“On Not Being in Bangladesh” by D. R. James

“I like writing about where I am.” —Billy Collins

I like writing about where I’m not, such as
my colleague’s cottage standing empty along a pebbly shore,
its insides—yes, knotty-pined, patina’d, I’m pretty sure—
enjoying the respite between peopled summer weekends
or the cushioned silence of winter’s drifts and desolation.

Indeed, for me a good vacation wouldn’t be complete
without the writing of a poem made possible
by the time I might otherwise have spent
cycling through Belarus or Montenegro
or perhaps observing profoundly to my spouse, once more,

and to everyone gathered at some seaside cheese market,
that the tiny countries of Europe are to U.S. states
what Cornish hens are to cuts of beef—
just me if I were doing my part
in re-embedding the ugly American.

It is also a lot of fun simply imagining
that advertised walking tour of Patagonia,
whose vast, steppe-like plains,
according to one encyclopedia,
since I wouldn’t know from experience,

terrace west toward the Andes,
their barren shingle slowly giving way
to porphyry and basalt (types of lava, FYI)
and an increase in annual rain and vegetation.
And since I’ve been told I should get away more,

especially now with the recent re-inflation
of a few of my coronary arteries,
here I don’t go to Slovenia, Guyana, Burkina Faso,
to Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania,
to the Pacific islands once crushed by Portugal,

to all the homes of the Uralic family of languages—
Hungary, Finland, Estonia, places like that—
to Warsaw, again, thirty-five years later,
to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavík
for a hotdog smothered in remolaði.

But what I’m really hoping is that the Dalai Lama
will join me when I head for the Tibet that lies
just beyond the plateau of my porch,
which we’d pack up into on the bony back
of a ballpoint pen, with him highlighting old hangouts

among the rugged heights,
me taking copious notes on the fly,
though that of course wouldn’t mean we’d be any closer
to peace in the world or the end of exile
from all the places where I’m not.

—first published in Sycamore Review




D. R. James’s latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020); his micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at Origami Poems Project; and individual poems have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and journals. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. You can find his collections on Amazon.com.

Two Poems by Larry Needham

Cycling the Tour, Phnom Penh

As cycles slow to circle the Place de la Post,
we’re afforded (for a fee) an overview
of French colonial designs. Our Khmer host,
an architect, talks history, what old, what’s new,
before we disembark near the Le Commissariat.
We follow her, ducking under briefs and blouses
draped wet on wire clotheslines, then charge through crowded squats:
one-room flats that serve as multi-family houses.

Next stop, the hospice of the Sisters of Portieux.
It’s true: the poor are with us always, on the street,
in makeshift shelters. In a lean-to we push through,
a naked child bathes from a pail to beat the heat.
Our guide frowns. “‘Urban Improvement?’ Only in name.
How can we progress when some people have no shame?”


Banteay Srei Temple

A miniature, well-preserved—a rarity—
pink sandstone carved like sandalwood. In bas relief
on pediments, devatas, for all posterity
guard an Angkor gem; its riches would tempt a thief
—and did—the year French raiders of antiquities
despoiled the site, seizing artifacts to fence,
thankfully restored, untouched by their iniquity,
to be enshrined, in unintended consequence.

Sita, depicted on a fallen stone’s red face
ravished by a demon, is reclaimed, at some cost:
trial by fire, insult, exile, personal disgrace.
Merit courts ruin or eclipse; yet what’s lost
in time is found, made whole, recreated. The dance
of Nataraj in stone whose posture keeps the balance.




Larry Needham is a retired community college teacher who has published on Romantic literature and the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali. His work has recently appeared in a handful of online journals including: Amethyst Review, Lighten Up, and Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine.  He lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

“Breathe Close to Me” by Nolo Segundo

Breathe close to me.
Let not your head droop
Nor your face grimace
In fierce grief, for when
I must leave, all will not
Leave with me, I promise.

The memories we made
Together will sit safely
Inside your mind’s nest.
I’ll leave the photos too—
I can’t take them with me,
So you’ll have the proof
We were young once,
Both pretty and foolish,
Drawn together like
Two bees put in a jar,
Buzzing around each other
Until their disparate sound
Becomes a kind of music.

The photos and memories
Can take you back to all
The places we loved in
Italy and France and that
Windblown prehistoric
Southern beach where
Our hearts first linked
In tandem as flesh merged
And the monk-like sun set
Slowly, silently o’er that
Endless and holy ocean.

Yet they lie, those photos
And remembrances of our
Youth and middle years,
For no canvas or brain
Can seize our love, the
Living thing it is, unseen
But tangible as a hand,
Vulnerable yet enduring
Past anger, illness and
Even death, because time
Cannot diminish this
Being born between us.


“Breathe Close to Me” first appeared in Dual Coast Magazine




Nolo Segundo, pen name of retired teacher L. J. Carber, 74, became a published poet in his 8th decade with work in 47 online / in print literary magazines in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Portugal, Romania, and India; in 2020, a trade publisher released a book-length collection titled The Enormity Of Existence, and in 2021, a second book titled Of Ether And Earth. His themes are the not so brave new world of aging; that inscrutable mystery we trivialize as ‘love’; and the awareness he’s had for 50 years since having an NDE [near-death experience] while almost drowning in a Vermont river that he is sharing a long dream with a myriad of other dreamers, and that he has probably dreamt such dreams many times before.

“Calm Before the Storm” by Joanna Grant

The Gulf is calm tonight. The ships
ride at anchor, from the wooden dhows
to the grey troop ships, all under their
home countries’ flags. At peace.

For now. When the wind turns
here in the Middle East as we
all feel it will from the salt tang
in the stiffening breeze—

then, well. The storm. We get them
even here in this tiny country of date palms
and sun where mostly one quiet day

goes down to day. We wear our masks,
that fight is over, now, even the mutinous
obeying the order in the end, reporting to
the base clinic doors at their mandated times.

Here. There. Wherever we might call home.
A pause. Under the awning shading the
main courtyard, a loosening. Unwinding.
The smokers smoke, the drinkers drink.
We greet each other. Relief. The young ones
flit from bench to bench, their flirts striking
sparks in the quickening breeze. Relief.

Until the next great swell, the booms and cracks
of the inevitable lightning, when the sea turns,
as we all know it will, even now the twinkling
of moonlight on the pretty wavelets barely masking
the rip, the rend of the many unquiet currents.




Joanna Grant holds a Ph.D. in British and American literature, specializing in fictional as well as nonfiction travel narratives of the Middle East. She spent eight years in that region, notably two years in Afghanistan, teaching writing, mythology, and public speaking classes to American soldiers and gathering materials for her own memoir, which she is currently completing as part of an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University under the direction of Mark Sundeen. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in journals including Guernica and Prairie Schooner.

Two Poems by Stephen Jordan

Coltan

Past the fray of foreign weapons in local hands, the scramble
of brother against brother, scream of gunfire and low
concussions underfoot, children unlocked their necks and
pulled swollen eyes away from the river, silt and
threads of heavy metals curling around black thighs.
Past the treetops, floating over their corrugated world,
mud and lean-tos and an angry heat, they strained further,
wondering about the world of smooth pavement
window treatments and airplane fuel, like toy towns
built from buckets with endless pieces, a car ad
on a crumbled page trampled in the dirt, the unreal blue
on the backpack of a more adventurous traveler;
place of myths and shimmers that carry their fingerprints
through its grid—

                                                                      a shower of pixels
raining down and filling up our streets, spilling from our eyes,
each tear holding a scene like a snow globe, images rendered
from analog waves ion streams and phosphenes quick to
adulterate families of axons and dendrites and lobe chemicals
back out to satellite dishes, raw elements of a new creation
a growing beast that lurches with mercury-tipped fangs,
swirling and drunk and in the way of the sun, oil slicks
and plastic spittle and neurotoxins on its breath, picking up
the train concussing it downhill flung into the aisle
grabbing at seats and passengers upended headlong
thrown back skull fractured window spider web cracked
pinning a shoulder anywhere just to glance outside.


The North Cascades

Perimeters dissolved like a spider web in my hand.

And now with the hotel walls in slow collapse,
borders beget borders, lines clearly drawn,
I think of just a few days past,
back to the backcountry, to the North Cascades,
back when I was continuous,

The wood chips and duff that floated in the campfire coffee,
We drank them down.

The field mice that ran across my sleeping bag,
ran across my forehead,
the summer stars wanted in.

The dirt that drew the maps of my hands,
fingerprints ready
the earth that rambled around me,
that settled in as newborn skin.

Our thirst went straight to the river,
a river wound down from the mountain
to the deepest cirques,
over sandstone, mudstone,
the surface blinking to the sun.

The outskirts of my body were dubious, margins porous.
My self as self was doubtful.




Stephen Jordan was born and raised in the Midwest, the son of Colombian and Serbian immigrant parents.  He has taught high school English for over twenty years, taking occasional leaves of absence to live and work in South America, East Africa, and the UK. Steve has been published in Lalitamba, Third Wednesday, Lyrical Somerville, Common Chord Anthology, English Journal, and Gamut Magazine.

“Break the Clasp” by John Tustin

She keeps the banjo Jay bought her
Right beside her bed.

Alex painted her portrait
And it sits on the bedroom wall,
In view of her sleeping body
Night after night after night.

My 500 poems written about her are in a drawer,
Underneath some blankets and a book beneath her bed.
My photo is turned down, wrapped in a shirt in another drawer.
She used to keep it at work, so I was told.

She is going to start practicing the banjo again.
It’s important to her.

The painting by Alex,
Her daughter remarked how much she liked it.
She has no idea who painted it and wouldn’t know his name,
Anyway.

She tells me she will always love me.
She doesn’t love Jay anymore,
Hasn’t for a decade.
She never loved Alex, not even a little.

In another world
All the poems I wrote for her paper her walls.
Before bed she chooses a different one each night to read.
In another world.

In this world
I will always be relegated to the closet,
To be brought out
When the parents or the children are asleep.

She keeps me in a locket.
A locket that she never wears.
I lie in between her spare bedding
And some forgotten boots,
Pushing outward;

Trying to break the clasp.




John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.

“The Keepsake” by Kelly Sargent

You kept a rusty Bugs Bunny tin of marbles in our bedroom
on the shelf you thought I couldn’t reach
because you dreamt they might be worth something

Someday.

I found one under your bed this morning
when I was clearing out Mom’s house
and your side of the room exactly as you had left it.

An abandoned, cerulean-blue
glassy cat’s eye stared at me
lifelessly

from the dark corner of the rectangular outline —
darker than the rest of the Brazilian cherry wood floor —
that the sun had never touched.

I reached for it.

Cool — almost chilled — it was, by the absence of life-giving rays.
Smooth, in its betraying lack of indentations.
It was weightier than I had expected.

My fingertips caressed it, gently at first;
then with increasing pressure, earnestly hoping to infuse it with life.
I wanted it to see me
and be happy to be found.

But it didn’t know that it had been lost
and could not find joy in the moment.

Like you.
With the cerulean, glassy stare you gave me when I found you
in your bed
when you were 16.
You didn’t know that one to match lay on the wooden floor beneath you.

I recalled the time that I spilled your collection
and how the clatter roused you from a lazy Sunday nap.
I froze in place and shivered, anticipating your ire.

You considered me with cerulean compassion,
a golden lock matted against your forehead.
And you laughed silver strands of grace at me.

I never knew the last time I laughed with you
would be the last time I laughed with you,
until it was.

I nestled the marble in my palm
and put it in my pocket.

It was worth something.


“The Keepsake” first appeared in The Purpled Nail




Kelly Sargent was born hard of hearing. Adopted in Luxembourg, she grew up with a deaf twin sister in Europe and the United States. Her most recent 2021 poems and artwork, including a current Best of the Net nominee, appeared, or are forthcoming, in nearly two dozen publications in the U.S. and abroad. She has also written for a national newspaper for the Deaf. Currently, she volunteers as a reviewer for an organization dedicated to making visible the artistic expression of sexual violence survivors.

“Hedgehog’s Song” by Henry Peter Bunch

for Crystal Joy Vagnier

Strange to feel your nimble hand
touch mine – a thoughtless accident
I thought at first—I passed you papers & you
pressed your fingers over mine. But when
you pressed again you startled me—
a cold spark jumped from spine to heart

struck the burnt-out chanters of my heart,
half that night I thought of your warm hand
felt it turn a key & open me.
Drafts set adrift as if by accident,
their papers flying off the sill as when
a guest leaves all your windows open & you

find your living room a howling mess. You
entered next week’s class – my iron heart
glowed hot enough to bend ~ & later when
we all passed out our poems & your hand
touched mine again I saw no accident
in how you bravely reached for me.

By touch you tried to recreate me
in your image, just as I now shape you
in my reveries, these accidental
shimmers flashing on my soaring heart
amongst the cumulus, a red clay hand
caressing stratonimbus when

(a (plosive (ring) ≀ class) ended). When
koans (echo) apprehend me
may they wash me off my way, my hands
spread out against their waters. You
kept blowing on my driftwood heart
to turn it back… Why start this accident

with me? How serious an accident
do you propose? I then remembered when
my ex & I had parted ways, how heart
& soul broke down, how all things blurred in me.
I asked myself if I could see you
clearly now, if I could grasp your hand,

our hands together, crushed in happy accident,
if you were a mirage, if I could bear it when
you left me, if my heart could bear it all.




Henry Peter Bunch is a poet, civil servant, and father to two boys. He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from City College, where he co-won the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award for Poetry, and a B.A. in English & Fine Arts from Alfred University, where he won the Mary Wager Fisher Literacy Prize for Poetry. His work has been published in Love’s Chance Magazine and Promethean.

Two Poems by Don Nigroni

Timely Advice

The past is like a frozen lake
which never makes the slightest wake
yet it can seem to ebb and flow
in ways it should or shouldn’t go.

The future’s neither dark nor bright
and even those with second sight
can’t see beyond the was and now,
that logic never could allow.

What’s now won’t ever last too long,
departing like a haunting song,
and all I’ll say about today
is it’ll simply melt away.


Prior Knowledge

So if the past does not exist
then somehow it must still assist,
for if the past could disappear,
we’d never know about it here.




Don Nigroni, a retired economist, received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Saint Joseph’s University and has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Notre Dame. His short fiction has appeared in AmbitAsymmetry FictionTheme of AbsenceMystery TribuneRune Bear365 tomorrowsFree Flash Fiction and 50-Word Stories and his poetry has been published by Candelabrum and Mystery Time.

Two Poems by Jacqueline Coleman-Fried

The Old Woman and the Little Girl

It hurt to look at the wreck of her—
legs dangling from a wheelchair, 
torqued back listing,
brain, lungs, tongue mostly mute.
Gullet sphincter too tight for meat,
the other too loose.
Yet when family came to visit,
my mother’s smile lit the room.
 
And, somehow, she made it clear 
who she wanted to sit by—
her great-granddaughter, Ella.
 
Who wouldn’t want to sit beside 
those bright eyes and munchkin voice? Ella,
from zero to four—a respite
from the pains of age, a trip
to the land of lambs and princesses. 
I often worried—
was she scared sitting next to
this wordless, withered crone 
whose very body sent
a dark message?
 
A few years later, when I ask Ella 
if she remembers her great-grandparents,
she looks at the floor, and says,
in a voice lined with tears—

I remember Grandma.

How lovely.
How lovely.


The Box

It starts with a box—
a quilted box—
that sat, for years, on a shelf in the front hall closet
in my parents’ house

holding a white cashmere scarf, white knit hat,
thick mittens and gloves.

Frayed but still shielding from insects and dust,
the box reminds me how my mother wrapped us
in soft words, with gentle fingertips—
but, at the slightest scent of danger,
grew fierce claws.

My sister-in-law earmarks the box,
and its contents, for trash
now that my parents are gone.

I take home the white scarf and hat.
When my mother wore them, she looked
like an angel.

I could not save her
from the blizzard’s mounting snow.




Jacqueline Coleman-Fried is a poet and essayist living in Tuckahoe, NY. She has taken a weekly poetry workshop at The Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College for the past three years. Her work has been published in Home Planet New OnlineThe Voices Project Poetry LibraryArt Times Journal, and The Orchards Poetry Journal. Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, plans to publish another of her poems in October 2021.