Artwork by Jane Burn
Edited by Julie Pellowe & Louise Larchbourne
A Psalm for Tears
which gleam like ancient stars,
which breach canals with tongueless griefs,
drip secretions across time,
each unique as snowflake and fingerprint,
which bejewel a joy, confess
a lie, reveal a birth of a boy, or a girl,
a psalm for our internal plumbing,
our liquid mass, our drying out –
the water of our lives,
the shutter tear which blinds us on the road,
the emergency stop it forces;
a psalm for Atlantic waves, winter hail,
for torrents, floods, and for those
blighted by drought, for the fractured tears
we conceal despite the yearning brim,
a psalm for the salt-smart of a favourite sea shore,
the plop on a flagstone, streak of moist kohl
lowering the heartbeat, an enzyme bath,
a psalm for the fright in the street tear
like a heckler or busker or beggar
calling out some gibe,
a psalm for the strong swimmer
who watches fellow creatures buried wet,
for his sobs, and for those drownings
never witnessed, for the perils of the sea,
a psalm for mermaids who shed no tears,
witness humans cry, rub dry eyes,
a psalm for the beloved, dust to dust
bestowed their lot of earthly tears, and done.
By Maggie Mackay
A Meditation on form
Light and darkness,
meet over and over in every particle.
Where they meet they move into each other like this:
This constant, taking place in the dimensions
of time and space creates the effect we call vibration.
Colour and form
are corresponding expressions of primary vibration.
Colour is the vocabulary
of the conversation between light and darkness.
We live in a world where the understanding
of these principles, of the source and resource
of what we know,
what we perceive,
what, we think, we are,
is key to the mystery.
The mastery of
By Louise Larchbourne
You, on the bridge
No wonder I saw you. Knitted hat pushed slightly back,
good marly coat, all buttoned. Jeans piping your legs, two sticks;
boots with a touch of elan. Toes pigeoned in a little; your treads
have nothing to apologise for, my dear. There is always wind
here, especially over the river – the span floating you over.
I see you look at the bubbling below – anyone of a poetic bent
cannot help but see these things. I bet your mind was working
metaphors on herons – their flight is that of bullets – how they aim
at pinpoints of salvation, how silver they are. How neatly trailed
their spindle legs, how unafraid of gawpers, camera phones up
like they never saw nature. Your ex is a cunt – he let you leave
these smears of yourself on the streets. Your tears were not for nothing.
Because you cried, wondered about washing machines; because you wept
in antiseptic beds, because he never held your hand, I see you.
Your grief is a ghost’s lamenting. Do I still want this life?
When nights are long as children waiting for Christmas, yes! I do.
Those curls you hate – they will not stay under that bucket of wool
and it makes me smile. You are enviably slim – did I ever tell you?
You are a reed, I am rock. Hello! Hello, hello! Of course it is not you –
how could it be? She is nothing even like you, not close up. Maybe
she stepped on a spot of you, soaked you up for a second. I know
how much you left behind. That heron was a bit of a disappointment.
He did not soar – just settled for bundles of branches, lower down.
He will fish in lathery waters – his feathers will droop. His eyes will dry,
with his looking to currents of air. He would be better off a duck.
By Jane Burn
Woman, 50, 5’10”. Dress size 10-18
She’s not proud of pitchforking food into her mouth,
still doesn’t know if it’s to fill her, whole,
or layer over the dense, misted pit.
Or is it that she eats half-loaves of springy bread,
blocks of orange cheese with flex and give,
so when she finally trips or steps off the edge,
there’ll be something soft to land on?
Obese, overweight, obese,
she banishes food in favour of plastic shakes,
fake confectionery, drops a stone a month,
smiles often, hears you’re nice now Mummy,
but knows this all-or-nothing calls the huntsman.
Knows when she eats again, he’ll take the reins
and she’ll again be waking
heavy with the churn of hate and shame.
Back to the dull, forgiving dress; studying her feet in lifts;
choosing to hold meetings on the phone.
Calculating, daily, who she’s seeing,
how much weight she’s gained since last time,
how much energy she’ll need to believe
her body isn’t there.
By Louise Ordish
Undertow (to C)
You text a photo of you in the dress and I respond, Buy ten more just
like it! You shine like the material is made of flirty kisses and fire. My
heart is not flame retardant and burns—like longing for a spicy food I
know better than to eat. But I can’t and won’t quit you, and crave you
constantly like a late-night snack. I’m no doctor, but orders specifically
say to savor every taste of you as if your body compliments the finest
wine. I sit alone in my apartment and drink to your healthy thighs.
Then I toast to your bottom lip that I first sucked on extra-long at the
beach because I didn’t know if that would be our first kiss or our last.
My fingertips memorized the contours of your cheekbones while the
waves crashed, signifying drowning or defying. And he we are.
Coughing up seashells and wiping the sand off our bodies as if we are
a natural wash, rivaling the tide.
By Daniel Romo
I left my habit
somewhere in New Mexico
but couldn’t put it down
We’d been driving
for hours, and there
came a moment when I had to decide
if it was go or stay.
A bird was dead
on the road side,
and I called its name
as we drove by it
hoping for my own
You veered to catch
its sprawling right wing
under the tires then
turned the radio on.
I knew that love
was just a façade
for a darker passion
and I watched in silence
as your lips chewed
over incorrect lyrics.
Three breaths later a
new state was under
the wheels, and I knew
somewhere near Waxahachie
that breaking was all
that was left for me.
When Savannah came,
I broke free at a stop sign,
and dreaming of Alaska
and long nights, I slipped
away to the snow and
buried everything else.
By Katarina Boudreaux
A drop at a time from the burette,
known into unknown,
waiting for the giveaway colour change;
titration on a quiet afternoon.
She wanted to be a boy.
Drip drip drip,
Pink pink pink,
Princesses, ribbons; smile.
Pretty dresses, don’t get dirty,
the good wife always…
She looked a mess, climbed trees,
wrestled with her younger brother;
went topless on sunny days
in the woods, wore jeans.
Because they were fourteen
Because they were a gang
Because women gag for it
Because it was easy
A drop at a time from the burette,
known into unknown,
the whole world in a colour change;
titration on a quiet afternoon.
By Ruth Aylett
Westers dust God’s chalk
off of clouds –
We squash chrysalis worms
spinning kaleidoscopes, then leave
the church without a blessing.
There are daffodils.
Volunteer priests spring up
in open-air temples—
…………………..turn grit into pearls.
I’ve seen spurned men learn
calluses. They douse hot coals
with sweat drops, and plant
seed corn in ashes next to dead
fish. Children rise up and call
………….serve tea to the plowmen.
Rivers scythe oak trees
like dormant grass—
…polished stones hold them close.
By Kevin Heaton (First published in Ancient Paths: November, 2012)
Carl the mechanic
was the first poet
I ever met—
livin’ at home
takin’ a few classes
at the local CC
I think us younger guys
in the neighborhood
kinda looked up to him
because he was sort
of a regular guy
but when he
came out cryin’ one day
and showed us his
he sniffed that he’d
tried to show
his old man
what he’d done
and all the old drunk
could do was laugh
and drip snot
all over the pages
Carl said this was typical
of how people
which was why I knew
I’d never be one
so I asked Carl
to pop the hood
of the Charger
and show me
the spark plugs
By Richard King Perkins II
Shakespeare’s sixth age
lean and slippered,
fluffy white socks,
trousers at half-mast.
…………..“Have you got your keys?”
“They’re in my pocket.”
On good days we reminisce, talk about books,
current affairs, the tele;
on bad days, tears,
what’s the word? where’s…? who?
and that disquieting emptiness behind the eyes
But we still have hours of sharpness,
the old bright gaze, sharp wit.
And these we cherish, weigh
against the growing dark
that hauls with it
a terrified seventh age
sans keys, sans teeth, sans hearing aids
By Anne Milton
A Day at Knight School
It started rough. My jousting partner slapped
my head at 6:00 and said it was time for sword drill.
After an hour of parries and slashes we went
to breakfast: eggplant pancakes, goat milk, and tartlettes.
Then straight to the towers to train in the art
of rescuing damsels in distress. I was assigned
lucky tower number seven which turned out
unlucky as the damsel waiting there had just
the night before won the Damsel Pork Chop
Eating Contest. Following that ordeal,
I really needed the 10:00 tea and crumpets break.
After a few practice shots with the catapult
it was lunchtime: stewed mutton, fried gourd,
and black truffle custard. Then out to the hills
for that iconic knight skill—slaying dragons—
which was a huge letdown. Because of inbreeding,
dragons have become pusillanimous
and hardly fight back. Farmers with dragons
living in caves on their land simply send
in a pair of black-footed ferrets to oust
the nuisance. My assigned dragon gave a half-
hearted hiss then flew up and hid in the trees.
After polishing our armor it was time
for dinner: roasted wild pig, turnip soup,
and honeyed goose livers. For entertainment
a troupe of traveling minstrels put on the play
Death of a Salesman—it was hilarious.
By Dennis Trujillo
A Measure of Man
I reflect what I despise.
Mourn things undone.
Echo the unsaid.
I can’t do more than I can.
Don’t understand more than I ken.
Won’t love more than I will.
My missings are my measurements.
My flaws are my facets.
My aberrations are my absolutes.
But I am content
to stumble on, blear-sighted
in hope of better vision.
By Edward Ahern
Dowser on the River
Downriver a sudden wash spills grubs, white worms, into the quick rush.
Stones, too, hurl into the fray, like infantry and horse soldiers out of
bush. The rain is gone overhill half a day and aches its echo on the earth.
This, of course, is my own war, this drive to be alone, separatist seeking
shadows of the pine, the cool, dark cells of old trees flattening like
choice rooms by the banks, and the phantom foe sleek as a jet under
surface. He turns to watch my boots stumble on the rock skelter laced
with lichen and mossy strains. If he has laughter, it floats away faint as
photographs at the back end of an old man’s mind. I trust that he laughs
not nor cries in his world, that once he noses upstream, feels the power
gauging his flanks, knows the message burning like new stars in the
sanctity where his eyes dwell, he will know why I am in this shadowed
……………says secret spawning
………………………..calls us from earth’s hot center
……………………………………divining where rivers end
……………where the journey starts
………………………..says our rhythms merge
……………………………………divining where rivers start
By Tom Sheehan
When I was a stranger
and even the child of strangers
when every day my mouth betrayed me
and my tongue tripped over these placenames
when these streets had no map for me
when I was neither church nor chapel,
when the woods outside the gate upped sticks
and scattered to the hills above the town
when I outflew all the familiar birds,
travelled round-eyed and white
an oak among cherry-blossom;
then I had become work’s gypsy,
like a wind-blown leaf, it journeyed me
wherever it would go; and every time
what was left behind was love and settlement.
By Judi Sutherland
Below is my Fat Choice – a poem that did not make the guest ed’s cut, but had something about it that I liked.
Same crap, different century
Well I have heard this generation
is a bunch of rude, crude show-offs.
I remember my granny taking me
to a rummage sale for a winter coat.
Even though it was a boy’s coat,
she said. “It’s good enough for her”.
That was after my father died in Arizona
where you did not need winter clothes
and I was shipped back to Brooklyn.
She had chunky cut glass pieces on a
huge table dressed with heavy lace.
Her chandelier hung, of course,
in the special room nobody used.
We sat at the kitchen table covered
with oilcloth and ate canned spitgetti
while white bread turned blue green.
When she asked me to go for a ride,
it was exciting because I thought
we’re going somewhere in her big car.
She drove around for a new parking space.
Some things never change…this world is
full of crazy people who think they are sane.
AND she was devoutly religious too.
By Joan McNerney