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I wouldn’t know how to transform this scene into a Grecian bacchanal if I tried. I think of Roman baths and then of Medieval London, streets overcome with fecal matter and drunks and the plague. I don’t want to talk about male camaraderie – too much has been said, and said again, and mythologized, and I just don’t care anymore about how much men love each other. Greece is a myth I’d like to visit, though I know I’ll never walk into its crystal waters. I’ll never pop out of a shell immaculately beautiful, like a newly formed pearl, like the birth of Venus, like a dream of death defied by immortal beauty. Beauty here is young and aggressive, popping out of too-short shorts and tank tops. I wish for a breeze surprising and welcome, occurring like a realization of love, a sudden sensation of gratitude for everything terrible and wonderful that has ever happened to you. I don’t fancy myself prude, but I can see that something has been lost under all this fluorescent lighting, though so much more is being shown. Nakedness has become a precursor to examination. I overhear a man complain about his wife to bond with another man. I see a woman look forlorn at the space in front of her. She is widowed from the other shoppers, the space around her, her own feelings. I see young girls, unafraid and giggling, and I am afraid for them. They want to announce their presence, pass around the intoxicating vibrancy of their youth. I was one once, before harassment, before violation, before loss. I know they’ll be followed and hollered at, told to smile (because pretty things should never look sad). If they never leave this town, the only truth they’ll feel is the hungry look of an older man’s stare along their frame, like a rough hand against a delicate face; like a rough hand advancing on their thighs, unwelcome; like a rough hand grabbing for pearls, hoping for profit; like a rough hand gathering oyster shells and smashing them into sand.

– Rachel Samanie holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BA in English from UC Berkeley. She has been published in The Georgetown Review and listed as the single Honorable Mention for the Carol Kyle Award and Robert J. and Katharine Carr Graduate Poetry Prize.

Rock skipping
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The first stone must be thrown
and it’s up to me, to you.

You can’t retweet
what’s never been said.

Off key is a key, and that’s better
than none. The first daughter

is not the seventh son.
But we learn dancing on pins

to reach high— like every moment
should be touchdown, and every

verb should be examine. Everyone
is ripple and skip. Every ripple is good.

This time, be the plunk we look to,
and ask after. Go ahead, skip.

– Xan L. Roberti is the winner of the 2014 New South Poetry Contest and runner up in the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest. She received her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in journals such as Beloit Poetry Journal; Off Channel; Goodfoot; No, Dear; and Constellation Magazine. Her memoir, Portable Housing, was nominated for the Walter Sindlinger Award at Columbia University Teachers College.

Listen to the Poem

Soaping dishes in the kitchen sink, watching
light and wind filter through the stained-
glass chimes you hung out on the porch,
I think about the quiet smallness of the moments

in which I love you best: the lulls, the Sunday
afternoons that stretch like yawns. You’re out there,
in our yard, past the porch’s bowed railing and crooked
steps, determined to teach wisteria how to grow

around the railing now, though the whole thing needs
fixing, and I can see you—your shoulders
growing redder in the warm, bright spring as you dip
below my sight to run thin, green wires

around the tendrils and the wood. Our best days
are the days like this: the ones in which you buy asparagus
from a plaid-shirted farmer and manage not to overcook it,
or when I find earthy beer on sale and we drink

on that sagging porch while the stars come out. We spend
our weekends away from cubicles and break-room coffees—
instead, stripping printed wallpaper from the kitchen; staining
cabinets a brighter, cheerier brown; sketching how we think

these rooms should be. Sometimes you draw a cradle
in the one beside ours—the room I fill with bookshelves—
and cock your head when I thumb it to a smudge.

You pull weeds in our yard. I air the rooms that still smell
dry and sour, like ancient linen and the lives of others.
We hammer and scrape, fit tongue in groove for new floorings,
write brief notes on painters’ tape. Behind you, I can see

the willow’s base has thickened from our kitchen window;
its thin branches wave like hair. How frequent our small moments.
We are so often going nowhere together, in this house
we are trying to rebuild ourselves, under rafter beams
you have planed with your own hands. I ask that you

remember the cradle we once bought, the one I chopped
to kindling when I lost her. I would not stop
crying, and you brought me the willow sapling—said
it would always weep so that I wouldn’t feel I had to.

– Liz Purvis considers herself to be a native of the South at large, if it’ll have her, and is a graduate student completing an MFA in Poetry at NC State University. Her work has been published in Colonnades, Decades Review, Outrageous Fortune!, and Boston Poetry Magazine.

The Last Words of My American History Teacher
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Now he sees lights when he coughs,
whether or not his eyes are open.
When he gets thirsty, he asks us
for a Molotov, asks if we’ll put some milk
on the floor for Ally McBeal. She meows
at our feet as we search for bowls, her ribs
striping her fur, and in the background,
he’s quizzing the coat rack about Pilgrims.

The day nurse counts his pulse, tells us
he’s been at it all day: grading the newspaper,
mumbling about John Brown’s raid. He asks us
to pull down the maps and point out Bulgaria.
He wants to bask in its shades of blue.
But in his house, the only maps are in books,
so we pull down the shades and shift into smiles.

He used to sing Hey Jude and Disney songs
in the hallways, his shirt a little disheveled,
his fingers powdered with chalk. We begged him
to stop, said we’d study harder for exams,
memorize The Gettysburg Address
if only he’d keep himself from singing.

Now his records are scattered on the floor
with the cat’s toys. The plants are all dying.
He talks about Columbus and cleaning products,
game shows and D-Day. He talks about
Gerald Ford falling down the stairs.

The night nurse comes at eight. We tell her
he’s been at it all day: coughs like fireworks,
attempts at geography comedy. She nods,
counts his pulse, then shuffles off to the bathroom.

We look out the window, note the color of the sky.
We say it’s getting late. We say we should
let him go. He stares at us, blanketed and small.

Calling for Ally McBeal, his voice splinters in his mouth.
Still staring and staring, he says: Don’t forget the Cold War,

don’t forget that time I broke the chalk.

– Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, as well as literature at Central Connecticut State University. Her most recent publications are forthcoming in literary journals Blast Furnace, Tinderbox, Hartskill Review, and Toad.

Listen to the Poem

I watched him in the apple orchard
walking towards me in our thirty-sixth
year of marriage, seeing him between
the rows, the signs marked Mac, Fuji,
Delicious, there among the fruit, the apples
suspended and fallen, the smell of apples,
the red and golden orbs, sun in our eyes,
the air crisp, the ground still under our feet.

– Lin Nelson Benedek lives in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles with her husband and son. She works as a marriage and family therapist and is a student in the MFA program at Pacific University. Benedek has had her poems published online at Postcard Memoirs, Flutter Poetry Journal, Chaparral and Grey Sparrow.