Poetry

Cloudy as Absinthe

by Linda Neal

 

They spent the morning.

They spent the afternoon.

They spent the evening.

Then it was time

to spend the night, but

the where and how grew

cloudy as the glass

of absinthe

that sat between them.

 

With each sip

more slur,

batons conducting bagatelles.

With each sip

a livery of tongues,

as if words mattered.

 

Their life was living itself,

becoming more unfamiliar,

growing more foreign

as the hours pedaled by.

 

What she said.

What he thought.

It was time to sleep.

 

In the night mist

the sound rose

from the roof above them,

a strange beating,

a trio of hammers

throbbed like wings,

and a light bore down

through the darkness.

___

Linda Neal’s award-winning work has been published in California Quarterly, Embers, Lummox, ONTHEBUS, Pacific Coast Journal, Peregrine, and more. Her poetry memoir, Dodge & Burn, was published by Bambaz Press in 2014. She has attended the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Squaw Valley Writer’s Conferences among others. Neal has studied Method Writing with Jack Grapes, Healing Writing with Deena Metzger, and has taken workshops with several instructors in the UCLA Writers’ Program. Her love of words and the subtle complexities of language led her to a BA in linguistics. She lives with her dog, Mantra, in a ’40’s cottage in Redondo Beach, California. 

August 2: Homage

by Linda Neal

 

A prodigal ache sets in when the plumeria blooms

and fat watermelons lay their bellies on the ground

to escape the hot smell

of the season’s first Santa Ana wind.

 

It’s never just any hot beach of a Saturday,

August second, not just any smoggy, windy weekend,

but a day as dead as a mussel

washed up on the rocks.

 

A shell of a day that would have been

the anniversary

of a marriage that got lost

somewhere between the move from double bed

to California King.

 

Maybe between a springtime rain and

one of those Santa Anas

that comes too early,

before the summer sand and dust

can settle.

 

I picked a white rose, put it in a vase,

and wondered if he did the same.

___

Linda Neal’s award-winning work has been published in California Quarterly, Embers, Lummox, ONTHEBUS, Pacific Coast Journal, Peregrine, and more. Her poetry memoir, Dodge & Burn, was published by Bambaz Press in 2014. She has attended the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Squaw Valley Writer’s Conferences among others. Neal has studied Method Writing with Jack Grapes, Healing Writing with Deena Metzger, and has taken workshops with several instructors in the UCLA Writers’ Program. Her love of words and the subtle complexities of language led her to a BA in linguistics. She lives with her dog, Mantra, in a ’40’s cottage in Redondo Beach, California. 

Frenzy

by Jeanine Stevens

 

When I see gypsies select brilliant madras

at the dry goods store in Edinburgh

I think of you.

 

When I notice all things yellow: calendula,

canary, butter, camel.

 

When I buy exotic carpet I don’t need, the wrong

shape, that strange mustard color.

 

When I refuse to eat the dark meat of a goat.

When the sky mottles blue

above pale and heavy oak galls.

 

When April winds scatter cottonwood debris

in the breezeway

and crows scold the resident hawk

 

cawing above the redwood, flames reflected

in a beaded eye, I think of you.

 

How your stride cuts the brief day,

anything particle, flakes, sun dabs. Icons

 

like confetti, shred, invade, settle into me.

I fold, hold and cut scraps,

a collage of brass hearts.

___

Jeanine Stevens’ second poetry collection, Inheritor, was released by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Her most recent chapbook, Needle in the Sea, was published by Tiger’s Eye Press. Her next chapbook, Brief Immensity, winner Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award will be published in 2017. Jeanine has other awards from the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, the Ekphrasis Prize, the Stockton Arts Commission and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio. Her poems have appeared in Stoneboat, Arsenic Lobster, Rosebud, Camas, Evansville Review, The Connecticut River Review, and Sentinel and Dragonheart (UK). Jeanine recently received her fourth Pushcart nomination. She studied poetry at UC Davis and California State University and has graduate degrees in Anthropology and Education. Professor at American River College. She was raised in Indiana and now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

10 Poems—Spring 2017

by Simon Perchik

 

*

Not yet finished melting :the sun

—you can hear its sea struggling

spilling over though each morning

 

it comes from behind now

brushes against this cemetery gate

that’s still shining, floating past

 

—to this day you go home

the back way —you don’t see

your reflection or the ground

 

face to face with shoreline

—what you hear are waves :one hand

reaching for another and in the dark

 

you let your fingers unfold end over end

then close, gather in these fountains

as if they belong one side then another

 

are nearly too much stone —here

where this gate is filling its lungs

and you tearing it in two.

 

 

 

 

 

*

Again The Times, spread-eagle

the way these subway doors

once were waves opening out

 

as the faint wings beating now

between your arms and the track

—a dark, single thread

 

pulls this sea under

though on the bottom

you can’t be sure it’s morning

 

or two shorelines, side by side

crawling into that slow, climbing turn

half sand, half you never get used to

 

—page over page

covered with weeds :feathers

from a long way off  —you can touch

 

their darkness :words still dangerous

circling with seabirds :your eyes

don’t want you, are closed.

 

 

 

 

 

*

Lower and lower this fan

smells from stone and the ice

broken off your forehead

 

still in the same, tight turn

holding on, almost back —you stare

even with sunglasses, the ones

 

you wear at funerals, cooled

the way this small room

has already started as snow

 

not yet the invisible arm in arm

louder and louder overhead

without a trace and no place to go

 

to harden, take hold, darken

let its wings down, close

your eyes and the ceiling.

 

 

 

*

Appearing and disappearing, this gate

you wave between one hand

after the other and doves on cue

 

break through the way each flourish

opens midair, is helped along

clearing the rooftops, palms up

 

—on your back as the aimless path

that has such low windows

—from nowhere, no longer white

 

each stone is closing its wings

letting go the sky, the graves

and just as suddenly your shoulders.

 

 

 

*

These graves listen to you

though they lean too far

half side to side, half

 

taking hold your spine, blinded

in front by sunlight, in back

by its endless bending down

 

as if together these bones

would steady you, in time

your limp disappear

 

already the small stones

buried here, there, in the open

to tell you what happened.

 

 

 

*

To clear your lips —a simple wipe

though once spread out

your sleeve fills with shoreline

 

follows on its own, washed

with enormous wings

shaken off the stale crumbs

 

half sand, half seabirds

half before each meal

—you don’t use spoons

 

they won’t resist enough

would empty the way this bowl

is still looking for what will pour

 

easily through your heart

letting it drip and for hours

one arm circles the other

 

closer and closer, the one

that will stay with you forever

—always the wide, lower and lower

 

reaching in —your mouth

no longer clears the rim

broken open by its cry

 

to jump! and you bleed

again from your arms letting go

their dead breeze, dead sky, dead mouth.

 

 

 

*

It’s a risk, these clouds

gathered in the open, grow huge

take on the shape they need

 

though once inside this jar

escape is impossible

—you collect a cloud whose mist

 

no one studies anymore, comes

from a time rain was not yet the rain

pressing against your forehead

 

and your mouth too has aged

coming from nowhere to open

as some mountainside

 

believed by all the experts

too high for predators

or a dirt that devours

 

even its place to hide in flowers

yet you will date the jar

for their scent and later on.

 

 

 

 

 

*

And both arms more and more

spread-eagle, clasping the dirt

tearing it side to side —another sore

 

cut out the way a shrug

is divided piece by piece

carted away in songs about love

 

that no longer depend on lips

reaching across as mist

not yet sunlight or useless

 

—you dig two holes, one

for bells, the other no longer bleeds

is already moving the sky closer

 

letting it lean forward

emptying the Earth, kept open

and listening for kisses.

 

 

 

 

 

*

And when the tide slowly at first

though the palm underneath is smaller

girlish, clinging to sand and each other

 

the way all night these clams

are etched by your gentle waves

already the bond all water

 

grows used to :hand over hand

tasting from salt and each shell

counted as two —in the dark

 

it’s easy to mistake all that’s left

with a single shoreline —the sea

led down, emptied clam by clam

 

to close it, knee deep in madness

in some vineyard, kisses and kisses

counting as if you are still uncertain.

 

 

 

*

With all its weight this wall

just built and is already

tugging at your side

 

as if with every birth

its twin will block your path

with those same flowers

 

mourners still pull up

try to climb a bit longer

reach out the way these stones

 

half marble, half bubbling

interlocked, higher and higher

almost crushing you

 

with their garbled cries

as hillsides, to bring

more, to cool and one another.

___

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The B Poems published by Poets Wear Prada, 2016. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

How To

by Dave Nielsen

 

Sometimes the instructions

for the most mundane task

can be poetic—

step-by-step guides for how to tie one’s shoes

or boil water;

 

so too instructions for something

theretofore private,

rare,

or exotic:

 

dressing the dead, for instance, or dancing a rumba:

unstick the elbow;

now glue the lips.

 

Point the nose

as if staring into the future.

You can see

how these things might move you.

 

___

Dave Nielsen is the author of a collection of poems, Unfinished Figures, by Lynx House Press. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Winter Camps

by Andrea Moorhead

 

The woods glow tonight

your hands snowing

in the red raw

and thunderous

although the light shifts

from time to time

switching from eyes to wind

to the deepness under the stars

___

Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris and author of several collections of poems, including From a Grove of Aspen (University of Salzburg Press), De loin, and Géocide (Le Noroît). Recent translations of Francophone poetry include Night Watch by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui (Red Dragonfly Press) and Dark Menagerie by Élise Turcotte (Guernica Editions). Her work is featured in Phoenix 23 (autumn 2016 issue). In 2017, Red Dragonfly Press will publish her collection, The Carver’s Dream.

Beside the emptiness

by Andrea Moorhead

 

You haven’t chopped wood in a long time, the shed is almost empty now, bark and leaves, nesting mice, the thin veneer of activity leaving tracks in the dust, you haven’t even taken out the axe, sharpened the blade, the sledge hammer and wedges are rusted now, brown sheen where the heavy iron has split its coating, you are wandering too much, moving too slowly, you’re lost again out beyond the trees, trying to follow the deer early in the day, forgetting their tracks melt under the sun, disturb direction, indicate a false pattern, hopeful and illusive, but the woods remain closed, and you haven’t even chopped wood in a long time, the rain water leaks under the eaves and you sit by the guttering fire, wondering if birch bark burns as long as oak.

___

Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris and author of several collections of poems, including From a Grove of Aspen (University of Salzburg Press), De loin, and Géocide (Le Noroît). Recent translations of Francophone poetry include Night Watch by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui (Red Dragonfly Press) and Dark Menagerie by Élise Turcotte (Guernica Editions). Her work is featured in Phoenix 23 (autumn 2016 issue). In 2017, Red Dragonfly Press will publish her collection, The Carver’s Dream.

Over the Bay

by Andrea Moorhead

 

Up on the rocky neck, the spine, the solid protrusion, the trees grow tall, silver skinned and luminous, over the river, over the bay, over the next sequence of dreams you had imagined, once on the shore, in the blue-green waters, in the cold mist behind the terns, wavering as you moved off shore, flickering and shimmering, up on the rocky neck, the spine, the solid protrusion, the beech keep their leaves, walk around with the young oak, red-leaved and solid, some night you’ll see them moving about, it’s very curious, very strange, and people don’t like to admit that beech and oak, young and old, go off walking in the deep velour of night, coming home again when the grey dawn, when the rising fog, when the swiftness of the black duck passes above their hearts.

___

Andrea Moorhead is editor of Osiris and author of several collections of poems, including From a Grove of Aspen (University of Salzburg Press), De loin, and Géocide (Le Noroît). Recent translations of Francophone poetry include Night Watch by Abderrahmane Djelfaoui (Red Dragonfly Press) and Dark Menagerie by Élise Turcotte (Guernica Editions). Her work is featured in Phoenix 23 (autumn 2016 issue). In 2017, Red Dragonfly Press will publish her collection, The Carver’s Dream.

98-99

By Patrick Riordan

A neon cross was propped up

On its left side above the liquor shelf

Like Jameson had carried it to Calvary.

 

Here, beer was named after the river,

Tasted like dust and cost the same.

Boys at the end of the bar

 

Leaned crooked in salt stained denim

And wind-fucked khaki jackets,

Spit dip into cut open Gatorade bottles.

 

The summer had brought heat and sulfur

And the roads would be white until autumn,

When the apples came down with the rain.

 

 

———————

Patrick Riordan is a graduate of the University of Rochester. He is a copy-editor and writer based in Western New York, where he is working on a collection of short stories about people in Buffalo.

11 Poems — Winter 2017

By Simon Perchik

*

Don’t you believe it! to be continued

distracts from the front page

brushing against some hearse

 

wants more time –this newspaper

is opened then wider as if the rattle

could be heard though you sleep

 

a lot, sitting in a chair half wood

half the way a bell will practice

till its stance feels right

 

though you are the only one

listening in some great hall, your arms

folded as if they were not yet lost.

 

 

 

*

Just by reaching in –this sore

is heated though your arm

covers it the way moonlight

 

can’t hold on any longer

lets some hillside pour over it

and mornings too grow huge

 

count the nights from so far off

and each other –you collect

enter each room deeper and deeper

 

careful not to shake the walls

–on tiptoe so nothing falls

takes root bent over a table

 

warmed by these small rocks

to follow you, shut half by the stench

half on their own, one by one.

 

 

 

*

The flowers leaving this page

open up in water

are already heading back

 

the way your shadow empties

still remembers one by one

icy streams crossing overhead

 

with something more to give

–you write another letter

make the words embrace

 

followed by day, by evenings

and everything put on paper

is safe, is mountainside

 

returning rock by scented rock

drained and in this small bundle

passed among the others.

 

 

 

*

These stones still anxious, sip

stuttering as if they had no surfaces

or shoreline –syllable by syllable

 

you gather them up, not sure

they can bring the dead closer

though this sill is already wet

 

reaching out the way its paint

covers the Earth with a darkness

brought together piece then pieces

 

breathless, buckling and uncounted

–you bathe these stones in a broth

broken open, flowing to a stop.

 

 

 

*

You think it’s cramps

though certainly this dirt

resembles her voice

 

and no one here but you

pours from a bowl, sure

it’s laced, opens out

 

sickens your step by step

–for a while they’re quiet

washed in front her grave

 

though your mouth is tighter

swollen, surrounded by inches

no longer dry or empty.

 

 

 

*

You cover one eye, upset

though sunlight means nothing now

and against your cheek some mother

 

strokes her child –you praise half

and what’s left spends the night

the way all wounds begin

 

as a single touch then end

broken apart under the same wind

birds use for a home

 

and every morning more sleep

is needed, more darkness, returned

as if it had its beginnings here

 

is touching down, adored

by one hand held out, the other

no longer moving or found.

 

 

 

*

From each funeral some dampness

rushing in and hulls half wood

half already end over end

 

still remember a place being close by

–it has to do with looking up

though her name can’t be changed

 

and this gravestone stays soft

the way shorelines forget

where to come back for water

 

trembling just below the surface

–you call for furniture, dishes

rinsed in flowers once scented

 

with sunlight, used to this dirt

to company and every shadow now

something that never happens.

 

 

 

*

For a long time the stairwell

uproots the way a sudden gust

is led between this floor

 

and the floor above, empty

worn out –it grows a mist

hovers from hand to hand

 

as if you are holding a cup

wet from mountainside

though she is not asleep

 

and your armfuls drift

pour hot coffee across the wall

the sheet, the distances

 

–from where you sit this bed

is in bloom, is touching your lips

as branches now that it’s over.

 

 

 

*

Over the same spot these sleeves

clinging to grass as if a jacket

would scare off whatever flies

 

could reach around and your shoulders

that no longer take leather for granted

fall back though the zipper

 

is used to rain, rain then no rain

runs through fields not yet planted

or attacked or along some tree-lined lane

 

its harvest changing into those stones

mourners startle the dead with

step by step –from every direction

 

a safe place disguised as water

hiding inside your mouth, your arms

and nothing else to lay your head on.

 

 

 

*

With roots that glow in the dark

you approach each grave

the way all wood remembers

 

its first wish was moonlight

and overwhelmed the Earth

as mornings that grow only in dirt

 

–you lean across, breathing in

breathing out to exchange places

though the ground is decorated

 

with nothing more than itself

stubborn, still filled for campfires

and all around are the beads

 

outlined in the shadows, woven

slowly row by row, fondled

and endless songs about travelers.

 

 

 

*

It’s a rickety table, not sure

where the bend in the river

brushes against weeds and mud

 

–this watering can’t last

has already broken apart

the way every tree is carved

 

by those endless seas

her initials are used to

as kisses and your mouth

 

–wood can’t save you now

though everything you wet

is circling the Earth for her

 

–you will die from thirst

one after the other, counted

without the summer you needed.

 

 

——————–

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The B Poems published by Poets Wear Prada, 2016. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.