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Alison Parham

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Lisa Simon

Jazz, Leave Me Alone

         yourself in a sequined
silver palace
         where I can’t see your glare.
         a stranger’s piano
with your floating breath-notes
and anchors
         dropped on the backbeat
off some cruise ship,
         indigo water
sliding down to a mermaid
I can handle the notes,
         slippery minnows,
but can’t always wait
for the instant
         the big fish tugs   
to pull the line in.

Lord, give me blues,
that fish and chips,
fishing boat
         so low
on the brine
that I cradle
that little boat
with my foggy night voice
         whose notes scatter to reach,
but I will pull them down
to fog horn and sizzling fish

soon as this paper cup of whiskey
is down my throat.


“Jazz, Leave Me Alone” appeared on youtube, April 2016.


Of all relics to find
on the rubbled railroad lot: a fitting album,
Glenn Yarbrough’s “The Lonely Things.”
The dazzle of cobalt blue
was a shock across the dusty yard.
I scrambled to pick it up—
a huge bite was missing from it.                                          
Where did it fall, I wondered,
on the scale from black to platinum,
the color of the ones
who never made it?— or
simply the saddest single
about living the blues
at a wave length not expressed by
common black vinyl?

So many discards here— the usual party-fight rubbish,
a block from the beach Boardwalk. A kid’s unfinished
travel puzzle, bike tires, syringes,
wadded-up underpants,  and condoms
in tired, gloomy puddles. And just past the litter,
one or two worn spots of flattened grass
in the shape of sleepers.


“Sleepers" is previously published in the anthology Harvest from the Emerald Orchard.


My father used to scoop leaves
from our pool. Once buoyant
with job offers he refused,
he types a resume, pecking

at the keys, pours juice for breakfast
at his son's apartment where he now lives.
Shuffling through magazines, he's a crow
looking for the right shiny thing. As he irons

his interview shirt and his son's trousers,
the steam's hiss and the syncopated creaks
of the ironing board bring back
the factory rafters,

the family garment business and the ranks
of ironing ladies, their stainless steel
blades, his Cadillac fins
gleaming. Between them now, father and son

drive a one-eyed Firebird, window crank
broken all winter. Leather seats,
my father thinks, and how in those days
the Cadillac lightshow

was like the pool's floodlit night, every leaf
shuddering in the castle moat, every
dashboard light fluttering his fortune
over and over, blinking off, blinking on.


My mother never owned a gun,
but I remembered that she did.

She immersed in her own tears for hours
those long nights of cocktails, her solo stint
amidst a wall of smoke and always lipstick
on her Pall Mall stubs, always heartbreak women
singing jazz in the background. Among those
broken songs lived a woman
who controlled her world, Sarah Vaughan, who sang
Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets, and meant it.
But the gun trumped
any melody
of wanting and getting,
no matter how fine
the imagined triumph in song
over men.

Such as those who peddled themselves to my mother.
I could smell defeat in their swagger,
and on one the scotch-stink of bravado.
He came in late one night,
threw his gun onto the couch
where he draped himself in hunger.
Mom dispensed him quick: there was to be no gun
in our house. But the kitchen knife was there,
in her bedside drawer, she agrees years later,
and admits herself a fool to think
she’d conquer an intruder
with a tool he’d turn on her.

There was no gun, she said,
but I remembered
the click of chambers,
each a softer notch of hypnosis,
as if the power to mesmerize
was all we had
in that house with no man.

Watch a Great Blue Heron
            after Wendy Videlock

like fallen redwood
like feldspar

like a silver pelt
like a bee in amber

like a bridge
like a beaver castle

like you are a doubter’s
steady prayer

like an eddy
like cornsilk    

like lambswool
like bark underfoot

like the miles
within you
have never rested.

Traveling Back
            for my adopted daughter

I’d travel back to the making of your bones
inside your first mother’s womb,
to the markings in her
I would follow as traces of you unfolding,
as with tree rings we can see
a history of drought, love,
strength, or great happiness.
I would visit the coil of your limbs
as you found a perfect drift in the drink of  her womb.

Then I would watch as you glide
across China’s green Yunnan
smooth as an acrobat, daughter of an acrobat,
within your birth mother’s belly.
I’d know you as you grew under the circus lights,
applause thrumming the acrobat’s pregnant body,
along your pearly spine.
I’d call you my little whistle, little cinder in flight,
little wisp of all whispered earth-secrets,
who, under show lights and afterlights,
in steeps and shivers grew green
as the tea steeped and the steam blew the bare bulb blurry
after the show, offstage and resting.

I’d watch her kneel by the radio, window.
You’re breathing watery breaths.                              
Sleepy and radiant wind
blows in from the fields,
horses’ hooves shuffle and stomp
outside the canvas, steam rises
off the warm blood of animals,
into the making of you.


“Traveling Back” was previously published in Porter Gulch Review.

Lisa Simon is a writer, teacher, and singer whose love of language was nurtured in her hometown of Birmingham. Her poems have appeared in Quarry West, In Celebration of the Muse 30th Anniversary Anthology, and as a first prize winner in Porter Gulch Review. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA in English from U.C. Berkeley and is a recipient of a Squaw Valley scholarship and a Santa Cruz Arts Council grant. Lisa taught “Poetry and Song, a Natural Connection” for NextStage Performing Arts and many classes for CA Poets in the Schools. She now teaches poetry and fiction to writers of all ages at Cabrillo College. Her forthcoming book, "Bright in Each Body", is to be published by Blue Bone Books.

Emerald Street Poets
Marcia Adams
Len Anderson
Dane Cervine
Robin Lysne
Joanna Martin
Tom McKoy
Adela Najarro
Maggie Paul
Stuart Presley
Lisa Simon
Phillip Wagner

Featured Artist
Alison Parham


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