Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poems I Admire #17


As I stand in front of this painting
which seems more a witch’s world
than mine, and I like it
all the more for it’s bizarre
and blissful, I feel a tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me,” a woman says who I wouldn’t
describe as simply beautiful, but
bountiful too in a way where she corners
all my complex “b” adjectives,
“are you Gustave Bachman, by
chance, the famous poet?”

I wither a little on the inside,
but suddenly recall what must’ve been
my inner Yogi Berra: “You are who
you are unless you’re not.”
I take one last glance at this blaze of yellow
and wonder if there’s a color for serendipity.

First appeared in Off the Coast

Jefferson Navicky’s writing has appeared in filling Station, The CafĂ© Review, Crossborder, Hobart, and Smokelong Quarterly. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College, and lives in Freeport, Maine with his wife.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

On Ground Beef and Certainty

They’re delicious with onions
mixed in and ketchup baked
onto the top. Of course, killing
is required, but we don’t mind –
we don’t do the killing. We hire
that out. Well, we lack equipment
and space for draining the blood.
Besides, our stomachs easily quease.
We also pay others to do the grinding.
For a very fair price, they churn
the once live flesh into a thick goo
of squishable ooze easily molded
into a variety of delightful shapes
that look nothing like anything
that ever once breathed. We often
choose to make ours resemble a loaf
of life’s best bread. Then we bake it,
drain it, slice it, feed it to our children –
force them to eat all they are served.

First published in Avatar Review - Issue 18

Friday, July 22, 2016


We hold onto our stiff upper lips
the way Daddy does turkey legs
before the sobbing and the sucking

of hysterical air. We look like two
half-peeled bananas, soft and melted
as ice cream floating in flat root beer.

The bottoms of our church shoes grind
gummy against the sun-beat blacktop.
Melancholy is the only thing capable

of sloughing the rage off our faces
and down into the box with Mommy.
We bellow an odd sort of weeping, silver

as Daddy’s fillings, and ask him why
we have to be here listening to cabbies
cursing, passing us mercilessly, needing

a home cooked meal, like one of Mommy’s.
I want in the box, too, but you hold me back.

These days we hang from ledges
and slip on the grill, let the smoke
soak in, drink our beer bottles dry,

watch baby birds grow hungry, let
the long yellow mush turn brown.
We feast on canned sardines over

saltine crackers, crush old hymnals
like spent cigarette butts, sneer
at the future through the wavy

asphalt blur of heat, and stare.
The emotion we deny is dread.
It’s dexterous as a barber-assassin

and cools stagnation into a softness
as rare as Daddy’s fully opened arms.
All his teeth were sharp as a bee sting,

were good for fighting over directions,
rights of way, manners, and the best way
to cuss. We could have used a few biscuits

with butter and some stewed red meat. Thanks,
brother. You saved me from the me I will never be.

My legs flail like laundry in a wind
that enters lungs like the first deep
breath after serving time. Tipping

them straight and seeing the sun
through thick amber glass, I eat
a dozen corn meal muffins, brown

as Mommy’s coffin. Old memories
are a fishing line gliding into dark
I only know by tears and guilt as hot

as a smoldering and burnt-out brother.
The transparency of never seeing far
enough ahead and eyes that water

all the damn time smothers reason
like too many pillows. Mosquitoes
understand how hugs around necks

turn red and swollen into an infection
of rest in peace, brother that follows
never losing or choking on heavy pride.

There’s gravy in my beard. It’s heavily
peppered and meatless like the hot meals
you used to make me and the stuffed

mouthfuls of conversation that became
the reasons I never knew being alone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Despair and No Way Out

Silver roots as pale as unclogged arteries
dig deep inside her cold flaky scalp and accent

motherhood’s worn face, worn hips, and worn-
out father buried somewhere along the long time ago.

Her squints creak like heavy decades of swinging
the A-B-C’s of hope: a hard-scrabbled scribble

memorized inside the sounds of sharp consonants
tongued between hoe and back and a stooped-over life.

There’s no way to wash off a despair as long as no way out.
Stiff and rusted as pioneer-hope, she just keeps blasting

another ramble, imagining it’s always sooner or later loss
and a failure to feel what’s different between them. It tastes

like somebody’s else’s last-ever kiss; it’s crazy, weepy,
vengeful as a need left out to dry and turn into never enough

time for the kind of love children crave. Once upon a time,
her lovers could run through her like drunken bachelors,

their stories all weather-beaten lies, translucent as folklore –
still, the names they cooed, her soft skin, the too blue sky.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Allness of Everything

It seeps deep into where it cannot flee –
like fire, the heat of loins, or an infatuation
blooming red as adolescence. It’s a thesaurus

of beautiful things that lodge the lozenge inside
our gasping for breath. It’s the sick intention
of every memory and is whiter than waking up blind.

It’s an especially fragile bubble the color of secrets.
It desires the dust of thirsty ground that soaks up love
the way children leap. It is the warmth of all things yellow

and always waits for someone else to adjust the thermostat.
It is softer than the way wind cools skin. The allness of everything
close to death, the shrill misery that, in time, becomes reason,

never really letting go, and the pleading for just one more
goodbye hug are each found inside the way it unfolds
all the way back to flat.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Poems I Admire #16

Let there always be
Ruth Bavetta

the bright juice of oranges,
sun on the kitchen tiles,
a small nonessential bird
unraveling morning,

silvery snail trails, blue iris,
the gopher, the palm tree, the goat
that found its way into the house,

pigeons stitched onto telephone wires,
the clear sound of the sea,
a time when everyone is away,
a plate of milk, a tin of strawberry jam.

But never again the empty house,
never again the open gate,
the algae drowning
the abandoned pool,

the man by the edge
beginning the dirge.
The still water. The small
blue shoe.

First appeared in Antiphon

Ruth Bavetta’s poems have been published in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review, Spillway, Hanging Loose, Rhino, Poetry East, and Poetry New Zealand, among others, and is included in the anthologies, Wait a Minute; I Have to Take off My Bra, Feast, Pirene’s Fountain Beverage Anthology, Forgetting Home and Twelve Los Angeles Poets.

She has published two books, Fugitive Pigments and Embers on the Stairs. Her latest book, Flour, Water, Salt, will appear in mid-June 2016.

She loves the light on November afternoons, the smell of the ocean, a warm back to curl against in bed. She hates pretense, fundamentalism and sauerkraut.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Four-Year-Old Son Questions Me as He Bounces on My Bed Wearing Black Socks and Brand New Spiderman Undies

Why are we
getting all dressed up, Daddy?

Because Bruce, Sr. died
and we're going to his funeral.

Why are we
doing that?

To let his family know we loved him,
that we’re sorry he died.

Why are we
sorry? We didn’t do it.

First appeared in RAIN Magazine - 2016

The Gray-Haired Man Holding a Sign at the Intersection of Highway 34 and Interstate 5

His tongue is thick, heavy
from old age and a lifetime
of getting things wrong.

His middle is thick, too,
a rub-worthy source of pride
and all he has left.

The inside of his head
is a thick roux of regret
that makes sleeping a far too easy thing.

His thickness stops, though,
at the thinness of his lips,
as tight and as revealing as his squint.

First appeared in RAIN Magazine - 2016

Writer’s Block

My writing desk is an unhinged metal door from a public restroom stall. No metaphor. It’s two, three-drawer file cabinets perfectly spaced so as to hold one slightly dented beige public restroom door flat across their tops. It’s my frugal wife’s favorite I-told-you-so (didn’t cost us a dime). The trick is situating the left-over hole from the now removed locking mechanism somewhere at the back and covering it with a printer or a picture frame or a pencil-holder or some other such functionality capable of hiding a non-necessary hole without falling through (don’t try putting the hole in front and using it as a cup holder). The setup fits nicely inside a clothesless clothes closet with bi-fold doors that keep the entire affair out of sight when the blear of staring at a blinking black curser on a blank white page starts to define your style. Well, it conceals everything except the rolling desk chair, which spends most of each day looking like the thing that just doesn’t  belong as it sits empty between the closed closet doors and the wooden Winnie-the-Pooh-sheeted crib that is the real reason for this poem.

First appeared in RAIN Magazine - 2016

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Poems I Admire #15

Nerf Football

We stood, arms draped over shoulders,
Billy’s hand held like a tarot reader,
palm up, tracing patterns: down and out,
a quick slant. He looked at me, “You go long.”

We set our piston legs, the invisible line
between us and other boys eager to show
whatever it shows when bodies collide.
Billy’s voice released us, our feet stretching

for purchase, eyes pleading we could make the play.
The ball was a sudden bird, a yellow and blue spiral
across thunderclouds. I leaned my shoulders
into the wind, head angled back to watch

the ball descend, my palms cupped for an offereing,
the boys a peripheral blur, as if we were already
running away from each other. I laid out
for his Hail Mary and when the ball tipped
my fingers, tumbled out of reach

it was as unimportant as any other failure
and yet I still sometimes wake, thinking
of the way they turned, shoulders hung,
shaking their heads, as if I’d called the rain
that had slowly started to fall.

First appeared in Little Patuxent Review – Winter 2013

P. Ivan Young received his M. F. A. from the University of South Carolina and is the author of Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain (Brick House Books, 2015) and the chapbook A Shape in the Waves. He is a recipient of a 2011 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and the 2013 winner of the Norton Girault Literary Prize. His work has appeared in North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Fourteen Hills, Hayden's Ferry Review, The London Magazine, Cream City Review, and Zone 3, among others. He currently teaches in the University of Nebraska system and lives in Omaha, Nebraska , with his wife and two children.