Julia Gerhardt – The Invisible Stranger

The Invisible Stranger

I love lying,

in my own bed,

with my hands

stretched above my head

and my fingers barely touch one another—

as if they are unfamiliar,

as if they are unknown to the rest of me.

And now it’s not just a touch, but a graze,

an affectionate line drawn onto one finger

by the other.

I wait.

The line ends

and becomes a hook,

an unwillingness to part;

a stage to go through,

a grief.

I don’t want to let go

of the unfamiliar hand,

lying next to mine

The invisible stranger,

I hope to see again.

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Alexus Erin – MAKING SANDWICHES

Making Sandwiches

Me & my brain are making sandwiches for the first time in years
& I remember
I like sourdough. I wonder
whose hands made the bread & if this cooking,

this creation, is a kind of holiness. My brain laughs.
We’re having a sleepover on a school night
& I wonder
whose mother authorized it

By the grace of God
I am with my brain
& by the grace of God,
this brain’s a scrappy one

Which is to say, she is still sprinting: I’m impressed-
she did a lot of math this month. I joke that
she looks like she’s here
to eff the party up.

Brain tells Body (my body’s here too)
The first rule
of any effective love practice
is to synthesize its thoughtwork

with its bodywork: “Classic
substance-presence query, honeybee,” she sighs
& I know
that sigh was for me

I tell them, “First rule
of the big city
is to mind ya own damn business.” My body sets up
a cot at the foot of my bed

Gingerly removes her stockings, that they won’t rip
& I know
mishandling must be a violence
in which the body keeps score. She, of all people,

must be keeping score- I could stand
to learn a thing or two from this inclination
of tenderness, alone
My mouth, every morning,

famously reaching,
rooting ‘round any regional iteration of the daylight
To inhale a verbose evidence
& then exhale, like

my photosynthesis must be scheduled
to kick in any day now
As though this were the only thing
I knew how to do

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Latha Kottapalli – An Ode to Black Gold

An Ode to Black Gold

Roots pulled from hiding

Soothe my soul like soup.

Into you, I empty their skins.

Crucifers crisped to crunch,

Laced with lemon, linger on my tongue.

Into you, I empty their stalks.

Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks

Greet my lips with kisses of meringue.

Into you, I empty their shells.

Coffee beans roasted to an aroma

Titillate my nose to chase the whiff.

Into you, I empty their grounds.

Drupes drooping from stems

Satiate my sweet tooth.

Into you, I empty their stones.

Autumn’s burst of hues,

A muse for my eyes.

Into you, I empty its leaf litter.

Into you, I empty all the refuse.

Off you stir and cook them to a new birth.

Lo and behold, Black Gold tumbles out.

Gold that crumbles to the touch.

Smells like the parched earth

When kissed by the first rain spells.

Gold that soaks up like a sponge, springs up

As the roots, stone fruits, and all that nourishes.

O Earth, your kindness knows no bounds.

 

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Douglas Collura – Her Third Date After a Twenty-Five Year Marriage

Her Third Date After a Twenty-Five Year Marriage

 

 

She says, “Look. The rain’s harder now.”

I say, “Yes, but the theater’s close.”

She thumbs a path across

her melting glass.

 

Her daughter in third-year law.

Her granddaughter a swan.

When did I say I believed

in anyone’s tomorrow?

 

Her cupped hands; lines

connect, curve, cross,

predict nothing. She stares

into the passing moment.

 

“I never thought I’d be this person,”

she says, “never this alone.

I’m afraid sometimes, though

it’s nice not to be second guessed.”

 

My bedroom a chaos of shadows.

She’s unsure what comes next.

Then her legs clamp my hips,

and her mouth finds my neck.

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MARC CARVER – CURTAIN TWITCHERS

CURTAIN TWITCHERS
As I run the day to begin it
the sun comes up and I want to get out before anybody sees me and sees I have used up my quota for the day.
I think I can go out the front way once and out the back way the other time and no one will see me. Maybe I can sneak out two or three times in a day before all the curtain twitchers see me.
It is only a matter of time before the have a hot line.
I saw him going out again twice yesterday and three times on Monday.
People

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Sal Marici – As We Wait for His Transport to Cremation

As We Wait for His Transport to Cremation

                      

George’s body lies in bed

mouth ajar. His skin

each minute turns

in a shade of white

paler than before.

 

In front of his grandpa’s corpse

grandson flips through tropical shirts.

The few items George’s daughter

did not pack for me

to take to Goodwill.

 

Grandson picks one. He pulls

his t-shirt over his head.

Slips his arms through sleeves.

When buttons fasten holes

birds, flowers align.

 

A friend of George

who has the same name

who influenced George’s poetry

wears a tropical shirt he selected

from the stack.

 

George would smile

if he could see them

wear him.

But he said no afterlife exists.

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John Dorroh – “It’s Probably More Than Colitis”

It’s Probably More Than Colitis”

I like a woman with a clean colon,

the way she starts telling stories

at the end

and works back toward the beginning,

expecting me to connect all the dots.

She takes her temperature every hour,

tells me the results, wants for me

to tie a knot with my swollen tongue

in her cherry

stem. The french kiss should have been

the second best clue

that we wouldn’t click, at least not like that.

I can cuddle like a fish with the best of them,

but sometimes we have to be satisfied

with a flag at half mast. You can always

use tulips to brighten the

room. We fidget in the clinic for an hour

before they call her name.

She refuses my hand, gives me an orange-lipped

piranha smile, and disappears into the

blue-white light.

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TIM STALEY – 2 GUZZLES 

2 GUZZLES ~ pronounced two ghazals

 

4.29.20

 

All this time I’ve been talking to myself:

meet me in the weightlessness between breath

 

The moon pouts and is unsure how to age

Which of our masks protects us from our thoughts? 

 

Eyeballs slither like the sliding glass door

heavy like shadows against the curtain

 

A fleck of gratefulness comes at what cost?

which one happens to correlate to you?

 

All my actions grease the slipping of time

as manufactured love crumples the foil

~

 

5.4.20

 

So a part of your blood I’ve already

fast forwarded your best intentions

 

Your family matters because they complain

but inches below the water they glow

 

The spilled milk is 14 billion years old

the space time continuum continues 

 

Like the Milky Way, be deliberate 

acknowledge the itch, but do it slowly

 

Yo! how much have you paid per square moment?!

My stomach is my own Magnum, P.I.

 

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Heather Sager – 2 POEMS

The Smokestacks of the Country

And my aunt, a farmer’s daughter,
did not live past 64.
And neither did her brother,
cancer-ridden also.
My farmer grandfather died, heartbroken,
a wheezing lung-diseased hunchback,
before aunt and uncle hit 40.

And the smokestacks of the country
still descend from below the clouds
to settle on the green hills
of the valley.
They puff invisibly, raining destructive chemicals
over the farms and people.
Puffing as they’ve always been
with the newest developments.

People in the neighboring valley,
too, have died.
From cancer of the brain
that afflicts dairy farmers
as well as the diseases
of the pancreas and lung
that affect them.

I lived on that farm.
After Grandpa lost it, Mom and Dad moved in.
A lynx once bit my brother
and the snows were wild
as the old farmhouse cellar was menacing.
Full of potatoes and the odd spiders, blasé-beige,
ball-shaped.
I thought the valleys so green
where I hiked for days and days
as clouds passed from one aisle of the sky
to another.
Little did I know
about the smokestack chemicals
hidden in the sky.
That truth
came out with the bodies, the funerals,
that sudden dismay.

I remember, too, the bees—
giant ones, with Homeric stingers—
and the nests, basketball sized,
humming in the idyllic trees
near the clear stream
where crayfish, perhaps,
still swim.

No, I am incorrect.
The chemical chimeras puff no more.
All the farms are dead.
The suburbs have expanded
and there is hardly any green left
to wander in. The chemicals have moved elsewhere,
into a craftier form.
The stream is paved over,
the field of mustard grass
blazed for new developments.

Was the wild ever really there,
or only in our hammering,
kept, dreaming hearts?

 

~

 

The Way

I neared bliss the way
coins
drop skyward from an open hand
I neared bliss
the way a gambler
lassos
his bartered pride
I neared bliss the way
airborne geese
circled your land
I neared bliss the way
your lips
touched mine

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John C. Krieg – The Bells of the Mission Santa Ysabel

The Bells of the Mission Santa Ysabel

The bells of

The Mission Santa Ysabel

Ring no more

To most parishioners still living

They never have rang in their lifetimes

Being stolen in 1925

The whereabouts of the bells are unknown

Yet it’s expected

That this was an inside job

And that the bells are holed up

Not very far away

Forgotten about in some old shed or barn

The parishioners pray

That this is true

That God will work a mid-level miracle

And see to the safe return of the bells

In 1700 Peter the Great

Of Russia

Melted down all of his homelands’

Church bells

To make cannons for warfare

They fired church bell cannon balls

Which killed people

Did they suffer a holy death

That granted them immediate entrance

Into the kingdom of Heaven

Was this the fate of the bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

The bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Have remained silent

As to their whereabouts

And to what they may be mixed-up in

The hostage syndrome

They identify with their captors

And don’t try to escape

Who would steal church bells

What kind of a low-life would do such a thing

You would think that they would feel guilty

Every time they heard a church bell ring

Wracked with inconsolable guilt

And with every ding-dong

That ever reached their ears

For the rest of their lives

Cringing on Sundays

At the noon day

At quitting time

The bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Ring no more

For us

But for their captors

They ring all the time

Clanging out “Thief, thief, thief!”

It must be tough to hold up

Under that kind of condemnation

God must have a hand in this

He keeps the thieves names on His black list

Nothing good could ever come of this

Those bells are surely missed

There’s only one way to escape eternal damnation

Bring back the bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Buy your way out of hell

God’s not buying what you have to sell

And one can never tell

When things will no longer go so well

Someday the bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Will chime in joyous rapture

Across the Santa Ysabel Valley

Summoning parishioners to appear

And perhaps shed some tears

Over the long-awaited return of the bells

God being in his Heaven

And all being right with the world

The bells

Of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Don’t ring currently

But even a blind man can see

That God will put an end to this travesty

He will solve the mystery

The bells of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Will once again clang loudly

Ding, dong

No longer gone

The bells of the Mission Santa Ysabel

Will clang loudly

Over the Santa Ysabel Valley

God being in His Heaven

And all being right with the world

Ding

Dong

Ding

Dong

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