Progression In The Sky / Fabrice Julien

I stare into an empty sky
And am filled with ambitious desires
That I will never achieve.
You see, that’s the reality of my vision,
& so I deal with it.

I live with an empty soul
That is locked in the open,
Blatant so souls can see,
The key, is within reach,
But arms are tied.
& so, I deal with it.

It’s 2011- I am told and reminded.
392 years since it started,
235 since we helped,
146 since we earned it,
145 since it started again,
48 since he spoke,
46 since it ended on paper,
Told to get over it years later….
Because progression was the aim.
& correctness was the game.

It never happened they asserted,
Stay in line with the progressing times,
Erase the visible memory.. & BE, part of something different.

To this I stare with confusion and discontentment.
Am I the only one who sees that the conditions of the now, are
     correlated to the conditions of then?

Am I the only one to remember?
Am I the only one to remember?
Am I, the only one to remember?

It’s nights like these,
It is nights like these that I stare
To the empty sky and am filled with ambitions that I will 
     never achieve.

The sky knows why,
From the first to the last,
It won’t forget our past.

Carnivortex / Michelle Castleberry

To Matt

I realize now how that must have sounded
when I sized up the best placement
for a bullet, behind the shoulder-blade
of the perfectly flanked television deer
that posed like some masochistic centerfold for carnivores.

I sounded cruel. And hungry.

And that’s how I justify my easy knowledge of killing,
that I am an unrepentant carnivore.
That push come to blood, I could be responsible
for my own meat. That a country girl can survive
at the cost of something else perishing.
Like any southern church-reared kid I know of dominion,
and like anyone from working class roots, understand
the hard, red comfort of being high enough on the food chain
to make meat. And that word is crucial,
the word meat as distancing and sanitizing
as white foam trays and cellophane. Yet
the real phrase is “kill to eat,” at least more honest.

Honesty, though, is not mercy
no matter how I bless my meal.

I think of this when I see you spare a creature
that will never feed you and may, if allowed, harm you.
Something so small, so inconsequential,
that you could be forgiven (if anyone even noticed)
for killing it. I don’t know how long it would take
for me to inhabit that kind of gentleness,
that kind of joining with another, however unrelated.
So from my seat made of hunger and bones,
I watch and try to learn.

Afternoon Joe / Bob Ambrose

You smile into a steaming cup in search of grounds
and gracious lines to share with he in painter’s cap
who holds up signs by traffic stops where hand-drawn
letters spell the barter – work for food, but what he offers
one more try for wary drivers – multiply the fish and loaves
within the gap from red to green. But eyes averted never
see the narrow Galilean path that stretches off another way
beyond the light that guides the flow from bank to drugs
to Chick-fil-A and on to homes to huddle nights encased
in husks of wood and cheer, which fortify a life’s veneer
in hoarded warmth

            but those like Joe
spend hours in the public square
and nurse their warmth from cardboard
cups – a Big Joe buys an afternoon
of comfort on a well-used couch
amidst assorted Macs and pads
and textbooks cracked by pert coeds
in gym shorts, flip-flops, painted toes
by funky guys in baggy clothes
with khakis cut around their knees
or sidearm tats and tattered jeans,
by nursing interns sporting scrubs
and midlife strivers buttoned up,
a young instructor talking math
and Chinese lovers lugging packs
engaged in study and each other,
working mother, child in tow –
they come and go and barely note
an old man whiling time alone
and gentle souls at rest, like Joe

            who on a warm midafternoon
could tell you how to weather cold that numbs the soul
against the years, to finish off on cruel nights what God
began so long ago, how when a soggy winter low is chased
by Arctic mass blown south where weak won’t make
the morning light in trembling walls of flesh and fabric,
hunkered, huddled, soon to die, one last command –

     that man should rise
     and manufacture right
     on ice, from slush
     a snowman shrine to life
     submerging fear
     in warmth of play
     through bitter night
     to brittle day

            and yes, I too,
I think to say, have felt my heart so
strangely warmed behind my silent
public smile my words are snowmen
guarding night and creeping numbness
in my life, but due respect stills my
reply, and so retreat for fresh supply
of cardboard warmth that binds
the ties of mid-day neighbors, even
Joe who, unobtrusive, slips away
somewhere along the ancient path
to canvas home beneath the stars.

Lightning Strikes / Pilar Quintana

Lightning strikes
and the street lamps quiver
in Morse code.
Hands reaching through bars.
Fire glows
behind the glass.
Its power released in
tiny spurts
for our pleasure.
Lightning shrieks across the sky
and strikes.
As if it would reclaim
these bastard children
we think ourselves masters of.
As if to say
tame this.

Sidewalk Dharma / Mark Bromberg

Look where you are going, not where you have been
(tho that too is a lesson)
walk with deliberate intent, where you are headed. See?
(even if you are guessin')

But watch your step -- the Buddha would tell you
it's how you walk, not when you arrive.
Are you alive? Oh well, you'll see
it's better to trip and fall than just to survive.

Hurt and pain are the day's real test.
If you fall down, you'll get up again --
don't heed the path, and life's a real mess,
that's a free lesson with a knee's little twist. And then

whoops, whoops, you're down again. So what?
As Beckett says, try 'n fail better next time.
We all get where we're going, simple as that,
and no one said that life's a straight line --

except to the grave. That's the lesson, sure
(as the days follow one another.)
The end is still the fall without fail or cure,
so go carefully, with one foot in front of the other.