Friday, February 21, 2020

Cover Illustrations by John James Audubon by Martha Christina

On the front cover
of this small notebook
a Mourning Warbler
perches on the stem
of a red pheasant’s eye.

On the reverse
a Cerulean Warbler
clings to an unnamed
plant just above
the ISBN and barcode,
two 20th century features
that make it possible
for me to afford
Audubon illustrations.

I carried this notebook
to and from the hospital,
where I noted the name
and contact information
for the oncologist
my husband’s surgeon
recommended, and a list
of questions to ask
at the consultation.

It was normal for Audubon
to shoot and stuff his models;
species included in Birds of America
were plentiful; extinction far from his,
and his subscribers’ minds.

My husband’s oncologist
provided a treatment plan
that worked for four years.
That was the best he and
my husband’s body could do.

Six of the birds
Audubon rendered
are now extinct.

And, like the Carolina parakeet,
the passenger pigeon,
the Labrador duck,
the great auk,
the Eskimo curlew,
and the pinnated grouse,
my husband
is no longer sighted
in the places he loved.

Martha Christina is a frequent contributor to Brevities. Longer work appears in Innisfree Poetry Journal, Naugatuck River Review, earlier postings of Red Eft Review, and most recently in Star 82 Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Thursday, February 20, 2020

While Cleaning Out a Closet by Eileen Curran-Kondrad

I came upon a picture of you
In a full page newspaper article about
The inn you and he bought together.
The two of you
Rolled up, laminated like a time capsule.

You were standing,
Gazing out of the picture
With your husband sitting down next to you.
Smiling even though you’d spent hours
Peeling shrimp because
He told you it was cheaper to buy it that way.
Tending bar until all hours of the night
Because he said it was cheaper that way.
Worrying about your children
Still in day care while
He was… God knows where.

When he was jailed
For drunk driving
He made you call his office
And lie.

You were still smiling until the day
He refused to stop for gas,
Though you pleaded
The children cried and
The car stalled
On the freeway.

You were stranded.
The needle on the gage
Was on empty and
You knew
It was over.

Eileen Curran-Kondrad is adjunct faculty at Plymouth State University. She has published in NEATE (The Journal of New England Association for Teachers of English), Folded Word, and Red Eft Review.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Still Life with Six Flowers, Three Apples, and a Pear by Jen Finstrom

          After Jane Hirschfield’s “It Was Like This: You Were Happy”

          It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
          or your days: they will be wrong
          -“It Was Like This: You Were Happy,” Jane Hirschfield

It was like this: you went away
to college, swore you wouldn’t
run around with boys or drink, and
then you did, almost immediately.
You swore you’d never get married,
and you did, though it improved
nothing in that relationship. After
your divorce, you swore you would
never date again, swore that you
were happy as you were, that you
were safe in your apartment filled
with books and art, with the calm
still life you gaze at from your bed
every night and morning: three yellow
daisies and three pink, three round apples,
one golden pear—all of the space here
taken up by you. Once you still hoped
to salvage things with your ex, and
you would ask him, “Safe?” and he
would answer but without the question
mark. It was like this: nothing at all
was ever safe, not then or now.

Jen Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for thirteen years, and recent publications include Gingerbread House Literary Magazine and MockingHeart Review with work forthcoming in Thimble. Her work also appears in several Silver Birch Press anthologies. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sea Change by Ivo Drury

we forswore the seaside
choosing an inland vacation
at the edge of a forest
no seabirds
though the killdear walk like them
and the breeze in the trees
are as incoming waves

A native of Ireland, Ivo Drury lives along the California coast where his view compensates for his fear of the Big One.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

What the Stars Knew by Steve Klepetar

          The stars know everything,
          So we try to read their minds.

          -Charles Simic

My grandmother climbed mountains,
my mother told me, the only woman

in a company of men. After climbing
all day, they had to leave their gear

and take cover from an avalanche.
“What if someone steals our stuff?”

she asked, and the guide
just looked at her and shook his head.

That night the stars, which know everything,
shone down with their silver light.

She was young then, and wondered
who her husband would be.

Of course the stars knew, but they kept silent,
spread out against the black sky.

They knew she would have two daughters,
and be unhappy with the man her father chose,

though he played piano well and was generous to a fault.
And the stars knew she would die a terrible death.

They knew her daughters would scatter
across the earth, have sons who would have sons.

All this the cold stars knew on that night swollen with silence and calm.

Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

the ghost, having risen by John Sweet

grey skies & temperature dropping,
smell of cut grass, screams of crows

are you sorry you
believe in motion?

are you frightened by
the idea of death?

at some point you’re old enough to
realize that no one
really wants to hear the truth

wake up tired, sore, depressed

this will be the day the
roof caves in

the day the child’s body is found in
a shallow grave in mexico

in upstate new york

and each story generates its own
insufficient heat, of course,
and we cannot help but be
burned by the light of the sun

not every story is meant
to make you smile

not every moment needs to be
weighted down by this
sense of failure

the god you love the most
will always be the one
who bleeds you dry in the end

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications).

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Word Wonders by Richard Martin

          Out of this warm-toned horizon
          came the sound I‘d come to see:
          the distant silence of the woodcock.

          Mark Cocker

I often read a sentence and think,
I wish I had written that;
so a mere collection of words
sets a new thought alight to burn its way
into the very heart of some truth or other.

Outside my window the motionless trees
speak of the silence they help me to see,
while a solitary prayer of smoke rises
from an invisible chimney,
wordlessly yet eloquent.

It doesn‘t take much to stimulate the mind –
here a word, there an image
can work miracles: change water
into wine, make the blind see –
the seeds of awakening belief.

Richard Martin is an English writer who lives in the Netherlands close to the point where Belgium, Germany and Holland meet. After retiring as a university teacher in Germany, he turned his attention to writing, and has published three collections of poetry and numerous poems in magazines in England, the US, and Austria. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Morning Light by Steven Croft

Walking out after my island’s wettest December day
on record, rain drip sounds more slow-footed since dawn,
I pass the tin-roofed boat shed to push aside wet branches
of camellias and azaleas looking for my outdoor cats.
Drops of water glisten on high pines in rising sunlight. Birds sing.
Squirrels chatter. I lift the sharp smell of sap to my nose
after reaching down to toss aside a broken pine bough.

Looking down, I’m stopped by the opened bivalve of deer tracks
like tiny angel’s wings imprinted in the soggy dirt of the path.
Sometime during the rain my neighborhood’s rarest visitor,
pushed out by every new house to wooded bogs
around undevelopable marsh,
graced my yard.

Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. He has recent poems in Sky Island Journal, As It Ought to Be Magazine, Poets Reading the News, So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Third Wednesday, and San Pedro River Review.