Lisa Zaran

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.

Larry Schug

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.

Reed Venrick

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.

Jason Ford

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.

Kelle Harris

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

Michael Pacholski

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.

I.B. Rad

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"

Janet I. Buck

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

Michael Lee Johnson

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.