Aimée Sands: Gangle and Boot
What a plain man you are, plain like a hand-cranked
sifter, its worn red knob and the futility
of trying, oh plain like applesauce, strained
and sweet, the tang of the stubborn
pulp after pressing, you know, the pattern
you make with tin cookie cutters, the flaps
of dough you leave hanging, I’m like that too,
the marrying of the scorned and lonely self,
the lid of the bread bin drawer that squeaks
when you slide it back, no one
uses that now, but I can smell the crumbs
from those old, stale years, rescue inconceivable,
the raisin maid dark in her red box
where your shame lies, and mine;
This is a kind of rescue, isn’t it:
the dog-brown honesty in your eyes,
your common threads, that plaid flannel shirt,
the stray hairs above your first button.
Aimée Sands is the author of The Green-go Turn of Telling (2012, Salmon Poetry.) Her poems have appeared in FIELD, Poet Lore, Salamander and other literary journals. She is the co-director of the Brookline Poetry Series, and holds an MFA from Bennington College. She recently returned from a residency at the MacDowell Colony. Aimée is also a documentary filmmaker. Her newest film What Makes Me White? is a tool for diversity work, and is funded in part by the Kellogg Foundation. She has won numerous awards for her previous documentaries, all of which appeared on WGBH and PBS.
Ellin Sarot: Raynaud's Transit
At Porter Square, descending to or rising from the T,
on bitter days, as gloves and mittens, the bronzed lost,
one by one appear, how winter hands yearn toward
their cold presences, tingling to finger them, grab one,
when, sad pockets yielding nothing like those gone by
whose rigid digits, though hidden, passing appeal
for a hand out. Warm hearts regardless, swimming,
foraging in refrigerators, hands cringe as cold teeth
purple, yellow, whiten them until, all feeling swallowed,
after freezing fire only mercy mild restores the pain
of living, and fingers, one by one, and thumbs, relax,
loosed from jaws of no small red fox.
Ellin Sarot’s poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Paterson Literary Review, Women’s Studies: An inter-disciplinary journal and the anthologies Women Writers Resist: Poets Resist Gender Violence, and Veils, Halos & Shackles; International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, and Black Lives Have Always Mattered. Gish Jen Fellowship for Emerging Writers, Writers’ Room of Boston (2015 where she; now serves on the Board. Volunteer, Literacy Project, Cambridge Public Library. B.A., Barnard College, Ph. D., Columbia University. Most recent reading: Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2017), Porter Square Books, Cambridge, 24 Oct. 2017.
Mark Schorr: Eight Haiku for J.M. Whistler
Like Battersea Bridge
The locks of Lowell remember you
O mighty engineer
Today I can see the Whistler
In these battered bridges
Frames of their own designing
Have an air of sadness
Your poetry comes from it
You are out in the boat
To see the mighty flood
Framed to your vantage
No spring day very soon!
When white water follows snow
Everything’s in motion
The stonecutters who
Came from somewhere
Left their monuments to you
The river comes down
To reside in the town
Looks around at the city
Whose satori now,
The mighty Engineer’s?
Mark Schorr’s recent book, Bridges to Kerouac, (Loom Press) is an homage to J.M Whistler, who was born in Lowell, to Jack Kerouac who began writing haiku there, and to Allen Ginsberg who called this form, “American Sentences.” In these last few years, Schorr has used the form and created digital woodcut graphics to further highlight these Lowell bridges to Whistler, Kerouac, and Ginsberg.
Mark Schorr worked in Lowell for 10 years as a writer and software engineer at Wang Laboratories. During that time he wrote anovel in the form of talking blues, “Talking Seabrook Blues” and an epic to Jack Kerouac in haiku/American sentences. Both have been performed but remain unpublished.
Jan Schreiber: Cormorants
Black and sleek as steely-eyed
deacons, ascetic and aloof,
disdain the jostling waves, riding
peaks and troughs, placid as flatirons.
upends and disappears a full
minute or more, some fifty yards
Preying and gorging, they float fastidious,
always unruffled, unperturbed
Though half-submerged they do aspire.
Persuaded finally into flight
they gather speed
and skip tiptoe on wave tips like
flat stones flung side-arm from the shore,
Full bellies when they would be light
belie the anorexic pose,
rob them of grace.
With difficulty they enter heaven,
rise and take dominion, running
Jan Schreiber is poet laureate of Brookline. His poetry books include Digressions, Wily Apparitions, Bell Buoys, and two books of translations. His criticism has appeared frequently in Contemporary Poetry Review and other journals. A co-founder of Canto magazine and of the Symposium on Poetry Criticism at Western State Colorado University, he teaches in the Osher Institute at Brandeis University. His critical book Sparring with the Sun was published in 2013, and his latest book of poems, Peccadilloes, appeared in 2014.
Carla Schwartz: In Defense of Peaches
My mother tied her socks
to the peach tree in front of her house.
I’m guessing she took sweaty ones
off her feet one day,
or specially donned old ones,
and hung them, and an old shirt
to scare away squirrels and rabbits,
maybe after reading about it somewhere—
better than fox urine for sure.
The socks still hang on her tree.
None of us has thought
to press nose to cloth and inhale.
Let whatever of Mom still imbues,
remain, and hang year ‘round, like her clay bells.
That was her last wish, to go outside.
The other day, under my peach tree,
there were four hard ones, shaken down
and chewed as best a green stone can be.
Must have been a squirrel with a bad memory,
taking bite of one, and a next, leaving the unfinished
That same day, I discovered my shoe
was a lucky one. Twice lost in three months.
First on a mountain. Next, on a road.
Maybe I should nestle
those shoes into the crook of my peach
to fend off the wildlife.
Maybe my mother’s climbing shoes will do.
Maybe this year, I will be lucky
In Defense of Peaches appears in Mother, One More Thing, Turning Point Books, 2014
Carla Schwartz is a poet, filmmaker, photographer, and lyricist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fulcrum, Common Ground Review, Cactus Heart, Wordgathering, Stone Highway Review, Boston Poetry Magazine, Literary Juice, Naugatuck River Review, Solstice Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, Enizagam, Equinox, and 05401, among others. Her book, Mother, One More Thing, is available through WordTech and Turning Point Books (2014). Her video work incorporates poetry, documentary, and instructional videos. Her YouTube videos have had hundreds of thousands of views. She has performed and read her work in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Carla is also a professional writer with a doctoral degree from Princeton University. Learn more at her website at carlapoet.com.
Lloyd Schwartz: A True Poem
I’m working on a poem that’s so true, I can’t show it to anyone.
I could never show it to anyone.
Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.
Sometimes it pleases me.
Usually it brings misery.
And this poem says exactly what I think.
What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.
Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.
Some of it might bring misery.
And I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to hurt them.
I don’t want to hurt anybody.
I want everyone to love me.
Still, I keep working on it.
Why do I keep working on it?
Nobody will ever see it.
Nobody will ever see it.
I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.
I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.
Lloyd Schwartz teaches in the MFA program at UMass Boston. His music reviews in The Boston Phoenix were awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and he’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Fresh Air. His poems have appeared in The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. He’s also the editor of the Library of America’s Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters and Elizabeth Bishop’s Prose (FSG). His most recent collection of poems is Little Kisses (U of Chicago Press).
Rene Schwiesow: Shades
i remember the pillars that marked the shoreline
where we once sat, tossed coins
into a cold harbor.
we waited beneath gray clouds
for the ferryman,
watched heavy barges come and go,
shivered beneath soft lamplight,
knowing the sky was pink
winter was borne;
snow coveted the dying landscape;
you were stolen from me treasure by treasure
bereft and numb,
buried silent hands in empty pockets
near blue water’s icy edge.
Rene Schwiesow is co-host for the South Shore Poetry venue The Art of Words. A Somerville Bagel Bard, her publishing credits include Muddy River Poetry Review, the Waterhouse Review, and Ibbetson Street Press. Rene’s work has been aired on the Talking Information Network, a non-profit service for the visually impaired. April, 2012, she was a guest on WGDH, serving Central Vermont, along with New York/Vermont poet Michael Palma and in November of 2012, she appeared with Jack Scully on the popular Poet-to-Poet/Writer-to-Writer Somerville Community Access program, hosted by Doug Holder. Rene is a reviewer for Boston Area Small Press, writes a column for the arts in The Old Colony Memorial newspaper, Plymouth, MA, and is currently working on a third poetry manuscript.
James Scrimgeour: Rocking with Quinn
at 6:30 am – everyone else, my wife,
my daughter, her husband, resting after
the creation, after the first six days
of my grandson's life, rocking
in the chair we bought as a baby
present, rocking in the same basic,
elemental rhythm as the sea, the strands
of grey beard on my bowed chin mingling
with Quinn's wispy newborn locks –
the slight shudder that shakes
his entire body – goes through
me also – the warmth of his small
6 day old head seeps through his new
outfit, his blanket, my rainbow trout
T shirt to my chest, just as
my warmth seeps through to him –
so peaceful, so quiet, so serene
as the swaddling cloth, our clothes,
the newborn and aging skin dissolve
in the stream of spirit travelling
both ways – like the warmth
mingling together – as if we were
not already, would not always be
merged, as if any combination of cloth
and flesh could ever keep us apart.
Dr. James R. Scrimgeour received his BA from Clark University, his MA and PhD from UMass, Amherst, and he is a Professor Emeritus at Western Connecticut State University. Jim has published nine books of poetry and over 200 poems in anthologies and periodicals. He has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and he has given over 200 public readings of his work including one at an International Conference on Poetry and History, Stirling, Scotland. Furthermore, he was invited to participate in NEA Seminars on modern poetry at NYU and Princeton. His current poetry projects include a series of poems written at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport Massachusetts, and a book about Dogtown, a ghost town in the highland of Cape Ann.
J.D. Scrimgeour: For Langston
I, too, sing America
America doesn’t sing. Not much
I love you this and that, and such,
it bops along to the radio,
but turn it off, there’s no
melody, no voice, a silence
that t.v. and lunch
–the crunch of potato chips–
slip into. No dancing, no hips
shaking and thumping the air,
no splayed, unbuttoned hair.
Langston, you had the better ear.
I trust you when you say you hear
America singing, but come today
and listen, come now, today,
and bury your pen in our throats–
those simple, sometimes angry notes
that made your line almost true:
America singing? That was you.
J.D. Scrimgeour was born in Northampton, Massachusetts and lives in Salem. He teaches at Salem State University. An ancestor of his was accused of being a witch, and she was killed in Salem in 1692. Another ancestor served on the jury that found her guilty.
To listen to a recording of “For Langston” with music, click here.
Jonaid Sharif: A Poem About Beards and Hijabs
Some years ago
When my German niece
First put on the hijab
We were shocked of course
My brother and I
But we thought it might be a college craze
A youthful intermission
And so it was
But now I want that same niece
To wear her hijab
I taught Pamuk’s Snow
We saw how loyal soldiers
Tore off scarfs from Turkish girls’ heads
And dragged them by their silky, brown hair
My students were outraged
But I was still ambivalent
The wounds from Fundamentalists
Still raw upon my mind
But now that Fundamentalism triumphed
I lost ambivalence
I want my German niece
To wear hijab
I want my sons to marry Muslim girls
I want to run against the wind
I want to go to Karbala
And worship as a Sunni
I want to go to Mosul
And worship as a Shi’a
I want to go to Iran
And worship as a Jew
I want to go to Charleston
And collect empty shell casings
I want to be a slave in Alabama
I want to be a novelist in Harlem
A sharecropper in Nachez
A plaintiff in Atlanta
A defendant in the Delta
I want to memorize Beloved
Plagiarize Prometheus Chained
Desecrate The Virtue of Selfishness
Tell the truth in Russia
Speak Kurdish in Turkey
Grow a beard in Washington D.C.
And let Peter the Great levy a tax on it
And God forbid
If Taliban capture Kabul
I will become a Hindu
And walk the streets and alleys of my youth
Branded with a yellow band
O Quilt Covered Magician of the Mountains
Make me young
And fall in love again
With an age mate from the Tajik tribe
Her long, serpentine hair
So that we carve our first embrace
On a minaret of stones
Some days ago
A colleague came by
It could have been Orhan Pamuk himself
To borrow an eraser
I asked him:
Why isn’t evil certitude
A dry erase assignment?
Jonaid Sharif is an an Afghan American. Studied in the American University of Beirut and received graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and Southwestern Louisiana. I was also a member of the International Writing Program housed at the University of Iowa. Taught and worked as an English teacher and department chair in the States from 1984 to 2016 and is a fan and supporter of Mass Poetry's work.
Jay Sheets: [hours stick & the ripe ripens rot twice to brown]
hours stick & the ripe ripens rot twice to brown
this sober pareidolia in blue ink to be poked
with nervous sticks [red eyes] & this is where poet
becomes product of pinecones & gunmetal
& holy-glassed words: our thorn-on-thorn or graphic
sacraments to melt on the ribs like a verse in heat
where the symbol is magnified [cubes & cups]
to drink from where dark things wander: evaporation
in the pregnant room quickening like the raven
to the shrew when magic bleeds the god-awful spoon
Jay Sheets is the author of The Hour Wasp (April Gloaming, 2017). His poems have appeared in numerous journals. He studies creative writing at Goddard College, and is a former poetry editor for the literary journal, Duende. He recently won the Poetry Society of New Hampshire College Poetry Contest for his poem, "[blue haunts black & i know you when]". Sheets is a member of the Academy of American Poets and lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Angela Siew: The Embalmer (first published in Bird's Thumb)
When I close my eyes, I am the one
preparing my grandfather,
moving around his body, hands gloved
in the scent of latex.
I am a priest, chanting psalms,
swinging urns of incense—flower and musk.
I stretch out his arms and legs, rub away
the rigor mortis. I part his opened lips,
find a tongue inside swollen
like a blackberry,
and I become a Buddhist wailing,
releasing a soul protected into the afterlife.
I prepare the formalin to fill
his veins, as he lies in his cedar coffin.
I tuck in his lips, stitch them shut.
When I open my eyes, I am shaping a body.
I lay my wet hands on the moistened slab,
the wheel turning and turning, as I pull
with equal pressure, folding down and lifting.
The width of my hand creates the slight bend
of a waist, a long neck. Inside,
I will put the flowers from his grave.
Orchids delicately leaning,
their petals shaped like droplets,
hydrangeas spinning up and up,
the roses we threw onto his coffin.
Angela Siew is a multilingual poet and teacher originally from Princeton, NJ. She received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College and an undergraduate degree from Brown University. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has work published or forthcoming in Rock & Sling, The Merrimack Review and Art New England.
Karen Skolfield: Art Project: Earth
Balloon, then papier mâché.
Gray paint, blue and turquoise, green,
a clouded world with fishing line attached
to an old light, original to the house, faux brass
chipping, discolored, an ugly thing. What must
the people of this planet think, the ground
knobby and dry, the oceans blue powder,
the farmland stiff and carefully maintained.
Sometimes they spin one direction,
then back again. How the coyotes howl.
How the people learn to love, regardless.
The majesty of their own towering hearts.
The mountains, which they agree are beautiful.
And the turquoise – never has there been
such a color, breaking into precious
and semi-precious stones. They build houses
from them, grand places of worship,
and there is much to worship. Look up,
for instance. Six suns. The wonder of it.
First one, then the next, eclipsing
the possibility that their world hangs by a thread.
Originally published by Valparaiso Poetry Review
Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (2013) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press, and is a Massachusetts “Must Read” selection for 2014. She is a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellow and winner of the 2014 Split This Rock poetry prize and the 2012 Oboh Prize from Boxcar Poetry Review. Skolfield is the poetry editor for Amherst Live and a contributing editor at the literary magazines Tupelo Quarterly and Stirring. She teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts. http://www.karenskolfield.blogspot.com/
Ron Slate: Stop-Time
Frank McCabe bought on credit at my father’s liquor store,
they had gone to school together. Finally my father said,
teach my son to play drums and we’re even, for now.
Late afternoon lessons in his cellar, first the basics
rapped out on rubber pads, then rolls, drags, flams, paradiddles and ratamacues.
Moving on to a real kit and the flair of fills, underbelly routines
of the bass and flights between cymbals, crash and sizzle.
While I practiced, he scribbled on charts for his quintet --
Thursdays at the Knotty Pine and weddings on weekends.
No lessons for most of the summer after his heart attack.
Autumn rain, water seeping up between linoleum tiles,
staining the peeling baseboards. Mold and mildew,
back beat and double time. Smoker’s cough and drinker’s nose.
Soon he set up his kit next to mine, laying out the opening bars
of “From This Moment On” and I’d play inside him.
That’s how he put it, stay inside me and listen with your wrists.
When Mrs. McCabe came down to say they caught the man
who killed the president, he dropped the needle on “Opus One”
and said play. We listened to Krupa’s “Rockin’ Chair”
and Buddy Rich’s big band doing “Time Check.”
Lying on their sides, quarts of bourbon behind cans
of dried paint. You make the high-hat bark,
a sixteenth-note. You don’t keep time, you make time.
The standards, renowned yet open to reinvention,
thus eternal. But I lived inside a body, Mrs. McCabe returned
from the hospital with no breasts, a week later
she was playing piano upstairs while Frank critiqued –
Don’t play with your whole arm, it looks cool
but it isn’t. He lit a Winston. Don’t be like a bass player,
use deodorant. Never let a wimp carry your gear.
Listen carefully to the songs you hate the most.
Verse and chorus, shuffle, bridge, fill, drag, fill, stop-time,
ghost-note. Rumble of the sagging boiler, steam knocking the pipes.
Soon you won’t have to remember, you’ll just make the sound.
“Stop-Time” was originally published in Plume.
Ron Slate has published two books of poems via Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: The Incentive of the Maggot and The Great Wave. He is a board member of Mass Humanities (NEH) and reviews poetry and literature at a site called “On the Seawall” (ronslate.com). He lives in Milton. You can follow him on Twitter at @ronslate.
Clint Smith: what is left
how warm did the water have to be before it gave the sky permission to crumble when the
levees broke open did the ocean intend to swallow the city or find refuge inside of it is
it wrong to love something more after it has already disappeared is it still called
disappearing if no one knew you were there the scientist tells me that we have been
disappearing for a long time now the evangelist tells me this is what happens when
you make a mockery of time the television tells me this is really the best thing that could
have happened to a burning city my mother was born in a city that is asking how this
happened i was born in a city that knows how this happened i was born in the same
city as my mother i was born in this city which i am told makes it mine my father
was not born in this city but has lived here longer than I have been alive can you
claim something as your own if you don't remember how you found it i come from
a city that is drowning while being told it is rinsing itself clean
When I first began writing, I was scared of the putting work out into the world for fear of saying the wrong thing. The act of having others read something I had written, I thought, bestowed upon the words a permanence I could never walk back from. This felt incredibly frightening because I thought that, to be a writer, you had to have something of concrete, material value to offer the world: an idea, a solution, a stance. I hadn’t considered that writing could be a place to simply ask and wrestle with questions, and that the act of attempting to present an answer might compromise how honest a question is being asked. Sometimes, I think, if we only ask the sorts of questions that we know have easy answers, then we’re inherently limiting the types of questions we ask. Part of what I’ve attempted to do in my book, Counting Descent, is walk back from writing poems with answers, and instead open myself up to writing poems that are simply questions. Hurricane Katrina is an example of something that deeply impacted my life and that I’ve spent over a decade looking for answers to. But I’ve come to realize that I find more solace in sitting with the questions themselves.
Clint Smith is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and the National Science Foundation. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and was a speaker at the 2015 TED Conference. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Guardian, Boston Review, Harvard Educational Review and elsewhere. He is the author of Counting Descent (2016) and was born and raised in New Orleans.
Sarah Sousa: Epistle
I wrapped the piece of cloth around a good-sized stone,
then bound it with yarn and tied one end of the yarn
to a heavy branch on the bank. I lowered the cloth-
covered stone into the pond; black silt swarming up.
A thin-legged water bug climbed into a fold straight off.
That muck must be iron-rich, I noticed the same smell weeks later
when I retrieved the cloth from the pond, unwrapped it
from its weighting stone, dangling algae tendrils, and snagged it
between two sharp, vertical rocks planted in the stream
at a spot where the water pools, rusty. I lost the cloth
during a storm when the stream was set loose to run
its full course, full strength, empty into South River,
on into the Deerfield, the Connecticut, further. Who knows
where my cloth finally hung up, at the edge of my property,
two towns over where it’s free to carry out my project
without me? How lovely the pale green cloth will look and smell,
spiced with river water and mold. That soil-on-the-eve-of-winter
smell came to me the other night— smell of cloth with the blood
washed out. Another warm, autumn night; I drove
with my windows down, past the named and the unnamed streams.
For the record, my stream is unnamed.
Sarah Sousa’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Fugue, Tupelo Quarterly, Fourteen Hills and Tuesday; An Art Project, among others. She is the author of the poetry collections Split the Crow (Parlor Press, 2015) and Church of Needles ( Red Mountain Press, 2014).
Kathleen Spivack: Monet’s “Path”
You walk into the painting,
you walk down the path
through the bleached grass toward the village:
the cicadas are singing;
you are going someplace
Perhaps it is to the post office,
perhaps it is to get milk;
the dry grasses are hardly stirring:
a museum guard is at standstill, watching you.
You walk next to poplar trees,
you walk through sun and shade:
it is an ordinary errand
but the flowers shriek, brighter than daytime,
and the weeds murmur: “notice me.”
The painter is so much a part of this
the crickets hardly bother to silence themselves.
Nothing stops singing:
grass celebrates its green-ness
and the moist ground, underfoot.
springs back, debonair, as
you part it with your eye—it is almost
a feeling—this green dapple of light and shade,
framed, dazzling, just when you entered it.
Originally published in The Kansas Quarterly
Kathleen Spivack is the author of With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and Others (University Press of New England, 2012.) Her novel, Unspeakable Things, is forthcoming from Knopf. She’s published seven other books of prose and poetry (Doubleday, Graywolf, and others.)
Kathleen Spivack has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Commission, and residencies with the Radcliffe Institute, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the American Academy in Rome and others. She publishes widely. Recent works have won first prizes including the Allen Ginsberg Memorial Poetry Award, New Issues, Carpe Articulum, and the Erika Mumford Prize. She has also won several Solas International Best Essay awards. She teaches in Boston and Paris.
Sue Standing: Palladian
The window is branching trees,
is raining leaves, is fracturing time
into particles of birch and hemlock and ash.
The window turns the room
inside out. You abide in the space
divided by its lights. Each holds
a different degree of greenness,
slashed by angles of dun twigs
or arcs of blue-grey sky.
In the branching of the branches
lives birdsong, birdsong breaking
into fragments of glass.
Am I in this hermit thrush’s territory
or he in mine? The window splits
into thirty-four bodies of thought,
thirty-four lapses of time.
The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Institute and the Fulbright Foundation, Sue Standing has published four collections of poems, most recently False Horizon (Four Way Books). She teaches creative writing and African literature at Wheaton College (Norton, MA)
Barry Sternlieb: Sole Impression
No matter how far over the hill
we get, this workhorse press
and I are still on the same page,
throwbacks lying low, bound
by the cause of words.
In the basement shop,
where centuries become hours,
to ink the plate, crank the lever,
then handfeed sheet after sheet
while rollers rasp across type
lays down a beat I can grasp
as if lastingness flows
like current through muscle
and metal, each clearly
moved by the other. Here,
like gnostic gospel, solitude
stacks up against talk,
tapping a cast-iron vein
of tradition whose bottom line
is the obsolete, what doesn’t
change, changing hands.
Behind the scenes, priorities
hinge on problems solved
with pure tinkery luck, with
a bond between machines,
one living, one not, but
when bed and platen meet,
when I see the sole
impression of every letter
catching light, it all seems
somehow human, especially
at the end, collating done,
signatures sewn, as we go our
separate ways: this press and I
toward yesterday, to start again
from scratch, the handmade book
toward tomorrow, a newborn
relic, grandfathered in.
~ first appeared in The Sewanee Review.
Barry Sternlieb is the author of Winter Crows (Codhill Press, 2009). His work appears in The Sewanee Review, Poetry, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, and others. He is the recipient of a 2004 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Poetry, and also edits Mad River Press, specializing in the very slow creation of handcrafted, limited edition letterpress poetry broadsides and chapbooks since 1986. The Mad River archive is housed in The Chapin Library at Williams College.
Mark Stevick: A Stadium Full of Bears
“There are 7,500 bears in Pennsylvania. If you put
all those bears in a stadium—that’s a lot of bears.”
As the rows fill up, there would be the usual
jostling and scuffles over seats. Even before
the kick-off, imagine the noise from the stands!
Think of the lines to the women’s rooms,
to say nothing of the tussles outside Gate E
to the cheap seats. Vendors hawk peanuts
over a din of growls and complaints about
parking or ticket prices; chums discuss Greenpeace
or annual weight gain; someone points out how
you could make a killing here on smoked salmon;
and everyone is generally ignoring the scoreboard
and adjusting their scarves and seat cushions as they
assemble, everywhere a bear, a common species,
a stadium full of bears, shuffling and shrugging
and sucking their paws, negotiating for a little
space and a decent view, getting ready—the bears
are getting ready for something to happen, something
important, something truly out of the ordinary.
Originally published in Aesthetica Annual and Imago Dei
Mark Wacome Stevick’s poems have won awards from Swink, Wild Plum, The Baltimore Review, Literal Latte and The Shine Journal. His plays Cry Innocent and Goodnight, Captain White run seasonally in Salem, Massachusetts, where he lives with his family.
Amanda Stoll: Driving Home
It is always this way driving back in the afternoon,
people decorating the streets with their everyday activities.
I slow for an old man with a bad knee to cross
from the gas station to the liquor store;
here, crosswalks go disobeyed –
this is the town I call home for now.
You are riding shotgun and today, I give you control of the radio.
Other days I would prefer silence –
windows down to hear life’s soundtrack on the streets.
On the sidewalk a girl is running,
her florescent green sneakers bounding against the pavement
in sync with the music traveling through her headphones.
I wonder where she started from and where she is headed.
Paused at a stoplight, a boy with a handmade poster knocks on my window.
He is a junior at Towson University,
collecting change to fund house building in Honduras.
I give him the few pennies sitting in my cup holder –
souvenirs from toll booths and late night drive-thrus.
Two years ago I built a house
in February in downtown Baltimore.
Maura and I wore two pairs of socks each but forgot our gloves
so we shared an extra pair from a seasoned builder –
she had the right, I had the left.
We nailed boards of wood together to fortify the upstairs ceiling,
or the floor of the roof, depending on how you look at things.
I turn left onto the road that will take us back.
There are cars parked in the right lane, someone turning in the left,
you point ahead, indicating for me to weave between.
It is always a maze driving here.
A street sign hangs on the wires of the traffic light,
its weight not unaffected by the wind that moves in tunnels
through this city’s crisscrossing streets.
There are ridiculous ornaments on the front lawn at the corner –
an inflated jack-o-lantern as tall as the first floor.
And on the lamppost is a handwritten offer on cardboard:
“Sell your house for quick cash” accompanied by a phone number.
The light changes to green and I turn right,
taking the shortcut through a convenience store parking lot
to avoid the potholes of the main road.
Tomorrow is Sunday. Then it will be Monday
and life will start up again. I am already composing mental to-do lists,
already sighing over things I know will have to wait another few days.
The low priorities on the list never get done.
A picture from my year abroad has rested in my top desk drawer
for over two months now.
Last week I bought a frame but I lack a hammer or a nail
so the space on the wall remains.
We are on our street.
I pull into the parking spot in front of our house and you get out –
collecting our empty coffee cups to be discarded.
I take my keys from the ignition, realizing the radio is still playing.
I know this means it will turn on automatically when I start the car
tomorrow morning, but I don’t switch the button to off.
I push the lock remote twice so the car horn beeps,
as you search for the other set of keys that will open our house door.
We have been coming and going this way for a long time now.
Amanda Stoll is a graduate student in the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department at Emerson College. She is also the Program Assistant for Diversity & Student Support at the MIT Media Lab. Amanda graduated with a B.A. in writing and English from Loyola University Maryland in 2011, and then went on to teach English at St. Gabriel's College in Bangkok, Thailand for two years. She currently resides in Boston's North End, where she spends her spare time editing for the North End / Waterfront newsletter. Amanda also enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and cheering on her Boston sports teams
Sandra Storey: Translation
I climb your string of words—
ladder, rope, Rapunzel’s hair—
arrive at the neck, then chin.
Riding vowels and consonants,
with assonance and dissonance,
I slide between your lips
and into the source.
Immersed in thoughts you crafted
in the parlance of your ancestors,
I see with your eyes,
borrow other senses:
From here inside your world
I meet myself again.
Sandra Storey’s book of poems, Every State Has Its Own Light, was published by the Word Poetry imprint of WordTech Communications in late 2014. The manuscript was formerly a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award. Mark Pawlak wrote, "Every State Has Its Own Light is a radiant collection of poems. Open it and you will come under its spell.” Storey’s poems have been published in various magazines, including the New York Quarterly, Friction (UK) and New Millennium Writings and hung for months in an elevator lobby of Boston City Hall. Storey was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand and lived in Southeast Asia from 1968 to 1972. The founder and former editor and publisher of two bilingual Boston neighborhood newspapers, she is now a columnist for the Jamaica Plain Gazette. She wrote poetry from 1980 to 1988 and resumed in 2004. She is a member of Jamaica Pond Poets.
Lisa Sullivan: My father drew maps
complete with rivers, roads,
swirls of elevation. I think to him,
a disabled Marine Veteran,
they were a destination
to somewhere beyond
the front door
he could no longer open.
The maps were never painted,
never inked—he always drew them
so he could erase, erase, erase.
Originally published in The American Journal of Poetry.
Lisa J. Sullivan is a Massachusetts native who holds an MFA in Poetry from the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College, where she was a Kurt Brown Fellow. Her work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Comstock Review, Puckerbrush Review, The Chaffey Review, and elsewhere. Her ekphrastic piece “To the Bog of Allen” was selected as the United States Winner of the 2013 Ireland Poetry Project contest in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets. She teaches free verse poetry classes at the Plymouth Center for the Arts as well as private master classes. Lisa is also a visual artist in the media of colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic.
David Surette: Famine
John Connelly began each school day
by placing six Vanilla Wafers shrouded
in Saran Wrap on the left corner of his desk
with permission to eat them when needed.
At the Immaculate Conception
Grammar School, rules were rules, and eating
outside of lunch and recess was forbidden.
But here was John and his daily packet
of wafers. Food was precious in those days.
I knew my lunch was a peanut butter
and jelly on Sunbeam and two cookies.
Never more or less. I had never eaten
more than two cookies at a time, ever.
Six was an extravagance beyond thinking.
We gobbled down our lunches
without a word, washed down with slightly
sour half pints of milk. The Sisters
taught us one of Jesus’ great miracles
was feeding the masses with five loaves
and a few small fish. Maybe the miracle
was Jesus sharing what little He had
opened up others to reveal
their store of food, and when
the sharing was done,
there was still more to eat.
I can’t remember any of us ever sharing,
especially John as he sat content
with his huge cache of cookies.
David Surette’s new book of poetry is The Immaculate Conception Mothers’ Club. He is also the author of Young Gentlemen’s School, and Easy to Keep, Hard to Keep In. He has been a contributing editor at Salamander, a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, co-host of Poetribe, and a teacher at the Cape Cod Writers’ Conference and the New England Young Writers’ Conference. He teaches and coaches varsity hockey at East Bridgewater High School.
Arthur Sze: Comet Hyakutake
Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—
in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—
the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—
in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—
first silence, then reverberating sound—
our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—
a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—
two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the invisible rays of an airport scanner—
we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—
in nature’s book, we read a few pages—
in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—
the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—
budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—
elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—
a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—
Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—
no matter, ardor is here—
and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—
Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including The Ginkgo Light (2009), Quipu (2005), The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (2001), and The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (1998), all from Copper Canyon Press. He is also the editor of Chinese Writers on Writing (forthcoming from Trinity University Press in 2010). His poems have been translated into Albanian, Bosnian, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he served, from 2006-2008, as the city’s first poet laureate.
Aldo Tambellini: from black becomes woman
sometimes a blind man
can feel the petals
of a black woman’s complexion
absorb the scent of her body
when the breeze follows the rhythm
as she walks on a crowded street noon
sometimes a silky white blouse
adorns with laces the fullness of her breast
in the rush hour of a train
sometimes she stands majestic
oblivious to the daily headlines
sometimes she is nature being there for all time
sometimes she is tired
she wants to take her children
& just ride on & on into infinity
sometimes a blind man standing by a corner
sees all that within the darkness of his eyes
Aldo Tambellini, painter, sculptor, photographer, pioneer in video and multi-media (electromedia), filmmaker and poet was born in Syracuse, N.Y. 1930, Mother from Italy, Father from Brazil; taken to Lucca, Italy at 18 months where he survived a WWII air raid. He returned to the United States in ’46; BFA, Syracuse University; MFA, University of Notre Dame .
Aldo was active and a prominent figure in the 60s counterculture in NYC, and became a Fellow at MIT (1976-84). His poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies, including the Standford University Press, Mentis, VIA (Voices of Italian-American), Voices in Wartime. He hosted the Poetry Venue, “The People’s Poetry” in Cambridge, MA. He is the co-founder of the group, Liberation Poetry Collective, an inter-racial, multi generational, socially conscious group and is represented in the several published anthologies.
He was given the Key to the City of Cambridge, MA. for his contributions and received a Lifetime Achievement Award for film and video from Syracuse University. His films have been recently screened at the Pompidou Museum (2011), the TATE Modern (2012) where he also staged performances and an installation, and the Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (2013) where he also did a performance.
Ann Taylor: The Frog Prince
When the spiteful fairy cursed me,
the last thing I foresaw was bliss.
But I’ve come to love the oozy slime
between my toes, the slip and slop
of heaving myself to the next pad.
It’s all luscious, a green easy
to get into, not those gleaming greaves,
breast plates clanking, always-rusting
princely stuff. Here I breathe
deep, suck in rich muck scent
of swamp rot, and gurgle with my mates
among white lilies. From underneath,
I spy with telescope eyes.
Here comes the fumblethumb princess,
always losing her golden ball.
A faint whisper tells me to beg
a kiss – just one, it always says.
Why would I do that? My perfect
match is here, plump, lubricious,
responsive to my croaks,
and well along in spawning.
She can fetch herself
another retriever, a willing kisser,
leave me with my ever after.
Ann Taylor is Professor of English at Salem State University. Her first book of poetry, The River Within, won first prize at Ravenna Press' Cathlamet Poetry Competition. Her recent collection, Bound Each to Each appeared in 2013. A comment on this book described her as "a citizen of the world, and her poems are the stamps on her passport . . ." She is currently working on a collection of poems focusing on the twelfth-century lovers, Heloise and Abelard.
Kailey Tedesco: I Hear Evil Enter Through the Nothing of Me
First published in The Opiate
I am siamese (because I choose to be)
& always pregnant – It’s true
I ate the rabbit’s innards & I ate
I wish I were siamese with the statue
of Mary – I crawl inside her
voided eye & see
myself curled in cement
at the corner of the garden & I am
I am always two
or three things – I was born inside
& she said I felt like a ouija board
or a bi-level house with
a murder inside.
There were not one
but two Eves & the serpent. I think
I’m still inside the serpent – I was born
into a sack of divination &
there are so many windows
When I’m here, I talk
Sleep in the guff makes me wake up
beautiful & I bring you
to bed –
You are inside me with everything
tugging you further – the jungle
of my innards wants
to maul you
& bring you to the heaven
I am afraid
in heaven I will not cry.
Kailey Tedesco's first full-length poetry collection, She Used to be on a Milk Carton, is forthcoming from April Gloaming Publications. Her chapbook, These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) will be out very soon. She is the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and a performing member of the NYC Poetry Brothel. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find her work featured or forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, The Opiate, Prelude, Prick of the Spindle, Vanilla Sex Magazine, and more. Kailey believes poetry is the closest thing we have to magic. For more, please visit kaileytedesco.com. She currently resides in NY but will be moving back to Massachusetts soon!
Cammy Thomas: Ring
The ring you always wore,
diamonds and cabochon emerald,
a cold thing
coming to me:
After your accident, I got it back in a hazard bag
bloody from your fingers–
disk whose watery light comes from the wearer.
If I suspend it round my neck,
this metal O, my empty disk
that made it through the wreck,
will your strong grip pull me to you
in that small green stone–
will it drown me?
Someone twisted it off your finger
and gave it to me
in its final hard sweetness.
Cammy Thomas’ first book, Cathedral of Wish (Four Way Books), received the 2006 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her second book, Our Dark Game, is forthcoming in 2014 from Four Way. She is grateful for a fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation. Her poems have recently appeared in Appalachia (forthcoming), Bateau, Common Ground Review, Eclipse, The Healing Muse, and Ibbetson Street Press, among others. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and teaches English at Concord Academy.
Gail Thomas: The Last Mulberry Tree in Florence, Massachusetts
It survives in a lopsided tangle next to
the ball bearing repair shop across from
the plastics factory that used to be a silk mill.
That was when the abolitionists
said, No cotton in this town, and Sojourner Truth
drew crowds at Cosmian Hall. She settled
into a little house next to long-haired
communal types, white Unitarians, conductors
on the underground railroad who wanted
to change the name of the river to Arno
because Italian worms produced such fine silk.
Children stayed alert for the wriggling, green
bodies that earned coins, and purple
stained the sole of every boot.
Gail Thomas has published three books of poetry, Waving Back (Turning Point), No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (Haley’s), and Finding the Bear (Perugia). Her poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx, Hanging Loose, and The North American Review. She is the recipient of writing and teaching grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and was awarded residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Ucross.
Her book, No Simple Wilderness, about the drowning of towns and villages in Western Massachusetts to supply Boston with drinking water has been taught in college courses. As one of the original teaching artists for the MCC’s Elder Arts Initiative, Gail led arts projects with musicians and dancers across the state. Originally from Pennsylvania, she raised her two daughters in Western Massachusetts where she has lived for 35 years. She is a learning specialist and teaches at Smith College
William Tilleczek: Meditation: Ecstasy
Ecstasy, my only theme, I demand you be
Chimerical, I demand of you
Recede upon my reach,
Maniac of slippy reach slippery grasp upon your frail—
You always crack into despair
I love you for it
My litany of loss my myriad of almost host
pulled of toolbox one by one to hit the moving void, bullseye (ha), clean miss sir, well
fucked your highness
one by one: as so:
apostrophe, apostrophe: Lord, Lord, Lord
toil and toil and terror: inspiration won’t be called
breach of passion: discipline demands sustainment of that coo, crow caw, pierced through: so you suffer poetry? Then you are alive: art comes next;
I suffer ecstasy: Sufferable to try, ecstasy? I address you as you once placed hands on me and tremors filled the story: all things have their opposite: silence follows
We do not care to feel the sun, too easy: thought comes next o I see you in the sun, Parmenides,
Playing on your chariot, Helios, propitious driver be
Not so much a lunatic, a morning man, life and fire alike, I feed the plants I light the world I burn the strivers I
Martyr here of mystic yearn, yarn of thought reach just so far as break my mind
‘know yourself’: so: it is done.
Must I strive? I’ll go to sleep; I’ll reawake, I’ll scream, sound and fury—so you see, it’s done.
We have our names in stone. I am a boundless veil. We have our loss behind, foot to chain with wingèd dream, Icarus forever speaks. I am bound Prometheus. So you see, it’s done.
I’ll pierce the screen once more, to be sure, to speak again, and then
Recede into my quiet course of life
Till then and then again
Will Tilleczek likes lots of things but only does one or maybe two things. He reads but sometimes also he works with poetry. He feels gratitude, and lots of gratitude, for anyone that would bother with this business.
Daniel Tobin: The Turnpike
Like gold to airy thinness beat…
You away, and me on the Peter Pan
heading home from my own required remove,
I’m drawn by the window’s broad reflection,
the traffic passing along it like a nerve—
an endless charge of cars inside the pane:
the voltage of the real; though as they go
sliding down its long, ethereal sheen
where the solid world softens into flow
they take on the ghostly substance of a dream
or, rather, what we picture dreams to be
since when we’re in them they are what we seem,
and cause us joy or pain as vividly
as the lives we think we live between the lines
that imprint us and we pass between.
Here, the world inverts. Shades materialize
and cars speeding left expand a breach
that transports into doubles on the right,
and those in transit opposite condense
their mirror selves in a second teeming flight
as if our lightship bus could break such bonds
and matter shatter. Like all things physical
it’s a conjure of parts and energies,
a Never Land of haunts inside the skull.
though saying so won’t prevent this child’s cries
from jolting with their needful disturbance,
or the aging woman across the aisle
from leaning in her slackened, palpable face—
comically, mildly—till the infant calms.
If as scientists say we are like hurled stones,
as bounded and bound, dear, by material,
and that our minds resolve into a mist
we thinly feel to be the actual,
then who’s to say the rock is not the air
it hurtles through, observed from deeper in,
not above. So you and I circuit there,
firing the inexhaustible engine.
Published in Best American Poetry 2012
Daniel Tobin is the author of five books of poems, most recently Belated Heavens, which won the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry. His other awards include the “The Discovery/The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, and creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He is currently Interim Dean of the School of the Arts at Emerson College.
Amanda Torres: Learning How to Love in the Frog Pond Ice Skating Rink
Lessons from Charmaine
The first time you come to the rink, you will not be dressed
You will be all bright leggings and no gloves.
You will pretend brave until it’s true.
Your skates will be stiff, mismatched and two kinds of ugly.
You will surprise yourself when you stand.
Learning how to skate is not difficult
but you wont learn until you let go of the rail.
It will not be a straight line.
You will fall.
More than once.
Sometimes, harder than the last.
You must be willing to walk on blades.
You must learn to turn.
You will think you get better over time.
That your legs will grow graceful.
Don’t fool yourself.
You are sliding on knives.
When you find yourself in the center,
side by side with the pros twirling and jumping with too much grace
you know you are out of your league.
you will do your out of balance,
two step side to side sway
next to the best of them.
And you wont reach for the rail again.
Amanda Torres is a mexicana writer, singer, teacher, and organizer who loves avocados. Winner of the National Brave New Voices Slam Competition & veteran of Louder Than Bomb, Chicago, she showcased the first youth poetry slam in London. Amanda has received several awards for her writing and performance, including the Union League Civic Arts Foundation Award for Fiction. Originally from Chicago, Amanda has been teaching for over eight years. She founded the first Youth Advisory Council at Young Chicago Authors and co-founded L@s Eloter@s, a socially engaged Latino/a writing teachers collective. Upon arriving in Boston, Amanda continues to teach ESL and performance poetry throughout the state. She currently serves as the Festival Director for the Louder Than A Bomb Teen Poetry Slam, Massachusetts and co-founded the Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (Mass LEAP), the youth spoken word programming arm of MassPoetry where she currently serves as Director of Programs and Youth Festivals. For more info visit www.torreswrites.com.
Jennifer Smith Turner: Race Across the Atlantic
(Atlantic slave trade)
It must have been exciting
race across the Atlantic
sails ready to catch prevailing winds
cargo neatly stored
One on top of another bare,
barely able to breathe
unable to speak, understand
their land, freedom, forever gone
It must have been exhilarating
sanctioned by queen king lord
hailed as potential heroes explorers
ready to expand the fortunes
Of those with too much sharing too little
anxious to grab more
no matter who may own it
no matter who may die
It must have been enchanting
land ho after so many days at sea
hungry for sure footing fresh food
air free from stench of excrement death
Cargo discarded that did not survive
your choice of storage
while comrades at sea
given heroes burial
It must have been engaging
eye indigenous peoples reach out with palms of welcome
guns knives at ready for the kill
It must have felt self-righteous
church and state act together
exterminate unnecessary cultures
make room for desired ones
Jennifer Smith Turner was born and raised in Jamaica Plains in the 1950's. She and her family moved to southeastern MA in her high school years. She left the state for a portion of her professional career and returned to Massachusetts as a fulltime resident of Martha's Vineyard in 2012. She has two published books; Perennial Secrets, Poetry and Prose; and Lost and Found Rhyming Verse Honoring African American Heroes.
Meg Tyler: If This Be Error
Light spills over the furniture. The salmon-
colored sofa, the serpentine sideboard.
Outside, icicles gleam like mammoth tusks,
and drip. I have inhabited this room,
along with your voice, for much of the winter.
Mornings, afternoon -- you call me away from
the soliloquy, where the lines I speak hardly change.
Like the drifts of snow and the radial black branches
of the cherry. To warm myself, I recall
our first night. The trees were in leaf. Words
glistened between us like new stars,
the syllables punctuated the night air.
I saw a slight tremor above your right eye.
And the boyish blush in your cheek.
The way you portioned out phonemes
made me catch each breath in my mouth.
The moon kept rising. We walked back
to where I was staying. As if on cue,
the ineluctable good-bye. Our awkwardness.
You were sweet and brisk, then you were gone.
Leaving me to work out the transfer of language
by myself, the bed galactic, the earth now
turning the other way.
Meg Tyler is currently Fulbright Professor of Anglophone Irish Writing at Queen's University in Belfast where she is teaching at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. Her chapbook of poems, "Poor Earth," was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. Her poetry and prose have also appeared in Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, AGNI, Harvard Review and the Irish Review. She teaches at Boston University where she chairs the Institute for the Study of Irish Culture.