Alternative LaLaLand by Cally Conan-Davies

Alternative LaLaLand

An Award and a spangly dress, an elegant hairdo and a bow tie
is all well and good unless shit is flying from every fan and hitting every eye.
A false eyelash won’t afford cover nor will a sideways look or dropping your glove.
A red carpet is only an edit away from a river of blood.

The fourth wall crashes down, we’re all Humptys now, on show
with all our colours clashing from clown-wig orange to Indiegogo.
Huxley predicted we’d eventually trade our souls for soft porn;
Orwell feared too many of us would leave well enough alone

until truth became the official word for hate; the news, staged. Easily done
is hard to undo. So do it extremely well. Do it by starlight and the sun
will show the old gods in their tottering style are not gone but gone ahead
and their hearts were never hollow. They meant every word they said.

by Cally Conan-Davies

Editor’s Note: Careful form allows the function of this poem (enlightenment) to slide into the reader’s mind more smoothly than most startling truths ever do.

On Johnson’s Creek: A Sestina by Mindy Watson

On Johnson’s Creek: A Sestina

Mid 80’s, late Wisconsin summer day.
You’re male; just one of many crayfish lured
Innately to this shallow, turbid creek.
July’s sweet warmth assures you that you’ll not
Find only sanctuary, but a mate.
And at a human hand-span’s length from tail

To telsun, you’re a splendid prospect: tail
Aloft and eyestalks staunch, you greet the day.
With fierce claws brandished, you await your mate
In burrow’s dark. And nothing could have lured
You from your would-be breeding quarters –not
Until a stealthy stick from o’er the creek

Despoils your warren’s sanctity. The creek,
Its tacit bounty, spurs your nerve. Your tail
Aflutter, claws outstretched, you’re not
Alarmed –you clamp the twig and seize the day.
But then the surreptitious branch that lured
You wrests you from the stream, reveals its mate

Above—a boy who thwarts your quest for mate.
His form obstructs the sun and dwarfs the creek
Below the wooden pier. It seems he’s lured
You here for idle sport; he grips your tail
And flings you hard against the planks. While day
Retreats, light’s sudden ebb arises not

From cosmic cause. The sneering boy (who’s not
Alone –a girl shrinks near her preening mate)
Uplifts his foot and renders blissful day
Brutality. Impassively, the creek
Laps on. Your once resplendent olive tail
Is tattered, shattered by the boy who lured

You, crushed your stately carapace. Though lured
From neural ruination’s throes, you’re not
Yet blind; you see his female friend turn tail.
And I, the girl that boy deems doting mate,
For whom you’re executed by the creek –
I know what cruel conceit is that day.

From where once lured, you sink, potential mate
Undone. Not waiting, brethren flee the creek,
Tails undulating. Silence veils the day.

by Mindy Watson

Editor’s Note: This sestina handles the required repetition with skillful craft, leading the reader from innocence into grim knowledge by the closing tercet.

From the archives – Negotiation by Robert Ronnow



Chipmunks, squirrels collecting
bitternut hickory, chirping
against a small owl cruising
low beneath the trees.

Everyone has gone this morning
to school or work. Laundry rolling,
carpets vacuumed, cleaning
in the bathroom on my knees.

I’d like to be Whitman, praising
the pure contralto, Wynton practicing
all day. But like my father dying
I cannot hear what I cannot see.

Locally there’s politics, processing
points of view. Eventually coming
to a decision, building or not building
windmills on the sky, bridges in the sea.

Insignificant and mighty happenings
seem the same from my vantage ageing
gratefully, inexorably, planning
how to die in my own damn way.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 13, 2016 — by Robert Ronnow

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

(Sonnet 29)

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Heading Towards Home by Martin Willitts Jr.

Heading Towards Home

The distance heads towards a small village
of post card, white clapboard houses,
where pale-green pastures level off
before another hill begins. The sky is waiting
for the rain to arrive, and dampness enters
the bones. A bird is nowhere, wherever wind is.

Heading this way is a van, pulled over,
its engine ticked off, cooling. A family is eating
lunch, while a man checks the map to see
the answer to every child’s question:
are we there yet? He’s not sure where they are.
Perhaps, they missed the turn. His wife is angry.
They should have turned right long time ago
but he was too lazy to ask questions, or
he said too many times he trusted his instincts.
The wind did not bring them here.

The town ahead is too small to be looking for.
Their two boys know it is time to play in mud,
while adults settle their scores. The houses
are turning on their suppertime lights.
Sheep are heard ringing in the fields, nearing,
like child’s questions. Everyone wants to know
where they are in relation to home, and crave
a familiar sight; no one wants to be in the lost.

No map tells you where you are,
but only your relationship to somewhere
if you have a familiar landscape.
And you are lost in anger, no map gets you out.

The dampness moves in. The doors of the village
open and call out to children. The sky greys
and triangle sheets of rain open like maps.
The van turns on headlights, breaks through mist
hoping someone knows where somewhere is,
while all the time the village knew where home is.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

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Editor’s Note: Not every poems needs strict realistic imagery to convey its story. This poem uses surreal imagery to draw the reader into the narrative, while personification creates a rich and emotional atmosphere.

Hole by Danny Earl Simmons


My middle son is missing something
in the middle of the middle of his chest.

For 21 years, he was my youngest son;
then there was this calling it quits
followed by a starting over (for me).
Now he is in the middle.

He was five when the doctor told us
about that hole and that murmur.
Nothing to be worried sick about after all –
just watch for infection.

I watch. I see how he loves to smoke
some things more than other things.
He speaks slowly. I see all the signs of an infection.

My middle son, when he was still my youngest son
and before he grew tall, learned to drive with the ball
and blow right past me and take it all the way to the hole.
He’d walk back to the line and wait for me to toss him the rock.
My god, that smile.

by Danny Earl Simmons, first published in Avatar Review.

Editor’s Note: This poem speaks on multiple levels, using subtle repetition to describe what love for one’s child feels like (from youth to adulthood).

Crazy White Man Parked At The End Of A Dirt Road by Billy Howell-Sinnard

Crazy White Man Parked At The End Of A Dirt Road

His wife’s drunk,
passed out in the car.
Her sister kicks around on the ground,
panties dangling
from her shoeless foot.

She yells in English and Arapahoe
for her brother-in-law
to come back.
He pulls up his pants,
stumbles on a rock
and heads for the mountains,
focuses on a ridge of red sandstone
behind a spine of boulders.

A lone pine
at the pinnacle
shoulders a pale
skin of sky
like the last warrior
in the first rays of light.

The beauty of Wyoming:
few people, few trees;
it’s the terror, too.
Tufts of sagebrush
cling to parched ground.
Dust flowers
blossom under his boots
then vanish.

He forgot his beer.
Wyoming doesn’t care about
beer or water,
or cars abandoned
or carcasses rotting
in the middle of nowhere.

He doesn’t care about Wyoming
or his wife sleeping-it-off
or his sister-in-law
yelling in the distance.

He heads for a mountain
he may never reach.
A fallen eagle feather
quivers in a sagebrush,
a fluttering flag of something lost.

by Billy Howell-Sinnard, first published in The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th Anniversary Anthology.

Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative demands several readings before the ending stanza fully settles in the mind. Desolation has many layers.

Singing My First Funeral by Christine Potter

Singing My First Funeral

I think his last name was Messerich. His first…Charlie?
Probably. I hear my father’s voice saying it with

that friendly lilt men use to mean a good guy: Charlie
Messerich, church sexton during those few years Dad

tried believing what the rest of us did. Charlie’s funeral.
Everyone else was still alive. Sextons cleaned, fixed things—

but clearly not everything. Like having to die. Zion Church
looked embalmed as ever: dim, airless, polished, Victorian—

even with Sputnik twinkling in circles over our heads.
Someone else must have cleaned, I thought, and wondered

why I couldn’t cry. I knew you were supposed to. One girl
whose name I’ve also lost crayoned a picture: a man labeled

Charlie Messerich leading the Junior Choir skywards, all
our arms out straight before us like movie monsters, all

our kimono-sleeved choir robes dragging behind us on
pink and orange clouds. Melissa, maybe. I’d watched her

roll Italian bread into little balls and swallow handfuls
of them at the Spaghetti Dinner. Kids said her parents had

to call the ambulance and get her stomach pumped. Would
she have died? She cried at the funeral, and I could not.

Hymns. An anthem. It was just more church, and not
even Good Friday. I never asked her about her stomach.

Afterwards, I took off my starchy collar and freed my hair
and bobby pins from my choir beanie for The Reception

in the Parish Hall. Everyone’s mother smiled through
a haze of heated-over ham and pineapple slices too dense

for me to want any. I don’t think I ever cried, even later,
back home. I scuffed the soles of my patent leather shoes

all the way to my parents’ car. All afternoon, everything
was too bright, like staring at a bare light bulb. Like Heaven.

by Christine Potter

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Christine’s Amazon Author Page

Editor’s Note: The detailed voice of the narrator meticulously leads the reader through her first experience with death as a singer, and offers the realization that nothing is as simple as she thought. The last couplet is a killer.

Mother Makes Paella by Jim Zola

Mother Makes Paella

Mother makes paella in the morning,
asks me to slice an onion. Outside
a battle waits with soldiers scaled

in armor, sticks sharp enough to poke
out an eye. In her flowered blue apron
and big fuzzy slippers, Mother makes

paella in the morning. Father hides
in the basement fixing things
with rusted tools. The air smells dank.

She asks me to slice with a dull knife. When
father goes on trips, I sneak downstairs
to his red and yellow chest full of magazines.

Mother makes paella in the morning. I slice
and fight back tears. Soldiers never had to
do this I say. She laughs and cuffs my ears.

I hear victory on the hill behind the garden.
Losers have to chew wild rhubarb. Mother makes
paella in the morning. I slice with eyes barely

open. Father stumbles up the basement stairs,
looks at me. He sits to eat. I sit in silence,
listen to them talk, try to break the code,
while picking out all the onions.

by Jim Zola

Editor’s Note: This poem’s refrain is threaded throughout the poem in unexpected places, skillfully highlighting the immature emotional state of the young narrator.

From the archives – The Retirement Of The Lighthouse Keeper by Phil Wood


The Retirement Of The Lighthouse Keeper

I could do without the light.
The bottled shadows pour
another slow glass, though
they cannot block that eye –
it blinks and blinks again,
both lamp and lens conspire
to see the sea through crusts
of salt; if light should slow
in whiskey’s blur of time –
but it beams across the zest
of spray, that grinning bay
with granite cliffs, and wakes
the ghosts in wrecks. I hear
the prayers shiver from voices.
I hear the drowning clock.
I could do without that light.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 14, 2016 — by Phil Wood

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim