5 poems by Bob Stout

Mass at the Casa de Brigidas

The priest waved his hands

as though each of seventy-some parents

were Pinocchios

attached invisibly

to his adept

and mobile fingers

“…your sons,

your daughters,

respect, obey…”

Not a grunt

or snicker

but a silent

twitching murmur

lucky if they

even hear us!

“…just

as you respect God, Creator…”

                                              of all

the snares and dangers

–drugs and sex drives,

car wrecks, bomb threats–

“…forge

the world

He in His wisdom…”

dumped

upon adults by definition

but inside still really children

trying to cope

with angry spouses,

friends in trouble,

rising prices)

“…turn away

from earthly

pleasures…”

airline crashes,

serial killings,                                                        

stock fraud coupes

“—suffer

here to gain Eternal…”

Nuns

picking at guimpes’

starchy collars,

mumbling

their childless

problems

“…submit,

receive

His bounteous

blessings…”

mini-vans,

new clothes,

computers…

Twisted on the cross

above us

Christ, the martyr,

gazing past revolving fans

as we, the parents,

nodded,

thanked Him,

“Father,

that we love them…”

 

and are loved

(we hoped)

a little in return.

 

Elaine

Beige curtains twisted into dancing shapes

as real as dreams. I rose, watching as they

seemed to touch, then part, then spin slowly

back to touch, fingertip to fingertip, again.

Rhythms floated in and faded as I crossed

the room to gaze towards sailboats anchored

in the bay. Come with me! Elaine once whispered

as we’d danced across a jetty. Pulled off our clothes.

Plunged into currents swirling alongshore.

Clasped each other’s bodies quivering from cold.

 

A truck edged past, its headlights flickering

across the fronts of dormant stores. Now get me warm!

she’d laughed and run and tripped. Rolled over.

Held me, shivering, as we’d surged past instant wanting

into places where the sea and sky were one.

Then rose, exhausted, strangers brushing sand

from heated bodies, trying to laugh

and walk back to the jetty, talk: My God!

We’re silly! I still feel like you’re inside me!

No thoughts then of schedules, children,

just the beach and palms and jetty.

Again I felt the wind assault our wetness.

Felt her fingers touch, then separate from mine.

 

Stranger in the Coffee Shop

Faces move

to greet me

shyly, shove

aside the danger

 

of too quick

a smile. The

waitress licks

her lips. “Odd

 

weather,” someone

whispers. “Coffee?

Sure.” She runs

to get a cup.

 

The cook peers

through a crack

above the grill,

a stack of pancakes

 

in his hand. An old

man coughs. “More

butter please.” I sip

my coffee, read

 

the paper as they nod

themselves back

into safety, all being right

in their small world.

 

November, Oaxaca

In the vacant lot down the hill

the leaves are turning yellow

and the long stalks of the sunflowers

have cracked and fallen.

Tiny butterflies—some black, some white—

flit through brambled summer growth,

brown and barren instead of lush and green.

A lone dove pecks at particles of seeds

beneath a tangled mat of inert vines

and the wind

makes rustling sounds.

 

A man with an atrophied arm pushes

a bicycle vending cart

down the gravel roadway

calling to vacant houses

that he has corn for sale.

 

Boatman in the Jungle

Hunched like a hewn

immobile idol

He listens to the water

lisp its power

His nerves the rhythm of an engine,

eyes the function

Of trick whirlpools, currents,

knowing beauty as a deck’s thin knife

that dissects green.

Robert Joe Stout is a journalist living in Oaxaca, Mexico, who has contributed nonfiction, fiction and poetry to a wide variety of publications. Much of his writing is focused on social and political themes involving people and events, present and past, that affect the United States and country in which he resides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Como hemos llegado aquí por Brett Schmoll

Como el padre del hijo

nacido en el campo

del panadero forastero

en un garaje prestado

de Txefi, policía de Bilbao

pintado en blanco y negro

como la bandera del vecino

que vive al lado de la autopista

y colecciona los mini botellas

de licor de los aviones

que caen del medio de transporte

de Chicharito, un atleta marca

cuando su tío el catedrático

se cayó por redes malos

sociales y de su coche

olvidado en el ministerio

de chanclas de una moza

con vello en la pezuña

y la cara como membrillo

pero ¡vale madres! conduciendo

aunque su primo toca el trombón

como pinche Juan de Café Tacuba

que tocaron por el rabo verde

quien persiguió la mala copa

cuando entró en el bar de viudas

ex-mujeres de Panteón Rococó

y siempre nos recuerdan

que “La gente pobre no tiene lugar”

aunque la Biblia si nos dice

que Cristo no viene

para la gente sana

sino para los enfermos

y para arreglar mi coche

para llevarme a donar sangre

en el bar de la colonia

en la esquina de los chilangos

y por fin me entero de algo

que no capto ni por un segundo

como hemos llegado aquí.

A historian by trade, B. Jordan Schmoll originates from the boiling foothills of Bakersfield. A fellow of the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP), Schmoll’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, from the literary journals OrpheusMojave Heart, and Rabid Oak to the Journal of Appalachian Studiesand the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. He teaches in San Luis Obispo and calls Santa Margarita, CA home.

1 poem by Colin James

                ADVICE FROM AN EXPERT
            We have measured your features exactly.
            At eighteen you will look like this.
            Sorry to disappoint.
            Moving on, at thirty like this.
            Sorry again to disappoint.
            Skipping ahead,
            At fifty you will look like this.
            No wonder you’re happy,
            out of sheer desperation
            we have altered your body chemistry
            switching you with a Himalayan deity
            believed to be the holiest of holy.
            He was the only one willing to do an interview
            and possessed a dialect pregnant with H’s.
            Or very similar sounds.
            Now go back out amongst the people
            and get them to drink your potion for free.
Colin James has a book of poems, Resisting Probability, fromSagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Massachusetts.

3 poems by Yuan Changming

Connection of Selfhoods: a Megaphysics Poem

Few are really aware of

Such universes

Existing beyond our own

Even fewer of so many other versions

Of selfhood living

In each of them, let alone

This simple secret:

 

At the depth of consciousness

Lives a quantum

Or soul as we prefer to call it

A particle, demon and/or angel dancing

 

The same dance afar, far apart

In an entanglement

 

Sonnet in Infinitives

 

To be               a matter when there’s no question

Or not to be     a question when nothing really matters

 

To sing            with a frog squatting straight

On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake    near Jingzhou

 

To recollect all the pasts, and mix them

Together like a glass of           cocktail

 

To build                       a nest of meaning

Between two broken branches on       Ygdrasil

 

To strive          for deity

Longevity        and

Even happiness

 

To come          on and off line every other while

 

To compress    consciousness into a file, and upload it

Onto a nomochip

 

To be           daying, to        die

 

Towards Enlightenment  

 

With a storm

With a gull

With your breath

 

Goes the thought

With a vague vision

Beyond the bogland

 

With your heart

Hawking aloud in the wild

With dripping blood

 

An unformed concept

A shoal of consciousness

Bubbling with feeling

 

With a photon

With a quantum

With your mind concentrated

On a twisted other

Yuan Changming  published monographs on translation before leaving China. Currently, Yuan lives in Vancouver, where he edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, the 2018 Naji Naaman’s Literary Prize, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry and BestNewPoemsOnline among others.  

 

3 poems by Jaime Urco

farewell to my arms

by Jaime Urco (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

 

someday that old tune that dragged me through bodies streets will be lost my eyes will leave their orbits my loves will be grass that will grow in the grave friends will come with bottles with the memory of a patio where the sun among trees was the promise of youth

one day I will not open the door free of desire I will slip between sheets the pain will not go down with me only this sparse organism that saw clovers crocuses in the womb of the woman who left

dying is not strange

I sing the tune a woman left me in a night of love

she does not remember

 

farewell to my arms

 

algún día esa vieja tonada que me arrastró por cuerpos calles se perderá mis ojos dejarán sus órbitas mis amores serán pasto que crecerá en la tumba los amigos vendrán con botellas con el recuerdo de un patio donde el sol entre árboles fue la promesa de la juventud

un día no abriré la puerta libre del deseo me escurriré entre sábanas el dolor no bajará conmigo sólo este parco organismo que vio tréboles azafranes en el vientre de la que se fue

morir no es raro

canto la tonada que una mujer me dejó en una noche de amor

ella no se acuerda

 

globalized world (pretentious bolero)

by Jaime Urco (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

I look down at my feet and see them in Uruguayan shoes my stockings Nikes made in Singapore I keep looking at myself and notice my legs that incessantly wear out through avenues markets covered by Bulgarian pants

my chest

my shaggy

chest

wears which flag a Brazilian shirt I bought between caipirinhas cocktails and a beautiful woman who said goodbye my god and I didn’t even know it

My brain is invested with ideas ways of seeing that come from ancient Greece the serene Renaissance and the frantic and beautiful nineteenth century without forgetting my magical sixties

I say all this combination makes me a global man with clever words lost in his subject in the globalized landscapes when he sees that in his hands

don’t hold the gods

the promised land

or your precious

Latin American hand

 

mundo globalizado (bolero pretencioso)

miro mis pies y los veo cubiertos por zapatos uruguayos mis medias unas nike hechas en singapur sigo mirándome y llego a mis piernas que se gastan incesantemente por avenidas mercados provistas de unos pantalones búlgaros

mi pecho

mi intonso

pecho

lleva cual bandera una camisa brasileña que compré entre caipirinhas y una bella mujer que me decía adiós mi dios y yo ni enterado

mi cerebro está investido por ideas modos de ver que vienen de la vieja grecia del sereno renacimiento y del frenético y bello s. xix sin olvidar mi mágica década de los 60

digo todo este conjunto hace de mí el hombre global con inteligentes palabras perdido en su materia en los paisajes mundializados cuando ve que entre sus manos

no están los dioses

la tierra prometida

ni tu mano

preciosa latinoamericana

 

night, bars

where are you?

by Jaime Urco (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

no peace exists

only the lethargy of sidereal masses the hours thrown into a glass my name floating in the evening drizzle limpid oceans and her fast, steady walk in the blind November afternoon

 

la noche los bares

dónde anda usted?

la paz no existe

sólo la lentitud de la masas siderales las horas arrojadas a un vaso mi nombre flotando en la garúa de la tarde límpidos océanos y el caminar de ella rápido y seguro en la tarde ciega de noviembre

 

Jaime Urco.jpg

Born in 1952 in Jauja, Peru, Jaime Urco currently lives in Lima, where he is an Associate Professor at the Universidad de Lima. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2005. He is the author of the poetry collections Silbando una canción feliz(1985), Retrato en blanco y negro (1986), and Poca luz en el bar y otros poemas (1995). Translations of his poetry have recently appeared in Deluge and Neologism Poetry Journal.

Nacido en 1952 en Jauja, Perú, Jaime Urco vive actualmente en Lima, donde es profesor asociado en la Universidad de Lima. Recibió su Maestría en Escritura Creativa de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso en 2005. Es autor de las colecciones de poesía Silbando una canción feliz (1985), Retrato en blanco y negro (1986) y Poca luz en el bar y Otros poemas (1995). Las traducciones de su poesía han aparecido recientemente en Deluge y Neologism Poetry Journal.

3 poems by Shawn Anto

Portrait of Detention Center

for Christian, Bakersfield 2018

 

the 1% are playing god, GEO Corporation hacks life under a dome

a veil of reconstruction, was pummeling resurrection of freedom

destroying historical venues expanding baby prisons, housing children

away from their mothers, who smothers whom in the womb of the U.S.

land of the freaks, home of the brass knuckles in the face of the weak.

 

“zero-tolerance” policy shaping a campaign

separating children, profits of blood-money run rampant in the veins

each wall cut heads splatter, beheading a hydra, with each protest, one more sprouts

up out of the blood, emerging in other cities, & Christian’s mother could only follow her son

wherever they moved him, transferred into land of green, a terrain of cacti & hunger

who is hungering for another change at survival, every day, no justice against this plague

cutting us away from colored rooms, what blooms on this canvas but dust and muddy river

on us all, who drowns in our prayers, another curse, another blessing—

se vive se siente

los dreamers están presentes

 

Blue Waters

 

That which we embrace of the past

Sneaks into veins & stitches to thoughts

Every idea is good, was good, how good

Do we feel?

 

I remember my parents saying

“the program is only a year and a half, if you don’t like it

You don’t have to go through with it”

The choice, living with the choice

Moving to St. John’s, Antigua

Sneaking into Blue Waters at night

With Hieu, relaxing under the gazebo

Fishing, simplicity, between what we were

Who we knew we could be, couldn’t be

 

Each memory likes to thread together, holding

As if they occurred together like the day I shook hands with Vivian Richards at Epicurean or the day I had my first shawarma at Jabberwock beach

Paying memory like that for something I did not want

Carved some form of bliss into me & who I was

Although, I’m still learning myself.

 

Portrait of Keralite

after 2018 Kerala floods

 

Depression is typhoon season on our wound

water rising, dissolving foundation like

our familial ties to one another, one drenched & drowned.

 

How come now the refusal to protect my aunt

is my uncle’s painting petrified, fucked-up discolored remnants

on a canvas now soaked with rat fever & snakes

swarming in water, swallowing houses as it goes.

 

It took a week for help to come, for no man would step up

to claim their family & loved ones, apparently no longer loved

when disaster shakes its head all these thoughts loose

like fishermen dredging water for survivors

 

God’s Own Country lends its hand to chaos

me Dad went to Kerala two weeks ago, to build

what little remained between

wet reminders of aunt sleeping with gran

in sunken house, what is a happening

but shoving men like him down into depths

wandering why the fallen are the only ones

exempt from pain & or vows meant to protect

 

Wife. Love. Promise. Hypocrite. Ripples, Rain.

blue blue blue bruise forever forever forever.

 

Shawn Anto is 23 years old from Bakersfield, California. He’s originally from Kerala, India. He currently studies at Cal State Bakersfield looking to receive his B.A. in English & Theatre. He was last seen on stage in Dreamers: Aquí y Allá, directed by Mandy Rees.  His writing has been featured or are forthcoming in The Paragon Press, Edify Fiction, Susan/The Journal, Internet Void, Ink & Voices and Mojave Heart Review.

3 poems by Joshua Rigsby

A Tanka for Pupusas

 Pupusas are soft,
much like marbled baby’s flesh.
Round as the iris
of a love-besotted moose.
They’re a vehicle of flight.

 

Times

 It was the best of and the worst of,

Gray Lady and Los Angeles

of London;

The tee you hit, the tea you thirst of,

Medieval, long forgotten, and

New Roman;

Good

Laissez les bons ____ rouler,

and may they ever multiply.

 

Rivers of the World

The Tigris and the Euphrates, where Eden was planted. Crossed by Alexander, Trajan, Suleiman, George V, and Bushes XLI & XLIII.

The Nile, where baby Moses lay floating in a basket of reeds, water he made flow red with blood.

The Rubicon, where Caesar cast his die. Near the Tiber he was stabbed and Saint Paul’s head bounced three times.

The Seine, where they tossed the ashes of Joan from Arc, to be churned and dispersed, to drain her out to the sea. Javert, likewise, swept himself away.

The Thames, where Marlow sat rocking, telling us about Kurtz and the Congo. The Tower sits on its banks, where kings consigned their many wives and conspirators to die, where their heirs were likewise ruined.

In the Ganges, the dead are floated. Turtles nip their flesh.

The Nahi and the Narmada, which Ghandi crossed on his way to make salt.

In Seoul, children are taught the names of the bridges that span the Han. These bridges are new, the old ones destroyed to slow communism and refugees.

The Amazon, where pink, bottlenose dolphins sport in the murky brown. Found last by Orellana, but renamed by him anyway.

The Ohio, where Eliza jumped from frozen barge to frozen barge, hunting freedom from the hounds.

The Mississippi, where Tom and Huck made their mischief and social commentary.

The Los Angeles is drawn in the negative, a waterless river, a concrete husk. Where portions of TransformersTerminator 2: Judgment DayLast Action HeroThe Gumball RallyChinatownThem!The Core, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th DimensionIn TimeIt’s AliveL.A. StoryGreasePoint BlankRepo Man, Fear The Walking DeadThe Italian JobPoint BreakGone in 60 SecondsTo Live and Die in L.A.Blood In Blood OutCleopatra JonesBlue ThunderI Got The Hook Up and Drive were filmed.

There is a metaphor in this.

 

JoshuaRigsbyHeadshot.jpg

Joshua Rigsby has an MFA from the University of California, Riverside and has written for Southern California Public RadioThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Atlantic.

3 poems by Gale Arcuff

Word

 I never knew what hit me when I died
 that morning–I fell, between leaf and blade
 while I was swinging on a rotten rope
 from east to west–I had my right foot
 in the loop at the bottom of the line,
 like a stirrup, and was holding on with
 both hands until just east-to-west became
 north-to-south as well and soon I rode in

 circles. It was a circle broke the thing,
 the privet limb growing out like someone’s
 arm aiming a finger shooting at the
 Evening Star. I felt the break and was free
 until I landed on my shoulder blades
 and spine and tailbone. Father was sitting
 nearby, in his old lawnchair, reading his
 newspaper. His heard me and came over,
 knelt–I remember that–and put one hand
 on my shoulder. I couldn’t breathe, like one
 of those dreams where you think you’re drowning: you’re

 underwater and you’re drowning, and you
 die and then you’re awake, coughing for air
 as if you’re newborn or have been holding your
 breath but at last you can breathe but you breathe
 as though you’ve never drawn breath before. Catch
 your breath,
 he says. Take it easy, now. Just
 rest while you get your wind back. Are you
 alright?
 I can’t yet speak. I don’t know how

 but it will come. We’re holding hands. His is
 large, like a paw, and swallows mine and
 he grips firmly but doesn’t cause me pain.
 Life, that’s what this is. That’s what I am. I

 remember now, take deeper breaths until
 I roll over in his direction, prop
 myself on my elbow, then my hand. I’m
 sitting. Why did you want to break that rope,
 he asks, but it’s not a question.
 It hurts to laugh. I’m sitting with my knees
 pulled into my chest. To rise I fall, to
 my left, and now I’m ready to crawl. He

 helps to raise me. I’m breathing easier so I
 walk over to his empty chair and sit
 while he goes to get another. We sit
 side by side, the rope like a snake beneath
 the tree. I can’t tell if I’m young or old.
 I know who I am and can count fingers
 and remember my address but something
 isn’t right, or right in an unseen way.

 Father fakes reading the sports section. His
 right wrist and hand are shaking. It’s not breeze.
 I want to ask him if he’s alright but
 this is my moment, like a birthday or
 straight As on my report card or other
 job well-done–mowing, hoeing, or cleaning
 out the garage to surprise him when he
 comes home from work and has a place to park
 that’s more like a bedroom for the Chevy
 than a doghouse for an automobile.

 I wait for him, open the garage door
 so he doesn’t have to do it himself.
 Sometimes I stop him at the open door,
 like a traffic cop–thrust my palm forward
 and up and strike that pose. He could run me
 over but he doesn’t, with the car or
 his anger. He plays along. Sometimes when
 I walk out of the way he sounds the horn
 and makes me jump, both feet leaving the ground.
 Then he enters, laughing. I will get him

 when he opens his door–let him climb out,
 then I climb on him. You’re under arrest,
 I say. I pull his wrists behind his back
 and cuff him with my palms but he fights back
 in play and takes control and overcomes
 me instead. Then he lets me go and then
 pretends to chase me. I run away but
 he never follows. All this is love, love,
 whatever love is–whatever love is

 it hasn’t left or died but it’s away,
 somehow, like breath you lose or a garden
 that wilts or a toy that breaks and you mourn
 because it’s hurt, can it feel the pain, does
 Heaven have room for broken toys and lost
 dogs? Yes, Son, he still assures, as I lie on
 my bed, thirty-seven years later. Yes,
 it does–for people, too. How beautiful
 it is–wish you were here with me to see
 it but there’s no rush, take your time. Plenty

 of time
. It’s what he read in the paper,

 I’ll bet. His hands were shaking, shaking up words
 into revelation, what they really
 mean. On the side of the car it is written,
 underneath and over Chevrolet, God.
 The rope on the lawn is the sibilant
 in snap, stun, grace. Ssweet the sound that saves.
 
 
                                –Gale Acuff
__________________________
 
Pillar

I watch my father pour salt on slugs by
the dog’s bowl. I like it too much and he
frowns, Father, that is. A little relish
for death is good, he means, but not too much.
He lets me do it and I pour too much
salt until the slug looks like he’s wrapped in
concrete. You don’t need to use so much salt,
says Father. Salt don’t grow on trees, you know.

I look over at the apple tree. I
look at Father again and ask Just where
does salt grow? He smiles but I can tell he
doesn’t want to. You don’t grow salt, he says,
you mine it, or take it from the ocean.
How, I ask. Well, he says, you dig it out,
or in the case of seas, evaporate
it. Oh, I say. I push my luck–at least
it’s mine, I understand it–what’s that mean,
evaporateWell, he says, watching my
slug harden inside salt, you take some sea
and let it stand until all the water
goes back to the sky and there you are, salt
lying at the bottom of your bucket.
Oh, I say, And you can hurry things on
if you boil the water–the salt remains,
it don’t boil away. I breathe another
Oh. I don’t know what a sigh is yet, not
the word anyway, but that was my Oh
and it sounds sad to me. I don’t know why.
 
When we’re finished I put the salt shaker
back on the kitchen table, alongside
its friend, the pepper. I like to think they’re
married, that Pepper missed her Salt, who went
to work but now is home, and he missed her.
She’s still pretty full but he’s half-empty.
They don’t have any children, however,
and they don’t know how lucky they are.
 
 
                                          –Gale Acuff
_______________________________
 
Mature
 
There’s nobody I love more than God save
Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher
and more beautiful than God is handsome,
though it may be a sin to say so but
I’ll risk it because I’ve got nothing to
lose except maybe my soul, of course, since
Miss Hooker’s old, 25 I guess, to
my 10. So even if I marry her
her red hair and green eyes and those freckles,
she’ll die on me. When I’m 16, say, and
mature, she’ll be 31 and if we
want to have babies, which we will, then she’ll
be gone before they ever grow up. I
don’t know where babies come from yet, only
 
that you shut the bedroom door and turn out
the light and maybe lock it, too, the door
I mean, and put something over the key
-hole so nobody can peek in, then lie
down on the bed and I guess go to sleep
after you shake hands like you mean it and
kiss each other on all your lips and more
than once and all this gets God’s attention
and a few months later after the wife
gets fat and the husband more nervous,bam,
 
you get a boy or a girl and the wife’s
thin again, and there’s a mystery there
that I’m not old enough to know about.
When I ask my parents they just tell me
to wait a couple of more years. I’d ask
Miss Hooker but she might be afraid that
I’m about to propose and anyway
I don’t want her to turn me down, not yet,
at least not until I’m man enough to
take it. I’ll be shaving and my voice will
sound more like Father’s, or Mother’s when she’s
                                                                 
really angry, and I’ll be driving, and
working if I have to. That’s how you get
money and how you get married, Father
says, but not too happily. But he should
know, he’s a geography teacher. I
can’t marry God anyway–why should I
throw Miss Hooker over for Him? Maybe
I can have both, just love them in different
ways. You have to be pretty wise to do
that. Reverend Horluck’s married and has three
kids to boot. Maybe I’ll ask him why our
 
God is a jealous God, which was what his
sermon for today was about, only
he jumped and shouted so much I forgot
the words he said in between. And cried, too,
there at the end. I don’t know much about
life but I know guilt when I feel it. Me,
I can wait until I’m dead for God to
make it clear just what He’s been on about.
Until then, I’ll worship Miss Hooker, which
may be a sin but it’s His own damn fault.

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

3 poems by John Grey

THE RIVER’S STORY

I haven’t changed my mind about rivers
even as another body is pulled from the one that flows through town.
I see no need to restate my position – fishing, swimming,
or just strolling along the banks.
Forget a debate, not with so many noisy, whirring
cop cars and rescue trucks cluttering the greenery.
Sure, I’m a little subdued as I watch from a distance.
But I don’t listen to you comparing that lazy old current
of water as a rattlesnake, hissing against the rocks.
I appreciate it for what it is, know that it is capable of many emotions.
You point out the crowd gathering, a charged situation.
Maybe somewhere in there is a mother, worried that it’s her child.
What cares she for catfish? Young boys swinging from a rope?
Or smoking cigarettes in the shadow of the willows?
Or the claim to fame of the kid who swam across and back three times?
But these are the moments that will return once the dead are buried.
Maybe it’s not the best time to bring up these things.
Not when there’s so much law about,
and a sheet’s been drawn up over the body.
And even the dogs are silent, the birds have retreated to their roosts.
Maybe I even know the one that was dragged out,
sloppy and muddy and blue-faced.
The rumors are already starting. It’s a young girl. She jumped from the bridge.
Maybe she was bullied. Maybe she was pregnant. Maybe she broke up with a guy.
Someone heard the splash. Was startled. Called 911.
That guy’s surrounded like he’s some kind of hero
when he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
I came down here because it’s my river, someone has to defend it,
even if it’s only with a whisper in your ear, a hard grip of your hand.
This is my childhood. It’s my romantic teenage years.
It’s even nostalgia from the perspective of middle age. It’s not a death trap.
It isn’t suicide’s best friend. It’s just water. Joyful, splashy water.
It flows from s spring somewhere in the distant mountains.
It travels miles to a bigger river and then a bigger river still
before flowing into the ocean. It could avoid this town altogether
but it chooses to run parallel to our Main Street,
like nature come to us rather than having to hike out into the wilderness to find it.
It can’t be sullied by a corpse, by sorrow, by even the worst kind of despair.
The dead girl will have a story to tell and it will be a sad one.
But it won’t be the river’s story. Come to me if you really need to be told.

THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR

People
saluted me,
bowed even,
without even being prompted

I was amazed.
I was shocked.

I’d been pushing
loyalty and obedience
at them
in an extremely
controlled setting

but here,
in the open air,
nothing was different,
nothing had changed.

They looked up to me.
I was their leader.

It was as much
disconcerting
as it was gratifying.

I began to think
they’d be willing to do
anything I asked of them.

Maybe they’d bring me my coffee
in the morning.
Maybe I could lead them
into war.

POWERLESS

Here comes the needle.
I open wide.
He tells me about his latest vacations,
makes jokes
that aren’t funny, thank God,
because my laughter’s
out of commission.
Then he starts on politics.
The jab into my gums is very political indeed.
So is the following numbness.

Under Novocain,
I feel like the populace,
unable to respond to what we’re told,
afraid he might somehow hit a nerve.
There’s a waiting period
in which he slams the Red Sox,
before the drill arrives,
digging into me
with a sound like burrowing
into hell
and I can hear the cries of the condemned
while he goes right on
mining my teeth.

It takes all of fifteen minutes
though it feels like a lifetime,
my impotence
versus the monologues of so many –
I could name a thousand instances.

He tells me
to avoid eating on the left side
for the rest of the day.
Was there ever a man
who’s spent as much time
chewing on his right side as me?

JohnGrey 8.jpg

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Visions International.

 

 

3 poems by Pablo Leal

for even in your finite and never-ending expanse lies
no escape from such an end to it all
and that which in strange aeons has come to pass will truly remain nothing
as it once sung, knowing as few do the true permanence of
the eternal veil casting in and of itself in its eternal slumber
or not, for that which has perished decries no foul and ceases
its extant hum forever to be and not
and in it all that is and ever will
• תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ

contours flay these bitter
storms in such foregone
clouds – a dulled out blade
no less baleful screams out a million names
howling anger dense
a trillion-forth found askew
tears it all in many ways
and in many more nothing says
• ~1.25m M☉

floundering thus is
thine way as furtive glancing
foretold in ways of old–
anew! brought into the fold
to mend old habits such
as them perishing young
fowls spread across these
strung-out scorns
for praise lied not—
merely masks chanting
slights of past
or ways of present?
• メガタワ

Pablo Leal is a ‘poet(a)’.