ROBERT OKAJI – I DANCED WITH A PLATYPUS TWENTY YEARS BACK

Which is of course a metaphor pointing out

disparities in function and form, and the dangers

inherent in assumption: despite its cute appearance,

the male platypus delivers venom through an ankle

spur on a hind limb; samba with one at your own

peril. My friend wanted to build a catapult, but I

convinced him that trebuchets more efficiently

demolish walls. Instead, he experimented with atlatls,

before reverting to his favorite compound bow. The

fly swatter remains my weapon of choice, followed

closely by steel toe boots. I have yet to meet a scorpion

whose armor could withstand them, but I would never

stomp a platypus without first determining its intentions

and seeking mediation, perhaps through handwritten

correspondence. Pencils owe their origin to the lead

stylus, which eventually morphed into the wood-cased

graphite tool we now use. In his day, Thoreau was better

known for pencil-making than cabin-building. Arthritic

joints prevent me from writing by hand, but I saw lumber

when necessary. According to Ovid, Talos, nephew of

Daedalus, invented the saw, using either a fish jaw or spine

as the model. I look at my food before eating, but the

platypus dives with closed eyes, and locates meals by

detecting electric currents through its bill. In considering

form, I assume function. But we know what that means.

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JARED PEARCE – MY RESPONSE TO WHEN YOU ASKED HOW I SLEPT LAST NIGHT

You rolled and roiled like a deep thing,

a miniature whale or submarine,

a shark with ten thousand teeth,

the lighted jelly, pearl jammed

beneath, and spray and sway, disattached

like kelp wreaths. The tune you leak

swashes across your siren sigh

then grunts like the rock topped seal.

I cast out, but the pole don’t dip

then the oars can’t beat. The bilge

slime shines a blinding beam

so even the gull won’t come to eat.

The dinghy swirls and bangs the alarm

bell, mad to be further lost at sea.

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JOHN GRAY – I KNEW A WOMAN

I knew a woman in a wheelchair,

lived in a clapboard house,

with a lawn she somehow trimmed.

and a garden she kept well-tended.

And another had breast cancer.

She wrote letters to all her friends

in the brief nauseous pauses

between radiation treatments.

Another had five kids

and a husband who walked out

but somehow put food on their table

and a roof over their head.

Another got a degree in some branch of science

and the consensus of her male friends was that

“I didn’t know women went in for

 that sort of thing.”

Of course, there was the one

who was forever trying to hide

the bruises on her face with makeup,

stayed with her abuser.

And another who hated herself so much

she sat around the house all day,

getting fatter and fatter

so she could hate herself the more.

From the start, there was need for women.

And a physiology to go with it.

Life was incomplete. There was a vacuum.

And then all kinds started filling it.

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READING WINDOW NOW OPEN!

Word up. Yo.
Send us your best poems
because we want to
publish them.
Send us your naughty poems.
Send us your funny poems.
Send us your poems that the
Sewanee Review refused. 
Send us your poem with the word
“Doody” someplace in stanza 3. 
Send us your poem nobody
understands but it’s got sexy. 
Send us your poems because Cacti Fur
has been around for, like, 4 years
and that’s the longest
any poetry journal has ever lasted
in the history of poetry journals. 
Send us your poems because 
that’s what poets do. 

Here’s our submission guidelines.

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BITTERSWEET – ANDREW HUBBARD

Bittersweet

Now I know why so few people
Go to their high school reunions:
You just don’t know what you’re going to see,
And it can be a shock.

I had a few shocks, but not too bad
And then I saw the girl
That I had loved so hard
And wanted so badly
I didn’t even dare to sit near her,
And when we were paired up
In a biology lab
I never lifted my eyes
From my sacrificial frog.

Tonight our eyes met and she smiled.
I couldn’t move, but out of the realm
Of sheer impossibility she walked—
She floated—over to me,
Took my hand and didn’t let go.

We talked a little while,
I can’t remember any of the words
But her voice was just the same.

We got drinks and sat down.
She smiled again (my heart twisted)
And said, “Remember Doctor Cohen’s biology?
How he always smelled like formaldehyde?”

I added, “And how his shirt would pull out
When he reached up to write on the board.”

She tipped her head back and laughed,
Then looked at me seriously,
“I wanted to go out with you,” she said,
“But I was real shy back then,
I didn’t know how to get your attention.”

“You got my attention,” I said grimly
And my lips were numb.

“I wish we had dated,” she said.

“Is it too late?” I said.
I was trying for lightness
But it came out more like panting.

She laughed again, and said,
“Oh much too late.
I’m a grandmother.
And my husband had an accident:
He’s in a wheelchair
And needs me full time.
It took me a week
To get an LPN for tonight.”

Then our class president gave a speech,
There were some awards,
A benediction, and it was over.

“Can I walk you to your car?” I said.
“No,” she replied. “I still live here.
Small town.” One more smile,
(Was it wistful?) and she was gone.

For sure, I know why so few people
Go to their high school reunions.

JUNE 2019

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CALLING ALL POETS BORN IN NEW MEXICO

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Grandma Moses Press will be publishing a poetry anthology containing only poets born in New Mexico. Lots of writers call New Mexico home, but for this project, we’re only interested in poets who were born here.

If you were born in New Mexico (you don’t have to show us your papers), and you would like a shot at being included in this unique chapbook, please send up to 5 poems to: grandmamosespress@gmail.com

Your poems don’t have to be related to New Mexico, but if they are it will help your poem’s chances of being included in this anthology.

Of course we can’t offer you any money for your poems. If you want money for your poems please contact Penguin Publishing and take it up with them. They can be reached at 1-800-733-3000 between the hours of 8:30 AM and 6:30 PM Eastern.

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4 POEMS – DAVE SLAGLE

Forecast

Another rain prediction
while the alfalfa turns blue.
Hurricane moving toward Baja.
Fronts shifting.

I found more photos
showing what I missed.
But none of divorces
or the miscarriage
or the two bouts with lymphoma.
Just beautiful Marianna
with her smile owning
the light and everyone.

Albums arrayed as they were.
My worries now
from the future,
while I feel the tug
of an anchor’s rope.

Cardboard Box

I’m careful with the sides,
coming unglued,
and the warped shape,
water damaged and
no longer perfect.

It holds the twigs
that start my late fire
to which I add bigger wood
keeping the box well away
as flames absorb grief
venting into summer.

If only these feelings would
recycle back to those evenings
when we were teens in Tucson
smoking and talking
on the edge of change.

It was a time like this box,
in need of care.
And I left it out
in August rain.
Wet cardboard
never again smooth and virgin.

Shop Tree

A weather measure
comes from clouds
behind the big shop tree.
Where are they going?
Are they fast or heavy?

One has to stare
because today they are slow
and not going
yesterday’s way.
A soft mantras

calming and true.
Keep looking,
be patient,
and from distraction,
their new form

will carry you
into the future
the sweetness here now
the surprises
you’ll never guess.

Meteors

Would this meteor shower
make me cry?
Because it will be so beautiful
and really far away.

Finding some kleenex
in Marianna’s purse,
breathing in the closeness.
And remembering through decades

to a time, on my bicycle
riding home
after Marianna
and more than i deserved,
stunned by a celestial
streak that wouldn’t end.

Amazement light years away.
My bicycle noisy in desert dirt.
Elevating my heart
to an unfortunate level
I’d never forget.

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