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January Issue

All text and design © 2008, by Joel Neubauer, Margaret Bell, Joanna Gardner, and Gene Doty.

You are far

Joel Neubauer

Like breath to suffocated hyperventilation, you are far.
Like bedrock earth to rapture’s mystery elation, you are far.

With ontological uniqueness to creation, you transcend.
From messiness of mud-pie I in recreation, you are far.

You flow like hypothermic cave-streams in pervasion immanent.
Persistent through my guts, you lead your deep invasion; you are far.

You’re ancient, old, antique — and yet no degradation lessens you.
When newness is considered, you delight — from its privation — you are far.

I weep for you; I wait for you in deep anticipation of your love.
I run to you, my journey lacks cessation: you are far.

My scripted song for you turns wrong; improvisation convolutes.
My waves of praises dissipate in radiation: you are far.

I lone consume your glory; forty days’ starvation kills my pain.
As closely I have exercised my own salvation, you are far.

You prowl, you hide, avoidant of my installation pantheon.
From love I might control, you prove your swift evasion: you are far.

I never deem the moment come my love’s occasion to redeem.
You whisper ever, "Don’t believe" — no hesitation — "you are far."

You more than argue back with me — your prime persuasion woos my thoughts.
At wisdom’s head I prudent am, with reservation; you are far.

Beyond orgasmic chaos comes the rent sensation of your love.
I joy and pain in you while, I in immolation, you are far.

You swell around me, Love, and prove eradication of dis-ease.
You prick me deep, depravity’s inoculation; you are far.

I never touch you, yet I tickle supplications and you laugh.
You draw me ever closer, incensed sublimation — you are far.

Yes, you are far — so far I rot in desperation, far from you.
Your word has promised: “Worry not from preservation you are far.”

You know me: second son of second wife, my station poor and passed.
I’ll know you, nevermore to say in deprivation you are far.

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Reflections

Margaret Bell

The toaster between them told both sides of the story —
his eyes hidden by a newspaper, hers gazing into a dream.

He left with shades hiding his eyes from her gaze
and bouncing her own image back to her.

Seated on his Harley he waved goodbye
to the ex-love of his life reflected in his rear-view mirror.

The moon stared at his reflection on the dark
surface shielding his father’s favorite fishing hole.

Next morning rays of sunlight revealed him in a world
upside down on the smooth surface of the reservoir.

He skipped a carefully chosen stone across the water
reshaping the white clouds riding on its surface.

The candle she placed in the window doubled its flame
but the lone face peering out was not multiplied.

Rushing to answer the tapping on her window,
she saw only herself looking in with tears on her cheeks.

Next morning a preying mantis sat quietly on a leaf
observing the scene reflected in a single dew drop.

Tom turkey preened and posed before pecking
at his twin staring back from the puddle.

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Fire Angel Baby

Joanna Gardner

Fire angel baby hides beneath a car,
safe from drunken gunmen.

Desperate to conceive, fire angel baby
grows an extra liver which kills part of her heart.

A goblin shows fire angel baby how
to stir love potion into liquid lemon candy.

Fire angel baby’s skin withers
as she smokes a cigarette above a den of tigers.

A nuclear bomb incinerates St. Petersburg,
smothering fire angel baby with purple ash.

Criminals race to steal fire angel baby as the gun
in Joanna’s hand dissolves into paper petals.

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Roads Home

Joanna Gardner

Lakes ripple like steel silk;
storm clouds somersault the hills.

A grandmother’s heart stops; she licks
the wind from her stony grave.

Leaves cascade on jungle
grass; poppies bloom like fire.

The flight of ravens points the way
to rain; they follow the scent of seeds.

Joanna says: Believe in that
which makes no sense; seduce the holy dragon.

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The Human Animal

Joanna Gardner

Systole, diastole, telegrams
to earth and sky: hello, hello, hello.

If the spleen could speak,
how would it describe its day?

Cells howl and oxygen answers,
blushing the blood and setting cytoplasm on fire.

Beasts in chains prowl the basement:
tiger, grizzly, gorilla, wolf.

When returning from the underworld,
whatever you do don’t forget the elixir.

Systole, diastole, the pumping
of the courage gland: hello, hello, hello.

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I fill my hands

Joel Neubauer

I fill my hands, but lack you yet, and wonder just to whom belongs the rest?
Exhausted in my finitude, I lose my trust to whom belongs the rest.

He mourned his soul, he fell — and hurricane and gust and spirit righted him.
He entertained the mirth of joy as hope he thrust to whom belongs the rest

Than all your sleepy paradox of life and dust, I’ve comprehended less.
My knowledge small, my wisdom masturbates with lust to whom belongs the rest.

She cut and hid each blemish stain away like crust no sandwich ought contain.
She heeded all perfection’s codes of So You Must — to whom belongs the rest?

I saw the moment come and — unprepared — I fussed as I am wont to do.
I saw the moment’s advent come to swift adjust to whom belongs the rest.

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Editor’s Comments


Here are six ghazals, two in Persian form, and four in free form. ("Free form" means no radif or qafiya.) I know there are readers who will feel that the free-form poems are "not real" ghazals. Read all six carefully, read other formal ghazals: don't the free ghazals have more in common with the traditional Persian form than with other free-verse?

"Reflections," "Roads Home," and "The Human Animal" suggest that the title may serve something of the same function in a ghazal as the radif — if the shers each allude to the title, express it in some way, well, that's what the radif does. Yes, the form is different (in detail), but the structure of meaning and image seem very much the same.

Joel Neubauer

Joel Neubauer presents us with the two traditional Persian ghazals in this issue. In "You are far," the second person plural vibrates between the intimate human "you," the less personal address to the reader(s) "you," and the divine pronoun, "you." The English pronouns allow this ambiguity, multiple reference, to resonate throughout the poem. "I fill my hands" does something similar with the dative "whom" in the radif. To whom does "whom" refer? Identity is volatile in both of these ghazals.

Margaret Bell

"Reflections" — the title is the implicit radif throughout this ghazal. Each sher implies "reflection," even though only three of them contain a form of the word. Each sher is a crisp image that reflects the theme of the ghazal.

Joanna Gardner

"Fire Angel Baby" does have a radif, albeit one that floats to different positions in each sher. Thematically, this ghazal presents vividly the subcurrent of violence — of apocalypse — with which we've lived for decades. In "Roads Home," each sher maps a road, leaving the reader with the question, "To what home do these roads lead?" On a frigid New Year's Day, I find myself mute before "The Human Animal." Each sher resonates with significance for the reader to unpack (or follow or elicit . . . ).

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