north of oxford poetry

Fine Lines by Sean Howard

northern

Fine Lines 

Standing at the edge of the sea is exhilarating. This is the meeting place of terrestrial and marine life, where two ecosystems intertwine.

Jeffrey C. Domm, Canada’s Atlantic Seashore

i. Northern Rock Barnacle
.
Mouth at top
is closed during
low tides’
.
(Slow rush,
tongu-
ing…)
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ii. Eyed Finger Sponge
.
‘Branches have small
holes, or “eyes”’
.
(Wave, hand
staring back
at you…)
iii. Northern Quahog
.
‘Interior of shell
milky-white
with purple
stain’
.
(Quahog Grail,
bloodstain
rim)
.
iv. Samphire
Salad days
(no takers?) –
.
‘Succulent stem and
branches, bright
green in spring’
.
v. Maritime Garter Snake
‘Rests very
still in the sun,
collecting warmth’
.
(What beggar
could choose
more?)
.
vi. Piping Plover
.
‘…nest in a
depression…’
.
(How many
of us dare?)
.
sean 2
Sean Howard is the author of five books of poetry in Canada, most recently Unrecovered: 9/11 Poems (Gaspereau Press, 2021). His poetry has been widely published in Canada, the US (including North of Oxford), UK, and elsewhere, and featured in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2017).
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High Stakes by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

hammer
.
High Stakes 
Seizing the high ground is important,
have you not read of the great campaigns?
 And here this stooped man with his back to me,
a pile of stakes which he hammers into the soil above.
 .
 An old slag heap now repurposed and green again,
stakes driven deep into this unnatural hill to form a line.
 .
 A drooping pair of overalls, I see each faded denim strap
disappear over a mountain of disjointed shoulders.
 The stacks from the nickel mines in the distance.
Billowing out their many black dahlia plumes.
.
ryan
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Chiron Review, Setu, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

Dear Anonymouse by Mike Maggio

mouse
Dear Anonymouse
.
Dear Anonymouse:
I’ve noticed how lately
you’ve taken up residence
and claimed free reign of my humble home —
as if you were meant to be here.
.
How you scurry about my kitchen, Earl of Morning,
Prince of Demurity, Sovereign of Shyness
scorning contact, refusing to concede even my presence
while I’m perking coffee or scrambling eggs
or simply puttering about.
.
The pantry, too, has succumbed to your shenanigans.
You’ve raided the rice, finagled the figs
rummaged the rind of a yet-to-ripen melon.
And all you’ve given for my unwilling generosity
is the back of your timorous tail
and a profligate amount of your prodigious pellets.
.
Now I’ve tried to be lenient with you —
even, one might say, tolerant of your presence.
I’ve left you offerings for your midnight snack —
tempting morsels meant to appease your avid appetite —
a crumble of cheese beneath the sink
.
a pat of peanut butter near the fridge
even, once, a bowl of fruit left, unwrapped,
beside a special cocktail I concocted
meant to con you, meant to attract you
to my little contraption in which I wished to whisk you away.
.
And yet, to no avail. You avoid my good will
and continue to sashay through my kitchen
ogling me as if I’m the one who should take his leave.
Dear Anonymouse:  please understand:
I do not wish to harm you.
I merely bid you and your progeny godspeed.
.
So please: pack your things.
Make haste with your belongings.
Seek shelter in some other domicile.
Because come tomorrow
a certain calico companion is about to join my campaign.
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Mike Maggio is a poet and fiction writer with nine full-length works to his name and numerous publications in journals including The Northern Virginia Review, The L.A. Weekly and others. His newest poetry collection, Let’s Call It Paradise,  , will be released in 2021 by San Francisco Bay Press.. He is an adjunct assistant-professor at Northern Virginia Community College and an associate editor of The Potomac Review His web site if www.mikemaggio.net

Celestial Elbow by D.R. James

moon
.
Celestial Elbow
.
The sky wore the regalia of flames but
turned lavender-violet quietude
in a moment’s romance. And the breeze, how
it finessed everything and cradled me.
Awakened by the dazzle, I reposed—
riveted, infused, imbued by satin.
Gift after gift from ginger tongues, then glow
audible like visions. It was never
a coddling. The nod from the heavens
judged some memories mere indulgence—and grudge.
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D. R. James’s latest of nine collections are Flip Requiem (Dos Madres, 2020), Surreal Expulsion (Poetry Box, 2019), and If god were gentle (Dos Madres, 2017), and his micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at Origami Poems Project. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan.

Two Poems by John Dorroh

oliver
.
For Mary Oliver Who Loved Dogs
.
We are learning new things
about the history of dog bones,
how they permeate the soil
on every continent, a gauge
of the manner in which civilizations
have flourished and failed, burying
their own bones beside them.
.
The collective souls of canine
beings – wolves and chihuahua,
beagles and basset, mixed breeds
and the paperless hound – form a cool
gray layer that only those who’ve
fallen in love with them ever sense
or see. It’s in our marrow, saturating
the pulp of existence.
.
We’ve always loved them, even
as they crouched on the perimeters
of pre-historic fires, inching forward,
cowering on bellies that kissed
the cold ground, stealing bits of skin
and meat while humans slept under
the stars.
.
Reluctant Crow
.
There’s a reluctant crow stuck in my throat,
unable or unwilling to recognize my face.
.
How could he not remember these acid-etched
furrows, this cute pink nose, such rosy cheeks
.
and a head the shape of a cube? He’s not trying,
that’s all. Sad bird. If I can remember the way
.
that green bottle flies entered the dead man’s mouth
at the river when I was 8, their drone-like metallic
.
buzzing, the way the lemon sun felt on my neck,
and the excitement when we pulled up obsidian
.
glass shards from the bottom of the gravel pit,
then why can’t this crow remember me? Perhaps
.
he harbors some gene for resilience, or experienced
a traumatic avian childhood with blood-drenched
.
scenes that he can’t get out of his head: witnessing
a bald eagle being shot from the sky, or seeing
.
his father murdered?  Hundreds of articles
documenting the intelligence of crows and cousins
.
of crows, feathered beings worthy of scientific literature,
of behavioral antics that defy description: Betty,
.
a New Caledonian, picks up a piece of wire
in her cage, uses an object to bend it, like a junior
.
engineer, into a hooked tool that she uses to lift
a chunk of scrumptious pig heart up into her beak.
.
Instead, I have the special crow, the one who doesn’t
fit the mold, the one who grew up just like me.
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John Dorroh’s poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Feral, Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, and Selcouth Station. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.
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Two Poems by Mike Wilson

coupler
.
Castle Keep
.
I never saw it coming.
It doesn’t have a face,
is known through absence
of chunks and parts,
small paving stones of ordinary
gone missing.
.
Empty boxcars uncoupled
still rolling with momentum
from a life lived, carrying him
through days, a click
clack along an old track,
a train without a schedule.
.
At first preoccupied, then reoccupied
by patterns he no longer owns,
fragments of stories, twisted
paragraphs clutched, the abridged
version of his life, shorthand
dictated, no longer transcribed.
.
Alone in gray that could turn black,
becoming the prey of his own mind,
the timbre of words
not tempered by love
uttered with prompts, delivered to
an audience of tissues and tears.
.
I buried him, broken,
and shuffled along, waiting
until they made me sell the house
and settled me in assisted living
with meals, a bed, and no meaning,
but everyone is kind.
.
The Golden Years
.
She calls the nurse,
pressing the button nobody hears.
She calls family,
they let it go to voicemail,
waiting to see if she will die.
.
She doesn’t…
.
She calls to God,
presents her argument,
makes her plea,
waits for the judge’s gavel
to strike the bench with a ruling.
.
They stick her in a home.
.
Night fears
make conjugal visits.
She calls the aide
but can’t remember why,
can’t remember the girl’s name,
but pretends she does.
The girl leaves
when she thinks she’s done.
It must be nice.
.
The same with visitors –
muscle memory
of social interaction
kicking in the tune
but not the words.
All these strangers
who are like fishing bobs
bobbing up, bobbing down,
looking at their watches.
.
Mike Wilson’s work has appeared in magazines including Cagibi Literary Journal, Stoneboat, The Aurorean, and The Ocotillo Review, and in Mike’s book, “Arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic,” (Rabbit House Press, 2020), political poetry for a post-truth world. Mike resides in Central Kentucky. www.mikewilsonwriter.com
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Two Poems by James Tyler

cumberland
.
Cumberland River, 2am
.
There’s a latitude and longitude in Tennessee
where I step in the dirty Cumberland River,
mud between toes, those brittle bones.
.
It goes from here to the Queen City,
winds its filth, memories of Civil War
and white paddle steamers.
.
Wind sings songs on the surface
to rainbow trout and walleye,
to the bones of drowned lovers.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
Blade of Grass
.
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.
.
Dear wind, your northern breath sour
from snowstorms and icy midnights,
spreads pregnant pollen across meadows,
the whorehouses of nature.
.
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
.
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?
.
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.
.
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
.
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.
.
“And What Is the Point of Walking
When There Is Nowhere You Have to Be?”
                        —Katherine Kilalea, Ok, Mr. Field
.
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
.
Another Life
.
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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