On this page: poems by Stanley H. Barkan, Birgit Talmon, Don Schaeffer, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Holly Day, John Amen, Leland James, Laverne Frith, A.D. Winans, A.J. Huffman, Jennifer Lagier, Adam Fisher, Britta R. Kollberg, Janice Canerdy
The following works are copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Stanley H. Barkan
Stanley H. Barkan, the editor/publisher of Cross-Cultural Communications, has, to this 44th year, produced some 400 titles in 50 different languages. His own work has been translated into 25 different languages, and been published in 15 collections, several of them bilingual. He was New York City’s 1991 Poetry Teacher of the Year (awarded by Poets House and the Board of Education) and the 1996 winner of the Poor Richard’s Award, “The Best of the Small Presses” (awarded by the Small Press Center). In 2011, he received The Paterson Literary Review Award for a “Lifetime Service to Literature.”
My Wife Says
after Hal Sirowitz
Don’t try to pass that car,
my wife says.
If you do, we’ll get hit on my side,
and I’ll get killed,
but you’ll survive.
Then you’ll be all alone,
and, after awhile, you’ll be so lonely
you won’t want to live anymore.
Then you’ll call Dr. Kevorkian
who’ll help you to commit suicide
and probably be put on trial
because there’s a law against it
in New York. Then nobody else
who needs to end his suffering
will be able to do it, all because
you didn’t listen to me.
Don’t do the Atkins diet,
my wife says.
All the meat you’ll eat is full of fat,
and you know you can’t do without bread & pasta.
What’ll you do when we go to Sicily
and they cook pasta trapanese for you?
Are you going to refuse and insult them?
What about all that garlic bread you love so much?
And how are you going to refuse frijoles
with the chili you taught me how to make?
And how are you going to eat
chow mein and chop suey without fried rice?
Your veins will just fill up with fat and cholesterol
and you’ll get a heart attack and die young.
Then I’ll inherit everything
and eat pasta and chili and chow mein
with garlic bread and frijoles and rice
to my heart’s content, and live to a ripe old age.
Birgit Talmon is Danish-born. While living in Beer-Sheva she worked as a licensed desert guide as well as at the Ben-Gurion University. A soprano, she has participated in many operas with the Philharmonic Choir of Tel-Aviv. Works as translator: Danish, English and Hebrew. Has studied prose and poetry with eminent writers in Israel and writes in the above mentioned languages. Her poetry and short stories have been in all three languages in anthologies and literary magazines both in Israel and abroad. She has served on Voices Israel Editorial Board. Her two books Despite the Shadow and A Hint of a Smile were published by Cyclamens and Swords. Her works can be seen on her website www.birgittalmon.com
DO I …!
Yes, at times
About at least,
A seven or
Perhaps six –
But no less
Than a five kilos'
Of a horrid
That could shape me
Back to the moment
Never watch Cat-walk shows
Olfactory Love In The Kindergarten
They were forty,
Most barely five years tall,
And forty little towels on the rack
There were - one for each.
Often after lunch-breaks
She’d linger by the wash-basin
To be alone with his number,
Five it was,
Bury her face in it,
Breeze in an odorous closeness
To her unreturned love
Playing out there with the other
Don Schaeffer is a phenomenological poet, devoted to exact description of experience. At the age of 70, he has experienced the institutionalization of his spouse and the re-development of a new life out of the ashes of the old one. His poems reflect the transitions in his life. He currently lives in New York after spending half his adult life in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.
Don has published a dozen volumes of poetry. His poetry has appeared in numerous periodicals and has been translated into Chinese. Don is a habitue of the poetry forum network and has received first prize in the Interboard competition.
between the stars
Much of it
There were no tears.
met each other
by chance. Strangers
to become families
with our crew
of coincidental friends.
We almost cared,
but not quite.
We were tied together
by rules we learned
With this crew
a universe of life.
Accepted in Poets & Writers prestigious list of published poets, multi award-winning novelist and poet Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list “14 San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. She was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program for nearly a decade.
The Vintage Corvette and Its Man
The man who polished
his Corvette to the sound
(radio tubes), a lament
in the dusks of some twenty
summers, wasn't there last
spring or this. I didn't interrupt
his idle then, lying there beneath
his aqua and blue rrrrrmm,
rrrrmmm, plates coded black
and gold from, California 70s, no,
more like the 50s…likely
the one he spit-polished
in his teens, couldn't disturb
his meditation. Now,
I walk my dog in June,
jasmine in the evening
air—unseen blossoms—I long
to hear his garage door yawn,
again see the bulb in a cage
hanging from its umbilical
cord above his workbench,
hear KMozart broadcast
from that radio (shaped
like a gothic window), older
than the car itself. Then in
twilight, I hear the door
rise on its springs. Trixie
and I cross the street
specters in the quiet. A chamois,
untended, brittle, cracked, sits
atop the crusted hood,
his wife carries a plastic bag
tied like a bandana
around decay—doesn't bother
with light or radio—tells
me, this vintage thing, tires
now cracked, is waiting
for magic emollients,
ArmorAll and his grandson
to come from Cleveland to claim
it, once he’s old enough to drive.
Holly Day was born in Hereford, Texas, “The Town Without a Toothache.” She and her family currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches writing classes at the Loft Literary Center. Her published books include the nonfiction books Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, and Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, and the poetry books “Late-Night Reading for Hardworking Construction Men” (The Moon Publishing) and “The Smell of Snow” (ELJ Publications).
I knew he was behind me because I could hear the sound of his pants
Scraping together, the soft sound of his inner thighs rubbing together
Dragging ribs of fabric against one another like the bedraggled
Feathers of an old yard bird, the fur on the back of a sick dog’s neck,
I don’t know why he made me think of animals dying. But I knew
He was there because I could hear his body moving through the fabric
Of those tight church pants, his best pants, his noisy pants.
I wanted him to marry me instead of her. He stood behind me in his
Noisy pants and I wanted to fall to my knees, throw my arms around his legs
Tell him I loved him and that he couldn’t go. I think maybe
That was what I was supposed to do, that that was why he just stood there
Behind me, so close I could smell the thin trickle of sweat
Running down the inside of his white, starched shirt, he was waiting for me
To say something important, world-shaking, game-changing, something besides
the bird inside me flaps tight beneath my skin, scratches
with tiny claws at my insides, tells me that the only reason
I’m not a sack of deflated skin lying empty by the side of the street
is that it’s just too small and tired to break free. I take a deep breath
force the thing inside me still with the pressure of my inflated lungs.
sometimes at night, I can feel the wings of the tiny bird inside me
slipping into place just behind my shoulder blades, feel pinfeathers
stretch all the way down the front of my arms, and I whisper
no, you can’t have me yet. I hold the wings and claws and feet and pointed beaks
tight and still and quiet inside me, murmur promises of a day
when I’m so old and tired myself
that there’ll be nothing left to hold it all in.
John Amen is the author of four collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer, More of Me Disappears, At the Threshold of Alchemy, and The New Arcana (with Daniel Y. Harris). His work has appeared in numerous journals nationally and internationally and been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Korean, and Hebrew. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine (www.thepedestalmagazine.com).
drunken - or maybe just happy
forget about debate
or erecting a house as common as proof
you outrun light now
yr vision sharper than deathbed sorrow
who needs verses or law?
desire’s a magician yanking you
from the hat of yr usual reticence
weep & thunder
hurl marbles & unread manuscripts
reel in the holy answers
from any corner of the sky
of course routine returns
like waking after a near-death experience
but more & more those shimmering threads remain
bridges extend from who you are to who you are
you can use them anytime
after the death café 11.13.13
I open my eyes
no longer buoyed by—
if I name it gravity has its way
people craft rebuttals
the light narrows
I’ll have to land at some point
but for now I’m writing my own ticket
to the next plateau
excuses are steel cords
habits ground me like crossbeams
but out here
cars don’t need gasoline
everything from cake to fodder’s free
people roam as naked as a primary color
there’s no word for miraculous
god is in the discord
Leland James is the author of two books of poetry, Inside Apples, published in 2012 and This is the Way the World Ends/This is the Way the World Ends, from Finishing Line Press with a publication date of August, 2014. His poems have appeared in ten countries in over fifty periodicals, including, The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review; New Millennium Writings; Vallum; Orbis; Magma; Osprey, Scotland’s international journal of literature; Arc; HQ, The Haiku Quarterly; and The Society of Classical Poets Journal. He was an International Publication Prize winner in an Atlanta Review poetry competition and was runner up for the Fish International and the Welsh Poetry prizes. He has placed or received honors in dozens of other competitions, including, Aesthetica Magazine, Morton Marr, The Society of Classical Poets, and the Bridport Prize. www.lelandjamespoet.com
Song of Myself at Sixteen
—as Persephone, circa 1960
The pickup’s growl,
gravel ground beneath the wheels,
the screen door’s screech and bang:
hearts beat like startled birds.
(Mother’s eyes in caves of ice.)
The old man is home.
Radio off, books forbidden, hidden
deep beneath the mattress
—Persephone descends, a dagger
clutched beneath her robe,
nestled, cold, between her breasts,
her answer in anticipation
of Hades’ dark blade—
earth growing dark; a chill descends.
The old man is home.
Dishes down, the table dressed
in cold precision—his rank pretense,
the table white, plagiarizing purity
and opulence—laid dutifully by pious
rule: later would come mother’s
smothered groans upon a quaking bed.
My eyes disguised:
look down and frown, not too much,
careful now just so. Look down.
Be docile as Aunt Bess,
pious as the preacher’s wife,
skirts kissing the kitchen floor.
Bow down, for now.
The old man is home.
Hidden deep my secret self:
a dagger of imagination,
wet dreams of liberation,
dark, nascent poetry,
fires beneath an apron ripe,
married to Persephone,
drenched in devil’s blood:
Hades’ member, a trophy
to lay at Demeter’s feet.
Rejoice upon the brink
and spit out pomegranate seeds.
Outside The Fast Food Place
it's suddenly overcast. There is the
thick flutter of gulls: gulls alighting
on the lamp posts, gulls breaking ranks,
perching atop the grocery store, gulls
swooping low and circular, gulls frantic
in their searching, pumping their black-
tipped wings as if to test the limits
of energy. In their fury they devour
every food morsel they can find.
And then, suddenly, an absence of gulls,
as if on signal they have abandoned the
field of battle. I hardly know now what to
make of them: the fury of their entrance,
the quiescence of their exit, the stark
loneliness that remains.
A. D. Winans is an award winning native San Francisco poet and writer. He is the author of over sixty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. He edited and published Secon Coming Pesss for seventeen years. His work has appeared internationally and has been translated into several languages. He won a PEN Josephine Miles Lierary Award in 2006 and PEN Oakland presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2009.
he sat beneath the trees
talking to the leaves
wine flowed into miniature glasses
of silent sound
intoxicated on its flavor
he tasted it like a brew master
gazed at the sky
spoke a poets dialogue
to the passing clouds
the red wine flowing
through his veins
Poem For My First Love
into my 77th birthday
I slip back in time
I'm driving down highway one
where California's fertile hills
wink at me
giant trees and seashore
merge into one
cloudbanks ride the horizon
like Gerinimo rode the plains
in search of the last buffalo
and watermelon wine
sweet as cotton candy
stuck to the roots of my tongue
fed my youth nourished my spirit
the poem the language in my soul
your body indented against mine
hot as an iron
pressed to a garment
youthful hunger that knew
feasted like a condemned man
devouring his last meal
the way Eskimos swallowed
the tears of the dying
to keep the one gone
A.J. Huffman has published seven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her eighth solo chapbook, Drippings from a Painted Mind, won the 2013 Two Wolves Chapbook Contest. She also has a full-length poetry collection scheduled for release in June 2005, titled, A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com
My Car Mirrors My Mind
Every inch of available space is crammed
with crumpled ideas and partial
thought. The floor is flooded
with memories of past meals and receipts
for last-minute gifts and every-day necessities.
The driver’s seat smells
of sweat, the accumulation of years
of gym activities, miles run, stairs climbed.
The windows are fogged by exasperation,
arguments replayed and repeated, lessons
learned and lost. The right
side mirror is fractured and falling
off, layers of tape bind it together,
a last effort to hold on
to the view of things I am forced to leave behind.
Jennifer Lagier has published eight books of poetry and work in a variety of literary magazines. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Rockford Writers Guild and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Visit her website at: http://jlagier.net
Before Hope Eroded
She has ironed her best blouse,
curled her dark hair,
and baked oatmeal cookies
because she knew he would visit.
They squat beside a cardboard box,
sharing a picnic.
She grins, her thin arm
resting on his thigh,
as he lifts a white sandwich.
All her life, she has waited
for a man with new levis,
a smile and car of his own
to help her escape
the sour vermouth and raging belt
of her immigrant father.
In fifteen years, she will be the one screaming
as she shuffles black pots upon her dying stove
in this hot August kitchen.
He is running from the house,
from all the ways he has failed,
clutching peach limbs and crying.
Later, as the T.V. blares,
they press their forks
to tasteless chops, fried potatoes
their hands never touching.
Adam Fisher's poems have appeared in a wide variety of publications and won many awards. His three books of poems are: Rooms, Airy Rooms, Dancing Alone, And Enough To Stop The Heart. He was the Poetry Editor of the CCAR Journal (Quarterly Journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis), from 2006 to 2014.
An SUV idling on Macmillan Road—
thrums and spews smoke. A woman
in a blue bathrobe runs out of the house
blood on her face,
gets in, squeals away.
A minute later a chair flies
out of an upstairs window
shattering glass over the lawn.
Down the street a man stops his gray car
in front of a house with a carefully
edged lawn, looks around, runs
to the front door, takes a small package
from his coat and gives it to the man
who answers, takes an envelope, opens
it, checks it, looks around,
runs back to his car and drives away.
An oil truck gushes
heating oil from a broken valve
leaving the street slick and slippery.
Cars skid and spin.
Rainbows appear on the shimmering road.
Mothers keep children in,
close windows against the stink.
People park cars
at the top of the street,
walk across lawns to their houses,
pull groceries in wagons.
The town spreads oil-absorbent.
Street-cleaning trucks go back and forth.
People leave their shoes by the door.
Britta R. Kollberg
Britta R. Kollberg, born 1966 in Berlin, studied poetry in the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University, graduating in summer 2014. She has worked as a graduate mathematician in East Germany, and in education and social services for more than twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall. Currently, she lives in Tel Aviv.
I have come to this country all by myself.
I didn't keep a balcony with begonias
elsewhere. I left my parents; I came
with a college degree and my suitcase
full of dreams: I know it sounds cheesy;
but wait till you see my poems; they are
not what you would put in your sandwich.
I didn’t want to be independent, but
I really am. I didn’t want to become
the trusted sister of your friend, but
I am. Maybe because I don't know
everything. I am young and haven’t gone
through all of it yet. I know everything;
I read it in a newspaper and send it to her
and she cries from relaxation, her wounds
opening up again and releasing the balm
of fear. I don't comfort her. But I protect
her like a small sister does; I will carry
each misspelled word like an ancient vase
filled with secrets, and so easily broken.
That is me. If I’m snippy, it is to you. I try
to connect, but you’re really large, looming
over everything I know, and know better;
and your self-disgust bores me down to my
bones. I have a tent to furnish, a selfie
to take through a closed shop-window,
and I will do it, whatever you lost—I don't
regret it. Not even for you. Am I mothering
her? Maybe. But till the day she holds on
to that selfie’s jarred reflection, I will. For
my sake: You may long be gone by then,
home to your apartment, a memory posted
on Facebook, a scribble on workshop notes
no one can read. I don't know if I’ll try.
Janice Canerdy is a retired high-school English teacher from Potts Camp, Mississippi. Her poems have appeared in The Lyric,The Southern Poetry Association Anthology(s), Bitterroot, The Road Not Taken, The Mississippi Poetry Society Journal(s), Lucid Rhythms, Encore, Victorian Violet, Cyclamens and Swords, Parody,The Atomic Comic, and The Artistic Muse. She is inspired to write by life in general and her grandchildren in particular.
What a Tangled Web We Weave
You seemed so harmless and small,
a simple means of avoiding an inconvenience.
Afterwards, I gave you little thought--for a while.
You were supposed to be the only one.
Now I'm nervously working on number 6,
which is neither harmless nor small,
feeling guilty and wondering when this
nightmarish chain reaction will end.
What deceiver misnamed you the "little white lie"?
The Full Men
(composed while pondering Eliot's "The Hollow Men")
The husbands--they are stuffed
An Alka-Seltzer for each.
They were the empty men.
They are the full men,
Bellies stuffed with spaghetti--Alas!
Their garlicky breaths
As they burp in unison
Are offensive--really barfy.
Onion smell mixed with cigarette breath
Would rival the odor
Of dead mice in the walls
Of the cellar.
Bulky forms, sprawled motionless,
Are letting it all settle.
Then, between the couches and the john,
Between the den and the outdoors,
Floats the stench of flatulence.
Between the full men
And the last vestiges of culture,
Between the full men
And their wives
Exists a great chasm
And a really bad smell!
The wives, who have retreated
To the kingdom called kitchen,
Speak of them--as always--
Not as sensible eaters, but only
As the once hungry men,
There they go to the medicine shelf,
Medicine shelf, medicine shelf.
There they go to the medicine shelf
At four o'clock in the morning.
This the way the evening ends,
Evening ends, evening ends.
This is the way the evening ends.
With plop plop followed by fizz fizz.