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Whiteout, October 2016

Listen to the Poem

This poem is for tomorrow
when America will again offer
me a slippery sense of calm in
exchange for a promise to forget.

Tomorrow is a cloth covered in chloroform
easing its hand over my mouth. Tomorrow is
amnesia: I know something
was making me so terribly angry, yesterday.

Every morning tomorrow whispers:
Calm down. The cops won’t shoot
your white body in the street. Your son.
Your sister. Your lover will still be
with you tomorrow. We promise you this.

With every evening comes
the blunt ache of being had.

– Anna Lee-Popham’s writing is deeply informed by the political contexts of home: recently, Atlanta; currently, Toronto. Anna is completing a creative writing certificate at the University of Toronto and writes poetry to make sense of the world.

 

Into Your Singular Room

Soft around your shoulders like a shawl
you draw me

and I come

unready, up-ended, to attend
my new calling and you, no matter how

bewildered.

I bring your meager groceries.
Hand you your cane.

Have I thanked you

for your blood which formed me,
for your milk and your wounds

which furnished me?

And is it prayer – this space we inhabit
that is larger than ourselves and

beyond words?

Afternoons of curled photos.
Laughter thinned by time

and apprehension. The patient

search for things discarded or misplaced
(a shoe, a name, our affection).

Love letters.

This is mine to you. You draw me
near but not into your final privacy

where I rest my hand on your days.

– Marg Walker lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she pursues her abiding interest in the human voice through poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has recently appeared in Red Wolf Journal, Wilderness House Review, By&By, Page & Spine, and is forthcoming in The Stray Branch.

 

Garden

“These are begonias,” she said
leaning on her knee
polyester
damp with mud
from the morning rain.
She took a pair of scissors
traced fingers
along the length of the stem
and snipped.
Held it
to the tip of her nose,
smiled,
held it out to me.
I toddled
unsure steps
of someone still new
to the world,
wrinkled petals
in my clumsy fist,
then watched them
scatter
like an exhale
across the lawn.

– Jessica Alverson has worked and studied as a behavior analyst but has been a poet and writer for most of her life.  She has published poems in Nourishment for the Spirit: A Collection of Poems and Short Reflections and Live Poets Society of NJ American: High School Poets Regional Winners Winter 2000.

 

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Anthem

I am raising my voice to shout back to the censors.
I am raising my voice which has been a whisper too long.

I am raising my voice to be a bridgespan across darkness.
I am raising my voice as a homing signal for the lost.

I am raising my voice to untangle craven confusion.
I am raising my voice like a snowdrop in the spring.

I am raising my voice to honor bleeding bodies, battered heads.
I am raising my voice to find a way to walk on alligators.

I am raising my voice to draw a line in the sand – not here. Not again.
I am raising my voice to sing ancestral songs.

I am raising my voice as a note in a long symphony of sisterhood.
I am raising my voice to dance like a moth seeking light.

I am raising my voice to pierce the toxic bubbles of the greedy.
I am raising my voice to pillory the soulless gluttony of the few.

I am raising my voice to pillow the agony of the homeless.
I am raising my voice to recognize the gods in the street.

I am raising my voice.
I am raising my voice.

I am raising my voice for wrens who locate crumbs in trash and teach me persistence.
I am raising my voice to warn the children it is their turn to fight.

I am raising my voice with voices unseen and unexpected.
I am offering my voice as a pyre and a beacon
and a dream.

– Catherine McGuire has 3 decades of poetry in publications such as New Verse News, FutureCycle, Portland Lights, Fireweed, and on a bus for Poetry In Motion. She has four chapbooks: Palimpsests (Uttered Chaos) and three self-published, a full-length book of poetry, Elegy for the 21st Century (FutureCycle Press), and the upcoming deindustrial science fiction novel Lifeline (Founders House Publishing, 2017).

 

Camp Good-Wishes

Bald children, hollow-eyed —
catheters sprout from sunken chests —
fashion boats of driftwood,
frigates, freighters, tugboats, yachts,
to launch ablaze with candlelight,
hopes of health and wishes,
safe return to camp.

When I was ten, I, too, launched
Dreamboats here,
a shining fleet all sailing on the tide.

Perhaps, my own boat
reached some distant port
candles burning bravely still
for I watch these Dreamboats
heavy with their fragile loads
sail gently into summer’s night
with prayers for answered hope.

On the Welsh Coast

Near Llanelli, just off a little road,
on the slim path down to the cove,
dawn arrives lonely in this wilderness
and the mist settles here

in a thin valley of long grass.
A herd of wild ponies huddles together,
tans, browns, whites and spotted grays,
they watch as I pass under the moon.

Above them on the hill a ruined castle,
its crenellated walls crumbling with age.
A stone falls while I pause to wonder
at the lives of ancestors living here.

The waves lash the cliffs below,
and the sky begins to lighten.
The birds have not begun to sing.
Only the horses and I here at sunrise,

I and the ghosts of defenders,
sentries on the ramparts
eyeing the sea for Viking ships,
marauders who would sack their home

leaving behind the dead and wounded
in the rubble of the dream of safety.
Yet, this day, I remember the longbows,
their arrows and deadly vision,

strong hands and heavy grip, their spirit
unquenchable. They breathe in me,
as I stride toward the cove
unvanquished, unconquered.

I will gather up the light of morning.
and hold it in my arms.

– Francine E. Walls lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has also enjoyed living in Wales and Botswana. Her poems appear in the book, Writing Across Cultures: A Handbook on Writing Poetry and Lyrical Prose, and magazines such as Pontoon, Arnazella, PoetsWest Literary Journal, and others.

 

Because I Had To

She wanted me to know her profoundly. Wade in the water.

A sea of open and buried treasure, my mother
stood in herself like waves. Composed herself.

Wrote index cards full of feelings.
Hundreds from one year during her divorce.
Grouped by theme. Anger. Inadequacy. Depression. Acceptance.
Regret. Happiness. Love. God. Roaming like zebras through an endless savanna.

I had someone else tear them to pieces. Shred them like a predator.
My inheritance so craggy, a series of mountains. I heard them howl.

– Nina Bannett’s poetry has appeared in Open Minds Quarterly, The Bellevue Literary Review, and CALYX. She has published a chapbook, Lithium Witness, and a full-length collection, These Acts of Water. She is Professor of English and department chairperson at New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

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Noodle Day at the Senior Swim Center

Silver-haired mermaids eagerly wait all week
while, each morning, their arthritic hands lift
and lower water-weights, legs with new knees
jump imaginary barrels
and every heart muscle braces
for the water-running session.

But on Fridays—Noodle Day, they
mount styrofoam seahorses,
stampede wildly across vast expanses,
ford rushing rivers and frolic girl-like
in Southern California surf.

And, during that weekly hour,
in the only slightly chlorinated salt-water pool,
qualms about plantar fasciitis,
forgotten keys and eyeglass cases,
complaining husbands and non-responsive kids,
slowly sink down through the blue,
to the bottom of the pool and rest.

– Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, retired educator and children’s book author, is a printmaker and poet. She is a member of Oregon Poetry Association and was 1st place award winner in their Spring 2014 contest. Rokoff-Lizut studied poetry through OSU, as well as at Sitka and Centrum. Previous publications include Illya’s Honey, The Bicycle Review, Wilderness House Review, The Penwood Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Verseweavers.

 

White Pine

We race for the swing, mornings,
as we wake. You reach first again.
By one pole I fall upon the grass,
encased in the thick wet. I watch
you face the pines, and climb on.
You pump, and from high on the bridge,
higher even than trees, the knots creak.
You hook one rope in your elbow
to pull out a splinter and then
pump and the rough ropes grandly
sweep you back again, and to,
and back and to again, for the grove.
As it comes, I yes. I yes the moment
you hurl your weight and wanting
toward its shine, knowing: in the soft needles
of scent that sift out all sunlight
you’ll be in the Cool Dark alone
again, and I alone will remain.
I hear them calling as I start up the path.

– Jacqueline Leigh is an ESL teacher who lives both in Michigan and Sierra Leone. In addition to writing poetry, she trains teachers to run ESL writing workshops and writes books for young readers. Her recent poems have appeared in The Ofi Press and Lost Tales from the Mountain.

 

There is Little Known of Peace

we look for it in
sodden sole-weathered feet

in hot shrill cicada mornings
and field-empty crow evenings

in the weather-worn salt of day
the punch prose weakness of night

tumbling hands as they
sway astride the body

grave frostbitten eyes
that remain shut

while the news of the world
carries on unknown

while the days of the world carry on

in pop-gun attitudes
the croak of an old cat’s meow

slam-shut screen doors at the
hands of hurried children

there are too few clean lines

we need each word of the day
slow and full in the mouth

– Sarah D’Stair has been published in Burningword and is the author of Roulettetown (Kuboa 2011) and Petrov Petrovich Is in Love (Kuboa 2016). She is currently a graduate student writing a dissertation on a subject of sublime importance.

 

Summer in the City

The slow tumble

of me

began long before

I walked along

tapering avenues

and perched myself at cafes

where my cold coffee was sweating more than me

I refused to fill the lacunas

with wilted compliments

or charred nostalgia

or something vascular

my shards were just that—mine.

a place to spring from

before I was this

Saturday of a woman

– Saumya Dave is a writer and psychiatrist in New York City. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, India Abroad, Open Beast, British Medical Journal, and others.

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Sunrise on a Back Porch in Pennsylvania

Bald Eagle Mountain is fringed with mist
hovering over the trees
like furrowed eyebrows,
wispy and white,
watching as morning yawns over the valley.
The back porch reverberates with the music
of wind chimes, blue jays, and a pick-up truck
roaring down Warrensville Road.
I sip cinnamon-scented coffee
perched on the porch swing,
listening to the caw-caw-caphony
of crows bickering in the pine trees
and the improbable crowing of a rooster
echoing over suburban rooftops
where only last year a cornfield swayed.
The empty coffee cup is still warm in my hand.
In the kitchen, the sound of slippered feet.
Soon the cracking of eggs.

– Gloria Heffernan’s work has appeared in over three dozen journals including Blood and Thunder, Chautauqua Literary Journal, The Columbia Review, Louisville Review, New York Times Metropolitan Diary, Stone Canoe, and Talking Writing. She teaches part-time at Le Moyne College and holds a Master’s Degree in English from New York University.

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The Woodworker’s First Attempt

She had tried once before to make a living thing
but it had not turned out well. She can’t even remember what it was,
but it became a special nightmare, her failure,
that consumed her day after day
so she could barely eat
barely saw the sun when it covered the mountains
with gold on those days when it didn’t rain,
when the fog settled beneath the trees
with a sigh, echoing her own sigh
as she lay in bed unable to get up or smile
not even when the shadow of a bird crossed the ceiling at 2 in the afternoon.

Now she thought she would try again, try to make a bird,
a living thing out of the living tree in her yard
that spoke of its desire to fly, just to the mountains
and back, but really to fly on its own
and then join with the earth and be done with earthly things.

– Penelope Weiss was born and raised in New York City and now lives in Vermont. In 2010, her collection of stories, Storiana, was published by Casa de Snapdragon Publishing.

 

AUGUST IN GEORGIA IS A PIGEON-PALE FIELD BLOOMING

1.

And here we are,
nestled between two haystacks—
needles with no want for thread.

Stars scar-white settle
onto our spines like dust
settles on a windowsill.

2.

Locusts swarm this time of year,
yet; we run wolf-wild through open fields.

3.

If my body were a map, would you pin me to your bed-
room wall? Mark red X’s where you’d want to explore?
(How about here, and here?)

4.

Stirrupless, the last star slips from the sky,
falls into the dirt. You brush it off, press it into my palm.
This is where we memorialize.

5.

The hours hang, heavy with owls.
The sky, a bruise, purples.

Still, your body goes: cornfield, cornfield,
cliff—
a farmland         forgotten,
feet loam-stained, yet taprooting.

– Sarah Escue is a poet, editor, and Florida native. She is an editor at The Adirondack Review and Saw Palm and has received fellowships from Writers in Paradise and Bucknell’s Seminar for Younger Poets. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Stream, Milk Journal, and elsewhere.

 

Chasing Zeno

On the road with you, I’m the witch of navigation.
Add a minute, subtract a mile. Presto—time
becomes distance, and here’s Tucson on a short stretch
of hours. But no magic, in my mothering.

This morning’s call reached Lisa’s roommate.
Sorry, she said, Didn’t keep her number.
Tower to tower, up the eastern seaboard,
I’m hunting our daughter’s voice.

According to Zeno’s paradox,
arrival is impossible. Before a traveler can reach,
that first half distance, she must pass
the quarter mark,

before that the eighth.
On and on, while years pass. Miles.
You, my love, would rather not hear about it.
You like the world framed by windshield,

the two of us moving
and enclosed. You promise
to drive me anywhere, as long
as it’s farther away. But once, a child in pig-tails

slipped from a tall stool
and danced to me across the kitchen floor,
dividing the distance
by half, by half, by another half

Witch Grass

I leave the kitchen door wide so I’ll hear
the baby cry. Tug a strand of witch grass,
and a dozen seedlings come with it. I want to walk

under the power lines, past the VFW,
the reservoir. This was my choice—
to root out the tangle of blackberry canes,

pace off a garden, string a fence.
Jane Eyre said, Reader, I married him, then
went silent. Last night he looked at the vacuum

marooned in the living room and asked,
What have you been doing?
All those folded onesies straining to spring open.

Reader, I married him and in the maternity ward,
tiny fingers gripping his thumb, he told me:
You did good, dear. Now every day he leaves—

two hours out. Two hours back.
And on the flyleaf of his daybook
in calligraphy—Dear God, Get Me Out of Here.

I tell him I’m afraid, and he thinks I mean
afraid of burglars.
Somewhere in Narragansett,

I would rent a second story room—
with shelves for books, with casement windows
letting in a clear, silky light. North light. Witches

were burned in Salem. One, convicted
for sending her spirits out on a fevered baby,
who lay sobbing for its mother.

– Gail C. DiMaggio watched her husband pursue his music in a world where no artist ever gives up a day gig but refuses to become discouraged. Her work’s appeared in Blue Lyra Review, Adanna, Antiphon, Allegro, and elsewhere.

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I Remember Saying

Don’t do that.
Don’t walk down the driveway
to your car without looking back.
Better yet, don’t open the front door
before you kiss me and don’t read
the new novel I just brought home
before I do. I hate that—you getting

ahead of me. So don’t
eat the last slice of apple pie
without sharing half, bite by bite, crumbs
in our laps. And please don’t slip into sleep
before I tell you how the bluejays
rocked the birdfeeder back and forth
while I wrote this and don’t let me fall asleep
before I feel the sheets ripple with your quiet laughter.

– Lisa Zimmerman’s poetry and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, The Florida Review, Natural Bridge, Gravel, Cave Wall, and Poet Lore, among other magazines. Her most recent poetry collections are The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press) and Snack Size: Poems (Mello Press). She is an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado.

 

Mystery upon Mystery
For my sister Gale

But no, it is simple.
You and I stand at the corner of Willow and Morgan,
looking up at a street light’s yellow globe.

Inside it, the flakes falling toward earth look different
than snow falling everywhere else in the neighborhood.

I am eight, you are twelve.
We’ve walked in deepening lavender for blocks and blocks,
trying to decide which house is decorated best for Christmas.

I can’t see your face,
but I think that like me
you are almost perfectly happy.

Your body is now ashes,
yet we are standing on that corner.
Snow settles on your satin-fine hair.

– Francine Marie Tolf has published two poetry collections as well as a memoir and five chapbooks. Her essays and poems have been published widely in journals including Water-Stone, Poetry East, Under the Sun, Christian Century, and Contrary Magazine.  Francine lives and works in Minneapolis. Her latest book is a collection of essays, Joliet in My Blood (Port Yonder Press, 2015).

 

In the Dark

When our grandson stands still,
you could mistake him for a tree.
Still growing at eighteen,
this slender trunked sapling
stands among us like Gulliver.

Once a month, he comes to garden.
I have taught him how to plant a tree:
digging the hole in the shape of a cross for the roots to grow.
He laughs when I marvel at how he swings a mattock,
slicing through the soil as if it was butter.

He was still a baby when you died and we sold the farm.
He has no memories of the place.
I’m not sure if he is the world’s kindest boy but when he visits,
he asks me questions about the land, the river and the trees,
knowing that in my mind, I still live there.

In a day, he has planted, weeded and pruned this city block
and I take the afternoon tea tray up to the house
where, from the picture window, I watch him rake and tidy
for soon his love will arrive.

I make sure they don’t see me; I stand back a little in the shadows of the room
to watch her clamber up his back like a bear cub.

He walks around with her like that, gathering the tools to put away as they talk,
but the time will come when he stops,
sliding her around to the front of his hips, to kiss her.

With her legs still wrapped around his waist, her cheek against his chest, he saunters up the steps.
She drops to the ground outside my door to say their farewells.

When they have gone, I sit in the dark with two whiskies,
although I have to help you with yours.

Some nights I go back to our farm.
I start at the beginning, at the white gate at the top of the road,
gliding down to where the gap in the trees frames the waiting valley, always lucerne green.
I hear the soft hymn of the tree lined river and imagine, low above the water,
the Azure Kingfishers flashing upstream.
I graze over it all, past our sun warmed house on the rise above the river flats,
right to the edge, to where the farm ends and the forest remains.

But every night I go back to you.
Lying beside you,
trailing your contours,
your mouth sweeping mine.
Every night, I go back to feeling the depths and lengths of you.

– S.E. Street’s fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has been published in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. She is recipient of The Dymocks Short Story Prize for fiction, the 2014 Hunter Writers Award, and the 2014 SCWC HARP award for poetry.

 

enouement

darling, younger darling with a heart purer than hailstorms, lovelier than the manes of galloping palominos, hindquarters glistening with sweat, eyes bright and eager to get going – we made it. that skirt you wore, the one with silhouettes of fragile birds and brown feathers, you won’t ever forget it, but you do miss it, miss the way it reminded you of grandma, her handmade things and peppermints, how a few of them probably spilled on the pavement that night, how the plastic wrappers only reflected pools of light beneath streetlights, not the pain of your rasping throat or the cool feeling of sweat trickling down your sides like melting icicles. remember that winter only lasts for a season. I wish I could tell you how to listen to the constellations, which were there long before the culture that perpetuated violations of traffic tickets, migration patterns, and bodies.

– Kelsey May’s work has recently appeared in The Maine Review, Mouse Tales Press, and Paste Magazine and is forthcoming in Barking Sycamores and Pine Hills Review. Her work has also received numerous awards including a nomination for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She loves wearing overalls and ice skating.

 

December

You broke a bale and scattered August on

the frozen stable boards. December sagged,

her arching tail switched steadily at dawn.

We waited, talked of heifers, fogged and flagged

the conversation cleverly around

a frigid barn. December didn’t care,

she raised her head, was bearing down,

preoccupied with something in the air.

She pushed until we saw two hoofs appear;

the long gestation ruptured, braved the chill

and steaming, slipped into the atmosphere.

December stood and letting down her milk,

wasted streams of warmth around her feet.

We watched until our silence stretched like hands

through polar fronts and taciturn cool sheets.

The moon fell down, the newborn tried to stand,

but vapor veiled our faces as we laughed

together at December’s wobbly calf.

– Lea Markuson has spent most of her life living and working in remote areas of the Northwestern U.S.  She writes formal and free verse poems and is passionate about poetry and nature and how they both reflect our existence.

 

ICE STORM
Listen to the Poem

Nothing changes but the words.
And even the words
reappear, argument
after argument –

Rain on the roof
pings into sleet, freezes
into silence.
We are jolted awake
by the sound of trees
exploding.

In the morning,
it is as if Midas had wished
for the gift of crystal. Every
detail of the world – leaf,
twig, bit of rusted metal
is encased, inviolate and
glittering, secret and
exposed. Our argument
could be preserved
forever. But somehow – perhaps
the burden becomes too heavy
to bear, perhaps the heart begins
to thaw– somehow,
all the gods of Olympus let
go, and we do not know
or care whether it is a wedding
or a barroom brawl that sends
their wineglasses crashing
down.

Drunk
with freedom, we walk
through inches of shattered
ice, the forms of our
thoughts suddenly
irrelevant, in this world all
broken and
made new.

– Winner of the 1977 Radcliffe Poetry Prize, Eve Kodiak (aka Deborah Polikoff) has published poetry in various journals including Madison Review, Radcliffe Quarterly, and Annapurna. A consultant for the A Room of Her Own (AROHO) 2015 Women Writer’s Retreat, she is currently working on a journal of sonnets.

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A LONG-AGO ENCOUNTER WITH A
MAN WHO I JUST FOUND OUT BY
INTERNET HAS BEEN DEAD SINCE
2006

Listen to the Poem

I liked the way the butter melted on the rolls. “Oh
Come Let Us Adore Him” with choral backing piped
through the speakers. Christmas lights sparkled over
the bar and a lighted Christmas tree decorated one of
the docks. The deserted rides at Cedar Point had
lights, too, and they twinkled in the distance. Later,
we went for a stroll because it was warm for the
season. Everything had an echo, the sea gulls’
laughter, their wings beating low over the tranquil
water, a dog, far away, barking at its own bark.

– Theresa Williams’s poems and stories have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, Hunger Mountain, Gargoyle, The Sun, and other magazines. Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes, was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize.

 

To the Child We Never Wanted
Listen to the Poem

When we met,
we knew we did not want you.
I lacked both the emptiness
and the room
necessary for you.
He lacked the feel of a father
and the patience
someone like you would require.

When we married,
we married late,
and we knew we did not need you.
We had work to do and places to travel
and people to finish becoming. There was no space
for your rattles and rocking.

And yet we named you.
In long car rides. On Sunday afternoons.
Family names, like William and Nora and Ann.
Names we liked—Inara and Micah and Cecilia.
Names for people your not-yet mom loved: Langston and Lillian and Zora.
Those names dwindled and disappeared
becoming the pudgy fingers
and pleading cries of our friends’ children.
No matter, we thought,
because still, we did not need you.

It was June
three years later—
hot, hazy, and languid–
when we realized
the spare room
in the house we bought
never would work as an office.
Perhaps, we thought, it was your room,
full of sunlight and shade, love and luster.
An idea of you was born—
small and secret and surprising.
(Your eyes would be blue. You would be left-handed.
You would have my love of reading and his love of adventure.)
So we opened the door,
called your name quietly,
and waited.

There are names for the syndromes and symptoms
that will keep you forever out of reach,
But those names are neither William nor Nora, not Micah nor Zora.

You are the child we never wanted.
And we are calling your name softly,
full of the emptiness and the room, the fatherliness and the feeling.
But no amount of patience will bring you forth.
Oh, sweet, soft, silly child we never wanted:
We miss you.

– Meredith Malburne-Wade is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Gettysburg College where she teaches composition and literature. She holds a PhD in 20th-Century American Literature from UNC Chapel Hill. New to the realm of writing and publishing poetry, she is nonetheless a devoted lover of the written word.

 

Shacondage

I no longer remember the true name of the Blue Ridge.
My blood memory

sinks when I hear you say “They eat people here.”
You tear at the I.V.
You taste chocolate pudding from the spoon I hold up
to your beard stubbled but two-year-old’s grin.

and I smile when I say
You cannot know this yet, but in just one month
you will write two words on the scratch pad
I hold steady. Your words will be “mom” and “scared.”

And by spring, you will feel sweat dripping
from your temples
as you concentrate, trying so hard to grasp
that single cat-eye marble with your toes
and lift its terrible weight just one inch above the floor.

But I will tell you again that the stones we are chosen to lift
are only the old bones of the ancestors, who whisper
tendons of strength.

Even now, each word I speak calcifies
talus, tibia, femur, mandible, ribs.

– Eliza Kelley is an Associate Professor at The Sage Colleges in New York. Eliza’s published research, writing, and art appears in national and international venues. Her book, Taming the Butterfly, will be published by Cawing Crow Press in November 2015.

 

Suhareka, in August

Five Albanian kids in their underwear
stand in front of a blow up swimming pool.
Green, pried opened walnut fruits
are piled on the table in front of me.
All the nuts had been dug out and eaten.
Adults speak rapidly in Kosovar-Albanian.
I follow for a while and then get lost.

A bee has found its way into a forgotten cup of Sola fruit punch.
I watch as it nears the juice, not as cautious as it should be,
quickly siphoning the sweet liquid.
It can’t possibly be anything but good.
The bee slips into the juice,
at first not realizing
that it won’t be able to get back out.
It bathes itself and rolls over,
abdomen turned toward the sky, wings soaked.
There is no going back now.
The realization comes slowly and then the bee is frantic,
backstroking in circles,
slowly sinking lower each time.
Round and round and round it goes,
drowning in the sweetness.

My name is called, and I turn my head.
One of the children races by, bumping the table as he passes.
The cup falls over.
The juice and the bee spill out.
Someone is speaking to me, but I am distracted
by a half-drowned bee
crawling through the grass.

– Elizabeth Endara grew up in Lilburn, Georgia and received a Bachelor’s in English from Georgia State University in Atlanta. She now makes her home in Suhareke, Kosovo where she teaches English and Ballet.

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TRICK-OR-TREATING AT THE MAPLEWOOD MALL
Listen to the Poem

Yesterday at the bar I heard a woman ask a man,
“but what do you remember from third grade?”
I didn’t catch his answer but on my bike ride home
I passed a couple standing next to a parked car
in an embrace.
They didn’t move as I passed.
Sometimes I think I want to be alone
but what I really want is for everyone I don’t know
to move closer.
I want to hear what every stranger in the bar remembers
from third grade.
My lunch box was Mickey Mouse,
my backpack was Casper the Ghost,
and my winter coat was red.
I wrote a report on tree frogs
and puked on my board at the class BINGO party.
Then my little sister was born.
My father stood at the top of the stairs with a video camera
the size of a box of Lucky Charms
on his shoulder.
We were watching Jurassic Park in the basement
and then there was a tiny dinosaur on my lap.
It was funny.
I had wanted a doll
so I could tuck her yellow hair behind her ear
and whisper, I promise to love you forever
but she looked like she had just discarded a prehistoric egg
and though I was the one who knew how to love dolls
my mother seemed to know better
what to do with her.
I watched her nurse for the first time
and it was the most ordinary thing.
Her hunting mouth,
her latching on.
She was so certain that this was what she needed
and she was certain of so very little.
Now when I admire a stranger’s baby
I jerk away when I see the white slip of breast.
I don’t mean to—
it is nothing like the homeless man
peeing on the sidewalk in the midday sun
but that is what I think of.
Pretend to act normal.
Pretend to act normal.
Pretend to act normal.
I could turn and ask him,
“what do you remember from third grade?”
and listen
but instead I keep walking.

– Rebecca Yates studied at the University of Minnesota and the University of Iceland. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is a freelance writer and the program assistant for Late Night Debut, a podcast dedicated to first books.

 

Smoking
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She smoked all the time.
She was after some wave of blue sea,
some ribbon of flowers,
some childhood afternoon
with the oven open, an orange October,
her own mother placing warm cookies
on a plate in the kitchen.

Outside the window crimson colors,
and suddenly she was out there
dancing in lightness,
a leaf, whirling, amazing.

She smoked all the time
through my grade school years:
some television show,
some voice in the background.

Once I stood in the doorway
watched her smoke a Marlboro
right down to her fingers.

My beautiful mother
caught in
a swirl
of smoke rings, my mother
a wheel of changing color
in a clouded kaleidoscope.

She invited me to take
a drag of her cigarette.
It was moist with lipstick.
On my small mouth.
Such breath.
A mountain climber exhaling
at 15,000 feet.
A hot air balloon lifting
from a cut cropped field
waiting, waiting for
the burner to ignite.

– Gina Forberg is a recent graduate of the Manhattanville MFA program. She teaches poetry for The Connecticut Writers’ Project at Fairfield University and has published poems in numerous literary journals including The New Delta Review, Anderbo Magazine, and Slant Magazine.

 

ALUM COVE
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I’ve been looking for you everywhere,
but there is always too much space and not enough shadow.
So yesterday, when I entered the cave and sat on the boulder
of smooth sandstone, I found myself weeping
with relief:  it was you, your bones,
where I am home again.  Walls had been gouged
and hollowed by your blood.  The air was cool, away from time
and sun.  I could breathe your voice, I was inside
your chest, looking out
at early spring—redbuds
and dogwood just intimating
once again, with last season’s dead leaves
floating slowly, hanging in mid-air,
rusted butterflies.

– Some of Joy Dworkin’s poems have appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Paris Review, and Many Mountains Moving.  A mom, a student of mbira dzaVadzimu, and a long-time admirer of Marina Tsvetayeva and Anna Akhmatova, she teaches world literature at Missouri Southern State University.

 

After Building A Stage

All afternoon they test the sound.
Huge syllables of mwohs and hwans
Burst in clouds across the square.
I listen on the balcony as if
I really need to know –
But the words are moans.

Maybe the young men in shorts
Are playing the game we played
Underwater in a pool,
Guessing what each other mouths –
Abstract things like art or purple
Now just elongated vowels.

When we hear the music later,
None of us decipher the lyrics.
With wine and age,
We’ve also lost our nouns.
We dance anyway –
Seven floors up, above the crowd.

– Emily Buchanan is a publisher and writer who grew up in the U.S., studied South African literature in college, and eventually moved to South Africa.

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At Arm’s length
For my niece, Oliviah

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You remember watching your two year old daughter flounder in a pit of foam during gymnastics. She looks like you feel. She grimaces with struggle and grunts with fight. She is so unaware of your arm reaching out to her. Or is that focus—determination? Her body wiggles tactfully; displacing her weight amongst the jagged foam squares. The same movement she made in the bath tub months earlier as a mermaid in rough seas. Was that her practice? Was that her preparation for this pit? Her chest heaves onto the platform, chubby legs kicking foamy edges for better leverage. She crawls to a stand. Her victory is equal to yours. She pursues balance without hesitation. Removed from the scene, is that grimace now a smile? Weren’t those grunts really giggles? You couldn’t get close enough to tell and she was too unaware to fail.

– Victoria Lozano is a lecturer at Appalachian State University, teaching 2nd and 3rd years the beauty and empowerment of rhetoric. From poems to news articles, she has been published in the Carolina Forest Chronicle, Archarios, PaniK: Candid Stories of Life Altering Experiences Surrounding Pregnancy, and her blog “Why We Teach College.”

 

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

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The day started out blue & white,
like a tile. And I was happy with the spoon ring, resting
on a layer of dried lavender which made me think of
the Bement farmstead, cedar smoke, a hot
glowing horseshoe.
When I went back to the museum, I was really
going back to that house, to the yellow sparks
spreading like pollen.
In the statuary I was
a statue in the kitchen, in
an apron, standing near the blackened hearth,
the beehive oven,
eyebrows drawn together like the hinge
of a half-open door and on the other side
someone was playing a harpsichord.
And that was all it took: we were back where we started.
There was still a little color
left in us. We were an Egyptian procession, a little ochre
still on the granite wall. And silver was the rarest thing:
what the hearth god’s bones
were made of.

WAITING FOR THEIR ARRIVAL

On the table, the paper cups. And the tablecloth. The blue tablecloth. The blue tablecloth and the blue sweater she was wearing. The blue window. Somewhere the sound of a car radio. It was April and the smell of old snow and new earth. Like we had cut out frozen squares of lawn and just turned them over.

The story is – we were new at pretending. The cups I turned over on the table and their sound, like pulling a plug. Like yanking a core of bluegreen ice from a glacier. Like tapping a sugar maple. I didn’t think anything. I just turned them over.

And somewhere the sound of old snow dropping from the gutter. In my gut something turning over.  A shovelful of earth.

The blue tablecloth, a fistful of burlap.

The paper cups, a row of tin pails.

– Katie Hogan recently completed her MFA in Poetry at the University of New Hampshire, where she studied with Charles Simic, David Rivard, and Mekeel McBride. Hogan’s poems have appeared in Ragazine, Pure Francis, The Light Ekphrastic, and CRATE Magazine.

 

The Pieta is Featured on Yet Another Website for Bereaved Moms

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There’s Mary again, Mother of God, holding the dead
Christ, her grief agleam and bowed beauty intact.

The way her raiment gathers so delicately
over her forehead is enough to make me doubt.

Some of us identify with another Mary, mother
of dead Willie and dead Tad, with her hysterics and wild hair.

Even Abe called her Mother, until the day he was murdered
in the theater. Now she’s a mother with whom to wail.

I summon her like she called her dead, and together
we’ll buy hundreds of hats that we’ll stack in unused rooms.

We’ll interview mediums until we find one who can shake
the table and whip the ether into stiff peaks.

We’ll bid on armoires and buy ball gowns. We’ll hold
one another. We’ll laugh and keen with the same screech.

Mary Todd, I love your rough chapped cheeks, upended
brilliance, and the way you kept your pain stripped and shaking.

The lustrous Mary’s son was back from the dead before her mind
had time to untwine itself. Oh Mary Todd, our kids stayed dead.

You are my pieta, wailing for Willie, for Abe and for Tad,
you, hot-faced on the floor, in the crumpled pile of your stiff dress.

– Sue Reed Crouse was selected for a 2-year poetry apprenticeship at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her work, largely elegiac in nature after suffering the death of her 20 year-old daughter, appears in Grey Sparrow, Aurorean (showcase poet), Earth’s Daughters, Talking Stick (honorable mention) & Verse Wisconsin.

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Planters at Dusk

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In rice fields, rows of inverted U-shaped shadows rise one by one, stretch arms, straighten backs, twist waists, first left, then right and left again, like graceful ballerinas.

Stiff from planting and patting rice saplings, the women look at the sky, now gray-blue. Chased by breeze, scarves of cotton candy clouds sweep sari palloos into balloons. They turn to each other, burst into chatter, the long day’s silence shattered.

Slowly, they walk to dryer land, wipe their feet, break out in twos and threes, set out for home, looking back ─ one long last look as shadows drown their day’s work.

Still, work’s not done. There’s rice to boil, lentils to spice, children to bathe, men to serve, and only when the pot is scraped, each warm ellipsoid grain eaten, dishes washed and beddings laid, will they stop and taste the starry night.

– Lalita Noronha is a widely published scientist, poet, writer, editor, and a two-time Pushcart nominee. Author of a short story collection, Where Monsoons Cry, and a poetry chapbook, Her Line Phyllo-thin, she has won the Maryland Literary fiction award twice, an Individual Artist Award, and other awards.

 

FORBEARANCE

When the morning is darkest
we are roused by the birds
in the plum tree. I pull him
from the bed, beg him accompany
me to watch the egrets wake
in the cypress from the mist-veiled
cliff. I want to teach him forbearance,
point to the flowers that have appeared
along the path to the cove—
new irises have broken through
the soil, having burst from winter
hiding. I picture him leaning over
a shallow pool at ebb tide to touch
a slimed blade of kelp, his earlier
stubbornness dispelled. I imagine
I would not feel victory. I’d have
been impassioned by the way he
delicately gathered a fingerling
in his palm to show me forgiveness.
He sees things for what they are,
and nothing more. I’d have given
my hands that he might recognize
humility standing beside the sea,
the enormity of it before him.

 

PULSE

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Eating blue mussels
from the perfect domes
of their shells, you twist
a slice of orange into
the foam of your beer.
We argue over the height
of the bridge above the
Noyo River. The water
is like concrete, you say.
I believe someone would
survive. As if I had yielded,
I sat silently regarding
a woman’s leap from
the Golden Gate, the
monstrous voice that
told her to jump. From
across the table, you
place your hand on mine.
I feel the wild coursing
of your pulse, the proof
of our lives in our hands.

– Bri Bruce is an editor, graphic designer, and publisher from Santa Cruz, California. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from UC Santa Cruz, her work has previously appeared in The Sun Magazine, The Soundings Review, and The Monterey Poetry Review, among others. Bruce is the award-winning author of The Weight of Snow.

 

My Name

means floating above water. It is the glint
of morning on the waves, its letters curved

fish hooks or sharp question marks.

It is not my grandmother’s name
and there is no story. At least it’s not

Anastasia with its billowing skirts of velvet.

I’m not princess of anything.
My name is blue ink, a sailor’s tattoo.

My name is a swallow crossing oceans.

It hugs the belly of a wooden ship, lashed
in place by thick ropes. It’s a name like Lilith

or Alice, a name like a rowboat dropped

from that ship. A new-territory name. My name
is a sweating bottle of champagne, smashed:

shards of glass meeting their reflections.

– Stacey Balkun received her MFA from Fresno State. Her work has appeared in Muzzle, THRUSH, Bodega, Weave, and others. She is a contributor for The California Journal of Women Writers. In 2013, she served as Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She lives in New Orleans.

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