Thirteen Myna Birds

17.

look out point

The one you love says
let’s be alone together
so they drive you
to the hill where nobody goes
unless it’s to be alone
there the one who loves you
shows you the trees
full of hooks.

Big meat stained
silver and gray
dull corroded
black iron of all sizes
hooks to spear
the smallest guppy or drag
a pond full of monsters.

Some drip blood
but not all.

Some catch the moonlight.

You sit in the car
with your lover
watch the hooks
drift like Christmas
ornaments. The lights
of town twinkle
at the eveningblack horizon.

You look at your fingertips
the skin there seeps blood
as if pricked by spindles.

Like the time you were taken
fishing, fascinated
by the box of barbed hooks.

One hook snagged
your finger
the flesh thin
fabric so delicate
you thought why
would all your meat,
be covered
by a flimsy
skin coat?

The one you love sits
behind the wheel
you can’t see their face.

Something scratches
at your door.

~Lorna D. Keach~

*

16.

wraith

When you’re dead you see yourself
on the road walking home,
after work, past midnight.

Around empty lots and boarded windows
of apartment buildings
long burned down.

In the gravel crunch,
an echo.

Footsteps on their way and the figure
could be skeletal, could be gaunt,
could be anybody.

It could be anything because
you’ve long convinced yourself
that of course you’ll never die,
that death is a santa claus, a tooth
fairy, when does anything magical
ever happen?

Maybe it only looks like you.
Shadow rib and tired glassy eye,
in a magic carriage, in bootheels
with a gravel crunch
and the click of teeth.

You will tip your fine hat
to you and say,
I didn’t expect
to meet you here.


~Lorna D. Keach~

*

15.

this fortune telling fish

It sits in the palm of your hand
and moves and tells you
secrets.

If the head moves,
you are passionate.

If the tail moves,
you are finicky.

If the body curls
you have a difficult
time adapting
to uncertainty.

If it lays flat, you received
a credit card offer in the mail
but don’t open it.

If the fish turns purple
you suffer from burnout.

If it flips over
something watches
from the window.

If the fish bursts into flame
(don’t look at the window)

If the fish speaks
don’t do what it says.

~Lorna D. Keach~

*

14.

Mirror

My sister’s face stares back at me:
an apparition with whom I share no blood
though we have the same face,
identical down to the mark across our cheek,
but in her eyes, a wildness I’ve tried to hide,
but can barely contain within
this cage of my heart;
a curve to her smile,
visible only in my wickedest moments,
a shade across her face,
darkening her eyes to a shadowy green
like the leaf-light of the darkest forest
at the height of midday.
We are alone, the two of us
in this palace of childhood memories,
the room created for a daughter
that is not half wildling:
where porcelain dolls sit primly,
jealous of the mouthless ragdoll who adorns my bed,
forgotten in favor of wilder things.
There is a madness to her
that I shall never see within my own face
but everyone else sees within me:
this brightness to my green eyes that speaks of my truest desires,
my darkest self running wild
beyond the cage of this mortal flesh:
heart of fire burning,
wild wings unbound
that in that moment I envy her,
and yet I pity her
this ghastly sister,
my doppelganger,
her fingers reaching towards mine
and as our fingers touch
separated only by a barrier of cold glass
I cannot help but wonder
which one of us is my parent’s daughter
and which one is the Changeling.

~Lauren Reynolds~


*

13.

Lagoon


*

12.

A Ruined Fairytale

A prince exists with seventy bears that need
be meticulously arranged. An elder
in chronological years but we seem
similarly strange — I’m compelled to shelter
Barbies in a plastic house inside
a wooden one I own. Slumber with a
unicorn. Cannot sleep alone or hide
such childish wants. Though I would never prey
on anyone, invite predators to august
log cabin ancestral vacation spots.
Cling to what I lost in childhood. Can’t trust
even manchild nobility fraught
with pedophiles in Windsor knots, coattails.
Leave it to a prince to ruin fairytales.

~Kristin Garth~


*

11.

OUR SEPARATION

A room full of shrunken heads –
you take the males,
I get the females.

The eye of newt, the lark’s blood, are all yours.
I lay claim to the wand
and that old snakeskin-bound book of spells.

I’ve no need of a pig’s heart in a bottle.
Go ahead. Add it to your swag.
But I do enjoy having a skeleton around.
So Andy is mine.

Strange how everything
can be split so easily,
as if this old Victorian
was never more
than a storage place
for your perverse interests
and my atrocities.

Sure, we shared a bed,
but never a torture implement.
And we ate off the same plates,
but your tastes ran to innards
and I preferred a meal
that looked up to me.

~John Grey~

*

10.

BUS TERMINAL


There are twenty seats of molded plastic.
Half are filled with overloaded bodies
topped by expressionless faces.

On one wall is the peeling mural of a bus.
On another what looks like blood stains.

The ticket seller is asleep in his cage.
The coffee shop is shuttered.
The schedule tacked to the wall
is out of date.

"Are we dead?" asks one sad-eyed old woman
of the lump of flesh beside her.
Its eyes open.
A lump of fat creases into a mouth.
"Guess we must be," it mutters.

A message comes over the PA
and a crackling voice says,
"The 11.30 to El Paso has been discontinued."
In case you missed it,
this is the El Paso Bus Terminal.

~John Grey~

*

9.

THE MAN OF WINTER

If it's good enough for trees
to kill the leaves on their branches,
then why shouldn't I
butcher whoever I please.

If the oak, the ash,
are willing to stand there
skeletal but proud,
with tiny brown corpses
littered at their feet
so why shouldn't I
claim triumph in what I've done,
hold my bloody knife high,
as I rise up like a trunk
from my body-parts trough.

You say it's winter.
The trees will bud,
grow back their foliage.
I say it's winter also.
The warmth may come
but my chill will remain.

~John Grey~

*

8.

The Cricket

I had been proud as of late,
for having peacefully escorted
some of your kind from my kitchen,

but you, on your back,
kicking about, were different.

I tried carefully and quite literally
to get you back on your feet,

each time,
gently nudging
until upright,
you would take
one hop
and land
back in the same
predicament.

After some tries,
it became clear
that yours was
a question of disability,
a grave injury to
your hind leg,
that, given your lifestyle,
was more a death sentence,
than impediment.

I could see you
becoming prey to
some larger insect
or bird, consumed alive,
an excruciation that would
render all the more tolerable
your current condition.

So, with a heavy stomp
and the quickest
sweep of foot I could deliver,
I spared you that fate.

Was I as generous to you
as I was to your brethren?

I saw misery,
and put you out of it,
before it had manifested thusly.
I ended it once and for all.

See, Lord, how I did that?

~Derek Lake Berghuis~

*

7.

Short-Sheeted

Programmed and predictable, we are dominated
by prayer: matins, lauds, vespers and compline.
Meals are served on the hour, as sure as holy writ.

No one drops a utensil at dinner while passing
a bowl or transferring food from plate to mouth
for fear of having to stand up and bow
to our novice mistress in apology for the clatter.

Tonight, after dinner dish-washing silently,
our novice mistress uncharacteristically
approaches the spiritual reading podium
to make an announcement.

“Sisters, some of you novices have been selected
to go out on mission earlier than expected.”
We listen, as still as if Michelangelo had sculpted
us in marble in our white veils.

In her raspy voice, Sister Virginia lists four novices
to go out as house sisters plus Sister Thomas Marie,
who is older than us, to teach first grade in Central
Illinois. Her dormitory cell, like all of ours, has a bed,
wash stand and chair surrounded by retractable curtains,
and is catty-corner from mine.

Sister Virginia finishes with the usual form
of hello or goodbye , “Praised be Jesus Christ,”
and we respond like a group of well-drilled
kindergarteners, “Now and forever, Amen.”

It has been a long, silent winter doing manual work
in the laundry or kitchen as first year novices do.
This cold Milwaukee night, we silently file out
of the dining room like penguins (as we used to call
our Catholic school teachers) to the recreation room
where we can speak freely for the second time today.

As soon as we cross the threshold, everyone chatters
as if we were at a birthday party. I ask a few novices
if they can think of a way to say “Goodbye” to Sister
Thomas Marie. Sister Clara, who entered the convent
after college so is worldlier than those of us who entered
after eighth grade or high school suggests, “Why don’t
we short-sheet her bed?”

When the rest of us seem confused, she explains,
“You fold and tuck in the top sheet of a bed so that
when someone tries to get into it, their legs can’t stretch
out because of the fold.”

Because I have just worked in the vegetable kitchen,
I contribute, “We could put vegetable peelings
into the fold.” Giggling, we all agree that I should
sneak up to the dorm, get my water basin, then
sneak into the room-sized refrigerator downstairs
where the peelings are deposited in buckets.

While the other novices are socializing, I get
the peelings and meet Sister Clara in the dorm
where she arranges Sister Thomas Marie’s sheets
so perfectly that she’ll never know anyone was
in her cell and I add handfuls of vegetable peelings
to the fold, trembling with mirth.

During the second hour of recreation we chuckle
and snort conspirationally like teenagers at a high
school basketball game. The bell rings for Compline
and we all file down to chapel as quietly as spies
for the last prayer of the day, then the Grand Silence
begins.

We absolutely must be quiet until morning
and keep “custody of the eyes,” looking down
at the floor instead of making eye contact
when we pass someone showering or filling
her water basin.

I have forgotten that Sister Georgiana’s cell is catty-
corner from mine in the opposite direction of Sister
Thomas Marie’s. Sister Georgiana is the third assistant
to our novice mistress. She is just back from two years
of prestigious study in Rome.

All the novices silently fill their basins with water
and are changing into their long nightgowns and
covering their crew cuts with head wash when Sister
Thomas Marie lets out a loud squeal. I try to conceal
a snicker, myself.

I can see through a slight crack in the curtain
around my cell facing Sister Thomas Marie
when Sister Georgiana arrives in nightgown
and head wash.

I can hear her arrange for clean sheets and say
angrily, “We’ll pursue this in the morning,”
as she picks her way through potato, carrot
and zucchini peelings.

Short-sheeted!

~Jan Ball~

*

6.

A lonesome star

Behind the curtains of an invisible world

You may reach the point of no return.

Frozen like a lonesome star,

I was storming through a dim cloud.

The flaming sky signed our names in blood.

In this horror composition

The quiet footsteps haunted me

Like an eerie premonition.

I saw dehydrated souls

(Stiff, devoid of motion)

Underneath the supernatural warmth

Of the sublime ocean.

I could feel my inner rage

Fighting the stormy waves.

~Maria Cameron~

*

5.

Spring



















*

4.

When First You Were Haunted

You could people every ghost
with your music –
a man, floating, in a photo under glass,
and your grandmother, with only
one sacrament, ice dressed with water.
The porcelain lamp shattered
in your hand, and left no doubt.
Now, they won't come near –
Not since the unsigned letter
and the house keys, confiscated.
Not since your bride fell, brittle,
in her crumbling lace.
White light creeps into your eyes,
where nothing lives.

~Meg Smith~


*

3.

The White Trail

Will you take me on this walk,
with winter snow
melting into ponds
reflecting the thin
arms of bare trees,
and somewhere, someone
is reminding us how rich we are.
My hands are cold to the touch.
I am looking upward,
for a secret sky
I used to know. It is riven now
with silver. I once could see reflections
of a hazy world, not so far
from the light.

~Meg Smith~


*

2

Letter to the Travel Editor

Dear Ms. Shipman:

Every month beneath the surface of your country
hearts holler joyfully into the black earth

that postwar night in the Buddhist temple where the tourists sang
Waltzing Matilda, is but a watermark on your soul

my room had no window, only white liquor and a monsoon
occasionally, I would recall the riotous growth on the other side

you told me to make my words hard, to study the modulation
I flung so many adjectives at you that even the trees wanted to strangle me

we walked around the Muir woods blindfolded
the air tasted of pine needles, potato and rakshi

the story I published on Belgian chocolates, a year ago
is casually tucked into the endoskeleton of your former lover

I did read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek against your advice
half-drunk in a church in Nebraska

there is both a Gravelly Bay and a Sugarloaf Hill
the address in somewhere in my broken skin

from behind my small desk, on this lonely planet
I assemble damp things into the shape of snow

I irrevocably consent to the photographer reproducing
my hatred for fascism in any form of media for any purpose

sometimes I get up in the morning and just can’t think of anything to write
then, a rescue party in the form of a lawn chair

a cemetery on the edge of Managua, wearing black stockings
attracts moths, hummingbirds and butterflies

a Romanian pilot interferes with the rainfall accumulation
all for a Belfast girl with a mouth full of bullets

no one was shot today in at least twelve cities
but there are thousands of testicles filled with cancer

if this small island sinks into the sea
the lighthouse will drape its shadow across heaven

the metro is full of Bohemian police officers in knee-highs
it is 33 degrees celsius, I want to go home.

~Lillian Necakov~

*

1.

Butterfly