The sky comes down
To the edge of bare rock
And all around
Filled with weather:
Clouds, cool breezes,
At the edge of a U-shaped canyon,
A stone amphitheater;
Sheer, sculpted cliffs
From a curved ridge of debris,
Towering over a broad lumbered valley
And miscellany of boulders.
In the magic of bracken, grass and water,
Hidden in woods dense and dark,
Ponderosa, Lodgepole pines, Douglas fir,
Dead-wood and downed-timber,
Tree-hanging lichen flourishes.
Tangled masses of green threads,
Long drapes--yellow to ochre
Wrought from coyote hair.
The burial ground of the first people
A sanctuary of bones.
Whirlwinds follow gusty squalls
Funnel in thunderstorms
And fire from lightning strikes.
The resulting conflagration
Burns until the mourning ends
so the dead may sleep undisturbed
As winter storms
And summer droughts
Wash over the forest like a sea.
Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, was educated in public schools, and attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He is the former chairman of the William Saroyan Society, and a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Mr. Barile taught writing at Madera Center Community College, lives and writes in Fresno. His poems have been published extensively, including Metafore Magazine, New Plains Review, The Heartland Review, Rio Grande Review, The Packinghouse Review, Undercurrents, The Broad River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Beginnings, Pharos, and Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets.
Stamford poets rent one-bedroom apartments and host occasional gatherings on Friday evenings for drinks and crackers. The apartments are filled with knick-knacks—organized hoards like Time’s filing cabinet—which they must squeeze around without getting crumbs on the carpet. One can see the decades in an afghan rug with golden tassels pinned down by a mosaic coffee table and a shag-wrapped ottoman stacked with dusty Playboys resting on top or a sofa with curved oak legs and plastic-sheened cushions splotched with stains. They sip their wine and taper off from the subjects of enjambment and dying traditional forms and find footing in the immediate themes of rude cashiers and the stigma of exact change. When the third glass kicks in, they lay back and look at the ceiling, recounting when they went to a motel on Hope Street where they walked into the room and saw a pile of white towels, boiling water, and a man in a tattered apron holding an ether mask, commanding them not to make a sound—the walls of the Seabound Motel were thin. They then, doze off themselves, not knowing a poem poured out of them like a request for just one more glass of Cabernet. Sore from awkward sleeping angles, they rise from their sunken cushions in the early mornings with vague recollections of ideas they’d forgotten to write down.
Matt Gillick is from Northern Virginia and is pursuing an MFA.
A NIGHT IN BUCHAREST
In the third floor apartmentof a fortress-like building,
from before the fall of Communist Romania,
hers were the last first-hand stories
I heard of pre-industrial Transylvania,
through cracked dry lips
a voice as staticky
as the console radio
in the middle of the room.
Great-great-grandmother of a friend,
slunk down in her favorite armchair,
surrounded by fading photographs
of smiling village faces,
her escape from evil’s clutches
could have happened yesterday
for all the feeling in her narrative.
Her tale moved apace
from a stroll through a moonlit forest
to an encounter with the piercing eyes
of a black-robed creature,
the strange compelling feeling
that drew her closer to him
to the sudden glint
of the crucifix around her throat,
and the other’s stumble backward
that gave her the one chance
to turn on her heels
and run back to the safety
of the well-lit tavern.
"Of course, this must just sound like
an old woman’s fantasies
to you young people,"
But when she was finished
recounting the grisly fate
of her friend, Gabriela,
who, to this day,
floats by her bedroom window
they were our fantasies too.
UP FROM THE OCEAN
The ones splashing in the ocean are no longer us.
No need to even bother looking.
That's sand in the folds of your skin.
That's a rock pressed hard against your back.
It's something called an issue
that rides the breakers into shore,
that rolls about in the waves,
giggling and flailing,
that looks like us but is not us.
You won't hear them
lauding the aesthetics of the perfect tan.
Their dreams don't bother with
five hours in this natural salon,
lazily eying the pages of something
from the New York Times bestseller list.
The lotion on their faces
is dabbed on skimpily,
in those excited few seconds
when their feet can barely stand still
and their bodies lurch
toward the magnet of the sea.
It doesn't take the leisurely approach,
a rub here, a massage there,
into aging back and shoulder-blades.
For them, a giddy topple
and a mouthful of brine.
For us, the nudge of a familiar thigh,
an occasional warm kiss.
As always there's a generation gap,
twenty feet or so of golden sand.
Hand in hand, a teenage couple cross it,
plant footprints deep to them,
but shallow to the tides.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty, with work upcoming in Blueline,
Chronogram and Clade Song.