Claudia Emerson | Rachel Jamison Webster | Joan Colby | Jim Daniels | Alison Stone | Linda Parsons Marion | Hélène Cardona | Sally Rosen Kindred | Kelly Michels | Mary Moore | Kelli Russell Agodon | Grace Mattern | Kathleen Kirk | Laura Shovan | Noel Crook | Tim Peeler | Jaki Shelton Green | Shadab Zeest Hashmi | Lola Haskins | Michael McFee | Michael Chitwood
At rest, the machine makes a softer sound,
almost pleasant, something
like a lone cricket, perfected in its measure.
But the technician is too
bright, illuminant as the room—talking
with someone in the glassed
control booth about Dixie Donuts—and so
overweight I cannot
imagine she could fit herself into the tube
where she will send me
in minutes. It is Friday, late afternoon;
there can’t be many of us
left to see. She feeds me into the mouth
of the thing, telling me
to follow the breathing directions as best I can,
and I do, for the next
three quarters of an hour, breathe in and out
and pray, curse, clench my teeth,
sorry as I have ever been for myself
and suddenly sorrier
to realize that I am the last of the many
this day; someone else’s
face was just this close to the low ceiling,
someone else’s worry
saw this flat whiteness. In my hand I hold
the small, bulbous call
button everyone must hold, with the same
nervous lightness, I can
imagine holding a moth—so as not to kill it
and not to let it go.
The metaphor for it metastasizes, too:
I am in the belly
of the beast, the belly of a whale, in some sterile
island, sand-blind; I am a thread in the deep
eye of a needle; in some
percussive otherworld that rises up
every time I exhale
and hold still my empty lungs. And then I come to
and settle on a tunnel,
a real one, the one they call the Paw Paw
for the nearby trees,
and a day in early June three years ago,
and I can stay in there
long enough to survive it again—artifact
of a place, a quarter mile
through a mountain in western Maryland.
You are never out
of sight of the end of it, and still you find
you do need that borrowed
flashlight you thought you could do without, its battery
feeble, jittery beam.
Mules and men died in here, hauling out
the stone to make this
passage, narrow towpath alongside a stream
of water you can hear
but cannot see. The way out is searing
and round, a worthless sun
that lights nothing but itself, and still you choose it,
the entrance behind you
just as fixed but changed, somehow, another
state, no, another country,
farther away, now, you are sure, than this.
Claudia Emerson’s books, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Pinion, An Elegy, Late Wife, Figure Studies, and Secure the Shadow were published as part of LSU’s Southern Messenger Poets series. Her forthcoming collection, The Opposite House, will also be part of the series. Late Wife won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Emerson’s awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a Witter Bynner fellow and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Food bitters the tongue,
every call from a friend
is necessary and not enough.
Grief is falling through
this endless column
of cobbles, incrementally
realizing I will go on
falling past the cold stones
and everything now
will happen in the context
of the drop. I am so awake
I can count the rocks,
each a tone of rose
or gray granite in the shades
of skin slick with some
ongoing interior weeping.
Today I will go out
with a small plastic bag
to the Cathedral of Notre Dame,
and will surreptitiously
scatter their gray
over the Pont Des Arts.
How can this sticky dust
be the body of the one I loved?
The weather fits my errand.
It is dark outside
and spitting rain
across the famous Paris cobbles.
The pigeons on the sill
are groaning their underwater
insistent on what
will be their day.
I remember the way
you’d wake early like this
in gray-to-new blue
like the bruised glow
at flame’s root, excited
by a thought that had
attached itself to a living
image or musical phrase.
When time finds
its mirror in time,
in a place and its actual shine.
It is like the surprise
of dropping down
to a body, recalling you
are here now, in your life.
It is, I think,
the same surprise.
Rachel Jamison Webster is author of the full-length collection of poetry, September (Northwestern University Press 2013) and a recipient of awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets. She teaches poetry and literature at Northwestern University and edits the online anthology of international poetry, UniVerse of Poetry.
True name: spirea. But we say
Bridal wreath for the laden branches
Of its blossoms, a heaviness cascading like love or grief.
Promises made with purpose,
Serious as a gravestone that holds the long
Vesture of vows, kept or broken. How these flowers
Weigh the heart with an ambition
To outlast loveliness. How lacking scent, they conjure
The eye of the beholder. The way her dress
Rustled in the spring or the cleft
Of his chin, that first glimpse of accord,
The as-yet-unpossessed sexual intimacy.
The vast bushes stagger beneath
Their finery, their gusto
Of white on white clusters, how life
Enjoins us to grasp abundance,
To grasp and gladden, gorge on brevity.
Joan Colby publishes in Poetry, North American Review, Gargoyle, etc. Her most recent books are Selected Poems, Properties of Matter and Bittersweet. A recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Fellowship and two Literary Awards, she is a winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest.
Giving Directions to Muslims, Pittsburgh
September 10, 2010, the end of Ramadan
I walk the trails in Schenley Park every day,
a two-mile loop past the dead-end turnaround
by the playground where today six cars idled
in a caravan, chugging exhaust,
dismayed the road did not continue.
Every day last summer, teaching
in the deep-sting heat of Doha,
I passed the campus prayer rooms,
their cubbyholes lined with shoes.
What can you learn in ten weeks?
Heat is one measurable thing.
Most things are not. For instance,
the heart. For instance, faith.
I stooped to a tinted car window
and a veiled woman hesitated
before lowering it, opening
to the soft sun of September
in Pittsburgh. I wore my Pirates cap,
a member of that tribe, though they have
not had a winning record in eighteen years.
Where do you want to go?
I asked. What are you looking for?
The meadow, she said,
where is the meadow?
I know of no place in this park
where I have walked for 24 years
called the meadow.
I directed her
to the biggest open area in the park,
which was not
it turned out
where she wanted to be.
Did they think I lied?
That’s how easy language
All my students, Muslim:
Qatari. Egyptian. Palestinian. Afghani.
Muslim. Dressed all black
or all white. Or Western. Veiled,
or not. Mascara, or not.
Thouria. Jasmine. Omar. Buthayna.
Ghamin. Jawaher. Khadra. Eman.
Shereena, Afifah. Mamoud. Aisha.
You cannot clump sand together
in that heat, that vast rainless scape.
It falls though fingers, finds its way
into everything, no mixing, blending.
It just is, a fact.
The veiled woman led the cars in a loop
around the small intimate tree
in the circle of the turnaround
that blooms pink in spring
and rages orange-red in fall.
Down the trail, another car stopped me,
and another. It’s Schenley Oval
they wanted, and I could translate the way.
They had to loop under a highway
to reach it, wind up the hill to the track,
the soccer field, the ice rink closed for the season.
In the huge mall across the street
from my apartment in Doha,
more than one of everything sprawled
across the dizzying levels—but just one ice rink,
the novelty act, on the lowest level.
I looked down at laughing struggles, wild falls,
the mad splay of robes. The surprise of no firm
footing, no grit—just the cold slippery surface
I grew up with.
I circled the trail and wound back
toward home, where more Muslims idled
on my street. Roll down your window,
I said again, and I will lead you there.
They in their uniforms, and me in mine.
On my street, and not. In my country,
and not. Here, where posturing Americans
wave flags and fists, while far away,
they wave flags and fists back.
It is easy to scoff, yet I scoff.
I who graded and ranked them,
who ordered them to turn off their phones,
who did not accept their late work.
Who failed them for plagiarism.
What happened to shame,
good old American shame? Oh, the rotting
platform, the foot through the boards,
the explosion of falling.
All in the name of God.
Sickened by grief’s anniversary
and bloated with what I could not say,
I took off my Pirates hat and raised my head
as a plane sliced through the clear sky
above us, then I led them up the hill
where children were dancing.
Jim Daniels’ fourteenth book of poems, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2014. A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.
Prometheus Examines his Motives
It wasn’t only pity,
though they huddled thin-skinned
and shivering, gnawing raw food,
while animals got feathers,
wings, speed, fur.
Nor to show my brother a fool –
He does that well enough
I had no plan.
The torch stood unguarded
while earth froze; winter’s first
flakes began to fall.
My hands reached and grabbed.
Shackled to this rock
whose crevices and mica-flecks
I know better than my own heart,
I search for understanding,
want my reasons revealed the way
my liver shows itself to the probing beak.
Was I noble?
Scapegoat? Savior? Chump?
Who knows why a god
or man does anything. Punishment
brings no insight, just a dull,
pain-induced detachment from the body
which muddles everything further.
Mornings now when the eagle approaches—rapt,
unstoppable—for a second
while he seeks the spot to penetrate,
his absorption feels like love.
Alison Stone wrote Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Award. She was awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She created The Stone Tarot and is a licensed psychotherapist.
On the road to Valle Crucis, I was thinking
of one anniversary rolled into another, of nothing
but pure motion and color, Grandfather Mountain
bathed in spring greens, indigos farther up,
the treeline blinding even with my eyes shut.
Our tenth, but who was counting? It was time
I counted on, years flashing ahead and behind,
diorama of laurel, flame azalea, time tossed casually
as a wave out the window, braking down 194
to the crook of the Blue Ridge, the Vale of the Cross.
We wanted to mark the day with whatever
rose rough and native from the forest floor,
something like the bentwood arbors in the junkyard
outside Boone. It’ll outlast your grandbabies,
the man said. This here rhody and locust’ll
outlast hell or high water. And I thought it might,
steeple of the gardens—hydrangea twined
in adoration, feeders, lavender mane beneath,
rhododendron ribs above, our Carolina pagoda.
It might’ve lasted our last winter together,
the hardest in memory. Twenty-four, but who
was counting on one storm too many passed
over, the nails popped from joints, posts gone
soft, armature listing with no rudder of goodness
and mercy? Who knew we were flying blind
in the valley of the shadow, curves ripped
with abandon, this Via Dolorosa, this travail
across hell’s high waters, in and out of time?
Linda Parsons Marion is an editor at the University of Tennessee and the author of three poetry collections. Marion’s work has appeared in journals such as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Southern Poetry Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Shenandoah, Birmingham Poetry Review, in Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and in numerous anthologies, including Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia.
We were together. I forget the rest.
― Walt Whitman
How do you know the living
from the dead
from the ghosts
from the gods?
In Crete they erected a statue of my grandfather
who wanted only sons.
We have the same ear for reading
the bones in the wind
and breaking down the sun.
Hélène Cardona is author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Pinnacle Book Award) and The Astonished Universe. She holds an MA in American Literature (Sorbonne), taught at Hamilton College & Loyola Marymount University, translated Dorianne Laux and Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, and received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut & Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She is Chief Executive Editor of Dublin Poetry Review and Levure Littéraire.
The Mothers Speak of Sirens
While we sleep we feel them beneath us:
they whistle like the snow mouths
of our children. Press cold
wingbones up where the sheets thin,
paint our necks in their ice breath.
The speed down there, strange brass we almost hear.
We half-rise from black pillows
to listen: their feathers churn
wet spokes, cellos, engines’ din and still, those small bodies
turning in the next room.
None of it’s a dream.
While we sleep we feed them beneath us:
dim bones unclasp
to fly, receive our dreams,
those songs we washed too hard
and in the wrong sand tongues. We send down
letters to salt, blood gulls, the night-ink our wrists break
ocean-black in waves. Dear Understory,
Dear Beasts: we’ll give
our sinuous heat. We want our children safe.
Into that sorrow
we throw our glass wombs.
While Sisters fill, no answer.
When we wake, singing
their terrible tides, we can’t tell
our bodies from the rain.
We return: a bone-storm
scythes from our clavicles,
means to chafe the moon’s lit throat.
We rise. Shouldering their
knife-bright hair, what kind
of women can we stay? How can we
touch our sons in rinsed light, bear
their skin so mild and lonely?
We walk this ground
crowned in our own shards.
Sally Rosen Kindred is the author of two poetry books from Mayapple Press, No Eden (2011) and Book of Asters (2014). She has received fellowships from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.
What I Knew
She was not a martyr or a quiet saint standing in the shadows. She did not wear long pastoral dresses or hang laundry in the breeze like a slow ballad. She was not the woman with the quake of trauma in her eyes or a sadness that filled out her body, did not know loss or grief or anything that would make her life more literary in its descent. And he did not hum to Willie Nelson on anonymous country nights with a six pack of American bud. He did not own a rifle or come home with sawdust on his clothes or a tattoo of Jesus on his back, knew nothing of deer season or the sound of Chevy trucks stuttering blindly through dirt lots. And they never taught me the names of wild flowers or the taste of pig belly, the hereditary maze of logging roads. I did not weave baskets out of corn husks or tabulate the sorrow of crows in dusty fields. And she did not soak toast in milk and serve it in a white bowl or remember the time of day her first child was born. And he did not believe in aspirin or war or capital punishment, never raised his voice to god or to his dead mother, never questioned the physics of the afterlife. But he knew how to swim the length of the shore without being swallowed by birds. And she knew how to tilt her body through bay windows without breaking the glass, knew how to light a cigarette from the bottom of a toaster on Sunday mornings. And I knew just enough to know what it might be like to kill for love, knew the Spanish names of ocean storms, its yearly parade of dark bones stumbling through early September. I knew the dangers of clouds, the grey hiccups of sky surrounding the moon, the cave of its strange silence startled into light. And I knew how love lived, how it pushed and pulled, how it breathed in the shape-shifting black holes of their eyes, in the violence of water, one terrible wave surging into the next, crashing like the bodies of lovers tearing at each other, all teeth and scar tissue, nerve fiber and flesh, plummeting head-first into the white soft-spoken shore, as if wanting so desperately to break the earth and everything on it open.
Kelly Michels grew up in Virginia Beach, VA. She received her MFA from North Carolina State University. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Ruminate, Blue Fifth Review, Nimrod, Redivider, Reed Magazine, What Matters, among others. Her chapbook, Mother and Child with Flowers was published in 2013.
Hilliard and the Queen
Let the world fill with the pleasures
of pleated things: miniatures of royals,
heads perched on neck ruffs
like waves in jewel-colored
enamel portraitures in oil,
and sea views corrugated in
mathematically even furrows, her
mural, the world’s glass floor.
He imagined the colonies like
sea-anemone petals, even barnacles’
huts, both exotic and
symbolic. Dome coral’s accrual
in layers emblemed her rule,
like palatial roof tiles, petals
of bone turned to stone: The world
was seen loyally.
He might have painted little
worlds as her ear-rings—furnace-mouth
clay and sea-enamel blue—imari–
colored globes. The surfaces would ripple
like Raleigh’s neck ruff under the jib
and the half-mast, or the printer
Stubbe’s handless ruffled cuff.
No wonder the Queen’s pleated collars
attracted the same palette as sea views.
Each pleat’s a ridge, each furrow an abyss.
Mary Moore’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Unsplendid, Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Drunken Boat, Birmingham Poetry Review, Levure Littéraire, Sow’s Ear Review, 10 x 3, Connotations Press, Evolutionary Review, Cavalier Literary Couture, American Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner , Poetry and Field. Cleveland State published The Book of Snow (1997).
Love Waltz with Fireworks
Seventeen minutes ago, I was in love
with the cashier and a cinnamon pull-apart,
seven minutes before that, it was a gray-
haired man in argyle socks, a woman
dancing outside the bakery holding
a cigarette and broken umbrella. The rain,
I’ve fallen in love with it many times,
the fog, the frost—how it covers the clovers
—and by clovers I mean lovers.
And now I’m thinking how much I want to rush up
to the stranger in the plaid wool hat
and tell him how much I love his eyes,
all those fireworks, every seventeen minutes, exploding
in my head—you the baker, you the novelist,
you the reader, you the homeless man on the corner
with the strong hands—I’ve thought about you. But
in this world we’ve been taught too keep
our emotions tight, a rubberband ball we worry
if one band loosens, the others will begin shooting off
in so many directions. So we quiet.
I quiet. I eat my cinnamon bread
in the bakery watching the old man still sitting
at his table, moving his napkin as he drinks
his small cup of coffee, and I never say,
I think you’re beautiful, except in my head,
except I decide I can’t
live this way, and walk over to him and
place my hand on his shoulder, lean in close
and whisper, I love your argyle socks,
and he grabs my hand,
the way a memory holds tight in the smallest
corner. He smiles and says,
I always hope someone will notice.
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Hourglass Museum, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, and Geography. She coedited the anthology Fire On Her Tongue and wrote The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice with Martha Silano. She is cofounder of Two Sylvias Press.
Kelp: A Love Story
Green bubbled strands lift
from the creek bed, fold
and float on the surface, tendrils
of tide pulling the sea’s hair
in the predicted direction.
Tables and charts make it simple:
where we are going and against
which forces, the long sighs
of the ocean, wind that twitches
the bows of our kayaks, stubborn,
steady rudders. The water is clear,
bottom sand ridges in parallel
patterns, laws we understand.
Our left brains chatter. Right,
we each love a body that doesn’t
exist, grip our paddles, stroke.
Grace Mattern has worked for over three decades in the movement to end violence against women. Poems have appeared in The Sun, Prairie Schooner, Hanging Loose, Yankee and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the NH State Arts Council and Vermont Studio Center and has published two books of poetry.
We, the Impressionable
We, the impressionable, stand dented
under the moon, looking up.
We’re happy here, if often elsewhere
in our minds, sometimes underwater,
everything blue and slow, with a saxophone
or acoustic guitar, peeling aubergine.
You told us one thing, knowing another,
and we believed you, your words
tiny cubes of cheese or smudges of peanut butter
on the old steel-hinged wooden traps.
Our necks are broken now, our mousy
selves are dead, but we live on
in the Swiss holes of your heart, happy
as before. We got away.
We found out just in time how to dismantle anything.
We had the tiny hand-held tools.
Kathleen Kirk is the author of five poetry chapbooks, most recently, Interior Sculpture: poems in the voice of Camille Claudel (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Her work appears in many print and online journals, including blossombones, Eclectica, Heron Tree, and Poetry East. She is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.
It blundered through, a Spanish bull with lightning horns—
sputtering the crowd of leaves, broke trees, kicked hooves.
Air popped, the evening seemed to surge and everything stopped.
So I learned, when anger passed, the thrill of silence.
Absent was the AC’s cool exhale, the refrigerator’s crunch
on gobs of ice. Clocks finished ticking their blue minutes.
Come back, I say, when sound waves in a billowing cape. Unstill the air.
Come, Derecho, lay bare this stadium we’ve filled with noise.
Or perhaps I need no hooves, no zap or fizz.
I will go where the house is planted, down to its roots and wires.
I will find the breakers, stop the bloodstream flow,
and switch by switch say no.
Laura Shovan is poetry editor for Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. A Rita Dove Poetry Award finalist, Laura conducts school poetry residencies for the Maryland State Arts Council. Her children’s novel-in-verse will be published by Wendy Lamb Books in 2016.
Little sky in these Carolina woods,
more greens than you can number,
above us crooked rafters of washed-out
blue. Here ten kinds of bird all hollering
at once, ten songs of secret nest and sifted
light. Here we are hemmed in by tendrils,
socked in, loblolly so high and thick
even the pasture’s a cracked sarcophagus
where you have to look quick to locate the moon.
I want the western sky
of my girlhood, purple as lupines
and longing. Unligatured wind
that will hollow your bones
like the kiss of a boy at sixteen
who flattened me over the hot hood
of his Ram truck. Give me sun-stunted
scrub oaks rooted in rock and shaped like
bad hearts; the summer a mountain lion
ambushed an appaloosa colt by the barn
and two bottle-fed backyard deer, their bones
dragged to the dump to be picked clean
and sun-whitened. Give me found flint
arrowheads the color of lost rivers,
the barbed-wire fact that Comanche girls
liked burning the captured fawn slowly
to death before breakfast; scorched
earth, nights rampant with stars,
the Pleiades fleeing, an orange skiff of moon going
down fast into black swells of hills. Give me
sunrise the colors of cataclysm, the singular
solace of the canyon wrens, their strafed
ululations, and, in a cartwheel of azure
the lone buzzard wheeling and waiting.
Noel Crook’s first book, Salt Moon, was winner of the 2013 Crab Orchard Review First Book Award and is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in early 2015. Her poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, Shenandoah, New Letters, Smartish Pace and other journals.
Fans want to see the one spark
That catches the flame.
Fans want to hear the perfectly
Nuanced staccato dialogue,
Not the licked over daily
Interruptions of the real.
Fans want the fat drunk
To hit the halftime shot,
Not so he can pay his alimony,
Not so he can fix his kid’s teeth.
Fans want the cannon shot clown
To land in the net,
The smiling Pepsi-selling driver
To survive his fiery fourth turn wreck.
Fans want the skinny man on the cross
To finish his tan and roll their stones away.
Tim Peeler is an educator from Hickory, North Carolina. He is the author of twelve books, the latest of which is Rough Beast from Future Cycle Press.
parched lips for a legless dancer
i offer a body swept clean by hungry ghosts no manna
beneath this rock of flesh so sharp the horizon slices open i grow two icy hearts for the torn pleasure that promises attack hidden lotus flower mango scented fingers lick and receive this night flowering appendage of would be flesh left over dreams of war fossilized childhood white prayer worms nibble stretch my dusty hips into a path winding through starless valleys old women gather in a kitchen pray for rain one less lynching one less daughter breeding in the weeds of acres their hands cannot claim acres that name their bones another winter in this land of cain where scars are bright rules whip across your back where galvanized tin mirrors flatter the bruises like the dishonest soul’s smirking tearing at it’s own likeness forgive us for we do not know how to kneel the wind speaks that too is prayer my grandmother stands with old women on a porch stained by shackled innocence she works through the night building coffins listening to the hymns of tiny devils she wolves dance beyond the dark hair wet alive merges with the wood her fur-winged lover chants a wrenching wounded hosanna sings praises to a legless moon whore becomes forbidden night shapes feasts on scissor-handed scorpions steals the lovely song of kindness from a merciful divinity.
Jaki Shelton Green: poet, creativity coach, teacher, cultural activist. Her books include Feeding the Light, Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song. The recipient of many awards, she was recently inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. She lives in Mebane, North Carolina.
Scene with Hidden Raj Chair
Indian snake English rose garden
And our own itchy vanity
This house is a quaking porcelain
Ghosts pour out like tea
We have cut our cautionary tales
into sugar cubes
We lie with blackened teeth
watch decorum’s poison flower
How do you do? With scissored tongues
You hang the portraits too low
mirrors too high
They show doublespeak
rotating in the phantom blades
of the ceiling fan
We sit upright for questioning
in chairs upholstered with the silk
of all our family’s women
Dust from the graveyard
settles on the opium table
Shadab Zeest Hashmi is a recipient of the San Diego Book Award and the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poetry International, The Cortland Review, Vallum, Atlanta Review, Journal of Postcolonial Writings, The Adirondack Review and other publications. She is a columnist for 3 Quarks Daily.
Whoever has not licked money will not know the intimacy of coins.
Whoever has not laid seeds into the earth will have blank fingernails.
Whoever has not put on her second skin will leave it in her closet.
Whoever had not danced the rhumba will not slick a wet curl to her cheek.
Whoever has not spread her thighs will not love that small creek.
Whoever is rushing down the street will not notice the dark red plum leaf falling.
Lola Haskins‘ most recent book is The Grace to Leave (Anhinga). Among her awards are two Florida book awards, the Iowa Poetry Prize, two NEAs, and recognition for her environmental writing from Florida’s Eden. Ms. Haskins teaches for the Rainier Writers Workshop.
To a Propjet
we’re trapped inside,
may your propellers
darkening the air
outside our windows
so fast the blades
fade into huge circles
transparent as gray
a cooling view
of Earth in retreat:
may their smooth whirl
keep us all soaring
in a trembling rumble
of rivets and sheetmetal
and forward momentum
and omniscient lift
above poor terra firma
its trees blessed
by our shadow’s cross
when your descending
unsteadily returns to
the unpressurized surface,
the jealous air finally
landing far too fast.
Michael McFee is the author or editor of 14 books, most recently That Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012), a full-length poetry collection; The Smallest Talk (Bull City Press, 2007), a chapbook of one-line poems; and The Napkin Manuscripts: Selected Essays and an Interview (University of Tennessee Press, 2006).
Trees of My Youth
There was a poplar that held me
long, yawning afternoons,
and a dogwood that gave me a scar,
like a ring, a keepsake,
and a maple with limbs like limbs,
bark smooth as skin.
I don’t think they cared for me,
absorbed in their own swaying. I
perched, pouting. The nothing there was
to do gathered like a thunderhead,
a sky full of it, smelling like ozone,
and me, there, in the arms
of that tall mute creature, my future,
nothing doing, humming above the stunned yard.
Michael Chitwood has published seven books of poetry, two of which won North Carolina’s Roanoke-Chowan Prize, and two collections of prose that include radio essays written for NPR affiliate WUNC. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly and numerous other national journals.