Two Poems by John Wares

frosted morning, under Tennessee wall, lonely tent
coldest i recall, a night of stares
and the neighbor girls giggle about the shared
lack, the toes, the gloves, the problem
would resolve with more bodies in there,
positive joy, love on waking
hot tea, eggs,
December, sandstone shading
beautiful camp on river, boulders, fog.
hike up, packs expectant with metal
layers shed each few, fifteen, up
to the water drop when shirt falls on moss.
more than could be counted
escaping all the lies below,
a first people’s urge,
climb to the top, look down,
flat shine of sun on rivers’ flow.

sandia, sangre, coast, pigeon, unaka, cascade, smoky, rocky,
what is a mountain if not a dream, a map, lines drawn by a
mountains are not high points of the land but the truth,
subsidence and depressions slip into the sea from where i look
     west into wind,
eyes watering, memories are drawn out and slip into the valley
     behind me,
caught on the run back down the trail, only when hurried.
what is a mountain if not a pile of gems, caverns full of
resting place of snow, the pull of gravity, exposure of what
     is real?
then, mountains shadow the uninspired and attract long gazes,
knowing every day the mountain is different, looks different,
will snag different winds and clouds and rain on the east.
the mountain can wake you up, if you aren’t careful, with sun
     tearing open
on bare stone, a glow that suffices to lengthen your hair into
     the moss below,
to awaken the wilder elements.
what is a mountain if not the locus of war, of religion,
of polishing our bare soul?
paper cannot cover these, from a distance smoother
than when bare feet scramble up them, given age.
they grind all eventually, divide, provide, realize.
what is a mountain if not where i’ll see you next?

Sweet Caroline / Sarah Beth Croteau

From the moment I said goodbye I wanted to say hello again to 
you. That goes for last year and tomorrow too. Even though tomorrow isn't promised. Even though promises are broken.

There's lists of words that I have. And they all fit inside of my head. When I stare out the car window, as the trees go by, and you take my hand, they fall around me, like leaves to the ground.

One time, in one of my many lives, I was the wind. And when I was the wind, you were the ocean. I tore storms into you. But I relinquished the wind. I gave it up so I could have this body. And you were still the ocean. I walked into you with saltwater tears and apologies and they swam away from me. You were warm, and I could feel my fingers thread through you like laughter and those moments of happiness that always seem too good to be true.

You could sink me. You might. But If anyone could claim me, it would be you. I would settle to the bottom there, my lungs useless and dying. But I know that I would be settled there, my tears, not a stranger to these saltwater depths.

There is a crisp promise that I can make. One that won't be broken. One that wont be bent. One that won't just fall away and crumble. One that just is.

It just exists. Like the wind and the ocean. And it's here in these bodies that it lays, twisted around this spine. In these veins. Written on my ribs. And in the palms of my hands and sleeps in my ankles. No wound that I would ever endure will break it. No death could ever claim it.

And it's that I love you.

Adages / Alx Johns

“You know what they say,
he said,
“There are two kinds of people in the world...”
No, there are not.  There are billions.

Bad adage.
And it's time to get rid of a few.


Loose ships
just sink.

Tight lips sting eventually.

Blood is thicker than water,
but everyone's blood is relatively
as thick as everyone else's.

Don't look any horse in the mouth.
Horses are dangerous.
Don't beat a dead one or a live one.

A cat has one life, idiot.
I saw a kitten crushed by a car.

You get more flies with honey, but what fool wants flies around.
Put out some flowers for the bees.

Stop to smell them.  Does that mean every single one?
That would make you poor and mentally ill.  Which ones should
one stop and smell?  How many per day?

You can be too careful:
Let the right woman go.
Stay in a stupid job.
Hide in your body.

All's fair in love and war
if one's willing to make war
on love and love in war.

We've heard this all before,
and here's one
I'd like to add.

Feel free to use it:

You've got to climb the mountain to meet the monk.

Pouncing at the Mark / Ben Gulyas

Pouncing at the mark—

Sometimes we’re lucky just to say one word—

Wamby's Tavern, 1948, Toledo— just a bottle opener now, and by address, a hair salon—

Who can speak the turning of events in the wash of time?

We are sparrows on a closet window sill

in the bright human fatigue of something solar—

made of brain and heart muscle—

It shines, it doesn't shine, it expounds,

it doesn't expound…

even with a jar of gold, broken open against the voice, as it pounds exponentially in our hearts…

still, greed, arrogance, power, wipes up and walks away with just as much as you can dream…

So whoever has the baseball bat, the tomato, the branch of ash covered with that gold, just take it and swing—

How many swings in a week, a year, a life? Who knows?

We are a bees nest—

We are a constellation of bees,

beyond any nest—

A shanty ride of life with lights exploding…

sending solar flares out there into the world…

That's the mark,

like a shot—

just listen—

with a watchful eye…

there we are—

Not / Michelle Castleberry

for Matt

Not a hostage negotiation with duct tape and rope.
Not a trinity of words, or those words repeated or withheld.
Not a vow or disavowal;
either becoming a bondage of word or silence.
No safe word here.
Not a ransom note cut from old letters from ex-loves.
Not their negative shapes like the sheet of paper from which a 
    string of paper dolls was cut.
Not the first or last kiss, from each or every.
Not a hook, baited and cast.
Not relationship status , not nomenclature of any kind.
Not possessive pronouns, not possession or possessions shared.
Not a contract or a ring like a contraction of metal around 
    a finger.
Not feeling or numbness or the road between the two.
Not the kiss imagined, then real, then remembered.
Not the docked, locked bodies in their soft, mechanical work.

Have you found it yet? It moves.

Clues written in creek water after a storm.
Have to read fast, with fingers, with eyes closed.
Once had and held, now cast onto the open sea,
a fear of heights gone sideways and deep.

Have you found it yet?

Some lucky some, some find it,
some pretty duos of dancing meat and bones.
And so they go, in the Junkyard of the Bloodsong,
flipping off time, begging the rats banging tin can congas
for just

If I am a mermaid with a catfish tail
and you are a half-mule centaur,
we will have to be quick, you’ll have to dip
me like a profane baptism every verse or two.
But I’ve saved enough breath to ask,
“May I have this dance?”