By Lex Runciman
Cancer is safe in my hands:
It killed my brother – I couldn’t stop it.
Though I protested, voted otherwise,
The war continued: when drafted, I said no.
And yes, I did and yet do
Love my imperfect country.
And so in my place, someone else
Was killed or saw how a friend bleeds out,
Or at the end of a gunsight saw
A stranger’s shoulder torn back red and falling.
Years ago this was. You don’t forget.
The wondering doesn’t stop.
This day, November dark, yes,
And rainy, then not quite: I walked an hour
Past many wooden houses. Saw from a bluff
A gray river, a bridge, and thought of Whitman –
Clouds of the west seen face to face.
Ahead of me, crows flew and alighted,
Flapped ahead, turned, leaned their beaks
And said what they could say.
I clicked my tongue, said it’s ok, it’s ok,
Though I knew they’d not understand any more
Than that last passenger pigeon, Martha,
Who died in Cincinnati, at 1pm, September first,
1914, from loneliness only we imagine.
Wary, ready to fly, those crows leaned in,
And to such rounded air they listened.
By Rachel Luebke
Moons float to the uncertain surface and complain
poets spring up like razors out of a peaceful night.
They delight in eyes and do not see the black within
themselves or anyone else:
words are a stain on pure understanding
when they put them in their mouths because they feel alone.
Moonlight calls and the window flinches
but they see only their reflection on the dusty glass:
squatting in the corner, conjuring horizons of mercury and wet
They grunt and coo over meanings they themselves have forged,
and think themselves masters of their own blood and bones,
but the temporary river belongs to no one.
By Steve Christopher
I thought that dog was going to explode.
She tied it to the maple outback, fed it everything leftover,
Pasta Fagioli, Mooligniana, Mortadella, Pasta Peasele.
She over cooked as usual. War girl she was,
didn’t have anything she said. Came to the
land of milk and honey, streets paved with gold.
She’d see to it that everyone had more than enough.
The dog times ten. Why on earth did they bring
that poor thing home from Michelangelo’s flea market?
Mikey they called him. So late in the game too. So
many years past the point of we kids being around
to take good care of him.
He haunts me. Those sad, dark, marbled eyes, in that
doggy fat suit, stuff in, pressure gauge
in the red zone. I see it pop in my eye, fur flying,
guts in the tree, on my face. Oh merciful god,
give it a quiet heart attack.
She feeds the neighbors, the birds, the
rats, cats, possums, raccoons. And once Pop
let it slip that she had a bottle in Alex’s mouth
all the time. All four hundred plus pounds of him,
still at home. Words like that
stick to your brain like little rubber cement balls.
Words you weren’t meant to hear.
By J. Allyn Rosser
While the speaker keeps speaking
I try to think about almost anything else,
and recall the moment my father quoted
Delmore Schwartz or was it Dylan Thomas.
My father who remembers whole passages
from his reading sixty years ago
but forgets how to retrieve voicemail.
“I wipe my hand across the pudding of my face,”
he said with a small smile, a line
I’d never read. How stunned I was by that;
the freshness of anything true.
Finally the speaker stops and sits down.
The talk was disappointing, Ray says.
Yes banal, banal, says Jay shaking his head.
It’s as if he was just born into literate adulthood,
Ray agrees, and never actually read anything yet.
Just writes and writes and never reads, says Jay.
They nod sadly at one another, nodding
as someone did yesterday and in 1756,
we’ll keep saying it until it sinks in all the way
how banal we are, we are compacted layers
of banality so thick that only a few minutes
of each year do we crack that crème brûlée
and manage to chew our way out of it,
like a butterfly eating its chrysalis
for the strength to lift off,
and there’s the old butterfly metaphor
unflattening itself from my tongue. He thinks
speaking is like pedaling a bike, you get somewhere
automatically if you just exert pressure,
Trey says. To which May must add
Yes he conflates writing and riding,
an equation that ends with writhing.
And all I want is to break free from this,
to uncongeal, a word that reminds me of pudding
and face and I think of my death, and my death thinks of me,
and my mind folds one wing. I hear the creak
of ancient cicadas in their Brigadoon vaults,
and stars begin audibly to shiver far,
far back in their wobbly sphere
where they have always, haven’t they, been shivering.
By William Logan
At Cairo, the old established firm of Fever & Ague is still settling up its
The robin’s-egg sky fades
toward the horizon, losing
its will, or the ghost of faith.
The wind, so brazen yesterday,
The untempered city = the city of dreams.
Just beyond reach, the old mills
and disused rails serve other masters.
I have a sympathy
for the buddleia grown
in the bed of clinker and stone.
A robin visits the yard,
stakes its claim with a note or two,
then flits on, to return, if at all,
having lost its place.
By José Manuel Cardona
Translated by Hélène Cardona
And I remain alone and amazed.
The wonder is announced in the throat
Of men who suffer. Storms
Have covered the steps of my temple
With anthills, and the rubble
Remains on the shore like a naked
Body. Porters have descended
With their black canticles and the aroma
Of the voices burned like incense.
I clasped their hands one by one,
They were open and rugged hands.
Coarse hands of relentless men.
I will not explain the clamor of drums,
The clamor of the jungle when the blind
Traveller passes between the lindens
And the silence spreads out and never ends.
Circe, you recognize, you decipher
Enigmas and the color of the omen.
I always await the revelation.
I am among those who believe in magic.
I want to see the mask and pulp.
I scratch the bark and bite the stem.
I created you, Circe, and I don’t ignore you.
My drums follow you through the forest.
I ripped the eyes of thousands
Of slaves to ensure your steps.
I cut the hands I love most
And you take them with you and they protect
You from other blue and curved hands.
I left my friends footless
So you can walk better through the desert.
There is a chorus of voices repeating
Your name with their severed voices.
I’ve sown the jungle with idols
And burned the tribes and the bonfire
Rose in bronze, perpetuating
Your figure with its ardent clamor.
I have bitten the sexes of women
Like columns and the spasm
Raged in your image, it raged
Until the flesh exploded, mutilating itself.
Lion claws – their victims’
Blood still fresh – engrave
Your name in marble and guard
Your effigy in their murderous paws.
I carry on in this island whipped by typhoons
Chained to the sea when the waves
Crash against the dam, and I proclaim you.
I scream, until hoarse, your beloved name.
By Lisa Rosenberg
In a dusk of lavenders,
of an incomplete overpass
on three dark pillars
The space between
admits the sintered lights
of Los Angeles,
This could become
a future ruin
as mute or fertile
as the pieces of Rome.
brocade of belts,
Just the transverse ranges
and coastal cliffs.
No stone chateaux
to predate remnants
of clay presidios.
likeness in Venice?
fraught with light
below the streets’
of a graffiti’d lamppost.
And long monuments
in rock-bed, shifting
like the fictions
that claim us.
We rest in the shade
of imported flora.
The sky is a speechless,
and all our languages
to praise it are foreign.
The angels’ city
overflows into valleys
named for saints.
A renaissance novel
and gold: an island
to the right hand
of the Indies,
where a Queen Califía
sang to her tribes
highways or mines.