Poetry

The Fieldstone Review (2016-2017)

Poetry

The Bird

Holly Day

The tiny bird flaps in the grass near me

watches my approach with eyes like glass beads

opens its mouth as if expecting

random acts of maternal kindness from everything

around it, even me. Overhead

the mother catbird peeps in distress, also

watching me with shiny eyes

a look of resolution on its face as if

it’s already decided I am incapable of love.



The Lens Grinder

Amos Wright

The publishers say my treatise on the rainbow

is selling a little better this year. And

with the royalties, we can live on more

than just bread and circuses alone.

The Alhambra Decree passed

with a majority vote

and my family was pushed from country to country,

from diaspora to diaspora

like a gypsy caravan captained by Ahasuerus,

all of Europe an anti-Semitic basket case.

I rented a room with a harpsichord

whose keys I never fingered,

and shelved the laws of Hebrew grammar,

Talmudic scholia, the geometric textbook;

determined as I was
to defy the determinism of my race,

cursed with all curses of Deuteronomy.

No war between the mind and the body

except that which the mind wages

against its own body.

The sun looks the same

whether from prison or from a palace

and we too need resistance

to fly like the albatross.

The Collegiants agreed

that God might inhabit the substance of a stone,

the mode of a mountain, the attribute of an angle.

Grind a lens so large, they urged me,

that even the myopic, who can buy nothing

with their frugal thoughts, could see

the armigerous affections of a determinist

in cloud formations – that circus of pareidolia –

reflected in the linished surfaces of Amsterdam’s canals.

Like Nero straining through the green
of an emerald to glimpse a favorite gladiator

just before he is devoured by a female bear.

Then a bureaucratic snail knocked

and produced a writ of cherem:
Elisha’s curse reversed upon me,

for teaching the unity of convex and concave,

the refracted real image and its virtual other,

for identifying the shadow of the light with the thing itself.

Rather to wear the foreskin of a Gentile like a death mask

than to have my visage printed on their Dutch guilder.

If you don’t like it here, I said with blue lips,

the early onset of Potter’s Rot,

you are always free to go.
So, what keeps you here,

when the door is wide open
like the mouth of one sleeping?

God has unloaded the gun of stars.

If you smell roses, the corpse cannot be too far.

Even mechanics do metaphysics.

The Cheshire cat’s smile is no accident.

What are we human machines then

but uncanny swine satisfied?

And then I returned to my lens-grinding.

The lens grew until it filled the entire room,

pressing me against the wall.

I slept under its convex penumbra,

like a glass tent pitched upon the deserts of the moon

among the silica dust of ground lenses,

and every morning I polished it

with the white rags of Maimonides’ turban

and a few glasses of canal water

until the forty-two she-bears danced to my door,

ready with the laughter of devoured children.



Apotropaic

James W. Wood

I

Into the magic circle,

the alchemist and his pentacle

to propagate wealth,

turn dross to gold.

His mixture of merds,

blood and leaves, potions

and spells all fell

to nothing more

than ridicule and scorn.

II

Into the magic circle,

the professors and their particles

to dominate: I am death,

destroyer of worlds.

Their sky-burst ripped

Earth a new sun, gave motion

to fiends in hell, boiled

skin, faith and bone. Their laws

conjured Mammon to be born.



Triptych of Crayon Man on Tight Rope

Valerie Mills-Milde

Frame 1:

Vitreous

on Pink ball of foot/ spliced by

Quicksilver wire

figure grips horizontal

pole

Vermillion Red

(Slipping next picture from wool Fawn

coat your castanet hands quiver.

Must be lithium, I think.)

Frame 2:

Figure leaps defiant

Thrusts open Gold rays

his heart Crimson.

Orange propulsion

to Violet apex one

sharp, flared

stop.

(You cannot help it/ gravity will.

(I am not blind to the density of red,

I say. I know the weight.)

Frame 3:

I see

you strung high in

ragged photons.

The terrible sway of colour, I muse

Beneath you, a pool of Midnight Black

Above, an Indigo sky littered

with darting Yellow birds.



Potion Against Heart-Ache

Randel McCraw Helms

Take thee nut of hickory,

Root of chicory, parsnip, purslane and dock.

Add parsley and roses, salsify, samphire and thyme,

And roast it or toast it and steep it in brandy

With oris-root candy

Twelve hours straight by the clock.

Then drain it and strain it and keep it from fire;

As slowly it mellows, chill it with bellows

And coat it with frosting of rime.

To keep the taste true, fine it with rue

Then age it in cellars like wine.

At least for a season live thee by reason,

Keep thee from sin or gambling den,

And avoid all manner of ire.

Then give thee the liquor, this magical ichor,

To pure lady whose love you desire,

And her heart shall ever be true.

Thy babies need never fear rabies nor scabies,

Scrofula, glanders, nor pox,

If thou blend thee this potion into a lotion

And rub on their feeties each day.

Thy hens will all lay, thy lambkins shall play

And give thee gold nuggets for rocks,

Thy heifers give milk, thy worms make thee silk,

All creatures shall love thee at sight,

If six drops in water thou add to their fodder

And knead it and feed it each night.

Keep thou this potion and magical lotion

Ever beside thee, no night-mare shall ride thee,

No ill fate betide thee, nor eye-worm trouble thy sight.

No wife shall beshrew thee no bailiff shall rue thee;

Just care thou to muse thee and always to choose thee

Daily to use it aright.



Hemingway’s beard

Myrna Garanis

El Floridita Bar, Havana

The barman ignores us, just another tour group,

camera phones flashing, rubbing the fabled

bronze beard for luck

Young man with a shiner turns up in every shot

having the drink we’ve no time for, nursing

his hurts at the bar as Hemingway must have,

taking time out from novel production,

downing a fifth mojito, joking with his sparring

partner friends, only one not smoking.

Plenty of Cohibas in Havana, a plethora

of famous beards worth stroking in a city

marking revolution’s anniversary

tee-shirts and postcards exclusively exhibit

Che Guevara’s death grimace, his sacrifice

for a nation not his own. Fidel’s face absent

from the giant billboards masking

hurricane-damaged fields. Our shiny

Chinese bus passes ancient Cuban trucks.

History disconcerting for the tourist,

not one black eye amongst us, none

sent reeling from the ropes.



Accidental Agriculture

Bertrand Bickersteth

The bruising beginning

face rubbed in

central Alberta’s finest

Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem

where wheat flourishes

and barley wails

After the fight

we congregate in the principal’s office:

punishments

meted out to him

the aggressor

who impugned my face against the ground

because its darkness inspired

a simile

part-time prairie poet that he was

And punishments

meted out to me

the victim so called

Well, why did you fight back?

Why do you people

always fight?

Now I have to punish you

too

The principal glared at me

his eyes a shock

of literal blue

Outside

on my way home

I pondered the view

from the top of a rare hill

a field spilled

with dandelions splayed out below

This accidental agriculture

will be swallowed

by an instantaneous city with

its blindness

its inevitability

I saw the whole against the horizon

A nine-year-old

a timeless landscape

a flatness ensuing

My tender head still throbbing

from the blunt encounter

I reached with a quiet fist

to rub at the soreness swelling

around my eyes

Well

why did you fight back?

When the black child is six years old

in Harlem

he suddenly sees everything he has been before

and all that is to come laid out before him and

how

it has been laid out before him and this

muses James Baldwin

is the fundamental difference between

any child growing anywhere

in Alberta

and every child that must see things

through black eyes



The Lab Coat

Trudy Grienauer

that moment

when I leave the pulp on the stove

and step into the hallway

to take your lab coat from the closet

your presence is palpable

not just because your name

is printed in the collar

in your self-confident hand lettering

you’ve been using these coats

around the house

painting walls, making jam

ever since

you left your career

to raise me

and my sister

I have this one

that you shortened to the skirt length

fashionable in ‘71

and then let out again

to put on now

to briefly feel that I am you

thirty years ago

and while I step over to the linen closet

and get the spill cloth

for wiping the jars’ rims

I feel that quite possibly

it was more than an apron

every day in the kitchen

when we came home from school

you were always standing

apron-wrapped

and I can see that sometimes

you needed that coat

to make you feel professional

competent

and respected

and the work worthwhile

like paid work

the pulp is simmering

and starting to bubble up

it will make new stains

on the coat

fresh stains layered over washed out ones

my cooking layered over yours

almost as bizarre

as the views you had in ‘71

through your electron microscope

Poetry