John Grey


There’s no true return.
What survives is what my grandfather
couldn’t imagine.
I can hear his words but the sea of leaves
is a rain-squall of rooftops,
the glorious and rich are slate red and brown.
The grass is cut level with the toes
and, where it’s not, it’s a target for trash.
Stand here, he said, and watch the sweeping
elm like the skirts of a giant debutante,
the oaks, tall and splendid,
the true American royalty.
And the maple of course, and the linden,
their upper branches woven together,
one huge bed of green
for the sun to recline as
clouds thicken with jealousy.
I speak his words and I describe a vanishing,
a distance the size of a tear,
I can hear him describe even the lesser foliage
with a rough delight,
the parsimonious birch, the wall-flower aspen,
modest nut-woods lauded over
by brute bragging pines.
Now, the conversation is between
myself and ghosts
or white picket fences,
malls and huge pipes
tree-tall underground.
A tiny stream remains,
cuts through a series of backyards,
like a chip of marble from an old monument.
A leaf floats atop the water,
spiraling off in a direction,
south by its reckoning,
nowhere by mine.

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Gary Langford

Earth’s Torso

Ancestors are embedded in the earth’s torso.
Buildings break up as tiny ideologies,
tremor dust, gas thoughts, fire esteem.
Blame is on the seat. We talk endlessly.
Ghostly years drift by in a stream.
Earth is on the the universe’s smallest hair.
In the wind of those who know little, lie.
Towns slide into history, cities a nightmare.
of the earth’s war. Truth is at the table,
chuckling in disbelief. We are oddly linked,
to music, crooning in the earth’s arms.
We shiver, unable to shake laughter.
We are small children in love with the earth’s foot.
Knowledge is drought. We are trodden on.

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Timothy M. Perez

as if he had power over certain elements

they banged like prisoners on the iron
door yelling for you.

but you hardly hear—anymore. so you put
your good ear to the ground like the Native

you wish you were. your oldest boy behind
you rattling deep pockets of change.

and my children continued to clang and bang
on the bars calling you.

your daughter-in-law cracking open the door
so you could see the face of your granddaughter—

her eyes shining like small coins in dry grass.
and you called her by a name you wish she had.

and your older boy began to shuffle heavily from
foot to foot calling storm clouds—

as if he had power over certain elements.

and when the sun began beating harder you
watched him throw a tantrum, making thunder

bleed from knuckles he cracked himself
by the force of his very own nature.

my daughter giggling at the ruckus. my boys
now chanting,

and you began to knock your head side to side to loosen
the river of tears sloshing around behind your eyes.

and my boys continued to chant in short low whispers:
in a tone too deafening for anyone to ever endure.

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Laura Sobbott Ross

Ghosts Don’t Go to the Beach
It’s not a place meant for séances,
the dunes too slippery for hauntings.
Wind already ethereal

in fronds and sea grasses.
The sand, a sterile energy field

of dissipating heat, and we know
how the dead despise chimes and chants—

the pure white note of redundancy,
the same the same the same
rote echo of saltwater grinding

the shore. All spackle and hum,
nothing static enough to possess. Yes, this

rearranging topography is already a reckoning

point between continuums, an edge
that roils and drifts
across an erasable tracery. Listen.

Even the occasional
egg-smooth hollows of shell

are cupping their own thin hisses.

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Alan Britt

1:32 AM

The clock’s toucan blue chimes fall through the cracks
of centuries.

Anthropologists in loose fitting khaki trousers
once declared the cuckoo clock
hanging above my grandfather’s stone fireplace
in Tampa, Florida,
the Messiah,
or else a walnut-striped dragonfly
navigating the reeds of human intelligence;
I can’t be sure, now.

But, tonight, as I enter a new dream,
blood smeared across the kitchen clock’s maple shoulders
muffles my screams.

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They will sleep there, kept down
as if your arms are alongside
falling back and you gag

the way each breath is dried
with washrags and mops
and this towel’s not the same, it’s

too huge and the Earth
is forever covered with snow
left for later –you lag behind

almost in whispers
in ice along roots and rivers
no longer holding on

or falling between, caressed
–your arms are enough, they
don’t close anymore.

Not yet finished melting :the sun
–you can hear its sea struggling
spilling over though each morning

it comes from behind now
brushes against this cemetery gate
that’s still shining, floating past

–to this day you go home
the back way –you don’t see
your reflection or the ground

face to face with shoreline
–what you hear are waves: one hand
reaching for another and in the dark

you let your fingers unfold end over end
then close, gather in these fountains
as if they belong one side then another

are nearly too much stone –here
where this gate is filling its lungs
and you tearing it in two.

Again The Times, spread-eagle
the way these subway doors
once were waves opening out

as the faint wings beating now
between your arms and the track
–a dark, single thread

pulls this sea under
though on the bottom
you can’t be sure it’s morning

or two shorelines, side by side
crawling into that slow, climbing turn
half sand, half you never get used to

–page over page
covered with weeds :feathers
from a long way off –you can touch

their darkness :words still dangerous
circling with seabirds :your eyes
don’t want you, are closed.

Lower and lower this fan
smells from stone and the ice
broken off your forehead

still in the same, tight turn
holding on, almost back –you stare
even with sunglasses, the ones

you wear at funerals, cooled
the way this small room
has already started as snow

not yet the invisible arm in arm
louder and louder overhead
without a trace and no place to go

to harden, take hold, darken
let its wings down, close
your eyes and the ceiling.

Appearing and disappearing, this gate
you wave between one hand
after the other and doves on cue

break through the way each flourish
opens midair, is helped along
clearing the rooftops, palms up

–on your back as the aimless path
that has such low windows
–from nowhere, no longer white

each stone is closing its wings
letting go the sky, the graves
and just as suddenly your shoulders.

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Zach Klemann

The House

We raced through the halls,
down the stairs and back up,
frames of old, bearded men
and little, long passed girls
staring as we went.
I found you in the kitchen

Shuffling up a moonlit staircase
sleeping among the tan boxes
their shadows gliding
across white walls and me,
wild-eyed child losing
the hours to fleeting thoughts
of grandeur.

Mother’s calling through secret doors
looking for us with our bags
filled with the dirt and weeds
we wanted to take with us;
filling our pockets with carpet
they found us hiding in the closet
with our eyes shut.

Your face blurred in sad daydream
with me left hanging on the wall,
next to oval mirrors
and glass figurines from ruined cultures,
just the way I saw it
as our car drove out of the drive;

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Sergio Ortiz

Orpheus’s Death

when I wrote

of men folding in their tight skins

like an apple—

apples swelling inside me—

it was a mask

when I wrote of a god

sitting near the

window dancing—

it was a mask

there are no apples

filling my hunger,

no god folding

in his skin,

there is only the memory

of my self

torn at birth

by my own music

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Eleanor Lerman

Little Girl, Little Boy

What you will find, little girl, little boy
is that after the storm there is only
one path, and it leads to the mill
at the end of the winding river
that grinds out the fate of the world
You can hear its groaning gears
all your life without reading, anywhere,
about a wounded machine that is
swallowing the stars. But doesn’t
the sky look darker every night?
Isn’t there a small bear missing from
the heavens? A bull ? A great bird?
No one knows where the river begins
or why the mill is tireless, insatiable
You will be sent there anyway, with
many instructions, and though none of
them will be helpful, don’t give up yet
People have been thinking about this
problem since they first opened their
eyes, which may have been yesterday
Or maybe, tomorrow

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Kushal Poddar

My Mother Like Water

She, a water course.

She, a fountain.

She lifts the plastic pail

filled with the blood of a open tap on the fifth street,

pours some over her head

so the water will flow down her temple,

down her face,

neck, bosom covered by a transient apparel,

thin legs,

child held between two dark thighs,

broken toenails

and a timorous crow

with its wings in angel spread.

The world moves in electric threads.

All other birds dot the adjoined space.

And she, a singer

sings her son

some song no other child can hear.

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