Poetry

10 Poems—Summer 2017

By Simon Perchik

*

Even the colors are anxious, carried

as if its new home above ground

would skimp the way all rows use dirt

 

cut in two with nothing in between

–you suddenly bring it a darkness

use one hand to comfort the other

 

though you’ve done all this before

have no faith in mornings :clumps

that want only to forget, just lie still

 

holding one end close, for a long time

sorted out and unfamiliar fields

taken place to place in flowers

 

in ribbons, string, thread, something

feeble, tied to the dissolving Earth

by this shadow and your arms.

 

 

*

This rotted log yes and no

longs for the stillness

that is not wood though you

 

are already inside, seated

at a table, a lamp, clinging

the way all light arrives alone

 

except for the enormous jaws

once shoreline closing in

without water or suddenness

 

–you lay down a small thing

and the Earth is surrounded, fed

slowly forehead to forehead again.

 

 

*

Though it gets dark earlier and earlier

you were already weakened at birth

–without a shrug let go things

 

the way each grave is graced

used to being slowly moved along

blossom and in your mouth

 

a somewhat pebble half fruit

half sweetened, not yet

broken apart in your throat

 

–you can’t make out where in the turn

you are clinging to its path

that led you here, not yet strong enough

 

or longing for some riverside or rain

or the night by night, warm

still falling off your hands.

 

 

*

You fold your arms the way this pasture

gnaws on the wooden fence

left standing in water –make a raft

 

though it’s these rotting staves

side by side that set the Earth on fire

with smoke rising from the ponds

 

as emptiness and ice –you dead

are winter now, need more wood

to breathe and from a single finger

 

point, warmed with ashes and lips

no longer brittle –under you

a gate is opened for the cold

 

and though there’s no sea you drink

from your hands where all tears blacken

–you can see yourself in the flames.

 

 

*

You drink from this hole

as if it once was water

became a sky then wider

 

–without a scratch make room

for driftwood breaking loose

from an old love song in ashes

 

carried everywhere on foot

as that ocean in your chest

overflowing close to the mouth

 

that’s tired from saying goodbye

–you dig the way the Earth

is lifted for hillsides and lips

 

grasping at the heart buried here

still flickering in throats and beacons

that no longer recede –from so far

 

every word you say owes something

to a song that has nothing left , drips

from your mouth as salt and more salt.

 

 

*

Before this field blossomed

it was already scented

from fingers side by side

 

darkening the lines in your palm

the way glowing coals

once filled it with breasts

 

and everything nearby

was turned loose to warm the miles

the pebbles and stones brought back

 

pressed against her grave

–you heat the Earth with a blouse

that’s never leaving here.

 

 

*

These crumbs are from so many places

yet after every meal they ripen

sweeten in time for your fingertip

 

that shudders the way your mouth

was bloodied by kisses wrestling you down

with saliva and rumbling boulders –you sit

 

at a table and all over again see it

backing away as oceans, mountains

and on this darkness you wet your finger

 

to silence it though nothing comes to an end

–piece by piece, tiny and naked, they tremble

under your tongue and still sudden lightning.

 

 

*

It had an echo –this rock

lost its hold, waits on the ground

as the need for pieces

 

knows all about what’s left

when the Earth is hollowed out

for the sound a gravestone makes

 

struck by the days, months

returning as winter :the same chorus

these dead are gathered to hear

 

be roused from that ancient lament

it sings as far as it can

word for word to find them.

 

 

*

Before its first grave this hillside

was already showing signs

let its slope escape as darkness

 

mistake every embrace for dirt

though one arm more than the other

is always heavier, still circles down

 

bringing you closer the way rain

knows winter will come with snow

that was here before, bring you weights

 

till nothing moves, not the shadows

not the sun coming here to learn

about the cold, hear the evenings.

 

 

*

Though you can’t tell them apart

your tears came back, marked the ground

the way leaves go unnamed to their death

 

as the need to follow one another

one breath at a time, face up

and after that the rain and warmer

 

̶ you weep with your collar open

make room for another grave

near a sea each night wider, further

 

no longer heard the way now and then

comes by to close the Earth

with buttons and sleeves and tighter.

 

 

——————–

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.

Singularities

By Gwendolyn Jensen

 

Lint that lines my winter pockets settles

soft the pennies there; my far-off womb

remembers its confinement; violet fish—

suspended, drowsy, netted hearts—drift

their walls of glass; stars unfurl a long-

dead fire, better than no fire at all;

the lacquered billiard ball’s unconscious of

its color as it rolls; earth may be

some other planet’s hell.

 

I have made of these a rosary,

and sit and hum and push the beads along

for commonness and gaiety, for matter

of another sort.

 

 

——————–

Gwendolyn Jensen began writing poems when she retired in 2001 from the presidency of Wilson College (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania). The places where her work has appeared include the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Harvard Review, Salamander, Sanskrit, and Measure. Her first book (Birthright, Birch Brook Press, 2011) is a letterpress edition, now in its second printing. Her second book (As if toward Beauty also Birch Brook Press) was published in 2015. Her third book (also published by Birch Brook Press) is Graceful Ghost, a letterpress edition that will appear late in 2017 or early in 2018. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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.