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.
Kevin Gallagher: City Upon a Hill
Our minds are just as active as our hands.
We are congenial gentleman.
Here the dollar sinks amidst better gods.
We trust our cotton as we trust our cod.
We know what we are doing with our wealth.
Bulfinch builds our ‘City Upon a Hill.’
Hospitals, libraries, our asylums.
Observatories and athenaeums.
The Dial, Atlantic Monthly, Observer--
but not a cent for The Liberator.
Done with the courtly muses of Europe.
Done with the old antique and future worlds.
Led by the wise, the well-born, and the good.
We will make sure this place is understood.
Kevin Gallagher is a political economist, poet, and publisher living in Greater Boston with his wife Kelly, their children Theo and Estelle, and Rexroth the family German Shepherd. Kevin Gallagher's new book is titled LOOM, published by MadHat Press. Gallagher edits spoKe, a Boston-based annual of poetry and poetics, and works as a Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University’s Pardee School for Global Studies.
Robbie Gamble: Murmuration
All you creatures, you flocks, you herds,
you swarms, you marchers, you finny plangent schools beneath the waves,
you who stream, who ripple, who wrinkle, who undulate,
who billow and swell,
you with gills, with tailfeathers, with antennae,
with antlers, with flippers, with placards, with exoskeletons,
understand that you have been scrutinized by scientists,
behaviorists with heads on a swivel,
yes, the mathematicians have pored over your data
and uncovered three simple rules
that govern your loopy collective arcs:
1.) Move in the same direction as your neighbors
2.) Remain close to your neighbors
3.) Avoid collisions with your neighbors
and you, whether krill, or starling, or herring, or wildebeest,
or suffragette, or freedom rider, or fruit bat, or honeybee,
all you need
to hold your space in the swarm
is to maintain a conscious awareness
of seven to ten of your precious neighbors, that’s all,
no need for a supreme leader to dictate the flow—
see, you behave this way because of the slavering predators
who hang on the periphery,
and if you are one of ten thousand,
or ten thousand million,
they can hardly hunt you down
through the vortex of all of you—
so, go, smear the skies at dusk,
swirl the purple deeps, thunder across a plateau,
descend on the Capitol, proclaim
your “I Am!” upholding space in the choir of “WE ARE!”
and survive— surge, heave, survive,
“Murmuration” previously appeared in the Fall 2017/Winter 2018 issue of Soul-Lit
Robbie Gamble holds an MFA from Lesley University. His work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Stonecoast Review, Poet Lore, and others. When not stringing words together, he works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.
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.
Kim Garcia: one/two/many
…all languages have words for at
least these three quantifiers….
--Semantics: Primes and
walking out into the inside of a blue sphere
I shrink to a size I can bear, nearly
driving 95 towards Vegas I get sick
another window, another screen
stop the car
lie on the ground looking up until I lose
of all the things I’m counting—bodies,
men in a truck, civilians, children,
I think if I’d killed myself last weekend
they’d be alive
tie-dye blooms of heat on my screen,
warm nights sleeping on the roof
a man and a woman one bright ball—
one, then two, then many.
This poem was originally published in Garcia book's DRONE
Kim Garcia is the author of The Brighter House, winner of the 2015 White Pine Press Poetry Prize, DRONE, winner of the 2015 Backwaters Prize, and Madonna Magdalene, released by Turning Point Books in 2006. Her chapbook Tales of the Sisters won the 2015 Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Mississippi Review, Nimrod and Subtropics, and her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Recipient of the 2014 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize, an AWP Intro Writing Award, a Hambidge Fellowship and an Oregon Individual Artist Grant, Garcia teaches creative writing at Boston College.
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).
Sam Gauthier: nature is not a calculator
Nature is not a calculator - things happen randomly.
I live my life as though I am playing a character
In a never ending musical.
For years past, I've wanted nothing more than to go away
Or die. Yeah, die.
I could never bring myself
I don't have the courage to die
But I don't have the courage to live.
I have had nine operations throughout my lifetime
Being wheeled into the operating room mid anxiety attack
They were always successful.
I guess that was nature telling me to hang on. Hm.
I've always had a secret admiration for poetry - as a musician, I always try to write straight from an emotion I am feeling at the time. But a lot of the time I feel numb, and so I end up with a blank page. I super duper appreciate the opportunity the Student Day of Poetry gave me to continue trying to express myself through language. Follow me on Instagram to see my photography, too: instagram.com/sammgauthierr
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.
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson: On the Connecticut
Above the water line, a squirrel’s nose—
glossy dark nostrils—
is propelled by shoulders,
moving his sleek wet body
through mahogany-tinted water.
Its front paws scoop under,
back, flutter-kicking, tug
the straight-spined tail, fur spread,
the surface undisturbed.
I take it as a sign of ordinary
unknowns. I never knew
squirrels could swim and I feel
my own spine lengthen with intent.
I breathe rank slime, odor of fish,
the banks slick mud from descending
river otters, whose cracked oyster shells,
remnants of recent feastings,
might remind me
that dinosaurs once lumbered
in that marsh scoured by glaciers.
I’m here entirely; and gone.
As then, seeds of the water lily
splayed in yellow sacs of jelly,
viscous, will sink at last
into the muck of riverbed.
I’m silent as the cattails wrapped
in suede-like skin, longitudinal, lanky,
self-contained, pretending not to notice
my own green readiness
to burst to rapture at last.
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson is the author of OPINEL (Bauhan Publishing, 2015), a poetry collection, and two chapbooks (Admit the Peacock and Inside the Exhibition). She's received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, The Heinrich Boll Cottage, Ireland, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach poetry in Hyderabad, India, 2011. Her poems have appeared in Agni, Field, The Greensboro Review, The Harvard Review, Salamander, Slate, (go to Slate poem here), Taos Journal of Poetry The Tupelo Quarterly, and featured in VerseDaily among others. Her poems are included in two anthologies, Cadence of Hooves and Thirty Days, The Best of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project's First Year. She's written reviews for The Boston Review of Books and Pleiades. Two of her essays appeared in the Tufts Magazine. The Gods Next Door about India and an account of her friendship with poet Deborah Digges which received the bronze award from CASE, “Best Articles of the Year: Higher Education. She teaches poetry at Tufts University.
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: Bear
The neighbor is trying to sail a kite
but it lifts no higher than the fence,
still his children cheer and laugh.
What matters is possibility, after all it’s spring
everything attempting to rise.
A few mosquitoes, newly hatched, speck the air,
hunger propelling them like the bear I saw last night
from the bedroom window, incongruent
in my suburban yard, pulling the feeder down,
scooping up seed. He rocked the split rail fence
climbing over, then ambled away-- fluid and lithe
as a fat man who is light on his feet
like the one who waltzed with me at my sister’s wedding,
suit jacket gaping, his paw on my back
guiding me as if I too could dance in my first
pair of heels, my daisy crown and yellow dress.
Black bears are shy, rarely dangerous. Who else
would lead me to the floor? It could have been Moonlight
Serenade or one of those songs we hum now and then,
surprising ourselves with memory, something familiar
exciting the dark, drawing us near.
Michelle Gillett has won poetry fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and published work in numerous literary magazines. She is the author of Blinding the Goldfinches, chosen by Hayden Carruth as winner of the Backwaters Press Poetry Prize, 2005; a chapbook, Rock & Spindle (Mad River Press, 2000), and The Green Cottage, winner of The Ledge 2010 Poetry Chapbook competition. Her book, Coming About is forthcoming from Salmon Press. She writes a regular op ed column for The Berkshire Eagle, teaches writing workshops, and is co-partner with Nina Ryan of g&r Editing, Writing and Book Development.
Gay Giordano: PERFECT LITTLE DAGGER
The heart is a thumpable thing
an under-sky no one can see
its weird harmonies are like
talkative animals in underground caves
each rhythm a bird in mid-peck
a bat elbowing the air
It is not an organ but a sound
controlling by fascination
rather than trust
every lover is terrified
every silken thread of desire
finds itself stretched to breaking
and the heart's odd mechanics
feel like a ripping
a rending of the shroud
an explosion of ladders
We are merely sketches
without red, without imagination
until the heart deigns to accept us
fills us like balloons in a plump sky
A stripe of blue on the edge of a feather
can destroy us with beauty, with love
banging against the cage of our breasts
we unwant destruction at the last moment
There are so many more maps
perfect little dagger, bleed us again
Gay Giordano has a BA in writing from Carnegie Mellon University and an MA in philosophy from The New School for Social Research. She has been a resident at VCCA, Noepe Center for Literary Arts, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, the Banff Center for the Arts, and Bennington College. She has been published in Mudfish, r.kvr.y, Ghost Ocean, The South Carolina Review, and The Oakland Review, to name a few, and writes professionally about architecture and design, with a book due out in 2017 from Rizzoli called New York Living: Re-Inventing Home.
Giordano says: “I was raised in New York City and the Bahamas. I have been writing poetry ever since I learned the alphabet in kindergarten! My perspective stems from the oddity of living in both crumbling concrete and turquoise waters. These diametrically opposed environments has made me both a friend of the forlorn and a lover of lush and electric images. My work celebrates elusive gestures – the sense that something is always hiding, darting away from understanding. It was during several stays at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Martha's Vineyard that I wrote my collection, Waking From So Rich a Nightmare, published by Cherry Grove Collections in 2015.”
Michael Goldman: The Reprieve
When the damp strips of cast-off bark lie slack
like leather tongues on the old boundary stone wall
and the rabbit tracks leave an icy staccato in the snow
I tire of myself
sitting hours at my desk
and let myself be drawn by the cold hazy sun
out into the pathless woods
where stout trees stand half-dressed
draped in damp moss to the north
but bare to the south in half-naked anticipation.
There is a place where water seeps slowly past to the bog
with stones large enough for stepping
and a single Japanese multiflora rose sinks its thorns into my coat
as I walk by to enter the stand of white birches.
Nearby are vernal pools
charted by my occasional hiking partner
who photographed and registered the sites
when he got wind of a developer
who was going to build eighty-four houses here.
Past the birches the soils get sandier
there below the snowcover
just perfect for the endangered turtles
who plod around there
some with expensive radio antennae
so the developer might know
where he may and may not dig.
I recall the neighborhood meeting
earlier this week
when the town planner announced
that all these woods
and the bog too
and the vernal pools
and the turtles
had been purchased by the city
as conservation land
except for a handful of building lots
out on the edge along the road
all this would remain more or less
as it is now
and I wonder if anyone told the land
it was given a reprieve
or if I was the first –
that the turtles can relax
the coyotes and toads
can count on returning
to their hunting and breeding grounds
the saplings can continue to stretch
in the shadows of their giant forebears
and when I tire of myself
and this great disjointed world
threatens to pull me apart with it
I will still be able to slip off to this place
where the strips of bark lie slack on the stones
and the damp moss clothes the sturdy trees
Whether I am translating or composing new poetry, it is all about transformation. Whether I write or translate I am transforming into the English language some concept or feeling which is difficult to grasp. In the process of this transformation, I am a conduit or medium, and I am also transformed in the process. Frequently, the emotional quality of writing poetry helps me to realize something new about myself or life around me. When my output resonates with a listener or reader, there is further transformation. I can read the same poem dozens of times and still get choked up by it. I feel I have succeeded when my audience gets goosebumps or gets choked up too.
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.
Amy Gordon: It So Happens That I Am Sick of Being a Woman
(after Pablo Neruda)
and it happens that I am tired
of beauty shops. The smell of hair dye
makes me break into hives, a sort of hysteria.
Hysteria is an old-fashioned,
Freudian word. Freud is out-of-fashion,
and that is a relief. I want fashion
to be out-of-fashion. I want to lie
in uncut grass with uncut hair
in the world of Whitman. His extravagant world
of ecstatic words. I do not want
plastic surgery, lotions, wrinkle removers.
I am sick of magazine articles on organizing closets.
I have come to dislike the fashion of feng shui,
although why should I? Harmony is good.
It’s also a good idea to thank your old sweaters,
then kiss them good bye. I am afraid
of my face looking like the bark of an old tree.
At the same time, I am tired
of being deferential to a mirror.
I am tired of being outgoing.
I want to be shy, to float like a cloud
in the blue sky, grow black with rain,
fall every day, on parched earth,
give myself to trees.
Birds, come dip your feathers
in the jaunty fountains,
for I will be a thousand drops of water.
The beauty shops will dissolve,
join fossils and elephant bones.
Fleshy, spore-bearing fruit of fungus
will spread its thready network
Enchanted circles will spring up.
(Appeared in Plum, online literary journal of Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA)
I grew up in a reading and theater-going family. I loved Robert Louis Stevenson and A.A. Milne as a child. Then I loved Robert Frost, the Romantic poets, Elizabeth Bishop. T. S. Eliot. Then I stumbled onto the poetry of Joseph Brodsky. Somehow that was a turning point for me. I was moved by his poems and also by his essays on other poets. He made poetry alive and relevant for me. That brought me into a generative poetry writing workshop where I was introduced to poets who are currently writing like Aracelis Girmay, Alicia Ostreiker, Ross Gay, Afaa Michael Weaver, Ellen Dore Watson. I enrolled in the MFA Poetry Program at Drew University where all those poets teach or have taught. I have learned so much from reading poets from all over the world and from all walks of life. To choose a few poets I admire beyond Brodsky are Neruda, Nazim Hikmet, C.K. Williams, Seamus Heaney, William Stafford, Szymborska.
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.
Adam Grabowski: “And I'll Love You Forever”
-a bookstore in Western Mass.
You left and took the city with you
went out for cigarettes and became smoke.
And so to stay both more lonely and less lonely
I went inside the used bookstore to live with
the broken-spined, the ditched classics, and
drug money first editions, books who'd burn apart
if they'd just be held.
Goldenrod and suicidal, a wan line pulls me through
the stacks, has my hands in Leaves of Grass, 1855.
The cover catches my thumb and
Happy 24th Birthday! Just want to say
you're a very beautiful person and you are
very special to me. I hope you enjoy this book.
I love you Janice.
Wondering in and out of lives, my hands brushing
over each gleam, matte. How we sell back.
How we let things go, how we revise and revise.
What thoughts of you this night, Walt Whitman,
your whole fruit crates full of splinters and dedications,
where's your beard supposed to point me now?
Because I'm dog-eared and flower-crushed, laid open.
And Janice is out there in the amber rim of some cigarette
and she doesn't need her book back.
“And I'll Love You Forever” first appeared online at Drunk in a Midnight Choir in December 2015.
Adam Grabowski is the author of the chapbooks The Washing Our Hands EP (2015) and Riding the Margin (Destructible Heart Press, 2006). His work has appeared in Off the Coast, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, The Naugatuck River Review, voicemailpoems, and Wilderness House Literary Review. He received his MSW from Westfield State University in 2012.
Adam is poet and organizer with the mighty Northampton Poetry collective, where he also facilitates a poetry workshop. The Washing Our Hands EP is available to order through his website www.adamgrabowskipoetry.wordpress.com. He lives with his family in Holyoke, MA.
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.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths: AUBADE FOR LANGSTON
When the light wakes & finds again
the music of brooms in Mississippi & Mexico,
when daylight pulls our hands from grief,
& hearts cleaned raw with sawdust
& saltwater flood their dazzling vessels,
when the catfish in the river
raise their eyelids towards your face,
when sweetgrass bends in waves
across battlefields where sweat
& sugar marry, when we hear our people
wearing tongues fine with plain
greeting: How You Doing, Good Morning
when I pour coffee & remember
my mother's love of buttered grits,
when the trains far away in memory
begin to turn their engines toward
a deep past of knowing,
when all I want to do is burn
my masks, when I see a woman
walking down the street holding her mind
like a leather belt, when I pluck a blues note
for my lazy shadow & cast its soul from my page,
when I see God's eyes looking up at black folks
flying between moonlight & museum,
when I see a good-looking people
who are my truest poetry,
when I pick up this pencil like a flute
& blow myself away from my death,
I listen to you again beneath the mercy
of a blue morning's grammar.
*First published in Southern Humanities Review (2016)
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her literary and visual work has appeared widely including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Lit Hub, Guernica, American Poetry Review, and many others. Griffiths lives in Brooklyn.
Kelle Groom: San Juan de la Cruz
after Guillermo Kuitca
A house can be a bed,
all the rooms a quilted
place to rest:
a bed can be a map
of a country’s blue
roads that return
to the same city
in another country,
the city a valley
sunk in a button,
ashed with burning, white
with a match or snow:
sometimes a song
is the city you return to
and all its rivers:
In a list of the mayores
of San Juan de la Cruz, I thought
I’d find men; instead,
I found the rules for union
with God: mistico,
contemplativo, intelectivo, erótico:
You can stay at the Hotel Ceylan,
red letters entering each room
on the street, near the lamp that spikes
into a bright star like the saint
himself with nails of light around his head:
In El Salvador, the city is on a map
not valid for navigation: the prayer
of quiet a place of rest, like the hero
of a child is Kitten Woman—
all she does is wake up and save the world:
the map that is a bed is like a wounded
body, veined and marked with ink and fire
and fingerprints: sometimes
I see the city and understand
it’s always there, the way
my soul appears in a mirror
when I stop being afraid
of her, San Juan de la Cruz waiting
in Poland, at juncture
after juncture, even the pink
capillary streets lead you there.
(from Five Kingdoms, Anhinga Press)
Kelle Groom’s four poetry collections are Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and the forthcoming, Spill (Anhinga Press). Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster) is a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. A 2014 NEA Fellow, Groom is MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College, and Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
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.
Daniel Hales: How To Deliver A Toast
To those who live in houses on streets
named for shady trees
with those they share
meals genes and germs with
And more specifically to the very old man
at a lake’s edge trying to reach
the stick his golden refused to retrieve
To whatever makes him risk falling in
to reach it The reason
this particular stick matters more
to him than it does to the dog
who now waits bored in the pickup
And especially to whatever causes
the man to suddenly pause forgetting
the stick as if listening
though there are just calm waves distant
traffic assuming his hearing
aid can even reach it
Maybe gauging how much
is left before sound ceases
And of course to you as you pass
the lit windows of strangers on Linden Street
rubbing your bloodfilled hands
and ghosting your breath
Daniel Hales is a writer, musician, and teacher who lives in Western MA. He’s the author of three poetry chapbooks: Shake My Ashes (Beard of Bees), Blind Drive (White Knuckle), and Tempo Maps (ixnay). His full-length hybrid book, Run Story, is forthcoming from Shape&Nature. His poems, flash fictions, and hybrid writings have appeared in many journals, including Verse Daily, Bateau, Conduit, H_NGM_N, Sentence, Quarter After Eight, and Booth. He’s in the bands Umbral, The Ambiguities, and The Frost Heaves, whose most recent album is Contrariwise: Songs from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. www.danielhales.com.
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.
Griffin Harmon: About Everything and Nothing in Particular
This is poem is about the times I walked miles in the rain
watching my footsteps
wondering how long I could go away
before I had to come back.
This is about the sunflowers dying in the front garden
brown and dry and withering
that will come back next summer
yellow petals like a lion’s mane
stems taller than I could ever hope to be.
This is about the fallen leaves
the cold November air.
This is about everything
in this painful
and surprising life
and about nothing in particular.
Griffin Harmon is a 22-year-old writer, poet, singer, and animal-lover from Boston. When they are not doing any of those things, they like to talk to people about their favorite show, Steven Universe.
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/.
Rebecca Hart Olander: Reading Tarot before our Eighteenth Anniversary
I pulled the Four of Wands, reversed, so no wonder I found
the wedding present I gave you almost two decades ago
shattered on the floor of our bedroom, wind from the afternoon
storm unmaking my nuptial gift. Painted glass rectangle hung
in a leaded frame by a linked chain, it showed Chagall’s
bride and groom riding a rooster, blue arch of Eiffel
in the background, the heads of animals and inverted angels
floating in the clouds, until now—our signifiers in shards,
decapitated, and though two faces remain intact and in love,
their bodies have been lost to brokenness.
Pulled upside-down, the card can be a reminder,
the celebratory laurel strung between the wands becoming a
bridge that says come with me. To remember what is primary,
we drive up to a lake in the backwoods of Damariscotta, Maine
and find new ways to hold each other, and though the waters
there are raining with insects and dark as a well, we jump in.
Wolf spider on the dock, swarms of angry flies in the air,
and the night so quiet we can hear the leavings of the day’s
thunder shower falling from summer trees,
and the shimmer of a cicada as it shakes itself to life.
Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Radar Poetry, Mom Egg Review, and Yemassee Journal, and her critical work has appeared in Rain Taxi Review of Books, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She was the winner of the 2013 Women’s National Book Association poetry contest, judged by Molly Peacock. Rebecca teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of Perugia Press. You can find her at rebeccahartolander.com.
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.
Christopher Hennessy: CHRISTOPHER LOOKS
Christopher looks like he’s been spit out,
like a too-salty piece of meat,
like an unwanted thought.
Like a mannequin, a man made of teak,
a talking prune.
Christopher looks like I’m having trouble creating him,
or like he could be the father of purpose.
Christopher looks like a turtle negotiating
a path of slick stones. If you don’t know
what Christopher looks like, visualize
a garden gnome in crisis.
Some days Christopher looks like an ordinary young man;
others, like a man dying to get out alive, gone
into his dead man’s suit at the first sight of blood.
Christopher looks like someone you will recognize
if you go to heaven. Christopher looks like he’s in hell
as he stammers through an apology for not calling.
Christopher looks like a frightened scarecrow,
like a little boy wrapped in a bumblebee bowtie.
Like he’s trying and failing
to strangle himself with his black cravat.
Christopher looks like your trunk is full of bodies.
A collage using the Google results
from a search of the term
“[The poet’s first name] looks like”
From a dialogue with Matthew Hittinger at Boxcar Poetry
[Regarding me poem] “Christopher Looks,” I think my friend Eric might have suggested the Google collage idea, and I think someone suggested it to him. It was sent from heaven in any case (from whomever, I wish I could give proper credit). I immediately knew I wanted to use it for a very particular purpose---to use someone else’s language, in this case the wonderfully surprising words and logic of the internet, to build a kind of de-constructed self-portrait of the name “Christopher.” And though I was trying to render the persona of a name, I found myself, very organically, shuffling different aspects of my identity into different juxtapositions---for example, my small stature (I’m 5’ 5’’) with the wackiness of “a garden gnome in crisis.” As is probably clear by now, I wanted it to be a pretty simple experiment: what happens when we turn our sense of self (perhaps even the idea of identity) into the subject of play, of puzzle-making, of randomness.
Christopher Hennessy is the author of Love-in-Idleness (Brooklyn Arts Press), from which this poem is taken. The book was a finalist for the Thom Gunn Award. His other books include Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets (University of Michigan Press) and Our Deep Gossip: Conversations with Gay Writers on Poetry and Desire (University of Wisconsin Press. He holds an MFA from Emerson College and a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He was included in Ploughshares’ special “Emerging Writers” edition.
Rage Hezekiah: PSILOCYBIN
You and I ride our bikes to Ipswich River
and I dispense the only advice
I’ve been given. Just let them take you, I say,
placing a small handful of caps in your palm.
We sit on the muddy shore eating tuna,
anticipating magic. A slow undulation sets in,
its pulse warming the wet ground, and we lie
watching trees become hands holding everything
to the sky. I can smell my own sweat
and I’m weeping about my attempts to mask this scent.
You’re crying too, about how you hate your cunt
and I’m telling you Your everything is beautiful.
We watch a shallow puddle teem with the life
of tiny organisms. Pressing our arms into the mess,
we roll around and giggle. For hours we swim and sing,
until we mount our bikes again, stopping at a farm stand
to fondle the summer berries. Lambs bound about
their pastures and I watch your face collapse
as you realize they’re food, the awful truth
of cycles. The meadow’s full of alyssum
and clover, the August breeze sweet.
I want it all for as long as it will last.
Originally published in Chicago Poetry Review
Rage Hezekiah is a New England based poet, who earned her MFA from Emerson College. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and The MacDowell Colony, and is the recipient of the Saint Botolph Foundation's Emerging Artists Award. Her poems have been anthologized, co-translated, and published internationally. Rage's poems have appeared in Blue Lyra Review, The Cape Rock, Chicago Quarterly Review, Columbia Poetry Review and Fifth Wednesday, as well as other journals. The anthologies All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood, Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out, and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, feature her work. You can find more about her writing at ragehezekiah.com
Mary Beth Hines: Winter at a Summer House
The walls shrink close,
the pipes heave a last shudder,
and snow seals the hush.
Ghosts huddle under blankets,
shivering through long nights
to the tap, tap, tap
of a loose shutter.
When a floorboard groans
at an unexpected touch
of light, they fling off
their covers and roam
the house, waking up others
dozing under eaves,
They slip outside to the jetty
where one of them hovers
on the point, then dives,
and they cheer, their silvery
cries soaring as she rises
and plummets on the swells
of the white winter sea.
Mary Beth Hines has a BA from the College of the Holy Cross where she studied with Robert Cording. She is an active member of the Farm Pond Writers' Collective, led by Kelly DuMar, and other creative writing groups and workshops in the Boston area. Born and bred in Waltham, she lived in Worcester for several years - as well as in St. Louis and England - before settling in Reading, Massachusetts where she raised her family, commuting daily to Cambridge for work.
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
John L. Holgerson: Crazy
with an apology to H.D. Thoreau
Crazy is the detergent
scrubbing the scum
of quiet desperation
from the wheels of destiny.
Crazy is the roulette ball
coming to rest
on your odd number
when all your friends are even.
Crazy is the last chance
to forego the normalcy
no one can define
but everyone claims to have
and to dance
naked and alone
on ancient marble stairs
unafraid of history,
yours or theirs,
as cold stone numbs
the soles of your gypsy feet.
John L. Holgerson is the author of a collection of poems, Broken Borders. His work has appeared in small literary journals, both in print and online. He is a featured poet at various poetry venues in Massachusetts; a co-host of the Easton poetry venue For the Love of Words; and is listed in Poets & Writers’ Directory of Poets and Writers (www.pw.org/content/john_holgerson). For three decades, he was a trial and appellate attorney with the Massachusetts public defender office. He now practices law with a small law firm in Taunton where he lives. A chapbook of poetry, Unnecessary Tattoo and Other Stains on a Stainless Steel Heart, will be published by Finishing Line Press on January 15, 2016. His author’s web site iswww.johnlholgerson.com.
Amanda Hope: Covering Tracks in the Snow
Is today a truth day or will I lie to you?
Listen: I am going to hide myself in this poem
In the heart of it, and maybe someone (you)
Will find me. It is winter here, and bears
Should not be out. Your bird feeders are safe.
Maybe. Today perhaps I’ll be brash
& in a breathtaking new hairstyle & no one
(You) will ever underestimate me again.
I’m told that if they cut it just right my neck
Will look longer, my face thinner, and it’ll minimize
My unsightly deference. Would that be
To your taste? I’ll tell you a secret. I have a bear
Walk through every poem these days, in hopes
That you’ll be distracted by the majesty of nature
& won’t notice my weak lines & that I’ve lost
The rhythm of the words. I’m sorry I told you
That it was hibernating season. I lied again.
I suppose you wouldn’t have expected it
Of someone so mousy, but it’s all I have
To surprise you. The haircuts never work.
~ First published in Spoon River Poetry Review 41.1 (Summer 2016)
Amanda Hope is a poet and librarian from the Boston area. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Barrow Street, and others. She enjoys riding the subway, scratching various animals behind the ears, and wearing magnificent boots. You can find her on Twitter @AmandaHopePoet.
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: Awoke Dark and Voices Lately
AWOKE DARK, lung-snared, creaked out a cry.
No one heard me. Took my winded climb up from inside.
Coughed and blistered there, aired by a window,
and they came sideways to look into my last eye:
He is the same. They left the eaten cities,
left famine to work its way through.
Buildings drop, glands touch and talk.
Out of my side, sewage. Out of my throat, the choked streets.
Please don't leave. It is I, a deluge, drained to a bucket,
and out of my eye the labored light of a going sun.
VOICES, LATELY. They scare me.
Rummage my sleep.
Steal my box of coins and teeth.
Hold it to their ears and shake
to hear the money.
A year ago, buds thrust and day
feathered our walls.
Now I’m the only ghost you know.
See me kissed and receding, the slow toll?
In night I sway before I fall.
~ first published in SPOKE 3, 2015
Joan Houlihan is the author of five books of poems, most recently, Shadow-feast, forthcoming in 2018 from Four Way Books. She teaches in the Lesley University Low-Res MFA Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is Professor of Practice at Clark University in Worcester. She is founding director of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.
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.
Alexis Ivy: I Have My Reasons
I hate boys, hate how
if I give one a flower
he’ll take it and pick
a flower for another girl
when he could’ve held
mine longer. I used to
eat cereal I didn’t like,
boxes of it, and watched
soap operas, one after
the other. I also want
to talk about the worst
thing anyone ever said
about me, worse than
anything my brother said
because it wasn’t said
by my brother.
Emma Rawels didn’t say
it to my face, someone told
me. She said it and I wouldn’t
look in the window to see
how I was looking. She said
that I looked like I was hit
in the face with a baseball.
I thought she meant I had
black eyes that wouldn’t go
away, a fat lip. Thought
she meant I slouched myself,
face down to the ground
like my body was a pile
instead of a person.
Isn’t everybody fruit
on the way to rotten?
I started showering twice
a day. I like the smell
of soap and sleeping
with the storm windows
open and my hair damp.
I wear armpit hair
instead of make up.
I have my reasons.
Alexis Ivy is an educator of high-risk populations in her hometown of Boston. Her poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Spare Change News, Tar River Poetry, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Eclipse, Soundings East, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, J Journal and The Worcester Review, among others. Her first poetry collection, Romance with Small-Time Crooks was published in 2013 by BlazeVOX [books]. Pushcart nominated, she is a winner of the Prose and Poetry Prize of Boston City Hall judged by Sam Cornish in 2014.
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.
Emily Jaeger: The Circumstances of My Birth
I heard I was born wrapped in a tumor. Twin death
they called it. Born in my mother’s bed on the fifth
of November, the grass already prickled
into a thousand grey pins. The midwife wouldn’t
let my mother see until they’d cut me
free but still the word got out. Twin death had
teeth, a full jaw. The woman wiped me clean
of twin’s grey blood and lay me on her chest.
Father buried my twin in the grate, gave him
my name, an old trick for the angel of death.
But I can’t forget that jaw, its track engraved
on my cheek, as if my skin was knit running,
for nine months, a millimeter ahead
of that breathless mouth and it can’t quit.
Originally published on Rust + Moth
Emily Jaeger is the author of the chapbook The Evolution of Parasites (Sibling Rivalry Press) illustrated by Robin Levine. Her poems are published in Four Way Review, Apt, and Driftwood Press among others. An MFA candidate at UMASS Boston and co-editor/co-founder of Window Cat Press, Emily has received fellowships as a Literary Lambda Emerging Writer and a participant in TENT and the New York State Summer Writers Institute. Her poem “Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph” won an Academy of American Poetry 2016 College & University Prize.
Jaeger says, “I write to work through questions that I would like to pose to the world. Often my poems are fueled by obsession and research. ‘The Circumstances of my Birth,’ was inspired by the story of my Bubby’s birth in the 1930’s.”
Brionne Janae: In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens or Volunteer Lemons
~After Alice Walker
perched on the low uneven brick of the flowerbed,
Mo eyes the ‘tunias Momma says is turning the white roses
a gaudy pink, with the kind of tenderness delighted
in the unknown charms of a familiar lover.
it's good friday and she’s come with seeds
for momma’s garden, zucchini, melons, green beans.
surely we will all be tangled with the sprawling vines come June.
squatting, Momma drops seeds in earth like a woman
who hasn’t made a life from dirt.
and from the swings I ask Mo about her lemons
the ones that sit on the branches like balloons so big
their ancestors must have lay
with grapefruit. tickled and shading her teeth
Mo says them volunteer lemons
they just come up out the ground of they own will.
maybe the birds dropped them. maybe the birds
carried them from eden to eden.
only yesterday we were strolling through eden
Mo, Momma, and I, watching how the flowers turned
their faces toward the sun. and even there
with the warmth at my back as I stretched to caress
the apples budding on the adolescent branches—something like pain
like biting truth— this too will end. after all
what ever happened to eden without the artist, that doting eye.
Brionne Janae is a California native, teaching artist, and poet living in Boston, where she has completed an MFA at Emerson College. Brionne was a recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Emerging Artist award, and is a proud Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, jubilat, BOAAT, Plume, Bayou Magazine, The Nashville Review, and Waxwing, among others. In this poem Brionne is inspired by movement through generations, and the ways that love, gentle silly wisdom, heartache, and joy can be so effortlessly passed around a family.
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.
Gwendolyn Jensen: Trespass
How clean you smell,
your skin is smooth,
your hairy thicket,
once so dense and thorned,
is more a cobweb now,
though not without intent;
and the spider waits,
the web will do its work.
It must be trespass what I do,
not the trespass of a hunter
or a fisher, not the trespasses
we say in church,
but trespass of the eye and hand,
which move across the surface of a life,
the felt surface of a life
that is not mine.
From As if toward Beauty, page 58 (Birch Brook Press, 2015)
Gwendolyn Jensen began writing poems when she retired in 2001 from the presidency of Wilson College (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania). The places where her work has appeared include the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Harvard Review, Salamander, Sanskrit, and Measure. Her first book (Birthright, Birch Brook Press, 2011) is a letterpress edition, now in its second printing. Her second book (As if toward Beauty, also Birch Brook Press) was just published. She lives in Cambridge.
Jacqueline Johnson: Water Stories: Mosquito Fleet
(for Henry Jenkins)
My grandfather was a boat builder
belonged to the famed Mosquito Fleet,
countless sea of Negro men who fished
the coastal waters of Charleston, Edisto,
Daufuskie, Kiawah, James island,
St. Helena, Johns and Sullivan islands.
This one summer I am a guest along
Connecticut coast in East Haddam.
Sailing upon small streams and rivers.
Our captain is barefoot with a black
Peruvian ankle bracelet.
A strawberry blond sporting a white cap.
His face a cliché of contrasts; heather blue eyes,
burnt red skin, soft age lines around his mouth.
Here most of the boat owners are white, we
three are the rare queens on the water this day.
We head for Venture Smith's islands,
so small one can island hop.
Venture a Senegalese slave,
worked the land and waterfront until
he was able to buy his freedom.
True, original black capitalist made a
fortune freeing his brethren to work for him.
No indentured servant; so harsh and long
was his treatment of the newly freed men
that many went back to slavery
rather than work for him.
What Blues, what fear fills a man's soul
so that one morning, he leaves his wife and
children and gets on a boat to New York?
The Blues is about one thing,
a man and woman.
The Blues is about one thing—
Robert Johnson meets a Geechee Woman
Played his guitar like twelve men sat inside.
Played his guitar like twelve men was inside.
Brown, five string Jesus, double belly wide.
Was an eight rock man meant to sing the blues.
An eight rock man meant to play backbone blues.
Oh that devil's daughter, goddess and his muse.
Bargained his mojo for a cat he could barely see.
Bargained his jinns for a cat he could barely see.
Devil was low, but that woman took all of him.
It was 1929, the Great Depression
had just hit. Grandpa would
walk holes in his only shoes
looking for work in a city
out of work; in a city out
of money. Who knows how long
it took him to get the good job
at the Brooklyn Navy yard?
How long it took for the heart to heal?
Three of us sit in the late afternoon sun
warm wind dancing a hosanna in my hair.
I learn the names of sails I will never hoist and
think of you grandpa, in your four bedroom
apartment in Harlem with the white,
majestic boats in bottles,
sitting on the mantelpiece.
From the hill where you lived
one can hear the stories of a lifetime.
The Blues is about one thing,
a man and woman.
A woman and her money.
The remix version: a woman and her dreams.
Dear Al Young:
Hope the music is living well in your soul. Listen,
I finally finished that "Blues" poem.
Only took eight years.
You knew only time
would teach me
what the Blues really are,
not just sadness.
No need to be the last sad, black woman.
Blues is sure and certain triumph
which would kill one.
Thanks for the long patience.
On the boat, Sonya swears she swam in
the Egyptian ocean for three days,
riding the rudder like a mermaid.
No sun burn or salt crusted hair.
My great grandfather Fred Jenkins,
was a seaman and boat builder too.
In the sepia photographs his
dark, deep set eyes enchant.
One cruel evening his trawler
the "Dart" was crushed by a large
cruise ship in Charleston harbor.
Now the captain offers me the wheel.
I turn the boat toward the horizon's gold.
"We're going to Africa!" I shout.
Jacqueline Johnson, is a multi-disciplined artist creating in both writing and fiber arts form. She is the author of A Woman's Season, on Main Street Rag Press and A Gathering of Mother Tongues, published by White Pine Press and is the winner of the Third Annual White Pine Press Poetry Award. New poems can be found in the upcoming Revise the Psalm, the Gwendolyn Brooks anthology.
Water Stories - Mosquito Fleet, is a Zuihitsu poem- a Japanese hybrid form that I learned from the poet Cheryl Boyce Taylor. This poem is dedicated to my grandfather who was rated the "best boat builder" in Charleston, S.C. He worked at the Charleston Dry Dock and at the Lighthouse. He was a boat builder of the Sixth Lighthouse District which included North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Shirley Jones-Luke: I Dream of Wakanda
I dream of Wakanda
a world where I am welcomed
a place beyond time within time
I dream of Wakanda
its high mountains
its lush forests
I dream of Wakanda
a technological paradise
developed by African hands
I dream of Wakanda
freedom feels different there
so different from here
Shirley Jones-Luke: Like Manna from Heaven
The children’s hungry eyes always haunted my mother,
eyes that searched hers for a knowing nod
and the food she served during the lunch period,
she urged them not to push each other, their hard
plastic trays eager for the Dickensian-like fare
that awaited them, my mother was their savior
often doling out extra portions whenever she could,
fruit, salad, rolls, allowing children that needed
to pay a portion of their lunch to bring her the money
the next day, sometimes the money came – sometimes
it didn’t - she would make up the difference out her own pocket,
telling the children that it was okay, relief and gratitude
washing over their faces like the Red Sea over the Pharaoh’s
troops, saving the fleeing Israelites from a life
of servitude and squalor, my mother was their Moses,
not asking for anything in return but a smile
or a thank you, instead she received plenty of hugs,
soft tears and the promise of a better tomorrow.
Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer. Ms. Luke lives in Boston. She has an MFA from Emerson College. Her work is a reflection of her experiences, merging poetry with memoir. Shirley was a 2016 and 2017 Poetry Fellow at The Watering Hole Poetry Retreat. Her work has appeared in Adelaide Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, BlazeVOX, Cadaverous, ENUF, Deluge, and Fire Poetry.
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.