Autumn 2020, Lake Weeroona, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Three kilometres of asphalted track surround the lake.
In early hours, if you go clockwise, a morning sun will
warm your back. Go anti clockwise and you’ll squint
most of your way. About 80 people circle the lake today.
Only two need not squint. The slow mow down shufflers.
The not-so-slow press hard upon the slow. The quick
storm past anyone in front of them. They bunch close,
plague-friendly close. Tyranny of numbers forces the
two who walk clockwise off the track onto the verge.
Gasping, sweating, heaving, the mob shoves and elbows
for spurious advantage, eager to hunt a vanished dawn,
frantic not to be overtaken by a runner they cannot see
but have learned to fear from reputation, an athlete
who glides with the long, lazy stride of the gifted,
a player who reserves their best for the finish line.
The aberrant couple stroll into the unfolding day, yet
a while before the sun descends, perhaps there’ll be
other sunsets, more seasons for leaves to fall from these
oaks and elms and plane trees, many evenings to watch
the light drain from the day, until, none knows when,
comes a caress of the gentling blanket of enduring dark.
BN Oakman, formerly an academic economist, started writing poetry in 2006. His poems have been published in The Age, The Australian, The Canberra Times, Meanjin, Quadrant, Island, Antipodes (USA), Going Down Swinging, Mascara, Cordite, Tincture Journal, Australian Poetry Journal, Eureka Street, Acumen (UK), Poetry Monash, Famous Reporter, Arena Magazine, The Warwick Review (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Best Australian Poems 2014 and 2015 and elsewhere. He has published two full length collections, In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts (IP 2010) and Second thoughts (IP 2014) plus two chapbooks. In 2016 the distinguished Australian actor John Flaus recorded 25 of his poems for a CD titled ‘What did I know? He has been a recipient of a grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. Second Thoughts was awarded best IP poetry book of 2014. He was a Pushcart Prize (USA) nominee in 2015.
Unnoticed in the bushes off the 101 Freeway.
By the time he was found,
a wood rat had dragged his skull
some thirty feet off
to use as a nest. – Dorothy Baressi, from “The Garbage Keepers”
I love this idea.
The mice’s fur, dry as straw,
bellies pink with milk. Their claws, curled
thin as the roots of an orchid, inside.
Think of it, your skull,
this thing you have carried from room to room,
library that housed all your angry love letters,
recipes for limeade, lists for what needed
to be done on the house. Now empty
as a temple made to honor a lunar eclipse.
The sockets of my eyes say nothing.-
still their gaze against the cold,
making their hollow, a window into trees.
O lordess of silence. I think of songs
whispered in branches. Sweetness in the leaves,
rustled by the feet of doves.
The long knives of green, coming through the earth.
The way they seem to be made of light.
The owl in his palace of feathers.
Eyes yellow as sonnets.
But why focus on the owl, or grass, or trees?
Look at the forest and the broken spines of leaves,
the roots lifting from the ground
and the city beyond. All your life
you’ve been trying to find
something to land on. Let us return
to the skull, which has carried so much
of its own shadow, now lying in the forest,
the mice, nestled skin to skin, filling
your bones with their contentment.
Like earth’s final apology,
and her prayer.
Tresha Faye Haefner
Tresha Faye Haefner’s poetry appears, or is forthcoming in several journals and magazines, most notably Blood Lotus, The Cincinnati Review, Hunger Mountain, Pirene’s Fountain, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Radar, Rattle and TinderBox. Her work has garnered several accolades, including the 2011 Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, and a 2012 nomination for a Pushcart.
First, I need you to understand that our son
has two fathers — and no, I don’t mean me
and our Lord in Heaven. The only star hanging
in the sky after his birth, a red blinking beacon
of the radio tower on the roof of that bleak
Guatemalan hotel. The only woman there
not Mary, but Olga, his foster mom
who delivered him sleeping into my anxious arms.
No wise men or shepherds, no cattle rustling
beyond our beds. I’ve yet to see him
skip across the surface of a summer pond
or draw wine from the kitchen faucet. And
our house runs surprisingly short of bread.
You won’t find our son praying to one of us
behind the football bleachers, or atop
any stumps preaching to the other students.
So, for the love of Christ, can you please,
please update your form?
It’s two thousand and twenty in the year
of our lord — my name is not Joseph,
my ex, not anyone’s god. Our boy
is sixteen, our pronouns, He / Him / His.
And we’re fed the fuck up having to decide
which father to list as his mother.
AE Hines is a poet living in Portland, Oregon. He is a recent Pushcart nominee and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including: Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, I-70 Review, the Crosswinds Poetry Journal, SLAB, and Pinyon. www.aehines.net
The cabbage knows
only one thing—to head.
The moon looks like a cabbage
or a head but it isn’t either.
Moonlight veils my window
unwelcome down the walls,
too much and in the wrong place.
Dripping sounds keep me awake.
There is no way to contain
moonlight or mop it up.
It pulls on the near skin of the earth,
stretches and makes waves.
I dream here is a huge baby,
round faced, that I have to care for.
I do, and it gets smaller. The moon
is often a metaphor–breast, eye,
fingernail, communion wafer,
scab–yet it is still just the moon.
Mary Jean Port
Mary Jean Port is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook of poems,“The Truth About Water,” was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press. She recently had poems published on Indolent Press’ poem-a-day site, “What Rough Beast,” in “Leaping Clear,” and in “ellipsis….” She has work forthcoming from “The Halcyone.” She lives in Minneapolis, where she taught at The Loft Literary Center for twenty years.
In Iran in the rich, delicious pear region,
there sits the centrifuge for the development
of atomic bombs.
I don’t want to end up like Bukowski,
a bitter career alcoholic, Writing classes?
Classes are for asses. (can’t even look
at people or talk to them), hating other poets
Writing is all about leaving behind
as much stink as possible.
Or George Carlin who went from hippie,
dippy weatherman, The forecast for tonight
is mostly dark, but getting light toward
morning, to a working rageaholic
out of rehab and in denial.
I’ve imagined how the two of them
would have gotten along during
an all-night “drinking fest,” insulting
each other to the point of fist cuffs.
I turn on Carlin’s 3a.m. HBO special,
an endless rant, dropping numerous F-bombs.
Lynn says and I agree, Turn it off.
Bukowski, a life-long pugilist of men
and women, Carlin, a pathetic skeleton
of his former self.
in a dangerous atom smashing,
If you have em, smoke em,
deathly moving, indifferent universe.
John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary magazines such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review and Spectrum Literary Journal. His work is also in eight anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole”, was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.
They gentrify the old West with python & ostrich
or click the homesick heels of ruby, the lazy
slip-on slip-off of loafers, inventions of slogans pithy—
moon shoes: mini trampolines for your tootsies. My father’s
army of polished Florsheim nines line up in his closet
in his closet like an obedient narrow-sized parade, my new
daisy Kmart sandals for flirty cheese fries on opening day
of the fair, splotches of chocolate milkshake assault
my saddled oxfords which in turn deliver a bruise
(the size of a coconut) on the mean bitch shin of schoolmate,
negative heels only make campus hills steeper but college
boyfriend’s blue suede shoes make me fall in love for a lifetime,
I ain’t no dominatrix but I know how to work thigh-high boots
intimate as skin, then tibial tendon surgery cause my stilettos
to mutiny. Arrogance of jeweled soles that patronize others
to manipulate their bootstraps, how to shoe the world, dominance
of Air Jordans dangle from a power line, at the sit-in we throw
frenzied sneakers at the mayor, too many screenshots of her
Jimmy Choos but not worse than those evil stepsisters cutting
off their heel or toes. Gibran believed that the earth is always
jazzed whenever it feels our soles bare but we also stand tall
in shoes that resemble buildings, armadillos, or handcrafted
in the wee hours by elves. Wear dreams on your feet my
mother cooed, dew-sprinkled sprigs of rosemary and thyme
tucked overnight under tongues.
Rikki Santer’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications both nationally and abroad including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, The Journal of American Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Crab Orchard Review, Grimm, Slipstream and The Main Street Rag. Her work has received many honors including five Pushcart and three Ohioana book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her eighth collection, Drop Jaw, inspired by the art of ventriloquism, was published by NightBallet Press in the spring. Please contact her through her website: www.rikkisanter.com