Issue 8.4

Frond Ghazal

By Jeanine Stevens

Are you the great relentless one, searching

words, volumes, reduced to a limping iamb?

 

There is no race to exit, only the one in my cortex.

With chalk, I stop to inscribe the memory of a thrush.

 

Seas relax, putrid air purifies with violet, brambles

hiding the walk clear themselves. The vaccines work.

 

Over the next hill, a noisy bonfire? or just Lot’s

wife burning saline, new dew caught in a tired goatskin.

 

It will take years to walk all the fronds inside this palm

until I reach the steppes, the savannahs, the Solomon’s.

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

Prayer Rug Ghazal

By Jeanine Stevens

Evening. I knew there would be dark hawks

crowding that dream instead of rosy doves.

 

Harmonious, yet pitiless dawn roused us

to splintered treetops. Sticky sap vertigo.

 

Giant ice from eves at Emigrant Gap grew upside

down from heaven. From the mailbox, a returned letter.

 

She practiced walking in the river, tried uniform

stones of different sizes, ripped pockets from her jacket.

 

The animal in the road had been there for some time,

appeared to be sleeping and looked like a prayer rug.

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

In the Sierras with Rumi

By Jeanine Stevens

October sky, alpine lakes strike crystal.

Aspens quiver heart shapes

above buttery moss. Not much talking

among the Stellar Jays who seem

to wear little blue and gray captain’s hats

from long lost regiments.

Hooked-jaw kokanee spawn scarlet,

become friends with glory.

Black bears give out the big yawn;

we anticipate snow.

A mountain lion crosses the swale

behind the local college,

barely visible among amber weeds.

You want to escape your ego,

lose yourself in the mountains,

I recommend wearing shoes.

I will bring my shawl. If you believe

snowforms do not last through July,

I can show you a deep crevice

crossing the tree line.

You want to find inland whales?

I can show you the darker side of Granite Peak.

We wonder about time and fill

our eyes with ancient redwoods, the old gods.

In Truckee Meadows, river birch

count stiff rings. We see what

we see, discuss beginnings.

You know embryo, you must recognize

the difference between solitude

and desolation. If we take a wrong

turn, lose ourselves, we can sit

like the Washoe, toss knuckles

onto a blanket, a gambler’s game.

You said there was a mountain range

inside your chest. Look east

from the summit, there, Nevada—

a smooth plain with antelope.

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

A Soft Garden

By Jeanine Stevens

I survive on interiority,

the chipped enamel roasting pan,

library table, soft woods,

worn coverlet, papered walls,

clear skylights, invisible bugs,

trap doors, momentary darkness—

my own dust. Outside,

a rougher bark and endless sun.

I place five green apples, ignored

by visible insects,

in a glass baking dish.

They hold such sweetness, deserve

to be graced with cinnamon,

butter and made crisp.

It seems such a basic right

to simply exist on one’s home ground.

What of the Syrian woman attacked

in her home, no weapons on hand?

Inside the shelled dwelling

no news at all, only night

and a soft garden scorched.

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

In Istanbul

By Jeanine Stevens

A clear autumn morning, the police station explodes in Istanbul.

Sea bass flood fishing boats, then appear at the street market in Istanbul.

 

At the ruins, hundreds of feral cats sip water from blue tiles.

The wooden horse is splintered and needs a polish near Istanbul.

 

My dress is Liz Claiborne from J. C. Penny’s. The music is gypsy,

the flute made of PVC pipe and the wine flows free in Istanbul.

 

Ataturk’s photo is removed from school books. When will the next

caravan arrive? Will the oil in our lanterns last the winter in Istanbul?

 

Droves of pumpkin vines encroach, encircle the old walls of Istanbul.

The Black Sea takes watch and orange heads loll at the gates in Istanbul.

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

How Hard

By Guy Thorvaldsen

He stands, absorbs the amber light

of a fall afternoon, takes in

the resonant hum of silence:

saws, vacuums, compressors

having come to rest—

a particular peace

for those whose hands have created a thing

that before, wasn’t.

Next to him on the marble front stoop

stands his customer, whose job in the world

knows no such discrete endings.

She claims 40 dollars an hour is too high;

4 days too much time.

“I mean, how hard could it have been?” she asks,

then glances at her iPhone.

He sees beyond her, to the street,

follows a boy coasting by on a bike, no hands.

Waits 60 seconds to answer

while he figures it’s about as hard

as the 57 measurements

and the 26 compound miter cuts.

As hard as the 48 counter-sunk screws,

and the 21 times his knee tendons clenched

as he knelt to the floor for a better angle,

each time bearing the weight of 30 years on the job.

As hard as standing 8 hours straight

—but not really straight—until the 800 milligrams

of Ibuprofen kick in, ease each of the 5 herniated discs.

As hard as lying awake for 3 nights, pondering alternatives

to the 81 calculations necessary

to dream up, to build, then mount

the one cherrywood cabinet,

affix the 6 finger-jointed, leaded glass doors,

according to this customer’s single instruction

to make it look delicate,

as if floating in air.

___ 

Guy Thorvaldsen’s poems have appeared in Alembic, The Aurorean, Barefoot Review, The First Day, McNeese Review, Gulfstream,  Perfume River Poetry Review, and Verse Wisconsin. He received his MFA from Vermont College and his carpentry creds on the job.

Perimenopause

By Alison Stone

The moon

unbinds her cords

 

Rogue wave, my body

crests                      and crashes

 

staccato

rhythm

of last chances

 

womb             frantic

with final eggs

 

Mommy, hurry up!

the children cry

 

Their sea glass eyes

their arms of sand

___

Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World: Poems in the Voices of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review,  PoetryPloughsharesBarrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth.

Tether

By Alison Stone

Capricorn child, earth girl,

you drive me from the water tank to the floor.

Hands and knees—the posture

I hated in birthing class.

 

Finally your shoulders

force through the ring of fire,

now your downy, blood-streaked back.

The midwife tells me

 

to reach down and lift you

those final inches

out of my body

into the bright world.

 

The chord between us

throbs.

 

*

 

My mother folds diapers.

She and I laugh, finish

each other’s sentences.

 

*

 

Now,

again and again

you compel me

 

from the photo albums

I sob into, my mother

gone before your skull bones close,

 

over to the changing

table or bed. Your hungry

gums on my breast.

 

Your placenta wrapped and frozen,

to be planted

underneath a tree, in spring.

___

Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World: Poems in the Voices of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review,  PoetryPloughsharesBarrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth.

12 Poems—Spring 2015

By Simon Perchik

*

Every door now is North

letting in the cold though the knob

still corrects for drift, the lost

 

and the way in that never closes

comes with a bedside lamp

to warm the room as if it

 

no longer moves, has become

the small hole in your chest

that points in only one direction

 

to keep you from falling asleep

–with both hands you cling to the dim light

turning you on your side, still too early.

 

 

 

 

*

From here, a train will do, freight cars

end on end, overcome with gravel

that needs to be some place else

 

–you have to leave by yourself

–nobody can do it for you

though you hold one hand in the other

 

tightening it till the rails

are water and you drift downstream

the way a small stone lifts the sea

 

as moonlight and you arrive alone

on the cross-ties made from wood

that is not a river to cross, welcomes you

 

by stretching out, taking you along

with no one where the whistle ends

except the so much time that passed.

 

 

 

 

*

Still, it’s gone and though the candle

is still day to day

you can tell from the melt

 

how much love there was

–what you touch is the long fall

where a sea should be

 

listening for streams

the way these matches

are following each other,

 

striking the Earth by cupping your hands

around its emptiness

–over and over opening the ground

 

for smoke as if after so many times

clump by clump

you could get it all out.

 

 

 

 

*

You wait for this blossom to pounce

seize its prey and between each petal

gnaw at the sky –in such a gust

 

your arms give birth to an afternoon

that would become the fragrance

whose first breath is acorns and chestnuts

 

and smoke that shines as if the Earth

was once a sun, warmed by hills

and the rocks that no longer move

 

were left behind the way shadows

now disappear for a minute or forever

though you use your fingers to find a fist

 

that’s scented with flowers that open

and close in a room made by a gardener

from this small rake and the cold.

 

 

 

 

*

Plane after plane till all the pieces

arrive as flowers –it’s winter

returning now to nest and every morning

 

begins with an ancient chill

unfolding over and over for lift

and mountains though you take hold

 

try to escape its turbulence

–against all odds you become a breeze

are losing altitude, your voice slows

 

then stalls, spins and the scent

falls against your chest as snow

that stays in one place and waits.

 

 

 

 

*

Without their soft shell your eyes

still talk about the sea and old men

waiting on a bench for some boat

 

to dim and go out the way the words

for goodbye cling to your eyelids

and each other though what you hear

 

are the cries for light that lasts forever

as shoreline and what follows

when your eyes close for the silence

 

the dead never forget by telling you

about its emptiness, how gentle it is

smells from salt and the darkness.

 

 

 

 

*

As if the small stones were not yet ashes

you walk with one foot bare

count these graves two by two

 

reaching out for the naked breast

as some ancient lullaby

pressed against the warm mud

 

whispering over and over though one word

is always missing, taken from your mouth

till there’s none –in such a silence

 

you limp, clinging to this smokestack

drained for its marble, its marshes

its darkness and undertow.

 

 

 

 

*

Face to face though the first tomorrow

was not yet needed, waited in the Earth

as the promise to become a morning

 

and she would arrive between two suns

where there was none before

was the nights, years, centuries

 

your shadow took to darken, clings

till its silence washes over you

carried as dew and beginnings.

 

 

 

 

*

Drop by drop, its silence

holds on to the mud and each other

though this puddle sparkles

 

from tides that are not sunlight

–what you hear are the shells

darkening and their nest

 

breaking open for more air

the way you toss in a pebble

just to hear its ripples

 

as the splash from your first day

still reaching for shore, lower, lower

and flight no longer possible.

 

 

 

 

*

Compared to its actors in love

the movie darkens with The End

and though the stage no longer moves

 

you reach behind the blackening pit

grasp its gigantic monster –four eyes

four lips, four arms opening and closing

 

devouring itself and the screen

not yet covered with flowers

asking you to leave though the usher

 

has heard it all before, says it’s safe

even with the lights on, with the grass

and aisles growing over you.

 

 

 

 

*

You need rain water, boiled

till the splash makes it to shore

and the egg becomes a morning

 

–pots know this, the hurry-up

and wait the way your hand

clings to the still warm shell

 

as if it was once the soft light

falling off the sun, is moving closer

to where a chair should be

 

have a shadow to follow it

by reaching across the table

surrounding it with a darkness

 

that smells from moist leaves

and the sap when this table

had corners, sides and a lid

 

lifted for smoke that waited

for the night, was hidden in small fires

that slowly eat their dead.

 

 

 

 

 

*

With just a rifle, lean, taut

and though there’s no helmet

one eye is swollen, keeps staring

 

which means the boots no longer move

–in such a silence you hear

a marching song, still warm

 

from the foundry when this toy

was molten iron and step by step

setting fires with ink from letters home

 

black, blacker till there’s no stars

where North should be –that

and why are you holding it so deft

 

helping it guide each night down

in the dew you dead still listen for

is spreading out behind this dam

 

half hillside, half being built

with so many unknowns

rusting in place, one by one.

___

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan ReviewThe Nation, Osiris, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013).  For more information, free e-books and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

#16

By Anselm Parlatore

The shock of semantic recognition is

also the shock of ethical recognition.

Geoffrey Hill  “Language, Suffering, and Silence”

 

1.

 

Effusion the censored disappointment

all the splayed endearments & chastisements

a form of love, a creased & yellowed

photo, crinoline slips under your 1950s skirt

bewitching, the fragile beauty, the ethical clarity.

 

2.

 

Later things got murky with small malices,

purulence, an exhaling. Then votive.

 

3.

 

White boats are cosseting this harbor

& entering the reedy inlet, serpentine

plankton streaming in the current,

the tides. The black mussel shells

draped on buoy chains are gleaming,

buoys for boats named for sacrificial women.

 

4.

 

But tonight Orion, a meandering river

of stars incised by cracks & cliffs,

pits, decorated with ripples

& flows of dust, resculptured

by our turbulent & primordial backwash,

 

choreographed around garish daubs

of longing & desire, a porosity

to the messy but massless particles,

 

the spatters against your windowpane

from these old trees, scalded

by memory, its flawless transports

of anguish, adoration & awe.

___

Anselm Parlatore studied creative writing @ Cornell & Dartmouth & edited Granite & Bluefish magazines. He has taught in “Poetry in the Schools Program” in NH & in NY. He has published over a dozen volumes of poetry & has published work in many magazines. He lives in Washington.