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Two Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

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Man Stands Outside the World

Perched not so high,
in squatty crouched gargoyle
position.

Man stands outside the world
and I am that man.

Rubbing a morning’s dew
from gushing gold
fingers.

A lone angled walking stick
rock-leaned out of its last thousand years.

Storm heavy over valley green.
My whisper, hideous rumour…
Clouds of ambitious breath
can’t help but leave.

The Bridge of Your Nose is Worth Crossing

The internet is said to house trolls.
With ugly weeping warts and their own URLs,
whatever those are.

I much prefer incarceration.
The way they replace the name I always forget
with a number I can’t remember.

That dumb steel clank of the bars dancing together.
Guilty in absentia.

Kafka is my favourite prisoner
because he confesses nothing to everyone.

You find that you keep reading,
offering outs to the author who never
takes them.

The bridge of your nose is worth crossing.
Traffic on either side and a half dozen Rubicons.

It’s pine needle gin and race records.
Derailment east of the Rockies.

That selfish clingy way she cries into your shoulder
as though her sadness will be there forever.

A single flicker of candlelight.
Tiny bags of almonds handed out
along the flightpath.

An army of mousetraps in the dark,
so you have to be careful.

On your way to the bathroom
and damn near anywhere else worth
travelling to.

Without a valid passport.
That open ocean way I step into the shower
and take on water.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Bourgeon, TheSongIs.., Cultural Weekly, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


Image: DXR / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Build a Brother by Elizabeth Ashe

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Dear Brother,

I have not seen you in fifteen years.
I’m not sure how to miss you.
At first it was easy,
plug in your Super Nintendo
and sit down with a book –
our mutual way of hiding.
Lately it has been accidental,
like when our nephew Sean
played with your Legos.
You always made space ships,
I always made houses.
Sean has never heard your voice,
and I don’t know if he ever will.

I pulled you white plastic megaphone
out from a box, my last visit home;
hung it on a hook in the basement.
The metal lip amplified your voice,
reaching further than your arm.
Your voice became grit, pushed against the hallways.
Nothing worked to tame you,
not hearing the version I remembered –
Mom left Dad with both of us.
I remember the loaded station wagon.
You said you believed me, Mom fought for you.
I knew you did not want to live with Dad.
The dry echo of your voice lasted a year.

Pool Table

I.
I couldn’t reach the felt top
without jumping.
Yet, we tried to play,
one sticky sweet swelter
of an afternoon in Ramona.
He missed the pocket
and the ball hit me.
Instead of crying for Dad,
I picked one up and threw it at him.
It was payback;
I threw it wrong,
or he moved
and it made contact with his jaw.
His cries opened up the sky
and everyone was there.
Never, never throw something
heavy at your brother.
It could kill him.
It doesn’t matter that he started it,
or why. You’re older.
It’s only a ball.
You knew it would hurt.

II.
Mom took us to Woodfire Pizza
for Wednesday Dinner Nights.
It was more adult than Chuck E. Cheese,
full of arcade games, pool tables,
and she could get a beer.
I’m tall enough to reach the table now,
to manipulate or fail at the physics of cue
and trajectory, run a table for hours.
At least, for an hour.
Mom taught us how,
but only until the pizza arrives at our table,
too hot to eat.
We poke at it with soda straws
to cool it down, until she sends us off
on our own with a roll of quarters.
When we grew tired of pool,
I used a few coins for the bouncy ball machine.
He bought jawbreakers.

Hello

I didn’t say Hello.
I saw you today. Little brother, that scar
under your eyebrow has stretched
beyond its eight stitches.
You were seven when the hammock
flipped you onto the rock porch,
because Dad said the eighth stitch
was one knot to grow on, like candles.

It was Dad who I had to grow away from,
not you. As kids, you and I were different.
I read, could always out-run you,
raised rabbits and was shy with everyone.
You picked fights, got detention,
ran pigeon-toed and played Nintendo.
The last I heard, you asked a real estate agent
for help and she found Mom.

The agent you asked for help, found Mom,
who flew down to Palm Springs to get you.
It didn’t work. It never worked
and here I am at twenty-six, in the computer
section of Best Buy. You are ten yards away,
amidst customers on the hunt for deals.
I might as well be someone you have never met.
You haven’t seen me.

You haven’t seen me wait for your attention.
I messed up what I planned to say, the lie —
My photography needs a computer upgrade.
What do you have?
You probably thought I was tired or had a crush.
Your name tag doesn’t lie when I insisted I knew you;
I am your sister.

I’m your sister. You shook my hand,
something Dad would have you do.
Your shoulders slope too much for your height.
I said I was in town for Grandpa, was in the store
on the way to the border to take pictures in Tijuana.
You told me to stay put, we’d go for pizza and a beer.
You vanished into the storeroom and didn’t come back.
I didn’t say Hello.

Build a Brother

I have photographs of you,
but they are not real.
They have no breath; they are static
and posed in a sweater, a plastic fern smile.

What I know,
is a watercolor and crayon drawing
you made when you were ten.
When all the shit was reigning
and nothing helped.
After I kept you from jumping off the balcony.

Your neck is too long.
Your teacher or therapist said it is a symbol
for feeling out of body, out of control
and yet, constrained.

The portrait is you
with a buzz cut, cat ears, tears,
my blonde braids, a soccer ball,
Nintendo gamer keys
and a storm cracked sky.

It is almost
a momento mori
in a white wooden frame,
hung in mother’s office these 24 years.

Another Decade

Dear Brother,
It has been another decade.
Now you’re 36 and I have 40 in my sights.

I have hopes for you,
the kind a sister still has
for her kid brother,

hopes that formed as I tried
and failed to teach you to read.
Hopes that I cried away at 12.

There has not been a word, a like, a text,
since I went to see you at Best Buy.
When grandpa was still alive.

Mom has written you out of her will.
Not out of malice, or need to disavowal but because
she knows the odds are against her

to see you again. Odds against
us all reconnecting. Unless Dad dies.
And yet, she knows I’d do right by you.

So many years of her life went
into fighting to keep you. The last ten,
to build peace and security back into her life.

Elizabeth Ashe is a sculptor and poet, who earned her MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MFA in creative writing from Chatham University. Her public art projects have been on view at the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, Sukkahwood Festival, Art All Night DC, and the H St Festival. Ashe’s poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, the Lavender Review, Vagabondage, and Badlands Literary Journal, among many others. Her work is included in Studio Visit Magazine, issue 46. Ashe lives in Washington, D.C., where she has an active studio practice. She is the Gallery Manager for DC Arts Center, and Exhibit and Event Technician at the Katzen Center, American University.

Image: Elbow Mountain by Elizabeth Ashe. Used by permission.

Two Sonnets by Jeff Nosanov

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A Sonnet for My Wife, the Surgeon

From where do you draw so much strength each day
To fight the fight of life and death despair
When so many patients will waste what may
Be the last time they will draw breath and air.

Your light burns bright with such a fierce red flame
As the world veers so near the darkest void
I brim with pride to see you use my name
And bask in glow of yours sharing your joy.

The end is near for this, the longest step
And though by day i am not by your side
Know that this world remains within your debt
And I barely contain my swelling pride.

No greater spark than that within your kiss
Forever yours and saying “As you wish.”

Author’s note: My wife completes a six year surgical residency training program in June.

A Sonnet for the COVID-19 Era

The world seems quiet and absent of mirth
And though we smile and try to show our hope
We wonder what will follow this, rebirth?
A world order sways gently on a rope.

Nature seems to have reclaimed earth from us
And I try to keep my gaze on the stars
While some consider this not worth the fuss
Of course heaven and earth were never ours.

Outside I look to neighbors for a grin
Our homes, not traps, but something new and strange
Human affairs turned inside out within
Experience beyond our normal range.

The best of us fight on to stem the tide
While we who are unarmed bemoan the ride.

Jeff Nosanov is a writer and entrepreneur living in Bethesda, MD. He has written short stories and a children’s book, led NASA research projects, and started several companies. He currently works in cloud computing and is trying to make sense of human existence one day at a time.


Image: Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, by Hans Holbein the Younger

A Kept Man by Matthew Ratz

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If I were yours to keep,

you’d have me in a 

gilded case, with a large

brass key dangling gingerly 

from your belt loop. 

But I am miles 

out of touch with you, 

in the land of bones and ashes, 

and the lid of your case is 

chastened with dust;

scarred by passing time

and by disuse. 

Am I free?

Does your mind 

still roam to me?

My heart pleads to you, “Find me!

I lie amid the ruins 

of an epoch 

that may yet exist. 

Return!”

By what light shall I search

but by the glint of sunbeam

off a small, brass key. 

Do you still carry 

such a candle?

Oh, let it be so!

Matthew Ratz is an author and performer living in Gaithersburg, MD. His poetry has appeared online in Bourgeon as well as on Huffington Post; his essays have appeared in Autism Spectrum News and The Atlantic. Matthew also performs regularly at La-Ti-Do, a musical theater and spoken word cabaret in DC. He is the author of several nonfiction books and most recently a chapbook, Lightning Bugs in Fragile Jars (2017). Professionally, Matthew is a mental health advocate and peer-support specialist with nonprofit organizations in the DC Metro area.


Image by Enfo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35367942


Three Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

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Run into the Canyon and the Canyon Says Ouch!

Darting eyes of the patchy coyote,
no bodies in the brush because this is not
some simpleton dumping ground;
this is exploding firework skies,
tracheostomies running a line back to
umbilical zero, those tiny pink cries that
seem to wrap themselves around everything,
the children and the streets with the same names
so that one could hardly be blamed for driving
over both with the stereo cranked;
a bump in the road, is that not what the more
philosophical among us always say?

Campsite arsonists collecting kindle.
Run into the canyon and the canyon says ouch!
Barefoot over thorns drawing blood.
Our coiled white scorpion is the zodiac with intent:

Ouch!
Ouch!
Ouch!
Ouch!

This lame way I limp into everything,
surrendering conversations that never
belonged to me.

Snakeskin boots hugging the foot
of someone full of a personal venom.
Read the person and there is no need
for the diary.

Black Trench Coat

He whooshes by over darkened cobbles.
His black trench coat undone so that it waves
like a hurried cape in the windless night.
My companion is startled, gives a sudden jump
he hopes I don’t notice.
The only people that demand bravery
are those that lack it.
My companion can be as scared as he is sweaty.
I am not without fault.
Half a dozen women have told me so.
I can only hope to hide mine a little better
or at least for a little longer than my
mouth breathing red-faced companion.
That simple warm buzz of electricity all around us.
Bags of garbage piled by the curb.
A few overturned and torn down the side.
The scavengers have been out early.
I let out a cough and my friend jumps again.
That queer jerky way the shoulders threaten to leave
the body and never return.

Crowd Noise

I open the closet door
to a sea of applause.

The crowd noise drowns
everything out.

Searching for a shirt
of man eating tigers.

Rolled up to the elbow,
so freckled gooseflesh can
make the rounds.

This collar pulled down with poise.
As 70,000 strong break into song.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Bourgeon, The Song Is.., Cultural Weekly, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


Imgae by Michael Gäbler / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)