Emily W. Pease | Kathy Shorr | Clint Margrave | Nancy Himel | Stephen Jackson | Richard Foerster | A. Molotkov | Elisa Rowe (Crawley) | Lesley Wheeler | Patrick Deeley | Phillip Sterling | Gary Leising | Carolyn Oliver | Brian Jerrold Koester | Kari Gunter-Seymour | Lauren Camp | Shuly Xóchitl Cawood | Gary Phillips | Jeanine Walker | Jean Theron | Annette Sisson
for Edouard Manet
Once we lay basking in the garden,
the girl in muslin splashing in the pool.
I removed my clothes to feel the sun on my breasts.
The cat wandered the grass and found a worm.
Amid long silences, the men talked about money,
elegantly dressed. I finished the bread
and the pomegranate seeds, then we slept.
Later I lay naked on a chaise for hours, the cat nosing
my feet, the room dimly lit, just one window.
At your easel you rendered me pale as the moon.
Place a hand over your thigh, you told me, be discreet.
You pictured a maid bringing me flowers.
In the salon, I looked down at the puzzled crowds, your supine Olympia.
Men pictured pulling my hand away to see my sweetness, take me as their own.
How could we know the privation to come?
When the Prussians surrounded the city,
cows and sheep were brought in for food.
They grazed their sudden strange pasture.
At dawn we heard a cow bellowing for her calf,
but the calf had been consumed.
They blocked our bridges, incoming roads.
Trains stopped, theatres and shops closed.
In November sleet, we cut the promenade lindens,
burned old clothing, fences and sheds. In
the Bois de Bologne, ground grazed bare,
the cows and sheep had been slaughtered.
We grew desperate to eat.
In the market, flayed dogs hung from hooks,
skinned cats lay nestled beside headless
rats. We ate horses, emptying
our streets. Horse blood puddings,
horse steaks, boiled gelatin hoof.
In their cages the zoo animals paced.
Christmas night, starved for haute cuisine,
our nobility demanded delicacies. No more
steamed cats, no roasted rats, no oozing ragouts
of mice. Instead—it is true—a chef made a meal
of the zoo: consommé d’Elephant, le civet de kangourou,
la terrine d’antilope aux truffes, cuissot de loup.
I was not among them, Eduourd, nor were you.
Later, the war over at last, you chose to paint
Suzon, that waitress at the Folies-Bergere. Perhaps
she once balanced a tray of elephant soup
on Christmas night, herself almost starving.
Perhaps she spooned sauce over camel meat
to please the demanding bourgeoisie.
But in the crowded Folies-Bergere, electric with light,
Paris felt free again. Your waitress wore a lace collar,
velvet ribbon around her neck. She held the bar firmly,
gave you an easy, pleasant look. In the room an accordion
played, diners chattered at their tables and clinked glasses.
Overhead, a tutu’d acrobat hung from her high trapeze.
Emily W. Pease is a fiction writer new to poetry. Her collection, Let Me Out Here, was selected by Lee K. Abbott as the winner of the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize in 2018. Her first published poem, “Color/Off Color” won Rattle’s June 2021 Ekphrastic Challenge.
A long row of shoes
lined at the edge of the Danube,
sixty pairs beaten and prodded,
bronzed into place,
pointing towards death:
brogues tipped on their sides,
tongues outcast. Scuffed pumps.
Unbuckled Mary Janes. Unlaced
boots with worn-down heels,
the metal ruched and rolled to suggest
the lack of another pair, the months
taking turns to pee in a bucket,
huddled in a single room. Shoes molded
in cement to represent
how they were shoved
through streets, through screams —
Raus, juden, raus, raus —
attacked by dogs and bayonets,
forced to leave their shoes behind
ready for re-use, there
at the frozen river edge;
a row of wrists, girls bound together
to save on bullets, a single shot
pitching one forward
through the ice, pulling the others in.
The blue-black water turning
red. Efficient too,
of the river’s
curve, the current
carrying bodies out of town,
no need for burial.
Sixty years later,
this sculptor, Gyula Pauer,
understood the power
of economy: no statues,
no Arrow Cross soldiers, no
weeping mothers holding children,
no casting of both brave
and unbrave. No need to see more
than these monuments lined up,
to mark the unmarked graves.
Kathy Shorr earned an MFA in writing from Vermont College, and is a past winner of the Writers at Work Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, The Poetry Miscellany, Emrys Journal, Passager, the Nebraska Review, and other publications. She is re-emerging into the light.
Here, it’s only natural to live among the dead.
They watch from every street.
In solemn commemorations,
printed on white sheets of paper
posted everywhere: on trees, at bus stops,
tacked to doors, kiosks, or telephone poles,
authored by family members
to announce the passing
of a grandfather,
or mother, or aunt.
of the elderly,
or of a young man or woman,
even a child,
bordered by a simple black frame,
birth and death dates
beneath their image,
some sad Cyrillic script
that as a tourist,
I’m not supposed to understand,
and yet do.
So many people missing in Sofia, says my Chilean friend,
a fellow traveler,
who misinterprets the meaning,
though missing just as well:
from their husbands,
from their wives,
from their children,
from their friends,
from the dinner table.
If I didn’t know better,
I might have mistaken these notices
for Wanted posters,
in the way Bulgarians say
other foreigners do,
which is not really surprising
since all the dead
Clint Margrave is the author of the novel Lying Bastard (Run Amok Books, 2020), and the poetry collections, Salute the Wreckage, The Early Death of Men, and Visitor (forthcoming), all from NYQ Books. His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Rattle, and The Moth, among others. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.
I held my breath at tea with angels
on swirls of light, wings of grace.
When bending brought fire
I held my breath. I held my breath
minutes after darkness when fireflies
buzzed flowers in whir of wing. Now
I hold my breath and wonder if my ancestors held
theirs when those tiled showers shivered in gas.
At tea with angels
I held my breath.
Some let go.
Nancy Himel spent 30 years teaching English in Paramount, CA before she retired in August, 2019. She has been published in Prairie Schooner and Verse-Virtual and has work forthcoming in Harpy Hybrid Review and Amethyst Review. She lives in Tucson, Arizona where she is working on a memoir-in-verse, tentatively titled From Ruach’s Cradle.
Nothing [Out of Place]
The trees have grown quiet, again — those
bright green juvenile leaves, simmering down
in sun and breeze, to a stillness caught, like
a feather in your chest — the silence ruffled
by the laughter of humans, who pass beneath
the window, another, who moves in silence
in near-slow motion across the street — he
appears to be broken, his nothing out of place,
as if spring wasn’t even the loneliest season
— blackberries merely a thought, the figs
an equation, in tangles of cold grey branches,
worded in the way he walks, like promises
of summer, you know, in your winged heart
will not be kept — what are the chances, such
a broken thing might ever learn to be loved.
Stephen Jackson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Other work appears in The American Journal of Poetry, FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Hole in the Head Review, Impossible Archetype, The Inflectionist Review, Stone of Madness Press, and on the 2019 International Human Rights Art Festival Publishes platform.
Listening to Symphony No. 7, Rondo Finale,
After Reading Henry-Louis de La Grange
Perhaps it is radiant dawn I’m meant
to hear and not some “apotheosis
of self-destruction,” with its “disordered
accumulation” of timpani and bells
that my iPod’s earbuds now blossom with,
flooding the late light of my living room
where I sit over Spaten beers, Mahler’s
favorite, companionably drinking, just
the two of us, I imagine, until
the coda announces the coming end
to the cacophony of our squealing
barroom laughter over some bawdy joke,
our boozed-up voices morphed into trumpets
and drums thundering a defiant joy
above the world’s tumultuous troubles,
“suspended and brought into question,” here,
rocketing toward a silence lavish with
chaotic light, this “vertiginous
complexity,” pouring forth from the brain
of a man I’m kissing full on the lips
inside this raucous space, which I’ve cranked up
to a near deafening blast of decibels
to lift me on its blaze.
Richard Foerster’s Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems (Tiger Bark Press, 2019) received the 2020 Poetry by the Sea Book Award. Other honors include Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize, a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowships.
I prefer to see it
the other way. Raindrops
as years, rusty
tree in the backyard. Brief
touched. The world
spoke our language. It
didn’t have a choice.
A. Molotkov’s poetry collections are The Catalog of Broken Things, Application of Shadows, Synonyms for Silence and Future Symptoms (forthcoming from The Word Works). His memoir A Broken Russia Inside Me is due out in 2022. Molotkov’s collection of short stories, Interventions in Blood, is part of the latest Hawaiʻi Review.
Post-Industrial Road Trip
In forests running seaweed
smooth, we accelerate once more.
My love leans to admire a landscape,
limping, holding everything forgotten.
Unlike cities, no one fights for
gravel cracked raw, homes
licked to bone.
To name this land is to angle
a wheel, set a machine straight
on, invisible tunnels constructing.
To clear, to clean two parts
of resurrection. Here we can die,
I think, watching trash tumble on
a silent turnpike, apocalyptic.
“Look at the moon,” he whispers,
a crescent ghost in daylight lingers over
stretching evergreens. A reminder
of planets and cold, dark wonder.
Elisa Rowe (Crawley) is a neurodivergent immigrant, writer, educator, and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Michigan Quarterly Review, SAND Journal, Sojourners, and elsewhere.
Locked to sleep alone in a lidded crib, she
shook and thrummed in the key of starlight, desperate
to slip the gear into drive: one, two, three, a
billion and breakout.
Decades flew and she forgot how to count. Why.
Revving, launching, slamming the wall, but mystified.
Come her last trapped new year, the moon so fine, so
near, she begged a ride.
No one heard her open the door and vault into
shine. She rode that wolf moon away. I hope she
knew. I hope she lit up the highway. Every
molecule set loose.
Lesley Wheeler’s new books are The State She’s In, her fifth poetry collection, and Unbecoming, her first novel. Her essay collection Poetry’s Possible Worlds is forthcoming in 2021. Her poems and essays appear in Kenyon Review, Ecotone, Thrush, and elsewhere. She is Poetry Editor of Shenandoah.
High pressure all winter, bitter as the clay
cleaved to a coffin’s measure.
Snot, a watery droplet, dangles from the nose
of the child in the front seat;
hand him a tissue and reproach the rascal
who thinks it’s fun to rub salt
on small boys’ faces during playtime. Today
was a white-knuckle bike ride
through the ice rink of Long Mile Road.
I saw starlings, hundreds of them,
above the warehouses, and with each climb
and fall, each laying out and folding
of their stall, followed the flex of ecstasy.
Then I thought of the lad
whose biggest headache is letters hopping
or shape-shifting on the page,
words whirling beyond his making sense
of them, and how he pleads
for spring; and I could hear the tobogganer
who delights in sliding downhill
from Wellington’s obelisk on corrugated
plastic general election posters
exclaim: “The snow is only deadly.”
But mercy, another boy sat in this classroom
a short few weeks ago — bright,
ambitious, full of good intentions
until something stole his singsong, his style,
and he took his dog for a stroll
by the Grand Canal one twilight, the side-path
of the sad canal, where long ago
horses would haul the barges; onward
moseyed down past the flash
of warped, gushing sluices, and a brainstorm
had him untie the dog, shoo it
home, fasten its lead about his own neck…
Hard tears fell for him. Hard tears
continue to fall. But nothing of this is simple
or able to settle. For here are children —
friends of his — who proudly extol
his deed on an internet shrine: Legend, man.
Patrick Deeley is from County Galway and divides his time between there and Dublin. His seventh collection of poems, The End of the World, appeared from Dedalus Press in 2019. He is a recent winner of the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Nature’s Standing in the Order of Things”
— Wendell Berry
comes somewhere between what frost
tells the meteorologist about water
and what the tulips can tell the clouds
about frost. Or what a thin child
launching woodchips of imagination
in the fleeting, boot-carved streams
of a muddy paddock can tell extremists
about death. Or what the red worms
in the compost might tell the infirm,
who watch from triple-paned windows
like virtual geographers. This too
will pass, we’re reminded, by the one
who calls her daughter Mutability.
And what forms will they take, I wonder,
what lives will rise from the graves
of my children’s children, who fancy
spring’s mud with such joy, such ignorance
of all they might be sorry to learn?
Phillip Sterling’s most recent books include Amateur Husbandry, a series of micro-fictions narrated by the domestic partner of a yellow horse (Mayapple 2019) and Short on Days, a series of February aubades, released from Main Street Rag in June 2020, after several months of quarantine.
A Baseball Player and a Penguin
At a workout, off-season, running the trails of the hilly city zoo,
allowed there early because he’s a star pitcher, though these days
ERAs are higher for stars than they used to be, his father tells him,
his father who couldn’t make it past high school ball, his father
who taught him to grip the ball, to snap his wrist for sliders,
to make the undetectable pickoff throw to first, his father
who sits above the dugout at all his starts, shouts advice the coach,
the paid pitching coach, former all-star himself, tells the kid
to ignore, even though he isn’t a kid anymore, late twenties,
years of pitches making his arm heavy, his shoulder dotted
with little scars from laparoscopic surgeries, the pitcher thinks
with each step on his private run of all the criticisms his father
levelled at him—works too slow, tips his curve, afraid to go
inside on big hitters—and how he’s grateful to have done
some charity work with the zoo, appearances to fundraise, once
mentioning how the hills would be great for a run, and some
trustee set him up with access early morning, and this day
he sees a keeper out for a walk with penguins, with penguins!
a whole flock! he says, and the keeper explains the enrichment,
getting them out of their exhibits and some exercise, like
what he’s doing—like what I’m doing, he laughs, then thinks,
with joy, the rest of his lap round the zoo, past the gorillas,
the sleeping tigers, and the butt-scratching elephants, like
my sweat and joy and my runner’s high, but mostly like
the silence he hears in his head thinking of the those slick
black feathers, the silence that he imagines, must be something
like the way those feathers feel so smooth when cold and wet.
Gary Leising is the author of the book The Alp at the End of My Street, from Brick Road Poetry Press (2014) as well as three poetry chapbooks. He lives in Clinton, NY, with his wife and two sons, and he teaches creative writing and poetry as professor of English.
My Son Is a Quantum Particle
Why do women like to clean their sons’ faces
with their spit? he asks. He leans kitchenwise
trying to smell the lentils simmering,
last of winter, while I de-mustard his cheek.
Yesterday, when he was shorter, he told me
a horse trampled Pierre Curie’s skull, just an accident,
but Marie Curie was crushed. I picture a foal,
reach for deer or lions, something about birth
or safety but he’s in motion, his stride a gallop—
I want to call after him, I want to lie
or tell only part of the truth. Because you won’t wait
for the water to run hot, for me to find a cloth.
Never mind my own rush, or that this fleeting
intimacy makes me feel like a mother
to a smaller child. I realize the swipe of my thumb
is just proximity’s blow against uncertainty,
deflected: only his position’s detectable,
not his momentum, how swiftly and at what angle
he’s racing away from the table, blazing away from me.
But if some stealthy power gave me to know
his speed I might miss his limbs spilling over the bed,
still in sleep as snow mothering a dirt road
hollowed of hoofbeats—yes, that knowing
would stalk me. So I don’t answer, don’t speak.
I let him go. My own half-life spins, unseen.
Carolyn Oliver’s poems appear or will appear in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Plume, and elsewhere. Her honors include Pushcart nominations and the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts, where she is co-editor of The Worcester Review.
First thing this morning
blue jays cardinals woodpeckers
the eddy of their voices
the gush of the sun
take me to the rose garden
in Washington Park
where a gray man sprays
the bases of roses
sometimes with water
at four in the afternoon when it’s hot;
sometimes he sprays the bushes —
strange orange living pink kind yellow —
with poison. Mom talks to the man like she wants him
and they disappear together.
Kurt, he’s only five and he’s wiped out
from always moving faster than the rest of us
and he plays with the poisoned leaves
and the man gives up on Mom.
He tells me not to let Kurt put
his fingers in the poison
not if you want to see your brother grow up
and Mom says to me If he doesn’t grow up
neither will you.
I’m nine back then —
Do you want to know what this is like?
Try shooting rapids
no kayak no canoe no raft no life vest no helmet
except it’s less fun.
Mom jumps out at me from behind roses —
pale ivory black red nearly purple —
gets after me for not watching
Eric and Kurt hidden
in different parts of the grid —
Why doesn’t she watch them?
You don’t ask Mom stuff like that
and more anger soaks into me
like dirty oil into a concrete floor.
How many times does all this stuff happen?
Half a dozen? A dozen?
Eric is seven.
He says I’m going to play in the poison!
I chase him;
he doesn’t touch a thing;
he’s been primed;
and Kurt is soaking up bug spray
through his wrists through his shirt through his pants.
When I pull him back
I soak up bug spray too
and Kurt doesn’t burn up
and neither do I
and he keeps going right back
and playing in the poisoned leaves
and getting spray in his hair
and I give up and play
and soak up my share.
The man gives up on all of us.
Kurt is still around.
It takes Eric thirty-four years to die.
Brian Jerrold Koester is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best of the Net Anthology nominee. His collection is titled What Keeps Me Awake (Silver Bow Publishing) and his chapbook is called Bossa Nova (River Glass Books). His work has appeared in AGNI, Streetlight Magazine, Delmarva Review, Right Hand Pointing, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and has been a freelance cellist.
Today I paid a man to plant a tree
in honor of my mother,
compelled by sentiment and the idea
of restoration, as in habitat
for rare Kirtland warblers, who
are picky, require jack pines
rooted in Grayling sand.
My mother was a rare bird,
colorful, flighty, could trill
a rich, clear aria.
She never left the house without
her signature kohled eyelids
and some form of feather crested frock.
Given the chance, she, too, would
have wintered in the Bahamas.
Side-eyed, she would scoff
at hard earned cash spent to hire a man
to plant a tree, in sand no less,
in the next breath insist on hiring a woman
to nurture its growth.
One day soft breezes will fluff her
slender branches, her ruffled needles
thrumming a chorus of hatchling lullabies.
The land, the woods, the preak,
pruck, purr of all wild creatures,
mist pearling the pines.
Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award, and Serving. Her poems appear in numerous journals including Poem-a-Day, Verse Daily, Rattle, The NY Times. She is the Poet Laureate of Ohio.
A Road to Look Out From
Nothing to see but she sees
the edge of that—
flat, threshed to a bone
and from whole. Everything is
after the known and before
something she can’t.
The bales stay in their coil, pressured, patient,
enfolded in field. Into here,
from the splotched, uncurtained window
to a path to erasing
the path. The exit she took
is hundreds of miles
in reverse and she knows she will
again return it
through her at different hours.
She has climbed this
new geography as the means
of finding a reason.
Her father died this spring. She went through
and down into the loss and time
was all ruin.
But this isn’t about grief.
Soon the light will sink
from the porch, the cast of a tree
grim and complicit.
Behind her, the rose hills
she hasn’t climbed yet. Where there is
the noise of animals
muttering their wisdom.
Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Honors include the Dorset Prize and a finalist citation for the Arab American Book Award. Her poems have appeared in DIAGRAM, Witness, and Kenyon Review, and been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic.
after Ciona Rouse
I drove alone from North Carolina to my Ohio hometown
for Christmases. You and I always said we would celebrate sometime
later. Those were the trips I learned to pay the toll for the car behind me
on the West Virginia Turnpike, understanding then that small joys
might be enough. One September weekend I went to Boone
with my girlfriends while you stayed back (played tennis
with your friend whose name I can’t remember, went drinking
with another who liked that taqueria on the outskirts of Carrboro,
the two of you taking up a vinyl booth with your politics and beer)
and my friends and I went to a bar in broad daylight,
and someone convinced one of us to mount the mechanical bull
and hold on tightly, when really the trick was to have one hand free.
In November, a friend invited us to contra dance at a rec center two towns
away. You said you wouldn’t like the music—fiddle and guitar—so I pulled
my hair back and went without you. Two men asked my name. One had a silver
wedding band but the other had a steady swing and patient
hands. I didn’t return to that place for a long time, but knowing I could
mattered. Sometimes I drove to Harris Teeter after work,
filling the cart with a tub of yogurt, bag of pretzels,
a lone granola bar—my version of dinner if you did not cook.
I think I always knew one day I would have to live without you
yet for so long I feared motorcycle accident, plane crash,
freak heart attack. But hearts are not that complicated
and most of the time you can tell yours might be heading
toward disaster. I paid my toll. I paid for those behind me.
I told everyone we were fine, and I told myself Christmas
didn’t matter, that we would celebrate sometime later.
Shuly Xóchitl Cawood’s poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning (Mercer University Press, 2021), won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Sun, and Brevity, among others.
Do you think your troubles belong to you? Think again.
Do not hold them so protectively to your breast. I see you.
Rumi says our sorrows come to us like gifts, pomegranates
Ready to explode into a thousand seeds of joy. Don’t resist.
Ben Robertson’s grandmother gathered all the children
Of her family every Thanksgiving to make a solemn speech
From the high wooden porch of her ancient Alabama house:
Shrink not from sorrow! For that is the voice of God to thee!
Such theatrics. I remember sitting with friends in my twenties
In Appalachia; our host was very old and blind besides, Madge.
But she knew every inch of her little cabin like a treasured text.
We were young, and passed around a question to know each other:
What’s the hardest thing ever happened to you? Madge hung her head
And sighed: When the chestnuts died. They were my best and favorite friends.
Gary Phillips is the 2016-2019 poet laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina. He is a writer, naturalist, and entrepreneur. Gary lives in a rammed-earth house. His book of poetry and occasional pieces, The Boy The Brave Girls, was printed in 2016 by Human Error Publishing (Wendell, Mass).
Snowflake, the Cat in a Drawer
After dinner, my Uncle
Mark leads us down
to the spring house,
a small shelter on his
the pond-side structure
in which my cousins
and I spent whole years
making jokes at a table
with the video camera
turned on. It’s my dad
and me with him,
my dad who used to
wake early by habit
and not just on the days
when I’d peek out
from my sleep-filled bed
and see him
hauling away cut trees
in summer and lifting
of snow after a winter
blizzard, my dad I now
feel the need to warn
about the driveway’s ice, who
appears frailer each time
I see him, when it’s clear
the disease has burrowed
more deeply in,
my dad about whom,
at the party the next day,
my cousins will speak
as if he is already
a black-and-white photo
revered, then forgotten,
in a worn frame on the wall.
“In the old days, Uncle Joe
would have,” I hear them
say again and again, reminded then
of how I married too late to procure
one of Dad’s famous speeches,
how he stood instead with a glass of beer
shaking in his hand, my brother
holding the microphone, to say a word,
a blessing, maybe seven words,
all he could manage. But now
he’s managing, not even irritated
by his daughter’s warnings,
the illness having rendered
him patient, humble, kind,
reflective in ways he probably
always was but I didn’t see,
as we were, together, caught up
in the fast that life seemed
to ask of us, needing to get
somewhere more than
Now no matter how
slowly we move,
we know where we’ll
end up: at the cold,
open door of the spring house,
where Uncle Mark has
what he says is a gift for us
to see, my cousin’s son’s homemade
science experiment, a creature found:
a dead cat my uncle calls Snowflake,
who once prowled the property,
was hit by a plow, and for the winter,
preserved above ground.
He pulls out the old
cabinet’s wooden drawer.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
Uncle Mark asks us,
his signature grin on his face,
as the three of us
stare at the half-furred
skeletal body of the petrified cat,
who from its expression
makes abundantly clear
that, despite entering
into a fatal battle with
a force a hundred times
its size, it didn’t go down
without a fight. We see its resolve
in its bared teeth, wrecked jaw,
nose of bone, in the hollow sockets
of its wild, unblinking, absent eyes.
A recipient of fellowships from Artist Trust and the Jack Straw Cultural Center, Jeanine Walker has published poems in Chattahoochee Review, New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere, and has a full-length collection forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press. She teaches poetry to children and adults in Seattle, WA, and online.
It’s no surprise that glitter
predates written words,
being more fun to look at.
Maybe it started in caves,
back when starving artists
wore furs and painted murals
of golden beasts by spark,
bolting down the aurochs
with bits of fool’s gold.
Ancient chemists made it
by pounding iridescence
from stones of silky green
malachite, fit to ring
only the pharaoh’s lids,
the perfect makeup
for after dark or after life.
Fashionable yet timeless,
this exquisite noun-verb
sailed into English vanity
riding on Norse longships.
Those stylish Vikings rolled
in glitra and decorated boats
with diamond-eyed snakes.
Early Mayan architects
coated temples in silicate
sparkles, beaming genius
to the heavens with enough
luminescence to convince
the most skeptical of gods.
Divine disguise, this trick
stolen from nature’s bag,
this clever light-catcher
makes us peel the luster off
beetles’ wings, or pluck
a bird’s shimmer, or loot
the oysters’ nacreous shelter.
We’ve killed for shine, yet
some think thirst drives
our love of glitz, evolved
in search of water’s glint.
We want all that glitters
the way we want to survive.
Jean Theron is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in The Shore, Harpur Palate, Rust and Moth, Yes! Magazine, and elsewhere. Jean works as a trainer and organizer with the Racial Equity Institute and as a consultant with Seeds of Change Consulting. She is the author of Nature’s Remedies: An Illustrated Guide to Healing Herbs (Chronicle Books) and lives in Washington, DC.
New Year’s Eve.
Last late afternoon.
Crows squawk over bare
woods. Gray overcomes
the fainting pink of a brindled
sky, and I am counting:
coins, hours, luck,
costs. Gloaming distills
into sequined night, pulls
a new decade from its pocket.
Weeks before, I watched
Canada geese lift,
deserting the lake, a long
V rising, headed
where? Wings creaked
like old leather, a rhythmic
rasp roosting in my head.
Another noise: A shuffling
at the water’s edge. Not
the lapping of waves, not
fish zagging, not
any animal. A sound
like the earth exhaling,
a deep whir for a hundred
yards. Maybe more.
I’ve walked that piece
in all seasons, mornings,
noontide, afternoons, dusk.
Never heard the like.
The new year will uncoil,
trail the far rim
of a tall bluff. What
strange noise may lure
me from this path I cannot
say. Coins are sorted,
fortunes cast. The earth
utters its secret churnings.
I count on loss, misgiving—
step into gleaming night,
hours leaking behind me
like gilded threads of dust.
Annette Sisson has published in Nashville Review, Typishly, SWIMM Every Day, and Kosmos Quarterly, among others. Awards: Porch Writers’ Collective’s poetry prize, 2019; BOAAT Writing Fellow, 2020; nominee for “Best of the Net,” 2019. She published a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and has completed a full-length book of poems.