excalibur-in-the-lake.jpg!HD
EXCALIBUR
by Lawrence Schimel

He ordered a Shirley Temple at
the restaurant. “Think you’re old enough to drink that?”
his father asked him
when the drink arrived, a blue plastic sword hooked over its rim.
“Don’t say that. You’ll ruin his birthday night.”
Already they had begun to fight.
He swirled the cherry in his drink, feeling very alone.
“Who pulls this sword from stone
and anvil,” he thought,
trying not to listen as his parents fought,
“by sign and right of birth is king of all England.”
He lifted the garnish in his hand
and tugged the cherry from the plastic sword.
It did not end their discord;
the restaurant table was square.
The cherry plunked back into his drink, loosing the tiny air
bubbles on the bottom of the glass.
It reminded him of a summer’s day at camp when en masse
his bunk went down to the lake to jump
into the water from a rope tied to a tree. Standing on a stump
on the shore
he saw a glint of metal, like the flash of ore
in a miner’s pan.
He waded into the water for a closer look and, breaking the ban,
swam out towards the girls’
camp on the other side. Diving deep, as if he searched for pearls,
he found the source of the glinting light:
an open blade of a Swiss Army Knife held tight
in the hand of a blonde-haired
girl. Although he was scared,
he could not help
watching the way her hair curled about her like strands of kelp
reaching for the surface.
Her face
seemed so serene.
He could not tell if the keen
blade were meant to cut her free
from the rocks she
was tied to, or to slit her wrist.

He stabbed at the lemon twist
of his mother’s diet coke.
His father pulled out a pack of Lucky’s and began to smoke.
His mother glared and looked about to
object, but didn’t get the chance. His father asked him, “What do
you want for your birthday?” He laid the sword atop
his plate and said, “I only want the fighting to stop.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I think that so many of us, particularly when feeling helpless, have daydreamed of what it might be like to do something so seemingly simple as to pull the sword from the stone and thereby acquire both authority and power. For this poem, originally written for a collection of short stories about the sword Excalibur, I tried to imagine an Excalibur that would be different, a story not everyone else would be writing about, so I chose the little plastic sword in a cherry of a Shirley Temple. From there, I tried to transpose various other elements of the King Arthur myth (the Lady of the Lake, etc.) to the situation of a young boy and why he felt so helpless so as to need that daydream right then…

IMAGE: “Excalibur in the Lake” by Aubrey Beardsley (1894).

Lawrence Schimel 2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Lawrence Schimel (b. New York, 1971) writes in both English and Spanish and has published over 100 books as author or anthologist, including two poetry chapbooks in English, Fairy Tales for Writers and Deleted Names (both from A Midsummer Night’s Press), and one poetry collection in Spanish, Desayuno en la cama (Egales). He has twice won the Lambda Literary Award (for First Person Queer and PoMoSexual: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality), as well as the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Spectrum Award, and other honors. His stories and poems have been widely anthologized in The Random House Treasury of Light Verse, The Random House Book of Science Fiction Stories, The Mammoth Book of Fairy Tales, Chicken Soup for the Horse-Lover’s Soul 2, The Incredible Sestinas Anthology, Weird Tales from Shakespeare, and many others. He lives in Madrid, Spain where he works as a Spanish->English translator.

treebeard
OFFSPRING OF TREEBEARD
by Debi Swim

Do trees still have a language,
ancient as time, languid
as a cat’s stretch or a yawn?
Does it take them all day
a simple phrase to say
or quicker than fades the dawn?
Are their thoughts deep and old
wordless, unknown, untold
to men from which they’ve withdrawn?
When did they stop walking,
roaming the earth, stalking,
avenging evil? Have they all gone
under a magic spell
or succumbed to the death knell
and cemeteries of manicured lawns?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I don’t even know how many times I’ve read or listened to The Hobbit, but it is my favorite book in the Ring series. The Ents in Lord of the Rings captured my imagination so that now even as an old lady I love trees and pretend they can understand me talking to them, though I don’t understand their replies when the breeze carries their voices.

IMAGE: “Treebeard” by Alessandra Cimatoribus.

DEBISwim1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debi Swim is a post-it poet who frequents Internet poetry blogs to dine on their scrumptious prompts and to partake of others’ delicious offerings of meat, potatoe,s and desserts — a smorgasbord of tasty, soul satisfying nourishment. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and a yorkie named Rivers.

tolkien_art
A HOBBIT’S HAIKU
by Sarah Chenoweth

Sage comes to small folk;
four leave to save Middle Earth.
Party of nine quest.

Trouble in Mordor;
evil wizard plots ruin.
Good wizard meets end.

Battle in the plains;
good sage now the White Wizard.
Hobbits ride in trees.

Two to destroy ring
followed by shell of a man.
Two fight in Gondor

Good outdoes evil;
the rightful king returns home.
Wise men sail away

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “A Hobbit’s Haiku” is, of course, inspired from the mythology created by J. R. R. Tolkien. The challenge of summing up three epic volumes in five simple haikus could not be passed up.

IMAGE: “The Trolls” by J.R.R. Tolkien, featured in the book J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (Mariner Books, 2001).

chenoweth1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Chenoweth is a teacher, a writer, and a spiritual seeker. She has been published in Pittsburg State University’s Cow Creek Review and the academic journals Communication Theory and Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Sarah is a registered yoga teacher and the owner of Balanced Yoga Life, LLC in Pittsburg, Kansas. She has always loved fairy tales, having spent the better part of her life living one.

sasha_keen
The 13th Sign of the Zodiac
by Trish Hopkinson

Those born under this sign
have an unknown date of birth or a different birthday
than the day upon which it is celebrated.
Ambiguus tend to be travelers,
truth-sayers, and meditators.
Often encompassed in the uncertainty
of their birth history, they are accepting,
nonjudgmental, and kind.
They have a taste for bread, seafood, and wine.
Not horribly good swimmers,
they prefer walking in open-toed shoes.
Ambiguus are luminous leaders
and are commonly followed by friends,
a dozen or so. Ambiguus love little children
and are regularly religious.
Today may be the day
to discover your birthday, but only
if you are brave enough to turn over
the dust on your tongue and slide it
along molar and fang, scraping
away your own existence.
With the new moon just past,
mystery will reveal itself beneath
your nails and tug at your hair
with unusual force, urging you toward
distant constellations and unknown worlds.
Pack lightly or pack nothing.
It’s a virtuous day for beard shaving.

IMAGE: “Theda Da” by Sasha Keen. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

trish_hopkinson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Trish Hopkinson loves words and digs poetry slams. Her mother tells everyone that she was born with a pen in her hand. She has been published in several journals, including The Found Poetry Review, Chagrin River Review, and Touchstones, the latter in which she won second place for poetry twice. She recently received awards in the Utah Arts Festival’s IronPen competition and from the League of Utah Writers for her poetry anthology, Emissions. She is a project manager by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures at trishhopkinson.com.

project_bunny
E-MAILS FROM THE SPHINX
by Michael Cantin

E-mails from the Sphinx are rarely short.
They are couched in mystery:
weighty with the levity of ancient dust
and notoriously sartorial.

I sent my letter because
she refuses to use Facebook.
Says she has privacy concerns.
That she doesn’t appreciate
the oblique commentaries
of passive-aggressive mortals.

I just wanted to check in on her.
To see if the years had been kind.
I hoped they had.
I spoke plainly of my many misdeeds.
I apologized for the cruelty
of the desert between us.
I bemoaned having distorted her face.

Her response came in riddles:
enigmas wrapped in metaphor.
Her rage bottled tightly
in antediluvian canopic jars.

She teased at the answers
as she challenged my resolve.
Something was mentioned about Geb and Nut,
and how I was so unlike Osiris
that we couldn’t possibly be brothers.

IMAGE: “Theda Bara Sphinx” by Project Bunny. Prints available at etsy.com.

MichaelCantin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Cantin has survived two wars and at least four seasons of Breaking Bad, so you know he means business. His work has appeared in 50 Haiku, The East Jasmine Review, and Melancholy Hyperbole, among others. Residing in Costa Mesa, California, he writes fitfully between bouts of madness and periods of lucid concern. He would love to buy you a drink sometime. He’s just that kind of guy.

leda_daVinci
NEOPHYTE AND THE SWAN
by Donna Hilbert

He shattered her glass
climbing over the table
to kiss her, that hot afternoon,
when she quoted his poem over wine.
It was free verse, abstract in part,
and difficult, he knew,
committing it to heart.
They kissed the afternoon away,
and on the drive back, kissed
through every stop sign and red light.
Between the kisses
he smoked a cigarette.
And, what she failed to reconcile
about that day, was the casual way
he tossed the ember from the window,
considering how hot and dry the summer,
how much fuel there was to burn.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Neophyte and the Swan” is from my collection The Congress of Luminous Bodies. It is a tip of the hat, of course, to “Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats and the myth from which that poem comes.

IMAGE: “Study for the Head of Leda” by Leonardo da Vinci (1506).

donna

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest book is The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books. The Green Season, World Parade Books, a collection of poems, stories and essays, is now available in an expanded second edition. Hilbert appears in and her poetry is the text of the documentary Grief Becomes Me: A Love Story, a Christine Fugate film. Earlier books include Mansions and Deep Red, from Event Horizon, Transforming Matter and Traveler in Paradise from PEARL Editions and the short story collection Women Who Make Money and the Men Who Love Them from Staple First Editions and published in England. Poems in Italian can be found in Bloc notes 59 and in French in La page blanche, in both cases, translated by Mariacristina Natalia Bertoli. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of 5AM, Nerve Cowboy, PEARL, RC Muse, Serving House Journal, Poets & Artists and California Quarterly. She is a frequent contributor to the online journal Your Daily Poem. Her work is widely anthologized, most recently in The Widows’ Handbook, Kent State University Press. Learn more at donnahilbert.com.

persephone_rossetti
theft of the pomegranate
by J.I. Kleinberg

as the full moon slips between the ocean’s knees

Persephone spills garnets
into a lapis bowl

crunches a single red jewel
between her teeth

crimson light flooding her mouth

moistens a silken sable brush
on her reddened tongue

and inscribes
her calculus of betrayal
on crinkled parchment

illustrating
cochineal corrugations

exhorting
cyclamen overtures

confessing
pomegranate lust

unfurling
the ruddy arabesques of Hades’ desire

IMAGE: “Persephone with pomegranate” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1882).

ji_kleinberg1 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals and her poem “Better Homes & Gardens” was recently nominated for a Pushcart prize. Her work on a series of found poems, now numbering over 700, is featured in the current issue of Whatcom Magazine and samples of her found poems can be seen in the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Truck, Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology, and Star 82 Review. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, blogs at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and doesn’t own a television.

atalanta_godward
INSTRUCTING ATALANTA
by Sonja Johanson

Listen to mother.
Leave those apples lie.
You cannot eat them,
they will only take up space
on your mantle, too dusty
to glitter anymore.
Or else you can eat them,
but what is that to you?
Three apples are a mean meal.
Then too, you may think them
too precious for the table
and wake one day to find them
withered to nothing,
or slumped with rot.

Never throw the race.
Better yet, win them all.
Who ever said you had to lose?
Keep the kingdom for yourself.
Never marry, be your own sovereign.
Take a consort, no – take a dozen.
Raise up a generation
of fleet-footed queens
who tend to their own
glimmering orchards.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a reflection of the difficulty I have always had accepting the misogyny inherent in patriarchal myths. I remember, as a girl, feeling betrayed that the wonderful heroine Atalanta had allowed Hippomenes to outrun her, and that everyone looked at this as a good thing. Every girl should win her own race. This poem is a message to my younger self, my own daughter, and all the other young huntresses out there.

IMAGE: “Atalanta” by John William Godward (1908).

sonja-4

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sonja Johanson attended College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine. She has recent work appearing in The Albatross, Off the Coast, and Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed, and was a participating writer in Found Poetry Review‘s 2014 Oulipost Project. Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine.

Little_Red_Riding_Hood_pg_8
NEW AGE WOLF
by Gaia Holmes

He’s sanded down his teeth,
given up meat
for me.

Whilst packs of his shaggy brethren
rip the bellies out of badgers
and turn rabbits inside out
he’s in the moon-lit garden
planting basil and brassica,
biting back his howls.

He’s become a birdcage on legs,
all ribs and hollow belly.
“One cannot live on flowers alone”
I say as he chews his way through
his second plate of daisies.

He’s a changed beast.
Flesh hasn’t reddened his tongue
since I brushed the oily fur
from his eyes
and rubbed compassion
into his scratchy pelt.

He loves me gently as a lamb.
At night he wears mittens in bed
to buffer his claws,
Gaffa tapes the bite behind his lips
and dreams of blood.

IMAGE: From Little Red Riding Hood by Felix Summerly (1843).

holmes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gaia Holmes lives in Halifax, UK. She is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor who works with schools, libraries, and other community groups throughout the West Yorkshire region. She runs Igniting The Spark, a weekly writing workshop at Dean Clough, Halifax. In her spare time, Gaia is a DJ for Phoenix FM, Calderdale’s community radio station. She plays accordion with the band Crow Hill Stompers. She has had two full length poetry collections published by Comma Press: Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed (2006) and Lifting The Piano With One Hand (2013).

Franz_Jüttner_Schneewittchen_2
SNOW WHITE
by Laura Madeline Wiseman

To touch a curve of pale flesh—
creamy throat of the adolescent
glowing with new light—at day’s end
as the embers smolder and blacken
is to be sat down
in that thrown in that castle
where she sways still:
a young girl
walking the stone corridors,
the once-held visage of the mirror glittering
in shadows, until she cloaked
the gilded surface in cloth: is
to feel it squirm: the throat
closing, choking on the apple
a breathless gasp on loss—jealousy
We would free her from it if we could,
and then we remember the knife
he slashed into a stag, feel the heart
warm and heavy in his bag—how
bowing he offered it to her
and let the girl disappear into the forest
as if she could be contented by the switch,
the lie, and yet for a time she was.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is from my manuscript, Wake. Taking up the death narratives of those gendered female, Wake traces contemporary and ancient myths where death assumes the form of mother, sister, and girlfriend as she meets her female kin—murderers, victims, competitors to match blow by blow. Here, those who are feminine journey to and arrive in realms both dark and familiar as they seek to know what life offers after death has visited.

IMAGE: Illustration from Snow White by Franz Jüttner (1910).

wiseman1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012), and the collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2014) with artist Sally Deskins, as well as two letterpress books, and eight chapbooks, including Spindrift (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has received an Academy of American Poets Award, the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Feminist Studies, and in the anthologies The Places We’ve Been, Dispatches from the Classroom, Every River on Earth, and The Untidy Season. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,205 other followers