Power Wash

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

home-brewed wine.

 

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’

My Veteran of Iraq

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.

Whatever works.

 

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

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.

Resurrection

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.

Last Day

Blue suit, pressed

white shirt, red tie,

trimmed hair,

camouflaged lump

where the bullet

went in.

 

Mourners follow

the tearful track,

mother leaning

on father’s long arm,

siblings swamped

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,

dissolving faces

like spirits in air;

the color of grief is

the same everywhere.

 

There is no anger,

no vengeance in sight,

just acceptance,

defeat, despair.

 

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.

Lapping the Lake in the Time of Pestilence

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

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.

The Most Zen Thought

a man…died

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.

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