Summer Poems 2016

I hope you enjoy these poems here in the midst of summer. To me they are memorable and surprising in their clear and lovely evocation of simple things, like rain, anxiety, wonder, and silence.
—MJH

 

 

SEVENTEEN WAYS OF SAYING RAIN
—Beth Paulson

The Japanese have seventeen words for rain.
Diane Ackerman

Rain that makes the yellow leaves fall, rain that drips from a downspout into the mint patch, rain that beats a tattoo on the metal roof,  rain that soaks through a waterproof jacket,  rain that hangs like small pearls on spruce branches, rain that turns river water café au lait, rain that drips from the backs of black and white cows,  rain on marsh marigolds that was snow yesterday, rain that rolls rocks down onto a mountain pass, rain that makes dust puffs rise from dry earth, rain that shines through July afternoon sunlight, rain that smells of wood stacks and wood smoke,  rain that hisses on asphalt under truck wheels, rain that unearths mushrooms in the forest , rain that paints deep red the sandstone cliffs, rain that bends down the faces of sunflowers, rain that mingles with tears of sorrow.

 

 

CAMPANOLOGY
—Lynne Viti

The bell had hung there forever, it seemed.
We came to the church with our children
after years of childlessness—sleeping in,
reading each section of the fat Sunday paper,
drinking café au lait from bowls made by potter-friends.
Sundays were for museum-going,
brunches out with mimosas, omelets filling
elegant white plates, walks around the reservoir.

The gray wood church was nothing like
the brick edifices of our childhoods,
pews stuffed with families,
lines of men standing along the aisles, holding their hats.
By the time we prodigals returned to church,
it was a half-forgotten ritual.
You could always get a seat.

White-robed acolytes, tasked with pulling
the fat white rope each Sunday,
were lifted up on tiptoe, pulled by the heavy bell.
Once, the smallest boy went aloft for a second.

Now the tower’s closed for business, the bell silent.
Rotted window frames, sagging beams
wait for the engineer’s report.
No peals disturb neighbors on the street
where the church stands, unremarkable, plain,
against a backdrop of pines and oaks.

This sixty-year old bell used to strike ten times,
a call to worship, a wedding. On the day
of the death ritual, the bell rang the ancient
three times three strokes for a man,
three times two for a woman.

Sliding into a pew this winter morning
I hear the near-absence of sound, or maybe only
the rustle of a choir robe, a cough, the accidental slam
of the front door as a latecomer slips in.
If it has a soul, the bell
must be bursting with the long wait,
its peals constrained. It’s an unnatural quiet—
its barrel still, ear asleep, its tongue tied.

 

 

YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN!
—Chloe Mozer

“You’re doing it again!”

I remove my chewed up left pinky tip, sporting swelled spots and mini blood drops,
From my mouth, and squeeze it in my right fist.
Breathe deep.

“Thank You.”

The sting makes my ring finger twitch.
Then pointer and thumb start to scratch, they tap and fumble on the table,
Taunting.
I’m not hungry, or sharpening.

“That’s a nasty habit.”

I’m not teething.
Then there’s a middle nail bit resting on my tongue and I’m not sure whether to spit
Or swallow. I toss it in my teeth, against roof ridges, then
Notice nine fingers left in need of leveling.

 

 

ELLIPTICAL
—Kierstin Bridger

Perhaps left for dead
in some sodden gulch
dry limestone
tart on my tongue.

You still carry the voice
of glacier melt
the quartzite gleam of memory
lost in faded composition
your epoch diary.

Speak to me the language
of speckled trout,
the winding current,
the solace of lush banks
and distant falls.

I reach for you now
to make this canyon ring
to shatter me alive
to make this lifetime count.

 

 

THE PRIMATE HOUSE
—Chloe Mozer

We watch. One Black Howler strokes the other down the belly. He rests his hand on her light pink crotch, then pats aggressively. They are hunched on a high branch, probably plastic. Their tails grip others nearby, for stability (we infer). We imagine their muffled howls. There’s a couple behind us, shoulder-to-shoulder, texting. The light of their phones is captured in the thick glass that separates us from the horny Howlers. You turn to me and ask, what if the aliens came down to Earth and caged the human race? We gaze into our reflections, Black Howlers and LED dancing in our peripherals.

 

 

ATHAZAGORAPHOBIA
fear of forgetting
—Harriet Stratton

We were birding North Park
and along the highway
each electric pole held a raptor
hunched and hungry
for the smorgasbord
of jackrabbits smeared
across blacktop, waiting

for first light to strip
down mountain shoulders,
sweep green into the valley
and it was right then that
I said something profound
which rang honesty
like a small silver bell

but I couldn’t stop to jot it
so I pledged to remember
and kept it safe in mind until
the pull off where we piled out
to study phalaropes
in Lake John which launched
an ascension of ibis

and my perfect line rose too,
wisps of the root thought
dangling in the mist
and while white birds circled,
dropped like smokejumpers,
found balance on one leg,
that thistledown of truth kept flying.

 

 

POET’S BIOS

Kierstin Bridger is author of Demimonde—recently out by Lithic Press and shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize. She is winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize and the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award. Find her poetry in Thrush Poetry Journal, Tulane Review, Fugue, Contrary and December. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. www.kierstinbridger.com.

Chloe Mozer, currently a freshman at Pitzer College, grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She attended high school at Francis W. Parker, where she discovered her passion for reading and writing poetry—through the inspiration of teachers such as Bonnie Seebold, David Fuder and Matt Laufer.

Beth Paulson’s poems have recently appeared in Ellipsis and are forthcoming in Common Ground and Cloudbank. Her newest book, Canyon Notes, was published in 2012 by Mt. Sneffels Press.

Formerly an art teacher, Harriet Stratton practices what she taught, reads poetry with a passion, and listens to birds. Currently at work on a poetry manuscript, she is a member of the Poetry Book Project at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver.

Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, where her courses focus on law, media, and bioethics. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Blognostics, Silver Birch Press, A New Ulster, Journal of Applied Poetics, Moonsick Magazine, Three Drops from a Cauldron, The Lost Country, Irish Literary Review, The Song Is, and Grey Sparrow Review. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

November Poems

Fall is a wonderful time, where the brilliance of summer is harvested, both literally and metaphorically, from our gardens—and our minds. In a poetic harvest of this kind there is, however, an opposite current, a force that carries with it the distinct weight of loss. Often the season of fall is a time of looking backward and forward—of making peace with what’s gone before, and reckoning oneself with the winter to come.

Which is perhaps my way of warning: some of the poems in this edition are heavy. They do not shy away from pain; in fact, they gravitate toward it. In doing so they make a cold beauty. A beauty that contains hope, which can carry us through the harshest of winters.

Happy fall, everyone,
MJH

 

That House on Berry Avenue
—Lois Levinson

A young family has bought
the house behind mine,
the shroud of tangled foliage
that obscured the dwelling
hacked down and cleared away,
the drapes, always closed, now gone,
the naked structure revealed
in the throes of renovation.

I can see all the way through
the ground floor,
its windows squinting in the
unaccustomed light,
its walls ripped down
to skeletal studs.

I wonder if they know
that this house was infested
with misfortune:
the years she never left the house,
the walls absorbing
the toxins of her melancholy,
the decades of caring
for her paralyzed son,
the loss of a daughter,
and then the son.

Sorrow has permeated
the floor boards,
seeped into the foundation.
I imagine workers in hazmat suits
brought in to exorcise
the residue of heartache,
removing it like asbestos,
to bring the dwelling up to code.

 

 

 

Touch Is the Last to Go
—Vicki Mandell-King

I begin to tell her the doctor thinks
she is much closer now. After all
she has said about wanting to die,
I assume this news will comfort her.

But those eyes, that barely stay open
these days, widen and stare. I swear
I can hear the questions
swirling in her head – what’s wrong?
maybe a blood test? do I need surgery?

So I make light of what I’d begun to say
he’s new, you’ll fool him!
and quickly change the subject,
ask her about the past,
chat about my day.

She tires, shuts her eyes.
I brush her hair, stroke her forehead –
as if my fingers could discover
what she really wants.

 

Trying to Get It Right
—Vicki Mandell-King
                                   

Arranging photographs in order
from ceremony through celebration—
until the couple climbs

the staircase, turns
and waves good night.
Laying out the shots with proper

spacing in between,
the ones with edges of sky and stone
extending off the page.

And of course, words – my own,
and those of Cummings, Gilbert, Laux,
and on the last page, Dove’s poetic heart offer—

Here, it’s all yours.
Yet, for all my care and scrutiny,
this album is flawed

in ways perhaps only I would notice—
some photos left out, some
too close or far apart,

a phrase or two off center,
the top of one word’s letters cut off.
Perhaps I’ll try again. Or perhaps

I should accept that
this album will not be perfect.
And my son’s marriage

—like every marriage—
cannot be entirely
free of heartache and quarrel.

 

 

 

Tokyo, 1968
—Anthony Cappo

after a photograph by Andre Kertes

When it’s drab, it’s drab
and the rains will show you
the way.  Or you’ll follow a sign
and be ghostherded
with a will all your own. Walk
between the lines. Hoist
your umbrella like a shield.
It will protect you from everything
but the streams shooting out
of your own body.

 

 

 

The Woman Who Was Not a Bear
—Amy Irish

Every winter morning, the mirror presented proof:
Blunt teeth. Bare skin. Hands.

But every day she lumbered in the cold,
Stumbling, ground unstable under two legs.

And every winter night, exhausted. Every night,
Craving the long sleep. Every night,

Excavating deep caverns under blankets. Every night,
Dreaming what the sleeping earth dreams—

Of bodies curled far below the frost, folded within stone
And fur. Adrift until they catch the smell of sun-warmed dirt.

Then their heavy heads shake and growl away the sleep. Then
She truly wakes. Haunches stretching. Back bristling.

Breath steaming the cool cave air. Senses alive
With scent, nose finally free to press against the flanks of friends

And lovers. Inhaling the musky smell of her mate. Huffing
Her desire. Entangling limbs. Roaring the return of spring,

Of life. Then roaming. Near-blind in the sunlight
Yet sure-footed. Rambling the earth’s roads—stream banks,

Rock cliffs, pine-needle paths. Sniffing her way and gorging herself
On tart berries, meats, every fruit of the dark earth.

Tasting it all, indulging her insatiable hunger until the end
When autumn falls away, and she groans with fullness.

She goes back to the earth-hollow, heavy with her fellow bears.
Then she sleeps again, safe, satisfied. Yet dreams

A winter morning, when she wakes. She is ice cold.
Naked-skinned, curled around herself for warmth.

And every winter morning, she is alone.

 

 

 

Controlled Burn
—Amy Irish

When they advised torching
My life’s dry brush
I never thought to find this –
Me up to me knees in the dead.

Acres of decay I have, and quick to kindle.
Embracing the flames, driving away everything
That could never be. Thirsty for the fire,
Was I. Hungry to let go.

So I burned the dead. And the choke of living weeds?
I burned those too. Burned wild morning glory, flowers
Tangling and strangling me. Burned the pennyroyal,
Mint-sweet poison, jealously uprooting all others.

Burned it all. The smoke passes soon,
Or so they tell me. The ash settles.
I’ll be able to grow something better
In stronger soil. And so I wait.

But until this desolation clears,
With every breath
I breathe in every mistake I ever made
And choke.

 

 

 

POET’S BIOS

Anthony Cappo’s poems have appeared in Connotation Press—An Online Artifact, Stone Highway Review, Pine Hills Review, Yes Poetry, The Boiler Journal, and other publications. His chapbook, “My Bedside Radio,” will be published by Deadly Chaps Press in 2016. He received his M.F.A in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Anthony lives in New York City, where he practices guitar and sings ‘70s pop songs to anyone who will listen.

Vicki Mandell-King’s poetry has been published in a variety of literary journals, such as Calyx, Aries, Slant, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, and Illya’s Honey. Her first book is entitled Tenacity Of Lace, and her second, Shrinking Into Infinite Sky, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.

Lois Levinson is a member of the Poetry Book Project at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where she is working on the manuscript of her first book. Her poems have appeared in Bird’s Thumb, Clementine Poetry Journal, The Corner Club Press and These Fragile Lilacs.

Amy Wray Irish lives in Colorado with her husband, her two children, and her overactive imagination. She is a member of the Lighthouse Writers for her poetry and the Rocky Mountain Women Writers for her fiction. Among her publications is Creation Stories, a chapbook of poems and art to read online at http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Creation_Stories.pdf.

 

 

 

 

Spring Poems

Janus-Vatican-2Simply put, spring is a crossover season, often full of dreaminess and mist. The world around us is all about becoming, and change happens every dayevery minute, even. Often our attention spans are short, because we can’t linger on anything too long.

The following poems, while not being about spring directly, embrace that sense of impending change. They’re looking forward, full of hopeand peaceful, too, in the way they’re looking back. Kind of like Janus, the Roman god of doorways, with his two faces, gazing into the future and the past at the same time.

MJH

 

The Dream of an Uncommon Language
—Jordi Alonso

I do not dream
of a common language,
of a phrase I can say in Quito
to be understood in Iowa,
and smiled at in Jordan.

I would not dream
of out-of-work translators.
What would they do
if not carry his words,
and the warmth of his tongue to her ear?

I cannot dream
of describing my love
if not in Arabic.
What else would I
say over dessert?

I dream
of wanting you
in languages we barely know,
of being untranslatable
as we are.

 

Momentary
—Bob King

The shadow of a crow wavers
over the river wavering

above the shadows of worn stones
so nothing is real, reflection

upon refection in this life,
except the river, blur of stones,

and, somewhere else by now, a crow.

 

The Trail
—Bob King

All it takes is a hover of mist
over the next hill to make me think
the hill is an entrance to where mist
becomes a god, dissolving the hills
and pines so each pine likewise becomes
godly, barely there, with a secret.

Two hours later, it lifts and shifts
to clouds—maybe it was always clouds—
and the gods have retreated or fled
to the high peaks I can’t see from here.
But I can the whole of that hill.
I can even see part of the trail
as it curves away. The trail they took.

 

Legs and Arms
—Laurie Duncan

Easier to wrap legs
than fold arms around love;
chemistry’s lavish thrill
slips away soon enough.

We frittered the heat,
then claimed rectitude:
Dull banter overwhelmed
kindness. Gobbeledygook

blended with self-pity
is a bitter gourd diced
then boiled in turnip broth
of past magical thought.

Kaput. Resigned from love.
Disregard that buzzard
Aphrodite’s whisper:
Get another . . . Get another.

 

sampling
Christopher Mulrooney

in a Milk Duds kind of comfort
feet up at the movies like Paul and Joanne
so that you float down the river like Boudu
meanwhile the nattering booksellers
have their trade and wares and authors rosters

 

dribs and drabs
Christopher Mulrooney

as if I had insincere notions they were true blue
I never thought of anyone but you and that’s why
am I right or am I strictly from left field
the flowers thrust into your hand burst open
revealing the corollas and releasing heavy scent
you let overpowering us settle on the furniture

 

 

Poet Bios

Jordi Alonso is currently is a Turner Fellow in Poetry at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton and has been published or has work forthcoming in The Southampton Review, Edible, The Colorado Review, The Lyric, and other journals. His first book, Honeyvoiced was published by XOXOX Press in November of 2014.

Although Laurie Duncan grew up in the Midwest, she did so close to the mythology and reality of Colorado. Her great grandparents were homesteaders but lost everything during the Depression.  When she moved to Colorado, she began writing poetry after a forty-year hiatus. In the fall of 2014 she joined five others in the Lighthouse poetry book project and is currently at work on a full-length manuscript.

Robert King’s latest book is Some of These Days, from Conundrum Press. He directs the Colorado Poets Center.

Christopher Mulrooney is the author of toy balloons (Another New Calligraphy) and Rimbaud (Finishing Line Press). His work has recently appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Communion, Tipsy Lit, streetcake magazine, Cut-Thru Review, The Journal, San Francisco Salvo, riverbabble, and Dink Mag.
View previous issue here.

February 2015 Poems

Prufrock_And_Other_ObservationsWelcome to the latest issue of Mountain Gazette poetry.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the magic of language, how it builds within our minds a world that’s been created in someone else’s (the writer’s) head. Which is to say that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about communication: verbal, written, and otherwise. About intention and perception. How it canand often doesgo wrong. You think you’re communicating beautifully with someone, and you really get one another, and then the person you’re conversing with says something like a line from Prufrock: That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all.

Communication is a messy experience. (Kind of like eating a peach, yes.)

And yet in these poems I find a miraculous irony: in them, there is a crystal clear embodiment of the moments they’re describing, even though the moments are all about the travails of communication. The successes and failures. They embrace the question: how do we truly know one another? In attempting to answer this question, they brilliantly convey the messiness of speech and connection. And in that I am both heartened and grieved, which is why I go to poetry in the first place. To get both sides of the coin.

Michael Henry
Poetry Editor

 

 

KEROSENE ARTS
—Jonathan Riccio

“One thing I’ve learned: go looking for fire eaters and you don’t know what you’ll find.”
—Thomas Lux

As a fire eater you will never go unemployed.

Your windpipe determines retirement.

Ember jaws, spark gums; the physical is glamorous.

Come April Fool’s Day, the lighter fluid dunk tank.

Do you remember Joe “stilt ankles” Mikelson?

Well now he runs the Missoula circus scene
with his fiancée Carol, Ms. Spinning Plates.

You who were raised on three-syllable commands:

Somersault.
Abrogate.
Genuflect.

The perfect Jesuit acrobat save for
homosexuality and that dented leg.

If you’re lucky you’ll meet the ventriloquist
with extra knuckles.

Your bellows.
His teeth.

Lord knows where that could lead.

 

 

FULL DISCLOSURE
—Jonathan Riccio

You began as a germaphobe?

I prefer the term contagion-avoiding.
Better than running from, he thrived.

Eons, websites after now, they’ll refer
to us as the society that bronzed its

footwear. Gave preservation a new
lukewarmth. Meanwhile, where’s

your microscope? Gander into that
lens and see how long it is before you

petition the committee on household bound.

But if it veers your readers in a Hughesian
direction, germaphobe it is. Either way,

it involved scalding and a lot of Dial.

P.S. That Howard should thank his
bacteria-free stars for Leo D.

I’d have leapt at the chance for some
Gilbert Grapethrob with the countenance
of yesterday’s SpaghettiOs to portray me.

Question to a chronic
hand washer: does your
lifeline rankle at water?

I scrub                         the skin cajoles.

Is it true you only wear
slip-on shoes?

If laces, phobias they’d come undone.
Undone, fear they’d touch whatever

Band-Aid, saliva mane, gum glob,
vector spring or spatter errant

that calls the pavement home.

The ground begat your brand
of awareness?

It could’ve been the ether’s glitch,
the boogey mensch.

How do you function?

By stigma disbursed.

Complete this sentence
as only an agoraphobe
of your standing could:
Vulnerability________

is the new bullet train
of a wished-for Japan.

Sterile’s a pretty battery.
Affliction takes you so far.

 

 

MY MOTHER, HELEN EILEEN
—Sue Robinson

At the edge of the road there were houses
huddled in a suffocating blanket
that wouldn’t let me find you
in those hilly streets, steep roads too new
to know about the star-lit sea we shared.
I turned before the street rose steeper,
hating hills at night, the way a car in front
can teeter in my headlights,
plunge and disappear. When you died
I trembled on the edge.
You worked at it for hours.
Your breath grew shallow, slower—
stop and start and stop.

I hope you didn’t go to heaven,
it’s too perfect to be happy there.
I remember how you played Satie’s Gymnopedie
the way the chords resolved, the rising melody
climbing the hill:
a sudden subito and ritardando
fading into silence.

 

 

THE COMMON ROOM
—Sue Robinson

At first he thought I was a friend he knew
from hot-dish dinners at the church,
he finally knows it’s me and dozes off,
wakes up wondering who I am.
We talk about the Army,
World War II, and his favorite plane,
The Flying Fortress. The radio
is playing “What is This Thing called Love?”
He cries as I beg heaven
not to put me in a place like this
when life gets thin,
slithers off me like a dirty slip.

Here the lobby doors are automatic,
gliding back and forth they hiss and mock
the common room of keening,
barely masked by finches dying in their cage.
My father never hears the birds;
he listens for the dinner bell,
he tells me he has whistling fish inside his head
that never go away.

I knew him best the day he looked at me
and thought I was his wife come back
to cook him breakfast. What’s left of love
are things that touched her hands
dirty cans of poppy seeds and turmeric
whisper curry, coffeecake,
the closet of clothes he can’t throw out,
the red wool dress, the long-sleeved arms
that lift to him at night.

 

 

BASTILLE DAY, TARASCON
—Don Pomerantz

You say that when the traffic slows
to a trickle then stops, that will be the signal
that the parade is about to begin.

The traffic continues unabated,
though off in the distance somewhere
it sounds like an announcer’s voice

coming over loudspeakers, festively
trotting its swift little journey towards us.
At least here no one honks their horns.

The traffic is slowing—no, now it’s picked
up again. At least there are no trucks—
were there trucks before? I don’t recall.

There is a rumor now spreading in the café:
the parade has not been cancelled but
merely postponed, for reasons no one knows.

But 6:30, 7:30, what’s the difference? We can
just sit back and enjoy the pre-dusk light and shade—
the heat today had come very close to hot.

I say that tonight, at least, in the village square
after the traffic, the shush of wheels,
and the sun have all punched out for the day,

the folk dancers from barely known countries
will come, there will be music then for sure:
playful accordions along with wind instruments

and strings we have never before seen accompanying
the dancers stepping the same wedding celebration steps
as their ancestral kinsmen, the same strange courtship

twittering of feet and high kicking celebrations
of heroic deeds. The women’s long sleeves will wave slowly
again as if to another welcome caravan passing along

The Silk Road as the lone horn trills hypnotically up,
then down. But for now, our drinks are almost finished
and you say that there were posters, handbills as well,

this is the route, the time, the place, wait—
do you hear something? No. Who is this parade’s
marshal anyway, Tartarin? Godot?

I look up now to shrug or shake my head
and I see it, there it is: the parade of wind
in the high leaves above the people, above the streets.

You have not forgotten us, there you are
with your very quiet trumpets of love,
a muted trombone, clarinet, and flutes.

We have discussed it and both now agree
that we will be your antique drum to be played
with sticks of lavender, thumping the old tunes.

You’re still always there, breath without a flag, old friend
marching through the branches with their fattening leaves
and in this way, we will not be so likely to forget.

 

 

A PEDAL BOAT
—Don Pomerantz

Two mallards paddle through their own reflections,
glance at the waver of their underbellies, a singled eye

scouts past us to this and that insensible predilection.
My father and I, hunched into the nearest boat lay

no bread upon the water nor shiny hooks below whose
glint in the sun they could take for epiphany, diving

to capture the morsel, feet left to kick
into a world turned upside down.

In our pedal boat occasion my father and I kick our
way into where we imagine the foot pedals to be,

to the glorious, the elliptical, the watery nowhere.

Looking back through another continuity of interrupted flight,
you call this pond what, this oldish wet and dry?

Looking up through a skylight, just now
before dusk no light can suffice to show if you

are there, or read your lost answer written as it is
in the weightless slipstream of one or more feathers.

 

 

A LITTLE JOKE
After Adolph Dehn’s A Little Joke
Hedy Habra

Like bald eagles fallen over a wooden bench, hands resting over their laps’ folds, fingers curved inwards, claws awaiting their prey, two men empowered by their black cassocks, chatter like old village gossips, distorted figures wearing a feather as a headdress you’d rather imagine bent over a breviary or behind a confessional’s lattice.

For that can’t be serious talk: the tension in their elongated limbs shows they’re sharing something much juicier, a dark string of syllables hushed in secrecy, winglike capes propped in symmetry, rounded eyes doubled by circular binoculars, two sets of eyes facing each other almost as in a duel, yet accomplices of the ebb and flow of words riding the air between the smile stretching their lips, inaudible even in the stillness of the gallery’s collection.

The more I try to decipher this arcane complicity, the more I find myself caught in a net spun by ink strokes in that visibile parlare. I am left with the fear that the artist has led me to a threadless string of invisible words just for the sake of playing a joke on me.

 

 

 

POET BIOS

Hedy Habra is the author of Tea in Heliopolis, winner of the 2014 USA Book Awards and finalist for the 2014 International Poetry Book Award, and Flying Carpets, winner of the 2013 Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention. Her work appears in Drunken Boat, Bitter Oleander, Blue Fifth Review, Diode, Nimrod, among other magazines. Her website is HedyHabra.com.

Don Pomerantz lives in New York City where he is a teacher. His poems have appeared in Washington Square, Failbetter, Potomac Review, Eclectica, New Plains Review, Euphony and elsewhere.

Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. An MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, current and forthcoming poems appear in CutBank, Paper Nautilus, Blast Furnace, Triggerfish, Waxwing and Stone Highway Review.

Sue Robinson lives in Boulder, Colorado. Currently she is working on a manuscript of poems and enjoying a diverse and supportive community as student at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

 

 

Poems For Fall

Welcome to the October issue of Mountain Gazette, with a new look and feel.

The poems in this edition cover a wide range of topics, from war to the imperfections of memory, to declarations of peace, love, and slow decay. I suppose if there is one thread that ties them all together, it’s this: like the season of fall, these poems show us that while life is fleeting and ephemeral, some things will last. Some of us will cling to the one true thing we know, however difficult that might be.

I hope you enjoy the poems. I also encourage you to read them aloud, and to share them with friends.

 

 

THE SENSE OF CENTS
—Vicki Mandell-King

A penny for your thoughts, he says. But he
doesn’t really want to know.

For fifty years, two stylized ears of wheat
on the reverse of Lincoln’s commemorative.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
From a child’s ear, the magician takes a quarter.

A penny would be dangerous,
too small, getting stuck.

During the War, made from salvaged gun
cartridge cases. Once made of bronze,

mostly copper, some zinc and tin.
Bet that cost a pretty penny.

During the War, my father gave my mother
a watch of rose gold—

copper blushing the glint and shine.
The nick of time.

Another father and his little boy once put
pennies on the railroad tracks

that ran by their dusty small Texas town.
And when the train came hurtling by,

it smashed the coins flat, thin and wide.
Defacing government property.

Inflated worth.
A penny saved is a penny earned.

See a penny, pick it up.
All day long you’ll have good luck.

Toss them in a spouting fountain.
So many wishes—youth and riches,

the end to war,
a man who can make sense of things.

Water droplets catch the light,
glisten on a woman’s rouged cheeks.

The sky is raining
pennies from heaven.

 

  

 

HOT TARMAC
—Seth Brady Tucker

It is the first day with real summer heat,
mired in our own personal inferno, this Delta
flight frozen on the tarmac, has my back
sweating and cramped while I support Olivia’s
head to provide comfort—her face pressed
to my damp chest, her cell blinking blue, rings
What a Wonderful World it is, and three people
turn to stare at us, confident their own cells
are turned off according to regulations, and they
are lined up like dominoes, and the airplane
engines idle down sadly to nothing, and the air
conditioning whispers to off. The sharp ticket
juts into my cheek, but I am five drinks into it
already, uncaring, a big bloody gin butterfly
taking flight in my heated tissue, a soft liquored
fluttering of drunk and bright blue butterfly
wings in my head, and I don’t care at all for
the hard flexing of this bottom-of-the-deck dealt
world, nor for the poignant meaningless of it all:
all of us travelers, lolling like the olive
in the bottom of my martini, sticky with hot
sweat and bad intentions, our hands rising to ring
for the smiling attendants. We are burning
up on this runway, ready to barter or sell
our way onto any cool escape, onto any
other flight, onto any ascending white airplane
that takes us from this sweaty, business-class
lifestyle. At this point, I would take a bus ticket
to any cold arctic nowhere. Our air is breathed
over and over and back, so I bitterly take up
another spit martini from the stewardess,
and I know I am more slug than bright butterfly,
and I know I am as fractured as the dried
and fetid soil of the low tide Mississippi Delta,
but I also know how to excuse myself, to stop
while ahead, to quaff back the olive drab olive
that I have already personified to compare
to our sad condition on the jet-way, and soaring
from my drink, I escape to the john. I am
out of control angry, and the toilet is a hot cell;
the air is soiled with traveler butt and businessman
urine, this boiling and humid ding-dong airplane
just an envelope of choleric or malarial disease,
or worse, something non-lethal. My air plans
are ruined, and I have made the attendant hate
me by sending back my hot martini. I take out
a cigarette insolently and light it. The smoke
alarm rings and I flap my arms like a butterfly,
still smoking and cursing and trying to force
the smoke down the crap hole, but the Delta
crew is on to me already, and I realize I have
truly fucked up, and I know that Olivia
will be reading from her assortment of literary
magazines when she hears the alarm ring,
and because of me, she will be flying solo
and hating me, and I will be handcuffed in a cell
somewhere in the bowels of the Atlanta airport.
They will take my personal items, break my cell
phone, smoke my cigarettes, and they will taxi
Olivia away, our flight joining brethren airplanes
in the line burned on the skyway, and my empty
seat will be filled by a lonely and ticketless
traveler, some failed salesman who makes
his awkward move on Olivia, on my butterfly,
like some rotten alleyway pigeon. In my airport
prison, I will belatedly lament choosing Delta
over United (I am fully aware of the meaning
now!) and if I know her like I think I do, Olivia
is looking at his soft hands, his ring finger circled
by a white band where his wedding ring
should be. She will notice that he has a nervous
habit of twisting the imaginary wedding ring
when he speaks. He is getting nowhere, but
she is angry with me, so she provides him a cell
number not her own, and makes a promise
to meet him at baggage claim. Off the airplane,
she will head straight for the exit. He will call
her for drinks, only to get Chinese take-out
in Tallahassee. He will imagine what it would
have felt like to kiss her, to unbutton the fly
of Olivia’s jeans, to kiss her like he should kiss
his wife. In the morning, he will fly Delta
again, thinking he is as misunderstood as
anyone on earth. He will look her up, but Olivia
will have provided the wrong name and number,
because she is no dummy, my Olivia,
and when he returns to Ohio, to his wife and children,
he will lie on his bed twisting his ring
on his finger as he stares at his ceiling, unable
to sleep. I will be in Atlanta, in a holding cell,
feet in paper sandals and body wrapped in coveralls,
and on the floor, a metal plate with plain
bagels and runny eggs and cold bacon. I will
bang the bars, demanding my cigarettes, taken
from me by the cops. Olivia will reach Paris;
she will sit in a café decorated with butterfly
figurines. In two weeks, she will trade
in my unused ticket, fly to Prague via Delta.
In Georgia, after three days, I will rub the hot
rings of my wrists after they remove the cold
metal handcuffs, my Delta captors will smile
as blankly as the windows of airplanes as they
hand me my ticket and my broken cell phone,
which I will futilely use to call Olivia home to me.

 

 

 

MY HAND ACHES
—Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak

My hand aches because
My hand is empty.
My hand misses the feel,
The weight,
The finality.

My hand misses the ominous grip,
Designed by thoughtful engineers,
Allowing the quick reach of a finger
Onto the trigger,
The steadying sister hand wrapped around the fore-grip,
My cheek welded to the stock,
My eyes searching
Through the site posts
For a target,
For center mass.

My hand is hungry.
Hungry to touch again the steel
The aluminum
The plastics
The power—and the glory.

My hand is hungry,
Hungry for the pull of its fingertip on the trigger that leads to the hammer that
Releases the bolt that drives the pin into the primer that leads to the explosion of
Powder in the chamber;
The 556 round flying, a ripping six-grove, right-handed spin, exploding from the
Barrel upon a wave of fiery gas…
That leads to the chest erupting.
That leads to the ruptured, cavernous exit wound.
That leads to the skull coming apart
In chunks.

My hand misses its weapon.
That weapon pressed into it
By drill sergeants and NCO’s.
The weapon locked to it
By training and exercises,
By repetition
By muscle memory.
My hand misses its weapon,
The one welded into it
Every day for a long, hot, dangerous year,
The weapon
Branded into it,
Branded into the flesh of my hand,
And the grooves of memory,
For life.

My aching hand has me
Clearing my living room
Hunting at bars
Sizing up distances and windage
On the lone figure in the distance,
Looking for a kill shot.

 

 

 

RECOGNITION
—Vicki Mandell-King

The robber approaches her teller window,
says he’s got a gun,
gestures to his waistband.

At his demand, she empties
her drawer of 20’s, 50’s and 100 dollar bills.
After he leaves and the police arrive,

she gives a detailed description—
heavyset, scruffy,
gray hair in a ponytail

and blue eyes.
At trial, when asked if she sees
the man who robbed her, she points

to Sam, seated at the defense table.
In answering his lawyer’s questions,
she emphasizes those eyes –

she’d looked into them,
they were cold, hard,
and she was afraid.

Casually, counsel shows her
the surveillance photos.
Throughout the robbery, the man

had worn very dark sunglasses.
She doesn’t remember that, she says,
but she insists,
 she knows

that man is the one.
I’d know him anywhere.
The jury believes her.

 

 

 

TWO LONG YEARS
—Seth Brady Tucker

for Olivia

In order to impress upon you
how wretched the world would
be without your love, I have to imagine
a life without you, where time spins

its tires in the mud of despondency,
where joy pushes the yoke of a mill
in terrible circles, where love punches
a clock in the bowels of a mailroom,

where life itself stumbles and falls
in the bathtub, too far from a telephone,
too weak to call for help. In this new
world, we eat sand and wood chips

for every meal, forever filling bellies
that will never know satisfaction; we breathe
soot, we walk on the bones of our kneecaps,
we mutely sing with shadows signed on walls,

we recite poems of love with our heads submerged
in barrels of thick oil. In this world, without
your love, we lack the energy to lick
our wounds, and we lie naked in the snow

in winter, and bare our bodies to the hot
tarmac in summer. Our energies are devoted
to the search for pain, because if we
know pain in every intimate, perfect detail,

we will also know the touch of the devil,
and that will be enough to fill the empty
void of eternity, until you call me back
and breathe your sweet breath upon my neck.

 

 

 

POETS’ BIOS

Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak is an Iraqi war veteran and avid climber, skier, backpacker, and writer, having published fiction in several literary quarterlies and non-fiction in national publications. He lives with his wife Sally and daughters Lillian and Sylvia in Cincinnati, Ohio. Read more of his work at www.grimeschesak.blogspot.com.

Vicki Mandell-King has been writing poetry for what seems an entire lifetime, even during her career as a public defender. Her poems have been published in many journals, including Calyx, Illya’s Honey, Main Street Rag, Pinyon, Slant, Tribeca and others. Her first book is entitled Tenacity of Lace, and she and her husband live in an old, constantly remodeled Victorian in Old Town Louisville, Colorado.

Seth Brady Tucker is originally from Wyoming, and served as an Army 82nd Airborne paratrooper in the Persian Gulf.  His first book, Mormon Boy, won the 2011 Elixir Press Editor’s Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the 2013 Colorado book Award. His second collection, We Deserve the God We Ask For, won the Gival Press Poetry Prize. His poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in the Iowa Review, Verse Daily, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, Connecticut Review, Chautauqua, River Styx, Asheville Poetry Review, storySouth, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

July 2014 Poems

Summer is here in full, which means that many of us are embarking on journeys of various distances and complexities. For most of us, summer is a time of motion, full of sensation; we savor warmth and coolness and embrace breakdown and repair. We’re gliding down rivers and jetting up high in airplanes. And sometimes we’re just savoring fleeting moments of pure ease and pleasure.

I hope you’re having a fine summer, and I hope you enjoy this sampling of poems.

All best
Mike Henry

 

 

Loving the Way
—Bob King

There must be something better
But I’m satisfied just as I am.
—Shinkichi Takahashi

 

Sitting outside this afternoon
drinking my small town coffee
I’m trying to get over being happy
simply because the empty street
is patched and re-patched, showing
what went slowly asunder in the asphalt.

I know there are people I love
nearby and at some distance,
along with wars, with earthquakes burying
strangers, whole families broken,
and all that is what matters,
but I can’t help it: now it’s the street, worn

out, worn down, with its tarry cracks,
that comes to my attention.
I know this is incompletely ordinary
but I’m not over loving the way
I take heart, and an old one
at that, at how we repair upon repair.

 

 

 

The First Sign Among the Men
—Bob King

Such things as this need happen only once.
Drifting our canoes on a Nebraska river
we put in early for the night, allowing
the younger set to swim across and sail
plastic saucers airily at each other
on the sand-flat, the older to open
the cooler of beer and sit in folding chairs
on the shore and I, not young but also
not half-drunk, figured I’d swim across
the braided stream, with shallows and depths,

and halfway across I realized, the way
a muscle realizes something, my arms
weighed heavier, my legs too tired to make
the distance and when I reached a halfway
hump of sand and stood up to my ankles,
staring at the next deep dividing current,
I faked a satisfied look around as if
that had always been my plan and struggled back
and when I sat with my old drinking friends
I found they hadn’t noticed, nor did I tell them.

 

 

 

Autumn Sun
—Molina Speaks

Summertime one mile high
city, red bricks tell the history.
Heat strokez begin to fade
and we bid her farewell,
as yellow school busses cast 7PM shadowz
on the wide eyez of the winged.
They began to believe they ran everything
under longer dayz,
wearing their youth on their browz
running from time,
running from each other at play.
Laz vocez de los inmigrantes spilling out
into the streetz,
alongside the thick thump of el loco’s bass
cruizing by helado carts and lemonade standz
watching the street signz change,
gentrified.
Star signs shifting abovehead, dancing with sliver moonz
under grass blanketz,
below Scorpio,
above doubtz.
Even the grown folk, we thought we could do anything
like mountain streamz running and running
running like lil Carlos running from Jalene,
like lil Chris running from Esperanza,
running up and down the sizzling streetz,
el jefe grilling carne asada,
mama boiling greens from the community farm,
Joslyn juicing fresh beetz and carrotz
at the pop-up market on Welton Street,
summer setting on the North Side, South Denver,
West Side, East Side, Park Hill,
Montbello, out to Aurora
where suburbz are becoming inner-city,
where schoolz close and reopen under new names
with welcome back barbeques para las familiaz.
Everything changing, remembering
how the hood felt so good
under the banner of summertime—
fall winter spring we daydream
summer,
chanting down the autumn sun.

 

 

 

Saturation
—Lauren Kessler

I.
Honeyed lips saturated in yours – so lemony and tart.
There was nothing to say. Reduced to crooked smiles,
we tasted one another down smoggy summer streets.

II.
On the ride home, sentences grew saturated with lies.
They rattled in the highway air, tearing at the seams—
just as we were becoming.

III.
Heavy clouds saturated the autumn sky the day you left.
I looked up and wondered how something
so beautiful could later be
dissipated.

 

 

 

JFK–>LAX
—Lauren Kessler

As the gold-speckled
sliver of urban earth
escapes my peripheral vision,
all familiarity strays,
catching new verve
somewhere
between state lines
and time zones.

(I am higher
and farther
from everyone
I used to be.)

 

 

 

Traditional View
—David Feela

Veils of virga over the Ute Mountain
like gauzy curtains on the horizon,
like half-formed dreams billowing
in one corner of the Four Corners.

Powwow drums of thunder,
lightning sharp enough to bead
the rain, a zigzag pattern against
the shawl of this sleeping earth.

 

 

 

Poet Bios

David Feela resides in Arriola, Colorado.  He is the author of The Home Atlas (poetry) and How Delicate These Arches (essays), a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.  Visit his website here.

Lauren Kessler grew up in New York and currently lives in California, where she studies English and World Literature at Pitzer College. Her poetry has appeared in Neat Magazine.

Robert King’s latest book is Some of These Days, from Conundrum Press. He directs the Colorado Poets Center.

Molina Speaks is a poet, recording artist and performing artist.  He has released many albums, critically acclaimed by the Denver Post, Westword, and Colorado Music Buzz.  He has been booked to speak and perform at dozens of festivals, cultural institutions, and universities.  Molina blogs at The Artist Lens.

May Poems

Sometimes, as you’re reading a random collection of poems (like editors sometimes do), they begin to coalesce around a singular idea or image, echoing and chiming off one another in surprising and satisfying ways. It’s always inspiring when this happens, and confirms my suspicion that we are somehow more connected than we sometimes think we are. And if poems are attempts to cast light on such human connections, part of an editor’s task is to allow these connections to develop—and to share them with you.

Of course, editors don’t have to tell you what those connections are. Not to be sneaky or anything, but perhaps it’s more interesting when it’s left to you, dear reader, to weave those threads.

Happy May,
Michael Henry
Poetry Editor

 

 

 

THE TIME I GOT TO SEE A REAL ANVIL
—Kimberly O’Connor

Not just a cartoon trope! Jes shows us
his anvil: practical, massive, ancient,
but new to him, a gift. He’ll use it
for blacksmithing, shaping, flattening,
or drawing out metal, or scrolling,
which is like snail-shelling or spiraling,
or twisting, bending, cutting or upsetting,
which is hitting down on the end of
a vertical rod to thicken or mushroom it.
I wish I was a trapper Gillian Welch
is singing and I am wishing I was a little
drunker, wishing I was at home a little bit,
but also glad to be here witnessing
my husband and his brother smooth the anvil
with their slender fingers as though it is a
minor god. It’s hot here. There will be
a mudslide when it rains. Jes will slice a tendon
on a disc he’s working with; the children
will shriek at each other in exhaustion
so we’ll tuck them in their beds where they’ll stay
till they wake us in the night. The rocks
will slush down the mountain with part of the
mountain itself; the slide will take out
the bridge that connects the shed to the house,
take out the cement slab the children pressed
their palms in. But this is a poem about
the anvil, sturdy, squat as a Buddha.
The rain won’t wash it away, just coat it
with mud that will dry to a dust we could
trace our names in, no matter what we wish.

 

 

 

UNDER THE RAINBOW
—David Rothman

 

Heading east back out of Hanalei Bay, into the mouth of the river,
I had passed the pier, the break, the sandbar, and the estuary,
Sweeter water now gently flowing in from tributaries,
The paddling easier, the currents simplified,
Occasional sun illuminating gigantic fronds, grasses, vines,
Hibiscus trees, overgrown, rotting metal, coconut palms,
Funky houses on tsunami stilts, verdant vertical hillsides,
All as ordinary as any other place’s parts and pieces,
Utterly themselves, merely what they are, reflecting no promise,
When it began to rain the way it does beneath tropical peaks,
Suddenly, in what on the mainland might presage violence
But in that place is only a momentary torrent of lusciousness.

The stately sun at the sunset rim of the Pacific then plowed the furrow of that river,
Met the diamond curtain, and they opened the air into an arc above my prow,
The full spectrum sweeping through black, blue and gold vermilion just out of reach,
Small fish jumping into light and the gilded gatherings going on forever, forever up the river,
Even beyond that future when this garden island will have been blasted down to a salty atoll.
The curve of color grew and beckoned, a crack of paradise diffraction delivered here and now
To reconcile even the complicated voices of the dead,
Illuminating every thing a wild thing and growing out of the glowing rot,
As if a map of light had been unfolded and laid upon a table:
Here the river ripples; there the tall palms sway; a floating gull is searching, searching…
And even cars singing on the nearby road are illuminated.

That day is gone but I remember my own glistening hands digging into the river
And how each thing seemed to touch each other thing
While I paddled, I suddenly realized, not towards a receding beauty but deep within it,
The bridge where cause becomes effect finally built, no, restored to the visible world.
For when I dipped my paddle into the water like paint, the water cradled the wood;
And although clouds streamed off the peaks, the peaks guided the clouds;
Even the sun was given its signatures by the things it had created.
And then the whole world closed off as it must again
Into a lush but restrained stream of moments,
Into a half an hour on a good, calm river, rolling, level, steady,
A small jungle river that can no doubt turn nasty at times,
But today was quiet, the water opaque, as it usually is,
As it must usually be, our eyes and the world merely convex mirrors,
The sound of the shower on the water’s surface
Quickly retreating, the light now calmer, delicious
Yet unrevealing, the trees and even the flowers
With their secret knowledge
Again entwined.

 

 

 

CANOE, CANOE
—Chris Ransick

choppy water where mudbanks narrow
smooth confluence of river and creek
gone bug’s carapace hugging a stalk
these are messages, ephemeral ripples
in snowmelt liquor summer released
sigils in clay but no hand, no stylus
reeds and weeds slant and cross
like ogham on stone or mysterious rune
canoe, canoe, paddling, paddling
drought-shallowed stream, green and brown
straightens, widens and this old boat
scrapes rock incising another striation
to ponder all winter while it leans bottom-up
against a barn’s weathered wood
lines intersecting, gouges and dents
each a mnemonic for nights round a fire
afternoons on the flow and mornings
when magpies squawk the world awake

 

 

 

CROW AND BONE
—Chris Ransick

chinook thawed mud
brimming with snowmelt
sidewalk slick as a
taxman’s hand
black bird this January
noon not amused by your
slow approach and your
fake friendly schtick
before you get a good
look he leaps up
not really flight
ascends the bare tree
as if home and roosts
on a branch above you
fetlock of a roadkilled
squirrel gripped in his
black beak he stares
through the back of your
head to a past where
you were so hungry and
would have licked out
the can gnawed at the
shreds traveled far
for an indecent meal

 

 

 

THE NEXT, BEST PLACE
—Anna Napp

He sat too long on that well,
waiting for nothing
because there is no oil in Casper.

The quiet conversations he had
with himself only echoed
the words he used

on the wells in Montana
and North Dakota.
He sat, surrounded by maps

with no roads or scenic pit stops,
only irregular circles of layers and depths.
Little red dots marked

the other wells
where other husbands sat,
wanting more from Wyoming

than it had to give.
He sat, shotgun ready,
as the wind antagonized the dust

until it caked his face like a mask,
his eyes looked out
towards the next, best place.

 

 

 

THE FLOOD
—Barbara Ellen Sorenson

I
Before I was carried away
not by the flood
but by the machinations trying
to regulate the flood,
I was not able to see clearly
what the water had taken.
From the helicopter, hovering above
and beside what the water
had rendered as its new dwelling,
I saw, for the very first time,
the lethal grip of the substance.

II
I was tired from the sound of rain
that had never before entered my sleep,
never before fell as though grieving its own
fecundity. Sometimes, I thought
I heard voices through
the heavy rain, the unearthly compound:

There will always be surges.
There will always be seizures
from the well of the earth.
There will always be the uprooted cottonwoods
with their perfect early autumn yellow
falling, falling.

III
One day, long after the flood,
I noticed a woman emerging from a structure that was
once a house, but now looked like a broken body.
A woman emerged from the skeletal structure
that could no longer hold anything
because it had been weakened by water.
My father had once said:
He died because he was weak.
Had my son been weak?
Could structures, human and non human
be blamed for inherent weakness or
forces greater than themselves?

The river surrounding this structure
from which the woman emerged
had formed islands
at different junctures
I could see from the banks.
The woman’s face
looked punished just as one side
of the damaged house looked punished,
pulled down like Bell’s Palsy on the side
of a human face.
The other side of the house stood straight
with windows that had once obeyed a fixed rhythm
of full seasons, of hues and sounds.
But that side, that miraculously sturdy side
seemed to be yearning; it was trying hard to follow
its heavier half into the water,
to be swept away. This is what every entity
feels, when a full half of its own being is torn.

From this structure, once a house,
a woman emerged
and was holding the body of something
that had lived before the flood happened.
She emerged holding it like one might
hold a newborn baby. But it wasn’t a baby
that had been collected by the flood;
there was no lamentation
drawing a dark
cerecloth over the woman’s face.
But something she held had been found.

IV
Before the flood, there were days
that moved liked this:
my son has died
my son has died
my son has died

V
During the flood, there were days
that moved like this:
here is my son
here is my son
here is my son

VI
After the flood, there were days
that moved like this:
where is my son?
where is my son?
where is my son?

VII
When snow finally came,
and the sun had snapped everything
dry, I was happy hearing faint, cold
river water; brindled water
silent in its thin skin, broken at last.
I stayed inside those days
and thought about the flood and all
of its children rushing,
rushing to climb to safety,
to climb to the places where they could mistake
what they had seen and heard
and felt for the steady shoals and shallows
of some lost heaven.

 

 

 

POETS’ BIOS

Anna Napp is a poet who currently resides in Denver, Colorado. She has a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her work has appeared in Lumina, Snowline Poetry Journal, In Other Words and The Painted Moon Review.

Kimberly O’Connor is the 2013 Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow for Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her poetry has been published in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Inch, storySouth, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. She also writes regularly on her blog, Poet’s Guide to Motherhood.

Chris Ransick, appointed Denver Poet Laureate in 2006, is the author of five books, including Never Summer, which won a Colorado Book Award for poetry, and A Return To Emptiness, a Colorado Book Award fiction finalist. His most recent collection of poems, Language for the Living and the Dead, was published in 2013.

David J. Rothman is the Director of the Poetry Concentration with an Emphasis on Form in the new low-residency MFA program at Western State College of Colorado. He’s the author of several books of poetry and prose, including Living the Life: Tales From America’s Mountains & Ski Towns, Beauty at Night, The Book of Catapaults, and The Elephant’s Chiropractor, which was a Finalist for the Colorado Book Award. A new volume, Go Big, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press.

Barbara Ellen Sorensen is a poet and writer who lives in Pinewood Springs, Colorado. She is the author of the full-length book of poems, Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, and a chapbook, Song from the Deep Middle Brain which was a 2011 Colorado Book Award finalist.

 

 

 

Early April Poems

April isn’t necessarily the cruellest month, as T.S. Eliot so famously said. After all, April is National Poetry month, the start of baseball and the NHL playoffs, and the month when the trails finally clear for riding and hiking–though you can still go skiing, if you’re that sort.

It’s a month of transition and hope. So why not celebrate with two issues of poetry? (Yes, why not.)

I hope you enjoy this first, early-in-the-month collection, written by some very fine poets. And if there’s a theme to be found here, it’s perhaps that springtime is an ideal time for words of affection and dedication. Like most poems, these serve as odes–songs of fierce love and humble presence. Just as we’re digging out from the wilds of winter and beginning to embrace that most powerful of natural forces: renewal.

Cheers,
Michael Henry
Poetry Editor

 

Marie Ostarello

POLLEN

Single flower, fingers
curled and knuckled a deep purple,
you release your grasp––
yellow fairy dust drops
in a pile beneath you, last effort
to pollinate the green
paint of my windowsill.
Sunlight still sparking
your dried crown of pistils––
coneflower or daisy or
whatever you once were––
the dust of you is more lovely.

 

ALTAR OF THE UNCIVILIZED

He tends to bring home
trinkets of life. A leaf in full death
color. A cricket in the launching pad
of his hand. Slices of mica,
such flattened fragile opal, and
pyrite’s chiseled mirrors with their lifey illusions,
once volcanic, hardened in time.

He is my young lover, one who still
wanders and discovers
lichen between sidewalks,
a lush universe in the crack of cement.
Or a yucca seed pod, maraca, worth saving.
He is my partner in such things,
by choice childless as we are.

My older brother
has rediscovered lightning bugs
with his own children.
He had forgotten
how we used to light up lantern jars
of them, after a successful July’s eve.
Their bodies glowing like saints.

Today, my lover gifts me
with a sunflower trinity, one,
a dried saucer husk, petals long dropped,
one in full sun bloom, its brown eye surprised,
and one with petals tucked,
a hand of prayers
full of hope.

 

 

Manny Moreno

TOMATOES—1970

On a gorgeous morning
robins and crows color
a clear turquoise sky
and greet the new day
in a ceremonious way,
jackrabbits pop like popcorn
from the bushes and flee

near Castle Air Force Base
where B-52’s lumber low over us
chop our ears and
rumble the earth,
the sun rises like a
big orange beach ball
over an ancient barn
already the air swelters
already the sun declares:
Tomato time again
women, children
men and strain.

Pick-pick-pick
everybody pick-pick-pick
even little kids pick-pick-pick
old men pick-pick-pick
red tomatoes dropped
into plastic buckets
reverberate like drum rolls:
thump-thump-thump!
thump-thump!

No time to waste, time is money
thump-thump-thump!
thump-thump!
across the rows
across the plants

across slippery sand
across the Garcias thirteen of them
thump-thump-thump!
thump-thump!

We race back and forth to big gondolas
waiting for us to hurry and fill them
dumping our buckets and
counting our pennies piling-up
while all day the sun declares:
Tomato time again
women, children
men and strain.

 

 

Jessy Randall

BAD DREAM

He said, the letters of the alphabet
keep getting bigger. He said
his cup looked like a tank.
He was scared, he cried,
he threw up everywhere.

The next morning he didn’t remember.
He felt fine. He got dressed,
played, ate a huge breakfast,
ran to school.

Meanwhile I’m still not recovered.
I can’t recover from anything he does.
I still haven’t recovered from just
having him.

 

LOVE POEM FOR MY DAUGHTER

The I way I love her is
completely crazy. It’s unrequited.
Oh, I know she loves me –
but she doesn’t love me this way,

the way I love her, which is
that I’m already angry,
F U R I O U S,
with people in the future
who don’t love her enough.

Like I want to actually murder
these future people, commit violent,
bloody murder, with weapons,
or, if necessary, my bare hands.

 

 

Karen Carter

IN THE WOODS

In the woods,
lift the edge of a hollow log.
Roll it upward
at the slightest angle,
then peer beneath.
Feel the crumble
of its crust
while its shocked
tenants scatter.
Stroke its
moss, marvel
at its underbelly.
Breathe in
the essence
of its decay.
Then look up.
All the way.
Nothing less than a miracle
funnels discards
into grandeur,
nothing less returns majesty
to what you hold
in your hands.

 

 

Henry Bradford

OCCIDENTAL HAIKU

Rippling span of sky.
Everyone is small out West.
Windshields, grasshoppers.

Skin and raindrops—
sounds strengthen silence.
An unwashed moon;
somewhere a fire is burning.

One grain of sand held
in my palm, as well my hand
against this mountain.

Warmth, invisible
reaches out of my tea-spoon
to wrestle the air;
breath in the morning.

The thing she missed most about being
home was the sound of doors closing.

 

TRIPTYCH: HOME

TAKING refuge in the dried-up corner coffee shop;
the pavement outside is hot like a guitar case.

The man reminisces as he bends wire
into things he imagines;

They hang from his belt,
His beard, from his face.

WALKING out at night,
Bitter gusts rake through to prey on faces.

Halting ragtime descends from a high window onto my head;
In the morning, it is snow.

HERDS graze the tarmac, steel wings folded;
Weightless daydreams are written on their clear dull eyes.

At the towering window pane,
A monarch butterfly is glittering.

—after Charles Reznikoff

 

 

Ginny Hoyle

HOMECOMING

Yesterday, a woman crouched
on volcanic headlands at La Perouse
inside the Pacific Ring of Fire:

a High Plains woman, almost blown away
by trade winds that snatch the breath

as it leaves the lungs
in that lava landscape,
the newest earth on Earth.

Today she’s back where she belongs,
facing a snow-skimmed cordillera,
shaking Kihei sand from a canvas bag.
Back to watch the muted prairie spring begin.

Give her a minute.
She doesn’t know

how dull we are before we hear
what we don’t want to learn.

She can’t see it from where she stands,
but a steep trail climbs a far pass, disappears
in a field of scree.

Crooked peaks gleam.

 

FLATIRONS HIKE

The grass is dry.
The grass is tall,
the path marked
with red crumbs
of ancestral peaks.
All day
the sun calls
to new leaves
in fat buds
lining the limbs
of awakening trees.
With this child
in my arms,
strapped in a pack,
I climb the sky listening
for summer’s
first words.

 

 

POETS’ BIOS

A Colorado native, Henry Bradford has written with the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver since the start of its youth program, and was a founding member of its youth council. He is currently in his third year pursuing a double major in Linguistics and English at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

A native of Syracuse, New York and a graduate of Syracuse University, Karen DeGroot Carter has had her writings published in a variety of publications and websites. She is the author of the novel One Sister’s Song. Her blog, BEYOND Understanding, highlights resources that promote tolerance and celebrate diversity. Karen lives with her family in Lone Tree Colorado, where she works as a freelance copy editor.

Ginny Hoyle is a Denver writer who traded the Atlantic Ocean for the Rocky Mountains long ago and only regrets it on that rare summer day–when you stop in your tracks and close your eyes with pleasure, because you’d know a sea breeze anywhere.

Manny Moreno is from the San Joaquin Valley. Visit his website to learn more about him: http://monolinmannymoreno.yolasite.com.

Anna Napp is a poet who currently resides in Denver, Colorado. She has a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her work has appeared in Lumina, Snowline Poetry Journal, In Other Words and The Painted Moon Review.

Marie Ostarello received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Her poems, stories and essays have appeared in The Southeast Review, Hunger Mountain and Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, the last of which nominated her work for a Pushcart Prize. She currently directs BOOM!, a student literary magazine at Manual High School in Denver.

Jessy Randall’s most recent book is Injecting Dreams into Cows (Red Hen Press, 2012). She is a librarian at Colorado College and her website is http://personalwebs.coloradocollege.edu/~jrandall/.

 

February 2014 Poems

Welcome to the February selection of poems for Mountain Gazette. It was supposed to the January selection, but tempus fugit for sure. Seems like Labor Day happened just last week.

It’s a pleasure to share these poems with you, and I hope you’ll enjoy not only their voices and their wisdom, but the interesting ways in which they fit together. From a villanelle about the snowy confines of a snow day to the weird world of animal sculpture, from the silly idea that some things can’t be the subject of a poem to poems of desire, spring, and rebirth–what we dream of, what offerings we give to the cosmos, concluding with the most original of love poets, Sappho.

Cheers,
MJH

 

 

SNOW DAY

Time’s measure is paused, a perfect delay.
There’s no hurry to rush headlong outside,
When the cold winds blow and the sky is gray.

Just stay under covers; it’s a Snow Day!
Pull out a book, your hours have opened wide.
Time’s measure is paused, a perfect delay.

Its almost too cold to go out and play.
Arctic temps have descended, statewide.
Yes, the cold winds blow and the sky is gray.

Shall we bake bread and kiss the light away?
Then burn the stove after the light has died?
Time’s measure is paused, a perfect delay.

Unexpected, this spacious disarray–
This dreamlike spell, this winter’s boasting pride
When the cold winds blow and the sky is gray.

This gift will end in a resigned dismay.
Today’s slow hours have moved on snow light’s tide.
Time’s measure is paused, a perfect delay,
When the cold winds blow and the sky is gray.

Therese Samson Wenham

 

 

MOUNTAIN DAWN

Before the sun peeked over sleeping trees
The mountain valley shrubs were white with frost.
Sheer fog hung still and low without a breeze
Before the sun rose over ridging trees.
Me, just standing quiet, scanning as I please,
No guilty weight from idle time I’ve lost —
Before the sun peeked over sleeping trees
The mountain valley shrubs were white with frost.

Therese Samson Wenham

 

 

THE MOOSE ON THE SHELF

There is a moose with bee’s-nest feet
planted on the shelf outside my shower.
It has twigs for antlers, its barrel head tilted
down, and is staring through the sliding glass doors
at where I’m standing under the shower head,
water cascading over mine and down my body,
which is glistening. The moose’s eyes are beady,
and are fixed on me, never wavering. But why?
Why is it staring at me? Does it wish
it were in the shower? Does it think me
a nuisance, or as it gazes at my nakedness,
does it wish it could be me and not a moose?
Or is it laughing inside, this wooden moose,
cackling at the sight of my stick-figure self?

George Drew

 

 

THE MOOSE ON THE SHELF LOSES ITS HEAD

Tonight the moose on the shelf lost its head.
I was just standing there below the shelf
looking up at it and its head fell off,
bounced on the shelf and tumbled to the floor.
Flummoxed, I went outside and stood
for a while looking up at the moon. It was full.
Then I walked, thinking about the moose,
what it looked like without its head
four long stick legs and a long stick neck,
a barrel body twice the size of its barrel head.
The moon was full and the sky was blue
inside its black wrap of night, and when I turned
my shadow turned, lengthening in the light.
I screwed the moose’s head back on. It stayed.

George Drew

 

 

from WAYS TO DIE:
HOW TO WRITE A POEM ABOUT SKIING

You can’t write a poem about skiing.
–Tenth grade literature and writing textbook

You might write a poem about emotion:
terror (heights, and all those ice slicks);
elation (you’re flying!); anger (the father
screaming stop to the six-year-old swooping
up the bunny run bowl); pride (her chin held high
as she slows to endure his yells); perseverance
(the half hour it takes to stand after a snowboarder
clips my left ski). You might write a poem
about taking a break. You might write
a poem about work, the thousand people
cleaning, serving, teaching, making snow
and rescuing people who’ve careened off
slope-edges into frozen forests. You might
write a poem about the young woman
who did just that, her limbs at every angle,
who opened her eyes to let out one sharp scream
before closing them again, for good, or
about the man who witnessed this, points out
the spot beneath you where she crashed.
He heard the scream, and says he hears it still.
You might write a poem about lost objects,
wads of Kleenex fallen out of pockets,
hundreds of black gloves empty under lifts,
the tiny glass pipe I saw, orange-striped,
nestled in tracks in the powder. You might write
a poem about avoidance, the chubby people
in the lodge, their boots unclipped, coats dry
and unzipped. Or—but this might be too easy—
you might write a poem about the earth—
the mountains under, above you, their silent
folds and cliffs, white hills, white wind—no matter
how fast you’re going, its holding you, still, for now.

Kimberly O’Connor 

 

 

 

BEFORE

There was a golden age
just before you were born
when things ran along
smoothly for most
and the pie was warm
and fragrant.
There were terrible wars as well
and injustices that are hard
to understand.
Crazy people as is their wont
obtained power in dangerous places
and many others felt afraid.
Awful storms rent some cities
and plagues rampaged
among the innocents.
Pious hypocrites offered their truths
and found many anxious buyers.
Some gave up, others gave in,
a few fought hard and hoped.
Some nights were clear and cool
and the stars shone down.

Roger Wehling

 

 

 

OFFERINGS AT THE GREAT STUPA

A packet of Kikkoman,
myriad silver hoops and bands,
all-color strings of plastic beads,
lighters, pens, coins, origami notes I don’t unprize.
Open to the sky: a tiny handmade book penned fully in.
Chopsticks, Hershey’s kiss,
peppermint, unwrapped;
pine cone; a pin proclaiming “yes, we can.”
A toy giraffe, the color
sucked from ear-tips, hooves and nose;
a stick of gum, half a plastic egg, a Kroger
discount card. Silk lei wound round a bone.
A Hellboy watch, thick leather band, a dozen snaps.
One of swords, all air and melancholy.
If it were the two, I’d recognize
a seeker seeking balance,
but with the one it’s hard to tell.
A bottle opener, a can opener;
a baggy full of human hair.
A pair of baby shoes,
Carl’s ski pass to Copper,
a rubber ducky, extra small.

Kimberly McClintock 

 

 

 

FRAGMENT 136
HERALD OF SPRING

Because the snow melted,
because your sandals pressed down on soft earth,
because you said we should plant basil––
because you came to my house
after braiding your hair
with chrysanthemums
and your lips were cold.
You thawed and you said
you had never been kissed.
When you breathed
I knew you were
the herald of spring.

Jordi Alonso

 

 

 

FRAGMENT 63
DREAM

Sleep, let your legs
sprawl with mine.
Let my lips plow
the light fuzz of your belly.
Dream of the ocean,
of driftwood fires on the shore,
of freshly gathered clams.
Let me till
moon-grown figs
in the morning.

Jordi Alonso

 

 

 

POET BIOS

Jordi Alonso is currently a senior English major at Kenyon College. He works at The Kenyon Review as a social media coordinator and will begin work on an MFA in Poetry at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton in the fall of 2014. His poetry has appeared in The Volta, The Southampton Review, Neat, The Lyric, and other journals.

George Drew was born in Mississippi and now lives in upstate New York. He is the author of five volumes, most recently The View from Jackass Hill, winner of the 2010 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. His sixth collection, Fancy’s Orphan, will be published in 2015 by Tiger Bark Press, and his chapbook, Down & Dirty, in late 2014 by Texas Review press.

Kimberly McClintock holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and is the recipient of their alumni association’s 2009 Larry Levis Fellowship in poetry. She recently finished her first collection of poems, Without Breaking, and is at work on a novel. She lives in Colorado with the writer David Wroblewski.

Kimberly O’Connor is the 2013 Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow for Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her poetry has been published in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Inch, storySouth, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere.

Roger Wehling lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.  He has been workshopping poems at Lighthouse Writers Workshops for eleven years.  His poems have appeared previously in Copper Nickel among other publications.

Therese Samson Wenham received her BA in English from Hamline University and has been a member of Lighthouse Writers since 2001. In addition to raising a family and enjoying the rich lifestyle of Colorado arts and outdoors, she is currently pursuing an MA in speech language pathology from the University of Northern Colorado.

 

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