At the sea

She hid the cry of it in her throat and abdomen
for later, loved the cold weight of it just sitting

waiting to be used. She never did, not publicly
anyway but the thought of it was appealing

enough. The gulls don’t mind, they’ve got plenty
of pitch and shrill, screamed caws—one stolen

makes no difference, escapes barely noticed.

Zelda Chappel writes because she has to and often on the backs of things. She has been published in several magazines and anthologies. Most recently her work can be found in The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat & Tears, Belleville Park Pages and HARK. She tweets, sometimes a little too often, as @ZeldaChappel and is the editor at Elbow Room.

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Twenty Heraldings

The Nuanced Faucet Drips

The nuanced faucet drips like a raven,
or heartbeats under floorboards.
Changing my mind, I study Chinese
chequers by candlelight. There are worse fates,
told by the shadows of coat hangers.

 
Nostalgic Disposition

With great anticipation, the next Houdini
pulls off a stunt, but you’re spiteful
of his painlessness. With greater operations,
five years down the road, there’ll be another sign
that reads “Coming Soon: Twenty Years Ago.”

 
Roots

I will pull out the flowers, gnaw
on the roots, and ask my ancestors
for another pouch of seeds. Are we
patriotic yet? Has the mouth been fed
enough for the stomach to stop caring?

 
Other Nations

Snow can be seen falling before
headlights passing under street lights
and landing on the coats and tongues.
Flooded rice fields reflect the stars
on the mountain of mirror slabs.

 
War Song

War appears no longer as music,
but as trends predicted by numerous
news outlets during Fashion Week
and music, now a naked barbarian,
no longer wields any sounds of war.

 
Linear

Everybody knows you can’t see
the borders of countries from space,
but that hasn’t made peace easier
to obtain. The satellites out there
relay the borders over the oceans.

 
Parade

What is made of the replies, stockpiling
with quick answers and confidence?
You can almost understand it all through
understanding nothing, flawless as the ribbons
falling inexplicably from the sky.

 
In Memory

Between the furrowed brow and matter’s
crux, are vague sirens remembered
upon appearance: gray shrouds of storm
clouds, gray rocks darkened by rain,
and stadiums of American willpower.

 
Condemn

Repairing electric chairs
can only compare to an ex’s
dirty fingernails, and even then,
the thoughts are condemned
to die after the task is complete.

 
Regret

I’m not trying to be cynical, but I’m not trying
to not be cynical either. It might be
my imagination, but I think I missed a chance
to be something greater. Too impatient for scabs,
forever scars, and the quiet death of echoes.

 
Empty Anthem

Wading through the land once home,
now far away in my mind and right under
my nose. A thousand songs from a thousand
selves, all singing simultaneously, awaiting
some sort of epiphany but without the gold.

 
Unstyled Content

Unsuitable rebels at the yoke
growl for the absence of outdoor delirium
while I sit without a tie or sport coat,
though ready to wane from my tavern days
with newfound care for the morning.

 
Outliving Ghosts

I imagine reason to be something different,
something with feathers but unable to fly.
Casual freedom admits its own willpower,
with golden blue traces of nature
leaving us cold, knowing there is warmth.

 
Fine Dining

It’s business as usual with no details
to support the theory, except unarmed
weddings and the occasional firework
pop traveling through the unseasonal,
regardless of the axis and the night.

 
Left Unclaimed

A million gypsies and only one scientist.
Who needs this? Not I, proclaiming myself
and flogged for all the claims of obvious
knowledge taught like ancient history.
It’s not like we’ve only now become electric.

 
Salvation

Exploding wilderness opening like a parachute
creating a lonesome salvation as it cannot be
shared or explained as the balconies
and fire escapes where angels perch
would not be the same facing the street.

 
Not Crocodiles

This may not be surprising to alligators
acting naturally until they are not alone,
unexpectedly they are quite human
with their desires. Just a flag with a couple
of colors and maybe a star or two.

 
Diatribe

The diatribes, forgotten but echoing, grasp
as a shoot, searching for fences to tangle
through, to flower with bruised petals,
to be pruned by a mother’s pity, only to grow
once more without reaching for the sun.

 
Chromatic Brick

I do not know what comes next, but the tone
seems to suggest another translation
from the languages without words, only
proximity. There is something, somewhere
over those semi-transparent colors.

 
Coda

All these things were once
important or resigned like a reflection.
The shores of grass from train tracks
invite us to leave as if we were disrupting
a party that never happened.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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Great American Novel

After you’ve finished
dedicating the right people,
it’s time to get down
to business, or up
for that matter to succeed.

Keep hissing, the air
escapes from the tires,
now resembling rubber
snakes at Bar Mitzvahs
and where boys become men
with some cruel joke.

I’m sure they’re okay
but “okay” has several meanings
and different scales.
I’m not so sure
these fish know how to swim.

The right people know how to breathe,
but we’re all screwed underwater.
About the author?
He lives in New York,
but that might not be true anymore.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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The Jury Is Out

The jury is out dignifying laws and landfills,
and you are creating firebreaks in California
as the fragrance of flames dominates the hills.
I am watering my shirt into a second skin,
just thinking about the court and the fire.

The judge was caught attempting to corrugate
the monument to make it fit in museums.
I was told my sentencing has been delayed again,
though I await my sentencing imprisoned.
The jury is out chasing fireflies with open jars.

From my cell, I imagine the locomotives
whipping past the power lines in grassy plains
and water tower towns, evading the denial
of our dreams under the fingernail moon,
stamped into the blue morning. The jury and I

venture into the vacuum of reflection:
I fish for patterns on the plain blue sea, but fail
to come across an albatross, noteworthy repetitions,
or the dry ice. I admit to standing in the rain,
the jury admits to judging my case without sweat.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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Blue

Most of the moon would agree,
or at least the part that’s blue,
and our two-colored pills
say “yes” again, as do
the chalk ones. I’m on my way.
It’s today before the morning.
It’s today that’s blue.

Some of the sun would agree,
or at least the parts that move.
Before we turn our back to the light,
let’s look up to the noon
until the sun turns blue.
Only when we look away
does the day become new.

The winter knows, the summer knows,
so does the frost and the dew,
and the fire before the flood
knows enough without you.
But I’m on my way
because I know that too.
It’s today that’s blue.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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Perfect Theory

It was once the untold stories of relatives
in foxholes covered with gray hair,
and of course values, responsibility
the past and that outer space
filled with blizzards and blindness.

Now we dream perfect theories
born from the void of winter nights,
the city lights reflecting off the snow
while the flowers of time travel
blink in and out of bloom.

In the end we will drink our coffee
outside, and discuss architecture
with an unholy lust for balconies.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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Final Frontier

More regular than clocks
or leaping into canyons
for salvation and flying saucers,
are elephants and their trunks.
But there is a place in the world
for dictionaries and outlandish
fairy tales bemoaning
the grand experience of universes
parallel and paramount,
smaller satellites
and their respective orbits,
evolving and elongating,
lost in demands for love,
into the canyons of beliefs and faith
cannonballing into the hulls
of spaceships.

Rewind the eyes, because
I’m beginning to believe
the words of ventriloquists
almost childlike in their reaction,
to reorganize with the bells
and whistles of sounds
yet to be explained.

A life of rotating magnets,
goats, pigs, scorpions,
fish, bears and belts,
too recognizable, and the signals
lost in the radio sky
like a bird unknowingly giving birth
produces the arches of galactic arms
reaching into inspired minds.
In return, we get
pewter rockets and die-cast astronauts
ready to depart.

M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he was awarded the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. In addition to poetry, he enjoys writing plays, and short stories while zigzagging across the U.S. He also enjoys whiskey and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person. His work has most recently appeared in The Rusty Nail, Drunk Monkeys, and The Camel Saloon.

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