In a Land So Far Away   Wednesday, July 18, 2018




























in a land so far away

in a land so far away
I could never go, a creature
so unlike me we could never meet,
extends his sweetly licorice ocular extensions
to view the oh-so-far-away bright that lights my day
and the tiny turning speck circling third from its blazing glory,
this tiny island that is giver of life for the me and the all around me,
and wonders about that place so far away where even he could never go
and if there might be such a creature there so unlike him he could never meet,
creatures such as he and me, so far apart and so unlike, joined with the kindred souls of life
that includes all of him and all of me and all that could ever be, souls entwined there in the far-some


in-between
thinking
each and all
of all the places
to far to go
and others so unlike
they can only meet
in this forever
conclave
of souls in the
forever
in-between


































Breaking no new ground in this issue - new poems, old poems (from 2015 this time) and library poems.


Me
in a land so far away

Me
in a supermarket in Texas on the Fourth of July

Tetto Giko
Goshi
Mitoku
Saiba
Tembp
Five Japanese Death Poems 

Me
abuelita de todos

Jose Marti
Son:

Me
7:49 a.m.

Jane Hirshfield
Chapel
The Present

Me
my iron cross

Cynthia Cruz
Star
Death Star

Me
soldier-women, soldier-men

Larry Eigner
[a temporary language]

Me
as must we all do

Jorge de Lima
Words of Departure

Me
this morning, driving into the sun

Gregory Orr
The Door
The Vase

Me
boy, was I surprised!

W. S. Merwin
The Second Time

Me
I am struggling today

Demetria Martinez
News Footage: Kosovo Refugee Woman

Me
the beauty of original sin

Joanna M. Weston
The Photograph
In the Wind

Me
whistling Dixie past the graveyard














Happy holiday











at a supermarket in Texas on the Fourth of July

big truck
big hat
big women
little women
with big hair

gotta love it cause
it's home












First from my library, five short poems in the Japanese "death poem" tradition, poems written by Zen monks and Haiku poets on the verge of death or anticipating death soon.

The poems are from the anthology Japanese Death Poems, published by Tuttle Publishing in 1986. No individual translator(s) are credited.













Tetto Giko

Died on the fifteenth day of the fifth month, 1369
at the age of seventy-five

I look now at the very moment
Even the Buddha is dumbfounded.
All turns with a swing.
I land on the plain of nothingness.


Goshi

Died on the thirteenth day of the ninth month, 1775
at the age of sixty-six

Returning thanks
for life, I turn back and bow
eastward


Mitoku

Died on the eighteenth day of the seventh month, 1669
at the age of eighty-two

The foam of the last water
has dissolved
my mind is clear.


Saiba

Died on the fourteenth day of the eighth month, 1858
at the age of fifty-one

I shift my pillow
closer to the
full moon


Tembo

Died in the eight month, 1823
at the age of eighty-three

I wish this body
might be dew in a field
of flowers.
















A view from school crossings all over the city. The poem from 2015.














abuelita de todos

the rotund little crossing guard, silver curls
trickling under the back of
her white crossing-guard cap,
commands the intersection
with the authority of her orange vest,
parades sternly across the rush-hour street,
little feet paddling fast against the cold asphalt,
like a mother duck
she pulls in her wake a gaggle of
tiny ducklings off to school, all
bundled, head to toe, against
the cold...

whatever else might befall them
as the day progresses, her little charges are safe right
now under under her fierce shield...

abuelita de todos -
la guarda bajo un sol naciente















This poem from my library is by Cuban revolutionaryJose Marti. Published by Wings Press here in San Antonio. It is a bilingual book, Spanish and English with translation by Tyler Fisher. I haven't read the whole book, but most of what I did read was about or to his son.















Son:

Daunted by it, I take refuge in you.

I have faith in human improvement, in future
life, in the utility of virtue, and in you.

If anyone tells you that these pages bear a
resemblance to other pages, tell them that I love you
too much to profane you thus. I paint you here exactly
how my eyes have seen you. With this festive regalia
you have appeared to me. When I have ceased to see
you in a certain way, I have ceased to paint you.
These rivulets have passed through my heart.

May they reach yours!












Remembering back in the day, 1969-1971, when I went back to school to finish my degree after completing military service. Lived in a tiny trailer on the Blanco River, my landlord, a drunk in his seventies, one of those who drove around all night with a case of beer in his back seat. Though separated from his wife, she was a strict Baptist who let him sleep on her back porch and gave him hell about drinking which meant he spent a lot of nights, drunk, sleeping in his car beside my trailer.

I wrote the poem last week.













7:49 a.m.

7:49
in the morning

in the coffeehouse
and the coffee isn't really doing it for me
and I have a thought about
how I'd really like to have a beer
which they have on tap here so it's not like
it's impossible,
though improbable, being as how, well past
my drinking days, I doubt I've finished even a six-pack
this whole year, and what I have had is because at my brother-in-law,
when he barbecues, being a fine adherent to the Mexican culture,
doesn't believe one can barbecue without at least on Dos Equis
consumed in the required cloud of smoke that follows,
all part of the barbeque process...

and though I'm not gong to have a beer at 7:49 in the morning,
the practice being much too civilized for me,
it does remind me of the blue laws when first I began to drink,
there being, in those days, no opportunity to drink before 12-noon
unless you started the day before and didn't stop, which
come to think of it, I did in the old days, like the Baptists who,
being unable to go into a bar where they might be seen,
drove around all Saturday night
with a case of beer in their back seat,
the reason the bar ditches running alongside country roads
always shone a bright aluminum shine
the morning after a good rain, a really heavy rain
and the roads were paved with that same
shine...

then Texas went civilized and drunks
like I was could drink most any time and anywhere
which was a bad thing for the drunks
but great for cleaning out
our many rural road
bar ditches
















Next, again from my library, two short poems by Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book, Come Thief, published in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf.















Chapel

The moonlight builds its cold chapel
again out of piecemeal darkness.
You who have ears and hands, it says, come in;
no need to stamp the snow-weight from your shoes.
It lifts another block and begins to chisel:
Kyoto, Vladivostok, Chicago, Beijing, Perth.
Huge-handed, working around you in silence,
as a car will enter the silence where no dog lives.


The Present

I wanted to give you something -
no stone, clay, bracelet,
no edible leaf cold pass through.
Even a molecule's fragrance by then too large.
Giving had been taken, as you soon would be.
Still, I offered the puffs of air shaped to meaning.
They remained air.
I offered memory on memory,
but what is memory that dies with the fallible inks?
I offered apology, sorrow, ongoing. I offered anger.
How fine is the mesh of death. You can almost see through it.
I stood on one side of the present, you stood on the other.












This, written in 2015, about a gift from a good friend.











my iron cross

I have a cross made of two rough iron nails,
each about 4 inches long,
hanging over the door to my office, given
to me by a friend, a believer
who has affection for me and who wished to share with me
the peace she finds in her faith

though I am not a believer
I do have similar affection for my friend
and respect her unassuming and deeply held beliefs
and was honored by her gift
and the peace she hoped to bring to me

and pleased, also, because the cross in a beautiful piece
of rough-hewn art, the long iron spikes,
elemental truth in the integrity of their coarse construction,
as if the hands of the maker, the purpose and life of the iron worker artist
is imprinted on every ridge and groove of their irregular surface

and because it is an illustration of how art
can embody the essence of meanings, the iron nails,
old and heavy and sharp and crude as the nails belief says pierced
the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, relics, almost, placed on my wall,
a reminder to the poet that, true or not, believed or not,
great stories have great power...

and that it is the poet's job to find the stories that bring that power to all who read them...

one does not have to believe the stories in order to respect and honor them
because they are a reflection of our human desires for a better place
and a better time, our search for a better self, a glimpse
of the divine life....

some stories are bloody and cruel, but the need to believe, whatever the story
reflects the human thrust to find a place beyond restrictions
of our evolutionary heritage, to find a more human way
to be human...

it is the way, through one story or another, for all of us to find our way











Next, two poems by Cynthia Cruz from her book The Glimmering Room, published in 2012 by Four Way Books. This is a book of hard,sharp poems. These two are neither the hardest nor the sharpest.

Cruz was born in Germany and raised in Southern California. Recipient of several fellowships and other honors, her poems have been published in many of the top poetry journals in the United States.














Star

In the homeless shelter-slash-
Greyhound Station in Springfield,
Mass., the loneliest man and woman
Just limped past me
En route to the shooting alley
Called the men's room.
Dead, I think, but happy.

And the world lives on
Inside the TV set bolted above
The plastic seats of the bus station:
Glue sniffing boys in Basra,
A UN supply truck
Caring food and water, held up
At gunpoint. And tanks plow
Into the burning city...

Is it true, we are all passengers,
And this world a room
We are traveling through?


Death Star

Angel of cocaine
Overdoses and middle-aged men
Discovered on floors, in bars,
In women's bathrooms...

Beneath a juvenilia of stars.

Quarantined Adderall and Michelob
Chasers.

If no one sees, does that mean
It never happened?

Getting off the medicine
Is Ike a religious experience.

But that doesn't make it religious,
Does it?

I hope you've collected your lies
In your exquisite
Notebook.











The only female soldier I saw through four years of service in the 1960s was the captain who signed my discharge papers when my time was done.

Not like today.










soldier-women, soldier men

it's
a military city
so it's not unusual
to see uniformed soldiers
around town, doing regular-people things
at the supermarket, at the mall, walking downtown,
and, in this case, stopping by the coffeehouse on the way to work
to jolt the morning awake with a shot of joe and maybe an egg or a waffle...

among the uniformed presence here this morning, a young soldier-man
and a young soldier-woman, both in fatigues, and the soldier-man was soldier-sharp
and heavy-starch crisp and the soldier-woman was pretty with military-tied ,
dark hair and dark Latin of Mid-Eastern eyes and, as is my habit for both soldiers and civilians
I said good morning, paying extra attention to the soldier-woman, honoring her courage
and independence in what was before a man's world and, or course because she's
pretty, which is my nature...

(and as an aside here since, as usual, I can't do one thing without thinking
of something else - i.e. I spend 4 years in the military and never saw
a woman in uniform until the captain who signed my discharge papers, and
being so happy to see them I almost didn't notice she was a pretty woman-captain...)

but the point today is a very minor observation
that the pretty soldier-woman carried
the buzzy, blinky thing they use
to tell customers their order is ready
in her open palms, both of them,
hands carried forward as she walked,
like a priest carrying the communion host
to the altar to be blessed and sanctified
and I'm thinking, maybe this is a hint as to
her post-military career choice as soon as Pope
Frankie catches up to women for whom
soldier-woman is just a first
step













This piece by Larry Eigner is take from The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry,
published in 1994.

Eigner, born in 1927 and died in 1996, was a leading American poet of the second half of the twentieth century, publishing dozens of book and in more than 100 poetry journals.












[a temporary language]

a temporary language

       as temporary thing
         
          and poetry the
                     
                     math.. of

                          everyday
                     
                             life


                                           what time

            of the day is it
               
                  lad what
                 
                    have you

                       to do with

                           or gotten

                        done

1977








                                                         





As I explain in the poem above, I've lost any desire for drama or excitement, any urge to find new places or new things.

Mid-way through my 75th year, I'm ready to be old, spending my days reminiscing on the past, days and places that were, and still are, important to me.













as must we all do

in two weeks
we return to the mountains,
Santa Fe and Durango,
sunny afternoons on the old Spanish plaza,
watching all the people crowding
around, mornings in Durango,
breakfast on the river,
the sound of water rippling
over rocks, deer perhaps, across
the way, grazing in the half light
of dawn...


a return to familiar things missed,
quiet things that sooth a tired
soul, people, places, air I've breathed
before, no excitement, no drama,
enjoying things I've enjoyed before
my place in those things is lost
forever, no cruise on far waters,
no tours of unfamiliar lands,
just this, places and times from a fortunate
past, revisited...

tired now of the responsibilities of youth
and relevance to the world, tired
of exploration and discovery, ready for a life
with no challenge but the pleasures of living
up to reduced expectations...

just a time in my life to be what I want to be,
to be where I want to be,
in a rocking chair in good weather,
watching the grass grow, tracking the flickering, tiny hummingbirds
as they dart from blossom to bloom,
with hours every day to listen to singing birds
as a new-day sun wakes them in their nests,
and the chat, chat, chatter of arguing squirrels,
a time to doze in the sun on chilled days,
my feet resting in comfortable shoes,
my back against an old and familiar
pillow..

the life I want now,
just being old,
writing these little things
for my own pleasure in moments
of winding down, as must
we all do in
time








                            




This poem is by  Jorge De Lima from Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, published by University of Texas Press - Austin in 1996. It is a bilingual anthology, Spanish and English.

de Lima, born in 1893 and died in 1953 was a Brazilian politician, physician, poet, novelist, biographer, essayist, translator, and painter.












Words of Departure

And you will hear in every passing century
a sound lost in time;
and the last comet that passed by only yesterday,
and the oceans renewing their waters over and over.
You will see some constellations sending you their rays
     and then dying.
You will compare your childhood with that of the children
     of the Sun.
You will recognize stars that threw their rocks at you
when you were an ordinary man on life's paths.
You will count as Abraham did the celestial bodies, so that
     you can count.
You will contemplate the premature death of moons
and the mysterious life of the stars.
You will piece together the game of creation and the
     throne of the first woman.
You will watch hundreds of millions of eclipses happening
     all at once
and will watch hundreds of millions of flames in a spiral rising to the
    throne of the Master.
And you will remember you were a poor Eskimo caught
     between the ice of the earth and the final night that
     freed you from the world.

                  (translated by Luis Fernandez Garcia)








                                           







Posting the poem above from 2015 set me to thinking again about my own desires as I age and this new poem reflects that thinking. Not so much different from three years ago, just more certain and intense.













this morning, driving into the sun

mid-point
in my 75th year,
I am ready to be old
and what I want most now
is the freedom to act my age,
to sit, whatever the season, to sit
and enjoy it, to be free of demands of
relevancy, to be free of drama, to enjoy
nothing-burger days in a nothing-burger life,
free to let things change without me, without
any requirement to understand new ways of being,
of doing, of living, free to vegetate in an intellectual
dead zone, to not care about anything but those things
most close and personal to me, to not give a shit about evil
in the world I can do nothing about, free to understand I have
no power against the world's evils, to be free to finally understand
that all I did amounted to nothing, that all my finest moments
are, as I will be, dust, motes so fine that they will blow away
even on still, windless days, free to set aside me all that
has past, free of pride and jealousy and envy and
selfish ambition, thoughts of red-throated
revenge, to float quietly the universal
void, studying all the shades of
nothing a they pass by, to
value the occasional
flash of something
unique in that
nothing
realm...


````

this morning, in its hour of fiery rising,
driving into the sun, the bright disc
of it dim behind thin clouds, its
perfect oval outlined by
a thin black line of
universal
dark








                                                                                         





These two poem, taken from his book, City of Salt, is by Gregory Orr. The book was published in  1995 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Born in 1947 in Albany, New York, Orr received a BA from Antioch College and an MFA at Columbia University. He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia where he founded the MFA program in writing in 1975.
















The Door

A little wall of wood that gives,
that, ajar, yields to a nudge
and reveals what?
                              Everything
that had been concealed behind it,
just like love.

                       No, I mean
like the resistance to love,
the dust on the dark table
that wants to stay there,
or the table itself trembling
like a horse's flank as your hand
slides its smooth length.

And the door, on its hinges, remembers
your palm pressed firm and flat,
remembers you moving into the room beyond,
no phantom but a living thing.


The Vase

Boredom and terror, and the older
I get the more terror arrives
dressed as boredom, wearing
the same clothes I wear to work
each day.

                Returning home, I empty
my pockets into a large vase
in the hall: bits of lint, scraps
of paper, loose change, a piece of string.

The vase is taller than I am,
blazoned with white chrysanthemums
and green, exotic birds in flight.








                                       








I grew up in a small town of about 2,500; left as soon as I could find a way to support myself.














boy, was I surprised

I grew up
in a little country town
where nothing was secret
except the secrets everybody
knew...

I knew some of those secrets,
but not as many as I thought I knew

turned out
there were other secrets only the grown-ups knew

boy,
was I surprised
when I was old enough
to know them
too








                                                                       






In one of my second hand bookstore visits I found the May, 1972, edition of Poetry. The price new - $1.25. My price at the used book  - $5.99.

The poem I selected is by W.  S. Merwin.
















The Second Time

The second time
the hills have shrunk
the bells are thinner
the hours have few colors
it seem that some of the old weather
must have been invented

the second time has white stone gateposts
at the head of a silent pass
under a pillar of sunlight
we see them only once
we see them only the second time
then we forget them

the second time has birds of its own
it has wings of its own
the second time comes with a picture

the second time comes with an old pictue
of something not there
it clings to the picture
as to its life

death
begins the second time
with survival










                                 
\








I had a different poem here, but decided at the last minute I didn't like it. So you get this instead.

An attempt at humor seemed unintentionally cruel.
















I am struggling today


I am struggling
today
with my second-life avocation
of daily poeming
and it’s not because there hasn’t been
inspiration…

like the slim young girl
with an innocent face and stretch pants
that do not suggest her innocence
is all-consuming,
and the thing that ought, all by itself,
inspire a poem, her hair,
a mohawk with a topknot
at the top and, strangely fitting
a Minnie Mouse
T-shirt

seems like I could do something
with that, but,
nothing
comes
of it…

so
perhaps
the attractive woman
in her early forties
who keeps eyeing me
like I’m a prime
steak
something
which has not happened to me
in at least forty-five years
and the thing is
I like her colorful blouse
(who cares her jeans are a little over-filled)
and a bright and wonderful smile

I would truly love
and write epics about this
attention from an attractive woman
if
I just
wasn’t too old
to do anything about
it…

`````

maybe
I can do something with the weather –

an ode to summer
except
I hate summer around here….

maybe I should just skip my poem today
fluff my pillow
and go back to sleep








                                                                     





This poem is by    Demetria Martinez. It is taken from her book The Devil's Workshop, published in 2002 by the University of Arizona
Press.

Martinez is an author, activist, and creativity coach in New Mexico.








News Footage: Kosovo Refugee Woman

What was she
Thinking
When she
Painted
Her nails?
Did she
Water
Plants,
Dry Dishes.
The day
The earth
Stopped 
Circling
The sun,
Heaven's
Dance 
Cancelled?

She is a
Beauty
Mark on a
Mountain now,
Under a knife
Of rain,
Night,
Dark as
A wine
Whose
Name
She Cannot 
Pronounce








                                                     








This poem from 2015 inspired by lines from another
poet.














the beauty of original sin

"Abyss of Eros,
beauty of original sin"
             Ku Sang (Korean poet)

think
how exciting
it must have been,
how delectable, delightful,
outright beautiful that first sin,
the original sin, the concept "sin" unknown
until the thing, the sin, was done...

doesn't make any difference
what it was...

maybe it was the eating
of forbidden fruit
like the book
says,
or maybe it was sex,
or was less complicated than that,
maybe it was when he first noticed the curve of her breasts,
the round perfection of her ass, and lusted after it,
or maybe it was her sin, seeing
the arrogance of his massive cock, erect,
so different, she thought from the little nubbin
that hung so humbly between his legs before,
and she lusted after it, imagined so many uses for it...

or maybe it was something more abstract,
maybe just a random thought, the one or the other
or the both thinking something
that hadn't been inserted for them to think,
something they though up all on their own, maybe
it was just that, creativity, impinging on the realm
of he who created all and reserved creation
as a thing only for him..

or maybe it wasn't that complicated...

it could have been something as simple and small
as putting a slug in a parking meter -

but no difference, a thing large or small, it was wonderful,
it was new, it was the first and it was original,
the first original thing for them, and, thus, by the rules
it was, in its originality a sin, the original sin and it was
beautiful...

they may have wondered later if that sin was worth
its consequence, but to no avail, for in their wonder they sinned
again, and again, and there was no turning back...








                                                                              






Here are two short poems by my poet friend  Joanna M. Weston. Information on her books is available at http://www.1960willowtree.wordpress.com/















The Photograph

her flounces gather like an 1800s valentine
hand-made lace hiding arthritic hands

heart-shaped locket kisses decolletage
is "spinster" a word of spinning wheels?

white hair puffed, held by tortoiseshell combs
I admire her well-maintained deportment

long jet earrings touch wrinkled neck
whose fingers curl against damaged heart?

the skeen of bombazine, out-of-fashion
why wear black in summer's sultry heat?

silver framed sepia beside upright chair
who holds her through the virgin nights?


In the Wind

your voice warm and rich
tasting of oak cinnamon and cumin
coils about my head and spills
like aged brandy over my hands

I drink your sound with chocolate
hold it between pages of mystery and fact
thread it in rigging with my sails
as we head into high winds
with your hand on the tiller








                       







And last for this issue, a new poem and my first and last artistic endeavor, spray on desk top.











whistling Dixie past the graveyard

the coffeehouse
unusually crowded this morning

should be giving me much
to write about,
but they're all so damn
normal
every swing I take at a poem
is like the swishing of my bat
when I played Little League
because my father played baseball
except he was good at it
and I was terrible,
always the last to be picked,
rare was the ball that made contact
with my glove or cracked
against my bat...

but
my son was a great ball player,
home run records and all
that, but my father died twenty years
too soon to see it , one of the reasons
I still grieve for his passing...

meanwhile,
the sun is out and bright,
shining on the the neon green leaves
on the tree in the atrium, the cool of
the summer morning beginning
to fade

and this observation has nothing
to do with anything
but I thought I should mention it
in case a few extra words might add
weight to the exercise
as I'm getting ready
to leave,
to go home,
to leave all these boring normal people
behind and go home, knowing that once there,
if I really want to see boring normal people
all I have to do is take off my clothes
and stand in front of the full-length mirror
in my bedroom
and whistle Dixie until I'm out of
breath...










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 I welcome your comments below on this issue and the poetry and photography featured in it.

  Just click the "Comment" tab below.



Poetry

New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces 




Always to the Light


Goes Around Comes Around



Pushing Clouds Against the Wind


And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio

Seven Beats a Second



Fiction

Sonyador - The Dreamer



                                                            

  Peace in Our Time


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