On this page poems by Johnmichael Simon, David B. Axelrod, Mantz Yorke, Stanley H. Barkan, d.n. simmers, David Adès, Hiram Larew, Jeremy Seligson, Duane L. Herrmann, Jacob erin-cilberto, Meir Weksler, Steve Klepetar, David Olsen
The following works are copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Johnmichael Simon has lived in Israel since 1963. He has published five solo books of poems and some collaborations with partner Helen Bar-Lev and colleague Iris Dan. His poetry has been awarded numerous prizes and honorable mentions and is published widely in print and website collections. He is the chief editor of Cyclamens and Swords publishing and webmaster of Voices Israel group of poets in English.
Sestina For a Music Student
When as a kid I tried to learn the notes
Of treble clef and underneath the bass
They taught us first that All Cows Should Eat Grass
And then that F-A-C-E should in fact spell Face
The trouble was I always got it wrong
And ended up with just a messed up song
I still remember how with that first song
My life of poems began, and here I note
That many times I thought I got it wrong
And sang in treble clef instead of bass
There was a certain saving of my face
When friends in mirth rolled laughing in the grass
For after drinking booze or smoking grass
I sang a Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds song
While keeping things I really couldn’t face
Hidden deep inside those woozy notes
And yet with thoughts so low, somehow so base
I ended up a poet – don’t get me wrong
There were some times I got it right not wrong
Some few occasions I remembered grass
Belonged to treble clef’s mnemonic not to bass
And once or twice I even sang a song
In which a cow mooed in between the notes
A discord which my teacher couldn’t face
For many years I simply couldn’t face
The fact that compositionally I was wrong
In music class I’d scribbled gossipy notes
And later passed them, sitting on the grass
To girls I thought would like my type of song
But woe, instead of cute they called me base
I tried my hand at fishing, caught some bass
A catfish which spat water in my face
Some tadpoles that like quavers in my song
Refused to wriggle as I’d done them wrong
I emptied out the jam jar in the grass
Went back to scribbling rhymes and passing notes
And so today I face the fact that song
Was wrong for me I should have stuck to grass
And base my dubious fame on writing notes
from the tip of my osculation
to the cornerstone of my
toenails – perfect
like a Geiger counter in ice.
Thank you Miss
I’ll have a little more of that
it’s good for the libido
so deliciously liberating.
What’s that, your husband
became a monk? Could we
get together sometime, just
the two of us? Friday after
My friend Sigmund
is translating Gray’s original
manuscript. Into German of course.
He got down to a few inches
below the navel, became fixated
there – for decades scholars followed
him to see what he was up to.
I can show you what he was up to, Miss –
5 o’clock, behind the Coliseum.
But I digress
we’d got around to the wishbone
hadn’t we? You know, some
politicians spend half their lives
as liberals, socialists even,
until some rich uncle leaves them
an apartment building or an oil well
then snap. Close your eyes darling
it’s like everything you ever imagined
moving from back benches to boudoirs –
bedrooms they call them these days.
where the beating Laundromat is
the absolute center of space and time
24 hours every day
even while the body is sleeping
dreaming of Elysium
background music of everything.
What’s love got to do with it?
That’s one of the best kept myths
isn’t that so?
If you place your stethoscope here
right here, don’t be afraid
you will hear the hit parade
gurgling its way round and round
like yesterday in a doggy bag.
Fasting is good for the system
it hushes the symphony until all you can hear
is the Dalai Lama on his mountain top
chanting his endless om.
they always get in the way, don’t they:
clavicle, tibia, fibula, vertebrae, these days
they have a machine that can
photograph your silhouette in black and white
a frightening thought but
quite topographical really –
with all the verve, passion and agony
bleached out of it
leaving only a grinning copy of you
to show that you were
here at all.
does not necessarily mean
missing the main course
loin cloths were invented before
tablecloths by Homo Vulgaris
as any Scotsman worthy of his kilt
will tell you, cutting into his haggis
to expose a pair of tartan suspenders,
wooly army issue socks
and knobby knee caps
So my dear Miss,
may I thank you
for participating in this course
the trajectory of which has been
artfully concealed by generations
of baroque painters. On Friday
when hopefully after prayers or
behind the Coliseum we will have
our next tête-à-tête
I will introduce you to the Animal Cell,
the Ovum, the Spermatozoon,
the Sternococcus and the other Articulations
of the Lower Extremity.
Homo Proponit, Sed Deus Disponit*
Thomas à Kempis circa 1425
Once upon a time there was a family of gods
who lived somewhere far out among the stars.
Mama God was a composer, well known for her
hymns and anthems. Papa God was a blacksmith who made
shields, swords and things and on weekends performed
miracles for charity. Baby God was still quite small
and loved mostly to play and have fun.
When Baby God turned seven, Mama and Papa bought him
a universe building kit as a birthday gift. The set contained
a whole lot of mud and some wriggly worms as well as
a rather battered brass bugle. After a bit of experimenting
Baby God used the mud to make a large ball and with his
finger he poked a number of tunnels in it. Then he placed
the worms each inside its own tunnel. When he blew some
loud notes on the bugle the worms would poke their heads
out of the tunnels and sing Hallelujah.
Tiring of this game, Baby God put the world aside and turned
to more adult things. But every now and then he would look
to see how the worms were faring. One day he noticed that
all of them had crawled out of their tunnels and were busy
building castles, temples, mosques and churches over the
surface of the mud ball and when he now blew the bugle,
hordes of worms wearing Papa’s swords and shields and singing
Mama’s hymns started pulling down and setting fire to
each others' edifices.
Baby God (who by this time was no longer a baby) was horrified.
This was not what he had intended when he placed the worms
in the tunnels. He took the universe building kit down to a
large black hole and dropped it in with a noisy plop.
And there it has remained ever since.
* Man proposes but God disposes
David B. Axelrod
Dr. David B. Axelrod, was raised in the small town of Beverly, Massachusetts, lived for forty years on Long Island in New York, and moved to Florida five years ago. He is Volusia County Poet Laureate, is also the director of the Creative Happiness Institute in Daytona Beach, Florida, which presents cultural programs in his area. Dr. Axelrod has published in hundreds of magazines and anthologies, as well as twenty-one books of poetry, the newest of which is Rusting: Ways to Keep Living.
He is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards including his being the first official Fulbright Poet-in-Residence in the People’s Republic of China. He has performed at the United Nations and for the American Library Association and shared the stage in performance with such notables as Louis Simpson, Allen Ginsberg, William Stafford, Robert Bly, X. J. Kennedy and Galway Kinnell. He has studied nine languages and his poetry has been translated into and published in fifteen.
I joke I’ve taught the bigger ones
to sing, or saddled them to ride,
but like B-movie scenes where
hoards are revealed, finding even
one in a corner is a bad dream.
I’ve seen them frolic on sidewalks
at night, provoking screams.
“It’s just a palmetto bug,”
pretty euphemism we tell tourists.
I buy a contract to protect my house.
“To heck with the EPA, spray
everywhere.” But there they are,
belly-up in corners, their crooked
legs still kicking. Are there cock-
roach EMTs, little medics waiting
to rescue them with cockroach CPR.
I reach for them with paper towels.
The less dead roll over and make a run.
Later, a dry carcass greets me like
a taxidermy trophy. Three hundred
million years they’ve practiced.
Four thousand species inhabit
what we call our world. I have
maybe twenty years before I’m
gone. They’ve got three hundred
million more. What makes me
think that I can win this war?
It was the song of a sickly kid,
my single note wheezed through
the night. My mother applied
VapoRub, set the humidifier
steaming, stroked my head
to reassure me things would be
alright. Doctor’s did me no good,
except to make me skeptical
of cures. Fighting for breath
bred in me a defensive posture.
Finally, my asthma just went
away, leaving me empathetic
to others’ suffering—suffocated
by racism, poverty, abuse.
I am still waiting for the comfort
I was promised—the reassurance
that things will be set right.
Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Dactyl, Dawntreader, Lunar Poetry, Popshot, Prole, Revival, The Brain of Forgetting and The Stony Thursday Book magazines, in e-magazines and in anthologies in the UK, Ireland and the US.
St Anthony’s Head
Brahms’ graceful siciliana, like her perfume,
takes me back to that calm June evening
and an arpeggio of pines scraggily stark
against an orange sky. All sunny afternoon
we’d lain in Elwinnick Cove, invisible to ramblers
on the cliff-top path and oblivious to the tide’s
surreptitious return. The splashed rocks,
slippery with weed, cut off the way we’d come:
escape lay up the cove’s steep slope, grabbing
grass against a glissando to the sand below.
Half a century has passed. Alone,
I look back across the headland, pondering
how long we could have expected to survive,
with the fiery sunset witness to an atmosphere
poisoned by mushrooms’ spores. Today, cinders:
a depression is approaching from the west,
setting the trees against its darkening grey.
Time to be going home: rain is on its way.
Levant Mine, Cornwall
Ruins dot the grassy slope below – buddles,
dressing floors and grave-like gable ends.
The soot-topped stack hints at darknesses –
miners hacking in foul air deep beneath the sea,
boys fanning draughts in eight-hour shifts,
bal-maidens cobbing ore, thirty-one dead
in a lifting-gear collapse, and the calciners’ fire
unwittingly poisoning water, earth and air.
Near the stack, on flat ground, a pentagram –
overlapping arcs of brown stone, a pile of white
at the flower’s eye – brings gentleness to workings
softening under the relentless caress of time.
The five-fold symmetry roughly replicates
the leaves of brambles looping from Pendeen,
whose barbed balm will, when we’re long gone,
salve the scars from our scratching-out of ores.
Stanley H. Barkan
Stanley H. Barkan’s poetry has been translated into 25 different languages, and published in 18 collections. The latest includes Sailing the Yangtze (English-Chinese), translated by Hong Ai Bai (Oyster Bay, NY: The Feral Press, 2014) and The Machine for Inventing Ideals / Masina de inventat idealuri (English/Romanian), with Daniel Corbu, translated by Olimpia Iacob (Iasi, Romania: Editura Princeps Multimedia, 2014).
Thoughts & Things On The Yangtze
(8 November 2001)
Red sun risen,
at the left bank
of the Yangtze . . .
Prow cutting through
downstream current . . .
somewhere to meet
where all waters meet
in a wide blue sea
somewhere . . .
a white moon,
and a night star
a canopy of clouds,
till the dark
their presence . . .
Point of reference:
earth & sky,
dusk & dawn,
thoughts & things.
Under The Wiliamsburg Bridge
for Menke Katz and Yussel Greenspan
“People died not so much from hunger as despair.”
—About the Great Depression
the Williamsburg Bridge
—over the river of forgetfulness—
the stacks of bodies
of the faceless dead
on the way to potter’s field.
Who knows them—
these strugglers against
days without work
nights without hope?
Even the masters
of the sky-pricking towers
are stretched out
picked from the waters
We sit and wonder
under the Williamsburg Bridge,
shivering in the wind and spray,
mouth agape for apples
and hard rolls purchased
five for a nickel.
of bread and apple,
we shout out poems
for these passing piles
laid out like heaps for dumps.
After the slashed-white wake,
we startle at ourselves
reflected in the glass-black waves.
dn simmers is an online editor with Fine Lines. He will be in/was in The Storyteller, Storyacious, Westward Quarterly, Plainsongs, Iconoclast, Nomad's Choir. He is in a current anthology Royal City Poets (3) and was in Van Gogh's Ear, Paris France.
"Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;
Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breasts,”
A girl kissed in her boathouse. White skin:
Inside flesh a slow waltz mixed with darkness.
Forms of young men. Woman glued together.
Beach night. Slim men holding hands with the sea
as it washes in and out becoming their blanket.
Earthly memories of days. When clocks were slower.
No reason to live except heart beating.
No etched symbols.
Or cash flows. Nor mortgages.
David Adès is an Australian poet living in Pittsburgh since 2011. His collection Mapping the World (Friendly Street Poets / Wakefield Press) was commended for the Anne Elder Award 2008. His poems have appeared widely in Australia and the U.S. in numerous literary magazines. In 2014 David was awarded the inaugural University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize and was also shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Recently, one of his poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a chapbook, Only the Questions Are Eternal was published: see http://www.garronpublishing.com.
Flight of the Shadows
It seemed a mid-summer day like any other:
sweltering sky ablaze drawing sweat from skin,
eyes squinting or forced to look away,
hands reaching for sunglasses,
heat rising from roads and sidewalks,
shirts sticking to backs.
There was no sense of anything different,
of any familiar taken-for-granted thing absent,
and we, occupied in heat, languid,
eyelids drooping, failed to notice until
someone gasped, someone screamed
and panic rippled outwards, wave front,
chaotic swirl, debris.
All at once, our shadows had gone
and we were adrift,
not light and flighty like Peter Pan
searching for his, but diminished, lost,
suddenly cut off from ourselves,
as if our shadows had lied all these years,
leaving us to wonder
if they knew something we didn’t,
like birds before an earthquake,
elephants before a tsunami.
There is a disturbance in the pond.
It is not just a ripple from a thrown stone
but a rip in the pond’s fabric.
There is a disturbance at sea,
leaky boats capsizing,
a tossing of flotsam and jetsam.
There is a tide washing in,
There is agitation in the air,
a grasping gasping for breath.
There is a roiling in the sky,
dark and lowered and coming.
There are borders where disturbance
the storm of weather fronts colliding.
Pressure is building along fault lines,
grind and creak and shift,
hidden cracks spreading out.
Something is going to give.
Larew's work has appeared in several journals and books, and two poems have been nominated for Pushcart prizes. He is a member of the Folger Shakespeare Library's Poetry Board, and lives in Upper Marlboro, MD, USA.
I’m more you than me
And certainly have become what I can’t find –
You it seems aren’t from here or anytime soon
Such a trinket -
I first saw you I believe like no one else
Long long ago
So now you almost seem like the gone part -
The hop mud the eat seeds the wrestle
By the way I’m more you than me now
In whatever way forgets.
Unexpect me as much as onions green this morning
Startle whatever my shiny is
And with eyes closed
Scare this Spring with take
Make birds swirl
Make no bend
However poke get
However new send
Unexpect my green this morning as much as onions.
To the day
Before I was born
Hitler became head of Germany
I know that the closeness
Is only steam over tea
Even so I can't help but
Gather up places inside me -
To imagine what I may become -
And I don't know why
But being as near
I think of hair cropped
And how overall I know so little
Those outset days must have been in many ways
The sound of gravel
Or a tree cut off
Like you I've seen pictures taken
Of what happened
And again and again
The one thing they say to me
Is how the longest lasting parts of any wall
Are the arches.
Jeremy Seligson is the Conductor of the IFLAC Children's Peace Train and Adjunct Professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea
all to do
the praying mantis
the black bee
the gold spider
We couldn’t see
~ really eye
~ couldn’t feel
the mint leaf
All we did
for no reason
We’ll stay up
until we’ve got
Duane L. Herrmann
Duane L. Herrmann is a survivor who has found a new voice and new perspective to put his pain and that of others into an experience that is greater than his own life. He tries to share that voice and perspective in his work.
The Stone’s Account
I am a simple stone:
rough and dull,
no color to note,
but fit for a hand.
I had an honor,
to touch a holy
He was walking,
and a woman cried
for them to stop.
he stood for her.
I was in her hand
and she threw me.
For just a moment
I touched Glory.
Jacob erin-cilberto originally from Bronx, NY, lives and teaches in Southern Illinois. He has been writing and publishing poetry since 1970. His 14th and most recent book of poetry, Demolitions and Reconstructions is available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and Goodreads and was published by Water Forest Press, Stormville, NY.
from a poor man's Paris of the mind
i received a postcard from my heart,
"wish you were here, miss you"
it had no stamp
so i had to pay the postage
40 cents worth of angst
perforated with paper cut edges
and no return address.
Meir Weksler was born, educated and married in Brazil. Immigrated to Israel in Dec. 1972 to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Graduated in 1980 and since then involved in High-Tech R&D and entrepreneurship. Received his M.A. from the Shandy Rudhoff Creative Writing Program (BIU-IL) – Poetry track, under the orientation of Prof. Linda Zisquit. One of his poems, “Protons”, was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Jan. 2014. His poem “Infinities (Shay)” was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Voices Israel 2014 Reuben Rose Competition. Father of four sons.
You sat on your reading sofa,
iPad on your lap,
your ears plugged,
My autumn socks were a whisper approaching,
you raised your eyes
from the digital book.
Those eyes had been down in the morning,
not looking at me during breakfast,
and your lips had barely talked.
You had been sad since dawn. I had felt it
when you curled by me;
I had wrapped you, body to body.
Later you said you felt cold, but it had not been a cold morning.
I could feel your sadness from the shy
lifting of a finger, a lowering
of the eyelids, a tongue sweep of lips,
or the way you walked away from the table
without even touching my hair or fingers.
I am sad when you are.
Middle of the day
I wanted to kiss you,
not on going out or coming back,
just leaving the refuge of my desk,
to give you a little of me,
that it would ease your sadness.
I moved the iPad away, sat on your lap instead, and kissed you.
on a quilt of oldness - me
and the grass
Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared widely, and several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).
Li Bo Meets Joe DiMaggio in the Underworld
Li Bo sits, observing a mountain’s
green reflection in the pale blue water
of a quiet pool. A breeze ripples
the surface, blurring the edges of this scene:
solid mountain, with its golden trees
and plunging ravines swirling insubstantial as clouds.
“What’re you doing?” DiMaggio asks, leaning
over Li Bo’s shoulder.
“Writing a poem in my head about this mountain’s
reflection in the pool, how the wind transforms
rock and trees to mist. Would you like to hear
what I have so far?”
“Do you know who I am?,” DiMaggio demands.
“Everybody knows who you are: Joltin’ Joe,
the Yankee Clipper.”
“Goddamn right. I had 88 extra-base hits my first year
and didn’t win rookie of the fucking year*. Had 96
my second year and they gave the MVP to fucking Charlie Gehringer.”
“True,” answers Li Bo with a slight smile, “but you won it in ’41**,
the year Williams hit 406. The strange world ebbs and it flows.”
“So? I had that 56 game hitting streak, and we won the goddamn World Series.”
He sits down in the grass by Li Bo and the two gaze
almost companionably into the pool, where
the mountain sways and breaks apart and fuses
in the water, a great, green wedge of heartbreaking
loveliness. They are silent in the clear, warm afternoon.
Birds sing, invisible in the neighboring trees.
Then Li Bo recites: “Here is a mountain floating in a blue pool.
Trees cling to its body like green-gold hair. Sometimes it fragments,
almost vanishes, then comes together, like armies in the distance battling for kings.”
*From 1940 – 46, only the Chicago baseball writers voted for Rookie of the Year. Jackie Robinson won the first Rookie of the Year Award voted on by the national baseball press (there was only one for both leagues then) in 1947. DiMaggio’s anger here is both posthumous and anachronistic.
**DiMaggio also beat out Ted Williams for MVP, by one vote, in 1947, though Williams had a higher batting average, more homeruns, runs, rbi’s, etc.
Where Other Children Wait
They wait in houses drifted in with snow
where barn owls haunt the frozen trees
or across the world in summer huts
where sun beats rhythms, a golden fist,
a blazing trumpet raising dust. Some hold
out in caves and holes and clearings, or in
towns flooded by late spring rains, or cities
where cars growl along avenues and sirens
moan their tragic news. Some are fat
and full, some near starvation. Some work
with ax and stone. Others find their fathers
in a dream, trudging through a landscape
full of cloud and shifting light, their faces
masks that slip and change. Sometimes
a man calls out, offering a shower of coins.
These might be regrets, which they slip
into their jeans or memories broken into
shards and combined to form a mirror
on the floor. Some wait with hands
broken into cartridges and foam. Some
hear the future calling from a mountain
near the sky. Some listen as their mothers
whisper to the past in long breaths that stream
with salt and shells. Lucky ones have found
their brothers in the wind. They clutch at
familiar flesh. Some find their eyes again,
hung from a low branch, or hear their sisters
sing from a pond ringed by cattails, frogs and reeds.
David Olsen’s 80-page Unfolding Origami (2015) won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award. In addition to three poetry chapbooks, he has placed poems in dozens of journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. A playwright and poet with a BA in chemistry from University of California-Berkeley and an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, David was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic.
I know I’m keeping you awake;
I hear the stifled sigh as patience
erodes to faulted bedrock.
It’s just an ankle’s twitch –
as when my flipper foot
taps the pedal to keep
a coughing engine running –
but it’s enough to quake
the bed and break the silver
threads in the web of sleep.
I explain that the micro-fit
is beyond conscious control;
it starts in a primitive part
of the brain, and excites
motor neurons ruined years
before the Salk or Sabin
vaccines came on the scene.
None of this helps. There’s
a paroxysm of doubt when
I worry if this is just the first
of those petty annoyances
that may, one day, shake your
forbearance with seismic force.