Editors’ Choice, May 18-24, “Still Life as Poem No. 2,’ by Michael Dwayne Smith

This week’s Editors’ Choice explores the shape of memory, of image. Condensed in a wisp of a poem is a broad, amorphous, mystery. Layers of intangibles float and wander.

My father, who rises before dawn
and lets my mother dream alone,

sits beneath the small light
over the kitchen table, his grasping

hands illumined on a mug, half
his unforgiven face also, as he stares

into the black hole of his coffee.
 
Michael Dwayne SmithMichael Dwayne Smith lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued animals. His most recent book is Roadside Epiphanies, and his work haunts many literary houses, including The Cortland Review, New World Writing, Star 82 Review, Blue Fifth Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Gravel, and San Pedro River Review. He edits Mojave River Press & Review.

Issue Nine, Spring/Summer, 2018, Themed: “Adam and Eve, Observations on Men and/or Women”

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Photo courtesy of Andrea Walker

We hope you enjoy this issue of Panoply. We told you we’d interpret the theme broadly. And along with our submitters, we did! Some clear Biblical allusions appear, complemented by far-ranging discussions of one or both genders. Some angst, some play, some tenderness, all good stuff! As usual, we thank our submitters, contributors, donors, and readers.

Issue 10 is due in August and will be un-themed. Look for a chapbook review in late June. We also have a surprise announcement upcoming, so stay tuned.

If you like what you see, please consider making a donation. Just click the PayPal link in the right-hand margin. We appreciate your support! Don’t forget to Like our Facebook page: Panoply Facebook Page.

Best wishes always,
Andrea, Jeff, and Ryn, Editors

AdamEve

Contents

About Your Topaz – William Doreski
After the Fire – Leah Mueller
The Anthology – Evgenia Jen Baranova
The Apple’s Tale – Judith Montgomery
Brand New Mr. Baptist – Ailin Luca
Dead for Beauty – Rachel Dacus
Dear Adam, – Elaine Mintzer
Dissipate – Steve Gerson
The Engagement – Morrow Dowdle
Eve – Sneha Subramanian Kanta
For Mr. and Mrs. D. – Angela Kubinec
From Those Who Came BeforeShawn Aveningo Sanders
The Gift Horse – David Allen Sullivan
Glancing Back – Robert Manaster
He Left the Cabin Angry – Gudrun Bortman
Joanne Recalls the Last Real Sunday – John Grey
Let’s Say – Bruce Robinson
Little Red-Haired Skater – Ann Howells
Liz Taylor’s Talents – Sean Murphy
Midnight at the Keyboard – Cat Dixon
Millennial Pink (Undergrad Indigo) – Laura Maria Grierson
Morning – Sam Gilpin
Mother, Dark and Near – Lauren Davis
My Faith – Tricia Knoll
My lover tells me how to move my hands – Megan Merchant
Native – Heather Truett
No Verse, There is None – Leigh Holland
Overheard – Jeff Burt
Pastoral – Kevin Rippin
Polarity – Kalehua Kim
Ravenous – Tom Laichas
Red – Tomas Kurth
Red Wallpaper – Ron Burch
Rembrandt’s Woman Bathing (1654) – Carol Henrikson
Sarah Schulman – David M. Harris
The Sermon – Robert Nisbet
Shakti Appears – Ian Be
stardust – ali lanzetta
Still Life as Poem #2 – Michael Dwayne Smith
This is What a Young Man Looks Like When His Heart is Full GrownLois Roma-Deeley
Turn for theWorse – Paul Reyns
Valentine’s Day – William Wells
The Weekends are Long Without You – Henry Giovannetti
Without Explanation – Carol V. Davis

Preview of Issue 9

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Hello out there. Howzabout a little data to whet y’all’s whistle? Your Editor-in-Chief just can’t get the stats monkey off his back, so here we go:

44 Total published pieces
20 by men
24 by women
9 returning contributors
21 US States represented (our first from NV, bringing the accumulation to 48. Come on, HI and ID!) Most this issue by far, CA with 9
6 foreign countries represented (our first from Germany, Russia, and S. Korea, bringing the accumulation to 22)
Our first translated piece (from Russian)

Thanks so much to all who submitted, and congratulations to those whose fine work will appear in Issue 9. See you on May 4.

Review of Robert Nisbet’s Chapbook, “Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes”

Please enjoy the following review of Robert Nisbet’s new chapbook, “Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes.” Co-editor Ryn Holmes examines Robert’s strong sense of place and how he examines the richness that a lesser mind may have overlooked. We hope you will take a closer look at Robert’s work!

(This is our third chapbook review. We plan to review a new chapbook between each issue of Panoply.)

Nisbet Cover

Published by Prole Books
ISBN 978-0-9569469
40 pages
£ 6.70/$9.34
(Robert offers you purchase from him directly for $10 including postage.)

Submitted by Ryn Holmes
March 2018

It is a very good sign when an author has successfully embedded a reader into the place setting right off and also encouraged them to become quickly invested in the characters.  In Robert Nisbet’s chapbook, Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, the author has done exactly that.

When I read Robert’s chapbook of poetry, Merlin’s Lane, it was clear he brought to it all he had invested in his first love, prose. Now, with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, his Celtic inheritance as a Welshman – a natural gift for language, rich characterization and mise en scène – is on display in this his latest collection. This time, however, he has gone even further and risen above what might have been only a pleasant memento by expanding his talent with an enhanced vision that brought him to a new level of sophistication and also brought the reader from the local to a universal experience.

Robert reaches across time, going from youth to maturity, as only someone who has gathered a basketful of experiences is able to do. His great fondness for his locale is without mawkish sentimentality, bringing in all its charm and innocence, lust and romance of the villagers. For instance, in his second poem, The Ella Fitzgerald Song Book, he writes of a happy man’s fond return to his small village:

“…He breakfasts now in wild kite
land, lingers, loves the satiety,
his eggs now bundled in the one,
the only basket, there, on that wondrous
mountainside….”

Further on, in the opening of Circles, he shows the depth of his sensitivity to the environment and the tunings of a human heart along with an ability to render the essence of personality with precision.

“Cloud
                                                                           dissipating
as the beach’s sand and shingle are lit
by the rays of an afternoon sun.

The girl, her shoulders turned slightly in on herself,
walks slowly to the shore. She might almost be keening….”

That Robert has talent is without doubt, yet in lesser hands the strong psychological and emotional aspects of his writing may interfere, causing the reader to give short shrift to a skillful craft on full display.  His empathy toward his fellow villager is kind with an occasional note of whimsy. He is not without careful humor and his keen attention to detail is marvelous as seen in the narrative piece, Life Drawing.

“…Her pose, by chance or plan, is pensive. As she sits, her buttock cheeks are squashed out wide. One lock of straying hair, a mix of grey and brown, flops forward…Her face is grained, it has an outdoor look, she’s been a farm girl, has those hefty legs. Her breasts might once have drawn their share of admiration’s glimpse…She still retains a decent belly, she’s not fat, two operations scars still faintly blue above her bush….”

And further on, in Stripping,

“…The aunt, …possessed by some pack of her heart’s demons
and baring , in her struggle,
the yellowing belly and the sad sparse fuzz….”

Eventually, Robert reveals the depth of his romantic nature and leads us to several pieces concerning love in its many guises. I have deliberately chosen several as examples of his sympathy and understanding.

Beginning with Heartbeat, we feel the unrequited longing for another from whom one is separated by distance, is palpable:

“I was in that village, away from you two years….
…I was aware, I swear I was, of your distant heartbeat….
…I even knew the tenor of your afternoons….”

Or another about love of a different kind, the shy attraction of the protagonist to one she has never met, A Sudden Summer Sun on St. Bride’s Bay (note the title’s lovely alliteration):

“…she peels her way
through the spider-written letter
from the boy from France….

If I cannot become to see you this August,
my summer, he will be ruined

and she flowers, and walks,…
…feeling herself a mademoiselle,
a mannequin, a belle.”

Now, we segue to a seasoned, comfortable connection between two people in Pilgrimage:

“In love in the gently respectful way
some people have….
…they’d drive on Boxing Day, two hundred miles
…to the headland they’d known in youth….”

And finally, An Evening the Colour of Rain, is remarkable for the words hand-picked to play out an interlude in 8 lines.

Here, former friends (with history) find themselves in the same place at the same time and effect a reunion:

“…Then Greg met Sue again, it was twelve years now
(there was history there, undecidedness)

but they skirted the fringes of each other’s tenderness
(memories recurring and looming)

There were wonderings and hoverings
possibilities dancing, dancing

then bedding with affection’s rain
into the soil of place….”

Fittingly, Robert ends with a poignant poem about writing that takes place in different decades. It reveals the intense love of a young writer for his craft juxtaposed with the remote possibility of anybody ever reading or understanding it.  But as you shall see, one reader shall make all the difference in A Calendar for 1970:

“As he wrote his last batch of stories,
and nineteen-seventy’s early months
spread into spring, above his writing
desk there stood an orange lamp, its shade
just slightly charred, and a pictorial
calendar….

…In twenty-ten, the book
sits on various shelves.  Last year three were
sold, two on eBay, one to a young librarian,…
one to a man who found it in a car boot sale in
Banbury, read it that night, and felt…the very
net and crowd of feelings
that the author felt, those years ago,
under that calendar, under that lamp.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was a pleasure to review.  As a reader, I did find that the names and place titles written in Cymraeg may tend to break the flow for anyone unschooled in speaking or reading that language if one has to stop and look up a translation. This was a small price to pay, however, to be able to read these poems.

Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has published widely in Britain and the USA. He was shortlisted in 2017 for the Wordsworth Trust Prize.

Editors’ Choice, February 23-March 1, 2018, “The Harrow,” by Bill Newby

The final Editors’ Choice for Issue 8, and the third focusing on a father, is Bill Newby’s reminiscence, a wonderful depiction of the metaphysical based on tangible and physical imagery. Enjoy.

When I tug it from the clamp
snugging it to the garage wall
my hand reaches into the past,

to the backyard garden
where my grandfather stands,
his hands poised at the top of the shaft,
as his weeding and tilling were interrupted
for the one, grainy, five-by-seven
that sits on my dresser
and greets me every morning.

He looks over his shoulder,
squinting in the sunlight baking his back,
wearing the long sleeves, vest and tie
from his day at work.

Nothing was permanent-pressed
about his world.

It was an age of migration and planting,
a time of sturdy fibers
that cupped to knees and elbows,
frayed at the collar
and swung on a line
stretched from the back door.

A time when green-visored engineers
hunched over drawing boards
as they pulled lead along t-squares and triangles.

When rough hands anchored a length of ash
to be turned and rounded,
and wood flakes clustered in forearm hairs
as a drawknife was slowly pulled across its surface.

When a craftsman’s eye
shaped the shaft’s narrow neck
to lead my grandfather’s, my father’s and my hand
to the harrow’s sweet balance point,
where we could cradle and caress it
in the crook of our fingers
on our way to drawing its tines
through the rich earth
dreaming of a better life.

Bill NewbyBill Newby is a life-long teacher who uses poetry and fiction to explore moments of celebration, complaint, concern and comedy. His work has appeared in Whiskey Island, Ohio Teachers Write, Bluffton Breeze, Sixfold, Palm Beach Poetry Festival Fish Tales Contest, and Island Writers’ Network’s anthologies, Time & Tide and Ebb & Flow.

 

 

For previous Editors’ Choices, please visit:
The Hail – Jacob Butlett
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – Ann Howells
Dear Dad – Emily Gates
Biscayne Bay Lies Still, Like Glass – David Colodney
A New Hope for a New Zion – Charles McCaskill

Issue 8, Winter 2017-8

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Happy New Year to our friends in the literary community! We hope you passed the holidays in fine fashion and are looking forward to a wonderful 2018. We sure are! And to kick it off in style, we’re honored and proud to present Issue 8. Once again, it’s chock full of artistry, beauty, and fine craft from a wide array of writers. (Oddly but proudly, we boast a few pieces about fathers, particularly fathers and their tools. But not all are paeans!) We thank you for your interest in Panoply and hope you enjoy Issue 8!

If you like what you see, please consider a donation. Just use the PayPal link located in the right margin.Feel free to like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/panoplyzine/

Best wishes,
Andrea, Jeff, and Ryn, Co-Editors

Table of Contents

Poetry
AcceptanceMark Mansfield
The Ambassador of MirrorsRay Marsocci
and you, little birdLisa Reily
Another Massacre and Driving Home (after Nazim Hikmet)Patricia Nelson
Biscayne Bay Lies Still, Like GlassDavid Colodney
Celebrity CelibacyCarl “Papa” Palmer
Civilization in the Here and NowJohn Grey
Conversations with WaterTyrek Greene
A Day from the WindowAlexander Menachem
Dear DadEmily Gates
DepartureSue Scavo
Dinner Time in the Alzheimer’s WingSherri Wright
Driving Down the Mountain at SunsetLaura L. Mays Hoopes
ElementalAlan Girling
EmptySteve Gerson
Evening WalkJoan Mazza
Fado: The Missing KeyJoe Amaral
A Father’s ShovelFrank Babcock
The God KvasirBill Garten
Grit: The Resilience of New YorkersKathleen A. Lawrence
The HailJacob Butlett
The HarrowBill Newby
HelsinkiRobert Okaji
HiddenHannah Rousselot
How to Be a MalacologistStephanie L. Harper
In the Heaven of HopscotchAnne Higgins
In the Orcan FieldMichael Cooper
In the Women’s Locker RoomCarolyn Martin
Intersection, Midtown Atlanta Jude Marr
It Wasn’t YouSarah Brown Weitzman
KneesSandra Lindow
A Lasting RhymeRichard King Perkins II
Leaving LouisianaGeorge Such
MimaropaMichael Mira
MorticianSteven Wojtowicz
Mother TongueToti O’Brien
My GodIon Corcos
A New Hope for a New ZionCharles McCaskill
On Meeting Plato in Fairview Cemetery, Council BluffsRobert Klein Engler
Osoberry, OverripePaula Persoleo
Passing ByIrene Fick
Penny/HeartJames Croal Jackson
The Poison Garden at Alnwick CastleWilliam Reichard
PortLaura Madeline Wiseman
The PrairieBridget Fertal
PrayerDarian Kuxhouse
Rite of PassageSusan Holck
Scholars HenceMike Jurkovic
Scratch in My ThroatHannah A’Enene
SkyscapeEmman Usman Shehu
Some Things Must Be Believed to Be SeenKevin Brown
Stripping Scrap WireMichael VanCalbergh
Surviving SnappersEd McCourt
Toy ParkBeau Boudreaux
TruncatedDevon Balwit
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Ann Howells
The WardrobeGareth Culshaw
When Someone DiesCarla Schwartz
When We Were TogetherColton McLaughlin
The WolvesAlexandra Gaines

Prose
AdjacentMercedes Lawry
FireNancy Tingley
FlaviaLinda McMullen
Fishy VisceraTee Linden
If I Could Tell YouRachel Inberg
Iowa’s PromiseChila Woychik
A LetterLeonardo Boix
Mother (Inspired by Grace Paley)Diane Gottlieb
MotivationRobert L. Penick
Open Letter, Open Sea, Open LoveChristopher Stolle
PeachesHal Ackerman
ResistanceTony Burnett
Speculative Real EstateJen Sage-Robison
TwelveScott Zeigler
The Whole Goddamn ThingHowie Good

Review of Robert Okaji’s Chapbook, “From Every Moment A Second”

Please enjoy the following review of Robert Okaji’s new chapbook, “From Every Moment A Second.” Editor-in-Chief Jeff Santosuosso examines Robert’s magical, hopeful portrayal of how things, events, and time are interrelated. We hope you will take a closer look at Robert’s work!

(This is our second chapbook review. We plan to review a new chapbook between each issue of Panoply.)

OkajiChapbook

From Every Moment A Second, by Robert Okaji
Published by Finishing Line Press
ISBN 978-1-63534-331-1
20 pages
$14.99

Submitted by Jeff Santosuosso
December 2017

Those who enjoy poetry that reveals much by saying little should check out Robert Okaji’s new chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. Okaji masters white space, implication, presence and absence in this pithy yet brief collection. He mines themes of humans and nature, their adjacency and interdependence. He presents the cycles of life, of change and transformation, not only among beings themselves, but as they interact with the rest of the natural world. From this physical environment, he touches on metaphysical themes, spirituality, a heightened sense of natural order.

Suitably, he opens with “Magic,” the seen and unseen, illusion. We cannot trust our eyes. Things are, but we doubt. “You give me nothing to hold, and for this/are blessed.” So much going on here. Syntax befuddles logic, trips us up. “You” are blessed? We realize this “nothing” is not an absence, but an affirmation. Hence the blessing. Welcome to intangibility, the world beyond the physical. “Words conceal what the night cannot,” Okaji’s speaker continues, inverting perceptual convention. As if we’re attending a magic show, Okaji signals that all is not as it might appear to the untrained eye.

So he trains us. In scene after scene, he reveals the hidden, lifting the veil of convention and language to uncover what words have concealed. “Mayflies” comes in couplets, like males and females, humans and insects, ability and inability, purpose and desire. The speaker witnesses death among the mating ritual, and wonders, “still I dream of flight.” “Take Away” catches us off-guard with the near-realism of “the economy of dying.” The speaker laments things taken away: “Grief enriches no one,” yet closes with the agonizing image of a mother “cradling pain in both arms,” while “The second shares her shadow.” Relationships, comparative anguish – these are laid bare for us to interject ourselves, a masterful drawing in, literary magic. We begin to understand the sleight of hand, the craft.

The legerdemain twists like a tongue in cheek, particularly in “Runaway Bus,” an unlikely treatment of a chest cold, ironically a fresh, light breath among deep inhalations. Even the chapbook title, excerpted from “Flame,” is a bit of a pun. “Second” is not a portion of time. It is a descendant, progeny. This verbal game reminds us of the emphasis on relationships, cause and effect, development. Later, “Latitude” revisits the age-old conundrum about chickens and eggs, this time a playful tangent, complete with a frying pan, salt, and butter. “What Feet Know” reminds us at first of our childhood innocence, but compels acknowledgement of how darkness defines the light.

“To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening” is the masterpiece of the journey, a study in light and darkness, life and death, presence and absence. Even the impermanent affirms beyond mortality. The speaker sees that “The pear tree’s ghost shudders./Water pools in the depression of its absence.” Following the heartbreaking “Bottom Falling,” a tender study on the loss of death, this indirect piece reveals by questioning. “Will you leave if I open the door?” The speaker illuminates, partially, cloaking his revelation with, “You are not death, but its closest friend.”

“The Resonance of No,” with its ominous title, pairs the quotidian and tangible with the metaphysical and intangible. His speaker muddles through a day, unable or perhaps unwilling to shake himself of the relentless administrative demands of his father’s death. Even the date he will visit the grave is unclear, but the speaker cannot escape this call. For all our daily cares consume, we must face truths, confront our mortality, feel the pit in our stomachs as we recognize the pull of the superordinate.

Breath, smoke, and breeze dominate “Every Wind.” Those wisps come and go, as if cloaked and revealed, first fixed in our vision, then disappearing. Each breath is life-giving, but it must be followed by a “second.” Okaji instructs, “Every wind loses itself/no matter where/it starts.” If we fail the next breath, we perish. The speaker suffers, his “Grief ages one thread at a time,” as he searches for someone. That someone could be anyone. No matter, the poem is about the pining. The deceased has lost itself like the wind. In “With No Mountain in View,” the speaker reminisces, nearly luxuriating, then snaps back from his fantasy as “A crow flaps away.” Departure, breezes, and motion resulting from wing flaps, the essential act of a bird, carry us away. We’re not even sure where we’re going, how the magician pulled off the trick. The speaker’s moment is “seconded” by uncertainty, but seconded nonetheless. Even in departure and absence, we find ourselves in a new here.

“Privilege” clarifies Okaji’s theme beyond doubt. “Every hour becomes another” opens the piece, a flag in otherwise shifting ground, as clarifying as “Strong coffee, books. A smile.” We can rely on those, they’re dependable. His speaker has found confidence, in the presence of a loved one, “as the lights go out/and we wonder when they’ll return,/not if.” Here, the future looms, although Okaji steps back, realizing that, “Anything can happen, and frequently does.” The title works hard, revealing the optimism and near-immortality the speaker expresses. Yet he’s ready for uncertainty. The “second” is the privilege, no matter what it brings. The future is coming, unclear as it may be, it is. Even in times of loss and separation, we can rely on something to follow. With assertion, he and his loved one “open the door and step out, unhindered.”

The work crescendos in the aforementioned “Flame,” a study on the endurance of the human spirit amid hardship. “On the Burden of Flowering” pushes the envelope, straight from the title. The burden? The speaker’s marigold had been dying. “Today it/stands tall./Yellowing.” Is this life or death? Triumph or defeat? Why must the flower pursue its fatal duty? That is the burden of flowering, one the marigold assumes without hesitation.

“Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine (after Hokusai)” returns to the interdependence of things in nature. “Who knows where bird/begins and tree/ends” pulls us into a place of peace, of things and their environment. Like the marigold, the cranes assume their own burden, amid the threat of winter. Yet there they are. Okaji then shifts from the pine to the oak, this time a rotting one in “Firewood,” a seemingly immortal tree, huge, having survived burdens no man ever could. There, but soon to disappear – at the speaker’s respectful hand. The human interprets his world, his humble place within it, bounded by things mightier than he could ever be, yet participating in their disappearance. Yet this respect, this near-reverie assures us that that moment will be followed by a second. The work closes with “To the Lovely Green Beetles Who Carried My Notes into the Afternoon,” a study in acknowledgement and gratitude, a recognition of order, of how the speaker’s words are carried off “never to be assembled,/and better for it.” There can be no doubt. Their impermanence is not futile. Nor have they perished. Nor are they mortal. “Such beauty should not be bound,” we read, recognizing that their passing has left its mark. From that moment, a second has been born.

This brief work uncovers deep themes with a light touch, uplifting the physical to reveal the metaphysical, offering that things relate in place and time, with mortality not more than a breath, a wisp of smoke, here then gone as moments and things have seconds.
Robert Okaji

Robert Okaji lives in Texas. His work has appeared in such publications as Mockingheart Review, Eclectica and Otoliths, and can also be found on his blog, https:robertokaji.com.