Two Poems by E. Martin Pedersen

I Love You Honey, But…

As you go around the rooms
setting the pictures awry
you must really hate straight
I’m not sure you’re truly aware
that you turn coffee tables sideways
cover furniture with clothes
leave the lights on downstairs
on purpose
some devil inside you says
drive him nuts, push the vase off-center
throw opened mail onto the kitchen table
get out the milk and do not put it back
I say should when
I should say could —
we should see one
another as we now are
not molded to our
specifications, justification, our
relations hard
as imperfect walls —
that’s all
yet I hear laughter
that’s not from you or me


Envy

Cleverness ain’t easy
when it don’t come
natural
That perfect quip
an hour too late
That great idea
for something
had in the night
lost in the day
What will I say
when we meet
I come prepared
rehearsed
amnesia
stutter
I like that person
so smart
always right there
I wish I had
mental confidence
and acted cool
when things go bad
I wish I believed in my own means
yet if I were that clever
I’d be alone
I’d have no one to envy
no one to aspire
to be.




E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over forty years in eastern Sicily, where he taught English at the local university. His poetry appeared most recently in Avatar Review, Canyon Voices, Slab, SurVision, and Helix Literary Magazine, among others. Martin is an alumnus of the Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills and Smart Pills, and a chapbook, Exile’s Choice, from Kelsay Books. A full collection, Method & Madness, is forthcoming from Odyssey Press. Martin’s poem, “Gull Eggs,” was nominated by Flapper Press for the Best of the Net Award 2023.

Two Poems by Royal Rhodes

Dying Languages Archived

Collecting dying languages at risk
from Mongol tribes, Nigeria, Nepal,
linguists try to digitize in brisk,
efficient ways before we lose them all,
to capture mythic chants like butterflies,
dead and instantly available.
The “nuts and bolts” of cultures lost will rise,
with vocal repertoires made saleable.
Their videos show shamans with their tools
living on the margins, while disasters,
famine, shaky governments of fools
allow the loss, a vacuum newer masters
fill. But words have motion, color, scent,
not categories that we just invent.


Coroner’s Report: 1569

The county coroner’s report
described the victim’s drowning

in the nearby river Salwarpe,
not far from Stratford-upon-Avon.

“By reason of collecting and holding out
certain flowers…’yellow boddles’

growing on the bank of a certain
small channel…called Upton myll pond

…about the eighth hour after noon
suddenly and by misfortune fell

and then and there she instantly died.”

Perhaps, perhaps such domestic details
often with their roots in village gossip

gave the resident playwright gist
to fell his own forlorn, mad heroine

in a brook, while she clutched tight
garlands of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies,

and sang in the still waters “snatches
of old tunes,” until her waterlogged dress

dragged her under to a silent death.

No one bothered to write a play about
those killed by performing bears, or those

dead wrestling, tossing a ball, bell ringing,
or lobbing a sledgehammer for sport.

Only this child, a girl holding certain flowers.




Royal Rhodes is a retired professor who taught classes in global religions, the Classics, religion & the arts, and death & dying. His poetry has appeared online and in a series of art/poetry collaborations for The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. His current project is a poetry/photography collaboration on sacred sites in Italy.

Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

Song of a Future Age

Children of the present age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time,
Longer life was thought a crime.

“Elders needing doctors’ care
Cost us more than we can spare.
Elders who retain their health
Rob the young of jobs and wealth.

Fourscore years are all you need.
Seeking more reveals your greed.
Live your numbered years with zest.
Then go sweetly to your rest.”

So the pundits used to say
Till we reached a better day.
Children, how our lifespans grew:
I’m 300—you’ll be too.

“Song of a Future Age” first appeared in Blake House.


On the Snow

We’re all supposed to love the Earth
And thrill to nature’s bold displays.
We’re all supposed to be entranced
When nature sends us snowy days.

But I just tumbled on the snow
And gave my knee a nasty whack.
If I’m supposed to love the Earth,
The Earth should try to love me back.

“On the Snow” first appeared in The Providence Journal.




Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 230 poems published in a wide range of places, including twelve in past issues of Sparks of Calliope.

Two Poems by Susan Jarvis Bryant

Lessons in Love

Inspired by William George Falconer, 1922 – 2006 


I. The First

The photo flew from Grandad’s falling wallet.
It fluttered to the floor within my reach.
I picked it up and saw the writing on it –
Summer ’64 at Brighton Beach.
I gazed at Gran – a siren of the ocean –
Her skirt hitched up, surf lapping at her thighs,
A skittish grin with saucy notions frozen
In tantalizing, sea-and-sunshine eyes.
My tender heart had plenty left to learn.
The man who snapped the picture taught me well.
He told me Gran’s bold beauty made him burn
To dance with her till frost froze flames of Hell.
I knew that day the value of our chat.
I knew that night I’d pray for love like that.


II. The Last

His feisty spirit hid in wizened skin
That stretched across each worn and weary bone.
I saw his grief – that wretched wince within
His wistful eyes. He choked down every groan.
I held my grandad’s gnarly hands in mine –
Hands that fought a war and built a life
With she who made the bleakest moments shine –
My grandmother, his gone and longed-for wife.
He told me, when the stars were in his reach
And always silvered sprawling golden sand,
He’d meet his foxy sweetheart on the beach.
They’d waltz and kiss then walk home hand in hand.
He taught my smarting heart the marvel of
That death-defying miracle called love.




Susan Jarvis Bryant is originally from England and now lives on the coastal plains of Texas. She has poetry published in a variety of places. Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.

Two Poems by Jessica Whipple

Heyday

When do we stop wanting
to go up into things?
When I was ten,
we went inside the St. Louis Arch.
My brother and I rode the tram
like a caterpillar along a stem
that bends under its weight.
At the top we looked out the windows
and felt we had grown wings.

Next summer at the Statue of Liberty
we learned the crown was closed.
He didn’t care. He was older,
bored by the seeming-smallness
of brothers, cities.

Following the interstate
we took decades earlier,
I’m on my way again.
Can the drear of adulthood
really be this obvious:
The gas station where my brother and I
got Big Apple keychains and Bugles or Combos
or some other past-its-heyday snack,
even that is somehow worse-off now,
overtaken by weeds.


Behold the Pawpaw

A secret delight grows native
to our PA home: The pawpaw,
left from another time when
indigenous people foraged, built eel weirs
in Susquehanna symbiosis.

We traveled highways to a pawpaw sale,
stood giddy in a (socially-distanced) line
hustled home snuggling Potomac, Shenandoah
in crinkly brown bags heavy with hope in the promise:
Tropical flavor, banana plus mango, creamy inside.

Because we were bored, lonely
worn out from pandemic living
couldn’t help feeling
these Prehistoric-looking trees
persisted for ages in the understory
destined to bear fruit for us
yellow flesh was ours to discover
floral scent set free to fill these nostrils.

So we read blogs, Food & Wine
hungry for joy, novelty.
Pawpaw ice cream
would redeem lonely summer days.
Pawpaw salsa would salve our restless souls.

At home I sliced one open
revealed an eerie smile of black seeds
—this will be good!—
glistening flesh like overripe melon
—I can’t wait to taste!—
But if I’m honest,
what I discovered
was twenty-seven dollars
of soapy, slimy mush
not at all tropical
And if I’m honest, I was foolish
to think a fruit could save us.




Jessica Whipple is a writer for adults and children. Her poetry has been published by One Art, Nurture, Ekstasis, Rathalla Review, Stanchion, Door Is a Jar, and Pittsburgh Quarterly, with some forthcoming in Pine Hills Review and Anti-Heroin Chic. Her debut picture book, titled ENOUGH IS…, will be published March 7th, 2023, by Tilbury House, and another titled I THINK I THINK A LOT by Free Spirit Publishing is forthcoming in August. To see more of her work, visit AuthorJessicaWhipple.com or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWhippl17.

Two Poems by Jarad Bushnell

Where Someplace Now a Downy

The moon has risen up
The snow has fallen down
The cold has set itself inside
Each member of the town

While on my porch in quiet
I breathe the misty chill
Remark to self the silence
Of each surrounding hill

Where someplace now a Downy
Is sleeping in a tree
Waiting out the cold snap
Alongside wife he be

In bed of woodchip blanket
In home of limb of dead
He spends the night deep dreaming
With fluffy belly fed

And once near morn he stirs
To sound below on ground
His little lady hears it too
His warming wing spreads ‘round

Her slender shoulders, tense
Her dark red open eye
Her velvet head is burrowed deep
Into his side, she sighs

As little chests return to
The night’s deep rhythmic beat
Before the sun stirs up the hills
Before the moon’s retreat


Anniversary Poem 2022

While tidying up I uncovered a tote
Buried beneath a closet heap
A pouch of prints showing how I’d dote
On that girl whose heart I continue to keep
Of adventures had in distant days
A multitudinous display

There were campers in Iceland and Coney Island;
Her bob cut, my jeans and black shirt;
In the former days when I was too thin
We’d shoot pool and stay out and make out and flirt!
Enjoying all there was to find
I came across two of one kind

In both that eager Emerald Eye
Held trance with chin turned low
In both on breeze a tress let fly
To barely brush her even brow
Wait – Do curls compared appear
To differ by a millimeter?

No sense in keeping dupes to cherish
But if unique and one be tossed
With it a piece of me will perish
With it an instant will be lost
It’s an awful thought to entertain
So back in tote I placed prints again




Jarad Bushnell is a data scientist who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and cat. His poetry has appeared in Grand Little ThingsWestWard Quarterly, and others. He enjoys calisthenics, birdwatching, and exploring nature. You can find his published work at JaradBushnellPoetry.com.

Two Poems by Paul Buchheit

To Seize the Day

With every pulse a pixie scatters dust
to mark her presence, as the gods ordain:
she heaves and thrashes with a harlot’s lust
to satisfy the scurrilous refrain
of moments hurtling in a desperate
appeal to never end, while humankind,
possessed of dreamlike powers to emit
a billion self-delusions in its mind,
adorns itself in jewels, velvet robes,
and masquerades of immortality.

But merciless the timeless eye that probes
and parodies the human foolery
of squandering tomorrows to ascend
to glory just before tomorrows end.


To Embrace One’s Fortune

When breath of dusk is gathering inside,
and paths are blurred by brooding clouds of mist;
when kindred spirits hesitate to guide
your errant journey, and the Fates persist
in taunting you by lashing heavy stone
to every step: then stoke your neural fires
until the glimmer in your mind has grown
to waves of longing, rousing your desires
to revel in the ancient mysteries
of being. Lots were cast for centuries,
and moments passed in infinite degrees
of time and place for fleeting ecstasies
to spark your life — yet lives to never be
are numerous as droplets in the sea!




Paul Buchheit, a lifelong Chicagoan and retired college teacher, is an author of books, poems, progressive essays, and scientific journal articles. He recently completed his first historical novel, 1871: Rivers on Fire. His most recent non-fiction book was Disposable Americans, published in 2017 by Routledge.

Two Poems by Mark J. Mitchell

The Helen Portrait

Dies nächt sinf nicht für die menge gemacht
(Nights are not made for the masses)
          —Rainier Maria Rilke
          The Book of Pictures

Night. She hopes she looks east. One husband liked
early sun on her impossible face. Night
makes her sing of touch. He asked a picture
be made. She’d lean on a terrace, east wall
ahead of her—for the light. She knew his fall—
that death—waited there. He meant to see her

at his end. Small man came with a smooth
board, pumiced. He arranged paint wells, burnt sticks.
Then he looked at her for days. He didn’t move.
She stood, silent as a laurel. She knew
what was and what was coming. Her eyes fixed
the distance. On the third day he tried
a stroke of charcoal, sounding like a wound
on an unshaved face. She looked out and sighed
the sigh of one who knew. He sketched. At noon,
he left. The board was bare. She’s seen his hand
moving. Heard it draw. She breathed, but kept still.
Next dawn, he tried again. Again. Again.
No pictures exists and no picture will.


The Blind Room

The blind room hides decks of blank cards. You look
for symbols, faces, you see richest dark
revealing meanings you can’t quite read—
not here. This special place, built out need
for one place you’re never meant to see.
Rest blind. The room hides and those blank cards look
back at you, cheating but chaste. Unmarked.

You deal crisp cards by touch. It’s still a game
that must get played. Of course you’ll bet blind,
dropping colorless chips on what must be
green felt. Click. One. Two. More? At least three
players. A voice says, “call.” Rakes chips. He
says, “deal.” New cards touch your fingers. The game
goes on. Repeats. The voices are soft, kind.

They play, careful as pianists. Each note,
each card is important. When they begin,
you lose. The hands, the blank cards, must be played.
Toss plastic at the kitty. Never raise
no matter which suits you think you hold. Say
check. Play cards like a piano. Take notes.
Soon, these blinds will open. Light must pour in.




Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications. A new collection, Something to Be, and a novel are forthcoming. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award, and he has been nominated for Best of the Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, or his website.

Two Poems by Christy Jones

Shared noodles, over concrete

for Vida

“I hid from it. I mean, I ran to the garage,”
She said. Her beef stroganoff had paled, cooled
As she spoke, stilted-steady, knowing the words
Could exit and be their own creatures, not in cages
But not free-range, either; in houses, properly locked.
I remembered when, before, we’d seen a dead bird

In this same place, speaking of other treacheries, the bird
Carcass, when noticed, halting her sentence like a frightened garage
Door about to hit some invisible leaf. We couldn’t go back, locked
Into this deeper thing of death: a body cooled
Splayed, feet up, on concrete. I wondered aloud if cages
Could have protected it, but those were just words

To say. I ate my own stroganoff, wondering what words
Could be offered for this destruction. If a bird
Demanded our sympathy, what of us in eight-story cages,
Holding a jagged memory of a garage
Escape? What had she wondered? ‘Had he cooled
Off? Would it happen again? What was it in me that wasn’t locked

Tightly enough? Or was I locked
At all?’ And when she spoke it, in brave precocity, the words
Offered back were a warning, a critique, a shame: no cooled
vengeance like an osprey’s sacrifice for her baby bird.
Her presence wasn’t fit for the family home; only the garage.
Somehow, the song of her nest was not “Men like that deserve to be in cages,”

But they were extended to her. Steel-quiet cages
Draped in the dark, evil velvet of honor, locked
From the outside while she found safety in a garage.
“I was weak,” she said. “That’s not how I see it,” I started, words
Clotting in my mouth. We couldn’t go back, not from the bird,
Not from this, but I let my lips part; my teeth cooled

By oxygen inhaled at a new angle. It had to be cooled,
All this breath enclosed and set free from rib cages,
Faint and fragile as the hollow bones of a bird,
Not simply a bone-pile, but formed, locked
Into the skeleton of her history, a truly emerging anatomy of words
Guiding her here from a cramped, macabre garage

She looked backward and forward at the cages, understanding they must be cooled
To be seen; the garage slowly, laboriously pushed open to allow the bird
A new flight. She locked the styrofoam holding her lunch and graced me with more words.


Seaworthy

My every tangled lobe is occupied
by water’s heave, yet ocean’s daughter, too;
I won’t be shackled by the tide.

I thought I had no true right to reside
upon a newborn island’s point of view;
my every tangled lobe preoccupied.

I’ve felt the snarling wind as I decide,
revolving liquid, jetsam to a roux,
replete with shackles by the tide.

Succumbing to the apathetic ride
of what’s been done as what I needs must do;
my every tangled lobe now ossified.

My will gasps air, remembers I’m supplied
my own brave oar to flex the waves anew.
I snap the shackles of the tide.

So though the currents seep dissatisfied,
I row north toward a holy rendezvous.
Though every tangled lobe is occupied;
I won’t be shackled by the tide.




Christy Jones is a Minnesotan poet, singer, actress, and playwright. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University and has works published or forthcoming in The CollidescopeReckoning Press, Eunoia Review, and Crêpe & Penn, among others. For amusing retweets on linguistic oddities and musical theater errata, follow her on Twitter at @cjosings.

“Conjure” by Dana Ravyn

For those who I have loved, I cannot know
if time has been so fair or cruel to me.
Have thoughts of me just faded long ago,
or held me tenderly in memory?
At night I peel back the waning layers
and coax their voices sweetly to their tongues,
to resurrect the songs of muted players,
the notes unplucked and chords we could have strummed.
The faded faces where their eyes once glowed
stare back from every shadow on my wall.
I’d give up all I’ve hoped and all I’ve known,
if their sighs whispered now and let me fall.
Outside the chains of time their love is free,
but do they ever yearn to conjure me?




Dana Ravyn is a poet, novelist, and educator. She has published a novel (Fearless Heart), a chapbook (Swidden Dreams), and haiku and poetry in print internationally. Her new series of poems will appear in Red Haircrow’s upcoming anthology, Varied Spirits, in early 2023. Dana lives in the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, area.