Invisible Spirit - Patty Rossi
Black Smocks - Alan Harris
Waiting for something to happen - Alan Harris
This Goodbye - Margot Brown
Faces of Sorrow - Richard Schnap
Under the Weather> - Richard Schnap
Awakening - Joy Martin
Screw You Poetry - Colin Haskins
Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go? - Keith Tornheim
Shadow in the Night - Keith Tornheim
Reflections at My Mother's Bedside - Steve Klepetar
Telling Snow White - Steve Klepetar
The Last Time I Saw Wonder on My Brother’s Face - Sarah Ambrose
Winter Sun - Sarah Ambrose
My Father, Cardiologist - Robbie Gamble
Dancing at Lucky's - Brad Rose
Empty Nests - David Mihalyov
America Calls Back Its Angels - Laura Rodley
Beards of Moss - Laura Rodley
Aberration - John Grey
What a Sweet Moment! - Kenneth Pobo
Stern Words - Kenneth Pobo
Auto-Immunities - Joan Colby
Weathering the Cold - Chet Corey
Taste of Absent Fathers - Bill Glose
Challenge Coin - Bill Glose
Fault Lines - Brady Peterson
Life and death are one thread, the same line
viewed from different sides. - Lao Tzu
My oncologist enters the exam room.
Doesn't freeze my nose or insert the hose.
He rolls on a stool to me. We sit
knee-to-knee. He whispers I am worried.
Sunrise, cramps, and caws wake me.
I stumble to the bathroom, void alone.
A crow asks Are you afraid of dying?
I answer I am. I've never done it before.
Richard H. Fox was born and bred in Worcester MA. He attended Webster University, as much artist colony as college, in the early 1970's. These diverse cultures shaped his world view and love of words. He is a former President of Poetry Oasis, Inc., a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets, and was Managing Editor of its journal Diner. Richard has been published in numerous journals including Above Place, Boston Literary Magazine, OVS, Poetry Quarterly, Sahara, Midstream Magazine, and The Worcester Review. Many of his poems focus on cancer from the patient's point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. His book Time Bomb was published in 2013. Richard seconds Stanley Kunitz' motion that people in Worcester are "provoked to poetry."
If only she could recognize me...... she would realize how truly near I am....
Her wailing sobs silence my spiritual presence
I am...the whistling wind
the rustling leaves
the melodious chirps at dawn
the rhythm of the lapping ocean
the gentle taps of rain on the window
the clanging of church bells
the creaks in the old porch swing
She sits on that porch swing, swaying in sorrow, holding head in hand.....tragically unaware....
I sit beside her
Patricia Rossi is an attorney, freelance artist and writer. Her poetry has been featured in Long Island magazines and published in “Poetry Haiku. Her personal essays have been published in major New York newspapers. One of her academic papers was featured in New York Magazine. Patricia leads creative writing workshops for cancer survivors. She is also the recipient of a number of New York state funded individual artist grants. Patricia has utilized the grant monies to create and implement writing empowerment workshops for women specifically in undeserved communities in New York State. Patricia lives on Long Island with her husband Ed and their adorable pup, Flanagan.
I leave the door of my hospice room
the view from my wheelchair
green smocks, yellow smocks, white smocks, blue smocks
dance back and forth with
green knows the way to the caf’
yellow knows where the linens
white overseas the so-called
blue simply volunteers
but black’s a walking reminder
death’s on duty
waiting to wheel me away
upon white’s order
so that yellow can
change the sheets
while green feeds and blue listens to
the next departee
Waiting for something to happen
There you are in the hospice bed
wondering if anyone really knows
when it all comes to an end
you thought you did but you don’t
they gave you six months
that’s what the referring physician
stated in writing
that’s what the Medicare reimbursement
is based on
if you live any longer
whether you like it or not
you do so knowing
you’ve proven your doctor wrong
…and number two
the hospice is taking care of you
Unless there is a miraculous
which never happens
your time above ground
is more limited than it was before
before the doctor got ahead of himself
before the insurance revenue stream dried up
before your friends and relatives stopped calling
because they figured you’d be gone by now
So you wait for something to happen
you up your liquid morphine
you listen to your favorite music
you touch faces in old photos
of those who can still stir memories
despite the medication
and you wonder was it all worth it
and you wonder what’s next
and you wonder if you’re already gone
Alan Harris is a hospice volunteer and graduate student who helps hospice patients write memoirs, letters, and poetry. Harris is the recipient of the 2014 John Clare Poetry Prize as well as the 2015 Tompkins Poetry Award from Wayne State University. Harris is a two-time Pushcart nominee. His work has recently appeared in The Lake, Poetry Breakfast, Tenemos and The Great Lakes Review.
I'd never seen the grass so rank
and spindly, nor the hedgerow
sag about my knees. What paint remained
upon the house ached peeling; parched
memories, chipped decor for the breeze.
I'd never seen the windows stare
so hapless, nor known a family
so unabashed after they had ruined
my perfection; depleted curtains
ruffled, laced and sashed.
I wanted once more to behold
what shaped them, this wood which watched
and waited—thread the strands. Instead,
I saw my last composite memory
had been bequeathed to time and careless hands.
Would I suffer if the house was gleaming
from fresh paint to withstand both sun
and wind? Would I go off happily on seeing
the lawn is mowed, the hedgerow
Oh, off, my heart! Back to droning Cicadas!
Those Saturday buzz saws announcing June.
And off, my heart! To crickets, dewed rose beds
and evening serenades courting the moon.
She leapt, my heart, for one last tree top tumble
into her leafy pile of childhood bliss.
She leapt, my heart, into seductive autumn;
sweet scents of dying and no one yet to miss . . .
So what would I have felt to see my old house
loved so well, without me, like a tease?
And how would I have felt to smell the Lilacs,
Forsythia swell and burst within the breeze?
If everything remained just as I left it
in my vast reverie of time gone nigh,
might I not have easily resisted
the truth beheld in this final goodbye?
Or did I always feel the old house gesture
and breathe its bid for one more gentle dance?
Then know, I could not hear the music better
save for the memory of our circumstance.
Margot Brown migrated from Massachusetts to the Midwest to attend Marquette University. Decades later, cleansed of her Boston accent, she still misses the ocean and compensates by putting too much salt on her food. Her debut chapbook, Leave of Absence, was published in 2011 by Pink Petticoat Press, and includes her poem, Since Sexton, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Faces of Sorrow
A foreign woman rings my bell
And asks in trembling broken English
If I need someone to clean my room
And prepare meals for a modest price
As a man wrapped in a battered coat
Asks me if I would be willing to go
To buy him a bottle of cheap red wine
From the liquor store unwilling to serve him
Then a girl wearing a short black skirt
Smoking cigarettes by a parking lot
Gets into an old car that pulls up before her
That vanishes into the anonymous night
And I think of all those that roam this world
Searching for something to ease the weight
Of whatever it is that burdens their hearts
Down these broken streets lined with their tears
Under the Weather
As hailstones rained down
He would solicit alumni
Into opening their wallets
To support their school
Then the dark clouds lifted
When he became the editor
Of a local newsweekly’s
But the storm returned
Reducing him to hustling
Free samples to customers
At a large grocery store
Till the TV declared
A tornado warning
As he scanned the classifieds
For telemarketing jobs
Richard Schnap is a poet, songwriter and collagist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A two-time Best of the Net nominee, his poems have most recently appeared locally, nationally and overseas in a variety of print and online publications. His debut chapbook, A Wind From Nowhere, is available from Flutter Press.
Lute strings too loose, sound won’t carry
too tight, strings will break
With body thin and frail,
bones covered by Sujata’s care,
eyes open to suffering and wonder,
he sought enlightenment.
In his Bodhi spot he sat
breathing in and out,
shaded by Ficus religiosa’s
His breath’s light air was
ever-flowing as healing water
he remained seated
till he was freed from greed,
hate and delusion—
Our Bodhi spots await
to teach knowledge only the
mindful mind can reach.
where lines between
perceiver and perceived
As Buddha teaches,
With our thoughts
We make the world.
Screw You Poetry
With your fancy words
And your metered rhyme
Your pentameter time
That’s right poetry
You with your poisons
Your impoverished quest
your insomnia madness
Your upturned shot glasses
With your shiny white towers
Your occult and hidden powers
I hate you I hate you
Go on and get and never come back
Come back poetry
I love you
Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?
(for Irma Selling)
We planted your urn of ashes,
blue dragonflies on white,
last gift from a potter comrade-in-song.
Then friends and neighbors gathered
in the room where many times you hosted,
and this time they sang you on your way.
Your daughter played the haunting tune
“Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?”
and I thought, well, I guess you must—
there’s another choir for you to join.
At the last they sang
“So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,”
and it really was,
for so many lives you touched for the better,
only one being mine.
Shadow in the Night
The other day I saw Shadow,
the gray cat from next door,
chasing a chipmunk in our driveway—
well, maybe playing with it.
I wasn’t sure if the chipmunk
understood it was a game,
and I wasn’t sure either,
so I got in between them,
and the chipmunk ran off.
This morning when I went out
to get the morning paper,
there on the porch walk near it
was the dead body of a chipmunk,
already attracting flies.
How he had succumbed in the night,
I figured only the Shadow knows.
Keith Tornheim, a biochemistry professor at Boston University School of Medicine, has been published in Ibbetson Street, Boston Literary Magazine, Poetica, Spare Change News, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Lyrical Somerville (The Somerville News). His poems have been a part of High Holiday and other services of his congregation. www.shirhadash-a.org/poetry.html. Recently published books include I Am Lilith, Dancer on the Wind; Spirit Boat: Poems of Crossing Over; Can You Say Kaddish for the Living?; Fireflies: Poems of Love and Family; and Spoiled Fruit: Adam and Eve in Eden and Beyond.
Reflections at My Mother's Bedside
She’s dying, taking the long, slow
road from this world. Mostly she sleeps.
She doesn’t toss or turn in the bed,
and sometimes when she wakes,
she knows who I am and asks about
my sons, their families, in German
or in English. But mostly not.
She doesn’t talk about her father,
who died when she was fifteen,
or her mother, who perished at Auschwitz.
When will I see my mother?
She went to the other side? someone says.
Look at the smoke.
She never mentions my father, but frets
about her purse, asks if I've eaten,
do I want to take a nap. I want to talk
about her lover, whether she thought
my father ever knew, since everyone else
did, but that road is washed out, the railings
on that bridge derelict and torn. Her arms
are so thin you can see the bones, her skin
papery and mottled with liver-colored marks.
When she asks for a comb, I oblige
and watch her run its black teeth through
the thin white strands of her remaining hair.
Telling Snow White
After the tale, my granddaughters run
to the bathroom, climb on their little white
step stools and recite
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all.”
They giggle and I take out my iPhone,
hold it up to their rosebud mouths
“Say it to Seri,” and they do, in unison.
She replies, in her most sensible voice,
Snow White? Is that you?
Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, including three in 2014. Three collections appeared in 2013: Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications), Blue Season (with Joseph Lisowski, mgv2>publishing), and My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press). An e-chapbook, Return of the Bride of Frankenstein, came out in 2014 as part of the Barometric Pressures series of e-chapbooks by Kind of a Hurricane Press.
The Last Time I Saw Wonder on My Brother’s Face
Is when he watched snow fall
onto the ground
We were kids
lying on our backs in the snow
facing away from the lights of the house
One snowfall law:
I had to follow in his footprints- only make the moves he made
Laying in the powder, an angel looking into heaven,
With no care in his voice, he said,
"I just like it when the surface looks so perfect, ya know?"
And I knew.
Like the winter sun,
Aches so brightly
Hangs so slow
Reaches to the earth
But falls short of heat
The exact moment of solstice
And then, as if
It is going to be enough,
It is dark
Sarah Ambrose is just one of millions of young working women in New York City trying to understand what life is all about. Poetry helps her rationalize it all. These poems are her first publication.
My Father, Cardiologist
When I was a child
you sought to see
inside the human heart
and being a man of science
you devised an ingenious tool:
a slender fiberoptic cable
to be threaded through veins
into the beating chambers,
capped by a clear balloon
that, once inflated, would displace
the murky blood, so pulsing structures
could be seen in action.
You filmed these probings
on grainy Super-8 reels
which you projected at home
after long days at the lab:
“Look, see the tricuspid valve?
Watch it blow back, and now
it’s snapping shut!” slowing
the spool with your hand.
The swooping blobs
made no sense to me
but I loved your enthusiasm.
Then you grew older
and your emotional range
never broad, grew more opaque
and when my brother, your son, died
I had no instruments
to read your heart.
I had to discern you
like a shift in the wind:
a slack in your jowls,
grunts of gratitude
when I came to visit
and the leak of a tear
when I got up to leave.
Robbie Gamble lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is currently completing an MFA in poetry at Lesley University. When he is not preoccupied with image and line breaks, he works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.
Dancing at Lucky's
with another man’s wife.
Told her that since I got back from Afghanistan,
I’d taught myself to gamble.
Noticed we were the only ones dancing,
until that drunk lady got up and danced all by herself,
a shim of light swerving in the beer-drunk dark.
She didn’t seem to mind.
Throttle or brake, it’s all the same.
Then the music got slow, real slow,
like a bullet burrowing through a bulletproof vest.
Why do I love angels
as much as I love heaven?
First rule of gambling:
never bet against the house.
When her husband showed,
I remembered a story
I read in the paper,
The only survivor recalled
being trapped in her apartment
by the dead weight of a body
pressed against the front door.
A sure bet,
another man’s wife.
It’s not gambling
when you make your own luck.
Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015) Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Brad’s poetry and fiction have appeared in, The Los Angeles Times, The American Journal of Poetry, Folio, decomP, Lunch Ticket, Right Hand Pointing, The Baltimore Review, and other publications. Links to Brad’s published poetry and fiction can be found at: http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/ Audio recordings of a selection of his published poetry can be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1
I reach over and you are gone, your pillow cold.
My fingers find a strand of hair left as a totem.
The beagle is confused; it isn’t time
to get up and the bed is warm.
Still, he pads down the steps behind me.
I find you in the kitchen, a cup of tea
steaming in your hands. Can’t sleep? I ask,
master of the obvious at 3 am.
What will we do now, you whisper. What will I do?
Too early by hours for the paper,
I let the dog out and start the coffee,
then sit with you under the harsh
kitchen bulbs and ride out the wave.
Commotion in the yard, a scratch at the door.
The dog brings a dead titmouse
as an offering, proud of his work.
I take it from his mouth, tiny body
holding a modicum of warmth.
I rub the crown of the hound’s head
and tell him, good boy. He is, after all,
a hunter. With that, he slurps some water,
then collapses at your feet, satisfied.
I find a plastic bag and dispose of the bird,
hoping this death does not exacerbate
your anxiety. Daylight will,
if not minister your mind, at least add buoyancy,
so we wait for that golden light to appear
and burn away your residue of fear.
David Mihalyov lives outside of Rochester, NY, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs. His poems have appeared in several journals, including in Concho River Review, Free State Review, and Naugatuck River Review.
America Calls Back its Angels
Inside the door of the first snow
the angels bent their wings to fit
and flew, carrying the crystals
as a wedding veil train,
married as they are to beauty,
how the white snow falls, slowly,
lands softly, the wing tips of angels
carrying the browning grass;
it’s the only way the angels have
of coming back to earth, and standing on it,
with the snow, laying softly against houses,
against tree trunks, as though the angels
had come to play ring-around-the-rosy,
and they do, warming their breath,
that melts the snow that falls, then freezes,
circlets upon the bare branches,
bracelets that the angels
had fashioned for themselves,
the clinking of the ice melting,
falling on the ice sheeted snow,
the sound of their taking winged flight.
Beards of Moss
The beards of moss on the redwoods in John Muir’s woods
catch the high wind, the clamor of squirrels, the gaze
of passersby, just as they did when John Muir first saw them,
and knew they must be preserved,
seeking as he was for perfect forests and found Muir Woods,
the green beards thick yet flush against the trunk
much as his own long beard sat flush upon his neck,
protecting him from cold and vigorous winds,
and the heat of summer or windburn from too long
stuck on glacial outcroppings, which he loved
the best, always seeking more, defying wind
and defying death, defying nature’s tyranny,
and the cracks of fissures that could widen at will.
An aloof little dog named Stickeen followed him on one
of his treks, only balking when asked to cross a final ice bridge
the only way they could get back to camp.
Not used to begging, Muir badgered, demanded,
but still Stickeen declined crossing,
as he understood the depth of the crevasse below.
Finally Muir bent on his hands and knees,
reaching for the dog, then made as if to leave him.
Stickeen crossed it, shuddering,
holding his tiny body flat against the ice bridge
crossing death to the other side,
and crawled up the glacier’s ice lip
to drink the air and caper, ki-yi-yipping
and follow Muir back to camp
only his aloofness broken, no bones.
Waiters hid under tables, behind curtains
to hear Muir tell the tale of Stickeen,
and even now the moss beards rustle his name.
Laura Rodley's latest book, Counter Point will be published by Prolific Press, date to announced. Pushcart Prize winner, quintruple Pushcart Prize nominee, quintruple Best of Net, in Best Indie Lit NE. Publisher Finishing Line Press nominated her Your Left Front Wheel Is Coming Loose PEN L.L.Winship Award, and her Rappelling Blue Light Mass Book Award nominee. Former co-curator Collected Poets Series, she teaches As You Write It class, edited and published As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology volumes I-V, nominated for a Mass Book Award, and been consecutive participant in 30 poems in 30 days in November, raising money for Literacy Project.
Late March, hard freeze.
Spring retracts the statement that it's finally here.
Misreading weather's intentions,
the premature flowers die.
Bent in on myself against the wind
that roars across the cathedral plaza,
I see homeless people
bedded down against brick walls,
their shuddering flesh coaxing
whatever scraps of heat
the inside of an apartment block
is willing to toss their way.
The cold has got to my heart
because my sympathies
can't get beyond my own
temporarily suffering face and hands
to worry for these damaged lives,
abandoned to the churlish temperatures.
That night though,
I dream myself among them,
bundled up in charity coats and blankets,
newspapers, and the rank smell of myself.
cut by the raw snarl of kids
or the indifference of their elders.
This upset cycle has cut to the bole of my subconscious.
I am as destitute as any man
who cringes from the bitter winds,
is no more than the frosty blue outlines
of nose and lips.
a portrait sketched in ice.
I awake to the sadness
of permanent winter,
ponder the feeble light through the window,
the savage frost on a mission to kill.
It will take coffee, regret.
and whatever I have to do today to revive my hope.
Besides, the weatherman says,
this is just an aberration.
But now I know how aberrations live.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.
What a Sweet Moment!
A bluebird just appeared
at our feeder, the one that squirrels
tried to lug away last fall—
not some vague blue
from a clothes catalogue.
It’s vital, living.
Years have passed since
we saw one here. The garden
missed these birds too. Even one less
bird song causes buds to stay
tight, unfurled, uncurled.
Ask a spotted mimulus. She’ll
tell you she was missing the bluebird.
Today that flower charged open,
chuffing down large slices
of sun pie. Even wind
chimes on the porch sing
through wooden mouths.
Make a nest nearby.
Start our day with your blue
promise of spring.
Sometimes I have stern words
for the wind. I say,
Look here, Wind, stop this
upheavaling! You’re tedious.
I like you better when you flop
down on a morning
glory and contemplate gutters.
The wind finds my opinions
than those of a toad.
And with good reason—
I like to stand in a heavy wind,
pants and shirt flapping.
I secretly long for a tornado
to corkscrew down on my head
though that would do me in,
the wind settling down
and ambling along.
Kenneth Pobo has a new book coming out in 2017 from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. His work has appeared recently in: Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Broadkill Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere.
Sinuses sandbagged. Vertigo
runs its inscrutable film strip.
The Eustachian tube
trapped like an eel
swells in its cave. A
labyrinth where the minotaur
is revealed in
Body versus body
like sects that split from a seminal faith
a heresy of drawn sabres
glittering with antigens.
At the cellular level
it’s division and war. T-cells marshalling
like good soldiers
to confront mercenaries
in their viral camouflage.
The oncogene like a giant squid
rises from the deep with its cargo
of lethal inks and writes the code.
Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 17 books including Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book “Carnival” was published by FutureCycle Press in 2016. She has another forthcoming from Kelsay Press in 2017 titled “The Seven Heavenly Virtues.”. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review. Website:www.joancolby.com. Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: poetjm.
Weathering the Cold
of my childhood.
But what hollow do I
crawl into for this winter of
Most recently Chet Corey's poems have appeared in Evening Street Review, Boomer Lit Mag., Talking Stick and The Coe Review. Born and raised in Minneapolis, he lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Taste of Absent Fathers
With Dad away in Vietnam, Mom traded recipes with other wives.
Casseroles, seven-layer-salad, shepherd’s pie. Cooking whenever
three screaming toddlers allowed. Once old enough, I perched upon
the chopping block to watch her crack eggs into ground beef,
fingers plunging into the gooey mess. Like magic, I thought, as meatloaf
emerged from the bowl or, later, when black-spotted bananas transformed
into sweet bread. After the war, Dad spent Saturdays hunched over
the stove cooking pancakes. My sisters and I stood on chairs to peer
into the frying pan, waiting for batter to bubble so we could pelt
the viscous circle with chocolate chips he’d dropped into our tiny hands.
But mostly what I remember is the laughter, that sense of joy as mixing bowls
and crusted pans filled the sink, consequence a word I didn’t understand.
The year we lived in Japan, my mother learned to cook beef teriyaki,
a family favorite, even after we moved to England where trucks
selling fish-and-chips rolled through neighborhoods, music jingling
from loudspeakers. Two-pounds-fifty bought a school of haddock
swaddled in newspaper, vinegar blotting out stories of IRA bombings
at the Tower of London. Ten years old, I understood how close
danger lurked beneath life’s breaded surface each time I fished a tiny bone
from my mouth or whenever the alarm mounted in our dining room
bleated and Dad rushed off into the dark, rain lashing windows
as he disappeared. Four of us returned stateside when Dad was sent
to Iran. That year Mom took up smoking, Virginia Slims smoldering
in a bubbled glass ash tray as the television transfixed her with its glow.
While rioting students hoisted pictures of Khomeini in the living room
and hung effigies of Jimmy Carter, we kids taught ourselves
how to cook in the kitchen. How to scrape the char from
ruined meals. How to pretend everything would be all right.
Nights at McFadden’s pass predictably
as phases of the moon, jostling bodies
swallowing the checkboard floor like
a creeping shadow, each laughing hour
louder than the last. The old soldier
bellies up to the bar quiet as a sniper,
thumbing nicks in the long, lacquered counter,
swizzling ice in a tumbler of Hennessy.
Welders and pipefitters from the shipyard
crowd around him, their shiftwork timed
to beat rush hour. Forearms scarred with
glossy dots that plot their personal geography.
Biceps wreathed with knotted ropes
or stamped with blue tridents, anchors,
busty mermaids with hungry leers,
these flannel-shirted men order beer
by the pitcher, punch shoulders, jut chins
forward like the prow of an icebreaker.
As happy hour approaches, girls glide in
like vees of geese landing on a pond.
Too young and beautiful to notice the gray man
with buzz-cut hair, except when leaning over him
to order flavored martinis or fistfuls of shooters,
their perfume and smiles stirring some ember
in the ash heap of his youth. At dusk,
bugles call retreat at the nearby fort
and squads of privates burst through the door
like high tide crashing a makeshift levee.
Block-shouldered, cocksure, parting the crowd
like beaded curtains, they recognize something
in the old man’s posture, the square way
he sits on his stool, level gaze meeting
their reflections in the mirror behind the wall
of bottles. Halfway through their inevitable
question about service, he pulls from his wallet
the Challenge Coin embossed with campaigns
his unit fought in foreign lands. And they,
knowing full well the contract of tradition,
slap brass coins of their own atop the counter.
Or else buy the old soldier his next round.
Bill Glose is a former paratrooper and author of three poetry collections, including Half a Man, whose poems arise from his experiences as a combat platoon leader. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Missouri Review, The Sun, Narrative Magazine, and Poet Lore. In 2011, he was named theDaily Press Poet Laureate and in 2016 he won the Missouri Humanities Council Award for Veteran’s Poetry.
I live on the edge of black gumbo farm land
to the east and fractured limestone mesas
that defined west for me. From the dam,
I see both vistas. One stretches toward the gulf
with red snapper, shrimp, and words like bayou.
The other seems like another planet—I expect
to see a different sun, maybe a second moon.
Before the dam, on a back road now under
the deep blue green waters of a lake, I kissed
a girl on a sparkling afternoon after bathing
in the river. We lay in the grass and laughed.
How simple and easy—the music on the car radio
as we drove back to town. It must have been
Kennedy and Diem were months dead—the FBI
fumbling to decipher Ely—Every night at ten—
We stop for hamburgers and fries. We lie to each
other, knowing but somehow still believing
the possibility of a different world, of an extra moon.
The god damn moon.
I look east and south and wonder how long
it would take to float the river to its mouth.
Brady Peterson claims he lives at the Sea Sprite Motel in Hermosa Beach, California where he spends two weeks in July every year hiding out from the Central Texas sun. He actually spends most of his time, however, just outside of Belton, Texas where he waters his dying garden, makes soup, and writes. Making soup is an art form, he mutters. Writing is an act of desperation.