You do not have to walk on your knees
with homage and thanks to Mary Oliver
unless you have a toddler
in which case you do at least three times
a day, spray bottle in one hand, dish cloth
in the other, milk and pickle rinds
your easy target under the wooden high chair.
You do not have to walk on your knees
unless your child whines Mommy, plaaay
and opens the box of pom poms with no other goal
than to spread them across the living room carpet,
your one life—previously wild and precious—now scattered
like cotton prisms over the floor, like the clean laundry
your child has roughed and heaped over his body.
You pick at the topmost layer, sort it into piles.
Giggles bubble from the depths of dish rags.
When he bursts to the surface,
ready for lunch, you pause. You watch
as he climbs into his chair, his spoon
transformed into some airship,
your ladleful of pasta shells emptying onto his plate
as he moves the spoon through space
with an ascending uuuuhhhhhhhhHHH?
his cosmic mouth extending past its own corners
like the hand that moves the spoon past the boundaries
of this dimension, past that atmospheric
break where spoon becomes satellite,
where it falls into orbit around the mouth
of your child, in other words: the sun.
Ariel Friedman is a cellist, composer, and poet. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Pangyrus, december, Poetica, and Soundings East. Most recently, she was selected for a workshop with Marge Piercy and won the Women Composers Festival of Hartford’s 2020 call for scores. She is working on her first chapbook.
Can the manic me speak
after “Can the Dodo Bird Speak” by Zaina Alsous
do I take a rest
as my mother once did
she is an ocean,
can the manic me speak,
or are his mouths and lips trapped
in metric tons of sand and lint
and thick petroleum
or am i able to run from my
sense of self
like the wise men run for the hills,
from the false deity i have become
sea salt spray in nostrils
as i am consumed by the ocean, the waves
making laps around my beak
as i struggle to fly
can the manic me speak?
or am i a bird, choked in plastic rings
thrown by a beachgoer
in the folds of my brain.
What did my mother bequeath me?
lightning bolt in two.
rest, as my mother once did.
She is an ocean.
Camden Beal is a current undergraduate at Arizona State University, where he studies English Literature. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, cooking, and spending time with loved ones and friends. His work carries a strong focus on personal identity, grief, loss, and impermanence.
I got a landmine for my last birthday.
She ordered me to plant it in our yard.
The government had given it away
Because it lost its citizenship card.
They send a maintenance team once a year
To make sure we kneel before it and pray.
I had to sell the new car and my ear,
Only to stuff our dilated mouths with clay.
The neighbours hide in Papier-mâché shelters
When we light pink flares in our garden.
They complain about the fire hazards.
I smile and hide it in our oven.
She scratched out each number on its skin.
We put a dress on it and named it “Fin”.
Swapnil Dhruv Bose is an English Literature student at Presidency University, Kolkata. He loves playing chess and is a massive fan of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays and the work of Samuel Beckett. He has been published in Ohio State University’s literary journal Asterism. He hopes to become a professor of postmodern literature someday.
Burning bright, making heat, it makes sense now,
So between the library and the playground,
I declare myself, son of a star,
And nobody notices, I blame the volume,
Too loud, too proud, the celestial
Requires its deliveries to be soft and silent,
We can’t hear the constellations
Turning in the sky, can we?
Yet they are there, moving, and we all respect
Them enough to give them names,
So I say it again, and the people notice,
While I notice they pretend not to care, it’s okay,
They still respect my whisper
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Local Train Magazine, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry.
He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is trying to publish a novel.
My Dad Steps Out of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier
A purple dome descends upon our house as
my dad steps out of his 1987 Chevy Cavalier.
Its dashboard bell pings five times
and the garage door shudders. Dad finishes his smoke
as he steps out of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier.
The door shudders down to the concrete.
He stubs out his cigarette on the garage floor.
Inside, blaring sitcom laughter. Full House. Happy Days.
The door settles in place at the track’s end.
We’re each in different rooms, on the carpets
with the loud sitcoms on every TV.
At the stove, in a mirror, trailing a phone cord
against the carpet, each in a separate room.
Night Court. Cheers. Family Ties.
The phone cord trails under the door.
When the bulb times out, he lights another cigarette.
Aaron Brame is the former senior poetry editor at the Pinch Journal. His work appears in or is forthcoming from Indianapolis Review, Heron Tree, Lumina, and Tupelo Quarterly. He lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Find him on Twitter at @mr_brame.
The Fading of Winter
The mint and spice scent
of my grandfather’s pipe tobacco,
found again on the man
in the bus seat next to mine.
Even though memories bid me stay,
I step off at the stop
to walk the seven blocks still to go.
The crunch of the sidewalk salt,
abandoned and useless.
The snow and ice have melted,
but the salt remains
to get stuck in the treads of my shoes,
going along for the journey.
The sigh of the wind past my ears
sings a song of surrender
to the warmth of the air.
My gloves come off.
The puffy dark clouds
that block the sun
reflect the somberness
of my thoughts.
Josephine Napiore received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Augsburg University. She has previously been published by the University of Surrey, England, and Spectrum Literary Journal; and the DaCunha Global, Sheila-Na-Gig, The Five-Two and The Blue Nib websites.
Her work has been anthologized by DaCunha Global and Cosmographia. Josephine lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Her Facebook page is at facebook.com/JosephineNapiore.
i’d like to hear
of a devastator
broadcast to the world
live and direct
from his deathbed
just a verbal uttering
rife with the open sores of slashed forests
or the cancer of a dammed river
nothing you could put a spin on
just something real
like the sadness
of an asphalted pasture
or the final choke
from the last of its kind
Climbing Sun is a world and inner traveler, body-surfer, engineer, teacher, and poet born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and educated in Florida, who continues to design structures in South Florida and California where he was based for four decades.
He has taught poetry in elementary and junior high schools. He is the author of two chapbooks and a novel. He holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Florida and maintains a poetry blog.
her mother asked…
“does he smell arab?”
i imagine sour cream
Antony Fangary is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at San Francisco State University. His Chapbook, Haram, was published by Etched Press in 2018. He was Runner-Up for the 2019 Test Site Poetry Series, a finalist for the 2019 Wabash Prize in Poetry, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received Honorable Mention in the Ina Coothbrith Poetry Prize.
His work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Welter, The Oakland Review, New American Writing, Waccamaw, and elsewhere.
It’s the part of farming he despises,
which is why he leaves it to others.
On the day of the killing,
hired assassins come by
and he retreats into his parlor,
puts his hands over his ears.
One terrified scream from the nearby sty
and his leathery face would lose it.
His wife is braver,
peeling potatoes, slicing tomatoes,
in the kitchen,
careful not to slice her finger
while, just outside the window,
men, in blood-splattered aprons,
make quick work of a full-grown boar.
But she didn’t bring that creature
into the world.
She wasn’t there
when the old sow birthed him,
along with four brothers and sisters.
She tells him all the time
that he’s too sensitive.
But she never fattened up
a child for slaughter.
Her womb is innocent.
His hands are guilty.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review, and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.
I used to think a green room
was where jealous people went
for a time-out.
You could slay some dragons, travel
time, sleep with a prince, skydive, save the world,
whatever it took for you to learn to want the life you have.
Megan Wildhood is a creative writer, scuba diver, and social-services worker known for her large, idiosyncratic earring collection. Her poetry chapbook, Long Division (Finishing Line Press, 2017), ruminates on sororal estrangement and volleying the challenges of growing up on the planet that’s very nearly on fire.
An excerpt from her novel manuscript was published by AMP Hofstra’s literary magazine in May 2019. Her other work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Sun, and Yes! Magazine. She regularly writes for Real Change and Mad in America. She wants to connect with other weary humans around issues of mental and emotional distress, creating real community from the ashes of individualism and finding real hope if only as an act of defiance, in these tattered days. You can learn more at meganwildhood.com.
After we’d killed the deer out on the highway
the cows would stop me staring, how their hides,
blotched like world maps, twitched ripples, the wide
swing of their tails as they chewed lovingly
at corn we filled the troughs with, the blue veins
bulging from their sacks, the sensual innocence
of handling a slobbery pink teat
and watching the tube bubble then run white.
At forty-six, still with my natural smile,
I’ve felt the vegan’s scorn and have indexed
the noxious scent of methane in one pile.
It ever weighs in with the generous monster
I’d stand beside in my mere needfulness.
Her weight could’ve crushed yet let me lean against her.
Michael Steffen lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He has published in venues including Another Chicago Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Concord Saunterer, Harvard Review Online, Ibbetson Street, The Lyric and Taos Journal. His first book Partner, Orchard, Day Moon was published in 2014. David Ferry described the book as “keen with observation, of what things actually look like, what the wind feels like, how things grow and rot.
That year we learned.
D’Nealian forms; the tinny reek
of Salisbury steak, the scorched
tomato-sugar sauce on square-cut crust;
markers scented like no fruit on earth;
ammonia, bleach, floor polish, chalk dust.
At the end of the week, torn
knees anointed in mercurochrome,
we became initiates reborn
into a new ritual.
“Friday!” sang the boys
(which boys? You know which boys),
“Friday!”—the minor third
of Airball! and klaxon wails—
the so-called calling contour
a leitmotif above the playground noise.
“Friday! Flip-Up Day!”
They dove then for our skirts,
yanking the hems to our waists
while we crushed our knees
together, counter-grabbed a flimsy edge,
twisting vainly to salvage
a modicum of modesty—
the opposing forces could
part zippers, tear seams;
the surprise could make you pee,
a sour damp scald of shame—
and though we’d holler
Stop! and screech their names
(you know which names)
they never did—
and nor, that I recall,
did any teacher:
It’s just a game;
boys will be boys;
and it’s not as though
you were getting hurt,
and you should have known
not to wear a skirt.
E.A. Bagby is a multidisciplinary artist based in Chicago. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, as well as on stage with Strange Tree Group and Sansculottes. She is also the lead singer and songwriter for Liz + the Baguettes.
Ode to a Latte
bought me a latte
in a drably fancy
it was in a
little, plump mug,
mug-blue like a
the sun pushed
its creaming froth
the top layer,
a dopey duvet
on a bed that
chirping children into,
smiled at me
marked by mocha’s
dazzling coffee heart,
seeping into the
back at it
not brave enough
to blow a willful wind,
to thrust the
the smooth foam face,
into utter chaos,
wrapping on a birthday gift,
suds shredding into
muddled and clumped
yet the drink
its smile slurred
to sip it
to fill my mouth with
flow to my veins,
my toes, all of me,
for my bloodstream
it rallied to be my
i pulled that mug
to my lips,
drenching my sleep-soaked
in what it
Jessica Horton is a freshman at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Her short stories have been published in iWRITE’s 2019 Anthology, and have also been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards with an honorable mention, silver key, and gold key. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys drinking coffee and walking her two dogs.
Mouth wide, bloody and pleading, palms extended, my need is ugly and unrelenting. Long after my head has processed the loss and my hands have adjusted to the strange empty air, there is still
my traitor heart to contend with, hungry and howling.
The larger pieces fall away quickly and details too specific to weigh become ether and drift. Those things which remain linger like smoke, yellowing the light, casting dirty shadows. Remnants of smells, coffee, and amber, wet fingerprints like bruises, salty lips cracked and
Sometime later, obsolete messages appear like harbingers. Long after dreams of rescue have been discarded, strange fortunes told in hindsight wash up along the shoreline. These warnings, of lukewarm sex and tepid tongues, come too late to save us.
The heat of betrayal and oaths disavowed burn away flesh, leaving only teeth and bones. Artifacts of a story told in reverse. What remains is only the forgetting, which wears away at this story like water along stone, slowly erasing details and changing the landscape.
Suzanne Lea is a coffee drinking, bleeding-heart liberal, bookworm. She has been published in numerous online and print journals, including the anthology Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, with a foreword by Dorothy Allison, published by New South Books.