Poetry

Come Silence

By Mark Belair

The caption said the dead man
had been trampled in a crowd.

One boot was gone
and his long-sleeve checkered shirt was torn.

Had he worn his boots and long-sleeve shirt
in case it might turn cold?

Or had he felt, that morning,
rain coming on?

*

The oxygen machine pumped
as it had for months

until his daughter, who an hour before
helped him bear dying—

It’s all right to let go, she whispered, crying,
You’ve done your job

heard it working and—its duty done—
snapped it off.

Then a hard silence
fell, one

that widened
the one her father,

still in bed,
already inhabited.

*

Being here, alone
with the rain

tapping the roof shingles
and streaking the windowpanes

despite your death,
I remember

you once said
this

was what
you believed in.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Sunset

By Mark Belair

The sun, already
set behind our mountain,
casts us into shadow while keeping
the mountain across the valley in daylight,

the evening we now
inhabit made to seem a past
concurrent with a luminous present
beyond which yet higher mountains rise

in a bright, if
hazy, future, this snapshot of
all time as one time an impression
we savor until the sun, as it must, fully sets.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

The Wedding Picture

By Mark Belair

Back in the 1940’s, the name big bands—the Glenn Miller, the Benny Goodman,
the Dorsey Brothers—all played the covered Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

From the beach, strolling arm-in-arm with my father, my mother said she could
see the nighttime pier, strung with lights, swaying from the jitterbugging bobbysoxers.

Then again, she
was in teenage love.

My teenage father first noticed my mother in St. Ignatius Church when she
looked up the aisle he was coming down and he saw those big brown eyes.

Soft, needy eyes that made him—harnessed by the early loss of his father
and early care for his fragile, melancholy mother—feel released inside.

For what those lost eyes seemed to long for, he knew, from experience,
he could provide.

In one wedding picture, they stroll, arm-in-arm, as newlyweds, up that very
church aisle, and if you enter the picture you can almost smell the flowers,

but also salt air; can hear the recessional organ music, but also
the breaking ocean, the distant swing band, the creaking pier.

This black-and-white photo—crumpled, creased, scratched, torn—that
encodes the remedial, dangerous, black-and-white love of the young.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Umbrellas at Night

By Mark Belair

From this high window, the dark ribs
of a fruit man’s overlapping umbrellas

below—tan fabric aglow—curve
exposed, his patrons, as they move

in and out of the spotlit shelters,
silhouetted on the taut canvases,

the fruit man the center of a shadow play,
the figures expanding and shrinking across

the umbrellas like voices lowered and raised,
shifting shapes you could use to dream up

any number of dramas, even after
the patrons fall to infrequent and

the fruit man’s shadow, through the night,
grows still on a stool.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

market

By mark belair

going to “market” / the unguarded / refrigerated warehouse to which we delivered our hosed-down crates of vegetables / was the highlight of our farm boys’ week

we’d load the rusty pickup / climb in on top / then watch our hot / stripped / briefly abandoned fields recede into prettiness

upon arriving / the truck would back up until it clunked the delivery bay / knocking us enjoyably about / then we’d roll up the metal door to market’s inner darkness

market smelled of chilled fruit and vegetables more exotic than our own scallions / squash / and tomatoes / lush produce we plundered from cool / stacked crates as

i / wanting to please my mother / worked from a list that she / in her innocence / routinely gave me / as i’d told her it was an old farmers’ tradition for all to help themselves

not that anything was missed / the bulging crates all headed to restaurants and grocery stores / while my buddies and i each filled a mere brown-bag’s worth

but my petty thievery nevertheless nagged at me when i’d bite an apple / peel a mango / crack a coconut or / worse / watch my

whole unsuspecting family relish my misbegotten goods / their pleasure sending squirts of catholic sourness through my unfolding soul

then one day i overheard my mother / on the phone / telling a friend about market / including how i thought the pilfering i did was permitted / and isn’t that sweet

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Early Spring

By Mark Belair

Snowfall
this enchanting

falls from clouds,
it seems, dissolving

then reforming:
heaven

held
earthbound.

*

Their southern slants
bared of snow

while their northern slopes
hold white,

these gentle hills
roll perfectly

poised
between seasons—

still
change itself.

*

With the spring-fed lake
spring-cleaned

of algae, bright
schools of minnows

appear above dark predators—
so clear is this water—predators

who break surface
when they must, the spared

minnows scattering and re-gathering
as they must,

the lake water
restoring,

as it must, to deep
calm.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Disturbances

By Mark Belair

A night
dark as the sleep that eludes me.

A lone
streetlamp—I rise to see—slanted with rain.

Rushing
tire treads creasing the street’s black wetness.

Dampness
weighting the wrangled sheets I wade back into.

Disturbances
so distinct, lush, and insistent

they seed a drizzly, then
finally

drenching
rainfall of dreams.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

12 Selected Poems — Summer 2018

By Simon Perchik

*

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.

 

 

*

You reach for lullabies, left over
and the slow crawl half whispers
half where your lips ache, float

the way this empty cup still wobbles
will break apart, overloaded
disguised as two steps closer and alone

then fill your arms with its darkness
seeping through, breathing out
not yet an embrace, not yet the mouth

where your fingers end, surrounded
by more and more dirt, a small room
here, there, there, not yet asleep.

 

 

*

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 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.

 

 

*

You open this jar the way each raindrop
breaks apart mid-air, stops telling time
when struck by another, head to head

as streams  ̶ your hands stay wet
let you gather the hours that are not
the bottom stones mourners use

for water though this lid is still circling
where you listen for those nights
on the way back as the puddles

water makes when trying to breathe
into a place on its own and empty handed
the glass shatters all at once.

 

 

*

And though the Earth lets you dig
it’s your tears that heat the ground
already growing stars

once the darkness covers it
to lure these dead here
with stones scented with shorelines

returned not as rain but grass
just as it was, closing in from all sides
the way this shovel is warmed

by your hands kept wet, pulled
closer  ̶ you cling to this dirt
as if it once was an afternoon

knows only the slow descent
hand over hand into stone
that no longer opens to hear the bleeding.

 

 

*

Leaning against the wall
it becomes a death bed
the way a name on paper

flattens out to take hold
for which there is no word
only a room where no one noticed

you didn’t ask for help
so close to the corners
with the light still on.

 

 

——————–

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 and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

If you’d care to view one of my interviews posted on YouTube, please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8

Solace

By Sarah Wetzel

She carefully slides from the soiled sheets
sweaty from no air conditioning, pads
softly from the bedroom to dress in the dress
left draped over a chair
for just this purpose. On the floor
the young man’s clothes—
like the footprints of someone
who has just passed by
and who has as suddenly
disappeared into the distance
or the remains, she thinks, of some small
animal. He’ll wake
in a few hours, she knows, and leave
with no note. She opens the night,
steps into it.

 

——————–

Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010. A PhD student in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, Sarah, when she can, teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome, Italy. Not surprisingly, she spends a lot of time on planes. You can read samples of her work at www.sarahwetzel.com

Burials

By Mark Belair

The night she buried
her husband—

they were both thirty-three—
Alison

took his twin brother
to bed in a crazed, ghoulish

attempt to allay
her desolating grief.

Three years later, she lay dying
of ovarian cancer.

“Just punishment,” she said, unjustly,
“For what I did that night.”

Then she crossed and clenched,
beneath the hospital sheets,

her once
beautiful legs.

*

Just off a tour of duty in Vietnam, Billy took a job loading
information—the numbing name and address labels that

drove a local distribution company—
into its new, room-sized computer.

Not yet drafted for the War but waiting for notice,
I held the job of hauling file card drawers to Billy

then, once he’d punched them in, returning them
to the slotted cabinets that became their mausoleums.

The computer was sealed in its own plate-glass room,
those early models famously temperamental.

At lunch in the cafeteria, Billy told stories of how a
mere speck of dust, dead fly, or badly timed sneeze

had gummed-up some state-of-the-art but
fragile computer he once knew.

He never talked about Vietnam, despite my worried questions.
Just said that it was okay.

Except for the stink of jungle mud, which he said would
hang on his uniform, infiltrate his pack, cling to his hair.

Sometimes, he once confided, he could still
smell it on his skin.

Then he stood up, wiped the crumbs away, washed
his hands, brushed his teeth, splashed his face and—

Snapping latex gloves and a surgical mask on—
returned to the dry, odorless, temperature

controlled room that held
room for one.

*

Red, at nine, didn’t know
until his hands knew

then he knew
how the machinery worked,

why a job of carpentry fit,
what each tangled electrical wire did.

His hands were quick, inquisitive, appreciative
of a complexity

he could never have spoken
or written of.

Our teachers, back then, said he was dumb
and Red, folding his hands on his desk

as ordered,
believed them.

 

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com