Poetry & Music
C J McMahon
If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong
Regional website for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, in partnership with the Reader's Loft.
GREEN BAY / NORTHEAST
Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.
C J McMahon
James Botsford started writing poetry in the basement of the family home in North Dakota in the 1960s when he discovered the Beats and the Taoists. He is the author of a book about the history of tribal courts of Wisconsin, a book of stories called "You Should Write that Down" and a book of poetry titled "Them Apples." The latter two books are available at Janke's Bookstore (the oldest independent bookstore in Wisconsin).
James was an Indian rights attorney for thirty years and has travelled extensively. He currently lives with his wife Krista on the banks of Big Sandy Creek east of Wausau and is at work on a book of rants.
After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in Dairy Science in 1981, Greg Galbraith bought a farm in Eastern Marathon County where his ancestors began farming in 1890. He is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and has been published in their annual calendar, along with Nerve Cowboy small press lit magazine, and MUSH a publication of UW- Marathon County. Most recently, he had three poems and two images published in the March 2017 issue of Midwest Review. He exhibits paintings and photography throughout Wisconsin, including a permanent exhibit in a health care clinic in Colfax, Wisconsin. His first full length book of Poetry, Germinations, will be available in April of 2017.
Christine Swanberg’s books include TONIGHT ON THIS LATE ROAD (Erie St., 1984), INVISIBLE STRING (Erie St., 1990), BREAD UPON THE WATERS (UW:Whitewater, 1990), SLOW MIRACLE (Lake Shore, 1992), THE TENDERNESS OF MEMORY (Plainview Press, 1995), THE RED LACQUER ROOM (Chiron Press, 2001) and WHO WALKS AMONG THE TREES WITH CHARITY(Wind Publications, KY, 2005) and THE ALLELUIA TREE (Puddin’head Press, IL).
Hundreds of her poems have appeared in many journals such as SPOON RIVER, THE AVOCET, WIND, LOUISVILLE and many others. Recently GARDEN BLESSINGS, BACK TO JOY, GRATITUDE PRAYERS AND POEMS, and EARTH BLESSINGS (June Cotner Anthologies) have included Christine’s poems as well as SOUNDINGS: POETRY OF DOOR COUNTY. An interview appears in POET’S MARKET 2008. Christine is a writing teacher for museums, churches, arts councils, and women’s organizations. Recent essays appear in WOMEN ON POETRY and WRITING AFTER RETIREMENT. In Rockford she has won the Mayor’s Art (Lawrence Gloyd) Award for Education, a YWCA Leader Luncheon Award for the Arts, and the Womanspirit Award at Womanspace.
She has given readings and workshops throughout the USA, most recently Palm Beach Community Center, FL; Sedona, AZ; Poetry Rendezvous in Taos, NM; Door Country, Dickenson Series; The Clearing, Door Country, WI; and many others. Recently two of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes by CHIRON.
Glory be to the fierce little warriors
who return to my garden every year.
Come, enjoy, drink the various nectars,
tiny bold ones. You without any fear.
Teach me to cultivate fervor and focus.
Stay in our shared secret sanctuary
created for you with bergamot and phlox,
fuchsia and the feeder hung on the tree
you visit each morning. Hello! Goodbye!
Who could be freer? Fast as a torpedo
when I'm digging, spading, you catch my eye.
Graceful as the wind--glanced from my window.
You share delight with your earthbound sister.
You've made me a hummingbird whisperer.
First published THE AVOCET. Won a prize for Word of Art. Also published in June Cotner collection, EARTH BLESSINGS.
A Friend Asks
why I write poetry
and though I’ve dreamed of this moment
for years, it stops me like a siren:
Because Mayan women no longer weave chevrons
in desert sunset threads
because it is no longer useful.
Because the snowy egret leaves the marsh forever.
Because the people closest to me suffer.
Because words are bread.
Because writing it is as mapless
as driving down back roads.
Because without it my life is measured in paychecks.
Because I love you and can’t tell you.
Because I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.
Because there are so many questions nobody asks.
Because someone wants to know.
Published in THE ALLELUIA TREE and KORONE.
Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin with her husband, their 2 sons, and a cat who loves to sleep on her warm, humming computer. She is the founding editor of the online poetry journal, Blue Heron Review, and the author of 7 poetry collections. Her most recent books include Amnesia and Awakenings (Local Gems Press, 2016), and Still Life Stories (Aldrich Press, 2016). Her works have been published, or are forthcoming, in: The Toronto Quarterly, Your Daily Poem, Lime Hawk, The Poetry Storehouse, Right Hand Pointing, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Cristina’s work also appears in numerous anthologies. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day. Find out more about this poet at:
Mark is a South Philadelphian, born and raised in Little Italy there.
He has a B.A in Philosophy, an M.A. in Education, and Doctor’s degree in Music
Composition. He was a teacher of theology, psychology and music on both a secondary
and collegiate level and was a member of the Pennsylvania Poetry Society. He is published in numerous anthologies. “Fiery Mouthed Dragon” by Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, and self-published his second book, “Experience: The doorway to Life" by
Marcon Music Publishing.
Mark has put some poetry of his own and that of Emily Dickenson to music. He
is retired and devotes his time to composing music, writing poetry, updating
his knowledge of science, spirituality and theology.
He has had companion parrots for the past 45 years and given presentations
on parrot intelligence for numerous organizations in Green Bay, Baltimore,
Delaware and Philadelphia.
Fate does not belong to the gods.
Pray not faithfully
to the gods of fate,
for fame and
Bend back the
moment of reality
your total self.
The prayer was answered,
before it was begun.
Open your hands
there will be found
of your prayers,
Within your own
does your fate
-- Mark Falcone
Nathan J. Reid is a poet and spoken word artist whose work has appeared in several journals, including the Penguin Review, Fox Cry Review, and Binnacle. He has a background in theatre and regularly performs his poetry at art events throughout Wisconsin. His chapbook, Thoughts on Tonight, was published this year by Finishing Line Press. He currently lives in Madison with his partner, Ashley, and their endless supply of books.
From a small-town blizzard
are born two angels in the snow
whose powdery irises
bear young witness
to a truth such as this:
Paradise melts at the touch.
Every breath drawn in this town
flies shackled-wing flight
under Sheriff John's throne,
his icy yardstick
bending with command
to score another feathered pair
to force another tasty angel down.
And there is no sound
as snow pushes out
another clipped love.
There is no sound
as two angels watch crystal clumps
paint dying dreams
that keep their brilliant purity
their untouched white
even though pollution
has begun to stain their wings.
When You Wake
you hear distant rumors about what it will be like
to go to sleep and never wake up
about a time when all vibrations cash in their casino chips, take the red-eye home
when the biggest number is again smaller than the smallest number
when your mind is a wilting flower
and an hour yet pending returns you to the realm that fed you into birth
you hear these things happening someday
but today you breathe fire and music as if fire and music, like yourself,
were somehow separate from this collapsing dream of time trying to remember light
you have always been light
light is the reality beneath the dream
as you are breath you are the nothingness
a photon knows not its own existence
so why fear the wilted flower?
if the color has gone pallid
the leaves too brittle to touch
then cheer the fragrance
it is still so incredible and lovely
From Thoughts on Tonight; Finishing Line Press, 2017
Melissa Range is the author of Scriptorium, a winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series (Beacon Press, 2016), and Horse and Rider (Texas Tech University Press, 2010). She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She teaches at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
Before the stepwork and the fretwork,
before the first wet spiral leaves the brush,
before the plucking of the geese’s quills,
before the breaking of a thousand leads,
before the curving limbs and wings
of hounds, cats, and cormorants
knot into letters, before the letters knot
into the Word, Eadfrith ventures from his cell,
reed basket on his arm, past Cuthbert’s grave,
past the stockyard where the calves’ cries bell,
and their blood illuminates the dirt as ink
on vellum, across the glens and woods
to gather woad and lichens, to the shores
to gather shells. The earth, not the cell,
is his scriptorium, where he might see
the interlace of branch and twig and leaf;
how green bleeds brown when fields are plowed;
how green banks blue where grass gives way to sea;
how blue twists into white in swirling lines
purling through the water and the sky.
Before the skinning of a hundred calves,
before the stretching and the scraping of their hides,
before the boiling vinegar, the toasting lead,
the bubbling orpiment and verdigris,
before the glair cracks from the egg,
before the monk perfects his recipe
(egg white, oak-gall, iron salt, mixed
in a tree-stump, some speculate)
to make the pigments glorious to the Lord,
before Eadfrith’s fingers are permanently stained
the colors of his world—crimson, emerald,
cerulean, gold—outside the monastery walls,
in the village, with its brown hounds
spooking yellow cats stalking green-black birds,
on the purple-bitten lips of peasants
his gospel’s corruption already sings forth
in vermilion ink, firebrands on a red calf’s hide—
though he’ll be dead before the Vikings sail,
and two centuries of men and wars
will pass before his successor Aldred
pierces Eadfrith’s text with thorn,
ash, and all the other angled letters
of his gloss. Laced between the lines of Latin,
the vernacular proclaims, in one dull tint,
a second illumination,
of which Eadfrith was not unaware:
this good news is for everyone,
like language, like color, like air.
Elizabeth Margaret Chandler Passes on Dessert
She's got a sweet tooth, a candy mouth—
yet she sweeps by the ice-creams without a taste.
She won't eat slave sugar from the South.
The company thinks it most uncouth.
A young lady knows better than to slight her host.
To make the boiled custards that candy their mouths,
the cook had to chip a ten-pound sugarloaf, froth
it with butter, thick cream, lemon zest.
It was labor, but she's not a slave mother in the South,
caught between the canebrake and the tablecloth.
The hostess is pound-cake white, dressed
in cotton, her sweet smile decaying in her mouth.
Seeing the plate of marzipan, Elizabeth,
in wool, sees women's unclothed backs beat to a paste,
children scythed in the sugar fields of the South.
Gnawed half to death by faith and wrath,
she fingers her teaspoon, bright and chaste.
Call her fool tooth, call her trifle mouth,
but she won't eat that slave sugar from the South.
Thomas J. Erickson’s poems have appeared in numerous publications. His award-winning chapbook, The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom was published by Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin Libraries in 2013. His full length poetry book, The Biology of Consciousness, was published this year by Pebblebrook Press. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. He is an attorney in Milwaukee where he specializes in criminal defense.
When I was a little kid, and I swear this is really true,
once I prayed that I would get one of my migraines.
And I did. And the black jackal came like he always did,
after the witching hour but before the birds sang,
and in the darkest dark I knew I had to crawl as fast
as I could to the bathroom to vomit whatever was good
out of me and for a few seconds I could rest my head
on the white cool porcelain while my Mom got the cot ready.
And I would lie there in the bathroom—
one movement of my head or sliver of light would
make the jackal mad and he would take his poker
and stab me right above my right eye and then the bile
would rise and he’d get what was left.
But the next day or maybe the day after, I could open
my eyes to the day and keep down some Seven-Up
and play Scrabble with my Mom. And he was gone.
Burden of Proof
A crack addict client kidnapped
a UWM student and drove her around
and held a gun to her head and raped her
and put her in the trunk of his car and
showed her to his friends and then let her
go at a gas station.
That’s what she said he did.
He said he picked her up at a bar
on Brady Street and she wanted to get high
so he bought crack with her money
and she was ready so he busted
his nut in the backseat and then
kicked her out of his car because
it was almost morning and he was
tired and she was getting to be
a clingy white bitch
which bugged the shit out of him.
I don’t know what really happened
and I don’t care.
Well, it’s not like I don’t care,
it’s that I can’t care. It shouldn’t make
a difference to me if he did it or not.
It shouldn’t make a difference
that my son goes to UWM
and that girl could have been his friend.
It shouldn’t make a difference that I get
a palpable thrill when I cross-
examine this girl on the stand.
But what if my doubts are reasonable
and my client did do it?
Then I can tell you I represent evil.
And I can tell you that addiction makes
experience matter. And on we go.
C Kubasta thinks poetry, like humor, porn, & horror, should be a body genre. Her favorite rejection (so far) noted that one editor loved her work, and the other hated it. Her poetry has appeared in So To Speak, Cosmonauts Avenue, Construction, Tinderbox Poetry Review and The Notre Dame Review, among other places. She is the author of two chapbooks: A Lovely Box (Finishing Line Press) which won the 2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize, and &s (Finishing Line, 2016); and a full-length collection, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX, 2015). Her next book, Of Covenants, is forthcoming from Whitepoint Press in 2017.
She teaches English and Gender Studies at Marian University, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where she is active with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and works with Brain Mill Press. She lives with her beloved John, cat Cliff, and dog Ursula. Find her at ckubasta.com.
Them & Us & We
If you were my sister we would know each other beneath the skin as wishes of our father the
acquiescence of our mother or the reverse who is to know what happens in darkened rooms in
lightened rooms in rooms that are not rooms before we are born
If you were my sister we would know each other only by the way others know us through our
most visible layer and even if not kin or kind the world would name us such
If you were my sister we would love the same way or the same way others named it a love
distinguished by lack by touch the touch always the same as if there is only one way my kind
makes this love
If you were my sister we would live without too much wanting too much having or the men we
call father would bring down the word which is the only word that ever matters
and I would mark my body with the mark of your body to say to the world that we are sisters
and you would repay my questions with the kindness of questions
so that it seems again we may wear this body in common
and these bodies would not be only a snapshot series of a hall light falling on nakedness a dark
rustling the smell of charcoal like an artist's fingers must smell after making furious gestures
and I would not misspeak with the easy pronouns of us and them and you and I
If we were sisters and said "sister" to each other we would ask what kind of sister do you mean
what are you saying what are you calling me who are you to call me sister
Laurel Mills of Neenah is the author of five award-winning collections of poetry, including Hidden Seed which won the Posner Poetry Award, and Rumor of Hope which won the Encircle Publications chapbook contest. Both of these books are about her daughter, Beth, who has a rare genetic condition. Mills’ poems have been published in periodicals such as Ms. Magazine, Yankee, Calyx, Kalliope, and in several anthologies including Boomer Girls: Poems by Women from the Baby Boom Generation. She is Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, where she taught English and edited the literary magazine Fox Cry Review.
Work, Hers and Mine
I scour Lake Michigan for poems
while at school Beth learns work.
She didn't walk until she was three.
Now she carries newspapers to 63
houses, her hands black with ink.
The teacher dogs her tracks,
warning her to lift her head
at street corners.
I cross the sand, remember the year
she buried her beach ball and we dug
hole after hole searching for it.
She brings that same insistence
to scrubbing bathroom floors,
Once she sat for hours
and hurled stones into the lake,
leaving a bald place around her.
Now she sits and fits washers
on a wooden peg, collates pages.
These tasks are not too small.
When asked if she likes her jobs,
she says, "Yes, me no fired."
When the lake whispers do I love her,
I say, "Yes, I am proud."
I draw her name on the beach.
She painstakingly prints it
on the back of a check.
And this red stone at my feet
is my heart the lake tosses up to her.
The Imaginary Husband
The ring on her finger is the size of Texas, plastic,
red and blue, a lone star from the vending machine.
My wedding ring, she says. Bob, my husband.
When asked to give Bob’s last name,
she looks away and shrugs. I dunno.
Maybe this is her fantasy life: she has a dog
and two cats. The cats’ names are Fluffy and Nutty.
The dog is a Brittany spaniel and sleeps on their bed
at night near Bob’s feet. The dog stirs
when Bob shifts to wrap his arm around Beth.
When the sun comes up, Bob kisses Beth
on the fragile line of her collarbone.
He makes scrambled eggs with shredded
cheese and shallots; she makes cinnamon toast.
They eat on the front porch and wave
to the paper boy when he bicycles past.
All day at the sheltered workshop
Beth thinks of Bob and plans their supper.
They like to do the dishes together,
though they argue about who washes and who dries.
They tell about their day, all the little gossips.
Fluffy and Nutty meow around their legs, the dog
waits for a walk around the block when Bob and Beth
will “howdy” at neighbors. They take their coffee
to the little garden at the back of the house.
Bob nips the dried geranium; Beth pulls a thistle
from the nasturtiums. Curled on the brick patio,
dreaming of rabbits, the dog farts in his sleep.
This is the story of their life together, the story of
Mr. and Mrs. I-Dunno and their very ordinary days.
Angeline Haen was raised on a small dairy farm in Sobieski, Wisconsin, where the love of the earth and all things of nature collected in her heart. Through her participation in the Native American community in her later years, she learned how to nurture a relationship with all that surrounds her. A former electrical / instrumentation journeywoman and stay-at-home mom, she is currently employed as a school bus driver. She and her husband, Andy, steward a forty-five acre hobby farm and tend to the needs of four beehives. She is actively involved in the lives of her two children, Sophie, who is seventeen, and Peter, who is fourteen.
Her first book, Sweet Wisdoms, is forthcoming from Shanti Arts Publishing in February of this year. Sweet Wisdoms was inspired by daily walks with her yellow lab named Wally, a van full of preschoolers, ponderings over split pea soup and every pause of wonder in between. In 2015 two of her poems were published in the Wicwas publication entitled Safe To Chew, an anthology celebrating the honey bee. Her participation in a local woman’s writing circle facilitated by Writing Specialist and Author, Sandra Shackelford (a.k.a Princess-Of-Quite-A-Lot) was life changing.
Not all wisdom is siphoned from bitter experiences in a life. Wisdom has a sweet side. It’s revealed from a perspective of natural curiosity about the mystical messages in our everyday circumstances. Uncomplicated observations are described with vivid imagery and metaphor. The vignettes are an easy big-hearted read. Sweet Wisdoms was inspired by a van full preschoolers, daily walks with a yellow lab named Wally, ponderings over split pea soup and every pause of wonder in between. Based on real-life experiences seeking human insights, Sweet Wisdoms will challenge everything you think you know about acquiring wisdom. Be inspired to recognize and acknowledge the existence of simple sweet wisdoms in your own encounters with life.
Kathryn Gahl is a writer, dancer, and registered nurse. Born to an Irish nurse and German farmer, she grew up with seven siblings in a farmhouse located at the end of a half-mile gravel drive. She earned a B.S. in English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a B.S. in Nursing at Syracuse University (NY). After 25 years in nursing and nursing management, she became a full-time writer, studying at Bread Loaf, Stonecoast, Sewanee, Iowa Writers’ Workshop Fiction Intensive, Iowa Summer Festival, Vermont College, and Taos.
Her poems and stories are widely published in small journals, including Eclipse, Hawaii Pacific Review, Permafrost, Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, and Willow Review. Twice a Glimmer Train finalist, she received honorable mention from The Council of Wisconsin Writers and Wisconsin People & Ideas . Margie named her a finalist for the Marjorie J. Wilson Award. Other finalist awards include poetry at Lumina and Chautauqua , the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction, the William Richey Short Story Winner, and the Flash Fiction finalist at Talking Writing . More at www.kathryngahl.com.
Sarah Gilbert returned to writing poetry in the midst of two decades of Lynch Syndrome cancers. Her chapbook, Tendril: Living with Lynch Syndrome, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. At some point she will get around to pulling together another manuscript. Poems have appeared in Fox Cry Review, Wisconsin Poets Calendar, The Healing Muse, and Your Daily Poem. Sarah enjoys weaving, helping out in her community, library, and church, spending time with family and in nature, especially at the cottage on Lake Michigan. She hosts monthly poetry readings at Copper Rock Cafe in Appleton.
Thoughts on a No-Hair Day
This autumn I am deciduous.
My hair without anchor
loosed with a touch
flies with the wind
like the leaves
I rake my hair off my pillow
my shoulders, the sink, the floor,
becoming acquainted with my scalp
cool and tingling
as delicate wisps of hair lift with the breeze.
I am shedding
like cats in spring
but now they are laying in their winter coats.
This is not their shedding season.
Better to think of the trees
branches bare to winter wind
leafing out anew in the spring.
* * *
drift lazily by
waving their fantails
moving their lips
percolate from blue gravel.
Lucy the cat
tilts her head
lifts a soft paw
bats and bats again
but the fish know
she’s not really there.
Following her reading Thursday night, Kimberly will host an Informal Recitation Event Friday from 11am to 1pm.
For the recitation event, please select a published poem by a poet you love and learn it "by heart." Come anytime during the event window of 11am to 1pm and Blaeser will videotape you reciting your poem.
If you can’t make it to the recitation event, formal Challenge rules are below.
WISCONSIN POETRY RECITATION CHALLENGE
In her tenure as Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate, Blaeser created the first-ever Wisconsin Poetry Recitation Challenge to celebrate recited poetry, a lost art.
Residents of Wisconsin are invited to select a published poem by a poet they love and learn it "by heart." They should then create a videotape of reciting the poem, providing:
Send video to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In your email include:
All videos will be considered for posting by the Wisconsin Laureate Commission.
Poet, photographer, and scholar, Kimberly Blaeser, is the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate. Blaeser is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee where she teaches Creative Writing, Native American Literature, and American Nature Writing. Her publications include three books of poetry: Trailing You, Absentee Indians and Other Poems, and Apprenticed to Justice. Included in volumes whose titles are as varied as Sing, Women on Hunting and Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, her poetry, essays, and short fiction are widely anthologized and selections of her poetry have been translated into several languages including Spanish, Norwegian, Indonesian, French, and Hungarian. Blaeser has performed her poetry at over 200 different venues around the globe, from Bahrain to Spain, and identifies the two most memorial sites for readings as the Borobudur Temple in Indonesia and a Fire-Ceremony at the Borderlands Museum Grounds in arctic Norway. She been the recipient of awards for both writing and speaking, among these a Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship in Poetry, the Diane Decorah first book award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, and four Pushcart Nominations.
Of Anishinaabe ancestry and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Blaeser grew up on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. Her current creative project features “Picto-Poems” and brings her nature and wildlife photography together with poetry to explore intersecting ideas about Native place, nature, preservation, and spiritual sustenance. She lives in the woods and wetlands of rural Lyons Township Wisconsin and spends part of each year at a water access cabin adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota chasing poems, photos, and river otters—sometimes all at once.
Newly twelve with size seven feet
dangling beside mine off the rock
ledge, legerdemain of self knowledge.
How do I say anything—magic
words you might need to hear?
With flute-playing, green-painted nails
your child’s fingers reach to span the range
of carmel-colored women in our past.
Innocently you hold those ghost hands:
each story a truce we’ve made with loss.
How can I tell you there were others?
Big-boned women who might try
to push out hips in your runner’s body.
Women who will betray you for men,
a bottle, or because they love you
love you, don’t want to see you disappointed
in life, so will hold you, hold you hostage
with words, words tangled around courage
duty or money. When should I show you
my own flesh cut and scarred on the barbs
of belonging and love’s oldest language?
No, let us dangle here yet, dawdle
for an amber moment while notes shimmer
sweetly captured in turquoise flute songs—
the score of a past we mark together.
No words whispered yet beyond these painted
untainted rock images of ancients: sun, bird, hunter.
Spirit lines that copper us to an infinity.
Endurance. Your dangling. Mine.
Before the floor of our becoming.
Perhaps even poets must learn silence,
that innocence, that space before speaking.
-- Kimberly Blaeser
It’s all angle after all. What we see and especially what we miss.
Like the leaf bird limed and shadowed to match every other green upturned hand blooming on the August tree. Indecipherable. Even when wings flutter like leaves in breeze.
Or the silhouette—dark and curved on the bare oak. Beak, parted tail, each mistakable for knot, branch, or twig. Only when one exits the scene, unblends and isolates itself, flies against too blue sky does the game of hidden pictures end.
Ah, angles. Tell all or tell it slant. What we dream, appear, or inverted seem to be.
-- Kimberly Blaeser
Bobbie Lovell’s educational background and career are in visual art, graphic design and print production — but she’s hopelessly smitten with words. She lives near Green Bay with her two favorite young people and works in a corporate marketing department. Bobbie's poems have appeared in several journals, and she received a 2015 Pushcart nomination from Star*Line. She tends to write about relationships and ordinary life, occasionally from outer space. bobbie-lovell.com
You wake to a sliver
of wan winter light
leaking between curtains.
Peering out, your eyes
linger on the landscape,
blessedly familiar in its wholeness —
no smoldering skeletal ruins,
no field of fallen sky.
A passing jogger,
seemingly impervious to cold
but too pristine and nimble
to be zombified,
confirms that you aren’t,
somehow, the proverbial
last soul on Earth
left mysteriously behind.
You are infinitely grateful
for the steadfast sun
iridescent on the frosty lawn,
for the grounding scent
of brewing coffee, and even
for this exercise in dread
and hope. You brim with profound
relief in the mundane —
that which is often reserved
for cancer remissions
and military homecomings.
TV ads urge viewers
to complete holiday shopping,
confident that Santa
will indeed deliver.
But the news reveals
the flip side of sameness:
Oceans rise and missiles fall
today as they did yesterday.
Again, you feel the grip of the end
around your throat, threatening,
at any time, to squeeze.
Even so, you won’t give up —
not now. Especially not now.
-- Bobbie Lovell
Wendy Diehlmann has taken the long way ‘round, completing her Bachelor of Arts after her daughters were grown. Life has been a rich and full experience thus far, despite living it check-to-check, and the variety of that experience, in work, travel and people and friends, has been more than worth it. She lives in Oconto township, in a little piece of heaven on the bay. She was a guest on and read her poetry on Higher Ground with Jonathon Overby in 2005. She works two part-time jobs and is finally at a point where it is time for the writing.
I am an old house.
A family whose roots
Reach and branch
back and back,
to obscure beginnings.
I came down from
crossing paths along the way
with a Rabbi somewhere back,
There were Vikings.
I saw them,
in the sons and grandsons
and blue eyes,
bearing their mother, their grandmother
to the grave where we were gathered.
There were farmers.
I the child saw them,
in my grandfathers, in my uncles.
looked across fields
into the sunset
as if they
were gazing back through time.
Strong arms, stubborn hearts,
backs bent to their work.
There were matriarchs.
I saw them, in the faces
of my mother and
cooking in their kitchens.
Strong hands, stubborn hearts
beneath flowered aprons.
They got their way
When it mattered.
The old ones are nearly gone now.
I am ninety-nine
in my Aunt Hazel.
I am ninety-three
in my father.
I have seen the world
as it was
From the corner of
the country porch
I the child
its shadow across the yard.
turned lazily in evening breezes,
I listened to my parents
with brothers and wives,
sisters and husbands,
the cadence and
led me back with them
to years before
when days, slower days
ended at dusk, and
the windmill turned lazily in evening breezes.
I am an old house.
I stand in the country.
-- Wendy Diehlmann
Come experience Green Bay’s first-ever SUMMER POETRY FESTIVAL outside at The Reader’s Loft in London Alley on Saturday, July 30, any time between 1pm to 4pm.
Relax and revel in poetry under the canopy with Wisconsin poets:
Bruce Dethlefsen, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2011-2012
James P. Roberts
Nathan J. Reid
Groove to local musicians:
Colin J, lyrics & guitar
Palmer Shah, from The Ugly Brothers
Abbey Jeane, special guest
Amy Phillips, singer/songwriter
Enjoy wine by the glass and tasty appetizers.
Groove to music by local musicians:
Brain Mill Press publishers Mary Ann Rivers and Ruthie Knox will read from the first four poetry chapbooks in the press's newly launched Mineral Point Poetry Series: Tanka & Me by Kaethe Schwehn, My Seaborgium by Alicia Rebecca Myers, Fair Day in an Ancient Town by Greg Allendorf, and My Tall Handsome by Emily Corwin.
The Mineral Point Poetry Series is edited by Kiki Petrosino. In alternate years, the series publishes chapbooks and a full poetry collection.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Sylvia Cavanaugh has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin. She currently teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies. She is the faculty advisor for break dancers and poets. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in An Arial Anthology, The Journal of Creative Geography, Midwest Prairie Review, Peninsula Pulse, Seems, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Verse Wisconsin, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2016.
Duped by a rectangle of glass above the door
in the way its light came in
but we could not see out
like the eyeless yellow marigolds between our walks
all fringe with no insight
tough alchemy of the nearly defeated
sometimes a warmed patch of light drifted in
to land on dust mote winter days
we played with paper dolls
our fathers once re-shingled the dilapidated roof
outside our back doors were sets of stairs
they had agreed upon
edgy summers drummed time
the staccato whap whap of screen doors
our lives latched to the people next door
in the jumpy bang bang of summer
I used to dream of a house
I could run all the way around
timed myself over and over
we shared a chimney, devilish bats
would echo their way down its dusty tunnel
and then have to decide
sometimes we heard the neighbors’ shrieks at night
and sometimes they heard ours.
-- Sylvia Cavanaugh
First published in Making it Speak: Artists and Writers in Cahoots
Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, spent 22 years in manufacturing and union activity before his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. He sympathizes with poor and working people. He advocates for peace and against corporate power. His poetry has appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat, Gyroscope Review, Mobius: the Journal of Social Change, and several other publications. His first chapbook, Who Are We Then?, was published in 2013 by Partisan Press.
At concerts in Rockefeller Center
sensitive ears can still hear the cries and wails
of the Ludlow miners
and their wives and children
slaughtered on the picket line in Colorado, 1914.
Without opening a book,
keen eyes can read
the lost lives of unschooled steel workers
on the facades of thousands oflibraries,
part of the Carnegie bequest.
And who remembers
the abandoned artistic ambitions
of the aluminum smelters, the oil riggers,
and the bank tellers who labored
so the Mellon family could endow
the National Gallery of Art?
-- Ed Werstein
Come, pump blood into my borscht,
fang-rooted Romanian blood-bulb,
vampire of vegetables.
I sink my teeth into you.
Warm this cold twilight.
-- Ed Werstein
Nancy Austin was born in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, but has lived on both coasts, and points in between. She received a master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, and worked in Green Bay for many years. She moved to the north woods a few years ago to delve into the poetry of a quieter lifestyle with her husband Mic. She appreciates every moment she has free to kayak a shoreline, bicycle down a wooded lane, sing back to the birds, and eat eggplant parmesan, an interest she has held since childhood. She relishes time to write in between running an unofficial bed and breakfast where she melds with family and friends.
Nancy has been published in various literary journals including Adanna, Midwestern Gothic, Sheepshead Review, Verse WI, and The WI Poets’ Calendars. She is the author of a poetry collection, Remnants of Warmth, forthcoming February, 2016 via Aldrich Press, and available at Amazon.com, or through the Kelsay Books website.
The new cord of firewood,
released its musky scent
as it tumbled from the truck bed.
Its dewy, fresh cut,
warm, wheat color,
and earthy aroma
We chuckled, such a discount
for ready to burn,
to the old cord,
that shattered into shards
when it fell to the ground,
loosening lichen-spotted bark
from tough, twisted cores,
thus, unceremoniously stacked
in the corner.
We lowered three perfect logs
into the cold, cast iron stove,
pulled chairs forward
in smug anticipation,
lit them up, and waited.
but would not burn.
-- Nancy Austin
First published in 2014 Wisconsin Poets Calendar
A Poetry Reading Featuring
Kathryn Gahl & Annette Grunseth
Thursday, April 14th
Barnes & Noble Cafe, Green Bay
APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
KATHRYN GAHL is mad about ballroom dance, the color red and compassion. Gahl’s fiction, poetry and nonfiction appear in many journals. A writer, registered nurse and deep sleeper, Gahl is also a seasoned mother and grandmother. Her website is kathryngahl.com.
ANNETTE GRUNSETH shares a parent’s perspective on an adult child’s path to transgender. She is a Green Bay poet, publishing inMidwest Prairie Review, Peninsula Pulse, Free Verse, Blue Heron and others. She has been a member of Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets since 1988.
Ethel Mortenson Davis was born in Wisconsin where her parents were dairy farmers in Marathon County. Her years on the farm instilled a deep sense of the earth and the various forms of life. Her interest in poetry and art started in high school. She studied fine art at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and has had two books of poetry published, I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico and White Ermine Across Her Shoulders. Her poems have been published in magazines and small literary journals. Her pastels have been featured in a number of small galleries.
Thomas Davis has had a distinguished career as a President and Chief Academic Officer of four tribal colleges and the Provost of Navajo Technical University in New Mexico. He is the author of Sustaining the Forest, the People, and the Spirit (State University of New York Press), chapters in books published by Nebraska University Press and the Smithsonian, and has had poetry, fiction, and essays published in anthologies, books, magazines, and literary journals. He has given poetry readings, primarily at colleges and universities, in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and several U.S. states and edited The Zuni Mountain Poets Anthology and three small literary magazines.
never felt so warm —
when the strong arms
of the Red Army
the skeleton-like people
and set them
on blankets in the snow.
The evil snake
had reached down
deep into their bodies
and tried to snatch
their very souls,
but the soldiers
like sick dogs
in their arms
and set them
into the sunshine.
Libertacja was like
of a thousand swings
up into the air —
a day when poetry
began to be written.
-- Ethel Mortenson Davis
original published in Gallup Journey
Hunched down beside a woodpile, ebony,
In shadows from the cedars overhead,
The raven blinked black eyes, its dishabille
Of feathers rustling, stirring up a dread
So dark it seemed as if it called up from the dead
White wisps of spirits buried in the snow.
The raven hopped on top the woodpile, head
Cocked, moving like a dancer in a show,
A shadows’ shadow pantomiming woe.
Dawn’s darkness deepened as the raven leaped
Into the sky and hovered as the glow
Of blood-light saturated earth and seeped
Into the raven’s eyes, it’s dance undone
Until its beak croaked out the blazing sun.
-- Tom Davis
originally published in Ariel
Ralph Murre -- who comes without a degree or an apology -- is a sailor, a motorcyclist, an artist, and something of a jack-of-all-trades. He confesses to "messing about in books" and has written three small volumes of poetry and co-authored a fourth. Murre says he is currently honored to serve as Door County’s Poet Laureate, and swears there really is such a thing and that he didn’t just make that up.
On the off chance
that we should meet again
given that there are billions
and, let’s say, in a different life
On the off chance
we’d be attracted to one another
and were of the same species
that is, I hadn’t come back
as your dog
or you, God forbid, if there’d be
a god, my cat
(not that there’d be anything
wrong with that)
On the off chance
we’d be on a planet
with breathable air
and we’d survived acne
and alcohol and atomic
annihilation on that globe
circling a star, somewhere
On the off chance of love
what do you suppose
would be the chance
we two could get it right
learn the steps, dance the dance?
-- Ralph Murre
In that illicit country of the uncountable injured
where we shivered in the heat of that night.
The height. And the sky falling so close all around
there were constellations tangled in your hair.
Forget or remember, either way, there was salt
in the air a thousand miles from any ocean and
how could we not dance, listening to that music
and, (is it too easy to say?) glistening, in the liquid
in the languid of that place, and kneeling
at the altars of that nighttime nation, of that
small, defenseless nation, where we were beautiful,
And how could we not make sacrifices to those gods
just over us there (that close!) and worry later, if we
worry at all, about those in the clover and grass
to which we go?
-- Ralph Murre
With her first story written at age nine and first published opinion article at age ten, Jenna Cornell has since seen her work published in The Northern Lights Arts Journal, The Manifest, Sheepshead Review, The Fourth Estate, Mauthe Center Magazine, Examiner.com, and had plays read at Theatre on the Bay.
She submitted her short screenplay "Hunk of Burning Love" to the Canadian Short Screenplay Competition in 2014 and made it into the Top 50 Quarterfinals. In 2015, she released her first poetry collection as an indie author titled Fantastic Illusions of Life, Love, the Birds, and the Bees.
Fiction, screen writing, and journalism are one of the many things she involved in. She also writes fiction, poetry, and music. As a vocalist and wordsmith, Jenna spends part of her time writing songs. She intends to record in the near future.
Since receiving her BA in English, Creative Writing and Theatre from UWGB, and her MA from Southern New Hampshire University, Jenna has become a professor at Lakeland College and Lakeshore Technical College, as well as a writing tutor for Pearson Education. She can also be found on the radio airwaves for Cumulus Broadcasting.
When she isn't writing, she enjoys nature photography, painting, spending time outside, and with her family. Jenna lives by the belief that art is the essence of life in creative form.
Let us dance across the midnight sea.
Where stars collide.
Where it’s only you and me.
Where fire-tailed eagles dive
amongst the celestial
bodies flow. A moonlit
waltz, to then fro amidst
the ever-present glow.
The tango twist in raptured twilight.
Where constellations dare.
Where arrows fill the night.
Where teasing whips of gas fare
amongst the giant
spheres abound. A sunlit
rumba swings hips round amidst
the silent-black sound.
The quickstep flicker in dark blue night.
Where dreams surpass.
Where fairies and sprites ignite.
Where red dragons flash
amongst the stardust
hearts transfix. A starlit
samba where bodies kiss amidst
the heavenly-dotted mix.
Let us dance across the midnight sea.
Where stars collide.
Where it’s only you and me.
Where star-crossed lovers glide
amongst the translunar
ocean. A moonlit
bolero pivots left motion amidst
the extraterrestrial devotion.
A mirror of water
in the cloudy air.
like a picturesque
The water calls
me deeper still.
sing Grimm lullabies
hush my heart
stop my voice
envelope my breath.
I fracture the mirror
break its shiny
with harmonic hesitation
dancing to its waltz
on its plan
to overtake me.
into my lungs
I enter in
its frigid depths.
white and blue
I have emerged. Free.
After receiving his BA in English Lit and MA from the University of Michigan and teaching for three years at Drake University, David or D.R. Clowers switched fields and got a law degree from the University of Chicago. After practicing law for many years in Milwaukee, he moved to a self-build, rustic cabin in Door County’s woods in 2001 and lived there, off the grid, for nine years, while re-establishing his law practice in Sturgeon Bay. He has been the featured reader at the UUFDC's Dickinson Poetry series, and has self-published two chapbooks, Shedding My Three Piece Birthday Suit, and Doggysattva Love. His poems have appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Fox Cry, Knock, Your Daily Poem, The Peninsula Pulse, WFOP's annual calendars and in Ralph Murre's Re-Verse. Several of his poems have received recognition in the WFOP's Triad, the Gruetzmacher and the Hal Prize contests. One of his poems appeared in the anthology, Soundings: the Poetry of Door County, and two others in an anthology published by Duluth's Holy Cow Press in 2015, Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior. He performs in community theater groups, serves on several boards, teaches poetry writing and reading theater classes at Door County's LIR program. In his spare time he goes to the Y, swims, runs, bikes, skis, sails, practices law and does the Legal Aid Clinic for Door County.
is supposed to be the speed of light,
and I guess it is if you want to know
how fast a photon can travel
but what about information
in the universe?
How fast does that go?
Let me tell you a story:
my love was in London
when I called to say
I was on my way
but wished I was already there
and not a continent plus
the Atlantic Ocean away.
“You are here,“ she began
as I felt something slide
across my shirt and over my heart—
I even looked down to see—
and then she said
I’m in your pocket, Luv!
-- D.R. Clowers
While my hands are fidgeting on your back, I think
about Jung saying that if you showed him a sane man
he would cure him for you—which
makes me wonder if anyone who is sane
can ever love, because love means losing yourself
in your lover. “Le petit mort,” the French have called it,
but then the French always have love
on the table with some red wine and a crisp baguette,
and Brecht could have been talking about love,
as well, I guess, when he wrote,
“First feed the face, and then talk right and wrong.”
But I think I’ve lost my place, my love.
Please take me around that curve on your body
that makes me stop thinking about everything
and puts me in touch with my hands.
-- D.R. Clowers
Estella Lauter and Nancy Rafal will read a selection of poems from Soundings: Door County in Poetry (Caravaggio Press, 2015) and talk about the collective process of making an anthology about this complex place.
Estella Lauter served as Poet Laureate of Door County from 2013-2015. In that role, she initiated the Door County Poets Collective that published Soundings in May 2015. She has published three chapbooks with Finishing Line Press and is currently co-editing the WFOP Calendar for 2017.
A late start, yet we fly
euphorically from Ephraim
on a broad reach to Rock Island
with only the jibsail, arriving
after the sky has turned black.
Lightning flashes off our stern
but the old stone boathouse
behind its cement breakwater
will not come into focus,
safety promised on the chart
but not attainable, until
a thoughtful sailor lights his mast,
shows us the long end of the dock
and waves us in with his flash.
-- Estella Lauter
Previously published in Estella Lauter, The Essential Rudder—North Channel Poems (Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2008).
Nancy Rafal has lived in Door County longer than any other place else on the globe. She is an advocate for poetry around the state and was treasurer of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets for a long run. She keeps stalling on putting together a solo chapbook but her work has appeared in publications including issues of the Wisconsin Poets Calendar, Big Scream 54, and, of course, Soundings.
Today, we are all unraveled
our lives pulled
exposing the accordion that blooms from the fragile bonds of our paper doll
we realize we are time travelers, lovers and killers
telepaths and dumb-luck dreamers
I am my father and my unborn son
I am the woman on the bus
the child in her arms
the driver cussing silently to himself as his pancreas flinches against
And the universe reveals to us
how we are the most unlikely of every fat truth
and the walls we climb daily are laden with false bricks that can be pushed
in like a button
unlocking doors that lead to new space
but even there we get the feeling *we have been here before*
over and over and over.
Somewhere in a run-down apartment there is an ancient prince
he’s on his seventeenth life
he doesn’t understand where he is, the noise in the street
or why these colosseums are dripping from his eyes.
There is a sparrow resting her wings
she’s the embodiment of short and sweet
and every day she’s pretty sure that you and I and this whole damn world
is something she dreamt up last night in her sleep.
We are loopers, rabbit hole divers, matrix upon matrix
there is the illusion we are each an individual essence
when in truth we share one soul
it is a firefly caught between the canvas and the paint
and it floats across this portrait of existence
filling each life as it does so
meaning someday, somehow you will be the person sitting next to you
someway, some life you will see yourself from across the room.
Trust me, for I have been you
I have smiled all your smiles
your hearts pump my blood
our pulses are the waves, humanity the moon
I have been you
you are loners and regretters
heavily you sit without a dream to hold your hand
I have seen you
trying to crawl back through the rooms you have already walked through
as if you could rewind, cut, copy, paste, and create anew
as if that were some kind of miracle
but tall and glowing, and tall and alive, you have already walked through
I have seen you
you starlight, you midnight wanderers
don’t worry about the phone calls from family you ignored
they have already forgiven you with hugs and pot roasts
don’t worry about the dead friends who visit your dreams again and again
they are not tormented or lost
it just means you love them so much more than the time they were given
for you are them and they are you
I have been you
do not fester in a heap of sour love gone wrong
but rise above it so opportunities may find you
if you have hurts at the bottom of your heart
do not go looking at them through the bottoms of your drinks
reach down, take them in your hands
crumble them to pieces and toss them up to the heavens that swallow
everything yet say nothing
because this life is a moving cliff
and the day we were born was the day we let go
so unclench your fists
learn to make music with the air around your fingertips
the only moment is right here, right now
and right here, right now you’ll find every other moment
be a moment
be the wind that blows through the cemetery where children play
be the relief in somebody’s smile at the end of the day
be a fire-spitting darling at the front of the room
be brave so others can be brave too
be these words for they are no longer mine
be soft lips for the springtime
be boogie-woogie, jazz, and soul
when something wrong is going down, be the voice that yells, *NO!*
be the Sun! be the Moon!
be a cry for a cry and a truth for a truth!
Today, unravel with me
you are free
me, I have been you
I have seen you without a dream to hold your hand
so hold my hand
and we the firefly will flow out a new path
resting now and then on the canvas, absorbing rich paint
for I have been you
and when I walk around this world
stare into your faces
you have been me too.
-- Nathan J. Reid
Our garden toad was more outgoing
than my Uncle Leonard.
The toad, at least, croaked
and looked you in the eye,
while at family get-togethers
my uncle would sit in the darkest corner,
thin lips sealed bank vault tight,
starched shirt collar buttoned snug
as a hangman’s noose,
his eyes cast downward
studying the carpet’s pattern
as if its map might reveal
some escape route from conversation.
But with a bow and fiddle
he was the Hallelujah Chorus,
all hosannas and exultation,
small round spectacles flashing white fire,
forehead furrows dancing like summer waves,
chin making mad love
to the fiddle’s curvaceous body,
face sweet and soft as honey.
And there you have it:
toad made prince by music’s kiss,
his transfiguring eloquence
stunning us all into squat silence.
-- Ken Zahorski
I said, I’m sorry, but I’ve been thinking about
sloths. Well, actually, the moths that live
on sloths. Nestle into their fur, take the slow,
slow ride through the rain forest. Once a week
the sloth descends to the forest floor. Defecates.
Female moths leap off; lay their eggs on the fresh
feces; jump back on. Their caterpillars nourish
themselves on the fetid feast, metamorphose
into moths, fly up into the canopy to find
their own sloths. They prefer the three-toed
over the two-toed. Who can figure attraction?
The algae-covered sloth fur is the only home
the sloth moths know. The only place they live.
I know it’s a Darwinian thing but fidelity
comes to mind. Commitment. Patience.
The world writes love poems all the time.
-- Steve Tomasko
Originally published in The Fiddlehead
From your bedroom bed, left side under your old lamp, you heard the ocean all night long from miles away and even asleep, the waves of the winter storm crashed inside your dreams. The seals from the harbor hid behind your small ear bones. The surf piped into the seaside restaurant was real. A person takes their waking to sleep, I read. All waking, I studied your weathermap until I heard your rain the way I’ve heard my distant train, its clack and whistle, from the other side of town. If you look at the world upsidedown all day your dreams will be full of misfortune, the teller said. But inside my sleeping, inside my ear, my left ear, it came in the night, your ocean storm, your rain-rattled sky. I didn’t dream anything bad. Just rain and umbrellas and I knew without knowing your lamp was yellow though it had nothing to do with anything and I liked the way we took off our shoes and walked along the only dry part left to the left of the ear drum.
-- Jeanie Tomasko
It is the color of ambiguous depth,
of the heavens and of the abyss at once…
-- Alexander Theroux
Do you remember that night
I said I would have to leave?
Under a blue moon
in Clem & Ursie's Bar
you asked would I walk toward
something or away
and I said a horizon
is what I need,
a road rising to meet me.
Dante's 9th Circle of Hell isn't fire
yet blue light
has the energy to escape ice
and remain visible.
Too often invisible to you I became
is a fugitive color
fades quicker than any other.
-- Sharon Auberle
It was a day of errands,
a day of from here to there,
of deposit and pick up,
of chores, not visits.
Driving down Monroe Street
I passed your house.
It may have been your house
or it may have been your son’s
or daughter’s house.
At 25 miles per hour in the city,
it was a quick glance.
You were seated on the front porch,
a full-facing, windowed front porch.
Your hair was neat, cut short, prim.
You had on a dark cardigan sweater,
navy blue I think, unbuttoned,
over a white Peter Pan collared blouse.
I couldn’t see your hands.
I couldn’t see your legs, your feet.
You were very still, gazing,
just gazing with a blank stare
at the outside world:
the world on Monroe Street.
Not much action on Monroe Street—
only cars passing, no pedestrians,
no school children at 11AM on a Thursday.
My thoughts of chores and errands paused.
You stayed on that porch with your quietness.
Your vacant look echoed my day
through Target, the bank drive-up window,
Piggly Wiggly, and the post office.
I deliberately retraced my route
on the way home.
Your world had broadened
because you weren’t there.
Mine had narrowed
because for me you still were.
-- Marilyn Zelke-Windau
Most summer mornings the wind slept in,
lay on the bay’s floor till noon or later
under a taut, reflective sheet that pleased
swimmers, water-skiers, skimmers of
rocks, but never Dad, who was a sailor.
Wherever he went near water, he made
a detour to the shoreline or causeway,
checked for breezes dimpling or rippling
the surface—signs that wind had begun
wiggling its toes nearby.
After lunch we might row unhurriedly
out to the sailboat, giving wind more time
to shake sleep off while we bailed, raised
the sails, and in other ways prepared to
We were wind’s dependents, never cursing,
only praising, and paddled out to the bay
on faith, if required, where we sat limp-
sailed until wind deigned to unchain us.
Sometimes we sang jaunty songs to put wind
in the mood to propel us along on a steady
but not overpowering breeze, which
eventually it did, at least most of the time.
We liked to heel the boat on its side, slice
and slap the waves with our hull, feel
salt-spray on our skin, and be, at least for
a few hours, as feral as wind can be
while the Old Salt—our dear old Dad,
not old at all—issued commands to loosen
or tighten the jib, duck our heads and
switch sides when he called “Hard-alee!”
Then he might lean back, look up at the
burgee and say, “This is the life”—and it
was, and continues to be, for though his
bones are now cradled in a wooden casket
underground, his spirit still sails in us.
-- Georgia Ressmeyer
Waiting to Sail, Black River Press, 2014
the orchid I bought you
in the Piggly Wiggly plant corner
at home it dazzled
for a little bit
then lost its purple bonanza
it sat in the south window
through all the seasons
kind of forlorn
after such auspicious beginnings
when Valentine's day
rolled around once more
I see what may be could be a bud
trying so hard
then three days after all the heart hoopla
it's 10 below 0
when I learn how to wait
never give up
-- Maryann Hurtt
the children of the street
must see themselves
in the greasy puddles of the forenoon
in the sundown storefront windows
in the luster of the shoes they shine
must see themselves
in the reflection of a customer’s sunglasses
in the tears of the old women
in the shadow of the bus
the children of the street
must see themselves
flying purple kites on sunny beaches
dining with the family after church
riding white stallions
the children of the street
must see themselves
-- Bruce Dethlefsen
playing life like a fiddle
of elaborate vision
a testament to a life
Her knees are skinned
her elbows raw
but how her blood bubbles
sings like Ethel Merman
as she rockets
through thin air.
She may be a girl
in a metal gown
but watch her hips swivel
as she rotates the earth
feel how wide
she grows every time
the moon swallows.
She is a magnet.
She is a copper penny.
She is clenched between
the jaws of the sun
she is the teeth of the sun
-- Cathryn Cofell
Sister Satellite, Cowfeather Press 2013
Mütter Museum, Philadelphia
Of suds or mud, her realm was the kitchen,
but now in this museum, this glass case,
she rests open-mouthed.
Just another woman—dead
of yellow fever, her own hands
once plunged into hot water, the sting
of luster before the headaches,
the bile of jaundice. She didn’t last long
at her sink, instead to bed, the sky
yellows into hemorrhagic stupor.
Buried quickly, interred in lye
to hasten decay, the earth betrayed her,
then pressure and shift,
she turned into soap, to elemental fat
and flume, her mouth congealed mid-scream,
she never knew such clean.
-- Karla Huston
The teacher straightbacked,
faced me off, her eyes.
My face in the cleave of
her shoulder, my bones
sitting high my cheek.
The word proper
arrives in the hall. The order
of things, rolling
neat into pine drawers, deadclean.
Squeezed juice of greedy
Her teeth not match.
One chipped. The corner lifted,
peeking a window, furtive.
The other, pearl, round
and perfect, looming above my
arched head. About to bite.
-- Ching-in Chen
Previously published in So to Speak, re-printed in Another and Another: an Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series, and chosen as Split This Rock's Poem-of-the-Week.
let's not front he said and asked me to call him in instead of calling him out now
it’s been ten years since we read that sign at breach candy hospital that one that says
no dogs or indians allowed
five since the american artisan ice cream corporation opened their shoppe in dehli’s
sector 6 select city walk where you can only go in if you hold international passport
he said come now do you also want anyone from any caste coming in to the store
my poor manners imagine us embracing on a dirt floor yet all this devouring sweet
again we find ourselves having to position our bodies around each other and having
to think more about our bodies than we did before
now we make small talk around the question of bending and stretch around an ear
or brow to the ground
now the currency exchange translates into enough money to pay snake charmers
put coins into any tiny and open palm
-- Soham Patel
Two lovers lie in bed, air thin
between them, ceiling a black cloud
absorbing their dreams.
Their hands touch,
and in silence they begin
their climb to gain a view,
see where they have been
where they might yet go.
Over there, one says, no,
over there, the other responds,
but neither sees what the other sees.
The cynic says, see, there is no there
there, only breath at whose peaks and valleys
we die and are resurrected again.
Ah, but these old lovers know better,
eyes closed now to open the view, calling
without you I never would have gone there.
-- Robert Nordstrom
From The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015);
winning entry in the 2014 Hal Prize Poetry Contest
in his wide wide palm the reigns loose as a foundering
pulse the sky gone
the color of the dying too
and the night kneels
on the throat of the morning
the turkey is clocking and
the night is a preservationist
the morning is a revisionist and
the child is erasing her skin
with a toe thick school eraser for
the moon is the idea of the bone in theoretical x-ray
the clenched jaws of the stars
the doctor’s hunched under
run thick cold sweat thoughts of
the metals of air war asleep
in the father of the father of boom
the crow birds sketch the sky
fumble up a funnel up the sky yes
they try and tie a first bowtie up the sky
as life this life is a soap bubble popped by a pin ha ha
the horses the noises of going ha
sound permits energy mm
of thinking sound outside
the head if
the sound of bye bye but with
then beauty and sadness
rap goat horns on a mountain
man goats boom boom
the only occasion of living finally is love
sounding motion something
other than silence takes the mind
thinking of love
writing is going
poems are bye bye
but take me with
this one composed no clapped to the tune of
wild rivers of wind fire leather coining
demitasses in zee demure aspen trees
yes the liver meat noses of those planet stars
liver lichen oh sis
the stick cage the night is
and the doctor breaking it for the people
isis i am not to build this worn house of smoke anymore
About this Poem:
"This snippet is excerpted from the Crow creation myth (a crow being a drunk's left boot crammed into a country doctor's housecall satchel), forthcoming among a collection of creation myths: In the Old Days (Action Books, 2015)."
Originally published on Academy of American Poets www.poets.org
the manny festations are obious
transitionitory algamgams of penidence
daily dossages of squid librium
skiddandle out of, so which
if I reverse all voicings would I invert
what hangs from what the hanged hang from from them
not what died just pends
gored this bluralism, corped
saranity like an aide-de-compf
what the Wolf once bluesed
to be built at all
rolls, how droll, howdy roll
it’s hippographical, all errer
the flesh is my behavior, I stall in wont
when in come sartorial Dick Swindle slim as a lumberjack
there’re trees out there horizontal as hell
not that anyone’s squeezing anyone
sometimes we hear right through the ol’ ’lisions
gone thorough with pulsions
-- Steve Timm
It was all a game of blouses, bras, and illicit beer.
Seventeen in New Jersey back in ’75
with Bruce singing about muscle cars and motorcycles,
fathers and factories.
This was back when everything was rear-wheel drive,
gasoline at fifty cents a gallon.
Bias-ply tires, not those European radials.
Butterfly windows, high-beam toe switches,
Hood scoops and racing stripes with rear ends jacked up
like cats in heat.
I remember cars with bench seats big as beds,
cars that were half like houses—
brash boats of cars with thirsty carburetors,
the drive train running the length of the car in a visible hump
feeding power to the rear wheels,
rear wheels that rocketed you onward,
a force from behind like the hand of God obedient
to the slightest pressure of your toe on the accelerator.
In the firefly twilight of the dashboard light,
you learned how to undo a bra clasp with one hand,
finagle troublesome zippers on tight jeans,
and then came the long, slow slide of silky underwear
down satin thighs,
the telescoping radio antenna drawing music from the sky
like a lightning rod.
Nowadays, compared to that innocent extravagance,
driving seems a paltry, decaffeinated thing,
inching along in our compact cars,
front wheels digging in like fingernails,
pulling us parsimoniously along as our hybrids
take hummingbird sips of gas.
Still, the revving of a motorcycle
or some old heap with a shot muffler
brings back those days when we cruised the night
each in our personal roaring apocalypse,
our polished chrome rebellion
rolling along so sweetly on mag wheels.
-- Tim Walsh
She is but exhaust in the room
as he grinds one bolt
threads another and
fills the grease-gun
with amber thick stick-to-it-iveness.
With each grunt he creates
friction. In the shop's shaky light,
he squints, stops only for a
soda and a cigarette, fires
an air-gun while her ears shriek.
He fills the house with stains that
preach since she has yet to come to
Soon the sun will beat
through the pane, pour crystals
on the calendar girls he keeps nearby.
She will bleach his fingers
with kisses and talk dirty,
swear she likes it
gritty and extreme.
-- Kathryn Gahl
Appeared in Amarillo Bay, 2014
I will sometimes hear,
a familiar voice,
in wandering crowds,
or see a face,
passing beyond boundaries.
Then call out her name,
and run to catch slender hands,
only to find a startled stranger,
staring back at me.
The mind conjures cruel ghosts,
it fools weary eyes,
into believing once more.
Signs will slowly fade,
in these long empty days,
but love does not falter.
It travels through time and space,
It breaks the bonds of our bodies.
It lingers in sunlit moments,
and bright bird songs.
Wish upon one star,
burning in the falling night.
Search for an answer,
in it's knowing light.
I will always feel,
the lack of this first link
Yet, lifetimes are not lost,
when kept kindled in warm hearts.
-- Wendy Schmidt
Phil Hansotia is a retired physician who moved to Ellison Bay in Door county from Marshfield Wisconsin in 2004. He is a member of the Wallace Poetry Group and an active member of the WFOP and has published widely.
He left noiselessly
Taking his sense of poetry with him.He sat in those words.
.For him, his cup of coffee was a poem.
The unfinished moon and the howl of the coyote, a poem.
A fallen tree and a crow complaining of his presence, a poem.
He drew stick figures and spoke sentences that dangled
and floated like fragments in the wind.
He’d call that a wind poem.
For him, sunsets, old men, ripe apples,
and old typewriters that could speak no more were poems.
He’s gone now.
The last time I saw him, he was in a bed at Scandia.
He did not speak but squeezed my hand. Jude was there.
I left without a word. The next day he died.
I suppose that was a poem too!
-- Phil Hansotia
Enjoy a night of Spoken Word Poetry at Barnes & Noble in Green Bay. Open to all levels and all ages.
Featuring Nathan J. Reid, spoken word poet, actor and singer from Madison, Wisconsin. Nathan will perform his poetry. He will also demo and share his experiences with slam poetry, one of the most vital movements in poetry today. If you’re feeling brave, he’ll help you express yourself. If you’d rather just observe, that’s okay, too. If there's enough interested would-be poets we'll conduct a mini-slam.
Read more about Nathan by going to his website: www.nathanjreid.com.
F.J. Bergmann writes poetry and speculative fiction, often simultaneously, appearing in Black Treacle, The 5-2, North American Review, On Spec, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. Editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change; recent awards include the 2012 Rannu Prize for speculative poetry and the 2013 SFPA Elgin chapbook award.
Between my fourth and fifth ribs is a fistula, an opening,
Fabergé Easter egg window into my heart. Just a moment;
I'll unbutton my shirt . . . . Come closer, and you can peek
into a small sunlit garden surrounded by a clipped hedge,
an intimate landscape with mossy, indistinct ruins
sinking into the curves of undulating lawn. I can't see it,
myself; the mirror is never at quite the right angle.
But my friends and my cardiologist tell me all about it.
They say it is always sunny in there, although there are
clouds on the horizon. Occasionally someone will claim
to see mountains in the distance, and once a child said
he saw the turrets of a tiny city beyond the faraway hills.
No viewer has ever seen a single human or animal
in my heart, not even an insect, although I am told that
there are many flowers, whose faint, delectable perfume
is a rare emanation which I may only be imagining.
The shadows shift, but the phenomenon we call sun
is always behind the onlooker, and never sets. Sometimes
a longer, more angular shadow looms across the grass.
Whatever casts that dark movement remains invisible.
-- F. J. Bergmann
Curse you bloody body barometers,
you muggy magenta skull-caves
where excess cares gather and infect,
form cumulonimbi that threaten
to eject eyeballs like corks.
My head’s become a plumber’s nightmare
of clogged snot, a stoppered bottle
of starving gnat-sized bats shaken awake
from blessed hibernation.
I idly await your postnasal drip,
your icky ochre precipitate,
the divine deliverance of drainage.
-- Bobbie Lovell
Because the institutional wheels
turn only upon doctors’ orders.
Because I could not bear
the six hours till the doctor came by.
Because that foreign presence
in my nose and throat
caused undue suffering,
gripping my voice,
casting out sleep,
and didn’t prevent vomiting.
Because I knew from experience
that I was better now
that this pain was unnecessary.
Because I have learned
to listen to my insides,
I sent the young nurse out
of the room, peeled back the tape,
and slid that sucking snake
up and out.
-- Sarah Gilbert
My best friend stands before me
upright, with a arrogance
that depicts complete independence
and freedom, with an air of
defiance to submission to anyone.
While exchanging glances
I try reading his mind, but
sometimes never realize
how badly I’ve failed
at this game.
The frightening feeling hits me,
that my friend is capable
of reading my mind, with greater
accuracy than I have ever
possessed in reading his.
He can read my emotions,
knowing all my moods, while yet
maintaining his own feelings
Yet, when he is frightened,
immediately he comes to me
when threatened he comes
when lonely he comes
when depressed and rejected
he comes for affection.
This makes me feel prized and
special, giving me a sense of
comfort, a feeling of being
wanted and needed with a special
affection directed to me alone.
We comfort each other.
My friend has evoked all the
natural beauty of my mind,
emotions, and feelings, giving me
the freedom to express them to him,
without any fear of ridicule.
He has freed my emotions from
the prison of inhibition.
No one would ever believe the
depth of personality that lives
within such a feeble structure;
a mere handful of feathers and flesh.
Yet, who is able to share with me,
his sense of warmth, independence,
security, freedom and affection.
Now, I search for people who will
let me share with them
this newly found self.
-- Mark D. Falcone