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Last Photo with my Mother

It’s all there: the path through the Audubon Sanctuary,
me standing next to my mother, the light of late afternoon.
It is autumn and the path is full of yellow beech leaves.
We stand close together, her shoulder against my arm,
but we do not hold each other, just the slight leaning in.

How alike we are: neatly built, straight-spined, those long Irish cheeks.
And the genuine smiles. We, who often look hunted in photos,
are happy in golden October, the leaves deep on the path.
We both look directly into the camera, which is held by my beloved.
My mother once said to me, in quiet admiration, “She is so honest.
I can’t imagine her ever telling a lie.”

If I was as honest, I would say this photo does not tell the entire story.
But another part of me, equally honest, says, once again, it’s all there:
the path, the autumn woods, the warmth of her shoulder against my arm.

– Dawn Paul teaches writing at Montserrat College of Art. She is the author of two novels, The Country of Loneliness and Still River. Her poetry has been published most recently in the Naugatuck River Review and Redheaded Stepchild. She is also a frequent performer on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour.

Listen to the Poem
Self Pity and the Super Ego

On the other hand, there’s no going back,
nothing to return to, in fact, except
for your memory. We all know of your
tendencies, your seeming to recall just
what made you sad, not the blue sky above
without any cloud at all for contrast.
Like everyone else, you learned there were few
rhymes for ‘love.’ Instead of inventing a
new language, you blamed what we speak for not
having the right words. Look at that man, I
said. He is missing a leg from a war
you didn’t even watch, in a country
you couldn’t find on the map, stuck in your
own neighborhood of sorrow. I’ll show you
tragedy, I said, opening up that
box I have with the native ear inside,
a gift from my departing uncle, who
no longer remembered his mementoes
were mixed in with his awards or surely
would have removed the incriminating
details. How would you like to feel so soiled
cleansing by water or fire is hopeless,
so stained beneath the metaphorical
shirt you never remove no one sees you
naked, even when you are making love

– Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Monkeybicycle, Bluestem, Per Contra, Bellingham Review, Prick of the Spindle, Rhino, Cortland Review, and Digital Americana, among others.  Turning Inside Out (2010) is available from Black Lawrence Press.

Remember Lot’s Wife

I didn’t understand why god,
a roar of sand and fire, would pause
annihilation for her—

the woman who slowed down and turned
to look a little, for a second, just
the time it took to see her daughters,
her house in the distance, the planter pots
flush with fire, like begonias, her stoop
a tumble of stones and ragged space
reclaimed—to make the gazer salt.

Then my own life shifted, just enough
to know the fear of clinging hard
to someone’s hand, the breathlessness
of legs pumping, the dizziness of dusk
ahead and running, running, forward.

I read somewhere that humans can’t
close their eyes and judge how far
they move. The blind can judge, of course,
but not those who can see where
they’re headed. Without the where,
the distance grows. It stretches. It rolls
out like a long gray carpet, a road,
the blade of a narrow knife, a vein
stripped. It’s moving forward to

a stitch in the side, exhaustion, thirst
for water, for the cup to drink
from: the one with almond blossoms
in relief, bowl body, handle big
enough for three fingers; the one
the potter sold for a week’s shopping
money; the one chic coffee steamed

out of, the one guests gushed about
on bunco nights while looking forward
to a bell, nibblets, a bed
that dips just right, to dawn with things
to do, to the cup again a globe
of coffee, cream, the clay reminder
of promises in glossy paint

against the palms like fingers curved
to squeeze despite its painful warmth;
the one that comforts more than bones,
which tug ahead, ahead to night.

– Ana Garza G’z has an M. F. A. from California State University, Fresno. Forty-seven of her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, with one forthcoming in Word Gathering. She works as a community interpreter and translator in central California.

Listen to the Poem
the beauty of snails

is something worth thinking about as the billboard demanded of me, “Celebrate
Beauty Every Day” but they were just trying to sell new carpet and hardwood
floors and I am thinking about snails and how they build their shells in fluid spiral
and how some are huge creeping things and how others just tiny yellow dots in the
wrack line and I am also thinking of the mermaid’s purse I found, tiny black skates
already escaped to begin their celebrations and how they remind me of birds or
beech leaves or bubbled glass on old windows in old New Hampshire farm houses
or the warm blue waters of the Caribbean or the lines of a poem that doesn’t know
how to travel from despair to joy in a dignified and compassionate fashion or even
the notes of a saxophone wriggling free in some club or some high school band
room or maybe making a pass at that guy so obviously gay or maybe the elongated
tendrils of my cat’s whiskers flexing to every gulp of food or dead mouse or may
be even reminding me of the fluid paths of the snails tracing through the sand
as the tide hurries out, wandering from ripple to ripple, grain to grain, on their way
back to the ocean.

– Janet Barry is a musician and poet with works in numerous publications including Off-the-Coast, Cider Press Review, Canary, Adventus, Edge, and New Mirage Journal. She serves yearly as a judge for Poetry Out Loud and has received several Pushcart nominations. Janet holds degrees in organ performance and poetry.