Poems from the 20th Anniversary Authors’ Anthology

New poem by Kim Shuck

2017 Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Drought Break

Weaving of water is layered

Sitting in the rain

Feet dragging in the runoff

I know there are trees coming down tonight

Drought tired

Clots of soil run free

Sailors still catch and spill

Windpainting

Still navigate by song

Remember

Remember

Treesong

Waterweave

So far we are still witness

***

Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems
Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas


by Francisco X. Alarcon

Federico García Lorca / Roque Dalton /
Gloria Anzaldúa

oh poetas del mundo
de ayer, mañana, siempre
sin fronteras
hermano del alma
hermano en lucha
hermana mestiza
pusieron en riesgo
sus vidas en versos – y ante
mentiras, la verdad

9 de diciembre de 2013
o poets of the world

from yesterday, tomorrow

forever borderless

soulmate brother

brother in struggle

Mestiza sister

you risked your lives

in poems – choosing

truth over lies

December 9,2013

***

New poems James Downs

Whispers in the grass

The sheer

abruptness of sweetness

on the tongue



the full

dawning of sunflowers

in the mind



the repetitive

mirror taken down

off the wall



the shouldered

certainty of sightings

in the throat



what is it we seek in this life of woe



the twinkled

brightness of benevolence

near the stars



the tried-

and-true of whispers

in the grass



the hunger danger of hope in the heart

***

The Nature of Mountains

John Peterson

dark season


we keep finding small places that let the

smell of herbs come through



rosemary before its put in the black skillet

with potatoes onions and black pepper



basil oregano and cilantro growing on the roof

top deck where the sound of pigeons and sunsets

fill the sky and early morning bells

from the methodist steeple

stand out against the snow covered peaks

of the cuyamacas



the source of rain in the spider plant

the deep smell of burning oak

eucalyptus both wet and shining and played out in smoke



this is the season the bear sleeps where you and i

slowly give in and lay front to back like spoons in

a velvet embrace

***

Landscape of a Woman and a Hummingbird

Joe Milosch

He twists his neck to catch the sun,

which turns his throat to the same shade

of red as the fluid in the gourd-shaped feeder.



Peeling grilled tomatoes, she lifts her head

to see him dip his beak, turn his head,

and burst into shadow.



As they slip through her fingers, tomato seeds

become prayer beads, which seem suspended

for a moment before falling into her salsa.

Brandon Cesmat

From our 20th Anniversary Anthology

Light in All Directions
Brandon Cesmat

Light in All Directions

I felt your gaze all day as you drove the road toward me.
That night in the observatory, we leaned into the telescope,
held our breath to focus on Jupiter with five moons
each lit like half-closed blind eyes,
all that old light taking eight minutes to reach us on
a planet close enough to catch light from a star.
Then you found Saturn, made out the rings standing on knife-point
and the band of shadow
the dark older than the light
the same dark just beyond the porch lamp,
the same constant dark between any two people.
A star sends its light in all directions
like a king dispatching navies that sink in the crossing except
one ship that arrives as you have
to make new whatever light survives.
Under that dome, dark so people could see stars,
I leaned against the wall and only your light fell onto me.
 New Poem

Howl, Hoot and Poem Disguise

             for Leonidas
1 a.m. and I can’t sleep like the owl
in the pine outside the front door.
He hoots a five-beat song with three notes.
and then rests while a car passes over the hill.
A coyote above the hum of
the air compressor on the casino roof.
He cries again  at the top of the canyon.
I harmonize an inversion;
owl adds his refrain.
All of us nightsinging out,
then breathing in and listening.
What have we rustled out of cover?
I’m hungry for sleep but too tired
to tear the night apart and swallow it
as the dawn will.
At noon the canyon caves hold night’s tongue.
Singing is the sound of hunger.
It’s what we do with empty mouths.
It’s what we live on when silence is not enough.

James Downs 

Refining the moment

Reach out a quavering hand to touch rock 

bird bones may be Hollow… but they are heavy 

colors of Fall are proportional to colors of Spring 

there’s a giant in the Sky prepared to roar 

find yourself in company of No less than three 

Genealogy tells only part of a truthful tale 

a ditch only means higher Ground on other side 

lumbering black bear can run straight uphill 

make a face by scrunching up your Mouth 

thin valley gets Darker quicker than a plain 

Markets for homegrown gods shine out 

when you leave one place you Enter another 

ghosts of Today become memories of tomorrow 

bighorn sheep re-introduced to wild Sierra Mountains 

Wave upon wave caresses winding California coast 

You cannot escape Yourself even if you tried 

Refining the moment… reach out a quavering hand  

bird bones may be Hollow… but they are heavy 


James Downs 

BLESSINGS AND CURSES poems by Anne Whitehouse

From our 20th Anniversary Anthology

BLESSINGS AND CURSES
poems by Anne Whitehouse

BLESSING XVI

There is something to be said
for being a renter,
of watching over a place
without the obligation
to improve it.

The Native Americans
made it a practice
to leave little trace of themselves
on the landscape.

Few of us can bear
to travel so lightly.
Yet this is our condition:
to occupy this life,
knowing we will
be parted from it,
but not when.

At sunset my shadow stretches
over the sea as I ease myself in
for the last swim of summer.
For thirty years I’ve immersed
in the cold waters of this cove
and felt cradled by sea and sky.
In their ever-changing immensities
I sense the unpossessable sublime.

I sink my restless thoughts to silence
so I may cleave to my true purpose.

Tethered, words enter the mind
through the eye or the ear,
to make of themselves
the weightless structure
apprehended wholly or in part,
like a shape shifting in the mist,
reverberant as a song,
to be taken up or forgotten,
like spent desire, or sunlight
shining on water, a fading reflection.

 

Joe O’Connell

From our 20th Anniversary Anthology

Dingle Day
poems by Joe O’Connell

Music-energy
In Flanders fields
Did Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band
Buoy us up on a Spring morning
With a driving force,
Ebullient, hoarse and sound,
Prophetic energy about nothing much really
Or everything
That a young sub-prime man should feel,
The world and its promise wheeling under his heel.
In rushy Kerry fields, actually,
Were these musical propellers felt,
The sun winning supremely over the fluffy clouds
For attention received unsolicited
Like a fancied one,
Its power and beauty constant,
Immutable and impermeable to any move,
Indifferent to the machinations
Of an earth bound offspring.
Halloevening
That fairies, or pucai, don’t exist
In the glaringly obvious physical sense
Is utterly besides the point
To any celtically attuned
Consciousness
Centred and diffused
Through the pale, cold autumnal
Halloevening thin air
In damp, mushroomy, rushy fields
Amongst meditative bovines,
Mysterious sheep, wild-eyed goats
And furtive little beings,
Who, surprised, turn their independent eyes
Almost, yet somehow more than human,
Towards yours questing,
Knowing something, arrogantly conveyed,
That your quest will never find.

DAN  THARP

From our 20th Anniversary Anthology
A ROSE IN  THE BRIAR PATCH
poems by DAN  THARP
Oscar
We dropped his ashes from the bridge
into the Canadian River below;
left our words upon the breeze and
watched the current
sweep him away…
followed soon by two car
                and an empty can of beer.
Morning Colors
Morning colors
play upon the clouds –
in oranges, reds
and pretty pastels –
And were I to feel
the morning breeze
play about
as it would please;
brush up against
my skin and tease
the longing of
my heart…
then I would see
you standing there;
the morning colors
in your hair.
Forgive me if
I’m unaware
of others
standing near.

Diana Festa

From the forth coming 20th Anniversary Anthology

The Gathering
poems by Diana Festa

Odors
After Umberto Eco’s
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
The soil’s peculiar smell,
fog filtering into clusters of trees,
rain on pavement,
the earthy odor of artichokes,
sweetness of sage, salt in sea air,
pungent tea leaves steaming
in blades of sun–
the planet is saturated with scents.
But there is the desperate loneliness
of parallel lines, unscented, untouching
in a firmament of curves and corners,
seeking solace, a whiff of life
in fragrances.
I navigate among them
in sun-drenched breeze from the desert,
mountains that repeat mountains.
Every step holds
traces of forgotten aims—
and oh, the fear of not finding
the way home.
I do not know how to land
on solid ground, or change my course,
how to leave my parallel-line solitude,
the weighty suspense
in the allegory of loss.
Selective Recollections
Happy families are all alike.
Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
Little gifts, a Limoges saucer, a Murano flower—
a cumulous of objects in cumulous of years.
I forget who gave the saucer, a vase, a pitcher.
There were letters, often so lovely
they may still be warming pages in some books.
But most went, buried
with days of the past, love notes, dried flowers.
When I left the old house, I walked away
from a cabinet where faces stilled
by the camera smiled in distant sun—
the children, the man I loved.
I hold a convergence of lights in my memory,
and there is no room for photographs
with their unchanging mien.
Remembrance makes its own choice,
elective instants within recurring images.
What do I remember of you?
A myriad instants—
walks at the beach in paling dusk, dinners
at our favorite restaurant, afternoons
by book stalls along the Seine, rocking train rides—
nothing extraordinary,
the simple story we shared,
the quiet pace of our days,
the rhythm of our breathing.

Joan Michelson, London England

Lament

And are you gone from me?
And are you dead?
Who loved me always
and now prefer the wind.

And is it spring
with an untimely frost?
And are the bushes sticks?
And berry-flowers dew?

And do I waking wake?
And is this floor the earth?
And do I breathe in smoke?
And is this wind?

Oh are you not alive?
Who loved me as your own
and gave me seasons
buttered with the sun.

Song For Sleep

I sleep and hold your hand
and hold your hand in sleep.

A shrunken moon slides in.
The eucalyptus breathes.
The garden shed grows tall,
taller than the hedge.

And years roll on, roll on
until we have no years

Then like blossom floats 
an alphabet of dust. 
I hold in sleep your hand.
In sleep I hold your hand.

Bosnian Girl

When they had done with her and her mother
she climbed a tree and hung herself – a girl
in a red sweater that her mother had knitted.
This is one front page image I remember
from the Srebrenica massacre.
If we could live inside the memory of ‘Once
there was a village that was undisturbed’,
by now she’d be a mother knitting sweaters
for her own daughter. My fingers unbuckle
the woven belt she slung around a branch.
Her slim bare legs are swinging down.
Feet on earth again, up she springs and runs.

Zoo

The monkey cry, forbidden by Saul’s father
through the years in hiding, stunned Saul’s guests
and he himself, a man of sixty, dressed

in his best suit. It was the Leichenschmaus,
the funeral lunch, for his father. The family,
Saul and his one son, were seated

at the head table. Embossed white linen,
heavy silver, glassware. But the monkey cry,
as if repressed for fifty years, exploded

from within Saul’s throat. Down he slid,
a bulk onto the floor, knees pulled up,
fists against his eyes. Three years

they’d lived in the Ape House storage room
inside the Royal Artis Zoo. The keeper,
the only man they saw. His chimp, Kosheeba,

the worker, who delivered their monkey mash.
Saul’s world – the concrete floor, the straw
in which they lay, the wire cage in front

with climbing ropes and branches, and his mama
and his papa in matching matted mink,
long coats that papa stitched by hand.

Saul knew the feel of lining silk and fur,
and how it smelled, and to be small
against his father’s chest and feel the warmth

and hear the muffled lub-dub of the heart.
But how his family had ‘disappeared’;
who’d colluded; how it was condoned;

and the survival of several hundred Jews
inside the Royal Artis Zoo was fogged history.
It would be called up after Saul

shook himself to take his place again
beside his son and passed around a photo
found on Thursday when he’d found

his father dead. Dead and covered
with the coat he’d worn in hiding, the mink
in the photo from Liberation Day. To think

that his father had kept that coat to die
beneath it. To die with his hands stiff
against his ears as if he heard the cry,

a sound like a howl or a beseeching;
or that inside the worn-out wartime coat
the monkey cry lived on. Returned to self,

Saul looked around Restaurant Basaal.
No one met his gaze. The room, strangely
still, was loud with nothing to be heard.

Joan Michelson won first prize in the Bristol Poetry Competition, UK, 2015, first prize in the Torriano Competition, UK, 2014, and she received the Hamish Canham prize from the Poetry Society of England, 2012 and her poem ‘Self-Portrait with Secret’ was a Poetry Society newsletter selection Dec 2016.  Her writing has been selected for several British Council and Arts Council anthologies of New Writing. Her first collection, Toward the Heliopause was published by Poetic Matrix Press, CA, USA, 2011.  Her chapbook, Bloomvale Home, portraits of residents in a care home, by Original Plus Books, UK, 2016.  Forthcoming, 2017, from Sentinel Books, UK, a new collection, Landing Stage.  Forthcoming 2018, from The Finishing Line Press, KY, chapbook, ‘The Family Kitchen’. Originally from New England, USA, Joan lives in London, England.

Iris Orpi – 5 Poems

Equinox

 

Like wings,

the reclaiming of the dark hours

arches across the rosy-eyed lull

of not knowing,

plumed in possibility

and iridescent visions,

flourishes of sacred geometry

stirring what once felt like

the night would go on without end.

There’s a sweet pain in awakening.

The voice of half-hearted

reckoning of day’s peak

catching on a sob

for the unfinished,

or for the beloved dreaming

that got defaced by the truth.

The inert limbs slowly embracing

a suffusion of fire.

There is that moment in turning

from what had once meant something

towards what is promised,

when the squaring of shoulders

exposes the symmetry of sound

catching up with the light,

imperfect form flanked

by efforts of divinity

to concede that it might

have been too dismissive of wisdom

coursed through the flesh.

It stretches behind you like wings.

Flight is nothing but the feeling

that touches you when

the sky becomes right-side up

and comes into view.

 

Ballast

Sometimes we turn to the darkness

as we stand on the edge

of oncoming, anticipated light

not because it is preferable

or necessary, but because

it comforts and gives a sense

of belonging to the things we carry

and wonder if they have a place

among the changes that are coming.

We mourn all deaths,

even those of what had never been

good for us, those that had been

slowly killing us the whole time.

Realizing they are lost to us

after all the pain of coming

to terms with their presence

and the makeshift beauty

we’ve contrived from the ways

they had made us suffer is

a fear and a melancholy of its own,

and a guilt too, almost

for a time outweighing our relief

for not having to suffer anymore.

Like the passing of a hero,

or the need for one,

making us again ordinary

and searching for the next

difficult thing to live for

so we could feel keenly alive.

When they call it self-preservation

we think about staying the same.

And then we call it a loss,

shedding the things that only

weigh us down. But to live

is to not drown, and at some point

we realize we are surrounded

by water. We get high on breathing

because the perilous tide outside

us is made of the same stuff

as the part liquid our spirits are.

We forget that we are souls

that have bodies. Our intimacy

with gravity and falling belies

how majestically we can rise

 

without denouncing the ground.

 

Salt and Aquamarine

And there you were,

the blue hour draped around you

like a shawl and all your

motivations a little disheveled.

The benign hush that

assumes the shapes of

what could have been overcome

blames nothing,

not even circumstance.

Some epiphanies are like

sea glass: broken

from a forgotten whole,

lost in rarely charted waters,

and with edges worn off by waves

that arch like the wings of fate.

It’s hard to tell from looking at you

where you really started.

You are part shipwreck

and part sunken treasure,

foggy and turquoise

and mystifying.

No one thinks less of a jewel for

forgoing a little clarity

for a few nights at sea,

for coming in to possession

of a thousand questions.

They make a pretty pattern,

hanging from your neck like amulets

and bringing out the depth

of passion in your eyes.

Nobody ever told you,

and they couldn’t even if they knew,

the birth you gave was going

to require a daily reimagining

of your own needs.

Every night a different sky.

It’s something you realize for yourself

when you find that the sun

rises on your right shoulder

while your love prefers

to weep on your left.

And the shawl of blue hour

fades into a night that hides you,

hides your rough places

without questioning.

It is kind to you because it

recognizes the way you gaze

at love: as if you expect to drown

and are giving it instructions

to collect your pieces

along the shore.

 

Tricks of Transcendence

Towards that beauty

we sail, half-mast

in dignified mourning

for the safe shore we

turned our backs on,

on freedom that comes in waves

and an innate promise that

sometimes lies about distances

and tastes like saltwater.

 

Somewhere, a part of us knew

that the days we were burning

would be the past of a life

that was coming. A time merely

to look back on, and love,

the way we understood it then,

would glimmer like beads of dew

in the wide open daylight of

what the future that arrived

revealed to us about ourselves.

That the stories we repeated,

raw and unresolved, over smoke

and expensive noise, would

later be just one of many filters

to a vision, and we would be

watching this world with

our hearts pulled in a direction

for reasons we cannot enunciate.

 

We still believe in what was

promised us back in the days

when there was no past

to lament, no stubborn mistakes

that stick to our perceptions

like paint on silk. We ask all

these illuminated questions

not because the answers

would redeem us, although

they do, but because all things

are bound to one another

and it’s how we get reminded

that we speak the language

of the universe that we are

certain is listening.

 

And towards that point

where the light gathers,

we faithfully make our way,

stumbling, the way untrained

faith sometimes stumbles,

taking it upon ourselves

to chase a bliss that someone

once told us we were worthy of,

that we would never have

believed otherwise, if it were

something we merely wanted

instead of a prophecy waiting

 

to be claimed.

 

Bequests from the Departed Light

It’s not the poems the stars write

that give the night its soul

not the light the moon

borrows from the sun

or the breath of silence

stirring between the trees

 

it’s a fragment of the blue

coaxed from the heaving tides

from passion’s forgotten oceans

and remembering having once

craved for rest when all

the city could spare

was a lonely furnished room

lit with your tamed vices

 

it’s the texture of that moment

when it came up in conversation

with a trusted friend

how best to spend the small hours

trapped between your skin

and the fire that claims

to be the estranged daughter

of the song no one else but you

could hear.

 

Bio: 

Iris Orpi is the author of the illustrated novel, The Espresso Effect (2010), and two books of collected poems, Beautiful Fever (2012) and Cognac for the Soul (2012). She was an Honorable Mention for the 2014 Contemporary American Poetry Prize given by the Chicago Poetry Press.

Poems from Raphael Block’s book, Strings of Shining Silence

Strings of Shining Silence

When shadows lengthen,
our breaths grow closer, and
bundled bodies huddle against
drizzle-slanting snow and rain.
To warmth we turn,
the nearness of a cello heartbeat;
strings of shining silence
fill my chest with crimson tones.
Each in-breath spins me into soundness
while with each outward rush of air—
though winds may shriek and squall,
clouds flash and crack—
shafts of sunlight— somehow—
slip through my being and unfold.

Blazing Trees

You have only to see
the blazing sunset through
the trees to be
in that dazzling presence
and catch a voice saying
“Take off your masks!”
With a clatter they land
all around, but you barely
notice because the fire
in your heart is bursting
toward that bright glow
on the horizon.
And when its last
glimmering rays are gone—
from human sight—
you’re left with a gateway
that will open
even in your dark hour.