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Poetry Winter 2016    fiction    all issues


Cover Joel Filipe

Alexander McCoy
Questions to Ask a Mountain
& other poems

Alexandra Kamerling
& other poems

Debbie Hall
She Walks Into Starbucks Carrying a 2 x 4
& other poems

Michael Fleming
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
Sheet and Exposed Feet
& other poems

Melissa Cantrell
& other poems

Martin Conte
& other poems

AJ Powell
The Road to Homer
& other poems

Paul W. Child
World Diverted
& other poems

Michael Eaton
& other poems

Lawrence Hayes
Walking the Earth
& other poems

Daniel Sinderson
Like a Bit of Harp and a Far Off Twinkle
& other poems

Sam Hersh
Las Trampas
& other poems

Margo Jodyne Dills
Babies and Young Lovers
& other poems

Nicole Anania
To the Dying Man's Daughter
& other poems

Lisa Zou
Under the Parlor
& other poems

Hazel Kight Witham
Hoofbeat Heartbeat
& other poems

Margaret Dawson
& other poems

James Wolf
An Act of Kindness
& other poems

Jane A. Horvat
& other poems

Bill Newby
& other poems

Jennifer Sclafani
Hindsight Twenty Twenty
& other poems

AJ Powell

The Road to Homer

As the brief night lifts its gray blanket

My eyes drink long draughts of wilderness

The road is hedged by granite crumble and rock slab

The flora is white lace and purple garnish

Peninsular waters of cold turquoise flash sunlight

Off the wings of a blanched low-soaring seabird

Waterfall strands plummet past the height of skyscrapers

Down mountain mammoths my sight can’t keep in frame

Clouds in highest climes perch on peaks

Like egrets on the shoulders of elephants

The spires of this cathedral are green tangle-trees

Snagging my soul on their branches

My throat is thick with gasping

I am diminutive and wide-eyed

My senses are swallowed

By the ample world

If civilization drowns in the ices we melt

I will come here, become a bear,

And feast on salmon and honey

Caterpillar Girl

Daughter, did I step on you?

Caterpillar of my heart

With your spiney sensitivity

Feeling for the world’s

Hard corners and soft edges

Inching along

Bristly-soft and vulnerable

You taste and test

And button-hunt and press

And press and press

To know your power

Build your defenses

Arm yourself and

With charm and glances

Disarm us

My foot falls heavy and large sometimes

My beak-like words

Peck and threaten to consume

Your still-soft self

I am sorry

I will do better to protect for you

This world-sized, lifelong


Your wings are readying

Present and developing

At times dampened by sorrow

And the everyday betrayals we adults visit upon

You and all child-hearts

Inch along still, growing girl

Travel and transform





But perch again


I’ll tame my steps yet

Sandpaper on Silk

Life is sandpaper on silk

Snags are inevitable

When the beautiful and the rough

Rub against each other like lovers

It isn’t the sandpaper’s fault

Ontologically speaking

It has its place, can make

A hewn log as smooth as . . .

Silk too has its attributes

A fragile beauty which

Falls like water, whisper soft on skin

(Though I’m not sure the worm’s perspective on it)

Life is the terrible disappearing space between them

The unraveling of fine things

Brought too close for their own good

Balmy summer temperatures meet ice caps

And all our polar bears are left drowning

Lives march to matter more than gunshots

Neighborhoods divide along fault lines

Of difference and indifference

Mid-life crises leave children

Half-orphaned every other week and holidays

How can we contain our contradictions?

How do we reconcile

Peace and power

Romance and reality

The Just Cause and the just flawed

Without tearing up hearts or

Lopping off heads in private jihads

Bloody and holy and now?

Life is sandpaper on silk

Or a junkie’s temporary ecstasy

Or a flaming marshmallow—sugar turned to ash

Sun Salutation

We rest at night under star shine or cloud cover


The sun is always mountaineering

Our sun makes a repetition of ascents we suckle on

Like a baby at the breast, hovering hummingbird at blossom

We sip and sup the sun assuming

She will never tire, always return

The golden orb sits herself upon the horizon

Gathers her breath

And begins her climb to the peak of the sky

Only to descend from her zenith

To a rest she never reaches

Finding yet another day to scale

And so she clambers on

Delivering again to us

The gossamer goodness

Of her warmth and illumination

When the world turns cactus on us

When our atmosphere burns toxic with vitriol

When life is a live wire that snaps toward our hearts

When our minds lay the lash down on our own backs

Then let us look up

The sky is firmament

And we are living upside-down

So in the morning

I will sit under the caress

Of the sun’s side-slanting first rays

And consider my small self

I will watch the sun Rise

Gather my thankful breath

And proceed, breathing

Leaping with Esther

“Who knows whether,” or so the story goes, “you have been lifted up

For such a time as this?”

A question, not a statement:

Who knows whether?

For there is God’s grace spread abroad in the world

And then there is consistent stupidity and even

Dumb Luck

I for one can’t tell the difference

Most days are through a glass darkly

And no clarion Christ calls to me

From the noise of my circumstances

God visits me like light skipping on water

My life briefly blessed by

A ripple that makes me blink

And but for my watering eyes

I might not know it was there

Such is the God I know and love

Better by the contours of my longing

Than my faith

So, “Who knows whether?”

A grand Maybe, a glorious Perhaps

Holding familiar uncertainties:

Dark Humor and Bright Pain and “Who knows whether?”

A plan exists, things come together for good


We are simply spinning unhinged in a fathomless sky

All we know is Esther

Writhed in great anguish, risked her very life

For permission to throw a cocktail party

She must’ve read the Psalmist who penned the 23rd:

Yay though I walk

              “Fast for me.”

Through the Valley of Death

              “If I perish I perish”

Thus she dressed in her best,

Prepared to gamble on her best guesses

And charmed a way for her people

Out of holocaust

The Jews weren’t annihilated in Persia after all

She thwarted schemes; they didn’t perish

But their defense went on the offensive

And the almost-annihilated became annihilators

Esther spoke up again and

(Please God, in time to stop the wheel

Of blood feud revenge cycles from turning)

Decreed instead another party

To turn mourning into dancing

Replacing war with a holiday

(Teaching us not to fight for salvation

But to dance for it)

Esther I think had a wicked sense of humor

A gallows humor

And God seems to have a gallows humor too

Giving us the gift of just one certainty—

A certain death—

Then spinning a Resurrection tale

We are invited to believe

In a scarlet thread and a golden dawn

Thorny crown and crystal throne

Bloodied crossbeam and rolled away stone

God is Absurd

Which is perhaps why I—the only way I could—


Only in a dancing Jester God, a Jokester with the Perfect Prank:

To love us, each and every fucking one


AJ Powell is a once and future teacher who raises her children, serves on a school board, and attempts to write in the wee hours of the morning with varied success.

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