My Sister, Re-Reading 32 Years of Diaries, by Lyn Lifshin

Not like the book of
life where deaths and births
are sealed but a film
run backward, a woman
pulling away from
arms and lips and skin,
letting go, swirling
backward, curled as
an embryo, she locks her
self in the bathroom
apartment of stained lilac
as water crashes against
ragged stone. The black
pines bend over like my
sister in the dark room in
the rain. She is 36, 18, 8,
becoming thinner, laughing.
The pages open like a rose,
the words a rose pressed
on a night moon licked her
skin, translucent as her
long blonde hair. From here,
that nymph is a stranger.
Like the rose, the words
lose their color, spaces
fill with blurred nights. But
the leaves, fragile and thin,
ghosts of what was,
smell of something lush in
darkness. In the rain my
sister curls into the quilt
made of time and loss,
pulls the past as far into
Junes to come as she can.

Lyn has over 120 books and edited 4 anthologies, with her most recent publications being: The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian (Texas Review Press), Another Woman Who Looks Like Me from Black Sparrow at Godine, following Cold Comfort and Before It's Light, DESIRE, 92 RAPPLE, Nutley Pond, Persephone, Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness, Lost in the Fog, and many more. Her forthcoming books include Tsunami as History from Poetryrepairs.com, For the Roses: Poems for Joni Mitchell, and A Girl Goes Into the Woods from New York Quarterly Books. Her website is at www.lynlifshin.com.

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No Gin in My Ginsberg, by Clinton Van Inman †

Just a handful of Zen is all you left
As we watched you change
Into those borrowed robes
And chant your mantras to
Run away people in parking lots. †

Such a real cool daddio only children
Failed to recognize you once prophet
Of bongo players, jazz players of the world.
Did you really think we
Would shave our heads? †

Clever you, you fooled them all but not me.
My face formless like the Immortals,
I followed your nameless streets
That led all the way to†India†and beyond.
I still howl in your painted posies.
I now spit in your holy water
And write your name now only in
Urine.

Clinton Van Inman was born in England and is a graduate of San Diego State University. He teaches at a high school in Hillsborough County, Florida.

************************

The Cherry Tree Abyss, by Rich Murphy

The pilings, driven into an interpretation of dreams
and upon which Eiffel towers and sunflower farms
sit crafted, pay tall mortgages, monsieur. Manifestoes,
stare wide-eyed into a century that winked at blondes.

Poems careen off cliff lips, trusting that a subconscious
with or without a will rescues images and catches
with metaphor the lover (pedal to the metal) in the words.
The days where reference or anticipating stepping stones

could make a god from an abandoned boy
who played shoe laces for a lyre were now
evenings between wrecking balls that bury cities.
The drop seems to go on forever for the dare devil.

The wife with the throat of a valley and buttocks
of swansí backs loved the freedom well, but her
savanna eyes claimed no optimistic brow to the crevasse.
Shifting sand, uprooting intentions faster than one-legged

wishes, sues to foreclose on the utopian estate that anyone
could hold in a hand. Comfort, slipping into illiterate slumber,
forecasts archival shelves in dark clouds
while releasing a couch from any duties in mind.

Murphy's second book Voyeur was published in 2009 (Award Winner 2008, Gival Press). The Apple in the Monkey Tree (Codhill Press), his first book, was published in 2007. Chapbooks include Family Secret (Finishing Line Press), Hunting and Pecking (Ahadada Books), Phoems for Mobile Vices (BlazeVox), Rescue Lines (Right Hand Pointing) and Great Grandfather (Pudding House Publications). Recent prose scholarship on poetics has been published in Imaginary Syllabus, Anthology chapters, and many others. He lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

************************

Emma and Her Missing Dog, by John Grey

The dog went missing. Damn fool mutt.
Doesnít know what heís turning his back on.
Sheís potted and trimmed... .a lifetime in this house.
Once considered flighty, now wingless.
Her home.., at night, the dripping tap,
a sound warmer than a husband.
Likewise, her simple bird-like song
and the sudden cry when she snips her nails too close.
Green hills, chilled white in winter. Year after year.
Outside, all the side-tracked people,
the off-kilter neighbors who never know
where theyíll be living a day, a month, from now.
That dogís out there somewhere.
Half-lab, half-shepherd...
heíll be half-starved by morning.

Always at night, that spill of water,
note by note, composing a lullaby.
Others followed this one or that one, usually a man,
some a vocation, one even cleared out for good,
joined the marines.
Only she knows how sheís kept the place up,
how itís done the same for her..
Parents dead, sister likewise,
but sheís still the same thread, rooted and dreamless.
She cooks, she cleans, she chops the wood for the fire.
ďYou should have that tap fixed,Ē says the guy
who delivers her groceries.
But nothing been fixed around here since the dog.

Grey has recently been published in The Talking River, Santa Fe Poetry Review and Caveat Lector with work upcoming in Clark Street Review, Poem and The Evansville Review.

************************

Escape Artist, by Paul Hostovsky

Iíve always wanted to be
excused. From the table,
from school, from work.
From life, actually.
I donít feel well, may I be
excused from feeling?
Iíve always wanted to get
out of things. Downright
Houdiniesque. Iíd like
to get out of this body. I donít
remember how I got in.
Iíd like to go by climbing
your body. Down your body and out
of my body. I think thatís how
we get here in the first place.
I donít remember the first place.
Iíd like to go back there though.
Excuse me if I elbow,
shoulder, knee. Excuse me if I
worm my way out of the crowded
now. We either go by breaking
into blossom, or by wilting
in place, the latter being so
heartbreaking, you have to turn
away. You have to turn away.

Paul Hostovsky is the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes, Dear Truth, and A Little in Love a Lot. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009.

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Leading Your One-Eyed Sister Through the Night, by John Calavitta

we guide the blindfold creature
from door to door down

down to midnight
casting her chaplet of light

this is a story Jung would understand

************************

Sense Is Suction Fountains, by John Calavitta

in some city underneath an occult star

in a real city, bored with dragon
hand-cuffed to a mysterious silo of glass

you kiss someone because a voice said
we are at war

John Paul Calavitta received his MFA from the University of Washington, where he is currently finishing his PhD in English and Poetry.

************************

Some Mistakes, by Barbara Daniels

I bought a convertible, flipped
the top down, riding sun struck or
soaked with snow. I dyed my yellow hair
red, sat while a stranger painted

my urgent mouth, went to work
in sandals and sundress, arms and
shoulders bare. My foul-smelling
dog loped through the neighborhood.

I remember the strangeness of bodies,
freight train piercing me, then
the sound of it roaring away.
I played a blue piano, clicked

through tinny tunes. I stayed clear
of doctors, tumors growing
like ghastly twins. I felt myself falling,
no guy wire, no net. I was subject

to tides, to wind on inked water.
I bought a red wig for my bald skull.
Darkness poured into the dark.
I cried out in the snapshot foam.

Barbara Danielsí chapbook Quinn and Marie is available from Casa de Cinco Hermanas and her book Rose Fever from WordTech Press. She received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.

************************

Ghost, Hello, by Mark Jackley

Thank you for appearing in the form of a careworn woman
shuffling across the Safeway parking lot
in winter rain,

through the afterbirth of Christmas,
wet garbage and lost seagulls
picking through the dirty snow, a place called nowhere at all.

I who was barely able
to get out of bed this morning
and meet another day saw your face like a crumpled map

on the seat of the thousand-dollar
Skylark I once owned,
and it said Iíll eat these Twinkies before I even reach my car,

and it's okay, this my station,
one of my many stations. Slow down, itís sometimes better
to take the long way home.

************************

My Sister, Re-Reading 32 Years of Diaries, by Lyn Lifshin

No Gin in My Ginsberg, by Clinton Van Inman

The Cherry Tree Abyss, by Rich Murphy

Emma and Her Missing Dog, by John Grey

Escape Artist, by Paul Hostovsky

Leading Your One-Eyed Sister Through the Night, by John Calavitta

Sense Is Suction Fountains, by John Calavitta

Some Mistakes, by Barbara Daniels

Ghost, Hello, by Mark Jackley

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All poems are copyright of their respective authors.

Exercise Bowler, editor, Julie Kovacs. 2010-2016