Timothy Gager: But you forgot, To remember
It rains cats and dogs
and baby animals make
the blues go away
Billie Holiday scratched
to the end, the needle dragged
never piercing her center, which
was glued on, nevertheless,
I related. Her story intrigued,
I never understood the song’s
connotation, why the singer reeked
of despair, she strung me along with
desperate notes, desperate measures.
Lady-you once spoke to me,
but never knew me, all the times
I slipped this record into the sleeve
Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His book of poetry, The Shutting Door was nominated for The Massachusetts Book Award. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which nine have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio. His latest, "The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan," is his first novel.
Forrest Gander: The Moment When Your Name is Pronounced
This high up, the face
eroding; the red cedar slopes
over. An accident chooses a stranger.
Each rain unplugs roots
which thin out like a hand.
Above the river, heat
lightning flicks silently
and the sound holds, coiled in air.
Some nights you are here
dangling a Valpolicella bottle,
staring down at the flat water
that slides by with its mouth full of starlight.
It is always quiet
when we finish the wine.
While you were a living man
how many pictures were done
of you. Serious as an angel,
lacing up your boots. Ice
blows into my fields.
From Rush to the Lake; appears here courtesy of Poetry Foundation
Forrest Gander has lived all over; he was born in the Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, has lived in San Francisco, Dolores Hildalgo (in Mexico), Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and currently lives in Rhode Island where he teaches at Brown University. His mind has a wide range, also. Not only has he translated Mexican, Latin American, Spanish and Japanese poets, but he holds a degree in geology as well as English literature.
Cynthia Read Gardner: Vitiligo
The pear I keep painting is green.
Sometimes it casts a long shadow
like a man in a hall.
Sometimes it sits inside its shade
like a dancer turning.
The darkest line where object meets surface –
the way the stem indents into a dip of fruit –
a white highlight at the highest value
and blue-black at the deepest.
I’ve lost pigment all over my body.
My face is a canvas of lights and darks.
Night where the pigment stayed and day where it fled
around my eyes, my nose, my lips,
and places of high use and injury –
elbows, knuckles, or places where it hurts.
Cynthia Read Gardner’s poems have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Bridge, and various anthologies such as Crossing Paths: An Anthology of Poems by Women, (Mad River Press, 2002). A chapbook, How Will They Find Me, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. She has been employed as a clinical social worker for many years. She and her husband live in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and have two grown sons.
Marie Gauthier: Motherless
A quiet nothing like peace, a quiet
only the subtraction of sound: breath, heartbeat,
oxygen machine – everything stilled
to this: the sound of sobs in a vacuum.
Her mouth yawns, an airless maw, tongue
slumped to one side like a closed pink
tulip. I lift her jaw and prop it with a pillow,
prop the pillow with her dough-warm hands –
a pantomime of devotion they will
inevitably disturb. But before the body bag,
before the gurney, the hospice nurse and I
perform the ablutions, dress my mother in clean soft cotton.
We six, her children grown, cry in waves.
Each hour rings the loss of her, time emptying
its minutes into the room cavernous
without the hospital bed, the room where my boys,
her youngest grands, spin like lodestones
in a haywire compass, unmoored by its vacancy.
In the living room, my brothers divvy up
their secondhand suits among the family men,
each trying on pants and jackets, passing
what doesn’t fit on to the next.
Who has a tie? A tie pin? Shoe polish? Shoes?
Marie Gauthier is the author of a chapbook, Hunger All Inside (Finishing Line Press, 2009), and recent poems can be read in The Common, burntdistrict, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She won a 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize in addition to Honorable Mention in 2010. She lives with her family in Shelburne Falls, MA where she works for Tupelo Press and co-curates the Collected Poets Series (http://collectedpoets.com).
Danielle Legros Georges: A Dominican Poem
If you are born, and you are stateless,
if you are born, and you are homeless,
if your state and home are not
yours—and yet everything you know—
what are you? Who are you? And who
am I without the dark fields I walk upon,
the streets I know, the blue corners
I call mine, the ones you call yours . . .
Who am I to call myself citizen, and
human and free? And who are you
to call yourself landed and grounded,
and free. And who is judge enough?
And who citizen enough? And who native?
Truly. And who other?
And who are we who move so freely
without accents of identification,
without skin of identification, with
all manner of identification. With
gold seals of approval. With the stamps
of good fortune. With the accident
of blameless birth. Who are we to be
Note: In September 2013, a ruling by the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court stripped citizenship of Dominican-born persons without a Dominican parent, going back to 1929. The majority of persons affected are Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Danielle Legros Georges is a poet, essayist, and associate professor at Lesley University. She is a visiting faculty member of the William Joiner Institute Summer Writer’s Workshop, University of Massachusetts, Boston; and a Solstice Magazine consulting poetry editor. Her work includes a book of poetry Maroon (Curbstone, 2001) and poems in many journals and anthologies. Her poems are forthcoming in Callaloo, Transition, and World Literature
David Giannini: "Overpass”
Birds winging over the stone bridge
can’t perceive that stones of the bridge
hold the grace of the bridge.
So many times we miss the span of beauty
because we are traveling too fast
or our hands lack the intelligence of hands
with many years of handling things of Earth.
Some hands know hard work and luck can turn
into design after many meanders considered
until things edge lovely as if rhymed
into place above a river.
Praise those masons whose hands resemble stone
wings, yet alive to the great fit,
the utterly solid grace of it.
David Giannini’s most recently published collections of poetry include AZ TWO (Adastra Press,) a “Featured Book” in the 2009 Massachusetts Poetry Festival; INVERSE MIRROR, a collaboration with artist, Judith Koppel (Feral Press/Prehensile Pencil, 2012;) WHEN WE SAVOR WHAT IS SIMPLY THERE (Feral Press/Prehensile Pencil, 2013;) and RIM/WAVE (two full-length poetry collections in one book from Quale Press, 2012) and SPAN of THREAD, a full-length collection of his prose poems due from Cervena Barva Press in 2014. Awards include: Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Awards; The Osa and Lee Mays Award For Poetry; an award for prosepoetry from the University of Florida; and a 2009 Finalist Award from the Naugatuck Review. He co-founded Compass Center, the first rehabilitation clubhouse for severely and chronically mentally ill adults in the northwest corner of Connecticut. He is the Coordinator of Writers Read, an ongoing series of monthly readings by poets and fiction writers presenting at The Good Purpose Gallery in Lee, MA.
Regie Gibson: southeast ridge
it will ask for your well-ripened rage
for your dream bitter with razorwire
for your seven most violentsighs sharp and inconsolable
as crooked teeth
it will demand your dollar-speaking mouth learn
that you become open glottis and powderedwing
frail as a waning hum you will resist
you will resist
because the city concreting your head says to because
every verminbackedrat nibbling songs from your sleep says to
but this place knows what it asks of you
it knows why you are here:
to know how rage convulses into windlaughter
how razorwire wound is healed in sunsalt
how seven lonely sighs
become hum and prayer
beneath a heatswollen sky
Former National Poetry Slam Champion Regie Gibson received his MFA from New England College. He’s lectured and performed widely in the U.S., Cuba, and Europe–most recently at Teatro Binario 7 in Milan, Italy. In 2008 as a representative of the U.S., Gibson competed for and received the Absolute Poetry Award in Monfalcone, Italy. He and his work appear in love jones, a feature film based on events in his life. He’s been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, various NPR programs, and nominated for a Boston Emmy. He’s a recipient of both the Walker Scholarship for poetry from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and a YMCA Writer’s fellowship. He’s been published in Poetry Magazine, Harvard’s Divinity Magazine and The Iowa Review, among others. His volume of poems, Storms Beneath the Skin, received the Golden Pen Award. In 2010 Regie received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Award for Poetry and the 2010-11 Lexington Education Foundation Program Grant. He performs regularly with his literary music ensemble Neon JuJu.
Maria Mazziotti Gillan: Public School No.18, Paterson, New Jersey
Miss Wilson’s eyes, opaque
as blue glass, fix on me:
“We must speak English.
We’re in America now.”
I want to say, “I am American,”
but the evidence is stacked against me.
My mother scrubs my scalp raw, wraps
my shining hair in white rags
to make it curl. Miss Wilson
drags me to the window, checks my hair
for lice. My face wants to hide.
At home, my words smooth in my mouth,
I chatter and am proud. In school,
I am silent, grope for the right English
words, fear the Italian word
will sprout from my mouth like a rose,
fear the progression of teachers
in their sprigged dresses,
their Anglo-Saxon faces.
Without words, they tell me
to be ashamed.
I deny that booted country
even from myself,
want to be still
as these women
who teach me to hate myself.
Years later, in a white
Kansas City house,
the Psychology professor tells me
I remind him of the Mafia leader
on the cover of Time magazine.
My anger spits
venomous from my mouth:
I am proud of my mother,
dressed all in black,
proud of my father
with his broken tongue,
proud of the laughter
and noise of our house.
Remember me, Ladies,
the silent one?
I have found my voice
and my rage will blow
your house down.
Reprinted from What We Pass On: Collected Poems 1980-2009
Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us(Guernica Editions). She has a book forthcoming in April 2013, entitled Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories from MiroLand Publishers (Guernica).She is Founder /Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY. Her webpage is www.mariagillan.com.
Michelle Gillett: Love Poem 137
This time, the boat we pushed off
in the first 136 will stay tied to the dock.
No more gliding through corridors of light,
watching the bluegills dart.
When we cast our lines, they won’t be
filaments of time. All these years,
rowing across this same body of water.
How many poems ago did I watch you
lean and straighten as you pulled the oars?
I won’t quote Wordsworth again,
although I love the underthirst
and tried to use it in 129.
In poems 84 and 85, a heron weighted the spruce
at the narrow end of the lake. I failed
to make its heaviness a metaphor for love.
The six-point buck we saw swimming across
so many poems ago surprised us
as love sometimes does.
It only got as far as a few lines.
The love poem shifts on its anchor.
Across the lake, in the green cottage, you wait.
Michelle Gillett won the Backwaters Press Poetry Prize for Blinding the Goldfinches, selected by Hayden Carruth and published in 2005. The Green Cottage won the 2010 The Ledge Magazine Poetry Chapbook Award. She has won a poetry awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. A graduate of the Warren Wilson College Program for Writers, she writes a regular column for the Berkshire Eagle and teaches writing workshops.
Kevin Goodan: (to crave what the light does crave)
to crave what the light does crave
to shelter, to flee
to gain desire of every splayed leaf
to calm cattle, to heat the mare
to coax dead flies back from slumber
to turn the gaze of each opened bud
to ripe the fruit to rot the fruit
and drive down under the earth
to lord gentle dust
to lend a glancing grace to llamas
to gather dampness from fields
and divide birds
and divide the ewes from slaughter
and raise the corn and bend the wheat
and drive tractors to ruin
burnish the fox, brother the hawk
shed the snake, bloom the weed
and drive all wind diurnal
to blanch the fire and clot the cloud
to husk, to harvest,
sheave and chaff
to choose the bird
and voice the bird
to sing us, veery, into darkness
Kevin Goodan was born in Montana and raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation where his stepfather and brothers are tribal members. Goodan earned his BA from the University of Montana and worked as a firefighter for ten years with the U.S. Forest Service before receiving his MFA from University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2004. Goodan’s first collection of poetry, In the Ghost-House Acquainted (2004), won The L.L. Winship/ PEN New England Award in 2005. In an interview with Goodan for Astrophil Press, poet Gregory Lawless noted the “breathtaking moments of solitude” of Goodan’s style, which “exhibits both pastoral eloquence and psychological intensity.” Goodan’s poems have been published in various journals, including Ploughshares, theColorado Review, and The Mid-America Poetry Review. His second collection, Winter Tenor, was published in 2009. Goodan has taught at the University of Connecticut, and has served as Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University. He currently teaches at Lewis-Clark State College and resides in Idaho.
Joey Gould: The First Day
knocked mom’s house down
to studs. At first,
the air was opaque with dust
then later settled as I got
to know this man I had
known only as a handshake. So,
there was nightas he cut the power
to the lights,
& it was as on the first day:
I was there, brushing walnut stain
into a newel post’s grooves
& I looked down at him
wiring a light switch,
spooling out wire that certain yellow
the color of construction,
clipping, the little snip sound
of the wire cutters—
then I loved him
bent into the effort
of twisting metal
& making light.
into the basement
& snapped on the panel switch.
Let there be light.
I must’ve looked
like a confused dog, staring
tilted-head at him:
the wiring is.
Joey Gould has worked for the last three Massachusetts Poetry Festivals. He tutors writing at Framingham State University, edits poetry for Paper Nautilus, & builds changing tables & decks in his spare time.
Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr.: In the Hills
it rains us silver
into the gored lane
and I disintegrate you there
thinning among birches
coolly you rise
and set myself on fire
we love myself sparingly
and we carry the loss of me
to a last incline
without flare or fondness
whether we are early or beauty
Appeared in Little Star Journal #4, 2013 Part of a book of poems centered in South India that will appear from Four Way Books in spring 2015
Elizabeth T. Gray Jr. is a poet, translator, and corporate consultant. Her work hasappeared in The Kenyon Review Online, The Harvard Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal [Chad Walsh Prize 2012], AGNI, The Cortland Review, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts, and elsewhere. The Green Sea of Heaven, translations of classical Persian poet Hafiz-i Shirazi (d.1389) was published in 1995. A Best New Poet of 2012, she was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An as-yet-untitled book of poems is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2015. She holds a B. A. and J. D. from Harvard, and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. www.elizabethtgrayjr.com.
Holly Guran: Ark
Asleep in the ark of bed,
the wife, the husband, the dog
wrapped in bunched bedclothes
each with a special way
of breathing. Sometimes breath
signals from the dream—
a quickening of garbled words,
a sigh. Sometimes dreams
escape in the dark room.
Dead parents appear young,
able to talk and walk.
The dog whimpers remembering
her early confinement.
A friend returns with a message:
all you need lies within.
Bedded down, the pack rests.
The edges yield as the ark
rocks, retrieving the ones lost.
Beyond the room’s windows,
a deep breath of stars
enters night’s ocean.
Appeared in The Westchester Review, 2013
Holly Guran, author of two chapbooks, River Tracks (Poets Corner Press) and Mothers' Trails (Noctiluca Press), earned a Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award (2012), and is a member of Jamaica Pond Poets. River Full of Bones, a full-length collection, will soon be published by Iris Press. Her work has appeared in journals including Slipstream, Poet Lore, Poetry East, Hawai'i Pacific Review, U.S. Worksheets 1, Salamander, and Bryant Literary Review. She participates in the Rozzie Reads Poetry series sponsored by Friends of the Roslindale Branch Library.
Joy Harjo: A Map to the Next World
for Desiray Kierra Chee
In the last days of the fourth world I wished to make a map for
those who would climb through the hole in the sky.
My only tools were the desires of humans as they emerged
from the killing fields, from the bedrooms and the kitchens.
For the soul is a wanderer with many hands and feet.
The map must be of sand and can’t be read by ordinary light. It
must carry fire to the next tribal town, for renewal of spirit.
In the legend are instructions on the language of the land, how it
was we forgot to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it.
Take note of the proliferation of supermarkets and malls, the
altars of money. They best describe the detour from grace.
Keep track of the errors of our forgetfulness; the fog steals our
children while we sleep.
Flowers of rage spring up in the depression. Monsters are born
there of nuclear anger.
Trees of ashes wave good-bye to good-bye and the map appears to
We no longer know the names of the birds here, how to speak to
them by their personal names.
Once we knew everything in this lush promise.
What I am telling you is real and is printed in a warning on the
map. Our forgetfulness stalks us, walks the earth behind us, leav-
ing a trail of paper diapers, needles, and wasted blood.
An imperfect map will have to do, little one.
The place of entry is the sea of your mother’s blood, your father’s
small death as he longs to know himself in another.
There is no exit.
The map can be interpreted through the wall of the intestine—a
spiral on the road of knowledge.
You will travel through the membrane of death, smell cooking
from the encampment where our relatives make a feast of fresh
deer meat and corn soup, in the Milky Way.
They have never left us; we abandoned them for science.
And when you take your next breath as we enter the fifth world
there will be no X, no guidebook with words you can carry.
You will have to navigate by your mother’s voice, renew the song
she is singing.
Fresh courage glimmers from planets.
And lights the map printed with the blood of history, a map you
will have to know by your intention, by the language of suns.
When you emerge note the tracks of the monster slayers where they
entered the cities of artificial light and killed what was killing us.
You will see red cliffs. They are the heart, contain the ladder.
A white deer will greet you when the last human climbs from the
Remember the hole of shame marking the act of abandoning our
We were never perfect.
Yet, the journey we make together is perfect on this earth who was
once a star and made the same mistakes as humans.
We might make them again, she said.
Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.
You must make your own map.
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Her seven books of poetry, which include such well-known titles as How We Became Human- New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses have garnered many awards. For A Girl Becoming, a young adult/coming of age book, was released in 2009. She has released four award-winning CD’s of original music and in 2009 won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year for Winding Through the Milky Way. Her most recent CD release is a traditional flute album: Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears.
Charles Harper: Reaching
Like God or love or life itself,
there’s no making sense of this –
unless, like Jacob, you wrestle
the dream all night, stubbornly
lock onto the incomprehensible
until at dawn you have,
if not all you seek, at least
enough light for the day at hand.
Then you mark this place
with an altar, or perhaps a figure
on the cave’s wall, or hieroglyph
on stone slab, or phrase
on parchment, or notes in a score,
or splash on canvas – reaching
toward the impossible dream
Charles Harper’s poetry frequently appears in the Aurorean, Avocet, The Lyric, Mobius and The Deronda Review, among others. He is the author of three poetry books, Sorting Things Out (2008), Making A Life (2010) and Gratitude (2012). He is a regular participant in Poetry, Art of the Word that meets monthly in Plymouth, MA where he also leads poetry appreciation workshops at the public library. You may see more of his work at www.harperpoetry.com.
Jeffrey Harrison: Encounter with John Malkovich
When I spot him in Tower Records, two aisles over,
flipping through bins of discounted CDs
at their going-out-of-business sale, his shaven head
half-covered by the hood of his gray sweatshirt,
my first thought is I want to tell my brother,
but my brother is dead. And yet I watch him furtively,
searching for some Malkovichian quirk,
some tic that might make Andy laugh,
but he isn’t giving anything away
besides his slightly awkward stoop over the racks.
Then it comes to me that if I can’t tell my brother
about John Malkovich, I can tell John Malkovich
about my brother, and my heart starts pounding.
Normally, I don’t believe in pestering celebrities,
but there are exceptions: if Spalding Gray
walked in right now, I would definitely talk to him—
but that’s impossible, since he, like my brother,
though under very different circumstances,
killed himself. But John Malkovich is alive
and standing right over there, and my mind
is racing ahead to the two of us leaving
the record store together, then having coffee
at a nearby diner, where I am already
telling him how my brother was obsessed
with the movie of Sam Shepard’s True West
and especially with him, John Malkovich,
playing Lee, the older of two brothers;
how Andy, who was my older brother,
loved to imitate Malkovich, or rather Lee,
everything from his small off-kilter mannerisms
to his most feral outbursts—but even then
he’d be smiling, unable to hide his delight;
and how, every Christmas, he brought the video
to our parents’ house in Ohio, and our parents
would groan when they walked through the room,
and sigh, “Not this again,” or call it
“the most unChristmassy movie ever made.”
Which is probably true. But for us—him and me,
our other brother and our sister, but especially him—
you’d have to say it was our It’s a Wonderful Life.
And I have to tell him how Andy used to cue the tape up
and ask, “Can we just watch this one scene before—”
before whatever it was we were about to do,
go out for dinner or visit our demented grandmother,
and we’d watch him, John Malkovich, standing on a chair
shouting pronouncements, or destroying a typewriter
with a golf club, and we’d go off laughing and exhilarated
to our appointed errand, his inflections ringing in our ears. . . .
But now it’s something about the way he thoughtfully
considers his purchases, shuffling through them,
then putting one back, reconsidering, his hand
hesitating over the bins, that somehow reminds me
of Andy, and makes me certain Malkovich
would be interested in him, a sympathetic character
if there ever was one: funny, gentle,
a lover of dogs and kids (who had neither),
with an odd sense of humor and some mostly unobtrusive
symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder,
who, like Lee, but to a much lesser degree (or so
we thought), had trouble placing himself in the world—
a part I’m certain Malkovich could play,
all of it coming full circle, Malkovich
playing Andy playing Malkovich playing Lee,
or just Malkovich playing Andy, bringing him
back to life, the way Lee suddenly springs
back up at the end of the movie, alive
after all, menacing as death, the phone cord
still wrapped around his neck. . . .
It turns out that John Malkovich and I
do leave the store together: we check out
at the same time, two registers apart,
then head for the door, the moment coming
to a peak for me as I realize my last chance
is about to slip away. But Malkovich, in front of me,
has to wait there while a stream of people coming in
briefly blocks his exit, and I watch, in profile,
his flurry of impatient blinking—or is it a display
of exaggerated patience?—each blink counting off the seconds
he is forced to wait, or the number of customers
going by him, not recognizing him, it seems to me,
though his hood is down by now. And I think,
this is it, this little fit of blinking is the thing
Andy would delight in most, the one detail
he would rewind the tape to see again.
From Into Daylight (Tupelo Press, 2014), which won the Dorset Prize.
Jeffrey Harrison is the author of five books of poetry-- including The Singing Underneath, selected by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series in 1987, Feeding the Fire, winner of the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club in 2002, Incomplete Knowledge, which was a runner-up for the Poets’ Prize in 2008, and Into Daylight, published in 2014 by Tupelo Press as the winner of the Dorset Prize -- as well as of a selected poems, The Names of Things, published in 2006 by Waywiser Press in the U.K. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, as well as other honors, he has published poems in The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, AGNI, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, American Poetry Review, Poets of the New Century, The Twentieth Century in Poetry, and in many other magazines and anthologies. Garrison Keillor has read over a dozen of his poems on his radio show “The Writer’s Almanac.” He has taught at George Washington University, Phillips Academy, where he was Writer-in-Residence, College of the Holy Cross, Framingham State College, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and at various summer programs and schools as a visiting writer. He lives in Massachusetts. For more information, go to: www.jeffreyharrisonpoet.com
Mark Hart: Planting Garlic
I love to imagine the first blind rootings
in gravity’s dark light, the sodden waiting,
the slow ignition of their tiny green rockets
as I bury their pink-skinned cheeks in the
corpse-cold ground, soon freezing to stone.
My neighbor says the mounded beds look like
freshly dug graves. He’s right— I am
an undertaker for the living, consigning innocents
to birth not death, though
not every womb is warm. Let this planting
stand for all inhospitable beginnings,
for what shivers unseen awaiting its chance.
Foot to shovel, back to wind, sky dour with
coming rain, crows squawking, a few creaking pines,
the hoarse whisper of corn stalks blowing,
their dry matter to be thrown on the pile—
I could work up a good sweat of melancholy here
if wonder were not constantly interrupting.
I’m fifty. I take no comfort in the rites of religion.
Let me see the miracle before me,
the one I too am.
Let planting bring me to my knees.
Originally published in The Midwest Quarterly, Autumn 2008
Mark Hart’s first collection, Boy Singing to Cattle (Pearl Editions, 2013),won the Pearl Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award. His poetry has appeared in Atlanta Review,Chautauqua, RATTLE, The Evansville Review, Tar River Poetry, The Spoon River Poetry Review and numerous other journals. He began to write poetry in 2003 after the death of his father. Raised on a wheat farm in the Palouse region of eastern Washington State, he now lives in an apple orchard in western Massachusetts. He works as a psychotherapist in private practice, a Buddhist teacher, and a religious advisor at Amherst College. To see Mark reading this poem, go to www.50stories.org/planting-garlic/.
Barry Hellman: The Conversation
It was raining and I was explaining
the nature of tedium and why
it feels the same as loneliness,
and she said she wonders why
Hopper painted the same woman
over and over in the same light,
sometimes with a dress on a chair
and a shoe on the floor,
once in a while with a sign
going on and off
outside a window,
and that’s when I asked
if there’s such a thing as sin
for which there’s no forgiveness
and why some people insist
they have no regrets,
and she said I’m like a geranium
hanging over the edge of a pot
and asked if I’m afraid
when I die I’ll wind up
buried next to strangers,
and that’s when I got up
and looked for my shoes
and told her I wasn’t scared
of dying just tired of getting old.
Cape Cod poet Barry Hellman is a clinical psychologist whose poems have appeared in Writers’ Journal; Five Hundred Tuesdays: The Wellfleet Writers’ Guild Anthology; The Aurorean; Cape Cod’s Literary Voice; World of Water, World of Sand: A Cape Cod Collection of Poetry, Fiction & Memoir; Poetica Magazine; Prime Time Magazine; Ballard Street Poetry Journal; Still Crazy Literary Magazine; Muddy River Poetry Review, Comstock Review, Cape Cod Poetry Review, and poetry broadsides . His chapbook of 26 poems, The King of Newark, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Barry currently curates and hosts the monthly Poets Corner Poetry & Music Open Mic at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, and an annual open mic and poetry workshop at the Wellfleet Library during National Poetry Month. He has led workshops at The Chapel In The Pines Sunday Programs, Calliope Poetry Workshop Series, and the Wellfleet Library Seminar Series, focusing on writing poems about family, friends, lovers, and others, the relationship between poetry and psychotherapy, and developing poetry performance skills. He’s been a featured poet at venues and events both on and off Cape, and publishes a website covering information about poetry events on Cape Cod at: https://sites.google.com/site/barryhellmanspoetrywebsite/home/events
Audrey Henderson: Indigo Bunting
That summer he was 89, sitting in an Adirondack
chair in the middle of the grass until he fell asleep
and it tipped him over on the ground when one leg
sunk into a divot made by Reggie Clark’s cow.
A huge bruise covered the back of his hand
widening extravagantly because of blood thinners.
He never said a thing, but we noticed it at dinner.
Next day he was sitting in the same place more or less.
He came into the house full of wonder and asked
could it be that he had seen an all-over blue bird.
Originally appeared in The Midwest Quarterly
Audrey Henderson’s writing is rooted in her early life on the edge of Edinburgh, Scotland, where the clash of city and country, ancient history and wrenching modern change began an enduring fascination with the interplay between the natural and the man-made environment. She lives in Boston and is active in the areas of literacy and environmental education. Her poetry has appeared widely in both Britain and the United States. Her collection Airstream will be published by Homebound Publications this Fall.
Gregory Hischak: The Hour’s Poem
The lifeguard’s poem was about sunblock
and fins—a terrible poem really
The farmer’s poem concerned rainfall and
the fisherman’s poem touched upon drowning
The builder’s poem—a lament about permits
was an exceptional poem read poorly
The undertaker’s poem was all about
handshakes and it almost made me cry
The poet read a poem about figs—in hindsight
the lifeguard’s poem wasn’t that bad
My folding chair growled a couplet of bone
The bone mumbled a haiku about dancing
Outside—the sycamore’s poem spoke of its love
for the shifting tearing river
The river’s poem mourned the oxbow where
it left a part of itself to dark still water
and I liked your poem—wordless—just that
enveloping gaze and I liked the dusk canopy
that was the hour’s poem—its tick and rustle
of hands moving to where they entwine
Gregory Hischak is a poet, playwright and Associate Director of the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port, MA. His writings have appeared in Atlanta Review, Bellingham Revue, Ibettson Street, Exquisite Corpse, Green Mountain Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, Third Coast, Vincent Brothers Review and Zymbol among others. His plays have been staged by Boston Playwrights Theatre and Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Portland Stage Company and the Source Festival among others. His collection Parts & Labor was published by Pond Road Press in March, 2013.
Everett Hoagland: As I Ebb Toward the End of Life
For Ryland and Kai
As a child at the shore
I was assured by my grown-ups
that if I held any sand-and-water-worn conch
shell to my ear, I would hear the sea.
And I did. Or so it seemed to me.
In the summers of my prime
I assured the same thing to my own
water-borne children and held seashells
to their ears, asking them if they could hear
the ocean's roar and backdrop din
in the death-hollowed shells, and they would nod
Later in the mid-beach tide pools
of my consciousness on the east shore
of Middle Passage, banked by bluffs of belief
and sand duned world history, I held hand-sized cowries
to my ear and heard the waves' unscrolling roll call
of forcibly drowned African names, heard sand-ground,
groaned prayers, curses, cries, screams, pleas
of five centuries' many thousand-thousand
by slave ships into the bottomless blues
of that deep, salt water hyphen between African
But these post-prime days,
as time wears down my body
and the ebbing tide of life
weathers my mind,
just as waves
of salty sea
at the shore, watching
my frolicking young grandsons play
in tide pools, and plash in the surf, and splash
sea water on one another, whenever I hold a spiral
remnant of a conch shell to my good ear, I hear nothing
but the ocean's measured music,
its crescendos, diminuendos,
and my grandboys'
At The Inkwell Beach, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard. Most recently published by The Unitarian Universalist WORLD Magazine, Vol XXVII No 4 Winter 2013.
Everett Hoagland was the first Poet Laureate for New Bedford, Massachusetts, and he is an emeritus professor at UMass Dartmouth, where he taught poetry writing workshops and African American literature courses for 30 years. He was a recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Award, two Massachusetts Artist Foundation Fellowships, two Massachusetts Local Cultural Council grants for book publications, and a fellowship from the NEH. His poems have been published in: The American Poetry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Drum Voices, Cross Cultural Projects, The Providence Journal, and in The Best American Poetry 2002, African American Literature (eds. Gilyard & Wardi), The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry, Stand Our Ground, Liberation Poetry. He has given poetry readings all over the USA, as well as n Ghana, Cuba, and China. His most recent book is the anthology OCEAN VOICES, and his forthcoming book of his own work is THE MUSIC & Other Selected Poems.
John Hodgen: For My Nigerian Student Who Will Not Believe That Men Have Landed On The Moon
No, she says, and her eyes grow large,
two black moons, eclipsed.
I show her chunky astronauts, frolicking,
gamboling, one small step after another,
the blare of light like aureoles
on the round black visors of their helmets.
No, she says, they are men, nothing more,
and men cannot dance on the face of the moon.
The moon is so far and the men are so small.
Only dreams can go there
and the words that fly out of my heart.
The moon is the eye of the old one, she says,
still awake in the house of the night.
It is the mother who cradles us deep in our sleep.
And no one could walk on that face, on that light.
I look in her eyes and I know she is right.
From In My Father’s House (Lynx House Press: University of Washington, Seattle WA, 2012)
John Hodgen lives in Shrewsbury, MA. He is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Assumption College. He is the author of Heaven & Earth Holding Company (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), Grace, (winner of the 2005 AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), In My Father's House (winner of the 1993 Bluestem Award from Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas), and Bread Without Sorrow (winner of the 2002 Balcones Poetry Prize, Lynx House Press /Eastern Washington University Press, Spokane WA, 2001). He has won the Grolier Prize for Poetry, an Arvon Foundation Award, the Yankee Magazine Award for Poetry, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Finalist Award in Poetry in 2000. He has won the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, the Foley Prize from America Magazine, and the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize for the best poems published in Beloit Poetry Journal in 2008.
Richard Hoffman: Pantoum: But You Are Gone
i.m. RJH 1950-1972
I thought for a long time
if I was very quiet
for a long time
I might recall your voice.
If I was very quiet
I might long for you so long
I might recall your voice
as if my ear could sift the wind.
I might long for you so long,
for words you had spoken,
as if my ear could sift the wind
for things you said,
for words you had spoken,
that if I searched my memory
for things you said,
I might find you again;
that if I searched my memory
for a long time,
I might find you again
I thought for a long time.
Richard Hoffman is author of the poetry collections, Without Paradise, Gold Star Road, winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Motton Book Award, and Emblem, as well as the short story collection Interference & Other Stories, and the celebrated memoir, Half the House. He teaches at Emerson College, and currently serves as Chair of PEN New England.
Doug Holder: Transcendence
I'm 84 floors up
but the city
doesn't seem to
make any more sense,
A master lock
has chained my fluttering
heart to this desk,
As my screen flickers
my fingers tap the keyboard,
a piano player
of empty gestures.
I was on top
of their game yesterday,
but I'm only as
good as the
stock market says
I am today.
a few others
down their tumblers
numbing our chattering brains
with the opiate of cliched refrains
our elixir to pain.
You see when I am
84 floors up
my callused feet are still
this goddamn floor
and I don't know
who I am anymore.
And all I can do
is watch those
morning birds soar.
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. http://www.ibbetsonpress.com. He teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. For over thirty years Holder has worked at McLean Hospital, and for many of those years he has run poetry groups for psychiatric patients on locked wards and in other settings. Holder is the Arts Editor for The Somerville News, the director of the Newton Free Library Poetry Series, the producer of Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer on Somerville Community Access TV, and the co-founder of the Bagel Bards, a Somerville-based literary group. Holder's poetry and prose have appeared in Rattle, The Boston Globe Magazine, the new renaissance, Istanbul Literary Review, Hazmat, Toronto Quarterly, Long Island Quarterly, Wilderness House Literary Review, and many others. Holder's website is http://www.dougholderresume.blogspot.com
Lis Weiss Horowitz: The Bicyclist
Ondar Goekce 1952-1995
We buried you on the hottest day
while your children, impatient with grief
and the long ride in the limousine,
jumped through the fluid hoop
the sprinkler cast in the neighbor’s grass,
the sun directly above. The sermon
on how briefly we love meant nothing
when the priest in his Turkish folds
opened the top of your pine box
and rolled you onto your side,
turning your weight to face Mecca.
My envoy, who slipped off your bicycle
on a clear day without traffic, as you were turning
to your wife to say something, could anything
have broken your fall? Did you know
you were pedaling away from us forever?
She said the bike sailed out from under you
as if it had a mind of its own.
You who go before us, at the turn
of the block, a turn we all have taken,
where houses begin again after the marsh
where will you be this winter while we skate
on the strange calm of the time we have?
Lis Weiss Horowitz, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published poetry in Crazyhorse, London’s Poetry Review and, most recently, in La Ostra and other small press magazines. She’s taught at Hofstra University and in prisons, nursing homes and preschools. She presently teaches poetry writing and literature at Salem State University and at North Shore Community College. She lives in Marblehead, MA where she is a docent in the Lee Mansion and volunteers for the Mass Poetry Festival.
Joan Houlihan: AND A CLOTH BLED High on a Stick
raised for the noise of new dark.
Fields were spelt and fire-
smoke, harvest turned animal, pelt-
stripped for meat, tree-mad with fruit
at the last. Winter ate into the us,
putting the lamb to pen
and ay spoke as a fire low-burning:
All to be told again. All to be done.
Round light then day were bounded.
The us pulled field of its grain.
Deer, rough-coated for winter fled,
hid from the us, went strange.
By sun winter-lit in the eye of a lamb
by a great tree in rags, aging,
wind-cut and high to sun,
the cloth soaked full, bled down.
About the poem: Previously published in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin ©2009, “AND A CLOTH BLED high on a stick” is published in the book Ay (Tupelo Press). Ay is the second book in a series about a prehistoric tribe with a character named Ay. (The first is in the series is The Us.) The poems are in a made-up grammar to simulate a primitive language. Read more in an Interview with Joan Houlihan about The Us and new poems from Ay. Or, check out this Reader’s Companion to The Us.
Joan Houlihan’s most recent book of poetry, The Us, was named a “must read” book of 2009 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. She is also author of The Mending Worm, winner of the Green Rose Award from New Issues Press, and Hand-Held Executions: Poems and Essays. Her critical essays on contemporary poetry are archived online at Bostoncomment.com, and she is managing editor of the Contemporary Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in many journals and magazines and has been anthologized in The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (University of Iowa Press) and The Book of Irish-American Poetry–Eighteenth Century to Present (University of Notre Dame Press). Houlihan is founding director of the Concord Poetry Center and the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. She has taught at Columbia University, Emerson College, and others, and is on the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Barbara Helfgott Hyett: In the Ring of Twenty Signs
The third ring is the future scraping
the present: what is next enters, closes
itself to the past. The fifth ring is
observation. The sixth, satisfaction
of what is known. The fourth ring
is worry, but that is naive, short-lived,
a waste of time, which is the tenth ring,
the middle. The eleventh ring is pleasure;
feeding, but not gluttony, sex but not
depletion. The twelfth ring: love.
The thirteenth, love undone, unleashed
attachment. Rings six through nine are
marriage. The fourteenth ring is silence.
The fifteenth, desire. The sixteenth
ring, mercy. The sixteenth ring is true.
At seventeen you stand alone on the stairway.
The seventeenth ring is achievement.
The eighteenth gives it all away. Not
generously. Not regretfully. Just given.
The nineteenth ring is loneliness suffered
despite oneself. The twentieth ring is the moon
and all its shadows. Rings one and two—
these are the human, delicate and susceptible.
The first two rings are the eyes.
From Rift , University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville
Poet, professor and public lecturer, Barbara Helfgott Hyett has published five collections of poetry: including Rift, which have been widely reviewed. Other poems and essays have appeared in many journals as and in over forty anthologies. Recipient of two Massachusetts Artists Fellowships in Poetry, the Gertrude Warren Prize, the Herman Melville Commemorative Poetry Prize, Fellowships at Yaddo, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Among other prizes and grants, she was awarded a Father John Fellowship for Excellence in the Arts, by the Boston Foundation last year. Helfgott Hyett has taught English at the Teachers and Scholars program at Harvard, at MIT, Trinity College, and Boston University where she won the Sproat Award For Excellence in Teaching English. As a poet-in the- schools she has served over 200 communities, and was artist-in-residence at the MFA and the Fuller Art Museums. She is currently the director of PoemWorks, The Workshop for Publishing Poets, in Chestnut Hill, MA, named “One of the Best Workshops in Boston” by the Boston Globe.
Major Jackson: How to Listen
I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy’s Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won’t talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky’s stretch of faint stars.
From Leaving Saturn, 2002
The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA
Major Jackson makes his first appearance at the Mass Poetry festival on Friday, April 20. Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry: Hoops (Norton: 2006) and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Hoops was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literature – Poetry. His third volume of poetry Holding Company was recently released from W.W. Norton. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. Jackson has strong Massachusetts connections. He served as a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and as the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at University of Vermont and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He serves as the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.
Jennifer Jean: The Prisoner
Why poetry? Because content needs form.
And form needs attention. An inmate
in Hungnam, in the waning days of the Korean War,
washed his red chapped, limeburned body
with half his water ration. He stretched
pectorals, hamstrings, and psoas
before dawn while the whole death
camp slept—the inspired air elongating
his ligaments and stamina. When form is attended
content rises from a deep. The mayflies can be seen
mating in flight, in the latrine. It is a kind of love
in the sulfate mist. It is enough—
hefted he can heft
one hundred and thirty bags of acidic manure
from conveyor belt to truck. From conveyor belt to truck
he took care with 40 kilo bags of crystalline
crap sent to feed the gardens of his enemies.
He took on the tonnage of his team,
converting their eight hours unto death
into five unto life. These fast friends
sat out the day meters away from an ammonia surge,
their broken skin weeping blood
slower in the lightening, in the little coup,
in the cold. Anything can be shared with the other.
Even half his rice ration. Less is more
he said, blooming. Even prayers in prison
can be sung for the other; imagine,
he sang to his beloved Hananim,
Heavenly Parent, Don’t worry about me… Imagine,
I pour forth content into this container
and the poem lives and gives,
meaning I’m set free. This too is a miracle.
Originally published in Tidal Basin Review, Summer 2011
Jennifer Jean’s poetry books include: The Archivist and In the War. She’s released Fishwife Tales, a collaborative CD; and, her writing has appeared in Caketrain, Drunken Boat, Poetica, Tidal Basin, Poets/Artists, The Mom Egg, Denver Quarterly, and more. Jennifer blogs for Amirah, an advocacy group for sex-trafficking survivors, and she teaches writing at Salem State University. For more on Jennifer, visit: www.fishwifetales.com.
Robin Smith-Johnson: Old Bones
She is not who you think.
This woman is toothless, her mouth a scar
in her leatherback face.
Her lip curls up like a claw.
You might catch sight of her
at the grocery store.
Bag lady. Tramp. Old Bones.
But she lives by the sea.
She watches the gulls
over her manicured lawn.
At her private shore,
she closes her eyes, turtle-lids
Winging it now,
her old hands folded,
she dreams a man lying in bed,
holding out a hand to draw her close.
She will never grow old
or hear a dark wind blowing
and the mad cries of someone
looking for her, shaking
the seaweed from her stiff fingers
as far off, the fog horn
tolls the hour of forgetting
dark secrets. The babies she made
and the one she didn’t keep.
Blood washed away.
Who can she touch now?
There is no one left.
She tries to reach her lawn
but it is too far
and she slips under –
soon she arrives back at age six,
brave in her black suit
calling Momma Momma
watch me and she does it
jumps in feet first
From Dream of the Antique Dealer’s Daughter.
Robin Smith-Johnson: On Considering Eye Surgery
I was raised thinking grass
was a whole entity, not single blades.
At ten, I put on my first pair of specs
but I still wanted to trace life
by glancing at, not looking through.
The time I sat next to you
in a darkened theater, my glasses
a weight in my lap. The story of …
Oh, I didn’t want to see anything.
The world of the myopic is cruel
but interior: objects move as planes
overlapping but with no sharp detail,
no distance between things. In kind,
I blurred relationships. Too close –
I’d discard my sight, flirt with disguise.
Old Bucky Fuller knew the sweetness
of dim masses parading as vision.
He trusted the inward eye,
that inward knowing.
When you said good-by,
I saw a globe of light floating away.
Originally published in The Larcom Review
As a long-time resident of Cape Cod, Robin Smith-Johnson has been involved with several local poetry groups including the Lead Pencil Poets (Falmouth) and the Steeple Street Poets (Mashpee). Her poems have been published in CapeWomen, The Larcom Review, Sandscript and Yankee. Her book, Dream of the Antique Dealer’s Daughter, is forthcoming from Word Poetry, an imprint of Word Tech Communications, LLC. She lives with her family in Mashpee, MA.
Danielle Jones-Pruett: Chiaroscuro
Moth, flittering pulse against our porch light,
trying to push through
the glass sphere, not knowing
the bare bulb will singe
your dusty wings—why
are you so frantic? Why not learn
from the seedling,
too soon to tell
if it’s tulip or onion,
just green blade slicing
or the snake, craving
the sun-warm stone,
from its leather shell.
Moth, I remember frantic need—
baby shouldering his way
into the white scream
of our hospital room.
Yes, we all push
towards the light.
But a plant keeps the dark
in its roots,
through cold soil,
and snakes burrow back
behind logs, blood-thick
and my son is finally asleep
in the soft night of his nursery,
while I sit outside, awake
in the prayer of my body,
its musky dark, flickering
mind, steady sound
of my own stubborn pulsing.
Danielle Jones-Pruett holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where she also taught creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cider Press Review, First Inkling, ROAR, Southern Women’s Review, and others. She’s a member of the Salem Writers’ Group, and thinks the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, which takes place right outside her apartment door, is better than Disney World.