of everywhere (Florida, Germany, North Carolina, Colorado, and Holland). She has her MFA in Creative Writing Poetry from the University of New Hampshire and is Program Director of Mass Poetry. She previously worked in publishing and taught writing courses at UNH. She lives in Boston with six plants and one wicked awesome husband. More of her writing can be found at laurinbeckermacios.com.
Jacquelyn Malone: Why I Need a Gun
I don’t trust you.
And I’m warning you,
I’m not deceived.
I see you scurry
when I open the door.
You’ve been up to something,
you devious wafting dust motes.
Table, I know you straightened your legs
to look innocent and demur.
If you fool with me
I’ll blast the varnish right off your veneer.
Amaryllis, don’t think of sticking
your long tongue out at me.
I’ll pistol whip you so fast
your bulb will shrink like a prune.
I’m warning you – don’t any of you move.
I’ve got my gun right here,
stowed under the Second Amendment.
I’ll show you. See?
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Well, I warned them not to move!
Jacquelyn Malone has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship grant in poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Cortland Review, Poetry Northwest, as well as other publications. Two of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. One was featured on the website Poetry Daily. Her chapbook All Waters Run to Lethe was published by Finishing Line Press. Formerly the Web Content Director of Mass Poetry, Malone is a Tennessee native who has lived in Massachusetts for over forty years--in Brookline, Gloucester, Wakefield, and Lowell. She says of this poem, “I think the situation of gun violence in this country is completely surreal--my reason for writing a surreal poem!”
Cynthia Manick: The Reaper in Me
I think of the way doctors unpack a body.
Primary colors and cold metal joined just right.
This is not the scar I show– my love
for surgery porn at 1am, orthopedic
serpents that re-break bones and muscle
memory. Heaven is the sound of tiny mallets,
metacarpals piling on top of each other
like those Haitian boys who fell
through the cracks of the earth—
so fast that even gravity was surprised.
Tiny galaxies formed in their mouths
a gathering of tongues, souls, and rubble.
Dirt that said I eat you to live.
I question those souls and scavengers.
Do you shake the scent of death
from the skull like a woman’s shawl,
or does it rest in the crease of hands
and that space between sock and ankle?
I want to be the dark animal that roots
the ground for peaches, bones, and stars.
Originally appeared in Passages North
Recently someone said that art is the place where we reflect on who we are, where we have failed or triumphed, who we want to become, followed by action. I think poetry embodies that journey and more. I discovered poetry in high school but it took years to join craft, imagination, and a sense of self. But beneath all was the love of language. Like a base melody, words rub against one another, hem an image in, or open an emotion. The desire to explore those connections through language keeps me writing and hopefully someone else reading. I'm inspired by teachers who advocate joy and writing the hard poems, current events, books that keep me up past midnight because I can't put it down, overheard conversations, memory, and the assonance of speech. I just discovered the word snaggletooth and think everyone needs to put that in a poem.
Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs published by Black Lawrence Press. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School; she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, Poets House, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, DMQ Review, Kweli Journal, Passages North and elsewhere. She can be found at http://www.cynthiamanick.com/.
Fred Marchant: Night Heron Maybe
I woke to more rain, and felt in the dark
for how wet the sill was, then rolled back
to my radio, and a midnight preacher
in my earphone teaching about sin.
I learned that punishment would come
like lightning that surprises an innocent shore.
Thunder would follow me all my days,
stern reminder and sharp rebuke.
The long, sleek, and pointed call
that rose, as if in response, out of the estuary
of night and storm, said it knew well
what the given world gave, and wanted more.
From The Looking House. Copyright © 2009 by Fred Marchant. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Fred Marchant is editor of the Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947, from Graywolf Press. He is also the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Looking House from Graywolf Press. His other collections include: Tipping Point winner of the 1993 Washington Prize from The Word Works, Full Moon Boat (Graywolf Press, 2000) and House on Water, House in Air: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2002). He is also the co-translator (with Nguyen Ba Chung) of From a Corner of My Yard a collection of poetry by the contemporary Vietnamese poet Tran Dang Khoa. This collection—an important historical document in itself—will be published by the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. Dr. Marchant teaches at Suffolk University, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he is Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program as well as the founder of the Suffolk University Poetry Center. He is also a longtime teaching affiliate of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass-Boston, and teaches in its annual Writer’s Conference. He has been a member of the Executive Board of PEN New England, where he was the Chair of the Freedom to Write Committee, where he founded, among other activities, the PEN New England writing workshop at Northampton County House of Correction. He also teaches in the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conferences. Dr. Marchant has been a recipient of fellowships from the Ucross Foundation, the Yaddo Foundation, and the McDowell Colony.
Paul Marion: South Common Haiku Set
Red bird in the pine,
a small thing, considering.
Overnight rain due.
Over the low hill
whiff of Owl Diner bacon—
they sell oatmeal, too.
The full empty pool—
acres of after-effects
in the open field.
Who has not looked up
and seen the long white jet trails
that fade in seconds?
Cold morning hotshot.
Glimpse of half-court one-on-none
through the diamond fence.
Not Carl’s cat-feet fog.
More, you can see the park’s breath—
Just this side of mist.
Paul Marion is the author of several collections of poetry, including What is the City?, and editor of Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac. He lives in Lowell and works at UMass Lowell.
Jennifer Markell: Montebello Road
How quickly they shut it down—
three men, a garbage truck,
cars backed up, leaves blowing wild.
A gust sends stink: pork rind, coffee
grounds, ferment of rotting pumpkins.
The men haul bags, heave bales,
bassinette, oven door.
They laugh and shrug, step up, jump down
while we turn to look behind
like befuddled owls, no way out.
A driver leans out the window, cusses.
The truck labors down the road
past rows of triple-deckers,
cracked retaining walls.
Someone pounds the horn, and the men slow down,
smile as they swing the barrels like dance partners.
Originally published in Floating Bridge Review Number 7
Jennifer Markell’s first book of poetry, Samara, was published this year by the Turning Point imprint of WordTech Communications.Her poems have appeared in journals nationally and internationally, including The Aurorean (Featured Poet), Consequence, The Hawaii Pacific Review, Rhino, and The Women's Review of Books (forthcoming). Her poetry has been displayed at Boston City Hall, and she was selected to read her work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their Valentine’s Day Celebration “The Fine Art of Love, Lust, and Laughter.” Jennifer works as a psychotherapist with a special interest in therapeutic uses of writing.
Mary Ann Mayer: Elegy for the trees
An angry man bought the hillside.
Hungry for blue bigness
he chain-sawed the trees;
he smashed the nests – the birds fled.
I wanted to write an elegy for the trees,
that old comforting wood. I wanted to,
but couldn’t— being so full
It’s bitter cold— sub-zero, and this jay
blue and clear on the branch below my window,
this jay: no song-bird, not sentient
shining in low sun, red berries of mountain ash,
a dark crown animating the branches—
Originally published in Umbrella
Mary Ann Mayer’s poems appear widely in journals and in the recent anthologies, They Work, We Write (Ocean State Poets), honoring early textile mill workers, and Missing Providence (Frequency Writers). Nominated for the MA Book Award, Mary Ann’s most recent collection is Salt & Altitudes (Finishing Line Press). She’s been awarded the Grub Street Poetry Prize and honorable mention from Bauhan Publishing for the May Sarton Book Award. Mary Ann lives in Sharon, MA with her dog, Ezra Hound.
Linda McCarriston: Mr. No Class, USA
Thinking of how he will live
just shy of retirement
if all goes well if all
goes the way the ads
on t.v. suggest it must
urge him to think
it will, gardening with the little lady
say, golfing maybe, just
tossing the ball with the dog in
good health, him as well, his health
good, he is already dressing
for then, dining, driving
a young man’s version of
what he will out there drive;
he lifts himself up
by the shoe straps from the mire of his
mother, his father, his
sets foot on the golden road as
a paving stone among
paving stones, going:
no backward looking, no sidelong-
even glance. His whole life already
Linda McCarriston is from Lynn, MA, and now lives in Gloucester. She attended public and Catholic schools, graduated from Emmanuel College, and earned an MFA from Goddard College. Since 1994 she has taught in the MFA Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which since 2006 has been a low-residency program. Her books include Talking Soft Dutch, Texas Tech, a finalist in the AWP Award Series, Eva-Mary, TriQuarterly, which won the Terrence Des Pres Prize and was short-listed for the National Book Award, and Little River, TriQuarterly, originally published by Salmon in Ireland. Her poems and essays are widely published and anthologized.
Jill McDonough: Accident, Mass. Ave.
I stopped at a red light on Mass. Ave.
in Boston, a couple blocks away
from the bridge, and a woman in a beat-up
old Buick backed into me. Like, cranked her wheel,
rammed right into my side. I drove a Chevy
pickup truck. It being Boston, I got out
of the car yelling, swearing at this woman,
a little woman, whose first language was not English.
But she lived and drove in Boston, too, so she knew,
we both knew, that the thing to do
is get out of the car, slam the door
as hard as you fucking can and yell things like What the fuck
were you thinking? You fucking blind? What the fuck
is going on? Jesus Christ! So we swore
at each other with perfect posture, unnaturally angled
chins. I threw my arms around, sudden
jerking motions with my whole arms, the backs
of my hands toward where she had hit my truck.
But she hadn’t hit my truck. She hit
the tire; no damage done. Her car
was fine, too. We saw this while
we were yelling, and then we were stuck.
The next line in our little drama should have been
Look at this fucking dent! I’m not paying for this
shit. I’m calling the cops, lady. Maybe we’d throw in a
You’re in big trouble, sister, or I just hope for your sake
there’s nothing wrong with my fucking suspension, that
sort of thing. But there was no fucking dent. There
was nothing else for us to do. So I
stopped yelling, and she looked at the tire she’d
backed into, her little eyebrows pursed
and worried. She was clearly in the wrong, I was enormous,
and I’d been acting as if I’d like to hit her. So I said
Well, there’s nothing wrong with my car, nothing wrong
with your car…are you OK? She nodded, and started
to cry, so I put my arms around her and I held her, middle
of the street, Mass. Ave., Boston, a couple blocks from the bridge.
I hugged her, and I said We were scared, weren’t we?
and she nodded and we laughed.
Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough's books of poems include Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), and Where You Live (Salt, 2012). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years. Her work appears in Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry 2011. She teaches poetry at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the online writing program at the Fine Arts Work Center.
Don McLagan: Why did he dig
Why did he dig
in the soft sand on the barrier beach
with a toy shovel? Sitting and digging.
A toy shovel. Shovel after shovel, digging
and digging, and the hole getting deeper
and him having to throw the sand up
because the hole was that deep. He digs
and digs deeper into the shadow
of his hole. Friends splash in the surf,
stretch in the sun. After a while
they don’t see him anymore.
My friend divorced, moved south to Asheville
away from his ex, his kids, his friends, away
from me – to dig for his roots, he said. He sat
on a bar stool and read with a glass of good wine.
Listened to music with a glass of good wine.
Sometimes he just sat with his wine. A good
bar customer, the stool became his. No one
else sat there. Then no one sat near it.
Up north we friends went to the Vineyard
and on bike trips, didn’t invite him. After a while
we didn’t see him anymore.
The man in the sand cries out
because the soft, shoveled sand
collapses, fills to his shoulders
and continues to sift down on him.
His friends rush to help, call 9-1- 1.
One jumps into the hole to hold his head
above the sand. Emergency crews
with front-end loaders and breathing tubes
arrive. With bare hands, equipment,
and a hoist, he is pried lose
and walks away.
My friend dug a dark hole. It was
too dark for me. I was afraid
to jump in. It was easier to let him
read, listen to his music and sit
on his bar stool. Him in North Carolina
and me in Massachusetts. When
he didn’t show up for therapy,
it was the police who found him.
Him in North Carolina,
me in Massachusetts.
Don McLagan is an entrepreneur and poet. An innovator of business information services for forty years, he is now retired and advises entrepreneurial CEOs. He writes poetry with the Concord Poetry Center, the Cleaveland House and the Edgartown Poets Collective. Don’s current advisory and Board relationships include Affectly.com, H Class Association (Herreshoff), LearnLaunch, MassPoetry, Techstars, and Testive.com.
Don has a B.S. (1964) and a B.S.M.E. (1965) degrees from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and an MBA from Harvard Business School (1967).
Kevin McLellan: 12 Years of Looking at Nouns
from a northeast island
his all-consuming want
meanwhile in another
land a carefully composed
letter mentions reciprocation
and that it has stopped
he measures their distance
apart by the memories
of their arguments
yet his body remembers
pleasure and now this ferry
trip is the length of missing
there once was a farm
a sick goat
a horny goat
several hens (minus one
after the fox inked the snow)
and a premonition of his ending
he thought he could eat
his way to a beginning
but this brought about
another ending and he
was forced to abandon
everything he knew
as he sat on the stoop
the sun was nearer
but still far away
and the cold wind
he knew time was now
now he could see
who he was becoming
as it was happening
and the beautiful people
who were always there cheered
and he could forgive
darkness returns as darkness
nevertheless he’s surprised
by the sounding ambulances
that aren’t coming for him
as if a fence or a barn animal
looking for the fox
this is another beginning
and there will be several
more to follow
before the ink
turns into someone else
more beautiful people
and a swan glides
elegantly across the pond
nevertheless he wants to jump
from a seafaring dinghy
and swim to another shore
he’s renewed again
and another’s language
a letter is written
and they will have
a dozen between them
the distance between
words not being words
as is of course language
therefore it is time
to stop measuring
he is a bird now
on a doweled perch
on a doweled perch
he is a bird
among dried seed
the cage door opens
Appears in Tributary (Barrow Street, 2015)
Kevin McLellan is the author of Tributary (Barrow Street) and the chapbook Round Trip (Seven Kitchens), a collaborative serious with numerous women poets. The chapbook Shoes on a wire (Split Oak) and the book arts project [box] (Small Po[r]tions) are forthcoming. He won the 2015 Third Coast Poetry Prize, and his poems have appeared in journals such as: American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, Salt Hill, West Branch, Western Humanities Review, Witness, and numerous others. Kevin lives in Cambridge Massachusetts.
Wesley McNair: Hymn to the Comb-Over
How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, others four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time’s passing
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.
Phillip Levine has called Wesley McNair “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” The author of six volumes of poetry, McNair’s latest book is Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems. He has been awarded grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller Fellowships, an NEH Fellowship in literature, and two NEA fellowships. In 2006 he was selected for a United States Artists Fellowship of $50,000 as one of “America’s finest living artists.” Other honors include the Devins Award for Poetry, the Jane Kenyon Award, the Robert Frost Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize, the Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry magazine, an Emmy Award, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal. A guest editor in poetry for the 2010 Pushcart Prize anthology, McNair’s work has appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition and The Writer’s Almanac, with Garrison Keillor; two editions of The Best American Poetry; and more than sixty anthologies. He has served four times on the nominating committee for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and has authored or edited 18 books, including poetry, nonfiction, and anthologies.
Gary Metras: Shards of River
Only a black bodied fly could tempt trout
in this pause between downpours.
Only the deepest hungers will force a rise
through the dark brume and the gray drizzle.
I float a caddis a foot from the dripping bank,
its elk hairs disappearing in the gloomy air
and water. Blind fishing, and no
guiding angel this shrouded morning.
Reflex and desire my genuflect and prayer.
The trout are ghost spirits haunting
each bend, each water-scarred tree,
each clump of drowned rocks,
and darkened men wading.
A heavy stare their only companion.
A quiet ripple forms beyond my line,
a small fish that pulls, runs,
and dives against my drab, damp self.
I line-haul it toward me. Its splashes break
and scatter gray shards of river.
A ten inch brookie in full spawning dress,
speckles so bright and fins glowing so orange,
he’s a holy arc of light burning a hand
that knows it must let go.
Gary Metras is the author of sixteen books and chapbooks, most recently, Two Bloods: Fly Fishing Poems (Split Oak Press, 2010), Francis d’Assisi 2008 (Finishing Line Press, 2008), and the forthcoming Captive in the Here (Cevena Barva Press). His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in such journals as The American Voice, Another Chicago Magazine, The Bellingham Review, The Boston Review of Books, English Journal, Hawai’i Pacific Review, New England Watershed, Poetry, Poetry East, Poetry Salzburg Review, Sanctuary and former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. He is a past recipient of the Massachusetts Fellowship in Poetry. He is the editor, publisher, and letterpress printer of Adastra Press. He is the President of the Pioneer Valley Chapter #276 of Trout Unlimited. He fly fishes the streams and rivers of western Massachusetts as often as possible.
Colleen Michaels: Daily Record, 1943-1993
First farm boy then factory worker,
my grandfather kept a journal.
His shift sleeves cuffed over biceps,
his one small glass of Carling Black Label
rinsed in the kitchen sink each night,
the word diary not in a man’s vocabulary.
But every day, he made record
in his ruled notebooks, the year in gold
foil on each spine, the covers colored
like car interiors -burgundy, gray, and black
Each Christmas my grandmother would
pick out a new one at the drugstore.
$1.99, then $2.50, and then $3.99.
He placed a check for her under the tabletop tree
first, $5.00, then $15.00, finally $25.00.
“For Terry – Hair Permanent” he’d write in the memo line.
Both gifts recorded in the current year’s pages.
My grandfather, a rivet maker for jeans at “The Buckle,”
was a list maker, a sorter of nails and rubber bands in jelly jars,
a keeper of weather and baseball scores.
From him I know how a man felt,
felt about bowling (two strings every Tuesday),
the cost of cigars (too much but worth it),
the shooting of Kennedy (first John then Bobby),
the polio of his only child (bus fare and leg braces),
the birth of two grandchildren (flowers bought each time).
One entry each in impeccable block print,
what you’d expect more from an architect,
a man under commission
to build something big.
Originally published in the online journal The Museum of Americana.
Colleen Michaels' poems have been made into installations on shower curtains, bar coasters, and the stairs to Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Her most recent poetry installation, Line Break, with sculptor Lillian Harden, was featured at the 2014 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Her work has been published in Barrelhouse, The Paterson Literary Review, Mom Egg Review, Roar, Stoneboat, Meat for Tea, Hawai'i Review and others. She directs the Writing Studio at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she hosts The Improbable Places Poetry Tour bringing poetry to unlikely places like tattoo parlors, laundromats, and swimming pools. Yes, in the swimming pool.
Richard Michelson: Dead Negro
Nothing is where I left it. The empty littered lot
next to my father’s hardware store has turned up
two blocks to the north. Even the store itself,
which sold its last hammer and nail to the contractor
who tore it down, putting this substandard duplex
in its place, is missing. And the neighbor’s children
are now the neighbors, and the chalk outline of my father
is rained from the gutter where he settled down with
the bullet that killed him. Somewhere else, the murderer
is murdering somebody else, but everything is the same
in the poem where the poet misplaces his keys.
My old Jewish neighborhood is filled with blacks,
and the African-American neighborhoods are busy
with Asians, and the Mexicans are everywhere
but here, in this dark bistro, in the Soviet era city of Pskov,
six hours south of Saint Petersburg. There is
a Dead Negro on the bar menu. The dead Jews,
my father among them, rise up in protest
like the benevolent protectors they once were.
They are looking for the picket line which is no longer
where they left it. And the leftists have moved
to the right, and God is looking for God everywhere.
Nothing is where I left it. Not my hammer and sickle,
not my Star of David, not my well-thumbed book of poems.
My wife and children are nowhere to be found.
O Amichai, can you help me to find my keys
in the pockets of the Palestinian boy moved
into my Brooklyn home. His sister is missing
and his mother is not where he left her. It’s enough
to start anyone drinking. I’ll have a Dead Negro
somebody says from the next booth, a black man,
maybe the one that killed my father, but in this light
I can’t tell; everyone looking exactly the same.
“Dead Negro” originally appeared in the Harvard Review and was reprinted in More Money than God (Pitt Poetry Series, 2015).
RICHARD MICHELSON’s children’s books have been listed among the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; and among the 12 Best Books of the Decade by Amazon.com. He has been a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award (2x), the Harlem Book Fest Wheatley Award, and the National Jewish Book Award (3x), as well as receiving two Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Awards, a National Parenting Publication Gold Medal and an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award. In 2009 Michelson received both a Sydney Taylor Gold and Silver Medal from the Association of Jewish Librarians, the only author so honored in AJL’s 47 year history.
Michelson’s latest collection of poetry for adults is More Money than God (Pitt Poetry Series). Previous collections include Battles & Lullabies, Tap Dancing for Relatives and 2 fine press collaborations with the artist Leonard Baskin. Clemson University named Michelson their Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature. Recent poems have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Massachusetts Review, Parnassus and elsewhere. Michelson is the owner of R. Michelson Galleries, the host of Northampton Poetry Radio, and the current Poet Laureate of Northampton Massachusetts. www.RichardMichelson.com
Amy Miller: The Church of the Rowing Machine
In the end,
I arrive backward—
not the way I learned it
in the book,
but pulled by the body’s
lever and bone.
I can see where I began,
the shore of a dream lake
where I put in every morning.
My crewmates sweat
and huff and secretly fear
I won’t keep up, but they
and distance is illusion,
the water, the carpet
rolling to meet my strokes.
Books kneel on shelves,
chairs have parted with their ghosts.
The door is open
to the rest of the house,
the otherworld of day.
Behind me—who knows
what’s coming? Who can say
I haven’t moved an inch?
I tell you, I saw the reeds
slide by. I heard
the ducks on wings
nearly graze my shoulder
as they rowed
the invisible air.
Appeared in Alehouse
Amy Miller was raised in northern California and western Massachusetts. Her poetry has appeared in Nimrod, Rattle, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. Recent chapbooks are I Am on a River and Cannot Answer (BOAAT Press) and Rough House (White Knuckle Press). She won the Cultural Center of Cape Cod National Poetry Competition, judged by Tony Hoagland, and has been a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize and 49th Parallel Award. She works for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and blogs at writers-island.blogspot.com
Miller says, "I spent my teenage years in Westfield, Massachusetts (1974–1979), and still have friends there and return for high school reunions. I had a lot of “firsts” there in the home of Stanley Tools and Columbia Bicycles: first time driving, first kiss, first heartbreak, etc. New England shaped my writing, and the region still figures into it all the time."
Nancy Bailey Miller: On Reading Robert Wrigley’s 16 Tips, Quips & Pontifications the Week after my 50th Reunion
I truly have tried to live alliteratively.
Count syllables, watch my right margins,
stitch and unstitch decades of decasyllabic lines.
When I don’t know what comes next,
I pull down something that’s already there.
Every line has a life of its own.
Every life has a line of its own.
Robb Wiggins, a line-giver for sure, my crush
in seventh grade. Firm handshake. Lawyer. Wall Street
money. Lives in Larchmont. Could that be his hair?
There used to be prose poems I loved,
but I, like Wrigley, have no impulse now to write one.
Nor to spend another evening sharing
shrimp bites, faded photos, looks.
I’ve written books. Sound drives the poem,
a convertible Gatsby sound, like jazz at the end.
Surprisingly, Mike Cusa’s fingers, tapping foot, bald head
know how to swing it on a lobby babygrand. Cusa,
in the lower grades, used to sport a wave of jet-black hair.
In poetry nothing is used up, or ever gone.
The list is read: twenty-nine dead. But here
we stand to tell what we have done these 50 years.
Except Marie who has a cane.
There are no cliques, no snubs, no lies.
There are no rules. We ate them all.
Nancy Bailey Miller has published four books of poems: Dance Me Along the Path, Before the Dove Returns, Risking Rallentando, and Hold On. Anthologized in the Powow River Anthology, Our Mothers, Our Selves, Merrimack Literary Review, and The 2010 Poets' Guide to New Hampshire, her work most recently appeared in The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop (Diane Lockward, editor). Retired from Phillips Academy Andover, Bailey Miller taught writing in the Summer Session there for ten years. Her poetry has been published in many journals including Rattapallax, Blue Unicorn, and the online journal Poetry Porch: Sonnet Scroll. When she is not dancing with her writing muse, Nancy plays first violin in Reading Symphony and string quartets whenever possible.
Christopher Millis: Ceremony
My father fishes when he’s out of work
so early that he cannot see
his lines cast out into the dark.
He light a cigarette, a spark
sets scales off in the sea.
My father fishes when he’s out of work
and tries to wake me with a jerk
to the shoulder. “Get up,” he coaxes softly.
His lines cast into the dark
where I’m dreaming like a shark
cuts water. He waits until I’m ready.
My father! Fishes when he’s out of work!
As if by ceremony he could shirk
his sleepless night, or convince me
his lines cast out into the dark
amount to something more than a mark
on water, more than a plea.
My father fishes when he’s out of work
His lines cast out into the dark.
Christopher Millis' writing has been published, produced and broadcast widely in the United States and Europe. He has authored three books of poetry: The Handsome Shackles (2002,) Impossible Mirrors (1994,) and The Diary of the Delphic Oracle (1991,) and his poems have been featured in numerous magazines and anthologies. In 1994, his translations of the Triestine poet Umberto Saba appeared as The Dark of the Sun (University Press of America,) and the first of his acclaimed translations of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “Requiem for Mohammed Al-Dura,” was published in The London Review of Books in 2000. His translation of Darwish’s “I Remember al-Sayyab” appeared in 2004 in The London Review of Books, The Daily Star, and The International Herald Tribune.
Gloria Mindock: War Games
From a young age, boys play soldiers.
Little army plastic figures, fight one
another as the boys make sound effects.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Got Ya, You're Dead, Pow!
The war takes to the backyard and the boys
pretend to fight with each other, rolling in
the grass, playing dead.
Little did they know, a few years later, this
would be a reality. The noises they pretended
to make, would be more terrifying, and watching
buddies die, would change their lives forever.
The boys wear a real uniform and a hat that
goes with it or a helmet. The color blends in
with the earth. Camouflaging their hearts.
One must protect that.
They are guarded, ready to shoot for
what they believe in or not. Fighting for
a freedom, they never had. They could
have died, if caught playing soldiers.
At 13 years old, taught to shoot and kill,
childhood gone, no tears to cry, alone,
their soul screams, “I am sorry.”
First appeared in “Hildagard’s Daughters: 6 Poets, Women of a Visionary Voice” in Belgium.
Gloria Mindock is the founding editor of Cervena Barva Press, and one of the USA editors for Levure Litteraire (France). She is the author of La Portile Raiului (Ars Longa Press, 2010, Romania) translated into the Romanian by Flavia Cosma, Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, 2010, Montenegro), and Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson, 2007). Widely published in the USA and abroad, her poetry has been translated and published into the Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, Estonian, and French. Her fourth chapbook, “Pleasure Trout” was published by Muddy River Books in 2013.
Helena Minton: Dark Tasks, a Dream
Each night the riderless horse
appears, saddle strapped to his back,
stirrups flying, froth in his mouth,
lips pressed against his teeth.
No way to catch him, grab the reins,
as he careens into the yard
but I know it is my job.
I’m skittish, timid,
lack strength in my arms.
tells me he can’t be left to roam,
has to be reined in.
And I need
to dodge his kick,
bring him back to the barn.
I have no skills, no gift,
no way with a horse.
Where is the hot walker,
to cool him down, curry him,
walk him in the ring?
And the rider?
Is he someone
I’ve left behind?
Whatever I thought I once knew
how to do I’ve forgotten.
I try to coax the chestnut,
my palm up, empty.
He snorts and paws the ground.
I wish I knew what to say
to calm him down.
I put down my whip,
pull on one boot.
He must be fed, but what?
Nothing picked from the garden,
nothing that can be named.
Helena Minton is the author of The Canal Bed and The Gardener and the Bees. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, including Merrimack: An Anthology and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her poems have recently been published in The Listening Eye, Red River Review, and Sou’wester. She has taught creative writing and composition and worked as a librarian. She serves on the board of the Robert Frost Foundation and lives in North Andover.
Wendy Mnookin: At Sea
At the end of the jetty.
Where the boats come in. Where the boats go out. At the pile of rocks
that swallows the sun at the end of the day.
At the turn of the trail. At the last dune.
In front of the hot-dog stand. At the door to the pub. By the shanty,
the shipbuilder’s yard, the discarded yellow boots, the smashed clam
You thought I’d give in to despair.
But today is today, everywhere I look. And I look everywhere.
Published in The Moon Makes Its Own Plea (BOA Editions, 2008) and read by Garrison Keillor on the Writer's Almanac (12/16/2008)
Wendy Mnookin’s books are The Moon Makes Its Own Plea, To Get Here, What He Took, and Guenever Speaks. Widely published in journals and anthologies, Mnookin received the Sheila Motten Book Award and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches poetry at Emerson College and at Grub Street and lives with her husband in Newton, where they raised their three children. You can find out more about her writing at www.wendymnookin.com.
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.
Lesléa Newman: How to Watch Your Father Watch Your Mother Die
Sit beside him on a folding chair beside your mother’s bed.
Place a box of tissues between you.
See how he takes your mother’s hand in both his own
and strokes it like a small wounded animal.
Do not speak.
Do not turn on the TV.
Do not shatter the silence around you.
Let time pass.
Listen to your father sigh.
Listen to your father sob.
Hand your father a tissue whenever necessary.
Ask him if he wants some food.
Ask him if he wants some water.
Ask him if he wants to take a walk.
Do not press him when he says no to everything.
Remember the one thing he wants is impossible to give him.
Let more time pass.
When your father gets up to go to the bathroom and says,
“Hold Mom’s hand,” hold your mother’s hand.
When he returns, give your mother’s hand back to your father.
It belongs to him.
Do not tell your father what the hospice nurse told you:
you need to let go so she can let go.
When the sun sets, gather the darkened room
around your shoulders like a cloak.
Watch your father’s undying love
take your mother’s breath away.
“How to Watch Your Father Watch Your Mother Die” © 2015 by Lesléa Newman from I CARRY MY MOTHER (Headmistress Press, Sequim, WA, 2015). Used by permission of the author.
Lesléa Newman is the author of 65 books for readers of all ages including the poetry collections, Still Life with Buddy, Nobody’s Mother, Signs of Love, and October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard (novel-in-verse) which received a Stonewall Honor from the American Library Association. Ms. Newman’s literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation; the Burning Bush Poetry Prize; and second place runner-up in the Solstice Literary Journal poetry competition. Her poetry has been published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Evergreen Chronicles, Lilith Magazine, Kalliope, The Sun, Bark Magazine, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Seventeen Magazine and others. From 2008-2010 she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently she is a faculty member of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program. Her newest poetry collection, I Carry My Mother was published in January 2015 by Headmistress Press.
Alfred Nicol: Seeds
Summers at the zoo in Baltimore
the elephants are given watermelons.
Pleasure goes rippling through their tough hides.
You see it. Elephants are obvious.
They’re made to traipse about savannas where
they trumpet their good spirits like rotund
and rosy husbands crooning in the shower.
The melons are so cool and green, they love them.
They wrap their trunks around them, raise them up
and smash them on the hard-packed earth.
You’d need an Africa to house such gladness then—
they bring the pieces to their mouths; they slurp them;
they eat up everything, the rinds and all.
There is a saying: The eating of a melon
will produce a thousand good works. So
these elephants have got it in them now
to build a Taj Mahal. They’re keen to start
transporting heavy stones. All for love
they store up reservoirs of dawns. It’s possible
to work for days, shining from within.
Illustrious projects stem from their delight.
The elephants grow big with what's alive
in their great hearts, that hard, bright seed—the sun!—
whose vigor draws the melon from the vine.
Originally appeared in The Merton Seasonal, a joint publication of the International Thomas Merton Society and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University
Alfred Nicol’s book of poetry, Elegy for Everyone, published in 2009, was chosen for the first Anita Dorn Memorial Prize as “a work of complex vision and stylistic mastery.” He received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award for an earlier volume, Winter Light, of which Jay Parini, biographer of Robert Frost, said, “This is certainly among the finest new volumes of poetry I have read in years.” Nicol has written lyrics in French and English for nine original compositions by classical/flamenco guitarist John Tavano. Their CD, The Subtle Thread, released in January, 2015, has gotten airplay on WMBR's program French Toast. Nicol’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The New England Review, Dark Horse, First Things, Atlanta Review, Commonweal, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, and other literary journals, as well as in Contemporary Poetry of New England and other anthologies.
Leah Nielsen: Alabama Love Poem
Alabama November, the ginkgo tree fans
a few of its yellow leaves over the still green zoysia
and we rake the sweet gum balls and oak leaves
onto the bright blue tarp under the bright blue sky
in air we still could not call crisp, being Yankees
accustomed to cold that leaves our breath settling
on our lashes. It will be years after leaving
before we learn to call another place home, to know
another place’s lost strips of back road,
the lack of barbeque shacks, ribs and sauce,
the constant napkin-needing mess forever with us
like ya’ll and Miss Dot, our neighbor, phoning on Sunday,
Ya’ll come fix you a plate, and camellias crimson
in January and the whole damn street painted
in blooms by March—pink dogwood, azaleas
in purple, fuchsia, cardinal red—colors whose
names don’t seem to do them justice—wisteria
wound around whitewashed lattice and chain-link,
and someone’s dog in someone else’s yard,
always, and nobody minding it, just accepting
it like the length of summer and billboards
for Fantasyland and Mississippi casinos—
accepting it like church signs—Get ‘er Done for Jesus—
accepting it like white boys in pimped out SUVs,
the thump rump thump rump of the bass
as they pass the girls dying to lose their names
to a Jr. or a III, accepting that those girls spend
their sorority days using blowjobs for calling cards
only to become housewives hell bent
on driving down snake roads and off bridges
into snake-filled waters, accept the Alabama
leathery ladies drinking cheap beer
in low-riding lounge chairs, lined up
along what’s left of Gulf Shores,
accept the coal mines, the copperheads,
your meat and threes and sweet tea, everything
always served with a side of Jesus. Alabama,
you can’t have Jesus. Accept that. Jesus is tired.
Jesus is done working overtime. He didn’t sign up
for this. Take the WWJD off your store doors.
And if you have a fish emblem on your car,
you should damn well drive politely. Jesus is okay
with those who refuse to wax nostalgic
for the days in the fields, who use cotton picking
as an expletive, Cotton pickin’ Copperheads, they say, shovels
in hand. And the guy outside Prattville, who paints
Hell is Hot, Hot, Hot and You Will Die in bold black letters
on discarded washers and dryers, chest freezers and cars,
who plants worn crosses on every spare inch of lawn
and tacks them to every tree on his lot because
he lost his wife and his son and he knows this
is his calling. How’re you gonna argue with that,
save calling him crazy? There’s a beauty
in half-rotten wood, in flaked paint, in a man
who firmly believes he’s got you figured out.
From the chapbook Side Effects May Include
Leah Nielsen holds an MFA from the University of Alabama. Her first collection of poetry, No Magic, was published by Word Press, a division of WordTech Communications. Her chapbook Side Effects May Include was published in February 2014, by The Chapbook. Most recently, her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Fourteen Hills, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, and Rattle. She teaches at Westfield State University, in Westfield, MA, and lives there with her husband and two wild and crazy dogs.
Kathy Nilsson: Little Ice Age
I have one good memory–– a total
Eclipse of the sun–– when out of brilliance
Dusk came swiftly and on the whole
At seven years it felt good on a summer afternoon
To be outrun by a horse from another century––
The next morning I washed up
On land like a pod of seals
Struck with a longing for dark at noon––
If the cessation of feeling is temporary
It resembles sleep–– if permanent, it resembles
A little ice age–– and the end of some
Crewelwork by a mother who put honey
Into my hands so the bees would love me.
Kathy Nilsson earned a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her book, The Infant Scholar, was published by Tupelo Press in January 2015 and won Honorable Mention, Berkshire Prize for a first or second book chosen by Tupelo Press Editors. Her chapbook, The Abattoir, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008, and in 2011 she received the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Award. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
Donald Nitchie: Students Getting Off a School Bus in October
They fall out the yellow folding door
one by one,
laughing and waving their arms,
walking in the road, summer still in their stride,
winter's monotonous sentence
yet to begin. I want to follow them
down the trails they take through the woods,
past the fire pits with rusted chairs, broken bottles
heaped against stones, someone's scratched-out initials.
I want to go where they go, down to the stream
where maples have laid out a bed of crimson leaves
and they can speak without facing each other
as clouds move through branches. I want
to stop this late-afternoon shaft of sun
through the leaves that suddenly
reek with fragrance, as if these days
are burning and we are on fire.
Originally published in The Martha's Vineyard Times
Donald Nitchie has published poems in Salamander, The Martha's Vineyard Times, the Vineyard Gazette, Martha's Vineyard Arts & Ideas, and Martha's Vineyard Poetry. His chapbook, "Driving Lessons" was put out by Pudding House in 2008. He is a graduate of Columbia University's School of the Arts in poetry, and from time to time leads poetry writing workshops on Martha's Vineyard. He edits The Banjo Newsletter and lives in Chilmark, MA.