Morsel by Jeff Burt

Forgive me, but as I type this to you in the early hours
I cannot help but desire the cinnamon-sugar sweetness
of the toast to slip from my unwashed fingertips
onto the keys and into them, into their concussive shapes
that mapped electronically now appear before you,
I don’t want just the comfort of sweetness, or the butter
in the bread that has been transferred to the keys
that gives a satiation for having risen out of bed
to a day that will be marked by more violence and injustice
and the crooked making off with the honest person’s dollar,
I want to send the stolen pleasure of it, the giddiness
that comes from having oatmeal and plain toast day after day
and then suddenly this sweetness, this lightness
that no longer accompanies dawn but actually pulls
light over darkness, as you have done for me
so many countless days for so many countless years.
You see only words. But let your fingertips linger.

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County California, home of redwoods, fire, fog, and ocean. He has contributed to Rabid Oak, Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept, and Red Wolf Journal.

Poetry Writing Workshop 6:30pm (EDST) TODAY (11/19)

Drop in from  6:30-7:30PM EDST today for a low-stress Poetry Writing Workshop via Zoom.
 
Come when you can, stay as long as you are able.
 

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the hour and will remain available on screen for the duration.

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 though venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson) or paypal (lisahasejackson@gmail.com) helps greatly.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
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Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
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Living in Opryland by Javy Awan

Living in Opryland—the twang of guitars
lulls through the night, from nigh and afar,
sifting caterwauls of rhymes that plait
poignant, live plaints cataloging
mishaps, heartbreaks, pangs, turmoils,
and setbacks—the spangled world is adverse,
but we plug in and plug on like traveling
showmen, setting up tents from town
to town in Grand Ole Opryland—a downhome
expanse, where ailments vary—each citizen’s
is unique, stunning, terrifying, misericordious,
striking notes all understand and sympathize.
We sync and chime to the moves, the dances,
the choruses, the improvised instruments,
the stanzas of grief and vibrance, our tribal
tribulations—always falling in love stumblebum
with the next gorgeous person impervious
to our pleas or merits till the tell-all song
reaches double platinum—the roving sights by then
are set on a starrier mate—hair more bouffant,
figure more robust, skirts pantingly shorter—
who can pen a lyric and tonsil a tune, pick a banjo,
or bow a fiddle faster than the notes can be writ.
Living in Opryland, we’re pursuing the grand
scheme of harmonies that guide us by heart.


Javy Awan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Ghost City Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review; two of his poems were selected for reading at locations on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in 2019. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

Sheets of Rain Yelling Over the Thunderous Music by Michael H. Brownstein

An anger within a calm
thunder clouds against the sidewall
and when the rain came

a frenzy of hyenas
a lightning strike of jackals
the race of gazelles

we breathed the rain through our skin
gulped it down from our hair
sloshed in it until our feet were swimming

house wrens found shelter behind bricks
jaybirds scattered into thick leaves
rock pigeons danced against wind

you can only eat so much
let your arms fall like deadwood
along the flood gates

Michael H. Brownstein’s latest volumes of poetry, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (2018) and How Do We Create Love? (2019), were recently released (Cholla Needles Press). He has a Sunday poetry column in Moristotle.

Every Day Has Something in It by Nancy K. Jentsch

Every Day Has Something in It 
(Title from “Everything That Was Broken” by Mary Oliver) 
 
not just the first glow of hope in the east 
 golden sky becoming a canvas of stone-washed blue 
not just birds who busy the sky 
 mindful only of the task at hand 
 
not just the sheep, the turtle, the tulip in azure sky 
 sun pausing as noon’s keystone 
not just meadows garlanded with daisy and vetch 
 fitted with thistle and cricket 
 
not just the creek bank seeded with mink and crawdads 
 and hill’s dead ash tree the flicker covets 
not just fresh-laid eggs that warm chilled hands 
 the scent of sweet clover spilling into lungs 
 
not just the sun descending through frescoed clouds 
 toward dusk’s invitation to lightning bugs 
not just platoons of bats heralding night 
 while Venus wakes under indigo sheets 

Nancy K. Jentsch’s poetry appears in EclecticaEcoTheo Review, Soul-Lit and numerous anthologies. In 2020, she received an Arts Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, was published in 2017 and her writer’s page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/NancyJentschPoet/ 

Ode to the Republic by Crystal Foretia

How strange is it?
That I’ve known you all my life,
and yet I’ve never met you—

A world so foreign, yet so close to my own

because I see you,
when my eyes spot
green, red, and yellow stripes dangling 
    off the Toyota’s rearview
black warrior masks across 
    from my grandfather in grayscale.

Because I touch you,
when my fingers graze
the dashikis my brother wore
    before T’Challa made them cool
a crimson gele my mother designed
    to crown herself queen, before the photographer.

Because I taste you,
when my tongue melts under
fufu and eru soup
soft as mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table
plantains and puff puff
childhood fried to golden brown.

Because I hear you,
when my ears catch
AfroBeats played at graduation parties
    now featuring Akon and Beyoncé
Pidgin that Grandma whispers,
    from the corner of Nigeria and Chad.

Between lost plans and sepia-tone stories
I wonder how it would feel

to hug family I never knew,

to cross villages I only dreamt of,

to reach a home away from home

to bridge the gulf between 

“African”       and       “American”

Crystal Foretia is a sophomore studying Political Science and History at Columbia University and daughter of Cameroonian immigrants. Her poetry was first published in Surgam, the literary magazine of Columbia’s Philolexian Society. Ms. Foretia serves as Online Editor for Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and Lead Activist for Columbia University Democrats.

A Corrective for Anxious Times

A Book Review of Carol Alena Aronoff’s “The Gift of Not Finding: Poems for Meditation”
Homestead Lighthouse Press, August 2020
110 pages
$16.95

By Devon Balwit

          Some days ago—162 to be exact—my HMO offered me a free download of Calm, a meditation app. An acerbic, opinionated Jew, I almost trashed the email without a second thought. I had tried meditation many times and decided it wasn’t for me. I told myself I actually preferred my busy monkey mind, preferred letting it ramble like what poet Carol Aronoff calls one of the “mice in the attic / of old news and yellowed paper…” And yet—something made me pause—a global pandemic, perhaps, with its concomitant upheavals of every aspect of life—and I downloaded it and began to use it every morning.

It took me weeks to tolerate the voice on the app, which I initially felt too cloying, too upbeat, too mobile—but gradually, gradually, I started to look beyond its timbre to the words being said, which I came to find strangely calming and helpful. Was I, as Carol Alena Aronoff writes in her collection The Gift of Not Finding: Poems for Meditation, starting to “Imagine life / without complaint / no matter what arises,” moving towards be able to say “…Whatever arises, I will / think, just so. I will not even want to not want…”? Such a shift was shocking to me, for whom to want is, immediately, to act!

Aronoff’s poems aren’t written in my usual go-to voice. I tend to gravitate towards poets who are urbane, wry, and dark, and towards works which reference other works. But, as with the meditation app, when I slowed down and read the poems with attention, I found them tidy koans that rewarded contemplation. Why not admit that it is helpful to reflect that “Sky has no past. / It doesn’t recall the clouds / from yesterday…”? Why not consider “…The thin shell / between us … where we hide what’s / most precious. Where we break.” Why not rest a moment “Beyond judgments / of good and bad, / right and wrong. / Free of all concepts…” These are useful practices, especially in an election year, in a pandemic year, in a year of forest fires and bleaching ocean coral. Aronoff’s poems remind us that there is value in slowing down, in breathing, in allowing.

Locked down at home, I, who have loathed the repetition of weeding and tending, have suddenly become a chicken farmer and urban gardener. Always appreciative of the outdoors, now that it is my sole arena, I find that I am looking at it with much greater attentiveness. Confronted by the scent and blush of dahlias and heirloom tomatoes, estranchia and clerodendron, like Aronoff, I am prepared to say: “Nature once again / has brought me / to my knees…” and to ask: “Where will my thoughts go when I give them the garden?” Aranoff’s poems reference the landscape in the American Southwest and in Hawaii—cottonwoods mingle with Kukui leaves and moonflower, geckos with peacocks. Referencing her daily practice, she teaches us, in the words of Emerson to “Adopt the pace of nature, [whose] secret is patience.”

For a long while, although certain of the upsurge of joy I was feeling during this pandemic, I downplayed my happiness and contentment when speaking to others, not wanting to minimize the very real suffering of those less fortunate. In a similar way, I initially hesitated to allow these gentle poems to work on and for me. But what do I gain by such resistance? Why not yield and repeat with the poet:

Without the need to label
anything
mind’s endless conversation
is a flower …
No need for misgivings
or even for dream.
Everything is
just as it is.


When not teaching, Devon Balwit sets her hand to the plough and chases chickens in the Pacific Northwest. For more regarding her individual poems, collections and reviews, please visit her website at: https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet

Escape by John Short

Pigeons in the chimney:
dark symphony of trapped souls
or distant death lament

as weather mutters all around
then through its gaps
a spectral chorus on the wind
forces me to move things never moved

the brass-scream across old slate
frees an avalanche of bones,
dust, feathers and a chaos of wings
exploding into daylight –

they circle the room, collide with walls
then settle on the highest shelf.

I ponder the world’s misfortunes,
how we suffer mostly
but how sometimes we escape.

John Short lives in Liverpool and studied Creative Writing at Liverpool university. A previous contributor to Zingara Poetry Review, he’s appeared recently in Kissing Dynamite, One Hand Clapping and The Lake. His pamphlet Unknown Territory (Black Light Engine Room) was published in June. He blogs occasionally at Tsarkoverse.

Purple Vest by Peter Mladinic

I had a job interview with a man with a purple vest
in a city of lakes
a city where in winter
the temperature drops to twenty below
a man who could afford a down jacket
a garage
a man with a moustache
and whose surname of three syllables
is similar to mine
he wore a purple vest
and a tie that at the time
impressed me
I described it in a sentence
in a notebook I lost
while moving from one part of the country
to another, a smaller city
on whose outskirts kudzu
had engulfed tall trees
I left my down jacket
in the city
where I’d sat across from Mr. M
in his purple vest
who asked about my employment record
giving me papers with blank spaces
and a pen to fill those spaces
with details about what I’d done
and might do

Peter Mladinic has published three books of poetry: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

 

Study of an Orange by Diana Rosen

The basket of fresh-picked oranges
a nest of hardened pockmarked yolks
buffed to an acceptable smoothness
sits docile, waiting, fragrant with
that sweet acid burst that draws you
to pull off one stubborn leaf-dotted stem.
Its spicy spray tickles your nose, rains.
on your beard, smarts your eyes, still
you keep tearing away the thick skin,
scraping off the soft bitter pith
to expose each plump section
ready for your lips
small expectant lips
hidden under a snowy mustache
wonderful lips
that open slightly,
give me citrus kisses
my happy tongue
licks into a smile.

Diana Rosen has published poetry in RATTLE, Existere Journal of Arts & Literature, Poetry Super Highway, As It Ought to be Magazine, among others. Redbird Chapbooks will publish her forthcoming hybrid of poetry and flash, Love & Irony. To read more of her fiction and nonfiction, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen

Autumn Elegy by Ginger Dehlinger

Sól rises late
on fields scorched sallow,
weeds furred in frost.

October’s metamorphosis
ignites a red-orange wildfire
in the treetops.
It spreads to the undergrowth,
curls the tongues of ferns,
emblazons the carpet.

The season’s gathering rust
sends wild things for cover.
Maples bleed
before winter’s breath
stiffens their bones.

All too soon the leaf piles vanish
in wisps of smoke
from gasping funeral pyres.
A cold shudder of wind
stirs dust in the creek bed
and the sun sets too soon.

Ginger Dehlinger writes in multiple genres. Although better known for her novels Brute Heart and Never Done, her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the 2019 Zingara Poetry Review Mother’s Day issue. You can find her in Bend, Oregon or at www.gdehlinger.blogspot.com

Painting Itself Red by Kim Baker

The job of the poet is to render the world – to see it and report it without loss, without perversion. No poet ever talks about feelings. Only sentimental people do. 

~Mark Van Doren 

Everything here is red,
adorning scores of farmhouses, barns, and doors.
The Wandering Moose Café and train station.
The post office and Stage Coach Tavern.

I wonder about a town that paints itself red.
Insinuates a crimson theology in an indomitable land
of evergreen groves, gray stone walls, and
the righteous white of every Congregational Church.
Perhaps the inhabitants strayed away 
from shades of specters and blending in 
when Dr. Dean built Red Mill in 1750.
Maybe they needed cerise to rival the Gold family
or hollyhock to stand out up on Cream Hill.
In some towns, maybe red is a fetish,
the iconic covered bridge representing everything.

I compose on one of the many red benches
spread here along the Housatonic River,
perfect places for poets and other lovers,
searching for an unsentimental shade.
The cardinal gone from the maple tree.
The wheelbarrow waiting for spring.
The brick of my heart.

When she isn’t writing poetry about big hair and Elvis, Kim Baker works to end hunger and violence against women. A poet, playwright, photographer, and NPR essayist, Kim publishes and edits Word Soup, an online poetry journal (currently on hiatus) that donates 100% of submission fees to food banks. Kim’s chapbook of poetry, Under the Influence:  Musings about Poems and Paintings, is available from Finishing Line Press.      

Eyes Fastened with Poems by Lois Marie Harrod

Made thing, mad thing
mud and muddied thing—
how hard the poem works

shaping its ship of clay,
what is there to discover?
Sails aghast

but still trying
to suck life
into the little vessel,

shale becomes slate.
Well, take up your chalk
and walk.

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman was published by Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton. Links to her online work www.loismarieharrod.org

 

In Step with Desire by Margaret Randall

I always asked questions of the poem,
sometimes even glimpsed an answer
flying off to nurse its broken wing.

Certainty lived between folds of skin:
bright light, or shadow deep
as a black hole in a distant universe.

I measured distance in layers of color
applied with a heavy brush,
held escape in a tight fist.

But in this, my ninth decade, I choke
on those questions: warm milk
promising what it cannot deliver.

Place is change, cold monuments
stand where love once promised
to conquer all.

Entitlement begs to borrow a harness
made of melting ice
tethered to this broken dawn.

My map dissolves beneath storm clouds
as I run between canyon walls
pressing against my wanting.

Each image struggles to find its way
across a quartered landscape
of memory unbound.

Today’s questions boomerang,
mock my practiced attempts
to pin them to conviction.

Uncertainty moves through my arteries
calling my name in the minor key
of ancestral catch and release.

But not that uncertainty. Not that one.
Some truths never die:
in step, as they are, with desire.

Margaret Randall is a poet, essayist, translator and performer living in New Mexico. Her most recent poetry collection is Starfish on a Beach: Pandemic Poems, and her memoir, I Never Left Home: Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary was released by Duke University Press in March 2020. “In Step with Desire” will be featured in Randall’s forthcoming collection, Out of Violence Into Poetry, to be published by Wings Press in 2021.

 

Just a Snap by Kitty Jospé

unmarked country road near Piffard (Avon) NY on Summer Day

of rising blue hills beyond the fingered bones
of a dead tree
               and off to the right an old red truck perched
by a fence in the tall grasses, with its hood up, as a dirt road
climbs by to pass it.

It’s just a framed moment of a chance look—
a possible diagonal conversation between an abandoned truck
and shattered tree branches to the bottom left

               or perhaps that splintered rubble
of branches would prefer reassuring the shadow of a small unseen tree
it won’t meet the fate that felled its parent trunk.

In just a chance snap,
               opportunities to imagine what could have been,

the mind wondering if it’s fair to ascribe abandoned
to that truck, and how many heartbeats are left,
if any, to the one who drove it there.

A snap of a moment, a shot
caught in time, waiting for some
stranger kicking down the road.

 

 

Kitty Jospé: MA French Literature, New York University; MFA Poetry, Pacific University, OR. She embraces the joy of working with language and helping others to become good readers of poems, people and life.Her work is in 5 books, published since 2009 and numerous journals and anthologies.