poem08 Mar 2021 05:18 am
A statue of an angel at a cemetery in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, photo by  Jon Sullivan

Adele Gardner

You bend, my angel, pensive, over graves.
He loved me--loved us both in different lives.
You have her hair, he said.  His eyes sought yours,
Hoping your eyes would follow--not blind stone.
You saw him.  Cameras caught you, quite alone,
The two of you, communion--in one frame--
Translucent arms to soften vicious blame.
You coexist on paper--muted muse,
Scarred poet--grafted through enlarger’s views
Into one entity, four arms, one heart
That speaks to one who's stood too long apart.
Your stone bouquet droops over a bronze vase--
A home now to dry dirt and spider lace.
Close in the breast of hollow ribs below
Lie crumpled poems written long ago
For her, then bundled up for me to save
Like gifts whose worth might shield him from your grave--
Despite the fact that he had left us both--
Cast off, trod under, then chalked up to growth--
So much for lover's promise, marriage oath.
How could I know that stone had pierced him through,
That sorrow made him restless with the truth:
That we'd have all too long to mourn, atone,
But you'd have just one day to live in stone,
Turned inward, trapped, and dropping out of sight,
Your footprint sinking deep in graveyard blight,
Your sadness given voice by downward gaze
That pierces where he lies--too soon--three friends
Now caught beyond the power of my lens.
Our hearts are full of stone.  And when I'm dead
I’ll know just where to lay my spinning head--
I’ll feel you stretching up into the sky,
Your eyes--my eyes--alike too sad to dry.
Your roses in my arms. 
                                                My billowing hair,
Cast loose, like yours floats out upon the air.
poem28 Feb 2021 05:18 pm
Image from page 780 of journal Die Gartenlaube, 1886.

WC Roberts

Tyla's friend
is always the same, dressed in that gingham dress
trying to get her to dance those old dances
saying not to worry about what's happening
"over there" in Germany.  President Roosevelt
will see us through this depression
and keep us out of the war.
Tyla tells her friend this is all old stuff
but she won't listen
she'll only listen when Tyla takes up
her Grandmother's old thimble
the interest clear on her friends face
when Tyla holds it.
Tyla hears her mother crying at night
her stepdad, he
tries to sooth her, telling her
that kids have imaginary friends
her mom cries harder sometimes
saying, but not to the teens!
She hears it all but can't say a thing
no one understands her
no one cares
but her friend, she is different
she understands when Tyla feels the pain
when she feels the - empty
darkness inside
Grandmother's old thimble, pitted
ALM engraved on the smooth base
Grandma's initials
It fits her thumb perfectly
helping Tyla find calm
remembering Grandma when she
still lived and listened
"Tyla!"  The friend is pushy when she shows up
but that's fine, not that she ever bothered
to look Tyla in the eye
the thimble brightens like new at her presence
sparkling, like the light that
once gleamed from grandma's bi-color eyes
and that still sparkled in Tyla's memories
"I miss Grandma, girlfriend." Tyla says
depressed, saddened more than usual
--"maybe I should go to her."
the friend was quiet, then she spoke
"don't talk like that, Ty-girl. It isn't that bad here."
The friend faced away, at the window
--"it can always be worse."
"Besides, I think your Grandma wouldn't like that."
Tyla couldn't look up.  "How would you know--
you aren't even real." she whispers
"you might be surprised" the friend's voice
the tone older, mature
sounds strangely like her mother
"I was born right after the big crash of '29
and I lived the Depression. I saw what the war
did to our men. It took my brother"
"I lived through hate and hardship and
bad things in life and family," the friend's voice
changes, firms yet remains
sympathetic, familiar
"So you hold that thimble, Ty-girl, take
from it some peace. Its feel can be a comfort
if you let it.  It was for me"
Tyla snaps up to look into
brilliant young blue eyes in a craggy aged face
Grandma's eyes
filled with love and care
"It can always be worse, but hold my thimble close
I'll always be there with you."

poem07 Feb 2021 04:05 pm
Räven och vargen by Jenny Nyström, 1900

Rita Chen

They told me:
Don't look down the well, girl.
There's something sick, at the bottom of it.

A family curse, buried in the earth.
A miasma rising—rotted smog.
Year by year, the manor gardens wilt.

Give us this day our daily guilt.

The other day, a bird lay dead in a rose-bed.
And your sister is sick, and your brother is frail,
and your father is failing, his heart swollen to bursting—
If your mother had lived, she'd tell you this now:
It's that cursed thing in the well.

Listen now, sit, as an old grey lady
tells you the story of a clan proud and stony.

It hung over us, call it a curse, or a spell—
a way of being passed down from father to son,
beat and ground firm into everyone.
A tradition of repression: bootstraps and hard lessons.
Don't spare the rod, don't waste your tears.
We don't speak of those things round here.
Every man for himself.
Shut your mouth, it's good enough.
Get the girl—get her.
Tame her, tether her, take her.

Our fears, they gather in the air and fall as words unsaid—
as proud, bitter words spat on the ground at her retreating back.
As grasping love, or as love's lack.
As love that comes at a price too dear:
as garden-variety mundane shame and young, bewildered tears.
Our slow-growing cancer of fifty-odd years
gone by without a single fight to bright the air.
Tears shed in secret. Dreams laughed at, trod upon, lying in shreds.
Ah, the poison of a well-meant lesson!
If you cut me, do I not run red?

Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers.
You know only the soil you grow in,
and no other.

Lance and drain the poison in the dark, hunched upon a ledge of stone.
It leaches to the bottom of the well, pulsing, swollen, twisting
round a dead thing's bone. The offal of us. Hardening
into a muscular lump of dried-up mucus.
Homunculus, born of bad blood and bile.
A stormy hot anger—strife—pushed down—buried deep:
that was the spark that, in the primordial dark of the well,
brought life.

This thing is our essence, creeping, steeping.
It grew three limbs with which to climb around with,
eyeless. And a maw.
Your grandad saw it hunting, one cloudy moonless night
(or so I've heard). If it can catch one, it'll eat a rat, a small bird.
It bites at children's legs for fun, till they stiffen and sicken—
yes, your sister will live, but she'll never not suffer.
Make sure to love her.

I'm sorry, my daughter's daughter, for this burden.
Our men won't do it—call it women's work—
so (fair or not) it falls to us to
repent our sons our sins.
It's got to be you who tells the truth.
Don't bite your tongue, don't eat your young.
Fight tough, love soft.
Demand he give you more than just
Scrape out the wound, let air heal it clean.
Be seen. Be angry. Scream.

Brave child! Climb down into the well, and at long last
dredge up this ugly, fetid thing.
Throw it in the hedge.
Stomp it (once or twice will suffice) (beware the teeth)
and leave it there in the daylight glare
to spasm, and shrivel, and

Don't let your father bury it in the ground:
the tainted earth will only bring it back around.
Aerial burial—leave it on a ledge; the birds will have their revenge.
Then the sun will come, and do the rest.

An eye for an eye for my heart-sleeved smile of a man,
your grandad, the gentle, sweet black sheep of the clan.
Love of my life—love wasn't enough.
Living here decades, his sweet became rough.
Husked by thirty, frame hale and sturdy,
but gone—spent—turned stone—long before death.
Me alone with a ghost of a man.
I got along. Best as I can.

Down there in the dark, out of sight, and light,
that thing's growing. We all know it.
I should have done it when I was still young,
but I'm bound to this bed now, for my time's come.
This tale needs a new heroine to find its end.

Yes, lovey, yes.
You're a very good girl for sitting still so long—
I hope you see now what's got to be done.
Listen to Grandma. Stay sharp and clever.
Go play in the garden, little one.
poem24 Jan 2021 07:44 pm
Empress Dowager Cixi of China, by a court painter, mid 1800s

Mary Soon Lee

At the center of all things,
a fountain in a garden.

Five yards from the center,
beneath a willow tree,
Ling Hua, Empress of China,
sat cross-legged
listening to the water
chattering to itself
in the hour after dawn,
the hour of consecration.

Her left knee ached.
She wished for her youth, long gone;
wished for a cup of green tea;
wished she could sail
right round the Earth's rim,
to see, as the great navigators had,
the line where ocean became sky.

A sparrow hopped onto the stone wall
of the fountain, bent down,
splashed busily.

Ling Hua, Empress of China,
watched the sparrow
while she sat beneath the tree,
five yards from the center of all things
(according to the astronomers' measurements),
that small separation a token
of her own imperfection.

For the stars and the sun and the moon
swept each in their perfect courses
around Earth's great disc,
but all who were born of women
were fallible.

Three hundred and eighty-two years
since China proved that it centered
not merely the Earth,
but the Universe.

Ling Hua bowed her head,
promised to safeguard China
from the least sparrow
to the oldest man.

Her knee ached as the stars spun round her.
poem10 Jan 2021 07:02 pm
By Albert Anker – Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, SIK-ISEA inventory number 93320, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70014557

Deborah L. Davitt

I never thought of bread
as a living thing, but it is,
a colony of yeast bacteria
given living space and food
in a matrix of earth-given grain,
sea-born salt, and sky-born water;
they exhale their own breath
to make their city rise,
and we freeze them in place
with fiery oven heat.
Little wonder then,
that the Romans brought bread
and wine for libation
to the graves of their ancestors,
and sent the living food
down feeding tubes
to the bones and ashes
to appease the hungry ghosts;
little wonder, too,
that on Dia de la Muerte,
people for whom that language
hangs richly on their tongues
set out living bread for the dead,
marked with bones,
or Chimalma’s tears.
Maybe the ghosts can sniff out
the life in it, the bacteria
still struggling to survive
their own cremation,
entombed in the rigid shape
of their own mobile grave;
maybe they have to respect
the struggle to endure,
so like their own;
maybe, like the living,
they just like the smell
of hot, buttered bread,
fresh from the oven,
and cling to the heels
as we bring the last pieces
to our churning mouths.
Maybe they slide lusciously
down into our gullets,
ingested with the bread
and perhaps the wine
that we pour into glasses
instead of on the grass;
maybe they become a part of us,
and leave the graveside
nestled in our hearts and bowels,
instead of lingering
to stare at futile plastic roses
left to fade in the sun.
poem25 Oct 2020 04:23 pm
Asherah, 13th century BC, Israel Museum

Deborah L. Davitt

You tore down our mother’s temples,
fearing that to give glory to her,
the Queen of Heaven,
she who treads the sea, Asherah,
would take glory from him
who was her husband,
who divided his land from her sea,
Elkunirsa—more lately El
(which means Lord to those who remember
their Hittite—most don’t, these days).
You preferred to wander the desert
far from her shores;
you forgot her forgiveness, tenderness,
when faced with his wrath.
We forgot nothing on her shores,
transformed to guardian pillars
licked with her salt;
you abandoned our mother, your mother,
so we came for your daughters
with all the tenderness you’d forgotten,
taught them to find their wings within.
You called yourselves blessed
when you saw the grandchildren,
so strong, intelligent, and noble,
but as we slumbered, stone once more,
you forgot, and they forgot.
We never forget.
Awakening inside our descendants,
daughters of men and gods,
we wonder why you fear us so—
is it for the divine grace
burning under our skins?
Is it for the wings of flame
you cannot see, but surely sense?
This time, we won’t let you forget,
searing our mother’s name
into your souls
with a brand
of molten salt.
poem04 Oct 2020 05:59 pm
Last Judgement by Wassily Kandinsky, 1910

Hicham El Qendouci

Where do I start?
From any wound among thousands of them,
From the beginning of the tough infection
Three months ago…
I suffer from pain and disease, sick with a virus
Lurking like fire beneath my skin, a hidden danger waiting in ambush.
I suffer within my wounds.
And even my weapon betrays me!
I’m still looking for safety, but is it safe to stay here
Sick, homeless, hunted, and besieged?
Even our brothers drink our blood and eat our bones.

Darkness goes on in my eyes And speech shall die in my mouth
Until I stop asking for silence. Even if morning comes I can do nothing
About leaving, except to cry: Where do I start?
All our streets are closed,
And our tongues have become spoons
And our borders gallows.
My yellow face hates to invade the mirror.
Only nights of lamentations come,
And the same old funerals and wailing.

My heart shakes as a dead body or a massacre echoes,
Full of flashes, colors, and sorrows,
Waiting until a favorable star enters
The orbit of death or the homeland of losers.
I head to the river, a beautiful river
Reflecting in its flowing the mixture above me
Of planets, stars, and enormous galaxies filling the universe.
I walk slowly, through tears, seeing clouds and stars,
While my ears hear explosions and my hands touch flowers of light.
I long to go to a distant planet where there is no disease Because I want to live in peace away from Earth.

I feel my body trembling;
Each organ vibrates with limitless longing.
Sometimes I think I see my love, a red flower above the beautiful river,
And whisper gently, Sarah, my love, I love you!
I write my love lovely poetry
To open wondrous horizons.
Oh, what limitless love!!
Our days might be wine,
But our lives are silent graveyards
Into which our eyes stare.

Where do I start?
Is it useful to start
In the time of the end?
How can I enter
Where there is no longer a door for me
Except the death door?
Oh, Homeland,
You no longer give me even a shroud,
And I keep screaming in madness.
Earth does not hear or care about me,
Nor does death.

From tent to tent
And from place to place
My heart is full of pain and sorrow.
I stay awake all day and night and treat my burning heart alone.
I do not see the face of anyone who cares about my voice or suffering.
I have a sticky sickness in my gut,
So I can’t eat, only take water, but, thank God, whose mercy is revealed,
That I still live, breathe, feel…and love.

I know my life seems limited,
A small light hanging in space.
I feel like a dead planet—
Just like the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter.
I should stop circling the Sun under which I was born,
And take the first spaceship
To another planet in a distant galaxy,
Away from this place of virus and disease,
Where life may continue,
And love flourish forever.

poem21 Sep 2020 08:10 am
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun by William Blake

Robert Borski

Because we choose to be the way we are,
as opposed to acceding to biological dictate

or mythic onus, we have been called all sorts
of things — turncoat, vyrmin, gusano, paladinite —

as if to self-identify as alt-dragon disregards
tradition or refutes our natural place in the world.

But qui nocet, as our lawyers like to ask, if
certain members of our kind choose not to eat meat

or abandon the skies; if we deign to wear clothes
or learn the human tongue? Nor do we see the docking

of our wings and tail as crippling or mutilation,
but cautionary (inbred as we are, caudal cancer

still kills too many of us) and thus no more barbaric
than circumcision or other body modification,

from tattoos to piercing. As for why we do
what we do, often-cited answers include

evolutionary fatigue, hormonal drift, toxic
parenting, or morbid attraction to the forbidden,

but the truth is far more simple: we are part of
and subject to the same continuum of desire

as everything else that lives. Yes, my incredulous
friends: even creatures with scales, chilled blood,

and antediluvian genes are capable of ardor.
And though daily we struggle for acceptance,

our long-range hope is this: that someday we
and our Arthurian paramours will be allowed

to walk down the streets unharassed, without
being spat upon or called names, and the world,

despite our long history of enmity, will recognize
and sanctify the union of our two disparate species —

we, the fire-breathing Capulets; they, the lance-
bearing and resplendently-armored Montagues —

for it is not apostasy that flickers in our hearts,
but love. And believe me, it is anything but courtly.


poem14 Sep 2020 08:49 am
Devils at an aerial toll house, Rila monastery fresco.

Mary Soon Lee

God's a gambler, a gamer,
rolling her quantum dice,

drawn to drama, the odds,
dueling with the devil.

Bet the dinosaurs. Lost.
Promised herself she'd quit.

Whereupon her plans progressed
with perfect predictability.

Millennia upon millennia
of interminable tedium

until she fell to temptation
down in hell's red halls.

Wagered mermaids, mammoths,
Camelot, Atlantis, Babylon.

And she's down there still,
offering chips to chance,

Lincoln and Gandhi long gone,
in need of higher stakes,

weighing what to risk:
war? plague? apocalypse?

poem07 Sep 2020 02:22 pm
Hawthorne Tree, by Virginia State Parks staff

Jennifer Bushroe

Everyone knows
you only get three wishes
—that’s the rule—
so you’ve parceled them out:
the fairies at the hawthorn tree
the witch at the wishing steps
the triple-goddess at the holy well.
You’ve studied the stories
you know to be specific
when making a wish
lest the lens of interpretation
skew your intention and leave
you worse off than you started.
So on the third day of your trip
you tie your ribbon
to the hawthorn and heart-speak
a long string of clauses
and parentheticals knotted
with dashes and semicolons
to cinch tight every loophole.
The long string winds into a wish-skein
for True Love—romance
the one area of your life
that is as vacant as the missing
stone in the megalithic circle
in which the hawthorn stands.
Satisfied, you leave the hill
with your brother, imagining
the Irish fairies already hurrying
to bring your wish to life
because it is sacred May
because you showed respect
because you hope-believe.
And then
eighteen days later
(three plus three plus three plus
three plus three plus three)
your mother tells you:
your brother is dead.
By your reckoning
the fairies could’ve protected him
—man of twenty-seven—
(three times three times three)
the wish made with a three-inch ribbon
the sacred number everywhere
and meaningful in your grief-logic.
But it never occurred to you
to wish for him
to wish for just
life - a long life an ongoing life an earthly life
and now you wish
you had.


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