"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 .

Poems by Leanna Petronella

The Imaginary Age

Twin sister, in those days, our sleep traveled
down to the center of the earth. It cleaned our insides,
a busy light, each day a new four-foot someone.
Bold dolls endured repeated orphaning, adventures,
in the hard play of our summer afternoons.

Years later, I learned about the concept of flow,
Csikszentmihalyi’s idea that the self gets lost
wonderfully in an act of creation.
I’d known it killing off wispy-haired relatives,
no twin girls here, just troll dolls in overalls
circling a bedroom in sudden liberation.

Hot soup with the slippery chicken: I’m still in it.
Are others beyond the wordless? Twenty-six,
I puppy-jump between my father and his girlfriend,
be my family, be my family, how dare you be my family!
In some other life, I’d be a mother now,
smug with the ability to love a husband.

So my mother died. I suppose that event redid me
into infant frump: the loss-of-parent-problem
only shared by parents’ friends. Oh God
my mommy God oh mommy oh my God,
the mommyword a killing word,
I was like a cow for sobs.



Alma Ashley Pettigrew

I would like to stride the wooden hallways now.
A spider has shat enough lace in the pot, I can make a new gown.
Periodically I empty the vacuum’s udder and pour dust on the wedding cake
and make long sickly smiles at my visitors and offer them pieces.

They tell the housekeeper to hide the cake while I’m not looking
but she is in my cahoots and also my bloomers and instead
she finds old calendars for me and we cackle as we put the house back
twenty years for my visitors and sometimes they call the doctor.

I sleep with all the windows and that’s how I get inside them.
A good glass fuck and there I am, framed, tilting with juices,
waving a handkerchief as my visitors drive off. Let them think of me tonight
with my silver bonnet and white rouge, playing leapfrog with the maid.

Who says I am unhappy? I can eat what I can catch
and these old legs jump high and far. Sometimes I feign sleep.
You try the cake and pick its lint, you freeze when I mutter in my nap,
and sometimes I stroke the spider, always straining in my lap.



To an Old Virgin

You, old virgin, who is there to help you?
Your witches have retired, their potions have soured,
they drool blue-haired beneath their conical black.
Frogs doze in their laps, old greenlegs, old greenlegs,

the frogs eat frozen flies. The witches rock them for hours.
Oh, no one remembers their spells anymore.
Old virgin, you’ll have to do this on your own.

You, old virgin, who is left to help you?
Your circle of nymphs has wandered off to the city.
Remember those years? You got each other through each body part
touched, but where are your girls now? They left one by one,

dragging their hymens behind them.
Now they call you as they briefcase and treadmill.
Old virgin, they did it on their own.

Woman, it’s fine. You’ve been through so much. You’ve been
through the funnel of your twenties. From that whirlpool of feeling,
you dripped out a mind. You can do this on your own.

So, virgin, begin. Use what you know. Kiss, touch,
let his penis turn to stone in your hands. But it’s not playing dead.
There’s such life in this thing! Is this where a god
puts his insects? Yes, clear bees, eggs, and honey

tumble down from our groins, like we’re machines
dropping candy, as if we’ve gulped coins—are we earning
or paying?—and clouds unravel from our bodies,
full of broken-off flutters of wings—

Breathe out as he enters. This is different.
This is not like fingers or tampons. This is a wall
pushing you up into yourself, no, this is you,
you are flowing, around him.

Your man looks at you. You don’t have to love him,
but you can. I didn’t love mine. He was gentle. It was fine.
Old virgin, sometimes I wonder why I did this on my own.
 


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Leanna Petronella’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Third Coast, Birmingham Poetry Review, CutBank, La Petite Zine, ElevenEleven, and other publications. Her fiction appears in Drunken Boat, and her nonfiction appears in Brevity. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas and is currently a doctoral student in creative writing at the University of Missouri, where she is the Poetry Editor for the Missouri Review.

 

Posted on January 11, 2018 .

Poems by Greg Marzullo

HIV-1 M

from black

                 indiscriminate womb

         We swarmed
             simian streams

                                                 until We discovered
                                                            you
                                                     We changed
                                                           to fit
                                                 inside We hatched

We modify

            improving perfection unrelated to singular longevity

                     no fair-weather

                                               sentiment     clouds
                                               Our purpose

                     no individuation
                                                  infects the hive

                                replication       Our singular achievement

                                        in you We are
                                           becoming

                                          you are just
                                        another chimp
                               fecund oasis of evolution


Summer Arts Camp

By bare-bulb light from center stage
you taught Tai-Chi and I
took refuge:

Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail
Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane
Carrying the Tiger Over the Mountain; 

after camp was over,
after Max caught me
looking
in the dressing room,
after a teacher shouted “Don’t
deliver your lines
like a little girl”
and an older boy called me
fag
and Max

                      laughed
I practiced 

Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail
Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane
Carrying the Tiger Over the Mountain

because I knew when you spoke
we were kin

and I hoped
with practice to be
just like you.

 

– For (write in your
favorite camp counselor
here:            

You know the one.
The one who wore
capezios
and black, sleeveless t-shirts,

the one who smoked
Virginia Slims with a
Dietrich-Davis-Taylor flair, 

 

the one who lent you
tapes, ‘A Little Night Music,’
‘The Rink,’ Judy at Carnegie Hall,

the one who  
never came back and
no one said

why.

For all of them.)


 Photo credit: Drew Xeron

Photo credit: Drew Xeron

Greg Marzullo is an award-winning writer and journalist who has worked for the Washington Blade and the Phoenix New Times, among other publications. He won a Society for Professional Journalists award for arts criticism, secured a semi-finalist place in 2017's Tucson Festival of Books for his poetry and was published on the 'HIV Here & Now' website as part of their poem-a-day feature leading up to World AIDS Day.

Posted on January 9, 2018 .

"Sucked Sweet, Bonfire, Holiday" by Barbara J. Orton

for Bobbi

I will never be your husband.
I will never be your wife.
I will never step across the threshold
into the room that smells of you both.

I will never be your favorite shirt,
the meal you eat without thinking.
I will never wake you Christmas morning,
never come home late and find you sleeping.

Though your heart falls open
like a thumbed book in my hands,
though I can make you weep without trying,
though you love me, you will never love me

from day to day. I will always be
your sucked sweet, your bonfire, your holiday,
the soft cloth you press against your wound,
the joke you tell when no one is around.

I’ve met your wife. We chatted in your kitchen.
She kept offering me tea.
She knows who she is. She knows what I am.
Now and then she asks if I’m OK. 

You told me stories in the hospital
when I was too sick to sleep.
You try so hard to be there for us both. 
But you have one body,

asleep now in the quiet house:
eyelashes shadowing your cheek,
your back curved like a crescent moon,
your belly pressed against her back.

I try so hard to want what I have,
not ache for the black space around it.
But this longing tips and spills me
like warm oil at your feet.

If I had something real and whole
to offer you, I would.
My heart cracks like glass:
a bad gift, all edges. A fistful of blood.

Someday I’ll stop wanting you.
Or someday you’ll die.
Or I will. One way or another
this hurt will subside.

Until then, this is what I choose to be:
the soft cloth you press against your wound,
the joke you tell when no one is around,
your sucked sweet, bonfire, holiday.


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Barbara J. Orton's poems appear in the following anthologies: Villanelles; Obsession: Sestinas for the Twenty-First Century; Under the Rock Umbrella; The New Young American Poets; In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, vol. 7; and New Voices: University and College Poetry Prizes, 1989-1998. Her work has also been published in journals including Ploughshares, The Yale Review, Pleiades, and Verse. She lives in Boston, where she works as a writing tutor and freelance editor. 

Posted on January 7, 2018 .

Poems by M. Soledad Caballero

Some day I will visit Hawk Mountain

I will be a real birder and know raptors
by the shape of their wings, the span of them
against wide skies, the browns and greys
of their feathers, the reds and whites like specks
of paint. I will look directly into the sun, point and say,
those are Black Vultures, those are Red-Shouldered
Hawks. They fly with the thermals, updrafts, barely
moving, glide their bodies along the currents, borrowing
speed from the wind. I will know other raptors,
Sharp-Shinned Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, the ones
that flap their wings and move their bodies during the day.
The Merlins, the Peregrine Falcons, soaring like bullets
through blue steel, cutting the winds looking for rabbits,
ground hogs that will not live past talons and claws.
I will know the size of their bones, the weight
of their beaks. I will remember the curves, the colors
of their oval, coal eyes. I will have the measurements,
the data that lives inside their bodies like a secret
taunting me to find its guts. Or, this is what I tell myself.
But, I am a bad birder. I care little about the exact rate
of a Northern Goshawk’s flight speed. I do not need
to know how many pounds of food an American Kestrel
eats in winter. I have no interest in the feather types
on a Turkey Vulture. I have looked up and forgotten
these facts again and again and again. They float
out of my mind immediately. What I remember:
my breathless body as I look into the wildness above,
raptors flying, diving, swirling, bodies of light, talismans,
incantations, dust of the gods. Creatures of myth,
they hang in the sky like questions. They promise
nothing, indifferent to everything but death.
Still, still, I catch myself gasping, neck craned up,
aching, follow the circles they build out of sky,
reach for their brutal mystery, gravitate to
their promethean promise, the alien spark of more.


To Document



           To mark, to list, to catalogue, to register, to chronicle, to cite, to make, to seal, to stamp.

Who is real. Who is allowed. Who is loved. Who is ours.

We think in ceremonies of paper. We document in straight, sharp lines. Imagine charts reveal stars and sky, black holes. As if charts reveal the galaxy. As if the universe hangs on a wall. As if time lives in rigid, measured lists. We cling to ledgers. Sad ink moments. Dead-eye accounting, these rules of the law. Paper means nothing. Where are the cartographies of love?


I Was a Bell

              Diagnosis: Dyspareunia, Female
              Alternative: Atrophic Vaginitis

My body. I have

forgotten

my body.

Round, soft, too big now. I carry it
a brown faded sack, half-empty
and dry. An after thought of muscle
and fat. It was never much, no luminous
skin or bright blood, always a work-machine.
It was always too much and too little. It
was always hungry and full. It was
a drooping flower, or a bush that needed
too much water and light. Still,
it was mine to run with, mine to use.

              Dyspareunia is pain that is associated with sexual activity.
              This condition ranges from mild to severe.

Once, when we were young, you carried
me on your back, puddles and water and
cement all mixed in, mixed up in the city
as you galloped five blocks from the Boylston T
to Beacon Street. We were new to love.
You never told me about the mice in the kitchen.
Inside your basement apartment, still wet,
Still laughing. My skin, freckled and slick,
touched your skin, blue veins and life holding
me, my arms, my legs. You loved all the scars,
the extra thick middle parts.

              This can affect any part of the genitals or lower abdomen,
              and there are many possible causes. Depending on the cause,
              dyspareunia may get better with treatment, or it may return
              (recur) over time.

For years in the dark, you held me
and my body. You made wholeness out
of broken things, took the cracked parts,
shards and pieces. You were a musician.
I was metal and curves. I was musk
and wood. A bell tower ringing. I was
electricity, the thunder in the ocean.
My singing years. My whole body
marked time in sound.

              RISK FACTORS: Certain conditions or situations may lower
              a woman's estrogen level, which increases her risk of atrophic vaginitis.

              These include: Being treated with X-ray treatment (radiation)
              or medicines (chemotherapy).

I never wanted children. Alien cells
and tissues leeching, aching for life
inside. Crab creatures, half starved,
clinging for love. They have seemed
demanding. Wreaking through a life
like fire. Combustible. All knees and
hands and eyes begging for more.
More. More. I never wanted children.
But now. This brown sack of mine
cannot even make them. All gone,
the warmth and water, the blood
of possibility. I am no longer in
the singing part of my body.

              CAUSES: The cause of this condition is not always known.
              Possible causes include:

              Cancer.

 


solededcaballero.jpg

M. Soledad Caballero is an Associate Professor of English at Allegheny College. Her poems have appeared in the Missouri Review, the Mississippi Review, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Memorious, the Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She is a Canto Mundo fellow and is working on her first poetry collection. Her scholarly work focuses on British Romanticism, travel writing, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and interdisciplinarity. She splits her time between Meadville and Pittsburgh.

 

Posted on January 2, 2018 .