Essential Worker

By J.C. Talamantez

Featured art: maternal memories, 2019 by Emma Stefanoff

When you were a girl, you thought about
            what kind of woman you would be

            how you would differ
                           from her / her life in hardening hands
                                       the work, an early marriage
                                                   then the angry one
            her suspect taste in men
                           that she hung on when there was nothing
                                       left to hang
            kept laboring the labor
                           the men wouldn’t do

            It was a long time to undo / the belief
                                 that to be a woman is partial
                              a life of shadows joining

                           and sometimes i still feel
                                       like a dog always checking
                                             its masters eyes

You wanted / to be a woman
         this is what it is sometimes


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On Our Way Back From the Protest

By Shawn R. Jones

Featured art: Untitled by Mariama Condé

The officer approaches. Keith keeps both hands
on the steering wheel. Clicks his tongue

against his teeth six times—
a tune of feigned assurance.

The trooper walks back to his car.
Keith takes his hands off the wheel.

I am the first to speak. I ask if he thinks
the cop is going to give us a ticket.

The man who answers, I don’t know,
is not my husband. He is not the man

who killed the wolf spider on the windowsill.
Not the man who grabbed a snake by its tail,

carried its body, wiggling to the ravine. Not the man
who beat down a thief twice his size in our home.

Not Keith who danced at the end of the protest
like it was a Sunday in New Orleans’ Congo Square

Or the man who arranged hydrangeas
tenderly, steadily beside his father’s casket.

No. Tonight, he becomes Freddie,
Breonna, Botham, George.

Eyes the cop through the rearview mirror.
Puts both hands back on the steering wheel.

Drums the leather with his thumbs. Read More

Some Kind of Palace

By Chrys Tobey

My old man cat is, unfortunately, getting old.  Kidneys failing.

Asthma.  Arthritis. A tongue that won’t go back inside his mouth. 

Seizures.  The last one made me think he was a goner.  But then he blinked

and hobbled around me in circles. Pretty disoriented.  My old man

cat has started eating books and this may be due to the fact

that I’ve had my old man cat for seventeen years Read More

I Had an Aunt

By Joe Woodward

Featured art: Soul Released From Captivity by Chloe McLaughlin

I had an aunt
From Apalachicola
Who retired from
The Kash n’ Karry

Her feet hurt and
Something about
Varicose veins
After that she just
Sang Jesus hymns

In the church choir
And worried about
Those fall storms
Coming up in the gulf

She believed in pairs
Of black cat glasses
Her hair curled
In half dollars

And particularly
The 4th of July
When she told me
Once while we ate
Our fried chicken

Don’t write your
Whole life story
At the top of
The Ferris wheel Read More

Sharp Shin

By John Bargowski

Featured art: brittle decay by Zero Jansen

I found it grounded on the road edge
near the town ball fields where my old man

hit pop-ups to me in my little league years.
The bird hopping through snakeroot

and catchfly, dragging a skewed wing
maybe busted by a low dive into a pickup

headed into our burg on the county two-lane.
That hawk always a few steps ahead of me,

raised the hackles on its cocked neck,
turned a pain-crazed dark eye, then clicked

its beak and snissed, flexing talon-spiked
claws whenever I came close enough

to grab it from behind and clamp my hands
over both wings, the way my old man did

the times he slow-climbed the ladder
up to the loft after his shift at the D&J Bar

and culled his prized flock of homers.
Sometimes reaching inside the wire coop

at twilight for a blue ribbon winner
that wouldn’t leave home to wheel over

the ball fields and D&J with the rest
of the team on the day’s last stretch.

An old favorite, whose inner compass
age had scrambled, clutched in those nimble

calloused hands that taught me the gift
of the sacrifice, the grip of the curve.


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Cursing Lessons

By Jackie Craven

Featured art: look, quick by Emma Stefanoff

I am learning to bake curses
the way my mother did
with paprika and clotted cream.
Her recipe book lists fifteen steps
and she’s added three more,
her instructions scrawled
on pages brittle as phyllo dough. 
I trace my fingers over every word
and try to understand the significance
of Simmer on Low. I’ve heard
that if you heat a kettle gently,
a frog can’t feel the water boil. But
what to do about the grumble
from the dining room, the hungry command
to hurry up? Nothing my mother served
could please my father,
who poured Tabasco into a slow-cooked stifatho
and called her a stupid cow.
I lean against the round shoulders
of the old refrigerator and listen
to her murmur. I’m grown now
and married and need to know––
When is it time to whisk, when to fold,
when to toss with newts and toads?


Read More

Carousel

By Michael Henson

The Boy had decided, finally, enough was enough. He and his sister were running away. They were with their third set of foster people since the County took them away and these were the worst yet. The parents were weird and the children were mean and Sissy cried herself to sleep every night. Read More

The Secret

By Bridget O’Bernstein

Featured art: Women in Groups by Jesse Lee Kercheval

As a child, I flew alone to California
to spend the summer with my mother’s three sisters.
Aunt Moe made a soup out of bones and covered me
with a canvas blanket in the rock garden.
I played with Aunt Sheila’s cat under the willow for hours.
She walked over with a brush in her hand and said,
You can speak to cats, too? I nodded.
Before I left, Aunt Kate gave me a green velvet book
into which she’d taped a stick of spearmint gum
for my plane ride home.
When I arrived in Brooklyn with my secret,
my father pouted when I wouldn’t share it.
And when I said, It’s private,
his face made a face of such hurt surprise,
like I’d cut him, that I immediately gave it away.
I said, I can speak to cats,
at which point he laughed and went out to the deck
with his coffee, shaking his head.
What a mistake!
To extend to my father
the wonder of my secret, like a rose,
for safekeeping.
I stood there afterward, shocked
at the way I’d invaded myself by sharing it.
Now I had nothing. Read More

The Last Vacation

By Shannon C. Ward

Featured art: Untitled Collage by Kennedy Cardenas


You beat time on my head -Theodore Roethke 

Her husband has taken the children swimming. 
She tries to speak, but her mouth is filled with coins. 
She washes them down with vodka, vomiting.

She knows what it means to dream of sinning.  
She’s the mother of four beautiful boys, 
and her husband has taken them swimming.  Read More

La Malinche, La Llorona, and Cristine Ortiz

By Michael Leal García

On that nightmare afternoon at Plaza Mexico, Aaron never saw the gunman open fire. He just heard a series of pops—something he would only later recognize as gunfire—before Cristine knocked him over, their four-month-old son in his arms. After checking that Lil Aaron was fine—the boy still fast asleep—he felt a weight roll off his legs. There, Cristine lay motionless. Read More

Artist with Newborn

By Riley Kross

Featured art: Jezebel’s Daughters by Chloe McLaughlin

– for Amy

The baby
finally sleeps

so she
paints her

toenails bright
red with

practiced strokes
so later

she can
see her

bare feet
pacing the

dark kitchen
and remember

while breastfeeding
again again

feet propped
remember how

small all
art begins Read More

Futility

By Riley Kross

Featured art: Untitled by Sue-Yeon Ryu

                                          – for Fr. Daniel Logan

After the chainsaw, the priest

continued carving up

a small portion of the dogwood stump

with a chisel and pocketknife,

but being only a priest

and not a carpenter,

the task was beyond his expertise.

Still, he sweated and labored

and managed “by God’s grace”

(as priests are prone to say)

to fashion his own rough cross. Read More

Untitled

Featured art: Sue-Yeon Ryu

Superpowers

By Bonnie Proudfoot

If all of my thoughts have been thought before, who was the one

who thought them? Probably it was some stranger, but maybe not,

maybe it was someone I knew or maybe someone I loved so hard

that she is actually a part of me, like my grandmother,

who came by on poker nights, maybe I inhaled her like the smoke

from the tip of her Parliament, or I ate her up like a slice

of her poundcake with lemon drizzle icing. And my superpowers? Read More

Reminiscences

By Matthew Valades

Featured art: Sunflowers by Janet Braden

It became possible to say anything:
that was the delusion. A melting tree,
a painted deer—the books sat useless
as guides to understand such thoughts.

Holes at the elbows quickly drew
attention, but bothering to bother seemed
no longer worth the trouble. With walls
and brooms folks got better acquainted.

A summer of branches joining field
and sky swelled with lost promise.
It was good to stay, that’s how it felt.
People got older and younger. They’d sit

composing elaborate salad plans.
“Forget about tomorrow” became
a common phrase, but few took comfort
in what it meant. Distance fraught

with waiting, a blank consistency,
infused the hours as if each day
had been left on the table to fill the house,
rising through the rooms like steam. Read More

On Seasons

By Christopher Nelson

Featured art: Untitled by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Late May, my favorite time. The false
gromwell glows at field edge, glows
at roadside, and my glowing little boy who holds
a bunch in his fist runs to bring me the gift.
It smells of wet dog—some call it donkey
weed because it smells like them too.
Dense, sort of spiraling, floppy bunch of
unopening blooms wherefrom each sealed
thin white spool protrudes a style like
a ghost moth’s tongue. Grace curve.
Flower-borne spike. I’ve never killed a man.
I haven’t broken a bone of my own or
that of another. Dirty green-white. Stiff-haired.
When my father jabbed a man in the face
at the ball field, his fist so fast,
nearly invisible, yet the man’s
ejected teeth went up into the night sky
and caught the halogen light
and pirouetted slow motion before
getting lost in the red infield dirt
and the general scuffle of men. Part of the
forget-me-not family. Read More

The Stick-Up

By Dwight Livingstone Curtis

I had on Pawn Stars, Man Vs. Wild, and Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, which is not a bad lineup for a Tuesday afternoon.  Though, I’m not supposed to watch the TV behind the bar, since it means I’m not facing the customers.  Even if, for instance, a customer wants to draw my attention to something happening on TV.  In that case I’m supposed to look at the far TV, or in the mirror.  This way, if someone walks into the bar, I’ll be facing the right direction.  McIlhaney feels strongly about this.  But there was no one here except me.  The only other person working was Arsenio, who was in his car in the parking lot FaceTiming with his daughter. Read More

Gift

By Matthew J. Spireng

Featured Art: Persian Saddle Flask by Matthew J. Spireng

He had admired it, yes, because

it was beautiful. It was very beautiful, but

he had not admired it because he

wanted it. She had thought otherwise,

though, because as he admired it, he told her,

“Isn’t it beautiful.” Not a question.

And it was for sale. His birthday

was coming. So she thought he admired it

because he wanted it and she bought it

for him. What could he say? A question,

rhetorical. He had admired it, yes,

and still admired it, although now it was his. Read More

Why You’re Going to Eat That Pelican

By Jon Fischer

Your lunch at the French bistro was more essence

and foam and reduction than food, and that pelican

is the size of your remaining hunger.  He surely tastes

like the history of the sea and especially the doubloons

nestled in the sand in busted buccaneer sloops. Read More