When summer arrives, living becomes much more simple. Coats, scarves, boots and gloves are discarded for the freedom generated by warmth on bare skin.
Children seem instinctively to relish this change of season. As Durenda writes in "Summer Appetite," when we observe youngsters we begin “to understand the sour sweetness of / children sun burnt silly in the sand(.)”
Nature’s knowledge, unlike human understanding, remains unspoken but is heard by anyone caring to listen. Two poets this month encountered that wisdom in the form of animals — a fox and a bear — and a river.
For American Academy of Poets award-winner Emily DiGiovanni and her poem “The River and the Rock,” a woman and a fox are “(t)wo strays brought together by / a river.” Yet the woman prefers the rock.
For poet and editor Susan Deer Cloud, a bear and a river offer
insights that are only gleaned from nature: “Indian girl /
journeying with Bear to the river / with the name that some humans
/ touched too close once, / strangers forcing Indian girls / into
The wisdom of natural things shines through all the poems included here. Listen very closely, and perhaps you’ll hear even beyond the words that are being used.
Charles H. Johnson
A poem by Durenda
one's mind must fry, popping and crispy on sidewalks yellowed like bright leaves left on the balcony too long a jaundiced dying reflecting in hot-blooded waves to get to the meat of the matter of summer and have lemonade eyes with pineapple smiles to understand the sour sweetness of children sun burnt silly in the sand
Durenda — email@example.com — lives in Sky Valley, Calif., and has attended UC Berkeley.
A poem by Howard Zogott
Here is a note you must answer at once — but before you reply, notice how it fills the whole house with something like a drop of musk and/or music. Read it again; observe how it almost resists intelligence and that it is and is not an equation. It bears a heartbeat shockingly recognizable and the breath of anyone’s lips mouthing the words; it contains bread and must suffice. It’s the incense of friends sitting in the kitchen smoking cigars, the feel of death on their fingertips, recalling the pratfalls of love. Osip says it is a message in a bottle from the shipwrecked… it’s not a map you can follow without changing destinations.
Howard Zogott — firstname.lastname@example.org —
is director of the Cranbury, N.J., Public Library.
Featured Poet: Five Poems by Emily DiGiovanni
On first snow, the city streets might be mistaken for a country road if imagination plucked a thread, some lint, a tattered patch, then, it’s overcoat I walk home by landmarks: the white porch lights strung with the planned carelessness of a woman wearing a shawl, past the beetled hum of hospitals, their bricks and stones bright, yet eerie Life, unmarked or pockmarked, is still a cycle of eternal mouths shaped in ‘why?’ and within the shadows of sunken cars, three gray cats cross my path Like rootless men, they wander by instinct, softly One, with lighthouse eyes, keeps mankind at bay the longest Yowling with relevance – bristling at the futility of a breath Nearby, an aged woman sighs against a Church of Christ baptized in streetlight She clenches her elbows, avoiding a prayer “We are wanderers.” She breaks the silence A Goya crone, her black patch made innocent with hearts and stars like the stick-on earrings of a girl “This was your first love?” Staring from a stoop, a father asks a son too young it seems to have had more than one. Oh, snippets of Words cut with embroidery scissors, butcher knives And Eyes, for judgment Open street. Door closed.
When we walked along the River Lagan picking up thistledown and one lone pearl, we were not thinking that this was once a place where women were fined for singing and fixing their hair When we pressed our feet in the rain-sodden earth, midnight walking, half past, one, two, three, we were not thinking that the bullhorn ghosts would be been sounding soon, lassoing twelve hour days to feed the fabric factories When your face glowed with fire under street lights and river lights and the natural light that was simply you, we were not thinking that within a month, maybe a few, a face became death white, death green, old at twenty, one, two I intruded on a place that, in absence, let light through the cracks for less than a breath A soft branch falling, only vaguely heard Even so, my heart is heavy with a separate history, constructed with leaves from backyard trees I do not wear my name on ears, neck, skin I have nothing of worth to show I existed in that labored past where blonde was a color that made men smile and dark was a night that we walked on together, lovers who never touched Wrapped in dark fabric, saving face Your hair hedged over locked features forming puddles, circles, beginnings, ends Protecting you from the good night warmth of another that hardly deserved to understand your anger Your rage at not belonging But then you were not a woman with her hair tied back to prevent the pull of quicksilver machines Nor with moist breasts revealed to save your heart from suffocating You were lucky You survived mostly because you did not belong Your pain, like mine, was buried elsewhere
DUST TO DUST
She hides behind the duct-taped couch Ear to wall, biting lip, ignorant of the taste of blood Watching her mother darn, darn mother Watching her mother wait, maybe, for two lights to pull through the silence though the gravel has settled for the night With the pull of a thread, a hand through the crack she snips the separation between what they both know differently They cling, dance, fight off the damp of rooms left empty Or worse, rooms with one breath The record plays as flowers bud The record plays, becomes a chant Chanting, chanting, long hair swaying as flowers grow and gold chains glint on skin lacking light Chanting, chanting as flowers bloom in dust-clumped corners and headlights hit the gravel, the walls, the wells of necks in need of light The girl falls back and sleeps among the dusty flowers dreaming of two dark forms moving in circles, moving in darkness only broken by the glint of gold chains Their love small, strong crosses of light in a world of darkness and dust
I. He walked in circles around the station waiting to catch her truly alone She always trusted others through an eyelash or crow’s feet Features linked to old teachers or uncles long gone A shape of the body, a scent of cologne, a cut of the jacket made her feel it was safe to eat sweets and snitch sips from another’s glass They spoke in gestures, linking arms, losing faith He pressed his palm on her mother’s name etched on a flat gold coin Forced his tongue between her lips As the clock hit midnight, he made sure to hold on And jingle keys in her eyes to show he can drive her to his tiny apartment with a cold smell and the sick feeling that this is only right for one of them The lonely one The desperate one The one who would not be moving on in one day, one week, one year But will stay circling the station, waiting for midnight to kiss a woman he hardly knows II. That night, she ran She woke alone in a dark room eating old bread and cheap cheese thinking, “Where are the flowers, the chanting of prayers?” There were only echoes of men calling their children to bed, The clicking of heels that she swears nuns would never wear Just stylish mommas with sick heads and shiny hair, desperate to be sexy in that Italian way – smoking sticks with broken bones, wearing heavy gold Awake, she stared at the object that prompted him to dance like a girl, link arms like two women and cry that he was truly alone in this world Awake, she brushed the hard crumbs off her lips and tried to forget that with each toll of the clock he tore a piece of trust away With each bruise of the wrist she wished she could become a fighter, a destroyer, a thief, a man
THE RIVER OR THE ROCK
While resting by a river, I found a mirror on a rock – a challenge offered by a passing stray “What do you value most? The mirror or the rock?” asked the fox With one foot still dangling in the river, I answered, “The stone, of course, the rock” Silent, honest, patient rock I cannot look the river in the eye anymore I cannot find myself in the mirror resting on the rock that sits by the river One – woman One – fox Two strays brought together by the river Yet I prefer the rock
Emily DiGiovanni — email@example.com — lives in New Jersey. Her poems have appeared previously in Identity Theory and will appear in the upcoming Paterson Literary Review. She was a recipent this year of an award from the Academy of American Poets.
A poem by Jeanpaul Ferro
I love the shabbiness of the boulevards of the Arab world, That strange sadness that hangs over the slums in the late evening, You can sense the urban decay that is anything but Western, A hatred of a “them” that is stronger than a love of “themselves,” Humiliated little boys caught between tradition and modernity, Boys who seek out great towers that are as tall as they are small, Like governments that use modernity to keep their races in place. Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Amen.
Jeanpaul Ferro — firstname.lastname@example.org — lives in Providence, R.I. His work has appeared in Cortland Review, Portland Monthly, Hawaii Review, Newport Review, The Plaza, Outsider’s Ink, Pedestal Magazine, and Mid-South Review. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he has had his poetry featured on WBAR radio in NYC.
A poem by Laine Sutton Johnson
Classroom faces swim through the years gently, violenly, without passion or justice, cold from tides tossed by currents fierce as the nearby ocean. Jellyfish and sharks well-hidden behind a principal's door, a teacher's desk or counselor's ear will bite devour consume for no reason except it's fishing season. I left teaching before drowning in depths that swallowed secrets locked in sunken chests. Like a coward, I escaped to survive.
Laine Sutton Johnson — Lainma@aol.com — is a New Jersey resident and a teacher of drama and musical theater, performer, playwright and poet. Her work has appeared in the Paterson Literary Review, Paterson: The Poets’ City, the Edison Literary Review, Voices Rising from the Grove, Confluence and Identity Theory.
CRESCENDO OVER THE MOUNTAIN SCENE 3
A poem by AK Taj
an echo meditates through time craving for the cave’s secret touch entombed in all the marble and lime it twists and turns through the whispering maze. forgotten in the recesses of the grottos I dance to the fire of your wisdom like a rolling stone collecting a kernel of dreams a molten carpet caresses wet skin seduced by your flaming fortune a tantalising tide erupts.
AK Taj (Azadeh Khalilizadeh Tajzadeh) lives in Sydney, Australia and is a poet, freelance writer and editor who has been published in a number of high profile Australian literary magazines and journals, including Hermes and Tangent. Legally qualified, AK Taj is currently an editor and writer for Australia’s national legal news service "Alert 24."
CLOUDS AND BLACKHOLES
A poem by Peter Fernbach
Clouds are the outer walls of a sealed fortress This is not a simple or a loose creation Our nurtured womb on a sea of nothing See at night at night the hollow expanse Our creative back-drop Dream on stardust . . . . . .. .. . Where were you when it all began? And as the sun and clouds return Retire to your pillowed nest And make good with your endless FREEDOM.
Peter Fernbach — PeteFern@aol.com — lives in Willamsville, N.Y. and is a professor of English at Erie Community College. He has been published in the e-zine The View From Below and The Journal of Truth and Consequence.
THE BEAST JESUS TAMED
A poem by Charles E. Cote
rode a ’56 Harley, in Southern Ontario, the chief of an outlaw biker gang. His hog roared. He preaches now. “We were extortionists, drug runners, hard men with loose women. My friends all died before age thirty. When a guy didn’t have enough cash, I’d break his skull. My mother prayed and that’s why I’m here today.” The Beast holds up a comic book. He says it tells his story in a way the kids will believe. He travels town to town and hands out tracks. He tells us to repent and we do because he’s the Beast and Jesus tamed us too.
Charles E. Cote — email@example.com — lives in Rochester, N.Y. and is a psychotherapist in private practice. He has been published in Blueline, Modern Haiku, Connecticut River Review and HazMat Review.
A poem by Susan Deer Cloud
At first she didn't know what to do when she was walking in summer light towards the Willowemoc, glanced down, couldn’t think what it was, brain synapses stopped, brief infinity, Oh Bear. Nor did she even know who she was, some girl sauntering in summer light towards Catskill river. Some Indian girl who had a bear swaying close to her thighs, not just any bear but a small happy brown bear, a half-grown bear, glancing back up at her, inviting her to float her hot glowing summer's hand to bear dance, stroke fur from earth brown to fire. So there they were, the two of them, Bear and Indian girl sauntering towards a river with an Indian name whose meaning had been lost so long ago no one remembered when the meaning died. So there she was, hearing Grandfather tell her, Never touch wild animals. Never disrespect their world by luring them into human tameness, craziness, through touch, through leaving scent, through any human words or thought. Oh, Bear, oh, Bear. Hard not to stroke such shining from bear country, the fur, the fur, the eyes, eyes inviting her, Indian girl journeying with Bear to the river with the name that some humans touched too close once, strangers forcing Indian girls into a tamer world. Nor did she even know who she was. They walked for a long time towards the river, she never reached it, she floated on into the other side of dream, she was waking up in one more city empty of bears. She knew who she was. She cried.
Susan Deer Cloud — firstname.lastname@example.org — is the editor of the poetry anthology Confluences. Her poems ave been published in Sister Nations, Native American Women Writers on Community, Unsettlng America, Ladyfest*East 2004 Anthology, Shenandoah and Identity Theory. She has received a New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowship.
A poem by Papa Osmubai
The moon in the pond is gone: the ripples from a dripping dew (Or perhaps from the quaver of frog croaks) disturbed it. Looking up I see it, full, slow, yellow, among the bright stars.
Papa Osmubai — email@example.com –writes from Macau, South China. He is completing his MA in English Studies at the University of Macau. His works have been published in GypsyMag, foam:e, Smokebox, Word Riot, Ygdrasil, Chick Flicks, Modern Drunkard Magazine, The Seeker- a Glasgow Literary Review, MadPoetry (Madison Poetry), 63 Channels, and Kookamonga Square.