Looking for the Tigers / Mark Bromberg

Philadelphia in a windy March. 

The hometown boy, now 60 in suede jacket and cap, 
throws his aching shoulders toward the wind and walks 
his old boxer walk down older streets: Kater to 20th, 
then South Street past familiar accents, sidewalks of broken brick, 
the windows advertising hillal chicken and watch repair. 

He points out the landmarks he knows too well. 
That way is McGillins if we should stop in for a pint. 
Down Arch Street is Chinatown and the cherry blossoms. 
Now he sees them every day disappearing in glaucoma. 
We're on our way to the natural history museum 

with its dinosaurs and butterflies, 
a world grown large enough to see 
everything big, close up, behind glass or suspended above us. 
A desert tiger behind a rock is ready to pounce
on deer who are suddenly alert. 

Inside the man-made spaces it's a world in control 
unlike the wild lights and city streets outside,  
the corner carts selling cheese steaks and gyros, 
open cellar grates that lie in wait for uncertain footing 
and a misplaced step. Watch for bicycles. 

We're old college friends from thirty or more years ago. 
Me with cerebral palsy watching my step 
at every turn in an unfamiliar city in winter wind. 
At busy intersections I feel his hand on my back. 
On cold marble steps he asks if I'm ready to try. 

I test my balance slowly, one step at a time 
He's got my right hand firmly in his left while 
we walk down talking about our younger selves. 
He reminds me I once made a pass at him in college. 
I laugh at the memory and still remember the snow, 

his flannel jacket, and how warm I imagined he'd be 
to lay next to in another winter season. 
I thank him for not beating me up then. 
Now we're just two old friends both on vacation 
stumbling through a museum each in our peculiar gait. 

We fumble over menus in restaurants, look for misplaced glasses, 
and talk about sex like old partners reunited, 
as if we're finally seeing the entire world behind glass, 
now big enough to see at last like a museum display. 
We walk 40 blocks in an afternoon, 

two friends talking about poets and reading and art. 
Back at home he sinks into an easy chair. 
The boxer's body that was once his own 
now belongs to shots and aches and doctor bills. 
I wear his old slippers to keep off the March chill. 

We both walk slower these days but with more purpose: 
we're looking for the tigers who will pounce on us both 
like unsuspecting prey alert behind museum glass. They're waiting. 
We each tell ourselves we're ready for them all, the beasts 
we know we'll never see coming around the corner of day.

Two poems by Jessica Kirby

Untitled

These words worked the long day Hammurabi died,
when the women of Mesopotamia wept of their fate-
unknowing of their past from which all derived.

When Tigris swallowed the banks of inventions,
the writings swept beyond the grasp
of the people mourning the death of their complacency

'What have us now?”, wondering- already and somber with
     prayer,
their eyes fell upon the whitened earth, heads tied by
     their oppression,
beyond the walls of civilization they could not see
where the Wildlings danced in freedom and equality.


Trails and Dance

I ride the peak to contemplate my view
Pick thorns from my aching legs
and swallow the familiar and the new

Whiskey glass plenty, water cups are few
Gone are rusty nails for solid wooden pegs
I ride the peak to contemplate the view

My horse's prints outlined with early morning dew
My own obscured with smears of red-orange mud
I swallow the familiar and the new
They drink to find what everyone has found
And some will drown in their own fallacious flood
I ride the peak to contemplate the view

Some carry knives, others hand-made bows
they all crave the copper taste of blood
but never swallow the familiar and the new

I slow my feet when the mocking bird flew
watch the rapacious snake feast from her eggs
I ride the peak to contemplate my view
and swallow the familiar and the new

the last horse of sand / ben gulyas

the last horse of sand
the night sewn into its spine
like a dark curve
the mark of the mole
the mark of the hedgehog, the tortoise,
the leather winged bat
the mark of the 4-legged possum
white ghost out of the side of the eyes
gnarling in the night over crocus nectar
and turnips—

the last horse of sand
returning to us all
as a dream
hoof beats in our heads…
cactus blooms, all rose and butter,
silent and startling—

like elf owls watching
the moon
reflecting off the sudden movement
of the earth
a scratch of blood
claw, beak & belly bound
the nectared bones of the cactus
the juice, the scent of color…

and the owl, the owl…
is a lonely bird…
exiled to a hushed dim flight
of darkness,
and a hunger of shadows…
or any little light that moves…
too awkward or beaten
or just
a half-beat
slow…

and what faces then,
the grip of the throat,
listening to the light
being pulled out
and let go…

the owl, the owl…
its exile…

while the last horse of sand
doesn’t give it a paused beat
but runs nose flared
eyes wide wild
among all those life-eaten blankets,
under the bridges…
under the bridges…

where there, a moment of dim sunrise…
holds all dreams to be true—

Skybruiser Trainwreck, Bone Memorial / Jay Morris

There comes a time in everyone’s life
Where the nights seem too long
And the days seem too short
Because you’ve slept through them all
Cause you strain your eyes at night trying
To figure out how many times a razor
Has to scrape across your wrist
Before the scars look intentional
Calculating how many times a day
You can flash freeze a smile in front
Of the faces of well intentioned friends
Who could never know any better
Before it looks like you have botox in all the wrong places.
How many times can you attribute the gut wrenching hurricane
Wreaking havoc in your stomach
To sudden onset nausea
Before you the divulge the difficulty
Of determining the amount of time it would take
For those who pretended to love you to disappear
Into the sun bruised horizon
Away from the train-wreck that has become your life
Fascinating to watch from a distance
Heartbreaking up close
Unbearable under any circumstance
And as the sun glints on your broken glassjaw
And sets on top of your twisted metal spine
Night falls like rain
Filling your nostrils; clogging your throat
Invading your bones; rocking you gently
Into the comfortable sigh of anticipated disappointment
As if forecasting loneliness was something to be proud of
While death begins the final march into the triumph of your threshold
You must realize
Your bones are a weather battered memorial to the small victories
And large defeats that have shaped your soul
Your body is a temple
And you are stronger than the darkness storming your hallowed halls
You are stronger than the darkness storming your hallowed halls
Part the puffy clouds of your lips and release the sunrise of your smile
Pull yourself up from the horizon of depression
Bruise the sky with your light!
Each breath you take is a cosmic demonstration to the success of the
     universe
A testament to progress
A scripture of laughter
So laugh
Laugh till your sighs become ridiculous
Laugh till your tears are no longer dripping with the shame of someone who
     hides their pain
There is nobility in hardship
And salvation riding the spine of every crown of thorns you bear
But that kind of serenity can only be attained by
Opening your eyes
Looking in the mirror
And saying:
“I can respect that.”

The Old Man / Ernie LoBue

One of the most mercifully angelic
things I have seen since
being here
was an old black man
when I was skateboarding in front
of a one-story building
with aluminum siding--

The man walked alongside the building,
tapping
with his knuckles,
a soft metal clang,
he sang,
'Today, Charlie, today, good evening!'
over and over again

An old hippie came to the door,
fat and shirtless, and gave
the old man
a small plastic tube--

Then the old man
walked slowly back,
his gait the smoothest stagger
you have ever seen,
and     across the street
he descended out of sight
into the park.

What Makes a Poem Great? / Grady Thrasher

 
Questions of much debate
about what makes a poem great
make my brainwaves jump and lurch
like children bored in church,
each time I pen a word,
one a million times you’ve heard,
or concoct a phrase so trite,
that its parasitic blight,
causes the poem being written
to be weak as, well… a kitten.

But what is worse, it’s now free verse
that reaps the critical praises.
Words so precise they become a vise
binding readers’ gazes
to universal meanings,
 insights for the gleaning,
and metaphors that open doors
in tight descriptive phrases.

They say free verse is just like prose
but with better words and timing.
My problem shows in words I chose,
I can’t stop fucking rhyming!

This poem’s a bust; it’s dust to dust,
I hear its death-knell chiming
The words, born still, have no appeal,
‘Cause I can’t stop fucking rhyming!

A Poet is not a Writer / Frank Polite

A writer must have a deep patience, a profound desire
   to remain human. He propels his paragraphs slow
and voluminously along the ocean bottom like a school
   of whales. All by himself, the writer is communal.
He reproduces himself as chapters. He gathers against
   continental shelves his tribal relations,
his wavering wives, his folio babies, plump and nursing.
   He arrives in layers, weightless with words...

A poet is not a writer. Streamlined and arrogant,
  he lives at the insistent edge of his being, every word
flashing above the blue marine like a flying fish.
   He keeps to the ceiling of his wit's end, and there,
tensed between two elements, he beats his fins into wings
   to leave the deep salt sea forever, to fly out of it
and alchemize into a beam of sunlight. The flying fish's
   deepest wish: to be caught and swallowed mid-air

by a golden eagle.