NO PoETs ALLOWED / aralee strange

I saw the fine hewn stones lined with dripping candles dedicated
I trampled on the living muddy memory of the dead
I read the mean handwriting on the wall
& listened long as able to the morbid wail
heard the hot blood roar at the ones who teach dead to the young
lives pale in comparison
who grade them
I kicked ape in the pit & spat out some poems for the living

who are unafraid
who forgive us our trespassing
who sing
who see gardens growing in a dark empty place
who long for Resurrection Day when all the good
dead come back & rise for once to the top
in joyful noisy thronging triumph of life
over everlasting death

& I came like a one-legged duck full circle to
now is the time
now is the place
now is not a horserace

Give me a back seat a jug of rye whiskey
& singing thou to remember this by
give me my daily break
give me one realized moment a day
& I’ll give you my chunk of pyrite
blessed by a pure heart
& a one-way ticket to paradise

The Leaden-Eyed / Vachel Lindsay

Bastard Nation / Michelle Castleberry

Citizens of the Bastard Nation, unite!
Come forward, all you unauthorized,
illegitimate, and unplanned.
Babies nicknamed "oops" and "Our Little Mistake."
Stand up.

Calling all former outlaw infants, zygotes on the loose.
Tiny, uninvited, sneaking into the back row
of the hospital nursery with a name turned to the wall.
Yes, you the wiggling pin in the keyhole of wedlock.
Left on stoops, or packed onto trains,
adopted out, fostered, forgotten foundlings foundering
in group homes, aging out of the cuteness
needed to lure that Forever Family.

Come, you demiurge of urges, who drew together
your first parents then flipped them like bar magnets.
Babies in a field of Pull. Push. Pull. Push—finally away, away.
Join us, you the unclaimed freight of love, lust, incest or violence.
Children of rape, children of prostitution,
children of loveless love or love gone out.
Common as weeds, stubborn, but alive, alive-oh.

Join us.

Here you are. The bastards are here.
No matter how you earned membership,
stand with us.
We'll meet under the sign of the sperm
with a question mark tail
at a pub called "Mother's Milk."

Beautiful bastards, your first task is to stand up straight.
unslouch, unbend, unapologize for your very existence.
You owe no dues here nor to anyone.
You are the time-release bombs of serendipity and love.
Your secret mission is to be.
Observe the world from exactly
your eyes, and heart, and skin.
Then report back in song,
in words, in deeds of fierce kindness.

You do have family, you do have kin.
We are all sons and daughters
of John and Jane Doe,
The Adam and Eve of bastardy,
which makes this a kind of family reunion.
So good to see you.

No, the world may not have wanted us,
but goddamnit, it needed us.
So here we are.
The bastards are here.
Be ready to be loved.
Because we are everywhere

Feng Shui / Ginny Jones

When a house is clean, so it will be 
with the heart that resides within it.
Obstruction is the destruction of the soul
And order is the living water that resurrects us
For God is not found in chaos.

I used to believe that the method was in the madness
And with gladness I accepted that creativity was only birthed in
It was the ethos of my poetic soul and I only united paper with pen
When my emotions within could stay bottled up no longer
And the stronger they were, the wetter my parchment with black tears
Swirling, looping, and crossing furiously across a sea of white
I would write because I had to

My mind had become so cluttered
And, I, a sluggard in true artistry
And the parts of me that longed to break free were buried
Under the mess of wounds and things I had longed for
That belonged more to the past than in the present wasted effort
On those weathered dreams of old blocking the energy
Longing to burst free through these fingertips
And be spoken on these lips.

So, I began to clean house
With fervor I ousted anything that didn’t belong in my sacred space
With unabated haste I powered on until every piece of clutter
Had utterly disappeared, and I felt all I feared slip away
Into the grayness that connects light with darkness
And the starkness of the difference brought something with it
The present of creativity unhindered
Surrendered to the liberty of a clear mind
Giving me time to find my voice
And to have a choice about how it’s heard
So now, every word I carefully craft
Realizing that
The method is not in the madness
So, with gladness I accept that creativity is not only birthed in
I have a new ethos that allows me to move closer toward authenticity
Toward the simple complexity that exist in me
To etch these words onto sheets
Freely and without abandon.

Boxcar / Joseph Enzweiler

On the prairie of Saskatchewan
a single boxcar stands
on rusted siderails plunging
through lost rusted grain.
Both side doors now stand open
to a hundred miles of wheat beyond,
the shadows long ago drained
in the ground. Easily the wind comes,
wheel after wheel the hours turn,
rolling out and into history.
The men who rode here, the rags
of their eyes, blow now
in the great steel window.
Their pockets still dream
with fists of dust in them,
their money spent on squares
of the sky. Far-off lightning pours
under the prairie moon.
Through those doors purple night
gathers, where a black rain funnel
draws to its fierce whirling heart
those lost ones, the steel machinery
of their hope, a vein of light
blinding in the marrow drawn,
hurricane to the sky, fires
of all that was in them
to say they were for something,
to say it is not complete,
that armies of the angels
still collide above, swords drawn
in passion for our souls.

Beyond / Joseph Enzweiler

My brother's ladder leans
to the smokehouse roof.
All morning he's been up there,
quiet in his work.

At last, when he calls to me,
"It feels like November now,"
the chilly wind seems to carry him off,
his shirt waving against the blue.

From the hill above the house
I look back to that world,
the paint shimmering red
in the level sun,
my brother's tiny movement
with his flag of a brush
swallowed by the sky.

From the hilltop, redbud and locust
rise into evening mist.
Above them stand the oaks,
still crimson, still full
and whispering.

Beyond, the clouds are blowing
westward and the holes
deep between them
where the stars fall through.

And beyond again, the other place
I would walk into, farther yet
till I would be wind and gone.
From a dark pane of glass,
a voice "Here I am.
Here I wait for you."

Ellie in Hot Pants / Ralph LaCharity

Bad teeth & sunken eyes don't hide
no weaknesses
for late hours & lots of booze
no mystery why this lady's
so huge
why, just one
of her thighs'd
keep a man drunk
for weeks but
the two together'd
break his back in a minute
less'n he be six five & drive
truck for a living

I'm talkin' 'bout
Ellie in hot pans
broad Ellie bite
for bite
the baddest fat-butted
bitch on the block
deep Ellie drown
a whole town of frowns
when she go
poundin' round

Which is not to say
that this lady
don't grin & dance
& spread good times
don't dress to kill
don't love to love
come on hot
all the time &
you can't get her mad

I'm talkin' 'bout
Ellie in hot pants
big Ellie former
loud Ellie used to be
a chambermaid
thirsty Ellie drink
her weight in

Why, her butt be wider'n
most men's shoulders &
when she take a deep breath
necks pop
         eyes bug
                 blood surges

her grin alone
scare cops away
she just cross her legs
blind you
belly to the bar
most men can
all got a chance
Ellie in hot pants
I say!

After All / Mark Bromberg

Do you know that moment?

That moment when the two of you are alone for the first time
     after all the phone calls have been made,
          and all the words said in haste and first awkwardness of love recalled
              with its rush of days and meetings made and missed.
All your foolishness rising into feeling and hurried unexpected partings.
      The out-of-town postcards reading I'm sorry too
          but never mailed in the rush back, forgotten, in the bottom of hotel drawers
                       and missing their exotic postmarks.
In the moment after all the lovers' strategies have been played,
      you lie in each other's arms for the first time
            wondering what it was that took so long to be there.

Do you know that moment? I thought so.

After all, you think to yourself, these arms are so like another's
     (as you kiss them slowly)
           and these are eyes that have looked at me before
                (even as you notice again how blue they are)
and how the neck curves just so (but after all is just a neck,
     no matter how poetically inclined it is).
          There have been other lovers, after all, each with their neck just so.

How this first time is different.
     There is a meaning you never caught before:
         a certain yes in the way a curtain moves across a window,
               or how the shadow of a candle's flame
                    dances on a wall, and now you know.

After all those lovers and after all those days of want,
      you find love in the intersecting moment
            when the orange lays neatly sliced
                 and forgotten on the kitchen table.

Public Relations / Julie Wells

Pay with the soles of your boots
because of too much to and fro
ends contradicting meaning while we work
for babies and planned fabrications.
What can you make with a dollar and a girl?
Pay with the ends of your nails
because of too much lean and grab, too much
grab and go, too much go. Planning meanings to plant in the house
around crystallized lemon trees and plastic flowers, around sliding
balcony doors, around Zen fountains with floating painted rocks.
Stainless steel cutting boards, and I ask, what can you make with a
Quintessential poetry of subtraction.
Subtract contradiction.
Subtract meaning. Add bus schedules,
the letter Q, broken shoes, shoulder-wrenching
bags, strapless bras, abbreviated text messages.
Add runaway four letter words and starving toes.
Can you make?
With a dollar.
Add a dollar.
Add another dollar.
Add an extra five.
Same question. Add a girl.
Add a girl wearing stilettos and a bustier,
wearing magenta lip stain and a Coach clutch, wearing
Diesel jeans and a Prada thong. What can she make?
While we work for babies and forget meanings. While we
work for dollars and plan meetings. While we work for we work
for soles of our fallen boots we work for to and fro we work for 
   Zen fountains,
balconies, glass, plastic, lemon trees. We work to make what can we

C7 / Fabrice Julien

Have you ever had Ruffles for dinner?
Have you ever had to reconsider
Your decision,
Because instead of pressing C7,
You could have hit E11,
Which for the same price
Would have given you a little bit more,
To keep you going,
Until you return the following day at 4.

Have you ever had dessert be an option
Only if you were frugal with your main choice?
& only if you ignored the Voice of hunger,
& at learning to ignore it, you find that you are becoming stronger…

Because you know that while others pay for meals with the kind of  
  money that crinkles,
Your task is to search the street's floor for the kind that jingles,
& maybe if you're lucky,
You get just enough for dessert,
But remember the following day may be a tough hustle,
So you save what's extra,
For tomorrow's bag of Ruffles

Have you ever had to steal 50 cents with 10 cents,
Because you knew of the machine's glitch
When you hold the button for a certain number of times,
& out comes more than you put in.

Have you ever had to go with a lesser choice
When they ran out of C7,
& you only had enough for D11?

And again I ask,
Have you ever had Ruffles for dinner?
Have you ever had to reconsider your decision?
Cause it's never, ever, too late.

Woman on Fire (in memory of Lisa Davenport) / Michelle Castleberry

The burn unit in Herat, Afghanistan
fills with women, at times ten deep.
The air vibrates with cries, is thick and singed.
Girls wrapped in bandages of bridal white
tremble with arms charred at right angles,
lifted to hold, lifted to praise nothing.
Most of them set themselves alight.

What makes a woman combustible?
What makes her soak her dress in kerosene
and drop a match at her feet?

Where there is no tenderness or hope,
where there is no warmth or light,
Even the poorest homes
have matches and cooking oil.

What makes a woman catch fire?
Where there is no tenderness or hope,
where there is no warmth…

Have a girl-child, beat a cadence
into her skin and sing a chorus
of negations over the drum of her body.
When she turns twelve,
marry her off to settle a debt
to a man of fifty who takes up the dark song.
Fill her with children,
fill her with words like guttering embers.
Pack them in every day until you smell her.
If you watch you can see her flare.
Then ignite.

Where there is no tenderness or hope…
Even the poorest homes
have matches and cooking oil.
Where there is no warmth or light,
women burst into flame.

In a portrait of a survivor,
the flame is there still,
in whorls of flesh resembling abalone,
in a scrim of scar tissue like wax.
Her eyes burn out at you
with something like pride,
"This body is beautiful
because it is mine."

A woman is a landscape.
Her body is a map.
A man can be cartographer,
explorer, realtor, or lover of the land.

A woman is a landscape.
Her body is a map.
Some men see a mountain
and fall to their knees
happy, humbled by its beauty.

Others see a mountain
and want to take the top off
to get at the vein of coal inside.

Some see a woman
(A woman is a landscape
Her body…)
and talk of acreage, of property lines.
When they learn they cannot own her,
they salt the earth, burn the map,
set fire to a wooded lot
and cross the street to watch it burn.

Here the comparison breaks down.
If you destroy a woman to mine her heart,
she will escape with it every time
even into death.

A woman is a landscape.
Her body is a map.

What are you?

Take them back.
The words "woman on fire."
Take them back
…make them metaphor again.

Where there is tenderness
let a woman warm herself
in the shell-light of an embrace,
in the dawn-light of a child's face.
She is a landscape named home.
Her body is a map
of heaven pulled down
for those brave enough to see.
Where there is hope
let a woman kindle visions,
fan a spark of resistance
to lead a people.
There is warmth in a woman
loved well from birth, cast out in rays
as palpable as breath.

If a woman is on fire (say it)
let her burn with a poem or song
that troubles her sleep until
it scorches the page and air.
If a woman is ablaze
let her burn from the furnace of her desire
stoked under the gaze of her lover.
Let both of them find her beautiful.

Where there is tenderness,
and warmth, and hope and light
for every girl-child,
Where there is tenderness,
and warmth, and hope and light--
every woman can burn
and none will perish.

The Reality of Sunsets / Robert Ambrose

Scientifically speaking, sunsets
are unreal, nothing but
electromagnetic oscillation
diffracted by dust
detected by cones
delivered by neurons
    upside down
reorganized just so
you can pull your beach chair
next to mine and watch the sun
cross an imaginary line
and together we can reconstruct
what never was, yet
brings forth tears. Shall we
say a word or just enjoy?
You can call this what you will
but I would say it’s love.

Scientifically speaking, God
is unreal, nothing but
historical construction
discerned in dreams
dissected by logic
deposed by knowledge
    bottom up
as we reconstruct
from foundations of facts
new towers to heaven,
while ignoring again what
philosophers have found,
that no proof can forever
bind firm temples of truth
to ever quaking ground.
Cerebral God of new tribes
of the civilized savants
who slash the soul with
unassailable argument –
that God has died, so long
live what lies beyond,
what comforts tears and
calls forth song, what
sustains more kindness
when none is due, what
surprises your heart with
unearned joy. Shall we
say a word or just rejoice?
You can call this Adonai
Al-lah’, or Father God. From
what I read and think and feel
I would say it’s Love.

Chances Are / Grady Thrasher

She was a bleeding pile of style,
a toxic dump of torment,
a stone face without a smile
that only knew what war meant.

A raging sandstorm of ill will
defined her countenance.
I try, but can’t remember still,
why I wanted in her pants.

Like a praying mantis female,
with lovers in her beds,
in foreplay they could not foretell,
she’d be biting off their heads.

Fortunately, I got a view
of what life with her portends,
when she farted “I’ll Be Seeing You”
in staccato broken winds.

As impressive as that might have been,
I knew something was amiss,
when she’d hock a luger, large and green,
each time we shared a kiss.

I had hoped that porno site was art,
but when senses I regained,
it only meant her private parts
were in the public domain.

So here’s to those missed chances,
sometimes you’ll find you win
if in pursuit of some romances,
desire peters out before lust peters in.

Solo Native / Thomas Lux

Suppose you're a solo native here
on one planet rolling, the lily
of the pad and the valley.

You're alone and you know
a few things: the stars are pinholes,
slits in the hangman's mask.
And the crabs walk sideways
as they were taught by the waves.

You're the one thing upright
on hind legs, an imaginer,
an interested transient.
Look - all the solunar tables
set with silver linen!

This is where you'll live, exactly
here in a hut on the green and gray belly
of the veldt. You'll be

a metaphor, a meatpacker,
a tree dropping or gaining
its credentials. You'll be

a dancer with two feet dancing
in the dirt-colored dirt. All this,
and after a few chiliads,

from your throat a noise,
an awkward first audible
called language.

poem / ben gulyas

Because there is no photo
of that cloud mountain in britches over the corn,
the blood sun...
where bones come to nothing
and the rain sweeps
high into itself
over Mickey's Army Navy, Main & South,
Grove Road to Parkman,
Udall and Brosius...

bare to the night sounds
brave and dumb in the face of the colossus,
the goats, the cows, the bullheads in brown water,
the blood sun glowin under the blue
20 grand of centuries deep
and high as the heart beats...
and some eyes see it all,
where there is no photo,
over the corn,
chest to the green dark,
ears to the road
and breath to let it all build
where the cloud mountain
is forever inhaling...

no photo
just a breath-

Friendly Fire / Ralph LaCharity

Call the hearth at home friendly fire
Call the cold hours' starlight friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire reaps & preys
this fire lights both ways

Call the pain of birth friendly fire
Call the cries of babes friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire gives & takes away
this fire leaps & falls both ways

Call the threaded looms friendly fire
Call our darkened room friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire flays & it slays
this fire weaves both ways

Call lakes when they shine friendly fire
Call waves when they break friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire aches & it craves
this fire bathes both ways

Call grasses when they sway friendly fire
Call fireflies in their dance friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire burns where it braves
this fire churns both ways

Call the morning star friendly fire
Call the setting sun friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire eats the days
this fire bites both ways

Call the comet's tail friendly fire
Call the new moon's silver friendly fire
& while friendly fire's everywhere & forever
this fire sleeps within the blaze
this fire wakes both ways