Saturday, September 24, 2016

Poems I Admire #21

Serving Time
Peter Murphy

I was raised by a wing of dragons bearing the habits
of religious sisters who smacked me when my mouth
was smart and again when it was slow to learn.

They force-fed me sweet potatoes scrambled with lard
to fatten me up, for what oven I was never sure.
I stowed myself in the belly of a coffin ship

that floated by each solstice and again when the night
and the day were the same. It drifted to an island
where the sun rises above the waves and rarely sets.

O, how I long to serve myself a slice of the syrupy evening,
to handle decoys from the permanent collection and examine
the scribbling of longitude lunatics long dead.

Instead I work the gravy shift where none of the plates
are special or blue and each diner is a narcissist with a n appetite.
At this table an ensemble of latex artists.

At this table a banker and his pen.
At this table breakout leaders from a convention of choirs
where each delegate sings only the songs of himself.

First appeared in Off the Coast

Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and five poetry chapbooks, Thorough & Efficient, Mr. Nobody, previously published, and The Last Pub on Earth, I Thought I Was Going to be Okay. Atlantic City Lives is forthcoming in 2016. His unique writing assignments have been collected in Challenges for the Delusional. In addition to receiving six poetry writing fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, he has received awards and fellowships from The Folger Shakespeare Library, The National Endowment for the Humanities, Yaddo and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. He has been an educational advisor to Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers and other PBS poetry programs. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University which offers programs for poets, writers and teachers in the U.S. and abroad.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Let Me Tell You What I Know

About the way a razor
slides through an entire day
of silent growing up. About
orange peels and applesauce.
Let me tell you about leaving
and being left alone one summer
while the grass was still green
and the apricots just ripe.
About missing and never being
missed. Let me tell you about
the sound of my first son’s
first wails and the way his
breaths became my breaths.
About all the ways distance
becomes permanent as memory.
Let me tell you what I know
about loss and worn out sneakers
and going to work in the dark.

First appeared in San Pedro River Review - Fall 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poems I Admire #20

The Helpful Man
Susan Rooke

One spring day he mounted your porch steps,
rang your doorbell, and as I surmise it,
backed down a step or two to seem less
threatening. We know he pointed out

the tree on your front lawn that had fallen
to its side, a tumble of gaunt ruin. Much
the way you would have appeared to the man
through the grimed mesh of your screen door.

So helpful, the man was, offering to cut the old
tree up and haul it off, a job he would accomplish
easily, for a modest sum. You would pay him half
at once, he explained, the other half the next day

when he came back to remove the tree. So very
helpful was the man that you agreed, writing
him a check, filling in the lines by long habit.
As a young woman you had to been a bank teller.

In age, you had forgotten how to use a telephone,
when to bathe and eat, forgotten you had owned
a car once the keys were taken from your purse.
But you remembered how to write a check.

As promised, the helpful man returned the next day,
not the sort to shirk his word. From within
the muddy shallows of your eyes you gazed
at him as he pointed out the fallen tree

on your front lawn, explained his helpful plan
to cut it up and haul it off if you would pay him
half that day. And so you did, and did, and did –
for days you did, the tree untouched – until

one of your sons caught the man in the act of being
helpful, which helped us know what we must do
with you, your house, and all your things, fallen:
first the cutting, and then the hauling off.

First appeared in Naugatuck RiverReview

Susan Rooke’s poems have appeared in such print and online publications as San Pedro River Review, Concho River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Melancholy Hyperbole, Kentucky Review, A Year of Being Here, Folio, Naugatuck River Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and the anthologies Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press 2016), Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems (ed. Jonas Zdanys, Lamar University Press 2015) and Grit, Gravity and Grace: New Poems about Medicine and Healthcare (ed. Rhonda L. Soricelli, M.D. and Jack Coulehan, M.D., M.P.H.; College of Physicians of Philadelphia 2015). She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, once for Best of the Net, and for the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award. She lives in the country outside of Thorndale, Texas. Find out more (and read her blog) at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Saturday, September 3, 2016

As She Nurses Her Youngest Son

Wooden blocks, all A-B-C’ed, clutter
the living room floor alongside a scattered
library of thin cardboard books. Rain thumps

on the canvas awning and runs like rivers
into a hundred tiny Niagaras that splash
the nearness of summer’s end. The house

is growing dark and she begins to fret
about dinner, the sink full of dishes, her need
for a nap of her own. The baby is sleeping,

lightly latched, one hand on her soft white breast.
She breathes the sweetness of rain on freshly cut grass.
Everything is gray and, somehow, feels like tomorrow.

First appeared in The Blotter - July 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Poems I Admire #19

On a Wet Weekend

we haul out the board games,
playing with our ten-year-old
grandson, showing a fourth
grade Capitalist how
he should manage his money.

I sit across and watch him,
a youth with innate avarice
become a Wall Street titan,
a cutthroat, ruthless landlord,
a blond Scrooge collecting
rent, fees, taxes and penalties
in a simulated life adventure,
the game called Monopoly.

Time passes in the kitchen,
hours meld into another day,
it’s marathon Monopoly
as he acquires both utilities,
buys railroads, Boardwalk,
invests in pricey Park Place,
builds houses and hotels,
a bona fide Capitalist,
a younger Donald Trump.

Landing on Park Place often,
I mortgage all, go belly-up.
Being railroaded into poverty,
content with a go-to-jail card,
I sneer at the gloating winner,
skipping around the table,
clutching his money overhead.

First published in Verse Wisconsin

John L. Campbell hasbeen practicing poetry since his retirement as a manufacturers' rep in 1995. Once a week he facilitates a writing group of seniors at the Brookfield Senior Center.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Willamette

There is a spirit here
along the banks of this sluggish
gray river, a frigid thing that floats
like fog and weeps like an eye staring
from the middle of the back of your head.

He curls his bony finger
and summons you to take his place
among the somber contemplations that haunt
these gray afternoons with moans that seep
into the mist like the sick sweet smell of decay.

This spirit is tired
of watching mumbling faces stare
at the ground in furrow-browed conversations
that walk from here to there and always, always,
always all the way back again.

First appeared in Avatar Review - Issue 18

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Poems I Admire #18

Empty Cars

You walk into the kitchen shaking the February cold
from your coat flecks of snow melt in your hair.

I stir a pot of sauce, its stream carries past Sunday
dinners at my parents’, kids playing Go Fish

in the family room. You lean against the island
and cross your arms. I am slicing cloves of garlic

when you say that empty cars, dark and idle,
in the driveway, make you sad sometimes.

I stop chopping and for the first time since the boys left,
I see you, really know you. I no longer question

what keeps a marriage together through years of northern
winters, no sun, only grey clouds, slick ice –

what moves people past the fringe into longing again.

“Empty Cars” appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of San Pedro River Review and is included in the collection, Take Something When You Go, COPYRIGHT © 2016 by Dawn Leas. Excerpt appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing.

Dawn Leas's work has appeared in Literary Mama, Southern Women's Review, San Pedro River Review, The Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. Her first full-length collection, Take Something When You Go was released by Winter Goose Publishing in April 2016. Her chapbook, I Know When to Keep Quiet, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010) and is available in print and Kindle versions. A collection of her poems can be found in Everyday Escape Poems, an anthology released by SwanDive Publishing (2014). Her work won an honorable mention in the 2005 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the assistant to the president at Wilkes University and a contributing editor at Poets' Quarterly and TheThePoetry.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fragments of Dad

Thumbs tucked into denim pockets.
Cigarette dangling between fingers.
Thinking James Dean looked like

Green tinted lenses.
Throwing-up a blue-and-yellow pill
I got spanked for swallowing.
Nasal of Bob Dylan. Sitar of Sgt. Pepper.

Grunion hunting in the dark
on Newport beach. Fishing off the pier.
Chocolate covered frozen bananas.
Abba Zabbas. Zig-Zags.

Police at the house.
Mom crying. Me trying
to convince him
Jesus loves us.

Little sister Cindy
running and jumping
into his arms,
legs tight around his waist.
Refusing to let go.

Watching him hang-up
on Mom that one time
at Grandma Rose’s house.
Hoping for more visitation.

Steering the Bug in the desert
to his goofiest laugh.
Calling my step-dad
to his face. My face,

at eight,
as I walked past the mirror
that time he left
when I thought he would stay –
it was red and wet
and didn’t look like me.

First appeared in Yellow Chair Review - Issue 7