Death is My Tailor
Death has fitted a suit
in my size and favorite color.
He brings it wherever he goes,
and in those crazy moments
when my chest begins to tighten,
or my automobile careens,
or a fever sits like a whore
on my brow, Death slips in
and has me try it on.
Just to make his minute
alterations, in the event
I will need something smart
to put on for when I go
with him to the station.
Because he knows I won't
be caught dead in what I die in.
I watch him working--pins
between his lips, he hums
to himself, drawing out
the black threads of danger,
disease and despair, his hand
white like a bird, fluttering off
as it rises with a flourish,
the needle--a fish in the beak of
He mentioned once,
as he adjusted the crotch
of the second pair of pants,
how much better it is
for all concerned that we,
quoting the poet now:
die more lightly than live,
and how better to do that
than to put on something equal
to the occasion of our passage?
Read the poetry of Will Reger
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What it is to covfefe in the sun
it could mean that my neighbor is jealous of me.
and why not. take a look at me. I am beautiful.
they are not.
my garage door opens with a single push of a button.
they stoop in the sun and pull on the iron
like James Brown separating himself from the earth.
I can think
they cannot. I changed my pants this morning,
while they wear the same clothes.
I held a job. get a pension,
raise a flag in memorial
they get food stamps. their kids are well fed.
they have big stomachs. while
I sit alone peering at my single fish.
Read the poetry of Dana Rushin
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What’s this beard thing
defining a generation,
overflowing to the one
Not seeing one’s
Sports, bus stops,
But not me? Until
The urge not to shave
rape (figure of speech only).
Resolved to go the
Stick it out.
till itch or
gets lodged in
like a pig.
Such is life.
Ned Kelly would
Read the poetry of Martin Christmas
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Wood drifted into
ebbed and flowed
tangled limb desire
swept through her
logged and lodged
in her knotted mind
tumbled smooth skin
wished for his bare bark
to envelop her sea damp
contours offering her
the fantasy of sap rising
– heartwood restoration
but a drift she was
dry and dead inside
yet the sea journeyed
her home to a shore
where lovers saw her
poverty and loneliness
they adorned her with
and she became
someone else’s memory.
Read the poetry of Rowan Taw
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Reply to Billy Collins’s “The Lanyard”
The other week I was ricocheting
off the bloody walls of my psyche
as another pale cis male friend’s face
softened over Billy Collins’s “The Lanyard.”
I found myself searching out the word
in an unholy host of electronic dictionaries.
I have seen people use lanyards.
You can wear one to hold a whistle,
as women do, walking mean streets--
or a knife, though not one as large
as the blade my coworker Marietta Melton
brandished in the subways of Philadelphia.
Every day, she braided her daughter’s hair
by the filthy Schuylkill, beading the strands--
black over red, white, and blue.
But a lanyard is not only a chain.
A lanyard is a lifeline, saving a ship’s sails
as they strain in opposing winds,
whiter than milk from a mother’s breast
or the formula I sucked from a rubber nipple.
But this poem was going to be about how
as the oldest of five children birthed
in fewer than six years, I gave my mother
a lot more than a damn camp lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is how you prepare them.
Here is your right-hand girl, I said,
which you made with a little help from the patriarchy.
But this is what I want to say to her now:
Here is the larger gift. Not the sentimental fantasies
that cling to power like rich old Republicans,
but the grateful admission that despite endless chores
from your and my hands, I was as sure as a girl could be
that the songs I wove from love and longing
were not useless and worthless things, and that alone
would be enough to make us even.
Read Billy Collins' poem "The Lanyard"
Read the poetry of Angele Ellis
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from Eight Selected Tanka
Silent as the heron
beside the pond
we too search
for our sustenance
in dark waters
Alone today at dawn
the mist rising
the geese heading
taking me with them
We sat by the lake
turning into fog
of our ties
to the earth
Brighter and brighter
the sun shines
it has awakened
Read the poetry of Mark Gordon
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The sun filters through windows
hitches onto tales nine decades
old. A spectral witness--
I watch you and Maggie
dressed in young boys’ clothes,
steal cherries from the neighbor’s tree.
Years later, you, your brothers
and sisters (my uncles, aunts)
roll up the parlor carpet, crank the victrola
dance the Lindy Hop & the Shimmy.
I still can feel the polished hardwood floor
vibrate beneath nimble feet.
When I’m no longer here
can no longer dream of stepping
from the kitchen door of the brownstone
on Kenmore Place to the garden
can no longer imagine the peonies in full bloom
when my older sister was born
or envision the glider that seats four—
Who will recall the fragrance of the grapes?
Or the goldfish swimming in the rock garden?
Will such memories evaporate or keep sailing by—
a ghost ship in a shifting sky?
Read the poetry of Judith Dorian
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He sits and looks into the space
of the table,
lights a chain of cigarettes
over his head.
His heart is burning
down to his shoes.
It should never have happened,
But she's gone. . .
He can't believe it,
he can still hear her
on their net of wild stings
gathering her things,
wrapping up the life of her own
she was always telling him about.
Read the poetry of Katherine Gallager
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It Would Feel Better
The phone is quiet.
It would feel better if someone called
with thoughts to share.
The front door closes, leaving me behind
with my dog, cat and hard won independence.
It would feel better if they stayed, suggested coffee,
a bit of conversation,
exhibited a sliver of awareness
how quiet this house becomes when doors shut.
I am naked with my needs
whether sun finds me or not;
light does not make my world clearer.
When front doors close me out,
wants and needs escalate isolation
inherent with blindness.
Naked to the world,
imagine those who see my vulnerability,
circle its dark perimeter,
then resist breaching this enclosure.
It would feel better if they crossed its threshold,
filled a chair, sip from proffered mug,
brave to throw an empathetic lifeline,
ask, What is it like in there?
I'd attempt a grab at truth,
describe what feels missing—lost forever--
what feels possible.
How an extra minute of friendship gives warmth
where light can't.
With only night for comfort, I feel left in a solitary stance.
Am encouraged to call—anytime I'm in need.
I need the impossible: to understand why.
It would feel better believing I'm not to blame.
The phone might ring—bring humanity, empathy, friendship.
The front door might open;
invitation accepted to step inside my home,
fill the emptiness within this heart,
light the space between our souls.
Read the poetry of Ria Meade
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The Longest Night
The winter solstice
seeps into the silent house.
He sits for hours
outside of a darkened closet.
Heat from the furnace ripples
bags of immaculate dresses,
rows of pressed slacks,
boxes of unwrinkled blouses.
He steps over a crumpled
damp bathrobe, neatly hangs it
next to her scarves.
A ringing telephone goes
straight to voicemail.
At dawn sunlight struggles
through gaps in the curtains.
White snow shimmers in the cold.
Read the poetry of Frank C. Modica
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The leaf-bare sky,
porcelain, robin’s egg,
is frangible, cracked open
by the errant shot
and the thump-thrum trajectory
of the wily grouse in flight.
she specializes in constructions
using egg shells
old coins and bits of string
he writes poems in pencil
from free verse to rhyme
they live on other planets
a million miles away
and gossip on the radio
with seven hours delay
Read the poetry of Ray Sharp
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She Sits with Me on the Bus Every Day
Our dads drop us, we wait together. Then we sit on the bus.
We talk sometimes. We talk all the time. There are terrific silences.
Next year she is going to college. I am going back to high school.
And the year after that. And the next.
The bus isn’t crowded. There are other places to sit.
Barbara always takes the window, and I always take the seat beside her.
At my school, the boys’ school, I get off, and the bus goes
to the girls’ school a few miles away.
I’ve never been to it. Don’t know where it is. But I like not knowing.
I like looking in every direction and wondering where she could be.
Read the poetry of Barrett Warner
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The Lark Falling
(After Li Po)
I barely know in this pile
of rotting flesh and bones,
that blithe lark, ascending,
as if straining to reach the sun.
I tried and lost. His carcass
seems to say.
My race has been run.
What was he hoping for,
I wonder. Was he simply young?
He hadn’t yet learned,
the race is over
before it’s even begun.
Did he dream of those
miraculous clouds in the sky?
Did he learn they were vapor,
and vanished like a morning mist?
And so he quit.
Did disillusion kill him,
as it will you and I?
I look at the budding peonies
in my garden, how slow in
arriving, and how soon they die.
Read the poetry of George Freek
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Mom approached the hotel desk
and asked for Grandpa’s Atkins’ room number.
The manager was sorry, but
Mr. and Mrs. Atkins had checked
out an hour ago. The problem:
Grandma Atkins was back in Omaha,
blind, obese, and drunk. She’d stopped
traveling with grandpa years ago.
My mother probably didn’t notice
the intricate carving on the mahogany
desk, or smell the mix of deodorizer
and furniture polish, nor did she
appreciate the plush carpet
with the peacock design,
or the cracked leather chairs that,
no doubt, grandpa had sat in while
waiting for the faux “missis” to arrive
under the crystal chandelier
in the grand lobby. No, I’m sure
my mother recalled the day
she returned home from fifth grade
to discover her father had sold
her pet pig, whom she loved
so much she could never
tell me its name.
Read the poetry of Charlie Brice
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Why Taking the #6 Train From
the Bronx is So Awfully Difficult
You don't know how people live
she told me.
How they crawl across the floor on all fours
how they scream in the night,
spit glass through those sounds in your head.
You don't know how hard it was to end up here
on the edge of this cliff.
She's ranting on the #6 train
in small puffs of black air.
Sharing her small space of seat
with a pregnant woman –
shaking her fists at the holes in her sleeves.
Those mittens will get caught
like lies between your teeth.
Eyes darting to her then me;
a sliver of air fits between her coat
and the long loose lines of my legs.
Sharing thin strips of black hollow
air/cloudy windows with names in markers
Smeared across the glass.
I drink my coffee - the swallowed up gathering of us
in deep woolen coats
and those blank, startled noises pushing us
along slamming into stops
and those lights from the tunnel.
Read the poetry of Amy Soricelli
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Once again my representative tops
the list of the most corrupt. Who will we
be, without the Bill of Rights? What will stop
this erosion of our character, the sea
eating at our coastlines; greed and lust
overpowering the powerful? Needless
wars and careless heat, the coming dust
of devastated forests -- heedless,
we entertain ourselves, evening after
evening, stories of murder, rage and
retribution -- diversions from disaster,
actual and impending -- this sacred land
and others, no less beautiful, alive --
who will we be, should we survive?
Read the poetry of Sharon Brogan
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Lady in a Dream
The city sidewalk couldn’t contain her.
She pounded out each step, black loafers
shifting concrete, paving roadways.
Fingers taught and skin tight, she gripped
the plastic grocery bags as if for dear life.
Three bags toppled her figure, pulled it
left then right, then upright again.
She had worked a nine hour day, just
wanted to make it home, her awareness
made thin by the computer office space hours.
Each day pushed into the next, she filled it with
eighty percent work, ten percent time, ten percent
sleep. And the time she packed, stuffed up with
dinner, friends, talking, poking, prodding, sighing,
and some days, grocery shopping.
And the sidewalk let her pass, let her dash on through,
a rushing whirling pace of legs, a doing filling
mess of limbs, and she moved like she moved and she
thought that’s all there was, until there
Read the poetry of Laura Traverse
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Thursday's Ode to
Rachel, to you it is
this flower, late in life--
it blooms an orchid bud,
scent of honeyed hyacinth.
Will I be too late for spring?
Can a garden plagued with early frost
yield earthy fertile ground?
The Harvest Moon was long in coming.
Early Springs had been too tender,
(or choked on so confused a death)
but carried fields of buttercups
at last to growth surrenders.
Read the poetry of Janette Schafer
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We hung suet out
on the deck today
hoping the wrens
and stay the winter,
nest in the yard
and next summer
fill the air with song.
In an hour or so
the wrens arrived
but minutes later
the beak of a flicker
hammered at them
and they flew away.
The flicker had time
for a snack before
a blue jay brusque
as the weather came
and took over.
The jay as well
had a snack before
a squadron of starlings
landed to feast
and Fuzzy the cat
rolled over the fence
eager to leap.
With the starlings gone
the cat lost interest
and moseyed around
for a minute or two
and then dove back
over the fence.
With no one around
and the suet deserted
the wrens came back
and ate some more
until the jay came back
and took over again.
Any minute now
we expect to see
the starlings return
and take over the suet
for a raucous dessert.
Read the poetry of Donal Mahoney
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Baggage Check In
Do you have any sharp objects
in your luggage such as
scissors, a screwdriver,
a tongue not under control?
Do you have any toxic substances
such as organic peroxides,
in your veins and/or mind?
Do you have any ammunition
such as blasting caps,
flares or information
to harm friends who harmed you?
Do you have any items not
in transparent containers
such as liquids, contact lens solution,
a broken heart?
Do you still want to fly from here?
Read the poetry of Paul Mortimer
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ice before they even hit the ground, words spill
forwards onto dark pavement, and
backwards into my shallow shadow
down into winter ground, and warmly
into my frozen palms, shoved neatly
into empty pockets, empty letters forming words
spilling out into dirty snow
drowning meaning, covering sound, forcing feeling
to retreat, words spill
meaningless, ice before they even make their mark
Read the poetry of Rosa Saba
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Fear Of Trains
autumn rain is akin to black tea,
the burnt yellow of old growth watered,
a train shakes the fields, like an old carpet snapping,
birds shoot holes in the turbulent sky;
the world is split like an apple, your head inside a bell,
when it is over it is not over;
the air hums with steel,
too many eyes are in the undergrowth,
evening's calm as brittle as toffee,
shocked from coal and smoke,
a heartbreath along rails.
Read the poetry of Leslie Philibert
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The wine sits
and grows into
The wine sits
and discloses nothing
of its present nature.
of its finest moment
so also the frown
of its deep decline.
The Blind Descent
Legions march the earth--
they are not ours.
The steady clap of doom
fails to register.
fold back down
to their ground
The cries of birds
do not signal
the passing of America
to unlistening ears.
caught in city traffic
cough out apocalyptic prophecies--
only the dying trees can hear.
Read the poetry of Bob Carlton
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and then it so happened,
one time, you randomly asked
what happens if you fall in love?
I think it is inevitably linked
to any other type
of foreign invasion.
The host mounts a response;
native elements prepare for defense
There is cross-cultural
juxtaposition, a lot of
negotiation, some treaty-
or cease fire,
as the case may be. Castles
are built in haste,
of an alien landscape,
or surrender to a greater force.
Be it for war, or be it
a peaceful acquisition- there is
no way to avoid confrontation.
Love is always
a full-scale foreign occupation:
a coup of common sense,
an installation of provisional
Read the poetry of Marie Anzalone
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Oh God— lay down Your hand,
show Your cards!
We have been here so long,
the game must be over.
Lay down Your hand on this worn,
green felt Earth.
Why do You wear a visor,
never count Your chips?
We have had beauty for snacks,
pain for drinks all these many nights,
sitting in our dim world,
hats tilted down,
polluting our room.
What do You have?
A straight, a flush,
a full house
even four of a kind
or just a skinny pair?
Maybe You have nothing
or are bluffing?
What chance do we have!
Show us Your hand.
It is about Time.
Read the poetry of Vern Fein
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and fully aware
I am swept up
in the steady fast pace
flow of the midtown
rush hour on 8th Ave.
if I slow down
will I be carried away
or shoved aside
like the homeless,
the fallen leaves
on the stream of humanity?
Will I be washed up
along the banks
of this meandering river,
left only to watch
the surge of life
pass from eddies, pools,
alcoves, niches and side streets?
on the crowded platform
to board the train
in a throng, I am lost
in an existential nightmare.
I take my seat, look around
the railroad car
are we just passengers?
Is this my reality
or is it shared by others?
I close my eyes to nap,
& try to accept
that this is as good
as it gets.
But then ask,
will I always be
on the outside
I know Richard Cory
sleeps in peace.
Read the poetry of Peter V. Dugan
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I play Twister out of bed,
machine cord wrapped in sheets.
Having electric dreams of sly neighbor
cutting the lawn at five forty five
on a Saturday morning.
I trot into the shower, and
washing machine cycle myself only to
glide on Swiffer.
I'm the custodian, after hours with headphones
bigger than crooked halo hat
I slamdance with the mop
as I flame-throw dust and start an afternoon band
with pots and pans railroad clinging as I switch gears
and change magician hands.
Bang my head into the mailbox,
and flop around the grocery store like a dead fish
playing slingshot boomerang with a volleyball net,
in sweated out trucker hat cement.
Days crank on.
And then I think of all the sewing pattern people I know,
borrowed laughs from and stitched into my coat.
Only to hang around in coffee shops
and shoot straw wrappers at my worthless stanzas.
Read the poetry of Alyssa Trivett
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A Mountaineer’s Lament
~Found on a ridge
on a lonely trail.
You cannot find it if
You looked even so
Hard. Down deep tunnels in
Quiet mountains. In
Trees and lakes in
Towns that died long
Ago. You cannot
More so think to see
It in sunshine mist on half-
Cold winter days. The form
Far off on hills that almost seem
A lone bird that sits
Pensive in the cool
Morning air. You
It even if you looked even
Read the poetry of Matthew Henningsen
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I want to run away sometimes,
not from home but to home.
Back to cracked roads, and
unfinished houses -
I want to kiss on the bridge
Franz and Sophia died on.
I want to sneak into cathedrals,
stare into the lights and colors;
envying a God that isn’t mine.
I want to lean on Austro-Hungarian
walls while Egyptian ice cream gives me
I want espresso 10 times a day,
crepes at midnight beside
eternal flames, and book stores,
kissing couples and laughing friends.
I want the passion,
the constant music of the city.
Kept safe by the mountains,
thirst quenched with rivers,
put to sleep only on a Monday -
even then still slightly dancing
to the hum of Sunday’s song
Read the poetry of Sejla Srna
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An Aging Writer
Possibly there is something on the bed,
and possibly this something is an old man,
And what then?
Archaeologists suggest digging in the bedroom's
formal arrangement of elements
where bony cheeks glimmer in morning sun,
nostrils flutter like flags,
waking can be viewed as complete.
He is no longer judged by the quality of his flesh,
merely his inscrutable artistic intent.
Age is eighty or so
but intention knows no limit.
Nor does imagination.
Something is incomplete.
The insoluble needs solving.
It is not about belief. That's his priest's domain.
And there are no leisure options - just interruptions.
There's pills of course - to tune down the heart,
to regulate the stomach.
And new studies suggest...
but he never reads new studies.
Doctors, he reckons, only exist
to bother the intelligent.
Not even accounting for the size of the bills
they send him.
He grabs hold of the bedpost and stands.
For a moment, he's bones, skin tissue, hair.
but then his mind kicks in
and he rubs droopy eyes with droopier knuckles.
Another day on his own terms.
It will take the form he's planned for it.
A history of Thomas Jefferson.
A primer on Lepidoptera.
Maybe something in the middle.
American history versus moths.
Writing has always been an impulsive media.
First, coffee to evict the ghosts.
Then, as per protocol, that old creaky chair, the typewriter.
It's how he's been doing it for sixty live years.
Arthritic fingers take to the keys
like a fish to a puddle of rain.
Read the poetry of John Grey
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