Category Archives: Poetry

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.  
__________________________________________________________________________________

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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Beatriz F. Fernandez

Genesis, 1880

On March 31, 1880, Wabash, Indiana became the first electrically lit city in the world.

 

Over to Wabash from Anderson we come

to witness the night to end all nights.

The courthouse tower bell strikes eight—

and over the sound of the band playing,

a buzz as if from a blizzard of bees rises

in the evening air—the breeze crackles

and night bursts into a strange new day.

 

Fierce pride dawns, but fear beckons

as grown men moan down to their knees

and lovers flee to newly shrunken shadows.

 

Like a cornered fox whose secret lair’s

sniffed out by hounds, my eyes ricochet

from one sharp angle to another

of this unfamiliar luminous cage.

I break and run—far from the false suns’ glare

down to the river,  only to find

that traitorous serpentine band

capturing traces of the ensorcelled light.

 

In my girlhood days, before the soil began to erode,

that river glowed like molten silver in sunlight—

the Miami people named it Wah-bah-shik-ki, or “white”

and fought our fathers for the riches of its pure bright waters.

 

Some measure of peace returns as I watch its endless flow—

a hundred years from now, others will come to these banks

for the comfort only a river can bestow, and I know

they will praise us for giving chase to the dark forever.

 

And someday, because of tonight,

folk like us will venture between the stars

where only darkness speaks,

their frail, persistent faces shining like beacons

in the sharper shadows cast by alien suns.

 

 

The Lost Colony

Virginia Dare was the first child born to English parents in the Roanoke colony.

 

Lost before I was weaned,

my fate a mystery before I was grown,

I was christened Virginia—

a new name for a child born in a world

new to our blood.

 

Salt sang in my veins,

the motion of the ocean

pulsed in my infant heart,

the August sun of a green world

met my newly opened eyes,

and already in my flute-like throat

a softer accent was being tuned

by this sand, these trees, this wind.

 

From fretful dreams in my carved cradle

I woke to sounds of battle behind flimsy palisade walls.

Bloodtides sprang, receded, but never died,

I tell you, my kind survived.

 

Spread like fire my blood rooted a forest,

birthed a mystery deeper

than any of us could have dreamed—

 

Grandfather, after three years of desperate waiting

you came back for us

to find only a muddy footprint,

one torn word gashed in wood: Croatoan,

code for salvation or accusation,

no way to know, no trail to follow.

 

Search for me no more, my mother’s father,

for I linger here, in the rock beneath the captive soil,

in the mandrake root twisted at the foot of the oak,

in the gaze of the green forest,

the eyes that blink at you through the coming night.

 

 

Maid Joan’s Gethsemane

I never questioned the summoning

when the saints came to me

in my father’s garden—

why else would the good Lord

give me, a maid, this soul

forged in shape of a sword?

 

When I was a girl in Domrémy

dancing around the midsummer’s bonfire,

I once saw a spiderweb catch a spark,

silken threads shriveling in the flames,

the spider paying out her escape line,

but in the end trapped in her own fiery lair—

Something stayed my hand from rescue then,

it seemed a thing meant—

the spark sent, perhaps by You.

 

My God, my country, my king—

to me they were all one thing.

For their sake, I abandoned

my childhood home and hearth

for the fickle shelter of army banners

and took up a standard crowned

with golden angel wings.

 

At the stake, when I looked upon

Your nailed hands curled on the cross,

all I could see were my mother’s pale fingers

at her spinning wheel—churned flax

transfigured into fine linen floss

twisted onto a spindle,

which to my child’s gaze

spun on and on without end.

 

I will never again don a daughter’s gown—

in its stead, a martyr’s skirt of flames

brands my face on the fabric of heaven

forever, and from this night on,

whenever my name is spoken,

the stars will taste of my ashes.

______________________________________________________________

Beatriz F. Fernandez is the author of Shining from a Different Firmament (Finishing Line Press, 2015) which she presented at the Miami Book Fair International last year. She’s a former grand prize winner of the Writer’s Digest Poetry Award and has read her poetry on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR news station. Her poems have appeared in Boston Literary MagazineFalling Star Magazine (2014 Pushcart Nomination), Minerva RisingVerse Wisconsin, and Writer’s Digest, among many others. Contact her at www.beasbooks.blogspot.com or @nebula61.

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Gary Beck

Achilles, On Modern Warfare

I met my enemies

on the battlefield

face to face

and won renown

with my strong spear.

I was brought down

by an arrow

I couldn’t evade.

There is no honor

fighting a foe

who kills you

from far away,

so you never look

into his eyes.

 

Unknown Union Soldier

 The cowardly rebs

won’t stand up and fight

like real men.

They hide behind stone walls

and won’t face us,

shooting us down like dogs

while we’re lined up

in formation

the way real soldiers should.

It’s good we outnumber them,

or else they’d wipe us out

with shots from ambush.

______________________________________________________________

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays (Winter Goose Publishing). Fault Lines, Perceptions, Tremors and Perturbations will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. Conditioned Response (Nazar Look). Resonance (Dreaming Big Publications). His novels include: Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press) Acts of Defiance (Artema Press). Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing). Call to Valor will be published by Gnome on Pigs Productions. His short story collection, A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

 

 

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Sultana Raza

The Silent One

He stares

more silent than the sand

slithering and sliding

around him

through centuries

of polishing particles

from the dawn

of the Desertic Times

gazing steadfast

at the same unique point

on the horizon

even as the universe

dances around him;

but he waits,

with infinitive patience

for the galactic dance

to come full circle,

before he’ll be allowed

to blink just the once or

to give even the hint

of a secret smile.

First published in Beyond Imagination in July 2015

 

Remains of a Princess 

Filled with admiration and fascination

were those that

disturbed the ambitious princess

who was obliged to partake of poison;

refused to divulge her

race’s secrets, giving access to

other dimensions to Roman predators

walking in beauty

does not always lead to resting in peace

for more than a few centuries at a time

as those once under the Romans

came awe-struck to

unearth and remove

the bundle that remained

new, academic warriors

in service to humanity

whose pride made them dig deep

for the corporeal remains

hiding inviolable secrets inside

happy and proud

in the knowledge that

the ancient beauty

lies suspended on a glass plate

blissful in their ignorance

of the real identity of bones

wrapped in mists of

forgery, subterfuge,

hoodwinking all who pass before her

even with unbowed heads,

for mummies do not speak.

A different version first published in Ancient Heart Magazine in 2006.

 

Sun Among Women

History is chock-full of despots male,

That paid writers praised; it’s become stale.

 

Only kings were acclaimed; she chose to defy.

Determined, decisive, she wasn’t shy.

She showed the empire, a woman could rule,

While creating rare pearls in poetry’s pool.

Strategic policies could easily devise,

Sifted hard truth from diplomatic lies.


Her name stamped on coins, phenomena rare,

Her new ideas, emperor would share.

Governing country, played main role,

Built many monuments, gardens for the soul.

 

Ruthless, scheming, ambitious, perchance.

To no one’s tunes, she had to dance.

Hunted and rode, invented perfumes,

Broke tradition, fashioned costumes.

 

Juggled hundred spices, new dishes unrolled,

Sensitive to arts, co-ruler broke the mould.

 

Though hemmed in by decorum, to new heights could rise,

Combined left and right brain, for solutions wise.


Emotional intelligence went a long way,

Empire was stronger, kept enemies at bay.

Faced king’s justice, with equanimity,

Wrote many verses, sad or witty.

 

Architectural gem, for progenitor made,

Emotional foundations of Taj Mahal laid.

Personified excellence metaphorically,

She has no parallel, literally.

 

Defended borders, ‘light of the world,’

In history, though veiled, her voice has been heard.

First published in Ecriture Feminine issue of Muse India in Nov. 2015.

_____________________________________________________________

Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza has an M.A. in English Literature. Her articles have appeared in Flick Feast (UK), Sound on Sight(USA), the Peter Roe Series (Tolkien Society UK), Gnarled OakLe Jeudi, the Wort and paperjam in English and French. 

Sultana Raza’s poems have appeared in Ancient Heart Magazine (Australia), India Currents (USA), London Grip (UK), Literary Gazette(USA), Caduceus (Ed. Yale University, USA), Beyond Bree, (an American MENSA newsletter), the Peter Roe Series, (Tolkien Society UK), The Whirlwind Review (USA), Silver Leaves Journal #5 (Canada), Muse India, and The New Verse News. Recently, more have been published in Catch and Release (Columbia’s online Journal),
 Allegro, and Indiana Voices Journal

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Janet Hatherley

Quake

 

Marcus, from his cradle, haul,

wrap arms around and run

on stone that shakes in enmity.

All I knew as solid, no more sure

than jelly made from quince,

as heaving ground moves sideways 

fitful from my sandaled feet.

 

Waves leap and slosh in mosaic pool

as if in rhythm with the sea

beyond the distant harbour wall.

 

Through yawning seats, then outwards, 

to the ampitheatre’s open space, 

where I, with others, stop – to gape –

at temples I have helped to raise,

soothe my crying son, as columns

crack in clouds of dust and fall,

witness solid Telmessos fall.

 

And in my ears, the roar of gods,

an anger, terrible to hear.

How little we men are.

 

 

After Suleyman the Magnificent:  letter to his wife

 

 My solitude, my one in a palace of many, I rest from life’s demands in your arms

your face, a calm moon soothing stars as it shepherds night skies, you restore me. 

 

My existence, elixir of wisdom, wines deep diffusing, divine drifting heavenwards 

awakening faint stirrings, a new born Spring, rose’s lingering scent, you delight me. 

 

My joy, sweeping my cares away, out with the lamplight, candle igniting the dark

bitter tang of an orange, pomegranate sip, torch to illuminate, you relight me.

 

My life, green rising plant, far beyond wealth, unspoilt and untouched, I reach for you

you’re my saint, my Joseph, sold as a slave to the Khan of old Egypt, you resolve me.

 

My friend, my everything, you are Stambul, Karaman, red dust of Anatolia

Baghdad and Horasan, gold flecked map of my world unfolded, you reframe me.

 

My sunshine, hair copper flames, arch of your eyebrow, when your eye’s full of sorrow

my life’s in your hands, my blood on yours if I die a martyr, non-Muslim, you renew me.

 

My beloved, at your door I will wait, impart on my ships to four corners your praises

my heart aches, it aches, eyes fill with tears, I am Muhibbi, I am happy, you define me.

______________________________________________________________

Janet Hatherley is a teacher from London, England who has recently come back to poetry.  She has attended Clare Pollard’s ‘Ways into Poetry’ class, is now attending Roddy Lumsden’s poetry group and has published in The Lake

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William Carpenter

 

The See of Sherborne, Winter 878

 

Under a leaden breastwork of cloud,
a pair of herdsmen hobbled into Sherborne,
the one bearing a carcass on his shoulders,
the other leaning on an antique spear.

A gang of sailors, drunk with the new wine
of easy triumph, loitered by a doorway
molesting hapless Saxons as they passed,
attracted like a pack of peevish hounds
by any hint of feebleness or fear.

Their rancor towards the Saxons had deep roots.
The early Danish kings, including Offa,[1]
the ancestor of Mercia’s royal house,
fought many a deadly war with Saxon neighbors
and won and lost Saxon and Jutish lands
long years before King Pippin’s younger son
annexed the Saxons to his Roman empire.[2]

An icy snowball struck one herder’s ear.
“Easy,” his fellow urged, “they’d love to pick
a fight, but that won’t help us find the bishop.
Remember how our Lord endured men’s blows.
Take this one and ponder it in your heart.”

A sweating devil stepped astride their path.
“Halt, boys,” he said, “and pay your penny toll.
Ugh, did hunger drive you to slaughter your daughter?
She has her mother’s pretty pointed teeth.”
The mariners guffawed.  King Alfred paid.
“I see she turned to rend you,” said the devil,
examining the monarch’s purple scars.
The sailors laughed again, for they had lived
long years in Christian lands and knew the Scriptures.

The seed of Ingeld grinned and shook his skull,
a trail of slush a-snailing down his chest.
He glanced at Beornwulf’s frost-stiffened burden
and stammered they were headed for the palace,
at which the brigand briskly waved them on.
“But give me this,” he said, seizing the spear.
“You Saxons may no longer carry arms.”

The travelers approached the bishop’s hall
adjoining the cathedral Ini[3] built
in the old Roman style he’d revived
of quarried limestone blocks, with leaded windows
and limestone roofing sealed with lead flashing –
a high-walled grotto open to God’s light.
Within, the king’s two eldest brothers slept,[4]
though Athelred rested his bones at Wimborne,[5]
the abbey built by Cuthburh, Ini’s sister,
where Leoba, Saint Wynfrith’s cousin, trained
before she joined his mission to the heathens.

Fearing to find His Stoutness bound in fetters,
Alfred pounded the door with frozen fist.
“Your grace,” he cried, “your grace, we’ve brought your supper!”
A black-bristled cook unlatched the door,
whom Ingeld’s injured scion recognized
from many a cheerful night with Athelheah,
though Gyrth (his name) saw only grizzled churls,
for Denewulf had mowed the pilgrims’ crowns
and Denehild, with blushing cheeks, had rubbed
ground chalk into their locks and beards.

Noting the dressed barrow Beornwulf bore,
Gyrth said, “Come in, my friends, and thaw your trotters.”
Alfred, wincing, lowered his rump to the hearth,
a scullion brought two wooden cups of ale
(in which the king discerned the fragrant Yeo),
and the cook proffered Beornwulf a penny.
“I dare no more,” he said.  “Our Savior keep
this vanished, yet, we pray, unvanquished head.”
The herdsmen frowned, but Gyrth threw one white thumb
behind him towards the fiend-infested hall.

The monarch curbed his tongue and took the coin,
which showed him in the headdress of a Caesar
goggling at the world with one good eye –
a coin indeed four times more valuable
than anything his brothers ever minted
as struck on unadulterated silver.
He’d based it on King Offa’s Mercian penny,[6]
copied from Charles the Great’s denarius
(whose purity the junior Charles renewed),[7]
which Charles (senior) copied from his father[8] –
a triumph of administration like
the solidus of Constantine the Great.
Some even trace the West Saxon pening
to Alexander’s stater of pure gold –
an oddity of our Lord’s providence
perhaps to be unraveled in reverse,
for little did the Christian Athulfing,[9]
who claimed our common parent for his sire
and labored to preserve his Christian flock,
resemble that well-educated butcher
who undertook to conquer all the world
and dubbed himself son of the Most High God.

“The earl thanks you, sir,” said Gyrth, relieved,
“as I do, for considering my hide.”
The Saxon king met Beornwulf’s cool look
and slid aside to give the scullion room
to singe and depilate the purchased pig.

“May we salute the bishop?” Alfred asked.
“We’re lay brothers up from Muchelney.”

“Poor Burghelm is our bishop now,” said Gyrth.
“The devils mitered the old boy in jest.”

“The other was a sturdy lad,” said Alfred,
turning aside to contemplate the fire.
“I saw him hunting over Blackmoor way” –
the scullion’s scraping ceased – “some years ago.
Does he yet live?  Did he escape our friends?”

“Who, Lord Athelheah?” the cook replied.[10]
A fiend exploded through the inner door
and glared ferociously at Gyrth’s two tramps
before regaining the rambunctious sall.
“I only tell you what we tell the guests,”
Gyrth murmured.  “Our lord’s gone.  To Gaul, I gather.”
His bulging back withdrew.

The scullion spoke.
“Good thing for you the earl governs here.
When Rodulf brought his band from Dorchester
he sacrificed a traveler to Grim.”[11]

Uncertainly, the strangers sipped their ale.
Alfred didn’t distrust Gyrth or the scullion
but feared his scars might mark him, to the fiends,
as one who herded fiercer beasts than swine.
He drained his cup and clambered to his feet,
and grunting a complaint against his bladder,
he sidled out the door.  His fellow followed.

* * * * *

This is a passage from a poem about King Alfred’s struggle with the Danes in 878.   Alfred has been driven out of Chippenham.  After recovering from his wounds in the hall of Denewulf and Beornwulf (two swineherds), he has set out with Beornwulf to find the Bishop of Sherborne, to whom Alfred had sent his wife and children.  They find Sherborne occupied by the Danes and the bishop nowhere to be found.

[1] Saxo Grammaticus, History of the Danes, bks. i-iv, vi.
[2] Charles’s Saxon wars 772-804
[3] K. Ini acc. 688.
[4] K. Athelbald d. 860; K. Athelbert d. 865.
[5] K. Athelred d. 871.
[6] K. Offa d. 796.
[7] Renovatio monetae 864.
[8] Emp. Charles d. 814; K. Charles d. 877 ; K. Pippin d. 768.
[9] I.e., Alfred, son of Athelwulf.
[10] Athelheah, 9th bp. of Sherborne cons. 871.
[11] I.e., Woden.

______________________________________________________________

William Carpenter is a lifelong student of epic poetry who practices law in Minneapolis. He enjoys the medieval weather beside Lake Hiawatha and Minnehaha Creek, where the epic flow abounds. His work has been accepted by Amarillo bay, The Heroic Age, and Sewanee Theological Review.

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Frank Russo

A letter to His Majesty

From the letter of Fray Tomas de Berlanga to King Charles I of Spain

 

The ship sailed with good breeze for seven days,

the currents strong, engulfed us in such a way

that on the tenth of March, we sighted an island;

the life-boat was lowered so the men could go on land

in search of water. They found nothing but seal lions

 

and such tortoises that each could carry a man.

Another day we saw an island larger than the first

with great sierras; and on account of its size

and monstrous shape, we believed there couldn’t fail

to be rivers and fruits. We took three days to reach

 

the island due to the calms. The water on the ship

had given out and we lost a man. The boat finally anchored,

we went on land. Some were charged with digging a well,

others with searching the island for water. From the well

came water saltier than the sea. We resorted to cactus

 

like prickly pears. We ate of them and squeezed them

to draw liquid and drank it like it was rose water.

On Passion Sunday, I had them bring on land the things

needed for saying Mass. The stone altar and processional cross;

the chalice, paten and cruets. After mass was said,

 

I sent them out in twos and threes. The Lord deigned

they should find a hogshead of water in a ravine. In all,

eight pipes were filled; not enough to prevent another man

dying of thirst. From this island we saw two others, one

much larger than them all. On neither of these we set foot.

 

I took the altitude of the sun to find where the islands were:

within degrees of the equator. On this island the same conditions

prevailed as on the first. Sea lions, turtles, tortoises,

iguanas like serpents, and birds so stupid they did not know

how to flee, and many were caught by hand.

 

On the shore were small stones, diamond-like,

others amber-coloured. The island so full of giant stones,

it was as though God had showered them down;

the earth worthless, like slag. Lacking virtue to create

even a little grass; capable only of sprouting cactus.

______________________________________________________________

Frank Russo is a writer based in Sydney, Australia. His collection of poetry In the Museum of Creation was published by Five Islands Press in 2015. His recent writing has appeared in SoutherlyContrappassoTransnational LiteratureCactus HeartpacificREVIEW and in other journals and anthologies in North America and Australia.

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Vanessa Zimmer-Powell

Last Moments Before Stone

After viewing, Sarcophagus Depicting a Battle between Soldiers and Amazons  (140–170 AD), marble,        Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

My sandals know the shore of Propontis Sea,

become hard with the gift of its’ salt,

make ready my feet, my mind, for war.

 

I pace the lip of this sea,

look towards the marble island

where Roman soldiers patrol quarry slaves.

 

My horse feels my heat, my thighs,

the shift of my hips,

my laughter,

as I think of Romans becoming small

below their monuments.

 

At night we take off our helmets,

unburden our hair,

rest the two-bladed ax between our bosoms.

 

We conceive battle in our sleep

just as we birth daughters

and give away sons.

 

On the night of the great moon,

I dream that my body is stone,

that I live without breath, trapped

underneath the feet of war horses.

 

In the morning, I crush red poppies,

release them upon Roman waters.

My voice is the cry of lions.

 

Tomorrow I will raise my crescent shield,

plunge my spear into their commander.

The truth of his lies will be carved

into marble sarcophagus,

 

a monument to his bravery,

and to his fear of the women from the East.

 

Mosquito Net Photos

            

            After viewing Dinh Q. Le’s installation, “Crossing The Farther Shore.”

           *Lines in italics are from the back of a Dinh Q. Le installation photo of a Vietnam war                   survivor

 In the first two days,

 

I drowned in someone else’s photos.

 

We saw many boats, some close and some far. 

 

I sank into the deep that exists in the mind.

 

Often we called for help, but none responded.

 

The yellow nets that catch and filter memory—

 

I am convinced that most of these ships noticed us, 

 

the ocean of us,

 

but were unwilling.

 

Now I search in the mist for light,

 

to take on the responsibility of rescuing us,

 

like the thickest of sea Sargassum, as it floats, survives.

 

Dinner at Shiloh

 

That April, the wild pigs smelled war,

found their dinner under peach blossoms,

ate, and ate, and ate

the carcasses of men.

 

The taste of Rebel, same as Union—

perhaps, a little less fat, fed on rations of hunger.

 

The sound of licking, grunting, rooting;

the tearing of bones, the movement of mud—

and oh so quietly, Tennessee River,

her water flowing South, always escaping,

never escaping this blood.

 

The blossoms kept raining down their pink,

their white.

 

The pigs ate, and ate, and ate.

The church, named for peace,

was a witness to this scene—

how her logs ached, her door creaked open.

 

She was taken by boots, breathed gunpowder,

her thighs were shocked with bullets.

 

When the last piece of meat

was sucked out of the bodies,

the pigs found a place to rest

near the water, near the trees un-torn

by bullets.

 

They slept with filthy bodies in a bed

of yellow, Johnny Jump-Ups,

no worries for freedom, God, or tomorrow.

______________________________________________________________

Vanessa Zimmer-Powell was the winner of a Rick Steve’s Haiku Award, and was a poetry award winner at the 2013 Austin International Poetry Fest. Her work has been published in local and national poetry anthologies and journals. In 2015 her work was accepted for publication in the Avocet Weekly, the Avocet JournalBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewEkphrasis, the Houston Nature Anthology, and the Texas Poetry Calendar.

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Andrea Wyatt

BUFFALO HUNT: 1884

 

The grass to the north of the herd was burned—

the buffalo, surrounded on all sides,

were helpless before the hunters; there were

buffalo lying dead on the prairie

so thick that we could hardly see the ground.

we walked for twenty miles on their white bones—

 

A thousand head evaded the hunters,

Sitting Bull led his band from Standing Rock

to hunt buffalo as they’d always done—

they found the herd midway between Bismarck

& the Black Hills – in two days of hunting

in October, wiped out the last of them –

no hides came off the plains in 1884:

you could smell the stink as far west as the Rockies.

THE BEAGLE SIGHTS LANDFALL

I. Christmas in Tierra del Fuego, 1832

black horizon

rain squalls

land pushing into the sea

mist veiled

dimly outlined by wind and water

anchored in Wigwam Cove

the Beagle sights landfall

on Christmas Eve

 

turns west

sea ominous

wildly blowing gale

 

Darwin writes,

 

“a dreary waving plain

with patches of drifted snow

the ship labored

against the wind.”

 

II. THE LUCAYANS

unless their fists were filled with pearls, the Spanish

wouldn’t let them come up for air

threw them into the sea

pressed their heads down with oars

 

(Columbus marveled at their peaceable

and trusting dispositions)

 

for years,

Portuguese navigators

charted their course

through the Bahamas

by the bodies of Lucayans floating in the water.

______________________________________________________________

Andrea Wyatt was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Silver Spring, MD. She works for the National Park Service and is coeditor of The Brooklyn Reader (Random House/ Harmony).

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Albert Schlaht

Wounded Knee Creek, 1890

his frozen pleas
reach out to the Great Spirit
shattered peace

Moscow, 1581

from a moment of rage
extinguished is Rurik’s Age
the son rises no more

Bosworth, 1485

fallen in combat
his body forgotten through the ages
but not so his deeds

______________________________________________________________

Albert Schlaht, a native of Big Sky Country, resides
in the Rocky Mountains where he enjoys hiking,
fishing, and cool mountain breezes that blow down
the streams, enticing his imagination to flow. He
recieved his B.A. in English from the University of Montana.
His poems have appeared in Copperfield Review,
Shamrock Haiku Journal, My Light Magazine, Scifaikuest,
Prescence, and others.

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Kate Garrett

Anne Bonny walks out to sea

 

The salted air no longer stings my cheeks,

just as a skilled carpenter never splinters wood.

This path pushes out, sanded smooth; I reel along

 

it to the shoreline, away from honest, lawful

men who trade another’s neck for silver. I decide

to chance my own for waves, fitted with a mermaid’s

 

tail – trousers hide my landlegs, curls knotted

behind my back, tucked under my hat. I would swing

before I let Jack down, drown before my debt is settled.

 

If only he brought fire from our bed to steam the water’s

edge. He lacks ambition. But he loves me for the way I hold

a gun, the knife wiped clean of blood on my white shirt.

*Anne Bonny was a female pirate of the early 18th century, known for her fierce and violent nature, especially in comparison with her husband.

 

Calico Jack on the scaffold

 

A man is much more than the fabric

of his breeches, the cut of his coat –

 

when boats give up their haul

without a pistol shot

 

those who gather now to see me hang

cheer on with spite alone, jealous

 

of the everflowing drink, the crossed

swords of my colours. We always

 

had plenty, and I’ve no taste for murder,

but I’ll miss the sugared rum upon my tongue.

*Pirate captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, common-law husband of Anne Bonny, nicknamed for his clothing and known for being a gentlemanly pirate.

 

Shorn

for Gráinne Ní Mháille

 

The gossips claim there’s power

in her long red locks,

 

but she wants to swing a sword

and feel the earth roll away beneath her feet.

 

‘You’ll meet your death, girl,’ her father

says, ‘those waves of hair will catch

 

in the wheel, in the rigging, and break

your sweet pale neck.’ But there’s no fear

 

in her, our saving grace. She pulls the knife

from its place beneath her cloaks,

 

drags it across the plaited red gold

and meets her fate above the coastal

 

rocks as she drops dead scarlet rope

into the sea: she is less of a girl.

 

She will become our Queen.

*Grace O’Malley, the Irish ‘Pirate Queen’ of the 16th century

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Kate Garrett writes poetry and flash fiction, and edits other people’s poetry and flash fiction. She is the founding editor of the folklore, fairytales, and mythology webzine three drops from a cauldron, and a senior editor at Pankhearst. Her work appears here and there, online and in print. She is the author of three small books, and is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. In real life she lives in Sheffield, England with her children, a cat, and a folk-musician-poet, and on the web she lives here: www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk.

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Kathleen Halecki

Water:  An Epic History

 

God moved upon the face of the water,

Separating water from land,

Nun in the sacred pool,

Apsu in the primordial sea,

Khnemu mixes the earth with water for clay

while Atum weeps.

Adam and Eve take their first drink of life

to bathe in the rivers of Eden.

But the wine

has been spilled,

Ziasudra, Utnapishtim, Noah,

listen to what I will tell you,

the seas will rise over the land

to wash away the seed of man.

The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers will overflow,

Great Yu!  Cut thru the mountain

to let the rivers travel to the land

and let the farmers plant their crops.

Spider Grandmother has protected

the righteous from the flood in reeds.

Atlantis has sunk into the ocean depths,

but some have fled east and others west.

Some have found the fountain of Peng Lai,

others have been given water to

quell their thirst

while Siddartha calmly waits.

Water is like virtue,

it flows without seeking.

The wise find pleasure in it.

Rise, Aphrodite, from the ocean’s foam,

King of Ithaca, caught between Scylla

and Charybdis on the voyage home.

Heraclitus says not to step twice in the same river.

Oh, Venus, give birth to Caesar

so that he may cross the Rubicon.

The die has been cast,

Pilate washes his hands

as the side of Christ has been pierced

bringing forth water and blood.

The barbarians have come,

the Romans have fled into the marshes.

The Vikingar have taken to their longships

to see land across a forgotten ocean

where Tlaloc lets it rain

on the pyramids of Lake Texcoco.

Tread lightly,

the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria

have arrived to wash away sin.

On the shores of Gitchee Gumee,

by the shining Big-Sea-Water,

Hiawatha hears the sound of Pilgrim fathers

praying for deliverance on the Mayflower.

In the distance the sound of cannons

covers the silence of the Delaware crossing.

The sun shines in those pans,

they bring riches beyond your dreams

brought from streams down the mountain.

The wheels turn night and day

as black ashes fall like leaves,

the beaver is no longer king.

Behind the walls the water trickles

slowly while on the other side

of the world it has washed over

the land in fury.

Godzilla rises from the depths

to crush the faithless.

The shores have turned into

plastic beaches

the colors of the rainbow.

There is no sound,

But the lapping of penance

back into the primal waters.

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Kathleen Halecki possesses a B.A. and M.A. in history, and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on early modern Scotland. Between teaching history and working in a museum, she feels lucky to be able to share the history of humanity with so many people every day. This is her first foray into history-inspired poetry.

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Robert McNamara

Esto Perpetua: Fra Paolo Sarpi

 

Blood everywhere, the dagger in his ear

so far it lodged in his other cheek,

the surgeon’s pliers pulled it like a tooth

Agnosio stylum Curiae Romanae – 

Fra Paolo Sarpi punned, he knew the stylus/

the style of the Roman Curia. 

 

One of I Giovanni, austere, devout,

he rose in the Servite order, believed

that church authority derives from states.

When Venice tried two priests  for murder, said

the Church must ask permission to build churches

and banished the troublesome Jesuits,

 

Sarpi argued the Venetian case:

the pope was bishop of Rome, his power Peter’s,

no more. Infallible in faith alone.

The city would ignore Rome’s interdict.

 

A modest boy, nicknamed La Sposa.,

he loved the world and so he studied it—

discovering the valves in human veins

that move the blood, how light dilates

the pupils of the eye, and  fathering,

as Galileo said, the telescope.

 

The only thing that frightened him was air,

being of St. Alban’s opinion, that air 

is predatory, especially hurtful when 

the spirits are most employed.  He sat at his desk

fenced in a castle of paper about his chair

and over his head for protection. Twice more

 

the Curia would try to kill him, fail.

Excommunicated, he celebrated

mass as always. His last words were esto 

perpetua—Venice would live on.

 

Photo Finish

 The Horses of Saint Mark, also known as the Triumphal Quadriga.

 

They’re here to say, Time’s up! So goes one reason

in this snaking line of explanations

and a million iPhones measuring them each season,

as if in flight from the final Detonation.

 

Another is rapine, ruthlessness, the agony

of Byzantium rent by soldiers and by coups,

wildfire dropping magnificence to its knees,

Venetians stealing off with what they chose—

 

the horses, icons, caskets, marble shafts.

Less visibly, the bodies of Lucia, Paul

the Martyr, Anastasius, Simeon.

The Holy Shroud, a shinbone of St. Paul,

the Virgin’s hair. The statue now Theodore

on the Piazzetta. And still another version

 

in which barbarous Franks appear, melting down

Byzantium’s pagan gods and monstrances,

gold and silver art in fluid ruin.

They let Venetians curate the arts of Byzance,

 

while they mint coin pay their debt: nine tons

of silver, owed to Venice, on contract for

supplies and ships for thirty thousand men,

supplies and ships for their five thousand horses.

 

For what? The Franks were going on crusade,

were Egypt bound, to sever Saladin’s

supply lines. Venice would open Muslim trade.

But they’d failed to muster all the men and coin

 

they’d promised. Venice let them stew in flies

and the Lido’s heat for nine months while they thought.

Agreed to sail for spoils, lest Venice die.

But Frankish knights were keen to clear the slate

 

so when Alexius Angelus appeared

to raise an army that would wrest throne

of  Byzance from his father’s murderers,

and promised them such fortunes they could earn,

they jumped. Venice was unsure—to harm

their trading partners did their city harm

 

but Frankish debt could bankrupt them. So the boy

Franks thought God’s manna was enthroned. His word

was soon proved meaningless, devalued by

his councils. There was a coup. The boy was dead.

 

Venetians and Franks were ex-communicated

by the Pope for their assault on other Christians.

The celebrated horses were translocated

as an edifying end-of-history lesson.

 

 

The Church of State

in San Zanipolo, also known as San Giovanni e San Paolo, Venice.

It’s Niccolò Orsini, large as life,

the condottiere warhorsed on the wall—

he has defeated the League of Cambrai and looks

down the side aisle, across the nave, to where

St. Catherine’s left foot’s at rest.

His wooden horse ungilded plods ahead

 

to the skin of Marcantonio Bragadin

conquered at Famagusta. Magnanimous,

the model patrician when promised safe surrender.

He died before the skinner reached his waist.

His well-tanned skin was stuffed and mounted for

the Sultan. Diplomacy returned what rests

 

here with 25 doges, admirals, the Bellinis.

God’s grace, they say, we thrive, we’re all for one,

in One, and for that great and good.

 

Outside is Colleoni, armored astride

a surging horse, a skillful violence

in its artful three-point stance, the haggard face

and torque of the man, the horse’s vigilance

and large equine scrotum, the silky coglioni 

dangling there. A Verrocchio commission,

 

the condottiere gave it to the city

on condition that it sit in St. Mark’s Square.

The Scuola Grande is the one San Marco near.

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Robert McNamara has published three books of poetry, and over the last thirty years his poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, most recently in the anthologies The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth Century Elegy (Iowa, 2006) and The Book of Irish-American Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Notre Dame, 2007).  He translated with the author a selection of the poems of the contemporary Bengali poet, Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, published as The Cat Under the Stairs by Eastern Washington University Press in fall of 2008.

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Jackson Hern

Twilight of Miklagard

 

In the golden city where the merchants rule

And Northern exiles softened with plenitude,

Rome’s glories are immolated for Mammon.

 

Gilded enlightenment subverts crown and cross

Where the eagle wavers beneath eastern wind.

 

Stirrings of the world scarcely disturbing sleep

Of city oblivious, all the while…

Men of different purpose knock at the gate.

 

______________________________________________________________

Jackson Hern is an Afghanistan veteran, Emergency Medical Technician, and writer of both minimalist and traditional verse poetry. He splits his time between Southern Rhode Island and his native New Jersey. This is his first historical piece.

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Nilanjana Dey

The City That Was

 

The red sandstone burnt in the scorching heat

Holding memories of the city that was.

Engulfed by vague curiosity and idle hours

The city is no more than a distant spectacle today!

Borne out of pride and power

The city stood witness to the great Mughal

His content consort, The Queen Mother

And other women, who filled his needs and greed.

The abandoned floor chess board

The bygone songs

The empty temples

The faded paintings

The vacant palaces

The dilapidated offices

The looted riches

The melancholy air

The lost love

The unfulfilled dreams

The futile seduction

The hidden tears

The fallen pride

All muddled up

As time smirked its way around!

The tired black dog lay in a corner

Of the once fabulous abode of the Queen Mother.

He looked up as I walked around

Half in pain and half in longing.

Why did I think it was the great Mughal?

Still attached to his city that was!

The basil plant stood

In the centre of the Queen’s Palace

Smiling through the heat.

Her great grandmothers once occupied this seat.

And life has now given her the chance.

She nodded with the hot breeze

Welcoming all.

Standing happily amongst lost grandeur

Singing to herself

Distant from the lost pain

And yet close to the reign

That once ruled the city that was!

The tomb next door stood in its glory

Sparkling in white, exuding grace

Visited by longing mortals.

The kingdom has long been lost

But the faith continues…

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“The City That Was” was previously published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday.

A post-graduate in English Literature, Nilanjana Dey, is a marketing and communication professional based out of Mumbai, India. Her first novel, a children’s tale, The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail, was published last year.

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