Category Archives: Vol7-Issue2-Poetry

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.

Victoria Melekian

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Some Call it Treasure

Junk toys my grandparents called them,
three bags, one for each boy, filled with stuff

my kids loved: stickers, red caps popped off
whipped cream cans, magnets, corks, rubbery

spiders and lizards, random board game tokens
all dumped across the floor, plastic that poked

bare feet, clogged the vacuum cleaner, spread
through my house. I wonder who had more fun—

little boys sorting through treasure or my grandparents
on the hunt for it all, strolling through Leisure World

looking for bits of sparkle the gardener’s broom missed,
stooping to grab a marble or tiny pencil,

crossing a parking lot and spotting a stray
Happy Meal toy, amassing piles of plastic surprises.

When Grandpa died, my sons gave
their great grandmother a box of dinosaurs,

striped dragons, and an orange frog—
a zoo of creatures to keep her company.

***
Editor’s Note: The playful sounds of this poem and the short phrases deftly portray children’s joy. The pace slows down when the grandparents enter the poem to indicate the mood change. The ending is touching.

***
Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award.

Raye Hendrix

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Image by Raye Hendrix.

For Ruth, After The Wildfires

for Ruth Bader Ginsburg / after Frank O’Hara

Tonight at the drug store I buy
as many condoms and emergency
contraceptives as I can carry,
and a candy bar from the stand at the front,
because isn’t all this sadness deserving
of something sweet?

Ruth, Ruth, Ruth: On the walk home
I whisper your name like a prayer,
smoke still hanging heavy
in the dampening evening air,
the rain announcing itself too little,
too late.

Two towns away the next two towns
have already disappeared to cinder—
the boot print of a careless god
stamped into the fir.

Ruth, Ruth: What are we going to do
without you? The air is still
too thick with ash to breathe.
***

Editor’s Note:  This poem effectively portrays the cognitive dissonance resulting from the dual tragedies. The desperation caused by the wildfires on the US West coast during last summer (and many summers before that) and the indifference of nature is shown theough a few short stanzas.
***

Raye Hendrix is a writer from Alabama. Her debut micro-chapbook, Fire Sermons, is forthcoming this Summer from Ghost City Press. Raye is the winner of the 2019 Keene Prize for Literature and Southern Indiana Review’s 2018 Patricia Aakhus Award. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and in 32 PoemsShenandoahCimarron ReviewPoetry NorthwestZone 3, and elsewhere. Raye is a PhD student at the University of Oregon studying Deafness, Disability, and Poetry.

Kathleen Goldblatt

Lullaby

She was making her way home—

she knew the road well yet
nothing was the same: the doctor had said there was
nothing he could do for that baby in her arms
so she turned around—

how much farther, her arms heavy now
how much farther, and no one could talk
when she arrived except a little girl
who played with the holy cards, who said,
that baby only smiles now.

Women wept and men did what men did
in the times when geese were fed in the yard.
Even after she was home, she kept walking
home with arms she could no longer feel
and heavy feet that shuffled.

When a baby flies past me—like lightning—
then disappears in the wind,
I remember her
and know that for a hundred years
weeping women don’t stop.

It’s then that I think she must still be walking,
singing her baby a lullaby, then another,
shushing her so that she may leave us all
to quiet—

***
Editor’s Note:
Everlasting grief and mother’s love lead to ultimate strength for the woman-kind and the world around her. I loved the tender tone of this poem that gently crawls into your heart.
***
Kathleen Goldblatt is a writer and Jungian analyst. She has been an advocate for social reform, most notably for the mentally ill. Kathleen is a training analyst with the CG Jung Institute of New England and the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. She grew up in western New York State and resides in Newport, Rhode Island.

John Smith

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Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels

Margaret’s Garden Hands

Margaret’s garden hands are dark,
mud-caked, bordered by lighter,
dried dirt, the pit of her palms
peeking through. They look like
blotchy prints of brown paint
a child pressed on a paper plate
or relief maps, the topography
of a life lived as close to earth
as a life can get this side of it.
But my sister’s hands aren’t prints
or raised maps. They’re cultivators,
as were our father’s, small
but strong and no strangers
to bare fistfuls of soil or fingernails
cracked and grouted; in fact,
first-hand familiar with the grip
and rip of weeds uprooted,
a clingy ball of earth, the weighty
shaking loose, and stubborn worms
that won’t let go, even with
part of them writhing on the
ground beneath. Years ago,
among unripe tomato plants
and the warm, licorice scent
of basil, sweet as memory itself,
Margaret’s hands were first
to touch our father lying
on his back in the garden,
life outgrown him. See how she
washes them now, one toughened
hand at a time, with the green
garden hose in the other.

***

Editor’s Note:
A simple action of washing muddy hands turns into a tender trip down the memory lane for the narrator and illustrates the continuity of life is and organic nature of life. The assonance and consonance keep the lines moving smoothly.
***
John Smith’s poetry has appeared in journals such as SmartishPace, Berfrois Journal, The Literary Review, and Spillway. His work has been set to music by composer, Tina Davidson, and commissioned by New Jersey AudubonHis book of poetry is titled Even That Indigo. John lives in Frenchtown, NJ with his wife, the calligrapher and henna artist, Catherine Lent.