Sometime Too Natural Shapes
Four vultures sit in silent conference
It’s been observed they will not land
To pick clean
A carcass whose blood was let
In the shape of a spiral.
We should follow their example,
Constellations of Necessity
We mapped the stars with peerless confidence
Charting elephants, turtles
And long-tailed snarling dragons
I’ve found, living in the city
I can do this with the lit squares of dim office spaces
Though the animals I conjure
Are altogether less inspired
But There are Dragons in this City
I may even be a part of someone else’s
I keep the lights turned bright for them
In hopes I’ll be its eye
Omri Kadim was born in London and has since lived in Paris, Tel Aviv, Athens, Vienna and New York. He writes both poetry and dramatic works, with several plays having been produced in New York and a recent short film he co-wrote having been accepted into the Cannes Short Film Corner 2016. His poems follow Pound’s dictum, “Fundamental accuracy of statement is the sole morality of writing’ and thus are often Spartan in their composition.
Here, this darker map of sand. Piss
and otherwise. There, your steel bowls—
water and dry food. The tarp
blocks the sun’s worst,
but you keep to the shadows
of your house. You’re a brooder—
no pacing, no bark, bite indeterminate.
From dark oblong of doorway,
yellow eyes give away nothing.
Sometimes you emerge, pad across
cage to watch the children
howling and wild. No tail wag,
no expectation, perhaps a longing
forgotten. Shepherd, pastor alemán.
Your master whistles past,
garden artichokes, sheets fresh off the line,
passes two fingers through links
for a quick scratch of forehead
and thick fur. From the balcony
of the ancient farmhouse, between
hills a tease of glowing sea,
blue promise. You can’t see that from
here, where days are numbered.
Gaylord Brewer is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where he founded and for more than 20 years edited the journal Poems & Plays. His most recent book is the cookbook-memoir The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire (Stephen F. Austin, 2015). His tenth collection of poetry, The Feral Condition, is forthcoming from Negative Capability Press.
Georgia O’Keefe, 1916
Georgia, it’s been one hundred years
since you stood in the dark Texas dawn
and marveled at the multicolored haze
clouding toward you down the track.
You thought the rest of your life
would unspool from Canyon, Texas.
You wrote Alfred Stieglitz that you saw
the train, thought of him, and blazed.
You had never even been to New Mexico.
I think of you, so young out on the stark
gray sand, the oncoming train glittering
alive and black, its light fixed upon you
like a sun, like an eye
seeing what no one else can see.
Amie Sharp’s poems have appeared in Atticus Review, Badlands, the Bellevue Literary Review, New Plains Review, and Tar River Poetry, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her manuscript Flare was a semifinalist for the Crab Orchard First Book Award. She lives in Colorado.
DNA is my totem pole, I shall not want.
It leadeth me to lie down amid terrapins at low tide:
It leadeth me beside coiled anacondas.
It restoreth my limbic brain:
It leadeth me on the tao of evolution for no one’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the herpetological vestiges
of primal fear, I will fear no amphibian or reptile,
for thou, deoxyribonucleic acid, are within me.
The helices of thy spiral of immanence guide me.
Thou preparest a swampscape in the presence
of my kindred spirits; thou anointest my mind
with imagery; imagination runneth over.
Surely turtles and tortoises shall follow me all
the dreams of human life, and I will dwell
in the burrow of oroboros forever.
Six Mile Cypress Slough après Howard Hodgkin
This is a poem in black and white
like a black-and-white warbler
in the black-and-white of midday
sun spots and spotting shadows
of wax myrtle sweet bay red maple
bald cypress in green stillness
this is a poem turning the greens
of spring in the slough into strap-fern
green green of alligator flag green of water
hyacinth in algae-green water swamp-lettuce
green green of my envy for the green camouflage
of an orb-weaver’s web empty of spider and prey
this poem swerves into the red
eye of ibis red eye of black-crowned
night heron red in the voice of cardinals
red on the marginal scutes and carapace
of turtles heating up with the day
red my blood red my blood red blood
for Colleen North
Karla Linn Merrifield
Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 600+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (based in Vancouver, BC), a member of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), the Florida State Poetry Society, and The Author’s Guild. She is currently at work on three manuscripts and seeking a home for The Comfort of Commas, a quirky chapbook that pays tribute to punctuation. Visit her woefully outdated, soon-to-be-resurrected blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.
while you are still breathing
where your skin is submerged
and there is nothing to be
holding highest joy
and utter despair
notice the flow of your life
pushing and pulling
perhaps in spite of it
to taste your exquisite life
Matthew Mumber MD is a practicing, board certified radiation oncologist with the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia and completed his radiation oncology residency at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He graduated from the 2002 Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Living School for Action and Contemplation through the Rohr Institute. Matt founded Cancer Navigators Inc. in 2002, a 501c3 corporation which provides nurse, education and service navigation for those touched by cancer. He continues to facilitate residential retreats and groups for cancer patients and physicians. Matt took poetry writing classes under Debra Nystrom while at UVA and has continued to write, and just recently has begun to seek publication of his poems. He has published two health and wellness books.
Such a never-ending winter, these months
of snow and ice and gloom. We’ve lost
long hours again today, pushing back
last night’s leaden blanket of wet white,
mounding piles shoulder-high, towering
till they avalanche as if to mock our labors.
The wind whips our cheekbones red
and wet and raw, my wife and I,
our shovels lufting slush, lungs puffing
huffs and grunts . . . when, within a waking dream,
she says, That sugar-white beach
in Isla Mujeres, remember? I nod,
a touch of warmth, a blush, floods over me,
a smile. Side-by-side we replay these memories,
wordlessly, relishing not just the mind’s rescue
but something bone-deep having bubbled up
like steaming waters from the earth’s core.
And I remember, as a kid, that same sensation,
a resurrection out of the depths of near hopelessness,
our schoolyard in late March beginning to thaw.
One brown patch of lawn opened where snows had receded,
and we gathered there all recess, huddled in awe.
Jet-lagged, we snugged the covers over our ears
to muffle las campanas de la catedral, tolling.
Stepped into the midday sun, blinded by how far
the day had progressed without us. Hungry
enough to settle for a vendor’s cart menu,
plastic tables and worn umbrellas, across from the plaza
where someone had switched on
fountains of spray hissing skyward and falling,
sizzling on the hot streets like rain.
Not a fountain, really, but jets
or nozzles embedded in the cobbles and brickwork,
firing at random for the simple screams
of barefoot niňos dashing to soak
their camisetas y pantelones for the joy of what
dazzle might rise on a Sunday afternoon.
And did I mention the children blowing bubbles?
Not blowing them, really, but throwing them
from homemade coat-hanger wands dipped
in pails of sudsy dish soap. Huge soap balloons
taking shape as the children twirled and laughed.
Families cheering the bubbles as each rose toward the sun,
undulating liquid rainbows. Kaleidoscopic rainbows!
As my wife and I held hands across the table,
glad to be in love amidst the bustle,
this world’s wondrous and baffling extravagance,
thousands of miles from home.
Our strategy for this day: don’t waste it
roaming the cobbles in the aimless manner
we’d diddled away the hours yesterday —
my customary druthers when accustoming myself
to a foreign locale. I like to simply set out walking,
let each new intersection dictate which way to go.
But this day at breakfast, a sunlit street-side café,
you opened the guidebook and made plans. We’d locate
the burial site of the young peasant, a revolutionary. The one
who gave his life — or so the story alleges —
not for his flag, but for the welfare of his wife and children.
You passed the map across the table, without speaking,
and pointed to our destination, tapping gently with one finger
on the exact coordinates of your chosen goal.
All morning we searched street names, asking directions,
straining to comprehend a few words of a language
not our own, charging this way and that,
until past noon we stopped for a glass of wine,
conceding we were lost. Something between us,
lost. I couldn’t guess what it was. Except that our son
and daughters were grown and gone. And when we rose
to go again, we had nowhere particular in mind, meandering
across the plaza, stepping recklessly through traffic,
lured by cathedral doors thrown wide.
In the darkness inside, I studied the carved-wood altar.
Someone might have mistaken my mumbling as a prayer.
You lit a votive and set it reverently beside dozens
of strangers’ wishes flaming. Three cathedrals
we explored that afternoon — their spires rising on the skyline,
easy to find. This day I now recall in its vaulted ceilings.
And a sadness in you, hushed at depths I’d scarcely divined.
You, slipping pesos into the slotted donation box. You,
igniting brightness. I’d give my life for you
and the children, I thought. You, your face aglow
amidst a thousand flickering shadows.
I’d never loved you more.
to pull the blinds,
— your mother and I —
inside the empty nest.
You slammed the hatch
on your Subaru, its bursting load
of fantasies and mysteries boxed,
with plush bears.
Smiled, waved, honked,
and sped away. Our last,
We stood at the window
— your mother and I —
and breathed silence.
She simmered a Mexican stew
later that afternoon, which
side-by-side across from your place
at the table, we sipped
spoon by spoon.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press, author of seven collections of poems, recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council, and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.