“Garage Sale” autocorrected to “Rage Sale”
Bring up the damp liquor store boxes
full of the insults you swallowed
and, half-conscious, stored in the basement—
they are shiny and pointed and cruel
as third-place bowling league trophies,
and you swallowed them all.
So bring them back up from beneath the stairs
and into the light, onto the lawn,
and uncap a new Sharpie bought special,
and think, pen poised, for a few moments
about what price for these rages
and what price for those
you haven't brought up yet—
the traffic cutoffs, the taken-for-granteds,
the hoard of sore knuckles and ground molars,
the dozen Folgers cans filled to the brim
with slightly bent nails you couldn't part with
because you imagined some vague, future use for them.
What price for the shards and the splinters
that have become a collection
worth its own sad reality television show?
Let this be a good day, the glad day
of unloading. Let all the boxes be Sharpied
in joyous block lettering: FREE.
Let them be gathered up by the ecosystem
of early birds and latecomers, and the spirits
you'll never see, their late-night truckbeds
full of the Saturday-sale remnants
from yards like yours; bless them all
who can load it up and take it away.
Look how clean, now; look how much
space trembles with its emptiness.
Your shelves unstocked and waiting.
A Shoebox of Old Mix Tapes
In the yard sale’s final hour, they lingered
in the “Free” pile, keeping shady company
with mismatched flatware, rusty saw, ceramic frog.
Now, as we pack it in, it’s time to decide:
send them to the dump with their brethren,
or bring them back to the home
I’d so proudly cleared of their clutter?
I remember sprawling whole afternoons
in front of the stereo, surrounded by a palette
of albums from which I’d craft my grand narrative.
It took hours I gladly gave—measuring songs
and the silences between them, vigilant
about that key real estate at the end of Side A.
The Road Trip, the 25th Birthday Party,
the Summer of 1996 100% Vinyl Mix,
each the product of one of those afternoons.
The ones I designed for myself nestle now in this box
next to the tapes made for me by people
whose felt-tip liner notes on the paper inserts
feel enough like love letters
that I should probably burn them.
Above me, thunderclouds try to organize
a good end-of-summer soaking,
and I stand in the driveway trying to decide
what to hold on to Already so much
has been borne away by smiling, bargain-shopping strangers...
yet I hesitate, thinking of Derek, of Sandy, of Paul, of Chauna...
and I can’t summon words for what I want
to say to them, to myself.
Is this sixteen I’m feeling again,
some longing or gratitude lodged in my throat, unspeakable?
Can I even explain why burning a CD
won’t scratch this itch for ritual?
Sixteen wants me to drive home, unwrap a fresh Maxell,
rummage through all my music, cobble together
the sequence of songs that will speak for me.
Sixteen grips the shoebox a little longer
before no-nonsense thirty-eight adds it to a growing pile
of dump-bound rejects.
Thirty-eight is clearing out some space
in the basement, making room
for something besides nostalgia’s musty archives.
Not a child, not a second bathroom,
not a printing press, but something
whose namelessness she can live with for a while,
though sixteen will find the song for that, too.
Liz Ahl is a poet and teacher who lives in New Hampshire. Her most recent chapbook, Talking About the Weather, was published in 2012 by Seven Kitchens Press. Her second chapbook, Luck (Pecan Grove Press, 2010) received the New Hampshire Literary Awards "Reader's Choice" in Poetry Award in 2011, and her first chapbook, A Thirst That's Partly Mine, won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest. Liz's poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Measure, and Iron Horse Literary Review. She has been awarded residencies at Jentel, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and The Vermont Studio Center.
First Listen, Brown Hotel
The first time I heard that song, weeping
pedal steel, soft strummed guitar, I shook,
feeling like everything broken inside me
was slowly mending. You were hours down
Highway 64, while I sat in the cold hotel
room, looking at pictures of you and our
little girl, missing the dog’s warmth
on my lap. A soft, Alabama drawl filtered
out of my tinny computer speakers,
singing about the lowest moments in a man’s
life, what makes him want to be sober
so much that it finally sticks. And I thought
of this man, this stranger, huddled in a corner
in some unfamiliar room, apologizing (again).
I was just killing time; eating cookies
for dinner because I didn’t have to explain
my choices, turning the thermostat up to 74
because no one would complain. But that night,
small comforts meant nothing to me.
I am still in that room, still listening that song,
trying to teach myself to know that present
becomes past quickly. I am trying to tell
myself the story of this night, even as it happens.
I am trying to learn how the singer’s heartbreak
and my heartbreak come together and are sweet;
trying to understand how, with you so far away,
I can still feel your breath on my neck
and your voice in my head when I close my eyes
while the man in the speakers says I’m sorry
on infinite loop, so far from home.
Katie Darby Mullins is currently finishing her MFA at Spalding University and teaching at the University of Evansville. In addition to editing a recent rock 'n roll crossover edition of the metrical poetry journal Measure, she's been published or has work forthcoming in journals like Harpur Palate, Broad River Review, Big Lucks, The Evansville Review, and more. She's also an editor at The Louisville Review and the lead writer and founder of the music blog Katie Darby Recommends.
On the narrow stretch of prairie grass that runs behind Fossil Creek there are thousands of grasshoppers hiding just below the seeding tips of the blades, clicking their wings in sequence
like an exploding strand of ladyfingers hailing the dawn of the Indian summer, singing louder as
I approach on a lawnmower that grumbles and shakes, a red beast with thick wheels that grind
into the clay below, thrusting the thumping blades ahead, turning the grass into a springboard that
launches the grasshoppers upward and causes them to rise and flail, a blanket-field of dominoes
attached to each other in pairs by the mandible, crashing into the mower’s frame, or into the
simmering steel of the engine, or into the creek, or into the sleeve of my sweatshirt, or somewhere
Samuel Piccone is a recent graduate from the M.A. Writing and Publishing program at DePaul University in Chicago. His work has appeared in Silverthought Press, Threshold, Leveler, and, Forge. He currently resides in Colorado.
A Natural History of Kansas
Two small savages stand up under a yellow sun.
Sweaty foreheads press together and
their skin smells of old pennies.
“Lemme see! Let ME see!” is the old war cry.
The arrowhead falls to the ground.
The blonde one grabs it with a whoop and glee; he darts
across the yard, running now, head down, small feet a fat blur
in red dust.
The red head gives chase, but he is a small one.
This does much damage.
Silt and clay offer no ceremony and my
lesson on sharing sputters out.
Hours later, a miracle while hanging laundry.
The stubborn arrowhead is found.
I gasp and grasp its warm pinch.
Brown, pointed piece of flint, it cuts in and strikes a match in me.
My father’s farm. An oak grove.
Silt in the creekbed and there, the sharp shape.
Sunlight dapples my eyes and my father leans in.
Stretching trees and silence and water.
The way it is and was and always should be.
The redhead hugs my legs and bludgeons my toes with his yellowtruck.
He tugs, an impossible weight.
I grip the arrowhead tighter,
its weight impossible, and good.
Dana Bowman lives smack in the middle of the Flint Hills in Kansas, and thus often finds herself staring at large horizons. She's a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a runner. The recipient of two awards for her writing, Dana has been published in Today’s Christian Woman, The Covenant Companion, and in a few literary journals. Her first memories of writing are with a clunky Remington at the dining room table at the age of four. She says not much has changed.
“What Will You Do When You Get Out?”
[asked by Janet Iman]
If the moon’s barbell doesn’t seem too heavy in my hand;
if the feel of damp grass doesn’t send me running
to hide in the dry hell of my favorite shadows;
if I’m not immediately overcome by flashbacks to the Bronze Age,
Black Death or Xanadu of Kubla Kahn; if I don’t give a stray tom
bad luck by zigzagging dumbly across his path;
if a steel spoon or knife & fork will cuddle most tenderly
with my palm; if the stink of cars & chemical plants,
mud puddles, garbage & salve off sunburned skin
won’t see me spiraling into self-conscious inner rants on Nature
in America; if I don’t shiver; if I don’t cry too often;
if I don’t despise & don’t forget; if I don’t get lost
in a song from long before—then I’ll brush the dust
from my shoulders, lean over the rail of a highway bridge &
spit upon some stream whose lightning currents
cannot be defied by guarded men.
The Prisoner’s Shadow
Yawn of a stain at perpetual noon:
limp, dysfunctional under fluorescents,
the lone “suicide” light above the john
keeping some eternal flame.
Even its blackness more a blur of smudged ash
on the feet of a burned cadaver, a threadless cloak—
it reflects emptiness & apathy of its bearer &
the cynical, vise-like grip of his jailers.
It lingers at his feet like shackles & chains—steel,
unbreakable. Little more than a clown’s puffed-up shoes
it looks as if its parameters were codified in law:
a punitive measure, another reminder.
It doesn’t box or dance, stretch arms
upward to embrace the Divine.
So small, it’s a creek one easily could leap
but never cross.
Ace Boggess is author of two collections of poetry: The Prisoners (forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Atlanta Review, RATTLE, River Styx, Southern Humanities Review and many other journals. He currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia.
Hope and Dashed live in the same sentence,
evil twins in a sordid love affair,
one shiny and brilliant, the other a troll,
the lump lurking under the bridge of all our lives.
Say Hope even once, and Dashed is soon to follow,
lugging his saw and gun and mace.
My advice? Avoid them both.
Spin away the moment you hear
Hope’s name, run before the slide of the to be verb
that changes everything.
Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including “Her Daughter’s Eyes” and “When You Believe.” Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. Read more about Jessica at www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com
The Display Models
Most shoes sleep like rocks.
Tossed in a corner, they doze
where they drop, almost
on contact. But some,
troubled by the past,
carry a sorrow
they never speak of.
They recall the brief
strange solitude, the ease
of those days, alone
on the small platform,
and view of the world
they never have again.
they allow the long hours
of night to open themselves.
If they drop off, each creak
and rustle startles them awake.
They listen to the house
shift its heavy weight.
All night, they consider
what light inevitably reveals.
Edward Dougherty is the author of Backyard Passages (FootHills Publishing, 2012), as well as four other chapbooks, and of the books Pilgrimage to a Gingko Tree (WordTech, 2008) and Part Darkness, Part Breath (Plain View Press, 2008). After finishing his MFA in Creative Writing in Bowling Green, Ohio, Edward taught at Bowling Green State University, and was poetry editor of the Mid-American Review. In 1993, he and his spouse traveled to Hiroshima to be volunteer directors of the World Friendship Center ,where they served for two-and-a-half years, witnessing the 50th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They now live and work in Corning, New York, a place defined by the confluence of three rivers and a glass company you may have heard of.
1939 Ford Sedan
My father loved that Ford
more than the Almighty,
and maybe as much as my mother
whose name was Helen
and whose hair had sunk a ship or two.
And as men of his vintage named cars,
he baptized her Veronica,
not after the Saint who gave her scarf
to wipe Christ’s brow—no Catholic idolatry here,
he was Lutheran—
but Veronica after Archie’s Veronica,
comic books serving his Lives of Saints,
red-haired Archie with his two one and onlys:
Betty, the demanding blonde, and Veronica,
rattled and raven-tressed.
And like Archie, my father was torn
between his tootsies, filching the very rags,
chamois and scarves he had given Mother
to slick Veronica’s hood and fenders
until they mirrored his stygian face.
So the predictable horns:
red-haired Helen tooting him to eat,
and ebony Veronica bleating oil
like a silk handkerchief.
Guess who greased him in.
The roast beef shriveled and there he was,
shirtless and spread-eagled under the vixen,
his life torn between his passions,
vexing one to perfect the other.
Mom’s rusty potatoes didn’t have a chance.
All night I listened to a thin film of plastic
rustling around clean cotton towels
towels I would use in the morning
bathroom without windows.
It was a delicate sound, natural
despite its making, an ill wind
listing through the crack in the window,
quivering low-density polyethelene
and because I was alone
in a old room
I thought how a discarded bag
caught in a low-flying tree
can seem, temporarily,
a great white bird.
The wind hissed lightning and hail,
no good I could plot,
but for those hours that sound,
gentle and papery,
seemed you beside me still
or quietly turning
the pages of your book.
Lois Marie Harrod's Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook, How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) were published in 2013. The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), and Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching, was published by Black Buzzard Press, 2011. Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook Prize (Iowa State). Lois is widely published in literary journals and online ezines, from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches Creative Writing at The College of New Jersey. Read her work at www.loismarieharrod.com,
My Lost Pound
It may have fallen behind the dryer
like so many things
while I search
for body parts.
It may have gone downstream
without a life preserver
or smacked into a bridge strut
without a helmet
something bound for the evening news.
Wringing my hands
on this humid evening
I want to undo the hurt.
It was never meant
the way it was taken.
I slid on something
while walking through the kitchen.
I bumped into something
in the bathroom last night.
I feel empty
never having lost something
this is how we lived
something gained to be forsaken
meaning only felt
a thing once wanted
Brad Garber has published poetry/essays in Cream City Review, Alchemy, Fireweed, Uphook Press, Front Range Review, theNewerYork, Ray’s Road Review, Flowers & Vortexes, Emerge Literary Journal, Generation Press, Penduline Press, Dead Flowers, New Verse News, The Whirlwind Review, Gambling the Aisle, Dark Matter Journal, Sundog Lit, Diversion Press, Unshod Quills, Meat for Tea, Mercury, The Meadow, Shuf Poetry, Post Poetry Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Temenos, Hoot & Hare, The Ilanot Review, Third Wednesday ,Sugar Mule, Embodied Effigies, Sugar Mule, and/or Poetry Journal and Great Weather For Media. He is a 2013 Nominee for a Pushcart Prize for his poem, “Where We May Be Found.”
I’d never buy a costly suit of clothes,
but for believing you’d go out with me.
The wise would wait till the occasion rose
before investing in such finery.
But getting dressed before my fancied date
in garments suited more for formal wear
than play, I only could procrastinate
resolves, while wondering if you’d be there.
Indeed, you never came. And thus arrayed,
I scarcely could pursue productive ends.
But still I wonder how you could persuade
me into wearing clothing effort rends
in ways that force me to play mannequin
while you, sweet seamstress, take my trousers in.
Frank De Canio has been published in over 300 magazines (and/or e-zines), including Danger, Pleiades, Genie, Write On!!, Red Owl, Nuthouse, Love's Chance, Words of Wisdom, Rook publishing, Illogical Muse, Writer’s Journal, The Lyric, Free Lunch, Art Times, Pearl; Hazmat, Medicinal Purposes, Blue Unicorn and Ship of Fools, Raintown Review, and others pending, in addition to, on the web, POETZ, Contemporary Rhyme, Language and Culture, and Thick with Conviction.
The painter Edward Hopper pictured one child in his body of work. “New York Pavements” depicted a nun pushing a baby carriage.
My given name was Eunice.
One of three children of a poor family,
Who made our home in a converted garage.
When I was 15, I married God
Eager to escape the close quarters,
The faint stench of motor oil that lingered
Despite the pot of bean forever cooking on the stove.
Sister Mary Margaret—blushing bride.
I didn’t look back, but forward
To hours of quiet reflection
Watching ribbons of dust stream through the air
While children recited their lessons in a slow buzz.
Fragrant incense tickled my nose at Vespers,
A counterpoint to my sharp knees against the kneeler.
Oh, the pleasure, the pain.
Then, in my dotage, to open the church door
To a tiny soul born of a mother, age 15,
Eager to escape the close quarters,
The faint stench of motor oil.
My virgin birth—long-awaited daughter,
Child of my heart.
We stroll down city streets oblivious to stares,
Our eyes on the ribbons of dust
Heaven rains down upon us.
Ellen Birkett Morris is the author of Surrender (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as The Clackamas Literary Review, Juked, Thin Air Magazine, Alimentum, Qarrtsulini, Gastronomica and Inscape. Her poem, “Origins,” was nominated for the 2006 Pushcart Prize. Ellen is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Fellowship.
Woeful cradle, lift the bosom
In palpitating rosefields; drowsy and spent,
Bleeding wreath of languish,
Her footsteps haunt the Via Dolorosa,
Washed against pebbles in a sea of briars,
Dreads the ghost that broke her bread,
Tufts of hair drenched by Bordeaux,
Ocean salts erode her carbuncle feet,
As the vines loop their way up an olive tree,
In the Sea of Galilee hangs the head
That tender seraphim refuse to mend
Hell-bound it digests the grave
A gospel sneaks its way out
Joseph Erobha is a student at Western Michigan University. His poem "Paradiso" was published in Eber & Wein's anthology, Acclaimed.
like a seahorse floating forward
you are brittle and small. When you move
you barely touch the sandy ground.
My eye to your reflection,
forging for fundamental truths.
Your skin to my aura,
skimming the anointed flame.
I wear you as a wig to fight off
prejudice. You lay over me like a shroud
made of woven sunlight and shade, made
to supply me with defining features
and leave an impression.
You are like the freeway I fell onto
when I was barely grown, rolling over
to the side, watching the car I rode in
shrink into oblivion.
I am a reptile in a drying-up waterhole,
cocooned in sludge, where you sniff me out,
expose my underbelly and devour.
Pocket knives and crushed branches,
I owe my secrets to only you.
Lap me into your watery mouth,
tongue-swirl me across your taste buds
unless I die, evolve, unrecognizable, and you
fairytale pretty, ride away on a mild tide, saying
it is over.
Allison Grayhurst has had over 275 poems published or accepted and soon to be published in more than 160 journals, magazines, and anthologies throughout the United States, Canada, India, Australia, and in the United Kingdom, including Parabola (summer 2012), Blue Fifth Review, South Florida Arts Journal, Gris-Gris, New Binary Press Anthology, Foliate Oak, The Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly, Wascana Review, Poetry Nottingham International, The Cape Rock, Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, The Toronto Quarterly; Fogged Clarity, Boston Poetry Magazine, Decanto, and White Wall Review. Her book, Somewhere Falling, was published by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book, in Vancouver in 1995. Since then, Allison has published ten other books of poetry and four collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication of Somewhere Falling, her poetry collection, Common Dream, was published along with four chapbooks by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook, The River is Blind, was recently published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press in December 2012. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two children, two cats, and a dog. She also sculpts, working with clay.
Why They Leave the Ocean
The mermaids drank the potion. They cut their hair to
pixies, bobs, shoulder sways. They find our homes, find
the latch to our bedroom windows and screens. Their
sweat is sea salt flavored. Their lashes are long and
black and wet. Their hair dries in ringlets and heavy
curls. They don’t care about blankets, eye-pillows, or
white noise. They think nothing of what you take to
sleep. All they want is what you keep between your
thighs. Call this want fish. Call it siren. Call it half-sea,
In the last photo the mermaids are Japanese. They
sit on rocks, jagged remains of strand blackened by
waste. They balance on long legs, flesh puckered from
hours waiting for the flood tide. Everywhere seaweed
drapes—a vine loops a mermaid’s neck, two are wound
round the dreadlocks of another, several have coiled the
long pieces in slow curls up their arms, legs, and torso,
as if caught above what is dying. Like gulls, they face
the wind ready to meet whatever blows in, what could
be _________ or maybe ___________. It’s hard to tell by the
photo. This could be the wreckage from anywhere.
Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches English and creative writing. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) and Unclose the Door (Gold Quoin Press, 2012). She is also the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her writings have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Feminist Studies. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner, and grants from the Center for the Great Plains Studies and the Wurlitzer Foundation. For more on Laura, visit www.lauramadelinewiseman.com
Suddenly feeling three-
dimensional once more,
I begin again.
A friend has sent a clip
of Miyoko Shida,
Japanese balance artist, first
settling a long white feather
on her index finger, then
slowly bending, selecting
a long stripped palm frond
from the floor and using it
to balance and lift
the feather from her hand, then
choosing twelve more fronds,
slowly, one by one, weaving
them into a supple mobile
branching before her, then
placing it on her own head, then
drawing a fourteenth frond
upright with one foot, setting
the swaying sculpture
on the tip of this last frond,
mesmerizing me awake
with her concentration,
her fierce balance.
Fireflies in a jar
delight the small eye.
Photos can lie, capture locust shells
at the click.
Banks of purple to the west
yellow glow to the east.
erase the night rains,
push in the new storm, shatter
the closed jar.
The scarecrow in the cornfield
is the tallest figure for miles.
M.S. Rooney lives in Sonoma, California with her husband, poet Dan Noreen. Her work appears in journals and anthologies, including Bluestem, The Cortland Review, Earth's Daughters, Futurecycle, Main Street Rag, and 3:AM Magazine.
If I lived there today
I would stomp weeds
until a row emerged from cornstalks
gone to husk and vines clinging
to memories of speckled butterbeans.
I would stand where the roses stood,
inhale to learn what lingers
and what has passed away.
Hunt September apples,
off the ground, peel, trim away bruises,
lay plump slices
on sheets of weathered tin to shrivel
in the season’s last hot sun.
I would harvest shiny chunks of coal
from the black hill under the sycamore,
stoke a fire. Make my supper
from whatever the field yielded, cradled
home in my apron, sun-warm
against my belly.
Gather a just-laid egg, hold it
under the pump to thumb away spots
of manure, almost too taken
with its promise
to crack it.
I would suck honeycomb, extract
the charm it held for those long dead
when they sat at the table in the near-dark
of dawn, sipping pale coffee and sopping
biscuits in golden yolk.
I would cry into the fields
at the ghosts of barn and henhouse,
calling the name of every last soul
to work this soil,
squeezing life out of dust.
Peg Robarchek is a published novelist, editor, writing coach, poet and a former journalist who currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her blog is www.coachpegnow.com, and her most recent novel is "In the Territory of Lies." In 2013, she also published her first children's book, "Bean Is Born." She has also appeared in her first film role in the indie picture, “Off the Grid,” to be released Spring 2014.
in its basket
sits in sun-
yellow tonsils showing-
its closed buds
nose the glass
beneath a cloistered sun
If I were
in her flowers
I’d paint these
from slender pistils twirling-
Spanish dancers in the rain
in its basket
its blossoms lightly
and moonful night
fade then drop-
folded umbrellas by my door
the red stone
on the path
where it had been
smoothed by water
rounded on forest floor
burnished by sun
solid as a nugget
into her fingers
there is a roundness to it
as if carried
in a jean pocket
curved by her hip
it is a maroon plum
hard as the pit
spit into her palm
she thinks it feminine
each side of center
as if pressed
by a lover’s thumbs
to a pleasing exactness
a talisman to keep
to imagine it
a dark chocolate
eaten and digested
in the pit of her stomach
Barbara McGaw lives with her family at the southern edge of Michigan's northern forest. She has been writing poetry for many years, but only recently has she begun to submit her work for publication. In 2011, her poem "A Stone Heart," was awarded the Abbie Copps Prize for Poetry, sponsored by Olivet College.
Wearing the Hat
I’ll give you this, you little beast,
A hat for your enjoyment.
Now see that train? It’s heading east.
A-board to seek employment.
But you should know that once you’re there
That new fedora ‘top your hair
Won’t really get you anywhere:
No skills lie in adornment.
But ain’t it such a pretty hat?
So black, matte, and seductive
Thelonius, Miles—hell all them cats—
Wore this in years productive.
So take a look-see in that mirror;
You’ll be impressed with what appears,
And no, kid, don’t you ever fear,
You’ll lack command instructive.
‘Cause people hear what has to say
A man in a fedora.
You’ll get six pages, when you play,
Written in The New Yorker.
A reinvention of the art,
The mag’zine says will be your part.
At that point, don’t you damn well start
To feel like a remora.
Naw, you’re not like that little fish
That sucks onto a belly,
Infiltrates a great white’s niche,
And rides him all the way to Melly,
“Cause, kid, I know you’ve got more pride,
Can’t take an undeserved ride—
The fedora don’t mean you lied…
Wink-wink: I won’t telly.
On Being Shown a Medallion of the Berlin Olympics
for Bessie Eldodt Appel Mikkelsen, d. 1986.
In an era of living rooms, we sat
in her parlor. The time had not yet
come to go. TV flickered, mute.
My question launched her on a voyage
from the verge of nonage
to the distant threshold of middle age.
How pleased she was that I should care
to ask, that one should remember
her expatriate sister.
It is hard for a child of the jet age
to imagine how long that passage
was—steamship, trams, train carriage—
harder still to see this bent brittle
woman undertaking the failed
voyage of rescue. Within long-settled
life now she reached down
from the shelf of tchochkes the medallion,
proof of what she had to recount
kept untarnished in its green felt-lined
box. In the drawing room as the games opened
she and her sister listened.
From the radio the voice came flooding,
greeting the world,
in that small space heard
as history overwhelming
might house. Of the games
she said not a word. I brought her coat.
For the first time I noted
where the yellow star was not.
Stopping at the doorway,
she kissed two fingers, lightly
brushed the bright mezuzah.
She blushed to explain
the touch to the talisman.
Outside, it rained.
James Toupin is a retired government lawyer who lives most of the year in Washington, DC. He began publishing poems in 2008, after years of writing them late at night for his own pleasure. They have since appeared in numerous print and online journals, garnering a couple of Pushcart nominations. New work is scheduled to appear in the North Dakota Quarterly and online at Virginia Quarterly Review. James is also a published translator, of Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville, and the co-author of a book on patent law.
Song for the replacement fish
Now the red spikey one disappears itself.
In the next vase, the one with its tail tipped
too bright for its white body
turns to peer through lamp-lit layers of water dust.
It’s soft sway
stirs the murk. But they
these shadows that swim
by glass, water. In their artificial ponds they go
so not so much as a cerulean fin shows.
His favorite color is blue. He thinks its my favorite color, too.
That’s why he bought that one. It’s why he painted the hallway
that deep hue, so dark
I had to dabble over it with sky.
The first batch died. Turned over in their vases belly-up,
making the water yellow, their bodies
bleeding their brilliant color out.
I didn’t really want them, these replacement fish.
I look again and they are all gone, now
as they should have been
after the flushing and before the gift.
Melissa Varnavas is a graduate of Pine Manor College Solstice MFA program in creative writing, poetry. Her poetry has appeared in the literary journals Oberon and Margie. A former journalist, her work in that genre has earned her awards from the New England Press Association, Massachusetts Press Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, and the Specialized Information Publishers Association.
Chocolate cupcakes topped with frosting
sweeten the evening conversation.
However we disagree, a lively
argument is a passionate defense
of chocolate versus vanilla.
I say praise diversity. Add sprinkles,
or jimmies if you prefer, but bite
one and give me your opinion.
Dessert dialogue lingers on your tongue
long after swallowing. “It has that taste,”
she said. I agree with sugary sentiments
reverberating from the urn atop the TV,
where my mother-in-law dispenses advice.
I hear her disembodied voice rate
the cupcakes with a ten point score.
“Five or less,” she confessed. “Store bought
cupcakes never taste as good as they look.”
A former truck driver with a BA in English and an MA Humanities, Brett Roth’s poetry has appeared in Off the Coast, Tiger’s Eye, Raven Chronicles (website), and The Tunxis Review. His fiction has been featured in RE:AL and The Iconoclast. Brett is a program coordinator in Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design.
She says a prayer each time she hears an ambulance pass.
Trying to clasp the nonplus
Because some things
only have memory
when you hold them
to the light.
Like: Copypaper or the note
you didn’t know
you carved into
It’s like eating fruit;
there is always something
to throw away.
Each typewriter ribbon
has a memory
if you only use it once.
Hold it to the light.
Only use it once
who gets it
when you’re done.
Or: your kids
stick price tags
to your things,
let strangers wind
The things you touched
have colored dots
now in all their corners.
Michael Hurley's work has appeared in the Sycamore Review, Weave Magazine, The Fourth River, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. He is the winner of the 2012 Keystone Chapbook Prize, and his chapbook, Wooden Boys, is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. He lives in Pittsburgh.
i didn’t know then,
that when the voice said build,
it meant no empire, no manor, no palace of delight
where we could feed ourselves
from tended gardens, no castle to keep
us from hearing the squalor of streets, or prison
to keep growing brutality at bay.
rather, there was nervous packing,
a thunderous shuffling of hooves
and skirts bundling down into
deep rooms, sunless corners.
enclosed in wood and animal dung
we heard the rain start in drizzled frenzy
until the deep lifted itself up and rolled back
to the beginning, a formless place
of dark waters, angry spirits.
for months we floated through the world’s graveyard
and dreamt of stillness in the heart
while the dove grew weary of her flights.
when at last our feet sunk into muddy ground,
we gave thanks, as survivors often do.
i had deemed that the end to the story,
wanted to close my sight to a blank land, exiled years.
but the sky called me back with confusing light,
passionate shards breaking through into fractal arc,
and i saw a beauty that would someday pierce
hands and feet with bloodstained ravage.
i thought it, at the time, a dangerous promise,
to never again shed tears such as this—
to love a world you’d die for.
Nancy Hightower explores mythic narratives from a post-modern and at times, feminist perspective. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, storySouth, Big Muddy, Prime Number Magazine, and Strange Horizons, among others, and is forthcoming in Gargoyle.
A Walk in the Mall
Colleen Carias is a Santa Fe, New Mexico poet whose work has appeared in journals online and in print. She is co-author of the poetry book Braided Voices.