The New Oz, by Candelin Wahl

The New Oz
by Candelin Wahl

Mighty Lake Erie maker of millionaires
did you weep when they bulldozed
your canal a century ago, scarring
the hem of the Buffalo skyline

did you sing from your great blue cradle
when town fathers undid their mistake
history excavated rebuilt as Canalside
festivals! farmer’s markets! kayaks!

          no sign of child-led mules
          pull of barges lock to lock
          no acrid smell of engine oil,
          damp bales of wheat bound
          for millers in Albany

Mighty Lake Erie − bestower of bounty
I swear I hear you chuckle at the pop-up spires
as yellow-slickered yeomen raise tents
weekend white castles in a new Oz
its armies of blue portalets braced for waste

Candelin Wahl is an emerging poet who recently shed her business attire. She is Poetry Co-Editor of the Mud Season Review and has been published in the 2017 Best of the Burlington Writer’s Workshop. She lives with her husband in St. Albans, Vermont.

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clouds and alstromeria, by Wendy Bourke

clouds and alstromeria
by Wendy Bourke

the window had been left open
and the room was cold, although,
as fresh as a flower …

I felt light headed and lay down
on the half-made bed, where
the fragrance of laundered cotton
stirred to mind a slumbering memory,
of the sheets that mother and I
would hang on the clothesline …

in winter, they were so stiff
we would fold them like cardboard
when we took them down …
she’d iron them completely dry
and perfectly pressed,

smelling – so clean –
the way, I imagined,
fluffy clouds would smell
if you could bury your face in them …

and then, today, as I rested quietly,
it came back to me and fell
in delicate heart-shaped petals
flecked with crimson drops in icy mists:
white alstroemeria – delivered – unsigned,
in flurries of snow and billowing sheet sails …

I remember carrying the little bouquet
to my mother as she lay, on her bed
– silent and tear-stained –

I felt closer to her, in that moment,
than I ever had or would, again

though, to this day, I don’t know why she cried
– it would forever remain, for me –
a mystery, she took with her to her grave

Wendy Bourke lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes, goes on long rambling walks gathering photos and inspiration – and hangs out with her family (especially her two young grandsons). After a life loving words and scribbling poetry lines on pizza boxes and used envelopes, Wendy finally got down to writing “in earnest” six years ago. She received first prize in the Ontario Poetry Society’s Sparkle and Shine contest in 2014 and her poems have appeared in dozens of anthologies, journals and chapbooks.

where the phantoms gather (in tanka sequence), by Wendy Bourke

where the phantoms gather (in tanka sequence)
by Wendy Bourke

walking with memories
in forest solitude …
everywhere I pass
twigs beneath my feet
snap like holiday crackers

ghosts of those
who have gone before me
haunt the trail – so real –
I come upon apple cores …
perhaps some seeds will take root

atop the hill
I look down on the picnic spot –
lake scent and bird song
on whiffle winds … a spirit place
where the phantoms gather

Wendy Bourke lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes, goes on long rambling walks gathering photos and inspiration – and hangs out with her family (especially her two young grandsons). After a life loving words and scribbling poetry lines on pizza boxes and used envelopes, Wendy finally got down to writing “in earnest” six years ago. She received first prize in the Ontario Poetry Society’s Sparkle and Shine contest in 2014 and her poems have appeared in dozens of anthologies, journals and chapbooks.

all this, by Wendy Bourke

all this
by Wendy Bourke

on a whim: I had treated myself to
the purchase of a fat buttercup yellow candle,
that smells more citrus than floral,
as it turns out – and yet –
often, when I light it, in early evening glow,
I think of him, and of a wonderful ramble we’d taken
… not so many short years ago

we had tromped, for some time,
in the direction of a far off horizon
that we didn’t have a hope of reaching
– in the last, full-gleam of the afternoon idyll –
and had come to a pleasant pair
of commodious flat-topped boulders –
ringed with golden buttercups:
a peaceful place to sit and rest a bit
and admire the rolling hills unrolling
as we, wordlessly, picked a perch
and began to unpack the hastily-gathered snack,
we had brought with us

‘kalamata olives and lemon jelly beans, yum’ –
he remarked, arching a quizzical eyebrow
that vanished a dozen or more years …
‘and buttercups blooming at our tired, old feet’,
he concluded, cheerfully

‘all this’, I added, opening my arms wide

sweet breezes were turning chilly – fast –
and flapped at the saran enfolded repast
so tenaciously that nibbling gave way
to running after and retrieving the silver sails
launching into the pacific yonder …
signalling the end of a lovely day – and though,
I ached to say something, the words never came

instead, I placed a single buttercup
in a buttonhole on his shirt
and looking into the beautiful face of
the one I had journeyed with for half a century,
I whispered: ‘all this’

Wendy Bourke lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes, goes on long rambling walks gathering photos and inspiration – and hangs out with her family (especially her two young grandsons). After a life loving words and scribbling poetry lines on pizza boxes and used envelopes, Wendy finally got down to writing “in earnest” six years ago. She received first prize in the Ontario Poetry Society’s Sparkle and Shine contest in 2014 and her poems have appeared in dozens of anthologies, journals and chapbooks.

Waking Up In Buenos Aires, by Jared M. Gadsby

Waking in Buenos Aires
      (and remembering Carver)

by Jared M. Gadsby

Only after a week
do I remember
that this city
was one of the last places
that Carver called home.

It seems he loved it here –
even thought about writing a novel
before his Chekhovian sensibilities
sounded too strongly.

Or – perhaps – he simply ran
out of time.
Whatever the reason,
he had his.

The strangeness of life
really pressed upon him here,
which does not surprise me.
This feeling has pressed
against me like the warmth
of a beloved dog still remembered.

I wonder, did Ray
ever wake before Tess,
pad into the living room
to put on yesterday’s pants,
and just sigh with gratitude?

I am sure that
at least once he awoke by himself,
brewed a pot of coffee and lit a cigarette,
and watched as the sun
rose over this strange city.

Jared M. Gadsby lives in Lima, Peru and teaches writing and literature courses at a local university for one of Broward College’s international centers. He holds an MA from SUNY Oswego and finds time to write the occasional poem between teaching responsibilities and travel opportunities.

For Bob Borchard, by John Aylesworth

For Bob Borchard
by John Aylesworth

In Guysville, the old hotel he converted
into a house frowned and shuddered
and I hope he haunts it, with laughter
and music and sketches of the hills around.
He taught art, celebrated the world each Spring
when the country bloomed and the birds came home,
opened his studio to anyone.

A painting he made of a ship
in a storm crashing outside Buffalo
reminds me of 1969
when we lived there, not knowing each other,
and I found poetry and dance classes
and a woman who never believed in me.

Thirty years later, I met Bob
when we were waltzing with other women
in a place where memories like shipwrecks
are sunk in the mud and sand of the past
but tonight are as near as an old house
with fields and a river and Spring beside it.

Process notes: The poem was prompted by the death of a man I knew more through friends than personally, although we had more experiences in common than I knew. He was always kind and generous when we saw each other in recent years: perhaps because we did have much in common.

John Aylesworth teaches kids who can’t go to public school for reasons such as severe handicaps or for punching the principal. When he graduated from Ohio University with an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Comparative Arts, he stayed in Southeast Ohio and raised a family. He’s had poems and stories published a number of journals in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia.

Red-Tail, by Alan Toltzis

Red-Tail
by Alan Toltzis

1.
Hungry again,
hawk spreads its feathers
ascending
aloft invisible updrafts

to choose
the unsuspecting
in the stubble
of last summer’s cornfield.

2.
Sharp squeals, like laughter,
ripple through squalls and drifts.
Atop a pole,
hawk ruffles its tail

abiding.

3.
Earth’s shadow
creeps across the moon.
Snow-light, bright as washed bone,
eclipses its glow.

Hawk tucks its head
into its shoulder
comforting itself
as a green comet sizzles
invisibly far away.

Process Note: While the poem started with the hawk, celestial events often work their way into my work. This one has two from February— the Snow Moon Penumbral Eclipse on Friday night February 10 and the green Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, which made its closest approach early Saturday morning (Feb. 11) at about 3 a.m. EST passing within 7.4 million miles of Earth. There was also a snowstorm that week that worked its way into section 2.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Josh reading poems by Alan Toltzis here

New Year Omens, by Alan Toltzis

New Year Omens
by Alan Toltzis

1.
The tangled crown
of bare wisteria emerges,
woven and frozen against the spreading sky.

In all these years, I only remember
a few blooms under the joists
or at the edges of the pergola.

You remember heavy clusters in late spring,
if the pruning was done right.
Next May will tell us.

2.
Up ahead,
metal scraps, like twisted light,
glance the right lane,
a lone hubcap rocking,
the broken white line, its fulcrum,
while a man in shirtsleeves,
with hands in jeans pockets
that force him into a shrug,
slouches down the road from his stalled car
towards the doe,
her paralyzed body heavy and calm
but still able to raise her head
the moist nose twitching,
air steaming from her nostrils
inhaling familiar scents
—field and winter. . . some dormant grass—
now tinged with purple smears of sorrow and shame
as he approaches like a compulsion urging him forward,
when only waiting will bring an answer.

Process Note: An early draft of the poem had a reference to the highway (Route 95), but I didn’t know until later that day that the highway would become a distinct section of the poem because of the incident with the deer.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Ringing Rocks Park, by Alan Toltzis

Ringing Rocks Park
by Alan Toltzis

Uprooted,
the underside of a tree steams,
its unsightly crawl
of dirt and decay clinging
to a hairy mesh of roots.

By all rights,
these displaced things,
unused to autumn light
yellowing in early afternoon,
should flee.
But this unseemly ganglion
continues to seethe and twist.

In the bright sun
of the adjacent boulder field,
the live rocks sing
their muted requiem,
each striking its own clear tone.

Process Note: I live outside of Philadelphia, close to Ringing Rocks State Park, but had never heard of it until last year when it made a list of top 10 spookiest places in the country. So my wife and I set out to explore. The park earns its name because of its 8-acre boulder field of “live rocks” that ring like a bell when they are hit with a hammer. Only a few places in the world have rocks like this. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5cJbcoWaH8 The music starts around 1:13 and while the rocks ring for anyone, most people can’t make music like this!

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Cicada Serenade, by Alan Toltzis

Cicada Serenade
by Alan Toltzis

A halo of summer-weary sycamore leaves
curl and wither under the scrutiny of noon.

The sun burns white as moonlight.
Earth’s abuzz with fresh decline

heralded by cicadas
chanting ancient emergent death rattles.

Strewn around them, hollow,
iridescent cinders, of some born earlier,

their nymphs underground,
awaiting resurrection.

Process Note: This was a big year for cicadas and I started noticing their beautiful iridescent bodies as they died. That, more than their music was where this poem started for me.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.