Listen, dear, as
of late I’ve been
thinking this stuck
morass we’re all in
is more molasses
clear and sunny.
At night the katydids
and katydidn’ts steal my
soul a spell, reminding
of cicada swells from my
faintly humid youth.
Nothing crystal in that
muddied hum, no
jell, no, just some massive
saw-winged wall of
heavy heat, stifled breeze,
before it lifts and fades
into oh so dead still
Or so I’ve been
Listen, love, I
know it’s a lot, this
morass we’re all in.
I wish it were cool,
or at least honey hot.
But it’s not, dear.
I will utilize my voice——
a voice weakened from raging against the dying light,
from yelling at my detractors,
from screaming Why?! at God,
from guttural self-affirmations.
Weakened, but not lost.
The taste of blood will not deter me.
I will sing through the nodules.
A song dedicated to myself.
A vainGLORIOUS hymn.
The angels can cover their ears,
or add harmonies,
or simply listen.
It doesn’t matter.
I’m singing the damn thing.
I’d like to ruin everything for you.
Bedrooms are easy.
That’s always the place we associate, envision,
are ruined by memory,
smile and say, “god damn” and glaze over,
tousled by recall, over-touched and amused.
And for some:
desks, living room caribou rugs, divans in attics,
(the place where all else is made—why not love?)
or, (if we’re talking little more than a kiss),
stolen moments at intersections,
the sooty brick of quiet alleys,
the footprints marching two by two
paused in snow,
all ruined when those places come again,
and we mutter
“Can’t go anywhere here
perched and panting at my ear.”
So, like I said,
I’d like to ruin everything for you.
Stairwells, elevators, open fields,
(let’s get creative, shall we?)
broom closets, backstage, the balcony,
(dare I say it?)
the instant photo booth.
I even want to ruin good books.
I want you to hear them in my voice,
feel me read to the nape of your neck.
I want to ruin sunsets, open roads,
everything beautiful ruined.
Everyday of the week, ruined.
That lovely mess of us stretched across this canvas,
so that ever
I will have ruined you
for other, lesser love.
—Jacqueline Renee Ahl
Light likes the hair of the willow
the blue green needles of pine
creases in the river current
our kitchen in the morning
silvery undersides of vultures
wicks of dew after a summers rain
factory windows at sunset
and the tenuous threads of spiders
barely seen in the wind
Sugar n shit
fall from the sky
(four fingers in hand
two sheets to the wind)
and on a roll
than a few
words to say
and says them
tip of the tongue
a tingle, all amber and crisp
rolling golden over the edges, curves
as they lap in and out
against a slight wall of bitterness at the contact
some overall organization is forming
balances the whole
tomorrow’s impossible odds
hercules & xena
fighting it out
for the fun of it
and some superhero
still putting off routines
in favor of sweeping strokes of clarity
The Covid Jab
It’s been seventy years since my father an MD
tried to inoculate me
for polio in the kitchen
dutifully, filled with terror
I climbed up on the red stool
waiting in a sweat of trepidation
Mother held me as father moved close
then for some reason she moved away
and I fainted
landed face down on linoleum—
pots and dishes that I didn’t hear, rattled;
they turned me over and
slowly I came to; mother sobbing “she’s dead”
buck teeth as yet un-braced cut
through my chin leaving a jagged little scar
I don’t remember whether I
actually got the shot that day, probably—
maybe while unconscious
These days I comfort my racing heart
whenever a needle draws near;
today I’m anticipating the Covid jab, high up on my arm
I’ve learned to endure tetanus, intra-venous
antibiotics, yearly flu and cortisone shots for arthritis;
with a whimper I tell myself
“you’ve come a long way baby”
though hardly a Virginia slim anymore
I come alive as the trees shift their stillness
Believing is hoping and hoping is foolish witchery
Give me the night to wander freely without a destination
Give me the moon to guide me effortlessly
I will not be
A poetic zealot
Stirring words into a rhythmic plot
A string of globe lights somehow makes
an abandoned parking lot feel elegant.
Like a rope of pearls with a worn
Pair of Pears
I cut the pair of pears
with a paring knife
on the kitchen counter
one, two, three, four.
Juice speeds down
my forearm and drips
off my elbow peak
so I peek to see
if the sea of drips
expands into anyone’s
But no, no one knows
except for the dog’s nose
sniffing like someone peed,
and he gets blamed
and thrown outside.
Everyone makes a whole
circle like a doughnut
around the hole not
wanting anything to do
with the cleanup due.
Clothed in black and white
with brief but spectacular
Lisa’s cat became a regular
on the evening news:
sleeping, stretching or
just sashaying off screen
to converge with another comfort.
It’s image lingering between two worlds
like Schrodinger’s cat,
or the evening news
or sorrow between races,
or truth unmoored, diverging,
—Jennifer L Howse
Rounding the edge of woods
not far from home
a young mother
into the stroller.
into a patter of rain
Slow slump of August, salting pink
brandywines at the window,
the scarlet Nantes with their green
tops out in the carrot bed, our hands
were scented like tomato leaf and earth
under sun, shoulder and vine stung
so fresh where we went picking.
The trees watch over the space
Where water and air meet
A tree frog moon bathes in the pond
As a rubber duck and kick ball are stuck
in an endless loop at the waterfall’s current