Issue 28

Descent by Steven DaLuz


Saddiq Dzukogi | Prosper C. Ìféányí | Bethany W Pope | John Hoppenthaler | Joshua Gottlieb-Miller | Lawrence Rhu | Hélène Cardona | Maram Al-Masri | Alexis Rhone Fancher | Joanne Durham | Tina Schumann | Carol Alexander | Julie L. Moore | Jen Karetnick | Ted McCarthy | Lily Jarman-Reisch | Ted Lardner | John Amen | DS Maolalai | Nicole Lachat | Jen McClanaghan | Tina Barr

Second Look – Leslie Norris


What is the Color

of forgiveness? Staring
steadily at flowers,

I ask myself, should I walk

on water, these ice sheets,
this frozen lake? In my heart,

the heat steaming of family
farce—could melt it, little by little.

As for myself,
I’ll drown in the middle

with a big splash—perhaps,
like goldfish out of water.

Such irony, I came
to think of. What if

death is just a big empty room.
And, eventually, we’ll all stretch

the scope
of that emptiness. I look around

in awe of all
the beauty that death would force out

of our hands. All around,
there is so much.

My stomach churns in disgust.
But I have found a place

to lie—
where the air is luminous,

where everything that is, shrub & flesh,
wanes into the quilt of evening.

I close my eyes—
death, I imagine, is a gallery

of chaos.
Again, I ask, what is the color

of forgiveness? When I go, I want to do so
as a feather.


Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet and Asst. professor of English at Mississippi State University. He is the author of Your Crib, My Qibla (the University of Nebraska Press, 2021), winner of the 2021 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, and the 2022 Julie Suk Award.  His poetry is featured in POETRY, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Guernica, Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere.



Listen. The flowers weren’t once
devastating in their beauty. No logic
came from burning rosebushes; &
somewhere, in the field, the birds are
eating a man’s shame. I am drinking
black coffee & walking barefooted in
winter; I am a pane of glass shattered
like china in the sun, & the freckled girls
still press their lips. My nailbeds glowed
in the dark, & only the taxidermy of fresh
calves & blue-eyed antelopes saw. My own
obsession creeps in like a slow-growing child.
In the daydreaming of insects, my father is
not dead, we apply the poultice on the jawbone
of death to keep Him at bay. I place my father
in my breast-pocket like a pen knife. I breathe
into his painting by the frieze & he speaks
to me through his sifted smile, loosened
like the thickness of a custard. I hold my
pee & count backwards, & he still is here.
The thirsty curtains have not claimed his
moist. In that unnaturalness—that physics
of sampled sound, my mouth still pours
out light. Everything sparkles. The rowboat
of my memory waddles clean to harbor.
& when I told you of this iridescence, you
searched the catalogue of your tongue to tell
me the beauty was enough. That I had scraped
the bark of the cypress with my teeth for too
long, that now, they fall like seeds into brackish
shorelines. Maybe I killed you, maybe I didn’t.


Prosper C. Ìféányí is a poet, essayist, and short story writer. An alum of Khōréō Magazine, his works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Shore, Parentheses Journal, Identity Theory, Caret: McGill University Graduate English Journal, and elsewhere.



Think of it as trimming a nail, just a little too close,
with a hot iron. The horn buds make a smell as they blacken at their roots,
a bit like immolated hair, or fried blood pudding.
Most people apply or inject a numbing agent, before they start,
but the farm I worked for didn’t. The calves were
locked up in A-frames, but I held their heads, one at a time.
I didn’t want to be there, doing this. I didn’t ask to be there,
but I was. No one listens to what you want, when you’re twelve.
You’re something like a calf yourself. People do things to you,
lead you places, tie you up,
because they think that you need it, and you
spend the rest of your life trying and failing to atone.
I don’t sleep much, but when I do I almost dream
of red rising up through the edges of a cut.
Injured hands pass on their wounds, as though they have no choice,
as though the story could ever end differently,
as though, if you said no, you wouldn’t be burnt
and the calves mutilated anyway.


Bethany W Pope is a British/American writer currently living in China. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’


Grotto Spring

Eureka Springs, AR, 5/1/22

Glint of some creature’s eye in Ozark lightning,
robust redolence of April from the earth,
all things preparing for rain in Ozark lightning.

For an hour, I’ve sat by the gurgle of Grotto Spring,
drift of myrrh turning it holy, her death
in the glint of some creature’s eye in Ozark lightning.

For an hour, I’ve prayed in my manner, sky darkling,
ensconced and rapt here in the hollow’s breath,
all things preparing for rain in Ozark lightning,

almighty electrical pulsing, erratic flickering,
and some skittish creature giving me wide berth,
the alarmed glint of its eye in Ozark lightning.

At sunrise, a hummingbird, metallic green at the deck’s railing,
had cocked its head—the glint of its tiny eye. I lapsed into great depth
as all things prepared for evening’s rain and Ozark lightning.

To see the depth of her dementia was devastating.
I severed free of that pain and gave it wide berth,
and now a discerning eye in burgeoning lightning—
crackle of thunder—taking my measure, quivering lightning.


John Hoppenthaler’s books of poetry are Night Wing Over Metropolitan Area, Domestic Garden, Anticipate the Coming Reservoir, and Lives of Water, all with Carnegie Mellon UP. Professor of CW and Literature at East Carolina University, he also serves on the Advisory Board for Backbone Press, specializing in the publication and promotion of marginalized voices.



I’ve started to believe in the old stories again.
Noah’s ark, Sodom and Gomorrah,
Russia 1905, desperate families
will do anything to survive.
Knowing when to run takes skill
I don’t have, so I left the insurrection on.
I’d meant to turn on cartoons
my son loves—conservation scientists
fighting poachers, developers, fast fashion—
but they were powerless against the mob.
I kept the fighting on
in case we’d need to run,
or for what they’d teach him about it
if they won. This is boring and stupid,
he said, and closed his eyes,
and put a finger in each ear.

A thousand autumns
is an appropriate amount of time
to outlast one’s jailors,
yet momentary joy regrets
time poorly spent.
That night I looked at the sky
to think It’s nothing,
to have been so blue, and kept it
to myself while I fit the fresh black bag
to the bin that came with the apartment,
took recycling down and mail up.
We’d played chess instead—
after I turned the insurrection off—
a game designed for children,
directions on the board, moves
you can’t escape.

The clouds, too, blue, even
downtown can’t leave its skyscrapers alone,
I thought, but didn’t say.
How will we know we’re not running
too late? Mass shooter drills
in his nursery; he’s survived
hurricanes, bomb threats,
and even, somehow, a freeze
when the state turned off our power
to preserve the grid they’d withered.
I’m afraid the list of people
I won’t ever forgive—engorged
by shmucks who’d let us freeze, senators
wagging their bloodless fingers, their voters
who wanted us to die—could fill the plains
around an ark. And if there’s a part of me
that’s no worse than the people I won’t forgive,
sees the virus ravage them, storms descend,
their poisonous logic eating its own,
I don’t think about Noah or Lot weeping
at clouds that glow with everything behind them,
prophets of doom and rage.
Who could argue with G-d to save a village
for one good man?
No, I think about the ones with my name
who left Russia with their worldly goods
sewn into their clothes, who left
their oldest behind, and now
a few cling to life who knew
their stories, they whisper about the ones
who stayed, they don’t know about them,
just that they were family,
that they had their own lives.


Joshua Gottlieb-Miller’s writing appears in Concision Poetry Journal, Berru Poetry Series, ANMLY, Brooklyn Rail, miCRo, Pithead Chapel, MAYDAY Magazine and elsewhere. Previously he was a Tent Fellow in Creative Writing at the Yiddish Book Center. Currently he teaches at San Jacinto College, and lives in Houston with his wife and son. His debut collection, The Art of Bagging, won Conduit’s Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize, and is forthcoming.


Visionary Company 

First thing this morning, two cats, a dog,
and a lost boy entered from our backyard
through the pet flap in your dream.
Still half asleep, you told me that you found them

in the children’s room. Like CEOs
with golden parachutes, the cats just went
about their business undisturbed.
The dog was our beloved golden, Charlie.

He’d lumber through that back door
either way, glad to stay, if anything
was there to eat, or go back out
to play. The little stranger made you wonder,

Who was he? And why? Take your pick
among whatever terms the nomenclature
of the state applies these days
to unexpected guests. No, leave that ancient

gate ajar. Welcome mystery.
Others have handed us along so far
in our dark pilgrimage we’ve learned
strangers may need our help along their way.


Lawrence Rhu, Todd Professor emeritus at USC, has written books and essays about the American and European Renaissances. His poems have appeared in Poetry, NDQ, SoFloPoJo, Innisfree, PSSC, Pinesong, Fall/Lines, etc. Conversations recently reprinted a dozen of them together with his essay “Other Minds and a Mind of One’s Own.”


At my door, two suitcases

At my door, two suitcases
and a young man
tall and slim
dark brown
hesitant like one who has lost his way

At my door, two worn suitcases
like dock workers’ clothes
in the port of a poor city

they carry the scent of distant lands
like a prisoner’s chains

a young, dark brown man
with black hair
his black eyes
aswim in a white sea

he knocks on the door
of my heart

—Maram Al-Masri, translated by Hélène Cardona, from The Abduction (White Pine Press, 2023)


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

Franco-Syrian poet Maram Al-Masri’s books include Métropoèmes, Je te regarde, Cerise rouge sur un carrelage blanc, Le Rapt, and Elle va nue la liberté.  She was awarded the Prix d’Automne de Poésie de la Société des Gens De Lettres, the Adonis Prize, Il Fiore d’Argento, and the Dante Alighieri Prize.



My lover, J, looks up from his book. I had another dream, I want to say but don’t. The words
stick in my throat. I know he’ll listen; he’s kind, but J has heard it all before. I’ve been dreaming
about my boy, again.
My usual lament. These days I keep my dreams to myself, realize J knows
my sorrow all too well. Dead is dead. So I stuff it down. Pour over photos of my boy, hide them
when J enters the room. Not that he isn’t concerned. He is. But J’s a man. Men want to fix things.
Make the pain go away. And he can’t. It only frustrates him. Most days I say nothing. Keep my
head down and my sadness to myself. But sometimes it spills out. Like on my boy’s birthday; he
would be middle-aged, if he’d not died at twenty-six. He would be forty-two this month.
Impossible to imagine, although I have tried. I’ve fantasized his beautiful wife, his phantom
children. I’ve kept in touch with his friends, watched them marry and have careers. They all
call,.especially around the holidays. Which pleases me, and gives me such sorrow! I can’t but
compare their full lives with my boy’s cut short one. I want to bargain, broker a deal with a God I
don’t believe in; ask for a favor, see where it ends up.


Alexis Rhone Fancher is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s authored nine poetry collections, including DUETS (Small Harbor), and EROTIC: New & Selected (NYQ Books). BRAZEN, also from NYQ Books, publishes in early 2023.



Winter. I was ten. Trees bare between
my bedroom window and the apartments across the street.
At night I peered into each frame of other people’s lives—
an aproned woman, bowl balanced between her hands,

raising it towards the top kitchen shelf, TV’s flicker
in the adjoining room, a man folding his newspaper.
I wasn’t looking for crash of glass or passionate kiss,
not even laughter lifting off through open curtains

on fluted wings, just a slow-moving play, acts shuffled
between silence and solid walls
plot ripe for imagining. Through those windows
I was understudy. Even then I knew there was magic

in how a life eases into being, settles
into its evening gestures, the man examining
the stubble of his beard in the mirror
before he lowers the slightly yellowed shade.


Joanne Durham is the author of To Drink from a Wider Bowl, winner of the Sinclair Poetry Prize (Evening Street Press 2022) and On Shifting Shoals (Kelsay Books 2023). Recent poems appear in Poetry South, The Inflectionist Review, and Third Wednesday. She lives on the North Carolina coast.


Self-Portrait with Blacktop, Heron, and Doubt

I thought I might start believing in God. Not again, but for the first time.
Stationed like a toll booth at the turnpike of life. The tombstone roses

and brittlebush murmured it to me; Go ahead, congregate, press your palms together
and really concentrate. Pray on it if you will. The road behind me rolled out black

with ice over a patchwork landscape; Pine Barrens to my left, the Berkshires
looming up ahead, and what with the culture wars raging in every parish

and facts as fickle as the siroccos headed my way, I figured why not?
I’ve weathered many a denial. Why not one more? I’m good at it.


The great blue herons in Commodore Park build their rookeries
on blind faith in the long arms of alders that waver over rushing waters.

Trusting in some obscure god to orchestrate —
they enter no temple to higher beings,

pay no homage to the river. Come and suffer
with the living they seem to say. Become

the willingly wounded, bless the waters,
the road, the doubting self, the trembling clutch

of nests like a crèche of atonement,
and the robins on the parking strip

whistling “life!” “life!” “life!”


Tina Schumann is the award-winning author of Praising the Paradox (Red Hen), Requiem: A Patrimony of Fugues (Diode), and As If, winner of the Stephen Dunn Prize. She is editor of the anthology Two-Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents, (Red Hen). Her work has appeared widely since 1999, including Ascent, Cimarron Review, Hunger Mountain, Michigan Quarterly Review, Nimrod, Poetry Daily, Rattle, Verse Daily and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.


Secondhand Smoke

We were going to say night & strung-out haze
then midday amber dripped from the cherry’s spine
while underneath, sequined lanternflies with frozen jaws
lay espaliered to the glass. A chokehold upon ordinary time
city birds with carved lute breasts plucking confused notes—
we pinched a bit of breath from masks, watched the wind pivot.
It came from beyond the permeable borders,
thick as morning dusk when the towers burned an incense
at once nauseous & heady. Your episodic blackouts
my corkscrewing patellar pain, what are these but little signs
of an inflammatory world: soon, nothing but a bone-strung plain.
We would have said charnel, mineral dust & immaculate host
if we’d learned the syntax blazing trees record in ash.


Carol Alexander’s most recent book is FEVER AND BONE. New work appears in Another Chicago Magazine, Delmarva Review, Free State Review, Mudlark, Narrative Northeast, Potomac Review, San Pedro Review, SoFloPoJo, Verdad, and forthcoming in RHINO and The Summerset Review. She co-edited Stronger Than Fear: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice (2022).


Fire Tower Trail

Brown County State Park, Indiana

I am evaporating & ascending into the sun.
—Henry David Thoreau


It’s March & past the ides,
the day after the first day of spring—

children ahead of me are climbing to the top
of the pine-painted tower, one boy jazzed
on his own adrenaline squealing an original

rhyme: The wind here is tricky & tickles
my butt cheeks like mustard on a pickle!

The other boy declares to his deadpan
mother several flights behind them,
It’s so scaaaary up here. So scaaaary!

Scaling the steps between them,
I realize there is no possibility

of summiting—the zenith
is enclosed, door locked,
no fire finders needed any more.

I follow the boys anyway, as though
I follow Thoreau himself, behold

the bare canopy exposing the trail below,
& oh, the tower shivers like my spine
as we ascend into the sun.


I descend & walk that trail,
weaving through trees
felled by storms & leaves long
separated from their boughs,
decayed & desiccated, a mulch
of molten former lives.

Nothing is green except for thorns
prominent on Devil’s Walking Sticks
& me, somehow losing my way despite
clear signs pointing to loop
around the lodge, distracted as I am
by the garrulous red-headed woodpeckers

darting from Sycamore to Hickory trees,
drilling their beaks into bark,
& the Beech leaves, dry & thin as old women’s
skin, sunlit, shimmering with transparency,
clinging to the hope of chlorophyll
like ghosts who won’t let go.


Beyond the spruce, I finally spy
the visitor’s center & with water
on my mind, march through a puddle

I ignore, then find before the ranger’s door
blond boy & girl
plucking daffodils one by one,

as they evaporate in the sun.


Julie L. Moore’s most recent book of poetry, Full Worm Moon, won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and earned an honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity & Literature’s 2018 Book of the Year. A previous contributor to One, Moore is also the poetry editor for Relief Journal.


The Only Argument There Is

After Turtle Water Protector by Betty LaDuke

After the great heat of the day
they knock against thresholds,

womanly arms sheeting down
like green glass packed around

the bone. Consider the evening.
It leads you to notice more and more

the birds that will come—six, a dozen—
to sleep inside their bodies. Mother

of many children, a schoolhouse
of little words perfectly arranged,

the world moves like oil, comes back
wet and beautiful. Water remains

water—our own dark wings.


A Mary Oliver ekocento:
Source poems:
“At Black River;” “Breakage;” “Fall;” “In Malaysia;” “The Moths;” “The Real Prayers Are Not the Words, But the Attention That Comes First;” “Song for Autumn;” “The Waterfall;” “August;” ‘Death at a Great Distance;” “Forty Years;” “The Kingfisher;” “The Owl;” “The Shark;” “Spring;” “The Hermit Crab”


The winner of the 2022 Cider Press Review Book Award for Inheritance with a High Error Rate (January 2024), Jen Karetnick is the author of 10 additional poetry collections. Co-founder/managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has forthcoming work in Harpur Palate, Shenandoah, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.



Glassed-over ruins, sea-green in the afternoon,
the quay a thin strip between ribbons of sun.
Figures move across offices. A perfect hour:
every sore, it seems to say,

can be bandaged by wealth.
When I got off the bus, everything
was huge as sunflowers to a child
in his first garden,

crowds were a river in flood
pushing at windows, lapping
in and out of doors.

I had been away too long,
had forgotten that people, like water,
erode obstacles by almost avoiding them.

Slowly it came back, the old familiarity
where nothing is quite the same

and you begin to assume
from the inside out
the guise of a stranger,

a face in a painting looking down
from a gallery wall.

A city is a great skin
stretched like canvas, its surface
a patina, fresh and dry by turns,

changing light is simply the past
forever returning. I thought, as I stepped
into the street, of a clot suddenly
blasted into radiance, the way

the tail of a comet is always there,
even in the darkest of reaches.
This is a moment. A step
among millions, forever old and new,
miraculous, like blood.

And here, five minutes’ walk away,
the hulk of an old ship
in a green dock, its wood
the colour of a bruise, birds
scouring for insects between planks.

Silence so close to the heart
as Jason found
lying in the shelter of a past
that would topple and devour him.


Ted McCarthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, November Wedding, and Beverly Downs.



after “The Frantic Adding Machine,” Simon Armitage

Even without my ear
on the bedroom wall, I hear stampeding
up and down the struts
like underground commuters hectic
to catch a train, mice clawing
the insulation, chewing
my wiring, dropping turds
in ducts, tiny torpedoes
I find under sinks, in bottom drawers.
I should call pest control

but think back to ants thick
on our kitchen counters, ferrying
the traps’ sweet poison back
to their nests through tunnels, arcades
until they reached the queen’s
chamber, her palace sacked, the city soon
a mausoleum to its workers and warriors,
all comrades lost, save for one last
soldier hobbling through a hollow
Carthage like a valiant Hannibal,
surfacing somehow on my desk,
still driven by duty,
its wobbling resolute despite
its wounds, seeking a scent
trail back to the tribe, only
to die alone
in exile.


Lily Jarman-Reisch’s poems appear or are forthcoming in CALYX, Collateral, Mobius, One, Pangyrus, Plainsongs, Slant Poetry, Snapdragon, Third Wednesday, Mediterranean Poetry, among other literary journals. She is a 2024 Pushcart Prize recipient and a poetry reviewer for The Los Angeles Review.



At the kitchen table, my father’s voice inside me prods me to
stand up, walk outside, go over again to the meadow, so I do.
Clouds over Lily Mountain have pewter in their heads, the
storm color language of hail. Over in the meadow in the sand
in the sun, I work my way downwind, land in a patch of
bellflowers. It takes several minutes, seasons, years. I sit. A
century turns. When a honey bee shows up, I wonder who
sent it. Two Steller’s jays, one Ponderosa pine to another
Ponderosa pine, follow each other, until the line that connects
all the things in the world to all the other things feels full of
Ponderosa pines. When the mythic landscape opens on a slow,
indrawn breath, the part of me that loved my father descends.
I listen for sounds, like the scrape of chairs, and voices
shifting through other sunlit rooms, to come back from the
valley. Meanwhile, the part of me that doesn’t really care about
him anymore sits and sits. Staring into outer space, out
beyond the wildest blue. Father, I am going to leave you there
from now on, that part thinks. How many miles to the
horizon again? How easy to fly there was it, to that place
where the high ridge backs up the sky in the west, and the
snowfields swing like trap doors to the other side of the
library of clouds?

Out there, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, reading,
drinking forests of green bottles of Scotch, go ahead. Eat all
the cookies you want to. Or don’t. Cielo means “sky” and
“heaven.” Bees see a different color than we do. Ultraviolet
and yellow, the fusion. Most of the light in the spectrum
doesn’t register with us. Up to bigger things, the universe
keeps chugging. We count for little in its eyes. Someone,
maybe it was you, taught me that we are—me with my,
drained now in my lap, drawing ants, guest-house coffee mug
—mostly cut-outs, empty forms. The heart is a fist-shaped
muscle, a bucket of electricity that feels like it’s about to
punch its way home. Our lives are mostly tangential. So much
more to everything here. I relinquish what’s left of us both to
that excess. The Steller’s jays, calling back and forth, keep
moving the boundaries anyway. Between the living and the
dead, the wake of their song they sling back from that
distance ploughs more silence into the silence. We never really
talked about the soul all that much. No one there. Very little
here. Let us rejoice. In the space of our silence, let us breathe.
The lilies of the field just want to get laid, baring their
whatnot all day to the wind. When from the bellflower the bee
like a burning ember re-emerges, pollen sacks bulging like
saddlebags loaded with loot for the journey, what paths,
through what sky? What fire, what home, what heaven?


Ted Lardner’s writing has recently appeared in Post Road, About Place Journal, Pleiades, and Missouri Review. He is a yoga teacher and an obsessive native-plant gardener in Gates Mills, OH.



for Thia

Richie finally gets his ’69 Corvette,
cruises uptown Bardo with big cash,
shredding solos for his mentor, treating
the cheerleaders to hotdogs & beer.
I text the ferryman & convince him
to skip our port, lassoing the goodbye sun.
Richie idles on a boomerang curve,
honking for me to join him. Those
last days of summer, that teenage Gethsemane,
frayed my wiring. These decades later,
I flicker in doorways, at thresholds,
battlegrounds where the sidewalk ends
& the rest of your life begins.
Richie goads his Corvette, plows that
diamond ramp, launching into the twilight.
Of course the ferry arrives.
You lean over our balcony, tangled
in wisteria vines, waving to me.
A terrible wind blows, & I page back
to the rough water. When the anchor drops,
I want to run for the redwoods, steal another day,
another shimmering chorus, but my feet
are frozen, & night crashes on the shore.


John Amen is the author of five collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm, finalist for the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Award, and work from which was chosen as a finalist for the 2018 Dana Award. He was the recipient of the 2021 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize. He founded Pedestal Magazine.


One-eyed for life 

I nearly shot my brother
in the eye once with a pellet
gun. thank god I can’t
shoot — I was trying
and everything. cocked,
then pulled out the clip,
but too late — it shot all the same
and went over his head
and into the bushes outside.

I was aiming though — that’s
what was frightening. right
for his eyeball. I’m not
quite sure why. I guess
just to see if he knew
what I was doing. I would have
been 13. he would have
been 7. would have walked around
one-eyed for life. and this was
in france, in a tent
in a holiday campground.

we’d made friends
with these dutch kids
who stayed two
tents over, and spoke
enough english for us.
we chased them, threw water
and later pieter gave me the gun –
I don’t know why, we didn’t share
that much language.
then I first-kissed his sister,
then shot at my brother,
pointing it right at his eye.

thank god (much like poetry,
much like kissing girls)
my aim wasn’t accurate — the shot
floating over his head.
I don’t think I told him this
either, or pieter.
but he doesn’t read poems
so that’s alright too.


DS Maolalai has received eleven nominations for Best of the Net and eight for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in three collections: Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016), Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019) and Noble Rot (Turas Press, 2022).



I keep trying to write the poem
to empty out the blue
of his eyes.

You wanted to live without
the great-tailed grackle rattling
your chest, without that February.

Some nights I see red
vanishing—how feverishly he tried
to dissolve you.

Some nights I see you, again yourself,
as if the dark chooses to gift
awhile of forgetting.

Some mornings, you lose your breakfast.
Relive the entirety of it, from beginning
to beginning—

For months you withheld
every ounce of salt
to stay afloat.

I keep trying to write the poem, Nicole,
that will spare you
his hands. The CDs on the shelf,

baladas, he said he’d play for you.
Spare you the room a color
you don’t remember, but struggle to leave.

Sometimes, the restaurant
where you met goes up in flames
in my head, and I feel nothing,

like the tearless months,
when nothing ached,
because nothing was left

except cosmos vased
by the window, wilting
and reaching in the light.

You did not die, he did not
kill you. I say to the morning,
to the mirror, to the cooing dove

buried deep. It was the night sky
he tore out with his teeth.
Not me. Not me.


Nicole Lachat was born in Edmonton, to a Peruvian mother and Swiss father. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from NYU. She received the 2022 Wilbur Gaffney Poetry Prize through the Academy of American Poets. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


Good Start

Houses blazed
with fed fires, a stay
against snow, squaring
the woods by the hour,
stone walls erased as
the ancestors who long
ago placed them.
It’s a scene the mind goes,
driven up a pale hill
for a playdate with a girl
whose name had equine in it.
Her house made of rooms
that out bloomed other rooms,
doors to close, roses
in the den
where a grandparent stood by
with kindness.
What I mean is: a good start.
Not another round of fake
cherries at another dark
restaurant. Another
Ford salesman
making a kid feel like
an inconvenience.
Before then,
our house favored
the racetrack, low paying
horses and greyhounds
kicking dirt since the 70s.
Shadows that slide
into place, sometimes
rising off a meadow.
Sometimes inside dusk
or midday, in fog,
in trees, levitating
right out of history’s
deep water
and dark leaves,
its plain brown earth.


Jen McClanaghan‘s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Best American Poetry, The Iowa Review, and New England Review. She is the author of River Legs.


El Dorado

Farley says a wagonload of gold
stolen between Old Fort & the
Federal Building in Asheville is buried
somewhere between the two, maybe
on the mountain behind Wendy’s.
Old Doc Dickerson’s driveway
had a circle in its center. The graves
of babies. Hordes of trash buried
all over these mountains, old bottles,
two Confederate graves. A hundred
and forty-four buried building the railroad.

Farley thinks between the watershed
and Reems Creek are buried Zebulon
Vance’s gold-laced dishes. Like
doilies of gold laid over glass.

Zebulon born in a Reem’s Creek
cabin. His father ran a provision stand
for drovers, moving hogs on the turnpike.
Penniless, except they had eighteen slaves.

On a loan, Zeb earned a law degree,
went to Court on horseback, carried
in his saddlebags a fresh shirt.

Vance, in Congress, said that for
the slave that is his normal condition.
After our state seceded he raised
a company, The Rough and Ready,
nearly drowned, swimming Bryce’s
Creek to get boats for his men; they
made him Governor. He sold salt
so people preserved meat, used blockade
runners to send North Carolina cotton
over the sea, kept mills open. He may
have been the KKK’s Grand Dragon.

In Ash County is a mine, now closed
over, where lawmen from five counties
dumped bodies. Farley knows of a hooker;
they used her, caught her drug dealer,
rolled them down the shaft in the 70s.

When he married, Vance enslaved six
people at this house in Asheville.

Lamar told my husband five years after,
how he’d been picked up, stopped at night
in Philipstown, shaky from heart medicine,
in a bar for the men’s room, beaten,
taken, pleaded, served eight months. He
had letters from Wynton Marsalis,
but the judge said, I don’t believe
you’re a musician,
and the cop, I’m
going to ruin your life.
Lamar’s voice
is a thunderbolt, gold, out of his barrel
chest; he’s no taller than a music
stand, his people out of Trinidad.

Last night pinks, like split pulp of blood
oranges, ignited the borders of black
ridgeline, clouds the wet, vulval inside
of conch shells, webbed, like pulled cotton,
a leakage of corals, yellows, golds.


Tina Barr’s most recent book, Green Target, won the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Brockman-Campbell Award. Previous books include The Gathering Eye, winner of the Tupelo Press Editor’s Award, and Kaleidoscope. She’s received fellowships from the NEA, The Tennessee Arts Commission, & the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.