Michael Davenport

dayflower blue

Life is a startle of epiphanies
Hues of bubbles popping
Pattering rain singing umbrella songs
Greening showers awakening dry leaves
Falling in love with a garden
The zest of marigold,
Blankets of verbena and alyssum
Bright red berries, chili pequin leaves
Gladiolus soothing mourners
Robes of dry grass

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Simon Perchik

*
You whisper as if this dirt
weighs nothing and underneath
the way darkness sifts for rain

once the Earth moves alongside
fondles each footstep
that is not evening

–in your low voice
an ancient sky is brought to life
as still more stars

holding on to one another
unable to crawl between
these two small stones kept together

for this hillside against your shoulder
and helpless to lift your face
in the same breath.

*
How can it lose! this stairwell
held gently the way each step
comes loose and your heart

reaches across, covers
the dirt, the flowers, the eyebrows
–it’s snowing under her legs

that are not yet evening
held back as a banister
not meant to last, staggering

alongside her footsteps
that no longer have a mouth
somewhere to somewhere.

*
You belittle the directions, this paint
needs thinning –it’s not safe
though for now you hold on more than ever

the way a flower inside another flower
spreads out when you add rainwater
as if this wall was still on fire

surrounding you, yelling at you to paint
with the window open, jump! the air
has nothing left, needs time, years

–the paint is new at this
can’t dry by itself, half brush marks, half
motionless, already those exhausted stones

no longer overflowing near the dead
–the broken glass helps, emptiness helps
once on the ground and alongside your hands

remembers to enter this room back and forth
as if you were being watched, counted on
are sweeping it clean for later and later.

*
As if this dirt still childlike
was something new in the world
not yet the powerful side to side

and you could walk slowly uphill
the way each breeze is cradled asleep
–you wrap these stones with a mask

that is not a grave –closer and closer
they follow behind one another
tugging you somewhere that weighs

nothing –you don’t plant anymore
though your arms move softly
as you wait for the stones

and whatever they can still lift
–every Spring is filled with dirt
and one hand already hillside

–even now you open your arms
and the emptiness, by instinct, sways
with her footsteps facing the others.

*
Though there’s no boat the rain
waits among the waves
the way every bridge faces the ocean

then leaps into rock once water
used to tides and the stench
from a small stone wearing out

smoldering, half cinders, half
as if it was bathing her cheeks
over and over in this shallow path

remembered only as your shadow
holding down a single splash
–nothing drifts off, all these years

heading nearer to the bottom, sifting
beneath her lips for coastline
for seabirds then arms and feet and kisses.

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Kika Dorsey

Vespiana

I pull wasp nests off of your green canoe,
flakes of gray paper pulp crumbling in my hands,
perfect octagons riddled throughout.
The wasps abandoned this home, and the river
in this swamp calls to the boat, which has seen
nothing but land for years. I will clear
its belly like a farmer weeding fields of grain.

You will not help me. You are the queen.
I look at your perfect hands, long fingernails
painted a maroon color no nature can imitate,
and I, embarrassed by my tattered fingers,
will carry you through the cypress swamp
while alligators sun themselves on shore
and the water mirrors the twisting trees.

Were these wasps parasitic, purging insects
from crops of cotton and corn?
The queen kept reproducing,
tens of thousands of workers, laboring to chew
the wood to pulp, to build the endless cavities,
to paralyze insects with stingers and drag
them to the holes for the larvae to eat.

You wear your yellow jacket like a throne.
You say eight is your favorite number.
You say you will take the stern and steer.
You say your womb is now barren.

I put the oars in your perfect hands.
I have finished stripping the wood of nest,
and I will be the muscle at the bow,
will tell you of the cypress roots jutting up
from the water to avoid, will gaze into
the waters and carry you—
my mother—
through the forest’s labyrinth,
its center abandoned,
its map torn and thrown
to the now distant shore.

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Jennifer “Wolfe” Smith

Upon Seeing My Reflection in a Glass Door

Death is a bottle blond
in a business suit
whose heals click away
the hours until my final breath,
and when I turn to address
her reflection in the glass,
she gives me a once over
with the scalpel of her eyes
and pulls out a cell phone
that is always ringing.

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Jamie Thurman

Say I’ll Find You

A warbling fan and bluebird
Interrupt the hard rain bulleting
Leaves of castor bean
Outside my window.

Ponds surround our fig tree
And gulleys riven the gravel
Drive you follow home.

This static lane is a sudden river
Coarse with myrtle, pine, and rose.
I see you darting with glimmering
Scales, songbird heart, coyote appetite,
Eyes a fire- molten.

I want you to kiss my damp cheek
With a promise of constellation
Before taking my heart
Into the lightning and water.

Say I’ll find you under lamp
Light, reading, hair a whirl
And cast for eons.

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Marianne Szlyk

Bethesda

The ghosts of green papayas
and used bookstores
haunt the chain restaurants
that rise up like
invasive flowers. Even so

these places cannot lose
the scent of lemongrass
and the brittle touch
of a yellowed paperback.

The specter of a woman
slips past the windows
of carefully folded cardigans
and the greetings
of the salesclerks who
already know your name.

No one notices this ghost.

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Martin Green

I’d Like to be Young Again

I’d like to be young again
And pedal my bicycle effortlessly
Through a European town,
Passing the square and its fountain,
Riding along the shining river
On whose far bank rise improbable towers,
Then coming to the small park
Where a girl with bare brown legs
Holds a bouquet of flowers.

At Fort Benjamin Harris, Indiana

Once, when the cold wind that blows
Across the flat Indiana plain passed
And a bleak Midwestern sun shone,
Jerry Nugent and I found a ball and two mitts
And played catch in front of the barracks;
No one knowing we’d deserted the army.

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Dee Sunshine

A Burnt Offering

27th January 1995:

The 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

1.

You covered up the mirrors,

not wanting to see the radiance dissipating:

The sexless city sucking you in,

erasing your face.

Without reflection

we clutched at each other:

clinging together like little children.

We clung together

till gravity pulled us apart.

* * *

Junked out on television

we watched the world disintegrating

in raptures of violent dreams:

each dreamer being so much less

than the sum of the parts;

each dream, a fragment

deconstructed from the whole.

* * *

The sirens and screams

that shredded the night’s silence

were a forewarning

of the worst that would come.

We could sense the beast’s breath

bubbling under the skin of the earth.

* * *

Fucking to the hot dark rhythms of the night

we allowed ourselves the luxury of entropy,

the muted ecstasy of mutual extinction:

it wasn’t love, but its fire kept us warm.

* * *

In sleep we would lose ourselves,

let loose shadowy spectres -

abominations that slithered

through the ragged gashes

in the veneer of our sanity;

trailing a terrible afterbirth,

foetid and reeking of fear.

Our dreams gave birth to

walled in ghettoes,

bloody towers,

children without eyes,

animal corpses,

beggars, mobs,

freight trains…

armies of the dead.

* * *

Waking to the lightless morning:

lost to each other, lost to the detritus

of fear filled dreams,

we would shiver, cling together

and fill each other’s ears

with the hot blood

of promised tomorrows.

2.

In holding together and clutching

we imagined ourselves to be whole -

sublimated in a spurious spirituality,

elevated above the chaos of spiky rooftops

and darkly smoking chimneys.

But the sky blew through our every construct,

insinuating a secret hunger, infecting us

with the knowledge of our fragility.

We were held together by mere fragments -

broken pieces that could never be anything more

than broken pieces.

3.

Sometimes, standing skeletal

in the rusted metal wind,

with clouds clearing from frosted skies,

a blur of stars dazzling our eyes,

we would be surprised

by something bigger than love.

Momentarily the futility would fall away

and we’d taste that ineffable no-thing

with an undefined inner sense.

Transcending the linear,

we would cross the border

without passports or maps.

4.

The night before you left

we tore the clothes from each other

and pulled our loins together:

it was a last frantic attempt at connection

before our final separation.

In the deliberate darkness -

not wanting to see

what we’d lost in each other -

we thrashed to an angry climax.

You were a Nazi storm trooper

and I, a sub-human Jew.

5.

Last night I sat shivering at my desk

watching the moon track across the sky

listening to screech owls

yammering in the distance,

the wind muttering to the trees,

the silence from my unsleeping bed.

Tonight I cannot pretend I’ll sleep.

In the double-glazed safety of suburbia

I cannot excuse this agitation:

these solid buildings nurse the spirit

to slumbering, willing forgetfulness.

But I cannot forget you:

your post-war, housing scheme passions

assail me from across the great divide,

shaking me to my very foundations.

Your ice blue eyes

are watching me as I squirm -

you torturer, you.

I miss you!

I am at a loss out here,

on the periphery of prosperity

with this job, this house,

this security:

I miss our days and nights

of unemployed reckless penury.

I miss the neon emptiness,

the dirty knickers,

the one bar electric fire,

the stinking fridge,

the anonymous screams

in the death still night,

the nightmares

and our dreams

of a greener, cleaner place.

6.

My heart is acrid as this ashtray,

hard as blown glass.

There is no poem to our love:

I remember only

the murmuring of your body against mine

in abstract -

one sideways blow

and the image is cracked.

I need your hands

to pull me out

from this stagnant murk:

I need your Teutonic no-nonsense

To wipe away this Semitic self-pity.

7.

Tonight I am alone,

with no hand to guide me.

Under my feet

the world is trembling,

mountains are moving

to Mohammed’s muezzin call.

Soon the infidel,

will be routed out,

cut down:

devoured in ash and flame.

8.

A postcard from Japan,

a picture of gleaming, erect Osaka -

skyscrapers piercing

a Hiroshima red, sunset sky.

On the back it reads,

I am alive and well,

if a little shaken.

My brave, adventuring friend,

but a butterfly’s kiss from Kobe:

she says, don’t worry,

but I do.

Drunk on my father’s brew

of cynicism and anxiety,

I watch the storm clouds gathering,

drawing near

and I’m filled full

of wretched fear.

These islands, he once mused,

are but wretched specks

in a vast wilderness;

and these oceans,

just a dribble of sweat

rolling down the buttock cleft

of an indifferent deity.

My father knew

the heart of his father God

even before his bar mitzvah day:

he was but ten

when the news filtered through

from Poland and Germany.

9.

The struggle of people against power

Is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

Milan Kundera

Sleepless,

these flickering images of newsreel

strobe blue in the late night corners

of this hallucinated, tangled room:

random, uncollated images

of collateral damage;

names colliding

in a jangling discordant poetry

Angola, Sarajevo, Eritrea,

East Timor, Cambodia,

Haiti, Soweto, Kuwait…

an endless litany of forgotten places

like the dispassionate whisper

of a distant, voiceless God.

Here, great Jehovah,

are the bits of a child

who stood on a land mine.

Here is the skull

of a prisoner

who had nothing to confess.

Here are the bodies

of women and children

who were queuing

at the well for water.

Here, there and everywhere

uncountable numbers,

unfathomable numbers:

I would tattoo them

on your loving arms,

Dear God.

10.

My great aunt – my grandmother’s elder sister -

is over fifty years dead:

no exact record exists,

but somewhere in Hamburg or Hanover

her skin still shades the harsh light of a naked bulb.

Perhaps, that is all that remains of her.

The books that were bound

by the glue made from her pulverised bones

have long since been read and discarded;

and the soap made from her body fat

was used up

scrubbing clean

the blackened faces

of Aryan coal miners.

11.

I learned the necessity of lies early on:

picking up a penny in the playground

there was a momentary flush of joy,

but it was soured by classmates

who gathered round, taunting me,

calling me – a fucking Jew.

The half-Jewish blood

in my veins

boiled in shame.

12.

Twenty-five years ago, this very night,

I sat by the muttering gas fire,

in the blue light of the television

and the shadow of my father’s chair.

It was then that I hardened my heart,

for I was tormented by his weeping.

13.

Weep not,

for the dead are but dead

and the past is always passing

further and further over

the ever-receding horizon.

14.

Under the eiderdown I twist

like a colony of maggots

eating the last scant remains

of a corpse.

I am cocooned against

the January frost,

waiting for the watery dawn,

wishing this knot of cloth

was a chrysalis -

that I’d burst forth

from these dark dregs

into a wondrous and kindly light.

The clock on the mantle shelf

savages the last vestiges

of the night’s silence,

ticking its fascist beat,

dragging me ever onwards.

Malign,

its number fragmented face mocks:

its tic-toc like the rocking of railway carriages

and the tarnished laughter of Polish permafrost;

its hollow echo like the passing of freight wagons

through war torn, crumbling factory towns.

This clock,

with its bland, smug face,

measures the pulse

with the clinical precision of Mengele.

15.

The same sea in us all,

but waves breaking

on different shorelines.

Drunken footfalls

on the stair head

mark the passing

from night to dawn:

the clock laughing,

its hollow pedantry

as celebration reaches

inevitable anti-climax.

I wait for the door to open,

the return of the revellers,

my sisters and brothers:

one flesh,

but waves breaking

on different shores.

Belatedly, the feast

has been consumed.

Dry mouths have slaked their thirst

with dry waters;

and now the tongues are loose

with burnt offerings

to a dead poet.

16.

Hark, the heroes are returned!

Drunken and clamouring,

their voices raised and roused:

glorious, victorious

and, by the way,

totally fucking stocious.

The Saltire flies high,

blowing in the wind

of nationalist pride.

The Sassenachs

are once again routed:

slain by the true might

of Burns and Bruce.

With haggis and neeps in the belly

and the power of whisky

on their tongues, they ask

wha’s like us?

These true blue pure-blooded

xenophobic Scots.

Has the bagpipe’s wail

deafened their ears?

For none among them can hear

the same sea

which moves within us all.

17.

It’s not as many miles as you imagine

from Nuremberg to Hampden:

the cross is easily crooked.

When the soul is bled dry

there is nothing left

but the braying of empty minds.

18.

Four fifteen, a forest

of broken crucifixes,

flags, effigies,

the reek of stale beer

in half drunk cans:

I fix a coffee

in the crematorial kitchen,

resigning myself

to lack of sleep.

The celebrations are over

and darkened rooms

are littered with snoring:

making my solitude,

my sleeplessness,

all the more poignant.

In the broken wind

I hear black Lilith laughing:

Schottland Schottland

über alles.

Ich bin unbeweglich.

Four fifteen and I cannot sleep.

How can I sleep

when you are not asleep beside me?

19.

Back in those halcyon days

when her nest floated upon a calm sea

my mother would lull me to sleep, singing

Silent night, holy night,

All is still, all is quiet.

Back then, I believed

in the perfection of peace.

20.

Finally, I am arisen, like a phoenix

from the ashes of the night:

I wipe the sleeplessness from my eyes

and discard my bleached out, striped pyjamas

in a ragged, loveless heap,

like so much worn out Jew-flesh.

Out the window, the snow has turned to rain

and a thin line of watery daylight

has lain itself across the horizon.

Sat at my desk, I scrape my pen

across the stiff white parchment

of my leather-bound writing book

and cannot suppress the image

of Jewish skin -

it creeps upon me

with a Semitic tenacity,

sending into the penumbra

any Burnsian sentiments

that might be lurking

in the Scottish parts

of my bastard blood.

21.

Is it my bastard blood

which makes me fear

my country’s cry for nationhood?

What is this Scotland?

Is it not just a mass of land,

part of an island,

conquered by robber barons

whose bloodthirsty mouths

declared themselves kings?

Who are these Scots

that claim this nation?

Are they Picts, Celts and Norse?

Britons, Angles and Saxons?

Italians, Irish and Jews?

African, Chinese and Asian?

What line divides

the waves of immigrants

who have settled

on this fragment of island?

Whose hand divines

the right to be?

Who is Scottish, exactly?

Who can call this crag of rock

their homeland…

and for whom will only

arbeit macht frie?

22.

Ich bin, ich bin:

in the loveless dark,

in the icy January rain,

in a silent cold rage;

there is a swastika

where my heart used to be.

My love, my love,

what has become of me?

23.

Weary gunmetal dawn,

a miasma of monochrome:

the wind is stilled

and leaden rain

like dull crystal

softly splinters

on slush stained pavements.

24.

Here I am,

within the soulless framework

of technology,

filled with the rhythm

and hot impulses

of our time.

Herr Goebbels,

your ghost moves

in the salt wind,

whistling through

rusted metal

skeletal cranes,

raw rasping

Teutonic laughter -

Ich höre Sie.

These abandoned docks

bordering the cold wastes

of the northern sea,

my footprints alone

in the grey snow,

but across the waters

and across time,

your voice

following me.

No solace

in the dark sodium light

of this unpeopled hour.

Across the waters,

across time,

your voice is

a thousand broken windows,

a tongue of fire.

smoking chimneys,

a black leather zeitgeist.

From Zyklon B

to bunker suicide -

you see, Herr Goebbels,

tomorrow belongs to no-one.

25.

Among the carnage of yesterday

and the carnage of tomorrow

what hope is there for today?

What hope

for this dismal grey morning?

Without you, my love,

there is no love.

Without you,

there is no God

to oversee this chaos.

26.

These tomorrows, these yesterdays -

if you were here now

they would all be consumed

in the pyre of our passion play.

These flags,

these abstract arbitrary divisions,

would be wiped away.

The slate would be clean:

no scribbled saltire,

no tricolour or union jack

would sully its perfect blackness.

There’d be no star of David

muddying the sky,

no crescent moon.

All would be dissolved

in the fire of our Shiva-Shakti.

All would be undone

in the tender loop of love.

If you were here

I’d be blinded to unbelieving eyes.

No more would I see

this scorched skin,

these skeletons in stained shrouds

of striped cloth.

If you were here

I’d believe in a listening God:

one who heard the trains,

one who tasted the sweat,

the sorrow, the bitter ash

of Auschwitz-Birkenau;

one who could conjure up rainbows

and promise a perfect new tomorrow.

The End

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Emma Bernstein


Hot Breath Like Fog Rising

from cracked lips to glass
the atoms build themselves
pulling light from either

street, quiet in itself
lamp and grass and puddle
figure caught in the lull of mud

or perhaps the child peering down
imprisoned in webs of rust

perhaps it does not matter either way

we, the windows and the in between,
feel and watch the breath steamed against glass
every molecule trembling in the air at once

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Aaron Enskat

Orion
(For Brett, John, and Tommy)

For there is a particular beauty you will only find
in the moons penumbra amidst the thick, humid air
above a Midwestern cornfield in deep July.
When you can, go out together and breathe in the
sweat of the sky. Take your brothers hands,
scream high and loud into the ink dark darkness of
summer that you exist. Stand tall, fair, defiant until the
hangnail moon swoons. Stare out into brightening horizon.
Greet the morning bare knuckled and grinning.
Promise me you’ll always remember to tell tomorrow that
you’ve come ready. Your birthright will prove out, for you
are the children of Illinois soil, Illinois mud in your blood,
soy bean corn dirt water sweats from your pores. You cannot
help but have this world before you, for you chew the same
matter as those that spat hard in the eye of the real, those
who turned rivers against themselves, who dared to
dare when nature wasn’t enough.

Promise me you will, from time to time, step out into
the corn and soy fields of America and look deep into the disappearing
moon, into the stars eternally dying lights,
remember that you come from those who drank deep
from the hubris of the northern rivers,
rivers that thought they could stop us from making
their water go where we wanted.

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