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  November 2015
volume 12 number 2
-table of contents-
  home   (archived)
  featured poets
  paulo brito
  Don Kingfisher Campbell
  Michael Aaron Casares
  Emily Fernandez
  John Jay Flicker
  E.L. Freifeld
  John Grey
  Christopher Mulrooney
  Kushal Poddar
  Jan Steckel
  Wanda Vanhoy Smith
  mailing list
Jan Steckel November 2015



photo by tess. lotta

    Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who stopped practicing medicine because of chronic pain. Her latest poetry book is Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018). Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, New Verse News, November 3 Club, Assaracus and elsewhere. Her work was nominated three times each for the Pushcart and Sundress Best of the Net anthologies, won the Goodreads Poetry Contest three times, and won various other awards. She lives in Oakland, California.



Tom's Quality of Light

Devolve again into the same mandala.
Sketch to focus. It's your meditation.
The nurse brings your evening medication.
I see it's hard to swallow.

Draw repetitive abstract flowers.
Cedric, the black nurse whom you say
is from pine country is with you today.
He charts minutes, swallows, urine, hours.

Think only of the years, months, weeks
you may or may not purchase like indulgences
with chemo. Make known your preferences
to go back home, among the other luminous antiques.

You and Debbie made a boho life:
thirty years of squalid joy and still inspired.
No judge or minister required
to make your one great love your wife.

Your ancient kitty, missing her Tom
now yowls to the empty studio.
She thinks your absence rude. You know
that emptiness and silence are not calm.

Instead, they swell to gales overnight
that swallow reason. Everywhere you turn
sail coffins like oaken ships. Eyes burn.
Worry chemo will obliterate your sight.

Can one calculate from fear and pain a quotient
quantifying life gained over quality thereof?
She wants, (your one and only love),
for you to die a person, not a patient.

That's progress, I suppose, from refraining
even from the thought that you may one day die.
I want you both to look Death in the eye
so you can see your light as it is waning.

copyright 2015 Jan Steckel



Lady in the Tower

I don't want to be saved.
I spin poems out my casement
like hair to reel word-lovers in.

Magic writhes eel-like.
Everything glows with it,
phosphorescent plankton lighting waves.

Sunlight filters through kelp forests.
Silver-scaled minnow schools circle widdershins.
Love in the world hums incandescent.
Stories clamor to be told,
easy as picking up periwinkles.
Delight in not being dead yet.

Blood rises like hurricanes out of the sea.
Hold each moment at arm's length.
Write it down, or time escapes,

watercolor washed from brushes,
world-hues swirling away.
Take this mint leaf. Sap glows

in veins, taste aromatic,
still alive. Take these lines
still savoring of me, Take

the light that spills through my brain,
overflow words, wonder that is me.
Eat. Drink. Read. See.

copyright 2015 Jan Steckel