Birdman, Colombian

In response to a challenge at Ekphrastic Review. Here are all the poems generated by this photo of a Colombian Breastplate. Thanks, Lorette, for including my poem with the others!

A golden, first century breastplate —
mythic protection in battle. Mortals
have sought aegis from the gods
since time began, it seems.

When my youngest was three,
he wore an Incredible Hulk T-shirt
every day for a year, certain his kinship
with the angry green goliath
could transmogrify a toddler
to a Titan older kids would fear. 

I hope the Columbian warrior
with a flying deity on his chest
found more success than my guileless,
doomed boy, whose brother and sister
held him down and made him smell
the lint in their belly buttons.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo source: Breastplate
Photo source: Hulk Kid

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When ’50s Socialization Butts Up Against 2018

My Drabble is up at The Drabble. Thank you’s go to Tom Haynes, editor!

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By Sarah Russell

I’m teaching my granddaughters to iron shirts—collar, sleeves, right front, back, left front. I almost say, “You’ll impress some guy in college knowing this.”

Whoa!

Maybe that’s why my marriage (to that guy I impressed) ended after I read Friedan. Now women say, “Press your own damn shirt,” and men do. No wonder my granddaughters aren’t impressed with counting hangers of starched perfection.

End of lesson: “Always turn the iron off and unplug it to make sure,” I say.

“It turns itself off, Grandma.”

“But you can’t be too careful,” I say, and shit, I sound old.

        
Sarah Russell’s poetry and flash fiction have appeared in Kentucky Review, Misfit Magazine, Psaltery and Lyre, Rusty Truck, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee.

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Bird Woman

A beautiful, wintry vignette by Bronwen Griffiths.

She wanders the fields where the elms once stood. Nothing stands there now, only the winter grass and a cold wind barreling down the hill to the broken willow. Close to the edge of the stream, she dives into her coat pocket for the seeds and crumbs she keeps. She will wait for them to arrive; their fluttering wings matching the fluttering in her heart. No one knows she comes down here, day after day. Especially when the snows come, especially then. She won’t worry. Her feet have trodden these paths for eighty years — they belong to her now. Like the fox that passes each evening, they inhabit her dreams.

Originally published in Worthing Flash
Photo source

 

Bronwen Griffiths is the author of, A Bird in the House, 2104, Not Here, Not Us – stories of Syria, 2016, and Here Casts No Shadow, 2018. Her flash fiction, short stories and poems have been widely published. When writing this piece, Bird Woman, she was thinking of the walks she did as a child and a teenager growing up in North Worcestershire. She now lives on the East Sussex – Kent border.

Somewhere in her Breath

In this beautiful poem by Rajani Radhakrishnan, a city becomes a woman.
photo source

THOTPURGE

From this height, the city has the ugly visage of failed
possibilities, scraps of dystopia sequinned on her

colourless blouse, an aging matron who still walks the
streets in her high heels, her lips the desperate pink

of what might have been. I stand at the edge, counting
all the reasons to live. Below, the city murmurs even in

her sleep. Trying to fit her frame to the warm undulations
of the morning sky. Somewhere in her breath is the

poetry of those nights. Somewhere in her embrace is
the smell of heated passion, the taste of your skin on her

tongue, the beat of your heart in her urgent rhythm, the
shadow of your gaze in her underbelly. Somewhere in the

line of her upturned chin is the path we never dared to
take. Somewhere in her soft lap is everything we were.

Everything we lost. Have you watched…

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The Dying of the Light

My friend Steve Deutsch has a fine new poem in Borfski Press Magazine.  Please visit his blog and leave comments for him there.

We found my mother
on the third floor
of a hospital
that should have been shuttered
in the 80’s.
The lights were dim
and the walls and halls
so covered in filth
it seemed they
had absorbed the misery
of the past 30 years
and the anguish would no longer
wash away.

It wasn’t hard to find mom.
She screamed “Help me”
every couple of minutes.
We heard her from the elevator
above the endless beeping
and the garbled sounds
from the PA system.
The fact that we
were now with her
did not alleviate her need to scream.
Nor did reasoning.

She had fallen again
and broken her tailbone.
She was 95 and failing
and I was the good son—
the one who answered the call
at 2 AM,
booked the 1000 mile trips
and tried to find a place
where she could end her days
in comfort.
It was rewarding in an exhausting way.
Finding, unexpectedly,
I was the one to be counted on.

But, listen,
there is just so much
we can do for one another.
There are limits to prerogatives
of blood.
We practice love,
not magic
and when,
in a moment of lucidity
she stared at my face—
a face she had known
my whole life,
and said,
“I’m dying,”
“Save me.”
I was again
as helpless
as the infant
she had held
to her breast.

– Steven Deutsch
First published in Borfski Press Magazine 
Photo source

Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?

Another wonderful poem by my friend Rajani Radhakrishnan. Instead of reblogging it from her website, I put it here so you could read it uninterrupted. Please leave comments on her site and look around while you’re there. She writes beautiful poetry.

Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?

There the universe stores vats of virgin happiness, doling
it out like a grim faced Scrooge, while we wait, bowl in

hand, wanting more. Always wanting more. We are made
of longing and hunger. And everywhere we look, is a giant

supermarket feeding that emptiness. Everything in excess,
marked down, on luscious display, the seed of the first apple

feverishly multiplying on every shelf of every aisle and our
hands reaching constantly to fill the ever growing void. Except

for happiness. For that, there is a line and a quota and a price.
We pretend not to see each other. Who will admit to such

privation? We study the signs from a distance. Perhaps, it
is another sorrow, another wound, another word that brings

you here. Does my skin turn transparent as I stand? Do you know
the scars inside? You will not turn your head. I will not call. How

much longer? Who hoards rain clouds in the desert? No one
warned me to save my smile. To save the light in your eyes.

– Rajani Radhakrishnan
Rajani’s website
Photo source

Home

Late afternoon in the valley, the trees
wear halos. Then twilight steals the sun,
kitchen lights blink on like stars,
and coming home is a sigh
and the smile of someone waiting.
Your day is told in half sentences
and nods and questions answered —
nothing new, but new enough to tell again.
After supper, after gin rummy and pages
turning and the rhythmic click of a sweater
growing row by row, bed greets you
like a childhood friend, and sleep
keeps company with the blue black sky
and the owl’s whispered flight.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Your Daily Poem
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Painting source

The Beach at Lighthouse Point

A beautiful villanelle I found today by Michael Flynn Ragland.

^^^^^^^^

But she had told me even stranger things.
I shook my head and gazed off down the shore,
the cirrus twilight filled with seagulls’ wings.

A hallway of insistent mutterings
still echoed with the four-inch heels she wore.
(And she had told me even stranger things.)

A beauty, dressed in black among the strings,
she played such passages as soon would score
our cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings.

A man who once had brought her jewels and rings
had left her sprawled, her head gashed, on the floor.
Yet she had told me even stranger things.

Had I loved her? Another autumn brings
her ghost. In dreams she murmurs from the door.
In cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings

her hand takes mine: “A lonely mermaid sings.”
She kisses me. “Hear, through the breakers’ roar?”
But she had told me even stranger things,
those cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings.

– Michael Flynn Ragland
Photo Source

Bio:  As a kid in the Ozarks, I lived in an old, stone house atop a cliff; as a teenager, by a stage road along which had been fought the last major battle won by the Confederacy. After an aimless decade in college and graduate school, I lived on a barrier island. I’ve taught English in high schools and universities, worked as a photographer for an advertising firm, and kept the books at a medical clinic. Writing that appeals to me is introspective and steeped in atmosphere.

Sunset

Last night
clouds turned cantaloupe electric,
backlit in neon.
That must be where God lives, I thought,
though I don’t much believe in God.

Sunsets are reason enough to imagine
that heaven’s in the sky —
a transcendent finale,
coda of the day.

As years count down, I think
about sunsets, seasons —
leaves falling,
branches bare.

       Perhaps I should believe.

The closest I get is sunset —
enough ecstasy,
enough God.

Sarah Russell
For Poets United
Photo source

In my Yard

A beautiful poem by Kelly Jo Letky.  Be sure to visit her site and comment if you like it.

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the trees are dying.

okay, only two out of seven
but they’re my favorite two and
when i walk outside
to listen to whispers

i hear the sounds of mourning.

.

already
i feel time slipping through bent fingers

already
i’ve picked a place to bury sun-bleached bones

already
i’m learning the words
to a song i’d prefer not to sing

.

that’s not to say
i don’t watch the sunset

that’s not to say
i don’t smile when the moon
knocks on my window

that’s not to say
i don’t sing with the robin at sunrise

it’s just to say
i notice.

the trees are dying.

– Kelly Jo Letky