Five-Fifty-Five Ball Park, Summer

The Slush-Yo-Mouth truck pulls up

in the magic half-hour between

softball and baseball tournaments

with cobalt blue paint chipping off

as the truck bounces off the potholes

and split-in-half bats left on the dirt

road leading into the park from the

county highway. A Snow Cone in

purple parachute pants, no shirt,

and oversized aviator sunglasses

riding a neon green and burnt

orange skateboard is painted

to the right of the serving window,

using a mini version of itself as

a microphone while Wu Tang Clan

screams they’re nothing to fuck with

from the open back doors, singing

along but quit when the youth pastor

walks by, terrified he’d tell our coach

and we’d have to run laps around

the field. The younger kids pull chunks

of paint off and throw them at each

other when the games start back up

and their parents turn back to watch as

the pitcher panics about the left-handed

batter who just moved to town. We

watch and throw hunks that missed

the intended kid back into the impromptu

fighting pit to see how much more

chaos we could cause. We wait in line

behind the kids who run up with a couple

of dollar bills in one hand and boiled

peanuts in the other even though

they’re still sticky from their morning

moon pies and R.C. colas, covered

in stains from the black sand we called

dirt and clay from the unfished ball field.

We change behind the Port-a-Jons that

smell like weed, Ax body spray, and puked

up corndogs from our cleats into flip flops

and softball pants into cheer-shorts, ignoring

what our mothers said about how girls

who roll their shorts more than once

end up like Glenda the hooker.

 

by Betsy Rupp

 

Betsy Rupp’s previous work appears in Emrys Journal and has been accepted for presentation at the Southern Writers Graduate Conference. She is currently working toward completing her MFA in Poetry at Florida State University. Previously, she earned her MA in English Literature, with a concentration in Poetry, from Mississippi State University. She focuses her work on exploring the beautiful strangeness of her small Florida hometown.

Featured Author-Sharon Chmielarz

Waking at Night

 

Such a short distance between genius

and shit. Take those elephant turds

Bruce Conner (1991 Walker Art Center)

stacked in piles on the floor, soft cannon balls,

so appealing to some humans, something we can

 

all relate to.  In my claustrophobic little corner

(compared to the Milky Way) I am happy,

moon-devotée that I am with a rag of the ancient

floating first hand outside my window. Take

these lines written in the darkness around

 

my bed. I hope they don’t cross

over themselves creating rows like il-

legible barbed wire some French girls

stood behind at the end of a world war,

brunette and blond collaborators

 

whose hair was shorn, the sign for bedding up

with a Wehrmacht man who gave them cognac

and nylons they could sell on the black market.

The girls’–women’s– heads, skulls, spat upon,

cross-and-bones thin, reviled little female

 

christs. It’s just dizziness. It’ll pass. It’s just this

time of night and the room so small. There

are bad dreams and then it’s over and they/

we can go back to sleep again.

But why would anybody

 

take this shit from the elephant kings,

their balls.  Even the elephants were

astonished that their turds

were sold with their ivory.

Their leftovers.

 

 

 

We Missed the Boat

after Brave Irene by William Steig

 

Never compare yourself to another,

especially when she’s Irene Bobbin,

at the door to her mother’s little yellow

parlor with its pictures and mannequin.

“Bye! I’ll deliver the gown to the duchess.”

 

Mrs. Bobbin, a single mom, brimming

with exhaustion called from her bed,

“Don’t go, Irene. A storm’s in full swing.”

But Irene set off with gown in box,

into the darkening winter afternoon.

 

(You and I set out, too, on a mission.)

 

Even though the wind tore open

the box, even though the snow

was hip high, even though Irene

thought she was lost, maybe going

in circles, she struggled on.

 

(Did we quit too early?)

 

Somewhere past Farmer Bennett’s

pasture the wind was so strong it

blew away two tissue paper ghosts

that sheltered the beautiful pink,

sparkly dress. And the dress, too.

 

(What went wrong for us?)

 

Irene had a mission for sure.

She was focused on succeeding,

a matter of food for the cupboards,

wood for her mother’s cold stove,

and something for the pot on it.

 

(We could’ve tried harder, I guess.)

 

Irene‘s tasks doubled: now

she must find the lost gown.

Through gangly, primordial woods

where there’s no sense of direction,

she stumbled on, snow blind, from tree

 

to tree until her little legs protested

they could lift themselves no more.

But there! At wit’s end, there was

the dress, plastered to a tree,

decking the trunk out for a party.

 

(Maybe the Fates were against us.)

 

A sight indeed for sore eyes.

And not much farther on, an amber

window light spilled out over the snow.

The palace! Irene huddled before the door.

Like a snow sculpture, but she’d made it!

 

(And if she hadn’t? That happens, too.)

 

All good things followed: the Duchess’s

pleasure at the gown, the warm ballroom,

the delicious feast an absolute joy

for porridge-fed Irene. And best of all,

a purse full of money for her mom. The end.

 

(It almost hurts, others’ triumphs, they feel so good.)

 

by Sharon Chmielarz

Sharon Chmielarz has had eleven books of poetry published, the latest, “little eternities,” in Sept. 2017. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize seven times and five of her books runners-up for literary awards. Kirkus Reviews named her “The Widow’s House” one of the 100 best books in 2016. She was born in South Dakota but has spent her adult life in Minneapolis, MN.

Vantablack

We are all lined down;

deep and thick in a pit;

so black there is no other color

where pleas and prayers cannot escape

but seep down this jail of flesh.

There is no room to bleed.

 

Our ghosts scoff, “Show us your chains.

Give us your screams and your wails.

Tell us your stories and tales

of the ocean, of sales,

of fields, of bales,

or we don’t know you.”

 

Children barter unearned coin

with unmarked hands

and forsake God for gimme and gold

to buy peace from the secret sin.

They covet another color;

any other color.

 

What I hate about my color is my hate.

What I hate about my color is my sorrow.

What I hate about my color is that color

is so precious to the Beast.

 

God made us black.

The Beast made it matter.

 

Still, our ghosts scoff, “Show us your chains.

Give us your screams and your wails.

Tell us your stories and tales

of the ocean, of sales,

of fields, of bales,

or we don’t know you.”

 

What I love about my color are my mothers.

What I love about my color are my brothers;

sanctuary, survival, solace, and succor.

 

I may scale the strong walls,

and stronger walls that we build

with guilt, blame and shame.

and exorcise ghosts

that scoff and boast.

 

by Stuart James Forrest

Stuart James Forrest developed a passion for creative writing while attending the Stanford University Continuing Studies Program. He enjoys writing poetry and short stories and hopes to develop enough skill to be a strong, creative representative of his generation of Black Americans who lived through a very tumultuous period in American history.

Contro Verse 2

Aum Ah Loka Ah Hung

Jah Sirocco Loam Shekinah Sirrah Sung

Slippers and Tea

Flippers and Thee

Hi Dee Ho / Hi Dee Hee

Tee Hee Tee Hee

Bless me Holy Father for I have pinned

thy priests’ performance to a document of sins:

from raping little children to enslaving Indians,

from enflaming witches, to left freezing street denizens;

a bejewelled hierarchy,

women blamed and excluded;

the task overdue: Ask forgiveness — please the dead —

for doctrine of discovery, terra nullius, indebted payments

for lands and autonomy stolen, coloured citizens

fallen to a cross on one hand, larcenous sword of Jesus in t’other.

 

pray for the wind      for the curtains that bulge at windows

breeze to cool the fevers of memory

 

More, you say, more…. Economy’s profit, the crop tall and green;

but mono-, not poly-, lone farmer on empty plain,

without bison or predaceous partners:  no wolves, no bears —

no gophers, no hawks; fields of one plant, ahh Christ,

how’d I get stuck here, no neighbours,  no helpers,

just me ‘n’ this bleedin’ time-delimited scheme?

 

pleasant little creek      from the glacier’s tongue

meanders even froths      through high meadow

tasting the soil      its knowable limits

 

Pipe wrench and wires, screw threads and welds,

mechanico-industrial pumps roaring out dulled life, pitting

worker ‘gainst worker, race against race,

cis- against genders of any other;

theft      division and greed engrained industry’s

employment, wage slaves the norm, boss above workers;

owners on holiday, counting their harm.

 

oh lord won’t you grant me…

a seat round the fire

 

In the systems of robbery blue notes drone, counterpoint

to a march of military gore — the ordinary scheme of things.

Jazz rocks through agonies of approved comportment,

belies the instructive stance, upsetting the conditioned woes;

unseating the ministers to the dance floor of doom, the generals,

the hireling politicians chanting choruses after chorus

where the blood red river flows.

 

sing the silk road      sing the desert and mountains

horses and camels      elephants and yaks

sings with the animals       sings to the distant sea

oh hear the answers

 

Bludgeoned laughter

not so funny;

all that piss pot

full of money.

Sort out the good ‘uns,

kill all the bad;

lever up the leavings

for the little buggered lad;

lever up the leavings

that the women never had;

lost it on the shore,

lost it in the war,

tore up the deed

to the burning store.

 

 

by Philip Kienholz

Philip Kienholz studied creative writing at North Dakota State University and received a B. Arch from the University of Manitoba. Publishing credits include a 2016 book, Display: Poems; two chapbooks, The Third Rib Knife, and Born to Rant, Coerced to Smile, as well as poems in journals: Whirlwind, Windsor Review, Greenzine, River Dhamma, Links, Poetry Halifax, Global Tapestry Journal, NeWest Review, Cutting Edge, Quarry, Atticus Review, Whetstone, Prairie Fire, Ecospeak, and Crazy Horse.

Indiana Dunes State Park

Grievance is impatient;

Grief is patient.

 

On the sidewalk outside the Millgate Inn,

in a baseball cap, with a catcher’s mit,

it waits at 4:15 P.M. Father had promised

the dunes sculpted by wind and water

last summer and all autumn then

Persona of the displaced roots,

the tiding stem that broke ground

in winter before one last freeze,

Only a slip of a feral bud speaks

but the scent of its voice drowns

in the evening bustle of bawdymen

roughhousing toward homekept ladies.

On the pavement so many once like itself

spread from the factory gate like Jews

rushing from Cossacks; the furnace

of the mill is the eye and the heart

of the Czar. The feral bud

waits for the thick hand

of its planter to pluck it up

into the swirl of homerush,

the scent of its voice on the ear

of the old man whose grace

levels the pavement. Today,

it will say, will we go Dunes–

to the dunes and write in the sand.

 

A strange rough cloth stands behind

the bud; it is the messenger

who carries the charred boot.

Dew on the first petal of the flower;

winter comes again. The street

empties while the petals unfold.

The tiding stem woodens;

it is a line pointing, a ray outward

toward the center, pistil and stamen.

Like a lump of slag, the seed planter

in a steel vase is lowered, is planted.

The sapling headstone erect without word.

He had wanted no words on him.

Give me a tree on my chest; it is best,

for I have made roots where there were

once none.

So I shall stand forever in the tree,

in one place.

Sea-oats imported, planted on dunes

that had long squirmed like a worm’s

belly on hot pavement, going nowhere.

The sea-oats’ dying blackened dunes

with their dust; they have reddened

sunsets with pollen, done the work of ages.

The dunes are a place or remnant of place

before the sea-oats worked it, drained

the tidal pools, and flattened the world

as it was. The sea-oats shaded the grass,

nurtured the feral buds,

became food for trees.

 

Be no flower on another man’s lapel,

he had said; be a wild rose

thorny and elegant and wild

like the grass at the dunes

The trees became houses then homes.

History began in these homes,

repeated the world as it was,

and that world as it was then

became the world as it is now

The Dunes. Sculpted by wind.

The furnace fires.

My father’s tree,

my tree, its roots in place.

 

 

by John Horvath Jr

Mississippian John Horváth Jr publishes internationally since the 1960s (recently in Munyori Review (Zimbabwe); Broad River Review (print). Pink Litter, and Olentangy Review). After Vanderbilt and Florida State universities, “Doc” Horváth taught at historically Black colleges. Since 1997, to promote contemporary international poetry, Horváth edits www.poetryrepairs.com.

Homesite

it’s near winter solstice;

I’m checking out

so I ask

what happens to them

 

they open the bags of seed

 

are there nests?

 

everywhere

in the metal rafters

 

and water?

 

they find their own…

 

these birds of Lowes

 

*

 

panoramic views,

surveillance

 

keep your hat on,

brim low

 

by Tom Lavazzi

Tom Lavazzi’s poetry and criticism appears in such journals as American Poetry Review, Postmodern Culture, Women in Performance, Performance Practice, Post-Identity, Reconstructions: Studies in Contemporary Culture, Symploke, Talisman, Midwest Quarterly, South Atlantic Review, The Little Magazine, Mantis: Journal of Poetry, Criticism, Translation; Rhizome: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and Sagetrieb, among others. His work has been anthologized in Finding the Ox: Buddhism and American Culture, Volume I: Breaking Out: The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature (SUNY Press), Dialogism and Lyric Self-Fashioning: Bakhtin and the Voices of a Genre(Pennsylvania: Susquehanna University Press), Modernism and Photography (Praeger), Synergism: An Anthology of Collaborative Poetry and Poetic Prose (Boshi Press), Carl Rakosi, Man and Poet (National Poetry Foundation), Contemporary Literary Criticism (Gale), Poetry Criticisms 42 (Gale), and Jumping Pond: An Anthology of Ozark Poetry (Sand Hills Press), among others. He has published three volumes of poetry: Stirr’d Up Everywhere (collage poem/artist’s book, A Musty Bone), in collections at MOMA/Franklin Furnace, the Brooklyn Museum of Art (featured in recent group show, “Working in Brooklyn,” 2/3-4/16, 2000), Cleveland Art Institute, Banff Centre Library–Canada, Yale University library, Archive for New Poetry-UCSD, Rare Books–Columbia University, Poetry/Rare Books–SUNY-Buffalo; Crossing Borders (Mellen, 1996), and LightsOut (Bright Hill Press, ’05; BHP chapbook contest winner). A book of experimental critical performances, Off the Page: Scripts, Texts and Multimedia Projects from TEZ (a performance group he founded in 1995) is forthcoming from Parlor Press’s Aesthetic Critical Inquiry series. He is Professor of English at CUNY-Kingsborough.

Page 1 of 18012345...102030...Last »