Bio: Glen Armstrong (he/him) holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. His latest book is Night School: Selected Early Poems
Night falls on the radio station,
but its tower stands defiant, neon
call letters stacked, and topped with a crazy
orange-red planet. I listen while eating
blackberry jam and butter on toast –
a light, late supper – a chunk of salami
and a beer. Sometimes, the energy
it takes to cling to this rotating
hunk of dirt amazes me. Gravity
isn’t enough. Otis Redding, sometimes, is.
I listen imagining who else might
be out there hearing that same voice, that same
broadcast: lovers who will part forever
soon, young fools looking forward to their chance.
Requiem for King Oliver
I disassemble each day’s events
and put the pieces away
as a sniper cases his gun
which is similar, I hope,
to how the great ones case
What was once so focused and warmed
by my breath is now a puzzle
to be assembled tomorrow morning.
I will see you after breakfast
if I can finish this Requiem
for King Oliver.
The night is simple.
I’ve spent it hundreds of times.
The doors in this hotel don’t quite lock.
run barefoot through the long
shadowy grass that dreamers dream,
down these hallways
full of numbered rooms
that all leave something behind
after long division.
Long enough for loneliness,
too short for despair.
A note, a quotient, a velvet rope.
She’ll make do with a bracelet.
A tee-shirt a stolen.
Prop from the community.
College’s production of Hamlet.
It’s the sort of badassery.
That one can buy on eBay.
The sun comes up like the opening credits.
Of White Zombie or The Black Cat.
And the bird skulls whistle.
The human skulls stir.
Nondairy creamer into their coffee.
They all go off to work.
And their teenage daughters.
Want them exposed for the hollow.
Things they have and will become.
They chew skull-flavored chewing gum.
And listen to “Nick the Stripper.”
Making do with skin.
While the bone is still.
Open to higher bids.
BIO: Jacquelyn Shah holds: A.B. (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude), Rutgers U; M.A. English, Drew U; M.F.A. and Ph.D. English literature/creative writing–poetry, U of Houston. Her publications include a chapbook, small fry; a full-length book, What to Do with Red; and poems in various journals. She was Literal Latté’s 2018 Food Verse Contest winner and is a 2023 non-fiction book contest winner, memoir publication forthcoming. Iconoclast, she loves surrealism and all quirky poems!
Gordian KnotEnriched by words, phrases,
tangled, from a few
Bill Knott poems
Concealed from the eye,
out of most of one dozen autumn drops,
a liquid moment
adequately echoes the picturesque
golden flights into my(s)elf
when I am blown from consummate capsules.
This extravagance of savage yearly tearfalls
attempts to assert the wisdom
of a sparsely inhabited archipelago––
in the opus of my wandering (s)elf.
Ritual aggrandizements must adhere
on the ledge, dottily, just as caricature
hits mirrors from the world, sidelong.
Over the lip of this pit-deep surfeit of words
the ground breaks off a little crust
of exaggerated effortlessness
when making art slightly obscured,
to find you though
with flyswatters and grins
by the action of one thumb
with a inky string in its mouth,
syllables babbling in a dribble
congealing to a damp knot.
Heavy Metalafter John Chamberlain’s Artur Banres, 1977
Menil Collection, Houston
Bumper strips jagged rusty edges of random dents––
they don’t detract a bit from the gleaming chrome of
Dodge, that’s his name––though the nameplate’s painted
over, you can make out “Dee-O-Dee,” even a trace of the missing
“Gee” & “Eee”––those squeals! Sixth-grade kids amazed
to see a quarter of a wrecked car hanging on a wall Girls giggle
Boys jab each other in the ribs Look at that! Holes screws
peeling rough projections––all coated with oils
An upper-right protrusion curved like a football helmet
Great colors globbed & streaked intruding on one another––
maroon cobalt orange charging against baby blue
scarlet chartreuse & ocher scrambling cream canary
green gray dripping over gold & silver metallic black
& blue butting against white-flesh dribble His history is hot-
rodding Like a has-been president he loves the oooing & ahhing
No OtherCento made from lyrics sung by pop stars
I close my eyes, oh god I think I’m falling
and I’m floating in a most peculiar way,
spinning through the town,
laughing in the purple rain
’cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in,
’cause this is thriller, thriller night.
Hey, you, get off of my cloud,
send in the clowns.
There’s such a difference between us,
babe. I’m gonna leave you.
It’s not the way I planned it,
but now I know I’m better sleeping on my own
and I think it’s gonna be a long, long time.
I found a new place to dwell:
Strawberry Fields, forever.
Such a lovely place, such a lovely place!
It felt good to be out of the rain,
and the vision that was planted in my brain?
We were strangers in the night;
I’m leavin’ on a jet plane.
There is wonder in ’most everything I see!
Now I’m no longer doubtful.
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.
Me, myself, and I, that’s all I got in the end––
baby, there’s no other superstar.
Cento––lines, in order of appearance, from: Like a Prayer (Madonna); Space Oddity (David Bowie);
I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Whitney Houston); Purple Rain (Prince); I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor Swift); Thriller (Michael Jackson); Get Off of My Cloud (Rolling Stones); Send in the Clowns (Judy Collins); Hello (Adele); Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You (Joan Baez); Baby, One More Time (Britney Spears); Love Yourself (Justin Bieber); Rocket Man (Elton John); Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley); Strawberry Fields (Beatles); Hotel California (The Eagles); Horse with No Name (America); The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel); Strangers in the Night (Frank Sinatra); Leaving on a Jet Plane (Peter, Paul, and Mary); Top of the World (The Carpenters); A Natural Woman (Carole King); My Life (Billy Joel); Me, Myself, and I (Beyoncé); Paparazzi (Lady Gaga)
Inscrutable House With Sea Hag: A Centina*
September rain falls on the house
but in a secret moon-beholden way.
I’ll enjoy pleasure, in the garden or in the room,
since I have traveled through the plains and hills
and I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch. How pleasant!
The iron kettle sings on the stove pleasantly.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 inscrutable house
shut up with green leaves and a little crimson.
Yes, I fill all the air in my musical way,
at least secretly, where I won’t have any hills,
though my desire will not lose its green room.
The first of the undecoded messages read: “Popeye sits in the room,
and from Adam sprung nepenthe and Uncle Sam, pleasantly.”
In the failing light, the old hills
so formed he would have sparked love in a house.
And I watch his spear through the dark way,
but in the full face of the fire of crimson.
Since (as the finger is close to the crimson
in hot summer) I have a great room
the color of spinach, Popeye chuckled and scratched away.
This was the measure of my soul’s pleasant
(for me, who would choose to sleep in a house)
dance, like mad on the hot black hills.
And the winds shriek through the clouds, mad hills
closed around by all the highest crimson.
I have no limb that doesn’t shake. Not even the house,
laughing and talking to hide her room,
had all its will of dreams and pleasant, pleasant
inspiration. Plunge us now to the stars, for this is my way,
so rooted is it in this hardest way!
As a bird sleeping in a nest of hills
I have no life save when the words are pleasant.
From livid curtain’s hue, a tangram emerges, crimson,
hovers half open above the room.
Wherever I am, out in the plains or in a house,
song, have your way with crimson! And let the music
from green hills of spinach hold the soul of Sea Hag in a room
of the pleasant, inscrutable house.
*Centina, a cento-sestina––built from words and lines of six sestinas:
“Sestina” by Elizabeth Bishop; “Sestina” by Algernon Swinburne; “Lo Ferm Voler Qu’el Cor M’Intra” (The Firm Will That My Heart Enters) by Daniel Arnaut, twelfth-century troubadour and inventor of the sestina; “Sestina” by Dante Alighieri; “Sestina: Altaforte”
by Ezra Pound; “Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape” by John Ashbery. “Inscrutable House” follows the sestina’s form of thirty-nine lines with end-words that repeat according to the prescription, one each from those poets. As a cento, “Inscrutable House” uses exact lines from the poets in its first stanza; subsequent stanzas continue the form with prescribed end-word order using lines from “companion” poets. Example: in stanza two the first line is from Bishop but ends with the Ashbery word and the second line is from Ashbery but ends with the Bishop word. Only slight and occasional deviations exist within the lines.
Ten ShadesTen shades of pleasing herself
brings us to tomorrow.
John Ashbery, “El Dorado”
A weird and wonderful INTRO:
buttered roofs, dandelion breath
the salad of Nevada
Slog through the lines he’s reeled off,
purloin, bring something of it
back into the language melody
to see what will happen conversely.
(Has there been so much slogging outside and in?)
Keep your units pliable and folded;
customize tattered spaces.
Comb it wet through these otherwise days,
these torpid interpretations you see.
Mark the flow once the sluices have been opened a little,
and admit to no mistakes.
Sometimes the stars wiggled,
dangling from mistletoe
(believe it, they feel the air).
Along for the ride was a nursery of goats
and poems, dream-dipped.
Back at the jelly farm
the scribes sank in wonderment––
delightful! July passed very quickly.
So why not, indeed, try something new?
An outdated dispatch from the Mouse King?
Hazy rituals whose ultimate purpose,
far out, isn’t meant for us?
Palinodes that charm our hearing?
Digression or mild variation?
In a small garden a harmonica was heard braying
what is made and hard to screw up.
The auks were squawking, the emus shrieking.
Unlike a turkey vulture on parenthetical wing,
one nuthatch covets the sky’s
painted truths that can’t always be lively.
One part fenugreek, 3 oz. filtered water?
Why not? I’m game. Say no to nothing is my credo.
For your attention: a scarf, a puff of soot,
a little fawning for good measure.
Better to act dumb and accept the inevitable.
Be glad it’s over . . .
but it’s not over yet. Terrible incidents happen daily,
echoes of conspiracy.
You know something? I don’t care.
The planets promise to roll next time.
I’ll find a new wand, horizons will be bright,
old panaceas rewired, good as new.
Hail to something! Let bliss be unbuttoned.
I wasn’t pretending to say much.
Cento––all lines (with occasional slight altercations) from:
different poems in John Ashbery’s Planisphere and A Worldly Country
Rain-slick makes the colours brighter: neon and jewels,
trashed by greasy fast food stench and strewn papers
and, above the slush of car tyres, sirens, always sirens.
I step on stories of murder and terrorism. I grind them
to a pulp that I want to fashion into something beautiful,
paint and glitter and acrylic jewels: a mini Gaudí urn;
if it weren’t for the grit, dirt and germs, the lack of space
in our threadbare place, sparsely furnished and still packed.
You love the timbre of strings, the lingering echo of violins.
You want to know where I’ve been, who I’ve met,
never what sort of day I’ve had. I’m tired, hungry.
You’ve not made dinner yet. It’s always my turn.
You grab and pull me close. Tell me you love me,
you’re looking out for me, you worry. But you think I’m lying.
The tension reverberates like a plucked cello string.
And cellos are always melancholy. I slacken: passive.
I feel your fist, like a kiss. The room blackens.
I’ll be tomorrow’s headline. I hear violins, sirens.
I was December,
pulled you on
like a favourite sweater
against my chill.
You were summer red,
arrived on a motorbike
to maternal disapproval,
ignition for love.
I needed you
to flush my skin
and melt my frost
You wanted me:
blue jeaned rebel,
your one true love.
But fires burn.
You wanted to recast me
make me porcelain-fragile:
a doll you rescued,
dress edged in gilt,
admired not loved.
I loved you too much
what you made of me.
It shattered us.
When I slip on blue jeans
and my favourite sweater
that hugs me, like you did,
I want to be in your hold again.
Dance in the Dark (originally published by Silver Birch Press)
I feel like an echo.
I wear my siren prom dress,
killer heels, scarlet lipstick.
My skin ghost. Mind blank.
I could thread wire through my sleeves,
loop it round the mirrored disco ball,
then step out of my dress.
Slip away like a spirit.
Who’d notice me missing?
I want my blue dress.
I want my hair loose.
I want the shadows of a setting sun.
I want our song.
I want to feel alive.
I want the heat of your skin.
I want your kiss.
I want to dance in the dark.
Somehow I’m settling
for shoes that won’t dance,
a dress that won’t let me breathe,
hair styled, sprayed and pinned,
strobes that highlight every blemish,
coral imprints on drinks glasses
that are too neat, too polite,
in a hall scattered with rose petals
the colour of blood.
Bio: Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and "Ghosts in the Desert" (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com.
Why turning rust leaves on the trees
paint wonder - but not metal form,
the oxide scar, green metal bench?
Both witness chemicals at work;
the autumn auxin taking charge,
so damp air driving season’s cost.
A copper beech, the chestnut bract,
fall flaking branch, strip modesty;
yet next that picnic bench neglect,
with viridescent bottle mold,
its palette range a mirror work?
Would pristine tree in summer dress,
unchanging, satisfy our eye?
Why should our plant, this country seat,
not share the turning of the year?
I saw this bike, post-war, restored -
The Repair Shop, a TV show,
and suddenly I’m riding it.
A toddler, at my mother’s back,
the child-seat crude, black rods, red pad,
mudguard white striped, black-out required.
She told me, first air-raid she knew,
new dress, on slab, newspaper laid,
she lay, more fear newsprint transferred.
Handlebars battered, spinning wheels,
as lifted head, surveyed the screams -
and then this bike, her own, my ride.
Great grandma’s clock has ceased to tock,
that mantel piece of crude cut wood,
a case too large for inner works
where even dust just lost its way.
That alloy block on ramrod stick
founds its weight too much to sway.
Great grandad sat there by the peat,
sipped Bushmills from up the way,
admired his cutting from the moss.
She would have him up the stairs
but once the whisky had its way,
along with glowing from the grate
he was balanced on his seat,
content, the ticking of her talk
wafting, smoky, up the stack;
no matter words, straitjacket, Mum,
admonition of her tongue.
He piled bog slack from crumpled pail,
settled back, ignored the pain,
tasting time, port barrel stock.
My teenage, borne in urban scape
by serendipity, in stealth,
effected move to moorland heath.
Mount orange box, guide skipping rope,
bold pavement swerves, clipped city kerbs,
week’s shopping bags, strewn apples, leeks -
old go-cart gave way, hiking boots,
that axle burn turned abseil hold.
I longed for yells, clear crowds from path,
big points for scare, here mine alone -
heard belay calls, rock climbing face,
slow rise to rush adrenalin.
Nail granite bite, one toe tip grip,
supplanted by wind rush, tor top,
curbed charm of snaking coil below,
saw route, sail reservoir, canoe.
Words tack and boom, with crampon spikes,
set rhyming slang took on fresh voice,
with burr and rolling singing slurs,
an adolescent culture twist.
Across the tracks, my circuit mates,
paroled their streets, fixed terms fulfilled;
but I, transferred to peat moss, grouse,
had no complaints, new venture paths.
We met moor-top one sunny day,
three of us raised and with
sufficient experience and people-interest
to relate beyond silence,
gruff acknowledgement, platitude
So we concede beyond polite fascination,
the courtesy finds connections,
and unspoken, unconfessed,
the sensitive awareness
of intellectual compatibility,
water finding its own level
and finding, as it were,
two vessels joined.
Was that why he asked
if he could walk with us,
we think to his benefit, maybe ours?
The loneliness was chosen.
He walks without
map or compass or even plan;
was this so the gods could chose companion,
rain, sun, heather, grouse, people?
And why as several coalesced
at scenic viewpoint did he speak with us,
when all knew the common vista enjoyment
and its fuzzed horizon, rubbed graphite,
seeped, too bruised to rely on divided line?
We walked and talked,
smiled knowingly, admired
competency, the linguistic polymath
overseas parental-pleasing and expected
drive, yet a ghostly wanderlust.
Short-term psychiatry appointments.
Was that want of wider experience,
or simple impatience, or an unsatisfied search?
We shall never know.
We shared his meagre ration,
at his insistence.
At ours he returned with us for soup
which was not to his taste
but of course feigned sufficiency.
He signed our visitors book,
took a card and said goodbye.
The police rang some months later:
Shayne missing in the mountains,
found your card at home.
Our tale fitted the present circumstance.
Six years on his death declared,
presumed victim of Adam and Eve
on Tryfan, beyond Ogwen
where darers leap between the rocks,
though body never found.
His namesake, nightmare novelist
writes 'the void of nothingness',
as my stranger's alter ego.
I wonder if this multi-lingual
doctor of the mind, lone wanderer,
open to the guiding wind
was some kind angel in disguise,
missed in mountain mist.
Entertaining strangers unawares.
Borne nugget of Aurelia,
what channelled such genetic trail,
that broke in storms - passed to her son -
bipolar swings, bipolar things,
from obsolete, fine white flying myth?
She missed Dylan, whom would have milked,
a Harvard no, a Fulbright yes.
scholar to Newnham, Cantab pressed,
but self-harm nurtured in her breast -
could nacreous pearl emerge from grit?
I’ll take a punt - I by poled so,
beneath the Newnham balcony,
some dawn of dusk she saw it low.
Crossing the Water of the Cam,
by Silver Street where rollers lift
rift lower, upper, lower drift,
with splashes, waves, lap gurgling stir,
fleck lashes sweat, stern chain-gang haul,
far reach, Grantchester, honey, tea.
Confessional of Lowell guide,
grave Sexton, care beside, on side,
the woman dares to speak her mind,
and tell her side, heredity,
the voice in type of common woe,
far commonweal all she’s deserved,
domestic surreal in flow,
bee keeper seeking how to be.
Her jarring bell distorts, disturbs,
as Ted her lover, rental cursed,
Double Exposure found her lost,
as from storm, tempest, Ariel,
some spirit breaking from the bole.
I’d want the spritely smiling girl,
not drab flat Chalcot Square portrait -
‘flat character I do not want’ -
commons view, black white of negativity,
rejec-ted, dejec-ted hues espoused,
of ouija and astrology.
His chiseled face off granite slab -
chips off the old block, gravel grave -
could she find self-worth, alchemy,
the golden lotus in fierce flames
at least in those who followed her?
We all hear not to wave as drown,
some, killing field of Primrose Hill;
mad ricochet from happy, sad,
her childhood scars as beauty marks,
rejection slips that showed she tried,
than deserved, content, happier.
And Ariel, the posthumous
received as relic, not a book,
bright hair bracelet about the bone,
in mix, rebirth and death forlorn.
But for her cut and thrust of words,
polar explorer of extremes,
was there no one to hold her down
when she rose up, found empty skies?
How could her Daddy, laureate
not bind her childish adult wounds,
North Tawton hives or blue plaque signs
not signal hope within the rage?
Dismantled almosts may be shame,
but of rebuilding what remains?
Did she expect her orphaned two
to know that noose left hanging there,
new mother, lover, ill dispute,
who also took her life, her one?
These revenge tragedies of life
seem hellbent on remorse and pain.
And Nicholas, of Farrar name,
brings Little Gidding into frame,
with Sylvia, and that own son,
Assia, daughter, a quartet.
Teddy’s Bare Picnic
Plath’s pleas, wronged women, kept in place,
yet ‘butcher’ Ted rôled on through list
and lay in bed at lover’s nest
as told of his wife’s suicide;
Plath’s flat, two days, where lover lay,
and would, abort recovery.
Draft constitution, mistress’ rules,
outlined permitted, what ruled out;
two pages type, of sixties man,
when rise, how dress and what to cook.
His other lovers, some his wives -
‘Which bed? Which bride?’ exemplified,
an alphabetti soup of code,
Assia, Brenda, Carol too,
reduced to A, B, C, his joke.
And laureate, a poet too.
Bio: Lindsay Soberano-Wilson’s debut full-length poetry collection, Hoods of Motherhood (Prolific Pulse Press LLC, May 2023) is a homage to women who had to learn to nurture themselves the way they nurture others. As the editor of Put It To Rest, a mental health magazine, she believes in writing poetry and essays to put personal stories to rest. Her hybrid poetry chapbook, Casa de mi Corazón (2021), explores how her sense of community, Jewish Canadian identity, and home was shaped by travel. Her poems have appeared in Fine Lines Literary Journal,Embrace of Dawn, Poetry 365, Fevers of the Mind, PoetryPause, Quills Erotic Canadian Poetry Magazine, Canadian Woman Studies Journal, Running with Scissors, Fresh Voices and Poetica Magazine. She holds a MA (English) and a BEd from the University of Toronto, and a BA (Creative Writing) from Concordia University. Find her on Medium,Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. Lindsaysoberano.com
Like A Muse In A Cage inspired by Leonard Cohen (prev. published in Marlene in a Pub)
Like a muse in a cage like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a ballerina teetering on a music box like a skunk stuck in an hour I have tried in my way to be free.
Like an aloof armadillo in an explosion like a translucent paper nautilus exposed I have tried in my way to be free.
But even when my heart spills like black squid ink upon a page my essence remains chained.
But you swore on that song and all you had done wrong that you would make it up to me.
You said that together we would be free. But the world’s handprints are still on me.
Like Suzanne inspired by Leonard Cohen (previously published in Marlene in a Pub)
I always wanted to be like Suzanne feeding men tea and oranges by the river like a siren or one of Cohen’s lovers shacked up in Hydra like the Paris ex-pats buzzing around abstract words and images.
But then that would somehow mean that I would also be in love with a man who struggled to love because he struggled to love himself.
But does that matter?
Does it matter that he didn’t love in their way in the right way but in his way and was it not better than no way.
Is it not better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
I still want to be Suzanne free to love how and whomever she wants because she’s tameless and irresistible… because “you touched her perfect body with your mind.”
When Purple Rain Is Falling As Dove’s Cry, Let’s Go Crazy In The Sky… inspired by Prince (previously published in Put It To Rest)
When purple rain is falling, falling, dropping, fast, furious, and then slowly maybe even a bit deliriously from the open sky…
Letting it all out just you, the little old world, and I.
That’s when we find it’s okay to say let’s go crazy despite the tsunami elevator we ride up and down side to side but that doesn’t mean we have to slide.
As Prince says: “I’m not gonna let de-elevator Bring us down Oh, no let’s go.”
Blood Orange Heart inspired by Portishead (prev. published in iPoetry)
She’s so tired, tired of being a temptress tired of playing, playing with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
That pierced her pierced soul draining her heart like the sweet juices of a blood orange in a serial killer’s hands
Until there’s nothing but dried fruit because her heart is of no more use just a fragmented fragment of what it used to be as she slips on an orange peel before locking it in the glory box:
“Leaving it to the other girls to play.”
Oh, it didn’t have to be this way, she laments as she eats the blood orange by the light of the full moon in full bloom.
Soak Up the Sun inspired by Sheryl Crow (published in iPoetry)
It’s quiet today but only because it was loud yesterday.
Will it be quiet tomorrow?
Or only until I hear a tune looming to some familiar doom.