Three Poems | Zaji Cox

Bacchus, Caravaggio, Wikimedia Commons
I burned sage to clear the air of her
but she lingered,
stuck around my cluttered and dark room, sucked
at the available air, until there
was hardly any left to breathe. I kept waiting
for her to come back, to come up from behind
and press her fingers onto my face,
to dig her nails into my eyes
and stick flecks of silver polish
on my chin. I shower in cold water but still
feel her scratch down my back,
leaving raw red marks on my skin.

The Followers
Hedonistic heathens
will drink the night,
will taste ten thousand daisies
in a rose-colored city.
They will stumble in shadowed groups
under stringed lights
with mouths wide open,
drinking, grinning, falling
into each other’s arms
and sway by the road
on their way to the forest.

The heathens follow none
but their pleasures. In the trees they grasp
at each other’s palms,
reaching, wanting,
and taking. Wolves dash
at the sound of their hoots and gasps
for air in the dark. And they do not settle
but collapse, in a confused tangle,
a shared embrace like twining ivy—
a firmness that nature itself would envy.

The Mane
Today I let them see my mane. It is out
in a dark magnificent mass about my head,
not quite straight,
not quite wavy.
My mane is not like what’s been seen before—
at least not by those
who come to gape and pet,
with timid and gentle fingers.
After yearning to touch it for so long,
The fingers treat my mane like it may at once
be a thick enough jungle to trap a hand
and weak enough to fall out in clumps at a caress.
But it can handle the exploring clumsy fingers
that roam and pull its wisps up to watch them fall, the fingers
that squeeze handfuls of this new territory.
I watch a new merging
of amusement and confusion:
It’s not what they thought it would look, feel, move like.
It does not frame my face like the manes they know.
It is exotic.
I am exotic.
So strange, isn’t it?
But it won’t bite. I won’t bite,
bare my fangs with a low growl
at the errant touch.
No, today, I suppress any urge that rises
to my surface and struggles
to claw its way out. I am not ashamed.
I tell myself:
I am not ashamed.
I, forcing pride, let the hands pet my mane,
my exotic magnificent mass.


Three Poems | Renee Butner

Bodegón con costillas y cabeza de cordero by Francisco de Goya


Copper kettle burn
three hundred degrees
on my upper arm
sears black quickly
overlaid with protective scab
During the night I toss and turn
rubbed bare against silken gray sheets
the scalding of each pore
awakens me with its intensity

In the light of early morning 
fresh smooth skin
though still afire and tender
is blemish free pink and clean
Oh if my entire body could be so
Erase the anxieties that 
crease my brow permanently 
worries which turn the 
corners of my lips downward

I would step into scorching lava  
come out the other side
encased in bloody blisters
deserving of the pain
Restoration will be worth it
Bite my tongue remember kindness
       and the glistening jewel that is joy        


Overslept the alarm 
argument with spouse
ignored someone waiting for 
a parking spot and
slipped right in anyway
got the bird and
angrily returned it
snatched the last size 8
white jeans
snarled “sorry”
to the woman
reaching for them 
looked the other way
when the homeless
man held high his sign
in order for it to be seen
burned the chicken
for dinner
smothered it in bbq sauce
went to bed early and depressed


Overslept the alarm 
ignored the complaints 
of my spouse
kissed him on the cheek
as I departed
gestured for blue car waiting
to turn out in front of me
no white jeans at 
the mall
found great buy
on denim skirt instead
“Need work” said the man's
sign on the side of the road
I handed him change
from my deal on the skirt
with my address if interested
to mow my lawn tomorrow
dinner was superb 
my bed cool and comforting
later that evening


Renee Butner lives in Winston-Salem, NC, in the United States where she and her husband are the owners of Kilwins,a chocolate, fudge, and ice cream shop.  She has three young grandsons whom she loves fiercely and enjoys running,reading, painting, travel and dark chocolate.  


Poem | Sharanya Manivannan | Something Was Promised Me

Roses- Van Gogh - Wikimedia Commons 

Something was promised me a long time ago,
when the world was still conspired in halves, and

each was a bowl, capable of holding, and keeping.
We were spun from each other like winged seeds

in elemental time, brought to earth by the weight of
wanting. We radiated across great distances, light

and lion-valiant. There was always rain, or the memory
of it. I filled myself to the brim, and kept searching.

My palms were held ever open. I sullied my fate lines with
the small spines of feral roses in the overgrown briars,

while at my back the sun reminded me how the world that
had come to pass into being was patterned and circinate.

I would call your name if I knew it. But that too was
taken in the wind, or left at the red altars at each border

where I settled to wait for something else to say.
Perhaps I will only know you by the soles of your feet,

filthy with long travel and untranslated experience. But you
who also spun so far away, will you appear, will you stay?

Poems | Suzi Kaplan Omstead

A mandala painting, via icollector.com



There’s a lot of talk of fear of failure
If you waste your youth
As I did mine
Actually, I was a prolific waster of youth
Or maybe I just had a lot to squander
I never thought I’d live this long
My opportunities to fail were legion
And if you ask my parents I was still a greedy bitch
Fear of failure sounded like a Zen koan to me
Of course I longed for fame and riches
It consumes every child’s dreams
But I’m a grown up, mostly, now
I couldn’t give a half-hearted fuck for failure
And I’ve given one, even more, for things prized higher
The mercy fuck, the-I’m-too-tired-to-not give a fuck, the “a fuck for this guy will actually be a service to the world at large” fuck
But I’ve never fucked for success
Only an idiot writes poetry seeking fame and fortune
That’s why they invented screenplays
Though the odds are better if you buy a lottery ticket
Success doesn’t elude poets because they fear success
It eludes us because our primary audience is other poets
The Irish are correct when they say
“If you want to see how God feels about money, see who gets it”
Success may be getting what you want, but invariably a new place called “success” appears just at the horizon. 
If you are quick, you’re going to figure out that the new place is the same as the old place, and you’re just a hamster on a wheel. 
If you’re stubborn, it might take a few more tries, but on the bright side, those hamster wheels are great cardio, and will get you a magnificent ass.
I’m no believer in perpetual happiness as an end goal
Failure is the salt that sweetens tequila and caramel
It’s the amuse bouche life provides
So the joyous times, however brief, are worth the striving
Even if they occur when we’ve just stepped in dog shit
Or when bird’s aim was perhaps too good, and covered a shoulder in crap
Or are followed by having the one to whom we risked our heart return it
grilled in garlic and hot spices
No matter how wonderful, how special, how destined for greatness in another life, any of us may be
There are billions and billions of us
At least a billion extraordinary folks who will never know what my parents called “success”
Special has never been the criteria that determines worldly accomplishment
What is the actual price of trying and failing?
It’s exactly the same life we already have
Fear of failure is only meaningful if success is important
And what moron decided that?
Besides my parents, of course
Doing what you love, what you are moved to do by unseen forces,
For no good reason beyond the fact that time disappears while you’re doing it
And every once in a while, create something you love,
Regardless how anyone else feels about it
(As long as you aren’t expecting anyone else to support your endeavors)
That IS success my friends, and if it’s what you’re doing
You have made yourself a very special life


I'm an agent of chaos sent to make sure calm consistency is the one thing he never gets.
Be careful what you wish for, and never make a vow you can't keep
Ask to churn the depths of Samsara
Don't expect margaritas with salt
The Lamas speak of terrifying charnel grounds to do your Chöd practice
When the demons, ghosts and monsters come for you
Stay still, and offer your own flesh to feed their hunger
Silly bunny, kicks are for kids
The punchline to an old joke I don't remember, but still think is funny as hell
I’ve never been in a graveyard that scared me
It's where we went to get stoned
Visiting the Sharon Tate house on Cielo, Murder in this sky
But I've been tortured by doctors my whole life
So the demons come to me
Mostly kind, with good intentions
The sort that will probably ensure that these words die barely heard
And I offer up my flesh with the best humor I can muster
I know a charnel ground when I'm in it
And I’ve never broken a vow


Poems | Kristiane Weeks

painting by Edward Henry Potthast, Wikimedia Commons


Under emeralded blades
she sings glow
tuned to radio breath,
winded city into underworld
she lines paved highway with
radiating lymph nodes,
five-footed rabbits.
Monologue with holed
tongue, lick green
taste of Rocky Road Flat
flavor, lick fuzz of weaved dream-weaver
lineage hooked into
Ginsberg rant on canker-hex,
who else stands in nuclear
hands, fingers painted with tiny
brush, dip, dipped with poison?
Pinhole poison, hers is not the hand,
dip, dip, blued dot, dot
invisible ink
spread out like black holes,
star spaces wait
to show them up,
make them eat soil
soaked with thousands of years of
skeleton sludge,
at least these pucks are
shaped into anniversary cakes.


What are the sounds of change?
How many land sounds are cueing you?
What sound do you hear on the Mexico border?
What cries are you ignoring?
What is going on?
What is the sound of war?
Are you listening for boots in sync?
What is your battle anthem?
Is your tempo fast-paced or slow?
If you lay your head on the grooves does it heal or hurt you?
What sound releases you to run free?
What are the sounds of protest?
What is a protest song?
How many protests are songs?
How much is thoughtlessness preventing revolution?
How do you make the revolution care?
What instrument would you choose as your weapon?
What color is your instrument of choice?
Does a voice amplify your instrument’s power?
How closely are you listening to survive?
How often do you listen to those who haven’t survived to keep you keeping on?
Is “keeping on” a protest?
How many protest sounds will it take to make a revolution?
Are you asking the hard questions of your community?

How Do You Listen To Survive?

How closely do you listen to sirens?
How well do you know the footsteps beyond your bedroom door?
There are many kinds of listening, that is beneath feet
the listening that is under this beneath. The listening that happens when your neighbor opens the apartment door to leave, and the listening when they close the door at the bottom of the stairs.
The listening of drips through gutter, tick of clock, carbonation to hiss from bottle (or not).
The listening when wind picks up or stops. The listening between waves huge intake breath, (a vacuum of silence) then roaring smash. The listening of bee wings, snorts from pup nose.
The listening when you wake and your lover is away from the bed, where are they? What are they doing awake without you? Listen for the kettle to bubble, or toilet to flush. Listen to the soft sound of door slowly closing as they leave.
I listen to the shouts through the streets, I listen to the birds bleat through wildlife refuges, I listen to the local news and listen to the chatter at the bar, and I listen when my favorite barista says his landlord is a Boulder rich-kid dick.
How closely do you listen? There are many kinds of listening, but they are all for survival.
Once, to survive writing a term paper, I listened to Andrew Bird’s tenuousness on repeat. Survival is partially through music.
Do you ever listen to those who haven’t survived to keep you keeping on?
Like Jeff Beck’s “Hallelujah” or Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”?
When Alex died at 25, I listened to Silverstein. It was one of many bands we saw perform at the shithole-in-the-wall pool hall venue on the outskirts of Jacksonville.
When I was informed Eric died at 28, I was listening to Modest Mouse’s latest album, Strangers to Ourselves, and I kept it on repeat. Sometimes I kept just “The Tortoise and the Tourist" playing over and over, hearing again and again: Wake up, get ready/ Such a wonderful trip's ahead/ We get dressed as ghosts/With sheets taken from the bed/Inside our socks we hide travelers' checks/ We are tourists of the dead…Kristin Prevallet wrote once don't read something that already makes you feel dead, and this I would also say for music to survive. It can be cathartic to sit in your Modest Mouse space for a while, but don't get stuck there.
And if survival is carrying on through a time pressuring you to stop, then carry on through listening to chatter of friends, listen to the wind through meadow, listen to the creek.
To carry on, I listen to Bob Dylan, I listen to Prince and The Army of Love, to carry on listen to Queen, listen to Lakeside, listen to David Bowie.
Listen to voices with passion who demand “let’s dance!”

                                                   Avocados in Mexico           

Don’t move to Mexico.
Don’t move to Michoacán, don’t move to Jalisco
although there are mountains
and ocean sides
and coconut ice cream                       
and mangos on sticks…                                       
muy fresca!
and skeleton statues in windowsills smiling
wearing hats full of orange and lime and magenta flowers
hugging each other
in harmony,
Oh, harmony!                                                                           Oh, harmony!—

And the avocados.
Don’t get me started on the avocado
trees lining the hills,
lush like blooming hand-fans arms gently palm back and forth

the large lime-like gems hanging in the salted air..
America, when will you be angelic?
And, you know, almost thirty-five percent of the world’s avocados
come from Michoacán.
So much creamy guacamole.                                                      So many creamy 
Yes, the desire to be an avocado,                  warm and free-hanging, in Mexico
might be rather high right now,
wanting so desperately to be
on the sunny side of the wall…
College English Professor, Jim Wilson on President T***p: “I want to write you all a note of hope, but, all I can think of is run, hide. How does one plan a Brexit anyway?”

Don’t plan a Brexit.                                                                  Don’t run or hide.
We weren’t born in the land of the free to run away
although there’s a line somewhere
about picking yourself up by the bootstraps…
is that about running away?                                                      

Yes, it is ok to be sad
and feel like running away,                                     disappointed, torn, heartbroken.
Avocados calling us, wanting us
 to get away from a country so convoluted with
picking avocados                                                                                                             egocentricism
peeling avocados                                                                                                                       racism
making avocado ice cream                                                                                                                            militarism
avocado gazpacho                                                                                                                     fascism
America, when will you be angelic?
No, wait, don’t leave.  
We are tired of rotting flesh of this land, torn open.
Re-torn open. Full of holes and fires
and toxicity flowing under this thin skin.
What were the United States’ foundations built upon?
Black loam splattered over golden grounds,
creeping quick like ivy
Long-covered and thrown away,
the United States we never were—
No, wait, you can move
Make a movement
We can come together   
together to rise                                                                           together to rise

from the graves of this decayed country,
America, when will you be angelic?
A movement:
Power to un-define that which
has been defined for this country
erased. No longer needing to be
a country of singularity.  
Don’t be afraid.                                                                       We are not nothing.               
We are done.                                                                                      We are we.
Revolutions never happen at elections, anyway,
it is the in between where society
can fight against
(or with!)                                                                                                               Establishments
so now it is time,
use Merino wool and lace
thread together                                                                                  tie together
sew together                                                                                      bind together
Yes, communal hands to braid
virtuosity, kindness, selflessness
Let us be like the avocado tree,

spreading our roots wide and far,

who, in a container can only grow about seven feet,

but if given roots outside

can grow tall, to thirty.