New Ohio Review Issue 26 (Originally printed Fall 2019)

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 26 compiled by Julia Smarelli

Sad Rollercoaster

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.


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The Men at Snowbowl Teaching Their Daughters to Ski

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
?

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Lisbon Haibun

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.


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The Summer Before Your Birth

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


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Keeping Warm

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;

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From a great height

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.

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Goodly the Sum

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.

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Virga

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.

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Coyotes

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.

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What If We Wake Up Dead

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      when the house is sold
where will we go      when the house is sold
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   like a father      you get up only to leave the room
what if   like a mother      I speak only in other rooms
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 I drive away         what is good
what   if I drive away         into a tree
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
what      if the kids could see us
what      if the kids become us
what      if the kids inherit everything


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Valentine

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.

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You Once Felt Gigantic

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.

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Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning

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.

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Until We Do

By Sydney Lea
Feature image: Flight of the Magnolia, 1944 by Paul Nash

we’re visitors here of course
we live out our precious stories
imagine they’re legacies
until we don’t anymore
we settle for anecdotes

we shuffle along but behave
all the while as if we were dancing
or acting some crucial part
until we don’t that is
we assume we’re safe at home

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Note to My First Wife

By Steven Cramer
Feature image: The Convalescent, 1918-19 by Gwen John

We leased a two-story coloring book.
The peonies our neighbor planted

between our recto and her verso
turned out plastic to the touch.

She even kept them watered: pretty
funny, like the niblets we bought

in white cans named NO NAME.
But it’s the moon who found us

really hilarious that night—naked,
well-oiled from head to foot—

we swam across Lake MacBride.
No memories of you in snow . . .

I assume you sleep as I do, more
or less. When I can’t, can’t you?

Ginkgo trees canopied our one-
way street, no address to GPS.

Stopped for geese at Fresh Pond,
or the news on mute, I hear you,

also turned down low, say don’t
bother wondering if I’m dead. I do.


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The Flash

By Jennifer Givhan

My 11-yr-old son has forgotten not to eat on my bed            He loves watching The Flash
from my room with the widest windows, the warmest place in our house each winter,

& with the coneflower warmth of his brown skin veiled in his bright red suit, he tucks
his kinky curls under the cap & ghosts from room to room undetected, sneaking

cookies            till I climb beside him into piles of crumbs            You’re grounded I echo
& he is sobbing            but what he says catches

the pit of wax burning always inside me            We got him
into special ed classes last year after years of fighting with teachers & breakdowns

over homework & his father yelling You’ve got to learn to listen            & I kept insisting
he’s trying, he just doesn’t understand             & here he slides onto my floor,

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Promised Lands

By Christie Tate
Feature image: Sunset over a Pond, c. 1880 by François-Auguste Ravier

I.

The first time I walked into Grandma’s church, I was a little girl in white Stride Rite leather sandals and a pale yellow dress with a sash. The First Baptist Church of Forreston, Texas. There was no parking lot, so Grandma, like a dozen others, steered her big blue Chevy off the road into the grass in front of the sign welcoming all worshippers.

The white clapboard building looked like the school-church from Little House on the Prairie. Simple wooden porch with four steps. Plain white steeple. Two long skinny windows. Our regular church in Dallas was three times larger, had bells that chimed every hour, and its thick walls held colorful stained glass depicting Jesus carrying the cross, falling, dying.

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Failing to Master the Art of Erasure

By Wendy Taylor
Feature image: Blue Horse I, 1911 by Franz Marc

I’m at the Museum of Fine Arts
in Boston, drawn to Degas’
Racehorses at Longchamp. I remember
the first time you left a message
on my answering machine, mumbled
your soft voice, said, I’m in the mood
to go to the horse races tonight.
A thing
I knew only from the Pomona County
Fair as a child where Grandpa lost our
dinner money and Grandma fell down. On
our date, we arrive before the 9th race, empty
lot, attendants gone, the turnstile jammed,
you jump over, I duck under. You dig a Daily
Racing Form from a Coke–spilled trash bin,
scrape up losing tickets off the cement. We sit
at a table with TV monitors, gloomy lights, no
view, no stands, no night air or dusty moon,
no romance, just stray cats licking nacho
cheese off chips, old men in torn fedoras
with dead faces and nicotine-washed fingers.
Today, I think of how your friends and I meant
to secretly scatter your ashes over the turf
after your memorial service, to let you rest
while the ponies and the trotters kept pace.
But I couldn’t give you up to the earth
or take you out of the race yet, and even now
through this oil on canvas, I can hear
you say, Put me on the favorite, baby.
You can’t win it, if you aren’t in it.

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Throwing Rocks

By Wendy Taylor

After my husband died, my dad drove my
2 1⁄2-year-old son to the lake at Tri-City
Park to feed the ducks and throw rocks. Voices
of carefree children on swings and slides nearby
didn’t interest my pensive boy. And though
he feared the wild geese at the lake’s edge,
my dad said, He just needs something to throw
across the dark waters. So, my dad bought big
buckets of rocks from Home Depot, sat
patient for hours while my son reached
into the orange container, indiscriminate
about which rocks would take the journey
across the surface of the black rippled
liquid. They each had their lonely airborne
moment, as he frowned, flung his arm back
and released, and released, and released.


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At Sixty-Two

By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Old Woman Seated by Honoré Daumier 

Looking at my X-ray, the doctor
says my hips resemble
those of an eighty-year-old woman.

Weeks later, when I huff into a tube
to blow out virtual birthday candles,
my allergist mentions
with what seems smug satisfaction
that my lungs whistle
like an eighty-year-old woman’s.

O hypothetical eighty-year-old woman—
you skeletal model
walking the hospital runway
in this year’s open-assed robe,
blue dots on cotton—
how do you like being the It Girl of Mortality,

archetype of: You are nearly nothing?

Read More

Liberal Father

By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Mahna no Varua Ino (The Devil Speaks), 1894/1895, Paul Gauguin

He sits in thinned Hanes, reading
The New Republic, one leg crossed over the other—
picking at a flaked green toenail,
some rot caught in the steaming air
during amphibious assault on Guadalcanal.

And on weekends under wraiths of blue smoke,
he visits with his buddies—
men in striped bell-bottoms and afros,
women with long noses and gypsy earrings,
French professors from the university—
organizing for the first farmworker for Congress,
the first black man for president, the next Kennedy.

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Silbar

By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Hope, 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistants

means whistle. A Spanish word
that sounds like silver
in the air, a little bird’s song
Oh My Dear. Oh My Dear.
Every year, the first time I hear
that smooth silbato,
it’s the first day of fall, a sparrow
with a small stripe lining its eye,
passing through
with the dying days
when the golden apple’s skin
feels softer than in summer,
a little more honey.
Oh My Dear. Little girl,
this is how it begins—
school, getting up early, not knowing
what you’re in for,
what your friends will do to you,
what you’ll do to them,
what being one year older
will mean in the world
of a girl. What to fear
and what to hope for.

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16 Days of Glory

By Jill Rosenberg

After our parents left for Vermont, Ruby and I spent most of our time waiting for the Olympics. The world is coming to Los Angeles! the commercials told us, and the announcer’s tone was so excited and serious it seemed to imply that every American should prepare.

That summer was going to be a turning point for our family. We were in the final stages of a move to rural Vermont, where my parents were rebuilding a house they planned to have ready by the start of the school year. Once the house was inhabitable, even barely so, we’d all move in and complete the finishing touches as a family. We’d already chosen the stencils we’d use on the walls in each of our bedrooms. Mine was going to be silver, turquoise, and black.

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Pollution

By Amelie Meltzer
Feature image: Landscape, Sunset, 1886/1887 by George Inness

The sun sets red through clouds of ash
made of normal stuff, like trees and brush, but
also bedroom walls, Persian rugs, winter clothes, LEGOs,
maybe the family dog.

At a safe distance from the actual disaster,
we cough and small-talk about wind patterns, particulate counts.
It’s everyone’s opening line on Tinder, something like,
“I’ve got an extra N95 mask waiting for that special someone ;-)”

Read More

Meg Francis

By Kate Sweeney
Feature image: Madonna, 1895 by Edvard Munch

threw a dead groundhog on my porch
the night after I stole her boyfriend.

My mother called the cops and the officer
knocked at its gut with his boot and blood drooled

from a bullet hole. That’s some good aim,
he said. Tell your daughter to watch out.

Years later, I tell this to a former student of mine
as we lay in bed, a Czech twenty-something

with a secret girlfriend in Prague.
Hanna, moje milovat—which he whispered

into his phone—was not hard to Google Translate.
I imagined how she could die. A slip down the stairs,

a misstep in front of the city bus. Rat poison is sweet,
the bottle under the sink whispered. Do not ingest.

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Love as Invasive Species

By Ellen Kombiyil
Feature image: Spider Art by Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)

“And beyond the empty cage, a bedroom; and beyond a bedroom, the wood boards,
beams, and floors holding the shape of the house; and beyond the house, a yard.”
—from Jorge Luis Borges’ mislaid manuscript, Labyrinthian Architectures,
a book that has been wished into existence

The day the tarantula escaped, my uncle
joked, “The cage is empty.” He said it over cornflakes—
the rock fallen off, the mesh lid mysteriously askew.

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Twilite Motel and Lounge

By Mark Kraushaar
Feature image: Still Live with Bottles, 1892 by Roderic O’Conor

Donny Banya does the room repairs or
when he isn’t buzzed he does.
I’m the night clerk.
Alma runs the bar—plus she’s an artist.
Big John, the owner, does the books
and walks around and plans big changes
to the parking lot and ground-floor Men’s.
There’s other staff but tonight
it’s just the three of us, or four including John
who is dozing on the sofa by the magazines,

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A Letter to My Former Employer One Week After My Untimely Death

By Nancy Miller Gomez
Feature image: I Am the Abyss and I Am Light, 1928 by Charles Sims

My house cleaner passed away last week . . .
need to find someone new . . . Prefer someone
who charges by the hour . . . Bob 831-435-648
posted on social networking site Nextdoor

Dear Bob, Perhaps you’ve noticed the smell
of cinnamon and sweet rice drifting through
your kitchen at night. So when the ice melting
in your second glass of gin begins
to sound like a woman singing “El Cantante,”
you’ll know. It’s me.

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Suspensions

By Claire Bateman
Feature image: Devil’s Bridge on the St Gotthard Road, 1781 by Christian Georg Schütz the Elder

After you’ve braved the glass bridge, the ice bridge,
the gauze bridge, the cobweb bridge, the steam bridge, and
the bridge of molted breath,

you’ll experience the opaque bridge as nothing
but vertigo, collapse, desolation,

and will have to be coaxed, dragged, carried
to the opposite side.


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Soda Money

By Emily Johns-O’Leary
Feature image: Little Walter’s Toys, 1912 by August Macke

Edison was allowed to spend one-third of his monthly spending money on manatee merchandise, but it usually came to about half. His mother was a marine biologist, and Edison had seen a photograph in one of her magazines when he was six and couldn’t stop looking at the manatee’s bloated snout and flippers like gray oven mitts pinned to the balloon of its body. He was thirty- one now and bought his own nature magazines to look for more pictures, more patient expressions on the floating creatures. Their eyes seemed to want to listen only to him.

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