Three Poems by Becky Kilsby

Adrift in Paradise

Finally, it’s Tresco – a splash of sparkling
granite in the impossibly green Atlantic.

Crossing the ringing pebbles, our eyes hungry,
hearts tender with loss, we scan the silvered
coast, paddle the Gulf Stream –

You are seeking her (or her) while I’m forgetting him
Yet she is here: a living shade, still quick and holding sway.

Climbing upwards, we gaze out to the open sea
(islands strung glittering to the mainland)
looking for seals, for light and solace. Breathless.

And you are seeking her (or her) while I’m forgetting him
But she is here, a beating shade, still flickering, relentless.

It was here, your place, hers, a white-sand strand
long with longing and still beautiful. We savour
the cool May breeze and talk of then refracting now.

Tresco sands in our pockets – a beach to linger,
to keep for later, to taste and turn around in memory –
yes, we are here, but there pulls us, then tugs us.

And you are seeking her (or her) while I’m forgetting him
But she beats here, prevailing still, between our tingling palms.

 

Triscombe Song

Walk me down the drover’s road
in blazing sun and rolling mist,
walk me under twisted rows
of golden bronzing beech.

Crisping leaves and laughing crows
shaggy cows and Sunday hikers –
just walk me through this ancient
trail – to Triscombe Stone.

Skip me through this Saxon grove
and up the spiny Quantock ridge –
through blinking sun and damp-grey
fret – to crouching Triscombe Stone.

Walk me through the season’s hush
as fog enbalms the orange fall,
walk me singing back again
along the drover’s road.

We hear the march of Alfred’s men
the clash of Roman swords
faint ticking of the decades
down this gilded drover’s road.

So sing me out and walk me back
from timeless Triscombe Stone.

 

St. Bueno’s

This coastal path, tipping often into
hair-pin turns, dips through primal
twisted oaks; witnesses life on the edge.

Grey in the dim afternoon, through summer
rain that doesn’t dampen us, the way tends
naturally, to St Bueno’s, crooked in a dark

elbow where stream and footfall imprint
history. Here, Saxon breath and Norman
sinew knit a weave of families in coracle

curve – the clan of Red, grittily supreme;
churchyard memoranda to tenacity. Damp
lichen patina on grave stones tolls lives

in this half light. We hear them, glimpse
their days with our poor resources; this dell
chill even in August, giant rhubarb basking

in its mammoth glory. From the lepers’
window, the mist of centuries is upon us –
fingers twine ours through the gloaming.

 

 

As programmer for a prominent Literary Festival in the Middle East, Becky Kilsby has enjoyed the opportunity to create conversations between leading writers from around the world. Coming late to writing poetry, she has had work published in the journal Abridged and in the contemporary poetry collection Signal from Static. A regular poetry blogger, she now works at the University of Exeter in the beautiful English county of Devon.

The Restless by Al Simmons

The new baby next door is crying. I can imagine how she feels. Today is the warmest day of her life. She pulls at her new baby clothes trying to get comfortable while strapped into a plastic high chair like a mental patient. The washing machines in the laundry room below her window stop and there is silence. My nerves ease, and except for the hummingbirds, doves, gulls, house sparrows, a peregrine falcon leaps up from the pond, slips beneath the magnolia tree and settles on a low branch of the fur pine, shakes the water from its long, brown, stretched wings. The baby stops crying. The ducks by the pool are talking. The baby, Mia, listens. A jet plane flies overhead like a shaking fist at paradise. Kids are heard from the schoolyard. Her mother is speaking. Something smells good. Here comes the new tenant. She’s doing her laundry in her Sunday best, like a walking new tattoo. Once the spin-dry machine is fed and the noise resumes, the baby begins crying again. I saw a grasshopper for the first time in years.

 

 

Al Simmons was born in Chicago on December 21, 1948, attended Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and edited Northeastern Illinois University Press, winning two Illinois Arts Council Awards in the process. Founder of the Blue Store Readings, 1971, home of the Spoken Word Movement and the first regular reading series in Chicago since Sherwood Anderson in the 1930s. Poet-In-Residence, City of Chicago, 1979-80. Creator of the Main Event, the World Heavyweight Poetry Championship Fights. Founder of the World Poetry Association, (WPA), and Commissioner of the WPA and the World Poetry Bout Association, (WPBA), Chicago, Taos, New Mexico, 1979 – 2002. Publications include Care Free, poems, Smithereens Press, Bolinas, California, 1982, and King Blue, a memoir, Stone Wind Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1992.

Three Poems by Glen Wilson

Far From Lion City

To Father, Mother was a fancy,
a drink of water for a parched man.
She was beautiful no doubt there
exotic too for a lad from Antrim
stationed in fifties Singapore.
He wasn’t ready for the world
to come into the rest of his life,
But when he demobbed he had a wife.

To hear her speak now, accented
with the heavy air of the glens
she only hints at the other side
of the world. I caught her once
looking through photographs, fingers
touching her mother’s face, trying
to see if the lines still matched up.

The Last Croft

Up here we work far enough away to not hear
But close enough to see each other.
This soil is a fickle mistress but a lover knows
when to scatter the flattering seed.

The lowland suits, city squired words
come and go both yes and no,
as long as kings want to be kings
it doesn’t matter where they rule from;

our landscape will be tilled as it always was,
pushed but not pushed over by the wind.

Mouth of the Ford

The tour bus rumbles down Castle street,
the ground beneath us calls out in the tongue
of the Farset river, stammered by stone.

High street paved over the forgotten quaysides,
where the merchants first traded the city’s name,
the world was in reach on the stretching sea.

The Albert clock is stabilised now but is still slightly
off a clear vertical. Built on reclaimed land, listing
from the measurable truth one foot at a time.

Bridges are thrown up one on top of the other,
each generation’s ante seen in the engineering,
the reuse of materials to join the unmoving banks.

Samson and Goliath hang questions in the air
in a conversation stalled in awe; the refrain
is that of the sweat riveted dock days,

sending the world the leviathans of their labours,
Oceanic, Britannic, Celtic…this a city known by
its balancing act on ever moving currents.

Glen Wilson lives in Portadown, Co Armagh with his wife Rhonda and children Sian and Cain. He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, Foliate Oak, Iota, Southword and The Incubator Journal amongst others. In 2014 he won the Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. He was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016. He is currently working on his first collection of poetry. Find him on Twitter @glenhswilson.

A Glimpse of the Divine by Patty Somlo

 

The sign at the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui says, “Walk slowly. You are at 10,000 feet.” I do as I’ve been told, moving deliberately down the Sliding Sands Trail into the crater, in part because I’ve just read the sign and in part because I’ve never been any place quite like this. The trail is soft and deep, causing a sensation on my booted feet that’s both difficult and soothing. Just like the landscape, I think. Startling and disturbing. Slowing me down.
From the overlook at the parking lot, the crater on a clear day looks like a moonscape left in New Mexico for years, taking on the burnt orange, black and brown hues of that Southwest landscape. In places, the crater is smoothed by wind and erosion to look as if it has been sculpted by skilled artistic hands. In varying light, the drama of its shadows and darkness is haunting. It is such a silent looking landscape that, at the same time, appears to still be moving.
On a clear day, the tour buses make the slow climb up the hill, passing the bikers racing down, the occasional cow that has wandered onto the road and the periodic signs warning, “Nene Crossing.” The Nene is a small, gray-brown Hawaiian goose that moves rapidly across the ground like the California quail, and is both protected and serves as the Hawaiian State Bird. Passengers emerge from the tour buses at each of several overlooks and scurry to the rim, cameras in tow, which are quickly raised to capture the view and take it home.
What strikes me on the trail is that only a few foot descent from the overlook, the place turns completely silent. Other than my husband walking behind me, I don’t see another human being. Neither do I see birds, animals or any sort of plant life, just this volcanic land, orange here, black there, and in some areas, green. I stare and stare, listen and breathe, because I’m just not sure about this place. I have traveled my whole life seeking something, I’ve never been exactly clear what — a kind of beauty that will bring me peace, a vista so striking it will hurtle me straight into the present moment so I’ll never be able to leave. But here is something else. Here is the end of the line, where life burst forth and then stopped. Forever. And I haven’t got a clue what to think.
Ten thousand feet down the hill and south, past the last luxury resort and the umpteenth golf course, the landscape alongside the road reverts back to scrub brush. For a time, the ocean disappears from sight. A little further south, the road narrows and starts to twist and turn. Then the water comes back into view. The shore is black, jagged volcanic rock, shiny under the sun from the sprays of surf. The water, a deep, almost blackish blue, curves into graceful coves, bordered by the volcanic rock, weaving in and out in dramatic patterns.
The weathered brown sign indicates that this is the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve and fishing is not allowed. In the Pidgin English spoken throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the sign also instructs visitors, “No Feed Fish.”
The reserve stretches over 2,000 acres of land and ocean bottom. Almost one hundred larval fish species and two dozen types of stony coral have been found here. At one beckoning cove, we step carefully on sharp rocks and slowly wade into the water. Even when the water only reaches the middle of my calves, I can see bright yellow and blue fish, darting in between and around my legs.
Donning flippers, snorkel and mask, I paddle further out and look down. A floor of color lies below me, pale yellow and pink in places, sometimes off-white or green. Here and there, the coral rises into massive walls. There are so many fish I don’t know which direction to point myself. No matter which way I look, fish swim up to meet me, brushing my arm, and running into my face.
I learned to swim when I was only six, in a pool on another Hawaiian island, Oahu. Wearing a red-flowered Hawaiian print suit, my mother stood in the water holding me. Suddenly, she would fling me out in front, open her arms, and urge me to swim back in. The following year, I was good enough to win a second-place ribbon for the breast stroke, in that same pool across the street from my house, and fearless enough to do one and a half flips off the high dive, entering straight as a pencil into the water.
In those same childhood years, my parents used to rent a cabin for vacations on the Windward side of Oahu. Friends of theirs, with children in tow, rented the adjoining cabins. The grownups mostly stayed inside and played cards and drank, while we kids jumped and swam in the surf. I remember floating in the shallow water, watching the waves curl and mount, before they crashed over my head. I would edge myself back until just at the moment when the wave seemed ready to begin its descent, then paddle furiously forward, so I’d be in a position to ride the wave into shore.
Most times, I made it. But when I missed, the water tossed me around like a sock in a washing machine, eventually dumping me onto the sand. Battered and exhausted, I’d stand up, lift the elastic on the bottom of my bathing suit to let the water and sand drain out, then run back in the ocean for more.
Only in recent years have I returned to the water in Hawaii. Unlike the fearless child I used to be, each time I enter the ocean, I feel afraid. The fear stays with me for a time and then, without warning, the fear recedes, replaced by the soothing sensation of floating.
I sometimes think what I am looking for in travel is to immerse myself so completely in a place that all thought of anything else vanishes. Here, suddenly, I am in a special world, a fairy tale place of multicolored coral and fish, and we are all floating, our eyes opened very, very wide.
At the end of the paved road, you cross over the 1790 lava flow, the last volcanic eruption on the island of Maui. On both sides, the landscape is comprised of dark, jagged rock. Facing south, the West Maui Mountains are to the left, green and cloud-covered, keeping rain on the island’s Windward side.
The wind is fearsome here at La Perouse Bay. Sometimes, I feel I might get blown over. The sign indicates one pile of rocks as a heiau, a spiritual place for Hawaiians. I pause there a moment to rest, look and reflect.
I walk on a rocky volcanic path and gaze southward, to deserted beaches, palm trees and deep blue water that appears as close to paradise as one can get. I’m relieved that no one has built anything here, that the land is protected, and the wind blows so crazy a golf ball would go flying off, never to be seen again.
A fellow traveler has told me he saw a giant turtle in one of these small coves but warned me to be careful, because the tide is coming in. I stand next to a blow hole waiting for it to erupt, so I can safely walk past. Then I head onto the slippery black rock that juts out into the water. Before I make much progress, a fierce gust of water-laced wind puts me back in my place.
La Perouse Bay is one of several places in Maui where you come to the end of the paved road. At the summit of Haleakala, the road also ends, and the only way into the rest of Haleakala National Park is on foot. If you walk far enough, you will eventually come to the Kipahulu Valley Biological Reserve, where entry is prohibited. This is one of the last intact native rain forests in the Hawaiian Islands and scientists are struggling to preserve it.
It’s easy to miss seeing the short gray Nene as they move leisurely across the road, since the color of their feathers blends so easily with the pavement. On the island of Kauai, you have to watch out for wild chickens, oftentimes walking with several baby chicks in tow. Across the sweeping green hills of the golf courses that blanket these islands like blackberry bushes cover parts of Washington State, cattle egrets stroll in search of food. They are small, about the size of the snowy egrets we have where I live in Northern California. But unlike the snowy and the larger, more majestic great egrets, they are not impeccably white. Their feathers are smudged with red dirt, for which these islands are famous.
When I was a child, my Air Force father flew all over the globe. When he returned home, he regaled us with stories of those far-off places. I grew up believing that movement and change and the next best place would make me happy. So much of my life, I have traveled in search of the extraordinary, believing that in finding it, I would discover some missing part of myself. I also tried drugs and dropped in and out of various Eastern religions and practices, all the while moving from place to place, overlook to overlook, hoping for a glimpse of the divine.
Here in Maui, I realize that the divine is complex, flawed and oftentimes impenetrable. I also understand that it just might be sitting right in front of me. The divine is the complicated mess of too much development and a twisting, turning, frequently one-lane road to Hana that keeps your nerves on edge. It is the need to slow down and pay attention to a small plain bird, who in certain light resembles the oft-despised pigeon. It is having to take care of the last best places right now, before it has become too late.
A few months before this visit, during a routine exam, my gynecologist suddenly said, “What’s that?” She assured me it was probably a cyst and that it would most likely go away on its own. To be safe, she suggested I come in for an ultrasound several months down the road. In the following weeks, as much as I tried to tell myself there was probably nothing wrong, I felt a persistent ache, just to the left of my right hip, the presence of which seemed to suggest a diagnosis much less benign.
As I worried my way through the waiting period until my scheduled test, I realized how hard I had worked my entire life to shield myself from thoughts about death, dying and illness, especially the big one, cancer. I scrupulously avoided reading first-person accounts of cancer survivors. At the same time, I gobbled up articles on the latest studies showing what foods were likely to provide another ounce of prevention and felt safer when I added them to my diet.
One morning, when I was suffering from a particularly bad anxiety attack over my fears I had cancer and that it was in an advanced stage, I decided to draw, since I knew this would quiet my nerves. I put on a nice CD of cello solos, arranged some flowers in a vase on the table and got to work.
As expected, I instantly calmed down, lost in the music, the flowers and the movement of my hand on the page. Then I suddenly had the most comforting thought. Surrendering to illness would make everything all right.
A few days before my ultrasound appointment, the low ache suddenly went away. And the results of the ultrasound were as my gynecologist had predicted. The technician saw nothing to be concerned about there.
Coming up the Sliding Sands Trail, I walk more slowly than I think I ever have before. This time, I am not thinking about my pace. The pace is being dictated to me, because in this thin air, it’s as fast as I can go. I have hiked for years on many steep trails and always enjoyed the uphill climb. I like to go fast, usually leaving whoever happens to be my companion behind in the dust, endorphins pumping through me.
As I slowly put one foot in front of the other, a smooth orange slope of wind-sculpted rock on my left, I wonder if perhaps I am supposed to go slow in this dead place, to think about all the years I furiously pumped my legs just to get somewhere. Getting older, at a time when the planet is increasingly endangered, maybe I need to walk slowly, as if the air is always this thin, making the act of breathing and life itself, what I have always taken for granted, so fragile. I can’t help but be conscious of my breath here, as I try to do as meditation practice but so often fail, because my monkey mind is leaping from branch to branch, in an endless forest of worry, plans and regret. I have read that this volcano is still thought to be active, the last eruption in 1790 considered quite recent in geological time. But the greatest changes have occurred from weather. If I were able to come back several thousand years from now, all of what I am seeing today might be gone.
At this slow place, it is easy to think about my feet walking on the earth and my breath traveling in and out of my nostrils, as a walking meditation I know asks me to consider. It’s also easy to walk just to be walking, as the Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh instructs meditation students to do. It’s not hard to see that the extraordinary exists right here, at the spot where I set my dusty boot down on the ground. And right there. Where I pick my dusty boot up and get ready to put it back down again.

Patty Somlo has received four Pushcart Prize nominations, been nominated for storySouth Million Writers Award and had an essay selected as a Notable Essay of 2013 for Best American Essays 2014. Her second book, The First to Disappear (Spuyten Duyvil), was a Finalist in the Fiction: Short Story category of the 2016 International Book Awards. Her work has appeared in journals, including the Los Angeles Review, the Santa Clara Review, Under the Sun, Guernica, Gravel, Sheepshead Review, and WomenArts Quarterly, and numerous anthologies. She has two forthcoming books: a memoir, Even When Trapped Behind Clouds (WiDo Publishing), and Hairway to Heaven Stories (Cherry Castle Publishing). Find her at http://www.pattysomlo.com, on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Patty-Somlo/e/B006T340US, or follow on Twitter @PattySomlo.

For the Money by Jordan Weir

The Gordon Cousins forest has a million fingers.
Black spruce reach
from the soft swamp,
above the flies, the cloud.

Silver spades cut into her face,
the soft muck,
over and over.

Money land.

In Ontario
money can grow on trees
when you plant them yourself.

You have to gouge the earth.
Wield your money spoon
and scoop out her flesh.

The Gordon Cousins forest has a million babies.
Hairy seedlings reach
like newborns do,
for a finger.
 
 
 
 
Jordan Weir is a student at the University of Toronto. This is her third piece to have reached publication, with thousands to come.

Two Poems by Jenny McBride

Chimborazo

Refugio at 5000 meters
Where a páramo fox begs for bread
They brew coca tea
For climbers encrusted with ice axes.

Rolling through rocky mists of vicuñas
Bicycles like butterflies
On the great one’s ancient slopes
We plummet roundly
Through cushion flora then tufted grassland
Lunching near Inca ruins
At a spring with carbonated flavor
Amid bushy orange thistles and cubic boulders.

And finally lower through desolate villages
Where dogs pack their growling
And a little boy asked for our clothes
Where he leaned on a wall in mud
Dazed with chronic want and strain.

From vicuña to ostrich
From snow to tropics
From abandoned road to the streets of Riobamba
Where buses barely spared our souls
To quicken our lives.

 

Landing Strip

The missionaries taught the Achuar
To live in one place
(Is the devil a nomad?)
And many communities were structured
Around that first missionary site
With landing strip
Though in most villages the landing strip
Never seen an airplane,
Is only there because
The missionaries taught the Achuar
To live in one place.

I am in the six-seat, not-so-new plane
Looking out at familiar Achuar faces.
Propeller spinning wildly
Butterfly appears before it
Propeller
Butterfly
Achuar eyes watching the plane.
Engine roars into take-off decibels
And I have no fear for my life
But how I fear for theirs.

 

Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in Streetwise, Green Social Thought, Conclave and other journals. She makes her home in the rainforest of southeast Alaska.

A Semisweet Apology by Amber Moore

He missed the New York of
the Seventies;
now Times Square was worse
than Disneyland.

At least you could always
count on a free
Hershey’s bar there-

a semisweet apology.

 

Amber Moore is a former high school English teacher and current PhD Candidate in literacy education. Her work has been published in numerous journals and magazines including most recently, The Women’s Studies Quarterly, Room Magazine, and The Feathertale Review.

Take Away by Martin Willitts, Jr.

He was in the brown edge corners of gloom,
away from the chosen light inching like snow,
bringing its familiar shush.

He saw the downward draft in the fields
where the frozen blue calf’s skin was stuck to earth.
The snow was blinding — a reflection of failure.

The world had the subtle noises of pain: the cut wood;
the after-smells lingering of kerosene going out;
the fallen maple being removed from the calf’s body.

He had to take away the child
who witnessed it dying, calm the boy.
Explain, if he could, why this is God’s work

just as much as when the child saw it being born.
Take the three vultures out of the circling sky.
Take the maples unable to answer questions.

Take away the unrelenting hatred for all trees.
Take them. Take them all. All his false hopes.
Break the icicles in a child’s broken heart.
 
 
 
 
Martin Willitts, Jr. is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, NY. He has been nominated for 15 Pushcarts and 12 Best of the Net Awards. He is the winner of 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; 2014 Broadsided award; 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award; and, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2015, Editor’s Choice. He has over 20 chapbooks, plus 11 full-length collections including “How to Be Silent” (FutureCycle Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in Blue Fifth Review, Kentucky Review, Perfume River Review, Bitter Oleander, Tipton Poetry Review, Nine Mile Magazine, Comstock Review, Centrifugal Eye, Stone Canoe, and others.

Three Poems by Uche Ogbuji

Night under Sopris

The ridge-rebounded moon from here,
Is blue how d’you do;
The trees
A green how’ve you been;
Under which the ground,
A brown come settle down.

Mt. Sopris viewed from this crow’s cradle
Waves white palmed good night;
Her sisters dim cinders on the caldron rim,
Albino moles through neck-holes of needle-knit evergreen shifts.
They light the valleying work of the Roaring Fork.

I see her offer–miracle aubade
But I’ve made of kisses promises
Which never had been mine to keep.

The ridge-rebounded moon from here,
Teases out in aspen distance
My space to inch before I sleep
Against the claim on my body’s inches.
Under ghoul-glow horizon she slings bait
Shall I resist till a subsequent date?

 

Thief Valley Echo

Over the ridge into flank of Wallowa,
We traverse flat bottom centerline,
Five old trail days short Umatilla,

Courting the heartland of Niimiipu;
These mountains fluted the full tin round,
All Rockies folded into the Blue.

Rock Creek for roar, Wolf Creek for wail,
The charmer bend of nearby Snake,
Piped on long old Oregon Trail,

We west looking eastly to Wallowa
Beyond Hell’s Canyon but afore
Columbia where the Snake draws lower,

Whence Newe weave oh weave Shoshoni,
Regaling the trappers of The Dalles
For easement through dry-snap a-lonely

To storyland springs of Umatilla,
Rung-up the hunt with call of Liksiyu
At high headwaters, Walla Walla.

Over the ridge into flank of Wallowa…

 

Pourallé Lieu

North Africa through Europe and The States,
Then back in staged sweep across Nigeria,
My parents whisked me wending on their rounds;
These stations flash by, marking my worldly
Claim over mythic forests of ancestry,
The passport stomped with harrow marks aground.
The child to recall, the people to forget
Is this new ritual of beating at bounds.

There’re some pains condign of normal passage,
A parish boy’s agons on worldly show,
On which the village annals redound.
Like ghosting on old tape, these scenes, embellished
With border-post whippings, and trophy
Scrapes from being dragged pell-mell by frenzied hounds.
The child to recall, the people to forget
Is this new ritual of beating at bounds.

Pushing towards the surface a dark Oceanus
Cuts into sylvan tell-tale and enchantment
With swift, muddled water that surrounds
The earths of my spirit trove, modulating
The blood carrier signal of my words with
Input of far-flung tastes and sights and sounds.
The child to recall, the people to forget
Is this new ritual of beating at bounds.

 

 

Uche Ogbuji, born in Calabar, Nigeria, lived in Egypt, England and elsewhere before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his poetry chapbook, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a Colorado Book Award Winner, and a Westword 2015 Award Winner (“Best Environmental Poetry”). His poems, published worldwide, fuse Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences. Among other editing projects he runs @ColoradoPoetry on Twitter. A selection of his poems was included in the Best New African Poets 2015 anthology.