Life in the Second Circle by Michael Cantor

Life in the Second Circle

I live on a beach with a woman who hates pigeons.
This is not the piazza di
popoli she yells, pegging salt-swept stones

at them: I share a house with Anna Magnani – she
emerged sad-eyed, years back, from an out-of-date
old film cassette, talking too much, absurdly

big red mouth bursting with kisses: all that first night
we loved and laughed and spoke of life, and she devoured
my grilled squab putanesca with a whore’s bold appetite.

We live in cinematic garlic-spatteredness, my hard-
life love and I, with recondite Fellini dreams
and black-and-white De Sica screens – the outside world

can’t reach this beach. They all are pigeons, Anna screams
Their asses spread, they flap their wings, their shit is everywhere.
We tumble to the kitchen floor; make love amidst tomato streams.

by Michael Cantor

Editor’s Note: This poem’s voice is dominated not by the narrator, but by the narrator’s lover. The drama is a shocking delight.

The Poet by Nicole Lynskey

The Poet

Poets – they will skip the friendly bit
about the weather, a nod of greeting
across the early morning fog
between souls that emanate
from our unlikely bodies like sun dogs.

Though I may never meet you
– your bushy eyebrows like a Russian Czars’
or call out to you on the Locust Tree Walk
with your cadre of poetry students
– them still with that new soul scent,
spirits yet undented in that incident
with the garage,

I run my fingers over the silky paper
of your book, cover the color of sunset,
and am invited, if just for a while,
into your inner sanctuary,
my elbows on the thick grain
of an old oaken table,
dark roast in a heavy mug
your daughter made in art class.

My poems running out back
under the sycamores,
the world a catalog of scent.
The view from your window as only you see it:
a boy from Egypt with his footprints
in the morning snow, a thick, hearty love
for your crowbar wielding
artist wife, your hula-hooping,
cutlass-driving mother.

And so, I count you as my friend,
Gregory Djanikian,
and set you on the bookcase
with my other skinny-bound
friends: Smith, Meek, Simic, Oliver,
who I think you will like,
leaving the lot of you
to whisper quietly together
on the shelf.

by Nicole Lynskey

Editor’s Note: This poem uses personification to describe a reader’s love for words.

Infinity in Simple Terms by Amy K. Drees

Infinity in Simple Terms

Say you own a hotel.
No, it does not matter if it is a nice hotel,
only that it has rooms that count from one to
infinity by – well, pick any number
– by one because counting by ones is easy.

So you have this hotel.
Yes, you would need to employ
many maids and bellhops and bartenders,
maybe even those special detectives
like in a noir mystery from after the war,
but that is not the point. The point is
you have infinite rooms, starting with one,
two, three, four, and so on to infinity
whether they have been turned or not.

Suddenly, a bus with infinite seats –
What? Infinite hotel rooms, those you can
wrap your mind around but an infinite bus is silly?
Fine, all you need to do is agree
the bus has infinite passengers.
You have infinite rooms.
Everyone has a place until –

No, not everyone can have the room next to the ice machine unless
you have an infinite number of ice machines.
If it will make you happy,
infinite ice machines.

May I continue?
Infinite bus, infinite rooms, and now
infinite ice machines that are quiet, clean, and full,
everyone in place – with enough ice – when suddenly
a second infinite bus arrives.

You have to give a little bit here. If you were
okay with infinite rooms, there must be an infinite bus, and if
there is one, there can always be two because
that is how numbers work.

Look, you have infinite ice machines.
I get a second infinite bus or we will never
get to the end of this.

So infinite people are in infinite rooms
numbered by ones and well-stocked with ice,
but you have an infinite number of new people
needing beds and ice and the supervision
of men in fedoras watching for any hanky-panky.

So what do you do? You
count by halves because after all
anything whole can be split in two.
That is how numbers work.

The new people go into rooms one point five,
two point five, three point five, and so on.
We will take as a given they can share
an ice machine.

Numbers are divisible. So infinity
can have more infinity neatly
slotted between its folds like
the twice infinite people tucked tightly in
newly pressed sheets with stern faced men
in suits and skinny ties watching over them –
yes, and their ice machines –
as they dream of the next infinite bus
shuttled into rooms one point one,
seventeen point eight, nine, six, five.

Your room split between mine,
as we close our doors on theoretical hallways,
fall onto identical, polyester duvets
and listen to the wing-tipped footsteps,
the hum of compressors making shared ice.

by Amy K. Drees

Twitter: @selfrisinmojo

Editor’s Note: The seemingly unending sentences in this poem underscore the theme quite well. Those who enjoy the puzzle of repetition and punctuation will enjoy the way this poem leads the reader into a theoretical space that is only real because we agree to believe it so.

Naming the Trees by Bruce Guernsey

Naming the Trees

At the national cemetery in Gettysburg
all the trees have names,
both family and genus
on small brass plaques at the base of each
to let the visitor know
the kind of oak,
whether red, white or black,
and is this rock or silver maple
looking once like any other
burlapped ball of roots
when it was lowered to earth
those decades after the war.

Colorful names like Tulip Poplar,
Weeping Beech, Buckeye,
Sweet Gum and Ginko—
sounding like nicknames almost, these trees
from every region and state
with broad leaves or skinny,
shiny, dull, or no leaves at all
like the Eastern Hemlock,
but all, all with names every one,
no matter the size and shape
amidst the many anonymous
mute stones in their shade.

by Bruce Guernsey

Editor’s Note: The focus on trees and names serves to emphasize the true heart of this poem, which is only revealed at the very end.

Washing by Rajani Radhakrishnan


These poems are like washing hung on the line, they might
tell you about the shape of my body, or places I went to last

week or that I will buy anything in grey. Watching from your
second floor balcony, you probably laughed over that Bengal

cotton phase from last year, row after row of freshly starched
pastel sarees tangling with the breeze or worse, that summer of

distressed jeans, alright, I apologise for those. But you still don’t
know enough, not enough to walk across and ring my doorbell,

not enough to know what I think, about anything real, anybody
real, you don’t know where I dry my clothes during those long

monsoon months, you’re never close enough to hear those
endjambed screams, never careful enough to read the words

that do not fall in line, are never told enough to know the things
you never can be told, what if I tell you about this shirt, about

this poem that I wrote as I lay awake in the small of the night,
wondering why silence, real silence, itches like dirty laundry.

by Rajani Radhakrishnan

Editor’s Note: Unexpected enjambments, line to line and stanza to stanza, contradict the casual voice of the speaker, and force the reader to pay close attention to the narrative (and especially the closing line).

From the archives – Abiding Winter by Risa Denenberg

Abiding Winter

How we made it through another winter
is not the question. It’s not even an answer
since one of us was left behind in winter.

In Spring, in buoyancy, you asked a question.
Cups stood their ground between us, tea and coffee.
You wished to be the answer to your question.

If winter comes again and yet another,
a darkling season full of melancholy. The yanking
of my soul back to its gutter, that other

place where questions have no answers,
and answers only placate. It takes rafters
of steadfast faith, or mettle, to seek answers.

Truth is brutal. So much we can’t recover,
years I’ve begged for you to wait for Spring to bloom,
living in despair beside each other, and another

stormy season while we tussle for an answer
that is a coda to the sum of all of life’s bother.
I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to question
nothing. Questions are another sort of winter.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 23, 2017 — by Risa Denenberg

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Kite Weather by Charles Carr

Kite Weather

Nothing is quite so
open arms
as the clear hello
of not a cloud
in the sky,
a Saturday
like the running start
of March.
Winds are brisk
and bring the best
out of flannel,
it is in the air,
the inside out
of blooms, the birds
and bees of it all,
small stuff giving
way to little things,
the spring in the steps
of a man walks his dog
contradicts the snow
of their hair,
a tug of leash
in both directions
is plenty of string to go
though neither seems able
to answer the question
of who’s flying who.

by Charles Carr

Twitter: @selfrisinmojo

Editor’s Note: The delightful personification that opens this poem leads the reader on a brisk walk into a bright spring day.