Jonathan Minton – 2 poems

from LETTERS

            

In my letter, I described the wooden boat

where we spent the summer.

It was like a toy in an enameled tub,

and you laughed at every wave that bumped it.

I think of this as if it happened twice.

But all order is imposed, even a calm day,

with three or more clouds, one for each sky.

            

When our scenery changed, you became

as a backdrop to this, as mountains,

or a thin and silver wall rising out of water.

            

This is not yet a memory, but a projection

of something else, a photograph, or a film. 

When you first spoke of our sorrow,

the word was just a shadow.

            

Plato said to be on guard against this fiction.

But the fiction is always there. 

My hands have touched its strange brick.

            

from LETTERS

            

You spoke of uncertainty as if it were a nest. You gave me

its guarded beauty. It was a gold cup. It was a lake.

I could drink or drown there, but you caught me

            

looking at a crowd gathering on the shore. They were speaking

only your name. When they left, the scene darkened.

Is it enough to say that we kept watch? In another sentence,

            

a hidden machine replaces the word green for darling,

but this is the story of the lake and cup. I am in it as someone

writing. You are like the green curtains that open or close.

            

Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of the poetry collections Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He is the editor of the journal Word For/Word (www.wordforword.info).

Alan Humm – 6 poems

The first time I played with David

            

…was at the Collingdales.

The studio: a warm, confiding light,

cloth merging into sunshine

in the gloom.

Looms were prosaic blocks

you rubbed together

to make fire.

            

Everywhere – books.

The house was built on them

in the same way that a mind

constructs itself upon

its memories.

You were always here,

rather than the elsewhere

that my house inspired.

Chopping wood, drinking

elderflower wine,

I learned that time

conspires to keep you

in the places that you love,

aware of every moment in the way

that you feel water round you

in a river. Dave’s fingers glide

along the cello strings; mine fumble

but it’s not the music that’s important:

it’s the house; the thing I’m living up to.

I am flat, or sharp.

It doesn’t matter; call it art.

            

Shipbuilding

            

Men and bright metal and the air,

all burnished gold. Art, see.

The gatefold sleeve disclosed

a record that felt more: more bleak;

more serious – the chords processing

and the voice as frail as smoke.

I had a song about El Salvador.

It didn’t matter where it was;

the point was me: my seriousness.

When Dave played cello,

ghosting me,

his tone was bleak; assured

– a doubling.

I felt the microphone display my voice

like billowing sheets. I felt it.

When I played it back

it was just me,

aiming to please and not to please.

Grit in an echoing quarry;

lost, but not in song.

            

Respect

            

The park was fathoms deep;

the town’s night-self.

Robert’s road avoided it. It had sly curves; a tilt

too fit for purpose: a slow lullaby.

Nervous at the piano – dull but spry – he used to study me,

stiff fingers playing

what appeared to be a finger bowl.

One day, I put “Respect” on

and I danced,

attempting to embody it.

He moved like I’d thrown fire crackers at his feet

and I was pleased to see the difference,

eager to prove my own night-self

in the ascendant.

“…sock it to me,” in excelsis.

            

The Duke’s Head

            

I was too poor

to pay the entrance fee;

had entered when the light

was still half-hearted sepia.

Aspic. I was suspended in it,

while, outside, daylight felt like a fire

that had refused to start;

reflected from the tiny shop

and the street’s sudden narrowness,

it seems, in memory, the colour

of a dying leaf.

People were a relief. You saw yourself,

at last, reflected in the narrowness

of the boys’ eyes; the girls’ pale shoulders;

how they sat there

like the seat was a boat’s prow.

If they sat still,

gilded as carefully as flowers,

it would come,

the thing the music named.

            

Outside, the darkness curled below

the window, seeming to protect

the things you thought were animated 

and made permanent

by the wildness of your love.


            
Music Shop

            
Oh, but it was fun.

The music shop, instruments brimming –

simmering – in a light 

that was like the light of libraries:

dimly, ironically withholding; displaying,

really, how the urge to sing’s

embodied in the swiftness of a curve;

a brassy glaze.

            
You plug in and there is

that hum: you on the runway;

power an imperative – the will to fly,

the bass making the thrum

of wheels; the drums 

sending you upwards.

Your excitement, multiplied. 

Not that which flies 

but flight itself,

transcending how the shop

is like the inside of a cake;

the song, too: fake Phil Spector

made exciting just by being thrown 

into the air.

My brother stared. He shook his head.

“It’s like the bloody

Kids from Fame”, he said.

            
Gainsborough Silks

            
Sun tries the roofs

but still the town is coffined 

in its atmosphere.

Your hair, dull gold (I call it gold),

is doubled in the threads I tease

out in the factory.

I spool, or else unspool, the bobbins

and there is a moment when they rattle; 

come unmoored – I feel it in my chest.

I will not rest, it seems. 

I have the frail, attenuated balance

of a top; am spun between the streetlights

and the hedges, light and dark,

as though I am the two sides of a coin.

            
They stand in judgement: 

all the houses; the sententious gardens;

streets deformed by shadow 

into grappling hands.

I stood beneath her window

in my stupid hat, a panama,

and I tell people now that I was splashed

by passing cars

but all I did was stand,

my yearning so diffuse

it felt the way a fog looks

when it smothers you.

            
I ape my own predicament:

hunched at the threads,

it looks as though my body’s

shrugging itself off. 

When I am Floundering

I am the element I flounder in.

            

Alan Humm

Wade Fox – 2 poems

Apparition

            

An old woman and an old man, battered

by the years, had slept together for a lifetime,

through dark nights of dreams. One night,

when tired and dry, the woman groaned, rolled

from bed and shuffled to the kitchen, her hands before

her in the dark, turned on the tap, drank

some water from a tumbler, placed the glass in the sink

and died, falling to the floor, never returning

to bed. In the morning, the man awoke to find

her side of the bed empty, the blankets folded

back. He called to his wife without reply.

Staggering from bed, he donned his robe and slippers.

In the middle of the bedroom, he paused, listened for the bustle

of breakfast preparation and heard nothing.

Remembering his hearing aids, he chuckled to himself.

In the bathroom, he peed and farted, washed

his hands, and poked his hearing aids into

his ears with stubby fingers. He lumbered down

the hall to the kitchen, where he found his wife,

partner of a lifetime, crumpled on the floor

like a pale moth. He said her name,

as though he might summon her to rise,

and then dropped into a chair beside her

and said nothing. I am alone, he thought

in the moment before he felt her presence. He gasped,

seeing her familiar form before him

even as he watched her empty shell on the floor.

Her smell surrounded him, the vibration filled

the room. “How could you leave me alone?”

he thought. “How could you go?”

“I have been with you for a lifetime,

but I have never known your mind,”

said her voice, like faraway static.

“I see you now,” she said. “All

the things you never disclosed. How

lonely I always was and how empty you

were.” The man sat quietly and said

nothing, for there was nothing left to hide.

            

Fishing in the Dark

            

Sitting on a shore

a still lake

early morning

the sun not yet risen

            

stars are still

in the sky

shining on

the placid water

            

huddled in

my jacket I’m

shivering in

the damp cold

            

beneath the smooth

surface the fish

glide darkly

            

weeds wave

worms dig

in the sand

            

a mysterious world

            

I watch the glassy

two-dimensional plane

            

where I cast

my line

with a splash

that shatters

the universe

            

concentric circles

ripple outward

            

the baited hook

descends

from dark  

into dark

            

I am alone

            

with only

my thoughts

wondering

will I feel

            

the tug

on the end

of the line.

            

Wade Fox lives in Denver and teaches writing at the Community College of Denver. He is the founder of New Feathers Anthology, an online and print literary and art journal. A writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction,he has published poems in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Cabildo Quarterly, Datura Journal, Occam’s Razor, Littoral, and R.K.V.R.Y, and short stories in Occam’s Razor, The Corner Club, and Minimus. He has also written book reviews and cowrote a chapter in the book Blues: Philosophy for Everyone. As an editor, he has edited many authors, including, notably, George Harrison, JK Rowling, Vladimir Putin and Kamala Harris.   

Glen Armstrong – 6 poems

Forever Shampoo

            

Here’s a picture 

of my sister

under the Arc de Triomphe,

            

her hair, 

flaring out 

to the entire universe.

            

There were things

that used to happen

each and every Saturday night.

            

We sang songs

that made us glisten

like roller skate keys.

            

Here’s a picture 

of my sister playing bass

with The Steve Miller Band.

            

She had a way 

of disappearing and popping

up where we’d least expect her.

            

Here’s one of her 

flipping off Chip and Dale

behind their backs.

            

Here she is reconsidering

the embroidery on her shirt,

turning a flower back 

            

to purple thread.

            

Year of the Sea Monkey XXXII

            

Americans tremble 

at a supervillain’s feet. 

The heart wants

            

what the heart wants.

My sweetheart reminds me

not to kink-shame

            

the Americans.

They run on different frequencies

and dream of chicken and cars.

            

That which they cannot fry,

they try to turbocharge.

The villain’s boot is large,

            

and it shines like morning dew

on a perfectly cooked thigh

or a finely tuned carburetor.

            

Americans like distractions:

club sandwiches and soda.

That which explodes must explode

            

internally, eternal.

The villain’s divine foot

must never be mentioned.

            

Summer Teeth

            

Newcomers and beachcombers 

occupy the pumpkin

            

seed of a Venn diagram.

Dry ethnographers attend

            

to sand on feet,

who is overlapping 

            

whom and such.

They stretch timeless summer 

            

across a graph

in a notebook that would rather

            

be a treasure map.

They fill pages with observations

            

that would rather be

holding hands.

            

House of India #81

There is spicy stew in front of me and spicy stew becoming me. I sometimes articulate a thought that seems to come from beyond. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes I touch my hair and realize my limits. Hard stops in spite of the world passing through.

The door opens and a chilly, unseasonal breeze scatters a stack of paid dinner checks. The new patron’s leather blazer and domino mask designate him as a crimefighter. Or a criminal. Or the shadow of a clown. This is not me.

To have a destiny, one must have a self / be a game piece. Be a racecar. Be a top hat. The thimble holds but a drop of stew. Though the waitress must know that I will not try it, she is obliged to describe the new item on the menu.

I suppose it would do no harm to try the jacket on. There is ample room in the shoulders, and though it looks odd buttoned up, there is room through the waist as well. I have recently lost some weight, and the weightless have been treating me with more respect. More affection. I meant to say the “waitress.” This is not me.

            

Antonyms for “White”

            

I’m not home when you show up

with the box

            

full of colorful socks

for the white 

            

elephant sale.

It’s, accordingly, a big box,

            

and you leave it in the driveway.

It’s a sudden rain,

            

the sort in which religious types

find meaning.

            

I am more tempted to invent 

a character who would 

            

cherry-pick a pair 

of the donated socks for himself

            

than I am to cherry-pick

a pair of my own.

            

He walks around,

his poorly hemmed pants revealing 

            

the pink and yellow stripes. 

            

Among the Forgetters #17

            

Strange blue brightness. 

            

Red brick house. 

            

Yellow taxis still wait

for us to break

things off.

            

No one loves the Bride

of Frankenstein

            

more than my cousin,

who lives

            

in Chicago.

            

Shiny white police

motorcycles

make

            

the rainclouds 

seem like swear words

that when uttered

            

seem like forbidden tunnels.

Few dare enter.

            

It’s enough today to seem,

enough to glow

in such

            

subtle ways that no one

notices. 

            

Glen Armstrong (he/him/his) holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. He has three current books of poems: Invisible HistoriesThe New Vaudeville, and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry NorthwestConduit, and The Cream City Review.

John Maurer – 4 poems

Synthesizing Honestly in Aggregation

            

Oligarchies and dictatorships 

have fallen all the same

If two heads were better than one

evolution would have seen to it

            

The auteur theory sustains, no matter 

how hard deep-pocketed studio owners disagree

If greatness was measured by financial success

than Van Gogh is the worst painter to ever pick up the brush

            

If riskless perfection is the goal, Hendrix should’ve never 

picked up the flaming guitar by his LSD dripping teeth

I’d rather break my bones to break down the door 

then wait for it to be opened

            

I’d rather speak with meaning 

and be ignored than placate.

            

Confidence is the Infrastructure

            

There’s no doubt in my mind, there certainly shouldn’t be any doubt in yours-Bob Ross

            

Doubt will kill the poet before the Plath Syndrome gets a chance

If you don’t believe you have something worth saying, what are you saying?

If you speak for a response, you aren’t an artist but a reaction

The bard does not differentiate between love and hate

That is not his lot in life, that is the lot of everyone else

Some people will love you, some people will hate you

If you change to be loved by those who hate you, those who loved you will hate you

            

As they should, as you deserve, you are not a model, not meant to be beautiful

You are a heart bleeding and beating at an exponentially slower meter

This purpose is being the maggots on the street rot

This purpose is being unapologetic on how horrible you are

In hopes that someone will see and maybe say I might just try being me too.

            

A Pick-Pocketed Identity

            

Prison is only a trade school 

for black market occupations

School is only a ceremonial entrance 

into the magic trick that is distracting you for your entire life

            

Assembling your life like cheap Swedish furniture

Step-by-step, bullet point by bullet point

and somehow after following every detail perfectly

the puzzle you’ve assembled doesn’t look like the picture on the box

            

Note to Self:

You did what you were told to by those who didn’t care about what you want 

and you are now surprised that your life isn’t what you wanted

There is design and there is following a template of a designer

You have lived a greyscale, milquetoast, Chinatown knock off of a life

            

No wonder, now it’s falling apart.

            

Trash Compacted to a Diamond

            

If you channel invert the night 

sky transforms to acid rain

There are sketches more masterful 

than molasses thick paint 

on canvases larger than walls

            

I’ve heard a man use a ballpoint pen 

and a wooden banister to compose music 

more intricate than any orchestra

Gravity has laws, beauty doesn’t even have a guideline

Not to those who dedicate their lives to studying it

            

Who know how hard it is to see

It doesn’t hit you like a mortared wall

It hits you whenever it’s too late, whenever that may be.

            

John Maurer is a 26-year-old writer from Pittsburgh that writes fiction, poetry, and everything in-between, but his work always strives to portray that what is true is beautiful. He has been previously published in Claudius Speaks, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, and more than fifty others. @JohnPMaurer (johnpmaurer.com)