Read the PDF - Gnarled Oak



Read the PDF - Gnarled Oak
Gnarled Oak
Issue 5: The Globe in My Pocket
Oct-Nov 2015
Gnarled Oak is an online literary journal publishing poetry, prose,
artwork, and videos four times per year. This issue was originally
published online from Oct-Nov 2015 and is archived at
Editor and publisher: James Brush
Cover: detail from “Jackie O’s Strange New Life” by Elby Rogers
Title: from “the globe in my pocket” by Ehizogie Iyeomoan
All copyrights are retained by the original authors and artists.
(please visit the website for the current issue,
submissions info, and past issues)
Like on Facebook:
Follow on Twitter @gnarled_oak
the globe in my pocket — Ehizogie Iyeomoan
Poem Where No One Thinks about Death
— Glen Armstrong
playing my guitar — Brian Robertson
the blues — Herb Kauderer
Agnes Martin at Tate Modern — Jean Morris
Aubade: A Parallel Poem — Yuan Changming
Big Shot Family — Paul Beckman
Jackie O’s Strange New Life — Elby Rogers
moving sale — Sheila Sondik
Renovation (A Fragment) — Ben Meyerson
a single cloud — Shloka Shankar
Poem — Howie Good
Deconstruction — Olivier Schopfer
masquerade ball — Archana Kapoor Nagpal
The Halloween Quintet — Judy Salz
Boyhood Buoys (4): Frogmeat Sale
— Yuan Changming
Apex — Mary McCarthy
Thunder — Leah Browning
read-letter day — David Kelly
Holiday — Rachel Nix
spring breeze — Kala Ramesh
the tightening — Debbie Strange
Shoal — Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco
Year of Glass — Katie Gleason
Eagle — Kenneth Pobo
My Mother’s Voice — Mary Kendall
China Seagull — Jo Waterworth
across the open sea — j.lewis
Nightswimmer’s Purgatorial — Todd Mercer
Mountains Will Break Your Heart, If You Let Them
— Trish Saunders
Editor’s Note
Contributor Bios
the globe in my pocket
Ehizogie Iyeomoan
i shall squeeze the globe
tuck it into my pocket
like a child
with coins and pebbles
stuffed in the left of his shorts
i shall rub africa against the americas
asia and antarctica and australia
with a rope picked in europe
i shall bind the stones and pebbles
into one whole lump
and when i am done
i shall pull it out
out of my pocket again
and zip it up, the lump
with a glowing holy kiss
Poem Where No One Thinks about Death
Glen Armstrong
It feels good to think,
to be thought of and to be
touched (well, sometimes.)
I think of my skin
as some weird mix of snack
food and lighting effects.
The radio station
describes imaginary places.
When one song stops,
the next song
just sort of explodes.
It feels good to listen.
It feels good to sing along.
playing my guitar
Brian Robertson
playing my guitar
an old song I remember
but my fingers don’t
the blues
Herb Kauderer
the blues is when you know
you can’t hit half the notes
& the people around you
are gonna look at you
like your skin is purple
but you sing anyways & plenty loud
cause it feels so good
& it ain’t supposed to be pretty
Agnes Martin at Tate Modern
Jean Morris
Aubade: A Parallel Poem
Yuan Changming
You might have stayed up
All night, clicking at every link
To your daydream, searching
For a soulmate in the cyberspace
You might have enjoyed an early dose
Of original sin between sleep and wake
Before packing up all your seasonal greetings
With your luggage to catch the first plane
Or sitting up in meditation
With every sensory cell
Widely open to receive
Blue dews from nirvana
But you did not. Rather, you have just
Had another long fit of insomnia and
Now in this antlike moment, you are
Imagining a lucky morning glow
That is darting along the horizon
Big Shot Family
Paul Beckman
I’m a Big Shot. Not really now. Not any more. But once and for
a considerable amount of time I was. I liked being a Big Shot
and I especially enjoyed knowing that people thought that I
was a big shot but I never acted the part. The truth is that I’ve
always been rather shy and the second truth is that I forget
people’s names and faces. So, while they thought of me as a
big shot they also thought of me as being snobby which I was
anything but. I took to smiling and nodding at people and as
it turned out most were people I’d never met so the women
thought I was coming on to them and a lot of the men
thought the same. So I got another label.
What I didn’t need was another label ’cause I couldn’t live up
to the first one. I gave to a lot of charities and causes and
allowed myself to be photographed holding a five foot long
check along with someone from the organization smiling for
the camera knowing that it would be in the local paper. I
could just hear the readers saying “Look. Here’s Mr. Big Shot
I didn’t lose everything in the bankruptcy, but I lost a lot and it
was public and there were people that came up to me and
said, “So, Mr. Big Shot how does it feel to be one of us?” I
passed small groups or saw people glancing at me in local
restaurants and I knew what they were thinking and gossiping
I worked hard and made a business comeback but I couldn’t
give to every charity anymore so people who solicited me and
were turned down spread the word that I was too much of a
big shot to help their small causes. I finally came up with a
plan. Since I was a big shot in a town of fifteen thousand I
decided to move to a smaller town one of three thousand or
less and I have enough left over to be thought of as a big shot
My wife didn’t think that this was a good plan. She didn’t want
to leave her friends and comfortable surroundings. She said I
was making too much of nothing but then again she was
never thought of as a Big Shot so she couldn’t know and she
slowly began to sabotage me and my plans.
She joined the garden club and had her picture in the Local
planting flowers in the town park. There was another picture
when she became president of the Garden Club. She took on
a leading role in Meals on Wheels and then she became the
first woman volunteer fire fighter and the publicity was
enormous. Pictures and more pictures. She told me that
people said that I was too snobby to have my picture in the
Local anymore.
She led a group knitting hats for soldiers and spent half a day
a week at Hospice. She volunteered at the school library and
marched with other volunteers in the Fourth of July Parade.
The Local had her on the cover page as one of the towns
Citizens of the Year and did a full page story with nary a
mention of me.
Now we can’t move because my wife’s a Big Shot and she says
the town needs her. But let me tell you this; when I was a Big
Shot I was a Bigger Shot than she’ll ever be but I’m not
jealous, not at all-just invisible.
Jackie O’s Strange New Life
Elby Rogers
moving sale
Sheila Sondik
moving sale
we make a bunch
of new friends
Renovation (A Fragment)
Ben Meyerson
The town still smells of horses
long after. The dim sky senses moisture
with piqued nostrils, gathering
across lipped leaves in whorls,
perspiring. Bricks do not sweat out
the flesh that warmed them;
animal musk remains long past
the animal: rainwater canters and
snorts its way from cloud to
earth and back — gone and gone
then gone again, hooves steady
in their distance, like a patch of
road where there is always
an engine churning its flanks,
dim sky lathered and
heaving with steam.
a single cloud
Shloka Shankar
a single cloud
grazes over another
in an azure sky
the nothing and everything
of my moods
Howie Good
I have a memory of something that never happened.
And that isn’t even the best part.
“Hey mister!” a small, dark voice shouted,
because it was small and dark
and because anyone I would ever love
was clomping around upstairs.
Olivier Schopfer
masquerade ball
Archana Kapoor Nagpal
masquerade ball
under the makeup
my wrinkles
The Halloween Quintet
Judy Salz
Do you remember the sound of the violins during the shower
scene in Psycho? Two discordant notes, shrill and staccato,
repeatedly assaulted our ears, heightening the fear.
My nightgown and sheets are soaked with my acrid sweat as
the violins shriek in my mind. What is that shadow outside my
bedroom window? I squeeze my eyes shut, willing the specter
to be gone. When I peek, it has grown and changed shape,
waving grotesquely twisted arms, beckoning me closer. This
must be my punishment for too many cocktails at the
Halloween party last night.
A throaty moaning, deep and singsong and utterly alien
shatters the silence. I respond with a high pitched scream and
the thing modulates to match mine in a macabre synchrony.
The moaning takes on a pitch and rhythm unlike anything
earthly. Mournful. Plaintive. Lovesick? I suppress a giggle at
the thought, dissipating some of the terror.
My window is open a crack and a fresh wave of terror washes
over me. What if it comes in? Idiot, I tell myself. It’s an alien. It
goes through walls. I tentatively sing a short phrase from a
long forgotten song, mentally kicking myself for goading it on.
Its raspy voice repeats the snippet in a different key.
Curiosity begins to overcome my terror. I crawl toward the
window, low to the ground so it can’t see me, forgetting that it
can probably also see through walls. Still, it remains
motionless, non-threatening, apparently waiting for me. The
violins in my head and my rapid heartbeat continue to beat
together as a rapid trio, almost synchronously, but just off
enough to create a pattern. As I near the window, it picks up
the cadence and adds a rumble in counterpoint. Can it feel
my fear and fascination? We are now a quartet.
I stand by the window silently, seeing only a shadow, not
daring to seek its cause. The rumble continues. Is it waiting
for me to sing again? The theme from Alfred Hitchcock’s old
TV series leaps into my mind and I start humming it. Dum de
deedle de dum de dum, dum de deedle de dum de dum.
The creature steps forward, appearing in profile like the line
drawing of the old master of terror himself. It finishes the
theme with me, completing the quintet. The profile smiles,
then disintegrates before me, leaving only my empty
backyard and an echo fading away.
Boyhood Buoys (4): Frogmeat Sale
Yuan Changming
To earn a couple of yuan to buy some
Kerosene oil for our lamp in the house
I followed my neighbor, an older boy
To catch frogs in the middle of night
It was always a sure thing to do: whereEver we heard a frog sing, we would
Stealthily approach it, illuminate it
With torchlight, and pick it up with
All the ease we could enjoy. Sometimes
I did feel sorry for the frog: its eyes were
Shining bright under the summer stars
But why did it fail to escape from danger?
Early next morning, we would skin our catch
And went to the nearest town, shouting aloud
‘Fresh frog meat !’ like the frogs singing at the
Top of their voice, after dusk, in the rice fields
Mary McCarthy
And if I turn back
to the more familiar
places I was used to,
what will keep me
from getting lost again?
And if I fall
unable to find the small
ridges and crevices
that would let me cling
to this sheer rock,
will there be anything
left to pick up
and sew back together?
Up here my head spins,
and my nose bleeds;
the air is so thin
it’s work just breathing
and standing still.
But I will try and stay
here for you
as long as I can.
Maybe I’ll get used to it,
we are so close to heaven
and so far
from where we started.
Leah Browning
It’s been so long since it rained that she can’t register the
sound. Her first thought is that a plane is flying low over the
house, then that it’s traffic from the freeway. The world is
ending, she’s dreaming, it’s thunder. The sky dims. Low gray
clouds roll in. There’s a flicker of rain, silver veins slicing
through the air, and then the whole thing is over. She’s been
sitting at the table over the newspaper the entire time. The
clouds recede and the sun comes back out again. She
continues looking out the window. She still hasn’t told him.
The letter is still tucked into the bookshelf, waiting.
read-letter day
David Kelly
read-letter day
the cold, stone touch
of my coffee cup
Rachel Nix
The old dog sits close;
thunderstorms and nostalgia
have us held up
in the back of the house—
each seeking shelter
from our own fears.
spring breeze
Kala Ramesh
spring breeze
the saree slides down
her shoulder
the tightening
Debbie Strange
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco
My shoes
still smell like lake water,
humped like buried
by the front door.
On the boat we’d call
them shoal, those drowning
ragged teeth
jawing weakly
Now the lake has all gone
dry: forgotten
summers heaped like shells
along its edge. Broken
and bottles. Plastic
knives like thin flat
I walk for hours
to find
the inlet where
we swam, staining our fingers
with new berries
while the clouds
dissolved above us
like spent rain.
Year of Glass
Katie Gleason
When I was a teenager, my parents took us to Wisconsin.
There was a dock, we have a picture
of my grandmother before her funeral and the glassy-eyed
eating the remnants of youth.
My brother was shorter, and fat, and he sat in the boat next
to me.
Quiet and angry like a round fly.
I was tall and thin and hated my hair.
Fragile; white egg of adolescence.
I am a beekeeper of years.
I forget details
my grandmother’s face, her favorite shoes
how she sounded coming up the stairs
so many blue winters.
So many families like camels,
mothers retaining children. Nursing homes,
the clink of spoon in tea,
sugared donuts, a jewelry shop down the street.
Men pass in and out buying rings.
Women say yes, women say no.
We age and the lake forgets our names, if she ever
knew them.
Year of glass.
Kenneth Pobo
While out on the boat we see an eagle
sliding over still water, hunting fish.
She flies with grace and skill: daring, regal.
The Wisconsin morning lolls, almost fully open, water lilies yellowish.
While out on the boat we see an eagle
glide. Feathered lightning, she drops down to pull
up her late breakfast, a favorite dish.
She flies with grace and skill, daring, regal,
to the upper part of a pine, watchful—
a breeze stirs branches, some lazy reeds swish.
While out on the boat we see an eagle—
they had almost disappeared. We’re grateful
enough survived, their journey not finished.
She flies with grace and skill: daring, regal.
Love, you look so relaxed, it’s wonderful.
We had hoped to see raptors, got our wish.
While out on the boat we see an eagle—
she flies with grace and skill: daring, regal.
My Mother’s Voice
Mary Kendall
China Seagull
Jo Waterworth
The least of three seagulls, you, the flightless one, yearning
after your fellows, are the unlikeliest muse. But you have
I remember my delight at this gift – three in a box, delicate in
tissue – from my father. He understood me. We shared this
soaring love, floating on the stiff sea breeze.
Wings were broken in my clumsy adolescence. Three became
two, became one.
You were hidden away in dusty corners, in boxes or bags, out
of sight. So when did you emerge? How did I find you, where
have you been?
You perch on my windowsill, companion of stones, shells and
crystals, gazing at the sunrise, the full moon, the garden birds,
starling flocks. Survival brings its own contentment, you tell
me. You are always looking up.
across the open sea
–for Laura, in response to an admonition not to count the waves
sailing is not my profession
but i understand the metaphors
the talk of wind and waves
of safe harbors and clear skies
of trusting the captain who
has prepared and knows
every port along the way
but i am so long robbed
of the sight of land
of blossomed trees and
golden sand between my toes
that i cannot rest until
i see the captain’s charts
know at the very least
how far until next port
and something under my feet
not in constant motion
what good-hearted captain
would leave me swabbing a deck
deny me a glimpse at the maps
when one look in my eyes
one look into my soul
would tell him how close
how very close i have come
to losing hope on this
open sea
Nightswimmer’s Purgatorial
Todd Mercer
Not drowning in regrets, but he’s out too far,
where the rip-tide waylays him. He swallows
a lung-full. It proves easier to drift
even further lake-ward rather than swim in
to his clothes and keys. Go with the current,
he figures. He reaches an island’s beach strip,
it’s a couple acres, unpopulated. He spits
out the lake, then waits for morning light
to make an attempt at the mainland.
Strength can renew with a few hours’ rest.
He’ll try, if no boaters pass sooner.
There could be a search, if a beachcomber
stumbles on his shirt and shoes
by the high-line where the tide turns.
The Nightswimmer, weakened, winded,
doesn’t know how this will resolve,
but he isn’t drowning, yet.
Mountains Will Break Your Heart, If You Let Them
Trish Saunders
Go, little one, stake your tent in temple grass.
Tread ruthlessly on hominid bones
ground to powder eons ago,
fine as the cornsilk compacts
of your grandmothers.
Scrape your sandals on fragile flowers
that cover the lava fields,
smothering bones of the iiwi,
alala and o’o birds.
Their age is finished.
They know it.
Trample now, while you still have time.
Editor’s Note
Here at the end of the final issue for 2015—an anniversary
issue since it’s been a year since we went live—and since it’s
Thanksgiving week here in the US, I want to express my
gratitude and thanks to all who make Gnarled Oak such a joy.
So thank you to everyone who sends poems, stories, videos,
and artwork for consideration. The submissions queue here
at Gnarled Oak is so good I sometimes feel like my email is a
journal in and of itself, and a good one at that. I can’t publish
everything, of course, but everything is read and appreciated.
Thank you also to all of Gnarled Oak’s readers, especially those
who help promote and share the work that appears here.
This would be nothing without the support of Gnarled Oak’s
readers and the community that has grown up around this
journal. So thank you for reading and for sharing. Someday a
poem is going to go viral like a cat video; I just know it!
While we’re imagining that better world, maybe we can
imagine a world in which we stop blowing each other up. Can
poetry and artwork, stories and videos help bring that world
about? I don’t know. Some days it seems like it doesn’t make a
bit of difference. But maybe it does.
And so I’m thankful to all of you who share your words, ideas,
stories and visions with the rest of us. You make the world a
better place. You give hope, understanding, perspective,
insight. I believe that helps. I know it doesn’t hurt.
With gratitude and thanks,
James Brush, editor
Nov. 2015
Contributor Bios
Glen Armstrong edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters
and has three new chapbooks: Set List (Bitchin Kitsch), In Stone
and The Most Awkward Silence of All (both Cruel Garters Press).
His work has appeared in Conduit and Cloudbank.
Paul Beckman collects memories and punchboards. His new
flash story collection, Peek from Big Table Publishing came out
in Feb. 2015 weighing in at 65 stories and 117 pages.
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for
teens and pre-teens. Her third chapbook, In the Chair Museum,
was published by Dancing Girl Press, and her fourth is
forthcoming. Browning’s fiction and poetry have recently
appeared in Chagrin River Review, Fiction Southeast, Toad, Mud
Season Review, Glassworks Magazine, and with audio and video
recordings in The Poetry Storehouse. In addition to writing,
Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her
personal website is located at
Yuan Changming, 8-time Pushcart nominee and author of 5
chapbooks, grew up in rural China, became an ESL student at
19, and published monographs on translation before moving
to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry
Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry
appearing in Best Canadian Poetry (2009,12,14), BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1089 others across
37 countries.
A native of Oregon, Katie Gleason lives in Arizona with her
husband and two rescued greyhounds. She is a graduate of
Portland State University. She has been a social worker for
ten years, and she is a student of The Writers Studio.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is
the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Dark Specks in
a Blue Sky from Another New Calligraphy.
Ehizogie Iyeomoan is a Nigerian boy who loves to write
poems in lower case letters. His ‘beaded words’ have
appeared in many literary journals, anthologies; both print
and electronic. His debut poetry collection, Flames of the Forest
was published in April 2015 and is available on
Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @fulanibuoy.
Herb Kauderer is a retired Teamster who grew up to be an
associate professor of English at Hilbert College. His most
recent chapbook of poetry The Book of Answers is currently a
nominee for the Elgin Award.
David Kelly lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. He started
writing haiku in 2007 and has been learning more about the
spirit of Japanese short forms ever since. He has been
published in a number of print and online journals.
Mary Kendall can often be found in her Chapel Hill, North
Carolina garden, tending plants, feeding birds, watching
dragonflies and playing with her dog. She meditates and
writes there as well. Mary is the author of Erasing the
Doubt (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and blogs at A Poet in Time.
j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and
nurse practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the difficulty
and joy of human interactions, sometimes drawing
inspiration from his decades of experience in healthcare.
When he is not writing, composing, or diagnosing, he is likely
on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near
his home in California.
Mary McCarthy grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, studied art and
literature but spent most of her working life as a Registered
Nurse. She has always been a writer. She has great hopes for
the future despite the horrors reported endlessly in the daily
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California’s Central
Valley. She spends much of her time staring at the sky, which
is almost incessantly beautiful.
Todd Mercer, a middle-brow writer, won the Grand Rapids
Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Award for 2015. His digital
chapbook Life-wish Maintenance appeared at Right Hand
Pointing. Recent poetry and fiction appear in Eunoia Review,
Kentucky Review, The Legendary, Literary Orphans, Lost Coast
Review and Softblow Journal.
Ben Meyerson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in
journals such as Epignosis Quarterly and The Inflectionist Review.
He has a chapbook coming out in 2016 with The Alfred
Gustav Press entitled In A Past Life.
Jean Morris lives in London, UK, where she edits, writes,
translates from French and Spanish, and takes photos, some
of which appeared in Issue 3.
Archana Kapoor Nagpal is an internationally published
author of books including 14 Pearls of Inspiration, The Road to a
Positive Life, The Fragrance of a Beautiful Life, A Pinch of Love, Peace
and Humanity, New Love: Anthology of Short Stories and The 12
Facets of a Crystal. Please visit her author page to learn more.
Rachel Nix is a native of Northwest Alabama. She likes coffee
in the morning and bourbon at night but rarely knows what
time it is otherwise. Her work has most recently appeared in
Words Dance, Melancholy Hyperbole, and Bop Dead City. Rachel is
the Poetry Editor at cahoodaloodaling and Associate Editor at
Pankhearst; more of her poetry can be found
Kenneth Pobo has a book forthcoming from Blue Light Press
called Bend Of Quiet. His recent work has been in: Weber: The
Contemporary West, Floating Bridge, The Queer South (anthology),
and elsewhere.
Neck deep in haiku, her face barely visible, Kala Ramesh, an
award winning poet has been instrumental in bringing school
kids and college youth into haiku. Her latest obsession: to
paint city walls with haiku, to weave a pause, a breather into
our hectic lives!
Brian Robertson has been writing haiku throughout the
years, years which have seen him spend time at a Buddhist
Monastery or two, write Little Blues Book illustrated by R.
Crumb and creating several albums of his original blues
music and more.
Elby Rogers is a native of New Castle, Delaware. He was
inspired to start creating art when he discovered the
drawings and paintings of the outsider artist, Gus Fink. Elby
was fascinated by Gus’ antique photograph paintings where
Gus would paint directly onto the surface of a tintype or
daguerreotype photograph. Elby loved the idea of subverting
something so quaint. He soon started creating his own
“subversive” paintings using digital photo manipulation.
Judy Salz, a semi-retired physician, is a native New Yorker
currently living in Las Vegas and enjoying the sunshine and
lack of slush. She has published a number of short stories in
the past year. “Mikey,” published in The Literary Nest in April
2015, won the fiction contest. She invites all interested to visit
her webpage,
Trish Saunders divides her time between Honolulu and
Seattle. Her poems have been published in Gnarled Oak, Silver
Birch Press, Off the Coast and Right Hand Pointing.
Olivier Schopfer lives in Geneva, Switzerland, the city with
the huge lake water fountain. He likes capturing the moment
in haiku and photography. His work has appeared in The Red
Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2014 as well as in
numerous online and print journals. He also writes articles in
French about etymology and everyday expressions at Olivier
Schopfer raconte les mots.
Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer from India. She loves
experimenting with all forms of the written word, and has
found her niche in Japanese short-forms and found poetry.
Her works have recently appeared in Silver Birch Press, Eunoia
Review, Oddball Magazine, Poetry WTF?!, Of/with and so on. She is
also the founding editor of the literary & arts journal, Sonic
Sheila Sondik is a printmaker and poet in Bellingham, WA. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies
and, in 2013, Egress Studio Press published her
chapbook, Fishing a Familiar Pond: Found Poetry from the
Yearling. Her website is
Debbie Strange is a published tanka and haiku poet and an
avid photographer. She enjoys creating haiga and tanshi
(small poem) art. You are invited to see more of her work on
Twitter @Debbie_Strange.
Jo Waterworth lives and writes in Glastonbury, UK, where
she is a mature student studying creative Writing and
Ceramics at Bath Spa University. She has been published
online and in print, most recently in the anthology 21 Reasons
for Choosing Jeremy Corbin, and has a pamphlet with Poetry
Space of Bristol. She blogs about her writing journey at