This season is a
power wash for my arteries,
I am washed clean
and hung to dry on the clothesline.
Father doesn’t work, he sits
on the veranda, smoking a bidi,
his friends bring him bottles of
Arrack: they brew it with petrol
and ash, they slice some fruits,
add lizards to the pot
boil them to a sozzle-blitz.
I watch my neighbours stir it
with blood-shot eyes.
Amma kills my pet chickens every day,
Mary, Martha, Kunju have all been
cooked with spices ground at home.
Men look at amma’s blouse
as she bends down to serve them.
on a plantain leaf. They smack their
lips savouring spices, looking
at her melons and at times, at me.
Amma has purple patches all over her face,
she snores into her dreamless land.
I feel two hands pull me up by my feet,
peel off my petticoat.
No one hears me in the night
when pain washes my heart clean.
I soar up with the wind
watch my friends smile
in their sleep dreaming
of angels like me.
I dry out day and night
on the clothesline
washed clean from
pain and shame.
Babitha Marina Justin
Babitha Marina Justin is from Kerala, South India and a Pushcart prize nominee, 2018. Her poems have appeared in Eclectica , Esthetic Apostle, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Chaleur Magazine, Into the Void, Trampset, Inlandia , The Paragon Press, Adolphus Press, The Punch Magazine, Rise Up Review, Constellations, Cathexis NW Press, Silver Needle Press, About Place Journal, The Write Launch, Trampset, The Four Quarters Magazine, So to Speak journal, Kritya and Journal of Post-Colonial Literature. Her first collection of poetry, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills, was published by the Writers Workshop in 2015. She is also waiting to debut as a novelist with ‘Maria’s Swamp’
His heart gave out two nights ago
at 29, four years out of Iraq.
In war, with mangled vehicles,
mechanics strip the intact parts.
Fuel pump, clutch, perhaps an axle,
roof hatch, carburetor, clutch,
random gauges, a machine gun mount.
Back home in Pinson
Tennessee, he heard cicadas
saw his head
around the clock.
A jobless drift of smashed chairs.
A son meandering the fence
around my sister’s yard,
tremors in his vision as he
spat accusations in the grass.
Meth: a gnashing chatter.
Heroin: molasses in a moan.
His Purple Heart
lying with its recovered bullet
in a satin-lined box.
A year of VA rehab lockdown,
with a Johnson City keyhole view:
him, his eyes lost in the mountains,
from a bench out on the lawn.
Two nights ago, his heart gave out
at 29. He’s on life support
until they harvest organs.
Eric Forsbergh’s poetry has appeared in The Journal of The American Medical Association, Zeotrope, Artemis, The Cafe Review, and other venues. In 2016, he was awarded a Pushcart nomination by The Northern Virginia Review. He is a Vietnam veteran.
In January, we headed south.
First, a road trip, then a new place to live…
Never eat Chinese food
in Birmingham, Alabama was
one lesson learned.
At our destination, each of our myths,
so carefully curried, was sucked
into February, then disassembled
and poured, like an old man’s ashes,
into April’s mud puddles.
Unlike dear Lazarus, these were
ashes never to be resurrected.
There wasn’t enough love
in all of the world to make them
whole and bring them back to us.
Another lesson learned:
Sometimes smoke does not
indicate a fire.
We watched the souls of our loved ones
flow steadily from stubby Palmettos and
were introduced to insects larger than our
imaginations. Once, we saw geese in the sky
coming towards us and, once, in a park,
a swan bit my bare heel. The mark looked
a little like a lipstick imprint on the edge
of a glass. When I wrote to a friend
to tell her about the swan, she giggled,
“They are mean little fuckers, aren’t they?”
We felt 1000 spirits in the south, pleading
for bodies, longing to extend themselves
as soon as the signal was given. While we
waited for pulled pork at a barbeque joint,
the twilight grew gray and empty
and heat-treated rain began to fall.
Something about the atmosphere made me
feel tangled and more shy than ever. The
nights were ripe with nightmares and
visits from my dead father. The air…something…
In July, in yet another new rental, Barbara Goldberg’s
words sang out in every room: “The world is ripe with calamity,”
she said in a steady alto. Once the entire apartment
was taken over by beige and gray, we made our decisions
and drove back to Los Angeles—unfiltered, certain.
Martina Reisz Newberry
Martina Reisz Newberry is the author of 6 books of poetry. Her most recent book is BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY, available from Deerbrook Editions. She is the author of NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE (from Deerbrook Editions), and TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (Unsolicited Press). She is also the author of WHERE IT GOES (Deerbrook Editions). LEARNING BY ROTE (Deerbrook Editions) and RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE: Collected Poems (Red Hen Press). She has been included in “The Sixty Four Best Poets of 2018” (Black Mountain Press/The Halcyone Magazine editorial staff). Newberry has been included in As It Ought to Be, Big Windows, Courtship of Winds, The Cenacle, Cog, Futures Trading, and many other literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. Her work is included in the anthologies Marin Poetry Center Anthology, Moontide Press Horror Anthology, A Decade of Sundays: L.A.’s Second Sunday Poetry Series-The First Ten Years, In The Company Of Women, Blessed Are These Hands and Veils, and Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women. She has been awarded residencies at Yaddo Colony for the Arts, Djerassi Colony for the Arts, and Anderson Center for Disciplinary Arts. Passionate in her love for Los Angeles, Martina currently lives there with her husband, Brian, a Media Creative.
Blue suit, pressed
white shirt, red tie,
where the bullet
the tearful track,
on father’s long arm,
by the stark face
of death, young
men in dreads
as he would have been,
friends of the family,
one by one.
The church fills
with gray winter light,
like spirits in air;
the color of grief is
the same everywhere.
There is no anger,
no vengeance in sight,
Mary Hills Kuck
Having retired from teaching English and Communications, first in the US and for many years in Jamaica, Mary Kuck now lives with her family in Massachusetts. She has received a Pushcart Prize Nomination and her poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Hamden Chronicle, SIMUL: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, Caduceus, The Jamaica Observer Bookends, Fire Stick: A Collection of New & Established Caribbean Poets, the Aurorean, Tipton Poetry Journal, Slant and Main St. Rag (both forthcoming), and others.
Autumn 2020, Lake Weeroona, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Three kilometres of asphalted track surround the lake.
In early hours, if you go clockwise, a morning sun will
warm your back. Go anti clockwise and you’ll squint
most of your way. About 80 people circle the lake today.
Only two need not squint. The slow mow down shufflers.
The not-so-slow press hard upon the slow. The quick
storm past anyone in front of them. They bunch close,
plague-friendly close. Tyranny of numbers forces the
two who walk clockwise off the track onto the verge.
Gasping, sweating, heaving, the mob shoves and elbows
for spurious advantage, eager to hunt a vanished dawn,
frantic not to be overtaken by a runner they cannot see
but have learned to fear from reputation, an athlete
who glides with the long, lazy stride of the gifted,
a player who reserves their best for the finish line.
The aberrant couple stroll into the unfolding day, yet
a while before the sun descends, perhaps there’ll be
other sunsets, more seasons for leaves to fall from these
oaks and elms and plane trees, many evenings to watch
the light drain from the day, until, none knows when,
comes a caress of the gentling blanket of enduring dark.
BN Oakman, formerly an academic economist, started writing poetry in 2006. His poems have been published in The Age, The Australian, The Canberra Times, Meanjin, Quadrant, Island, Antipodes (USA), Going Down Swinging, Mascara, Cordite, Tincture Journal, Australian Poetry Journal, Eureka Street, Acumen (UK), Poetry Monash, Famous Reporter, Arena Magazine, The Warwick Review (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Best Australian Poems 2014 and 2015 and elsewhere. He has published two full length collections, In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts (IP 2010) and Second thoughts (IP 2014) plus two chapbooks. In 2016 the distinguished Australian actor John Flaus recorded 25 of his poems for a CD titled ‘What did I know? He has been a recipient of a grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. Second Thoughts was awarded best IP poetry book of 2014. He was a Pushcart Prize (USA) nominee in 2015.
Unnoticed in the bushes off the 101 Freeway.
By the time he was found,
a wood rat had dragged his skull
some thirty feet off
to use as a nest. – Dorothy Baressi, from “The Garbage Keepers”
I love this idea.
The mice’s fur, dry as straw,
bellies pink with milk. Their claws, curled
thin as the roots of an orchid, inside.
Think of it, your skull,
this thing you have carried from room to room,
library that housed all your angry love letters,
recipes for limeade, lists for what needed
to be done on the house. Now empty
as a temple made to honor a lunar eclipse.
The sockets of my eyes say nothing.-
still their gaze against the cold,
making their hollow, a window into trees.
O lordess of silence. I think of songs
whispered in branches. Sweetness in the leaves,
rustled by the feet of doves.
The long knives of green, coming through the earth.
The way they seem to be made of light.
The owl in his palace of feathers.
Eyes yellow as sonnets.
But why focus on the owl, or grass, or trees?
Look at the forest and the broken spines of leaves,
the roots lifting from the ground
and the city beyond. All your life
you’ve been trying to find
something to land on. Let us return
to the skull, which has carried so much
of its own shadow, now lying in the forest,
the mice, nestled skin to skin, filling
your bones with their contentment.
Like earth’s final apology,
and her prayer.
Tresha Faye Haefner
Tresha Faye Haefner’s poetry appears, or is forthcoming in several journals and magazines, most notably Blood Lotus, The Cincinnati Review, Hunger Mountain, Pirene’s Fountain, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Radar, Rattle and TinderBox. Her work has garnered several accolades, including the 2011 Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, and a 2012 nomination for a Pushcart.