Smoking with John Lennon
we’d meet in the courtyard
of the dakota, me on break
from helping mom clean toilets
him because his wife hated
smokes. his, gauloises bleus
(because he could) mine, kools
(because I wasn’t, yet) we
hardly talked. “mexico?” he
said to me once. “salvador,” I
answered. “same thing,” he laughed
through his nose like he sang. “south
africa?” I asked. “england,” he said.
“same thing,” I said. “Fookin’ right,”
he said. and we were friends all summer.
before I hardshipped to u maine
(“diversity is our university”) I reached
in my pocket. out. he snapped the
fancy blue seal and took one.
stopped. always carried a felt tip.
wrote his name on the cig without
denting a grain. handed it to me.
I turned 50 yesterday. small
fortunes are made on ebay. lit up.
Wayne-Daniel Berard teaches English and Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He has published widely in poetry and prose, and is a co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry. He lives in Mansfield, MA, with his wife, The Lovely Christine.
To join the web club of people who promote universal recognition of slithering, you must obey rules. Specific appendages jeopardize acceptance: fins, wings, or flippers. Think earthiness with a watery slip. Thankfully, this community accepts a certain playfulness. Advocates sell t-shirts with pictures of clouds riding a bicycle and wind bending over waterfalls. Cheating to achieve a cheap effect with soap, slime, banana peels, olive oil, detergents, and mud is heresy. Speed is not a constraint. Your slitherer may exist in one blink of an eye or move toward you in fractal dimensions of geologic fault zones. The rules flex when memories are captured—as long as they are never deprived of water or caged with vermin. What I know of breathing is too jittery for slithering, so I quit halfway through the application. I’m waiting to see someone slither into a grave.
Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet whose new book, Ocean’s Laughter, combines lyric and eco-poetry to examine change over time in a small town on Oregon’s north coast. Website: triciaknoll.com
There are fat buds on the green-striped orchid here
in my bedroom, two on the white one in the foyer,
a spray of buds tightly clenched on the oldest one
in the study. All of them need feeding. I need feeding.
What feeds me is a moment’s glimpse of a different mind,
a consciousness of which I am aware briefly, tentatively.
In this city, where I have come to live and die, an old
woman, I find the surprise of roses thriving: a bush with
crimson blossoms in a filthy yard, another with brave
pink blooms in a wire-fenced square, prolific white roses
climbing the wall of the derelict house next door, with its
garden of lilac, rhododendron, laurel among abandoned
cars, weeds, fallen branches. What’s familiar here is
the chaos, things being out of hand: orchids, moments,
houses. Whether I may, aging, bloom this heedlessly.
Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music (Word Press), appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared recently in Beloit Poetry Journal, Notre Dame Review, Damfino, and Mantis.
Listening to sermons, pondering wrongdoing,
he heard of waywardness, false gods, idolatry,
and sin and retribution and the dreaded
fornication. He was just fifteen.
And a year later, Karen, from the estate,
letting her breast nestle against him,
and no shame. Her brothers daredevils,
biking on Sundays down Carmarthen Road.
Years on, the church’s peal of Sunday bells
and a ring of history. But he and his on Sundays
go to the coast and to the hedgerow path,
blackbirds in spring, blown spray in winter.
Creation’s coil is still unwinding,
as physicists clamour for attribution.
In the hedge, in May, the blackbird sings
of brood, of birth, of nestled breast.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet and sometime short story writer whose work has been widely published in the UK, and in the USA in Main Street Rag, San Pedro River Review, Red River Review, Pyrokinection, and Constellations. He has one chapbook, Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).
It was never what it should be: missing its batteries
or the smallest part, the instructions lost
under spilled juice or eaten
by strange fire. Once it was rolled
into a bottle, a treasure map, then thrown.
Little dungeon of desire,
how we yearn to peek and always can’t discover
the real shadow, the right door.
Such irritations might have driven
some ancient kingdom into ruin. My lost ring
flashed once more before the drain. It went to the Tiber
where it was promised.
Once a kitten and often a ball, small things
untracking. All the birthdays
I’ve forgotten. Somewhere they are orbiting. Perfect
answers to the question someone didn’t know they’d asked.
Rebecca Aronson’s books are Creature, Creature (2007) and Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom, which won the 2016 Orison Book Prize and will be released in early 2017. She lives in New Mexico, where she teaches writing, facilitates a student and community writing group, and coordinates a visiting-writers series.
— narrow ways, the tightest of squeezes, expect white water
— Luis Alberto Urrea
In the experiment, an electron simultaneously
passes through two slits in a gold screen.
Repeated and repeated, dunes form, petrify,
morph to horizons for the brain’s circuits
to visit, mine, arrange, scratch trails through.
Squeezed between red rock wall and canyon
free fall, I kindle her passing scent in the dawn
light; within this strait-of-many-hued-waters,
I choose to be open-gate-to-flowered-meadows,
each passing thought a silk thread anchored
to eroding rock. Passing fossilized crinoids
and nautili, we string, poke, balance, rappel,
inch our way through layers and layers
and layers; posit each prickly pear spine
hooks a slightly different angle of light.
The doctor incises your right femoral artery and snakes
a plastic tube to the vertebral artery in your brain stem.
While your fingers practice tying slim beauty knots,
you are told to hold your breath as radioactive
iodine warms your neck before stopping at the blood
clot in your hypothalamus. You hear the X-ray shutter
click open, close; hear the doctor and nurse praise
A Beautiful Mind. You remain words scribbled on a chart.
Within this bosque of medicine, can you become silent-
waters-cutting-path-of-no-resistance? Sporadically awake
for discrete minutes during the next three days,
your mind snaps pictures of your groin streaking
yellow and purple towards your knee; you know irises
bloom within the cultivated strip of soil flanking the edge
of the deck you built the year the summer monsoon
thundered into October; you stood on the porch, ricochet
balls of hail settling at your feet as a lightning bolt struck
the neighbor’s home-built shed and left veins of charred
plywood alongside tines of magnesium light and crack
and ozone scored into rivulets of thought. A nurse gently
shakes you awake, then presses her left hand into your groin,
retracts the catheter with a flick of her right; mind rejiggers,
carves new sensations into your museum of life.
Michael G. Smith is a chemist. His poetry has been published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Sin Fronteras, and other journals.
Ants ate the dead fly.
They orbited its corpse,
tore it apart
with bear-trap teeth
and bore it away.
Nothing left on the deck—
no wing tip,
not even a stain.
On my way to Dallas,
a dead man passed
in a black hearse
flying a red flag.
A priest drove behind
to tie up loose ends,
his white collar bright
in the sun.
I read of a man
At his memorial,
close friends mea culpa’d.
No circle of closure,
only wreaths of thyme
I search the café wall
a tulip, an erect penis,
a laughing cat,
a maiden’s profile
with parted lips.
Lynne Handy, a retired library director, lives near the Fox River in northern Illinois. Her first book of poems, Spy Car, was published in 2016. Her work has also appeared in several journals and anthologies, and she has authored two novels, In the Time of Peacocks and The Untold Story of Edwina.
Labor Poem #3
—Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, Bananas
With real bells and a clapper it rips up sleep.
Kibbutz-issue work boots. Bench seats, the men,
the cotton. Loose on the feet. In the back
of the work truck. Coffee spoon, ripped sleep, mist.
The men. The cotton, the back of, the men. Real bells.
Nuri from Kurdistan’s hot coffee spoon. Bench
seats, the men, the cotton turning from. When
you’re not looking, on your hand. The men who
live here, and his cackle. The cotton turning
from gray to brown. Kibbutz-issue, loose on
the feet. Coffee spoon, on your hand. And a
clapper. Nuri from Kurdistan, when you’re not.
The men. To brown, as the sun, and his cackle.
Real bells. The cotton turning, loose on the feet.
Dan Alter has poems published recently in The Burnside Review, Compose Journal, Field, and Zyzzyva, among others. He is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. He lives in Berkeley, CA, with his wife and daughter, where he makes his living as an electrician while pursuing an MFA in poetry at Saint Mary’s College.