MOUTHS, Grace Harriman

Mouths
by Grace Carley Harriman

1.
Cambridge. MA, 1975

My young son
Steers the pulpy letters
From alphabet soup
Until his tomato red finger
Spells out in the bowl:
YES, BIRD, NO.
He raises the bowl
And drinks his words.

2.
Bath, Maine 2013

On Winter Sundays
I drive to Hill House and Winship Hall
To deliver the sacrament
To the very elderly.
I carry a linen cloth,
The gold chip,
The correct number of wafers.

I know the eleven recipients well,
Not through conversation,
But through the details:
The reader of mystery novels,
The laughing lady
With coloring books and crayons,
The dignity in the posture of the veteran.
The twin sisters with rouge spots,
The beautiful woman with coiled hair,
Crocheting an afghan.

They know me most Sundays,
Except Elizabeth, on the Alzheimer ward.
She scoots her wheelchair
Her slippered feet move fast,
a scuttling crab.
When I touch her shoulder
She will look into my eyes.

I would not attempt
To guess at the words
They would choose
To steer in empty soup bowls,

Every open mouth is familiar
To me as their faces.
I place the wafer on each tongue,
Between glossy gums.

The wafer disintegrates.
“This is the bread of life.
Taste and See that the Lord is good.”

Do not diminish or demean.
The rooms fill and empty.
Do not recoil from decay.
Do not diminish or demean.

Grace Carley Harriman spent her life in Cambridge, Mass., teaching English and Chinese History to Middle Schoolers. She self published two anthologies of a wide variety of poems with creative writing assignments for each entry. She has traveled to China 14 times, to tour and volunteer teach in the Pangliu Village School and the Dandelion School outside Beijing. She retired to Bath, Maine where she writes poetry, gardens and walks her dogs.

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OBON ODORI, Jodi Hottel

Obon Odori
by Jodi Hottel

Sandals dart from beneath
the pink kimono in front of me,
as I follow the line of dancers circling
the parking lot lined with SUVs.

Tiny girls robed in flowered silk,
young man in a hook-nosed mask,
sensei with her old-world smile,
we all step, turn, clap, dip,
to the familiar, high-pitched songs
crackling from the loudspeaker.

As the night fog covers us,
hanging lanterns light orange
and red, plastic cups of sake
warm us, fiber optic fans
pulse purple and electric blue,
waving in the dancers’ hands.

Like a child, I am embraced
by our community, linked
by step, forward, back, turn,
the flutter of fans,
ancestors blessing
our adaptation of tradition.

Jodi Hottel’s work has been published in Nimrod International, Spillway, Ekphrasis, Naugatuck Review, Touch, and anthologies from the University of Iowa Press, Tebot Bach, and the Marin Poetry Center. Heart Mountain, her chapbook of poems about the Japanese American internment, was winner of the 2012 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize.

WALKING DOWN THE NIGHT, James Brush

Walking Down the Night
by James Brush

Savage calculations based on the positions of a thousand stars determined the shape of his prayers. Warped triangles, sometimes square-bottomed pyramids with eighteen sides. Once a dodecahedron, but that was when he was drunk and homesick and working through some things. On a roadside one night, he stopped where a vulture’s dark remains were pressed into those of a squirrel killed a few hours earlier. The edges of feathers that escaped wheels fluttered in the small hurricanes of passing trucks. This squirrel-vulture creature, its greasy form pressed into an asphalt shadow and branded by the ridges of a dozen tires, was something new. There was no shape for this awful smash-boned prayer he knew he must say. Dazed and lost, he placed his hands on the cooling pavement. He released all his body’s weight. He said his mass and counted it down to zero. He followed the escaping heat out of the atmosphere, rode the highway’s shimmering prayer and carried them home.

James Brush lives in Austin, TX where he teaches high school English. He is the author of Birds Nobody Loves, and A Place Without a Postcard. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury where he keeps a full list of publications.

IN THE CHURCH OF THE CACTUS FOREST, Richard Kempa

In the Church of the Cactus Forest
by Richard Kempa

I too raise my hands above my head outspread
in the morning. Only I do not congregate,
vocalize a faith, resolve to carry the grim word
of salvation denied to the bleary-eyed.

Their sleep is beautiful. Arising at first light,
I tuck their blankets, touch their skin,
and go to the church of the cactus forest
for a communion best kept alone.

Maybe, later, I will relate something exotic:
how the boulders in a dark hollow
shifted at my approach, raised their snouts,
became the pungent javelina,

or how, when I entered an arroyo, the odors
of the dew-drenched desert conjured
that morning ten years ago of the great storm
and who I was that day.

But when the sun sheers the cloud bank
and bejewels each spindle, thorn, blade,
and the liturgy of the birds crescendos
and wings shimmer and the air thrills,

I stop, unlayer myself, take
the sacrament of the pen in hand, become
a vehicle, an organ of the near and far,
until I raise my arms and the pen falls…

Richard Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. He has authored two books of poems, Ten Thousand Voices, which was published by Littoral Press in Oakland in 2013, and Keeping the Quiet, published in 2008 by Bellowing Ark Press in Seattle.

BAPTISMS, Jean Voneman Mikhail

Baptisms
by Jean Voneman Mikhail

We tried to touch quicksilver,
poured from a little jar
that dad had brought home
from somewhere. But each time
the drop moved away
from our fingers.
These were your tears, little brother,
untouched by our ideas of you.
That time we threw you
in a pond, we three girls laughed
as we held you by your pants,
always stained with earth’s marrow.
Your locks underwater moved
with all the astronauts in space.
You never cried
so we slapped you on the back,
comforting you.
Saying good boy, good boy.
Hush, now, don’t tell
.

A drawer in the hallway,
her baptismal gown waits.
She is so small, a curler
rolls from her hair, lopsided.
Her head drops, a word
on her tongue repeated.
She climbs in the drawer
so we close her in easily.
A baking heat in the house.
Dovetails swell, the notched wood
knocked in by the mallet
of a mighty hand.
The pajamas she wears
have a flowerscape, silky
from so many washes, soft
as the word “Fla.” on the back
of the box of orange blossom
perfume in her room.
She touches her wrists,
her pulse. Her mother
has shown her how to
sleep at the sound
of a closed door, meaning
darkness rolls in on roller skates
over slate, meaning sleep
over the open road of the car.
Her father’s foot on the brake
can’t keep her from flying.

Jean Voneman Mikhail attained a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Ohio University. She lives in Athens, Ohio with her husband and three children. She has published in Riverwind, The Westminster Review, Maybesopoetry, Between the Lines reading, and recently was selected to participate in a poetry reading/art show.

THE ELEPHANT FORT, Fabiyas M V

The Elephant Fort
by Fabiyas M V

Black beauties in chains–
Before the ticket counters,
A long queue does creep
To scatter near the black wonders.

Ears and tails always move,
Ruminating the rhythms of forest.
Elephants are inside the fort,
Exposed to the sky barest.

I hear the hushed emotions
In the clinking of chains.
Hearts smoulder in;
Eyes emit lava of pains.

Burning red wild flowers
And tickling streams,
Each elephant longs I know:
But dreams die in chains.

Note: Anakotta (a fort for the elephants) at Punathur, near Guruvayur in Kerala, India, is a tourist place, where you see a large number of elephants together. All are chained.

Fabiyas M V is a writer from Orumanayur village in Kerala, India. He is the author of Moonlight and Solitude. His fiction and poems have appeared in Literary The Hatchet, E Fiction, Selected Poems 2012 and 2013 by Pendle War Poetry, Inspired By Tagore Anthology, ACWC Anthology, Indian Ink, Animal Antics 2012, Romance Magazine, Structo Magazine and in several anthologies by Forward Poetry and other publishers in India and abroad. He won the Poetry Soup International Award, USA, in 2011 and 2012, a prize by the British Council in 2011, the RSPCA Pet Poetry Contest, UK in 2012, India, a sponsor’s prize in Eriata Oribhaba Poetry Competition, Nigeria in 2013, and The Most Loved Poet For March 2014 Award by E Fiction, India . He took honourable mention in Political Poet Poetry Competition, USA in 2013. He was the finalist for Mattia International Poetry Contest , Canada in 2011 and 2012. He is the quarter finalist for Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize 2014. All India Radio had broadcast his poems.

JACKIE’S POEM, David Plumb

Jackie’s Poem
by David Plumb

I was going to stop by the porch
To see if you are still around
But they tell me you are not
No one even knows who
You are, though the family name
Is faded paint at the Rug and Cider Mill
I still feel your thin neck
I see your long legs in jeans
But I’m sure the pony tail is gone
We stood in shadows and I’m not clear
What we were doing then
It was more heat and wish
The next day I got the flu
And never saw you again

Fall arrives breast up red and yellow
And I’m not looking for what wasn’t
Might have been in the orchard
Or the porch, or whose dream is who’s
You are gone, the house is gone
The moon, oh I see it
Your blue eyes, your small face
Your chin close to mine
Somewhere in the mix of things I see
A silence of sorts, a wish
Running off toward spring
Where the boys and girls are new
See how they dance oh
See them leap and sing

David Plumb’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Sport Literate, The Miami Herald, New College Review, Santa Barbara Review, Homeless Not Helpless Anthology, and The Healing Muse. Will Rogers said, “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” David Plumb says, “It depends upon the parrot.”

AT THE BAR MITZVAH, Ysabel de la Rosa

At The Bar Mitzvah
for Helen, who gifted her son with her dance

by Ysabel de la Rosa

Your arms seed the space,
make the air grow. Feel the molecules
divide as your skirt swirls with you,
spiral of color.

Dance for the son who
watches the one
who gave him life,
granted him passage.

Your arms cradle the space,
carve the air as you sail through
starting steps and then spinning turn.

Your hands free the space
once cradled and contained,
opening outward with grace.

You bring new angles to manhood’s first
day—knee touches elbow—and then
bring new curves—a sweeping thigh draws
circles in the air.

Dance for the son, the one
whose presence brings you
light, life, love.

Celebrate the bond that needs no tie
as you reveal this gift of many blessings:
space, meaning, self, art.

May your son accept these blessings.
May he carry his mother dancing
forever in his heart.

Ysabel de la Rosa’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals. Her feature writing has been published in 45+ publications in the U.S. and abroad. In 2014, her poem, “Palo Duro Palette,” was awarded first place for creative verse by Press Women of Texas

OFTEN SHE ARRIVED TO FIND HER MOTHER AT THE DOOR, Barbara Young

Often She Arrived To Find Her Mother At The Door
by Barbara Young

Absence began with a stutter-step,
became a rift, a cliff, a flight from
which Mom would return, baffled,
and sad for the bones of her arms.
When the weather let her she would
walk her mother to the lake beyond
the parking lot. She pushed the chair
like a shopping cart, said Look, Mom,
a goldfinch. Said mallard. Cattails.
Said I was rereading the Mahfouz
you gave me and thought. Said
clouds, cumulous. Shopping words
to sustain a dying language. Once
they found her, resting, on a green
rickety park bench. I was going to
the store for bread and that soda
that my daughter likes. Thank you.
I have been longing for a cup of tea.

Barbara’s process notes: My husband, my cousins, my friends. I see strangers–“friends of friends” on Facebook–repeating the forms. We’re on both sides of the cart, slipping from one to the other overnight. This began with a word list prompt.

Barbara Young is aging without grace in Nashville, Tennessee. She likes puns, cats, and fantasy; is prone to depression; drives a car that’s larger on the inside than out. Blogs at FRED HERRING.