Archives for posts with tag: poets

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Blam Goes a Tufted Titmouse
by Ruth Weinstein

I see the sound BLAM in big bold balloon caps,
in comic-book pop-art bright primary colors,
in the asterisks ampersands and exclamation points
Roy Lichtenstein would use to cloak an avian superhero,
and go outside to seek a small feathered projectile—
a cardinal or one of subtler color—stunned but not dead,
I hope, on the deck outside my bedroom windows.

Nothing on the wooden boards or planting table,
no cat with little gray or brown bird in its mouth.
A quick scan reveals a tufted titmouse, hooked
at an odd angle to the screen door, where it landed
in rebound from the window and clutched the fine
metal mesh so hard that it cannot set itself free.

The obsidian bead of its eye pierces me.
I fear its tiny heart might beat too fast
in its chest if I touch it, this intricate machine
made for flight, but it struggles piteously.

I hold it with one hand, writing reassurance
in animal braille, and with the fingers of the other
I release curled claw toes from the web of screen.
I surround it with the loose yet firm clasp of freedom,
the cupped harbor of my own, now trembling, hands.

I blow warmth from my lungs onto its body and breathe
a good liftoff to launch it safely. Suddenly it knows that
it can fly again, and its gray white and rust-sided plumage,
its punk feathered-do, the prodigious sound it made,
its tribulation—all are gone as if nothing ever happened.
The window the screen door the deck bear no trace.
Only the electric vibrations of my still trembling hands.

PHOTO: Tufted titmouse by Jack Bulmer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in the autumn of 2021. The south wall of our bedroom is filled with windows, on which I have taped cutouts of hawk shapes and adhered butterfly decals to prevent songbirds from slamming into the windows when they mistake their own reflections for other birds. Many have broken their necks, one or two have been caught by now aging, no longer quick or agile, cats. If I hear the sound, I rush to the rescue. The sound this small bird made was so huge and visual and made a great prompt for a poem. The poem came together rather quickly. Somehow, a line from the old Roberta Flack song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” came to mind and the “trembling heart of a captive bird/that was there at my command” translated to “my trembling hands” holding a rescued bird. The event is a treasured memory of this avian save.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Weinstein is an octogenarian organic gardener who lives with her husband on 40 hard-scrabble acres in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Her back-to-the-land life is often at the center of her poetry and essays. A family history/memoir of her first 18 years, Back to the Land:  Alliance Colony to the Ozarks, was published in 2020 by Stockton University Press. In it, she connects the dots—beginning with her ancestors, who helped found America’s first successful, Jewish agricultural community in southern New Jersey in 1882—to her own chosen life of nearly 50 years. Her 10-poem collection, “The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey,” is the current third-place winner of the annual Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Poetry Prize, published by Poetica Publishing. Her poetry appears online and in print. Ruth is also a life-long textile artist who paints floor clothes, weaves, quilts, designs, and constructs one-of-a-kind clothing and articles for the home, as well as nonfunctional art pieces. Ruth has a low social media presence but can be found on Facebook. If interested in her memoir, please DM her for purchasing information. She urges that you do not buy books from Amazon if you can purchase them from the author.

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Chinese Restaurant (London 1988)
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

This is my favorite
Chinese restaurant in London,
my dad declares as we climb
a long dark flight of stairs
in a timeless building
where a hostess waits at the top.
I order cashew chicken—
the sauce is clear, fragrant
(there & yet not there).
The chicken is so white,
the cashews are fat & golden.
Rice awaits in a red bowl,
every grain tiny as a second.
As the lights go on
in Piccadilly Circus, my dad & I talk
in a circle of candlelight
by the window while the cashews
resemble crescent moons shining
on the china plate or little ears
listening avidly to our conversation
(which flows like warm tea)—
& the check doesn’t come
for hours & hours.

PHOTO: Cathay Chinese Restaurant, Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, England (1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My late dad inhabits many of my poems. This poem is about when I went to London on my own when I was in my early twenties. My father met me there; he was working in Germany at the time. We had a brief, splendid visit together. I wish I could remember the name of that Chinese restaurant; it was a mysterious oasis above Piccadilly Circus and had the best food ever (authentic, as they say). My dad and I talked of many things that night like we always did. He was endlessly fascinating with a gorgeous sense of humor. During our visit we also went to a Russian restaurant called Borscht N Tears, where we had caviar and encountered unruly Germans – but that is another good memory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to The Guardian, Britain’s first mainstream Chinese restaurant, Cathay, arrived in London’s Piccadilly Circus area during 1908, setting off the UK’s love of Chinese cuisine that has never waned.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her poems have appeared in various diverse journals online and in print. She lives, writes, despairs, and tries to hope in America. A cedar Poetry Box called The Fox Poetry Box is mounted on a post in her front yard.

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My mother, eating churros
by Yvette Viets Flaten

that my father has just brought back
from Alcalá’s town center. Still hot,
from the rolling vat of olive oil.
My father, in a green sweater.
It is autumn, our tiny apartment
chilling, the Spanish sun dulling.

Their smile. I capture it on film.
Their cups of coffee on the kitchen
table. They are passing into middle
age. I am in high school.

My mother, lifting a churro toward
her mouth, smiling at my camera,
so happy this morning, my father
standing just behind, his hand
touching her shoulder.
I catch that moment.
Have it still.

PHOTO: Traditional Spanish churros by Vadim Zakirov.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am always fascinated at how memory works. Things that I think I should, or want to, remember often fade quickly. But random moments, conversations, the odd occurrence, or tiny detail are pressed into my memory as though carved in stone. So it is with this memory of my parents. It was a spontaneous moment: My father went out for churros—not our usual breakfast routine. I had my camera in the kitchen—not usual, either. On impulse, I clicked the shutter—and now, more that fifty years on, I recall every nuance of that happy Saturday morning.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yvette Viets Flaten was born in Colorado and raised in an Air Force family.  She has lived in Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington state, as well as abroad in England, France, and Spain. Those experiences gave her the chance to study languages, history, and culture, and imparted a love of travel. She currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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First Encounter
by Melody Wilson

Bored of squeezing snapdragons’ cheeks,
impersonating my sister through their ruffled
lips, I sift petals in the soil, yellow, pink. A bean
wobbles toward me, domed creature marching
through chips. I press my finger
against the ground, up it crawls.
Eyelash feet, butterfly kisses,
up my finger and into my palm.
I draw my folded hands close
to my face, open: “Peek a boo!”

Its antennae wonder.
“Don’t be afraid” I poke
its shiny shell. Smooth,
cool as orange peel, familiar as fingernail.
I blow into my palm. The creature rolls up,
tight as a pea. I am wonderstruck,
test it with a tap. It rolls over once,
rocks back, Still, mute. A magic trick? A disaster?

I drop it into the leaves and stand,
brush dirt from my dress, glance
toward the house. My mother is working
in the den, my sisters playing records. The sprinkler
chides: chhh chhh, chhh, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch ch.
I tower in the flower bed, in my guilt,
step toward the sidewalk, look again
into the mulch. The bug ambles
toward the tomatoes, my tricycle’s streamers
glitter in the breeze.

PHOTO: Woodlouse on a twig by Mojo Maniac.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I spent much of 2020 writing a collection of poetry about my mother, at the end of which I felt pretty exhausted. So I decided to write a series of poems about bugs. The only reason I decided to do this was that they provided a way for me to do a little research, which I love, and focus on something that has few if any emotional resonances. Well, bugs turned out to have a lot of emotional weight and became a chapbook that will come out in August 2023. This is one of my favorites of that group. The bug in the poem is unnamed for two reasons. Because the narrator is a child and it’s her first encounter, and because the name of the “bug” is regional and a topic of conversation.  So, to me it’s a curly bug, but to some people it’s a pill bug, or a rolly polly. Sometimes it’s a sow bug.  It’s actually not even a bug but a crustacean.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The woodlouse has 176 nicknames and seven pair of lungs, according to Country Life. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Quartet, Re Dactions, Sky Island Review, and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Sugar House Review, Minnow, and Nimrod. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award and recognition for the Oberon, Dobler, and Pablo Neruda Awards. Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates, was a finalist for the New Women’s Voices competition. It will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2023. Find her work at melodywilson.com.

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There Is a Picture of My Mother on My First Communion Day
by Karen Keefe

I am where I don’t belong.
Children cannot visit their mothers in the hospital
even on special days.

Dressed all in white I run from the hall to your hospital bed
and stop. I just look at you. Mama.
Your smile is tiny. Your eyes are so blue.
You can’t sit up, but your hand reaches out to me.
Fingers tangled in my hair
you pull me into you. I won’t let go.

This visit is a special secret, just for you, just for me.
Daddy snuck me in. I am afraid he is going to get in trouble.
You are singing to me. You always sing to us but today
your voice is a whisper.

I cry. It is time to step away.
I don’t want to leave you here.
When daddy drives me home
there will be cake.
My brothers and sisters are waiting.
All the cousins are coming.

You tell me it is ok to be happy
today. You give me a little red box. Inside are new rosary beads.
When you kiss my palm, you close my fingers around the kiss.
Now I can bring you home with me
and each of your children can press your kiss against their cheek.

PHOTO: First communion photo frame, available on eBay.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In many ways the crafting of this poem holds the evolution of my voice as a writer. I began this poem more than 40 years ago while I was a student at Harpur College. The version here holds many of the elements of my first efforts but now I can fully show the beauty of this memory. I know so many years later it is important to show the full measure of heartbreak and joy. I do not need to pretend it is anything else.  This day, this moment is the definition of my relationship with my truly special parents. As a family we found ourselves in a challenging and isolating experience: devastating illness. They insisted on trying to find the best way through it. Much of the time they succeeded. They always made sure that I and my brothers and sisters knew how loved we were. Both were fierce about making good memories during what could have been a devastating and sad time, one that would have been nothing but traumatic. This memory is of the day I learned something can happen that is so very sad and fiercely happy at the same time. I also learned there is a time to break a rule. My mother did return home after this hospitalization but this illness was a presence in our lives for the next 10 years. She died just before I graduated high school. She was an amazing person.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is a picture of me at the First Communion party. As you can see, it was a joyous day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Keefe (she, her) is now retired from international education, though her heart is scattered throughout the world with friends who gifted her bringing humility, deeper perspective, honesty, and love. She earned a BA in rhetoric and creative writing from Binghamton University (Harpur College). She also holds a MA from Binghamton University in Student Affairs with Diversity.  She was one of the editors of the now closed, The Parlor City Review and published in Anima: An Experiential Journal. She is the featured poet in the August 2022 issue of Anti-Heroin Chic. She has poetry forthcoming in the Winter Issue of POETiCA REViEW. A resident of Vestal, New York, she can be found on Twitter @karen_keef.

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at fifteen my cousin steve and i were more like brothers
by Scott Ferry

we walked the quarter mile to the ocean
down magnolia street in august 630 pm
dive into the shorebreak at high tide tall and swift
each of us with one fin to kick into steep walls
and watch the curl upend and dish into a swirling oblong
the body a sliding wet light among the sunlit array
of bluegreygreenyellowwhite until the glass
of evening closed steaming in a puff of foam
and we half walked half swam back out for another
and we never got cold or tired
until the corners of the sky turned
tangerine and smoke and we exited
maybe a towel maybe not maybe sandals
maybe barefoot back to his house on hula circle
to shower off the sand in our shorts
and the sticky salt from the eyelashes
and then we would eat and eat
and eat

PHOTO: Two surfers at California beach, sunset by Trevor Gerzen on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought I would throw one in about immortality.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle, Washington, area. His seventh book of poetry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, is available from Impspired Press. More of his work can be found at ferrypoetry.com.

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Wedding Dress Shopping on Mother’s Day 2022
by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Under the light and the murmuring words
of a kind woman helping her
behind the curtains, I hear, Are you ready
to show your mother? Am I ready
for this brave child of mine
to walk out, to walk away,
how she’d never look back
as she ran off to preschool,
those blonde curls bouncing
off her small back, all those bones
wrapped and perfect in her skin.
She emerges from the parted curtains
her shoulders like sculpture
the shoulders that eased out of me
her blue eyes open through the muck
and blood of us. Now she smiles,
our eyes tethered
by some remembered chord.
When she walks, a waterfall
of dress follows her.
I’m about to pass out
by her beauty—
that first real contraction
when I had to hold onto a railing
before we slipped into a new world.

PAINTING: Bride with a Fan by Marc Chagall (1911).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was perhaps the best Mothers’ Day imaginable.

Snyder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Dickenson Snyder lives in Vermont, carves in stone, and rides her bike. Travel opens her eyes. She has three poetry collections, The Human Contract (2017), Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019) with another book forthcoming in 2023. Poems have been nominated for Best of Net and a Pushcart Prize. Recent work is in Rattle, Lily Poetry Review, and RHINO. Visit her at sarahdickensonsnyder.com.

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Pulling Off Route 79 on a Summer Day
by Sharon Ball

1.
Watching the white butterfly stop and sit
on a leafy green sunspot, then lift again
flickering on bright air,
propelled up, down, sideways across the road,
flying toward my open window.
Will it flap in or pass on through the trees to the river?

2.
White butterfly floats
Aspens quake against blue sky
Sun-dappled woods keep secrets.

3.
Through the trees, the river moves fast with yesterday’s rain.
I barely hear the water over the whoosh and hum
of coming cars and going trucks.
In between, leaves whisper of gifts as
the white butterfly melts into quiet woods.

Photo by Saturday Sun on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is the unexpected result of a solo drive through the countryside. At some point, I pulled off the road, rolled down all my car windows, and paid attention to the beauty around me. I tapped the poem into my cellphone and transcribed it later at home. Except for a new title and a few small edits, the poem appears as it came to me that day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon Ball is a retired arts executive who is currently in school to finish her B.A. in creative writing/poetry. She has performed her poetry, essays, and original songs live in venues in Northeastern United States and on National Public Radio in Washington, DC, where she previously worked as an award-winning editor. Her poem “Raindrops Sparkling in the Spruce Tree When the Sun Comes Out” was published in the multicultural anthology Confluence, edited by Susan Deer Cloud. Sharon’s essay “Remembering Octavia” appeared in Anthropology Off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing, edited by Alisse Waterston and Maria D. Vesperi.

PHOTO: The author and her cat, Miss Kitty. Photo by JW Johnston.

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Duplex: Where Everything Gets Unraveled Just Right*
by Jonathan Yungkans

The lake glittered as if weightless and we laughed.
Birds rested and twittered on the tree of me.

          Foliage shattered, the perched flock startled.
          Bird flights like mountain roads—soaring curves and bends.

Mountain road climbed, twisted toward Yosemite.
I was seven. The ocean heaved out of me.

          The ocean heaved. Dad eased our camper truck down.
          Side road, thick with pines, led to a riverbank.

Walls of thick pines to a fabric skein of water.
Sun shone through loose strands, sparkled through the weave.

          Sun pulled loose as it sparkled through the weave.
          Its reflection flashed, a grin in the water.

The water washed a smile into me.
Weightless, the lake glittered as we both laughed.

*Title taken from the poem “From Palookaville,” in the collection Hotel Lautréamont by John Ashbery. 

An earlier version of this poem appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 10 (October 2021).

PHOTO: Mirror Lake, Morning, Yosemite National Park, California by Ansel Adams (1928).

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE FORM: Jericho Brown combined aspects of the sonnet, ghazal, and blues poem to create the duplex form in 2018. It is a 14-line poem written in two-line stanzas, in which the second line of one stanza is echoed in the first line of the following one. Each line runs between nine and eleven syllables and is meant to stand, in the strictest use of the form, as an independent entity. The opening line is repeated, or at least echoed, at the close to bring the poem full-circle. While I have treated the form somewhat more loosely in several of my other duplexes, I have tried to remain on better behavior here. I have also written a craft essay on my use of the form, which appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is the one memory of family vacations which has stayed with me consistently. (Since my mom raised and showed collies and Shetland sheepdogs for about 20 years while I was growing up, many of our weekends were taken up with dog shows and other business-related activities.) We were on our first vacation, on the outskirts of Sequoia National Forest in Central California. I got violently carsick while riding in the upper bunk of our cabover camper through a winding mountain road. Mom walked my brother and me down to the lake while Dad took care of the mess. I was scared and felt guilty. It didn’t help that I wasn’t a happy kid in general—I was mainly quiet, afraid to say peep. Maybe it was the sight of another family splashing and having fun just offshore, or maybe the river really seemed to laugh and smile to cheer me up. Regardless of why, it worked.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans continues to write while working as an in-home health-care provider. This gives him time to catch his breath and imbibe copious amounts of coffee while staying connected to humanity in something approaching a constructive manner. His writing and photography have appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Panoply, Synkroniciti, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, was published by Tebot Bach in 2021.

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fall break
Maine
by Jonathan Chan

at dusk the eyes begin to glaze, hemmed in by
the dense shroud of an unlit highway, no glimmer
in the mirrors left, right, or rear, faltering in the
stubborn stream of light and the passing flit of
strip after strip, brilliant flash of orange and red
fading in the last high beam of an endless road,
across the signs of stolen presence announcing

Bangor, Belfast, and Brighton, every leaf and rock,
each rising tide leaving only dregs of foam announcing
this form, processual and inchoate, seen at the cusp
of daybreak, a single mom-and-pop for miles and
miles, the tip of a lighthouse announcing a fortitude
closest to old worlds, and a riding back on the winds,
hands over metal bars stapled into stoic rock, hands

over each crag, photographs making known the
touristry of conquest, expanse of mountain and
forest held in ocular weight, the breath of something
old, something new, exhalations of awe so many
times over before the streaming from a beehive, or
another trail, where the land’s bones are never out
of joint and its heart is never frigid like wax.

PAINTING: Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine by Edward Hopper (1927).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In October 2021, while in graduate school, several of my friends and I decided to take a road trip from New Haven, Connecticut, up to Acadia National Park in Maine. The colours of fall were just beginning to descend upon New England and we shared the desire to behold the grand swathes of orange, red, and yellow along the highways and from the peaks of mountains. None of us had been to Acadia and we relished the opportunity to pass through Massachusetts and New Hampshire on our way up. The trip up involved the longest continuous periods I’d ever had to drive and pay attention to the road. I remember noticing the names of the smaller towns in Maine with some curiosity, each reflecting the name of somewhere else in the United Kingdom. The poem begins with our time on the road, moves through our time in Portland and Penobscot, and culminates with the grandeur we witnessed at Acadia. The trip provided a distinctive and singular memory, a time of wonder and relief from the pressures of school, one that I continue to hold close when I think back to my time as a graduate student.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Chan is a writer and editor of poems and essays. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated at Cambridge and Yale Universities. He is the author of the poetry collection going home (Landmark, 2022). He has recently been moved by the work of Kevin Young, R. F. Kuang, and Alfian Sa’at. More of his writing can be found at jonbcy@wordpress.com and on Instagram at @fivefoundings.