‘Snake’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Winter: and the early harvest moon
rises on the mist of the night wind.
Snake has gone to ground,
seeping like thick fluid
into the spaces between earth’s warm bones.
Strung like the half notes of dew on spider’s web,
Snake’s dreams shimmer.
They flicker between worlds,
tongues licking at the wild honey of our lies.

Struggling deep into the frozen clay we burrow,
shaping with our songs each hand-smoothed brick.
Adobe strengthens through summer,
muddies in the winter rain.
We build the ring around the fire:
one brick upon another through the chilly night.
And Snake listens: even in his torpid dreams
he eavesdrops. His supple belly translates
every whisper the complicit earth yields.
We lean together, our truths cloaked
only in our own illusions.

Snake stirs, each glittering scale tuned
to earth’s fitful quiver. We await him.
Beyond the fire’s lighted circle
Snake rolls, hooplike. His tale
within his mouth, he loops,
inexorable.
What does Snake know?
Like light he is a wave he is a point he is everywhere
among us. He ripples over the wall
of our intentions, our stories that drift
upon the phantom smoke.
He haunts our troubled silences
while we try to rebuild truth.

But Snake reminds us:
truth is not a winter fire
laid against the brittle blade of fear.
It huddles through the night,
thin-skinned animal with wild heart.
While snake, truth’s sibilant guardian
waits, listening.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

Two Poems by Walker Storz

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For Sylvia

You were yr own Hero—
gold Narcissus-
flower turned to lead
Water turned to
ice—alchemy of
death. In your mind,
objects turn
and turn and they
whirl themselves
into static.

You own a million
postcards of yourself:
faded photographs
of statues and ghosts

and a shrine, erected to
your image,
in your mind

which is to say, in
Your house, and
everywhere

When water turns
into ice, it whirls
into stasis with a
deafening flourish

Then, materializing–

a glass
icon of yourself,
chiselled out of
frozen time. That
infinite quantity–those
Crushed bodies, those
long-gone heroes. Castle
walls would not protect
them. And you were all
alone, in the doctor’s
office. A sphere of
soft light, surrounded by
a harsher light–a
Splitting pain–forceps,
scission, the film ripped
from an eye, the fathomless
Glinting fields of
Glass, or ice.

scd nt s prfc

My last lover
told me she
believed in
no afterlife,
and in that moment
the aura
surrounding her
dissipated.
I felt sodden;
betrayed
by materiality
We were (only)
objects
hurtling through
space, always
inevitably apart,
maybe it was
heroic to have
tried to hold
on even for
our brief
interval

I been sinking
further into
my brain, time
unspools like
the parasites from
the guts of a
pig

We had a
mutual fear
of children,
fertility–how
easy it was
to generate a
life with a
careless gesture–
but
what grew between us
was worse

A nihil, feeding on
our little silences,
our turning-
away,
feeding on
time, turning it
against each
other. Even the
air, the simple
dead air, started
to have
implications
like it
had been
laced with them

I wish I could
beat time at
its own game:
bring me my
knife, bring
me my machine
for spelling
terrible equations,
for
bringing the
end to my
hesitance.
Down the barrel,
in the waiting
room, there
is a voice
pointing at me,
saying “you can
write your
story with
me,
you can end
this
chapter”

‘Dust on a tropical breeze’ & ‘Inside out’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Dust on a tropical breeze

after César Vallejo

Old Saigon will claim me
after I fold my wings, after decades of flight.
Probably on moonday, Lundi, at the grande marché
I will collapse in feathery dust beside the leper at the gate.

I knew this as a child, watching the leper’s outstretched hands
knew I was already half-erased, only a dusty ghost
like the hungry bụi đời who float upon the wind.
I am half Saigon still.

‘She is gone,’ they will murmur, in breathy whispers.
My words will unravel like the silk of cocoons
weaving a sieve to catch the wind.

‘We didn’t mean to hurt her,’ they will say.
‘Who knew she would fall to dust?’

Inside out

From the gut – the bones, the marrow, the soft & hidden
places. Where who I really am hides, protected. Safe
sequestered behind organs that pulse inflate record
move the seas of blood through the tiniest of tunnels.
Over microscopic bridges without names

Neural pathways crisscross the hidden me, who conceals
her presence in the ocean thrum of inner music, plucked
tendons ligaments the treble strings of artery & vein
each with its own red voice, magnified in community
camouflage for the uncertain

Without – the smile, the warm confidence. The careful
lacquer of manners & skills. All the masks we wear
over our inner lives. Silk and leather and the fey glitter
of carefully polished words. None of it matching
an interior landscape of apocalypse

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Mecca in Flames’ by iukinim

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She is walking down the streets of Mecca
Gracefully witnessed the mighty prophet
Dressed in silky white
his figure drowned in light

 

He whispers in her ear
No words to comfort her
Violent worlds from within
She’s burdened by fear
Chased by distress
Her answers far from here

 

This earthly sorrow
Shall go away
She should make amends
And embrace decay
Beyond this land undone
No place to pray

She acted all radical
Where is faith?

Northern Palestine, in 1948
Banished from earth
Down in the conflict district
Faith was sheltered underground
Treated by farmers for 13 days
Later shot by physicists

Continue reading “‘Mecca in Flames’ by iukinim”

‘Warrior’ & ‘Resist’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Warrior

He was younger than my oldest son, my father.
It was spring it was Europe it was the war
after the war to end all wars. Only fools
believe that war solves anything, he told me
forty years later. What it does, he remembered,
is change the young and kill them and their hope
and their believing. But not their nightmares.

Metal carries internal fissures; heat and water
temper them. Men carry knives more flexible
than combat as sharp as terror as deadly as politics.
Annealing that’s what Europe gave my father.
And death death in foreign languages
death in foreign weather foreign unknowable death
Death that became familiar

Resist

~ for Ishmael Reed

My literary lovers aren’t like me. It is not by choice
that I follow the tracks of black men, gay men, dead veterans.
Who I am is all of these men I never was and never will be.
Somehow, a bridge connects each of us to one another. Cowboys
to angry Indians, men betrayed by women to this woman
who in her journey out of darkness watches
for the light thrown by these men who prowled the margins
floating down the river in boats with words for rudders.
Made homeless by other men always white men of my own kind
my father shouted when I loved you. But the ancient god speaks
Ra
who created everything & everyone even the white sidewinders
reminds me: all pools reflect light. Looking at light is looking within
into the darkness deep within us. Each of my lovers maps
alleys, hairpin curves, and switchbacks of roads
set up to carry us away from bridges, away from all of light’s
illumination. Not to follow is to submit to shadows.
Not to follow is to submit.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Ghazal for a Blue Ridge Home’ & ‘The House Where the Wind Lives’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Ghazal for a Blue Ridge Home

It is the way mountains smell: conifer & cloud
How mist settles over the horizon’s line of green, conifer & cloud.

Prairies are in my bones, the wide flat blue of open sky
But I am learning this new language, how to speak conifer & cloud.

You can fall in love with a place, even if it is nothing like before
A kind of reincarnation of home, oak & mistletoe to conifer & cloud.

In the distance, the mountain ridge blues to haze, dissolves
Into a softening of trees and coming rain: conifer & cloud.

I wake each morning to this new place, the soft teeth of metal
In this new fragrance – the chilly purity of conifer & cloud.

The House Where the Wind Lives

Has no doors. The windows whisper
to the sagebrush nestled beneath them:
Hold fast, my loves. Hold fast.
Behind the weathered wooden walls
high plains stretch languorously
Their flat bodies supine beneath
the wide pale sky
Mornings, the wind has breakfast
with cloud, whose tendril fingers
reach for sage blossoms
which wind blows across
the sagging table. She smiles.
Cloud shakes his head, and droplets
of rain fall from his white hair.
This is the house where the wind lives
he reminds himself. And smiles back.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

‘Loneliness is Going to the Movies’ by Chris Rojas

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When I was younger I thought I could feel less lonely if I consciously chose an interest that was widely popular. In middle school I was having a hard time finding other kids interested in Harry Turtledove novels and the Franco-Prussian War, so I set out to establish an interest already in vogue with my classmates.

This plan seemed like a safe a bet—everybody likes movies. And for a time, it worked quite well. A large part of why movies are the default for first dates is because it counts as spending time together, but you don’t actually have to start and maintain a conversation. Then after the show, you have an obvious conversation topic. The same goes for dysfunctional families and their affinity for any kind of shared viewing experience. If there is just one TV show or genre that everyone can agree on, an hour or so of unity and tranquility can be achieved while everyone silently participates in one thing. When you’re in middle school, trying to figure out how to stop being a complete child and manage adolescence, quite a few social engagements have that uneasy feeling of a first date or a family on edge. Movies serve as a handy “free parking” spot throughout all of this chaos.

But over time, most every appreciation sharpens into an interest and is then honed into a specialized obsession. There are sports aficionados who want to tell you about specific plays in the 1976 Super Bowl. There are gearheads that insist on explaining the details of Pontiac V8 engines to people who drive Corollas. I’ve even met feminists eager to tell registered Republicans about every intricacy of the 1980s “porn wars.” So it goes. And so it went for me and film. When I was 13, it was easy to find guys interested in watching Quentin Tarantino’s latest. When I was 16, and wanted to see Moon, it was a harder sell. By the age of 19, I had gotten my hands on some VHS tapes of Lina Wertmüller movies never released on DVD. Boy was it tough to find anyone to watch those with me. Inside of just a few years, my interest in film evolved from a social outreach tool to a burning, and very niche, obsession. I do not mean to denigrate my cinephile ways—at least not entirely. Film has brought a richness to my life that I will appreciate to the day I die. But the irony of having first dived into movies as an avenue to a greater social life and ending up just developing another often-unshareable interest is, well, depressing.

Continue reading “‘Loneliness is Going to the Movies’ by Chris Rojas”