Night Journey, by Judith Sanders

Night Journey
by Judith Sanders

I.

We clustered in the hotel lobby,
dim under distant chandeliers.
Friends I hadn’t seen in years.
Some were babies again
tended by brazen mothers
who rolled their diapers into balls.
We sang the evening prayers
with our eyes closed.
Everyone swayed, even the skeptics.
How good it is to know the words by heart.
Then the wall clock bong-bong-bonged.
The widower and I drove off.
Rocks jutted among gullies.
You’ll like it here, I promised.
He brooded as the roadway
unspooled in the headlights.
Was he recalling her quicksilver gestures
while I, plump and tingling, waited?

II.

The lady lawyers invited me to dine
on beans aux fines herbes. But I had fled
to another house.
Down the corridor of blackened particleboard.
The family milled and murmured in Spanish.
The dark-haired girl put down the baby
and led me in a slow tango.
You’ll come back and see me, she whispered,
her eyes black wine.
I could still feel the press of her hips
as she melted into the crowded shadows.

Then I spotted him, my lost love,
loping through the parking lot,
his ponytail swinging like a noose.
I piloted my white convertible beside him
but could not attract his attention.
At the asphalt’s crumpled edge,
through the jittery willow fronds,
he was fleeing his own demon.

III.

At last we arrived at the turquoise bazaar.
Racks of gauzy skirts and scarves,
all in that lovely Caribbean blue.

We sat in the same armchair
and talked sweetly of bygone days.
But his massive jaw, stubbled like a bandit’s,
intruded into the conversation.

IV.

My dear husband sat in a booth of glass and iron.
He lifted the pass-through to sell me a ticket
and a shot of Island rum.
But I had left something on the back burner.
I ran and lifted the pot’s charred dome.
From the lump beneath, white as an animal brain,
maggots wriggled.
Ach, too late, again

Judith Sanders’ work has appeared in journals such as The American Scholar, Light, The Poet, and Calyx, and on the websites Vox Populi and Full Grown People. Her poems won the Hart Crane and Wergle Flomp Humor prizes. She taught English at universities and independent schools, and in France on a Fulbright Fellowship. She lives in Pittsburgh.

Backwards, Before, by Judith Sanders

Backwards, Before
by Judith Sanders

That first evening we were
very old. We remembered
too much. We knew
how vast
the emptiness.
How crushing its granite
weight. So we wailed
through toothless
gums. Our little limbs
flapped.

By afternoon we began
to forget. The darkness
dropped from us. Our steps
lightened. Our hair
sprouted, curly
and lustrous. We noticed
orchids, potato chips, chocolate
kisses. The feathery
fingers of clouds tickled
our fancies. We could shake
our hips. We could slash
briars. We could light
fires.

By morning we lost
our way in the milky
light. Shapes loomed
and melted. We had forgotten
everything. Cobwebs
dangled and we
shuddered.

By dawn we lay
in ferns
in moonlight.
At last we understood
the empty language
of waves.
Birds sang toura-loura
and we
slept.

Back at twilight
everything glowed
blue. In dimming
mists, edges
blurred.
We could not tell
a firefly
from a
star.

Judith Sanders’ work has appeared in journals such as The American Scholar, Light, The Poet, and Calyx, and on the websites Vox Populi and Full Grown People. Her poems won the Hart Crane and Wergle Flomp Humor prizes. She taught English at universities and independent schools, and in France on a Fulbright Fellowship. She lives in Pittsburgh.

I Dreamed The Pandemic Was Purged, by Sally Sandler

I Dreamed The Pandemic Was Purged
by Sally Sandler

when a storm surged off the Mexican Coast
and finally breached California shores
Old Testament style and flushed our streets
with epic amounts of spring clean rain.

In the morning epidemiologists
reported the virus was last seen
in filmy rivers jumping the curbs
in San Diego. Oceanographers

are saying this event makes history;
it seems the rogue virus was scoured
off the street as if it were grease and
guttered down through storm drains and culverts,

beyond nursing homes and airports and
people panic-buying toilet paper in
case of sudden outbreak of indecency.
Then the viscous infusion floated

on high sea swells and coated them with
an enormous oily rainbow just before
ghosting into a grave the experts are sure exists
on the ocean floor. They speculate

that decades later it could be exposed
on the beach by the haunted remains
of the hotel that burned in 1885
like a new local myth, but with the sick

mechanical smell of beach tar. They
also predict in 2320
someone might point with its left frontal lobe
and say: Look, just above that ribbon

of Del Mar sandstone there on the cliff,
that streaked black sediment—do you see?
That was the Pandemic of 2020.

At once transcendent and accessible, Sally Sandler’s poetry gives overdue voice to her generation of Baby Boomers and their elders. She illuminates their shared concerns over the passage of time and fading idealism, the death of parents, and loss of the environment, while maintaining hope for wisdom yet to come. Sandler writes in form as well as free verse, honoring poetry’s roots while addressing contemporary issues. Her poems have been published in Acumen Literary Journal, the MOON Magazine, Mused: the BellaOnline Literary Review, and Westward Quarterly. She has three published books of poetry, one biography, and one children’s book, all available on Amazon.com.

Out, by Holly Day

Out
by Holly Day

The spaceman slips out of bed in the middle of the night, determined
not to wake up the woman sleeping in the spot next to him. He slips
out the front door and into the dark, quietly closing the door behind him
the house is still quiet, no one’s heard him go.

There are stars waiting for him, millions of them, spread out in a canopy
a panoply overhead. He has left a note behind explaining that he has to go
off to do space things, he’s a space man, it’s a short note, enough
for a gullible child to read with excitement and wonder over breakfast
his mother, thin-lipped with anger, unable to crush
the child’s excitement with the truth.

Years later, the child tells an audience of this day, when he first decided
that he, too, had to reach the stars to join his father, this was the impetus,
this note he kept in his pocket right up until the day
he learned it was all a lie.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her poetry collections are A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.).

Safe, by Holly Day

Safe
by Holly Day

If you need to keep snakes out of your house
stretch a length of rope out under any open windows,
in front of your door, in front of any cracks or access spaces
a rattlesnake might wriggle its way through. This is what we did
before we had glass in the windows, before the doors fit tight
when we lived out in the country.

Now, the old outhouse and the chicken coop are filled with flowers
their roofs poked through with holes to let the sunlight in. The barn
has a ceiling glittering with stars, where a million tiny holes
let light into the dark, illuminating the rusted old tractor still in the corner
the coiled shape of something lethal sighing in the shadows.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her poetry collections are A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.).

Out in the Wild, by Holly Day

Out in the Wild
by Holly Day

We drive up to the old house and you promise me we won’t go crazy
living out here, all alone, with no neighbors nearby. We’ll fill the house
with babies, and that’ll be more than enough company for either of us
more than enough conversation for a whole world.

We fill our summer by pouring concrete into molds to insulate the foundation
and replacing the broken glass with great, clear panes trucked in from town.
You build me a new kitchen with a big enough stove
to fix food for all these babies we’re going to raise out here
and a sink big enough for two or three kids to line up at
to wash all those dishes I’m going to need help with.

Sometime during these dreams, I find myself
walking out to the barn out back in the middle of the night,
not just once, and almost as soon as you fall asleep
find solace in the soft, warm bodies of the family of cats nesting in the hay
in the smell of the livestock you say we’re going to eat someday.
I pretend that this is my family, out here, these tiny quiet cries in the dark
the goats bumping up against my thigh as I push past their pen
the soft clucking of the rooster, disturbed by my entrance.

You promise me I won’t get lonesome out here
surrounded by fields of purple and yellow wildflowers
hordes of butterflies as big as my small, white hand
I promise you I will try my best to fill this house with children and song
that I won’t try to run away.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her poetry collections are A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.).

I Walk with Nietzsche on Saddle Mountain, by Jeff Burt

I Walk with Nietzsche on Saddle Mountain
by Jeff Burt

We climbed in a light dark enough to die in.
I felt the bark of the oak branch buzz with the electric
scraping random granite.
The mountains formed a dull terrain,
the purple majesty faded to gray.
Child-fancy thrust off
like an undersized jacket,
wonder and worship
ruined and ravaged
by the ramming and rutting of intellect,
no day remained love in itself:
horses ridden to lather and tremors,
lilac-scented air gathered in draughts,
yet still the sun set quickly.

Nietzsche said that night was not truth:
the wind blew, oaks swayed,
but despair could not fathom
and search one’s depths, failing to ring
and thrill like a familiar parental kiss.
I strode up the gravel grade
in the dark the embodiment
of my rending purity and peace.
I had found nothing worse
than the erosion of purpose
by the intrusion of nonsense.
What was left but to pluck a black banjo,
moan bucolic ditties, move cups
about the checkered table like bishops
on a chessboard, polish spots
on the floor with old socks?
Even language was nothing more
than a lengthening fish between
the stubby fingers of a man.
At best the transfer of thought
from one to another was crude
and imperfect, of emotion exiguous.
To speak meant to fail.

Each orator uttering words
into the gutter of the world
was chained like Sisyphus to failure.
But early in my life I had given up
incoherence to take up language.
If later language with cyclonic twists
had taken me to the heights
of a cosmopolitan disorder,
I could not desert the city
for laconic pastorals.
The sparks of stars had started flames
of song, and sound had never failed me.

We sat at last on the top of the mountain
watching lightning pinpointing ships
out at sea, and up the coast
a lighthouse sweeping.
I knew, then, the event
of my being. Across the valleys
of my incoherence I spoke
from the summit, and though misunderstood
the word had a form and a sound,
and the sound was the flash of a mirror,
the signal to send the runner
to speak of the flash, to utter
the signal, for I knew I had entered
the world as sound and had turned it
into physicality, following
language, living its cadence.
So I spoke and kept on speaking
frenzied words about the sea,
for if I had no meaning
it was because the meaning
lacked my experience.

Process Note: After graduating from college I packed up my car and moved 2000 miles to a place where I knew no one and had no work. But I had philosophers and poets constantly speaking to me in conversation from their books. I carried them with me wherever I went. This poem is about a particular night after reading Nietzsche, and both feeling charged up during the hike and sorry for his demise.

Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He has work in Tar River Poetry, Williwaw Journal, Kestrel Journal, and Eclectica. He won the 2019 Heart Poetry Prize.

A Table Among the Weeds, by Lori Levy

A Table Among the Weeds
by Lori Levy

I could focus on the negative, how bad it is
to celebrate a birthday in Corona times. Stuck at home,
separated from one son and his family. Backyard a junkyard
of boxes and bags: merchandise my husband brought home
when he closed his business. Front yard a carpet of weeds.

But the weeds are as green as grass, and when I look closer,
I see they’re sprouting tiny purple flowers, and these gems—
because unexpected, nearly hidden—are more beautiful,
to my eyes, than a bouquet of roses. Still brimming
from a morning of phone calls full of birthday love,
I am ready to celebrate. We set a table outside,
among the weeds, yes, and patches of dry ground,
but a white tablecloth, I discover, makes all the difference.
We are missing some family, but the others, part of our household,
gather with my husband and me under a bright blue sky
to have coffee, cake, ice cream: our daughter and her husband,
our two grandchildren, our son and his fiancee—
who brings a treat to the table, a sweet potato cake
with apple slices on top, something new she’s made,
and new, for me, means better, more valued than the same old
chocolate cake I make all the time, though I’ve made that, too.
Our grandchildren follow, thrilled, behind their dad when he gets up
to feed crumbs of cake to a squirrel that’s come by, joining the party.

Later I receive a video from my daughter-in-law, a message
from the missing ones, my granddaughters, four and two-years-old,
the younger one copying, repeating after her older sister:
Happy birthday, Savta. I miss you so much. I love you so much.
I watch the video again and again, like a favorite movie
that never gets boring, the way my grandson binges on Star Wars.

Lori Levy’s poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Nimrod, Poetry East, Paterson Literary Review, and Mom Egg Review, as well as in medical humanities journals. Her family and she live in Los Angeles, but “home” has also been Vermont and Israel.

Coughing Coyotes, by Lori Levy

Coughing Coyotes
by Lori Levy

I try to hold it in, but I can’t stop laughing
in these crazy Corona times when a neighbor complains
on the Nextdoor site that her order, when it finally arrives
after ten long days, is missing the essentials, stripped down
to what the store had available: no milk or bread or
eggs for her, just ten cans of cat food.
The cat, she can’t help adding, is a stray.
A friend who wants to bake orders parchment paper
for her pan. The delivery boy brings paper bags.
Excuse me again when I hear my brother’s story
about his walk in the woods with his wife and dog—
a respite from Corona news, or so they thought,
until they noticed, back home, that their dog had a tick
and realized they’d forgotten to worry about ticks.
I wash my hands all day in case the virus is camping out
in the newspaper, the mail, the food we have delivered,
and now a new worry: coyotes have been spotted
in L.A. suburbia, including, says my son-in-law,
outside our gate one night. I’m afraid to venture out
for my morning walk around the block. Afraid of coyotes.
Don’t worry, says my brother. Just beware, he warns,
of coughing coyotes. I laugh because it’s funny.
Or it’s not, but that’s what erupts from me. Even now
when a walk around the block becomes a game
of dodge the mouths—in case one coughs. Or bites.
Or just smiles when I pass.

Lori Levy’s poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Nimrod, Poetry East, Paterson Literary Review, and Mom Egg Review, as well as in medical humanities journals. Her family and she live in Los Angeles, but “home” has also been Vermont and Israel.

English Lessons In Bangkok, by Peter Goodwin

English Lessons In Bangkok
by Peter Goodwin

Having little money
for English lessons
they offered to feed me.
Three times a week,
I was nourished
by three sisters,
whose food looked as
sexy and as spicy
as it tasted, we drank
cool sweet water
infused with aromatic flowers,
we talked and smiled
in their small house
with floors and walls
of teak built above a lazy,
lethargic almost
motionless canal.

Sometimes the mosquitoes
were as ravenous as I,
but the sisters would
never swat or spray
them, instead they
directed a fan
to blow them away.
They lived their Buddhism.

Today, when we all
seem so angry
I remember
those gentle sisters
and smile.

Teacher, traveller, playwright, poet, single or not and points in between, Peter Goodwin was raised and educated in USA and UK, settled in New York City enjoying its vibrant clutter until priced out of the City and now lives mostly near the Chesapeake Bay, becoming a reluctant provider to squirrels, deer, raccoons, birds and mosquitoes, etc. Poems published in the chapbook, No Sense Of History; and anthologies: September eleven; Maryland Voices; Listening to The Water: The Susquehanna Water Anthology; Alternatives To Surrender; Wild Things–Domestic and Otherwise; The Coming Storm as well as in various journals including Rattle, Memoir(and), River Poets Journal, Delaware Poetry Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Main Street Rag, Poeming Pigeon, LockRaven Review, Sliver of Stone, Literary Nest, Greensilk Review. Peterdgoodwin.net