Ian C. Smith – Time, that stalker

Ian C. Smith
Time, that stalker

In a Vancouver youth hostel, exhausted after hitchhiking from Kingston, N.Y. to the Labrador Straits then backtracking via Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, across the Canadian prairie below the widest sky lodged in memory, to the Rockies, beyond to Alaska, before sleeping on deck through the Inside Passage’s fog to Vancouver Island, I see one-way trans-Atlantic tickets from Seattle drastically discounted pulsating on the notice board. Almost broke because I miscalculated the exchange rate, we need to get back to our moulding caravan and wreck of a car in rain-swept Kent.

The English couple selling the tickets have a double-barrelled surname that includes ours. My flimsy invention if challenged is we both prefer using shorter, easier, versions of our names for our passports. I understand those novels about spies with nowhere left to hide as we hitchhike south, walking through the border into the U.S. where we were earlier declared aliens after a dodgy employment fiasco, to reach the airport with many hours to spare.

Time creeps in dusty light, the concourse gradually busier. Our (their?) flight pushes in, top of the board. Houston, then London. Or not. Or what? Led away by security? The flight continues to Paris, romantic in autumn, but we crave the shelter of our makeshift base, fidgety waiting for the queue to lengthen.

Sweat cooling, we clear Customs and Immigration to the boarding lounge, hazy runways seen through glass dreamlike, a faint whine that could be a police siren a taxiing jet heard from our almost soundproof safety. Illness racks her high over the Atlantic, a reaction caused by my guilty hubris. Fearing a wasted life I can’t know that one day I shall edit this faded news alone, trying to recall if I knew at heart she had not wanted to share my yearning journey.

Gene Groves – Hanging On

Gene Groves
Hanging On

It is compartmentalized,
placed in a plastic tray with the items at airport security.
Watch, purse, mobile, shoes, handbag
do not completely fill the space.
There is room for pain at the edge
to slide along a conveyor belt
through the detecting machine,
invisible to enquiring eyes.
It walks with her through the arch
rings no bells there.
She holds her arms out,
clothes are patted,
her hair mussed.
She is told she is okay,
can collect her baggage.
She wishes she could leave it behind.

Gene Groves – Contemporary Issues in Estuarine Physics

Gene Groves
Contemporary Issues In Estuarine Physics

You called me your beautiful woman of the estuary
a poet’s take on darling
This was not an issue.

We were physical then
This was not an issue.

Never my contemporary
I joked about your five-year lead,
said the age gap was too great
though this was not an issue.

At every estuary I think of you
beautiful, bare.

On these edgelands
across seaswept spaces
sand blows into our eyes.
We do not see clearly.

Elvis Alves – The search for home

Elvis Alves
The search for home

We escape to find space to
settle the mind. Where is
home away from home?
There, relief abounds and
sleep is not a stranger. In
this land, birds sing sweet
songs. The seasons are
long and mellow. Mother
Nature, too, can learn to
behave — somewhere far
from here.

Elvis Alves – For Victims of Natural Catastrophes

Elvis Alves
For Victims of Natural Catastrophes

We cross the river to the other side where a mother
and child wait for the sun before going forward. The

new day a promise fulfilled to them. And us. So we
celebrate life every day because a catastrophe can

happen without a moment’s notice. Uprooting. To
transport the will where it does not want to go.

A stubbornness unfamiliar only in its familiarity,
like a counterpart that is part of the whole.

Life happens with intrusions. It is true that every-
thing breaks and needs fixing. An answer that precedes

the question that births it. There is a fate
that becomes you and that you need to make.

Claudia Gary – Exurbia

Claudia Gary
Exurbia

It’s dark when I leave the railcar.
Commuters cross
where steel tracks merge with the pavement
in rows of grooves.

A car in an ill-lit corner
wakes to my key,
conducts me over an old bridge,
ascends the bank,

winds into a town, a driveway
with the same cracks
as when I pulled out this morning.
A filled mailbox.

Which end of the line is my life?
Feet on the ground,
I think of the day I moved here,
the reasons why.

In the backyard, tall willows
and maples cast
shadows on what I wanted:
houses for wrens,

bluebirds and purple martins;
a green foothold
away from the ruling business,
but not too far.

Bryan R. Monte – Italian Village Wants Migrants Back

Bryan R. Monte
Italian Village Wants Migrants Back

is the newspaper story’s headline
about a village at Rome’s latitude,
but on the opposite coast,
where old, cracked church bells
clank tinnily through thin mountain air,
and the villagers, who petitioned
to have migrants removed
before they’d even met them,
now want them back.

Tourists drive straight through
this place in just a few minutes
on their way to the Adriatic,
the surrounding towns emptying out,
centuries-old, earth-tone exteriors
shuttered, boarded up, then abandoned.
Nothing here except a post office
a city hall, two churches,
a war plaque and a soldier’s statute
next to a fountain in the square,
and two main streets named after
the general and the king who united Italy.

These villagers realized too late
that after decades they finally had
enough hands to work the fields,
enough players for a football team
enough voices for a village choir
and enough bums on benches to fill both
a Catholic mass and a Baptist service
to keep the church bells ringing.
So now, they are petitioning again—
and praying—to get their migrants back.

Bryan R. Monte – Borderlands

Bryan R. Monte
Borderlands

My people are from the borderlands:
Alsatian bricklayers in France, then Germany, then France
Prussian farmers in Germany, then Poland, then Germany

Tyrolean miners in Bavaria, then Austro-Hungary, and finally Italy.
Not to forget the Lago Maggiore Italian fisher/farmers
with their stories of horse ‘trading’ along the Swiss border.

They came from villages with two names
or regions that switched rulers and/or languages
a few hours ride up, down, or across the map.

I grew up in Cleveland on Lake Erie’s southern shore
where I listened to the Top 40 from Windsor, Ontario
and thought everyone in America accepted Canadian coins

until I gave a Columbus, Ohio cashier
a moosehead quarter. She slapped it back
in my hand with a: ‘What the hell is this?’

My ancestors always lived and worked on the edge
of one place or another, waiting for a chance
to finally settle somewhere well in the middle.

Bob Ward – Down the Seg

Bob Ward
Down the Seg

Come inside if you must
   accept the supposed risk.
Not much to see, is there?
Blank walls, cardboard furniture
   – the barest of necessities.
I’m banged up here for my own
   good riddance, you might say,
   since I fell down a crack in the law
   that’s becoming a cesspit.
Then a guy in my last place,
   having a grudge against me,
   put out faked-up rumours
   that roused hyenas on the wing
   – they’d catch you in the shower.
Though the system’s eased me on,
   those rumours followed me,
   the pack still on my trail,
   so, I’m cornered in the Seg.
The Warder’s got me a 15 minute
   watch but I’ll not be talking
   suicide – at least, not yet . . .

Just do me a favour:
   when you’re clear back outside
   breathe in some fresh air for me.

Note: In prison lingo ‘Seg’ refers to the Segregation Unit, where disruptive inmates are placed to cool their heels and th0se at risk go for their own protection.

Ann Cefola – The Beauty of Distorted Vocals

Ann Cefola
The Beauty of Distorted Vocals

       — After talk box in Frampton Comes Alive! double album (1976)

I could have said no.

Continued winding up the marble staircase of the library facing the green,
its circular window an eye on the blue smudge of Long Island Sound.
Bust of Christina Rossetti at top, students asleep or reading in chairs.

I choose a carrel, pull out my poetry or French book and write

an explication du texte. My destiny to be a Plath who lived, in my sweater, kilt,
and penny loafers. Crushes on my brother’s friends; yes, also there that year.
What I want is their confidence, selfhood. Why Christina — what did she write?

I glance at blank alabaster eyes,

work on a literary journal whose hard-drinking editor models himself after Jack Paar.
Interview Daniel Berrigan, who hates my freshman pluck, argyle knee socks.
Plan to study poetry with William Meredith when

she asks me to come home.

I am her best friend. I feel out of time, not daughter nor student but bust of an unlived life.
I read the Bible. Something about honouring one’s mother. Apparently I am Ruth,
telling Naomi I will go wherever she wants. My brother and father shake their heads.

I remember the wah-wahs of Frampton,

talk-box electric along our spines on the amplified green where girls in paisley glide;
guys diving for far-tossed Frisbees, leather fringe and sunlit locks flying.
It is still the ’60s although mid-’70s.

We were on the edge of our lives, Christina.

Something inside me wild and free but more stone within a comet flung off course
by heavenly bodies it neither knows nor understands, sparking unheard,
that freezing, scatters and burns.