By James Lineberger

As I get you down from the closet shelf
and unwrap the brown shipping paper
to the square white box inside
I lift the lid for the first time and stick my fingers
deep inside you /
What does she feel like Barbara says and I say go on
see for yourself but she shushes me
and leads the way out back
to where the creek used to run
and we just do it quickly without any words
because words are a foolish way of asking forgiveness
for these five years we’ve left you
up there stacked amid the empty shoe boxes
and children’s playthings /
But now with both hands
I swing the box like sand in a pail
and scatter you
into the overhead cave of the old Judas tree
where your tiny parts
glow for a flickering moment
like early snow /
And Barbara whispers
yes Patsy I know
still trying to find your way home again
just like the whole rest
of your life
without somebody’s arm to hold on to

Read More

tree with ice, under amber light

By James Lineberger

it glows in frozen streaks
each of its feathered limbs curved gently upward
and i find myself pausing
at the edge of the drive
to stand very still in the needles of rain
as if anchored here too
stretching my arms overhead
like some arthritic unpainted mime
not because i need to make
a statement about anything
just that every now and then
like the silent unfolding wings of the tree
something stirs within me trying to say
it believes

Read More

North River Shad, c. 1910

By Lindsay Atnip

William Merritt Chase painted numerous versions of fish still
lifes, many of which were quickly purchased by museums across
the country. Because of the popularity of these works, the artist
worried that he would be remembered only “as a painter of fish.”
—placard, Art Institute of Chicago

The real thing rots. Corrupts,
Decays, time-lapses, hollow to holes.

But yours—immortal, silver-scaled, so round
(Why should its roundness be wrenching?)

Realer than the real.

You were afraid this was what they’d remember you for.
Afraid—as if there were somehow more than this.

Here one sees, forever, how it could fill the hand—
How it would feel, filling one’s hand.

One could do worse than be a painter of fishes.

Read More

Long Division

By Jessica Tanck

We have split the phone plan,
emptied the safety deposit box.

My dad is moving out of the house:
gone, the sentinel from his office

in the basement, plastic Star Wars
figurines tipped into a box.

It is hard not to imagine all of us
in our old places, hard not to fill

the house with past. Alesha (sister,
I still think, not ex-. ex-step.)

cross-legged on the futon, remote
in hand, a bowl of macaroni

in her lap. She peels home
on repeat, inside in a jangle

of keys, stays up with me all night,
perpetually lights and leaves.

Myranda (blood sister) half-absent
in her eyrie, moves from floor to desk,

floor to desk. My stepmom flickers
in the dark bedroom, in the mirrors,

on the stairs, in the corners of halls.
I am always underneath all of this,

in the skin of the basement or crossing
the yard. How many times do I tread that

bed of needles, climb to the freshly sawn-off
branches, wish a kinder mending, wish

an absence gone? Press my hands to trace
the drip of sap, what cannot be divided,

to touch what bubbles forth, what empties,
amber, from the knotted heart.

Read More

We Are the Bachelorettes and We Insist

By Susan Finch

As bachelorettes, we solemnly promise the next forty-eight hours will include three brunches, two happy hours, fifteen moderate disagreements, one unfor- gettable fight, eight matching t-shirts, one bar crawl, one pedal tavern, one sprained wrist, three twisted ankles, sixteen hangovers, too many tearful prom- ises to count, and one sober regret. We are the bachelorettes and we insist.

We must begin with brunch, and in order to fit three brunches into forty-eight hours, we will congregate Friday morning. After all, brunch is the most important meal of the day. We can eat French Toast and French fries, and getting tipsy or “emotional,” (i.e. Lydia has too many feelings after bottomless mimosas) is not frowned upon. Not every restaurant serves brunch on Friday, so we must select carefully, find a place that has an all-day breakfast menu, and really, why shouldn’t a restaurant serve breakfast food all day. It’s not so hard to whip up a couple of poached eggs, is it? We will reserve the table at 10:30; the proper time to eat brunch is 11, but we already know that some of our bachelorettes will be late—particularly Tara, the bride’s sister, she’s a musician and runs on her own schedule, and of course, Felicia. She hasn’t been able to get anywhere on time since the new baby.

Read More

Last Night I Told a Stranger

By Mary Leauna Christensen

I am very go with the flow—

I used to wipe down airplane
trays only when they were sticky.

Now my hands have dried
from soap and alcohol.

But they are still the same
hands that fixed your hair

and earring against the pillow
that most likely was not silk

because we did not buy
the premium package

from the funeral home.
Everything is packaged nowadays.

I try not to use plastic bags
for produce. Not because

I’m environmentally conscious
but because I want to slow down

rot. Just a few weeks ago
I finely chopped cilantro and

green onion while the man
I was cooking for drank wine.

He was nervous and high
so we danced to the music

that came from his phone.
He tasted like peach Moscato.

I led him to my room
though I knew nothing would happen.

And by nothing
I meant between the two of us

because here I am
in bed and alone

wishing I could live in that sentence—
nothing will happen.

Read More

Life Through Glass

By Jonathan Duckworth

For Kat Flinn

Featured art: Giuseppe Barberi (1746-1809)

blurs become faces & eyes for me
as I see through layers of glass
& now that my fiancée is half
a continent away we speak through
a tunnel of light bound by twin
screens, more layers
& there are boats with bottoms
that let you see the underwater

Read More

Polar Bear

By George Bilgere

Featured art: United States National Museum Photographic Laboratory

A father died heroically in some Alaskan park
while trying to save his kids from a polar bear.

Long ago, when his mother gave birth
one summer afternoon in Bakersfield, California,
could anyone have prophesied,
as in an old myth, that the baby crying
at her breast would one day be killed
and partially eaten by a polar bear?

Read More

The Scar

By George Bilgere

My son slipped on the concrete
by the pool and smacked his head.
Blood cauling on his small shoulders.

Read More


By Christopher Brean Murray

Featured art: United States National Museum Photographic Laboratory

At the edge of town, you pass a water tower beside train tracks.

A shopping cart blocks your path.

The telephone poles have no wires.

Someone has spray-painted “Fuk Yo” on the train station.

A breeze bathes your face

as seed pods click overhead.

How long’s it been since you sat in a theater?

Read More

Currency of Survival

By Natalie Taylor

Featured art: Scott Catalogue USA PC7 (National Postal Museum)

A half-eaten waffle, syrup-logged in a plastic takeout container,
dropped in the middle of the street. Bald man in a blue truck slows down,
cranes his head out the window to get a closer look. Suited folk

coming home from church swerve. It’s finally cool enough, after 37 days of dry heat,
to turn off the air conditioning, open windows.
Hooting and hollering from the apartments as someone on TV scores a touchdown.

Last night a friend came over. She has 16 pets, most of them rescue animals:
dogs, cats, rabbits, and ducks. She installed a heated pond in a spare bedroom. She’s worried
about how to transport them when she moves to Maine as a climate refugee.

A grandmother and grandkids carrying leftovers in Styrofoam walk past
the waffle. Dark feathers brush across the storm-swift sky.
A car drives over it, wheels straddling the soggy breakfast. Something exciting happens in the game:

Read More


By SM Stubbs

Featured art: Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903)

Upon a hill, a house. Upon the house,
a roof. On the roof, a bird. The bird—
oiled feathers, beak like an awl—grooms
the roof’s moss, subsists on ticks
and silverfish. Inside the house, a man
without a tongue and a woman
who loves him. The woman grooms
the house, subsists on potatoes and rice
and whatever rodents roam the slope.
The man hunts every day until noon.

Read More

There Will Be Salvation Yet

By Tania De Rozario

Featured art: The Last Supper By H. Siddons Mowbray

1993. That’s when it happens. Two months after your twelfth birthday. It’s a sweaty afternoon. This day which blisters with possibility. This day you learn that there are demons inside of you.

You’re on your way home from school. You know something is wrong the minute you get off the bus. Your mother waits at the bus stop, teary-eyed. Your relationship has grown monosyllabic, but the tears feel like a warning, so you ask.

What’s wrong?

It is when she smiles that something inside you unravels. You realize hers are happy tears. But her smile is vacant. Placid. A Stepford Wives smile. The tears fall but there is nothing behind them. She’s a mannequin crying on command. A talking-doll with electronics scrambled.

You don’t have the language for this yet.

She grabs you, holds you tight: Nana has been saved!

Read More

Jesus and My Way of Seeing Him Go

By Jeanine Walker

Featured art: Designed by Raphael, Printed by Marc Antonio Raymondi

I was eighty-two again
and Jesus came perched like an angel
on top of my fridge, his palms spread open.

Almost old enough to be comfortable going,
I wondered if he had come to take me.
“Are you here for me?” I asked him.

I was eighty-two and my eyesight
was dimming, but I was in good health
for my age. And in my good health

Read More


By Adam O. Davis

I am two vowels strung twenty years long.
                                                                                                  My life a ransom.
letter written by a cardiogram, tympanic as traffic & the lights of traffic

that renew the tercets of Esso stations standing violent as macaws
in the ululative night.
                                                        I need lithium or language, nurse.

I need words to fall like ricin from an envelope.
Clearly, my synapses need seeing to.
                                                                      So, please, repo the verb of me.

                                        Conduct me swiftly
through the conjunction of Tennessee where nouns loiter like limbs
languid with Quaaludes, where daylight breaks

like a mouthful of fentanyl over the teeth of a country that cares not
for such news.
                                        Should a poem be the pill or the pharmacy?

Read More

The Arachnologist

By Benjamin Gucciardi

Featured art: Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940)

When he told me his teeth felt too heavy
to study history, I excused him.
I knew he was headed for the aqueduct,

or the boarded-up houses choked
by trumpet vine where he found them.
Martel collected spiders with the discipline of a surgeon.

He kept them in empty soda bottles
under his bed. On his way into sixth period,
he touched my fist with his fist,

announced the genus of his catch,
Latrodectus, and his total, that’s nine this week!
Through this tally of arachnids captured

in sugary plastic, we learned to trust each other
the way men on tankers far out at sea
confide reluctantly in gray rippling water.

Read More

Leaf Light

By Emily Tuszynska

Featured art: Arnold William Brunner (1857-1925)

We live in green
depths of trees
planted by those
who grew old
and died or moved
away our children
play in yards theirs left
behind and sleep
in rooms that held two
or even three until
they grew our children too
are growing in summer
we box outgrown
clothes repaint
the walls new tiles
for the bath new
shingles the trees
don’t seem to change
though of course
they must the backyard
beech and oaks
that will outlast us
casting a deeper
shade the front yard
holly reaching farther
over the drive we pull in
and out of always
in a rush someone
running back for what
they forgot the trees
keep some other kind
of time spend whole
seasons taking in
their sustenance
strange food
without substance
every summer a feast
of light

Read More

Night Train

By Emily Tuszynska

Featured art: Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901)

The interior landscape shifts, erodes.
          While the children sleep we shore it up
                    with flotsam but the next day another

tide-bitten chunk of coastline
          crumbles. The trouble is we’re living
                    all at once. We keep rearranging the furniture

to try to make it fit. By day we push
          aside the clutter, lay the baby
                    on the floor she drums with open palms

as if to feel it’s there. Something solid
          underneath. Mostly everything sways.
                    A tree falls and the house next door

stands empty for years. The boy holds his sister
          to the window and shows her how
                    to wave goodbye, and that’s the morning,

fingerprints in the dust of it. Outside the day
          moves away in all directions. Streetlights
                    come on. When as I walk the baby the night train  

whistles through its distant crossing,
          why does it feel like we are the ones
                    hurtling toward some unknown destination?

I lean my forehead against the icy, rattling glass,
          look through our reflection at the moon
                    rushing through branches. Look, there’s a farmhouse,

miles from the lights of any town. Someone
          turns on a lamp in one of the windows;
                    someone stands there, watching us go past.

Read More


By Peter Krumbach

Featured art: Kano Sanraku (1559-1635)

I waited for it in the fork
of a cherry tree. On the LL
train. Made bed for it in my 8th
Street room. I left gaps in sentences
where it could land. Dug holes, smoked
ham, lost bets and innocence, granted
exculpation long before it sinned.
To track its scent, I stripped
and whorled, committed perfidy,
burned effigies and caramelized
figs. I rubbed nougat with licorice
and seven sprigs of dill. I renamed
myself after it, just to see

Read More

Amtrak Psalm

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art: Edouard Detaille (1848-1912)

The sway-backed horses of Lompoc don’t spook anymore.
They keep their muzzles pressed, sharing a pulse

while you clatter past, invisible in tinted business class.
And whose business are you minding anyway

as you peek into the pitbull’s backyard wreckage,
glimpse the bad cuts and dye-jobs of students smoking

behind Oxnard’s International College of Beauty? Camarillo,
Moorpark, Simi Valley, recede into heat-shimmer oblivion.

Read More

“Take the Neck Step Against Aging”

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art: Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666)

Today my wife bought a twin pack of neck-tightening cream
for me, and I’m trying not to take offense.

It’s not that I haven’t noticed the thinning crepe paper
over my Adam’s apple, or the way it bunches when I tie a tie,

but I guess I had hoped she would be my accomplice
in pretending. The book I’m reading’s called The Denial of Death.

It says civilization’s an elaborate symbolic defense mechanism
against the knowledge of our mortality. And yet I can’t help but hope

Read More

Requiem with “Little Wing”

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured Art : Kenyon Cox (1856-1919)

Perhaps, on your downtown lunch stroll
in unseasonably cheery weather,
you walk up on a flock of grackles
on the ground in front of Urban Outfitters,
their impact marks still drying on the window
recently washed to display Big Sur Ribbed Pullovers
and the Willow Fuzzy Drawstring Teddy,
as if anyone believes October’s still a sweater month.

Perhaps you become suddenly dizzy,
a strange gravity drawing you toward this constellation
of twitching black holes
opened in the sidewalk at your feet.
And perhaps this brings to mind
how it feels when your face falls from your face.

Read More