New Ohio Review Issue 22. Originally printed Fall 2017.

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.

Issue 22 compiled by Ali Nowac

The Burden of Humans

By Michael Lavers

Featured art: Midnight at Midsummer Over the Antarctic Mainland by Frederick A. Cook

The grass just has to wave, the birds just have
to sing. The grapes don’t wonder what light is;
the light just lights them, and the grapes grape back.
The golden oaks just shed their summer dresses
on the lawn—but you? You have to read
Spinoza in the garden while the light
is good. You have to keep your focus as
the motorcycles scream out of the purple hills.
Read More

I’m Trying to Write a Joyful Poem

By Emily Mohn-Slate

Featured Art: Chrysanthemums by a Stream by Followers of Ogata Korin

after reading Ross Gay’s new book,
which makes me feel light
and giddy, like maybe
a world in which figs fall
from a city sky is possible,
but my poem becomes
about the collapse of long
love, how even the brightest
glint in the eye
becomes shadow eventually.
My son dances across
the room in a red
cowboy hat, he asks me
to chase him,
but the girl in the documentary
I watch lives in a landfill
outside Moscow— Read More

First Train Ride Together: Northeast Corridor

By Linda Bamber

Featured art: Restoration work at the Reading Terminal and Market in the mid-1990s by Carol M. Highsmith

A procession of blessings
like incoming waves crowned with gold

like the beaches and marshes we passed
coming home

         and another and another
         as the light deepened and graced it all:

the water views, of course,
with shrink-wrapped boats in the marinas
and boat-lifts waiting in the cold;

but the train-side heaps of junk as well
the disappearing big box stores
the grimy buildings from another time.
Oh, see

the ice upheaved in inlets
both churning and silent at once!
         and,
in intermittent moors and swales,

the high wooden platforms
the legislature appropriated funds for

         duly topped with messy nests
the ospreys built last year. Read More

Zenyatta

By Grady Chambers

Featured art: French Knight, 14th Century, by Paul Mercuri

Breeders’ Cup, November 2010

In a different life she wins.
In a different November in Kentucky she leans
into the last curve of the brown-combed track
as she passes the thick of the field. In that one,
in a bar far away, in our lucky coats
and muddy white sneakers, we rise
with the televised crowd as she quickens
at the flick of the jockey, as the grandstand churns
at the distance beginning to close, as the line comes closer.

And we know it as her rider leans forward,
as Zenyatta knows it in her legs
as the horse before her turns
and knows it’s over, the brown mane flying by
in a whip of color and dust, as the stands become a flicker
of white tickets, as her name is spoken skyward like a chant. Read More

Ending the Poem

By Theresa Burns

Featured art: Northern Lights over Iceland, by Harald Moltke

Never on light or love.
Never, I’m told, on one of those
Poetry words like keening or wept.
Tears of any kind, in fact,
Are out, and even a rueful
Smile reads smug in the last line.
No small animals, or small
Hands, or anything especially
Beneficent. Don’t even think about
Children or old people. Or teenagers,
Lest they drive the poem
Into a ditch two blocks from home.
Nothing delicious or bitter.
Forget kisses and comeuppance,
As easily as you forget umbrellas
At parties; it’s not worth going back.
Don’t get moral. Nothing’s black
Or white in the end. Never
On silence. Or birdsong. Ever.
And the silence that utterly shadows
The yard at the end of birdsong?
I doubt it. Don’t be certain
About anything. Ask a question,
Leave a crumb, chase the tail
Of something down a black hole.
Just don’t make it black.
Make it that color at the throats
Of poppies, a kind of blue-gray black
Like crushed velvet. And feel it
Going down. Read More

Gentleman Caller

By Elton Glaser 

So this is death come walking, looking mighty fine,
Him with a firm stride and a dragon-headed cane,
Dandy with diamonds in his smile, all howdy-do
And sweet potato pie, him strutting right up
To your own front door, that big stick knocking
On the frame and tapping his spats, making
The neighbors stare and the dogs back down,
Him idling under the hum of the porch light,
Spreading his shine wherever he pleases, sounding
A little cocky when he calls your name—

And what’s your mama gonna do about that?

Read More

Clean For Him the Ashes

Featured art: The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest 
selected by Colm Tóibín

By David E. Yee

I remember watching the Cotton family’s kitchen burn, felt only a ripple of urgency. Knew it was the kitchen because the houses on this stretch are all the same split-levels built north of Ellicott City, the semi-rural bit just past 70—two main avenues laced together by branches of side streets, neighborhoods pock- eted along them. I kept waiting for the flames to reach out like arms through the windows, but there were just these little tips of orange licking the gutter. Our plots were far enough apart that the heat didn’t warp my siding, but the pungent smell of that old wood burning, the paint peeling, felt toxic, jarred me from an otherwise peaceful Monday night.
Read More

Waitress in an All-Night Diner, West Virginia

By Rebecca Baggett

Featured art: A small portion of the Fanny Bennett Hemlock Grove on one side of Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Old Mammoth Road by Carol M. Highsmith

Angels visit sometimes, close to dawn.
They cluster by the door, seem to scan the cars
as they turn in, as if waiting for something—
what, she doesn’t have a clue.

She’s forty-three, a bad cough (first cigarette
at fourteen), two divorces, a dragonfly tattoo
on her left shoulder blade. Tumble
of chestnut curls—not a gray hair yet—
imprisoned in a net, magnificent when released.
Terrible feet. She hasn’t told a soul
about the angels, not even her sister,
who knows everything else worth telling.

They aren’t as glorious as she’d imagined.
Their wings, in particular—tight-folded
against their backs—surprise her by their drabness,
dusty-brown as the sparrows that hop around
the parking lot and gorge on stale biscuits
she crumbles on her break. The angels’ eyes—
washed-out blues and greens with strange,
cat-like pupil-slits—track her as she winds
through tables, a pot of coffee in each hand,
or delivers platters heaped with pancakes, sausages,
fries.
                       Why me? she wonders,
her back tickling under their eerie gaze,
but can’t imagine. Until the night the boy—
he can’t be more than boy yet—plunges
through the door, white as biscuit dough
except two spots, fever-red, high on either cheek.
The pistol he grips trembling with every
shuddering breath. Read More

Bag Lady Muse

By Rebecca Baggett 

My muse is an old bag lady,
who turns up every morning, grocery cart
heaped with rubber boots, starfish,
hula hoops, ruby vases, tattered children’s
books, ballet slippers, rhinestone pins,
and a fur stole with a fox head at one end,
expecting me to make a poem.

What am I supposed to do
with all this random crap?
I ask.
Did I mention that one wheel
of her cart is catawampus, so it makes
a loud kerchunk kerchunk
as she maneuvers it up my drive
and into my living room, where she
insists on parking?

She shrugs, slumps into the recliner,
lights a cigarette.
                                   It’s your life,
lamb. I’m just collecting it.


Read More

Laundromat

By Ted Kooser

Although it’s abandoned at two in the morning,
an empty white carton of buzzing fluorescence,
there’s always the feeling that someone was there
until only a moment before you walked in,
someone who reached up and popped a soap bubble
of fragrance, the last shimmer of color afloat
in this otherwise colorless storefront, then strolled past
the choir of top-loaders and opened their lids,
leaving them open, each of them holding its breath
before singing, two dollars in quarters per song.

Read More

The Clipper Ship

By Ted Kooser

Featured art: Early Morning After a Storm at Sea by Winslow Homer

There was a cheaply framed clipper flying in full sail
over the sofa, and it leaned just a little into the glass
as if to look down on me lying there bored, and it carried
more sail than anything in Iowa. It looked as if some boy
had broken a lot of white cups and saucers and stacked up
the pieces, just so, so they wouldn’t fall off of the sill
of that window that opened onto a faraway sea, a sea
that the ship had only recently ripped open, revealing
the world’s white cotton lining. That overstuffed sofa
was heavy and brown like a barge, and it smelled like
the one suit in my grandfather’s closet, an angry blue
like the sea in the picture, and as I lay there, climbing
the main mast’s springy rigging onto a lofty spar
where I could look down on myself, I could see the sofa
slowly sinking, the carpet all patterned with flotsam
slapping against it, and I wondered, as one might wonder,
if the ship would ever arrive in time to save me, or if I,
hanging high in the rigging, would simply wave it on.
Read More

Hilltop Cemetery

Featured art: River Village in a Rainstorm by Lu Wenying

By Brendan Cooney

How many of you said,
“How I prayed for the day to pass quickly.”

How many said,
“I didn’t care about the result
even if I did achieve it.”

How many of you said,
“I dreamed of making them like me,
if only for my elevation of thought
and unmistakable wit.”

How many of you said,
“I was ridiculously exaggerating the facts,
but how could I help it?”

How many said,
“I could not control myself and
was already shaking with fever.”

Who said,
“Then followed three years of gloomy memories.”

Did anyone say,
“If it’s gonna be shame, bring it;
if it’s gonna be disgrace, I’ll take it;
if it’s gonna be degradation, welcome;
the worse it is, the better.”

How many of you said,
“Strangeness is not a vice.”

How many said,
“I needed a friend, so much.” Read More

Delectable Hazards at the Animal Dive

By Michael Chaney

Featured art: Chinese painting featuring two birds on a flowering tree branch

By the time the cow set down the samosas, covering the spot where he’d earlier hooved his name, Fox seemed different to Pig.

“Simply marvelous,” Pig said with an air, trying to play it off.

Fox coughed. “May I have more water?” Annoyance puckered her auburn snout.

“Not a problem,” said the cow. “Mind if I brag about our wines?”

“Please do, darling.” Fox had a lovey-dovey way of talking. To Pig, she was not so different from the elegant junk in herringbone patterns on the walls: bugles, radios, troughs, collars, toys, and white puffy gloves.

“I don’t drink,” Fox said, touching the waiter’s hoof. It was gentle. His bell never so much as whispered as she did it. Anyone else would have gotten a bray from all four of his stomachs, Pig was thinking, distracted by the samosas. Their crispy folds smuggled the aroma of mudzhki, the kind Pig’s grandsow used to make with cabbage and sweet layings. Read More

Experiment. Kathryn Cowles. Metal, treadmill, buttons, psychiatrists, the artist. 2014

By Kathryn Cowles

Featured art: Hawkin’s Machine for writing and drawing. 

I must be present in the gallery
7 hours a day 7 days a week
with 25 minutes for lunch.
Water is always available to me in a tube
extended from the ceiling.
I have bolted to the wall and floor behind me
long, thin iron spikes like the ones
in the dungeon of the castle in the film
with the handsome anthropologist
when the floor breaks away and he falls
and his length of rope, hastily tied
around his middle
is just shorter than
the distance to
the longest of the long spikes.
The psychologists in the corner
in the white coats and with their clipboards
are part of the art piece,
though they fancy themselves to be
conducting an experiment.

Read More

Heart 2. Kathryn Cowles. Mixed media (tuning forks, megaphones, windmill, catapult, volcano, bathtub, confettied heart, tissue-paper flowers, flamethrowers, pianos, etc.) 2014

By Kathryn Cowles 

I give the boot on a stick a push.
                                                          The boot circles round and kicks the light switch on, which, as the open bulb grows hot, melts the balloon full of red red paint, which drips down to fill up the glass precariously balanced until it tips over and breaks, tripping a wire on its way down,
                                                                                                                            and the wire sends a spoon attached to a little weighted car down a ramp, and the spoon hits against strategically placed tuning forks in different notes as it travels down, and the tuning forks are each pointed toward a red and white megaphone set at full volume, and the megaphones serve to amplify the little 12-note tune that I can’t get out of my head,
           and when the spoon car gets to the bottom of the ramp, it smacks into a striped target, which knocks a red bowling ball onto an oversized inflated black plastic bag, which releases its air into a long silver tube in a burst, causing the white canvas windmill at the other end of the tube to turn, which tips the wooden seesaw structure so that it releases its 1,000 one-inch rubber balls in various shades of red and pink and gray and black down a 25-foot wooden plank, and then into a metal chute, where they line up and twist and turn their way, roller-coaster-like, to the bottom of the track, picking up speed all the while,
                                                                                                                                                                   and at the bottom, they split into two tracks and collect in two separate tubs attached to two separate strings that will only pull once enough balls have accumulated in the tubs, given enough weight, one string attached to a trip wire attached to an oversized match, which quickly strikes against its measure of sandpaper and lights on fire, and the other string attached to the safety catch of a tightened, loaded bow above it,
                                                                                                                                                                   and the string slowly, slowly, as the waiting match burns down, as the tub fills with one-inch balls, slowly pulls at the safety catch until it, quite suddenly,
                                                                releases, letting loose the paraffin-soaked arrow, which passes through the flame of the oversized match and lights up as it shoots just feet above the heads of the seated spectators in the outdoor garden of the art museum, over, across the open space, grazing on the other side of the crowd a wick attached to the paraffin-soaked cardboard mannequin,
                                                                                                                                        which bursts into a flame that lights all the attached oversized sparklers from their shortened bases, and they burn in reverse, outward, and the mannequin sags, and the mannequin gets infinitesimally lighter, as the sparklers drop their ash to the ground and as the chemicals react and burn away, so that the enormous and sensitive scale holding the sparklered mannequin on one side becomes outweighed by the enormous pile of inflated red balloons on the platform on the other side of the scale and slowly lifts into the air,
                                                                                                                               and a metal ball rolls in a track along the edge of the platform and catches in a pocket on one end of a wooden plank,
                                                                                                                                                        causing the giant catapult full of red-dyed baking soda on the other end of the wooden plank to fling its contents in the air and, upon hitting the vat of red-dyed vinegar in the center of the giant papier-mâché model of a volcano, to bubble up over the edge and through a rugged papier-mâché channel painted to look like rock on the side of the volcano,
                            and the fake lava flows into a water wheel, which turns and turns, and the turning untwists a 50-foot length of rope from around a pole high above the crowd, out on the end of a crane,
                                                                                                                                                                    and the pole is attached to the side of a bathtub full of confetti made from hole-punching-to-pieces every letter or postcard you ever sent me every photograph I have of you every scrap of film every original thing every only-copy-that-exists and that might hurt to lose,
                                                                                         and the bathtub turns,
                                                                                                   and turns on its pole,
                                                                                                                       and upends its contents onto the crowd
as 12 pianos each tuned to a single note drop in succession,
                                                                                                         a literal kind of surround
sound,
          playing the little tune I can’t get out of my head,
                                                                                           as confetti cannons shoot red
tissue-paper flowers into the air,
                                                    as the tissue-paper flowers pass through the blaze
of the four flamethrowers, strategically placed,
                                                                                    as they light one after the other and burn completely to ash before landing gently and harmlessly alongside the confetti on the heads and shoulders of the crowd in the art museum garden 50 feet below. Read More

Cedar Waxwing, Late November

By John Hazard

Featured art: Flying magpies by Watanabe Seitei

In the crook of a bare maple branch
a lone cedar waxwing sits. I thought
they went south, but I guess not all, not yet.

There are big blue holes in the clouds today
and only a moderate chill, a day to be sociable—
and waxwings tend toward groups.

But there he sits, no berry calling him,
nor women, nor daring flights among thickets.
His high-pitched note is mute.
Read More

Topology

By Christine Gosnay

The universe expands understandably
because of its many edges, twisting

Its edges are everywhere and everywhere
are its edges

The cracked dial on the gas hob is the edge,
the blind kitten’s black ear,

All the earth’s hotbeaten glass, the belt
around my father’s neck,

And so forth, such as the limits of plotted expressions
and the cores of galaxies.
Read More

Yesterday, Northern Michigan, Interstate 75

By John Hazard

Featured art: Historic window detail, Port Huron, Michigan by Carol M. Highsmith

Four times today the bee has banged
his head against my window.
He wants erotic pollen and thinks
he smells it here, the indoor side of glass.

These days people say madness
is expecting something new
from old behavior. So this must be
a lunatic bee—bad wiring or bad parents,
the bad apple, the not-our-kind-of
bee. In the corner of my eye,
like a floater, but more sudden,
he breaks left and attacks the window,
throbbing with what he must have.
Read More

My Lifelong Relationship with God

Featured art: blurred photo of a church in a remote area

By Julie Hanson 

We have not spoken for nearly thirty years.
It’s difficult to remember the precise moment when something stops.
I tried to quit smoking so many times, for example,
that I don’t know the date of my success.
I still like the same sensations I did as a girl in the 1950s.
Sun on my shoulder, a breeze on the nape of my neck.
Pulling the cotton laces of canvas shoes tight to tie them.
Losing myself in the thicket of a book.
The way my torso and limbs and neck feel after swimming.
Stirring with a wooden spoon. Hearing the wooden spoon
against the side of the bowl. Yards that invite a body
to run down the hill. Things that fit together.

Read More

The Getaway

Featured art: Haverstraw Bay by Sanford Robinson Gifford

By Rebecca McClanahan

“Is that our car?” my mother asks. She has rolled her walker over to the window and is pointing to the Buick LeSabre parked outside their condo. I keep it there so that Dad can see it from his recliner, where he spends most of his days and evenings. He hasn’t driven for several years and never will again, but he likes knowing the car is there, likes sitting in the co-pilot seat when I take them for doctor appointments or Sunday drives. The Buick has rarely moved from the space in the three years since my husband and I relocated them from Indiana, to a condo twenty feet from our own. But each day is a new day for my mother; thus, the question, which she will keep asking until I answer.

“Yes, Mother. That’s your car.”

“Mine?” Her brown eyes light up, her eyebrows lift. “Yours and Dad’s.”

“Dad’s?”

“Paul’s, I mean.” Lately I’ve been trying to break my lifelong habit of calling my dad “Dad.” “Dad” only encourages her confusion: that her husband is her father, or sometimes her grandfather. No matter that her father has been dead nearly thirty years and her grandfather, over seventy. She still sometimes sets a place for them at the table, and worries when they’re late for dinner. Read More

Laundry

By Robert Cording

Featured art: The Bathing Hour, Chester, Nova Scotia by William James Glackens

This morning, doing the laundry,
smoothing collars and shirt plackets
before placing it all in the dryer,
I saw the ghost of my recently dead mother,
her red-capillaried face looking on
approvingly in the steam.

I didn’t expect to see her,
and some of this must be pretend,
but she was there, making a place for herself
over by the baskets, in the light
that fell through the windows
at an angle that never seemed to change.
Read More

At Milward Funeral Home, Lexington, KY

By Jeff Worley

Featured art: Bloemenzee by Theo van Hoytema

Someone has to identify the body.
The funeral facilitator, Jeanne,
gestures me into the room and clicks
the door shut behind me.

You finally got your wish,
I say to my mother.
She’s wearing a shade of lipstick
that unbecomes her, a subtle peach
she would have hated. Her face
is her face and of course is not,
her hair parted in the middle,
a new look. Her hands, composed
across her sternum, are the color
of parchment, skin thin as vellum.

I don’t stroke her arm. I don’t kiss
her forehead, as I thought I would.
Instead, I wonder, oddly, if the funeral
people use the same gorgeous quilt
that covers my mother now,
with its sunbursts and bluebirds,
for everybody. Read More

The Last Father Poem

By William Varner

Featured art: Design for a Heart-shaped Box by Noritake Factory

Only the spittle
of AM radio in your car
those few times we met,
a swinging air freshener,
cigarettes little twisted
arms in the ashtray.
The waitress in the diner
brought coffee
and checked on us
too many times,
her apron the color
of the dried mustard
near the cap.
And I’ve forgotten
where the cemetery is,
on which street I looked away
as Amish buggies slowed,
and the men took off their black hats,
held them to their chests,
and gave a short, sharp nod. Read More

Meditation On My 44th Birthday

By Jason Irwin

Before going for a walk, I open the day’s newspaper.
NASA releases detailed photos of Charon,
Pluto’s largest moon. In a marketplace in Diyala Province, Iraq,
a suicide bomber kills one hundred and twenty.
On this day in 1959, Billie Holiday died
handcuffed to her hospital bed. My horoscope
tells me I will be extremely serious and earnest
in my emotions, that I will suffer
from the ailments of birds.

                                        Hard to believe half of my life
is just some thing that used to be.

On my walk I stop at the corner of Maple
and Elm, watch the sun sink behind the station,
I think about Charon, orbiting Pluto, and the Charon
who ferried the souls of the dead to the underworld. Maybe
he delivered the people killed in the marketplace,
or Lady Day. Instead of a coin for passage
she sang Baby why stop and cling to some fading
thing that used to be. Her lilting voice trailing off
as they reached the far shore.

Read More

46 Years Old

By Karen Skolfied 

Featured art: Pine Tree by Giovanni Segantini

I’m not really sure how I got to 46.
If I think about it, I could probably
come up with a dozen years, two dozen
if I include sleep or staring into space
and one more year with worrying
about the wild flax and campion
which never once needed me to do
more than mow around them.
The rest of it, who knows.
I don’t have a smartphone.
I don’t do a ton of zesting.
I will admit, there were some books
along the way and a few parking tickets.
I voted. Oh, how I voted. Tracy, I’d say,
tell me who’s running for school board
and how to vote. And she’d tell me—
that took up more of the 46 years than
you’d think. Good grief, Tracy, I’d say.
Read More

Lunatic, Time

By Rachel Rinehart 

Featured art: Trees on a Rocky Hillside by Asher Brown Durand

Sometimes, seeking desperately the measure
of her weeks, she dresses now for church
on Tuesdays or Saturdays, slides sideways
into the slick interior of the Oldsmobile.

So familiar the route, the car seems to know it,
nosing its gentle way like some peculiar
land-bound fish, and she leans in its belly
as it makes its one wide turn before the church.

But dim, the sanctuary withholds its promise.
She sits in the pew, hymnal poised, waiting
for the organ to thunder out
of its immaculate, peepless slumber.
Read More

Sometimes the Mother Eats Her Young

Winner, New Ohio Review Nonfiction Contest
selected by Phillip Lopate

By Rachel Cochran

I. Snakes

My parents divorce when I’m five, maybe six, at which point Mom takes the three of us and leaves the state, sardine-packs the whole (broken) family unit into the spare room of her parents’ place in Dallas, where she learns a new routine. Works at an ice cream shop. Avoids the kitchen phone when Dad calls each Saturday morning at 9:00. Cries most nights. (We learn to sleep over it.) She dates around, first a guy named Laslie, who takes us to the rodeo, and whose apartment I walk into one day to find that he’s napping naked on the couch. It’s the first naked man I’ve ever seen in person, and it strikes me that the space between his legs looks strangely melted, folded, mottled pink like ground meat. There’s another guy named Andy, the recently divorced brother of my grandparents’ across-the-street neighbor. Andy takes us to a theme park, gives us a day full of sweat and sky and sticky candy. Days later, in the toy aisle of a Family Dollar, my sister shakes a Magic 8-Ball, still in its packaging, and asks it, “Is Mom going to marry Laslie?”

Don’t count on it.

“Is Mom going to marry Andy?”

It is certain.

She marries Andy when he asks, and we follow him down to the Gulf, pile into a spare room at his parents’ place this time, even smaller than the first one (We learn to take up less space.) Read More

There Was a Young Woman With Cancer

By Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Featured art: In the Spirit of Hoffmann by Paul Klee

With each remission she’d take it up again,
her search for proof her great love Edward Lear
was influenced by the Irish poet Mangan,
and while we weeded she would bend my ear
with her latest evidence: an owl here,
elsewhere a pussycat or a beard, a wren.
I was polite, but it was pretty thin.
There was one word, though,
some nonsense confabulation that occurred
in Mangan first, so odd that it could not
be accident. Then cancer, like a weed
we’d missed, some snapped-off root or dormant seed.
The last cure killed her. I would give a lot
to be able to recall that word.

Read More

Ode to Texting

By Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Featured art: Gray landline telephone on a wooden wall by Markus Spiske

Blowdart,
breath-message,
needle so fine
you penetrate even
the defensive hide
of sons,
excite reply.

In yourself
innocent,
language gnat,
midge,
mosquito,
but driving
distracted herds
over death cliffs.

The phone call
is a drunk uncle
barging in,
uninvited,
to slump
on the sofa,

and even e-mail
is a volume
of Trollope
for an elevator ride, while you
are a wife’s light hand
on the sleeve
mid-party,
two words
barely suspending
the conversation. Read More

And Another Thing

By Gregory Djanikian

Featured art: Still Life with Violin by William Harnett

Such dislike for the woman who’s come late
to the concert making our whole row rise just
as the tenor sax hits its high E-flat and now
she’s sitting next to me and texting—my god!—
during the drummer’s lithe percussive
rhythms which are not my rhythms judging
by my heavy foot beats and my fingers
bending into little arcs of stone and I’m thinking
of some way to annihilate her phone invisibly
maybe with a squint of my eye and how lovely
to imagine the stark O of her mouth
her pretty hands holding nothing but the air
I allow her to breathe O most merciful zapper
that I’ve become father-confessor for all her sins
committed impending unthought-of
her stubborn knees bent to the spectacle
of my very unblind justice which I’d like to take
on tour now-and-then accosting scofflaws
speedsters unholy maître d’s smug
people of all sorts and let’s not forget
the dry cleaner who’s ruined my favorite shirt
through some occult chemical mishap
and of course this woman sitting next to me
whose soft knit-covered ribs I’m trying hard
not to jab my elbow into but she’s smiling now
as if she’d rather be here than anywhere else
riffing with the pianist moving her hips in time
Read More

You Are My Sunshine

By Alpay Ulku

Featured art: Landscape by Paul Nash

We’re in the Taqueria Uptown. People are eating, or gazing out of windows, or talking to each other. The food is delicious and the coffee hot and fresh. A man walks in with a cheap guitar and pleads for our attention, then fumbles through three mangled songs.

You can hear the pain in his voice. If he were drowning in Lake Michigan, he would flail and grab the lifeguard in a bear hug.

How much do we owe this guy, who’s interrupted us at dinner? What is it we owe each other? Nothing at all?

Bless you all, I hope I’ve brought some sunshine to our lives. He looks around. All that playing has made me hungry for a nice steak taco.

Everyone tenses and ignores him.

It’s my dream to be a paid musician.

Read More

On Rereading Madame Bovary at Forty

By Erin Redfern

Featured art: The Book of Light by Odilon Redon

Finally we got to read a book
with a woman’s name––your name.
One of the greats, our teacher said.

At fifteen I could not scorn
your far-flung, dark-horse longings.
I saw in you a girl like me seeking

something big as love.
I didn’t know you were Gustave’s
femme mâché, surrogate

for bourgeois greed, excuse
for risqué docudrama,
trumped-up thing riffling open

for anyone’s leisure.
And did he put some body
English on you! Your dainty

feet, your frothy knickers,
your India-ink eyes––
wordless telegraphs

vaulting everyone’s crumbling
moral breastwork.
He made you, mistress,

delectable, then grilled you
over an open flame
of quick trysts and heartbreak. Read More

Happiness

By Daniel Arias-Gomez

Sometimes it sneaks up on me, as I look out the window
of a bus, for example, and see a woman in huaraches running
in the rain—her right arm waving, her left
hand pulling a boy, a backpack bumping
against his shoulders. The woman opens
her mouth, but I only hear rain
against the glass—a black braid lashes
her neck, and from her arm
dangle two mesh bags with a plaid pattern
woven out of strands of plastic and filled with vegetables, beans, rice. My mother
used those same bags when we went to the market on Sundays. One day
she bought me a bag all for myself, the same
as hers but smaller, in which I dropped
tangerines, peanuts, mazapanes, as I followed her
through market stalls. The bus driver sees
the woman and the boy in time
and stops—her face loosens, and she smiles,
and her smile takes in all the rain
and all the mud on the street and on her huaraches, and she turns
to the boy and says
something to him,
and he smiles back. Read More

A Brief History of Hunger

By Mary Jo Firth Gillett

Up from the mire of the primordial soup
came one-celled, tiny cavernous bits
whose innards knew a hollow ache only cured
when their shape-shifting borders engulfed
smaller bits, and came a world more complicated,
the paramecium with its oral groove,
the surprising planaria—nick its frontispiece
and the split becomes two hungry heads!—
then came, as ever, competition begetting variation,
to move or not to move, that was the question—
whether it was more propitious to see
with eyes multitudinous or on stalks or both,
whether it was better to be safely anchored,
waiting in camouflage, or to mount an assault,
evolution’s choices simple, almost biblical—seek
and ye shall find or lurk with bait in the hope that all
will come to him who waits, and then came
specialized beaks and teeth, fanciful horns
and coloration prompting procreation,
as well as a multitude of eating adaptations—
the water bird’s fused nostrils, air sacs in head and neck
to absorb impact as the feathered darts, pillaging
angels, plummet—and came homo sapiens with a myriad
of tastes and ways to cook—sear and braise, sauté
and soufflé, pickle and brine—came table manners, the urge
to gorge, to purge, came sorbet and gourmet, foods
delectable and indigestible, epicurean delights, food fights,
and all the ravenous mouths of tomorrow and tomorrow. Read More

The Oregon Trail

By Corey Van Landingham

Featured art: Wooden fence with two black buffaloes by Markus Spiske

When my first boyfriend’s mother died of breast cancer, I spoke with him on the cordless, from the bathtub, trying to console him. He was calm in his grief, and I broke his heart soon after. A cruelty only vaguely acceptable at fourteen. A week before we had snuck out, in the middle of the night, and driven up the snaking mountain roads of southern Oregon. Toward what? Toward something. We could feel a pull all around us, the silence in the woods, the ghosts of the Shasta people passing below our windows.

What did we know of love? Across the screen, in the dark computer labs of our youth where we played The Oregon Trail on our soon-to-be-extinct Apple II computers, love was entering in the names of those you wanted to take with you, west, toward the promised land. We could all begin a new life together, if we purchased the right supplies. Unless we were in a particularly harsh environment, we knew to conduct a brief funeral. Here lies Laura. We wrote epitaphs across the virtual tombstones before continuing down the trail. Read More

Evening With Little Comfort

By Caitlin Vance

Featured art: Heron in snow by Ohara Koson

8 p.m. and an even-ing out of the world’s darkness
I’d like to escape. I take comfort in headlights,

phone screens, a busy lawyer’s lamp still on
through the office window. Small resistances

to night’s tyranny. I take comfort in a heavy glass
filled with ice which catches glimmers of light

like wedding rings. There’s comfort in walking down the sidewalk
where matches flicker and last season’s tinsel hangs

on tree branches in a shop window, there’s comfort
in the glitter painted on the eyelids of a drunk woman,

and the voices of strangers saying look at that moon.
At home I lure a firefly in through my window.

My green-eyed cat chases it and scrapes her teeth
against its little light-bulb tail, so all that’s left

to flicker are her eyes and mine and not
the firefly’s tiny dead eyes, gone dark.

My cat goes to sleep. I climb into bed, lower
my eyelids, burn out my last little lamps, surrender. Read More

Where the Stars Are Hived

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest
selected by Rosanna Warren

By James Lineberger 

Featured art: Beautiful woman portrait from Messiah by Samuel Johnson, LL.D

That Saturday, when The ABC’s
of Beekeeping arrived UPS,
he was already a very sick man, survivor
of several major surgeries, all of which were
successful, within limits, but what
could they do, all those
doctors and technicians, to halt the inevitable, which
he knew, of course, we all do, even in those
moments of temporary triumph
when we feel we have won something or other, when
that dratted parathyroid thing
gets plucked and dropped in the bucket, the scar artfully
hidden in a crease of skin, or the triple bypass pains have subsided
and become one of those historical blips
on the mind-screen, these and all the others
will have taken their toll, but when the book arrived
he was nonetheless grateful, knowing full well
he would never get around to the bees or a score
of other projects, but the pride was still there, and some
stubborn sense of accomplishment Read More