At Jacob’s Ladder, Sidmouth: Stones on Steps – a poem by Mike Ferguson

At Jacob’s Ladder, Sidmouth

Stones on Steps

Stones are creeping up the steps but they’ll
never make it all the way – no tidal ducks and
drakes can propel pebbles beyond the sand and
water of their belonging. Even metaphors climb
just so far before real hands and shovels come to
scoop them back, not like but totally as the rock
they are. It is the same in that way earth is never
linked to a heaven no matter how people dream
and however their babel tries to confuse and
persuade. Take a stone and put it in your hand and
feel the cold but rounded reality. After millions of
years and the crashing of waves these will be the
dust of the earth, stuff that comes and goes but is
not walking out of water to ascend these stairs.

Mike Ferguson is widely published in poetry magazines and his most recent collection is the sonnets chapbook Precarious Real [Maquette Press, 2016]. A retired English teacher, he co-authored the education text Writing Workshops [Cambridge University Press, 2015]. https://mikeandenglish.wordpress.com/

 

possum christ – a poem by Maria Mazzenga

possum christ

we
assemble
in the garden
sunday
at sunrise
waiting for the
cardinal to
sing

squirrel servers
scuttle through
the gate
rabbit deacon
dove subdeacon
orange-vested
robins
chanting
in trees

possum christ
plays dead
under a
bevined
bench

the cardinal
flits for the
blueberry bush
the deacon for
the dandelions
the servers
scuttle
up the
black
walnut

 

Maria Mazzenga is a poet from Arlington, Virginia who’s been writing poetry for 30 years; she was first published as a teenager in The Catskill Review, and later in Poet Magazine and Takoma Voice.  She has done readings in Maryland and Washington, D.C.  She is currently an editor on a new online poetry publication Jump, where she has also published a few of her pieces.

Baptism – a poem by Steven Harz

Baptism

I will lean a ladder against the house
and take a chainsaw and goggles
up onto our roof,
prime the pump and pull the cord,
and with a tape measure
and an undying belief,
will cut a hole in the spot
that is directly above our bed.
Because, you see, a storm is coming –
you can smell it in the air –
and I want it to wash us clean of
past bruises and current sins,
and, through the hole,
allow God to witness a baptism
that will fix what His original one
could not.

Steven Harz is the author of multiple collections and is a multi-time winner of The Iron Writer Challenge. Originally from West Virginia, he grew up in Maryland, and now lives in New England. If you’re looking for flowery love stories, you’re in the wrong place.
Amazon author link: Steven Harz

The Summer Elvis Presley Died – a story by Donna Walker-Nixon

 

The Summer Elvis Presley Died

 

Mother cut okra off the vine, thinking she’d fix gumbo for supper that June night. Her fingers and hands itched. Still, she cut the tender pods off the plant, and discarded the hard ones to wither on the ground. A silver gray haze of smoke foamed from a car’s exhaust pipe. Few unexpected visitors drove this road since once they passed the farm they had to cross the old wood bridge and guide their vehicles over uneven slats. Tom Davenport, the County Commissioner for District 3, sent his boys out to grate the road at the beginning of the week, and the silvery haze shifted into a purple reservoir from the infrequent shower that settled into puddles that resembled for a brief couple of days an artificial lake. “These people don’t know the lay of the land,” she mumbled into the summer sauna.

The vehicle turned in at the mailbox and followed the gravel entrance with pecan trees on each side. They weren’t expecting company, and Mother told herself it must be an Amway salesperson hawking the glories of Nutrilite, the only company to grow and harvest the plants that would become the vitamins they sold. She’d best take her bowl with its three pods of okra and get back to the house or Daddy’d end up buying a two-year supply of vitamins they did not need.

When the car got closer and she saw the dark blue vinyl top, she reckoned the visitor was Polly Jobe, a nurse at the hospital where Mother directed a three person staff of kitchen employees and jokingly labeled herself the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Polly and her husband Eldon were prominent members of East Side Church of Christ, and Mother thought Polly put on airs when she haughtily quoted from the ads that her “1977 Williamsburg Edition of the Lincoln Continental provided a conservative design for its buyers.”

Just the day before, Polly intrusively pleaded for Mother to share the truth about my sister Natalie’s roommate Esperanza, who’d gone off to nursing school and gotten herself impregnated by the overweight, married son of rancher who lived on his father’s place in Rosebud-Lott. Natalie and her friend spent more time at the Melody Ranch two-stepping their way to sure destruction and nursing hangovers. Polly told Mother, “And her daddy’s gone to live in Fort Worth with a Mexican whore.” Still, Mother said nothing. In desperation, Polly added, “I never knew any Mexicans until they moved to Lindsey. Now, I see they’re just like all the other damned Mexicans.”

Mother had already suppressed her urge to remind Polly that folks in Lindsey whispered tales about her pharmacist son who lived in Oak Lawn with his boyfriend Guillermo. Mother responded, “It’s not Mexican. It’s being human.”

By the time Mother got to the house, Daddy had finished picking apricots and peaches from the fruit trees. His half-filled bucket sat on the ground in front of the greenhouse he built for Mother when we got back from a Christmas vacation trip to the Rio Grande Valley where we drank freshly squeezed lemonade made from oversized Valley lemons. Mother insisted they buy lemon trees and two sabal mexicana palms because she cherished the sights of the Valley, which was really a delta, and of memories the trip held for her. Daddy built the greenhouse, and they gave visitors lemons when they were in season. The palm trees were not so lucky and waned their way to death a couple of years afterwards.

When Mother reached the greenhouse, Daddy stood in deep conversation with Brother Jobe and Brother Jackson. By the compliant movement of Daddy’s head bobbing up and down, Mother immediately decided he might as well have bought that two-year supply of Nutrilite. “What do they want?” Mother asked.

Daddy replied, “To talk to Natalie. That’s all.”

“About what?” Mother asked.

One of the men drawled, “The missus saw your daughter today at college registration. Esperanza’s mother thinks they’re staying with your other daughter in Midland. What’s going on here? That’s all we want to know so we can give her mother some emotional relief.”

Daddy told Mother to send Natalie outside. “No mother should suffer like this,” Daddy said, an echo of the words he just heard from the church brethren.

“I’ll talk to Natalie on my own, and we’ll go from there in deciding what to do.”

Shifting from one foot to another, the brethren glared at Daddy while Mother walked up the pavement to the parlor that used to be my bedroom. Natalie lifted the wobbly window blinds, and my youngest sister Grace turned down the record player where Elvis sang “Love Me Tender.”

Mother told Grace to turn off the music. “Natalie,” she said, “People in town are talking. These men are right. Esperanza’s mother has a right to know where she is, but it’s not their right to force you to tell them. But where is she?”

“She’s staying with Sandra Sue McKnight and her husband Jerry.” The mumps left Sandra Sue barren at age sixteen. Right out of high school, she married the assistant director of the funeral home. His pale white face, pitted with acne, reminded me of a nectarine pit. They moved to Abilene, where the marriage soon ended, and she married her divorce attorney whose white hair made him look older than her parents, really almost as old as her grandmother who lived down the street from my grandmother.

Mother told Natalie to call Esperanza and tell her the men from the church had driven down spindly gravel roads to get to our house. When Natalie got off the phone, Mother went outside and told the men, “We will talk to her mother, not to you.” She commanded them to leave our property, and she and Natalie drove to Esperanza’s house on the edge of town.

Mother avoided a pick-up truck on the narrow bridge just before they crossed the bridge two hundred yards from the clapboard Church of Christ we attended after we moved from Fort Worth to a ramshackle house where cold winds pierced us to the bone. That year, Daddy worked as an aircraft mechanic at Chance Vought in Fort Worth, and she did not have a drivers’ license nor a car to whisk her away from the howling wolves that enveloped her new world. A Texas blizzard prevented him from coming home, and Mother counted heartbeats where her idiopathic tachycardia made her gulp for air like she was drinking ice tea.

Natalie skipped across mounds of snow to the chicken coop. People called her precocious when she fed raw eggs to our dog Tip. She never understood how Daddy figured out her crime, which could have led to an egg-sucking dog that raided chicken coops. Daddy whipped her for her transgression; now she was too old for that, but Mother told her, “We spent hard-earned money sending you off into a new world. Why did you think your grades wouldn’t suffer? You don’t meet men who plan on settling down and raising a family.” Mother didn’t teach us to settle down with our high school sweethearts and preferred none of us date seriously until after we finished college.

Maybe, for the first time in her life, Natalie had no response. She huddled against the car door when Mother veered into the left lane as a neon-black Dodge Ram pickup faced her head-on at the dirt mound where Miss Nancy lived in a single-wide trailer with white aluminum siding. Almost every day her dog Tricks rode next to her to the Allard’s Crossing Store to buy tuna and chicken in a can and Rice Krispies.

When Mother put on the brakes to turn into the gravel drive where Esperanza lived, the church men put on their brakes and attempted to follow Mother and Natalie into the white house with its red trim and paint that peeled off the wood. Mother announced, “We said we would talk to Esperanza’s mother—not you.”

“But… but…” they stammered. “She’s expecting us.”

“She can look out her window and see you’re here. That’s enough.”

The men whittled broken limbs with their pocket knives while Mother and Natalie went inside. “We’re here,” Mother’s voice must have sounded like a deep echo in a deeper canyon than either one expected to hear that day at the end of August in 1976 when they unpacked clothes and the girls chose bedrooms. That day Esperanza’s mother clutched her daughter’s hand and did not let go. This day, she grasped Natalie’s hand and cried in desperation, “Where is my daughter?”

“Here is her phone number. She can explain it all.” Mother thrust into Mrs. Sanchez’s hand a yellow legal pad note, and they waited.

“I will call. We thank you. Very much we thank you.”

 

Lindsey Tribune Herald

August 16, 1977

Birth Announcements

Jerry and Sandra Sue (McKnight) Kinney, Jr., of Duncanville welcome into their home Shaundra Sue, their long awaited child. Proud grandparents are Jerry and Alma Sue Kinney and Dwight and Verona Allison.

 

Donna Walker-Nixon was a full professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where she received the distinction of receiving the Mary Stevens Piper award for excellence in teaching. She currently serves as an adjunct lecturer at Baylor. She lists her five primary professional achievements as 1) founding Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature in 1997, 2) co-editing the Her Texas series with her friend and mentor James Ward Lee, 3) co-founding The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas 4) publishing her novel Canaan’s Oothoon, and 5) serving as lead editor Her Texas, which has boosted Donna’s faith that the voices of women writers and artists truly mean something to both men and women.

 

 

Become – a poem by Johana-Marie Williams

Become

………Why aren’t i a poet?
………a slam poet, a free-styler, from the tip of my tongue
………to the tip of your mind and you like that don’t you,
………“tip of your mind”?

Why can’t my words flow in the free wheeling free rhyming rhythm
that so many others of my descent seem to be fully capable of?
Is that I am not urban? I’m sorry but I am not.

………Somewhat country,
………definitely small town,
………black (African American)
………girl-woman,

but I am not urban; born and raised in a
college town with access to broader culture but still
small enough to still feel like I might possibly be able
to leave my door unlocked if I absolutely have to
and at the end of the day come back
to a fully furnished home.

Yes I am a small town, small group, homebody kind of black (African American)
girl-woman, classically trained by her mother–and I’ll be honest a little disconnected
from the history that is so much apart of me though not by choice,
and I make up for it with my access to “higher” forms…
Wait, is that what we’re calling it now, “higher” forms of art?
Somehow the only thing that seems “high “about them is
their distance from me and the ideas they are meant to express.

Anyway, the nonconformist in me won’t let me contain my expression
and if I will not be allowed to break the mold by adhering to my roots,
I will form a new set of roots drawn out with
black eye liner, plum colored hair,
Gothic subculture, safety pins, Cocteau Twins,
Anti-Racist Skinheads, post hardcore, Art Nouveau,
………cutting,
………burning,
………beating,
………starving,
………up-chuck-inducing love.

Yes, I will hammer the floor with my fist and scream “I wanna see waves!” over and over again  in a growl that so many emotive hardcore boys will learn to envy. And oh you didn’t know I was that kind of girl too? But see behind the small town, homebody, post-punk, post hardcore, neon, burn-my-palm-on-a-candle-flame-love, African American girl woman is one who wants more than any of these identities can begin to offer. It’s a cliche she needs, the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and surety of her own existence. A girl woman who wants to be sure that she’s not a unicorn.

………That is, she wants to be sure
………that she not a thing that does exist
………but only as an idea
………of something that does not actually exist,
………not as something actual,

but soon she is convinced that
it’s okay to be the unicorn,
to be the thing that isn’t actually actual
except as an idea because she-me–
is God’s idea and His ideas are so far
beyond ours that they do become actual things
that do actually exist.

And that’s all anyone could ever ask for.

At the end of it all I am poet, a slam poet.
My words can flow in a free wheeling
free rhyming rhythm and I can compete for ideas
I can think fast on my feet,
even if only with a pen and paper or laptop in front of me,
and that’s okay.
Above all these, I am an idea become actuality,
and who could ask for more?

Johana-Marie Williams is a writer, artist, and historian focusing on Black women and femmes’ health and religio-spiritual experiences. Her current projects include her perzine caro and papers on the history of Black midwives in Leon County, Florida and Black female protagonists and transhumanism in science-fiction and fantasy media. You can see her work at mercastle.com.

Acolyte – a poem by Eabhan Ní Shuileabháin

Acolyte

I wait here for you every night, all night,
my back strong, my hands resting,
my eyes staring straight ahead, unseeing.
They think I am meditating,
They watch me every night, yearning, praying;
in the day, they give me courteous words,
treat me with hushed respect.
They see me as a mistress of emotion,
one who is close to awakening.

They see only my body, my discipline.

I am raging within this cage,
past sorrow, past curling into your arms,
past caring. I need to feel you inside
my heart again, cannot stand this desert,
this yellow sun screaming from its blue sky.
I need to be back in the valley again,
without fear, always without fear,
knowing you are there before me, beside me,
knowing as the sands slip through my fingers

you are holding the hourglass near.

 

Eabhan Ní Shuileabháin is an Irish poet, born of an American father and Irish mother, who has lived as an outsider all her life in Ireland, Holland, America and Wales. She has had work published in a range of journals in Ireland, Britain, America, Europe and Australia.

At long last – a poem by Fabrice Poussin

At long last

As if in the enjoyment of a final breath
she sits at the threshold of tomorrow
choosing the snowy peak of Mt Blanc
for the purity of its jagged creation.

Her eyes are closed as a gate to the senses
a statue on her throne in light muslin
she lives inside where nothing can reach
a soul growing with the light of the planet’s heart.

These are only memories of a lifetime now
pictures of many hues, symphonies or rainbows
before the table of the last festivities
her pinkish envelope barely shivers.

Time has found a new expression in the eternal
Big Ben itself has fallen into deep silence
close to the firmament she is warm within
communing in peace with the cosmos her domain.

She may never again stand, nor wave at the world
reigning above the many lives she ever had
safe in the virgin territories of the monument
finally at rest, invisible to mortals, she is infinity.

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 300 other publications.

Bending Light – a poem by Maria Mazzenga

Bending Light

around the curve of
summer’s first day
the sun jumps,

leaps to the left,
she’s citrus
in orange neon,
shimmering wide hips,
wailing like a siren—
cars swerve as she shimmies
across the street

after all, half the world’s on fire,
lunatic bugs buzz
like mad, blazing
with her waxy drippings

forget circumferences and
temperatures, arm’s length abstractions
and theories of light—
she’s
the mother of all bombshells,
pre-atomic,
breathing nuclear secrets
into the ear of Eve, who still
listens from
Eden

 

Maria Mazzenga is a poet from Arlington, Virginia who’s been writing poetry for 30 years; she was first published in The Catskill Review, and later in Poet MagazineTakoma Voice and Bitchin’ Kitsch, among other publications.  She has done readings in Maryland and Washington, D.C.   She is currently an editor on a new online poetry publication Jump, where she has also published a few of her pieces.

Source Code on Blackheath, London March 20th, 2015 – a poem by Jane R Rogers

Source Code on Blackheath, London March 20th, 2015  

Our skyline, once openhearted
is now shored-up
in your penumbral shadow

…………..suspended to only a likeness,
…………..brittle as toffee-candy.

Copying crows, alerted to life
at your second contact,
we find shine in flight, our scattered feathers

…………..settle, mysterious in the heath’s trees,
…………..we trust in our own coronas.

We make no caws in this unlit surround,
hemmed in, within your partiality,
instead borrow another world of minims and muscle,

…………..and measure this time as magnetic,
…………..collectable

in the obscurification of our source code,
find earth on Earth
in Moon on Sun.  Moving.

 
Jane R Rogers has been writing poetry for seven years and is a member of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop. Jane’s poems have been published in print and online – appearing in Atrium, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Long Exposure Magazine, Obsessed with Pipework, and in the Tate Gallery Website poetry anthology 2012. Jane lives in London but misses the West Country.

Homework – a poem by Mark J. Mitchell

Homework

 

                                    My eyes sting with these relics

                                                                        —Gary Snyder

                                                                        The Manicheans

 


The Dante notebook appears on his desk
solid as a slap and cold as his hell.
He means to get back to those pages—next
week or month or year. He could never spell
in Italian and his college handwriting
terrorized every nun who taught him.
Maybe with a cracked toy decoder ring—
that thought conjures up the falling limbs
in the suicide forest. Last night’s dream
was littered with bleeding branches who called
his name. This bright and holy morning light
isn’t helping. The sinfully sad ream
of paper is his punishment. His fall
accelerates—he’s about to take flight.

 

Mark J. Mitchell’s latest novel, The Magic War just appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in the several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks— Three Visitors;  Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics—and the novel, Knight Prisoner are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. He lives with his wife Joan Juster and makes a living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco.