American Industrial:

(mornings are for suicides)

 

the way we dazzle

in confrontation with reality

 

oblong cornered cult              in the sapped death dream

 

tonal physique of                    the prominent doom plume

 

like exposed cricks in fameless antiques

bird swarm in black-thought trees

 

come by clock : massive grave space

all properties of ovarian follicle and soft steel

 

winded legs sway like daisy stems

inhabiting concrete snares

 

now panhandling the rouge of creased cheekbones

pinched                                   veils of late summer

petals

painfully

pallid                                       gall of the lily flushed sour

 

like the whole furloughed town

that worked at the trainyard,

was shut down,

 

now there is no direction out

 

Jes C. Kuhn

Jes C. Kuhn is the author of three volumes of poetry, ‘Thigh Gap and the Vow of Poverty’, ‘American Sundays or pulling color from dead murals to paint living mirages’ and ‘The Penny Thief Sonnets’. His poetry, creative non-fiction and blog posts have been published in Corridors, Two Hawks Quarterly and Water~Stone Review, among others. He is currently enrolled in Hamline University’s MFA-Creative Writing Program. Kuhn lives, writes and teaches in Haunted, WI.

Janet Joyner

Swamp

 

is all about

quiet death

and the slow

cellular work

of decompostion

in a wet

dark place.

Say it. The word

itself, breaching

with that swishing

sucking, sibilant

swooping its

big wings

around an ample,

nasal-vowelled body

detonated by a plosive

 

that lifts

like a long-legged bird.

 

 

After the rape

 

of the three little

girls in the grass

by the Maoist

army, there was

no grass left.

 

Janet Joyner

Janet Joyner’s prize-winning poems have been honored in the 2011 Yearbook of the South Carolina Poetry Society, Bay Leaves of the North Carolina Poetry Council in 2010, 2011, Flying South in 2014, and in 2015, as well as anthologized in The Southern Poetry Anthology, volume vii, North Carolina, and Second Spring 2016, 2017, 2018. Her first collection of poems, Waterborne, is the winner of the Holland Prize and was published by Logan House in February, 2016. Her chapbook, “Yellow,” was published by Finishing Line Press in November, 2018. Wahee Neck, her third collection, will be published this summer by Hermit Feathers Press.

DS Maolalai

The explosion.

 

the earth bursts and curls

with february yellow. daffodils,

cruel colour

and abundant

in freshness and reds. we didn’t plant them –

the person who lived here

before us did – but still,

I’m glad

they’re there. drinking

from his coffee cup, summer

coming out of the ground

to surprise us,

tapping the windows

with a long thin hand;

the first spark

of a slow explosion,

set to expand

all year.

 

 

A sign of respect.

 

it’s a small cove,

and I stand at its center. wind crawls

the cliffsides,

cold as rivers

in high altitudes. and a river flows

at a low one

over to my left –

barely a stream, really,

though perhaps it was this

which cut the cove

at one time

out of rocks. I think

I think this way only

because today

I am in the company

of geologists. they climb over the cliff-face

and search for interesting seams. I

was mainly brought along

as a driver. me and aodhain,

showing them the countryside. but he

is a geologist also, and just as interested in rocks. I stand

with my shoes off

and watch the surf

as it grabs handfuls of sand

and collects crabs

like a commuter

bus-service. high on the dunes

a dolphin decomposes, dropped

in the last storm of autumn

and dragged up there – I guess as a sign

by someone

of respect.

it stinks salt

and dead seawater

and flies swarm the carpark. there were seagulls too,

flapping all over, until we pulled up and threw rocks at them.

 

 

DS Maolalai

DS Maolalai has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden”, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press, with “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” forthcoming from Turas Press in 2019.

Visiting Poet in Lockdown

All the students are sitting on the floor, so are several teachers,

even the principal. The visiting poet is sitting on a chair.

 

There are perhaps a dozen students — silent, serious, though

they exchange occasional knowing glances and smiles.

 

The visiting poet, too, is silent. So are four or five teachers

and the principal – the room soundless, except for exhalations

 

and the recorded message that harried them into this small room.

The room is the principal’s office and every available inch of floor

 

is occupied by the eighteen people summarily herded by the principal

into his inner sanctum. For once, the visiting poet is voiceless,

 

no well rehearsed lines on his lips, though his eyes take everything in.

The pre-recorded monotony of dread booms everywhere via the school

 

intercom — into every classroom, gym, washroom, office, stairwell.

 

This is a school lock-down.

Get into a classroom,

clear the hallways, or leave

the premises immediately.

 

The principal knows this is just a drill: a post-Columbine reality

of departments of education. His school has failed to measure up

 

in a previous time-trial at emptying halls, hence this repeat drill.

Teachers and students know the score. They know about the ominous

 

SWAT unit sweeping the halls for deranged gunmen and other such

non-conformists. Only the visiting poet is uncertain, wondering whether

 

he may somehow have inadvertently set all this in motion the moment

he set foot inside the school and headed towards the main office.

 

The principal checks his wrist watch again, giving it a shake as if to hasten time. The bored teens shift and re-shift their lank shapes as only teens can.

 

The teachers relax, their day now blessed by an extended recess.

The visiting poet muses on imagery inherent in the word lock-down,

 

its currency in prison language. Lockout, lockup, lock step, lock-box,

lock jaw, lock, stock and barrel. His mind spins combinations.

 

He has already noted the principal locked the door behind him

before sitting on the floor. It’s the first time the visiting poet has been

 

confined in a principal’s office – he reflects on the irony: it has taken

him almost a lifetime to achieve this rare distinction. He also realizes

 

that choosing to sit where he has, his head is the only target visible

above the window line. The poet has again made himself vulnerable.

 

The intercom monotony ceases as abruptly as it began. The principal

stands, thanks everyone for co-operating and this seminar of the silent

 

disperses. The pulsing din of academia bursts to life from the ashes

and in the visiting poet’s head metaphors ricochet everywhere,

 

as he now attempts to emulate the springy step of his nubile hostess,

trailing her down the now-raucous hall to where they await his poems.

 

Glen Sorestad

Glen Sorestad is a well known Canadian poet from Saskatoon, who has published over twenty books of poems. His poems have appeared in over seventy anthologies and textbooks, in publications all over North America, in many other countries as well and have been translated into eight languages.

Charlie Brice, Featured Author

The Truth About Eternity

The happily ever after is the return to the disenchanted life. —Ruth Daniell

 

Check the refrigerator door,

the photos of your son at six, at ten,

graduating from high school,

gone, lost to the skirr of time,

 

of your wife before the pain set in—

the hikes, the ski trips, vacations

to lands with grapes and siestas,

 

yourself fifty pounds ago holding

a little boy on your lap, your arm

around a gorgeous woman with hair

the color of a midnight fairytale,

 

of Fred and Toots in Michigan standing

in front of the largest birch tree you’d

ever seen, cut down by Fred shortly

before time’s timber felled him and Toots,

 

of Dave Fick, your wife’s sailing instructor,

whose swim trunks slid south exposing sailors’

crack when he launched his boat from your dock,

and whose ashes now mix with sand and soot

in the depths of Walloon Lake,

 

of Art and Cee Culman, multimillionaires who spent

a summer laying tile in their kitchen only to realize

that what they’d learned was useless since they’d never

use those skills again before they died—and they didn’t—

 

of Bill Mackinen who taught you that no politician had

the right to define a “family” as a man, a woman, and

their children only—Bill who died watching the Tigers

route the Braves on his hospital TV, and

 

today, photos of Chuck Kinder, the best writing teacher

you ever had who, in the midst of criticizing a boring story

you’d written, fell into a raucous coughing spasm and,

once recovered, proclaimed, “that’s what happens

when you smoke seven joints in a row.”

Your refrigerator door gives the lie

to eternity—the door from whose surface

someone, someday, will remove your photos,

put them into a shoebox, and store them

on some disenchanted shelf.

 

 

The Truth About Conspiracies

 

What about those nitwits that won’t vaccinate

their kids against measles—the same screwballs

who criticize climate change deniers because

they denigrate science? Didn’t god invent jail cells

for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

 

What do you think happens when an

antivaccine ninny gets wheeled into

an emergency room gasping for breath

and holding her chest? Does she shout,

“Don’t touch me with that EKG!” Or,

“Keep that oxygen away from me!” Or,

“Don’t you dare take my blood!” No,

once in the ER, she becomes a big booster

of medical science. Just as there are no

atheists in foxholes, there aren’t many

antivaccine nutters in cardiac care units.

 

What about extended warranties?

A company has so little confidence

in its product that it sells you a warrantee

on top of the warrantee that already

comes with the oven, iron, refrigerator,

or the most shameful appliance of all—

the electric can opener. Isn’t a sign

of adulthood, of entrance into what Lacan

called the “Symbolic Order,” the ability

to operate a manual can opener? Doesn’t

that old-timey can opener allow us to assume

our place in Western Civilization? The truth

(and this poem is about the truth) is that

the company knows these gismos will last for years.

They play on our insecurity and incompetence: sell us

warrantees that make us pay twice as much for the widget

than it’s worth. Thank you P.T. Barnum!

 

Speaking of what lasts—every day I put cat poop

in the plastic bag my newspaper comes in

and it will stay in that plastic bag as long

as the plastic bag exists, which is forever.

Think of that—the only proof we have of eternity—

a plastic bag full of cat poop! Wait, there’s more—

 

I shave with the Gillette razor my father bought

in the thirties and used all through World War II.

Stainless steel doesn’t rust! The Gillette company

realized in the sixties that, if they kept making

this quality product, something that never needs

to be replaced, they’d go broke. So they turned to

the plastic disposables they make today that occupy

our landfills and compete for space in our oceans.

 

What about expiration dates? I get it with mayonnaise.

When green spores or brown splotches spoil its virginal

perfection, it’s time for the garbage bin. No problem there, but

everyone knows that salsa and Tobasco sauce never go bad.

They’re too hot to go bad, like my wife whose body may

be gnarled in places and is often wracked with pain,

but her essence, her bedrock goodness, her passionate

kindness and understanding will outlast any date etched

on a tombstone or printed on a death notice.

 

 

The Truth About Obituaries

 

The one time you absolutely must read

the obituary column and you can’t

because you’re dead! You will never read

what the amorphous “They” wrote about you.

And no fair writing your own obit. That’s cheating.

Talk about a conflict of interest!

 

The point of reading your obituary

is to see what others thought about you.

After all, as Sartre said in rebuke to Heidegger:

My death is not only not my ownmost possibility,

it isn’t my possibility at all. I’ll be dead!

No, my death, wrote Sartre, is some other

poor sod’s possibility (I’m paraphrasing here).

 

Someone other than me will discover my body—

maybe my sweet wife as she struggles to

find warmth in our bed only to discover

the cold hulk that was me; or some overworked

cop, called after a neighbor saw too many

newspapers bunched on my front porch;

or some luckless EMT who has to pry

my broken body out of twisted metal.

 

Will that final scribe highlight my kindness,

my fortitude in resisting the government as

a conscientious objector during Viet Nam?

Or will she focus on my disgust with academia

and the ever-dwindling psychoanalytic mirage;

my disappointments about growing up

in Cheyenne, Wyoming—a dusty, backward,

one-horse town that might as well have been

in the deep South—with an alcoholic father

and a mother who chose an alcoholic man?

Will she emphasize how ill-tempered I am

after my daily walk? How crabby I get

before dinner? Will she find some scandal

I’d forgotten or didn’t even know about?

 

As I rethink this now, it will be good

to be dead when my obit appears.

I’m with Sartre’s—let the other

deal with my demise.

 

Charlie Brice

Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Permafrost, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.

 

 

A Perfect Animal

The opposite of anything is the thing itself—     Say, a face or a body.

Say, lilacs blooming from within the barrel of a gun.

As it pertains to the living, say then: each day is a crash course in survival.

Say, under extreme conditions,

a mother may kill and / or abandon her young.

As such, say it possible at every baptism, we arrive as low-hanging fruit.

That we are as strange & as meek as thy neighbor.    Say, especially, this means

what we can’t say otherwise:     say—  of guilt & love, only the smallest

child can explain the difference …

Say, then, you believe the sun burns as extremely as it hungers.  That violence figures

as a mercy which yields great returns on a body.

Say then: I am worthy.

Say, this time, I will be more than the slow infinity of my name in God’s mouth.

That should night come, I will be given

proper burial.    At the very least—    say:  one day,

a perfect animal will make a house from my bones.

 

 

Susan L. Leary

Susan L. Leary’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in such places as Posit Journal, The Christian Century, Heavy Feather Review, Arcturus (Chicago Review of Books), and Into the Void. She is both a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, and her chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in August 2019. She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami (FL). Find her at www.susanlleary.com.