Adapting to the Change
The sound of the surf pounds always in my head, waves
breaking, shattering on tiny translucent multi-hued pebbles
of sand, pulses constantly in the background of my day,
matches the click of heels on the hard pavement ironically
made up of tiny translucent multi-hued pebbles of sand
so much of a part of my every day that if I was to block
it out of my head, the emptiness of silence would shatter me
I miss being near the ocean so much it shatters me.
I wake and can still smell the salty spray of the ocean
from my dreams, dreams of playing in the surf with my sister,
children again, the water tugging at me in a way no
slow-moving river ever could, pulling at every part of my
fragile being in a way that no shallow freshwater puddle
When I first moved to Mexico, I knew just enough Spanish
to buy groceries, say hello to my neighbors
to tell telemarketers I couldn’t speak Spanish. I knew
three people who could speak English: two of them were
unfriendly, catty women, a little older than me, and an old man
named Roberto who preferred his dog to people. For one
whole month, I was surrounded by a world
that could not talk to me, and it was bliss.
One day, Roberto showed up at the door with his daughter.
She was my age, he said, and he thought we should be friends.
“We will teach you Spanish,” he said. “You’ll learn from both of us.”
Every day, the two of them would bring me cookies and fruit for breakfast,
I would make coffee, and Roberto would tirelessly
give me the words for the things around me.
I didn’t know how to tell him I had come for the silence
that I was happiest when I had no idea what was being said.
Within a year, the murmur of voices in the streets
became real conversations, the excited sportscasters on TV
made complete sense, I could hold conversations
with strangers. Roberto’s daughter and I had nothing in common—
she loved shopping and boys, I liked drugs and punk rock.
They eventually stopped coming by for breakfast
but the damage had been done. The world made sense again
and I was no longer alone.
Trip to the Zoo
The gorilla pokes the bent cigarette into the tiny hole and pushes it down
with his black, stubby finger. He falls back on his haunches and stares
at the cigarette, the stray reddish-brown strands of dried tobacco leaking
out of the crack in its crumpled middle. He sits and stares at it as if
contemplating a new unfinished or finished piece of art, as if trying to decide
if it looks better
leaning sideways in a hole in the ground or clutched once more in his
massive yet delicate hand.
Another gorilla comes to stand next to the first, sniffs at the cigarette
but does not pick it up. The first gorilla snorts loudly, some exclamation
I’m not privy to, a command, a question, a solicitation for comments
on the aesthetics of what he’s done. The second gorilla ignores the first,
instead, picks up a loose twig, uses it to poke at the cigarette with as much
care and concentration as if he was trying to play a tiny game of pool. The first gorilla watches the second, brow furrowed but not particularly agitated
obviously in on whatever game the second is playing.
The lights flicker in the display cage and the gorillas turn expectantly
to the tiny sliding door set in one wall, wait patiently as it slides open.
A tray of carrots and broccoli and brown food pellets are pushed through the opening, and the gorillas slowly lope to the plate to claim the best pieces. The cigarette remains in the hole, forgotten for now, growing like a little white tree
or mushroom in the dusty dirt, the split in its side threatening to break it in half.
I briefly consider staying longer
in the hopes of learning what the gorillas are planning to do
with the crumpled cigarette next
but my son is pulling at my shirt sleeve
says he wants to look at the orangutans now.
the woman whispers a few words over the bundle
and hands it to me. she says
put this under your pillow and the dreams will
go away. she tells me of the village
she grew up in, how her mother taught her magic
all the secrets passed down through her family
for thousands of years, old magic, and just from her clan.
when I get home I look up her village
on the map, try to reconcile her story
with the Inquisition’s ransacking of Béarn, how
there was no one left to pass on the old magic
how the village stayed abandoned for years. I wish
she would have picked a different town
to prop up her credentials, I grumble
before heading off to bed, putting the bundle
under my pillow anyway, trying hard
to believe in the lies.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Ugly Girl. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), Northwoods Writer’s Festival (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy (Alien Buddha Press) will be out late 2018.
The El Cajon Police chased Danny and me from a railroad car full of Monkey Ward’s merchandise, foiled our attempts to break the lock with a pry bar; in order that we might reenact the lives of the hobos we’d dreamed up – stolen excerpts from a book my brother was reading
The police took us down to the station in a black and white – my handcuffed, bone-bruised wrists had my father so pissed when he came in for me. I thought he would barrel-chest one of those bastards, grapple with him onto the floor and break a cheekbone or a nose with his hard-ass, bus-driving, right fist, but we were living in the real world and he was only capable of later rubbing my wrists with salve. He called me Capone for a couple of weeks and restricted me for the alleged, attempted robbery – and something else I’d done at school that had gotten me suspended temporarily
From that time on, until I was eighteen, anything and everything reported missing in that neighborhood, Danny and I’d be suspect for – called in for questioning, grilled and put in the hot seat, until my Dad pleaded with an ostensibly reasonable administrator at the central station – who’d subsequently have the incident expunged from my record some years later so I could enlist in the United States Marine Corps, go off to that farcical war in Southeast Asia … shit, I’d have been better off, an ineligible thief
Long Before I Knew the Rifleman Was a Dodger
It was one of those fat bastards
obviously trying to knock it out of a child’s ballpark
200 feet to the scoreboard in center
from where he stood at the plate
He’d swing three times through every ball
before he’d make contact and we laughed
Guffawed at the cap spinning off of his barren crown
Thank you Bozo – Next year bring the red nose
Subsequently, we’d lost our focus
or at least I did when
I was hit in the ear with a one bounce line drive
a rope off of this dummy’s bat
My ear lobe wore the ephemeral impression
of Spalding seams. I was glad though I hadn’t been
smacked with one of those hard, cheap
funny rubber bouncing balls
the league had often purchased in bulk
for the annual baseball try-outs
The veteran coaches of World War II and Korea
thought it was a good lesson for any youth –
maybe one day it would be a grenade
That was the inane postbellum wisdom then
in El Cajon Valley, and probably
all over the country in the late 1950s
I was well-deserving of that puffy
red ringing cartilage – that helix-stung- like-hell of an ear
Heads-up goddamn it! The car salesmen sneered
Get your head in the game, kid! The sawyer barked
That’ll wake your ass up, knucklehead! The mechanic choked
– hocked-up a lunger that bounced in the dirt
One of them would call me later that afternoon
interrupting the kitschy dialogue between
Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford
… tell me I’d made the Mustangs, the where
and the what time of our first practice
I would be ecstatic as I switched the receiver to my un-iced ear
Fred Rosenblum is a poet living in San Diego with his wife of 44 years. His poems have appeared in a number of publications, including Cholla Needles, Cirque Journal (ed. note-page 98), Consequence Magazine, Gold Man Review, GFT Press, Empty Sink, Jazz Cigarette, the Aurorean, and The Courtship of Winds to name a few. His debut book of poems, Hollow Tin Jingles was released in 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company, and his 2nd collection, Vietnumb is due to surface later this year (2017), by Fomite Press.
A small canto for Dante
Three levels of visible
activity. A police heli-
copter circles. Beneath
it swallows swirl
incessantly like those
mythical birds that
never come down to
land. & on the porch
the cats pace round
& around, pissed that
I will not let them in
now that I’m about
to have lunch. Who
knows what the
worms are doing. Or
Beatrice, far below.
Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. He is the author of over forty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are random salamanders, a Wanton Text Production, & Circus economies, from gradient books of Finland.
I Saw You From Afar
found in the UC Berkeley library database
I saw a flood a rocket walk a mile a ship a-sailing
I saw Booth shoot Lincoln France fall Poland betrayed
I saw technical assistance change lives the sky catch fire
I saw them making microscopes
(ed. note – in case it wasn’t clear from the title, this list poem is derived from a sequence of titles in a library catalogue.)
Glenn Ingersoll works for the Berkeley Public Library where he hosts Clearly Meant, a reading & interview series. He has two chapbooks, City Walks (broken boulder) and Fact (Avantacular). He keeps two blogs, LoveSettlement and Dare I Read. Recent work has appeared in Poetry East, Askew, and Hearty Greetings.
To the Lake House
for Uyen and Hanh
The storm has passed away. I look out from the open lake house window. The water is sky blue in the center and khaki green around the edge where the reflection of the forest plays. A drowsy boat whispers along and the sun breaks its rays into a mosaic of stars on the wake.
Yes, the storm has emptied its throat of verse and chorus, has curled its grey fist and clocked out another flawless shift. But its violence, like news headlines, will soon disappear down memory’s page. Why are storms so easily forgotten? Is it their ephemeral quality, like the thoughts you lose to the surface before you touch the seabed of sleep? Or is it the clockwork regularity with which they arrive, a repetition that induces forgetting? Maybe its only those who are unaffected that forget, blissfully oblivious to the others. The others who are shipped off to makeshift shelters, who in their scars carry their dead. Even the weeds on the bank have stopped quaking, the weeds decked with raindrops, the storm’s remnants, which catch the sun and stun the eyes like a camera flash.
No rainbow hangs on display. The only other trace of the storm is a feeling. A feeling that the sky has been swept clean of turmoil, a turmoil replaced by silence, thick as medicated sleep, heavy and dreamless like the forest of pines that paint the horizon with green velvet dappled black, in whose branches scurry small animals, in whose fetid layer of fallen bodies insects teem. Pine trees rich in fragrant shadows breathe. They exhale a subtle breeze that shifts the texture of the lake. Ripples like goose bumps, tiny waves that beat the shore in a repetition that induces forgetting. Even the birds have forgotten to sing their perpetual questions to the day. Questions, when sung in praise, are left unanswered, echo off leaf and bark and sing back softer in relay.
Brendon Booth-Jones was born in New Zealand and spent his formative years in post-apartheid South Africa. He is an educator, currently working in Vietnam, though still involved in social development projects in South Africa. His photographs and/or writings have appeared in Amaryllis, Botsotso, Saigon Says, Verdancies and Zigzag.
Robert S. King
I am trampled by nightmares
that used to rein in my wildest dreams.
Every morning it dawns
on me again, that a long day
is just a loaded gun for a long night.
I slump over a stained mug,
sip black coffee that exposes
a nerve, and for an hour
sit up straight, awake
as if ready for a race already won.
Sleep fears the night
and the stampede of bitter pills.
When I turn out the lights,
the world is a large black eye
wide open, aimed at nothing.
Shots in the dark
cannot miss darkness,
but I miss those I’ve lost,
more and more who go
bump in every night
and never come back
into the light.
Tale of Heirs and Tears
The old scrooge they could not wait to scatter
comes hot in the urn,
comes smoking into their very dry eyes.
In death he’s become their genie in a jar.
Now they have his good fortune
and best wishes, his unbreakable will,
his bottom line, and they know how
to spend their inherited days.
When they pour his ashes on the ground,
a gray mushroom cloud rises pocket high.
They plan for the cold cash he left them
in the black hole of a vault
from which no light can escape.
From a spirit spark perhaps, imagine
the dead grass ignites beneath them.
Their fine mourning clothes rise
up in flakes of ash,
until they settle together
in the shadow of the urn,
in the black of net worth,
in the dirt of so filthy rich now.
Robert S. King lives in Athens, GA, where he serves on the board of FutureCycle Press and edits the literary journal Good Works Review. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014) and Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014).
I left my rifle at camp,
disobeyed commands to hike the hillside
green at dawn, greener than
Nebraska in spring, the dollars
they ironed in their huts, cool
and unadorned. On jagged, fallen
trees I wrote my mother: this is what sin
looks like, this is why I’ll never return
to the Methodist church
in Grand Island. I allowed my boots
an hour to dry in the sun.
Some of the boys came naked
to breakfast. If they were to die,
they, too, would do so unadorned,
sticks of marijuana in their lips, fists
to say we came and saw
and there was nothing left to conquer.
The Danang road splits
at the Delta of Screams, and I wondered
what turning wrong could mean,
if I would’ve found paradise or shelter,
a slim girl, unscarred, calling me home.
Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, recently The Maine Review and The Hawai’i Review. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.
The Dermatologist Says…
The dermatologist says, you need to accept it:
there is no cure for sudden-onset- adult-eczema,
and I wonder, if inferior species can molt, why can’t I?
You need to use more moisturizer, she says.
I don’t have the guts to say it, but I should:
please, oh please, let me be like salamanders and frogs
shedding their skins on mosey banks;
they even get free calcium-rich meals from this,
regularly eating their skins.
Instead of using topical steroids
I want you to try this new…
Okay, I tell myself, I’ll get the prescription
for the new medicine filled,
but I’m going to discuss matters
with my dog and cat first:
since shedding fur is no big deal
they ought to offer at least a clue
as to how to get rid of these red itchy spots.
The pathology reports on the biopsy
confirm it’s not psoriasis – it’s what…
What I want to know is if I rub myself
against rough surfaces, like lizards and snakes,
will this assist in the removal of my skin
or will it cause a flare-up?
The patch-testing reveals there is no allergy involved.
Is it too involved,
(I almost dare to dare to ask her)
for me to bury myself in mud
like a hermit crab? If it works
for getting rid of exoskeletons,
then maybe its beneficial for me, right?
But the process takes months,
and she’d likely tell me that remaining
buried week after week just isn’t practical,
even if I could get off work for that long.
Before she leaves me alone in the cold silent room,
the doctor tries to bolster my dwindling spirits:
although there’s no cure for your disease
it can be successfully managed.
I believe her, sort of, sometimes,
but I know full well my only real hope: molting.
Gregory E. Lucas writes fiction and poetry. His short stories have appeared in Pif, Blueline, The Horror Zine, The New Press, Yellow Mama, and in other magazines. His poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, Blueline, The Lyric, Yellow Mama, Scarlet Leaf Review, and in other magazines.