Horse on a Plane

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

Ammo

By Marc Tretin

Featured Art: Snap-the-Whip by Winslow Homer, 1873

In ’69, to avoid the draft, I taught at Mt. Tryon
Boarding School for Troubled Boys and there
I hit a child. Afterward I imagined
I was on top of an explosive ammo truck
manning a gun, squeezing off bullets
at young bodies of boys who’d tried
to run to the back of our truck to soft-toss
a grenade that could blow us into
strips of meat. It seemed better to be scared
in that V.C.-controlled village I’d
never been to than to think of squeaky-voiced
and fat Gerry, who at thirteen, threw chalk
at me, hit a younger boy,
and always grabbed that kid’s crotch.

Read More

Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring

By Charles Harper Webb

What serpentine producer snuck her past the censors
to corrupt the Peanut Gallery boys? Oh Princess
of the Tinka Tonka tribe, I loved you more than Dolores
at the swimming pool, Janey next door, or Bobbi Jo,

the best baseball player on my block. I loved
the beaded buckskin dress that couldn’t hide your curvy
hips and thighs. I loved your black braids, your dark
eyes that shocked me through the new TV, smudged

by my lips. Indian girl with skin as pale as mine—
birds and butterflies flocked to your singing drum.
Native royalty, whose name evoked School’s Out /
Trick or Treat / Santa Claus / Home Run Derby—

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Audition

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest
selected by Charles Johnson

By Leslie Rodd

Featured Art: Nymphs and Satyrs Playing Musical Instruments by Claude Lorrain

San Francisco, 1969

Outside the jazz club where I’ve been audience, player, and piano tuner over the years, it’s quiet at this sunstruck ten o’clock, and I have a shivery thought of a guitar and a girl that began inside my head last night. No rocking, no rhythm, no foot-stomping or window-shaking. Only the fifty measured strides I’ve counted from the corner where the 30 Stockton dropped me off, past the police station to the alley, the dip in the pavement and the sloping rise, the manhole cover to my left, yes, here it is, the last of my landmarks, reassuring me I’m in the right place. A thought of a girl, who used to make my music glow.

I rap the metal tip of my cane against the partly opened steel door, the tradesman’s entrance.

Read More

Watching Nature on PBS

By Angela Voras-Hills

The caribou calf is separated from the herd, pursued
by the wolf. Unless it slips up, the calf could escape,
outrun it. The toddler grows restless and runs to the window,
watching the garbage truck back up, lift bins, and dump
our trash into itself. I don’t redirect her. My own childhood
window looked into a tree. All year, there were branches. Sometimes
covered in leaves, but by winter, they were bare. I often prayed
for a way out. I once spoke directly to God, said: “God, if you know everything,
what am I thinking now?” And I tried to think the opposite of anything
he’d expect me to think. Another time I said, “God, if you help me
leave this place,” but could think of nothing worth giving in return.
No matter how much we bargained, I never asked God to save our house
from fire, even after a house on our block burned down. I didn’t
ask him to spare us from cancer, Alzheimer’s, any other death. I believed
there was a reason for everything. When my mother asked me
to blow into her cup of dice for luck before she rolled them onto the bar,
I didn’t wonder what it meant if she didn’t win. Then, in high school,
a classmate was found dead in her bed. Her mother had gone to wake her,
but her heart had stopped beating. The parenting books say it’s good
to establish rituals. I run a bath, wash peanut butter from the toddler’s hair. Read More

Full Disclosure

By Emily Sernaker

When someone says a mental math problem
I usually act like I’m trying to solve it but secretly

wait it out until someone else does the work.
I tend to think of today’s date in the announcer’s voice

from The Daily Show. I sometimes sit next to handsome
men in coffee shops, pretend we’re together reading

different sides of the same newspaper. My family
loves watching 24 reruns. Dad yells “there’s no time,”

accuses my mother of being a Russian spy. When I’m
let down I feel like a game of Jenga with a log taken out.

Read More

History Will Remember

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Showers by Louis Auguste Lepère, 1890

maybe not today, but this July,
surely, the way the city wakes up
to brunch, the café windows

thrown open to foot traffic.
It rained overnight. But now sun.
Or if not this July, certainly the skyline,

the bar graph of midtown, the Empire
State Building, the Chrysler, all that was
accomplished. And that we were?

Read More

Black Telephone

By Robert Long Foreman

Featured Art: Death: “My Irony Surpasses All Others” by Odilon Redon, 1888

Michael, you are gone, and in this house where you once were there is an antique telephone as black as your coffin. Heavier than it looks, it is as full as the hole the men dug for you, early one morning, as they talked about summer and things they saw on TV.

Old things weigh more than they look—dead, leaden things like you and the black telephone.

You have been gone three weeks, and now my mother is gone, too. When she left for Providence she left me here with Michael, whom you left behind like a copy of yourself when you went. He doesn’t ask where you are anymore. Instead he says, nine times a day, that he’s going to call you on his telephone.

He found it at the flea market where my mother took him, to take him off my hands and take me off of his.

When I’m not looking, he lifts the receiver and talks to you. He doesn’t say your name, and I don’t ask who is on the line. I know it’s you.

Read More

The Potter’s Field

By Amit Majmudar

Featured Art: Study of Arms for “The Cadence of Autumn” by Evelyn De Morgan, 1905

Something lumpen, something slapped
Wet on a wheel, cupped and spun,
Sculpted; something hollowed, bellied,
Shapely; something held, watered,
Coaxed into a poised amphora.

Soiled hands smooth their own prints
Like still winds pressed to the spinning earth.
Brittle even after the fire,
The vessel is what it holds:
Ashes, ouzo, roses, olive oil.

Read More

The Skeleton in My Grandfather’s Closet

By Peter Schmitt

Featured Art: The Print Collector by Honoré Victorin Daumier, 1857/63

hung in their bedroom
for years after he died,
my grandmother dutifully dusting
the yellowing lifesize model
from his surgical days.
Who can say

if she ever let time settle
on the stack of letters
she found from the nurse—
but she took my father with her
(he was six) from Brooklyn
to Oakland on the Zephyr,

Read More

Checkup

By Daryl Jones

Featured Art: Woman Bathing by Mary Cassatt, 1890–91

Two weeks they didn’t speak,
my father sleeping on the couch
and rising early, spooning cold cereal
into his mouth like a metronome,
while my mother stood at the stove
in her white nightgown, back turned,
stirring the silence. And all because
the handsome new doctor, I’d gathered
from muffled shouts through the wall,
had asked her, at her annual checkup,
to take off all of her clothes
and she did. Every day at school,
the words chalked on the blackboard
all spelled DIVORCE, and I figured,
homeless, I’d grab my paper route cash
stashed under my socks in the dresser
and thumb my way west
to Frisco, jam out on bop and poetry
like Sal and Dean, eat
chocolate-covered ants and sip
jasmine tea, maybe smoke some Mary Jane.
But who would take care of my dog? Read More

Bag It, Box It, Haul It Away

By Jay Leeming

What’s the matter? Stuff is the matter and our basement
       is filthy with it, our ignored understory grown lumber-
cluttered and impossible so my wife and I descend
       to wrestle with the rusted-out wheelbarrow festering

tilted beside the unstartable lawnmower and the extra

freezer, the two of us tangling with moldy drywall, broken
       bicycles and that heap of gray peeling stair treads
their half-pulled nails all askew like arrows fired
       at ten different targets. Matter is mother, is milk crates

a-clatter with extra faucets and so in a faded T-shirt

Read More

Black-Eyed Susan

By Lisa Bellamy

I just cannot bloom endlessly, you know—this is November, I’m
pale, a dry stalk—I can barely stand, I’m shaking, I need Me time,
I need to center myself—this summer was horrific: It was all about
the aphids, crawling, depositing God knows what without my
permission, from who knows what hollows of slime; it was all about the
jays—“by mistake” they smashed into me, to try to grab
the crickets—I had to hear the swallowing, I had to see the bulging
gullets; it was all about the bees, their selfishness and their overall
lack of tenderness. Oh, bees are sly—they say they buzz for
beauty, for splendor, and they preen, like debutantes in frilly
hats—people, it’s a racket, a con job—they trampled on my
privates, they scurried back, mobsters with their booty (my pollen!)
to their dank, little clubs, their “hives.” This summer was all about
the deer, their nibbling, their slobbering, ticks crawling in and out
of their noses—sweet Jesus, a sight no one should have to
endure—and who, in the meadow, ever thought to pause, ever
thought to kiss my petals? People, I’m on my own here—I need T-L-C. Read More

Our Family Walks

By N. R. Robinson

Featured Art: A Window Seen Through a Window by Theodore Roussel, 1897

“Y’all are hungry,” Mama said, no question in her downcast whispery voice. “I’ll be back quick.” There was something definite behind the distraction in Mama’s careless hair, and in her careless face, and in the blue-veined hands that wandered as she spoke. Too young to understand, Cookie’s puzzled brown eyes darted back and forth between Mama and me. Cookie was weeping that day because I was.

That autumn of 1963 people were walking, and we were among them. But our walks, at the time, seemed purposeless. Or perhaps I did not see then their purpose. I barely knew it, but ’63 was a dangerous time to be wandering the heat- and frost-blazed roads of America. Over the months surrounding what would be our last family trek across D.C., a quarter million folk marched on Washington, protesters were beaten in Birmingham, a U.S. President was assassinated in the street.

When Mama called our aimless ambles anything, they were Our Family Walks. We strolled that September day, just weeks after my seventh birthday, Mama on one side, five-year-old Cookie on the other.  It was late afternoon when Mama crooned—face demure, fragile, resolute—“Don’ worry babies, th’ angels are beside y’all,” then walked away. Because I’d learned it was useless to protest, I pulled Cookie to the sidewalk curb. Snarling cars and trucks belched heat and grit in our direction as we watched Mama flicker and fade down North Capitol Street. Before she left, I’d searched her eyes. She was telling the truth, I decided. I promised Cookie, “Mama comin’ back this time.”

Read More

Ancient Stone Coin, Diameter Six Feet

By Claire Bateman

In dreams it escapes its keepers,
rolls away, accelerating
as though trying to leave
its huge ungainliness behind,
sensing a destiny of shrinkage
through millennia of metals,
feeling its way toward pure ideation
so it can flow freely between hosts,
reunited with thought itself
from which it was first
thrust into the world
to thicken into matter.

Read More

The New Loneliness

By Claire Bateman

Featured Art: Rocks in the Forest by Paul Cézanne, 1890s

Remember how it was before thought balloons,
when we all pondered in one huge lumpish murk,
a supercontinent of undifferentiated cognitive matter
floating just above our heads?

Remember the era before alphabets were sorted,
hieroglyphics and cuneiform all jumbled up together,
characters resembling machine parts
tangled with runes like forked and flaming branches?

Read More

Cake-o-Rama

By Claire Bateman

Featured Art: Still Life with Cake by Raphaelle Peale, 1818

You can never speak of the cake that rises up
without implying the cake that sinks into itself,
languorous as liquid glass;

the cake that’s all scaffolding and prestidigitation,
so precisely calibrated,
you must not even whisper in its presence;

and the inversely incendiary cake,
candles ablaze in its hollow center.

Read More

We Handle It

By Gwen E. Kirby

Featured Art: Fisherman’s Cottage by Harald Sohlberg, 1906

We see him first at the reservoir, a middle-aged man with an oval of fur on his chest, nipples like button eyes, and blue swim trunks with yellow Hawaiian flowers. We are swimming, and he regards us from the shore in that way we are learning to expect from a certain kind of man.

Like every day in Tennessee, it is hot, and in the early afternoon, we walk from the stone campus of this small college to the lake. We are at a summer music camp, our fingertips sore from strings, our backs sticky with sweat, and when we reach the lake we shed our summer dresses and leap from a boulder into the water, which is deep and clean. Around the lake, tall pines and the heavy hum of Southern bug life. We float on our backs, conscious of how our breasts protrude from the water, pleased that we are sixteen, except for Caisa who is seventeen and over-proud of it. For her birthday, she buzzed her head. Her cheekbones are sharp and high, and even if she were not older, she would be our leader because she walks with confidence and draws checkers on the white rubber of her Converse in ballpoint pen, cheap ink that shimmers like oilslick. We wish we could go home and buzz our heads, draw on our shoes, but our faces are round, we like our sneakers white, we like our mothers happy.

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Cooking with Fire

By Cady Vishniac

Featured Art: Hunters resting in a forest at night by Kilian Christoffer Zoll, 1830–60

At the Retreat for Warriors at the Blundsheim Nature Reserve, Pete watches Dave shoot one of the docile young Blundsheim bucks square in the chest with his crossbow, and the buck falls neatly on the spot. Deer, Dave tells Pete, are like women—even though this particular one was actually male—because they’re skittish and must be wooed with a hunter’s silence.

Pete doesn’t get it. The warriors haven’t been especially silent, and women, in his experience, like to be talked to. Still, he nods. Dave is the Elder in this Circle of Responsibility, and Pete’s father-in-law. This is Pete’s first Retreat.

Another man in the Circle jokes that he hopes the deer was a feminist, but Dave ignores the guy, instead looking at Pete directly and saying, “We are harvesting this animal, like a farmer with an ear of corn.” He’s always tossing out these nuggets of homespun wisdom, which, Pete thinks, are annoying enough to explain why his wife, Pete’s mother-in-law, left him. Maybe Dave wasn’t silent enough.

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Henry’s Horses

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest
selected by Tony Hoagland

By Michael Pearce

Featured Art: In the Valley of Wyoming, Pennsylvania (Interior of a Coal Mine, Susquehanna) by Thomas Addison Richards, 1852

The old barrel warehouse across the street
had a ceiling so high there was weather inside.
Henry Gutierrez lived there—they said
he’d been there since before the war,
though they never said which war.
He worked at Anger’s garage all day
rebuilding engines, then came home
and slept a few hours, and when
he woke up after dark he’d knock back
a bowl of cereal and a couple beers.

Read More