Mud by Emily Laubham

Mud

There is an enemy inside who willingly starves.
Delicate energy.
For that enemy, it’s always too much.
But it’s enough to keep your teeth clamped, lips curled.
Enough to make your heart beat blood.
Enough to make your feet shuffle, mind pulse.
Food.
Not enough.
Food.
Not nearly enough to survive.

You are a girl.
Isn’t beauty your birthright?
Isn’t hunger your friend?

Pour red wine into measuring cups.
Calculate the price you’ll pay for one more quarter.
Barter with your conscience and promise to be less.
The wine makes your head spin like children
Who haven’t yet learned that beauty is anything more than mud,
Scraped knees or low-limbed trees.
You sway.
One more quarter cup.
Head between knees. One more. One more.
You drift and jolt, spilling red on the carpet.
I’m wasting, you think, rubbing it in with your heel,
I’m wasting away.

A life of comparison.
Tear every girl apart.
Gashes, severed limbs, and surgery.
Maybe then.
Maybe when the stitches heal there’d be one.
An acceptable collection of bones.
What other purpose do you have?
Than to draw all eyes and appease an appetite?

A lifetime of counting.
The rib bones and decimals and sidelong glances.
The times you’ve had your shoulder squeezed – looks aren’t everything.
But they are more than kind eyes, strong arms, or steady heads and hearts.
You are dwindling.
On the edge of existing.
Telling yourself, to be less is to win.
A looking glass replica telling you,
You can do this forever.

But I’m telling you now, let go.
Beauty is already yours.
It’s beneath your nails like mud.

by Emily Laubham

Emily on Facebook
Twitter: @Laubham

Editor’s Note: The rambling, conversational imagery of this poem draws the reader into the narrator’s inner landscape. The struggle against beauty norms is ongoing and difficult.

Late November by Richard Meyer

Late November

Not a cloud or wisp of cloud
ruffles the wide unwrinkled sky
stretched tight as a blue scrim.

Trees stand bare and mute,
each leaf played out, a fallen note
in this quiet concert hall.

Intermission.

Somewhere in a large white room
another orchestra tunes up.

by Richard Meyer, first published in Orbital Paths.

Editor’s Note: The clean, spare lines of this poem reflect the pause between the seasons with great silence.

Transfer of Power by Rick Mullin

Transfer of Power

It’s only natural, our hearts attuned
to reconciliation, that a great divide
would bleed into its center as the wound
reverts to scar on the resilient hide.
There are the massacre and Pentecost.
The fumes of war, the bright tongue of the dove.
Given ample rope, we’d hang ourselves,
but our imagination casts above
the rafters and the heavy attic shelves
on which our bound philosophies are tossed.
There comes a desperate encounter, fraught
with animal ferocity, a hand
extended where a battle has been fought
to one who rises from the bloody sand
already overwhelmed. Already lost.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This poem’s strong meter begs for an audio recording of its lines, but alas, we must imagine a strong voice as the hard, sharp rhymes resound within our mental landscape.

Vintage verse – On the Beach at Night Alone by Walt Whitman

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On the Beach at Night Alone

On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.

A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Speed of Sound by Ciaran Parkes

The Speed of Sound

Slower than the speed of light, slower than
a speeding bullet, its effect is seen
when a child falls and there’s a gap between
his falling and his cry as if the world
had been paused then started up again.
Sometimes slower still, the cry creeps on
silently, to catch him years from then.

by Ciaran Parkes, first published in Chiral Mad 3.

Editor’s Note: End rhyme lends this poem a subtle sense of structure, and supports the emotional punch of the closing line.

Random John Fox by Wren Tuatha

Random John Fox

It’s a sterile garden and he
lies like a fishpond, still
water, and the virus swims.
Doctors are cats looking in,
pondering the pounce,
pondering the reflection.

We phone in morning
glories to the critical floor.
Each bloom believes its
story in some symmetrical,
hothouse way.

Will they find this poem,
years from now, when the cure
is common as clover,
and try to understand the stun
of randomness?

Random John Fox, who survived
a drunk driver going the wrong
way on 83, and got a shiny
new car in the deal,

who built Pride II when random
seas took The Pride of Baltimore out
of diplomacy’s service.

Diplomat John tendered a
treaty between his
child and the breakfast cupboard,
morning and morning again.

Gentle pool, John Fox would sail
around the table or the globe—
if the morning would just
wake him and say—
Today is the day.

by Wren Tuatha

Editor’s Note: Allegory is used to great effect in this poem as the narrator describes the randomness that lies at the heart of all our lives (and deaths).