Poetry

Paul’s First Kill

By John Grey

He said it seemed like a good idea at the time.

His father hunted so why shouldn’t he.

And the old man never did lock away his shotgun.

Besides, what other purpose did the surrounding woods serve

than to provide targets for sharp eyes and steady nerves.

 

No, it wasn’t as if he was being threatened.

The creature was a raccoon sleeping high up in the fork of a tree.

His first shot missed altogether.

That furry bandit stirred but not quickly enough.

The second and third shot hit it in the head.

The corpse dropped at his feet.

 

He’d never seen anything dead before.

Blood oozed from the side of the head.

Dark eyes stared unblinking at the barrel of his gun.

Does it have a family, he wondered.

And what about a soul?

 

The dead raccoon was his guilty secret for a whole seven days.

The way his face mobilized so pale and furtive,

his mother knew something was up.

His father didn’t notice however.

He didn’t once check on his rifle to see that it had been fired.

 

His mother finally grabbed him by the shoulders,

shook his body until the lies spilling from his mouth

couldn’t help but speak the truth.

He was burning with shame

while she trembled in fear.

“You could have killed yourself,” she said angrily.

It was no doubt a reproach

but, for a moment there, it sounded like an instruction.

 

___

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Within a Frame

By Jeanine Stevens

            Photo of Jean Cocteau by Man Ray 1922

 

Skin shines over thin knuckles.

A young Jean peers through an empty frame.

 

Smart suit of clothes expertly tailored,

collar starched polar white, so bright it must be new.

 

Hair fluffed high with pomade, I detect

expensive cologne,

yet a solemn expression

perhaps to discount his idle nickname:

“The frivolous prince.”

 

On his left wrist, a twisted string,

one of those devices to remember which day it is,

which appointment to keep, when

other Bohemians, his coterie of friends,

will meet at his favorite bar,

Le Boeuf sur le Toit.

 

In the blurred background, bust on a pedestal,

nondescript, an unknown face

a prop?

Is everything in art intentional?

 

Perhaps shadow to his persona; hidden brilliance

creating a “beast house”

where door knockers grimace and latches grin.

 

I saw La Belle et la Bête around 1979.

Is this the same young man who designed

screaming keyholes, animated portraits?

 

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento. She has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Education. Her second poetry collection, Inheritor, was published by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Recent winner of the WOMR Cape Cod National Poetry Competition and the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award, 2017. She just received her fifth Pushcart Nomination. Poems have been published in South Dakota Review, Pearl, Evansville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Journal, Forge, Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat and others. Jeanine also enjoys collage and Tai Chi. Raised in Indiana, she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Winter Coat Tinged Platinum

By Jeanine Stevens

  South Lake Tahoe

 

To the city yard for sand bags to plug

the hole where the raccoon dug under the cabin.

Between flurries, a walk in the pines.

 

Ahead, 100 yards, a coyote crosses the road,

fluffy white, yellow, gray like a big blond fox.

I stop, raise my arm in salute

not sure if this is a right gesture.

 

Watching, turning

toward me, a long time.

 

(Something familiar, head and shoulders foreshortened

like the giraffe pictograph, the Fezzan,

North Africa, 100 B.C.

Same stance, hesitation,

no threat, something beyond,      curiosity?)

 

I look back to see if I’m being followed.

No.

He trots on, probably to trash bins

behind Safeway,

winter coat tinged platinum,

curved back mimics

Mount Rose in the distance.

 

Later, sitting by the woodstove snapping cedar,

what to make of contact with topaz eyes,

wild fur, the edge of things?

I think artifact

look at my Washoe basket, buck saw,

map of prehistoric game trails.

 

The cabin warms; ice chunks slide

from the tin roof.

On the Tamarack, a Red-headed woodpecker

chisels out another unwritten code.

 

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento. She has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Education. Her second poetry collection, Inheritor, was published by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Recent winner of the WOMR Cape Cod National Poetry Competition and the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award, 2017. She just received her fifth Pushcart Nomination. Poems have been published in South Dakota Review, Pearl, Evansville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Journal, Forge, Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat and others. Jeanine also enjoys collage and Tai Chi. Raised in Indiana, she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Ornate Persona

By Jeanine Stevens

Bow lips burnished bronze, lids violet or sable,

Is face the body’s icon? colorized

flesh: blue, red, black,

eyes swimming in gold flecks?

 

On stalwart stems, face of the rose

rests her head above threadlike roots,

black tangles resembling witches’ hair.

 

The real body—turbulent, defiant.

In grief, feelers find their way to epidermis

—wince, sunken eye, pursed lips,

universal grimace,

universal prosopon.

 

A mystic once said, “Wear a mask too long,

find you have no face.”

 

The ornate Venetian: Salome, Scaramouche,

Capricornus— how many years will they last,

peeling, sloughing through time?

 

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento. She has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Education. Her second poetry collection, Inheritor, was published by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Recent winner of the WOMR Cape Cod National Poetry Competition and the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award, 2017. She just received her fifth Pushcart Nomination. Poems have been published in South Dakota Review, Pearl, Evansville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Journal, Forge, Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat and others. Jeanine also enjoys collage and Tai Chi. Raised in Indiana, she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Firestorm in the House of Birds

By Jeanine Stevens

 Coventry Cathedral

 

Blistered pinnacles rise from the perimeter,

shattered, yet delicate as mica.

Like up-ended swallows tails they elongate, reach

toward the sun.

Inside, puddles of rain reflect

a collage of shreds, war’s fallen flock.

 

And I am back in 1940 with parishioners

on wooden pews for song, then

Sunday lunch and later,

near the radio for the weekly newscast.

Another cloudburst creates

a dazzling mirror image

in the gutted grater; glittering glassine

embellishing the earth.

Resting under a lintel, I consume

my sack lunch, grateful

for cheese, bread and hard green apple.

 

I recall recent attempts to blow up gods

and deities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Not so easily shattered—

do they patiently wait

for a new a plinth, a new cornerstone?

 

Leaving, I note a raven’s nest

high on a damaged spire—birds watchful,

birds in no hurry.

 

At the exit, souvenir pin, a cross—

twisted nails salvaged

from splintered beams.

 

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento. She has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Education. Her second poetry collection, Inheritor, was published by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Recent winner of the WOMR Cape Cod National Poetry Competition and the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award, 2017. She just received her fifth Pushcart Nomination. Poems have been published in South Dakota Review, Pearl, Evansville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Journal, Forge, Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat and others. Jeanine also enjoys collage and Tai Chi. Raised in Indiana, she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Caught Summer

By Jeanine Stevens

  ~a Cento

 

 

People are forever leaving Proust

behind in summer cottages.

 

I sit in my suntan oil alone,

a jay chirks news of impending drouth.

But under my feet as I tan,

a light brown paisley made of seed wings.

 

Parallels of color

on bare canvas of time-by-the-sea.

Fishes float with new-repaired scale.

 

Linen-clean

the air… serpentine

swipe of the sea.

 

A smoky rain batters the panes

of the shore hotel and the hope-for summer

chills and fails.

 

The summer people sigh,

“Is this July?”

 

And next summer they find

someone else’s Proust

in the new place they rent

 

Caught summer

…always an imagined time.

 

 

 

From: Roy Blount Jr. “Summer and the Reading is Easy.”

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, “The Sweet Season.”

Mona Van Duyn, “The End of May.” May Swenson,

“Flag of Summer.” Richard Wilbur, “My Father Paints the Summer.”

 

___

Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento. She has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Education. Her second poetry collection, Inheritor, was published by Future Cycle Press, 2016. Recent winner of the WOMR Cape Cod National Poetry Competition and the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award, 2017. She just received her fifth Pushcart Nomination. Poems have been published in South Dakota Review, Pearl, Evansville Review, Valparaiso Poetry Journal, Forge, Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat and others. Jeanine also enjoys collage and Tai Chi. Raised in Indiana, she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

12 Selected Poems

By Simon Perchik

*

As if a rope, half bone

half pulled from your chest

the way this dead branch

 

tells you everything then closes

though the wood won’t burn

–so many things are made from doorways

 

and she was left inside

with nothing to sit on or a stone

that will fall by itself, broken off

 

to die alone, whispering goodbye

for two and this dirt not yet

just another hole that weighs too much.

 

 

*

You don’t read how weak it was

though this wind torn composition book

steadies its lettering for afternoons

 

the way beginners wave their arms

making room for the Honor Roll

mixed with stone, not yet the pages

 

–these dead are used to it :words

put together by a still warm crayon

and you too no longer move

 

leave them nothing except an after all

in writing and on these sheets

hillsides to fit inside your name

 

holding it between your fingers, higher

and from the struggling dirt, over and over

making mountains, clocks, emptiness.

 

 

*

You caress this dust as if it’s stuck

drains under ripples and sap though all goodbyes

keep warm in a dark lake at sunset, reek

 

from varnish, hunted down by small stones

by dying wood and from the rot

and enormous rain paws the scent open

 

the way she once stood still –the room

is familiar, shattered by lips, cheeks

–as for you it’s just another door

 

somehow dry, no longer the one by one

you leaned against then left behind

away from everything, both hands at once

 

and yours is the only loneliness still leaving

–what you smell is when she first came in

and stayed without turning her head.

 

 

*

You walk past as if the first death

was a bird –enormous feathers

half stone, half outworn, one by one

 

though they still need more time

could calm these dead, spread out

airborne, older than the number 10

 

than this hillside letting its small footsteps

fall standing erect, frightened

–you come here to listen for eggs

 

for echoes, for brothers, sisters –it’s useless

flying so close, wing tip to wing tip

till a moon is all that’s left

 

bringing you its black, covers you

already one hand on your shoulder

counting your fingers out loud to 0.

 

 

 

*

It’s a simple thing, you weep

and though your eyes are silent

they don’t reach –what you see

 

is your heart covered with stones

that have no mornings either

except far off where all mist starts

 

the oceans are grieving on the bottom

holding down your forehead

–so easy a flower could do it

 

say in its face-up way, Leave!

there will be no more kisses

and from your mouth all Earth

 

overflows, becomes lips and distances

–that’s why nobody asks you

lets you imagine you see her clearly

 

knitting a blanket, a white one

rusted needles in both hands, you

walking by, already thorns, roots.

 

 

 

*

Exhausted, on its back the sun

–from so far, brought down

by its unbearable weight

 

not sure it can be lifted

cool, become the moon again

and without stopping, listens

 

for the darkness, holds on

to all that’s left –you look for her

as if every night is mixed with mud

 

and mountains not yet ashes

though you can make out her shoulders

still warm in this enormous silence

 

split in two, growing hair

and lips and flowers, holes

madness and nothing else.

 

*

So many dead! let this pebble find her

and its own never ending emptiness

to guide you through these graves

 

–you almost hear her undress, far off

half matted hair, half as if each cave

is filled with echoes –bats are good at it

 

shoulder to shoulder the way your shadow

wing over wing is uprooted, worm eaten

no longer the whisper between your fingers

 

and her breasts –such a small thing, a pebble

coming in low, brought down by a death

left standing, holding fast to lakes

 

oceans, sleep –you sleep on the ground now

alongside weeds and her comb still warm

from edges, corners and mornings.

 

 

*

It’s a struggle though your legs

inhale the vague heaviness

walking around your heart

 

no longer breathe out

or lower you to where the night

comes down from the ceiling

 

as dirt mixed with silence

and wood –you’re too weak

to walk the streets –the dresses

 

are empty and your skin

takes in too much air

would float the way a plank

 

is salvaged from a shipwreck

to make a likeness, a clearing

you can fall on and her shoes too

 

will dry –you sit on this bed

as if both pockets are stuffed

with waves, rocks and further apart.

 

 

*

This carpet dropped at your feet

welcomes you though every path

is due a clear reason trailing along

 

–speak up! spread out, walk

the way great oceans break into foam

just to count while every one here

 

is devoured trying to go on

as an endless shoreline –we know why

with our fingers reaching up

 

you turn your head –louder! talk

as if these leaves will never dry

are waiting for you to make a sound

 

that’s not another number

added to ours –for you silence is enough

but we too have a mouth –tell us how

 

draw out a breath that will have a place

as if nothing happened –every death

is named for you, isn’t this enough.

 

 

 

*

You point as if your shadow

dug its way out, cools

surfacing at last in a darkness

 

once melted down for rain

and one last time

though it’s your finger

 

splitting open the Earth

lifting it from the bottom

that’s no longer a morning

 

covered with mud

and distances, has your legs

your arms, your eyes.

 

 

 

*

What you still carry to bed

is this water coming from a well

icing over, masks your cheeks

 

and though there’s no pillow

it’s your mouth that’s melting

filling the hole where she used to sleep

 

–in such a darkness say what you want

this sheet took the white from your eyes

that look at nothing but walls

 

–you are washing your face with a room

emptied out to freeze her half

where there are no mornings left.

 

 

*

Only slower, that same song, word by word

lowered into your coffin each evening

forwards at first, then backward

 

for some off-center memory kept smoldering

but why the blanket –face to face

you can hardly tell it’s a lullaby, a voice

 

still warm, tucked into your crib from a tree

that’s lifted from the bottom, covered

with doves stuffed with darkness –try

 

listen the way you once did

though this fairy-like hush finds you

again on your back, jumping and running

 

and under the soft mud some vague happiness

is coming to an end –try! at least remember

the mouth that opened over the wood and ate.

 

 

___

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 Osiris Poems published by box of chalk, 2017. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

Orange Fanta

By Charles Elin

                      for the late Larry Fagin

 

Effervescence, had he thought of it. Out of the common can. By way of

Creeley, Beckett reports. One word. May that be the extent of language. A

bubble with benefits. Relations rising. It was quite a ride.

 

His peas run into the Bolognese. An offense worth noting. Each, of its own

character. He’d place himself in the audience. Embarrassed for the actor,

caught acting.

10 Selected Poems — Winter 2018

By Simon Perchik

*

Ear to ear though the tree

darkens the way this saw

no longer drifts alongside

 

in the open, clings

to wooden boats and the dead

you can touch with your tongue

 

once it’s morning and the blade

has nothing to do, already

half rainbow, half riverbank

 

low over your mouth

opened so you can read

between the lines, send back

 

a note smelling from wood

older than anything on Earth

stretching out till the dirt

 

overturns and you drown

swallowing leaves, branches

days –you cut with hours

 

that know each other

that bind and by themselves

filling with clear water.

 

 

 

*

For a time, carefully reduced

as if these shoes were watertight

and each price tag pointing out

 

–you don’t know where to dig

though dirt must mean something

motionless under the exact place

 

that could be anyone

the way nothing in this shop window

is left standing, needs more dirt

 

more and more and the hillside

that always falls backwards

refuses to get up, no longer tries

 

and all these passers-by two by two

in your arms already opened

for so many dead from just one grave.

 

 

 

*

With each hand the same turn

you learned to take apart

put together, tighten

 

and though the wrench holds on

the tire’s slowly going flat

the only way you know how

 

–you let go, circle

spring-like, for keeps

around the pin-hole leak

 

already planes falling into place

as a training song from the 40s

louder and louder, struggling for air

 

–at last the tire goes down

half under the ground

where you need both wrists

 

the way flowers wilt and each breath

takes in more smoke, still black

on course, end over end, almost there.

 

 

 

*

Not a chance! the gate

tries to open though rust

was already mixed in, drifting

 

till the Earth lay alongside

too weak to turn back

the way the lines on your palms

 

still flow close to riverbanks

and longing, struggle to pull

this mud soaked ironwork

 

into the darkness and turns

that stayed in the air

after it became the sky

 

even in the daytime

–you almost see the gate move

and with both hands, yell

 

you’re working on it, yell

anything! how the latch

is just about to loosen, yell

 

so the fence breaks apart

wading in dirt no longer the rain

that never lets go all the way down.

 

 

 

*

Again your shadow loose in the attic

as if more light could help

coming for old letters, broken frames

 

not sure what was torn apart

has healed by now, hidden

as sharp corners though you

 

still expect the some days

to climb alongside and the height

save them –it’s storage work

 

later work –Esther and you

on a pony that almost remembers the dust

it carried all the way down.

 

 

 

*

Everywhere at once, aimless

though the day lilies

no longer make a sound

 

are used to how the sun

can still be found in moonlight

that has no rain left to comfort

 

with warm stones and the mist

that is now your heart

is circling night over night

 

as some giant red cloud

listening for the scent

from when a flower held your hand

 

too long and the calm

that has its fragrance :your echo

faint from waving goodbye.

 

 

 

*

Not yet feathers though you

still breathe in the smoke

trailing from some climbing turn

 

hidden by clouds and weightless

circling this tree allowed at last

to shed its bark, warmed

 

the way each leaf expects

a better life somewhere, takes hold

with its wings around the Earth

 

carried up hillside over hillside

spurting more and more blood

from your eyes, your ears

 

till their shadow flies from under you

escapes this time, hovering overhead

as branches and evenings

 

and further though their roots

come by to remember why this sky

ended its wandering and closed.

 

 

 

*

Pulling this bowl to your lips

as if traction was needed

though it must know by now

 

why you dig with the same whisper

that once beat back the wind

and the sky changing direction

 

–you lift with what became

the moon, still crawling in its cage

one end to the other, that no longer

 

struts in the open, is terrified by air

wants to cool and in your throat

crumbles from exhaustion and splashing

 

–you make a spray so this spoon

will empty in your arms overflowing

as grass and so many fingers.

 

 

 

*

The door knows why it opens

and still you’re not used to it

could be a sound from the 40s

 

gutting this radio

the way all skies darken

fill with distances

 

–you listen for the slow turn

the Earth never forgot

though a hidden crack

 

keeps the room from exploding

and costs you nothing

has already started its climb

 

spreads out –with both arms

you begin to crawl

and not yet an old love song.

 

 

 

*

You begin to sweat, for hours

the way these stars poke through

and everything has come true

 

–it’s a knack you learn

quickly, pulling up small stones

–that’s it! afterwards

 

you bring back those same days

as evenings that no longer

say anything, the darkness

 

is enough, lets your fingertips

pin down the Earth, hold it

drain it –afterwards

 

you put back its night

as once and never again

though your shadow too

 

falls from a sky swept away

for rain and your hand

wider than usual, gone.

 

 

 

———————
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 Osiris Poems published by boxofchalk, 2017. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

Alberta Clipper

By Eric Greinke

I wake to a white blizzard

blowing down from Canada.

My canine companion

wants me to stay in bed,

but the porch geraniums

want their curtains open

so they can bask in the light.

The weather-woman predicts

that lake-effect wind & snow

will accumulate all day.

The dog already knows.

She will be lazy & sweet

on my lap or at my feet,

so I won’t get a walk

unless I go by myself.

I know & accept the drill:

Michigan, mid-December.

We do it every year.

We dress in thick layers,

cling together for warmth,

long to see the nearest star.

 

 

——————–
Eric Greinke has been active on the literary scene for fifty years as a poet, publisher of over one hundred of his peers, collaborator with other poets, book reviewer and essayist.  In between, he wrote a fishing book, a funny service novel and a book that solves all the problems in the world.  He is a Contributing Writer for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and has new work coming in Cape Rock Poetry, Freshwater Journal, Gargoyle, Lake Effect, Lilipoh, Paterson Literary Review, Plainsongs and Trajectory.    New book: Masterplan – Collaborative Poems (with Alison Stone). www.ericgreinke.com