The Delicate Flowers

The Delicate Flowers

The Greatest Show on Earth

by Fernando Albert Salinas

The serpent in elephant’s clothing,

balanced ominous beauty,

a sack of bone marrow pale flesh adorned

with Himalayan tattoo-blue poppies

tiptoe upon a circus ball

over a hemp slack rope 

above the mountains

and the prairies 

and the rivers cutting

to the oceans

white with foam.

It blue-eyes a bumble bee,

motionless.

 

There is no turning back.

It keeps calm as a Hindu cow--

as steady as Maha-padma

supporting the world on its back

while resting on the back

of the world tortoise, Chukwa.

 

It thinks,

We are both potentially

a moment from extinction.

Kiss the stem of my erect trunk 

as though I were nothing more than 

a delicate flower praying not to fall in the wind.

Let lips be bread and tongue wine.

Under different circumstances 

your tiny prick

would go unnoticed,

but my cruel masters

have placed me here 

for their amusement.

 

It murmurs,

You have a kind of sick desperation in your buzz.


Sloan_96Springs_42x48_2018.jpg

Peter

By Steve Braff

 Flames he cannot see

but by feel knows

their waxen warmth

rooting—these light burdens

borne with ambling gate

yet all stand still

in wet-gray’s dawning.

 

And so the beginning

of this burning

down.

 

Could any know

he was to be

round shelter and rough scale—

     a living rock

     among Spring’s three:

          the Poppy Daisy and Violet Host

          To never be denied

          again, again, and again?

 

This time their time

rebirth the earth

bound blooms.


 Kevin Sloan, Modern Blindness

Kevin Sloan, Modern Blindness

Modern Blindness

By Jennifer Kelley

 The bird hasn’t heard the word of the flame,

She’s hidden behind grandma’s flowers,

choosing darkness over light.

And how like the masses she is today,

embracing modern blindness,

choosing truthiness over truth.

 

I wonder if she even sees the flame,

understands that with a fling of her flowers

she could bring light. 

I wonder if we understand the power of action,

of standing up for what is right,

that we’re so close to lighting the candle of knowledge

 

And then there’s the danger that she’ll be the one burned,

one stiff wind and she’s going to be dinner.

If only she could cast off her blinders, she could save herself.

 

And perhaps the blaze of enlightenment

will char us a little

but light is light is light, illuminated for generations.

 

But the candle of truth, waits unlit,

and the battle for right waits unfought.

And though she has wings, she’s chosen to stand.

And though we have voices, we’ve chosen silence.


 Kevin Sloan, Safe Haven

Kevin Sloan, Safe Haven

Andrew

by Steve Braff

The sacrificial swan tureen

of hallowed china bone—

where floats the empty

vessel? His tethered breast

by golden chain, moored

to a circus ring—

     The Greatest Show

     holds fish & loaves

     remember

 

when the light burned upwards

an earthen fire illumined trees

that would not ever burn

and that fisherman by trade

left his net for a better catch

not mindful of the wave

 

so certain, still

his blood bled through

the brush blue underglaze

where he first called

like brown wheat fell

     to ground

          from ground

               anew.

 

* Mary Oliver—The Buddha’s Last Instruction


 Kevin Sloan -  Birds of America - Icarus

Kevin Sloan - Birds of America - Icarus

Hunting Above the Icarian Sea

bu  Friday Gretchen

Obsidian magnificence

flies above the water’s surface—

smooth, after one hundred ships turned

back, counseled by heavy clouds

 

Dry, ebony wings

part the damp air with ease

Hungry and beguiled by a hue beneath  

reminiscent of her lover’s throat,

she circles

 

Seabird wings, absorbent feathers

will not repel moisture—

another of God’s tiny miscalculations

Making each meal a risk

and snatching regurgitated fishes

from beaks of lesser birds,

typical

 Though still uncertain,

her emptiness moves her to plunge

Tailfeathers spread to temper her advance

Seconds from saturation—

a thick, tentacled grip captures her cry

and teaches her risk


An Accidental Tourist press.jpg

Accidental Tourist

By Jennifer Kelley

 

He’s so concentrated on precarious balance,

so hunched and preoccupied, like some batman villain,

that, at first, he doesn’t notice that it’s out of place:

the orange among the dunes.

 

His first instinct is to pick it up, to peck past that careful skin

and set the juices free,

but none of that can be done without toppling everything.

 

For these cups that he carries are life itself, all the minutia of living.

When the bills get paid, when the kids graduate,

when tuxedoed parents can live out their last days somewhere warm,

despite being designed for the chill,

it all makes sense,

these hunched shoulders,

this surrendered state of never meeting life eye-to-eye,

afraid of what he might see.

 

Because what if the meat of the thing,

the pulpy flesh is not in balancing,

is not in maintaining breath to breath,

but in the joy of breathing?

What if he’s passed up all these oranges,

misplaced and wonderful and far from the fields of Fresno,

afraid, just afraid, of letting go?

 

But he can’t.  He just can’t; he’s too entrenched.

So maybe he kicks it, or maybe he just turns tail and waddles away.

Either way, its sultry juices remain untasted.

Either way, what is fragile, what is delicately maintained

with determination

doesn’t topple to the ground.

 

It doesn’t even occur to him that the sand might cushion the fall,

that it might be possible to drop them without breaking them,

that, if indeed they are essential, as he prides them on being,

he might be able to pick them up again, having tasted life’s sweetness

for a little while.

 

Or maybe it occurs to him,

but the thought of freedom,

the thought of standing up tall

is too tempting

too fragile in its own way

and must be protected, kept whole

and preserved.

Leaving the untasted treasure

for the next weighed down one

who will pass it

in the sand.


 Kevin Sloan,  Birds of America - Migration Interrupted

Kevin Sloan, Birds of America - Migration Interrupted

Interrogation

by Marsha de la O 

A Canada Goose panics,

wound in the coils.

 

Do you dream

of that thing

you called water?

 

Do you?

 

Please.  I can’t

remember.

I don’t know.

Please.  


 Kevin Sloan,  The Inevitability of Warmth

Kevin Sloan, The Inevitability of Warmth

Snowperson Wonders at What is Left of the World

by Nancy-Jean Pément

She stands in the clearing

naming the wildflowers

that grow at her feet.

 

The forest has sheltered

the last vestiges of winter

long enough to keep her whole.

 

Every year, the cold season grows shorter.

And, every year, she is uncertain

about whether she will return.

 

What is left of the trees

grab at her by the neck, choking

out the others as they reach

for the dim ruins of starlight.

 

Winter has either stopped coming

or has come too far, and

 

only the hardiest bits of ice linger

like stones.

 

We rename our sins

to make us good again.

 

If only we had recognized our blessings

while we had them.

 

If only we had understood enough

to love the world as it should be loved. 


 Kevin Sloan,  The Attraction

Kevin Sloan, The Attraction

The Unaccustomed Forest

by Nancy-Jean Pément

 What was invisible                 

had been standing there

all along, looking straight at me,

wearing the gaudy regalia of a dowry—

 

Think about the timberframe

we could have built,

the family we might have made,

the pots and pans, the garden.

 

This should have been

a tender moment,

a homecoming of sorts,

but the land was unrecognizable,

and, in the storm

 

something seemed different—

timber milled straight,

turned malleable,

a forest of structures within a forest—

a diversion that demanded

we rethink beauty, altogether

 

wild and white-tailed,

curious and almost gone.

 

This was my home.

And, once, it was yours, too.

We shared everything—

the land and the trees, the grey sky.

 

I wanted to tread gently,

to leave for good,

but I returned because

 

I couldn’t forget

the look on your face.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking

how what was tamed, eventually,

disappeared.


Poet Biographies

Steve Braff has been a featured reader at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Wildling Museum in Solvang, CORE Winery Poetry Series in Orcutt, Poetry Zone in Santa Barbara, Coastal Dunes Writers Club in Nipomo, Santa Ynez Valley Arts Association, Hospice of Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Squire Foundation. His poetry has been published in Tea HouseMuryoko Journal of Shin BuddhismMuscogee Nation News, Cholla Needles, Poetry Super Highway and Nomad’s Choir. His chapbook, Forty Days, was published by Cholla Needles Press (2017). Steve is founder and host of the Blue Whale Poetry Series at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History as well as the Wildling Museum Poetry Series in Solvang. He serves as poetry discussion leader for the Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara; outreach coordinator for Cal Poets in the Schools (CPITS) ; and judge for the Santa Barbara County Regional Poetry Out Loud Competition. More information at stevebraff.blogspot.com

Friday Gretchen’s poetry appears in ARTLIFE Limited Editions, Miramar, Askew Poetry Journal and within two anthologies, A Bird Black As The Sun – California Poets on Crows & Ravens and Rare Feathers – Poems on Birds & Art

Jennifer Kelley graduated from CSU Channel Islands in 2017 with an English degree with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She has had the opportunity to read widely in Ventura County, from Art City, Bell Arts Studio, and EP Foster Library in Ventura, to the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, and the T.O. Library in Thousand Oaks. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in a range of scholarly literary journals, including the Pawprint, VC Voices, and The Island Fox. She is also honored to have had two poems selected for publication in ASKEW in 2015 and 2017.

Marsha de la O’s upcoming book, Every Ravening Thing, from Pitt Poetry Series is due out in Spring 2019. Her previous book,  Antidote for Night, won the 2015 Isabella Gardner Award and was published by BOA Editions.  Her first book, Black Hope, was awarded the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. She has published extensively, including recent poems in The New Yorker and the Kenyon Review. De La O lives in Ventura, California, with her husband, poet and editor Phil Taggart. Together, they produce poetry readings and events in Ventura County and edit the literary journal Spillway.

Nancy-Jean Pément is originally from the Outaouais in the province of Québec. Elle écrit ses poèmes dans les deux langues officielles de sa vie notamment l’anglais et le français. Her poems have appeared in ARC Poetry Magazine where her piece, PHL>YOW about her father, Léonard, was the Editor’s Choice for Poem of the Year, as well as in Morning Glory, the Moorpark Review, and Askew among others. Her poem, Migration, was a finalist for the 2014 Common Good Books poetry contest. In 2016, she was invited by the late Jackson Wheeler to read as part of the 2017 Poetry Series at the Carnegie Museum and has been a featured reader at Poetry by the Sea in Malibu among other venues. As part of her dissertation research, she used poetic transcription as a methodological strategy to (re)present the stories of her co-researchers

Fernando Albert Salinas is an Adjunct Professor of English at Ventura College. He is also the Ventura County Area Coordinator and a Master Poet-Teacher for California Poets in the Schools, the Ventura County Area Coordinator and a recitation coach for the California Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud program and the Editor-In-Chief for Spit Shine Publishing. As the Literary Arts Programs Director for the Ventura County Arts Council, he focuses on enhancing the presence and appreciation of poetry and the literary arts, raising awareness of the power of literature, poetry, and the spoken word. In 2012, Salinas initiated the Groundswell Committee: a small collection of local poets, with the support of the Ventura County Arts Council, and created the County’s poet laureate program. Most recently, he has implemented a youth poet laureate program for the county. His written poetry has appeared in several publications, including Askew Poetry Journal, Solo Poetry Journal, Miramar, and Lummox Press. He has performed his spoken word internationally. This year, he has been nominated for the City of Ventura’s Mayor’s Arts Award and California Poet Laureate.