Poetry

The Silent Corn Seed

by José Hernández Díaz

 

para los braceros

 

At tender dawn,
When the proud gallos
Begin to sing,
We rise like spring flowers,
And walk
To the hungry corn stalks
To cultivate the ancient land.

We follow the river’s bend,
To the land,
And cross ourselves,
Punctually,
Before entering
The rustling stalks.

The immortal ritual of
The sun’s rays
Glaring
Down
On
Us:

Never fully conquers our resilient backs.

The consistency of
The cool breeze,
Like the ox,
Reassures our
Arduous resolve,
And gently guides
Our calm
Along
The field’s fluid
Atmospheric charm.

It is Sunday,
Today,
And tomorrow
Fall shall rise
In the silver thoughts of
Abuelo’s
Humble sense of pride;

Mexico’s strength,
He used to say,
Lies at the center of
The ancient universe:

In the heart of
The silent corn seed.

 

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

 

José Hernández Díaz is a first-generation, Chicano poet with a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, Contratiempo, Hinchas de Poesia, In Xochitl In Kuikatl Literary Journal, Indigenous Writers and Artists Collective, The Packinghouse Review, among others. José has had poetry readings at The Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, at The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, and at El Centro Cultural de Tijuana. José is currently fulfilling an internship with Floricanto Press as a Poetry Editor. In addition, he is an active moderator of the online group, ‘Poets Responding to SB1070,’ where he has contributed more than 30 of his own poems.

 

kristi34

photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry

Pure Phase and other poems

by Andrew Taylor

Pure Phase

 

Ship the desk

          beach house rental

set tape rolling

          delicate insects avoid movement

 

keep the gas lit

           meter reversal

 

shallow water candles

mad dog at the door

hole in the bathroom wall

 

from the docks sound

         dwelling mixed shared

 

like a Christmas drink

a patterned carpet

 

speakers raised ship’s chest

untold stories from the city

 

that smell from the sea

 

First Wings

 

Snow gathered

red cross green arrow

 

like the toll booth

approach at midnight

 

it encloses drops

like a trickster

 

salt clears route

floodlights deflect

columns a permanent

 

light

 

beyond production

logistics warehousing

 

its thickened air paths

of ghosts lead forward

 

spooks suddenly

 

a roadside cat

 

Slow Connection

 

So I think of boxes

usefulness and leaving

 

Reaching beyond the scope

those walkways look ancient

concrete has aged

 

Second cup of coffee sinks in

the 9.48 moves me

 

A line to embrace

     England’s green and pleasant

its motorway network adds the soul

 

Necessary cocoon preferable

carpet pattern is nicer

suits the mood

 

Physical context furniture

makes all the difference

 

drain the cup imagine the grounds

 

 

Mist House

 

Solitary cut

adrift

 

headlights into

eyes

 

half light

twin lanes

 

hedgerow curve

revelation of

mist house

 

lit from within

like

an

artwork

 

 

28 August 2011

 

She sticks stickers

     on notebooks that

she will inherit

 

like clear skies

     that turn to cloud

it’s necessity

 

dig through sand seek lines

     make camp

 

verge offers opportunity

     west coast mainline

 

shortening days leaf

     silhouettes against roofs

 

picnic near parks

     picnic in motorway service areas

reverb a snare

 

harvest home

     an M1 trajectory

 

 

Arc Light

 

Third rail flakes as if it’s been

attacked by acid crumbles

like ten year old denim

 

wait for autumn puddles

for grey reflection

warehouses and frames of engineless

motorcycles

 

shades of digital distortion

the layers are intentional

you have to dig

even by arc light rewards

are there

 

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

Andrew Taylor is a Liverpool poet and co-editor of erbacce and erbacce-press. His latest pamphlet is ‘The Lights Will Inspire You’ (Full of Crow: Oakland) was published in spring 2011. Poems have recently appeared or are about to appear in Poetry Wales, Red Fez, Mad Rush, The Ten Pages Press Reader III and Rain Dogs. He has a PhD in poetry and poetics and currently teaches creative writing at Edge Hill University.

kristi15

photo by Kristi Harms

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Fiction

Jehrico and Lupalazo

by Tom Sheehan

It happened overnight in Bola City, and Jehrico Taxico, local junk man and businessman, was right there in the middle of things again. The whole town never figured Jehrico to fall in love, be more attracted to a woman than to his love of junk and making things work again, those which had lost the chance or the token push to gain the new chance. Junk searching, junk collecting, junk re-use were Jehrico’s main dishes in life. No mere woman was going to displace such talents.

This is not a story of a mere woman.

“Hell,” said Collie Sizemore, “Jehrico never once jumped in the tub with Molly. Never once had that joy and I been thinking about it non-stop since they set that damned thing up and started making money on it, that old piece of junk he found out there in some lost canyon. Can you imagine the chances he had with Molly and none ever took. Shakes me to my boot bottoms, it does. Right down where it counts.”

But once in a rare moon, when all the magic sticks of Indian medicine men and their magic stones point in one direction at one time, fate takes a big bite of life and spits it out for proper drying and falling into a rightful place. The fact is that Jehrico, though never wishing for such changes as a woman would bring, totally happy as a junk collector, knew fate was always hanging out someplace in a canyon, out on the grass where a wagon may have passed on 30 or 40 years earlier, died in its tracks and left odds and ends, or on a bold spot on the trail where nothing salvageable was likely to appear, the “likely” part being argumentative. Up from Mexico he had come, as a footloose and abandoned boy making his own way in the world and using every little tossed-out item that came across his path. To him and his wiles, and his need for gain at any measure, nothing was useless; not a piece of wood because it made a toothpick, and not an abandoned or lost iron bath tub or an abandoned piano, all too promising for future business advantages. Never mind a hunk of iron destined, in his mind, for many uses time and again the way the west and its need for implementation grew.

But fate jumped in one day on a return trip to the ghost town of Welcome Fire, where Jehrico once had retrieved an old piano, and where on this return trip came face to face with an Indian brave who had a woman trussed on an Indian pony. Jehrico saw two things in her eyes, deep pain and fear for the near future and a note of both beauty and understanding that said she knew his soul was also hurting some way.

The Indian had seen Jehrico before. “You gather old pieces, trade them, make new use. Tribe talk about you. Tribe saw you take the iron devil out of the canyon many moons ago. I have found a woman. Make new use of her in village.” The Indian pointed at the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman tied to a pony, no saddle under her. She was a hidden woman that somehow crept into Jehrico … and stayed put.

Her plight offered no quick solution to the junk collector, who said, “Get the best you can out of her. She will not last long. She will fade quick as old dog in last days.”

The Indian said, “You think no good come from her?”

Jehrico looked into her eyes in a quick glance, shook his head, and said, “It is written by the gods, if pony run off on you with her tied on, you will lose good pony.”

“You want to trade for pony?” the Indian said. “I make trade.”

Jehrico was fixing his argument in place. “I will trade for pony. He is decent pony.”

“You take woman with pony?”

“Why would I do that?” Jehrico replied. “I have miles to go in my searches. I have little food. Enough for me. I don’t need something that will eat my food and then will die on me. I would have to bury her so buzzards not take away. My God says I would have to bury her. What do you do for dead woman in your tribe? Gather much wood? Make big fire? Wait until she burn away for the High Spirit to take up with Him?”

The Indian, seeing Jehrico’s hand rubbing the handle of a knife, said, “I take knife, you take pony and woman.”

Jehrico, said, “I swap knife for pony, like I said.”

The woman was staring at him; her eyes had changed, as though she finally understood what Jehrico was doing.

The Indian relented. “I swap pony for knife. You can have woman for free.”

Jehrico handed him the knife, took the pony by the mane, patted him slowly with his other hand, and rode away slowly, saying, “If woman dies on me on the trail I will ask the Gods for help to bury her.” Then he put his heel against Mildred his mule and nudged her. “Off we go, Mildred. We make camp in another valley.”

Down the prairie a few miles, the latter part of the day coming on, shadows making new landmarks come to life, Jehrico untied her hands, splashed water on her wrists, gave her a drink from his flask, and said, “My name is Jehrico. What is your name? Where did you come from? How did the Indian capture you?”

The woman, her eyes changed again, a crease of a smile trying to make way at one corner of her mouth that had pouty lips, shook her beautiful black hair and said, “I am Lupalazo. I came from Mexico when a man take me from my home. He was taking me home to be slave. The Indian killed him and took me. He was taking me to his village to be slave. Are you going to make me slave? You fooled Indian right from the start. I saw what you were doing. I can see down into you from far away out here. That is best thing happen to me since my father die two moons ago. I was alone. No family. Will I be in your family now?”

Jehrico found himself already at that idea. “Yes,” he said, “you can be in my family. You can be my family.”

She said, looking straight into his eyes, “Lupalazo say we both need to clean away the past from both of us. We need to go in water and bathe. We need to get rid of bad smell and bad things. Do you know where we can go in water? Water in Mexico is beautiful. Makes you feel clean where mountain send down a message from high up.”

To the most secret place on the river Jehrico took her, wondering how it would be handled, them both at her insistence needing a bath.

But Lupalazo made it the easiest part of the day, the easiest part of the trade. “Nobody outside my family ever see all of me,” she said. “The Indian and the cowboy not see all of me. But I am in your family now and you can see all of me and I can see all of you. We do not worry about such things in our family.” Her smile triggered goodness and joy in both of them.

And at the edge of the river, under a growth of trees that formed like an umbrella over one spot, she took off her clothes and stood there at the edge of the river waiting for Jehrico to undress.

But he was stunned. He could not move. She was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen, never having seen a naked woman before, never dreaming of this sight. Spirits ran right through him, speaking strange words to him, sending strange feelings. Was she not better than a worthy piece of iron, a bronze piece thick as his arm? The thick bottom of a broken bottle, the sun coming for it?

“Are you afraid of water?” she said. “You need to have bath like I do. I will feel better. You look like you have never seen a woman with no clothes on. Is it that way? Do you like what you see? Have you ever seen a woman with no clothes on?”

“No.” stammered Jehrico, “I have never seen a woman with no clothes on. Never in my life.”

“Do you like what you see?” She did not pirouette or make any sensual move. She stood still, a proud and beautiful woman at a crux in her life. “I am in your family now. You can see me anytime. I like how your face looks at me. How your eyes fill up with me. Now is my turn.”

She gestured at him still fully clothed.

Jehrico Taxico, for the first time in his life, disrobed in front of a woman and knew he was in love for ever and ever. And felt more so when Lupalazo smiled back at him, stretched her hand for his hand and the pair of new lovers walked into the cool part of the river and felt the wash coming over them, the wash of splendidly clear water from high in the mountains.

After their bath they lie down in the shade of the trees and knew they were put together for their whole lives. “I will see you from everyplace I am from now on. From far or near.” She held his hand tightly to her.

And of course, it was Collie Sizemore, Bola City’s social scout, saloon porch denizen in the last of the evening light, who yelled out to all in Hagen’s Saloon, “Hey, folks, here comes J&M and he’s got a woman on an Indian pony and she’s prettier than that damned pony, I swear. Her hair’s black as Hades must be black when the fires are out. She’s not an Indian, but she might be from Jehrico’s old home town, ‘cause they look like they’re the best of friends forever, and he ain’t been gone but two days to Welcome Fire to do some more scroungin’. And he scrounged up somethin’ awful nice, if you was to ask me about it.”

The barkeep said, “Collie, you sound like you need a drink.”

Collie Sizemore, as much herald as Bola City would ever know, said, “I feel like somethin’ to celebrate is comin’ on me.”

So it was, only a week later, marriage now the first thing on his mind, Jehrico Taxico asked Lupalazo to marry him in a ceremony to be held in J&M’s Emporium and Dance Hall, the place Jehrico and Molly Yarbrough built around the retrieved piano Jehrico brought in from the ghost town of Welcome Fire.

Jehrico wanted to marry Lupalazo in a hurry, to make her an honest woman, and the shindig promised to be a lively one, and all the sideline accessory actions went into play. Lupalazo, of course, pulled a lot of attention her way, and her and Molly Yarbrough had a great get-acquainted session at the livery site where Jehrico’s tub was still a customer favorite in warm weather and after long cattle drives or long hours with the reins of a coach or wagon.

Molly said, “We’re lucky, Lupalazo, that we caught up with a churchman, Father Rueben Galarzo. He will perform the wedding. I’d like to be the maid of honor for you.”

“Oh, that very nice news, Molly. A churchman from my country once and Jehrico’s country once, and you say it is okay to marry Jehrico who make me dizzy. Make my head spin. It is okay to get married when head is spinning? Does your head spin sometime? You get dizzy? Mine spin whenever Jehrico is near me, and even when I am here and he is down there and fix building for the wedding.”

She thought over what she had said, and asked again of Molly, “Is it okay to get married by churchman when head spin?”

“It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s good to let your head spin. But be careful you don’t fall off your horse.” The ludicrous image leaped at the two women.

Molly and Lupalazo laughed until their sides hurt, and then Lupalazo said to Molly, “Does your head spin, Molly?”

Molly said, “Once in a while, after all my business is done.”

Jehrico’s future wife said, in all honesty, “Is great when it spin all the time and don’t worry about food or where to go or what else to do. But when I wake up I know I am hungry. All the dizzy time make me hungry. I could eat big steak now.”

The two women of the west shared another laughing concert, getting to know each other with deep affinity.

Molly had only one question to ask Lupalazo, and it was the source of her name. “How did your name come about?’ she had said, the curiosity coming as a warm look in her face.

“Oh, my mother tell me about night I was born. My father drink while sit and wait, lots of tequila and branch wine, and he look with his magic glass at shooting stars, many of them that night, and got his riata and told my mother he was going to rope a falling star for me when I came born, which was in the next hour. That is how she tell me, father to rope a star fall from the sky for me.”

Molly, after necessary preparations, had shut down the tub operation, saving it for co-owner Jehrico Taxico and the future Mrs. Lupalazo Taxico’s wedding and she picked out a dress for the bride from her own finery, a red silk body hugger from St. Louis that nobody had seen her wear. When she saw Lupalazo put it on she knew Jehrico would be knocked for a loop further than his current knocked loop when he saw her in it. Such a man in a man’s world would be knocked away for the count seeing the Mexican beauty at her luscious best. She’d even taken Molly’s breath away for a short count.

Molly Yarbrough realized that the junk collector supreme had picked up the most retrievable good thing he’d ever found in his scrounging travels, and come away with a whole gold mine.

The wedding was the highlight of the year for Bola City, and activities went on for four days, but nobody knew after a few hours where Jehrico had taken his bride.

Molly figured it was up along the river, or more likely to a ghost town where Jehrico might be showing his new wife a whole lost town he might someday bring back to life.

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

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press.  He has 18 Pushcart nominations, appeared in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, has 290 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 4 issues of Rosebud Magazine and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks Korean Echoes, 2011 and The Westering, 2012 and will be followed by 9 more collections in the series. The Westering has been nominated for a National Book Award by the publisher. His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Qarrtsiluni, and many more Internet sites and in print magazines.

 kristi56

photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry

Sunday Afternoon and White

by Amy Ekins

Sunday afternoon

 

I lie beneath the open sky, cloudless –

it, not I – and run my fingers across the paving slabs

 

I’m at the front of the flats, and this is not my area;

rather, it is the shared space in front of the cars

 

they are lined, neatly watching me, casting shadows from their bulk

and pinpoints of light from their reflections

 

I hope those pinpoints will not burn me, will not set me alight

in a case of suspected spontaneous combustion

 

speaking of, from here the trains are audible, both the narrow ones

confined to the region, and the throbbing ones which pass without pause

 

I’m unsure how a train’s engine works now, but if I lie still enough

I can feel their vibrations come up through the ground

 

I imagine their strength increasing, leaving my pinpoint-burning

limbs quaking, in a Biblical-sized act of death

 

 

 

White

 

I find pleasure in cleanliness, in the clean spaces and places

I find and create within and without myself.

 

It is a bright white bar of soap, run across my body in quick succession –

three times.

 

It is a tumble-dryer sheet, fresh from the packet, placed on top

of newly-bought bedding.

 

It is the satisfaction in knowing that every thought is monitored, noted

down in a blue-lined notepad, so as not to go astray.

 

It is the culmination of spotless cutlery, and hairless limbs,

and a hope that ninety degree angles will set my world right.

 

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

 

Amy Ekins is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, a project manager for a publishing company, and is finishing up her MRes in Creative Writing, for which she was awarded a fee-waiver scholarship from Northumbria University. She is passionate about communities, public art, and her Kindle. She tweets at @AmyEWrites.

kristi46

photo by Kristi Harms

 

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Poetry

A Rare Truth and other poems

By Maurice Devitt

 A Rare Truth

 

It was a day

when the dog didn’t bark

and the leaves turned to anger.

The icy tip of his tongue

cracked and words

frozen in the counterflow

slipped through,

swirled against the bank

of his lips

broke into open water,

and as their grumpy shape

surfaced

in the wash of conversation,

the ensign of truth

drifted into view.

The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work

 

He takes the train from work,

a chair

tucked under his arm

and sometimes

he sits,

looks around

a carriage

filled with commuters,

pictures himself

in pinstripe and Prada,

a champagne-belly,

decisive cuff-links,

a briefcase full of numbers

and a customised watch

showing customary time.

Silent eyes surround him,

muscles twitch

and in the shaky stillness

his fingers

tighten on the whip.

Spring

 

On clear days

there is a point

when everything

seems to stop

and even the leaves

hold their breath.

Then somewhere

in another world,

two streets away,

a hammer

cracks the silence

and the shadow

of last night’s fox

walks through your door.

Still Life with Bullet and Tattoo

 

A man on the bus

stared into my eyes today.

“What do you see?”,

I asked.

“I see nothing

and I see myself,

I see my fears

stolen by you”.

I followed him

into a large building,

along a wide corridor;

everyone he passed

called him a different name.

As he walked

he got smaller, until

I could just see his shoes.

An office door opened

and for a split second

I saw the painting.

Valediction

 

She longs for the permanence

of last year’s mirror

thinks words can buy her time

yet when she looks through

the rushes of her life,

a wilful ship is sailing

oars dipped, as though hoping

to break the door of morning

before the dogs are barked

out of their dreams – and still

she hides in the long shadow

where one smile

could change the ink of evening.

 

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

 

Maurice Devitt is a student at Mater Dei in Dublin he has just completed an MA in Poetry Studies. Recently short-listed for both the Cork Literary Review and Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Competitions, placed third in The Joy of Sex competition and long-listed for the Doire Press Chapbook Competition, during 2011 he was short-listed for both the Fish Poetry prize and the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition, and was also runner-up in the Phizzfest poetry competition. Over the past twelve months he has had poems accepted by Orbis, Abridged, Moloch, Revival, Boyneberries, Paraxis, Weary Blues, thefirstcut, Stony Thursday, Ofi Press, Bluepepper, The Weekenders and Smiths Knoll and he is working towards a first collection.

kristi52

photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry, translation

Eleven Thousand Meters above the Great Plains and other poems

by Tomica Bajsić

Eleven Thousand Meters above the Great Plains

Excerpt from “Antarctic,” in Poems of Light and Shadow

On the airplane Miss Love sits next to the window so that she can watch
the clouds, white clouds, dense and soft like spun sugar
those foamy clouds that are good only for walking
in a sleeveless T-shirt. Late in the afternoon
(the hour when her hair receives that golden hue)
the sun tends to beat hard up there
at those heights.
There is a man sitting next to her
Suspiciously observing her hands
Full of scratches and bruises.

Miss Love sits on the plane with her knees pressed tightly against each other
clutching a macrobiotic dinner in her lap while the items
she purchased nestle under her legs. There is a teddy bear-shaped rucksack
on her back where she keeps her wedding dress and the urn
with the ashes of her late husband, the well known singer
whose name she forgot.

He’s been sitting there in that teddy-bear-shaped knapsack for quite some time now
Miss had burried a handful of his ashes
under the willow tree in her garden while she mixed the other two with clay
and made tiny saucers, and a handful of it was unfortunately
inadvertently blown away:

ending up in the ventilation system shaft.
As for the rest: Miss Love always carries it with herself on her journeys
keeping it close to her heart – like a talisman.

 

The Cunning Barber

I went for a haircut in Santa Teresa
To a barber to whom I’d not yet been
Before I sat in the chair
I said to him looking straight into his eyes:
I don’t want one of those modern hairstyles.
No way,
Said he in a hurt voice, I would never,
I cut hair in the good old way.

While he was cutting my hair it seemed fine —
I looked at myself in the mirror
And it seemed to me that I saw Simon
Bolivar
Turning a bend
Up in the rocky peaks,
Riding into death
(El Liberador)
Wrapped in a blanket, incited by fever.
He has dropped to forty five kilos
But still does not give up.
Behind him seven mules carrying the luggage
With seventy medals of honour,
Next to him ride colonel Wilson and a handful of loyal
Desperadoes, vagabonds and soldiers of fortune;
Above them the eternal snow of the Andes and yellow bells,
And down in the depths were fields in which
A man could drown.

But when I came out I saw that on
The barber shop’s front sign it said:
MODERN HAIR STYLES
And really, looking at my reflection in the glass
I realised that the old mule had tricked me,
Which was most upsetting.

 

Tito Apocrypha

Tito gnaws a pig’s head in the attic
eyeing the street in fear that his parents might catch him
I don’t give a damn / he thinks / I’ll escape on my bicycle

Tito riding a tram in Vienna under cover
wearing his best grey suit thinking:
why should I be any worse than those students?

don’t marry her
marry me

Tito riding over Mt Romanija
followed by old Nazor stumbling through the snow
Vladimir Vladimir / thinks Tito benevolently

Tito waving at the rows of kids from his Mercedes
red bandannas are tied around their necks like nooses / the Sun
will once grow dark / ponders Tito philosophically

Tito is elegant even in death
here are the mourners listed alphabetically:

bears rhinos lions / chess players
cineastes / circus acrobats / clerks
corn seller at work station no 7
Cuban cigar industry / employees of the Institute for the History
of the Working Class Movement / the English Queen
Greenpeace activists / heads of the tenant’s councils
historic figures / hippies / honour students
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez a.k.a. “Carlos” / men with moustaches
officers from firemen’s clubs / opera singers
presidents of fishermen’s societies / pretty women
primary school teachers / punks / reserve policemen
retired warrant officers / Sai Baba
soccer players / tailors

Tito showed up again in a balloon above eastern Africa
pointing his binoculars at a herd of zebras
those devils with stripes / thinks Tito to himself / they are all the same

don’t marry her
marry me

Tito says NO to Stalin and Stalin
responds I don’t care anymore / who gives a fuck
do you know how to calculate?
I have twenty one thousand eight hundred and fifty six of them
ground into the leaves of the Katyn forest / I have three hundred thousand
secretly burried ones
I have ten million of those liquidated in liquidations
I have all of their IDs / the photographs of their children / the letters
filled with unwarranted optimism / their pencils / small change
I’ve got them all neatly placed on file

         from “The Consolation of Chaos” Anthology of contemporary Croatian poetry, 1995 – 2005; from “If We Crash into a Cloud, It Won’t Hurt,” Croatian Poetry 1989 – 2009., translated into English by Damir Šodan

 

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

 

TOMICA BAJSIĆ Born in1968. in Zagreb, Croatia. Poet, prose writer and translator. Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia. Editor for translated poetry in Poezija / Poetry quarterly magazine, Croatia, and founder of Druga priča /Another Story publishing. Worked also in restoration, drawing and design. Board member of Croatian PEN Centre. Translated into many languages. Author of four poetry books and two books of prose. Translator and editor of four international poetry anthologies. Twice awarded with highest national awards for poetry. Published in numerous anthologies and literary journals at home and abroad.

 kristi11

photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry

from The Harmony and the Irony

by Colin Dodds

L

 

The world is overfull of every single thing,

but even the ghosts go hungry

 

An alien said a bigger mystery does involve us

But it only came to earth because we had the best drugs,

because our food dissolves us

 

The couch digested what it swallowed

The astronaut jumped the ledge, and a car alarm followed

We skinned the alien, and it was hollow

 

The sleepwalker and the streetwalker met that night

He was an iron joke

And she was a baby made of cigarette smoke

 

Money and semen sliding down her face

was the new broadcast for the tears of the race

The satellites winced, the stars shrank from us

as if they witnessed incest and little else

 

The alien’s ragged corpse chortled at our ideas

of murder, of crime and told us

The crime wasn’t the crime

Sentience was the crime

And sentience is the sentence

 

It was back to the almighty gimmick for us

Even repentance would be a gimmick from then on

 

M

 

Sincerity helps.

Sometimes it’s easier to say what you really mean

if you really mean it.

 

Everyone could use another friend.

Even the ocean has a floor.

 

 

N

 

What reality is,

when it really is something,

is a knife in my back.

 

There’s this special moment

between when you discover

there’s a knife stuck in your back

and when you discover

you can’t remove it.

 

I miss that moment

sometimes.

 

 

O

 

It begins in disappointment and uneasiness,

because the Kingdom of God

is very unlike what you expected.

 

Richard Nixon said to me

“I was king of the earth and more.”

A map of America including the moon

covered the linoleum floor.

 

A Parthenon peeked through the vents

in the soundproof tiles.

 

The armies of heaven are never ready.

The armies of hell

always fall to cannibalism.

 

There was never

any such thing

as a noble race.

 

 

P

 

In winter, I heard music

coming from every building,

muffled by the red bricks.

 

Nirvana’s a cruel pricktease like that.

 

The town fathers gutted the temple,

the one that worked too well.

Their children restored it,

polished the adamantine pews and ceiling joists.

 

But all they could make of it

was a too-pious tourist trap.

 

In the half-refurbished Temple of the Great Revealer,

you can see the kids of the rich kids meditating.

 

I say they should watch

their fucking step.

 

Reality may feel

very far away.

 

But madness always starts

with a shortcut.

 

 

Q

 

They call it freedom,

but look at what they do with it.

 

The housing developments and advertisements,

the pills and the pornography

all add up to a half-sprung ambush.

 

All the creations of man

from the crassest to most subtle

form a nested doll of traps.

 

Each promises freedom

and delivers another disingenuous promise.

 

“You think you’re doing what you want to do,

that you’re happy with your wine bottles,

guitars and purported genius. But you’re not.

It’s a lot of bullshit,” a co-worker told me

before getting on the commuter train.

 

The baroqueness of city life

wears me down so I can’t say why.

 

In the concert hall, I strain,

struggle and bullshit,

just to get at my own experience.

But I only get in my own way.

 

If you want to find heaven,

find the actions and the words

for which no man has made a receptacle.

 

Assume that what you desire most

may not have been considered yet.

 

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

 

Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education at The New School in New York City. Norman Mailer wrote that Dodds’ novel The Last Bad Job showed “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Dodds’ novels What Smiled at Him and Another Broken Wizard have been widely acclaimed by critics and readers alike. His screenplay, Refreshment – A Tragedy, was named a semi-finalist in 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. Two books of Dodds’ poetry—The Last Man on the Moon and The Blue Blueprint—are available from Medium Rare Publishing. Dodds’ writing has also appeared in a number of periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal OnlineFolioExplosion-ProofBlock MagazineThe Architect’s NewspaperThe Main Street RagThe Reno News & Review and Lungfull! Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha.

 kristi28

photo by Kristi Harms

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Fiction

Island Lies: Empty Land

by Dita West

Once upon a time there was a Great South Land, hypothesised but unknown, searched for but unfound. Sea explorers were wrecked on its coasts, or mistook it for something else. The great south land’s inhabitants were part of the land and sea itself, so they were able to keep the land and themselves hidden for a long time, but eventually, like all once hidden islands, it was found. Apparently the inhabitants were still invisible, as the new arrivals, a motley crew, declared it an Empty Land, Terra Nullius. Land explorers died of thirst in its emptiness.

Descended from the motley crew who had colonised the Empty Land, red-haired Pauline at a South Australian Primary School in the 1950s was taught the same history in Grades Four, Five and Six. Each year she had to circle and cross maps of Australia with different coloured dots and dashes, to indicate the coastal and inland discoveries of the white explorers. Little though she knew about the land before 1788, she thought you couldn’t discover anything that other people (in this case the Australian Aborigines) already knew. Saying this in Grade Five got her rapped on the knuckles with the yard-stick.

She had not actually ever seen any Aboriginal people, apart from photos in school books of near-naked people in the desert, accompanied by photos of stone weapons and woven baskets. But in Grade Seven, at a church social, there was a group of young Aboriginal boys, all dressed in grey suits. They were not with families, as most of the other children at the social were. Their only family seemed to be one another. Or a boy much older than most of them, a boy with golden skin and shining curly hair. She heard him called “Stevie”. Stevie was the one the boys went to for cuddles, for talking, for laughter, as if he was everybody’s older brother.

They were from the Boys Home, her mother told her. “Why are they there?” she asked. “Their mothers don’t want them” said Pauline’s mother.

Some years later, when Pauline read a different kind of history, she knew that the mothers had wanted them. She read about the violence and cunning cruelty, the ignorance and arrogance of the people she was in some way descended from, or beholden to. Then she felt she did not belong here, in Australia, the land she was

born in. She married a man who did have the right to be here, according to his Aboriginal ancestry. His inherited anger was more than equal to punishing her inherited guilt.

It was then that she found solace in the land. In the bush where they lived, bushland nurtured her. She walked under silver-green gums in the daytime, heard the whisper of their trembling leaves, sat in sun-warmed sand and chewed sour pig cactus, found Sturt Peas flaming in the dust, small miracles to sustain her.

She became aware that there were places of violence in the land as well as in her life. They were in the snarl of a rock-face, the feeling of panic it gave her until she moved behind it, in something that raised the hairs at the back of her neck if she turned her back on a deep waterhole. When they had to shift to a place near Maralinga, in the Nullarbor Desert, she felt fear in the silent white sky of the day, in the dingo’s howl of spacious night. Or perhaps it was her own her fear that had leaked into the land.

Gentle or harsh, the land breathed, and she was part of it. She could not become someone who was not born here. But she belonged in a limited way, so few her skills of survival, of country. She learned how much she did not have, how one bark painting could contain a world of physical and mental skill, spiritual lore and knowledge, all of them foreign to her She could neither sing nor be sung, had no clan land, no rites and ceremonies, to be passed on to her descendants.

Her husband’s past was the narrow streets of Sydney’s suburban ghetto, Redfern, the only clan land he knew, she thought. And she thought the rest of it was as unknown to him as to her. But later she realised that it was just not told to her, that his ancestry was in stories told in his family. And she did not belong in that family.

By the time she knew that, she had dotted her footprints across the desert from the long unbroken double lines of the railway, until she came to the sea. She would return, after all, to the past of the motley crew that was in her blood — green hills, red legends and lies, peasant silence and survival, salt water beating on rock and wrecked ships, church bells ringing over quiet villages; all the histories of Ireland, Cornwall, England.

She didn’t belong to them either. She stopped searching for belonging. She became a planetary tourist. When a doctor in one of the places she didn’t belong to told her that her escalating illness was Emphysema, she booked her ticket for Australia which was no longer Empty Land. But somewhere inland, somewhere lonely, somewhere by a railway line, somewhere she had lived with a man whose anger was as great as her guilt, she hoped to find a place that would accept her dust as part of its own.

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

 Dita West is the name under which Judith Steele writes Island Lies, a collection of poetry, fiction and faction. Empty Land is from that collection. Her story Once, also from Island Lies, was published by Islet Online (Autumn (April) 2011) .

 kristi38

photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry

Grey and other poems

by Pamela Riley

 

Grey

Grey will be my end –
pale like putty
or a child’s desk,
those thin whiskered things
bristling my chin
and the flagstones
in the garden,
slick as new birth.

It will undo me –
river birch shedding
and those teeth
that chew words
across the table,
or smoke –
husky and longing for
some new companion.

I will wear it
as a ring
or at my throat
or perhaps drape
my arms with it
swelling my belly
like a lifeless bloom.

 

 

Song

I never sang for my father –
a brawny man of fish
and deer
and thick pelts
of cigar smoke
and whiskey.

My anthem was different
a voice of green moss
and violet underbellies
of claret
and pale balsa
angels

I never sang for my father –
no tune stinging
between my fingers,
or notes
like clattering teeth
only the long divide

of music
moving strangely.

 

 

Pan
Your horned god –
on pipes,
on thick wooly legs
breathing in the reed slim air.
You hear him play
the seduction of forest –
of fields
that grow slick
and fertile,
of grass too green
to let the sun enter.
He strokes the tender spot
where you are fallow,
hidden
from the world’s
sudden moves
and watches as you
buckle
underneath the moist
flesh
of April’s blooming.

 

 

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

Pam Riley is a native New Yorker, who still misses the Big Apple. She now resides in Hampton Roads, Virginia. She likes to spend her free time going to the beach, theatre, museums and traveling. Pam is mother to a wonderful son and two neurotic cats. She has been writing for years and enjoys working in both poetry and prose. The little quirks and imperfections of life are her inspiration.
kristi3
photo by Kristi Harms
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