Issue 9

kreyn light my fire shipwreched in the desert

shipwrecked in the desert by Maria Kreyn


Jen Karetnick | Cynthia Huntington | Claire Zoghb | James Applewhite |
Anita Olivia Koester | Jonathan May | Rachel Dacus | Lisa Huffaker |
Renee Emerson | Glen Wilson | Mary Noonan | Risa Denenberg |
Clark Holtzman | Jessica Goodfellow | Afric McGlinchey | David Kellogg |
Tim McBride | Bruce Sager | Kushal Poddar | Lynn Carole Brearley | Louise Colln

Second Look – Looking for Songs of Papusza


Voyage, Closed and Done

The hijabs may hold off the sun
but they will not keep them afloat

should the hulls, overfilled like rain barrels
in monsoon weather and trimmed

with tires that peel in machete-resistant
vines, keel too hard through ferry routes.

Under moons the width of rat tails,
they will trade the fishing nets

they sleep under for fences, tents and taunts,
and it is only smugglers and their vessels,

gilded with urine, criminals anesthetized
by prayer and paid with the succulent

currency of heritage, who will ever return
to the bare, scalded bones of homelands.


Jen Karetnick is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016) and The Treasures That Prevail, September 2016). Her work has recently appeared in, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Spillway and more. She is the winner of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize.


April Pastoral

The American landscape painting of our time
should be sketched in a smear from a moving car.
The American landscape of our time is a parking lot,
and we all agree we don’t like it much here
today, trapped in this conurban sprawl—no, we’d rather be
in the city, but not that last city that went underwater,
or caught on that coastline with flames running down
from the hills, or any city at war, and, please God,
not lost in some sector where natural disaster, terror
conspiracy, or technical failure, has cut off the lights.
One cell at a time, one cell at a time, words are dissolving
in melting terraces, lines fallen free of history. Drive on.
The news shoots out the lights, and testimony streams
live feed from holiday weekend gridlock traffic roadblock
logjam backup, bottleneck at the bridge; helicopter scans
delay, lifted over the snarl of expressways, looking down
over rooftops, and down on the nest of the peregrine falcons
baffled into high-rise lodgings, glimpsed here in air clasping
claws, grappling to couple among its silver arcing spans.
That gleam on glass, a window above the street: reflections’
weak gesture waves. Somebody locked the trees out;
they fumble the frames as if they remembered us.
This world is printed in our bones. The stones drink sun.
Today the blue light on the hills, engenderer of birds and green,
the red-tail’s wing down the river vein. One sky at a time,
one sky at a time, the bird says, winging. Wheeling, now
is the time before time, now the dark eon fractal, ice melt
thaw, the land howls in storm winds, spring and all
April’s dementia uncovering scars, and the downed power line
lies in the road unleashed convulsing, sputtering code, signing:
who am I? who am I? thrashing with holy fit on fire, the branch
not consumed. No peace, no peace, and the seed in self-agony
swells, splits out of itself once, once again, now again, and in all
of it signals and portents, the voice of the dead uproaring:
pick up if you’re there


Cynthia Huntington has published four collections of poems: her latest, Heavenly Bodies, was a finalist for the National Book Award 2012. A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, she will publish her fifth collection, Terra Nova, with Southern Illinois University Press, Crab Orchard Poetry Series next winter. She lives in Vermont.



Larnaca, Cyprus

Amputees like big birds hopping one-legged by the sea
line from an Afghantsi song

They move as shadows
move on these sun-baked walls.
Shoulders bent to a new mission,
they trail one another on crutches
or roll in wheelchairs
onto this incandescent island
where every conqueror in antiquity
removed his sandals to rest.

These are the lucky ones, we realize,
survivors of Afghan gorges,
sent for R&R by the fallen empire
for which they’d fought,
as if here they might unpack their histories,
stretch their phantom limbs
on Ayia Napa’s sands,
begin to read aloud.


Claire Zoghb’s Small House Breathing won the 2008 Quercus Review Poetry Series Annual Book Award. Her forthcoming chapbooks are Dispatches from Everest (Fomite) and Boundaries (Blue Lyra). A recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award and twice a Pushcart nominee, Claire works as Graphics Director at Long Wharf Theatre.


Strange Sleep

We refugees we totter about
the proving ground,fitting
brass rings into retainers –
the sand a problem – recognizing
each other by gestures
recalling our surviving
lab fires, explosions –
our selfhoods diminished
in this desert now used for
movies about apocalypse –
we child-sized ones still
finding each other
in our roles as civilians –
swept up in extremity,
shrunk to half our heights
by this sky holding hands as
we look at each other with
the exquisite longing
of old lovers reunited
though our history of passion
drifts away toward morning
when on into waking I
cannot find identities
only feeling without body
what it once must have meant
just to wish and have it
granted in knowing life.

James Applewhite is the author of eight books of poetry including Selected Poems (Duke UP, 2005), A Diary of Altered Light and Quartet for Three Voices (both from LSU Press). and Daytime and Starlight (LSU,1997). His  awards include the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Jean Stein Award in Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the North Carolina Award in Literature. Emeritus Professor of English Duke University, his papers are held at Duke’s library.



If a shadow means nothing,
is just a trick of the light

why spend a lifetime granting it
the weight of dead men,

say father, and know, my children
will struggle to remember his name,

if ever I even have them, I know, I know,
they are the puppet novices,

making jokes out of sperm whales,
out of every man I pull to bed. Yet,

how to protect myself from their nightly
shows at discounted prices

that try to convince me to forget the shadow
of a bear I saw once, and all the fish

I kept so close to my breast, thinking
I knew what sewed the strings onto these limbs,

thinking I knew anything about the consequences
of shining a light so close to the body.


Anita Olivia Koester is a Chicago poet. Her chapbook, Marco Polo, is forthcoming with Hermeneutic Chaos Press. Her poetry is published in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, Forth, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award.



for my grandmother

She flew to see us in Zimbabwe,
my First Memory: Beautiful
Manicured Hands—Jonelle
with those little pills in her purse,
malaria medication—
I’d say I heard them shake
but I’m not sure. Then she left,
Hair Blowing on the tarmac:
Last Memory. Jonelle—getting sicker
by the day, the doctors
holding her hand, my grandfather
holding back her blonde hair
as she vomits into the basin,
nobody knowing
these little pills were worse
than what they prevented.
We had flown into Memphis
the night before the funeral.
I stayed home the next day,
knowing nothing
besides lobster for lunch.
Lobster—what a thing!
I opened the fridge, peering
over their cold, slowed forms,
brown as blood turning
through tubes. Hours later,
the adult processional into
the kitchen—I was picked up
so many times, the kitchen light
so close to my head,
the scuttle of lobsters
beneath the talk of Jonelle.
Boiling water, the room hot
with relatives—I wanted to know,
I wanted to know what was going
to happen to the lobsters.
Dangled over the water, one dropped
with a plunk by my uncle.
The screaming. Adults talking
about Jonelle, the flowers.
The kitchen filled with
the screaming of lobsters.

Jonathan May grew up in Zimbabwe as the child of missionaries. He lives and teaches in Memphis, TN. His work has appeared in PANK, Superstition Review, The Grief Diaries, Shark Reef, Duende, One, and Rock & Sling. He recently translated the play Dreams by Günter Eich into English.



The changing room was painted marine blue,
with the ocean raging outside,
sea that swallowed fishing boats
slung low to the water to catch tuna.
After I changed into my pink and black
and the soft leather shoes, I entered a studio
as vaulted and dusty as the equestrian stable
I haunted on weekends. I began rigorous sets
of tendus, pliés, and battements, beating my day
into order, in arabesque, one-footed like a crane,
leg extended back—as much elegance
as I could poise, quivering, precarious,
in danger as much as those fishermen
among the slashing waves,
though it would be decades before they found
the breaks in my spine.

Arabesque penchée. Anatomy is destiny.
Perched on one leg I kissed the floor,
toe pointing to heaven, Tchaikovsky smiling
in gingerbread violins. I had yet to see myself
as in a body too short and square for grace,
see how I vogued a smile at auditions
and went onstage to family cheers.
But I grew up in a town where you scrambled
and balanced on a boat’s seesaw,
all the ocean gnashing its teeth around you
while sparkling like sugarplums.

I was doomed to an unrequited love
of this art, gripping the barre in a ring of sweat,
not yet knowing the grinding steps
would always keep me second from the top,
always pushing for what little elegance
I could strain into, arabesqued and strung
out on the music as if I were the violin string
and a merciless scherzo being plucked
until the weeping notes rose in their brief solos.


Rachel Dacus‘s recent book, Gods of Water and Air, follows two other poetry collections, Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her writing has appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Drunken Boat, The Pedestal, and Prairie Schooner. She is at work on a novel involving the great Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini.


The Answering Machine

Psalms 46:6 He uttered his voice, the earth melted.

They blurred their wings
over the waxen cells.
That was how nectar thickened
into something denser, a message
from deep in the earth: how rains
and sun had stirred the soil,
and how, for a long time, summer
was gentle with us.

Certain machines grow obsolete.
The hive’s bright hum
sounds quaint now: a foolish spooling
of magnetic speech: yesterday’s voice,
talking through crackle and buzz.

Gaze, though, into the amber fossil:
what hangs, suspended in the jewel?
Dance us a message,
tell us where the flowers
used to grow.


Lisa Huffaker‘s poems have appeared in Southwest Review, Poet Lore, Measure, Southern Poetry Review, Able Muse, Southern Humanities Review, and others. She won the Morton Marr Poetry Prize, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Yavneh Academy, and sings with The Dallas Opera.


Ruth’s Mother Replies

“And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.”
– Ruth 1:14

What mother wouldn’t see this as a betrayal?
Clinging to his mother, his family, as if
they were your own. Already
you begin to say certain words
with their accent, alter the way
you dress, become like the woman his mother is.
You were always more like prey, always
bending to another’s will, crouched beneath claw.

What if there had been children?
What would they have been to me? Not my own
sons and daughters: ghosts, dreams
I had for myself, when you were a child.

I saw you both at the market yesterday. You choosing
fruit in the way I taught you as a girl—turning
the ripening flesh slowly in your hands, the mango,
pomegranate, avocado. While your mother-in-law
looked on with the approving gaze of a mother.

She will never know you like I have known
you, a barely formed body. Your thoughts
created first in me, shaped by me. Your first
straining against the outside was in my womb.

Is she your mother now? Then kiss her for me, let her
braid your hair to the leash you want it to be.


Renee Emerson, the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014) lives and writes in Arkansas, with her husband and three daughters.


The Apiarist

I don my white robes, light carefully
the incense, sway it over their heads;
I need their calm reverie before I can move.
They congregate around me, buzzing
and fussing in their lacquered wood boxes,
as if they could hope to keep their secrets holy,
I slide off the panel, the choir louder sings,
I know their songs, I helped write them.
I reach into the sanctuary, the zealous
are prostrate as I brush aside their goddess,
I take directly from the altar, nectar drips
down my chin. Some follow as I walk away,
circling around the mesh, unable to see my face,
wanting to touch the hem of my cloak.


Glen Wilson lives in Northern Ireland. He has been widely published having work in Iota, Southword and The Incubator Journal, amongst others. He has won the 2014 Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for the 2014 Wasafiri New Writing Prize and the 2016 Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing.



Like the sapphire eyes of the African wood owl
I saw once in a zoo, yours glinted and darted
as you chased the ball down the oh-so-many
football fields. Your grand-daughter, who lives
near the Arabian desert, said they were ‘the sea’.

I would have said cerulean: between sea and sky.
Or the cornflowers of harvest meadows.
Mottled now, rheumy. One of them blind,
the other held a cataract dammed behind
the nerve, worn down by decades of peering

at columns of digits pencilled in tall ledgers,
or following numbered horses as they sailed
over fences on the far side of the track.
At the graveyard, one Sunday, you pressed
your cheek against the stone, touched

the letters, asked me to call the names –
Daniel, Jane, Jack, Marie – Ah, Marie!
And then came the Sunday when you opened
your eyes and and turned two black irises on me –
lampblack, sucking in the light; black

as plastic sacks flapping on hedges in February;
the black of paper eyes glued to a cheap toy.
All blue had drained out, condensed to air
the singing blue, the dancing blue, the blue
of flowers and stones. The blues of you.


Mary Noonan‘s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, The Dark Horse, Poetry London, The Spectator and The Threepenny Review. Her first collection, The Fado House (Dedalus, 2012), was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and the Strong/Shine Award. A pamphlet, Father (Bonnefant Press) was published in 2015.



I gather my belongings and retrace my steps.
I left you once, not for good.
There was a child between us.
I trace my hands in a sketchbook and color them gray.
This is an ordinary sort of unbelonging.
On an ordinary day without any sort of hand-holding.
I’d rather not touch.
That was all a long time ago but is still between us.
I trace my hand in a sketchbook and color it bruised.
I’ve discovered that tracings are warrens of lost content.
The child in my arms was pulled away.
His small arms reached for mine.
That was all a long time ago, but still.
If you read our biography. (There is no biography.)
If you go looking for me. (You will not go looking.)
I have gathered my belongings and retraced my steps so many times.
I’m not going to list my losses. Use your imagination.


Risa Denenberg lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, where she works as a nurse practitioner. She is an editor at Headmistress Press, independent publisher of poetry by lesbians. Her publications include three chapbooks and a full length book of poems, Mean Distance from the Sun (Aldrich Press, 2013).


My Reverie, or Listening to Fado

Cesaria Evora, Miss Perfumado, 1992

Five boys in a photograph reprinted
as back cover of a J-box of heart-
ache music, a gift from friends,

taken at a Cape Verde harbor
and overlooking some fishing boats,
hills on the opposite shore,

friends playing on arched stone pilings
reflected in the still, silvery water
from which they rise, to which they give shape.

They are turned toward you, the holder
of the camera (where have you gone?),
and you, the holder of this image

almost 25 years after, meaning
some may be dead now, or fishermen
with boys of their own who are

fast friends, too, scrambling over
these same warn stones that overlook
harbor, fishing boats and hills.

Turned, their questioning caught,
before turning back to what other attention
had just been distracted—that is, all

but the one who never turned to look
but has studied, faithfully this quarter century,
something in the silver substance

beneath, a piece of trash floating
away, a passing fish, the beautiful
face forever in that still mirror.


Clark Holtzman lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His poems have been published most recently in 2River View,Antiphon (U.K.), Verse Virtual and West Trade Review. He is writing a memoir, provisionally titled, “Waiting on a Friend.”


Nocturne Without U-Turn

one bouquet of vacancy, one lungful
of fleeting—the trees go up
in flaming foliage, then are barren,
burnt as only the cold can burn

one tightrope of solstice, one caveful
of vespers—the aspens
with their ten thousand wrought mouths
are organ pipes exhaling white noise

one siphoning of light, one cusp
of dusk’s null hypothesis, each being
returns home under a moon
of lone imagining


Jessica Goodfellow‘s books are Mendeleev’s Mandala (Mayapple Press, 2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (Isobar Press, 2014). Recipient of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal, she’s had work in Best New Poets, The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and Motionpoems. She’ll be a Denali artist-in-residence this summer.


What Keeps Us Going

Waves lolloping, no rush, the enormity of sound,
cache of a sand-spit and, round the corner, one other wayfarer.
I clamber higher, to a ledge, straddle a rain-pool nestled between crevices.
The dog has vamoosed, after a ‘really? Up there?’ kind of stare.
Miss her already; she marks her territory wider each walk.
Wind bitter in my left ear; the other one warmer,
and out in front of me, a confluence of currents,
salt-shaken spread of sun’s glitter on water
beyond the black lurk of a rock, like a crocodile
to the power of ten, heading west.
Now I see them, two surfers, lying flat, attentive and waiting.
I imagine the movement of ankles and feet,
to keep up the blood flow, like swans,
serene on the surface; furious paddling below.


Afric McGlinchey‘s awards include the Hennessy Poetry award, Northern Liberties Prize and Poets Meet Politics prize. She has been selected by Poetry Ireland Review as one of Ireland’s rising poets. Her second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat has been nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.



for RBK

Just now is the choice
at the end of the breath

to draw back again
and take another —

no more a choice
than the child pausing

at the swing’s extreme
chooses returning

to this still point,
the shallow bowl

shoes have scraped
for years in sandy

playground earth.
He has to come down.

He creates
his own locale;

breath becomes
the air around him;

the dust we breathe
becomes us. We say

“It becomes him”
of a shirt sometimes,

perhaps a bowtie,
rarely a mustache,

meaning handsome,
fitting, at home.

Soon or sooner
we all become

the world — but one
of those I’ve met

grew so at home
in every moment

the world became him
as bowties did.

Just now is the choice
to be truly here

in this tent, breathing
with these others

on the turning earth —
to see each place

and breathe each other
into ourselves,

and breathe us out
into them and it,

wherever we go,
whether waiting

on the Grand Canal
for the boat to arrive

or in your own bed
dreaming a letter

that lifts with the shadow
of Hogback Mountain.


David Kellogg has published poems in Samizdat, Chain, COMBO, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Sow’s Ear Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He is an Associate Professor at Coastal Carolina University and has recently returned to the role of poetry editor at Carolina Wren Press.


Closed Circuit

Fight nights, my father always woke me up
before the main event. “Ten minutes champ,”
he’d say, rubbing my neck like a trainer
as he led me out past my brothers’ beds
to the bright square of our living room.
Already he’d have tuned our iffy hi-fi
to what we called the open circuit,
a distant late-night station that broadcast
thirty-word summaries after every round.
It was as close as we ever got
to the biggest events in our lives.

Round 11
Frazier dominates early. Ali covers up.
Frazier lands a huge left hook. Ali staggers
to his corner at the bell. Advantage:

Then came three minutes on tenterhooks
(car ads . . . weather . . . the hallway clock)
while the bout went on without us.
“What do you think?” I’d always ask,
wondering if Chuvalo had a chance,
what Patterson had done with his jab,
whether the cut was closing Quarry’s eye.
He’d shake his head, trying to figure out
what they hadn’t quite been able to say.
“White hopes and blackouts,” he told me,
“Neither ever gives you much to go on.”

Round 13
Frazier forcing the pace. Ali’s jab keeps him off.
Ali closes with punishing combinations..
Frazier looks spent. Advantage:

I knew the successions back to the flood:
. . . how Robinson had beaten LaMotta,
who’d beaten Cerdan, who’d beaten Zale,
who’d beaten Graziano, who’d beaten . . .
The lineage of champions: our politics
and our religion. It got us up at night
to huddle by a raspy Magnavox
aware that something hard would be worked out
through summonings of skill and bravery,
with which we wanted some connection
even if it came to us in paraphrase.

Round 15
Ali jabs and moves. Frazier’s face a mess.
Ali goes down! He’s up at eight. He survives
the round. Advantage:

By the time Holmes beat Norton,
we were listening in separate states.
Long-distance, the flurry of our lives
came out like quick abridgements of the fights
we still discussed: “The doctor wants to check …”
The kids are fine …” “The job’s ok … ”
Not much to go on, but we kept it up,
trying to preserve the faint connection,
knowing some things would be unspeakable,
that punches could come out of nowhere,
that a voice was always waiting to break in
and tell us what we weren’t prepared to hear . . .
“It’s over . . . It’s all over in the Garden . . .”


Tim McBride works at SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolina. He has also worked for USAID, North Carolina State Univeristy, and the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo in El Batan, Mexico. He has published one book of poems, The Manageable Cold, with TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University.



It is 2:40 a.m. and the garden
quiet, the rooms quiet, a dull hum
from the kitchen, water drains
like a snake through the belly
of the house, heat grieves the ducts,
the systems phase in, phase out, at
times, and, at times, no sound at all,
nothing but the clock on the wall
set in its scalloped casing, telling
the paintings, the books, the furniture,
telling me – at roughly the same pace
that my heart is beating – that each
second has fallen off a cliff, has gone
off into space, or time, like a soldier
going over a hill. I listen to each one
shedding its radiant physics, that
bright spray of seconds, and what is
there then but to think of a schoolgirl
on a beach? – a girl shaking droplets
like glitter out of the dense long hair
that, she imagines, will last forever.


Bruce Sager lives in Westminster, Maryland. His work has won publication through contests judged by Billy Collins, Dick Allen and William Stafford. Several new books are forthcoming in late 2016 (via Hyperborea Publishing and BrickHouse Books).


Purposeless Errand-boy

It amazes me
that I tend to land on my feet.
The street doesn’t need me,
and sadness died
waiting to meet me
underneath the three-owls tree.
It amazes me.

And here I stand,
stretch and yawn,
ask you, hey,
do you need me to
run an errand
that you don’t need
so I can be lazy and late
with my delivery?


Kushal Poddar, widely published in several countries, resides in Kolkata. He writes poetry, fiction and scripts for short films when not working as a lawyer in the High Court at Calcutta. He is editor of the online magazine Words Surfacing. He authored The Circus Came To My Island (Spare Change Press), A Place For Your Ghost Animals (Ripple Effect Publishing) and Understanding The Neighborhood (BRP, Australia).


A Windhover

I saw you, fisher standing waist-deep in the stripple
swanned broadly behind you, glimpsed your lone
figure amidst the haze-fire. I beheld you running in cloud
shadows through harebells and ling, rionnnach maoim
on bright wind-gamboling days; my memory’s soul,
ingrained yet changed you blew out of my life
unsubstantial as summer geese long ago. I am mere
ammil left behind, an icy casing lit to glow briefly
in sun-fire. Your treachery deep as mign, I was warned,
I saw the bruenloch didder your desire for me;
saw the warning flagged brightly in that unnaturally
green grass, so I veered away from that lung-clogging end.
You left in a pirr, merest breath of wind, a cat’s paw tap
on lake edge; skyward you keened, now free you windhover,
you defiant fuck-hawk. Your ashes, soft as bumblefur
fed to brine-jawed North sea winds, orphans of chaos,
grey and frothing imprisoned ’till infinity ends.

Riannach maoim – shadows cast on moorland by clouds moving across the sky on bright windy days
Ammil – glowing icy casings on leaves, grasses and sprigs caused by thaw then freeze
Mign – peat bog
Bruenloch – Dangerous sinking bog, typically covered in vegetation


Lynn Carole Brearley is from Wigan UK. She has a forthcoming poem in the David Bowie Tribute. Her poetry appears in Red Dashboard LLC Publishing, 2014 dis·or·der Mental Illness and its Affect (influence.) Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal Issue No. 2 and The Living Poetry Virtual Workshop Anthology.


Evening At Fox Hollow Inn

Come to the fire pit made round
with fitted stones. Look to the stars
dripping light. See the constellations
move over the sky. Out on the mountain
just at the edge of our yard a coyote howls
and two more answer from the mountain top.
A deer is trapped between them. It may be just
a fawn. They sing the merciless songs of nature.
The mountain was old when it was created out of
ancient rocks and soil pushed up toward the clouds.
Trees and vines hide the coyote, deer, turkey, skunk,
possums, rabbits, snakes, owls, squirrels, redbirds,
and the slave built stone wall, which is all that
is left at the home of pioneers of unknown
names who lived in the valley below us.
The bees in their hives are sleeping.
Come closer to the fire. The wind
is cooling. Watch the faint light
tracing the mountain top.
Promising tomorrow.


Louise Colln has six published books. Her poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and national magazines. She reads poetry on television. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where the natural beauty and sense of history encourage her interest in people and appreciation of the world we live in.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.