Shelby Stephenson

 

 

 

Affection

Why do I feel guilt when you say I want to get close, but my back hurts?

Yesterday on our walk I saw a fox turn his tail toward me,
the leaves parting for his body. I kept thinking: the fox is my persistence.
I know the Fate he feels − the roads, the roams,

the way we separate and go for the door opening on another.

I cannot conceive your down will stay like growing
things November beheads and tucks into folds, until January hails New
and we get out our instruments and take the road.

The disease has no beginning, no end.
It goes away without any attention.
It’s a bear that hibernates − then comes back.

Thanksgiving − you pace over the stove.

It’s Friday: the Pillbox groans with seven days.
Shoot! I took Monday’s instead of Friday’s.

Spinning out laughter amid the clime of thoughts gone numbly −
you in your walking shoes,
your blue, pale jacket ballooning,
your doctors all playing horns and tambourines.
Minstrels in black face and white −
and you − sing above your ukulele’s frail,
me, holding my voice.

Critics scrape their shoes and dance.
Editors shred their slips.

My feet on the floor of my study, my pen streaks.
I cannot leave these fields so wide, the rows long and short, planted and unplanted.
The song’s already sung, the poem’s been written a long time −
all that and more I hold onto, waiting for you.

 

 

Shelby Stephenson‘s Family Matters:  Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize, Allen Grossman, judge.  Retired from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Stephenson served for 32 years  as editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine.

 

Note: ‘Affection’ is taken from an as yet unpublished, full-length volume called Nin’s Poem:  A Bipolar Memoir.

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A.J. Huffman

 

 

 

She Was Sweeter Than Rain

In her sleep, the next morning seemed ridiculous.
Inside the effect was . . . psychological.  The stress
of a first time in unbreathing skin revolted the feverish night
and concentration.  The hunger was into something
too thin to be.  Eyes
accused (they were hunting).  Their stares
said everything burns hot enough.
It was the same phrase I’d heard
in my nightmare about the bed.

 

 

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has previously published six collections of poetry all available on Amazon.com.  She has also published her work in numerous national and international literary journals.  Most recently, she has accepted the position as editor for four online poetry journals for Kind of a Hurricane Press   Find more about A.J. Huffman, including additional information and links to her work on Facebook and Twitter.

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J. K. Durick

 

 

Big Lies Aplenty

Language is a tricky business, full of shading and nuance,
Power and play. I say one thing, they hear another. I say this
But mean that. I’ve lied some, told the truth on occasion,
Talked nonsense with a straight face, preached gospels
I invented for just the right moment. I have sold things over
The phone to people who rose to the bait like pumpkinseeds
On long hot summer afternoons – nibble, nibble, then snap-
Bap, I got ‘em. I have congratulated and cajoled, conjured
And concealed. I’ve used words as weapons, blunt instruments
Over the head and got away with so much.  I have amused myself
With the world I build in words, long avenues paved with dead
And dying metaphors, buildings as high as paragraphs, forests
As thick as syllogisms, dimmed by euphemisms, lit up with lies.
I have sacked cities and employees, groceries and goodness.
I have canned and freeze dried potent remarks, reheated
Them for later use, late night snacks, a comeback, a pyrrhic
Remark worthy of a master. I have brought language to new
Heights and worries. I have brought it to the top of the hill and
Offered it the world, at least all we could see of it for one trick,
One measly trick to let me know who was boss – literally and/or
Figuratively, the boss.

J. K. Durick is presently a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, Steam Ticket, and Common Ground Review.

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Adam Napier

 

 

[Don’t think I didn’t think it]

Don’t think I didn’t think it
running down streetlamp-lit streets,
skinny jeans, razorburn between my
ribs and the phone between my fingers,
digital clock tick-tocking six hours
until you needed to be up.

Don’t think I didn’t think it
when we danced an Ode to Walt Whitman
among the blue collar bacchants
and I recycled the shouty, strobe-light words:
‘you light up my life like nobody else’
and everyone else in the room could see it.

Don’t think I didn’t think it
with stars dripping all over
me as I read the electronic ‘goodnight’s,
with lunch
a lump
in my paper stomach, with no missed calls,
with the bus stressing all over
me as I read the SMS ‘goodmorning’s.

Don’t think
I don’t think
about you.

 

 

Adam Napier is a student from Newcastle who writes in any snatch of time he can find. He’s previously been published in The Cadaverine, The Delinquent and has poems upcoming in 3:AM Magazine.

 

 

 

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Joanna M Weston

 

 

A Desirable Location

the dead dug themselves up
from the graveyard
moved their housing
over the nearby hill
so they’d have a view
out beyond the cliff
to where sea winds
lift waves high above
grey-white cliffs

the dead buried themselves
deep under the warmth
of poppies and columbine
dandelions and vetch
peered through blossoms
caught the scent of salt-water
danced through moonlit nights
with the taste of nectar
tickling their finger bones

 

 

Joanna M Weston. Married; has two cats, multiple spiders, a herd of deer, and two derelict hen-houses. Her middle-reader, Those Blue Shoes, published by Clarity House Press; and poetry, A Summer Father, published by Frontenac House of Calgary. Her eBook,  The Willow Tree Girl at  her blog: 1960willowtree.wordpress.com/

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William Ogden Haynes

 

 

Autopsy

Below the towering one hundred foot
canopy of river oaks and an understory of dogwoods
is the brown skeleton of a dead hydrangea.
There is no doubt of its morbidity
since tweaking a branch
results in a resounding crack.
When she planted it, the gardener hoped
the bush would be large and green
with beautiful mophead blooms
as the picture on the carton promised.

But now she sits in the yard on a folding chair
drinking a glass of red wine.
She regards the dead shrub,
wondering how it, and so many others,
had slipped away under her care.
Perhaps a maladjusted sprinkler head
hovered over it for too long
or missed its target altogether.
Too much sunlight or persistent shade
might have been the culprit.

Or was it an accidental errant spray of herbicide
intended for the invading privet?
It might have fallen prey to an infestation
of spider mites, whiteflies or caterpillars.
And we mustn’t forget the possibilities
of overmulching, root rot, or poor soil composition.
God forbid, it could have been the victim
of a visit from the dreaded nematode.

Or, was it unhealthy from the start?
A runt of a plant destined for an early demise
no matter how good the care.
As she looked at the dead shrub
taking her last sip of Merlot,
she had the strangest thought.
A poor gardener is nothing more
than a twisted gravedigger,
who buries the living
and has no belief in eternal life.

William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan and grew up a military brat.  His book of poetry entitled Points of Interest appeared in 2012 and is available on Amazon.  He has published nearly forty poems and short stories in literary journals and his work has been anthologized multiple times.  In a prior life he taught speech-language pathology at Auburn University and authored six major professional textbooks.

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Ottilie Mulzet

 

 

The Letters

I
Can you hear the leaves as they fall
as they hit the ground with a thump
the stomach, teeth, legs, and heads
falling from the branches

of language that can no longer hold them
the curling loops undone
in that Hell, the trees’ leaves sharp blades
cutting mercilessly every Word

which lie there on the ground bleeding
the severed legs, stomach, teeth and heads
that when assembled looked so alive
the Gods gathered above in the sky

II
of the manuscript, gathered there
like a storm, the same word repeated
burqan burqan burqan
God covers you, wraps you all up in edicts

and robes, with two tiny slits for your eyes
and the words hanging down from the tree
like the robes handed down by your mother
the manuscript you could not read

because the letters went the wrong way
like stakes driven into the ground
the words lay there mute, already buried,
pronounced dead, must be given funeral rites —

III
even more elaborate than for the highest priest
or maybe as nourishment for the fire
above is God with his bamboo pen
writing on cheap Russian paper

because even He couldn’t tell what he had to buy
when at the market, the paper made from rice,
paper is paper, He thought, and made His offer
the world is not a sheet of paper

but the gods are gathered there up there like a cloud
like a storm when it’s said that their voice is heard
the letters following to the ground
the Wrath of the Lord raining down

 

 

Ottilie Mulzet translates from Hungarian and Mongolian. She is currently completing a PhD on the subject of Mongolian riddles and proverbs. Her artwork, prose, and photography have appeared in the Prague-based journal Revolver Revue since 2000.

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