Rip by Steven DaLuz
Joan Colby | Amy Gottlieb | Betty Adcock | Megan Merchant | Taylor Edmonds | Margarita Serafimova | Meg Eden | Rasaq Malik | María Luisa Arroyo | Tina Kelley | Richard Foerster | Barbara Crooker | Stan Sanvel Rubin | Lukpata Lomba Joseph | Marjorie Stelmach | Jaydeep Sarangi | Sherre Vernon | Laura Foley | Heidi Williamson | Chris Murray | Erica Lee Braverman | Kelvin Kellman
Red-Tail Hawks at Noon
Two black sky-anchors silhouetted
Against the noonday sun.
They circle overhead
Hunting with hundred-story scope
A field mouse ignorant of fate.
They mate for life. A high nest
In our woodlot. Every season
Sees them soaring. It is said
They’ll hook talons in their
Sexual dance. I’ve never seen that
Only the rust flash of their tails
As they ascend the thermals.
Their unmistakable cry rids the world
Of mercy. Oh, crucibles of
Blood and hunger, how we long to
Believe in something.
Joan Colby’s Selected Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her recent books include Carnival from FutureCycle Press, The Seven Heavenly Virtues from Kelsay Books and Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Her latest books are Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press and Elements from Presa Press.
There is the light
and what the light does
when the fog sails over
the chalky calanchi ridges
when the volcanic tufa stone
is softened sepia by the sun.
We live here on a pinnacle of clay.
Thinning layers yield to time,
slipping down the cliff in silent descent.
There is the seeing
and what we make of the seeing.
Between is the high suspension bridge,
long, steep, unforgiving in the wind.
We climb and are risen into this improbable myth.
Before we enter the walled city
we cannot know what lies within.
The bridge is the umbilical cord.
Without it we have no water, gas, electricity
no red wine, no toilet paper, nothing to eat
no eager tourists capturing images of the dying city
they bring prosperity to the restaurant owner
who demonstrates the olive press
once powered by blindfolded donkeys
trudging in circles to crush
the olives that grew plump
on the trees that basted in the sun.
Some days we are alone here, yielding to the fog.
Those who stay become radars of
cloud density, zephyr, starlight, and dream.
Why make something when seeing is enough?
If we have no need to traverse the bridge
we can live inside these walls forever.
Amy Gottlieb’s poems have appeared in the Ilanot Review, Storyscape, SWWIM, On Being, Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, The Beautiful Possible, was a finalist for the Ribalow Prize, Wallant Award, and a National Jewish Book Award.
Woman Thinking Before the Accident
L.A. Freeway, 21st Century
All day I am tossed into objects, their screens
vicious with graphs, spreadsheets, memos,
orders to fill, to deny, to return.
My iPhone has tentacles, abstractions wearing
occupational smiles. How can I ask to be
found, my ankles twined under my desk?
The others surround me, young women I released
from myself, a skinful of pigeons repeating, repenting.
They’re my successions, our molting, our mourners’
gait. We can explode. We can wait.
I asked for the time and got bad lovers, keys,
lipsticks, transparent dreams, a litany
of puzzles. The coming familiar
took shape in thin air.
Around my throat, under the silk scarf,
there’s a jumprope, a knotted belt and the thin
cord from the psychiatrist’s window-blind.
The stem of my tongue aches with silence.
In minutes my bones will break
through red walls of my flesh, ribs, knees,
spine unlocked, instant undoing bloody
as bedclothes holding a knife
on the wrong weekday morning.
As if in a great wind, my auburn hair
will go out from me like something sung.
Betty Adcock is author of seven collections of poems from LSU Press, most recently Rough Fugue (2017) and a chapbook, Widow Poems, from Jacar Press. Her awards include the North Carolina Award for Literature, the Poets’ Prize, the Texas institute of Letters Prize, and a Guggeneheim Fellowship in Poetry. She taught at Meredith College, NC State University, and the low residency Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
I want to learn this song—
a man tells me he sang it once, in an elevator shaft—
some people just know where the best
I get weepy when I think of it—all graffiti and damp,
a cringe of piss in the air, the song
like a dried dandelion
blown three stories and the bass notes—maintenance,
a few buildings down, with their jackhammers,
knocking out a hunk
of greenspace where the most human parts of us are
allowed to break—cigarettes pinched
between lips—a conspiracy
to keep us from singing. My god, I want to unpack
and spend at least three weeks between
the strings, have someone
slide their fingers across my skin, and while I’m not
usually fond of being muted, I might
forgive that pressure
holding me steady. I tell him that I’m going to return
as a musician in my next life. If I can
grasp a few chords now,
embody the vibrations. If I can learn to move
between frets with a broken string.
I’ll bruise trying.
I’ll press the emergency button between floors.
I’m a raw nerve and that song is a horsehair
Megan Merchant is an editor at The Comstock Review and Pirene’s Fountain. Her latest book, Before the Fevered Snow, will come into the world with Stillhouse Press in April 2020.
You admit that the hush of night
is unbearable alone. This we have
in common, the need for another’s
breath to see us through till morning.
I think of the bodies that have been
here before. Their outlines
into the memory foam
of your mattress, leaving
secrets for the next to find buried
from the night before. Look
at me — I am of reluctant glory.
I close my eyes the whole time we’re
You whisper mine, mine
to the body, declaring
each part for the taking
with the trail of your tongue.
Do you know how it feels
to be a passenger in your own
skin? You are wicked, hungry,
cunning, lonely. You cannot hide
this from me, it spills from your mouth
like loose teeth. What are we but spectators?
Our bones glued to the walls
so we must watch ourselves
Taylor Edmonds is a poet and performer from South Wales. Her work has been published by BBC Sesh, Wales Arts Review, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, The Cheval Anthology, Black Bough, The Cardiff Review and more. Taylor is also a team member of Where I’m Coming From Cardiff open mic platforming BAME writers in Wales.
Margarita Serafimova’s work has been nominated for many awards, including a Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (Staring Problem Press), is forthcoming. Her work appears widely, including Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda, Poetry South, London Grip, Waxwing, A-Minor Magazine, Trafika Europe, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Obra/Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Origins Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Moria and elsewhere.
原爆 – Atom
the body unfolds
like a paper crane,
like a fish
in the silent sea
of floating fish:
leaves only a son’s shadow
memorialized in a wall.
A girl remains
as only a name
in the stomach
of a Nagasaki lunchbox.
A woman’s body
wears glass shards
still carrying the child
across a carbon-black world.
The child holds firmly
the woman’s hand, even when
the maggots come,
even as she hungers, even
when this nuclear rapture
has removed her mother,
Meg Eden‘s work appears in Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020). She runs the Magfest MAGES Library blog.
Ode to Fire
"Wildfires have devastated Australia, incinerating an
area roughly the size of West Virginia and killing 24 people and as
many as half a billion animals." —The New York Times.
In bed, my child sleeps under
a blanket, his eyes closed against
the bulb that beams in the room.
Some nights I strike a matchstick
to illuminate the room, to see my
child in bed, asleep. In the news,
a country becomes ash. The remains
of animals litter everywhere,
each burnt animal a history
of a country ravaged by fire.
Sometimes I imagine my child
being snatched away from me
by the violence of everything in
the world. Tonight there are dead
animals, unburied. I feel these
animals could be our children,
burned; I feel these animals
could be us, dead, silent in
a world that is unkind to us.
Rasaq Malik‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, New Orleans Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review, One, Minnesota Review, and elsewhere. He won Honorable Mention in 2015 Best of the Net for his poem “Elegy,” published in One.
The Flag is Bleeding, 2019
after Faith Ringgold’s quilt, The Flag is Bleeding (1997)
Twenty-one stars pin this mother’s grief
to royal blue, the sclera of her eyes, scarlet.
She can no longer see, no longer count.
Her hands press against her Sunday dress
her remaining son, her remaining daughter
—still wet from the bath—still safe
in their unknowing. They stand on tiptoe,
one on each of her broad brown feet, to keep
her from falling, from reading with her fingertips
the blooming glyphs of blood, names
of massacred in this country
she’s still afraid to call home.
Multilingual poet María Luisa Arroyo’s latest chapbook, Destierro Means Means More than Exile, pays tribute to 32 women poets. Her poems appear in journals such as The Common and anthologies, including Boricua en la Luna. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Writing & First-Year Studies at Bay Path University.
The Brother My Parents Almost Adopted
I almost grew up with a man in this world,
but my father had a major heart attack
right before the baby boy was supposed to arrive
from Maine I think. Cipher baby, a circumstance
miscarriage, something for my mother to mourn?
I can look at any 54-year-old American male and wonder,
are you adopted, did we almost share a childhood, a life?
I’m sure he grew up somewhere, maybe with a sister.
Maybe he passed southbound on the highway as we headed up
to Lake Winnepesaukee once, a red Toyota Camry doing 55,
just across the median strip.
If Dad’s artery hadn’t jammed shut
that August, we would’ve known each other
more completely than anyone knows us.
We could’ve discussed why the folks
acted strange some days. I could’ve questioned
authority sooner. I might’ve learned better how to argue,
seeing father-son head-butting.
He would’ve pulled my orbit into an oval, made me share the spotlight
and dessert more. I could’ve learned the art of protective sweetness.
Mom could’ve spread her skills around, not focused solely on me. Hurrah!
Dad could’ve had grandchildren sooner, seen his surname live on. A brother
might’ve helped visit Ma, clean out her apartment, and notarize forms.
Oh, my kids could have an uncle.
I miss someone faceless, scentless,
someone no one I know has ever met,
or if they did, how would I know?
No one knows my childhood but me.
Tina Kelley’s Rise Wildly is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press, joining Abloom & Awry, Precise, and The Gospel of Galore, which won the Washington State Book Award. She co-authored Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, and shared in a Pulitzer covering 9/11 at The New York Times.
Last night, the fool in me waking,
as if half-drunk, wanted to dance
when the wind came up, insistent as surf,
and lofted my bedroom window’s sheers
like veils about my shoulders. A wish,
a whoosh, a clacking like castenets
moved through the limbs of the aspens
that border my lawn, had set them
dervishing, the whole congregation,
moonlit, on tiptoes, as if in frenzied
praise of a god made manifest, riding
on a sweep of wind, and I felt certain
the aspens would endure again
the quaking current of that ecstasy.
In light it’s hard not to believe
optimism is just stubborn pretense.
This morning three trees lay felled,
the roots exposed like hacked bones
in opened graves. I’ve stood before
in the stillness of afterstorm,
the everywhereness of it, among litter
strewn from far corners of my brain—
the stutter and static of news, brittling
green torn from clichés of hope
and tides of war and brewing storm—
and stared into a wreckage of words
left abandoned on the page
as if I’d never been that god of weather.
And so I wield again the grumbling
bite of a chain saw. I’ll make neat cords
of nuisance. I’ll hitch the stumps
to a truck and yank them out
easy as teeth, easy as taking a rake
to smooth over what’s past, tamp it flat
with my muck boots in a foolish dance.
Richard Foerster’s eighth collection is Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems (Tiger Bark Press, 2019). His numerous honors include the “Discovery”/The
Nation Award, Poetry’s Bess Hokin Prize, a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and two NEA Poetry Fellowships. He lives in Eliot, Maine.
October, walking along the Arno, glazed in the saffron light
of late afternoon. . . Earlier, we’d been to the Accademia,
seen David—Stop looking. I know you’re looking—said
the lecturer—the dimples on his knees, his magnificent culo.
What would it be like to spend just one night with that perfect man?
Today, the imperfections of our aging bodies become more evident:
my grinding knees, your screaming plantar fasciitis, which sent
you back to our hotel in a cab while I toured the Uffizi alone.
But oh, La Primavera! I want to be Flora, clothed in flowers:
forget-me-nots, daisies, buttercups, poppies, carnations, wild roses
circling my waist. But instead, I’m an aging woman in sensible shoes,
walking along the river alone, the light turning shifting shades
of tea-rose, lilac, peach, light that might be the lacquer of an old master.
I am trying not to stumble on the uneven pavement, trying not to bump
into impossibly chic women coming out of Gucci and Prada
carrying designer bags. The Ponte Vecchio looks tempting,
but we have dinner reservations near our hotel, where we will hobble
three blocks on the cobblestones, then eat crostini, bistecca alla fiorentina,
Chianti, meringhe con fragole. Age may have painted us into a corner,
tempered our desires, but when we finally lie down at night, laying down
the burdens of tendons and knees, we’ll pull up, not the high thread count
sheets of this fine hotel, but the waters of the Arno at sunset, colors of Prosecco,
Bellinis, and let them carry us off into the arms of night’s soft chiaroscuro—
Barbara Crooker is the author of nine books of poetry including Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series). Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.
Why would the clock
seem to run backwards
on just this night,
the night we married
in the parlor of our Upstate home
and drove the small group
of friends and invited relatives
through a blinding snowstorm
to the white Victorian inn
we’d booked by the canal
for everyone to share our promises.
Unused to snow, or once-in-a-decade
snow like this, they followed
in a slow line behind,
trying to catch
at one mile an hour
the dim red burst of our lights
fitfully coming and going
like comets through the awful storm.
Leading, I kept one eye
on the vanishing road ahead
and one on the ghostly
shapes behind, trying to estimate
the danger of everything.
Stan Sanvel Rubin’s work was most recently in Wilderness House Literary Review, Agni, Georgia Review, the 25th anniversary issue of Atlanta Review and For the Love of Orcas. His fourth full-length collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press. He lives on the northern Olympic Peninsula of Washington.
Confessio (Why I Sink Deep to Seek Recluse in a Bottle)
We were butterflies and
formed cusps on fresh foliage
under a yellow sun.
We spoke in whispers and the softness
of our words was affirmed by
hanging on to coo down praises.
We were called the amateurs
and we clasped that name to
our chests, building a castle to house it.
But this was not unlike every paradise—
someone eats an apple, any apple: crispin, braeburn
honeycrisps or jonagold
and all goes back to dust.
I still see you walking away
from the lighted lone door which
I had kept locked for some time.
I hear your ghost traipsing
steps on pieces of broken
mirror, heading for the door
as night falls.
I have gone in to let loose
the bird you tied to my bed
frame but it will not fly.
Lukpata Lomba Joseph is Nigerian. He writes for an online weekly magazine, Joshua’s Truth. His work has also appeared in the New York University’s Caustic Frolic Journal, Still Point Magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal, Squawk Back Journal, Poetry NI’s FourXFour Journal and elsewhere. Lukpata has special interest in works that explore internal noise.
Churches are best for prayer that have the least light.
— John Donne
It looks the same.
Shadowy crosses tremble in the long aisle.
Saints recede into the dark of archways.
The organ softly takes up being lost—a minor key,
The congregation’s soft garments shift their folds,
aligning with the murmur of prayer.
Down all these years it returns, the order of service.
I follow to the end.
I leave in silence.
I wasn’t looking for a way back,
only to close the day against an old error.
A day as long as ever.
An error even longer.
Marjorie Stelmach’s sixth poetry collection, One Chair, One Evening, is upcoming from Ashland Poetry Press. Her poems have previously appeared in ONE, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, Prairie Schooner, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from The Beloit Poetry Journal.
Dancing in Time
Every loss is a faith somewhere,
all rivers rice civilization.
Each of us has a home
silence away from home
Each one has a destination
here, there, somewhere.
Each of us will leave the world unseen
pyres, graves, coffin.
All streams will not reach the sea
some take other paths.
All of us wait for the clock
old, busy hours
Killing us every day, every moment
building a new faith somewhere.
Far and away from my doorways
far from these trees, the stream of Dulung.
Leaving behind all contacts
of Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Long nights take away my sleep
silent doors know my heaves of sighs.
My towels have your name
hours run, tick tock. Breaking me.
Note: Dulung is a small river in west Bengal, India. It flows through tribal villages of Jhargram district.
Jaydeep Sarangi has published eight collections in English, latest being: Heart Raining the Light. His translations have appeared in Geetanjali and Beyond (Scotland), BTR, Transnational Literature, Indian Literature, Pegasus and elsewhere. He is the Secretary of Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library, ICCR, Kolkata, and the Vice President of Guild of Indian English Writers Editors and Critics.
After Hiking the Coast
with my first love and his wife
We’ve been three days, touching
the tide pools: her body a silhouette of mine;
Leo just a little higher in the sky, his paw
over Jupiter; our profiles, nearly one
in the reflected light.
Between the citrus scented needles
we’ve bound to bouquet, and the pine nuts
wrested from the cone, she holds me
in that common space, laughs how little you’ve bent
your fate in our exchange.
A rest on the rocks, our feet sinking
into the sleek and marbled pebbles. Translucent
like them, we glow under a millennium of waves,
watch you watching the horizon. She pushes the curls
from my face, grasps my hand against falling,
tells me I am for you
a bit of grace
With the wind, I say
There’s nothing left in him
of me. With your eyes, she says
he is the wild, uplifted sea.
The decade we’ve come to breach
has you layered out like so many old leaves
over yourself: faded sketches
for the use of roots, weeds.
My Achilles attachment sings this; one
moment you are a grey-haired stranger
in that song. The next, my young, and lonely love.
Over the shoals, I try to speak of it: a tenderness:
your hand to each of us in turn, feet braced across a puddle;
that moment arm in arm, after you’ve caught the final
shimmer of sun, reckless and fleeting
off the crest of my cheek; your hand
securing me to the footholds of the cliff.
You will spend an hour rubbing menthol and eucalyptus
into this ache.
For the short drive to the airport
you wrap me in your gear, and I can think
only of your father, speechless
with this fear for you, pulling this same hat
down over the edges
of your ears, against the winter
and the rain.
It’s all there, in that small holding:
the shared exhale, the pause before turning
to the curbside, grasping at the luggage
tipping into our feet.
Sherre Vernon is a seeker of a mystical grammar and a recipient of the Parent-Writer Fellowship at MVICW. She has two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings and The Name is Perilous. Readers describe Sherre’s work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical and intelligent.
The Weight of Him
In the dental chair, my heart banging
against my ribs like a prisoner
in a burning jail, I remember
how cold Dad was, in cashmere coat,
well-shined leather shoes, shivering
as we walked from East End to York,
each step he took, among his last on Earth.
I imagine gravity dragging at his weight,
the heavy slowness of his gait.
If each of us cannot be anywhere
other than where we are, please explain
how I connect with the dead like this,
whenever the dental dam goes in,
whenever they say to me, be still.
Laura Foley’s seventh collection of poetry is Why I Never Finished My Dissertation. Her work has won the Common Good Books poetry contest, Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, Atlanta Review Grand Prize, Foreword Review Poetry Prize and others. A palliative care volunteer, she lives with her wife among the hills of Vermont.
is the fur
of the currently–’
Louise Mathias, Larrea
Tundra hare, turned
white before the snows,
your new hide exposes
tender flesh to undue clarity.
Your slender weight
sows narrow pathways
of terror management
between nightfall and daybreak
as you run uphill on the scree,
screaming the eagle away.
Territories of nibbled bilberries
and heather betray you.
Still your fur shivers,
awaiting the winter at its height
to match your pelt’s maturity.
Winter might just strip us bare.
Heidi Williamson is Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of East Anglia. She teaches for The Poetry School, Poetry Society, National Centre for Writing and The Writing Coach. Her two award-winning Bloodaxe collections are The Print Museum and Electric Shadow. Her third collection, Return by Minor Road is due out from Bloodaxe in April 2020.
the black mountains rise up
cities cloud-urban citadels
not the crow clang-tapping
a tin post not the screel and
soar of the gull can prevent
it tails of berries strew the ground
littered already with wasp-hasps
wet leaves rain washed the trees
out my body in its wet and dry
calls yours it does not yearn for
you I can snap your image from
my mind at the crossing where
life is my soul doing just as theirs
in their everyday I watch them
carry their validities like groceries
the realities of their lives across
streams of traffic observing the
marvel of their feet carrying weight
my feet-of-clay are in their wintering
standing her observing reds deep
dark greens I wish you away and
move into them into their flow
bit by bit the mountains have
dissolved behind houses as magic
cities surely do crows worry the
long wet grass and the gull
has soared to the sea red berries
impinge when I crack their blood
-bags into the ground their juices
red underfoot I pick the threads
snip them at their roots tidying this
box of sharp things scissors and
needles neat and sweet the box
smells of vanilla freesia and some
other thing I put the scissors away
it smells of cedar
Chris Murray lives in Dublin. She founded and curates Poethead; a poetry blog dedicated to platforming work by women poets, their translators and editors. She is an active member of Fired! Irish Women Poets and the Canon which seeks to celebrate and draw awareness to the rich cultural heritage of Irish women poets through readings. Her latest book is ‘bind’ (Turas Press, 2018)
What If Déjà Vu Is Only
moments that resonate?
Disquieting as this road
which seems to signify
You must let go
snaking around each
blind curve, each mile-
marker like a tombstone
for the last. Like so many
times before, I must say
No. Don’t want to.
Can’t. What if? to every unknowable bend.
As a child I believed the moon
was an eye, the look inside it
with desire—meaning we can’t know
if it means us harm.
Still those beams drag ghostly
nails across my windshield,
conjure the white noise
between the white lines: years
when the hum inside
was not the peace that childhood
promised. Even now the luminescent
rails flash unevenly, echo
the anxious creek rattling below.
So when the eyes gleam
into the circuit of
unbroken high beams—What if—
I’m suddenly hurled
to the moment when—it all ends
like a question—the car hit and the soul
ejected—with a stammer
and a lilt—
like a backfiring roman candle
in the astonished boy’s hands.
Erica Lee Braverman‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, Hotel Amerika, Radar Poetry, North American Review, Passages North, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Descant, Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, So to Speak, and elsewhere. She’s nominated for a Pushcart Prize from Passages North, and received an MFA from the University of Oregon. She lives in Portland.
A Portrait of My Grandmother as a Green Woman
Unlike others, I pluck this from my orchard of memory with ease: I,
a seeded cornball at variance with Gran, threatening to leave back for
the city. It is a memory plaited into distant afternoons when our song
ran cold, and the anthem of our bond muddied by a wispy cloud of tiff.
An evening in her village, in the month of two festivals—one, yam, the
other, town—I trudged behind in blooming grumble, praying to be let
into farm chores. We passed her mud-cement kitchen when the veil of
her indifference dissolved into shards of questions to address my threats.
If you leave, where will you find fresh breeze like this in Lagos, forests
with bush paths, birds that sing you awake every morning, or the clay
you mold with? Will you be able to play in the rain, break palm kernel,
or roast cashew seeds for nuts? I stood frowning, gathering my defense.
She had listened to my spirited intervention, my defense of city-living,
which included amongst other things, baobab buildings, metal bridges,
asbestos roofing. So that when I concluded, she said—her face formed
in a ponderous solemnness set as in a prayer—child, you know nothing.
Kelvin Kellman writes from Lagos/Ibadan, Nigeria. He’s had works featured or forthcoming in Green Briar Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Hawaii Review, North Dakota Quarterly and elsewhere.