From a polite distance of ten or fifteen yards,
the image of the back of man or woman
in a wheelchair before a plate glass window,
shoulders hunched, head fallen to one side
as though asleep, afternoon light falling
through the glass. To the left a vase
of artificial flowers on a wooden table,
and though we can’t hear it, the unmistakable
sense of silence like silk covering the air.
Of course, we can't be sure but let's make
this person female, maybe somewhere in her
mid-eighties, and for the sake of conversation
let's imagine that she hasn’t been in front
of the window too long, at least not by
the standards of the place. Let’s tell ourselves
she was wheeled there shortly after lunch
by an aide or attendant so she could watch
for a son who is not coming today or even
tomorrow, although we could tell her tomorrow
and she’d believe us, just as easily as she’d
believe she is still in her own home until
the moment her chair turns and someone
else wheels her back to dinner in another wing.
So looking at her now, for another second,
let's do her a favor and spare our pity.
Let's convince ourselves that it’s the kind
of place where every day carries a rhythm
as regular as her heart and the weeks
eventually lose meaning, so that except
for the food, it probably isn't half bad,
and from another angle it could even be
heaven. In fact, let’s make it heaven
and let’s make the light Divine in case
she wakes and asks, although she won't ask--
trust me, but we could do that, we could do
that much for her at least before glancing
away and politely moving on.
The Couple Higher on the Hill
When we walk together in the evening,
the couple from higher on the hill
spot cormorants in the redwood,
point to a pair near the top,
two black blades against a gray sky.
Near the pond they mark how
the buffle-head ducks have returned,
begin to count white-capped males,
neckbanded females drifting by,
drawing the distinctions from coots
on the bank, equally dark and small,
with thin white bills.
This, I have come to learn, is how
they view the land, how in December
they distinguish red alder glittering
gold along the river from birch,
in April lupine from larkspur, discerning
leaf pattern, bird call, blossom,
beauty in the difference.
George Lober's poems have appeared numerous journals and e-zines, including Eclectic Literary Forum, Quarry West, The Sandhill Review, MiPoesias, The Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, and Lily. He is the author of two books of poetry, Shift of Light (Hummingbird Press, 2002) and A Bridge to There (Hummingbird Press, 2009). He is a former winner of the Ruth Cable Memorial Prize for Poetry and currently lives in Carmel, California.
Evening cools, monarchs pause, feign a lazy flight
as though they were breathing with their wings.
They meld onto the branches, strand themselves,
slowly work themselves to foliage, a royal drab,
Think of wintering.
Bay breeze rustles them as it whispers up the hill,
while they hug each other and the Monterey pines,
hide into the Spanish moss, again, until morning’s
sun-heavy shafts remind them they can fly.
Yellow noise of sunrise opens, stretches wings,
moves them to the speed of breath. Then,
one by one, they fall away, glide, weigh
against air, against blue, sometimes,
against gray, against white, sometimes.
This is the moment when a single monarch reigns,
fluttering, floating, drifting, darting,
stroking wisps of light and air,
flying as if it had lost its way home.
Powdered wings caress, then kiss, the edges of a breeze.
Artisian breezes caress, then kiss monarch wings. Butterfly and breeze pair together.
Eyelashes tease the edges of my neck. And I remember:
Maren’s lashes kissed me once that way, or was it twice?
Erik kissed me that way once or was it more?
Now, I will be kissed that way again by Matthias.
The green Manitoba milkweed will protect us all
as we make our journey home between the suns.
-- Pacific Grove, December 2000
Though raised in Utah, Eggertsen has been going to Pacific Grove and watching the monarchs for more than fifty years. And he was "militarized" at Fort Ord in the 1960s. He has recently come to poetry and is winner of the Irreantum Poetry Prize, 2012. His works have been published in Nimrod, Atlanta Review, Ekphrasis, New Millennium Writings and Weber: The Contemporary West, anthologized in Fire in the Pasture (2011).
A second skin inside my skin
still touches you, holds
the lost language of your tongue,
still utters jewels of love.
Light remembers everything--
the newly ripened sunrise
we saw through stained glass,
round, golden glow of street lamps
above us while we walked
hour after hour, our hands
brushing in flight…
I envision the gray clouds
that drifted in your brown eyes
when you spoke of the war,
your capture and torture by Nazis,
how they seared both corneas,
crucified your spirit.
I hear the breathy embrace
of baritone endearments,
see how you pressed your index fingers
together in the shape of a steeple
when you listened to Concerto D’Aranquez,
your craggy face transformed--
first rapture I’d ever seen.
My fingertips remember the valley
that dipped at your clavicle,
fresh white scent of your shirt,
three buttons undone so I could rest
my cheek on your chest,
feel your weathered skin,
listen to your heart, a fist
beating against our inevitable
Mornings, I like to walk to Mad Jacks
for a cup of joe. I call it that
because my father always did, and I imagine
him somewhere in war-torn France…
green army helmet unbuckled under his chin
one rationed cigarette, probably a Camel
unlit, hanging from his lips.
His lean body sprawls in a small metal chair
at a sidewalk café where he orders
Joe, noir, s’il vous plait. And Odette
the bleach blond waitress he gave nylons to
brings cream and sugar anyway.
I only get out for joe on Thursdays now--
when the hospice nurse comes to bathe Dad.
I slug it down fast and hot, hurry back
before he asks where I am
which he does all the time, unless he can see me
or reach out with one thin, blue-veined hand
touch whatever part of me is closest.
Then I brush wisps of white hair back
onto his balding head, crank up the bed
and fix him a scotch on the rocks—tonic
to help him forget he’s stuck in a hospital bed
in our living room instead of some swanky hotel lobby
in San Francisco.
Yesterday, he spilled the scotch all over
his blue cotton nightshirt. As I mopped it up
changed his clothes, he whimpered, Stupid old man!
I held his stubbly face in my hands
could only think to say, How ‘bout a cup of joe instead?
He nodded, so I brewed a fresh pot
served it on a silver tray, noir.
He slurped a few sips, closed his eyes…
perhaps drifted back to that sidewalk café
watched Odette zig zag through the tables toward him
set the cream and sugar down
before she lit his cigarette.
Kate Aver Avraham is a published poet and children’s author. Her picture book What Will You Be, Sara Mee? came out in 2011 from Charlesbridge. Kate’s poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies. In 2010, she received the Celebration of the Muse chapbook award for her book Perhaps the Truth is Also Blue. Kate is the founder of Blue Moon Creations, a non-profit artistic endeavor to aid charities locally and globally. She is a native Santa Cruzan living by the sea she loves.
She greets you by the front desk
of the 24-hour café in the Indian casino,
grabs a menu, escorts you to a small booth,
takes your order for tea and toast.
Her breasts battle
her beige polyester blouse,
requisite brass name tag
pinned to a pocket.
You watch her thick legs
as she walks away, notice
spider veins and bruises,
guess her age at 50 plus,
imagine she no more than survives
on minimum wage.
She reminds you of a million
other poverty level women
in tedious low paid jobs,
picture a dismal home life,
know a generous tip
won’t change a thing.
She comes back to bring jam,
refill your teapot,
asks if you need anything else,
lays your check on the table,
keeps on smiling until her shift ends.
You liken her to a Rodin sculpture,
a suggestion of struggle, grief,
and incomplete form.
I go shopping for words,
not as one would for new shoes
or groceries, but with my ears,
the small hairs in inner chambers
shivering with anticipation
of some fresh merger of noun
and verb, a three-word phrase
Song lyrics, book titles,
commonplace figures of speech,
with the variation of an adjective,
unexpected fusion of images,
a haunting word.
I’m an oniomaniac*
of words, a bibliophage*,
add them to my vocabulary,
swap lexicology like anagrams
in my head.
I collect tittle-tattle at thrift stores,
and restaurants, listen in
for lingual surprises,
rhetorical questions I can explore
past their apparent reply.
I pay nothing for indigenous
expressions of strangers
and regional archaisms,
tuck them into my notebooks
for reserve stock.
I've even been known to shoplift,
a bucolic verse kleptomaniac
from the racks of greeting cards,
jot down a jingle or two
when no one is looking.
My cupboards are crammed
with Costco-sized containers.
I have enough
babble and bunk,
to last the rest of my life.
In addition to poetry, Laura Bayless explores creativity through collage, photography, and absurdity. Formerly shy, she now delights in requests to read her poems to strangers.
The Mystical Stand-up Comedians
Sitting by morning fire,
I arrange books on wooden table,
ponder the cover of Bly’s Morning Poems,
open another instead, begin reading
The Spiritual Athlete In An Orange Robe and,
foggy, think I am still reading Bly. I laugh
at his irreverence, my meditator-friends flinching
at lines such as He sits inside a shrine room all day,
so that God has to go outdoors and praise the rocks.
I love this line, a permission to lift eyes from navel,
to run wildly through the enraptured day
rather than sitting immobile as a cross-legged
contortionist. But it takes an old rascal like Bly
to wag his finger at the spiritual authorities.
After a bite of oatmeal, pinch of brown sugar,
sip of coffee, I wake up, notice I am not
reading Bly, but Kabir—15th century Indian poet
writing ecstatic bhakti verse amid the staid
Hindu bureaucracies—and I laugh again.
The mystical stand-up comedians span the centuries,
remind us spirit is not a competition,
but the comic timing of cosmic humor,
the stick in the rib, the ungodly guffaw,
enlightenment the subtle joke remembered
by the man in the back pew, running now
from the church, falling down on the grass,
The Dreams of Antelope
In Yosemite, they introduced wolves back into the mountains, which fed again on the antelope, which stopped over-eating the willow trees, so the birds returned to sing and beavers started making dams again from the fallen branches, resurrecting the marshes, and once more everything started turning green because a wild predator was allowed back into the dreams of antelope.
Dane Cervine’s new book is entitled How Therapists Dance, from Plain View Press (2013), which also published his previous book The Jeweled Net of Indra. His poems have been chosen by Adrienne Rich for a National Writers Union Award; by Tony Hoagland as a finalist for the Wabash Poetry Prize; a Second Place prize for the Caesura Poetry contest; twice a finalist for, and the 2013 winner of the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Prize. Dane’s work has appeared in a wide variety of journals including The Hudson Review, The SUN Magazine, Catamaran Literary Review, Red Wheelbarrow, numerous anthologies, newspapers, video & animation. Visit his website at: www.DaneCervine.typepad.com Dane is a therapist, and serves as Chief of Children’s Mental Health for Santa Cruz County in California.
It was night, cold and dry and still.
Ahead we see cars with red and yellow lights, pulsating
Like lighthouses on the cliffs of a black sea.
Two girls sit in the back row of a car, one with her head
Leaning back on her seat, face turned to the window,
The skin mostly gone, but there was enough left
To see her expression--she looks stunned,
Her face says calmly, oh no, look at me,
I am dead. Her arms have fallen to her sides, the skin
Was gone but the sleeves of her blouse hung in pieces,
The bones of her wrists with hands turned upwards lay in her lap--
This was all that was left of her after the fire.
This is what her mother will see when she comes
To the morgue. I don’t turn my head away, my own
hands are holding my head, as if my head were so heavy
two hands are needed to hold it up, but my hands will not
release my head or turn it, and my eyes could not
Leave hers, that would have been cruel, to just
Look away from this incinerated girl, to drive away
Quickly and turn up the radio as my friend wants to do.
The other girl’s head has fallen face down onto her breast
so we could not make eye contact, therefore I focus my attention
On the girl I can see, on her white cheek bones covered
By ash, and her eyes, the holes where her eyes had been,
turned to me but not into me, past me.
A man is sitting straight up in the driver’s seat,
he too bone and ash, sprinkled with broken glass,
and I wonder, was he sober when he drove them all
out of this world? Possibly the only world
they will ever know?
I see the two of them.
They lie on the back seat of his car.
It is night time, very late.
Soon he will have to take her home.
On the dashboard a can of coke
Mixed with rum. Moonlight
Lifts his face out of darkness.
The man turns his whole body to her,
In a rush of need,
Covers her like a mountain,
pours himself into her
Once, twice, many times.
She feels an odd boredom
Being rocked and rolled,
And turns her head to the window,
Wide open, filled with clouds, and nearby
A silent cow, and she waits for the storm
To pass through her.
Ellen McCarthy is a retired journalist/communications professional, spends many weekends in Santa Cruz/Capitola area to regenerate, raising her young grandson, writing poems, and blogging about it at:www.poemsfromthebottomofmyanxiousheart.blogspot.com
for James Gerald Alaimo
Deeper: the bay’s loose, granular, gritty
sand vanishes. Shelf rock drops off
into the black trench of Monterey.
Above: I stroke my board, again and again
out through the breakers off Manresa Beach.
Insensate: waves, gulp me in
their numbing smash and tumble.
Remote: pods of feeding porpoise, a
lone California Sea Lion hump and dive.
Beside me: You, brother
witness the bludgeoning
my ephemeral manhood, its feminine poetry
in the cupped saline rhythm of waves.
Along the divine Monterey coastline
are old torpedo-shaped bulls
without a territory or harem to defend
their large formerly-luminous eyes
compressed to nearsightedness, lenses
dimmed by the multifaceted glare off water.
Leg bones bent and buried in their bodies
they migrate back and forth along the shore.
Look for them in small bachelor groups
or alone, sea lions: sleek black synthetic
rubber—in place of silky skin and blubber
trussing up their fifty-something bellies.
Faced seaward in tingling seaweed-salt air
early when the surface of Monterey Bay is
glass, the wait and wait for the mysterious
humps up from the deep basalt and ooze
the rhythm of 500 million years—waves
moving against the granite land—breaking
granite into boulders, gravel and sand.
Waves sent by wind, earthquake, the sun
the moon, behemoths, sometimes from
the Ring of Fire off Japan. They move through
the hula-dancing kelp, killer whales seeking
the young and the slow, opening their jaws.
The old sea lion bulls pivot their long
polyurethane foam-and-fiberglass boards
and dig, dig, dig for the shore. Lifted
by the palm, past the opposing thumb, up
to thin fingertips, they hear the hisssssssss
steam from the moving, gathering hand.
They grab the rails, lift up their bulk
stand and, ah, they slide along the blue
coaster, jitterbug, cut back and back
until—the cupped hand closes to a fist
and hammers them into the sand.
Leaving for university
There she stands
faded floral apron neatly tied
paring knife in her right hand
a yellow onion held firmly in the left
she peels it with great precision
golden skin falling to the kitchen counter
followed by layers of translucent flesh
Onion crescents slipping from her fingers
she mutters, onion tears
turns her back to me
Later, driving north on the old coast road,
I remember the onion
her hand grasping the slippery core
not letting go
As once you were
these letters are left authorless
only the soft imprint of ink upon vellum
speaks to their inscription –
ghosts pigeons ovens
smoke sparrows floods
clutch of human teeth
short span of life smoke upon granite
pigeons and sparrows pick
at the scattering of human teeth
neither man nor child walks here
ghost or spirit –
you who spread bright ribbons
across the boneyard
what is your story?
(After Mina Loy, Letters of the Unliving)
Elaine Schwartz currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband Daniel and Purr’l the Postmodern Pussycat. She is co-founder of the Albuquerque Chapter of Poets Against War and co-editor of the monthly broadside, the Rag. Her poetry, best described as a tapestry of place and political imagination, has appeared in numerous publications including the Porter Gulch Review, An Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, Monterey Poetry Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Poetica.
After You Left
Since we parted, I am beside myself
Another version of me darts about
I look for me everywhere
finding only a wisp here, a crumb there
a foot running down the bare corridor
a hand twisting the golden knob of a door
another hand on the kitchen counter
clutching the throbbing
I place the slick meat in a porcelain dish
where it weeps ink
and asks me with a voice of peaches and rain
sun, fungus, mud
to save it until I may touch you again
It was a Thursday
You passed through a field
of yellow flowers and sat down beneath a barren olive tree
You never saw me
You were taller than lightning
hair the color of ashes
Prayers glimmered like rubies where your teeth should be
Between your arms, a stone well sank into the ground
Insects of golden filament were drawn
from the farthest regions to your sighs
Then you whispered: save me
I wanted to ask for your number but had
I was an ant in the dirt near your foot
I was the breeze that caressed you when you felt most alone
When the sun blinded you, I was that sun
When the berries tasted bitter, I was the sweetness
that wasn’t there
I was the chafe of your jeans
I was the moisture between your toes
I was the water trembling on the leaf
that brushed your elbow as you walked
I was a bee sipping the nectar of your past
I was the stain that clung to your coat
I was the raw longing in your hands
Lytton Bell has published five books: A Path before Winter (1998), The Book of Chaps (2002), Nectar (2011), Poetica Erotica, Volume I (2012) and Body Image (2013), won six poetry contests and has been the featured reader at many California literary venues. Her work has appeared in over three dozen publications. As a teenager, Lytton won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, where she studied with Deb Burnham of the American Poetry Review and the late Len Roberts, author of The Silent Singer. Lytton graduated magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The line cut first,
then, before I began to bleed,
the gills with their edges like steel and glass
flared, and I opened my palms and dropped
the lingcod I had struggled so long to bring
out of the darkness, this passage, this rite,
you yelled something and held it down
with your foot while you took a hammer from your belt
and swung against the skull until
the eyes bulged, broke free, one returned
to the sea and one remained on the sand
while I sucked my hand and did not want
any part of this thing we had done.
“The dignity of death is here”
Time has changed, but California
is still the best place to die
—in September, when the hills are sheets
of gold on ancient, unmade beds
and Spanish moss hangs from the pines
like tassels of fog, sun-dried and stiff
(tassels of fog or souls? Perhaps
the Esselen, who left their mortars
and acorn meal at the Spanish cross,
and every canyon a burning rash
of poison oak, and the buzzard’s eye
—the best dying place, near the raw coast,
abalone dust, sardine scales, ladders of kelp,
the clown-faced otters with their big dog teeth
afloat like angels on the world’s edge
while white gulls scream and cry for God
to wash up, bleached, bloated, soft,
bones like Chinese jade, fists
delicately clenched like anemones,
while in cemeteries, silent deer
puncture the earth with their perfect hooves…
and freeways, yes, and celebrities
—Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, the dusty crossroads
at Cholame where James Dean died
(Cholame: population 5,
sunk on the toes of the Temblor mountains
and the vicious, patient San Andreas),
because all California is a fault,
a rubbing-raw of spirit and flesh,
catalyst, catharsis, salt and snow,
a sun-burned bridge on a shrouded bay,
a hunger, a banquet,
a mother, a grave.
Kent Leatham is a poet, translator, editor, and critic. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Fence, Zoland, Poetry Quarterly, Poets & Artists, InTranslation, Ezra, Rowboat, and The Battered Suitcase. Kent serves as a poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press, and lives in Pacific Grove.
Fourteen year old Raquel
Fourteen year old Raquel walked into class
With a calloused cough and a violent rasp
That fought the air like a lacerated
Lung she said she got from smoking too much.
With silver eyes like mirrors reflecting
Overcast skies and black hair that climbs down
Her weathered face in waves to break her thin
Shoulders like the quaking earth, she expressed
Nonchalance when she spoke of the smell of
Battery gases as her call to meth
Temptation, tearing synapses in her
Brain, dulling the emotion of human,
Holding drugs in lips, Smoke pouring from her
Ears like steam engines grinning without joy,
Missing mother’s mass, embracing children
And father’s features figuring sex and
killing innocence in incestuous
Misuse, amazing graces like screaming
Skyscrapers falling down her angry cheeks,
Lacking life, bleak of boys, watching girls
Who play daunting games of jump rope, spelling
Experience of thunder in reverent
Rooms where teachers pay for chaos, red like
Oceans of virginal violence, speaking
Silence held horrible inside substance
Abuse and a high school woman’s silver
God’s vague vision never included
Pictures of youth in forgetful classrooms
Where blanket testing replaces lessons
Investing in students minds, rejecting
Censored lines from Walt Whitman, ignoring
Eliot’s apathetic wasted lands;
Esperanza’s bleak house on Mango Street
Stands in despair above every kid’s view.
Multiculturalism and Social
Justice are absent here, like they were new
Oppressions while ignorance becomes chains;
James Baldwin is just a footnote removed
From our textbooks written in Texas,
ACLU has no more relevance
When SATs measure intelligence.
Still, we stare aghast when minorities
Appear on TV screens as men of crime
And our streets fill like a damming river
With this generation’s youth who find
Little more than transients in boxcars
Heading down long roads with nowhere to go,
Injecting dreams of drooling drugs, fasting
By force for some intangible god they
Used to call economy, professing
Anarchy and Autonomy amidst
Pictures in high windows of religious
Lobotomy. God cannot help for his
Blinded eyes no longer see what
Humanity has made of humanity.
McCarthy is dead but his ideas
Live on through the Patriot Act; we still
Forget about the Palmer Raids, the fact
That Sadam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds
Which helped to fuel bin Laden’s fury
Was afforded U.S. sponsorship,
And the history of American
Eugenics that spawned Hitler’s genocide;
These United States will remain just as
Responsible for each of those sad deaths;
Education is intertwined in this
Like a pedophile moving in kids;
We are taught in a system built to fail
Breeding blank joy like smiles on TV screens;
The youth create the future and the old
Have seen to it that the future is run
By their white sons who think in tradition;
If we want change, begin breeding dissent
And, unlike Occupy, don’t let it die
Like free speech in the face of Sedition.
Brian Sheffield is a young student and poet living in Pacific Grove, CA. Born originally in Los Angeles, he spent much of his childhood in motion from one city to another and finally settled down, temporarily, to go to school at California State University, Monterey Bay. His ultimate plan is to continue on his writing while furthering his education and, eventually, becoming a full-time teacher.
It flits swiftly, not as a shadow,
a soft grey motion ruffling my air,
never expected, recognized always,
a soft flicker, almost but not quite
I think you’ve looked in,
touched me with comfort remembered,
placed a fatherly cloak on my shoulders
to warm them a moment, then left me,
cold and alone, yet not quite as I was.
Luscious moment, pain-free warmth,
engulfed, floating motionless inside the down,
the dream unfinished, waiting for something,
the endless need wanting to be resolved.
There are things that come back in the dark
—only there, the remembered faces, voices,
hands that beckon, impel to do, go, hurry
through hallways to trains (all departing),
to recover what was forgotten, what is essential.
To run, race (the minutes rush ahead)
through uncaring crowds, past eyeless faces,
stumble up known stairs to the locked door
and the children on the other side, unfed,
unclothed, still so small, the girl and the boy,
there, behind the black wall, needing care.
Panic, to the slow fade—the unease lingering
even at the approach of light, when loose shutters
wink with sunbeams promising simple pleasures
like a smile and the coffee aroma that will come
after the first stretch, after the toes, pointing,
have touched the endfold of the down cloud,
after the deep intake of breath, and the exhale
—the daily surprise of morning.
Mountain Lion Kill
The high-pitched bleating pierced the forest night,
and the man, aroused from a deep sleep,
knew without knowing, it was a deer’s scream.
Sliding the glass door, he stepped out on his deck:
through deep darkness, stars and a new moon
silvered pine needles, tips of pampas, grass blades,
while his flashlight stream found the flattened
shrubs and grasses, the path where the killer
had dragged the fresh carcass into brushwood.
In that long moment, man and forest stood frozen
— in stillness and silence absolute.
Marina Romani, child of Russian émigrés, spent the first part of her childhood in wartime and civil-war China; those early years are the focus of Child Interwoven, a memoir in poem and prose she is now assembling. A second ongoing project, tentatively titled Catching Scatters, is a compilation of her latest poems. Marina’s early work appeared in the now defunct Poetry Shell magazine; her recent work has been published in Homestead Review, Porter Gulch Review, and the Tor House Newsletter. Since 2008, Marina’s poems have twice been finalists in the Central Coast Writers’ annual writing contest.
(Kill Screen: The final screen in Donkey Kong, where the player's
abilities exceed the memory board. Only a few dedicated players
have ever reached it)
Donkey Kong's kill screen--
the Holy Grail where Mario
spins a somersault
never having nabbed the girl
or undone the ape.
The search is endless
as Stuart Little's roadtrip
for his beloved.
Desire beckons, so
let yourself fall in love with
the wanting itself.
by back and forth runs.
The number counter churrs to
a line of zeros--
code memory's end--
but you continue to exist,
joy stick under hand,
past the blank screen
and the whimpering music
Classic arcade games
tinny muzak refills ears.
Close those tired eyes,
rub away ladders
and split-legged boundings.
You know what god feels
when everything falls
into place, the last barrel lept,
and your heart breaks in two
with a lightning crack.
You are the game and gamer.
No one can touch you.
A string of perfect days stacks up
like cards in a magical solitaire hand.
Suites lining up one on top of the other,
the buried queen of spades comes off the jack
of diamonds effortlessly. You want to hold
your breath to keep them coming but it's
the release that allows them. Somehow,
for these brief days you can do no wrong.
Even the broken boiler flooding down
into your classroom on the first day
makes a beautiful kind of music
as it fills connect-the-dot buckets.
You can't help but admire the off-tune plinks
before you return the room to darkness.
And you sense behind it that no matter
what happened you'd accommodate it,
live in this perfect state of grace.
So when you put extra tollbooth money
into the hand of the attendant
it turns out the car behind you
houses your cousin who honks you over;
and the student who you wondered
why you were meeting week after week
to critique his testosterone-fueled screenplay
turns out to be Jordanian, knows Arabic,
and translates your Iraq poem for Mizna,
the Arab-American journal. Birds in a seed tray
look up. Sprinkler kicks on as you walk by,
dousing your cuffs deliciously. And when
you disassemble the hand-me-down desk
you see the legs are identical in height
to the desk top you were also going to trash.
For this brief moment, between each breath,
you can do no wrong. You know it will end,
but remember that for the Dalai Lama
it doesn't. The graced state the saints occupy
is not so far away. They’re so willing to live
there that if their impulse is to slap
the disciple they slap him.
So this world that fits hand in glove
is a miracle slapping you repeatedly.
David Sullivan’s first book, Strong-Armed Angels, was published by Hummingbird Press, and two of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a multi-voiced manuscript about the war in Iraq, was published by Tebot Bach. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his love, the historian Cherie Barkey, and their two children, Jules and Mina Barivan. He was awarded a Fulbright, and is teaching in China 2013-2014 (yesdasullivan.tumblr.com). His poems and books can be found at http://davidallensullivan.weebly.com/index.html
The Backyard Walnut
During a dry winter of few words,
I pruned and fertilized
my wild mind, tilled my journal
in hopes of breaking new ground.
For inspiration, I looked out
to the backyard walnut tree
easily as old as I.
Half the trunk hollowed out by pests,
it has somehow survived
many storms and droughts
but no longer bears fruit.
I turned and mulched the soil,
trimmed, fed and watered so
once again it is thick with foliage.
This early spring morning
a few green buds appeared
on the lichen-covered boughs,
and this poem burst forth.
The Uninvited Guest
Here in Bali, it is the custom
to visit unannounced,
sit in the guest pavilion waiting
until you are graciously received.
Every morning, I slide open
the heavy teakwood and glass door,
take my place facing the garden
and contemplate where I’ve been,
where I am, and where I want to go
before death crosses the threshold
to dispossess me.
Then my body will burn
with words unspoken, unwritten,
deeds never accomplished,
goals never attained,
so my spirit can be free
to find its way home.
Dan Phillips has been writing and publishing since he was seven years old and taught creative writing in elementary and high school as a poet-in-the-schools and in the junior college together with English composition and literature for over thirty years. Some of his publication credits include poems in Porter Gulch Review, Montserrat Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Homestead Review, Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets '04 and Coastlines: Eight Santa Cruz Poets as well as a memoir in poetry and prose, The Bali in Me. Dan lives in Santa Cruz but is willing to go anywhere for inspiration.
Pounding tangles of storm-propelled driftwood,
freak tsunami tides move assaulted shore inland.
Salty mists, winter winds sculpt ancient cypress
into stunted, twisted bonsai survivors.
Carmel River reroutes each spring, cuts a new channel.
Lagoon waters rise and fall. Sand bars spread, then diminish.
Stone headlands devolve into tumbles of boulders,
relentless surf forever grinding broken granite to crystals.
The calm surge of incoming spindrift can be deceptive.
It takes deep roots to avoid being swept away every winter.
Mist erases shoreline Victorian houses,
paints the sky white, hovers just above
orange buoys, anchored sailboats,
harbor seals as they sleep
on dry rocks near Monterey harbor.
Gulls patrol breakwater and retaining wall.
Squirrels avoid falling drizzle, hide
from the chill deep within their warm burrows.
Dampness transforms a dispirited
palm tree into sodden umbrella.
Stoic cypress strain passing fog
through wind-pretzeled limbs.
Errant wisps smudge my silhouette
as I explore land’s end, navigate
a stone jumble jutting into slack ocean.
A pink nudist colony thrives among ice plant,
above the bay in America’s last home town.
Naked ladies, like garish flamingos, astonish
the eye, punches of color along a dirt trail.
Flushed lilies encircle plateaus of adobe,
Maenads erotically dancing with wind.
Heavy headed trumpets bob and sway,
communally cluster from each leafless stem.
Inviting blooms seduce passing hummingbirds.
Whirring aerialists hover and feed.
Jennifer Lagier’s seven books are: Coyote Dream Cantos, Where We Grew Up, Second-Class Citizen, The Mangia Syndrome, Fishing for Portents, Agent Provocateur, and Hookup With Chinaski. She is a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Rockford Writers Guild and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings.
Leaping Snakes in the Garden
" The snake has his own way among us." -- Robert Duncan
Most of the snakes, here, are little ones.
They are not rattling when the lawn is
They bask on large boulders, in the
bright sunlight. Snuggled together
in large holes, in winter, away from
But once out there, with the news of
the day that always seems bad, they
seem to get teeth,
gnash their mouths and flick their
tongues at everyone.
Even their pretty hues of color, on
their backs , get brighter. The red seems
Out here, where the anger and the hatred
brings on a fluidity of movement.
Floods and bad weather follow them,
where black dogs are also smiling and
Darkness with Feeble Light
" The darkness so deep and the light so feeble." -- Eknath Easwaran
Go towards death. See his grinning face
through the darkness, where there is little light.
How will you approach him?
With cap in hand, knees knocking? Or slapping
him on the back, like an old friend that has
been waiting. For a thousand years.
Binary, yes and no of our bodies, wants
to run towards or hide somewhere when
his grin is seen.
Soon to be coming, to your bedroom or car.
Take off the phony face that has been used
in the society of your choice. Put on the deeper
self, and let it talk, to the old man.
d.n. simmers is an on line editor of Fine Lines. He is in the current Poetry Salzburg and in an anthology in Bulgaria. He is in or will be in the Storyteller ( 3 issues) , Homestead Review, Red River Review, Prairie Journal
(Calgary CAN), Nomad's choir. He has been in Plainsong, Nerve Cowboy, Lucidity, and will in the upcoming Westward Quarterly. He has been published in the UK, New Zealand, and Splizza Wales Poetry Magazine.
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