Chris O'Carroll: Ode to Old Age
I walk into a room and suddenly
I’m at a loss. What did I want in here?
That puckish brain tweaker, reality,
Has learned to shift its shape or disappear.
I used to have to smoke expensive weed
To tune in to this zoned-out paradigm.
Today my skull packs all the buzz I need.
I’m high on failing cells and passing time.
Each friend or relative that I outlive
Is one less witness to my foolish youth.
Now any version of the past I give
Is more or less the undisputed truth.
What names and numbers I may have forgotten
Are obligations I’ve been glad to shed.
Untangled from the past I once was caught in,
I rest in peace before I’m even dead.
- originally published in Light
Chris O’Carroll is a Light magazine featured poet and author of the light verse collection Take These Rhymes . . . Please: Rude Limericks and Other Crimes Against Literature and the chapbook Shakespeare’s Marijuana and Other Poems the Authorities Don’t Want You to Read. He is also an actor and stand-up comedian, and spent many years as a newspaper and magazine journalist. His poems have appeared in 14 by 14, Literary Review, Measure, The Orchards, and The Rotary Dial, among other print and online journals, and in New York City Haiku, Poems for a Liminal Age, and The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology.
Fan Ogilvie: Cloud Meets Considerable Data
(sign on building in Boston)
Little white cloud I see from my window does not look like he is going
to meet anyone special cannot touch leafless branches of trees
telephone poles in the field or top of the roof of the house he peers over
not so fast it looks like he is part of a cerulean blue no cobalt
anyway blue sky but we know how far he is from that given
it takes miles to concoct that color in the atmosphere the cloud is
just there right there moving to the rhythm of a Requiem by Verdi
off to the east he floats still intact covered with a fine mist shining
brightly white painfully happy to be alone not filled with any data
from any computer or software still a cloud by any elementary
definition of a cloud ready to lend shape to any wind
sail away on any ocean or disappear into the larger picture.
Fan Ogilvie was selected as West Tisbury’s second Poet Laureate in 2009 and served until 2012. In that capacity she organized poetry readings, inaugurated a contest for High School Students, and continued to develop the Featherstone-Pathways Summer Festival of Poetry. She is a part of the Cleaveland House Poets, the longest running poetry workshop on the Vineyard, who will be publishing a second collection of poems from the participants this summer. Before living full-time on Martha’s Vineyard she established the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Poetry Board in Washington DC, a center for national poets to read and dialogue. She published “YOU Selected Poems and KNOT:A LIfe” in 2008. Her Chapbooks include”the Other Side of the Hill” and “In a Certain Place.” Her poems have been found in Poet Lore, Z’Arts, Fulcrum and online on Fieraligue, The Poet’s Corner and other literary forums. Public readings include the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Corcoran Museum of Art, Georgetown University, The Stirling Library, MIT, Featherstone Center for the Arts, Calliope, among others. She has taught poetry and developed workshops in DC, New Haven, New York, and Martha’s Vineyard. As she said in a recent letter “poetry is not a static thing we study or do, it’s a jump start into the life of life.”
Sharon Olds: I Could Not Tell
I could not tell I had jumped off that bus,
that bus in motion, with my child in my arms,
because I did not know it. I believed my own story:
I had fallen, or the bus had started up
when I had one foot in the air.
I would not remember the tightening of my jaw,
the irk that I’d missed my stop, the step out
into the air, the clear child
gazing about her in the air as I plunged
to one knee on the street, scraped it, twisted it,
the bus skidding to a stop, the driver
jumping out, my daughter laughing
Do it again.
I have never done it
again, I have been very careful.
I have kept an eye on that nice young mother
who lightly leapt
off the moving vehicle
onto the stopped street, her life
in her hands, her life’s life in her hands.
Sharon Olds is the author of eight volumes of poetry. Her poetry, says Michael Ondaatje, is “pure fire in the hands,” and David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement describes her work as “remarkable for its candor, its eroticism, and its power to move.” With sensuality, humor, sprung rhythm, and stunning imagery, she expresses truths about domestic and political violence, sexuality, family relationships, love, and the body. Often compared to “confessional” poets, she has been much praised for the courage, emotional power, and extraordinary physicality of her work. A reviewer for The New York Times hailed her poetry for its vision: “Like Whitman, Ms. Olds sings the body in celebration of a power stronger than political oppression.” Born in San Francisco, Sharon Olds studied at Stanford University and Columbia University. Her numerous honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant; a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship; the San Francisco Poetry Center Award for her first collection, Satan Says (1980); and the Lamont Poetry Selection and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for The Dead and the Living (1983). Her other books of poetry are Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 (2004), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Wellspring (1995), The Father (1992), and The Gold Cell (1987). Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times. Named New York State Poet Laureate (1998 – 2000), Olds teaches graduate poetry workshops at New York University as well as the writing workshop she helped found at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely disabled. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science. One Secret Thing (2008) was a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize. Her next collection, Stag’s Leap, will be released in Sept. 2012. She lives in New York City.
José Olivarez: Guapo
i start with my feet.
i give them my favorite name.
the name My Mom gives me
when she talks about me to relatives
who want to know why i’m not married yet.
i move up through the hairy terrain
named my legs. Guapo, i say to moonlight skin.
My Uncles In Cali whisper You Heard He Likes
That Poetry Stuff Right? Heartbreaker, i say
to my thighs, ass, and dick. My Lover took
all her pet names when she left. my name doesn’t belong
to her now. Ay Papi, i say to the scar on my belly.
my aunts at home think i need A Good Mexican Woman
To Take Care Of Me & Give My Mom Grandchildren.
i only knew my name when it came out of My Lover’s mouth.
Aye, Shawty What It Is, i say to my freckled chest,
my red beard. i am giving myself all of the names I like.
Yung Josélito, Papi Churro, Lupe.
tell me, they ask My Mom, why hasn’t He gotten married?
my face reminds me of My Mom. we look the same
when we are laughing. Guapo, i say to the mirror.
it is my new name. it is my old name. it is my only name.
José Olivarez is the co-author of the book of poems Home Court, and co-host of the poetry podcast The Poetry Gods. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Program Director at Urban Word NYC. A winner of a 2016 Poets House Emerging Poet Fellowship and a 2015 Bronx Recognizes Its Own award from the Bronx Council on the Arts, his work has been published in The BreakBeat Poets, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Specter Magazine, and Union Station Magazine, among other places. He is from Calumet City, IL, and lives in the Bronx. Follow him on social media at @jayohessee.
Alix Olson: everybody’s waiting
For the mood to strike, for the magic to last,
for the movement to spread, for the moment to pass
for their sad luck to change, for their day in the sun,
for their second shot, to get it right in the re-run
because everybody’s waiting
For their rebates and reward cards and their member only deals,
for their sushi lunch specials and their two for one steals,
with their crumpled take out menus and their tempurpedic mattresses
in front of flat screen love affairs with matching sets of actresses
with self help guides and new year’s resolutions
and mindfulness and twelve step solutions
with superstitions and meditations
with logic and common sense and careful calibration
for their horoscope to say it, for a TED Talk to okay it
for NPR to learn it, for Rachel Maddow to confirm it
for an ism that unpacks it, for a bumper sticker to capture it
for their penance, for the promise, for redemption, for the punch line
for the porn show, for the punch out, for the weekend, for the next time
for whiskey to unwind them
for adulthood to un-find them
for a good reason to stop, for a good series to begin
for the results to come back, for the results to sink in
With their ikea and their white wine and their weekly mani-pedi
With their specified emoticons and general anxiety
for a more subtle way to do it, a more strategic way to say it
for a hash tag to convey it, for the next available agent.
for their ipod to sync for their Bluetooth to link
for their google to bing for their next thing to think
For a fair trade-r gift, for a hybrid-er car, for a lower fat snack, for a hipster-er bar
For an organic-er apple, for a local-er band,
for a free-ranger chicken, for a gluten-free brand
with their vintage jeans and redundant tattoos
with their espresso machines and glazed over “how are you’s”
with a holler in their lungs, with an action in their throat,
for a numbinger way to numb, for a wittier quote to quote.
For the promise to be kept, for the favor to be returned,
For the text to be sent, for a name plate on their door,
with their prognoses and chemo visits
with their co-pays and insurance limits
With their registries and wish lists and undisclosed longing
With their axioms and adages and dread of not belonging
in their crappy timing, their terrible luck, their shitty parents, their lack of stuff
in mortgage rates and mastercard limits, in parking tickets and protest permits,
in disappearing pensions and small print catches, in quick remedies and nicotine patches,
in their and eating disorders
in lapsed gym memberships and sunday hangovers
So everybody’s wanting
To become the hero, to remain the victim,
to be the stand-out, to be the stand-in
to post a sexier selfie, a more gregarious grin,
an ironic-er status, a cuter kid
so everybody’s working
On cover letters and resumes and power point presentations,
on legal reforms and campaign ballots and better legislation
On improving their posture and expanding their palettes
On their marathon training and advancing their skill sets
On the toning, on the tanning, on the phone banks, on the planning
Because everybody’s willing
to re-use their bags, to donate a dollar,
to buy a box of cookies, to be a minute-long martyr,
to be a little bit rebellious, to be slightly complicit,
to be mostly in order with a dose of illicit
Because everybody’s worrying
About their carbon footprint, their student loans,
endangered species, un-upgraded phones,
About the grey wolves and the grey whales and their whiteness and the mortar
And the mining and the water and their weight loss and the murder
About the drone strikes and the peace talks and the pipelines and the fracking
About surveillance and the gas bill and their sex lives and what’s lacking
About the post of the progress and the past of the post
and the discourse and its limits
and the system and its hoaxes
Because it’s different now, because it’s just not the same,
because when I was growing up, because these kids, because these days
Because everybody’s whispering
About everybody else’s pronoun and everybody else’s sadness
everybody else’s good luck and everybody else’s near miss
Because everybody’s wishing
for less hurried breath, for less messy thoughts
for beginnings and clean breaks and re-dos and fresh starts
Because everybody’s waiting.
For the mood to strike, for the magic to last,
for the movement to spread, for the moment to pass
for their sad luck to change, for their day in the sun,
for their better second shot, to get it right in the re-run
everybody’s waiting, everybody’s waiting, everybody’s waiting
Alix Olson is a spoken word artist-activist who historian Howard Zinn (Peoples History of the United States) calls “an ingenious poet, a brilliant performer, a funny person, a serious thinker. Quite simply, extraordinary.” Olson has published several books of poetry, produced three spoken word albums, and is the subject of the multi award-winning feature documentary Left Lane: On The Road With Alix Olson. Alix is also the editor of Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press). Her work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and journals and her work has been featured on Air America (Rachel Maddow), BBC, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and in The New York Times and elsewhere. Alix is currently teaching and writing her doctoral dissertation (departments of Political Science and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Alix says of "Everybody's Waiting," “[the poem] reflects a particular political mood I have sensed for the past few years--especially among white middle class progressives- anxious, desiring of new possibilities but also in limbo, suspended somehow. I'm feeling the gears now shift into rage and action, I hope we sustain that.”
January O’Neil: Bathing My Mother
She braces herself against the rush of hot water
and her whole body responds in relief,
the first she’s had all morning.
Leaning against the shower wall we begin
the way I would if I was bathing a child—
quickly, as not to prolong this simple act.
I lather soap between my fingers,
carefully unfurl my washcloth over her skin
so not to touch her new breast missing its nipple.
It is all business, my hands rotating in circles
down her hips and between her legs,
her body slick as a sea lion’s.
She reaches around for the cloth
with slow and deliberate movements
as if not to admit pain, not to convey need—
the caregiver needing care, the care taker
not taking as she usually does. Not today.
I want to tell her I love her
but I don’t. I cover her with a towel
and some small talk, try not
to notice what’s missing.
No words, yet I listen
like a stethoscope
for her to say something.
January O’Neil is the author of UNDERLIFE (CavanKerry Press 2009) and executive director of Massachusetts Poetry Festival as well as Assistant Professor at Salem State University. She is also the author of the forthcoming Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press 2014).
Lindsey O'Neill: Sacred Silence
In a world where mid-day Bolocos get robbed
bullies steal green billed milk money,
mesmerizing Hey Dude re-runs while lying
belly down on tan carpets exist
as only distantly foggy memories,
married men in suits ask for business cards at bars
iridescent pink plastic Jesuses sit
on black dashboards in cars
and lady Madonnas inlaid with rhinestones
It’s bread and cheese for breakfast
on a Friday morning at 11 while
overcast skies make room for rain,
and city steam rises up over back drops of buildings
as the black and white billboard teeth and lips
of Kiera Knightly rest against
a pink glass bottle of Chanel perfume.
The white cable repair van is passing
through the yellow-lit crosswalk, tires tipping into
edges of sidewalk puddles
we continue on. We drink tea, brush our teeth,
take well-worn steps over gum impacted concrete, go to CVS
buy toilet paper and trash bags and forget
matches to light candles that want to illuminate March evenings.
Like dancers dancing, we continue on
find comfort in casual interactions with the people who pour
our morning’s iced coffee into clear plastic cups,
who know us only by face
and by order.
Lindsey is a yoga teacher, yoga & creative writing workshop facilitator, and poet. In her own poetry, Lindsey writes to give voice to the sacred and visceral, and she is currently at work on her first poetry manuscript.
When teaching both yoga and creative writing, Lindsey invites people to connect to their sense of center, and listen to their own unique embodied voice. She believes the tools, evolution, and perspective gained through mindfulness and creative practices can enhance our lives, inspire our passion, and create embodied social change.
Lindsey teaches individual and group yoga classes in Boston, and has held yoga & writing workshops at Wentworth Institute of Technology and Boston’s Grub Street. She has also led yoga & poetry workshops at two local Boston yoga studios. Lindsey is an active member of the Mass Poetry community; she enjoys leading workshops at their annual festival, and teaching workshops to high school students as part of their poetry in the schools program.
Dzvinia Orlowsky: Bad Harvest
“even if it was mentioned, it was one sentence…”
The Ukrainian Weekly: Day of Memory,
Recollections of Famines
Does my name take your tongue’s
otherwise unclaimed space?
Swallow once for me.
These gooseberries are not stones,
this cup of water,
this cup of water.
500 Grams of Bread
My father worked, mother waited in line
at night for maloyem, crust thin as a wrist,
a breath, an octave
between one child
and the other lying in snow,
how blue that blue.
Dnister River Snails
faces, green grey,
those fallen with swollen bellies—
the snails promised
we’ll hold you
no livestock no chickens
hunger if it could open its mouth wide enough
open its wide enough
open wide enough,
hunger would tear
out the windows.
Shortly before Deaths
of those already called back to air,
silk plums of your bruised feet split
& you dreamed, instead,
of slipping through any weightless surface.
Come out we have a doll for you
Never open the door.
I am not afraid to speak of this
a cry from the heart
given by my parents,
a grain from the burning storage chamber
doused with kerosene,
the meat from the market—
no pigweed, no stinging nettles left.
~the poem first appeared in Plume, winter issue 2014
Dzvinia Orlowsky is a poet and translator. She is the author of five collections of poetry published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including A Handful of Bees, reprinted in 2009 as a Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary; Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, recipient of a 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award; and her most recent, Silvertone, for which she was named Ohio Poetry Day Association’s 2014 Co-Poet of the Year. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko's novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water in 2006; and Jeff Friedman's and her co-translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in 2014. She is a Founding Editor of Four Way Books, a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant, and a co-recipient with Jeff Friedman of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Grant. She serves as Editor for Poetry in Translation for Solstice Literary Magazine and teaches at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College and at Providence College.
Carla Panciera: Plum Island and Back
You come here expecting things in pieces:
the fractured, fleshless shells of mussels,
crab-backs abandoned by soft bellies, a claw.
You come expecting flight over dunes, terns
diving, the confetti of aerialists mad for sky, herons
lifting from the marsh, trailing legs, trailing ropes of water.
You don’t come expecting poetry, nor love, either,
things you feel you’ve had enough of. You expect –
no, you hope — for nothing grander than relief.
But the periwinkle lays out a path to the sea, a ribbon
in the sand his thin tribute. He has this house to move,
this exaggeration of spine, the only bone he knows.
It helps, it must, to have nothing to compare oneself to.
He can’t know the work ahead, but you do. You wish
the tide back in for him, you wish the moon on his side.
Carla Panciera has published fiction, poetry and memoir in several journals including The Chattahoochee Review, The New England Review, Painted Bride and Nimrod. Her first book of poetry, One of the Cimalores received the 2004 Cider Press Book Award. Her second volume of poetry, No Day, No Dusk, No Love, was awarded the 2010 Bordighera Poetry Prize. She lives in Rowley, MA, and teaches high school English.
Dawn Paul: Black Bear Hunt
We fan out along the trail cross dry creek beds
a field bordered by an old stone wall with red maples
through the stones and short tangles of barbed wire
Three of us covering more ground than if we stayed
in one tight knot
We lose sight and sound of each other now
each thinking only of a black bear
alert to fresh gouges plowed into black dirt
strips of bark clawed from tree trunks
a glistening mound of scat rich with blackberry
All this to say a black bear is near
or none of this but still bear
glimpsed on the path ahead or in a tree or a chuff
and snap of a branch
bear of whisper shadow mist
And now alone in the woods
quiet except for the scream of a blue jay
forget the bear forget the gun in your hands
has any purpose except smooth weight
Do the others also notice
winterberries bunched red on pale gray twigs
needle frost emerging from damp ground
There a black bear
no sign no sound yet
so close you see her sides heave with breath
her face black fur blending to russet on the muzzle
has no expression
Dawn Paul teaches in the writing program at Montserrat College of Art and has published two novels and numerous poems in anthologies.
Mark Pawlak: Faith, Hope, Charity
Street corner morning, sidewalk littered:
plastic soda bottles, candy wrappers, aluminum cans—
flotsam after yesterday’s snowmelt.
When the light’s red, a man
(paper cup in hand, winter coat unbuttoned)
steps off the curb
into the sunlit lane between stopped cars.
Cradled in the crook of his arm
an improvised sign:
SEEKING HUMAN KINDNESS,
ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED.
Inside the coffee shop,
a line of patrons stretching from counter to threshold
waiting for pastries and morning java. Just outside,
three anxious sparrows twittering beneath the bench
where a young man sleeps, stretched out,
duffel bag for a pillow,
face turned away from us passersby.
Beside him some Samaritan has left
a lunch sandwich,
neatly wrapped in clear plastic, homemade.
I descend into the subway station:
The ever cheerful Metro hawker greets me,
“Have a nice day.”
At the Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk
a dark- skinned man-- West Indian?--
curly gray hair under
the knit cap he wears in all seasons,
cargo bags at his feet,
hunches over a Bible
open on a pedestal table, his “lectern.”
Some days he scribbles in a notebook—sermons?—
other times, lips moving, eyes turned inward,
he recites passages to himself. Today, he lifts his head,
casts his gaze over the multitude,
hand extended, and, citing chapter and verse,
silently preaches to his congregation
entering, exiting through the turnstiles –
all of us sinners and no one in particular.
--Appeared in Solstice magazine, 2013
Mark Pawlak is the author of seven poetry collections and the editor of six anthologies. His latest books are Go to the Pine: Quoddy Journals 2005-2010 (Plein Air Editions/Bootstrap Press, 2012) and Jefferson's New Image Salon: Mashups and Matchups (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). His New and Selected Poems will be published in 2016. Pawlak’s work has been translated into German, Polish, and Spanish, and has been performed at Teatr Polski in Warsaw. In English, his poems have appeared widely in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, and in the literary magazines New American Writing, Mother Jones, Poetry South, The Saint Ann's Reivew, and Solstice, among many others. He supports his poetry habit by teaching mathematics at UMass Boston, where he is Director of Academic Support Programs. He lives in Cambridge.
Peter Payack: THE MOON & THE MOTH
programmed by untold aeons
uses the moon as a beacon
to navigate its flight.
But how has the moon
fallen from the nighttime sky
and become attached
to this post on the porch?
This white-winged lunar explorer
using all the bug logic
at her dutiful disposal
frantically orbits the porch light
like a crazed Apollo astronaut
on an endless excursion
As a deus ex machina of sorts
in this little insect drama,
switch off the light.
from the mesmerizing pull
of the moon,
the moth breaks out of orbit
and flutters safely back to Earth.
On this flight
the fates flew with her.
—This poem first appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and then anthologized in ASIMOV’S WONDERS OF THE WORLD (The Dial Press, US edition. Hale Publishers, London edition.)
Peter Payack is the First Poet Populist of Cambridge. He is long renowned for putting poetry in public spaces and has done so as a commissioned artist at M.I.T’s International Sky Art Conference (Delphi, Greece), Harvard's 350th Anniversary celebration Harvard 350, the New York Avant Garde Festival and Boston's First Night. His first foray into making poetry public was his innovation Phone-a-Poem, The Cambridge/Boston Poetry Hotline, (1976-2001.) This achievement has now been archived at Harvard's Lamont Library's Woodberry Poetry Room, and has now been digitalized to hear such poets as Allen Ginsberg, Jane Kenyon and James Tate. Payack has published over 1,500 poems, stories, prose poems, photos and articles including multiple appearances in The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Cornell Review, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazines, Creative Computing and the Boston Globe. His Poem, The Migration of Darkness, won the 1980 Rhysling Award, signifying The Best Poem in Science Fiction Poetry. He was awarded the 2010 Haskell Award for Distinguished Teaching at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Payack has coached The Cambridge Rindge & Latin School Varsity wrestling team for the 25 years and has run 93,000 miles and 24 Marathons. You can read more about Peter on his website www.peterpayack.com.
Ralph Pennel: Planning Our Departure
Leaving nothing to chance, we start the day
by sharing our only surviving dreams.
Mine is simple. The two of us driving nowhere
with little regard for the drive.
In yours, we are rowing. Taking our time.
Taking turns at the oars.
We make nothing more of them than that,
that we have shared them.
You roll away from me, hand dropping
against the box spring,
as if to usher this bed into motion, into
one last feat of greatness though nothing on it stirs.
While we lie here, storm clouds
settle in above us,
rain gathers in their sagging bellies, felled cotton seed
invades every grassless patch of ground below.
I half expect to find this bed covered too,
mistake loose down against my pillow
for some ambitious seed that made it through
the screen beside this bed, seeking some higher,
safer place to land, who knows what falling is,
how it ends where no light reaches and never has.
Not even in the highest noonday sun when
the shadows are but charcoal blemishes no bigger than a sigh.
So much goes unsaid between us now.
The day passes us by slowly, drifts over
the trenches where we lay, the hours ahead
still unfulfilled except by all we cannot manage
the strength to save, by the rain, cold and hard,
falling from the sky to the earth where we wait.
We insist on waging our losses against an hour more
of sleep, against facing our certain departure from this room,
or from any room just like this where we may have landed
seeking shelter from all we can’t possibly begin to begin.
Ralph Pennel received his MFA in creative writing from Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His writing has appeared in Common Ground Review, Ropes, The Cape Rock, Apercus Quarterly, Open to Interpretation, Ibbetson Street, The Smoking Poet, Unbound Press, Right Hand Pointing, Monologues From the Road, and various other journals in the U.S. and abroad. He has also published reviews with Cervena Barva Press, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Rain Taxi Review of Books. Ralph teaches literature at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the fiction editor for Midway Journal (www.midwayjournal.com), an online literary journal publishing out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Ralph served as the judge of the 2013, WLP Dean’s Prize for Emerson College and has also been a guest lecturer at Emerson. He has worked as a volunteer for the Teaching Writing in the Prisons program with PEN New England and has taught workshops at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. His first poetry collection, A World Less Perfect for Dying In, will be published by Cervana Barva Press in the fall of 2014.
Joyce Peseroff: HitchBOT
(After traveling across Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany, HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, gets beheaded in Philadelphia—CNN, 8/4/15)
HitchBOT, you look like a toy in a war zone,
a photograph staged
to crack the heart.
HitchBOT, you're like my kid’s old Barbie,
dressed and undressed, decapitated
with familiar contempt.
HitchBOT, you’re the highway’s first
dweeby victim in a horror movie
franchise, Son or Revenge Of.
Suitcase with a spare battery snugged
in blue, foam noodle arms
by curious Canadians,
Germans, or Dutch—gone with your flag,
goofy recital of local trivia,
your emoji face.
You offered the chance for a quick selfie
in the voice of a woman
or prepubescent boy
excited to tour the Grand Canyon. Maybe
that voice enraged a guy
whose job was going
the way of the travel agent, file clerk,
or trucker in a future
of self-driving cars.
Born in the U.S.A. means: defend you
and yours. In Old Europe they may
call it a union
but won’t pay dues. Sorry the open road
didn’t work for you. That’s true
for humans too.
Joyce Peseroff’s new book of poems is Know Thyself. She is also the author of The Hardness Scale, A Dog in the Lifeboat, Mortal Education, and Eastern Mountain. She edited Robert Bly: When Sleepers Awake, The Ploughshares Poetry Reader, and Simply Lasting: Writers on Jane Kenyon. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and a Pushcart Prize. She was Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she directed the MFA Program for its first four years, and currently blogs on writing and literature at <joycepeseroff.com>.
Emily Pettit: WE ARE HEARING THE LOUDEST
ANIMAL BE ITS LOUDEST
It’s a shrimp. Makes meeting sound like an accident.
A tiger pistol shrimp. Not a whale whistling,
though deaf that might make you. Deep dark
and dangerous feelings are filling our foreheads here.
I remember an airplane to somewhere else.
I was shocking in the restaurant. The deep dark
and dangerous feelings like a different kind of rocket.
The vault alarm alarming. Something good that isn't
recognized at first as such. Such as, when you are mistreated
the same way you mistreat others. And now we are
back to talking about control. I’ve got a radio in a bucket.
I have a bucket in my hand. What about you? What’s in
your hand? A flower. Flowering plants have dominated
the plant scene since dinosaurs and it is a lesson
in perseverance. Yet paleontologists keep changing
their minds just like everyone else. Can you make
yourself completely independent of daylight?
Completely, completely independent. It’s the bottom
of the ocean and I will not stop listening to the radio.
It is not mandatory, it’s just what I’m doing again today.
Not getting down about the deep dark and dangerous
no daylight. I don’t get on the airplane. I get on
the airplane. The airplane smells just like an airplane does.
I cry just like you. And I stop too.
Emily Pettit is a poet, artist, editor and teacher from Western, Massachusetts. She has taught and lectured at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, the University of Massachusetts, Elms College, and Smith College. Emily is an editor for Factory Hollow Press and jubilat. Her collection of poems Goat In The Snow was published by Birds LLC . Poems have appeared in The Huffington Post, Academy of American Poetry, Boston Review, Verse Daily, among other journals.
Margaret Phillips: Quantum Physics Says
--There may be a world like this one--exactly--
but, with one exception: time as we know it runs
In that world seeds and berries pop out
of a bobwhite’s beak. She is shrinking slowly,
loses weight and size, loses feathers,
and inches naked into shell pieces
she finds in her nest: she seals herself into them
with her softening beak, and an egg, is drawn up
into her mother, where the shell
is absorbed into her mother’s body.
From her beak too,
berries and seeds fly. One of the seeds flies
backward to its seed head where it saddens
into a flower of dry petals, then expands
into a blooming flower that shrinks to a bud,
and as the weather cools, disappears
into a stem that grows shorter and shorter,
until it pulls itself and its roots into a bulb
under the ground.
Nearby, an old woman walks backward
toward her house, backs up the steps to open the door,
and into the kitchen, where, facing the door,
she closes it.
Bobwhites are on her mind
as her hand releases the knob. She knows she rose
from the dead to live and grow young, she knows
she’ll end in extinction in her mother’s womb.
But first, before exiting old adulthood, and moving
into her middle-aged routine of job and family,
she disremembers that the number of her cells
shrinks--ever halving into the dark.
Margaret Phillips received her BA and MA from Indiana University. She is a retired high school English teacher who taught in Indiana, Germany, and Japan, and who retired from Provincetown Public Schools in Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in the Mainichi Daily News in Japan, and the Boston Globe. She won the 2013 Regional Poetry Contest at the Cultural Arts Center. She currently lives in Eastham, Massachusetts.
Marisca Pichette: These days were made for us
so tell me that rain
wasn’t made for me
tell me that there’s a difference
between diamonds and teardrops;
so tell me that seagulls
fear the ocean
tell them that water
isn’t touchable, not really
—we all shrink away from things
that are bigger than us—
so tell the field that mud
is just shy soil
and that a hole is a memory
exploration and dirty shoes
that don’t quite know the way.
so tell me that mud wasn’t made
to remember where I go
and tell me that you fear the ocean
just like an eye fears a tear
and the clouds
fear the rain.
Born and raised in Deerfield, Massachusetts, Marisca grew up with books and the inspiration of the extensive woods and orchards around her house. She began writing in high school, and has since embarked on the creation of several novels, along with poetry and short stories. She attended Mount Holyoke College, studying English and Art History.
Marge Piercy: The tao of touch
What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.
Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
Into pets, not our food.
The old woman looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never. Not hold me.
Nor caress the softness of my
breasts, my inner thighs, the swell
of my belly. Do I still live
if no one knows my body?
We touch each other so many
ways, in curiosity, in anger,
to command attention, to soothe,
to quiet, to rouse, to cure.
Touch is our first language
and often, our last as the breath
ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.
From the book The Hunger Moon; courtesy of The Writer's Almanac
The Boston Globe summarizes the artistic importance of the poet and novelist Marge Piercy, who will be one of the featured poets at the 2014 Massachusetts Poetry Festival: “Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion and skill. . . .”
That cultural touchstone is a phenomenon you will not want to miss when she appears at the May 2-4 festival in Salem. Piercy is not just a poet with 17 volumes to her credit (see a list of her poetry), she has also published an equal number of novels.
Mary Pinard: Underground Fence
I’d never heard of it until
then, until after you were
gone, and everything seemed to be
suddenly leaking, or breaking,
or gaping. It was as if all the walls wore
themselves to shredding holes overnight,
while the light-bulb filaments lit up
like tiny off-season sparklers before
going out. I thought I felt winsome
breezes weaving a chill through the living
room, and when I saw a flash of white
in the backyard at dusk, I never told anyone
that I thought it was a fleeting remnant
of you, the physics of your vanishing. It turned
out to be a skunk, a descendent no doubt
of those who’d made themselves known
through each of our hapless dogs.
But I hadn’t seen how intrepid
they are, digging and digging under
the foundation, snouts pressing toward
any nesting place. No placement over time
of stones or bricks deterred, so I
hired experts to install the underground
fence that now, over a year later, has kept
anything from getting to me.
Mary Pinard teaches courses in literature and poetry in the Arts and Humanities Division at Babson College. She has served in a range of administrative positions there as well, including as Director of the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program, Coordinator of the Creativity Stream in the MBA Program, Writing Center Director, and Division Chair.
Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals—including The Iowa Review, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Georgia Review—and her essays on poets, including Lorine Niedecker and Alice Oswald, have been published in critical anthologies and scholarly journals. Portal, her first collection of poems, was published in 2014 by Salmon Press. She was born and raised in Seattle.
Robert Pinsky: Samurai Song
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
Robert Pinsky’s first two terms as United States Poet Laureate were marked by such visible dynamism, and such national enthusiasm in response, that the Library of Congress appointed him to an unprecedented third term. As poet laureate, Robert Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans—of varying backgrounds, all ages, and from every state—shared their favorite poems. The anthology Americans’ Favorite Poems, which includes letters from project participants, is in its 18th printing. The most recent anthology, An Invitation to Poetry, comes with a DVD featuring 27 of the FPP video segments, as seen on PBS. In April 2009, W.W. Norton published Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud. Elegant and tough, vividly imaginative, Pinsky’s poems have earned praise for their wild musical energy and ambitious range. Selected Poems, (spring 2011) is his most recent volume of poetry. His The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and received the Lenore Marshall Award and the Ambassador Book Award of the English Speaking Union. Pinsky has released a new CD this month with award-winning pianist Laurence Hobgood. POEMJAZZ treats a voice speaking poetry as having a role like that of a horn: speech with its own poetic melody and rhythm, in conversation with what the music is doing. To put it simply, POEMJAZZ is a conversation between the sounds of poetry and music.
Dennis Pollock: Night Talk
Of First Child Born Dead
But why not speak of him, together,
Against our grief?
Perhaps he’s an egg you fear you’ll break?
You needn’t take offense, Faith,
I haven’t lost my sense.
I do speak to him.
And tonight’s my night to tell.
I miss the boy powerful so,
And work the faster for it,
That work may fell my mind.
And you, Faith, all about the place too.
Each working our own end,
Pinching work out of all lit hours.
But I’m all word and you’re all hush.
And when we need sleep most, I must say more.
But may my words warm.
My words for both of us, Fay,
From something broken.
The boy was ours.
We might have been three.
Your sigh is for both of us.
Let us endeavor again.
We are of the woods, Fay,
Two hardwoods in a hemlock glen
We breathe the wind we share.
I am ash, rough,
My bark deep furrowed.
I lose my twigs and leaves like autumn ships
‘Till naught but trunk and limb remain.
But you, my dear, are beech,
Your skin as fair as smooth.
You cling to leaves you fear you’ll need come spring.
Under all the leaf meal, wool, and quilt,
Our roots entwine.
Each holds the other up
And in the fiercest wind
We’ll block the other’s fall.
From Frozen Rope - Slateroofpress.com. The poems in Frozen Rope are set in 1804 in Hadam, a fictionalized western Massachusetts town, and capture the life of the village and the voices of its people.
Dennis Pollock has lived in a 1750 farmhouse in Hinsdale, Massachusetts, for close to forty years. He is married and has two daughters. Before his current work in home repair and renovation, he was a psychotherapist. This is his first book of poetry.
Alec Prevett: Naked, We Looked More Alike
Naked, we looked more alike
than different: milk white, spattered
with freckles, two canvases hung
side by side for children to toss
handfuls of paint at. Meat sisters,
They once said; We’re all meat
sisters. Their way of saying human,
kindred. They possess their body
utterly. I possess my body
as one might possess something
unwanted: a debt, an ugly
giftcoat. I crave the lack of my
thousand siblings, all the absence they’re
able to hold. Thou shalt not
covet, and all that. There is
a great number of terrifying
practices, not the least of which is
the married couple who sit each
Tuesday and ask one another
across their scuffed cedarwood table
Would you like a divorce? Trust,
intimacy: it’s all a bit difficult.
When They begin to compare the width
of our thumbs, I fear an animal fear, the kind
that chooses its mate based on plumage,
intricacy of nest. The root is this:
how can I be certain there is not something
in the stretch of my skin that does not,
when read closely enough, whisper
inadequate? A friend’s lover once gifted
her a plant, which for months she watered
dutifully, only to discover, after leaving it outside to die,
it had been plastic from the onset. There’s room here,
They say, turning over my palms, for something to grow.
They drip slow blue wax on me,
bind my pinkies with the old twine.
Alec Prevett is a human from Atlanta. Their poetry has been featured in such journals as Hobart, Redivider, Booth, Lammergeier, and others.
Lawrence Raab: The Sirens
After a while we got tired of singing.
One morning out on the rocks
with not a ship in sight, we all felt it—
a certain weariness, a malaise,
if you will. We felt it together,
sympathy having become
one of the finer aspects
of our nature. We’ve drifted apart
since those days, yet we’re happy
being remembered as impossible
to resist. The stories used to claim
we understood the future as well—all things
which shall be hereafter upon the earth,
as our song put it. Everyone only assumed
we were beautiful. But we were, and are,
though not unlike so many other
women now, those who promise much less,
but let you live. It was a relief
to give up our powers willingly.
That didn’t happen often in our world,
where the gods kept on amusing themselves
with their meddling, and the hero
plowed ahead, lashed to the mast,
dying to be tempted. Did we enjoy the clamor
of shipwreck? The cries of the disillusioned?
It was our job, our particular talent.
We weren’t supposed to want anything else.
Originally published in The Massachusetts Review.
Lawrence Raab is the author of seven collections of poems, including What We Don’t Know About Each Other (winner of the National Poetry Series, and a Finalist for the National Book Award), The Probable World, and Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems, all published by Penguin. His latest collection is The History of Forgetting (Penguin, 2009), and a chapbook of a long poem, “A Cup of Water Turns into a Rose,” published by Adastra press (2012). He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.
Zara Raab: Grenfell Tower
To keep tenants warm
or impress rich neighbors,
builders wrap a London tower
in sheets of shiny tin,
and post notices that warn:
“Stay inside in case of fire,
and close your doors.”
Whisked up twenty floors
fire came this hour from outside in,
for the London tower is higher
(twenty stories to the roof)
than the fire man’s tallest ladder,
and the cladding, no proof
Every river, its sault.
Where you gather on market
days, or pray in temple pew,
you couldn’t be the target
of doom, but come, still, to bombs
like all unwelcome fate, hidden,
one of many, lit back-to-back
in towns like Parachinar; a photo
of ruined streets will show
just what can happen,
you’ll see, just watch the news.
So too in Baluchistan--
the crucible of guns--in Orlando,
Cincinnati or Syracuse.
Once an old oak held a platform
in its gnarly arms
where we children played.
With gumption, we added a wall
or two with our kit of tools,
but spiders soon swarmed by the dozen
to spin, and drove us away.
What comes even as we sleep?
On auto pilot, one big ship
rams another, midnight. As men
sleep in their bunks, the sea pours in,
flooding the sealed rooms where,
un-waking, un-watchful, they’ll be, later,
when we count the drowned.
This poem first appeared in New Verse News
I began writing poetry when I read Keats' odes and Shakespeare's plays, just as I was sent away from home to school, so I began to find my voice as I was finding my wings, and ever since then, interior shifts of feeling and social changes, two sides of one coin, have purposed and inspired my writing. I made my first leap when I turned to my personal, or ancestral, origins in a narrow corner of the wild west--origins I must leave behind if I was to make my way in a modern, or post-modern world. At first, I was engaged mostly with my inner landscapes, but gradually I began interweaving these with the world about me, finding in resonances and patterns. Great changes are the stuff of metaphor, and it was through metaphors that I best comprehended my journey, and began to find my place in the wider world. This interweaving is in part in play in my poem "Grenfell Tower."
William Ray: Water Dream, Maine
A chiming makes
This nub seem the other
Side of the world,
Though it's north an hour.
If rain came now
The town would fade,
Like impermanent ink on a
Schoolboy’s white page.
With the sun's return the
Residents’ thoughts would be fecund,
Their houses firm.
Crime would be the singular face
Of a local evil genius.
All would be bankrupt of lies.
Maybe at some time, something happened —
More marked than this clang
With the persistence of a lighthouse
Over post-midnight water.
William V. Ray is a retired English teacher who has also been a textbook editor, freelance writer, and, of late, a café owner. His published work includes textbooks as well as poetry and poetic prose. He is the editor of the online journal The Courtship of Winds <www.thecourtshipofwinds.org>. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts. For more detail, please visit his page at LinkedIn: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/williamvray>
Elaine Reardon: Cape Anne Earthquake
Strong Puritan measures
frivolity and paganism
snaked into each household
and held on tightly to what was
regarded as God's law
until the earth that held them could
no longer uphold this structure
earth unlaced her corset strings
untied her boots
and began to dance
unheeding of everything aside for
the need to break restrictions
earth rumbled awake
danced down chimneys
churches to the last steeple
trees swayed to the percussion
deep in their woody bones they pulled
back their roots from the searing heat
they tossed their leaves
in the scorching winds
The worshippers held on
Who has never sinned
Who has never danced
Elaine Reardon was born in Boston and now lives near the Quabbin, a Massachusetts girl all her life. When she was very young, her family, half Armenian and half Irish, had a strong oral tradition of storytelling and song. She heard many stories of the old country, and of being new in America. She heard a story often, both morning, snuggled into bed with her grandmother. She would imagine her grandmother and her siblings marching across the desert, and finally finding boat passage. She imagined Mr. Rice's bull chasing walkers out of the field in Bantry. And with imagination came her own words, from the everyday moments that make our lives.
Mary Ellen Redmond: Quiz Tomorrow
I wake to the dark
drum roll of October rain,
a street lined with vacant homes.
White wicker, gas grills
wait out the season in storage.
Kids gather at the corner looking
like a herd of little humpbacks, until
a yellow bus swallows them whole.
On the road to school, a single red
tree redeems the dirty linen skyline.
Blackbirds, heads moving up
and down like typewriter keys,
lift their tail feathers, making
random checks across a lawn.
A student trudges in damp and drowsy.
Today’s lesson? On the board:
Listen to the rain.
Pay attention to birds.
Mary Ellen Redmond earned her MFA in Poetry from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in 5am, The Drunken Boat, RATTLE, Cape Cod Review, Primetime and The Comstock Review. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Elephant Journal, Cape Cod Life, and Cape Cod Travel Guide. When she is not teaching English to seventh graders, she is working on her first poetry manuscript. She lives in South Dennis, Massachusetts.
Susan Rich: Cloud Pharmacy
How many apothecary drawers
could I fill with these deliberations?
The pharmacist’s paper cone
parsing out a quarter cup
of love’s resistant drug,
spoons measuring new prescriptions
for my uncertainty, hipsway, gesture.
Give me cobalt bottles
leftover from aunt iska’s cures,
albastrons of ointments, resins to resolve
the double-helix of desire inside of me.
Where is the votive, the vessel,
the slide rule calculation—
to know how much good love
alchemically speaking is
I want spindrift nights on swimmer’s
thighs. I want an Egyptian
elevator inlaid in camphorwood and ivory;
a West African drumbeat, an eggnog, a god.
I want waves and summer all year long.
I want you. And I want more.
Poem appears here courtesy of poet’s website.
Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, which was a Finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award. She is the recipient of awards from Artist’s Trust, 4Culture, The Times Literary Supplement of London, Seattle Mayors Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the Fulbright Foundation. Currently, she is Professor of English and Film Studies at Highline Community College. Susan also works as the poetry editor for The Human journal based in Istanbul, Turkey and is co-founder of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women. Along with Brian Turner and Jared Hawkley, she is editor of the anthology, The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders published by McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation, 2013. Her poems have appeared in many journals including the Harvard Review, Plume, New England Review, Poetry Ireland, and Witness. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she now makes her home in Seattle, Washington.
Paul Richmond: The Lost Cafe
I didn’t have much money
So I order the cheapest items on the menu
I ordered a kids portion of French toast
I was brought a pile of Blueberry pancakes
With ice cream on the side
I ordered a small side dish
Of home fries
I received a plate of grilled steak, sausages, and bacon
Which the waitress said came with the large plate of home fires
I ordered a small orange juice
I was given a large pitcher
I said I’d like some coffee
And the pot was brought over
I ask the waitress what was going on
She said this is how it is here
I said wow
I want to live here
My alarm clock woke me
In the cold kitchen
I found I was out of eggs
The milk was sour
The mice had gotten into the cereal
Looking out the window
I couldn’t see the corner store
The snow was a white curtain with a howling wind
That wouldn’t have stopped me But
My wallet was empty
I went back to bed
I lay there
Eyes closed tightly
I wasn’t going to find that cafe
Paul Richmond has been an artist and performer for more then 40 years. Paul remembers not knowing what to write, just knowing he wanted to write which led to many years of filling journals. He wrote or co-wrote scripts for solo, duet, and group performance pieces. He created Human Error Publishing, which organizes two monthly Word events and 5 annual Word festivals in Western MA and helps others publish their work. Paul has three books out “No Guarantees – Adjust and Continue.”, “Ready or Not – Living in the Break Down Lane” and “Too Much of a Good Thing – In the land of Scarcity – Breeds Contempt”. Info about the festivals can be found at www.humanerrorpublishing.com
Susan Edwards Richmond: “Beginners”
We were amateurs.
We didn’t bird in our sleep.
We didn’t count warblers over coffee
or memorize their songs on the long commute home from the city.
We were occasional, if not accidental.
We took Sunday strolls in the arboretum,
met after work in the sanctuary,
nailed houses in the corners of our lots,
hung feeders from the maple and the windowsill.
But we didn’t buy tickets to Aransas or Attu.
We didn’t dance on the shores of Hudson Bay or
wait for the exhausted to drop from the sky
onto the first barrier beach on a Gulf crossing.
We could have,
but we didn’t allow ourselves.
We went when convenient,
when we didn’t trouble anyone,
when we didn’t have to miss our daughters’ recitals
or ask our husbands to leave work early or go in late.
We learned what lived close to home:
the robin, the mourning dove, the blue jay, the nuthatch.
We saw the yellow-rumped but not the Tennessee,
the wood thrush but not the towhee,
the killdeer but not the phalarope.
We didn’t talk about it.
We didn’t join any clubs.
We didn’t get up at four in the morning
(six sometimes, but not four).
We didn’t listen for the owls all night
or see the woodcocks mate or the grouse display.
We weren’t extremists.
We were guarded in our passions.
But we sensed the pleasure, lurking,
checked off our lists secretly, without
fanfare, without spreading the word.
Still it grew
inside us, our nature
demanded more than we’d been given.
We wanted to break through invisible fences,
feel the shock, of heat, of cold, of a morning before dawn.
We wanted to gulp the air on a pelagic cruise,
swat mosquitoes on the Atchafalaya, stumble
ankle deep into Pacific surf.
It took us longer.
We took our time,
but we knew who we were,
knew one day
we would declare ourselves.
Susan Edwards Richmond has taught at Clark University and the Shirley Medium Correctional Facility. A founding member of the Concord Poetry Center, she has been poet-in-residence at Fruitlands Museum, editor of Wild Apples journal, and poetry editor for Sanctuary: the journal of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Susan’s poetry collections are Purgatory Chasm, Boto, Birding in Winter, and Increase. Her poems have appeared in Green Mountains Review, The Iowa Review, Perihelion, Poetry East, and Runes.
David Rivard: Swerver
She was born for
the pleasures of swerving
and with a courage
as impractical as it was
beneath a harsh lightbulb
in some Alberta hotel,
not to play the fool
or push a hangman’s cart.
how summers there
had the excitable, slipshod languor
of strip poker,
but that winter snapped
like a brown rat trapped & frantic
in a wooden cage, a cage
she’d last seen flying through dark smoke,
her father having flipped it
with one furious hand onto a bonfire.
So it goes with
at 16 you think yourself
of the inner-life for sure,
tho you’re allowed
an occasional glimpse of the world
and how it looks
to others—10,000 colors
in the skin of an apple,
and not one of them red or green—
and the future might
open for a moment in spite of all
your evil speculations.
She remembers her mother
drowned the ticks in a mason jar
after they’d been pulled
from the garrison dogs,
the jar half-full of machine oil.
The first boy she kissed
spoke of superhumans & died later
of a brain hemorrhage.
She remembers all of this later.
after much statecraft had taken place
and days that passed
like the sound of swan’s wings in the fog
whenever she sat
by herself at a foreign picnic table.
David Rivard’s sixth book, Standoff, has just been published by Graywolf Press. His other books include Otherwise Elsewhere, Sugartown, and Wise Poison, winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. A recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, and the NEA, he teaches at the University of New Hampshire.
Of “Swerver,” he comments: “In each of my books I’ve written about a woman I’ve never met, returning to her for reasons not at all clear to me. She has some features of character and biography that are a composite of a number of women I’m close to, it’s true—I’m provoked often to write about her because of something one of them does or says. But she isn’t any of them. I might say that she’s a projection of my anima, if I were a Jungian. I’m not. In these poems, as in “Swerver,” I meet her at different times of her life—some times she’s a child, others quite elderly. In a way, time is the true subject of these poems, its mysteries. That’s true of all the poems in Standoff as well."
Laurie Robertson-Lorant: These Days
These days, when I go to the beach
I take nothing for granted.
These days I am just grateful for
the persistence of the waves.
Thank you, Ocean, for the chemistry of my blood -
for plankton, whales, anemones and cod -
for turtles, pelicans and manatees –
for tide pools, estuaries and the barrier beaches
where Rachel Carson strolled at night to watch
ghost crabs foraging in the sand,
their burrows open to the stars and the splashes
of moonlight silvering the sea.
From Ocean Voices
Laurie Robertson-Lorant is the author of Melville: A Biography (1996) and The Man Who Lived Among the Cannibals: Poems in the Voice of Herman Melville (2005). Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Leviathan, Radcliffe Quarterly, Rockhurst Review, Sandscript, Southcoast Poetry Journal, The American Voice, North American Review, Worcester Review, October Mountain: An Anthology of Berkshire Writers (ed. Paul Metcalf) and We Speak for Peace (ed. Ruth Jacobs). Since moving to the South Coast, she has taught at MIT, UMass Dartmouth, Bridgewater State University and at New Bedford’s Whaling Museum, Ocean Explorium and Whaling National Historical Park.
Laura Rodley: Flight Path
We do not live forever;
I know that.
But what of trying
for the wind,
holding its ceaseless struggle
close to your heart, how my
husband is not a wind element,
the wind, in fact, disturbs him,
and flayed him this morning,
a heart attack knocked on both his upper limbs
so that the tree that he is leaned over
but did not topple, did not even stop moving,
but in distress came back from running
like the wind, breathing hard, rain
falling from his own body, down towards the ground,
a ripping of his limbs, his chest,
a trip to the hospital where the doctors said
we’re going to do many things very fast
but did not ask me to stand back
so I took the force of the wind
knocking him over full force
upon my own body and I did not fall.
Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Publisher Finishing Line Press nominated her Your Left Front Wheel Is Coming Loose for a PEN L.L.Winship Award and Mass Book Award. FLP also nominated her Rappelling Blue Light for a Mass Book Award. Former co-curator of the Collected Poets Series, Rodley teaches the As You Write It memoir class and has edited and published As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology volumes I-VI, also nominated for a Mass Book Award. She was accepted at Martha’s Vineyard’s NOEPC and has been a consecutive participant in the 30 poems in November fundraiser for the Literacy Project for Center for New Americans. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.
Facing the Waves
It’s early on the Gulf in Florida
and I’m sitting on the bench dedicated to Gabrielle
who loved to contemplate the waves,
someone mourned her name in bronze,
an inscription in the wood.
I feel Gabrielle accompanying me
in her waves,
I wonder who loved her so
for reviving her gaze time and again
in every stroller seeking refuge
on this bench,
in every pensive love-struck girl,
in every loner on the dunes.
I haven’t had Gabrielle’s luck,
no words are written at my site,
on that torn-off shore
where I died a long time ago,
where others used my clothes,
wore out my deadbolts,
assumed my life,
as if I were dead,
and unlike the incorporeal Gabrielle
who is also that cloud and that snail,
and a heron and a little fish,
I’ll be the one with the double death,
because no one is with my waves now
as I am with hers
here at dawn on this other shore
on Gabrielle’s bench.
Emma Romeu: Las Olas de Enfrente
(with English translation by Michael L. Glenn.)
Es temprano en el golfo en la Florida
y estoy sentada en el banco de Gabrielle
que amaba mirar las olas
—lo sella la inscripción que alguien lloró en bronce
en la madera—;
me siento acompañada por Gabrielle
en sus ondas,
quién la habrá amado tanto para hacer renacer
cada vez su mirada
en cada caminante que buscara refugio
en este banco,
en cada pensativa muchacha enamorada,
en cada solitario de las dunas,
no he tenido la suerte de Gabrielle,
no hay palabras escritas en mi sitio,
en mi orilla extirpada,
allá donde morí desde hace tiempo,
donde otros usaron mis vestidos,
gastaron mis cerrojos,
pretendido mi vida
como si hubiera muerto
y no como la incorpórea Gabrielle
que es también esa nube y aquella caracola,
y es garza y pececillo,
sino que allí seré la de la doble muerte,
porque ya desde ahora nadie acompaña mis olas,
como al alba acompaño yo en su banco
desde esta otra orilla
las olas de Gabrielle.
Emma Romeu is a writer, environmental journalist and poet. She emigrated from Cuba at the end of twentieth century and has published fiction and non-fiction books with major houses in Spain, Mexico and the United States. Her articles have appeared in international magazines such as National Geographic. She lives in Massachusetts, and teaches Spanish Language and Culture at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Michael L. Glenn is a retired psychiatrist who has translated both of Emma Romeu's books of poetry.
John J. Ronan: Wallpaper
Aardvark’s ahead of Bee and Cat, Donkey
In the sunfast jungle, spelled animals who stop
At white panels of wallpaper, accept
Briefly their tame, burdened purpose, and recede:
The way a Cheshire cat leaves its teeth,
Aardvark leaves an A. The lesson develops—
The wide meaning on a legend-layered map,
Unseen, rising finally to the regardless eye.
The creatures themselves continue naïve as Genesis:
Lamb knows nothing, the Nightingale nothing.
Their images thin and turn, trailing off
Into the fog of the white wall, free and fabulous.
In their wake, in the kids’ clean room, a bewildering
Kingdom of names and knowledge, a belled self.
Originally appeared in the Valparaiso Poetry Review
John J Ronan's last book, Marrowbone Lane (Backwaters Press, 2009), was a "Highly Recommended" pick of the Boston Authors' Club. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Folio, Threepenny Review, The Recorder, Hollins Critic, New England Review, Southern Poetry Review, Louisville Review, Greensboro Review, and Notre Dame Review. He is a former Poet Laureate of Gloucester, MA, and a former NEA and Ucross Fellow. He is also the producer and host of The Writer's Block with John Ronan, a Cape Ann TV Access program entering its 26th year.
Robert Ronnow: Lazy, Happy
I woke up Saturday joyful at my body’s triumph
over virus, breathing again without pain and enjoying
winter and the cold that keeps us sane and sober.
But by Sunday my mortality had returned.
If I pass away now, how to assess my days.
Is balancing income and expenditure reports enough?
Our marriage and our piece of land. Dependent
on economy. For food delivery and machine repair.
In my youth, I imagined crossing mountains
to the sea, living off the land. Enduring weather patiently.
It's impossible except three days or three weeks,
with a load of supermarket food on your back.
So I accept home gratefully. And a niche in society.
We could explore these hollows and hills on foot
but my wife is weak and I am lazy. We use the library
to travel inner space. We found this place.
Next spring, a garden. Dig depleted soil behind
garage and fertilize it from our compost pile.
Learn the names and ways of cultivars, their relations
to wild plants and the edge. Finally know the fern and sedge.
Lazy one, life is short. You have never fought, to yourself
you remain unknown. You go the way of an unknown
soldier. Unable to assess the purpose of the battle.
Nameless, hungry, same as the neighbor's cow.
Be happy, slap happy. Within your generation, surrounded
by history. Seeking mastery through practice.
Rewarded with the sunrise, sunset. Yet to have delivered
on the promise expected by the parents of the baby.
Robert Ronnow's most recent poetry collections are New & Selected Poems: 1975-2005 (Barnwood Press, 2007) and Communicating the Bird (Broken Publications, 2012). Visit his web site at www.ronnowpoetry.com.
Anna Ross: Self-Portrait with Catastrophe
In the market, I’m searching
for the aisle of substitutions ¾ sour milk
for memory, molasses for temper ¾ and the aisle of more
sky view ¾ near the aisle of escaped eggs,
but not the aisle of lost needles
and the buttons that rolled with them
or the aisle of always the wrong dress.
People are fleeing the aisle of unsent letters
like frogs before an earthquake as I wheel by,
but where is the aisle of measures ¾ how tall
the children will grow by morning, how many miles left
for that rattle in the exhaust, how many years
to feed the tornado in each lung.
And what will I remember I’ve forgotten,
when I leave?
Anna Ross is the author of If a Storm, winner the Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize for Poetry and published in 2013 by Anhinga Press. Her work has appeared in Barrow Street, Memorious, The Paris Review, The American Reader, Southern Poetry Review, and The Brooklyn Quarterly, and she has received fellowships from the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Grub Street. She is a visiting editor in poetry for Salamander Magazine and a poetry editor for Consequence Magazine. She teaches at Emerson College, and lives in Dorchester, MA, with her husband and their two children.
Wesley Rothman: American Enfield
for Medgar Evans
How thirty calibers ricochet
from a rib. You stood sturdy
with the bones to match. How
the recoil of that rifle punched
and how through-and-through
you the projectile learned
anatomy, its soft resilience.
A bone’s retaliation. Box
the round. Send it soaring.
Bruise its lead complexion
out the flesh and through
the window as it busts open
collateral damage—a ceramic
German Shepherd. It took you
and the dog down. But not with-
out some grit, some final steps
for freedom. Who’s to say
you ever bar fought? Shot
pool, knew the perfect angle
for a corner-pocket combo?
You crouch-ran through
occupied France, drove out
the swastika. All with
a standard issue rifle
fired on command
rounds streaking twilight
with fire, lightning through-
and-through shoulders, thighs,
the lines of an enemy. How they
must have rebounded, bounced
around the pinball machines
of ribcages and woodlands,
ballistic bodies changing
with heat and pressure. Inter-
ference: history’s dark ricochet.
Wesley Rothman’s poems and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Asheville Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, PANK, Rattle, and elsewhere. He has worked widely in poetry publishing with Copper Canyon Press, Ploughshares, Narrative, and Salamander, and teaches writing and cultural literatures at Emerson College and Suffolk University. “American Enfield” was named a finalist for Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize by judge Ilya Kaminsky and was published in the journal’s inaugural issue.
Claudia Ruiz-Gustafon: Anima
In the primal lands,
a shapeless shadow
of ancient archetypes
I am the utterance
of my own name,
she dwells inside a castle
in an island of mirrors
I am the whore and the
Through the mountains,
past the blood moon
under the flowing waves
I am the honored one
and the scorned one,
Named and unnamed,
in legends and tales
in music and myths
I am the silence that is
Unknown to us all,
until the rain comes down
This poem quotes portions from a Coptic tractate entitled “Thunder” of unknown author, circa 2nd century AD. This tractate was found in a cave in Egypt in 1945. It is now part of the Nag Hammadi library
Claudia Ruiz-Gustafson is a Massachusetts-based artist and writer. She grew up in the bohemian seacoast town of Barranco in Lima, Perú. Claudia is fascinated by ancient philosophy and mythology. She regards visual art and poetry as magical mediums for exploring her inner world and the spiritual realm.
Claudia studied Communications at Universidad de Lima. Her art has been exhibited in several local museums and galleries, among them the Griffin Museum of Photography, Danforth Art Museum, Sohn Fine Art Gallery, U-Forge Gallery, Fountain Street Gallery, the Providence Center for Photographic Arts, and at the Cambridge Art Association Galleries.
Susan Jo Russell: If Only I Didn't Love You
I knew where to dig
to reach the well of wet sand
where the sand crab, barrel-shaped, sandy pale,
burrowed down fast
while I dug faster, with both hands, the sand falling in
and falling in. It was ancient,
the world from underneath.
Those hard tickling claws,
too alien to hold for long,
scrabbled on my palm—
when I, sad, had to let it go,
it tunneled, full bore,
the sand collapsing
down into its dark kingdom
leaving only wet holes
that popped and broke like spittle
at the edge of the surf.
Susan Jo Russell is a mathematics educator from Somerville, MA. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson's Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared in Bellingham Review, Chautauqua, Peregrine, Passager, Slant, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, The Comstock Review, and elsewhere. She is a winner of the Chautauqua Poetry Prize, and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She is one of the co-directors of the Brookline Poetry Series.