Into the Shelter of Dark Caves


Amy Riddell, Two Poems
( Florida )

Hope bites the tongue
like the pomegranate's seed,
sweet pulp, bitter core.

Desire, that round and hairy kiwi, rots
in the crisper drawer.

Poets wring their hands.

The elements forget;
wind drowses, water sleeps;
no fire speaks from the beggar's ashcan.

No birth from any blood.

In Celebration of Fifteen Years

Jon, the preacher says
in God’s eyes 
marriage joins two souls 
into one. You don’t believe 
in any preacher’s God, 
but I am part of you. 
I am part of you. The blue ocean 
beats waves upon the shore, beats
the eternal give and take. 
Can you see that you are the continent
on which I have built my life, 
from which I unearth the deepest 
mysteries and the richest ore? 
You have given me
mountains. They rise up like a fortress.  
With you, I go into the shelter of dark caves.  
I find shelter. We know the breathing 
of the other in bed and we know
our voices whispering in the dark. 
We know the distance 
between us. 
When I am the faintest star 
in the night sky, you are the restful 
meadow, and when I am the meadow,
you are the star. 
Love holds us 
in its tight cocoon, a cosmos 
for butterfly wings. 

Yun Wang
( Norman, Oklahoma )
Black Roses

Periodicity of the universe is converted into electronic music
resounding in the marble ballroom.

Cosmologists gape at black dots on the screen, each dot 
the shrunken shadow of a galaxy.

Echoing static in the white room: repetitive great walls of galaxies. 
Periodicity of the universe.

* * *

Cold flames of fragrance
singe my senses.
My life evaporates
when I gaze into
these roses.
I make love to them
with my nose.

* * *

The man I admire has been dead for years,
could not unmake what he made
or revoke the labels 
he invented for poets without their knowledge.

An affair with a genius can go a long way.
If one turns around soon enough
to bite the hand.

There must be God somewhere.
Maneuvers all that mess
into stars.
The case-worker leans back in his chair
crossing his fingers with authority.

* * *

"When you go for interviews, 
you have to be tough, and lie 
if have to. Assure them that you are 
a very dedicated cosmologist, 
so even if a child happens,
it would not affect your research."

* * *

Beneath these stars: many astrologers.
Two of them confronted her.
The man said listening to her voice was almost as good as
making love.
(the poison worked because she was serious)
The woman astrologer is fair
as a TV witch.
(sans the long black gown)

* * *

"I dislike the violence in this poem.
It's not like you -- the rape and the plunge
of dagger into someone's throat.
But I like this stanza --
I love the vultures.
When I die I want to be fed to the vultures."

* * *

"You know, it's the flower which victimizes
the insect," says the sexy aging nurse.
She reveals that "Happy Prince" (by Oscar Wilde) was written
by Hans Christian Anderson, who "hated children,"
"wrote the fairy tales to scare
the little monsters."

Somewhere church bells peal, interrupting
a ring of ardent poets.
Down the ebony street, an old lady pulls up her car.
Three towers topped by shining crosses
behind the ebony street.

Russell Ragsdale
( Almaty, Kazakhstan )

making a half-dream from reality 
rather than a whole one 
watching a graveyard full of doctors 
throwing dirt on all my lids 
this is approximately sad 
apparently too late 
and I keep waltzing waltzing 
into your touch 
when the dark shadow 
descends in a happy glance 
a shadow that is within you 
and comes to the surface 
not as the absence of light 
but because of its presence 
a half-dream 
of exact magnitude 
and it is mine 

Felicia Mitchell
( Emory, Virginia )
Almost Easter

Shaking bone meal
from my bare hands
into the rose bed
where only one bush grows,
I feel as if I’m scattering
my father’s ashes
all over again.

This month marks
the seventh year
my father has lain
in my garden,
his ashes in my hands
still as palpable
as bone meal or thorns.

Easter Sunday,
I will hide an egg
behind his ear.
Jesus will call down to him
to get up and play.
He won’t.
But the rose bush
that is turning green,
this rose will sink its roots
a little deeper in the earth
and in a few months
drop its petals
like so many red tears.

Laura Sobbott Ross
( Sorrento, Florida )
Trains, Butterflies

When our father became ill, 
my brother, the oldest at nine, held to butterflies. 
Dead wings splayed beneath his fingerprints 
on glass. Each pair, the ideal specimen of solace 
in a meadow on a summer morning, 
or an unexpected spiral in the honeysuckle. 
Something would always remain elusive –
a certain Checkered Skipper Pearl Crescent 
Clouded Sulfur Buckeye beyond the reach
of his hands, the startled mouth of his net.
The random tide of wind would bring
the occasional recompense – a slowed fluttering
in a jar without perforations in the lid.
We discovered beauty could be sorrowful –
a perplexity of conquest and release.

After our father died, my brother took up 
model trains, built elaborate hills and tunnels,
spray-painted sawdust in shades of sprout green. 
He lined roads with buildings and streetlights, 
glued town folk and grazing cows in place.
The small trees kept their spongy leaves, 
were seeded in orange and apple colored 
beads that never bruised or fell. 
With just his hands, he scattered the houses 
between blue ponds and train tracks
winding in familiar patterns of his own domain. 
Circuitous destinations slow moving enough 
for him to switch a paralleling line of cars 
at the curve, or to reach out last minute and catch 
a bit of wayward momentum by the tail.

C. E. Chaffin
( California )
To His Muse

With the grace of a cat you perched on my shoulder. 
I felt your fur stiffen when I failed to see
the blue-faced turkey with the crimson wattle
or the pink algae spread like a dirty blanket
on the brown stream. 
                                      If I saw what you see
it would be surfeit as in a Van Gogh painting.
There can be too much light – a man can only take so much.

That last song, do you know it? A meadowlark, thanks.
I never tire of his song, but I tire of mine. 
Come back at a propitious time.

Karen Head, Two Poems
( Georgia )
Objet du désir

A 28,000-square-foot lingerie shop
is an appropriate metaphor
for unfulfilled passion –
the Galeries Lafayette,
despite being in Paris,
just an empty space, full
of lacy enticements, accoutrements,
amuse-bouches, if you will,
the main course beyond
what I am willing to reveal.

This March evening, alone at Perraudin
soaking bread in parsnip soup,
or this afternoon beside Pont Neuf
sleet bending my umbrella,
or near midnight under the full moon
lucent above the Panthéon,
I came here to make peace with poetry –
trying to accept all this
will forever be about longing.

The muse says,

come to Chartres when the half-moon rises
wind your way up the tertres from the Eure,
pause only to pluck a peony for the Sancta Camisia.
Meet me on the sinners’ bench, last row on the left,
where cobalt light falls in shadows.
I’ll prop open the door beneath the archivolt
with the Seven Liberal Arts, Pisces, and Gemini.
Slip inside, shake loose your shoes,
glide across the labyrinth in your stockings.

And I ask,
isn’t it dangerous, this kind of devotion?
I know my feet will burn, no matter
how cold the ancient stone beneath us.
I know too, because I trust everything
you tell me, that the beauty will surpass
my capacity to describe it,
which is why you will embrace me,
press your open lips to mine,
ardent breath inspiring in me an approach –
the rapture so soon upon us.

Scott Owens
( Hickory, North Carolina )

Cassie taught me handstands
and cartwheels, the willingness to be
head over heels, out of control.
Early on we learned to fall
together, to roll on our shoulders
forward or backward, our bodies
hugging the earth, riding
the rocking chairs of our backs.
From there we moved to our feet,
to cartwheels perfectly named,
each arm and leg a spoke
held stiff against the ground.
Next we tried handstands
and somersaults, our clothes
falling to our waists and necks,
limbs bent, giving in
to the air’s enormous hands.
Then we found the danger of flips,
turning on invisible hinges,
relying on the idea of support,
our arms kept in from the ground.
We learned to tame our bodies’
wild flailings against imbalance,
to turn them to our own use.
We learned to never mind the falling,
to name it trying, transition,
moving on to something else.
Even now, when Cassie
is a constellation I can hardly pronounce,
when my body no longer bends
toward falling, I let my voice
rise, spin towards what 
it might not reach, fall,
brush itself off, try again.

Elizabeth H. Barbato
( New Jersey )
The Linking Verbs
– for Alexandra

We will have been.  We might have are.
We are seems, it appears it is.
The first time I heard, it smelled
like Yeats left out too long in the sun:

and I shall have some meet there, 
for meet comes dropping slow,
dropping like the veils of mourning
before the cricket stings.  There halflight’s
what’s for dinner, and spoons are purple snow,
and lifelines filled with the spinet’s strings

I love you like a pinhole camera,
like the emulsion loves the light.  
It smells funny in here.
It seems sunny in where.
I smell the rose, sniff.
I modify myself, alone in my room.
I look good.  I look hard 
for a lost button, one fair glove.

Suddenly, we appear on stage, 
more robust than a troupe 
of three-legged dogs.
We appear to be friends. 
This is the test of seams:  
how tightly sown, our hands
enantiomorphs in blue chalk.

II - This Bend of Quiet
III - Silhouette of a Plume
IV - The Loose Connections

Review: Desi Di Nardo

Featured Poet - Melissa Buckheit

Current Issue - Fall 2008