Contemporary Stuff

Reading poetry online takes me

down the rabbit hole of the next poem

and the next, and oh, I like this poet

and how did they even come up

with gold leaf or orange sweat.

Outside, Spring is in the world.

 

My husband’s down the hall

drawing machinery on his computer.

He says he’s not an artist,

but those clear, concise lines

are strong enough to swing on.

Lay down your mouse, my beloved.

 

Look! The pine tree across the way

has released a cloud of golden pollen.

 

Patricia L. Scruggs

Patricia L. Scruggs is the author of one poetry collection, Forget the Moon. Born in Colorado, she spent ten formative years in Alberta, Canada before taking root in Southern California. Her work has appeared in Burningword, McQueen’s Quinterly, Inlandia, ONTHEBUS, Spillway, Rattle, Rip Rap, Cultural Weekly, Crab Creek Review, as well as the anthologies l3 Los Angeles Poets, So Luminous the Wildflowers and Beyond the Lyric Moment. A recent Pushcart Prize nominee, Patricia is a retired art teacher who earned her MFA at the California State University, Fullerton. She and her husband of over 60 years are parents of two and grandparents of three.

No Anything

  1. June-ish.

We drove by William S. Burroughs’s house

to see if we could feel his

aura from the street. We were confused about

why he lived in Kansas, of all places—

because we’d only ever prayed to leave it.

 

I was young and dumb and didn’t know

half the story behind this cynosure

who looked like my grandpa.

But I knew how I felt after reading Naked Lunch:

Stoned, mostly. And a bit revolted.

 

You, though, were smitten

with the wasteland of his words.

Obsessed, really—

keeping his books, dog-eared and disguised

from your mother’s eyes (or so you thought).

 

I watched you leave Kansas as a

high school dropout turned

stripper turned

drug addict turned

prostitute.

And I started to wonder where it all

went wrong.

 

I ran into your mom at the store a while back.

Through tears, she claimed it was those

damn books.

 

I thought back to your childhood:

No dad.

No sugar.

No skirts.

No boys.

No fun.

No anything.

Except taking care of your little brother

while your mom got tanked.

 

So I said to her,

“I don’t think it was the books.”

 

Erika Seshadri

Erika Seshadri lives on an animal rescue ranch with her family. When not caring for tame ritters or feral children, she can be found writing.

Half Empty

I expect the worst

always

 

even as a kid I expected birthday

presents I didn’t want, like another

 

loser Chutes and Ladders game

I expected a D on my spelling test

 

even though I was the best speller in the class

and today for sure my car will need new brakes

 

new struts, new tires, not just a tune up

for sure the grocery store will be

 

out of Meyer lemons and heavy cream

and my dessert will be a disaster

 

and the doctor will find

warts or high blood pressure or lung cancer

 

for sure the maple tree will fall on the house

in tonight’s high winds

 

and I will have to move to a hotel

I can’t possibly afford

 

and end up panhandling by Route 580

holding a cardboard sign in the pouring rain

 

as cars roar past

and drivers pretend not to see

 

but most of all I am worried my heart

is too stressed from all this worrying

 

and will pack up veins and arteries

and move to Wyoming

 

Claire Scott

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review and Healing Muse, among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Counseling Session

Let’s begin with memory.

How do you usually find yourself

returning to your past…

 

thrust back by crisis,

needing overdue explanations

and ready to demand them?

 

Or slowly, a sadness

beginning to make itself

painfully evident?

 

Or swept away by emotion

like a swollen muddy river

on its righteous way

to take over a town?

 

Maybe you simply wake up

foggy after a midday nap

filled with the vague idea

someone didn’t tell you everything.

 

Though if you are lucky,

maybe you are be transported back

by the taste of syruped pancakes

or the smell of a box of old books,

 

so that you are transported

to familiar happy images

once vivid but now a bit clouded

 

by your mind’s cataracts,

giving you a soft sense

that all that has happened is a gift.

 

Anne McCrady

Anne McCrady is a poet, speaker, and peace advocate. In addition to her award-winning poetry collections Along Greathouse Road, Letting Myself In, and Under a Blameless Moon, and her original parable Kevin & the Seven Prayers, Anne’s writing appears internationally in literary journals and anthologies. Anne’s work has also been presented as short film, art song, libretto, and liturgy. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee. Anne also has editorial, review, fiction, and creative nonfiction publication credits and is an active poetry contest judge and workshop presenter. Anne lives in Tyler, Texas. Her website is www.InSpiritry.com.

Call Sheet

This morning when I walk out to the pool

two mallard ducks, one green, one flocked in blue,

float quiet ripples, unfazed by yellow

buses’ loud brakes, vested city workers

unfolding plastic gates before they dig

up asphalt, drop sweat, cough words down below.

 

Watching blue duck submerge its head below,

how many headless seconds might green pool

duck spend in its head, abandoned, lone, dig

deep is overrated, I call, bounce blue,

then whisper my wisdom: Don’t let workers

interrupt your peace, your time in yellow–

 

streaks angling the pool’s surface, some yellow

lantana shrubs waving roots from below.

Maybe later, after sun and workers

set home, you can open our side gate, pool

our ringed fingers, guide me out in dusk blue

when ducks become airborne geese, a flocked dig

 

escorting sunset clouds when oranges dig

in, a film’s filter turning you yellow,

aglow, I wish I was Dorothy in blue

joining you in technicolor, below

a spotless sky, fluorescent bricks, green-pooled

lily pads inviting us over the bridge workers,

 

probably in sepia, raised, workers

parched from last night’s storm, if only to dig

us up here, tonight, colored like the pool

table you played pre-shift, the bar’s yellow

signs dilating eyes as we staired below

campus town street, flags waving mascot blue.

 

That old, loud window fan, framed by chipped blue

paint, we “bravo-ed” our install, proud workers

we sweat sleeping uncovered, smoke below

from downstairs neighbors rose muted yellow

through makeshift vents, as we let our toes dig,

then cross air, our pores, veins, freckled gene pool.

 

I read about blue worn by those who dig,

serve, ancient workers still lost in yellow

scene, no pool repose, no silked hands below.

 

Amy S. Lerman

Amy Lerman lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert where she is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College. Her chapbook, Orbital Debris (Choeofpleirn Press, 2022) won the 2022 Jonathan Holden Poetry Chapbook Contest, she has been a Pushcart nominee, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Box of Matches, The Madison Review, Midwest Review, Radar Poetry, Rattle, and other publications.

Objects Near Fenway Park

I thought I was Li Po,

had moonwine midnight

feelin’ alright,

but my Mandarin was a nightmare

and all the trolleys stopped

at Harvard Sq. when it was still called

Peking, a long walk

down a dark hall, the door to out.

 

Oh, there was Jesse Colin

Young in the Fenway across

from the Gardner with its lost Rembrandt.

At the movies with Lara and Omar,

A Man and A Woman,

Juliet of the Spirits.

Is it any wonder then the grape jam

and Jif, the nasty PCP, horrific

spider plants, piano dances,

Mozart and endless drum solos.

 

You were gone in a flash, a screech of empty space.

Maybe a god hears the collisions, collusions

spontaneous combustions on the shy

trolley that speeds slow over the black

Charles living below.

 

That strap to hold on to,

the flat place to stand.

Everything looked obvious, solid

square like a windowpane, the street

outside melting like a Dali, this chair

from which there is no falling,

in the thinnest slit of morning.

 

Before ink, blood,

before blood, water, ochre

stick figures with spears

saying I love you in stone.

You were always somewhere.

I don’t know? Chicago?

Between us the wet

spot where I drew concentric

on your unrecognizable

abstract, Cubist, small, fantastic.

 

Michael Crowley

Michael Crowley is a retired English teacher living with his wife and cat in Cranston, RI.  His poems contain bits of twisted nostalgia for his past, using scattered reflections, half-finished expressions, allusions to pop culture, partly developed images and enough odd humor to avoid sentimentality.

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