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By Theresa Burns
Featured Art by Robert Jacob Gordon
And now, instead of staring at the weeds
and broken bottles from the train platform,
we’re taking in a scene from a Monet.
Asters, cosmos, little yellow fists
of something. All random and confetti.
I’m half expecting a lady in a high-waist
dress and bonnet to appear on a diagonal
stroll through its splendor, pausing
with her parasol so we can selfie with her.
Maybe she’ll hop aboard the light rail
to the Amtrak station, get off in D.C.,
step back into the painting she escaped from.
Who was the genius who thought of this?
What meadow-in-a-can Samaritan
got sick of passing the four-acre eyesore
on the way to work? Shook pity into blossom.
To whom do I write my thank you?
Mayor, surveyor, county clerk, church lady.
Who marched down to city hall, begged
anyone who would listen?
By Jessica Pierce
Featured Art by Pieter Holsteyn
The female in particular seems worthy.
She carries mud in her jaws to make her nest
one mouthful at a time, setting up
in a crevice or a corner. One egg,
one chamber. One egg, one chamber.
It’s better to keep them apart, as larvae don’t
know the difference between food and
a brother or a sister. They aren’t wicked,
just young and hungry. She has pirate
wasps to battle—they want her young
to feed their own offspring—and she does this
alone, drinking flower nectar to keep
herself going. Let’s just try
and see what happens when we raise up
this winged thing who will hover by your feet
without attacking. Covered with dense golden
hair and sometimes described as singing while
she works, all she wants is bits of damp dirt.
She has a slender thorax and two thin
sets of wings to carry her and
her earth. She is exactly strong enough
for what she needs to do. She doesn’t burn
or proclaim or fill your head with visions
as she hunts crab spiders and orb
weavers and black widows. Yes, let’s ask
her to pray for us as she stings
a black widow, brings it to its knees,
and sets off to feed her children,
singing as she holds up the world.
By Chris Greenhalgh
I want a punchbag hung in my office and / people to hear the first thump straight
after they leave. / I want you to call me. I want the linctus with / the double action
that both soothes my throat and / brings back memories of a time when I was loved.
/ I want the road below me, the sun above me / and beside me, you. I want to wipe
the legend / “You Will Die” spelled backwards from the bathroom mirror / each
morning as I brush my teeth. I want you / to drive while I change gears. I want my
life story / voiced by William Shatner. I want a belle dame / with plenty of merci.
I want a view of the sea. / I want the future with you and me in it. / I want my
doctor not to have a personalized / number plate. I want my coffee hot, my mattress
/ hard and my maps beautiful rather than useful. / I want small hard bits of chocolate
snapped off. / From mind, I want world. From lips, I want the madness / of kissing.
I want to know where businesses / end and scams begin. I want to confuse salesmen
/ by offering more than the asking price. I want to / stand in an elevator shaft
of rainfall / and look up into the light. I want to know where / you were last night.
I want this confederacy / of selves dismantled and slowly made whole again.
By Liz Breazeale
Featured art by Nsey Benajah
The first ghost stepped out of the ocean in the summer, shimmering and hazy with captured light. We saw the age in her body, moving as though still burdened by a vast and lonely sea. Her wrinkles like the finest, most fragile spiderwebs we’d ever destroyed.
She came to rest on a foamy lip of shore. Her outline was set and static, her insides swirling, misty, full of translucent opals spun in an ancient hand. We realized later that every ghost was different in texture, but only when we couldn’t count them anymore, when they’d packed themselves across the sand.Read More
By Connie Zumpf
Featured art by Callie Gibson
You’ve seen it.
That slight shudder of shadow
on the fringe of your vision.
The thing you think you might have seen
while reading Proust at night.
By Justin Danzy
like Damon did, run clear across the Gulf until the second transplant slows
you, like Dave until the glaucoma sat him down, Janice
ran to the islands to evade it but a hurricane got her, Kim never made it south
of Baltimore, and Anthony, he tried to trick it, changed his name
so it couldn’t find him though it still did, Cordia Jean turned to the bottle
instead of facing it, Beulah stayed put and dared it to come
get her, cost Fred his legs if nothing else, Howard’s eyes went and
it came quick after that, same with Virginia once her mind tapped out,
Mac tried to sue it away but that got him nowhere, P learned to sing to
try to seduce it, Cherry, she just cursed it and called it a day,
Jacques wrote his own Bible and claimed authority over it, Luck served it peach
cobbler as a peace offering, better than Brian, who turned and ran back straight
into it, did it twice actually, he looked it dead in its eye
and charged until running felt like fleeing no longer
By Allison Elliott
Featured art by Edward Penfield
That cat on the corner, drowsy in the arms
of a sleepy-eyed woman. That cat knows something.
You’ve indulged several seasons of vague forecasts,
now you’re playing bad cop with the weather.
A traffic light changes before you’ve finished crossing,
What can that mean? What future portend?
You pass a two-seater buggy with only one baby. Make
a note of it. It might come up later.
The drunk who yells all night under your window
was gone three days, now he’s back.
The Spanish lullaby on the radio,
the eyelash in your lemon tea.
Star witnesses with nothing to tell you.
And they were your whole case.
By Emily Alexander
friends I am not in love these days I wait
for the bus when it’s cool enough
I bake little treats in muffin tins for fun
I say sea urchin squash blossom
vacuous oh no I’m afraid
I don’t know
what this means and many others the usual
fears plus some uniquely mine balloons popping
in a small room needing immediately
a tooth pulled in a city I’m only visiting strange
coffee shops parking lots
I’m not sure
the rules here maybe these are
usual after all I don’t mean what I say
always what’s the difference these days
before going anywhere I out loud
say phone wallet keys
yesterday I said it and still
forgot all I needed then from the freeway
the ocean right there among everything oh
friends I’m just undone you know
what I mean truth is these days I find myself
of rage other times beer sitting with Halle
on her bedroom floor what’s new
oh man did you hear
about whoever I’m hungry are you
a little flimsy
drunk now the city rumors its width around us
and sometimes over it we just say
very quietly yeah
By David J. Bauman
Featured art by Édouard Manet
When we stepped up into the bus that shuttled us
from car to hospital, she was talking to the man in
the overcoat and fedora. But at the next stop,
he stood up, tipped his hat and clambered down the steps.
Her smile made me think of plums, though barely a brush
of rouge on her cheeks. She wore a heavy, old-woman’s wrap-
around, like a blanket with buttons, tugged about her like a fur
stole. The bus lurched forward, and she turned toward the lady
By John Moessner
Featured art from rawpixel.com
It contained home movies where he wore
goggle-sized glasses, a toweled shoulder holding
a small redhead at a birthday party, three hours
of ripped paper like static on a radio, the sun flaring
off the ripples of the neighborhood pool. What do
those thieves think of your soccer games,
the Go girl! and the rain that drove him cursing to the car?
What about last Christmas? He was too tired, so you held the
camera instead and closed in on his drooped head
nodding while everyone opened gifts. Would they tear up
thinking of their fathers, would it convince them to call more?
Ripped from your life, just a plastic box in a bag of stuff.
Maybe before wiping it clean, they will browse your home
movies and say, What a good father, what a good life.
By Daryl Jones
Featured art by Jozef Israëls
He’s in one of his funks again,
my stepmother’s warned me,
hair shaggy and mussed, baggy clothes afloat
on his skinny frame.
My father makes hardly a dent
in the overstuffed sofa he’s sitting on.
No, he’s not hungry.
No, nothing in the paper interests him.
No, there’s nothing I can do
but stare blankly into the distance where he’s staring
as I did sixty years ago when we hunched
shivering and silent on five-gallon buckets
flipped upside down on the ice of Cedar Lake,
waiting for a tiny red plastic flag
to snap to attention.
Now and then, we would stand up stiffly,
huffing and hugging ourselves, stamping our feet,
then skim the slurry from the augured holes
and sit down again, nothing to do but wait,
testing our wills against the deadening cold
and the wily old lunker pike we pictured
in the black, still depths below, impervious
to the booted thunder rumbling overhead,
hunkered down, hovering in its singular darkness,
grim, stubborn, defiant.
By Kelly Michels
Featured art by rawpixel.com
A new cure is invented every day,
along with a new disease
because every miracle needs a
disaster to survive, and there is no
of disaster, the sparrows have learned
to eat anything under the slash-and-burn
of the sun, and the children have learned
how to weave plastic buttercups into bracelets
between the alphabet and spoonfuls of NyQuil
their mothers give them before bed
where they dream of the swish of scar tissue
behind their teacher’s glass eye.
We tell them: There is horror. There is pain.
There are people wedged between bullets
and mud floors, between cracked river ice
and broken elevator shafts. But not here.
Now, we sit still as an Eames chair, and the children
will never know the bridge of a song the rain spells
out in the sand on an October morning.
It is safer behind closed doors and windows, safer
where the wheat and ragweed and daisies
can kill no one.
We tell them: We have seen the grim amoeba of lake water,
the blizzard of ocean waves lashing against the curved spine
of coast, the blue-eyed grass raising itself like a rash toward
the swollen ache of sun, the sting of salt, grazing the long arm
of a bluff. We have lived it. We know better now.
We have knelt at the rim of a cliff and looked down. We
have fallen, felt the pulse of the sea pull at our hair and
it was not kind.
Child, put your ear to the conch shell and listen.
This is enough.
By John Bargowski
Featured art by Kieran Osborn
You know the spot, that sharp left
off the county road to Hope
that passes the roadside shrine her
classmates built to our youngest,
the blank stones that mark the old
then on past the last rusted knob
of safety rail
where a graveled lane cuts through
The pair of wood drake decoys
Hubert anchored to the bottom
riding out every weather on the big pond,
the splotch of white on their sides
that catches in our high beams
as we round the curve.
The twiggy wrack of alder and sumac
clipping the sideviews
as we pass through streaks of moonlight
burnishing the shields
on the skeletoned ruins of our friend’s
red Massey Ferg.
A place we’ve gone to many times
trying to nudge the season ahead,
we crack open the side window, crank
the heater up a couple notches,
sit with the lights clicked shut, side
by side in the front seat,
strain for the first callers crawled free
from March mud, the hyla crucifer,
no bigger than a fingertip, noted in our
dog-eared Peterson’s for shrill voices
that rise then fallm and those dark little crosses
they carry on their backs.
By John Bargowski
Featured art by Teerasak Anantanon
Weeks after the cops cut Bill down
and the squad sheeted his body,
bore it out to the street, his mother
leaned over her sill and called us
upstairs to share the flies he’d wrapped
and knotted, labeled
with names we could never
have dreamed up, and arranged
in small wooden boxes next to coils
of tapered leader and packs
of hooks barbed along their shanks,
the button-down shirts
and bank teller suits in his closet
screeched and swayed
on their hangers when she elbowed
her way in for the split bamboo pole
he’d hand-rubbed to a gloss
and mounted with a reel cranked
full of line, nothing we could ever use
when we biked down
to the Hudson piers and bait-fished
for river eels and tommycod,
but we took it all, every piece
of tackle we could carry down
to the stoop to divvy up among us—
his canvas vest, his shoulder bag,
spools of waxed line, the bamboo poles,
his hip waders and creel,
and those boxes of flies—
the Zebra Midge and Gray Ghost,
his Black Woolly Bugger,
Pale Morning Dun.
By Justin Hunt
Featured art by Markus Spiske
At sundown, we sit at our garden’s edge,
speak of thinkers and their theories—
what’s real, if something follows
this life, the ways of knowing
the little we know. An owl swoops the
creek below, swift as death. I shift
in my lawn chair, pick at my knee— an
old wound I won’t let heal.
Do you wonder, I ask, if Descartes
ever said, I feel pain, therefore I am?
You sigh, run your eyes to a remnant
of light in the oak above—as if,
in your drift, you could re-enter the time
of our son, inhale his dusky scent.
I honor your silence. But what I feel,
what I know, what I want to say is,
we have no choice but to watch
September settle on our garden.
And look! All these tomatoes
that cling to withered vines—blushes
of green and carmine, waxen wines
and yellows, the swollen heirlooms.
When the next one falls, my love,
I’ll pick it up, fetch us a knife and salt.
By Rodney Jones
I was four,
playing on the front porch.
The mimosa was in bloom.
Eisenhower was in the White House.
Usually when I played, I became a car,
the noises of the engine,
the clutch, and the tires
scorching around corners.
Or my body was a car—my mind drove.
Twilight, a little before supper.
My father, just home from work,
was talking with a neighbor—
a bachelor cousin,
a farmer and minister.
By Nancy Miller Gomez
Featured art by Scott Webb
It was a hot day in Paola, Kansas.
The rides were banging around empty
as we moved through the carnival music and catcalls.
At the Tilt-A-Whirl we were the only ones.
My big sister chose our carriage carefully,
walking a full circle until she stopped.
By Jamie Danielle Logan
She stirs with the movement of the sun. Dawn stretches over the horizon, and she searches for motion amid the brush. Her world appears in shades of gray, with bursts of blue and violet. She cannot see the orange of my vest or the green-brown pattern on my coat, but she can smell my breath in the air. She startles, bounding once, twice, before the breeze decides her fate. It shifts and she pauses next to the lone pine tree, the one that is seventy yards from my small wooden stand. She has just lost the spots of fawnhood. I pull the trigger.Read More
By Rome Hernández Morgan
Featured art by David Hockney
Evenings, we hold hands
and take long walks
through the neighborhood
as the sweet and sickly smells
of the chemical toilet plant
crystallize into greenish glowing stars.
We live a stone’s throw from
the nicest part of town and
we do—throw stones
By Kate Fetherston
Featured Art from rawpixel
Summer evenings on our street, the dads nursed
warm cans of Hamm’s, exchanging a syllable now
and then, casually supervising us kids setting off cherry
bombs or Stinky Snakes, while the moms appeared in lit
doorways as they swiped bugs with a wet dishtowel,
a baby slung on a shoulder, and yelled or
begged for some one of us to stop
hitting our brothers or to let our sisters play, then disappeared
behind kitchen curtains into a foreign
country. We kids thought we knew
everything worth knowing: that the dads spent
midnights banging things around in the garage, or
leaning against a Chevy half-ton on blocks in the front yard,
smoking and killing time until the moms put us to bed
or until moonrise enticed them to laugh and curl
into the dads’ arms long after we were supposed
to be asleep. Those warm lingering dusks the dads lounged
on sidewalks like lions staking out their savannah, eyes
on us but not on us. We ran into the street trailing
sparklers, whooshing our arms like Ferris wheels
in the same motion our dads’ fists
made circles that crushed hissing
empties. When Mr. H let slip between swigs,
that Mrs. H was so clumsy she
broke her arm falling through the living room
window, the other dads, suddenly quiet, squinted
at stars popping out and spat into the gutter. Conjured
from nowhere and all business, the moms, with one
swift stroke of Bisquick-dusted arms, whisked
us eavesdroppers back into the street where
we twirled into the coming night, our sparklers shooting
fire we thought would save us. We flew
and flew and flopped on the still
warm asphalt, until a dust devil of moths beat
against porchlights flickering
on, one by one. Those fluttering
deaths meant nothing to us.