Ruth – a poem by Stapleton Nash

Ruth

She is singing the songs of her childhood
While she hangs out the laundry.
The sheets will gather red dust,
They will smell of the sweet browning grass.
The song jogs something in you–
These songs are not sung very much anymore
In this part of the country.
She wears no shoes.

Parasites that would bore into her feet
Live inside the dirt.
It does not matter.
When her husband has fallen asleep,
And she steps outside to feel
The touch of the night air on her skin,
A touch that does not hurt,
The earth itself rises to kiss her feet.
She is nothing if not this body.

A body exists in time; this is true and inescapable.
But a body does not feel in time.
She is now, but she is feeling then.
She feels herself still in the years
When those songs were last played,
She feels herself still in your hands,
Which are now her hands,
And in the voice of the sea,
Which was then your voice.

You stand by the side of the road and listen
Before walking on. There is no point
In bringing her into the now of you,
Into the now of her.
You could make love to her desperately in the barn,
You could remind her of what she used to live for,
And then you could refuse to steal her away from her life.
Or you can do what you do: you can walk away.

When the locusts came, her husband burned the corn.
The smell stung your eyes and made the sheets grey.
You hid a chocolate bar for her tiny son
Behind the well. She found it there and thought, for a second,
That her nose was remembering– but no.
It is only the burning fields. The acridness spreads and binds you both
In the same diaphanous eternity.
She is still singing the songs of her childhood.
That childhood is also yours.

 

Stapleton Nash  was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where she grew up swimming, beach-combing, and writing letters to imaginary mermaid friends. Since then, she has lived in Montreal, where she studied literature, and more recently has been teaching English to children just outside of Taipei. She has had poems published in NewMag and The Mark.

Holy Apostles School Choir, 1957 – a poem by Antoni Ooto

Holy Apostles School Choir1957

Learning life’s sad hymns
and Hail Marys

days were a catechism
of memorized answers

first on my knees then up again
like a holy yo-yo

Or…

Posed piously in polished brown tie-shoes,
standing and singing in starched vestments

under the high vault of God’s house.
As the choir began to wane, the nun said,

“You know…if you sing, it’s like praying twice.”
Really?

Amazed, I looked at my best friend Billy…
he just shrugged.

 

Antoni Ooto is a poet and flash fiction writer.  His works have been published in The Ginger Collect, Soft Cartel, Amethyst Review, Bangor Lit Journal, Nixes Mate Review, Pilcrow & Dagger, Red Eft Review, Ink Sweat & Tears, Young Ravens Literary Review, Front Porch Review, An Upstate of Mind and Palettes & Quills.

 

A Question About African Violets – a poem by Ahrend Torrey

A Question
About African Violets

    —thank you, Christine

At a woman’s house
of gloom,
…….and misery,
….and despair,
.and misfortune,

in her back room
….under small
…….fluorescent lamps—
………hundreds
…..of African Violets!—
vibrant
and stunning!

In your house
…..of gloom,
………and difficulty,
……and blue funk,
and dismay—

where do yours
……..bloom?

 

 

Ahrend Torrey is a creative writing graduate from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When he is not writing, or working in New Orleans, he enjoys the simpler things in life, like walking around City Park with his husband, Jonathan, and their two rat terriers Dichter and Dova. Forthcoming this year, his collection of poems Small Blue Harbor will be available from The Poetry Box Select imprint.

Postcard from Ostuni – a poem by Ray Ball

Postcard from Ostuni

We have found our favorite
gelato shop by the stairs
in the glimmering white city.
The afternoon sun
melts our frozen treats
so we eat quickly. Flor
di latte, nociollo, anguria,
Sant’Oronzo – stick to our fingers.

They taste better in the heat
that has fired our tempers.
This is a respite
from family squabbles.
Our mouths too occupied
to make any biting remarks.
Yes, indeed, Saint Oronzo

has once again worked a miracle.
This one is more mundane
than when he saved Lecce
from the plague,
but, still, I am grateful
and, between mouthfuls,
offer up thanksgiving
for this intercession.

 

Ray Ball grew up in a house full of snakes. She is a history professor, Pushcart-nominated poet, and editor at Alaska Women Speak. Her first chapbook Tithe of Salt was recently published by Louisiana Literature Press, and she has recent publications in Coffin BellMoria, and UCity Review.

From: Speech Scroll – poetry by David Chorlton

From: Speech Scroll

(57)
Four o’clock on Sunday
afternoon and the clock’s heart
is still. Thrashers pull scraps
for their nests from the sky, while tunnels
the rats dig
run deep into
the mysterious earth. Time draws
a breath. Trouble’s hold
loosens for a while. There’s a seat
that swings back and forth
between worry
and sunlight. The moment begs
for music from another age,
notes piling slowly
one upon another
until they make a column
rising toward Heaven. Or just
stand there, holding up the sky.

(65)
The light climbs every rung
along a woodpecker’s back
and ignites the red cap
on his head. Tap tap tap
on the side of the house,
he’s making a hole
for evil spirits
to escape. No more waking up
in the night, no more
looking out at the dark
to check for the source
of suffering. There he flies,
bouncing on the air, from Christian
to Buddhist to Jew, one bird
for every deity. He even visits
atheists, and never asks
whose souls are hung to dry
along the washing line.

(74)
Reading an American poet who’s
reading a Chinese poet
who reads only the sky: where
does it end? May as well
go straight to the source,
that vacancy where everything
begins. It’s there tonight,
just visible between
the clouds, the gleam
in a jaguar’s eye
when he feels the moon’s pull
and it draws him along
a trail nobody else knows, to
the heart of night’s mystery. The rest
is balance on the path
from star to star, muscles rolling
underneath the skin and the lip
curling back from the teeth.

David Chorlton was born in Austria, grew up in Manchester, England, and lived in Vienna before moving to Phoenix in 1978. His newest book isReading T. S. Eliot to a Bird, is from Hoot ‘n Waddle, in Phoenix.

The Submerged Life – a poem by Diane Elayne Dees

The Submerged Life

The dragonfly, unlike us, is a child
through most of life, surviving under water
for years. She learns the lessons of the wild
while molting many times. This process taught her
to recognize the right time to submerge,
the time to lift her head above the surface,
to gather wings and courage, then emerge.
Her time under the rocks is quite a preface
to a grown-up life so brief, it’s here and gone.
She finds a partner and mates him while she flies,
then lays her eggs, and rises with the dawn
on iridescent wings, and soon, she dies.
The dragonfly, unlike us, is aware
that life flies on fast wings, no time to spare.

 

Diane Elayne Dees‘s poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Diane’s chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Ephesus – a poem by Stapleton Nash

Ephesus

Bridges bejewelled in graffitied padlocks;
Lover’s lakes and lanes and arches.
There are not many monuments built and left up
To the women who walk alone.

But they live, these women. They possess
An architecture of their own.

No pair of lovers, if it were up to me,
Should be permitted to cross the threshold
Of Mary’s house in Ephesus.
Every kiss seems so trivial now,
Each caress a foolish empty gesture,
Every pound of the heart an insult
To what went on here.

And what did? Nothing much.
A few interviews, perhaps some nights under siege,
But mostly silence.
A woman spending her days in solitary vigil,
Mourning for something lost
That was never really hers.

She turned her wedding bed into a ghost ship
For the promise that someone else would benefit.
Whether you believe she died
touched by no one but god in the desert wind,
Or, after her great feat, suffered to descend
Into ordinary motherhood, remembering the lost days
Of a skin floating free and unencumbered by men’s hands
With pride, with nostalgia, with bitterness–
It is certain that when she died, here in this house,
There was no one to kiss her, caress her,
No reason for her heart to pound.

Stand apart from one another
And try to comprehend that loneliness is,
In itself, a labour of love. Every soul
Is born motherless. You have come to Ephesus
To do nothing but walk through a doorway.
Don’t bring your family with you.
The photographs won’t come out.

Stapleton Nash was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where she grew up swimming, beach-combing, and writing letters to imaginary mermaid friends. Since then, she has lived in Montreal, where she studied literature, and more recently has been teaching English to children just outside of Taipei. She has had poems published in NewMag and The Mark.

An Affirmation of Faith? – a poem by Randal A. Burd

An Affirmation of Faith?

The time I rolled my SUV
Forced me to face mortality.
As tires screeched, I lost control;
I barely stopped before a pole
But could have died there instantly.

My thoughts were hard to pigeonhole
And anxious feelings took their toll,
Reliving it inside my head–
How close I came to being dead
With each successive barrel roll.

No broken bones, I barely bled,
But life continued on instead.
The answer to another’s prayer?
A blessing extraordinaire
Affirming faith for times ahead?

 

Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator working on the site of a residential treatment facility for juveniles in rural Missouri.He has a Master’s Degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri and a self-sabotaging compulsion to write poetry that rhymes. Randal’s poems have recently been featured by Rue Scribe, The Society of Classical Poets, and Verse-Virtual among other publications.

Today is the Day I Will Believe in Something Like Light – a poem by Sarah A. Etlinger

Today is the Day I Will Believe in Something Like Light

Today is the day I attend Mass
and say Amen without a heart.
Your hands move through prayer
like water in summer trees,
sparkling tessellations winking in the sky

the only church I’ve ever been to
is one with broken birds
and souls
with light, blue and calm as day,
lost love at first sight

there is something holy
about a body beyond itself,
a body shorn clean of voice,
of light
as if by a lion’s tongue

You take my picture as I move
into the shadows so you can bury it
with the bones of your memory
the dirt full of holes
to hide all the things we hope
our eyes reveal–

……..(in springtime the first thing I do
……..is scour the ground
……..for crocus fingers climbing sore
……..and weary out of the earth)

You ask me at the cusp of breathing
where will we go

where will we go
when the night hides away
and the light is red as strawberries
in the slice of summer sun
quivering under the knife’s cut:
a final rendering.

 

Sarah A. Etlinger is an English professor who resides in Milwaukee, WI. A Pushcart-nominated poet, she is author of two chapbooks: Never One for Promises (Kelsay Books, 2018) and Little Human Things (Clare Songbirds, forthcoming Fall 2019). You can find her work in places like Neologism Poetry Journal, The Magnolia Review, and Brine.

Pascha – a poem by Ariella Katz

Pascha

Those purple shadows over orange dust
That wafts so wistfully over my tired shoes
And wrinkled leaves like newborn babies’ feet.

The chapel’s dark and voices humming low.
The service ended ere I had come in.
The rays of sun too low to shine inside.

I watch the sun go out beyond the hill,
Those purple clouds to peaceful gray subside
And crows in sunset silence sing —

The snow is gone,
The birches’ branches still
And all of us despite it
All still are.

 

Ariella Katz is a Boston native living in Moscow, Russia. Her writing has appeared in Arion, The Gate, and East from Chicago. She is the co-editor of Does the Sun Have a Light Switch? A Literary Criminal Almanac, an anthology of stories and poetry by formerly incarcerated people in Moscow.