Jan Ball – 2 poems

Cherry juice

Cherry juice squirts
on my index fingernail
at breakfast.

It looks
like tiny drops of blood.

How quickly
       a party
               can turn wild:
words spew from
vodka lips; a finger
penetrates a shoulder
like a knife, eyes pierce
into other eyes savagely.

An ancient branch
shatters the veranda
roof during a storm,
and twigs slash
the porch screens
while thunder booms
like a violent disagreement.

He finds someone else
at a conference in LA
and my hands are bloody.

Down the Drain

Hibiclens recommended
for pre-op cleansing
five days before
my hip replacement,
two times already we wet
my skin in the shower,
turn off the shower head
then rub in the red cleanser
all over except for tender face
and privates
and wait for three minutes
like warming bread rolls
in the microwave
to destroy bacteria
that potentially can cause
disease then wet again
to rinse the soap off.

This morning’s peculiar
soap fragrance wafts
off my neck and arms
up to my nares,
a medical synonym used
by the pharmacy for nostrils.
Will the neighborhood dogs
still want to sniff me
with their friendly curiosity
when my usual pheromones
wash down the drain? 

Jan has had 328 poems published in international journals as well as in the U.S. for example: The American Journal of Poetry, Atlanta Review, Calyx,
Nimrod and Phoebe. Her three chapbooks and one full length poetry collection, I Wanted to Dance With My Father, have been published by Finishing Line Press and are available on Amazon. Orbis, England, nominated her for the Pushcart in 2020.

Jan was a nun for seven years then lived in Australia for fourteen years with her Aussie husband and two children. She completed a dissertation at The University of Rochester: Age and Natural Order in Second Language Acquisition then taught ESL at RIT, Loyola and DePaul Universities, back in Chicago.

Mark Totterdell – 1 poem

1992

What did he think, that his hand-scrawled banner
would somehow stop contracts from being fulfilled,
the diggers in their tracks, that he could turn the
world with words, that nineteenth-century verse would
be enough? Once lines had been broken,
once injunctions had been imposed, he departed,
bereft, to be replaced by a tough tribe
of characters with bolts and chains, who braved
wet and cold in a last stand against the machine,
and of course they failed too, and so another
wildness was unwritten from the earth’s pages.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines  in the UK and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014) and Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).

Vern Fein – 2 poems

BROTHERS

Our father relented about BB guns,
gave me a shiny new one for my birthday,
excited to try it in the Forest Preserve.
It was sunny and bright
when my brother and I took turns,
like in Christmas Story, shot down imaginary foes.

We didn’t see them, we brothers
who laughed and traded our toy between us,
didn’t see the neighborhood boys emerge
from the thicket, a smirk of conquest
planted on their faces, a snarl:
What have we here!
Did Daddy give you a gun?
Too dangerous. Might hurt you.

Lifted me upside down,
shoved dirt in my mouth,
grabbed the gun from my brother,
threw him to the ground.
He rose like an angry snake, attacked them.
A quick, hard punch, his nose spewed blood.

I knelt beside him as they strode away,
their cackles never forgotten, nor the ping pings
as the gun became their birthday present instead.

My brother became a master carpenter,
fashioned custom furniture,
now creates only for friends.

I taught special ed children, whose families
sometimes punched them in the nose,
forgot about their birthdays.  

Never knew what became of those brothers.
Some don’t redeem themselves. Some do.

ONE WHO LISTENED

Albert Camus died in a car crash at 47

Camus,
push the rock
up, up, down,
up, up, down,
Sisyphus no myth,
born from a Plague,
absurd Stranger,
you should not have listened,
died because you listened.

What of the sayer,
the one who spoke,
the one you listened to?

Your Editor persuaded:
“Drive to Paris, Albert;
It is so much faster than the plane.
Believe me!”

We say because we say.
We cannot put our hands
over our minds.

The grief of the Editor:
“O, Albert, what the world lost
because you listened,
Existentially.”

A retired special education teacher, Vern Fein has published over one hundred fifty poems on over sixty sites, a few being: *82 Review, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Young Raven’s Review, Nine Muses, Monterey Poetry Review, and Corvus Review.