Saturday
Jan092016

Poetry by Barry Yeoman, Cristine Gruber, Mike James, Rodney Nelson, Darren Demaree, Fred Pollack, Nels Hanson, Carolyn Gregory, Craig Evenson, J.A. Camrose, Will Walton, John Horvath, Jr., Allen Frederick Stein, Elizabeth Crowell

Three Poems by Barry Yeoman

 

              End Of Summer 

 

Holy hell knows we can't stop time

as wasted days propel dark clouds.

Families argue in their cars    

while the dire ill are hooked to tubes.

 

Psychotic minds suffering paranoia

join petty squabbles at insane asylums.

Help us now as never before

these days unravel in empty rooms.

 

Birds array on an electric wire

to groom and think before feeding again.

Our stomachs growl with hunger too

as we fire up grills and flip our burgers.

 

Ignorant neighbors cuss and fight

over cellphone minutes and cigarettes.

How populations progress at all

is beyond the doubts of unwed mothers.

 

They hold babies and push the others

as streets grow crowded with obese        

loners.  We race against the power of

light, to get ours before things fall short.

 

Soon enough the weather turns nasty.

Flagpoles clang in the spitting snow.

Downs Syndrome kids soil their pants

as broken mothers cry in corners.

 

Parking Garages

 

I remember climbing

the open stairwell 

of an old concrete parking garage.

Bottle caps and cigarette butts,

some fluttering candy wrappers

in corners.  The echo

of car doors being shut,

sometimes the glimpse of a driver.

 

The squeal of tires,

squeaky frames

in need of lubrication.

Bouncing metal plates

that guarded deep potholes

as people left the crumbling structure.

 

Then, an eerie quiet.

A respite from the noisy streets.

These stark city spaces

matched my mood as a child.

Think of a concrete maze,

of jazz music, and Edward Hopper.

 

We walk like ghosts

through our reflections in glass.

Who's to say who we are?

Our lives are grim photographs.

In the checkout lines of stores

we avoid eye contact

with strangers.

 

The newspapers are almost obsolete.

A dead body removed

from an apartment complex,

where will it be reported?

What happened, who was it,

what does it matter?

 

Recently,

A hospital parking garage

in Denver,

the day before surgery.

Unusually warm for February.

70 degrees and sunny

on top of the six-story lot

where I climbed a stairwell

to get a better view

of the mountains.

 

Photo by cellphone

didn't do them any justice.

Same with catching a fine bass.

It never looks as big in the photograph.

It's all about the experience,

the presentation, the hit!

The fight to land the startled fish.

 

Then, released, and gone.

Like so many days

in parking garages

where the hollow ranges

of our quirky lives

are lost without climax.

 

Back home,

listening to jazz,

I hear distant applause

in a concert hall

on an old recording from Paris,

made long before I was born.

 

High keys of a piano

pound a menagerie into my earphones

on a sub-zero Ohio morning.

 

 

Hanging On

 

Winter hangs on

like an angry pit-bull,

entrenches the spindly trees

with snow.

 

Green tropical plants

are in my imaginary garden

next to a deep blue sea.

 

Battery mates

have already reported

to spring training.

The smell of grass and leather,

pop of the glove,

crack of the bat.

 

Memories for a moment

before the barren landscape

of the North

brings back

the raw reality.

 

Time hangs like icicles.

No movement

to the stingy season.

 

All attention turns

to internal things.

Maladies magnify themselves.

The body looms large

shacked up from the cold.

 

Steam escapes each breath

on rare outings.

 

Temperatures dive

to the negative digits

and we wait.

 

The kind of waiting

that turns the mind

into a black slick.

 

Thoughts won't stick,

jump from nonsense

to memory

and back again.

 

Just hanging on

is an empty proposition

when time stands still.

 

The sky is a pale window

in life's solid block.

 

Two Poems by Cristine A. Gruber

 

Clock

 

The clock in the kitchen

was always five minutes fast,

an imagined buffer to fool us into

believing we were ahead of schedule.

 

But we weren’t ahead, not really,

for the moment we looked up

and said those inevitable words,

“we have five more minutes,” 

we invariably set ourselves up

to be late for whatever event

lurked just around the corner.

 

I thought it was normal to live this way,

until I spent the weekend at a friend’s home,

and the family was preparing to watch

their favorite evening program.

 

I instinctively looked up

at the kitchen clock ticking away

like a ceramic time bomb,

and reflexively said, “five more minutes.” 

 

My friend just stared, and continued

to wonder why I was always late.

 

 

To the Manner Born

For Marina 

 

At the age of three she preferred grapes to candy,

apple slices to chocolate chip cookies. By the age

of seven, she was appalled to learn that chicken

McNuggets were made from actual chickens. At

ten, the pork chop was passed over for the pasta.

And at the age of twelve, the sight of blood on the

Saturday evening steak turned her stomach to stone.

 

I suppose I should have picked up on these and

other clues, though the word, vegetarian, was never

used until she left home for college. Settling in, she

ate the sugars and the starches and gained the typical

Freshman fifteen. But she continued to turn away from

the presence of meat, happy at last to have full control.

 

Born a herbivore, but forced to be untrue for the sake

of the misguided, insisting they knew best in how to

provide a balanced diet. But there’s nothing balanced

about hormone-packed meat and puss-filled dairy. Of

her own volition, she intuitively knew how to feed her

body right. Plant-based at birth. To the manner born.

Her right to health achieved once she finally left home. 

 

Side Door Blessing by Mike James

 

 Side Door Blessing 

          for Jesse Breite

 

find a rock big enough

to fill the biggest hole

 

then find the biggest hole

and fill it

 

wait for a shower of dirt

to cover that rock

 

plant some weeds

in the fresh dirt

 

bring along water

for a mud pie

 

gather other,

smaller rocks

 

build a house to guard

against the big bad wolf

 

spend nights making candles

of various colors and scents

 

befriend the town’s witch

even if it takes a full winter

 

let her recite fairy tales

beside your hearth

 

if she makes you the hero of any story

know she is the one

 

Three Poems by Rodney Nelson

Declaratory

 

dig into the black prairie and

find yellow clay or ride to the

uncommon sand pit

                      another

ingredient from its sea time

and admit that what swam up here

lived for something and for nothing

        what buzzed

in a much-later June

                      what snorted

and bred or ran to

the hunt

        what jumped off an oxcart

to till and hay and milk

                      that all

lived for something and for nothing

        did it only

to go around

with a go-around that happens

to be Earth now

                      that none of them

was an interloper on it

 

 

Prime Acres

 

I looked at a field and it looked back

in one of my beginning days which

might have gone on to another and

another in a gradient run

of morning after morning in June

up to where I am waiting now but

I am only a part of the man

the field foresaw

             the string got broken

and walking in the sight of many

an outland has made me remoter

yet that part is still on the edge of

the first field in bindweed and the scents

of hay and morning go to my quick

 

Accompanied

 

it would not have a face or a name

        or a nature

so I do not look

but can sense it in the grayed painting

on the wall of the tavern and at

the room’s dark end where it may have moved

                               be waiting now

 

 

        I should not go out

to watch them smoke and talk

                               or at all

but it wanted me to even though

it could have sent me to any park

or to my chair because it is here

within me and will move when it moves

 

Three Poems by Darren Demaree

 

Nude Male With Echo #256

 

Incurious about the string

that offers almost freedom

to my physical world

 

I jumped off the roof

of my house to prove a point

to my wife; I can be broken

 

& live long after that

breaking.  Our tether

is as thick as our gravitas.

 

Nude Male With Echo #257

 

It doesn’t matter

that the edges are sharp.

You are cut on entry. 

You are cut in transition.

You are cut into pieces

when you exit.

One dove bleeds on our faces

& that doesn’t matter

either.  We are born

with adrenaline

& that means we will

be allowed to play God

in a few scenes.  So,

all of the roles are ours.

The landscape chooses

a costume for us

before each day opens

& that is the best

I can explain waking.

 

 

Nude Male With Echo #258

 

The light escapes,

does whatever it wants

& that is why it’s warm.

 

To be ecstatic

& cold would break

every law of physics.

 

Lethal Injection by Fred Pollack

 

Lethal Injection

 

The needle missed Diaz’ vein. +24

minutes, still moving; licked

his lips, “blew.”  “Grimaced.” 

At an unspecified time, they found

the vein, injected

more “cocktail.”  Death

at 34 minutes plus change.

 

Conservative blogs joke:

“Go for an hour.”  Quote

a fictional guard: "It's gotten

harder since the ACLU

insisted that we can't perform

CPR.  We used to push them

right to the limit, then bring them back. 

It brought such joy to the families

of their victims.” 

More thoughtfully: “Screw the people

whining about the 34

minutes.  Why aren't they pissed that it took

27 years for this murderous scumbag

to die?  He took up

27 years of the people's money …”

“Maybe if Joseph Nagy

had been properly armed and trained, Diaz

would have been killed in the robbery.”

 

You have to admire the on-demand

hate.  Liberals

don’t hate effectively, we

despise – the equivalent

of eros, love of an inferior;

hatred parallels

agape, the love of what’s above.

Otherwise, it occurs to me

I began writing –

arcane, meditative stuff – the same year

Diaz visited that topless bar.

 

Three Poems by Nels Hanson

 

Sure Thing

 

I was trained on the northern bank

of the fast Kings River near Laton

 

all one Central Valley warm spring.

Thoroughbred, I raced as three year

 

old, county and state fairs, Fresno,

Sacramento, before Bay Meadows

 

and Tanforan by cold Pacific. Then

south to Hollywood Park, Del Mar,

 

Santa Anita on to Mexico’s Agua

Caliente, way eastward to Florida,

 

Hialeah in silver air-cooled trailer,

New York State’s rainy Saratoga.

 

Derby at emerald Churchill Downs,

Preakness at Pimlico, the Belmont

 

Stakes, last meet for Triple Crown.

I didn’t run first any race of three,

 

second, third, second, photo finish,

before I was put out to sweet grass

 

and seed. With one hundred dams I

never saw I sired one hundred foals

 

I never knew. I haven’t raced, worn

bridle, head stocking, saddle, borne

 

any rider in years. In standing sleep

I don’t replay loving cup, horseshoe

 

of red roses at my neck in winner’s

circle, bolt at open gate, bell trilling

 

electric from battery, blink at flying

turf, smart whip, silken flashing arm,

 

take sugar cube from happy jockey.

Blue-black ponies dash homestretch

 

head-to-head, my colts, fillies, rider-

less. All take the lead, overturn rails

 

and beat far odds to escape forever,

or nose to tail in unbroken ellipse fill

 

oval wire to post. No track MC calls

Big Race, bookies their morning line—

 

Players pick trifecta, bet no Place or

Show but always each horse to Win.

 

 

Walking Home

 

Sometimes the boy of 12 trailed

his laughing friends, isolate, raw

with unshared hurt, school-day

 

sting, hidden shame. Talk grew

faint, cruel and far as air around

his head turned black with dots,

 

swarm of wingless faceless flies,

trees strange now, hanging leaves

knives and his shoes dim useless

 

things on a littered street. Despair

opened its trapdoor, endlessly he

was falling, feet-first down a well,

 

the secret part in him folding on

itself, eyes waking everywhere.

Melancholy, golden sunset’s last

 

green whisper, said goodbye and

night’s gigantic face approached,

broken piece inside him breaking

 

last time, softly. He tasted poison

tears, hope forgot, all that might

have been, then giving in to death

 

grave’s sadness lifted. A different

light appeared, cobalt sky pressed

close. Ash trees caught fire, puzzle

 

bark stood clear. Glass trapped in

asphalt flashed, lit up, trumpets

calling. Breathing rescued air he

 

recognized his place and hurried,

picked wrappers from pavement,

crushed cans soiling holy ground,

 

raced ecstatic cleaning resplendent

avenue he ran alone, only one who

realized they walked again in Eden.

 

 

Back From the Castle

 

In arduous dream becoming nightmare

a towering staircase of spiraled stone

with no warning shifted, turned upside

 

down and I descended, pushed hard by

furious wind, nearly falling headlong

miles into Earth, over treeless wastes

 

to deserted city. Center stood a castle

howling with rabid wolves. Hundred

desolate halls I traced the roar against

 

my will, led to an innermost chamber,

final, circular, where mad-eyed tyrants

of History flailed screaming, shackled

 

by long chains to stanchions anchored

in one round wall. Each murderer just

out of reach of all the rest still fought

 

to grasp, strangle his vicious brothers,

him, now him, then another in a ring

and reaching none. Faces bulging hate

 

ten thousand years appeared identical.

Twin shards of a single looking glass,

every profile mirrored the other’s fury

 

there wasn’t slack to kill, forged iron

links reining tight last instant to annul

attempted suicide. When millions die

 

slayers always count one body missing,

disappeared, guilty cause escaping his

death, ruining all until the end of time.

 

Two Poems by Carolyn Gregory

 

Body Awe

 

Opening like a book,

ribs fly buttresses unzipped to lungs,

stomach and heart,

vivid with capillaries,

a new form of art

where plastics and design merge.

 

A skeleton lassos rope,

the head shown with three faces,

an eyeball prominent

above well-formed teeth.

 

Two acrobats are locked like lovers,

gluteus and calf opened

as if for barbecue,

the male's feet splayed like a reptile,

his shoulder raised to hoist the woman

curved like a dolphin without flesh.

 

Whatever faint flush fed us

on a hot, sticky day,

not fanned well in dark inner space,

sweating turns to awe

at the coordination

of organ, skeleton and skin

 

shining with millennia of evolution,

ready to step out of these glass boxes

and fly!

 

Old Masks

 

"I have already lost touch with a couple of people

I used to be." —Joan Didion

 

Like the girl with hair hanging,

a long throw of blonde

thrown down her back

who slept with local rock stars

unsure of what to do

with all that inner motion,

she is back there in Boogieland,

listening to Joe Cocker wailing

 

and that other woman

married with all her bottles

hidden in a half open closet

dreaming of a Sorrento

music box from an old trip,

the one night stand in Venice. 

Old masks must be scrubbed

with strong powder. each pulled off

like a dead bandage

that no longer fits.  

 

Owled by Craig Evenson

Owled

 

Clean dishes and bedding

for what

 

I've hidden

 

where I find myself,

a cat in a the woodpile,

 

there the handhold required

          your one tearless eye

to claim victory

 

in the absence of a stream

to bear away the drainage

 

Numbly humming

Nina Simone

 

the sun

 

the woolen drawl

from something

you've long

been tempted

to cross the center line

into

 

                   you can’t see the stars anymore

                   not even here

                   you should write a poem about that

 

Two Poems by J.A. Camrose

 

When the bottom of

that gray hair turns back to its

natural color

-hope

 

Tonight lying together in bed

I listen to the mesmerizing crisp purring

of autumn leaves in the wind

 

and ravens

flocking in the night trees

making their

calls

 

but what warms me the most

is you sleeping inside my arm

and hearing the sound of your breath

while feeling it upon my wrist

-nightlife

 

 

    One for Addie by Will Walton

                                    

One for Addie

 

I slide my hand inside the glove,

squeeze it a few times, then bring it to my nose.

What once smelled like oiled leather & sweat,

now reeks of stale smoke & permanence.

What once reminded me of my childhood—

years spent crouched behind a batter,

begging the runner on first--

now prompts an image

of me dusting the ash from my stiff, void cat,

& lowering her into a trash bag.

This old mitt was just luckier--

it was packed away in a metal trunk,

in the farthest corner of the house.

She was behind the refrigerator, alone,

trying only to stay cool while her body burned

& carbon monoxide filled her sweet lungs.

 

George and his Wife by John Horvath Jr.

 

George And His Wife Lay On The Beach 

 

 

You and I, George, are characters

Who lack a novel and a novelist.

We've neither form nor sense except

another makes it from our words.

 

You mean your diary, I suspect.

 

I mean a grand and vacant something

So MORE than what we might say or do

(We really haven't freedom to do much

but lay on this beach and wait, forever

watching the circling birds,

the arc of waves upon the beach.)

 

God's book of life you mean--

the right and wrong of us.

(But to himself:  more likely

the legend of St George

and his slain dragon bitch

who thinks too much; cerebral

women are such a pain).

 

No.  We are being watched.

I sense the reader of these words

who makes us live our lives

repeatedly and without change.

This same sun, this ever beach,

those motionless gulls above.

 

They're pelicans.

You, there!  Reader!

How dare you!

Relax.  I've chased them off.

 

 

Emily’s Eyes by Allen Frederick Stein

 

 Emily’s Eyes

           (for E.D.)

 

Look closely at the picture,

the only one authenticated

as the genuine Emily.

See how the eyes don’t align

conventionally, properly.

Each turns from the other,

avoiding binocular resolution.

 

The name assigned for this

is Exotropic Strabismus,

commonly called Wall Eye.

Each eye is on its own

as it looks sidewise,

away from what is directly before it.

 

The medical texts tell us

misaligned eyes send separate images.

A child’s brain ignores these mixed messages,

resolves them readily into one,

but the adult’s may develop Diplopia,

or double vision.

In Emily’s case this is extreme.

She may have wished it so—

recall that she told an uncomprehending friend

that she loved to “buffet the sea,”

loved the danger—

this from a woman who’d never boarded ship,

never felt heavy wave

smack against straining planks.

But no danger could have been dearer to her

than that of sailing a true course

in diverging directions

toward a single destination

never to be reached.

 

Thus, Emily’s left eye,

which peers far over your right shoulder,

even as her slightly broad nose

points straight at you,

may be spying that certain slant of light,

the one that weighs so heavy, winter afternoons

(note the downward turn of the lip on that side),

while the right may see,

well past your left shoulder,

a bobolink chirping praise on high

under an orchard’s leafy dome

(hence the upward tilt of the lip’s right corner?).

The possibilities are many—

the housefly and the hummingbird,

the frost and the flower,

a smile easy as a star and death’s stiff stare,

the choiring meeting house,

the silent alabaster chamber.

 

She wrote that the brain is wider than the sky.

Hers, at any rate, was capacious enough

to hold till the end

a bifurcated vision.

She gave no poem a title,

for she knew no true journey was ever finished,

knew all was ever in tenuous balance,

endless tension.

 

 “Strabismus” is from the Greek for “squinting,”

and though Emily in the photo is wide-eyed,

she peered hard always,

toward something impinging and inevitable

on the very periphery of sight,

far beyond whatever tokens, sinister or sublime,

might be visible at any given moment

to either searching eye.

 

She knew it was, at last, a wall

that she eyed, and had from the first,

and that, unreachable,

it circumscribed all, enclosed all.

Beyond it, perhaps,

resided an encompassing resolution,

then again, perhaps not.

But still she sailed her double course toward it.

 

Look more closely now at Emily.

Draw your face, your eyes, close to her own.

Notice, when you’re close enough,

that she becomes twin Emilys,

but not quite identical,

one certain that faith is indeed a fine brave thing,

the other no less certain it’s an invention,

timid and expedient.

Both Emilys hint at a crooked smile,

as if  neither is ever unaware

that the other might be right, after all,

—but only might be.

 

Pull back a bit now.

Watch the two resolve into Emily,

buffeting the waves,

toward the unattainable wall

that is never beyond her vision.

 

No Early Birds by Elizabeth Crowell

 

No Early Birds

 

At the wooden doors

of this New England church,

its needle-steeple upward in a field of maples,

a sign is posted to warn those

who want to rummage through the goods too soon.

Perhaps arriving in advance

will get me a place before  the rest,

a route down the church basement hall

to the acre of tables, set with

bone china cups, cameo pins, and Mason Jars,

but when I think of starting out again

in hopes of what I do not even know yet, 

I remember how my son tried this,

coming so soon into the vast worldliness

that he never drew a breath. 

 

And so here I am outside

where white fields of spring blossoms

against a stone wall thicken like deserted linens

and if you ask me what grief is,

its that short, cordoned rope,

the strict hours of life to death

that I see across each of us,

these desperate souls on the sidewalk

pushing towards

the hope of an object found

on the shaky slope of a folded table.

I scan the muddied, spring ground,

kicking my sneakers in a skyless motion,

and eye the spring worms floundering, unfound

with my son beside me

in the dark coat of what it takes to die so young,

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