If Beale Street Could Talk


If Beale Street could talk

would America listen?

Maybe if she sang.

New Orleans gave birth

in bloody cobblestone blues

to beat black rhythms 

that blew up the cool

Big-Muddy Jazz river, Sweet

Home Chicago style.

B. B., Howlin’ Wolf,

Hoochie Coochie Man, Satchmo

bled while Lady Day cried,

so white folks might gain

an inkling of shadow pain

wading Beale Street’s tears.


Mark Gibbons

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butterfly effect

vertical bars

on the window

colored flashing lights

piles of newsprint

cigarette smoke

billows outside

a small stack of books

poetry on the sill

intermittent hammering

in the steam radiator

the alley-scape latticed

with poles and power lines

snow covers a ridge

high in the distance

an odd perspective

standing up there

in that saddle before

on warmer days

looking down on this

lake-bottom pose

just one year ago

a young man

chose to move on

for better or worse

who can calculate

that ripple today

the short whelp of a siren

an open garage door

red-blue lights flashing

bottles on the floor

everywhere held breath

and unfinished poems


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Winter Solstice, 2018

Late Migration by Greg Keeler

the long night

sips the chaos

of the day

shapers rape the dream-

time dark

that stew stirring

fat witchery

brewing jack boots

coming closer

doors slamming overhead

they cower in the basement

signal from the shadows

sweating and shivering

they cannot awake

the black night promises

nothing can be done

yet all is illusion

the practiced arts of deception

creation and manifestation

don’t wait hold on

make plans create

cultivate the seeds to bake

the bread loaves rising

from winter wheat

the sun will come

the dawn will break

new light and new days

praise the cold nightmare

incubated by death

the most urgent

and deepest

of dark dreams


Mark Gibbons

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sorry i didn’t call

couldn’t force myself to

pick . . up . . that . . fucking phone

should’ve done that

on the weekend

but i’ve gotten through this

shit before


didn’t work this time

timing is everything

right? wrong

like so much

in the world

and in my head

which finally triggered

that alarm

in the heart

slammed the doors

and locked the exits


don’t worry about me

punching walls

crawling in holes

and hanging

with john barleycorn

are the limits

of my self-



sorry to let you down

but the ship

was taking on water

and i couldn’t bail

fast enough

life rafts

were deployed


nothing worse

than being the focus

of a drama offstage

what i want most

is an audience

who loves me

and my poems


i know you

have been down

this dead end

road old friend

failing to rise

to the challenge

of selling yourself

in the name of cold

cash and credibility


so please give

my love and regrets

to those i know

i left in the lurch

like you i am just

one more lost fool

searching the dark-

hearted wilderness

           —for Sheryl Noethe


Mark Gibbons

July 2017

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My son’s thirtieth birthday.

His mother turns sixty next week,

and her mother, eighty,

is coming to celebrate the dawn

of the decades with us, them,

me, and my other son who turns

twenty-seven in April close

to his brother’s conception date.

Numbers, accounts, descendants,

family. Our DNA marches on.


Dylan told us not to trust

anyone over thirty, so why have we

listened to him for the past

forty years? My old neighbor

told me everyone over forty votes

Republican, but a decade later

he discovered his Butte grandfather

ran guns for the IRA. Today


The newspaper is looking for stories

about the infamous Grateful Dead

concert here forty years ago

where according to many sources,

“nobody liked the show.” Sure,


I was stoned, and what do I know

sitting in the field house nosebleed

seats grinding my teeth, and riding

the waves of adjusted perception,

Jerry’s blues tiddly-rumpling

in front of that “wall of sound,”

a mellow rock and cocaine roll—

three and a half hours of tonal flow?


As the legend goes, on the anniversary

of that show, somebody threw a plastic

pitcher, hit Bob Weir in the head, and

The Dead walked off the stage.


Up in the rafters for hours on end,

when they walked off from the encore,

I figured they were all in, most likely

as tired as me. After all, I wasn’t

quite twenty, and they were close to

being as “untrustworthy” as Dylan.


“Disappointed” some said described

the show, but I guess I was too high

up in the bleachers riding the flow

of music that just rolled and rocked

on and on, then played and played

and played some more. I figured

I’d gotten more than my money’s worth.


It was the Grateful Dead for

fuck’s sake! That was just a decade

before my son was born

which was another drama that went on

three times longer than I figured

it would, culminating in a life

change, fatherhood, something else

I knew nothing about going in.


Let’s face it, we’re along for the ride

and grateful to be here, I imagine

even if we’re Bob Weir. I know

I’m thankful for this gathering

in the guise of numbers, decades,

anniversaries, Earth spins around

the sun, another one for the books,

the records, and those beyond

keeping track of it, all that

silly shit we do to count coup

on the old wolf, father time.


Mark Gibbons

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The Rosy Dark

photo by David J. Spear

Mornin’ Glory

your cheery poem

forced me to

polish my rose

colored lenses and

watch some football

maybe sip a glass

of beer consider

the whiskey

anything but the fear

pressing my lungs

and heart flat

as the lack of empathy

and compassion

absent in my neighbors

my fellow citizens

sitting next to me

glassy-eyed trapped

by the habitual shiny

consumptive dream

that new/old

religion cheering

our home team

on to greatness


another victory

for Michael Dickel

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The doctors gave him six months

six years ago. They called it

a fiendishly aggressive melanoma,


eating away at his face and jaw.

Each morning he packs the wound

with cotton, applies the flesh


toned bandage — Phantom of the Opera

mask. Malignant forces tug

at the corners of his eye, his mouth, his ear.


Morphine dulls the pain. He drinks

his meals, smokes the occasional

cigarette. An ex-Mormon,


he read the Bible for the first time

last year, found his namesake, the shepherd

boy, stone and sling, heir king to eternity.


No pestilence, Goliath of the modern

age, can abate the warmth, brilliance of sunlight;

the aroma of steeping coffee; or her night shirt


folded on the pillow. This is how it feels

to be alive. He is sorry for living dead

for so long; doesn’t regret the brute who reels


from the blows, staggers on, refusing to go down.

David knows the sad isolation of a bully.

He wrote the book, Despair of Materialism —


autobiography of a car salesman.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, one by one.

Confession was good for Saul. Heaven


exists inside us all if we are willing

to walk through Hell. Would you thank

Cancer for knocking at your door?


Irony is not dead. Christ descended from David.

Consider the lilies, the ravens your soul, and ask,

Of how much more value are you than the birds?

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Go Lightly

Sometimes the weight of the pen is too much

to pick up, a rusted rail embedded in the ground,


so you keep going, walking, looking and listening

for words to lift those bodies buried in your chest


as if language can work like a pick and shovel,

make sense of the hole and hard-pan in your throat,


somehow levitate and turn this husk of existence

under light like a jeweler examines stones


before transforming them into glittering beauty—

you want that untold story we’ll never hear.


As you fold your hands, don’t bow your head,

look up, out, through, into . . . the only rules


you follow you break . . . sadly we make no

mistakes, we all learn what we need to know, so


when that bullet flash ends your sky light and

beating heart, all guitars return to their cases,


no weeping tomorrows will be heard, merely

the phantom hum of your amp left on and no


forgetting of the questions, the whys—those who

had no idea knew for certain your destination.


Like all who labor to ignore the night, go lightly

across this cemetery—look to the sun burning bright.


—for Craig and Melissa

Mark Gibbons, October 2018

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When I go traveling

in my mind to get away

from shit, I climb the mountain

above Alberton, scramble up to

it—the meadow that sits atop those sheer cliffs

overlooking the Clark Fork River.

Only game trails lead there—each approach

a steep trek. My senior year I scaled

those rocks—stone teeth of the Ice Age—

wanted to run away from myself.

Wedged halfway up a crevice, I knew

it was a mistake, another macho risk,

some dumb-ass “prove-it” invincibility

test. My only choice: keep going—don’t

look back, don’t turn around

or admit vertigo—inch forward,

breathe, know what you can do—focus, move

ahead. I decided there were no mistakes that day—

paradise waits for heroes & fools.


Years ago someone started building

a small cabin up there: square, four walls,

three logs high—a doorway facing south.

Summer hikes, I’d pause at the edge

of the meadow to catch my breath & watch—

imagine a young woman waving

for me to follow her inside

that unfinished house, unbutton her

dress & blouse under the ceiling of blue sky.

Like beasts we’d lie naked on the cabin floor,

flattening the tall bunch grass. I’d smell

sun in her hair, pine needles

warm against our skin, then lick

salt from her neck & breasts, feel a sweat

bead trickle down my back as her fingertips

brushed my flanks—before nails caught & scratched.

I’d sip, drink long from her swollen mouth,

listen to the rhythm of our quickening breaths.

We’d tear up roots, cry out, push

hard into earth & empty ourselves—

what it was we couldn’t hold

in that idyllic meadow—

the echoing explosions of summer.

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Summer Solstice

The hedge pods, lime green, hang

in clusters like beans six

to twelve feet above ground. Spindly

shoots swoop-up off gnarled,

woody stocks thick as my forearms.

Insects, unseen, buzz-ring

in my ears unperturbed by the lonely

hound barking nonstop, fenced

a block away. The sun warms


my hands, this page, and the shadow

of my dancing pen knows

it will find no solace

on this longest of days.

I don’t believe there’s any significance

to this moment, this necessary

elegy finding its voice in a turning

point of mine, this calibration of

space and time climbing beyond our reach,

but since we are painfully aware

that we are mostly in the dark,

it doesn’t seem fair to bury or bemoan

anyone or anything

on a blue-sky, wispy-cloud day,

cool-breezy, leaf-rattling,

and brimmed-full of birdsong,

the cat squinting then napping

on the lawn as spring passes

the baton to summer. I don’t wonder


why the nervous animal paces

in my gut, and I understand the date’s

obvious foreshadowing of what’s ahead,

having nodded off in mid-poem.

I assume it will be alright,

take care of itself in the winter

of our goodnight, that we’ll slip away

easy as sleep, but still, today

is no time to let go of those

we’ve escorted down this spinning

road for as long as we can remember.

At least in December the mood,

the light and temperature are right

for leave taking. This time of year


there’s too much to lose. Summer

elegies belong to the ants

carting dried carcasses of honey

bees underground, hauling sticks

or corn chips, whatever they find,

busily catering to the queen,

working and dying in droves to increase

the size of the pile, support

the colony, the empire:

go forth and multiply,

make it pay every trip, every load,

every minute, every day.

Isn’t that the way we do it

under the sun, keep running,

keep going until we’re gone?

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