BAP Quarterly
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Poetry


Ben Humphrey

Judgment Day

Christina E Lovin

Tollbooth

Saalim Mills

Acting Like He's God
Lord's Name In Vain

Sherry O’Keefe

Cooking In Her Kitchen

Richard Schiffman

Rosh Hashanah

T. M. De Vos

The Litigated

Raina Leon

The Pistol's Confession

Karla Linn Merrifield

Pamonae

Rohan Mulgaonkar

"Resurrection"

Nina Romano

JOB’S DREAM

Paul Sohar

US HUMANS

 

 

 


 

 

Judgment Day

“Whoever kills (even) a sparrow for no reason, it will complain to God on the Day of Judgment: “O God!  This man killed me uselessly and not for the sake of meat.”

--Muhammad

The line will be long
with sparrows brought
down by BB guns.
With spiders and ants
needlessly smashed
and beavers made into hats.
Above trophy lions’ roar
and rhinos’ outrage,
pinned butterflies will rise
from glass cages.
Peacocks will shriek
for their feathers
and goldfish flushed
will swim from dumps.
All complain;
they accuse the ones
whose sin was useless killing.

But the buffalo and deer
who fed the People
will not be there.

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by: Ben Humphrey 

 

 

 


 

 

The Pistol's Confession

            After Ross Gay and Quraysh Ali Lansana

 
All I ever wanted was to be held slick in his grip,
wetting me down with want.
I wanted to be a vessel for his fire,
explosive possibility of the spark,
the powder that swallows resolution
and spits it out in challenge-steel.
I was born to be a force of reckoning,
a force to split and fuse with heat.
I was forged to be the forge for smoldering,
but never this.  I was not shaped for this.
His eyes were faulty, but I could see.
All those pretty little faces, not pinned to straw
but moving and shifting from smile to grimace.
Moving targets, sure, but not those hitched on a motor
and dragged left and right, forward and backward,
these cowered beneath desks,
hid themselves even within their bones.
I just wanted to be held,
and there he was holding me to fire,
to the ecstasy of killing.  All those pretty little faces
with my charred mark, my sizzle and burn.
They explode just like straw, in bits.
I teased, seduced with my circle of steel,
like a ring of promise.  Ring around the rosie,
A pocket full of posies
Oh, how I sung for him over the whimpers,
the bloody throats gurgling their last prayers.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
I was so good, he couldn't help but hold me,
close, right so he could hear me.
I gave him his resolution back.
Ashes, ashes …
Won't you hold me?  Won't you hold me?
I just wanted to be held.

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by: Raina Leon  

 

 

 


 

 

Tollbooth

You do not even know that I see you.
You there, pretty lady with the camel
hair coat and kid leather gloves,
passing through my booth every weekend
on your way to the country.  You never
look at me.  You would never pick me
from a line-up of suspects. The wild
scent of you lingers as you drive away,
it burns my nostrils with the disdainful
perfume of wealth and oblivion. 
My fingers, too, would burn your skin
like a brand if I should ever touch you.
your eyes would turn to cinders
if they ever met mine. 

Your children—twinkly girl with the fur
earmuffs and boy with the pout I curse
for your sake—they see me and are
afraid.  We have locked glances
as you slowed to toss your coins
into my basket —they fear the heavy air
that heaves from me when you are near
and the weather is frigid as it often is
in this, our little corner of the unknowing
world, where I must stamp my feet
to keep warm, and at night kneel here
alone in my confessional by the highway,
praying for forgiveness from lustful gods,
folding my hands around my smooth rosary
of flesh, doing penance for my sins.  

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by: Christina E Lovin

 

 

 


 

 

Pamonae

The power of apples is biblical,
legendary, as you know. Your teeth
and tongue find an itty-bitty Eve,
a quaint, little Johnny Appleseed
in every fragrant bite every October.
Each taste of it is historical,
ritualistic: I hold aloft an apple
to you like a glossy garnet
in the prong of my fingers and thumb,
leaving a whirl of prints on its shining skin.
Apples make us glow from inside.
What is this windfall? A feast for deer
and their agile orchard deer gods:
What’s needed, what’s deserved.
What of sin? ‘Tis nothing to the storied red apple
I share with you in Indian summer.
I bend into the fruit and yield to it with a kiss.
O honey crisp of autumn, juice of the season!
We partake. We join in the fabled
ceremonial dance of ancient apples.
We fall to the ground.

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by: Karla Linn Merrifield

 

 

 


 

 

Acting Like He's God

Oklahoma
loved Jessie Lee
Since then he ain't been the same

kissed his neck
with a fisher's thread
Drug his body with a fo' length chain

Christmas morning
Christmas morning
How he smiled when his present came

Jesus' birthday
Jesus' birthday
Wooden cross in the shape of chains

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by: Saalim Mills

 

 

 


 

 

Lord's Name In Vain

two dollars to make it down to the bottom of this hill

still 'live

and my bike is shined like Uncle Elroy's car

i used the same rag

buffed and swirled until the skin broke into a smile

 

and i'm here
atop it's baby's eye wink
while they gather around me, cheering and jeering

lil Junie bet fifty cents I break my elbow

he don't know

i slicked my bike, touched it 'til Jesus nodded

i'm ready
God don't let pretty fall

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by: Saalim Mills

 

 

 


 

 

Resurrection

I don't fear the end; I fear the next beginning:
waking up in a quiet white room
with dull yellow lights,
the flicker of unknown faces before me,
everything I once knew fading like an echo in a lonely street—
and I remain tongueless like Philomel,
stirred by new, unwanted memories,
bound in a swaddled prison.

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by: Rohan Mulgaonkar

 

 

 


 

 

Cooking In Her Kitchen

He knew how to sharpen needles
on strike strips from matchbooks
nipped from his mother’s bedroom,

how to blend a mush from one part
shoplift, two parts broken locks,
straining lumps with a porch screen-

a puree his buddies called one part
cloudburst, two hits static sparkle.
Oh, he could cook, he knew his way

around, his mother told her friends.
He knew to keep his sleeves rolled
down while working in her kitchen.

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by: Sherry O'Keefe

 

 

 


 

 

JOB’S DREAM

A log cabin room.

Days,
fleeter than a weaver's shuttle,
fly across a loom.

A frame.

Promises: rends in raiment on a peg. 
I remember fragile
peace when my whole heart squeezed
your reedy body
in the breath of dawn. 

Silhouetted
now, I am a lone figure
quilted of loom shadows.

An open window.

My life, threads adrift
in transient wind,
braggadocio,
full of blustery bravado,
twines blue around a tapestry bobbin,
winging the warp,
tangling in heddles.  

A woof comb dangles

from the open door's lintel.
And with the breeze,
I recall God sends misfortune
not just to punish sinners,
but also to the just, the righteous,
although
I’ve never understood why of it,
the rhyme or reason of it.

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by: Nina Romano 

 

 

 


 

 

Rosh Hashanah

On Rosh Hashanah
we cast the bread of last year’s sins
upon the waters. But ducks
eat the evil bread and die,
then get reborn in the new year
as ourselves. Each year
we launch a new self. Still it quacks
like last year’s model, and hankers
after the same stale bread.
So naturally it dies. But a duck’s death
is never final. The dead duck
eventually finds some new bread to eat
and miraculously revives.
Granted, it’s the old bread recycled,
then cast upon the waters.
But the good news is that the waters
are always new waters,
not the same old waters,
and Rosh Hashanah’s duck
is a new duck too,
even though it eats the old bread.
But forget about bread.
Because ducks don’t live
on bread alone, but on the waters.
And since time is a river--
which is never the same river twice--
trust me, the duck
that launches itself at every moment  
upon this new river
is no longer the same old duck.

 

* Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Years, is celebrated in September.

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by: Richard Schiffman 

 

 

 


 

 

US HUMANS

the stone in my hand smells of
unconquered air
visions of meters and yards --

let’s kill not two but a dozen birds,
it says,
pigeons, crows, loose-bellied geese and ducks,
blue jay officers and swarming helicopters,
let’s kill them with one throw
one flight, one freefall of the stone --

then I feel silence creep over the back of my neck,
but before I can squash it
the stone speaks to my hand again:

it’s either that or else I’m going to
bash your head in, knock your teeth out,
and splatter your eyes --

maybe there’s another classroom,
another stadium or cemetery
where stones can win without us
humans losing our brains,

but the ticket booths are closed,
the gods are smelling roses elsewhere,
and the stone is not in their hands
but mine –

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by: Paul Sohar

 

 

 


 

 

The Litigated

The corridor is quiet when I wake,
the haunting finished; the doorknobs cool, mostly,
as I walk away, with a quietness behind them
like that of old furniture, sheeted and hulking.

At night, the knobs are hot again,
furniture pushed to the wall,
my dead selves run through with current,
jerked alive and made to plead.
Defended too ardently, their suits are being lost;
their plaints are for rest, for insulation
against the infecting bolt.

There is a brave one who is trying others
who show their gums like gargoyles, evil counts.
She prosecutes, but loses them before she finishes:
they are marrying, they have left their country;
in their happiness, the transmission flickers
and they do not hear her sentence.
There are no police who will eject them
from their lives to face her.
They have moved on, they are protected.

Alone, she folds the evidence
like a shopgirl closing up—
the old skins, transcripts,
a pat of nerves like a great swan’s wing.
She will set them out the next night;
someone will pay.

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by: T. M. De Vos  

 

 

 
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