Poetry Special – Five Poets (May 2017 / 17.4)
Robin Grotke is an artist and photographer living on the southern coast of North Carolina. Her inspiration is drawn from nature, people and cultures, emotions and humor, new life and decay, present moments and distant memories. Grotke’s work focuses on the sensation of “being there,” of taking the viewer to the location of the photograph and to feel like she did when the image was taken. More at her website.
Mark J. Mitchell
My silence welcomes indecisive music.
—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, entry 335
Foil scrapes on concrete.
Magnolia leaves against the house—
Brushes on cymbals.
A light changes—soundless—
One car slides on ebony asphalt.
A negative charge in warm air
tickles softly—dead fingers
on a closed keyboard.
Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in the several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks Three Visitors, Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics, and a novel Knight Prisoner are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. A new novel The Magic War is due soon from Loose Leaves Publishing. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Joan Juster.
My Mind is a Junk Drawer
The rattling in my cranium is caused
by small bits of metallic ideas I pick up,
found objects like wire strung with traffic
alerts, memories of the scents of grapes,
white glue, details of spy novels, rosary
to finger through, each bead a puzzle,
insult, not a prayer. In there, questionable
junk like loose nails and screws that fell
from radios or chairs long ago, gifted
or trashed at the dump. Here is the device
to measure particulate counts in tap water,
but it doesn’t identify them. See this
Trophy Grunter™ used by deer hunters.
The does come, but my mind would never
allow me to shoot them. I put out deer corn,
a salt lick to bring them close and hold them
safe as if they were my pets or children.
Stay in this yard where you won’t be shot.
Inside my mind, geometric proofs circulate
with biochemical reactions for enteric bacteria,
Boyle’s Law argues with Pascal’s Wager
next to a hundred love stories never written,
fabrications mixed with history and secrets
about one uncle who disappeared, and a cousin—
devout fanatic telling people they can change
to be straight, not gay, because with God
all things are possible, except restoring her
to the compassionate girl I knew. My mind
is so filled the rattling sometimes stops, slips
into a dull quiet, the rusty pliers and screw-
drivers lined up neatly against a roll of masking
tape wide enough to obscure anything.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), she has had poetry in Rattle, Kestrel, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Slipstream, and The Nation. Visit here website.
We were pleased when the smiling nun
shook her head.
They were full, the lorry driver told us.
He was disappointed.
He thought we’d be safer
in the out of town convent than in the city.
He’d grown concerned for our safety
on our long journey through France.
He was nice – ‘doux, comme la sucre’
my friend would often tell him.
But he didn’t understand her accent.
He said his lorry wouldn’t fit
the narrow streets, so
we took a cab to the pension he knew.
Our first Spanish room
and we were happy!
The tiles were cool, if dusty.
We covered the TV.
We didn’t need it.
Two single beds pushed together
with one mattress
to make a ‘cama matrimonial’,
normality in Spain.
The owner was nice,
‘doux, comme la sucre’
my friend told him.
But he spoke no French.
We shopped in the corner shop with
it’s curved window
and explored the streets
of clubs and cafes and bars and lively people
enjoying the night.
And then we returned home.
Home to a locked door that
no amount of banging or shouting would
cause to open.
A friendly passer by understood our plight
and clapped his hands loudly.
A man appeared with a bunch of keys,
enough to fit the locks of several streets.
Normality when Franco reigned.
He let us in with a smile.
He was ‘doux, comme la sucre’
my friend told him,
but he didn’t understand.
Forty years later we found the street.
The curved shop window gave it away.
It was all still there, though only in facade,
waiting for reconstruction.
It was our first Spanish room
and we were happy.
The facade of a memory that
is still there and remains:
‘doux, comme la sucre’.
And we understand.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem “A Rose For Gaza” was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems, have been widely published on line and in print in some rather excellent publications. Read more at her website.
Busy with dreams
I had forgotten it existed.
Now the sky—
no the window—
goldens my shoulder
sore from yesterday’s
I am willing to afford ingredients
that were foolish
willing to drink tears
to stay awake and watch
the miracle assemble.
This is not the central sacrifice
no flesh is here consumed.
This is cocktail hour
the click in the track
before the roller coaster
Jason Morphew started life in a mobile home in Pike County, Arkansas; at UCLA he’s completing his Ph.D dissertation, “Hamlet’s Petrarchism.” He’s published the chapbook In Order to Commit Suicide, he’s been interviewed about it in Quarterly West, and he read alongside Claudia Rankine and Afaa Michael Weaver at the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Award ceremony. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gigantic, Foothill, Anamesa, Juxtaprose, Storm Cellar, Third Wednesday, Venus Magazine, and Juked; he’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. As a singer-songwriter he’s released albums on the labels Brassland, Ba Da Bing!, Max, and Unread.
– from Whole Night Through, a work in progress
A fly landed on her shoulder
at the party. She was wearing
nearly nothing and I knew we’d
have six children. She drank too much
Nyquil. She mixed it with Vodka.
I held her hair. I sprayed perfume.
I never told. The fly drank her
sweat because she was so alive.
The river asked us for our sin, Amen,
and I knew we’d have six children.
* * *
At the concert, lighters waved like
thumbs of fire on a placid lake,
smokeless, clean, not a second death
but a tablet of slate to test
the metal we are made of. Gold,
that night our hearts were golden bowls
set floating on the lake of fire.
Ella’s lighter kept going out
so I gave her mine, hoisted her higher,
her thighs crowned my head. Soft thorns.
* * *
Ella’s first horse, Red, kicked me hard
in the shin. She was jealous or
else she didn’t like silver ribbons.
No way she knew what I had done,
only God knew and saw my sin
in the sunflowers tall as me,
lost I was among them, a sheep
in the midst of wolves, a bee caught
in a bed of silky yellow stalks so
soft, slender, nude, bending, quiet.
Will you go with me if I go?
That’s what I asked Ella that night
at the springs. Our goal was always
to unblock the mouth of the cave
so we could swim inside. Will you
go with me if I go? One rock
for each held breath but she had gills
and fought like old Leviathan
in the blue wings of algae, the beam
of her headlamp like God’s good eye.
Midnight, we hung our slimy legs
over the ledge of slick limestone,
both smelling like dogs halfway dry
and rust and bread. I asked again.
To the desert? she echoed, my
bride, and I was scared she would jump
so I laid on top of her like
I never had but always dreamed except
in the dreams there was light coming in waves,
scents of grass, long stalks, yellow leaves.
And she said let me break you, break
you, break you, break you, break you, break
you, and she put me inside
of her and we walked the desert, broken,
with burning feet and burning hands,
our tongues in one place and our teeth
somewhere else, my veins in her arms,
we became a monster, with our tail
wiped away those spying stars.
Born early, the blue hour between
dawn and sunrise, mother’s gloved hands
rubbing warmth against my cold night,
tubes of air, glass crib. Understand
I wanted full sun, a ripened
nativity, summer solstice,
to be a clay baked tough as hide,
to offer myself as roof, callus
for your wounds. Ella, here’s a cigarette…
some coffee. Stay awake with me
until blueness comes, dance for me,
O, Potter, turn me back to dust.
Author’s note: The collection “Whole Night Through” tells a story loosely based on a compilation of true murder stories that have occurred on or near the Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Base in Twenty-Nine Palms, California (near Joshua Tree National Park). I was born and raised in the small Mojave Desert village of Joshua Tree where my love for storytelling began. “Whole Night Through” is written in dramatic monologues with five distinct voices, two of which are present in these poems.