Two Poems by Tad Tuleja

Stout Heart

“Real men don’t cry,” he heard them say when he
Was six, and the boy, fallen, took it straight
To heart, wanting to please and not to be
Mistaken for a girl. And so his fate
Was sealed. He made a garden in his heart
Where every sadness blossomed into stone.
He shrouded it behind an oak rampart
And when he fell he went to it alone.
Impassively he watered it with tears
Invisible. This pantomime of strength
Became his shield. In vanquishing his fears
He exiled tenderness so that at length
He found himself the sovereign of a land
Where even silent grief was contraband.


Cloudbreak

A lone beam of sunlight, javelin straight,
Breaks from a cloud to irradiate our garden.
The paraphernalia of work are suddenly luminous.
Wheelbarrow, rake, gloves for a moment aglow
While a trowel, eater of soil, flings back a flash,
Blinding me like I’ve been punched by a
Phosphorus fist. Watching the beam emerge
From the riven cloud, I recall Victorian tableaux
Like the finger of God steadying Jacob’s ladder
Or comforting Jesus in Gethsemane as Peter
Denies him. Was it such a beam that made Paul
Stumble or augured a victory for Christ at the
Milvian Bridge? Things that drop from the sky
Suggest origins wondrous. In this garden, though,
I see only tools: wheelbarrow, rake, gloves,
That specular trowel. Things of the brilliant earth,
Pointing only to themselves. But in the sweep
Of the visible, wondrous enough.




Tad Tuleja is a Texas-based folklorist and songwriter with interests in the Hollywood Western, honor cultures, and the mythology of violence. He has edited anthologies on vernacular traditions and military culture and received a Puffin Foundation grant for his song cycle “Skein of Arms.” He has a weekly podcast and performs songs under the musical alias Skip Yarrow.

Two Poems by Miriam Manglani

Beach Days

I spent my childhood summers
listening to the sound of the ocean’s tongues
lap the shore’s sandy face,
the cries of gulls stirring the salty air.

Lying on a soggy towel,
holding a book over my head,
its words lifting me to other worlds.

Eating tuna sandwiches
while feeding the squawking gulls,
fighting like bickering lovers over scraps.

Hearing my parents and their loud friends from Egypt
clustered like a gaggle of Arabic speaking geese
sheltered in a group of umbrellas,
playing backgammon,
littering the sand with their peach pits
and pumpkin seed shells.

Floating on my back in the ocean
as I stared into a kite-speckled sky
teaming with white cotton candy.

Taking a shower and uncovering
a mini shore in my swim suit
of sand, rocks, and seaweed.

Going to bed and feeling the cozy warmth
of the day’s sun radiate from my reddened skin,
warming me in the cool night,
my mattress a big raft
floating in a sea of dreams, moonlight, and chirping crickets.


Homeless Village

And there it was.
Tucked under an edge
of the Charles River Bridge,
lit by the early morning light
reflected off the still river—
a homeless village.

With their colorful tents,
piles of empty tin cans
in rusting supermarket carts
waiting to be redeemed
for a few life-saving dollars,
salvaged mattresses
with their fluff spilling out
and poky springs,
empty, cracked vodka bottles,
and rusting propane tanks
for cooking whatever-scraps of food.

I stare at men emerging from tents,
as if they were beings from another world,
their waking arms yawning in the morning sun.




Miriam Manglani lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and three children. She works full-time as a Sr. Technical Training Manager. Her poems have been published in various magazines and journals including Poetry Quarterly, Rushing Thru the Dark, Vita Brevis, Cerasus MagazineSparks of Calliope, and Canyon Voices. Most recently, her poetry chapbook, Ordinary Wonders, was published by Prolific Press.

Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

Light

My sweet-sixteen dress was yellow as the daffodils
In the seamstress’s cramped but spotless living room,
Yellow as the sweet lemon bars she made each Christmas
For the neighborhood children.
Mrs. Mueller lived at the end of our block
In a little stone cottage near a field of flowers,
Like a grandmother in a fairy tale.
She was old and poor and crippled
But always tidy, always smiling,
Even as the marshals took her away
After it came to light that, once upon a time,
She was a guard at Auschwitz.

“Light” first appeared in Free Inquiry


Irene and Beth

Irene has shining golden hair,
And fame and glory without end,
And greater wealth than even she
Could ever find a way to spend.
 
But Beth cannot afford to buy
What goes beyond her basic needs.
She must make do with what she has
And squeeze each penny till it bleeds.
 
Which woman hates her empty days?
Whose sadness makes her hard and mean?
Who yearns and yearns to change her life?
I’m sorry, but . . . it’s not Irene.

“Irene and Beth” first appeared in The Providence Journal




Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 220 poems published in a wide range of places, including eight in past issues of Sparks of Calliope.

Two Poems by John Tustin

Her Shoulder

And what about her shoulder?
How it looked as a soft mound, covered in a blanket,
Her sighing and asleep with her back to you
In the wan still glow of the moonlit dark.
Your shiver of excitement
When she turned over in her sleep
To face you, a look of consternation on her eyelids,
What was almost a secretive smile
Flirting at both corners of her mouth.

And what about her shoulder?
Once she turned over it shook loose
And stared at you, bare.
You looked at the gooseflesh that rose on it
And you put the blanket over it again,
Where it belonged
As she began to snore, right there beside you,
Where she belonged.


Pictures with Words

I am painting pictures with words.
I do it on most nights.
There need not be structure and the image combinations
Are limitless
So why will I write another poem
Where you will see a lone man feeling barely alive,
Prostrate on his bed and hiding from the sun?
I can paint anything:
I can paint birds in the sky,
Worms dancing tribal dances underneath the grass
But I don’t and I won’t.
Why is this?

Today a hawk flew ten feet from my face
And landed in a tree, so high up
He was difficult to see.
He didn’t look at me once.
It was a beautiful moment
But I had no desire to tell you about it –
I’m only telling you now to make my point.
I could paint a little rabbit in the bushes below
And I could write about the triumph of the hawk
Or the escape of the rabbit
And make you happy with either conclusion
But that’s not what I paint.

I won’t paint the light but I will paint the heat.
I won’t paint the growth but I will paint the dark.
I hear a noise and I know the noise must be me.
Even when I try to write a lovely day
It becomes the solemn pounding of a dirge.
The moon comes out of hiding
And I look up at it and it’s pockmarked and ugly.
I want to tell you it’s lovely but I can’t
And it’s not because I won’t lie to you,
No – it’s only because I can’t. I lie to you all the time.
I look in the mirror and I see my narrow hips,
A big gut that sluices over the sides like water
Shaking out of a bucket
And I’ll have to go to funeral after funeral
Until I get to the last one I’ll ever attend.




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 Walking Wounded” by Nolo Segundo

I see us everywhere anymore,
at the supermarket or the mall,
moving slowly, often cane-less
(old folks can be vain too) along
a sidewalk like lost zombies, and
of course every time I visit one
of the plethora of doctors I rely
upon to keep my rusting body
and creaking heart working….

Why did I not see old people
when I was young?
They must have been there,
in my world of swiftness and
sex, of sprawling on a beach or
dancing under the boardwalk
or driving fast enough to
challenge death itself—but
when I saw old people—and it
seemed rare back then—it was
like watching a scene from an
old black-and-white movie,
not quite real, even quaint—
I liked old people and I loved
my Nana and Pop-pop, but only
now in my 8th decade do I know
how much they had to put up with
in living a long life, how time has
a tendency to whittle away your
strength and confidence and grace,
shrinking your bones, drying out
your joints, slowing your brain
and poking holes–oh, so many
holes in your memory….

I am not as fond of old people
now I am one—it is the young
I now see fondly—
but they can’t see me….




Nolo Segundo, pen name of retired teacher L. J. Carber, 74, became a published poet in his 8th decade with work in over 70 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. A 2022 nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Segundo is currently working on a yet-to-be-titled third collection of poetry.

Two Poems by Henry Stimpson

Why I Became a Writer

The recess bell was buzzing as I ran
to prop up my fallen bike, but Miss Williams
shooed me away: “I don’t care
if it’s the king of England’s bicycle!”

A tall angular woman with reddish hair,
my fourth-grade teacher
was a descendant of Roger Williams,
she told us more than once,

and a distant cousin of Ted Williams
of the Red Sox, with his terrible temper.
Signing my report card in perfect
schoolteacher script, Miss Williams

flunked me in handwriting.
Next year, when I told her I passed,
she asked to see my scribbling, snorted
and said Miss Shields was far too easy.

But once when I wrote a composition
about driving up Mount Washington,
Miss Williams circled “crystal clear air”
and other fine phrases and gave me an A.

Constance Williams is long dead.
I’m the only one in the world
thinking of her right now
and how it’s her fault.


My Italian Grandfather

looked up from his sickbed
and said “Henry Timpton!”
to gently tease me and chuckled
to have a grandson with such a name
in America, where anything’s possible.
I was six, wary in that dark room.
Grampa was very sick,
Mom said, but I couldn’t catch it.
He’d given me a hot, itchy
summer haircut a month earlier.
I fussed and squirmed, I was bad.

In his linoleum barbershop
a framed photo of the invincible
Rocky Marciano watched over
bottles of Bay Rum, a push broom,
a massive leather barber’s chair
and an ornate cash register with numbers
that popped up ding!
A crumbling butt in the toilet
spewed brown curlicues in the water.
In a drawer, his brass knuckles lurked.

“Muscarales,” he’d say and give me
a dime to buy Three Musketeers,
and I’d run up to Garceau’s for his beloved bars.

Adamo in Italy, he was Adam
in that Rhode Island mill town,
where with thousands of haircuts
in he floated a big house,
a wife and ten kids through the Depression.
He refused to cut his price below 50 cents,
made red wine in his dirt basement,
smoked Camels and stiffed the IRS
until cancer took him at 62.

On a website, I find a grass-covered grave marker
          Adam Iervolino 1893 – 1955
He was born a year later than I thought.




Henry Stimpson has been a public relations consultant and writer for decades. His poems, articles, and essays have appeared in Poet Lore, Cream City Review, Lighten Up Online, Rolling Stone, Muddy River Poetry Review, Mad River Review, Aethlon, The MacGuffin, The Aurorean, Common Ground Review, Vol1Brooklyn, Poets & Writers, The Boston Globe and other publications. Once upon a time, he was a reference librarian, a prison librarian, and a cab driver. He lives in Massachusetts.

“Sinfonia in G Minor” by Michelle DeRose

Every time I play this piece,
memories merge with the stringed voices
and follow the music like brain waves.
It’s 1984. Ruth is afraid to touch
me; I’m hesitant to touch the keys.
Both of us sit stiff as ivory.

Her sleeplessness reflects in the ivory
of her face as she searches for a piece
to begin my lesson. “Play the Bach, the key
of G minor.” I note how drawn her voice.
The piano feels alien to my touch,
but she dismisses my errors with a wave.

I start again and let the opening phrases wave
me beneath the surface of the ivory.
The notes of the first two measures almost touch
in the descending arpeggio that begins the piece
until proximity repels them, and the third voice
enters to emphasize the minor key.

I recall Bernice rushing with the key
to the practice room. I offered a weak wave
but no greeting. Jealousy stifled my voice.
She hurried to her lonely cage of ivory,
where I assumed she found her daily peace
crafting art from her perfect touches.

The piano sang with precision beneath her touch,
but profound talent was not friendship’s key,
friendship that might have kept her from the precipice.
The lament in her music never wavered,
and she announced to her only companion, the ivory,
her plan to reduce the Sinfonia by one voice.

The soprano’s song twines around my voicebox
with the picture of her feet not touching
the ground while her fingers fade to ivory.
The dignified cry of the tenor descends the keyboard
like the steady retreat of ocean waves,
and I wonder where Ruth will find peace.

When I finish the piece, I know it has given voice
to sorrow and waves of guilt. Ruth touches
my hand on the keys of glistening ivory.

Michelle DeRose teaches creative writing and African-American, Irish, and world literature at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her most recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sparks of Calliope, Dunes Review, Making Waves, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, and Healing Muse.

Two Poems by Marcello Giovanelli

January

You can feel him,
here, close, now,

in the early scent
of wintersweet,

your fingers pinch
memory’s pale skin,

probe its faint creases,
its hardened edges,

bedtime stories,
and traces in the snow.

And together you sing
as twin birds, limbs

outstretched, flightless,
to the point of breaking,

and all unwarmed
in the January sun.


Sun Grazes

I waited on the corner
of Coniston Avenue,
as you slowly walked

towards me, all newly
satchelled, wedged hair,
red jumper, coral eyes,

and those sun grazes
gently touching
the side of your head.

I can still feel those low
November clouds
hurrying you away,

the loss of colour,
a fine soot of
memories overlaid.

But now, slowly,
small and bird-like,
cradled between

warmed finger-tips
you’re here,
and those sun grazes,

brilliant once more,
gently touch you still.




Marcello Giovanelli teaches English in the West Midlands, UK. He has previously published poems in various online magazines such as The Poetry Village and Poetry Plus. Find him on Twitter at @mmgiovanelli.

“Ever After: A Dove’s Story” by P. C. Scheponik

She came to me as a hand-fed squab,
soft, silk feathers the color of snow.
We kept her in a large screened cage
fastened to our bedroom wall,
where she perched and cooed and
rearranged her lovely white wings
that clapped in the air with a soft
whistling whenever I let her fly about
the living room, which was every day.
We named her Snow White,
needless to say the Disney in me still
nested in my heart like a little dove egg.
She had small feet, red as a rose,
with tiny toes sporting delicate nails
that pattered lightly against the gravel
sprinkled on the paper lining the bottom
of the cage.
Her eyes, two bright anthracite beads,
sparkled with delight each time I’d reach
inside her home and gently nudge below
her breast with the edge of my open hand,
offering her a nest of palm and fingers.
She loved when I ran my forefinger down
the back of her head and between her folded
wings.
She’d fan her tail and nestle down,
close her eyes softly and dream whatever
doves dream.
One morning, just three years from the day
we brought her home, I found her lying
on the floor of her cage.
She lay on her side, her rose-red feet clenched
as if ready to fly, her wings slightly separated
from her sides, her tail feathers snapped shut
like Venetian blinds, and her little coal-colored
eyes, closed as if sleeping.
I lifted her up, cradling the stiff body in my hands,
the downy neck and elegant head dangled to one side
as I pressed her feathered breast to my lips,
giving her one last mournful kiss.
But I had no princely power to lift death’s curse,
to awaken beauty.
I had only sorrow and the magic of verse to speak
about ever after.




P. C. Scheponik has published four collections of poems: Psalms to Padre Pio (National Centre for Padre Pio, INC), A Storm by Any Other Name and Songs the Sea has Sung in Me (PS Books, a division of Philadelphia Stories), And the Sun Still Dared to Shine (Mazo Publishers), and Stained-Glass Faith (Alien Buddha Press). A 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in numerous literary journals and fared well in multiple competitions. His newest collection, Seeing, Believing, and Other Things, is scheduled for publication by Adelaide Books in Spring 2021.

Two Poems by John Muro

Vultures

Welling up from ditches
like caretakers of loss,
they ride thermals
with large eye-lashes
for wings and long-
stemmed fingers
delicate as coal dust;
relishing the idle drift
into black kettles of air,
travelling half asleep
for miles in search of
food using only wind
for lift. Disciples of decay,
they nest with death
and indulge a life of
dark leisure, as meals
arrive without effort,
wind dispersing the
curious odors of carrion
and neglect from farther
fields, back roads or dumps.
Roosting in barren trees,
their naked heads appear
like enflamed gullets,
drowned in the colors
of garnet red or weather-
worn brick, stripped of
both feathers and flesh,
like the lives that still
follow them, weight-
less, up into alien air.


Apparition

Disheveled autumn’s deftly
side-stepped winter’s grasp,
carrying in wide, blousy
pockets slumbering bees, brittle
nests and the easy currency of
pungent musk lifted from tea-
brown pools of leaf-rot and
acres of decay. Arrives poorly
attired in a worn, tweed cap
and thinning hair, mud-caked
shoes and a shawl of drab-scarlet
woven from wool, blithely
traipses through the well-worn
paths of woodlands, dank ruts
of orchard and rain-glazed
pasture, and, bojangle-brazen,
turns wind-ward and pivots
on his crooked walking stick
as he nimbly rises and entwines
with phantom light, pauses amid
the mottled luster of leaf-scatter,
drinks in the bright applause
of interloper crows and then
bows meekly before sauntering
off into the upsweep of gray
gusts like a happy grief.




John Muro is a resident of Connecticut and a two-time 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee. His first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published by Antrim House (2020) and is available on Amazon. John’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Barnstorm, Euphony, Grey Sparrow, Moria, Sky Island and Sparks of CalliopePastoral Suite, John’s second volume of poems will be published this spring. You can contact John via Instagram @johntmuro.