Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Something So Close
When he hands me a glass of beer
and a little plate of green olives,
I think how much my bartender tonight
in Madrid looks like my Uncle Mike,
the exact same black hair and thin face.
Uncle Mike ran a hardware store out near Annapolis
and married Aunt Donna back in ‘64
when she was just sixteen. He was a kid
then himself, right out of the Air Force
with a new, red Mustang convertible.
Their marriage didn’t last forever, maybe
a handful of years with three daughters
and the Mustang traded in for a station wagon.
Aunt Donna ran off with the guy who built
the deck on their house my grandmother paid for;
then the cops found a boatload of car stereos
and radar detectors in Uncle Mike’s apartment.
I remember maybe the last time I saw him
we were tossing a football around in the backyard
and Uncle Mike reached back and chucked one
hard just beyond my outstretched arms and over
the fence into the neighbors’ yard. Even though
it was forty years ago, I can see him standing there
hands on hips, shaking his head. Oh, shit, he said.
Sorry. No wonder I never made the varsity.
I motion to the bartender for another beer
and more tapas, but when he starts to walk
toward me, I just stare down and push the plate
of olive pits and thin napkins across the counter.
I don’t look up until he walks away, start to wonder
how old Uncle Mike would be these days or even
if he’s still alive at all, stuff a sardine in my mouth
and take a long swallow of beer when I realize
I wouldn’t even know who the hell to ask any more
about something so close and so very far away.
James Valvis has placed poems or stories in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Green Hill Literary Lantern, Ploughshares, River Styx, The Sun, Tar River Poetry, and many others. His poetry was featured in Verse Daily. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.
let’s get down
to the nub here
if Thomas Jefferson
or William Shakespeare
or Martin Luther King
or whatever historical figure
you can come up with
is really “spinning
in his grave…”
down there in the dark
of ancient coffins
all old flesh gone
and nothing but bones
rattling like empty pens
inside a jammed desk draw
he has bigger problems
than whatever little issue
you’re pissed off about
Of all tragedies this is the least.
Yet my poet friend allows them
to corrupt mind and mood,
like dead fish in a pond,
inky blood muddying water.
It takes days to scoop them out, he says,
and go on again with the work.
When I was young, I also
fell into despondency.
So much victory seemed elsewhere.
It took me a lifetime to accept my defeat,
and only then did I see a little success.
Now just sometimes does the stink
stifle me, but still sometimes.
I don’t find it helps to talk about it
or know that others share this fate,
but my poet friend tells me
I should open up about my failures,
since he’d find that encouraging.
I want to invite him to the hole I dug
in my heart, show him
where I bury the bones of hope,
let the burial mound of my failures
be a hill upon which
he could at last look down on me.
The recently released, This Summer and That Summer, (Bloomsbury) is Sanjeev Sethi’s third book of poems. His work also includes well-received volumes, Nine Summers Later and Suddenly For Someone. He has, at various phases of his career, written for newspapers, magazines, and journals. He has produced radio and television programs.
His poems have found a home in The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Otoliths, Lemon Hound, Solstice Literary Magazine, Off the Coast Literary Journal, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Oddball Magazine, Hamilton Stone Review, Indian Literature, The Hindu, The Statesman, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.
Poems are forthcoming in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, and Literary Orphans.
What do those not honored with winsome
habitus do? Realizing I’m my worst emblem
I swaddled in sandpaper leading to rescission
of haptic reciprocities. I continued with liniment
of life-hacks but my body failed to free me.
Corollary to Gehenna: supernal forces gesticulate.
Faith is Fata Morgana or like an afterword:
fragrance to be inhaled on a future date.
Dial 'M' for Memories
Willie in his 80s now
hadn’t made sense in years.
His wife understood his
grunts from the recliner
where she propped him up
till bedtime where snoring
was music in the night.
His grandson told neighbors
Gramps had Old-Timer’s Disease,
an excellent diagnosis
with which doctors agreed.
It was time to move Gramps
to a home so his wife began
packing things he would need.
It was then she found
an old photo in a drawer
under his socks and shorts.
It was dated 1948, still clear
though crinkled a bit.
It was Gramps’ class photo
from his 8th-grade graduation.
All the young faces were suns
gleaming in their own universe.
She showed it to Willie when
she brought him his lunch.
He blinked and pointed to a girl
in the third row and said,
“Call Carol and tell her
we’re going to the movies.
Tom Mix and 25 cartoons.”
His wife was old enough
to remember that a Western
and 25 cartoons were a
regular Saturday matinee
at the local film house
for kids in 1948.
But she was two years
behind Willie and had
never gone with him.
Besides she was still shook
just to hear Willie talk.
This was the first sentence
he had offered in years.
She didn’t know what to say.
Finally she said she didn’t
know what Carol’s number was
so how could she call?
Willie looked her in the eye
with a twinkle from long ago
and said “Prospect 6-3943.”
All the Nudes Not Fit to Print
No more nudes in Playboy
according to the anchor
on the Nightly News.
Playboy has declared
nudes passé because
they’re found so easily
gamboling on the Internet
doing everything imaginable.
Some men date instead.
Millie calls the hotel at midnight
to tell Willie he didn’t do anything wrong.
It’s the way he didn’t do anything wrong
that’s the problem because a man doesn't
send a girl yellow roses on Valentine’s Day.
Willie is half asleep but awake enough
to know if he didn’t do anything wrong
why is Millie calling him at midnight.
He’s out of town on the company’s buck
and has a big meeting tomorrow with
a big presentation to give to the board.
He listens for 20 minutes and as soon
as Millie's voice cracks he knows
a hurricane of tears has begun so he says
he didn’t order any yellow roses.
He ordered three-dozen long-stems
with a jungle of the usual greenery
in a beautiful vase with baby’s breath.
He figured they'd send red roses because
he paid enough to buy a botanical garden.
Millie says tomorrow she’s calling the florist
and giving him Hades but Willie says please don’t.
He and the guy who took the order are from Mars.
Willie will pick up red roses on his way back to Venus.
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Smooth jazz playing
from now shut mouth organs
at a natural good night
for my last gig
buried over quarter notes
drowning in pockets of sax
bellowing over the townhouse
asked to play at a birthday party
by a warm bombed out menu
warmed by wood stoves
in a November midnight hour
watching a bird through windows
chirping under trembling oaks
in the soft showery rain
the whole length of hours
remembering French onion soup
and vanilla pancakes
on the fire near the floorboards
to watch dancing and propose
a toast that persuades you
that the thirst and hunger
of our menu wheelhouse
is perfectly arranged
yet a woman argues
that she does not want
to be a year older
and throws her drink away.
WALDEN POND TRAILS
On the Concord river
we sail my kayak in denims
by a swarming nest of hornets
over us by a fawn
rustling by trees
we're spreading lines
at my students orientation
wishing to hold hands
of love and language
in our nature
by first circles of light
with a glow in companions
who tell me of their troubled
romances in their essays
breathing hard on a marathon
from grassy hills and dunes
under dry orange leaves
as new Fall acorns drop
we run into shadowy strides
as a horse back rider waves
to us down hills of open songs
over Walden Pond trails
by breezy gestures of the wind.
FROM MY HARBOR BOAT
Early at my untied rope
from my anchor on my boat
lent to me by woodcutters
from the Azores
who enjoy singing
amid a rainy dampness
searching for blue fish
oysters or salmon
passing the heavy dunes
and sleeping rocks
in a sunlight landscape
on ports of call
by sea voiced shore birds
in a chorus by pine trees
chirping on boundless Oak
touching greensward woods
as acorns fall over green hills
crawling by white sands
my sax sings by the waters
off the Cape hidden by leaves
birds take off for the South
in an unusual consuming sun
at a November's noonday
with a Marathon companion
as a few deers run by us
in a flash of first light
of red and orange dry leaves
not forgotten by time
a first woodland love
by wandering days
over my album leafs
page of my poems
a woman in red heels
as a muted muse
speaks to me of her lost love
having poisoned her life
waits by hedges of vines
by yellow hyacinth groves
I'm in a Fall blue blazer
with apple scents
in faint trills from my sax
playing in my backyard
along wind swept trees
along the home harbor Bay
by dangling shadows
of now ripened raspberries
walking my sheep dog
in the rain.
Raised in New Jersey, Robert Lavett Smith has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past sixteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and the late Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Widower Considers Candles (Full Court Press, 2014). He has recently been working on an new collection of sonnets—his second foray into the form—which is entitled Sturgeon Moon, and which will hopefully be published by Full Court Press sometime early next year.
ECHOES OF ANCIENT MUSIC
i.m.: Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014
Your voice was resonant and gently wise,
More penetrating than perhaps we knew.
A passion for the craft preceded you:
So did the patient kindness in your eyes.
As starlings, when they catch an updraft, rise,
Whispering wing beats lifted into blue,
Something you often told our class rings true,
Hoisting my hurt heart upward to clear skies.
You said that we write poetry because
We hear an ancient music in its lines,
That otherwise we’d all be writing prose.
Our scansion betrays raggedness at times
Whose implications only the blood knows;
You offered us a taste of the sublime.
Not yet Thanksgiving, and the Internet
Begins to spew the carols we remember:
Songs I can never hear without regret,
Since my wife passed away in late December.
This festive season tends to disinter
Emotions I’d prefer discretely buried;
I really do grieve differently in summer,
When solstice light brings solace that I need.
Those twining serpents, loneliness and greed,
Lie coiled in every Christmas ornament,
Hatching as days grow shorter—and they breed
A vague malaise approaching discontent.
Whatever madness dashes through the snow,
I learned to do without it long ago.
A SORT OF MAD SALVATION
A Coptic icon somehow come to life,
He strides the sparsely planted median,
His wooden cross thrust forward like a knife—
A minor codicil in God’s Grand Plan.
I guess you’ve got to hand it to the man;
His shouted words and weird gesticulation,
Outroaring passing bus or minivan,
Prove more than equal to the situation.
The tangled beard is part of the equation,
As is the long black cassock that he wears;
It seems as though a sort of mad salvation
Has caught the drowsy traffic unawares.
And the declining sun seems poised to hold
His fervor on a field of beaten gold.
Dah’s most recent book is ‘The Translator’ from ‘Transcendent Zero Press’.
His first three books are from ‘Stillpoint Books’. Dah’s poetry has been published
by editors from the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, China, Philippines, and India.
His poems recently appeared in Lost Coast Review, Recusant, The Cape Rock,
River&South Review, Acumen Journal, Sandy River Review, Stone Voices Magazine,
The Linnet’s Wings, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. Dah has been nominated
for the Pushcart by the editor of ‘Transcendent Zero Press’.
He lives in Berkeley, California where he is working on the manuscripts
for his fifth and sixth books.
Visit: Words Of Dahlusion
Tonight the wind tangles the waves
making sounds like distant chants
breaker after breaker gone wild
The current is a jealous lover
that pulls us apart, together, apart,
a net of salt, in, out, gasping, floating
Our bodies, disheveled boats moored
against a dune
A sky of gulls roving, roving
We fuck in the dunes
and sink into sultry bodies
Her black hair, as if night spilled
A cantilever of darkness balances
the ornate moon
We are fire and sea, undulant
floating driftwood, lyrical,
something of a hymn
Dune grass rises between our thighs
She curls beneath me like waves
that come one after another
Saltwater trickles down the dune
Perfection and imperfection
a storytelling favorite
of yes and no, good and bad
We spin in between
sometimes dominated by one more than the other
the gravitational pull
wants to bury us
the ego wants to move forward
In everyday motion
we attempt to implement perfection
as standard existence, the perfect body
the perfect mind
to hold life at its most everlasting
Dark light in its perfection
Bright light in its perfection
both imperfect to the other
Tonight I feel imperfect
tossing and turning near the surface
because perfection is a con
a shopkeeper for the misinformed
My head is filled with last night’s dreams
or memories or both
At times I want to forget
that with most opposites
there is a gray line between them
which creates a reason for me
to not believe in anything
If memories and dreams are voiceless
then what is it I’m hearing
In a dream stars rose from the ocean
In the midst of that
a bodiless voice
a mute voice
with memories seeking moments
that had vanished
At times I feel nobody’s home
that my body is soulless
and everything’s a dead dream
and having not fulfilled its life
a dead dream is imperfection
a dog-eared page
that nobody returns to
Along the way
I’ve lost my guardian angel
and between life and death
the gray line expands