Elisha Holt

Snakebite

There is no immediacy.
Stop.

The blood courses
in the cartilage of your ear.

Listen to the breath
of the prickly pear
the scent of its red
fruit. Listen
with the eyes of your tongue.

Snake scales undulate against sand.
Primrose, essence of serpentine.

Become
reptilian:

Place a pebble within the mark of each fang.
Suck the heat in through your pores.
Stare directly into the sun.

Become a Mountain

of lizard bones
grinding itself into sand
the sockets of your
eyes blacken with ants
bones
a dry wash
an expanse of vultures hopping
a carrion dance
your skull crawls to feathers
your hair rootless winds
into strands of a recluse’s web
braids into the nests of cliff swallows
a framework for mud and bird
saliva bones
each cell of your skin crumbling sprouts
tufts of crucifixion thorn
(a forest of crucifixion thorn)
your meat in the eye-glint of 10,000 coyotes
your sap flows into the blood of mesquite
your nectar moonflowers in the bellies of wasps
the saguaro is peeling back from its bones
reptilian
become
multitude
the desert is
each crystal nerve of your spine
aware of its place
buffeting in the dust storm

Elisha Holt is a second year poet in Cal State University, San Bernardino’s MFA in Creative Writing program. He is a former farm hand, apiarist, forklift driver, dishwasher, and juvenile delinquent. His work has appeared in Apercus Quarterly, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Badlands, as well as other places. This is his moment.

Jeff Mays

Mode of Transportation

You could take the car, but then you wouldn’t notice the hawks circling
overhead, nor the current of black ants terminating inside the semi-translucent
grasshopper carcass. You wouldn’t see the sun-blanched, tailless lizards
running for safety ahead of your footfall, the lobules of dog shit trying to hide
in the grass, nor the bee belly-up, scooted by the breeze.

Blind-sided

All I could see
as I turned to answer his question,
“Do you stay in Rialto?”
was the rage in his face
the peeled back eyes
the horse’s nostrils
the small spheres of sweat
the templemuscle clench
and that he didn’t care if I
answered yes or if I answered no.

Not daring to look over my shoulder
I frantically ran to her
the woman walking towards her car
with a single key stretching
from the pinch of her fist.
I came closer to her with blood
on my basketball, with crimson drops
that have not stopped, with a numbness
in my ear that I’m afraid to touch.
There is a question on my face,
but I can see she is forcing
thoughts of gunshots away
from her, sweeping these crumbs
off of her blue and white dress,
and in mid-step, I realized
I shouldn’t even bother to slow down.

Waiting at Walmart

for an oil change
where people pay for tires
and new car batteries
with paper money, twenties dealt out
like cards;
the grubby waiting rectanglar prism
hidden between the greycloud-smeared
garage and painted cinderblock
storage room reverberated with loud
tv reports of a gunman
on the loose in the snowy wilds
of the Big Bear Mountain; it pulled
my concentration
away from Thomas Jefferson,
The Art of Power, so I walked
through the air filters
and paint guns,
the index cards and manila
folders, past people without a
purpose shuffling through the discounted DVDs;
surrounded by the slow pushing of carts
and half empty scuffed metal shelves;
I felt a wave from far away
come slow-rolling towards me
lifting my feet from the ground
a momentary crest-rider
floating on the swell
the linoleum far below my feet
and me far away from the plastic handle
in my hands with its colorless blue
in the stale and scentless air

Jeff Mays is a native Inlander who has lived in the Empire for 47 years now.  In addition to poetry and photography, he is also an avid baseball fan and has recently published a book about the miraculous ’62 Angels called The Spectacular Case of the 1962 Los Angeles Angels.

J. Ryan Bermuda

Foster

Your mother       is all hips and song, blonde
bob brushing cheek bones     step-
father, sore wrists and elbows calloused     losing
thirty hairs every thirty days     home
smells like Sunflowers except on
Sundays when brimming with popcorn and parched
Blue Note records     cousins
hum       discovering new streets in
familiar cities through each window       Grand-
father speaks in crisp bell chimes, stories of       Grand-
mother burning
bread on the day you were born

J Ryan Bermuda lives in Redlands, California, where people panic if it rains. Bermuda has been published in local journals such as The Sand Canyon Review, PoetrIE’s Tin Cannon, Dead Snakes poetry blogzine, Stone Path Review, The Camel Saloon, and The Wilderness House Literary Review.

Karen Greeenbaum-Maya

Roots

Hard times relieve the roses of technique,
unmingle their sources,
call out to pre-graft roots.
New canes wind and sprawl
under the open candelabra
of hybrid branches
pruned by the book.

Throwback canes sprout floribunda bouquets,
medieval canes ridiculously thick with thorns,
a flashback of petals lying flat and single,
no Fibonacci array of petals
surging clockwise, then counter,
ever increasing.

A continuity of roses,
Before Homer, before history.
Petals darker than royal blood,
always the same deep red,
no matter how the plant was remade
Fed up with all that inbreeding,
Revealed as Rosewood.
A rose is rosy as a rose.
Before there were words, there were roses.

 

Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German Lit major, and Pushcart nominee, no longer lives for Art, but still thinks about it a lot. She has lived in Claremont for 30 years, during which time her camellias’ blooming has moved up six weeks, and squirrels have moved in, reliably eating all the apricots and peaches. Her poem “Real Poem” received Honorable Mention in the 2013 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Contest. Kattywompus Press published her chapbooks Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Links to on-line poems at www.cloudslikemountains.blogspot.com/ and to on-line photos at www.flickr.com/photos/pieplate/ 

Lucia Galloway

Conversation at Night

Bordering a walk between two buildings was a low wall where we sat in a ring of light to have the conversation we’d agreed to.  To talk it out.  Low wall beside a walk between two buildings, your shiny bicycle just there. In front of us while we had the conversation we’d agree to.  People walked by, glanced at us in our conversation, dodged the bicycle—its fat tires.  Under the light, we were prize fighters circling each other in the ring?  We were dancing partners wheeling warily, listening for the end of the last reprise?  These are tired metaphors not up to figuring what we felt or said. What anybody saw.  Everybody saw the bicycle—its fat tires.  That frame, those spokes and tires. These alone were witnesses to what went down that night beside the walkway in the ring of light.

Meditation on a Line from Martha Ronk’s “Quotidian”

Scape:     An act of escaping.   A thoughtless transgression.
A representation of a scenic view, as in landscape, seascape,
cityscape, etc. The shaft of a column.

–The New Shorter OED

Under a tangle of dark canopy, a scrappy understory,
in a surge of shrubs and stems and leaves,
the air cools, and my skin grows expectant.  It waits
to join my other senses drinking in the wilderness.

High in the trees a tht,tht,tht,tht,tht … dry and insistent
as the rasping whir of an electric fan slowing to a stop.

Down the path, two birds scissor across at knee-height,
swift and bright, snipping swatches of air.

A sycamore, whiter-of-trunk than the others in its grove—
their patchy, brown and khaki bark still clinging—seems
necessary, like the steeple that focuses a landscape.

And yet, I find that I’ve come over-fed to this
botanic garden wilderness—no hunger rising.
I’ve brought language with me like a lunch, like a camera
with its set of lenses: the tropes, the images and meters

of Wordsworth’s inscape.  The calendar photos,
travel folders, and letters from the Sierra Club.  I am
no Annie Dillard, unburdened pilgrim on her daily trek.

My shadow startles me when I break cover into sunlight
at my back.  My legs have become pillars, grand in the
oblique morning sun.  They support a shortened torso,

totem head.  No expectancy, no more waiting under
verdant cover of old trees for wilderness to speak.
Only this striding forward in a gray and shrinking skin.

Of Petrarch and Cigarettes

My thoughts are fresh today,
missing that sexy idyll
of flip-flops and bare legs
caressed by summer’s sun.

Missing that sexy idyll
of Petrarch’s Laura
caressed by summer’s sun,
I smoked a fag, but still I think

of Petrarch’s Laura.
Too much already.
I smoked a fag, but still I think
Petrarch.  Is that sexy?

Too much already
about books and reading
Petrarch.  Is that sexy?
Let’s talk now of smoking.

About books and reading
generally, not enough is said.
But let’s talk now of smoking
cigarettes, their glowing tips.

Generally, not enough is said
about the gift of cool white
cigarettes, their glowing tips.
(don’t even think of sex!)

About the gift of cool white
sheets, I’m fantasizing now,
not thinking, not! of sex.
My thoughts are fresh today.

Southern California poet Lucia Galloway earned her MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles.  Her published collections are Venus and Other Losses (Plain View, 2010) and a chapbook, Playing Outside (Finishing Line, 2005).  Poems appear widely in journals, including Comstock Review, Midwest Quarterly, Tar River, Centrifugal  Eye, Innisfree, and Inlandia; in the anthologies Thirty Days (Tupelo, 2015) and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Beyond Baroque, 2015).  Her poem “Open to the Elements” was a top-prize winner in RhymeZone’s 2014-15 Poetry Contest.  Galloway’s manuscript “The Garlic Peelers” won the QuillsEdge Press 2015 Chapbook Competition and was a Finalist in Tupelo’s 2015 Snowbound Competition. She co-hosts “Fourth Sundays,” a reading series at the Claremont Library.

David Stone

Creosote

I didn’t know how slow you grow, cloning
yourself in wider rings for thousands of years.

Seeking a skewer, I must have cut off thirty
years just to roast my hot dog.

I turned my meat, squatting like Pleistocene
man, focused on crispy skin and moist beef.

Yet before the last glacier melted, wiser
cooks knew to leave you alone and search for coyote willow.

I imagined dessert roasting
marshmallows on my reused stick.

But when acrid tar chokes my breathe,
I spit your toxic bitterness.

A Rare Night Air

I’m drawn to the window
by the low-pitched hacking chop
of a copter passing parallel.

I slide the glass to listen for its direction.
Is it headed to the hospital or circling
a criminal’s car on the north side of the 10?

This February’s air is too cool like the back
of the refrigerator’s top shelf
where the misplaced lettuce freezes,

but the scent is not of too long forgotten food
or summer’s hot bitter smog.
I feel a clean, unusually chilled, moist breeze.

I close my eyes and breathe
what must be the mountain trees’
release from the just melted snow.

On this rare night I will sleep
with the windows wide open
and dream the traffic’s drone

is the constant tumbling waves
lapping California Boulevard,
Redlands’ western most shore.

David Stone enjoys cooking, linocut printing, and exploring Southern California nature with his wife and two children. A graduate of Atlantic Union College and La Sierra University, he teaches English at Loma Linda Academy.  His poetry has most recently appeared in Identity Theory, Shuf, and the 2013 Writing from Inlandia.

Laura King

The Bathing Suit
1988

“Like this.” Across the poolhouse murk, hands float
a less-loved Body Glove, manhandle me,
and drift away. I stand between a bloat
of spandex and its riding burn, Kelly
Muirshin (B.F.F.) presiding with her cloak-
and-dagger look. “That’s how it goes, I swear,”
she hoaxes. Still the lacquered eye, the smoke-
and-mirrors eye that really glints (the glare
of sunlight on the pool reflected there),
the eye the face holds candidly, the way
magicians hold productive hats. Some pair
we two girls made—the fingers and the clay,
the hot wind and the wave, the weather and
the vane, the devil and the saint she trained.

__

Laura King’s childhood memories are backdropped by swimming pools in some of the sunniest places in the Southland, including Riverside, where her parents still live. Her poetry has appeared in 14 by 14, Goblin Fruit, Lucid Rhythms, and the 2013 Dwarf Stars anthology.

Robert Louis Covington

the mountain

epic mountain, holy artistry
divine bounty and epiphany

calming beauty and mystery
circling valleys with majesty

stoutly standing, enfolding
exquisite, stately, enduring

a lovely view to bespeak
snow beds on rangy peaks

steeply still, raising spirits
beckoning to holy summits

from eons ago till this day
wanting ones ascend to pray

vital to a world that spins
unbowed by battering winds

alpine, green, hues of gold
dazzling spectacle, ages old

Robert Louis Covington’s professional career was as a writer and manager for the United States Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. After 36 years of government service, including four years with the United States Airforce, he now resides in Fontana, California. As an Active Member of the Inland Empire California Writers Club, he writes poetry and other articles for the club’s monthly magazine and for other publications.

Michael Cooper

the rubbed tooth 

(lines composed in honor of Beirut’s “Elephant Gun” video)

Oh dear young man throb on lap dance seat
this hot seat rock back and forth
holding your knees to the sound of the horn’s glare

o release me to my drink
Damocles between her fine stocking needs
release me to shrink among these the ambitious

shriek to what escape
this business this business looped
town        my job was

to see and cry among the ones unable to monetize
a self-scrutinized oh what was I don’t
you see something is trying to fight

its way off this page to reach you?
behind the blue: the cobalt the aqua in
digo ribbons dance seductively don’t you

see this poem is clawing out
for you    the vertebra makes
a submissive circle is this what you wanted
system-mama?      I
will suckle my thumb around this
town where the milk winds

down  they ring around you halo
aureole a mania
in the crowd        skeletal kiss
shroud shroud throng in
thralled how we
rush to greet you.
Michael Cooper is a MFA student at CSUSB who is fascinated by the fragmentation of language. He gigs and does spoken word all over the inland empire. His work plays with diction and polyphony in an attempt to shock us back into a critical awareness of how frail we are. He feels we are at our most beautiful at our point of failure: orchids in the same vase of water.

Elisha Holt

The Clear Light

The vibration of molecules
in the empty space
of a bucket
in a cupboard below the kitchen sink.
Air spills over the brim
as drops of water leak from a loose pipe.
Each drop of water, a red thought,
a needle in the arm
of a man dying in a white room.
In between each drop, the air is unstirred.
In between each thought, the man rests in stillness.

Geology

For Virginia Holt Martin and Walt Pratt

In ’97
a flash flood
washed out a section of the highway
in Red Rock Canyon,
collapsed the pavement
into a flow of grey slush.

I thought of this
as I waited in the doctor’s office.
Stared at the vermillion carpet
as she told me the cancer
had spread to my bones.

I thought of how the wind
scoured a hole straight through
the red center of a boulder.
The photo I took of my son
smiling back at me through that rock window
the time we went hiking
along those oxidized sandstone cliffs.

I thought of my wife,
the slight dimple in her left cheek,
her hair that shined like obsidian
and flowed down the full length of her back.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell them,
said I feel like going to the beach.
I stood knee deep in the water with my boy,
let a handful of sand slip through my fingers
to be pulled into the receding tide.
I told him, flesh is like this.

Waking

You wake in the night remembering
that your father is dead,
as if the news was only just told
to you. And in the absence of light you vision
a flat land, Joshua trees
like contorted shadows,
tumbleweed giving texture to the dark.
You remember the time when you met in the hall
and his surprise when he stood
within a foot of you. You knew then
that he could no longer see.
And now you
are going blind,
each year growing dimmer, the past
growing brighter in your mind
until waking in the night to visions
of what’s passed
is all that sight has left to you.

Elisha Holt is a poet of the desert’s edge. He was born in San Bernardino and raised in the rural Palo Verde Valley, on the Colorado River, in the shadow of the Big Maria Mountains. He currently resides in the cresting winds of Hesperia, California. His work is forthcoming in Badlands and The Pacific Review.