Tonight, the moon loves itself in and out of cloud shimmers;
The bundle of familiar keys heavy in your hand,
Impatient, with me you drive north to find it
Up into the mountains, far above timberline where air ices
A whisper and suspends it like an ornament in the sky.
This land may seem hard and harsh (bushy evergreens thirsting)
But at this altitude one can reach the clouds.
You sniff the frozen air. Lucent snowflakes glisten in fur;
The metal of the moon: semi-circles of silver
Curve gently to frame your face into one
Slender beam of moonlight, refracted as if by magic
Into dozens of diminutive spheres; cylindrical beads of silver
Light ripple and spill beneath my fingers.
Night after night the earth and sky grow larger.
Will I always remember that first season of rain,
The iris and the loosestrife dressed in purple coats?
Beneath the fall of rain and snow I have my own
Moments of indifference, my own sorrows and disappointments:
Nothing’s more important than my own happiness.
For the damage buried deep in your heart
I only want to offer you a few words of love,
Lilt you a lullaby, for the days and years ahead.
Stars sprinkle the nightsky counterpoint;
They glow by the hundreds, a shining reminder.
Is it only I who remembers the days, the years, the missing sun?
I forget, forget things I never thought I could.
Where to begin, where to find a starting point?
Turn back tonight, tonight that no one can put into words.
I cannot forget what we have together:
The fire we built blazing through our lives.
That purple blue sky, our eyes could never see enough of it.
In moonlight we stand and listen for the singing
Which fades away in the folds of the passing winds:
Your eyes turn slowly, vacantly toward the horizon,
Toward that small house where you’ll now live alone
And tread the worn patterns of ancient footsteps,
Toward that time when we had faith, when love was steadfast.
Step into the bluesy moonglow whichever path you choose;
High ridges carved in the distance and star-cut sky above.
The winter that throws its cloak over the city mourns
In quiet, white sound for the loss without a name.
I catch myself wishing into the cupped cave of my hands
That we get used to everything: to this night by the lake,
Waiting for the boat, sleepless, tense with no words.
During the next three days I will leave you and return
When the clouds are less dense and the miasmas
Burn away with the surrounding darkness,
That old knowledge, an invisible mountain inside me.
N. A’Yara Stein is a Romani-American living on a chicory farm. She received her MFA from the University of Arkansas, and has been nominated twice for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. A grant recipient of the Michigan Art Council and the Arkansas Arts Council, N. A'yara is the featured poet in the next issue of The James Dickey Review.
The world darkens into an unrecognizable form
Until even the latch on your
Own door eludes you.
Scattered throughout town tea pots cool
In empty kitchens, and after a while the little
Kerosene lamps flickered and went out.
Yet the town was not deserted—
Saturday afternoon in the cinema
The projectionist asleep by the third reel, and
That first night the neighboring dogs,
Moving wolf shadows, turned their terrible heads
And eyed you crossing the cow pasture.
By dawn they seemed to recede in
A damp fog, big, innocent, treading
The Roman stones in another direction.
Winter did not come those next few days, and
From the top of the hill you could just make
Out the road into town,
Near the marshes where the wooden handles of farm tools
Lost or dropped forever turned to stone
Houses and barns are abandoned.
Two days later in a village twelve kilometers north
People had taken to digging their own graves
Swinging spades, pickaxes and pails.
You watched the corollas in an ordinary flower,
Opening as deftly as the fierce heat
Trembling in the world's outstretched hand.
Brittany Klein's writing has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Western Humanities Review, and Quarterly West. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Did they take down the telephone wires as well
or am I in the wrong place entirely. Either is plausible.
The gas station roof juts the blue sky. The alcohol plant
billows corn steam north of the regional tarmac.
I will write and write as if you are a lottery, and I find this fulfilling.
Not surprisingly, I miss more than one ramp. Clovers
and Everclear snarl. Regardless, your farm house is gone. Leveled.
I can’t say when. In my mind, I am pulling the blue car
up to the side. A curl-tail of smoke
yellows the window. You are a metonym ashtray.
Noon hour or frozen hose or no house, you still smoke.
There is no question of that. Corn, two people, and a red truck.
A sun-penny stuck in the cloud tread.
Margaret LeMay-Lewis attended Barnard College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She served for eight years as founding director of the Writing Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Her poems have appeared in the Asian Pacific American Journal, Another Chicago Magazine, and the White Whale Review. Her work was shortlisted for the 2007 Four Way Books Levis Prize and the 2010 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize. She lives in Iowa City.
I had been away, in trouble again. He had endured a rough time himself as a lad,
and I went to work with him. Silhouetted, surrounded by foundrymen casting giant
shadows, every day on time pouring the molten iron, flexing biceps shining, he
transfers his thunderbolts in the big vat from the furnace’s fury into the long-handled
pots of the moulders, sparks, red and gold arcs, shooting and dying. Shouts and jokes,
each face a glistening goggled eye, suddenly lit as a figure darts forward, swearing
and sweating through streamers of smoke into the fierce glare of my father’s heat. I
had been away and now I was back. Did I mention that?
Ian C. Smith’s work has appeared in The Best Australian Poetry, Descant, Island, Magma, The Malahat Review, Southerly, & Westerly. His latest book is entitled Lost Language of the Heart, Ginninderra (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.
Daddy says he doesn't sell to people he knows are bad off. Just those people
at the mills who need a little relaxing after the day's done. His customers stop
by our house and muss my hair, ask how I'm doing in school. They tell me I'm
a smart girl who's going to get out of this town. I remember them from the gas
stations and church. I've learned to wrinkle my nose at them in public, pretend
the smell of joints is in their skin, the weed mixing with smelted steel and
cigarette smoke, the fried potatoes and chicken from the IGA. Today is payday.
My living room buzzes. Steel workers flit in and out of the door for their weekend
baggies. I pretend to play with their children, but I watch. I study the glassy eyes
and blackened lips, their easy smiles and loose bodies. Each of the men takes
their turn in the living room. Daddy spins the tray like a roulette wheel until it
lands on the perfect joint. He plucks a few and zips them into a sandwich bag.
Between customers he folds the money into accordions, paper birds. He leaves
them on the counter for me. I smell the bills and imagine I am high. I shuffle
around the kitchen, use the wall to support my body while I giggle with the paper
against my nose. Daddy doesn't catch me. He is busy rolling and licking the Tops
papers into next weekend's profits. He makes the joints different sizes. Some are
small and straight, some thick and bulging from the onion skin paper. He snaps
the lid on the sandwich tray and slides it under the brown tweed chair. I wait until
he leaves and spin the wheel, hoping for a new pair of shoes.
The night American Steel went up in flames,
the silhouette burned bright orange against
the sky. Crumpling metal turned into itself,
molded patterns of fallen buckeye leaves
into white hot ore. From a distance, the frosted
windows, like shattered stars, burst, then disappeared.
Like workers scrambling out the door on Friday
afternoons, anxious and unwilling to be caged,
onyx plumes funneled from the caving roof.
Between the inferno, their patinaed bodies softening,
slumping, behemoth cranes and lifts rippled.
Those popping panes smashed between the music
from The Dante’s patio, the sounds of men playing
Keno and bones. Bones too tired, too disconnected
to care. The men sat, slammed the tables
with ones and sixes, wrist flicked cards hard onto piles
of chips, gambling away the week’s overtime.
Pocket change jangled in rhythm to the jukebox blues
crying from the open bar doors. Unwilling to sully
their Saturday night, the men watched the fire pock
mark the wooden guardhouses staked at each corner
of the complex, the redwood trim of each ramshackle building
igniting like tinder until the factory was engulfed in a ring of fire.
The silk of weekends was the only thing that drove the week by
until the box of bones opened again. Until sounds of shuffling
cards replaced the robotic clacks of time clocks. Until the hours
turned into themselves and became the chips they wagered
their lives for. The flames rose like mornings they trekked
to the factory. Twenty-five years without a missed day. The steel
toed boots and dirty jeans woven into the tapestry of their lives.
Athena Dixon-DeMary earned an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. Her poetry has appeared in The Penguin Review, Pluck!: The Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture, Blossombones, Sea Stories and The Amistad. She is a federal employee living in Southern New Jersey.
After snow, light resumes the strip-fields,
clearing what winter decay has managed:
the tenancy of a long known ceremony.
Stronger now, atoned to institute order,
Black Moor grips the millstone ridges,
hauls bulk-winds across its altar.
People in Oxspring know its phonation,
its presence is an heirloom of hardship,
reaching back homeward like atavism,
inherent, benevolent in fortune,
opening each morning to its birthright.
They say it as they eat breakfast: ‘Black Moor.'
There are pieties and remote solitudes,
blessings and the giving of a talisman,
these are the sanctities of all knowledge,
localised, as it is with village folk,
secured with what new worlds fail to bring.
They say it as they eat supper: ‘Black Moor’.
In this last summoning, clocks are altered,
time returning to the centre at its source,
to the migrant that appears in the ochre sky.
Blast Furnace, Rockley
Such primitive ways of construction
set the first stone safe as foundation,
the inner walls smoothed to firebricks.
An uprush of air bellowed at the base,
fuelled in the blast-shaft with charcoal,
measures of lime from the upper tier—
faces ablaze, burnished in orange glow.
The goit* and wheel-works are nettle-edged,
detailed in relief, overgrown with shadows,
outside what’s fenced and dangerous.
In through the sandstone arches
scorch marks read as cave paintings.
* a small artificial channel carrying water. Usually
used with respect to channels built to feed mills.
Richard Brown's work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in England. This is his first accepted submission to an American publication. He is presently on the British Council list of poets. Richard presented his work at Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2010. The industrial heritage is a shared legacy between his hometown of Sheffield, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sheffield, which influences his work, was world famous in the production of steel, and industrial relics are a profound feature of its landscape. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Brown_(poet)
What Was Useful
A little money stashed away in the basement’s red wooden box
or hidden inside the worn shoe’s lining—
a little money layered between obits and want ads—stacks of Popular
Mechanics interwoven with receipts long-forgotten.
Between the sheets, Love and Will added no interest
to a Chilton’s Catalog of Parts and Accessories;
a little money to accumulate, banked into dust underneath the bed—
slipper to slipper—a small fleet of barges gliding the river
But nothing useful radiated from inside her Imitation of Christ,
and the Emily D led only to anger.
What’s lost is lost among the folded, crumbling maps—how to navigate
grids of streets and the old neighborhood churches falling apart
from McKeesport to Erie, how to locate the narrowest alley, a place
where Mikula’s Progressive Czech could be traded for Warhola’s little money.
Thank you for getting me out, I want to say to myself, to whoever will listen,
for saving the tiny wads of cash like damp tissues stuffed far into the sofa.
There was never enough little money to strike a match to, when the markets and butchers
no longer flourished, and under the garage’s dim shop lights, his brakes went on
bleeding. Just hurry east, someone said out loud,
and I heard it.
Marie Pavlicek-Wehrli is a native of North Braddock, Pennsylvania (a landscape defined/defiled by the blast furnace), but she has lived in the Washington, D.C. metro area for many years. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Ekphrasis, and Anon. She is also a painter and printmaker, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College.
Like a house readied for flame,
I am closed up tight, braced
for the moment of your flight
and fire that scorches walls.
You pack your valuables in the trunk of your car.
I wait for an updraft. How else
to endure but as wood willing to burn
to ash, to be carried across the sea
on feathers and fish scales, thermals and skin?
My body, trimmed to defensible space,
offers neither sweetgum nor sycamore,
spruce or soft grasses.
Let the barometer chime the windshift,
the manzanita make its stand.
When the roads reopen, you
will return, learn how I breathed
cinders through windows you thought
airtight, doors you thought closed.
I survive, if smolder;
a few pieces of wood remain.
There is no season but fire.
There is no husband but you.
Mary L. Brown's poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently Blackbird, Eclipse, and The Chicago Quarterly Review. Her manuscript, Disassembling the Body, was a finalist in the 2010 Gertrude Press chapbook contest. She earned her MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles.
Grandpa was born in 1896, and could play
just about anything with strings attached.
What pulled most at his heart was an old fiddle
that he kept on top of a china cabinet
in the corner near his rocking chair; where
he fell asleep every night listening to Kansas
City Athletic’s games on a Philco dial radio.
He worked part-time for the highway department
setting out kerosene warning flares that looked
like bowling balls without holes.
During the 20’s, and throughout hardscrabble
days, he set great store in playing that fiddle
at barn raisings and harvest dances; where neighbors
could find brief, and welcome respite from hardship,
in simple food and fellowship. Civil war ditties
frequented the menu; passed down to him
by the same fingers that first plucked his fiddle.
When his lame shoulder wasn’t throbbing,
and I asked him just right, he’d take her down
off the china cabinet, rosin up the bow, and with
a work boot conducting: take us down dusty,
forgotten pikes lined with blue, and gray soldiers;
singing, marking cadence on the road to awakening:
Ride a Scotch horse
to Danbury cross,
see an old woman
upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers,
and bells on her toes—
she shall have music
wherever she goes, and goes...
He Called My Mother Sister
Life was rough at Grandpa’s; he had more kids than dollars,
and moved from house to house faster than The Children
of Israel fled Pharaoh in the desert.
He was an old horse tradin’ swap fox, who once traded
a week of his life for four tree-whipped coonhounds,
and an Essex four door stuck in reverse; which he promptly
backed over one of his kids. A mellow sort of fellow,
and slow to anger.
The furthest he ever traveled was uptown to the Farmers
and Drovers Bank corner on Saturday nights to chat,
or to the banks of the Neosho; where his pal, Punkin’ Duncan
lived in a clapboard shack with no paint. The two of them
would flush down donuts with black chicory, and impale
foot long nightcrawlers on fish hooks to dance
the burlesque for old whiskered flatheads.
For dinnerware and cutlery; there were: one plate, a cup,
a knife, and one fork, rinsed, and shelved in the sink.
In bountiful times: there were always plenty of commodity
eggs, cheese, and peanut butter to compliment a steamer full
of greens, and store-bought roll paper to set beside two
holes in the three-holer.
Salems were his brand of choice, and never far away
from a grateful, toothless lover’s kiss. If he ever had a tooth,
I never saw it. The kids once bought him a pair of hand carved
chompers, which he promptly interred in a bureau top drawer;
permanently divorced from his gums.
For a time, he lived in a 12’ x 60’ along the tracks, and when
the Katy flew by and blew her horn; you could swear
it was Gabriel calling down the rapture, and you’d been left
Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His new chapbook, Measured Days, has just been released from Heavy Hands Ink Press. His work has appeared in Foliate Oak, Pirene's Fountain, Elimae, Bananafish, and many other publications. Kevin is listed as a notable Kansas Poet at http://www.kansaspoets.com/. http://kevinheatonpoetry.webstarts.com/index.html.
All conversation in the bar had
ceased around Y2K as if someone
had pulled the plug on a life support
system and nothing had happened
since then was sufficient for it to begin
again. The place was so suffused
by ennui, a general malaise so potent
some jokers could stop in, order
rounds of shooters, pretending to be
Stanley Kowalski and his Big Easy
Crew and it would seem like an
overlapping of dimensions, two times,
one place and never the two shall
meet, and when someone yelled,
"Stella, Stella!" it would be completely
unreal, even when someone yelled back,
"Shut the fuck up, Kowalski, you dead
beat loser, Stella don't work here
no more." No one would get the reference,
not even Hickey's devoted followers,
those sloe eyed souses, barely breathing,
one sip away from face down on the bar
for an eternity of unhappy hours.
Even the bartender seemed about to pass out,
standing up, leaning on a stinking, wet
lump of a bar rag, a butt still burning
between cracked lips, spots of dried blood
in the corners of each eye not seeing
the dead flies floating in unwashed glasses
or the black soot and dust on the back bar bottles,
so thick with grime no one could see what
was inside. Everyone waiting for the end
that came and went, then came again and
no one noticed.
Alan Catlin has published dozens of chapbooks and full length books of prose and poetry. His latest book of poetry is entitled Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker Street, from March Street Press.
Furnishing The Bedroom*
She’s always wanted a desk. She knows
just where it should go, right
by the window where the sun
will keep time on its daily trek
across the sky. And a chair,
of course, one of those hydraulic
lifters, wheels ready to move
at a whim. What about
a bed? No denying it—
she has to sleep, if only for
the gift of dreaming. No lover
in the wings, no need
for her double bed, she says,
Hope takes up too much space;
she’ll sell it on eBay.
Get a futon. And dump
the dresser too. Why hide
clothes in drawers, just to take them
out again, wrinkled and squooshed.
She leaves the laundry draped on door-
knobs. Makes use of stick-on hooks.
Clears out the closet. Leaves
an open area for out-
of-season clothes. Boots. Summer
sandals. The rest—the floor,
the shelves—she saves as shelter for
the books that she can’t bear to give
away. Words she loves. Words
that have changed her.
Bed. Chair. Desk. And lamps.
How many? And what kind
of light? Those indirect soft-focus
bulbs improve her mood instead
of flinging imperfections in
her face. Come to think of it,
she’s glad to see the mirror go,
along with the dresser. Too
much truth spoken too
clearly, is a killer.
*or, Writing The Poem
Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish (Finishing Line, 2007) and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). As a Quaker and psychologist, Marian finds that her poetry frequently focuses on the embedded topics of peace and violence, often by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she was named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts in 2006, 2008, and 2010. firstname.lastname@example.org
In a pasture a quarter-mile
from the farmhouse, we gambol
through a dance floor of fireflies.
Green frogs throat-pick banjos.
Like you, the graceful stars
above are fancied by
attendant planet suitors
pulled, spun across the sky,
who glide in rounded beauty
through the fields of your gravity.
Elijah Burrell is working toward his MFA in the Bennington Writing Seminars. His poetry has been published in The Sugar House Review, Swink Magazine, The Country Dog Review, Muscle & Blood, and Under One Sun. His writing will be featured in forthcoming issues of The Honey Land Review and The Penwood Review. Elijah was the recipient of the 2009 Cecil A. Blue Award in Poetry, and was a finalist in the 2010 Pinch Poetry Contest. He currently resides in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife and two daughters.
Before the House Wakes
Bayberry leaf air, the porch.
I lie, while quiet the wooden chairs and benches, tearing warm
Portuguese bread, soft under my fingers. Not far
from ocean pines that grow from salt water sand,
I think of midnight
and spread the pear jam,
eyes bruised and losing sleep.
The mist will seize before the oven sun, pots and cups,
swollen pines take the air and I will track
its dampness onto linoleum and buckled
sheets. But now, bluebirds
through brush and scented water, hushed, stir
the leaves, the bayberry, the pine.
Ellene G. Mobbs is an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University studying Creative Writing. She works as a writer at the Information and Communications Technologies Institute. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Ellene has been thrilled with the active literary and arts scene in Pittsburgh, and plans to remain in the city after graduation.
I Will Leave Atlanta on Good Friday
with the Newborn He's Abandoned
I drove south last June. I remember sweet tea,
steamed kale, the trucker, the truck.
My mother had hoped the baby
might be a tumor, not a life.
By Ash Wednesday, my stomach had grown large. I’m sure
the priest felt sin as he thumbed the sign of the cross.
During Lent as a child, I drew baskets of eggs and rabbits
wrapped in pastel foils. To dust those drawings have returned.
Were we going to get married? Did we think it was love?
The questions church people ask are embarrassing.
One Easter, I watched a family fly a kite in the park
and the father lost his glasses in the grass.
No big loss, he seemed to say, abandoning them.
We give them up easy, the things we can’t love.
Melissa Lindstrum is a graduate of the MFA program at Eastern Washington University. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Verse Wisconsin, The Orange Room Review, and The Divine Dirt Quarterly. Melissa is also co-creator of a postcard-poem project (www.dividedbacks.blogspot.com). She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
One for Mrs. Grey,
Who Martinized My Father’s Uniforms
He’d point the claim ticket
at her, between his middle
finger and index. With his thumb
cocked, my father robbed Mrs. Grey
of his Sheriff’s Department uniforms
more regularly than the clothing
conveyer behind her broke down.
When it worked, I wanted to stitch
myself to one of its hangers and have
Mrs. Grey, her age still exotic
to me, put the machine in high gear,
adjust the dial to “bullet train”
so that when its guts seized
and its chain stopped chaining I’d break
free and sparrow through the front door
and across the street, down the sidewalk
in front of the Chambers County
Courthouse and past the Dairy Queen.
When it didn’t work, we’d continue
our botched hold-up, hauling
the laundry out the door, our truck
too small for the escape: too small
for him, me, my sister, laundry.
The Snow is Getting Deep
in Rhinelander, Wisconsin
The town is thlunking about
in oversized boots, and my neighbor
Frank worries about the forecast.
Doctor won’t let me shovel; says
my heart can’t take it, so I called
a guy. Got a guy coming. I
begin to wonder if I’m the guy,
if he’s been waiting for me to show up
to shovel his sidewalk, to dig out a spot
for his dachshund to shit. Frank yells
Told you no. I say no, I mean no. Frank
may not be Frank. Never introduced
himself. Just call him Frank. Maybe
the dachshund’s not a dachshund, not
even a dog; something I’ve unburied
in the snow. The lady on Frank’s sofa
not a wife, not a mother. Not this old man
grumbling at his dog. Not my old man
buckled down on Trinity Bay, stretching
his rodeo knee as the storm rolls out,
heading to pick up the clapboards blown
off the barn. No horses to fill it. Not even
the mare he bought my sister in 1987,
not the little-bit-loose saddle she wore,
nor the arthritic cat keeping
watch for mice, or the gopher hole
the mare stepped in three years later.
The Last Will and Testament
of Cecil St. Germaine
The job that looks easy with four
hands is usually
impossible with only two. This is
the truth that turned Cecil
on his head while he was repairing
the safety reverse sensor
in his garage door opener.
The Montvale Brahmins nodded
throughout Clement Pascataway’s
eulogy. For over an hour
afterwards the guests congratulated
each other on Cecil’s
achievements. Tuesday afternoon
gathered the interested parties
to announce their client’s wish
that his estate be donated
to the Montvale School District
for use as a local history museum.
The adults applauded Cecil’s
selflessness, but the St. Germaine
grandchildren couldn’t see
how their classmates would learn much
from his riding lawnmower
or the tubes of jellies and sterile solutions
that allowed him to wrestle
his dentures into his shrinking mouth
with his own two hands.
Jeffrey G. Dodd teaches in the English Department at Gonzaga University, and has had recent poems published in Rock & Sling, Meridian, The Santa Clara Review, The MacGuffin, and Harpur Palate.
The Lore of L&J’s Junkyard
Tanned with summer sun and dirt,
the neighborhood boys braved the jungle,
hacked their way through thick thistle
and foxtail with bats splintered
from last year’s losing little league season.
They kicked aside exhaust pipes,
stomped on old license plates,
tore a truck door from the last creak
of its hinges. Back home, stories swarmed
with car hoods crinkled like paper fans,
mufflers streaked with road salt saliva,
windows splattered into spiderwebs
of cracked glass. Only feral cats survived,
basking on the hoods of sun-baked Studebakers.
Scrawny with patchwork fur and tails
the shape of stick pins, they chewed
on car cushions, and drank antifreeze
until green drops seeped from their whiskers.
For weeks , I watched as they pulled parts
from the wreckage, two mudflaps, a rear view mirror,
a cracked carburetor. Their clubhouse
became a garage lit by dim flashlights
and a single candle. When I saw the shadow
of a steering wheel, I knew they were serious.
Word was they were building a getaway car.
At night, oil leaked onto my pillow, hammers pounded
in my sleep. Even now, with every back road,
I still see their attempts at flight: tire tread,
broken mufflers, hubcaps twisted with rust.
Advice for All the Rust Belt Cassandras
Let everyone call you Cassie. Or Cass.
Or even Cassie Jo, although you have no middle name.
In the mornings, shake sawdust from your hair,
write your name on both of your wrists,
use a peeling sunburn as blush, braid your hair
with the curls of truck exhaust.
At the nearest corner store, smile at the cashier
who hands back your change, her ten-minute break
lingering on the last dollar bill. Forget
that you’ve known her since grade school,
a girl who coughed years before her Camels,
whose skin turned yellow long before
she grew nicotine stains on her fingers.
Don’t talk about how lumbermill smoke hovers
close to every curb, how the saltbox-shaped houses
on South Main snuggle too close to the river.
Don’t mention the nightmares of ivy
fingering through old farmhouses and factories,
how the last silo on Sycamore Road will take
a deep breath, forget to exhale, collapse
drowning a local farmer in his own harvest.
Use every dusk. Walk to the football field,
sit under the bleachers, watch how the sunlight
splinters through wood. Trace the graffiti,
hearts and initials that have not yet been carved,
a love story that will never be written.
Karen J. Weyant’s work can be seen or is forthcoming in 5 AM, Anti-, Barn Owl Review, Copper Nickel, Harpur Palate, River Styx, and The Tusculum Review. Her chapbook, Stealing Dust, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. She lives and writes in northwestern Pennsylvania but teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York.
The Expat Offers Some Packing Advice
You will never be finished.
You will never be finished
because you don’t even know what you’ll need.
You can’t guess what you will miss
until you are missing it like a limb.
So don’t stand there in your living room
surrounded by love letters and text books,
agonizing over what to pack.
You will always pack too much
and too little.
It is the view from that window you will miss,
the ragged pine tree
and the squirrel you lured to your sill
with peanut butter crackers—
but you can’t possibly know that now
so I am telling you:
that view is what you will miss.)
You will pack all the wrong things
and some of the right ones.
You could fill a shipping container,
and you will,
and still you will discard
the thing you should have held
and hold the thing that weighs you down.
And you could stand on the threshold
of your empty apartment all afternoon
watching a square of light
travel across the hardwood floor,
unable to shut the door behind you
because you know you are forgetting
but you can’t think what it is
and still it will never come to you.
It will never come to you
because you can’t know what you will miss
until you are missing it.
So learn this now:
you will miss all of it.
It is time to close the door.
Jennifer Saunders’ work has appeared in BluePrintReview, Literary Bohemian, Literary Mama, Umbrella Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Switzerland with her husband and their two sons, where she blogs about life, expat and otherwise, at http://www.magpiedays.com/
After the nine hundred best-loved books,
after the six racks of costumes for dance,
I reached into ten years of cupboards
for the turquoise vase, the gilt-edged platter,
the cunning curves of Victorian china
painted with pansies and thyme.
There behind the polished bulldog,
there behind the camel of brass
I found the photo of my daughter
at seventeen in smooth gray pewter
studded with tiny jewels of rose
and backed with tight black velvet.
For her I reached for recent newsprint,
for her I tore and crumpled words,
trying hard not to read the headlines
about another body found
shot up with powder pure as snow.
Beer makes you fat, whiskey burns,
and marijuana stinks and clings,
so when she went she went straight
to the point, the long one, skinny, silver, sharp
and bright as an enchanted prince’s fingers
promising a star-swung dance. Nothing
makes you feel as good as heroin
she tells her brother and me as we
bring her heart-shaped foil-wrapped chocolate
for Valentine’s Day, snow falling fast.
She’s twenty-one; the hard law says
I can’t just take her in my arms
and lock her in a warm high tower
with no doorway to the street.
She stares at us and lies again:
she didn’t steal four hundred dollars,
she doesn’t know why a trooper called,
these cold shadows that were once clear eyes
come from sweet late nights of reading
precious fairy tales.
Katharyn Howd Machan was born in Woodbury, Connecticut. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, and in 30 collections, most recently Belly Words: Poems of Dance (Split Oak Press, 2009), and When She's Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009). A professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College in New York, she was named Tompkins County's first Poet Laureate in 2002.
Directions to My House
Turn right on Cedarhill,
don’t miss the quick left
on Delridge. From there
it’s a gentle incline
past neat rectangles of green—
two galloping boys
spilling into the street
the perfectly sculptured yew
a sentinel half-way up.
There are sublime heroes
and greasy villains
splayed behind those tidy doors:
of hanging crises,
bored snores from afternoon naps,
the hiss of soup boiling over, splattering.
But this morning
there are no visible new alliances.
Trees still arch over single story houses
as they did last night
during the first shy snowfall.
The kid next door keeps his pet boa
in his lower level bedroom,
where we pray it stays.
At nine the city truck will lumber up,
its metal claws grasping
our trash containers
like a looming lobster.
We will all, at various times,
retrieve them, empty.
No one seeing anyone else,
no one saying anything.
Five years, now,
I’ve lived on this silent street
where the city water tank
hunkers in the pines beyond my porch
and a pair of mourning doves
coo their sweet grace notes
just beyond my window.
Perhaps some torpid August night
that water tank will finally erupt
from the teenagers’ hack attacks
and I will know if its gushing water
flows away or runs to meet me, finally.
Dorothy Brooks is a musician and painter who taught for almost a decade on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, and was part of the Bread Loaf (VT) Rural Teachers Network. She has completed one summer of a low-residency poetry MFA at Ashland University. Presently, she serves on the Community Council for the Center for Poetry at Michigan State University. Her poems have been included in the Washington Square Review, Driftwood, and The Sidewalk Press.
This is the place my father goes instead
of church on Sundays. Instead of psalms
he collects antiques, amber-colored
rust, something to repair and polish.
Retired men in flannel or camouflage or both
sit in lawn chairs at the Saylorsburg Exxon
on the small portion of grass that remains.
Break of cold morning light, the unfolding
table their wives drape with floral cloth,
boxes of romance novels,
soft-porn with adverbs: Enslave me Sweetly,
yellow pages for the untouched,
blue glass & corning ware,
tea sets never steamed or sipped.
This is the place for piles of nails & screws,
record players skipping back to the same note,
for Footloose and Billy Ray Cyrus cassettes:
one unsharpened pencil to rewind the film.
Dalenna Moser is an MFA in Creative Writing candidate, with a concentration in poetry, at Chatham University. Her poems have appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Coal Hill Review, Weave, Radioactive Moat, and Poetry Quarterly.
Quiet Nights in the Afterlife
I’ve been running late these first few days
in the afterlife. I still forget where I put my keys.
I still cradle the backbones of the wrong girls.
They leave imprints on the bed, carbon-copy
sheet angels that dissolve with my desire
to speak. Each morning, I wake in the place
where fear begins. The indent of your body
on the bed is a topographical map of Chernobyl.
My fingertips are cartographers in training, committing
the outskirts of your ghost town to memory. It’s quiet here.
Everything untouched. This is where the clocks have stopped,
where wives waited for their husbands to come home. The empty space
expands, it carries the echo of children being called to come inside.
Clothes still hang on the line. They’ve been drying
for decades. Roots have grown through the concrete.
Every sign here is ironic now. When I walk into town,
the marketplace is empty, there is no sound of people,
cars, or movement. It is just you and I. We are the unevacuated.
I will continue to walk these empty streets, where
you are still the only thing that moves, hums, radiates.
Walk alone through New York City. Think of what it would take
to systematically dismantle it entirely. Evacuate. Cut the power.
Pry up miles of layered subway track, crack mortar and un-stack
bricks, disassemble a maze of water pipes. Sidewalk sewer grates
and metal hatches which lead down into the basements of delis
and Chinese restaurants—lifted open and unhinged. Curbed rows
of garbage bags, taken. Wires, traffic lights, graffiti-covered
rail cars. Art museum pillars and bronze statues, parking signs
and lists of laws, their fine amounts, legal ramifications. One
effort, less meticulous, attempted this process. They began with
an unorthodox approach, opting for the wrecking ball
method with a plane full of people, aimed for two buildings,
the tallest around, and lit them like wicks
that folded over themselves in the flame. There they sank into
clouds of ash that spread
like unforgiving fog. Now look to the packed outbound bridges
bumper to bumper, the emptying lots and apartments, the frantic
voices on telephones, the quiet gatherings
around televisions. All clamoring
for safer places.
Michael Sarnowski earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where he was a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. His poetry has recently been selected to appear in Potomac Review, The Adirondack Review, Underground Voices, and Foundling Review, among others. Michael currently lives in Syracuse, New York, where he teaches at Le Moyne College.
Don't call me dear
A bottle of gin is only that.
I didn't grin, ask how's your day
when I passed the twenties
or graze your fingers with the change.
Look—we both wish somebody
would walk through our doors,
ask about Maker's or Malbec,
or in my case, the bed
I just posted on Craigslist,
maybe glance around my kitchen,
expect a second mug half full on the counter,
a pair of size twelves by the mat,
or a voice on the machine—
Hey dear, whadja get for our bed?
Let's go out and get a king.
Like that's going to happen now.
Marilyn Paarlberg lives and writes in a drafty old farmhouse near Albany, New York, and wouldn't have it any other way. She has been published in Many Waters and The Cortland Review.
The wind ached with something new.
There was no green yet
but the sound of green to come,
a gentling of the snow's fierce edge,
which, mowed and muffled, shrunk.
All that was, was running.
Air and bell from the old brick church
a mile away
sang, sang, sang.
Windful of birds
wind of incessant kisses.
The scape was gray;
dirt, where it appeared, hard.
Ashy snowbanks lined the road
and further back, furrows white or gray
showed just a scrape of jagged clay.
But sound prevailed
and rippling fins of wind.
Glad window in the evening.
Laugh to run.
The melting is begun.
will surely grow and surely bud
and surely be.
Hueso Difrancesco [spoken word]