Two Poems by Lillo Way

hya
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Angel Hill Cemetery
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Purple bells touch the names
of people I sprang from but never
knew. Hyacinth against stone
markers, fragrance strong enough
to make a five-year-old swoon.
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I wonder if the buried can feel
Aunt Reba’s muscled love,
her swollen knees pressing
against their chests
as she works the trowel.
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Can they see the dimming sun,
taste the light rain, smell
the intense death
of these grave flowers
brown by next Sunday?
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When Easter falls in March the earth
is stubborn-hard under her fingers.
But when it arrives overdue
in late April, it yields soft – reeking
of life and afterlife in one breath.
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Reba bows before their names –
mother, father, uncle, brother.
Some church-god may have escorted
them here, but if there’s any god today,
it’s Reba, broke-kneed, benevolent.
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She carried the plants delicately
up Angel Hill Road, cradling them
in her arms. But on the way back down,
she lets me hold the empty brick pots,
her gardening gloves folded damp inside.
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She watches as my fingers slide
along the brown curds clinging
to the terracotta. She watches
as I hold the dirt to my nostrils,
then place it on my tongue.
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She says nothing as I swallow,
nothing as I swipe
four dun fingers across the chest
of my lavender Easter dress.
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We were happy here once
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Rats crooned to our footsteps
golden taxis yelped sharp
through the humid air and sirens
ran in the storm drains.
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We rambled our reckless ways
through the long park
its shadowed brambles
its herons lording by a pond.
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Anonymous in the museums
dauntless in watercolor classrooms
singing through the subway cars
we were famed among pigeons.
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Night after night as the sun fell into the river
we played under the white marquees
dancing slick with sweat in the streets
rapt in the reek of garbage trucks.
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We returned to our basement homes
in the scent of bread baked in the dark
while the moon that is never seen rising
flew heedless above the skyscrapers.
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Untroubled in our blue-music nights
we slept through our heydays in the bloom
of twirling dreams and woke
to the ozone of a hot pavement hosed down.
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We gleamed through the gay village
its starless nights born again and again
traffic lights oiling in the wet streets
red as fire green as grass.
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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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Lillo Way’s “Dubious Moon” won the Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest. Her poem, “Offering,” won the E.E. Cummings Award from New England Poetry Club, and “Appropriation” was awarded a Florida Review Editors” Prize. Her writing has appeared in RHINO, New Letters, Poet Lore, North American Review, Tampa Review, Louisville Review, Madison Review, Poetry East, among others. Way has received grants from the NEA, NY State Council on the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving poetry. Her collection, “Lend Me Your Wings,” is forthcoming, May 2021. https://www.lilloway.com/
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Beauty Rises From Flame by Mark J. Mitchell

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         Beauty Rises From Flame
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                       As if—a flame erupted into light—
                        a quick flash—white, harsh, then blue, then vanished
                        into a red morning. But sleeping night
                        remembers everything—each over-bright
                        moment that left darkness broken, tarnished.
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                        But night never breaks. She is pure beauty
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                        refusing to face. There’s smoke you don’t see
                        and heart of flame, sleeping under cool sheets—
                        disguised by pain. Morning wakes city streets,
                        cars, work. Life expands—continues without
                        noticing what night believes, doesn’t doubt.
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                        Blue/white rises off her long back to bruise
                        darkness again, welcome as a kiss. Views
                        open—stark against silky night. Old smoke
                        is new flame—breath’s desire for surprise spoke
                        to time. Beauty of swift flame—then her heart dreams
                        faster. Her tune’s hers to call. She reflects
                        nothing. She’s firm. Sleek. Dangerous. Handsome.
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mark
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu  was just published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster.  A meager online presence can be found at Mark J. Mitchell, Writer
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Electrocuted by Alexander P. Garza

flood
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Electrocuted
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Skulls hang upside down
from the sky.
Flood waters turn roads into rivers.
Our house joins sea life,
submerged and adorned with scales.
I swim to the edge
of my second story window.
The one I used to sneak out of.
One by one, the power lines
spark glitter then rip apart.
The spectacle tricks me into
thinking the flash is here to save
us, but it’s here to send waves
of shock through my body.
It’s here to take us.
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Alexander P. Garza is a Mexican-American poet who just moved from Houston to Chicago to pursue the graduate Program for Writers at the University of Illinois – Chicago. His work has appeared in Toyon, Indianapolis Review, Dissections, Star*Line and others. Visit him on Instagram/Twitter, @alexanderpgarza  and http://alexanderpgarza.com

Two Poems by Lee Landau

ocean
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Hyperbole Wraps the Sun
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Low tides dance around her thighs
last quarter mile, her feet
trod beach into white talc of sand.
A rambunctious terrier tries to bury her
sifted, coated floury sand
bakes her well done. Sand crabs
skitter to the shoreline,
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Headed back toward the Atlantic,
she’s now wrapped in waves
again, to the splutter of an old motor,
its noise waffling intermittently
the runnels of water collect
and violently part
around her, she hugs the raft, no
paddle, fights and fights hard
to return home
with no engine. Her arms try to
sweep aside the ocean current, but
too much undertow drags her down
off course for lower tides as
she gambles on a downdrift
nearby. Rescuers
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will find her body
from the riptides, bruised
skin shorn
by rock and jetty,
festooned in seaweed.
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Me and Lloyd
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on his second-hand hog
two joints trashed us, then time
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to arrive at Shul only one hour late
for Yom Kippur holiday, Day
of Atonement, big time service.
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Everyone searching for sins looks to
forgiveness, except for heathens like us.
We enter sanctuary foolish, loose,
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Laugh away regrets to looks of censure.
We giggle embarrassed under the influence,
daring anyone to call us out.
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In the pew I drop the prayer book, too many
folks eying us.  This bitchin’ service,
six hours long. Lloyd sleeps the day away.
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Instead of standing to daven, his snores
reach God’s ear. I stare and laugh again.
No plagues rain down on us.
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No sign of a personal god anywhere—
Adonai, Jesus, Allah, Buddha
No sign, not even a reception signal.
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One thousand voices chant as
hyperbole wraps around the sun
and its planets with strings knotted
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side by side, among one thousand
fringed, prayer shawls.
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Lee Landau’s work has appeared in Wisconsin Review, New Millennium Writings,
Common Ground and blue stockings magazine, part of Brown University to name a few.
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Wild by Paul Ilechko

marble
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Wild
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Both touched
then more    so wild
it was    those overnight
accelerations
.
to only lean against
and fading    into morning
an oceanic dive    a turning
back    reversing into stasis
.
his idle hands
turned slowly    into
aftermath    a step by step
of suffering
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the spice of options
of branching into
such a coldness    where
all that had been possible
.
was left to linger    on
a marble slab
of carelessness
.
of skull-bound
negligence    toward
the scented pasture.
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Canal BW
Paul Ilechko is the author of three chapbooks, most recently “Pain Sections” (Alien Buddha Press). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Rogue Agent, January Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Book of Matches and Pithead Chapel. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

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Call For Submissions – Pandemic Issue #7

corona

Coronavirus – A Year In.  Pandemic Issue #7

We are a year into the pandemic since our first issue was published. Issue #7 will be published at the end of this month. Tell your poetic story of coronavirus, your family’s story: your town’s story; your state’s story; your nation’s story; as the pandemic continues. Let us remember the fallen; the suffering; the doctors; nurses; first responders; front line workers; negatives; positives. Tell the story.

Submissions are due no later than April 25th.

Guidelines are simple: one to five poems in word doc. A bio of no longer than one hundred words. We anticipate a significant amount of submissions and therefore will not be able to respond to individual submissions. Send your submission to sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com

North of Oxford

Editors Poems up at Poetry and Covid

poetry and coivd

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Three poems by Diane Sahms  just published at Poetry and Covid : https://poetryandcovid.com/2021/04/02/three-poems-62/

2021 by g emil reutter just published at Poetry and Covid: https://poetryandcovid.com/2021/04/01/2021/

This I Can Tell You by Brandi Spering

this i can
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By g emil reutter
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It is all here. Brandi Spering’s meditative reflections on part of her life; the dysfunctional/functional family; the steady Grandm; the making of the gravy; yellow tint of refinery air; and hard luck lives. Spering captures row house South Philadelphia; patronage system of local politics; and the never ending quest to understand the murder of her father, who was consistently inconsistent.
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Spering brings us into the 1990s with images of her grandfather in straw hat, cigarette in mouth grilling; grandmother waves away a camera as her mom walks around with a mullet and father in short shorts. This is a scene she has memorized. Spering jumps into Easter of 1994: captures Easter baskets wrapped in clear plastic, gathered and tied at the top with pink and blue ribbons. Tradition as much as the gravy is.
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She moves us through the book with ease. We meet the characters: siblings, parents, grandma, and friends in a powerful poetic narrative that always returns to her father. Spering details the absence and reappearances; his rehab from an accident;  screws and rods in his leg; his apartment, a room he rented; and what would come. Spering also detailed her mother living with the grandma and then getting her own place and fixing it up. Her mom works a city job and stresses education to the kids. No matter the dysfunction the kids would do better than the parents.
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The continuing heartbreak:
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I told her it was impossible. That a father—his roommate—would never
leave his daughter behind. That a father would never take another father
from his children’s lives.
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Yet he did. No matter the drama of South Philly where two days before men with brass knuckles and a baseball bat were seen knocking on the door, or the roommate’s mother yelling He finally did it. Or the case to be made that her father was murdered because he was a witness to the murder of his roommate. The cops called it a murder/suicide. For reasons unknown the roommate shot Michael Spering and then himself. No arrest, no conspiracy theory.
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Upon hearing the news, she is driven back home from New York where she is studying. Upon arrival she meets extended family she never knew, all sitting in her mother’s living room. They too would leave as if they were never there because they never were. Spering captures the impact of her father’s death, yet throughout the narrative we learn bits and pieces of growing up on the streets of South Philadelphia, the unspoken strength of her mother, and Brandi Spering herself.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
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Everything You Hold Dear by Jamie Sharpe

everything

By Greg Bem

The J. Sharpe Award for Poetic Mediocrity
#Tomorrow’sSomethingElse

(from: “Bootstraps / And Where Best to Purchase Them,” pg. 17)

Following 2017’s Dazzle Ships, Jamie Sharpe’s latest collection of poetry is cunning, confusedly irresolute, and filled to the brim with a thinly-veiled sorrow-cum-cynicism towards poetry and the situations of living writers. Despite his outlashes toward the stereotypical situations that poets find themselves managing, Sharpe’s wit carries Everything You Hold Dear, which is compiled of 28 lyrical bursts and 27 micro-biographies. Often the anonymized vignettes and lessons that fill each page reflect a certain autobiography, alluding to Sharpe’s own struggles through the world of the literary, of publishing, and of poverty.

The book begins with the reflective “Turning the Alphabet Into a Band-Aid,” which in six lines informs the reader that this book is both within and beyond the deadpan of a poet’s futility and hopelessness. “When I was nobody, who I was / didn’t distract from what / I said.” (pg. 9) opens the poem, and the book. Admitting to ego and a history of self-determined success, Sharpe props the door for all manner of storytelling. This book, thus, is concerned with the problems and burdens of experience, and how experience damns us all.

Amongst poets I know,
wealth is “fiercely original.”

(pg. 16)

The manifestations of experience and the lived life of the writerly types are presented through an alphabetical concept of biography. Every other page is a poem about a writer who is only identified by their assigned letter within the alphabet, and each letter is represented both abruptly and distinctly. These stories, often allegorical and proclamatory in tone, exhibit a typification of the common situations poets find themselves in. It could be me, it could be you, it could be any of us who encounter the world of fame and recognition, advances and meager award money, and the many dead-ends of employment.

No job. Limited prospects. U, what’s to
be done with you?

I’d run

(if U weren’t a thinly veiled I).

(pg. 54)

As distanced and chiseled as they are, these alphabetical iterations also represent Sharpe’s own criticism and critical points of argument, at times scathing and at other times subdued, of the world keenly observed. That the book has been published during our time of supreme isolation, during a global pandemic, feels fitting, for the many of us who can only glance and gawk in a general, lamenting peanut gallery at the trials of our peers, as flat the failures and successes may be.

Interspersing these stories is a lazy string of poems that feels resonant of Sharpe and Sharpe’s own experiences. They are lyrical poems that often feel disconnected and irrelevant to Sharpe’s larger message within the alphabetical pieces. Many of the poems have occasional glimmers of potency, where the poet finds catharsis and, occasionally, self-actualization, but there is a thickened layer of ego fat that fills in all of the gaps. If Sharpe has been intending for a flighty sense of the mediocrity of experience to fill the spaces of insight, this intention has been accomplished.

Everything You Hold Dear, its title emblematic of an irony that haunts these pages, follows the many writers of the 19th and 20th centuries who have sarcastically engaged the canon and the general milieu of “the writer.” Sharpe follows in the shadowy footsteps of many relatively recent authors, like Joyce, Nabokov, Plath, Kerouac, and Bukowski, who have similar practices. These, and countless others, have gone to extreme lengths of fictionalization and memoirification to capture the feeling of the destitute and “alive” lifestyle of those damned, poetic souls. The ones who wander the earth in something between paralysis and determination. These salty critics often rely on sardonic methods to make their point regarding how ridiculous (and absurd? existential? nihilistic?) the writer’s world continues to be. Sharpe’s contemporary, Seattle-based Thomas Walton, operates in a similar manner through his recent lyrical essays.

At the end of the day, and the end of the collection, we are reminded that the world around us, the world for poets that must be dealt with by the poets, continues. Sharpe closes with a couplet, called “Foreword,” which symbolizes something greater (or, at least, mediocrely the same) around the corner. But that corner is not determined: it is not solidified and proven to be true other than the graying of a very Sisyphusian landscape

The book closes and turns our attention back onto itself, in a folding manner, encapsulated within the collection some vague, curious, greater offering. Sharpe is inadvertently contributing an ars poetica, stiff and defiant. It may be sloppy and blurry, but Sharpe, either consciously or not, is yearning for something more, something greater, something that contains fulfillment. As the book’s title suggests, Everything You Hold Dear is as much about the joy and a positive reason for being as it is for the shadow lurking behind. Thus the “dazzle” continues. Thus, Sharpe’s beautiful, quintessential poet’s damnation persists.

to view Alps
puke sour suns.

Thick, yellow voltas.

(from “Avalanche Kills One,” pg. 29)

You can find the book here: https://ecwpress.com/products/everything-you-hold-dear

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com

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