Three Poems by Albert Katz

soft cartel april 2018

frozen in time

despite what neuroscientists tell us
there is no map
amongst the sulci and gyri

to that place

where we play
you and I
winded around
as coiled roots

forever balanced
at the precipice

waiting for the fall

Confessions of the poet (the Ghetto- Venice, Italy)

What confessions are revealed
over coffee in lesser holy places
what inspirations emerge
when maths turns to music

what lost dreams of wandering
of burning like a Roman candle
a brief but brilliant life
a vagabond alchemist

what longings
what urges

a master of the art he tries
to seduce with the plumage of his wit

Leaning forward he whispers
That writers’ block
Is the price he pays
for abstinence and piety

she understands

but rejects the role
of muse

Can he shed the mask
tell her honestly
that in search of love he
leaves the ghetto

that when free of the barrier
he sews his foreskin back on again

that though awakening beside her might be sweet
it is in these alleys alone
the echo of the shofar
fills the void
anchors him

liberates words

Reminiscences on finding a faded photograph

You looked straight at the camera
head slightly tilted
wide smile

though together almost two years
you never wanted me
to pick you up
at your parent’s house
because
as you told me
you were concerned
that they would think I was not good enough
for their little girl

which led me to think
maybe you too had your doubts

coward that I was
I never asked you
if that too was your concern
or told you
that you were chubbier
than I preferred

or that when you smiled
the world brightened around me

I did tell you once
that asleep
you looked like an angel in rapture

and when you said “really”?
I said “yes”

I did not lie.

and you rewarded me
with a smile

Albert Katz has been a professor of cognitive psychology for over 40 years and is now on the cusp of retiring. In his undergraduate days he had aspirations to be a poet, gave readings in coffee houses and published some poems in long defunct small literary journals. He found it increasingly harder to write poetry once he started graduate work and through most of his academic, career, publishing extensively instead in scientific journals. He has been married (and divorced) twice, has three children, two of whom have published themselves. As retirement started to loom, he found that his poetic voice started to reappear, after almost 50 years dormant. Over the last two years he has published  (or have poems accepted for publication) in Poetry Quarterly, Three Line Poetry, Inwood Indiana, Ariel March and, most recently, Pangolin Review.

‘A Letter to Basho’ by Mark Fitzpatrick

soft cartel april 2018

“Not leaving my room,
I know the world.
Not gazing out my window,
I know heaven.

Travel far, know less.”

translation by Christo de la Expiracion
(Used with permission)

*

The train chugs to its pre-ordained stop,
drops me in my hometown Seymour early on a summer morning,
the green smell of freshly cut grass
and the soft sunlight, playful like childhood.

Hauling my suitcase which contains everything I am at present,
it gets heavier though fewer and fewer things are in it –
like my mind, burdened down by
this rather strange comparing of what is and what I really hunger for.

As I lug my suitcase to my father’s car,
would it be such a shock to run into myself
toting a fuller, weightier suitcase around this jolly corner?

That other me,
he wears the Hopi bandanna I lost,
the sandals from Brazil I always forget to pack,
the cross earring I thought looked so cool.
That dream me
who became a famous poet,
who used money wisely,
who actually learned to play a musical instrument,
who never missed an opportunity for love.

I can almost make out the characteristic hop to my step,
weight-lifting the suitcase onto the train,
happy voyager, heading off to somewhere else.

A true border crosser rather than a foreigner.

*

What does it matter if you are never what you dream and only half of what you live?
So what if you are so much less in the mirror than in your mind?

*

O Basho, have I travelled only to find the vanity of traveling?
(If I sinned more vigorously would I have tasted the true nastiness of sin?)
Have I yet to learn the ways of heaven?

*
Early on, passion for words totally possessed me.
Words have decorated my spirit like tattoos, images have resuscitated me from depressions deep as Sheol, metaphors have sprung my feet into dance. Lines have created chimeras, dreamscapes, fantasias —
out of an episode of my life, an epic leaps into being!
From my creation, a self is sustained.
*

You say a word like “barn” or “river” or “cascade.”
That word is like a boat skimming over the ocean called “Memory.”
The boat has a history; the people within, stories.
Worlds upon worlds enclosed in that boat,
in that one utterance.

You say a word like “summertime.”

And it is the season of 1981 when Bob Marley dies and you suffer the first major romantic heartbreak of your life.

Or it is the song from Porgy and Bess on the radio near the bed, lullabying you to sleep on a blistering hot Chicago night when you are so very sick.

Or it is the name of a restaurant in Hargeysa (outdoors like all restaurants in Somaliland) where for no explicable reason there is a huge lit-up info-graph photo of the Metro-North, the train that runs from New York City to Waterbury, the one that drops you in Seymour.

One word
with volumes of stories
and centuries of histories spiraling out of it.

*

A supreme word, O Basho?
Like an ocean that subsumes all other words?
A word that contains every poem and play and book and letter from every language in its very self?
A Big Bang word? An Adam Kadmon word?

All my writing, all my traveling — just an overwhelming desire to hear the one Word within all words?

Yet what if no such Word exists?

It is the only journey I have left to me, O Basho! It is all I have.

MARK FITZPATRICK is basically a poet although he has had fiction, non-fiction, and drama published. Among his credits are Parting Gifts, Oasis, The MacGuffin, Whiskey Island Review, The Small Pond Magazine of Literature, Oxford Review, Dramatic Shorts, Amarillo Bay and many others. His novel-in-verse was a finalist in the Tassy Walden Creative Writing for Young People contest. Two of his plays are in catalogues. Another play, “A Holy Thursday Lament” was recently published in Qu, the literary magazine of Queens University of Charlotte. This year, another play was a finalist in the Tennessee Williams Once Act Contest.

He works as an ESL teacher with ELS schools at the University of New Haven. He worked as an ESL teacher in Brazil, Honduras, Haiti, and the Republic of Somaliland. Before that he was a child care worker for over 20 years in a low-income, African-American neighborhood of Chicago.

‘Body Count’ & ‘A Parade of Elephants’ by Ruthie vital Gilad

soft cartel april 2018

Translated by Natalie Feinstein

Body Count

They’re aligning the chairs
At the Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Square
Adjusting the loudspeakers
To echo
‘God Full of Mercy’.

It’s the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
God is full
And the chairs are empty.
Millions of chairs are empty.

Can anyone align that?

A Parade of Elephants

We went up north to envelop ourselves in a winter Galilee.
A few puffy clouds came down from the sky,
Stepping on earth for the very first time
Treading with care, just like us.
It was you who said, they’re a silent parade of elephants crossing
A forest
And I thought to myself,
I should have said that.

Your image stuck to the corners of my mind.
I thought about the novel “Circles in a Forest”,
I thought these were in fact elephant ghosts, a Galilee observatory
of the heavens,
A phantom army… Lord of the Rings.
I thought about those places through which this parade shall
pass,
About the couples who would insist on enveloping them with images
And I thought about me and you.

I should have said that, too.

Ruthie vital Gilad was born in Israel in 1963, and spent her childhood in the Philippines, England, Australia and Israel. She is a graduate of the Beit Zvi School for the Performing Arts. She writes books for children and youth and leads writing workshops.

‘The Color of Silence’ by Jennifer Mills Kerr

soft cartel april 2018

The kindling crackles, hisses, pops, flashing red-gold like a circus act.  Too early even for birdsong; the windows are black, icy-cold.  Mug warm against my palm, I stretch my feet toward the wood-burning stove.  Three minutes until they feel warmth, perhaps four.  I have lived in the cabin for seven months, immersed in the silence of the forest and its gold-green glimmer.  Isolated on a hillside, tucked into the forest, the cabin was rustic, simple.  Like that rusted-out car, over sixty-years old, half-hidden between the weeds in the backyard. Your grandfather’s Ford.  The kind they don’t make anymore. The leather upholstery is torn.  Rodents nest in the deceased engine. Still, you can’t haul it away, can’t give it up.  Summer afternoons, you wrench open the passenger door (all the others are impossible to open) and run your hands along the upholstery, the place where your grandmother sat, perhaps your father.  The leather is warm from the sunshine, the upholstery smells of earth. This comforts you, this slow burial of the past: ashes to ashes and all that.

Unlike imagining the grandparents you never knew, the grandparents your father refused to speak of.

My father’s silence created an ache in my chest, a space of cobwebs and dirt, neglected, gray as dirty water, and when I was a child, I imagined something there.  Something alive.  Something to fill the void.

My grandfather’s name was Edmund.  My grandmother’s name was Josephine.  She was a school teacher.  That is all I know.  The car does not exist.  I have called it up, or it has called me.  Stories are like that.  They appear, uninvited yet welcome; birthed from silence, as gray as dirty water.

My grandmother stands at the front of the classroom, holding a ruler–why, I do not know.  Her hands are calloused with fingertips dusted with chalk, quietly pink beneath. Outside the classroom window, a veil of snow and icy-blue air.  A small town outside of Boston.  Maybe Pittsburgh. The grandmother I never knew clears her throat, hinting that I am to return to my seat.  But I do not want to be dismissed. I want to remain close. Ache in my chest, I reach for her hand.  Her image grows dim, indistinct. Even as she fades, I ask: Were you as tall as I pictured you?  What color was your hair, precisely?  Your eyes?

Jennifer Mills Kerr lives in Lake County, California. After writing and publishing short stories for several years, she is now embarking upon writing a novel.  Recently, she launched a YouTube channel for readers and writers called “Exploring the Art of Fiction.”  She received an MFA from Mills College.  You can read more of her work at www.JenniferMillsKerr.com.  

Three Works by Gary Van Haas

Gary art - Contemplation 2001
‘Contemplation’
Gary art - Fall of New World Order 2001
‘Fall of New World Order’
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‘Race of Time’

Gary Van Haas‘ unique art works have evolved from love of surrealist imagery and his search for expression in today’s quixotically dominated socio-political arena. In his paintings, he combines an illusionary vocabulary with non-objective subject matter as a way to impress color and collage, which instead of relying mainly on imagery, responds formally and expressively to the illusionist idea of surrealist space and time.

‘On Searching and Waiting’ by Stephanie Osmanski

soft cartel april 2018

Here’s what The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall and Looking for Alaska by John Green get right about death: no matter your unique level of rational understanding or personal intellect, there is always a strange quality that accompanies death and that quality is the odd sensation of trying to find the people who’ve gone. There is an irrational looking, an inexplicable longing, an illogical searching a person in grief subconsciously agrees to. Oftentimes we can’t even voice it. We don’t even realize we’re doing it. After all, it’s irrational, inexplicable, and illogical. But we’re doing it.

My eyes wordlessly search the highway before me, waiting to settle on a shiny red Subaru. Consciously, I’m not even doing it. But I am. I promise you, I am.

I sort through every face in any place he’s even 1% likely to be: a supermarket (he bought groceries once, didn’t he?), a bank (he was always making deposits), outside the little bar where he copped my number.

It’s no reflection of my brain. I’m not stupid. I know exactly what happened — I was there — and I know exactly where he is. He’s been broken down by fire into tiny black bits and he’s sitting in a little pile in an urn not pretty enough to hold such beautiful remnants in a dining room set bought off Craigslist. And it’s a very pretty urn.

But the conscious, obvious level on which I have a sure-footed understanding of how cancer claimed his body slowly and then all at once isn’t enough to make the looking stop.

I’m still trying to find him.

There is another odd quality that accompanies grief: a waiting. I’m simultaneously searching and waiting. I’m waiting for him to come back, for the day I wake up and he’s on the other side of the bed, keeping it warm. Or maybe I’ll wake up and he’ll already be in the shower, getting ready for work. Maybe he’s in the closet, organizing his jerseys. Maybe if I’m patient, he’ll resurface and we can continue where we left off.

Because we were in the middle of something.

And I’m still waiting to get back to where we were, so we can continue that middle and fasten it into a beautiful life.

That’s why you’ll drive. That’s why you’ll drive what feels like endless miles, until you’re out of gas. You’ll drive until you hit beach, with no more road ahead of you to traverse. You’ll drive until your forehead hits the steering wheel and suddenly you’re crying so hard breathing seems improbable and you’ll wonder if this is even remotely what it felt like to be conscious of your own death happening, like he was.

You’ll slam your hands against the steering wheel like it is personally responsible for your pain. You will think about forgetting about the parking break, so that you can quietly escape, that you’ll slowly edge toward the water and it will take mercy on you because you’ve endured more pain than should be allowed and it will envelope you, swiftly and silently.

No one will tell you why you’ve been driving so much. Except me.

It’s not because it’s calming. It’s not because it’s therapeutic. It’s not because you’re grieving. It’s because we’re searching and we can’t admit it. We’re looking for him, somewhere: in the sea, in the irregularity on the concrete sidewalk, in the sky. We’re trying to find someone who can’t be found.

When I think of falling in love with him, I think of myself, alone in the shower. It feels like I showered more often than usual during those first few days. I was perpetually showering, iPhone blasting. I’m singing Tracy Chapman to the beige tiles. I’m feeling more tingly than breakable. Isn’t that crazy? That my memories of falling in love with him don’t even star him. That shower, that’s where we fell in love I think, separately. Because it’s where I did my thinking. It’s where I overanalyzed, after the fact, and came to the conclusion that this person rendered me child-like: a teenager smitten with the thought of someone for the first time.

It’s where I made plans to move into his apartment and marry him. It’s where I constantly pictured his face, that head tilt. That smile hovering over me. When I was with him, I was too present; I lived in it and I couldn’t find words for what was happening to me. But when I was in the shower, it looked, sounded, and felt like love.

“I told myself I am going to try not to snap at everything,” his mother said. “We are all hurting but hurting other people we love is not going to change what happened.”

I think she knew what I wanted to say in response. We could both feel it.

How do we change what happened then? How do we bring him back?

I didn’t pose the question though; I already knew the answer.

We can’t.

And I didn’t want to hear it because I didn’t want it to be real.

Stephanie Osmanski is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing from Stony Brook Southampton and working on her memoir. Her words have appeared on Seventeen, Life & Style, In Touch Weekly, Darling Magazine, Femestella, and more. Her fiction has been featured in Montage and her nonfiction in Cold Creek Review. She lives in New York with her pomsky, Koda. Follow her on Instagram at Instagram.com/StephOsmanski and on Twitter at Twitter.com/StephOsmanski.