The Usual Distractions

The cathedral is coming down.

Oaks, hickories splinter into leafy glass.

Shards spiral. Cold drifts down.

The wind dumps truckloads.

The kaleidoscope is shattering blue.

Frost laces the grass.

 

He calls a friend to launch a boat

in the river: “It will sink of dry rot

before it gets wet again.”

Soviet citizens chided their officials,

“They will walk out of the water dry.”

 

There is no escaping warring elements,

no matter the day’s brilliance.

“How about a walk somewhere

we haven’t been, crossing

the bridge, walking the ridge

to where it cuts down to the creek?”

His friend is repairing a tire.

He hasn’t finished roofing his studio.

 

“Who knows he might be dead tomorrow,”

Yesterday in Bali, a crowded night club exploded.

Hidden in a car trunk on a street in Washington DC,

a sniper kills drivers stopped at gas stations.

Work on the roof, go for a walk,

who knows when we’ll be done

praying through these leaves.

Two days later, in the hospital bed

He slurs hello, a stroke of bad luck.

 

Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen has published 23 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017), My Other Mother’s Red Mercedes (Lamar University Press, 2018), and Until Next Time (Singing Bone Press, 2019). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Chester H. Jones Foundation Award, and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). www.walterbargen.com

At Quarter Past a Lifetime

There were no witnesses to his loss,

it was a private affair.

 

He stood with sober eyes and watched

the sun fade behind his dream.

 

Darkness folded over itself,

covering far reaches of space.

 

A vast expanse of stillness

soon enveloped all.

 

Closing the door behind him,

walking beyond the breech.

 

At quarter past a lifetime,

he knew the end had come.

 

 

Ann Christine Tabaka

 

Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She is the author of 9 poetry books. Christine lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and two cats. Her most recent credits are: Burningword Literary Journal; The Write Connection; Ethos Literary Journal, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-NaGig, Pangolin Review, Foliate Oak Review, Better Than Starbucks!, The Write Launch, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore.

After We Are Dead

After we are dead

Throw out the papers

And spend all the cash.

The memories

are ours,

not yours;

They ended

with the lapse,

of that final,

pulsing synapse,

Shredded and torn,

blasted and shorn,

Leaves that faded

and fell

and decayed

Like all before

From Nebuchadnezzar,

to Christian Dior.

 

So throw out the papers

And spend all the cash

Our memories

are now

naught but trash.

 

A book of rhymes,

You can save,

a doll

or a toy,

That letter you scribbled

on notebook paper

in deepest regret

For ripping the curtains off the wall

and tossing your mattress on the floor,

Til your progeny

Shall throw out your papers

And spend all your cash.

 

But wait!

Along the way

Raise a glass or two

to me

and you,

And have a fillet

with a nice

Beaujolais.

For a joy it was

to be,

to hear,

to see,

Have been,

lived free,

Breathed, walked,

and run,

And all that censored fun.

Depressions,

we savored

and wallowed in,

And despair,

Could not compare

to what is not,

Or pain endured,

for when it passes,

And fear,

for when it’s fled

once we are dead.

 

Life was good,

and after ain’t bad;

It was the dying we hated,

But when done,

was done.

 

So throw out the papers

And junk all the cars,

Rip up the photographs

and sell the manse,

All that is there

is done,

the memories but dust.

And us?

We’re nothing now,

That shall not fade

and pass,

along with tears

and sorrows

and gas.

 

So celebrate

and procreate

What is, was, will be,

for evermore:

An unseen adventure,

an open door,

The drawing of straws,

the roll of the dice

by relict gods

uncaring of odds.

 

And whatever you do

Before you’re dead

Tell ’em all

to throw out your papers

And spend all the cash

For there’s

nothing here

that lasts.

 

James Garrison

 

A graduate of the University of North Carolina and Duke Law School, James Garrison practiced law until returning to his first loves: writing and reading good literature. His novel, QL 4 (TouchPoint Press 2017), set in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War, has won awards for literary and military fiction, and it was a finalist for the 2018 Montaigne Medal. His most recent novel, The Safecracker, a tongue-in-cheek legal thriller, was released in Ebook and paperback by TouchPoint Press on September 27, 2019. His creative nonfiction works and poems have appeared in online magazines and anthologies. Sheila-Na-Gig nominated ‘Lost: On the Staten Island Ferry’ for a 2018 Pushcart prize. jamesgarrison-author.com

Listening to the Radio at Night

Late Tuesday night, deserted London street, London Gold,

October blues, dense night feeling, vocalese on the radio,

jazz scat-singing trilling chirruping, counterdawn of dusk,

over the City, night will gently break, and a light caul of sleep, (night calls),

black cool, like a cloak, cover all, down on a young man’s cheek,

nachtmusik cuts to crooning sax solo then piano/guitar

trade riffs, swap solos, lights stranded in windows glow through the night,

eat into the dark by an acid of pale orange-yellow electric light

leaching into the night’s fallows, wash of pastel-pale, dissolving

shadows to shed them elsewhere more densely, outcasting a penumbra

of shifting lights, segues to strings, intro to the ballad, lush sheen

of string section, the junked lover in the song is singing

of how she’s staying up all night getting high on black coffee

and nicotine, hellhounded by whisky chasers around the rim

of a Guinness glass, switch to the catguts of Robert Johnson’s

liquor guitar wailing over his long-lost lady, black soul

crying over the Hackney nightime rooftops, with luna riding high

on skeins of black nightcloud, God’s nightlight, cut to radio 3 notturna

quiet London street, a radio, a lit window

 

 

Andrew Shelley

 

Born 1962 in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, the winter Sylvia Plath died. Began writing in 1973. Bits of his juvenilia survive in the magazines  Sepia, Pennine Platform and Northern Line and in the pamphlet Chaos (Kawabata Press, 1979). Went up to Cambridge in 1980  to read English. Graduated with a First in 1983. Poems of his won prizes at University. In 1984 he lived in London, working as a literary journalist, reviewing for The Sunday Times and The London Magazine. 1985-6: Lived and wrote in Greece on Ministry of Education Scholarships, teaching English Literature occasionally. In 1986 he went to Oxford to write a doctorate on Beckett, which was awarded in 1991. Held a Research Fellowship there from 1991-93. On completion of this he became a full-time writer, teaching only occasionally. Many publications, including poems, essays and articles in magazines.  Books include Peaceworks (The Many Press 1996), Requiem Tree (Spectacular Diseases, 2002), Thornsongs (Unarmed Chapbook, 2007), Love Enough (Pulsing Vulva, 2008), Openacity  (Drunken Guru, 2009), Bread Bullion (five thousand mile paper mine, 2012), True Moral Loaves (five thousand mile paper mine, 2012). ‘Undercoming’ is a text/visual collaboration comprising the books Lightwriting (Gabbling Goblin,2007) and Happy Apples (Cuddly Shark, 2008) and an exhibition, ’Word of Eye’. Two collections – ‘Spit Bricks’ (1997-98) and ‘Idiot Scripts’ (1999-2005) – have appeared in their entirety as individual pieces in print magazines and online but remain unpublished as books. Other yet to be published books include ‘Defining Statements on an Autumn Afternoon’ (2011-13), ‘Dying For Friday’ (2014-15), ‘Letters to the Lost One’ (2015-16) and ‘Things to Say to Jilly’ (2017) . Recently completed projects are a short book, ‘Done For Love’ (2017-18) and a pamphlet, ‘As They Broached the Goldmine’ (2018). Both are as yet unpublished although sections of the latter title have appeared in the journal Tears in the Fence. Most recently completed projects are the pamphlets ‘Everyman’s Land’ and ‘Soldier’s Block’. Lives and works in North East London.

Melanie Faith, Featured Author

Clean out

 

And so a playbill,

a box of kitchen matches

with blue heads and

a dry red rubber band

that parts at touch

from the belly of the box,

 

and a flat stone

similar to sea glass

that her child picked up

and stuck in her palm

more years ago than

she’s kept track. Junk

in a drawer she’s set

to empty, half-filled

trashcan ready.

 

She once knew the guy

who played

Horatio

who first appeared in Act I,

Scene I. He had a mustache,

freckles on his chest in summer

when they swam.

 

The photocopied playbill

reminds her

of his last name

but not his eye-color,

not his voice.

 

 

First Bite

 

Waiting

for another hour and ten minutes

in the food court

in the hub-city airport

with the black and white

rocking chairs

by the escalators

 

something he said to her once

returns:

It takes many, many years

to distill experience into prose.

 

Now there is vinegar

running down her right hand

from the overpriced submarine sandwich

chockfull, not of veggies

but of cheese and turkey,

 

now there is a recycled napkin—swipe-swipe.

But she carries its acidic scent

as perfume on the insides of her wrists

walking back with her carryon to Concourse C

with the vague memory of the place

where they bought the caramel apples

once,

 

the practiced flick of the employee’s wrist

rolling each globed fruit on a stick in

a puddle of evenly-crushed pecans.

She’s tried many times to emulate

with a simple cutting board and knife;

no effort matches

 

what it was like, that first perfect bite.

 

 

Melanie Faith

 

Melanie Faith is a poet, fictionist, photographer, editor, tutor, and professor. Her writing has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. Melanie collects quotes, books, and twinkly costume-jewelry pins, and she enjoys spending time with her darling nieces. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. Her photography recently appeared in Harbor Review and The Moving Force Journal, and her poetry appeared in Verse of Silence. Get her artwork at WritePathProductions at Etsy. Her latest book, Photography for Writers, was published in Nov. 2019 (Vine Leaves Press) https://www.vineleavespress.com/photography-for-writers-bymelanie-faith.html . Learn about her latest projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/ and https://twitter.com/writer_faith .

Marian Kaplun Shapiro

Wind,

 

You show yourself in the rumba of the oak leaves,

in the patriotic flip flap of the flag fastened

to its lowest branch, in the tritone of the wind chimes

out by the water’s edge. The distant mountains

form a kind of concert hall of storm sounds,

their acoustics a marvel of nature’s engineering,

making your operatic echo magnify itself

in thrilling arias. But then,

at storm’s end – silence. The moon twins

its spotlight on the water, mirroring

itself. You’ve gone quiet, invisible. Yet,

we know you will outlast us all. In our will

we bequeath you the universe.

Don’t forget your songs, whether or not

anyone is left to hear them.

 

 

Dear (New England) January

 

Thank God for you! How thrilling your certainty, your lack of sun, your icy sidewalks, your air dry dry dry on the skin the lips the eyes, your frosted anthills pancaking gray beneath our boots. The lean coyote’s getting leaner, slinking closer to the house. The mice sneak in behind the dryer where it’s nice and warm.  The pipes will freeze if we don’t stroke them with the hairdryer. No one wants to take a walk and tempt the Devil of Black Ice. Doggie will have to make do with an open door.

Hooray for you, January! There is no greater hope than standing here, planted in the almost-dark of 4 o’clock. It was darker just two weeks ago, when your older sister dressed herself in Christmas sparklers, merry-making in tiny multi-colored stars. December. The big tease. Will you won’t you will you won’t you snow on Christmas eve? Bring the airports to their knees? Leave travelers sleeping on the floor surrounded by their desperate festive packages?

Dearest January. You rock ‘n roll our thermostats through February.  The snowman’s carrot nose has come unhinged, slipsliding towards muddy March. The ice dams cometh. Finally,  April. The bravest flowers poke themselves out of the ground. Birds rev up their manic songs in search of mates. Gardeners rake the dead-brown earth. The arborists swoop in, warning of the latest moth-infesting threat to oak, maple, birch…. More money. Also, however, grass. Green leaves. More light.

More light. Spring. Summer. We salute you Janus, two-headed God of portals. You know that, like the past, our future rests assured. It’s enough to make a bully weep with gratitude.

 

Marian Kaplun Shapiro

 

Marian Kaplun Shapiro, a previous contributor, is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). A Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often embeds the topics of peace and violence by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she is a five-time Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2012.