Tool by Wren Tuatha


The goat pen is an acre island in a sea
of more land. Among the browsing bodies

are two Akbash, primitive dogs, built
over millennia to kill bears. They gaze

for hours through the electric netting
at each breezing branch, all the hunting jays.

It’s the sounds they answer.

The short legged dogs down the road.
The senator’s helicopter, the propane delivery.

All warned not to enter, these dogs have faced
down the bear. They won’t suffer you. Hours

and goats and sounds. The pen is an island.
Only the weather changes, bitter rain, sleepy heat.

The ranch dog is fascinated by every tool
the rancher brings into the pen. Microbes

from the last job or the mice that tip toe
across it in the shed. Worlds, stories, forensics.

The cold metal hammer. It made
the barn and the pen. It ricochets shots of sound

away from here.

by Wren Tuatha

Editor’s Note: This poem’s title serves multiple meanings as the lines unfold the story of two dogs and their purpose within a larger narrative of tools and wonder.

Her Red Dress by Danny Earl Simmons

Her Red Dress
after reading Kim Addonizio’s “What Do Women Want?”

She calls it her burial gown,
and it reeks of absinthe sweat,
cigarette smoke, and one too many

broken-heeled walks home all alone
where cabs don’t go that time of night.
It slips over curves it doesn’t dare hide,

turning every used-up inch of the sticky
white skin it embraces into an ashy smolder
of regrets as deep as the way her men breathe.

It’s a wanton red lust, wet with kisses that suck
all its sour secrets before the panting end comes —
wrinkled and thrown to the floor.

by Danny Earl Simmons, first published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is visceral and shocking, but is exactly what’s needed to convey a sense of lingering regret and joy entwined.

The Agent by Erik Lloyd Olson

The Agent

The stranger lounging in the window seat
orders the same as me, but does not eat.
Is he an ally to protect, a threat
to liquidate? No way of telling yet.
Objectives form in time on their own terms.
A signal from my watcher’s eye affirms
the code, a coin dropped on the busy street
IDs the target; I remain discreet—
look at the girl ahead of me in line,
the guy who stole the barstool next to mine,
or the grave matron with her brooding son
who asks me for the time—is she the one?
I ease across the border with my skill
to camouflage, impersonate, or kill.
To a man like myself obeying orders
from pole to pole, the world is full of borders.

by Erik Lloyd Olson

Erik on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The delightful irony of this poem’s closing emphasizes the rules of our lives. When does the next Bond movie come out?

Loss by Devon Balwit


for Emma P. and Emily L.

You slip while reaching and fall
out of the world while we are still

in it. This fact hovers before us
in the lazy burnish of August.

We see it pass and grope for it,
but it eludes our fingers. A click

of the mouse brings you back,
smiling beside our own smiling.

We look flushed with the future,
sure of it. It bursts from our letters,

lines crooked with the rush
of good intentions. We run

our fingers through them.
They slip with the quiet shush

of seeds. Now we pocket them,
carrying you in our seams.

We were expecting bigger
things, other things;

You remind us that
the things are right here.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This poem’s grief is delicately presented through the images of daily living in our modern world, and emphasizes how none of our technology can assuage the loss.

From the archives – Age of Steam by Neil Flatman

Age of Steam

Fingers in the gaps
of the chain link fence, we pull back
the lips of the tunnel’s mouth, still believing

we see magic in the world
beyond. Down the embankment
the bramble

bracken sides a slide of thorns
our grazed legs go
unnoticed, in the way of boys.

On the bridge, a dull-blue Anglia
putters its way to school, or maybe
church, and a stiff-legged crow hops

on the stone arch, calling out
an unheard warning. We are Indians
without axes, our ears against the rail

the resistance, planting bombs
beneath the ties, astronauts measuring a journey
through space and time by echo’s reach.

And deep back, in the dark throat
the place we stand, pressed hard against the wall
against the unrelenting

brick, waiting for the steel horse
steaming hard, the iron gallop

we’re someone, in the days before
we became so much
less than imagined.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 16, 2016 — by Neil Flatman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Park Going to Sleep by Helen Hoyt

Park Going to Sleep

The shadows under the trees
And in the vines by the boat-house
Grow dark,
And the lamps gleam softly.

On the street, far off,
The sound of the cars, rumbling,
Moves drowsily.
The rocks grow dim on the edges of the shore.

The boats with tired prows against the landing
Have fallen asleep heavily:
The monuments sleep
And the trees
And the smooth slow-winding empty paths sleep.

by Helen Hoyt (1887-1972)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Pumpkin Belly by Broc Riblet

Pumpkin Belly

Autumn, equilibrium-free night where we both were nervous.
Myself much more so than you.
So we existed together after we turned out the lights.
I was nervous, an overgrown mushroom, you picked me.
You guided my overgrowth.
So in the bedroom that smelled of anxious dust,
I could be something thermal.
And though our bodies eventually warmed into sleep
you were still there next to me in a tank top the color of cream
with bluebirds on it, and some sweatpants that tie at the waist
with a string.
And in the morning I rose to your exhausted eyelashes
and your kiss, you were there.
It’s as if we were the oak trees that stripped our bark bare,
dusted sleep tops with dying leaves.
We died, then were born.
And are now grown enough to walk around
like lovers walk, in public.
And our families accept what we have made because
we have paid for each other.
Our families join and they dine, then the toes of our shoes push through
crushed copper leaves, you gestate.

We run into people on Saturdays, they ask what month you are in.
Knowing when Autumn has ceded to Winter,
and Winter’s been buried as always by Spring,
your pumpkin belly will emerge
fully formed from the vineyard.

by Broc Riblet

Twitter: @ribletwrites

Editor’s Note: The surrealistic imagery elevates the romance in this poem from an ordinary happenstance into a deeply felt emotional life.