Wednesday 31 May 2023

One Poem by Philip Butera

 



The Reflection from a Million Mirrors Shattering

 

Introduction

 

Long past and far away, I came for me.

I had this fever with unimaginable imaginings of me, of every me.

For I am but the reflection from a million mirrors shattering, fortunate, and cursed.

Incompatible with nuance, confused by misunderstanding, I cannot find my way.

I realize what is and is not, and with sadness, I fear I cannot be.

In dreams of displeasure, falling Angels unfamiliar to themselves call to me.

I simmer in the distance awaiting the things to come.

 

One

 

Eclipsed by inconsistency, where do I flee?

Prometheus, his biceps bulging, calls me, “She will see you now.”

Then with a sorrowful grin, he adds, “I wish you luck.”

I never move.

Nevertheless, I am fumbling through existence, and everything reappears before it appears.

I stumble from a claustrophobic fury and find myself on a peaceful shore,

warm with satisfying waves.

I shout to the sun to stay above me, bathe me in nourishment,

but my voice is corralled before vocalization.

The sun becomes the moon, the shoreline a flowering valley between high peaks.

The wind brings on a chill.

Nothing has meaning, just insistence, a persistent heart beats without remorse.

Wrapped into circles, circling, I plod through awareness.

Daffodils, buttercups, and marigolds cushion my fall.

I always wanted to be where I was going, beyond thought, beyond thinking,

beyond where essence and madness dissolve.

 

Two

 

False images charm as metaphors slither, but a cavalier vibrancy sweeps them away

from a cascading sky.

Hera spies on herself, uncovering all pretence.

I am getting nearer to where there is only stillness.

Above me, on a cloud made of soft, soothing textures, Gods enjoy

what they had forgotten they desired.

They cannot see me; I must be known to myself before I can be known to them.

I am an impression of myself, a clue about to be revealed.

Something sculptured from marble, painted on canvas, or words on paper.

A cacophony of misty bewilderment swirls and thunder sounds,

yet the bright blue sky remains silent.

Nothing has a voice, and what can be understood is unremarkable.

That astuteness needed, that delicate, varied, and dimensional aliveness

only fate can deliver, is still evolving.

 

Three

 

Charon, the ferryman across the river Styx, asks me to board.

His emotions are alive on another’s face.

He looks past what is to what must be.

With large muscular arms on his oar, he says, “Justice is a human creation.”

He hands me a two-headed black and yellow lizard,

he quips, “I use her to navigate the unfolding of hypocrisy. Trust her when Poseidon interferes on your journey into doubt.”

 

Four

 

Thetis, the future mother of Achilles,

tells me as she has defended Zeus, she will guide me into the domain

I most covet to be.

Her breasts are heavy, and I begin to drink.

She is all the women I have known and desired.

When I have consumed my fill, she wipes my mouth,

swallows the lizard, and spreads her long legs.

All mythology is a concept I am creating.

Thetis’ vaginal lips bring me inside her, and the warm moistness blesses me.

There is no absence within her womb, and benevolent sleep

lasts before time and after existence.

My journey has begun.

 

Five

 

DaVinci is lying back, his hands behind his head.

He envisions Camus writing, “L’Etranger.”

He gazes at me, then sits up, asking, “Are you the one who knows why?”

I am mystified at the sprinkling of actual thought permeating his presence.

Naked and alive without encumbrance, I ask, “Am I here?”

His laughter is so loud, long, and innocent small birds gather within

and make nests.

They chirp without fear of being,

and their song develops into a theme Mozart would capture

in a time absent at the moment.

Finally, after several stars become languid moments of belief,

he responds, “No, Plato’s forms are yet to have boundaries.”

Torches appear, and poetic words determine my direction.

Venus, on a swing, glides past above me.

I try to reach for her, but I lose my narrative.

She melts into the skyline, an illusory dreaminess tinged with impending storms.

 

Six

 

In me, not that me, but this me defined by a perfectionistic ideology for being

fills my curious persona.

“It is time,” laments DaVinci.

Prometheus puts the dice in my mind and into my hand.

All love affairs come to mind, all triumphs come to mind, and risk comes to mind.

Expressionless faces stare, mythological figures, fictional characters, and Gods in their finery,

relentless in their depth, view landscapes of the soul I may be given.

There is nothing, not even gloom, yet I remain unbroken.

 

Seven

 

No sounds are heard, though sad music plays, a dirge full of suspense.

Sjöfn, the Nordic goddess of love, nude and seductive, demands I kneel.

She wraps her legs tightly around my neck and places her sword on my lips.

Irrational within a paradox, a dispute about myself escapes from a tragedy

into an inquisitional quandary.

The crowd does not appear in an arena that does not exist,

yet the roar gains momentum, “Roll the dice.”

The eyes of Prometheus become flames.

The lizard hisses, she knows the problem is tenderness, not fear.

 

Eight

 

The dice tumble, tumble, and turn.

They bounce.

Dots are lines, dots are blurs, and dots are deciders.

Hera leads the procession, and Aphrodite follows.

One die twirls, the other winds around, the shouting is frenzied.

Sjofn, so blonde, so fair, so perfect, so icy, just giggles,

a tinkling, devilish snicker, as nightfall overtakes darkness,

and nightmares overtake dreams.

The dice roll, they roll.

I confess I am nameless.

Rainbows of words cloud my view.

That is when I realize I will forever be wandering within a storm,

this two-fisted tempest and the next, and the next.

 

Nine

 

Athena, understanding complexity is a pleasure,

never a burden, immediately removes the numbers from the dice.

A herd of magnificent multicoloured mares gallops past.

They blend into abstraction- a painting, a symphony, and a poem.

Everything past is a memory of the future.

 

Ten

 

Charon’s ferry slowly leaves the cold waters for the negative after-image of eternity.

When my lizard crawls from the soft womb of Thetis, it has another head, red and crimson.

This head devours the others, and the lizard is furious about its demise.

It digs its claws into my thoughts.

And I, uncertain about my self-awareness

but knowing imagination is reason courting fantasy,

disappear.




Philip Butera received his Masters's Degree in Psychology from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. He has published four books of poetry, Mirror Images and Shards of Glass, Dark Images at Sea, I Never Finished Loving You, and Falls from Grace, Favor, and High Places. His fifth, Forever Was Never On My Mind, will be out Summer of 2023. Two novels, Caught Between (Which is also a 24 episodes Radio Drama Podcast https://wprnpublicradio.com/caught-between-teaser/and Art and Mystery: The Missing Poe Manuscript. His next novel, an erotic thriller, Far From Here, will be out Fall of 2023. One play, The Apparition. His current project is collaborating with a British photographer, a French artist, and an American graphic artist to produce a coffee table book in praise of Women. Philip also has a column in the quarterly magazine Per Niente. He enjoys all things artistic.

Two Poems by Snigdha Agrawal

 



Dissenting Voices


"I am colour coded, weighed, stickered for identification.
Isn't that racial discrimination?
Flung around, x-rayed, and scanned
before I pass the rigorous test
moved on to the belt
At times forced open under suspicion
of holding mass weapons of destruction
Unclothed and haphazardly dressed
To bring some order of semblance
Loaded with the rest in the undercarriage
Coloured and white
All sizes and shapes.
And at the end of it
I look like a tramp
battered, broken, joints bent.
Take my word, there is no worse
humiliation than what I face"
...they chorused in unison with hands raised.

Those hands I straightened, put back into place and responded...

"Done! I've heard you.
First I'll get you fixed
Your injuries attended
And then you can rest in your
resting place, unreachable, till you start getting restless.
Don't then crib and whine about loneliness
of being left good as dead."
So, saying put away the luggage in the overhead lofts.
But I too had something to share with the four complainants.

"You're not alone in this my friends.
I too suffer mental and physical abuses
My body trying its best to adjust to time-zone differences
Eating and pooping when I should have slept
Bodily functions impacted

As for going through rigorous checks
So, do I
At every point of entry and exit
Made to take off jackets, belts, and ornaments
Occasionally taken aside for body frisking
Of course, with permission
Some of them with poker faces, some with smiles
as if to say 'Relax...there is no shame
it's a job that has been entrusted
Dictated by the system

Some friskers going overboard,
complimenting the exposed tattoos
on arms and legs.
Made to stand with legs apart,
hands crossed overhead
locked in a glass cage
while cameras whir around
capturing images of private parts
Invasion of privacy, isn't it?
Meekly comply, to be over with it.
It's the system!

One may ask, what kind of system is this
which fails to detect drug dealers
yet picks up the innocents for body checks?

At least you are spared
standing in mile-long queues
to wait for immigration clearance.
then walk through the green channel
unless sniffer dogs mistakenly
pick up the smell of protein bars
as contraband goods and that
makes you turn red in the face
It's the system!

When finally, we meet
at the baggage carousel
after an interminable wait
you look dishevelled
and I am equally peeved
after hours of travel.
It's the system!



Portrait of Her



On the mantlepiece
There she was
Immaculately attired
Not a hair out of place
Swept off her forehead
Knotted tightly into a chignon
A fixed smile on her face
Manicured hands folded
neatly on her lap placed
Shoulders straight
Neck upright
Picture of perfection

Nah!
Something was amiss
Those love-softened
kohl-lined eyes
was for the galleries
Behind it were stories
of failure and grief
covered up with finesse
Like an artist's brush strokes
over mistakes committed
A discerning eye would
have quickly noticed

Those sleeved arms
with frills at the wrists
a camouflage
hiding the needle marks
of drugs injected
marijuana, heroin, cocaine
whatever gave her a high
forgetting the daily torture
of being labelled
'Good for nothing
She failed  to live
up to expectations!

Let them remember
what they wish to erase
absolving their guilt
and all that it entailed
So, she faked it all up
To look ethereal
To strike that pose
Giving false impression
Rearranging her thoughts
As the shutterbugs 
went click...click...click
Frozen for eternity!




Snigdha Agrawal (nee Banerjee) has an MBA in Marketing and Corporate work experience of over two decades. She enjoys writing all genres of poetry, prose, short stories, and travel diaries. Brought up in a cosmopolitan environment, and educated in Convent Schools run by Irish Nuns, she has imbibed the best from Eastern and Western cultures. 

She is the published author of four books.

1. TRAIL MIX Short Stories, published in 2023 by Authorspress Publishing House.  Available on Amazon. in

2. MINDS UNPLUGGED Lockdown Stories and Rhymes for the Six to Sixteen"(2021),

3. EVOCATIVE RENDERINGS (2017) Book of poems

4. TALES OF THE TWINS unsung melodies"(2018).

She is a regular contributor to Anthologies published in India and the USA and online magazines.

Apart from writing, she is an intrepid global traveller.  Her travel diaries can be accessed on her blog randomramblings52.wordpress.com.



Nine Poems by Rustin Larson

 



SEAPLANE

 

My father pointed out the seaplane flying

in the clear blue sky over Lake Michigan.

We were at the Great Lakes Naval Station

and he wanted to show me where he finally

grew up in the Navy's boot camp.

 

The seaplane grumbled over the Lake

and tilted its wings in a turn. I chewed

on a bologna sandwich and drank

from a bottle of Orange Crush. The wind

was cold off the lake, even though

it was summer. I wore a small white

commander's cap and a navy blue

sweater. There was the sound of furious

typewriting echoing from an open window.

 

We returned to the Chevy to let the sun

warm us through the glass and to finish

our lunches. “Look at that!” my father said.

He'll land right on the water!”

Like a mosquito landing in a pool

of wine. “What was the war like, Dad?”

He stared at the seaplane. His wide eyes remembered.

I saw many places and many things

I would not have otherwise seen,” he said.

Did you have any friends?” I asked.

Lots,” he said. “Some of them I met right here.”

 

He turned on the radio and they played

something old, old. “Well I'll be darned,”

he said. He chuckled and he started the Chevy

and we drove all the way back to Iowa.


I eyed the hood ornament as we flew along.

It was a silver jet. It flew low, sometimes below

the tips of the cornfields, sometimes level

with the water of rivers we crossed.

 

 

CIRCUS

 

My dad had this little maneuver.

When his shirt became untucked,

he would unbuckle and unzip

his pants and then file his shirttails

down aft and fore and then redo

himself, even if it was in the middle

of a store. Besides being embarrassing

to me, it freaked my mom out.

Virgil, what in the hell are you doing?

This is J.C. Penney's!” Just shoving

the tails discreetly into the engine room

was not enough, I began to call

his ritual “The Wild Thing.”

Does your old man still do

The Wild Thing?” Rhonda asked me

when I offered free tickets

to the Shriner's Circus.

No thanks,” she said.

Who could blame her?

So there I was among the orangutans

and clowns and elephants

and there was ensign Virg

whistling “Anchors Aweigh,”

stuffing his moss-green shirttails

into his unbuckled Dickie's

as the lions panted and their eyes

became alert and 120 clowns

spilled one by one from a smoking

Isetta and howled and laughed

and shot blanks from muskets.

 

 

THE FORT

 

Twelve hours later, I am at work staring

at Mike Johnson's sonnet that says, “Wondrous

wake in deathless glory.” I told them

I'd be pall bearer after all since they promised

no strain on my knee. I'm testing the miracles

and the curses. It's cooling down, not quite

but close to autumn. My mother would

come in from outside with a red bandana

over her head and touch my face with her cold

hands and say, “Brrrrrrr. October”.

Today its like a tepid bath. Maybe in about

an hour, I could have noticed the street lights

blinking on in our old neighbourhood,

right above our rural style mailbox.

I have dreams that it's the middle of the night

and I'm pulling my father's mail from the box,

and there are packages addressed to me also,

decades old, copies of books containing

things I had written. I never knew they wanted

them; now here they are. Nervous grey cats

stare at me from the bushes. I see their eyes

glowing. I know my mother and father

are only ghosts in the house now,

but I still bring in their mail and place it

on the telephone table. I step to the liquor

shelf above the refrigerator and open it

and look at the bottles, the one of crème

de menthe my mother loved, green and fluted

with a genie living inside of it. But it's my father's

whisky I pour a glass of. A small one. I drink

its burn and feel mellow as Thanksgiving.

And now my brother is gone too, and now

I can't see myself in the bathroom mirror.

 

 

TEMPEST

 

I wake and notice my father has parked

On the shoulder and is now outside

Watching warplanes dogfight

In and out of huge billowing brown clouds:

Lightning, thunder, planes, missiles,

fiery explosions. Debris clatters on the highway.

 

As the battle ends, a massive invasion

Of brown moths erupts. They themselves

Had been the clouds; they drag the ground

With a whirr, a leaf-like clattering.

Their bodies drift like brown snow, bury everything.

 

When I awake a second time, I am in bed

Sitting up, slumping on a stack of pillows.

Ice crystals tap against the window

And I reach for a glass of water.

I had been the same age as my father in that dream.

We had been travelling west.

 

 

THE HOBBYIST

 

Tunnel of brown glazed tiles

Leading down to where? Steady

High-pitched drip of water

Near the bottom. At the desk

Of the evil scientist, or part-time janitor,

Are these things: a folded pair of eyeglasses,

A pile of beige rubber bands, a Bakelite

Coffee mug, black, two old baseball cards,

Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, a dispenser

Of hand cream, a small campfire

Of ballpoint pens, pencils

With their erasers eaten away, dented

Thermos jars, clipboards noting

The physical characteristics of moles

And shrews, paper the size

Of poker cards numbered 73 to 80

In large black type, a thermometer,

Empty jug of apple juice, stapler,

Phone, dirty magazine. There are four

Drawers jammed with belongings pilfered

From student lockers: scarves,

Pills, reefers, textbooks, condoms, cigarettes,

Candy bars. There is a wrench

That fits only one thing that is not in the room,

That is parked far away near his ex-wife’s

Flower plot, and is permanently and forever broken.

 

 

THE URGE TO PAINT

 

I want to paint, lay on

Colours from tubes,

Toothpaste dollop of yellow cadmium

On the edge of a small knife

Rasped onto canvas.

I tell you my father with teeth

Is still breathing. You

Zip him up to his stocking cap

Inside a brown sleeping bag

In a second story room

I do not own. He is grateful

When I free him, but I notice

He is quite decayed and you

Were right. I paint

The blue and white mix I call

Oxygen. I inhale

And exhale as I scrape the paint

Across the canvas’s sky, horizon,

Ocean, destruction. My father

Insists we had sped the light

To such a degree that the earth

Is no longer distinguishable

Or necessary. He reaches inside

His sweater for a lighter

And then sets his body to flames.

 

 

GHOSTS

 

There is the story of the bride who caught fire

brushing the candelabra, who took a tumble

down the marble staircase, who broke her neck

on her wedding day. She continues to haunt

the hotel, dancing alone in the ballroom

as the elderly Scottish bellman, also a ghost,

applauds kind-heartedly. “Poor lass,” he mutters

to himself. “Poor wee lass.”

 

There is the woman with the wild poodle's hair

who haunts the library. She insists I find the book

on The Ecstatic Dance which we do not own.

At night I watch an episode where everyone

catches an aphasia virus and starts speaking

coffee house poetry from the 1950s.

My Kleenex takes a nap on the table

and looks like a weary ghost.

 

The money in the coin pouch has touched

so many hands, some of whom are no longer

living. I can hear the mouse singing in the rafters,

a soft song like an anaemic wren.

 

I keep meeting myself as a child who walks

with no shoes down the burning sidewalk, seeking out

the curbing for patches of wet grass, passing

the telephone company's local nerve centre,

the door propped open for the heat,

the women inside with their headsets

and black spaghetti of cables and plugs

and switches. One of them once scolded me

when I made a prank call to a neighbour.

I pretended I knew about Harry who was betting

on the horses. “You don't know my Harry!”

The woman laughed. I hung up and a few seconds

later the phone rang. The jig was up.

All those telephone workers are dead

or in the nursing home now, but one of them

scared the bejesus out of me. Her voice

was so stern and cold and I could tell

her name was Phyllis and she wore

a blue print dress of maple leaves and sharp branches.

 

 

INSTRUCTION

 

In first grade my hands would sweat pools

onto the fake blond woodgrain

of my desk. Math classes made me tense.

They warped my spine and made my neck hurt.

Lift up the curtain of stars and show me

the King's magic exit. They served chili

in Styrofoam cups and offered tiny half-pint

bottles of milk. We ate on mess hall tables

that folded up and were wheeled away

through the gymnasium as recess began

and we beat each other with jump ropes

and blew ground chalk powder into each other's

eyes. I can still smell those blue tiled corridors

mopped daily with disinfectant to keep

us pure. I see the tall nurse in her white

sweater and the red cross pin on her lapel.

I see our hedgehog principal whose name

was Violet. I see our Polish Phys Ed instructor,

Mr. Jotsky, with his net bag of volleyballs,

and with his black whistle dangling from his neck.

We called ourselves “The Hawks” and wore

dark blue sweatshirts on the cold soccer field,

and ran back and forth chasing a black and white

ball made of patchwork pentagons.

We were allowed one point per score.

Stingy. Ungenerous. I visit this place

occasionally in my mind, not frequently,

but just enough to remind me to alter

the details the next time I live through it,

to do something violent or to do something

kind, to alter the axis, to fiddle with the outcome,

to change the scenery. I once sat wide-eyed

exclaiming to my sister we had lived

this 1000 times previously, exactly

the same way each time.

She and I were convinced it was time for a change.

 

 

AMISH GROCERY

 

So many Amish people. The women work

at the checkout and behind the meat

counter and at the deli counter, all wearing

their lacy caps and modest blue and lavender

dresses. They are polite. I order

a lot of sliced turkey and roast beef.

The prices are remarkable. That's why

I stock up on everything: beans,

chicken, spinach, cucumbers, grapes

lemons, lettuce and so on. I buy several

bags of bulk pasta, consider the aisle

dedicated to powdered flavourings

and nuts and snack crackers. Do these people

vote? Do they have a political life?

What do they think of Donald Trump?

Do they elect their own private Amish president?

They take our money but it's more than fair.

Everything is so cheap today and well lit

and clean; it seems like hundreds

of people are shopping. I keep my eyes

glued to the basket and the task,

otherwise the scene of people moving

around like cattle becomes unnerving.

I know outside it is warm, the kind

of early summer day people rejoice,

get naked, ride motorcycles

to their deaths in vine-tangled and unnamed

creeks and ravines. Some kid waits

outside the store patting a beagle.

Is that your doggie? No, I'm just watching

him. Who are you watching him for?

I don't know. The beagle wanders away.

Seems to live here, has the run of the street.

A woman in a wheelchair looks sideways

at the potted pansies on a rack outside.

A man waters them.




Rustin Larson's poetry appears in the anthology Wild Gods (New Rivers Press, 2021). Recent poems have appeared in London GripPoetry East, The LakePoetryspacePirene's Fountain, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal. His chapbook The Cottage on the Hill was published by Cyberwit.net in April of 2022.

He is on faculty in Maharishi International University's MFA in Creative Writing program. 


Five Poems by Maria Downs

  A WHISTLE UPON THE AIR So to hear the soft – throated,   bird sing, from its note form those words,   like flowers of spring flowing...