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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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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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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HOLLY DAY – BLUE CAR

Blue Car

The car appeared outside the house, as if by magic

dropped from the sky into a pile of snow, tire tracks obliterated by fresh snow.

A sleeping bag blocked the back window completely, candy wrappers

could be seen on the front seat.

After a couple of days, my neighbor came over and asked me if it was my car

if I wouldn’t mind moving it so that her nephew could park there. I told her

how the car had just appeared in that spot, and that I didn’t think anyone

had come back for it since its arrival, although

I thought I saw a couple of people sitting in the front seat very late the night before

hands frantically moving in the dim overhead light

but it may have been a dream.

A week or so later, a tow truck came and got the car, probably called by my neighbor

the one who came over or perhaps a different one entirely

the spot where the car had been parked was black and green with oil and antifreeze

dirty snow and a couple of smashed beer cans. I watched the car get pulled

backwards down the street, waited for a door to fling open angrily

in the car or in a neighboring house, but no one came out after the car

no one chased the truck frantically down the street.

 

 

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Michael Lee Johnson – OPEN EYES LAID BACK

Open Eyes Laid Back

 

Open eyes, black-eyed peas,

laid back busy lives,

consuming our hours,

handheld devices

grocery store

“which can Jolly Green Giant peas,

alternatives,

darling, to bring home tonight-

these aisles of decisions.”

Mind gap:

“Before long apps

will be wiping our butts

and we, others, our children

will not notice.”

No worries, outer space,

an app for horoscope, astrology

a co-pilot to keep our cold feet

tucked in.

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ELAINE WEBSTER – BORDERLINE

Borderline

 

Quiet along the border,

Stars and moon reflect on water,

Who would have guessed the effect Power had,

On woman, man, and beast?

 

Six hundred fifty miles,

Not long enough to stop the mix,

Of peoples, of places, of life.

Must build stronger and longer,

Wider and higher until the heavens can’t see,

The love of a boy and girl,

Divided at the Borderline.

 

Katrina learned early to be silent,

When asked about family.

She joked about her father wolf,

Uncle coyote and mother earth.

Shy smiles and giggles hid the fears,

That invaded her nighttime dreams.

 

Dash worked cattle and lived to ranch.

He’d seen them take the water,

From here and put it there.

The Power knew nothing

Of natural flows and the thirst,

The thirst of creation.

 

“Buenos Dias,” she said one morning,

To a pickup and a cowboy hat.

Kat knew better than to smile big,

The way he did, with such swag.

 

“Good morning,” he boasted,

Chest out and head high.

“Dash and Kat have a good ring,

Don’t you know?”

They met at sunset in a cabin,

In the shade of the Borderline.

The morning brought a sense of place.

Kat spied a wolf couple and two pups,

Through the pane-less window.

“Dash, that will be us,” she whispered.

“Kat, then let it be,” he answered.

 

Bingo came under a full moon,

His eyes filled with shooting stars.

No wonder he grew so tall,

So fast; to see beyond the Borderline.

 

The night the ICE-men came for Kat,

Dash and Bingo had no choice.

They stood back as the van took their own,

And howled in despair.

 

Soon many joined the pack,

Peering through the wall of fences.

At the Borderline both sides ran the gamut,

Back and forth in emotional and physical despair.

 

The wall extended further,

By the decree of Power.

Families divided—couldn’t get through.

Except to touch snouts or fingers,

Before the Borderline militia threatened,

With freedom denied or death.

 

“There have been walls like this,

Built to deny and control,” said Dash.

“Yes, I know and they did not last,” Bingo pondered,

With the strategy bouncing in his head.

“We will bring Kat and Los Lobos home,

On the next full moon.”

 

The Power ordered a cover-up,

Of how a Dreamer could be deported.

Kat faced the Press from her refuge,

In the church near the Borderline.

She could see the wall of fences,

From the pain-filled window of her soul.

 

Dash and Bingo gambled all they had,

To spread the word of wrongs to be righted.

Their travels took them places,

Where anyone would listen to the pleas of families divided.

No one knows how it happened,

How a Wolf Pack and a Mujer came to Power.

The Press swarmed the White House lawn,

To report the confrontation between Ruler and Ruled.

Bingo led the Mass of People—

Until they filled the World with new understanding.

He stood tall and saw Beyond the Borderline.

~

Find Elaine online here. 

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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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JAMES P. ROBERTS – 3 POEMS

FLOW POETRY IN HUE, VIETNAM

                                                        for Adam

You speak to your ancestors
lying in shallow graves
mulched over by jungle.

You speak to alligators
and elephants, creatures
life spans longer than yours.

You speak to huddled mothers,
black-eyed babies who utter
never a word or cry.

You speak to bamboo winds,
hollow temples, dynasties fallen
and long forgotten.

You speak to fog-shrouded mountains,
roiling muddy Mekong River,
a black market dog tag.

You speak to rows of mildewed books
in a dozen languages, histories
yearning to be heard.

The raucous birds speak to you:
Go back home or we will use your dreads
to feather our lonely nests.

AND IF PAIN BECOMES A POEM . . .

I am full of poetry.
Poetry screams from every pore of my body.

My right ankle cracks poems so loudly
a microphone twenty feet away picks up the sound.

My left elbow tightens hard enough
I cannot bend it to write a poem without a rough

shake. Electric pings course through my chest,
irregular rhythms, like free verse, thrum inside a fat breast.

(man tits . . . the worst kind of poetic pain!)
Clumsy fingers struggle to write a refrain.

Dimming eyes spill tears, these inky words,
bright flashes of images vanish, go unheard.

Yes, I could continue this medical literary litany
and if pain becomes a true poem, I will die saintly.

COWARDS

I see them on the news.
The scary people.
The scared people.
The people who think of nothing
but themselves.
Who watch as the chaos mounts.
The people who have built
their survival tombs,
stocked with enough food and ammunition
to last as long as necessary . . . until
the last not-one-of-us has fallen
and they can come out again.
These are the cowards.
The true cowards,
for they have the means to change
the situation,
to take charge
and avert the damnation.
But they won’t.
Because they are hollow.
They are too selfish.
They are too scared.
It is their own fear
that will doom them.
They will become nothing
but shadows
wandering
a destroyed land.

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