LISA ZARAN WIVES To see the sunrise singing over the hill. Wives, wake up. Watch your visions dissipate, your dreams grow dense and still. Lovely creatures, wives. How you mother the unknown, love the strays, pamper the precocious. In the bible of your eyes the world reads the way it wants to be or can be. Almost a place to call home.
SUBLIMITY Love is perhaps a long field, drizzled with blossoms a woman walks through in disarray where someone she knows waits and someone she used to know lies face up to plant the sky with placating looks like a gardner of lost dreams. Love is perhaps a tangled rope, knotted once around her common sense and twice around her heart. The fetus whom lies supine in her, bewildered as it rocks back and forth to the rhythm of her footsteps is a hero yet. Love is perhaps the burgandy of her sex, timber of her soul. Should she frenzy she has only to look up. The sky goes on for days. The seer empties his pockets, which takes months, and the weather becomes beautiful and the woman is reversed. Love is perhaps her feelings unworded in the history of her unhappiness, the unfamiliar pavement beneath her feet, the regulation heartache she carries like a clenched fist as if her loneliness were at the source of this and yet, the hero in her dreams of breathing air.
JOURNEY I did not leave my persimmon home to live in the mountains. Those botched golden shadows behind my door, they invoke no blessings. I did not leave my persimmon home to follow a river of salt nor stars, those delicate blooms, for they disperse no sooner than they arrive. I did not leave my persimmon home to exchange my life for another, though I did leave everything behind. Famine is now my fortune. Instead, I awoke startled by dreams. In desperation I went. Who would have thought that in this life I could want things I did not understand? What place can be called home? And so in the shadows of scattered stars I walk alone. And in the delicate untiring moonlight I seek my joy. And at an impasse I grow quiet and afraid. Looking back at the once-familiar. The persimmon covered with frost. The moon just full. Patterned brocade of midnight. The suggestion of twenty years whispers like a wind at my heels. Winter finds me fragile yet determined. I strive for an attitude that doesn't exist. I learn the harmony to happiness but cannot play the instrument.
At Recovery Plus With the voice of a crow, a tear in his eye, an Ojibwe man from the Red Lake Rez read a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca as if he’d lived this poem his whole life, a poem of being someone, but having nothing, nothing to give to those he loved but love. Each time he read the words “I love you” he spoke to everyone he held in his heart, including the people in this room, people “in recovery”, his heart big enough to hold the entire world, the way a poem can hold the world. When the poem ended, a hush like the time of night birds stop singing came upon us all, each having “recovered” just a little, for a short while, maybe forever.
Small The sun rises as the moon sets, a great-horned owl hoots in the distance, I hear wild turkeys gobble and chuckle in the oak woods down the road. Above, migrating snow geese honk, wood ducks whistle, cranes yodel, a cardinal sings desperately for love and my neighbor’s rooster announces another day, another large day, and I, surrounded by this moment, am so small.
To See the Beauty Down To see the beauty down a row of planted pines we are so blind glancing accidentally into a rear-view mirror of a moving car where left is right reminded of symmetry in measured lines, parallel space, vertical piney-posts boughs of clouds, greening along branches to gaze along linear beauty in row after row when I turn to the one cosmic line slanting down, a swan now, spreading creamy feathers, to brighten my path out of a labyrinth of a million needles slash pines planted to compass rows such ordered beauty cannot be grasped any more than an hour or a day so I gaze across the afternoon and ride it to its inevitable end until the sun bends it's mighty line and welcomes me home.
The Statue of the Weeping Angel In a cloudy marble gown she stands upright in a crowded cemetery they call the Pere Lachaise deciding to light down to earth after seeing a teeming crowd flooding the streets out of the Seine with signs of French that read --liberte, equalite, fraternite and marching of history signs down the grand champs elysee and farther along the street --'je suis Charlie' blood running out of the gutters down into the Seine and once again, city of love is the city of blood, so closely related the bella and bellum we cannot see her eyes she hides her face bowing her head down into her right hand and will not speak to passers by but she explains in the inscription she writes on the marble plaque below: My wings belong to the clouds where I will return to my eternity but today I am too heavy to fly and I cannot bear to look on this beautiful land beyond the darkness of my own hand.
A White Dove In early hours of a morning just begun, A form of freedom reigns without a single speck. From out of clouds, a dove appears below the sun Transcending worthless values creatures wreck. Although shadows of vice are spread across the land, A single dove remains immune to what is bland Or what is false as she is passing through The air of human lies as fading residue. Not a single word of hate can penetrate The flight of wings resisting falsity As she aligns herself with values straight Across a path imbued with clarity. High above the world, she avoids the stain Of lies which plague the creatures who are vain.
WAR NURSE I used to be a happy child taking strawberries off the pavlova blowing out candles, holding my sisters hand playing hopscotch Now I'm an adult, a reader of news a holder of memories, scars, thoughts of what it was like to be a teenager riding my bike downhill in summer Now I cross my legs, sometimes I rest my head in my hands I used to eat fish fillets bones and all, crab legs chicken livers, haggis, drumsticks, lamb chops Now I'm a vegetarian I used to be a person who had lovers Now I'm a person who likes my own company I used to dance to jazz, my body close to another Now I listen for the sound of the eternal in Bach my being embraced by the carpet I lie on I used to be tolerant of noises, the cars going past in the night, my sisters snore a dog bark Now I wake at anything, a drop, a leg moving against mine, the blind at the window a step on the carpet I used to be outspoken Now my words are lost in my throat
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT Between waking and sleep he regathers all the moments the cat that purred near his ear the air in the morning the meals he shared, his son's face Memories drift Cells shift, rearrange There is the pain in his back In the middle of the night the curtains move with the breezes In the middle of the night the fridge hums, refreezes In the middle of the night the bat flaps in the tree branches dip and sway In the middle of the night a mouse in the cupboard scratching In the middle of the night dreams heal She dreams of being in a field Pure, dazzling space and earth Ecstasy bursts from her, awe and wonder as she wills her movements Floating down a stream on her back then streaming up into the sky, flying She's leaving everything behind then remembers him and takes him with her Between waking and sleep their limbs are touching his arm across her stomach her hand in his The stone moves inside him a hurt pummelled in the torrent of his dreams, he has fought he has kissed lips They wake, an unearthly joy sounding
FOUND IN THE BUSH A pungent smell as stones stick to my feet. Awkward steps Avoiding ants My feet are clouded with dirt and gunk Deep leafy odours remind of losing oneself in water floating in a gorge Muscles and mind at ease A hum in the ear, like love ringing Stillness as the cacophony of birds settles Tingling atoms of energy Sweet earth Silence envelops like honey Warm, wet salt on my cheeks as the heart unburdens, unearths I step into the waters of the gorge Surface singing with riverweed My feet avoid the green-covered rocks Thousands of icicles are coruscating inside me. A fresh kiss like snow Water is silken, alive holding while being held
ALIVE AND DRENCHING Those eyes of pity when I say I'm without child I wonder if I'm missing out on life I ponder late at night a life less mild Whole days of joyousness amidst the strife But what about the time that's all mine To sculpt and shape without another's cry Do women need children to glow and shine TO complete their own lives before they die? My heart tells me that children come and go Affection grows and grows eternal strong In hearts who give their love to all they know Its's freedom rich and kind, not sole or wrong And so I move I speak and breathe this day Alive and drenching in the sun's bold rays
A PERSON I ONCE KNEW He would stoop and bring his elbows together like a pelican at rest, whenever he entered a doorway His labradors would leap into the Hopkins river they would put their paws on your chest As he walked his foot thumped the earth often clad only in a thong or desert boot He moved his body from side to side like an elephant He filled the atmosphere his arms and shoulders had lifted planks of wood his legs had walked miles He giggled at tiny occurences such as the time you poured sugar accidentally on the table then helped you clean it up wiping the grains onto the floor boards with a shove of his carpenters palm He asked you about your boyfriends fly-fishing rods when everyone else was talking about jobs He was the only one to notice them stacked in the corner the only one to ask questions He was the only one to notice how baggy your clothes had become or the only one to comment; his triangular face his beaming eyes close That day he was unshaven the black hair barking over the maori skin; his glittery eyes bloodshot searing into you kindly paddling at what swam beneath sifting sifting so you were pure good
NIGHT: When they say “good night” I agree with wide eyes that night indeed is good I embrace it wide eyed with jazz in my mind and halogens for my eyes The world is wide open everything seems ready, quiet as if on the verge on the edge of something stepped off and floating toward a maximum conclusion Time hangs quietly in the air. It blinks and forgives. The floating seconds stop to shake your hand. They commend and speak a little sometimes too before they vanish if the ear be worthy of their subject. In the night you can look up and see your moment in the stars "All our songs will be silenced... What of it? Go on singing! -- Orson Welles.
Talking to the Man in the Moon* I.B. Rad In 1969, during their historic lunar walk, who'd have thought astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong might also have been conveying a tribal admonition to the man in the moon? Months earlier, at a high desert moonscape in the western United States, they met an elderly native American who was puzzled by their behavior and, after explaining they were training for a lunar landing, the man disclosed he and his tribe believed sacred spirits lived on the moon, then asked them to pass on a private message to those holy spirits, in his native tongue. And so, after rehearsing the words until they could articulate his lines verbatim, they returned to their base repeating them to an interpreter who broke out laughing, chortling it meant, 'Don't believe a word these people are telling you. They've come to steal your lands.' *Based on an anecdote found in Yuval Noah Harari's book, "Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind"
THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS He can’t look me in the eye. I see the rainstorm stored in his. The surgeon’s voice is quivering and he is only one of three, each assigned to different ailing body parts. There’s nothing left to be revised. All these men removed some joint, replaced it with the necessary nuts and bolts, extensive pipes, cadaver paste, wires threaded through the bone. They left me loving motion’s gift under every Christmas tree of every day. Without their “fix it” countenance, their willingness to take a risk, I never would have stood a chance. That’s a line that’s literal. The minute that he notices I’m onyx eggs and will not break, we talk about his grandkids getting taller every month. He hugs me like a fitted sheet, shakes my husband’s waiting hand— slippery, sweaty, trembling. Headed home, 200 miles, I concentrate on marigolds in pony packs I plan to pot, petunias rich in purple robes. I turn my head to tweak my neck, adjust my spine and attitude. It makes a noise, but doesn’t work. I know my back won’t do the errands penciled on my calendar. Utter silence through the passes, pain is at a rolling boil— my husband’s face a white-washed wall— I grab a blush stick from my purse, rub a little ruddiness upon his cheek. I can only reach one side, but something has to change our world— paint clusters of bright peonies. I’m hanging on to some poor relative of hope: two souls are wedged inside this car. I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT A BUG WAS JUST ANOTHER BUG Cicadas mark the end of summer marching into autumn’s dropping olive leaves. What makes them all so mystical, so delicate and yet so strong is how they launch their melodies right up to the second hand dismissing them from earth itself. Refuse to waste a single chance to write a score, let a voice deliver it— remind me everything on earth faces darkness and its tune before the sunlight rescues it— a string of simple arias repeated like a ticking clock until I listen earnestly. Myopically, I’ve always thought a bug a bug, a part of evolution’s chain, not gifts of pleasant constancy. I live inside an inside world, uninvolved with what remains outside the boundaries of my mind. I saw the word “Cicada” dropped in Kenyon’s poem, unexplained and sitting there like pearls in an oyster shell. Strange how sometimes poets land a helicopter on your desk— share the food they’re dropping off. I’m more aware of archery, bows that fly an arrow straight— more aware of absent songs. THE LIGHTNING STRIKE I’m acting like a spinach leaf, which doesn’t even last an hour left upon a cutting board. A stanza there, fingers hit the backspace tab, hold it down by accident— then emptiness, the page an egg without the yolk. The house key buried in a plant outside the door just isn’t there. I dig and dig, turn up merely arid soil. Everything I drop these days— bend to grab—I cannot reach, cobwebs stuck to ceiling paint. I take each foible as a sign. My body tired and speaking in a foreign tongue. Muggy air, sticky as an oatmeal pan ignored with dishes in the sink, I feel the storm come rolling in. Suddenly, a lightning strike: it splits a giant Douglas Fir, quarters it like carrot sticks. What tumbles slowly to the ground, heaping mounds of khaki leaves, broken elbows of a branch larger than the yard itself. Moot remains of coming summer crawling up the leaning fence, taking down the 2x4s, once firm and straight in dry cement. Our Calla Lilies buried there, beneath the rubble and the bark. One orange poppy, open wide, placed across a severed log— like roses on a casket’s lid. The house is dark, the color of a buzzard’s wings. by Janet I. Buck
CHEATERS (Cheaters Short Version) By Michael Lee Johnson I am tired of cheaters online, weary eyed crossword players complicated moves drift dancers, lies, laid soft peddle dark closet dreamers. SOUTH CHICAGO NIGHT (V3) By Michael Lee Johnson Night is drifters, sugar rats, streetwalkers, pickpockets, pimps, insects, Lake Michigan perch, neon tubes blinking, half the local street lights bulbs burned out. NO ONE CARES (Short Poem) By Michael Lee Johnson No one cares I sit in my 2001 Chevy S10 truck drunk on smoked salmon vodka, writing poems on Subway sandwich napkins. No one cares my life is a carburetor full of fumes, filters, caskets, crickets. MEMORIES: TASHA TUDOR (A short tribute to beloved children's book author and illustrator.) By Michael Lee Johnson The heart of this land is within the person living there. The cattle grazing near the riverbank, gardens manicured with manure, cats sucking milk from any nipple, and those corgi dogs. Mice loved life beneath her steps where she walked. Sheep baskets full, wool to wheel, and knit sweaters handmade.