To the Reader

James Matthew Wilson

Others taunt me with fleeing reality;
I find in wells, most often, something more
Than white dumb stones numbed to eternity.

When I write verse on the heart’s or mind’s core,
I take it that there’s something there to find
Beyond the pulp on the material floor,

Though to speak of it seem sunlight to the blind.
Is Order just to caulk wood boats with pitch,
As if a sea-fit craft were false design?

To gloat in chaos, spite the native itch
To cut through mobbed obscurity and grasp
The rational sense waiting within; to stitch

An ugly patch-work shawl with broken clasps
Instead of learning skilled embroidery
That make a fine and useful coat to last

Beyond the hour: such cynical strategies
Seem opium for anxious but weak minds.
Baudelaire writes that Nature’s company

Has commerce with the intellect, which winds
Through that expansion des choses infinies.
For him, the senses were a means to find

Where things and their ideas meet ethically.
But to detail the truth in decadence
Is not the only task—or shouldn’t be.

He swooned in details, and died in consequence,
Unwilling to hear the lesson in his words.
One ought to note and weigh the relevance

Of those undying shades signaled in words,
Taking them both as beauties and as guides,
Rowing the ship of heart and mind with words.

Good fortune has not blown me to collide
With the toothed rocks of which some poets sing.
And though it costs, I refuse to elide

A reasonable world, whole and discrete,
Or let the only language I compose
Mumble the bitch that “things aren’t always neat.”

With humble hand, I’ve set here words in rows,
Printed such lines in the effort to entice
The reader see the world an ordered rose.

If this gets called in turn “genteel” or “nice,”
“It lacks the flavor of burnt toast and shoe strings,”
Know all I’d meant to do was be precise.

We cannot learn from drugged hues, violent spewings;
Or wrestle truth ensnared in proud confusion,
Where doggerels arrogant and obese go strewing

The talkative forest limbs in hysteric ruin.
I’ve said this world makes perfect sense to me.
And if my ghostly ancestors-in-allusion

May show their numbered knowledge, then we’ll see
If, having learned their pattern, you don’t agree.

Gypsy Moths

Katie Kalisz

Happily we practiced our aim with shiny bicycles,

an ambush on the driveway where they caravanned
from one side of the yard to the other, searching
the oak and aspen of our childhood sylvan for a transient home.

We tried to get our tires at a right angle to their lined bodies,
pedaled quickly to make a neat cross
or an addition sign and then, mastering that,

we lined our tires up to roll over their length
like the lowercase “l”s we practiced with our pencils
on the dot-lined penmanship paper during school.

How the green and yellow streaks of their guts trailed out
behind their furry spotted bodies.
Sometimes, they would become circular splats of intestines

that we tried to forget, even though we sped around the circle driveway
to see again the remnants of life,
paintings made with bodies that we couldn’t imagine

once alive. Maybe if they’d been moths earlier.
Caterpillars begot butterflies. Something crawling became
something beautiful that flew. Our childlike version of the resurrection’s

confounding and annual mystery, even then we knew the futility
of staying in one place long enough, a recurring
accumulation of death and flight and infestation

and no difference made.

Quid Est Veritas?

J.B. Toner

But how can I be happy, when I know
   Each hour I add a sin-weight to His load
   As he goes reeling up the Sorrow-Road
To grim Golgotha where the ravens go?
But how can I be sad, when I know well
   He died for us, to bring us lasting joy—
   He bled and suffered, sadness to destroy,
And hush the haunting threnodies of Hell?
Ah, Lord, Thy wisdom brims with mystery,
With beauties that it scalds the eyes to see,
  With healing that can cut us like a knife;
I understand the crowning irony:
That Pilate questioned, "What is truth?" of Thee,
   Who art, Thyself, the Way and Truth and Life!

J.B. Toner is a graduate of the school of hard knocks.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Moonlit Trance

Beth Gylys

Everything’s in a trance of Moonlight
— Theodore Deppe

The M’s of couples walk the glowing streets,
and in the square, the fountain’s a bouquet
of broken mirrors. I sway slightly, glass pressed
to lips, hearing in my head the tune of a song
whose name I can’t remember. Rustle of wheat
and silk skirt. Shadow of an oak. Faint
stirring of a child in its sleep. I might
begin to float or sing out loud, or my spirit
leave my body and shimmer toward elsewhere. [Read more...]

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Paula, sed ferox

Gabriel Olearnik

Your eyes are the heels of horses on stone:
They spark.
Red crescents on your cheeks,
A ploughed place between the brows,
And your face like a storm, dancing.

Gabriel Olearnik studied medieval history at University College London. He is currently an attorney and practices corporate law.

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A Grief Sublime

Leah Acosta

Fecundity of grief
can sow the arsenic seeds of bitterness
or bear the sweeter fruits of peace, relief—
so civilized a crop from wilderness.
A time to plant, a time to reap, a time
to laugh, a time to weep. A grief sublime.

Lealani Mae (Leah) Acosta is a first-year neurology resident at the University of Virginia Health System.

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