21 December, 2010

The Valve

The one-way flow of time we take for granted,
but what if the valve is defective? What if the threads
on the stem wear thin, or the stuffing box or the bonnet
ring leaks, or the joints to the pipe ring fail,
and there's a backwash?
It happens.
And then old loves,
meeting again, have no idea what to do,
resuming or not resuming from where they were
years before. Or the dead come back to chat.
Or you are reduced for a giddy moment to childhood's
innocent incompetence. You look up
as if to see some hint in the sky's blackboard.
But then, whatever it was, some fluff or grit
that clogged the works, works free, and again time passes,
almost as before, and you try to get on with your life.

From Falling from Silence,  by David R. Slavitt. Copyright © 2001 by David R. Slavitt. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana Sate University Press. All rights reserved.

~ ~ David R. Slavitt
Winter, Ageless Time

There was a place
I’d go in winter
Before starting
Each new year
In the ageless period
After midlife wars
Before the treaty
Or the surrender
Not sure anymore
It lasted many years

When foolish decisions
Had time to recover
What had been ignored
What caused the wars
In the first place
The ageless time
Before who I am now

~ ~ Anthony Duce
The Carpenter

The gentle fears he tells me of being
afraid to climb back down each day
from the top of the unfinished building.
He says: I’m getting old
and wish each morning when I arrive
I could beat into shape
a scaffold to take me higher
but the wood I need
is still growing on the hills
the nails raw red with rust
still changing shape in bluffs
somewhere north of my mind.

I’ve hung over this city like a bird
and seen it change from shacks to towers
It’s not that I’m afraid
but sometimes when I’m alone up here
and know I can’t get higher
I think I’ll just walk off the edge
and either fall or fly
and then he laughs
so that his plumb-bob goes awry
and single strokes the spikes into the joists
pushing the floor another level higher
like a hawk every year adds levels to his nest
until he’s risen above the tree he builds on
and alone lifts into the wind
beating his wings like nails into the sky.

~ ~ Patrick Lane

From Selected Poems 1977-1997. Harbour Publishing, 1997. With permission.

which of us is subject,
        mirror ...

for all our gazing,
never coming

~ ~ Gabriella Mirollo

Photograph by Gabriella Mirollo; the lines above are an excerpt from
her poem,"To Mademoiselle Charlotte du Val d'Ognes (Artist Unknown)".
Shared here today, with her kind permission.
A Carpenter’s Gift

The carpenter stooped from his bench
gathered a nest of curled shavings,
and offered it as a metaphor of craft,
knowing I would understand his gift:
blond birch and butter yellow ash
warmed by the soft brown furls of oak.

If my stock in trade were not words,
I would choose the carpenter’s way,
and saw and sand and carve and turn,
plane and stain and polish and buff.
I would make new and wondrous poems
of hue and tint and shape and grain.

The paths and traces ordained
by time and sun and rain would impose
their rules on me - arrow-shaped
and soaring skyward,
or a blaze of liquid movement,
a voluptuous spread of watered silk.

I would listen to ancient whisperings
of bog-birthed pine, oak, elm and yew,
coaxing twisted logs of haggard wood
from their coma into sensual shapes -
their rounded forms a resurrection,
a connection of past, present and yet to come.

~ ~ Angela Hanley

05 December, 2010

Two Ways of Looking at the 
Gravity of the World



The first thing you see
In the morning
Is a falling



An uplifting
Brisk wind brings it
To land on a flying green tarmac.

~ ~ Vassilis Zambaras

Train Song

I lurk in a wooded
bend of the railroad
where I won’t be spotted.
Duffle bag — check.
Zippo lighter — check.
Deck of marked cards — check.
All my life I’ve been listening to trains
& all my life I’ve been letting them go by,
each whistle Dopplering down
from summons to wail,
followed by a thunder
as intoxicating as any heavy metal band,
graffitoed messages flying past
too fast to parse
& a poorly aligned wheel
shrieking like feedback from a speaker
all the way to Chicago.
It’s not that I want to travel, but this sky’s
too narrow, too full of murk.
It hurts to breathe.
I raise a pants leg
& here’s another goddamned tick
just starting to burrow in.
Out West, I’ve heard, there are places so empty
nobody’s even given them a name yet.
That’s why the next
slow freight & I
have a date.
Here comes
one now. Hear how
the rails are starting to sing?

~ ~ Dave Bonta
Some lines are crooked.
You cannot fix them,

cannot let them go.

~ ~ Tom Montag
To the Child I Never Had

There you are again, hollering
just for the company of the echo.
There you are wearing my genes,
bucktoothed, nearsighted
& hollow-eyed from insomnia, the family curse.
I know you, long-distance runner,
apostate, follower of game trails.
I see already your ruin, inevitable as oxygen.
I hear the birds who never spoke to me
calling to you by name,
as if the world could possibly miss
one more neurotic primate lover.
The bindweed sheds its leaves
& turns to gold filagree in the lilac,
above the graves of the strangers
whose whiskey bottles I have placed,
green & purple, in the windows
to catch the winter sun.

~ ~ Dave Bonta

The lightness of letting go.
The world falls away

like dirt from a boot.

~ ~ Tom Montag

04 November, 2010

Saturday Night Out

He sits alone at the table, his fingers
ease across the sticky ring-marked surface.
Once sure, his grip is firm.
The pint of beer proclaims
his right to be there.

Tuned to the pin-dropping noises
of silence, his sensitive ears scream
in this world of babbled voices,
demonic decibels of rhythm,
clinking protest of glass.

In an atmosphere thick with warmth,
the tactile waves lap around him,
sweeping him through the evening.

His beer finally sips to a creamy smear
and he rises, reluctantly.
The Red Sea parts…
Shuffling towards the door, his white stick
describes the arc of his isolation…

Somebody grabs his chair.

~ ~ Marion Sharville


Wind, like

the edge

of things.

~ ~ Tom Montag

The Magic Gardens

The open gates of book
and verse and speech and glance
invite us just inside to chase
the butterflies of thought
that light upon our ignorance;

to gaze upon soft vistas,
pearl-covered with the dew
of age-old wisdom nourishing
the frail hypothesis, the struggling
seeds of something new.

We are free to wander
each new-found path that winds,
to crush the weeds of prejudice
and pluck the buds of truth
from the magic gardens of our minds.

~ ~ Marion Sharville

07 September, 2010


There, but Not

The almost-were, who never formed; the ones not breathing,
voice unheard; the safely launched then quickly gone, or with
us long and snatched away.
Death came and took them, one by one; the how--it hurt;
the loss--much more, as memories spill, of those we knew,
or not yet knew ...
the ache’s the same.

They came to us, as if on loan, not really ours to keep
(as if love can be harnessed, owned).  They visit now
through shadows' mist.  The ache subsides, then crashes
forth; retreats, returns--a shriek, a moan, and when
grief's spent, no words at all;
not even words unsaid.
We settle down into the now,  but with us still, the
There-but-Nots--within, without; not there, yet
There; we hold their place, that empty space inside we keep
for them (and only them) to fill, our loved, beloved
lost ones--gone,
still there.

A very special thanks to the eight poets below for their kind and gracious permission to share these deeply personal poems of loss, grief, memories, reflections, and above all ... Love.  All but two of them have written about a personal loss as a parent; two were written about the loss of someone else's child/children but because of the profound effect it had on these poets, their verses have been included here as well.  The focus in this small collection is not on the fact of death but on the depth of the sense of loss of certain special beings, or almost-beings, who are no longer with us.

~ ~ Editor, Salamander Cove

Photo courtesy of Jonathan
at Beeps & Chirps

not here
the  one

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing, Salt Publishing, 2009.   Copyright Chris Agee, 
quoted with permissiom from Salt Publishing.


gets done
it sits
on the desk
covered in dust
the notebook
of "Memories"
I'm unable
to face

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.     With permission.  

Little yolk, fly-speck, web
unworked, detail without name,
unlatch yourself from me, go.
In your small submersible,
your thousands of cells have stopped
beating. I felt their tappings
like braille on a quaking bog: a faint print,
then none. Go, almost thing,
the sundews have opened
their sticky pink mitts to catch
your brothers, and soon
the cranberries will float red
on the harvesting pond.
(This, too, will come to an end.)

~ ~ Anna Ross

Published in Memorious #8, August 2007, and in Hawk Weather, Finishing Line Press, 2009.
After the Miscarriage

It’s the first three drinks you’ve had in months
and you want to shop. We go to Hanson’s
end-of-year sale. All their log furniture is marked

half-off. We pick two Adirondack chairs, a plant stand,
table wide enough for a stack of books, maybe a cocktail
or two, something to drink while we sit in the living room

tonight and watch bugs bang around the lamps. First
you want to try out a spruce bench carved
in Southwestern sunset motif with armrest wings.

We sit and wait for it to lift us through the ceiling,
above the roof and deep into cactus country. Imagine
how good it will feel to drift forever

and never think about missing something. But that’s
too much. We head back toward the nursery sets,
climb in their biggest crib and sleep.

~ ~ Dave Jarecki
in the end
you still
in me
like clouds
in a vernal pond
whose sky
has vanished

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.    With permission. 

On a platform, I heard someone call out your name:
No, Laetitia, no.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing,
but I rushed in, searching for your face.

But no Laetitia. No.
No one in that car could have been you,
but I rushed in, searching for your face:
no longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two.

No one in that car could have been you.
Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen.
No longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two:
I sometimes go months without remembering you.

Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen:
I was told not to look. Not to get attached—
I sometimes go months without remembering you.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.

I was told not to look. Not to get attached.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.
On a platform, I heard someone calling your name.

~ ~ Laure-Anne Bosselaar

  Published in A New Hunger, Ausable Press, March, 2007.  

Still Life

(for Emma)
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Still, a breath away from life,
a heartbeat away from breath,
still my baby lies

her frozen hand
reaching out
to receive

the gift that was
no longer
mine to give.

Still, everything is still,
until I cry her cry and
shatter that stillness


~ ~ Jim Murdoch

Published in  This Is Not About What You Think   (Fandango Virtual, 2010).  
To Friends Not Knowing What to Say

To  J.V.P., B. Jan. 24, 2006 D. Jan. 27, 2006

It is mine
               to bear, this sack
                                          of dust, broken
rhythms of night’s
                            covered drum.
The wind has something
                                      to tell me.
Look how it tugs
                           at my sleeve.
In a dream,
                   I disown the alphabet,
unsaying each letter
                               in a song.
Who can repair
                         the questions
to make them hold
                              water or bones?
The drum renounces
                                 its echo.
Bagpipes offer us
                            the reed’s endless song.
Beside the river
                         two children are gasping
at a paper boat
                         swamped by stones.

~ ~ Robert Peake

Published in Iota, No. 85 (2009). 
As Ever

fresh and new-minted
the face
I love
in the gloom
of every dawn-dusk

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.    With permission. 
Other Mothers' Children

In Near Eastern places once held sacred
The sky is bright with rocket glare and
Other mothers’ children stare unseeing
From shattered hovels, no sweet, wet
Baby kisses from blistered lips with songs unsung
No family portraits to dust and treasure, just bodies
Some other mothers’ children rotting in the dust
Frozen moments of horror framed in blood
Limbs cracked and broken, bellies torn
Faces purpled, hearts stopped
Collateral damage, primary pain.

~ ~ Jamie Dedes

Published in Poets Against the War, February 2010. 
I heard

of Mrs Kelly
in Derry City's
on a cold night
with blankets
to keep
her son
and know now
I have not

                                         Dublin, 3 October 2003
Michael Kelly, aged 17,  murdered 30 January 1972

~ ~ Chris Agee
From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.    With permission.  
Dark, dark the day when you I cannot see ...

Grief knows no hierarchies.

~ ~ Charles Bernstein

Excerpted from the Eulogy on December 31, 2008, for his daughter, Emma Bee Bernstein.

All the Whiskey in Heaven

Not for all the whiskey in heaven
Not for all the flies in Vermont.
Not for all the tears in the basement
Not for a million trips to Mars

Not if you paid me in diamonds
Not if you paid me in pearls
Not if you gave me your pinky ring
Not if you gave me your curls

Not for all the fire in hell
Not for all the blue in the sky
Not for an empire of my own
Not even for peace of mind

No, never, I’ll never stop loving you
Not till my heart beats its last
And even then in my words and my songs
I will love you all over again

~ ~ Charles Bernstein

From All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010). Copyright @ 2010 by Charles Bernstein. Posted here with permission.

You will never return.  Hope means nothing
And nothing will alter it.  Love means something

Though:  you still exist for me.  Like the Big Dipper
Between the void of the two cypress, or a day moon

Against the shimmering stavelines of the heart's pylan.

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.    With permission.  

The morning moon

in blue
like the dead
and not here
and not real
banished by
the daily
pure and bright
ready for exit
at the moment's
the last poem
always unwritten

~ ~ Chris Agee

From Next to Nothing,  Salt Publishing, 2009.    With permission. 

15 May, 2010

Tell Me Lies in a Dead Language

Perhaps it starts with genetics.
The knack of the body to remember
what the mind chooses to disregard:
gloom, heartbreak, and black eyes.
To routinely recall the verb forget
soon after a drunken argument
has leaned in close and shouted
sinister advice in your ears.

Each day, less of you survives,
and what remains seems fragile and disposable,
half-healed bones and broken china.
A penchant for shoplifting, sex,
and scotch before noon.
Scattered scars that outline your wrists
and bruises that ache, disappear, then return.

So you say that your husband is nice
in his own way, a statement as undecipherable
to me as Sanskrit.  You tell me lies
in a dead language and I answer them
with the comforting weight of silence.
I can only think of how at dusk,
as night closes around our world like a fist,
he will punch you behind drawn curtains
and locked doors.
If I believed in apologies,
I’d give all of mine to you,
mumbled like unanswered prayers
floating aimlessly toward heaven.

~ ~ Adrian Potter

From: The Shine Journal, Vol. 1 (2010).

Sounds like something squashed, squished,
stepped on, lost.

An guish
rather than a guish, as if right off,

you began wrong.

~ ~ John Levy

From: Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs, First Intensity Press, 2008.
in between petals
of a tiny white daisy
this shifting world

~ ~ Donna Fleischer

From: "Seed Packets", Bottle Rockets Press Anthology, 2010

with Spring light

an abandoned nest

~ ~ Donna Fleischer

Published in Kō, 2009.
Photo, with permission of Pam Harris.

The young dog would like to know
why we sit so long in one place
intent on a box that makes the same
noises and has no smell whatever.
Get out! Get out! we tell him
when he asks us by licking the back
of our hand, which has small hairs,
almost like his. Other times he finds us
motionless with papers in our lap
or at a desk looking into a humming
square of light. Soon the dog understands
we are not looking, exactly, but sleeping
with our eyes open, then goes to sleep
himself. Is it us he cries out to,
moving his legs somewhere beyond
the rooms where we spend our lives?
We don't think to ask, upset
as we are in the end with the dog,
who has begun throwing the old,
shabby coat of himself down on every
floor or rug in the apartment, sleep,
we say, all that damn dog does is sleep.

~ ~ Wesley McNair

From Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems by Wesley McNair.
Used by permission of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.
Copyright © 2010 by Wesley McNair
Birds change places the bare tree branches.

~ ~  John Levy

From: Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs, First Intensity Press, 2008.

Shelf Life

Now that I am older, books love me intensely.
They have forgiven my college indiscretions
of cracking spines and highlighting pages in yellow,
back when I was desperate to eat words.

In the bookstore, I converse with the paperbacks—
These books have no sense of history.
They yawn, flip their flimsy pages incredulously
as if they know it all in 200 words or less.

They just don’t get it, so I visit the clearance bin,
say hi to the one-offs and discontinueds.
This is a generous lot. They mold themselves to my hands
as they often do for anyone bookworming on a Saturday afternoon.

Like kittens in a box, they’re waiting to be adopted
by someone like me, who combs the aisles of the familiar,
looking for a slim gem or doorstop tale to anoint
the small place in me that can always make room for one more.

~ ~ January Gill O'Neil

08 May, 2010

Moon Questions

How is it that I can enter at the sea
and come back through the moon

Is the purpose of the moon the ache of renewal 
or an eager decay

The moon is what I do not have
on the other side of falling

So, why is my sun limited to moonlight

Do I consume too much of the moon

~ ~ Grant Hackett
drifting on the river
emptying itself

~ ~ L. A. Krueger
facing the cream-white moon
out of place

~ ~ Chen-ou Liu

Published in Sketchbook Sept/Oct. 2009.

         ~   ~   ~

the same moon
Li Po drank to
the same autumn
Tu Fu wrote of—
I alone change

la même lune
dont Li Po s’abreuvait
le même automne
que décrivait Tu Fu—
moi seul je change

~ ~ Chen-ou Liu

Published in Gusts #10 (Fall/Winter 2009), and showcased in Atlas Poetica  (Special Edition: Canadian Tanka Poets in French and English).  French translation by Mike Montreuil and Huguette Ducharm.
no one


Lilliput Review #165 (November, 2008). 

full moon
my mind

~ ~ Ed Baker


the moon is never
out of fashion

pregnant belly
curved blade
ladle bowl

pulling the ocean
& our own red seas
sparking darkest

lunacies ~ the moon
is never retro

~ ~ Sharon Brogan

27 April, 2010

Muscle Memory

If the muscles remember
every wrap and release, how
they must mourn the loss of love,
and time spent loving.

What widow does not ache
for her husband's hips to embrace -
What former rider forgets
the pulse of trot beneath her -
What retired sailor doesn't yearn
for the sea's swell, its surge
of surf and tide ?

Does muscle memory also hold a place
for anticipation ? For fear ?
Or, is she like her sister, Cognition,
that once she changes her mind
can no longer remember
her original position ?

Like the amputee who still feels
the impulsion of his phantom legs,
this memory is far more honest
than intellect, more loyal
to our bodies, than our brain is
to our fickle minds.

~ ~ Ellen M. Taylor

First published in  Humming to Snails, Moon Pie Press, 2005

My life as a hut, roar
shack, no

joke, all joke, ink
blot, ink botch, take a guess, live

a guess, look at this mess, an

spill. My life an inked
shape on a page, a writer, an eraser, here

is my drafty shack, my hovel, I have
at it, tilt at it, go full tilt, half-tilt, full blot,

blottingly. And with this blotty paw
hand you this blotesque self

onto, into, through a page.

~ ~ John Levy

From: Twelve Poems,  tel-let online, 2006

When one wakes in the night
despite sleeping pills, white
noise machines, orthopedic
pillows, and thinks of oranges

-- such sweetness -- there it is,
that orange, floating brilliantly
in this dim room -- and all
the things one must make sense

of -- Nehru jackets, bouffant
hairdos, threatening french
nails -- your attachment to top-
less bars, those artificial orbs,

that tooty fruity booze -- all
this demanding explication
in the swoony night with its
train whistles and sock-it-to-me

buzz, love, American style, the ed-
ification of this planet's turn to
darkness, the rebellious suicide
of the sun, the sweetness of

oranges -- where is Lawrence
of Arabia when you need him
to peel this open, to hand you,
one-by-one, these white-veined

crescents, dripping with light?

~ ~ Sharon Brogan
What Can Be Seen

I've been thinking, again, of you
and others. How something we don't
understand binds this universe
together. That the dark

matter of our brains may be what
makes us who we are. How instinct,
genetics, and experience weave
together in a rope

we may use to climb or tie or hang
ourselves. Or others. How my brother,
finally, released my hand, and died.
This snow will, soon,

release itself into air. I am thinking,
again, of hearts: their dumb stamina,
their unseen flaws and missed beats.
That we can test only

that which we can see. Or that which
leaves a mark, some evidence of its
existence, if only for a nanosecond,
if only on a graph.

Are we constructs? Is there a formula
which expresses you, which expresses
me? How our blunt hands hold on.
How they let go.

~ ~ Sharon Brogan

28 March, 2010

Your Scar

My fingers roam
the soft flesh of your brow,
feel a minor ridge above your right eye.
It’s a small scar
not like the scuff of soldiers’ boots
or the woodcutter’s axe in a tree.
It’s an almost invisible seam
from a long-ago car accident.
No train derailment.
No plane crash on takeoff.
No guy taking what defeats him
out on you.
Just a collision from behind,
your head jolted forward,
smacked against the windshield,
a wound, some blood,
five minutes waiting
for your heart to slow,
your head to focus,
your eyes to turn toward
your father at the steering wheel.
It’s the tiniest healed incision.
Nothing like hearing in a hospital bed
how your old man didn’t make it.
Or your mind reliving that cruel impact
every night until forever.
It’s a trivial scar
that marks the constant anniversary of
everything, everyone’s okay,
it happened, let’s get on with it.
I hold you close
and kiss that scar,
ahead of time if need be.

~~ John Grey
By what
nick of luck

am I not
that magpie?


Going into the storm -
Not choosing is a choice

Tom Montag
The Wrong Guy

When you’re with people,
it’s a tossup whether to be
fully revealed.
First impulse is always
to clutch yourself to yourself
like you’re your own baby.
But when you start concealing,
you run the risk of concealing everything,
until there’s no one left
to receive advice,
to ignore it as best you can.
So, realizing
that one shame shouldn’t
bury another,
and a blush is just
the blood flow of a smile,
you said, “Yes, I’m going out with him.”
Then for the longest time,
you could feel their eyes
burning bible passages on your chest
while their tongues hurried back into cold storage.
Finally, one of them blurted out,
“Well he is a good looking young man.”
You slipped those words on your head like a tiara.
It shone so bright
that, for a moment,
no one could read
the stifling regulations of this world.

~~ John Grey

Spring snow melt—
River rushing through
One ear and out the other

~ ~ Bob Arnold

14 March, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

Here by the water's edge,
listening to what the sea brings,
I know deep down
even a grain of sand sings

wondrous things.

~~ Vassilis Zambaras
Haïkus au fil des jours

bibliothèque -
     le soleil passe en revue
          le dos de chaque livre

bookcase -
the sun reviews
the back of each book

dans le ciel
     et sur la colline
          le même nuage

in the sky
and on the hill
the same cloud

grisaille matinale
     des pelures d’orange
          sur le trottoir

grey morning -
orange peel
on the pavement

lumière d’aube
     rien d’autre
          dans la toile d’araignée

dawn light
nothing else
in the spider web

ticket de bus -
     juste assez de place
          pour un haïku

bus ticket -
just enough space
for a haiku

pelouse tondue -
     combien d’années de purgatoire
          pour génocide de pâquerettes?

cropped lawn -
how many purgatory years
for daisies genocide?

horoscope du jour -
     elle choisit
          d’être Taureau

daily horoscope -
she chooses
to be Taurus

ménage de printemps -
     un pépin de pomme
          sous le canapé

spring housework -
an apple’s pip
under the sofa

~~ Damien Gabriels

11 February, 2010

Desire Breeds Expression

A chubby cuneiform, these sparrows,
changing configuration with arrival,
flight, arrival:

yet the message stays —
a face-to-face over crumbs.

In one simplification, this is nature.
The rich and the strong surrender nothing
if possible, and yet, here,
behind desire, the other:
a different, chirping message —

light breeds music.

For even the butterflies, silent to us,
fight for sunny patches,
fluttering up in their twirling spirals
throughout forests. Are they lost

in war or in a dance?
How do we know the difference?

~~ Allan Johnston

First published inCezanne's Carrot, Vol. I, Issue 4 (2006).
The Lama

I cannot say where he came from
Possibly, from beyond the tall
Mountains, from Tibet, past crevasses
And glacial scress, like a high
Stinging wind. The bells on his
Pack-mule tinkled. He shuffled along
Peddling borax, salt and gold,
A lion-maned, eagle-eyed lama.

He travelled down the gorges,
From the Jadh Ganga to Harsil.
The beauty of Bhaioghati
Poisoned his blood. He taught
Himself to wear his curse like an amulet.

We chanced upon him singing
Of fires that burn, snows
That numb. Seldom does he speak
Of that serpent that has
Seized his tongue.

Mountain-dweller, below you
Stretches a plain that asks
Nothing of you. The river that was
Always by your side shall flow,
While you till and sow, and having
Unlearned language, relearn the
Songs of Silence.

~ ~  Smita Agarwal
Four Questions and Infinity

Where is home but in the choices

Why does the invention of zero take away one's strength for death

Shall one patient step following another relieve me of now

How does one prune :: trees who love their shape

Infinity is a box :: absurd until opened

~ ~ Grant Hackett

02 February, 2010

Monsoon Cantata

Rain is tattooing on the roof, tap-tapping
On the tin sunshade of the kitchen window,
Beating an insistent though erratic rhythm,
Deranged by dancing leaves that come in its
Way, like a chorus of mad women that seem to
Say - drench us, O drench us.

Across the barred, shut gate the road is
Gold and silver under the benign glare
Of sodium and fluorescent lamps; crimson
Tail-lights, tyres swish past. Criss-cross
Wires drip. A quiver of quicksilver water
Is rushing toward the gate - the barred, shut gate.

Something is knocking down the gate,
Something in connivance with the rain,
I turn my back to it, stare steadfastly
At the gas burner, at the metal frame of
Its round head with pricked-in holes.
Something has knocked down the gate,
Contralto voices come storming in,
Suicide-squad assassinations, communal
Conflagrations, scams, arms deals, a tribal
Woman gang-raped, mute deaths in custody,
India in the nineteen nineties. Something
Has knocked down a gate.

I turn on the gas,
Flare like the many
Blue, incandescent flames.

~ ~ Smita Agarwal

First published in Poetry Review, London, Winter 1996/97.
Meditation on Bliss

“Why write about bliss? There’s a war on!”

War was invented by the flowers,
as the English and Aztec knew.
Lavenders attacked jacarandas
with luscious scents and iodine.
Soon the rhododendrons learned
to poison the earth by opening blossoming
empires of color. The bees made golden
by pollen produced the honey that drove
the foraging Macedonians mad
in Alexander’s campaign.
Then petals fell in legion;
soon there were just the endless acts
of blossoming holding the flowery world
Bliss exists outside
of time; it lives in eternal moments
inside and outside of war. It knows
the bloom of dust borne up by the bullet
that misses its mark, and leaps in joy
as the target stumbles beyond the sights.
It is one and is always winning.
It only demands complete surrender.

~~ Allan Johnston

First published in  Poetry East, #60 (Fall, 2007).

Mist in the valley
Memories of another time
Fades into space

Wasp in a room
Bangs at windowpane
Freedom is confined

Rainbow in the sky
A poet’s poet
Utters no words

~ ~ Bhuchung D. Sonam

He could not stop talking about her,
and when he could not be silenced
they arrested him.

Alone in his prison cell, he wrote of her
so they took away his pen and paper
and destroyed his words.

He scratched poems about her
with a matchstick into his soap.
They bound his hands.

He would stand by the window
of his cell at night
and sing to the sky
of his deep longing for her.
So they cut out his tongue.

He lay on his prison cot
and thought of her.
They could not stop his thoughts--
and so they killed him.

Does it matter who she was?
Who he was?
Let’s call her “Truth”.
Does that change anything?

This is not about him.
This is not about her.
It’s about Them
and what they can
and cannot
kill in us.

For every voice that’s silenced,
a thousand more
will take its place.

~ ~ Annie Wyndham
First published in Raving Dove Literary Journal, Spring 2009.
The Machine of War

The machine of war
used to be
a marching machine
like a centipede
coordinated by
hunger and need.
It’s mechanized now
and flies in planes
dropping bombs below
in indiscriminate rain
but still has
an insect’s brain.
  ~ ~ Diana Der- Hovanessian

Copyright © 2002 by Diana Der-Hovanessian. Reprinted from The Burning Glass (Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY: Sheep Meadow Press, 2002), with permission.

27 January, 2010

Sometimes the House Breathes for Me, 
an Iron Lung

Sometimes the house breathes for me, an iron lung.
It happens at the panic point of some new poem,
often late at night or on a summer's evening when
the lines have grown asthmatic and the thought is numb
with fears of what the words might come to mean. It clunks
and grinds, immobilises - keeps my ebbing forms afloat.

Sometimes the house will be my ears, will listen like a bug,
an agent planted long ago in these primeval hills
to eavesdrop sounds of alder, owl and adder, bat and badger, all
their worlds - more passing chatter than would keep surveillance
teams on song for years to come.  It happens when the voices of
a poem drown the still small voice that gave it birth.

Sometimes the house speaks for (or to) me in an unknown tongue.
It tutts and putters like an outboard out at sea
and offers me the waves and rhythms it has found
among the deeper things that rarely come to be.
Easily mistaken for the muse herself,
it happens when I disregard her knowing words.

Sometimes the house imparts a kind of balance, like an inner ear,
tunes itself to keep in phase with thermals and horizons,
synchronizes movements with them in its posts and beams,
or eases its old bones against the cold. It shivers when
a poem's footings slide in shale - or when the lines strike out
to scale the heights, but then succumb to poesy's vertigo.

~ ~ David King
Born again

~ ~ Ed Markowski

Published in Lilliput Review #172 (October-December 2009). With permission of the publisher.
Crow Testament

Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.

The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow's talons.

Damn, says Crow, if I could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.

The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.

Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself.

Among the ashes of Jericho,
Crow sacrifices his firstborn son.

Damn, says Crow, a million nests
are soaked with blood.

When Crows fight Crows
the sky fills with beaks and talons.

Damn, says Crow, it's raining feathers.

Crow flies around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles

but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.

So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.

Damn, says Crow, redemption
is not easy.

Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded pow wow
but none of the Indians panic.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world.

~ ~ Sherman Alexie
I wish I were fifteen again,
when the pain of a broken nail
was all that mattered

~ ~ Nazia Mallick

25 January, 2010


Such a dark and common
moment of purely human
triumph: to forget

a section of your life,
tell yourself in its place
a lie you can live with,

a lie you then come to believe
with all your heart,
one from which you take

your impetus to action,
a lie growing proud as a demon
to set you aflame

with a fading sense of its falsehood
and subsequent absolute conviction –
a lie like that is as good as Scripture,

a Gospel rock on which to build
a fortress, a slaughterhouse,
a beautiful tomb.

In the forest of your life,
you fell a tree and block your ears.
This clearing has always been here,

you tell everyone.  Always a barren spot.
See how the light glares here.
Maybe there was a fire here long ago –

in fact, you are sure of it.  You insist you were there.
Show off your burns. Use the scars
to chart your course out of the woods.

End up somewhere you never expected
as someone you aren’t, feeling
the gray rain on your ashen skin.

~ ~  Tony Brown

14 January, 2010

The Bird

The bird you captured is dead.
I told you it would die
but you did not learn
from my telling. You wanted
to cage a bird in your hands
and learn to fly.

Listen again.
You must not handle birds.
They cannot fly through your fingers.
You are not a nest
and a feather is
not made of blood and bone.

Only words
can fly for you like birds
on the wall of the sun.
A bird is a poem
that talks of the end of cages.

~ ~ Patrick Lane

First published in Beware the Months of Fire (Toronto: Anansi, 1974).

No one spoke to her much, how strange —
Not family or friends and even those who
Sat with us at meals couldn’t say a word to her
Or even look her way. That must be beauty.
But every time she went to town and was alone —
A pretty scarf, an intriguing handbag, forever
And ever elderly women in parking lots and
Aisles of stores sought her out. This daughter
Whose own mother wouldn’t speak to her
Had women without daughters
Eating seed from her hand.

~ ~ Bob Arnold

First published in Invent a World ( Mountains and Rivers Press, 2005).

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation ...

right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogued and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop
paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

~ ~ Sherman Alexie

This space in my heart
intentionally left blank. 

~ ~ Katerina Stoykova-Klemer


07 January, 2010

not there, not yet

the gull still
becoming the cloud that chases the boy,
or the boy puts himself into the water
like moose or dark elk tasting lichen.
no, not yet: if you never arrive,
you never have to choose between trails,
one going up past the waterfall's steam,
another idling in the heat, stirred
by the strokes of gnats' wings–
the story doesn't have to end; the telling
braids words into watercress, the cry of the rabbit,
caught in the lynx' jaws, rings out
over the reeds, echoes never receding.

~ ~ Arthur Durkee

                   for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end

daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

Liu Xiaobo

Translated by Jeffrey Yang.  Originally published in PEN America 11: Make Believe (2009).  Reprinted with permission of PEN American Center.

04 January, 2010

Rules and Visions

Life counts
the rules;
the sunset, their exceptions.
Rain drinks up
the centuries;
spring, our dreams.
The eagle sees
the sunrays
and youth, the visions.

--  Dimitris P. Kraniotis
line of footfalls lost
under fresh fallen snow,
no one left to see

~ ~ Arthur Durkee
Canada Geese

Their tribalism is what you first admire.
Flying in formation
they drop from grace
to colonize your world

laying claim to marshes,
a local ballfield, your berry patch,
putting green, when you are inches
from an eagle.

Their sentries, attentive
to your attention, stare
down your stare and you find yourself
ceding holdings one by one

but hold no grudges.  They
are as clever as Martians,
you believe, and the corner
of your lot was too wet to plant,

your aim too flawed for eagles.
Besides, several have stooped
to peck at greens, exchanging views
on your unwingedness.

In the estuaries of your past
you imagine bribes in some backwater
offered to centurions. Mere nibbles.
You start with twists

of bread, then to more exotic
shavings of Stilton, croissant ends,
and nod, knowing you will never be admitted
to their circle.

~ ~ George Ellenbogen

Published in Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 114  (Spring, 2007).  Republished in Morning Gothic (Vehicule Press, 2007). 
the firefly's signature
on the night sky

my pride

the sudden amnesia
became an excuse
to live on

~ ~ Jörgen Johansson