Four Poems by William Rivera

soft cartel may 2018

New Orleans Memoir

Slaves, whores, convicts, the British sent
to populate what was then a swamp.

My Scottish immigrant family grew rich
on liquor sales, bought the 14-room double camelback
house where I grew up. The Robert E. Lee Circle
around the corner–-magnificent, politics
tainted, an icon, dismantled. A kid, I knew little then.

Walking through the “colored” section on my way to school,
I see the dark women, eluding ‘the evil eye,’ scrubbing
their front steps till the wood turns white. Marie Laveau
dances voudou on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

Whitey, I wake in “black” bars,
safely left to sleep until it dawns on me
I’m late for school.

Bring Your Own Chair

It was hard, the 1930s, failing on a roll of dice.
And he borrowed without asking to
her mother’s new radio, lost on a pony. “Send him back!”
her mother commanded. Summer days went shiver.

Rubbing holes in their clothes,
in alleyways, stray bedrooms. Her a poet,
third generation Scots. Him, Latin, illegal,
a gambler’s charm. Both late teens. I imagine their desire.

their arms reaching…hugging,
each sitting half on a single borrowed chair—no fixed seats
back than at the talking pictures.
That night

I feel their rush toward the exit,
spurred by the opened doors, their quick steps
past posters, the ticket-taker booth, their breath in their hands.
Images made flesh.

A Walk Down Calliope Street

For Marmee (1898?-1965)

Some say Calliōpe, like hope.
Others, Ca-li-o-pē. An eye-sore now,
a trash heap under a twin cantilever bridge.

I blink against the dust and watch
what now connects Algerines to New Orleans.
Gone the persimmon tree, the double camelback house.
The place, the people – I couldn’t wait to escape.

Calliope:

the name, her story come and gone. Once in mythology
I read she gathered stars for her love-god, Ares.
When he possessed all her stars, he locked her up
in a golden cage, used her stars for war.
When freed from seizure, she replenished the heavens,
conceived the stars to shine, if not to touch.

Poems seldom resolve the issues they pose.
I clearly can’t go home again. The block’s not even there.
Just the smell of pee, invisibles, and me
back where I started, itching to be off.

The Source of Movable Reality

On a crowded St. Charles Streetcar, a colored woman
squeezed next to where my grandmother and I sat
in front of a sign that read, “No colored in front of this sign.”

My grandmother glanced at me. “Don’t you
see that lady standing there.” I stood. Hesitant, tired
of oppressive rules and heavy groceries, she sat down.

The ticket collector spoke to her, “Don’t you see
that sign in back of you?” She readied herself to stand,
when my grandmother reached back, lifted the sign,

placed it in front of her. I watched in her grasp
a movable reality take place, hearing her ask,
“Now, are you going to move me young man?!”

William Rivera is the author of four collections of poems: Café Select
(Poet’s Choice Publisher, 2016); Noise (Broadkill River Press, December
2015): The Living Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2013); and Buried in
the Mind’s Backyard (Brickhouse Books, Inc. 2011). Born in New
Orleans, he has traveled and published widely. Currently retired, he
taught agricultural extension and development at the University of
Maryland from 1981-2009.

Rivera’s poems have been published in various poetry magazines:
Innisfree, Broadkill River Review, Raven’s Perch, The Broome Review,
California Quarterly, Gargoyle, Recursive Angel, The Curator Magazine,
Third Wednesday, Ghazal. Lit Undressed, Blazevox, 2River Review, Loch
Raven, and others.

‘Unbound Ties’ by Mary Ellen Gambutti

soft cartel may 2018

The dad takes scores of photos of his charming, chosen child whom the mom has styled in ringlets and dressed in organdy. Pride in the images he creates?  His ego nurtured in spite of loss of natural paternity? Yes, to both. Her parents adjust to their adoptive role with impeccable clothing and care, music lessons, and the best schools, within the constraints of his military career and frequent transfers.

*

Reflected in a New York City shop window wearing fancy dress and diapers, who’s that little girl with her happy, young Mommy? She’s the one who brightens their lives, makes them a family. Mounds of photographs accrue to me as my parents and grandparents age and pass. Albums are devoted to childhood moments and immediate family. Others of known, unknown, and unbound ties. I recognize faces who have crossed my plane only in tangent; with whom I share neither heritage nor habit. I handle the rough, yellowed leaves in futile search of familiar captions, and commit to being caretaker of their memories–my adoptive ancestry.

*

Sealed origin is best for all, the State and Agency dictate. Fall of 1957, I am six, and Dad stands at the head of my bed while Mom hovers at the foot.

“I’m going to tell you the story of where you came from: Mommy and Daddy adopted you. We brought you home, because you had no one, because you needed someone to love you and take care of you.” Sealed origin is best for all, the State and Agency dictate. Fall of 1957, I am six, and Dad stands at the head of my bed while Mom hovers at the foot.

Continue reading “‘Unbound Ties’ by Mary Ellen Gambutti”

Three Poems by Joan E. Cashin

soft cartel may 2018

Orison

Three bounces on the trampoline
(give thanks, thanks, thanks),
my head bumping the moon
(boing, boing, boing),
as I swallow the stars
(gulp, gulp, gulp)
and the light pours out your name
from my eyes.

Dove

I heard the dove at the window.
I heard the weaving.
Later, I saw the nest.
Then, I heard the bleating,
sad and scratchy,
late winter, not home yet.

Body Weight

When I am fat,
I feel safe, quilted,
protected in my bunker.

When I am thin,
I feel dangerous,
a blade slicing the air,
a knife thrown at a target
I do not see.

Joan E. Cashin writes from Ohio.  
She has published in many journals, most recently in 
ALLEGRO, TWO HAWKS QUARTERLY, and ARIEL CHART.

‘Let me count the ways you are flawed’ & ‘The City Never Sleeps’ by Isabelle Kenyon

soft cartel may 2018

Let me count the ways you are flawed

Flawed
the centre of attention
a lethal light I orbit in the depths:
my tiny blind fishes and I.

Damaged
but we flank this Lord of the dance,
relishing his bruises,
the heady promise of his smile.

So many toys to play with,
syruped people –
box them up, take them home:
he licks his lips and their taste nauseates him.

The City Never Sleeps

Under city lights
the homeless wanderer
clutches his Gregg’s cup prize,
copper’s dull shine –
lonely nights unwarmed by strangers’ half smiles,
pulls up his cardboard bedding
up to his chin
like his mother used to.

Isabelle Kenyon is a UK based poet and a graduate in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance from the University of York.

Isabelle Kenyon is the author of poetry anthology, This is not a Spectacle and micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered, published by Origami Poetry Press. She is also the editor of MIND Poetry Anthology ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ and her latest release, Digging Holes To Another Continent, will be published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York, this May.

She performs at spoken word events such as 1000 Monkeys, in Guildford, and has opened Coventry Cathedral’s Plum Line Festival. She is set to open the New Mills Arts Festival later this year.

Her poems have been published in literary magazines such as Scrittura, Eskimo Pie, Anti Heroin Chic, Literary Yard, and Bewildering Stories. 

Anthologies and Competition credits: The Inkyneedles anthology, the Great British Write Off, the Wirral festival of Music, Speech and Drama, Poetry Rivals, and the Festival of Firsts. Third place in the Langwith Scott Award for Art and Drama and runner up in the Visit Newark Poetry Competition.

You can read more about Isabelle and see her work at www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk

Two Prose Poems by Adam Jordan

soft cartel may 2018

I feel blurry, but bounded. Like the hair on my arms flowered. There’s no good word for a body, the feeling of being one but meat. An oak tree of meat and words, thoughts blowing in the wind above the data center. Flesh sliding off the bones of a network cable. Peel back its rubber to show a rainbow-colored nervous system. Teeth I pull from the network switch, blinking amber.

I’m at a café in Europe, my first time in Europe. Why do I always revise too much, I think, lying on the grass in Europe. I’m embarrassed by my French, but I try, people switch over to English. I drink Bavaria 8.6 Absinthe cans on the grass in a park in France, I’m on a picnic blanket. I lie on my side in the grass, embarrassed to be writing poetry in Paris. Embarrassed that I write at all.

My body hears me and wraps around my shoulders like a blanket, breathing out through the wind. And my body is the grass that shakes, as I walk barefoot up to Sacré-Cœur. And I can’t believe, like some people do, that aliens had to help us build the pyramids, we couldn’t do it ourselves.

Somewhere in the world is a motorcycle accident, and the meat of me drums with blood. My eyes close, and I know from just a soft sound above me that the leaves are shaking. I think suddenly, and I guess it’s true, the other half of Earth is as dark as the universe, since the moon is here above Sacré-Cœur.

Far beyond a sense of self, my breaths hear each other and harmonize, I don’t have to listen. Kind of nice of your body to do things without you, without you thinking, What should I be doing right now? Out of all possible options, what’s the best thing I could be doing? If you’re like me, you read about war when you should be working. If you’re like me, you’ve got a dozen extra belly-buttons no one sees. You’ve got a hundred invisible additional ears, each one with a tongue with a diamond piercing.

If you’re like me, you were born in Ohio, and a hundred wants have bubbled out of you, down to the oceans. I don’t know. I’m so far from myself, I’m like a moon of myself. I’m like paint I push across a surface not thinking, just watching its color change, its texture collect. I feel my arms in my sleeves like the cotton’s an ocean, not a sweater I rescued from the laundry this morning.

If you’re like me, you sleep drooling ideas all over your pillow. You wake wet with spit, pinned down by a tooth in the mouth of a bear, a bear big as an office building. You wake up drawing a spectral sword from the screen of your cellphone, cut a path through blood and gore to get a shower, get ready for work.

Tomorrow, call in sick with me instead. We’ll fake sick, drive home to Ohio, and get your favorite pizza if the place is still in business. We’ll drive back at night with greasy lips, cross the country with an extra box of pizza, a little more ourselves. Under slow-moving stars and streetlights, we’ll be a little more grounded.

Adam Jordan grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, briefly studied poetry, and lives in a nice trailer in Texas. He tweets @bonecamaro and has a little podcast with his partner @coldpizzaparty.

‘Louie the Bum’ by Terry Dawley

soft cartel may 2018

Me and Rooster had just ditched a couple railroad dicks who’d caught me trying to snap the flimsy metal band off a boxcar’s door when we stumbled upon the lean-to. It lay snuggled in a stretch of cottonwood thickets that ran alongside the tracks. We never would have noticed it but for a low growl coming from what appeared to be a stack of dead branches.

I stopped and threw my hand out like a school crossing guard. “What the hell is that?” I whispered.

Rooster shrugged his shoulders and raked a hand over the stubborn shock of red hair that jutted from his head like a rooster’s comb.

As if in answer to my question, a mangy cur that looked like it had once been the color of a cue ball stalked around the corner of the piled limbs. Its head held low, hackles raised, lips curled back baring gums lined with yellowed teeth, the growl rumbled from its throat like faraway thunder.

“Nice doggie,” I said, slowly backing away.

“Here pooch,” Rooster coaxed, taking a step toward the snarling mutt.

“What the hell you doing, Rooster?” I kept my voice hushed so as not to entice an attack. “That dog might be rabid.”

“Nah.” Rooster moved closer. “He ain’t foaming at the mouth. He just protecting something.”

A twig snapped on the other side of the stack.

“Or somebody.” I took another step backward.

Continue reading “‘Louie the Bum’ by Terry Dawley”

‘The Long Wait’ by Douglas Weissman

soft cartel may 2018

Philippe asked you the first time months ago, before you could smell coconut when he entered the room, when all you saw were the patches of his beard, when he stood on campus and struck up conversations with everyone and you felt no more special when he spoke to you than if you were a cashier at the theater. But he came to you and asked you to dinner and you accepted, not because he was the first man to ask, and not because your definition of a man was limited to the ability to grow a beard, or the patches of beard that Philippe grew, but because he asked you a question, that wasn’t a question: come to dinner with me.

And you ate, and talked, and kissed, and repeated, and after weeks in this cycle Philippe told you he spoke to people on campus to see who questioned the government and worried about Argentina’s future, and you had never thought about the government or Argentina’s future because you were preoccupied with your own future. But when Philippe said he had a meeting, you asked if you could go, and so he never asked you, you asked him, but he asked if you actually wanted to go and you said yes, not because of the way he kissed or the coconut smell you were becoming used to, or that his breath always tasted like fresh mint, or that now he was in your life it was hard to imagine an empty face where a patchy beard once stood, or the absence of the warm arms that held you, or the voice that was soft but with a gravel edge that made your spine tingle; you said yes because you wanted to.

***

Gaston sat at the breakfast table with the newspaper in his hands. “What’s this?” he asked, lowering the paper.

“The paper,” Sofia said. Music, fried meat, and smoke drifted into the dining room.

Gaston didn’t say much anymore. He sat at the head of the table. Sofia had brought in the paper; he had turned down the music. He said good morning. Sofia told him to sit. He sipped his orange juice, his tea, and straightened the paper. Sofia set the plate of sausage and eggs on the table. She refilled his tea. She buttered his toast. She sat. Almost a year had passed since Valentina had been arrested. The empty space in their home was suffocating.

Gaston thrust his plate away. He slammed the newspaper on the table. He straightened out the creases and shoved his finger in the paper.

It was an advertisement; on any other day he might have passed over it, might have thought editorials were a waste of time. But today he read the right page, at the right time, or scrolled through all the pages and found the ad the Mothers had written, the ad the Mothers had discussed, but as far as Sofia knew, had not decided to publish.

Come home soon: Néstor Gallo, Salvador Braverman, Carolina Noia.

Continue reading “‘The Long Wait’ by Douglas Weissman”

‘Contracts for the Design of Certain Vulgar Necessities’ by Richard Craven

soft cartel may 2018

Dusk. By motorway’s margin, Jissom seethes. Bilious eyes glare at pitiful shreds of tyre, then down at, cradled in his own soft milquetoast palm, apparatus. On this, screen signifies signal’s absence. Jissom, cursing in decibels drowned by road’s roar, now over crash barrier’s lip surveys elevation’s panoply, bounty of artifice: warehouses, caravans, nissan and quonset huts, prefabricated dwellings indifferently lit, beyond all of which in middle distance silhouettes of low hills make of vista a valley.

“This is Hell,” mutters Jissom, and then, as the rest of the line returns unbidden: “nor am I out of it.”

 

A seeming eternity of gale. Rain begins. Lorries pass. Jissom in his thin coat hunches.

 

From this, deliverance is a box on wheels which, otherwise nondescript, stops. Jissom, by now drenched, hence quite beyond the reach of scruple, seizes the passenger door, jumps in, is immediately assailed by tobacco’s stench, and that of unwashed body. The driver, dry grey hair dry yellow hands dry lined face dirty shirt, speaks first.

“Coming off next junction. That do you?”

“Anywhere,” says Jissom, “I can get a signal.”

A sardonic chuckle.

“You’ll be lucky.”

“I doubt it,” says Jissom.

“Going far?” says the driver.

“Conference,” says Jissom, “In the Vale. Design. The conference, I mean.”

 

The driver introduces himself. His name, mumbled, seems to be ‘Wankingstain’. His desiccated hands, gripping tight the wheel, otherwise shake.

Continue reading “‘Contracts for the Design of Certain Vulgar Necessities’ by Richard Craven”