Friday, September 8, 2017

Poems I Admire #41

Air Brakes
Michael Istvan

Soon he will climb the steps of the school bus
and be thinking nothing of me. So young,
and hooked to me as he is now, though, even
when my son is mad at me or just moody
that morning, he is sure to take a window seat
where I can see him in profile from the doorstep.
And from under his hiding hoodie his eyes,
barely perceptible through the tint, will cut
toward mine at the lunging hiss of the air brakes.


First appeared in THAT Literary Review

M. A. ISTVAN JR., PhD, whose life is to his poetry what Caravaggio’s life is to his painting, has been a university instructor for a decade. His susceptibility to complete abandon in the classroom, which enables him to confess even deep secrets to his students.

You can also contact the good doctor here...

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Depression and Mind-Altering Drugs


Man-made chemical reactions fire at neurons
like it’s target practice and carnie-calls before falling
into a dunk tank and being swept neatly out of Kansas

to somewhere north of Oz near a dark and Aliceless wonderland.
They climb into bed with you, warm you like bread crumbs leading
to a rusty gas pump where, for pennies on the paper dollar, they fix

the broken window in the hay loft and every chip in every china bowl.
You read books until dreams slip off and the sun goes down deep inside
the wet core of your red and white lace. The sleeping is as good

as sleeping ever gets, but the waking part is hard – it’s oven-roasted
tomatoes under a hard bed of garlic neglect that turns your ease
into rattlesnake fang. There’s a fuzzy buzzing humming in the center

of your whisky-flask brain, now emptied of inebriation and sass.
There’s a buzzing fuzz inside the coke bottle glasses of your bloodshot eyes.
There’s knowing there’s nothing, and there’s knowing no one else knows.


Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Poems I Admire #40

The Velvet Peaches of August
Penelope Schambly Schott

When stars rise over the mountain,
fruit gleams in the half-picked orchard.

As I wait for you among velvet peaches,
I stand in darkness on their bruised flesh.

Sweetness. Sweetness gathers like bees
at the mouth of juice. I meant to want you,

yes, but never this much.


From “May the Generations Die in the Right Order.”

Penelope Scambly Schott’s two new books are Bailing the River, a collection about what can and can’t be done, and Serpent Love: A Mother-Daughter Epic, poems about a difficult period in her relationship with her adult daughter and the daughter’s essay in response. Penelope lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon where she teaches an annual poetry workshop.

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Hatred and a Sister’s Glare

I saw her green eyes glare.
Cindy’s eyes. My little sister. My Irish twin.
Not little now.

Grown and glaring with a glare that hurt
for the hurt it craved. A jaded rage
lush with a need

for gnawing gristle while glaring
the way hatred turns into something matter-like,
an emerald beam of heat and slicing.

She’d assumed that man had died, but
he lived – lacking legs, a working bladder,
memory. Nevertheless, alive.

So she glared at me, her Irish twin,
for being unaware
that this was such bad, bad news.


First appeared in The Main Street Rag

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poems I Admire #39

Dear Mom

My old body shuffles absently
through these cluttered rooms.
I’m older than you when you died.

Owl murmur weaves through
a shaky, dark wind tonight.
There is so much unsaid.

Your muted love was never
enough to fill jagged wounds,
turned now to lovely scars.

I am exiled to a frozen land,
but the winter sun lightens
my scars, rekindles my love

& I am a smiling child again.
This is no convenient copout
& not a classical suppression.

Dear Mom, the sun is afire
like the place I suspect we will
meet up at. I love you still. 


First appeared in San Pedro River Review

Adrian C. Louis grew in northern Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He recently retired as Professor of English at Minnesota State University in Marshall. His most recent book of poems is Random Exorcisms (Pleiades Press, 2016). More info at Adrian-C-Louis.com

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Heat I Have

Watching the crush of a sick yellow foam
from a sandy blanket whose grit we ignore,
we spin inside daytime dreams like the eerie

twirl of twilight as it dares to climb all the way
to the top just to watch us sink. We drift, oblivious

to better names, to warmth, to a history lacking
fables in which we feign regret. We acquiesce, always,
like half-opened parachutes finding their way

to the top of the ocean’s bottom, like tuxedoed escorts
wearing plaster smiles, like the rattling deep inside

that we can never let admit your love of cigarettes –
the taste, the red tip, the red-stained end, the blood-black tar
that sticks me to you and lets you take all the heat I have.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poems I Admire #38


Ceiling Fresco, Andrea Mantegna, 1474


















Camera degli Sposi (The Bridal Chamber)

Afterwards, we lie on the bed,
limbs flung wide, my kirtle, his doppieto
on the floor, tangled with the wedding
silks, our sweaty bodies far apart,

breathing hard, but not in unison.
The ceiling above me is a painted balustrade
around a painted hole, a painted sky
strewn with painted clouds.

It’s like being at the bottom of a well.
Outside, it could be raining—
lightning, thunder, stars darkening,
but in this room the sky is always blue.

What a crowd up there around the edge—
all those merry cherubs, a dark man in a turban,
several women staring, even a bird.
I feel like I should cover up.

The cherubs have fat, creased thighs,
stubby little penises. The man cocks
his head. The bird gazes at the clouds,
as if overtaken by yearning.

Below, on rumpled sheets
of fine-woven linen, I touch his shoulder.
That bird, I ask, is it a pheasant?
He looks, rolls away from me.

Idiota, he says, it’s a peacock.
I want to stroke the soft hair
curling at the back of his neck
but I don’t dare. Instead I look up.

On the balustrade
between two women, is a heavy tub
filled with greenery, balanced
on the very edge.

From her collection entitled Fugitive Pigments (Future Cycle Press)

A Southern Californian through and through, Ruth Bavetta writes at a messy desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals. She is the author of Fugitive Pigments (FutureCycle Press, 2013) Embers on the Stairs (Moontide Press, 2014) and Flour Water Salt (FutureCycle Press 2016.) She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, the smell of the ocean, she hates pretense, fundamentalism and sauerkraut. http://www.ruthbavetta.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

Subtracting Forty-Seven

while reading the obituary page, February 23

Mr. Anderson, 93.
Jackson would be 46,
Alisha would be 76.
The grandkids, unborn
now, grown by then,
won’t miss my phlegmy
coughing, my spots, wrinkles,
nursing home smell.
Maybe those grandkids will love
their Nana Isha enough
to mow the lawn, trim
the tall trees we planted
just last year. It says
Mr. Anderson had a smile
when they found him.

Mr. Gibbs, 53.
Jackson would be six,
young enough to love
a different Daddy.
Would he run to the window
smiling and watch him walk in
from work? Would Alisha
join him there? What if
they’re not smiling?
Son of a bitch!
Mr. Gibbs chose cremation.

Mrs. Morgan, 83.
Church deacon, bridge club,
investment club. In lieu of flowers,
donate to the Humane Society.
Jackson would be 36 -
wife, kids, getting along.
The grands still young enough
to love baking cookies with Alisha.
Mrs. Morgan’s husband died
20-years ago.

Mr. Gregg, 63.
My greatest fear.
Jackson would be 16
and hard on Alisha.
Her weeping
would be all for him.
Mr. Gregg ran marathons.

Andrew, 3.
I was wrong
about my greatest fear.


First appeared in Clear Poetry

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poems I Admire #37

The Glare of the Sun on the Water
Dylan Scott

Mom doesn't afford us a babysitter,
but in the summer she buys
us a pass to O'Connor's Pool.
She is nice. I hold Cody's hand
when we cross Washington and Ninth
and Huntington. He barks 
at the chained-up dogs. 
I tell him it's mean. 

We change, then meet outside
the snackbar and find a place
to put our towels.

The water is warm and alive. 
With your head under, you can hear
the kicking and splashing. 
I can't open my eyes underwater.
It burns. But Cody does, 
and he tells me what the world
looks like from the bottom 
of the pool. He does cannonballs, too.
The water swallows him.

Cody got in a fight with Russel
today. They used to be friends, 
but aren't any more. The lifeguard
sent us home.

Cody didn't bark at the dogs. 
He was nice. I held his hand 
across Huntington and Ninth 
and Washington, and down
the sidewalks.

Irving was home. He was 
smoking, and watching TV. 
Cody tried to tell him what happened,
and I said it wasn't his fault.
It didn't matter.

I snuck in his room that night. 
I whispered that everything would
be fine – that I wouldn't let
Irving or Russel near him, 
that I would watch his
cannonballs, and that we
would split a Coke tomorrow. 
He was quiet, like he
couldn't hear me. 

The next morning 
we couldn't go to the pool.
They said something happened,
but wouldn't tell me what it was.
The lady, Mrs. Caston, said
we had to go. We drove down
Washington, and Ninth, then
Columbia, then Lincoln, then
a whole bunch of streets
I didn't know. I tried to tell her
that the car was big, and there
was room for Cody. She didn't
say much, but I think she 
was nice. I think she wanted
to say something.

The ride was quiet and long.
I thought of the water,
and the anxious hands
breaking the still.


Dylan Scott is my friend and the best poet no one's heard of. Here's hoping a positive response to this poem will encourage him to continue writing and, maybe, throw together a submission every now and again.

Friday, July 7, 2017

One Woman’s Confession

We drank wine stomped wet by the holy feet
of men who knew they’d eventually confess
to your drinking between greedy lips that nibbled

mine red, gently, as my tongue tasted the sharpness
of your teeth. This was more than wanting your breath
to take mine all the way away, collapsing both lungs

like oranges squeezed into juice. My not knowing how
to climb cleanly into the space where young skin sticks
to vinyl covered cushions became a shot across the bow

as we pretended the overly salivated meshing of mouths
on metal was a sensual thing, though leading to lips chapped
dry as the tailpipe fumes the night you taught me everything.

There exists no metaphor hungry enough to overcome
the softness of cliché or the sentimentality of school girls
grown to love the sound of moon rhymes in their freshly pierced

ears – the core of where I heard your smooth lines float like spooks
from early innocence to deepest regrets to near silent echoes
that I later learned may never turn silent at all.

Yes, later learned.
My hair no longer falls easily over my shoulders, warm
as any confession of what really happened that night in that space.

Confession is such a dirty word –
dirty as never letting any other love help me forget.