Sandra Kohler

Notes from One Spring

In the hospital, holding my granddaughter Katie,
two hours old: she is red, chapped, her body raw, 
undone. The play of reactions on her face, fluid, 
transparent – an array that mirrors mind –
sensations reactions impressions responses 
quick fleeting, cross it, are caught for moments, 
puzzlement or inchoate wonder. Playing on 
her tiny visage, the experience of a world.

		***

How delicate the orchid I’ve moved into this room:
darker, smaller than the one I switched it with, curling
scallops more like a butterfly, exquisite insect form.

		***

I don’t know what’s happening in the cutting bed.
If I planted marguerites where I thought I planted
cosmos, are they coming up, will they, are they just 
slow? The mountain bluet are over; if I cut them
back, will they rebloom? The fragrance of flags – 
white iris – is as pervasive as the pale thin sunlight 
glazing every leaf or shoot. If the garden about which 
I know at least a little baffles me, what about my 
growing granddaughter? About whom I know 
everything and nothing. 

		***

We begin as creatures, fundamental: 
the in-and-out chart my son keeps for
Katie: eating and peeing and defecating. 
Almost all he says about her is focussed 
on these processes. She experiences hunger, 
cold, warmth, wetness, movement, noise, 
the pleasures and pains her body provides.
What else? What is color or pattern like 
for her, what does she dream, does 
she dream, of what is she aware beyond 
bodily sensation? Of what is she 
conscious, what is it like to be her?

		***

Small birds flutter through the garden, larger
ones go overhead. Light and shadow on leaves
of the choke cherry, the tree hydrangea quiver
and ripple, shift and shimmer; summer is stirred
by morning; shaken, evenings, by storm. In the
eastern sky, a plane. Our neighbor and her sister 
across the street come out, dressed in pink, cream, 
icy pastel colors, their hats flower-decked boats 
sailing on upswept hair, their faces veiled. On 
the skinny stems of high heels they are flowers 
too, blooming in the gray gloom, on their way 
to whose wedding, what celebration?

		***

In the film we saw yesterday at the Science Museum,
the mountain climber whose mountain climber father 
died on the north face of the Iger when his son was nine 
is obsessed with climbing the same mountain; it will 
liberate him, he believes, from the fear and grief 
that imprisoned him at his father’s death. For this, 
he’ll risk inflicting that anguish on his daughter, 
eleven. When he survives the climb, he feels freed. 
Why? His childhood was what it was, as mine was.
Our pasts exist still, have not been obliterated.

	***

My granddaughter’s no longer that not-quite-
formed raw red creature, startlingly new;
her skin’s pale, creamy. Her exhausted mother 
tells me she sleeps a lot; awake, cries a lot. 
Today, our windows open, I hear Katie crying, 
hear a bird insistent on making his sound, 
voices from a yard a few houses down where 
someone’s working. Call and response. Cries, 
voices, birds, the drum of a hammer, chitter 
of squirrels, drone of a plane. A radio comes 
on, an announcer’s voice, will there be music? 
It’s loud. It’s off. Around me, what is being 
built, torn down, rebuilt? 

		***

Sage and raspberry thrive in this backyard,
meanwhile something’s broken off new growth
on the andromeda, phlox. I suspect a dog.
The cutting bed, weeded, hoed, watered, 
mulched, is full now of zinnias and cosmos, 
sunflower studded among them. Where to 
put peonies next year, which is the sunniest 
spot in the backyard? I say peonies but I have 
only one, a frail thing. I may have killed that 
clump of ornamental grass I uprooted and
replanted in the shade bed. The mountain
bluet I divided has buds; it will rebloom. 
Experiment, experiment. To garden well 
is to be opportunistic, both 
intentional and spontaneous.

		***

Her mother can’t figure out why Katie’s fussing, 
she’s fed, dry, “You just don’t like being two months 
old, do you?” How we want to pierce that impassable
barrier, unbridgeable gulf of distance between us, 
even mother and child, that isolate unsurmountable 
wall that locks us, from our beginnings, in the absolute 
loneliness of selfhood. We believe we can, that if 
we do it right, the barrier will vanish, enlightenment
will tear down that prison, banish the suffering 
we need not inherit, pass on. We can’t.

		***

In raw rain, I plant a hundred
crocus in the backyard lawn. I want more
clematis, peonies. What fits in my life,
where? Yesterday, the doctor I see every
six months to check for growths says 
yes, it takes ten years to create a garden.
I’ve begun.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May, 2011 from Word Press. Her second collection, The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in November, 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Her poems have appeared over the past thirty-five years in journals including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, APR, Natural Bridge, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and The Colorado Review.

Michael Ray

The Auk-House

She digs a circle into the hill 
overlooking the pier and horse-shoe cove, 
a foundation-ring of pebbles and rocks 
pounded flat with a water-logged plank.

She fillets mackerel dries each spine, 
presses them into the earthen floor;
threads haddock and cod on long willow sticks 
builds a tower, five fish thick,
covered in carrageen, wood-ash and clay. 

With the back of a spoon she rubs the walls, 
exposes a constellation of eyes, 
cuts out a moon-window facing the sea, 
pricks, with a whitethorn, nine hundred scales, 
stitches and hangs them with strands of her hair, 
to make up a mirror and scatter the light. 

On the beach she gathers six ribs from a whale, 
cobbles them into a frame for the roof; 
tempts two seals with buckets of fish, 
removes their skins with a razor-sharp knife, 
covers the rafters to keep out the night. 

The beak of an auk tied overhead, 
turns on its shadow into the tide
as she lies inside, on a bed of brown kelp, 
closes her eyes, head full of him, 
thinks back to the morning they kissed on the quay, 
and she watched and waved as the wake of his boat 
spread all the way to the edge of the world, 
to the end of the world.

Michael Ray is a glass artist living in West Cork. His poems have appeared in: The Moth, Asylum, Poetry 24, The Irish Independent, The Shop, Cyphers, and The Bare Hands Anthology. In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Poetry Prize, and won second prize in the Fish poetry competition. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Hennesy award.

Jay Sizemore

My New Bed

Tonight I sleep in an ashtray,
last night I slept on the couch,
my body squeezed into a space
it was not meant to fit,
like an accordion stuffed into
a coffee can
or a human being inside
a dog house inside a grave
being shoveled over
with eggshells.

I prefer the ashtray,
my feet do not hang
off the edge of my new bed.
Instead, I sleep sound,
I drink in the night whispers
of ghostly conceptions,
the dark stains of
premarital virginity,
phantasms of former selves
that wrap around me
like supernatural blankets.

I dream.
I wake up.
I wash off the scent of smoke,
the aftermath
of living inside
a burning house.

Jay Sizemore writes poetry because he needs to. His attention span is too short to write novels. Blame the internet. Some of his work has seen daylight in journals online and in print. Although he considers a day job to be the enemy of imagination, he has found poverty to be the cruelest of muses. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three cats.

Noel Duffy

Cadmus

He looks adrift standing there 
beneath the glass and concrete 
of the university Arts Block building, dressed 

in sloppy collegiate tweed, his hair 
grey and unkempt. His fingers grip 
a plastic spoon as he works the tea-bag 

hard against the side of the cup, mumbling 
to himself in some forgotten tongue, 
the chanting rise and fall of the line,

a fragment, perhaps, from Homeric Greek,
Odysseus becalmed on a windless night
counting the stars in the shifting light…

Tea made, the old man turns and pushes past 
a sharp-tongued student holding court 
on Derrida and the deconstruction of art,

then stuffing his papers under his arm 
he shuffles into the sudden crowd,
Cadmus lost in the kingdom of the mad

invoking the syllables of his forgotten world.

Noel Duffy studied experimental physics at Trinity College, Dublin, before turning his hand to writing. He co-edited (with Theo Dorgan) Watching the River Flow: A Century in Irish Poetry (Poetry Ireland/Poetry Society, 1999). His collection In the Library of Lost Objects was published by Ward Wood, London, in summer 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for best debut by an Irish poet.

Bailey Lewis Van

Too Muddy

I am me in the way that
grass is grass or
maybe a seed
Once or will be
the tracks the lawn mower leaves
with the bellies of blades turned towards the sun
some or

Me.

I am bare feet and pine needles sticking to
the backs of
my heels
bark in my hair from the tree I leaned on
I have splinters under my nails I

exhale

a slow trickle of water.

I am me and here

and I catch the water between my chin and
 my lip
careful not to smile 
pressing rain in 
between my teeth and

Sometimes there is no way to breathe without choking.

why?

There is
bark in my hair from the tree I leaned on
an embrace that left splinters under
my nails and mud between my toes and
on them and in them 

I am me

and
too muddy for a city girl
I left my shoes on the beach
when I was swimming
and I never got them back.

Glass shards of broken bottles sting
the way that pine needles never did
and
and and
the asphalt is black and sticks to my feet 
like mud but 
this burns too.

Bailey Lewis Van is a young writer living in San Francisco California. She attended San Francisco School of the Arts and studied creative writing under Heather Woodward, Tony Bravo, Maia Ipp, and Isaiah Dufort. She has been previously published in Umlaut and Synchronized Chaos.

Victor David Sandiego

The curious house of my lament

From: The Desert Gardens

I wonder if you would miss me if I toppled from the tower where I have stood so long, if I donated my body to the rocks. For months, they have promised to cure all the sick birds in my throat if only I would have the decency and velocity to receive them.

But I wonder if you would wonder where I had gone, or if you would go on your way to the baker or candle maker without a shout of surprise or a gasp of grief.

Yet know: there in the presence of stone and sand with waves slowly rinsing the red rocks clean, before the last sack of my beliefs and judgments shredded in the pulpy morning tide, I swear: I would think of you my friend and how we stretched our jaws wide to hold the world like a glorious apple between our teeth.

Victor David Sandiego lives in the high desert of central México where he plays drums with jazz combos and in musical / poetry collaborations, writes, and studies. His work appears in various journals and on public radio. He enjoys or identifies with: the first moon landing, most anti-war movements, and the mysticism of Carlos Castaneda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His website is

Ellen Wade Beals

Fall

The gingko fan waves
Sayonara, then teeters,
swoons, like faint of heart.

Trained as a journalist, Ellen Wade Beals writes poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, in anthologies and on the web. In 1999, her short story, “Picking,” was awarded Willow Springs fiction prize and her poetry has placed in local contests (sponsored by Evanston Library, The Guild Complex, and http://www.chicagopoetry.com). Her poem “Between the sheets” appears in the textbook Everything’s a Text (Pearson 2010). She is the editor and publisher of Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words LLC, an imprint of Hourglass Books), and she has been working on a novel for what seems like forever.