Poems from Issue #45
Without warning, a door
by Marge Piercy
In the pit of the night, a door
in my mind opened and my mother
came through, not as she was
in her eighties, no, still vibrant,
flirty, her hair in a braid round
her head black as a pool of ink
wearing a summer dress turquoise
with white daisies, laughing loud
from her belly as never in those
last lonely years bumping around
the Florida house she hated without
women friends, just my father
to belittle and grump at her. How
vibrating with strength and energy
before disdain and lacklove wore her
to a fading nubbin of loose flesh.
How much can any woman endure
before she lets hope flitter off?
Before she watches death coming
and smiles as she used to, decades
before when she saw a handsome
man –he had to be handsome –
making eye contact and she knew
she could have him if she chose.
Knopf recently published Marge Piercy’s The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems and her 19th collection, Made in Detroit. Piercy has 17 novels, including Sex Wars. PM Press republished DANCE THE EAGLE TO SLEEP, VIDA and BRAIDED LIVES with introductions, short stories THE COST OF LUNCH, ETC.; essays and poems, MY LIFE, MY BODY, outspoken author series.
Taking Off, I Talk to the Dead
by Jan Beatty
This place between rivers,
this runway now cradles me, and
I run down the list of those gone, but still
the ones who shelter me:
RT Big Jim Charlotte Dorothy
—keep me safe.
The flight attendant says by mistake:
Enjoy your short life.
I mean, enjoy your short flight, she laughs.
Right the first time, I think—
then we are off to the quiet place,
the long familiar—sky clouds.
In this place between rivers,
this runway time—
I miss you most, your sweet face,
your tender heart.
I think back to you at home,
sleeping on a single patch of king bed.
RT Big Jim Vee
I think back to this morning:
6:15 am walking the jetway at
La Guardia—blue purple sky and
the blanket of calm:
enjoy your short life.
No one to say it to—
but here I am, sneaking around
in the night, city to city,
Jan Beatty's new book, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in Spring, 2017. Books include The Switching/Yard, Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River, winner of the 1994 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, all published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
What Silence Is
by Joe Weil
Most people would never accuse
Me of being intimate with silence.
My grandmother claimed I was a bush
Full of twittering sparrows. Sister Irene
Called me loquacious (being kind).
My words moved all four winds at once,
Like a Springer Spaniel, a mouth full
Of wet vowels and clanging consonants.
It’s true I was always barking at the sun,
Howling into storms, sing songing my
Way through the hollow maws of pipes.
At first light, I made more noise than
ten accordions tumbling down the stairs.
The Infant of Prague and the china closet
Trembled at my approach. The dead came
Back to life and frowned from their photos.
Treading lightly was never my chosen style.
But I knew silence and could stand for hours
Hearing the rocks breathe, the sunlight tick
Against the stones. It was so beautiful.
Even now I hold my breath and let it speak
Its ancient patter. All clamor finally meets
All silences. All’s one. I’ll have enough
Time to be quiet when I’m dead”
Joe Weil was born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ. His most recent book of poems is The Great Grandmother Light, Poems new and selected (NYQ Books). Weil is currently a lecturer in the creative writing department at Binghamton University—SUNY. Weil lives in Binghamton with his wife and two children, Clare and Gabriel.
Sorry, Joe Hi-Grade
by William Harry Harding
The owner of the grocery store on the corner
of E. 16th St. and 7th Avenue ̶ Hi-Grade's ̶
never let anything go to waste. He set out baskets
of damaged goods, sold at deep discounts.
My friends and I picked through broken, squashed
or crushed candy bars ̶ 1¢ each ̶ but I never found
anything in there I really wanted. So I saved
the penny my grandmother gave me each week
until I could buy a regular Tootsie Roll for 5¢.
That meant going over a month without candy.
My uncle called me stunád. As a boy, he and his siblings
each got $1 once from my grandmother's brother, Milio.
My mother, the oldest, saved hers. So did my Godfather,
the elder son. But Freddie, the baby, ran across the street
to Hi-Grade's and bought 100 pieces of candy.
His brother and sister never let him forget it.
That story and the complaints of my friends
about the lousy selection in that damaged candy basket
inspired me. I grabbed a 5¢ Tootsie Roll from the shelf,
tossed it on the floor and stomped on it ̶
then brought it up front and pretended to pull it out
of all those injured candies. Studying the squished
brown and red wrapper, Joe Hi-Grade shrugged
and took my penny. And a business was born:
I took orders from my friends ̶ 2¢ for any candy in the store;
I supplied the smashing, crumbling, breaking, no extra charge.
Joe Hi-Grade is long gone. His store remains on the corner,
open under a different name. The statue of limitations
has run its course. So this confession is also an apology,
long overdue, and offered with gratitude built over a lifetime,
because, even today, the first bite of a Tootsie Roll
still takes me where I can no longer go ̶ across the street
and all the way home.
William Harry Harding has written three novels – Rainbow, Young Hart, Mill Song – and a children’s book – Alvin’s Famous No-Horse – all from Henry Holt. The founder of Garden Oak Press, he chairs the San Diego Entertainment + Arts Guild (SDEAG) and publishes the San Diego Poetry Annual.
Who Shall Say I am Not the Happy Genius of My Household?
By Dante De Stefano
Today, sitting in my backyard before noon, on a day without commitments, when my wife is at work and the yardwork is done, years after my father’s death, before I have little ones of my own, while digressions of sunshine through the trees patch the ground, I think of you, William Carlos Williams, humming your desert music along the rain slick streets of Paterson, dancing naked and grotesquely before your mirror while your children sleep.
Here, the birds squabble from branch to branch and the chipmunks debate the nature of the acorn. If I could sing well, I’d sing the torn cartilage of loneliness. I’d sing of fresh cut grass and good birdsong. Happiness, after all, is an exit wound. I am no doctor, but I hold inside me a genius of green. I hold a blade of fern I saw once when I was a kid walking with my father in the woods. I brandish this greenness against the broken word. Prayer is a daughter of the wind. I make a mirror of wind and stump and stone. William Carlos Williams, here, I dance.
Dante Di Stefano's collection of poetry, Love is a Stone Endlessly in Flight, is forthcoming from Brighthorse Books. His poetry and essays have appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, Obsidian, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, The Los Angeles Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere.