(For Andrew, six months in recovery)
As you strain for the high notes
I want to imagine it’s the 1970s
and I am brooding with Neil Young
at the wistful campfire of the turntable—
worn grooves like crackling embers—
and not gazing at palm fronds
on a wall in Delray.
But from identical chairs
we watch you at the foot of our bed—
guitar and sandals,
a crew cut that brings back the boy
with his baseball cards
those days before court appointments, trips
to detox, the resolve in your eyes,
unwavering pitch on the words
Twenty-four and so much more
enough for us to believe
in the transcendent power
of songs played on a dust-clumped needle—
our hearts like old vinyl, skipping again.
Joseph A. Chelius is employed as director of editorial services for a healthcare communications company in the Philadelphia suburbs. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Commonweal, Poetry East, Rattle, Poet Lore, and the American Journal of Poetry. His full-length collection, The Art of Acquiescence, was published by WordTech Communications in 2014.
In the hotel of unchanged sheets
strangers sleep together, one room,
having the same hungry nightmares,
some they do not wake up from,
sharing that same fear of morning,
the struggle of muscle and bone,
in the city they grew up in.
One old man wobbles down the block
up to a first floor walk-up.
The porch threatens to separate
from the house. He wonders
if this is the big wooden door that was
too heavy to open when he was little,
that is too heavy for him to open now.
Farther down the street,
apartment buildings have been renovated.
The park has a new name. The old man
isn’t sure it is the same pond,
the willow tree,
the same ducks.
The jungle gym and slide
are new, and the swings.
He knows he would become dizzy now,
swinging. He knows
the mothers huddled near one another
on the benches
are made uncomfortable by him.
Old man in torn clothes.
They won’t allow a vision
of one of their children
growing into him.
His visions when
he hung by his knees
from the old jungle gym
were of baseball cards,
that one Saturday at the Polo Grounds,
the arrival of the ice cream truck,
school, where he was math king,
and, of course,
climbing the willow tree.
Who would have imagined
these stained trousers,
shoes Goodwill won’t take,
the hotel of unchanged sheets?
B. Chelsea Adams received her MA from Hollins College in Creative Writing and English. Chapbooks of her poems have been published: Looking for a Landing by Sow’s Ear Press in 2000, Java Poems celebrating her addiction to coffee in 2007, and At Last Light by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her stories and poems also have been published in numerous journals, including Poet Lore, Potato Eyes, Albany Review, Southwestern Review, California State Poetry Quarterly, Clinch Mountain Review, Union Street Review, Wind, Lucid Stone, Rhino, and the Alms House Press Sampler. She taught at Radford University for over 23 years.
after being named for a woman jazz singer
Around a Philadelphia piano bar sweaty with beads
off glass, towards the end of the last set,
the singer and her voice became what Mother wanted
for a daughter, something in the name,
something her father said about their Irish ancestry.
I became clay to shape for the fire
when she gave me the name Karl in Gaelic,
but not even Mother could bring forth a goddess
in urn with all the wood of a forest.
By the time I budded breasts,
I didn’t want to be a girl who played with dolls,
but the woman astride a horse leading—
if not a nation—her family to what they could be,
more than what they were, more than drinks
around a set of black and white keys.
Three quarters past midnight, it would be easy
to focus on a man who walked away
in a piano bar tune. But it would be me,
a woman descended of Druids, the one stones
are circled for, the one for whom fires are burned.
Kyle Laws’ collections include This Town with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017); So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015); Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (Dancing Girl Press, 2013); and George Sand’s Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West’s 2012 award). With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. www.kylelaws.com
A windsock for dreams, this Brooklyn bus driver.
A hope of getting one of those dreams made flesh
rides alongside him at a time they say Frank Sinatra
exudes light, that hope seeping through his capillaries
like the noises through a wall. To him, there is a power
to being a man and having Alice for his wife: the power
to haul your ass out of bed and press on after prolonged
sleeplessness. Through a humming New York City dawn.
And this is what Ralph does when he isn’t palling around
with a sewer-stinky Norton whose atriums and ventricles
lubdub an urban poo with a faint whiff of antiperspirants.
Surely, you’ve caught the reruns. Melted at least a little.
And if White Privilege is propping up Ralph Kramden,
which it is, The Honeymooners is a backdrop to falling
in love and fucking after the shades are drawn because
your Alice is frightened or Catholic. In 1955, you have
about what you want: stable employment to prison you
before and after the shudder of thrusting into her stops.
Maybe driving a bus is the metaphor for what happens
when any two hearts share quarters where one partner
has a name stitched to a uniform and the other doesn’t.
In 1955, men don’t use words like metaphor and a man,
any man, has a right to discipline an insubordinate spouse.
Ralph has seen the cowering women and called it bullying.
Then seen himself as an offender and remorseful penitent,
without referencing a nineteen-fifties idea of conscience,
though conscience—like Alice Kramden—had shouted
to be heard over the hubbub describing the cityscape.
Roy Bentley was born in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of four books and several chapbooks. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review and elsewhere—recently, in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA (in poetry), as well as fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. These days, he makes his home in Pataskala, Ohio.
The first sip flamed into another sip like a sun storm—
like an Olympic medal—like Pompeii—
like Pompeii before lava made love groan
beneath the weight of heat—made love eternal
in its heavy gray embrace—Sweet Jesus that sip
turned the scent of gasoline into the sound of gasps—
my lips had been an iron gate—my lips a Syrian desert
shriveled into a frown—my tongue a slug
curled in the hollow of my cheek—Hell
I was nothing but a hotel sign flapping on a rusty chain
a fleabag room—curtains pursed—but that wet light
flashed like resurrection hollering hallelujahs
in Japanese—That hot juice hit high notes
from the very first sip—shrill and trembling—singing
goddamn Götterdämmerung—squeezing music
out my pores till my skin stretched to cellophane—
that tight that transparent—Vesuvius
spitting jalapeño breath—hot and bright and dark too—
dark on top flames stoking underneath swirling me
through a wormhole—time swallowing its tail
blindness turned inside out—that sip—if some Higher Power
cracked the world open like an egg and you felt your soul
swim up from your ribs—felt your soul rear on hind legs—
a clash of crystal horses rearing and charging and taking off
on fourteen-foot wings—Teratornis wings—
God help me one sip and I was Nithhogr I was Smaug
melting mountains into cream—Oh yeah I lit the sky
like Nine-Eleven like Armageddon like a fucking
Jabberwock—no bones no skull only eyes—nothing but eyes
and a wide wet smile
Jackie Craven won the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Award for Our Lives Became Unmanageable, a chapbook of fanciful tales that explore themes of compulsion and recovery. Her poems appear in many journals, most recently in Nimrod, River Styx, Salamander, and Water~Stone Review. Visit her at www.JackieCraven.com.