Lisken Van Pelt Dus: Beach Drawing, Age 8
The dunes loomed enormous. Now I stand
on the same shore – sawgrass at my feet,
sand smoothed as if strewn for my arrival,
low rolling rumble of the sea –
and see the beach both as it is
and as it appeared then, felt-tipped with vigor.
Dense stripes of green, yellow, and blue
filled the page, no white paper anywhere.
My mother framed the picture, hung it
by the kitchen window above the chair
I perched on as we talked about my day
(my endless chatter, her interjections, nods).
Suddenly I feel the people we were then –
the child, the woman younger than I am now –
like totems somewhere inside me, like spirits.
I am moved by the surge and pull of their reach,
by their minnow flutterings. They nose
at the soft spots inside me, like the water
on this shore laps sand into pleats.
I’ve come here with no particular agenda
but have discovered a kitchen bright with sunlight
and the clatter of saucepans. Nothing here is sought,
only found: the wet-dry zippered boundary,
the gulls and crabs, the spume between them.
My mother praised the perspective,
said I’d understand later.
~published in What We're Made Of (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016).
Lisken Van Pelt Dus was raised internationally, in England, the US, and Mexico, and now lives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She arrived in the Berkshires when she came from London to Williams College to earn a BA in Religion. Subsequently, she earned a Masters from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Comparative Literature. She now teaches writing and languages at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, and classical Okinawan karate and kobudo (weapons) at Elm Street Martial Arts in Pittsfield, of which she is co-owner with her husband Bob.
Her poetry can be found in such journals as Conduit, The South Carolina Review, and upstreet, and has earned awards from Cider Press Review, Atlanta Review, and others. Her chapbook, Everywhere at Once, was published by Pudding House Press in 2009. What We’re Made Of, just out from Cherry Grove, is her first full-length collection.
Cindy Veach: NPR Said We Are Made of Stardust
Even the pileated woodpecker
that has been calling from the woods
that I finally spotted today
high in a dead tree—
brilliant red crest, black and white
variegated neck, twice the size
of the red-headed, who is striking
in its own right, but the pileated
has the Eldorado of stardust,
the mother lode with that sweeping
Corinthian-esque head, scarlet
red, regal red—in full command
of the tree he knocks his beak against
scooping out a nest,
pitching his voice into the day—
stardust even now shaping him, settling
on his back and beak as it is
designing the bugs
he probes for in the belly of the tree.
As it is designing the sky, the air,
each first and last breath—
oh industrious, herculean, all knowing
stardust, there should be a church to you,
a temple to you, a mosque to you—
and if the ancient dust of stars is us,
then aren’t we the memory of the universe
and this particular pileated woodpecker,
the dinosaur he once was, the elusive dark
matter scientists are searching for,
the sounds they are keening for?
Then aren’t we ghosts—our arms, legs
and tongues banging against this rotten tree
carving a place to sleep under the stars.
Originally published in Stoneboat
Cindy Veach received an MFA in poetry from The University of Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Chicago Review, The North American Review, Sou’wester, Carolina Quarterly, Prairie Schooner and others and she has work forthcoming in Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review and Crab Creek Review. She was a finalist for the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize and received an honorable mention in the Crab Creek Review Poetry Contest. She manages fundraising programs for non-profit organizations and lives in Manchester, Massachusetts.
Mark Wagner: Prologue
May I would have wonder looking up into the sky
Until I die
From even the invisible wind on the leaves
With the mind of singing about the stars
All living things which are dying
And I walk
A road, which is a line and given me
The stars are blown by the wind.
Musician and writer Mark Wagner has kept bread on the table by teaching writing and literature at the college level, most recently at Worcester State University, where this year he is also doing some organizing as Director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement. . . . His published works include A Cabin in a Field(Mellen Poetry Press, 2001), Silkheads (Homestead, 1999), and The Immediate Field, A Brief History of the Communicative Body(Verlag-Springer, 2010). This year he is celebrating the publication of Homebuilding (Finishing Line Press), a chapbook about his continued work to build a sustainable micro-farm where he lives with Monica Elefterion and their son Myles (now12).
Ellen Doré Watson: Things I Can’t Explain
Oboes. The hole smack in my heart when my parents
were in the room. The heron who stands, regal for hours
three days in a row beside the surf-casting couple,
though they give him nothing. That they give nothing.
The intractable one percent of anything. How far
one boy flies from brutal while his brother ramps it up.
Why, asked if he was a happy man, de Gaulle said,
What do you take me for, a Simpleton? Boredom.
Why dreams dissolve, wet tissue. Why a green doorway
in a yellow house with a thigh-high pile of fresh-picked
coffee beans on the floor makes me cry. Why the woman
who owns the doorway can’t walk through it, why
she holds thumb to index finger in the sign of a dove
to hold the plane aloft. Why we’re not on it when it falls.
This poem recently appeared in the UK journal The North #54
Poet and translator Ellen Doré Watson’s fifth and most recent book is Dogged Hearts (Tupelo Press, 2010). Earlier collections include This Sharpening, also from Tupelo, and two from Alice James, We Live in Bodies and Ladder Music, winner of the New England/New York award. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, and The New Yorker. Among her honors are a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and to Yaddo, and a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. Her best-known works of translation are The Alphabet in the Park, by Brazilian Adélia Prado and Ex-Voto, a second book of Prado translations (Tupelo, 2013). Watson lives in Western Massachusetts, where she directs the Poetry Center at Smith College and serves as poetry and translation editor of The Massachusetts Review. She also teaches in the Drew University Low-Residency MFA Program in Poetry and Translation.
Afaa Michael Weaver: My Father’s Geography
I was parading the Côte d’Azur,
hopping the short trains from Nice to Cannes,
following the maze of streets in Monte Carlo
to the hill that overlooks the ville.
A woman fed me pâté in the afternoon,
calling from her stall to offer me more.
At breakfast I talked in French with an old man
about what he loved about America–the Kennedys.
On the beaches I walked and watched
topless women sunbathe and swim,
loving both home and being so far from it.
At a phone looking to Africa over the Mediterranean,
I called my father, and, missing me, he said,
“You almost home boy. Go on cross that sea!”
Afaa Michael Weaver (born 1951 Baltimore, Maryland) formerly known as Michael S. Weaver, is an American poet, short story writer and editor. He is author of numerous poetry collections and his honors include a Fulbright Scholarship and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Pew Foundation. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including Callaloo. Born in Maryland, he studied two years at the University of Maryland. Then he entered the world of factory life alongside his father and uncles and remained a factory worker for fifteen years. He started 7th Son Press and Blind Alleys, a literary journal. He graduated from Brown University on a fellowship, with an M.A, and Excelsior College with a B.A. He taught at National Taiwan University and Taipei National University of the Arts as a Fulbright Scholar, and was a faculty member at the Cave Canem Foundation’s annual retreat. In addition, he was the first to be named an elder of the Cave Canem Foundation. He also studied Chinese language at the Taipei Language Institute in Taiwan. He teaches at Simmons College, and is director of the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Center. He is Chairman of the Simmons International Chinese Poetry Conference. Tess Onwueme, the Nigerian playwright, gave him the Ibo name “Afaa,” meaning “oracle,” while Dr. Perng Ching-hsi has given him the Chinese name “Wei Yafeng.”
Gary Whited: My Blue Shirt
hangs in the closet
of this small room, collar open,
sleeves empty, tail wrinkled.
Nothing fills the shirt but air
and my faint scent. It waits,
all seven buttons undone,
button holes slack,
the soft fabric with its square white pattern,
all of it waiting for a body.
It would take any body, though it knows,
in its shirt way of knowing, only mine,
has my shape in its wrinkles,
my bend in the elbows.
Outside this room birds hunt for food,
young leaves drink in morning sunlight,
people pass on their way to breakfast.
Yet here, in this closet,
the blue shirt needs nothing,
expects nothing, knows only its shirt knowledge,
that I am now learning––
how to be private and patient,
how to be unbuttoned,
how to carry the scent of what has worn me,
and to know myself by the wrinkles.
Gary Whited is a poet, philosopher and psychotherapist. He grew up on the plains of eastern Montana, and a strong sense of place pervades his poems, whether that place is the prairie, the city or the inner spaces we inhabit. His book titled, Having Listened, was selected as the winner of the 2013 Homebound Publications Poetry Contest. It has recently received a Benjamin Franklin Book Award, and one of the poems from the book has been nominated for a Pushcart prize. Having Listened offers a collection of poems that speak from the confluence of a childhood on the prairie remembered and an encounter with the haunting voice of the Greek thinker, Parmenides, echoing across 2500 years.
Sheila Whitehouse: Artie Shaw on Clarinet
Well, Blue Moon, here we are again.
You’re glowing and rippling on the water,
and I’m bathed in Skin So Soft
to keep the gnats away.
I’m supposed to feel devastated, unloved,
and less than fully human,
enjoying this scotch, this moonlight, this lake,
the whisper of those leaves,
alone, serenaded by what must be
the sumo wrestlers of the frog world
challenging each other from shore to shore.
Why do you think all those wonderful moon
songs have such depressing lyrics? Please!
I’m not a person until moon glow hooks me up
or the only obsession of my heart could be
for a man beside me that breathes.
They never sing about sleepless nights
wandering the house, buried in a dead marriage,
where nobody, nobody in the world can see you,
and the moon is your only friend.
Sheila Whitehouse holds a BA from Bates College and an MFA from Vermont College. Her book Flint and Needlewas published in 2006. She frequently reads in venues on Cape Cod.
Leslie Williams: Self-Portrait with American Crows
Telling lies, wasting time, thinking
no one else keeps promises
as close as I— crows fly in
and convene on the elm, an insistence
of wingspan, black-black-green.
The effort of cawing racks
their whole bodies, swaying
the top of the tree. I know crows
keep the law. I know fate will be
my friend, bear out
my diffidence, live in the void
with my deluded attitude
of permanence, and with yesterday’s
bliss: sitting on the stoop
with my little boys
in the shadow of the elm,
stuffing ourselves with potato chips
as everything turned to glory.
First published in FUSION.
Leslie Williams’ first book, Success of the Seed Plants, won the 2010 Bellday Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. She has received the Robert Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America and grants in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Illinois Arts Council. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Slate, Shenandoah, Smartish Pace, The Southern Review and many other magazines.
Irene Willis: Reminder
When I say guess what happened –
my usual way of starting a story –
I see a look of alarm in his eyes
replacing the sweet smile with which
he starts the iambic of our days –
our remaining days, which of course
everyone has – all that remains
is all we have – but when I say this
and know he still loves, it’s as good
as the afternoon I came home earlier
than expected and said to this man
who can no longer walk with ease
and who spends his days in a chair
with his feet uplifted, when I said
as a joke, I half-expected to find you
jumping and dancing, he said,
not smiling, that’s exactly how
I see myself in dreams.
Originally published in U.S. I Worksheets
Irene Willis’ poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Ploughshares, Women’s Review of Books, and Eating Her Wedding Dress: An Anthology of Clothing Poems. She has published three full-length collections: They Tell Me You Danced (University Press of Florida, 1995); At the Fortune Café, (winner, 2005 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Prize, Snake Nation Press); and Those Flames, finalist for the Philip Levine prize from Cal State, Fresno, and published by Bay Oak in 2009. Twice a Pushcart nominee, she is Poetry Editor of the online publication, International Psychoanalysis.
Rodney Wittwer: & the Sun Is a Fine Buggy of China: Balloons!
You say that if what we believe
to be salt turns out to be sand
& graces nothing but glass
that breaks then it is neither
the beginning nor the end of the world.
Just that yawning field in the middle,
brief leaping hiccups of glint
like kids that bleat on hillsides
& know nothing of the bleeding
which comes after dark.
You paint with that all night
& hope the dawn will replace the colors
leached from the earth & still
have heart -- fat wash hung to dry
on the sky’s testy line.
First published in Kestrel.
Rodney Wittwer is the author of Gone & Gone (Red Hen Press, 2012), and has received fellowships from the Artist Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His poems have appeared in journals such as DIAGRAM, The Literary Review, Memorious, Mead, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pleiades, Ploughshares and Verse Daily. He lives in W.Medford, MA, where he writes and works with his wife, a clothing designer. The poem appearing here was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Lauren Wolk: Divided December
My son, the Buddhist, has a new job
ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.
Unimpressed by the regulation bell with which they armed him,
he took instead a silver one I’ve always loved,
to swing it like a lantern in a storm,
that graceful arc warming him at his post
outside the Stop and Shop throughout this dark December.
“You’re going to hell,” hissed a woman who’d heard him
chanting softly, the boy himself a bell.
“Can I tell you about my wife?” asked a man who wore his
spare hours like epaulets of lead.
“You must hear that bell in your dreams,” said a
man who dropped a quarter in the kettle as he passed.
“I feel sorry for you,” he told the woman.
“Yes, of course,” he told the first man.
“Yes, I do,” he told the second,
all the while ringing,
all the while ringing.
The Army has not yet asked him to wear a Santa suit,
though he says he will, if he must,
since Santa has little to do with Jesus
and he has nothing against either of them, besides.
But if they asked him to wear a crown of thorns
or hoist a cross onto his shoulder, I suspect he would demur.
There’s a limit to the uniforms he’ll tolerate for the sake of money.
And, after all, the Buddhist in him is really in it for the bell.
First published in Off the Coast
Lauren Wolk’s poems have appeared in roger, Nimrod, PrimeTime, Cape Women: A Place of Her Own, Off the Coast, Naugatuck River Review, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Those Who Favor Fire, was published by Random House in 1999. Her second, Forgiving Billy, won the Hackney Award and was twice nominated for the Pushcart Editor’s Book Award. She is currently at work on her third novel, a collection of poems, and the assemblage art she exhibits at several galleries, including one at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, where she is Associate Director.
Annie Won: The Nine Circles of Ikea
she climbs the curious escalator
to the basso loco
up and up to
1. Kitchen utensils.
hanging from the fruit-flavored walls is the ripe Betty Crocker. she punctures me with desire, I mean the steaming oven and the thrill of chopping. her apron corset teaches you how to cook everything. her apron sex is amazing, among the boxed arrangements with the quiet sharp objects and the dazzling rouge lipstick smile. these are boxes of the happy. the order is the beginning of order
2. Window and floor textiles.
if there were a window,
there would be light.
her drape, the let-down hair,
this skirt, this hand.
the mirror does not wave back
when it shatters.
be my friend tonight,
3. Food storage.
the box. in the box. the box in the box in the box. on the box under the
box beside the box over the box over the box over the box. over
4. Bed linens.
soil the sheets, save the bed. soil the bed, save the sheets.
burn the sheets. burn the bed.
when there's nothing left to burn you must set yourself on fire!
1A. white paint 1B. finger 1C. red paint
2A. wet 2B. sweat 2C. stones
3A. tooth 3B. hair 3C. blood
4A. baneberry 4B. body 4C. nightshade
5A. moon 5B. witch 5C. smoke
roof: dead birds. roof: bats. roof: drums. roof: darkness
the roof is on fire! the roof the roof
bring the decapitated head. we must study his brain. not him. the head.
only the head. we must crack his skull and study his brain. only the head. here there is
i’ve got a man who’s always late, every time we have a date, but i love him. Yes! all those lights make you blind, but this is heaven. here you’ll find the feeling. is you is or is you ain’t my baby
feed me, said the plant. feed me! tendrils crawling up your neck. feed me
9. The food shop at the end with Nordic foodstuffs (plus hot dogs and ice cream cones).
gosh. i haven't bought the lingonberries. my husband will flip. he adores the lingonberries. with the water crackers and the fine linen napkins on the crushed velvet tablespread. we'd make love but not before the dustcloth runs over the tables. he hates the dust. it makes him feel like an ant under a magnifying glass in the sun. what shall i do? i am a mattress with a yellow ikea sticker in the as-is furniture aisle. he goes to bed with me, and i wake up with him gone. like a bed, i am lonely. who else will sleep with me?
satan is red like santa. he places a claw on your hand.
Annie Won is a poet chemist yoga teacher who lives in Medford, MA and writes with text and images at the intersections of body, mind, spirit, and page. Her chapbooks include did the wind blow it (dusie), once when a building block (horse less), and so i can sleep (nous-zot). Her work has appeared in venues such as New Delta Review, decomp, Apogee Journal, Entropy, TheThePoetry, TENDE RLION, and others. Her critical reviews can be viewed at American Microreviews and Interviews.
"The Nine Circles of Ikea" was composed as its own self-contained noise machine. Not unlike the navigation through a commercial labyrinth of the title's namesake — for most folks, there is only one way in, and through — the piece attempts to capture what is at once appealing, enticingly strange, and unashamedly dangerous. This is a beast that has ulterior motives. It would like to eat you. Life easily moves like this, as an obvious parallel to Dante's Inferno. Sometimes we feel that there is no escape. Sometimes, there isn't. At least you can leave Ikea sometimes.
C.D. Wright: Everything Good between Men and Women
has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
From Steal Away: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by C. D. Wright.
C. D. Wright briefly attended law school before leaving to pursue an MFA from the University of Arkansas, which she received in 1976. Her poetry thesis was titled Alla Breve Loving. In 1977 the publishing company founded by Frank Stanford, Lost Roads, published Wright’s first collection, Room Rented by A Single Woman. After Stanford died in 1978, Wright took over Lost Roads, continuing the mission of publishing new poets and starting the practice of publishing translations. In 1979, she moved to San Francisco, where she met poet Forrest Gander. Wright and Gander married in 1983 and have a son, Brecht, and co-edited Lost Roads until 2005. In 1981, Wright lived in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico and completed her second book of poems, Translation of the Gospel Back into Tongues. In 1983 she moved to Providence, Rhode Island to teach writing at Brown University where she is now Israel J. Kapstein Professor of English. In 2013, Wright was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Jane Yolen: Emily D and Bird Play St. Pete’s
It is eternal dusk on the stage
But her white dress illumines.
Holding one of several fascicles,
those small hand-sewn packets
of torn paper on which she’s scribbled,
Uncle Emily—as she calls herself
in these performances—steps up,
grabs the microphone with her left hand,
and commences to speak.
The room is electric. Behind her, Bird
spit-casts a run on the sax. A paradiddle
soft as a drum lullaby accompanies them.
Emily does not read the words exactly as written,
but improvises each poem. Syllables
flutter out, pop percussively, invent
and reinvent themselves; they take flight
while Bird decorates, illustrates,
illuminates each line.
Emily is volcanic; the lava of each poem
touches all corners of the room
till her eyes roll back and she falls
onto the wooden floor in an ecstasy
of poetics and seizure. One angel arranges
her dress so that her ankles don’t show.
Another puts a harp tuning fork
between Emily’s teeth and tongue.
But otherwise they let her lie.
God knows, they know, the difference
between epilepsy and being seized
by the sacred, though it’s a secret
they have yet to share.
©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved
New York Times bestseller for her children's books, Jane Yolen has been called the "Hans Christian Andersen of America" by Newsweek Magazine. She has seven books of adult poetry out, from Algonquin, Harcourt, Holy! Cow Books, and other presses, and she writes a poem a day which she sends to over 600 subscribers. Also worthy of note, her Skylark Award--given by NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, set her good coat on fire. If you need to know more about her, visit her website at: www.janeyolen.com.
Margaret Young: A Genealogy of Kitsch
Grandma sends me a birthday card, I’m four. It shows a gray kitten, mostly head, the head mostly forehead and eyes; pink ribbons and flowers bloom from its neck. I remember adoring that image, gazing into those eyes. There’s a photograph of me with it on the lawn, curled around it, wearing one of my rare girly dresses, borrowing the kitten’s look. My parents never gave us pictures like that: the card held a whiff of the forbidden, like snack cakes they never brought home, Hostess and Little Debbie in their shining foil and plastic.
My mother brings home wrapping paper from the discount store: lime green with hot pink poodles engaged in Christmas pastimes. I’m fourteen. Isn’t it great, she says. It’s hideous, I answer. I know, isn’t it great, she says.
My mother dies of cancer during the final week of rehearsal for a production of Euripides’s Orestes I’m stage managing. I’m eighteen. While I fly home for the funeral the director adds another dance number to the ending. There was already Apollo in a tuxedo, popping down to stop the killing and get everyone married, slow-dancing with now-immortal Helen to some Sarah Vaughan. Now everyone comes onstage after that and breaks into the carioca. I get back in time to see the final performance, and I love the ending, it’s just right.
Margaret Young grew up in Oberlin, Ohio and studied at Yale and University of California, Davis. She earned a 2005 Individual Artist Grant from the Ohio Arts Council and has published two poetry collections, Willow from the Willow (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2002) and Almond Town (Bright Hill Press, 2011). She teaches at Endicott College and lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.