TOM MONTAG – from “The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

from “The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

As if to split
the world

say: this is
a real chair;

that is a
painting

of a chair
and of a

woman.
Say: I am

here, before
that which is

not here,
except in

color and
line and play

of light. Say:
that light

touching her
breast is not

real light. Say:
that breast is

not real flesh.

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JOHN GREY – 2 POEMS

THE TRUNK

I nudge aside some old poems

to get at the real poetry:

love letters from a former flame.

I’ve no idea why I’ve kept them

only that I’m a hoarder,

even of affection.

 

There’s something of nostalgia

to them,

like the Marvel comics

in very good condition,

or the copy of Sports Illustrated

with Larry Bird on the cover,

celebrating a championship.

 

The writing is neat,

the passion likewise,

nothing, I’m sure,

like the long-trashed missives

I sent in response.

Reading between lines is called for.

But, to be honest,

I find more neatness,

only it’s invisible.

 

From memory,

there was no great passion

between the two of us.

It’s what comes of listening to Yes together.

And decking ourselves out

in bell-bottoms.

But they’re part of history.

And, to my mind,

must be preserved.

 

But I throw in a few

more useless items,

bury those letters deeper

going forward.

It’s enough to know they’re there.

No place else would have them.

 

~

 

THE CIGARETTE LONG AFTER

A double downer:

I feel dirty as soot,

sheets smell like dumpster fires.

 

And here,

on a motel side table,

one cigarette burns a long, neglected ash.

No need to smoke it.

 

This room’s like a cigarette

with me cocooned inside it.

You and I shared this roadside hideaway.

Years ago.

Before there were flat-screen TV’s.

Before there was flat anything.

 

Now I lie on a lumpy mattress.

staring up at the nicotine-stained ceiling.

 

My teeth grind the grit

of what was once desire.

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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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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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R.T. CASTLEBERRY – 2 POEMS

IMPRESSIONS OF THE SICK HOUSE

I watch in the world,
amused by massacre and gin,
homeland walls, holiday wars.
Viewed from the barred gate
darkened surveillance cars prowl,
aimless under winter afternoon skies.
Cold weather tramps straggle past
construction generators, pavement gaps,
work order water leaks.
I take into consideration
the symbolic and the sin.
I deny memories useless to me—
week-long binges, wives I’ve cheated with.
Unsettled by panic attack, I leave
a dark bedroom for couch and cable tv.
Lessons located in news video,
detention gangs scour migrant dives,
mercados, work warehouse.
I look away, watch the ceiling fan
swirl shadow circles on the blinds.
In jeans, a Steely Dan tour tee shirt,
almost ready for silence,
I allow days clear of music.

 

~

 

SLIVERS
After Creeley’s The Flower
 
I think I layer tensions
like bottles shattered
in ditches the thirsty
refugee hides.
 
Each faulting gesture
blocks breath,
catches in my chest,
cracks knees in a fall.
 
Tension is a wasting blade
It slices that one
and that one
and that one.
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LANCE GAMBRELL – THERE IS STILL TIME

There Is Still Time

There is still time, to park at Marc and Vic’s.

I don’t care what they say, I love summer best, in Las Cruces. Better yet, stop the time machine at Tim and Suzanne‘s, in the summer of dub.

Half of my friends, work for a shitty local pizza chain. The others work for the dream machine called academia. Arguing about another Pablo Neruda poem. And the value of locally sourced Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I wake up due to declining levels of ABV.

Lucas is about to go to work because we’re done poking his Suzuki 50cc belly. But, I’ll be back, for dollar lunch, and my first class at 11:30, still AM.

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MILES LISS – 2 POEMS

Aliens

On this mountain,

we built likenesses of ourselves

as human beings.

We sent them down to the valley to mingle

with the townspeople.

We went to Dairy Queen, ordered

a Blizzard, bought Megadeth

at the music store, and visited Army gun shows

that exhibited tanks and other

war machines.

We pretended

to be one of them, for this and only this

made them happy.

We walked into banks

instead of robbing them.

We took out accounts in fake American names

and sipped free cucumber water.

We went to the movies

with customers

carrying tubs of popcorn and 22 liters

of Coke, and pretended we were beautiful

for two hours.

As we rode back up the mountain,

the radio played a country song

about football, pick-up trucks and rebel flags.

We were made to understand these things

meant home.

An SUV drove across from us, with

an American family. In the front,

a husband and wife took a look

at us. I tried to read the husband’s lips.

I’m pretty sure he was saying, “Stay

away from our borders.”

In the back, a little freckle-faced boy

with a coonskin cap fired a pellet gun

at his kid sister—imagined killing her.

~

Monuments

The Washington Monument

shoots up at night like a giant rocket ship to the moon.

The Lincoln Memorial glows majestically.

Dead Presidents stare out through stone eyes,

their heroic expressions rendered masterfully.

Arlington Cemetery overflows

with soldiers who died in their honor.

Rats in subway grates

raid garbage bins for half-eaten Chipotle burritos.

Tourists walk past homeless men

whose hands are swollen

like catcher’s mitts.

A new Whole Foods opens around the corner.

Liquor stores sell lottery tickets

and menthol cigarettes.

At Five Guys, a family huddles

over burgers and Cajun fries, peanut shells on the floor

swept away by Central American teenagers.

Their pimply-faced son

watches the teens work while he chews.

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JOHN TUSTIN – SHOWER, SHAMPOO, SHAVE, SHIT

SHOWER, SHAMPOO, SHAVE AND SHIT

So I was drunk

And the big storm was coming

And I decided I wanted to hear Luke the Drifter.

I get up after a few songs and the darkness has fallen already.

It goes from light to dark in the time it takes

To shower, shampoo, shave and shit

In this place.

Luke gives way to The Stanley Brothers,

The Louvin Brothers.

The night will end with Bob Dylan telling me

The levee’s gonna break.

I look out my window and see nothing but calm,

Darkness.

The storm is coming. Or it’s not.

I can only wait.

Whatever happens,

Be it cleansing or drowning

Or nothing at all.

Let it happen.

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