Erika Brumett

~Worms~

     “It may be doubted whether there is any other animal which has played 
 so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly, organized beings.” -   
Charles Darwin

 

           Little tillers.  Ploughs of night-

         writhe and gizzard.  Eyeless, they grind

        through hummus—through leaf tip, rock

       bit, rootlet—burrowing tubal

         as the tubes they burrow.  Dirt-

           serpents, vermicelli, bait.  Hook-

            clowns, inchlings, doll snakes.  Sectioned, 

          intestinal—each a squiggle 

        of innard—a stretch of entrail 

      or colon. Intelligent, unsung 

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Judith Roche

DROWNING IN LAKE MICHIGAN

 My first memory looks up to sunlight through water.

I'm on my back at the bottom and have already stopped 

struggling for air. The sun's full hands overflow

light leaking through the flawless blue, 

quiet and calm like a silent song, Mermaid, I, 

I'm already at peace with my death before my father

plucks and pumps me out, sputtering

and crying  as the water goes out

and great gobs of thick air sear my lungs open again.

I don't remember the coy ripple the lake lapped

at my baby toes before the wave slapped me down

and into the coarse-grained bed

cleanly wheaten and speckled shallow 

this close to where she cozies up to shore,

but deep enough for the baby my father forgot

in a sociable moment, chatting up a new acquaintance.

Always a talker, my father could make new friends anywhere

While I was learning to love the depths. You'd think

It would scare a child, but ever since

I've leapt to water as my element, looked behind me

To catch a glimpse of the ghost of my forlorn and missing 

Fish tail, forgotten in the rush of the rescue.

  

Fishtown, Lower Skagit

            from a long canoe with 18 paddlers

                        “Language burned in us. We were wild with ideas… “ Bob Rose

 

Water rocks under us.

Water pours over us from a slate sky.

Water collects in the bottom of the boat,

drips off our hat brims, soaks through clothes.

Purple larkspur shows vivid against rain-blackened 

rock faces. Columbine in niches clings in shallow soil,

saxifrage shines white on succulent stems.

A red tail hawk drifts above, looking for dinner. 

We rock in the river’s current, “Paddles ready,”

then “all paddles ahead,”and “Paddles rest,”

shouted from the back of the boat.  A mean

wind arrives from the south. We’re pilgrims searching

the ghost of Fishtown hovering in this Skagit 

rain, but most shacks have been torn down, 

the land logged, leaving bare bones, or nothing but low  greenery . 

The hopeful artists and scholars of the estuary 

scattered, mostly still around the valley, still making art.

all in our sixties and seventies now. 

Some have passed,  a life lived for art –as ephemeral as a dance–

but many leave a trail of poems and paintings behind.

None can leave behind the life lived on the Skagit,

the youthful hope and dedication. The river

moves and changes. Shacks, landmarks and channels gone.

But Rivers have memories, says Bob Rose. Restless, they adjust  

in their beds. Robert Sund is gone but his tight little cabin 

is a refuge from the rain today. We huddle inside

and crowd around the wood stove, drink tea and listen

to Tim McNulty read Sund’s poems of this place. Water, 

water, herons, rain, swallows, mud, and rain again. 

Even a former resident of Fishtown can’t find 

what was thereThe river has changed channels 

and Fishtown has become a state of mind. 

Peter Munro

The Wind’s Measure

 The length of the wind runs from mid-May to murder.

The length of the wind runs from January through joy.

The wind runs as long as the right hand’s first finger

points to the sun after thunder.

The wind gallops prayerward

like a horse held in the palm of a rock,

no taller than a knee bent for the sake of singing.

The wind weighs more than the fossilized horse and stretches from

            fingernail to praise.

The length of the wind runs from mid-May to mercy, January through justice.

Unto the broken, dwelling in a broken, promised land, the wind drops a hammer

and some are warmed and some are chilled and some laugh and some die.

Silently through the nuclear physicist, the wind wicks

loud as paper-scraps trailing in the wind’s wake, 

igniting an empiricist, fragrant through tallow.

The wind strikes the wind like rice in a paddy.

The wind scatters petals like blossoms of napalm.

The wind snaps the backs of malnourished Conquistadores bowed down to gold.

It is the wind who estimates poverty in moments by the method of moments,

who assesses want in units of amass.

It is the wind who shakes America by the ovaries,

runs the length of revolution, all the calories in a dollar.

The length of the wind runts from mid-March to hunger.

The length of the wind grunts from Saturday through sorrow.

The wind flutters nothing but orgasms and afterplay.

The wind numbers seminarians more numinous than semen.

The wind is a mote on the wind.

The wind is the dust that measures time in footsteps.

The wind is the word in the throat of the dust.

The length of the wind runs from midwife to marvel.

The wind ribbons out within mid-May and mourning and dust

is the voice the wind whickers glory, the wind whickers grief.

  First published in Poetry, February 2009

 

Bleeding Cod

 Gills sprung, some pop

when they kiss the crucifier.

Mouths trigger, huge as buckets,

bodies arch sideways all their length,

and every fin flares from pectoral to caudal.

Inboard from gaff and roller, the longline

crackles under strain, steadily threading its machined

narrows. Cod lips hit the slot, hooks rip free, leaving

cantilevers of jaw in ruin, and fish thresh crisply,

skidding the chute to the tank, lashing like little storms.

Ruptured up from depth, each crosses the rail

busted in its guts as gasses expand until the swim-

bladder blows mesentery, living gaskets torn, anal flues

breached, dying even as hydraulics crucify

by kiss. Circle-hook after circle-hook

wrenches from flesh and flesh

sloshes the bleeding trough.

Charles tips his blade into membrane ahead of the collar,

dividing blood from cod.

Miguel touches bright steel through a sluice

of crimson abaft the last gill raker.

Drew lifts an edge honed along fifty-eight degrees north,

slips it perpendicular to the isthmus,

working arc-wise right toward his own grip.

Operculum rifts from pectoral girdle

when Matthew's knife-hand sighs through

as if to release light glyphed in a red spurt.

 

Shift relieves shift.

The inclined conveyor grinds to starboard.

Mist, frosted adrift of its plate freezer, slews

outboard, swaddles the bleeder, then separates.

Sometimes blood, dead for hours and pooled

in the heart sac, suddenly blackens the trough,

plumed somber as predawn tilted cold

upon metal smelted to sheet and weld.

Sometimes still-living blood pelts

like stormlight loosed from its furnaces

and drawn gusty under nimbus, decrypted, unflumed

from the large-bore artery charged by the gills.

Scarlet curdles to steelwork until the deck hose

peels color away, flushed to the sumps.

At last, a few twitches of muscle,

the cod pumping out as it rides prongs

up the conveyer, final crimson

frayed and hanging in scraps, clotted and swaying

from the grating of the belt, blood-shreds

draped over bolt-heads like some wrecked lace

once knotted from a thread

spindled alive

out of the dark of a world

unseen, the axle of which turns unseen. 

 

At the end of his sixteen hours,

Charles gazes past his left hand,

a claw drawn to.

His left elbow hitches sharply,

recalling every broken jaw, every neck plate

forced and parted.  Stiff ligaments

articulate a body of law spoken in salt,

a story of sea chamber and torn aorta

and muscles knotting in his lower back.  A legacy

ancient as hunger, no older than fear.  Sunrise

blusters ragged at the end of watch.

The day tatters, bleeding out

as if nicked by steel,

the man become mere matter. 

F/V Alaska Mist

October 2008,  B-Season

58°39.78¢N, 177°02.32¢W

First published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Summer 2009, Vol 59, No 4

 

Jazno Francoeur

Fall River at Midnight

 Fireflies brighten the grass by the shore

as you pass under the low-hanging trees

in your father’s green aluminum boat

above the submerged farms and rock quarries;

setting the lines on the branches, the leaves

just skimming the surface, you navigate

through an alcove, then settle in between

the bait cooler and the motor to wait.

At times, you see a faint light reflected

from the lamp on a small school of minnows

like silver coins flipping end over end,

disappearing in the darkness below,

while your father gathers a large white net

and casts it out, as if making a bed.

 

 VIA SACRA

 I was buried beside an olive tree

with a lamp, three figs, and a loaf of bread.

I was never a mother, nor a wife,

my duties conferred to the sacred flame

to attend the vestal hearth in winter,

to bless the Tiber’s water with my palms,

 

and then relieve the burning in my palms.

The Sacred Way is just beyond this tree,

where my lovers visit every winter

to share my memory with leavened bread

and hold their blackened fingers to a flame.

I was never destined to be a wife

 

they knew they could not take me as a wife:

the random lots were held against my palms

and made my fingers curl into a flame

then open as a blossom on a tree.

My mother wept; my father gave me bread.

We walked to an empty house in winter

 

just beyond the Sacred Way in winter,

my dowry paid in full– not as a wife

but rather as a holy child, whose bread

had crumbled into ashes in her palms;

I watched him pass under the olive tree

bending low, as a hand cupped to a flame,

 

his body disappearing like a flame.

All the days of my twentieth winter

were marked through every season on this tree:

prescribed from vagaries of man and wife,

I rubbed its soothing oil between my palms

and gazed from windows when we made the bread,

 

when I crushed the grain into flour for bread.

I pressed bellows, bearing the oven’s flame

to watch the bodies grow between my palms,

rising from dust, hardening in winter.

I was never destined to be a wife,

to be embraced by lovers near this tree

 

or kiss their palms, which hold the leavened bread

before an olive tree; or lift a flame

to see their winter eyes expect a wife.

 

 

Shin Yu Pai

the gift 

in another land
I ask permission to take from the fig tree 

my guide says
the Bhutanese believe plucking a leaf 

is akin to cutting the throats of one thousand monks 

here, he says let me do that for you,

how is this one

 

the uncarved block 

the thing we think

we want, perfection 

to honor a fidelity

to origin when all 

was ever in a state

of emerging 

the soft bones forming

a newborn’s skull 

the fontanelle of the David’s 

marble crown left undone 

imperfection a wholeness 

complete in and of itself 

David Fewster

Saw them get out of their Lexus

to pick up their 10 and 11 year-old daughters

fat, affluent, they were out of

a George Grosz painting,

hands on porcine hips, obviously giving the girls

a lecture on the American Way.

Disgusted, I bent back over my book,

a biography of the Marquis de Sade,

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Claudia Castro Luna

Washington’s Winter

Winter’s taciturn realm asks nothing.
Crowned in hushed browns and somber greens, it rules by turns with quiet song
then with pummeling winds obeying no one.
It will be dark soon everyday for months
Color hibernates, leaving behind
its essence to purr
in everything oblique light touches.
In the hush, it asks us to see, and see again,
to hear the echo of step
over moss covered ground,

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Shankar Narayan

The Times Asks Poets to Describe the Haze Over Seattle

 No one asked me, but I would have said this apocalypse

looks like home.  The laureate

says a grey gullet has swallowed

a molten coin, another calls it powered cadmium

and cirrhosis, dystopian, grotesque, a crematorium.  Yes,

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Christina Buckman

Sequence

5:50 am 

A dream vignette splintered into reality. 

Sore muscles of last night’s workout.

A daily success, even before dawn. 


Eyes half closed, coffee on my mind. 

Reasons to call in, rejected by fierce routine. 

“Alexa, play KEXP.” 

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Jonathan Shipley

ROLLY CARTS

I want an IKEA life with you.
One with gifts untold. I want
a life with one of those big
rolly carts - piled high with the
small things that will make our
lives maybe a little more
comfortable. I accept the challenges
of IKEA assemblages later. 

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