Poetry by Lucinda Troth

In the Silence

She hides from day
And lives the night,
Her paws betray
Her padded steps.

She slinks through gardens,
Alleys, gates.
She hides from streetlight,
Drinks the dark.

Her silent grace
Knows each step
Away from humans,
Buildings, noise.

A shadow; black,
Unseen, unknown.
Her eyes glisten,
Await her moon.

A final crack
In wooded fence,
She crawls, and stretches,
Licks the trees.

Her quiet sea
Of grass, of green,
Caress’ whiskers,
talons, fur.

She rolls and mews
And takes her moon,
And lies in silver
Soft, serene.

The night flows gently
Heart is calm.
She feels the silence,
sky, the stars.

And here she feels
The earth, the air,
Beating in her
Soft and pure.

Til eyes move gently
Remember time,
The coming sunrise
Threatens her eyes.

Back through woodland
Through the fence,
Back through the gardens,
Alleys, gates.

She must return
Before the sun
Burns through her fur,
Her paws, her tail.

She shuffles in
The urban house,
Pads through the cravings,
Hunger, strife.

She climbs the stairs
Into the room,
Heartbeat racing
As the light

Slowly sets
Her fur aflame.
Awakes in hands.
In skin.

In life.

Lucinda Troth may be reached at lucinda_troth@hotmail.com.

Poetry by Linda Sheppard

The Banshee

Within the wail of the banshee…
This concept I will await
As momentarily, she touched on my soul…
but as yet, she has failed to take

A Celtic spirit, an usher proclaimed…
for those amidst us
that move to the next world

Foregone is the conclusion
that my loved ones
will be forewarned

My torment echoes
and my soul has been destroyed…
As my soul is in limbo
and my prayers for release
are being ignored.

Regardless of the Banshees silence
whilst she washes human entrails
I again get to meet my old friend
Darkness once again
The prince of darkness
The bringer of death

Again I ask my old friend
Why is my spirit in limbo
and the banshee does not wail?

Awkwardly he acknowledges
my plea…and dispositions it
as the undead of society.

Relentlessly I forgo my quest
of seeking normality
As darkness has succumbed my

Within my hopes, my dreams
and desires
My old friend darkness will
always transpire

As within the realm of light
Darkness will always prevail
As the wail of the Banshee…
Is no more

For what was once accepted
As a warning of foreclosure
Which was duly accepted and understood
This concept is no longer
Instead I still seek refuge and
Comfort in the realm of the shadows
Whilst my life is in limbo
And my feelings no more.

Linda Sheppard may be reached at angeleyes370165@googlemail.com.

Poetry by Sam Burks

Big Picture, Little Eyes

Who knows
what this all means
As I stand
with my nose
pressed against
the texterized
of humanity
at it’s most vibrant
Among the swirls of paint
both cold and warm
I try relentlessly
and hopelessly
to appreciate the beauty
from such a close range
And I see the sun
as a pin-point dot
in the collage
of information
rapidly becoming
more intricate
as the various
subplots in the heart
of my mind
Oh, how i wish
I was the artist
painting this design

You may reach Sam Burks at srburks@gmail.com.

Continue reading

Book Review: Sugar Zone, by Mary Mackey

[Reviewed by Laura O’Brien]

Mary Mackey’s most recent book of poetry, Sugar Zone, is the sixth installment in her impressive body of work, which includes five collections of poetry and twelve novels. She received her B.A. from Harvard, earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, and is a Professor Emeritus of English at California State University, Sacramento. For the last twenty years, she has been traveling with her husband, Angus Wright, to Brazil for his work on land reform and environmental issues, and these experiences have shaped the dramatic and unflinching imagery of Sugar Zone. Her past work has been translated into twelve foreign languages, so it is fitting that Sugar Zone include Portuguese words and phrases as a means of deepening the complexity of its descriptions of Brazil’s alluring chaos.

The collection is divided into four parts that consistently submerge the reader in the uncertainty and beauty of Mackey’s world. Weaving throughout the poems are, to name a few, the powerful themes of chaos, love, death. In Part I: Sugar, Mackey immediately introduces the reader to the urban landscape of Brazil, which is something wholly different from American living standards. This is the place where the people use flowers ‘to dye their lips/ the color of blood’ and sing ‘of cities of blue glass/and the jaguars that prowl our dreams.’ She frequently describes the tension that results from the ‘rising ocean [that] eats the beach.’ The city is clearly at odds with the tumultuous natural world that surrounds it, and there is a constant struggle to withstand the onslaught. This chaos is also highlighted by the frequent offerings given to local deities, including Iemanja, the queen of the ocean. The natural and supernatural must be appeased to ensure human survival, but everything is tenuous. As Part I progresses, the poems become more self-reflective, and the narrator describes the internal explorations that result from living in a foreign environment. These poems drift from conflicted love to various stages of pain and death. The uncertainty is palpable, but rational and unafraid.

You can contact the reviewer, Laura O’Brien, at lauraellaroberts@gmail.com.

Continue reading

Book Review: Visions & Affiliations, A California Literary Time Line: Poets & Poetry 1940–2005

[Reviewed by Christopher Bernard]

The Very Rich Hours of Jack Foley

This massive, two-volume (the cover of each volume reproducing a Blakean fantasy painting by Mark Roland) magnum opus of modern literary history puts the California literary community of the last 70 years deeply in the debt of its remarkable author.

Jack Foley, one of our most innovative poets, a superlative critic and illuminating literary theorist, now appears as a brilliant (and astoundingly patient) historian as well in a work that demonstrates his gifts of intellectual dynamism, wide literary empathy, and a seemingly endless capacity for grace. Foley’s deep intelligence and epic sympathies now have an objective correlative fully suited to them in this sweeping (for once the epithet is entirely justified) narrative.

Once one begins to gourmandize on the delights of these rich volumes, one doesn’t want to stop: rarely has such a smorgasbord of intellect and language so succeeded in whetting the appetite with each renewed taste.

Christopher Bernard is a poet, writer, playwright, and essayist (and dabbler in photography and filmmaking), whose poetry and fiction have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. He is the author of the “anti-novel” A Spy in the Ruins, and the founder and co-editor of the literary and arts magazine and website Caveat Lector.

Continue reading

Book Review: Fire Monks, by Colleen Morton Busch

[Reviewed by Sarah Melton]

In the summer of 2008, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the U.S. sat nestled among the woods near Big Sur, alongside the tranquil hot springs of Tassajara…and surrounded by the 3rd largest wildfire in California’s history.

Fire Monks tells the story, from the first igniting strikes of lightning to the aftermath and recovery, of the Tassajara monks as they struggled to defend their home from the surrounding flames of the Indian and Basin Complex fires. It’s no wonder that the author, a regular visitor to the Tassajara center, chose to tell the exciting story behind the five (yes, only five) monks that stayed behind.

Firefighting fans would delight in hearing the detailed descriptions of the inner workings of wildfire crews, without an over-abundance of technical jargon to confuse the reader. For those interested in learning more about Zen Buddhism and how it applies to everyday life, there’s a great deal of information on the subject there as well.

Sarah Melton can be reached at SarahM@aptosfire.com. You can find a number of Melton’s short stories in the Flash Fiction collections at www.absolute-x-press.com.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy

[Reviewed by Nicole Arocho]

‘My father reassured me that it was all right not to know, to remain in a state of awe and mystery. He gave what could’ve been a nightmare “the glory and freshness of a dream.”’

Priscilla Gilman wrote The Anti-Romatic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy with a thousand sentences just like these two.  Because of the personal level of her writing, her emotions flourish throughout the whole book. She delights the reader’s eyes with beautiful sentences decorated with quotes from her favorite poet, William Wordsworth, and her use of imagery aids her to describe so passionately each one of her crossroads. The reader cannot help but feel her tumult of sentiments as if their own. The story of a girl who grew up with divorced parents and dreamt of having a perfect family that turned out to be anything but that, but turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her may sound like a cliché plotline, but Gilman takes the reader into a world full of unmet expectations, disappointments and difficulties with love and hope bursting through each of her words.

Gilman bluntly states at the beginning of the book that “[it] is a love story”, and a tragic one indeed. As her hyperlexic child, Benjamin, is diagnosed and his treatments became the center of her life, her emotions become so real, so bluntly told on the page, that sometimes it made me uncomfortable to keep reading, because her heart and soul were in the page. I felt I was invading her privacy somehow; no smokescreen, no façade to hide her deepest fears, tribulations and quests for answers that she never seemed to grasp fully. Her dedication to her child goes above and beyond anything else, including her career and her marriage. When the rest of her life plummeted, she still had her “Benj”, and thus could find the strength to keep going for him. She intertwines her marriage and family life with her academic life and her own thoughts splendidly with smooth transitions and wonderful insights the reader expects in a memoir, but that she takes to a new level that brings the reader so close to her, it feels as if we actually have met her and shared this stage of her life with her personally.

You can contact the reviewer, Nicole Arocho, at narocho3@gmail.com.

Continue reading