from Second Life by Stephen Bunch

from Second Life

The quantum mechanic’s garage is busy 24/7,
or timelessly (as clocks don’t work and numbers
are words without meaning)—tires perpetually
in rotation, oil incessantly
changing, headlights oscillating between particles
and waves. Dents disappear and reappear,
then disappear again. The paint dries
and never dries.
All car radios are tuned to WSL
playing The Unrecorded Performances
of Suns Ra and Their Arkestras (theoretical string
arrangements by Stephen Hawking).
No one has the time or space to drive.
Meanwhile, next door, at Boltzmann’s Café
everyone waits for yesterday’s special,
tomorrow’s unscrambled eggs.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The conflation of auto mechanics with advanced physics is unusual, but somehow apt (likely because no car is ever fully repaired; it is only ever in a state of being repaired, once it reaches a certain age).

The Darkroom by Kenneth Salzmann

The Darkroom

I have seen wondrous images ghost their way
toward a representation of truth or something
like it while they bathed in trays filled with what
might have been black magic and tiny drops
of time passing. I have seen the merest traces
of light prophesy darkening shadows
beneath the safelight and I have tasted
the slow teasing impressions gathering
in the chemistry like revelations. I have
watched and waited and in the waiting
have remembered that this is the way
revelation always comes to me—not
in pixelated flashes of insight but in
nine zones of emerging detail
witnessed under a dim red glow.

by Kenneth Salzmann, first published in Third Wednesday.

Editor’s note: The careful enjambment keeps the reader engaged with unexpected choices that forces rereading, lest one miss a revelation—this poem’s central theme.

Falling for a Japanese Maple by Bob Bradshaw

Falling for a Japanese Maple

What man doesn’t long to sit
among high branches, peering straight up
at the white undergarments of clouds?

I am embarrassed to admit it.
But I had no choice after
snapping branches that I clipped

in my fall. What were you thinking?
is what everyone asks. A man
at your age….

As I negotiate steep stairs
with my crutches,
my wife asks “Now do you regret
your foolishness?”

I pause at the top step. A Japanese maple,
her red leaves tiling the air,
leans against the window,
her shimmering dress

as lovely as any kimono’s,
a beauty always worth
going out onto
a limb for.

by Bob Bradshaw

 

Editor’s Note: Personification makes quite a show in this poem, but so does foolishness and joy, perfectly framed within short lines and whimsical imagery.

From the archives – A Letter from the Soul to the Body by Irene Vazquez

A Letter from the Soul to the Body

Dear body,

You spoke today into being.
That’s half the battle won.

You are tempestuous, afro in a rain storm,
lightning bolt cutters.

YOU ARE LOUD.
You are heard.
You are RESISTANCE.

You are feeling EVERYTHING.
You are taking up space, and better for it.
You are the ant that makes its presence known
the elephant that sees life on a flower
you are universal.

Darling,

Demand life from yourself.

You are broken arm rainbows,
eight shades of chipped beauty–the profit of life’s nonsense,
you are not going gentle into that good night, you burn white-hot, you are light,
you are not a child.
You are the art of never running
on empty,
you are all the days that led up to today, the hot, the cold:
you are a place beyond infinity—a place beyond words.

Dearest body,
Dearest love of my life,
Dear only one I have,

You are not on your own.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 30, 2015 — by Irene Vazquez

photo by Terry Lim

Lucy as a Work of Art by Jennifer Finstrom

Lucy as a Work of Art
—Secrecy has this disadvantage: we lose the sense of proportion; we cannot tell whether our secret is important or not. –E.M. Forster, ‘A Room with a View’

You’re reminded of the chapter titles
in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View
where Lucy is variously lying to George,
Cecil, Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch,
Freddy, the servants, and Mr. Emerson.
Not that you’re specifically lying to anyone,
but there is a growing current of things
remaining unsaid, and this makes you
uneasy, makes you think, too, of what
you choose to include in poems and
what you choose to omit. Last night
you found the conversation you were
having over dinner difficult, weren’t sure
which of your stories to tell or how
to tell them. On the first date you went on
with this man, he told you that your
eye contact was unusual but a turn on,
and last night you gazed at him steadily
as you sipped your beer, unsure of what
you were trying to convey. Forster’s novel
chronicles Lucy’s search for beauty,
truth, and love even as she was lying
to herself, and you think of George
discarding her postcards of The Birth
of Venus and the Guido Reni Madonnas
because he didn’t want her to see
that they’re covered in blood. Every poem
you write could be different, could offer up
that one detail that changes everything.

by Jennifer Finstrom

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Editor’s Note: Poems written in second person point-of-view are strange and unsettling, and this choice perfectly supports the oddity of this narrator’s thought pattern.

Visit to the Geriatric Doc by Alan Walowitz

Visit to the Geriatric Doc

Though young, it seems like he was born for this,
the way he can tell an old guy
there’s a problem without revealing much at all.
But who could refuse more blood work—
sort of free on Medicare—
though the waiting could wear you down to a nub?
I try my oughta-be-retired Geritol joke
and he says, What’s that?
and I answer, For tired blood,
and he goes, Hmmph, with half a smile
and one eyebrow gently raised
to acknowledge—while mostly consumed by his phone—
he hasn’t the faintest what I’m talking about.
Then he chokes my arm with a rubber band to pop my vein,
no gentle man, this one, for all his politesse
and says, You’ve got good veins,
and I want him so to address me as Pop.
I’d say, Thanks, Son—cause we’re beginning to feel like family—
with all the attending discomfort
of knowing everything about each other
that we’re ever likely to know.
And this visit just the beginning;
and, sure as I’m sitting on the edge of his table
chilled in my undershirt,
it will not be a happy end.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: They say that age is just a state of mind, but it’s also stuffing your brain full of memories that young folk don’t understand. Mortality tends to catch up with us in the end, much like the last line of this poem.

Your Dementia by Rick Swann

Your Dementia

After the surgery a friend picked
the most perfectly red, ripe
strawberry and brought it straight
to me in my hospital bed and slid it
into my mouth. I had to spit it out,
the taste was so metallic.
When I think of those taste buds
I think of you. And the time
I stumbled into the abandoned
lemon grove in Extremadura
right before dark with acidic fruit
rotting on the ground—that smell,
too. And the way wind set the empty
lemon tree branches clacking
throughout the long cold night
as I waited for the train to continue
its journey and mine;
a clattering just like the repetitive
staccato music I am forced
to listen to while on hold
to your insurance company;
so similar to the chatter
you filled every silence with,
something I never thought I’d miss.

by Rick Swann

Editor’s Note: The mix of short and long sentences in this poem emphasizes the nature of illness and loss (unpredictable), along with its surprising relationship to scent and memory, none which is entirely under our control.

Coffin Bell by Kathryn Kulpa

Coffin Bell

Besides all this, there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. –Edgar Allan Poe, “The Premature Burial”

There’s a bell in the coffin. There’s a pull, there’s a string, there’s a bell in the coffin you can find, you can ring. Is it tied to your finger to remind you of light when you wake in the darkness? A string on your finger, a memory, a lifeline. A bell rings somewhere in the night cemetery where the dead—most of them—sleep; where the watchman nods in his chair; where only the moon hears, and she does not speak. A bell rings somewhere in the bright day when the family picnics and mother tells child it is the wind, only the wind that stirs those chimes. How many bells, how many graves, how many hands pull strings? How many voices go unheard, how many sleepers dragged from beds, how many feet leave trails in mud, how many bodies cut from trees, how many rivers dragged? How many lost, how many gone, how long must we sing these songs, how many mouths must speak? How long until they hear our words? How many bells must ring?

by Kathryn Kulpa

Editor’s Note: Rhyme and repetition ground this prose poem in a form that tolls in the mind. The more times one reads it, the more it feels like a warning.

August by MJ Werthman White

August

August in the garden, month of lost causes and spent desire, when the echinacia,
purple coneflower, admits defeat, surrendering bleakly with a few final leaves.

Under the mailbox, the catmint, nepeta, finally finishes blooming, gone feral
in his grief at being dumped by the bees, The iris, long past their expiration
dates, are depressed, spears turning brown, burnt tips crisped by the brutal
sun. Even the daylilies find themselves incapable of moving on, listlessly
continuing to push up random bright blooms, if only to meanly remind
us of what was and will not be again until next summer. Because the rains
did not desert us this year, the grass retains his unnatural, obnoxious green,
and the dogwood, unstressed by drought so far, avoids her annual breakdown,
hanging bravely onto her leaves. Happiest of all are my rudbeckia, black-eyed
Susan riot grrrls exploding up and down the lot line. No longer light when I rise,

I walk into darkness to fetch the paper and find myself succumbing to something
seductive in the cool, moving air that whispers promises of big changes soon to come.

by MJ Werthman White

Editor’s Note: Personification is used in this poem to great effect, giving us a peek into the world of the plants, with all their seasonal desires and disappointments.

From the archives – The Girl Who Collected Fishbones by Karen J. Weyant

The Girl Who Collected Fishbones

In late April, the water was still too cold for wading,
so I clung to the edge of Bill Gardener’s Pond,

looking for bones of black crappie and bluegill
caught in brown grass or the winter slivered cattails.

I discovered the local creeks held more promise:
with the tip of my shoes, I nudged aside stones,

and wrestled fish heads and rotting fins from
the shallow pools where locals gutted their catch.

Once, I caught an old fishing hook in the ball
of my finger, rinsed my hand in the water,

and watched the red disappear from my skin.
At home, I lined up my collection on the porch banister,

sure that every ripple spoke through the bones,
that a brook trout would announce that

the water was cold but clear, that the perch
would murmur shallow like a hushed sigh.

Muffled whispers of the water drowned out
the way everyone around me laughed.

When later that summer, thousands of dead carp
floated to the shores of the local reservoir,

their bones sharp, eye sockets empty but staring,
so much that local residents swore they dreamed

of dead fish in their sleep, I wanted to say
See, You Should Have Been Listening.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, Febrary 13, 2015 — by Karen J. Weyant

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim