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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.


Listen to the Poem

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.


Listen to the Poem

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.