the truth of it by Sister Lou Ella Hickman

the truth of it

would you believe that earth
round tilted mother of all living
was once jealous that
we wanted to learn to fly
perhaps she invented gravity
to hold such attempts to soar
to her flesh
pinned like butterflies
no, she is not indifferent or blind
she waits
and with her pull between ocean and moon

she waits. . . .still

with invisible threads

by Sister Lou Ella Hickman

Editor’s Note: The nod to Icarus’ flight in this poem is supported by vivid imagery and the personification of our planet.

Brando by JR Solonche

Brando

He’s a box.
He is wrapped in a tee shirt.
The tee shirt is a little too tight.
He wants you to see the shape of the box.

The arms of the box are akimbo.
The right hand of the box is under the left bicep.
The right hand is pushing the left bicep toward you.
That way it looks bigger, more impressive, sexier.

The left eye of the box says, Open me.
The right eye of the box says, If you dare.
Both eyes of the box say, Look but do not touch.
The box has a nose, but it is made of putty.

The box has a mouth, but it is painted on.
The box has a forehead.
The forehead looks like a third bicep.
Or does the box want his biceps to resemble two foreheads?

The box is bulging his forehead at you.
He does this by looking out from under his boxy brows.
He wants you to know there is a brain in there.
He wants you to know it is a big brain, a sexy brain.

He wants you to know his brain is bigger than yours.
He wants you to know his brain is sexier than yours.
So he points it at you, his forehead.
It is the same as telling you his biceps are bigger than yours.

This box wants you to understand something.
He wants you to understand he can beat you any way he wants.
He can beat you with his biceps.
He can beat you with his brains.

Other than that, it is hard to tell what this box wants.
It is a mystery box.
It is a heavy box.
It is an empty box.

by JR Solonche

Editor’s Note: Repetition is king in this poem.

Hot Yoga Chaff by Peg Duthie

Hot Yoga Chaff

Within the heat that some call infernal,
the wishful teachings make me grind my teeth:
“You’ll burn a thousand calories, sweat out toxins”—
I strive to press the blather away
the way a chef distills what’s worth preserving

from what was both the source and in the way
of succulence and essence. Trivia, tocsins—
I press it all to and through the floor, seeking beneath
my soles and palms true knowing: that kernel
of self that weighs not who’s deserving.

by Peg Duthie

Twitter: @zirconium

Editor’s Note: Clever rhymes, meter, and a startlingly apt homophone elevate this poem from floor to enlightenment.

The Dissonance of Yellow Chords by Le Hinton

The Dissonance of Yellow Chords
for Lawrence

I was 8 when I complained about my brother’s
stinky diaper, so Mom showed me how
to change it. I wiped the warm scent of liquid waste
from his body while his tiny hands flailed
the air as if conducting his own chorus. Later
I threw the yellowed cotton into the pail
with the other dissonant fabrics.

Years later, those hands mastered the piano:
its arcs and angles, flights & descents. He studied
the gospels
. . . . . . . .of Mingus,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .& Trane,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Shorter
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .& Powell.
Converted to the faith
of Parker
. . . . . . . .& Monk
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .& other rare gods.

If you pay attention, the whole world sounds
like Monk: the discord
that isn’t, the ending that continues, a certainty
that flies away after a moment in your hand.
You just have to listen to everything at once.

When the kidneys fail, they fail together,
like the hands of a piano player that have sworn
allegiance to the approaching silence. Rhythm is suspended.
The body slows. The world fills with the scent of ammonia
as the organs try to resolve the chord.

The week before, not knowing how it would end,
we sat around his kitchen table. Talked

of flatted fifths. . . . . . . . . . . .&. . . . . . . .chord substitutions.
Not filtration rates. . . . . . . .or. . . . . . . .the transplant.

We knew there was no music to read, no lead sheets,
or charts to follow.

. . . . . . . .But like good improvisers,

all we could do is play the head, improvise
on the theme & hope

. . . . . . . . . . .that later,
we’d get a chance
to play another tune.

by Le Hinton

Editor’s Note: The extended metaphor in this poem carries it from childhood and up into knowledge with a musicality of line that many poems can’t reach.

Cleats by Joseph Mills

Cleats

After practice, my son kicks off his cleats
and leaves them under the front seat.
He treats the van like a storage locker,
draping his uniform and sweats around.
The daughter complains each morning
as I take her to school. The cleats smell.
They’re in her way. It’s not fair. I agree
with all of these points, and yet I don’t
tell the son to move them. For one,
it’s yet another argument I’m too tired
to have. There are already so many things
I’m prodding him about: homework,
showers, closing doors, drinking water …
and, to be honest, I kind of like them there,
this mark of the boy, these muddy talismans.
He used to hold my hand as he fell asleep,
and once he pulled his fingers away,
picked his nose, then slid them back in my palm.
Yes, this is love, I thought then, holding snot
unflinchingly. Soon enough I’ll be able
to keep the van and the house and my life
clean, uncluttered; for now, I let him
leave his cleats there, in everyone’s way,
telling myself it’s a type of civics lesson
about living together, telling my daughter,
“I know, I know, it’s annoying. Kind of like
when someone keeps pre-setting the stereo
buttons to all their favorite stations.” “No,
she says, “No. That is totally different.”

by Joseph Mills

Editor’s Note: This poem’s easy tone can deceive the reader—because the narrator is so ordinary and relatable, one nearly misses the clever slip of purpose into the poem’s 24th-25th lines.

Concrete Thinking by Raymond Miller

Concrete Thinking

The mysteries of Stonehenge
have confounded scholars and archaeologists;
New Age Travellers, Pagans and Druids
each try to squeeze a narrative from granite:
a domain of the dead or a place of worship,
the best angle to witness celestial orbits.
But who else might assemble a symbolic edifice
just far enough away from the cities?

It is only several millennia
since Mental Health Service Planners
sought assistance from their neighbours:
There is so much unemployment,
the insane grow sick with boredom.
We can do no more for them –
let’s ask Occupational Therapists
to provide them with a Programme.

The Occupational Therapists
were so pleased to be consulted
after centuries secreted in adjoining Portakabins,
that they strove for something striking.
Understand that this is many years
before computers, long even before knitting.
Much sitting in circles drinking tea ensued,
many sighs, many eyes turned to the heavens
before at last they came to a consensus
(in itself a momentous occasion for therapists).
Rock Climbing, they announced; we will teach
the mentally ill to climb rocks.

Observing signs of panic on the faces
of The Planners, the O.T.s quickly added:
“There will be Risk Assessments,
Elective Pathways and Safety Nets
that are Robust and Fit for Purpose.”

Have you no proper work for us?
the insane complained,
these rocks are many miles away,
too far, too cold, too high, too wet.
The Planners and Therapists were dejected
until one of their number suggested
that if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain,
then the mountain must come to Mohammed.

So the Project started, hewing and hauling
great boulders from vast distances,
providing for the mentally ill,
the paid employment they’d requested.
At the completion of their labours
the mad returned exhausted,
spent their wages on cheap cider
and said fuck off to rock climbing.
And thus has it always been
for the Occupational Therapist.

by Raymond Miller

Editor’s Note: Sometimes a narrative leads you places you don’t expect. The closing stanza of this poem is delightful.

From the archives – The Balance Between Us by James Diaz

The Balance Between Us

arranged as you are
verdant and sleeping
hard rain shimmering
like veins under the skin
my metaphors are all mixed up
these days

I have this scar I can’t get rid of
you said on that long drive home
I wanted to say something
you might find comforting
but I know how these things work
you only make it worse when you think words
can dispel something like this

and the avalanche of aching
where do you put that?
in the palm of my hands
I hear myself saying

the lights of the houses in the field
seem like some kind of cruel heaven
and we out here on the road
so lost, so far from home.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 2, 2016 — by James Diaz

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim