This month, in a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers
Mother and children playing musical instruments while father watches, 1945
an old man explored a keyboard
with a bluesy nuanced expression
that rushed nothing yet made every
note sing with life’s urgency while his
son blew blue blue notes on a tenor sax
that demanded the world heed his coming
the sister made the music dance with the bass beat
of a heart in wild flight while the mother sang a song
of pain loss grief and hope to be found only in the glory of music
by Michael L. Newell
About mid 20th century
my father flew back
from the cacophony of war
in a paper mache plane,
after devouring Hitler
and les femmes of France
while France consumed
les hommes of the world,
to meet my mother
at a GI dance in Providence,
deciding at that moment
she was his forever and followed her
into the crazy boom-room of the 1950’s
with explosions of their own,
leading to an encounter with destiny
and offspring of their desire.
Now I stand
in the doorway of a millennium,
during the last days of their forever,
desperately reaching back
to help them into the hallway
of civilization’s new century,
but they contentedly lag,
playing cards with the Nelsons
while Goodman and Getz
take turns circling the LP.
by Michael Keshigian
Whispers of the Heart
My mother, voice colored by the hint of Virginia
even after decades away, softly talks of years past,
friends, parents, deceased spouse, siblings,
all lost to mortal frailty, swallowed by time.
Her monologue has the gentle beauty of a solo
by Bill Evans at his most introspective. His musings
deftly drawn on a keyboard and her murmurs
to listening sons are as one, quiet music that soars.
It sometimes seems that all life, whether muted or lived
with abandon, is an elegy for time’s relentless movement,
whether past, present, or future. No matter how restrained
or uninhibited, life expresses whispers of the heart.
by Michael L. Newell
Abandoned house, are there
only spiders and rodents
residing amid your rooms?
I see my distorted image
upon the fogged glass
of the old storm door,
and feel like a prowler,
appraising the value of items
upon your walls
or tucked in your corners,
when, in truth, I seek
to rekindle precious memories,
revisit my departed parents,
and reconstruct pictures
the recent days
have begun to obscure,
events the rain of years
are washing away,
through the pitted window
of my mind’s eye
as I rap my fist
against the glass,
hoping the ghosts will answer.
by Michael Keshigian
“Mother and Child,” by Nawi Samaraweera
My Homing Pigeon Heart
My homing pigeon heart
Eternally it wings me
On a long journey back through time
We follow the north star to the lake
Of Neptune’s song and mermaid hair
And land beside that ramshackle cottage
With a carport on the side
And the porch with the swing where I fell in love
The pigeon heart comes to roost atop the broken chimney
It tucks its wings close to its sides
And coos and doves
And I wander through the ghosts
And cobwebs of the carport
To open the back door
And walk across the kitchen’s black and white tiles
And see the washing machine that sits by the stove
I hear it churning and wringing the fabric of time
There is a parakeet by the window: he whistles in the sun
And because it is a hopeful spring
My father is planting a garden
And my mother is so young
Her eyes sparkle and snap
My brother is playing catch
In the empty lot by the carport
And my sister is digging
Into her box of paper dolls
She sees that again bunny has chewed
Edges of doll skirts, arms and legs
I wander outside to hear the lake
Of Neptune’s song and mermaid hair
And I say to the pigeon
Sitting atop the broken chimney
“We must go now for I have lifetimes of tragedies and triumphs
But my pigeon heart says, “Why go?
Always we come back
For don’t you remember
It was a spring of hope
You fell in love on the porch swing
Your father planted a garden
And your mother was so young
Her eyes sparkled and snapped.
…………………………….Previously published in Best of Year Anthology: 2013: Hurricane Press; Literature Today: Volume 8: 2018
Her Name Is
seven sons and a daughter four more born dead
one dress for church one pair of pants
to scrub trailer floors and clothes in boiled well water
flash cards to drill her children in reading and math
aged and retarded cradled as her own
brightest student in her high school and college
hours daily before a stove kneading and forming leftovers
the child who spoke only her name
clinging for hours to become the family’s best mind
her potter’s wheel shaping clay like so many lives
alone in a trailer with kids
her husband at sea for years
mumps measles mono chicken pox poison ivy hives survived
Mark Twain read aloud seven kinds of homemade bread
and religion thrived best in private
no one told her how much they cared
suicide prevented by children afraid to lose life itself
don’t know her never did but this
is a thank you note a son’s naming
by Michael L. Newell
………………………….Published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)
When I was 5 she taught me to Mambo
Shaking my little girl hips with Mambomania
she and I, dancing around the room
grooving to Perez Prado’s Cherry Pink
and Apple Blossom White until he’d come home
smelling of liquor and women
Stopping the music every time
he walked through the door
Staggering, stumbling, bumping into furniture
while cursing and swinging before falling
against the phonograph knocking the Mambo King
from his throne, stealing our magic
that made us dance Mambo, Merengue
Cha-cha-cha to Afro Cuban drums
She packed our bags while he was passed out
on the sofa, his slobber staining the green
flowered pillows, she carefully put Perez
into his album cover, slipped him into a suitcase
Then took my hand to walk down Avalon
to catch the red bus, smiling and humming
Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White
My mother’s music that made magic
by Aurora Lewis
…………………Originally published by Gemini Magazine and nominated for a “Best of the Web” in 2011
As a kid,
the daughter listened
to Nat King Cole,
believed every word
set to music.
Her mother would be dusting,
what marriage did to her.
The daughter dreamed
and purple dusk,
and a paradise
where roses grew
under stardust skies.
She thought stars would shine
when she fell in love.
cracked with age.
Nightingales got bored
and took flight.
The purple dusk
faded into gray clouds.
gardens became junkyards
or real estate.
Stars got old,
retired to yesteryear.
left no stardust.
was better off alone—
a lesson learned
from her mother.
by Patricia Carragon, Brooklyn, NY, March, 2019
photograph by Gertrude Käsebier/Library of Congress
Mr. & Mrs. Brundigee holding violoncellos as their son sits on the floor
Of Fireflies Jazz and Lost Relatives
In the gloaming’s last embers, a swirl of fireflies
flits, flashing brief bursts of light, as certain
trumpet and sax players will play swift staccato
notes, each one perfect, lighting the minds,
imaginations, and hearts of listeners who
have no idea how such perfection is achieved,
knowing only that life will never be this perfect
again, just as the children chasing the fireflies
will never again be so filled with joy as this
moment when time stops and all is wild surmise
about this moment and the next and the next;
the perfection of visual and sonic beauty remains
forever beyond understanding, no matter how many
tomes seek to explain; yet heart, mind, memory,
and imagination embrace both with the fervor
with which we cling to the debris left by a departed parent.
Somehow when I remember fireflies, departed musical
geniuses, and vanished friends and relatives, I hear
the anguished beauty of Miles Davis navigating the heartrending
currents of Concierto de Aranjuez, as fireflies navigate
evening breezes, as great horn players fly, float, and dance
with ease through difficult passages, and we, one and all,
are blown here and there, always seeking beauty and its
ineffable pain, peace, and liberation from self.
by Michael L. Newell
Mom and Spring
“I want to go outdoors,” she said
We thought she said
Or was it her eyes that said
That spring is the enduring magic of life
We united with fingers entwined
To hold the fairy blossoms being waved to earth
With murmurs of breezes
And painted ethereal by a gentle kiss of the sun
But there is nothing harder to bear than time
Nothing wearier than acceptance
And mom knew___ wide as the skies
Stretched to the seams of the universe
And we knew with tears
In the corners of our eyes
This would be mom’s last spring
……………………..Previously published in Pegasus: Spring 2011, Petals In the Pan Anthology 2014: Hurricane Press
Daddy Got Paid
Inside, Mother was cooking chicken fried steak
And a big mess of greens with cornbread.
She fixed that special meal when
Daddy got paid.
On the radio, Kate Smith finished singing
“When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain”
and Mahalia Jackson made Mother sway
singing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
Outside, I was helping Daddy.
“Here – hold this” my Father said
handing me the wrench
as we lay on our backs
looking up at the bottom of the engine.
The oil ran from my fingers and wrists
down to my elbows
and then my shirt.
“You’re a good helper,” he said.
And even now, when I reach toward heaven,
I can still feel the oil
just below my elbows
searching for the little boy
who still remembers the day
he knew his Father loved him.
by Robert Harris
Father and Son, by Paul Daniels
………………………………for Philip Levine
My dad loved Arky Vaughan
the Pirate shortstop who died too soon
drowned on a fishing trip in California
the lake so deep it had no bottom
and Paul Waner
who wanted a clean 3,000th hit
not a muffed line drive
he asked the official scorer to take it back
when asked if a whiskey flask
in the dugout was his answered
is it full?
if so it’s not mine—
still hit 191 triples
had a lifetime batting average of .333
neither man would own a computer
or a cell phone
or post images on Instagram or Facebook
but they had followers
crossing the Ohio black as the River Styx
tens of thousands of coal miners and mill workers
the color of mud
the color of steel
the color of tears
while the city burned itself each summer
the fires so deep they had no bottom
by John Stupp
eighty a weighty number
to assign to one who is
my father eighty that is OLD
my old man isn’t old
OLD no way
yet he denies
nothing the number
merely a number
not a sentence definition
limitation or accusation
he is his thoughts passions
daily activities love for Peggy
the children grandchildren
rivers mountains oceans
cities towns he has known
and shared with family
he is not the jobs he has done
he is the people he has helped
shaped nurtured whether home
or at work he is the man who fixes
transmissions changes tires puts in
new brakes makes stubborn washing
machines work keeps bicycles on
the road bandages skinned knees
installs electrical wiring whittles
toys builds storage sheds creates
pictures using the computer an “old”
man using a young technology
with skill and passion to shape
a multigenerational family gallery
from a Cape Cod lobster smack
to a WW II bomber from an aircraft
carrier in the Pacific to helicopters
over the Atlantic from Lockheed
to small farming communities where
retiring school janitors sought his advice
he has served others in retirement
he has taught reading to small children
worked on city planning boards
kept his house repaired and in order
he is an oak with long branches which shelter
me even when ten thousand miles apart
by Michael L. Newell
……………………………..Previously published in A Long Time Traveling (Four-Sep Publications, 2004)
He was a mountain of few
a river flowing through the
house, mostly out.
Conversations were awkward
creating uncomfortable moments,
too many to count.
His love was his work
a place he escaped to without
guilt of leaving those behind,
considering it his duty;
I knew he would rather be somewhere
He grew old without saying much
slowing his schedule but not around
He became ill.
I visited him during the
events and his time in the Army.
I prayed with him each time
He passed early
I would love to hear
him say my name
one more time.
by Roger Singer
That Hand Which Was Never Withdrawn
………………………………………………………….(Abu Dhabi, 1991)
Night torn apart, my mother storming out the trailer,
my father trying to comfort four terrified children
who blamed him — not understanding poverty maims
even the kindest hearts. Eventually my mother returned
and my parents clung, each to the other, for hours.
I, ten, cursed my father till I slept.
Next day after school my father waited
with the old Willy’s jeep to pick me up. I cursed
him again, slapped away his encircling arm. Minutes of silence.
“We must talk sooner or later.” His voice
was barely audible. “I hate you,” I said. “I hate you
and will never talk to you again.” I glanced at him:
his face caved in, his eyes lost down the country road.
His voice floated up from some deep cavern or well
where people go when pain is too great for daylight.
“Michael, you will be my son for years. No matter
what you say or do, you will always be my son.
And I love you.” I looked out the window in disgust.
Thirty-six years later and fifteen thousand miles from home,
I stare at the rare sight of rain falling
on the sands of Abu Dhabi.
Next door parents and children scream in Arabic
and the universal language of pain. I reach
for that hand which was never withdrawn. I find
only damp air and oceans between us.
by Michael L. Newell
………………………Previously published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)
Upon the old film projector
my father once treasured,
a few revolutions remain,
moaning as it casts
paltry images of black and white
upon the portable screen,
enabling us to visit a bygone era.
Rapt, we stare at the curdled frames
of lost memories, departed parents
and us, their offspring,
squinting at our younger selves,
we frolic under the glow
of ancient lights,
carefree lunges beneath
the cold water sprinkler
that emanated from rusty faucets
attached to a three-decker abode,
the summers unfaltering,
we gathered, smaller, more flexible,
clowning, our parents, so young,
no wrinkles, more hair,
happy and healthy,
all of us summoned
for a group pose
by the off-screen director.
How silently time runs its course,
with strange, peculiar hints
if the changes are noted.
We yearn to climb back,
recapture innocence and joyfulness
the calm, silver light exudes.
Then it ends, the old reel flapping,
the brief nostalgic rekindling
has also run its course.
by Michael Keshigian
The Lines On the Back of the Hand
glancing down, surprised somehow
lines had formed there
on the back of the hand
looking now like my father’s.
he once said
“I remember everything
just like it happened a week ago …
it’s so clear, how it was at eighteen
living on my parents’ farm.
yet it’s so strange
that some recent things
seem so far away.”
raising himself at the end
when he could no longer speak
that same hand to me:
drawing in the air a knowledge
only old men know
that final lineage traced onward
linking my hand with his …
by Alan Yount
………………….Previously published by Spring: the Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society. (academic journal). New series no. 5. Oct. 1996.
Michael L. Newell is a retired English/Theatre teacher who currently lives on the Oregon coast after living abroad for many years. His most recent book is Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge from Bellowing Ark Press in Seattle.
Michael Keshigian’s eleventh poetry collection, Inexplicable was released in November, 2016 by Black Poppy Review. Other published books and chapbooks:Beyond,Dark Edges,Eagle’s Perch,Wildflowers,Jazz Face, Warm Summer Memories, Silent Poems, Seeking Solace, Dwindling Knight, Translucent View. Published in numerous national and international journals, he is a 6- time Pushcart Prize and 2-time Best Of The Net nominee. His poetry cycle,Lunar Images, set for Clarinet, Piano, Narrator, was premiered at Del Mar College in Texas. Subsequent performances occurred in Boston (Berklee College) and Moleto, Italy. .Winter Moon, a poem set for Soprano and Piano, premiered in Boston.…(michaelkeshigian.com).
Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture.org has been on the internet. Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure is on the internet now.
Aurora M. Lewis is a retiree. In her 50’s she received a Certificate in Creative Writing-General Studies, with honors from UCLA. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by.The Literary Hatchet, Gemini Magazine, Persimmon Tree, Jerry Jazz Musician, and The Blue Nib, to name only a few. Aurora’s poetry was nominated by Gemini Magazine in 2010 for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize in 2011. The Literary Hatchet has nominated her for the current Pushcart Prize.
Patricia Carragon’s recent publications include Bear Creek Haiku, First Literary Review-East, A Gathering of the Tribes, The Café Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Poetrybay, and Krytyka Literacka. Her latest books are The Cupcake Chronicles (Poets Wear Prada) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press). Patricia hosts the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online.
Robert O. Harris, Jr. teaches at the University of North Texas at Dallas where he serves as the Director of the First Year Writing Program. His recent poetry has appeared in Space and Time and Jerry Jazz Musician. His commentary about unpublished poetry of Tennessee Williams has appeared in The Southwest Review. His essay “Charles and Robert: A Literary Friendship” was published by the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University.
Roger Singer is a prolific and accomplished contributing poet who we have proudly published for many years. Singer has had almost 800 poems published in magazines, periodicals and online journals — 400 of which are jazz poems — and has recently self-published a Kindle edition of his book of jazz poetry called Poetic Jazz.
“Jazz poetry flows out with such ease,” Singer writes on his blog. “The people and places, the alleys and sawdust jazz clubs. The stories that bring jazz alive with horns and voices, from sadness and grief to highs at midnight and love gone wrong. The jazz is within us all. Find your poem and feel the music.”
John Stupp’s third poetry collection.Pawleys Island was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. His manuscript Summer Job won the 2017 Cathy Smith Bowers Poetry Prize and will be published in 2018 by Main Street Rag. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1975-1985 he worked professionally as a mediocre jazz guitarist.
Alan Yount, 71, has written and published poetry for over 50 years. His many poems have appeared over the years in publications such as WestWard Quarterly (where he was invited to be the Featured Writer and Poet for the summer, 2018 issue), Big Scream, Green’s Magazine (Canada), Spring: the Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society (academic journal), Wind, Legend, Roanoke Review, Tidepool, Art Centering Magazine (Zen Center of Hawaii), Wormwood Review, Palo Alto Review, Barefoot Grass Journal, Frontier: Custom & Archetype, Modern Haiku, and The Pegasus Review.
He has been in three anthologies: Passionate Hearts (New World Library), Sunflowers and Locomotives: Songs for Allen Ginsberg (published by Nada Press and the poet David Cope). Alan was one of 31 poets along with Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The third anthology was The Chrysalis Reader.
Alan also plays jazz trumpet, and has led his own dance band. He is a direct descendant of the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone.