SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: F. E. CLARK

“Daily Painting, 12th June 2017” by F. E. Clark


By F. E. Clark:


MYOPIA

We lost the far away from our eyes
peering at our precious tiny screens.
Addicted to the chatter in the blue light
we spat and growled at the slam, slam, slam,
of constant crisis, constant cries.
We marched figuratively through our newsfeeds,
wound tighter and tighter—blinded,
to that which was not inside our screens.
And all the while the earth was turning,
away, away, away.
Until we could see her
no more, and we were gone.


TO BRING THE SKY DOWN

A scared flame of violet – burnt from a found bone,

The indigo of your first lover’s jeans,

High sky blue of a day in spring when the larks sung,

Green fired algae from the dead pond’s ditch

Yellow of the belly of the one who cowers,

Orange from the fungi that grows under the dead fox,

The red of a berry that poisons.

Plait the rainbow – red over orange, yellow over green, blue over indigo,

Tie with violet at the deepest hour of black,

Make sure you bind the rainbow’s ends tight,

When required, cast from a clifftop on a dark moon night.



“Myopia” previously appeared in Burning House Review, and “To Bring the Sky Down” previously appeared in Luna Luna Magazine. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.



F. E. Clark lives in Scotland. She writes, paints, and takes photographs—inspired by nature in all its forms. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominee, her poetry, flash-fiction, and short stories can be found in anthologies and literary magazines.

Contributing Editor’s Note: In “Myopia,” F. E. Clark takes an existential view of what has become second nature to all of us: looking at our phones while ignoring the world around us. The poem is written in the past tense and reveals the sad outcome of having lived our lives through a few inches of screen. She exposes the profound sadness when, “We lose the far away from our eyes” and are exposed to “constant crisis, constant cries” as we respond and read social media and news feeds, while the world continues its routing rotating When we “away, away, away.” And at the same time turning its back on us. Her dystopic conclusion is that the less we participate in the world, the less we ourselves exists.

Clark regains her vision of what life can be in her poem, “To Bring the Sky Down.” Her remedy for the blindness she encountered in “Myopia” is keen observation reinforced by incantatory rhythms. What she sees when she looks closely at the world around her is remarkable. Clark finds antidotes in vivid technicolor, among the discarded, “The indigo from your first lover’s jeans”; the decayed, “Orange from the fungi that grows under the dead fox”; and the dead, “Green fired algae from the dead pond’s pitch”. She collects strands of color, plaiting them into a rainbow for eventual use in the darkest times.

Want to read more by F. E. Clark?
F. E. Clark’s Official Website
Twitter: @feclarkart
Umbel & Panicle
Mojave Heart Review
Luna Luna Magazine



Contributing Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of contributing editors, including the one featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: AMY WATKINS

MURMURATION
By Amy Watkins

An osprey beats the wind with bowed wings,
steady till it drops and shakes in flight.
The wind catches and it rises again.
I watch from the porch where I’ve come early
to stop avoiding our father’s call. Last night,
I turned the ringer off then on then off again,
swiped down to ignore but texted back.
There are two birds in the tree across the street
and a third circling and circling, rising and falling
in the wind from a distant hurricane.
The phone rings. He wants to talk about you.

They say each bird attends to just seven others, and,
in this way, a thousand starlings turn together
like one creature. I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.
Once, you and I climbed the hills outside
Florence, Italy. Our dearest ones climbed with us
and, because we were few and each one loved
by all the others, I thought we made a kind of net
that might hold the breaking world together.
A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurora
borealis, a sheer curtain caught in wind,
twisting, tracing a path through twilight.

A hawk swoops low over the osprey nest.
I think it might land, but it doesn’t. You ask to meet
for coffee. Our father calls, and I don’t answer.



Today’s poem previously appeared in SWWIM and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Amy Watkins grew up in central Florida surrounded by saw palmetto and sugar sand and a big, close-knit, religious family: the kind of upbringing that’s produced generations of southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl, and earned her MFA in writing from Spalding University. She is the author of two chapbooks forthcoming in 2019: Wolf Daughter (Sundress Publications) and Lucky (Bottlecap Press). Follow her on Twitter @amykwatkins.

Contributing Editor’s Note: Amy Watkin’s poem, “Murmuration,” is a coming together of worlds. First, there’s the easy mixture of nature and the modern digital world. She closely watches ospreys, how one “drops and shakes in flight. / The wind catches and it rises again.” and then “two birds in a tree across the street / and a third circling, rising and falling.” These innate animal behaviors echo her own modern-day habits with her cell phone—“I turned the ringer on then off again, / swiped down to ignore but texted back.”

She also employs the world of the sacred and the secular, which she hints at through controlled and purposeful ambiguity in word choice. For instance, Watkins selects the homonym “bowed” for the angle of the osprey’s wings in flight. When she decides to finally take a phone call from her dad, it becomes a holy act when she arrives “early / to stop avoiding our father’s call.” Her level of her control and precision is astonishing when, for a moment, she takes herself out of the poem and cautions the reader “I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.” Of course, this line has just the opposite effect and we focus more intensely on the rich metaphors throughout the poem.

Watkins pays pays off the title of the poem in grand style describing “A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurura / borealis,”—a startling and beautiful image that ties everything gracefully together. “Murmuration” is an emotional and beautifully crafted poem that works on many levels. The poem rewards deeply upon close reading.

Want to read more by and about Amy Watkins?
Red Lion Sq.
Burrow Press
Glass: A Journal of Poetry
Drunk Monkeys
Emrys Journal



Contributing Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of contributing editors, including the one featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CL BLEDSOE

DREAMCATCHER
By CL Bledsoe

Her hair is a tangled field of sweet straw
knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching
any light that stumbles nearby. Maybe this
is why she radiates heat, when I’m trying
to nap, sick, on the couch and she perches high
on my side watching screaming cartoons. Dazzled
strangers stop us on sidewalks to remind us
in case we’ve forgotten: life isn’t always gray. It’s not.
Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell
trapped in the mess. I thump them away
when they get too close and scare her. If I had time,
I’d learn to collect their honey, walk her through
the sweetest fields, open a boutique to pay
for college. But I can barely remember to stop smiling
long enough to thank the policeman for the speeding
ticket most mornings. Brushes are an enemy to her,
the confining toil of hair ties lead to tears. Stickers lost
are found. Twigs. Fuzz. All of it down the drain with
the bath water. It won’t last.



Today’s poem previously appeared in Mockingheart Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.


CL Bledsoe‘s most recent books are the poetry collections Trashcans in Love and King of Loneliness and the novel The Funny Thing About… He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs (with Michael Gushue) at How To Even…

Guest Editor’s Note: There are not many poems full of unabashed joy and magic, but CL Bledsoe’s “Dreamcatcher” is one of them. The language continually surprises as it turns a little girl’s head of blonde hair into a dreamcatcher, full of wonderment and mystery. Bledsoe moves with alacrity and agility from the initial simile that describes his daughter’s hair “as a tangled field of sweet straw / knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching / any light that stumbles nearby.” Nothing in this poem feels forced, even though he never lets an opportunity go by without pushing the language and imagery as hard as he can, to capture the girl’s spirit as she “radiates heat” or “perches high” when “watching screaming cartoons” to reveal the joy he experiences simply by being open to the wonders of his daughter’s essence. This is a poem that truly shows us that “life isn’t always gray” and the wonder that occurs as “Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell / trapped in the mess.” Read it, smile, and bask in the sunlight that Bledsoe has captured.

Want to read more by and about CL Bledsoe?
Amazon Author Page
How To Even blog
Not Another TV Dad blog
Not Another TV Dad column





Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CAROLE BERNSTEIN

By Carole Bernstein:

PASTORAL

Sunny with the intensity of dream.
Huge balloony graffiti covered the stone
wall at the end of Avenue M,
where Iris Bloom took me to smoke a joint
and we cut Orchestra, second period.

Avenue M—was that it? some
concrete promontory, secret, above the subway
where it burst up into the light—we watched it
racket a while among the green backyards
like a real train from a real place, not Brooklyn,
and sink again.
The passengers, blinking,
would be headed for work, starting their day . . .

What possessed me that morning? I never cut school.
But we would not play that day,
our oboes lying in cases by our feet and books,
the reeds not in our mouths,
the joint passed, sipped at with the breath,
tentative, a new thing to do.
I took off my jacket, the breeze moved over my arms,
we felt lean as boys, we were
dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.

And then returned to the low building
and entered it,
blinded for a few seconds, believing
ourselves altered—the blackboard fathomless,
the passing bell shrieking.
Dull-lipped seemed the faces of the uninitiated.

By three the sun had faded, but
our smoke, its animal warmth, I thought it
scented the spring wind.

BACK TO LIFE

Daughter, delivered by an attendant:
silent and watchful in your orphanage smock
with the cartoon dog, and pilled mended pants.
A smell of mildew came from your shock

of sweaty, cropped black hair. Stuck to your chest,
in English and Chinese a name tag read
Happy Springtime: a name pressed
upon you by no father, mother. Closeted

from the world before you came to us, as if
in an ancient tomb carving of a child
rising from the grave in a flowing shift.
Freed from the humid earth, she almost smiles.

You don’t remember, but love to be told
how they brought you through the doors and you were ours.
But buried in you is that place, still. Were you cold,
solitary, left wanting, maybe for hours…

Don’t go there, I tell myself. Instead,
I grab you and inhale your fragrant head.

Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Carole Bernstein’s second poetry collection Buried Alive: A To-Do List is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from Hanging Loose Press. She is also the author of Familiar (Hanging Loose Press)—which J. D. McClatchy called “an exhilarating book”—and a chapbook, And Stepped Away from the Circle (Sow’s Ear Press). Her poems have appeared in magazines including Antioch Review, Bridges, Button Jar, Chelsea, Light, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Yale Review. Her work has also been included in three anthologies: American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press), Unsettling America (Viking) and The Laurel Hill Poetry Anthology (Laurel Hill Press). She lives in Philadelphia and works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant.

Guest Editor’s Note: Carole Bernstein’s work carries an honest and relaxed tone, even as she addresses sensitive and intimate personal experiences. Reading her work is like being invited into her world as a close confidante, if just for a few moments. In “Pastoral,” Bernstein describes the newfound and sensual freedom that came from cutting class years ago in high school, allowing her and a friend to be “lean as boys” and feel “dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.” She resists romantic or sentimental treatment of the most personal and sentimental moments of life. In “Back to Life,” she presents, with unadorned comfort, the immediate love for a new daughter that was accompanied by “A smell of mildew came from your shock / of sweaty, cropped black hair.” Both of these poems are part of a new collection of work, Buried Alive: A To-Do List, forthcoming Spring 2019.

Want to read more by and about Carole Bernstein?
Buy Familiar on Amazon
Poetry Foundation
Hanging Loose Press





Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NICKY BEER

By Nicky Beer:


DEAR BRUCE WAYNE,

My parents are dead, too.
A dirty, self-cannibalizing Gotham—
I also claim it, its city limits
built by my skin. I slough
and slough, but the city remains.
Tell me, if you’d watched
your mother’s face go
a slow yellow after they cut
off her breast, if you’d watched
your father’s mind get chewed down
to spasms, who would
you fight then? What broken
string of pearls would you chase
into the gutter? Lucky boy
to have an enemy.

*
Admit it—what bugs you
the most about the Joker
is his drag. You suspect
his crayoned mouth a lampoon
of your dead mother.
But don’t you crave,
sometimes, to be a little
tacky? Doesn’t the all-black
bore after a while?
Even your sweet ride can’t help
but leave a little fart of flames
in its wake.
How many others
glare from the shadows
at a one-man parade
in a loud costume, blowing
glitter kisses at grim Justice?
You just think you want
to kill him for better reasons.
What kind of person would trade
laughter for righteousness?

*
Every woman goes out
knowing what you think
you alone had sussed:
the world is a dark alley
hiding a gun in its mouth.
It has more than enough
reasons to make you
cover your face.
The moon waxes. The bruise
wanes. Every woman
is Batman.



Today’s poem first appeared in Issue Four of Cherry Tree, February 2018, and is reprinted here with permission from the poet.


Nicky Beer is the author of The Octopus Game (Carnegie Mellon, 2015) and The Diminishing House (Carnegie Mellon 2010), both winners of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, and a poetry editor for the journal Copper Nickel. You can find her on Twitter at @nbeerpoet.

Guest Editor’s Note: As with all epistolary poems, this one is meant not only for the recipient—in this case Bruce Wayne—but is addressed to readers located in this complicated and frustrating time and place in history. The first line is reminiscent of a fan letter, choosing a shared experience between fan and celebrity that brings them together in some way, but the feeling that they are kindred spirits stops there. What follows in that stanza are philosophical questions about death and justice in the voice of someone who needs to find an enemy to rail against and a tragedy to seek retribution for in order to feel heroic power associated with that “Lucky boy” in line 14. The first stanza braces the reader for more questions for this hero who everyone has been led to believe fights diabolic evil in the world wherever it rears its head and who seems to have misunderstood what it is he is fighting against.

The two stanzas that follow further distance the hero from the letter writer and anyone who holds him in heroic esteem. The second stanza brilliantly questions Mr. Wayne about what really bugs him about the Joker and suggests that perhaps he harbors some jealousy for the evildoer’s colorful style, reducing the Batmobile to a “sweet ride” that can only leave “a little fart of flames / in its wake.” The speaker uses some cunning psychoanalysis on the Caped Crusader, deflating his motives and weakening his stature as a revered hero. The third stanza reveals truths women have always known about the nature of this “dirty, self-cannibalizing Gotham” we live in and how women cope every day in a world that “is a dark alley / hiding a gun in its mouth.” The final lines are a punch just below Batman’s utility belt that knocks the air out of his alter ego, reducing him to a bruise that wanes.

Want to read more by and about Nicky Beer?
Nicky Beer’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ANDREA SHERWOOD

BLACKOUT
By Andrea Sherwood


I lived a year in a small black box

under a barbershop

some nights not even an inch

of moonshine would sit on the windowsill

the room                                    purgatory

with no objects no

thing save the thick dark

dark dark

large dark

screaming three a.m. why aren’t you sleeping

are you still breathing
dark

like you could slip from light (or is it life) and no one tells you

no      dark was too loud to keep itself shut

but light     this big quiet light     it could swallow us whole

it could be wiping its lips right now



Today’s poem was previously published in Issue 14 of Rivet: The Journal of Writing that Risks and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.

Andrea Sherwood’s work is published or forthcoming in Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Poets, Lavender Review, and Rivet. Currently, Andrea is pursuing an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Guest Editor’s Note: Repetition is effective in conveying palpable fear and panic in Sherwood’s piece about loneliness and dread. The light and dark entities in this poem reach out like hands to the throat, alternately choking and releasing air and emotion. The airiness of the lines allows space for feeling and time to process, and line breaks leave breathless openings for more. Form operates successfully to produce an uncomfortable disposition and an opportunity for understanding of the speaker’s secret inner turmoil.

The metaphorical box feels real and turning light into a terrible monster is a remarkable turn at the end of the poem. The trepidation lingers long after the terror has been distilled in the image of “screaming three a.m.” which bends the poem into a new perspective and a dialogue with the dark. Light then becomes a colossal entity more unexpectedly frightening than living in the “thick dark” of a “black box / under a barbershop.” The final image of the light that “could be wiping its lips right now” is an alarm sounding somewhere, maybe even silently, that what is true in the dark is also true in the light and fear knows no difference.

Want to read more by Andrea Sherwood?
Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Poets


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ERRIC EMERSON

By Erric Emerson:


MOTHERLESS

If I try eyes-shut hard;
recall the misty likeness of a stretcher
and air mask, a trailer lined with
ice-fangs in Napanoch, a red ball
I worshipped at three years old.

How your legacy sits in two boxes.
Poor math, crayoned stick-people,
tidy poems you wrote in the 80’s
             That are all
                                 formatted
                                                  like this.

Pour upon the wording, to have
known you. I scrounge your experiences
to exonerate my own.
The exactness of your malady, father’s
a How-To guide on being in one’s cups.

You get dry in centers and rooms,
found something God-like,
pressed petals between pages,
all piecemealed at my fingertips.

I’m faint praise as a pushing thirty
dry spell. Oh how our quenching throats beg,
didn’t and don’t they?

Pour upon the wording, to
know how. Yet, I’ll remain séance-less.
I’ve found something myself.

                                         How to speak.


TURNCOAT

I put my head on pillow
and wake up with the birds.

When I dream:

I’m adrift in a flowing sea
of rainbow-flavored liquor,
in a boat made from cheap cigarette
cartons, next to a whopper of an impression
of her, who loved my wrong,
who reminds me it’s 2007,
and promises I don’t have
to work tomorrow
or do anything else
ever again.



Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Erric Emersony is a poet residing in South Philly, PA. He is a founding member of Duende literary journal for which he also served as poetry editor for the inaugural issue. He’s currently guest editor at Aji literary journal. Erric is a graduate of Goddard College’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Creative Writing program. His first collection, Counting Days, was published in December of 2017. He has published 40+ poems in 20+ magazines including: TL;DR, Crab Fat, The Black Napkin, The Disconnect, FIVE:2:ONE, Beautiful Losers, Prairie Margins, Neon, The Hungry Chimera, Control, Mead: Literature & Libations, Angry Old Man, Rat’s Ass Review, Gingerbread House, Willawaw, and Visitant.

Guest Editor’s Note: Erric Emerson’s poems build mood, feeling, and context by selecting precise details that tell deeply personal and emotional stories. In “Motherless,” Emerson combines distant memories–“the misty likeness of a stretcher / an air mask, a trailer with / ice fangs in Napanoch, a red ball”–with immediate sensations–“how our quenching throats beg”–to link a mother and son. Fragmented recollections from a harsh past and present connect mother and son without resorting to blame or sentimentality, creating a portrait of the two and their relationship both decades ago and today. “Turncoat” recreates a moment of waking when dream and reality combine in a guided wish for unconditional love from “her, who loves my wrong” with the need to escape–“promises I don’t have to / work tomorrow / or do anything else / ever again.” These poems and others in Counting Days are filled with fresh language and harsh realities that create moments and stories filled with deep emotion and angst.

Want to read more by and about Erric Emerson?
Buy Counting Days: Poems on Amazon
“Follow Suit” in Willawaw Journal
“Day One (Zero)” in The Black Napkin, Issue 6
“My Go-To’s” in Visitant


Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB