Category Archives: PoetSpeak voices

Dedication by Michael Meyerhofer

In our house, not once did we hear
someone say you’re welcome
in answer to thanks. Instead—it’s all right,
backhanded reminder of the sacrifice
this or that Dollar Store trinket
cost folks well below the poverty line.
This is a hard habit to break.
Don’t worry, it’s fine when you thank me
for helping you move furniture
or coming to your reading,
your wedding, your beloved’s funeral.
Oh, it’s all right, to students
when they thank me for margin comments,
for letting them turn in assignments
half a semester late. It’s all right
the door held open a few second longer
for the jock on crutches,
for the blue-eyed girl breathing
into the straw fixed to her wheelchair.
I want to thank the moon for tilting
in time to highlight the rain
spilling off a parked windshield,
my body for keeping itself free
so far from cancer, diabetes, suicide.
I want to thank my fear of death
for melting whenever a beautiful woman
bends to drink from a fountain.
I want to thank the crows for mating
on any windowsill but mine.
And their answer, rising in chorus
with each day’s rusty sunset:
It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s all right.

A Confused Grandmother Places Child through Airport X-ray by Martin Ott

The plastic bin must have felt like a bassinet
to the baby, tiny feet kicking, no place to roll.
Two months out of the womb, enclosures
can seem comforting until the conveyor whirs.

Even this movement is no distress as the family
places him in the car seat and idles four cylinders
when he’s too fussy to sleep. The curtain parts
and darkness blankets him. Sleepy attendants

view skull, ribs and hip bone once confused
with the baby’s penis during ultrasound.
The boy’s gurgle filters up to the crowd
The belt halts. “Oh God?” his grandmother

whimpers and the mother drops the stroller
she’s been fighting to close. Time halts.
A mother’s terror is not seeing her baby,
but his irradiated insides softly glowing.

His first lonely cry inside the aperture
makes her nipples weep and she hums
one of Beethoven sonatas, her pregnancy
music. The x-ray beams a toothy smile.

The machine pushes him through its womb.
This time, the first to see him emerge
head first, his mother cradles him gently
in a world scared of tiny, exploding monsters.

Previously Published in Connecticut Review

Room Tone by KC Trommer

Cambodia 1974 by Roberta Whitman Hoff

When the Surgeon Said My Father Would Live by Jennifer Luebbers

I left. There was another man I loved.
I buckled into his Civic and we shot through fields
in which everything suggested the shape
of something else. Ohio to Michigan,
his football broadcast strained; it fractured
with static. His team would not win half their games
that year, but then, it was still the beginning
of the season, and he could shrug off loss
as easily as he swept dry leaves from the windshield –
still say, what was one slip-up, one bad run?
He tongued strategies and traced plays in lines
on the dashboard’s dust and held my hand
as he might have held a child’s. I let him.
I kept trying to say, We will not last through winter.
Instead, I asked, How long till we’re home?

It’s a New Day by David Kinsey

You’re in a new room with clothes piled on the floor and a TV that doesn’t work. You’re lying in bed, you’re on your side, you hear water running, you hear dogs barking. In this new bed, your muscle memory remains and you go through the motions which are by now instinctual.

It’s a new day in this new bed, but you’d never know if they didn’t tell you, didn’t touch you, didn’t run their hands hot and burning across you, leaving impressions that whisper.  This is Saturday. This is the first day of your new life, like it or not. Breakfast won’t be on the table and coffee isn’t ready. You want to go home to your own bed, but you don’t get that, you get this bed, this Saturday, dogs barking and that water still running.

You keep waking up like this and you aren’t even sure where your own bed is anymore. If home is where the heart is, then in that home there is a bed where you think you left your heart, at least you’re praying hard that it’s there because you can’t keep retracing your steps and getting it wrong and slamming into new beds and bodies. But you’re here now and whatever you have beating in your chest is giving a soliloquy, and it’s as trite as a sunset or a picnic on the beach or a long walk on a short pier or whatever you’ve been told love is, so maybe this is home for now, maybe this is just what you need.

You are in a new bedroom and it’s Saturday and the TV doesn’t work but you keep staring at it like it’s playing your favorite movie and you recite all the lines and they think you’re clever, but what do they know?     What did you ever really know besides how to kiss a little harder and just what to say to end up in a new room with clothes piled on the floor and a TV that doesn’t work?

Hawk by John L. Stanizzi

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still… –Robert Frost, After Apple Picking

I only saw it once,
though saw is an exaggeration.
It was something less than a glimpse,
some insignificant wisp of a passing idea
at the far end of my peripheral vision,
the blurred silhouette of a hawk
carrying in its talons
the blurred silhouette of a bird.

This was after I had found
the first feathers,
a catbird’s,
and then, twice, blue jays’,
feathers arranged neatly on the ground
in the shape of a starfish
or a God’s Eye.

That was all;
no plucked, hollow-boned body,
no blood.
Just a composition of feathers
there on the grass
beneath the feeders,
a talking circle,
the ritual of What is left unsaid,
the hawk lifting
the plucked and keening body
and perhaps the talking feather too,
leaving the rest behind,

as if the hawk’s ascension toward heaven
were affirmation that
when you are carried away
you must shed everything,
what you have said,
what it was you meant to say,
and, yes, even your
lovely, momentary feathers.

Snapshots, Bedlam Boro by Beau Blue

Grandad’s not got
Anything to do today
‘Cept sit around his checker set
And wait on old Pop Lundry to come down
Off Cooper’s Ridge to play.

I watched him rock
Away this morning talking
To his bird dog Bellaret.
She don’t leave the front porch much, now, either
‘Cept when they go out walking.

And just as dusk
Collects along the valley’s rim
All the boys and young men come
To listen and be hypnotized by tales
Of how the valley is and has always been.

“Eighty-eight years old
And the Keenus Bridge collapsed!
One righteous groan at Mandy Wheeler’s weight
(Mammoth Mandy’s six hundred pounds of fat)
Then rubble sixteen feet below.
Amanda too.

You know
Her screams were heard from Willisville
To Fiddler’s graveyard (fifteen miles apart).
And it took two good mules
A hard days work to pull
Her from the mud.”

And he enchants them
With the miners and the whores
With the wild side of the mountain,
The ridge wise boys, the foothill clowns
And the troubadors.

“The people haven’t danced in Willisville
Since Charlie Waters coughed himself
Black lung until
He died.
And he was young!

Younger than the ages of collected things….
His nickel dates rented the parlor
And his white gold watch
Doesn’t wear him any longer
At the stem.
Because we hocked it!
We hocked it for the band
(The Keenus Creek Quartet)
And they played “Barbara Allen” as we planned
And planted Charlie in the ground.”

So go now,
Down from these older mountains
And listen to the valley sage
“He’s a good ol’ boy”
Pulling at his pipe and telling lies – counting
All the ways he didn’t make it rich.

“’47 was a bitch!
I lost my cotton to the bug,
My dog to endless age
And my farm to Jimmy Lundry’s poker game.
Boy – pass me that ther’ jug
Yes sir – ’47 was a year!”

Things Remain New by Jean-Paul Garnier

Back Pages by John L. Stanizzi

BACK PAGES
For my father

Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

My Back Pages
Bob Dylan

Just another day of flawless clarity,
as the gray canvass tarp of the dying river
nudged the distended carcasses of rotting fish
under a sky that no one ever noticed,
and you, the hod-carrier’s middle boy,
running from the bakery to your flat,
your stolen loaves of bread still warm and soft.

*

Frankie and Rosario out in front
every summer night for stick ball games.
Batting once, Frankie swung and missed,
rapped you hard and broke your Roman nose,
umbo on its bridge they never fixed,
aquiline distinction embarrassing you.
You remember this with alacrity.

*

Memories of joining the service out of spite,
and still the old man counted your army pay.
Reaching for your wallet he’d stare at you,
condemning you for walking out on him;
his share was every penny that you earned.

*

Angelo was the first to mutiny,
packed whatever he possessed and left.
Retelling this you never forget his gun
inside the zipper pocket of an old suitcase.
Legends are made in dirty hotel rooms.

*

Men grow up to see their fathers die,
and you remember yours as strong and good,
yet years would pass before you forgave his faults.

*

Joey showed up drunk one Christmas Eve,
undid what little grace your family had;
nine guys couldn’t bring him down.
Every year you resurrect that tale.

*

Jalopy parked against the curb, you posed
under the murky light that lit the sign —
Lun On Company Chinese Grocery –
you and Dolly in each other’s arms.

*

And after that she brought you home to Mama.
Useless to try and hide the truth from her;
Grease-ball alley cat was all you were,
underprivileged thug who came from Front
Street’s slums.  Her daughter certainly would not give
the time of day to a cross-town wop like you.

*

Soon enough you’d get to know her dad;
every night you’d go and find him drunk,
permanent fixture in the Red Ash Grille,
the Mayor of Albany Avenue holding court
early evenings giving in to neon,
memories that, in spite of things forgotten,
burn as if they happened yesterday,
every one a clear and perfect scene,
reminiscence that won’t abandon you.

*

Once there was a time that you would joke —
“CRS,” you’d laugh to all your friends,
then entire decades began to gray.
“Old Timer’s Disease?  What the fuck is that?”
Behind the now of the moment we are in
each remembrance turning into dust,
reaching back to where they used to be.

*

No memories can return; they don’t exist.
Oh, you will always be a business man,
veracious entrepreneur of your own making
endeavoring to work with dignity,
manual labor a constant source of pride,
but nowadays the road to work is strange,
every street some exotic foreign land,
relics of the streetlights burning out.

*

During the day now you are in your cellar
eking out a past from yellowed photos,
collages used to trap old memories,
each one carefully cut and placed and framed.
Mid-morning you will go out in your yard;
behind your stockade fence you will take off
everything except your underwear,
rattle a bell for the animals to come,

*

get down feebly on your iron knees,
offering peanuts to the squirrel you’ve named,
never once thinking about the days’
evanescent trek from light to dark.