Issue 30

“Wings of Desire” by Carla Ciuffo


Michelle Bitting | Erin Coughlin Hollowell | Heidi Seaborn | David Giannini | Molly Kirschner | Donora Shaw | Amanda Auchter | Loukia Borrell | Kathy Nelson | Polina Cosgrave | Shevaun Brannigan | Theresa Monteiro | Athena Kildegaard | Arikewusola Abdul Awal | Michael Mark | Michael Boccardo | Alison Stone | Sara Clancy | Lynn Pattison | Steven Winn | Mary Elder Jacobsen

Second Look – Yusef Komunyakaa


My Son Sleeps Off the Chemo

While Another City’s Under Siege

And I want to go back to the moment before.
The bombs fell. To glass on shelves rattling dust.
I want to go back to children with hands
raised and clasped in a singing game, in a circle
like a bell with laughter sparking light as it orbits
a yard or a body or a cupboard or a building’s spontaneous
tomb. The violin darkens then rises as smoke. I want
the just before, the younger ones in pink and chartreuse
leggings, in striped and daisied jerseys, tilting their faces
to the complicated moons of older girls beaming
back at them, to heads circled in silk and signaling
worry, the spade of memory already driven deep into
a sky of graves where the aim is true as blood speeding
through linked fingers or my child’s flesh-made hands.
Or a song humming along a warm mouth one minute
then not. As when the sky’s indigo rivers mimic skin,
disappearing inside two palms touching at a place where
the fortune teller peers, tracking lines like tilled maps
of human stars. Where is the angel to predict what a path
might take? I want to go back to the moment before
the bomb fell. When you told me about shadows, about
baby clusters like new fern heads in your chest, ready to
unfurl, the cells dividing, poised to drop. And after,
what it would come to, the chemical gold, the toxic terror
we’d deploy to stop them. How it’s here that everything goes
murky, goes to boiling black eclipse. And I keep wondering
where the arms are for wrapping time, for keeping death
swaddled tight. A stillborn thing to be flung from high
and far off where no wings, no singing, no teeming innocent
life could ever be expected—could ever be left—to break its fall.


Michelle Bitting is the author of five poetry collections, including Nightmares & Miracles, winner of the Wilder Prize and named a Kirkus Reviews Best of Indie. Her forthcoming chapbook is Dummy Ventriloquist. She teaches Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


These questions that bind


This is what I want to tell you, the world
is made of infinite snapshots from infinite
angles. Doesn’t everyone want to kill
themselves at least once in their lives?

On Wednesday, fog hid the mountains
except for a gap through which I could
see a glacier, propane-flame blue in bright
sunlight. When I was a girl, suburbia was

haunted with small pockets of woodland
and stories of teenage boys who would
tie girls to trees and do what? That part
of the haunted house was left out. A friend

of mine went through with it. Took his own life
and left us all telling our different stories.
In the fog, the colors of flowers become
so much brighter. It has to do with contrast.

Vivid purple and yellow pansies against
the dark soil. I used to ride my bike
to the woods and try to find frogs. I’d hide
if I heard voices, but I never heard voices.

Curiosity is something you inherit, don’t
you think? Or maybe little kids who grow
up someplace safe can afford curiosity.
When I was older, I hoarded pills and made

plans. I’d show him that I was worth
mourning. You can eat pansies. They’re
spicy. I always wanted people to be nice
to me even though I hated myself. Even

though everything I did was a kind of begging.
From the outside, a person can look like
one thing and inside, from a different angle,
be the kind of person who would save you

even if it meant them dying. Maybe there weren’t
any frogs in the woods. A bruise can look
like a pansy in the right light. Can just breathing be
curious? The glacier is curious. Blue and still and curious.


Erin Coughlin Hollowell is a poet living at the end of the road in Alaska. She is the author of Pause, Traveler (2013), Every Atom (2018), and Corvus and Crater from Salmon Poetry (2023). She is the executive director of Storyknife Writers Retreat and director of the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference.



~in conversation with T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

1          Skagit Valley

Just before Marysville along the eastern shoulder of I-5—
a rusted dying-leaf landscape from a brush fire—
I am listening to a poet talk about refining fires—
the way Eliot thought about them—
purifying cauldron, the torching of our dross, all those sins—
It’s been the hottest summer on earth—
a warehouse, Harley dealership, a 24-Hour Fitness are untouched by the fire—
This I think as I drive north, the poet’s stern voice on the radio—
her poems burning like a smoke signal, but no one listens—
not even me, really. My mind meanders. A protective gesture—
It feels like the first day of fall, a crisp edge at dawn and dusk—
I am tired of brightly lit days. Weary from the harvest of grim statistics—
Here the road penetrates corn fields before winding through forest—
And what you thought you came for/is only a shell, a husk of meaning wrote Eliot—
This end that is not the end. To keep driving—
the drone of poetry keeping me from being alone—
It’s been seven years since I hiked to the fire lookout near Twisp—
Seven fire seasons. I imagined living out a summer—
watching over the rippling North Cascades, watching—
the sediment of light, the sky pressing against the land, watching whence the smoke arose—
In Twisp, there’s a small museum dedicated to smoke jumpers—
ash on an old man’s sleeve. From my house, I watch the Olympics for signs—
a horizon muddled by day, ablaze at dusk. This morning there was fog—
lifting off the tousled bed of earth. Where am I driving to—
what am I driving from? You came to kneel. To believe—
feverish with it. And there, amongst the blur of forest, a fiery red maple—
I pull over. Cut the engine. Fall onto the maple’s knuckled roots—

2          In the Garden

It is spider season. Morning sun strums web filaments—
the spider waits at its center. What is worthy of such patience—
my speed dial hunger satiated. The poet speaks of attention and brevity—
of curtailed language. Some days I hear only the loop of my own voice—
caught in the throat of a long day. Where is the bird to urge me on—
The garden stilled between summer and fall. Just the fern, and leaves—
clutching red delphinium branches. Caught in the form of limitation—
I look out into the silence. I look out from the silence—
The news this morning as yesterday as tomorrow—
Isn’t this what Eliot meant—
when he wrote, not here the darkness in this twittering world?—
So, I go into the garden, limber beneath the web—
its wolf spider undisturbed. Yet a crow angers the bush. I will pull out the dying—
rake the raised beds. Listening to a podcast with another poet—
the hours composting—

3           Puget Sound

On the move again, this time by paddle, the sea is all about us—
I had hoped to go earlier, before the afternoon breezes trouble—
its surface. What will I take from this journey?—
A line of scarlet anemones, the knowledge of octopus. How short life is—
I know that’s not the conclusion Eliot crusades—
From the sea, my life on land looks tender and small—
In Chinese paintings, humans appear as mites in a natural landscape—
the “I” uncentered. This year, the jellyfish are numerous—
a bloom of jellyfish, a smack of jellyfish—
In the Compendium of Collective Nouns, there is no term for humans—
though a multiplying of husbands might do the trick—
Abundance recenters the “I”, ayes, eyes, I,I,I,I,I,I,I, ayyyyy—
So ravenous our species. Speeding until the end—
In the forest, I worship the first tree to turn toward death, the tolling bell—
Here on the sea, I venerate the living. You came to kneel—
before a turmoil of porpoises, before—

4           Feverish

After the sea temperatures rise over 100 degrees Fahrenheit—
After the key deer, goliath grouper, sea turtles, staghorn and elkhorn coral—
this I hear on the radio driving home from the Thrift Way—
Does absence consume space? Grief swells and interrupts—
late roses filled with early snow. My mother tells me about a time shop—
clocks, watches, any timepiece can be set right again—
But the pace clicks up a notch, I feel the world panting—
as another day/prepares for heat and silence. But what’s there—
at the end that is not the end? The billionaires ready their spacecraft—
There are only so many exits. When Maui incinerated, when—
the Atlas Mountains quaked, when the thrust of hurricane Idalia, when rivers rose—
over Emilia-Romagna, Libya, Hong Kong, and creatures of the summer heat—
And I can’t outrun the news. It hardens into the landscape—
like volcanic magma surfacing into oxygen. Is anyone listening to the frenzy—
of poets except other poets? Did I mention the lookout near Twisp —
was long abandoned. And how every season—a wildfire. What good does it do to kneel—
before that destructive fire? To write the sins as if wringing the oil from a rag—
before flicking the flame? Am I not praying—
for a beginning while flecked with ashes from the end?


Heidi Seaborn is Executive Editor of The Adroit Journal and winner of The Missouri Review Editors Prize in Poetry. She’s authored three award-winning books/chapbooks of poetry. Her recent work has appeared in Agni, Blackbird, Copper Nickel, diode, Financial Times, Penn Review, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. Heidi holds an MFA from NYU.


Dark Gray

In total darkness, a purplish-red
light-sensitive pigment in retinas
remains abuzz as the optic nerves
make us see dark gray.

In early light, daydreams want us
to go outside and play with bikes
in canyons. In my early years, those
perceptions were my companions:

the dark, the dreams, then things growing
up, down, and around: came more color,
forms, sounds, and a friend or two
with conscience never vacant,

telling that they also envisioned
more than shadows from nascent
nerves and dreams. We still believe
each other again and again. We sense

and believe all the outside world
wants to become more real, enhanced
by dreams, that dark gray is the test
of an optic being intent

on spreading itself further. It wants us
to know what’s real skips through
the playground of belief,
swinging and bouncing, facing

bullies and teachers, wind-tossed
rain arriving at the merry-go-round,
the smallest sound a roar to silence,
a cricket’s black thunder to the moss.


David Giannini’s recent books are Already Long Ago and The Dawn of Nothing Important (each published by Dos Madres Press.) He was twice nominated for The National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. He received a 2021 Finalist Award from The North American Poetry Review. His work appears in national and international magazines and anthologies.



Outshined by its reflection in a necklace
the sun punishes us with its absence.
The water is depthless with fog, it hovers
like the unspoken:
spiders begging to be women again,
Hades placing a basket of grain in his bed
when Persephone has gone.
The grain doesn’t want him either.
I am not convinced
the cold feels nothing when it swarms my face,
that the afternoon night sees nothing
when it forces its way in,
that the gods aren’t high on prayer,
that they won’t mourn me
when I’m not here to do their grieving.


Molly Kirschner is a poet, playwright, performer, and teacher. Kirschner’s poems have appeared in journals including The Southern Review, The New Ohio Review, and One Magazine. Her new manuscript was a finalist for the 2021 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry.



for Hilary; after David Lynch


Death itself: no art
in it. To love my sister-in-law,
somehow tender in her coarseness—gold glitter in a camper trailer, hard drinks with whispers of coconut,
listen—when I tell you air is a gift, listen, and kiss the hands of difficult women. What I couldn’t give her,
what stays: the wax mask
of waiting, the frog-moth that comes
tapping at even my own
daughter’s window as she sleeps, seeking breath, listen, an
echo from another world.


Donora Shaw (née Hillard) is the author of the poetry book Jeff Bridges (with illustrations by Goodloe Byron; Cobalt Press, 2016) and several other books and chapbooks of poetry and theory. Her work has been recognized by the Poetry Foundation, Poets House, and The Pushcart Prize and appears in Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton & Company), Pedagogy, Women in Clothes (Penguin Random House), and other anthologies and journals. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children.


What Savior

My mother covers the hole in the wall
with a painting of Jesus. At night,

I slip out of bed to take him
down, turn the savior

toward the wall. The hole is face high,
jagged. Fist-sized. I collect plaster

chips in my hand like breadcrumbs.
My mother used to tell me to offer it up,

to turn my skinned knees and heartbreaks
into prayer. What dialog do I make

out of dust? A tooth? A fingernail?
A swipe of hair on the floor? What

God will make beauty from the silence
of my lips? I drop crumbs behind me.

I close the door.


Amanda Auchter is the author of The Wishing Tomb, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry and the Perugia Press Book Award, and The Glass Crib, winner of the Zone 3 Press First Book Award for Poetry. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, HuffPost, CNN, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, The Massachusetts Review, and the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day project, among others. She lives in Houston, Texas.


I Had a Wonderful Time, Didn’t I?

Before, it felt like a good idea.
I wanted a man. I found a man.
I left home showered and shaved.
The mouth, mound, and breasts, ready.

My mother paced in her room.
Even during the layover in Texas,
she made one final, desperate call.

Just put her on another plane.
Don’t take her to your place.

He was firm with her.
She felt all his teeth.

I will send her home.
I will teach her first.
She will learn a man.

I did not return as I left.
I came back differently.
At the dinner table, I could
not look at my father and mother.
I sat near a phone that never rang.

Each day, she threw mail on the
kitchen table, silently spreading out
the envelopes. Nothing for me.

I turned into a pile of dull ashes
and died of thirst and hunger,
of recklessness and harm, so I
poured my incinerated body
into an urn, and settled on a shelf
in my childhood home, the Hunter’s
Moon a new suitor illuminating my shame.


Loukia Borrell is a proud first-generation American whose poetry and essays have been published in literary journals in the United States and United Kingdom. She was born in Toledo, Ohio, to Greek-Cypriot immigrants and was raised in Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a journalism concentration, from Elon University and is a former print reporter.


My Mother Tried to Teach Me

to love the piano. Beside her, on the bench,
I played in the small eddies along the banks
of her river. I played beside her in the small
eddies along her river, her hands flowing
across the keyboard. She tried to teach me
the daily scales of her childhood, half an hour
before school, another half hour before dinner.
The daily scales of her childhood a torment,
a devotion. My feet swung under the bench.
I sat beside her, my feet swinging, a kind
of metronome.  I tried to love the notes, black
ants flattened, captive, impaled on lines across
the page. How could I know—at seven, at ten,
the piano was her safe place. On the page,
the flat black ants where she focused her grim
attention. I played in the small eddies along
the banks of her river. Along the banks of her
river, in the eddies, I pecked at the twelve notes
of my attention. Impaled black ants flattened
across the page. She tried to teach me to love—
not the notes. Repetition she loved, its passing
resemblance to safety. She wanted me safe.


Kathy Nelson, James Dickey Prize winner, MFA graduate of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, and Nevada Arts Council Fellow, is author of The Ledger of Mistakes (Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist). Her work appears in About Place, New Ohio Review, Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.



so natural
I can’t remember
having ever been denied a voice,

so feral
I stop doubting I’m alive,

necessary as
the next bottle on a messy table
in the army barracks,

your touch.

instead of the noise,
the news,
the numbers’ pollution,


in admiring another
sentient being.

it appears, an anxious arrow
with my name on it,
set to your tensed silhouette.

open your lips, please,
in there, my death is hidden,
afraid I’ll never turn up.


Polina Cosgrave is a bilingual writer/performer based in Dublin. Her work appeared on TV, radio, and in numerous anthologies and magazines, including The Stinging Fly, Crannóg, Southword, Banshee and The Irish Times. Polina’s second poetry collection ‘Cargo’ was published by The Gallery Press.


A History of Concussions Leaves a Mark on a Man

What’s the science behind being
struck by lightning, how one jagged bolt
renders a man susceptible to a second?

A string of concussions made his head
nearly fragile as an egg.
In the lofted bed I protect him

from wooden beams, bind my hands
around his crown. After sex,
we climb down.

Over time, a head takes a beating,
becomes vulnerable to touch.
When we first met, I couldn’t say

sorry enough. I apologized in my sleep
for sleeping, worried that I’d
displeased him. He patted my arm,

I drifted off again. What’s the harm
in being gentle
with the other. When he,

this is true, whispers—I cherish you—
in my ear, the softness of my body
makes sense.


Shevaun Brannigan’s work appear in such journals as Best New Poets, AGNI, Slice, and Bat City Review. She is a recipient of a Barbara J. Deming Fund grant, and holds an MFA from Bennington College. In 2022, she was selected for the Giacomo Leopardi Scholarship to attend The Leopardi Writing Conference in Recanati, Italy.


Lazarus Explains to Dives That Harvest is a Noun and a Verb

He’ll give you the desires of your heart.
That is, he’ll show you what to crave—
but then you’re starving. Hunger,
like a ribboned stream of ice melt,
can be fooled—can feed on a vision
of a bike with a basket in a town forever
warm and green where ripe mangos are peeled
by people who don’t explain their dreams
or ask for change for their large bills.

Then you keep chasing what you
don’t want. Your longing’s rerouted
by the obtuse angle of a street curb
pointing down, funneling the water
toward a gutter where an advertisement
for dental plans gets suctioned to the grate
and the current skims over and flows past,
until the faces of the dentist and his happy
patient effervesce—lift off and away in bubbles
until (pale in a cool evening) they dry fibrous
and fragile. The October street-sweeper
driven by a sanitation worker too old
to lift barrels all day will whisk up what’s left
of the dentist, the cost of his smiles,
his stars from satisfied mouths.


Theresa Monteiro lives in New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including The American Journal of Poetry, Cutleaf, The Banyan Review, Lily Poetry Review, and Poetry South. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her book, Under This Roof, is forthcoming from Fernwood Press in 2024.


The Devil of It Is

The one student who knows
the story of Job
explains the difference
between devil and Satan.
I am happy for her knowledge,
and want to cheer, except
last week she brought Bob,
her lizard, to class, and she
wrote about how socially
inept she is and how she
has no friends, but still,
she’s here with us in Humanities
211, and hello,
another student wears
gold lamé pants on Friday
and two others, friends, pick up
their knitting when nothing
is required of them beyond
thinking—there’s something
magical about these young
people with their bleats
and blips, the one who
always comes late and the one
who flinches when I call
on him and the one whose
arm hangs limply at her side,
how much they carry with them,
complications and adjustments,
and in truth, I am happy for them all
not because they are here
instead of in a classroom
with my colleague who thinks
he’s god’s gift—though I am
happy they are here—
but because I am Miranda
dumbfounded by what
we are, all of us, any of us.


Athena Kildegaard’s sixth book of poetry, Prairie Midden (Tinderbox Editions), won the 2023 WILLA Literary Award in Poetry. Her poems have been set to music by many composers, and several poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She teaches at the University of Minnesota Morris.



In a dream, father is plucking stars
For me, and mother is kneading them
Into cookies. In the dream, I am
A firefly drowning itself inside light.
But I wake to a tremulous gloom.

What sifts the light from my body?
Is it the glut of stars I swallowed
That deflates me towards darkness?
Or an opening I walk into—a crashing
Alley bearing the keloids of my country’s
Injuries? Perhaps my body is a dolorifuge
In reverse; it quakes anytime I cradle a star.

Is it fate, or is it
That I consumed my father’s wounds?


Arikewusola Abdul Awal is a young poet from Nigeria. He is a student of English and Literary Studies at Federal University Oye-Ekiti. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Afritondo, Brittle Paper, Sprinng, Eunoia Review, Fleeting Daze magazine, and elsewhere. He enjoys looking at the full moon.


Schrödinger’s Dad

My father might be dead in the other room.
He hasn’t gotten the paper that comes at 4 am.
I can’t sleep, so I know. I can never sleep
on the pull out.
He’s not horror movie halt-stepping around the apartment,
murmuring a complaint/prayer marathon: hemorrhoids, Yankees’
hitting, too many medicines, robot calls, bad hearing, terrible hearing
aids, fatty pastrami, the slow VA, prices of everything, glaucoma, God,
doctors, neighbors, constipation, noise, people.

He could be sleeping, finally.
It’s so quiet, so quiet. Just the one sigh
from the Expressway.
The TV, that can be heard from the street—finally off.
Maybe he’s had or is having a stroke, can’t speak, call out.
I could go in there, see him gasping, witness
his last breath, helpless, failing him again, or see
him applying the Preparation H again—staining
my brain again, same as when I watch him
struggle to stand, teeter between before after
during every step, see him knocked down
by hurricane-force breezes, choke
on air, fight to walk, fight to dress. Everything’s a fight.
He might be dead in there. Who’s going to make me
a better person? He’ll come out any minute,
ask what I’m doing up. It’s possible
that right now I am fatherless. But if
I knock on the door—which he won’t hear
so I’ll have to peek—
I’ll have to see. He’s alive
in my mind but dead in his body right now.
That will happen for sure. Even then—
pulseless, breathless—still I will disbelieve. I will feel him
absolutely with me. This is no joke—this is life—
more here, between night and day,
more in his Queens apartment than any place in the world.


Michael Mark is the author of Visiting Her in Queens is More Enlightening than a Month in a Monastery in Tibet, which won the 2022 Rattle Chapbook Prize. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, 32Poems, and The Sun.


Lately, I Haven’t Been Living the Life That I Want

If you could, Nobody asks, what would it look like?
I picture mangoes in a bowl. Maybe birdsong.
Squares of sunlight. My shoulders, honeyed.
The hours a resurrection of fresh-cut grass.
Nobody smiles at my hands, Be gentle.
But each finger petrifies beneath a fist. I plead, How?
Listen. Everywhere, God is grieving. & we, their broken chorus.
Inside my house the windows arrive alone.
Rain falls dazed & I am ending, candescent.
My ripened face cupped with summer.
Each ankle bare, envious of the other.
When Nobody asks, What grace led you here?
I think about jeweled breezes.
A nest: its tender, red pulse ribbed with branches.
How migratory. How ephemeral.
My throat, feathered.
Every breath a ballad of wings.


Michael Boccardo’s poems appear in Kestrel, Iron Horse, The Southern Review, and Best New Poets, including Space Between Us: Poetry, Prose, and Art on HIV/AIDS and Southern Poetry Anthology, VII: NC. He’s a Pushcart nominee and finalist for the James Wright Poetry Award.



When young sun pinks the sky.
When birds begin.
When a woman and a man rise from the husk of passion.
When lips press tight to keep acid inside.
When blood doesn’t race.
When the vase cracks repeatedly but doesn’t shatter.
When daisy petals drop.
When she loves me not not not
repeats to the same rhythm as his heart.
Where once he would have sworn resided hope.
Where his boyself shot hoops and missed.
Where anger was served up with the pot roast.
Why in the middle does the hero arc back toward himself?
And why am I the duller friend, gold choker
to her vintage rhinestone crown?
Where tawdriness and dazzle marry.
When a woman morphs from Pretty
to Supporting Character and then
is banished to a nosebleed seat.
When mercy wears out.
Where prayer sounds a whole lot like lament.
Where rain falls on land too soaked with blood
to take it in.
Where, like pregnant women, seeded clouds swelled.
When the deluge begins.
When a different man and woman lie down
in a bed from which they’ll rise up spent and full of wonder
when money demands it
and will eat quick bites of toast
before walking separately toward buses
that cough smog clouds
toward pedestrians and poodles
joining the day’s machine.


Alison Stone has published eight full-length collections and three chapbooks, most recently To See What Rises (CW Books, 2023). She was awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. A licensed psychotherapist, she is also a visual artist and the creator of The Stone Tarot.


Patriarch: a Visitation

Two loaves of Jewish rye, sticky buns
in butcher paper and a flirty joke
to the woman counting the change.

We glide away like the block is yours,
as if you were still 19 and rolling your own.
Kids on the corner catcall and laugh

at the chutzpah it takes to drive a car
like that on a street like this. I crouch
down and turn up the Four Tops on

the radio but you snap it off and blast
your way through the four way stop.
Just think what we might have done

under your pirate flag, my grandfather
thief of sleep. You can still call out to kids
on the sidewalk and ask them “who won?”

change the spelling of the family name
so no one will connect you to the village
your parents left just in time. Tonight, though,

the vulgar ghost who visits you
is me, hair tied up in a leopard scarf,
fixing my lipstick in your dream

ride, your candy red Caddy.
Laughing. Singing to the radio.
Just gunning it.


Sara Clancy is a Philadelphia transplant to the Southwest. Her poems have been widely published and her chapbook, Ghost Logic, won the 2017 Turtle Island Quarterly Editors Choice Award. She lives in the desert with her husband, their dog, and a psychotic cross-eyed cat.


No Escape

When the sassafras leaf catches my eye it’s because it is splashy
with red and mitten shaped. I laugh at its bright hello-wave, from the thicket
of leaves I swish through and stop to pick it up. It could be a pocket map of Michigan,

the red marking where fall colors peak. But it’s blood-red,
and I think of what my state would look like under siege, target of rage
and slaughter, raids and bullets. Red splashed across highways and hospitals.

I think of bloodied lands, bodies—riddled walls. Swathes
of the world map stained crimson. Sassafras leaves are freshly fallen,
mostly yellow-tan, reaching up from the dry browns, the crumble—small hands

gesturing from under rubble. I let go of the leaf, it settles.
November smells of grief and guilt. The cold is moving in.
So lucky to be safe and far from conflict, food waiting for me, shelter.

Friends and family where they’re supposed to be, office,
dorm room, the grocery instead of bomb shelters or bread lines.
The first snow drifts down—gentle—the way I wish peace could descend

everywhere. Tiny increments—steady—insinuating
into lives, calming, accumulating. Smiles on the faces of children
who catch flakes of peace on their tongues and watch the sky for the promise

of more, and on their parents’ faces, who see it fall
on the shoulders of their neighbors, on the brows of soldiers
who have brought the hostages out from dark places. All eyes on the leaders—

will the peace dusting their shoulders be enough
to penetrate robes, uniforms, power suits? Melt into them?
Enough to dampen, to calm, to temper choices? I turn back. Snow coats

my map-leaf, mutes its color. Ferns look sugared, clumps fleck
spiderwebs like bits of wool caught on fencing. I walk the narrow path
between despair and hope. Dark lake water swallows snowflakes as they fall.


Michigan writer Lynn Pattison’s work has appeared in The Notre Dame Review, Pedestal, Moon City Review, Smartish Pace, and Ruminate, among others. Her latest collection, Matryoshka Houses (Kelsay Press) debuted in 2020. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for inclusion in Best Microfiction.


Color Fast

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours (1814), adapted by Patrick Syme

Darwin took his copy on the HMS Beagle voyage,
its tables ordering the tints of animal and vegetable—
a sea hare’s primrose yellow, the campanula purple
of a Canterbury Bell, cuttlefish: chestnut brown.

B.B.M. (Before Benjamin Moore), Nature authorized
the spectrum. Azure not just the color but meaning
of the sky, slate green the sea becalmed, a marigold
its many multi-golds, the otter’s black pearl sheen.

Now our halls and doors, nurseries and Adirondack chairs
insist on aspiration. Spring Thaw. Antique Glass.
Pining for You and Waterfall. We look again and want
them all, and none. Tucson Winds or Misty Blush?

Sprayed, brushed or rollered on, the worlds we try
to conjure on the color wheel open out and often
disappoint. Too dark. Insipid. Could they have mixed
it wrong? Check the can. Never mind. Nothing lasts.

As the Old Masters must have known, their ochres,
umbers, and lead whites unstable as the flesh they made
of them. See how the friar’s murky cheek is fissure-etched,
like the desert pan glared down by a burnt-sienna sun.


Steven Winn reviews music for Musical America, Opera, and San Francisco Classical Voice. His poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Cimarron Review, Kestrel, Raleigh Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Verse Daily and elsewhere. He conducts interviews for San Francisco City Arts & Lectures, heard on 130 public radio stations.


Stepping Back into Fred Chappell’s Writing Workshop

We had heard the silvery jingle of rhythmic keys
already halfway down the gleaming tiled hallway,
had heard a soft-soled shuffle, that daily beat,
growing fainter, and could tell once we arrived that
McIver’s custodian had just whistled his way
out of the classroom. He’d banged the dustbin empty
as a drum, swept the corners he knew by heart
broom clean, tuned the round-faced clock to set
it true to time, humming still, and constant
as the moon hung high above our heads.
He’d clapped the dust from old erasers and raised
the blinds but left behind some lines written by hand
in crisp white chalk across the blackboard wall,
another lesson overheard, relatable, believable—
To make of life a poem, listen, here’s the thing:
Let your broom do more than sweep. Make it sing.


Mary Elder Jacobsen is the author of the recently released Stonechat (Rootstock Publishing, 2024), her debut collection of poetry. Her poems have appeared in places such as Cold Mountain Review, One, The Greensboro Review, Poetry Daily, various anthologies, and elsewhere. A recipient of a Vermont Studio Center residency and other honors, she lives in Vermont.