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miller's pond

Winter 2017

Cleo Griffith Bernadine Lortis Michael Bates Lee Slonimsky
David Sermersheim Jane Blanchard Steven D. Pace Penelope Evans
Henry Goldkamp Howard F. Stein Richard Carl Subber


Cleo Griffith

November 9, 2016

We should have known,
this was an autumn of discontent
voices long silent rose together
across miles, through skies of cloud and clean
a tweak of history seen from
millions of viewpoints,
what will be the result, what will the four years leave
as heritage? What will we see soon next year?
 
Ballots fluttered down like leaves falling
from tired trees, change this change this
and now the country stands atremble
not as one but with individual next to individual
not knowing each other’s thoughts.
Which of us made the difference, whom among us
felt stifled and disenfranchised?
 
All the lovely people on the stage smile
audience on-lookers cheer,
the easy part is over, recognize it,
when can the mechanics be attacked,
how can the papers be edited, the histories adapted,
when do the screws get tightened,
machinery oiled, when can the engineer
put the train on the track, set the program,
start for the goal?
 
The engine needs many cars behind it
to supply the needs of the nation,
wash off the rude graffiti, hook up,
travel all directions like an octopus
on steel wheels, gather into you the fuel
and give back the jobs they seek,
shelter them with umbrellas of care,
shield the citizens from fire, from chaos,
from each other, spread values among the
wilderness, cover all with the same silk blanket
that’s all they want, to be equal in your sight
in each others' world, in history.
 

Pretend

Pretend I don’t have form
I am only a thought balloon above your head
waiting to be filled,
give me your worst, I expand,
I do not judge
Explain without fear, my hearing is non-critical,
I’ll sip my coffee
with no hint of frown, no downward looks,
no sigh. I am patient.
Give me the thoughts hard to put into words
I’ll translate them,
I’ll not repeat them
they are only yours, our strength
is silence after you.
Pretend
I am
not your mother.


The Merry-Go-Round

Do you remember the merry-go-round?
You quickly figured how to start it turning,
poor dad ran to catch you before you whirled off,
you wanted to ride, so you did.
There were azaleas full in bloom everywhere
on that walk through the small park
in the small port city on the Atlantic.
I must have been holding John, or perhaps
pushing him in a stroller, all I remember is you
defying parents and gravity, a few minutes of fear,
I don’t think we punished you, we certainly
laugh about it now, little two-year-old on a
merry-go-round which practically started itself
with the help of your quick brain and fingers,
seems like you’ve hopped on a bigger one this time
and dad can’t rescue you, you’ll have to turn it off
yourself unless you wish to continue whirling…
we’re never sure, you say you’re awfully dizzy
and would like it to stop but from where we stand
we see your expressions change with each rotation,
gleeful, resistant, frightened, overwhelmed, accepting,
you yell that you want it to stop but then
another round and you say it’s okay and fun, never mind,
and you’re no longer our two-year old, but
you’re our daughter. We worry.

Cleo Griffith was Chair of the Editorial Board of Song of the San Joaquin for twelve years, and remains on the Board. She has been published in many journals, is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, and lives in California with her husband Tom and their aptly-named tabby, Tank.


Bernadine Lortis

Along the Path to the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen

 
Plucked from mountains in Afghanistan
Tulip Tarda’s golden blooms
revealed their treasure, one a day.
Now shriveled, puckered, they hide deep
within a bed of lime green tongues
caressing their decrepitude.
 
They pushed their way through winter’s snow
a brilliant show of desperate hope
a brief, bold shout from mounds of white
that piled along the narrow street
where frozen feet in homeless lines
trudged lighter seeing their brave face.
 
Though they are quickly come and gone
—unlike our soldiers who remain—
their seeds, released in free-fall flats
will scatter broadly once again
as seasons turn and winds assist
to sow their cheer to multitudes.

 

Veils

Now they say its not good for you
            white bread from white flour.
Carbs turn into sugar and cause
            belly fat that bulges and jiggles
            before it reaches the heart
as though the yeast that made it
            can't stop rising and swelling.
Forget the fear. Live in comfort knowing,
            after all, it's this one life you own.

I can see my mother at the creaking table
            when day's first pink blessing creeps
            through icy patterns on the window.
Her fleshy, dimpled arms pleat the sticky mass,
            powdered knuckles brush hair from her eyes
and, as a potter molds clay, she folds it
             into something wonderful

Veiled like a new bride,
           puffs of parchment billow about her,
           climb air shafts on her warm breath.
The white dissolves upward, slowly to blue,       
           turns the cracked ceiling into sky,
           welcomes another world inside. 

I wonder what she thought of, alone for awhile,
           in her only solitude of the day.
Did she float away on her handmade clouds
           until raucous children tumbled down
           with their unceasing demands?

You know this isn't a poem about good bread
           or even about my good mother
           for that matter, but about
not forgetting the glimmering flecks
           that forever filter, flaxen, through
           grains in our brief hour-glass-time.

An avid reader, gardener, and dabbler in watercolor, Bernadine has been writing secretly and sporadically for years. Her degrees in art and education were occupationally driven. Since submitting in June, 2016, a creative nonfiction piece and eight poems have been or are soon to be published in various online journals. She lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and finds inspiration all about her.


Michael Bates

Seasonal Unemployment

Once I was a scarecrow
with acres of corn in my care.
I watched generations of seeds
grow up and flourish.
They made me feel alive.
 
Since then, with each harvest
leaving me less to do,
more to reflect on,
it´s becoming
as clear as clouds
that I´m no longer
needed by the farmer
who made me his
stand in.
 
Now, autumn´s night frost
freeze dries my stitches,
and every day almost
winter winds pick them apart.
Limb by limb, I´m losing
all my inner support:
straw´s running out,
a broomstick’s severed.
 
In a barn, somewhere,
there´s a man
weighing his good fortune.
And here I am — over the hill,
facing a field full
of nothing.

The Industrialization of Silk

One summer, with the Empire in full bloom,
the mulberry trees stood leafless,
their branches alive with
tea colored cocoons.
Legend says that some fell
into a bucket of boiling water
ending up as threads ready for weaving.

The first bolt was rushed to court--
a fabric so fine it tingled, so light
it fluttered from hand to hand.
Finally, after much discussion
and no consensus, the Emperor decreed
that only nobles who paid taxes
could trade in silk.
He also forbade exporting
the eggs, with good reason...
outside his realm, rulers
were as greedy as thieves,
and ruthless.

That was milleniums ago.
Now all sorts of bolts, from crepe
to taffeta, are produced, worldwide,
on high-speed looms. and thanks to genetics,
the larvae eat less, grow faster, spin
larger cocoons. Even the dirty work
of boiling is automated; no longer
done by artisans on a small scale
Given today's demand for silk, the worms
need to be massacred.

How to Succeed in Apiculture

Plenty of bees swarming around
his hive, others flying in,
and out...

With veiled enthusiasm,
he's there to take stock of the boxes,
trying not to upset any
while looking for honeycombs.
Those chosen for culling
should be found dripping, larger
than a man's hands.
For stowing, his back's
strapped with a knapsack
which, like always,
should soon be bulging;
by the end of summer
much too small.

As for the bees, they'd
be a wild bunch without him'
their nest no more than a batch
of wax branching from a tree
nowhere near this pasture sown
with rye and clover.


Michael Bates is a recently retired international publishing executive. Although born in the USA, he lived abroad in South America and Europe during his professional life. He currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida and maintains a website/blog, three by 3, accessed by      http//michaeljbates.com  His poetry has been published in print and elctronic form.

Richard Carl Subber

Stone things

The stony silence in the great field
is a song whose words I do not hear,
   yet it beckons….
The stones have no voice
but their music rises from the resonant earth,
   a mix of ancient chords,
      the glacier’s pulse for tempo.
The dull and dirty stones sing and sing,
   their harmony in millennial measure,
      their harmony in lasting sameness,
         each with each,
   and in their nature, enduring without change,
      without distinct past and future,
         with truth only in the moment,
perforce, with almost perfect resistance to change
in lieu of elegant quickening spirit.
The stones experience only place as variety,
   they are stone-like in whatever aspect,
      whatever space….
 
Their singing is a song of self, of steadfastness,
   of strongest will to be.
The stones do stone things wherever they may lie,
   in sheltering earth,
      or cast aside from a garden,
         in cairn, in wall—
the stones ever cling to their stony ways.
 
So. This is for learning.
I heed this clarion music of the stones
and I sing the song of me.
I cleave to my loves and my plans
and my special pleasures
and my sense of the right things,
   and yet I will welcome each new place
   and learn to be me there.
 
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.
(Previously published in The Australia Times Poetry Magazine)

Lay me down

I ramble through the old pine woods, indulging the piney scents,
hearing again that these old stands—these old firs—make no noises,
trying again to make no unsettling sound.
 
The path opens wide, I take long views of spaces near and far,
on the left side, on the right side,
I see to darkness, and, I think, still farther to the almost seen,
to where tomorrow’s further ramble may entice me to walk on.
 
The forest floor is everywhere, of course,
invisible in my span of sight and thought,
this moment, looking down, I see what had been naught.
 
I dare to say aloud in quiet words how wonderful
to stand at ease on this endless blanket of such spartan weave
   and cushioned spread,
this muffling cloak of countless specks,
this yielding quilt of scarcely patterned brown,
this lingering layer of cast-off bits of these old trees
that offer me at every step a bed of rest,
   and a pillow of softest needles for my head.
 
 
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015  All rights reserved.

Rick Subber is a freelance editor, a writing coach and a historian. He lives with his family in Natick, Massachusetts, USA. He’s a former newspaper reporter/editor who now indulges his love of the right words. Rick is a proud grandpa who is teaching his granddaughter to read and write, in case there is poetry in her future. His poetry also has been accepted in The Aurorean, The Australia Times Poetry Magazine, The RavensPerch, Northern Stars, Whispers and elsewhere.

Lee Slonimsky

The Buried Birthplace of All Whales


That sea’s the Himalayas now,
long hidden under shifting earth,
the cracking plates, wild lava flows
concealing waters that gave birth
to whales’ ancestors.  

                              Walk, then swim:

you could become a species too!
If only you had countless years
to shrink your limbs, to grow a fin
or two.

But you’ve got just this afternoon
to gaze and think.  Revere.  And stare
at lofty peaks’ magnificence
that many here see as divine;
and what you’ll cherish is the sense
that here’s a place beyond all time.
Though young, robust as mountains go,
these peaks are wrapped in fine gold light
suggesting some Forever.  Go!

Climb toward this vanished history.
Whales’ origin.  You’ll never be
another species, but it’s truly so:
how bright these mountains glow.

Frog in the Car


Tiny yes, a tadpole no.
He’ll never be a bullfrog.

Stalking the windshield
for an exit.

Offspring of evolutionary chance,
just like you.

Doesn’t grasp the concept of glass.
When he rests you can see his pulse,
his tiny glossy body trembling
with seeming fragility,
but he’s been here three
hundred million years
so you know he must be tough
in a way.

How he got here
you don’t know
(on the dashboard or on planet earth)
but you feel you have to stop
and let him out
before his nerves
are mush.

Window down now,
a newspaper shuttle
will be his rescuer,
but then he leaps without an aid:
and glides a breeze to safety.

The vast blue sky’s awash in hope
for freedom everywhere!

Car picks up speed and forest blurs
to his perfect pitch of emerald green.

Walt Whitman, Not a Cardiologist                               


I never knew the way the earth’s pulse beat
until I stood long hours at this spout
where water sputtered forth each now and then,
as if an open capillary breathed
its salty cargo to the still blue air
up on this cliff, next to the glimmering sea.

Walt Whitman, not a cardiologist
would nonetheless perceive this flow of pulse
and shimmer of its rainbows stalking mist
that congregates above the granite hole,
an open ended vein of the great heart
that pulses on four thousand miles below.

The sea’s as tranquil as a butterfly:
not a ripple to suggest
a worry, caution, sigh.

More a sense of blue-washed earth at rest.


Lee Slonimsky’s poems have appeared in Best of Asheville Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Connecticut Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Measure, The New York Times, North Dakota Quarterly, and Poetry Daily, and have received one Best of the Web and seven Pushcart Prize nominations.  This past August Spuyten Duyvil Press in New York City published his seventh book, Consulting with the Swifts: New and Selected Poems 1982-2016.  As a day job, he manages a hedge fund with a special interest in companies that hire the developmentally disabled.

David Sermersheim


 Enter Autumn

let brown be blown
beyond in frowsy bluster
vanishing into mist
on crisp autumn air

let the wind caress
leaves rustling boughs
pulled awry in
its restless wake  

let us gather quietly
clasping hand of another
not bending in fear
or shrouded in silence

let joyous song
sound in season
and time given to make
of what simplicity is

The Long Way Back

let’s take the long way back
through shaded oak and aromatic pine
past the gray weathered split-rail fence
bent into the warp and woof of time
past the old place with the massive beams
holding memory and movement of dancing feet in place
in moonlit rooms  resonating
with laughter of friends and family

rolling past the giant willow
with the well in shade
and the copper taste of cool water
on a hot summer day

we glide into the blue penumbra
spread long and wide
with faint light aglow on a distant horizon
where all are where they should be
before light and shadow meld with night

we drifted wheels crunching gravel
like popcorn between my ears
the hour is right in its time
and all that might have been
trailed behind and lost the way
back to what we choose to remember

The author taught at The Hotchkiss School (Ct.) for 33 years; has had poems published in The Aurorean, Ancient Paths, Sacred Journeys, Cloudbank, Iodine Review, Everyday Poems, Writing Raw, Poetry Pacific, Poetry Superhighway, Bitchin’ Kitsch, miller’s pond, and other journals and quarterlies. He was a MacDowell Fellow and his book, Meditations, is listed on Amazon.  He lives in Westbrook, Connecticut.


Howard F. Stein

Nightfall at Ghost Ranch, NM        

Shadows deepen in the mesas’ folds,
lengthen east of a row of cottonwood.
The Pedernal* and its companions
turn ash gray at dusk.
Time for night to settle.
Darkness is not permanent;
the Pedernal will be among the first
to greet the sun.

*The Cerro Pedernal is a flat-topped extinct volcano south of Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM. It was made famous by artist Georgia O’Keefe’s numerous paintings and sketches.

Howard F. Stein, an organizational, applied, psychoanalytic, and medical anthropologist, is professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, where he taught for nearly 35 years. He now facilitates the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center’s meetings. He is author of thirty books, of which nine are of poetry. His most recent poetry book is Light and Shadow (2016). It is available at  http://www.doodleandpeck.com/product-page/699b9759-0ec1-a3f4-0907-e601cb58d15b  He can be reached at howard-stein@ouhsc.edu

Jane Blanchard

Consolation

I’m sorry she turned you down flat.
You didn’t deserve that a bit.
She thinks of you just as a friend?
That is not what you wanted to hear.
 
She doesn’t deserve you a bit.
I’ve never been prouder of you!
That is not what you wanted to hear?
You’ll never find somebody else?
 
How could I be prouder of you?
You didn’t make any mistake.
Of course, you’ll find somebody else!
You’ll only feel strange for a while.
 
She certainly made a mistake.
She’ll be sorry she turned you down flat.
You’re sure to feel strange for a while.
Can you think of her just as a friend?

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia.  Her work has appeared previously in miller’s pond and recently in Angle, Blue Unicorn, Lighten Up Online, Orbis, Snakeskin, and Third Wednesday.  Her first collection, Unloosed, is available from Kelsay Books.

Steven D. Pace

A Hat Tips to Clarity

Everyone is asleep
undistributed and de-focused.
What's important is taking the Deep Dive:
We begin brand new.
I mean, to the Thought behind the Test.
Everyone is awake
to extensive recipes which
distribute their foci
into Everything Combinations.
 
What you like most
you tend to best.
There are times to think
as a General:
Collect techniques, make
attention spans
re-distribute and re-focus.
Like a mitten does

fingers; or a scarf hair.

from the poet:  I have had a love for language and writing since I was a child, and have given myself to its study, particularly poetry. I have been experimenting with many different styles/forms/themes, and generate my own forms from time to time. I continue to explore and continue to be fascinated! I have had two poems selected for publication; one in the Fall 2014 edition of the Penwood Review and the other in the Fall 2016 edition of Convergence Online.

Penelope Evans

Winter Reflections from the 11th Floor

Soot-covered roofs;
broken leafless tree limbs;
the horizon dotted with utility poles and cell phone towers;
windshield wipers slapping and turn signals blinking;
umbrellas shielding the ant people hurrying through their lives.
Even winter's bleakness is welcome in the face of war.


Henry Goldkamp

“To Henry—Best wishes on a great future”

1
 
As I fluffed up her comforter responding “Getting prepped
for shipping” she asked where, & I said Dreamland as a lover’s joke,
as if I were a package & she giggled & said goodnight
because she didn’t know Dreamland is another name
for being anywhere but with her & anywhere away from this city
where sidewalks cannot make up their cracked minds,
sending you either towards the heavens or suddenly to hell
& as you think of which you’ll be sent to in the end
you’ve no time to figure out the answer as you’ve tripped into the earth
over a crack only Goliath could conquer. This city that friends tell me
they’ll live in one day because it’s so fun, it’s so relaxing, & the peeling
paint is cute, cute as their fantasies.
 
2
 
They don’t know my dog has fleas, that it takes 15 minutes
to get hot water in the shower, that my landlord broke my nose
& won’t fix the broken sink, that I spend too much
of my poor income on drinking & go broke after drinking
when drunk for bad cocaine with the hope that maybe this time
it’ll be good stuff, & I can grit my teeth with new friends,
ones that know about the fleas & the water & the flowers & the sink.
I spend money on white flowers the next day that I barely afford
to make seem things seem nicer than they are
 
3
 
& things are nicer than they are when the petals are still
white & tight & fly from yellow. All they know is electronics
are expensive & what the playlist will be on the road trip
& that you’re not allowed to hate a city when it’s destroyed
by one of God’s natural disasters, & not by God, not by
the ringleader, & that you’re not allowed to say the thought
you had when you saw the pictures on the news of death &
dirt-water & helicopter rescues, that that clown looked like
a circus clown tap-dancing in greyness, to greyness, real
spectacles, miracles, wonder, awe. That my god, it is a circus,
& my god,  they didn’t leave because they wanted to die.
I don’t want to die. I will see highway signs soon.
 
4
 
I have my cute fantasy, too, where I can come back
home with long hair, swollen heart & a clean dick &
old expensive boots fresh from the cobbler down there,
& they’ll whisper it when I enter the room, mention my style,
that I lived there for three miserable years, went to some sort of hell
& back writing and smoking cigarettes down there. Strange women
would pay to look into my eyes. My hair is thicker in these fantasies.
I am smarter, I guess. But this isn’t the reality. My hair will look the same,
& I will have to wait for that city to come up in conversation
& mention that I lived there for a while, hiding eagerness behind
my eyes to step outside & tell you about my mind those days outside
on the patio in the dark, pre-romantically opening up the legs
of my mouth to you, telling you everything about the gut of that
city & the guts it took to live there. I’ll tell you of the difficulties of living
with a girl you knew you would leave as you brought in cardboard boxes
still smelling freshly of sharpies from the ten hour drive. Then we’ll kiss,
you’ll kiss a bastard that has only one tongue.
 
5
 
A picture of my father’s headshot at 22 years old
sits above the desk I work at, staring off
at nothing in particular on the opposite wall.
That was when he was in Hollywood
maddened with his own cute fantasies,
veins swollen from seeing so many tanned,
young sandy bodies. Until it’s too much.
After that, two women roar out four children
from their tummies & turn pale, like the
sandy actors that crawl from the Pacific into LA.
I’m still waking up with sand in my mouth.
 
6
 
He tells me many wise things from his little agent’s
office with a white sheet, impressive for a father
now three years my junior. He signed the headshot
as a joke for me when I was a child: “To Henry—
Best wishes for a great future!” You cannot smell
the sharpie from his picture anymore. His hair was thick.
 
7
 
Today he told me that the spirit’s only uniform
is some bit of flesh. He said it with a smirk,
which worried me a bit, but I guess he just
found something funny about the way
soggy dead flowers looked in that light.

Henry Goldkamp lives in New Orleans with his wife and three dogs, though he is originally from Saint Louis. He often taps the Mississippi River for inspiration. Most important to him is the spirit of gratitude and realizing how damn lucky all this is. He has been recently published in Mudfish, Waterways, Asinine Poetry, Poets' Espresso Review and others. If you want to know more about him and his work, simply google search “Henry Goldkamp” with a fresh drink of your choice—there’s plenty to read.