Laurie Sewall

REVISING PARADISE

[word chakra]

fills its cloth with water⎯ 
drinks 
from the cup of stone, knows 
anything gods we think 
could know 

[paradise chakra]

lives in helmets, drives 
soldiers through 
tunnels—stores extra rations 
in pockets for later, when 
we rebuild 

[heart chakra]

pulses with light
carries
birds swiftly flapping
in many baskets

[tuning fork chakra]

turns your head toward
that not-knowing— 
revising 
your mouth entirely  

[dust chakra]

spins embers to life, returns
to your hand 
particles of memory: egrets 
feeding on sand, on
sound


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Laurie Sewall received an MFA in poetry from New England College and an MA in counseling psychology from Lesley University. Her poems can be found in ColoradoReview, Ploughshares, Columbia Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, and Minnesota Review, among other publications. She lives and teaches in Iowa. 

Posted on October 25, 2018 .

Darren C. Demaree

EMILY AS A BOSC PEAR

There is a true shape
displaced
& claimed  

by the delusion
& the delusion’s comrade
& if all that soil 

still tastes honeyed 
amidst 
that claim 

that all love is fruit,
then whatever
skin is leftover, 

that is the skin
Emily is wearing.
She will 

always be 
a visiting blood
held together 

by my poor 
metaphors.  She drips
& I call it juice. 

She sings
& I call it a garden.
I open my eyes 

& I know all
that’s been ruined
is my understanding.

 

EMILY AS MORE THAN SHE LOVED ME

Light fell.
I am 
in the light!

EMILY AS WHAT I WITNESSED I WILL SURELY CHANGE IN THIS POEM

I don’t understand
how stubborn life 
can be.  They told
me my child might
be dead.  They let
me listen to her heart. 

They showed me
her lungs working.
They said she could
be dead.  She was
an absence until
she was an engine 

that replaced me,
my continuing book
& they said
we might both be
dead.  Four women
took a knife to her  

un-tucking.  I don’t
understand why
they waited a week
after they told me
we were all dead.
She cried

an hour ago
& I don’t understand
how I’m supposed
to keep living
when they told me
about our ending.

 


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Darren C. Demaree is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently “Two Towns Over”, which was selected the winner of the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press.  He is the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.



Posted on October 24, 2018 .

Simon Perchik

*
You trick both thumbs into sunlight
the way footpaths squeeze the dead
though you can’t breathe at night  

unless this kettle is lit –you can see
where these matches end over end
are climbing midair –it’s the mirage 

heat uses to add water –the stove
with nothing inside, at attention
from the day it was asked.

*
Blurred yet something with wings
tucked in its eggs and your skin
swollen for a single cry 

to feed on a morning close by
with a warm bowl held out
dripping the way flowers 

still blossom in pain
careful not to leave the ground 
                        –it could have been

some hillside, after a long flight
carrying your arm as a stronghold
for rain not yet dying down 

between strangers and shelter 
–it happened so fast
there’s nothing left to pull back. 

*
This door slams easily now
though in the dark
it remembers more 

reaches around and the rain
returned to you as lips
pressed together  

weighs almost nothing
keeps both these hinges
from drying the way a deathwatch 

night after night anchors
against the splash
and makes from your hand 

a mask to ward off the Earth 
tightening around your cheeks
two shadows, two mouths.

 


  

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Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge,Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems published by boxofchalk, 2017. For more information including free e-books and his essay, “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com

To view one of his interviews please click here.

Posted on October 24, 2018 .

Laura Schulkind

THE PEDICURE

 

The first time I visited my mother
with my fingernails buffed and painted, she sneered.
Who are you?  

It had become my guilty pleasure—
The soprano vibrato of the room.
The precise sequence of things.
Polishes like potions, 
painted on with such slow and careful strokes,
clear then pink then crescent moons of white.
The lavender lotion, the warm towels.  

Guilty, as I’d been raised otherwise,
sitting on a stool in my mother’s studio. 
The smell of damp clay. 
The air warm if the kilns were firing. 
I’ve never met an interesting woman with a good manicure,
a common pronouncement—
usually while wedging clay.
And we would roll our eyes,
the two of us, 
deliciously defiant against the world.

Toes were another thing. 
Home sick as a child, 
I was guaranteed every toe a 
different color. 
Bottles of reds and pinks and oranges,
spread out like little pots of sherbet.
My hand resting on top of hers
while she stroked on the polish. 

Her fingernails would remain  
rough and unadorned.  
But as her body turned against her,
she began to allow herself pedicures—
more and more flamboyant, her toes
bloomed magenta, violet, indigo.                                                                                          

And at the end,
after she stopped eating, 
after the loss of speech,
her feet, shrunken like a Han madam’s,
fitting easily in my hand,
I brushed on the Grape Pop, 
Wild Wisteria, Purple with a Purpose, 
toe by toe, stroke by stroke.



HAWK ABOVE MAIN STREET 

 

Up on the twentieth floor,
needing to stir, 
to flex and stretch,
I rise and pace along the glass wall, 

and see the red-tailed hawk
that has suddenly soared into view,
catching an updraft with the barest tilt of his wings,
feathers splayed and radiant. 

He moves in slow circles
above the pigeons, the people,
light, shadow, light, shadow,
his tail one moment fiery red, 
the next burnt umber. 

To see this world as he must.
All canyons and cliffs, 
earth and sky,
friend and foe,
and no confusion over which is which.  


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Laura Schulkind is an attorney by day, where she is entrusted with others’ stories. Through poetry and fiction she tells her own. Her chapbook, Lost in Tall Grass, was released by Finishing Line Press in May 2014 and her second chapbook, The Long Arc of Grief, is forthcoming, also with FLP. Her writing has appeared in  The Broad River Review, Bluestem, Caveat Lector, Crack the Spine, The DAP Project, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Evening Street Press, Forge, The Good Men Project, Gold Man Review, Legal Studies Forum, Light Journal, The MacGuffin, Minetta Review, OxMag, The Penmen Review, Pennsylvania English, Poetry Expressed,  Reed Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Talking River, Tiger’s Eye, Valparaiso Review, and Willow Springs. Her work can be found on her website: www.lauraschulkind.com, along with musings on why “lawyer-poet” isn’t an oxymoron.    

 




Posted on October 24, 2018 .

Oonagh Doherty

GONE

The sun was just the sun
bread was bread
birds ferried no symbol
of claw cuneiform or chorded message. 

Chopped carrots and home-made soup 
seemed interesting again,
like the smell of furniture polish.
Folded laundry became an important job, 
dishes were washed,
plants stopped withering
by dusty watering can.

Truth left lyric, coincidence lost meaning.  
Mist - which had implied
new worlds in swirled clearings -
ceased rising from the river.
The ruby glimmer vanished from the wine glass. 

By middle age, you build in small ways
balance your checkbook, sweep the floor.
The lily and the lightning strike
are for the young.
Manna does not fall most days
but your kids step from
the school bus and the door swings.

  

UNTIL HER

I was kind at night, believe me,
I knew how to draw them out, if they could be drawn.
By noon they were dead women.
Their disbelief – they thought I was in love.
Perhaps I was.  

Then she came, a virgin like the rest,
beautiful - as they had not been for some time - 
because after a thousand and one nights
my kingdom ran out of beautiful
and I made do with very young.

She was not afraid, she laughed, pushed my hands back, 
said she’d tell me a story.  All night long 
she sang, held my attention.  
Curiosity saved that cat, the first night
the second, the seventh.  
By the end of a month I could not do without her.

If you imagine she was cold, you’re wrong.
She spoke of blue djinn with giant penises,
late-gelded eunuchs loose in the Sultan’s harem,
her hands played the air with delight. Ali baba,
Aladdin, diamonds big as rocs’ eggs.
She never stopped talking, even as we finally made love. 

But that was long ago, and now I have the internet.
The world is full of beautiful, desperate girls.
Few are virgins, true, but money can buy anything.
Moldavia, Belarus, Thailand, Somalia
even my own country is repopulated.
Scheherazade’s stomach bulges over silk trousers now.
Since she gave me three sons her unveiled face is boring -
that vein below right eye has come with age
as have the trout-mouth lines around her lips.
She doesn’t smell the same. I flick
to the Romanian website. Tatiana wants to meet me. 

I won’t kill Scheherazade,
I have a fondness for the old bag, I listen out of pity. 
She was quite lovely once.
Now she rattles on like my mother.  


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Oonagh Doherty was born in Scotland, and grew up in both the United Kingdom and the United States.  She is seriously interested in writing about cultural clashes, connections between people who seem very different, globalization, desire and loss.  She has published short fiction and memoir in 34th Parallel, The Connecticut ReviewCommon Ground Review, Evening Street Review, and Epiphany and has published poetry in many venues, including Margie – The American Journal of Poetry, Homestead Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Existere, William and Mary Review and Stone Coast Review.  She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, once for prose, once for poetry. Her bookDurante la Tregua/During the Truce, a short politically-oriented memoir about living in Bogota Colombia during the mid-eighties was published in October of 2015.

Posted on October 23, 2018 .

Kelly R. Samuels

Progress

The tulips reach for the lamplight
having no natural light, no sunlight,
no bright window. Although
we are instructed to keep them
from the heat and glare, so we cannot
be blamed. They are white,
with yellow centers I know of
but have not yet seen. Soon, soon.
One of you began walking in early morning
and kept walking and falling and walking and falling and walking
all day into evening,
never tiring or if tiring never resting until you crossed that wide
expanse.
One of you tried and faltered.
And later in the day, tried again.
And failed.
And sighed and said to yourself another day.
And another day.
Some stretch of days bordering a month
and then never ceasing.
Maybe there is a need to hurry or maybe not.
I could be talking of the hare and the turtle or not.
These tulips take their time
while my face: one day I was no longer young,
like that French author. A sudden shift, avalanche,
or those daylilies that yawn wide and holler
and then wither quick.
I began reading obituaries, that old
story I thought was just a story,
something fictional characters did.
And coffins versus urns versus boats sent out to sea aflame.
These became considerations while others paced themselves,
never drawing up the will, the mirror mirroring
what they had always seen.

The tulips bend their stems
not unlike swans bend their necks.
They are of the spring, their turmeric innards tease.


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Kelly R. Samuels lives in the upper Midwest. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including The Carolina QuarterlyRappahannock ReviewSweet Tree Review, Salt Hill, Heron Tree, and RHINO. She has two chapbooks forthcoming in early 2019 – one from Unsolicited Press and one from Finishing Line Press. 

Posted on October 23, 2018 .

Jacob Griffin Hall

Shapeshifter

The wind gives an off shade of Savannah.
Or is it burnt August, a way of conditioning day
to glimpse the dignity of its body? The sun peels
in a skin of ripened blood orange. Lately I’ve not
been able to decipher the lines between mutual
and complementary. For instance, the sky lingers
increasingly black against each stretch of asphalt.
My skin burns blue, so long as the light cooperates.
The air a moaning gravel beat; the mornings wail
and wail. Sharp tire skid, engine switch or a faint
rhythmic laughing. In the wind, a subvocalization.
Or do I recoil, skip back a step each time my chest
loses track of itself? Any crevice is an elegy; the air
skirts the edges of lead and blistered bark, looses
its voice through town to stagnant crop, a passive
field, an incantation. I ridge my bones and collapse
two taut fingers against the crown of my skull, pray
to blackwick or rose that evening’s violent mouth
takes only those fractions of fruit that it can suffer.


In Knots

Air clings to skin like sawdust. It’s almost that simple. My lungs touch the world like an iron
filling, a suture, a pile of rust accumulating in someone’s pocket. I’d like winter to be a bone in
my palm that I could take with me anywhere I go. I’m not trying to be impractical. I’m just
standing on a rock in the middle of a creek bed staring at a sky stacked like sand in a bottle.
Rose on a skin on a bed of matches. Call it the sun not-quite-rising. It’s just a way of giving in
to the end of any legacy.

--

I grew up with a willow marking my way into the world.
Every morning, it lingered at the base of the driveway like a stranger
that I’d grown too familiar with. It billowed in a bed of ivy,

receded and drew me towards its fluid mass. I’m not sure when
it happened but it consumed everything I thought I was becoming.

--

I don’t need to tell a story I told myself this morning
as the mirror shattered my illusion of being an indescribable thing.

There are ways to shed light and there are things I am
responsible for saying. I try too often to take that weight
into the privilege of not suffering for it.

--

I’d like to say that around me in the ankle-deep water there’s a circle of people singing, all
slightly off time from each other. I’d like to say that I can’t understand any of their words. But
really, the morning’s quiet except for the insects and the creek’s drawl against the rocks and the
cars passing on the highway behind the trees. I’d like to say that I’m the water and that there’s a
circle of people standing in me. A tadpole. A bottle cap. A slit of silver like a flash of light and
not a thing to cut with. And the clouds. Blueblack. They settle into the pit of my stomach and
live there, give back shade to the rise of a sternum.

--

The water strokes my feet as the sun bleeds through the trees and makes a home in my chest.
It’s an act of arrest, a puncture that leaves me still-hearted. For a moment my body is a chrysalis
as the creek takes a face and gives it back again. I’m caught between the ways that any given
object varies. I stand in my constituent others and can’t contain them; the water is in knots.
I watch as it tangles and loses the thought it came for.

--

For years I did my best to do away with having a best practice.
I’d break into half-constructed houses, imagine what it would mean
to live there. I’d start small fires and make sure

to put them out before leaving. This was a kind of living
that didn’t seem to mean anything, until the next kind of living.

--

The wind picks up and the creek seems like it’s rising, but it’s not. I’m trying to listen
as carefully as I can, trying to pry one from another like that gesture could give rise to a clear sense
of anything. This is a place where willows should come to gather, a place to trace the edges of a
body and what its been made to be. A clearing like the face of a sunflower. A thicket between
two palms that suggests its own mortality.

--

The first person that I saw die was a stranger and I
couldn’t stomach how intimate it was, seeing the body face down
against the concrete with the traffic not stopping. The second
was a friend and the second I saw the body I felt like we’d never met.
I started to define myself by the way I saw the people
around me, gave up on trying to define them.

--

And so the trees are less than definite. Still on the rock, I keep falling short of the habits I want
to believe in. I’m standing here in a body that I can’t stand to do away with. The light a blister
making its way into the world. I am a place that I can’t fathom. A bleeding into. A little skip. A
rock that dips down below the surface and rises back like heaven. Across the water, there’s a
willow shedding petals it can only imagine. I’d like for it all to be that simple. I’d like the scene
to make the best of me even when there’s no reason to.

--

One night, when I was too young
to be out after dark, I went down to the river

with a friend and made a masterpiece                             of flowers.

We watched it float in the water, skull-white and aching                             for something
to leave behind. We talked as the petals began to sink           but I forgot about them

even before they were submerged                      and this became a lesson
I could never get away from.

 

Self-Portrait in Rust

Water defines its conflict on a face of brick,
thin furrows, an elemental touch so sustained

morning opens and becomes an antiquity.
At the base of the alley wall, a scrap of metal

burrows through my skin, limbs blistered
in stuck sun as the red oxide climbs like sky

into my chest, alarmed and wanting to fal
l through the world. I want to fall through

a world that forgives self-harm, that forgives
each unarmed moment of fear occupying

any stasis. I writhe in the mornings and know
the red glare in the window better than I

know my aversion to it. I pull a sharp heart
from my body in the way that all weapons

have been pulled from the earth and forged
in that scornful pit of human spite, in the urge

to eliminate fear or other. Iron ore stripped
from a mountainside and fashioned in the fire

of automatic conquest, uranium made so large
that god’s eye itself couldn’t hold a flame

to that vengeance. We’ve guided Earth’s hand
to the cold point of a blade, made its surface

a fragile layer of skin. I want to fall through
a world that guides the fingers away from that

violence and takes the still-breathing body
in caress. I want to take my rusted heart out

of the alley and into the home, not to clean it
but to say listen, listen for the ways you can live.


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Jacob Griffin Hall was raised outside of Atlanta, Ga and is now a PhD student at the University of Missouri. In the past, he has worked as the assistant poetry editor for the Mid-American Review and he currently works with The Missouri Review. His poems have appeared in The Carolina QuarterlyMenacing HedgeMadcap ReviewSanta Ana River ReviewStirring, and elsewhere. 

Posted on July 13, 2018 .

Eddie Krzeminski

FIELD IN NORTH HAVEN, 2017

The last licks of ice
hang from the evergreens.
A wine-breasted robin
plucks a thorn
from a motherdie
and drops it.
Imagine how peopled
this will be in ten years—
how the alyssums
will bloom between
the sidewalk cracks.
Isn’t it beautiful,
how we struggle?
All the rivers of the world
rushing towards
the oceans
if we let them.


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Eddie Krzeminski is an MFA candidate at Florida International University where he is the poetry editor for Gulf Streammagazine. His work has recently appeared in Plath Poetry ProjectYes Poetry, and Small Orange.

Posted on July 13, 2018 .

Keith Moul

Beyond Sunrise

To think beyond two sunrises
marks a prairie man as indecisive.
To decide badly under cosmic influence
may affect everyone living on earth.
To believe life parallels the sun's future
accepts the ties of prairie to light and heat.

My body tickles at a thought among many.
I fear the immensity of the Milky Way, one
galaxy among a trillion, each a trillion stars.

Per ancients, caught in mind's daily darkness,
a cat paws the constellations, unseen in blue sky:
hecatombs of oxen foreshadowed this cat.

 

The Unready Passed

When asked what he found to do here,
great/great grand dad answered “Everything.”
Homestead Act of Congress, 1862

My family history on this land begins with the Homestead Act.
We inherit what that means; we live lives; we do our line credit;
and we prosper, as augury and sign of foretold destiny fulfilled;
we bear our history in our hearts, on our sleeves, show gratitude.

A creek bed with trees lured us to erect a house and outbuildings.
On the journey our baby unnamed, and a calf, died after exposure,
for a time limiting even breath to the tops of our noses, but so fast,
fixing our bloodless hearts in ice and passing regret to the future. 

Arrival on our 160 acres, work was a dead lock on our motion;
no breeze cooled our fever; we drank no rains to slake our thirst;
then snows filled the west, fell on us unready, not yet with heat,
ice layered as thick as a frozen lake sealing its torpid fish below.

Our sixth generation, my children, will salvage life and go on.
Everything needs doing, is still expected: rest comes at the end.

 

Undeniable Draw

My neighbor said: “Damn!  You see
and are touched by the old sincerities.
I see them in your face too.”

My time here rushed past highway signs for sixty years
with a man’s observance of speed limit; my family settled
for this clotted soil, raspy as cobs in places, a hundred years
before that.  I have never denied, nor been capable to deny
the old sincerities.  People here consent to them as an act
of faith, the draw of salvation, the whitest astral light shone
on buildings at the horizon, opening our northern treasure
to an entire, intelligent universe wanting to know our state.

Yes, as a young boy, I heard garbled voices incoming on wind
(yet no one known to me at hand); aliens, or chickens perhaps
squabbling over corn could make such sounds, if blown away
when day prodded the prairie restless. Superstition can be rife
among rural lives that seek most answers in holy text, although
as a practical, daily matter, I call all of them the old sincerities.


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Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. In August, 2017, Aldrich Press released Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. These poems are from a new work about prairie life through U.S. history, including regional trials, character, and attachment to the land.

Posted on April 28, 2018 .

"Vote Amidst Psychological Chaos" by Carolina Souto

Vote amidst psychological chaos:
Prude, don’t charm men, masked at breakfast.
Judicials dance drinking kamikazes,
Trysts with super letters in fantastic disguises.

Prude, don’t charm men, masked at breakfast--
Vanquished and settled over fresh tuna--
Trysts with super letters in fantastic disguises.
And your maritime man, cleared of home

Vanquished and settled over fresh tuna,
Let the air cry out liar at the banquette.
And your maritime men, cleared of home,
Tout and charming, like a Solomon man.

Let the air cry out liar at the banquette.
We sail seas lost, sexed, dancing in liars’ arms,
Tout and charming, like a Solomon man,
Trust at bay. Calm, clear delusions.

We sail seas lost, sexed, dancing in liars’ arms,
Judicials dance drinking kamikazes,
Trust at bay. Calm, clear delusions,
Vote amidst psychological chaos.


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Carolina Souto lives in North Miami, Florida. She teaches music while attending FIU for Creative Writing. Her work has been featured in PlathPoetryProject, among others. She likes to write about sunsets, rain, and most especially, Poetry, in both her writing and her music.

 

Posted on March 30, 2018 .

"Walking the Line" by Helen Wickes

One day a guy walked 95 feet on a tightrope,
wearing a blindfold, 545 feet above Chicago,
where people had come from miles away
to see him stretch & curl & mosey his toes
along the wire, glance into the abyss,
and keep walking, high above the city
and its life, brave boy, to risk so much.

While to Oregon a young woman traveled,
having seen the weave of her days unravel
on earth & she took things in hand & snipped
the thread. She was smart & loved & held
a whole world inside her, her body run down
before her soul, so she tore off the blindfold,
& cut her line, brave girl, losing so much.


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Helen Wickes has worked for many years as a psychotherapist and received an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2002. Glass Lyre Press has published her second and third books—The Moon Over Zabriskie and Dowser's Apprentice—in 2014. Sixteen Rivers Press published The World As You Left It in 2015.
 

Posted on March 27, 2018 .

Poems by Margarita Serafimova

I was walking, swayed between the aromas of the sun
and the light of oleanders.
It was autumn, and I was wasting in the sultriness together with the cicadas,
and as a boat in a daze I was traversing it.
The air was penetrating me and having me,
I was a shell of the zephyr’s.

 

The great hills, clear,
are entering dusk.
I am beautiful, and do not know it.

 

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Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. She has two collections in Bulgarian, "Animals and Other Gods" (2016), "Demons and World" (2017), and two more, “The Insolubility of Splendour” and “Earth and Love”, forthcoming in 2018. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, London Grip New Poetry, Trafika Europe, European Literature Network, The Journal, A-Minor, Waxwing, Nixes Mate Review, StepAway, Ink, Sweat and Tears, HeadStuff, Minor Literatures, The Writing Disorder, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Noble/Gas Quarterly, miller’s pond, Obra/Artifact, TAYO, Shot Glass Journal, Poetic Diversity, Pure Slush, Harbinger Asylum, Punch, Tuck, Futures Trading, Ginosko, Peacock Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Liquid Imagination, Dark Matter, Red Wolf, Window/ Patient Sounds, SurVision, Antinarrative, Basil O’Flaherty, Borfski Press, Wild Word, Plum Tree Tavern, Oddball, Soft Cartel, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Apricity, Aaduna, Transnational, MockingHeart, Pocket Change, Poetry Super Highway, Chachalaca Review, and Quail Bell. Some of her work may be found here: https://www.facebook.com/MargaritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel.

Posted on March 27, 2018 .

Poems by Angela Maria Spring

The Lone Panamanian in the East Village

A relentless search for plantains leads me down
numbered streets, from the hundreds of Harlem

counting lower to East Fourteenth Street, the Food
Emporium in Union Square off the 6. New York

offers more Caribbean Latinos and lower Central
Americans than New Mexico, la raza its backbone,

ready to reclaim the homeland. No place for a gringa
Panamanian, pale skin declares me outsider. In

Albuquerque, a cashier asks what to do with these
huge un-bananas. Lean in to whisper, wait a week,  

‘til they turn from green to blackest black, a bruise
in reverse. Take a paring knife and slit them down  

the sides, peel off the skin, slice diagonally. Fry in oil
until golden.
When I first cook for a lover, it is this

curved fruit. Split open, hold the sweetness to his mouth.

 

Saint of Aguadulce

One p.m., Panama City wrapped in clouds as we gather
at the table in Tía Abuela Olga’s balmy apartment. Mi famila’s
strange version of poverty a sprawled three-bedroom,

balconied. A banana plant leans augustly by the balustrade,
white paint chips off its iron rail. Our aunt, so tall,
holds court inside. My brother and I, perceptions still

culled by mythos—el mito fundador de nuestra familia—
adore Olga, our Spanish stamped down by a West
Virginian father, who says gracias as if grass grazes a hilltop

in Morgantown. Third eldest of Mamá’s seven tías, her eyes,
knife sharp, pierce past la Virgen’s secretos. the only English
she knows is I love you. We sip black bean soup as she holds

court, son at her right, my teen brother to her left. Santos
stare hollowly from each wall. Faded gold halos around each
wooden head flashes off Miguel’s blonde hair in a blade of sunlight,

Tío Alfredo’s mouth slides up beneath a heavy mustache. Men
of this world smile too easily. Smooth fingers over the lace tablecloth,
recall Olga’s husband’s amante, how my uncle left his wife for a young

secretary. Yearn to shed the hot urge that snakes through damp
afternoon, to snatch my brother to my side as her gaze drags me back.

 

Soledad. The End of the World:
December 31, 1999

America will leave Panama. Midnight
when the deal finalizes, so we watch
las noticias while my mother prepares ropa

vieja. This piece of history personal, our blood
helped build the canal, but to me Panama
is still a grainy grey photo of an engineer

great-grandfather next to a woman, serio,
surrounded by eight girls and one boy.
Third youngest of that brood, Tía

Fredes, heavy with breast cancer, fries
plantains, sets the table one less place
as my brother disappears with friends.

A small bag of pot sits at the police
station, evidence. His arrest touched
razored fingertips to my aunt’s diagnosis,

phone calls each a week apart. Here
I am, transferred colleges, East to West,
Back la Buena hija. Now this, New Year’s

Eve in New Mexico to witness the end
of the world. Family, from Aguadulce to
New York turn on televisions. Tonight

Panama celebrates as U.S. troops eye
computer clocks. Seconds tick down,
a ship sails closer. 


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Angela Maria Spring is a first-generation Latinx of Panamanian and Puerto Rican descent. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is the owner of Duende District, a bookstore by and for people of color, where all are welcome. She holds an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her work has appeared in various publications, including District Lines, Prick of the Spindle, Naugatuck River Review, Revolution House and Tar River Poetry.

 

 

 

Posted on March 27, 2018 .

"Times and Seasons" by John Poole

God rode by today, hands clutching curved handlebars
of the golden green Stingray, eyes searching
the ground, body pushed onto the pedals.

I watched until He disappeared around
the corner, silently leaning into the curve,
intent on His duty elsewhere.

He neglected last night’s prayer,
where I paused to ask the question

that has plagued me from birth, God’s ear
leaning a little closer, eyes shut,
mouth forming the answer even He

couldn’t give, the parched throat too dry,
raspy heaves convulsing His chest, like
He had biked a thousand miles.


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John Poole is a professor of English education at BYU-Idaho and a closet writer of poetry. His creative nonfiction pieces have appeared in Anchor and The Storyhouse Writer’s Showcase. He has published English education articles in English Journal and English Leadership Quarterly. This is his first published poem. He lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with his wife and six children.

Posted on March 27, 2018 .

"About the Life You Imagine for Yourself" by Cathy Allman

You live with pantries of expired food,
a refrigerator with moldy cheese,
frost on the imported coffee ice cream,
and only one day left until the milk sours.

You walk the dog, but it’s pre-dawn cold.
Only weeks ago, it was humid and bright.
The porch light doesn’t work
even though you changed the bulb.

You replaced the smoke alarm batteries
the way you’re supposed to
when Daylight Savings is over.
You sleep through the hour gained.

The flashlight is a small weapon against the moon,
and your glass of wine a tiny defense against
what? When you had it, whatever that it was,
you thought you were

too fat or your kids wouldn’t listen
or your husband worked too much
or you didn’t work enough.
But now you have a granddaughter,

your husband’s retired, you’ve
built a new dream house,
and moved to Florida just
because you’re tired of snow.

The thing is, there’s stuff you live with
that’s over and gone. What you believed
was a so long turned into a goodbye.

.


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Cathy Allman received her MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. Her work has appeared in many fine literary journals including Bluestem Magazine, California Quarterly, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Pearl, The Potomac Review, Terminus and Town Creek Poetry. Her poem, "Not in the Wonder Box" has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Posted on March 11, 2018 .

Poems by Henry Mills

AMEND

Tia Maria can preach with the frenzy of an auctioneer
when the bid is high and someone bids higher.

When she learned I was a non-believer, she followed me
around her flat, reading passages from the bible.

Even when I locked myself in the bathroom, I’d hear her
flip through the pages before starting in again.

I watched her once, from the hallway, knelt, murmuring.
How she lifted her chin as if her head had been raised

by the finger of a lover before he leans in for a kiss.
To understand her zeal, you had to be with us in Gotera,

gathered around abuelo’s grave, the first time since the war
all the siblings were together, tio Genio filming as each

brother and sister told a story. You’d have seen her
as I saw her when she stood by the headstone and began

to unload about the family friend who did what he did
to her body. Genio rewound the tape to be recorded over

and we closed the circle to hold her. It was like watching
a broken bone reset deep inside her. To understand her zeal,

I need only take what’s jagged in me and try to lift it
into place. How hard that is. How I might need help.

 

THE MOUNT PLEASANT RIOTS OF 1991

Cinco de Mayo, historians drink to Mexico’s victory
but in Mt. Pleasant, the barrio just drinks.
And the recently arrived from the burning cities
know nothing of the law that says you can’t
stagger down Columbia Rd. with an open bottle.
This is how the riot started, with a man, his cervecita
and huevos so big he could whoop a cop’s ass.
The officer said she shot him as he pulled a knife
but I heard it was as he unbuckled his belt.
Here’s a Rio Bravo toast to the desert dancers
appeasing the air for an ice cold Corona,
(and here, compa, dear reader, an ice cold Corona.)
For those who know the taste of sidewalk salt,
I give you the cool amber of a Molotov.
Tell me your breath doesn’t smell like gasoline.
Ever been so thirsty you burn a block for a beer?
No? Then this ain’t for you. Go ahead, call 911.
Next time rookies round up the handcuffed,
remind them to lock the doors. Here’s to
whoever fished a flare out the paddy wagon
and fed it to the gas tank.

 

THE SWITCH

for my tia Rosamaria

Perhaps you considered your brothers defiant, brave,
their asses swelling with that familiar yet
surprisingly ripe pain,
or perhaps you thought them stupid
to have selected instruments
of such girth.
When it was your turn, you handed your father
the thin flexible switch.

The most important lesson
wasn’t physical—
the one your brothers neglected to tell you:
it’s better to bruise from blunt blows
than bleed from quick slits

but how you too would be complicit
and let your little sister
find out for herself,

the day she was old enough
to climb to the upper reaches
where branches thin
and mangos blush red—
engorged with nectar.
The day she was old enough
to face her father.

 


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Henry Mills was born in DC to a Salvadoran mother and a Jewish-American father who met in the solidarity movement to get the U.S. out of El Salvador. He’s been featured at a variety of music and poetry festivals including Different Kind of Dude Fest, Positive Youth Fest, and Split this Rock. With grant support from the Montgomery County Arts & Humanities Council and MEAD Theater Lab, he’s developed and performed three multi-disciplinary shows: Helicopters & Vultures, Waterline, and Underwater Poems.

His work has appeared in The Wandering Song, Time You Let Me In, and Border Crossing. He holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. 

Posted on March 11, 2018 .

Poems by Claire Ibarra

The Corners of Our Room

Death feasted on dust in the corners of our room.
Death fogged our windows.  
It peered over our shoulders,
until a witch doctor spirited the shadow away.

Death was there when the vase of flowers
on our bedside table crashed to the floor
in the middle of the night.
We were sound asleep,
the shatter woke us, and you whispered,
“She just died.”

Death was like walking down Broadway at midnight.
A maze of bright lights and noise:
yells and honks and sirens and screams.
A beating heart is a delicate thing.

Death scratched, clawed and howled
in the canyon of our fears.
We lost our balance, and you swam in
puddles of watery moonshine.  

When I was a child, my babysitter and
the neighbor boy drowned in a pond in the park.
I watched them sink like rocks.
The police drove me home.

From across the street, I watched
the mother scream and fall
to her knees and pull up clumps of sod.

Now we can only ask, why are we the ones who were saved?

 

Shame
 

Brazen insults    
         hiss off tongues,

in whispers,      
         hushed against myriad shades of purple.

They might be kind,
         and explain to their sons, this is not about you.              

But daughters will be left behind.

Broken limbs,     
          raw flesh,     pink, silky, hairless scars

glint off beveled glass,      
         meaningless words drift to red tides.

Coveted curves,      
         shapeless moles,
              burrow      deep, hidden caves.

This is remorse,
         rising like hot air,
              falling down in acid rain.

Jail, prison cells,
         iron and arched bones set against rage,
              bow to reach the black water’s edge.

Solitary confinement,
         a place of worship,    of barren quiet.

What will happen when     
         our voices carry, without shame?


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Claire received her MFA in creative writing from Florida International University. Her poetry has appeared in many fine literary journals and anthologies, including The Midwest Quarterly, Pirene’s Fountain, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Literary Orphans. She is also a contributor to the anthology “America Is Not the World” by Pankhearst Publishing. Claire’s poetry chapbook is “Vortex of Our Affections” (Finishing Line Press, 2017).

Posted on February 12, 2018 .

"All Streams Flow Into the Sea, Yet the Sea is Never Full" by Emily Jalloul

The first time I cut myself shaving,
I did not know until the thin river of blood

streamed down my shin. 
Still, it happens the same way each time:

the disbelief that so much blood
could spring from so little a wound. 

 


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Emily Jalloul is a Lebanese-American poet who graduated with her MFA from Florida
International University. Her previous work has been published or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh
Poetry Review, Gravel, Juked, Origins, The FEM
, as well as others. She lives in Miami, Florida.

Posted on February 8, 2018 .

Poems by William Miller

                                                Struldbrugs

                                                                In all things,
                                                                Swift was right:
                                                                pygmies  rule;

                                                                gentle giants frown--
                                                                a woman’s breast up close
                                                                terrifies;

                                                                every penis is a gun.
                                                                In nursing homes,
                                                                the old, the fat,

                                                                whine, demand
                                                                strawberry pudding,
                                                                pillows plumped

                                                                to the perfect angle.
                                                                They complain
                                                                about their kids,

                                                                the ungrateful spawn
                                                                who make money, divorce,
                                                                never visit.

                                                                And the world itself
                                                                is not the same:
                                                                the cell phone,

                                                                the internet, even
                                                                the television is to blame.
                                                                Scientists on an island

                                                                floating above a dark sea
                                                                work and find the gene
                                                                when chopped,

                                                                spliced, fired in a dish
                                                                mends every ill,
                                                                physical complaint.

                                                                Death itself is cured,
                                                                though boredom, misery,
                                                                never dies.

 

                                               St. Louis Cathedral

                                                               Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen,
                                                               was married at this altar
                                                               on a stormy day.

                                                               Pere Antoine blessed them both.

                                                               Beauregard ran from the altar rail
                                                               when he heard war drums
                                                               on Jackson Square,

                                                               never took his first communion.

                                                               DeNiro sat in the back, the Devil
                                                               with a cane, said, “There’s just
                                                               enough religion in the world

                                                               to make people hate each other.”

                                                               And at the vigil, on Saturday night,                                                                                                                 any Saturday night
                                                               the priest welcomes tourists,

                                                               spreads his arms and says:

                                                               “Welcome to New Orleans,
                                                               home of the Jester, the Hurricane,
                                                               the Hand Grenade—

                                                               drink one for me!”

                  

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William Miller's sixth collection of poetry, Recovering Biker, was published last fall by The Edwin Mellen Press. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, The Penn Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner and West Branch. He is also the author of twelve books for children and a mystery novel.  He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

 

 

Posted on February 8, 2018 .

"Small Men" by Justin Bendell

We small men
stand in the shadows

A soft-powder moon above,
we drink and spit,
mutter of sex and skin,
and toast our fathers.

We boil to see bodies broke,
and yearn to hurt
with fists and sharpened flint
and hear bone splinter and
erupt from a wound like a birth.

Stars in the lacquer-sky and
moonglow on the leaves above,
we swig liquor and snarl
about the past we lost and a
world that never was.

We small men
take your words and twist
to make more small men
to put your bodies in the fields.

We lie in wait and drink and sneer and wait and
mutter and spit and sip and wait and mock and
snarl and swig
and wait
and wait
and wait
and wait
and we wait
for you to forget.

We small men
see the world like children
see the dark space
beneath their beds.

 


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Justin Bendell is a professor, editor, musician, and writer. Originally from the Midwest U.S., he now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he teaches English at UNM-Valencia Campus. He serves as editor of Manzano Mountain Review, a fledging online literary journal. His stories and poems have appeared in Meridian, 3:AM Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Thuglit, and Washington Square Review. He co-hosts Point Blank, a podcast about noir, hardboiled, and detective fiction, and records music under various monikers including fuguers cove, The Burning Silos, Euthanized Horse, and other secret projects. He has an MFA from Florida International, an MA from Northern Arizona, and a B.S. from UW-Madison. He likes the desert. A lot.

Posted on January 11, 2018 .