Issue 30 — 

Sunil Freeman
Mary Kay Rummel

Sunil Freeman

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“Loon,” Algonquin Park , c. 1960

Silver birch shimmered
so crisp in that Ontario
light, sight couldn’t hold
it all; so something
like hands on the temples,

a murmur as all that
overflow shine eased
almost into sound,
like chimes, but soft,
air tuned so high
it hinted at maple syrup.

The first blackberry
was a surprise, its globed
facets gemlike; then
we found a new universe
in our mouths. We ate
like gods by the dirt road.

I grew fluid in the lake’s
and rowboat’s slow lapping.
Not enough air pressure
to speak of a wind;
it reached me halfway,
I could just feel my skin.

My father said, “loon,”
after the bird’s cry.
His voice pulled me
to attention and I heard
his word hook to the call.

I gave in to that weaving:
words, sounds that cover
the sounds of the world.

We packed the gray Fairlane
when the time came. I held
three syllables, the box
my parents never knew
they gave me to hold it all,

and replayed the sound
in my head as we drove home.
Sometimes it was dark wood
or a jeweled case in the sun:
Algonquin. Algonquin. Algonquin.

Copyright (c) 1993 by Sunil Freeman . "Loon," Algonquin Park , c 1960 first appeared in Lip Service and That Would Explain the Violinist (Gut Punch Press, 1993).


Not quite poems but more
like the rind of poems,
how your wine glass, raised right,
coaxes a plump ruby from falling
afternoon light. How we know
the river scene, sun-dazed
shock of blue and white to silver,
could use a sailboat.
What the boaters might say.

I love it when you say “marinara,”
say anything at all, like
“try some of this.”
A waft of butter and garlic
roams from your bowl to mine,
mine to yours, as our words
find a rhythm we might walk.
We look from the canvas
back to each other, touch glasses,
let the silence breathe a while,
then head on down that road.

Copyright (c) 1999 by Sunil Freeman. Talking first appeared in Wordwrights! and Surreal Freedom Blues, (Argonne Hotel Press, 1999).


— After reading a news account of a soldier's mother
who learned to keep his clothes unwashed.

They wash the scent away; his clothes come clean,
no blood or sweat, just fading memories.
Her baby's hair she kissed on summer days,
the creek bank mud that stained his old blue jeans,
the blood from Little League— the hard slide home
that won a game so long ago, the cheers
and how he didn't cry, his leg scraped raw.

"There was a child went forth," Walt Whitman said.
He could have been that boy ten years ago;
his senses all embraced the world, but now
a man. And Whitman knew his war up close
before they washed the scent away he told it
hard, with grief, but not as mean as those
who'd fly the bodies back at night, unseen.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Sunil Freeman. Wash first appeared in Gargoyle #51 (2006).


Sunil Freeman is author of two books of poems, That Would Explain the Violinist (Gut Punch Press) and Surreal Freedom Blues (Argonne Hotel Press). He is assistant director of the Writer's Center, and has been a managing editor of Poet Lore, the nation's oldest continuously publishing poetry journal. He is the Washington, DC Branch Bureau editor of the Party for Socialism and Liberation's website, His poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Gargoyle, Bogg, Abbey, Minimus, Wordwrights, The Delaware Poetry Review, Beltway, Kiss the Sky: Fiction and Poetry Starring Jimi Hendrix, and Cabin Fever: Poets at Joaquin Miller's Cabin, 1984-2001.



Mary Kay Rummel

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Learning in Normandy
Avranches, France

In a small town in Normandy I visit an old monastery
with winding stone steps, glass cases of manuscripts
kept in damp dark. Then, I walk out into light,
to a square bursting with life.

It is first communion Sunday for girls posing
in long lace, for boys shining in white suits,
for mothers with camera smiles, fathers with
minds on the coming dinner and wine.
In a place where everything moves upward
or down to the flat tide bed, I listen to a language
I know little of, glimpse what I’ve lost, what
I never had. Their lives like mine, I read
their hungers, their guilts, their overdrafts.
Their Sundays don’t hurt. I know their happiness
the way sometimes in a museum the iconic eyes
of some saint look into mine and irony lifts
from my brain. What’s left is recognition.

I walk downhill with it,
able to name some of the parts but not the whole,
inside me, what I know.

First appeared in The Illuminations (Cherry Grove Collections, 2006). Copyright by Mary Kay Rummel.

Dreaming that Shaman, the Tongue

Because our tongues move us
from one unknowing to the next,
let nothing obscure the mystery
of that thumb-deep vault
my open mouth,
the cave where Eurydice is lost
where Orpheus, your tongue,
enters only the ante-chamber.

Let our tongues meet midway
like dragon and damsel flies crossing
star-laced waters, one thimbleful.

A man leads a horned cow,
morning, evening, across a square.
Your tongue is that well-served cow
and the man who shepherds him.
My tongue is the breeze from the mountain
that licks your sweating skin.

Across the square a white temple
with gold framed arches, open door.
Your mouth is that temple and my tongue
waits to enter, a redbird losing color in captivity.

Your tongue whirls in one place
like a Dervish of Damascus
whose red gown tulips
around his spinning knees.
My tongue is your chanting enchanter.

Tonight I want to take you
the glisten of your mouth
relearned, reloved.
Tonight I want to take
that shaman of your soul
drumming inside my mouth.

That wild clock spinning us
backward: glass to sand,
sand to freshwater pearl and forward
into a universe of whirling.

Copyright 2009 by Mary Kay Rummel.

Blue Windows

At the bar by the eastern window
we toast the eclipse and watch
the moon, smudged entry,
delft cobalt emergence.

All the way home anemone fringe
of surf tingles our skin with sea mist.
Moon attaches a liquid glance
to the ordinary—
frond released from the palm,
clamshell tossed back by waves,
the two of us—
graceful throwaways
sweetened to creamy marigold.

In bed our fingers touch across the sheet.
Eyes change color,
fire collects in our throats.
Light from moon spills over rocks
breaks in water and pools in our eyes.
We could be any couple,
our hands, faces held in mercy.

We never wanted to be ordinary
but isn’t beauty ordinary
and everything else strange?
We wanted the gods to brush our skin.
I still long for you the way
the pine outside my window
once waited for me to touch
its lowest branch.
If beauty escapes and leaves only a sign,
your wrist will wear the mark
of my fingers in the morning.

Copyright 2009 by Mary Kay Rummel.


When I turn to face the city on the hills
as the pier releases clinging rays of sun,

The shrieks of gulls skimming heads
are drowned by Hebrew chants

that drift across surf
from the beach wedding.

The blessing meant for the couple
reaches all who hear

even the libertarians who
stopped me on the boardwalk

to ask what I thought was wrong
with our country and filmed my rant.

Stupidity I answered them, but now
standing on the pier and looking back

at the hill city, feeling sliced open
by the plaint of chant that insinuates

itself into all my closed spaces,
I see that I was wrong.

Now I say it is blindness to the fire
At the heart of things

Now I say it is blindness to the fire
at the heart of things,

to the heat that rises from each of us,
outlines us, the way light etches

hills and mountains in space,
long after the sun has vanished

to the love that encircles us even
as the chanting ends,

blessing the fishermen who dangle
lines in their waiting ritual,

their children who push the sun down
with their arms like ancient ones,

the tiny snowy plovers that race
waves and rejoice in coming through

one more breeding season,
one more brush with extinction,

the surfers strung like black signal flags
marking their own private world along the point,

as the wedded couple kisses and stars
begin to reel in the dark.

Copyright 2009 by Mary Kay Rummel.


Mary Kay Rummel’s newest poetry book is Love in the End (Bright Hill Press, 2008). Other books of poetry are The Illuminations (Cherry Grove Collections 2006), Green Journey Red Bird (Loonfeather Press), The Long Journey Into North (Juniper Press) and This Body She’s Entered (a Minnesota Voices Award winner from New Rivers Press). Recent publications include: Nimrod (as an award finalist), Askew, Dust and Fire where she is the 2009 Diane Glancy Award winner, Lavanderia, the Irish journal—The SHOp and Poetic Voices Without Borders (Gival Press, 2005). Her short fiction is forthcoming in an anthology from Wising Up Press. She loves to collaborate with visual artists and musicians. She divides her time between Minneapolis and Ventura, CA where she teaches at California State University at Channel Islands. More information and poems at

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