The readers of and contributors to this publication, who I think probably share a lot of shaded-in space on a Venn diagram, seem to love a challenge. We’ve offered some over these last 15 years. Write us poems with fewer than 20 words, we said. Write us poems that have as their titles the names of United States states. Or cities. This is part one of a two-part issue composed of poems with the names of the months. The Gregorian calendar months.
Given the Gregorian is just about globally universal, it seemed the right way to go. But there are cooler calendars. The Nisga'a are an indigenous people of British Columbia. They have a traditional calendar that lines up nicely with the Gregorian but is related to seasonal landmarks, or what they harvest during a given lunar period. K'aliiyee (January) means “to walk North.” The sun begins to go north again. A corresponding month name, Luut’aa, marks the month when the sun “sits” in one area of the sky for a longer time. The sun walks. The sun sits. It walks. It sits.
Xsaak means to eat oolichans and they are harvested in March. Oolichans are small smelt-like fish. I ordered smelts once in a restaurant and they were pretty good. You have months whose names refer to salmon (two actually), trout, berries, and marmots & ermines. The meaning of Mmaal (April) lends itself to poetry.
the river ice breaks
in the afternoon
Of course, we tend to associate poems with other aspects of nature. January and February are associated with cold weather, mood disorder, and the inability to lose weight. They could easily be combined into a single month, Melancholia, and the government could mandate that all episodes of clinical depression occur in that 60-day month. March is associated with college basketball and my birthday. April is the season of taxes and cruelty. May for graduating from a two-year program training one to install and repair air conditioning systems.
The summer months are mostly about kids being out of school, with a corresponding increase in burglaries and emergency room visits. These months carry guns. September is associated with going back to school without having done one’s summer reading because of the time spent talking to the lawyer your dad hired to get you a square deal on the burglary charge. Or recovering from injuries incurred in the fall you took from that second-floor window. October, November, and December are all associated with granulated sugar, going to the mall, and ordering stuff online.
The call for submissions to this issue yielded so much bounty, the poetic equivalent of a giant haul of oolichans, that we had to split it into two parts. Part 2 will slide into the cold river in mid-K'aliiyee and move quietly downstream.
I want to thank our editorial team, F. J. Bergmann, F. John Sharp, José Angel Araguz, and the incomparable Laura M Kaminski for reading and selecting the pieces for this issue. Thanks to all contributors and all who submitted.
Happy New Year!
The old year is dead!
Dead, cold, gone.
We drifted and swam through its wide river,
what a survival story that was.
And now we cling to the new one
like dawn to eyelashes,
to guitar strings.
Terri Lynn Cummings
and he hoped something new would arrive
but the month was brittle
like the click of steps hastening away
He never quibbled about the cold—
childhood a game of hide-and-seek
within a house of shout and slap
His whole being chips at the edges—
ice along a river’s boundaries
feet numb in the squeeze of shoes
New Year’s Day, the labyrinth unrolled
Like every year, across the sanctuary floor
The old women singing sweet and unsteady
The silent swaying of the flock
Tracing the way back and forth
Inward and outward, carrying memories
And mortal thoughts, dreams pursued
But lost, or gained, held, and lost
The endless path, and then the end
Outside the world is white
The freezing fog of January
White of possibility, or bafflement
Enveloping every being out of doors
The restless robins and sparrows
The dogwoods, gaunt and asleep
The homeless man in his plastic cape
Walking toward the center of town
And the hope of food, or mercy
Hansen Tor Adcock
The last snows deepen, silenced by time.
I don’t know what it means.
A fragment of last year is
still buried under the skin
here, peace that was
sunshine waits coiled inside my head
in caves of unrest.
I’ve forgotten what summer is - almost
yet people try to force the mating rituals far too early.
Romance is fine by me so long as it is happening to other people.
Days asleep don’t count. So I guess most of our days
don’t count. This morning I drank 25
cups of coffee, ran to the bay, chopped
a hole in the ice, plunged my head
in the water, saw not a damned thing
in those pellucid depths, came up roaring.
Shivered so hard my bones cracked
but I never woke up.
Driving home from a fast-food place
you mutter to yourself that maybe
you were shortchanged, you felt
that pang of dissonance when the guy
handed you the change but you were
in a hurry and didn’t take the receipt
and now there’s no way to check.
Your child sitting next to you gives you
a look and asks what’s short change.
You glance at the rear-view mirror
and realize it’s February.
Watch your tender young,
your loud azaleas.
All night I dreamt the frozen road,
the white hall, pumice
pinging my underside.
In the first blue light, dark
shapes: one, two—seven deer
asleep on the ghost grass,
under the snow-haired
No shore to walk, the lake’s
gushed open. New marsh, a channel
where there used to be roses.
The bluff we once parked on
now a shadow underwater. Already,
the slow receding: dried foam,
seeds like red-tipped larvae
washing up. No swimmers
but a dozen ducks and a yellow Lab
called back, cold and shaking.
Wind hums a barbed-wire tune
while up the hill, two horses gallop
into the pulsing green.
H. Edgar Hix
More a sheet than a blanket of snow.
One last little erotic cover-up
before Spring bares all.
Not long ago people were still walking on the Elster and now they lie down
naked on the sandbanks of Cossi
April replaces March
the bright sun the darkness
Forgetfulness spreads faster than the melting of winter’s meek snow
לֹא מִזְּמַן עוֹד הָלְכוּ אֲנָשִׁים
עַל ה-Elster וְעַתָּה הֵם שׁוֹכְבִים
עֵירֻמִּים עַל גְּדוֹת הַחוֹל שֶׁל Cossi
אַפְּרִיל מַחְלִיף אֶת מֶרְץ
הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ הִבְהִירָה אֶת הַחֲשֵׁכָה
הַשִּׁכְחָה מִתְפַּשֶּׁטֶת מַהֵר יוֹתֵר
מֵהֲמַסַּת שִׁלְגֵי הַחֹרֶף
at the dog run
turn piebald grass
and a dove
sings his six notes
over and over
I am here
where are you?
Winter’s shed her rags
and now the orange horse
lies dozing like she’s dead,
head flat, neck flat in deep,
warm grass, her tail
flapping up to move a fly,
the dome of her belly
a sun rising in the field.
Katherine DiBella Seluja
There once was a town full
of fools. They spent most of their time
drinking spilt milk or searching for CPAs.
Skilled accounting not easy
to find in such a town. Some of the fools
cried in frustration, others
seemed energized by the search.
Evenings were spent rotating
batteries, calculator to smoke
detector to abacus.
Their days were spent
calling out to the rain,
What do the showers bring?
Hansen Tor Adcock
On a day such as this,
gustful and humid,
blue sky leaking out
I wake up with a sandpaper chin, hangdog
in the middle of the woods
next to a strange queen
and she feels low joy
from the birds in our keep
while she asks me
do flowers speak?
Was love always this dark?
Time is the sad thing
shining out of her sharp eyes.
is this bench.
It’s mostly green,
except for a smear of white
from some long-gone bird—
A poem needs
a swan in the reeds or
two blackbirds in a birch tree.
A poem is
a ferry crossing,
from here to somewhere,
Susan J. Erickson
is National Safety Month
the announcer at 88.7 on the radio dial
wants me to know. What hard-hatted/
goggled guy came up with that?
What happened to dove/love,
Now he’s on to the temperature (rising),
the price of gas (rising),
and consumer confidence
This month with its white peach
and strawberry complexion,
its green apple promise,
is when the sun convinces us
we may be eternal.
I say, give safety a different
Hansen Tor Adcock writes short stories and longer short stories under the pen-name Han Adcock. Some of his poetry and flash pieces can be found in BFS Horizons, Clockwise Cat and Poetic Diversity. Find him at www.facebook.com/wyrdstories.
‘Misky’ Braendeholm has settled into a quiet life amongst rolling hills of SE England, surrounded by flowers and grapevines. She never buys clothing without deep pockets. Her work is regularly published with Ten Penny Players: Waterways, and Visual Verse.
Terri Lynn Cummings has written two books, Tales to the Wind, When Distant Hours Call, and one chapbook, An Element Apart, published by Village Books Press. She is a native Oklahoman. Her work appears in numerous anthologies and literary journals, including Blood and Thunder, Red River Review, Dragon Poet's Review.
Jerry Dennis’s books of nonfiction, including The Living Great Lakes and The Windward Shore, have been widely translated and have won numerous awards. His poems and brief prose have appeared in PANK, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. He lives in rural northern Michigan. (www.jerrydennis.net)
Susan J. Erickson is a fan of the wall calendar. Turning the calendar to a new month with an illustration evoking that month is a ritual that celebrates the passage of time. Susan lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she helped establish the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Walk and Contest.
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy’s poetry appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including most recently Lily Poetry Review, Juniper Poetry, Sky Island Journal and River Heron Review. Originally from the US, Yoni has lived in Israel with his family for the last twenty years.
H. Edgar Hix was born in September, a gloriously stormy month in Oklahoma, his home state. He looks just like Santa and, in Minnesota where he now lives, fits in nicely with the December snows.
Artist, poet, and freelance writer, J.I. Kleinberg is a Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. Her found poems have appeared in Diagram, Dusie, Entropy, Otoliths, What Rough Beast, The Tishman Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she tears up magazines and posts frequently at thepoetrydepartment.wordpress.com.
Amy Miller’s books include The Trouble with New England Girls (Concrete Wolf Press) and the chapbooks Rough House (White Knuckle Press) and I Am on a River and Cannot Answer (BOAAT Press). Her writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, Right Hand Pointing, Tupelo Quarterly, and ZYZZYVA. She lives in Oregon.
Katherine DiBella Seluja is a poet and short fiction writer. She is co-author, along with Tina Carlson and Stella Reed of the collaborative poetry book, We Are Meant To Carry Water (3: A Taos Press, 2019). A well-stuffed Sicilian artichoke is her personal piece of heaven.
Claudia Serea’s poems have appeared in Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a collaboration with photographer Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea co-hosts The Williams Readings in Rutherford, NJ, and she is a founding editor of National Translation Month.
Guy Traiber is. And with that he is momentarily lost. He searches for his future in the past, or the other way around. In any case, there is green and grey there, and you need to put on something warm.
Pepper Trail's poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Borderlands, and elsewhere, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. His collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he works as a biologist.
Ian Willey is an Ohioan living in Western Japan. He has published extensively in haiku journals, and his (somewhat) longer poems have appeared in One Sentence Poems and Dime Show Review.