Made To Order, by Sue Mayfield Geiger

Made to Order
(Shadowing the great Raymond Carver’s poem, “My Boat.”)
By Sue Mayfield Geiger

Watching a rainstorm, drinking a dirty martini.

Remembering dad’s 16-foot ski boat—
the one he built in my granddad’s abandoned
chicken coop from a set of plans he sent off
for in Boat Builder’s Handbook.

A plant worker, it took it him six months—
going over there nightly and weekends.

It was a beauty—all mahogany and teak
with a fiberglass bottom—shiny and dreamy.

Dad mentioned by name all his friends who would
go out with him on his boat. Especially Edna,
the love of his life.

He made several sets of water skis and he’d teach anyone
and everyone how to come up slowly, “don’t yank on
the rope, let the moment capture your spirit, avoid wakes.”

Food is important for a boat ride, so there would be
sandwiches, potato salad, beer—lots of it—and watermelon.

Fishing poles, laughter, music—dad wanted
everyone to have a good time.

While building his boat, Dad would say: “I can see us all
on my boat—family, friends, anyone who wants a ride.
I’ll take them out on the lake; pull them on skies, give them a thrill.”

Later he’ll ask: “What can I fix you?”

Everyone will eat with gusto, then share stories.
Stuff made up and those that are real.

“I want to hear them all,” dad would say.
“They all matter to me and my boat.”

After reading Carver’s poem, it struck me how much he had in common with my father. Kindred spirits, for sure. With every nail dad hammered into his boat, he was thinking of entertaining others.

Sue Mayfield Geiger is a freelance writer living on the Texas Gulf Coast. Her literary work has appeared in Grayson Books, RiverLit, Dos Gatos Press, The Binnacle, Blue Hour Press, Of Burgers and Barrooms (Main Street Rag) and others. Upcoming: 2019 Waco WordFest Anthology.

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Script for a birthday card, by William Conelly

Script
        for a birthday card
by William Conelly

Another year-long trip’s begun
encompassing the sun.
Days—like jewels in a circlet—
wait their being strung.

Raise me a glass from fortune past
to fortunes yet to come.
Pledge me anew that gem-like days
be common as the sun.

In ‘Script’ I’ve tried to enhance the emotion of Hallmark’s typical birthday greetings with the realities of our solar system. I hold no grudge against Hallmark.

After military service, William Conelly took two degrees in English from UC Santa Barbara. Unrelated research and writing work followed before he returned to academia in 2000. Since then he had served in both the US and the UK as an associate professor, tutor and seminar leader in English studies. Retired now, with dual citizenship, he resides with his wife in the West Midlands town of Warwick. In 2015 the Able Muse Press published an assortment of his verse dating back 40 years. It’s titled Uncontested Grounds and may be reviewed at their website or via Amazon.

Minerva and Arachne, by Annie Morris

Minerva and Arachne
by Annie Morris

(After a painting by René-Antoine Houasse 1645-1710)

She was still holding her shuttle of hard Cytorian boxwood
and used it to strike Arachne a number of times on the forehead. (Ovid, 6.132-133)

Minerva first draws my eye; she dazzles in white
          and Tyrian purple. Her right arm raised above
her helmet, a wooden shuttle in her hand, held
          like a dagger. Then Arachne, in arrogant yellow
and insolent green, as she tries to flee the canvas.

The basket of spindles, threaded with rainbows,
          unused – the contest is done, Arachne won.

Minerva treads on her trade-mark shield, her spear,
          too, on the ground – no matter, the aegis guards her,
it bears the head of a gorgon.

Then I notice, how Arachne’s left arm, raised above
          her head, open-handed to protect her face, is a mirror
opposite of the Goddess; and how her right arm
          stretches out at the same angle, as if to put her hand
on someone’s shoulder, just as the Goddess’ rests
          on hers.

And their legs, the same – an opposite match, a strange
          kind of synchronisation. But who mirrors
who?

I look closer at Minerva’s left hand; her little finger
          almost caresses Arachne’s neck but at the same time
points to where the Lydian girl will soon place a halter
          to hang herself.

I glance to the left of the scene, where her gallows wait.

But even the Gods have mercy, there is an escape,
          should Arachne withdraw her hubris, walk through
the enlightened doorway behind her.

No tapestries, no ordered Gods, no misdemeanours,
          no transformation.

I marvel at this chosen moment that possesses its past,
          and holds its future – all is there to see.

1920px-René-Antoine_Houasse_-_Minerve_et_Arachne_(Versailles)

René-Antoine Houasse, Minerva and Arachne, 1706

Annie Morris lives in South West London and is in the final months of studying for an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University. As well as writing poetry she sings and writes her own songs.

Wake, by Kevin Oberlin

Wake
by Kevin Oberlin

“Only one ship is seeking us, a black-/Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back/A huge and birdless silence.” –Philip Larkin

For us no black-sailed ship, whose tattered hull
our final lighthouse passes, dull as hope.
We are too proud perhaps to deny the myth
of our children warmly wrapped like husks around us,
our small and satisfactory legacies.
They cry with well-educated grief,
sweetly spoiling themselves on our remains,
the beneficiaries of daffodils,
the honest wage, the savings held in stocks.
Perhaps we were confused by the abrupt
foundering that left us heirless, mattress cold,
shy cash, and short on instinct. We know
there must have been some soft turning point
that would have lifted the burden of our beliefs.
We were not failed. No chance deserted us.
No black-sailed ship when we expected white,
but this raft, our arms against the current,
the slick logs separating beneath.

Kevin Oberlin is the author of one chapbook, Spotlit Girl (2008, Kent State UP). His poems have appeared recently in The London Reader, Ghost Proposal, Roanoke Review, and PacificREVIEW. He lives in Cincinnati without incident.

Summer’s Lease, by Alan Walowitz

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
       So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
       So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Summer’s Lease
by Alan Walowitz

This is the summer we grow old.
The grass overgrows
out of all proportion.
Grapes rot on the vine or fall
before our best intentions.

This is the summer
your bones speak of rain,
then fail to straighten
in the sun.
My head wearies of work
I’ve left for last,
and eyes in their sockets
lead a life of their own.
I doze and dream myself
awake and young.

This summer
this house still over-run
with photos and mirrors,
finally useless to us;
what was at odds with what we see–
and the clock’s
infernal ticking.

This is the summer we grow old
and the children–
we tell ourselves–
have gone before.
Some things we have
in this life for sure:
one another,
and knowing, at last,
we won’t know
what we are.

Process notes: The title is borrowed from Shakespeare, Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee . . . , which I was assigned to memorize in junior high school– a good start, you’d think. The poem was written when I was very young–in my 20s. Now that I’m old, I don’t think much of the poem, but I’d like to think I got a few things right about aging. In fact, right about now, I think I need a nap.

Alan Walowitz (www.alanwalowitz.com) has been published various places on the web and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is available from Osedax Press, and his full-length book, The Story of the Milkman and other poems, is available from Truth Serum Press.

Flat, by Debi Swim

Flat
by Debi Swim

I’ve lost a good portion
of taste, of smell, the textures
of life that rough up the edges
like corduroy, like wool,
that feels itchy, scratchy,
a little bit dangerous.

Blame it on aging but it began
before I was old though maybe
I got old early. Maybe it was
the corduroy roads, bumpy,
jarring, uneven pavement or the
irritating scrape of wool emotions.

But what has that to do
with taste? With smell?
I’ve lost the savory of life.
The MSG additive, spice,
that fifth sense, that enhances
all the senses.

I remember the savor of being
when I was young. I think, then,
it was the mystery of life
all the things yet to be experienced.
And now? What’s left except
the mystery of death?

I’ve loved, deeply, unwisely, wisely
I’ve suffered bitter slings and arrows
and the exquisite lightness, sweetness.
The saltiness of sweat, labor,
a sea of buoyance, near drowning
in emotion, passion, fire,

spirit and soul of life but maybe
those neural pathways are singed,
insensitive, used up, atrophied.
Remembering isn’t enough.
I want to feel again, see again,
taste again, smell again, hear again…

‘not fall into my grave like an old dog.’

“I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” Quote from The Death of a Salesman

Debi Swim writes poetry in West Virginia, mostly to fabulous prompts. Blog: https://poetrybydebi.wordpress.com/

I Heard a Fly Buzz…, by Stephanie Pressman

I Heard a Fly Buzz…
           Cento composed of single lines and phrases from poems
           in the Debut Collection of The Best American Poetry 1988
by Stephanie Pressman

I.
Do you know that flies can distinguish color?
If you ask them where they first find the edges
of each other’s bodies, where everything
has its limit, including sorrow, where hell gradually
notches up toward paradise, where everyone I know
is drowning trying to escape some island. and what
were the family of four eating? what the cool
tomato cubes forming a rosette around this central olive
have to do with love and happiness? no one else will
ever listen so well.

What if I did not mention death to get started?
What if I was mute wood? Now I am dead I sing
that the blue is not the sky but a terrible sea
surrounded by a house we can not wholly retain in memory,
which doesn’t make sense to me—especially
with stories. The room’s a cradle, or an ark;
the simple contact with a wooden spoon, and the word
slides through my life like dimes. I’m always scared. Aren’t
I the one who held the box underwater, freeing
the one who had been animal? I reject purple
bathrooms with purple soap in them, sharp eyes
and index-finger landing pads. The streets are filled
with cryers crying to multitudes of kindled selves.

Don’t you see how necessary it is to be around
mute things as easy to pity as to fear, yet springing
in cracks, placed in planes—mental wards scratching
past the breaking point, muttered legless? Even
from this distance, the chasm is widening, the room
grows huge. I kiss your old and new wounds.
The idea of hunger, never enough; the calculations
of the engineers, to whom sunlight moves (a tiny
winged fiery tongue through the green window)
like rains on the other side of the heart: slash,
slash in the woods, legs chilled. Shifts and splinters.
Blood on the black brick. Mute, illicit girls cowering
under eaves.

II.
I was asleep. And there I was, without an alibi, in the middle
of the softened reflection of a truck in a bakery window.
Suddenly I heard the car across the street call my name.

Getting lost was once adventure, twinkles of something
not normally shown, balancing books by lizard light,
grabbing an old man’s hat off. Brisk flesh. Beauty
and age strutting and shuffling, swimming to the highest
hunger. Mayonnaise in a refrigerator door, my cup
being on top of the other cup. Now harps are cold
and fingers numb, feet bandaged with the lint
of old sheets, my elbow like a piece of macaroni.
My parlor palm is dying, frond by yellowing frond.
To finish my figure, today must be a blank.

We must fix our compass,
from which, in time, unthinkably we rose.
I breathe to the immense stillness at my side;
you can see me here; I’m covered from head to toe
with deep root systems, darkness and lust,
a slashed melody of small shrugs, all by myself
to weep a tear of wood, the cold containment of the moon
an expanse human-faced flies are trying to cross.

Notes:

A group I attend takes The Best American Poetry of the year, analyzes and uses poems to generate work. Early this year, because it was reprinted as an anniversary edition in 2018, we used the 1988 edition. We were underlining our favorite lines from each poem, and I decided to create a cento using most of the lines I had culled. This poem is the result. The two lines about flies (opening and closing), found in different poems in the anthology, begged me to use Emily Dickenson’s line as a title.

Stephanie Pressman earned an MA in English from San Jose State University, taught writing at community college, and became a graphic artist and owner of her own design and publishing business, Frog on the Moon. An active member of Poetry Center San Jose since its founding, she served as co-editor and layout artist of cæsura. She also co-edited americas review. Her work has appeared in many journals including Bridges, cæsura, CQ/California State Poetry Quarterly, and Montserrat Review. Her long poem Lovebirdman appears in an illustrated volume published in June, 2018 (available on Amazon).

In the Synagogue after Yizkor, by Stephanie Pressman

In the Synagogue after Yizkor
         In the manner of John Ash, “Memories of Italy”
by Stephanie Pressman

I feared the dark stairs of course
and the way the old women
whispered to each other in Yiddish.
I feared the dark stairs leading to the balcony—

the way the velvet carpet absorbed sound
like a blanket or when you go too far (if this is not
too phobic a way of putting it) into a walk-in
closet hung with wool and fox,

and the way the old women sat in the balcony
wearing their best house dresses, faded plaid
or polka-dot, dresses that hiked up to show
their stockings rolled down their shins which reminded me

of the curves on the balustrade in the balcony
the weird lathed shapes of table legs
their skin whiter than the anger of the woodworker
who cannot proceed with the piecing: the spindles
are piled waiting, their raw wood primed for the balcony

where old women sit knees to chins like Baba-Yaga ready to lure
any child wandering the secret path into a hut built on giant
chicken legs to spin deeper into the forest,
and I learn too late the fence is made of femurs, for they
tell their secrets only to each other…
And the woodworker knows he has to complete this balustrade,
that the curves are not urns
but another container to hold the shriveling bodies
of the old women in the side section of the balcony

and he knows the balustrade is sturdy,
that it represents the chain link and barbed wire
that held their nieces and nephews for whom the old women weep,

and the balustrade circles the balcony
and the old women rock back and forth behind it:
their veiled faces shadowed by felt hats.

*

The following is still under Copyright

“Memories of Italy”
by John Ash
         for Pat Steir

I loved the light of course
and the way the young men
flirted with each other.
I loved the light,—

the way if fell out of a sky like a painting,
or perhaps like the ground (if this
is not too paradoxical a way of
putting it) for a painting,

and the way the young men stood in the station
wearing jeans that were the colour of the sky
or the sea in a painting, jeans that revealed
the shapes of their legs which reminded me

of the statues in the square outside the station
where the light fell with such violence
their shadows were blacker than the despair of the painter
who cannot proceed with the painting: the canvas
is before him, its ground blue and blank as the sky above the station

where the young men loiter like the heroes in one of the lulls of
         the Trojan War
when lazy picnics were possible beside the calm sea, under the
         smiling sky,
and it half seems that the war will end forever, for surely they
         must all soon fall in love with each other…
And the painter knows his painting must be heroic, that the blue
         is not the sky
but a terrible sea a God has raised to drown the beauty of the
young men in the marble battlefield of the station,

and he knows the painting is finished,
that it represents the envy the divine must feel
towards the human as marble must envy the sea,

and the painting is hung in the concourse of the station
and the young men drift indifferently to and fro before it:
their feet hardly seem to touch the blue marble ground.

         from Disbelief
         reprinted in The Best American Poetry 1988

Notes:

I started out writing an “opposite poem” using John Ash’s poem because of its strong sense of memory and the use of repetition to add nuances to memory. When I got to the dark stairs and the old women, I was hooked into my own memories. Children were sent out of the synagogue during Yiskor (the memorial service) on Yom Kippur. When I returned, I noticed that my grandmother and other older women had been crying, although I did not know why. Many years later when I was in University I learned about The Holocaust: it was never spoken about in my presence as I was growing up (at least not in my conscious memory), nor did we study about it in Hebrew or Sunday School. I came across a book with graphic photos, and since then have been haunted by the idea that had my family not come to the US when they did, I might have been one of those murdered. Also when I was a child I had recurring dreams that witches were rounding up all the children in the neighborhood.

Stephanie Pressman earned an MA in English from San Jose State University, taught writing at community college, and became a graphic artist and owner of her own design and publishing business, Frog on the Moon. An active member of Poetry Center San Jose since its founding, she served as co-editor and layout artist of cæsura. She also co-edited americas review. Her work has appeared in many journals including Bridges, cæsura, CQ/California State Poetry Quarterly, and Montserrat Review. Her long poem Lovebirdman appears in an illustrated volume published in June, 2018 (available on Amazon).

Goodbye, by Lisbeth L. McCarty

Goodbye
by Lisbeth L. McCarty

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken. — Edgar
Allen Poe, The Raven

I told him
that being in a relationship with him
was like sitting in a car without an engine
I can sit there all day long
but the car is not going anywhere
He replied immediately,
“You can always get out of the car.”
Namaste, but I won’t stay
This relationship is
nevermore

The source is a line from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

Lisbeth L. McCarty has a B.A. in Journalism (Professional Writing) and a J.D. in Law. Her real job is as an appellate attorney, but in her free time, she lives her dream job of being a free-lance writer.

An Old Me Remembers Young Ian Anderson, by Linda Goin

An Old Me Remembers Young Ian Anderson
by Linda Goin

How I love YouTube, the ability to remember
dead people and others barely alive
performing back when I was in college,
or younger. Your flute, your pot belly.
I recollect you as slim as you wore a tartan
and a purple tam, singing about being thick
as a brick. Your red hair and beard,
along with those boots and tight white pants
drove the crazy in me thinking about accents
and codpieces, but your affectations turned
me off. Looking back, I understand now,
and I am in awe over your lyrics and theatrics.
I really don’t mind if I sit this one out.
My god. Nothing is easy.

This poem was taken literally from YouTube and my memories of Jethro Tull. The last two lines are taken from two of Anderson’s early songs.

The poetry of Virginia-born Linda Goin is informed by many locales, including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Australia, and Kentucky. Her poems have been published in Yankee Boy Review, Poets for Living Waters, Mentress Moon (Sundress Publications), and Mojave River Review. Her chapbook She-Oak is forthcoming from Musehick Publications.