Chromium 24/7 by D.E. Kern

Chromium 24/7

They tore down a part of my hometown last week,
imploded it to be precise, dissolved it from the inside
as with cancer. A crowd came to admire the reek

of the ordnance and the trail of the plume adrift
in the spring sky like the tail of a Northern Shrike.
Then they queued their cars and left another to sift

through the remnants—the ash from all those lives,
which so clearly did not deserve an urn. More than
two thousand miles away, I chose between knives

to cut through the clotted line between my flagging
mealworm and the Colorado River, sacrificing one
life in the lost pursuit of another and then sighing

at the burden of it all. I could not watch the real-time
feed of the so-called action. Rather, I placed a wet
kiss on the memory of a blue flame, its dance sublime

enough to make a teenage boy swoon, helpless
in light of the sight available through the latticework
provided by a pew’s worth of stunted sweet birches.

Years have taught me beauty is the beginning of a lie,
in this case the reassurance that a city’s worth of men
were vital cogs in the innards of the machine. My

friends’ fathers could buy groceries, gasoline and beer
as long as the boxcar loads of I-beams, battleships and
bridge trusses rattled off in the dark of night. All fears

guns put us high on the Russians’ list were unfounded;
besides the pesky Japanese were coming for us all again.
If your daily dose of heavy metal was not what you wanted,

there was always another to take your place on the line.
Show loyalty to God and country by buying American.
Dot each yard with a “USW-Stop Illegal Imports” sign.

No matter what the papers said, the good times rolled
at Steel. Those laid off were dead weight or likely to be
called back anyway. Not a single one of them sold

their house quietly and pulled kids from Catholic high.
And it must by a failed memory of my father’s tattered
tie and skinned knuckles, the night I watched him cry

on our front porch because there was nothing else to do
but step into it when a frustrated larryman opted to take
everything out on his wife. “The good book gives you

no guidance when it comes to things like this,” he told
my mother, then made for the laundry on creaking knees,
followed by her reminder getting out blood required cold

water. There was plenty of that to go around in a mill
town, but drinking it was another matter altogether. So
they tossed it on a slag pile of summer-home dreams until

the steam was as thick as the mid-April fog bedded down
between the bunkers on the 13th hole of the Old Course.
If you didn’t choke on the irony, you could double down

for a shot of the double standard, that dose of bitterness
served by the National Sokols or Wanderers—drowning
out the sound of your pension slipping off into the abyss.

The distance between us and them was framed in twenty-one
stories stacked in the shape of a cross to satisfy a Jesus
complex that kept my Little League field from seeing the sun.

That is why I did not watch, like some iron pig satisfied
in a pool full of my own shit not to mention the run-off
foisted on me and mine by nearly every suit who lied

about the next big contract or plan to streamline. I refuse
to cry over the Carrara tile or mahogany panels, though
I am sure they were salvaged for some other thieves’ use,

and I hesitate to spend too much energy waxing nostalgic
over a warehouse full of promises that never seemed to stick.

by D.E. Kern

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/DE-Kern/689300447747815

Editor’s Note: This loose terza rima poem documents the difficulty of transition from industrial steel town to … something else. For the people in these situations, that ‘something else’ is usually deeply painful. (Since this editor has lived in both Pittsburgh and Allentown, the emotional backdrop of this poem resonates with particular clarity.)

Stutter by Lorette C. Luzajic

Stutter

He had a way with words, dropping them and picking them up over and over in stops and starts. You found something there, in the way he would dust them off and start again, in the staccato of syllables, the awkward alliteration, in the consonance of his vivisected vocabulary. He would raise a finger and lower his voice when he needed to summon courage to carry on, then all the words would flow into a warm river of euphony. You wanted him to read to you. You wanted him to tell you your name. How those sharper edges, the first locutions, would give way to a gorgeous tumble of idioms and appellations. You imagined his tongue would taste tart and nervous and fertile, like apples. You wanted him to kiss you, to take the words right out of your mouth.

by Lorette C. Luzajic, from Winter in June

Editor’s Note: This prose poem uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration with great skill, emphasizing both the subject matter of the narrative and the beautiful emotion of language.

Seaside Pentina for a Chinese Painter by Marly Youmans

Seaside Pentina for a Chinese Painter

Originality should not disregard the “li”
(the principle or essence) of things.
—The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

The fish-scale glitter of the sea, the cloud
That hung its careless grace above the dock,
The solo fisherman who hauled a fish
To air: these were the things that pleased her eye,
The seaborne images she wished to mark.

Not for the picture’s sake she wished to mark
The dock’s salt-silvered boards or floating cloud,
Not as a souvenir of things her eye
Perceived, nor as a fleet of things to dock
And moor on paper, nor as captured fish.

She wished to snag another sort of fish
Entirely, and to hit a deeper mark
Than what the shimmering and brine-soaked dock
Proposed to others there, or what the cloud
Above seemed saying to a staring eye.

Nor did the watching painter wish to eye
The scene in search of novelty, or fish
For some surprising shock of sense to cloud
Quicksilver minds; instead, to freely mark
The world of things and tug her thoughts to dock

By finding out some essence of the dock,
By understanding aim of hand and eye,
By striving without strife to hit the mark
And catch the fluent spirit of a fish
Or mystery inhabiting a cloud.

So li that lives in cloud or dock or fish
May find a willing eye and hands to mark.

by Marly Youmans

Twitter: @marlyyoumans
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marly.youmans/

Editor’s Note: This delightful pentina uses lush imagery to draw the reader into a landscape that feels as ephemeral as a painting, but with a structure that perfectly encapsulates the concept of “li”.

Empty Nest Ghazal by Sally Thomas

Empty Nest Ghazal

After lunch, she moves from room to room,
To sidestep the tail-twitching afternoon.

Someone’s left a sock behind the door,
First furtive ambush of the afternoon.

Crusted mascara wand beside the sink:
Dry bones, the dessicated afternoon.

All useless spoor of time she sweeps away.
Still time stalks her through the afternoon.

Always the silent house, and hours till dinner –
Too many simmering hours of afternoon.

She sits to write. Love, Mother. She can sign
An unsent letter every afternoon.

by Sally Thomas

Twitter: @SallyThomasNC


Editor’s Note
: This poem uses the repetition of the ghazal form to great effect, mirroring the endless hours of missing a loved one who has gone away with delicate (but also relentless) sorrow.

Brood Parasite by Eira Needham

Brood Parasite

From ivied stage a robin serenades,
while in the meadow grass his broody hen
hops among the boulders and invades
a crevice, moulding lichen for a den

to lay her brood. The parasite’s near call
provokes the bubbling chuckles of his mate;
she spies the moss concealed within the wall
and sneaks an egg inside to incubate.

Her chick emerges, fluttering to prise
all redbreast babies out. Instinctively,
it simulates their empty bellied cries.
Poor surrogate is hoodwinked by its pleas

and forages for worms, to satisfy
that constant gaping beak. Thriving it grows
to thrice the foster’s size. Ready to fly,
behemoth baby quits the crib and crows

cu coo. . . .cu coo. . . .cu coo

by Eira Needham

Editor’s Note: Enjambment and rhyme skillfully illustrate the ruthlessness of the season in this spring poem.

Antipodes by Coleman Glenn

Antipodes

Thick snow fell the November he was born,
before we moved a hemisphere away
and she arrived one January morning,
crying to ignite the summer day.

He’s seven now, and this month she’s still five—
an artificial gap for kids so near
in size, in schemes, in love for things alive;
who hear, “Are you two twins?” more every year.

But she — she sings her world into existence,
narrating every heartbreak, every high;
elaborating stories with insistence
that this is real, that fairies are nearby.

He, too, dreams deep, builds Lego worlds, pretends;
he shouts his news to strangers when he’s proud.
But precious things he shelters and defends;
he often prays but seldom prays aloud.

And still, they live within a single story,
twined threads within a tapestry unfurled
by what they say or hide of grief and glory;
two sides of the same half-illumined world.

by Coleman Glenn

Twitter: @colemanglenn

Editor’s Note: Some poems are so beautifully written that it’s difficult to focus on any one thing that makes them work. This is one of those poems.

Arcturus by Martin J. Elster

Arcturus

Arcturus sparks the night
when croci spring from the earth.
Light left its stellar berth
years, years, and years ago.
On seeing its face (the glow
as orange as the fruit),
we know our planet’s flight
has brought the robins to root
for grubs in parks, backyards,
and along those strips of lawn
that split our boulevards.
They trill a tune at dawn,
hunt angleworms at noon,
and slumber when the moon
comes up and greets the Bear,
which bright Arcturus follows
as it glisters through the air
ringing with the swallows
by day and, in the dark,
the singing of the lark
till Vega, overhead,
says, “Time to go to bed!”

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: Skillful rhyming illuminates this poem’s imagery into a tight constellation of nature—star to planet to personification at the end of the story.

Steve Jobs, From Beyond the Grave, Pitches the Flag Elevation App by Samuel Prestridge

Steve Jobs, Addressing a Joint Session of Congress from Beyond the Grave, Pitches a Technology that America Most Needs to Address the Aftermath of Mass Shootings, the Universal Flagpole Elevation / Suspension App

The flag goes down to half-mast, raises back up
at the click of an icon. It’s automatic:
no debate, no crafting statements of support,

or prayers, or debating gun laws, no muss,
no fuss. The horrific happens, and with a click
the flag goes down to half-mast, raises back up

after a span for grieving determined by consensus—
or algorithm: say x days per y victims.
With no debate, no crafting statements of support,

we’re greasing the skids. The shooter gets comeuppance—
his ass in jail or dead—but we’re spared the usual shtick:
the flag goes down to half-mast, raises back up

after proclamations, deliberations, air-time to envelope
the tragedy’s minutia, the names of the dead, a mimic
of debate, of crafting statements of support.

No discussing remedies, no blame, or changes to oppose.
User friendly: you can even be a dick,
and still, the flag goes down to half-mast, raises back up
with no debate, no crafting statements of support.

by Samuel Prestridge

Editor’s Note: This villanelle uses the repetition of lines to great effect, emphasizing the absurd, inherent cruelty of death becoming just another talking-head soundbite.

Dodo by Martin J. Elster

Dodo
(Raphus cucullatus)

Maybe you chuckle at the sound
of my name or weep at hearing a word
that calls to mind the song of a bird
so round, I couldn’t leave the ground.
Yet I matched my patch like comfy clothing.
You came ashore one day and, loathing
my curious countenance, bludgeoned, bashed
and smashed my clan. Our numbers crashed.
(Had the once-lush forests of Mauritius
ever seen a beast so vicious?)
We roosted in the woods, ate fruits,
and shrank from none, not even the boots
striding toward us. We were no beauts—
in your eyes—though our feathered suits
were snazzy as a CEO’s.
Unlike most other birds, the nose
inside our epic bill was keen,
helping us locate our cuisine,
helping us find the bulbs and roots,
seeds, nuts and crabs and other shellfish
we relished. The dodo tree, unselfish,
nourished parrot, bat, and tortoise,
the gifts it gave so darned delightful
we licked our beaks at every bite-full.
Paradise! Yet you abhorred us—
our face, our grace, our trendy style.
Now you hear our name and smile.
I wish, instead, you’d just ignored us.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This poem’s inventive rhyme is perfectly suited to its subject, with neither too much levity, nor too little.

I Want to Bring Back by Geraldine Connolly

I Want to Bring Back

My organdy Easter dress and straw hat
with a navy ribbon, tight green blossoms
in April, gravestones among apple trees,
the Virgin’s long blue robe, the startled ringing
of the altar bell like breaking icicles, that moment
when bread changes into the body of God.

Bring back crocuses and Easter chicks, reborn Jesus,
dogwoods and sycamores, who wore their blazing hats
of color. Eggs and lilies, the first moment
the orchard above the farmhouse blossomed
pink above the muddy Pennsylvania creek, a ring
near furrowed fields, of laden apple trees,

pheasants with wings like helicopter blades, trees
that bloomed, lifting their faces toward God,
the whole of the newly ploughed garden bringing
thoughts of hope. We tied on our hats
and to the ribbons fastened dry blossoms
with certainty, and that quiet instant

before we prayed became the moment
we wandered, lost among the trees,
muddied our stockings, crushed blossoms
beneath our shoes, cried out to the old God
to save us from falling. I remember that
once we were innocent, once we wore our ring

of belief like a badge, a feeling of being wrung
clean as we prayed, as if we could begin again.
I call to innocence, to girls in Communion hats
about to ascend the steep rows of church steps
to kneel, to bow and greet their god
as rows of widows and penitents like dark blossoms

light candles in the apse, their flame blossoms
illuminating the faithful, gathered and singing
songs of praise, hymns to the one God,
our faith restored, all of this in the moment
before mystery approached, belief failed, before trees
of new knowledge grew up into the heat

and fervor of the world. Tight green blossoms,
gravestones in the shade of apple trees, I call and
call to them. There is no answer.

by Geraldine Connolly, first appeared in Mezzo Cammin

Editor’s Note: This brilliant sestina contains a wealth of spectacular imagery and a final stanza that perfectly encapsulates the emotional narrative.