When I hesitate to call
teetering on the seat of rejection
you can sense it and grow
depressed folds of thick doughy flesh
approximating room temperature
you develop agoraphobia
too grotesque to be seen
too sluggish to care
you sink deeper into the couch
watching Jerry Springer with a blank stare
When you decide I love you after all
you stack up too many muscular arms enclosing
in a nervous arrangement
Since they might fall like dominoes around
upon the slightest provocation
The Cashier and The Woman
The cashier with his oily slicked back hair
is stern with the woman
who is looking at her purchases
and seems to really need
He berates her
with those gimpy legs
-surely she’s walked there-
saying “Every day you bring me change-
and I need dollars.”
She clutches her quarters and looks puzzled
she says “Money is money,”
and then loses her language
her margarine colored hair
pasted with sweat to her forehead
Her skin sagging further
according to this predicament
I wonder what he thinks of her
and her blank expression
there is a long silence
before he gives her
just one last chance
and she takes it
Georgia Park is a writer, reader, teacher and learner. She has a BA in creative writing and has just began to showcase her work publicly. Her work will be shown by Halfway Down the Stairs literary magazine, Holy Crow Art and The Scarlet Toungue Project. She has also helped to edit and conceptualize three successful novels. Check out her other works at https://privatebadthoughts.com
Why Judy Won’t Go to Bed
Judy talks to no one.
For four years, she’s sat in her chair watching TV.
She refuses all medication, all assessments and interventions.
Her sister thinks she speaks with demons.
Maybe they’re her only friends, the only ones she can trust.
Maybe this is the best she can do.
Her sister tells me that Judy got to this point because
her drug-addicted ex-husband whored her out for years
so he’d always have enough cash for his meth.
Life in a chair watching TV isn’t much of a life
but it’s better than what she had before.
Maybe this is the best she can do. Probably.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.
Humira and the Coup d’etat of my Body
I. This drug makes me sweat behind my knees
Ooze in places I didn’t know contained pores.
I am wet behind the ears, not girlish naiveté
but the glut of this biologic that seems to have taken up residence
in the grit of muscle and bone. I touch the back of my neck,
and my fingers emerge dripping with what keeps escaping.
My body leaks and shines onto my fingertips.
There is nowhere I can touch that is not wet with the insides of me.
II. My ankles and feet have become slivers of disconnected muscle,
tissue shattered, unwilling to support this body that danced on pointe at age six.
I am betrayed by my own feet, sturdy though they may appear,
they harbor no foundational illusions.
I am my grandmother now,
craving a supportive arm
to brace me, through those first few steps.
I reach out into empty air.
III. Flares of rash now populate my skin.
I remember stretching mornings, running my hands down my thighs,
gently pulling knees to chest, one at a time,
sinking into the smoothness of my own skin.
Now my fingers stutter along bumps,
patches of protrusions that I want to claw away
but don’t because I worry they will erupt into infection sites,
throaty volcanoes on my body announcing their coup of my flesh.
IV. My hands are an altar of scrubbed hygiene.
I remember Sister Marie Charlene’s mantra “cleanliness is next to godliness”
And I wonder where the sacredness is in all this scouring,
This daily gouging and purging of day dust out of my fingernails,
This sloughing off of self.
My hands are shields of purity.
I still want to embrace everyone, fearless
V. My hair gathers in my brush.
Handfuls I pull out, toss into the toilet.
The wad of hair separates and becomes a broken web, floating, drifting.
There is an ephemeral grace to this water dance,
A human hair lily pad minus the flowers.
A whole row of eyelashes, too, has disappeared.
I apply four layers of mascara, painting on that which has smeared off
Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. , Marianne has been published in Muddy River Review, Silver Birch Press, Persephone’s Daughters, Remembered Arts Journal, among others. Marianne also taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China for three summers, and she also toured several provinces in China with the Valpraiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo, in January of 2016. Recently, Marianne was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop in June 2016. This fall, she journeyed to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, where she took part in an amazing Narrative Poetry Writing Seminar.
Featured Poet This Issue
No gentle current,
this slow magma in the mantle of my chest—
it’s a perishing flow, hot and breathless.
Your glowred bootprints, improbable
in the grey crust of what’s left of me.
The weight of you, profound
(gravity’s amorous badboy).
I fell relentlessly
into that windward term,
that silvered epoch’s gloom—
a beach-junk whale with diving dreams.
Transit, en masse.
We called her Mayan Mocha for her syrup-smooth skin—
her hair as black as bugs crackled like crinolines in winter
We ride, we ride, billboard high, angels graze the shoulder dust—
“Get it While You Can” and “Biggest Burgers, 10 miles”
And “I knew you when you were in the womb,”
giant white man-finger points at the teepee of her belly,
this chart is not to scale.
Road trip grit finds its wanderlust
in pack and crack and grill,
chews the air like fireflies
dusking, busking light.
The air is full of urban legends,
fucking as they copter-careen,
pheromone-drunk, bad landings,
wings tangle in hairs, find their joined bodies
crushed on gas pump handles
smeared on seat backs, no,
I do not love the love-bugs,
but I love the stillness less.
Pompeii, A Documentary of Me
Eclipse burn, pyroclast eruption,
slow magma swell—15,000,000 cubic tons
of ash, pumice, plumes and fire.
The lightest rocks can kill you
if they bury you like water—
they’re falling, falling.
Give them time.
Vesuvius is coming due,
but Pompeii remembers,
and now there is a word for what will happen.
It’s not the gods at all,
written in acid on the bones.
We conjure our stories when we stay
or when we go. Some go without leaving,
others stay close with their going,
and all that’s left are the pieces of the story,
an accident of mystery,
a misery of revelation. A song.
Samara Golabuk is a two-time Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared in Strong Verse, The Whistling Fire, 5×5, and others. She has two children, works in marketing, has recently returned to university to complete her BA in Creative Writing, and is a long-time member of a weekly poetry workshop group.
WIM: I am always curious, what drew you to poetry as a form of written expression?
SG: I’m not sure that I was drawn there so much as born there, and allowed to stay. My father Is a writer, so the sensibility was in my environment growing up for sure. He even recorded my first poem, “written” when I was three years old (but more likely just a thing that I said that was poetic the way all children can be, who have not learned to fetter associations). I had my first poem published when I was 15, so it’s always been a part of my personal architecture, even when I was swamped with life, school, family, doing other things. It’s probably only been in the last few years that I’ve really allowed myself to fully claim the titles “poet” and “writer.” Part of me asks, “what took me so long?!”
WIM: Who would you ascribe as being your poetic influences?
SG: Off the top of my head, Joni Mitchell and ee cummings. Extraordinary lyricism there. I love Joni’s ability to tell archetypal or personal stories in fresh ways, she’s got root as a writer for sure. As for ee cummings, I always loved his playfulness, his unwillingness to limit himself structurally (deep lyricism there, too). His ability to be fresh, unexpected. They both have great scope — humor and pathos, irreverence and depth, the whole gamut. I also really love Rilke, Rumi, Hafiz, etc, but who doesn’t?
WIM: What poets do you follow now or who have you read lately?
SG: I don’t do much sit-down reading, my life is constantly in motion. I read sporadically as I find journals to submit to, I read poems written by poets I associate with online, etc. Most of the reading I do is connected to workshopping poetry with my fellow Scribe Tribers, talented poets all, so lucky me. I used to read so much more when I was younger, rarely poetry though. I was an SF girl all the way, but I think my vision started to be affected around the same time that my eldest started to walk, so I didn’t really associate the dramatic drop in my reading time with vision changes until much later.
WIM: What are your immediate plans for publication? Are you currently working on a collection?
SG: I’m just now getting back into the buzz and swing of regular submissions, so that’s been a lovely homecoming. The last time I was this heavily involved in submitting was in 2010, before my 2nd child was born. At this point, I have one collection I’ve put together about birth and evolution called “The Necessary Dreams,” which is as yet unpublished. I’m also mostly done with 2 other chapbook-sized collections, one called “6-minute Poems” and the other, “Red Oil of the Body.” My intention is to keep submitting forever, and see what happens. That’s about it. I feel poetry is performance art, so it’s more fun if it’s out there being read or spoken. I’m also a writer, so creative expression is just part of the package. Expression, meaning, if it’s not outward and visible, it’s pretty useless, and writing for pure personal catharsis or meaning is really only half of what I love about writing.
WIM: Where can readers follow you and your work?
SG: I’ve got a fledgling author site at samaragolabuk.wordpress.com that I will be adding to regularly, including original work and news & updates on my literary life as it grows. The Scribe Tribe also has a Facebook Community at http://www.facebook.com/TheScribeTribe/ — you will not find much recent activity though that may change, plus there are links to view the videos of our last fundraiser poetry performance. Come say hello!
WIM: What drew you to Wraith Infirmity Muses? Would you mind sharing your experiences with or connection to invisible illness?
SG: I’m a part of a wonderful Facebook community of poets and authors, lots of committed writers and support there. Pat Berryhill of Wraith is also a member of that group, and posted a call for submissions, so I bit. I am a major health and nutrition nerd, by which I mean to say I do a lot of reading for fun about things like leptin and digestive health <laughing>. Between that and a myriad of friends dealing with various autoimmune issues great and small (including a family member diagnosed a couple of years ago with relapsing and remitting MS), I felt very connected to the idea of invisible illness, and drawn to submitting to WIM. I think my own journey with invisible illness has been fairly mild, at least in terms of day-to-day suffering: I have a long term, apparently asymptomatic autoimmune issue that has caused scarring in my eyes as well as long-term inflammation there that has essentially aged my eyes 20 years faster than the rest of my body – I developed cataracts in my late 30s/early 40s, and have already had one cataract replacement surgery, and am a couple years out from the other. As far as illnesses go, it’s a painless one, for which I’m incredibly grateful because it doesn’t really impair my daily functioning. On the other hand, if I’d had symptoms, I might have known earlier there was something wrong, and done something about it sooner! My own research and years of self-observation gave me a pretty plausible map of causation, which is great, because no doctors have been able to give me solid reasons and fixes for what ails me. I’m currently seeing a functional medicine doctor, and so far, with an ongoing protocol to address various disparate issues we uncovered working together, I’ve been able to reduce my steroid eye drops to half the dose I was using before. So that’s great! I just want to help people understand they are not alone. Just because the illness is invisible to others does not mean it can’t completely alter your life from the inside. It helps to be able to either speak out about what is going on for you, or just…let go completely of caring about what less-empathetic people see/hear/feel/believe/say about you. Prioritize what you want and need in your life. Fail to give a shit about the rest. It’s liberating. Not easy, but worth it to work toward that, I think.
The canvass bends
to the enigmatic force
of her brush stroke
Hues blend and swirl
Splatters and visions
pour forth in
She paints a moonless
sky for all of the
darkness in her life
Trees crooked and barbed
for the betrayal she
Water polluted and grimy
for the many painful tears
she has shed
She finishes with her signature
in the bottom
right hand corner
And proceeds to
painting on fire
and starting anew
Adam Levon Brown is a published author, poet, and cat lover. He is editor of Madness Muse Magazine, and a book reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine. He has over 120 poems published in 11 countries. He has been published in venues such as Burningword Literary Journal. www.AdamLevonBrown.org
The Geographical Cure
With five volumes of Proust
and a French-English dictionary,
I climb winding calimaçon stairs
to my new-old Paris attic rental.
At the edge of the tent of the sky,
my baby brother
is still dead.
Through the skylight
I raise myself onto the roof,
a jack-in-a-box catching scraps of rock music,
Metro roar, vintage apartment buildings,
Eiffel Tower like a cake ornament.
Diesel fuel in the air
as I explore Père Lachaise Cemetery
in the rain, study Proust’s
shiny gravestone under dripping umbrella,
Jim Morrison’s under eggplant sky.
Reading, reading, reading.
My brother is still—
Notes from the Dead Via Ouija Board*
“What do I do next?”
NOT KNO NO
“Is my family okay?”
“Is Grandma-in-Tampa okay?”
“Is Grandma-in-Tampa dead?”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Should I stay here in France?”
“Should I go see Grandma-in-Tampa?”
“Who are you?”
*I am still in my Paris attic apartment. Haven’t slept for days. Or bathed. Am starting to see things. I’m sure it’s my manic-depression. Know no one here besides a toxic ex-boyfriend. Is it my dead Baby Brother who speaks to me through the Ouija Board? No matter. I must clean myself up, pack my clothes, go home. Check on Grandma.
Evil Me (In the Paris Rental)
Elated, I’ve just made plane reservations
for five days from now.
I’m going back to Florida.
I need to clean the sink of moldy dishes,
wash a mountain of dirty clothes. For weeks
I’ve hardly eaten, gone nowhere
but dishes and laundry have piled up anyway.
Out of the blue, Evil Me says, You don’t need
to scrub dishes: throw them in the trash. Dirty clothes?
Why not get a new wardrobe? Let’s shop.
Evil Me says I need oodles of underwear.
Stacks of sweaters. At least one statement coat.
Books. This is my last chance to buy
French bestsellers—last chance
to stock up on French coffee—last chance—
To get laid, says Evil Me.
A former Chicagolander, Eileen Murphy lives on semi-rural property that must be mowed quite often located 30 miles from Tampa, surrounded by the wild animals of Central Florida, most of them mosquitoes. She received her Masters degree from Columbia College, Chicago. She teaches literature and English at Polk State College and has recently published poetry in Tinderbox (nominated for Pushcart Prize), The American Journal of Poetry (forthcoming), Deaf Poet’s Society, Rogue Agent, and a number of other journals.
Living with Your Daughter’s Depression
Mama sees everything:
Tear-caked, salt-crusted wounds
A girl flagging in the wind
I see the usual:
Depressants on the counter
Among the other medicines
I know their names
I repeat them like mistakes
My midnight hymn of insomnia
Mama sees only the bare sky and dead leaves
But what of the pink pills static in my cells
This disease staring through the bars
Make him leave
Mama witnesses my unhinged loneliness:
Mama continues to guillotine
The pills into pink squares
Brittany J. Barron graduated from the University of North Georgia with a B.A. in English and minor in Gender Studies in May 2016. Her poetry appears in The Chestatee Review and Sanctuary. Currently, Brittany is a first-year MFA student in poetry at Georgia College.
What’s that patch on my leg?
The wires sticking out?
That just keeps you grounded.
You’ll feel a sting now, and hear a sound.
Your heart might start to pound.
Is it racing yet? Well, it was before.
I can’t be here right now.
I need to be anywhere but here.
So, let’s just talk about my weekend plans.
Thanks, for holding my hand.
I always relied on the kindness of strangers.
Her name was Cookie, that should comfort me.
It only makes the scraping burn more.
You did great, she says.
How she measures that, who knows?
Take your time.
Then, I’m left alone.
I try to stand.
I lose my footing.
I lay back a minute more.
Tears fall down my cheeks
Like an actress in a movie
And you think, how phony.
Hannah Wagner lives in Salem, Massachusetts. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations. She is honored to be a part of the inaugural issue of Wrath Infirmity! She is not just a poet but also an actor. She is very actively involved with her local artistic community. She can be seen doing events at creative Salem or on stage portraying women such as Mother Teresa. She thinks there is a little witch in all of us.
What Kids Do
Look away for just a second, and
they’ll have your ass, sic social services on you,
high and mighty, as if kids were meant
to be leashed, or better yet, caged,
until 18 and college bound.
Forget that, years ago, we were left
to roam the neighborhood all day,
told be back for dinner, by dark, assumed to be
smart enough not to get in a stranger’s car,
a swollen river, cross the freeway, touch
an electric fence. Now, a child is a
hothouse flower, a hydroponic product needing
to be driven to and from school, hand held
at all times, forgotten lunches delivered
to the school office, assignments
completed by ghostwriters or mom and dad.
What the hell? Admit it. Shit happens.
Kids slip away, go where they’re not
supposed to, jump from high places, dive
into currents. It’s no one’s fault. That’s
what accident means, no one’s fault,
the worst case scenario. Who’s sorrier
than the mother, caught in her momentary
lapse while others get off, scot-free? Choke
on judgment, self-righteous moralizers!
I left my kids home alone, let them walk
by themselves, let go of their hands
in the zoo and looked elsewhere, followed
a thought, finished a conversation. I read
books, wrote, said call me only if
you’re bleeding. Some kids survive.
Some don’t. It’s what kids do.
…like a silver wrapper begging to be confused for a glimpse of fire
(How to Preserve a Knot, Megan Merchant)
I spent decades faking tough—
raucous, crude, hair razed
to the nub, limbs leather-clad.
Now, passing any school
at the bell, I see myself
in the jazzed careering,
hear my own loud fucks!
echoing. To the young I look
alien, a wrinkled, grey revenant.
Inside, though, I continue
to raise the same force field
between me and threat,
squinting to decipher cues,
footholds that won’t bog.
While not exactly that girl,
nor am I wholly other,
still flickering with a light
I hope will pass for flame.
Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. She has a chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, forthcoming from dancing girl press (summer 2017). Her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: Oyez, The Cincinnati Review, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Timberline Review, Trailhead Magazine, Vector, and Permafrost.
Stroking through the water
Now the tortoise slow and steady,
Legs kicking, without a splash,
Something I can still do, good form.
—One Hundred meters—
Gliding, sliding, water so soft
Once the hare and now the turtle,
Arching right arm, breathe in,
Body roll left, breath out below.
—Two Hundred meters—
Bubbling, dribbling, from nose then mouth,
The only sound in water world
Encapsulated. A song phrase
Garfunkeled, “Old friends, old friends”
—Three hundred meters—
Stoking memories like old friends
Dearest daughters, dearest sons,
Gazing down, whispering, “Is she—“
Between soaked sheets, arms, feet I.V’ed.
—Four hundred meters—
Stroking out on the bathroom floor
No kicking, not flowing, turtle
On dry land, overturned, enclosed.
Bubbling, dribbling, breathe in, breathe out.
—Five hundred meters—
Physical therapy, prologue,
Months grow into a year, two years.
Walking, speaking, words return.
Kicking, stroking, lapping, aiming—
—One thousand meters—
Victoria Crawford changes her shoes pretty often from dancing to work, following her own muse through teaching, information specialist, waitress, and writing. She is not a stroke victim, but says that she is in stroke recovery, one day at a time, especially when in a pool doing her laps.
function is damaged,
like felling the greatest tree.
had stood strong, can no longer
rock and hard place
as tectonic plates.
disability’s slow grind into sharp focus.
the middle, the space in which you live
light, becomes dark, tight, constricting,
an uncontrollable constancy,
waves rolling, the passage of clouds,
that this is forever sits heavy
the heart, where it finds no doors,
floor solid stone and a leap up, away,
only outcome then, is to stand fast.
on with it. Endure.
*Exacerbations here refer to the sudden acute peaks of the Pseudomonas infection in lungs that are already damaged due to Bronchiectasis.
is no longer flesh.
curve of muscle,
is worn down,
as a wafer,
by pain’s attrition
bones show through skin,
veins curl like ink
wisp is she, a feather,
she will be
was her life.
Miki Byrne has had three poetry collections published and had work included in over 170 poetry magazines and anthologies. She has read on Radio and TV, is active on the spoken word scene, and also runs a poetry writing group.
Miki is disabled and lives near Tewkesbury. Gloucestershire.UK.
My inner body is as unknown to me
as the plains of Africa,
its hills and valleys, crevices
where mountain lions lie in wait
for the immune system to grow weary
The bobcat’s tail swings in anticipation.
The jaguar emerges from his nap.
All the cats set to pounce, to kill.
Deep in the night, I cannot rest for fear
they will smell me, they will leap.
My fingers clinch.
I try to think instead of mountain goats,
high, out of reach, sturdy on their feet.
But the king of beasts lazily
moves toward me, not slouching toward
Bethlehem after all, not to be born
but to slay my paralyzed cells.
He is not to be tamed.
I am humbled by these felines,
vaguely honored, in fact,
to be eaten nearly alive,
neck snapped, spinal cord useless,
Behind the iris, I wait for those dry, yellow days.
Tamara Miles teaches English in South Carolina. Her poetry has appeared in Fall Lines; Love is Love; Pantheon Magazine;The Tishman Review; Animal; and Apricity. She is a member of Irish writer Jane Barry’s creativity salon, That Curious Love of Green, and in 2016 contributed to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.
Suicide By Apathy
I’m walking away
as life burns behind.
I lit the match
against another diagnosis,
onto the impoverished suburb
(making sure to brand myself
“fucked up” in the process.)
I do not care
for the planes that will fall,
the lovers that will weep smoke.
and there is nothing I can do
to stop me.
These words I choke
onto this computer screen
are just ash from the fallout
of everything I have failed.
They will be forgotten
as the years stumble by
like a drunken child
in search of a parent
that is never coming home.
Robert J. W. is an author, photographer, and blogger from Morgantown, WV. He isthe author of the poetry collections Houses I’ve Died In and Coffee and Antipsychotics as well as the upcoming chapbook, Screamo Lullabies. When not writing, he enjoys reading, listening to music, and taking nature walks.
“I know everything is gonna be alright,”
and I play call-and-response,
skirting demons until
the gate of memory swings open, and
a dark-eyed girl in a bright yellow shirt
smiles, waving into the future.
Let the haunting come
night after night
Let the dream do its work,
Be a canvas:
A steel-white glider on a porch in Southwest,
Virginia, 1983 – everything buzzes and smells of
Honeysuckle and roses;
Granddaddy hums a tune as grandma knits another blue
And pink and purple yarned throw for a church friend or one
Of her sons or daughters and my brown girl legs dangle from
The rocker to the left of my daddy’s daddy.
Two sisters are their own company without me, talking their preteen talk
Within reason – grandma hears everything – and getting some sun while the baby sister that is me takes in their talk and glide and is satisfied
to be in their company –
I am a bridge between,
a variation on theme
Lady Lazarus with
a made-up face in varying shades of brown.
I imagine our difference as a flower garden
some of us are tulips, sturdy-stemmed and bulbous
some of us are azaleas, overgrown and wild / tiger lilies,
cottonweed and bougainvillea; some of us
do not yet have a name.
We are a tribe of lost siblings,
With the shocked look of the left behind.
Cheryl R. Hopson, PhD, is an assistant professor of African American Studies at Western Kentucky University. She has published essays on Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker, as well as on Black feminist sisterhood. Her chapbook Black Notes was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.
The Gravity of Sadness
Seated and sunk on the edge of the bed,
your head tilted to the right and bowed,
doe eyes half-open and stare at the ground,
shoulder-length black hair slightly frayed
and hangs upon the right side of your face.
The morning sunlight free falls
through the window, descends and ends
a patch of subdued yellow folded in the middle:
upper half sprawls lower part of grey wall;
the other limns a square of the wooden floor.
The silence drags everything down —
even the ghostly murmurs
— in heavy anticipation
of a teardrop.
Karlo Sevilla is a freelance writer who lives in Quezon City, Philippines. His poems have appeared in Philippines Graphic, Rat’s Ass Review, Spank the Carp, Eastlit, Radius Lit, Eternal Remedy, Peacock Journal, Yellow Chair Review, Rambutan Literary, Peeking Cat Poetry, The Five-Two, and elsewhere. On invisible illness: they’re always here…there…
Journaling, Labeling Theory (V2)
Breaking news this just in,
1:15 PM December 15, 2013,
I found out labeling theory
has a personality,
impact of its own.
I love today because I
found out I have a mental illness.
now I am special.
Shrink, Dr. Pennypecker, knows me well.
We visit 15 minutes every 3 months.
I have known him for 9 months.
Simple sentences just make more sense.
Simple sentences make me feel more secure.
After 9 months he says, “I’ve sort of figured
you out, you are a manic depressive, stage 2 hypomania.”
I ask my shrink, “can I cast my vote?”
Jesse’s Homeless Face (V4)
Someday Jesse wants to go home.
I see his world,
all its hidden concepts
embedded in Jesse’s aging face-
life has whispered by leaving
deep as riverbed ruts
dried with years, weather-beaten,
just above his bushy eyebrows
those are gray and twisted-
much like life drawing memories
across his empty face.
Jesse has a long oblique
Jewish nose with dark
blue opal eyes,
that would pierce
even the pain
of his own crucifixion.
Life tears flow though
a whole new ghoulish
apparition, a vision
of homelessness plastered
east of Dearborn Bridge,
near Lower Wacker Drive,
where affluent citizens
seldom go unless inebriated
puke-stained, or in a taxicab.
Jesse’s hair sprouts skyward
groomed like an abandoned
dove nest in wild Chicago
Puffed eye bags of weariness
sag likes sandbags,
one slightly heavier than the other.
Weeks of breaded growth
contour his chin in color blends
of white and black.
Over one shoulder drapes
a grungy gray blanket found
in Lilly Mae’s garbage can,
the other shoulder,
naked, but tanned,
bears itself to the elements.
Jesse panhandles during the day.
At night and early Sunday mornings,
you can find him behind
a local McDonalds,
near Cracker Creek,
sharing leftover burgers
and sugar candy
with river rats-
Jesse considers it an act of religious charity
age 69, someday soon,
Jesse wants to go home.
Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 945 small press magazines online and in print. His poems have appeared in 29 countries, he edits, publishes ten different poetry sites. He also has 114 poetry videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos. Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL. nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015 & Best of the Net 2016. He is also the editor/publisher of anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762 https://www.createspace.com/6126977. Dandelion In A Vase of Roses, Editor Michael Lee Johnson, and Coeditor Ken Allan Dronsfield, another anthology my members of Facebook group Contemporary Poets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/.
Our Father who Art in Heaven
Let’s talk about Prince Cancer,
Lord of the Lungs, Male of the Prostate,
having fun throwing darts
to the smooth ovaries, and wilted vaginas,
My father has the most beautiful cancer ganglion
at the root of his neck, under the clavicle,
tubercle of the good of God,
light bulb of virtuous death.
I send all the suns of the world to la chingada.
The Lord Cancer, Lord Pendejo,
is just an instrument in the dark hands
of the sweet VIP’s that make up life.
In the four drawers
of the wooden filing cabinet
I keep dear names,
clothes of familiar ghosts,
words that wander around
and my successive skins.
I also keep the faces
of beloved women,
their loved and alone eyes,
the chaste kiss of coitus.
May good find
of a heavenly tree.
Sergio A. Ortiz is a gay Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.
What’s a Concussion?
Almost rhymes with cushion which sounds fluffy and floofy
like your head was hit with feathers or wind.
But that’s a lie.
per the dictionary:
Violent shock, jarring, jamming, organ injury
such as the brain, which may result in a long loss of function.
Troubling word, not a verb, but a painting word
describing your brain in pain when it’s been shaken,
stirred, and hit so hard that some fine wires break in there,
but no one can see because no camera, no MRI is powerful
enough to show the blow, the hit, the bad break.
The word concussion means nothing to me anymore. Let’s give that word away.
It’s really a brain break. It’s a hurt, wound sore, tear, lesion–an invisible injury
that hurts. It was cracks in my mind that drained me of life.
Jennifer Jesseph is a poet and fiber artist in Pine Island, Minnesota. She is also a brain injury survivor, and has written about recovering from post-concussion syndrome. She writes for adults and children, does performance pieces, and makes up songs.