Liz Robbins – The Good and Terrible Stars

Liz Robbins
The Good and Terrible Stars

On a night, strong, like the bright scent of lemon: how wrong-headed
my obsessions, the need to be alone.

And how utterly necessary, otherwise, why live in a divided country?

I’m the detective and the thief: pulling in people, then hoarding space.

Standing, squinting at the distance: how much to acquiesce? To defend?

Standing in a burning field that’s also a tiny room. Even explaining
the conflict’s a rabbit trap, an ungrateful alibi.

Everyone’s tired, in different ways.

Everyone, driving in loops.

On a night, you might find yourself outside, away from the brightly-lit
party for a time. Inside, a door

about to shut. What clears your brittle path: looking back to the group,
or up?

Michael Mingo – Qualia

Michael Mingo

The eye-searing saturation
of IKB, a liquid blue paint
that’s pigment-intense, spread
over my whole visual plane;

my head throbbing in the absence
of Advil, or a heartache turned
into a panic attack; just what
your lips on mine stimulate:

such qualities have no equal.
Would such squalls of sensation
never cease. My only wish
is for the aesthete’s existence,

though some may judge me
as a hedonist, an uncured
Epicurean. I would take
their derision as medicine.

Most mornings, I get up
so beset with depression
I sense less than that woman
raised in a monochrome room,

who studied nothing but color
as told by textbooks, data sets
from spectrometers. No one
is certain, no one agrees, what

she learned when she emerged.
Were I in Mary’s shoes, or rather,
in Mary’s mind, could I even
begin to tell the difference?

Samuel W. James – Above the Tobacconist

Samuel W. James
Above the Tobacconist

White blinds, defined by dark mould spots in the corners,
ran back and forth on hollow wire insulator. Selby
town centre, where he moved after the divorce,
above the tobacconist, in his second-storey flat; I woke

to see dawn set to work, followed by the early risers.
The pet-food factory by the bridge, we passed it
on entering and leaving the town, and I guessed
it must be where these weekend workers were going.

When the wind blew a certain way, I could smell it
in summer through the window, like off milk and vinegar,
as I watched the cobbled carpark around which the centre
was built, noting the characters who came into the dingy
early opening shop; the faint ring of the bell below.

Meryl Stratford – October, Sailing the English Channel

Meryl Stratford
October, Sailing the English Channel

I watched it again today,
a grainy, black and white movie
filmed almost four decades ago.
Like a ghost ship she sails along.
The camera focuses on self-steering gear:
a wind vane and a tiller that steers
without the help of human hands.
A long line, drifting astern,
measures speed in nautical miles.
The camera looks up at the sails, forward
over the life raft and coils of rope.
It observes waves rushing toward us,
surging away in foam. It studies
lightships in the channel
and the famous white cliffs.
It lingers on the sheen of light.
It goes below to show us galley,
bunks, bins where sails are stowed.
It suggests someone is there,
but no one is seen.
Only a wisp of windblown hair.

Simon Brod – Stadionkade, Amsterdam

Simon Brod
Stadionkade, Amsterdam

I.  15 July 2015, 7.45 a.m.

Today, right in the gap between breakfast and duty,
where stern-faced houses loom on either side,
a patch of sun emerges to embrace me
as I walk a narrow bridge across deep waters
whose face, dark and glassy as a mirror,
beckons, lets me peek through open windows,
glimpsing into life on upper floors

where a bird perched on the windowsill observes,
with an eye that pierces the skin of things and sees,
below on the water’s surface, the sky floating,
beyond it, looped in shadows and tangled weeds,
fish swim heedless circles, and here, lost
in reflection, stopping, turning, turning back,
in a garland of sunlight and, grinning stupidly, me.

II.  2 December 2016, 3:45 p.m.

Today the water’s murky, sediment-laden.
Detritus rises, floats, makes lazy circles.

Ripples criss-cross. Reflections are disturbed,
the world reduced to jagged broken lines.

There have been times the eye saw clear and deep.
Stilled, the surface mirrored trees and street signs,

showed cloudless days, people side by side,
friendly faces shining, mine among them.

But now I only see a restless churning,
angry mud stirred up, fallen leaves,

and faces twisted, crooked, pulled apart.
Mine must be there too, sunless, birdless,

somewhere. A hard rain starts. I turn to go.
The picture quakes. A shiver shakes my bones.

Jennifer L. Freed – The Dog and I

Jennifer L. Freed
The Dog and I

It is only for a moment that we stand
on the weed-ruffled shoulder of the narrow road
while the driver whips past,

but when we are safe again
I see, locked in the dog’s quick clamp,
a throb of velvet grey,
dangling paws.

I am already too late.
There is nothing to do but continue
walking with the mystery
beating in the warm, oblivious jaw
that trots beside me.

Jennifer L. Freed – While My Brother is Having an MRI

Jennifer L. Freed
While My Brother is Having an MRI

                            to see whether the cancer
has also leapt to his brain,
my husband drives wintery roads,
bringing one daughter
to a gymnastics meet,
and the other gets ready for a party
of teenage girls soon to fill this quiet
house. The dog wags
at the door, eager
for his walk, and the plow
leaves another ridge of icy snow
at the end of the driveway.

Carol Parris Krauss – The Fabric of the Heart

Carol Parris Krauss
The Fabric of the Heart

If you peel back the pericardium, snap the thick sac, tear
the heart from the ligaments binding it to the spinal cord
and diaphragm, lift the pulsing machine in your hand, and move
to the light for closer inspection, would you find that the fabric
of the heart is parallel to the texture of the owner’s personality?

Would mother be a sensible calico, father burlap knobby like tree bark,
sister cords of corduroy discontent, and the lone duck who sits
in my front yard without his mate, the one he has proudly waddled
around with for a month, his plump mottled gold beauty,
who has suddenly gone missing, would his heart be shredded satin
similar to the material that lines a coffin and blankets a lifeless body?

Or if you peel back the pericardium, snap the thick sac, tear
the heart from the ligaments binding it to the spinal cord
and diaphragm, lift the pulsing machine in your hand, and move
to the light for closer inspection, would you find that you have
simply stopped the heart from beating and it suddenly sits smooth
like the satin grass the lonely male duck rests in waiting for his
missing mate?

Jasmine Nihmey Vasdi – Shoulders

Jasmine Nihmey Vasdi

rising with sun, a low liquor
choking on lemon pulp lips
      long belly hairs
a country with it’s own onion of corruption
only privacy is in the hallways
or windowing down roads
no limits
       everyone is too tired to gaze over this still town

AKaiser – Fireflies

Fire Flies

Illuminated around a fire
our cold backs to the night
feet half-buried in cool sand
bird-heads cocked we stare
at lanterns passing.

We wonder why they were launched
why these human-made fireflies
were sent off to wander
the blue black pre-night air
past the still moon.

Papyrus paper
spirited by the lighted candle.
Ancient skin and flame.
The remembrance of someone gone
soul symbol adrift.

With the ashy end of a stick
we attempt to write our names
on the circling stone –
the feeble boundary between us
and burn –

discover that right angles ease
while curves resist
maneuvering, drawing out
to meaningful loops
on mineral – and sky.