Issue 29

Issue 29 cover

“RAQS” by Maria Riaz


Traci Brimhall | Rebecca Baggett | David Kirby | Tina Kelley | Laura Foley | Molly Kirschner | Hélène Cardona | Kathleen McGookey | Luke Johnson | Ma Yongbo | Lisa Higgs | Rebecca Ellis | Bethany W. Pope | Erin Murphy | Annette Sisson | Scott Frey | Judy Kronenfeld | David Graham | Ross Thompson | Gary Fincke | Hedy Habra

Second Look – Mosab Abu Toha


Someday I’ll Love Traci Brimhall

after Ocean Vuong / after Roger Reeves / after Frank O’Hara

I’ll boast ornament & scandal. I’ll blaze & gallop,
open the burning door with my vowels. I will
make love to myself in a yawn of light on a black
sand beach & even God will call it good. It will be

as intimate & embarrassing as kissing my wrists
in public when I want to thank my aching body.
Someday I’ll liberate my family tree with a chainsaw,
make a boat of its snarls & paint it red as elegy,

ride it right over the goddamn edge of yesterday.
I’ll crisis & satisfy & let myself cry with someone
watching. I’ll learn it the way I learned to love olives—
hesitantly & late in life. I’ll be fevered & even

sweet sometimes. I’ll obsess the shadows,
swell with myth. Flawed & propheting, I’ll strip
the metaphor to its laces, practice hickies
on my arm, bruise myself with the proof of it.

It will be ethical, this love. Its forgiveness will need
no blood but mine. I’ll stop reciting my mother’s
autopsy with its anaphora of unknowns. Unbutton
myself, let the shames scuttle out. Unclench,

heart. Beautiful heart that still has some of my
mother in it. That nocturnal knocking swathed
in good darkness. Some days I’m spurred &
baroque, but someday I’ll bumble like a bee

through trumpet vines & sympathetic ashes.
I’ve tried all of spring’s enthusiastic advice &
I’m nearly choosing it. Nearly swinging on ropes
of moonlight over the wild and darkening fire.


Traci Brimhall is the author of five collections of poetry, including the forthcoming Love Prodigal (Copper Canyon Press). She’s a professor at Kansas State University and the Poet Laureate of Kansas.



Someday you will love
more of the dead than the living.
You will shift closer and closer to the river
dividing the land that houses
your solid children from those shadows
they cannot yet see.  You break camp,
pare what you think you need
until you retain only a blanket,
a cook pot, a plate, a spoon,
a familiar earthen mug.

Across the water, you discern outlines
of a bustling city, glimpse a familiar form
drawing a curtain across a window,
another turning at the top of the gray stone wall.

Behind you, among the trees,
smoke drifts from the chimneys of houses
that hold the living you love so much,
the ones who come down to the riverbank
to beg you not to wander too far.


Rebecca Baggett is the author of the prize-winning collection, The Woman Who Lives Without Money (Regal House Publishing, 2022) and four chapbooks. Recent work appears in Asheville Poetry Review, Nimrod, Salvation South, The Southern Review, and The Sun. She lives with her husband, Elmer Clark, in Athens, GA.


You Can’t Go Through Life Quaking with Fear

At the playground where I do my pull-ups, I pick up
a math quiz on which some kid has scored 7 out of 55
and am immediately propelled through time and space
to the back seat of my parents’ car, the knapsack
between my knees containing just such a quiz

that I collected not two hours earlier in Mrs. Parham’s
fourth-grade math class, at which time I was certain
the ground would open and I would fall screaming
into hell. Yet here I am today, proud recipient
of a biweekly paycheck, homeowner, husband

to a woman who is beautiful in every way, father
to two excellent human beings, possessor of a late-model
automobile in good working order,
abject slave to a cat who does pretty much what she wants anyway,
so forth and so on, blah-blah, blah-blah-blah.

Why, then, do I quake with fear? You can’t go through life
quaking with fear. Thomas Hobbes was born
prematurely because his mother was so scared
of the approaching Spanish Armada that “she brought
forth twins,” said the philosopher, “myself and fear.”

Oh, well. As long as she got over it. Okay, let’s take
a look at the Spanish Armada and see if Mrs. Hobbes
had anything to worry about. It says in Wikipedia that
the Armada sailed north in late May 1588 but didn’t
do so great once they got to the English Channel

because Philip II of Spain had appointed as commander
his worst possible choice, one Alonso Pérez de Guzmán
y de Zúñiga-Sotomayor, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia,
an aristocrat without naval experience—
that plus the weather was lousy, the English had ships

that were faster and more maneuverable, and they
also had fireships, or ships that were filled with
combustibles and steered toward or allowed
to drift into enemy vessels. Whoo! Can you imagine
dozing on the foredeck one otherwise uneventful

evening and waking to see one of those babies
coming toward you? ¡Caramba! ¡Estan locos,
estos ingleses! You’d give birth, too, and not
to Thomas Hobbes, either, but to a pantsful
of the stuff that appears when something scares

the shit out of you. What a mess! And aboard
a ship not exactly equipped with what the English today
call “mod cons,” or “modern conveniences,” such
as a washer-dryer combo. The English: they’re so silly!
So practical, too. They can abbreviate anything,

as when they refer to spaghetti Bolognese as “spag bol,
as in, “I’ll make a spag bol tonight—why don’t you bring
a bottle of Key-auntie?” What are some other mod cons?
Well, there’s the dorm refrigerator. Our friend Michael
was sitting on one of those at a party recently when he said

Do I know how to jump-start a relationship or what?
to a bunch of us, having just confided that he’d met
a presentable miss at another party just a week earlier
and, in order to make the biggest impression
possible, had bought two tickets to Paris the next day,

one of which would be hers. Or what is what I’m thinking,
a reaction shared by the others who were standing
around that refrigerator that evening and whose well-founded
apprehension about the outcome of Michael’s
strategy is confirmed a month later, as it turns out,

at yet another party when he tells us that, once in
the City of Light, his would-be sweetheart
repelled his every advance and instead did what
every newcomer to that city has ever done:
instead of throwing herself around with abandon

in some dimly-lit Parisian hotel room and performing
the same hi- or lo-jinks you could perform
in Spokane or Poughkeepsie, she went to the Louvre,
rode the métro, ate croissants and drank little cups
of bitter coffee at one sidewalk café after another. Oh, well.

Michael was right, in a way: as Otter says
in Animal House, certain situations absolutely
require a really futile and stupid gesture.
Isn’t that what love’s all about? Let’s say you’re
drinking your fourth beer and eyeing the snacks

the other party-goers have brought, 90% of which
are off-brand potato chips as well as one of those
seven-layer dips that look delicious as long as
nobody eats it but now appears to have been
stepped on more than once and not by anyone

wearing particularly clean shoes, either,
and that’s when you look up and make eye contact
with someone on the other side of the table,
someone who actually smiles at you, nibbles
a chip, turns to go, and, as you gaze after them,

stops on her way out of the room and turns
and gazes back at you. Now you’re talking.
Now you’re thinking, what futile and stupid gesture
can I make, and the next thing you know,
you’re standing on the Boulevard Saint-Germain,

watching your travel companion leg it down
the street toward yet another art expo instead
of scurrying back to that dimly-lit Parisian hotel room
with you to do things you only think possible
in a dimly-lit Parisian hotel room even though

they’re the same things everyone does in hotel rooms
everywhere, dimly-lit or not, only we expect them
to be extra-exotic and Frenchy because they take place,
or, in Michael’s case, don’t take place, in France.
Is there not a right moment for everything?

Is not each of us more than a little like either
Thomas Hardy or his wife Emma or both, who,
though increasingly distant from one another
as they grew older, nonetheless found common ground
in their passion for bicycling, sometimes doing forty miles

a day because English roads at that time were empty,
the stagecoach having long disappeared and the motor-car
not yet arrived? I put those eighteen words in italics
so you’ll notice how important they are. Thomas
and Emma Hardy had the best bicycling ever!

Passion’s the thing, isn’t it? You can’t go through life
quaking with fear. “Life is contemptuous of knowledge,”
says James Salter, “it forces it to sit in the anterooms,
to wait outside. Passion, energy, lies: these are what
life admires.” Pain is unavoidable. Pain is met

with suffering, sure as shootin’. Suffering is raw
and can only be transcended by art. Art is repudiated,
every time, leading to more pain. Our friend Michael was
a bit of an idiot. Actually, he was 100% of an idiot, but look,
he was in Paris, wasn’t he, his heart wild with hope.


David Kirby teaches at Florida State University. His latest books are a poetry collection, Help Me, Information (LSU Press, 2021) and a textbook modestly entitled The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them (Flip Learning, 2021). Kirby is currently on the editorial board of Alice James Books.


Darwin Supposes

the earliest humans, before language, charmed each other with just musical notes, just rhythm. The pulse of blood moving at five miles an hour inspired drums, drum circles, unity, voices in the beats, ecstasy. Language itself grew from half-musical expressions for beloveds and special events. How they proved this, I can’t fathom, but anyone with an infant knows: to settle it, bounce it. For so long we had simply one note, blown through a conch, do as in deer. When ba-ba-ba became Ba-Barbara Ann, a baby boomlet followed. Imagine the lady who first imitated galloping horses: “sliding clap, hit right thigh, hit left thigh, repeat, fast.” Oh, words’ ungainliness! (Oh how lucky she got!) Despite our recent languages, music is the more honest signal, as tunes can’t fake sincerity. On his deathbed Bach maybe told his wife, “Do not cry for me, for where I go music is born.”

As for me, I’ll lay
my ear on your chest, hear your center,
join streams of bass notes.


Tina Kelley’s Rise Wildly appeared in 2020 from CavanKerry Press, joining Abloom & Awry, Precise, and Washington State Book Award winner The Gospel of Galore. Jacar Press has published two of her books, Ardor and The Opposite of Babel. She’s reported for The New York Times, written two nonfiction books, and won a 2023 Finalist award from the NJ State Council on the Arts.



I lack the words to evoke five o’clock
emptiness, no aromas of garlic,
no paprika, no sweetness of flan
tempting my nose, no tomatoes
fried in olive oil to slick my tongue,
like the Spanish syllables you need
to hear spoken in Madrid’s highlands,
where your siblings & ninety-year-old
mother have missed you. But what’s the use
my searching for words?
By the time I finish this, you’ll be home,
where you’re meant to be, with me,
your boots a cozy jumble
by our door, spooning my shoes.


Laura Foley’s collection It’s This (Fernwood Press) was released in 2023. Sledding the Valley of the Shadow is due out in 2024. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Narrative Magazine, Alaska Quarterly, Valparaiso, and Poetry Society London. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Giménez, on the forested banks of the Connecticut River.


It’s No One’s Fault

That time, I lost strip poker to a whole
row of magnolias, lost
on purpose, tired of admiring
in the unilateral manner of time.

I needed to meet you, God
was making me wait.

Everywhere I looked there were signs
for someone’s lost dog named Cause.

I overheard the caterpillar speaking from the blue jay’s beak:
I’ll feed you now, but what if you starve tomorrow?
I could have felt myself in flight. 
It’s no one’s fault

we’re insatiable.

I was standing there, waiting for you,
the meridians of desire slicing through the water and the
solid of me. Where else
was that undiluted sunlight supposed to fall?

The future, that’s what you were.


Molly 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.


Always for the first time

Always for the first time
barely I know you by sight
You return at the same hour every night
to a house across my window
a wholly imaginary house
where at any moment
in the incorruptible darkness
I expect once again
the fascinating fissure to occur
the singular fissure
in the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
in reality
the more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
where you appear alone before me
at first you dissolve entirely in the radiance
the fleeting angle of a curtain
It’s a field of jasmine I contemplated at dawn on a road near Grasse
where girls aslant pick flowers
behind them the somber wing of fallen bare stems
before them a dazzling geometric light
The curtain now invisibly lifted
all the frenzied flowers return home
It’s you stretching this dark hour never thin enough until sleep
You as if you could be
the same though I may never meet you
You pretend not to know I’m watching you
marvelously I’m no longer sure you know it
your idleness fills my eyes with tears
A swarm of interpretations surrounds your every gesture
It’s honey season
There are rocking chairs on a bridge
there are branches that risk scratching you in the forest
In a shop window rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
two beautiful crossed legs caught in long stockings
flare in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
Only by
leaning over the precipice and out of your absence
have I found the secret
of loving you
always for the first time


André Breton, translated from French by Hélène Cardona
From Finger Exercises for Poets, Dorianne Laux, forthcoming W. W. Norton & Company

Hélène Cardona‘s award-winning books include Life in Suspension and Dreaming My Animal Selves, and the translations The Abduction (Maram Al-Masri), Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings.

André Breton was a French writer, poet, original member of the Dada group, founder of the Surrealist movement, and co-founder of the journal Littérature with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault. His Manifeste du surréalisme championed the exploration of the subconscious mind. His most famous novels are Nadja and L’Amour fou.


Cloud Report, 5/28/23

Cruel, clear blue today, strewn with filmy lace. The oaks and maples have erupted—dark and soft, light and crisp—so much green signaling the breeze. Remember the night you called and said you might hurt yourself? It was the middle of winter. Almost invisible, these stretched-apart clouds remind me of your voice. Right now, the sun throbs somewhere beyond my view. A crow snags the afternoon in its beak and flies straight for it.


Kathleen McGookey’s most recent books are Instructions for My Imposter (Press 53) and Nineteen Letters (BatCat Press). Her chapbook Cloud Reports is forthcoming in 2024. Her work has recently appeared in Copper Nickel, Epoch, Glassworks, Hunger Mountain, Los Angeles Review, North American Review, and The Southern Review.



“She suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”
—Mark 5:26

Once, after hide & seek in the neighboring estuary, where my son pretended himself a shadow & did not speak nor move for forty minutes, a time that caused me tremendous torment, I drew a bath at dusk to calm, & felt a hand shove my face toward water then hold until I could no longer breathe. I had been thinking of dead kids in school & death by drowning, & how a body bloats before the buzzards clean up. My daughter by now was cursed with bleeds & her skin pure as porcelain, though more like colorless clay. When the pain was bad it came in shrieks & once after the final shriek, when she no longer spoke nor responded to her name, blew a window out above me. In truth it was a rock, & my son, afraid of a beating, crept between two thin pines & contorted his body to look like bark. I’ve never laid a hand upon him. Not once. Not in that way. Though I have laid a hand in prayer & asked my ancestors to instruct him in the way of tenderness, in what Madame Guyon calls obscure illumination, one woven by force & ease like wind & blizzard. Like rain, when in a flash a flood snaps pines then converts to powdered ponds. When the hand let go I gagged for voice & there my daughter stood. She was quiet & shivering & asking for a drink. I never considered if she was who tried to drown me. Not once. I’ve always thought I slipped between the surface as I started to dream, & before I faded she pulled me out, the air our constellation.


Luke Johnson is the author of Quiver (Texas Review Press), a finalist for The Jake Adam York Prize, The Levis Award, The Vassar Miller Prize, and the Brittingham. His second book, A Slow Indwelling, a call and response with the poet Megan Merchant, is forthcoming from Harbor Editions Fall 2024. You can find more of his work at Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative Magazine, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere.


Dreaming of Dickinson

A path led to the empty top of the mountain.
She was walking on the road. There was a hole in front of her,
And she fell into it. She struggled out
And continued walking.

On the road there’s nothing except
one hole after another, each bigger than the one before
She saw them but still fell in
When she finally climbed up
The moon was like an empty room shining.

Surroundings appeared, deserted.
Every path approaching the top would turn
and swing down the deep valley.
There was always laughter rousing from the grass,
Like colorful pheasants flying overhead.

No one is walking on the road
There are no holes in the road
Her white dress is slowly turning gray.


Ma Yongbo, Ph.D., was born in 1964. He has published over seventy original works and translations since 1986. He is a leading scholar in Anglo-American postmodernist poetry and the Chinese translator of Dickinson, Whitman, Stevens, Pound, Williams, Ashbery, and Moby Dick. Currently, he is a professor and editor at the Faculty of Arts and Literature at Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China.


Photograph in Early Autumn

the girl has managed
to capture the old moon
in the new moon’s arms
through the wire railing

above potted marigolds
and purple petunias
blousing over edges
the night sky still bluish

how easy to say
like a healing bruise
sloughing off its depth
how terrible the nail tip

of slender light required
to mean so much against
autumn and full branches
the obscure canopy slow

to fill with stars as we
also are slow to act
against darkness
how curved its back

like the doe struck
overnight who managed
to curl into herself
so amid the pain perhaps

she could feel memory
of her mother’s breath
warming her fawn neck
nestled side to side into

heartbeat and lungful
memory of care that must
also mean love over pain
don’t we all hope

as day drops its heavy bags
leaving a stubborn sliver
under our skin and sudden
hives itching our body

how difficult the beauty
of a girl and her moon
the doe at dark field edge
deciding finally to cross


Lisa Higgs is a recipient of a 2022 Minnesota State Arts Board grant. She has published three chapbooks, most recently Earthen Bound (Red Bird). Her reviews and interviews can be found online at the Poetry Foundation, Kenyon Review, the Adroit Journal, and the Colorado Review.



Right after she died, she took
one last look around the house, floating
undisturbed. Henry, alone,
sitting beside her bed, snored lightly,
his upper lip rippling in a slight vibrato.
It would be an hour before he woke
and saw she’d gone.
There was time,
and time now was what she had. She drifted
room by room, pausing at the sideboard,
the children’s photos lined up sweetly in a row
in identical gold-edged frames.
Her favorite teapot. The table runner
embroidered with blue flowers
and tiny green leaves.
In the kitchen doorway
stood a yellow cow—the butter cow from the state fair,
its long sober face watching her. She wondered
at old memories placed so squarely
in front of her. Time was different now
and she knew, somehow, that the planet Saturn
had lost its orbit, flung into the starry black
of infinite time.
Still, she moved on,
surveying what she would leave behind.
The bathroom was what she’d miss most of all —
the clawfoot tub where she’d bathed the children,
where she had lain in warm bubbles, feeling infinite.
The jars of scented bath salts.
The thick white towels.
In the living room,
the cat looked up at her from its warm
indented spot at the end of the couch,
then went back to sleep.
She moved outside
to the yard where now the great elm trees
stood upside down, roots waving the air,
their dark green leaves pushing up from the grass,
suddenly strong enough to support everything.
Her long gray hair
lifted around her head like a wild nimbus.
The air felt exhilarating.
Nobody was crying yet. Horses
flew above the houses, above the trees,
their tails flashing behind them like silken banners.
One of them, a palomino, tossed its head
and threw off its bridle, which glided down,
the metal bit pulling earthward.
She pulled away, then,
from her white cotton nightgown, letting it drop
to earth, a huge ruffled snowflake,
and she rose, even more
weightless than before. The sun turned
to the dark amber color of Henry’s eyes
and the moon, as she approached it,
smelled like violets.


Rebecca Ellis lives in southern Illinois. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in About Place Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, Bellevue Literary Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx Journal, Crab Creek Review, and Prairie Schooner. She edited Cherry Pie Press, publishing poetry chapbooks by Midwestern women poets.


A Bill Comes Due

I think about the smell of you.
Old Spice, old cigarettes, ashes
and musk, and the sweet astringent
of beer metabolized in spent, cold sweat.
I think about your hair, your curly
black hair, and your bright eyes
in that long, hyperthyroid face.
Long, Marfan’s fingers. The time
you accidentally speared my palm
with the burning heart of your Camel
because six-year-old me ran
exactly at thigh level. I think
of what you gave me: a book,
a yellow-handled, child-sized hammer,
a scar on my palm. I think about
the way you sloughed it all off,
first the bank, then your wife,
your daughter, your car, your siblings,
all of us myriad nieces and nephews,
your series of smaller, less responsible jobs,
your days and years at rehab,
your anonymous beds, your humor,
your ability to walk, your capacity
for love. Your mind, your quick,
straight-razor smirk, never would leave you.
You were a blade in the form of a man,
a blade without a handle. You cut
absolutely without intention.
You cut, no matter how, or where
a body touched you. You cut
to the weeping, red marrow.
You left a mark.
And I can’t stop thinking
about what five days spent decaying
in the hot, hot sun did to your scent,
your eyes, what was left of your body,
before the cops finally gave up
and forced the door down.
And I can’t help but wonder,
did the shape of whatever you intended
at last rise up?


Bethany W. Pope has won many literary awards and published several novels and collections of poetry. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as “poetry as salvation”…”This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.” Bethany currently lives and works in China.


Hypothetical Thyroid

My voice is spun gravel.
On a scale of 1-10, I am
a cored apple and an apple
corer. Better yet, the word

corer, the way it reproduces
on a cellular level: corerererer,
revving like the engine
of a car propped on blocks,

nowhere and everywhere
to travel. Butterfly in my
throat, you are a winged
gavel. The heart is not

heart-shaped. Does it matter?
Can we ravel or only unravel?


Erin Murphy’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ecotone, Waxwing, Guesthouse, Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her newest book of poems, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. She is professor of English at Penn State, Altoona, and poetry editor of The Summerset Review.


After a Long Indiana Winter, 1964

My father lost his job in a season
of snowstorms, unable to handle
the roads even with tire chains
on the old yellow Buick. I was five.

When winter thawed, Mom and I planted
a garden behind our rental: salvia,
marigolds, morning glories for a trellis,
bachelor buttons. As we dug the bed,

cleaned out grass and weeds thick
against cement blocks, she instructed me
about seeds, how temperature and rain,
soil and air, work together

to crack them open. She culled the dead
matter, remnants of another tenant—
blossoms and stems spent into dried
straw. Among the withered plants

a small bird, a goldfinch, still,
tangled in spurge and bindweed.
Mom pulled him free, sent me
inside to fetch toilet paper and the empty

kitchen matchbox we’d discarded
that morning. She spread the tissue
across my fleshy palm, placed
the bird on top. We inspected the body,

wings, markings. She helped me roll
the tissue around him, several turns,
lay him in the box which she slid
open. A gold corpse, a winding

sheet, the matchbox she’d reached for
every day to light the gas stove.
We buried him in the garden, leveled
the ground, lined out furrows for our seeds,

pushed them into the soft earth’s crust.
All summer we weeded and watered.
Morning glories curled, purple
blooms, eyes shut to noon,

the narrow plot clotted with color—
salvia red as blood, flocks of marigolds.


Annette Sisson’s poems have appeared in Valparaiso PR, Birmingham PR, Rust and Moth, Lascaux Review, Glassworks, Cider Press Review, and others. Her book Small Fish in High Branches was published in 2022 by Glass Lyre. This year her work received nominations for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize.


Instructions for Deep Suction

After Natasha Trethewey

Just breathe when you press the cough assist mask
over your daughter’s nose and open mouth,
its thick tubing like a tentacle’s grip.

On her faint exhale, click the switch that blasts
the air into her lungs. Withdraw the mask
and grip between thumb and forefinger the thin

tube of pliable plastic that provokes her cough.
If you don’t it’s back to pneumonia, back
to the hospital, and then, soon, death.

Learn to ignore the way her hands fly from her knees
to shoulder high as if to fend you off
while you thread the tube, dipped in Surgilube,

up her nose and down her throat. When she chokes
at the invasion of oxygen tell yourself
her numbers are back in a range you’d almost

call normal. Keep going as her face turns
scarlet and her eyes bulge. Remember your
work and pride in learning this procedure,

your wife’s praise for your steady hands.
As the secretions strangle up and out, call her
gasps for breath success: You did it, sweet one.

Place your hand to her forehead while you pull
the tube back out and tell her to rest. Lay
your hand on her chest, click the suction off,

and avoid dwelling on the words of her
kindest doctor: there’s almost no limit
to how complex the full court press can get.

Remind yourself there is no future ten
years distant where she’ll talk through this
suffering with a trusted therapist.

When stimulating a cough takes more tries
remind yourself that palliative care allows these
invasions along with her comfort. Fight the urge

for the hundredth time to ask how long can
we keep doing this?
As you watch your daughter drift
to sleep, let go again the thought you can protect

her. Don’t imagine yourself as a shield
between her and the tubing’s tentacles.
Don’t imagine a door she escapes through,

tearing the mask from her face, ripping the cords
from the machines and walking away free.


Scott Frey is a teacher, poet, special needs advocate, and parent. His work has been published or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals. His chapbook, Night Nurses, was a winner in the Black River Chapbook Competition. His collection, Heavy Metal Nursing, won the Tampa Poetry Prize and will be released soon.


Reaction to Diagnosis of Sorrow to Come

Our little house is floating out
to sea, taking on water, the books
we never culled pulping out
and falling off the tilting shelves,
our saved letters spilling from their box—
ink blurring and lifting off.

The lounge and sofa, the ottomans
and end tables all slide downwards
as our home half-crests the oncoming
wave, the two of us bobbing close
to the ceiling, like an ancient doomed
Chagall bride and groom.

If only there were life-preservers on ropes
to be thrown, if only there could be a chopper
dropping a ladder from the sky we could both
safely climb. If only there were a harbor we could
settle in, with a view that never changed.


Judy Kronenfeld’s five books of poetry include Groaning and Singing (FutureCycle, 2022), and Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017). Her poetry chapbooks, If Only There Were Stations of the Air (Sheila-Na-Gig), and Oh Memory, You Unlocked Cabinet of Amazements! (Bamboo Dart), and a memoir-in-essays, Apartness (Inlandia) are in press.


Stroke Snapshots


In an hour, a day, my sentences
unravel, till nouns, verbs, prepositions
jumble like loose Scrabble tiles.

I’ll just have to learn again: words on
the blackboard erased at night,
then writing it again tomorrow.


The moon glinting
on a parked car
in the hospital lot,
engine still warm.


Someone laughing
passing my room
at midnight,

or in my sleep.


The blood pressure cuff
holds my arm
like a mother, dutiful
and absently.


Home from the hospital
I flush a spider
for her, like a guy
who can still
do things.


I meet
my aphasia friends
at the support group.

We introduce each other
every month.


Clouds flirt with the full moon
the way my brain goes dim,
then bright, then dim . . .


I’m back walking at night
in hopes
of sleeping dreamless.

In the wind I hear
the brittle
whisper of last year’s leaves

scattering across
the street.
They’re restless, and almost

the voices I hear
some nights
of a past life.


David Graham’s most recent books are The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books 2019) and Local News: Poetry About Small Towns, an anthology co-edited with Tom Montag (MWPH Books 2019). Currently retired from teaching at Ripon College, he lives in Glens Falls, NY.


On Vulnerability

The surgeon plays me like an instrument,
tapping a tune around my clavicle
as if divining the exact spot to extract
watery sap from a cactus, a self-defence

death grip that leads her to burrow deep between
shoulder bones, seeking out a tree knot
filled with medals, antique coins or, if I must
explain, pain. “There, yes, that’s us just there,”

she says, and the nurse, amenable as rain,
injects me with a “swift gin and tonic”
that straightaway causes my left arm to start
sleeping on the job, docile as a lapdog

without either a bite or a bark,
the first of my parts to shut down and go dark.
It’s pathetic, really, how petrified I am
that I might not wake up from the anaesthetic,

that my heart might stop, that I might remain
locked in blanketed limbo, and how, as fog
rolls in and time bends and shrinks, my mind scrabbles
to think of metaphors and rhymes to describe

this heightened awareness of being alive
to defer the primal fear that when the light
grows dim, the knives are all stored away and the line
goes slack, no one will remember to reel me back.


Ross Thompson is a writer and Arts Council award recipient from Bangor, Northern Ireland. His debut poetry collection, Threading The Light, is published by Dedalus Press. Most recently, he wrote and curated A Silent War, a collaborative multimedia response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A second full-length book of poems is forthcoming.



Earth, some astronomers have
Lately said, is likely not
The most habitable planet
In the universe. They’ve posted
An index created from
A bevy of character traits,
Earth’s rating ranked .829,
Its rival, named Kepler like
So many celestial things,
Scoring .836, the MVP,
For now, of promising planets
On developers’ watch lists.
Still, a host of percentages
Shimmer above that number,
Plenty of distance remaining
Between Kepler and perfect
In this interstellar travel guide.
Envy, or more likely, greed,
Has limitless discoveries
Yet to make, reconnaissance
A project for refunding.

Problems? Among the details
Is the space between us—
1206 light years—meaning
That our franchise, better
Stadium or not, isn’t soon
Carpetbagging through void
Like a would-be senator.
Consider, too, how it has been
Over a thousand years since
Planet Kepler sported what
Might have been its best season.
And in fairness, imagine
What its fortunate residents,
If they ever looked our way,
Might have needed to ponder.
Our near-perfect distance
From our star. The bearable
Gravity of a rock our size.
The dominance of blue that
Promises water and foliage
And space enough for billions.

From such a great distance,
Unspoiled was an odds-on
Favorite, more than sufficient
To motivate lift off and flight
Toward us despite knowing
An eon’s portion of eternity
Was required to prove
A paradise. How their sagas
May have thrived, even as
We were marveling at the sky
From widespread wilderness
Near a makeshift of shelters,
Humbled by the intricate work
Of the gods we saw in clusters
Of distant, unfathomable light.


Gary Fincke‘s collections of poems have been published by Arkansas, Ohio State, Michigan State, BkMk, Lynx House, and Serving House as well as by Jacar Press (After the Three-Moon Era). His new collection, For Now, We Have Been Spared, will be published by Slant Books in 2024.


How Do We Manage To Store Our Parallel Worlds?

Do not fear entering the dark woods where silence prevails
Through this passage, we replenish and heal ourselves.
Under every imposing tree seemingly reeking of strength
Under layers of growth, a hidden heartwood is shaken

Through this passage, we replenish and heal ourselves
We’ve learned to bear so many trials unknown to our children
Under layers of growth, a hidden heartwood is shaken
We suppressed and buried scenes that still revisit us in dreams

We’ve learned to bear so many trials unknown to our children
Insidious bubbles open up to parallel worlds we once owned
We suppressed and buried scenes that still revisit us in dreams
Haggard faces with empty looks, lips spitting piercing words

Insidious bubbles open up to parallel worlds we once owned
We keep our jinns and afrits subdued into shrunken episodes
Haggard faces with empty looks, lips spitting piercing words
Joss paper burns into smoke swirls chasing restless shadows

We keep our jinns and afrits subdued into shrunken episodes
Stored in swollen joints the way tree burls respond to stress
Joss paper burns into smoke swirls chasing restless shadows
Stacked in bark’s cracks, crevices engraved in hermetic script


Hedy Habra’s newest collection is Or Did You Ever See The Other Side? The Taste of the Earth won the Silver Nautilus Award. Tea in Heliopolis won the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes was an International Book Award finalist. She is a twenty-one-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.