July 27, 2014

Two Poems by M.J. Iuppa

How Does the Magnolia Still Bloom in Late June?

For no reason, this mild weather
nurses our magnolia’s pink flowers
to bloom and bloom and bloom
among trim leaves, glossy and green.

Too often, May’s sudden heat curls
each petal until hundreds litter the lawn
like confetti melting in morning’s
light rain . . .

But this year, something’s changed.
Our magnolia refuses to give up
its frills, making us pay attention
to that tender Spring we’ve forgotten.

Persistent Dream

When summer’s fireflies light up the air, I 
stare and stare at phosphorous blinks, unable

to count the pulsing beats before they perish 
in the garden’s grave green shadows.

The day’s rumors have risen to temporal height. 
The full moon ripens to blood orange.

There are no mountains here—only god given 
violets growing in crevices of glacier indifference;

and Ontario settling into its core—gathering 
its strength to lift us all— feel it— water rising

rising to our upper lips— the thrill of going 
quickly, going without question, I do believe.

M.J.Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario.  Between Worlds is her most recent chapbook, featuring lyric essays, flash fiction and prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2013).  She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College.  You can follow her musings on writing and creative sustainability on Red Rooster Farm on mjiuppa.blogspot.com.

July 25, 2014

Interview w/ Poet Mary Jo Balistreri

Who or what inspired you to write poetry?

I had been a concert pianist and harpsichordist for most of my life until in 2005, my youngest grandson died. He was seven and I couldn’t find a way to transcend grief. Music for the first time was not helpful. My daughter, a published writer, suggested writing, and she actually sat with me for encouragement. Why I chose poems is still a mystery, but I did, took a workshop and then began going to classes, etc. In retrospect, poetry provided the container that interpreting music did not.  It also gave me a way to give witness to this child’s life, and to be true to his spirit, of celebration. He loved his life. So I would have to say that the initial spark came from a seven-year-old boy.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write longhand at the kitchen table on a yellow legal tablet. I watch birds at the feeders and also on the small lake we live on. They are my inspiration. When I’m in Florida, I write at the beach at an open window with the sound of the surf my background music.

Who are your favorite poets, alive or deceased?

My favorite poets change but ones with staying power are Rilke, W.S. Merwin, Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Bishop, Olaf V. Hauge, Rolf Jacobsen, Tomas Transtromer, and Robert Cording. Recently, I have enjoyed Mary Szybist, Andrea Hollander, and the ghazals of Ghalib.

What five words best sum up your personality?     

enthusiasm, tenacity, spontaneity, determination, and compassion

Other than writing, what do you love to do?

I like reading, gardening, walking, and spending time with art

What are your current and/or next projects?

I am working on a book of personal essays and also putting together a manuscript for a 4th book of poetry.

July 23, 2014

If You Find No Poem by Michael Lee Johnson

If you find
no poem on
your doorstep
in the morning,
no paper, no knock on your door,
your life poorly edited
but no broken dashes
or injured meter
you do not wear white
satin dresses late in life
embroidered with violet
flowers on the collar;
nor do you have
burials daily
across main street,
no one whispers
in your ear, Emily Dickinson-
you feel alone-
but not reclusive-
the sand child
still sleeping in your eyes-
wiping your tears away-
if you find
no poem on
your doorstep-
you know
you are not from New England.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era:  now known as the Illinois poet, from Itasca, IL.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography), and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 750 small press magazines in 27 countries, he edits 8 poetry sites.  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom (136 pages book), several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.  He also has over 70 poetry videos on YouTube.

July 21, 2014

In the Red Room by Sandy Benitez

walls are hemorrhaging
beneath layers of fairy wallpaper
skin scratched to the bone.

Panels of blood-red velvet drapes
frame the windows
to the heaven outside.

A young girl sits on the floor,
legs crossed with head turned down.
She is a red rose yet to bloom

in her dress made of paper and scar-tissue.
Scraps of ephemera,
crumbled and thrown in every corner

surround her like a clay pot.
Her tears become sustenance,
feeding her when no one is watching.

Small, pale arms stretch 
towards the Summer sunlight 
resembling climbing ivy unrestrained.

Fingers bled, wrists cut
in a moment of blood-letting
she imagines the color of love.

July 19, 2014

Two Poems by Martin Willitts Jr.

The Lawrence Tree
                At D.H. Lawrence’s house in New Mexico
I would lie for hours on a wooden bench
under a tree, looking up into sky
until it blinked first.

Leaves were spiritual poems
telling of deep longings
how the world came to be.

How this wooden bench was made —
each swirl, knothole, every smoothed edge —
life is measured precisely.

The tree tells me the sky was made for me,
ingrained inside me
like water inside nowhere.

Tonight, there are so many stars,
distance and closeness do not matter,
perspective falls apart miles from here.

If I reach up, I can pull down everything —
loneliness; poems; spiritual stars;
leaves; bird wings; beautiful space.

Summer Days

The landscape in New Mexico
has colors waiting to be painted
until you try to paint them.

A part of the far-away
and near-by,
elusive as light,

fragile as lung or spirit.
You have to open wildflowers in the sky
to find a skull more alive than the living.

There is no middle ground
between foreground and background.

Nothing to claim.

Martin Willitts Jr. has 6 full-length collections of poems including national eco-poetry contest "Searching for What Is Not There" (Hiraeth Press, 2013) and "Before Anything, There Was Mystery" (Flutter Press, 2014), plus over 20 chapbooks including contest winner: William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man" (Red Ochre Press, 2014).

July 17, 2014

Haunted Houses by Richard Schnap

There was the two room apartment
With a bathroom in the hall
Where the ghost of a blind man
Cried blues in the night
And the hovel with the roof
That leaked when it rained
Where the phantom of an artist
Painted the walls with his tears
And the cheaply priced residence
Next door to a church
Where the spirits of sinners
Begged God for a second chance
And the mansion once owned
By a barren heiress
Where her spectral presence
Sang its children to sleep

Richard Schnap is a poet, songwriter and collagist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His poems have most recently appeared locally, nationally and overseas in a variety of print and online publications.

July 15, 2014

Two Poems by Mary Jo Balistreri

During the Storm, She Makes Her Way to Ocean’s Edge

The sea raises its voice.
The wind puts its mouth to her ear.
While gulls huddle, waves chew
into stone. 

She mucks through a graveyard for vultures: fish,
jellies, one immense loggerhead, her head bowed
against turbulence. She stomps through smell
of rot, crusted wrack, fragments of shells, seaweed
crushed in the storm’s vortex.

The wind rips away words stuck in her mind,
slick and honeyed slide off the tongue words her boss
used to freeze her pay, slash her job.

The ocean’s clear voice untangles the muddled web
in her mind, unleashes the head-rush of words, 
blows them out to sea.

blows them out to sea.

One Morning in July

A day thick with heat, palmetto palms fan
humidity sweet with coconut and jasmine, the mold

of forest and mudflat. A woman sits on a 20th-story lanai. 
From a hawk’s viewpoint, she surveys a miniature

kingdom of unhurried, deep breaths.  Thoughts morph
as slow as the clouds when a plane

displaces her peace, and a speedboat slices across an
unruffled gulf. Reverie, spliced in mixed emotions, 

recalls yesterday—the osprey and the boy, 
the fish he held up, the bird snatching it.

The woman muses how life and death coil around each other, 
need each other for completion like the surf and its countless

small creatures that thrive and die in its waters, roll
onto shore each day, some shells empty, some full. 

In the apartment next door, a man lies dying. She sips coffee,
watches clouds meringue into fat rabbits, a red-tailed hawk

swoop down from the mangroves and seize a mouse,
and she’s filled with morning’s beauty, filled as well

with its absence. She listens to the sea, its unending cadence,
broken, unbroken.

Mary Jo has two books of poetry, Joy in the Morning and gathering the harvest, both published by Bellowing Ark Press. A chapbook, Best Brothers, published by Tiger’s Eye Press has just been released. She has three Pushcart nominations and two Best of the Net nominations. Mary Jo is also one of three founders of Grace River Poetry, an outreach for schools, women’s shelters and churches. For more information, please visit maryjobalistreripoet.com