Allison Collins earned a degree in English Literature and works presently as a newspaper writer for Oneonta, New York's The Daily Star and also as a preschool teacher.
Night on Memory’s Convoy, or, Ohio
Silent, I feel the shadowy mass of Ohio
lean a broad chest upon the window;
silent, the train serpents through onyx
heartland—long blurs of black.
This is the sea the Midwest knows.
I know nothing of Ohio, only
that it’s a place I have not searched,
that remains unturned. Here and everywhere,
your face fogs the glass: a sudden, shifting bog.
In memory, you and I have wintered
every December’s petulant tantrum,
and we have missed the breaking blossoms
of milestone and notches. I wait
for you every season to arrive.
You must be exactly like Ohio,
at song in every damning corner
of its impressive girth. I will say it
again: Mother, there is war
in this life, everywhere trenches lie open
to those who fight for you,
who walk by them in the night’s dark edifices
unprepared and disillusioned. Tell me
as I see you in everything black enough
to be reflective: that you will come back,
that this heartland will someday thaw.
An Epistolary Poem For My High School Boyfriend, After Coming Out at a Red Lobster
I. l'esprit d'escalier
Where is your name,
inside this empty mailbox? I check
every day. I walk with purpose
down the drive, entitled to your name.
It is but one of many empties. The mailbox
isn’t a mailbox, but the house we said
we’d share. Other names visit there,
we send our wishes to other towns,
but this is ours. I’d hoped
you would show up, palms open,
and toothlessly eat my loneliness.
I'd expected nothing less
than cartography, your name
in the empty box on the legend.
At the very least, a co-explorer,
a colonizer of memory's landscape.
I'd expected the terrain to be lush, well-watered,
the flora and fauna to be full of seeds,
and the locals hospitable.
My expectations now are like that mailbox,
empty, full of webs, a great living room,
where the furniture is respectfully covered
before being taken to the morgue.
II. What I Actually Wrote
I'm sorry, I won't
apologize now, pushing thirty
and still gay. It's the tipping point
of not-talking and talking. I’m always
talking about the home of my life:
There are many shelves. On one,
there is a photograph of me
as a blue M&M, and you
handsome in your "I'm With Stoopid" shirt.
We danced in the middle school gym
in a ballroom of fake cobwebs—I keep
doing that, using metaphors of death.
My girlfriend got cancer and busted
up my heart, and love no longer
waits in the wings to be a star. I'm sorry,
I won't, is that too much?
III. Not a real response. This never happened.
I got your letter, I'm sorry
I guess, for your grief.
I stick to paths, myself.
I don't go there. My mother says
you write. I got your letter,
your picture. You look
like a working girl, a show pony
touring the back room circuit.
What I mean to say, is you've got
a used look to you.
I got your letter, and a new tattoo, over your name,
it says rancid.
Don't come here.
There is no water in this well.
July Westhale is a poet, writer, and activist. She was a finalist for a Creative Writing Fulbright to Chile, and has been awarded grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Lambda Literary Foundation, Sewanee, Napa Valley, Tin House and Bread Loaf. Her poetry has most recently been published in AGNI, Adrienne, burntdistrict, Eleven Eleven, Sugar Mule, The East Bay Review, 580 Split, Quarterly West, and PRISM International. She earned n MFA in Poetry from Lesley University. July was the 2014 Tomales Bay Poetry Fellow, and is the 2015 Poet in Residence at the Dickinson House in Dienze, Belgium. Visit her on the web at www.julywesthale.com
Why I Haven’t Written
almost never think of you now.
In shellacked wood or cardboard,
cylindrical mysteries, painted with
flowers, vines, leaves, paisley designs.
Monogrammed in script. Inside,
where felt and velvet, plumed or bowed,
hid in darkness. Found folded in tissue
paper, photo of a lover lost in war.
Letters tied with lace and ribbon.
That moment of lifting the lid
to see what's within. Cloud of dust
motes, dry scent of attics. How
the past comes rushing back,
with the roar of a train approaching.
A woman stands along, expectant,
her one good wool coat already
too tight to close against the wind.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. Author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Slipstream, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Buddhist Poetry Review, and The Nation. Joan ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does paper art. Learn more about Joan at http://www.JoanMazza.com
"Well, I wouldn't buy green bananas," is how the oncologist answered his question.
He tells me this in the first minutes of our first hospice visit.
As I leave, he asks if I could pick him up some cheap cigarettes next time.
In Vietnam, his post was 5 miles form the fighting.
"5 packs a day to kill the boredom. And 2 a night to kill the rest of me."
His jokes are to put me at ease, I know.
And my job is to comfort, I argue with myself.
Even on death row they get a last request.
Four days later he looks half the size.
"My cigarettes!" he cheers, when I put a grocery bag on the table
with his lighters and two ashtrays overtaken by butts.
He tells me about his life and makes more jokes. He's a great guy.
I want him to open the bag. He'll laugh, I hope.
Either way, I'm telling my joke," I hear they smoked 'em in the 60's, man,
in 'Nam. You're just going to have to wait 'til they ripen."
dark street dead end your gun in my ribs telling me to give you money and I am
*Ends up, if you drop a wallet in the mailbox the USPS will mail it to the owner.
There's a camera installed near the eagle's nest, with sound.
The train jostles the image, surrounds it with industrial disclaimer.
It's a real raccoon that tries to raid her nest,
but it looks like the Hamburglar.
She raises her wings like Count Dracula.
When raccoon scares off, she starts counting her eggs with her beak.
Then she sits in profile and looks like an American caricature:
pissed off and standing her ground.
The eagle near the river is sleeping.
Headless, a football of feathers in twigs
and the city's incessant mouth-breathing.
She laid a clutch of two eggs this year,
one is broken, the other is starting to roll.
The train pushes through,
all the bluster of March in its horn.
Still she sleeps, oblong pillow
in the middle of the nest,
the egg like a pill underneath.
Across the river,
in the Hazelwood landfill,
new rats screech blindly for milk.
Fast food for the eagles, I think,
though I know I love no animal
until I've learned to love the rats.
The nest, as it said
in the paper: abandoned,
a crosshatch of flash-bleached twigs;
last night, when I heard the news,
I visited the webcam site
and saw one of the eagles asleep.
In the morning, by 7, the camera
was farther away, high above
In real time, now, it waits
like a creche for its reason to be.
We are shopping near the old Homestead Works.
In the car park, I'm shocked to smell weed
wafting from a Cadillac with open doors,
a child in the backseat. Lots of people,
you tell me, have to smoke in their cars.
I ask. But the woods are under surveillance.
The camera is trained on the empty nest:
the inverse of Warhol's Empire, the nest splays
in the high crotch of the roost tree, listening,
a satellite splintered by imperial noise.
Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Carlow University Madwomen in the Attic program. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, Cimarron, and other journals, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her second chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in the fall of 2014, and her book, Spear to Sphere, will be published this year by the West End Press.
Nick Conrad's writing has been widely published and anthologized. His poems have appeared in a number of national and international journals, most recently the fall 2014 issues of Orbis (UK), no. 168, and Southern Poetry Review, vol.52, no.2, and soon, Badlands.
My son calls from a payphone
in Western Kansas to tell me he's joined
the carnival. Mentally,
I trace the twigs and branches
of our family tree of gypsies,
orphans, traveling thespians, artists of canvas
and liquid glass until I rest upon the nook
from which my mother's branch emerges—not
the massive trunk from which this all began,
but the limb that is my grandfather, named for a poet,
a carni at thirteen.
Flat and dusty as a rainless highway
in Wichita, my son’s voice bounces against
the glass enclosure before its journey
through the network of wires
& switches that connect us. I hear
traffic. Somewhere in the distance
air-brushed diesel trailers
parked uniformly by the side of the road.
Carnis watch my son through
cigarette smoke, waiting for a turn
on the phone.
My son marks time in cities. In Lincoln,
he worked concessions, in Guymon,
ticket sales. Holton, where he once took
a blue for the bottle-baby calf he raised
holds the promise of kiddie rides, but tonight
he works the ring-toss game
on the Midway.
Lisa Hase-Jackson teaches English and Poetry at the College of Charleston, SC. Her current projects include an anthology of poems celebrating New Mexico’s 2012 centennial and a manuscript of her own poetry. Her poems have appeared in Kansas City Voices, Pilgrimage, Jasper/Fall Lines and elsewhere. She is the review editor for South 85 Journal.
Jennifer Saunders is a U.S. citizen currently living in Switzerland and pursuing her MFA through the low-residency program at Pacific University in Oregon. Her poetry has appeared previously in Blast Furnace (in 2011) as well as in Addana Literary Journal, Found Poetry Review, Heron Tree, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and elsewhere.
Field Song Fable
for William Elliott Whitmore
Will Whitmore is not a tall man. When he walks,
like a pocket-knife with a loose hinge. He's got
a hesitation caught like a feather on his tongue.
Drawls when he speaks, like his mouth is a lazy river,
like it ain't in no got-damned hurry to get nowhere,
like the words are gonna come out anyhow,
so what's the rush? Makes his way through the crowd
careful as a hen in a fox house. Tries to go unnoticed,
but he's damn gracious if you catch his eye.
He's got a firm grip, a rock-solid handshake
that believes itself to be as binding as a contract
signed in blood. Says he don't need no god
to save his soul, but he's got the gospel in his lungs.
Churns out mercy from the stage with a banjo
& a boot-stomp. He hums like a rumbling steamship
& out from his mouth comes a prairie, a whiskey-
soaked field, a row of daisies growing through
the bird skull buried in the back forty. A tar-paper
shack in a thunderstorm, hallelujah. A train whistle
in the midnight mountains, amen. And oh lord,
here comes the gravel from his throat. The fog
rolling off a winding river, that hymn song fading
away into the Iowa sky. He's not a tall man,
but he's big as the untamed west, stretched taut
as a split-rail fence or barbed wire. One hand
plucking a ghostly melody on heaven's guitar strings,
the other dug deep into the soil.
William James is a poet, punk rocker, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He's a contributing editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir, whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hobart, SOFTBLOW, Atticus Review, Emerson Review, and The Rain, Party & Disaster Society, among others. His first full length collection "rebel hearts & restless ghosts" is forthcoming in 2015 from Timber Mouse Publishing.
Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry collection, The Solid Living World, won the 2013 Michigan Writers Cooperative Press chapbook contest. Ellen’s poems have appeared recently in Dunes Review, Gravel, Melancholy Hyperbole, Neat, in the anthology, Uncommon Core, published by Red Beard Press, and forthcoming in Passages North.
Whether his first words or last
were yet within reach,
Lincoln rose to his feet chilled
by the faces in front
and the silence underfoot.
God is on neither side, he thought.
This was a war between men,
men filthy, stubborn and proud,
men so distant from God
each was his brother’s heathen.
Truth was, Lincoln had lost faith
in men but not in mankind,
which made him a brother to Jesus.
Still, unable to raise the dead,
unable to walk them home
he’d wept for them instead,
rivers so fierce they’d gouged
canyons on his face.
That face now met the sun,
peculiar for November, the light
so sharp it cut though any hope
of grace or absolution.
Four score and seven years,
he began, the past as clear
as the morning, the future
nearly all in silhouette.
Carmel-By-The Sea, 1962
From my bed by the window
I hear the ocean stand and fall.
The light’s too dim now, day or night,
so my ears and nose must guess the hour
and gather wood for dreaming.
And yet no dreamer built this house,
this quarry ship and Gaelic tower.
Each stone in place knew this shoulder
and this shoulder every weight. You don’t
build a house of rock from gentleness.
Everything I am was built from love and rage.
I had to scream to keep the nightmare at bay.
This ocean was my heart, my trapped
and brooding twin. I won’t miss this world
and its manic ways, just one woman in her tower.
And this ocean, jailed for the price of man,
pounding its fist on the door of the day.
Peter Serchuk'spoems have appeared in a variety of journals including Boulevard, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Texas Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore and others. His poetry collections include Waiting for Poppa at the Smithtown Diner (University of Illinois Press) and most recently All That Remains (WordTech Editions). He lives in Los Angeles. For more on Peter, visit www.peterserchuk.com
was miraculous to see.
Laura Moore says that ;iving on an island has changed her poetic expression. She writes as a means of connecting her interior world with the exterior world. Participating in a performing arts group and doing public readings has increased her desire to share words and visions with a larger poetry world. She is excited by the variety of words poets find to communicate their unique visions of being human in a changing world.
is eucalyptus pugnacity,
to push anyone to walk,
electric razors, dust-guilded shops,
water pressure applied with a frosting knife,
salty wine and silver buttons.
A waterlogged full moon wakes me.
5am, out of bed
to write by bathroom lights;
tile is colder than any storm
and mats wear thin just standing on them.
Does anyone go back
to being a Californian?
I could live in Oakland.
My girlfriend and I were in a gallery there,
and she looked at the openness
provided by hardwood floors
and large windows, limited walls
and a patio on the 2nd floor.
This, this could be our forever place.
It's what I already had in mind
and sketched a dozen times.
Mother raised me to love the ocean and the desert.
My birth certificate says I am Californian.
It's official bear doesn't suit me,
it holds onto a lie just as well
as all the stretch marks of ricochet across the country.
I live, dug into a Mid-Atlantic basement row house
but the sand and Pacific curl around my toes.
Karen George's books include "Into the Heartland" (Finishing Line Press, 2011), "Inner Passage" (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Swim Your Way Back (Dos Madres Press, 2014), and The Seed of Me (Finishing Line Press, 2015). I've received grants from Kentucky Foundation for Women and Kentucky Arts Council, and my work has appeared in Louisville Review, Memoir, Permafrost, Blast Furnace, Still, Wind, and Blue Lyra Review. I hold an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, review poetry at Poetry Matters, and am fiction editor of the online journal, Waypoints: http://www.waypointsmag.com. My website is: http://karenlgeorge.snack.ws
scrubbed, short wet hairs clinging to her neck.
or an unmade bed.