Issue 24 — 

Lucas Carpenter
Fran Jordan
Yvette Neisser Moreno (ArLiJo #24)
Francine Marie Tolf

Lucas Carpenter

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Constable's Clouds
 Hampstead Heath, London

Sheer meteorology, but accurately observed,
even the worst of his critics say. He painted
nothing but sky sometimes, always recording
just what he saw overhead because mimesis
mattered to him, and the science of weather,
like chemistry to Shelley, medicine to Keats.
He called it “skying,” a word of his own device.

But meticulous reproduction of fluxional sky
(even when it’s all blue the blue changes to other blues)
must fix it in an instant like a photograph,
yet his clouds seem to move. He painted the wind.
You’re never sure if you turn your back and look again
that it’s the same painting. Clouds accumulate,
heaving up into mountains of white and grey,
or disperse and stratify in layers lined in light.

Aware of his awareness he allowed for imagining,
knowing viewers would do with painted canvas
what they’ve always done with cloud-filled skies,
seeing familiar shapes on the verge of emergence
or strange beings about to come to life, and sometimes,
when light builds up enough pressure behind and within,
they seem on the brink of bursting in transcendent glory,
heralding a new millennium or the end of everything.
He makes you want to be there for both.

Copyright 2009 by Lucas Carpenter.

Monk Mummies

 Monastery of the Caves, Kiev

No one knows many of their names anymore,
Even the monks who police the place now.
They wouldn’t have minded, my guide tells me,
Because all they wanted was to erase themselves anyway.

For centuries faithful and curious
Have contemplated these dried mystic men,
Most still in their burial niches,
Slots chopped out of the sandstone
Six centuries ago in catacombs
Pocked with cells for god-seeking brothers
To sit with only a candle and a daily visit
From a novice with a crust of bread, a cup of water
Who carried out their small excretions
And reported their deaths.

      Constant cool,
Desiccating air shriveled the bodies,
preserving recognizable features, though the skin
Looks like black beef jerky
And bones have worn through
At fingertip and elbow. Holiness,
They said when it started happening,
Purest evidence of what sanctity does to flesh,
Presaging the eternal life to come. They
have become the color of the darkness they lived,
Blank radiant silence, nothing.

Copyright 2009 by Lucas Carpenter.

On Reaching the Same Age as My Father When He Died

So this is how things looked when you left off:
Bungled dreams, booze, dark burden of experience,
Happiness, hate, more of the same,
Shedding the ghost of thingness past,
Adding stillness to now, the iron existential grip,
Meeting dancing fools, weeping violins, with blank indifference,
Just wanting another gorgeous day out of the way.
Life: a metastatic growth from nothing to form to nothing.
I always swore mine would not be yours,
A pipe dream doomed by a coin toss,
Foiled by failure and things we never did.
Now as much you as I, I should be sentenced to the same,
But at this peculiar spot in time I cross your best
And level my eyes on the distant darkness of you.

Copyright 2009 by Lucas Carpenter.


Lucas Carpenter was born in Elberton, Georgia. He is the author of John Gould Fletcher and Southern Modernism (U. of Arkansas Press, 1990) and general editor of a seven-volume series devoted to Fletcher’s work. He has also written a chapbook of poetry, A Year for the Spider (UNC Pitcher Poetry Award, 1973), and a book of poetry, Perils of the Affect (Mellen Press, 2002). His poems, stories, articles and reviews have appeared in numerous periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, College Literature, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Poetry (Australia), Southern Humanities Review, College English, San Francisco Review of Books, Callaloo, Chronicle of Higher Education, and New York Newsday. He was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to lecture and write in Belgium during the 1999-2000 academic year. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of English at Oxford College, Emory University .



Fran Jordan

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[…seasonal trio…]

Clinging still verdant,
last leaves of summer
start to give way.
Glowing butterscotch and garnet stains
against cerulean sky herald fall.
As one season seeps into next,
I follow, breathless.

* * *

Autumnal changes mark the trail:
Golden, tawny, and ruddy leaves accumulate
before being crushed by
thrumming feet, prancing paws, churning bicycle tires.
Acorns and gumballs ricochet, then
burrow hazardously beneath groundcover.
Deer gather before, startled, they dart across paths.
Geese honk and migrate cross-currents.
(How fortunate are they to feel at home, north or south.)
It is the time the world calls to me:
Rise up, come out, join in.

* * *

Open my ears.
Autumn is softer.
Let the words come.

Copyright © 2008 by Fran Jordan.

[…I do not labor…]

(after Grace Paley)

I do not labor over these lines,
striving not to bend them to perfection.
What if [my] longing
for [my] own true invention
of language is not enough?
So be it.
The words that find their way
onto these pages are only one draft
of my heart, one step towards
resolution of my soul.
The rest of the journey
will come in its own time.
It is simply enough to begin.

Copyright © 2008 by Fran Jordan.

[…deliver us to love…]

Deliver us to love, we plead—
despite knowing the nothing
love may come to—
Give us a moment’s grace
in communion with another’s soul,
an hour’s succor in another’s arms,
a day’s brilliant light
before the heart grows quiet and dark again.
Let us be human,
if only for an instant.

Copyright © 2008 by Fran Jordan.


Fran Jordan is an eighth-generation Virginian currently living quietly with her cat in Takoma Park, Maryland. A writer of creative nonfiction and poetry, she won the Ventura Valdez Poetry Award in English in 2001 and 2002, and her work has been published in the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders (Gival Press, 2005).



Yvette Neisser Moreno

Featured on Issue No. 24

Also see:
Featured as a translator on
Please see Luis Alberto Ambroggio

October Evening

Darkness comes early
and surrounds us
like a tent closing its canvas.

In the glow of kitchen light,
my children’s faces
are all that matter.

Copyright © 2009 by Yvette Neisser Moreno.

Letter for the New Year
Chinese New Year, February 2005

Just when you pointed to the snow
finally melting off the deck
and a cardinal perched there
like a harbinger of spring,
flakes again began to fall,
edging the pine needles in white.

Winter is upon us, and you are sprouting
words and numbers, counting to 100,
announcing “B for bus” and “T for train”;
you reach light switches, refuse to sleep,
empty your plate onto the table.

This is the year of the rooster. A year of luck.
My neighbors prepare a whole chicken for breakfast.

This year we discovered
that you like snow only after it’s fallen;
you shudder from the wet shock
of flakes touching your face.

And a group of deer
has taken to bedding down
in the woods behind the house.
When I approach, they do not flee.
I take this as a sign of luck.

Copyright © 2009 by Yvette Neisser Moreno.


Yvette Neisser Moreno is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The International Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Tar River Poetry, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her translation (from Spanish) of Argentinian poet Luis Alberto Ambroggio’s Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems is forthcoming from Cross-Cultural Communications. In addition to working as a professional writer/editor, she teaches poetry and translation at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and in public schools in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.



Francine Marie Tolf

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The Wife of Layman P’ang

In approximately 780, Layman P’ang, a wealthy merchant, experienced Enlightenment. He sold his house and had all of his possessions loaded onto a boat and sank it. He, his wife, and his children then earned a living by selling vegetables and bamboo utensils.

You would not guess
her cheek bones knew powder,
that jasper combs clasped
her thinning hair.

She carries small things
inside her now:
the flower on a baby squash,
an insect’s green wings.

When famous men
visit their cottage,
she serves them tea
in clay cups.

They listen with reverence
to her husband
as she enters the room

to kneel for
the used dishes,
the leftover
rice cake.

The Wife of Layman P'ang was first published in Southern Humanities Review in 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Francine Marie Tolf.

For Yehuda Amichai:
letter to a man whose home is rain

and whose language is the shiver of reeds.
You said of a certain shore
that even God stopped there
without coming any closer to truth.
But it wasn’t that wind-eaten beach
or your city of second-hand Jews
(“slightly damaged, bargain priced”)
that you really meant:
that shore is the world,
which you loved anyway,
rubbing its darkness like kindling
between two callused palms
until the flame of a new poem was born.

I love that you were once so jealous
of your ex-lover’s lover
you ordered a dog to bite off his penis
(in a poem, that is).
I love that lies were honey to you,
and the purity of anything a myth:
despair can comfort,
and hope rip apart our days.
What’s a taped-up and pasted-together
product of the Diaspora to do? Shake a fist
at the Messiah you know isn’t coming?
Or open your palm to catch some rain?
(It’s your only home.)

Poet, you know the answer.
Your whole life, on the same
wine-stained page,
you did both.

For Yehuda Amichai was first published in Umbrella Journal in 2007 and was part of the writing sample that received an Honorable Mention in the 2006 Pablo Neruda Poetry Contest. Copyright © 2007 by Francine Marie Tolf.

  Within each of us there is a God shaped emptiness

Today I saw a blue heron
ascend from pond water
with slow, soundless wings.
It seemed that
pine trees, clouds of white air
held their breath
as two drowsy arcs
rose and sank
through pieces of mist.

I thought: how easy
to believe in holiness,
to ache suddenly
from the loss it carves.

Pascal was first published in Comstock Review in 2008.
Copyright © 2008 by Francine Marie Tolf.

Small news item in the midst of war

It could be chance that out of
our own darkness
and the world’s,
out of sleep
and that hour before dawn,
the first sound we hear,
if we are lucky enough
to live where they make their homes,
is the liquid questioning of a bird,
testing the day’s reality with her song.

And maybe the bubbles that cluster
like clear beads on stems in vases
are chance too, and the elaborate feathers
of ice that form on windows in winter.
Beauty could be an accident.

So I must not make too much
of the bird I read about
who built her nest from the scrap
of detonated land mines:

who absolves, every morning,
the dark of a greenless field
with notes that sound beautiful.

Small news item in the midst of war was first published in Poetry U.S.A. (Mother Earth) and is one of the poems in a chapbook, Like Saul, published by Plan B Press.


You know from their deeply grooved bark
they hold marvelous stories.
They are taller than oak trees
and sway and glitter through summer
like massive angels,
nearly brushing the clouds.
Can we doubt they are good?
Yet a neighbor used to say
with distinct disapproval
that “they’ll grow anywhere.”

Before this day ends, in some marketplace
where melons are stacked and ancients hum,
someone will toss a grenade.
A six-year-old who hates no one
will be diagnosed with leukemia.
A scrap of sapling will cling harder
to its patch of sandy earth, eager to bear
delicately scalloped leaves
shaped like what humans call hearts –

perfect to hold light
and give it back.

Cottonwoods was first published in White Pelican Review in 2008. Copyright © 2008 by Francine Marie Tolf.

Francine Marie Tolf’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals. She is the author of three chapbooks (two from Pudding House Press and one from Plan B Press) and has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Money for Women/Barbara Deming Foundation, and Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Foundation. She lives in Minneapolis.