To a ghost that never dies.
I had my first drink at 15, the same year my grandmother took her last, washing down two bottles of codeine with gin. I watched them wheel her out of her apartment on a gurney, zipped up, tight. I thought my soul died. Some talk of funerals, she read the obituary every morning with her coffee. Her death came fast and silent like a traitor. I wept until earth became clay & clay became chalk, then I erased everything.
40 years later, our bodies like urns, cupping our animal hearts. Mom buries her hope inside an old sycamore. I tear at the roots with my hands. Tired of the fury, that loud, ugly, spit in your face anger. The fuck you kind of rage women aren’t allowed to show. I want to make my darkness visible so I sell plasma on the corner for $60 a pop.
by Sheree La Puma
Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry appeared in such publications as Burningword Literary Journal, I-70 Review, Crack The Spine, Mad Swirl, and Ginosko Literary Review, among others. She will be featured in the forthcoming Best of 2018 issue of Burningword as well. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and attended workshops with poet Louise Mathias and writer Lidia Yuknavitch. She has taught poetry to former gang members and theater to teen runaways. Born in Los Angeles, she now resides in Valencia, CA with her rescues, Bello cat and Jack, the dog.
For Comrade Malcolm
the false prophet will screw with your head daily
an image of desperate unknowns:
the anonymous taxpayer
who would like to take offense
on behalf of those offended,
the popular victims of the day.
his face is caked with muted flesh
and grinning ivory teeth
he nods with sympathy to the jobless
but can offer no work
he turns cold on the youth,
“innovate and get a job
and get a life too”
and all the while, he repeats the mantra,
“Look How Far We’ve Come!”
but the Grind goes on, despite him.
the secretary will type
the factory worker will strike
but neither can taste any Free
in free trade.
the bus driver will bus
the newsmen will make news for every seated person
as the students bargain with the bankers
to negotiate their debt
and cancel their dreams.
the doctors will doctor
the teachers will teach
the businessmen will do business
while the dark-skinned are executed publicly on video
and the poor have to rage to remove the lead
from water that eats through metal
as it flows through aging pipes
in apartheid cities.
but the Grind goes on, despite him.
and Change comes, the Fruit from all those broken bodies
and as people say, “Now, surely, is the time. We’ve had it!”
the false prophet says, “No,
we should move slowly and wait for a more convenient time.”
The Gag Order
Did the sculptor who made Justice
a blindfolded woman
have a joke at our expense?
the elevated scales of unbiased balance,
the sword at her side:
more the two dimensional things
from the worn pages of fairytales
than the metaphors of a sculptor
are the gown and the trinkets meant
to be the future,
the hopes of a civilized people?:
that she will swing the
sharpened edge of justice
in the right direction?
the steel as true to its target
as the archer Apollo
his golden chariot traversing the heavens
and the Light
warming every face
as it falls towards
but can you doubt today
that Power takes its pleasure
from the womb of Justice?
for, dropping all pretension and
the scales and the sword disappear
though the blindfold works well for the kink:
her clothes torn away, he places
a sweaty palm over mouth and nose
and then takes what he wants
with a notion
that the tears
are simply her misunderstanding
by Steve Karamitros
Steve is an urban planner living in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. His poems and short stories focus on the bizarre and irrational forces that animate society and what we call ‘nature.’ His published work has appeared in Poetry Quarterly (Fall 2016).
That sky is only space
and waits for us to sleep,
to sow and reap the usual way,
that roots are all that count
dendritic, subterranean like old love
waiting for a time to green.
That we will be cut down,
left fallow, grazed to ground,
That we should try
to memorize the sound
that falling water makes
on stone or latent soil, or grace
in dreams before dark horses
come to trample blades.
That we might speak in tongues
in terrible wildness once again
to say please to broken earth
made willing to all seed cast down
to feed the brutal hunger
spring always draws out of us.
by Roberta Senechal de la Roche
Roberta Senechal de la Roche is an historian, sociologist, and poet of Micmac and French Canadian descent, and was born in western Maine. She now lives in the woods outside of Charlottesville, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and the University of Virginia, and is Professor of History at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Her poems have appeared in the Colorado Review; Vallum; Glass: A Journal of Poetry; Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review; Yemassee, and Cold Mountain Review, among others. She has two prize-winning chapbooks: Blind Flowers (Arcadia Press) and After Eden (Heartland Review Press, 2019). A third chapbook, Winter Light, (Fall 2018) and her first full-length volume, Going Fast (2019) are being published by David Robert Books.
When the radio blasted
over the art gallery,
and Jim Morrison crashed
my only reading in the Big Apple,
eyes of famous poets in the audience
averted from my broken smile,
I wasn’t there—I went way past the headlights,
out past unrecorded tribal rubric,
airwaves drumming through me,
flew to a hideout on my own back streets:
Schadhouser’s yard, 1953,
one sticky afternoon
we beat each other up
on the same wedge of dirt
my mother, a little girl, played
Hopscotch on in 1929
between Cronin’s barn and a paint peel
on the fence of a three-decker—
who knows who lived there—
Cid Corman maybe
who moped down Annabel
That afternoon, my smile might have
made you grimace, too.
It does me, as my fingerprints
corrode this yellowed polaroid
the hostess was so quick to shoot
before she unplugged “Riders on the Storm.”
My father’s gift for the rare
true smile and my grandmother—
cloud hair, morbidly soft skin,
and tyrannical—come back alive again,
come back to me
through this photograph of a shudder
and a trace of alleys and shame
in my disrupted line,
her only recorded history
when, circa nineteen-ten,
she took the hand of the one
who kicked this broken smile
down the staircase of the spine.
by Michael Daley
Michael Daley’s poems have appeared in APR, New England Review, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Rhino, North American Review, Gargoyle, Writer’s Almanac, and elsewhere. Awarded by Seattle Arts Commission, National Endowment of Humanities, Artist Trust, and Fulbright, his fourth collection of poetry, Of a Feather, was recently published. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.
When you burn your life down
it takes a long time to rise
years of reaching out
With or without feathers, the sifting
through ashes, burnt bone, table legs
is difficult work: a shoe lace, a blue button, scraps of leaf colored silk
you don’t remember wearing
Memories you can’t recover, sing and itch like phantom limbs
you feel but cannot see
The eggs you crack for breakfast
held promise once
Home on Your Back
Every horizon is an invitation to start over
you remember this line as you make coffee
in the French press you unpacked earlier
you can’t remember who told you this
or if at the time it helped.
From the back porch, you look east
to the yet unopened sky
partially blocked with shrill green needles
huge pale gray clouds hover overhead
a hint of pale yellow showing through
you will see morning before light sparkles across the marsh
with its smells of sawgrass, earth, decay
not what your roots know.
Anxiously your toes curl
origins thin and pale under the balls of your feet
crimped inside your soul, not ready to dig down
to connect the familiar
with the unfamiliar
Behind you, boxes sit unopened
full of kitchen things wrapped in newspapers
furniture pushed into empty spaces
you will trip over chairs for weeks
until muscle memory takes over
and you make what you have carried here
home, another home
The only familiar sound is your breathing
orange brushes of words from other mornings
trapped in warm coffee, you hold
your youngest daughter balanced
on your hip, head buried in your neck and shoulder
her sticky sweet drool mixes with new smells
you try to imagine this is the place you live
your baby child oblivious of the world outside
her immediate view
encased in the husk of half sleep
her scent as known as your own
love me how big she mumbles into to your cheek.
A Cooper’s hawk flies over head, named for you
by the long sweep of its wings, the white tips of feathers
a predator you have seen before
you take refuge in its shadow
stretch your left arm wide like a bridge
girded between before and now
“This big,” you tell your daughter, “this big”
by Martha Catherine Brenckle
Martha Brenckle teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Central Florida. Publishing both poetry and fiction, sha has published most recently in Driftwood, The Sea Journal, Broken Bridge Review, Lost Coast Review, and New Guard Literary Review among others. In October 2000, she won the Central Florida United Arts Award for poetry. Her first novel, Street Angel, published in 2006 was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and a Triangle Award and was a Finalist for Fence Magazine’s Best GLBT Novel for 2006. Her short story, “Nesting Dolls” has been nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize.
perches on oak branch
holds his early service
spreads her arms
around hushed church
whips crusty leaves at
cloaked in mystery
harmonies brush callused fists
rub tear stained cheeks
tongues of light
dance radiant lament
has earth stopped turning
all trees frozen, seas dried up?
Dies Irae wafts over
stooped in wooden pews
endless tangle of Latin
sounds anguish me—numb
rain begins weeping—
aeternam, aeternam, aeternam
sobbing, bleeding onto fresh-dug grave
*Inspired by Mozart Requiem- Catholic Mass for the Dead
Dies Irae- Day of Wrath, Aeternam- Eternal
by Marianne Lyon
Marianne has been a music teacher for 43 years. After teaching in Hong Kong, she returned to the Napa Valley and has been published in various literary magazines and reviews including Ravens Perch, TWJM Magazine, Earth Daughters and Indiana Voice Journal. She was nominated for the Pushcart prize in 2017. She is a member of the California Writers Club and an Adjunct Professor at Touro University in California.