- From the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar
- From the 2015 Texas Poetry Calendar
- From the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar
- From the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar
- From the 2012 Texas Poetry Calendar
- From the 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar
From the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar
December: Three from the Coast
saturday at the beach
boats rush by — mechanical hum
temple chant undercurrent
but most or last the thousand rhythms
of bird squawk
when the egret’s S curve
a beak, a plunk, a fish
sand dunes, more scrub
than sand — flowers, nettles
and an insistence of crickets
Jim LaVilla-Havelin (San Antonio, TX), poetry editor for the San Antonio Express-News, is the author of Counting (Pecan Grove Press, 2010). His poems have appeared in the Texas Poetry Calendar, Blue Hole, The Enigmatist, and elsewhere.
Perspective # 13
After deciding which day
she would take her life, she
began marking days off
the calendar. Festive
ink colors changing
each day; a different kind
of advent calendar.
Michelle Hartman (Ft. Worth, TX) is the editor of Red River Review and author of two books of poetry, Disenchanted and Disgruntled and Irony and Irreverence (Lamar University Press). Her publication credits include RiverSedge and San Pedro River Review.
A Thousand Cuts
“Desde Tepeyac a la Gran Manzana”
A work in papel picado by Catalina Delgado Trunk.
A thousand? At least that many
small cuts were required
to painstakingly create
the figure of La Virgen,
framed by butterflies and roses,
from a single piece of jet black paper.
How alien it seems,
such patience. Someone who can do such work
could also harvest grapes or lettuce
for a recompense of pennies.
Could swim rivers at night,
traverse empty wastes. Not one of us at all.
“When I die, throw my ashes
in the Rio Grande. The ashes
will decide where I belong:
Mexico or the United States,”
says Catalina Trunk.
Meanwhile, truth is in small things:
How many pounds, when picked,
are worth a dollar.
How a careless word
can mean a death.
How one candle is a prayer,
one star is more than none.
I told her I didn’t believe in ghosts,
And there she went, fading into evening
Lifting those pale fingers in half a wave,
A smile like she had just denied a kiss.
And how are we supposed to carry on
Through this life that seems so like an open
Plain obscured by sharp shrubs and swirling dirt?
We watch for water, vultures, a barbed-wire
Fence, but the mountains rise in the distance
Always a couple more days’ drive away.
We old men gather at a campfire, where
That last wild part of us can warm itself.
Our good companion, who is as lonely
And lost as we are, tells us a story
About the wife who loved him more than money.
He says he sometimes sees her ghost out here
When moonlight lies beside him and nudges
him awake. I nod as if I too believed.
The air is full
of fire — sparks of leaf
fly, fall onto the brittle kindling
of droughty wilt.
Bellowed by bursts
of north wind, flames
spread until flecks of gold leaf
litter expanses of dry grass.
Carotene flickers, burns
green lawn into patchwork ground.
Even the pink dogwood,
whose passion-dipped petals
counted as icons of grace
last spring, has set itself ablaze:
a shimmering cascade
of drifting scarlet hearts.
Summer lovers caught
by this new cold, its combustion
rattles our seasoned composure,
reminds us that once change starts,
there is just no stopping it.
Anne McCrady (Tyler, TX) is the author of two poetry collections, most recently Letting Myself In (Dos Gatos Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Concho River Review, Red River Review, and many other publications.
The overgrowth is a burden, thick with debris,
an autumn’s worth, to the ankles, to the knees.
Life’s clutter, thrifted, chipped, unraveling,
ends in disaster, the one we never planned for,
prayed for, that is coming. It’s always been coming. That’s what
makes it hard to breathe. I could shave my head right now —
to prepare — paint on the ashes, dance in rigors, snow.
Doubt shows us unflattered in its three-way mirror.
See yourself from both sides, see you done differently.
We suffer the imagination gladly, play in its leaves,
page-whispered promises. Some monster
believes in your labyrinth, moves in. I pretend
to feed mine from an open palm. A wish to be
broken arises when the moral becomes hard to define.
Life provides the discipline. Something always breaks.
And suddenly the senses grow large and alert, the cheese
bursting with lipid cream, the pickling brine on okra sharp,
the cat’s bell, an alarm. Anything can undo despair
as long as the ground has been prepared with a sacrifice.
God won’t even spit on a field that has been engineered rather
than called to life. If it doesn’t crawl or hum, let it burn.
Student Housing Sidewalk Sale
Nicked mug, cracked egg
cup whose lifeline
gives out, wobbly chair
missing a cap
on one tired leg.
wine bottle, chipped lip.
A long black hair
lifts from a snagged white
sweater. Candle wick
stuck in the past.
I wander waltzing through my meadow released
to make carols into the wind of you.
To regret time’s wink, our ardor its prey,
shaming the present like a bell broken
ending with the fallen leaves.
Summer, South Texas
The long gray corpse of the land
stretches out towards the caliche road.
She died again this summer,
Our Lady of Perpetual Death,
cracked flesh peeling in thin flakes,
crushed to dust by the wind.
The sun’s sharp fingers,
relentless in August,
violate her body,
digging deep into her shattered flesh,
spreading wide her bones,
making deep fissures of darkness
to hide the seeds of rebirth.
September in South Texas
September isn’t ready for summer to be over.
She hates this assignment of season-straddling,
envies her bronzed summer siblings
their lazy vacation, but she knows
how desperate we are for relief
from swelter and sweat, how we depend
on her to flip over the page of August.
But she’s not up to her tasks just yet.
Her ambivalence is exasperating.
She’ll toss us a tease from time to time,
a cool night, a wisp of breeze,
just enough to seduce.
But now she’s donned her bikini again,
and slathered sunscreen, and sneaks out
for what she’ll trick us into believing will be
her very last, late-summer fling.
The Big Pie
West Texas is baked from three ingredients
land sky wind
Here it’s simple
Things are or they are not
The pie comes out of the oven golden brown
somewhat burnt on the edges
If you don’t like it don’t come
Drought is its bane and badge of honor
rain more precious more sacred than the sacred oils
and not spoken of
It might offend
Wind and dust are inseparable
always spoken of in the same breath
They are salt and pepper on the pie
If you don’t like it don’t eat it
the pie has barely been sliced
and is mostly unspoiled
People are few and far between
They like it that way
Bone Sucking Lunch
Turkey vultures sit arrogantly on my old fence posts
Licking hard lips, getting the last of their raw bloody lunch
Only an empty skull is left to show for that opossum’s life
I’ll retrieve that brainless bone
Use it for decoration in my cactus garden
Zee Mink-Fuller (Burleson, TX) has won numerous awards in poetry, including the Wanda Sue Parrot Literary Fund Award in The Great War Contest, 2014. Her essays have appeared in The Hard Journey Home and Reentry Advocate, among others.
Midstream, Pedernales River
Current mutters beneath a hawk,
I also hunt.
I swallow years I saw
reflected in the water,
my tongue thick with river
silt and stone,
bones reshaped by water.
My hand on a boulder
splits the river, five-pronged —
six talons lift a snake.
Cheney Crow (Austin, TX) has poems in or forthcoming in Cortland Review, Terminus, HEArt (Human Equity Through Art), Tupelo Quarterly, and Best of Tupelo Quarterly. She was a semifinalist in Tupelo Quarterly’s 2015 TQ7 contest.
Hill Country Hesperides
That summer when for weeks it rained,
and the snakes streamed flooded, warm, brazen,
we fancied ourselves a sort of gang
and lived off Big Red and watermelon.
One night, we stole out from our beds
to Jackson’s lot on the Santa Fe tracks.
We wrote a note and placed it there. It read,
“One melon in your patch now contains Ex-Lax.”
We stole three melons, their pale green rinds glistening,
and thought our prank the best in Bell County.
We looked forward to future fruit poachings
now that Jackson’s lot was our private pantry.
Next night, we found a new note in the dew.
It read, “Let’s call it even. Now there’re two.”
J. Todd Hawkins (Crowley, TX) has had poetry in Chiron Review, bottle rockets, Antietam Review, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards, he is currently working on a collection of haibun inspired by the Mississippi Delta region.
Christine Wenk-Harrison (Lago Vista, TX) has many publication credits, including Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, San Antonio’s Poetry on the Move project and Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga (Dos Gatos Press, 2013).
circle a nest
amid bridge architecture.
Stars in reverse —
photographic negative —
they twinkle five-pointed
and dark against a leached sky.
Ann Howells (Carrollton, TX), author of the chapbooks Black Crow in Flight and The Rosebud Diaries, has recent work in Crannog, Lunch Ticket, Spillway, and elsewhere. A four-time Pushcart nominee, she is the editor of Illya’s Honey.
Texas Hill Country Dusk
A blue-green marbled river courses at my feet,
languid and cold and murmuring
the lower undulations of the limestone canyon
are coated in cool blue shadows
while the upper ones are reddish-gold gilt
from the tangerine sunset
spilling like juice across the sky
a solitary hawk wheels in the ephemeral dusk
separating day from night
by a gossamer strand of minutes
then the clear peal of a bell echoes off
the cypresses and craggy walls
the way the warm alarm of dawn
insinuates itself into some pleasant,
nearly forgotten dream.
The Western Meadowlark
— head tilted back, beak open
in his tiny portrait
perched on the U.S.A. Forever
postage stamp —
sings to the far corner
of a plain #10 envelope
before flying off
with my estimated taxes.
The canine face
Is a competitive place
All racing against each other
To be the first
To let the mouth know
What to do next.
Laurence Musgrove (San Angelo, TX) teaches literature, creative writing, and composition studies at Angelo State University. His poetry has appeared in descant, Sleet Magazine, Southern Indiana Review, and New Texas.
inspired by Yusuke Asai’s installation yamatane —
Rice Gallery, Houston, October 2–November 23, 2014.
she stands, splendid creature
at the top of the hill
strong slender limbs, long graceful neck
a head sprouting dozens of antlers
I ask her, how do you
support such a burden?
they’re memories, each one
tells a story, she says
she snaps off an antler
and hands it to me
this one is my father, he died
without warning when his heart gave out
she snaps off several more
these are my mother
buried in grief, never getting over
my father leaving her
I stare at the broken parts of her head
the antlers grow back she says
when they do they weigh less
because the memories are less painful
Laura Peña (Houston, TX) has had poems in Bayou Review, Harbinger Asylum, Boundless, and elsewhere. For the past three years she has organized Poetry Out of Bounds, a reading extravaganza that kicks off the Houston Poetry Fest.
Norther Visits Texas
Lodged in winter’s raspy throat
cold air escapes and scrapes
roof’s hoar frost in one sweep
~wanders to the next resting place~
swallows sludge, the first sip
a marshmallow whipped cream treat
of instant hot chocolate.
Laurie Kolp (Beaumont, TX), author of Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), is president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers. Her publication credits include Poet’s Market 2015 and Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet.
We are gardening in winter — a frost, we know
might be any hour, yet our blood stirs
us on; we make summer travel plans,
grocery lists and dirty laundry I do every Sunday
while you calculate what we need to retire, once
and for all, to spend our lives like white irises
blooming in the icy corazón de Tejas, where deer,
shy on the creek’s edge, linger, eating into evening.
Katherine Durham Oldmixon (Austin, TX) is co-director of the Poetry at Round Top Festival and senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Her poems appear in many journals, and in her chapbook Water Signs (Finishing Line Press,
All in Signs
Slowly, patiently, year after year,
the world repeats itself.
I still don’t understand.
Language of sky
and tree — all in signs.
When winter exhales,
leaf by leaf, I try to follow,
try to breathe slowly
into shorter days.
The wind blows cold
on Convict Hill
where once rock was
torn from the ground
by lawless hands . . .
As prisoners quarried
for limestone walls
that lawful men would
Chained like dogs to
the rock they dug —
thick iron links fettered
to heavy bars driven
deep in stone.
Derricks rose like
gallows — black against
blue Texas sky —
ready to shift the
Some say eight men
died on that hill,
buried beneath their
Others say that the
restless wind blows
only memories, not ghosts.