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 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.
By Kathleen Balma
There’s a bouncer in this poem, watching
you read it. His name is Vic. Vic won’t make
eye contact, won’t bug you unless I signal
distress. I’ve never had to do that in poetry
yet. He was in the army. Discreet as a landmine.
As long as you keep still and do nothing
while I work, he won’t interrupt this lit
experience. Vic may or may not have killed.
He may or may not use meth. He does work out.
He does know my routine. He’s seen me do it
dozens of nights. He knows all the words
to the money songs. His peripheral vision
is muscular. It sees every crook and swerve
of me, though he and I don’t speak and I
have never touched him. It’s crucial that you
fear him while my naked’s in your face.
Only sometimes you need more. The dog
tags looped through my shoe strap, those
aren’t Vic’s. I can defuse a bomb with my teeth.
By Mark Kraushaar
Featured art by Auguste Rodin
We were happy, it’s true.
She had this zippy, kind of dithery inner gladness
and made a joke out of posing, hip-slung,
hands in the air, she had that pink top on.
Years later by the window near the stove
I watched her leaving in her blue Ford.
I made a drink and turned the TV down.
I opened the fridge and let it shut
then lay on the couch feet up
and watched our maple sway,
It was autumn.
It was early and as a taxi passed
I could hear the neighbor’s children
on their way to school.
I could see them shouting and shoving,
someone running ahead and I thought how easy
their lives must be, what a heaven of unconstraint.
It’s hard to know how to stand,
hard to know when to smile or when to be serious.
She had that zippy, kind of dithery inner gladness
and made a joke out of posing.
I’m different now.
She lives out east I think.
She had that pink top on.
Mark Kraushaar’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, and The Best American Poetry. His most recent collection is The Uncertainty Principle. It was published by Waywiser Press as winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize.
By Caitlin Cowan
Featured art by Serzill Hasan
There was a mechanical bull and a waitress
who flirted with everyone. There was a rainbow
of cocktails served lukewarm in pint glasses,
two fingers of dread. We’d missed a flight
in bad weather but had been offered another.
There was only one seat. He wanted me
to get on, but I said no—wouldn’t leave him.
Interred at a dark sports bar, we ended
the night eating wings cruelly torn
from an Atlanta–area buffalo. He watched
five games at once—linebackers creaming each other
in snow—and nothing was enough. Outside
I dialed a friend, asked her Is it weird he wanted me
to leave without him? At the airport hotel
he laid his head on the sticky desk
in front of the mirror, defeated.
He was beside himself—
one version quite literally slumping
next to the other, and only one of them still
my husband. My eyes hurt from the obvious
overhead lighting. I asked him if he was okay
until I felt insane. We never know
how long we’ll have to rest,
how long we’ll nap in the terminal
of not good enough before we run,
out of breath, to board something better—
I wouldn’t recognize myself
for years, had so far to go until
I could become a woman I’d want to know.
That night, there were gas station 40s and Cheetos.
There may have been pay-per-view porn.
Back home in Texas, Jolene may have been waiting
for his return: I couldn’t hurry my knowing.
It was Christmas. When I opened
his gift, he whispered next year
and better. But there was no next year,
By Erin Redfern
Featured art by Jordan M. Lomibao
The drugstore on Hamilton and Bascom used to be a Long’s, then a Rite Aid.
Now it’s a CVS. That’s where sadness stays, nestled in packs of Ticonderogas,
hiding behind Jim Beam bottles at closing. While registers spin LED dreams,
sadness settles between Pampers and Depends. Not at home,
but still it’s got everything it needs––sandals, snacks, sewing kits.
Curled into itself, sadness inches forward on the same tear-track it emits,
snags on frayed carpet in the photo album aisle, which is always empty.
Sadness adheres to envelope flaps, tastes of foil torn open with teeth. It naps
amid our unanticipated needs: Ace bandages, B vitamins, vaginal cream.
It permeates the circulated air––the air I breathe in every other CVS.
The one back East where I bought lip gloss that smelled like apricots.
The one in Chicago you found when I got sick.
Even the future one, where you’re not on the mend
and need strange new prescriptions from the pharmacy bins. Dad.
Your body has begun its reluctant fade: you’re on your third left knee,
second right lens, first dental bridge. In the San Jose CVS
I’m not buying anything yet; I’m in the greeting card aisle, reading condolences,
passed by smocked employees with their carts for restocking.
They’ll stop what they’re doing to help someone find cat food or aspirin,
nylons or sunblock or a drying rack. They’re bone-tired and kind. They don’t let on
how these dumb rhymes make me cry, how I’m standing here wiping my nose
with my sleeve. Opening, reading, putting back. Practicing.
By Billy Collins
Featured Art by Karolina Grabowska
“Do not speak, wild barnacle, passing over this mountain.”
— Patrick Pearse
In a lullaby by the Irish poet Patrick Pearse,
a woman of the mountain begins
singing her baby to sleep
by asking Mary to kiss her baby’s mouth
and Christ to touch its cheek,
then she gets busy quieting the world around her.
All the gray mice must be still
as well as the moths fluttering
at the cottage window lit by the child’s golden head.
By Robert Wood Lynn
Somebody got Super Speed and somebody
got Can Talk To Fish. Somebody else
got Invincibility and Flying both
at the same time which doesn’t seem fair
especially since somebody else got
Motivated By Dead Parents.
But most people just got some combination
of Can Curl Tongue and Double-Jointed.
I didn’t get any of those.
I’m little help in an emergency
even just the kind of hot embarrassment
where people ask you for a party trick.
I did get Impervious To Poison Ivy.
I am mostly happy about it.
I keep the little card they gave me,
the one with nicely embossed letters,
in my wallet and I peek at it
more often than is polite to.
It has come in handy enough times.
Here’s your ball, dear strangers.
It rolled under the fence, worried a path
through the rest of us all the way
into the angriest vines. But here you go.
You’re welcome, citizens, I say as I don’t fly away
By Dan Albergotti
Featured art by Paul Gauguin
After talking with him for thirty minutes,
as he lay cocooned in a thin wool blanket,
I told my father I had to head back to Conway.
After talking with him for thirty minutes,
as he lay cocooned in a thin wool blanket,
I told my father I had to head back to Conway.
He turned his ashen head a bit and said, Conway . . .
that’s where my son lives. I met my sister’s eyes
before fixing his in mine to say, Father, I am your son.
His eyes widened in that way that makes
us say, You look like you’ve seen a ghost,
or as if he’d found himself the quarry of a hunt.
I touched his hand before I left to show him
I was real. I think I could have walked through walls to
get to my car, so grateful was I to be that ghost.
By R. Bratten Weiss
Featured Art by Taylor Kiser
God is going to be late to the party,
was the message we all got. At first
we were disappointed, then angry:
who does he think he is?
Then someone got the idea of popping
the special bubbly we’d saved for him.
We only live once, but God is living now
and forever, which means his champagne
will never go flat, and will always be
waiting for him. And which also makes
it especially rude for him to show up late.
God’s champagne goes down like you’re
drinking pure reason. Like you’re having
sex in Paris in the afternoon, while outside
bombs are going off, it’s that kind of movie
now. God’s champagne is a memento mori,
which means we might as well be swimming
up into each other’s bones like radiation.
Then we’re all dancing, throwing
confetti. Like the party in The Shining,
the party that never ends. What’s so
terrifying about that?
For a hundred years we go on dancing,
drinking the champagne, throwing confetti.
God is stuck in traffic or a snowdrift,
but he’ll be here soon enough, and we’ll
need to tidy up, smooth our hair, put our
best faces and our figleaves on. We’ll need
to try to explain.
By R. Bratten Weiss
Featured Art from rawpixel
To live decently is to tread lightly, but
here it is a new year and maybe I’m ready
to stop worrying about decency. I’m ready
to stomp around, a ten-ton weight with
elephant legs, shaking the windows.
I’m tired of going gently, water on glass.
Maybe it’s time for the tongues of men and
angels, time to shoot fire from my fingertips.
A fleet of ships on the wine-dark sea would
do nicely to carry what I want to say.
I need to make cities fall.
I need to write the message like a knife
to the throat, like firewater. I need it to crack
like a whip in winter air.
If it does its job, it will lift you on its
burnished horns, trample you, raise
a trumpet to its mythic mouth and blast
Alleluia over the broken cliffs, terrify
the wild turkeys and the grazing deer,
and the red-tailed hawk that will take
to the air crying your name.
By Molly Kirschner
Featured art by Odilon Redon
I said to the driver, deliver me
to the nearest beautiful thing.
My name is not ma’am.
Where clouds rallied together like workers
I said let me out here.
Palm trees dusted the sky. No rain.
I called another taxi, I said, take me to
a larch, a church, the awe
in the word autumn.
Take me to dusk.
To a Sikh temple where I can meet the genderless god.
Behind the curtain
where we pray our children will fix the world
before we are reborn.
By Veronica Kornberg
Featured Art by Johan Teyler
Valentine’s Day and I’m at the farmers’ market
with my aquamarine Olivetti, typing poems for
whatever the buyers think they’re worth.
For Annie, the homeless woman who stops by
each week, I pull the sun out of the sky,
let it hover just above her solar plexus
and shoot its rays out of her eyes, superhero style.
She flashes her dimples and takes a dollar
from the jar, pushes on between
the pickler and the flower stall.
I tap away, next to the cheesemaker’s penned-up
petting goat shaking flies off its ears, opposite
the oozing combs of the honey man and a pile of sweet
potatoes, root-hairs whiskering their chins.
My table is usually a drowsy zone, but today
a line of genial men materializes before me,
managing their bouquets while one-hand-texting,
children threading between their legs.
The goat and I are busy.
Some men want their hearts laid raw, beating
on the page. One talks about a fishing trip.
I give them oceans. Powdery stamens
on a daffodil and pillow talk. Black-seamed stockings
in a country inn. I tell them what I wish
someone would say to me this chilly February
afternoon. It’s worth a lot, that little silence
while they read, minds suddenly gone naked,
before we shudder back to our ordinary selves
and they stuff the jar with bills. Which I use to buy turnips
By Julie Danho
Featured Art by J.L. Mott Iron Works
How long I’ve tried to love you, the way
you still blush and gleam like a teenager
in a poodle skirt, unblemished as the day
you were pressed against wire and mortar
in the shower, on the walls, even the floor,
its concrete flecked with pink. The Nolans,
who chose you, are long gone, their daughters
now grandmothers in their own houses,
the blueprints they left behind moldering
in the basement. How can I blame them?
I didn’t live through the War, the Boom,
this neighborhood rising up in neat rows
as if each Cape had been pining for sun.
In those years, you were prosperity, pedigree,
First Lady Pink named in honor of Mamie
Eisenhower, her White House bathroom pink
from the walls to the tub to the cotton balls,
so that all over America, millions like me
wake up and stumble into a past that waits
with toothbrush and soap. In you, I saw history
running like a faucet, building to a flood
unless stemmed. But when the contractor
gave me a price, he said you were lead,
and with my daughter . . . it might be better
to let you be. So I’ll own your purr and poison,
though I may dream still of reinvention—
blue trim and Harbor Gray—even as I hang
the pink polka dot shower curtain, lay down
that cranberry rug, act as if I chose you,
as if you were everything I ever wanted.
By Sarah O. Oso
Featured art by Philip Henry Delamotte
When it happens—and it will,
bright as a bed of red tulips
shaking out their flags in rows,
or rising like steam off the top
of a lid—allow it to uncurl.
Stand and stretch. It’ll be the pop
of sockets, of elbow and hip, sighing
into place after waking. Vertebrae aligning
like rhyme beneath the skin.
By noon, it’ll head on over, whistling
with cans of white paint in hand, here
to restore the chipped fence.
Imagine restirring. The heart’s late-night diner
singing to life when someone shoots
a nickel down the juke. Belting a familiar tune,
good and even—the way the radio plays
in Papa’s ’74 Firebird you figured couldn’t run
until that summer it roared
back, and you sat shotgun
against the black leather, windows open
the whole drive home to Florida.
And if it’s anything like the state of sunshine,
then it’s soft and airy and easy.
Like the seat you’ve settled into, just now,
where it nestles once more at the foot
of the chair, dozing, or otherwise
poking its wet nose at your palm.
By Sunni Brown Wilkinson
Featured art by 2 Bull Photography
Tonight is a rodeo night, the announcer blaring his bull
and clown doctrine so loud it carries two miles
east to our block, where just now a hummingbird
hawk-moth drinks from the pink phlox
with its long wand
and I’m alone for a moment and the sky
is bleeding itself out over the train tracks and the brick
abandoned factories. The lights
of the carpet store by the mall flicker carpe
and I wonder just what I can seize.
The homeless shelter bearing some saint’s name
fills up every night and spills
downtown next morning,
wings of strange creatures brush our flowers
while we sleep, and a hapless moose wanders
a schoolyard before it’s caught,
tranquilized. Everyone’s looking for it:
a warmth, a softness in the belly, in a bed
of grass. Take it when you can. Seize it.
Lately sleep is a myth and my brain
is so hard-wired for worry my whole body
crackles, then a deep fog rolls in and all day
I’m lost. Unlike this moth, greedy in its guzzling,
drinking sweetness without asking,
and now the buzzer of the bull riding sounds.
I think of the grace of that single man,
one hand on the saddle
and the other a flag waving violently
above him. A wild show of surrender.
Some days it’s like this: one part
anchored while the other begs for mercy.
And some days it’s the other, the posture
he begins with: both hands together, holding tight.
Sometimes you hold your own hand.
That’s all there is to take.
By Mark Alan Williams
Featured art by Katie Manning
We buy hot dogs at a gas station
of broken pumps and eat them
on the pier, watching ratty shrimpers
limp in for new bandages,
sit there in the cold for hours,
thinking sunset will fill the bay
with the blood of the Brazos,
do something holy to us.
This is after Ganado,
and Victoria, and Refugio,
and Point Comfort, and Blessing.
willing to burn fuel on skywriting
if it can make marriage
feel less like living in Houston.
Sunset hangs around
like a towel that won’t dry,
and when we tire of waiting,
we leave the dim, fuming galaxy
of refineries for home,
bright and deadly as a hospital
circled by ambulances, the music off.
By Henrietta Goodman
Featured Art by Katsushika Hokusai
“Free associating, that is to say, is akin to mourning; it is
a process of detachment that releases hidden energies . . .”
Always the smell of Windex brings me back to Martin Shelton
in first grade, his memory atomized from some forgotten source.
It’s wind and window when I see him late for school through double
doors of tempered glass, then rushing in on the lovely trochaic
feet of his name, shirt buttoned wrong, blond hair blown in a gust
of oak leaves, smoke, and frost that swept away the simmered meat
and rubber smells, the green litter that soaked up accidents. The wind
recorded and erased. I was afraid to sit with him, or speak—
my first crush a boy who packed his own lunch and walked alone
through dark stairwells hung with Bomb Shelter signs, arrows
aimed at the basement lunchroom where we bowed our heads
to wait for fallout’s drift from the split atom, the invisible anvil
that could fall no matter where we hid. Even when the speakers
hummed and Mr. Wells announced that we were safe,
his name said the earth would swallow us. And now I spray
the glass to wipe away the prints, the trace, but traces gone,
the glass I see through stays. How, then, could mourning set me free,
if Windex leads to Martin leads to beauty leads to bomb?