Chromium 24/7 by D.E. Kern

Chromium 24/7

They tore down a part of my hometown last week,
imploded it to be precise, dissolved it from the inside
as with cancer. A crowd came to admire the reek

of the ordnance and the trail of the plume adrift
in the spring sky like the tail of a Northern Shrike.
Then they queued their cars and left another to sift

through the remnants—the ash from all those lives,
which so clearly did not deserve an urn. More than
two thousand miles away, I chose between knives

to cut through the clotted line between my flagging
mealworm and the Colorado River, sacrificing one
life in the lost pursuit of another and then sighing

at the burden of it all. I could not watch the real-time
feed of the so-called action. Rather, I placed a wet
kiss on the memory of a blue flame, its dance sublime

enough to make a teenage boy swoon, helpless
in light of the sight available through the latticework
provided by a pew’s worth of stunted sweet birches.

Years have taught me beauty is the beginning of a lie,
in this case the reassurance that a city’s worth of men
were vital cogs in the innards of the machine. My

friends’ fathers could buy groceries, gasoline and beer
as long as the boxcar loads of I-beams, battleships and
bridge trusses rattled off in the dark of night. All fears

guns put us high on the Russians’ list were unfounded;
besides the pesky Japanese were coming for us all again.
If your daily dose of heavy metal was not what you wanted,

there was always another to take your place on the line.
Show loyalty to God and country by buying American.
Dot each yard with a “USW-Stop Illegal Imports” sign.

No matter what the papers said, the good times rolled
at Steel. Those laid off were dead weight or likely to be
called back anyway. Not a single one of them sold

their house quietly and pulled kids from Catholic high.
And it must by a failed memory of my father’s tattered
tie and skinned knuckles, the night I watched him cry

on our front porch because there was nothing else to do
but step into it when a frustrated larryman opted to take
everything out on his wife. “The good book gives you

no guidance when it comes to things like this,” he told
my mother, then made for the laundry on creaking knees,
followed by her reminder getting out blood required cold

water. There was plenty of that to go around in a mill
town, but drinking it was another matter altogether. So
they tossed it on a slag pile of summer-home dreams until

the steam was as thick as the mid-April fog bedded down
between the bunkers on the 13th hole of the Old Course.
If you didn’t choke on the irony, you could double down

for a shot of the double standard, that dose of bitterness
served by the National Sokols or Wanderers—drowning
out the sound of your pension slipping off into the abyss.

The distance between us and them was framed in twenty-one
stories stacked in the shape of a cross to satisfy a Jesus
complex that kept my Little League field from seeing the sun.

That is why I did not watch, like some iron pig satisfied
in a pool full of my own shit not to mention the run-off
foisted on me and mine by nearly every suit who lied

about the next big contract or plan to streamline. I refuse
to cry over the Carrara tile or mahogany panels, though
I am sure they were salvaged for some other thieves’ use,

and I hesitate to spend too much energy waxing nostalgic
over a warehouse full of promises that never seemed to stick.

by D.E. Kern

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/DE-Kern/689300447747815

Editor’s Note: This loose terza rima poem documents the difficulty of transition from industrial steel town to … something else. For the people in these situations, that ‘something else’ is usually deeply painful. (Since this editor has lived in both Pittsburgh and Allentown, the emotional backdrop of this poem resonates with particular clarity.)

In a Hurry by Martin Willitts Jr.

In a Hurry

The lilies of the valley wanted me to notice them,
but I was in a hurry,
and I cannot recall what was so important
or why I was running frantically so late
my tires felt like grinding in quicksand,
seeing the same landscape for two hours.
But I was in a hurry,

and I did not notice the flowers blessing me,
until I was miles down the road,
hours from nowhere important,
only conscious of time, how it goes
forward like a treadmill. What do I know?
Was I certain the flowers waved?
I was stranded in time. Being in a big hurry
did not make my destination any closer,
and it felt too far to turn around
to see if what I thought I saw was true.

Maybe what I saw was a gathering of egrets,
nodding their heads about the rationale of God
giving them flight, and not to me. But I was late.
I can’t remember what time I needed to arrive,
And I don’t even remember now where I was going,
but I felt I’d never make it in time, my wheels spinning
like a roulette wheel. What were the chances of lilies?
Or egrets? Am I wrong about urgency,
or the time-space continuum, or why God made apples,
or why you can escape quicksand by laying back
but it feels contrary to logic? I forgot why I was rushing.
I have the nagging feeling I missed something.
I think I left whatever it was far behind my dust,
miles ago, eons ago, and there’s no going back.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martin.j.willitts

Editor’s Note: Repetition is used to great effect in this poem—heightening the sense of unease and worry felt by the speaker as he rushes past the things he knows he ought not to.

Arrival by Janice D. Soderling

Arrival

Destruction was our goal
and now we stand, bronze-greaved
and bewildered, at the threshold of the city
we marched so far to subdue.
Our trek was long and arduous
and not without sacrifice.

Here we stand now, spears at the ready,
at the gate they claimed was gold.
But it is hollow wood, and flimsy.
The breath of time alone would bring it down.

For this we left our homes,
lost our young years. For this?
For fresh grief and an old man’s mumblings.
For the plague-stricken streets of an empty city.

by Janice D. Soderling

Editor’s Note: The ambiguity of this poem is both frustrating and intriguing—one wants to know what city, what time this happened, but after further reflection, the narrative can be applied to so many moments in history that the true scope of human nature finally becomes apparent.

Stutter by Lorette C. Luzajic

Stutter

He had a way with words, dropping them and picking them up over and over in stops and starts. You found something there, in the way he would dust them off and start again, in the staccato of syllables, the awkward alliteration, in the consonance of his vivisected vocabulary. He would raise a finger and lower his voice when he needed to summon courage to carry on, then all the words would flow into a warm river of euphony. You wanted him to read to you. You wanted him to tell you your name. How those sharper edges, the first locutions, would give way to a gorgeous tumble of idioms and appellations. You imagined his tongue would taste tart and nervous and fertile, like apples. You wanted him to kiss you, to take the words right out of your mouth.

by Lorette C. Luzajic, from Winter in June

Editor’s Note: This prose poem uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration with great skill, emphasizing both the subject matter of the narrative and the beautiful emotion of language.

Nothing but flowers by Julia Klatt Singer

Nothing but flowers

I have never been so cold
nor has Chicago.
For weeks the wind has blown off the lake
turning the sub-zero temperatures
into two-digit numbers
too high to count on my stone cold fingers.
Cold that thickens as the night swallows
the short sunlit days.
The buses have stopped running
so I walk the two miles home after teaching
my English class to a handful
of immigrants who don’t even know
the words for this kind of cold.
I teach them scarf, mittens, hat.
I give them my extras. We cross our arms
in front of our chests and say brrrrr.
I go see David Byrne’s Stop Making Sense
in a movie theater as cold as the world is
outside. I stand in the dark theater
dancing, my feet feel miles away, or maybe
that is what they are wishing to be, somewhere
else, like your single bed, our bodies’ heat, as little
of it as we have, trying to save each other.
I am not your beautiful wife, this is not your
beautiful house, but still
we dream of nothing but flowers.

by Julia Klatt Singer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.k.singer/

Editor’s Note: The careful enjambment of this poem focuses the attention on key words, making the emotional rush of the latter part of the poem all the more intense.

From the archives — Offline by Charles Carr

Offline

The sound of morning
steps down a mountain,
not really a noise,
more the eyes explain
the sun walks
on water
to the other senses.
If it is Saturday
I sit in a chair that rocks
and overlooks the role
of the river,
how it holds a heron
in place by the ankles
until its long neck
forms the bones
at the end of hush
to let loose
such a wingspan
no amount of highway
is necessary
to know which direction
the day is going

by Charles Carr

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 26, 2018

At the Zoo by Greg Watson

At the Zoo

The zoo was a much less joyful place
when I was a boy. The animals seemed sad
and weary behind their metal bars,
and we in turn were sad for them:
the great lumbering polar bear pacing
back and forth on its white slab of cement,
Sparky the seal swimming the same
tired circle endlessly, doing the same tricks
for the same slimy fish thrown daily,
by the same human demanding applause.
The gorillas and baboons looked you
in the eye, held you there, unnervingly, as if
you had an answer for all of this,
imploring you to recall the common tree
from which you emerged so long ago.
These days, with my daughter, the walk
is longer, the animals sometimes
harder to spot among their tangled
foliage, vast stretches of plain and rockface.
We walk for miles in the heat of summer,
not always seeing what we wish to see,
but if we are patient, the great cats
may stir from their slumber, flick their tails,
let out a mighty, rumbling roar which
my little girl has practiced and mastered
as well, both of them letting us know
who is really in charge here.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This conversational poem draws the reader into what seems like an ordinary life, until the final four lines remind us that parenting a child is anything but.

Seaside Pentina for a Chinese Painter by Marly Youmans

Seaside Pentina for a Chinese Painter

Originality should not disregard the “li”
(the principle or essence) of things.
—The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

The fish-scale glitter of the sea, the cloud
That hung its careless grace above the dock,
The solo fisherman who hauled a fish
To air: these were the things that pleased her eye,
The seaborne images she wished to mark.

Not for the picture’s sake she wished to mark
The dock’s salt-silvered boards or floating cloud,
Not as a souvenir of things her eye
Perceived, nor as a fleet of things to dock
And moor on paper, nor as captured fish.

She wished to snag another sort of fish
Entirely, and to hit a deeper mark
Than what the shimmering and brine-soaked dock
Proposed to others there, or what the cloud
Above seemed saying to a staring eye.

Nor did the watching painter wish to eye
The scene in search of novelty, or fish
For some surprising shock of sense to cloud
Quicksilver minds; instead, to freely mark
The world of things and tug her thoughts to dock

By finding out some essence of the dock,
By understanding aim of hand and eye,
By striving without strife to hit the mark
And catch the fluent spirit of a fish
Or mystery inhabiting a cloud.

So li that lives in cloud or dock or fish
May find a willing eye and hands to mark.

by Marly Youmans

Twitter: @marlyyoumans
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marly.youmans/

Editor’s Note: This delightful pentina uses lush imagery to draw the reader into a landscape that feels as ephemeral as a painting, but with a structure that perfectly encapsulates the concept of “li”.

Your Daughter Tells You by Shoshauna Shy

Your Daughter Tells You
She Has 3 Boyfriends
And #3 Is a Married Man

while you’re seated on her deck
outside the kitchen holding
breakfast bowls.
Pacific Northwest sun shines,
toes bare for the first time in six
months, and she says she’d see
this other boyfriend except
he is spending today with his
other girlfriend so you ask why

did he get married if he wants
to spend his days with
other girlfriends?
Your daughter winces for aren’t you
Midwest-vanilla-beige in wedlock
with her dad for three decades!
Well, someday, like J, she explains,
she and her primary K might marry too.
Show that they love each other best
(and for the tax breaks and hospital
rights). You ask but how can she open
her heart to J when she knows he won’t
always be there for her?

Your daughter says since she has K,
she doesn’t want always with J.
She is pulling a brush in long strokes
through her glossy hair, slim arms
still tan from last summer’s beaches.
And if K is with HIS other girlfriend,
I still have L.

L?
L. The man she had you come meet
at the café the night before, the man
whose speech was peppered with “we’s”
because he lives with the mother of his son.
You see how well this all works, Mom?

What you see is how crowded this deck
has become with denim knees, buckled
boots, lowered hat brims, hands cupping
hips, arms braced by shoulders – calendars
so clotted with names that they’re sliding
off walls from the weight of the ink.

She says cheating isn’t part of their lexicon.
Nor is belonging or mine.
Your daughter is pulling loose hair from
the bristles of her brush in a feathery motion,
opening her palm to the sky so the breeze
can catch, catch and carry each strand away.

by Shoshauna Shy

Editor’s Note: This poem reiterates the old saying, ‘love is love’, and this is especially true when that love is for a grown child living a surprising life. The close is poignant, ending the poem with another aphorism: ‘If you love somebody, set them free.’

Van Gogh Leaves Paris By Train for Arles by Bob Bradshaw

Van Gogh Leaves Paris By Train for Arles

Theo, gazing out at the passing landscapes
I thought of you.

Here in the south, snow
on the distant mountains

reminds me of Japanese prints,
the clear air defining

everything in bold shapes,
like those in woodcuts.

In this brighter light
fewer strokes will be needed.

The land is rather flat,
and near dusk a red sun

settles into the snowy horizon,
melts, and the long night begins.

There aren’t the refuges
we had in Paris, and Arles

is expensive. I don’t know
where I can find affordable

canvases and paints. However,
the morning light makes up

for everything. There is a dusting
of snow on the ground, and yet

flowering orchards thrive
in the fresh light.

There are grey olive trees, orange banks,
washerwomen in white bonnets,

a green river flecked with gold,
and red vineyards.

The place has the optimism
that school girls dressed up

for a spring play have—
the peach and plum trees as lit up

as bridesmaids, pink
and white blossoms

in their hair. Theo, I hope
you can make your way often

to Arles. Spread the word.
In time we can form a colony

of artists in the south,
where there are fewer distractions,

but with russet footbridges,
cobalt skies, a citron sun…

I’m not young, but I’m not
finished yet. I can do new things,

work you can be proud of.
Look, in Arles even a bent old

apple tree holds sprays
of flowers.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: The vivid imagery in this epistolary poem effortlessly supports the underlying allegory. Lovers of Van Gogh’s artwork will find this a delightful read.