The Homage I Never Paid
he stood on the sidewalk waving
I could just see it above the dash
as you put it in reverse
and backed out of the parking lot
how heavy those next moments must have been
with no directions to consider
no map to unfold, no one
to look out for, only
an empty apartment to walk into
glass bottles singing in the fridge
I have thought about that night
what he must have done, sitting
on the balcony with the Florida sun
reddening his eyes—never the reality
of vomit in the corner of the bathroom
the chill of the linoleum floor
what I never considered
was how much I weighed the car down
how heavy those boxes in the trunk must have been
how many nights you must have spent
with dumb bells tied to your wrists
in preparation for the inevitable
I never gave you credit
for seeing the sky falling on my head
and running toward it, not away
for catching it just in time
for being strong enough
to save the world
Benjamin Brindise is a Teaching Artist at the Just Buffalo Literary Center and published his first chapbook of poetry, Rotten Kid (Ghost City Press), in Spring of 2017. Rotten Kid was featured at the 25th Annual Poets House Showcase in NYC. He will release Those Who Favor Fire, Those Who Pray to Fire (EMP Press) with fellow Buffalo poet Justin Karcher in Spring of 2018.
There’s a male cardinal in the yard of our rented house
who molts his red Mohawk in the spring.
I see the ear holes in his black, ashy head.
He feeds a smaller female.
I call him The Old King.
On the way to Food Lion,
the train horn massages my heart,
persistent like a cat kneading.
The train talks about its other towns,
squawks honestly like a lonely child.
I sometimes feel death
trying to throw a blanket over us
as if we were an unruly fire.
When I buy sunflower seeds for the feeder
I remember the injured blackbird in elementary school.
When I brought it a dish of granola,
our cat Mia had feathers splayed stiff in her jaw,
an inky, jerking fan.
I know your grocery list by heart:
cheddar, tuna, pistachios, Earl Gray, olives.
Now we’re looking to buy a home
for a while
and I feel guilty about taking the bird feeder away.
We’ll sign a deed and become
the caretakers of a great brick beast
a rusted red rectangular whale —
Julia Travers is a writer, artist, and teacher in Virginia. Her work has been shared with OnBeing and Heron Tree Poetry Journal, among other publications. Find her at jtravers.journoportfolio.com and on Twitter @traversjul.
Rest with Me
Rest with me.
The guns are slowing—
the stiller they are, the more quiet,
the darker it gets.
The nerves in our eyes also settle.
The explosions float down to breathe.
I have a place for your head
Lower yourself against the bay
I call an arm.
Tip your eyes in towards me.
I’ll dress your chest with the lace of my fingertips.
My lips will be a thin shadow on your skin
like a bruise from the sun, like the new white grass
on a burnt mountainside, still smoking in places.
I have seen eggs shook loose from dead birds,
rickety heartbeats inside the hollows,
the slow, regular complaint from a rocking chair,
and the echo becomes the baby.
Sarah McCann earned her MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been published in such journals as The Bennington Review, Margie, and Hanging Loose. A book of her translations of the Greek poet Maria Laina, Rose Fear, is forthcoming from World Poetry Books.
Parisian Exhibition of Impressionist Grotesque
Shamefaced at fainting
in the Musée de l’Orangerie, triaged
at Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou,
I lay on a gurney in the hall of triage
within view of twenty patients.
One sung a lung out,
one had a lover’s liver
holed by alcohol,
one had a chamber of a heart
gone blank like an empty
space in a fanned revolver,
one pissed a kidney
with a stone, one
gave all his neo-cortex
to strangers in mumble
and mutter, and one
lost the heat from his toes
to the frost that bit
and wouldn’t let go.
One sat up and screamed
at her mother who like a sudden rain
poured soothing words over her.
One borrowed rosary beads
to rub in superstition.
One formed a consensus of doctors
that like a merle of blackbirds
jawed and yawed and then left
all-at-once to another perch.
One lost color, neither
brown nor black nor yellow
nor bronze nor white,
but transparent, cheeks
sucked to teeth and orbitals
that had forgotten to go round.
I itched, had hives
of imaginary bees buzzing
on my chest and back,
quarter-sized landing spots
puffing red on my cheeks,
bolt-sized bumps on the sides
of my head, reaction
to the contrast dye that showed
no damage from my wild collapse,
Frankenstein among his fellows.
Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods. He works in mental health. He has work in The Watershed Review, Spry, Atticus Review, and The Monarch Review. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review narrative poetry prize.
To write a poem
just to forestall the pain in feet or back
or to kill the time is fine
The fugitive will take an opportunity
where an invitation
would be suspicious
is a glad amazement
that we can say these things and still live
that we are not children in a brilliant prison
that the edge is near
that each step expands the beachhead
rather than exhausting a frontier
I will stay
at this uneven wheel
I will not flee into wisdom
Colin Dodds is a writer. His work has appeared in more than 250 publications, been anthologized, nominated, and shortlisted for numerous prizes, and praised by luminaries including Norman Mailer and David Berman. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter. See more of his work at thecolindodds.com.
The River, the Boat
When facing the sun’s progress, my heart is
churned by its rays, as the Yellow River’s waters are
churning ten fathoms deep,
and when I compose my life by music of moonlight,
I cannot help but think of other great rivers of the world,
and their transporting immense mountains to sea.
And when I see my face and yours in the same mirror,
I learn the blend of Arabic and South American coffees that slowly
roast our hearts with the first cup, waking us to a slight
bitterness, but coffee is coffee, black is black, pain is pain, and life is life.
So, I know the gift of your heart is long in the preparing
and my acceptance is quick in the receiving,
And so as you shower me with this great gift of monsoon rain,
my heart softens as the rice paddies are ready for planting, and
though there are leeches in the water that will steal our blood,
our crop will invariably bring us great abundance because of your light
and the power of the sun.
That the moon still can cast a cold glimmer but she alone
shivers naked in the sky and still the oceans will not freeze
and we will be seventy-seven one day, like so many lit candles in the wind,
when morning is no guarantee for the evening,
and we both know that more rains will come,
but we are also certain that as the river rises, so does our boat.
Koon Woon is an internationally-anthologized, award-winning poet of the Pen Oakland Award and The American Book Award. His books THE TRUTH IN RENTED ROOMS and WATER CHASING WATER are from Kaya Press. He edits Five Willows Literary Review online and publishes Goldfish Press in Seattle. He earned a BA in creative writing from Antioch University Seattle and an MLS degree in literary arts from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.
this day passes
someone practicing on
an out-of-tune piano
trying to get it right
accompanied by a
novice tuba player and
other such small things
cluttering a warm
nothing but the wind
and a cricket on the porch…
consumed by them… this
ayaz daryl nielsen, veteran, hospice nurse, ex-roughneck (as on oil rigs) lives in Longmont, Colorado, USA. Editor of bear creek haiku (26+ years/140+ issues) with poetry published worldwide (and deeply appreciated), he also is online at: bear creek haiku–poetry, poems and info