poetry

Five Poems by Catfish McDaris

mcdaris
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Okra and Peyote 
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Willie came from the nasty streets
the Santa Fe R &R tracks divided
the village, whitey, brownie, blackie
.
Mostly ragged folks getting by,
most of the adobes were plastered
but some mud clay blocks were exposed
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Willie was my primo, he grew mota, okra,
chilis, peyote, magic mushrooms, and
grapes, we hung it to dry from the vigas
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In the lemon-yellow sun of enchantment,
a vato came by to pull a rip off, I put a 357
in his ear and offered to cancel his Xmas.
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Black Horse
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Anyone can be gat, look
in the good book and the
Four Horsemen of the Ap-
calypso: Pestilence, War,
Famine, Death, flying
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Scorpions, nightingales, the
lady vacuumed the fireflies
from the sky, there are no
roses without bloody thorns
 .
He reached out and broke
off a chunk of banana moon
it tasted rather bizarre, tickling
the guitar strings laughter can
be heard through the adobe
 .
Village, coyotes, and senoritas
did the St Vitus’ dance until
the apricot pumpkin stars,
turned the clouds terracotta.
 .
Mexican Black
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I see ears in the swirling starry night.
the sky is drunk, the sun puking lemon
juice, the moon has a toothache, the lady
asked the dope fiend to come to talk to
Jesus, he stinks of absinthe and funk.
 .
Sometimes at night I meet
myself when I was young,
I disgust myself now
 .
What color is the wind?
What color is an orgasm?
What color is death?
 .
There is no sea of tranquility
There’s no such thing as a small miracle
.
Drinking Mexican coffee as black as death
Lady Gaga drives up in a dirty Mercury
they head to the Valley of Rhinoceroses
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Listening to Swordfish Trombone and
Bitches Brew overlooking Mexico City.
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The Sky is a Gun Barrel of Loneliness
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Death eats
you like a
soggy
cookie
in coffee
how long
will
I pretend
to care
I never
expected
or wanted
to live this
fucking
long.
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Everyone Should Own One Nightmare
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I stare at my daughter’s bullet
proof vest and feel the thinness
I wonder how this can stop a
bullet, it’s dangerous to be a co
 .
Every night you worry if your
baby is safe, and wonder what
can you do to protect her, I would
step in front of a bullet in a heartbeat.
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Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 25 years. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee. The photo of me is after my house burned down and my dog died, the cat escaped.

 

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Sub – Zero Visibility by Vandana Kumar

pm2.5
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Sub – Zero Visibility
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The city with masks
Buy one
Get one free
Works for PM2.5
It screams
.
And you put it on
You pass the sewages
You don’t notice the smell
.
The urchins
Long since removed
From your lexicon
The ghettos you cross
Such trepidation
.
Caught in parking lots
Can’t reverse
Can’t move ahead
And 4am extremities for the insomniac
Either porn
Or religious discourse
.
The districts in old town
Offer you flesh
Come hither looks
Or boast such purity
You think
She never ever touched herself
.
‘Smoke gets in your eyes’
The city and its mask
Works well for PM2.5
It taught you how to shed tears
But muffled the cries
.
k
Vandana Kumar is a bon vivant who loves travelling, working with young minds and exploring possibilities beyond the ordinary. A middle school French teacher in New Delhi, her passions include playing the piano.  She has been published at ‘GloMag’, ‘Scarlet Leaf Review’, ‘Destiny Poets’. One of her poems was shortlisted and published by the “All India Poetry Society.
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Welcome to LA by Gary Duehr

smokingguymarlboro_1200x675
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Welcome to LA
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Here’s some on-street casting.
Three tough guys, huddled by the curb, like a lasting
Vision from some film clip:
A kid in shades, Marlboro at his lip,
Who’s taking it all in.
The older dudes in Polo shirts, deep in conversation,
Intense as any Method actor.
From birth to death they’ll stay in character,
In case a call to “Action!”
Booms out through the air—to catch one
Fraction of their life in celluloid
And so sidestep the void.
It’s Miami or LA, somewhere too sunny.
The light is thin and bright, as crisp as money.
And the Oscar goes to… Best ’80s Costume?
Best Weathered Face? Best Cigarette? To whom
Does this scenario belong?
Someone who’s out of sight, beyond the throng
That’s streaming down the street?
Anything could happen next. “A bite to eat?”
One of the Polo dudes could say. Or: “You’re dead.”
Maybe both at once: first lunch, and then a bullet to the head.
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duehr_1

Courtesy Sommerville News

Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. In 2001 he received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, and he has also received grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. His books of poetry include In Passing (Grisaille Press, 2011), THE BIG BOOK OF WHY (Cobble Hill Books, 2008), Winter Light (Four Way Books, 1999) and Where Everyone Is Going To (St. Andrews College Press, 1999).
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Working on the night shift by Casey Killingsworth

post office
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Working on the night shift
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When you retire from your work you look
back on the jobs you did as if they were
nothing but stories. When the Easterns
said there is no past, that’s what they meant:
other than the pain that’s in your bones right
now, the here and now, everything else is just
words you distribute to your younger friends.
.
Anyway, I did the math the other day and
figured out I spent a third of my working
years on the midnight shift, working while
you slept, trying to be quiet so I didn’t
wake you, missing the sun. Every time you
woke to pee or get a glass of water I was
watering a golf course or sending trucks
out from some post office dock, and on
your way to work I was on my first beer.
.
I did the math and figured out I’m not
tired anymore, at least not the tired that
comes from fighting for the chance to
dream, or from envying sleep like it’s my
neighbor’s big house. I can go to sleep
whenever I want now, and sometimes
I just want to sleep forever
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casey
Casey Killingsworth has been published in The American Journal of Poetry, Kimera, Spindrift, Rain, Slightly West, Timberline Review, COG, Common Ground Review, Typehouse, Bangalore Review, Two Thirds North, and other journals. His book of poems, A Handbook for Water, was published by Cranberry Press in 1995. As well he has a book on the poetry of Langston Hughes, The Black and Blue Collar Blues (VDM, 2008). He has a Master’s degree from Reed College.
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Oblique Music: A Book of Hours by Elizabeth Bodien

oblique

By Jenny Ward Angyal

a life entire
in the swoop of a blackbird
wing flash of red
sufficient this morning
for a rising up of wonder
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Poet Elizabeth Bodien has captured ‘a life entire’ in the 102 tanka of this handsome little book. Subtitled A Book of Hours, it is divided into nine sections inspired by the traditional structure of the liturgical day. Each section opens with essentially the same photograph of the sun over water, but the colors of the image and the sun’s position within it change to reflect the time of day or night, until we reach the final section, ‘Beyond’, which opens with an image of star-filled sky. The poems are printed in restful periwinkle ink on creamy blue-white paper; one poem per page allows plenty of time and space to contemplate each small gem. .

And it is of course the poems themselves that matter most. The poems in this collection, most of which first appeared in various tanka journals over the course of a decade, move simultaneously through the hours of a day, the seasons of a year, and the seasons of a life, capturing moments and reflections each of which is ‘sufficient . . . for a rising up of wonder.’
he poet displays a fine sensitivity to the world around her:
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iridescent blue
two dragonflies
catch and throw
waning sunlight
onto the path
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 . . . and also to her own interior landscape:
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lingering in bed
one moment longer
I trawl
the vast in-between
where creation might stir
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The first tanka above is an exquisite capture of something that most people would simply overlook; the second explores that fertile state between sleeping and waking where the riches of the subconscious mind may be most accessible. Elizabeth Bodien’s creations are shot through with ‘waning sunlight’, a poignant sense of the ephemeral:
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I buy cut tulips
arrange them in a vase
for their color
and because I trust
they will be here tomorrow
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The closing lines suggest that the narrator—like all of us—knows well that many beautiful or beloved things will not ‘be here tomorrow’. The clarity and simplicity of this tanka typify the way in which these poems illuminate everyday phenomena and help us to see how such ordinary things point beyond themselves to the unknown.
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barely touching
his scraped bloody knee
the boy ponders
for the first time
what is inside him
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From the child’s first intimations of vulnerability to the adult’s full knowledge of death, these poems simultaneously mourn losses and celebrate life:
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we are all old
now that you’ve gone
you danced
like a butterfly
on the lid of our lives
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What a beautiful five-line portrait of someone whose life seems to have been emblematic of freedom and joy. Loss of loved ones leads inevitably to reflection on what happens ‘beyond’:
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smoke rises
from the burning barrel
our trash
turns to ash, to air
what will we become?
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 . . . and it is no accident that the final section of this ‘book of hours’ is entitled ‘Beyond’, reaching outside the traditional cycle of the liturgical day and  hinting, like the following tanka, at a larger reality:
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frost flickers
on the dark window
a thin veil
separates this earth
from beyond
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Elizabeth Bodien, who holds degrees in cultural anthropology, consciousness studies, religions, and poetry, recently published a nonfiction book about her past-life regressions. She has also published five books of ‘mainstream’ poetry and has won numerous poetry awards, including several for haiku. Readers of her Oblique Music will hope that this accomplished poet, with her wealth of experience, insight, and wonder, will continue to travel the tanka road.
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we peer
from the bus
across the river
our final destination
the city veiled in mist
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Jenny Ward Angyal’s  poems have appeared in many journals and may also be found on her blog, The Grass Minstrel. . Her tanka collection, moonlight on water (Skylark Publishing), appeared in 2016. She co-edited the Tanka Society of America’s 2016 Members’ Anthology, Ripples in the Sand, and was Reviews & Features Editor of Skylark: a Tanka Journal, for over five years.
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Her Heartsongs by Joan Colby

HER-HEARTSGONS-187x300

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Published by Presa Press of Rockford, Michigan, Joan Colby’s, Her Heartsongs, presents 69 pages of poems that create an intensity of emotion with fresh views of every day and familiar events
The lead poem on page nine entitled Her Heart, discusses the difference between a man’s heartbeat and a woman’s.
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                  The heart of a woman beats faster than the heart of a
                        man.
                  A billion heartbeats over a lifetime. No wonder a woman
                  Is tired.  No wonder she crawls into bed with a book\
                        before
                 The evening news arrives.  Her heart is misdiagnosed
                 Repeatedly.  The symptoms atypical.  Blockages in the
                        small
                 Arteries the tiny byways clogging unseen by the radiant
                         eye.
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The thirty-line single stanza poem points out how the great artery of a man’s heart is called the widow maker. Colby suggests there is no name for the woman’s.  The implication of what breaks a woman whose heart is made of  cut- velvet or satin , emblazoned with a scroll surrounded by cherubs suggests the gentle complexity that brings a woman’s heart to break.  The skillful presentation of the differences between men and women gives a fresh view through the imagery of the heart  and the way it beats through life then stops.  She has  a light touch that resonates.
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On page thirty-two, Colby’s poem Moving Men reveals how the things in ones life represent the past, present and future. Most of us have been through the common event of moving our things from one place to another so the reader is able to relate to the theme of the poem and understand the implications.  She begins the poem talking about keepsakes from a first love packed into sawdust and she ends the poem:
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                    Days of muscle and sweat.  You watch
                    The truck back out of tne drive.  Stow
                    Everything that is left, an inventory
                    of  tomorrows.
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The poem frames time in the things we move and the things we box up for later. Her use of the act of moving works well as a symbol both of time and the changes one goes through.
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Philip Dacey says the poems that Colby presents show an emotional intensity and large sympathies. I agree.  The book is a pleasure to read for the commonality of subject matter and the fresh perception of how every day events define the human conditionShe chooses such subjects as wash day, working, anniversaries and happiness to reveal and define individuals as works in progress. Colby is successful in her astute observations.
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Her Heartsongs is available through Baker and Taylor, The Book House, Coutts Information Services, Midwest Library Services, and directly from the publisher Ptesa Press at Presa Press
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review, Bindweed Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, That Literary Review, The Remembered Arts Journal, and other literary magazines.
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Two Poems by Lowell Jaeger

under car

Everyone Does Something Well

                                                            for Clayton

1.)
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He stutters, reading aloud: Write
five paragraphs describing something you do well.
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He rubs and rubs the pencil eraser across his stubbled chin.
His husky war-veteran’s shoulders hunched
over the blank page.  Needs the entire hour
to carve out six lines of hieroglyphics, one scrawling
run-on,
              something concerning his tour of duty
as a helicopter mechanic.  Okay, I say.
That’s a start.
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2.)
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He’s flat on his back beneath my car,
having run one tire up an icy snowbank,
clearance enough for him to worm under.
He’s opened a dented toolbox and set it nearby,
asking me to hand over the tools he calls for.
.
He wants a 19mm wrench.  A cold, difficult wind
spits snow in my face.  I can’t read
the tiny numbers etched in the battered steel.
.
No, he says quietly to the wrong tool.
He reaches, groping blindly.
Selects the right one.
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3.)
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I’m shuffling an awkward jitterbug to keep warm.
I’m watching his hands.
The old starter out, a new one installed
in about as much time as I’d need
to write my own five paragraphs.  Maybe less.
.
Who’s That? 
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She’s posed like a tabloid starlet, one foot
lifted to the running board of a lustrous black Pontiac,
lips spiced with a flirty smile, an outlaw Bonnie
stepping toward the edge of infamy
as Clyde exits the bank in a firestorm
with sacks of cash, and the couple dash
into the deliciously dangerous and romantic yonder.
.
Instead, she marries our father, a soldier
home from combat, settles into what must have seemed
a monotonous routine — diaper bags, spit rags, heaps
of laundry, floors to sweep, never ending
cycles of meals to concoct and sinks full of pots and pans.
.
Who’s that? my siblings and I ask, paging
through a moldering family album
of black and white scalloped-edge
box camera snapshots.
.
She’s just past teenage in the photo,
showing off for the lens.  A puzzling contrast
to the woman we knew who stood back
and looked downcast when the flashbulb flashed.
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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is author of eight collection of poems, most recently Earth-blood & Star-shine (Shabda Press in 2016).  He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.
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