Don Brennan – Amtrak Overnight

Amtrak Overnight
by Don Brennan

Whoever pinned stars against the L.A. night holds me captive in a window seat until the desert mountains show their teeth.

Joshuas raise arms like followers of Vodoun performing sacred rites along the tracks. Hunted creatures creep beneath the sage, lying low, drawing unnoticed conclusions about surviving time and space.

Hesitant serpents complain, tongues traversing the four directions, stalking last light through trailer parks. An occasional cloud of dust appears at my window to roll unsettled eyes, then vanishes. A late watch of nightingale sings to us at a rest stop, restoring order in the grip of electric wires.

Sleep, an obsessed thief whose time is running out, interferes with my meditations, and consciousness gets lost attempting astral flight at the faltering speed of a train.

An angry woman, having somehow soaked her only pair of socks in cream soda, rages into my sleep. Unfamiliar men, painfully young and drunk on absurdity, play dominoes ‘til dawn.

Restless children begin to dance with daylight and colouring books on the leading edge of New Mexico. Outside my window, mesquite and mourning dove listen to a steel train cry at sunrise. The scalding surface of a cup of coffee at my touch, trembles through a long curve.

Self Portrait by Ronald Linder

Self Portrait
by Ronald Linder

Crooked mouth,
       trying to smile
              be serious.

Eyes trying to

Less fur
       every year.

Lips outlined

The flowering of
              a limp.

       glance, open


Notes from the Isle of Langerhans by Siham Karami

Notes from the Isle of Langerhans
by Siham Karami

Drops of blood,
symbols of
the body’s vanished balancing.
Its scale dissolved,
the dial turned
to rising flood, each morsel
and reduced
to elemental measuring
whose chemist left
us all at sea —

our limping dogs,
our pirate logs,
our charts and tables
washed ashore,
where we lived
by tides, windblown fields
and sweeps of stars, until
shipwrecked: our sails flag
each daily calibration
gone awry, we drag
our calculations through
exhausting sand
to live by weighing
drops of blood.

Coming Back from the Dead by Rob Jacques

Coming Back from the Dead
by Rob Jacques

Cancer cut out of you, you now get up
reeling and reeking of combinations:
soured urine and meds, pungent sweat
and close, sick-room air. Your IV
dangles as a tube on a chrome stick
as you shuffle around your bed dizzy,
phlegm thick, gait unsteady, family
watching your wan progress worried.

But you inside of you know the score,
the climbing up, back out of death,
bits of a grave’s earth still clinging
to body parts you aren’t sure you’ll
use again anytime soon. You know
more of life now than you do death,
how it’s made, pleasure’s shadings
that run from an ecstasy of coffee
to a hilarity of watching a squirrel
outfox a neighbor to win birdseed.

Greatness no longer fascinates, nor
does fame hold a candle to pizza
with extra tomato sauce and olives.
Wealth exists no more in finance,
and love’s physical arousal is nice
but unessential to wedding oneself
to life. Thank God. You are given
a message to deliver to Nineveh:
All you have within you is enough
to laud, to learn, to experience,
to come to each day unconcerned.

Intern by Rob Jacques

by Rob Jacques

The doctor is in, and he’s young, unafraid of what he reads
in textbook after textbook, CD after CD and, for all I know, DVDs.
He sees my charts, notes by doctors long gone to other tasks
in the great diaspora of professional development. The doctor
has big brown eyes, softer than they ought to be, his lips full
for kisses I suspect he hasn’t found the time to perfect,
given his dedication to learning his lip-tightening work,
and his hair has a boyish “wet look,” thicker than mine,
a forelock cutely spilling, the one haphazard thing about his mien
that betrays his vulnerability toward me and what I bring.

He speaks a long word and points to some tome’s page open
before him, asks me what I think is wrong. “Age,” I say,
a much shorter word than his, and easy. He’s earnest as only
the young are earnest, and intense. And just a little queasy
dealing with “elder care” when pediatrics offers lasting results,
a future that isn’t there for us wandering the sullen terrain
of age’s Ultima Thule. I smile at his sitting here so displeased.
I want to tell him it’s okay, it’ll be fine. I want to praise,
but it’s a generational thing he’ll learn yet decades away.
Then he’ll know. Then he, as I, will be eased into death
singularly forgiving, lost in an old person’s appraising daze.

Hide and Seek by Claudia Gary

Hide and Seek
by Claudia Gary

After Pavel Tchelitchew, “Cache-Cache” (Hide and Seek), 1940-42, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Young girl with butterfly before a tree,
or entering the tree, or the broad hand-
shaped shadow it enfolds: You could be me.
Half-hidden faces watch and understand,
their features frozen and their pulses brisk,
how they and you and I must be connected.
The tree becomes a cave where you will risk
losing yourself to find what you expected.

Then why pursue it anyway? you ask
these children, infants, who surround the womb
concealing, nourishing you for the task
of self-discovery. It’s here you’ll bloom.

Without forgetting hurt, you may forgive
and re-examine life. Then you can live.

narcissus you find in your mirror and learn to live with by Edward Mycue

narcissus you find in your mirror and learn to live with
by Edward Mycue

you don’t have to be sober to be free of your self-addiction
what’s oppositional makes for a wide circle
there may be many things you can’t envision.

make a finger novena.
i invented the finger novena: you make a wish on 9
fingers 9 times imploring the BVM or Siddhartha or
dead friends to channel something you are sticking on.
then you do a clog-like dance step, go all forgetting &
blank, and hope you wake up with an answer—as if
waiting for the daily mail to bring you news of an
unknown endowment or some other kind of groovy-
cool inheritance (along with a release from joint ache, a
head of hair, pecs, abs, ability to sing and play the piano).

you never can ‘no’
but sometimes yes
you have to proceed
by darn and by guess.

learn to love, your itchy, twitchy, goofy, self-image.
accept your shadow-self without feeling a martyr.

if the heat goes off, just put on more clothes.
when it gets too cold, it’s time to smash the mirror.

Olivera Street by Ronald Linder

Olivera Street
by Ronald Linder

We wanted to walk on the only cobbles in L.A.,
Smell the yellow clay gourds, lacquered chilies,
Get away from a wife and an old lover,
Feel the thud of guitars on our chests,
Eat corn meal and spiced rolled beef,
Like families in the picnic ads…
you felt so good you teased me
into having my fortune told
(as if the rules had room for us) …
she said she could tell I had something to hide,
reading my eyes, or the sweat in my palms,
or looking at you smiling beside me,
but we didn’t care—we’d lost our tickets back
and forgot where we came from—
just two of the hundreds trying
to be for a while like the others.

Lines in Baked Clay by Jerome Betts

Lines in Baked Clay
by Jerome Betts

(From an aerial photograph of a Roman site)

Between the trees, the soil dries out and splits,
Smelling of apples perfumed by the sun;
In warm bruised fruit the wasps fret browning pits.
Over the orchard hedge, the furrows run
Towards the ghost that troubles ranks of maize
Whose tassels dip, rise, dip, to mark the stone
Parching their growth, the pavements, drains and ways.
Now, where they cross, an oak-tree stands alone.
A plane still quarters, as the light turns gold,
To read the landscape’s labyrinth of lines
And flesh out tales the scraps of Samian told,
The blank brown sockets touched by plunging tines
And coins’ dumb faces that the ploughman found
Where the winged shadow ripples without sound.

Acoustics by Bryan Borland

by Bryan Borland

More than your shirt and your dog I knew
when you left your guitar you’d return

This was in the early days of us
before the certainty of Sunday morning coffee

Now when I come home from work
I am learning not to think it’s the radio

I am schooling myself the proper response
when you potion my day into song

I study the science of your voice
the geometry of chords cradled by your throat

the angles that retract with words
you must read again and again the same

as you read a new lover’s body to learn why it shakes
when he is not cold or how his chapped lips betray him

in smile or how his legs go rigid just before sleep
or how it’s of no use to question while he plays

I fall into bed wearing sheet music on my bare chest
You make clefs from tufts of my hair.