Poetry

Michael Stalcup 9-28-2020

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

We shudder at the inhumanity,
the crafted cruelness of that sickening show:
the stripped humiliation, blasphemy
of beaten flesh, death’s agonies stretched slow
by fellow men created in God’s image,
turned terrorists, enslaved to sin’s strange fruit.
How could they mock the marred and lifeless visage
of God’s own child? His axe is at the root!

Elisabeth Ivey 7-21-2020

Illustration by Jia Sung

Call this hair crazy.
but watch as it grows
outside of your gates
and beyond the walls
you’ve made to contain
me. See as it reaches
higher than anything you
ever thought of me,
shedding every lie of
inferiority.

Matthew J. Andrews 6-25-2020

“Tabletop Mountain” 2015 / Laura Wetter / laurawetter.com

The field, still and breathless,
colored in thirsty hues of yellow,
sits beneath hills just as bleak,
the whole land scoured in disinfectant

Jes Simmons 6-01-2020

Illustration by Tim Goffe

The later it gets, the more nothing.
—Woman at the register

Yeah, we’re open ’til midnight,
but few customers come after 9:00.
I like when it’s slow and quiet—
just me and the store lights.
I don’t like the sirens
racing along Main Street.
I always worry it’s my kid hurt
or my best girlfriend with another
black eye or busted rib.
When I’m here by myself, I draw
dress patterns for my daughter.

Bradley R. Strahan 4-21-2020

Illustration by Dante Terzigni

(“Oh I’ll leap up. Who pulls me down?”
“Doctor Faustus,” by Christopher Marlowe)

Now can I join this dance?
See, I am thinner than vacuum.
I can kneel toward the sun
at the very angle of prayer
and feel the counterpoint
pulse through my veins.

Illustration by Shin Yeon Moon

Some mornings I drive to the duck pond
instead of writing poems. I can’t remember
how to keep words coupled to the truth.
So much lying has torn words loose
from what they stood for. Remember,
back when we agreed on their meanings?
I’d say honey for instance, and you could
taste it. Once you said freedom
and I saw doves rising from your shoulders.

We shared language so we were not alone.
We both loved words as if we could see them:
like ducks bobbing on a pond, dipping,
scooping, swabbing insects from the air.

Holly Wells 2-24-2020

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I can tell from the way
they are staring at shadows on the ground
that the voice-bearers have come
from that place where
trees are not life-giving.

Two nights ago, One was here with them
Whose longing, love, and pain woke my soul,
deep-buried,
which sleeps through winter,
moth-like.

He is not here with them now.

Kim Stafford 1-22-2020

Illustration by Mary Haasdyk

A veteran slumped in a midnight
doorway was trained to kill, so killed,
and killing banished sleep.

A hurt child, now thirty-two, who
never had the food he needed, haunted
by his father’s blows, shoots meth.

Devon Miller-Duggan 12-17-2019

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

1. I knew, but didn’t know—extent, sprawl,
continent-wide bird with great shadow-wings
hovering over a whole nation’s knife-opened birth—
talons and curved-hook raptor’s beak coming
for my heart, which is history,
which shields itself and hungers
as though truth were a flock of season-following geese
from whom I choose how many to bag,
how many a season requires. So many
moments sound like gun-shot—
sound cracking the ear with its own hammer,
pummeling some dark priest-hole in every mind,
fists on doors, slammed hatches on ships,
iron coming down so hard on a deck it loses its clang,
a skull punched against echoing wood, snapped branches,
snap of a jaw-trap around leg bone.
An eagle cannot feed its young its young.

Illustration by Livia Falcaru

I am the border agent who looks
the other way. I am the one
who leaves bottled water in caches
in the harsh borderlands I patrol.

I am the one who doesn’t shoot.
I let the people assemble,
with their flickering candles a shimmering
river in the dark. “Let them pray,”
I tell my comrades. “What harm
can come of that?” We holster
our guns and open a bottle to share.

Pamela S. Wynn 10-22-2019

Illustration by Livia Falcaru

Save for the sun, the nearest star
is more than twenty-five million
million miles away.

What has a single star
shining in Bethlehem
to do with us?

Julie L. Moore 9-23-2019

Ground cochineal insects used for dye.

Darling of Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs, cochineal

conquered the ever-expanding world—

borne of female coccids boiled, dried, and ground

fine as dust, then woven with water, coaxing color

vibrant as any pink peppercorn, dye so prized,

long before Spain came, natives bred the prickly pear

on which the insects fed to bear fewer spines,

so, horsetail in hand, they could brush the parasites

Elisa Rowe 8-05-2019

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I am Peter at Gethsemane
where I wake to oak
branches suspended,
spinning like hair in water.

Flora’s night
blanched, a prophet’s
chanting, every caesura’s
quiet steeping, transfiguring
grief to alms.

Albert Haley 7-03-2019

Illustration by Jon Krause

Why wouldn’t they drop by, stare up
approvingly at the point of the minaret?

Perpetual connoisseurs of the loving work
of centuries, the stacked stones, nails pounded
until synagogues, temples, shrines
little houses of worship rise from the land.

Richard Schiffman 6-03-2019

Illustration by MUTI

This seep of droplets sponged by moss leaked
from a cleft in the rock; the waters in the cleft
rose osmotically from earth:
the aquifers of earth rained down
from cloudburst skies;

Ronnie Sirmans 4-25-2019

A white blossom, purpled
at the edges like penance,
lies under an unbloomed tree.

Stephen Wing 3-25-2019

You can’t blame me for flinching
back against the wall
when a small boy points his
pistol at me and yells “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

I am lying back there somewhere
feeling the sidewalk as if I’d never touched
sunshine, pumping out my urgent
puddle

A.M. Lawrence 2-25-2019

“Abstraction Dark Green Lines with Red and Pink.” Georgia O’Keeffe / Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

In deep thirst, a desert stag will tear
open saguaro ribs with his teeth
and gorge on succulent heart, living sap.

This morning desire and grief for You
are the same ache. Welcome, hurt.
Enter and feast on my flesh. Become love.

Adele Hoffman 1-24-2019

I know you believe you are doing God’s work when you ask me
“Are you a Christian?” and instantly retort to my “No” with “Why not?”

I know you do not know how the hairs stand up on the back of my neck
when first you question my failure to embrace Jesus as my Lord and Savior
and then interrupt with that world-weary “Ahhh ...” as I say,
“Well, my mother’s family was Jewish— ”