Minarets, Incense, Beggars


Nathan Baker
( Tennessee )
Final Act

We used to watch
Clouds as kids
In an open field
Where a traveling circus
Would set up every autumn
With brown straw grass
As a mattress we’d lay down
Beneath the blue
Of a late summer sky
And watch cloud formations
Perform for us our very own
Magic circus in gray and white
Animals of an enormous variety
Rode the skies of our youth
But not one hint of a cloud
Not one wisp appeared
In autumn’s blue sky
When he sat down
Sun-bleached like a seed
Clinging to the flowering end
Of life’s dried stalk
And took pistol in hand…

Windblown the tips of straw grass
Shimmered silver in the mid-day sun

Dianna Henning
( California )
The Book of Wings

The inside is always told from the outside,
from some vantage point of supposed superiority
on a day when birds fail to return
with their signature song.

I’m talking about the way we crush each other
with: She was always his favorite,
first-born and fair; baby of the family.

Where we live buzzards return each year
on exactly March fifteenth,
with the same exactitude
we’d learned for one-up-man-ship.

I don’t care if you cried because of my words.
You needed to hear that the book of wings,
meaning poetry, is only fancy. Get real.

Corrine De Winter
( Massachusetts )
Icarus Too

closing in on the sun.
Birds, blood and fire
studding your eyes.
I felt very old
and full of fear
when you took flight.
I stood in the middle of the meadow,
as if you had said something else
I did not hear.

Lotus Lady 2 by Leslie Marcus

( California )

Oliver Rice
( Naples, Florida )
Minarets, Incense, Beggars

Any day these months,
Sam, a Blackfoot from Missoula,
sometime student at the university --- 

the era of globalization impending ---

in his fringed leggings and feathered head band, 
squats at a hub or marketplace or shrine
in Bombay, New Delhi, Calcutta ---

their graffiti in a thousand tongues ---

known in these mystic precincts 
as Hiawatha, the Amerindian guru,
curio, enigma, deliverer ---

ogler of saris, bangles, veils --- 

on tentative largess from a wily uncle in Reno,
sheltering among the needy 
with courtesies and a Hindi phrase book ---

karma brooding among the rickshaws ---

for a few rupees,
he offers to relieve a Muslim or Sikh or Jain
of all anxiety on the spot ---

officers of the Embassy surveilling ---

from a spool in his beaded wallet,
ceremonially draws string
to the length of a handspan ---

flowers in the stalls, gory meat, flies ---

severs it with a hunting knife,
solemnly twists it into a knot,
murmuring spirit is lifted on the wind ---

the cultures, the credulities forever mingling ---

murmuring now it is as I have said ,
ignites it with a match flicked off his thumb nail,
scatters the ashes with his bare hands ---

the efficacy of symbolism and cunning confirmed.

Alan Britt, Two Poems
( Reisterstown, Maryland )

Our streetlight
her eyes out
all night long.

A sudden breeze
lifts the heads
of the dead.

The recently dead,
beloved Aunts, Uncles,
who’ve been missing for years.

Their cool bodies,
infinite-celled now,
soothe my neck
& arms
in the first hours
of morning.

Our streetlight
cries just like a baby
on this earth.

The Older Woman

The older woman
does not remember
the Roman Empire
as she drags
her blonde hair
of dirty sunlight through a glass of iced-tea
across the Italian restaurant’s
Formica table.

But the Roman Empire
preached the gospel
of clocks,
mechanical clocks,
clocks that shattered
clocks forever flattening seconds
into metallic spots
on retinas.

But by then
large, ornate,
Chinese water clocks
were already

The older woman,
black watchband
coiled around
her pale wrist
like a garter snake
aroused in the Garden of Eden,
hardly notices
her sunlit hair
in the younger 
man’s eyes.

M. E. Silverman
( Georgia )
First Flowers

When we were young at summer’s end,
younger than I thought possible,
I brought you flowers from Winn Dixie—
carnations or daisies, one of your favorites—
I cannot remember which except I paid extra
for baby’s breath, and wrapped their tips
within a damp paper towel.
Vocal chords stretched high
at the checkout: some strawberries
and a pack of parachutes
lay by the blossoms.

Funny what I photograph in my head:
the coffee-colored pick-up,
washed and vacuumed, the smell of musk,
pine from a tree-shaped car freshener,
green and swaying to the beat of Lynyrd Skynyrd,
how the first line of “Free Bird” was a question
from Allen Collins’ girlfriend, and why I switched
to the swing of Ella when I pulled into your driveway,
lit with what your mother called July Fourth liberty lights.

On the way to the planetarium,
a family of bright brown deer dashed into view.
You cried out, I swerved and shouldered
the gray gravel road, spun into mud
thick as laughter. Our bodies
tangled together like a rose vine.
We had to exit through the side door.
Tousled briar and scrub brush bordered
a beautiful body of water. A brushstroke
moon smeared in sky like a painter’s
slip. A displeased owl screeched
and flew from the first branch of an oak.

I wondered what to say, what to do.
My hand propped on a paperbark tree,
peeling like sun-burnt skin. Blood
rushed through my heart. Crickets jazzed
and frogs networked in the night.
We were bruised and stuck 
but you smiled, touched
my left shoulder and flung your auburn curls
as you leaned your head
right, toward the tempting water.
Seeing me hesitate, you said, Come on
like a request or promise.

With the moon slight like a door ajar,
I turned on the headlights, grabbed
a yellow flashlight from behind the seat.
I heard the lap of bats behind me
and above, taking advantage of the light
and the bugs drawn to. I pass
a raccoon or large rat, eyes
like two golden coins. Nothing
can catch you. I gazed
ahead at the hollow-eyed darkness.
I almost ran as I thought
no suits and a
swim within
open shadows.

Now that we are old,
I sometimes think about that bucolic evening.
I listen to the tender touch
and full-bodied notes
of Giant Steps. How you move
like every moment is an unwrapped gift
ready to be opened— my God,
my God! You are the same summer girl!

But this is the way you are—
first to immerse deep
into the pond or black lake,
wild with water and weed,
when you do not know how
to swim.

Talia Reed
( Indiana )
Marriage Lullaby

Of the grabbing of my heel,
in the coconut of my hair—
there lay the concrete of it.

I don’t have to make a mark.
I see it:

the green springing 
up in the auburn-dead overburn
where you’ve been sick, have bled
and wanted rest.

I breathed in the bits of you
ambling about the room
and it vanished, ventilated.

The You and I that wakes and moves,
the conversations worth a dime
after all the trash is drug outside,
after the draughty house is dry:

There is the pocket well-lined,
stuffed thick with it in this thin instant.

A wide cut, though wane, moment.

Josef Lesser
( New South Wales, Australia )
here in silence are twenty more:

       (from the war in Iraq)

the noise pandemic snakes through streets of middle earth
blasé and blatant creeping upon its citizens without a warning sign
without that orange waving flicker found in union traffic lights
where industrial deafness hides in fear of insurance payouts,
hostile aggressive this ear-splitting lodger slides and twists
leaving land mines of noise tracked in the gullies of suburban
driveways where it guests itself uninvited to the family dinner
and without asking unzips the barking dogs
lets loose loud gunshots (was that from the new folk in 35
or thunderous fireworks again from Bill’s backyard?)

noisemakers united by decibels 
rev junky cars dragging mufflers 
hanging loose like unwanted appendages,
emergency vehicles scream to the screaming
shrouded only by the boom boom bass
dropped from drag car racers seeking attention
as rumbling motorcyclists rumble for glory,
idle talk succumbs to the high pitch fever of glossolalia
while grandpa minus hearing aid tunes the telly,

here in silence are twenty more:
silent night and silent days
twenty ways to read a silent telegram
where repentant 
inside the house of thesaurus
lies down beside sorry
and duty for god queen and country
sips tea with the young

too young --------- too soon
muffled reply as the dogs aroused
encore once more to the siren in the moon
flight path bifurcations dominate
football results open debate
and the white cane tapping 
taps out the century in numerical code.

I - The Curve of Smiles
II - To Sleep Inside a Scream

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Current Issue - Winter 2008