Five poems by Bruce Niedt

Cedar
(after Sylvia Plath)

we inherited the house
so we don’t know the history of the tree
planted in a row with its brothers –

a windbreak, I think they call it –
a natural fence along our back property line
that has grown stories high over decades

but this one looks different –
the branches are dying and little twigs
rain on the lawn after each storm

the trunk bows out from the ground
curving straighter as it reaches up
yet still looking precarious

the feathery leaves are sparser this year
than last, and if this giant decided to fall
it would slam right through our kitchen

when my wife was a child
one took out her swing set
moments after she left the seat

we talk about getting an arborist
sending little men to shimmy up the trunk
and trim it with knives and saws

perhaps right down to the stump
but meanwhile it looms over the yard
whispering

I move slower than an hour hand
slower than moss
but faster than procrastination

look out, look out, look out

[previously published in the blog, The Plath Poetry Project]

 
The Art of Losing

The art of losing isn’t hard to master…
Elizabeth Bishop

My endless catalog: an errant sock,
a birth certificate, a wedding ring –
some trivial and some significant.
I must be careless or disorganized
to lose track of the precious and banal.
But some things simply fade from memory,
and the opposite is true – I hang on
to those that seem of little worth to me
for fear the fog of age will wipe them out
completely. That’s why I wear this T-shirt –
Spring Training at the Phillies, Florida,
just seven years ago – my closest friend
and I, a road trip for St. Patrick’s Day.
He left by fall; the cancer took him home.
The letters on the shirt are fading out,
and some flaked off, and one arm has a hole,
but wearing it connects me to that spring,
despite the fact that words come harder now,
just like this shirt – with every wash it gets
more difficult to wear, and yes, to read.

 
Things in Need of Love
(after Sei Shōnagon)

A broken wind chime. A robin with a broken wing. Drooping tulips. A stray dog who smells the air outside a steak house. A family of eight in a one-bedroom apartment.

A man with an unwanted engagement ring. A house with peeling paint. A city with a burning river. A child sleeping under a Mylar blanket in a cage. A man trying to sleep over a heating grate in the street, his teeth still chattering.

A man who orders his seventh beer. A man who has long ago forgotten why he is so angry now. A woman in too much fear to leave her husband. A veteran who wants to stop having nightmares.

An old woman who loses her way home. A school whose children were murdered by guns.
A large country with a wedge driven into it.

 
After seeing Star Wars

after seeing Star Wars he says why is Dark Vader so bad and
I say you mean Darth Vader no he insists it’s DARK Vader and
his young pink brain can be so set sometimes as he explains
he wears that black suit and he’s so mean and he went to
the dark side so he’s DARK Vader okay okay I concede you can
call him DARK Vader and anyway he says I just heard about
black holes and I’ll bet Dark Vader lives in a black hole because
they say it’s so black nothing can get out not even light but
I say if he went in he could never come out like a Roach Motel
what’s a Roach Motel he asks never mind I say but maybe he says
he lives in a cave like Batman they call Batman the Dark Knight
so why can’t there be a Dark Vader I can’t dispute this flawless
five-year-old logic so I say you’ve got a point he goes on I’ll bet
it’s dark in the Batcave like a black hole except Batman can
come back out in his Batmobile why doesn’t Dark Vader have
a Darkmobile let’s go get ice cream I say

 
Hipster Grace

Oh Lord,
or whatever higher power
to which I may subscribe,
bless this cold-brew coffee,
this microbrew IPA, this kombucha,
this green juice in a Mason jar.
Bless these kimchi tacos and tapas,
these sautéed ramps with kale and pancetta,
this cauliflower-crust pizza
with heirloom tomatoes and foraged basil.
Bless this artisanal ancient-grain bread,
these matcha green tea donuts,
this blood orange gluten-free birthday cake.
In the name of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram,
(click)
Amen.

 
Bruce W. Niedt is a retired civil servant and New Jersey native who is now enjoying the joys of grand-parenthood. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Rattle, Writer’s Digest, Mason Street, Tiferet, Spitball, The Lyric, and US 1 Worksheets. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His latest chapbook is Hits and Sacrifices (Finishing Line Press).

the sparrow, devoured by John Sweet

the sparrow, devoured

hills a darker grey than the sky and no one
here and no one there and all of
the children lost in the woods

all of the priests as pale as vampires

all of the gods without money
without rides
taking back roads out of dying
factory towns

the kingdom of oblivion
in every direction

the drugs
which never do what they promise

turned to me
said she was happy until the
day she hung herself

said the walls would hold
but then the ceiling caved in

sky looked like rain and then it
started to snow

 

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications).

Three poems by Kari Ann Flickinger

Striking Room

Hammers don’t spark when they hit stone.

Sure, if the iron you decide to pound was cast in flame
then a spark might be produced.

But never misappropriate the attribution of the flame
to your pounding prowess.

Your arm is not mighty. Fire is

mighty—meldable. Creatures of fire
may produce sleight-of-hand to make you fill

with blaze through April—into May—you will
carry a torch for her. When summer scalds you

you’ll find she’s diaphanous—the scattered bits of coal

floating on the winds that beat at the metallic ends of
August. You burned for her too long.

How will you cross those winter-lands without her warmth?

 
The Dwelling Tree

Summer summers too long. The days pull on.

Their long skirts, their toes
hide, peek once
again, to flex, to interrogate this calm.

I dial to full air, breathe an orange
breath, wrap heat’s snaking
scarf about my thick wet body.

Out the window sliver, a besotted
breeze lovingly lifts each
branch of a grey little tree.

I wish for rain to fill my mouth. I live

in this summering tree where hope dives
for fine flesh in mycorrhizal symbiosis.

Hope captures a handful of elderberries

I keep tucked between stained digits.
But summer is generous

with the kind of heat one wishes
away. Her lingering

toil pulls the days, the silt on her
skirts, her dirty toes drift.

Summer is always a bit unkind

to tree-dwellers. The waxing
mood holds the twigs of my hair low.

 
Maladora

Flashbulb love gathers in her smooth edges.
Onlookers march—en masse to winnow her
pungent procreation—to collect it for databases.

Once every three-to-five—to seven—then decade
followed by decade—this death-flower blooms.

I think of touching the Mimosa Pudica—how
she recoils—how Maladora
opens
instead—in the slowest
possible increments—one appendage to the sky.

Pummeled by the press
who are—of course—armed with penis jokes
even serious spectacled scientists
chuckle when they call her amorphophallic.

3,564 creatures clean their glasses
65 re-appropriate their modal 66 gazes—they
snicker to themselves over sticky keyboards.
They cull her from their open tabs.

And sure—she slowly peels back into the void.

Unzips her seams—rolls
down her stockings unapologetically
juts—pumps—explores skyward.

Her propulsion flies in the face of their fogged screens.

Amidst this nymph’s sweet
expansion is a slow decay
of time—death is all

around her—in that cliché
you must fuck to feel alive after a funeral state of mind.

She casts her scent to pollinating carrion
who seek and intermingle
at the base of her stern tower.

They wallow—then expire in her brilliant folds.

 

Kari A. Flickinger was a 2019 nominee for the Rhysling Award, and a finalist in the IHLR 2018 Photo Finish. Her poetry has appeared in Written Here: The Community of Writers Poetry Review, Riddled with Arrows, Door-Is-A-Jar, and Ghost City Review, among others. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley. When not writing, she plays guitar to her unreasonably large Highlander cat. Find her: kariflickinger.com @kariflickinger legendcitycollective.wordpress.com

Two poems by Gus Sanchez

Alma Solitaria

A thought,
riding shotgun, a blank
in the chamber, pointed at my heart:
That summer, when the rains never stopped, the rain
soundtracked our life so far, we all bathed
in the dull wash of mother’s milk
All I could do was worry
Someone else’s children, coming up for air, a tiny fist clutching
a wooden totem, una alma solitaria, it said
a hand-me down?
a curse to ward off good spirits?
I asked the priest to hear my confession
“Throw your pillow away” was his reply

 
Perimeter Patrol

On sweet and sticky summer
nights like this, the cat and I
patrol the perimeter of
our house

He, for rodents and other prey
too stupid to hide from
predators; Me, for flowers
that bloom after midnight in
a garden I once planted and
forgot to water

I make plans to meet friends
for brunch, but I’d rather do brunch
alone, just the Sunday paper
and a Bloody Mary that’s the
perfect cure for a hangover, no
avocado toast, no gentrification-
hungry hipsters

The cat leaves a present for me
on the back porch, the
thrill of the hunt evident in the
way he field-dresses whatever it was

We’ll make plans to move out
west, the cat and I, her forwarding
address committed to memory, though
I doubt she still lives there

 

Gus Sanchez has been writing poetry, short stories, and experimental non-fiction for the better part of two decades. His poems have been published in various literary magazines and journals, including Tilde, Thirty West Publishing, Indie Affair, Last Chapter Journal, and Uno Kudo Press. Born in New York City, he currently resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife, daughter, and one stoic beagle.

So Moist by ML

so moist

so moist
this cake of rose cream
and pistachio
when we meet
to share vanilla lattès
on wobbly stools

for a moment
she wears a frothy moustache
and we laugh
and talk of diets
and glass ceilings
and low-hanging fruit

I lick the soft-sweet icing
from my fingers
and lose myself
staring into the space
between her lips
for just a moment

 

ML lives in the UK and writes short poetry, medium poetry and prose (all lengths). ML has had work published in the excellent journals Black Bough, Twist in Time, and Bleached Butterfly.

Two poems by Susan Richardson

Shards of Cherry Blossoms

I fortify the foundation of my mind,
shellac the cracks to keep
the ghosts out,
but I will always be breakable.
I paint my eyes with shards of cherry blossoms,
pull the ache of memory from my bones
to make myself hollow,
but the weight of grief stains my hands.
I hide the burdens of sorrow behind my teeth,
sew the taste of loss into my tongue,
longing for a feeling of fullness,
but I will always be empty inside.

 
The Writer

Light flits off an empty screen
taunting me,
throwing doubt into my eyes.
Why must I always break through the waves,
only to find my mouth full of ash.
My feet are less steady each time I stand,
heart hollow from the effort.
I try and shake the brittle ink from the pen,
but the emptiness is piercing,
painful to the touch.
My words become frail in the heat,
all sense of myself siphoned into the sun.

 

Susan Richardson lives and writes in Los Angeles. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Rust + Moth, Amaryllis, Riggwelter, The Writing Disorder, Dodging the Rain, Chantarelle’s Notebook, and Toasted Cheese, among others. She was awarded the Sheila – Na – Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A Series, and her poem “Letches” was chosen as the Ink Sweat & Tears March 2018 Poem of the Month. Her poetry has also been nominated for Best of the Net. You can read more of her work on her website.

A Play-by-Play of Queer Seduction by Marisa Crane

A Play-by-Play of Queer Seduction

The sweet silk of after
noon coils around your thighs.
Sun droplets scatter.
Day moon stirs.
Tongue songbirds,
enters your mouth.
I come
away with pieces of you
stuck to me. These winged
desires. Do you know
what you do? Do you know
that your body bests
all other bodies?
Our hungers harmonize.
The echo bites back.
Isn’t it nice
to love someone so much?

 

Marisa Crane is a queer writer whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Wigleaf Top 50, and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press, 2019). Originally from Allentown, PA, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife.