Poem by Carrie Zhang

Room in a Bedroom 

Branch sling on my heart. It’s so easy for black letters

                To get lost in white snow. These

Flies come skating out, sucking

               Plums and claret stuck on the walls.

A plastic telephone

               Hangs off its cradle, a closet flings

open, revealing wintry depths. All these years

               Flutter off the calendar, silver mail

On doors unopened,

               The ancestral calico thick as sound

Unheard.

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Poems by Emily Alexander

i wish i spoke moon.

(inspired by Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok)

i wish i whispered clear nights, wove them
into shirt fabrics, wore them close to my collarbone.

i wish i had three hands and knew
where to put them, regardless of the time.

i am trying to learn something about the craters
of a kiss. about folding sky into a note in my pocket
that tells me where the middle is, because
there are already plenty of stories that start
like this. all moonbeams and mouths, nothing about

right now. it is mid-afternoon.
my body is something i have to remind myself of.
it is a stranger to bleed; knows only bruise.

my neighbors have a porch swing i have never seen anyone use.

i have three pairs of jeans i wear every week.

i brush my teeth in the morning and again at night, floss words from between them,

tiny versions of hold, definitions
of embrace, nothing spelled quite right.

i think i need an instruction manual three moons thick
so i can learn where to put my knees
when i watch the news.

so i can sweep the kitchen floor, do something
about the mold on the bathroom ceiling without peeling
back my skin to see what could fit there, like my body is a new house
without a moving van in the driveway,

listen: i want to always mean what i say.

like my mouth has never known
anything but clear night moon.

Casual 

It’s like this: he offers his body to me, and I take it
without asking where it’s been. We do this
to each other, fingertips whispering
through flesh, songs of steam
on car windows, soundless
mouths, sheets. This is a simple language,
straightforward: sighs, lines, thighs. He holds me
in place for the time it takes, bed rocking
like a boat anchored in storm. I do not know
of any safe harbors around here, so this
will have to do, his breath, my neck, regret
a distant shoreline I haven’t started
sailing towards yet. Look. I know that stuck
is not synonymous with stay. I have enough alleyways
in me without the complication of wanting
his abandoned building body
to hold pieces of my shipwreck. So I wake
first in the mornings, his face still
soft, open windows. I could almost love him
then, unanchored breath drifting
out of lips that know the place my secrets have slipped
through. Regardless of my mouth, still heavy
with broken boats. Regardless of my unkissed knees, wrists,
dark halls, cobwebbed closets. Regardless of his.

moscow, id

right now, 3 states away, the last of fall harvest
is settling into the chest of tractor
troughs. i remember watching wheat fields unraveling
like knobby knees and nervous
bodies. there was a time when that was
enough. when i only had one house, when the ground
didn’t count as one, when i knew staying
like tattoos know skin, despite the rest
of the body. i want to write a poem
about my father’s heartbeat, but
i don’t quite remember it. it’s been a long time since i fit
in his lap. listen, i have unlocked cities trying
to learn how to laugh without this deadbolt mouth,
and i am still shy. and i am always missing
someone. i know that right now in idaho,
light is pressing against grain silos as my mother
presses her fingertips into the piano. if this was enough,
i would still be there. if this was enough, i wouldn’t
think of home as a poem
about longing, about question marks, the pause
between notes. my own hands
pressing against a window in california.

Poems by Karen Stewart

To the Monster in My Mind:

                                                                                      let go.
I’ve already swallowed the sword
meant to kill me.

Your voice, soft and vibrating
reverberating through the mirror glass,
slicing me broken; I’m open

No, closed. I’m a book without its spine
my torn pages, hanging on by a
single
string. I can’t see you.
I don’t know what you look like.

But I’m desperate now, so I’ll say this:
Finish your tea,
pack up your things,
and get out of my mind.
Remember to close the door behind you.

And the key—
Please hand it over
before I lose
Everything.

 

Do Over

If we could do it over: You smuggle the whiskey, I’ll kill the lights, & we’ll both forget by the morning.

If we could do it over: Skimming the grass isn’t enough. This one requires all-in, feign wind. The sun’s locked in every blade.

If we could do it over: Sit by the fire and top our sins with marshmallows.

If we could do it over: You tell me then I’ll tell you and we’ll commiserate. Because it is, of course, over.

If we could do it over: Fill in the lines with a big black marker. They’ll all say we’re twisted and we’ll call it magenta.

If we could do it over: You know we can’t. I was just having fun on the page. No harm in playing the mystery card. We have yet to find the man on the moon.

 

Bones

My body of bones
has failed me.

That holy hourglass
Unreachable, but we try.

Inside, starvation.
With walls of calcium carbonate,
skin, a paper roof
over my heart,
blowing puffs of blood
that sidestep circulation
and disappear.
There is no blood here.

Always cold.
Always tired.
Never enough.

My eyes are two broken ships
on a hazy, damp night
the only lookout posts in this tower of feathers.

Feet floating like sticks
I’m spinning, sinking, but

Let me be.
I’ll resurface,
I promise.

There’s nothing left for me to do.

 

Follow My Beat

I keep thinking,
I’m meant to write poems.
But what if…?
                                                                                                       Wait.
                                                                                                       Stop.
                                                                                                       You know what you’re doing.
You’re shutting it out.

Whatever it is.

                                                                                                       Think of it this way:
                                                                                                       It’s like a heartbeat, calling you.
                                                                                                       Follow me follow me follow me.

It doesn’t fit. I can’t listen.

                                                                                                       Firefly in the dark. Holding on to water.
                                                                                                       You name it.
                                                                                                       It’s elusive

Enticing?

                                                                                                       Precisely.

But how do I get to…?

                                                                                                       No worries. It never stops.
                                                                                                       Follow me follow me follow me.

 

Entropy

No one told me
this life was dynamite.

No one said,
Karen—your mouth is bleeding
lies.

No wonder entropy comes slow;
it’s too late when we realize
there’s a grenade in the heart of the mine.

I’m burning my body,
lighting my fuse
but it’s slick,
silent,
and then it comes all at once—

I would have run for cover
but no one told me.

 

Poems by Rich Murphy

Dory Speak

When thrown overboard, water wings
don’t drop into the harbor
and lodge in the mud at the bottom.
Lungs inflate a moan or argh,
while ears float on the current.
Even Shakespeare must have known:
At best a life vest at the deep end
in a public pool, at worst,
a rubber duck in bathwater.
The bundled letters, written with love,
capture imaginations but “whether” tosses
an idea around in a tea cup.
What weight in ink, paper, pixels
requires lead and a bay?
Stringing holds for children singing
perhaps, but links are lost in the chain
reaction and adults slave over absence.
A survivor needs to know
the dog paddle or how to puff at syllables
while getting the drift to things.
Stones may plop, should the bailer
wish to interpret so.

Inside Out

Namely, that we’re accidental pieces of flesh, mutton without meaning. – Zia Haider Rahman

An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it effectively stops people from thinking – Gilles Deleuze

Mutton without meaning,
Bo-Peep wakes in thought
while concepts with lids roll
and blink at the hard and fast:
Rock, tree, hot top, the concrete.
Bah blah perhaps once packed
into an image a different world,
but rhyme or reason may
order or stew. Gödel and Einstein
deal in pupils at the bookstore.
A celebrity pushes at tear ducts
from across the kitchen table.
Fear and desire inspire, explore.
Furniture moves around rooms
depending on what school
or playground the shepherd attended,
what lesson comprehended.
Feng shui, ole! Feng shui, ole!
Sometimes, an idea inflates
in a cranium and a neighborhood,
a lifetime clings to the rubber inner tube
and not to empire and ego.

Cheek Ruse

Then there’s the truth.
And since when is that okay? – Eric Warren Singer

With one foot in the confidence trap
a second meal plants and uproots
to find a way out.
The prey for hunter and scavenger
owns the beating
from a Promethean heart
and the craft to cobble and hobble.
The democrat crises line up
beginning at the voting booth,
past the bias-triggered jaw,
and into the belly in beasts.
The whistler and mother deny
the cocky nature in bird song
but skip to light fantastic when wing
and prayer call for heavy lifting.
Even while a sky falls, oxygen
stocks rise, and the furrier feeds
people to an animal called
poverty, the snared don’t sneer
but blow air past teeth: cheese.
No need to plan for a rainy day
or desert conditions, Mr. Smiley
meets the taxidermist tomorrow.

Lying Around

Pulling up and buttoning banality,
the shirk and skirt tuck in responsibility
below the belt exposing majority
rule for camouflage, long sleeved.
Bob and Weave enter the address
“Good Morning,” and counter two
secret votes with aid and comfort for violence.
Ideology absorbs colors and patterns
so that shirts and dresses
make every occasion tyrannical.
The fabric for wardrobes survives
hanging and folding over at the gut,
looms quietly monitoring behavior
on continents, at sea, and now in outer space.
A painter, naked, could stretch
what passes for the truth
and shepherd bolder hues, but threads
change routines or not.
Every fiber about being seems to own empire.

Spine Sprinkler

Even from the manicured dawns
and within pruned, herbicidal
evenings, courage takes root.
How does mettle flourish
within schools that graduate jellyfish?
The well-watered suburban livers
would seem to fail at backbone near a lawn.
Perhaps because nail file, clipper,
and sprays mow down a business
foe, grubs and crab grass don’t stand.
If the brief case carries,
breakfast serial behavior must
knead tool shed trolls into stuffed
animals to control, restrain, and lay puppies
awake near bedrooms for children.
Irritants in a shell refine necks.
However, now and then grit
on a welcome mat grows to oak
and the right hand
that rose holds firm a promise.

Poems by Michael Lee Johnson

If You Find No Poem

If you find
no poem on
your doorstep
in the morning,
no paper, no knock on your door,
your life poorly edited
but no broken dashes
or injured meter-

if you do not wear white
satin dresses late in life
embroidered with violet
flowers on the collar;
nor do you have
burials daily
across main street-
if no one whispers
in your ear, Emily Dickinson-
you feel alone-
but not reclusive-
the sand child
still sleeping in your eyes-
wiping your tears away-
if you find
no poem on
your doorstep-
you know
you are not from New England.

Possum Slim

105 years old today
Possum Slim finally
gets his GED,
drinks gin,
talks with the dead.
“Strange kind of folks
come around here,
strange ghosts”
he says, “come
creeping pretty regular.
Just 2 ghosts,
the only women I ever loved,
the only women I ever shot dead.”

Poem of Sinner and Saints

Sinners hurt.

While moonlight cracks open
like a walnut, spreads soft light across open sky,
they dart to alleyways, bury themselves behind
their own trails shaking fists at the sky;
hiding their nasty nonsense in shame,
city buildings rattle their bricks, mortar loose at their rib cage.

All men think they are sword men daggers in darkness.
All women think they are entry points leaning against brick walls,
slender on sidewalks past midnight,
nothing but shadows, twitching of lips.
Women look for drawing cards in their makeup kits.
No one cares jackals, scavengers, men tempted by night.
Thunder dreams hammer at their ears,
rain urinate sins on street corners,
mice crawl away to small places shamed.

Early morning crows fly.
Footsteps scatter directions as sunlight sprouts.
Misdeeds carry no names with them
they trip blind, racing to morning jobs.
Sin hurts staples in women’s lungs,
staples dagger in men’s ribs.

Poems by Yuan Changming

Metaphor

with a big bang, the stage of the world
comes to the spotlight, where a shepherd
lies down for his sheep first, and
then all actors and actresses
flooded in, shuffling
between their exits and entrances
as religions, arts and science grow
from the same tree stump; where
souls are washed away
from the dust of human life; where
the crumbs of words fell down
from the feast of the mind, screen pages
are filled with breathings of the heart; and
every movement of the cursor
leads a fish biting at the hook

within this vast scene, we try to look at ourselves
beyond the entire picture

Metonymy

(A little tip for all crowns.)

give me the floor
lend me your ears
donkeys and elephants:
as a pen for the press
is much mightier than a sword
from waterloo, it’s high time now not
to spill out all your life in Hollywood
and march towards the white house
on the red carpet
by the sweat of your brow
while the kettle is still boiling