Category Archives: Zingara Poetry Picks

Seas of Change by Marc Janssen

For you beginnings are never endings 
Every sunrise only rises, rises 
Into the arms of a mild waiting moon 
Tears are history, regret a rare realm. 
No, this ship, my beautiful bark only 
Arrives, it arrives, and arrives, it is 
Never swallowed by darkened horizons. 
But it is disappearing now and I 
Can’t bear it, waiving glad tears on the dock 
Is the most painful thing I’ve ever done.  


Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and The Ottawa Arts Journal. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and is a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. 

Dusk, South Baltimore by Deborah Phelps 

Driving home from the old city row house
To the new suburban home,
I always twisted about, seeking out
My old friend, the orange Domino Sugars sign,
Glowing, a jewel, set in the wires of shipyards.

Admiring too, the rose-pink-gold
Chemically-tinted clouds striating over
The Hanover Street Bridge, as my father
Skirts the parameters of black Cherry Hill
Apartments and Brooklyn Park decay.

Such poverty so grandly lit!
Rose-pink-gold stratus and sundown.

As if Keats himself painted an ode
On the storefronts selling wigs and steamed
Crabs, a sonnet for the stinking
Old-style bars, the front doors ajar.
A rift of ore loaded into the abandoned
Warehouses, their brick-fronts so colorfully
Spray painted with the names
Of those already dead.

Deborah Phelps is a professor of Victorian literature and Women’s Studies at Sam Houston University. Originally, from Baltimore, she lives and works in Huntsville, Texas, home of the biggest penal colony and fastest death row in the nation. But that is a subject in other poems. She has published a chapbook, Deep East (selected by Stephen Dunn) and in many journals, including Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Review, and Verse.

Emily Dickinson May Be Weary by Rikki Santer

of surviving as a ventriloquist Sphinx
for novelists, filmmakers, memelords
—& poets like me.  Spectrographic
erasures bloom with threadbare
secrets—Snapchat daguerreotypes
in 3D flurries of foxglove crowns—
posters & t-shirts dwell in too much
possibility, while her jasmine tea blend
boasts to rival sunset in a cup.
How fresh can brandy black cake
taste in the rewind of how-to-videos
or namesake ice cream flavors prevail
in the melting? Like her herbarium,
collected & pressed dry—Emily’s
riddles may tire—rickety dialogue
slanting between spirit & dust.


Rikki Santer’s work has appeared in various publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Hotel Amerika, The American Journal of Poetry, Slab, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Grimm, Slipstream, Midwest Review and The Main Street Rag. Her seventh poetry collection, In Pearl Broth, was published this past spring by Stubborn Mule Press.

Grief by KB Ballentine

The doe stares until I turn away –
when I look back, she is gone.
No sound to tell me where,
no movement of the leaves.
Only the wind – breathing.

You left like that.
No gasping, no torturous sobs,
just a closing of your eyes,
and I was alone again.

Now I wander the woods,
hike trails where families laugh.
Where couples with dogs
smile and whistle,
where music pulses with runners,
invade the stillness of this place,
where once we towed
our own kids and dogs.

The dream, the reverie
that comes from silence, I need.
When summer sun sears
through canopies of green,
when heat hazes the path –
a shimmer – where I can see
a hind leg, a hoof – you–
appear in the shadows.

KB Ballentine’s sixth collection, The Light Tears Loose, appeared last summer with Blue Light Press. Published in Crab Orchard Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others. Her work also appears in anthologies including In Plein Air (2017) and Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace (2017). Learn more at www.kbballentine.com.

First Death by Denise Low

after “The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin” by Fra Angelico

Behind us lie halls of crucifixes. Bloody Jesuses
contort. Faceless gilt saints
adore Him.

No one  has told me about death or sex. I’m too young
but the museum displays the gamut.
Thank you

Fra Angelica for the prone Virgin Mary,
hands folded in prayer, no wounds,
beautifully

haloed as disciples bathe her corpse. Above float
winged handmaidens kneeling under
golden glow.

They dance from dormition into ballet swoons.
On a stage of molten light they circle
double Marys.

How I wish to enter stage among pastel flowers
jeté past shadowy Harpies.
How I wish

musicians behind the Virgin plucked lute notes.
This wonderland of jewels shines brilliant
but deadly silent.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won a Red Mountain Press Award for Shadow Light. Other books include Jackalope and a memoir, The Turtle’s Beating Heart (Univ. of Nebraska). At Haskell Indian Nations Univ. she founded the creative writing program. She teaches for Baker Univ. and lives on Tsuno Mountain. www.deniselow.net

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.

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.

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.