Our Last Christmas Eve
by Jeff Alfier
That night, at the crowded café you claimed
I stared at another woman because
braided red hair reminded me of her.
When I sidestepped, your words went fugitive.
Outside, the Prescott streets became wind-chilled
to near vacancy. When I told you there
was no middle ground for us to concede,
you released my hand. So we strolled blocks north
in silence, past bars full of revelers.
In the thin light of one of their doorways
a young woman—likely in her twenties,
answered her mobile phone in a low voice,
don’t you ever call this number again.
What Any Stone Can Tell You
by Rob Carney
When the earth discovered it was Earth,
its astonishment became canyons,
and its million years of laughter
made them deep.
There, in those darker beds,
it could lie down still and dream:
dream waterfalls over granite,
dream moss as soft as love, dream pines
at impossible angles,
strong as love.
It dreamt animals across grasslands,
animals into forests,
dreamt mountains to measure its distances
and birds to make sense of the sky.
But this wasn’t enough;
all things need another, even Earth.
And so do we.
Not to own
as if it were our echo.
Not to give back less than we take:
We are born—the earth’s other—
to our own astonishment; be grateful.
Be grateful, in Earth’s arms,
when your bones lie down at last to sleep.
Side Effects May Include
by Howie Good
waking in the morning still drunk,
problems with zippers,
dull visits from the better angel of your nature,
self-attempts at a heart tattoo,
occupation by an army of mercenaries,
a neighbor who keeps goats,
fear of drowning in the bathtub,
curiously fat fingers, and, in severe cases,
a soul like a broken shoelace.
Handling Your Audio Media
by Dustin M. Hoffman
because vinyl scratches—
crow’s feet, heeled at the label,
defy etched circles
with thumps and crackle.
when the ridges dull,
like the concert hall
where an F sharp might slip
past your ear,
into the rafters,
through the vents,
diffused in the night.
black streams for miles.
Two angled splices
and you will never miss
the crinkle of a chorus
tangled in the carpet,
a writhing pile of analog tape
disassembling assimilated waves.
It’s almost weightless, snowflakes
of iron or cobalt or chromium
bound in plastic,
Touch it with a magnet (try it), and
You can’t touch music
on a compact disc.
The purest of plastics,
shrined in aluminum,
entombed in lacquer.
But you never touch anything.
What you feel are your electrons
repulsing other electrons.
You barely scratch the surface.
My friend boasts
a month of music
wrapped tightly inside his computer,
no sleeves or leaflets or cases.
It could play for weeks
and never repeat, and all this
without your hands.
by J.R. Pearson
(Another Confession in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho)
In the voice of Joseph Duncan
Truth be told I’d rather spit this razor blade
from under my tongue & tell you what it’s like
to finger black flames from inside a wave
& have an aqualine piano tap-out a gelid rush
turned wrong side up. You ever seen your shadow
burn a gasoline rainbow? Feels fluid
like the Devil hisself arched his back over you & dropped
a velvet night of violence right in your lap, all nice & tidy.
You think I woke up this way in ink-volt wattage
then licked my fingers like a cherry-covered child,
her kerosene curls in chemical sheen in one hand,
the other a sliver-gleam of silver & a smile? It don’t work that way.
Pa says a mud puddle has a head on it to a man counting cactus
and any scrag of rock is Texas to a fool in a rowboat.
Truth is I’ve got a hole in my chest like a pierced ear
only it don’t grow back; swallows everything with an eye on the convex horizon.
I stalked her thru a prairie full of parking meters,
Aurora Borealis gutted a glitter-line on her forehead;
melted her rusted autumn tassels like wax over an open wound,
a tight coil wound my spine in the rain.
That night I stepped on the sky’s gigawatt coat tails.
Maybe I should start again: when I was born
momma said the witch doctor had an afterbirth premonition.
Said she saw the man-child coming sun-up
like a yellow langolier riding a torch-touched chateau,
every finger a fishhook & Montana winter trapped in his held breath.
But in Chinese Yellow Is Erotic
by Shari Zollinger
With a first tone
Like huang dou
On second, also
Like wasp at dusk
Looking for huang gua
Given third degree
A façade of huang hua
The least tender tone
Is a small boat rocking
On a river
(Shake and sway)
(Shake and sway)