New Ohio Review Issue 28 (Originally printed Fall 2020) 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.

The Time Traveller Chooses an Arrival Point

By Emily Blair

Featured Art: Yliaster (Paracelsus) by Marsden Hartley

Before it all goes wrong. Before the bell is rung. Before the ship has sailed.
Before the perfect storm begins to brew. Before the term perfect storm goes
viral. Before anything goes viral. Before the fall. Before the crash. After
effective sanitation, before Ronald Reagan. Before that sixth grade school
photo is taken. Before one friend’s accident, another’s illness. Before the first
massacre or environmental disaster. Before the first loss of liberty. Before
the prequels. Before the sequels. Before the remakes. Before guns. Definitely
before Columbus. After your son learns to say he loves you. After the
invention of childhood. Before the police state. Before the nation state. Before
the interstate. After modern medicine. After modern art. After animated GIFs.
After the discovery of fire, of penicillin, of Spandex. After you meet the love
of your life, but before you meet your first miserable boyfriend. After the
Internet, but before we become information. Before your cousin dies, before
your classmate dies, before anyone anywhere dies. It’s important to avoid your
grandfather, and also the Middle Ages. Remember the Nineties sucked, and
so did the Eighties. Maybe that moment when the dog stole pancakes off your
plate. Your parents laughing as the card table shook. Just after the Big Bang.

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By John Glowney

Featured Art: Niagara Falls by John Henry Twachtman

Break it, you own it. Honestly,
though, it was always broken,
which is the whole point, that is to say,
when this world first whirled
and popped into existence
out of nothing’s sticky grasp,

the ur-broken thing, when it had wings
that glinted wildly in the suffused
and charged plasma, when it cascaded off
the cliff of itself
a mountain waterfall in native sunlight;
when the newly minted
honeybees, still smoking a little from
the tiny forges that made their immaculate
and fragile bodies, shook the pollen dust
of a violet, left a telltale film
on the velvety atoms of air,

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The Other Big Bang

By Mason Wray

Featured Art: Peach Bloom by Alice Pike Barney

An equal and opposite burst expanding
from the same particle but in reverse.
Where peaches unripen in the family orchard.
A mom-and-pop deli replaces the condos on Second Ave.
OutKast never breaks up. They only get back together.

My sister is getting smaller by the day
her outfits like pastel pythons swallowing a doe.
In the other big bang, we start
with all the knowledge we’ll ever know
then forget it piece by piece.

So even after my grandmother’s brain
stitches itself whole, vanquishes the plaque
that shows up like coffee stains in scans,
still she becomes more unknowing by the day.

But we all become naïve with her. Everyone
communes over fears of growing young:
how we’ll tie our shoes, cross the road alone.
I am planning an expedition. One day I hope
to have never known you yet.

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By Jennifer Burd

Reading Accompanied with Music By: Laszlo Slomovits

Featured Art: Zinnias by H. Lyman Saÿen

While I was away the world
went on without me—
a spider completed its web
under my plant stand,
dust from an unseen wind
settled in all the hard-to-reach places,
light drifted across the walls.
The ceiling fan dipped its oars
in stillness. Zinnias in the vase
went from Technicolor
to hand-painted antique postcard hues.
The world’s bad news got worse,
the good news, better than expected.
Letters and bills fought for room
in the mailbox. Mold helped itself
to the food I hadn’t eaten,
and a late rose bloomed in the garden.
I watched myself considering each thing,
thinking, this is how it will be.

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Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest: selected by Ada Limón

By Emily Lee Luan

Featured Art: The Dance by George Grey Barnard

My friend lowers his foot into the stony
runoff from the mountain, lets out a burst
of frantic laughter. This, I think, is a happiness.

When I don’t feel pain, is it joy that pours
in? A hollow vessel glows to be filled.
無 , my father taught me, is tangible—

an emptiness held. It means nothing, or to not have,
which implies there was something to be had
in the first place. It negates other characters:

無心 , “without heart”;
無情 , “without feeling”;
heartless, ruthless, pitiless.

Is the vacant heart so ruthless?

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I Was Startled It Was Death

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Figure with Guitar II by Henry Fitch Taylor

I was startled it was death
I’d been singing all morning
under my breath, scrambling
the eggs, steeping Earl Grey
for breakfast with my wife, death
I’d been carrying like a jingle
or Top 40 chorus, its melody
infinitely catchy, insistent,
vaguely parasitic, its lyrics
surfing rhythm, slotted into
rhyme, over and over, a half
hour or more, all Saturday
ahead of us, the morning sun
shining when Julie protested
with a quick laugh, though
wincing too—no, please,
I just got that out of my head

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Love Song

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Morning Haze by Leonard Ochtman

Oh, that’s right—because I’m going to die.
Sometimes I forget. More often than not.
And then, that’s right! I’m going to,
sometime. Because . . . I’m going to. Forgetting,
but only sometimes, that’s how this works
more than not. And then we wake to snow,


quite unexpected, the whole neighborhood quite,
you know. And you say to me, yes, that’s right,
cream, two sugars. Sometimes I forget. Or
these days, more often, because, you know,
that’s how this works. And now I remember
we’re going to. Both of us. And there’s the car

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We’re Thinking of the Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Children at Play by Jean-Francis Auburtin

leaning back in our lawn chairs, the August constellations
crowded by a crush of stars, the Milky Way in soft focus
like a glamour shot. A couple and a couple at the end of the day
watching our kids zip sparklers back and forth across the lawn
like satellites or meteors. It’d been a story in the paper,
evidence of a supermassive black hole, and so we throw it back
like tequila shots and wade past our depth—me, deflecting
to Kubrick’s Star Gate sequence, those long light smears
on Bowman’s helmet, Julie, pulling both cords of her sweatshirt
taut, saying our bodies would be stretched to angel hair
if we were yanked into that hole. Then Janet’s telling us
how she imagines this supermassive black hole is like the hole
at the end of a vacuum cleaner. And right now—Saturday evening,
our kids growing restless, minutes from boredom, then, maybe,
those nudging arguments of who found who, who was safe,
and for us, at least, the hour’s drive home, I-95 congested
by the night-shift roadwork just beginning, Julie and I
talking quietly in front, reviewing the evening, overwhelmed
by the obvious, how we’ve all changed, how we won’t ever
be as young as we were, our daughter, grass-stained,
her hair wild with static, slouching down in the backseat
pretending to sleep as she listens in just as I did at seven,
those long drives to Maine, picking up things half-understood
in the language of grownups—this black hole, says Janet,
is Hoovering up stars and planets like so many pretzel crumbs
ground into the shag. We’re full. Everything off the grill
is hitting the spot. And Mark, back to Kubrick’s Star Child,
is leaning in to share his fanboy theories of what it all means,
though I’m not listening, not really, because it seems right,
that vacuum, because I, too, have plucked stray fuzz clinging
half in, half out of the attachment’s rim—and yes, this is how
it feels, year-by-year, to be drawn to the irresistible thing.

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The Names You Choose

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest: selected by Lauren Groff

By Nicole VanderLinden

Featured Art: Beach Scene by James Hamilton

Vanessa had wanted the luau, something extravagant—never mind that we were a moon away from our original budget. But that was Vanessa, always doubling down. She swam in mountain lakes; she was the only person I knew who’d been arrested for playing chicken. “We’re in Maui,” she said, letting geography make its case. “It’d be fun for the kids.”

This wasn’t all true, because our youngest, Chloe, dreamed of puréed bananas. She was barely a toddler. She’d never tasted salt, and bubble baths made her shriek. It was the other kid my wife had been alluding to, the child of our concern, our Anna.

Vanessa bought tickets to the luau. I was suggestible—there were so many things I was trying to save then, money the least precious among them. We returned to the cool of our room by three so we could shower and put calamine lotion on our burns, our sun-chapped faces. Vanessa took Chloe with her and got dressed in the bathroom, where she’d laid out various makeup cases and where the tub had jets, and I waited for Anna, who was twelve and who, when she was ready, spun for me in a white sundress lined in eyelet lace.

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Force of Habit

By Kathleen Winter

Featured Art: Girl Arranging Her Hair by Abbott Handerson Thayer

The woman in the Oldsmobile was awfully young
to have a kid, her kid would have said, if she’d had
a voice not just a body jittery inside her precious cotton
dress with ducks stitched in the smocked bodice
flat across her washboard chest. A woman’s hand
was every bit as flat when she had to slap somebody’s
face, so it wasn’t best sometimes to have a voice in case
you asked the woman one too many times how Seguin
was different from Saigon or where the dad had
gone or who was gonna fix the swing or when can we
get a collie or what’s the matter with twirling a lock
of hair around your index finger all day long it felt
so smooth & cool spooled round your finger &
released & caught & wound again, secured.
What’s wrong with messing with this living little
bit of you, a darling little thing. You couldn’t stop it
even if you wanted to.

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What Is There To Do in Akron, Ohio?

By Darius Simpson

Featured Art: Open Lock, Akron, Ohio by James Henry Moser

complain about the weather. wait five minutes
watch the boys you grew up with outgrow you
bury your cousin. go sledding on the tallest hill you can find
keep a family warm until their son thaws out of prison
ice skate between the skyscrapers downtown
inherit an emergency exit sign from your father
spray-paint your best friend’s brother on a t-shirt
daydream your way through a semester-long funeral
watch jeans and sleeves and family portraits unravel
play soccer with the black boys who almost evaporated
with the icicles. kick it outside with the skeletons
from your childhood. go to columbus and pretend
to be a grown-up. spend a weekend at kalahari resort
and call it a vacation. go back home. leave. shoot dice
with the dead boys playing dress up. stay long enough
to become a tourist attraction in a city nobody stops in
mount bikes and ride until the sun dribbles
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It Was As If We Were on Vacation

By Jen Ashburn

Featured Art: Sunset, Oxford by George Elbert Burr

I was driving. The sky was pink with sunrise or sunset.
The road banked left. We drove straight—through the guardrail
and over a valley with gray houses stacked on a hillside.

You were so calm. I didn’t understand at first that we would die.
This was much worse than forgetting to pay the phone bill.

Then you were driving. The car soared. We looked out the windows.
Around the houses, people trimmed hedges and hung laundry.

You changed gears. I don’t remember the landing. I think
there was music. We held hands. I’ve never understood
forgiveness, but this is what it must feel like.

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Self-Imposed Exile

By Lucas Cardona

Featured Art: Tongue amulet in the form of a cicada (hanchan) by Unknown

My limp body lulls through the hot, humid days
like a lukewarm dog’s tongue hanging off the edge
of time, begging for disaster, for that rotten stench
of nostalgia to drift away & be buried in the brain’s
contemporary fiascoes. Night after night,
caught gaping out the window in the same chilled,
sterile room. Only the shadows of bats flitter into
view, and the dark, lush limbs of American elm trees
groping toward evidence of further tangibility
with a desperation akin to worship. Something in me
must cherish the sound of cicadas feeding off each other
in their suburban, summertime mania, like the soulless,
asinine chorus of a fraternity chant. The girl at the
7-Eleven in the purple hijab restocks the Cheetos
and the world goes on devouring itself for no other reason
than something must be devoured if we are to continue
loving one another in this crudely selective fashion.
It’s terrible but it’s true, all heartache inevitably
resolves in that surreptitious method pain can only
accomplish with the brain’s private blessing.
I know now what I did, I did to destroy you.
I know, too, that I’m the one who’s destroyed.
But somehow that still feels like forgiveness.

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Invisible Bodies

By Aza Pace

Featured Art: (Children Swimming) by Unknown

Meanwhile, plastic particles
burrow in the Arctic snow

and in the sea’s deep trenches,
its legion bellies.

Meanwhile, a galaxy bursts
across my cervix—bad cells

someone will slice off
with electric wire as I sleep.

There is nothing untouched
in the whole furious world.

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Daughter Poem

By Lisa Dordal

Featured Art: The Artist’s Daughter by H. Lyman Saÿen

Sometimes I see her pressing her palms
against a windowpane in a house that is real

the way a house in a dream is real
until you start to describe it and all you can say is:

it was this house, only it wasn’t. It’s winter
and she likes to feel the cold entering her body.

Or it’s summer and it’s heat she’s after.
She wasn’t born, so she can’t die.

Sometimes there is a window but no girl,
and I am the one walking toward it.

Sometimes I see her peering in—
forehead against the screen of our back door—

or running ahead of me on a path that is real
the way a path in a dream is real, saying:

this way, this way.

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A Coyote Runs Down Michigan Avenue

By Sara Ryan

Featured Art: “The Bridge: Nocturne (Nocturne: Queensboro Bridge)” by Julien Alden Weir

and she is a phantom. gray blur on
gray pavement. green lights flicker

their rhythmic patterns. in the right building,
at the right angle, she becomes one

thousand coyotes shimmering in glass.
she screams and Chicago screams

back. how’s. scavenges the oily corners
of the train stations. the river gulps

through its channels and feeds the lake.
she is a wild thing. she crosses high bridges.

she becomes the color blue. she becomes
the color blood. the city is haunted

now. by the tress. by women, their mouths 
full–bulging, really–with fur. she is one

of the lucky ones. she runs unjailed without 
worry for traffic, turn signals, speed limits.

ghosts wearing masks yell from 
their windows. they’re warning her.

they’re warning her.

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Circumstances of Disappearance

By Sara Ryan

it is easy enough to say it: I want
                               to be an orange
harvest moon. cantaloupe sky, people
                                 driving into the dark
country just to see. bitten

                                 by mosquitoes. burrs
clinging to milky ankles.
                                that dappled moon
photographers click
                                the long exposure for. those pains-

taking details. every wrinkle
                                on my face. I am not
sure when I stopped believing
                                that I was beautiful, but I did
& there is no going back.

                                I want & the wanting
just becomes easier. my body
                                swallows it up until my bones sing
with the stuff. I want to be a puddle
                                with a world living inside.

slick that never dries up,
                                pooling in the craters
of uneven parking lots. forever
                                wet & weeping things.
I want to be the small sliver

                                of metal in my mother’s finger.
the scorched wall
                                of my father’s aortic valve.
I want to be blood—
                                its intricate, deliberate maze.

I want to be a planet &
                                a canyon. splinter & a tear
in the sky. I will admit it:
                                sometimes I just want
to hear my name out loud.

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Chickens in Your Backyard

By Miriam Flock

They come, like the dishwasher, with the house.
“No trouble,” swears the seller, and—presto change-o—
for handfuls of Layena every morning,
the pair of hens trade one or two brown eggs.
The chick, if we approach with proper coos,
will let itself be stroked. This we learned
from our new bible, Chickens in Your Backyard.
Like neighbors of a different faith, we practice
tolerance, let them grub among the bulbs,
ignore the way their droppings singe the mulch.

Meanwhile, we are intent on our own nesting.
My husband paints the nursery; I quilt
a golden goose with pockets shaped like eggs.
We hardly register the added squawking
from the coop or look for more than tribute
when we rob the nesting boxes. Then
one dawn, I’m roused by what can only be
a cock-a-doodle-doo. And in the breaking light,
our chick-turned-rooster struts, ruffed as Raleigh,
shaking his noble scarlet comb. What waits

inside me to astonish like this male?
Such sudden majesty, sudden red.

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Live From the Met

By Miriam Flock

Not the baby but the baby’s clothes defeat me—
the cunning socks, the piles of onesies.
A descant to the washer’s thrum, the strains
of Pagliacci drift in from the study,
dislodging a memory: a stormy weekend
stranded at my cousin’s, the window wells filling
with snow like the heaps of dirty laundry
my aunt was sorting in the other room.
Around us spread the scraps of paper dolls
we’d wangled in the market, peeled now,
and finished like our tangerines.
We’d tired of mimicking Corelli
whose whooping rose above the drone of the dryer
where my aunt and uncle’s shirts embraced.
“There isn’t anything to do,” I whined
until my aunt emerged, a bar of Naptha
gripped in her raw hand. What struck me
was not her slap, nor even the stunned giggle
before my cousin got hers like a portion,
but the tenor’s voice dissolving in sobs,
and the Clorox, smelling as a perfume might,
if she had splashed it against her wrist.

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Another Refugee Poem

By Pichchenda Bao

This poem has already been written.
The nausea, familiar.
You’ve been left, bobbing
bereft, in water, watching
flames eat home and hearth.
Or vicariously felt
that dread suck of time
elongating the slim barrel of a gun.
You’ve picked your steps
through a landscape of corpses,
fumbled through each level of grief.
This poem, your companion.

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I’m Only Dancing

By Chris Ketchum

Featured Art: 

At ten, I meet myself in the mirror of my sister’s vanity, squeezed into the tiny corset of her pale blue dress, Cinderella’s image printed on the breast like a brooch. My little-boy pecs puff out like cleavage. The tulle skirt brushes against my thighs, rising above the knee, billowing around my Fruit-of-the-Looms as I prance down the staircase to the dining room where my mother lights a candle before dinner. She laughs to see me skip across the hardwood floor, turning and twirling on the ball of my socked foot—and when she does, I know I want to keep her laughing. I’m not sure why, but I speak in a higher voice, with a lisp, and she laughs harder, and, as I’m preening, brushing my cheeks with the back of my hand, leaping into the air like the hippos in Fantasia, I notice the tears— how they run down the corner of her nose, wetting her upper lip. I don’t know why she’s crying—maybe I’m really that funny. So I keep dancing.

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Love Letters

By: Susan Browne

autumn leaves glitter in their brittling
someone plays the french horn on the shore
beneath the blue flame of sky the sound
like silver glinting across air like tinder

dear california
when I’m gone
will you still be here
will there still be a shore

someone stomps out of the reeds
holding a fishing pole
commands the horn player to stop
I walk by into silence

missing the music
wondering what else I want
on this hot november day
a cloud spilling rain

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By: Robert Cording

After our son died, my wife found him
in coincidences—sightings of hawks, mostly,
at the oddest of times and places, and then
in a pair of redtails that took up residence,
nesting in a larch above our barn, and how
their low, frequent sweeps just a few feet above us
before rising over our kitchen roof
made it seem as if they were looking in on us.
In a way, it all made sense, our son so at home
in high places—the edges of mountain trails,
walking on a roof, or later, after he became
a house painter, at the top of a forty-foot ladder.
So many mornings we woke to the redtails’
jolting screeches and, even if I was a casual believer,
their presence multiplied my love
for the ordinary more every day. We never thought,
of course, any of those hawks was our son—
who would ever want that?—but, once,
watching one rise and rise on a draft of air,
I thought of Icarus soaring toward the sun—
as if an old story could provide the distance
I neededwaxed and feathered, his arms winged,
and remembered a babysitter’s frantic call
to come home, immediately, after she’d found
our ten-year-old nearly forty feet up
in an oak tree. I can almost hear him again,
laughing high up in the sky, throned on a branch,
his feet dangling, knowing nothing but the promise
of heights as he waved to me—
and I must have looked very small
calling up to him, staying calm
so falsely as I pleaded with him
to come down, to come down now.

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Epistle to Myself on my 70th Birthday

By: Robert Cording

How’s business?

Slow as a white man in slippers.

The Wire

Listen, nobody wants another overworked sky
of Beethovian sun and cloud,

or starlings loop-the-looping as they gather.

You’re standard issue, friend. Where’s the market unrest,
the ups and downs of soybean and pork belly,

the tango of selfie and brazen litany of self-invention?

Where’s your Twitter handle and your presence
on Facebook? OMG, you’re an old white man in slippers,

still daydreaming about Truth and Beauty,
still earnest even, taken up once again

by a titmouse just outside your study window,
(who still calls it a study?)

lifting one translucent wing in the afternoon light,
its beak cleaning and rearranging a downy under-layer

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Ode to the Impossible

By: Matthew T. Birdsall

A cerulean warbler scrambled up and down the shaggy spine
of an elderly bitternut hickory whose reach darkens half of my backyard
and I tried to follow it, but it became impossible as the bird
vanished and appeared in the shadows numberless—
the futility of finding the bird again sharpened my focus
because I’ve always longed to experience the impossible

because looking for the impossible in blotters of LSD during high school classes
and staring out the window at the animated, neon leaves on oak trees
didn’t just make me look at leaves differently, it made me want
to whisper tales of anarchy in the waxy ears of greedy marketing majors,
to digitally protest the World Bank, to distribute loose doobies at Christian chemo clinics,
to dole out dollops of ranch dressing at the homeless shelter on Saturdays,
to slide in and out of varied segments of society looking for pieces of my dull brain

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By: Danusha Laméris

I see the word egret, but read, instead,
                regret. A trick of the mind. Its reversals. One,
a white slash, rising from the marsh. The other

a stone, strapped to the heart. The way I’ve carried
                all the would-haves, all the ifs. Each alternate
exhausts. The egret wades in the dark water,

seeking fish. The heart, constancy. I doubt the egret
               has regrets. Hatch, fledge, breed, hunt.
And besides, a lovely name that comes from French.

“Aigrette,” for brush, after the long feathers
               that stream down its back. How do its legs,
bent reversed, move ahead? Who wouldn’t want

to walk like that? There are days I step
               outside my body, arise, fly over the field
of my life, and glimpse—not error—but river,

rock, and oak, a wide expanse. Here and there
               a meadow, dry grass dotted with—could
they be poppies?—some bright-blurred, orange flame.

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By: Therese Gleason

One week after
the clock in your chest
clenched and froze forever
at half past fifty,
a crow careened through the door,
grazing my temple
like a stray bullet.
In the aftermath
of shock and startle,
irony registered
bitter in my craw.
I used to think a bird
crossing the threshold
was a harbinger of death,
but by the time
this transgressor
cut a crooked line
through the living room,
our windows
were already draped
in black crepe.
The old wives,
their feathered omen
arrived late, clucked
their tongues
and rent their garments.

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Blue Camaro

By: Owen McLeod

I’m up at 6 a.m. to write, but all I do is stare
at the rain and the trees and watch the wind
strip away what remains of November’s leaves. Somewhere in Virginia, my father is dying.
Not on the sidewalk of a sudden heart attack from shoveling snow, or in a hospital room monitored by nurses and beeping machines,
but at home, alone, and almost imperceptibly from a sluggish, inoperable form of cancer.
That man was never satisfied with anything. When leaves were green he wanted them red, when red then brown, when brown then fallen
and gone. Once, after making me rake them
into a curbside pile, he tossed in a cinderblock meant for the local punk who’d been plowing
his 1982 Camaro through the heaped up leaves
of our neighborhood. Two days later, the kid
blew through our pile without suffering a scratch.
My father didn’t realize that I, fearing for him
as much as for the boy, had fished out the brick and chucked it in the ravine behind our house. As punishment, I had to climb down in there, retrieve the cinderblock, and bury it in the leaves after I’d raked them back into a mound. My dad said that was nothing if I dared to take it out.
I can still see him, stationed at the window, watching and waiting for that boy to return— but he never did, because I tipped him off
the next day after spotting him at 7-Eleven
Decades later and hundreds of miles away,
a malignant brick buried deep inside him,
my father still waits at the living room window, listening for the death rumble of that blue Camaro.

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The Elks at the Watering Hole

By: Steve Myers

Sundays they’d meander down from surrounding hills
                                                                                                  to the watering hole
just south of French Creek, where it joins the Allegheny, maybe twenty,
thirty on a good day in summer, the fog in no hurry to lift off the river,
& if I were visiting,
                                 my father-in-law would take me along, because
this was the rhythm of Venango County men, week after week, season
on season, for the members who hadn’t lost wives to dementia, cancer,
or a cheating heart,
                                    a chance to get away from the women, bullshit, maybe
win some money in the big drawing,

                                                                 the Iron City flowing & Wild Turkey,
not yet noon, a thumb-flicked Zippo, cover clicking back, scratchy rachet
of the wheel, flame-sputter, flame, head bowing, a face
                                                                                                  sudden, illuminated,
the long fhhhhhhhhhhh, with smoke stream, & a story would begin:

an Army jeep bouncing into a bombed-out Rhineland town, & in an old church
cellar, great shattered wine casks, you drank as you sloshed through it, dark,
                   someone’s uncle down the Mon Valley, the Gold Gloves boxer
who lost an arm; a lieutenant’s first whorehouse.
                                                                                       That was the talk,
and everything was Eddie, almost whispered, a shibboleth:
duck boots, fly rods, the Eddie Bauer Ford Bronco—Elks Masonic
to the nth degree.

                                 Laugh, move among them, wear the flannel, stand them
a round—still, I carried the scent of a distant country. One slight shift
of wind & heads would lift, the circle tighten.

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Memorial Day on Fire Island w/ Laughing Buddha

By: Ed Falco

Arthur is, look, you don’t want to, fine; and Bee’s, good, I’m glad.

It’s about a billion degrees out. They’re on a clothing-optional beach. Arthur had to practically drag her.

He gets up and walks away, which makes her mad. She’s all about how men retreat to their caves. Arthur stops and puts his hands on his hips and looks out over the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a half dozen guys on blankets to the left and behind him chattering. They’re all young and nude, built like Greek gods. One guy’s putting sunblock on another guy like he’s practicing the art of sensuous massage. Next to them’s what looks like a straight couple, the girl’s young, topless, with a bikini bottom. She looks good. She’s in fact gor- geous. The guy’s probably at least twice her age, well into his forties. He’s tanned a golden bronze and built solid, stretched out, arms under his head, got on one of those skimpy bathing suits Olympic divers wear. No belly at all if not quite a six-pack. The girl’s sitting up looking off at the horizon, her hand wrapped around his kneecap like she’s holding a stick shift. Arthur goes back to their blanket.

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Aubade From the Snake Pit Alehouse

—West Hollywood, November 2019

By: Maggie Glover

I get a whiskey. I do not call my father back. I text you. I try on my new dress in the bathroom among the western decor. I get another whiskey. I write a poem about cowboys. I text you. I finger out the cherry from the glass. I take the cherry the bartender offers me, red-glow-glop in a bare palm. I don’t text you for 24 minutes (I count it). I let someone down. I smoke a cigarette. I think of my mother smoking: outside restaurants, department stores, in the kitchen on Sunday mornings, late-at-night while typing, the cigarette dangling from her mouth with its long, tender arm of ash. I order a whiskey. I don’t answer my phone. I ask the bartender for another cherry but I’m way ahead of you, he says, offering a dish of alien jewel-fruit. I like the dish: shaped like a cowboy hat, porcelain. I am being trusted with breakable things. I joke: I don’t need to eat dinner now thanks to all these snacks. I know I’m not joking. I don’t text you. I write a poem in which I am the cowboy and you are the O.K. Corral and I make good choices and my father is sober and my mother remembers me. I smoke another cigarette and the bartender joins me. I know what this is. I say it out loud: I know what this is. I pretend I mean something different from what I mean. I order a whiskey. I listen when he explains his tattoo. I text you. I let him touch my shoulder. I go to the bathroom and change into my dress. I ask him to clip the tags from the hem. I write a poem in which I know exactly what I’m doing though I don’t know it yet, do you?

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Something Implausible

By: Gregory Djanikian

Death in his dark cowl is testing his scythe
against the roses in my garden named Hope-to-Be.

He says there is a mountain within you
that is shifting and the river is slick with feathers

He says the way inward is always more frightening
than any simple migration.

Sometimes I don’t know what he means.
He is all nuance and innuendo.

Sometimes he grins, showing his lighter side
as if he’s told a once-in-a-lifetime joke.

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By Marcia LeBeau

I can’t promise you I know how to sit across from a man,
as he lights his campfire heart, without letting it
warm me. And I won’t pour water over it before it glows
down to embers in the lambent hours of the morning.
As shadow flames sashay across my face, I might throw in
the branches I’ve gathered from my forest. Make it blaze.

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Eleventh Anniversary

By Marcia LeBeau

We communicate like animals. I bark, he recoils.
I howl, he waits, howls back. It’s been like this

for over a decade. Sometimes our offspring try
to separate us. Last night the youngest guided me

into the dining room. The three working bulbs
of the chandelier spotlit smashed peas and a jack

under the table. We never learn. No, sometimes
we learn. A moment lying in bed ripples

for a week. We burrow into each other’s eyes, faces
slippery with tears. I have made him proclaim to himself

the scariest of truths: I am perfect. He has made me
do the same. Our perfection hangs in the air.

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By Marcia LeBeau

The Lucky store a few towns over is going out of business.
That doesn’t seem so lucky to me. Every year, my husband and I hit
their After Christmas sale. We try on jeans with zippers that tell us—
Lucky You! when the teeth unclench. I once got a sweater
with LUCKY that stretched across my breasts. We pile clothes
in dressing rooms facing each other. Yay or Nay outfits.
With conjugal knowledge, we are ruthlessly honest. Whoever finishes first
takes a seat and watches the other model consider and reconsider.
The other day, a woman I barely know told me how much she loves
my husband, the way he always refers to our life experiences with “we.”
We have decided. We went there. We bought that. She tells me how lucky I am.
When my husband and I leave the store, we clutch shopping bags,
we are satiated. Sometimes we hold hands, if we have one free.

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The Love Poem

By Marcia LeBeau

When he read it out loud in the small orange basement
on the street lined with old trees that fell
too early in storms, the wind lost its breath,
the molten core of the earth slowed slightly, and someone
poured a Slurpee down at the 7-Eleven. It might have been
just a poem meant for the whole group, who all playfully
fanned themselves and over-swooned after he’d lipped the last word—
but she sat knowing that everything she’d done
had brought her to this beige suede basement couch
to hear, to embody, to take these words
and press them into her—first shaking, but later softly
and with more force. Until they walked, ran, and flew
with her. So when she rose above that suburban town,
its baseball fields and slate-gray schools, on the days
when the screaming and demands and the mac-n-cheese dinners
became too much, they would be with her. He would be with her,
whether she wanted him or not.

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By Kimberly Johnson

I saw you coming from a mile away,
Thunder. You play
Coy, sly your pretty in winks

Around the cumulus, but up close what colors
You show, all shazam
And tantrum while the Wham-bam

On the wireless crackles with static. What the swagger
Are you after?
Whose the heart you do not stagger

When you rattle through the bracken, knocking
Branches at the casement?
I betook me to the basement

When you batted first your lashes, flashed
Your distant
Dazzle—I’ve been whiplashed

By your type before: you come on easy
But want me on my knees,
Want to flutter my transformers

And shut off all my lights. You throw a glam show
And then you blow
Along to the next hapless,

Leaving blank fuzz across the radio dial—
No tune, no storm Warning, no Thank you ma’am.

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NOR 28: Fusion

By Kimberly Johnson

Oh, my quantum soul—restive, sizzling
In its nimbus
Of need. How it dizzies

In the orbit of another’s passing
Fancy, fickle
As it flirts its vacant shells

Hey there sexy fella can you fill
My spinning empties
With your any loose electrons?

How in relentless ciphers it scrawls
On any bathroom wall
My atomic number.

How in relentless ciphers it scrawls
On any bathroom wall
My atomic number.

It is a light element, an errant
Sphere with strong wants:
Come Lover, let’s charge ourselves

A spark, a star, a dark and secret
Supernova, let
Us cleave ourselves: attract,

Repel, attract, repel, let us fall
In common gravity,
By which I mean love, and then fall


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Ode to the Wild Heart

By Mary Jo Firth Gillett

See how I clasp it to me, thunderclap
my way through. Oh constant invisible,
oh emperor of the unruly, tell me—
do I consume you or you me?
Downcast, you stain me indigo
but I love the blues—lapis lazuli
and Billie Holiday and the neon tetra’s
iridescence—is it biology?—
I the algae, you my luminescence?
But no, that’s too much—
a fleshless excuse for excess.
Hyper heart, you tattoo me,
every inch of skin inked,
but you are not indelible—
see how I embrace the pleasure
of erasure, the fleeting this, then this,
the smudge and blur,
the quickening pulse of swerve,
of word, the veiled, the reviled,
the revealed. And so, lost song
of nightingale, swoop of lark,
you are the ghosts of night,
the smidgen of hope,
the low-hanging, the high-flying—
my wisteria, my hysteria,
my gilt-edged book,
my glint in the dark.

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Prime Cuts

By Lara Palmqvist

Their fights had always been drawn out and passionate, thrilling in their possi- bility. The subjects of their arguments ran the gamut; Malcom and Clare could employ almost anything as flint to spark the heat between them, setting their hearts leaping and their sharp tongues running wild: the empty soda can roll- ing around the Subaru, the knife marks in the laminate countertop, the lack of remaining hot water in the morning or that time—years ago—when the dog bowl was left dry on a sultry day. The rhythm to their relationship was marked by peaks of tension, a pulse that proved their marriage was still alive, unlike those of some of their friends, whose flat-lined politeness was so painfully false, resentment straining up beneath pert compliments and cute smiles. Malcom and Clare were authentically in love, four years married and still willing to weather the turbulence of melding two lives together. Yet it was also true that their latest fights seemed rote, their jibes more personal. The cause was lack of material, Clare felt. She blamed their unchanging surroundings.

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Thursday Night, DivorceCare

By Jana-Lee Germaine

Next to the Lost and Found,
our church basement folding chair circle.
Ten of us, week to week, scratch
words in workbooks, read copies
of How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

We pass or fail stages of grief.
Video clips from the other side:
a smiling blonde manages
her checking account, living debt-free;
gray men navigate dating and children.

Stories cycle in Share Time:
Billy the missionary served 25 years
with Kazakhstani orphans—
one day, home on furlough,
his wife drove to Walmart, never returned.

Dan’s wife ran off with the superintendent,
and Sharon’s husband left her at Denny’s
eating Moons Over My Hammy.
She hasn’t had an egg since.
I don’t know why, they said.
Blame always a stick to be thrown.

Not your fault, we agreed.
But maybe the fault was mine,
the unsupportive wife, the wastrel.
I drove 1700 miles, and still his voice,
obscured by barroom backnoise,

Insufferable woman, come home.
Each week I shift seats
on the circle’s farthest curve.
I’ve lost the knack for talking,
afraid the other eyes will shinny up my face
then flick away.

At Trader Joe’s, before group,
while cashiers flip French bread
into paper bags like a magic trick,
I practice words.
How to say I’ve left him,
that he was mean to me.
So I will be believed.

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The Measuring

By Veronica Corpuz

A married life is measured:
each grain of rice, coffee bean, and tea leaf,

ice cubes crackling in a glass of water upon the nightstand,
even the pinheads of steamed broccoli,

every hour of sleep lost when the baby is born
each hour you slept in before him,

the time you say, I am going to remember this walk forever
the neon color of lichen after a long, hard winter,

how your son wobbles, falls down,
how you swoop him off the ground.

Until you walk into the Social Security office,
until you see the words printed in dot matrix—

the date your marriage begins, the date your spouse dies—
until you see what you did not know declared in writing,

then, you have new language for this feeling—
how your heart has become a singularity:

Your marriage has ended in death.

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The Bees

By Rick Viar

My sister says I greeted the swarm
along the backyard slope, crawling, fat mouth slack,
sodden Pampers saggy with supplication.
Evidently, she scooped me up while they chased us
through our father’s lavender azaleas
where he dropped his shears and smashed yellow
jackets against my skin, yanking off the diaper
and waving it around his head like a lasso.
We won’t get spanked again until winter.
Everyone watches my sister declaim
the tragic tale at family gatherings for decades
as if she’s Dame Judi Dench. They love her
nuanced performance, the lively hand gestures
and operatic voice, how she tousles my hair
before her triumphant finale: I got stung
on my mouth, but he got stung in his asshole!
I’m always grateful Dad isn’t here to witness
this, or my marriage, or my career,
or my incompetent gardening, the limp cosmos.
I can’t believe you, a cousin smiles, shaking his head.
Me neither, I reply. I don’t even know what I did.

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how we end

By Paula Harris

it will be the day after our fifteenth anniversary

we started late, so we were already middle-aged at the start
so after fifteen years we’ll be what others call old

we will have lasted a solid fourteen years, ten months, and most of a day
longer than I expected
and so for fourteen years, ten months, and most of a day
I’ll have been confused by our continuing existence

how will you go through fifteen years and most of a day
without realising what a fuck-up I am?

during that time you’ll have been to more book launches
than you ever expected you would,
and since you never thought you’d ever be at a book launch
your showing up at each of them will be a personal gift;
you loiter at the back of the room with a bottle of whatever
cold beer is your current choice, maybe Heineken that day;
you don’t say much to the other people there,
you sit quietly through the post-launch celebratory dinners
when I’m buzzed and hyper or exhausted and freaked out
and we hold hands under the table;
once we get home we strip down and have sex
and you still look at me like I’m the best thing you’ve ever seen

I won’t watch a single rugby game
but I ask who won and if the All Blacks did alright,
if it was a good game, and you give me your thoughts
in a surprisingly detailed yet concise analysis

because you know this shit bores me
and from time to time I even remember
one of the players’ names and you smile at me
like you would a child trying to show off their knowledge of the alphabet
despite always misplacing the q

we still live in separate houses
because I’m smart enough to have figured out that living with someone
isn’t something I can cope with;
we spend time at each other’s homes
but more at yours, even though your kids hate it
when they drop by unannounced
and we’re naked on the kitchen floor
or I’m sucking you in the living room
or you’re going down on me on the dining table

so your kids always knock on the door, loudly,
then wait fifteen seconds before walking in

we always laugh at this

at some point in those fifteen years we reach the point
where we go to movies together sometimes,
cook meals together semi-regularly,
which is a bit of a backwards way of being,
starting with the sex and then moving toward dating
but somehow it works and sometimes even makes sense

I still find it hard that you don’t talk much
but try to keep in my head that when you do say something
it’s always the right thing;
I remind myself over and over again
of how it feels when you look at me
and how then I know that we’re alright

the day after our fifteenth anniversary
(we won’t have done a romantic night out in celebration,
we go down to the river to watch the sunset
and then have sex there, with our aching backs
and sore knees against the unforgiving ground)
the day after our fifteenth anniversary
(I make dessert when we get back to your place
and you cup your hands around my breasts
and laugh real deep and dirty
while I’m beating egg whites to stiff peaks)

the day after our fifteenth anniversary
(you leave me to sleep late as always
while you do laundry and mow the lawns)

the day after our fifteenth anniversary
(we kiss as I walk past you on my way
to have a shower, since your home is now fully supplied
with my shampoo and cleanser and moisturisers,
because it’s been fifteen years)

the day after our fifteenth anniversary
(you sing along to Marvin Gaye while you work
on fixing the squeak in the living room door)

the day after our fifteenth anniversary
late afternoon I get ready to head home
because I want to write
and when I’m with you I never write but I have lots of ideas;
I put my bag in my car and turn back to you
as you put your arms around my waist
and I wrap my arms over your shoulders,
and for the first time
you won’t look at me like you’re the happiest man in the world,
you won’t look at me like nothing could possibly get better than this

and I have been waiting fourteen years, ten months, and most of a day
for this to happen
so will recognise it instantly
and like an extra in Buffy The Vampire Slayer who has just been hit
with sunlight or Mr Pointy or the Hellmouth collapsing
or an axe to the neck

I will be dust

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