Literary as hell.

Category: Poetry (Page 1 of 20)

2023 Halloween Contest Finalist: Baba Yaga Revived by Diane Funston

Glass cobalt evil eyes from Turkey

hang in windows in every room. 

A hammered tin Hamsa

hangs outside each entrance. 

 

These baubles I placed for protection 

from all harm, 

the seen and unseen. 

 

After centuries of abuse,

words and other wounds

I forgave Baba Yaga,

whom I believed 

would no longer eat children.

 

Her advanced age, gnarled weak bones

grew frail in unforgiving winters,

she grew lonely with failing powers. 

 

I moved her out of her high-rise hut

into our warm home 

far away from black ice. 

 

I tended my garden 

as she grew accustomed 

to nourishing meals and healing sun. 

 

I began to wonder 

if there was maybe a little love

or was I merely a place to eat and rest…

 

Her voice regained 

familiar strength and timbre

I heard her chanting spells behind her door. 

 

Her responses to my questions 

growled back

Her elderly hands grew talons

ready to pierce and slice 

even the most innocent requests.

 

In between battles about last century’s war

I prayed daily to my god of poetry.

 

I found myself denying recent scratches 

rinsing drops of blood down the drain. 

I shielded torn flesh from my loved ones

I was cursed with guilt 

for welcoming her in.

 

When the plague locked us all inside for months,

it was easy to cover my scars and wounds. 

 

“Come here”Baba Yaga hissed one day,

after she again drew blood with her tongue,

her claws reaching for me,

 

“Mother knows you need redoing.”

 


Diane Funston lives in Marysville, California. Diane has been published in journals including California Quarterly, Lake Affect, Tule Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, Whirlwind, Summation, among others. She served two years as Poet-in-Residence for Yuba-Sutter Arts and Culture Her chapbook, “Over the Falls” was published by Foothills Publishing in 2022.

Poetry by Gabriella Garofalo

Let’s call it a day, shall we, as we’ve been traipsing
From waves to clouds, from clouds to waves,
Among weeds, and a fire fearing the waves,
That heartless white all over-
But they’ll soon come back to clean

Her thirst, her hunger, not now,
As they’re not listening, too busy wondering
Whose son he is the mongrel-
So, don’t ask for angels, for comets, from births,
Or days from demise, my soul’s in rehab,
Soon to be dismissed, and no goddess shall reply
While running in red hot shoes-
And when you’ll fall down, my blessed fury,
My soul gasping among vertical words,
I’d have to tie you up, my soul so young and green,
Who confuses stars for shadows, when out of fear
Her light is throwing herself to trees and seasons,
When neither maps nor sextants light up ambos,
Alarms, dross, while you keep stroking rooms,
Streets, secluded spots-
So, moon, leave it alone, if they say blue takes care
Of everything, even keeps you safe
If by any chance you are cold-
No need to ask, ‘cause the blue of the sky
Looks so disheveled, and the trees of disappearance
Can’t give you their best fruits-
She’s here, the last light coming back in small bites
Ready to fight thorn bushes if you reject fear
Or ask too much-
That’s why you pay so dearly for the sound of cicadas,
An angry summer, my October sowing ghastly seeds,
When your hands awaken your breath,
And desertion turns up, but can’t grasp light-
Father, my father, use a different clay,
You see, other fathers break forth,
Shouting you betrayed our search of clouds,
Sheets in the wind, tense times-
Now listen, why did you ask for animals
To sit next to small creatures,
Why did you give them absolute freedom,
Ever the innocent visionary artist,
And look now, we both bound to stay
Outside the garden, I fed up and sick
With all the blue shapes you handed to water,
Skies, detachment, respite, you in such a fright
That they’ll report you for being a jackal,
Both our blue minds loaded with evil,
And a bloody world.

 

______________

Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of these books “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Casa di erba”; “Blue Branches”; “A Blue Soul”. You can find her here.

Poems by Diane Webster

BATHROOM SPACES

He props the bathroom door open

maybe to allow odious odors

freedom to assault more noses than his,

maybe a latent move for voyeurism

as he stands in a stall hidden

only by waffled plastic

knowing it’s him by his shoes,

maybe afraid of closed-in spaces,

dreaming of peeing in snow

or a desert highway where

evaporation is almost quicker than he,

maybe the wind banged open

the outhouse door when he visited

grandpa, and he stained his best shoes

in a startled turn around move

exposed for a moment,

exposed for longer as he scuffed dirt

onto a wet shoe on long path back.

 

GOING

As a child, I got up from the couch

and said, “I have to go to the lavatory,”

until my aunt said, “You don’t have

to announce it.  Just go.”

 

What a concept?  That I could get up,

walk down the hall and go

without letting anyone know

where I was going.

 

How brave I became in going,

but everyone knew,

and it made me feel

like going even more.

Boat in a Bottle by Courtney LeBlanc

Who was the first to decide to capture 

a boat in a bottle, to build and string 

together a mast, the sails, to keep 

the bow from breaking against the glass? 

Who tried to contain an ocean in a jar 

that once housed beer or mead or wine? 

Once, I collected sea glass, filled a bowl 

with the muted green and white and blue, 

searched for the coveted red pieces. 

Once, I lived on an island and gave 

a man my salt water heart. He tangled 

his hands in my seaweed hair, pressed 

his ocean mouth against mine. I crashed 

into his shores again and again, beat 

myself blue against his rocks. When 

I left, he smashed the bottle, set 

the small boat adrift. On the deck 

of the ship, a sliver of red, the glass 

of my heart, set to sea.

 

_______________

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full-length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is a winner of the Jack McCarthy book prize and her next collection of poetry will be published by Write Bloody in spring 2023. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: www.wordperv.com. Follow her on Twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.

Poetry by John Grey

YOU LEAVE IN WINTER

Those are your footprints
leading from my stoop
to the front gate.

The snow’s compacted,
preserved them,
even as it buries the path,
the garden.

Your departure
is trapped, slowed to a stillness.

Come spring,
the flowers will bloom.
Your leaving will thaw.

 

___

 

CHARACTER INSTRUCTIONS

Far from any highway,
or town for that matter,
follow the trail through thick woods,
narrow and sunless
but aided by occasional tree markings,
that leads to a cave,
a labyrinth really,
with tunnels branching off
in many directions,
but the one you want
drops down to the shore
of an underground river,
that you must wade across
to reach a passageway on the other side
where you should begin to see
strange markings on the walls,
silken threads dangling from the ceiling
that give the impression
of broken spider wings,
bones scattered here and there
on the muddy floor
and you’ll hear strange noises,
like a gorilla in great pain
though it’s coming from no great ape,
and much scurrying about,
lots of moving shapes,
shadows darting back and forth
across your flashlight ray,
before you finally enter this large chamber,
lit by glittering jewels,
with an altar on one end
and what appears to be a dark-robed man
conducting some kind of service
for twenty or so similarly-cloaked acolytes,
who bow their heads, hum softly,
with an occasional break
for an impassioned, “Yes master”,
before their leader suddenly
notices your presence, and all heads turn,
gleaming red eyes stare threateningly at you,
and then you’ll know you have arrived –
I can’t say whether you’ll live or die,
but you’re in chapter ten of my new novel.

_______________

John Grey is an Australian poet, and US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic. His latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon.

Poetry by Holly Day

Nowhere ‘Til April 

In my desk is a picture  of a jungle from somewhere

warm and green that a friend once sent me, said I could go there

live in his family’s abandoned farm any time I’d like

there’s no plumbing or electricity there and sometimes snakes

make getting to the front door difficult, but here is a picture

and I  can stay there. 

 

I can feel the edges of the green photograph in my pocket

when I walk the dog in the winter, when I wait for her to take a crap

hovering in apparent agony over the ankle-deep snow. I can go there

any time I’d like, and there would be snakes but it would be warm.

 

The Thing That Blocks the Sun

How huge the world must seem to a tiny bug. How huge my hands must seem

When they reach down to cover the tiny bug, blot out the sun entirely

Wrench it from the pavement and lift it to the sky. 

 

Or perhaps the size difference is so great that it doesn’t even register

As something happening, much as the way I can’t feel the world turning beneath my feet

Or hurtling through space, or the heaving of coastal plates as they slowly crash

Against one another. Perhaps this little insect doesn’t notice me at all

 

Thinks that every time I cover it with my palms, it’s just the sun setting out of place

Some cosmic aberration beyond its control

Not worth worrying about. 

 

________________

Holly Day’s poetry has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her poetry collections include Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), and The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press).

Poetry by Abigail Dembo

It

I saw it on my way to work and it looked like a number. It was thin. It had smooth skin. It had a sharp nose and chin. It was a one or a zero. Static. It came in the mist. It left rings on the table and a black and white photograph. It sang, “So long Marianne, it’s time we began . . .” and cried to the seagulls, glowing like amber. It smelled like magnolia. It was some masquerade, but it opened its mouth and a voice embossed in silver rose out, “Do you want to go dancing? Or do you want to come home?”

 

Self-Portrait as Venus with Adonis in San Francisco

Into musty hotels

up back alley fire

escapes through windows.

The Emperor. The Lyric. 

A single bulb hanging. To be with him,

 

I am drawn 

down by his habits

in plumes of gray doves. 

Fixing the puddles of gutters 

I see I am thinned.

 

“No, I am waiting for someone,”

for hours, like a dog, 

down the street from the hustlers’ bar

with whistles

and slow-rolling cars

 

for him. A vision of fatality

leaking like a cracked 

cell-phone screen.

A man being led 

down a dark alleyway

 

returning, needful, 

black tar in hand.

The fumes 

of vinegar, the concrete, 

the syringe–

 

“No, you go first. You need to get off.” 

Oh, and so what? I say,

I am pained, lover, but I give it to you. 

Confederate, I would not 

have you be other.

 

Let’s get away. Let’s sleep 

near Mission Dolores 

tonight. Gold foil cherubs 

sit still

their form ending in curls.

 

Nothing has those classical adornments, no

muses anymore. 

 

______________

Abigail Dembo lives in Berkeley, California, and is currently a poetry editor for Southland Alibi. Her poetry has appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, Ursa Minor, SlipStream Magazine, and other places.

Poems by Zebulon Huset

Transmogrifying Honey Battered

Muddily the morning crept.

Though rain often causes fowl lungs 

to top off with droplets, drowning so many 

of the raised-head dummies—

Chucky the chicken, rooster to some,

cocked his head, juked or jived

at a too-inopportune time

and startled a sting from the resting 

transmogrifying bee.

 

This was how Janet skipped 

into the scene upon waking:

the broken syringe, dangling

microscopic bits of bee belly-flesh, 

plugging the swell of purple—the sundered 

venom sac pulsing in toxins like an IV—

which caused Chucky’s clunky heart

too much issue with tissue constriction.

 

Janet wept for her perished pet,

mourned the morning, played 

devastated Dr. Frankenstein with two 9-volts

through lunchtime. Her cries even survived

as eggs and flour and honey and paprika

were whisked together for a batter

that could staunch any tears.

That would stop her tears.

 

No crying at dinner, Janet. Enough already.

Continue reading

Poetry by David M. Harris

Rep. William J. Pascrell

 

Dear Mr. Pascrell:

 

Before you were the Honorable (D, NJ),

back when you taught history and psychology

at Paramus High, you were one of the foundrymen 

who melted down our formless minds and gave them

rough shape. Detail and polish were up to us.

You told a story, about leaving for the prom,

your father said, “Be careful.” Eventually,

I think, I got the point. Did any of us

understand? Later I decided we were not

meant to understand, not then, but to

ponder and find our own meanings. 

It was a rare peek into the personal.

one that other teachers never granted us.

And what was a social studies teacher doing

as one of the advisors to the high school

literary magazine? Something else to mull.

 

Changing the world, one student at a time,

must have seemed too slow. We needed

a good example, so you made yourself one.

But how different, really, is governing

from running a classroom? So much 

patient explanation, filing down rough edges

for the easier acceptance of complex machineries,

so much talking to people who won’t listen.

And the greatest failure is surrendering the effort.

Continue reading

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