Poetry

Where Panthers Climb Up Pink Ice Walls by Katharyn Howd Machan

Salt by Angelo Letizia

Bees Send Me to Jupiter by Ki Russell

Catalogue of Dragons by Deborah H. Doolittle

Distant Tomorrows by Mike Turner

Omission by Paul Hostovsky

Non-Billable Hours by Dale Cottingham

Ohthere the Astronaut by Eric Fisher Stone

Love by Alinda Dickinson Wasner

Blue Coffin by Andre Le Mont Wilson     Winner of the Featured Work Contest!

 

Where Panthers Climb Up Pink Ice Walls by Katharyn Howd Machan

No one follows. No one tries

to hatchet off their shivering tails,

the frost on their growling tongues.

These walls once were regal buildings

 

in a city where safe people lived.

Ice now, thick and glowing, covers doors

and window ledges, corners where pigeons

cooed and mated, dropped soft shit

 

through slow breeze. The panthers pant

and reach long legs for grip and ballast,

thick rough pads of wide black paws

torn, bleeding, scarring. Wildly

 

they believe in the moon as it calls

their jungle names. Instinctively

they are sure the sky will

let them rise through stars:

 

Earth has cracked upon itself

and all that’s left is cold.

The panthers climb and climb and climb

with eyes like molten gold.

 

 

For three and a half decades Katharyn Howd Machan, picking up where Rod Serling left off, has taught creative writing at Ithaca College in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Her specialty courses, besides in poetry, are Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, Women and Fairy Tales, and first-year seminars called Fairy Tales: The Hero’s Journey. Her poems have appeared in 39 published collections and many magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, most recently A Slow Bottle of Wine (The Comstock Writers, Inc., 2020) and What the Piper Promised (Alexandria Quarterly Press, 2018), both winners in national competitions.

 

Salt by Angelo Letizia

When your atoms have disassembled

and re-formed into a rock

millions of years in the future 

they will still carry the memory  

of what happened 

 

My disassembled atoms, even with no sentience 

reassembled

into star or drop of sweat 

will somehow remember it too

 

And billions of my former atoms

will cry in a dying universe 

 

Death is no respite for me

 

Angelo Letizia lives in Maryland. His work has previously been featured in Bewildering Stories, Tales from the Moonlit Path and other venues. He is currently a professor of education.

 

My Reading Tour of the Galaxy

I have vivid memories of one particular night.
Some green, four-armed monster
suddenly sprang from its seat,
and onto the makeshift stage,
grabbed me by the throat, 
the arms, the waist and ankles,
while exclaiming in a high-pitched 
squeaky voice, “That poem
is about me! You’ve been 
reading my mind, you…you…
you…Earthling!”
 
There are sectors of the galaxy
where poetry is as dangerous
as wrestling quaddas.
I hang my rawest emotions 
out on the quivering line of my voice 
and who knows what kind of creature
can take it to heart,
mistake my confessions
for what they’ve been holding back.

So many times,
I’ve been beaten up,
left for dead after a reading.
That’s why insurance companies
don’t write policies for poets.
Some aliens can’t take 
the rawness of the emotion.
Even a harmless metaphor
sets so many on edge.

I miss those days
when people ignored me
and chattered among themselves.
But that was back on Earth…
a planet of Philistines
I recited to blessed indifference
and my best lines went unpunished.

On The Space Station

 

You leave one life at home,
create another
for this lighthouse in the sky.
Otherwise, the boredom would crush you.

You’re a lantern
blazing between stars.
No home-cooking.
No zoo trips with the kids.
For a guy
cased like a pupal,
keeping a flame burning
has to be enough.

Besides, you volunteered 
to have your cheeks go un-kissed,
your shorts and t-shirts
tucked neatly in a drawer,
that martini in Joey’s Tavern
to be your last for twelve months.

This is space.
You’re a pioneer,
at the forefront of technology.
For tomorrow’s man,
the past is now.

 

An Astronaut in Retirement by John Grey

 
Old age 
is a fleet 
of shiny rockets
taking off 
like quills from a porcupine’s back,
one after another
after another,
shuddering the earth for miles,
almost toppling the plaque
from your wall.
 
Ah, yes, the plaque, 
signed by a president 
long dead.
You even 
shake his dead hand
in that photo 
on the mantel.
You stand so proud 
in that blue and gray uniform.
Of course, astronauts
all wear green these days.
Your helmet 
hangs from your other hand.
It’s five generations
of headgear old.

Old age
is a porch 
from where you watch
that silver armada
through thick glasses
and macular degeneration. 
It’s wishing 
you were strapped into one of them,
on route to the stars.

Ah yes, the stars.
Light long dead
but not as dead
as that pen-wielding president.

 


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest book, “Leaves On Pages” is available through Amazon.

 
 
 

Bees Send Me to Jupiter by Ki Russell

Bees thrum pear petals &
wings create a current
across my skin that slips
along the fine hairs of my arms, 
neck, & into the pores. Wind
channels into me
until I inflate & my liquid
retreats, bones disintegrate
& dust sifts away from the edges
of my cyclone self. The bees angle
their wings & fan my essence past
the branches, between leaves
around the edges of blooms.
A final harmonic shove shoots
me through the atmosphere,
drifts me onto a solar
tide that floats my squall
all the way out to blend
into the red swirl of cloud
that could swallow the world
where I began as a breath
exhaled into dust. Here my
storms are embraced. 

Ki Russell is author of the hybrid genre novel The Wolf at the Door (Ars Omnia Publishing, 2014), the poetry collection Antler Woman Responds (Paladin Contemporaries, 2014) and the chapbook How to Become Baba Yaga (Medulla Publishing, 2011). She is a peer reviewer for the online literary journal Whale Road Review. She teaches writing and literature at Blue Mountain Community College.

 

Catalogue of Dragons by Deborah H. Doolittle

The Chinese dragon undulating

along the palace wall is a wyrm,

not to be mistaken for a snake.  

Its emerald scales, lapis lazuli

 

fins bring good fortune, excessive luck

to those who live within the confines

of its jaws and claws. A law onto its own,

like the Great Wall draped along the peaks

 

and valleys a taxi-ride from Beijing,

resting, they say, so do not wake it.   

The Danes, the Swedes, the old folk lament

Where have all the wyverns gone? Long time

 

since one had lurked behind the fog of

war. Others miss the diminutive 

cockatrice that pranced on the window

ledge ignored by the inhabitants who snored

 

as it roared and roared and roared. St. George

and his descendants still look out for 

the tell-tale drift of sulfurous smoke

and itch that long accompanied 

 

his arch-nemesis, dragon. Not to 

be taken for a drake, which wandered

the earth on four legs like a bristling 

wolf, sometimes with three heads, or disguised 

 

as my ex-boyfriend. Kirin are cute,

like ponies. Faes, what can I say, flit

away before you can really get to 

see them. Lind wurms look like gigantic 

 

salamanders, but could change colors

in their own reptilian kind of way.

As for the legless, great-winged monstrous

amphithere, I’d rather see than be one.        

Deborah H. Doolittle has lived in lots of different places, including six years in Virginia, but now calls North Carolina home. She has an MA in Women’s Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches at Coastal Carolina Community College. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she is the author of Floribunda (Main Street Rag) and three chapbooks, No Crazy Notions (Birch Brook Press), That Echo (Longleaf Press), and Bogbound (forthcoming from Orchard Street Press) Some of her poems have recently appeared (or will soon appear) in Comstock Review, Evening Street Review, Pinyon Review, Rattle, Ravensperch, Slant, The Stand, and in audio format on The Writer’s Almanac.  She shares a home with her husband, four housecats, and a backyard full of birds.

 

Distant Tomorrows by Mike Turner

We have taken our first tentative steps
Out from here
Into the trackless regions
Of the unknown

Set foot briefly
On a cold, barren rock
Planting flags, not of conquest
But marking our exploration

Now, the heavens open before us
And we dream of new reaches
Stars and systems and planets
Containing fellow inhabitants of this existence

We plan our future travels
Mars, Venus, Saturn and beyond
Searching to expand the library
Comprised of our combined knowledge and experience

And thus we will go
Not today, but soon
Continuing onward
Traveling into distant tomorrows 

 


Mike Turner is a songwriter and poet living on the U.S. Gulf Coast. He was a featured presenter at the 2020 Monroeville (AL) Literary Festival. Mike’s poems have been published in numerous print and on-line journals including Spillwords Press, GreyThoughts, Sci-Fi Lampoon and Red Planet magazine.

 

Object Lesson 

And what if everything, 

everything

I have ever wanted

or will ever want

is exactly like

this little wooden toy

that I’d forgotten all about 

until now, finding it in a box

of my childhood things

that I’m getting rid of because 

I don’t want them anymore--

this little puppet made of 

wires, wood and cloth

with its round head

and innocent, kissable face

that I wanted so badly, needed 

so terribly that I threw a fit 

outside the store

and my mother couldn’t 

console me, and my father

turned and walked away

from all that foolishness,

all that carrying on,

this little wooden thing 

that has found its way back 

into my hands now,

so that I hold it up to the light

as if only dimly recognizing

the object of my desire, 

smiling to remember it

and shaking my head 

the way my father did 

when he turned away 

from all that foolishness, 

all that heartbreak.

Omission by Paul Hostovsky

 

What I didn’t tell you about

was the forgotten

long-expired bag of lettuce

all the way in the back

looking bloodshot, 

asphyxiated, 

tragic as a traffic 

accident under plastic,

that I came across 

in search of the Lombardy 

olives and goat cheese--

how, making a face,

I gingerly extracted 

the sodden, severed, 

sealed heads of Romaine 

from behind the chilling 

horizontal bottle of Chardonnay,

tossed them into the bin

with a dead-sounding thud, 

then washed my hands of them

and returned for the wine 

and cheese and olives, 

and served them up to you without 

a word of what I’d seen.

Paul Hostovsky's latest book is DEAF & BLIND (Main Street Rag, 2020). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize. Website: paulhostovsky.com

 
 

Non-Billable Hours by Dale Cottingham


                I’ve been too much like Macbeth, my
                private turmoil not so private.
                Weary surprise with her sister thorny rue
                raise their hair suite balloons. From the furthest reaches
                the stream gathers itself, hesitates in the sluices,
                then just goes.

                            Hence,
                I ask: why can’t my helix let up on me
                and let me take the easy way, the one that’s given, that
                runs with, not against, the wind?
                But that’s not what I’ve known. Even now,
                4 A.M. I’m parsing words others throw
                like rotted fruit in the variety show.
                It seems I always have a debt to pay
                just like in the hotel: I’m not passed over,
                the concierge slides my bill under the door.

                And with a gust front expected tonight, tell me
                what blank journal page will it take to ride this out 
                so I can attain a new manner of speaking,
                add to the canon a line or two?

                Later, in the dusk, it’s the phone.
                She wants me to come over.
                My evening’s looking up.
                There’ll be soup and negotiations,
                some dead air that’s waded in, even smiles.
                With no transcript in our non-billable hours,
                it will make history even so. During the night
                leaves will bunch along fences, trees
                will endure to reckon with another day.
                We say we like it here but we’re not sure why.

 

Ohthere the Astronaut by Eric Fisher Stone

Walrus in Old English is horshwæl.

Ohthere journeyed to Norway’s north coast

in King Alfred’s time and found horsey whales

pulsing on beaches like blubbery grubs

tusked with moonlight, chonky balloons

chomping fish-heads. Ohthere

did not discover walruses, the Sami

named them, and before people,

laughing gannets and polar bears

found these tender boats of fat

loafing seaward. One day space aliens

may “discover” us, a tentacled Ohthere

from the glittering celestial vacuum,

a purple squid in helmed in a spacesuit.

Is he a god, devil, or envoy?

Will Ohthere’s kind colonize the world

or offer friendship? Earth’s blueberry

is ripe for picking and plunder.

Beaches bright with seawood beckon

intimate as flesh, stranger than angels,

shimmering curlews calling home.

Eric Fisher Stone is a poet from Fort Worth, Texas where he now lives. He received his MFA in creative writing and the environment from Iowa State University. His first full length poetry collection, “The Providence of Grass” was published by Chatter House Press in 2018. His second book of poems, Animal Joy is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2021.

 

Love by Alinda Dickinson Wasner

That summer you were two
We sat on the bluff
Watching the comets
Fall from the sky
Onto the blanket of field and lake
That stretched out before us;
And while the other children
Walked on water
Following the moon’s path
To the far horizon
And back,
We filled our pockets to bursting
With stars upon stars
Enough for a thousand years of dreaming;
And while I told you little stories
About the faeries and constellations,
You fell asleep in my arms
So that I knew then that even when
You outgrew me—
Which of course you did all too soon—
I could still every so often
Always slip a star under your pillow
When you least expected
So that when the day
We both secretly dreaded
Finally arrived
You might find a remaining few
Embers
Hidden among my prized possessions—
Enough that you might always awake
Still smiling
Up at the sky.

 

Blue Coffin by Andre Le Mont Wilson

You first notice the absence 

of the scent of pine needles 

in the forest—

no minty memories of Christmases 

spent searching the woods for a tree. 

 

You next notice the absence 

of the songs of birds 

in the forest— 

just the crackle and crunch of needles 

and branches beneath your feet. 

 

You then notice the presence 

of dead pines 

as far as the eye can see, 

along ridges and slopes and valleys, 

every evergreen now everbrown. 

 

Sweat trickles down your neck 

on this winter day, 

and you wonder what wood tastes like 

for the bark beetles, 

which felled the forests from Canada to Mexico. 

 

Your arms and body vibrate 

as your saw cuts an infected tree. 

Back at your shop, 

you sand, you polish, you run your fingers 

over surfaces stained blue by the beetles’ fungus, 

 

And you think of the dead trees 

to be recycled this way; 

and of the customers on this planet; 

and you wonder if anyone will be left 

to build you a blue coffin.

Andre Le Mont Wilson (he/him) was born the son of African American poets in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in The Sun Magazine, Rattle, and 

sPARKLE & bLINK. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He teaches storytelling to adults with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay Area.