In the Winter of my Sixty-Seventh Year

By Susan Browne

Featured Art: pass with care by Gina Gidaro

I feel the cold more
I stay in bed longer
To linger in my dreams 
Where I’m young
& falling in & out of love
I couldn’t imagine then
Being this old     only old people
Are this old
Looking at my friends I wonder
Wow do I look like that
Today I wore my new beanie
With the silver-grey pom-pom
& took a walk in the fog
I thought I looked cute in that hat
But nobody noticed     maybe a squirrel
Although he didn’t say anything
When was the last time I got a compliment
Now it’s mostly someone pointing out
I have food stuck in my teeth
Did my teeth grow     they seem bigger
& so do my feet     everything’s larger
Except my lips     lipstick smudges
Outside the lines or travels to my teeth
Then there’s my neck
The wattle     an unfortunate word
& should have never been invented
These winter months are like open coffins
For frail oldsters to fall in
I once had a student who believed
We can be any age we want
In the afterlife
I’m desperate to be fifty    
Six was also a good year
I saw snow for the first time
At my great-uncle’s house in Schenectady
My sister & I stood at the window
I can still remember the thrill
Of a first time     a marvel
Life would be full of firsts
I met my first love in winter
He was a hoodlum 
& way too old for me     seventeen     I was fifteen
I could tell he’d had sex or something close to it
He had a burning building in his eyes
He wore a black leather jacket     so cool & greasy
Matched his hair     he broke up with me
Although there wasn’t much to break    
All we’d done was sit together on the bus
Breathing on each other
It was my first broken heart
I walked in the rain
Listening to “Wichita Lineman”
On my transistor radio
I need you more than want you
Which confused me but I felt it
All over my body    
& that was a first too    
O world of marvels
I’m entering antiquity for the first time
Ruined columns     sun-blasted walls
Dusty rubble     wind-blown husks
I’m wintering     there is nothing wrong with it
A deep field of silence
The grass grown over & now the snow


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The Time Traveller Chooses an Arrival Point

By Emily Blair

Featured Art: Yliaster (Paracelsus) by Marsden Hartley

Before it all goes wrong. Before the bell is rung. Before the ship has sailed.
Before the perfect storm begins to brew. Before the term perfect storm goes
viral. Before anything goes viral. Before the fall. Before the crash. After
effective sanitation, before Ronald Reagan. Before that sixth grade school
photo is taken. Before one friend’s accident, another’s illness. Before the first
massacre or environmental disaster. Before the first loss of liberty. Before
the prequels. Before the sequels. Before the remakes. Before guns. Definitely
before Columbus. After your son learns to say he loves you. After the
invention of childhood. Before the police state. Before the nation state. Before
the interstate. After modern medicine. After modern art. After animated GIFs.
After the discovery of fire, of penicillin, of Spandex. After you meet the love
of your life, but before you meet your first miserable boyfriend. After the
Internet, but before we become information. Before your cousin dies, before
your classmate dies, before anyone anywhere dies. It’s important to avoid your
grandfather, and also the Middle Ages. Remember the Nineties sucked, and
so did the Eighties. Maybe that moment when the dog stole pancakes off your
plate. Your parents laughing as the card table shook. Just after the Big Bang.

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Broken

By John Glowney

Featured Art: Niagara Falls by John Henry Twachtman

Break it, you own it. Honestly,
though, it was always broken,
which is the whole point, that is to say,
when this world first whirled
and popped into existence
out of nothing’s sticky grasp,

the ur-broken thing, when it had wings
that glinted wildly in the suffused
and charged plasma, when it cascaded off
the cliff of itself
a mountain waterfall in native sunlight;
when the newly minted
honeybees, still smoking a little from
the tiny forges that made their immaculate
and fragile bodies, shook the pollen dust
of a violet, left a telltale film
on the velvety atoms of air,

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The Other Big Bang

By Mason Wray

Featured Art: Peach Bloom by Alice Pike Barney

An equal and opposite burst expanding
from the same particle but in reverse.
Where peaches unripen in the family orchard.
A mom-and-pop deli replaces the condos on Second Ave.
OutKast never breaks up. They only get back together.

My sister is getting smaller by the day
her outfits like pastel pythons swallowing a doe.
In the other big bang, we start
with all the knowledge we’ll ever know
then forget it piece by piece.

So even after my grandmother’s brain
stitches itself whole, vanquishes the plaque
that shows up like coffee stains in scans,
still she becomes more unknowing by the day.

But we all become naïve with her. Everyone
communes over fears of growing young:
how we’ll tie our shoes, cross the road alone.
I am planning an expedition. One day I hope
to have never known you yet.

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Gone

By Jennifer Burd

Featured Art: Zinnias by H. Lyman Saÿen

While I was away the world
went on without me—
a spider completed its web
under my plant stand,
dust from an unseen wind
settled in all the hard-to-reach places,
light drifted across the walls.
The ceiling fan dipped its oars
in stillness. Zinnias in the vase
went from Technicolor
to hand-painted antique postcard hues.
The world’s bad news got worse,
the good news, better than expected.
Letters and bills fought for room
in the mailbox. Mold helped itself
to the food I hadn’t eaten,
and a late rose bloomed in the garden.
I watched myself considering each thing,
thinking, this is how it will be.

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Ruthless

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest: selected by Ada Limón

By Emily Lee Luan

Featured Art: The Dance by George Grey Barnard

My friend lowers his foot into the stony
runoff from the mountain, lets out a burst
of frantic laughter. This, I think, is a happiness.

When I don’t feel pain, is it joy that pours
in? A hollow vessel glows to be filled.
無 , my father taught me, is tangible—

an emptiness held. It means nothing, or to not have,
which implies there was something to be had
in the first place. It negates other characters:

無心 , “without heart”;
無情 , “without feeling”;
heartless, ruthless, pitiless.

Is the vacant heart so ruthless?

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I Was Startled It Was Death

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Figure with Guitar II by Henry Fitch Taylor

I was startled it was death
I’d been singing all morning
under my breath, scrambling
the eggs, steeping Earl Grey
for breakfast with my wife, death
I’d been carrying like a jingle
or Top 40 chorus, its melody
infinitely catchy, insistent,
vaguely parasitic, its lyrics
surfing rhythm, slotted into
rhyme, over and over, a half
hour or more, all Saturday
ahead of us, the morning sun
shining when Julie protested
with a quick laugh, though
wincing too—no, please,
I just got that out of my head
.

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Love Song

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Morning Haze by Leonard Ochtman

Oh, that’s right—because I’m going to die.
Sometimes I forget. More often than not.
And then, that’s right! I’m going to,
sometime. Because . . . I’m going to. Forgetting,
but only sometimes, that’s how this works
more than not. And then we wake to snow,

*

quite unexpected, the whole neighborhood quite,
you know. And you say to me, yes, that’s right,
cream, two sugars. Sometimes I forget. Or
these days, more often, because, you know,
that’s how this works. And now I remember
we’re going to. Both of us. And there’s the car

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We’re Thinking of the Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Children at Play by Jean-Francis Auburtin

leaning back in our lawn chairs, the August constellations
crowded by a crush of stars, the Milky Way in soft focus
like a glamour shot. A couple and a couple at the end of the day
watching our kids zip sparklers back and forth across the lawn
like satellites or meteors. It’d been a story in the paper,
evidence of a supermassive black hole, and so we throw it back
like tequila shots and wade past our depth—me, deflecting
to Kubrick’s Star Gate sequence, those long light smears
on Bowman’s helmet, Julie, pulling both cords of her sweatshirt
taut, saying our bodies would be stretched to angel hair
if we were yanked into that hole. Then Janet’s telling us
how she imagines this supermassive black hole is like the hole
at the end of a vacuum cleaner. And right now—Saturday evening,
our kids growing restless, minutes from boredom, then, maybe,
those nudging arguments of who found who, who was safe,
and for us, at least, the hour’s drive home, I-95 congested
by the night-shift roadwork just beginning, Julie and I
talking quietly in front, reviewing the evening, overwhelmed
by the obvious, how we’ve all changed, how we won’t ever
be as young as we were, our daughter, grass-stained,
her hair wild with static, slouching down in the backseat
pretending to sleep as she listens in just as I did at seven,
those long drives to Maine, picking up things half-understood
in the language of grownups—this black hole, says Janet,
is Hoovering up stars and planets like so many pretzel crumbs
ground into the shag. We’re full. Everything off the grill
is hitting the spot. And Mark, back to Kubrick’s Star Child,
is leaning in to share his fanboy theories of what it all means,
though I’m not listening, not really, because it seems right,
that vacuum, because I, too, have plucked stray fuzz clinging
half in, half out of the attachment’s rim—and yes, this is how
it feels, year-by-year, to be drawn to the irresistible thing.

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The Names You Choose

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest: selected by Lauren Groff

By Nicole VanderLinden

Featured Art: Beach Scene by James Hamilton

Vanessa had wanted the luau, something extravagant—never mind that we were a moon away from our original budget. But that was Vanessa, always doubling down. She swam in mountain lakes; she was the only person I knew who’d been arrested for playing chicken. “We’re in Maui,” she said, letting geography make its case. “It’d be fun for the kids.”

This wasn’t all true, because our youngest, Chloe, dreamed of puréed bananas. She was barely a toddler. She’d never tasted salt, and bubble baths made her shriek. It was the other kid my wife had been alluding to, the child of our concern, our Anna.

Vanessa bought tickets to the luau. I was suggestible—there were so many things I was trying to save then, money the least precious among them. We returned to the cool of our room by three so we could shower and put calamine lotion on our burns, our sun-chapped faces. Vanessa took Chloe with her and got dressed in the bathroom, where she’d laid out various makeup cases and where the tub had jets, and I waited for Anna, who was twelve and who, when she was ready, spun for me in a white sundress lined in eyelet lace.

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Force of Habit

By Kathleen Winter

Featured Art: Girl Arranging Her Hair by Abbott Handerson Thayer

The woman in the Oldsmobile was awfully young
to have a kid, her kid would have said, if she’d had
a voice not just a body jittery inside her precious cotton
dress with ducks stitched in the smocked bodice
flat across her washboard chest. A woman’s hand
was every bit as flat when she had to slap somebody’s
face, so it wasn’t best sometimes to have a voice in case
you asked the woman one too many times how Seguin
was different from Saigon or where the dad had
gone or who was gonna fix the swing or when can we
get a collie or what’s the matter with twirling a lock
of hair around your index finger all day long it felt
so smooth & cool spooled round your finger &
released & caught & wound again, secured.
What’s wrong with messing with this living little
bit of you, a darling little thing. You couldn’t stop it
even if you wanted to.

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It Was As If We Were on Vacation

By Jen Ashburn

Featured Art: Sunset, Oxford by George Elbert Burr

I was driving. The sky was pink with sunrise or sunset.
The road banked left. We drove straight—through the guardrail
and over a valley with gray houses stacked on a hillside.

You were so calm. I didn’t understand at first that we would die.
This was much worse than forgetting to pay the phone bill.

Then you were driving. The car soared. We looked out the windows.
Around the houses, people trimmed hedges and hung laundry.

You changed gears. I don’t remember the landing. I think
there was music. We held hands. I’ve never understood
forgiveness, but this is what it must feel like.

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