In 1689, when Bashō sets out for his travels by foot–what would become Narrow Road to a Far Province [Trans. Dorothy Britton, 1974]–there's a sense of trepidation before the journey begins.
My closest friends, who had been with us since the night before, came on the riverboat to see us [Bashō and Sora] off.
We disembarked at a place called Senju, and my heart was heavy at the thought of the miles that lay ahead. And though this
ephemeral world is but an illusion, I could not bear to part from it and wept.
Loath to let spring go,
Birds cry, and even fishes'
Eyes are wet with tears.
I can't help but feel TNP 1 was the celebratory evening of this site's history. With a passion for the unknown, the issue pressed forward, with technical issues and last minute changes to style and formatting acting as the normal–and all without a second thought. Happiness is imagining what's ahead, like for Bashō, "when the clouds drifting along with the wind aroused a wanderlust" in him, and he "set off on a journey to roam along the seashores."
The journey to this second issue, alone, was not without brooding over the "miles." But, at a risk, I can't help but relate this and many of our pursuits to that of the individual creative process. Our projects are filled with excited staging; the act of working makes it all the more real.
And such it can be with poetry. By themselves, each poem in TNP 2 is a Bashō hiking along to Sueno-Matsuyama or waiting out a storm in Sakata. They each take us to a far province. Now that these 10 poems are together, at least they don't have to go at it alone.
Thank you, contributors, for another great issue.
Kate Bernadette Benedict
Tight stalls, narrow walkways: hard coping.
Surfaces of military green: hard coping.
Kraut on the boil, a reek from the heads,
and here’s another fire door with keypad locks.
Off duty, we, the twelve daughters,
nimbly descend the metal staircases.
At the bottom:
imaginary ballrooms with real princes in them!
When the atomic clock strikes six,
we return, exhausted, to the sonar boards, the galley.
Later we assemble in the Teller Room
to view live feeds of the new diminutive warheads.
They are so unlike the fat boys—
dainty and shape-shifting, glistening-blue.
They will travel the oceans in schools,
adjusting each to each, a single calibrated mind.
These are the Piranha, our undertaking,
and we go deeper into the fathoms.
Thomas J. Erickson
Elegy for Drunk Mike
She had a face like an awl that poked
through the leather around his heart.
When he was with her, he was all
negative capability–no irritable reaching
after fact or reason.
I have struggled my whole life
just trying to figure out what to think about
much less who to love.
After she left Mike, he drank himself to death
and all that remained
was the misty maw of the bottle.
Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has had poems published in numerous publications, including The Los Angeles Review, The Mad Poet's Review, Mobius, Quiddity International Literary Review, and The Labletter. His chapbook, The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom, is to be published by University of Wisconsin's Parallel Press in 2013.
Salmon River Candy
Good things burn slow
long into the night,
feeding on sighs and nicotine.
I watch you sleep,
stirring gently in the paned
moonlight; I feel you
as if I am looking at myself.
Your dreams melt into
mine like smoke sifting
into dusty diamond air that clings
to shafts of light above
the dormant A/C unit;
You hooked me like
a steelhead; your sharp point
pierced my lip with such
precision. Held me in your hands,
and caressed my scales with
Caitlin McLean is a senior at Towson University and is majoring in English. She plans to attend graduate school in the fall. She enjoys writing, hiking, and kayaking during her free time.
Losing My Voice
Yesterday I read a poem I didn’t believe in.
I wondered if the folks in the audience
understood that I wanted to run out the door
of the auditorium and flee the consequences
of my shoddy, unsubstantial work? It’s true
the reading took place on an island in Florida,
so I could have run straight into the Gulf of Mexico
and washed my poetic sins away in those shallow
green waters that often glitter with the bright
static of falling sunlight. But this is Sanibel,
home of the sanctimonious wealthy. And yes,
it’s pretty, but its heart is empty
like a conch shell or a child’s sandcastle that
knows only the swoosh of water and the long
silence thereafter. Sometimes I think
the whole of my memory
is a poem I don’t believe in. That my life
has been a poor performance of cheesy
lines, my life lacking the gravitas
of a real and fulfilled human being.
I do still believe in the violent storms
of childhood, how the west wind
whacked the screen door and dust
swirled in the Virginia fields as the
nimbus crackled in the dark, ionized
air. I loved the holy scent of coming rain,
authentic harbinger of rifle volleys
on the farmhouse’s tin roof, the beautiful
melody of guttered rain plopping into
barrels. My grandma, afraid of lightning,
would turn off all the lights and we would
sit quietly in the afternoon darkness as
the wind howled like an Old Testament
God, and the good dog, Shep, cowered
at my grandmother’s feet. I miss
that world, as yet unredeemed by the machinery
of the early 21st century. Now that poem
of the country slips further and further into memory,
that cluttered attic of image, full of slop jars,
spider webs, newspaper-covered windows,
the mason jars redolent with bright summer fruit,
lost hymns to Jesus, black-bellied stoves,
southern moons and moonshine.
I wish I could read that poem
at the next reading on Sanibel Island,
I wish I could reclaim those memories
of a life lived close to the pine, chestnut oak, and maple
forests of those days before I lost my authentic voice,
the one that sang “Yes, Jesus loves me,” and was innocent
enough to believe those words were holy and true.
Jesse Millner’s poems and prose have appeared in River Styx, Pearl, Willow Springs, Atlanta Review, Slant, Cider Press Review, and numerous other literary magazines. He has published six poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow (Kitsune Books, 2009). His next book, Dispatches from the Department of Supernatural Explanation, will be released by Kitsune in April of 2012. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.
They called it genetic,
taken with my mother’s milk.
Sense slipped from a shoulder.
Purple tastes sweet and green sings.
Ceiling peacock eyes have clear sight
like cut glass on a vein.
They came to prepare me,
gown and drug me.
Just another day without sleep,
or peace or persuasion.
Taken by trolley, aisle-trundled
to a theatre of screams.
They said I’d remember nothing.
How wrong could they be?
The ache of jaws that chewed whale bone.
They called it madness–
the part that saw truth and light and colour,
the part they rolled flat, smoked thin.
The only ones I see in Central Illinois
are acrylics on the walls at Holiday Inn Express
where two-brush-stroke gulls
wheel in blue skies
plus one oil painting in a church narthex
and donated by a member
who named it “Hope in the Storm.”
I miss Michigan, its old lighthouses
on oil-ringed beaches–
foundations crumbling, Fresnel lenses gone
because a non-profit had its grant cut–
where gulls walk right up to your picnic
and scream at you
because they're always only
that far away from starving
A retired journalist and journalism professor, John Palen’s poetry has appeared in literary journals for more than 40 years, including Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, The Formalist, Kansas Quarterly, and Passages North, and in anthologies published by Milkweed Editions and Wayne State University Press. He was a finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Competition in 1995 and a Pushcart nominee in 2003. His Open Communion: New and Selected Poems was published in 2005 by Mayapple Press. Since then he has had chapbooks published by March Street Press and Pudding House, and poetry and short fiction appearing or forthcoming in Sleet, Press 1, Gulf Stream, Prick of the Spindle, Poydras Review, Jelly Bucket, The Cossack Review and elsewhere. His first collection of flash fiction, Small Economies, was published by Mayapple in January 2012. His reviews of literary magazines appear in New Pages. A Central Illinois resident, Palen blogs about poetry and fiction at johnpalensblog.blogspot.com.
She puts me on the perch between
Raymond and herself, where a part
of the front seat back folds down
to rest his heavy arm, from there
I can view the wide wingtip goad
the gas pedal;
and she gives me
a half a stick of Juicy Fruit
and warns me not to swallow it
this time or my guts might stick
together, which I imagine
as bloody clouds billowing
through my belly, imagine guts
gathering together into
ominous thunderheads, glued by
and Raymond caresses
the steering wheel and whistles a
soft song, pleased with himself about
his car, his Cadillac;
have been a fifty-three;
still see Raymond working the wax
into the scum green paint of
the prepubescent bump on the
top of the fender, not yet a
fully formed fin;
snapping his rag
and saying through his jowly smile
the old Caddy shines like a gypsy’s
whatever that meant; and
Raymond angles the car into
the grocery store parking lot,
seeing an open slot, he mashes
the wingtip down, his green Caddy
lurches forward, stops abruptly,
her arm crosses my chest as
another car crowds into the
and Raymond says cocksucker,
and she says watch your mouth, but I
only watch the window, to see
if I can spot the glass eye in
the face of the other driver.
Ned Randle lives in Southern Illinois and has studied writing at Washington University, Webster University, and Southwestern Illinois College. In the past he's published a few short stories and a number of poems in literary publications, such as The Spoon River Quarterly, Circus Maximus, Seven Stars Poetry, Poydras Review, Emerge Literary Journal (June, 2012), and Barnwood International Poetry Magazine. His chapbook, Prairie Shoutings and Other Poems, was published by The Spoon River Poetry Press, Bradley University.
Is It Like A Stalker
or As A Stalker
I went to see the unlovely grate
on a London street
where lovers stand
and tryst in
Graham Greene's novel,
A place to kiss
and later visit as strangers.
What gusts of hell were these?
World War II? Subterranean
machinations of future?
For that matter, why
I stared at the grate alone
after the red double-decker bus
summoned everyone back
and drove away.
(It was then
You never walked up to me.
Your rosy voice, that ought
to have been so familiar,
never reached my ears.
“Don't look up at that window,”
I never heard you say
and by now we knew
we were well outside of Greene.
The things you don't notice:
Single transom open,
wind against your dress,
hot air rushing outside.
Colin Sargent is the editor & publisher of Portland Magazine, a PhD student at Lancaster University in the UK, and author of three books of poetry and Museum of Human Beings, a novel.
Martin Willitts Jr.
This Is an Apple
Apple (Malus domestica)
Based on the paintings The Listening Room, by Magritte, 1952; Time Transfixed, by René Magritte, 1938, but in French, his title means “Ongoing Time Stabbed by a Dagger.”
A miniature train comes out of my fireplace
There are seven thousand five hundred names for apples,
none of which evoke your name.
When the monastery bells peal, they are apples.
Franciscans leave apple orchards,
wearing sundials instead of sandals.
Their incense ball swings, spreading apple scent.
A candlestick on the right reflects
on the fact that it has no reflection.
It moans–like an apple stabbed by a dagger.
You can graft an apple tree,
but you cannot graft love.
Martin Willitts Jr. retired as a Senior Librarian in upstate New York. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. He was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 2 Best Of The Net awards. He has 23 chapbooks including, include How to Find Peace (Kattywompus Press, 2012), Playing The Pauses In The Absence Of Stars (Main Street Rag, 2012), and No Special Favors (Green Fuse Press, 2012).
Laura Madeline Wiseman
with two hymns by Matilda Fletcher, 1871
Lincoln, Nebraska 2009
The inner covers, like tawny orange barn cats
that stretch belly up in the setting autumn sun
while the interior leaves, like prairie grass,
brown and creamy, and speckled with age,
crack and drop a single flake that you catch
in your open palm as you thumb the stiff hairs
of the spine that bristle where the cover slips free,
and turn over each hymn to find hers and read.
You sit under the glow of your favorite lamp
and breathe in the aroma of old books,
of things saved for a lifetime, house to house,
from room to closet to the darkest storage
because sometimes we might need song.
Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English. She is the author of five chapbooks including, Branding Girls (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Fore more, visit lauramadelinewiseman.com.