“Two Women in a Yurt, After the Quake” by James P. Roberts

For Dr. Jatinda Cheema

It is eerie, the silence that follows once the ground has finally settled.
Displaced rocks roll to a stop and the trees slowly subside their almost musical sway.
Startled birds nervously resume their plaintive song.  It is over now.  We are still here.

Outside the yurt standing alone on the level plain, Mongush
Has calmed the skittish horse while young Sadip looks on in aloof disdain,
Arms folded across his thin chest.  Both are wearing winter garb: Bearskin
Malgai with ear flaps, a thick nekhii parka, trousers, knee-high boots.

Beyond, in the distance, snow-covered mountains sprawl beneath a blue sky
Scattered with puffs of fleecy white clouds which merge with plumes of snow
Blown off the highest peaks.  The baby girl, Samyan, cries loudly in her wooden crib.

The yurt is undamaged.  A teardrop-shaped four-string tovshuur hanging
On a wall peg remains intact.  The inner rim of the yurt roof is decorated
With bright orange and blue designs, a parade of mandalas circumscribing good fortune.
A prayer wheel spins around and intricately patterned rugs carpet the floor.

Two women stand ground in the middle of the yurt.  The younger woman, Namesh, hides
In the background while her mother, Suunyu, gazes steadily forward, her seamed face hard
As granite. It is evident there has been a quarrel, still not ended, only delayed
By the earthquake.  It will resume once the men have departed.

This is a land of earthquakes: voices of gods.  An old land where mountains loom
To dizzying heights, then fall steeply to be swallowed in trackless deserts.  Stories
Told at night in the smoke of burning yak butter candles.  One looks up and feels
The immensity of stars, blazing like the pitiless eyes of angry deities.

The women are cautious, rife with knowledge handed down through generations
Of the fragile relationship of things.  Centuries of secrets form in their eyes and worn faces.
Beneath the traditional dresses they wear are hard bodies sculpted by wind, sun, and toil.
Strong, ridged hands create tools, cook day and night, hold crying babies.

These women even an earthquake cannot destroy, they simply endure.

James P. Roberts has had four previous collections of poetry published. Recent work can be found in Mirror Dance, Gathering Storm and Bamboo Hut.  He lives in Madison, Wisconsin where he hosts a radio poetry show, ‘A Space For Poetry’, and has a passion for women’s flat-track roller derby.

“Woodworking Lesson” by Mike Zimmerman

Again, I’m with my father in the wood shed:
My aching wrists hold a rusted bucket of nails
For him while he cuts two by fours. Soon I’ve shied
Away, against a wall, as he saws, sands, and kneels
For leverage. I’m not a very boyish boy. I’d rather
Be in my room, I think, reading a classic, some Homer
Perhaps, or sweeping up the kitchen, or helping lather
Laundry with mom. But he’s picked up the hammer.

“Hold some nails out for me,” he says, once he’s lined
The first one up and tapped it. Then, forcefully, precise,
He brings the hammer up and down until few are flush
With the wood. “Now it’s your turn.” I feel my soft flesh
against my thumb. “What if I hit my finger?” His advice
is action instead: he places the hammer in my small hand.

Mike Zimmerman is a writer of short stories and poetry, as well as a middle school Writing teacher in East Brooklyn. His previous work has been published in Cutbank, A & U Magazine, and The Painted Bride. He is the 2015 recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press and a finalist for the Hewitt Award in 2016. He finds inspiration and ideas from the people and places he loves. Mike lives in New York City with his husband and their cat.

“Stray Cat” by Jenny McBride

Victoria park
where I was running
the ducks at water’s edge suddenly running too
and in the empty space of their wake
a tattered cat.
I called him on his hunting
and he meowed, ran after me
hungry, lonely, being eaten alive by the city
but I ran to lose him
not because I don’t love cats
or didn’t want to rescue his painful life
but because I was far from home in a conference hotel.
Was it the same
with the men I approached
when I was young and lonely?
I always took it personally
but maybe they were just figures rendered useless
in the scheme of things
on the day my heart was warming
and years later
they paused to scratch out an excuse.

Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in Common Ground Review, Rappahannock Review, The California Quarterly, Conclave, Tidal Echoes, Streetwise, and other publications. She makes her home in the rainforest of southeast Alaska.

“spring is a time of death” by J.C. Mari

spring is a time of death
that envisions
comfortable pajamas
and a very dark room
in glacier-level ac.
spring is a time of
death that still lingers
stretching, yawning
not quite knowing
what to do with itself
like a Mahler symphony
still half-way through.
spring is a time of
rivers thawed
mountain passes breached
and death beating drums
the painful erections of goats.
is a time of death crashing midnight highways
and haunting the noontime drowned
is a time for death
but not memories, please, hush,

don’t, don’t ,don’t…

spring is a time to burn inside the wicker work
smoke rising
like a giant conspiracy of ravens flying up.
J.C. resides in Florida. He engages in a variety of philistine occupations. He has authored the recently published poetry collection ” the sun sets like faces fade right before you pass out.”

“The Unloved Universe, There and Not” by Lois Marie Harrod

The deaf make so much noise,
the blind keep appearing,
those who can’t smell
reek while the tasteless
devour the rotten peach.
Those who can’t touch
skim their fingers
along the razor,
or rubbing up against us
in the street, refuse
rebuke. We hurt others,
the non-sensed sensing.
And yet what we can’t touch
sometimes touches us.                            
What we can’t under-
stand often crushes.
Lois Marie Harrod’s 16th and most recent collection Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks. And She Took the Heart  (Casa de Cinco Hermanas) 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. The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), and Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching was published by Black Buzzard Press, 2011. Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook (Iowa State). Dodge poet and 3-time recipient of a New Jersey Council on the Arts fellowship, she is widely published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3 Links to her online work at www.loismarieharrod.org

“Where Water Runs” by Beth Politsch

In the place
where water runs,
magic shivers and hums
and shakes the trees
with its incantations.

The stream is a cauldron
of leaves, moss and bark.
It blooms with dark clouds
of mud when rust-
colored stones are lifted
away from the creek bed
by the toe of your boot.

But it is your bare feet
the water longs to touch.
It asks
for your fingers
to try to interfere
with its persistent flow.

If you stay long enough,
this place becomes a voice
in your head.
It whispers
words you’ve heard
in dreams. It tells birds
to swoop down
the brooky path beside you,
because you are
and always have been
the same.

And maybe
if you’re very lucky,
a toad will pause and look
you in the eye from a bumpy rock.
Maybe a crane will sweep down
into your shade
and almost anoint you
with her wings.

It will wait until you’re ready,
this oracle,
chanting spells softly,
listening for your breath,
offering vines and roots
for a staircase,
as you climb down
from the usual path.

Beth Politsch is a storyteller, poet and copywriter based in Lawrence, Kansas. She currently creates content for Hyland Software and writes children’s books and poetry in her free time. 


“Stillness” by Martin Willits

How do we still the stillness,
making it less than a soft whisper of sleep?
One more day no one can take problems anymore,
and look at how badly it turned out
as the sun sighed, going out
behind the black-purple night sky background.

How can we make it any more quiet
than when the sun is a red flood
disappearing under the weight of the setting
and the pushing down of night?

The large orange harvest moon
sits on the horizon
like it was a hard wooden park bench.
It is so close we can see the pockmarks
from eons of smashing asteroids,
and we do not know what to say —

how do we get more silence, less
talking, less accidental noises
than that? Less than an oar
not moving in water, not dripping
when lifted, not tipping into the row boat
as it is tied onto a pier, and not
the soundlessness of the wooden dock —
how do we get less noise than that?

Even the moth flaming after touching fire
makes a subtle noise. Or the cat, padding
on a thick rug, clawing and sharpening its nails,
arching before circling into sleep,
makes a curious noise, one that troubles
the quiet. No matter how softly we proceed,
noise follows us, makes sure we know it’s there.

Martin Willitts Jr has 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2017) plus 11 full-length collections including forthcoming full-lengths includes “The Uncertain Lover” (Dos Madres Press, 2018), and “Home Coming Celebration” (FutureCycle Press, 2018).