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"Incandescent River"
by Jeanne Rosen Sofen

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Charles Atkinson

Ode to Tear Ducts

Tiny janitors, keepers of my
lenses to the world and soul,
you wash and rinse all day as I
scuff up fine detritus that would
scratch and scar these miracles.

The nightshift, too—laving, healing
orb and socket—sandman’s watch:
you cast the coarser grit and rheum
onto my sills for the morning crew.

The trash I burn comes back like debt,  
makes me wild with pain, near-blind.
You crank the spigot, flood the eye
and float the unseen cinder. But why
for yawning? bright light? vomiting?

Grief’s handmaids, you sluice off hormones
that wrack the body when I can’t
endure another loss. You flush
convulsive toxins, soothe my shudders,
signal a truce everyone honors.

I assumed you were the wellsprings;
you’re the drains! Still, fine pinholes,
you deserve a better name than
puncta. Let’s call you minute pinnacles
of plumbing that lead ever downward—
sinus, throat, stomach, bladder—
conduits to the open sea.



Old Growth

 

                                                          Humboldt Redwoods

 

Rooted a thousand

years, dense duff, sacrificial

limbs. Know more. Say less.

 

Rarely a blow-down,

ravel of roots so braided.

Elders that provide.

 

Ear to foot-thick bark:

muscular river surging

up toward home. Silent.

 

Water and light, fire

and chance—what can last? Giants

felled to frame this town.

 

Name the survivors:

Apex, Icarus, Pipe Dream—

 and slight, waiting seeds.

 

Visitor

At first I’d step into that room, eyes

down, braced as if something were

coiled beneath his bed. But he would

without fail slide his mottled

arm of bone from under sheets

to find my hand. I’d fold his claw—

still warm—in both my mitts and hold it

till I felt his flutter-pulse;

then I’d start to breathe again.

One day I smelled what huddled under

that bed: my poorest frightened self.

I lifted it, shaking, almost weightless,

into my lap and stroked its cool—

There now, dying looks like this.

Today I’m at his shoulder, to follow

the jagged breaths where they go,

surprised—not that I can love him,

but that I might love myself.

Charles Atkinson's first collection, The Only Cure I Know (San Diego Poets Press), received the American Book Series award for poetry; a chapbook, The Best of Us on Fire, won the Wayland Press competition.  A third volume, Because We Are Men, was awarded the Sow’s Ear Poetry Prize. His most recent collection is Fossil Honey, from Hummingbird Press. He has also received the Stanford Prize, the Comstock Review Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award (SUNY Farmingdale), the Emily Dickinson Award (Universities West Press) and The Ledge Poetry Prize.

Fiction
Helene Simkin Jara

Poetry
Len Anderson
Charles Atkinson
Ellen Bass
Killarney Clary
Helene Simkin Jara
Jake Young
Gary Young

Nonfiction
Wallace Baine

Artwork
Jeanne Rosen Sofen

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