Current Issue

Slower Than Before

By Wendy Galgan

For David

 

I stand at University and 12th Street,

watch my friend walk toward me.

I know he sees me,

for he carries his cane with flair,

barely rests on the curved metal

as he swings his braced leg forward.

He stops at the corner, grins,

gives a small, stiff-legged bow.

 

We step off the curb, walk toward Union Square.

He is a mere half-step slower than before,

before the pain, before the brace.

 

A busy restaurant:

heat-steamed windows and won ton soup,

a small table

with room for his leg to rest safely.

 

He orders,

flirts with the waitress,

asks for the pay phone.

I watch over my menu

as he pushes up from the wooden chair,

a graceful man made awkward

by straps, buckles and metal.

 

In an alcove, believing he’s out of sight,

he slumps, both hands on his cane.

His arms shake from the strain.

He leans a shoulder against the wall,

turns in profile to me.

Pain-etched lines appear as,

unguarded,

he makes his call.

 

He hangs up the phone,

takes a deep breath

and turns, smiling,

to walk back toward me.

___

Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn.  Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is.  Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali).  She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.

To Endure Life

By Wendy Galgan

after Kafka

 

A dozen once-pink carnations

slump over a vase,

their stems hidden in milky liquid.

The bed clothes, sweet and dank,

trail across the unswept floor.

She leaves the radio on all day,

just loud enough to be heard,

too low to be understood.

 

One window blind hangs crookedly.

The other has come loose from its bracket

and cannot be lowered

to cover the spotty glass.

 

She remembers to take out the garbage,

but newspapers and magazines

stand in tottering piles.

Books lie open

like bats

scattered spread-wing across the floor

and table tops.

 

In her cupboard:

an empty rice box, a jar of cardamom.

In her refrigerator:

a can of seltzer, two batteries, an egg.

The freezer, unattended, has iced shut.

One tile, dead-center on her kitchen floor,

has cracked and worked its way loose.

It crunches underfoot.

 

She showers, but leaves her hair to dry,

uncombed, in a tangle about her face.

She sleeps when she can no longer stay awake.

She wakes when she can no longer sleep.

Streetlights look like sunlight to her.

She has unplugged her clocks.

There is dust on the telephone.

___

Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn.  Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is.  Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali).  She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.

Reading Elizabeth Bishop

By Wendy Galgan

This is the first good weather in days.

The bees and I garden all morning,

me deadheading, them passing from blossom to blossom.

After lunch, I tuck my Bishop under my arm,

drag a chair into the shade, and read.

(I can’t see what the bees are up to.)

My pages flutter in the breeze,

which carries the sound of the channel marker

swaying to and fro in the Sheepscot.

That river runs with the tides, and the water’s high.

You are working out back, and the breeze also carries

the smell of freshly turned earth to me.

The wild strawberries are ripe

and lie half-hidden on this patch of lawn.

A butterfly – red and black, but no Monarch –

takes his time with a patch of clover.

A few high clouds form, then blow away in tatters.

In the dappled sunlight, beneath a maple,

I read.

___

Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn.  Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is.  Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali).  She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.

Tiger Cages

By Wendy Galgan

His jacket calls him “Smith.”

He sits atop his tiger cage

on East 77th Street,

poncho spread to trap subway’s fetid warmth.

Clean, worn fatigues

tucked into sprung combat boots.

Whiskey roughened voice,

shaggy hair, strong hands.

 

“Mornin’, little sister,” he says.

He refuses my money,

takes a ham sandwich and coffee.

“Workin’?” he asks,

head tilted against sunlight.

“Workin’,” I say.

 

“Charlie’s in the tunnel, little sister.

Watch your ass.”

A long, slow wink before he turns.

“You, too.”

I touch his shoulder,

move away.

___

Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn.  Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is.  Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali).  She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.

1968

By Wendy Galgan

for Steve Bogart

 

Penn Station.  Six a.m.

Duffle bag in hand,

the boy waits,

a volunteer among conscripts.

These young ones offer

gruff introductions, firm

handshakes all around,

unaware that each mimics his

father’s tone, smile, stance.

 

The news from California has begun to

filter East.  A rumor

when they left their homes,

garbled facts now

gleaned from transistor radios

passed along the way.

Two men – dark suits, felt hats –

stride past the knot of

boys on the platform.

Words leap like dolphins from their wake:

“unbelievable. . Bobby. . .their poor mother. . .”

The boys, silent now as birds at a cat’s passing,

lean toward the men, then stiffen, shuffling,

red-faced at the command to board.

 

New York to Washington –

the boys begin to settle in.

Loud chatter fades to quiet conversation.

Past Washington, nothing but

backyards, clotheslines,

piles of trash spilling down embankments.

Rickety porches and rusted fire escapes

frame broken windows and boarded-up doors.

Now the train stops in each small town.

 

As the boy watches, silent in his window seat,

a flag-draped box is unloaded at the first stop,

and the next, and the next.

Each time, an officer – his hand laid on the box’s

lid – accompanies it to the platform.

Three, five, six stops later,

a box for each stop.

And with each mile,

the boy gets closer to rice paddies and rotor wash,

further and further from

his mother’s voice, his father’s smile.

___

Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn.  Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is.  Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali).  She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.

Mr. Beach

By Tim Cremin

“Excuse me, sir. Could you watch our boards

while we go out on the jetty to dive off the tower?”

 

“Sure.” Why not? I’m just sitting here

with my book, lacquered in SPF 30.

 

“Go feet first—it’s not high tide yet.”

Listen to me, as if I went feet first

 

when thick-haired, in cut-off jeans,

and claiming no dependents.

 

Look at the two of them:

cocksure as rock stars;

 

head first, of course,

right back up for more;

 

dripping with sunlight,

just fitting into their skin.

 

They remind me of me

before I felt my limits,

 

when I thought there might

not be any.

___

Tim Cremin is a member of the Grey Court Poets, a community poetry group based in Massachusetts, and several of his poems are included in their 2013 anthology, Songs from the Castle’s Remains.  Tim’s poetry has also appeared or is forthcoming in Albatross, Crack the Spine, Poetry Pacific, and Schuylkill Valley Journal.

Storm Songs

By Kathy Cotton

Bassoon night. Bass drum and cymbals

and tuba night. An hour into sleep,

I waken to the wind’s deep reed and brass timbre,

limbs like mallet and rute striking rhythms

against the house, crescendo clash of patio chairs.

I fade into the storm song, a lullaby to me,

 

though never to Mother, whose raging fear

stowed me beneath the sturdy oak safety

of a kitchen table to wait out warnings.

There I wrote little weather songs:

“Tornado, Get Under the Table” and

“Blow Away, Rain.” There I perfected drowsing

to wind chimes and thunder drums, as I do tonight,

 

curling softly into a storm’s dark serenade,

wondering if it can be heard above the clouds,

or below the peaceful grass of Mother’s grave.

___ 

Kathy Lohrum Cotton is the author of two chapbooks and the 2012 poetry collection, Deluxe Box of Crayons, illustrated with her artwork. Cotton has served as editor for eight poetry anthologies and is a member of the Illinois State Poetry Society board of directors.

Zero

By Edward Butscher

Moses’ eyes concave

into zealot blindness

that makes stone burn

cold flesh grow green.

 

Serpent as a piece

of red bakery string

dropped on a bed

 

blinking unblinking

at the sepia smiles

of alien relatives

 

the old woman’s

cancer-sour breath

paints her bedroom

the color of corn.

 

This is my crime.

Survival was hers.

 

A robin’s empty eye

mimes a nugget of sun

set so still amid vague

fluff carnage of its

wingless remains:

 

the beauty of a thing

that once held breath:

being and beauty

fused into a tear

for cupped palms

to catch intact

 

then buffed perfect

between artful lids.

___

Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Edward Butscher’s poems, stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of journals since the early 1970’s, including the Saturday Review of Literature, Poetry, Georgia Review, Newsday, and the American Book Review. In 1976 Seabury Press published his Poems About Silence and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, first biography of the controversial poet. He also edited Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work (1978) for Dodd, Mead, and his Adelaide Crapsey was published in 1979 as a title in Twayne’s United States Authors series.

Cross Cultural Communications published two collections of his poems, Amagansett Cycle (1980) and Unfinished Sequence (1981), and his only novel, Faces on the Barroom Floor, appeared from Contemporary Press in 1984. He co-edited (with Irving Malin) a special issue of Twentieth Century Literature in 1986 devoted to the work of Paul Bowles. His Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale, published in 1988 by the University of Georgia Press, won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award for that year

Edward Butscher is the author of Peter Wild (1992) in the Western Writers of America series and Eros Descending (1992), a group of lyrics from an on-going sequence issued as a Dusty Dog Chapbook, and has been a contributing scholar for a number of reference works, among them, The Reference Guide to Short Fiction (St. James Press), MaGill’s Survey of Contemporary Poetry, and Oxford University’s Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English.

Zeno

By Edward Butscher

Before the clock-radio booms

its redundant catastrophes

I rise

I think

and shuffle gingerly

through the shrouded house

shaking off sticky threads

of dead rooms, dead people.

 

I Braille-read hallway walls

and rely upon a kitchen’s

radiant calculating eyes

to feed resurgent cats

before defecating

in comic relief.

___

Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Edward Butscher’s poems, stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of journals since the early 1970’s, including the Saturday Review of Literature, Poetry, Georgia Review, Newsday, and the American Book Review. In 1976 Seabury Press published his Poems About Silence and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, first biography of the controversial poet. He also edited Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work (1978) for Dodd, Mead, and his Adelaide Crapsey was published in 1979 as a title in Twayne’s United States Authors series.

Cross Cultural Communications published two collections of his poems, Amagansett Cycle (1980) and Unfinished Sequence (1981), and his only novel, Faces on the Barroom Floor, appeared from Contemporary Press in 1984. He co-edited (with Irving Malin) a special issue of Twentieth Century Literature in 1986 devoted to the work of Paul Bowles. His Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale, published in 1988 by the University of Georgia Press, won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award for that year

Edward Butscher is the author of Peter Wild (1992) in the Western Writers of America series and Eros Descending (1992), a group of lyrics from an on-going sequence issued as a Dusty Dog Chapbook, and has been a contributing scholar for a number of reference works, among them, The Reference Guide to Short Fiction (St. James Press), MaGill’s Survey of Contemporary Poetry, and Oxford University’s Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English.

More recent poetry collections are, Child in the House (1994) from Canio’s Editions, with an introduction by David Ignatow, and the full sequence, Eros Descending (2010) from Amagansett Press. Edward Butscher lives in East Hampton, NY, with his wife, Paula Trachtman.

Wonderland

By Edward Butscher

The old golf course was deserted

and had been since the ‘thirties

weeds surging across its flanks

like preambles of a broken dam

and flag rafts of brambles

clotting its veins.

 

He led her by the hand

to the cave of earth he had dug

and camouflaged with leaves

when still a GreenMountain man

before they sat and pretended

to sip at mint-sailed tea.

 

Alice poured and chided him

for forgetting how to hold a cup

but he could not stop shaking

and caused the dark clouds

to stumble into a storm.

 

“We’ll get wet!” she squealed

in panic, laughing all the while

as they hugged each other

like a family pair.

 

He eased down her panties

and kissed the holy place

where it hurt so she

would not fall in again.

 

The blood of it was not profound

this laying on of human hands

but healing came, scab-hard

to scar our long blond days.

___

Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Edward Butscher’s poems, stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of journals since the early 1970’s, including the Saturday Review of Literature, Poetry, Georgia Review, Newsday, and the American Book Review. In 1976 Seabury Press published his Poems About Silence and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, first biography of the controversial poet. He also edited Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work (1978) for Dodd, Mead, and his Adelaide Crapsey was published in 1979 as a title in Twayne’s United States Authors series.

Cross Cultural Communications published two collections of his poems, Amagansett Cycle (1980) and Unfinished Sequence (1981), and his only novel, Faces on the Barroom Floor, appeared from Contemporary Press in 1984. He co-edited (with Irving Malin) a special issue of Twentieth Century Literature in 1986 devoted to the work of Paul Bowles. His Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale, published in 1988 by the University of Georgia Press, won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award for that year

Edward Butscher is the author of Peter Wild (1992) in the Western Writers of America series and Eros Descending (1992), a group of lyrics from an on-going sequence issued as a Dusty Dog Chapbook, and has been a contributing scholar for a number of reference works, among them, The Reference Guide to Short Fiction (St. James Press), MaGill’s Survey of Contemporary Poetry, and Oxford University’s Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English.