The Road Not Taken, by Joe Cottonwood

The Road Not Taken
by Joe Cottonwood

The job, illegal.
No records; no taxes.
The client paid cash.
Now I stop for gas.
In my wallet, a nest of one-hundred-dollar bills.
Thirty of them.
Across the street, a sign:
          FREEWAY ENTRANCE
          US 101
          NORTH
I hold the gas nozzle thinking: North.
At least once in your married, child-raising life,
comes the thought.
The old truck has new brakes. Good tires.
In three days, maybe four, I can be in Alaska
—alone—
with a truck full of tools.
Pipeline work. No questions asked.
Cool mountains, clean rivers.
To be free, strong, and . . . thirty-four.
Or is it -five?
Inside the mini-mart, I pay for the fill-up
by the wide glass doors of the cooler.
Rose asked me to pick up some strawberry
yogurt on the way home from work.
And—what was it?
Oh yeah. Laundry soap.

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes by day, writing by night. He lives under (and at the mercy of) redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. joecottonwood.com

Autobiography of Kisses, by Joe Cottonwood

Autobiography of Kisses
by Joe Cottonwood

High school kids in the Chevy wagon
(lips of warm bread)
how innocent we were (tongue of butter)
just kissing.

You unmasked the secret poet,
the scientific fuck-up. I discovered
in your eyes deep libraries,
your flesh oiled calfskin, your furrowed brow
the ink of knowledge when I had no idea
who I was or what I wanted
except kissing
(pure as rainfall).

With dark wisdom you whispered
You are a writer, nothing else.
You should do what you love
—besides kissing
(taste of pollen, of nectar).

From your eyes, your voice
rock solid belief
and a nibble of teeth
(scent of moss)
(touch of soft mushroom).

So much, just that. Belief.
And kissing (fresh, a touch, sprouts
in fertile earth).

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes by day, writing by night. He lives under (and at the mercy of) redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. joecottonwood.com

An Invitation With Conditions, by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Oot

An Invitation With Conditions
by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Oot

I still love you—
even those unshared parts;

invite you into my life
but there are some secrets to keep.

Nothing says you don’t belong.
But please, keep something back.

True, you are here, and
I’m glad.

I love you,
but…

I don’t really want to know…
            Everything.

Writers, storyteller and educator Judy DeCroce, and poet/artist Antoni Ooto are based in Upstate New York.

Married and sharing a love of poetry, these two creative souls gather inspiration during their morning poetry sessions over a pot of coffee where they listen to, critique, and revise their work.

Judy DeCroce, has been published in PilCrow & Dagger, Red Eft Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, An Upstate of Mind, as well as Palettes & Quills, and Writers & Books.

Antoni Ooto has been published in The Red Eft Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Young Ravens Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, Upstate of Mind and Palettes and Quills, and both have been published in many other journals.

They are collaborating on an upcoming book.

Blindsided, by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Ooto

Blindsided
by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Ooto

I find pain
like a tongue to a loose tooth.

Is life all luck or fate…
love or unexpected emptiness?

There is a week,
then a season,

distractions, commitments,
an errand, and some time filled.

Then—
with a sound, a sight, an email,

I catch my breath…
and once again
                            am blindsided.

Writers, storyteller and educator Judy DeCroce, and poet/artist Antoni Ooto are based in Upstate New York.

Married and sharing a love of poetry, these two creative souls gather inspiration during their morning poetry sessions over a pot of coffee where they listen to, critique, and revise their work.

Judy DeCroce, has been published in PilCrow & Dagger, Red Eft Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, An Upstate of Mind, as well as Palettes & Quills, and Writers & Books.

Antoni Ooto has been published in The Red Eft Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Young Ravens Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, Upstate of Mind and Palettes and Quills, and both have been published in many other journals.

They are collaborating on an upcoming book.

Love, by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Ooto

Love
by Judy DeCroce & Antoni Ooto

…at first there are few words
to describe the feeling

so much of everything
that touches—touches you
in its own way

one fingerprint
on the ocean—
a drop slips into waves

my love like
strings of sand —caught
in the currents of that ocean

and then I touch you
just to be sure.

Writers, storyteller and educator Judy DeCroce, and poet/artist Antoni Ooto are based in Upstate New York.

Married and sharing a love of poetry, these two creative souls gather inspiration during their morning poetry sessions over a pot of coffee where they listen to, critique, and revise their work.

Judy DeCroce, has been published in PilCrow & Dagger, Red Eft Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, An Upstate of Mind, as well as Palettes & Quills, and Writers & Books.

Antoni Ooto has been published in The Red Eft Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Young Ravens Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, Upstate of Mind and Palettes and Quills, and both have been published in many other journals.

They are collaborating on an upcoming book.

Visiting the Hut of a Taoist Hermit with a Gift of Wine and Finding Him Not In (After Li Po), by Randel McCraw Helms

Visiting the Hut of a Taoist Hermit with a Gift of Wine and Finding Him Not In
(After Li Po)

by Randel McCraw Helms

Peach-blossom clouds drip late-day rain,
Building waterfalls to feed his singing creek,
While a curious doe watches me, silently.
Temple bells too far to hear, but the bamboo
Still rattles its prayers through bluing mist.
Where has he gone? Waiting aimlessly,
I lean my idle back against pine bark
And scratch, deliciously, tasting the wine.
Not a bad life, this.

Randel McCraw Helms is retired from Arizona State University’s English Department. Making poems is his lifelong vice, and his recent work has appeared in such places as Blood & Bourbon, Dappled Things, and Silkworm.

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death, by Randel McCraw Helms

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death
by Randel McCraw Helms

Here, see this praying mantis leisurely
Masticating her late lover, who still
Jerks, headless, his glad coital dance.

Did you ever roll at highway speed through
Fat, wet clouds of swarming nectar-drugged bees?

Or drive summer asphalt across marching armies
Of migrating mate-seeking tarantulas?

Or tread upon drowned sidewalk earthworms after rain,
And the happy ants who feed upon them?

Or watch fanged spiders usher moths into
Eternity shrouded in whitest, finest silk?

In the midst of life we are in death;
We breathe unthinking the common, exhaled air
Uttered in agonies of the incurable.

Randel McCraw Helms is retired from Arizona State University’s English Department. Making poems is his lifelong vice, and his recent work has appeared in such places as Blood & Bourbon, Dappled Things, and Silkworm.

Birds, by Randel McCraw Helms

Birds
by Randel McCraw Helms

“A poem should always have birds in it,”
Said Mary Oliver, even if it’s only
Vultures, lice-filled, drifting down naked-necked
Toward a thing maggoted and softly swelling.

There, you should approach oblique, downwind;
The quarry is shy. Set aside what you’ve been told,
What they do is cleansing, sacred, reducing
Merest carrion to enriching soil of dung.

Or else watch, if you must, white, nesting swans
Delight among reeds, mid-river, safely islanded,
Awaiting downy cygnets. But why, I ask,
Do you think these the more beautiful?

Randel McCraw Helms is retired from Arizona State University’s English Department. Making poems is his lifelong vice, and his recent work has appeared in such places as Blood & Bourbon, Dappled Things, and Silkworm.

True Love, by Nils Peterson

True Love
by Nils Peterson

Early morning street lights enchant the footheaps
of his comforter into rounded snow-topped mountains.
He had flown across them in the night, floating above
his red rooster to where his love lives in her high
castle. She had on her magic face, at once shy
lionness and donkey, yet she had taken his kiss
and given it back with human lips until the spell
which binds them found them out. He woke almost
remembering the song his donkey, the melancholy
musician, played, laying its hairy cheek against
a violin – so sweet – Hear it? Joy? Sadness? Both?

Nils Peterson is Professor Emeritus in English at San Jose State University. In 2009, he was chosen the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varied as golf and Shakespeare. A new collection of poetry, All the Marvelous Stuff, was published in 2019. About his work, Coleman Barks said, his poetry as “so intelligent, lonely, funny and real. Necessary …” In 2019, he was honored by SVCreates for his work as poet and teacher as the OnPage Laureate of the year.

25th August 2011, by Diane Jackman

25th August 2011
by Diane Jackman

Out of the rubble of broken lives,
out of the ashes of lifelong fires
dowsed by death’s cold rain
arises the phoenix of love.

Purple and silver enfolding wings
spread a mantle of calm
in the green dawn,
holding and healing two hearts.

Beneath its rose-feathered crest
a glittering emerald eye
draws down the sun,
setting the desert ablaze.

Crimson and gold its fiery heart beats.
Fountains of flame touch the stars,
turning the night
to a wonder of love and of light.

This was written for my second husband on the morning of our wedding. The colours of the phoenix are drawn from the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name,

Diane Jackman’s poetry has appeared in small press magazines and anthologies, and has won or placed in several competition. Starting as a children’s writer she now concentrates on poetry. She is passionately interested in medieval rabbit warrens and Anglo-Saxon literature. She runs a poetry café in Brandon in the heart of the Breckland, England’s desert.