Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of seventeen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket from Roaring Junior Press. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com
You become a shell, this time
hardened by so many times
though the dress is empty
–your arm around the Earth
lets nothing brush against the sleeves
except the soft dirt that remembers
clearing out a place for snow
to be scattered the way you dead
give way to the great weight
pressing against your wish
that everything be as it was and you
no longer broken apart by those stones
you let pass through your fingers
–it’s all uphill and grass is everywhere
struggling to bring you to the surface
with nothing in your heart :a buoy
taking the lead as it used to
beginning to fill with air and marble.
And though this door is locked
it leans into the evenings
that hollowed out the place
for its marble and grass
where you still hide, afraid
make the dead go first
–they already know what to do
when the corners are no longer enough
and with your finger become
the sudden breeze filled with moonlight
and distances opening the sea
holding it over the fires –pilings
are useless here, these great walls
cringe from the cries rain gives off
where a morning used to be
and you are following it alone
as if there was a light in the window
waiting for you to come by.
You can’t stop, talk
and far from your mouth
wait for the grass
as the same sound
between your fingers
lowering for lips
–you talk the way rope
takes so long to die
–over and over and over
empty your mouth
filling it with thorns
with shoulders, afternoons.
It was a lake, used to bodies :islands
With an everlasting sunset and the glare
From jewelry, veils slowly drifting down
As the footsteps that now weigh so much
–it came here the way an icy stream
enters a slope that can no longer right itself
has no water left to give, no nights, no arms
though you are reaching for these dead
by hauling off smaller and smaller stones
on tip-toe, paving your hands for the unease
already smelling from wood, rope, holes
hidden in bracelets and never let go.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye, published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at http://www.simonperchik.com
Stupidity Or Hubris
When stupidity or hubris of the heart is mistaken for bravery
It’s easy to see death as nothing
More or less than the ending of life;
See loneliness as a badge to wear when trolling the supermarket
For bare legs to look at and think about later in your bedroom;
See your face in the mirror, pretend a better face and believe it.
See other people as a means to an end –
Things to sullenly pile into your emptiness that will never be filled.
When stupidity or hubris of the heart is mistaken for bravery
It’s easy to see life as not much more than what passes the time
And death as that endless moment
When your emptiness empties at last.
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last dozen years. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
I can’t get out from behind my own eyes. It’s not like it’s a secret. I wade into the imponderables and centuries of the nameless cling to me like a second skin. I have been told I owe them nothing. My father looked like Robert Taylor, pale with appropriate gravitas , though animated on celluloid. But that was way before I knew him and his penchant for deep sights and ingratiating gestures. I held onto this knowledge because it told me a little something about myself, the way I bind my own hands in front of me and the convoluted expressions I utter to the unsuspecting, but with utter sincerity. I imitated my father’s genuflect on the red carpet leading to an ivory altar on a lifetime of Sundays. It brought me down to where I needed to be. When I am subterranean, I can forget the cinematic world and how tired we are all from our lessons. I turn a fossil into bone I can use. I forget the process of evolving. Even the cockeyed could see how well my father constructed the vibrating, flesh and blood scaffold. Anyone with a heart could feel its flutter.
Beyond the dividing wall, the mother with the arched eyebrows and frayed nerves herds her kids to bed. At the same time my mother lays a towel over the clawfoot bathtub to wash my long, tangled hair. I hear the kids next door fighting over the Viewmaster, the one they can never really use, because they stick their thick fingers through the fragile film of the wheel. My mother digs her fingers into my scalp and I cry, silently, repression a skill. I pretend I am a house with twinkling lights strung across my rafters, party favors in pastel iridescents on tables with bows where my imaginary friends will join me. The Prell slides into my eyes and I can’t tell if I am crying or just stung. It is not the washing as much as it is the rinsing, the deficits and subtractions of everything. The Italian Presbyterian minister who soaked in this same tub a generation before my parents claimed it, may have been plotting how to lure his people from their papal tendencies. Coal was an option. Give with one hand, take away with another. Allow gratitude to be the dominant emotion. My mother’s fingers catch in the snarled strands of my hair, though my scalp throbs with cleanliness. I hear the kids crying through the wall, an extension of my family by sheer virtue of proximity. I can’t let them go. I could poke a hold through the thin wall and meet them eye to eye, but it would take them years to understand my needs; how there would always be critical corners I would find it forever impossible to navigate.
Michelle Reale is the author of Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press,, 2019) and In the Blink of a Mottled Eye (Kelsay Books, 2020) among others. She is the Founding and Managing Editor of OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing.
Letter to Joe Arcangelini, On Another Coast
The coffee was delicious and the rain is good to see.
Add enough mornings, get a long life.
Is fake profundity what you meant to wake to?
Some mornings, the nearly true is all I can manage.
I look out the window and wait.
Hard rain scattered the birds.
How bare is the shelter of a leafless tree?
A little less than necessary, little more than nothing.
If you think absence tastes like air, you haven’t breathed here.
The factories closed years ago, an old odor stays.
The blanket sky is tattered in gray places.
That blanket is older than today.
The clouds look younger and younger.
Mike James lives and works in Murfreesboro, TN. Recent poems have appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, San Pedro Review, and Laurel Poetry Review. His fifteenth collection, Journeyman’s Suitcase, was recently published by Luchador Press. He served as an associate editor for the Kentucky Review and as an associate editor for Autumn House Press. He currently serves as an associate editor for the prose poem journal Unbroken.