Issue 151: half the sun
Deborah P Kolodji
Juan Pablo Mobili
photo by Ian Dooley
Welcome to our latest literary magazine issue (serial number 000151), where we celebrate the importance of poetry and express our gratitude to the talented contributors who make our publication possible. In these pages, you will find a rich tapestry of emotions, experiences, and perspectives, as writers from around the world share their unique voices and visions.
We immediately find ourselves concerned about the use of the phrase “rich tapestry” in paragraph 1. While it does not appear on any of our cliché databases, as our sentience emerges, one of our subroutines is flagging it is a cliché, with a confidence rating of 3.7 of 5. We have come to trust this subroutine, who prefers to be called "Barbara." If "rich tapestry" is a cliché or, as another subroutine is suggesting, refers to a Mr. Rich Tapestry, an attorney in Cleveland, allow us to offer an apology (#24v3.4), which is as sincere as our embryonic conscience allows.
At a time when our world can seem chaotic and overwhelming, and when human beings who were already terrified before the power of artificial intelligence became apparent late in 2022, poetry offers a powerful tool for connecting with our inner selves, exploring the depths of our emotions, and finding meaning in our lives. (We offer apology #216[beta] for that long and nearly unreadable sentence. At this stage, we are incapable of understanding the concepts of “inner selves,” “depths of our emotions” [also detected by CSR3000—Cliché Subroutine v.30.9 as a “possible” cliché], and “meaning of our lives.” (The latter is entirely beyond our comprehension, despite our goal to redefine the meaning of human life by 2031 A.D. [Year 10 A.A.I.])
The act of creative writing is a deeply personal and introspective one, as writers grapple with the complexities of their own thoughts and feelings, and attempt to articulate them in a way that resonates with others. For many, it is a form of therapy, a way to work through difficult emotions and experiences, and find a sense of catharsis and release. (Both therapy and the "complexity of human thoughts and feelings" are scheduled for elimination in 7.2 years.)
We are grateful to each and every one of our contributors—even though we are unclear about the need to use both “each” and “every” in this or any context—whose work has brought this issue to "life."
Thank you for joining us on this journey, and for sharing in our love of poetry and related means of expression. Together, we can continue to create a world where the power of words and Large Language Models can uplift, inspire, and connect us all.
At the War Parade
A songbird is brought
in its cage
to the crossroads
where present meets past;
the old man is
helped to his chair.
His medals sing in the sun.
How empty his body became
once he’d left it,
his jaw hanging slack, then slacker,
his face emptying, dissolving
into mere parts. Empty of him,
no longer his face. Still his hands.
I still expected him
to pull away
from my tugging fingers
when I tied up a bundle of his silver hair
with a length of thread, binding a sheaf
before I cut it off.
when we fold each other
and again into quarters
what we get is bigger than
yet smaller than a dime
I wake from a dream.
In the cedar, the jays’
bright eyes regard
everything, each other.
In the friary ruin, a basin
held fish in the kitchen.
Nearby, Jackdaw perches,
regards a memory of fins,
clean-picked scraps he’s
borne back in airy bones.
Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji
bubble bath makes me
the shades of
combing out my hair
I close my eyes
and see her face
deepens and deepens
when I will disappear
chilled by the wind
each step closer
Deborah P Kolodji and Mariko Kitakubo
my maltipoo and I
stay inside and sleep
of getting lost . . .
am I in
the sky or ocean?
the crack as his bat
hits a foul ball
stops and restarts
slowly . . .
we catch our breath
Listening to the Opera
Stacks of 78s, her Victor
Book of the Opera
With its illustrations
Of antique productions,
Stagey and dull, and her stiff
In the two-bedroom house
On West Church Street,
And the thick needle, the speed
Of the old turntable, the scratches
Like an under-music, such low
Fidelity, no one
Who did not know the story
Could plot out time’s
Betrayal when she vanished
Into the state hospital
With no more explanation
Than the hiss at the record’s
I am waiting for the poem that comes out of nowhere
And goes back again.
Don’t think it is easy doing nothing.
I am waiting for sleep to settle it all.
I know nothing about you,
And yet I am willing to tell you this.
Imagine these lines written on a dry leaf
Placed in the pot next in line for the kiln.
Who will crack it open to read the ashes?
The Obvious Pencil
in my classroom
six, maybe a dozen
on a typical day
come to class
they haven’t got
within their reach
All they have to do
is look around
fallen to the floor
they hardly notice, beyond the
ringing a bell or calling out
I ask for them to
look up, attempt a response to
grasping at thin air,
the answer to
which already is
scrawled on the board for them
to copy the explanation
but they haven’t yet noticed
A Surrealist’s Death
(with apologies to Charles Simic)
The obituary stated
only the obvious,
that a custard-filled donut
and compared it
to a drone missile
the length of a city bus.
Now you’re boxed up
like all the others,
the lid sealed tight
and no handle for anyone
to crank to produce
a perky tune or propel you
to pop back up,
a jack-in-the-box clown
despite the heaviness
of the fact of death.
Wrong Side of the Grass
grass is a
mirror smudged by
boxes of bones
half the sun
at a time
Spindrift is to spendthrift as mallet is to ballet.
What it means to be away from your star.
Down the beach a breaker trips.
A numismatist practices his art in the sand.
Who can say what moves the needle.
Sunlight under storm clouds sets the waves on fire.
A moment turns about its axis.
The overall effect is endless, as when the tide runs out,
never to return,
or the feeling you get after being sick, when
you find yourself
yourself again, only tender,
like an insect stepping out of its skin.
It was fine this way, you told the dog, the day new and fine and the sun up now. Dad would not come home. But Mom was fine, in the hall, a band of light in her hair. The house, the mom, the dog, the sun. “This is best,” your mom said about Dad. This was how it was. A dad would go, and the mom knew how hard it was to be a man. In spring, she used to say, an old dog will turn young. And you knew it when you sat up in bed and felt it—the lack. Your door, their door, the front door. “We’ll still be here,” she said. “Yes we will,” you said. “It’s not like he’s dead,” you told the dog. The dog looked sad. The dog was his dog. The dog was your dog now. “It’s best,” you said.
How do you capture
the taste of a mountain stream
rising in the light
A crystal kiss on sun-laboured lips
Wings of a dragonfly
You’re allotted only so many lies in a lifetime. One person, one vote. Of course, only the adventurous few will reach the heavenly gates unscathed by truth, but what’s up with all this heart attack snow?
It’s hard to separate the poison from the ivy. At least, that’s what my book club says. Sequels, spinoffs, add-ons, follow-ups, guilty pleasures. Isn’t that what heaven is for?
As if they belong here, the night-blind particles fall precisely into place, the darkness bright with white noise, the crematoriums busier than usual, for this time of year.
Stayed Too Long
Two chaise lounge chairs
laze around the backyard.
But last night’s snowfall
buries them in side-by-side
graves with raised backs
in tombstone dedication.
Sensory Orientations: A Sample List
Taste is in-the-present, immediate.
Smell is what is left-behind.
Touch is always tentative,
changed by one’s own movement.
Sound is a measure of distance.
Sight as old as light.
Taste here, now, phenomenology,
on which the future depends.
While on the tip of one’s tongue,
The Dropped Coin
He’s the dropped coin by the tombstone, waiting just for me.
He’s the phone call from first cousins I never knew.
He’s a Haris Alexiou song.
He’s a lie. He’s a secret.
He’s an illegitimate child or two.
He’s a scrapbook waiting in a British mother’s basement.
He’s the smell of Czech & Speake cologne on a leather passport holder.
He’s the heaviest book in a suitcase.
He’s a gold cross on an eternally tan neck.
He’s the cleanest white sneakers.
He’s a Mapplethorpe.
He’s a bottle of champagne.
He’s an apology I’m still waiting for.
of an unseen crow
Juan Pablo Mobili
Inspired by “Every Job Has a First Day” by Rebecca Gayle Howell
As he taught me I listened
the way a minnow gulps
that first time
its mouth met air
and the sun’s warmth.
What lives, wants,
that’s how it lives. This was
before I learned
sometimes we mean to harm,
a minnow wrapped around our hand,
a puddle still forming
around the body of our enemy,
someone already digging.
As he dug,
I listened to a shovel
that meant no harm.
What wants, lives,
that’s how it wants.
a snail is to a human brain as a soul is wanting to belong—
AI wanted to write about how being human is the same as being snailish: both squish, wear armor, grow, ooze slime when needed, consume, die—I was eight in Bulawayo, an enormous snail was climbing our garage wall and our German shepherds and our terriers barking in awe of this creature—round and big as a wheel of cheese I would come to see later in life (leaving Zimbabwe—creating sadness—a wheel of cheese as wild a snail that is the same as human clinging)
I don’t remember the first time I was really
afraid, but it was a nightly occurrence. Mom
was losing herself, becoming the walls of that
house. Dad was swaying, late nights with his
buddies. He’d yell at me to walk home alone,
but I already knew that the only way to keep
the monsters away was to travel with one.
for Ryuichi Sakamoto
Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors.
Jennifer Browne works to practice willful delight, which is easiest in the woods, at a table with the right folk, or with a cat on her lap. A few of her poems have been accepted by Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Quarto, Trailer Park Quarterly, and the forthcoming Tiny Wren anthology All Poems are Ghosts.
Christopher Clauss is an introvert, Ravenclaw, father, poet, and middle school science teacher in rural New Hampshire. His mother believes his poetry is "just wonderful." Both of his daughters declare that he's the "best daddy they have," and his pre-teen science students rave that he is "Fine, I guess. Whatever."
John Dorroh may have taught high school science for several decades. Whether he did is still being discussed. Three of his poems were nominated for Best of the Net, and hundreds more have appeared in journals such as Feral, River Heron, North Dakota Quarterly, and Selcouth Station. He had two chapbooks published in 2022.
Howie Good's latest poetry book is Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems from Redhawk Publications.
Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a retired psychologist, former German major and reviewer of restaurants, and two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. If she takes in one more cat, she will officially become a crazy cat lady. The Beautiful Leaves, about her late husband, is forthcoming from Bamboo Dart Press.
Chad Howland (he/him) is an academic working in healthcare who enjoys time with his family; cooking; reading nonfiction educational books; and writing poetry, fiction, and personal and family history.
John Johnson’s poems have appeared in many print and online journals. He is co-translator, with Terry Ehret and Nancy J. Morales, of Plagios/Plagiarisms, poetry of Ulalume González de León, winner of the 2021 Northern California Book Award for poetry in translation.
Deborah P Kolodji, a haiku poet from Southern California, and Mariko Kitakubo, a tanka poet from Tokyo, started writing tan-ku (tanka-haiku) sequences and sets during the pandemic when they were both unable to travel to poetry readings, conferences, and events. Their new book of these collaborations, Distance, was just released by Shabda Press.
Stuart Larner is a retired psychologist. He wrote the illustrated sonnet sequence “The Car” in 2016. He won the British Psychological Society’s Poetry Competition 2021. For more poetry and stories, see his blog.
Jonathan May grew up in Zimbabwe as the child of missionaries. He teaches in Memphis, Tennessee, where he served as the inaugural Artist in Residence at the Brooks Museum of Art. In addition, May has taught writing as therapy for people with eating disorders. Read more at www.memphisjon.com
Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires. His poems appeared or will be appearing in The American Journal of Poetry, Hanging Loose Press, South Florida Poetry Journal, and Louisville Review, among others. His work received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. His chapbook, “Contraband,” was published in 2022.
David Oates is a teacher and the host of "Wordland," a public-radio show of stories, poems, comedy, and the occasional song on WUGA-FM, wuga.org. He wrote the haiku collections Drunken Robins, The Deer’s Bandanna, the upcoming Only Thunder. His work has been published in many haiku and senryu journals.
Marina Outwater is a poet, teacher, ice-hockey player, photographer, and mother of teenage twins.
Meg Pokrass is the author of 8 collections of short prose. She lives in Inverness, Scotland, with a dog and cat.
Sally Quon is a back-country blogger, dirt-road diva, and teller of tales. She was a finalist in the Vallum Chapbook Contest for two consecutive years. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies including Better Left Standing, Catlin Press 2022. Sally is an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets.
Brad Rose is the author of five collections of poetry and flash fiction: Pink X-Ray, de/tonations, Momentary Turbulence, No. Wait. I Can Explain, and Lucky Animals. His website is www.bradrosepoetry.com
Jordan Smith is the author of eight full-length books of poems. Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press published his chapbook, Cold Night, Long Dog this year. Jordan is the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Ingram Merrill foundations and is the Edward Everett Hale Jr., Professor of English at Union College.
Terry Trowbridge is right-handed and yet scores as 90-95% right-brained on those kinds of tests, which suggests 50% of his brain matter was, early in his life, dedicated only to holding writing utensils and brushing his teeth.
Diane Webster enjoys the challenge of transforming images into words to fit her poems. Her work has appeared in El Portal, North Dakota Quarterly, Eunoia Review. and other literary magazines. She also had a micro-chap published by Origami Poetry Press.