On this page poems by Jessica Goody, Joan Gerstein, John B. Lee, Johnmichael Simon, Kat Soini, Laurice Gilbert, Laurie Kolp, Lee Nash, Leland James, Leslie B. Neustadt, Lilian Cohen, Linda Albert, Lynn Veach Sadler, Lytton Bell, Marian Kaplun Shapiro, Mark Kirkbride
The following works are copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Jessica Goody writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Broad! Spectrum, Barking Sycamores, HeART, Gravel, PrimalZine, Kaleidoscope, Open Minds Quarterly, and Wordgathering. She was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition, an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Lucidity Poetry Journal International Competition, and was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry Prize Competition. She has written two volumes of poetry and is seeking their publication.
Everything is as you left it.
The stack of books on the nightstand,
the picture frames lining the top of the bureau,
your shoes lined up beneath the bed:
every crevice holds your spoor.
A strand of your hair on the pillow,
dark against the cool whiteness;
your scent like perfume in the air.
The crossword lies at your place at the table,
never to be finished, a pencil guarding the half-filled squares.
The rings you never took off, your favorite mug,
the richness of the tea bags wafting from their jar by the sink.
Brewed every morning, the strings left to dangle by their tags,
darkening the water like river silt.
I avoid the shadows in the corners of the room,
pulling myself away from the memories.
Part of me wants to hurl your things away,
rip the books apart and shred the pages,
burn your cardigans hanging in the closet.
the other part of me can’t bear to let you go.
Everything he loves about her is gone.
the delicate bone structure of her sleep-serene face,
the soft points of her pale breasts, the smooth, firm hips;
the long white expanse of her legs, the sound of her laugh.
The light is gone from her golden eyes, softly haunted now.
Her face is frozen, blank as new paper, the smooth dark
curves of brow faded to whiteness, the narrow, elegant mouth
rimmed with the pinpricks of dimples drags now,
the dimples no longer flickering in the curve of her cheek.
Her skin is slack now and creased with wrinkles, the joints stiff
and swollen. Her long fingers are gnarled and crone-cold,
her legs etched with blue veins mapping their decades together.
Every day he visits, waiting to see some spark of memory
in her eyes, the knowledge of his presence, forgotten yet familiar.
He holds her cold hands, scrubbing them between his own to warm
them, and links their fingers, stroking her knuckles with his thumb.
Born and bred in New York, Joan has resided in California since 1969. Joan Gerstein has written poetry since childhood, but only since she retired as an educator and psychotherapist, has she had the luxury to hone her craft.
Her work has appeared in Cyclamens and Swords, Voices Israel, San Diego Poetry Annual and other local publications.
Berkeley Soup Kitchen
In the garish light of a soup kitchen they meet.
Hands shake while he holds the plate. His eyes
boldly fixing her in their sight while she ladles
Sunday’s meal, giving him extra. He sits on a tan
Naughahyde chair, crusty with crumbs, laced
with cuts and burns, his eyes devouring her.
He offers to help clean up to be closer to her,
his new friend, his fantasy girlfriend. She smiles
broadly at him, safe in a public place. She likes him,
he can tell. Hands touch as pans pass from water
to towel. They talk, they laugh, until evening
returns her to a house, him to the streets.
Every day they meet over meals but do not break
bread together. The Vietnam War, drugs, alcohol,
madness create a chasm too great to climb.
Under concrete bridges he dreams. She is draped
in silky, auburn tresses. His arms around her smooth
shoulders, he draws her near to hear him whisper
in her ear. Her eyes seek only him as lips touch.
Awake he writes her poems on scraps of paper,
sides of grocery bags. Finally their daily meetings
bolster him bold enough to share a few poems. Her
eyes first sparkle in delight, then grow large in fright.
The next week, she’s not at the soup kitchen. He knows
it is because of him, his sickness, poverty, neediness.
She will not return while he is there. It’s time to hoist
his hardships and get on down the road.
High noon and muggy,
air as thick as putty.
Dogs lie on cool linoleum,
birds perch like statues.
No rustling bushes, crickets,
or people on the street.
This torpid backdrop, where
I find myself - just an ordinary
August day in Florida.
Armed with tranquilizers,
lots of distracting toys,
Alice B. Toklas brownies,
I visit my mother
who lives amid ugly condos,
endless strip malls and
a plethora of early bird specials.
One week, often only 6 days,
this annual visit will last a lifetime.
I stop at the kosher deli, order
Mom’s favorites- stuffed cabbage,
bagels and lox, corned beef,
presents to deflect criticism.
I will fix what needs fixing,
run errands, shop, make calls.
We’ll go to favored restaurants.
Conversation’s the challenge.
Her interests, knowledge, friends
have shrunk but not her harsh
judgments or piercing tongue.
As a child I wished for a different
mother. Now I know people
don’t change. Still, when we hug
good-bye, I feel her sigh for a moment
as if she wished she could be different.
John B. Lee
John B. Lee was appointed Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford in perpetuity in 2005 and Honourary Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life in 2015. His work has appeared previously in Cyclamens and Swords. The most recent of his published books is Burning My Father (Black Moss Press, 2014). The poems in this gathering are taken from a ms. in progress called Into a Land of Strangers.
Wedding Photo, Chi Nan Fu China Mission, December 7, 1897
the bridal party garbed in unfashionable black
eight deaths ago—two girls in gloves
one standing at a cant on grass
her black shoes shining
her stockings black
her skirt hem like a black bell
she clasps her black-gloved hands
and poses with a straight-lipped smile
the century she’s born into
about to turn in two years though she’s still
a child that day her hairline capped in black
her hat like a two-tier mourning cake
boldly black, set sideways on her forehead
worn high as though balanced
as an exercise in posture and performance
adorned by two feathers fanning above the brim, the quill
held in place by a broad black ribbon
her throat choked in white lace ruff
draping her breast like a bib
she seems amused to be alive
anonymous as stone
she’s one of an octet
including her slightly older companion
a maid two years or so her elder
the bride, the mother of the bride
the groom, doomed to die within the span of two years
and two Chinese men in oriental dress, their coat sleeves
fanning out twelve inches longer than their arms
all the men
sport facial hair
the Americans with beards
much like the Prince of Wales
the Chinese with trimmed moustache
though only one retaining the long braid of the Ming
but back to the girl
on the left
she is eleven or thereabouts
outside of the vantage of the frame
she will age
court and be courted, learn to love and be loved, wed
and be wedded, experience the sweet intimacies
of the marriage bed, then the agony of childbirth
motherhood, the long surmise of middle age, become
elderly, widowed, infirm, forgetful
those who knew her
when they were young and
she was old have died and died again from memory
but on that day of her youth
first caught in the brief illumination of the lens
and then drawn forth
from the clarifying emulsion of the darkroom
the breath that shaped her dust
was full of the promise of a quickening heart gone slow
When Stella Saw Herb Skating
if I should compare my life
to an ever smaller series
of Matryoshka dolls
from my mother
painted in the brilliant theme
her apron fanning smoke lost light
etiolated by oven smoulder
fragrant with winter Sundays
and the afterglow
of oak and altar wax burning to be snuffed
and the deep plum-coloured
grape of Christ’s communion fresh on the tongue
and the full-breasted
aroma of capon brought
golden fleshed to a bountiful table
and from that strange
I am opened to the light
as generations come forth
reaching backwards through memory
casing by casing
within my own carved skin
I hold the moment of morning before I was conceived
ancestored by dreamed of lives
long ago born and lived and gone
I think of the day
my grandmother Stella
the man she would marry
skating with the long strides of a tall farmer
and she set her cap
as he glided on the iced hollow
of the front muck
frozen to the white edge
where thin surface broke like milk-coloured barn glass
stained in the shattered glaze by washed lime
and I journey inward to the last figure
small as nut meat
that rattles in the shell to be shaken
for proof of presence
like a dried seed in a calabash
in the shape of Adam in the shape of Eve
feeling then with that knowledge of darkness
at the swept edge of a sword of light
the achluophobia of emptiness between stars
Johnmichael Simon has lived in Israel since 1963. He has published five solo books of poems and some collaborations with partner Helen Bar-Lev and colleague Iris Dan. His poetry has been awarded numerous prizes and honorable mentions and is published widely in print and website collections. He is the chief editor of Cyclamens and Swords publishing and webmaster of Voices Israel group of poets in English.
She was exactly what he expected
that is to say totally different
solid chocolate outside
with a surprise filling
warm, liquid, aphrodisiac
blue ice on melting lips
all tongue and touch
then the bell rang
She was exactly what he longed for
queen of feathery silk
bird heart, falcon gosling
all warm breast and beak
with talons, a sudden embrace
tongue meets tongue
grips and soars
then the bell rang
In exactly five minutes
of searing revelation
he knew, there’s more to expect
than meets the eye
five minutes of tongue-tied confusion
five minutes of foreign inflexion
and then the bell rang
She was exactly like the nuisance
who had sat behind him in college
a plump little pudding, full of gossip
who wanted to know what he did for a living
and why was he rubbing his eyes?
for five minutes she babbled on
she reminded him of his mother
perhaps she was a good cook?
he invited her for a cup of coffee
does all this ring a bell?
Muriel and Robert
There’s Muriel, second on the left
standing in a corner
of a friend’s wedding photo, looking out
as if to see Robert as he is today instead of
those dusty dimming recollections
buried inside her somewhere
She can’t quite damp down (he remembers)
that old refrain, the one that repeats again
you’re a bastard, d’ya know that
two timing, mouth full of cheap promises
He could see her there
cramming him into her prognosis
his third wife already flabby-breasted
with child bearing and neglect while he
(according to Muriel) trots off again
on a business trip to Bangkok, Amsterdam, Tokyo
Almost visualize how she hadn’t changed a bit
over the years. And there he was, sitting at
these same old friends’ golden anniversary-
fifty years they’d been married, four children
seventeen grandchildren, decades of love and respect
traditional family values all paraded out
And he after several failed relationships
and too many wasted years of dating social climbers
far too young to be interested in non-sugared daddies
couldn’t help feeling a twinge of… well you know..
And then there’s this attractive senior smiling at him
self assured in her expensive evening gown-
she’s an artist now, a novelist as well, just back
from an exhibition or a book reading in New York
Hello Robert, she says. So good to see you again
after all these years. I was just thinking the other day
of looking you up. Found this old photo and… well you know..
That’s when he had his heart attack
Kat Soini is a Finn living in the UK, trying to keep a foot in each country but often falling somewhere in between. An over-educated academic by day, she’s been writing fiction and poetry for a long time and is finally getting organised enough to actually put it out there for strangers to read. Recent publications can be found in Londongrip, poetandgeek.com, The Missing Slate and Glitterwolf. A geek at heart, she is fond of all things otherworldly as well as woolly socks, cats, tulips and cinnamon-hazelnut coffee. Kat blogs at https://katsoini.wordpress.com
no turning back now
look up, i'm walking
beyond the streets, to
the sound of white china.
sometimes the girls drink
vanilla days and lipstick
and the light seems
softer, dancing on
their pearl nails.
heads up, i'm leaving
this town like an empty
boys, with their vegan
wraps and tattoos of
lost tribes, dream of
get up, i'm going
where the shoreline ends
we thought stories
were enough. turns out
Laurice Gilbert is the Vice-President of the New Zealand Poetry Society, after eight years as President and National Coordinator. She has had poems published in many New Zealand journals and anthologies, as well as publications in Australia, the USA, Canada, the UK, and Israel. She published her first collection, My Family & Other Strangers, in December 2012 and her second book, a joint collection with Portuguese poet Hugo Kauri Justo, is imminent.
"Death stalks me with a flower between her teeth"
(from: ‘Down-Under’, by Sean Flaherty)
She’s not in a black robe, cowl-headed,
with skeletal hands and distant blue eye-lights.
She wears a clinging red dress with matching lippy,
sky-high stilettos, and exuberant blonde curls
corkscrewing from Her shapely skull
like thermodynamic spiral pasta.
Joss Whedon called Her Glory and thought Her a god,
confusing the rage of Her key-quest with insanity.
Life is less ebullient, in practical cerulean scrubs.
He sets you naked on the floor in a dream,
trying unsuccessfully to turn your alarm off;
He sends the love of your life to the mountains
in search of his own appointment in Samarra;
He sets sibling against sibling – one taking
the others to court to challenge your father’s will,
a no-win narcissistic assault.
Death possesses a generous range of portable skills.
Each appointment in the mountains
feeds us with its harvest of tahr or chamois,
effecting an exchange of one demise for another.
I’d invite the stalker with the dancing black flower
to visit my hostile sister and have a wee chat,
one crazy non-god to another.
Offer some chewed roses. Make her hair curl.
Introduce her to an adversary
who can’t be bullied into submission.
Love and Music
not convinced they belong together
like salt and postage stamps
shoes and apple skins
hedgehogs and eyelashes
too many wasted songs about
love mislaid or crushed
love mute or unrequited
love obsessive or creepy
that's not love
merely wishful thinking
with no musicality
there's no time signature
here's what love is:
getting up at 3am
and latching the baby on
without waking the mother up
cooking dinner at 9.30pm
instead of warming up leftovers
when he comes home from squash
too hot and sweaty to hug
dashing to school at 11.45am
with lunch overlooked by the owner
of a bag full of swimming gear
and almost-finished homework
skyping at 5.30am because
she's on the other side of the world
and that's when she finishes work
and needs to talk to you
picking him up across town at 11pm
because a sleepover just got
too big and the friend's house
creaks in all the wrong places
stopping work at 4pm
and taking them to the beach
to have multiple ice-creams
instead of dinner for a change
here's what music is:
Nights in White Satin
Make Love To Me
Black Satin Dancer
the mix tape he made when
we were young enough to think
music would bring us together
when really it was the sex
turns out in middle age
it’s a bit of Column A
a bit of Column B
and hedgehogs sleep with their eyes closed
Laurie Kolp, author of Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014) and Hello, It’s Your Mother (Finishing Line Press, upcoming) serves as president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers and belongs to the Poetry Society of Texas. Laurie’s poems have appeared in more than four dozen publications including the 2015 Poet’s Market, The Crafty Poet, Scissors & Spackle, North Dakota Quarterly, Blue Fifth Review, Pirene’s Fountain. An avid runner and lover of nature, Laurie lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three children and two dogs.
75,000 nerve endings
trip me every time
you think your impression
mine. 12 inches = one foot
blown in the mouth— quick removal—
imprints a prick stamped in coal.
deformities in need
of foot surgery, a boot
and blue cast worn much too long
all because of vanity, trying
to fit feet in smaller-sized shoes
like Cinderella’s step-sisters.
Jamming toes with stilettos
just for your attention.
Did I mention bare feet—
an anklet tattoo?
Strong feet to run ashore, away
from life, away from you. One
foot at a time, never together
unless you jump around,
a Playboy bunny.
An ass-kicking foot
finally kicking your ass
out the front door.
don’t dote on me,
my demented mind
a mind not meant to meditate
a mind meant to omit
omit, omit, omit
omit Monday man
an omen aimed to detonate me
an omen I don’t need you
I do need you
Lee Nash lives in France and freelances as an editorial designer for a UK publisher. Her poems have appeared in magazines and e-zines in the UK, the US and France including The French Literary Review, The Lake, Inksweatandtears and Silver Birch Press. You can read more of Lee’s work on her website: leenashpoetry.com.
(meaning meadow or wood)
A man came to a meadow.
There is nothing unusual in this.
The meadow pleased him, and as he was weary
he sat down in it, and smelt its sweet, grassy scent.
Now there is nothing beautiful about a meadow,
but it is a comforting place, nonetheless;
the small wildflowers attract the bees and hoverflies
with their subtle shapes and colors.
The man felt so at rest in the meadow
that he kicked off his shoes and stretched out
his toes in its warm, inviting grace.
In fact he felt so comfortable that he began
to muse, and so he told the meadow about the rose.
There is nothing imperfect about a rose.
The meadow listened, and every stalk was sad
about the perfection of the rose.
The man did not seem to notice.
Again, there is nothing unusual in this.
In his flow, the man told the meadow about the orchid.
There is nothing plain about an orchid.
Its form is exotic and sensual, and somehow dangerous.
The meadow felt the evening dew settle on its leaves
and tiny pastel petals, and though the insects suckled
at its nectar it felt sad, and it wanted the man to leave.
The man couldn’t understand why the flowers in the meadow
that he liked and had even come to love were all closed,
their heads like pretty, angry fists bobbing in the dimming light
as they thought about the orchid and the rose
and all the other beautiful cut flowers in his vase.
coffee date. On
the last roundabout,
I feel myself going. Drift
right kerb not left traffic –
a circadian rhythm spike.
“Now they are what I call men,” she says,
“drop everything.” Drives me to the garage.
Double-parked by a block of flats; quick as hell
he brings his jack. Why do I give it anymore?
“You been burning the candle?” Not streetwise, me.
So I wait outside this toe-rag joint for these
real men, and it’s starting to rain.
Check my cellphone for a message
from the other side of sleep.
This simply can’t go on.
They can repair my
punctured tire but
not my heart,
Leland James is the author of three books of poetry and has been published worldwide in over fifty journals and magazines including The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review; New Millennium Writings; The London Magazine; and The Haiku Quarterly. He was the winner of The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, the Writer’s Forum short poem contest, the Atlanta Review International Publication Prize and has placed or received honors in many others competitions. He was nominated in 2014 for a Push Cart Prize. www.lelandjamespoet.com
The Temporary Man
He hadn’t a last name, I had no first.
Gaylord was a “hired hand,” I was “the boss’s boy.”
Gaylord was a drunk, everybody knew.
He’d disappear, now and then, for a day or two.
“Gaylord’s on a bender,” everyone would say.
Then, sober, he would reappear, a blackened eye
or knuckles bruised; but with a steady gait
and able at his work the best among the roofing crew.
When I was working high, higher than a boy
should be, Gaylord would find a nail to drive,
or mend with tar a shingle, within a yard
of me. If I was sometimes cut, pretending
not to be, Gaylord would fetch the kit
and, saying not a word, would tend to me.
He didn’t smoke or joke, like all the other
men. No dirty talk, no brag or bristle;
no smile, no frown. Talk was there’d been a wreck
a long time back: he’d lost his wife and daughter.
Gaylord was a drunk, everybody knew
—but he was good to me, and best among the crew.
How Easy to Love
Most of us
have learned (at least)
how easy it is to love
safe on our side
of a great divide,
almost a moment
And how easy to be
in love (scientists say
a place goes bonkers
in the brain)
a yellow-haired girl
rearranging the furniture,
turning out lights,
of Shakespearean verse
and minks in heat,
a timeless caress,
the next a desperate
the petals scattered.
How many teammates
knit in numbered stitch
won and lost,
come and gone.
The children of course,
there was that
love by grand design;
too soon the romp was done
—become more rosary than candle.
But two plain hearts at rest
each in the other’s eye,
a firmness of the circle just:
that Valediction Forbidding Mourning,*
how not-so-easy this love,
how long in the love making.
* “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” and “The Good Morrow” by John Donne
Leslie B. Neustadt
A retired Assistant Attorney General of the state of New York and the author of Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey (2014, Spirit Wind Books), Leslie B. Neustadt’s poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Akros Review, Cure, Cyclamens and Swords, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. Her writing is illuminated by her Jewish upbringing and expresses her experiences as a woman, daughter, wife, mother, cancer patient and incest survivor. www.LeslieNeustadt.com.
The Russian fairy tale, “Vasilisa’s Doll,” tells of an eight year old girl who loses her mother. Before her mother dies, she gives Vasilisa a tiny wooden doll and tells her daughter to give it food and drink and the doll will help her find her way. Her father subsequently marries a cruel woman who forces Vasilisa to work for Baba Yaga, a terrifying witch. Vasilisa prevails with the doll’s guidance.
Though Grandma was from Kiev,
no one told us Vailisa’s tale.
Our mother gave us Barbies,
brides and baby dolls.
She slipped into a coma
words of wisdom.
My sister longed for Vasilisa’s doll.
She sang, I went to the edge
of life itself and entered
my shadow’s dream.
There she found the Wild Mother
and suckled at her breast.
My sister bequeathed me
a blue bellied Buddha
and a teddy bear with wings—
the Buddha for the woman
half a century old,
the bear for the little girl
still nestled in my body.
I hear my sister whisper,
She’s your Wild Mother now.
Ruth has a standing date with Death
at the early bird at Crab and Fin,
her favorite restaurant. They share a Bloody Mary.
She tells him, I want to live as long as I can walk.
Then let me croak quick.
She has instructed us over and over again.
I don’t want a funeral or any eulogies.
Just pop me in the ground next to Mason,
like an apple cake in the oven,
say Kaddish and let me be.
Lilian Cohen moved from Australia to Israel in 1968, living first on Kibbutz Yizrael, then in Haifa, where she lived until 2013 when she returned to Melbourne. A member of the Haifa chapter of the ‘Voices’ poetry association, her poetry and short stories have appeared in journals in Australia, England, Israel and the U.S. At present she is completing a crime novel set in Israel.
Flight-Path Tel Aviv - Melbourne
The evening light whips snowdrifts
flocked forests fade to ash beneath the wing
the droning engine comforts
nudges shuttered memory.
At sixty my mother
seeks comfort in her roses
when I leave her for a life elsewhere,
in shutting out her distant grief
I forge a weighty chain of guilt.
At eighty five my mother
storms that I neglect her
while on a visit ‘home’
and I, her fifty year old child
spit words that spike and settle
adding yet another link.
At ninety-four my mother
smiles from her hospital bed
her eyes like seed pearls in water
shine with love
but I must turn away
must hasten to the airport
must hide the guilt that hides
so heavy at my throat.
Phoenix plumes dissolve the dark
sweep the plane towards her grave
scents of earth and roses wait
grief and memory emboss the chain
the guilt entwined with love.
Linda Albert’s essays, short stories and poems have appeared internationally in numerous publications over the past forty years. Among her awards are the Olivet and Dyer-Ives Foundation Poetry Prizes and an International Merit Award from the Atlanta Review. A certified Archetypal Pattern Analyst, Linda lives on a barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Visit her online at LindaAlbert.net.
When You Were Born
She watched as though
from another country.
The mirror positioned between
her legs, a more chaste picture
than she expected. She thought
she would be humiliated by the exposure
but all she thought about
was you struggling to get out
as you have struggled ever since,
with all your ambivalence,
while she, thinking you were hers,
housed as you once were inside her,
taking, her all - body, mind and spirit -
to bring you to life. Then thinking it her job
to keep you there - in life. “Don't push,”
the doctor warned, the cruelest words
she ever heard, when all her being
was made for pushing. “I can't,” she croaked,
but she obeyed. Anything for her first born,
her most creative gift. Now, he is 50,
as impossible for her to believe
as the original labor and once again
she is told to stop pushing. “I didn't think I was,”
she says. It's been so long since he left home.
But freedom comes at higher and higher prices.
Both hers and his. These days no rituals exist
for men who must be torn from their mothers
to go out into the wilderness of their own lives,
face demons and catastrophes from which
the mother can't save them. No rituals exist
for mothers who are called to learn the art
of letting go. Only oxymorons can protect them
now. She can share the distance his life requires,
and hope he finds the fortitude his life
demands. God help them both if even that
is asking more of him than he can tolerate
and she is helpless to assuage.
Lynn Veach Sadler
Former college president Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler has published 5+ books and 72 articles and has edited 22 books/proceedings and three national journals and publishes a newspaper column. In creative writing, she has 10 poetry chapbooks and 4 full-length collections, over 100 short stories, 4 novels, a novella, 2 short story collections (another in press), and 41 plays. As the Central Region Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet 2013-2015, she mentors student and adult poets. She works as a writer and an editor. She and her husband have voyaged around the world five times.
My Las Vegas Flapper
Before Sinatra and the Rat Pack
pursued integration, she was,
by her own coinage,
The Chocolate Isadora Duncan.
I had a little “Harlem Club,” see,
tucked away in Vegas.
She wandered my way, already half-gone.
Her long silk scarf, purple, green,
floated, fluttering behind her.
Her singing was all dreamy,
so, so sing-songy.
From a half-trance—doped up.
The only way she coped.
She could dance but set herself to floating.
I had my guys do chording
or soft blues music in the background.
She made up the words.
I still hear her in my head.
I see her tease,
with one end of her scarf,
that roomful of men reaching after it and her.
She’s pulling up her dress to show a garter,
get customers to put money under it.
I can’t get her singing out of my head!
Ain’t made in no bathtub
but full of sin.
Choc’late gin bone-deep.”
“Catch my scarf.
I pulls you in the deep with me.
Ain’t no reg’lar whoopee.
Ain’t no reg’lar pot o’ sex.
You gets to drink my choc’late gin,
try your sweet tooth on choc’late nookie.
I gets to have yo’ berries,
jack, kale, an’ scratch,
all yo’ green and green,
your green, green money.
I trade it for a different kind of
Never came into her own.
And now I’m very, very old,
I like to sit alone,
drink old-style hard gin,
watch her float before me,
listen to her music.
I went once to every Vegas flapper spot,
tried—once—Will Max Schwartz’s Moulin Rouge
that was integrated.
Nothing approached The Chocolate Isadora Duncan,
as some few called her.
But I stayed glad ever-after for Sammy Davis, Jr.
My youngest son’s plumb crazy
about that Tatiana make-show lady.
Me? I sit and take in every night
the one I call, the one I know,
as “Choc’late Gin.”
Lytton Bell has published five books: A Path before Winter (1998), The Book of Chaps (2002), Nectar (2011), Poetica Erotica, Volume One (2012), and Body Image (2013), won seven poetry contests and has been the featured reader at many California literary venues. Her work has appeared in over six dozen publications. As a teenager, Lytton won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, where she studied with Deb Burnham and the late Len Roberts. Lytton graduated magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College.
We climb the bolted fence where the sign says
DO NOT ENTER:
Dangerous Rip Tides and Rogue Waves
down a steep stone staircase to the rocky shore
Cupped among the stones in tide pools
living crabs scramble over the bodies of dead ones
Even dead, their iridescent inner shells glimmer in the sand
I spy a long green whip partially submerged a few yards away
and I want it
so you fetch it for me
What is it? I wonder
This is kelp, you say
I can’t believe it!
I have never seen it this close before -
the bulbous round head crowned with green frizz like hair
and a hollow, rubbery tail ten feet long
How resplendent and strange! I love it immediately
Out in the ocean the kelp sway and bob
their heads peeking up out of the waves
their long tails thrusting down into the water
We look up the jagged hillside
with fallen trees suspended in the juts and crags
It’s all sharp and bare
like something violent happened here
Brutal erosion stripping it all down to its raw, essential self
I think about how I am since I met you
Broken open this way
How it feels to have no defenses against
Dangerous rip tides and rogue waves
We watch the tide swell over the jutting rocks
covering them and coating them with froth
I tell you that the rock must feel happiest
when the wave consumes it whole
and you squeeze my hand
One black rock has a channel gouged right down its middle
where the pounding waves rush through
creating a little waterfall every time
I could assume the waves have scoured out this groove over years
But I know the truth
The rock has spread itself open for the sea
Some call it dull
I beg to differ
Above me, the firm will of a god
tornadoes merging, their black funnels
peeling back layers of shrub and sod
baring sheared ribbons of glittering stone
unafraid of the storm, a raptor
its beak wet with blood
lifts into the chaos
Taking wing, I shed my body like feathers; while below, I
am replaced with my own double
until, with a shudder and a
I am thrust back inside my own skin
and reincarnated in my own life
Marian Kaplun Shapiro
Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). A Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often embeds the topics of peace and violence by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she was five times named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2012.
Being At Home, en Paris
is the place we make together,
anywhere at all. Paris, par
exemple. It’s ours, the pâtisserie
where you get drunk on chocolat chaud,
the best, you sigh, that you have ever had.
It’s ours, the boutique in the Marais,
the one with silver earrings built like works
of architecture. Like the Tour Eiffel,
now that I think of it. The tiny chapel
tucked behind l’école maternelle.
Vespers at four o’clock. Telemann.
Polyphonic blessings on our heads.
All the necessities.
most of all is the place we make
when we’re trop fatiguée and trop footsore
to walk another step. Leaning on
each other, somewhere along the rue
de Seine, we turn a backless banc into
a temporary haven. Shoulders against
shoulders, we press into the fading
light, the young world speeding by us on
their skates and velos. Like clay we melt
into a single sitting sculpture. Love.
Love defined. Facing outward, bodies
merged like conjoint twins.
Not two. Not one.
Mark Kirkbride lives in Shepperton, England. He writes fiction and poetry. His novel Satan's Fan Club is published by Omnium Gatherum in America. His poetry has appeared in the Big Issue, the Morning Star and the Mirror in the UK.
I go from room to room calling your name
like a spirit. I wish I could pass through
all too solid walls that have memories
nailed to them. Every drawer and cupboard’s
a trap set. Objects harbour images
of you as ghostly as holograms and
I wish the children did not look at me
with your eyes. I turn to peer through a window
and everyone’s dead in the doll’s house.
Rehearsals for Love
She invites me into her pop-up house
and says, ‘I’ll be Mummy and pour the tea.’
Inside, not to scale, a table and chairs
are all that stand between us, two actors
in our very own kitchen sink drama,
our Play for Today. ‘You’re Daddy,’ she says
but I haven’t learnt my lines. Apart from
leave half way through, I don’t know what dads do.
Fortunately this is just a rehearsal
for love. And we stay in the Wendy House
until we have conned it to perfection.