May 5, 2020

Birdsong Journal (formerly known as Poppy Road Review) is Taking Submissions Again

Please stop by Birdsong Journal (formerly known as Poppy Road Review) to send in your poetry or flash fiction.  Black Poppy Review is closed to submissions at this time.

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April 18, 2020

Stroke and Ego by Michael H. Brownstein

She attempts to rise in the river, but she is rust,
The banks neither steep nor slippery, only ladders of air.
Gravity is not a toehold.
She struggles to open her eyes,
Her body a book left outside soaking itself dry.
She is heat thunder in summertime.
A feeding tube down her throat, than her nose,
Finally an installation piece at her stomach.
Hysterical vomit on sheets, on the floor.
How can we live this life we live
When the one man we gave our life to
Tells us he is not coming back to visit?
Earthquake hollow, earthquakes of muscle,
Freezing fog, 
A sudden avalanche of biting insects.
The TV drones on and on, visitors extinct.
You can hear, but not see,
You can rest, but never fully wake.
He will get over himself, you imagine,
But he does not, day after day,
So you find yourself playing with your fists alone.

Michael H. Brownstein's latest volumes of poetry, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (2018) and How Do We Create Love? (2019), were recently released (Cholla Needles Press).

April 15, 2020

All I Have For You Is Death by Linda M. Crate

the barn owls will peck out your eyes,
and the ravens will carry off your bones;
and your innards will be carried away
by hawks and vultures of my wood but not before
i've had my feast on your blood;
you tried to tame a damphyr
wild and fierce 
daughter of the moon and hecate
my magic was one you could not reckon with—
you tried to bury me,
but i rose from that hollow grave
my dark eyes have grown red as a harvest moon
it is time you meet your demise at the feet of the dark queen—
tried to spare you my darkness, 
but you broke my light;
so all i have for you death. 

Linda M. Crate is a writer whose works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks, the latest of which is: More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

April 14, 2020

Sleeping Ears by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal

Faintly, the ears hear a sliver
of silence, the silence of places
and spaces. They hear the echo
of faraway days. The rhythm and
sounds of the moon reach the
sleeping ears. A field of sounds
in a field of dreams fill the silence.
Cosmic crickets explode their
song inside the sleeping ears.
They plant a tree in the sleeping 
ears and from each leaf a cricket
sings and shakes the planted tree.

Born in Mexico, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, has lived in California for 45 years. He works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. His poetry has appeared in Ariel Chart, Blue Collar Review, Kendra Steiner Editions, Unlikely Stories, and Yellow Mama Magazine.

April 13, 2020

Black Out by HW Fitzroy

The drip of sweat threatened to descend into her eye, but she decided not to capture it in the oil she spread about the canvas; after first creating a background of refulgent yellow, she added the fulsome outline of her face and filled in with meticulous, quiet energy the contours of her cheekbones, the full depth of her broad and slack shoulders. She carried after all on these shoulders all the trauma fit for the artist, the deep despair itself a necessary corollary to the bliss, the bliss. She did her best to mask the slight unequal frame of the cheekbones. The one having been caved in by that jealous lout created a subtle lack of equilibrium of which she was nevertheless deeply aware every time the imperfect form glared at her in the mirror, in the car window, in the eyes of a lover. As she blotted more, she felt more weak, more prone to pat her brow with the hanky that was her father’s. He would never hurt her, would at the museum somehow guide her movements as he kept his hand indiscernibly at her shoulder. He spoke in dulcet tones unequaled by anyone. She heard him, every time she took brush in hand, describing the grandeur and nobility of fine art, meant to elevate the soul and bring us closer, but never quite touching, the divine, and in so doing drag this numinous being down to earth that some lucky creature might gaze and be uplifted, might have their soul caressed by tender strokes of art.

She found it necessary to stand just so to hide the scar. Is it possible to hide it really? Her scarves, a whole panoply of color to match any garment as sartorial accent, were needed always: even as she sweated, even when she wept, even when she was alone, even after he was gone; this hectoring voice too penetrated; she heard him scream about dinner; she heard him slurring that it was all the better she hadn’t prepared a meal that even she felt palatable, that that unflattering flab might be deflated somewhat. When she stood and smashed the vase, he stood and smashed her face. When she grabbed the knife, he wrested it from her unwilling hands and sliced at her throat. The police were kind in their way. Even though they always tend to speak in monotone officialese, she could sense their less stentorian concern, their assurances that the wound was not too deep. In her hospital room these men came to tell her that they found him gassing up two towns over. They told her, with a just perceptible wink, that he resisted, and found them stronger and full of rage. He slept on an uncomfortable cot, ate food that made him yearn for hers, and when he woke asked why on earth he was there; he remembered nothing.

She raged surely. But with her art she breathed differently, more deeply, more slowly, more methodically, not the quick shallow huffs when she thought she spotted his car; it was everywhere; why did so many people have to buy that model? It is ugly, plain, just like me. How can I do it: make the flab, the scar, the uneven quality of the whole badgering visage less plump and unappealing? She chose shadow that soon trespassed on chiaroscuro; fond shadows were added under the chin to hide perchance the drooping deposit of flesh that some say quivers when she laughs. Seldom at least she thought upon that remark, for seldom she laughed. What is there to laugh about?

The bright yellows moved from golden, to an agonizing brown, to black. Her cheekbone was covered first with shadow and then the black was made opaque. She painted faster now. Now watch your breath Virginia. It was hours she stood there, slowly adding more shadow and more black till she stood back, breathing fast, and found there staring at her a blank canvas, and she was satisfied. 

HW Fitzroy is a Visiting Instructor of English at Purdue University Northwest, where he maintains a steady output of critical thinking stylists. When he is not writing or teaching writing, he is rebelling as political activist. He lives alone in the Midwest. 

April 9, 2020

Ultra by Robert Nisbet

The blackbird’s song has finished now,
no more is heard of Orange Beak’s celebrations,
and in mid-July, young Morris,
released for now from education’s cramp,
steps out from parents’ home, past laurel bush,
sensing, surely, the shift of twigs and nest
and Blackbird’s history.

On up the street, he passes gardens,
the odd cat sleeping, senses, beneath the fur,
the muscle and sinew flexing, the teeth,
discreetly veiled, ready for enemy.
Samantha emerges, with her little ones.
(He pauses to help her latch her gate,
steady the push-chair). He catches the scent
of a milkiness about her.

Outside the corner shop, in summer grace,
are the two girls from the Haven Road,
surely the town’s best lookers.
Dare he sense at least, beneath T-shirts
and white jeans, the stir of limb
and history’s fecundity?

* First published in The Linnet’s Wings (Ireland), Summer 2017

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA, appearing regularly in San Pedro River Review and Panoply. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020.

April 6, 2020

Burial Grounds by Michael Keshigian

Graves grow lighter
with passing days,
the dead disintegrate
into the past
until they are dust.
Beneath giant oaks
that shed leaves,
burying memories,
the graves grow lighter
even as chill winds
layer the brittle foliage
to insulate the resting.
Yet the grounds remain cold,
the nights remain ominous
until the leaves are swept
against the markers,
carrying more dust,
and through it all,
the graves grow lighter.
Each passing day,
followed by stoic darkness,
stokes the graves to yield.
We visit,
distinct memories distort.
We yearn for glimpses,
but they only become lighter.

Michael Keshigian has been published in numerous national and international journals, recently including Edison Literary Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Oyez Review, Bluepepper, Tipton Poetry Journal, Pudding Magazine and has appeared as feature writer in over twenty publications with 7 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (