Five Poems by Simon Perchik - 9-22-2014

You grieve as if this shadow
has no sound yet
though once your face is covered

you let more darkness out
and what you hear
stays, clots the way one hand

clings to this dirt made black
by the other, left behind
to hide in the scent from rivers

that move again, keeps you company
years after as the cry
for water and already this crater

gouged from your mouth
stone by stone, caving in
and your lips boiling over.



You are pulled and the same darkness
lifts your arm around these stars
spreads out door to door

knocks so your fist can smell
from blood become your heart again
dragged ahead as if you belong

near distances, end to end
                        though this cemetery
has forgotten its dead

holds only the invisible hillsides
                        soaking in stone and narrow alleyways
passed along till they close

and what will be your tears
waits as lips, as the sky brought back
crumbling with not a light left on.



Even these laces, breathless
falling to the floor without you
and the wait for calm –they cope

by helping you undress
used to shoes that weigh too much
are lowered forever, caressed

and still you talk non-stop
dangle your bare feet
half overboard, half

the way these enormous clothes
lose hold, break apart, then nothing
to heap one on top the other.



Branching out and this hillside
bit by bit unraveling
the way your shadow keeps to itself

just by darkening, fed the dirt
you once could see through
as if nothing was there to hum

then swallow some old love song
that came into the world
facing the ground still trying

to leave you and night after night
you listen for these smaller
then smaller stones eating alone

as the cry forever struggling
from its harsh stranglehold
to keep up, side by side and stay.



At the end this sand coming by
covers you with soft flowers
that long ago dried as footsteps

still treading inside some shallow grave
smothered  as afterward and dust
–you loved her the way the Earth

keeps warm and between two suns
place to place what’s left
you walk without looking down

though your arms are closing
have grown together a single fingertip
touching these shells and pebbles.


-- Simon Perchik


In September
The leaves are waiting
As I do

If this
If that
Pass unhindered
Like old friends with whom
I do not need conversation

This morning

The hands of the Universe
Almost passively
Enfold me
Like a warm loaf of bread

This morning

We wait quietly

-- Tom Rubenoff 


bonsai represents “tree”
but also is itself a tree
bent in the direction the wind, even if
imaginary, is blowing

scholar’s stone on the desk
shapes a terrain of cracks and slopes,
liftable mountain

the man who was my father
sits with his damaged hands
in his lap, searching
for a word

but still might make
a small joke
sarcastic and affectionate

although I don’t
remember what
he showed me
stars? fireflies?

and yet
it must have been
this world.

-- Miriam Sagan 

Pearl Street

moon in the serene sky of autumn

binge and purge
as it turns
over my restless sleep

in the oddly slanted apartment
off Prospect Avenue
you could drop a marble
and have it roll the length

past the old-fashioned
embroidered doilies
and a bookshelf holding

Poetics of Space

in its New England guise
towards the river

leaves swept back and forth
by an unhousewifely

the past cluttered with
its collections
its tiger lilies
its salt ponds

its betrayals

a glass of
white wine

the neighbor keeps bees
between triple deckers
sustained on thistle
and potted fuchsia, geranium, basil
gone to white flower

we both wonder
how much longer
this can go on

a habit of survival,
coffee drips,
the neighbor steals--collects-- the honey
and shares it
golden in a glass jar

famous poets die
along with the ones
who actually were our friends

you could drop
a marble
and see it roll
the length

          of what is

-- Miriam Sagan 


my eyes full of salt
where is the mirror that remembers?
there is no ointment
to salve time

once you loved me
I'm sure of it

you love me still
I'm sure of that also

if the stars chart a course
or you chart a course by the stars
open your hand
no palm reader knows braille

what I saw but didn't understand
what I didn't see
and everything hidden
that no dove or raven found in me.

-- Miriam Sagan 

On Learning a New Word Late in Life

Harold, I'm sorry to call you at three in the morning
but you're older than I am and you may have less time
to relish a word you may not have heard of.
It's "rejectamenta," and I stumbled upon it
early this morning when I couldn't sleep.
I wish I had found rejectamenta years ago.
It means exactly what you might think:
"matter rejected as useless or worthless."

Imagine how useful that word would have been
in our younger days as a weapon of choice.
I would have shouted it often when leaving a job
or leaving a nice woman who thought we should marry.
I would have extended my arm like Adolph and shouted
"Rejectamenta!" with the roar of "Sieg Heil!"

For the remainder of my life I will shout it when nettled.
I will shout it at the waiter in that Polish restaurant
the next time he plops pickled pigs feet
in front of me obviously short on gel.
I loathe those feet but the gel is marvelous.

We may be aging, Harold, but we have a word now
we can whip out of our quivers whenever we're miffed.
Perhaps the embalmer will tattoo it on my forehead
if my wife isn't looking, assuming she survives.
Carry on, Harold. The finish line is just ahead.

-- Donal Mahoney

Sundown at the Abbey

After a day in the fields
plowing and sowing,
the old monks see
sundown is near so
they put away tools,
clean up for supper.

It's soup and bread
torn from a loaf,
chunks of good cheese,
a rainbow of bright
fruit from the orchard,
coffee as black as tar.

There are 20 monks left,
slow and ailing, a drop
from a hundred or so
a few decades ago.
The harvest is small,
their lives still simple.

They work in the fields
and pray in the chapel.
But birds in the air
sometimes hear prayer
rise from the fields
and soar past them.

-- Donal Mahoney


The water spills,
she wrings the towel and softens it with soap.
Three years ago
 Ethiopia dried to a memory of sand.
She remembers a sky pale as bone
a long day’s walk and an empty pail.
 she has carried her love,
a continent of grief tendered to her fingertips,
its grip of pumiced stone.
Loss, she says, is understood,
it resides familiar as your mother’s long arms,
 that infant born bloody and still.
Now she whispers stories of a country filled with rain,
of green beginnings, moss thick as regret.
 She rinses the length of her back,
the stairway of her spine,
the room is full of women resurrected,
waiting out the slow and gentle flood.
In the far corner the ghost of her sister dances,
her mother raises her hands to each bright drop.
As the puddle beneath them grows
the dancers bare their ankles to the slow growing pool,
  embroidered hems sodden with leaves,
soaked with the memory of rain.
While outside the clustered roots of fir trees
search for a long forgotten river,
and  the thirsty music calls the water home.

-- Lisa McIvor

Mama Shoes

We have sorted through cupboards,
 filled boxes with sweaters still pungent with mothballs
winter coats redolent with musty wool and lavender.
Discarded the cookie tins silted with crumbs,
bottles murky with the last bit of hopeful syrup,
broken teacups, loose buttons,
errant lengths of string, mildewed books
the yellowed pages of twenty year old grocery lists.
Packed plates, the mismatched silverware,
sheets and pillowcases folded into envelopes of linen.
 In the new wideness
the walls seem white as morning,  And I think
as I move the last crate to its leaving place
So this is breathing, is it—
this quick intake of air,
and how the  space between each heartbeat
is the small quiet of an empty room.  Now begins
 the slow two step towards winter,
 already ice softly patterns the glass,
 birds are dark crumbs in the frosted yard.
Today is a certain color, a sweet ribbon of gold
along the treeline, a last reprieve of leaves.
On the small rug of burgundy and green there
are your shoes, twin boats of a  reclusive shade of red,
the shade of overripe berries or dusky wine,
 resting their emptiness
against each other by the door.

-- Lisa McIvor

Sleeping In Her Car:

The red vinyl
makes a narrow bed
between the steering wheel
and plastic bags tied with twine--
this is all she has left of her life.
Trying to sleep
She curls like a child
to the bulk of a mother’s lap,
imagines the faint musk of roses
in the moist and sealed air.
Easing her breath
to a small cave of warmth
she drifts for a moment,
dreams the streetlamp
is a round eye keeping watch, an owl-like gaze,
that the moon is somehow a gift
and just this small.
She has chosen this leafless shelter
and the branches glitter with frost, a naked forest.
It is a week before Christmas.
 She dreams of other winters,
when ice was the same as fire, the first time
 the curving of his fist and the way his fingers
 traced the hollow of her throat
became the same gesture,
interchangeable as apology
and tenderness. 

-- Lisa McIvor


What seems a window, an opening to rain,
allows the world to look in—and I,
a naked visitor, huddle
windswept in the bright august light,
ask for a tablecloth, a froth of lace to cover
an inch of pale belly, a bashful crease of thigh.
In hiding
 I have forgotten
to glimpse the mercy of the sky,
 or the way
 the gentleness of clouds move
to the shape of a gown, a shawl.
And the birds themselves—
How they hover on the slightest breeze
and do not fear
the murmured lattice of their own wings
or the feathered wonder of their skin.

-- Lisa McIvor

Butterfly Dreams

It was my fault
I fell in love that August afternoon.
The storm bullied through the bathroom window,
scattering bits of glass like glitter on the floor.
I befriended the wind, looked into his eyes
the color of stones, granite wet from rain,
his rough hands twisting my curls in a wild halo.
I believed the roaring of his voice meant love,
the way his kiss left me gasping.
 We whispered in weird collusion,
 laughed at the thought of iridescent bubbles
bouncing off the ceiling.
Who is frightened of a hurricane, I asked,
buoyant with trust--
if held in its very center-- if I believe
its very heart is a child?

 Dolphin-like we wrestled until
 the white porcelain tub overflowed
and we spilled onto the unromantic linoleum,
two unearthly beings: my beloved
 made of gray filament and stars,
 a man-cloud wearing feathers from jostled birds,
and I, crazy haired from passion, mascara smeared,
 a bathmat slung like a sarong around my hips.

We stumbled from our flood to find the hallway
had become a narrow path edged with trees,
branches sodden with moss and  memory,
an underwater world, a verdant blooming,
flowers the color of fish.
Fingers entwined, we knew each step forward
no matter how careful or quiet
led farther from the garden,  
that the world is a shallow cup and breakable.
 How the ocean, as fragile as the heart,
 holds only so much salt.

In the sudden forest of cinnamon air and emerald petals,
a hundred  butterflies and iridescent beetles
thirsty from the downpour,
nestled to dryness,
gave up their brief lives to the palm of our hands,
our terrible and empathetic hunger.
We chewed each one carefully,
each golden color and tiny bone
brittle against our teeth
 as though we were tasting flight,
the way sweetness and freedom
and love were words
made up of the most fragile and edible skeletons,
 the way the tiniest bodies
gave themselves away.

-- Lisa McIvor


Riding Schwinns in '56

You had to have a Schwinn
to lead this pack of boys
riding bikes full speed
baking under the Chicago sun
laughing after senior year
heading to the local park
to play a game of ball
or lob a cane pole
in the park lagoon
with stinkbait on the hook
to catch a bullhead,
cousin of the catfish,
small but just as tough.

Riding Schwinns was High Mass
in the summer after high school
before everyone would join the Army
or wait to be drafted.
Maybe one or two of us
had sober fathers working
and we would go to college.
I was one of those.
Going to college was something
I was told I'd do from third grade on.
So do the homework, my father said,
or he'd wash up and visit the nuns.

Korea ended not too long before.
Two guys ahead of us
would never ride a Schwinn again
or go to college on the GI Bill.
One guy did come back.
For years he walked in circles
around his family's back yard
smoking real Pall Malls,
unimpaired by filters, very long.
Butch was shell-shocked,
neighbors said.
We'd have to pray for him.
They didn't call it PTSD back then.

-- Donal Mahoney

The Samaritan Can Handle It

Ebenezer woke to find
rats in his basement
so he called PETA
to take them away
and the lady hung up
so Ebenezer prayed
and the doorbell rang
and there stood a preacher.
He waved a Bible,
yelled and screamed
"All you must do is believe
and you will be saved!"
and Ebenezer replied,
"I do believe but
what about the rats?"
The preacher smiled,
turned to leave and
tripped on the stairs.
He never moved,
his head a Vesuvius
lofting a spume of blood.
Ebenezer closed the door
and said to no one, "I believe
the Samaritan can handle it."

-- Donal Mahoney

Ruby Throat Madness

He paints hummingbirds not
for people to praise them,

ogle and grovel and buy them.
He paints them because

the birds come fluttering
one after another

and won't go away unless
he paints them, every hue.

They line up like planes
at a busy airport, hovering,

waiting their turn to be put
on canvas, made immortal,

one bird at a time,
framed and hung on a wall.

After hanging each painting
he cleans his brushes and whistles

and waits for the next one to come
and hover in front of his eyes.

He prays the last one will perch
on his brush and stay.

-- Donal Mahoney


President Sasha Obama was
Sworn in as I was  out test driving
Hybrid electric/solar carplanes
They got 500 miles  a charge and i
Only took two breaks traveling between
Portland Oregon and New York City
While I was flying, I thought of Shannon
An old crush from my college days, so i
Went on my Ivirtual and created a hologram
Of her; she looked like she was still 24, even though
She was 63, bright eyed, picket fence, suburban perfect
We had lunch at a restaurant in central park
100 stories above manhattan
Shannon told me she remembered the good old days
When she used to listen to Duran Duran cds
So I pulled out a cursor, pointed and Duran Duran
Appeared in the flesh, they played whatever songs she wanted
We had a 5 course meal, condensed into five capsules
Easy to swallow
Shannon looked youthful for someone
Heading towards retirement
The micro chip in my mind that held
The past was erased
I didn’t know of all the bad things that
Happened between us
Shannon was dressed in a black leather suit and could’ve
Been Catwoman’s twin
I borrowed my style from Captain Kirk
When Shannon complained about
The rain
I just pressed a few buttons on
My watch and it became sunny
We talked about how much he missed
Our parents
And wished we could tell them
About us
So I went on my phone
And called them
And we talked to them
As long as we wanted
Shannon’s smile even after 50 years
Never failed to leave me hypnotized
It was better than a scene from a
Steven King Novel
It was unthinkable once, to alter time or a moment
But now, you could

-- Erren Geraud Kelly