All posts by Pratibha

Dale Cottingham

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Photo by Lucas Allmann from Pexels

Swan Dive

Look at me with these nouns, mounting verbs,
these lines that somehow link together,
teetering on the verge.
I feel gangly and unmeasured trying to find a stance.
If only this language was more substantial.
If only I could make a life beyond this life,
one I didn’t grow bored of.
Well, night night. Tomorrow I’ll try again.

How many times does the confusion back me up
leaving me gut punched and empty.
How many times are my memories
like coals at the burn barrel’s bottom,
all shimmering with heat
making me think, with all the smoke
and flames, that something’s going on
but it’s so hard to tell.

At one point I thought the pressure was on
me trying to say what had been said before, only better.
Now, I’ve let myself off the hook
I just play, which is where creativity comes from anyway, right?
So, I’ll have some fun while the sun’s still up,
lace some laces, spray the plants,
just like the old days at the creek’s bluff
leaping in abandon, making my version of a swan dive.

***
Editor’s Note:

The narrator presents every poet’s conundrum when caught in a creative funk.  Some “memories / like coals at the burn barrel’s bottom” sparkle and invite the poet to dive into them to discover something precious. What a poet to do if not just take a swan-dive?

***
Dale Cottingham has published poems and reviews of poetry collections in many journals. He is a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year, and is a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest.

Lynn White

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Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

Her Collection

They called it her collection,
mementoes from all over the place.
I didn’t know where all over the place was
but the painted figures were so colourful
I thought it must be very different
to the grey drizzle of this place.
They told me they weren’t toys,
I was not even to touch them,
I could only look
as they stood
silently
in line
on their shelves.

Sometimes, though
when they pleaded with me
through their silence,
I gave them a little stroke,
I know it pleased them.
And once,
just once,
I took them down,
freed them from their cupboard,
from the straight lines of shelving
and allowed them to touch each other
to behave as they once did in their place.
That was the only time I heard them speak
and the colours poured from their voices
all over the place.

And now, it’s another time
and I’m in a different place
watching them still standing speechless.
Even their colours are muted with dust now
but I can hear their voices through the silence.
They’re pleading with me to free them again.
So I shall bid for Lot 53,
her collection.

***
Editor’s Note: The old lady’s captive collection of painted figurines come alive in the young child’s imagination, and the child breathes life into them. The idea of capturing the essence of the place one has traveled to in an object is a metaphor for something more significant. This poem tenderly shows us how an innocent child can set the world free.

***
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes.

Geetha Ravichandran

man-person-people-woman-old-male-1028692-pxhere.comfrom PxHere

Granny Bone

The house was an almost-ant hill.
The old woman seeking yogic powers
stayed on, hobbling around-
denouncing the world-
ulcerous wounds, slowly eating her body.
She sat on the creaking swing and sang in her lusty voice,
the ballad of the king, whose marriage was called off,
as the cook forgot to carry a fresh sprig of curry leaves.
She chased away robbers, yelling out to them- to come later
when she was gone, as everything would then be theirs.
The house, where the children had frolicked
while the brides sulked, as mice ran through the rafters,
where the dead calf lay buried under the turmeric plants
crumbled in response.
The cuckoo listened intently,
as her voice climbed
up the trunk of the tree
and soared unbound, free.

***
Editor’s Note:  This poem captures the eccentricity and self-reliance of an old woman in a visual and evocative manner. Among several other visceral images, a single word, “ant-hill,” effectively captures the essence of the crumbling house.

***
Geetha Ravichandran lives in Mumbai. Writing is her first love. Her recent poems have appeared in Borderless, Setumag and in a couple of anthologies published by Hawakal.

Steve Deutsch

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Photo by Вальдемар from Pexels

Legacy

Here’s one you haven’t heard,
he’d say to start each story—
and we hadn’t.

You could almost see him reach for the tale—
as if rummaging in the junk drawer
to retrieve it.

Sam worked at the Church Avenue Branch
of the library, until blindness
forced retirement.

He taught me to read
after my second grade teacher had declared
me hopeless.

He told stories to kids each Saturday morning
and taught English to adults three
nights a week.

I often subbed for him
as his cancer progressed—
I was happy at it.

Seventy years of smoking
had conspired to kill him.
As if the smoke

had found substance—a fat tabby
that slept soundly on his chest.
I’d kill

for a Camel, he said with what passed
for a laugh—Got one?
I’d have given

him one if I still smoked, but I could see
his mood had changed.
Here’s one

you haven’t heard, he said
one last time—in a half voice
I could barely understand.

When I was your age, I knew
a storyteller—told tales 
that made you shiver.

You have the gift.” he said.
I didn’t stay to watch him die.
That moonless night, the city

was dark as London in the blitz.
Here’s one you haven’t heard, I thought
taking a single baby step.

***
Editor’s Note:

What a lovely and gentle story of a storyteller and his protégée. Notice the linebreaks in stanzas 7-12. The regular length lines and complete sentences at both ends of the poem are interrupted by short lines with breath-stopping linebreaks in the middle, causing anticipation to build up.

***

Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. Some of his recent publications have or will appear in The Red Eft Review, Thimble, The Mark Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, RavensPerch,  MacQueen’s,  8 Poems,  Louisiana Lit,  Burningword Literary Journal, Third Wednesday, and the Muddy River Poetry Review. Steve was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His Chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was published in 2020 by Kelsay. Steve’s third book of poetry, Going, Going, Gone, was just accepted for publication.

Lorraine Caputo

 

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Photo Credit: Lorraine Caputo


Excursion (Into the Night)

I.

Entering the sunset village
********the cloud-patched sky
*************golden-fuchsia

a cove’s water laps
********salted-sky-blue
*************around hulls

II.

& later walking down the
********star-lit lane
*************pitch-black

meeting other souls
********feeling through the
*************new night

always the wash of the sea
********the short cries of
*************night herons

III.

Now only my light
********floods a sliver
*************of the night

the waning moon
********finally arisen
*************cooling the heavens

crickets, the night
********herons & always
*************the wash

********of that sea

***
Editor’s Note:

I love the simplicity of the expression that conveys the beauty and mystery of the Galápagos Islands. The repetition of “always,” “the wash of the sea,” and “night herons” brings the seascape in clear focus.

***
Lorraine Caputo is a poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 250 journals on six continents; and 18 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. She travels through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. 

Julia Caroline Knowlton

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Camille Claudel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Poem for Camille Claudel

Year after year, the bread & cup. The bed.
You stand for many women, kept by men

behind a window, or within God’s womb of stone.
You remain alone though you plead to leave,

cultivating a hope that never bled to believe.
You draw a hand to hold with a stick in dry soil—

your bold vision wasted as night consumes day,
tasting the silence of a sky that tastes of clay.

***
Editor’s Note: This short rhythmic poem deftly laments the loss of artistic talent because of the forced commitment to the mental institution. You can read about the sculptor Camille Claudel here.

***
Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.
She has an MFA in poetry from Antioch University and a PhD in French Literature
from UNC-Chapel Hill. The author of four books and an Academy of American Poets prize winner, she was named a GA Author of the Year for her 2018 chapbook, The Café of Unintelligible Desire.

Charles A. Perrone

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Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

To a Carpenter Friend

I thought I heard you declare
that you had been arrested
for stealing some slumber
but alas I was mistaken
you were detained for pilfering winks
not for trying to catch forty of them
nor even for attempting to take some
but literally for committing a theft
of those somniferous moments
so much more valuable and full of time
than fit inside this imagination of mine
than whatever sleep than any one thinks

***
Editor’s Note: This short poem put a smile on my face. A simple frequent occurance of someone working on their woodworking can keep the entire neighboorhood awake. Instead of complaining this poem puts a humorous twist on it.

***
Charles A. Perrone was born in the Empire State (New York), but raised in the Golden State (California). He last studied in the Lone Star State (Texas), and worked for decades in the Sunshine State (Florida). He resides in Santa Cruz, California by the ocean and redwoods. He is a retired academic still practicing poetry, translation, reviewing, criticism, popular music, radio programming, cat-care and gardening. He has published several chapbooks (in USA, Brazil, UK), mostly via <moriapoetry.com>.

Donna Pucciani

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public domain image from wikiart.org

Still Life

Still Life with Curtain and Flowered Jug

Paul Cezanne, c. 1898-99
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Painted in France, the fruits now rest
on a wall in Russia, no longer succulent
as when posing under the painter’s hand,
set with care on a wooden table
draped with a white tablecloth,
globes of green and red shining yellow
in the artificial light.

Plucked from a market in Paris,
they nudge each other on the canvas,
touching like the shoulders of museum-goers
staring at their luxurious community
of rotund joy, bowlfuls of delight.

Behind ceramic dishes, peach-filled
and radiant, a flowered water pitcher,
guarding all, but empty of purpose,
marks with scalloped edges the pretty line
where bright meets dark.

Beyond the furred juices of apricots
and the rumpled comforts of pale cloth,
a black curtain hangs, leaf-patterned
in dull and dying green, one corner
pulled back to reveal a flat, unutterable void.

Here’s the mystery of whatever lies beyond
the soft deliciousness of summer sweets:
the cold elegance of a pitcher, poppy-painted,
at the diagonal edge of empty. How easily
the unbleached linens fall to the foreground,
how pure and dire is the ebony backdrop
of an ordinary sunlit breakfast backing into
ultimate stillness.

***
Editor’s Note:
The poet uses the artwork to reveal the emptiness of life. Notice how the vibrant words with colors and pleasant sounds depict the beauty of the original scene and the gradual change of tone once the painting is hanging in the museum standing still. Notice the contrast between “the soft deliciousness of summer sweets” and “the cold elegance of a pitcher.”

***
Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, ParisLitUp, Mediterranean Poetry, Meniscus, Voice and Verse, Gradiva, and other journals. Her seventh and most recent book of poetry is EDGES.

Erin Murphy

Taxonomies

1. Taxonomy of the Pre-Seatbelt Era

The summer we moved to Appalachia, gray cat
in one box, my baby brother in another. Me riding
shotgun, protected by my mother’s arm. My classmate
Sadie who went through a windshield. I pictured
her floating through a slow-motion spray of glass
stars. How did she stitch Sadie from Sarah? How did
she find herself behind the constellation of scars?

2. Taxonomy of Venom

Two girls Hula-hooping on the back patio
when a pair of young copperheads comes along.
My father raising the shovel above each one,
then waits for the mother. The clang of metal
on stone. The blood. The bodies tossed in weeds.
My friend, barefoot and stunned. My father’s own
sharp tongue that stings long after he leaves.

3. Taxonomy of 70s-Style Recycling

My single mother used margarine tubs
for Tupperware, served Kool Aid in jelly jars,
wrapped Pringles cans in tinfoil to transform
a kitchen chair into a birthday throne.
It wasn’t about sea turtles or the planet
but the thrill of thrift—sometime for nothing,
kids without a man, a magic trick.

4. Taxonomy of Taxonomies

From the Greek—taxis: order, nomos: science.
Rules for an unruly world. When my father
slipped into an unclassified black hole,I saved
babysitting money to paint my bedroom walls
yellow. I studied swatches: Sunny Veranda,
Forsythia, Pollen Powder, Gusto Gold,
each strip a family with the same undertones.

***
Editor’s Note:
The narrator attempts to order the unorderly life events in neat packages and does it quite effectively. This taxonomy of life itself is adorned with phrase-gems such as “constellation of scars,” “My father’s own/ sharp tongue that stings,” “kids without a man, a magic trick,” and “each strip a family with the same undertones.” The layered meanings of the phrases make this poem effective.

***
Erin Murphy’s latest book, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, North American Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere.Her awards include The Normal School Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award. She serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review and is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona.

Praniti Gulyani

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Anatomy of Pain

you begin by teaching me –
about wafer-thin bones and agonized nerves
that have turned so blue, it hurts
to only look at them, and then you show me hearts
which have been frozen, stocked-up
caked with a sugary-silvery crust
of emotion, and brains encompassed
in a bubble, a jelly-like blob
of entangled, entwined, confused thought
you continue by teaching me –
about skulls, and you show me
the splintered skull of a newborn
patterned with bullet-holes
picked from the greyness and dustiness
which is, as they say
‘the legacy of war’
thereafter, we pass through the spirals
of patience, that branch into
resilience and courage, coated with
a cloak of dust, that falters
on the quivering shoulders of these paths
and covers the palms
and bruises the knees
of those, who can no longer sit atop
cold, metal chairs and bend and bow
their eyes dripping with tears
their lips dripping with prayer
on white bedsheet
or, at times, tucked into their folds
I find ailing pauses, picked from
that uncertain valley between life
and death, most gasping and some
reaching out, plucking bits of breath
molding it into thin strips, placing it
between clenched teeth, and
beneath shriveled tongues, while others
chose to let life slide
onto the carvings on their palm
and slowly, but surely
it skids away

and in the whimpering hues –
of the dewy, yellow light

with white and grey fingertips
tied together with
this tumor-like tightrope

I decipher
**********the anatomy
of pain

***
Editor’s Note:
I love how a narrator, perhaps a medical intern meanders through the halls of what seems to be a hospital, through a “valley between life and death,” and learns about pain in the most visceral way. So much is shown, and nothing is told, a hallmark of a good narrative.
***
Praniti Gulyani, a seventeen year old poet from India.