Cover Art: Linda Hillringhouse, Descending Figures with Bird and Dog,  2019, gouache on paper, 10 ½" x 14 ½"

 

 

 

Selected Poetry from Issue #47

Cover Art: by Linda Hillringhouse, Descending Figures with Bird and Dog, 2019, gouache on paper, 10 ½" x 14 ½"

How Did I Come to Be Here?
by Marge Piercy

How did I come to be here?

Age is a strangeness. No matter

how many relatives we watched

totter into their graves, even cats

and dogs whom we’d raised from

birth, we never quite believed

it could happen to us.

A quick glimpse of some stranger

reflected in a shop window –but

she’s wearing my coat. I stare

at my once smooth graceful hand

that used to inscribe sinuous

arcs as I danced till one or two.

I can’t climb that church tower

to see the famous city below.

I used to run up stairs and hills.

I walk into a party and men no

longer stop talking to watch me.

The bagger calls me ma’am.

And I wonder as no doubt will you

how did it happen? I’m still me

inside, surely no more than forty.

When did I shrink two inches?

My ambition has withered. In

the dark of the night, I no longer

plot vast novels. Instead I watch

the ceiling turn into a coffin lid

and wonder in mild curiosity how

it will come and when. Dying be-

comes a hard fact as my friends

sink slow or fast into the earth.

Knopf recently published Marge Piercy’s 19th poetry book MADE IN DETROIT and THE HUNGER MOON: New & Selected poems in paperback. She has 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS, DANCE THE EAGLE TO SLEEP and VIDA were reissued by PM Press, who brought out THE COST OF LUNCH, ETC. [short stories] and MY LIFE, MY BODY [essays,poems, interview]. She has read, given workshops or speeches in over 500 venues here and abroad. Her work has been translated into 22 languages.

What We Need to Live
by Joe Weil

I still get junk mail for my Ma

from the Mary Knoll fathers,

41 years after her death.

I always include them in the change

of address. After all no one

who gets junk mail

is ever really dead. I have

my book bag from 4th grade,

filled with wrinkled homework

and the first story I ever wrote

told by a narrator who

admits at the end that he always

lies when he's drunk (and he's drunk)..

If I am ever cremated, I want

my ashes in that book bag, and

fuck the church who says

sacred ground, which really means

give us ten thousand bucks.

The book bag is puce green

I used to belly flop on it

to the ice of the acme lot.

I fended off six older kids

who thought I might

have money by swinging

it wildly, eyes clenched.

So much has been lost in my life--

to homelessness, to my own

innate disarray. What I have managed

to keep, if only as a story told

sober, told with the full

weight and knowledge of my being

is what keeps me alive,

keeps me praying with my

daughter Clare when she

can't sleep, and Hail Mary

full of grace becomes her lullaby.

I want to show her

Her grandmother's name on

the junk mail, the smiling

Mary knolls-- fathers who

haven't gotten a dime out of me

in 41 years: Clare, Clare

Clare on the envelope, Clare in her

bed., Clare which means light

but reminds me of Clay

and means earth to me, the ground

where I take off my sandals;

Ground set apart. Arc of my life.

From Clare to Clare, from

light to earth I'll go. No one

knows what sacred ground is

until they have stumbled on it.

Grace for me has always been

a kind of stumbling.

What do I know of walking straight?

except into walls. I am still swinging

that book bag with all my might,

eyes clenched-- my body a gathering wind.

Joe Weil teaches poetry at Binghamton University. He has also taught gifted students in the Arts High program (1999-2006) in Middlesex County, and was a Geraldine-R-Dodge poet in the schools. His latest book is A Night in Duluth, published by NYQ books.

New Dress
by Linda Hillringhouse

I’m going to tell you something even I don’t know

& I don’t know how I’ll find it but I’m going somewhere,

down into something, looking for that thing that I will finally

tell you & here comes a girl walking her way back to the living

room in which she will wait for her parents to come back

from their first trip. She’s wearing the dress, the heart-stopping,

paralyzingly beautiful dress that Lenore, the neighbor, has bought her ---

red plaid, big crinoline & best of all, suspended from the belt, a real plastic

pocket watch forever displaying seven o’clock. She is aglow, for when they

behold her, this girl spring-loaded to flower, they will run to her, kiss her,

lift her aloft into the galaxy of the ceiling & she will see herself in their eyes

& grow into someone alive in the miracle of the world who will take root joyously

and in sorrow. She stands, arms outstretched like a supplicant or little model & they

are walking through the door & her father picks her up but unbelievably her mother

walks past her, smiling, in the full beauty of her days, at the neighbor & past the dress

like no other & the thing that was known & not known became flesh & I’m finally

telling you that right there in Lenore’s living room time stopped & the future turned to dust.

Linda Hillringhouse holds an MFA from Columbia University. She was a first-place winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award (2014) and second-place winner of Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry (2012). Her work has appeared in The Paterson Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, Lips, and elsewhere.

My Miniature World
by Lisa Coll Nicolaou

When the other girls started wearing makeup and staring at boys,

I asked my parents for a dollhouse and spent my teenage years

staining tiny wooden floors and using leftover wrapping paper

for the empty walls.

Because the dollhouse didn’t have a dining room,

I used thick cardboard to create a wall so that I could have one,

much like I did with my first house,

learning early that it was better not to always get everything

I wanted too easily.

I loved that miniature dining room, the oak pedestal table

and glass curio cabinet with real leaded glass.

I used months of babysitting money to pay for the tiny dishes

to put in that cabinet, more than I spent on the dishes that I use

in my regular life.

I escaped for endless hours into my miniature world, organizing

books in the library I created by building another small wall

and furnishing it with a desk and rocking chair that match

exactly the ones I have in my bedroom now.

I cannot remember or maybe I don’t want to remember

why I craved this silent time furnishing another world,

a house with furniture so unlike the modern pieces I lived

with, but with mismatched oak pieces that called out to me.

Once, when I was eight or nine, I visited a friend’s house

and her mother made a tea party for us, putting the china

on a beautiful oak table that didn’t match the heavy carved chairs.

I gasped at the possibility of a life like this.

I never had dolls in my dollhouse.

No matter how many stores I searched,

I never found a family worthy of living in my creation.

Now, most nights, after our busy days,

I take one of my favorite teapots off the shelf and sit

at my large oak table with mismatched chairs,

talk with my daughters, laugh about our days

and our disasters.

We sip our tea and I smile,

grateful for the family that I found to live in my house.

Lisa Coll Nicolaou is a writer who lives and teaches in New Jersey. For the past two years, Lisa has enjoyed her role as visiting poet in the Paterson Schools. Her poetry and prose have been published in a variety of journals. In 2016, she shared first prize in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest.

My Dad Loved to Dance
by Susan Lembo Balik

My dad loved to dance, taught his little sister,
his favorites—how to Fox Trot and Peabody,

and when company came by, she’d get shy,
hide under the bed, knowing

my dad would want to twirl her around,
show her off.

“Come out Katie,” he’d beg. “I’ll give you
a quarter if you dance with me.”

My dad loved to dance, music always on in the old
white house in the Riverside section of Paterson,

and after dance contests at the Armory, he’d come home,
his white tee dripping,

and his stepmom would scold, “You’re gonna get sick!”
But inside she was smiling,

utterly charmed by this skinny teenager.

 

Susan Lembo Balik is Manager, Cultural Affairs at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ (home to the Poetry Center). Her first book of poetry is Sinatra, the Jeeperettes & me (Garden Oak Press, 2014), and her poems have appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Lips, San Diego Poetry Annual, Tiferet, and other journals. 

The Kind of Father (After Gloeggler’s “The Kind of Man”)
by Bunkong Tuon

I am the kind of father who

avoids making eye contact

with other parents

when I drop my daughter off

at nursery school,

the one who crouches

under a classroom window

to make sure she stops crying

before I go to teach.

I am the father who elbows

other parents and scrambles

for a front seat to take

a video of Chanda’s pre-

school graduation ceremony.

I am the kind who wants

to beat the crap out of

the nurse sticking a needle

in my daughter’s arm.

I am the kind who goes

to Target to buy toddler snacks

and ends up with an inflatable

kiddie pool in the shape

of a white unicorn.

After I tuck her in for the night

I Facebook pictures of us

in that pool, Chanda

holding the pink mane,

me petting giant pink

wings, smiling.

I am the father who tiptoes

into my daughter’s bedroom

to check her breathing,

whispers a prayer, then plants

butterfly kisses on her forehead.

I am the kind of father

who gets on hands and knees,

digs dirt with a trowel,

plants flower bulbs,

taps the soil to make sure

they are firmly planted.

Every afternoon

I take Chanda out

to the garden and together

we water the flowers,

me telling her this is how

you take care of life,

how you care for love.

Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books, and a regular contributor to Cultural Weekly. He is also an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.

My Daughter-in-Law Comforts Her Son
by Penny Perry

“Don’t worry honey. You don’t look Jewish.”

I picture my grandson in swim trunks, towel

folded by his side, the car ticking down

the road to the beach. His mother used to make

latkes at Hanukkah, roast chicken and bitter herbs

at Passover for my son. Now, she’s divorcing him

and in love with a man who loves the Confederate

Flag. I picture my grandson peering in the rear-

view mirror studying his green eyes, his brown

hair, golden highlights, bleached by summer sun.

He may believe his mother is right.

It’s good to not look Jewish.

He may worry California sun will tan his skin

as dark as his father’s.

He may want to change his name.

The name he inherited from his father.

The name he inherited from his grandfather.

His grandfather who taught him to identify

birds by the shapes of their bodies, the size

of their breaks, the colors of their feathers.

Penny Perry is a six time Pushcart nominee. Her poems and stories have been widely published in the United States and the UK. Garden Oak Press published her collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal and Salvage, in 2012. Her first novel, Selling Pencils and Charlie, is forthcoming from Garden Oak Press.  

Mrs. Dalloway Said She Would Buy the Flowers Herself
by Michael Rulli

I decided to buy the flowers myself this morning.

Nothing special, just a few colored roses. Yellow,

white, a red one, and some pink. None of those

tacky turquoise ones, anyone that gets those doesn’t

understand the point. I woke up early and went

out for coffee, because all we had was instant.

On most days that’s fine, but I wanted to enjoy

myself this morning. I didn’t wear anything special,

but the other morning-people still stared at me.

As if I was wearing something grand. I’ve never

understood but you know, you get used to it.

The air was cold, still the sun was bright. The

coffee really wasn’t much better than the freeze

dried shit we had, but it felt nice to tell the

barista to have a good day after they wished

me one. I walked with the flowers peeking out

of my backpack and I thought about how I wished

you were behind me. To catch me, as if I were

a shot from Italian Vogue. Slightly sepia toned.

You’d see the flowers later, next to my bedside

table, and we’d both know they’d die soon but

for the moment, they were still so alive. Still in bloom.

Mike Rulli, aka Faguette, was born and raised in the birthplace of suburbia on Long Island. He now resides in Brooklyn, where he is working on his first collection of poems, Poetic Absurdity, which he hopes to be out in spring but he makes no promises.

Why I Think Studies of Autism Are Pointless
by Emily Vogel

One would think that finding a reason

Would be the solution. One would think

That once the reason was found,

She might say, “how was school today?”

And a whole blab of stories would ensue,

And the child

Would ask for some crackers and milk,

Eat it at the table

And put the glass in the sink.

The child would pick up her dolly

And rock it, and play pretend---

She would change the diaper,

Feed it milk, and speak mommy

Language to it. The child

Would fill his toy truck with sundry things

And roll it down a toy road

And blab all about the mission.

The child would open the bathroom door

And sit down

And urinate, gently pull some toilet paper

From the roll, and snap and zip

His pants. One would think

At the very least, the reason

Would explain why this does not happen.

But what good would an explanation do?

It’s like saying “we know why it is raining today---

We have studied the weather

Quite scrupulously, but unfortunately

We don’t know

How to make it stop” There is

An endless alphabet drifting

In my children’s brains. This morning

I opened my daughter’s door

And she said “good morning.”

There was no reason for this

Except that the sun was rising.

And I don’t need a reason.

What I had was hope.

And sans reasons or explanations,

I think that’s the best we can do.

Emily Vogel's poetry, reviews, translations, and essays have been published widely, most recently in Tiferet, Omniverse, PEN, and several topical anthologies with NYQ Books. Her most recent collection is Dante's Unintended Flight (2017, NYQ Books). She has a children's book forthcoming this spring, entitled Clara's Song (Swingin' Bridge Books). She teaches writing at SUNY Oneonta and is married to the poet, Joe Weil.