You are a mirror
Marbled refractions waver the underside
Trees are flashed with green sun
You are a log
Yawning suddenly beneath the surface then are gone
In the trench deeper than dreams
You hum a line into the shadow’s morning water
Patiently wait for us
Beneath the taciturn bridge’s occasional whispers
Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and Poetry Salzburg. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and was a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate.
After the Memorial
From files of past lives, the smell
of mouse-urined letters, I hear again
the lassos of ornery laughs looping
the living room circle, the dusty rug,
the dusty antlered head pegged
into the wall. An attendance
of old vanities, thrashings of old ales
and laws. I feel again the tension
in the stones of the dry irrigation ditch,
the crunch of alabaster gravel, recall
how I swallowed the knots, hiked
the switches along a delicate divide
between cliff ridge and gravity.
Let’s climb back on the Metro bus
in front of your house
on Bloomington Avenue South,
buy me another
white paper sack of lemon drops
from Dayton’s candy counter,
come back for pepperkakor
in your kitchen, and show me now,
since I didn’t ask you then,
how you roll the ginger dough
spread butter on lefse
with your white hands,
bake your raisin cake, yulekake,
And while uncles watch a Twins game
on Saturday afternoon,
their cigar smoke rings wavering
across your twilit living room,
teach me again at your baby grand
about the tonic and dominant,
MacDowell’s “To a Wild Rose”,
Let’s plant more peonies
behind your kitchen door
near Oscar’s garden,
the pink ones perfuming the air.
And feed me another spoonful of honey
along the white staircase
where rain-watered violets
reflect your face.
Karen Jones is a teacher, poet, and life-long learner from Corvallis, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in a number of publications, most recently in Windfall, Cirque, and The Poeming Pigeon’s “Pop Culture”. Her chapbook, Seasons of Earth and Sky (Finishing Line Press), was published in 2020.
For the Pulp Fiction Writer of the Forties
Who Published under Pseudonyms
–in memory of Don James
The stars could have told me when you died
but so many flashed half-facts and lies.
None of your friends said a word of truth
and to them it seemed forgivable.
So many flashes of half-facts and lies:
the newspapers did what they always do
and to some it seemed forgivable.
Had I known, I would have cried that night.
The newspapers did what they always do–
they forgot your novels and your stories.
Had I known, I could have cried that night–
losing you meant more to me than stargazing.
Everyone forgot about your novels and your stories
and later told silly anecdotes about your mistress.
Losing you meant more to me than stargazing
but the cold stars moved on and away.
Later your friends told silly anecdotes
without a word of truth.
The cold stars moved on and away–
they should have told me when you died.
announces itself like a tsunami
slamming rice paper and wood riven
from angry sea scapes
before the outgoing tide
or the green-sky musky tornado
rains flay the most elegant oak
and then comes day after day
that low drip of vitality
that robs the sunny day of gleam
to turn it harsh and naked,
erodes a familiar path
you thought you walked.
Once or twice you forget
the leaks until some stretch
after–then you remember what
you had that brought you joy.
Tricia Knoll moved to Vermont from Oregon three years ago. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her recent chapbook Checkered Mates is now available from Kelsay Books. Website: triciaknoll.com
Dylan, you were young. Who dares refute
the sacred words of poets who die young?
Your passion flaming into script,
you forged mores of death for august men.
I am not young, and not a man; absolve me,
fierce one. For I
have seen my mother close her eyes in peace
as her pain ebbed and I have seen my father
slump gratefully against his chair in ultimate fatigue.
There was no rage. There will be no rage. I will go gentle
into that good night. Behind my eyelids there will be
a velvet dusk to sheathe the rumples of my soul.
The wash of Lethe will cool the fevered angst
of my finality. In that dark, if there glints
a reliquary of regrets, within, the tiny heads of flagellum
will be clean of punished flesh and blood,
will tumble light like little stones enumerating
lessons learned – the thwart of kind words never spoken,
untruths told and negligent betrayals, granted
clemency in that good night. Upon my forehead
may there press a kiss, profound embrace
of all my loves. May it be I feel a hand in mine,
in that one hand the hundred hands
of those I’ve loved, the gentle loosening as I go.
You were young, Dylan, and not a woman.
Fierce one, absolve me.
This calving: no bleat or blood upon the straw,
no slick newborn struggling to wobbly stance.
This is ice, spawning with abandon, its sundering cleavages
brilliant under the sun,
its thunderous drop, the plunge,
the bucking and rearing in aquamarine slurry,
now groaning in the violence of watery labour,
now whispering spindrifts, now susurrating shhh.
This park bench, waist deep: iron curlicues splash-spangled,
patient as a birthing chair, lap lapped gentle,
its wet beckons: come, shuck your shoes, you nymph in molt,
peel off your socks, skin-shedding serpent of the sea.
Succumb to lavish flow.
Beneath the ripples, cross your ankles,
twine your calves as one, a mermaid curve,
your follicles her scales. Thirty million years
it was from fins to arms and legs
to pedicures and manicures in Pink Tutu or French.
Now glide you deep with torque of tail,
your hair like trailing weed;
From lungs to lips to wavelet,
stream your changeling lullabye
to those you leave behind, whose tears will dry
and on their faces leave a rime of salt.
Callista Markotich has been a teacher, principal and Superintendent of Education in Eastern Ontario. Retired, she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where Lake Ontario tips into the Saint Lawrence River. Her poetry appears in Arc (Award , June, 2021), Grain, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, Room (Award, 2019), and in several ezines and anthologies.
Fantasies of Shepherd Life
I dream of sheep and the Outer Hebrides,
fields furrowed with linen lines and feral life:
pubs and people, a zig-zag across.
On coastal dunes, marram grasses grow
wild and tall as they’d ever want in this country
of scotch moss and croft, resting place
of the hour hand.
Here, the soils are sand and the sails billow by bluffs.
The only way to the waterfront is over God-gracing
rocks, Lewisian gneiss, its sediments of quartz
and feldspar scattered along the shoreline, glittering
up to the reed buntings and bluetits.
Daniel McGee is a triplet, poet, and film enthusiast from the Chicagoland area. He is currently an MA student at the University of Illinois–Chicago. He has been published in literary journals such as Wales Haiku Journal and CP Quarterly, and he has work forthcoming in the Minnow Literary Magazine.