Category Archives: Poetry

Susan L. Leary

Fraipertuis

 

Scenes like this were common:

planks ready for building but having endured the opposite,

heaps of rubble

heaped as if intentional, life in black

and white.  Everywhere, aisles of human remains:

three and four story buildings,

the walls entirely

blown out,

so all that’s erect is construct and vague ideas of former activity,

for you, that of female souls,

a mother in the center of the living

room, her hair gathered in a handkerchief and knotted

at the nape, bent over a coffee table

about to dust it.

Walking through, you are young

but act like old men, carrying not guns or boots or medical

supplies, but the threat of self-made noise:

hand to pocket,

sole to gravel,

breath to atmosphere,

and later,

at an abandoned starch factory, its makeshift tables in wait of bodies,

the flickering of candlelight.

It is the first night,

but nothing about this is dress up:

no curtain raised, no recognizable transition,

only room made as someone is rushed in,

buttons torn,

flesh reached,

an artery clamped

with immediate improvisation, everyone crouched

knees-over-boots,

heads huddled,

not getting it yet, none of you, how, pushing morphine,

you are to become a prop of comfort,

the kind that

accompanies casualty.

So I’m wondering how,

later, it gets decided—and by later,

the span of a few days: who will wear the wig,

or hold the cane,

what to do with the detective hat,

or the one with, glued to its brim, looks to be a fabric daisy,

the petals exaggerated,

these things, as soon-to-be artifacts of your horseplay,

first noticed

from inside the government-marked box,

seeking exit,

so that among the crates and others boxes

and bags,

piled high, of grain, that box

tilted,

slightly, on its axis,

abandoned during the heavy fire in such a way—sticking out

and settled in,

though separate from the ruins—that guaranteed

your audience.

And yet, penciled on the back,

Company C actors of the 325th Medical Battalion—famous

among the locals,

and flipping it

to you and three others—yourselves

yet costumed,

it disappears, any reason, for you to be in Fraipertuis.

This image, there is no implication of war,

only camaraderie without context:

guffaw, grunt, bellow, the last leaning in, his leg kicked back

for effect,

as if home, grabbing a drink, something funny

just said,

nothing feigned in the ritualistic man-hoot of insider knowledge,

the slap of the counter,

or that quick brute contact,

so as to not pass that threshold where men are no longer themselves

but men.

Then the clang and ricochet of the glass:

cheers before tomorrow,

when midday, you will bring to life Tec Sergeant Seebeck

and Pfc Webb, no script, no devising,

no hunt for substance, only parody—artless

is its material, and to even notice,

artless—

so that out there,

what’s left of the city your stage,

a slab of cobblestone intact,

its people, who, you have only imagined, crawling from their graves

to rejoice in a scene in which you are you

but your comrade,

knowing, for the first time, what it’s like to be known,

without knowing

that you are.

A scene in which you are neither of these people:

not a soldier, not a man who will take his own life

when he returns home.

______________________________________________________________

Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL.  Her recent creative work is forthcoming in After the Pause.

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Gretchen Meixner

Notes on the Death of Henry VIII

He fell so heavily

Our hearts can barely hold

His holy mass, the divinity

Of his mighty flesh.

How does a man cease

When once he commanded

An army and all its wives?

How to silence a mouth

When once it bade our piety,

And the rising of our arms

Such inhumane tragedy!

Pustules leaking, staining

A glorious bed that birthed

Princesses and their brother.

Sour knob of flesh that

Tormented, and influenced

A trusting king to sew

Bright yarns of suspicion,

Threaded cloths of envy.

Pain, such agony to

View an empty crown

Stuck with bristles of hair,

Lightly touching the head

Unable to wrap around

And protect the brain,

How could he hope to

Resist the thrall of courtiers?

Scurrying around his mane,

Sticking needles in his bone.

A defender of faith and

The sanctity of marriage,

So much that he persevered

With those less inclined,

To marry again and again

Four times more with

Almost wives in between

To practice his fidelity on.

Glorious, gone to soon,

Despairing children continue

His massive dynasty,

How shall they know

Their own unstoppable value

Without his paternal instruction?

How shall daughters marry

Without the perfect image of

Body, soul, and enduring faith

To measure their betrothed?

A man of peace,

Painting pictures of war.

His enemies sought to

Bring him into battle

He responded so that

His children would have suitors,

And soldiers could die of

Glorious, gaping wounds

Rather than the merciless sweat.

No one alive shall regret

His rule, the corpulent kingdom.

Tower walls sigh happily

At their constant occupation

All men have employment

Whether it be sorting through

Adorned crosses and icons

Or plucking jewels off hands.

Someone must be paid to

Secure the woman in velvet

Separate her little neck from

Her wispy, gold-stained head.

Remorse is impossible!

Like forgetting the sun.

Sisters grew up humble

Unpolluted by tenderness,

All the better to obey

Their wet, wise prince,

Kept firmly hidden

In the house of glass.

All love runs dry,

By sword or by silence

And all progeny must learn

To deny their inheritance,

All crosses and oaths broken,

All devourers, eventually devoured.

Anne, Elizabeth

Wild to hold,

Easy to cut loose.

This, I learned from you.

To speak passion without provocation,

To form hungry enemies,

These things I must avoid.

Untouched means undigested,

I will not be devoured.

 

You do seem tame,

The mother replies.

And had I not your blood

Drying up in my veins

I would trust your stoic wrath.

But God-sent or God’s divined,

You still come from me,

The shrew, the whore, the

Apple-cheeked lie.

Your fire rages underneath

Your scalp, covered by a

Mane of false ruby.

 

How do we inherit pain?

I tried to spare you,

I tried to die with the

Dignity my crown denied.

But you still carried the blade,

Restlessly on a narrow shoulder.

Ugly men touched you,

Wept their ails upon you

Then lost their wooden heads.

 

How painful is death?

Worse for your heart than mine,

I had but one, daughter to lose

And you had four mothers,

Perhaps your father hurts

More than we could imagine

For the cost of each bride.

 

The daughter frowns at

Her mother’s sad dryness.

How can I love? She asks.

How dare I embellish

One mysterious soul to

Make him my own match?

God’s ordained and untouchable,

I come with a heavy price

No courtier can willingly pay.

What am I but dust,

A contradiction made of gold?

 

Legal, than subdued

Beloved, then reviled.

What fates could have waited

Were they not extinguished

By the aches of kings?

Happier in poverty than

In power, I do not seek

To question my own breath.

We are what we are,

You bones and I bread.

 

A mother wants her daughter

To be a daughter, and not

Only the bride of an island.

My dear, my darling one,

She speaks, how can I

Have lost you so completely?

It is not veins and lungs

That separate our souls

But the decay of decades.

I grew up proud, you ashamed.

The difference has made us

Sad strangers. I am not angry

For your disloyalty, who would

Claim a witch as a sovereign

Much less a mother?

You have been brought up to

Love the wives of your king

Then weep quietly when they die.

Law dictates your fealty

To the man that kills them.

Where would I fit in this story

But underneath the brick,

With all the forgotten?

 

I know their secrets, my love

I know how we all came to be.

A different turn, another line,

We would all be anonymous.

Portraits of unknown women

Holding hands, unknown author.

Look at our simple, tranquil faces.

 

The daughter feels an affront

To her status, to all the rules

She has broken and remade.

Mother, she commands,

Stop repainting our fates.

You want me to be a wife

Not a queen, not a gem.

Where then would our

Fellows and conspirators be?

I know, they condemned you,

But we still must pave their way

To Heaven. Our keepers

But also our flock. How could I

Have abandoned them to the bloody?
It is me, not my sculpture, not my

Skin and eyes, but my own self.,

That they call Gloriana.

 

And that is your own self as well

So no more nostalgia, no more

Desire for unknown timelines.

You died for me to breathe.

I have your picture, kept sacred

In my ring to remind me

How easy it still is to fall.

You are not dust as long as

I reach out my hands and

Purge all the depraved,

Empty hearts of our realm.

 

Our, I say, with conviction,

For we never stop colliding.

I carry you through an armada,

A host of swords and swears,

I bury you, I harbor you,

We speak with one painted mouth.

Whiten my face to make it not

Just mine but a blank template

For you to invade, and blur

The distinction between us.

No endearments left for men,

My heart is too full of memory.

______________________________________________________________

Gretchen Meixner has lived in Providence, RI since 2008. She has a degree in English Literature, but also took as many History classes as possible. She is most interested in World War I and II, as well as the English monarchy. Many of her poems are about these topics and specific historical figures. She has a long commute to work in Boston, which fortunately gives her plenty of time to read.

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Marianne Gambaro

Halifax Elegy

I.

Leviathan cruise ships glide

above salt bleached bones and splintered docks, 

revelers deaf to century-old spectral screams.

 

The Mi’kmaq called it Chebucto – “big harbor” –

so deep that even harsh Maritime winters can’t freeze it.

Perfect for cruise ships

and convoys.

 

Those not preoccupied with bingo and buffets may learn

how during The Great War, The War they promised would End All Wars,

a cowardly captain and crew abandoned

a floating bomb causing

an explosion unlike the world had known.

 

December 6, 1917, 7:30 a.m.: The French munitions ship Mont-Blanc left her anchorage at the mouth of the harbor to join a gathering convoy and collided with the Imo, a Norwegian ship bound for New York to collect relief supplies for Belgium. 

 

Not a pane of glass left intact on either side of the harbor

yet an ocean away from an enemy gun.

 

dead: nearly 2,000

homes destroyed: more than 1,600

homes damaged: 12,000

 

II.

More than 500 miles, nearly a century later

a white spruce towers above the Boston Common. 

 

More than 500 miles, nearly a century ago 

they came by train in less than a winter’s day

among the first to arrive,

among the last to leave.

Nurses and doctors salved burns, bandaged wounds

sawed off limbs and excised eyes.

 

limbs amputated: 25

eyes removed: 250

injured treated: more than 9,000

 

Each Christmas the progeny of the maimed and injured

send a majestic evergreen to Boston to honor those 

who tirelessly did what they could to help.

 

 III.

They’re all gone now.

Until a few years ago you could see them 

in nursing homes around Halifax. Some missing an eye.

Others totally blind never again to see 

storms coming in over the sea

or heron gulls slicing through summer skies

or rampant purple lupine bivouacked on June hillsides.

 

Children, settling into their morning school work,

heard the explosion and ran to windows,

imagining fireworks and festivities. Glass shrapnel 

pierced young corneas shattering hopeful visions.

 

IV.

Aye, the harbor was a sight to see in those days.

Supply ships from all over

and troops waitin’ for warships

to take ‘em across the sea to the front.

Some days it looked as though you could walk across the harbor

on all those boats and never wet you boots.

I tried to warn him, about the Mont-Blanc.

A floatin’ bomb she was, with that cargo – 

 

wet and dry picric acid: 300 tons 

TNT: 200 tons

gun cotton: 10 tons 

benzol: 35 tons 

 

right outside his little railway office.

 

Only a few of us knew her cargo,

top secret war stuff. Damned fool mixture

if you ask me.

 

Coleman, his name was. Vincent Coleman.

Kissed the wife and three bairns when he left that morning,

walked the five blocks to his office like any other day. 

So dapper in his suit and high starched collar, 

perfect pompadour, full mustache. 

No doubt pulled his muffler a little tighter against December.

 

I’d seen him through the window

when I was workin’ around the docks,

always at that telegraph key of his.

His boss left as soon as I told ’em.

Coleman stood up to leave

then turned back to that telegraph key 

thinkin’ about those 300 souls aboard 

Passenger Train No. 10, 

the overnight from Saint John

due in Halifax at 8:55 directly in front of that floatin’ bomb.

 

With those little dots and dashes

he saved ’em all:

Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor 

making for Pier 6 and will explode. 

Guess this will be my last message. 

Good-bye boys.

______________________________________________________________

Marianne Gambaro’s poems have been published in several print and online journals including The Aurorean, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Avocet Journal, Snowy Egret and The Naugatuck River Review. Following a career as a journalist and public relations practitioner for nonprofit organizations, she now writes for the sheer love of the word. She is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society and serves on the editorial board for Silkworm, Florence Poets’ annual journal. She resides in Western Massachusetts with her talented photographer-husband and three feline muses.

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K.V. Martins

The Final Voyage

I

On his knees in the Torre de Belém, he prayed
for King and protection, gave thanks to the Holy Virgin Mary
for the riches she bestowed on a once obscure nobleman
and for the warmth of the bed he shared with his beloved Catarina.

Following familiar stars, he sailed down the Tagus
bound for the spice rich coasts of the Indies,
his nightly companions, unfurled maps of uncharted waters
where magical beasts rumbled and serpents writhed,
and he listened to sailors’ tales of giant birds
who built cliff nests from cinnamon sticks.

He sailed into Cochin port on the hot breath
of a monsoon wind, the dawn air spiked
with the scent of cinnamon and cloves,
his caravel lying low in the murky waters,
belly full of the gold, gems and velvet
he knew tempted greedy Sultans and Kings.
Arab dhows carried glass seals of spices
wrapped tightly in cloth, fear and hatred in the eyes
of fellow merchants as they watched the ship drop anchor.

II

They came down from the misty mountains and plantations
after the rainy season, father and son cinnamon peelers
who sat side-by-side cross-legged,
cutting and curling cinnamon bark
into the fragrant quills so prized by the Europeans
as medicine or to mask the fetid odour of spoiled meat.

They sat under a jackfruit tree, a tea wallah serving them
and licked cake crumbs from moistened fingers,
a coastal breeze carried the foreign words and shouts
of those working in a nearby storehouse
as the quills were dried and readied to join
a cargo of nutmeg, ginger, and peppercorn,
more valuable than the gold, gems and velvet
offered by the pale-skinned trader.

They watched as the sailors staggered ashore
sea legs unsteady on dry land after months
of plying the ragged coastlines and brothels of Africa.
With a cavalier swagger, the preserve of ship captains,
he passed by father and son
and the red and white stone houses of the wealthy,
set in oases of palm groves and purple bougainvillea,
oyster shell windows, shiny and translucent.

He reached the bazaar
where the colors of the world
mingled East with West,
Cathay silk of gossamer thread,
milky sweet pearls from Arabia,
amber beads, carved ivory and bone,
yellow myrrh and duck eggs laid bare,
Indian trinket sellers and African slaves
bathed in a cold sweat under a beating sun.

III

He was aware that the memory was raw,
that the cinnamon peelers were just two of many
who had witnessed his countryman’s ferocity
decades earlier, when Muslim merchants were
hanging from the rigging of Portuguese ships,
burned alive, the cinnamon market for an empire.

For a time, God was on his side as he searched
for a sea-route to India, for Christians and spices.
Returning as Viceroy of India,
his Catarina never far from his mind,
the cool caress of a pearl in his hand,
imagining the soft curves of her back,
the lilt of her voice on a rain-soft morning,
he thought of little else.

IV

Malaria took him on Christmas Eve, his bones lying in wait
at St. Francis Church for the final voyage home from Cochin.
A string of luminous pearls draped his splendid tomb
and the cinnamon peelers went back to their work.

______________________________________________________________

K.V. Martins was born in Sydney, Australia and now lives in New Zealand. She writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories. A keen photographer, inspiration comes from photos and observations whilst walking. With a BA (Hons) in History, her stories and poetry often have historical themes.

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Ami Maxine Irmen

October 8, 1871

Peshtigo, WI

 

We hid in the pond the night that fire fell

from the sky like rain. The smoke

that hung over the water was so thick

the foghorns had been blowing

for three days straight, trying to help

the ships guiding themselves,

even in daylight, by compass and hope.

They claimed it was draught, it spread fast.

It was Father that had the idea

to dunk ourselves into the pond,

knowing we couldn’t outrun it,

that if we walked in

as deep as we could, heads bobbing

above the water, we would be okay.

He told me to put my soaked shawl

over my face to keep my skin from burning,

allowing me to stay above the surface

to breathe. He removed his shirt.

The fire kept falling. It crackled

with the scent of burning leaves

and flesh. I’m not sure

how long we stayed in the pond.

I had waded over to Father

and leaned my head on his shoulder,

drifting in and out of sleep,

shivering all the while.

 

 

Ashes on Window Sills

Oswiecim, Poland, September 1941

 

Mama is cleaning again.

Tata can’t sleep

with the windows closed,

and since the factory

opened, Mama cleans

every day. She plunges

the rag into greying water;

the sound as she wrings

it out reminds me

of a hard rain.

It’s her eyes

I can’t pull myself

from, like mornings

when it is still dark,

when there’s mist,

but it’s difficult to tell

if it hangs in the air

or falls to the Earth

ever so slowly.

When I offer to help,

she swats my hand

away with more force

than she used to.

I never ask Mama

about the factory

because though I am

too young to know,

I am old enough

to know not to ask.

It will be years

before Mama, that same lost

look hanging in her eyes,

will finally sit

me down to explain:

the factory fires

burned so brightly

because they were fueled

by souls.

The ashes of bodies left

behind took to the air

as a last chance of escape,

only to gather

in the corners

of our window sills,

just out of reach

of Mama’s insistent rag.

____________________________________________________________

Ami Maxine Irmen is an introvert, writer, photographer, and teacher. She uses all mediums necessary to explore what it means to be human, to make connections, and to seek truth. She prefers her books to be paper, her music to be vinyl, and her trees to be weeping willows.

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Kate Falvey

On the Hawthorne Road: A Study

“Stand back, my Lord, and let the coffin pass,”

declaims the young Nathaniel on a day over-thick

with lake mist and the thaw from winter’s more

ominous tales. Like that of Samuel Tarbox

and his wife, who froze in a drift by their own

front door, the food for their brood hefted in a block

into a straining gust of hemlock,

Mrs. Sam’s spent, frantic shawl

braced across the outcrop of her

husband’s shoulder blades,

driving up through the massy snow

in brittle black sticks of fringe.

 

The eldest from the huddle of five children

blew and blew a horn, a bone-thin wail needling inside

the wail of the bony winds. Heeded, the children

were scraped like candle wax from their family hearth

and flung this way and that –

near-sheer flakes of malleable shivers —

re-shaped and rekindled in the arms

of morose and kindly strangers.

Nathaniel’s Uncle Richard took

the famished toddler, Betsy,

and Aunt Sue made sure

that springtime rose again.

 

Nathaniel roams the Dingley Brook

to Thomas Pond and sites along the sunrise to the misty

hint of Rattlesnake Mountain. His fowling piece

is more a loaded prop than any sort of tool, something

picturesque to heft, and manly to regard – a memento

from his sea-claimed father, held in trust by Uncle Richard

and provided when the thicker woods of Maine made

weaponry essential. There was still a lurking slink of

panthers peering from the brake

where the brookies clustered in a cove at Panther Pond

and rattlers denning in the crags he liked to hail and climb.

Primeval though the region was, there was a road

that sliced up Quaker Ridge where the new-built meeting house

took clear and reverent stock

of the distant mountains of New Hampshire.

 

 

The Hathornes, distant mountains of his past,

would not have wished godspeed to Quaker neighbors

with any hint of grace or sufferance.

The ancient unmapped woods

could never have been big enough

for peaceful coexistence

and the Quakers would have needs been

shunned, reviled, and rousted.

He could almost hear the rustling

grave clothes of his fathers

in the soughing of the winds

and sense their wizened scorn

in the eye-like chinks of Pulpit Rock

as he swapped his pocket knife

with young Rob Cooke, his comrade

and a Quaker.

 

And the home that Uncle Richard built

with all his wealth and whimsy,

dragging glass from Belgium on a dray

through rutted staging roads

and a clock of rich mahogany, elegant and gilded,

chiming the long tale of its survival through the parlor

every hour. The wall paper from England, the hewn pumpkin pine,

the rays of the iron sun embedded in an arching window,

welcoming the light above the door.

And a library with Shakespeare and with Sydney,

Illyria and Arcadia in the wilds of Raymondtown,

the words illumined by the fir fire crackling

scented shadows through the gloom, poems,

more than just medicinal or diverting,

flung like prayers

to the stilly miles of thick black ash and pine.

 

Uncle Richard takes pains to duplicate the stately

hip-roofed lines of his own unlikely dwelling

when building his sister’s home

on a rise nearby his own. He knows this is a place

where Turkey rugs and silver candelabra

can lend an air of civilized proportion

but not define the limits of a mind,

where wildness stirs and meets its howling match

in children, even girls, and this incandescent boy

who roam and dream unchecked.

 

Nathaniel and his sisters scrabble still

for huckleberries that cluster in shrubs amidst

aged white pine that may have even been mature

when Hawthorne was a boy.

I see them through the misted morning chill,

chasing along the boulders of Sebago’s eastern shore,

Louisa slipping once and clutching her brother’s steadying

hand, and Ebe, the eldest, watching the woods with

a preternatural concentration as if charging the air forever

with her own fleet, unbridled girlhood.

____________________________________________________________

Kate Falvey’s work has been widely published in an eclectic array of journals and anthologies.  The Language of Little Girls, her first full-length collection, was published in summer 2016 by David Robert Books. She also has published two chapbooks. She edits the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is on the board of the Bellevue Literary Review.

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Ann Taylor

Asynchronous                                                                                   

 

Inheriting kingdoms too young, ruling unready

most of Europe, American and Asian colonies,

enduring decades of armor, steeds, banners,

helmets, thrones, victories,

and obsequiousness all around,

 

Charles withdrew to Yuste’s cloister

deep among almond and olive groves,

to a tiny cell with an altar view,

and an orthopedic chair for his exhaustion

and his gout.

 

Someday, when I have leisure, he said, I’m

going to spend time with my clocks.

And so he did – tall clocks, small clocks,

ship-shaped clocks, clocks that measured

the timing of the moon and sun,

traced the wanderings of the planets.

 

His aim was to tinker with toys and tools

and best, to make two clocks strike the same hour

at the same time. They never did.

 

His own time running out,

unable to pace the cloister,

even to stand up, he built a catafalque,

had himself placed in his casket

to witness his own funeral.

 

Well after, death arrived.

 

Revenge

                        Beyond all things is the sea.

Seneca

So his army could pace on obedient waves,

Xerxes strung across the Hellespont

mile-long rope bridges.

But when the sea ripped the ropes to tatters,

the king beheaded the builders,

ordered scourgers to whip, insult

the muddy salty river!

The sea calmed as he lined up

six hundred oared ships and triremes

side by side, a trail of cut timber,

layered it with soil for his floating parade,

then turned his rage on Athens, burned it to ash.

Enthroned on a hilltop to witness

his Salamis triumph, he watched his seamen,

who could not swim, swallowed

by water’s rage, all, again, untethered.

 

At the Moesgard Museum 

Only chapel silence in the bog-dimness,

foot-shuffles, a polite cough.

We crowd on benches ringing

the Grauballe Man’s glass enclosure.

Gently spotlit, he lies stretched out,

off balance, propped on an elbow,

while his smooth hands

and the envelope of his leathery skin

deliver hints of the man he was . . .

Here encased, a victim with plenty of time

to make his case with every witness,

his remains testify to an ancient grievance.

Though he’s two thousand years buried,

it’s all too easy to trace the cruel slice

across his throat, the purposeful gash

from ear-to-ear, suicide impossible.

I feel a contemporary sympathy

as brow ridged, mouth agape, he seems

to mourn his youth cut short, to beg a hearing.

I imagine he’d toss back his thick shock

of red hair, breathe deep. He’d open wide

his encrusted eyes, look about the room,

then swing an elegant finger, like the point

of a compass needle, until it stopped

at his knife-wielding murderer.

He’d force his frozen lips into a smile maybe,

justice so long denied.

____________________________________________________________

Ann Taylor is a Professor of English at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. where she teaches both literature and writing courses. She has written two books on college composition, academic and free-lance essays, and a collection of personal essays, Watching Birds: Reflections on the Wing (Ragged Mountain/McGraw Hill). Her first poetry book, The River Within, won first prize in the 2011 Cathlamet Poetry competition at Ravenna Press. Her recent collection, Bound Each to Each, was published by  Finishing Line Press in 2013.

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Randy Koch

The Garrote

—Diego de Almagro; 8 July 1538; Cuzco, Peru; in the presence of Hernando Pizarro, soldiers, a priest, and the executioner

 

Yes, Hernando, I’m through 

begging. I only regret that trusting you 

and Gonzalo—out of respect for Francisco—

saved you from this. You should live so 

long and come to so sure an end.  

 

The cordillera, too, was long, fatal. 

I saw men die, and even in death they were not still—

collapsing in the cold, drawing into themselves, stiffening, or

swelling in the heat, stomachs, hands, and legs blistering and 

bursting like putrid flowers. How can we rest if 

our bodies cannot keep still?  

 

Take mine to Our Lady of Mercy. Bury me 

whole. Show me that bit of kindness, a last 

sign of respect for one so old as me. Don’t leave 

my head in the sun. I’ll have some peace then. 

 

I thought you were a brother as your 

brother was to me. But I suppose it’s better 

to die in the presence of enemies, of friends

become enemies, than to die alone, where 

words would be the thin babbling 

of the mad, for what good are words 

if they fall on no ears? Better 

they should fall on deaf ears. 

At least then they have a place 

 

to settle until years later they can speak 

for themselves and are finally, 

faintly heard, like a whisper in 

the desert or the wind playing 

the holes of a skull 

like a flute. 

 

I might go on, but no, I’ll be 

still. Now bring the rope.

Diego de Almagro (1475-1538) came to the New World in 1514 and settled in Panama in 1519. He formed a partnership with Francisco Pizarro to explore and conquer the country south of Panama along the Pacific Ocean. During the first two expeditions, they learned of the great wealth of the Inca Empire, and in 1529 Charles V gave Pizarro permission to conquer Peru. By 1533 Almagro and Pizarro completed the conquest of the country, and in 1535 Almagro was named governor of New Toledo, the land south of Pizarro’s grant. 

During 1535-36 he conquered the northern part of what is present-day Chile and then claimed the Incan capital of Cuzco as part of his grant. Pizarro, however, also claimed Cuzco, and when Almagro invaded the city, civil war broke out between the followers of Almagro and those of Francisco Pizarro and his brothers Hernando, Gonzalo, and Juan. In 1538, Almagro’s forces were defeated at the battle of Las Salinas; he was then captured, tried, and sentenced to death. He begged for his life, but when Hernando Pizarro refused to appeal the sentence, Almagro was garroted in prison and publicly beheaded in Cuzco’s square.

 

We Have Said This to You

—Fray Vicente de Valverde; 1541; the island of Puná, off the coast of Ecuador; to the local Indians

 

I am come to account for your ignorance

and to impress on you our sacred doctrine

by the authority of which we go here now 

 

and abroad. We are descended of Adam,

and by the power granted by Christ our 

Lord to Saint Peter, to the Popes, and to 

 

our majesties, you shall vow allegiance 

to them and to the One True Faith. If you 

fail to submit to that which is required, you

 

shall be wholly converted with righteousness 

and sword and fury, the likes of which you

know not but which shall be rained down on

 

you three-fold, unto the end of your days.

Christians, for that which you are about 

to do, I release you! Sant Iago, and on them!

Fray Vicente de Valverde (ca. 1490-1541) was part of the Pizarro expedition that marched into the Andes to the Inca city of Catamarca. He was present when 168 Spaniards took the Emperor Atahualpa captive on 16 November 1532, and eight months later when they executed him (MacQuarrie 133-34). In 1535 the crown appointed Fray Vicente bishop of Peru though it was not made official by Pope Paul III until 1537, and he was considered an enemy of the Almagrists during the civil war. In 1541 he fled Lima and on his way to the Guayaquil estuary was killed by the Indians of the island of Puná (Prescott 1100-01). 

 

Upon the Charge

—Doña Inés de Suárez; ca. 1578; Santiago, Chile; in the presence of her husband Rodrigo de Quiroga

 

You who know all time, who light today with yesterday, 

pity me, and pardon me and those led astray by my iniquities.  

 

Be merciful to the spirit of Don Pedro de Valdivia, who tried

to do that with which he was charged but fell into infidelity

and marauding, to which I was complicit. Consecrate the soul 

of my husband Don Rodrigo de Quiroga, who will follow me

to the grave but will alone be washed in the light of Your Glory. 

 

You who forge all tongues and call us to steel resolve, 

impart Your love on all those bearing arms—both Spaniard and

Indian—who departed during the conquest of this land, all 

for the splendor of Your name and to spread the radiance 

of Your Word across the dark expanses of this primitive place. 

 

Have mercy on me, and forgive my desires—the call

of flesh, the sigh of the sword, the horse’s shudder and

stamp running through me before the charge, the volley of

curses and the heady barrage raining down on the 

standing dead. You know my true feelings, and I can 

 

no more hide them from You than from myself behind 

Sant Iago and Father Marmolejo and from you, Don Rodrigo. 

How can you love me or tend me when you know 

I am lost, heaven barricaded and hurling my past down

on me from the battlements? Though I know what awaits,

 

I can do nothing now, for where it ends it also began—

with the cross and a prayer and charge upon charge.

Inés de Suárez (1507-ca. 1578), the first European woman in Chile, arrived in Peru when she was in her twenties, became the mistress of the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, and joined him on the expedition to Chile in 1540. In September 1541, natives attacked the settlement at Santiago while Valdivia was absent. When the small Spanish force seemed in imminent danger of being overrun by the attackers, Inés de Suárez proposed and assisted with killing the seven caciques the Spaniards held hostage, flinging their heads at the natives, and making one last charge with their horses, which drove the natives off. 

In 1549 Valdivia faced a variety of charges in a trial in Peru, and while he was cleared of the majority of them and named Governor and Captain General of Chile, he was also ordered to end his relationship with Inés de Suárez and send for his wife from Spain (Nauman 92). In late 1549, Doña Inés married Valdivia’s good friend Rodrigo de Quiroga, who was named Governor General of Chile by Philip II in 1573; Inés, consequently, had the title gobernadora and lived in Santiago until her death.

______________________________________________________________

Randy Koch grew up in Minnesota; lived on the border in Laredo, Texas, for ten years; and earned an MFA at the University of Wyoming. His poems, essays, and book reviews have appeared in Passages NorthTexas Observer, LareDos, The Raven ChroniclesRevista InteramericanaJ JournalThe Caribbean Writer, and many others. His chapbook, This Splintered Horse, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011, and his collection of sonnets, Composing Ourselves, was published by Fithian Press in 2002. He currently lives and works in northeast Pennsylvania.

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Lillian King

The Ghosts of Paris

There is a line drawn across the throat

of the boy who walks the streets of Paris,

feet padding jagged stone and packed soil,

his soles caked black with dirt.

If I reached out I could pull on the strands of his voice

and topple his head,

so deep that gash goes.

 

He roams past cracked barrels of spirits

and piles of hay so strong the fumes

overpower the onions and the carrots

laid out in rows to the street.

 

He walks through the Tuileries in the night,

through broken teacups and shattered china,

and the overthrown memories

of a dead king and queen

who wore smiles on their necks

the way the boy does.

 

He holds a roll dangling loose in his hand,

his skinned fingers pound against anything in reach,

wilded by the days trapped without speech

and nothing but burnt lace and tattered shades,

with no one but me for company

and that only when I am in the mood.

 

The trees are soft around him,

trickling gray the way they only do

after a rain that gentles the leaves

and brings the sewer water

rushing around my ankles.

 

Rose petals litter the brown water

that laps at his bruised knees.

I cannot help but remember

the delicate swirls and intimate pink loveseats

arranged under portraits

with frowns and stiff backs to conceal

cramped bloodlines and dead descendants.

 

His gaze is like melted glass,

glazing him to every sight

as dark water rushes

up the peeling wallpaper

of a broken palace,

his eyes seeing none of it.

 

I stand in refuse that laps at my chest,

his carnation hair, matted and tangled,

a horse’s mane,

flowing in the water,

making no move to stop it.

 

The crowds screamed for the blood of the king,

and they had it, for it creates rivulets

in our quick-filling pond.

They wanted the flesh of the Widow Capet,

and it’s here, obscuring the frames on the wall,

draped over the pictures of triumphs in battle.

They tore out the crystal heart of the little prince,

and it pumps this water streaming over us,

a heartbeat felt deep in my chest.

 

The Incorruptible’s guts,

the Marquis’s finger bones,

the Mayor’s throat,

the necks of the rest,

all lusted for by the crowd;

they are around us,

dishonored ghosts,

cherished remnants.

 

The boy finally trembles,

no longer alone.

 

My blue-veined hands

ache to brush his hair, to bring back

the cacophony of childrens’ voice

I knew before the Revolution

but instead a different music swells

and the water rises,

hiding him from view.

 

 

Recipe for a Beloved Spy—

dedicated to John André

Ingredients:

-a convincing smile      – a rich upbringing       – talent with a quill       -a noose

  1. Be born in London. Make sure to be cradled in silk. Make sure to love your parents dearly, especially your mother. It is essential for you to see the countryside from the saddle of a horse, your thin legs poking out comically from the sides as your wide eyes take in the long rows of rural farms and elegant mansions. It is recommended that you go to school in the long shadow of Buckingham Palace; this can be anywhere in the country, if the right people run the institution.
  1. Go to America when you have finished schooling; you will help end their ill-planned Revolution. Find joy in everything you do. Write letters in a confident hand, ready to send back across the sea when you take your first step onto The New World. Never consider that the letters might not make it; never consider anyone less capable than yourself. Look at the vast stretches of land and feel nothing but the sharp sting of mosquitoes. Be too dignified to slap them away.
  1. Cheerily carry out your duties to the British, even though this means sitting in the cold air of the Hudson, carrying out secret meetings with men you do not think your equal. Make sure not to feel the rocking of the boat or the way it makes sickness rise in your throat. Close your eyes and think of your maid’s stained apron, or maybe the look on your sisters’ faces when you come back a hero. Imagine their soft embraces against your crisp uniform.
  1. Be mesmerized by the rocking of the boat. When you are captured, mesmerize them in turn.
  1. Sit in an inn with dry clothes and warm food. Let your shoulders sag. This will be the only weakness you show as long as you do not remember that you are only just thirty. Arnold will get away, but everyone likes you better, and that will matter for something in the history books. Realize that you did not know you want to be in history books. Remember that you did not always want to be a spy. Forget it just as quickly, as it helps little now.
  1. Be witty. Make the Americans laugh. Be artistic. Draw a self-portrait for them to remember you by. Be so charming that they beg anyone who will listen not to kill you. Ignore the rush in your blood whenever this comes up. Ignore the hard eyes of the few who do not give into your skills. Teach a young Frenchman how to stand straighter than he did in the courts of his queen. Teach whatever you can. Learn nothing, for it will not matter. Watch the Americans fail to save you. Smile so much they seem to care more than you do.
  1. Walk proudly to the gallows. Refuse the blindfold. Hang the noose around your own fingers; do not flinch. These are the only honors afforded to men who are killed for sneaking in the night, and you will be known as one of the few to accept them freely, no matter how your insides tremble. Listen to the sobs of the proud military men around you. Let it comfort you, in the same way that the fleet of King George does. At least they will remember. Focus on the Frenchman crying into his epaulets. One of your sisters has hair that color.
  1. I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man.

 

Jay

The man with a bird’s name

goes inside

and doesn’t turn on the lights.

If he did he’d have to look

at every crumpled shirt,

every stain and crack and cobweb.

He leaves the cracked bulb alone.

 

(every night he dreams of the Marquis)

(Lafayette, general at nineteen)

(what was he doing at that age?)

 

The man with a bird’s name

unbuttons his shirt

with shaking fingers.

His heaving chest is drenched

with sweat that seeps through

a stained undershirt.

You’re hot, he tells himself.

You’re a catch.

 

(the Marquis dirtied his hands for two countries)

(gasping for air above a sea of dissonance)

(how can he possibly compare to a man like that?)

 

He knows he’s not a catch.

 

(the Marquis spent over five years in prison)

(scratching letters into paper with a toothpick)

(did the noise wake the rats?)

 

The man with a bird’s name

ignores every call on his phone.

Replacing the Marks on the caller ID

with Ambers,

the Philips

with Brittanys.

In that world

he might do the laundry more.

 

(the Marquis loved General Washington)

(like a father, he cried out at his grave)

(but he doesn’t love men like a father, does he?)

 

The man with a bird’s name

doesn’t need to see

to find what he wants.

Shadows shift like fabric as

thick fingers fumble.

Sliding past history books

to find the long smooth neck

of a bottle.

 

Soon it is hanging in his hand

swinging between loose digits.

His shoulders untense.

 

(sometimes he can’t remember if the Marquis was real)

(despite all his books saying otherwise)

(but then is anything but the Marquis real?)

 

The man with a bird’s name

always forgets to put the blinds down.

The sun sears his eyelids while he sleeps.

He wakes to dancing spots,

his head pounding a steady drum.

He wants someone to stay in bed with him.

He wants someone to stay with him.

He doesn’t know how to ask.

 

(the Marquis died holding a photo of his wife)

(clutching it until the very end)

(is that what he wants?)

______________________________________________________________

Lillian King is a student at Bowling Green State University. She will be published in The Sucarnochee Review and the Packingtown Review, and she recently won third place in the SCCC Creative Writing Award contest. She doubts it will be a surprise to learn that she is studying creative writing and history.

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A. S. Ford

Minors

Carbon-dust, smeared body paint
small, skeletal bodies; pale,
leaning on the pony carts,
            hunched over.
 
Earth crumbles under metal claws
as they listen to the canary’s song
and prepare for the stampede  
if the tune ends. 
 
Wide pupils shrivel to pinpoints
wind stings their throats
as they clamber from the tunnels
into clean, cold air.
 
In 1842 they are allowed to leave
but the damage is done
lungs gnawed, scratched,
            drowned in blood.  
 
 
The Unknown Woman of the Seine
 
You were found in the river …
 
an immortal, sleeping beauty 
who paid a small price.
Now, your plaster cast eyes are shut
beneath a smooth, pale forehead
and sculpted eyebrows.
 
You were pulled from the river …
 
            and the case pleads murder
or some other wrong-doing
but the smile on your
child-like face says:
don’t worry, I was happy.
 
You were missed by the river …
 
Resusci Anne, the most kissed
face in the world, and yet,
breathless you remain.  
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A.S. Ford grew up in a small village within the countryside of Buckinghamshire. Since moving to Cirencester three years ago she has completed a Creative Writing degree at the University of Gloucestershire with two poems published in The Dawntreader and one in the online magazine: I Am Not A Silent Poet. She lives with her fiancé, their pack of dogs, and pet rat.

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