Elemental Penobscot Bay

If these islands have names,

I do not know them,

for I am not of the earth.

 

If these seas have a name,

I do not know it,

for I am not of water.

 

If today’s soft wind has a name,

I do not know it,

for I am not of the air.

 

If the stars tonight have names,

I do not know them

for I am not of fire.

 

I am Time.

I am your moment: Now!

I know your name, I do.

 

 

by Karla Linn Merrifield

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 700+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 13 books to her credit, the newest of which is Psyche’s Scroll, a book-length poem, published by The Poetry Box Select in June 2018. Forthcoming in June 2019 is her full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North, from Cirque Press. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing) received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. She is a member of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), the Florida State Poetry Society, the New Mexico Poetry Society, and The Author’s Guild. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet Redux, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com. Google her name to learn more; Tweet @LinnMerrifiel; https://www.facebook.com/karlalinn.merrifield.

The Politics of Love & Other Invisible Structures

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.

Steve Karamitros

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
            sunset?


but can you doubt today
that Power takes its pleasure   
from the womb of Justice?
for, dropping all pretension and
feigned virtue,
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).

What the Grass Said

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.

A Poem Interrupted by AM Radio, New York City, 1985

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

muttering blessings.

 

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.

Martha Catherine Brenckle

Phantom Limbs

When you burn your life down

to nothing

 

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.