Introduction to Issue 29 Poetry

by John C. Mannone

johnm1As a bonus to celebrate new beginnings into our second dodeca, please enjoy a larger-than-normal slate of great poetry. By way of introduction, I’ll mention a few words about the artwork I had found and manipulated* to give a fair complement to the poems.
Sara Backer (Hollis, NH), After the Circus Leaves
Bruce Boston (Ocala, FL), Royal Visitation
John Grey (Johnston, RI), The Exorcist
John Grey (Johnston, RI), During the Depression
John Reinhart (Wheat Ridge, CO), The Humaniverse
Holly Walrath (Seabrook, TX), Powder Keg
Akua Lezli Hope (Corning, NY), Lost Streets
Fabiyas M V (Kerala, India), My Mom and Her Home
Denny E. Marshall (Lincoln, NE), Quark Sample
John Reinhart (Wheat Ridge, CO), angels dream up the wildest excuses
Else Lasker-Schüler/Amelia Gorman (translator) (Minneapolis, MN), Sphinx
Else Lasker-Schüler/Amelia Gorman (translator) (Minneapolis, MN), Love

The fanciful poem, After the Circus Leaves by Sara Backer, opens Issue 29. The scarecrow image by Adina Voicu (Pixabay) superimposed by stock photos of crows in flight, captures the sentiment.

Royal Visitation by Bruce Boston invokes the use of hands quite differently in his dark poem. A similar mystery and macabre are also depicted in the photographic work of Sarah Jayne.

Increasing darkness follows with two of John Grey’s poems: The Exorcist, a narrative poem complemented by a surreal drawing, “Drowning Silence,” by TehLookingGlass (Anna Kehrer) in Deviant Art; During the Depression,    which gives an interesting look at the homeless, is characterized by the Bill Ebbesen photograph of Rob Zombie performing on Orange Stage at 2014 Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The image was further enhanced as a chalk sketch and recolored (accent color 2 dark) for the horrific effect.

In contradistinction, John Reinhart’s The Humaniverse speaks of humanity interestingly put by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the epigraph of the poem: an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I can imagine no better complement to this poem than the Italian painting, “Vertumnus” (“Vertumno”) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) (Vertumno).

Powder Keg by Holly Walrath is part of her collection-in-progress on historical narratives. This is a timely piece on slavery since February is National Black History Month. The pathos is also captured in two images for this poem: The painting, “The Slave Ship,” by J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) is a representation of the mass murder of slaves, inspired by the massacre aboard the Zong; and the 1898 photograph (Library of Congress, Washington, DC) of black sharecroppers in Georgia by T. W. Ingersoll (1862-1922).

Akua Lezli Hope’s fantasy poem, Lost Streets, brings the reader to that Scottish place, Brigadoon. The structural discipline of the poem simultaneous goes to both construction and deconstruction of the magical city. The impressionistic lines brought Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) ethereal work, “Thames,” almost immediately to mind, despite the fact the New York river, the Chemung is in the poem.

My Mom and Her Home by Fabiyas M V has a bit of fancifulness, too, but there is something very dark lurking in the subtext. That mystery, and the haunting red color are combined in a composite image of a stock photo of red brick-walled property with an ominous opening into the structure, and the growing red lava texture image in the background by Studio Freya (tatanya).

Denny E. Marshall writes a blend of science fiction and fantasy in the short poem, Quark Sample. The compactness of this work could allude to the compactness of quarks, or of all cosmology on a head of a pin, so to speak. The two images—the crystal ornament and the assemblage of glass blue ornaments—are overlaid to produce a surreal celestial ambiance.

In another poem by John Reinhart, angels dream up the wildest excuses overlaps with Marshall’s on a couple levels. The Cern image used for the creation of the Higg’s Boson in the Large Hadron Collider seemed appropriate.

The issue closes with two selections for our speculative poetry in translation feature. Amelia Gorman translates the German expressionist writer, Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945). Her work is often dreamy, surreal, and fanciful, as well as poems about love and spiritual matters. Two images have been provide to complement the mood for each of the two poems (arbitrarily one for the German text and the other for the English translation). The first poem, Sphinx (both a German and English word), might go more to the enigmatic nature of the subject in the poem rather than the typical winged monster of Thebes having a woman’s head and a lion’s body. The artwork of a moon woman by Spanish artist, poet and blogger, Gladys Calamardo, is also seen on her blog (Desatame al amanecer) associated with her poem “El rezo del sol.” The art has all the markers of Schüler’s style. The other piece is another overlay: a photograph of the flower, narcissus, by J. Arlecchino and the creative photograph by Steve Bidmead photo of the a lady in sillhouette celebrating the moon. But for the poem Love, the impressionism of Frederick Carl Freiseke (1874-1939) is displayed. Both “Hollyhocks” and “Cherry Blossoms” have a sheer sensitivity and tenderness to go with the mood of the poem. Be sure you read the translator’s notes for further insights.

John C. Mannnone
Poetry Editor

* Most of of the images appearing here were located using Google’s advanced image search tool (http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search), with “free to use, share or modify” selected. A few images were combined in PowerPoint using the transparency feature, while one was enhance using Microsoft Word picture format tools. But in every case, the work is free to use without attribution (though made anyway), free to use under Creative Commons Licenses, or used with permission.

After the Circus Leaves

A scarecrow jumps down from his poleSara-Backer_After-the-circus-Leaves
to gather, in his clumsy straw-filled sleeves,
the litter—ticket stubs, cigarette butts, sequins,
paper cotton candy cones, flex straws, coins,
ripped mustard packets, tiny plastic shards—
cleaning his field.

A clown’s discarded red ball nose—
his prize find—he puts on his burlap face
and walks with a bit of samba in his step
back to his post, where he gazes skyward
and pretends to juggle
three circling crows.

 
— Sara Backer

 

Sara Backer has published speculative poems (or has them forthcoming) in Asimov’s, A cappella Zoo, Crannóg (Ireland), Dreams & Nightmares, Gargoyle, Hermes (UK), Illumen, New Welsh Reader (UK), Shooter Literary Magazine (UK), and Strange Horizons. She won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Prize for her chapbook, Bicycle Lotus, and currently is seeking a publisher for her full-length collection of surreal poetry. She lives in the woodpecker-filled woods of New Hampshire and is an adjunct writing teacher at UMass Lowell.

Royal Visitation

Her Majesty is startled
awake in the night
by the handsBruce-Boston_royal-visitation
of a dead lover

exploring her body,
touching her
in ways she had
never known,

the very one
she had assassinated
for his flagrant
and gross infidelities,

the only one
she had ever loved,
as much as she
could love anyone,

his skilled hands
in the night
take possession
of her own.

 

— Bruce Boston

 

 

Bruce Boston is the author of more than fifty books and chapbooks. His writing has received the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov’s Readers Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling and Grandmaster Awards of the SFPA. His latest collection, Resonance Dark and Light, is available from most online booksellers. www.bruceboston.com

The Exorcist

We were ushered out of the room.
Only the stranger stayed behind
and Beth, of course,
still writhing uncontrollably on the bed.

Strange how the Christmas stars and streamers
still adorned the walls.
And the tree glistened.
It was the Savior’s birthday
but not within earshot of Beth’s tortured cries.

My mother sat us at the kitchen tableJohn-Grey_The-Exorcist
to sip milk and listen to her
cigarette-stained voice cackle some
random Biblical passages.
Beth’s screams grew even louder.

A month before, Beth had said
she’d seen a cross-eyed crow in the woods.
And met a peddler in the lane
selling odd trinkets—half-animal, half-man.
And during a particularly virulent storm,
a gruesome face had flashed in her window.

Ever since then,
she’d been coughing up bile,
swearing like dad’s old drinking buddies,
and eating nothing but cockroaches and flies.
Whatever she was suffering from,
it sure wasn’t the measles.

We asked questions
but mother said it was none of our business.
Just a stage our big sister was going through.
She handed a crucifix to each of us
with the instruction to clutch it to our breasts.

An hour after we left Beth’s room,
we heard a giant whoosh.
then a burst of laughter
followed by a booming cry
and a sound like a rocket taking off.
The stranger stumbled out of the room,
collapsed on the floor before mom could reach him.
“It’s done,” he whispered.

Beth remembers none of this
and I still don’t know
how mom explained away
the dead guy in our parlor.

In a way, knowing what I know now,
I feel kind of proud
that the devil chose my sister
out of everyone in our little town
for a full-blown possession.
She was never that pretty or that smart
and she couldn’t cook or sew.
My mother used to say she had a good heart.
And an even better exorcist, thank God.

 

— John Grey

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo.

During the Depression

men in ragged shirts,
soiled trousers,
ratty hair tucked under caps,John-Grey_During-the-Depression
in the middle of winter
sit around a fire
near an abandoned quarry,

others ride the rails,
slipping in and out of boxcars
one step ahead of the cops,
travelling rough
from one jobless place to another,
eating out of trash-cans,
lining up at soup kitchens.

In the castle on the hill,
coffins stay closed
well beyond sunset,

in the old abandoned mill,
the doctor shutters
his laboratory,
unable to get body parts,

in the waters of the black lagoon,
the creature is speared for food,

in a graveyard near Pittsburgh,
zombies starve
for lack of human flesh—
either their visual prey
is worn down to the bone
or they can’t tell a homeless man
from their own kind,

hungry for his next meal,
the wolf-man slinks down the hill
toward a cottage—
too late,
the wolf’s already
at the door.

 

— John Grey

 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Gargoyle, Coal City Review and Nebo.

The Humaniverse

               an occult relation between man and the vegetable
               —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)

peering out from
his garden lot
John-Reinhart_humaniverseinto the public road,
sheepish, nervous
about what happens
between man
and vegetable
as if we were only
here to eat–

man appears a little
lost among the weeds
obscuring more civilized
fauna, and, kneeling
in the mud,
redeems a little patch
of hearty turnips,
thistle and dandelion
crying for more sun
amid the collage
of variegated green,
purple, white, and yellow,
a little care warms
a thousand years

of glaciers, inspiring
angels and dung beetles
shaking hands
with noon-light sun,
blossoming infinities

that offer a new
communion,
praising the wealth
of a delectable
universe

 

— John Reinhart

 

 

An arsonist by trade,  John Reinhart lives on a farmlette in Colorado with his wife and children. His poetry has recently been published in Scifaikuest, Star*Line, and FishFood Magazine. More of his work is available at http://www.patreon.com/johnreinhart

Powder Keg

(1783-1810)

1.
Walrath_Powder-Keg_Slave-shipTo be born a slave but to have known
the taste of freedom is bitter, a tang of existence
like the grit of blood in a clear river,
like steel in your hands—gun-metal freedom,
that can be given or taken away.

Deprived of freedom, the body still keens,
breathes in the wind, picks up its scent,
longs for sweet pain, and marches
with the infantry of death.

I knew long ago the betrayal of fate.
Turning its face from me, it left me for dead
face down in a river, with just my own hands
to pull me out.

2.
Bands of cold steel press into my skin—
my skin, merely a gunshot in a dark coda,
fingerprintless. This shell, a powder keg
alive within—charcoal and fire,
transient.

Walrath_Powder-Keg_sharecroppersI lost myself for a long time, for years
amongst the high towers of white
cotton and castles. Living,
I refused to remember.

I pressed away memories in the fields,
turned my face from the call of ravens
waiting on fence posts and church steeples
and on the handles of plows.

I shut out the soul, collecting memories like lashes of the whip.

The little woman and the children she bore,
who slept beside me in the row house,
were they merely flesh and blood?
Made from parts of me I cannot keep?

I know they are dead, but I wish I could have kept
a lock of hair, a cotton scrap, not the hazy memory
of their smell, the sweet tangle of their feet on the cot,
their smiles at sunrise.

What had they to smile about?

3.
Specters haunt the earth. Shadows broken
away from the sun. Rangers without bodies
to return to. But I know this much,
they are free while I am chained
to the never-ending pain of life’s riven fane.

Where is the promise of my years?
In sleep memory rages, claws
my eyes, sears my nostrils,
hisses in my ears.

 

— Holly Walrath

 

 

 

Holly Walrath attended the University of Texas for her B.A. in English and the University of Denver for her M.L.A in Creative Writing. She is a freelance editor and the Associate Director of Writespace, a literary center in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Abyss & Apex, Pulp Literature, and Grievous Angels, among others.

Lost Streets

When fog rises over the Chemung river
and dances up the hillsides

Fog pilfers the unanchored,
collects untethered songs.
Akua-Lezli-Hope_Lost-StreetsNameless piano tunes roll along
in the dark of its impermeable light.

The wriggling shapes of lost streets ascend
green hillocks—the small city
becoming undone, and resurrected.

Labyrinths emerged on three slopes
above Big Flats where lost streets sought
their forgotten shapes. They tangled,
forming figure eights.

By a stroke of deep invention,
city stewards proposed a solution:
name all the alleys, deem them lanes.

They were my private walkways
where crows shouted and shadowed me,
where squirrel highways became visible,
where worlds unfurled on ribbons of light

and, thus weighted and bound
with words, held in place, tied down,
forever moored my wayward Brigadoon.

 

— Akua Lezli Hope

 

 

Akua Lezli Hope is a creator who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, and metal to create poems, patterns, stories, music, wearables, sculpture, adornments and peace whenever possible. She has won two Artists Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Ragdale U.S.-Africa Fellowship, a Creative Writing Fellowship from The National Endowment for The Arts and the Walker Foundation Scholarship to Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She was a Cave Canem fellow. She received an Artists Crossroads Grant from The Arts of the Southern Finger Lakes for her project “Words in Motion,” which placed poetry on the buses of New York’s Chemung and Steuben counties.

Her manuscript, Them Gone, won the Red Paint Hill Publishing’s Editor’s Prize and will be published in 2016. She won the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s 2015 short poem award. Her first collection, EMBOUCHURE, Poems on Jazz and Other Musics, won the Writer’s Digest book award for poetry.

Notable publications include: The 100 Best African American Poems; Too Much Boogie, Erotic Remixes of the Dirty  Blues; Dark Matter, (the first!) anthology of African American Science Fiction and Erotique Noire, the first anthology of black erotica among many other journals.

She led the Voices of Fire Reading Choir from 1987 to 1999. Akua has given hundreds of readings to audiences in colleges, prisons, parks, museums, libraries and bars. A crochet designer, she has published more than 100 patterns. Her interest is in the freeform and the figurative—with a collection of scifi hats. She is an avid hand papermaker, who also loves to sing and play her saxes. A paraplegic, she has founded a paratransit nonprofit so that she and others may get around in her small town.

My Mom and Her Home

Fabiyas-M-V_My-Mom-and-Her-HomerThese old stones
have undressed their
plaster-clothes. Her roof
is tattered, yet she declines my call.

Fashion and novelty
never tempt her. Her soles
sometimes soil her floor, but she
doesn’t fear a stretched-out index finger .

She refuses a share
of yummy Chinese noodles
or Arabian barbecue chicken
from my kitchen beyond the fence.

She takes steamed rice
and cheap sardine curry
as five-star food to her home.
No one teases her, the ill-mannered slurps.

She hears his footsteps
from the corridor of hallucination.
Nobody chimes in, her secret whisperings.
She likes the fright, the wilderness of dark lonely nights.

Nude red stones in her wall
remain as remnants of old love.
She’ll never come to stay in our new home,

she likes to be on her own always.

 

— Fabiyas M V

 

 

Fabiyas M V is a writer from Orumanayur village in Kerala, India. He is the author of Moonlight and Solitude. His fiction and poems have appeared in Westerly, Forward Poetry, The Literary Hatchet, E Fiction, Off the Coast, Anima, Structo, and in several anthologies. He won many international accolades including the Poetry Soup International Award (USA), the RSPCA Pet Poetry Prize (UK), Speaking of Women Story Prize (Canada), and The Most Loved Poet For March 2014 Award by E Fiction (India). His poems have been broadcast on the All India Radio.

Quark Sample

Denny-Marshall_Quark-SampleAfter a thousand years
an unmanned satellite
brought back a cup
of dark matter: under
the microscope—
nano-galaxies and flocks
of angels. Rows of myths
shattered like hollow glass
bowling pins.

 

 

— Denny E. Marshall

 

 

Denny E. Marshall has published art, poetry, and fiction in venues such Disturbed Digest (front cover and back art, Jun 2015), Bards And Sages Quarterly (interior art, Oct 2015), The Literary Hatchet (#13, poetry and art, Dec 2015) and Night To Dawn (#28, fiction, Oct 2015). See more at www.dennymarshall.com