poetry

2 Poems by Lilah Clay

sundial

Photograph by Brian

.
A Weaving 
.
I feel like a sun dial.
That stone anchored
in field,
turning my shadow arm
around the day.
.
I always know what time
it is.
Time to pause,
breathe,
turn away
from the foundation of the past
poured over
skeletons of bad doctors.

                     *

So the years cobble me together,
part invalid, part brilliant.
A weaving of yarn and river
that bandages my presence
here.

                    *

Who mourns the soul
of an old barn
collapsing into firewood?
.
Who understands
the security of confinement
to rebuild anatomy
upright?
.
The Distance Crossed 
.
This cocoon you have spun
of silk, ink, scar tissue,
has summoned the irises
up from their winter graves
to watch you emerge
.
part sphinx moth,
part willow pressing forward
toward bone from buried roots.

.

So gently the transition
of embedded
to free legged,
only perennials
.
can sense the distance
crossed
from wood grain
to human
again.
.
lil
Lilah Clay is a writer, poet, and survivor of chronic Lyme. Her poems have been published in World Literature Today, Splash of RedHer CircleVine Leaves Literary JournalMarco Polo Arts Mag, and Ascent. Her current collection of poetry Bed, Window… Sky explores the imaginal realm of the last twenty months she has spent mostly in bed healing a back injury. 
.
Advertisements

nightmares no longer scare me by J.J. Campbell

jj
.
nightmares no longer scare me
.
it’s the constant struggle
.
the never-ending dance
with pain
.
will you drink yourself
to sleep or to more liver
damage first
.
you look at your badly
damaged left leg and
wonder why you chose
to stop doing drugs and
just accept the pain
.
i look in the mirror
before i go to sleep
each night
.
nightmares no longer
scare me
.
loneliness is the only
friend that never let
me down
.
eventually, i’ll be an
old man
.
alone
.
still talking to himself
.
still playing all the
old songs
.
still holding out hope
that dream woman will
walk through that door
.
hell, even a burglar
would be a welcome
sight
.
jj

J.J. Campbell (1976 – ?) is currently trapped in suburbia, plotting his escape. He’s been widely published over the years, most recently at Lucidity Poetry Journal, Fourth & Sycamore, Synchronized Chaos, Horror Sleaze Trash and Pyrokinection. You can find him most days waxing poetic on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights. (http://evildelights.blogspot.com)

Mockingbird Manages the Morning by Carol Hamilton

mockingbird

Photograph by mjeedelbr

.
Mockingbird Manages the Morning
.
despite sweet grass scents and hummings
from highway and military base
and the heads tucked to feeding dish
as the furry black and tortoise-shell cats
silently eat against the minor twits
and tweets of blackbirds lighting and
alighting the stretch of electric wires.
His insistent love pleadings outcry
even the squirrel’s acrobatic rustlings
in leaps from crepe myrtle to giant elm.
Ambulance siren laces voice
with car passing in front of the house.
But then squirrel takes the lead
with a metallic clatter as he bounces
off an ancient and unused martin house
Morning light is gentle and glosses
the slim trunks of crepe myrtle
yellow-green and lovely.
Now the squirrel does pom pom twirls
with his tail as he bounds on branches
and fence links near the cat dish.
And even the mockingbird has left
the squirrel to what now appears
to be his morning callisthenic routine.
At last all is muted in the soft air
telling me how rain will come tonight
                                                … perhaps.
.
carol ham

Carol Hamilton has recent and upcoming publications in Bluestem, Southwestern American Literature, Commonweal, Louisiana Review, Cold Mountain Review, Common Ground, Sanskrit Literary Magazine, U.S.1 Worksheet, Broad River Review, Homestead Review, Poem, Louisiana Literature, Haight Ashbury Poetry Journal, Off the Coast, Blue Unicorn, Birmingham Poetry Review, Pigeonhole and others. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 17 books in various genres.  http://www.carolhamilton.org/

 

 

Decent Gazelles by Ben Nardolilli

neon
.
Decent Gazelles
.
Under the green light, our skins collide,
pendulous forms swinging until they twist
Into a basket of similar feels,
bundles of goosebumps bristling all over
Like ball bearings or rice,
we struggle to see who will pop first
Both of us know we look like aliens,
thanks to the neon generosity of the street
No need to back off into the dark,
only a reason to make first contact again
.
BenNardolilli
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.
.

The Invalid by Frank Wilson

rain 2

Image by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

.
The Invalid
.
He lies upon the sofa staring out
The window at the rain. Lying about
Is what he does these days, his flesh in need
Of healing, though his spirit’s newly freed.
Few things he looks at now inspire dreams.
A knowing silence lately seen gleams
In mind and heart, transfiguring mere time
And gesture into hieroglyphs, sublime
Reminders every raindrop, every leaf
Engages every joy and every grief.
.
 frank
Frank Wilson is a poet and critic. You can visit him at Books Inq. http://booksinq.blogspot.com/
.

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball
.
Review by Lynette G. Esposito

.

Talking Pillow by Angela Ball a professor of English at the Southern University of Mississippi, takes the poetry reader on a contemporary ride arounda block of modern subjects represented in both literal and figurative images.

Published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series, this 55-page soft cover tome offers reflections on universal themes such as love, loss, death hope and grief.

The poems are divided into three sections:  Lady of the House, FBI Story, and Bicycle Story. The sections are thematic. In Lady of the House, the focus of the poems is on relationships and the myriad subjects that make them.  In FBI Story the theme switches to discovery and realization using contemporary images that are both representative and logical. In the section, The Bicycle Story, the reader rides with the narrator through locales, timelines passing through remembrance and grief.

In the lead poem in the first section, Society for Ladies of the House. the situation is set in an ambulance ride to the hospital and the desire for the patient’s recovery The surprise ending is sweet but not sentimental  and shows how love transcends every day minutiae to survive and make one recognize how glorious love is.  After the trip to the hospital, the last lines show the true purpose:.

        …It parades the sky in its windows, admits
         the opera of passing sirens, the swerving, rocking
         ambulance with the brave young driver, determined
         to reach the hospital in time to save the patient
         to let him heal and return home, tentative
         but upright, to his own true love, the Lady of the House
.
The poem I favor in FBI Story is the last poem in this section on page 37 entitled An Attempt.  Ball uses a dead bee..
.
           For us, all that’s left
           is a dried bee, tilted
           onto one wing.
.

The narrator says you cannot touch anything without water.  I like the perception of death during An Attempt, and the stillness represented by the bee caught trying but left unmoving.  It is a visible image in nature that asks the reader to understand action projected and action paused…probably without warning.  The last lines speak of the bee dust in the flower and the sad realization that the “we” of the poem will still not be any closer.

In The Bicycle Story, two poems attracted me: Lots of Swearing at the Fairgrounds, and Intercourse after Death Presents Special Difficulties.

          At the fairgrounds even children
          were full of curses, scrawled across mornings.
          What was denied, open pasture,
          the perfection of a stallion covering its mate.
.

The comment on confined spaces obscuring the beauty of nature is subtle but clear.

The lines that struck me in Intercourse After Death Presents Special Difficulties, beside the title, involve a congeal visit to the after life. Ball handles the desire without sentimentality but with intensity and possibility. .

      Nights I ingest the pill
        that lets me seem awake while in motion
        at home and at work.  I note
        today’s horoscope
       “a far-fetched hope is realized.”.  
.

For those who have lost a lover or a loved one, Ball suggest that there is shame in the need to touch and be touched by the lost one and how the narrator of the poem deals with the reality and perception

The book is a pleasure in its direct simplicity as well as its subtlety.

.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Talking-Pillow-Pitt-Poetry-Angela/dp/0822965151/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

.

Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  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 and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

American Parable by Sonia Greenfield

Greenfield_AmericanParable-194x300

.

By Richard Nester

Sonia Greenfield’s chapbook, American Parable, should receive a trumpet fanfare upon being opened. It pioneers a style, a method—not so revolutionary as Whitman’s breathtaking leap into free verse perhaps—but worthy of notice both for what it says and how it says it. Greenfield’s verse is fiery, packed with lived experience and whetted by an imaginative grit that is emotionally concrete, accurate and incisive. She manages to join Whitman’s vigorous engagement with public issues with Dickinson’s lyric genius for private mediation. Greenfield’s poems are not only important in themselves as individual explorations of significant human questions but also for what they accomplish in terms of method, which is to explore civic questions in poems that have a complete right to be called lyric poems, something long thought impossible. In American Parable, Greenfield successfully closes the considerable distance between the styles of Whitman and Dickinson and their subject matters.

To better understand how Greenfield operates in American Parable and why her method is so fresh, we need to look at a poem from her first collection Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market. This poem “Nafsicrate Considers Bruegel’s Famous Work” reacts to W.H. Auden’s famous “Musee des Beaux Arts” from the point of view of a character who might have appeared in Auden’s poem but doesn’t, that is the mother of Icarus. Greenfield will use a similar approach many times in American Parable as she establishes a point of view that has been overlooked or disregarded and then uses that point of view to close the distance between the reader and the poem’s subject. Providing readers with these kinds of insights is a classic trope of lyric poetry, but one that has rarely found its way into the rhetoric of civic discourse.

One of the things we notice about “Nafsicrates Considers” is that Icarus isn’t named until the poem’s last line since to his mother he is simply “my boy,” a real person, who is both intensely special as well as typical of all children. She has passed her unique knowledge of how to dive to him—a detail that ironically references the painting—while acknowledging her anxiety for his safety. As she says “you can’t trust children to make good choices.” Icarus remains somewhat unreal to us since we don’t encounter him except in his mother’s report. In this respect, we are still “turned away” from him, to borrow Auden’s figure of speech, but Nafsicrate is certainly a real mother suffering the anxieties of a real parent and not the generalized, emotionally distant spectator of Auden’s poem.

Developing this fresh point of view enables Greenfield to dispute Auden’s opening claim in “Musee,” which is  “about suffering they were never wrong / the old Masters.” Auden continues, deftly producing his evidence both from life and from Bruegel’s painting, so that we tend to accept authority of his argument and his verdict that indifference to suffering is the default mode for humanity. What other opinion could there be? Auden is apparently cocksure about its truth, but is it actually the only truth available? Is it so universal after all? Or is it rather the wisdom of a particular set of “masters” (with a small m), painting in a particular time for a particular audience, singularly devoted to commerce. By including an observer who is also a vital—but usually disregarded–participant Greenfield is able to challenge the hegemony of the expected, a classic move in lyric poetry.

As far as Yeats was concerned, poetry and rhetoric could not exist together, and his distinction between them is famous, poetry arising from “quarrels with ourselves” and rhetoric from “quarrels with others.” After Yeats, poetry took an inward turn away from public engagement and persuasion toward explorations of inner conditions and their imaginative traffic with the material world. When public engagement did occur as in Auden’s oft-quoted “September 1, 1939,” it exhibited a reluctance to linger with the personal. Within the space of a few lines, Auden moves from his seat at the bar “uncertain and afraid” to a place at the lecture podium delivering a geo-political sermon about what every schoolboy should have learned about the propagation of evil. I don’t mean to say that this isn’t great poetry, but it is not in the lyric mode of exploration and discovery. In American Parable, Greenfield closes this distance as we become more fully engaged with the people and issues she offers us.

Another means she adapts from the lyric vocabulary is what Matthew Zapruder in his recent book Why Poetry calls “associative leaping,” a form of imaginative seeing. This method is on vivid display in “Snapshots of Pluto from New Horizons,” a poem that skillfully combines exposition with lyric grace as Greenfield examines how embattled language is in the current political climate. She includes situations from gender politics to the distorting power of language without once seeming strident or accusatory. Humans may “default to optimism” as we imagine a heart shape emerging—like our own lunar man-in-the-moon—from Pluto’s “variegated terrain,” but the poem’s sadness is unmistakable, sadness for emotional resources squandered because of a lack of the clear seeing that poetry offers.

She provides a poignant update to Williams’ claim that “men die every day for lack of it [poetry],” as she focuses our attention on the women, workers, and children that are diminished by our failure to offer “new horizons” to our most vulnerable citizens. Her images have an associative power that belies their plain spoken sense. A case in point are the leaking “sandbags” of the poem’s last line, which remind us of our inability to insure against disasters political and emotional as well as natural.

A poem that pairs well with “Pluto”—in that both involve journeys that are in part hopeful and in part forsaken—is “Refuge” where Greenfield portrays the contemporary refuge experience through the eyes of a character she calls “melania” (spelled with a small m). “Refuge” fuses the refuge experience of women and children fleeing war or political crisis with the immigrant journey of the First Lady of the United States—a decidedly more well-known Melania—as it juxtaposes material barriers of “brambles” and “walls” with emotional barriers of “tinted windows” and “blue pills.”  The fusion completes itself as the “tinted windows” of melania’s exile existence “roll down” the way / Slovenian woods pull their / shutters closed at the end / of the day” and melania is eventually pointed to her “bed over there.”

Woody Guthrie, in his classic protest ballad “Deportee,” recognizes that namelessness is a signal trait of the economic and political exile. He sings “you won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane,” reminding us not only of how dangerous anonymity is for the exile but also of how anonymity can be weaponized by the powerful. Greenfield, by ironically naming the principal character of “Refugee,” throws the humanity of the exile into stark relief. She will insist that the world look now even if it was not looking during the earliest stages of the world refugee crisis.

Accurate, insightful seeing is a crucial component of Greenfield’s lyric approach. In poem after poem, the visual details pile up, calling on us to witness what on many occasions we might prefer not to see. Sights, detailed on Greenfield’s moral canvas, places and events where the seeing is inward as well as outward, include those associated with lynchings and abortions. She notes in “Yours,” where the subject is unsafe drinking water, that moral toxicity usually accompanies physical toxicity. Twice she goes underwater, once to survey drowned Confederate statues, noting that “if you want to touch / this history bad enough you can dive for it” and again at “The Miami Museum of Water” where Trumpian artifacts submerged by global warming mingle with detritus from Cuban restaurants. Even when a poem’s overall message is inspirational, as in “I Believe, in the End, the Dogs Will Save Us” suffering is evident, a reminder that our real heroes are ones who survive trials—in this case a mutt whose leg is caught in a trap and not the kind of dogs—herders and bomb-sniffers—that are more likely to get credit for heroism.

American Parable’s title poem is probably the least lyrical of the collection, not because it lacks the quick movement that we usually associate with lyric, but because it is in fact a parable, a parable being a narrative tale designed to illustrate a universal truth. The universal truth in this case is the powerful negative impact of fear on a country and a people. The poem begins by describing the reasons that the country has not to be fearful: “weapons & open / spaces, prairie grass & forests / river runs & rolling golden / mountains.” But fearful this country is, shockingly so, and without rational explanation.  Rumors of “terrible creatures” spread, but there is no evidence that they are doing anything “terrible.” Rumors are all the evidence offered. A “golem” appears to be lurking and a “fog of plagues,” but whether these dangers are the reasons for the fear or its consequences, goes unsaid. All we know is that a “prophet / who lived in a golden tower” tells the people that he can save them, provided they will throw rocks at those he says are to blame.

The allegorical nature of the narrative is too plain to bother recounting. Nonetheless, it is expertly told, and its truth about the consequences of fear is hard to question. Creating an allegory is clearly a way to steer the poem away from topicality and toward universality, and Greenfield is successful in doing that. “American Parable” is not a political lyric of the kind I have been examining, but it serves the collection the way the pole of a circus tent serves the spacious area underneath it—a three-ring circus of political poetry that illuminates our current crises and points a way toward new forms of poetic discourse. That these poems will constitute acts of resistance and survival is a hope profoundly worth hoping.

You can find the book here:

http://www.autumnhouse.org/product/american-parable-sonia-greenfield/

Richard Nester has twice been a fellow of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has published essays on social justice topics in The Catholic Agitator, a publication of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, and poetry in numerous magazines, including Ploughshares, Seneca Review, and Callaloo and on-line in The Cortland Review, Qarrtsiluni and Inlandia. He has two collections of poetry, Buffalo Laughter and  Gunpowder Summers, both published by Kelsay Books. His reviews of poetry have appeared in North of Oxford.