Two Poems by Judith Skillman

Field of Statice
In July the bright ones come
from the ground.
Stars on rented stalks
cover strings of silver
strewn by elven-folk
who live for but a day.

Tell me any color—
sea lavender,
limonium, marsh-rosemary—
I tell you l believe
in any memory
come from water.

A sky full of foam,
a fire burning
down the hatchery,
that’s the madness of July.
Give me the herb,
the everlasting calyx.

Dry me a bouquet
and quiet the wind.
Let night put out
even the boldest blues,
the most outrageous purples
and dissolute creams.

 

The Jacarandas
I left them
on boulevards,
veiled figures wresting
purples from the earth,
the breeze stirring
a kind of trouble.

I left them
as I left my youth—
a memory vivid only
in dream. I left
with my fingers
crossed behind
my back, the countryside
dry and golden
or simply brown,
ready to catch fire
with the first strike
of lightning, the cigarette
thrown from an open window.

I left my inks
there as well,
and the pens. If you don’t
believe me there are stories
of other women
equally bereft.

About the Poet

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017. Came Home to Winter is forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions later this year. Her poems have appeared in journals including PoetryFIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, and in anthologies including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.comjkpaintings.comhttps://www.facebook.com/judith.skillman

 

Two Poems by Eric Fisher Stone

Laika the Space Dog

Alone, she entered an abyss
bejeweled with blue giant suns,
white dwarfs, black holes, quasars
and nebulae like clouds of gnats
in the deep, the clockwork spin
of galactic arms across all dreams
as Laika, the Soviet space dog
was launched into heaven
for the Motherland and reached
the tonnage of night without food
or water and died, memories stirring
of chasing fireflies through sweet grass,
her hot breath lost beyond worlds,
Earth’s scent wisped to her brain
until her last thoughts began:

Look, there’s a darkness
and the blue globe is dimming.
I wish I could take the Earth in my mouth
and run with it across the stars
where my grave is laid in a bed of stars.

Here without hares or foxes
life is bigger and blacker
than I thought it could be, my paws
like wings floating in this gray car
where I’ll die lonelier than snakes
and drown in night’s deep river,
crossing the boundaries of touch
without stone or soil to walk on.

People sent me to the forever
where no flowers open smells,
only glittering specks blossom
and sleeping I dream of dogs
running over glaciers, chewing antelope,
chasing shaggy brown beasts, their tusks
like sharpened moons—I carry
my kind’s history to the end of ends.

Howling towards shadows’ outer layers
my ghost is fleeing to the world.

Dying I will come back, Yes, I’ll taste
tender air and amber sunlight
back from immensity. I’ll climb
the rainbow’s stairs earthward
back to green shoots and streets
cobbled with hardness, back from the timeless
seabed of space to the churning ground. Back.

 

Poem for Bobby Fischer: 1943-2008

Nothing soothes pain like human touch—Fischer’s reported last words

The universe scrolled on, stars like spurs
in heaven and northbound geese swept
over Reykjavik where he played
C4 for the first move of game six
and where he died bearded and schizoid
as King Lear, an anti-Semite loved
by his Jewish mother. At fourteen
he was the American chess champion,
a high school dropout, and afraid
the government read his thoughts
through tooth fillings. Yet

he stood like a kraken risen
above white whales drumming in the deep,
a god rounding islands with his will
while galaxies burn and wheel
their dreaming work on his grave raging
Icelandic poppies from the earth,
the sun’s wellspring soaking glaciers,
his rooks, knights, kings and bishops dance

in memory, before we, like all
who lived, wither heroically
vulnerable in our last nights
while our tears rust into frost
and the ocean rolls over its deep bed of stones.

About the Poet

Eric Fisher Stone lives in Fort Worth, Texas where heI graduated from Texas Christian University and work at a PetSmart. He is an incoming graduate student at Iowa State University’s MFA in Writing and Environment. His poetry has appeared most recently in Borderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewZetetic: A Record of Unusual InquiryEunoia ReviewNew Mexico ReviewUppagusYellow Chair ReviewTurtle Island Quarterly and Third Wednesday.

Two Poems by Richard King Perkins II

Our Dear Creatures

The morning before the first faith, light is moving pharmacologically;
you choose not to consider the furniture;
the earth gives fever to our enclosure/forgets to breathe— uneasily
the chest that expels the sparkless ruin abandons itself to visible:
we’ve found the aftertaste of condemnation pinioned
around the dripping framework of delicate and venial knives;
of our thoughts replaying a Nehru blazer in velvet paisley blue,
fitted— neck loosely collared like guilty fondness in the backyard—
you discover chicken-wire, the first thoughts of incarceration,
footprints of giants permanently cast. We grope for veins of pleasure,
blindly exchanged like last night’s eventual riches,
protected by small nests slithering across botanical sand rifts
hoping to make sex and crazy babies together but it seems we both doubt
the motility of such sounds/waiting to be plucked like strange florets;
our dear creatures retreat/to later skulk back; don’t mention the position
of earth— foreign lands may sometimes obscure your guerilla vision
removing surest eyes/ I’m a smiling hostage to my own checkered plan,
an event dismissed by the greater requirements of background love;
outside the oppression of lubricant the world runs more loudly,
unwilling to do anything more than arouse without coming any closer:
in a stillness; we struggle to subconsciously/reveal translucent fruit
and optical crown, wearing the ribald face of shredded decency,
the curl and forward bend of your intimate body harshly maintained
by rejecting the wanderings of rogue surface waves running deeply.

 

Velvet Wolves

Inside you are two loves—

composed of velvet wolves
and predictable visibility
sinking beyond all inclination.

In the bleak museum
hundreds of feet within you

we spend hours leaning
beneath the rockabilly shirts
and mistaken claims

the pictures you refuse to return.

This sounds like a harpsichord—
whatever it is that’s going on between us

silk and gabardine fit perfectly
the duality
of our confused history

until a polar swarm
cuts across our branch-swept path.

Love is jealous of every other creature

real or imagined,
that dares to share its name.

About the Poet
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

Two Poems by Kristina Mottla

Tending by Succulents

Aloe, sedum, fox tail agave,
painted echeveria
and their baby-plump cheeks,
their water-storing tissues,
a hillside tutorial on thriving
sunbeam-leashed or less.
Hardihood, longevity, reaction, analysis,
I see them coat the fat like rind,
the veins a secret trailing
my lifeline and pinned thorn-point
inward. Drying out to the brink,
pushing blooms through
near loss, I will only think the name.

On a hike I never venture—
rattlers under rock—
spiny glimmer, green satin, pearly
tips, sleek skin, warm center, swollen
flesh strike love pierce my chest
like primal life and make of me
a desert.

 

The Overlook

Rail-side, people bend
like angle rulers to ogle
the lower-stream fish rush
and its fleet of fins
and its snippets of shimmer
baiting the river to rise
halfway and offer more,

or they scan the landscape
as if it were Atlantis
dug up and displayed
so that some eyes fill and others
fall somber. One fan twitpics it
“not a fiction, but true”
#IHeartNature.

Skyward, flocks of chatter
dive through blue
as a larger bird swallows
its distant kin,

wings, beaks, feet pushing

off canyon like fog

on a panorama settling up.

 

About the Poet

Kristina Mottla’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow StreetBarnstormHartskill ReviewPotomac Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook On Either Side of Rain (FLP) released in 2017.

Uncut footage by Mark J. Mitchell

                                    Uncut Footage
                                      1.
                        He Lets Her In
 
            She said her name was Tracy Evidence
            but I would not believe that. I am called
            Case, Justin Case. Both of us were burdened
            with criminal misnomers. Blond as snow
            her spell dimmed the room. “Now,” she said, “convince
            me you are blood and bone. Stretch out your tall
            shape. Brush my face with your eyes.” So I turned
            my back. Kept silent. Watched a taxi’s slow
            progress through traffic. “No one’s coming, miss,
            if that’s why you’re waiting. Your cool face stalls
            time but clocks keep ticking. Something I learned
            before you were pulled out of air. You know
            my name. I’ve heard yours. Why not just commence
            your tale. Pauses bore me and I might fall
            asleep. Kiss me back to life then and return
            your gun. I smell oil. You don’t need to show
            it off. I’ll do the polite, hear your hints
            and you can trust my form. I’m no Ken doll®
            to play with. I’ll tell you if the words burn
            blue and true. Close those dark eyes. Talk. Now. Go.”
  
                                                      2.
                                    She Spells It Out
 
Her hands draw crisp minarets in the air:
 
                        I pass a fish across the sun.
                        I wait for two days, then wait one.
                        I turn my eyes from what might come
                        And I remember all you’ve done.
 
                        Now watch me scrape scales off the moon
                        Then listen closely. Hear its tune.
                        The light fades out while white sands bloom
                        And your harvest comes with dark at noon.
 
Now look: her fingers fold to sketch a square:
 
                        You’ll chase a trail of white lip gloss
                        Over unsettled, suspect sheets.
                        You will not touch the scar you’ve lost
                        Blazing a trail with white lip gloss
                        That drops from her purse. Your careless toss
                        Leads from mirrored walls to empty streets.
                        You’ll chase your tale. The bright lip gloss
                        Is settled. You’ll suspect her sheets.
 
Palm shadows shape a tree, its branches bare:
 
                        They lean and stretch their lost (slipped?) kisses. Now look—
                        Their skin takes fright and they miss
                        With eye and tongue. What’s at risk
 
                        Is this morning, as a blue evening
                        Closes, broken. Without cues
                        Songs begin for just those two,
 
                        Beyond our ears. They hide their bright silence
                        In half notes fenced by a white
                        Sheet. Over that wall, their night.
                                                        
                                            3.
                                    Elsewhere
 
                        Apostle spoons settle in red velvet.
                        Their case is open. Dust never sleeps. Clocks
                        click, stuck on a minute. A featherweight
                        page sighs, falls back into the leather book.
                        No one is in the is room, so that sunbeam
                        may not exist. A perhaps cat once preened
                        here. Stray hairs give her away. Old smoke—
                        Yesterday’s ghost—hovers. The curtain inflates
                        then drops soft against smudged glass. All the locks
                        are open. This emptiness is at rest.
           
                                                            4.
                                         Around A Corner
 
                                    Two eyes, blank as steel, shift loosely
                                    as lazy toys from a school carnival.
                                    They see nothing. They reflect less. But once,
                                    maybe an hour ago, they were alive
                                    as water, looking through a mirror to see—
                                    What? Here’s a mute witness. Your arrival
                                    is empty. Move along. There’s not a chance
                                    of recall. Some one came. They peeked, then died.
 

About the Poet
Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies: Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. He has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) as well as two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). He has written several novels: Knight Prisoner (Vagabondage Press), The Magic War (Loose Leaves Publishing), and A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing, forthcoming). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster where he makes a living showing people pretty things in his city.

On Exoskeletons and Mammals by Max Orr

On Exoskeletons and Mammals

Every morning before sun washes the porch in pinks and yellows, I let the cat in. Most days he comes from the bushes, bounces off his paws up the steps, a low greeting rolling from the base of his throat like tires on gravel. But this morning he stopped to mew proudly over the lobster shell rotting on the welcome mat. It glowed red in the pre-dawn dark, buzzing with black flies.

I stared at this offering, so far from sea. This skeleton, ripped from the raw back of another, dragged through trash, and deposited at my doorstep. I thought of my own armor, of its softness in some places, of its hardness in others. I thought of the mornings when I push and pull an Emory board across the callouses coating palms and fingers, sanding away epidermis until what remains is just thick enough to keep the blood inside. It doesn’t take a fisherman or a grateful pet to drag me from the sea and lay me bare—only opposable thumbs and good intent.

 

About the Poet
Max Orr is an English teacher living with his cat and his climbing partner in Columbus, Ohio.

Two Poems by Deborah Davitt

They never left

When I dream,
my house spawns new rooms,
piled with belongings not my own.

Second kitchens and secret doors,
bedrooms crammed with unfamiliar furniture,
photographs of strange faces,
all fill me with dread.

But it’s the aquariums,
stocked with healthy fish,
(I’ve never fed them; how do they live?)
that make me wake screaming.

For I know that someone else is here,
and always has been.

And I wander the house waking,
looking for the doors
that aren’t there.

 

Past is Present

A game trail barely visible wends through
the dark woods;
Footsteps erode it over time into
a broader path.

The dirt track became the path to Grandma’s
house in the forest;
deemed too dangerous for younglings, parents
cut down trees, let light in.

This broader path beckoned commerce, settlers;
farmers cleared land and sowed it.
Wagon ruts invited accidents, so
cobbles smoothed the way to market.

The market became a town, the town changed
to a city, and the cobbles were paved;
but the road remembered deer tracks, paw prints,
and refused to move in a straight line.

Sitting there in their cars, the drivers sighed,
inhaling exhaust and cursing curves;
but some thought they could smell green leaves,
or the scent of fresh-cut hay.

And stuck in traffic, dreamed
the road’s memories,
of farms and dark woods.

 

About the Poet
Deborah Davitt grew up in Nevada, but earned her MA in English at Penn State, where she taught college composition. She currently lives in Houston, with her husband and son. Her poetry has garnered her Rhysling and Pushcart nominations, and has been published over twenty venues. Her short story work has appeared in IGMSCompelling Science Fiction, and other venues. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com/bibliography.

Two Poems by Marsha Foss

Feathers

Recall that morning
when there were so many feathers
blowing against the window
we weren’t sure for a minute
where we were or what the season was.
At first it seemed like snow,
but no, not in July.

Feathers, we mused. Maybe a firecracker
misfired and scattered a mourning
dove’s nest (dreadful thought).
Feathers, we laughed. Maybe they’d all come loose
from a goose-down pillow hung out to air,
carried away in a gust.

Recall over breakfast of coffee and eggs
it occurred to us that a fox
might have been in the hen house
but then we remembered we no longer
had any chickens in the coop
nor, sadly, children on the swings.
Recall how old we felt.

Recall toward evening we learned the swan
in the pond down the hill was dead.
Whoever aimed had probably not heard
the silver song amid her plummeting wings.
How sadder still than old were
fragile feathers blown against the window.
Why.

 

Dreams
(A villanelle)

One by one the blue cups broke.
She watched them shatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Her reveries evoke
a lively time of children’s patter.
One by one the blue cups broke.

Outside she listened to spring frogs croak
and raindrops splatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Sometimes when she slept she woke
to hear the loud accusing chatter.
One by one the blue cups broke.

When air was thick enough to choke,
she thought she saw the ashes scatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Cold, she donned a heavier cloak
and told herself it didn’t matter.
One by one the blue cups broke
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

 

About the Poet
Marsha Foss returned to her home state of Minnesota after 37 years in Maryland.  She has degrees from the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University.  She lives in Saint Paul and enjoys being connected to the area’s amazingly vibrant writing community.  She has had pieces accepted by Glass: Facets of Poetry and Down in the Dirt.

 

Two Poems by Claudia M. Stanek

Ars Poetica

A kettle boils for lemon tea, its scent
remembered like the chalk
dust of grammar lessons
on a thundery afternoon.
Words steep into endless
weeks of punctuation and run-on
sentences left to boil themselves dry.
But tea is less beverage
than act of literate poise
better kept to the ceremonial.
Lemon dresses it. With a twist,
all is solved in the tongue of ritual.
Do not ask whose tongue.
Do not ask whose ritual.
Do not dilute lemon tea with milk.
Add sweetener, if you like.
It remains lemon tea.

 

Transparent Language

When you raise your eyes
To the punctuated sky, you see
Letters of all scripts, scattered
In mock collage.

When you shield your eyes
From the glory of the sun, you see
The random spatter of the words
That matter most on your palm.

When your eyes no longer see
Anything but a mist of light,
The magnifier that should illumine
Sentences will brand your hand.

When you wish you had never
Known sight, you will listen
For transparent clauses
But hear the lonely Braille of “I.”

 

About the Poet
Claudia M. Stanek’s chapbook, Language You Refuse to Learn, was a co-winner of Bright Hill Press’s 2013 annual contest. Her work has appeared in Bitterzoet, Ithaca Lit, Sweet Tree Review, Redactions, and Ruminate, among others. In 2010 Claudia was awarded a Writer’s Residency in Bialystok, Poland, where her work has been translated into Polish. Her poem “Housewife” was selected for a commissioned libretto by Judith Lang Zaimont for the Eastman School of Music’s 2009 Women in Music Festival. She holds an MFA from Bennington College. Claudia lives among the birches in East Rochester, NY with her rescued pets.

Two Poems by Heikki Huotari

The Stationary Point
a                                                                                                                         after reading Psalm 23

There needs to be a magic minimum because at both the end and the beginning there’s an infinite accrual and, God-given, it’s continuously differentiable. My enemies will envy me when I have table manners in their one-horse town, with knives and forks galore, what’s this one for, and manna only of my own.

 

Blind Spot

Hats do not just happen. Hats are caused by some one or some thing. The uncorrected full moon is a rosary, the rosary the opposite of entropy, the entropy the car of which the clowns do not come out. The muted trumpet plays a one-night, one-note samba, plays it soft. Some optic nerve you have – on endorsing one conceivable interpretation you’re implicitly dismissing all the others.

 

About the Poet
Heikki Huotari is a retired professor of mathematics. In a past century, he attended a one-room country school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. His poems appear in numerous journals, recently in Spillway and Diagram, he’s the winner of the 2016 Gambling the Aisle chapbook contest, and his first book, Fractal Idyll, will be published by After The Pause Press in Fall 2017.