ONLINE BONUS: The Thunderstorm

After slaughtering the moon and stars

The storm stills.

 

The night piles up like black angora

Then sleeps.

 

Summer’s crickets come to trill

And I rest into the blackness

And write this poem

To still my body from that storm

Nowhere to be found now

But in me.


Roberta “Bobby” Santlofer (1943-2020) was a mother of sons, an avid reader, and a poet. A posthumous collection of her poetry is forthcoming.

ONLINE BONUS: Locks

Ghosts have a way of knowing where all the keys are hidden. –   William Evans

 

As though we, the living, are locks.

Or doors with locks.

 

Or small latched boxes,

lacquered or decoupaged with pansies,

 

or scorched like the unpainted dime store kind

you tried to inscribe with your name

 

with a neighbor kid’s wood burning kit,

all of them with a tiny hasp

 

and padlock worked by a thin gold key

that even a ghost could lose.

 

As though there are ghosts, real ones,

not simply regret.

 

As though regret were simple.

As though it were made complicated only

 

by our intricate tricks for containing

the ghosts of what we can’t let go,

 

but grieve and grieve and grieve over,

as though we were not the lock,

 

the latch, the lid, the door, not the rue,

not the sorrow, not the ghost with the key.


Hayden Saunier’s books of poetry include How to Wear This Body, Say Luck, Tips for Domestic Travel, and Field Trip to the Underworld.  Her new book of poetry, A Cartography of Home is due out in early 2021.  (www.haydensaunier.com)

ONLINE BONUS: Already

this is not what you thought you’d be reading

and honestly it’s not what I thought I would be writing

either, but this makes us allies, companions

in an unknown landscape, like students moved midyear

to a new school— cue up the cafeteria humiliation reel,

light the cheek’s fierce burn that sends hot sparks

to pock holes in the tiny hope chests tucked inside

our preteen hearts and most of us are still packing

some of that sorrow. The story we thought this might

be telling with its breadcrumb trail has slunk down

at the loser table to foot funk level in a plastic seat

with corroded chair legs, or better yet, it turned tail

and ran before even walking into the room

like we wish we had done instead of trying to sashay

across the page in the wrong clothes wearing

the cheap perfume of fake it till you make it like it’s

the kind of story that never sat alone at a table

pretending it didn’t want to die, but that story

and that story’s lie is long gone. So we begin again.

Each day. And look, whatever we didn’t think

this would be has been taking shape beneath our faces,

kneading its own dough, punching it down, letting it rise,

checking the oven, and now warm brown loaves

cool on a windowsill like in a book of fairy tales,

curls of steam lifting from their dark aromatic crusts,

delicious, whole wheat, gluten-free, or however

you need it, bread to pass between us in a story

we didn’t know would have a kitchen or windowsill

or cupboard where you find butter and I find

strawberry preserves, or a table where we sit down

together, take out our hidden knives, use them to spread

these slices, smooth the sweet jam, share the bread.


Hayden Saunier’s books of poetry include How to Wear This Body, Say Luck, Tips for Domestic Travel, and Field Trip to the Underworld.  Her new book of poetry, A Cartography of Home is due out in early 2021.  (www.haydensaunier.com)

(cape may)

like scraps of paper

folding themselves into birds

the sea gulls settle

 

the shimmering light

on the water at sunset

keeps its promises


Peter McEllhenney is a writer living in Philadelphia, PA. His work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, the Seminary Ridge Review, and others. He blogs occasionally at www.PeterGalenMassey.com.

full sun

To view full sun by Tyler Campbell, click HERE.


Tyler Campbell is an artist outside of Atlantic City. He enjoys making tiny pancakes for many friends.

goode for who

To view goode for who by Edythe Rodriguez, click HERE.


Edythe Rodriguez is a Philly-based Afrikan Renaissance poet who studied Creative Writing and Africology at Temple University. Her work is published or forthcoming in Tulane Review, Sonku Literary Magazine, Call and Response Journal and Bayou Magazine.

Naming the Unnamed

by Grant Clauser

Sometimes we write poems to put words and names to things there aren’t words for. Poems are often a way we describe feelings that can’t easily be expressed any other way. Think of those common social media posts that begin with: TFW (that feeling when), which are then followed by some description of circumstances, such as TFW you’re so desperate for milk in your coffee that you start eyeing up the sour cream. (I hope no one’s ever that desperate).

Thinking of poems as TFW posts can help get you over the hump of that first line, that first image.

In fact, there’s a whole website, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, devoted to naming feelings that didn’t previously have names. For example, wytai:  a feature of modern society that suddenly strikes you as absurd and grotesque—like zoos, milk-drinking or life insurance.

Here are two ways you can use the idea of unnamed feelings in poems.

First, try a poem based on the TFW (that feeling when) approach. Think of how you feel in a certain place, at a certain time, and write out the first line something like a Twitter post (you probably want to cut the line out of the draft later):

For example: TFW you reach a place in the woods where all traffic sounds disappear and all you hear are birds and your own footsteps.

Then describe it in the poem:

and it’s not so much the quiet you notice,

or the lack of trucks along the highway

heading out of state, but how loud the quiet

world is, how much the sparrows have to say

to the woodpeckers, what the chipmunks mean

when they shake their tails in dry leaves,

and when you close your eyes even the sun

scratching through the trees to finger your shoulder

seems to be saying something you needed to hear

today, of all days, especially.

Second (or first–there’s no wrong order to this), choose a word from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and try to write a poem based on the definition. Describe the scene where that feeling takes place, what it does to your body, how the world looks and smells while you’re experiencing it.

Or, you could invent a new word for that feeling. For the poem above I combined the Latin word for silent (tacet) with the German word for cacophony (kakophonie) and came up with Tacetokophonie, which I think is what I’ll call that poem if I ever finish it.

###

Grant Clauser is the author of five books including Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven (winner of the Codhill Press Poetry Prize), Reckless Constellations, and The Magicians Handbook. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, The Literary Review and others. He works as an editor and teaches at Rosemont College.

Poetry Prompt: Using Anaphora as Your Guide

by Grant Clauser

I was watching a movie that took place where snowfalls are measured in feet and the world goes dark for months at a time. The people in this movie still needed to get around their farm, so they built rope guides from the back door to the barn and from the barn to the feed shed, etc. This way each time they ventured outside into a blank canvas of snow and darkness they still had something to hold onto, a guide to keep them going in one direction.

Some poetry techniques are like that, a thing to grab onto and follow. One of my favorites is anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase, usually at the beginning of a line or beginning of a sentence. For the writer, it’s a kind of handrail to get you started and keep you going in the same direction. Or think of it as steppingstones. Each repeat of the key word is another stone along the path of your poem. For the reader, it triggers our attraction to pattern recognition—we respond to things we’ve heard before and get caught up in the regularity of it.

One of the most famous practitioners of anaphora was Walt Whitman. See how he used the repeated phrase “Just as you” in this section of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”

 

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

 

There’s a chant-like feeling to the repetition, like an incantation or a prayer.

In the next example, Gregory Pardlo uses repetition of the phrase “I was born” to allow a sort-of story to unfold.

 

Written by Himself

By Gregory Pardlo

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet

whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;

I was born across the river where I

was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,

broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though

it please you, through no fault of my own,

pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.

I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.

I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.

I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,

air drifting like spirits and old windows.

I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;

I was an index of first lines when I was born.

I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying

ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born

to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was

born with a prologue of references, pursued

by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing

off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.

I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;

I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born

 

Notice how with each repeat of the phrase he reveals a little more, as if each use opens a new window onto the same person.

When I’m stuck in a writing rut I’ll turn to anaphora as my guide rope. Sometimes I’ll just randomly grab a key word or phrase out of the air, or sometimes I’ll use some tried and true simple ones—single starter words like “If,” Look,” or “Because” can work well. Or you can be more inventive and come up with a phrase like “In grandma’s yard…” or “After the flood.”

Try one of each, an anaphora poem beginning with a single word and one beginning with a repeated phrase. To make it extra interesting, try varying the phrase slightly halfway through the poem and see where that takes you.

###

Grant Clauser is the author of five books including Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven (winner of the Codhill Press Poetry Prize), Reckless Constellations, and The Magicians Handbook. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, The Literary Review and others. He works as an editor and teaches at Rosemont College.

Take This Transmission For Instance

by Rosa Sophia

POET_Rosa

 

I have no vehicle for this T18 four-speed transmission

Dana Model 300 transfer case.

 

This transmission

 

sat in my father’s shed after his four-wheeler crushed him

in the Pennsylvania woods, sat in the dark after a helicopter

carried my father off the mountain, waited in silence

as my father fell comatose, this transmission ignored

by my stepmother as she sold and gave away my father’s tools

couldn’t be bothered with when my family pulled the plug

couldn’t be reconciled the day I never flew to my father’s funeral.

It sat in this dark, dusty shed for eight years after my father’s death.

 

Now it doesn’t fit anywhere.

 

It couldn’t be lifted by my brother Mark in a rainstorm

in the mud two-handed, couldn’t be budged by thought,

ingenuity or reason, 240 pounds of cast iron needed a truck,

my cousin Barry behind the wheel with chains and a trailer.

 

Caked in grease it came to me with loosened bolts

dirt inside after my cousin inspected it closely, put it in neutral,

gave me advice I can’t remember on shifting gears, while together

we stabbed a perfect circle in my new car’s rear fender

with the spline of this transmission as it hung from a thick chain

like a locket, a reminder, a note as if to say, this doesn’t fit anywhere

 

before I drove it in the back of my new car 1200 miles

to Florida dragging gas mileage.

 

Now this dirty transmission hangs from a chain in my garage

where I twirl it after I dragged it from the trunk of my new car

crashed it into my knee and scraped my skin, slammed my wrist

the next day it’s swollen and gray, arm scraped, elbow bruised

dragged the hulking metal on the fender, added marks to my perfect circle

 

extra dings, a reminder, a note as if to say, take this transmission for instance

 

now it doesn’t fit anywhere.


Rosa Sophia grew up in Pa. and is working toward an MFA in Creative Writing at FIU in Miami. Her poem, “Take This Transmission for Instance,” won Runner-Up in the 2020 FIU Student Literary Awards. She holds a degree in Automotive Technology, and is also the managing editor of Mobile Electronics magazine.