At the Portal by Devon Balwit

At the Portal

Beach fog not yet burned away, the rocks and their creatures
share a palette of grey. It’s up to me to discern
the living in their basalt niches and name them

as best I can: barnacle, limpet, crab. I roll up my sleeves
and reach for what interests me, cupping an anemone,
cool to the touch. We are not of the same order,

the same family, yet I swear, tentacles indrawn
like breath, it waits to see what I’ll do next. It wants
to live. When I withdraw, it releases each finger

with a sigh. Some will chide me for anthropomorphizing,
swearing no crab belligerent, no chiton tenacious.
What can we do but meet at the portal of semblance,

you also from another family, another order? All
I can say in my defense is that I always return my subjects
when I’m done, much as I found them.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem does not detract from the ultimate conclusion—fog can both obscure and focus reality.

Winter Klieg by Devon Balwit

Winter Klieg

Dawn startles the ice-tight branches.
Back-lit

by klieg, they yield secrets. Modesty
tells us

do not look. If we lack it, our blotched
retinas

deliver a long scolding.
Out

in the white world, the weight of us
crunches

through crust, no pretense at ethereality.
By midday,

all crashes, thin wands shattering all around
with a sound

like rocks through panes. Chill melt
creeps

into our boots as we hove homeward,
wringing

ourselves out, no more revelations
to be had.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery is both startling and true.

Pushcart Prize Nominations – 2017

logoborderlite

I am happy to announce the following poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize:

Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia by Tracy Lee Karner

The Morning of My Madness Waking by Jim Zola

No I in Team by Ed Shacklee

The First Night by Devon Balwit

Moving Day by Alan Walowitz

After the Ghost Investigation by Christine Potter

Congratulations and good luck!

The First Night by Devon Balwit

The First Night

You don’t know the kid slumped dead
drunk on the sidewalk. Someone says

he lives in your dorm. Sick already
of the squandering of this night,

you offer to escort him back in a taxi.
The driver threatens $300 if he pukes.

He pukes. You hand over his credit
card, sick already of the squandering

of this night. Back in the dorm,
you do not pass him off to his RA,

a mandatory reporter. The kid was dumb,
but so were thousands, everyone

getting the same letter to avoid this,
which all ignored. You want him to live

through the night, prop him on his side,
face over the trash, check his breathing

for hours, sick already of the squandering
of this night. Tomorrow, you hope

he will thank you. Tomorrow, you hope
college will be fun.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: Enjambment and repetition create an uneasy emotional narrative in this poem. Many of us will recognize the sentiment of the last two lines.

Loss by Devon Balwit

Loss

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.

Entrenched by Devon Balwit

Entrenched

The house rattles, father and son
at loggerheads,

the father bitter that the son chooses
differently

with his fine, strong body that his father
cannot repossess,

the son flinching at the sear of disapproval,
its raw burn

repeated in an endless tallying of keloid
zeroes.

The father bellows from below-stairs,
hammers

the wall for good measure to bypass
the headphones

behind which the son swaddles.
So much time

lost fighting over the same ground,
trees blown

to stumps, blast craters seeping
and stinking.

Were each to stumble upon the other’s
body,

he’d find, tucked close, photos of the same,
house,

creased letters with Dearest in the same
hand.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This poem’s difficult imagery conveys the difficulty of father/son love with great precision and emotional complexity.

Demeter of the Ex-Urb by Devon Balwit

Demeter of the Ex-Urb

No blade, but a bract, rasped edges
ranged towards danger, tip observant,

mistress of spathe, spikelet, glume
and peduncle, I stand my ground,

a Demeter of the ex-urb, a goddess
of the small plot, my fool, a darting

hummingbird, my heckler, a crow,
croaking from the shadowing,

my green fuse stutter-stepping—
paling to the point of guttering,

barbarian weeds already creeping—
and then re-flaring, fierce in a campaign

of ripped roots, a flailing of the blunt
trowel, me blinded by brow-sweat.

(after Cristina Troufa’s painting Espada)

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: The complexity of the images and nod to classical mythology gives this poem weight beyond that of a simple narrative, yet the final line reminds the reader that we are all only human.