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.