Volume 15: Summer 2014

DREAM OF THE ARK

by Amie Whittemore

My brothers will not name their sons Hiram though I see them—
bird-chested boys with floppy ears and big noses climbing trees

and throwing rocks through windows of abandoned garages,
whose shouting springs kernels from their cobs.

But when my brothers and I meet for dinner and speak of our future
children, it’s like children reconstructing the lives of dinosaurs.

We end up arguing, and those shirtless barefoot rascal boys
are whisked back inside their husks. I go to bed and dream my womb

as an ark, filled not with children, nor pairs of animals, but leaf blight,
broken spinning wheels, severed hands warped with arthritis.

~

Morning. Watching the half-frozen river collect geese,
I know I’m a fool for whatever’s gone away.

I tell my husband my dream of the ark, another of raising canaries
in a basement, their bodies yellow ornaments in trees prospering

without sunlight, their crisp leaves, when rattled, sparking like aluminum.
And while I interpret these visions as signs we will never grow

our own blueberries, gather eggs from our own hens, he looks at me
like I’m speaking Dutch. He says too often I extrapolate

an entire imaginary alphabet from a single letter.
In other words, relax. Outside, his shovel slings snowdrifts.

~

But I know my brothers will not name their sons Hiram
and I will have no daughter named Whitt,

though she often appears, smoking a joint on the beach,
her new tattoo of a skull laughing on her shoulder.

She hates when I call her lily-pad.
She flings curse words at the sky like empty beer cans.

Mile long hair, voice like moss-coated stone, I imagine
her into more and more beauty, while also fashioning

her a weak heart. I warn her the future is a skinned animal
stalking us all. I tell her the swan’s neck is a noose.

Winter trees braid the white sky; my husband shakes snow
from his boots and comes inside.

~

We drink tea. I remind him today is the shortest day.
But what I mean is, I want to unbutton the future’s jacket

and see a breathing lung. I mean, if we indulged in a dream
of new Hirams and Kathryns, new Edwins and Whitts,

if we kissed open their eyes, inhaled their birthy scent,
would the other dream, of keeping the farm, replanting orchards,

and raising goats, vanish? Neither dream is trustworthy.

Besides my desire is like a child’s wish for her toy doll
to mend its broken leg. My husband would argue you can’t mend

what isn’t broken. My brothers would suggest I’m in love
with an idea that doesn’t exist. And they are all probably right.

But I hear the doll weep. I feel her broken leg like it is my own.

 

SHORT HISTORY OF FALLING

by Michael Levan

One half of the moon fell lightly through the window
as night fell silent, and I felt oddly old
and incapable of love, another gray February,

afraid as I was to fall asleep to my own breath
or bird’s song falling ever fair by some order
no one understands, least of all me who feels

the pull of flowers disappearing under fall’s dying,
leaves faded red and ocher, or a first snowflake
that falls and spirals, catches an updraft and rises again

before it finally settles on my lip, its cold way
of being coming earlier and earlier every year.
I wouldn’t do anything to change it. I wouldn’t

do anything but close my eyes and give over
to that floating feeling, my limp body falling
like leaden prayer never reaching air.

I lie in bed and lament how everything
could fall so terribly, like I have, foolish as I am
to believe there’s any right way for light to fall.

I have a long history of being afraid
of falling short, behind, in love even though I tell
myself I am safe and the worst that can happen is

I shatter into song.

 

THE RELATIVE HEART

by Nola Garrett

My great-great-grandfather Enos Thompson, assassinated
a high-ranking member of the Know Nothing Party,
then retreated to California. My family said his stories
of giant redwoods, painted deserts,
and mountains so high trees wouldn’t grow
made politics seem unimportant.

Grandpa Weed was a certified chicken thief,
spent 30 days (along with Uncle Morris)
in the Crawford County Jail to make it official.
All my uncles said that farmer misunderstood the deal,
and besides The Depression was hard times.

Cousin Bob was found in a field naked from the waist down
in a compromising position with a chestnut mare.
My relatives were grateful it wasn’t a stallion or worse—
a gelding—so it wasn’t a completely unnatural act.

My second cousin, Bruce, on my mother’s side,
shot his daddy (who beat him regularly) and then his mom
(after she complained) with a .22,
because they wouldn’t let him wear blue jeans.
The family maintains he solved all his problems
and some of theirs now that he’s required to wear denim.

My third cousin once removed took her husband’s life insurance
and finally got to travel. Cousin Lola
was the first white woman to spend the winter
in Point Barrow, Alaska, and the last to leave a Greyhound bus
where she had quietly died at the age of 89.

Uncle Otis drank himself to death, served
as an example to my father who never touched a drop.
My brother, Joel, one fresh June morning on a dare
chug-a-lugged a fifth of vodka, lay down
and died in the bed of his pick-up truck. My mother
still remarks how heart trouble runs all through this family.

 

MACABRE

by Rose Swartz

I never tried harder than that
to disgust you without even speaking—
Cowered in the bathroom I saw our faults
on the linoleum floor, slam-dancing.
Our faults had their hands in each other’s mouths,
they were picking teeth out like fresh flowers.
I scooped all the molars into a towel,
rinsed them in my bath water.
When you knocked, I slid the key under the door.
Our faults followed their mouths and began to drown.
You entered with a one-liner and a bag from the party store:
remember, we lost our class in a one-stoplight town—
in the tub you uncorked a bottle. Through the open window
we laughed red out until the house became a boat.

 

Café Verité

by Denver Butson

the man who just ordered a skim latte. and sat down by the window. is being murdered. by his ex-wife.  but he isn’t even married.  to her yet.  she is calling him a liar.  and a cheat. and beating her fists.  against his chest. and clawing at his eyes. and finally strangling him.  as he looks at her.  as if he cannot believe that this. is his end. he sips his latte. and looks out the window. and then across the café.  at the legs of a woman.  licking berry muffin. off her fingertips.  she is hooked to a machine.  and staring up at a daughter. she doesn’t know now.  a daughter she doesn’t even know.  she is going to have.  who is stroking her hand. and telling her how beautiful she is. and she is. at this moment. with the sun through the café window. and her long legs crossed.  and then uncrossed. as if there is all the time in the world. for cafés and muffins. and her tan thighs. the barista’s car is going off. the road. just outside his hometown. it’s a road he had driven hundreds of times. but this time. there is a song on the radio. he hasn’t heard since.  those days long ago. when he worked in that coffee shop. with that other barista. he just remembered moments before he lost control. of the car. those eyes   those lips. and the one time they kissed.  after hours. with the chairs up on the tables. and there she is now. just getting to work. though her shift started. an hour ago. standing on the sidewalk. finishing a phone call.  while making faces. at someone else’s baby. no wonder the thought of her. would make a man drive off the road. years from now. and apparently she just might. actually live forever. because she is so radiant out there. on the other side of this door. as our worlds in here. crash into their own private ends.  and it’s not possible.  that I am alone.  when I try to make my eyes plead. with her.  to stay out there. unfazed and undying.  to stay out there.  where forever is. still a possibility.  and not to walk into.  this cafe. of uncomfortable truth. but she does.  and we all watch her. wondering what glimpse of her inevitability.   we’ll get.  and how horrible it will be.  and when.   or maybe we’ll at least glimpse a little sliver of her. the skin between her jeans. and her sweater.  and forget about tomorrow.   while we still have.  the luxury.  to forget.  about tomorrow.

love poem

by Denver Butson

around the moon’s invisible neck.  is an invisible noose.   and as the moon falls visible.  down the sky.  the invisible noose.  tightens.  around her invisible neck.

the question is.  how could the moon.  have tied this rope.  and thrown it over the edge of the sky?  without hands?  or do you really think the moon has invisible hands too?

the question is.  what chair would be big enough.  visible or not.  for the moon to stand up on.  to slip her invisible neck.  into this invisible noose?  to jump from.  when her head is at the top of the sky?

will you dance with me?

therefore

will you kiss me?

and therefore.  will you be. with me.  the last things. the moon sees.  through her invisible eyes.  as the last bit of air.  leaves her invisible lungs?

or should I just dream of this.  again tonight?  and should I just.  hope again tonight.  that you. are.  out there somewhere.  dreaming the same?

 

FAIRMONT

by Romella D. Kitchens

If I could see the Red Maple again near that street, I do not know what I would do.
We are fathers and mothers forever leaving the children of our memories.

I made full meals there.
I slept in the warm water of the tub as if it were an orange colored womb.

What I am missing is some part of me that expressed itself, in that
turning street, with its trees tall enough to block out the sun.

I rested there.
I received phone calls from lovers there which came through my
soul as poems.

The new keys don’t work like the old keys did there.

I used to rush down the street smiling to have silence.

I waited each year for the lilac bush thirty feet from my doorway to bloom.

Once, I begged a neighbor not to cut back his rose bushes while the roses
were in bloom because some part of me kept dying when I saw them laying
on the side walk that way.
The anguish too extreme in me for me to ignore.

He was an angrier man but his face went kind and he promised a promise he kept
and gave me roses from the ground.

They lived in my green vase for over three weeks.

I haven’t seen a rose that mattered a damn since then except when I go
back to that street and see those roses.
Damn those roses for making me live them so.

I go back but am an orphan to it. Sometimes, change basterdizes you.
I was simply human there. Now, here I am race and innuendo.
I closed my eyes there. Everything so amazingly golden.

 

BEACHED

by Kory Shrum

They come to the water wearing the skins
of their previous lives. Each step toward
the horizon is a question.
Each dip of the head, a prayer, to forget
this life and remember, the way
Indian children remember
their previous incarnations, the names
of loved ones left behind,
to go back to the time when they were just
amoebas, entire ecosystems
in a single cell, floating,
without cause through the dark side of God’s
wildest dreams. Enter desire,
—the taste the light, as their bodies broke
surface, transformation midwifed
by the temptation to forsake a life without burden
for the burden of knowing,
more and more,
they must come to the water and wish
for redemption. Come to the water and drown
their unanswered prayers.

 

COVENANT

by Michael J. Grabell

One

We toasted to drinking like rock stars
and partying like movie stars and girls

with small noses and lower back tattoos.
We tinked our glasses, tinked-tinked and tilted,

swallowing the dread of love and loss
that makes us tremble at the end of the night.

The tequila went down like the
Titanic, sending Rob into his spasms of Oh lawd!

Oh lawdy-lawdy-lawd! We breathed like dragons
and clawed for sex like the rest of our bodies did too.

Fill the hurricane glass
three-quarters with ice
Pour in rum and passion
fruit, orange and lime juice
Add grenadine and shake

That night everyone kept going back
to the satellite pictures. Each time,

the gauzy circular saw of the storm would stop
and start its slow grind again and again,

the weather forecast on one TV, sound off,
Apocalypse Now on the other, sound on,

and the girls back for college with new
womanhood danced with their hips
under the TVs obliviously. If there was a warning,
we didn’t see it. No one stopped to pray.

“Smell that? You smell that?”
“What?”
“Napalm, son. Nothing in the world smells like that.”

I knew by now I was driving toward
marriage. Laura moved in with me

in May. We would lie next to each other
after going to bed, the breath from

the ceiling fan cooling the sweat on our skin,
at once calming and stirring our blood

like the blades of a Blackhawk just after liftoff.
We would name our unborn children

as they did hurricanes, retiring the offensive
ones that reminded us of old loves.

“Do you know that if is the middle word in life?”

The movie whirling to the final sacrificial scene,
Rob rounded us up for another round.

Something sea-green. I didn’t ask, just tilted,
and as the undertow pulled in my throat,

I could feel the sour heat rising up,
scraping sand grains from my chest.

I rushed out to brown sidewalk, sideways rain
whooshing in from the gulf, steadied my 25 years

between their fortunes and failures, folding
and unfolding my hands like an uneasy penitent

on each side of a black plastic bag round can
and everything inside me crashing down.

 

DOORS

by Alice Derry

Patmos: Xora (old city)

Unlock the blue door late on a warm night,
step into a courtyard drenched in jasmine
and lemon blossom. Breathe.
These thick, white-washed walls are your refuge.

When you open the door next morning
in the blinding glare of the walled street, Yasas,
good fortune on your head, you say

to the few you encounter.  Sometimes
they answer, as you turn left, then right, up narrowing
corridors, under arches, through small tunnels.

Punctuated by doors, double doors, enameled blue,
stained and varnished, or doors
which haven’t been tended but are locked all the same.

Half a millennium ago, merchants hid their wealth
behind these blank doors.
Pirates swept over the island like tide.

Afternoons you read and doze in your veranda’s
heated shade, but these harboring walls
still surrender cries of last resort.  Women
rushed their children up secret passages

to the monastery fortress on the hilltop.
The same moonlight brushing your balcony with fire
discovered their dead—dashed babies
and clutching mothers, clothes half torn from them.

In one merchant’s house, now museum, you stumble
through a maze of rooms and courtyards,
arranged to dodge the sun.  Rain meant life.

They dug their catch basins into the hills,
lined them with stone, piped the captured water
to each house’s buried cistern.
Look down—way down, before your eyes find blue.
These people lived by chance.

For you, the setting sun means evening’s patina.
Let it invite you into the stoa,
opening from the dark like a set from Carmen.
Your lightest blouse is enough.
You will be served lamb or moussaka,
and your waiter jokes in English.

The boutique across the street, planted
under a corner of stone, was opened for you.
In the shadows village men laugh at backgammon.

The dim beam of a flashlight guides you
to your door. You won’t need to lift the metal hand
shaped like your own. No sound.
For a short time, you still belong here.

 


 

 

 

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