Three Poems by Rick Alley

October 20, 1933

​I’ll consider the garden reciting
daylight I can hear.
Tomato punctuation,
grammar-on-the-vine.
Bury his ashes before the rain,
the dirt seems
to say.  I cannot write
since Ben died, as if
we shared a flicker
he palmed as he went
away.  I understand
a new ghost,
but will he miss October,
the red smell of leaves?

You’re Welcome

A raven in widower’s weeds
is certain he knows
my problem.

The trouble with you
is you want to thank
God, Ben, and the ripening pears
that clip themselves
from limbs.

Why so sad and ecstatic
in your hat and Ben’s
old gloves?

The raven scratches
his branch; I’m tempted
to thank him, too.

The trouble with you
is you’re so obliged
you’ve become an astonished
fool.

Easter

Shatter the ice.
Shatter winter’s
sass-blink on
the pond.
Shatter the pond as well,
the koi like frozen
wounds.  Why not work
a hammer
against itinerant freeze?
Conjure some hot gospel,
for “melt” is shatter-slow.

My first book of poems, The Talking Book of July, was published by Eastern Washington University Press (and is now distributed by Carnegie Mellon Press) way back in 1997.  I have another book called August Machine that came out in 2013 (Finishing Line Press).  My third manuscript, Yes, The Water Trembled, has been the runner-up for the Philip Levine Award and The National Poetry Series Award (both in 2016.)  I am the slowest writer in the world. 

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A Poem by Jonathan Otamere Endurance

​WOMEN UNMAKE MEMORIES OF A THOUSAND SERMON

Women are a rosy rosary beads
Praying men into a haven of hell.
Squeeze a bead or two round a fair foot,
Wrap a yoga round the thighs of a sinner,
Let those lips burn of rosy red and pink
And the roof —
a scented flowering weak dress —
Two Knights will fall into the hub of a coquette.
An Imam said we shouldn’t look a woman twice,
So when I see one, I swallow a benediction of lust
And crescent my eyes into one sitting of her sight;
No, I didn’t look twice,
I have only fulfilled our Imam’s wish
For a man does not die
In the wars he didn’t fight.
Father Francis gave a sermon yesterday:
Lust, brethren, is a soul of two hearts
Where the night steals into to build an undying abode.
Every night, I find myself in the tongue of Father Francis’ sermon
Holding a shimmer of thoughts,
But a god lies in every man
Unmaking memories of a thousand sermon.

Jonathan Otamere Endurance is a voracious reader of fine poetry. He is a student of English and Literature at the University of Benin, Benin City. 

Four Poems by Neil Ellman

​Imbalance of Time

(after the painting by Richard Pousette-Dart)

On the other side of what we know
an hour is no more an hour
than east is truly east
or light has the feel of snow.
To travel form here to there
is a matter of perspective, faith,
not time, a journey imagined,
neither short nor long,
the contents of the sea
or of a measuring cup.
The present feeds the past
like a mothering lion
feeds her young
and the past is nothing more
than the future in a shroud.
There is neither proportion
nor equivalence
nor harmony
when time, uncertain,
out of balance.

Moon Animal

(after the painting by William Baziotes)

Some will see in the craters of the moon
the face of a disapproving hawk
with the scowl of a mother on its nest
threatened by the dark
For some, its maria, vast and deep,
contain a multitude of fish
and a huge gray whale
coming to the surface for a gasp of air.
On its treeless mountains
there are bighorn sheep and grizzly bears
elk, moose and wolverines
struggling for survival in a hostile land.
On the darker side where the air is thinner
than the falling rain.

The Blue Phantom

(after the painting by Wols)

Whatever turned the phantom blue
like a chameleon
from pacific gray to malevolent blue
the air we breathe, the land and sea
to the color of a violent ghost
it knew what blue must mean
in the spectrum of the eyes and mind
like a specter clothed in blue,
a shroud in blue
the shadow of the moon
upon a peaceful earth
it knew, it knew
that blue would be the palette
of our world.


Secret Life of Plants

(painting, Rik Lina)

Is it a secret
that we have a hidden life
of limbs entwined
on ivy-colored walls,
of wanton sex
in the pitch of night
as if no one sees
our indiscretions
of leaf and life?—
surely, it is no secret
to suspicious minds
that we speak to each other
with lascivious words
in a language unheard
and unhearable
alone in the darkness
we speak our private thoughts
but never reveal them
to you
who would spread them
throughout the world.

Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published widely throughout the world.  He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. 

A Poem by Fejiro Ibuje

Dahlia

Cinnamon skin glittering under the dazzling day,

Strides like the young gazelle in heat,
Black blood from her veins,
Voice like music from Nina Simone.
Eyes like brown silver bathing in the Nile,
Bowels like the garden in Eden before the fall
The stray daughter of Noah before the flood.
As the palm tree in the savannah rocks under the evening breeze;
So she flits to gongo drums under the moon,
Feet swifter than warriors from the Congo;
As though possessed by spirits of the white wine.
Imitated by the lioness upon a hunt,
The reverie of those virile,
The song of the morning;
As it makes love to the sun.
Skin darker than cocoa extracts,
As ivory tusks from Cote d’ivoire,
Like unseen parts of the Kilimanjaro;
She thus is.

My name is Fejiro Ibuje, a Nigerian from the urhobo tribe, 300 level law student at Babcock University in Nigeria.

A Poem by Anu Mahadev

fair & lovely

pink. the wallpaper.
the dresses. the dolls.
chapstick, cherry flavor.
bracelets, earrings, bows.
the perfume, mom’s vanity.
maybe that designer dress?
no, it is too expensive.

teen vogue. cute boys.

diet pills. acne cream.
crushes. photogenic angles.
smile more. frown less.
cross my legs.
can I cut my hair?
no, grow it out.
but be sure to shave.

nail polish. pink doesn’t
suit me any more. am i
playing too much in the sun?
don’t — you’ll get too dark.
i might need a fairness cream.
but i must play indoors and run —
or i’ll get too fat. i don’t care
if models are airbrushed, i want
to look like that! you, hah!

reality check, you’re all brain.
stop looking in the mirror. let’s
get a dictionary for an 8-year-old.
understand ‘ugly’ ‘fat’ ‘ordinary’.
keep your eyes to the ground.

I am a 2016 graduate of the MFA in Poetry program at Drew University. I am part time editor of Jaggery Lit online and Woman Inc online. My work has appeared in a few journals: Reinventing Myths and Colors of Refuge.

Three Poems by Michael Lee Johnson

Everything Red for the Queen

​Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Matador hat with barnacles,
witch white hair to the shoulders,
tickling the breast.
In her eyes are the blood shot
of many vampires;
in her heart the daggers
of many soldiers.
Five inky fingers
cross her throat
like an ill-fitted necklace.
Her dress is like heart charms,
scales of fish dripping
blood toward her toes.
Withy, twists around her throat.
Anglers of the court toss hooks
toward her cherry red lips,
capture the moment
of the haze of purple
surrounding her head.
Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Death changes colors from red to blue.

The March of the Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins never set feet on land,
straight up their feet on ice, tuxedo’s with short feathers
overlapped, waterproofed, inner down layers insulated with air.
Heads bobble fat fannies waddle, the march to the homeland begins.
70 miles the clan walks and slides away from the sea and back to the sea.
70 miles into the darkest, driest and coldest continent, Antarctica cradles up the South Pole.
High step, searching for partners for one year, away from predators, the mating party begins.
Mutual sex they turn check format a goal, breed their young, months of illness, hurt, struggles, isolation, separation face in the winter the great white ghost of death.
Starvation is a 2-way trip the male is the mother 120 days, mother goes for food-
at one point tough they all must go back to the ocean and sea.
Emperor Penguins they dance and huddle.
Back they go to the ice, to the flow, and sea 50/50, millions of years ago.

Whispers from the Grave
(Heart Attack 50 years of age)

What happened to 20 acres of farmland tilted toward sun angles,
those sharp stone edges cool fall comes
frost fields covered taking ownership of rented, abused, abandoned land−
10 years Phil has been gone, DeKalb, Illinois farmer.

Did he find salvation in those gold cornfields?
October orange colors, hayrides, and pumpkin harvest
of grey, grave bones buried near the deadly bicycle ride.
Mystery did his lover Betsy
(defense, prosecuting attorney, Elgin, Illinois)
stand by his site after she went through mourning,
the grandstanding at the wake at the farm,
the dimming of all candles, incenses, and memorial shrine
she held sacred within her bedroom walls, now faded.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 29 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.

A Poem by Dime Maziba

Death in my Yard

The gloomful intruder
Lumbered in the forcourt of fears.
Unfading footsteps of blood
Has left sorrow in our longing heart.

secular poetry rain
was spluttering over the roof of life,
Beseeching the deaf ears of death.
‘’we beg you!we beg you!’’
oh!
Rhetoric doesn’t persuade
The curtains of death
nor pay the bill of breath

tomorrow,
I will jot poetry in my language
with hieroglyphics signs
and harlem writing style
to hush machine-gun fire
of my torn soul.

I write this poem in a dim night
Of a winter cold because poetry is
Like a roaring lion calling his lioness from
The den of his words
But Misunderstood by flying birds
Who report to ears of the wind,
The anger of carnivores.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dime Maziba is a Pan-Africanist oratory. He is a poet, writer and political activist. He is also a Financial Accounting student from Durban university of technology (Dut) in South Africa where he is currently based.