The Speed of Light • Allan Peterson

Despite its reputation that nothing exceed it,
it lingers on the pond,
leaves only reluctantly from the nervous
silvery cottonwoods
gathered at the edge like a camping family.
But once vanished,
it stays out all night in another galaxy
leaving breadcrumbs to get back.
That's nothing.
I can be here one minute where the strings
of the driveway
are purposely united during daylight,
then to Jupiter and back
where one harebell starts the yard in its frenzy
of reexplaining.
What takes its place appears lovingly
like caressing a pet,
a Lab starting black and ending golden
as we float in our bodies
of blood and rubble so rich we'll hardly miss it,
a song at the end instead of a period

Not Mine to Remember • R.T. Castleberry

Beneath a low, country moon
the dying say their rosaries
in the shade of the Cathedral Constantine.
Their fingers slip the wooden beads like whispers.
I move between them,
steps echoed in marble, slate, cobblestone.
I don't know their fears-
when they came, why they lasted,
why they fall silent in the seconds
clouds conceal the streets.
Not a native son,
I'm the wrong listener.
I'm unmoved by each season here-
by intricacies of ceremony,
the strictures of public celebration.
Newspapers fill columns
with casino totals, racetrack results.
The poor are pictured as laughing crowds
in the Summer Garden cinema.
Market stalls are full.
Sleepless, smoking again
I track the dodging line of early runners,
the gloomy stride of schoolchildren.
Burdened by misdirection
and the mistakes of my arrival,
I miss what water misses.

The Truth • Amanda Dawkins

If I was given a dime
every time I looked into your smoky gray eyes,
wishing you were the tac in my toe,
my Nubian panther in the night,
serenading me with the low growl
of your jungle madness,
I could buy you the key
to my emerald city.
Imagine we were two leaves
on a sycamore tree on the corner of State and Maine,
becoming one as we fall with the seasons.
I’ve never felt as alive as I do now
- except when I’m dying in your arms,
wrapped in your down blanket,
buried in your scent.
You are the raindrops blasting on my window pain
- a testament to the stormy nature of our relations,
but the calm always comes soon after the storm.

A love poem
sways to its own rhythm,
throwing caution to the wind
of desire, escalating
to something indefinable,
something uncompromising,
something real.

The Stillness of Human Recollection • Suzanne Rindell

Everyone knows the picture of perfection
is lined with a thick layer
of blank ivory snow, and no sound.
Yet the textbooks say the white color
of snow is nothing but a series of reflections.
So this is my autopsy of transparency,
made flat under the knife.
For a time I was under the impression
that to write a poem, one’s heart was required
to be wrung and hemorrhaging,
clamped in a vice, blood running like
tears, or, in the least, other bodily fluids.
All the gore of an adolescent’s
prized wound. But instead,
I find the pacific relief of small truths
rising from winter’s quiet solitude like tiny bumps of Braille.
I think of your arrival and how tidy it was,
the single weathered suitcase whose contents
you dispatched in the quartered length of a single hour.
There is something pristine about this memory as
I seep in this vacuum of absent space and sound,
it is as if I am a forgotten teabag,
surrounded by ribbons of burgundy ink.
Like all things liquid, they’ll swirl and dissipate,
I know, but only if I move.

The Museum • Jessy Randall

Inside the grocery
go through the fruit section
and out the back door
there’s an enormous lake there
look, the leaves are red
in the store we couldn’t tell
here we’re above the city
There’s the museum
but look at this view
take a picture of it,
covering your eye
with the camera
The water is dark blue
like a cigarette ad
and it’s so quiet --
quiet enough for you to kiss me
Let’s take this path
I don’t know where it goes

Life Ever After • Samantha Salomon

One touch promise compromise
Overanalyze, does it, she does it
Wants whole, not parts of it
All prepackaged and tangible.
Served dark, given cold.
Some time now running through
Finish cover final hours
Smash
And now sitting in darkness.
Vengence sold and no one knew.
And the thirst drive any second
Take the fall,
Lose it all in instant gratitude
Flattery corruption uncanny
Arresting staged not in breathing blinking needing
But crumpling after
Backwards
Headfirst
Struggling
She's sleeping (blue).
Aftershock seeping in slowly dreaming
Advantage taken it seems
And all the while surface screaming
Pawns ready standing
Unshaken bathed in green

Skinhead with Tattoo • Arlene Ang

1.
It's a flower. Over lipids,
roses bloom into begonias.
The word Death goes around
his curve of arm with spatulate
thorns. We are alone in the room.

2.
Calipers. He has grown
sensitive to the clamp of hunger.
The back of his neck moves like
a newborn cub curled towards
its mother's breasts. I measure
him up, watch the waves
of goose pimples on his skin.

3.
Is there such a thing as
losing weight? The difference
between feather and hen is
the latter gets
sacrificed to absent gods.

4.
It is hard to explain love
to a skinhead. His motorbike
breaks down like a woman.
In the end, he prefers
the geraniums on his window sill.
Mosquitoes shun his flat.

5.
His father was never home.
I show him how to count calories
with a small scale. Day after day,
he comes back to ask the meaning
of slow release energy. Sometimes
he comes so close to taking my hand.

From the Beginning • Arlene Ang

I imagined a scene worth
noting down: the luggage
tagged for Paris,
tissue undoing mascara
from her lashes, perhaps
fourth of July fireworks.

She: on the back porch,
deaf to my words.

I pictured a taxi outside,
yellow as her sundress
when summer was barely
adolescent on grass.

Tonight she unlocked
the door, the runs in her
stockings like Dear John
letters. The color on
her cheeks made me think:
This is a blind date.

A woman's heels can strike
a clear Morse code
up the stairs.

I let myself out
the same way I came in.

Untitled • Simon Perchik

This flag, as the saying goes
smacks from the sun
so you salute, can use the shade

though by the time the parade cools
your fingers ache from holding up
a lovingly carved radio that once

was a woman whose voluptuous breasts
still feed you music from the forties
--love songs for common prayer

as if July, too heavy to bear
spreads out on every lawn
and by the 4th day you are listening

the way loneliness is fed, the Earth
turning you slowly on course
corrects for winds and nourishment.

Canvas • Victoria Schwab

The night sky became, a negative,
An inversion of day and yet as light.
Clouds luminous, played the part of stars,
Imposters shimmering and magnified,
The crystal foam of a different ocean
Than had ever been above.
Chalk against a charcoal canvas.

Waves that moved in steady motion,
So out of place became so right.
A painting given gift of life in hues
Much deeper than shades of gray,
Stood out against an ebony, of piano keys
Or ink. As if the clouds and sky were not of one,
But from different worlds, they sat
Staring down, attracted opposites they were,
That drew in eyes and wonderment.

All looked upon this masterpiece
That called itself the night,
Not night as you or I have ever known.
The sky the heavens see
When they rest weary eyes,
The sky that stories tell of in far off lands,
The very strands of life and faith
Weave themselves to form, what some would call,
The very art of God.

Mornings dawn and light breathes
Again sweet air and golden hue,
But none forget the masterpiece
Buried by time, so much alive in souls
In hearts and minds, that saw,
That shall remember, when clouds
Played the part of stars, when two worlds met
And danced together in the sky,
That called itself the night.

Solar System • Yvette Merton

Swimming pool of stars
in her eyes,
consumed with the architecture
of his face,
smooth geographies
of soft lines
chiseled craters
meteor landings,
canvas of worries
scriptures of history.

Trespassing thoughts
visiting the sun,
she left her garden,
growing her ivy
Retaining her walls
for cool constellations,
In her head...
planets align bringing
the summer solstice.

Dark Energy, Dark Matter • Eliza Kelley

Stars are no longer thought
to be tiny. Something
permeates imaginary
barriers, crushes
from within
carbon, the basis and building block
of life. It is Particulate
Energy, Einstein called
the Dark Constant, a quintessence
forcing galaxies
apart, accelerating bodies
forever toward
the big rip, bound
to tear through
planet, galaxy, Bethlehem
star stuff, crowded
caf├ęs, library doors, the back
of a green bus, exploding
cosmological
content, dark matter
that dwells
in the emptiest space between
pieces of iron, glass, heart. In grief
the bystander says
I felt blood on my head.
I saw terrible things.
I tried not to look.

And so
we, who misunderstand
gravity, rebuild razor wire
fences
no one dare say, recall
snow in summer, hollow
eyes, incalculable
ash, lice, typhus, trenches
around an approach
that never arrives, the severed
arm tattoo, intricate
lampshade number sequences
naming hourglass nebulae,
coiling a collapse
even light cannot escape.

Near the Poplars Drinking • Barry Ballard

No one will recognize my momentary
disturbance buried in the river's sinking
sand. The voice of my conscience wrestling
with itself will have already cleared
the walled-up porous sanctuary
of polished gray stones. The poplars drinking
from the edges of the mind confessing
will have already straightened from what they've heard.

Even the quiet silver pools, that once
held my questioning reflection, will have spilled
the envious sunlight inside me. (It fell
into the spillway rushing away.) And the hunt
of my footsteps all covered by the hard-shelled
remains of a life with wings, something fulfilled.

A Testament • Cy Dillon

In these last gray days of December
The brightest thing in the sky
Has been a trio of contrails
Thrown across the one unclouded corner of sunset

But Heraclitis’ fire still burns
Consuming and recreating all

In this season when fields stand naked
And trees lose their memory of leaves
I think I might extinguish the last coals of that fire
Live clean and empty
Desiring, above all, nothing

But even that is a desire
And wanting has always been my mentor
Steady and passionate
Real fire fed by seasoned ash and locust
Of my own cutting
Throwing erratic shadows
From the soapstone firebox
Into the darkened room
In the only house, after all,
I ever really wanted

The Permutations of the Word We • C.C. Russell

Used in context:

In the Big Horns, below the medicine wheel
flipping finished cigarette butts into my pocket. As we pitched
the tent, I rehearsed it silently. The 'we' I knew was coming
then,
though I didn't know how short of a time it would last.

Sex. Her on top of me, moving in slow, uncertain circles.
Her awkward stance, her fear of bodies.

And these memories come
back
to the one who passed
away
two years now.

The two of us in her bathtub, her breasts framed by soapsuds.
I moved towards her.

Waves.

One small body
of water
coming up
against another, both lost
in the wake left.

Phone Call, 3 a.m. • Amanda Auchter

He tells me that the rain
is lazy there, uneasy, unable

to make up its mind between
drizzle and downpour.

The ceiling fan stirs the humidity,
breaks the moonlight

on his walls. The shadows
are flat, enormous—

flutter of tissue, outline
of lampshade, black streak

of bedposts. He spreads
out his fingers, says that

if love was a reservoir,
we would collect nothing.

I hear the thunder and car alarms,
the quick burst

of static on the line, then silence.
Tonight, I sleep with the window open,

let the darkness fall into the gaps.

Vieux Carre • Jessica McMichael

Juxtaposed between the Mississippi and the swamp
is the beaded ulcer of the South’s stomach.

Where boys smear crimson gloss on their lips and
the girls slide past their teeth;
Where I owned the cobblestone and sludge in the gutters;
Where the river spills life from its sodden womb;
Where I ran through alleys and tasted the bitterness of adoration;
Where I saw the world through a virgin’s eyes and
wept at the beauty of the rusty, dusk dry sky.

Nestled inside New Orleans, a pomegranate tree whose fruit is
decaying on the branch, spilling nectar from corroded skin.

Where incense is burned from doorways
and velvet is draped from balconies;
Where I put my hands in gloves to keep them warm;
Where the blood that’s spilt is washed away by dawn;
Where names written in cement and bathroom wall graffiti
are more precious than literature found on shelves.

Vieux Carre - a desolate wasteland of angels and masks, of
morbid splendor, left in my mouth the taste of rotten wine
and empty bottles for my eyes.

Fortune Cookies For the 21st Century • Perri Gaittens

The heart, that unimportant town you must avoid
to get somewhere else more efficiently. Don’t follow it.
It is a Sunday driver at best.

The devil knows all your phone numbers.
They are legion.

On the freeway, don’t leave any empty space.
Why should you waste our resources like that?

If you are calling about the American Dream, press 1.
All other inquiries, remain on the line.

Rainstorm • Mike Beyer

It was us
now me

slamming the door on an
old red car shut

on a black and
deep empty road.

White rain sheets
pound incessantly

swelling brown puddles
along the roadside.

I’ve placed
my things in a bag

and locked
them in the trunk.

I turn and face
the thrashing

trees and the
emptiness

and leave it
all behind.

Destination:
neon lights

Boy Meets Girl • Rich Murphy

His vanity requires no response
and breaks a woman’s mirror:
One woman, hardly aware
of her departed lover, slips

into her make up, whereupon
a second accepts the acting life.
For Hollywood off Broadway,
she donates body parts to the poverty

of a man’s senses of self. A great
nothing blows her skirt up, and she
embeds her feet into the cement
of her shadow. With his boar’s head

pelvis and oyster in hand like his neighbor,
Mr. Fillmore, buries himself in toys
leaving behind a pile of Mimi scouring
the shallow years for a woman.

Topography • Cathy Barber

We each have a topography
that defines us and therefore suits us.
Mine is the shale covered hills
of northeast Ohio. Delicate woods.
Deciduous trees. Fallow fields.
Mud and rising creek beds.
Country homes one hundred feet or more
from the road lined with roughly cut wood fences.
The space expansive.

In town, Rockefeller mansions,
yards sloping down from house to street,
tree lawns interjected with oaks and maples.
Front porches. Wide streets.
Air that dries your skin to cracking in winter
and soaks your clothes in lazying summer heat.
Puddles of storm water and oil.
A feel. A sound. A look.
All else I measure by these things.

Trans-Atlantic Blues • Carol Borzyskowski

Cerulean in the bathroom, cobalt in the kitchen:
Kobold is my daughter’s cat and I am blue
because she is worried, and lives eight thousand
miles away. Miles we try to erase by email or phone
lacking the tactile reassurance of family touch.
My daughter has incredible skin: warm and buttery, plush
velvet; but she doesn’t like to be stroked.

Vienna is gray in winter, but colored sky-blue
in memory. She waves at me from a window
holding her own daughter. Their laughter floats down
to the street, gathering in her husband’s blue eyes.
He unpacks the car and I wave back.
Slate buildings streaked in soot offer protection
turquoise eyed lions guard the door.

Here in Minnesota, home is protected by wild peacocks
whose screeches echo my thoughts as I watch
the cursor out beating its version of the blues
on my computer screen. Plans and heartbeats
sometimes end in a fine mist of red
between the legs and I am sorry my love.

Asthenia • Cathy Barber

The languorous Mojave,
the equatorial latitudes of summer
in my own ivied yard.
I bake. My skull burns, I
am sawdust in the heat
and speak of comfort to all who will listen;
water, shade, breeze,
not tropics, no heat wave, no summer’s oven.
I was not made for this, me
of pallid skin and pale eyes.
I want an aura of protection,
a penumbra to shelter me,
a cottage of cool around my form,
longing to be incorporeal ‘til winter.

Turning to Salt • Penny Freeland

I imagine you in the pubs:
wide lapelled suits,
pant legs falling around your shoes,

accent thick as your dark hair,
carrying a black and white of Mama.

I went to your funeral,
bangs cut straight, new dress.
Mama said your family had to see I was cared for,
your sister checked my underwear for holes.

Flowers and flags, tears,
incense and chanting.
I threw up in the car on the way to Pinelawn,
you rode in a box just ahead.

I returned to second-grade,
the day before Halloween,
to boys in skeleton costumes.

Mama cried, barely spoke for a year,
lighting candles near a make-shift altar.

When she wasn’t looking,
I’d sniff your overcoats
and put my hands in the pockets.

Choking On Ice • Renee Miller

tough luck college drove me mad and manic
cinched me scared spent nights on the prowl

twice I lost balance head swam in chaos
plummeted into pavement hard iced-up path
frost scraped under shiny fingernails like glass

midnight cocktails clumsy sad gestures
least unattractive will do for sweat heat music
flummox the kissing and touching with meaning

air clogs my throat I am choking neck jilted
foam from my lips limbs blundering stupid
lavender neck spots fresh from the hanging

Salt #1 • Suzanne Rindell

Everybody knows
the Thames has tides
he’d said,
when I inquired about the lines.
Increments of demarcation
twined around the bulwarks,
blackened rings and at the top
something else maybe – something
lighter, salt stains maybe?

Primrose Hill:
A quieter corner of London.
Babies arriving in hospitals
overlooking the Heath.
Somewhere from a tiny window
— my face. I looked too, thoughts
of freshly burst skin, pressed through
the glass, all the while he pressed himself
inside me. You like this
Don’t you he’d said.
As if I had been given
an honest decision to make.

He showed me his new coat:
It’s shearling,
the latest thing.
Bought it in the vintage shop.
Shearling, I thought.
And pictured the trusting
lamb standing quietly;
not flinching.
The hide flayed away, snipped
thickly from its frame – still
alive. And later, a silent chalk,
salt and iron left on the alter to dry;
the dusky brown skeletal outlines
of flower petals bursting forth
in patterns of irregular bloom.

Watching Her Dress/Vernal Equinox • Michael Palmer

She rises from bed, a pale-kneed woman
with capable thighs, and walks barefoot
into sunlight.

She bends like a willow over clothes:
layered pants and sweaters,
gloves and galoshes.

She’s looking for her things-
small garments to relieve buds,
smooth apparel to veil the soft spots.

Male voyeur, I linger in bed,
a thick comforter heavy with sun
on my chest.

I call to her,
but already she’s dressed and standing,
a season in short sleeves,

amazed at what seems to be
her first sunrise.

My and Van Gogh's Secret • Shana Nicholson

Hidden away in a patch of cobalt sky
one stray bristle, off the paintbrush of an
impassioned hand of a man too
enraptured to notice, lies silent.

We snicker behind the backs of the grizzled
critics as they puff and pontificate over
manufactured questions
of brush strokes and composition.

God is in the chaos of the blood
red drip left lingering in the midst of
a haystack in the frenzied moment capturing the
sunlight on a blade of grass at 6:52 p.m.

As the assembly line patrons file through
discussing the ear incident,
we roll our eyes then cover our mouths and stifle
a giggle

as he gently elbows me and points at the rogue,
orange beard hair thoughtfully
tucked inside the
glowing swirl of a starry night.

In Lacombe, Louisiana • Louis E. Bourgeois

Mother is at the window
calling me from a distance
of twenty years.
Her squirrel stew is still on the stove.
Carrots and purple onions drift
along the October wind.

My step-father burns
every stump in the yard
with every tire he can find.
His stomach still flat
his beard pure red.
He's waiting for the pipeline
to blow up the front yard.
One day it will.

My brother in the road --
he plays with a plastic toy --
a tow-headed boy with capped teeth.
He'll grow up vicious and fine;
many women will know him.
He'll die in some mine-shaft
leaving behind children
enough to carry his name.

I'm out there too, walking
a swamp-ridge and carrying
a single-shot twelve-gauge.
There's blood on my face: mosquitoes.
I'm out there shaking and sweating
with only half a father
and half a brother
and no mother to speak of.
I stop and listen to her voice
drifting from a long way off.

Sunrise at the Apex • Michael Palmer

Here, too, you will find the breaking
of shadows, unearthing of earth at start
of the day.

One bird will call to another, and
this hearth will blossom, slow
and languid.

Here, too, morning smells fresh,
bright minted coins in memory’s cup.
Things will pass here as elsewhere they pass:

a day clears its throat, the yellow-light yawn-
an uncupping of leaves
after rain.

At Home in the Twenty-first Century • Louis E. Bourgeois

The same azaleas
bloom along the ditch.

The live oak in
the front yard still
touches the ground
with its dark branches.

Crows fly in the
same sky chasing
the same hawks.

Carp still feed
on the green minnows
in the shallow pond
in the backyard.

The dust keeps
drifting in the air.

The same wind keeps
blowing through the pines.