Two Poems by Jianqing Zheng

Looking Back
If I
never tilled rice paddies at sunrise,
never handpicked cotton under blue skies,
never dug irrigation canals in winters,
never mucked out stables before dusk,
never smelled purple soybean flowers,
if leeches
never sucked blood from my shanks, calluses
never formed hard and thick on my palms, the sun
never blistered my back,
if I
never acquainted myself with local peasants,
never worked with them shoulder to shoulder,
never chatted with them in their shacks,
never witnessed the joy and pain of their life,
if all this
never was a part of reeducation, I could
never relate grains to drops of sweat and
never imagine the oil lamp as the light of hope.
Five decades have long gone.
My body has become a rusty plow.
Some nights I dream of tilling at sunrise or
reading in the deep night with a desire
to turn to a new page of life.
Indebted to Land
After dusk surges
across the sky,
the moon appears
over the village,
full and graceful
like a Tang Dynasty lady
pacing in a red robe.
In a while
It floats up
over the plowed fields,
like limelight,
and sways
its radiant sleeves
as if ribbon-dancing
with throws and spirals.
At this moment
you stand by the furrow
and let petrichor
enter your body
and soul—
a way to accept
a way of life,
a way to balance
the way of self
through hard times.
Jianqing Zheng’s poetry collections include A Way of Looking, Enforced Rustication in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, The Landscape of Mind, Delta Sun, and Delta Notes. He teaches at Mississippi Valley State University where he edits Valley Voices.

from Decarceration by Charline Lambert, translated from the French by John Taylor

forehead of the sky
You are a countable solitude.
You are a light shattered
into beams.
You are
a barely recognized
You want to decarcerate the language from you,
cerate these words from your plexus
and every day
you elucidate a knot.
In a single movement
you don’t know if you’re taking part
in the pursuit
the reiteration.
You are full to the brim
with coagulated matter.
Ever since, you counter
the slow work
of exsanguination.
Your great fervor to forget:
too great
this tumor where
can it be cut out, where
are the healthy tissues
Joy and the other
joy you hold out
drunk with it,
a latent
blow to the forehead
of the sky.
—from Désincarcération (©Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2017)
French originals:


Tu es une solitude à dénombrer.
Tu es une lumière éclatée
en faisceaux.
Tu es
un feu
à peine reconnu.
Tu veux désincarcérer le langage de toi,
cérer ces mots de ton plexus
et chaque jour
tu élucides un nœud.
D’un seul mouvement
tu ne sais si tu en es
la poursuite
la réitération.
Tu es une matière coagulée
parvenue à satiété.
Depuis tu contres
un lent travail
Ton ardeur à l’oubli trop
trop grande
tumeur où découper
où sont les tissus sains
La joie et l’autre
joie que tu tends,
de tout ton soûl
frappe à la tempe
du ciel.
Charline Lambert ((c) photo by Sadie von Paris)
Charline Lambert was born in 1989 in Liège, Belgium. She is the author of four books of poetry: Chanvre et lierre (“Hemp and Ivy,” Éditions Le Taillis Pré, 2016), Sous dialyses (“Dialyzing,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2016), Désincarcération (“Decarceration,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2017), and Une salve (“A Salvo,” Éditions L’Âge d’Homme, 2020). She is currently finishing her Ph.D. thesis on the relation between poetry and deafness.
John Taylor’s most recent translations are, from the French, José-Flore Tappy’s Trás-os-Montes (The MadHat Press) and Philippe Jaccottet’s Ponge, Pastures, Prairies (Black Square Editions), as well as, from the Italian, Franca Mancinelli’s The Butterfly Cemetery: Selected Prose 2008-2021 (The Bitter Oleander Press). His most recent books of poetry are Transizioni, a bilingual volume published in Italy by LYRIKS Editore and illustrated by the Greek artist Alekos Fassianos, and Remembrance of Water & Twenty-Five Trees (The Bitter Oleander Press), illustrated by the French artist Caroline François-Rubino. He lives in France.

Layers of Blankets by Doug Holder

Layers of Blankets
… For my late wife Dianne
In a dream she came to me.
She had to peel
off layers of blankets.
Hot towels
were wrapped
tightly around
my face.
I could
barely breathe.
She struggled
as she always did
but like
some force of nature
she ripped them
off me
I could feel
the sudden rush
of air
the brush
of her luxuriant hair…
” I will always
be with you,
I will always be
there… “
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. He is a lecturer of creative writing at Endicott College outside of Boston. Holder’s own work has been published in Molecule, Lillipoh, Lips, Constellations and elsewhere. The ” Doug Holder Papers” are at the University at Buffalo Libraries. Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Testing One by Holly Day

Testing One
After the fires died down, and the smoke blew away
the only thing left of the little lizards
and the spiders
a lone jackrabbit
and a burrow owl
were their shadows trapped in a plate of glass
an uneven windowpane of melted desert sand.
If you could lift this glass out of the desert
cut it into tiles
find some use for it in your house
you could keep their trapped surprise with you always
some memory of a sunny day in the Nevada desert
populated by creatures unaware they were trespassing
on government property.

Near-End of Day by Martin Willitts Jr.

Near-End of Day
We arrive at the near-end of a day,
its rush of sundown, a deep current
searching to root in the earth.
The moon shines on a door,
through extended shadows
like a storm walking into a field.
We must hurry home
when night tethers to the ground
its last breath of light.
An owl swerves in the silence,
sharing with an unfortunate field mouse
what he’s learned from the darkness.
We hear what is taken, what is missing.
On any given day, at any moment,
suddenness happens —
Something is out of place.
In winter, light goes so far out,
we think it may never come back.

Martin Willitts Jr, edits the Comstock Review, judges New York State Fair Poetry Contest. Nominated for 17 Pushcart and 13 Best of the Net awards. Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2015, Editor’s Choice; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, 2016, Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2020. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections including Blue Light Award “The Temporary World.” His new book is “All Wars Are the Same War” (FutureCycle Press, 2022).


The Daughter Who Tends to Her Mother by  John Grey   

The Daughter Who Tends to Her Mother   
I cook her favorite turnip,
boil her tea, butter her toast –
it’s been like this seemingly forever,
just the two of us, from morning to evening –
I would plan my escape
but I have no place to go.
I soap her slowly, garnish her meals,
massage her shoulders,
lay beside her to listen for breathing.
I have just touched my own nerve –
all that scrubbing, the attempt to be tender
but with a sour taste in my mouth
of all I am missing out on,
with afternoons in sunlit rooms,
making sure she takes her medicine,
no longer mother and daughter
but two old cow elephants
with sagging breasts, faces drying, wrinkling,
hands rheumatic, our skins so alike
that could easily fold around the one body.
My burden is that I am the one person she can trust,
not my other sisters with their family rituals,
not my father, buried once again every time she sighs.
I am the subject of her bad humor,
her fickle taste in friends.
The weather is my fault
as is the temperature of the bathwater,
the severity of her migraines.
Mostly we sit in silence.
She examines the bruises on her legs.
I will inherit them some day.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.

Better Than Streaming John Dorroh

Better Than Streaming
My dreams are everywhere – in the drinking glass
that I keep beside my bed, stuffed in bedroom slippers
somewhere in another room, below the house in the bowels
of the kitchen plumbing. They most often taste like blackberry jam,
fresh and seedy with the perfect amount of acid.
They’re never powered by magic or anything difficult
to calculate. They fit in small spaces but loom large
in my head. Sometimes they make me dance on the dresser
across from my grandma’s bed. Other times they make me
speak French and bake baguettes in the wee hours. I don’t
know their names or where they live or where they belong.
I stick my hands out of a moving car and pluck them
into my blood. I often string them on a clothesline
for everyone to see.
John Dorroh poems have appeared in journals such as Feral, River Heron, North Dakota Quarterly, and Selcouth Station. His first chapbook comes out this summer, 2022.

Old Barn by Richard Dinges

old barn
Old Barn
Stripped of corrugated
tin and wood plank
skin, second story
frame long gone
except for one wall,
its open maw that once
devoured bales of hay
leans but refuses
to fall.  The old barn
stands tall among
trees, their bare branches
stencils against barn’s
gray skin, a feeble
giant as stubborn
as those old farmers
who erected it, stood
tall and sweaty and
dirty at its walls
that towered with
their long ago pride.
Richard Dinges, Jr. lives and works by a pond among trees and grassland, along with his wife, one dog, three cats, and three chickens.  Poem, Avalon, Willow Review, Oracle, and Writer’s Block most recently accepted his poems for their publications.


The Last Day of January by Paul Ilechko

The Last Day of January
Ice is floating on the surface of the river     the water
appears to be motionless     looking like the skin
of ice is locking it into place     triangles of slush slowly
form in front of the great stone footings that anchor
the bridge     it’s as if the river is quietly creating
its own glaciers     and all we have to do is watch
downstream     there are rapids     it won’t be
long now until the shad are fighting their way
upriver     some of them will travel over three hundred
miles     some of them will be tangled in the great
sweeping nets where the Lewis Island fishermen
trawl the river bottom     just above the bridge
for almost two years now we have been frozen
in place      we no longer seem able to create new
memories     most of us will reappear on the other
side of this endless winter that we are traveling through
many of us will not     caught in the nets that were
randomly cast     fins thrashing     gills bursting for air.
Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. He is the author of several chapbooks. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Feral Journal, Iron Horse Literary Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and Book of Matches. His first album, “Meeting Points”, was released in 2021.