Art by Barbara Tyroler
Molly Twomey | Mary Morris | Kate Sontag | Carolyne Wright | Anne Pitkin | Rob Merritt | J.R. Solonche | Ellen Stone | Tony Gloeggler | Bill Hollands | Mike James | Toby Levine | Terry Anastasi | Nicole Callihan | Jessica Michael | Judith Skillman | Cassondra Windwalker | Athena Kildegaard | Michael Mark | Simon Perchik | Rose Mary Boehm | Andrew Robin
She and I circle her apartment block, a cloister.
She’s terrified to drink tap water,
to rub moisturizer into her skin.
Sometimes she burns
the whorls on her fingertips,
wonders what it’s like to not exist.
I tell her about colouring books,
how making a whale pink, a blackbird yellow
can give the illusion she could change things.
Do this in the morning, I say,
under the penlight of the sun,
mainly to give her a reason to wake.
I show her the relief of ripping up black nightshade,
hurling rotten eggs against cement,
how destroying something might distract her
from how much she wants to hurt herself.
All of this is to say that nobody will help
until she has climbed down
the BMI scale into a comatose state.
I share with her the risks I took
to be thin and cared for.
Molly Twomey has been published in Poetry Ireland Review, Banshee, The Irish Times, The Stinging Fly and other journals. In 2021, she won the Eavan Boland Mentorship Award and was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary. She is currently working on her debut collection.
The Last Castrato
Waking from a dream, in a pensione near the winged lion, down the street
from Accademia di Musica, I hear these canaries, voices so velvet I imagine
they are the last castrati. In Venice, gold-leafed baroque, blue damask,
crimson decadence, pre-adolescent sons were sold by poor families
for their voices.
Gondolas ferry cargo. Each little boy with the solo of a cherub—shred
of the ethereal world—sluice, severance before vocal cords deepen
into a man. Treble clefs for choirboys, men whose contralto hovered
over the Palace of the Doges, as water murmured under the Bridge
of Sighs. Larynx altered, soprano sweetened.
Shiver the evil by a father or mother who received a sack of coins
for sacrificing their young son, I leave this place of beauty and sin,
arrive home across continents, listen to a recording of the last castrato,
an angel in limbo, in pain and splendor between heaven and hell,
so sweet yet vulnerable, singing Deo.
In Excelsis Deo.
Mary Morris is the author of three books of poetry: Enter Water Swimmer, Dear October, and Late Self-Portraits, forthcoming from MSU Press (selected by Leila Chatti for the Wheelbarrow Books Prize). Her poems are published in Poetry, Boulevard, and The Massachusetts Review. She received the 2021 New Mexico Book Award.
To touch anonymous bodies is not always kind.
Take this pale thumbnail span of half-moon
wings as they land camouflaged by the same
unknown shade of moss or wild marsh dream
from where. Be kind to these cells slippery as
dust in the hand. Think wind-spun laurel leaf,
wintered over sage. Mistaken momentarily from
what stonewashed sleeve. Say a former wife
subdued her bedroom grey-green before she left
for good her garden below these high windows,
paintbrush bristles and breath imprinted quietly
as once fluffed pillows. Be kind to this powdery
touch of pistachio light, hint of sun arcing west.
Let it claim calm lime silhouette in wishful not
fallen flight patterns. Imagine fourfold dignity
so light to the touch, no lust to become emerald,
jade, fern. Gone to ghost now, another couple
slept here faithfully, fitfully before you. Lost
themselves in your new house, what was theirs.
Be kind. Lose yourself in your own earthbound.
Let eyelids open to frost pines about to melt
when. As the moth flickers, offers clues to what
or why, take cues on the wall from your gentle
spy you keep trying to but can’t quite identify
as a species of foreshadowing. Remnant of
bewilderment unfolding from someone else’s
life story into yours, it sinks you into the small
of your back uncertain against inherited chairs.
Kate Sontag co-edited (with David Graham) After Confession: Poetry As Autobiography (Graywolf). Recent publications include 2nd Prize in the 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest, Comstock Review; Crab Orchard Review; Raintown Review; Verse-Virtual; Tupelo Quarterly and The Strategic Poet (Terrapin). She teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Massachusetts.
Epithalamion in Blue
I’m not about to hold a gun
to your head, but lover the brain
the body want to say it: believe
it’s you, it’s time—this time
to get it down. In the ink’s
indelible vanishing acts.
The alibis that revise themselves
wherever the blue skirt lifts
and summer breaks in upon itself
catching one or the other of us
off-guard, dressed down for our own betrayals.
In the blood’s panic-song
we’re so often somewhere else
paying our dues long distance,
but even when the tongue sleeps
and the words fall all over themselves
we’ve got to play out every blue note
on the scale—bebop, Brahms or backstep,
or the birohi’s solo wail our mothers
told us never to settle for. No way around
the body’s double-time, or else we walk
that walking bass line by ourselves,
there where the heart can talk itself
into anything, taking its dangerous chances.
Who did we think we were?
Ebony Adam and ivory Eve
undoing this nation’s original sin
in our own bodies? Ideals we meant
to depend on, Effie White crying I’m not going
from jukeboxes in the corner bars. Now
you take my hand in the nameless colorations
of the street, my summer dress
a shimmer in the gritty breeze.
Hours later in the fifth-floor walk-up,
we make love in a tangle of borrowed sheets,
your hands with their scent of another woman
raising my nipples to hard red light.
Don’t ask me to forget this.
Transgression: so sweet, that woman
you undressed in another city
as if you were hardly there, as if anyone
could have been responsible. Collective
melancholy—I touch you now
where the blessed cicatrice flowers.
In that other city where the heart
tried not to go crazy, you know how a season
can cave in, your best intentions
turn against you. You know
about sending money home to a lover
while she traded your shadow
for another man’s. How did you like
those heartwounds, soldier? Don’t tell me
you misconstrued those damages.
All that we’ve risked for each other
we hold against the shadows.
Independence evening truth serum,
a taste of your own medicine
sears our lips—lighting up our flash-
forward fallbacks. What we’re here for.
Generations more than the fluvial tease,
the glisten of rivers reversing
their directions underneath our skins.
Hard lovers of a decade half-gone
we navigate these avenues for all
they’re worth, as day glows into night
and we cross out the unforgiven dates.
The clock’s face collapses
into its bent black hands, the alarm
needle between them snapped off.
The whole weight of the city
holds us up, and nothing can stop us
from crossing that middle-of-the-road line
but ourselves: roman candles arcing
upwards into indigo light
like a cartoon artist’s dialectic,
sparking each other, sweet freedom’s
bondage season just a kiss away.
Carolyne Wright‘s latest book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2017). She teaches for Seattle’s Hugo House. A Contributing Editor for the Pushcart Prizes, Carolyne has published 16 earlier books and anthologies of poetry, essays, and translation. Forthcoming is Masquerade, a memoir in poetry.
Outside the coffee shop, dusk quickens, a welcome chill against my face.
The old air raid tower looms next to the tiny park where no one stops
between the neighborhood center and the piano store.
Destruction fills the news kiosks on this corner
where an air raid, at least, seems quaint.
Inside the shop, the same crowd studies the bulletin board:
handwritten ads for massage, a Presence workshop, a Tai Chi class,
a dog walker, a guitar, an accountant for Creative People.
Mothers arrange enormous strollers around the small tables,
talking urgently, the babies babbling and gnawing snacks.
Dare I say impermanence casts a permanent light
on this neighborhood where I have lived for years
so far. Dare I say I am happy in this rosy dusk billowing briefly
yet again into the street just as the lights blink on?
Later, I will hear the visiting candidate.
Will I remember everything she says? Probably not
in this blessed chaos blowing all of us moored
each to her own fate. I was once startled to see the sun
shining a single ray on a Steller’s jay sailing, blue wings
under the arc of a double rainbow. I took it as a sign.
Of what, I never decided. This flurry of evening
happens again and again as if for the first time, a kind of order
after all. Summer has finally gone. Good riddance I say.
Good riddance to daylight clinging past its welcome.
The artist lies on a pavement
as rain falls on him, gets up and photographs his shape
before it vanishes. A young couple laughs,
catching a broken umbrella lurching up the street.
Anne Pitkin’s work has appeared, over the years, in Poetry Chicago, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle and many others. She has published two collections, Yellow and Winter Arguments. This poem is included in But Still, Music, her third book, forthcoming this spring.
Here Comes October Again and Again
Apples rolling down mountainsides
And where I live the trains are still hauling out the coal for India
My mother died in October
Rob Merritt teaches literature and creative writing at Bluefield University in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He has published poetry collections Landscape Architects, The Language of Longing, and View from Blue-Jade Mountain. He has taught workshops on the healing power of poetry and journaling and writes about the geographical imagination.
The last word you hear as you leave the room is the word you remember. It is the word that becomes your shadow for an hour, that shares your shape, that you hear over and over again, that becomes a bell to warn you of a place without meaning. The last word you hear as you leave the room entangles you in sweet briar. You did not notice when the compromises began. Perhaps you have always compromised. As soon as the dream found a voice or as the feeling found a form. Nothing is pure, after all. The shell is cool on the shelf. Your shoulders ache from rowing for an hour on the lake. A dog swam there with his master. The fireflies are invisible in the hedges. The shelf is cool under the shell. Nothing must happen behind your back. The world must be perfect and whole. You must ignore the tapping, tapping, tapping on the sidewalk in summer. You must ignore the wingy whirr in the crabapple tree. You must ignore the crack of the stair in the dark. We live in such a narrow house. The door scrapes our heads. The window is our eyes’ size. There is something you should know. There is something else. The mainspring of love wears out, loses its force. It falls behind time, further and further. It never catches up again. Or there is something else. Or there are two pleasures only. Or they are the same pleasure with different faces. Or remembering a face is like remembering the clock. Was it brass or bronze? Were the numerals Arabic or Roman? Were those angels on top or birds? Or the average person learns and remembers ten thousand faces in their lifetime. It is not true that if you do not understand now, someday you will understand. I will tell you what is true. The eglantine is true. Only the eglantine.
Nominated for the National Book Award and twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of twenty-four books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.
God of dogs
Mound of towels from the bath, dog rubbed down as vigorous as before, but beneath
my hands she shrinks to puppyhood. Diminished but whole. Why I could not rejoice
she was with me yet? My mind retracts, panicked as if my movements would make her
disappear. How do you prepare for grief? Boat on the river and the water’s down, Dad says.
Low, current so still we are barely moving. But there we are, yellow sky of not-yet-spring.
Mom, near ninety, crows like a nestling in the shower when she is ready— for soap, wash rag.
Time to suds her hair, time to smooth it. Her mouth, open for the worm and me, mama bird
busy on the wing scooping bugs or fluff. What to feed her, what to keep the nest— place
of landing, soft. Here the old dog naps on her thick pad, narrow head, frosted muzzle
between her paws. I crave rest— for her, for Mom when lunch is ending. Say time for a nap,
radio set to a slow jazz drawl, flicking off the light. Hair damp from my toweling. Tuck her in.
Murmur a short prayer or story of spring— the dogs giving birth, finding all the puppies
in the coop, sharp peak of joy, newness waxy wet, fresh foul beginning in a vast rough world.
Ellen Stone advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013).
The waitress recognizes Jesse, smiles
while he recites his ritualistic order.
Though I know she knows it by heart,
I ask him to talk slower so someone new
on some other day would bring him
what he wants. The waitress says,
apple juice coming right up with plenty
of ice and Jesse quickly says, no plenty,
since it’s not the exact phrase he uses.
She pours water. He pushes his glass
to my side of the table, turns in his chair,
ignores me to scan the place, watch people.
I try to follow his sight line, but never see
what he sees. He leaves my questions
unanswered whenever I interrupt
the delight fizzing in his eyes, ask him
what he’s looking at. I imagine some
mystical autistic power that understands
how everything fits together and moves
as one that’s beyond my vision, my grasp.
or maybe he’s eleven year old me, sitting
across from my father saying school
was fine, I guess. I know Jesse prefers
me to keep quiet, but I visit only once
a month and can’t resist posing a question
about his morning, the name of the staff
who worked with him, what they did.
Sometimes, he’ll just look away. Others,
he’ll give out information like a captured
soldier: Brandon, hike Happy Hollow
trail with a look that makes me realize
how much I’m annoying him, I better stop.
Still after years of silence, I love hearing
his voice, any word he speaks. The waitress
brings apple juice. He peels the straw open,
hunches over, sucks it down in three pulls,
pushes it away, asks me for more apple juice
please. I point at the waitress walking away.
I’m getting clam chowder, steak frites, a side
of Brussels sprouts. When the waitress places
his chicken fingers, French fries extra hot
in front of him, Jesse slides the cup of ketchup,
rolled up utensils and napkin out of his reach,
grabs a piece of chicken, takes a bite. I point
to his glass, mouth refill please. The waitress
stands by, watches his lips. If he doesn’t open
his mouth into a long O sound and hold
the piece on his tongue and blow a bit,
she knows she has to take it back, make it
more hot now. But the cook got it right tonight.
Jesse sometimes holds a chicken finger
in each hand and usually finishes them
before starting on the fries. He watches
carefully if I try a fry, but doesn’t complain
with an injured cry as he once did. Still,
I know better and only take one more.
He’s all done, but half my steak is left
when he says pay. I point to my plate.
On good days, he patiently waits, keeps
people watching. Restless days, I take
out our task list, ask him to read the steps
out loud: Tony finish eating, ask for check,
wait for check, pay bill, wait for change,
walk along the river, go to Happy Belly,
one snack, empty trash, evening routine.
He sighs deeply, folds his hands, stares
as my fork lingers near my mouth, his eyes
pushing to rush me. The waitress reminds me
ice cream comes with his order. Jesse doesn’t
put cold solids in his mouth, but I crave vanilla.
He also never carries anything from the restaurant
back to his apartment. So while he’s pulling
his jacket over his arms, I sneak the Dixie cup
into my pocket to enjoy after he falls asleep.
Tony Gloeggler is life-long resident of New York City and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. His most recent book What Kind Of Man (NYQ Books) was recently long listed by Jacar Press and chosen as a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize.
A Rare Sighting
My son spent the better part of today
following people on TikTok whose usernames
recreate the lyrics of Rick Astley’s 1987 hit
“Never Gonna Give You Up.” There is,
of course, so much to say about this –
the jolt of satisfaction he must feel when,
for example, he finds someone whose name is
and or to. It is, perhaps, not so very different
from what I feel now writing these lines. But here
is the part that’s not in the parenting books, how
when he walks into the kitchen to show you
how many he’s found so far, and you’re trying
to make dinner but the dog is barking because
there’s an Amazon guy on the porch
you don’t ask why, you don’t say Good lord
go read a book. Instead you tell yourself
Plant your feet, stay as he towers over you now
from behind and holds his phone over
your shoulder to show you, and then
leans his head against your head, relaxes
his body against your body, until it becomes
a joke, of course, you’re making each other
fall now, and finally you have to say OK stop
I need to make this spaghetti. But for those
few moments it was as if an animal
had wandered out of the woods and into
your kitchen, a moose perhaps, partially
domesticated, a moose in a hoodie, and placed
his snout over the fence of your shoulder,
his breath warm, fur soft, smell moosey,
before ambling away to find his kind.
Bill Hollands lives in Seattle with his husband and their son. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, DIAGRAM, The American Journal of Poetry, The Account, and elsewhere. He was recently named a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize.
Burnt Up Outside Eden
The opposite of your body is what can’t be touched.
This is known best at sixteen in a long summer field.
You hope to kiss every bit of jewelry on the person
You are with. The moon won’t help, out early
In late afternoon blue. The moon’s been touched by gloved
Hands long ago, more than once. More than
Once is a logical progression past one. The most infallible math
You know involves desire. Desire is a key instead
Of a lock. A matchstick inside a letter. Gasoline in a glass bottle.
Desire is the ruler beside an open math book.
Measure distance by blessing or by touch. Secrets plus loss plus
Memory baked in the July sun. In cool grass
We might know burning. The freezing man’s last thought is fire.
Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His many poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog).
Last May we sat
under a flower moon
and ate asparagus tips.
I send a note to Buenos Aires:
Yesterday I saw three
sparrows kill a grasshopper.
They pecked and tore
at the insect trembling
in its fragile green
the color of an empty glass.
When I was nine
the moon sat in my lap.
I emptied it into the river.
It sang to itself
across the water.
A note from Buenos Aires —
Last night I perched
on a previous dream
paper boats floated
in the pond.
When will you come here?
I see the bowl
of trembling strawberries
she holds it out again.
Give and give . . .
How I didn’t want to be there.
I carry her loneliness.
Toby Levine lives in Greenwich Village in New York. Her poems have appeared in TheLittleMagazine and Shot Glass Journal. She has read and performed her work at various reading venues including the New York City Poetry Festival on Governors Island. She is presently working on her first chapbook.
The events are loosely strung together,
beads in a child’s clumsy attempt at a necklace –
each memory dulled over time
melted and misshapen as in a bad dream.
It is clear that first came the news, though who told me is no longer certain
only that it was horrific and prompted
a silent ride down the interstate.
Grandmother’s cramped house was splayed open,
cars in the driveway and strangers
in and out, not knowing
to gently close the screen door instead of allowing it to bang shut.
My mother clutched a note composed on an electric typewriter –
the man who seldom spoke to any of us
had written he loved her –
no words ever uttered when he was alive.
The body was gone but blood spatter
still on the sheetrock…
it struck me how different from tv
where there is never any mention of how or who cleans the mess.
For many months to come
the circular rupture in the wall bore evidence
the bullet traveled through his skull
into the next room.
Today I sit on the edge of Grandmother’s bed,
comforter taut on an unforgiving twin mattress.
I watch mother climb the step stool, trembling –
she does her best to patch the hole.
Terry Anastasi is a Pennsylvania native who sought the milder weather of the Carolinas and made a career of social work. Since retiring he continues helping others as a real estate agent in Raleigh with regular treks to Topsail to write poetry and wander the beach.
Your hands holding the reigns, the rain. Your hands.
The moons of your nails which I absently memorized.
So immemorial. Seizure upon seizure. The way a body twists.
What the mouth finds at the river’s base, the basin.
If to say what must be said is to say it then let it be said.
The bed. The down of tiny chest hairs licked, the bounty.
How strange to not have ended up dead. Not yet. My foot,
an infinity of banana peels. For a long time, I was guided
by impulse, the pulsing nonplussed. I believed myself
to be self-sustaining, a self sustained, contained, a self
I could call my own, like one might refer to a bicycle,
a lunch pail, a lover, a pencil. Mine. What’s mine?
Not that I minded. Never minded. Nevermind.
So what to make now but this soup from this can?
Something to hold me over until dinner. Something
to hold me. To hold me. A cistern of steam.
Nicole Callihan’s poems appear in PEN-America, Copper Nickel, Conduit, and American Poetry Review. Her novella, The Couples, was published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019. ELSEWHERE, her latest poetry collection, a collaboration with Zoë Ryder White, won the 2019 Sixth Finch Chapbook Prize.
In Las Cruces, 500 miles south of my father’s last threat—
where everything blooming is crimson—
we take dinner at the hacienda.
The waitress leans in,
tells us about the woman in white
who hung herself from the balcony right over there—
after she found her lover in bed with
a different kind of beauty.
I wonder if the edge holds the same appeal
now that it dangles a Two For One Margaritas banner,
and her courtyard clogs with American children and strung balloons.
I see her anyway, brackened with age or maybe death.
I’m just 17 and they seem the same.
She must know about my father
and why we’re here,
because she looks only for me
and with a slow wail,
Jessica Michael’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Comstock Review, Allegro, Foxglove, Into the Void, Red Fez, Rebelle Society and others. Her travel writing and photography have been featured in Outdoor Australia, AdventureShe, and LIGHT, among others.
after “The Sea, 1963,” by L.S. Lowry
He stands at the window, watches for ships.
Later the scumbling—an opaque layer to lighten
this slight crease of horizon so far off
it may not exist. Right now he is full,
more full of wonder than anything else.
Perhaps hunger also, and whether
the dining room’s open for seating and will
there be clam chowder and oyster crackers.
He glances up at the low (or is it somewhat high)
off-white ceiling, sees marks left by water.
A storm, that’s it—the roof is old enough.
Yes, the ceiling could stand a coat of paint.
The bed’s not great but it will do. Late light
ebbs like the tide. Before dressing for dinner
he pokes at a small canvas with his knife.
Further defines a wave cresting in blush neutral.
Draws the knife an inch sidewise, pulls for contrast
against one molecule of cobalt turquoise
blended with titanium, umber, and ivory black.
This would be his signature—the gyre churning
another thing to nothing. Outside it’s gray.
He stops, looks at his pocket watch—ah,
going on 6 pm. That woman he saw
earlier in the bakery, a glimpse of neck
naked in the collar of her coat
and beneath the hem two legs in woolens.
He dares not think of in betweens. Prefers
to eat alone. The work is good and cold
en plein air. Not easy. But then he’s learned
to battle desire for ease, to muddle
in topcoat and street shoes through sand
carrying easel and boxes. Like a tugboat
there are maneuvers. It never comes out
just the right way. Glaze, revise, glaze, repeat
thirty times (not to mention drying time)—
one’s head’s too thick to understand life.
It takes only negligible thought
to trust the tops of clouds and troughs of waves.
Judith Skillman lives in Newcastle, Washington. Author of twenty full-length collections of poetry, her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, LitMag, Zyzzyva, and other journals. She is the recipient of awards from Academy of American Poets and Artist Trust. Her new collection is A Landscaped Garden for the Addict, from Shanti Arts.
already the room is nearly empty,
a hospital bed standing where before
a couch, a chair,
and the walls are very bare
electric flames pour heat into the quietude
where a vanishing form further vanishes
beneath the comfort of many blankets
and a single cat – poor creature,
she huddles very near her object,
unmindful of the cords and tubes,
as if her quiet insistence might lend persistence
to her beloved, but it will not
still, for now, the soft gasps of the morphine dispenser
keep time with breaths yet very regular
as dreams overtake more and more
what scant fraction of life remains
silk pages rustle beneath my fingers
as I try to fit my voice into a space
that will hold the shape of sleep for her,
the shape of peace bounded
with Whitman’s words and her own mysterious visions –
a dreamcatcher hangs lonely on a wide white wall.
I want to shake loose its macrame lace,
unwind the terrors caught in its netting,
and carry them home with me,
to see what I might learn.
Cassondra Windwalker is an oft-transplanted poet, essayist, and novelist presently writing full-time from the southern Alaskan coast. Her novels and full-length poetry collections are available in bookstores and online. Her most recent release, Hold My Place, will be published by Black Spot Books in January 2022.
Years ago before children I don’t remember now exactly where I was in my life how tethered I was and perhaps how that word perhaps slows things down like a note held over the bar the chance of it as in this or maybe that it was before we’d even bought a house or settled into graduate school but I think it was later and I was at my parents’ house on Broadway and the three of us sat down to dinner what could it have been a plate of simple and delicious things because at that time in her life my mother had given up complicated meals and the radio was on public radio the classical music station out of Minneapolis and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” came on and everything stopped we sat still listening I think this was after my father’s mother had died but still well before the death of your sister and the onset of your father’s cancer which I mention because you weren’t there with us then and now these decades later I can’t remember why I was there alone with my parents listening to Barber and weeping the food growing cold whatever it was maybe rice and a small piece of meat vegetables from my father’s garden I can’t remember but we didn’t care we wept and weeping you know how it feels so final the weeping how even now somehow I open myself to it I can’t say how and everyone arrives who has been away even now so many years later decades can it be that long even now all of you it is the only way to be wholly together.
Athena Kildegaard‘s sixth book of poetry, Prairie Midden, is due out from Tinderbox Editions in early 2022. Her poems have appeared in One, Beloit Poetry Journal, december, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in western Minnesota.
Then Back Down They Go
Hunched, silent, loners, some
in pairs. My father and uncle Leonard join
their fellow lowlies on their pre-dawn
busted streetlight march. They wait
for the bus’s forty minute jerk
and creep, then take thirteen, fifteen,
twenty crypt-dark train stops. Same
unread newspaper folded
on the same wide laps, same bagged
lunches, same massive hands, beaten
boxers, taking sudden body blows, hoping
to be knocked out. Sleep.
But twice a day in late spring and summer,
one minute each way, the scarred 7 car rises into light.
Windows blinking, part blinded: immaculate
fences, jewel-shaped pools, shimmering
lawns. Marble fountains. Three car garages
– Betcha All Benzes!
The riders shoulder-shove, crowd,
smudge against graffitied glass – watch
their one-in-a-millions, never-say-nevers
flash past – suck in
that high-rent good air, fill their guts,
squeeze it down with jaws clamped
like on that last bite of holiday ham,
hold it so fierce, they inflate,
unstick from gummy floors, lift
from cramped seats.
For four, three, two flickering seconds –
my father, uncle, all of them – hover.
Michael Mark’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, The Southern Review, The Sun, Waxwing, American Life in Poetry. He’s the author of two books of stories, Toba (Atheneum) and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum).
It’s not easy to pack, one leg
becomes a cane, the other
longs for corners and later
̶ what you need are two suns
̶ it is written! side by side
to carry away this carton
half cardboard, half
when you seal the lid
by limping around it, eyes closed
to help you kneel, to see
the address taken away
though the label smells from saliva
once kisses holding fast to each other
still drying above your mouth
̶ more tape! the tape, for a long time
around and around so nothing
leaves this room in the open
shows your arms what it is they’re losing.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Family of Man Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2021.
My cousin became Hussain’s wife and wore a sari. A black & white
photo had arrived from London where they sat, broomstick like,
on high-backed chairs in a dark, rented room somewhere
at the back of Tottenham Court Road. The windows draped
with net curtains. Mother sent me to find out more. My cousin’s
pale skin in silks Marco Polo would have brought back to Venice.
She looked ashen in fabrics meant for skin baked in subtropical
sun. Eid al-Fitr. We celebrated the end of Ramadan in Wandsworth.
Watching carload after carload spill the most elaborate creations.
I gaped at the multitude of skin shades, turbans, voluminous
tie-dye fabrics, hijabs… I tried the baklava.
I married Demetrios, son of Ariston. Not exactly a religious man
but still convinced that God won’t find the pieces if they burn you.
Well, that’s at least the stance of the church he didn’t attend—
or only on holy days. And then there’s circumcision. That’s a Muslim thing.
Perhaps God can’t find the bits of skin? Theía Panagió̱ta, sixty, tall, large,
with long, pointed, blood-red fingernails, danced that night to the sounds
of the old Ottoman Empire and knew that she was all woman.
They had bought cheap plates, as one does.
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, has just been snapped up by Kelsay Books for publication May/June 2022.
Time goes so fast in this empty country
Someone speaks longingly of honey: and there is a memory of
bees. Of a time when living things flew: over great seas of
lavender, legs fat and gold with gathered pollen. Tiny
unabashed bodies of song.
A buzz in the heart, like the engine of joy.
Andrew Robin is the author of the poetry collections Stray Birds (forthcoming from Kelson Books), Good Beast (Burnside Review Books), and Something has to happen next (University of Iowa Press). He is the recipient of the Iowa Poetry Prize and a Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship. He lives on Lopez Island in Washington State.