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Poetry Winter 2017    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 2017 issue


Cover Thought-Forms

Laura Apol
On My Fiftieth Birthday I Return
& other poems

Jihyun Yun
& other poems

Jamie Ross
Red Jetta
& other poems

Sarah Blanchard
Carolina Clay
& other poems

lauren a. boisvert
Save a Seat for Me in the Void
& other poems

Faith Shearin
A Pirate at Midlife
& other poems

Helen Yeoman-Shaw
Calling Long Distance
& other poems

Sarah B. Sullivan
& other poems

Timothy Walsh
Metro Messenger
& other poems

Gabriel Spera
& other poems

Zoë Harrison
Pattee Creek
& other poems

AJ Powell
& other poems

Alexa Poteet
The Man Who Got off the Train Between Madrid and Valencia
& other poems

Marcie McGuire
Still Birth
& other poems

Kim Drew Wright
Elephants Standing
& other poems

Michael Jenkins
The Garden Next Door
& other poems

Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman
& other poems

Doni Faber
Man Moth
& other poems

M. Underwood
In Other Words
& other poems

Carson Pynes
Diet Coke
& other poems

Bucky Ignatius
Something Old, . . .
& other poems

Violet Mitchell
Deleting Emails the Week After Kevin Died
& other poems

Sam Collier
Nocturne in an Empty Sea
& other poems

Meryl Natchez
Equivocal Activist
& other poems

William Godbey
A Corn Field in Los Angeles
& other poems

Don Hogle
Austin Wallson Confesses
& other poems

Writer's Site

Gabriel Spera


They flock to me, the finches, when I go

outside to scatter seed like the grace

of angels on the stubbled lawn, erased

like most of yesterday by snow

and age, amazed, confused—as I’ve been, too—

to find, when they expect it least,

the black ice strewn with summer’s feast,

a miracle too perfect to be untrue.

They dash and peck, as though they, too, had found

what love provides is apt to melt away

and that same heart that fills our bowl today

tomorrow leaves us scratching frozen ground.


Hemmed in by a six-lane traffic jam

on a weekend afternoon, I’m suddenly struck,

blindsided, by the thought, the realization,

that you are gone. Really, truly,

irrevocably gone. And, typical,

you didn’t have the courtesy

to mention you were leaving, but slipped away

like faith in miracles, leaving this decoy,

this imposter, in the shotgun seat,

looking for all the world like the one

I vowed to have and hold, absorbed

in work, jabbing at a thin screen, indifferent

to the stream of tail lights keeping us

from being where and when we planned to be.

And for once, I am not cursing

the traffic, which makes it easy to believe

the world’s stopped dead, moved to unmoving

by my loss. And almost I don’t feel

truly alone and irrevocably free,

the way a soul must feel wafting up

from the tangled wreck—though of course,

there is no wreck, just a bloodless

fender-bender, pulled to the shoulder,

the rubber-neckers at once relieved

and disappointed to find nothing

they haven’t seen a thousand times,

their sympathy tempered by the thought,

the realization, they could be home by now

if one or both had only checked their mirrors,

focused on their blind spots, understood

the person right in front of them

might slow, or swerve, or stop for no good reason.


It never rains here, the perfect spot

for an invasion, though of course,

there’s not a soul here to surrender,

no square or post to occupy. From where

I stare toward the horizon, nothing stirs

except the nebulas of dust, the motes

clinging to my panels like the pollen

on a drone. I’m left alone

to my devices, which I minister

with the gravity of a child with pail

and shovel shaping ziggurats

for the tide to sweep away. Though of course

there is no tide, no teeming sea.

Nor does the landscape even need one,

evidently, to gather rust, the stones

and crags, like random memory, steeped

in hues of rouge and blush. And like

a sapper through a minefield, preassessing

every inch, I tread deliberately,

obliquely, though in retrospect,

my course seems almost straight,

my state improbable and strangely

preordained. My days are long,

my hours numbered, my fate

to populate a vista so forbidding

even death, if ever he came,

no longer visits. And as the sunset

drains my tired cells, I recite

my litany of wonder, send

my missive, bit by bit, beyond the sky—

as though it mattered, as though

any power beyond my own

could ever reach me, right me, if I scarred

the soft lip of a crater, cascaded

down the talus like a turtle

on its back to rest helpless in shadow,

an instant fossil, fastidious wishbone

lodged within eternity’s dry throat.

Blood Moon

The shadow crept like doubt from a sinister

quarter of the moon, a malignant tincture

that would bathe it in mercurochrome and flare

the nearest stars, an event more curious and rare

than honest love. I splayed the tripod, set to capture

on film the partial phases of erasure.

And as I glanced starward from the aperture—

a swoop, a shape, a cloak of wings, twin craters

laked with eyes. Before I could even think to duck

it vanished beyond the roofline, leaving me

much where I’ve always been: humbled, dumbstruck,

between the dull pull of Earth and all heavenly

machinations, wondering just how many

miracles, how many missives from eternity,

I may have missed because I failed, in ignorance,

to lift my eyes and face the coming silence.


It’s hard not to view

a clogged toilet as a statement

on your life. But though I threw

both shoulders to the tank,

rocking to the plunger’s

squelch and suck, nothing sank

but my heart. It was evident

my issue went deeper,

like desire or discontent.

So I slogged out to the source,

uncapped the cleanout port and watched

ooze well up like hope divorced

from history and just as fast

slosh back. I force-fed a spasm

of metal coil down its shaft

and reeled it back, further irked

by the splash of failure. I kissed

its rubber to the lip and worked

my plunger till the pressure

grew too great, a fracking

disaster that sent a gusher

of thin black crude up and out

the backflow valve, swamping

the soil beside the house,

infecting the air. Kind fate

has graced me with sense enough

to know when I’ve been beat.

I phoned a pro, who passed

a naked blender through the pipe,

pureeing the roots that massed

like dendrites in a gangled

neural net. With one stroke, the knot

was solved, my life untangled.

The sun soon catalyzed

the malodorous muck,

made rich the earth that gave rise

to a carpetbomb of grass

that begged to get cut. And as I

bullied the mower past

there it was: a tomato shoot

where none had been sown, meaning

it had to have taken root

from seeds that plumbed the byzantine

maze of human gut, sclerotic

flume of sewer line

before lodging in the fetid

bog of excrement I’d

unwittingly created.

Was there a right way to react

to such aplomb?

Was I wrong to feel mocked

in my petty disgrace?

Or should I have known nature

would tell me to embrace

even the shit, to throw

my whole soul into it,

because who can know

what we’ll be when we’ve committed

to rise at last up out of it,

self-tried and self-acquitted,

what tender blooms we might

break into when we stand

clean and naked in the light.

Gabriel Spera’s first book of poems, The Standing Wave, was a National Poetry Series selection and also received the Literary Book Award for Poetry from PEN USA-West. His second book, The Rigid Body, received the Richard Snyder prize. Other honors include an NEA Fellowship and a COLA grant from the City of Los Angeles.

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