Something Has Tried To Kill Me: Race, Poetry, and Reproductive Rights

By Sarah Green

I first heard Lucille Clifton’s “the lost baby poem” when I was nineteen years old listening to some Napster download of a warbly and far away Ani DiFranco reciting it onstage: “the time i dropped your almost body down . . .” That year, although emergency contraception had recently hit pharmacies, a long holiday weekend in Ohio found me saved instead by a friend in my dorm who carefully counted out pills from a blister pack until they added up to the amount of ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone that would resemble a morning-after dose. To be clear, this was not an abortion. But I found myself thinking about the potential baby. I counted the months—it would have been a Pisces. I read Diane di Prima: “how am I to forgive you this blood? / Which was [. . .] to grow, and become a son?” Still, as I finished up a spring semester Incomplete and made an appointment to get on birth control, I knew I was lucky to be able to move on so smoothly.

Of two abortions she had as a young woman, Ani DiFranco—who would go on in mid-life to give birth to two children—writes in a 2019 LitHub essay: “I used to periodically count the ages that my first two children would’ve been if they had entered the world as such. [. . .] It was an exercise in the terrifying math of the near miss. Your life as you envisioned it could have effectively ended three, five . . . ten years ago. Just imagine. What kind of shell of your former dreams would you be now?”

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Abortion Is Like Art: Red Clocks and the Facts of the Body

By Madeline ffitch

“Two years ago the United States Congress ratified the Personhood Amendment, which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilization, too, is federally banned, because the amendment outlaws the transfer of embryos from laboratory to uterus. (The embryos can’t give consent to be moved).”

—Leni Zumas, Red Clocks

When I was in graduate school, a friend and I were invited to write a “docu-drama” about abortion access before 1973, when Roe v. Wade enshrined it in federal law. The project was a collaboration between the Women’s Studies, History, and English departments. History grad students supplied us with nearly a thousand pages of research, and we sifted through testimonials from people who’d sought illegal abortions, interviews with the Jane Collective, sobering statistics about how common it was before Roe for women, especially those who were low-income and not white, to be injured or to die from illegal abortions. Somehow, we gathered all these voices and patched together a draft of the play, after which one of the faculty sponsors invited me into her office. The draft was too cavalier, she told me. She let me know how important it was to emphasize that getting an abortion is never an easy choice. She shared with me that she’d had an abortion, and that although she believed strongly that her right to choose should be legally protected, ending her pregnancy was the most painful decision of her life, as it was for most women. To make it seem otherwise would be playing into the hands of the other side.

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By Arah Ko

Featured Art: Freedom at Twilight by Jailei Maas

I eat it to feel alive, a man confessed to me,
teeth crunching through a golden reaper so hot,
my eyes watered to be near. When did he feel alive?
Lazarus, I mean, after he died and then came back
again. We talk about him like a firebird, crumbling
to ash and shaking off the coals to rise once more.
But it must have been something, you know? Waking
from four days of death, frankincense cloying
the air, linen bandages unraveling. Did it feel good,
like stretching after a days-long nap or did it sting
like capsaicin, dormant limbs burning from lack
of use? My father once ate a ghost pepper whole.
First came the sweat, then vomiting. I think
I’m dying, he told me, my life is flashing by my eyes.
And that’s another question—what did he see,
between? The glow of seven stars in a pierced
right hand, a double-edged sword emerging
from his mouth—perhaps the world tilted
in resurrection like from a devastating concussion,
swirling around his sisters’ grief-creased faces.
Sometimes I leap from cliffs, cling to bridges,
swim with sharks, but I’m not brave enough to suck
a devil’s tongue, weep into a pile of sliced scotch
bonnets, try to grill another chocolate habanero.
Maybe the question I most wish I could ask
Lazarus is which hurt more—the fever that burned
him to death from the inside, or the rush of God, 
like a Trinidad Scorpion, like ten million Scoville
shocking him alive to the face of a friend?

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Thank You For the Tulips

By Lisa Bellamy

Featured Art: The Gracious Green by Grace Worley

During the pandemic, after I told you—
speaking up never easy—I was lonely
for you, your kids, and your husband,
you sent me tulips. Just like that, you
sent tulips. I wondered, though: did I
deserve them? I am sorry I was a drunk
when you were a kid. Thank you for not
hanging up when I call. The tulips
arrived in a creamy box; your note
tucked in tissue paper. I am sorry I could
not keep your father around or try very
hard to stop him when he said he was
leaving. I am sorry I did not love him
enough. Thank you for choosing such a
nice, funny guy for a husband.  I am
sorry I pursued such a crazy boyfriend
after your father left—the shouting, the
slamming phones and slamming doors,
the walking out, the coming back. The
tulips are white and iridescent purple.
Thank you for your brown eyes. I
believe they are still flecked with green,
although sometimes, even now, I am
embarrassed to look you in the eye. I am
sorry I was so sick from drinking,
throwing up, and dizzy. Once, I could
not take you to your dentist appointment
because I felt shaky and kept falling.
You cried, you said nothing works,
nothing happens, everything falls apart.
Thank you for your clarity. Thank you
for your red face, your bursting, when
you were born. Thank you for your
anger when your stepfather and I
screwed up the car seat as we drove the
baby around the city, looking after her
while you were at your conference. Boy,
that woke us up! I am sorry you fell out
of your stroller when you were a toddler
because I was hungover and forgot to
buckle you in. I don’t know if you
remember. Now you know. Thank you
for the tulips. You sent so many I filled
three vases: one big, two small. Thank
you for insisting you wanted hipster
vegan donuts at your wedding instead of 
a white cake. That one threw me over
the handlebars—drama, etc. Your
stepfather was kind and calm throughout
and wrote the checks. He loves you. He
says, later you get all the money, no one
else. In the end, I was a good sport,
admit it; the donuts were
delicious. You were a delicious baby.

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Speak Up

By Jesse Lee Kercheval

Winner of 2022 Nonfiction Contest, Judged by Melissa Febos


I dream I am teaching and it is not going well. I still have these dreams though I retired a year ago. Counting grad school, I taught 38 years so this particular nightmare is hardwired into my nervous system. In my usual dream, I am talking, then shouting, at students who are talking to each other and not paying any attention at all—something that never happened in real life, unless a dream counts as life. In this dream, though, it is the students who are yelling at me. I can see their mouths open, their tongues wagging, every one of their white teeth, remarkably straight after years of expensive orthodontia—but it is a silent movie. I touch my ears, a reflexive movement to check if my hearing aids are there. Yes, but somehow they seem to have swollen, tripled in size, and to be plugging my ears like fat kids’ fingers, making sure all I hear is the sounds of my body, heart, lungs, that we hear without using our ears at all.

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Thanksgiving with Kerouac

By Bonnie Proudfoot

Featured Art: Uzbek Folklore by Fatima Taylor

“I felt free and therefore I was free” – Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac

We pooled money and food stamps,
bought the largest turkey
we could afford, also, cigarettes,
baking potatoes, a baggie of reefer,
a bottle of Jack Daniels and Mateus,
because those bottles made
cool candle holders. Someone
had a blue and white enamel pot,
and since the bird was frozen,
we kept the lid on. Someone else said
turkeys were best roasted slow,
so we set the oven at 300 degrees,
put in potatoes, set the table for four.
Four hours, five hours, the room
started to smell like dinner,
though with each stab we saw
the bird had refused to thaw.
The potatoes were good and hot,
and off we shot into the icy night,
streetlights solemn and glazed,
the whole silent city tucked behind
parked cars and glowing blinds.
On the swings in a playground
beside some railroad tracks,
we passed the bottle of Jack,
gazed up at Orion, Betelgeuse,
the glow of Bethlehem Steel edging
the southern sky orange.
Back home, the turkey was bronze,
the wine was sweet, WBFO
swung red-hot jazz after midnight,
and we played scrabble until
the sun rose over the Trico plant,
letters and words strung across
the board like an epic
yet to be told, a cluster
of constellations.

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Hot Enough

By Bonnie Proudfoot

not a spark
but a blaze,
not a welding torch
but a glass furnace
molten and glowing,
heat like an express train
across the tongue
down the throat, not
Chet Baker or Stan Getz,
but Arnett Cobb, Pharoah Saunders
not Ringo but Gene Krupa,
Buddy Rich, a box set
of surprises,
better to surrender.
Hot enough for you?
my neighbor asks.
No, of course not.
Give me ghost peppers,
Carolina reapers,
keep that Frank’s off the table,
kiss with your teeth.

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heaven whatever it may look like is filled with conversation so loud a person can barely hear themselves

By Aidan Dolbashian

Featured Art: Fruits and Vegetables by Bright Kontor Osei

you sit down to dinner with your mother        an ape appears in the kitchen and begins poking
around                i’m looking for the other ape                 he says                the ape pulls out a frying pan
and places it on your head        he asks you if there is another ape under the frying pan
               you and your mother tell him no and little black hairs wriggle out of your arms and your
face wrinkles like a dried apricot and your knuckles rap upon the floor                       no that’s
wrong the ape says      the other ape isn’t like that                        

the ape finds an empty seat at the table with an empty plate and an empty cup        i love pork
chops and applesauce he says and coincidentally this is what you are eating               but i’m not
hungry at the moment          you see               i am much too missing the other ape                  you
understand him         the hairs on your arm grow thicker and blacker         you ask the ape if he
would like to say grace                       the ape bows his head and says           god tells bad jokes      

you all open your eyes to an angel    immaculate and chrome           stuffing its face with pork
             the angel licks a glob of fat from its metallic lips and says      god does not-              but the
ape holds up a hand and says              no that’s wrong            the other ape isn’t like that                    
             and crushes the angel like a sardine tin in his leathery fist                the ape turns to your
mother she nods and little black hairs wriggle out of her arms        you all three settle in to eat     
               but no one is hungry                don’t worry      says the ape   it’s normal                     it’s all
too normal         everything in the room settles             at this             you hear the softness of
footsteps upstairs         wanting only to tell you            all about         who they spoke to today

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The Art of Attention

By Erin Redfern

Featured Art: Untitled by Olivia Juenger

My husband rips off his sleeping bag, strips.
With blind hands I trace his thigh and find

the big tick bedded deep. To get it out
I take tender from touch, love from love.

Forget him, and work at working it free,
tugging gently at the hard tag, careful

as my mother when I was seven
and came home lice-infested. Lamplight warm

on my head, and her fingers, for once, patient,
parting the fine strands with a metal comb

while I held still, not wanting it to end.
In the cold tent we do full-body checks

by flashlight. Engrossed, removed. Slowly               
the bright circle excludes us, brings us in view.

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If You’re Single and Touch-Hungry and Hear a Knock at the Door

By Erin Redfern

Featured Art: Amaranthine II by Mary Kate McElroy

Incredible to me now, how long I went without it.
Palm, nape, arch. Shoulder blade, collarbone, top of knee.
Weeks. Months. Not one for manicures, too old for club scenes.

Noting the daily ways we stop just shy of it:
coins dropped into a waiting palm, elbows cased in thick wool
in crowds, on trains the shared heat of covered thighs.

I moved my wrist along the cheap satin slide
of drug store scarves, rubbed the budding tips of weeds,
grabbed brass doorknobs still warm from the hand before.

To the skin-starved, the world’s a frisson of substitutes.
If you know this, and you hear a knock, answer.
I won’t stay long; you can leave the tv on. I’ll use

a fine-tooth comb or soft-bristle brush, my fingers
through your hair. Let me do this. Let me
make amends to my old loneliness. Your scalp’s sudden aria

flooding the studio apartment, the high-rise, the whole city sky
sighed with airliners, then farther out, the dark plains
with their small, hidden lives that pause to listen

and your roaming selves, returning now to the paddock
of your skin. You will dream tonight, and wake up human.

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By Jana-Lee Germaine

Featured Art: Fields of Lavender by Evelyn Jenkins

He enters a dream where I am planting chard
or changing sheets. Calls, Sorry, I’m sorry.
Takes my hand. Come back.

He’s seven years too late,
and I am happy now.
The day we went to court

he scaled the stairs behind me, cried
Don’t do this. We’ll move
to California, start again.

It’s July, I’m watching the Tour de France,
180 men ascending Mont Ventoux.
The steady rhythm of their legs,

bodies barely rocking mile after mile –
their world tilted to 9%.
They push their bikes up the grade

because they’ve trained for years
and it’s the day to climb.
Every extra ounce tossed aside.

One year Hoogerland dangled
in barbed wire. But he climbed
back on his bike,

won King of the Mountains that stage.
In ’95 Casartelli
missed a curve in the Pyrenees,

hit a concrete block, and died,
because sometimes man
is just a man, a bike a bike.

I ride much smaller mountains,
but on every summit, I catch my breath.
I have to haul my own soul for decades yet.

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By Therese Gleason
for my grandfather

When Daddy was a boss
at the telephone company
we lived at the big house backed up to the railroad.
There was a sliding board, a sandbox, a goat
we could harness to a little cart,
and a live-in nanny, Henrietta  
with her twisted arm.
We had indoor plumbing
and a great big car.
When Maymie wasn’t sick
we went to Daddy and Uncle Gus’s club:
the plushest roadhouse in southern Indiana
perched at the top of Floyd’s Knobs
with only one road out and one road in
where pretty dancers gave me and Kotzie
fizzy drinks with paper umbrellas
and a Maraschino cherry.
The rooms were full of smoke and music,
ladies with black stockings and red lips
men in double-breasted suits
hair slicked back
clinking glasses tinkling with ice cubes,
revelers who had crossed the Ohio
after sundown to play cards and craps.
Upstairs Daddy’s man
sat at the window on top of the toilet
with a rifle between his legs
overlooking the 80-foot drop,
scanning the highway’s seven hairpin curves
for feds and cops, roulette wheels
spinning, fortunes turning all night long.
Once, when no one was looking
I pocketed a chip: cream-colored,
printed with a dark green pine.
Good thing Maymie had stashed
a suitcase of cash under the four-poster
before the Crash, the handcuffs, the raid,
before Daddy got the dropsy
and we moved in over grandpa’s store,
before me and Kotzie woke up one morning
to find Henrietta cold and dead
lying in bed between us.

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The Man with the Yellow Hat

By Dustin M. Hoffman

The man with the yellow hat dragged his monkey out onto the balcony and locked it inside the wire-walled kennel. He’d reached desperation. The monkey he’d named George had finally followed his curiosity to disaster. The monkey had nearly killed a man. From behind the sliding glass door, he studied the monkey’s stillness, wondered what terrifying curiosity he could be conjuring now: a swing from the powerlines, steak knives chucked from their sixth-floor apartment.

Cool fingers trailed up the back of his neck, bumping down his hat brim. “Don’t you think he’s learned his lesson?” the scientist, his girlfriend, whispered into his ear. She joined him at the glass door.

The man clenched the syringe in his pocket. After two years of fostering, the man had become certain that the monkey he’d named George couldn’t be trained. The scientist imagined the man kinder, so much more patient. But there was a frailty he hid just as carefully as his balding scalp under the hat. His patience, his compassion for defenseless animals, was rubbed threadbare. So, he carried a fatal needle for the monkey, the quick solution, finally. She was wrong about him. Everyone was wrong.

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Ode to the Yellow Pages

By Benjamin Voigt

and the White Pages, to the Switchboard,
Rotary Dials and Dial Tone. To the
Answering Machine, to Not Being Home
to Pick Up the Phone, to Being Afraid
of Being Found Out You Were Home
Alone. To “Voigts’ Residence,” and 
“Can I Take a Message?” To Forgetting
to Tell Mom Someone Called. To Busy 
Signals and Collect Calls and Call
Waiting. To Long Distance, and Listening In
On the Bedroom Cordless. To the Phone 
Tree, Caller ID, and the Red Cross
Asking for Dad’s Blood Again. To the
Do-Not-Call List. To Hotlines,
Nine-Hundred Numbers, Star-Six-Nine,
the Pound Sign, the Operator. To Having
to Ask Your Girlfriend’s Parents If
She Could Talk. To My First Cell Phone,
and How It Didn’t Work the First Time
I Turned It On. To its Tiny Screen, and
the Animated Panda We Watched There
That Meant We Were Roaming
Even When We Were at Home.
To Dropped Calls, Low Bars, and Family Plans.
To the Call Mom Got On Our Way
to the Beach Telling Her That Her Mother
Was Gone. To the Quiet Afterwards
in Our Rental Car, Just Her Crying,
and How the Seaweed Lay in the Sand
Like Tangled Cords. To Numbers
No Longer in Service. To the Number
That Was My Grandparents’ for Decades,
The Last Four Digits Their Anniversary.
To Whoever Would Answer If I Dialed It Now.
To My Father, Who Will Go to His Grave
Never Owning a Cell. To My Mother’s
Voicemails About Christmas and My Sister
and Computer Problems, The Messages I Save
for When She Won’t Be There
to Answer, When They’ll Be All I Have Left
of Her Voice, The First I Ever Heard.

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The Tenure of Moorings

By Eilín de Paor

Featured Art: Ormond by Anna Kinney

We’ll give some day,
when the time is right.

Until then we incline, prop like bookends
no one ever bought but found, inherited,

stable as a diving bell on the sea bed,
a lunar drill mining nameless minerals,

strapped with brackets of obsolete gauge,
rusted together—all the sturdier.

We’ll give, after a long stand,
buffeted by shell, rolled in tumble wave,

buckle—grateful for the water’s lean,
slide into sand, become home to shoaling dabfish,

happy to have stood,
in our cockeyed way.

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Newspaper Clipping

By Eilín de Paor

Featured Art: Fragmented Locale by Brooke Ripley

The last remaining sycamore on our suburban road
was a playtime shelter; its roots, fairy council seats,
its hollows, a dormouse school.
For developers with an interest in the spare acre,
it was an inconvenience.

The men with chainsaws came, met
a ring of steel-eyed children, spanning the centuries-thick trunk.
I wore my favourite coat for the occasion, a hand-me-down ski jacket—
across my chest, a burnished sunrise patched above a flat-earth horizon.
Hope was a four-foot thing in nylon.

We shook placards, posed for photos, made the front page
of the local paper, before being called in for our supper.
They came again in school hours, left nothing but a stump,
hillocks of saw dust, dormice scrabbling for their copy books
through the still-warm crumble.

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When They Say All is Lost

By Abby E. Murray

Featured Art: Holiday Blues by Olivia Juenger

Remind them, a word
is the hardest thing to lose
and practical as a kettle:
there is nothing you cannot
make with a word,
nothing it will not hold.
Start with despair. Add
boiling water: tea for your throat,
soup for your bones.
Now add a crust of bread,
some fat, mercy, this is
the science of naming,
a descendant of breathing,
carried deep behind the eyes
or within the eardrum
or beneath the skin,
and it cannot be stolen
or surrendered at the threshold
of any cell, refuses to be
turned away, demands to be
used even when you have
no will for warmth or food.
You cannot help it.
So long as you have thought
to think you’ve lost it all,
you must call language
what it is: more to live for.

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The Silence of It All

By Andrea Bianchi

The first time I told a man of my desire for sterilization, my intent to cut off the monthly ovum’s quiet passage through my uterine tubes, he silenced me.


The no spoken for almost all his gender, though I did not know so then.


“Let’s not discuss that,” he interrupted. His voice sliced the pathway of my unformed words as they traveled from the lungs to the larynx, before they could be birthed by my tongue. “You might change your mind,” he said.


Implied in the silence: You might want it all.

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When My Husband Asks What He Can Do to Convince Me He Loves Me, I Say

By Abby E. Murray

Featured Art: Sorry, I forgot by Evelyn Jenkins

I want you to become
utterly inconvenienced
by my past, present,
and plans, and I want
to have no awareness
of your suffering.
By all means, continue
telling me you love me—
every day, many times—
but I want you
to commit yourself
to a mobius strip list
of tedious chores
that need doing
several times a day,
in perpetuity—namely
laundry, cooking,
and cleaning while
cultivating kind
and grateful children.
You will need
to prioritize.
I want you to find
everything our family
wears no matter
where we disrobe
and I need you
to wash our clothes
in soaps that don’t
irritate my skin,
then you must
line dry certain items
while tumble-drying others;
keep in mind that I alternate
line/tumble drying
depending on the item
and how many times
I’ve worn it
and where I wore it
and how much I like it.
I will be very upset
if you forget. Naturally,
you’ll need to sort,
fold, deliver, and hang
clean clothes,
but I’d like you
also to tell me
where they are
in a way I can
remember, when I feel
up to listening.
I will still ask you
to help me find them
again, when I need them,
but I like to feel
included, you know?
Please remember
to change the sheets
on Fridays. Should you
ask me for help
and I am available
to oblige, I promise
never to learn how
you’ve done any of this,
staining and shrinking
expensive items
which I then fold
into tiny cubes,
the way my mother did.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
I want you to create
a weekly menu
each Sunday
to be posted on our fridge,
and based on that menu,
I want you to draft
a list of supplies
needed from various
pharmacies and grocery stores,
then you must drive
to those places,
find the supplies,
buy them, bag them,
drive them home,
sort them, put them away.
I will come with you
to keep you company
but I prefer not being
sent to stores alone.
While we’re out
I will want to talk
about traffic
and the price of toilet paper
in a loud voice.
Let’s do this every
weekend, forever.
I’ll thank you later.
I’ll likely get home
from work just before
dinner is served
so you’ll have to make it.
There will be nothing
I can do about that—
I’ll remind you.
Please get excited
when you hear the key
in the lock. Maybe
you can work remotely
during the day?
Maybe I can buy you
a gym membership?
I think you’d get better
results at a gym.
When you cook, I will
describe my feelings
about each dish,
using terms like endlessly
frustrating and pointlessly
complicated and weird.
In exchange, I will learn
to make miso soup
so well it becomes
the only thing I can
possibly contribute
to any meal, ever.
I want you to develop
an interest in baking,
desserts especially,
so that when you follow
a New York Times
two-day recipe
for miniature fig
and cherry pies,
I can remind you
how much I was
hoping for plain
chocolate chip cookies—
nothing fancy.
I want you to become
a vegetarian
for reasons informed
by your own
childhood trauma,
the kind you still feel
down to the molecules
of sweat that sprawl
on your palms today,
and I want you to raise
our daughter
as a vegetarian too
so that when she asks
for a real Mcnugget
I can tell her no
because you don’t
want her to have
delicious snacks
while you sit there
remembering that video
of soldiers laughing
at a headless chicken
as it ran in circles,
a sprinting font of blood
until it died
and became dinner.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
you must keep
the floors clear,
make all our appointments,
coordinate transportation
and care for our pets—
you will need to admit
that you’re the one
who wanted them, after all.
You’ll need to sweep,
mop, scrub, disinfect,
diagnose, find, collect, stack,
reorder, pay, mail, return,
schedule, follow up,
call and leave a message.
I want you to be on time
for doctor’s appointments
that enter you.
Don’t worry, I’ll be here
to say I told you so.
You will need to manage
the household’s medications,
illnesses, and symptoms.
You’ll need to coerce us
to heal. Aren’t we darling?
Just look at our daughter.
I think she has dandruff.
If you want to convince me
you love me, please
teach her how to wash
her hair properly
and also she is struggling
with her multiplication tables
so if you get a minute
you should address that
because you get through
to her better than I do,
I don’t know why.
And you know what,
go ahead and get a PhD.
I want you to study
what you love most.
I will complain about
how little I see you
for four years,
I will become
a well of mother’s guilt,
does that help?
I want you to publish,
I want you to only
accept jobs that pay
enough for me
to respect them
(if you don’t,
I’m not sure how
I can discuss anything else
when we have company)
and while this might be
difficult considering
how often we relocate
for my job
I trust you to figure it out.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
you will figure it all out.
I know you don’t
cry much but once
every five times
you break down
sobbing in the bathroom
I promise to look at you
while you say things to me.
I will buy you a coat,
I will buy you a watch,
I will tell you
you’re just a better person
than I am, maybe
it’s genetics.
I promise you, as always,
to be easily convinced
by your love;
in fact, all I need
is about twenty years
of these requests
fulfilled, and remember,
you have a beautiful smile,
you’re so smart,
I liked your hair better
when it was longer.

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A Walk

By Nick Reading

Every day I try again. To see if
I can make it without saying a word.
A penance for a voice that said too much.  

A fight. An honest thought. Something stupid.
All plain words that plainly hurt. Walking
in these woods today with the snow as light

as an eyelash is dreadfully cliché.
But no less a boot print. No less my hand
holding my son’s. He, too, is silent. Past

nap and late for snack. We point at a loon
surfacing and stare for a little bit.
To explain its genius would ruin it.

And when it is late in the afternoon
we will collapse into a snowbank
with grunts as we hold our silence in pocket.

As surrender to wrong-headed fathers.   
As if fears didn’t need to be named.
We grow colder and my son’s grip tightens

with a strength I hope is never linked to anger.

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By Annabella Mayer


It is a brisk sun-swept morning,
two days before Mardi-Gras, 
and I am eating paçzki,  
pronounced pounch-key
from a stubby Parma bakery 
that sells it in red, white, and blue flavors 
like Piña Colada or S’mores.
As I pour my coffee, caramel-creamed,
I watch boys who look like my brother
die on television. 


War is grey playgrounds and Cyrillic
on faded billboards, letters I used to
trace out in notebooks —
Now I can read my name, nothing else.
Slava Ukraini, heroiam slava.
It’s not my language anyways, 
not my patch of once-Russian earth 
that’s thrashing like a sick dog 
before the shotgun. 
Still, I should cry for it. My mother does. 
She’s cut from Youngstown cloth, 
bread-lines for bedtime stories, 
so curses follow —
Blood grudges bubbling, burning over 
after years in suburban veins. 
The tanks roll in after sunset.  


I should learn Polish in solidarity, 
or attempt Lithuanian. 
I should clip in the too-blonde extensions 
and glittered plastic eyelashes, 
Sell the girl that American men 
like to order online.
I should ask Nana about her family 
and write down the answers, 
tie a square scarf on my head, 
learn to bake kolache. 
I should stop making death half the world away
about myself, for God’s sake —
Take up smoking, or Lenin,
or going to Mass.


My friends spend lunch giggling.
They would dodge the draft, of course, 
in case you were wondering. 
World War Three before winter formal?
It’s just too much!
It’s funny. I laugh myself to tears.

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By Kathy Nelson

Featured Art: Homestretch by Mary Kate McElroy

I don’t know how to be a vessel. When my mother’s father
drank himself to death, she was a day’s bus ride away
at school, got the news by telegram. Today,
in the yard, the trees are disappearing into fog so blank
you could forget they had ever been there. In the 60s,
along the Mississippi, bulldozing for I-64,
workers dug up beads, shells, remains of Cahokia,
a city as large in the 13th century as London was—
plazas, mounds, courtyards, towers. Imagine
getting to work with your backhoes, blueprints,
your federal funding only to find that someone
got there first. My father’s grandparents, eighteen,
already three years married, left green Tennessee,
headed west. I don’t know why they forsook Eden
for the wind-raw Texas plain. Great grandmother
vowed never to cross the Mississippi again.
And she never did. That’s how the old ones said it—
and she never did. I can’t explain how I wound up here,
so close to the farm where she was born. At the end
of her life my mother’s mother exacted a promise:
keep the stacks of funeral visitation books, proof
the ancestors had been somebody. My own mother
dead, and thinking of my daughters, I snapped
a photo of every page and threw them into the dumpster
with her mouse-ridden sofa. In Cahokia, the Mississippians
built a woodhenge to mark the sun’s solstice. Now,
the sun is burning away the fog and across the valley,
Flat Top Mountain smolders in autumn light. I don’t know
where in these woods the copperheads are readying
their dens for their long winding sleep, where the wild
turkeys are fattening on acorns, their long necks ratcheting
down and up. If I knew how to tell you that, I would.

Read More

Mr. Levine: On Lineage and Compassion

By Kathy Fagan

A few years back I observed a class by a then-new colleague of mine at Ohio State, Marcus Jackson, a young Black poet from Toledo who’d studied with Philip Levine at NYU. He was teaching a handful of poems he called “Poems With and Without Zip Codes,” and one of the poems was Phil’s “Soloing,” from toward the end of What Work Is; it’s the poem about the John Coltrane dream that the elderly mother tells her visiting adult son. He’s driven over the Grapevine with roses from Fresno in the backseat, and he almost didn’t come at all—but there they are, thinking of Coltrane’s music together in the heaven they both, separately, believed California would be.

And there Marcus and I were, long-ago and not-so-long ago students of Phil’s, listening to a mutual student of ours read Phil’s poem aloud, far from California, much closer to Detroit, in the frigid gray of a Columbus, Ohio, winter. That’s what it’s like now—for me. With Phil in neither New York nor California, he’s everywhere instead: in a piece of music, a red carnation, a Lewis Hine photo, a classroom filled with his grand-students. It seems to me only trauma, love, and art abide with us this way.

Read More

Near Miss

By Bill Hollands

Featured Art: Mall Series (2) by Doug MacDowell

Live long enough and you’ll have a few
if you’re lucky. Take me, for instance—
when my son crossed the street
and the car’s tires screamed and his body
arced into a C. Or once in the doctor’s
cold office when the air froze into a word.

Or maybe it’s a choice—your choice,
the other person’s, doesn’t matter. You sit
on the edge of the bed in the hotel room,
run your hand over the quilted bedspread
and wait for the answer. It’s not much really,
not much that determines a life.

Read More

August, Incessant

By Catherine Harnett

The frequent evening storms, the insistent humid
air, tree-frogs’ night-dark calls, crickets in their

deafening routine; and the recurrent want of you.
Our comings, furtive and reckless, recollected,

our taste touch sound; who we were, the you
and I of it, the summer us of it. Against August’s

willful heat, reason stood no chance, the heart
stood no chance against your arrant pull. We were

accustomed to the showy, open-handed roses’
bloom, the season’s lavish yield; we claimed

everything as ours, cocksure it would last. But
the sodden month succumbed to fall; there was

no now, just the once-was. Autumn, the light-thief,
cold-usher, fashioned crepey, wind-dried leaves,

oak and elm, woods conspicuously bare, no longer
our wild Eden. Fall came; frogs were hidden

beneath leaf-litter, rocks, and logs; crickets entered
diapause, yet love could not overwinter; our vine-

green ardor paled; our untended roots betrayed the
lastingness we’d counted on, had no instinct to persist.

So many Augusts since; boisterous gatherings of
frogs and crickets, occasional cicadas; and evenings’

muggy dominance recall the flagrant us; lovesick for
the girl I was, the then of her, the only once of her.

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By Laura Linart

Featured Art: Untitled by Mallory Stowe

In the deep end of August, the sun oozes
over Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
The air is dense, crickets set to simmer.
The sidewalk steams.

Over Jackie Onassis Reservoir,
a chemical rainbow rises.
The sidewalk steams.
Cockroaches fly in the streets.

A chemical rainbow rises.
Taxis shimmer. Shirts cling to breastbones.
Cockroaches fly in the streets.
From three long blocks away, I can smell the city pool.

Taxis shimmer. Shirts cling to breastbones.
The sun tattoos a cipher across silver rooftops—
from three long blocks away, I can smell the city pool.
The rich people vanish. The heat sticks.

The sun tattoos a cipher across silver rooftops:
One down: suffuse desire; Across: quiver boombox.
The rich people vanish. The heat sticks.
In the distance, the grid is viscous.

One down: suffuse desire; Across: quiver boombox.
We chase our shadows down the avenue.
In the distance, the grid is viscous
—borders fading, partitions coming undone—

we chase our shadows down the avenue
speeding toward the promise of night
—borders fade, partitions come undone—
the city exhales, releasing its secrets.

Speeding toward the promise of night,
in the deep end of August
the city exhales, releasing its secrets
and I am falling in love with everyone.

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Who knows why the bay was that color

By Rose Auslander

Maybe it was hot, I was out of work & the car actually started, maybe I didn’t
even think to bring a towel, just drove & walked into the water, walked in &
let my feet rise, floating in salt & seaweed, fishlike, minnows darting below me,
maybe that’s why I got to lie like I belonged in a horizon of water smooth as
the sky, a rich silk luxury of blue, early evening in Paris blue, the blue of the
Comtesse d’Haussonville’s opera dress, not the way it was, trapped in fabric,
but how Ingres painted it, the way it still looks even in the print in my room,
faint ripples flowing smooth in reflection, the kind of blue you’d wear & your
bank account would never run low or maybe if it did you wouldn’t notice,
or wouldn’t care, that rich Comtesse blue ferrying me seaward, blurring the
smells of suntan lotion & fries, the echoes of men loud on phones, into the
holiday happiness of striped umbrellas & beach chairs & who knows, maybe
the Comtesse herself sunbathing right here at Sandy Neck, floating in time, sure,
just a day at the beach like any other day, maybe, the way if you didn’t look,
you might think the water was just blue.

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The Windowless Room of Wisdom

By Drew Calvert

Featured Art: Coastal View by Madelyn Bartolone

Jim Dahlberg was eating a bran muffin and reading The New York Times when he saw that Lucas Bloy had won the Joslyn P. Fish Award for New Conceptual Art. Jim put his muffin down. He wondered if there had been some mistake—not that he was an expert in the field necessarily. He wasn’t an artist, or a critic, or a scholar. He didn’t know the first thing about the Josyln P. Fish Award. He did, however, know a thing or two about the recipient. Lucas had been his nemesis.

Years earlier, Jim had entered a sandwich shop in Madison, Wisconsin. He was in his third year of law school at the time and had just completed a lengthy exam on copyright litigation. Whenever he finished a big exam he liked to eat a roast beef sandwich slathered in tangy hot sauce. It was, for him, a kind of joy. And so he was deeply touched when he saw that Joanne Neier—by far the prettiest girl he’d ever seen at Ralph’s—chose the same condiment. On the basis of this connection, he was able to score an impromptu date.

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By Maria Dylan Himmelman

Featured Art: Portrait of Kaitlyn (2018) by Erin Dellasega

Each generation learns from the previous
so said my mother who never left
the house. She would close herself up
in her bedroom for days, only to emerge
in a wig and a dress made of paper on which
she had sketched vague faces and landscapes
with fat pieces of charcoal and spit. Once
I thought I saw her in the street, a fur
hat and hooped earrings, eyes vacant
and no response to my call. Doppelgänger
she would say later, like the thick-boned
villager who helped load the trains
with mothers and daughters
and turned to the camera to swear
it wasn’t her.

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Self-Portrait as a Half-Deserted Town in Germany

By Greg Nicholl

Featured Art: The Sacrificial Lambs by Brooke Ripley

The stores have closed early even though
it is the middle of the week.
The cathedral begs forgiveness, promises
to open tomorrow. No reason is given.
At an intersection, two women
ask for directions to the town square.
They only venture a couple of feet
before they consult their phones, are given
the same instructions: Walk down that street.
It’s not like it is a large town.
If this were a Western, there’d be tumbleweeds.
Despite recent warnings of a thunderstorm,
it hasn’t rained in over a month.
Six years ago a 300-year-old bridge
washed away for good. There have been
three floods in seventeen years. The two women
are still looking for the town center, stop
in the middle of the street to look west,
then east. And it’s clear they’ll never find
the center even though all they need to do
is look up. In the square, employees
from a supermarket chain are camped out
in booths. They carry trays of cubed cheese
and melon that smells like cold cuts.
It is too hot for cheese. The city is building
a new wall to fight future flooding.
Does it matter that the shiny metal gates
rest against centuries-old stone?
Back in the town square, a mime on stilts
waves coupons in the faces of passersby,
bends down to gauge their response.
No one accepts the coupons. The supermarket
employees suddenly appear at every side street,
each dressed in a matching red shirt,
ambushing anyone who dares get close,
calling after them: Excuse me. Excuse me.

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The Pillow Museum

By Claire Bateman

Most people find a trip to the pillow museum so exhausting that afterward they need a long nap to recover from experiencing all the dreams the display items have absorbed from their original sleepers.

Theoretically, anyone could navigate the museum according to taste, steering clear of, for instance, the homicide pillow, the fetish pillow, and the arson pillow, as well as the pillows of Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Manson, and all those dental hygienists and IRS attorneys. Theoretically, one could choose only the pillows of the confectioner, the Olympic surfer, the dolphin-whisperer, and so on, but nobody does this, since it’s common knowledge that every shunned pillow takes offense, vengefully suctioning out a single breath from the visitor’s lifespan as they pass it by on the micro-sleep tour—a tiny, insignificant portion until you start adding up all the individual penalties over the years.

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O Isn’t This Just Easy

By JC Andrews

Featured Art: Pulse 1.2 by Rachel Ann Hall

The octobered sky. The overarching
evolution of your abdomen. The salutatious
relove we do once we’ve forgiven our
mommas. Let’s go arachnid and eat
our mommas or ok we can just
wrap each other in silk. O yes I am
an aprilfaced king. O yes I am
a uterus genius. O yes I bleed
while I walk down Seventh.
O yes & yes & yes
I have made such
a snow of your hands,
an astronomy of your syntax,
an ambulance of your eyes,
and I’ve decided that I
have no issue with meeting
your mother next Tuesday. Wait.
I can wear a green coat like Chalamet
in Little Women or a red tie like
a coach. I should practice my little voice
in my little mirror hi my name is how are you
impressive charming not at all o yes afraid

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Sneaking Out to Play House with Ana

By: JC Andrews

the day gathers up     in a blonde     geometry     and we     drive out
    to turn     phantom on DeSalvo’s dock     because we can     because
DeSalvo went dead     and left his pond unattended     so we come     here
    and watch     the moonback     like maybe     it might turn around
and make us     real to somebody     sometimes I wish     I could throw
    her up     in the air     and watch her     spin forever     she’s like
yawning     during the pledge     and missing     indivisible     or picking
    scabs during     catechism     you see     I am stupid as the weather
when she says     Please     like a field waving itself     into the blade     when
    she rubs     her thumb     in circles     in the middle of my palm     I am
honest to god     adjacent to me or     ajar     there is no halo     like leaving
    yourself     ajar     you become a room     so danced     it thumps violet
or you become ready     for another room to enter     you back     she is
    a room too     asking me     if this is alright     like she can’t see
my face     already decided     under this light     we call our space juice
    because we     drink it     we pray for no spoon     in the persimmon
we sit down scared     like substitute teachers     we learn     how to love
    with one hand     and we scrape our backs     on this wood like     we’re
rubbing off velvet     or making     the muscles in our traps     to fight
    and we know     this house     is a gift     even if     invisibled

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By Karen Pojmann

Featured Art: Looking Back by Madelyn Bartolone

If my heart breaks loose and
darts across a lawn—if,
stopped at crossroads,
my heart pries my ribs apart,
takes wing through the open
car window—if my heart
gets away from me—
help me bring it back.
Walk with me, hedge to hedge,
with a butterfly net,
a baseball glove,
a sauce pan. We’ll crunch
over cicada husks, duck
the sprinklers, race
the coming dusk.
When we spot it, cupped
in a daylily or
tangled in chain link, by then,
relieved and grass-stained,
we’ll be laughing and crying
and the streetlights will be just
starting to sputter above us.

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Sometimes Creek

By Steve Fox

Featured Art: I Wish I Knew Of by Brooke Ripley

Our move to Halloween Street was one of necessity, not choice. Following the death of my wife, Sylvia, the home we had rented was sold. The new owners gave us nine months to vacate. And this place, situated on a leafy and wealthy street in the town’s eerie historic district, was the only thing available within walking distance of my daughter Claire’s school. So I took it, despite the steep rent commensurate with the austere economic laws of Supply and Desperation.

An energetic and put-together neighbor tells me I will need somewhere between three and four thousand pieces of candy, treated out one piece per kid, as well as gallons of a stiff grog for parents, to get me through the hours-long Halloween night here on Halloween Street. Based on some simple arithmetic and plot-pointing along a mental timeline, starting with the next paycheck, I have just enough pay periods between now and the end of October to buy a total of four thousand pieces of candy. Or eight hundred pieces of candy each payday, all totaling in the end approximately six hundred American dollars. Candy. For one happy motherless night for our only child more than two months hence.

It is barely August.

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By William Wenthe

Featured Art: Flow by Rachel Ann Hall

Houses on a bluff; below them, off-limits
to construction, a few acres of watery woods.
A clear simmering of spring water
glazes bright moss and gravel, slows
to a bog, where a marsh wren reveals
its single note. Slow growths of mistletoe
on thick-gnarled limbs of elm and oak.

I’m here with my two wolves—
my daughter and her friend, both twelve,
who’ve tied to their waists lush tails.
They prowl among the folded smells
of leafmold unleashed by winter sun.
They run, they fade behind trees.
From the woods I hear long high howls.

Is it only make-believe? Each day, they feel
an approaching metamorphosis.
They’re at an age for trying things on:
clothes, hair, such baubles that dangle
from pierced ears, language fanged to affront
their parents—whose worst fear remains
the child might be no predator, but prey.

But these two wolves are at play.
Are they too old for this? In Finland,
my daughter tells me, teenage girls
ride stick-horses, in organized events.
It’s like dressage, except the living
and too expensive horse is assumed
into the girl herself. Spine and head convey

the rider’s attentive, upright carriage,
while legs perform the horse’s measured moves.
It’s ignorant to presume an animal
will share a human’s feelings in a human way;
just so, I can’t presume to think I know
the nature of these wolves, or cultivated horses
the Finnish girls become, as if to say

what’s best might just be something else
than human. The houses crowding
the edge of bluffs know nothing
of these changelings, who bark and bay,
wander the unruled ways
of the leftover woods, and in becoming, renounce.
Unless these houses breed them too.

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Little Manifesto

By Jeffrey Harrison

There is always someone who suggests
that his poems would be far better than yours
if he’d only bothered to write them. What’s more,
he would have handled the whole enterprise
with more grace and aplomb than you ever did
had he chosen to write those poems instead of
making a killing in investment banking.
And yet you keep going, even in the knowledge
that the poems you are writing are not as good
as his poems, the ones he didn’t write . . .

and, for that matter, not even as good as the ones
you didn’t write. “Your poems would be better
if you didn’t write them” is either a Zen koan,
a quip by Yogi Berra, an insult, or just nonsense,
which is why no one says it. I hate the idea
that any poem written down is somehow
inferior to a poem that does not exist.
Yes, plenty of bad poems have been written,
but out of all the poems that have gone
unwritten, there’s not a single one I love.

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A Message from Tony Hoagland

By Jeffrey Harrison

I got an email from Tony just now
though he’s been dead for a year and a half,
and in the instant before my rational brain
told me it was spam, I felt the thrill
of seeing his name pop up in my inbox,
the dopamine rush that he was writing me
from beyond the grave. And when I clicked
on his name to open the message, the body
of the email consisted only of my first name
followed by an exclamation mark
(as though he was excited to be writing me)
and, under that, a compressed link
in the electric blue that indicated
it was live. My giddy finger slid
the cursor over it, to see what Tony
was sending me—maybe instead of
infecting my computer with malware
that would harvest my data and require me
to pay a huge ransom in cryptocurrency,
the link would take me to a web page
where I could find all the poems
Tony has written since he died.
I paused a moment and thought about
what those poems would be like,
but my imagination failed me. Then
I clicked “delete,” and went into my trash
and deleted the message again,
which made me feel timid and puny,
as though, like D. H. Lawrence
and his snake, I’d missed my chance
with one of the lords of life.

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Ode to My Father’s Body

By Jeri Theriault

Featured Art: Lost Moment by Mallory Stowe

I lose my way in the low-note harmonica
of my father’s absence & unfold the map
of his body in the big window of his barbershop

at the corner of Summer
& Gold    where he    slow    stood all-day
poised to conduct    the chorale    clip-clip

of his trade    shears    razor    hot-towel
talc    brush & tonic    Red Sox radio
my father vaguely tidy & distant    not

dissonant. My everyone-knew-him father.
My year-round-bicycle father. My father’s
body at school nights

or Sunday mass    silent    always
silent but singing in the cellar attic
garage & whistling    as he built back-yard

swing-set    lean-to    edged
garden rows    or hosed night after sub-zero
night    the ice rink where I soothed

afternoons    cold & would-be
wild.    His body hunched in the chair
of my mother’s hospital room that time

we thought she would die    thirty years after
they divorced. My father’s corpuscles
& liver    shins & scapula

his semper fi     tough-guy body    his ear
his good eye my self-taught father in the city
of his body my beige & pastel checked-shirt

father in serviceable shoes & trench coat    who left
his copy of Camus’ The Stranger face-down
on the bed in English though his tongue

his lips    his throat    were French.    He left    too
his body    that night    left
what was left of his body    left

his Iwo Jima    his broken birth family
left his untold    his mystery    left me
his daughter    the wilderness

of my own body    that is to say    left me
half-him left the quiet why or who he was
might have been    what he most

loved    so that sometimes    I still walk
the hallways of my father’s body
half the doors gone    half of them still here.

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On Throwing Things Away

By Amelia Mairead McNally

Featured Art by Erin Dellasega

My cat’s corpse is in my dad’s garage. She died four years ago, November of 2017. There was a tumor somewhere in her brain that pressed outward against one of her eyes quite horribly in the end, according to my dad. I had moved to New York by then, a five-hour drive from his northern New Hampshire home, and could only listen, powerless, to his news over the phone. She did one of those animal things where she grew very sick very fast but refused then to just die, prolonging us all in the anxiety of her suffering and the knowledge that we would, finally, have to choose which day she would go.

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Winter Solstice

By Natalie Taylor

Jupiter and Saturn closer than they’ve been since the Middle Ages.

Swinging around to check on the puny humans,
see how we’re coping with famine and war and plagues.

How many drinking from a Dom Perignon fountain,
how many grubbing over gritty water.

A celestial shindig of tilts and orbits
arriving, right on time, 800 years later.

Saturn’s lightning storms create giant clouds of
soot that blacken thunderstorm alleys.

After it falls the span of two and a half earths, soot
solidifies to graphite, then diamonds.

Diamond rain melting to sea.
Jupiter’s million-megawatt aurora escorted

by Io’s 400 volcanoes,
gem-crusted Galilean moons.

Now they’re dancing to the compressed heart of an old star
—a 10 billion-trillion-trillion-carat cosmic diamond

that pulses and rings like a gong.
Maybe not much has changed

since last time they rolled in together.
Trolls still digging for buried treasure

when all the dazzle—methane and crystalized carbon
and hot cores transformed to brilliance—

like the persistence of awe, is above. Look up.

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Late, Dark, and Windy

By Kathleen Lee

Featured Art: Mall Series (3) by Doug MacDowell

After you left the party
someone’s dog picked a fight
with the resident ancient hound
and big human hullabaloo ensued
followed by talk of infectious diseases,
tricks for making perfect piecrust,
the battle of Waterloo. Literature
was avoided (too controversial),
as was real estate (too dull). The Sanskrit scholar
refused to recite a poem we yearned to hear
called Remembrance of Songs of the Future.
Everyone wanted to know the truth
about you so I spun one tale after another
about lost items, Cochabamba
(remember the awful soup we ate every single day?),
and the exigencies of soul retrieval.
They toasted your future with pretentious cocktails
while I sat on my heart to keep it quiet.
Without you, my partner in all things stealthy,
I couldn’t slip away early.
Then it was late, dark and windy.
I stepped outside to gaze into the vastness
overhead and the cosmos was as it ever is—
persistent and forgettable.

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Sad As Is

By Kathleen Lee

I’m trying to nap for ten minutes
before swimming laps when two voices

waver as if in a dream. If you died today
we could know everywhere you lived from your bones

Because I am alert to death, I listen—
I tend to believe in the neuroplasticity of the human brain

to adapt
—and half-open my eyes to see
two dudes in beards and surf shorts on a bench

poolside. It’s February. There isn’t surf
within 2,000 miles and even if what they say is true,

they make it sound like bullshit. Still, dread
winks at me as if it has spotted my weakness:

insufficient neuroplasticity. I’m not adapting!
Where’s Adam? Family funeral.

A lozenge of silence dissolves in the room.
He’s a sad boy as is. I know the world

is not ever about me but here I am on a chaise longue
in a too-warm room, the air redolent of chlorine,

while a couple of idle chatty dudes seem,
I’m sorry to admit, to be speaking to me

in an intimate way, and I’m helplessly listening
because what else am I to do with myself inside time?

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By Kelly Rowe

Featured Art: In Remembrance Of by Brooke Ripley

                                          Turku, 1962

Out the window of the tram
stone buildings, cobblestone streets,

the sitter handed back the apple
core for me to eat.

Now, I know her children
went hungry in the war;

then, I understood nothing;
I was four.

But sixty years on, I remember
her hiss—“finish it!”

And how the seeds and stem
caught in my throat,

how I coughed, how I choked,
how I sat silent,

looking out at the snow
in triumph.

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