Last Dance by Mel Goldberg

My granddaughter, just old enough to stand
alone at her first birthday party, clung
in giggling pleasure to my father’s hand
as they both waltzed across the room among
an anxious family, poised to intervene.
No relatives were able to explain
the nonsense sounds we all heard pass between
the old man and the child. Yet it was plain,
beyond enjoyment of their festive dance
we understood one certainty as true:
at ninety he delighted in the chance
to hold her little hands in his, yet knew
time’s stalking unavoidable advance,
that he’d be forced to leave before she grew.

 

Mel taught literature and writing in California, Illinois, Arizona, and Cambridgeshire, England. He and his wife traveled throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico for seven years in a motor home working at RV parks. They live in Mexico with other ex-pat artists and writers.

A Tough Season by Taylor Graham

Mosquitoes airborne – born of air and sting –
thick on the weedy backside of your hill.
Frankly, it’s a devil’s garden, green-house
of thistle, rock and rip-gut brome. And sweat.
This bright morning, the weed-eater fails you.
Impossible war against Spring, trying
to clear a path to the view that used to
lift you beyond yourself, the valley dust.

This bright morning, you’d walk free with Nature.
But mosquitoes! Like the weed-eater’s whine,
as swallows swoop the field in graceful flight,
zapping insects as Nature intended.
The house wren pops into her nest of twigs,
a jumble-thicket of her own making.

 

Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada. She’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her latest book is Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016). She serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018).

Life Wants Life by Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Life wants to begin. Corn left uncobbed still
Sprouts. Bulbs buried in deep holes seek the light.
Burrs cling, maples whirl, grasses droop in still
Air to help their seeded heads find the right
Spot and throw themselves back into the ground.
Great forests start this way, each tree a nut
That grew and duly fell and somehow found
The impetus to put out root, to put
Out stem, to muster trunk and branch and sets
Of leaves with nothing more than rain, dirt, sun…
The ancient farmers were right to suspect
That hidden deep inside of every one
Of their seeds was something else, closely in
Keeping with magic, waiting to begin.

 

 

Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s poetry has appeared in many places, including 14 by 14, The Alabama Literary Review, The Lyric, Able Muse, The Raintown Review, Sugar Mule, Mezzo Cammin, The Flea, Quatrain Fish, Soundzine, Poemeleon, qarrtsiluni, Autumn Sky Poetry, Umbrella, The Chimaera, Fickle Muses, Postcard Poems and Prose, Caduceus: The Poets at Art Place Vol 8 (Yale University), The Best of the Barefoot Muse (Barefoot Pub), Poem, Revised: 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions (Marion Street Press) along with many other venues–both in print and in pixel.

Juleigh was shortlisted for both the Morton Marr and the Angels and Devils Poetry Prize (Holland Park Press), and has been nominated for the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her fourth and most recent formal poetry collection is Remind Me (Ancient Cypress Press).

White Faustus by Michael Paul Hogan

I

Modigliani? Darling, I’m afraid
I can’t compete – those oval perfect breasts,
the purity of line from cheek to thigh…
to hang it in my bedroom would create
a mystic third – remember Eliot?
Of course you do, I wonder why I asked.
You’re so well read , Mike, can’t you read my mind?
Or are you blind with me, like reading braille?

I’m almost fifty, darling – forty-nine’s
an age you can’t begin to comprehend
at barely thirty. Every time you leave
I cup each breast imagining your hands
and worry at their weight. I smooth the sheets
pretending that I’m you caressing me…

II

This tanned young man in beat-up khaki pants,
a part and apart, the stranger in the steam
of a shaving mirror, curled like a pachyderm
over the burnt-black skull of a Smith-Corona…
This is a portrait of the poet as Frankenstein
stitching together the flesh of other writers,
or, as Robert Browning once said,
“I am a painter who cannot paint…”

This tanned young man beside a swimming pool,
a lume spento , the poet reflecting the painter,
the palazzi repeating themselves in the water,
repeating themselves as a painting by Monet,
reflecting a portrait of the poet’s wife,
half-naked, sun-tanned, gleaming like a knife…

III

He writes through a tropic doldrum afternoon,
a folding table set to face the sun
with X-shaped legs that never quite connect
with simultaneous sheets of level ground…
He writes to the rhythm of a swimming pool
where this rich bitch with whom he shares a bed
and damn-all else, whose Daddy pays the rent,
shows off her figure in a bathing suit…

He writes until she strolls across the lawn
through palm tree shadows, like a bloody ad
for something mixed with fruit juice over ice,
to lean beside him naked through her dress,
smelling of Fendi and the stuff they use
to fumigate the peasants in their pools…

IV

Why don’t you write about our honeymoon?
Remember, darling? Cape Cod in July?
Two years and several thousand drinks ago
before… But, darling, what’s a girl or two,
though girl … she’s old enough to be… All right,
I’ll shut up now, we don’t want you upset.
I’m not some bitch to fuck up War and Peace.
I’m Mrs Tolstoy – isn’t that exciting?

But listen, I’ve just had a bright idea…
I wonder why it’s taken me so long.
Please listen, darling – why, it’s simply grand:
I’ll write a book myself! Oh, not like yours,
not Literature with all those great big words…
To Have and Hold Not by the bastard’s wife.

V

The tango’s just a metaphor for sex,
and frankly, darling, every man I’ve met
has danced a damn sight better than he’s fucked.
You’ve met Ramon? Ramon – Mike; Mike – Ramon.
He’s learning English – slowly, I’ll admit.
I try to teach him ten new words a day,
Well – maybe five: martini, olive, gin…
Perhaps you’d help him out with “lemon zest?”

I’m only joking, darling. Where’ve you been?
And don’t say writing – that’s a poor excuse
for missing Yvette’s marriage to Helene.
You know, I always thought… But what’s the use.
I’m over thinking when it comes to you.
We could’ve… Well, I guess not. It takes two.

VI

I’m not being funny, Mike, I’ve watched you write
about six lines in just as many days.
You’re so damned cute , you’ve got the whole routine
fixed up to make you look like Hemingway…
I wake to watch you seated at your desk,
posed like some advert in a magazine,
the baggy khaki shirt, the cigarette,
the dry martini… god, at six a.m…

Remember, darling, please, that I’m your wife,
and not some deckhand on your bloody cruise
through days when frankly you’re afloat on gin…
The man I fell in love with used to write .
I watch you now, The Writer, jesus christ…
You couldn’t write to save my fucking life.

VII

Another cocktail, and then another,
and each martini cleaner than the last.
Deep water’s just an absence of vermouth,
clear gin, smoking on rocks of ice,
and faintly phosphorescent with lemon zest.
Please, Mike, just a little party … I should never have trusted
a woman whose toenails matched her bathing suit,
and not on a boat the width of Hefner’s duvet.

Let’s do some fishing … Translated into French
that’s about as ambiguous as morse.
Her breasts were slippery smooth with Factor 5.
I love to do it just in sight of land,
I always imagine a sharp-eyed lighthouse keeper…
The sea was blue as Bombay Sapphire glass.

VIII

You never understood me, did you, Mike?
I should have known you’d never bloody try.
So cool, so “Darling, give me one more chance,
I’ll break with her, I promise, tell her straight,
and then we’ll take a trip…” Well, screw your trip.
Just one more chance is what you haven’t got.
I’m leaving , Michael, leaving, do you hear?
I’m fucking sick of you not fucking me.

“Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?”
Remember, darling? Christ, I was naive.
“A private joke.” How private does it get?
I’ve spread my legs for you a thousand times
and won’t be gotten tired of, not by you,
you selfish rotten bastard… Go to hell.

 

 

 

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.

 

 

 

IX

I have set up my typewriter again,
under the window of a room with an iron bed
and a yellow-stained washstand and a ceiling fan
and a carpet worn bald as an old tire,
and have sent the desk clerk out for a quart of whiskey…
This tanned young man in beat-up khaki pants…
Surely there must be something left to write
when the hand becomes steady enough to hold a pencil…

Alone in a sweat-stained shirt in a cheap hotel
I watch the paper peeling off the walls… Each morning
my hands tremble to light a cigarette… I’m
ten years older a year apart from you:
I’m only thirty-three ! I lie on the bed,
too sick to read and listening for mosquitoes.

X

Mike, look, please look, I’ve practised this for you:
a backward triple something… Ready now?
I close my eyes to see the swimming pool
and see myself beside it, glass in hand,
and smiling, ten years younger, saying, Sure ,
I’m watching, darling, go ahead and dive,
and feel the splashback wet against my face,
and laugh to see the laughter in her eyes.

I lie awake beneath the ceiling fan,
too weak to slap the insect on my thigh,
and watch her climb the steps and shake her hair
and walk towards me, angled for a kiss,
and feel her swimsuit wet against my shirt,
and taste the lipstick that she used to wear…

XI

They talk about me when I leave the bar:
I see it in the way they watch me go
sun-blind and whiskey-dazzled through the door,
the inconvenient stranger in their town,
el gringo escritor who never writes,
who keeps the first drink steady in both hands
and sits there sober for about an hour
until the fever starts to soak his shirt…

Senor, I fuck you, and I fuck your wife,
but most of all I fuck your fucking life
(to which I add your daughter, twice last night).
Now drink this, darling, gin and quinine fizz,
and afterwards… But drink your medicine first:
remember I’m your lover, not your nurse.

XII

I often wonder whether zombies dream,
if locked behind those staring wide-shut eyes
the brain runs movies of a former life…
I watch them walk in pairs through Port au Prince,
in silent passage up the moonlit street
below my balcony, and hear the drum
that calls them to the houmfort … Every night
I watch them till I wake up soaked in sweat…

I had a girl once, up against that wall,
for seven dollars and a Lucky Strike
and gave her ten because I ripped her blouse…
And afterwards drank whiskey in some dive
where someone suddenly produced a knife
and while I watched he smiled and slit my throat.

XIII

I don’t suppose you’ll ever read this note.
The man who saw you in some frightful bar
south of the border said he knew your face
and said that maybe… Well, it might be true.
Apparently he met us while we lived
together… said he knew your voice, recalled
a conversation he once had with you
beside our swimming pool… He seemed impressed

For god’s sake, darling, every single day
I wonder… wish… damn, are you still alive?
This man, I can’t remember, something Smith,
it seems that once he helped you cross the street
and left you just outside some cheap hotel…
I so much want… I dread… I pray it’s you…

XIV

I watch them in the corner of my room,
the bloodstained doctor and the voodoo priest,
and see four coffin bearers dressed in rags
with sightless milky eyes… I hear them talk
beneath the whirring of the ceiling fan:
they move like shadows, blanking out the light…
The whiskey bottle’s rolled beneath the bed,
but if I stretch my arm a fraction more…

Dear god, please, darling, please don’t see me now:
just kiss me once, just once, and turn away.
I looked back once and lost Eurydice…
Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?
My love, why linger for a last farewell?
Why watch the bastards haul me down to hell..?

 

 

Born in London, Michael Paul Hogan is a poet, journalist and literary essayist whose work has appeared extensively in the USA, UK, India and China. As well as publishing numerous feature articles in newspapers and magazines, he is the author of five collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Chinese Bolero, is a collaboration with the great contemporary Chinese painter Li Bin.

Two Sonnets by Kat Cameron

Man of the West
        William Frederick Cody (1846-1917)

	how do you like your blue-eyed boy
		Mister Death
		“Portrait VIII” e.e. cummings

The hologram wavers in the first room
of the museum, a bearded man 
wearing a grey suit and a white Stetson.
He welcomes us to his mausoleum

of history, his stagecoach, Wild West
posters festooned with his smiling face
his buffalo stickpin in a glass case,
the most famous showman of the west.

This tomb to the afterlife has the booty
of the Pharaohs: costumes, jewelry, 
paeans of praise. The blue-eyed boy
memorialized in the name of the city.

Look through his transparent image. Listen
to the vanished voices behind him.






Annie’s Gun
      Annie Oakley Butler (1860-1926)


Sometimes I want a gun. Freud said
a woman wants a penis, but only a dick 
would believe this. A penis is a limp sack
of flesh, laughable at times, appealing
when rampant, but really, not the raw pack
of power that some men seem to think.

No, we want a gun. Annie knew this
with her customized Lancaster rifle, 
silver initials on the stock, the gun
an extension of her self, obliterating
society’s blue glass balls: Orphan, wham!
Poor, wham! Female, wham!
Flashing the power of the gun, she
smashed the signs of imposed identity.

Kat Cameron has published poems in several literary journals, including CV2, The Dalhousie Review, Grain, Room, and The South Dakota Review. Her collection of poetry Strange Labyrinth was published by Oolichan Books in 2015.

Three Broken Sonnets by Salvatore Difalco

Unsustainable

The mannequin was headless.
Didn’t stop the guy from pulling it
out of the landfill site and dressing it
in a freshly salvaged wedding gown.

Sad the world, isn’t it? And savage.
Every little bit of it hurts someone
somewhere, and no one gives a shit
but for their own miseria.

But I’ve known a few human beings
who move around in the world
with their hearts opened up like the sky.

Their results are still pending,
as are reports of the recycled
couple.

Decoration Day

A black-faced cloud threatens
the afternoon walk, and hats
of straw now mock the veterans
inching alloy walkers over asphalt.

Halt by the cinema, lights punched out
above a handwritten note of condemnation.
We were here first, all you layabouts
who think you apprehend the situation.

What we have is Planet of the Apes
circa 1968, and a rigorous conflation
of events—what we have is a parade.

Or what we should have had was one
but now cloud covers the sun
and straw hats flee old white skulls.

Dolor

Look for the positive. The weather
is good. You can do things to temper
the migraine iron lodged in your temple.
Head-banging is an example.
Even as it pounds in the pillow,
and you make pig sounds to release
the mounting pressure, or to please
some swinish default sense of humour,
you should count your blessings.
A migraine will not kill you after all.
Many things are more depressing.
For now give the ice-pack the ball.
Let it cool the hurting pig inside you,
that forager wearing a steel-trap crown.

 

Salvatore Difalco resides in Toronto. His novel Mean Season (Mansfield Press) was published in autumn 2015.

Sonnet of Year-Round Residents by John Grey

I’m weary of October’s pastel blush
Of color, funeral brown and last-rites red,
I’m sickened by the graceless tourist hush
At mountains thick with dying and the dead.
It’s chilling where these ghouls find loveliness:
The life sucked out of petiole and vein,
The wraiths of greenness wailing their distress
In shrieks of wind, in somber sheets of rain.

They cannot let the season pale in peace,
The killer-frost attracts the crude and crass.
One only hopes the moment they too cease
Is choked with streams of autos spewing gas.
Or, no soft dirt but, in its mournful place,
A coffin lid of leaves falls on each face.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Sulu Sonnet Form by Chris Macalino

 

 

Sonnet Form

 

This is called ‘The Sulu Sonnet’, I named it after the helmsman in the popular science fiction TV show, Star Trek. This diagram shows potential, it represents an introductory poetic to the Sonnet as an art form, the diagram conceptualizes the act of writing one kind of Sonnet. The visual element and shape of this kind of poem, either in design or text, helps with the process of crafting the form; especially with the intense practice of writing with hindsight, insight, and foresight. I liken the Sulu Sonnet to feeling like a potter and a poet, sharing the same studio space. In a way, poetry and pottery come together as ceramics; this is because they both require extraordinary talent, ability, and patience.

 

 

Chris Macalino is an artist and writer. He’s reading The Beat Generation, 1970s Canadian Poetry, postmodern novels, with an interest in holo-novel theory. He was one of the winners of The Manitoban Literature Competition in 2015, and he recently found inclusion in several journals; ‘Lost Documents’, ‘The Papermachine’, and ‘Poetry Breakfast’. He lives in Winnipeg.

Double by Antonia Kelly

Somewhere there is another, just like you
who walks a mirror melancholy shore,
who feels an empathy with all things blue
and lives one life acknowledging there’s more.
He’s lonely in a crowd and likes the shade
of bluebell woods, it’s company enough,
stiffening like a deer when having strayed
too close, in fact, relationships are tough.
A dark star for a soul who sees the sky
as home, as midnight calling endlessly;
he views earth with a cold reptilian eye
but aches inside for lost humanity.
Someone who lives for love but lives alone,
this other cares more deeply than he’ll own.

 

 

Antonia Kelly, possessor of no great literary qualifications or indeed any academic award is a late starter to poetry but has, latterly, managed to raise three children and co-direct a small part of a large company successfully while practicing pilates and dreaming in pentameter. Antonia currently lives in East Sussex and spends far too much time thinking in rhyme while cultivating a small plot of land overlooking the South Downs.