north of oxford poetry

Two Poems by Edward Lee

feet
.
Memory
.
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
.
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
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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,
.
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.
.
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.
.
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
.
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.
.
I wonder if the buried can feel
Aunt Reba’s muscled love,
her swollen knees pressing
against their chests
as she works the trowel.
.
Can they see the dimming sun,
taste the light rain, smell
the intense death
of these grave flowers
brown by next Sunday?
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
We rambled our reckless ways
through the long park
its shadowed brambles
its herons lording by a pond.
.
Anonymous in the museums
dauntless in watercolor classrooms
singing through the subway cars
we were famed among pigeons.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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
.
                        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.
.
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
.
Electrocuted
.
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
.
Hyperbole Wraps the Sun
.
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,
.
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
.
will find her body
from the riptides, bruised
skin shorn
by rock and jetty,
festooned in seaweed.
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Me and Lloyd
.
on his second-hand hog
two joints trashed us, then time
.
to arrive at Shul only one hour late
for Yom Kippur holiday, Day
of Atonement, big time service.
.
Everyone searching for sins looks to
forgiveness, except for heathens like us.
We enter sanctuary foolish, loose,
.
Laugh away regrets to looks of censure.
We giggle embarrassed under the influence,
daring anyone to call us out.
.
In the pew I drop the prayer book, too many
folks eying us.  This bitchin’ service,
six hours long. Lloyd sleeps the day away.
.
Instead of standing to daven, his snores
reach God’s ear. I stare and laugh again.
No plagues rain down on us.
.
No sign of a personal god anywhere—
Adonai, Jesus, Allah, Buddha
No sign, not even a reception signal.
.
One thousand voices chant as
hyperbole wraps around the sun
and its planets with strings knotted
.
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
.
Wild
.
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
.
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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Two Poems by Linda Lerner

brook
.
Thoughts of My Father at the Brooklyn Museum
.
stumbling onto a road war- prisoners walked
in 19th century Russia in my attempt to escape
from a nine-month imprisonment in 2020 led me
from dark clouded volcanic scenes erupting
to a snow blinding blizzard in my father’s birth place…
.
the cold seeped into me as I stood transfixed
before moving on to where
a group of prisoners huddled together
in a refuge of sorts, snow cascading down
from a broken skylight and
.
thought of my father at 17 forced
to join a group of youths marching
on a similar road a century later
to escape from Pogroms,
.
that universal cold I carried
home with me, passing blocks of people
shivering outside café’s & restaurants
leaving warm apartments to sit here
a safe distance apart in huddling
proximity of others, I now joined
.
That Plane I’m Not On
.
and sucked out of when a window
I’m leaning against gives, has me
frantically trying to grab hold
of what isn’t there, till spotting
a man in the distance, a woman who seems
to be with him, and curious about
who they are, hoping they might help me
gain my bearings, just as they vanish
and I’m back where I was;
things start to look up when I see
part of a street and try landing on it
but turns out to be someone’s
memory of one, don’t know who
that person is or how they got there
isn’t a real street anyway like
those ideas of things floating by
my mind’s reach isn’t fast enough
to catch and worn out from trying,
put down this novel I’ve been reading
to get off that plane I never got on
in the first place
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linda
Linda Lerner, author of 17 collections. Her poems currently appeared in Maintenant, Patersson Literary Review, Gargoyle, Chiron Review, Free State Review and Rat’s Ass Review among others.
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