Poetry

A Lost Face and then Some & other poems

by Tom Sheehan

 

 

A Lost Face and then Some

 

When asked to read to celebrate my new book of memoirs,

I let the audience enter the cubicle from where the work came.

I told them: I’ll celebrate with you by telling you what I know,

how it is with me, what I am, what has made me this way;

a public posture of a private life near nine decades deep.

 

Just behind the retina, a small way back, is a little room.

with secret doors, passageways, key words beside Sesame.

If you’re lucky enough to get inside that room, at the right time,

there’s ignition, a flare, now and then pure incandescence,

a white phosphorous shell detonating ideas and imagery.

 

It’s the core room of memories, holding everything

I’ve ever known, seen, felt, spurting with energy.

Shadowy, intermittent presences we usually know

are microscope-beset, become most immediate.

For glorious moments, splendid people rush back

 

into our lives with their baggage, Silver Streak unloaded,

Boston’s old South Station alive, bursting seams.

At times I’ve been lucky, white phosphorescently lucky;

when I apprehend all, quadrangle of Camp Drake in Japan

in February of 1951, the touch and temperature of the breeze

 

on the back of my neck; I know a rifle’s weight on a web

strap on my shoulder, awed knowledge of a ponderous

steel helmet, tight lace on a boot, watch band on one wrist.

Behind me, John Salazer is a comrade with two brothers

not yet home from World War II, who the captain calls

 

and says, “You go home tomorrow. Be off the hill before dark.”

“No, sir, I’ll spend the night with Jack down in the listening post.”

At darkness a Chinese infiltrator hurls a grenade into their bunker.

The count begins again, eternal count, odds maker at work,

clash of destinies. On the ship heading home, on a troop train

 

rushing across America, in all rooms of sleep since then,

are spaces around me. Memory, fragile, becomes tenacious,

but honors me as a voice, and my will to spread their tenacity.

My book says, ‘For those who passed through Saugus, all towns,

comrades bravely walked away from home to fall elsewhere,

 

and the frailest one of all, frightened, glassy-eyed, knowing

he is hapless, one foot onto D-Day soil or South Pacific beach

and going down, but not to be forgotten, not ever here.”

I had their attention. We shared: The shells were cannonading

as one died in my arms, blood setting sun down. In darkness now

 

I cannot find his face again. I search for it, stumble, lose my way.

November’s rich again, exploding. Sixty-four Novembers burst

the air. I inhale anew, leaves bomb me, sap is still, muttering

of the Earth is mute. I remember all the Novembers; one tears

about me now, but his face is lost. How can I find his face again?

 

 

Burial for Horsemen

(For my father, blind too early.)

 

The night we listened to an Oglala life

on records, and shadows remembered

their routes up the railed stairway like

a prairie presence, I stood at your bed

 

counting the days you had conquered.

The bottlecap moon clattered into your

room in vagrant pieces…jagged blades

needing a strop or wheel for stabbing,

 

great spearhead chips pale in falling,

necks of smashed jars rasbora bright,

thin flaked edges tossing off the sun.

Under burden of the dread collection,

 

you sighed and turned in quilted repose

and rolled your hand in mine, searching

for lighting only found in your memory.

In moon’s toss I saw the network of your

 

brain struggling for my face the way you

last saw it, a piece of light falling under

the hooves of a thousand horse ponies,

night campsites riding upward in flames,

 

the skyline coming legendary.

 

 

 

Gandy Dancer of the Phoebe Snow

 

You began right in front of me today.

I don’t know where you came from,

patient muscles hanging loose in your

soil-painted, dark-blue suit coat,

one pocket ripped to a triangle,

one pocket stuffed oh so properly

with a coffee-filled paper-wrapped

pint bottle, your thin legs nailed down

into a pair of the saddest brown pants,

a long-handle spade extending your arms,

eyes folded over reaching for noon.

 

Off behind you, faded to gray,

jetted the rip of animate steam,

coal gases; railroad track arrowing

onto a lake top that still does not exist.

 

You said, “Manja,” and laughed at me,

your big teeth ripe of red meat and bread,

voice as loud as your hands slapping with music.

 

You untied the red bandanna at your neck,

a sun-bothered sail of red bandanna,

wiped the brow under a felt hat, sucked

at the papered bottle until I tasted iodine

at the bend of my throat, smelled coal dust

coming a talc over us, like a dry fog.

 

It was the same yesterday when I made

a v-grooved pole to hold the clothesline up,

and over the fence a visitor from the Maritimes

said, “You go back a long way. I haven’t seen

a pole like that in years and years.”

 

So I guess you came the way the pole did,

out of the roads I’ve traveled, down lanes

stuffed like chairs, past yard geographies,

a long view over trees, out of some

thing I was, an organic of memory,

celluloid flashing of wide spaces

I passed through, the odors I thought

I wore or was, cannons at the edge

of a distant war, colors banging

their permanence tightly against

the back of my eyes,

 

pieces of the circle I find myself on,

where you were a moment ago, just

out the window of my mind, bearing

the riddle of a melancholy whistle

from hollows among the Rockies.

 

 

Face of an Old Western Barn

 

The motley barn, like an old stain

gone haywire, is a dread easel.

Knots, carved into walls like old

promises, wait for campfires

or late hearths, warmth from Earth’s

beginning.

 

Only the darkness is inconclusive where

night points its finger. In the deep aches

knots have fallen from, stars fall in, fields

of them, with the evening leader digging

deepest, digging first after yesterday’s carcass

linking still in the eyes’ behavior.

 

Shadows, upstaging any moon, argue on

its surfaces laterally. I have seen more mandates

than dreams in the dim recesses where wood

envies time, chases after it a whole age of

transparent death; just sunken cedars

in the swamp, drowned black, live on longer,

scaled at new livelihood.

 

Against a thousand storms this barn has stood,

never folding inward, only down by faint degrees

of ant strokes, termite mandibles, the odd carpenter;

its shoulders going sideways, knees turning softly,

its breath slow and halting.

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East.  eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Danse Macabre are Murder at the Forum (NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about our home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for my co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules I prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan from the bank for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!!!!

And paid it off!!!!

 

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jane30

painting by Jane Gilday

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Poetry

Black Molasses and other poems

by Cesar Love
Black Molasses

Light cannot pass through me
I swallow every spark
I put out each candle
I smother the streetlamp
I douse the lighthouse

The moon, the sun, and the day
Down they go in my distillery.
Everything bright milled by my night.
There I make them black like me
There I make them pure like me

When I am ready, I make the world sweet
Give me flour, I make gingerbread
Give me water, I become rum
Give me an audience, I become music

I am black molasses
I go the speed that I choose
They say I move slow, but really I move free
In this sugar, you meet freedom
In this, sugar, you become four-alarm cool.
The bongo of minutes, the gong of the hours,
Simple flickers on the still of your soul.

 

The Garbage Men

They come while you sleep
And they wake you,
Clanking their truck,
Rattling their giant cans
They take what you leave for them
Torn clothes
Worthless paper
Broken toys

They return in your dreams
And ignore you
They cruise right by
In their noisy truck
And don’t pick up a thing

But if you learn their language
If you trade shoes with them
And follow their dance
They free you
They take everything
You want to be rid of

 

Flavor of Lemon

Bake your pie of lemon
Invite the forbidden one over
There is no time
For plates and silverware
Eat it with her
As fast as you can
Destroy the evidence
Before she leaves
Lick every crumb
From her face

Cupid’s dark twin
Hands you
The handsome fruit.
He tells you, smell it.
Isn’t this exquisite?
I dare you to taste it.
But if you like it,
If you want more,
Laws will be passed
Against you.

In a ball of innocent yellow
A flavor that strips
Your varnish
This is the taste
Of Love’s confusion.
This is the taste
Of Love’s certainty.
His nakedness
That begs for sugar clothes

The sky will rain sour
No umbrella
No lifeboat
The lifeguards laugh
You must drown

Then bake your pie
Save her the last slice
Savor the last slice

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César Love writes under the influence of Pablo Neruda, Lanston Hughes and the Asian Masters. He is a native of California with roots in Mexico. He recites his poems at open mics in the San Francisco Bay Area.
These poems will appear in César Love’s soon-to-be-published book, Birthright.

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Donald Helton

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Poetry

A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement & Sunshine

by Crawdad Nelson

 

A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement

The strip joint sits on a low rise
about a mile away

from the useless but ominous cone,
from the piles cooling,
gradually, a thousand years at a time,
lethal rods bathed in clear pools,
men keeping the eternal valve open
smoking only where allowed,
preventing disaster,

looking across mud and waters,
near whizzing highway. Enormous trucks
howl off to appointments, head toward unknown scales,
unpredictable ordinances, secret restrictions,

while the strippers give it all, sometimes
pleasantly authentic, almost real,
pretending to care about the truckers
drinking watery beer in the front row,
the mill hands looking so deep
they see themselves,
bare skin, big hair,
thighs on the pole, high heels,
wobbling a bit,
showing, but not showing,

when someone stops in
two and a half days later, explicitly pale
and emaciated, all there is after the money
is lost is the way it feels in your hand,
you can always tell,
once the road is traveled,
the highway crossed,
it is clear:

A road is just a trail the governor discovered
on a map and drew lines over
until it was gone, until engineers had
measured and figured the precise amount of earth
and degree of difficulty; it started out safe,
in the morning with a packed lunch going fishing,
but got worse with time: someone dug in, hardened,
and simplified the hill itself, a long curve now
cuts it in half, and the trees at the bottom are scarred
after decades of intercepting lives,
providing closure, closing deals.

A road is a place you can’t walk;
you’ll get run down;
someone will chuck a half-full beer at your head
from a moving automobile,
someone won’t see you,
someone will plow into the shoulder at seventy
miles an hour and destroy a hundred yards
of white picket fence hung
with nasturtium; you can’t relax,
you may have to suddenly leap
into wild tangled weeds and vines,
beer cans and cinder block fragments,
granite, glass, toxicity
squalor and risky behavior
cuddled in roadside weeds;

a road is just a trail
with safety removed, a tunnel through timber,
surface upon muck, flat spot, wide spot,
spot with nothing left to give, a dangerous ribbon of
pressed layers, of death underfoot,
anonymous and pointless.

Three days later they pass once more,
hundred miles an hour,
middle of the road.

 
Sunshine

The sun rises and falls over the continuous moment; the moon rolls through the sky and plunges into the sea just after breakfast each day, the size of a gull’s egg, on a secret nest; the sky reveals its broken wings, a stroke of light across the infinite, a stone in the sea; the bones of the pioneer dead lie gathered and counted. Most of what occurs is a kind of mud capturing the repetitive tasks of life. Let’s see if you can figure this one out. Someone with a knife is at the door. Go on down to the personnel office and ask the right questions. After a few drinks people soften into slightly less intimidating postures and the tobacco smell darkens. We sit there alone staring at each other. Standing in line to eat. Standing in line to take a shit. Standing in line at the gate. The door swings. The door swings inward. You go in. The sun comes over the ridge and punctures the soft moon, lying invalid on the water, the sun rises to an unlikely height, the moon is a soft white blossom.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Crawdad Nelson has published poems, stories, essays and articles in the small press for over twenty years. He has been editor, pasteup man and photographer as well. He currently works at a community college helping people understand what they think about things they read and write.

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Roy & car

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Poetry

Swastika Soul and other poems

by Patricia Walsh

 

Swastika Soul

 
If you come around, let it be said
I never wanted you anyway.
Why would I suspend disbelief
when I can still think about you,
the fragrant stare, the acid coffee breaks
contradictions becoming irrelevant
incongruities being swept away
to cement your party line.

If I could dispense with your teachings
I might be oddly better off.
Foraging for arguments to dispense you with
while you twist the blade verbatim.
The colder it gets, the harder the fall
but you would never admit it
the fact that you were never slighted.

The skin off my nose transplants any failures
a remembered hatred locks my heart
against the window, to minimize the damage
of memory dripping against the cooker.
You have taken your place among the blessed
while I, alone, re-embellish the wound
we dug together

 
Box-Shaped Heart

So much for camaraderie. Locked, exposed,
you see the light through a chink darkly.
The rot ignored, self-effacing truly
your eyes disguise an affable explosion.

It was an incendiary device like no other.
Enough to quicken love, feed paranoia,
laugh at differences, sting with the future,
lighting at lost opportunity, a chance stolen.

Perhaps you would decorate a shelf nicely.
The crack in the pint glass follows your tears
shut down the avenues of affection
until the changes ring hollow again.

If I could pray, I would. What about
this information too poisonous to proceed?
Is it not enough for you to bleed
wheels go but forward most of the time.

Their careering etch like acid on you
an animal ferreting its way out of this
useless information, beating a path
to the lonely lines on your face.

Calm, consumed by television
sleekly engendering a topless future
sink your drinks after a fashion
disappear at your will, a rake in progress.

 

Mortal Fibre

Run-ins collide with petty insinuations
psychotic crashes with crushes benign.
You are rather tall in my canon
weeping alone in a poisoned room
.
Shooting the messenger makes no difference
to the information burning abruptly
A god denied, you cry, on your bootstraps
you sleep alone, in a pluralist dream.

No ice challenge would make you forgive me.
A poisoned text is all that matters.
Silence on the other end, a rash declaration
is all I have left, not that it matters.

History is spun, a fine fibre of friendship,
shorn atwain by the infatuation game
your heartstrings tugged by past romance
Laughing in fecundity, a trump card

A poisoned chalice you refused, now you regret it
putting away beloveds to a static eye
eat, drink and be merry, standing alone
hacked down for future beauty, now revealed.

You’ll keep your distance, for a keepsake.
Far from maddening hearts, overproduce
affection, a tight squeeze, forgotten

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Patricia Walsh was born and raised in the parish of Mourneabbey, Co Cork, Ireland, and was educated in University College Cork, graduating with an MA in Archaeology in 2000. Previously she has published one collection of poetry, titled Continuity Errors, with Lapwing Publications in 2010, and has since been published in a variety of print and online journals. These include: The Fractured Nuance; Revival Magazine; Ink Sweat and Tears; Drunk Monkeys; Hesterglock Press; Linnet’s Wing, Narrator International, and The Evening Echo, a local Cork newspaper with a wide circulation. She was the featured artist for June 2015 in the Rain Party Disaster Journal. In addition, she has also published a novel, titled The Quest for Lost Eire, in 2014.

 

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Scott21

photo by Skott Horn

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Poetry

exactly like & literary whores

by Peter Bracking

 

exactly like

 

 

dawn ripples orange

chosen cherry blossoms explode imperious white

proclaim

perfect balance physics buried in chemistry

light rain

succulent spring soil earth’s awakening yawn

and soju drunks pissing on trunks

the cherries have arrived

and for that instant

your entire world smells exactly like continuance

 

 

literary whores

 

 

a pair of impoverished poets plastering posters around town

hawking hawking

wobbling shopping cart shuffle stuffed full of words

self agrrandized mumbled jumble

context bouncing off blind behind

grabbing snagging snatching tickling cajoling verbs

licking residuals from cat king lips

corporate poets squeak echo in the canyons of the city

 

 

  • * * * * * * * * * * * *

Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: tropical beach.

Words have been published from ocean to ocean to ocean by some really great literary mags in a growing number of countries on half the inhabited continents.

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jane19art by Jane Gilday

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Poetry

Seasonal Affair and Funeral Lines

by Judith Steele

 
Seasonal Affair

 
May Day in Darwin, dragonflies in squadrons
Posses of fire-hawks cruise the air
I open your letter – familiar joy –and doubt.
In June fiery sunsets, and you
on the midnight plane.
Dry Season air of July is champagne
Our kisses intoxicate, our laughter sparkles
as if we never wept.

 
Late August wind blows down dead branches
We resurrect old anger, throw it around.
September builds humidity. We always return
to this sensual desire, and desire to be more than this.

 
Still October, still no rain, still purple clouds
without a breath of wind. We are careful,
speak of the past, but not the future.
November thunder drops sheets of water,
twisted sheets on our bed are soaked with lust.

 
Troppo December, and luminous bat-splat
on the only road out of here. You go south
to visit your children, return in flooded January.
We watch with envy reckless adolescents jump
off Nightcliff Jetty into monsoon seas.

 
February stars of wilted frangippanni
fall on ants recycling eyeless bird
in a mess of rotting mangoes.
Again, you ask me to live down south.
Again, I will not go. Again, you will not stay.
March mornings fall into a late monsoon trough,
breathe threat of cyclone. Again I prepare for the worst.

 
April is calm. Long Toms float beneath Rapid Creek Bridge
like Chinese brush strokes on pale green silk.
Torres Strait Pigeons have flown home. You too.
For each migration, a yearly return.
For every reconciliation, a separation

 
And then?
Anticipation …

 
May Day, dragonflies in squadrons …

 

 
Funeral Lines

 
Ephemeral beauty
born, grown,
mated, created
ephemeral life

 
Ephemeral beauty, scrub and shine,
make haste, vacuum time,
produce consume bigger and better
mountains of dust

 
Ephemeral beauty, make mistakes,
break your heart break your life,
we can’t go back, can’t restore
ephemeral innocence

 
Ephemeral beauty bound for dust
Create. From whatever you can.
Drudge when you must, compete if you lust,
make mistakes, weep and ache
Then Still Always Turn
to what you have to how you can
Create ephemeral beauty.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Judith Steele is Australian. Her poetry has appeared in Northern Territory and South Australian publications including Northern Perspective, Northerly, Dymocks Northern Territory Literary Awards, Friendly Street Poets. Poetry or prose has appeared on websites including The Animist, Four and Twenty, Islet Online (as Dita West), In other Words:Merida .

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Kreso6

art by Kreso Cavlovic

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Poetry

Public Relations and other poems

by Christopher Prewitt

 
Public Relations

 
It has been raining
but only on that side of town.

 
I go in my quiet way
nursing a fire ball,

 
wanting to be held in the air
that is screaming at me,

 
signing in at the front desk
of an old building

 
stained with streaks of milk
on the windows.

 
A young woman in a black dress
comes from the back to take my coat

 
and my teeth.
I try to ask her

 
why do daughters inflict violence on one another,
but she’s already at work

 
on my tongue.
It’s a device

 
that was once bright
as the silver coins

 
Judas will feel sad about forever.
There’s no time

 
to think about the rust.
I have to go.

 
I have to sit at my desk.
I have to write something brief

 
and apologetic
on behalf of my top floor shadow,

 
spinning with gold in his lap
and blood on his cheeks,

 
the company president.

 

Moonlight over Meat-eating Plants

Here’s how I write poems.
I live in a town.
I open my mouth.
The first person to kiss me
I come to resent.
The first gentle rain
to sleep at my feet
I hand over to the authorities.
Anyone who dines with me
at a Waffle House or a Golden Corral
has a friend for life.
Anyone who writes poems and hates poems
containing more than one language
and/or positive feelings
toward chain family restaurants
might as well kiss me
con lengua y uñas.
At the end of a long day being no one,
I make a simple dinner
for my wife,
and then I rub her back
until she falls asleep.
Just as I’m about to fall asleep,
I take my 3 subject notebook
and mechanical pencil
from the floor.
Every night I write
these same 2 lines over and over:

Christopher Prewitt,
You are a liar.

I can’t keep my eyes open.
I never get the title right.

 

Poema with Roses and Snowstorm

 

My son, you are better off
than a nightmare, any nightmare,

 
all the nightmares you’ve ever had
where the roses sprouting from your head

 
have teeth and they’re all falling out.
The person you love more than anything

 
has a ruby between their eyes—I won’t pretend
to know whom you love—and they’re angry

 
at you, so angry, they are snowstorm
as far as explanations go, as far as

 
explaining how they came to bury you
like Satan in the ice and the cold—

 
this is only a dream but your heart
is the heart of the cat

 
who sought warmth in the car engine
to put it bluntly. You are not

 
pure fear that is self saying to self
something. You are paper boat we are trying

 
with breaths gentle and constant to blow
through a wall of flame. We love you

 
precisely because you are fragility hiding nothing.
Drink this the mountain dew of our love. You are shaking

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christopher Prewitt is a writer from southern Appalachia. His poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in The Four Way Review, the NewerYork, The Cafe Ireal, Ghost Ocean Magazine, Vinyl, The Iowa Review, among others. His awards include nominations for the Best of the Net anthology and the Pushcart Prize, as well as the Billie & Curtis Owens Creative Writing Award. He is a former poetry editor at Inscape and Minnesota Review. He is at work on a novel, a full-length collection of poetry, and he has a chapbook ms. under review by editorial staffs.

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Samuel11

painting by Samuel Barrera

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