Literary as hell.

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Poems by Kika Dorsey

Horizon

They say the closer you come to something, the further away it can seem. As if it’s all a horizon. As if the horizon could ever be your lasso, your tightrope spanning past and future, your thread to sew closed what tore. 

I’ve been so near to my father’s death that my eyes blurred with more than tears. I’ve been so far away from my children’s birth that they disappeared like March fog when the sun buckles down and does its work of rising from a line I called my life, a line I could never trace. I’ve traveled so far that nothing has looked familiar—not the white marble statues of gods, the banyan trees, the dancing Lipizzaner, the cobblestoned streets, the cock fights in jungles, the foreign seas. 

Now I am home and what is close to me presses against my legs, wraps its arms around my waist. I’ve learned that you can never know what lies behind its mystery—a day lost in the woods, a dream of galloping horses, a fire built with twigs, a funeral, a birth—everything so near it has become their flesh, their journey toward a horizon forever receding. 

 

Petroleum

1

When he was zooplankton, buried beneath sedimentary rock in Texas and Iraq, he slept like the poor merchant under threadbare sheets next to algae, on bales of straw. He awoke and woke up the bees while he took their honey. He pulled out his own rotten teeth. 

 

2

Rock has a way of condensing poverty, of solidifying the earth so that it is harder to dig our graves. Rock can press our sight with mountains against the sun, can flatten and skip on water, can crumble when the sea catches it with salt, can sail from the bully’s slingshot, can teach us to be still. 

 

3

We have always been restless. We’ve burned whale oil, then promised the whales as they sang that we’d take from stone instead. We’ve created drills that bob their heads to a ground where we have kneeled, always begging our gods for a second chance. We’ve knocked down flasks of oil from a shelf when we dreamed of wealth and cursed the son we have yet to have. We’ve awoken to spills that coated the wings of seagulls. 

 

4

When he was living with us, he promised us planes and cars and oil for our dry faces. He fueled the ships in the seas. The whales were confused about the sound of the motor. They didn’t know how to make it a percussion of their song. You see, here is the paradox of music: to write a symphony you need silence. 

 

5

There is a little girl. She has a nightlight. It’s a purple fairy with blue wings. Without it she opens her eyes to the dark and feels scared. She needs to see that the shirt draped over the chair is not a killer. She needs to see that the dark is not dark. Outside the motors of cars rumble. She wonders where they are going, why they, too, are not sleeping. She falls asleep and dreams of squirrels. She dreams of lakes. She dreams of ladders reaching so high into the sky even the birds cannot nest there. They are too busy singing.

__________

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets.  Her books include the chapbook Beside Herself  (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020), which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

Poetry by Colin Webb

Refractory
spastic filter of branches

catching dusk clouds 

 

side-swiping indiscriminate thru 

a line of others more distinct in their 

 

trajectory—

then the obstructed lengths 

 

unpossessing downhill too, or the 

bristly blind of snow up to Here

 

that’ll curb your cigarette break bound 

by slush overlooked too, and the dirty 

 

distillation of static that’ll obscure all 

the breakup songs to come 

 

straining from car’s radio 

for you to love thru

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“How Are You” by Maria Tolosa

Oh please. Not that question.

No, I am not fine, I twisted my ankle leaving the bus, I have two dentist appointments this week, the ATM swallowed my card and I have a headache. I am not fine at all but I have to put on a brave smile and say that I totally am.  

Or: Yes, I feel great today, I got brand new teeth, a promotion, and I won 10 euros in the lottery. Again, I have to clench those brand new teeth and rave that I am fine and parrot the question back. It reminds me of the ritual dance of the red-crowned cranes. 

You may say that people are asking because they are polite and they care. Not at all!  I mean, yes, they are polite but they obviously want to hear only “I am fine”, so no, they don’t care. 

Actually, they don’t want to hear any details, good or bad. Well, I don’t expect them to care, everyone has problems of their own. But then why ask and spend time on this dance?

You may also say that to argue with the language itself is silly.  “How are you” is used as a friendly greeting. But still, I cannot understand why usual greetings like “hello” or “good morning” are not good enough.  If we want to add something else, why not make it more personal or more specific, for example: “Today is very hot, are you feeling well?” Just to show that we care about each other.

I don’t know why it bothers me now more than before. Probably, because of the pandemic. People revalued a lot of things, including communication. All those formulas, rituals, and clichés bubbled to the surface and became more visible.  

In my opinion, asking a question without any interest in the answer is hypocrisy, plain and simple. Tell me, why it is such an essential criterion for good manners? I help people in need, collect and separate my recycling, and donate to charities. Am I good enough? Or without the proper “I am fine, thank you, and you?” I am not part of this great civilization and should be sent to a remote village where I belong?

I see it as a game. Or a kind of password that helps polite people to recognize each other in a crowd, like spies.  For me, the world is already weird enough, sorry.

Mondays are even worse, like it being Monday is not enough.  On Mondays, another question is added to “How are you?” – “How was your weekend?”Come on, do you really want to hear about my weekend, or you are trying to distract and soften me before asking me to do something for you? 

After this ritual of exchange of pleasantries, it is not so easy to say no, is it? Without realizing it, you feel obliged, even before the real conversation starts. Very clever. Now it is not only insincere- but also- manipulation. 

This is why I developed my personal answer to “How are you?” 

“I am fine so far, but it will depend on what you say next“.  

You will not believe how fast the boundary is set. 

Well, I need some kind of shield in this brutal world. 

_________

Maria Tolosa lives in Luxembourg and sometimes thinks she can write something better than a grocery list.  English is not her mother tongue, so she is still fascinated with it, poor thing.

Poems by Kathryn Kopple

Epidemics 

I can’t recall why.  Or when I bought

Hippocrates’ Epidemics.  I was on  

a tangent that should have taken me east

of Athens to Perinthos on the Sea of Marmara.

To get there, I would have to stop over

in Crannon. About Crannon, I know

nothing, which is basically how I’ve

always traveled. Floundering from 

country to country.  Blind to where I was going.

After Italy, why not Hungary?

I passed the time surrounded by

Soviet architecture. Buildings

stripped of ornament uniformly at war

with old world charm.  My host, a woman

and her boy. He didn’t walk, couldn’t feed

himself.  His silence. Her patience.

I felt oddly blessed and cursed. Lightning.

I’ve been struck more than once. Spinoza’s

famous question: What can a body do?

Bite my tongue. The toll it takes

to come back from the dead.

On the phone, I hear my partner offer

his sympathies. There’s been a significant

uptick in requests for advance directives.

The neighbors left for Charlotte a week

after the schools closed. To read the mail,

we put on gloves. The house reeks of chlorine.

We’re still under orders to hunker down.

For how long, no one knows.

When this is over, I hope to visit Perinthos,

a hanging cliff-town in Turkey, overlooking

a luminous sea, harboring every

ounce of light the heavens will spare.

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Poems by Ken Poyner

COMPETENCE

I was supposed to be the subject

Of a painting.  Something with a bit

Of haze, maybe a light red tint,

A background of reeds leading

To open water.  Birds – but way off,

And painted more precisely than

Anything in the foreground.  Perhaps I

Would be in a dress, or draped

Like the goddess Diana, or possibly

Delicately naked, twisted

At the hip, seen from the back.

There could be a tree, perhaps Spanish

Moss.  The painter is yet to decide.

But I have been cut out of the production.

The figure now is to be nondescript,

The light all second hand.  There will be

Something ominous closing in.  Had I been

The subject, the painting’s elements

Would have conspired against me.  My own

Children, regarding the painting in place of

Lunch, would not have recognized me.

But for me to have known that the effort

Was mine, who the misty unrecognizable

Woman was, and the effort to gather it all

Together, would have been comforting.

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Three Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry

A LITTLE GLINT, A SLASH OF COLOR 

The apartment is so still just now. 

It is cool and gray outside. The news 

speaks of spring, but that seems like a lie

as so many things do these gray days. 

 

The cats, 8 paws touching, are asleep

on our bed. They release everything 

when they sleep. The city is awake 

but quiet. Lawns and dandelions 

 

are the same, concrete and asphalt are the

same, glass doors and windows are the

same. I will pretend that the cells of 

my body are sunlight making the 

 

dishwater sky show a little glint, 

a slash of color. The truth is a 

rebuke because, in truth, my body 

is a box emptied of secrets and 

 

emptied of the slim, crescent moons of my

dreams. That said, I have always loved

pretending. The cells of my body 

will have to ignore the realness 

 

of another year about to pass, 

the dreary fear of what comes after, 

the mirror image that is not, can 

not be right. I’ve learned so much less than 

 

I thought I would, garnered less respect

than I hoped for. My underground is 

rising to the surface. I defer to 

what I have become and admire all 

 

that I am not. I’ve been given a 

quiet day; I will give up “what ifs,” 

I will give up what I know is true, 

pretend color and music then—shine.

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“Ode, Node, Anode” by Alan Cohen

The fall, drop, break
of peach white froth
sparkling translucent curtain
screening out sun
14 stories, three seconds
from bed to bed
from yesterday
deep into an unlabelled narrow chasm of the past
hypnotizes five visiting on-, through-, and over-
lookers
who, passing under the fall’s lip
behind the water
perpendicular
put out hands to touch
fondly recalling personal crises

Two taboo white birds skim the surface
Floating back upstream

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