Hello Yellow! (Forsythia) – a poem by Marjorie Moorhead

Hello Yellow! (Forsythia)

Forsythia, Forsythia,
(I used to think you were “for Cynthia”)

bursting up yellow flame
sparkling lemony announcement

peeking over neighbor fence tops
exploding in car ride periphery view.

You pull forth green buds;
finally, a promise of Spring in all its

leafy wonder. Lilac leaves,
lime green, will lead into

purple flowers
and sweet, sweet scent will fly.

Gone is our late Winter lament;
hungry craving for color has been met

with yellow, yellow burst,
leaping and licking the sky!

.

Marjorie Moorhead writes from a northern New England river valley, surrounded by mountains, and four season change. Happy to have found a voice and community in poetry, her work can be seen in many anthologies, literary sites, and two chapbooks. During the current pandemic, she relies on zoom to gather with poets and writers. She is watching a pair of Bluejays brood their young.

Sonnet: On the superiority of bird song – a poem by Adam Lee

Sonnet: On the superiority of bird song

The bird in the birch tree outside your window,
singing low from the glowing centre of his breast,
sees you now, sweating at the little, cramped desk,
trying to pull down the world’s disparate elements

to justify your hurt, rage, suffering and malevolence
on what is very evidently a blank and defeated page.
White as a dead city or a planet with no atmosphere,
you gaze into the absolute nothing of your pilgrimage.

Then yawn, shrug and cast away your pen in deference:
knowing nothing you could say would make a difference.
Words are discords, which only ever dazzle, hint or evade;
picked up, shaken at the sky, put down again in weak rage

because it’s useless and only the summer bird can say it clear,
but written words are locked in a thick ribbed ice, like winter.

.

Adam Lee lives and works as a bid writer in Manchester. Over the years he has studied 18th c. English Literature, Psychology and History. His poetry is largely concerned with time, death, loss, resurrection and renewal.

Icon – a poem by Charles Haddox

Icon

An icon circumscribed
by crepuscular sanctuary,
.                                                sober
slatted roof, mud wall—
a trapped butterfly
colors the slightness.

The lamplit aerie
inhabits geography:
antiphons, tempera,
archaic stanchions,
and finally, an elevated
wine-bearer, victor,

gilded. All-teacher, cover
Your unendurable transfiguration
in nectar, pomegranates, cloud.

Carpenter of isolation,
attentively ignite the nocturnal
presence, and anoint us
                                            in Your immeasurable harmony.

.

Charles Haddox lives in El Paso, Texas. He has worked in fair trade marketing, and as a grant writer and community organizer. His poetry has appeared in Commonweal, America, The Christian Century, and San Pedro River Review.

HONEY LIGHT – a poem by Kathryn MacDonald

HONEY LIGHT

When you wake in honey light
linger where river meets the curve
of a bay round as a waxing moon
where the pearl-feathered heron
glides with outstretched wings
alights in weedy shallows
to become just another shadowed reed
perfectly still in solitude.

Notice her concentration
how she stands on stilty legs
in harmony with time and place
like the pause between piano notes
the space that makes the music
…..the downward pause of Billie Holiday
…..Cohen’s gap that lets the light come in
stands alert and dreamy at water’s edge.

Do not rush through the honey light
but flow in the effortless action
and inaction of night becoming day
of the moon’s light giving way to the sun
and the sun’s rising and sinking
into the ebb and flow of the sea
step into the shallows
stand in wu wei.….a heron-woman.

.

Kathryn MacDonald is the author of A Breeze You Whisper (poems, 2011) and Calla & Édourd (fiction, 2009). She has a second poetry manuscript currently seeking a publisher. Recent poems have been published in Orbis(U.K.), Devour: Art & Lit Canada, and on Spirit of the Hills’ “Pandemic” literary blog. Website: https://KathrynMacDonald.com.

On Running Naked on a Golf Course – York, 2015 – a poem by Sam Hickford

On Running Naked on a Golf Course – York, 2015

Well, after the predicted liberation, it is oddly mundane,
in fact. As if this is a tired old sport
like pétanque, played by confirmist Druid kids
intoxicated with their mainstream divinity

classes – I think of mysticism: being winged in flight
like a golf-ball, from a blackbird’s quivered beak
is a later extrapolation. It is the hard grind
beyond metaphor that counts, not this laboured hole-in-oneness.

.

Sam Hickford spent a lot of time in a silent monastery, and so now talks compulsively to make up for lost time.

White Shadow – a poem by Beatriz Dujovne

White Shadow

Predictably, I’m alone
waiting for a server
at yet another crowded
restaurant in Buenos Aires.

As if from nowhere,
phrases rain hard on
me tonight. In case
they bring meaning,
I scribble them down:

White shadow.
Perfume without aroma.
Elephant riding a butterfly.
Where are my dead loves?

The message is grim.

The doctor says I have been
awaiting an encounter with him
that will never happen.
That I’ve been endlessly
searching this city wanting
him beside me, now
at this too-big table.

The doctor says I’m refusing
to splinter shared into single
self. Shall I emerge whole,
divided but stronger?
Shall I flee this table out
into these wild city streets
or listen to the voices:
stay, order?

.

Beatriz Dujovne is a licensed psychologist with a private psychotherapy practice. She is the author of In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango (McFarland, 2011) and Don’t Be Sad After I’m Gone (McFarland, forthcoming) and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed psychoanalytic journals.

Writing Poetry – a poem by Matthew J. Andrews

Writing Poetry

To write the poems that live
in the ink smudged on my fingers
is to give form to the demons
with possession of my hands,

to draw their shapes in the corners
of the pages and watch them
stomp and shout when animated
by the breath of my thumb,

to hover over their impish dance
with an eraser, pondering
whether the strange creatures might
really be angels after all.

.

Based in Modesto, California, Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dewdrop, Deep Wild Journal, Braided Way Magazine, Song of the San Joaquin, and Red Eft Review, among others.

CATHEDRAL – a poem by John Short

CATHEDRAL

Beneath its dizzy heights
public footsteps
ring a tapestry of sound.
Time surrenders here,
hushed voices
slice through space.

In ancient plans
the sky has been considered,
clouds float across
ascending lengths of glass
not stained but clear
while high in the dome’s recesses
portholes angle to paradise.

Thick with prayers,
stone walls are candle-bright
and from the altar
a swinging censer’s breath coercive.
In the rising foment
of the moment’s focussed ritual
saints hide their heads
in alcove darkness.

.

John Short lives near Liverpool. In 2018 he was a Pushcart Nominee and has appeared internationally in magazines like Barcelona Ink, French Literary Review, Poetry Salzburg, The Blue Nib, Envoi, Zingara Poetry, Eunoia Review and South Bank Poetry. His pamphlet Unknown Territory will appear in July from Black Light Engine Room.

Uriel Fox and the Wishing Machine – a story by John Zurn

Uriel Fox and the Wishing Machine

When Uriel Fox witnessed a large metal box crashing near the highway, he assumed he was observing a small section of an airplane. However, as he approached the wreckage, he realized the object resembled a small satellite or perhaps a medium sized microwave oven. Uriel finally picked up the peculiar box, and turning it over, speculated it might be some kind of scientific device. Believing no one else had observed the box descending from the sky; Uriel liberated it from its hiding place behind a large red bush. To make certain no one had followed him home; he peered through his bedroom window. When he felt sure he was alone, Uriel placed the artifact on his kitchen table and examined it closely.

At first, the metal box resembled some kind of military hardware because of the dials, buttons, and knobs. It also had a speaker like component that looked like part of a communication system. It seemed like a formidable device in some ways, but Uriel, being much more adventurous than cautious, decided to experiment with the device and attempt to switch it on. He methodically turned on various controls and attempted to decipher the device’s obscure symbols, but nothing happened at first. Exceedingly disappointed, Uriel continued tinkering with the machine. After several hours, he experienced a breakthrough, and the speaker in the device began to communicate with him.

“Who are you?” the voice from the box demanded.

Uriel, being surprised, but not alarmed replied, “I am Uriel Fox.”

“Uriel Fox,” the voice repeated. “You are now the owner of this artifact, and you must use it wisely.”

Uriel had no idea what the voice meant, so he said, “Who are you? What is the purpose of this device?”

“I am a secret voice recording that instructs each new owner about the artifact’s function. The device itself is a wishing machine.”

“Where did it come from?” Uriel wanted to know.

“I do not have that information. I only know the device is not of this place,” the voice replied cautiously.

Uriel now felt impatient. “Can you at least describe the purpose of this machine? What do you mean it is a wishing machine?”

“Obviously,” the voice answered. “The device grants wishes. As long as you own the wishing device, it is yours to employ for whatever you desire.”

Uriel became instantly more interested in the machine and asked, “Are there any specific rules? Can I operate the wishing machine to help others with it?”

“Yes,” the voice answered with authority. “There are three very important instructions that must be followed by anyone employing the device: 1.The wishing machine allows one wish per person. 2: This wish must be personal and not extravagant. 3: The machine may never be used to hurt anyone at any time.”

Uriel thought for a moment then asked, “Since I own the wishing machine, do I receive more wishes?”

“Everyone receives one wish,” the voice explained. “Now I must end this transmission. My part in these proceedings is over. Goodbye and God bless!”

After the cryptic voice ended, Uriel felt a sense of power and duty. Despite some of the voice’s ambiguous statements, Uriel felt quick witted enough to figure out most of the instructions on his own. For the next several days, he carefully considered how to proceed. Obviously, since he had only one wish like everybody else, then the machine was meant to be shared. The rules about the wishing procedures also made it imperative that Uriel consider his potential wish carefully. He would need to devise a system for allowing others to make a wish as well.

Uriel decided to walk through town to clarify his thoughts and finalize his plan. He was merely a visitor in the town of Affinity, yet he still could observe their possible needs and problems. He desired to be both fair and honest with his wishing machine project, so all could have an opportunity to benefit from his device.

Finally, Uriel completed his plan for the machine. First, he decided to rent a store front with the device behind the counter. Then he noted the store hours as 8am-5pm. Most importantly, Uriel created a poster describing the three regulations and the wishing machine: First, One wish per person. Second, The wish must be personal and not extravagant. Third, No wish can hurt anybody else for any reason.

Soon after Uriel had posted his sign, it became an immediate source of curiosity and ridicule. Most people were afraid to appear naïve or foolish, so they peered into the front window, but nobody entered. At last, a young boy arrived at the store in the afternoon, and he appeared to be very upset.

“What’s your name?” Uriel asked kindly.

“My name is Jeremy,” the boy whispered. “But I don’t think you can help me.”

Uriel became even more sympathetic. “Why don’t you tell me anyway?”

“I lost my gym bag with all my school books in it,” Jeremy began. “If I can’t find them, I will have to pay for them.”

“I think I can help you with your missing gym bag,” Uriel replied cheerfully. “Please come up to the counter.”

“Is that the wishing machine everyone keeps talking about?” Jeremy asked, more encouraged now.

“Yes, yes,” Uriel assured. “Now, talk into the speaker and tell the wishing machine what you want.”

Jeremy did as instructed, “I want my gym bag back.”

“Good,” Uriel replied. “Now continue searching for your gym bag and textbook books. They will appear soon.”

The hopeful boy ran home and immediately told his story about his wish to his parents. For his reward Jeremy was sent to his room. His parents understandably assumed that their son had lied about his story. However, when the gym bag eventually appeared on the back porch the next morning, Jeremy’s family came to the realization that their son’s story was credible. The family spent the rest of the day announcing to the entire town that the wishing machine was indeed genuine.

The next day, Uriel Fox was suddenly very busy with customers who desired information about the wishing machine. Initially, everyone simply wanted to know about the rules and procedures. However, by late morning, people began lining up and waiting their turn to make a wish. Soon, the group became chaotic with some people saving places and brazenly cutting in line. Nevertheless, Uriel decided to ignore this behavior because he simply wanted to help others in need.

One of the first customers to approach the wishing machine was a portly man named Mr. Dunberstir. “I’ll tell you what I want,” he demanded arrogantly. “I want a new sports car!”

“Speak your wish into the wishing speaker,” Uriel answered somewhat annoyed. “You will get your wish in twenty four hours.”

Mr. Dunberstir repeated his demand and then hurriedly walked out the door past the line. Later in the evening, a well-dressed woman named Miss Otona rushed up to the counter and shouted that she should be given one hundred thousand dollars, so she could buy her neighbor’s house. Uriel carefully explained to the woman that one hundred thousand dollars seemed like an extravagant wish and that she should be more reasonable. But Miss Otona remained obstinate. “Plenty of people have that much money!”

Before long, Uriel relented. “All right, but I’m not promising you that your request will be granted.”

After Miss Otona completed her wish, she walked out of the store in a pompous manner, assuming her desire would be fulfilled.

Uriel accepted one final customer that evening, and he had the strangest wish of all. He was called Jay Styverson, and he confidently ambled up to the counter. Having already watched the others make their demands, he knew what to do. He placed his face against the speaker and demanded, “I want a rich woman.”

Uriel looked stunned and required Styverson to repeat his wish.

“I want a rich woman,” he repeated.

Uriel realized the problem with the wish. Although it was personal, it directly involved manipulating another person.

“I’m sorry,” Uriel answered carefully. “That is an improper wish. No one can own someone else. You probably won’t be granted this wish.”

“I don’t care about your rules!” Styverson shot back angrily. “That’s my wish.”

Uriel decided to end the argument and let the machine make the decision.

Styverson repeated his demand and left rudely. As soon as Styverson was gone, Uriel locked the front door. He felt puzzled that people with so many simple needs could wish for things that seemed so outlandish. What good were cars, better houses and anonymous women when so many other important needs existed?

Yet for now, Uriel could only wait to see how things would develop. He remained in Affinity, to continue his work and waited patiently to determine how he might spend his own wish. He felt certain it would be needed. Uriel still couldn’t decide whether the wishing machine was a divine blessing or a sinister curse.

By the next day, the wishing machine proved that it was a genuine sensation. Yet, the consequences for the customers who employed the wishing device were also apparent. When Mr. Dunberstir woke up the following morning, he did discover a new car in his driveway. He immediately sojourned to his favorite tavern, got drunk and crashed the car against a tree. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but the car was demolished.

However, Miss Otona’s wishing decision describes a more disturbing story. She arrived at her neighbor’s house with the wishing money she received, just as her wish stipulated. Yet, even though the house was already for sale, the neighbor refused to sell it to Miss Otona because she simply didn’t like her. Later when the neighbor finally grew weary of Miss Otona’s tantrum, the neighbor merely declared that the price of the house had been doubled. This made the house far too expensive. Sadly, if Miss Otona had simply dropped the whole matter; she would have spared herself what followed.

Late that night, Miss Otana seized a big rock and hurled it into her neighbor’s upstairs window. This commotion startled the woman and caused her to stumble down the stairs. The ensuing lawsuit cost Miss Otona one hundred thousand dollars.

By far the most bizarre consequence of the wishing machine concerned Mr. Styverson. The morning after his wish, he received an invitation to a surprise party. The letter indicated that if he were to come in person, he would win a prize and have the opportunity to participate in a singles’ dance. At the party, Styverson, completely forgot about his five-year outstanding warrant for forgery, and fell victim to a sting operation. Ironically, he was arrested by a female officer.

Uriel felt deeply troubled. Not only did he fail to help others, but he also made their situations worse. He believed that since the wishers could only make a single wish, perhaps they couldn’t “fine tune” them. Perhaps they needed more chances to practice with the wishing machine. However, Uriel eventually concluded that no matter how many wishes they received, they all would still choose foolishly. In fact, only Jeremy with the missing gym bag seemed to be able to wish for a genuine need. Everyone else spent their precious wishing opportunity on satisfying their desires, and somehow the wishing machine understood and punished them.

Uriel at last, discerned what his one wish should be. He requested that he could gift the wishing machine to a more capable owner. Therefore, late that night, he packed the wishing machine into a mailing carton with a fictitious address. He also left out the return address, so the wishing machine couldn’t be returned to him. Perhaps someone else will have better luck, he thought. Uriel left the town of Affinity the following morning and hoped he had done the right thing.

.

John Zurn has earned an M.A. in English from Western Illinois University and spent much of his career as a school teacher.  In addition, John has worked at several developmental training centers, where he taught employment readiness skills to mentally challenged teenagers and adults.  Now retired, he continues to write and publish poems and stories.  As one of seven children, his experiences growing up continue to help inspire his art and influence his life.

Review: Awkward Grace by Mark Tulin

Awkward Grace

Awkward Grace by Mark Tulin, 43pp Kelsay Books. Review by Sarah Law

There is absolutely a tangible sense of grace in the twenty-seven poems in this latest pamphlet (or chapbook) by regular Amethyst Review contributor Mark Tulin. While reading them, I found many sensitively presented scenes, images, voices and details, all given the sort of luminous resonance that poetic attention can provide. At the same time, I’ve been puzzling over the ‘awkward’ designation in this pamphlet’s thought-provoking title. How can grace be awkward? At first glance, the term seems something of an oxymoron. Grace more generally implies a sort of blessed ease, a moment of gift and insight rather than one of mismatched clumsiness or social embarrassment. But reading on, I started to gain further insights into Tulin’s choice of title. Tulin’s professional background is as a therapist, and he admits in ‘Therapist’s Disease’ that he is inclined to ‘diagnose/ everyone I meet’. But his diagnostic ability is overlaid with a poet’s sensibilities, and this collection allows Tulin to sense the obscure beauty of people struggling with circumscribed lives. Many of the characters in the poems – sometimes described in the third person and at other times given a first-person voice of their own – are homeless, despairing, addicted, or otherwise mentally or physically disadvantaged. Tulin can find poetry in the abandoned and bereaved, and indeed in the simply unappreciated, such as the worker ‘in ‘Ancient Pyramid’ who dies as he lived, from ‘years of bagging potatoes and drinking whiskey’.

By contrast to this some poems offer a sort of absurdist delight amid imagined chaos, such as the survivors at the end of ‘Tsunami Morning’ (previously published in Amethyst Review)

‘a Hatha yoga instructor named Laura,
a canonized Saint from Walla Walla,
and an investment broker from Kalamazoo.’

I enjoyed the sense of fun amid this poetic narrative of fragmentation and contingency. And haphazard findings form something of a thread in other poems, as impoverished characters search for, and occasionally find, a serendipitous wealth in items discarded as trash by our throwaway culture. For this reason, I particularly liked ‘Bountiful Treasures’ which observes a down-and-out searching for something – of interest, of distraction, of lost innocence perhaps – inside a bin.

He smiles when he opens the dumpster lid.
He admires all of its bountiful treasures,
rich with hidden secrets,
tokens and trinkets from childhood.

He pulls out a pen,
a child’s toy, an old wooden flute.
He places them in his cart,
a vehicle, a conduit for hope. …

I couldn’t help thinking that the protagonist of this poem metaphorically has something of the poet about him: searching through abandoned scraps for images and inspiration. I was reminded of the famous imagery in Robert Lowell’s ‘Skunk Hour’ when the mother skunk searches for food among rubbish – Lowell’s analogy for the new (in the 1950s) sort of confessional poet, willing to search through life’s trash rather than life’s triumphs for the authentic poetic spark. Not that Tulin is primarily a confessional poet; rather his sensitivity towards the downcast and outcast make him an empathetic conduit for their experiences. I was reminded of another famous confessional poet, Anne Sexton, too, in poems such as ‘In the Asylum’ although Sexton’s poems on a similar subject were lived, and her own madness was, arguably, her all-consuming theme.

Tulin’s settings are not confined to extremity or dereliction: several pieces here are set in coffee shops, others in the refuge of libraries and bookshelves and consider the refuge such ordinary venues can provide (damaged veterans can ‘dress their gashes in prose or verse’ in ‘Behind Bookcases’). ‘Quiet of the Park’ offers an accumulation of quite beautiful, if plangent images, ‘ I drift off in the quiet of the park where the rustling leaves keep me company…’ : this one reminded me of James Wright’s famous hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota. Whatever the situation of a poem’s speaker, they are frequently able to say: ‘I still have my words to read./ I still have my poetry.’ (from the title poem, ‘Awkward Grace’). Even in utter despair there is a blessing and a poetic image to perceive:  ‘I bathe in the water, / feeling blessed/ by the abandoned angels/ above the dark red sky,’ says the lost soul in ‘Last Cigarette’.

There is plenty of unforced poetry here, then, and a profound engagement in the experience of those perceived to be less fortunate. Does this make the grace depicted awkward? I’m still puzzled by the term. There is certainly no awkwardness in the language and shaping used in the poems: lines are notably calm and reflective throughout, with accessible syntax and easily read end-stopped lines. Perhaps, however, there is an awkwardness in the poet’s use of these discarded lives to create poetry that the subjects may not appreciate themselves – is Tulin the ‘artful voyeur’ that Seamus Heaney once famously accused himself of being? I actually don’t think so, partly because the poems are so humbly accessible, and partly because of Tulin’s obvious empathy with his subjects – he presents what could be his own experiences in some of the poems too. Ultimately, I wonder whether the awkwardness is intended for me, the reader to experience: after my attention has been drawn to the poignancy of life’s brief respites for those on the margins, what is my subsequent responsibility? In what ways have I facilitated unnecessary suffering and how far should I find beauty in, or help redeem such suffering – and are these two approaches directly conflicting, or part of the same humanitarian project? Awkward grace indeed, or perhaps, necessarily thought-provoking. My thanks to Mark Tulin, who in this pamphlet has given me a window onto the poetry that occurs after ‘the street lights go dim and the shops close / and only a few souls are left walking alone.’ (‘The Community Piano’).