Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Testosterone

by Danny Earl Simmons

I could

easily change
my train of thought
anytime I wanted to.
I could

stop closing my eyes
so I wouldn't see you
nursing at her breast
or reading the funnies or
running around the coffee table
in your big red fireman hat
shooting every imagined thing.
I could

close the tap on the drip
of my relentless regret
(Goddamit!)
when, in your teens,
I got beat by
fear,
     fatigue,
          frustration,
               anger,
                    more fear.
I could.
I could.

But, what about
that flat leather football,
this tangled green fishing pole,
your Catcher in the Rye?



First published in Avatar Review - Summer 2014

Also included in my full-length collection Tender Melancholy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fragments of Dad

by Danny Earl Simmons

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

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

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 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 (defunct)

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Galleywinter #53 - Richard Jones

Chess

I don’t play with any ferocity—
no intensity of intellection
as I lean over the chess board,
no squint-eyed, sullen raptness,
no killer instinct, no thrill of war
as I square off against an opponent.
Rather, I enjoy the soothing silence
and the cold martinis we slowly sip,
the occasional bit of conversation.
The game is a mystery of secrets—
my pawns are quickly sacrificed
and soon the knights and bishops
all find themselves in jeopardy.
Before long I’ve lost my queen
and it is only a matter of moves
before my opponent says check
and checkmate. But then I say
let’s play another, shall we?
A new campaign gives me hope.
I shall be shrewder, cleverer,
more zealous to defend my king.
I lift my right hand dramatically
and move the first pawn forward.
I hold my breath. What will happen?
Defeat is a good teacher, I know,
but just once, after a dozen brilliant
strategic moves, I would like to shock
a worthy adversary, and quietly say,
as the world champion once said,
“Bishop to King 7. Checkmate,”
before getting up to freshen our drinks.

Richard’s newest collection is The Minor Key (Green Linden Press, 2021). Other recent collections include Paris (Tebot Bach, 2021), Avalon (Green Linden Press, 2020), and Stranger on Earth (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Editor since 1980 of the literary journal Poetry East, he curates its many anthologies, such as London, The Last Believer in Words, and Origins. In 2020 he published his 100th issue, an anthology titled The Bliss of Reading.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Like Cold Wringing Water from Air

by Danny Earl Simmons

That’s how lungs become frostbitten

balloons of rigid suffocation,

how skin blues around bones
brittle as a lake’s last sheet,

how blinking hurts
against the forever-dark

of a wintertime working
to turn the heat of tears frigid

as wind-burned scars of icy need,
how I long to know your warmth.


First appeared in the Homestead Review

Also included in my full-length poetry collection, Tender Melancholy.



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Poems I Admire #90

The Light We Leave Behind
by Kenneth Ronkowitz

A star chart tells me
that the star I am seeing tonight
is 500 light years away.
It may have died 499 years ago,
and I am still seeing its last light.
Stars are born, they live, and they die.
What is the light that remains when we leave?
If I die after writing this poem, is this my light,
and how long might that light remain and be seen?

I wondered last night and still this morning
about these questions, and still now,
standing again outside
under a mackerel sky dappled, rippled with clouds
and the sun, our family star,
which will also die.
Then, there will be no light remaining.
Perhaps, this is not what you believed.
When it dies, the Earth dies with it.
No last light to come after it.
In its end, the sun will expand
into a red giant
and will vaporize the Earth.

My son rises
and joins me outside
his coffee steaming a small cloud
into the December air.
In this enormous moment,
we look into the sky and universe.
We are a fortnight from the year ending
and hopeful for many more circles
around the sun. We are expanding,
gathering our light, and sharing it
while we can still see it reflected
in those constellating nearby.


First appeared in The Writer's Almanac

Kenneth blogs at Poets Online Blog

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

One Flew into the Nest with the Name I Cannot Bear to Say

by Danny Earl Simmons

Still, better here than out smashing windows with his fists
in the middle of the night for a pack of Turkish cigarettes
and scaring the hell out of cops with trigger-fingers.

Here he’s got a blanket to keep him warm as medication,
and even he admits it beats waking up dew-soaked and shivering
in the park where he watched me get remarried a few years after,

well, just after. Here we always shake hands before we hug,
and he’s always groggy from sleeping too long. We hit
the cafeteria and share a meal. He’s as hungry as he is sluggish

and his shirt’s too small to hide stretch marks just above
his beltless beltline. We usually play cards and crack jokes.
Sometimes he smiles exactly like he used to, like we’re at home

sitting across the kitchen table. Just last week, he looked enough
like himself for me to brave a question about the voices, Son,
do they sound real? He answered, They are real.


First appeared in Chiron Review (Issue 101)

Also included in my full-length poetry collection, Tender Melancholy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Galleywinter #52 - Richard Jones

Tubing

The idea is to clear one’s mind and float downstream
Sprawled inside the circle of a big black innertube
As if one never needed tires or a country road
To escape from this cruel world, only a wild river
And the desire to let go and flow with the current.
I wear red swim trunks, black rubber water shoes,
A bucket hat with a curled brim, and sunglasses.
My river, the Rivanna, flows into the James, then
Runs to the Chesapeake Bay and into the Atlantic.
But I never go that far. All I need is an hour or two
To refresh myself, floating past fields with cows
And woods with downed trees along the muddy bank.
Sometimes I pass under a bridge. When I look up
I see many ghosts looking down from the railing
As if they know me, as if they were waiting for me.
But as soon as I say hello they disappear. Maybe
Ghosts believe innertubes only belong inside tires.
Maybe they get in their flatbed truck and drive off,
Bales of hay stacked high for their starving cattle
And country songs from their youth on the radio.
Maybe they roll down the windows, fill their lungs,
And sing resplendently off-key as if happy and alive.

Richard’s newest collection is The Minor Key (Green Linden Press, 2021). Other recent collections include Paris (Tebot Bach, 2021), Avalon (Green Linden Press, 2020), and Stranger on Earth (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Editor since 1980 of the literary journal Poetry East, he curates its many anthologies, such as London, The Last Believer in Words, and Origins. In 2020 he published his 100th issue, an anthology titled The Bliss of Reading.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Barely Platonic

by Danny Earl Simmons

They head straight for the highest point,

run up the stairs, floor after floor, 

until they reach the top, spin around
on the flat black roof, enjoy the dizzy rush

of height. They hold hands and pull
each other this way, then that. Their eyes

wide open, they take everything in 
and laugh at each other’s laughter.

Eventually, things get serious. 
Their grip gets tight, they head for the edge.

They look down, look at each other, 
leap. The ground closes-in, hearts thump. 

Their hands slide apart, fingertips cling,
release. Chutes pop and drag.

First appeared in Clear Poetry

Also included in my full-length poetry collection, Tender Melancholy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Smoke Rings

by Danny Earl Simmons

He was the sun to me. He was the sun
to us all. Each time our come-and-go Dad
came, we basked in his hereness, shrugging off
past abandonments, too young to arrive
at harsher conclusions, conclusions Mom
would reach then renege—something in his smile.

My big sister, Lyne’, had that same smile,
teeth slightly bucked, a tad gapped, still the sun
bounced off them like summertime. But not Mom’s
smile—gravity drew hard on it. Each time Dad
dashed it grew flat and stingy and arrived
on my heart inverted, always just off.

One warm afternoon as Nay Nay hopped off
the school bus, Dad and I met her surprised smile.
They hugged and twirled round and round. We arrived
home; he lit a cigarette—red as the sun
setting over Saddleback Mountain. Dad
blew smoke rings and we all laughed, even Mom.

I remember the first time I saw Mom
cry. There was this slam; I startled, threw off
the covers, and shot up. Nay Nay said, Dad
just left again. I almost cried but smiled
instead. Sneaking downstairs, I watched the sun
share gray dawn with Mom just as her sobs arrived.

I cried hard, though, that one time we arrived
at the jail to drop off Dad. He kissed Mom
and gave me and Nay Nay tight hugs; the sun
from behind him made us squint. He took off
his sunglasses, had a smoke, and left smiling—
with swagger. I never stopped missing Dad.

I can’t remember rain when I was with Dad—
only sunshine and shadows, arrivals
and departures, hugs and promises, smiles
and smoke rings, and wishing I was him. Mom
and Nay Nay, though, they remember awful
storms and thunderclaps and months without sun.

Nay Nay used to tell me, You know, Mom really loves Dad.
I knew. I’d watch Mom’s face as Dad arrived—she’d send off
a smile that lingered like smoke rings in the afternoon sun.



Rose & Thorn Journal - Spring 2012 (defunct)

Also included in my full-length poetry collection, Tender Melancholy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Poems I Admire #89

The Bright Side

God was getting old,
but he’d been this way forever,
Mrs. God said. He always claimed
he liked Earth better “back then.”

“It’s hard, I know.”
She sat beside him,
just beyond the water’s reach.
“I prefer circles to lines,” said God.
“Well,” she half-smiled,
“We are all entitled to our preferences.”

What was age but weariness?
A shortening of the stride,
non-organic pain, low clouds
that lacked definition, but not duration,
like a sheet of steel.

Best to sit quietly, Mrs. God knew,
because very soon he would say,
“And yet…”

First published in Consider the Lilies: Mrs. God Poems

Connie Wanek is the author of five books of poetry, including Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems, published in 2016 by the University of Nebraska Press. Her book, Consider the Lilies: Mrs. God Poems, is from Will o’ the Wisp Books. She is also the author of Summer Cars, a book of stories set in and around Duluth, MN, where she lived for 25 years. She has won several awards, including the George Morrison Artist of the Year, given to someone who has made contributions to the arts in Northeast Minnesota over a period of many years. She was also named a Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress, an honor given to just two poets in the United States each year, by then Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. She and Mr. Kooser have coauthored a book of poetry for younger readers entitled Marshmallow Clouds (Candlewick Press).

Here is an interview of Connie by "The Writer's Almanac."

Here is another one. This time by "The Rumpus."