Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.
By Joy Baglio
Featured Art: Playful Mermaid by Henri Héran, 1897
Let me tell you about my mother, a mermaid: For years, despite her handicaps, she embraced land life in Okanogan, Washington—the drizzly winters and sun-soaked summers—with a steadfastness both impressive and exhausting. She read us stories with the ardor of a human mother; bagged our lunches; brushed our hair. For years, she was just Mom: Mom who snuggled up to us on the couch with a book; Mom who packed Tupperware containers full of watermelon and whisked us away to the town pool on humid summer days; Mom who cooked themed meals (Tuna Tuesdays, Waffle Wednesdays); Mom with her perpetual ocean smell and unruly laughter. Of course, there were harmless omens of her first loyalties: shellfish for breakfast, kelp pods strewn like confetti around our living room, the shrill whale-speak whines that filled our house in the mornings, our Nereid names and Mom’s insistence that my sister Thetis and I explain to every curious land-dweller our sea-nymph heritage. (My name, Amphitrite, means Queen of the Ocean, after all.)Read More
By Andrew Cox
Featured Art: Summer: Cat on a Balustrade by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, 1909
–For Jerry Lee (1934-2016)
There are bobcats in the neighborhood
Said the woman in the decked-out SUV
Do you have a whistle
As I walked off my grief in Texas
Where I came to see my mother die
And when I saw the bobcat
Come from the drainage system
And stare at me with black pupils
Drilling into those yellow eyes
I knew it wanted me to sit down and listen
Love your mother the bobcat asked
Not enough I said
I could have visited more
It said man hands on misery to man
One of your kind wrote that I think
Yes I said the poem is never enough Read More
By Ansie Baird
Featured Art: Man holding a horse by the bridle by Dirck Stoop
My father flew to Reno, Nevada, sixty
solemn years ago to sue for a divorce.
I had no idea where Nevada was or
why my parents were divorcing.
In the mail arrived a shiny photograph,
my father sitting tall on a horse.
I had no idea he knew how to ride.
He carried a rifle across his lap and
on his head he’d set a cowboy hat.
He was smiling like all-get-out.
I had no idea what there was to smile about.
He stayed away six weeks, at some
dude ranch where rattlesnakes curled
and lurked in the underbrush. I lived
in a cluttered city house without
rattlesnakes or a father. My mother
packed up all our winter coats and boots
and sold the house. We moved into a flat.
After that, everything was touch-and-go.
By David Brendan Hopes
Featured Art: Tinker with His Tools by Camille Pissarro, 1874/76
For the sake of my father, certain things
must be done in a certain way:
tightening of bolts, of nuts around threads;
coiling of hoses; firm, instant replacement of lids;
spreading of seed from the hand held just so,
in furrows dug to the joint or the knuckle, depending;
wash it when you use it, never put it up wet;
don’t be opening and closing the screen door
as if you were a cat.
Be grateful for a job, a meal, a leg up.
In the seasons set aside for such emotions,
of course I hated him.
All things, even hatred, wear away.
In the season set aside I became him,
doing what he did in the way he did it,
hiding the injured heart the way he hid it.
Waking so many hours before full day
from the dream
that something certain’s gone astray.
By Marilyn Abildskov
Featured Art: Dilapidated House, 1811
She hesitates, then opens the unlocked door. The house is not hers. It’s nobody’s yet. That’s why she’s here. To walk on red tiles in the empty entryway. To see if there’s carpet yet in the bedrooms. To touch the smooth white marble fireplace that reaches the ceiling in the living room. To wander empty rooms before the rooms are filled.
Here in the entranceway of the new empty house she says out loud—hello hello—and listens for something, a spirit maybe, to say something back.
Nothing. Not even an echo.
From the kitchen window, she can see her home, the tip of a modernist triangle roof. In the distance, she can hear her mother playing the piano, lost in the music. Her shoes squeak against the floorboards of the hallway. No carpet. Not yet.Read More
By Young Smith
Featured Art: Two Boys Watching Schooners by Winslow Homer, 1880
If I had a brother, he would be called Enoch or Ephraim—
a name alive with the wisdom of some long forgotten past.
Though older than me, there would be no gray yet in his beard.
There would be no lines on his face, and his full hair—
not thinning yet, like mine—would be brown as the wings
of a thrush. He would whisper Roethke in his sleep,
my brother Ephraim or Enoch, and his poetry would lift
the weight of old bruises from my eyes. He would visit
our father’s grave and feel none of my dark anger there.
By Young Smith
Featured Art: The Chair from The Raven by Édouard Manet, 1875
There are no ghosts in her rented house—
only the shadows of objects
removed by other tenants long ago.
Here there was a stool with a crippled leg,
here a bookshelf filled with fat Russian novels,
here an upright piano with wine-stained keys.
These furnishings have vanished, but their shapes continue—
like spots on the retina after looking at the sun . . .
Though she can find no path from one door
to the next where the shades of their sofas
don’t stand one within the other, of the former
tenants themselves, very little can be said . . .
The mirrors have collected the pale stories of their eyes,
but the glass is too crowded to tell them clearly—
yet even now, among the wraiths of hat trees
and recliners, where the dust of their voices
drifts like smoke along the baseboards,
she can often feel their sorrows, breathing
slowly in the corners, still alive
with a helpless longing to sleep.
By Young Smith
“Sullen” only begins to describe it—
his all too lucid, all too human stare.
His mate sits nursing an infant behind him
in the mouth of an artificial cave, while,
just to busy his hands, it seems, he strips
leaves from a twig of bamboo. His gestures
are slow and deliberate, but as his fingers work,
his eyes never leave us, moving in turn
from one face, from one camera to the next.
This, of course, is what holds us at the rail—
that he watches back, like no other animal
in the zoo—and there is only one way
to understand his expression: he has little
hope for the health of our souls.
By W. J. Herbert
Featured Art: Bird’s Nest and Ferns by Fidelia Bridges, 1863
Cement truck crushing stones
at 3 a.m. on a Flatbush side street?
No, must be the double bass player
grinding his seven-foot case along broken sidewalks,
as if inside his sarcophagus
whose fist-sized wheels are screaming
there’s a mummy dressed in lead,
and it’s so hot again my ceiling fan’s blade
is a soldier’s lame leg that is drooping
and each time he turns,
it drums on the inverted edge of the light bowl
while someone upstairs
drops the booted foot he just cut from a corpse,
but he keeps cutting and dropping,
cutting and dropping,
so it must be a dozen corpses, or
maybe it’s a frozen hen landing again and again,
as though my landlady’s niece, still drunk,
has made up a game in which you get ten points if,
when you drop it from the top of a ladder,
the hen lands on her severed neck.
I can’t sleep. Even if Sialia sialis
relies on dead trees for nest sites,
it’s smart enough to live deep away from the world.
W. J. Herbert’s debut poetry collection, Dear Specimen, was selected by Kwame Dawes as winner of the 2020 National Poetry Series and will be published by Beacon Press in 2021. Her work was also selected by Natasha Trethewey for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2017 and appears, or is forthcoming, in Alaska Quarterly Review, Boulevard, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Kingston, New York and Portland, Maine.
Originally appeared in NOR 20.
By Robert Cording
Featured Art: Peacock and Dragon by William Morris, 1878
After reading that hummingbirds
are so light eight of them can be mailed
for the price of a first-class stamp,
I close my eyes and see them, fully revived,
rising out of some envelope of old memories.
I’ll name them again as we once did
so long ago—Rufous, Anna’s, and Broad-tailed—
darting to and from the feeders, sipping,
then retreating, flying jewels
the Spanish called them, and now I recall
how one of the Anna’s, its garnet head
and throat glowing in the misted air,
hung like a jewel at your ear.
By David Gullette
Coming back from Escamequita past the curve at the peak
there was the valley of Carrizal with its steep mountain rising above it.
What’s that up there? I asked. Looks like the entrance to a mine.
Oh, the old man said, That’s the Cueva de los Duendes.
I knew the word from Lorca’s great essay
but he meant some dark flamenco trance when strummed sheepguts
and a shout beyond reason jam in our ears the mesmerizing song of death.
Here in the back woods of Nicaragua it just means little people,
fairies, minor local deities, trolls, semi-domesticated goblins.
Or witches. Things that rustle the bushes after the moon rises
or borrowing feathers shriek in the sky above your chickens.
By Alison Jarvis
Featured Art: The Artist’s Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse by Adolph Menzel, 1851
Somewhere up in the Bronx,
in rented space I’ve never seen, seven
rooms of the old life, waiting
in storage. Shrouded wing chairs,
Persian rugs, your mother’s
engraved silver, nesting and spooning
in a mahogany box. Racks
of your oils. The body of the grand piano
had to be separated from its legs
so everything could fit—
I miss our music.
Sunday, on the little radio
I heard Lotte Lenya sing
that song about searching, her urgency
tilted the room, I was that
Winner, New Ohio Review Nonfiction Contest
selected by Elena Passarello
By Gail Griffin
Featured Art: The Kitchen by James McNeill Whistler, 1858
It is Christmas night—or, more accurately, two in the morning of December 26th. I am on the small porch at the side of my house. My cat is in my lap. The door to the living room is closed. Every window inside the house is wide open, because the house is full of smoke—a vile, stinky smoke. The porch is winterized, but I have opened one window about six inches because of the smoke escaping from the house. And what I am saying to myself is Well, at least the temperature’s up in the twenties.Read More
By Chanel Brenner
Dia De Los Muertos was Riley’s favorite holiday.
He loved smelling the sugar skulls.
Didn’t mind that he couldn’t eat them.
My husband asks what we should do with Riley’s bicycle.
Who wants a dead kid’s bike?
He puts it in the alley for someone to take.
He rummages through boxes in our garage like we are having a fire sale.
He finds my dead father’s rare coins in a sock, a card from my dead grandmother.
Many believe the dead would be insulted by sadness.Read More
By Heather Bowlan
Featured Art: Woman Combing Her Hair by Edgar Degas, 1888-90
the day I told M
I loved her, we were at her new Dom’s
in Hollywood, the one
with the surprisingly small bedroom.
I always pretend the best version
is what really happened, so I pretended
I didn’t need the wine, didn’t drink
myself to floating while we texted him
photos of our cheery breasts
and matching cherry-bordered
aprons for his birthday, that I wasn’t hungry
for her, that kissing for the camera, lips
open, waiting for him to come
home from work was just a great story for later—
which it is. And she said she would never
love me and I said no chance, really none, never? Read More
By Lisa Badner
Fran is my Friend on Facebook.
In the 90s, Fran and I were roommates, then girlfriends.
Dina is my Friend on Facebook too.
I cheated on Fran to be with Dina.
It was in Jerusalem and very dramatic.
Fran can see that I am Friends with Dina on Facebook
because Dina is on my list of Friends.
I Friend Fran’s new girlfriend Ellie,
since we are all pretty friendly.
Ellie Friends Dina. Ellie doesn’t know Dina,
but Ellie Friends all of her Facebook Friends’ Friends.
Ellie is Friends with Alan.
Alan and Ellie were boyfriend and girlfriend in the 80s,
before Ellie was gay.
Alan Friends me. I have never met Alan,
but I was girlfriends with his first wife, Deb,
when Deb was still dabbling. Read More
By Lisa Badner
Featured Art: Chrysanthemums in the Garden at Petit-Gennevilliers by Gustave Caillebotte, 1893
My son’s third grade music teacher
was the girlfriend of my piano teacher
in nineteen eighty-three.
I was a teenager.
She was hip and grown-up with long hair.
She has no clue we ever met.
But I remember her.
I remember hearing her scat sing
while I walked up the stairs.
She also doesn’t know
that I had sex with her thirty-something boyfriend,
rather—that I let him have sex with me—after she’d leave
and after I played the Bach French Suites—
in their Bleecker Street walk-up.
I was desperately trying to be straight
(it didn’t work).
We are sitting on little-kid chairs
and she is discussing my son’s musical prowess,
in spite of his bad behavior in chorus.
She still has long hair, now dyed blonde.
She tells me my son is a little lost,
struggling to find his place. Read More
By Lisa Badner
Featured Art: The Funeral by Edouard Manet, 1867
–For Claudia Card
Claudia, you asked me (in advance) to write your obituary.
You gave me your 37-page single-spaced CV.
Now the time has come,
I have not written an obituary.
After the biopsy results last year
You said I would inherit your music library.
I used to play piano.
I stopped playing piano in 1984.
You nominated me for a graduate fellowship.
You said I would have been a good philosopher.
I got the fellowship. Thank you.
Then I dropped out.
By Graham Coppin
I had chicken pox as a child. Rubella and the mumps.
My tonsils came out when I was three. I am not currently
under a physician’s care for any ailment or injury although
see below. I have lived outside the United States because
I was born outside the United States. My left ring toe has
a callus, same spot same toe as my father. He passed away
of bladder cancer and a broken heart. My mother before him
died of stomach cancer and a broken heart. I used to smoke.
Quit years ago and took up other things much worse for me.
I drink when I can’t. I am allergic to penicillin. At least
that’s what my mother told me. One of the many things
I was taught would be my undoing. I am undetectable.
Genvoya keeps it that way. I take Doxepin when I can’t sleep
or need to sleep. I sleep on average seven hours a night.
Today I have high creatinine. Ask me again tomorrow. Read More
By Michael Credico
Featured Art: Unfinished Study of Sheep by Constant Troyon, 1850
It’s the manipulations that end you. I was told this by Sam Shaw after he learned he’d been promoted to the inside. We were on the outside of the outside in the designated smoking area. I was smoking. Sam Shaw said, “What’s suffering worth?” He broke off the shards of animal blood that had froze to his overalls.
I shook like I was caught in electric wires. The cigarette butt hissed when I let it drop into a snowdrift. I could hardly feel myself living, felt like I was alive as a series of smoke breaks.
Sam Shaw said, “Nothing’s dead-end as it seems.”
“Easy for you to think,” I said. “You’re on the inside now.”Read More
By Joyce Peseroff
Featured Art: Horses Running Free from The Caprices by Jacques Callot, 1622
A horse on a plane is a dangerous thing
if the box he’s persuaded to enter shifts
like a boulder or a coffin fragrant with hay
but no exit and midflight he decides no way,
time to bomb this pop stand, burst out
of his lofty corral into a tufted field
asway with timothy, feathers, and prance.
You ask a horse—you don’t tell him—to trot
or whoa, easy there fella, and cross-tie him
with a knot meant to fail if he pulls back.
When the plane bucks, a horse can launch
steel shoes through aluminum, the hiss
of oxygen dropping down the masks. Read More