Three Poems by Gale Acuff

Word Problem

I never see God outside of church and
come to think of it I never see Him
inside church, neither, except of course
the Crucifix behind the altar and
another in our Sunday School classroom
and Jesus as God-in-the-flesh hangs on
the cross behind the altar but in our
Sunday School room somebody took Him down,
not that He was ever nailed up there for
real but what I mean is that in one place
He’s present and the other He’s missing
and I think the latter–not the ladder
like, say, Jacob climbed up or Father does when
he touches up around the attic wind
-ow but I mean the second–the latter‘s
called a symbol, something’s there that’s not
or something’s not there that is and what’s good

about being dead is that I won’t have
to worry anymore about what’s what,
the square root of 33 or how far
the earth is from the sun or the sun from
the earth–trust my teacher in regular
school to give at least two different answers
–and even on the AM radio
How many roads must a man walk down be
-fore they call him a man, be careful, I
think it’s a trick question but whatever
the answer isn’t 37, and
I’ll also know the secret of why God’s
in one place and not another when He’s
supposed to be everywhere at once and
though I never see Him at church I smell

Him out and I guess that He dwells in Grand
-mother’s house, too, especially since Grand
-father died, Mother and Father and I
visit every Sunday and sit out on
the porch and stare out into the yard and
street and to the sky and I’ve seen things that
I bet I’ll never see anywhere else
while Grandmother rocks, even asleep and
snoring she never comes to a rest and
we leave her there, she doesn’t wake even
to the sound of the engine starting or
maybe she’s faking. That’s why I love her.


Candle

Miss Hooker teaches me at Sunday School
all about God and Heaven, religion
that is, and Jesus and the Holy Ghost
and makes death sound so inviting, pretty
important, that sometimes I wish I was
dead myself, I almost said death myself,
but if I was, or were, death itself, or
death myself, I’d be surrounded by dead
bodies and souls, I guess, unless until
the souls went up to Heaven to be judged
and the bodies hung back to rot away
and become soil again and make new ones, new
bodies I mean, to be filled up with souls,
babies made from mothers and fathers but
mothers and fathers come from clay and then
injected by God with souls but I was
saying that if I were death I’d be all
alone and yet that can’t be true, I’d be
the most popular guy in the whole world,
just kind of feared and not regarded as
one of God’s necessary angles, all
people have to go sometimes, I summon
them to Him but sometimes I think that I’m
even more important than God is or
when I get a break, though hardly ever,
I’m God Himself and what I take for God
is my own shadow. What casts the light? If
I knew that there would be an end of me.
What happened to death, someone might ask. Oh,
haven’t you heard? He snuffed his own candle.
That would bring to life immortality
and things might get mighty crowded. After
class today I told Miss Hooker that I
didn’t want to die but yet I love death
more than even life itself. I’m just ten years old
and she said to me, Every person is
the end of the world, just as if I’d get
what the Hell she meant. And she’s right. I don’t.


Slack

Miss Hooker wants me to give my life to
Jesus, she’s my Sunday School teacher, but
I’d rather give my life to her, as her
husband, even though I’m only 10 but
I won’t live forever, I’ll get older,
Hell, I’m getting older even right now
and with every passing moment, she
is, too, but I don’t care, if I must wait
until it’s 100 to 85
in her favor, that’s what I’ll do, so if
I ever do get saved, that will be why,
to keep us both alive no matter how
long it takes for her to marry me and
speaking of miracles, that would be one
and I hope they come in pairs because I
want to have some children no matter how
old Miss Hooker gets, and if we can raise
them to adulthood that will be a third
miracle, kind of like a Trinity,
so after Sunday School class today I
told Miss Hooker about my way but she
told me not to rest my hopes on it but
go ahead and get saved instead and give
my life to Jesus, not to her–I cried
at that, and I’m a big boy, 10 and more
because the minutes become hours, then days,
things add up even when they don’t seem to,
maybe especially–I mean I wept,
that classy kind of crying, I was sad,
of course, but it felt more like a sadness meant
not just for me but everybody,
and I wonder if that’s how Jesus felt
when He got panicky up on the Cross,
or I guess He did, I sure as Hell would
have, or when in that garden He hit God
with If it’s your will, Father, cut me slack,
I forget the exact words and yet I was
there, somehow. So after Miss Hooker helped
me blow my nose and dry my face she said,
she mumbled, she whispered, God bless you, Gale,
but it’s time for you to run along home,
and I think I did. But I don’t remember.

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

One Poem by Jim Bennett

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

the bored cartographer

I draw maps that are metaphors
for people who want to find their way
sometimes I invent a shortcut

an alleyway or a lane
impossible to find
a non-existant highway

a path through a field
a river bridge miles out of place
these things fight off the boredom

of drawing cities        and towns
even whole countries   and coastlines
for travellers and sailors

I go to unknown places
measure and map them
then move on      here is Paris

finished and coloured
the river turns and twists
it could be any city       anywhere

but follow my map
and you will be lost
wherever it is

 

Jim Bennett is a poet who was born in Liverpool in the UK a long time ago and is still alive (we think).

One Poem by George Beddow

Dancing Barefoot

For Bella

All has been lost
to that caesura
between sundown
and the advent
of the Julian calendar.

Her life line’s
grasp
on eternity
is now
just a clasp
in Cleopatra’s
hair.

Under the influence
of moonshine
(or prayer)
her scars
are buffed
by the shoeshine
of countless stars.

 

George Beddow’s debut collection, Out Of Kilter, was published by Lapwing Press in 2012. His second collection, The Bitter Lemons Of Nerval, was published in 2016 by Original Plus Chapbooks.

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

For The Journey Would Be Long

This is how
       I remember Paris
For we dwelt here
A day and a half
Pungent perfumes
Much hubbub
La Marseillaise in full throat
La tour Eiffel bursting clouds
Sacré-Cœur in the heart
Brouettes along Champs Elysées
Bateaux cruising on la Seine
Lovers of Jardin du Luxembourg
      strolling, caressing while
Berthier shots ricochet
At arrondissement corners dark
When smoke rising from chimneys silt
Lungs with wafting fumes
As odour from Gitanes and Gauloises
      the women of tabac embrace
Femme fatale of dubious intention
      driving dumb punters wild
Next Moulin Rouge lit in Montmartre
Through day
Through the night
With barkers out loudly barking
At Marché des Enfants Rouges
      but no child in sight, it seems
When we recharge our batteries for
The trip south would be long
En route to the mouth of the river
      home
To Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône
The Med straight ahead, safe
Bountiful larder of our life
      this is life.

 

Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. This year, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by J K Durick

Picturing the Garden

Time has taught me that things disappear too fast –
there, then quickly gone, like the people and places
we were, I was and then I’m not, it never lets up

so every spring, early summer I carry my camera
to capture the moment the garden is in, to hold it
with me, a bit like Wordsworth’s tranquil restoration

but visual, nothing passing into my purer mind
unaided, Nikon Coolpix catches the moment and
later, after time and the seasons have done with us

restores this momentary beauty, the iris blues and
purples, the pink and white, whole flocks of peonies
bending, bowing in the sun, dianthus and anemones

it’s there, they’re there, and I’m in their midst clicking
away, trying to keep the day, at least this part of it, for
later use, tranquil restoration into hours of weariness

as the world grows older and colder all around, my garden
is there on the screen, the moment captured, holding still
even that long dead bee is there again ready to land forever.

 

J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Leaves of Ink, Front Porch Review, Poetry Superhighway, Algebra of Owls, and in the anthology, Along the Way.

One Poem by Rosamund McCullain

The Second Coming

I am the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem,
Slow limbs of stone, stone soul, dragging behind me
An evil so profane it confounds profanity,
Laughs in the face of sanity, mere anarchy,
The worst of the worst, as dark as human gets,
Carried in my heart and gut across all time,
Even eternity cannot erase the scars or bleed the poison,
An eternity of agony, twisting, writhing, seething guts
Alive with something born of evil, yet at the same time
Dead and decomposing.

A thousand years can’t wash this away, a thousand tears in which to
Drown, to take the last gasp for which she yearns, begs
For some rest, some relief, but still it marches on,
Pitiless as the sun and she is turned to dust,
Consumed by flames of hell and all she is and was and ever will be
Just ashes in the wind.

 

Originally from West Yorkshire, Rosamund came to Mid-Wales in 1983 to study English at Aberystwyth University. She fell in love with the Mid-Wales region, and has lived in the area ever since. She moved to North Powys in 1998, where she is now very well settled.

One Poem by Eric Nicholson

A Musical Diary

I lay off reading the new
             musical criticism        and place
it on top of the beat poet’s
             manifesto       which  lies on top
of the novel in the 21st century
             which lies on top of creating poetry

mindfully step             outside
             avoiding eye contact with an addict
slumped against a wall     consider
             if my life were  jazz
would I choose           trumpet
             or saxophone
or         combo
             bebopping
through a thousand sycamore keys
             along back lanes          littered with rain-soaked
books   sofas     syncopated cats

in the supermarket       trolleys   parked
             ready    for food bank     offerings
a hidden speaker blasts a discount offer
             and babies cry       notes float
onto the floor   coins drop

in the park     the new musical    ambit
             takes note
of squawking gulls       kid’s  train-ride
             tremulous trees      black & white
bird on a wire                layered leaves
             no absolutes     according to
the paradigm     so best make the most
             of the whole cacophony      best
make some connection           with the music

 

Eric Nicholson is retired and lives in the NE of England. He is currently writing a book about Buddhism and Blake. He blogs at: https://erikleo.wordpress.com

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Imagine in Paris

1.

even all those years ago on original vinyl
it brought a lump to the throat
you let go on only in private

the lump returns as you see and hear it played
on a mobile piano on a cold Paris street
by fingers dressed in fingerless gloves

even with the slight honky-tonk time you feel
the surge of the words as the tune
lingers outside Bataclan – tinkles

through a crowded and silent street
except for the strange percussion
of camera shutters that don’t quite fit

nobody tries to sing – know the lyrics –
its composer would have approved
down to how blood stuck to the piano wheels

2.

so much is hidden in maps
like those from five hundred years before us
and Paris a shadow of its present self

a gift each time we visit
and tread again this city’s memories
it’s engagement with love and death

takes life like the next word – how
it arrives in the next moment – how
nothing is ever quite what you expect

not easy to acknowledge – to chart
blood on piano wheels as if it was yesterday
every cartographer knows you cannot map futures

 

James Bell is Scottish and now lives in France. He has written and published poetry for twenty years. At present he is at work on his first short story collection.

Three Poems by Celaine Charles

The Color of Love

I wrap up in the color of you,
pure and translucent,
hazel eyes gleam in the moonlight.
Hidden hues hide
behind shadowed branches,
moss, and ivy
encircling our spot.

In the universe we stand
under the night sky,
your hand in mine,
walking in summer’s warmth
left over
from the day we frolicked
through blades of grass.

We climbed the rocks,
admired the daisies,
spotted and few, but enough
to share in their purity,
not unlike your heart
that beats
against my chest.

When you cling to my side
golden locks lace the evening breeze,
tossing us back,
onto the blanket,
pink from your little girl room.
The place I never want you
far away, without stars to paint

your hands — ivory porcelain,
a pitcher never empty of giving.
Your arms, an eagle’s wings
to fly home if ever
you are lost.
Your legs, sturdy as tall trunks
to hold up the sky…

And only         because I love you
will I share you           with the earth.


Willows and Cherry

Little boy chatters on about a willow and a cherry tree,
his head turns and takes in the view around.
Must be the sunny weather after a long rainy season,
stirring something deep in his imagination.

He rattles on about these trees in his yard, and I remember
two willows and a pie cherry tree in my own backyard
as a little girl. I never liked pie, though mom baked plenty.
Now, far away from that backyard, I crave a heaping plate.

Cherry pie thoughts behind my eyes, still minding this clever boy;
he has no idea the memories he’s unbound,
when he looks at me, his stargaze like the willows I remember,
“I think the trees had a conversation.”

“Of course they did.” I believe him with all my heart.
A chorus from my childhood begins to play,
swaying willows rock me in comfort, their boughs shade regret,
and the cherry tree dots with robins, drunk in excess.

Slow years of youth race before my eyes, lift in the breeze,
the same wind blows little boy’s sandy hair; reverie swirls away.
Time lost in the moment, he runs off to play in the sun…
leaving me grateful I slowed down to listen.


Love is a Long Time

It’s stitched by hand with spectacles that see past faults;
sore fingers that smooth wrinkles
cursed by years.

It’s warmth on a cold day, wrapped around regret;
covering unspoken truths
soon to be forgotten.

It’s shaded in sunsets to hide humiliation where it can’t hurt;
bound at the seams, water tight
against sorrow.

It’s soft as flower petals, fenced in from tromping feet, yet brave;
billowing strongly around shame and lightly
on forgiveness.

It’s an old quilt forgotten in that dusty box from the attic;
an heirloom handed down when all else
was lost…

Love is a long time.

 

Celaine Charles is a published poet who lives in the Pacific Northwest where she teaches, writes poetry and fiction, and blogs about her writing journey, http://www.stepsinbetween.com. Her poetry series, “Colours” can be found, https://channillo.com/series/colors/. She has published in various presses and was a poetry finalist in PNWA’s Literary Contest, 2017.

One Poem by Eve Hall

Written in response to October’s Special Challenge.

Remembrance

Your two loved ones are gone,
but we won’t forget;
Their prose, their poetry,
their face, their grace.

Your two loved ones are gone,
but we won’t forget;
The good writing, the bad writing,
the fears, the tears.

 

Eve Hall is an author and poet, residing in Florida, USA. She has written over twenty books for children and has published five books. One of her goals is to find a publisher that believes in diversity, sorely needed in our children’s books.