Old School Truth and Beauty
Editor Christopher Buckley
I dream of an art so transparent that you can look through and see the world.
Art should resolve the mysteries of our being, not occlude them further.
Miramar Poetry Journal is published in hard copy
Sample poems below
Miramar Editions Chapbook Series
No. 1. Perish the Day by Gerald Stern
No. 2. HISTORY by Philip Levine
No. 3 Adversary, by Gary Young
$10 each, postpaid.
Checks to “Christopher Buckley”
To contributors and subscribers—
4 and #5 now available—
special price for orders of both issues: 20$ postpaid
Miramar Magazine #6
MIRAMAR #6 featuring: Peter Everwine, Jon Veinberg, Karen Swenson, Frank Gaspar, Lynne Thompson, Bruce Weigl, Dennis Schmitz, Christopher Howell, Edward Harkness, Christine Kitano, Robert Stewart, Jeffrey Harrison, Jennifer Kwan Dobbs, Greg Pape, Virgil Suarez, Catherine Abbey Hodges.
New Miramar Editions chapbooks: Phillip Levine, Gerald Stern, Gary Young, Joseph Stroud.
One by one they set their baggage on the platform
and, relieved of the burden, prepare to depart.
One holds a lucky coin in his hand.
One thinks of a pond he fished as a boy.
One whistles softly through pursed lips.
One keeps a sorrow in her heart.
One leaves the words that went unsaid.
One sees a window darkening with winter rain.
Meanwhile the baggage has been stowed away
or lost in the confusion, because, as usual,
a crowd is milling about on the platform, waving
goodbye to those diminishing into distance
for Jon Veinberg
Catherine Abbey Hodges
One Violet in February
for Peter Everwine
Home from Fresno, I wrote this poem,
then took out everything but the violet.
Later, a little rain fell back in.
There’s no story here,
only the song of tires on the wet street
and me making my way toward
the unsayable, dowsing
my way with syllables,
silence, the goodness of friends.
I’m not there yet, not even sure
I’ll know when I get there.
I couldn’t be happier.
We’re tight in our too-small cottage,
but the Steinway never crowds
us as its music expands who we are.
Where are you going when you find
your way through the intricacies
of Bach—who are we this time
in our tiny rental cottage, its window-
glass flexing at the forte of some music
I don’t know but try to hum? Even in
the kitchen, when your fingers slow
to a crawl, the pots ring back some
of the indistinct notes in you.
The Steinway is big enough to have
its own gravity—leaning into it,
your small body always trembles,
shaken even by a quiet Mozart adagio.
Evening: fire of blue crows bent
toward a perfect distribution. Suppose
I wander from the rose tent
singing. I could carve myself
anew and go on speaking, angels
or not. I could circle back like Jesus
in a power boat, plucking himself from the sea
after a long walk.
Blasphemy, of course.
But if there’s a window out here
I hand it my sleeve, my fog of breath,
and look through, praying again.
Why not. Day is done and I offer myself
words, shells, their pink sinless hearts.
Fly by night? Additionally perhaps
a screw loose.
But what sense is there for ironing
out? Only the wind’s ripped coat, your father’s
sore quietude after harvest, the love that
cannot set down its tools.
Too much for any of us, since we are
so far from home, since we are
our own home now, beaten
a bit, infused with cinders and smoke
of a thousand years. Since it is
On Going Deaf
My world’s a meadow, shadows into dusk,
hushing. Birds wing silence, cricket’s tune
unstrung violins and oddly I
don’t mind, although I know the world’s out there—
jackhammer orgy, cymbal brassy, loud
sun on shark tooth sand, so clamorously
assured of its self, while I plumed, drift, spin—
milkweed seed. The creek goes quiet, wind
only an arch of trees. The world recedes.
I listen to it fade a crow at a time.
When the green begins to go to yellow
You can hear the locust chirp
All through the long evening. The sun
setting just now, the sky
streaked with red,
and every spirit in its place.
I could find a world there. I could find
a way to live inside the village life,
tend my garden, care for my children’s
children who play in the dusty courtyard, lose
the last ribbons of myself and be free.
The Great Illusions
At the curtain of Casablanca
the cloak of fog
closing over the little airport,
down into which Claude Raines
and Humphrey Bogart walk
to the start of a beautiful friendship,
is so thick that surely
no airplane should,
or maybe even could,
take off through it?
But the little twin-prop craft
does take off safely because
on that plane
is Ingrid Bergmann,
young and beautiful as the new moon,
with many many boys
to turn into young men
being drawn to her like fish
in a full-flowing tide.
It would, thank the gods, be decades
before she waned
and vanished like the empty moon.
The Recent Dead
What is this glimmer and flit in the tree tops?
I catch a flash of gold, peaky cap, black mask:
Cedar Waxwings. There must be fifty of them,
little jolts of light, filling the bare limbs
with muted color, then flocking down
to the bittersweet, the crab apples, the hollies—
any berries, no matter how dried-up and frost-hardened,
will do. Food for the journey. Little souls,
with your prayer shawls of yellow
fringe, your blood-red blot of sealing wax
on each wing. Are you ferrying across
the newly-departed—Vinnie, handsome
as a movie star at ninety-five; Auntie Kay,
whose booze-soaked fruitcakes were legendary;
Angelo, who landed on a Normandy beach,
marched to Paris with the rest of the Infantry,
and made the best sausages in Boston; and Linnea,
whose burden of a body was as heavy as yours
are light? Or is this too much to read into the flicker
of wing beats, hollow bones, bright eyes? The trees
are alive with these stubs of small wax candles,
an altar of votives. While you perch, golden acrobats,
on branches and twigs, hang upside down, dart and teeter,
filling in the empty trees with flutter and light.
Miramar Magazine #5, 2017
Essays on Michelle Boisseau, Garrett Hongo, Marsha de la O, & Enid Osborn; poetics by Dane Cervine.
Bess, Zickel, Warhol, Arendt
Aunt Bess died from forgetting and when I
visited her at her last apartment she kept
asking me if I had eaten and poured
bowl after bowel of Rice Krispies for me though
I might add no banana, no milk
no sugar and most of all, no spoon.
And Zickel, my bewildered cousin, who suffered from
spinal curvature and dwarfism
both of which kept him in his small chair
in his little room down the hall and like the prophet
he was named for he fell down from his trances
and he was given to Utopian thinking
and lived by an old canal like the first one.
And there was a kind of Warholean laughter
which Andy and I used to resort to
walking across the 7th Street Bridge
now the Warhol Bridge—the Allegheny River—
though there is no Gerald Stern Bridge anywhere
nor Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida.
And Hannah Arendt—I’m sure you remember her—
who went back to her lover her teacher in a
peasant’s hut in the Black Forest and wept
in his arms as he in hers as he brushed the crumbs
from her Hebrew lips with his Nazi fingers
and published his last explanation in Der Spiegel
after his death in 1976.
A Living Wage
A big corporation CEO
gets a two-hundred million dollar
for doing his job
for a big corporation
make barely maybe
a living wage
For half his severance
or even a quarter
I’ll quit my job tomorrow
Forest in Twilight
for my father
I walk through the fast and fading light
that once flamed red on the forest floor.
There were times I prayed for you to return,
for the clouds to lower you through the mist
of umbrella pines into a grove of birches
where you’ll cushion your head against
their moon grilled silver trunks. Your cheeks
dabbled with firethorn and your hands scribbled
with cuts from the gooseberry bush
and a hunger you couldn’t have forgotten.
Many times I’ve asked to trade places with the dead
just to sit next to you on the alder stump
counting catkins and breaking open hazelnuts
with stones we fashioned as arrowheads.
You’ll chuckle at all my failures
and I’ll point out how differently the light would glide
through dog star and cloud breath
had you stuck around or come sooner
when I called out for you
to fill in the blanks of a dark and twisted sky
and how I’ve waited for you in this breakneck glide
of sunset, this lifetime of heart cracking light.
The sun has climbed two fingers high
and scimbles in the dew. Or punishes
and presses like organ music. Or shuts
itself away for days behind snowstorms
while it sprays ample noons on antipodes.
As a full day is to the mayfly, the sun is
ceaseless and merry wherever it is.
Even eclipsed, it’s not half-hearted
or approximate. It’s we who fail and spin
into the dark where it isn’t and so it stands
for God. Burning and burning, it brings
but cannot come to life. Or bring you back.
Topaz Incarceration Camp, 1943
Because they have never seen anything like it,
the city children weave through the barracks calling us
to come see. Our stories of fireflies in Japan
must echo in their young heads, how we’d picnic
in summer heat to watch the lit bodies punctuate
the dark. Better than Christmas, we’d told them.
So when they pull us into the Utah night, how to tell them
these pulsing clouds are not fireflies, but moths. Still
we chase them through the desert fields, the children
cupping small fists around moon-whitened wings
that collapse, not from the children’s touch, but the sheer
pressure of air. My mother would say the fireflies
are the lights of soldiers killed in a war far away,
their spirits now wandering the earth in search of home.
But these are not fireflies. How to say fireflies
don’t come to Utah, how to say how close, or far,
we are from home? How to say where we are
at all? My daughter catches one, its brief body torn,
and flickering in her palm. I teach her the word hotaru,
firefly. Together we trace the letters in the dirt.
But the next morning, when she peeks outside,
she cries to find the characters gone, the name
on the earth already erased by the wind.
Cloud of Unknowing
It is always the not known
I speak of, a kind of wandering,
looking for what I’m looking for, hearing it
over the next hill: band music
or the quiet of a crowd that might be there.
Like blind Tiresias I want to see
what I see without meaning to,
without payment and regretting
only myself for no reason, though reason
is my shadow and my shine.[Sometimes I want you to stop
reading so I can
go on alone into the dark sublingual light
that rises from the dead, that perfection of being,
stars dizzy in the diastolic arabesque
of the universe, the music going on
in deaf Beethoven’s head].
Then I think, this is all about thought’s alien
texture, about forgiving ourselves for that.
Then I think this is all simply breathing
and then the snow
falling on cottonwoods along the river
and the sunlight afterward
and no one there.
Some Things Don’t Change
In his seventies Uncle Powell
was still in charge of city water
and would take me to help
when there was a well to be pulled.
Day’s Work chewing tobacco
kept his jaw in place
while block and tackle
kept the pipe from falling
into the well as we replaced
leathers or the cylinder.
Uncle Powell never cursed,
even when I was dense.
He would simply say:
take that pipe up a bit.
One afternoon after work
he told me he had killed
a man in a pool hall fight
in the same tone of voice
used for passing tools, adding:
it was self defense so I didn’t go
to the pen but that don’t wash out,
that fellow’s dead and I reckon
we ain’t seen the last of each other.
Carol V. Davis
We neighborhood kids didn’t worry about danger.
Not while perched on the slope down to the creek,
mayonnaise jars poised, leaning far out to catch tadpoles.
Not while climbing reliable oaks to branches
fragile as bones, tightropes strung over the street.
Holding our breath, we whizzed by the witch’s house on bikes,
wrought iron fence strangled by ivy, blinds hiding something terrible.
Boys taunted girls to unlock the gate latch,
march the path bordered by hemlock.
No one took up the challenge.
Later on, my best friend’s mother packed her kids and headed to Guyana.
Trapped in the undergrowth of Jonestown, the older brother
murdered a congressman on the tarmac.
Evaded the poisoned brew, but jailed for life.
We’d moved by then, but even before my friend called,
I’d read about it in the papers.
One of us died at 18 in the Viet Nam jungle.
Back then we’d never heard of friendly fire.
I dare you to say it was only the times.
Highlight list of poets for Issue of Miramar #4:
Also featuring work by:
Juan Felipe Herrera
Marsha de la O Perie
Longo Jon Veinberg
Charles Wright Essays and reviews by Mark Jarman M.L. Williams
and more . . .
Lost On my way home, cutting through alleys,
crossing the abandoned lots where the kids
fought their first wars, the ones they won,
I lose my way, although there is no way.
Slowly the night sky floods with stars.The long arched bow of Orion, the belt
studded with jewels, the arrows that stay
forever as the shadowy bear and bison flee
toward the far corners of creation. I’m dizzy
in the middle of a street of silent housesnone of which is mine. If I stand here
long enough my breath will calm, the day
break on forests of TV antennas, on doors
that don’t open, windows boarded over,
on no one at all, and I’ll know where I am.
An invisible thread supports the moon
in the last minutes of twilight.
I tell you that I will never forget this moment;
these mountains, these clouds will never return
together the same way, pierced
the way they are now, before the light changes,
within a moment at the end of this poem.
Penelope Scambly Schott
Maybe you discovered this poem in a dry cave
and now as you examine the yellowing paper
you are puzzling over the black scratch marks.
They could be hard to decipher like Linear B.
Maybe to you the O’s look like small ponds
and the T’s like the handles of antique daggers.
What sort of language do you speak? What if
your throat and mouth don’t resemble ours?
It will have been such a long time. You might
be a child of whales who staggered ashore
from an acid sea. At night do you study stars?
Once when my father was old and left the city,
he asked me, What is that white line in the sky?
Maybe you have traveled beyond the farthest
edge of the Milky Way galaxy and finally come
back home to tell me all about it. I’m listening.
A robin calls out from the redwoods. Siskins chatter at the feeder, and doves coo side-by-side on the roof. An eagle drifts overhead, shrieking like a lost child. A house finch runs his scales, and a chickadee repeats—chickadee, chickadee. How strange. My father, who could not imagine a world in which he didn’t exist, is dead, and the birds keep singing.
Marsha de la O
Antidote for Night
So much as close my eyes
and a flayed Labrador is laid at my doorstep.
And here’s the same bone
lodged in the slippery pottage
of my heart
where this man croons, Baby you’re so sweet
until I take his head between my hands
and lay it on my breast.
There’s the moon in the high window, her wall-eye
glancing off of me, and a few bobbing stars,
every tawdry shining thing.
I’ve identified Venus more times
than I can count as an agent for insomnia
a broad sail that catches the wind and slides away.
Not even halfway through the hours,
his fitful sleep, wheeze of a saber-saw,
waves receding on a rocky shore,
breath whip-snaking down a chute, until his body
forgets—how close the kingdom,
one stalled-gulp away—
and I jostle his dying shoulder—he recoils, yes,
rebels—back now, mouth full of silver,
What? he moans to darkness, what?
Reading Poems before the Moose and Elk
I joined the Writers’ Center of Indianapolis
a reluctant joiner. There was
the Captain Midnight Fan Club in my youth
(secret decoder that glowed in the dark),
brief servitude as a Theta Chi in college
ending when I served steel wool
in the President’s salad; AAA
of both California and Indiana
coinciding with the Porsche.
Fresno Press Club in my newspaper days,
AAUP, of course, as a professor.
Now, reading poems to a few poets
in a side enclosure of the old Athenaeum
in Indianapolis (designed by Bernard Vonnegut),
beneath stuffed moose and elk heads,
I realize this is the best club
I’ve ever belonged to except E Clampus Vitus,
that anarchical God Rush organization
for those without social affiliations,
in which the initiates purchased
food and drink for the sponsors each time
and where the initiates in a ceremony
circled a corn cob on a pole called
The Staff of Life, and whose altruism
was borne in the club’s motto, “For the benefit
of widows and orphans, mostly widows.”
Ricardo Zamorano Baez
I Give Up Reading Camus
First day of January, and I sit at the kitchen table eating cereal, thinking about my family in Mexico. I imagine my grandparents’ eyes looking for me inside of dad’s F-150 when my parents, brother, and sisters were getting out of the truck, but I stayed in Fresno reading, writing, watching TV, listening to the radio, and all those things people say would improve my English. I can see them in the patio, eating pollo azado, mojarras adoradas, and roasted corn. I can even hear them saying “Feliz Año Nuevo” to each other. “Happy New Year,” I say to myself and walk to my bedroom to keep trying to add a line to the poem I’ve worked on for the last two weeks. Nothing. Outside, I turn on the sprinkler to water the lawn, go back to the kitchen, sit on a cold chair, and listen to the radio. When I open the window to look at the grass, a group of robins fly away from the lawn and then come back to bathe in the small puddles of water, cold as loneliness. I go out to watch them chase one another, open their wings, lift their heads, fly and come back again as if they were giving thanks to someone. I need to think it’s me.
Stephen Calt tells me
when I’m researching
the lives of blues players
that “hambone” is
for “penis” and is also
used as a verb.
Aaron Copeland is at least
as important to “classical” music
as Hambone Willie Newbern
is to the blues and
I remember one March
some years ago
sitting in a cabin at MacDowell
at the piano where Copeland
had hamboned “Appalachian Spring”
and was very pleased to be
in his spectral presence
as I one-fingered Yankee Doodle
on the baby grand and
a New England blizzard
was dropping two feet of snow
while out of loneliness
and creative impotence
I wondered how I was
ever going to get a poem
out of this.
Looking into the pit of time’s grey dust
your village walls are a frail excavation
of lost lives. At which hearth did she die,
your daughter? Thirteen centuries span, we share no
alphabet, or sex or culture just
the universal of war. The conscript wagons,
horses gone, but weeping endures unchanged.
Six wars in my seventy-five years. Your farms raised
brambles, ours corporations. Did your men
return to kill in terrored night sweats their own
village? The Pear Garden in Chengdu
has long succumbed to traffic, but your memory
of the sword dance stays. Looking down
into the pit of your home, I’m a weak old
woman, lazy, foolish with no future.
Go to top
No. 3 2014
Participating Poets and Commentary
Frank X. Gaspar
Kevin Patruick Sullivan
Jan Felipe Herrera
Rhett Iseman Trull
Marsha De La O
Charles Harper Webb
C. Mikal Oness
Corrinne Clegg Hales
F. Albert Salinas
Luis Omar Salianas
Highlight list of poets for Issue of Miramar #3:
Frank X. Gaspar
Charles Harper Webb
Luis Omar Salinas
Juan Felipe Herrera
Resolve: Stopping on the Mountain to Look at the Crescent Moon in Late April
For David Oliveira
In the great valley of the San Joaquin
we drove past the grave
of our poet friend Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel,
dead for the better part of a year;
past orchards: walnuts, almonds, and apricots.
Past the dairy farms of Portuguese families, the old Joss House
in Hanford, the garage in Earlimart, the world famous restaurant
all boarded up in Tulare, then past Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
in Bakersfield, towards the Coast.
I was stopped in that mountain pass by the moon,
near Fort Tejon where my friend
pointed out Orion’s Belt, and Gemini,
all there in the dome of heaven, suffused with light;
If any message was writ large for me
among those stars, it was this:
I am surrounded by happiness.
It was what I expected.
I will get used to it.
The Birth of Light
The last bit of moonlight beams through the window
and down the throats of bartenders and the swing shift
operators at Zacky Farms, done with the last minute butchering
and incubating as they slip into the couched sleep of waving
grasses and dying stars, coughing up what’s left of the dark.
To be walking down Van Ness at this time is to scare the stars.
To listen in on the undecided clouds as they confer with the night
about the blood lines singeing the eyes of farmers and flower vendors
as they curse the shoulder that refuses to pivot and twirl
and the back that has lost its torque when unloading the trucks,
is to eavesdrop on secrets that will one day form dreams,
like a stillness that inhabits the Chinese elms before a storm
that might awaken the half-dead kittens tossed in empty oil drums
or the security guard lying torpid on the green linoleum tiles of the bank,
mulling over the tyranny of alarm clocks and the whereabouts of his thermos.
I watch a checkerboard of lights wink on from the gray-scabbed apartments,
releasing a littered nebulae of tossed magazines, an Early Times bottle,
armfuls of plastic hampers and flattened cardboard into the scrapped shopping cart
while a woman stands at the bus stop, allowing a pre-dawn breeze
to comb her hair, practicing smiles and mouthing the gawky syllables of bliss.
And I go on loving these loveless hours like no other before the sun
takes its rightful place at the head of nature’s table, bronzing the sky,
conning the day, and sending a new shift of angels to change the time
on the marquee scanning the ballpark, the hand of heaven changing gloves.
Filling in the Hole for the Septic
Is Nothing Like Filling in a Grave
Shovels with their metal blades curved
into some never-ending smile.
The pain in this comes later.
The pain comes in your tempered smile
and the memory of how earth sounds
when it hits the not-quite-hollow, the almost
ringing sound so that you must wonder if the thing
below you is empty, if someone should check.
A sound that will come back any number
of times in ways you hadn’t expected.
You sweat and don’t mind the labor at hand.
The purpose in your work. The earth is soft
and dark brown and good and the sound
rings against the lid. The muscles
ache along the seam of your back,
the pain that will surely follow for days,
the pain of it lingering, reminding you
every time you stand or sit or turn in bed.
Then you wake one day and the muscles
have forgotten that there was a hole,
and that it was always your task to fill it.
Kneeling and Falling
Has my mother fallen to her knees? Memory
is never enough, I believe her head’s nearly touching
the radio, I’m old enough to know Roosevelt’s voice,
I can hear the dusk of war in his grief, and see,
my mother’s hand is at her throat.
She tells me, years later, no matter whose war,
the Jews will be on the losing end.
Jews are forbidden to kneel to anyone, not even God.
Only on the Day of Atonement, the cantor falls
prostrate, humbled for all of us, and I, in the dazzling
cathedral where Lori got married, couldn’t fold
to the kneeling bench at my feet.
Keening without consciousness, my father dropped
as if he’d been struck when my mother died,
and slowly my sister and I raised him up.
Sometimes in yoga when I double over into
the child’s pose, knees and elbows tucked under,
I could be that girl sunk down next to my young mother
and it looks a lot like prayer.
Kevin Patrick Sullivan
My First Encounter with Random Gun Violence
I was almost finished with my Detroit News evening paper route on July 3rd 1968—I was fourteen and I was earning money—$25 to $35 per week depending on tips—I was on my last block on Union between Banner and Telegraph Rd. closer to Telegraph which was I 75 that ran clear to Florida—I had just kickstanded my stingray and was halfway up to the door with a paper in hand when I started hearing pops and bangs like fireworks getting closer—thinking no big deal just independence day crap when around the corner at Telegraph comes a tire squealing green Chevy Impala four door—as it hits a huge maple on the front lawn of my last house pop–pop-bang-bang the doors spring open with men carrying money bags and guns—pop-pop-bang-bang and I’m off and running down Union toward Banner when the Dearborn police show up from both directions—I just keep running and make a left on Banner and I’m running past Carlisle down to a right on Ross and I’m running down Ross and take a left on Bailey and I’m running down Bailey past Dartmouth and hang a left on Andover, my street, and run to my home about halfway down the block—I must have set a world record slamming and locking the front door and then doing the same to the back telling my mom and dad that I was almost killed, bullets flying hitting trees and houses—on the 6 o’clock news we heard that they had robbed a Cunningham Drug store and several people were shot in the cross fire and the ensuing chase. After a couple of hours my dad drove me back to my stingray on Union where I finished my route and I was just thankful that I could run fast, that I could go home when I needed to, that people loved me there—that I was still breathing.
My father’s encyclopedia diagramed the transformation stamped on the cells of each
jellied egg weeks before—how the legs bud, how the skin and mouth change
in texture and shape, the tail and gills absorbed by the body, as the body makes room for the lungs.
When I stood so long one afternoon at the open door of my uncle’s bedroom, where
he slept naked, only a sheet to cover him, this man with the same name, the
likeness in our faces undeniable, though his eyes were blue, I saw the laws with which my own body had already been written.
Watching him was like kneeling at the edge of the creek, empty jar in hand, as they
rose to the surface for air.
Looking at the MRI Six Years Later
I can’t seem to get it right,
how to name the patterns
of what I’ve become. Ashen leaves
against a charcoal branch, or dead
blotches of smoke. I want to say
shapes like coral reefs float in film,
but then I see water stains left
on a wooden table. The cerebrum
dims, half-moons in cerebellum
prick orbs in medulla oblongata.
I can’t seem to trace
how it all started, these wild
mushrooms growing inside of me,
these decayed walnuts in dark shells.
And then I see what it is.
I’ve been stricken with altocumulus. Almost
a decade, I’ve been carrying rain clouds
in the skull. Drenched rags hover above,
lightning and thunder beat a wild drum,
but no downpour comes.
Year after year the spotted sky grows
darker, it waits for gray lesions
to start a storm.
No. 2 2012
Poets Issue #2
Juan Felipe Herrera
Earl S. Braggs
Anne Marie Macari
Reviews from Issue #2
Diane Wakoski’s Bay of Angels
Fleda Brown’s No Need of Sympathy
Gary Soto’s Sudden Loss of Dignity
Mark Jarman’s Bone Fires
Christopher Howell’s GAZE
Dixie Salazar’s Altar for Escaped Voice
C.G. Hanzlicek’s The Lives of Birds.
By whose obedience I was directed in my own living
and introduced to the world of literature that way,
and broke my small dog’s heart by feigning death
and put toilet paper on my own face to stop the bleeding;
and knew Studs Terkel whom I loved and Lionel Trilling
whom I didn’t but neither Herbert Marcuse nor Mary McCarthy,
and made up for my own ignorance by criminal journeys
and lived with my three older sisters by sitting at the foot of the table
and taking only the smallest cuts to demonstrate submission
and continued through two long lives to become undivided
which formerly I could only do through rage,
such being the time it takes in America to become a true Cossack.
“Leave me in the midst of my own moon, in my wounded terrain.”Maybe if you just know one thing
pick one thing
like a seahorse or leaf
to study, to sing
for the rest of your life—
examine its history
eons ago with the first
uncoiling– the first whisper
and all it carried–
a swirl of leaves sailing
on forever into mist and music
boats that never dock
that sag in the river
the moon plows through
then rocks on the shore
of your heart
while the stars stumble and fall
down the broken stairs
of eternity.Black crepe crackles
in the fire of blossoms
and drunken trees
sing off key and gallop
into the ruins.Even the gutters run
with green ink
fish scales chime on the wind
then sway into silence one by onelet the shovels clang
hit hard pan and permafrost
all they’ll find are blackened salt,
fish bones, a needle with broken thread,
and the charred strings
of a gutted guitarmusic cannot be exhumed–
Everything carries you to us.
Not on the edge of senility
but somewhere in the distant middle
my eleventh grade math teacher
stands on the top of his desk
trying to look like the B-17
he flew in the big war
his arms outstretched
the flak splattering all around him
as spellbound we count
the bombs he drops over
Lost Letter To Kees
You on the precipice, the fog you thought was heaven,
the water sloshing around the legs of the Golden Gate,
the salt of the Pacific pressed against your lips,
the poem you were about to write with your body
and how cliché it would read in the Times.
On the fourth floor of the building I’m in
the beaches of Los Angeles are beyond my view.
You were tired of everyone building
a monument to greed. I know I am.
I’ve spent too long in a dim room
trying to type our this worthless curse…
That must be why you painted “After Hours”—
to separate the whirlpool from the light.
I’ve thought about the concrete, the ocean floor.
One day I might join you in Cuernavaca,
in a musky cantina on the city’s edge—
a cold Victoria in our hands, dodging
the sunlight intruding through the open windows…
we’ll discuss the women dancing, the jazz
from the streets in New Orleans beneath the smoke
of unfiltered Agilas. Or perhaps we’ll eat mangos
in Acapulco with out feet in the sand, in the shade
of a cabana, the sun’s brush dipping into the sea,
the constant hush of waves. You’ll say this is all
we’ve ever needed, as we walk deep into the Pacific.
At sixty, I’ve made progress, eliminating anger from my heart, and ridding myself of attachment to things. I have freed my mind of troubling thoughts and foolish distractions, but I cannot seem to cure myself of lust. I suffer every affection—pleasant colors, smooth skin, soothing voices. To tame these passions, a sutra suggests that we meditate on the body’s impurities—feces, urine, smeared blood, scorched bones—or imagine being devoured by wild animals. I have tried. It may well be that a living body is like a rotten corpse, neither one worthy of desire, but how could I ever turn away from my wife’s breasts, my son’s dark eyes, or the music of my boy’s sweet voice when he calls to me?
Bread for Vallejo
Cesar Vallejo, there’s a cafe in my dreams where Emma Zuns plays the accordion and sings with grace and pain. She’s asked me to fetch you so that you may come and listen to her songs, unclenched from her heart without restraint. She invites you for supper at a bistro not far from here. She brought me there once and on Thursday afternoons I return for the vegetable soup and fresh bread.
Only when it rains does Emma Zuns come alone to wait on stage for you. She’s asked that I leave this place empty and this cup of black coffee to cool. I will leave a chair waiting for as long as the rain knows the poverty of your bones, for you are only down the dark street, looking for the cafe of my dreams.
On the streets of Puerto Vallarta, yellow cabs pass us again and again. A vendor tries to sell us elotes out of a hot tin bucket, but we save our money for the cab. People walk through the streets like scattered herds, selling jewelry, loteria cards, velvet SpongeBob piggy banks, their lives. No cabs stop for us. We are meant to stay near our resorts, like other tourists wearing NIKE shoes and backpacks. But these are our people. This is our land. And the land recognizes our leathered brown skin and the Spanish that unfurls from our throats with the ease of breath. Yellow cabs see that we do not look like gringos with pudgy wallets in our pockets. We look like their brothers, their friends. So they do not stop for us.
Mother’s Deck of Cards
From Bridge and its complexities, to Hearts,
from Hearts to Fish (a game she taught us as children),
she kept losing count and finally gave up,
ending with simple matching games, like Snap.
At last she let all diversions go, and left this
in its unopened skin of cellophane.
On one side the repeated tessellated pattern.
On the other the motley Joker with a puppet.
Turning the deck in my hand and hearing the sound
of the wrapping as it crackles, I almost feel
as if I’m hearing from her. All lost in the static
of the Fool cackling at my foolishness.
She couldn’t have broken the seal’s red band at the end.
At the end, she couldn’t even hold a spoon
and the therapy tool lay a useless toy in her lap.
“Frustrated” was the last thing we think she said.
I’ll leave the deck unopened on my desk,
waiting to be shuffled and dealt out,
the game she meant it for waiting to be played –
a keepsake, a way to keep in touch.
Luis Omar Salinas
My Fifty-Plus Years Celebrate Spring
On the road, the mountains
in the distance are at rest
in a wild blue silence.
On the sides of the highway
the grape orchards unfurl
deep and green again
like a pregnant woman
for the time to come.
And with the passing
of each season
human life knows little
change. Forty years
in this valley,
the wind, the sun
building its altars
of salt, the rain that
holds nothing back,
and with the crop
at its peak
packing houses burn
their many diligent
Mexican workers stacking up
the trays and hard hours
that equal their living.
I’ve heard it said
hard work ennobles
if that is the case,
the road to heaven
must be crowded
No. 1 2013
Poets Issue #1
The Heart Stops
— Fleda Brown David Young
— Peter Everwine
— Philip Levine
Sometimes At Night
— Polly Bee
Beneath the tangle of drizzle and mist,
the wind hisses prophesies to itself,
muffling the pants of nose-to-the ground dogs
who just the hour before slipped their collars.
Why do I keep seeing you there, Omar,
on the corner of Broadway and Belmont
heeling your smokes and losing count of angels,
thumbing a ride under the funeral parlor’s wink?
And the wild birds whose names are no longer within reach
that preened their wings inside your heart so nimbly
it is no small wonder to catch you floating among them
leaf-like, past the palm fronds and recalcitrant roses,
through the moon’s braid of light beyond
where fog and poverty drip into the same alley
and when the blue tinderbox of desire crackles
outside the hospital you died in and the untamed soul teeters
like an unbalanced brick, I’m sure you’ll turn up
through the gauze of clouds, the reef of time, to answer it all back
with spit and guts, the wind scorching your eyelid,
your hat on fire, your words melded in the hard flame of stars.
The Heart Stops
The longest a heart has ever stopped and started again is 65 seconds, although some hospitals require you to wait five precious minutes to take the organs, but before his heart stopped, Linda asked her son David who had Down Syndrome, “Do you see Jesus? Take his hand, now, honey,” words that fill me with tears for that walking forth past the 65 seconds, that coagulation into story of the whole life-death flux, the way it pushes my words aside the way we pushed the snow aside in front of the theater after watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” again, watching Jimmy Stewart, who like most of us hadn’t a clue about what to do about anything until along came Clarence the angel, which goes to show if we follow our metaphors around, we learn something, and we keep on learning while the drones are dropping the bombs, and we are all learning to spell Afghanistan, and we are all longing for a body for our sadness, but not one with cancer, which, oh, oh, is what our daughter Pam has: something calciferous, like a concrete sidewalk under the tissue of our musings and our abstract drones, a sidewalk one hopes to divide into sections like a snake’s reticulations, paragraphs which can be deleted, then radiated—a lovely sound, radiation, like angels—because common sense can’t deal with sudden movements, the dangerously long gaps that open up, so the Sunday school piano works to fill the gaps.
After a week of solitude
in a remote canyon of the Sierra
I grew restless for human company
and talked to myself to be less alone.
One afternoon, where the river
sweeps in close to the willows,
I found a small black water snake
holding himself against the current,
so much a part of dappled light
and water I had almost missed him.
He seemed unafraid but cautious,
and for a few moments we watched
each other across the abyss that lay
between us, then I backed away,
leaving for him, by way of greeting,
a trout I’d saved for my own supper.
Later that night, lying at ease
by the embers of my small fire,
I thought of him, upstream, one
of creation’s least, a delicate, swift
ripple of shadow amidst the jumble
of stone and water, and I looked up
into the gap of driven stars
until my eyes closed, and I slept.
In the still, black river the moon
fades out and a weak sun rises
on the road home if home’s still here.
Past the old streets lined with maples
leafing out, the whole neighborhood
so much greener than in memory.
You park and wait. Soon old Chester—
cane in hand—descends the stairs
one step at a time just as he
did when this was your street.
“Simple” some say, some say other-
wise—just because he tips his hat
to the women coming home from
the night shift and on good days
bows a little from the waist while
he whispers, “Been out late again?”
The man isn’t being dirty or
anything like that. “Courtly”
was the word Mrs. Chester used
to describe her young husband,—
alone now for twelve years and still
the treasure of the neighborhood.
On the second floor a curtain
bellies out an open window,
a wind come from somewhere,
a wind smelling of tired breath,
bad dreams, the failures of love,
maybe a little bacon grease
and fried potatoes to greet
the new day, but a wind none
the less. Before you judge
ask yourself if you have more
to give this place. You who drove
west all night in search of something
promised by a birthright you had
every right to and found Detroit
Sometimes At Night
I awake, sense a space
Mother briefly occupies
beside my bed just now,
glances at me & leaves.
Another time it seems
my brother is here
One by one, always at night
they come: kid sister Barbara,
older sister Jean, older brothers
Bob & Carl
each pausing briefly in the hall
outside my open bedroom door.
As children, we grew up together
in a home with a Mom & a Dad
who slept in separate beds. He left
when we were very young.
Now, at 86, I’m the only one.
I want to cry but don’t.
It’s over & done
except sometimes at night.
todo hombre tiene dos
batallas que pelar:
en sueño lucha con Dios;
y despierto, con el mar.
Every man has two
battles to wage:
in dreams he wrestles with God;
and awake, with the sea.
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