EMILY STRAUSS – A GRAIN OF DUST LIKE A PROMISE

– a grain of dust like a promise

outside the barred windows
high up on the walls
light and life reigned
a dust mote blew free
in the sunshine
that couldn’t penetrate
the smoky interior

the cattle cars were cold
but somehow acceptable
at least they could smell
the abandoned stations
they passed always at night
in an unknown land

the train rattled on
doors kept locked
guards banging outside
a distant gunshot woke
the babies, whimpering

grains of dust from the straw
floated above them,
promises grew fainter
as the train pressed on
dust mixed with dry skin,
cotton threads, hair

there were no promises
as they arrived at the gates
the dust released when the guards
slid open the cattle chutes,
the families stumbled out
captives of the soot.

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Marianne Szlyk – In Winter Time

In Winter Time
After a photograph by Juan Tituana

All afternoon looks like dusk.
Weak, white sun blinks through
gauzy clouds and bare branches.
Branches twist, trying to grasp
the sun’s last light. Lamps
offer theirs far too soon.
Coming from overheated rooms,
the last pedestrians bundle up
and imagine themselves further north
where sunset begins in the morning.
They long for arctic cities
where darkness lasts all day.
They ignore uptown’s crowded streets
hung with green and silver tinsel
that dances in the wind,
shivering, knowing that Christmas is
over already.

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STEPHEN MEAD – CORNERS

Corners

I like to imagine not having them,
maybe finding myself in the country,
a ranch hand’s kid who really believes.
I saw it all once on film:
up at dawn tossing hay, carrying pails,
riding flats toward hills wide as far
can exist without sirens,
those usual howling squares.

Yea, that’s the picture I used to hold
while under some strange man, waiting out
the performance in a farm large as Coney
before the hurting would begin & I learned
to coat it, changing my face
to a new line:
“Hey, got the time Mister?”

Sooner than forever it was all over.
I kept eyes on the bed stand’s lamp
& bolted another drink, chinks
of what was happening only a numbing
kind of rush
no match for the stallion-carousel
bright & far away…

Then it turned into a turnpike,
this corner, that,
picking up streams of green paper, cash, fast hands,
ragged breath & more & more concrete.
Now I make sure to only do it in the dark,
keeping my gaze off headlights, off neon,
& I’m afraid to have dreams,
for what if the stables are just a different district
with the stalls all ready &, even there,

this will still be my life?

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RYAN QUINN – NITROUS

Nitrous

Can of nitrous, what is so funny?
Laying on the floor on your side
like a toppled statue.
Beside all your friends.
Yes, I have socks on my feet,
they are wool because it is cold.
Why are you laughing, can of nitrous?
The furniture may all be second hand,
but it’s paid for.
There is food in the fridge, and therefore
a lot less to worry about.
My father said I could be anything
I wanted to be, but he was an accountant.
Do you think he always wanted to
be an accountant?
Me neither.
I really have to clean these windows,
you can barely see out of them.
I think I will paint a picture of a bowl of fruit.
Why are you laughing?

 

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JERI THOMPSON – HOPING MAYBE

Hoping Maybe

They always said “Maybe” when they didn’t want to
take my brother and me to Knott’s Berry Farm,
Ringling Brother’s Circus, Disneyland, Marineland.

Then there was Mackinac Island in Michigan.
Our visit, full of grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts.
They had all been to Mackinac Island.
We asked if we could go this visit, this trip, this time, this place

Mackinac Island. My mother would talk of going there as a girl
where she saw a Pyranha fish in a tank, ate
cotton candy then puked on the next
directionally confused roller coaster going just the right speed.
I got to watch the Banana Split’s Show while pouting
when “Maybe” waved as it passed us on the calendar, as
days fell away too quickly in Michigan. My heart was broken
many times by disappointments from maybes.

My mother didn’t want to say “No,” yet wanted
us to “shut the hell up.” Everyone’s parents mess their kids up
and even as a kid I knew “I’m sorry, no” is easier than another “Maybe.”
“Maybe” taught us hope is a four letter word.
“Hope” taught us not to count on her because she lies.

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JACK FREEMAN – IBRAHIM

Ibrahim

 

Go past the doorway—

past the knitter’s frame,

and the farmer’s wife,

naked in the sod

as if draped in linen—

walk on, into

the dunes, into out-

croppings cut by

ice, into a basin

of dark knots and

ribbons— an oasis

without water (palm

trunks flaking, scalped

dates scattered, half-

buried like scarabs)—

return to the port,

to the foreign stores

peddling screens,

scraps of lithium,

and plastic zip-ties—

place your prayer

rug under your bed,

your prayer book

under your pillow—

on your side, trace

the minaret with

your thumb.

 

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JOAN MCNERNEY – THE SEARCH

The Search

 

We are the lost who have

climbed hillsides…gathering

innumerable and unnamed

stumbling over sharp rocks

searching for our long shadows.

 

Tracing darkness with

vagrant fingertips

tasting the disdain of dust

we are long shadows

moaning with open mouths.

 

 

Eating bitter food grown

on the wrong side of this moon

our hearts caged in fear

fearing we have been cast off

fearing we have no destination.

 

 

Sands burning our feet

whipping our unnamed faces

we are long shadows crossing

this desert longing for

an end to our thirst.

 

 

We are losing our shadows

entering empty caves

now listening for echoes

now finding wells of memories

innumerable and unnamed.

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