– 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
Read more "EMILY STRAUSS – A GRAIN OF DUST LIKE A PROMISE"
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.
In Winter Time
After a photograph by Juan Tituana
All afternoon looks like dusk.
Read more "Marianne Szlyk – In Winter Time"
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
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?
Read more "STEPHEN MEAD – CORNERS"
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?
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?
Read more "RYAN QUINN – NITROUS"
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
Read more "JERI THOMPSON – HOPING MAYBE"
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.
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
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
Read more "JACK FREEMAN – IBRAHIM"
We are the lost who have
innumerable and unnamed
stumbling over sharp rocks
searching for our long shadows.
Tracing darkness with
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.
Read more "JOAN MCNERNEY – THE SEARCH"