Formal Poetry

with Vera Ignatowitsch

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Night Visit

At two or three a.m. the aid car screams

through Golden Acres, where everyone’s in bed

by nine.  The wailing echoes in their dreams.

It’s loud enough, they joke, to wake the dead.

One man back in bed after pissing, again,

lies and listens while it threads the maze

of streets.  He does a rollcall of the men

he golfs with Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays:

One’s X-rays show sclerotic arteries,

one’s watch reminds him when to take his pills,

one’s breathing has become a gurgling wheeze,

one’s ruddy vigor masks pernicious ills —

and he himself: his LDL is high,

though not enough for statins, they say, not quite.

The siren in the distance passes by

and leaves his street in silence for tonight.

Richard Wakefield’s publications include East of Early Winters (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and A Vertical Mile (short-listed for the Poets’ Prize). His new collection, Terminal Park, is due for publication this year.

Love in the Garden of Birth and Death

Shall I touch your beauty among these dry heaps

Of curling leaf, where the long pupa sleeps

Until its case is shed, wide wings begin

To quiver, ringed antennae stretch, then spin

Tentatively in the cool, feathery breeze,

And a bright swallowtail shakes under the trees?

 

Let us fear the green mantis, stealthy and strong,

And let us take our flight before the tongue

Of a lithe skink emerges from death’s cave

And snatches us into an ancient grave,

Where lizard enzymes turn wings into pulp,

And flight to fat in a slow, tailward gulp.

Bob Zisk is retired and lives with his wife in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His education was in classical and medieval languages and linguistics and philosophy. His poems have been published in Lucid Rhythms, Vates, The Hypertexts, and others.

Resurrection

The clouds are cinereous, full of gaping mouths

that chew the billows. Death blossoms alone.

The face collapses on itself and eyes

fade to a cinereous gray in empty darkness.

 

Wind sweeps across the mountain pines

that billow under cloudy green.

Along the crest their endless lines

shadow the slate of a valley stream.

 

The body hardens. Those who look on it

see memories shadowing stony lips.

Decisions voiced to ruthless love or hate

haunt them with words of lacerating pain.

 

The river never sees its home.

It cascades as the flower blooms.

Decisions harden into stone

the torrent leisurely consumes.

 

The mountain stream reflects no cinereous sky,

no gaping mouths gnaw at twilight fallen

among the pines to burnish cloudy green,

their shadows lost in endless night-filled waters.

 

The body falls to earth, and eyes

once blind now see the stars again

ascending distant, placid skies

bright with the silence of lucid pain.

Steven Willett is a retired Classics professor specializing in ancient Greek and English versification. Much of his work has been in poetic translation in many languages.

Home Movie

Someone came up to him with a cassette

of his own sermon on the mountainside.

“Do as I say, mankind will be all set,”

he answered, took his cross again, and died.

 

Wearing the tape out on his VCR,

someone wrote a whole script just from that scene:

“What trick is there in loving those who are

deserving? Love the bullies, the obscene!”

 

No one asked the deserving how they felt

being passed over time and time again

while troglodytes showed up in trophy pelts,

loved for their bloody march against the grain.

 

Like clockwork, the deserving were put down,

and people who depended on them starved.

“It’s not my fault,” exclaimed the virtuous ones

till once again the sun, a little heart

 

of Valentine-style love, came up above

the eastern side, suggesting a new start,

and the deserving swore they’d only love

those more immaculate than classic art:

 

no room for faults, not even in good fun.

There could be no forgiveness for the least

trespass: cross that fine line, and you are done,

rejected, hanged, fed piecemeal to a beast.

 

So the deserving, rightly criticized

for lacking human traits, were made to fall

in the same pothole as the Antichrist

while the obscene ate cake and had a ball.

 

Somewhere amidst the rubble, on the floor

of someone’s medieval cutting room,

more tapes piled up, never picked up before,

of Christ detailing how, when and to whom

 

love should be given, counter to their sins,

and all the nuances of what that means.

No one has bothered to review those since:

the world survives through necessary means.

 

And though it creeps ever so slowly now,

we know it wasn’t quicker in the past.

So we get over it, pick up our plough,

and cultivate our gardens in disgust.

 

First published in The Raintown Review.

Anton Yakovlev’s latest chapbook Chronos Dines Alone (SurVision Books, 2018) won the James Tate Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Criterion, The Hopkins Review, Measure, and elsewhere.

Vacancies

Six hundred signs on windowpanes, For Lease,

and autumn sun below St. Albert’s cross.

This boulevard at dusk, a haunted peace.

 

All those with wings have hidden, fled—gulls, geese

and ravens, fat from stale pork buns, soy sauce.

Six hundred signs on windowpanes, For Lease.

 

Graffitied buses, idling, release

thin plumes of listless passengers, exhaust.

This boulevard at dusk, a haunted peace.

 

Terse downstairs neighbors hoard apologies

with canned pineapple, bourbon, flashlights, gauze.

Six hundred signs on windowpanes, For Lease.

 

These, too, have flown away—our ecstasies,

silk kites. What lingers? Curfews, trespass laws,

this boulevard at dusk, a haunted peace.

 

Light fades. We fade. No tunes, no melodies,

a limbo in a hush within a pause.

Six hundred signs on windowpanes, For Lease,

this boulevard at dusk, a haunted peace.

 

Previously published in Tilt-a-Whirl and The Typists Play Monopoly.

Kathleen McClung’s books include Temporary Kin and four others. Winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize, she edits poetry for The MacGuffin and judges sonnets for the Soul-Making Keats contest. She lives, teaches, and writes in San Francisco.

Canyon Temples

In the red wall has stood for eons

A Petra carved along their way

By those nomadic Nabataeans

Water and Wind, who never stay.

Donald Mace Williams is a retired newspaper writer and editor. His poems and translations have run in many magazines, including Better Than Starbucks. He lives in the Texas Panhandle.

Kodiak

Sits, with blackberries all around,

          and samples first

This cluster, that, but makes no sound,

          does not exert

 

Itself, and is in paradise,

          or close as one

Can come, who mainly knows but ice

          and cold, the sun

 

Gone dim, months underground — and now,

          to have all this,

With light and warmth returned somehow,

          is surely bliss.

Jared Carter’s seventh book of poems, The Land Itself, with an introduction by B. J. Omanson, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. Carter lives in Indiana.

To the Flame

Unmourned,
his death
too small
a breath
to call
to us,
the moth has burned.

His greed
for light
we deem
as slight,
no theme
for us
his dreadful need.

But stark
the plot:
He was.
He’s not.
Because
like us
he feared the dark.

Max Gutmann has contributed to dozens of publications including New Statesman, Able Muse, and Cricket. His plays have appeared throughout the US and have been well reviewed (see maxgutmann.com). His book There Was a Young Girl from Verona sold several copies.

Deserted Cemetery

The yews point toward the sky,

but there are none to see,

none now who can say why

the yews point toward the sky,

promising those who die

All that is still to be.

The yews point toward the sky,

but there are none to see.

 

The melancholy lanes

between the graves are still.

No living thing complains.

The melancholy lanes

and stone are what remains

as time now wreaks its will.

The melancholy lanes

and stones, all, all are still.

 

The yews point toward the sky,

but none now can say why.

 

The lanes, the stones, are still.

And time now wreaks its will.

Bruce Bennett is Emeritus Professor of English at Wells College in Aurora, New York. His poetry website is https://justanotherdayinjustourtown.com.

Memo from the Cat

The truth is simple, no need to ignore it:

I’m good at killing and you prize me for it.

I keep your living quarters free of mice

By methods some call skill and some call vice.

 

You had me neutered young — I’m calmer for it —

And once that mojo’s gone one can’t restore it,

But even in my less rambunctious age

I feel some lost red undertones of rage

 

When you complain about your soiled floor.  It

Seems beneath you to upbraid me for it.

The work I do, it sometimes leaves a trace,

Entrails or vomit in some awkward place.

 

Just deal with it.  Don’t scold Bad kitty! for it.

You’ve got that odor-killing liquid.  Pour it,

Mop up as best you can, move on with life.

I’m sleeping now, so spare me all your strife.

Chris O’Carroll, Light magazine featured poet and author of The Joke’s on Me, has poems in Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle and The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology.

Death of a Fly

A fly in some cretaceous ointment, lost

in that K-T event that made extinct

the dinosaurs that could not fly, as host

and parasite both died when Nature blinked,

fell on sticky traps, like T-Rex dung

that beetles rolled, or blood that insects sucked,

bit and jabbed — the long-legged fleas that hung

upon a pterodactyl's wings, and mucked

about in mud, in amber reappeared.

But was it asteroids that killed the brutes

or pathogens? And should new plans be feared

to milk the ancient resins, frozen time’s recruits,

for arboviruses that stilled the breath

of dinosaurs we raise again from death?

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor who taught courses on global religions, death & dying, and literature. He has done art / poetry collaborations with Catbird (on the Yadkin) Press.

Pro-creation

We lie to our children without really trying;

Worship mawkish innocence, censor dying,

Through pure instinct. It’s beyond right or wrong.

 

The lying’s the point — it’s why they’re here:

To conjure the dream-pastoral that disappears

Once we’ve seen things clearly a bit too long.

 

The readymade excuse, that it is they

Who need this, flops. Consider how they play

When we recede. A more carcass-strewn den

 

Can hardly be imagined. No, it’s we the mature

Who need these lies, need the doltish, pure

Barnyard bleatings of animal friends

 

Who never fuck or kill, whose tender foals

Are never weaned, and never get old.

Axell Cushman is a writer living in the Washington, D.C. area.

Lighthearted Verse

Airbnb

Volcano House, the premier b&b

on Kilauea’s crater, lacks a/c,

as do all the other b&bs

in the immediate vicinity.

“Our rooms are cooled by a steady breeze—

air conditioning’s unnecessary.

Plus wifi and hot breakfast are both free.

Great deal—four stars for the price of three!”

 

That steady cooling breeze, unfortunately,

blows from the volcano, not the sea.

The air is sulfur laden and quite hazy—

some days there’s zero visibility—

and now and then it suffocates somebody.

But, oh, what luck, to die high in Hawaii.

Richard Cecil has published four collections of poems and won a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Indiana University.