Three Poems by A J Huffman

Want Never Leaves a Scent

Every surface of you is a desert,
a gap in the curtains, a dissolving
distance. Your mother should have named you
Desire. You inspire images of feral horses, sweating
beasts — runaways, waiting for virile badge of approval,
the almost-reflective smile
from lips that long to swallow.


A Parody Without Brooms or Knives           

Inside me, two small sign posts
scream obsolete obscenities.
I bite my thumb in remembrance of
their useless points. The vibrancy
of the message is getting restless.
The background refuses all requests
for release. I am waiting to suffocate
anything that makes a desperate break.
I know whatever makes it out will be
ready to consume the world.


My Mother Should Have Named Me Silence

I hold my tongue with both hands
in abeyance, not patience.
My mouth is a volcano,
a mutiny of stifled
frustrations, waiting to erupt,
explode and corrode anyone in its path.

 

A J Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, The Pyre On Which Tomorrow Burns (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2600 poems in various national and international journals, including: Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. You can find more of her personal work here: https://ajhuffmanpoetryspot.blogspot.com/

Three Poems by Michael Medler

A Stand of Birches

It was surely tweed, three pieces,
that spoke loudest from your closet,
a place I’d never explored before.

The work shirt spoke, but I had to
think about others streaming past,
pausing with hands full of reverie,

flowers. I can still see the stand
of birches we took down last fall,
their paper gone yellow by first

light, the scream of the saw that awoke
a clutch of crows who screamed back.
Yes, it was the tweed and a stiff-collar

white shirt, your best wingtips, your
favorite tie, but the important things,
things close to heart, remained unseen.

The flask of Glenfiddich placed in
a coat pocket and a piece of birch bark
under your right hand. I wondered

if the wool of the jacket raised an itch
like the suit you had me wear to
Sunday school, if you would move

your hand to the smooth arc of your neck
and satisfy the itch as I did learning
about Apostles. You taught me more,

about birches, wood stoves, scotch. I
stand here by your coffin now, not sober,
in my jeans and a frayed flannel shirt.


Because

distance has widened the way lakes
take rain take tears solitude sings

single harmonies where fields
bend down to weaves of wave my

laughter falls fails to amuse
because now it has come to that

because now even birds trade empty
song and all the lakes have gone dry

because when we speak this way
words become leaves as they listen

to the roar deep in a conch spiral
tell us of a region where lakes are

only of tears and our breathless
time bends back in unending arch


Dance in Sand

In sand, I follow paths of others. The sea, reined in, no longer simulates prowess that seemed enough to master the beach, has left a gritty palette of footfalls and stumbles. I try to mimic the dance steps but the music won't come. Some like waltzes, others a dervish spin. Others yet seem bent on following their own way, more like fencing than foxtrot. I wonder at the argument between left and right and why even steps forward cannot agree. Perhaps I will be rendered meek and follow my own path; my own music guiding my steps. Perhaps I will tread as samurai, as ronin, carve the beach before the sea returns.

 

Michael writes because nature wills him to it. He recently left a dystopian suburb of Seattle and retreated to the kneehills of the Olympic mountains, cut the cable, bought whiskey. Now he finds inspiration from deep woods, less so from demons. Though they are there. You can find his words at Dodging the Rain, Whispers, Plum Tree Tavern and other poetry zines.

Two Poems by Maria Pascualy

At the Café, I Was Distracted

He looked like a Holbein oil
of a young Cornish merchant
with a thick beard, posed pinching a red carnation between
thumb and forefinger;
caught staring
I shoved a dollar bill into the Tipping Is Not a City in China jar
and waited at the other end of the oak counter
for my flat white served in a thick white china cup and saucer
which I then set down –
spilling half on the empty table –
beside two young men
suited in full lumberjack attire,
holding hands,
hair perfectly mohawked,
eyeing and smiling
sideways
at me.


We Park John’s Duster on the Gravel Road

and carry the cooler full of oysters to the back door
of the yellow house. A large cherry tree shades
the stairs to the kitchen, its branches weighed down

with sour fruit and a large dead crow.
In the kitchen Duane, our host, licks his ginger moustache,
and explains he shot the bird and hung its carcass as a warning
to its friends. He needs those cherries for dessert. Duane sips

Nescafé from a teacup as he shares his bird psychology.
I open a beer and use a coaster, then I go out to take a closer look.
The crow is slung upside down, its wings flapped open, its feet neatly
bound and tethered with a green nylon rope. And true – I don’t see

any other crows around. People who go feral vex me.
I walk down to the Duster, turn on the music and light up a joint.

 

Maria Pascualy grew up in Bogotá, Colombia and now lives and writes in a little white house in Tacoma, Washington. Her writing has been published in Hobo Camp Review, Pulp, Panoply, and Mulberry Fork Review.

Two Poems by Tina Cole

Cuckoo Child

Their song was alien to mine,
with no urgency for common language
they maintained a parallel affinity,
instinct knew the truth of this intruder
yet still they fled back and forth,
worked hard to keep pace with hunger
and rapid begging calls. 

The chick they nurtured was dove grey,
stripe vested, the mother a drab busy
bird overwhelmed by the unease
of our differences. Voracious was a word
used in her every chirp and command,
she fed me the cold worm of suspicion
but this fledgling malcontent
always knew the call of warmer horizons.


Siberian Sunday

Come inside, place your palm like a quiet
vow on the blessing of the nearest wall where
the torn join of the pattern is familiar. 

Ease off wellingtons while the bare arms
of trees shed winter blossom. Carelessly casting
off their lean coldness in sheets of flickering snow,

they cannot wait to let it go, watch it dissipate
across blank fields where small birds
hop their criss-cross codes, soon erased

by softly shifting loads. Hinges sing and sigh,
demented wind chimes clatter, as we fling
off corkscrewed hats, regard ourselves

in glass that’s spiked and frozen, return
at last to a room full of scent, the almost spent
bloom of hyacinth, where we share a bounty

of late Christmas fare.

 

Tina Cole lives in rural Herefordshire. She writes mostly about relationships and how people manage their inner worlds. Her poems have been published in magazines such as Mslexia, Aesthetica and Decanto, with one in The Guardian newspaper. As a member of Border Poets – borderpoets.org.uk – she has been involved in many local readings and workshops – and is the organiser of the Children’s Poetry Competition poetryintenbury.org

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

His and Mine

Bored. Bored. God, I’m bored.
The weather is filthy and
I’ve nothing to do.
The rain has hidden
The beautiful scenery.
What shall I paint next?

*

My bedroom is not
Tidy enough to merit
Immortality.
I have no washstand,
No matching chairs, or perhaps
It’s the same chair twice.

 

Edward is a lecturer and writer, mostly on business and politics. He often posts twittaku (double haiku in 140 characters) on Twitter, plus the occasional political limerick.

Two Poems by Aditya Shankar

Artist in the Garage

The artist in the garage
finds happiness in elevating
designs to their functionality –

to let a punctured wheel
roll beneath a car again,

to let the toiling hands achieve
the dexterity of spanners,

to let the shadow of the garage
dry, as if an oil spill of the day.

His grease-stained workman suit
doesn’t try to hide the fault lines
of survival attempts.

A tidy labour suit is loneliness,
failure, starvation.

At his aid,
the tool chest,
a wild sanctuary with a wild justice.

The plier that mutilates
the burgeoning wire, a tiger.

The hammer that fires up
the slack nail, a rolling boulder.

The waste cloth that absorbs
the grease, wild grass.

If a day is a fight between
design and its fracturing,

the artist in the garage is
ready. He has seen

the wiper-broken sky leak rain,

the bumper-crashed sea wall
let the houses float,

smile melt into grief
with each passing moment.


Parking a Metaphor

In a city with
enough parking room
for a metaphor,

the car shielding the
shivering dog from rain
is mother.

The ground clearance between
garbage-strewn road
and underhood
is home.

If a running car is an athlete,
a parked car is the hand of God
holding up the crashing world.

In that shade,
the shelter-seeking children
blend their sleep.

The city sleeps
when the mother’s shade bleeds
from beneath the cars,
and blankets it.

 

Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction writer, and translator. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Unlost Journal, Egophobia, The Expanded Field, 300,000 Years of Us, Otoliths, The Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Modern Poetry in Translation, Armarolla and elsewhere. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.

One Poem by Zack Rogow

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Once I Saw the Famous Room in Arles

As a teenager I saw the famous room in Arles
that Vincent had painted. 1968 was the year,
when the globe was turning
inside out, every revered statue teetering
from Berkeley to Prague.

Friends took us to the bistro downstairs, perhaps
the very place Van Gogh had dined
on rabbit stew and a block of brown bread.

After our dinner of steak frites
and a good bottle of burgundy,
the propriéteur asked if we wanted to see the room,
normally closed to the public.
We followed up the narrow stairs,
and he unlocked the tiny room, furnished
just as in Vincent’s time,
when he’d painted ocean walls
and chairs with wiggly orange legs.
The room was gray, the furniture
square and brown,
and suddenly I glimpsed
the whole yeasty Xanadu
of the imagination.

 

Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of twenty books or plays. His poetry collections include, The Number Before InfinityTalking with the Radio, poems inspired by jazz and popular music. He is also writing a series of plays about authors. The most recent, Colette Uncensored, had a staged reading at the Kennedy Center in DC, and ran in London and San Francisco. His blog, Advice for Writers, has more than 200 posts. He serves as a contributing editor of Catamaran Literary Readerhttp://www.zackrogow.com

Three Poems by Ian Stuart

Kings Square

The square is transient space
where every hour
a thousand purposes
collide and split away.

Yet some moments linger,
hover in shifting light
among the trees,
settle in the pavement cracks.

That weeping ash
taller than rooftops
grew from graves,
its slow roots stabbing down
between the tombstones,
piercing eye sockets and yellowed bones,
and sucking nourishment from
the clammy loam.

Graveyards beg a church
and one stood here,
where tourists take selfies, lick ice creams
and children stamp their feet
to scare the birds.

Crammed between the slaughtering yards,
the butchers’ shops and narrow alleyways
an ungainly barn, all awkward angles,
a stumpy tower.


The Church of Christ the King

A place to mark time

The saints in their proper seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Lent and Corpus Christi,
each celebrated with prayer and candles
and ashes on good Friday.

And sinners had their moment too
where every day was different
and every day the same:

sprinkling at the font,
rings before the altar,
corpses by an open grave.

All kept in proper fashion
and all this for eight hundred years.

Now jugglers mark their sacred space with rope
where blood and incense once hung in the air
and where our forbears bowed their heads in prayer
a bunch of skinny kids are smoking dope.


Picking Pears

Like people, pears will ripen
from inside.
Picked too early, you will find they’re
hard, unyielding.
Leave it late
and there’ll be nothing left
but wasp-drilled carcasses
and mush.

Choose the moment.
A cool September evening seems right –
shifting sunlight and the pears
jade green and flecked with raindrops.

Cup one in your hand
and twist – you’ll hear a click –
the branch flicks back –
you feel the full weight
in your palm.

Like people, pears bruise easily.
Don’t crowd them. Half a dozen
in each bowl is company enough.

Leave them for a day or two
to ripen in the sun
then take a bite –
taste the gush of scented juice
upon your tongue –
that flesh as sweet as summer,
white as snow.

 

Ian Stuart is a writer/performer living in York. His first collection Quantum Theory for Cats was published recently by Valley Press. When not writing poetry, he will either be telling ghost stories to visitors or walking the dog.

One Poem by Andrew McNeil

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Bedroom in Arles by Vincent van Gogh

As he looked out that window
Vincent looked inward into mine,
To make an incision without end
Into what resonant frequency of living
Colour we are.

And it matters where you sleep, read and draw,
Where you sat as thoughts went toward-
A brother, the childhood that made him.

And it is cooler, not a blaze today.
His window, our heart is open,
Look-listen, to that colour, to that path inward.

 

I am a writer and poet based in Fife, Scotland. Although born in the USA I am Scottish by formation and write in Scots and English.

I have been widely published over the years and had some wonderful experiences. My work and other studies mean I need to get busy with actually getting another collection and more work out!

One Poem by Sarah A O’Brien

Death and Time

They debate over who holds
more power.
“I take lives,” says Death.
“I am then, now, and later,” says Time.

Death is proud of inciting fear,
of goose bumps on human bodies.
She touches the arm of a young man standing
beside the train tracks. “Aren’t they beautiful?”

Time brags about being a measurement
of love: “forever” and “always.”
“Perfect timing,” he says, letting estranged
lovers meet on a path at the park.

Death and Time arm wrestle,
and Time is able to last
while Death gets quickly bored
and kills Time
telling of her exploits.

Time is running out
the door, but Death is near.

Time laughs as he pushes Death
on the swing of a local playground.
The children are unaware of Time and Death,
lost in their own worlds.

“It’s time for me to go,” jokes Death,
needed at a house fire off Main Street.
“Wait for me,” whispers Time.

At the end of Time,
Death is waiting.
The two friends embrace.

 

Sarah A O’Brien is a poet from Woburn, MA, USA. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Boston Accent Lit. Sarah is pursing her MFA degree in Writing at University of Nebraska Omaha. Follow her adventures @saraheditsbooks.