By Jared Harél
Feature image: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, c. 1805 by William Blake
My daughter’s in the kitchen, working out death.
She wants to get it. How it tastes and feels.
Her teacher talks like it’s some great, golden sticker.
Her classmates hear rumors, launch it as a curse
when toys aren’t shared. Between bites of cantaloupe,
she considers what she knows: her friend’s grandpa lives only
in her iPad. Dr. Seuss passed, but keeps speaking
in rhyme. We go to the Queens Zoo and spot the beakish skull
of a white-tailed deer tucked between rocks
in the puma’s enclosure. It’s just for show, I explain,
explaining nothing. That night, and the one after,
my daughter dreams of bones, how they lift
out of her skin and try on her dresses. So silly! she laughs,
when I ask if she’s okay. Then later, toward the back-end
of summer, we head to Coney Island to catch
a Cyclones game. We buy hot dogs and fries. A pop fly arcs
over checkerboard grass, when flush against the horizon
she sees a giant wooden spine, a dark blossom,
this brownish-red maze all traced in decay. She calls it
Sad Rollercoaster, then begs to be taken home.
By Henrietta Goodman
Feature image: Mount Monadnock, probably 1911/1914 by Abbott Handerson Thayer
The first one is half a couple, young, their daughter
four or five in pink snow pants and a pink flowered
coat. They’re stopped at the top of the last long run,
skis wedged sideways. She’s made it this far, and now
she’s wailing I can’t do it I can’t do it I don’t want to—
Almost everyone pauses before this sheer slope
gleaming in late-afternoon sun, this almost-vertical
descent that someone named Paradise. She’s sobbing
I can’t do it and her father says What do you need?
Do you need some fish? Do you need some T. Swift?
By Melissa Oliveira
Fall in the Alfama district, and all the bright skirts float down the city’s aston-
ishment of hills. The surprise of verticality, the step-polished marble underfoot,
the sun reflecting up, and I am always already sliding, or else just about to
slide. I claw at the shopkeeper’s rack of postcards, pause to watch the lipsticked
London women in the glissade of new wedges with untried soles, to read the
graffitied stucco wall: pura poeta. Not all of us who fall seem to mind; only
yesterday, in a splintered tram, I stood behind a stern German who lost her grip
around a turn. When she caught herself, the stoic control of her face opened
into joy, her blue eyes dancing as she swung herself on the metal rail. When I
tried to meet her smile with my own, hers vanished. I moved to the rear to dis-
embark, the sudden brake shoving me into a sturdy old man who laughed and
asked me something in a tongue I do not speak, though the message was clear.
Listen, maybe falling is why we come here at all. Only the dark-eyed man in his
fine suit—he wore your face, uncle, looked the age you were when you died—
knew how to control the fall: loosen the knees, shift the body’s gravity forward,
and never trust the temptation to lean back. Remember: only the dead are so
surefooted they will never fall again. On the stucco wall, someone changed the
words overnight to puta poeta; as I notice it, I feel again the shift of my sole, the
tightening of muscles and think, for a flash, of the sacred duty of those still in
warm and breathing flesh: to always be falling, and willing to fall for the world.
My bag’s contents all around, the act of picking stones from the palm’s soft
flesh—this, too, is holy. And with my knees on the cobbles, I look up
An ancient woman
clips the wash to the clothesline.
Crimson lace, floating.
By Christine Fraser
Feature image: The Yellow Curtain, c. 1893 by Edouard Vuillard
–after Sharon Olds
our girl we’ll tell you how it was then
how the lake spread out to the east of us
how we sailed out on it tacking and jibing
learning to round the marks
how we walked miles under skyscrapers
we could see no end we could have gone anywhere
a year later the city collapsed
down to our three rooms
all was the rocking and the crying
a bowl of black cherries
water in the tub
billowing yellow curtains
how quickly the city spun down
to you between us in our bed
By Faith Shearin
Feature image: Seated Woman with Legs Drawn Up (Adele Herms), 1917 by Egon Schiele
That first winter after you vanished
into the white rafters
of the afterlife the old boyfriends returned
in texts and letters, one close enough
to walk with me beside a fast river
in the snow; these were the men I loved
when I was young and now I was alone
so they came looking for me or I
called out with a sound between
a howl and a bark and they replied;
I wasn’t sure what I wanted
from them, or what they
wanted from me, but I was grateful
for their attention and for the way
they could still remember me standing
in the corridors of the past,
under apple blossoms, where
they spoke to me in whispers and
unfastened my loneliness; I was trying to learn
how to be a woman without you.
One reminded me of how he undressed me
under a Steinway piano during a power outage;
By Natalie Taylor
Feature image: Dead Thrush, 16th Century by unknown artist
I find the baby quail blown
from its nest after an early summer
storm. Scoop the feathered dots
and stripes. Mom feeds it antibiotics
mixed with wet dog food on a toothpick.
It tilts its head to one side,
dark eye watching my face
as my sisters and I pray during
the procedure. Since I am the eldest,
I am put in charge.
By Julie Hanson
Feature image: Dynamic Suprematism, 1915 or 1916 by Kazimir Malevich
We may intend well at the outset and persist
but much that happens
happens of its own accord.
We may awaken one day with but one bean left
but much that happens happens of its own accord.
You can set yourself right;
you can self-correct.
I have been changed greatly by things I have read.
By Joyce Schmid
Feature image: Rain Clouds Approaching over a Landscape, 1822-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner
Driving to the baseball game on Highway 101,
we looked at cloudbanks, stacked in bands
from west to east, and in between
were cloud-threads dangling down as if the layers
had been torn apart—
and this was virga—
rain that formed but couldn’t reach the earth,
like words that evaporate as they come to mind.
By Beth Marzoni
Feature image: Summer by Joseph Rubens Powell
& that restlessness
I barely registered
as a child, that we outran
or tried to, now & then,
the mountain roads,
Mom & me,
& in the mouth
By Terri Leker
Feature image: Forest in the Morning Light, c. 1855 by Asher Brown Durand
The coyotes moved into the woods behind my house just after I learned I was pregnant. On a quiet June morning, while my husband slept, I pulled on my running shoes and grabbed a leash from a hook at the back door. Jute danced around my feet on her pipe-cleaner legs, whining with impatience. It would have taken more than this to wake Matt, but I hushed her complaints with a raised finger and we slipped outside. A light breeze blew the native grasses into brown and golden waves as we wandered, camouflaging Jute’s compact frame. She sniffed the dirt, ears telescoping as though she were asking a question. When we reached a shady thicket of red madrones and live oaks, I unclipped the leash and wound it around my wrist.Read More
By Jennifer Sperry Steinorth
what if we plant roses beside the shed
what if we paint the living room a muddy incarnadine
what if you go on a diet
what if we go to Paris
what if the dog’s ghost follows us
where will we go
what if we try talking
what if I could be nice
what if we have to move in with your mother
what if we could be honest about the weather
what if we redo the kitchen and you become a pastry chef
what if we move to Phoenix
what if I smash the Lennox
what if we cross our hearts
what if we make applesauce
what if you become what killed your father
what if I can’t forgive what killed your father
By Susan Browne
Featured image: Couple on a Cot, c. 1874-1877 by John Singer Sargent
I once walked past a man on February 14th
who was peeing on a window display,
teetering on his tiptoes & bent backward
aiming at the word love written in red curlicues.
Robins fat as cupids watched from the hedges.
At the end of the block I had to look again, too.
He was still going at it like an acrobat or a camel.
By Jonathan Greenhause
Feature image: Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, 1888/1891 by Albert Pinkham Ryder
but are presently a grain of sand
buried at the bottom of the sea, a fly on the windowpane
of a once-sacred mosque lost in the heart of Christianity.
Your glorious achievements
are scribbled footnotes on pages ripped from ancient tomes
no one will ever read, your manifestos mistaken for satires,
dismissed as innocuous, as too eager to please.
Your rightful place in history
has been repeatedly plowed under, the dates of your birth & death
erased to make room for more pressing memories.
By Elton Glaser
Feature image: The Simoniac Pope, 1824-7 by William Blake
I pay my sin tax
On cigarettes and booze, keeping afloat
The pious aspirations of Ohio.
A good smoke will corrupt the lungs
Just as sweetly as
London gin will weaken the liver.
There’s always a tangle of implications
That riff on the ineffable
And the strange banquets of the flesh.
I’m posting these dispatches to you
From my little boondock of the damned,
Eking out my last days
Among the living dead of the heartland,
The frightened corn farmers
And all those overdosed on drugs or Jesus,
Dope brewing in a duplex
Where the kids sleep in crusty diapers
And dogs wheeze on the fumes,
Three doors down from smalltown messiahs
Who vote against the liquor license
And for the blowhards and the jackboot.