person Jonathan Witte, four poems

An editor for the federal government, Jonathan Witte has a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Maryland. He lives in Silver Spring, MD, with his wife and three children. This is the first time he has submitted his poetry for publication.

*

Solo Voyage

Evening docks
like a desolate ship,
indigo and monolithic,

its umbral sails
swelling above
the distant hips of
a titanic continent.

Sleep tastes like a mossy anchor;
it lurches, shifts, and slips into gear—
the sound of stars grinding on stars.

I sail across an ocean of teeth.

I acquiesce. I drown

in the velvet
whirlpool of
your absence.

*

Origami

What am I supposed to tell
the children when they bring
their deformed beasts to me?

I teach them the word menagerie as
they clear the project table and sweep
up cuttings from the kitchen floor.

We gather without you for another
slow parade of meticulously made
animals, and I’m embarrassed to
mistake their swans for butterflies.

The sky aligns edge to edge,
a yellow sheet of cellophane,
the afternoon cut and creased
and folded like fractal creature:

a crane inside
a crane inside
a crane.

*

Escape Artist Sketches

I
I stole my brother’s car and drove to Phoenix in the dark. Bluegreen glow of dashboard gauges, the faint scent of roadkill and desert marigolds. Tap. Tap. Tap. Insects slapping the windshield like rain. How many miles does it take to turn yourself around, to rise up from ashes? Keep driving. Drive until the sun blooms.

II
Some days were more dire than others. CCTV footage confirms I pawned a shotgun, a Gibson guitar, and my wife’s engagement ring at the pawnshop next to Fatty’s Tattoo parlor. The typographically accurate Declaration of Independence inscribed on my back also confirms this.

III
I ran the tilt-a-whirl at the Ashtabula county fair, fattening up on fried Oreos and elephant ears, flirting behind dusty tent flaps with the cute contortionist and her strawberry-blonde hair.

IV
I derailed in a dive bar.

V
I disappeared in a city lit by lavender streetlights, where buildings blotted out the stars and the traffic signals kept perfect time. I picked through trash bins. I paid for love with drugstore wine.

VI
I closed my eyes on a mountain road. The sheriff extracted me from a bloody snowbank.

VII
I holed up for weeks in an oceanfront motel, dazed by the roar of the breakers. Each morning I drew back the curtains and lost myself in the crisscrossing patterns of whitecaps, the synchronous flight of sanderlings above the dunes. I dreamed of dead horseshoe crabs rolling in with the tide.

VIII
The moon over my shoulder tightened into focus like a prison spotlight. One night the barking dogs undid me. Goodnight, children. Goodbye, my love. I capitulated to the candor of a naked mattress. I grew my beard, an insomniac in a jail cell clinging to bars the color of a morning dove.

IV
I coveted the house keys of strangers.

X
I opened and closed many doors. I sang into the stoic mouths of storm drains. I stepped out of many rooms only to find myself in the room I just left. Despite all my leaving, I remained.

*

Whippoorwill Ekphrastic
after Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod Evening

The light is everything;
it makes a godly sound

spilling through
the locust grove,

washing over
uncut grass,

negating
shadows,

baptizing husband
and wife in oblivion.

Melancholy blinks
like the black eye
of a whippoorwill.

Who catches the
notes of its song?

Only the dog.

Dusk, patient
as a chrysalis.

They can’t hear
the transmutation
yet, but they will.

*

 

person Heidi Turner, two poems

Heidi Turner is a writer and musician from Maui, Hawaii. She holds a Master’s in English from Azusa Pacific University and has been published in Gravel as well as Abstract Magazine, Cirque, and Linden Avenue Literary Journal, among others. You can follow her work at http://www.hidturner.com.

//

FORGETTING

Just last week, contentment
invaded, clutching a gift
wrapped in red ribbon,
a tiny box filled
with shattered stone tablets:
a list erased
by the finger of God.

\\

lax

the asphalt river of the world

snakes

through the fog toward the glass
and a new growth is growing –
“terminal, probably, that tumor”

and the tiny tv squawks anyway
interrupted
resuming after every inconvenience
as though I know the story well enough
to break it

we are slithering

toward the end of the line
and back behind me, a child cries
and I envy it through my soundproof
earphones and third ginger ale
in my illegal repose mid-fall

hunting

for an open window/door/air vent
before I settle in again –
waiting to approach the new-formed terminal,
what a shiny tumor I know we are all

mice.

 

*originally published as part of Re:Place Project, an online collaborative project

~

person Stuart Buck, two poems

Stuart Buck is a poet and author living in north Wales. His debut collection of poetry, Casually Discussing the Infinite, peaked at 89 on Amazon’s World Poetry chart and his second book I Am Very Far will be released on Selcouth Station Press in 2019. When he is not writing or reading poetry, he likes to cook, juggle and listen to music. He suffers terribly from tsundoku – the art of buying copious amounts of books that he will never read.

~~~~~

the fawn

something soft fell to the earth that night

still warm from descent, chalk on slate

the sleep abandoned heard the faint hum –

damp leather crack as it hit the island

pulsing, the colour of ripe corn and battery yolks

the smell of june drop fruit and charcoal

from its bowels crawled a single white fawn

all teeter and stumble, dripped with mucus

from the throat of a child, grunting and screaming

sweetest armageddon, a crown of ashoka atop its head

~~~~~

rapture 1

after james tate

yes, we caught our breath in the rose garden

to synchronicity it fell as we lay

like ampersand, glistening naked in the moonlight

as a hum of fuzz on a smoky breeze settled

upon your pale thigh, a dandelion wisp, an interloper

announcing the time has come

and so as everything diminished,

as the brume took hold

we clung on to that beautiful seed

up! up! up through the clouds

until you cried for those left below

a pale ocean of sin

~~~~~

person Renwick Berchild, two poems

Renwick Berchild is half literary critic, half poet. She writes at Nothing in Particular Book Review, and her poems have appeared in Spillwords, Vita Brevis, The Stray Branch, The Machinery India, Lunaris Review, Slink Chunk Press, Streetcake Mag, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. She was born and raised on the angry northern shores of Lake Superior, and now lives in a micro-apartment in Seattle, WA. You can find her work and additional links at RenwickBerchild.com.

~*~

Learn A Dead Language

Learn a dead language
and you will know how to speak
speak with ghosts, that’s what you said to me
the morning brindled, the low sun an owl’s eye
saw your hand snowy and lean
point to the sky, with foodstuffs dribbled your chin
the river was still running behind the silent house
it did not run for me, it did not run for you
the blankets sobbed over your toothpick knees
mucus pooled in your carunculas sleeping
Learn a dead language, you breathed
Learn a dead language
Ad astra per aspera
Ad astra per aspera.

~*~

My Mother’s Words

This starts like a worn out fire, the three maidens
long dancing now fast asleep, the red dogs
a-hooning tuckered in the dark, sunk into coals
snoring. Beginning, as foam from the crushed
wave, old bleeds with dried up blood like flakey
cedar chips; it coos quiet, it’s downed,
              the felled tree.
This starts in the rot; this starts in the clippings
of newspapers and milk chunky; this starts
in the sag of the thread, in the lily-livered daddy
with the blackened legs; it ignites with the doe
shot dead, gathered and shucked and steaming
on the ceramic buttered; this starts with a daughter
who blew, still blows in her hat, on hills, in jars,
in backpacks left by doorways,
              in narwal heads,
              in blue eggs,
              on windows,
              on train tracks.

The opening line:         Because the snow
is an onion with chambers to circumambulate.
The opening line:         Because you refuse
to play well with others and your chest is a halved pew.
The opening line:         Because mountains
are nippled breasts and spires cocks straight.
The opening line:         Because you wept
in the twilit backyard, you had ripped your sage gown.

Because, because. Those were my mother’s words. Because.
She came in tangled bushes and tar. She arrived in a green Ford,
with a white wand in her clawed hand, went up to the fierce lake
to say goodbye. She never did.

Never once begged forgiveness, never once knelt.
What did the gods think would happen, as she fished
her sister’s corpse out the bathtub, planted her ghost
in her prepared womb, birthed a girl with unruly hair
and darksome boat eyes, her plaited vagus nerve
a thrumming fiddle string, those Irish contours,
fingernails full of insect skeletons and seeds.

Mama in her garden. Mama
with her apparitions.

~*~

person Kristin Garth, one poem

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart & Best of the Net nominated sonnet stalker. Her poetry has stalked magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2: One, Anti-Heroin Chic, Former Cactus, Occulum, Luna Luna, & many more. She has a chapbook Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), three forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018), Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019), and Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Lit March 2019). Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press). Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie), her weekly poetry column (https://www.rhythmnbone.com/sonnetarium) and her website (kristingarth.wordpress.com).

~~~~~

Pink Aquarium

He is wandering — Paris, road trip quips,
gas station cats, Red Bull escapades, bars,
pop stars in MAGA hats, apocalypse
epiphanies in spectral memoirs.

She’s waiting — coffee shop, laptop, wife swap
eavesdrop, rodent monarchies nibble brains,
imaginary gangbangs, lollipops
self medicating solitary pain.

He’s waded to her pink aquarium,
discarnate, penetrating, coffee breaks, with tongue
emoji, nose-against-glass delirium.
She opens in the custom of the young.

To sirens boxed, his pause feels like something.
Will he stay a while? She is wondering.

~~~~~

person Cynthia Manick, five poems

Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School; she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, the MacDowell Colony, Poets House, and the Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts among others. A winner of the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry, her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day Series, Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), Muzzle Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York

~

In My Heaven
after RC Lewis

Everything begins with
hunger. Some crave Bartlett
pears, trees that breathe,
playing violin on gold roads.

Others only answer to their
animal names, knowing
which heart chamber calls

to the wolf, the sheep,
the jackal. In my heaven
the currency is words–
people sing or recite

verb to noun to buy
burgers and cake, furniture
like wide screen TVs

that show favorite programs
on loop with no commercials-
Soul Train, I Dream of Jeanie,
and Happy Days.

Each corner of heaven
is guarded by statues
of poets. They hold pens

as spears. When you rub
their stoned feet, you hear
dialects-dipped in Marian
Anderson arias.

In my heaven Ms. Rose
plays the numbers
and hits every week.

Our shadows talk to other
shadows, have smoke-shaped
tea or whiskey at noon.
They visit bonfires

to show their best forms
in the light. When you turn
18, 35 or 68 in my heaven,

you lay on a bed of tobacco
and ivy leaves, and the stems
shelter as you watch stars
fade into each other.

~

To the Lady Who Tapped My Shoulder at Lincoln Center

words are something large
gleaming

they push up against the wall
of oneself
like tiny ballerinas

as you speak them
they settle in roots

of my braids   pores   the bed
of unpainted nails

the rumble vibrates three
floors down
and a train shakes

or was that my head?

I try hard not to honor
anger but this is hard
country

this page a place
                for its keeping

I step from my shadow
                chains of skin

roam the universe til even
                stars
form against you

~

No Graveside Flowers

I want to dress you solely in memories-
wrap your body in movie lines
pull out those sounds of Leroy and the Last Dragon
“when I say who’s the master?!
You say Sho’nuff”
or your guilty pleasure of watching
Bewitched or Charmed cause
who wouldn’t want
to be a witch or warlock if asked.

I’m no witch but the child in me
wants to wash your skin
with Dove soap and keep you covered
in my pocket.

I know Mom wants you in a suit,
pressed and ready for God-
knows-what
but I brought your favorites—
a buckle with the silver dragon
and your Tootsie Pop shirt that asks
“how many licks does it take . . .”

Respectful people would lay
roses or some other white carnation
over your heart
like a false blessing
pulling you pure and clean
but I promise to bring you a sparkly Michael
Jackson glove, rolls of Charleston Chews,
and chic-o-sticks.

Instead of the Baptist lament “eye on the sparrow”
with arms falling out, splayed mouths
of loved ones, I’ll make it a party
and have a DJ spin all your classic hits.

I know I haven’t dressed your feet yet,
boots, dress shoes, sneakers – I still can’t
decide brother. Can we just sit here awhile?
Sit here until I figure it out?

~

Dear Sunflowers Who Congregate Without a Permit

20 to 30 is too large a number to gather
without air conditioning. Fifteen of you
dazzle, others bow their heads, too burdened,
too rough, with no yellow-gold to be found.
Their children collapse to the ground as if
they could never get warm enough and
an earth social worker is removing them
from their care. I want to curl in a leaf like
an Anne Geddes photograph. But those babies
must be propped or photoshopped because
nothing alive can be that lovely, not even us.
I’m supposed to be writing about nature but–
a little boy sings upside down, boy you turn me
the bees are a Greek tragedy waiting to happen
and this bird reminds me of a Jamaican cab driver
yelling out Flatbush Flatbush Utica next stop.
I’m sorry for not singing enough, and making
salmon patties in your favorite pan when I know
you hate fish. Some apologies sound like
the word home. Can’t you hear my hunger,
bright as this gang of flowers?

~

Seeking Language for Peaches or Joy

Should you find me
falling into the earth,
don’t be alarmed—
it’s just my spine
trying to climb
back into peach vines
or the nearest brown womb.

Some know the first taste
of home-grown peaches, Nina
Simone’s Peaches,
and how freedom
is just a feeling but
I felt that once—
that day at Coney Island

where my fathers’ truck driver
pockets held bruised
peaches, brown spotted
like the inside cover
of a matchbook.

We sat after skee-ball
with my chin sweet,
his hands holding
a small orange giraffe.
I even sucked on the pit–

bitter and shaped like a birds’
heart. But it was mine,
like my father was mine,
and that day was ours.

~

person Mela Blust, one poem

Mela Blust is Florida raised, and has always had an affinity for dark things. Her work has appeared in Anti Heroin Chic, The Rye Whiskey Review, Nixes Mate Review, Califragile, Little Rose Magazine, Third Wednesday Magazine, The Magnolia Review, Rust+Moth, and is forthcoming in Rhythm and Bones Lit, Abstract Magazine, and Ink in Thirds.

~*~

song of winter

let me tell you how I held you in my mouth;

one crushed petal of a

whole flower

in a parlor decorated with sorrow.

let me show you the ways in which womanhood manifests

so that sometimes we can’t tell if we’re infatuated

or held captive.

let me sing you a song of winter coats

with the lining eaten by mice; soles worn thin.

a song of toothaches ignored

for bread,

a song of gunshots and bruises…

of chewing with my mouth closed lest I make a sound.

a song of apples rotting on the counter

while I bleed in the woodshed.

~*~