north of oxford poetry

Two Poems by James Tyler

cumberland
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Cumberland River, 2am
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There’s a latitude and longitude in Tennessee
where I step in the dirty Cumberland River,
mud between toes, those brittle bones.
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It goes from here to the Queen City,
winds its filth, memories of Civil War
and white paddle steamers.
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Wind sings songs on the surface
to rainbow trout and walleye,
to the bones of drowned lovers.
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White lights shine on black water,
reflect the last silver quarter minted 1964.
The Queen City is asleep now,
nestled against the Cumberland River, 2am.
.
There must be some equation
explaining how the river bends into nothing—
darkness a heavy, bottom-dwelling catfish—
darkness that betrays no moon tonight.
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I could slip nude into these black waters,
but it’s too cold and the current might take me away—
for I am a man and not Ophelia,
for there is no bard to orate about me but me.
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Somewhere around here I wish starlight could sink
all the way. I wish I could play the flute,
coax sleeping fish away from the reeds
so they could follow me into my own dreams.
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My father taught me to fish these waters,
how to hook a night crawler and cast a line,
but I never got the gumption to gut one.
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Put your ear to these waters and they’ll sing
a whole history, how sun and star burn in turn,
and maybe they’ll tell the truth, or just a little lie.
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Blade of Grass
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O to be a blade of grass, trampled upon
by the soles of a thousand feet,
to fall victim to the gardener’s blade
in the morning before the spring storm.
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Dear wind, your northern breath sour
from snowstorms and icy midnights,
spreads pregnant pollen across meadows,
the whorehouses of nature.
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I am not a wildflower, red columbine or harebell,
just a blade of green that has grown too tall,
quite worthless in the eyes of flower pickers,
but am I not one of God’s children, equal
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to lily and rose, though not fragrant or fair,
free to be pissed upon by your purebred dog
and forgotten like one of a thousand banquets
whose mother is dirt and water, seed and sun?
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The double rainbow is essential to my soul
in a mundane world whose colors are black and grey,
where I kiss the dew with tongue and a force
that can cut this blade, this insignificant flower
.
whose song remains unsung in the season
who becomes golden in its turn and spun,
becomes humble food for cattle and horse,
forsaken by me, yet still touched by God.
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James Tyler earned a BA in English from Austin Peay State University. He has been published in such journals as Chiron Review, Cape Rock, Doubly Mad, and Poetry Quarterly. He currently resides in Nashville, TN.

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Two Poems by Ace Boggess

park light
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Listening to James Brown on Pandora Radio
.
Thing to do while lying in bed, embracing
as slack body squeezes slack—
post-sleep, pre-awakened. Forget sex—
hard demand of it James Brown’s words &
rhythm urge like hundreds of electric pulses
in the creature reviving. Let them
carry you on a pilgrimage
where what you seek has less importance
than what you see, experience—
all music, even songs you loathe
which fill your dreams with calamities—
stir something you’ve forgotten:
maybe it’s the funk you’re in
his funk will bring you out of.
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“And What Is the Point of Walking
When There Is Nowhere You Have to Be?”
                        —Katherine Kilalea, Ok, Mr. Field
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let me be lazy without the word tattooed on my chest.
it’s hot outside. say it. yes, it’s scorching, humid.
asphalt melts my tennis shoes. my skin
slicks as though I showered in cooking oil.
when spacemen left their heaven, they left the oven on.
think light, & there is light—too much, I’m blind.
let me be lazy one afternoon with nothing to do,
no roads to cross, goods to accumulate.
I could, if forced, stroll slowly to the corner shop,
except I see no corners, only curves
that bend to monotony. let me be lazy.
let me self-medicate for aches & lack of sleep,
lulled by the computer light until my eyes
let me remember why I came.
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Ace Boggess photo
Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.
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Another Life by Abriana Jette

seagull
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Another Life
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I met him before the wild of the present
another life entirely
(each century our story widening)
.
I dreamt it might have happened
grew frightened at the untold unraveling
felt the ocean sweep my body
.
bone by bone to dust wept quietly
woke up another person entirely
leaving a dozen centuries widening
.
behind me the wild present
and in every retrospection
in every life I have been divided in
.
beyond the confines of this body
though still a bodily calling
his voice in every version
.
abrianna
The poetry of Abriana Jette has been featured in The Seneca Review, PLUME Poetry Journal, Poetry New Zealand and many other places.
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Two Poems by Edward Lee

feet
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Memory
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This soil beneath my feet
is as your body,
spread before me
wounded by age
and decay, tumbled
by strong winds
and harsh rains,
disappearing with every passing season,
as you do
from my memory,
the last of you
staining clothes
I no longer wear.
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Two Countries
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In the country
that lives
in the marrow of my bones
I am a free man,
prone to daydreams
and gentle lies,
.
while in the country
that beats beneath my steps,
I am a man bound
by all the tales
I have told,
and the tales to come,
those that I must tell
for their ancestral untruths
to remain alive
and true.
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Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll.  His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com
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A Familiar Street, Unknown by Brian Rihlmann

sidewalk
.
A Familiar Street, Unknown
.
Sometime, walk a street
you’ve only driven before,
maybe on your way
back and forth to work.
Overlook nothing—
notice every pothole and sidewalk crack.
Notice people’s yards—
their statues and symbols,
and whether they grow grass or vegetables,
or weeds, or nothing.
And notice the people, too—
do they smile and wave, or at least nod,
or just look away?
Notice how easily the roots
of trees shatter curbs,
driveways, and all our plans.
Notice how easily their flesh
absorbs the rusty spikes of a barbwire fence.
Notice what gathers curbside
and in drainage ditches.
You may find rare flowers
among road grit and broken bottles,
growing from piles of dead seeds.
You may find a still glowing ember,
and something to fan it with.
You may find a memorial
with candles burned down
to shapeless lumps and a child’s note
scrawled in purple crayon—
We miss you Daddy.
Read everything you see,
everything you find on the ground.
Read graffiti and street signs.
Read the chalked messages
of neighborhood children.
Discarded paperbacks and high school essays.
Arrest warrants, medical reports,
missing person flyers.
A gospel tract flapping in the gutter
like a wounded dove.
A crumpled love letter—
unwrap it carefully as a gift
and read the words that failed
to sway a too human heart.
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brian
Brian Rihlmann lives and writes in Reno, Nevada. His poetry has appeared in many magazines, including The Rye Whiskey Review, Fearless, Heroin Love Songs, Chiron Review and The Main Street Rag. His latest collection, “Night At My Throat,” (2020) was published by Pony One Dog Press.
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Three Poems by Eric Fisher Stone

jav
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Javelina Aubade
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Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) also known as collared peccary, are medium-sized animals that look similar to a wild boar. They have mainly short coarse salt and pepper colored hair, short legs, and a pig-like nose.
—Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
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Chomping prickly pear, cholla spines
in ripping kisses, you clop earth
with your hooves’ tender bells.
.
Sauntering campgrounds, your snout
delights at the dirt’s pungent nest
when dawn splits through mesas.
.
I love your humid musk, your crescent moon
circling your neck, your rage snarling
with teeth that could tear my tendons.
.
Rain gorges the ground, creosote
perfumes laughing toads when you funnel
the world’s voluptuous juices
.
into your mouth, your joy buoyant
as coconuts. I take your picture
and wave goodbye, my hooved love,
.
huffing hedgehog, silver jackfruit,
mesquite marauder, milking the plunder
of nopal. Alone, nightly in bed,
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I conjure your oval bulk and taste
your absence in the dark, grieving
that wild javelinas live no longer
.
than ten years and you might have died.
Your bread loaf shape leaps naked
in the wind, so happy, and free.
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The Immanence of God
.
Harvester ants boiled from red mounds
like witches’ venomous breasts.
Texas pastures plumed bluebonnets
to the back of Grandpa’s land, a creek bed
where water moccasins opened
.
the fatal flowers of their mouths.
The thicket guarded an enchanted kingdom.
Ogres and dragons lumbered
past chicken coops, the shed we saw
through briars clearly inhabited
.
by green gnomes with juniper beards.
Thorns jammed the jade-leaved threshold
to the other world. Gnat-clogged skies,
earth lubed with snails wouldn’t satisfy
our lust for fantasy. Later I realized
.
specks of dust are planets whirring
in shafts of light, those trees weren’t borders
to the sublime but the sublime itself.
Wild plums blister sweetness
on the only world where love is real.
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Bullfrog Witness
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My cheeks billow yellow sacks
with words creaking like the shed door
the old man opens to my world.
The pond’s nectar of minnows, clumps
of cow paddies, skies blue as damselflies
.
light earth’s smelly circle. The old man
slashes grass, riding a red metal horse
that snarls gasoline anger.
I mushroom myself with air
to frighten water snakes
.
and bleat wet warnings to other males
this liquid acre is my nation.
Goats in the west pasture don’t know
what I am, the neighbor’s boys
ignore my heart shaped body
.
pluming in a green stew
to new ponds over the barbed wire.
Youths romp innocent as wild grapes
through mesquite thickets, playing chase
with sticks, dreaming human dreams.
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Children grow tall with sorrows
weeping in hot buffalo grass, crisp fields
beyond my water which must be cruel.
Angry fathers have ripe red faces.
Their country is wide, yet they’re not free.
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eric picture
Eric Fisher Stone lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He received his MFA in creative writing and the environment from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. His poems have appeared in many journals, and his first full length poetry collection, The Providence of Grass was published in 2018 by Chatter House Press. His second poetry collection, Animal Joy is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2021. He now works as a writing tutor at Tarrant County College, Northwest Campus.

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Two Poems by Lillo Way

hya
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Angel Hill Cemetery
.
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
.
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